Chapter 138662673

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1898-02-19
Page Number30
Word Count2529
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Lonely Woman
article text




She was twenty-seven, slight, brows haired, and only rather nice looking, till she smiled, when her face became beati fied. She was timorous, and had not an alluring personality, except with children (which, to be sure, was her business, for she belonged to the pampered order of nursery governesses).

Sometimes she received £30 a year, but in her last situation she had drawn £26, and a sharp attack of pneumonia (that was not in the contract) from a pair of damp sheets put upon her bed by a careless house maid.

The little nursery governess acquired a hacking cough that seemed to go through her thin body. She became ill, and could no longer teach.

One night the family were startled by hearing a loud voice in the bedroom occup pied by the governess; they listened. The nursery governess was teaching the towel horse French verbs.

It then dawned upon them that the governess was delirious, a doctor was sent for, and death and the governess fought hand to hand in the stuffy bedroom that the servants would have been disdainful of.

Now the little governesses's lungs were not made of leather. They were in a very delicate condition. The doctor told her that an operation on the left lung would be necessary, and asked her if she had any friends who would pay tier expenses at a private hospital.

She said she had not, so her employer guaranteed all her expenses. The car riage was brought to the door, and the little governess, with her meagre trunks, was packed off. The chil dren of the house cried after her, for she always had time to make dolls' clothes for them, and to play gay music whilst they danced at dusk in the old schoolroom. The housemaid who had done the mischief gave

Ia flaring magenta bed-iacket, and a

:hket of conversation lollies for her ' mgh.

In the hospital amongst the other itients a woman lay ill. A young, pretty .oiiian in the twenties. She was awaiting ,11 operation, one for which they were

;.li ving her, whilst they plied "Tin?'Lonely Woman" (for that was what they called the .itde governess) with dainty food and


The rooms of these two patients were op posite. The Lonely Woman could hear her neighbour joking and laughing gaily with ilio troops of friends that came to see her. 11 i>r room waR always decked with flowers ami baskets of fruit. The Lonely Woman always glanced in at the opposite door, as she came to and fro, and the Pretty Woman was curious to see the governess, for slip had coaxed the nurses to tilt her inhlc-mirror, and the eyes of the two women met, and smiled at each other in the glass one so pretty as she lay upon her frilled pillows, the thick masses of satiny

golden-brown hair framing a merry girlish

lace--the other only pretty when she smiled.

Now, The Pretty Woman was the vainest little being. Every night she coaxed Nurse Charlotte to curl and crimp her hair. One night. The Lonely Woman heard her say, laughingly, "Now, Nurse Charlotte, if I die, you know, don't you go putting a dowdy old shroud upon me. You bury me in my pretty white silk wrapper."

Nurse Charlotte, who was fat and com fortable, laughed, and told her "Not to talk nonsense."

The visits of The Pretty Woman's friends became more frequent, and her hus band and little child scarcely left her bed


The Pretty Woman's laugh was never gayer than row.

'Ah, dear God, let her live! Life is so sweet

to her," whispered The Lonely Woman to


A few days later The Lonely Woman was busv writing, and arranging her small affairs, for she thought it likely she would not recover; and she did not care much, loneliness and poverty 6eemed to be her portion in life.

Nurse Charlotte entered the room. Her eyes were red.

"How is she?" said The Lonely Woman, for Nurse Charlotte devoted her time wholly to The Pretty Woman of late.

"Dead." said the nurse, wiping her eyes, "and I've put her in her white wrapper she used to joke about."

That day the house was filled with the scent of flowers. Night came on, and the woman lay placid in the room opposite. The Lonely Woman sat alone in her room; she felt nervous-strangely so. "The quiet dead!"' Bhe said; "the quiet dead!"

Oh, how distinct every noise was; her own lireath, how horribly loud! A hairpin fell from her hnir to the floor with a ringing M)und; she gave a nervous start, every nerve in her body was ticking like a CIOCK-sud denly she started from her Beat, rushed head long through the dim passages, and beat frantically for admittance upon the door of the nurses' sitting-room, and they soothed and comforted The Lonely Woman.

For weeks The Lonely Woman lay upon her bed of sickness. She got to know every street Bound, the bark of every dog, the rumble of the trades people's carts in the early morning: even tne different footsteps in the Btreet Bhe could distinguish.

