Chapter 138621367

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138621367
Full Date1891-12-19
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count2557
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Charm That Works
article text

the charm that works.

BY A. C.

Chapter I.

JOSEPH LIDDON was deaf, and one day, when he was having

a holiday in the country, he crossed a curving railway line, and a train, sweeping round the corner when he was looking another way, swept hitn out of existence. On his shoulder he was cuiying the irtfiCqnent and delightful gun—reminis ' cent of happy days in English' ooverts and stubble fields—and in his hand he held a dangling hate, about the cooking of which he was dreaWlng pleasantly, wondering whether his wife would have it jugged, or -baked. When they stopped the train and gathered him up, he was as dead as the hare, dissolved into mere formless tatters, and his women-folks were not allowed to see him afterwards. They came up from town to die inquest and funeral -wife end two daughters, escorted by a* downy-lipped eon—all dazed and bewildered in their suddenly transformed world ; and a gun and a broken watch and a few studs,"that had been carefully washed and polished, were the only "remains" on which they could expend the valedictory kiss and tear. Their last memory of him was the gay bustle of farewell at Spencer street when he set forth upon his trip. It was such an event for him to have a holiday,.and to go aWay- hy hiMfldfi th&t the whole family had to aeehim off. Even young Joe was on the platform to:carry his father's bag, and buy him the evening"papers^ his'tfara being the Sydney express, which did not leave till after offibehotirsl .When they knew bow the holiday Had kded, their liitter regrets' for siot hating' accompanied him' further were grmtly8oothed' l]y the knowledge that they had gone with' him so 'far bid closed tHeir life together with «n net'of love.that hari mode him happy.

\ He had been born a geutlem&h'.ih cthfe .technical:seme,*&hd had lived a free man in every sense. In spite of this—to a great extent, probably, btcauseof it—he had not been very -successful in the world; that is to say, he had not made himself important or rich. Money had not come to him frith his gentle blood, aud he had not had the art to command it, nor ever mid have hod. > It is a pursuit that requires the whole energies of one's mind, and his mind had been distributed a good deal, He was fond of books,which was a fatal weakness; he was fond of little scientific experiments, which was worse; he was indifferent to the sovereign rule of public opinion and the advantages enjoyed by those who can cut a dash, Which was worst of all. And, besides, he waadeuf. He had begun to grow deaf when quite u young man, after having a fever, and by the time he was

fifty one had to shout at him.

So, when at fifty-six he met his untimely end, because he could not hear tbe train behind him, he was in the position of a clerk in a merchant's office, highly valued and trusted indeed, but worth no more than £370 per umsm, which salary he had receiyed for sixteen years. The £70 had paid die rent of the little house in which he had dwelt with his family for the gteater part of that time, and on the remainder they had lived quite com

fortably, in a small way, by dint of good management, without owing a penny to anylxjdy. Mrs. Liddon, otherwise a comparatively uncultured person, was an accomplished cook and domestic administrator; Jenny,

fi» eldest daughter, in whom the qualities of both parents blended, got up cuiy in the morning to buy provisions at the market, and did all the dressmaking for the family; Joe, a junior in his father's office, paid some fifing fur his board, and otherwise' kept and olothed himself; and Sarah, fhe youngest^ who had a bent spine, was literary, like her father, in whose niteUectuaipursuits she had had the largest Bhare, and morally indispensable,

. Dot practically supporting, in the economy of the household.

: jnwtbe father. was gone,..the income was gone too, and the home , as it

been. Mother and ehildyear ^opnd themselves possessed of, £500, paid no inanranqe.o jfioc, aud their little family belongings, and a few pounds, t had been kept in store for the casual rainy day. To-this the firm who p«mpjoyed him wonld haveadded agift of £100 had the pride of these ntnblefolks ailoweddt}a^dtfieir ietafives were also, prepared to "do toething in the way of what seemed necessary help. • But.the first reso

't^.by-the bereaved ones, when resolutions had to be taken, was

andd^ptmd'upon themselveB, That being settled, consult togetheras to liow they might invest their tiny

jgf' k> the beat advantage, so as to make it the foundation of their fram Jenny cajled,t^e meeting a few days after their return ' ffuneral, and insisted that all should rouse themselves to a sense

^ fiie extreme Beripusneaa of Hie situation.

