Chapter 138621360

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138621360
Full Date1891-12-19
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count3118
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Charm That Works
article text

Chatter V.

The little push given by the powerful Churchill family to Jenny's humble enterprise^ without which it might have struggled and languished like so many worthy enterprises, floated it into fashion within a week; and, though she had plenty of hard work, insomuch that the basket-maker's wife's niece

had to be hired to wa&li cups and Baucers and hand the teapots round the' screen, all anxiety as to income was set at rest. Nothing remained, to make the tea-room a sound concern, but to " keep it up " as it had begun; and she and her mother were to be trusted for that. Not a pot of ill-made tea nor a defective scone was ever placed before a customer by those conscien tious artists aud tradeBvvomen. Mrs. ;Liddon, who was happily oi k tough and active constitution, laboured to sift her fine flour and test the tem perature of her oven, as if each batch of scones was to compete for a prizeiri an agricultural show.'' They were'not large,substantial scones, like those of the common restaurant, but no bigger than the top of a wineglass, and of a marvellous-puffy lightness.'. She never made more-than an ovenfulata time, mixing and cutting one batch'while the previous one was baking; and this rapid treatment of the dough; with her previous .elaborate sittings, and a leavening of her own oompbsition, produced the perfect article for. which she became justly famous... Two soopes woe put before *aoh customer, and if only one was eaten theother was not wasted- Churohill safari 8on «oon

began to provide..the tea,, ^e>i, no storekeeper could. bu^ it;^for i

jvater was jrat^ed7and regulated, thai ~ '

outof it Wfpre.it Was wed.-Tim.'M^^^ff^ggSSSSSL'

was conducted was to do little,, ap4,to dp. wM »M«6 W* ?fwww" system, top rarely observedin the

unjustly boated, she had the jnetinctepf agopd'

She resisted all her mother'sjpjeadings for 1 number of customers seemed to call for larger trapsapupp^

tea, Bhesaid, would be too much upon their mindsjeinop coffee as wetyaa tea must be absolutely; perfect), aud cakes^Jflfld.^® boug^it japywhere. , them be content to know, and-hare it known, that^fpr tep ^id^con^wa were always good topy were, to be jnvariably,dep^idpdon-: S#w*.Jgjui<>n sifted and baked till eleven.in the, morning, whne'^^hjpip^^^«e^W* and Jenny washed the tea-room floor; and then tbe latter, haying

her dainty person, trotted about with hardiy a jwuse till sey^ Ut n g ^, while the bent-backed sister received the little Btreamof ooin that steadily poured in, and dreamedall day of growing rich enough to go to Europe an do things. ; : ' : >'; -j.-.:-** '--'j'- ? ''"

Jenny had no fears about .the success of her undertaking ;

almost too successful sometimes,; wfign. her, J>ack wMasbingtmd.her i^s too tired to carry her; but she had one constant and ever-increasing anxiety, which beset her every -morning, after ;keeping' ber-more 9^ *es® awake tiuwugh the night TliiBwas lysfc Mx. Anthony CburohiHshould not come to the tea-room during-tiie dny.;I;.3 I " m •">.

His step-mother never, took himngain, after the fiijst visit,; ana she herself lost interest in the place, which had been but the fad of awhonr or two. She could get a cup of tea whenever she wanted, without paying for it, or pntting herself out of the way; and the Little Collins-street premises were very stuffy (this was one of Jenny's drawbacks, necessitating the ex pense ot ventilators) as the summer came on... They were too crowded for comfort—i.e., for a sentimental tile-a-tele ; and the girl was. too good-look ing to expose Tony to, with his absurd ideas of her being a lady. So Mrs. Churchill gave the tea-room up. - ' ? ?. ;