But there was one sound that attracted

her strangely. It came in the first, faint grey of the winter daylight; and just at dark, for a few seconds only-it was a voice that whistled faintly a few bars of an old fashioned tune that she used to play for the children before she was ill-just a bar or two, no sound of footsteps, then silence-the wh'Btle seemed to vanish round the corner of the street. <

The^ Lonely Woman grew to love the shrill ?whistle; to be grateful for the company it was; to listen for it eagerly, and to fancy ?i 80ir^8, °* fancies about it. One morn ing she heard the whistle approaching. She dragged herself to the window and waited ® ragged barefooted lad about ten, his thin coat buttoned tightly across his chest, a cap put on backward*, hia feet and legs blue

with cold, and with a bundle of newspapers

strapped round him, darted whistling past

the window.

The Lonely Woman smiled to herself-she felt happier for knowing.

One evening, when she became convales

cent, she put on warm clothing, and a re spirator, then stole out on to the verandah when she heard the boy coming. Then she beckoned him to her.

He came wonderingly to the gate, and stood there, looking narrowly at her, whilst he warmed the sole of his right foot upon his left leg. She beckoned to him to come upon the verandah.

"Want a paper, lidy?" 'Ere y'are, lates dishun, news of th'-"

"No thank you, my boy."

"What's up then? 01), cri, yer do look white about th' gills, blyme, if yer don't sick, ain't yer, lidy? Been 'ere long? This ,'eres an orsepital, ain't it? My word, ain't

it a rippin pitch fer fun'rals! four in a

week I seen once, comin' out o' here-with toffy plumes 011 the kerridges, an' silver on

the corfins."

"Don't," said The Lonely Woman, shud dering. " 'I cal led you to give you this,"and she put a sovereign in his hand. The lad's eyes grew big with wonder. He turned the coin over ;ind over; looked at her thoughtfully, suspiciously even.

''It ain't oronk, lidy?"

The Lonely Woman shook her head smil ingly at the child. The child put the coin in his mouth, bit it, tasted it. "Cripes! this is a chuck-in, lidy! what's it fer? I ; in't done nuthin fer it, y' know."

"You whistled as you passed to and fro,

and I was very lonely, and it cheered me up."

"Yer a rum 'un. 'Ere, take it back," said the child, buttoning his ragged jacket.

"Keep it," she urged, "and tell me what you will do with it."

The lad considered deeply. "I'll go ter tli' theayter, and' take my donah; an' I'll shout fer a cove I know an' 'is donah. Look 'ere, lidy, I'll come an' tell yer all about it, eh, ter-morrer night, on my way home-an' what's lef' over I'll give ter my old woman. I say, what's yer name, lidy?"

"They call me The Lonely Woman,'' said she smiling. "What is your name?"

"They call me The Little Bloke; well, s'long," and he ran away."

Next evening he arrived almost breathless

on the verandah.

"1 went ter see 'Th' Crime o' th' Countess Treen,' " said The Little Bloke. "It was grand. Treen was awful nice lookin', but she wasn't up ter mucli-she was a reel snorter. She was dead-nuts on mashin' another lidy's 'usband, so she was awful cute, an' she lays another josser on ter coax this 'ere lidy away from 'er 'ome-see 'er drift? 'Fly with me, Iserbelle,' 'e sez, 'leave th' tyrant yer calls 'usband, 'e don't luv yer, not fer sour apples; e's dead-shook on another donah; sides, 'e ain't much chop come ter Parrus,' sez 'e.

" 'Wot?' she Bays. 'Leave me home an' jools, an' me husband an' child-never. Viper!' she sez, and she lets a yell out of her. In conies th' husband, cops the toff mashin' 'is missus, and lays 'im out Al.' I'll 'ave ter slope, Lonely Woman, or the boss '11 be getting on ter me," said The Little Bloke, "s'long, see yer ter-morrer,"

and he was off.

The Lonely Woman had a relapse, and again grim Death hovered close to her. Again the cheery whistle sounded in the

street. It was louder, clearer, and had a petulant inquiring tone in it. Sometimes a little flap came against the window, and then the sound of a so ft fall on the veran dah. One morning the French window had blown ajar, a soft body whizzed through the door and fell upon the outstretched palm of the" Lonely Woman . . . her hand closed upon it It was a bunch of purple violets nestling in a border of rough, green leaves, and wet with the morn ing dew. The Lonely Woman held the flowers to her face, and drank in the rich perfume "My Little Bloke has sent them to me," said she, and a bright drop fell upon the violets and mingled with

the dew."

