Fragrance in the Writings of Helen Hunt Jackson-1

Ramona: a story
By Helen Hunt Jackson
The arched veranda along the front was a delight-some place. It must have been eighty feet long, at least, for the doors of five large rooms opened on it. The two westernmost rooms had been added on, and made four steps higher than the others; which gave to that end of the veranda the look of a balcony, or loggia. Here the Senora kept her flowers; great red water-jars, hand-made by the Indians of San Luis Obispo Mission, stood in close rows against the walls, and in them were always growing fine geraniims, carnations, and yellow-flowered musk. The Senora's passion for musk she had inherited from her mother. It was so strong that she sometimes wondered at it; and one day, as she sat with Father Salvierderra in the veranda, she picked a handful of the blossoms, and giving them to him, said, * I do not know why it is, but it seems to me if I were dead I could be brought to life by the smell of musk."
"It is in your blood, Senora," the old monk replied. "When I was last in your father's house in Seville, your mother sent for me to her room, and under her window was a stone balcony full of growing musk, which so filled the room with its odor that I was like to faint. But she said it cured her of diseases, and without it she fell ill. You were a baby then."
"Yes," cried the Senora, "but I recollect that balcony. I recollect being lifted up to a window, and looking down into a bed of blooming yellow flowers; but I did not know what they were. How strange!"
"No. Not strange, daughter," replied Father Salvierderra. "It would have been stranger if you had not acquired the taste, thus drawing it in with the mother's milk. It would behoove mother's remember this far more than they do."

Ramona's eyes gleamed. She began untying the knots. The handkerchief was old, the knots tied ight, and undisturbed for years. As she reached the last knot, and felt the hard stones, she paused. "This was my father's, then?" she said. "Yes," said the Senora, scornfully. She thought he had detected a new baseness in the girl. She was going to set up a claim to all which had been her father's property. "They were your father's, and all these rubies, and these yellow diamonds ; " and she pushed the tray towards her.
Ramona had untied the last knot. Holding the handkerchief carefully above the tray, she shook the pearls out. A strange, spicy fragrance came from the silk. The pearls fell in among the rubies, rolling right and left, making the rubies look still redder by contrast with their snowy whiteness.
"I will keep this handkerchief," she said, thrusting it, as she spoke, by a swift resolute movement into her bosom. "I am very glad to have one thing that belonged to my father. The jewels, Senora, you can give to the Church, if Father Salvierderra thinks that is right. I shall marry Alessandro ;" and still keeping one hand in her bosom where she had thrust the handkerchief, she walked away and seated herself again in her chair. ,.

Then, peering ahead through the mustard blossoms, he saw them waving and bending, and heard sounds as if they were being broken. Evidently some one entering on the path from the opposite end had been caught in the fragrant thicket as he was. The notes grew clearer, though still low and sweet as the twilight notes of the thrush; the mustard branches waved more and more violently; light steps were now to be heard. Father Salvierderra stood still as one in a dream, his eyes straining forward into the golden mist of blossoms. In a moment more came, distinct and clear to his ear, the beautiful words of the second stanza of Saint Francis's inimitable lyric, "The Canticle of the Sun:"

There was exhilaration in the place. It brought healing to both Alessandro and Eamona. Even the bitter grief for the baby's death was soothed. She did not seem so far off', since they had come so much nearer to the sky. They lived at first in a tent; no time to build a house, till the wheat and vegetables were planted. Alessandro was surprised, when he came to the ploughing, to see how much good land he had. The valley thrust itself, in inlets and coves, into the very rocks of its southern wall; lovely sheltered nooks these were, where he hated to wound the soft, flower-filled sward with his plough. As soon as the planting was done, he began to fell trees for the house. No mournful gray adobe this time, but walls of hewn pine, with half the bark left on; alternate yellow and brown, as gay as if glad hearts had devised it. The roof, of thatch, tule, and yucca-stalks, double laid and thick, was carried out several feet in front of the house, making a sort of bower-like veranda, supported by young fir-tree stems, left rough. Once more Ramona would sit under a thatch with birds'-nests in it. A little corral for the sheep, and a rough shed for the pony, and the home was complete : far the prettiest home they had ever had. And here, in the sunny veranda, when autumn came, sat Ramona, plaiting out of fragrant willow twigs a cradle. The one over which she had wept such bitter tears in the valley, they had burned the night before they left their Saboba home. It was in early autumn she sat plaiting this cradle. The ground around was strewn with wild grapes drying; the bees were feasting on them in such clouds that Ramona rose frequently from her work to drive them away, saying, as she did so, "Good bees, make our honey from something else; we gain nothing if you drain our grapes for it; we want these grapes for the winter;" and as she spoke, her imagination sped fleetly forward to the winter. The Virgin must have forgiven her, to give her again the joy of a child in her arms. Ay, a joy! Spite of poverty, spite of danger, spite of all that cruelty and oppression could do, it would still be a joy to hold her child in her arms.