. Tony, however, did not give it up. Several days elapsed between , his Cist visit and the second, because it was so difficult to go and sit down there and ask Miss Liddonto wait on him. He quite agreed with Mary .that men should not be admitted. A girl like that* brought jup as she had been, ought not to be at the beck and call of those coarse creatures. Nevertheless, as men did go, he wanted to be one of them. As representing the firm with which her father hod been so closely and for so long connected, it was only right that he shonld keep an eye on her, and lend her a helping band if she

seemed to'need it

He said nothing of his purpose to Mrs. Oxenham, who continued to refresh herself with the admirable tea and Bcones at bouts that could be fairly calculated upon and avoided. The first she heard of his having gone to the tea-room on his own account was from her little half sisters^ who did not happen to mention it to their mother. These children were much at tached to him, and he to them, and one day he took them to the Royal park, and treated them to tea and scones on their way home. He thought scones were better for them than sweets, he said, and he was able to get them milk instead of tea. Mary commended him for his fatherly care of -their digestions, and thought no more of the matter.

The fact was that he had given the small creatures an outing on pnrpose that they might introduce him to the tea-room. It seemed so much easier to appear before Miss Liddon on their behalf than on bis own, and their presence was calculated to attract that notice and interest which he did not

imagine he would receive for his own sake, lie was notdesppately anxioos tc^see Miss Liddon, be it understood, but he was carious. . What he had -Been of her, and wliat Mary and his father-had toldhim (particularly about the hundred pounds that' had been offered and refused), had strack his fancy; that was all—at present. *. ~ ' 7. -

When appeared at the,door of- the yellow chamber, with a Liberty sashed, granny-bonneted mite clinging to either band, Jenny saw him at once, and experienced that strange -shock of leaping blood which - makes heart shake and eyes dim for- an ecstatic moment—such as we all understand much better than we can describe it. For days she had been aching for a Bight of him, despite her savage mortification that it should be so; and here he was at last in the charming guise of a man loving and caring for little children, which, as every woman knows, is a guarantee of goodness that never proves false,

It was after 6 o'clock, when people were thinking of dinner rather than tea—when little Grace and Geraldine should have been on their way to Toorak, where their nursery meal awaited them—and the tea-room crowd had thinned to half a dozen, all of whom had their plates and brown pots beside them. This also he had in a measure anticipated. Jenny was free, and came forward a step or two to meet him, glancing at the children with a soft, maternal look, as it seemed to him.

" I hope these little people will not be troublesome," he said, bowing with his best politeness. " They have been to see the lions and tigers fed, and 1 think "it has made them hungry."

"Oh, yes," said Jenny, flatteringly. " I will get them some scones—not qnite the newest ones. And—and don't you think they are too yonng for tea? May I get them some milk instead .

" Thank you—thank you very much—if you are sure you can spare it. I dare say it would be better for them."

" I am sure it would, and we have plenty. It is very good milk."

•She set the children into chairs, took off their smart bonnets, tucked napkins (napkins were kept tor occasions, though not for general qse) round their little chins, and put two scones into their hands; Anthony watching her with eyes that she felt piercing like two gimlets through the back of her head. He was noticing what fine, bright hair she had, and what delicate skin, and remembering that her father had been an Eton boy. • ,

" I am awfully sorry to give you so much trouble," he mumbled.' ?.;, •*

"It is no trouble at all," she hurriedly replied. "Now I willget them somemiik." She dared to glance up at him.. "Vou, sir—will you have

some tea for yourself?" ? - *

"Ob, if you please—if it won't be troubling you.- It's such perfectly

delicious tea." ?<

Jenny danced off—trying not to dance—and was back in atwinkling, with the tray in her arms. Her trays were ligtit, and did not drag'her into ungraceful attitudes, but he objected to see her canying one for him. As before, he took it from her; and the little courtesy made her cheeks flush and her heart swell. . . ,

" Only he," she said to herself, " would do that," .. ., j

And he would not sit to drink his tea, while she stood by, as she did, to wait upon the children—to see that they didn't butter their sashes and slop milk down their frocks; and under toe rinmimsfcnnrw} it iT"p^iil?lc nnt to talk to her. . . • • . ;T