"Violets in the room, I am sure," said Xurse Charlotte, bustling in a few hours. later. "I forgot to tell

you. We have had a great joke since you have been ill. Nearly every morning we have found a great bunch of violets on the verandah. Such a race we used to have to see who would get thein first. "Some of Nurse Alice's beaux, I think,' said Nurse Charlotte, 'she always

blushes when we tease her about it.' "

The Lonely Woman fondled the flowers beneath the quilt, and smiled a little. No more whistling in the street, no more hasty footsteps, no more violets on the verandah. The Lonely Woman was a little sadder be cause of it.

One Sunday she raised herself on her el bow. The grape vines were uncurling their pale-green silken leaves, and a crimson rose bush was flowering in the garden. "Spring is coining," said The Lonely Woman, "Spring is coming," cheeped the dusty little town birds, making believe they were in the country.

The church bells began ringing joyously, the sound of girls' voices came to the ears of the invalid-in a moment they would pass the window. She sat up again. Two sisters in dainty dresses and new spring hats, decked with saucy nodding bunches of field Howers, poppies, buttercups, and cornflowers, passed. The heart of The Lonely Woman leaped within her. Life was still worth living, there were still spring hats!

The Lonely Woman was nearly well now. It might have been the spring hats, or the careful nursing, or the rich food-whatever it was she was improving in appearance. She was quite pretty now-her face was plump, her eyes were bright, she had a delicate colour. The Lonely Woman had never looked better in her life.

"1 Bhali be losing vou as a patient soon," said the doctor, "three more visits only. You are quite convalescent now-no pain! Appetite good still? H'm!" said the doctor, "good morning," and he strode from the


The doctor had come to pay hii Uat visit. He leaped from his buggy.

"Say, BOBS, said a breathless voice at


the doctor's elbow, " 'ow's th' lidv in there gettin' on?"

"What lady, my boy?" said the doctor, smiling.

"The one with th' brown 'air an' th' big eyes, I mean-that's 'er room there in th'


"Friend of yours, eh, my lad?" said the doctor, laughing a little at the small ragged figure bv his side.

"Yus, she is, Smarty," said the boy, de fiantly poking out his chin. "1 want ter know 'ow she is. Yer mighl toll a cove. Look 'ere, she giv mo a quid because she was that lonely, an" she 'card 1110 whistlin' goin" past 'er window -one day 1 was bavin' a pitch to 'er, but she never come out on th' verandah no more, an' I was put on another paper round, so I 'ad ter chuck coinn ' this


"Look 'ere, now, Doc.," said the child coaxingly, "will you giv' 'er this dawg?"

lie look a tiny fox-terrier from his pocket. "Will yer tell 'or ter let it lay quiet fer a bit-'cause I only bit its tail off ter-day. Teil th" I id y it'll keep er from feelin' lonely - they i-all her The Lonely Woman, an' tell 'er- she'll know 'oo yer means-it's from 'er Little Bloke, with his best respecs."

"I'm a lonely beggar myself," said the Doctor, "here, my lad." and a bright sovereign lay in the hand of the Little


"Yer a reel bloomin' toff, an' that's

strite," said the boy slowly, "blowed if you ain't-thanks, governor."

The Doctor smiled as the boy ran rapidly


"A lesson in kindness," mused the Doctor, as he ran up the verandah-steps-"that's a decent litt1 e chap-The Lonely Woman they call her, eh? "Well," said the Doctor, for such is the force of example, "My services

to The Lonely Woman shall be gratui


"Good morning, I have brought you a present," said the Doctor.

"Yes?" said The Lonely Woman, smil ing.

"From jour Little Bloke," said the Doctor, and he laid the sprawling puppy

upon her knee. "He says it is to keep you from feeling lonely."

Now one sparkling little tear came into the eyeof The Lonely Woman; and another, and another, till they rolled down her face.

"Don't cry!" urged the Doctor, sympath etically.

''Don't pity me," sobbed The Lonely Woman, smiling through her tears, a& she fondled the puppy, "I am crjdng only be cause I am h-happy, and 1-life is worth liv ing."

"What has made you happy?" asked the Doctor, curiously.

"Two spring hats, a bunch of violets, and a puppy without a tail," said The Lonejy Woman, with the happiest little laugh in

the world.