At that time th,ere were long streets of Indian houses stretching eastward from the Mission; before each of these houses was built a booth of green boughs. The Indians, as well as the Fathers from all the other Missions, were invited to come. The Indians came in bands, singing songs and bringing gifts. As they appeared, the Santa Barbara Indians went out to meet them, also singing, bearing gifts, and strewing seeds on the ground, in token of welcome. The young Senora and her bridegroom, splendidly clothed, were seen of all, and greeted, whenever they appeared, by showers of seeds and grains and blossoms. On the third day, still in their wedding attire, and bearing lighted candles in their hands, they walked with the monks in a procession, round and round the new tower, the monks chanting, and sprinkling incense and holy water on its walls, the ceremony seeming to all devout beholders to give a blessed consecration to the union of the young pair as well as to the newly completed tower.

Bits of travel at home
By Helen Hunt Jackson

Here are great masses of a delicate flowering shrub, a rubus I think I have heard it called. Its flower is like a tiny single-petalled rose, of a snow-white color. On first looking at the bush, you would think it a wild white rose, till you observed the leaf, which is more like a currant leaf. Here also are bushes of the Missouri currant, with its golden-yellow blossoms, exhaustless in perfume; and a low shrub maple, which has a tiny; apple-green flower, set in a scarlet sheath, close at the base of each leaf, so small that half the world never discovers that the bush is in flower at all.

At last we had climbed up to the last ledge, rounded the last point. Suddenly we saw before us, many hundred feet below us, a green well, into the mouth of which we looked down. There is nothing but a well to which I can compare the first view from these heights of the opening of Oak Creek Canyon. The sides of the well slant outward. Perhaps it is more like a huge funnel, little end down. The sun poured into these
green depths, so full and warm that each needle on the trees glittered, and a fine aromatic scent arose, as if spices were being brewed there. One small house stood in the clearing. It was only a rough-built thing, of unpainted pine; but Colorado pine is as yellow as gold, and if you do not know that it is pine, you might take it, at a little distance, for some rare and gleaming material which nobody but kings could afford to make houses of.

I do not know why this man's figure seemed to me more typical of the true genius and soul of gold-winning than all the toiling crowds in mining towns. It was, perhaps, the loneliness of the spot, the glorious lift of it above the world around, or even the beauty of the blossoms and the scent of the firs. It might have been just such a nook in the Hartz Mountains to which the genii of gold and silver led the favored mortals to whom they elected to open the doors of their treasure house.

It was a severe climb. — we did not know how severe, for our eyes were feasting on the wayside lovelinesses of green oak and juniper and golden asters, white daisies and purple vetches. From the bare and stony gulches we had left behind, to this fragrance and color, was a leap from a desert into a garden. Suddenly looking up, we found that we were also looking off. We were on a grand ridge or divide, around which seemed to centre semicircles of mountains. So high and so separated is this ridge, and yet so central in the great fields of peaks which make up this part of the great Rocky Mountain chain, that, while we could look off far enough to see the Snowy Range, we could also look down into the canyons and gorges among the nearer mountains. It was a surpassing sight! It is one of the few extended views I have seen which have also composition, beauty of grouping, and tenderness of significance and revelation. We could see long, shining, serrated spaces of the solid, snow-covered peaks, the highest on the continent, — peaks from whose summit one could look, if human vision were keen enough, to the Western and the Eastern Oceans. These lofty serrated lengths of shining snow lay cut against the uttermost horizon blue, like an alabaster wall rounding the very world. Seeming to join this wall, and almost in lines of concentric curves, were myriads and masses of lower mountains, more than the eye could count. To the very foot of the watch-tower ridge on which we stood, the peaks seemed crowded. We could look into the green valleys lying between them, and trace the brown thread of road winding up each valley. We sat under the shade of pines and firs. The ground was gay with yellow lupines, daisies, and great mats of kinikinnick vines (the bear-berry) with full clusters of delicate pink bells, as lovely as arbutus blossoms, and almost as fragrant.
Ten thousand feet above the sea, and yet the air was as spicy and summer-laden as in an Italian June! Ten thousand feet above the sea, and yet the warm wind burnt our faces fiercely, and the snow-topped horizon wall seemed like a miracle under such a tropical sun!