"rp.

and we must

lV> and then, if

mother f

Ifoi't iike"th^7 wUl makemine. What is your 7; " . |

'Oh,mj dear, I'm Bare I don't keow," QoaV?f^totbinkofanythiii« ^iorftthe ronstant handkerchief }" I bave»ohea*t to*»SSW (?, Swobbed. "I suppose a boarding-boote- uever bear to

«w«( have our own house and keep togeth«; ^^ went to her tot with any of yon—all I've got bow I" ^be ban

..declaredi extending

we are

merely.

gaidSarab. . - - thfttwould have I

?

|btoey/,liattdhk mother, with spirit* and with the

theft aha ghook her head.

^ «be objected, ''and the result too unoertain."

« Everything™ Uncertain in this world,'' BighedMra. Lidddti, disnrt»bint«l! and discouraged. "Then wliat do you propose-yourself, my. dear? A

school f? • - - ? •

Jenhy shook her head again. "The place is literally stiff with them/'ehfe replied. " And, even if there were room for us, we are not qualified."

Let us have a wee cottage," said Sarah, " and keep ourselves to our selves ; have no servant and take in sewing or type-writing."

M e should be insolvent in a couple of years or so," her sister replied, and we should cripple Joey."

As to that," Said Joey, "I'm not afraid. I toanttd take care of you, and I ought. I am the only man in the family, and women have no business to work and slave while they have a man to do for them." j

"My poorboyt on£lSOayear !" ' " i " It won't al ways be £130."

" No, Joe. IVe can do better than that. Thank you all the same, dear

old fellow."

" Well, tell us how you can do better."

_ He squared his arms on the table and looked at her. Her mother and sister also looked at her, for it was evident that she was about to bring forth her scheme, and that 6he expected it to impress them.

" What I should have liked," she began, " if there had been money enough for a fair start—which there isn't—is a—quite a. peculiar tahfl particular—not in any way a conventional—shop." v-\

"Oh!" /

"Goodgracious!" i ! { j "Goon/" \ % " ?

"You needn't all look bo shocked. A shop such-as I should Lave would be a different kind of thing from the common, I assure you. I have often thought of it I have always felt"—with a pretfy smile Of confidence —" that I had it in me to conduct a good business—that I could give the traditional shopkeeper 'points,' as Joey would say. However, like the boarding-house, it would swallow up all the money at one gulp, so it can't

be done."

" A good job too," said Joey, with rather a rough laugh. { " Don't say that without thinking," rejoined the girl, whose intelligent face liad brightened with the mention of her scheme. " I daresay you would rather be a millionaire—so wodlil I; bht'you must remember we have to earn our bread, without much choice as to ways of doing it. It would have been nice, after a. day's work V—she looked persuadingly at Sarah—" to have had tea in our own back parlour, all alone by ourselves, free and com fortable ; and in the evening tb'have totted up our takings for the day—all cash, of dou'ree—and seen them getting steadily bigger and bigger ; and by and-by—because I hioxO thatj with a'good start, I should have succeeded— to have become well enough off to sell out, and go to travel iii Europe, and do things."

" Ah—that!" sighed Sarah, wlio had a thin, large-eyed, eager face that betokened romantic aspirations.

" If I had only myself to consider, I would do it now," said Jenny. " but there are yon three—your money must not be risked."

Joey thought of an elegant little cousin up country, the daughter of a bank manager, who naturally turned up her nose at retail trade ; and he said that, as the present head of the family—he was afraid Jenny was over looking the fact that he held this position by divine right of sex—he should certainly withhold his sanction from any such absurd project, risk or ho risk. " Thank the Lord," he blustered angrily, "we have not come down to that—not yet"

She laughed in his face."1 " You talked about cads just now," she said; " take care you don't get tainted with their ideas yourself. And don't for get that you are only nineteen, .while I am twenty-four, and mother is just twice as old as that; and that whatlittle we have is hers; and that women in these days are as good as men, and much better than boys; and that you are expected .to allow us to know what is best for a few years more."

She was a diminutive creature, barely five feet high; but she had the moral powers of a giantess, and was. really a very remarkable little person, though her family wasnot aware of it Joey loved her dearly in an easy going brotherly way, hut maintained that she " bossed the show " unduly at times, and on-such occasions was apt to kick against her preten sions. Lest he should do so noyv,. and ati ynseemly squabble ensue, Mrs. Liddon interposed with the remark that it was useless to discuss what was impracticable, and begged her daughter to'come to business.

' "Well," said Jenny then, fixng her bright eyes on the boy's snllcy but otherwise handsome face, "this is my proposal—that we open a tea-room— a sort Of refined little restaurant for quiet people, don't you know ; a kind of—" . ? .

