[Editor: A short story by Menie Parkes, under the name of “Patty Parsley”. Published in The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal, 24 September 1859. This story consisted of chapters 1, 2, and 3, all published in the same issue.]
Pet Perennials. — No. I.
By Patty Parsley.
Farewell to the mountain,
Farewell to the dell,
The flower and the fountain;
Bright spot in the wild wood
Dear home of my childhood,
Farewell — oh, farewell!
Olave Lystor sat silently gazing from her chamber window. What ailed the maiden, I wonder, that she who was the very spirit of joy and mirth, should sit alone in the moonlight while ringing peals of laughter floated up from below. Her dark gleaming eyes shone brighter even than usual, for they were shining through tears; her rosy cheeks were rosier with excitement; the rings of soft dark hair floated back with the night breeze, and the full pouting lips quivered with suppressed utterance, and the lovely Olave Lystor appeared beneath the moon’s soft light, and with the gloamings of feeling reflected upon her features, like a being of a more beautiful world. But, again what ailed the maiden? Truth to say, gentle reader, her’s is a sad tale to tell, but have patience, and you shall know all.
Here, on this very homestead in which Olave dwelt now, had her father, twenty years before, settled amid the wild bush, with a young wife and infant child as his only, but his all-sufficient companions. Here had he toiled until plenty smiled around him, and no comfort was wanted in his happy home. And Olave Lystor smiled as she thought of that ‘long ago.’ But here, too, sorrow had come upon the bright child of her parents’ love. Loss, a long succession of losses, fell upon Mr. Lyster: a dry season, and consequent failure in pasturage, a disease among the flocks, a banker’s failure, a fall in the price of wool, and suddenly the rich squatter was a ruined man, and then when he turned despairingly to his dear ones for the strength which he had not, came the final and the bitterest blow of all — the gentle light of his life, the mother of his darling child, fell away and was no more seen : she had passed to her home above when she lost her home below. Mr. Lyster never recovered that last loss. His orphan child removed him from the home which was no longer their own to the house of an uncle in Sydney, and there, after six months of almost unconscious existence, Mr. Lyster, too, drew back into the unseen, amid smiles and tears — smiles, for his own joy, tears for the sorrow of the helpless one he left behind unprotected, save by the hand of God.
A month or two Olave lingered in the house of her uncle, and then, calling forth all her energy, she declared her determination of seeking some employment. In vain they entreated her to remain, and be to them as she had been to her parents, the light of their eyes, and the pride of their hearts, for they were childless.’ Olave wept, but was firm. ‘I am a woman,’ she said, ‘ and no longer a child; I have the power to work, and the will to work; God’s sentence pronounced upon man’s sins, and turned to a blessing in the utterance, was that he should earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. I bow willingly to that sentence, for I know that the breath that turned it to a blessing will give me strength to perform it. And then, earning my daily bread, I shall possess man’s noblest earthly prerogative — independence. Uncle, aunt, I must work, do not prevent me.’ And they bade her go with their blessing. And now came Olave again on her childhood home. She had learnt that its new proprietor, Mr. Glenstone, required a governess for his children, and the thought of the old place, the dear old place, came over her, and, conquering down her proud reluctance to appear as a servant in the little village which her father had founded, she applied for the situation and obtained it. On the evening of which I speak Olave had been more than two years in Mrs. Glenstone’s family, and, as I hinted, was loved by all within its precincts, employers, pupils, servants, all. Nay, to whisper in my reader’s ear, there were some out of the family, that loved her even more than those within it. Well, what ailed pretty Olave Lystor, then, that she sat all alone in her chamber, and let her tears glisten down through the moonlight as if her very heart would break? Just this — Mrs. Glenstone had informed her that evening that she should spend the winter with her whole family in town. Was that all? — oh silly Olave to grieve so bitterly at six months absence from home! They will soon slip by, silly Olave. Or, perhaps — could it be possible that another piece of information given accidentally by the good lady in her chattiness, viz., that their excellent minister, Mr. Dean, would be removed to another and better living before their return — could have caused this outburst of sorrow? Verily I think not, for Olave was a sensible, pretty girl, who knew her own value, and Mr. Dean was a fatherly old man of forty, without any fortune, a widower and with a child, a little six-year-old daughter, on his hands into the bargain, verily I think not. Perhaps she was sorry to leave their next neighbours, Mr. Weston and his sister, Mr. Weston was a very nice young gentleman, with a very nice fortune, who wore a moustache, paid open court to Olave, and, moreover, was actually negotiating with Mr. Glenstone, for the purchase of Lystor Dale. That’s the way the regrets were flying, I dare be certain. Your little head, Olave, had been building bright ‘chateaux en espagne’ and you had dreamt of yet being mistress of Lystor-Dale, and now you weep because you think your air castles are knocked down. Look again, pretty Olave, there is not a stone moved, only the building is retarded for awhile. Take heart, maiden, the hope still remains, ‘steady and sure win the day.’ But now Mrs. Glenstone entered the room, and laid her hand upon Olave’s shoulder before she knew any person was present. Olave started.
‘What, weeping, Miss Lystor? said the old lady ‘and wherefore, pray?’
Olave smiled, and rose to wash the tear-marks from her face, saying as she did so.
‘I am foolish, I fear, madam; but there’s no place like home.’
Mrs. Glenstone watched her for a moment, and then said, smilingly.
‘Brush your curls smooth, Miss Lystor, for there is a gentleman enquiring for you below.’
‘What, who?’ exclaimed Olave, veering round from the glass, trembling and pale as a sheet.
‘Mr. Weston desires to see you,’ Mrs. Glenstone said, slowly, but still with the mischievous smile.
‘Oh, is that all!’ murmured Olave; ‘only Mr. Weston!’ and the blood rushed back again, suffusing cheek and temple with a ruddy glow.
‘Only Mr. Weston!’ answered the lady, and she left the room. ‘I don’t believe she cares for him — I don’t believe Olave Lystor cares one straw for Gilbert Weston,’ soliloquised the old lady, as she descended the stairs; ‘but,’ she added, ‘if Olave is not in love with somebody, I don’t know what it is to be in love; and the goodman says I once did, and he don’t think I’ve forgotten yet, and I don’t think I have either. Heigho! who can it be, I wonder ?’
The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal (Sydney, NSW), 24 September 1859, pp. 391-392
[Editor: Corrected “independance” to “independence”; “negociating” to “negotiating”; “disparingly” to “despairingly”.]