By the same road we would go up and in, and so across. Almost immediately the valley narrowed. The creek, the messenger, became a foaming brook and the road clung to its bank. It was thick set with willows, bush-maples, and alders. Their branches brushed into our faces, they grew so close; flowers burst into our sight like magic on all sides, — fireweed, harebells, painter's brush, larkspur, asters of all colors and' superbly full and large. It was a fairy garden. The grass was green, — real, perfect green grass, the first, the only true green grass I have ever seen in Colorado. Except for the towering and stony walls above our heads and for the fiery scarlet of the painter's-brush and the tall spikes of larkspur, I could have fancied myself in a wild thicketed cave in Vermont. The green grass ran up in lovely spaces under the pines and firs; the air was almost overladen with fragrance; white butterflies wheeled and circled above us and then flew on ahead; the road was set, literally set, thick with borders of lavender, gray, purple, white, and yellow asters. Even down the middle of the road they grew, — not only asters, but harebells; under the horses' feet, safe, untouched, in the narrow central strip of grass, lifted high between the two trodden furrows.

Over all these hills and to the top of the highest peaks grow the same stately pines which make the forest-walls of the western side of the park. The ground is covered many layers thick with the pine-needles, and in a sunny forenoon the air is almost overpoweringly spicy with the pine fragrance. Rambling south or north, one goes from hill-top to hill-top through a succession of dells, no two dells alike and each dell hard to leave; some sudden, narrow, with sides so straight that one
might slip swiftly to the bottom and lie as in a hammock; some broader and more open, but still with sides so straight that, climbing up them, one sees the blue sky brought into a marvelously close horizon-line on the upper edge; some filled full of young, waving pines; some with a narrow, water-worn gully in the centre, where water runs in spring, and in summer bloom white spiraeas, blue and purple penstemons, harebells, crowfoot, and the huge white thistles, beloved of butterflies; some, almost the most beautiful of all, without either pines or flowers, only the soft, white yellow, and brown and white grasses, with here and there glossy green mats of kinnikinnick,—dainty, sturdy, indefatigable kinnikinnick.

The air was almost heavy with the fragrance from the fresh hay, and from the thickets of azalea on the cemetery banks. The distant sea glittered like a burnished shield, to which the mountains on the other side of the bay were set like an opal rim. Hardship and struggle seem monstrous in such an atmosphere. There must have been an air of mockery to those toiling pioneers in the very smile of this transcendently lovely Nature. To want bread, to need shelter in such realms of luxuriance and warmth ; to suffer, to die under such skies, — the heart resents and rejects the very thought with passionate disbelief. But such thoughts, such recollections, such struggle, are, after all, the needed shadow to a too vivid sun.

There would be records of hours when having gone a few hundred feet up on the eastward slope of Cheyenne Mountain, we sat down in a fragrant garden of gillias, scarlet penstemons, spiraeas, wild roses, columbines, red lilies, lupines, harebells, and myriads more which we knew not, and looked off over the plains. Though they were only three or four miles away, they looked as if we might journey for days and not reach them, — so wide, so remote, so deep down, so ineffably soft and misty. We sat, as I say, in a garden; but there was in the garden, besides the flowers, a confusion of great rocks and oak bushes and tall pines and firs. There were no level spaces, only nooks between rocks and here and there zigzag intervals: but on every inch of ground some green or flowering thing grew; ravines, with unsuspected brooks in them, were on each hand. Parting the tangles of bushes and creeping or springing down their sides, we found great clumps of golden and white columbines and green ferns.

The first two miles and a half of the path down the wall of Ah-wah-ne are steep, — so steep that it is best not to try to say how steep. It is a narrow path, zigzagging down on ledges, among boulders, through thickets. It is dusty and stony; it comes out suddenly on opens, from which you look over and down thousands, yes, thousands of feet; it plunges into tangles of trees, where a rider must lay his head on the horse's neck to get through, for oaks and pines and firs grow on this precipice ;high ceanothus bushes, fragrant with blossom, make wall-like sides to the path, and bend in as if trying to arch it. In so. "e places the rocks are bright with flowers and ferns, which look as if they were holding on for dear life and climbing up : they project so nearly at right angles from the steep surfaces. With almost every step we get a new view, — more depth, more valley, more wall, more towering rock. The small cleared spaces in the valley are vivid light green; they seem sunken like emerald-paved wells among the masses of dark firs and pines, whose tops lie solid and black below us. The opposite wall of the valley looks steeper than the wall we are descending. It seems within stone's throw, or as if we might call across ; it is less than a half-mile distant. Its top seems far higher than the point from which we set out; for it lies in full sunshine, and we are in shadow.