Joey roseoatentatiouslyfrom hischair.

" Sit down, 'Joey, and'listen to me," commanded Jenny.

" I'm not going to sit down and listen to a lot of tommy-rot," was Joey's

scornful reply.

" Very well—go away, then; we can talk a great deal better without you. Take a walk. And when you 'come hack we will tell you what we have

decided on."

This advice had its natural effect. Joey sat down again, stretched out his legs, and thrust his hands into his trousers' pockets. Jenny proceeded to unfold her plan to her mother and sister, taking no notice of his sarcastic

criticisms.

. J.!»_ __

" Now, dears," she said earnestly, " you know we nityi^do'bomething to | keep ourselves, and at the same time to keep a hon^dtmt you ?"

They sighed acquiescence.

" And that isn't playwork—we don't expect it to be all pleasure ; and we can't afford to have fine-lady fancies, can we?"

They agreed to this, reluctantly.

" Well, then, if we can't do what we would like, we must do what we can. And I can't think of anything more promising than this. I would have [ quite a small place to begin with—one room, and some sort of kitchen to prepare things in—because rent is the only serious matter, and we must make the thing Belf-supporting from the first; that is theattractionbfmy plan, if it has an attraction—the thing I have been specially Bchemiiigfor. Because, yon see, then, if we fail, there won't be any great harm done."

"The publicity!" murmured Mrs. Liddon; and Joey took up the word, and drew offensive pictures of rowdymenmvadingtheestablishmenVailliflg for food and drink, and ad<ire&sing these bom ladies as " my dear."

" There will be. nothing of that sorty" said Jenny, calmly. " The place will'have no.at^raptionslor'^hat class...'^e.jnust not prohibit men, for

that would discourage geheral castofo—'.l

"0b—custom renewed Jpey.withanuirof loathing.

" But it will h« a womsnV .p^t^l^^men would, not, think of coining!

to except fobringjvomeo. ; not all rows ' of chairs and tables, iiJfe a <»mtnon j^teui»nt^the hest of our own furniture,! with some witdcm. ^aireAdded, >small tables, |ike a.conffortable private sitting-room^ only not/nP. ^wdcdi and floored with linoleum, so that we can wash it easilys _! ffiien jost-tea and coffee mid scones—perhaps some little c^cw-nothing periahableor messy; perhaps aome^elioate

sandwiches,'so tJirtt Uklies caJi make u; lunch. Ortly'these; simple tidpgs but they .- as perfect]/ good as it iB possible to make rtfrgtu.'' Mother, VOW

?acPne^f-r^'I .; .• .. : ...v: ; Wi.\ a ;c

Mrs, Liddoh smiled. SheSaw at oncethht her sconea aloCe would make

the tea-room famous.

" We must do everything ourselves," Bald Jenny, " everything ; no out goings except for rent and oar few sPtetSne groceries.GOnseqwWiy

must not; undertolce too much.. Say we open at eleven o'clock jahd clpae.at eight-r-no, at seven. . That/will give us time to preparfe .ifa the morning, and our evenings for re3t. . Mother, deaf, you must'.cook.: 1. will «5ajt. We cannot, accommodate more than twenty or go .'at firsts and I can manage that. : Sarah.can get ready the tea and coffee,'and perhaps take the money when we are busy., A few dozen of nice white cups saucers and S lot of plates—I could get them wholesale. I wish we Could afford cloths, but I am afraid they, and the washing, would cost too much ; we must have American cloth, I suppose. And butter?—we must he veiy careful what arrangements we make for butter, to be'sure of having it new every morn ing ; and we must keep it cold—that, above all things. Though we only give tea and scones, let everybody say that they never bought such tea and .cones before. Eh, mother?"

" They won't buy better, if I hare anything to do with it,", said Mrs. Liddon, putting her handkerchief in her pocket.

Thus Jenny unfolded her scheme, and gradually talked her family into a conditional agreement with it. Only Joey was persistently hostile, and he, when she begged him to suggest a tetter, Was fain to acknowledge that no bptter occurred to him. AU he hoped and trusted was that his sister would not drag the family name into the mire—chat was to say, not more so than the wretched state of things necessitated. " The Liddons," said the boy, as he rose from the interview, " have never teen in trade before."

" And wouldn't you rather be a proprietor in Churchill and Son's than a junior clerk?" wsb Jenny's quick retort, as he left the room.

The only possible rejoinder was to bang the door, and Joey banged it heartily. . :