"Will you allow me to introduoe myself?"-he ventured to say, during a pause in her ministrations, when she seemed uncertain whether to £o or stay. " I am -Anthony Churchill—of the fiim, you knot?;, I hope t am not taking a liberty, but your father was such an old friend. I grieve indeed to hear—I knew nothing about it when-I came theotbsrday—"

? Jenny flushed and flattered, and, because .she was physically weary, could not bear to be reminded of her father, who used to careof her. For an instant her eyes glistened, warning him to hurry from the

subject

" I think it is so brave of you - to do what 'you are dn.tvg My s;8ter has

been telling me about it" ->c v :&'*«

"Oh, thank you—but my mother and sister do more thanl do,4npro portion to their strength. My sister is driicmte - I'm afraid 4 t is not good for her to sit here ail day." After n piwise, •he-added,,<Mrs.0xe5iham has.been very, v&y-kind.to'me;"you*itither.toaV ?»' r-iti i&'g&ihy is>'

" I am «mtii&weM«iily*»gli^;if

wiriil were privilegWtobeBam«hiafr" ;

"Oh,thank you! .The orilr helD r

drinkour

" May I oome and drink it l^etimtef l

in such'a dairtty room^lamsumyhwjwt^iia^

am a vezy quiet frilow, ami ft' n jrrrmnri'i mlinfriffir hothihfeof tbeeort,bnttoittdidn*matter;.i

v; " Amone haaariflbt to

Thfe words were discouraging, but he thought the tone was not; sad he ' -determined to "come again, and alone, at the earliest opportunity,

Dnly:cartying cmt this intention on the very next day, he was annoyed to find the room foil, and Jenny flitting hither and thither like the choice butterfly that defies the collector's net. More than that, the basket-maker's wife, who was acquiring an ever-deepening interest in the restaurant busi ness, was being initiated into the art of serving customers, in preparation for the expected crush of race time, and this unattractive peteon it was who brought him his tea and soone.

Very sedately be sat in the chair that looked best able to bear his weight, until his tray was plaoed beside him, and it became evident that he was to get no satisfaction out of Jenny beyond that of looking at her. He looked at her for some minutes with an interest that surprised himself (having been thinking about her a go6d deal since making her acquaintance the day before), and she was conscious of the direction of his eyes, and of every turn of hiB bead, as if she had herself a hundred eyes to watch him. Then he quietly took up cup and plate, and passed over to Sarah's table. Sarah's table was a common four-legged cedar affair, with an aesthetic cloth on it, and bore only her money bowls and the needlework that she was accustomed to occupy herself with at odd moments. It stood in a retired comer, partly sheltered by the

screen.

" Do you mind if I sit here with you-?" he Said pleasantly—with proper respect, of course, but not with the deference she-had noted in his attitude to Jenny. " I feel so out of it, with no lady to excuse my presence—mono polising one of those pretty little tables that were never meant for such

as me."

Now Sarah was a child in years, but she was old in novel-reading and like exercises of the mind ; and she had already cast a hungry eye upon both Mr. Anthony Churchill and her sister, scenting a possible romance before a thought of such a thing had occuned to either of them. Daring their interview on the previous afternoon, she had observed them with quite a passionate interest; and all through the night she had listened to Jenny's restless movements in her adjoining bed, like a careful doctor noting the symptoms of incipient fever. She had been all day watching for his return to the tea-room, as for a potential lover of her own (but lovers, she knew, were not for her, with her deformed body), abandoning her dreams of European travel to build gorgeous air-castles on her dear one's behalf. **If thxs should be the result of keeping a restaurant—oh, if this should be the reward of her goodness and courage, and all her hard work!" she sighed to herself, in an ecstacy of exultation. " Oh, if he should marry her, and make a great lady of her—as she deserves to be—what would Joey say to the

tea-room then

So, when Mr. Churchill presented himself, he found no difficulty in making friends with her. She swept her work-basket from the table, to give him room for bis cup and plate, and responded to bis courteous advances with a ready self-possession that surprised him in a girl so young; for Sarah, under-sized and crippled, did not look her age by several years. For herself she would have been 6hy and awkward, but for Jenny she was bold enough. She had determined that, if she could help to bring about the realisation of her new dream, her best wits should not be wanting,

lie soon began to speak of Jenny.

