|Newspaper Title||SundayTimes (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930)|
|Trove Title||In the Tearoom|
By M. FORREST B (KOll THE B 'SUNDAY TIMKS.') H
SuppoBO I had been, weaker? — I was jii3t going to say wiser — but that would not bo in keeping with my attitude, my virtuous, my 'Oh-ao-tirod' attitude.
It tho people who stroll hi hero for slxponuyworth ol tea and scono could pop round tho screen where the long legged storks stand all day among the 'wator-lillcs to( aeo mo turning- the handle of tho ice-cream machine and trying to keep ray feet out of tho puddlo of water on the cement floor,, I ?wonder whether one in a hundred of them would guess what I am thinking of, looking so severe ami buslucss-Uke at my work! IC they only knew! The comfortable matrous, tho dress ed-up shop girls, the pale-faced bank clerks, how I hate' them all ! How my rebellious heart is rioting among green Now England fields, starred' with the ?woo bee-orchids, and tho wild white scentless violets, among grey granite ranges that seeni to kiss tho skies, and deep gullies, thick with maiden-hair and threaded by purling streams. If 1 could get away from the smell of tea and coffee and the sight of cakes for evermore! Get away to the places ?where you offered to take me, and in ?which I pretended to see no charm; get away to those tumbling . green seas up by the Tweed; those brown wave Bprayed rocks you knew so well how to .describe;' thoso shady tented lilaces under the wide folla'ged trees, draped ?with the swinging purple of wild con volvuli; thoso acres and acres of brac kon about the trunks of 'the giant' gums; those silent bush roads where the scarlet fuschia burns along the ridge, and the hibiscus (lames in the 'buu; thoso lichen-stained logs among ? the whispering grasses, sunken in fern, lying by the soft sand stretches, where tho little -waves creep, sluglng all the day. ., ? I recall one picture' you painted with your too-eloquent tongue — of the curve of a white shore with black hills be hind it, the moon like a polished silver plate rising above the sea and Hinging a carpet of fairy gold to our feet, and you and I — alone — forgotten by the ?world, side by side, hand in hand, with God and the stars above us. _ But 1 think you did not say God, i think you only said the stars, for your God is a pagan's god — very human — and you call him 'Love' — men's love. Men's love — man's kindness — we know, we women who live alone and struggle with the world; we know what lies the other side of that But— I am so tired— I think if you had only known how tired I was you might have stayed a little longer — hoping for victory — that you would not have taken that boat. South— angry, dis appointed, unreasonable, really caring -jrIor me in your tempestuous;. way— for \me, who now have so; few? to. care. But I said 'No.'' If there: Is a just. God somewhere minding what I do, he must know that I chose what the clergy call 'the better part.' I wonder why the 'better part' hurts so. I have no sense of elation at having overcome, as I freeze my ice-cream or cut up cake for the customers. As I take orders from the judge's wife for a , ball supper, or try to cut down things to please the committee of the Sunday school picnics, I am not at all com forted by the conviction that I am, as good as Qther people. Surely there must be a lawless strain in me some where, that the pictures you draw of ? dear unrighteous love appealed so strongly. From my Bohemian mother, my dear, pretty little mother, ' who found the world too hard and died of it, ? I got that strain, and from my hard :' headed Scottish father the -worldly wiB dom that cries through all the cover ing flowers ef fancy and all the love gemmed dreams. 'But afterwards — ?what about tho Afterwards ?' But there need have been no 'After- wards' f^1- me. When your grey eyes grew distant, your fond- lips careless, : could I not,. on one of those gumscent ed, moon-white nights, have crept down ito the sandy beach where the little
shells glisten wet from the laving of tho water, could I not have waded out and out, where the phosphorous fllckera through the curl of the tido, and the reddlsh-Wrown sea grasses sway be neath tho moon-tipped crests, have felt the Waves of Oblivion kiss my chin, and so sinking, gently — for a little mo ment, perhaps, tho pain of tho parting of the soul from tho body that Is still young and lLfe-loving — and then tho long, long silence and tho long, long sleep ? . , But I said 'No.' . I remember that wo stood by night in a. garden, and I was fearful that- every rustle of the bushes meant' tho peeping eye, backed by the bitter tongue. Over our heads the warm north wind drowsed through the branches of the Mo'reton Bay fig tree, and about our feet was the pale madder-brown of tho 'railway' grass. On the deserted ten nis courts the moonshine lay, and the masses of purple bougainvillea -were black in the shadow, and there was blown across to us the strange spicy scents of mango trees in flower. I wonder what I am made of that I could say 'No.' No to your dear, lov ing eyes, and to tho yearning in my own hurt heart, the heart that only craved the -shelter of your strong arms, the ' nestling into that little hollow in a man's shoulder that, since the world began, was made for a wo man's weary head. ' Far away in Cleveland Bay a Japa nese steamer, jewelled with lights, swept in from the North, and red, from behind a cottage window blind, stream ed the rays of a lamp, where two lovers,, whose love was blessed by the law and approved by the world, sat to gether. . But we — we were the sport of Fate, and never could the world smile upon the union of our hearts. Beyond all you offered me of ease and peace and tenderness there lay tho great black naked desert of the After ward — what though you said a lifetime was too short to spend v/ith me, that no man could lovo me and forget; the caution of that grey old Scotchman working in me — was it only the caution after all ? — saw ever the desert where lean wolves lurk, outsido the gate of the City Beautiful, where wo should dwell for a space of roses — yet — would not that space have been worth while — worth the. things that lurk, mouthing silently, in the Afterwards ? No! I said No! There is no room for repentance; your boat steams on be tween the vine-hung islands, past the groves of cocoauut and the bare peaked hills. Perhaps you have already begun to forget — and — there are so many years in which I may .turn the handlo of my ice-cream machine, and super intend the baking of cakes for the com fortable matrons, the pale bank clerks, and the over-dressed shop-girls — so many years ! I sometimes wonder if the spectacled journalist, who is always on the look out for 'copy,' and who takes black coffee occasionally in that seat by tho counter, would laugh or sigh, or be merely pleasantly alert for possibilities, could she see into my heart? We exchange a word sometimes, and she asks me how I like keeping tea rooms, and whether I find it profitable. Her profession .has given her plenty of aplomb, in the asking of personal ques tions, And I smile my fixed smile and say I am making a living, and she pro bably goes away thinking that I do much better than I say I do, while I lie awake at night and wonder how much longer I Bhall be abie to pay my way. It is hot to-day. Men go about coat less, and their collars are like wet rags. Few women Venture out of doors, even under the protection of white helmets and green umbrellas. The middle of the street is like a furnace; the foot path an oven. . The yellow-faced China men fan themselves as they go. I should have a good sale for ice-cream to-day. Ha! ha! Why do I laugh ! There! they are finished now. I can step out of my puddle, slip on another pair of shoes, and walk past the screen; ar ranging my face in its habitual smile. Customers expect one to look p.leasant In tho window my little helper has placed a great bunch of mauve-hued starry flowers, whose name I forget, only remembering with a sick heart throb that you wore a spray of it in your coat the first day we met; you will wander alone by gleaming wave wet beaches under the moon that smiles alike on priest-blessed or on for bidden love, or by those grey New England hills will breathe the crisp mountain air, and crush the wee wild violet under a careless foot, thinking, perhaps, of me — of me, shut between narrow walls in a sweltering street, thinking, bitterly, perchance, of the woman, who, to-day,, in the path of righteousness, feels nothing but the thorns.