" Your sister seems very busy," he said, with a lightness of toue that did

not deceive the listener.

" Yes; too busy. She gets very tired at night sometimes."

" I am afraid so. She has not been used to so much running about."

" No. She never expected to have so many customers. I am sorry now that we did not open for the afternoon only ; it would have been quite

enough for her."

" I suppose the afternoon is the busiest time ?"

" Oh, yes. There are very few in the morning. Sometimes she is able to

sit down and sew for a few minutes." .

Mr. Churchill made a mental note of that " I should have thought she had enough to do at the slackest time without doing sewing," he said, watching die little flitting figure furtively.

"Oh, die must be doing something ; she is never idle. She makes her own dresses always—and the most of ours."

" You don't say so!" He stared at Jenny boldly now. " Do you mean to say die made that one that she's got on f

" Certainly. And it looks all right, doesn't it?"

" Mrs. Eari couldn't beat her," he said absurdly; and he really thought so, not knowing anything about it, except that Jenny's frock was simple and neat—a style that men are always partial to. " But then Mrs. Earl doesn't often get such a figure to fit, does she?"

" Oh, I suppose so. Plenty of them."

" I am sure she doesn't It's so my graceful and—and high-bred, you know. Nobody but a lady could move and turn as she does. I hope yon don't think I'm very impertinent to make these remarks."

"Oh, no," laughed Sarah, who glowed with satisfaction. " I like to hear her praised. Tome she's die best and dearest person in the world, /don't think there is anybody like her."

" Wei!, there can't be many like her," said Anthony, seriously reflecting upon the girl's wonderful energy and high-mindedness.

Jenny was quite aware that she was being talked of, and presently she approached them, flushed, bright-eyed, vividly charming, as she had never been in the days before Mr. Anthony appeared. He rose at once, and stood while she asked him whether he had been properly attended to.

" Yes, thank you," he replied; and Sarah noticed his change of tone ' I have been taking the liberty of making myself acquainted with your

sister."

Jenny laid a hand on Sarah's shoulder. " You are very kind," she said. "I'm afraid-she is a bit dull and lonely in this comer by herself all

day."

" The kindness has been -the other way," said he, bat was grateful that! she otherwise regarded it, perceiving a futwe ad vantage to himMf therein. " I fear yon are tired. MTss Lidioh." .

"Not a bit," she said—and said truly—for his presence had filled body and soul with life* "And it I am, it'a a pleasant way of gettmgtired."

"Yon must not over-exert yourself," he urged, with a serious solicitude that thrilled her. "What profiteth it to gain cuBtom and lose your

health?'

" That's what I am always telling iter," aaid Sarah.

" My health is excellent," Jenny said, smiling happily. " And we are taking our landlady into the firm, yon see, with a view to contingencies."

" Yes, I was so glad to see that. It would take twenty of her to do what you do, bat still it's something; and she'll get more alert in time, I hope. If necessary, you must take in still more helpers, Miss Llddon—anything, rather than overstrain yourself and break down. -You must see to that"— turning to Sarah; " you must make her take care of herself. And if she won't, report her to me, ami I'll bring my father to bear upon her. He looks on her as his special charge, I know."

As they were standing apart from Ihe tea-drinkers, and as it were In private life, he held out his hand In farewell, bending his tall head in a most courteous bow. He could not sit down again, after getting up, his own tea and soone being disposed of, and thought it wise to resist his itnaig desire to linger.