Chapter 139743668

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1897-06-26
Page Number51
Word Count1900
Last Corrected2014-07-30
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleLucille
article text THE STORYTELLER. "LUCILLE." By H. BURKINSHAW. She was one of those striking-look- ing high-coloured women with the fashion- able waists, and expanses of snowy necks and shoulders who first catch our eyes on entering a crowded ballroom. She was just a slip of a girl, slender, willowy, and frail, with a delicately poised head above a milk while throat, that might degenerate into scragginess, but when you looked above the slim white shoulders your eyes were held by the brave line of red lips and the lovely pa- thetic grey eyes. If you happened to notice her at all, and to single her out for five minutes deliberate inspection, you were al- ways after that wanting another oppor- tunity of looking, and of a closer view, and   then you had a disagreeable sensation that you were making yourself conspicuous by markedly staring a woman out of counte- nance, and seeking the key to an unanswer- able conundrum. Nobody thought of calling her handsome or beautiful, and somehow "pretty" didn't seem the word. I heard a cheeky young middy describe her once as "Too rippin' " for anything-looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth though." I inquired, somewhat acridly, (though the Lord knows what right I had to stand up for her!) if it did! And the reply was a muffled "Oh! crikey," from the little upstart. Another juvenile admirer of hers, for she had a way with boys which was sometimes a subject of great annoyance to older men, once re- marked that the only fault he could find with her was that she was married! "Mar- ried!" I said, for I had only just seen her, and had not caught her name. "That chit married?" "Yes, to some beastly chap. I'm sure he's a beast-out in West Australia or some- where a long way off, thank goodness; only hope he'll get the fever. Just imagine her in widow's weeds!" And the blood-thirsty   young lover departed, and I saw him a little later carrying her fan, and hanging on every word that fell from those generously moulded lips. So she was a grass widow!   One of the lonely army who have husbands "up north," husbands "out west," or hus-   bands somewhere, and who are labelled "sold" or "reserved" to our frequently en- vious eyes. I wondered then, being an old   bachelor, and susceptible, how any man could be found with so callous a heart as to   be able to bear separation from Lu-   cille Derrick, but reflected in calmer   moments of the golden worth of that man's self-sacrifice. None of our   select circle had ever met her hus-   band. Perhaps that was why Billy Smith's   designation of "the beast" clung to him. We knew he must be poor, for Lucille, who lived with an old widowed aunt, came to ball after ball in the same low-cut black satin frock, and never seemed to wear any- thing but white at the picnics and tennis parties. She was such a quiet, unpreten- tious little woman. Yet somehow even my density of perception soon showed me that she was beginning to lead society in Mer- ringly into whatever paths her whims chose to take it. Nothing seemed complete with-   out her. Wives "who did not care for her     style, so they phrased it, yet found that brothers and husbands became stupid and   argumentative if Lucille was left out at the   musical evenings and dinner parties. Lucille   was begged to chaperone the walking parties bv moonlight which were sometimes in- dulged in by the young people, though she often turned up in the rear herself half an hour after the young people aforesaid had arrived at their destination. And yet Lucille was circumspect. But it did not take me long to define that half the men in the place were over head and ears in love with her-myself included. But I scarcely   count, having always borne that reputation. "The Beast" wrote long letters from the sandv wastes where he laboured. Lucille let me catch glimpses of them sometimes, for I was soon installed as her confidential adviser and friend. "I like you, because you will not make love to me," she said looking at me, through me, and beyond me with those pathetic, maddening eyes of hers. That, of course, sealed my lips, and guide-scarcely guide perhaps-more audience, I think-I became from that out. "The Beast" had had bad luck since he went to the West, but Lucille had never suffered. Verily I believe the poor fellow had starved himself to give Beauty her portion. Whether she had ever worked     in her life I know not. Dumas says that hands to be beautiful must be idle, and hers were certainly beautiful. How often I have seen her lying back in a big squatter chair among her cushions, while one deli- cate hand smoothed out the Beast's un- tidy letter lying in her lap. I used to wonder if she cared for him. To this day I cannot answer that internal query. That she loved luxury and soft living it took no time to determine. Her disposition, her whole constitution, required the petting and warmth and life we all conspired to give her. She gave the impression of being   delicate.               The slender neck and arms and big sad eyes made one dread early decline,       although I err in speaking of her as a little r ® *** the average height, low Fren'oh «v,pp08eV ®n« in ner dL^oe* for these self-same his hcart^f^ j Beast" was working the thick Tf un<^er *«d-hot skies, and in 0«" h of «*er and famine found her^or00.1 We54 "J® *as trS £f £ Tb«*y. She ^r°?hotoi faU-1..yh dS? ®erit of a ehouffi - °£ 1# Aead and » oS Sd V mat ticeshfn^f 8* ^tterytiutftTohg appnen up hail, Iv roy tongtie, and took frttauJ'fuL knowing tkit *l» ^ the matte- actual ontw^Ot U» standing by the camp fire Caged ?^ so heartily sick of "Led SsThft S 8Si^T3°? ,Tas ^elcoSt a cW fromThp f.aUe,n Bick <* a sort of TJO? ? want of green vegetable or in rlm'n ®Diy 8ort of cl»ange of food and to^on^f ^ trying wi& scant Zterial a-TaL-sfa sa# ^SSSSSLTH SXSSE&RSS onfy ,W SSTWSF fUrther out' and had oniy just got a little nearer civilisation "SL^eiiS°t.^w8te° » treshing little bits of home gossip, and how each sun-browned bushraan sighed as he re hout^ leftter{ thinking of the dear ones wZ of miles away, for who could tell * j should meet again ? nTi -J -e iooked long at Beauty's hVEpM?ffl,.ckeri,DB jiglit of the Sp Ji.vA ? gingerly, for his hands were dirty water was scarce here, and they had outnf e^cept+,:fordrjnking purposes. How inff i; fCfi ^ragde Woman looked, smil ing ?ut of the picture with those great pa thetic eyes-the shimmer of satin about but it L\Vaff°?. y J1* 8(11110 black ball-drcss, but it set off her fairness amazingly. Jim looked from that to the dusky wastes of sand and stunted scrub around him, to the recumbcnt figures of the rough men, and h« °JT fa<*, with two months' days! grime and sunburn of ^Poor wife!" he said, "poor wife!" .Meanwhile Lucille went through her weekly round of gaieties, followed here and there bv the admiring eyes of the young ca dets and big schoolboys, and by the covert glances of their elders. Lucille, always with that intense individuality of here, whether seated under her pink-lined parasol, clad lrom head to foot in snowy white, sublimest tvpe of innocence, or gliding, a lissome shape, among the dancers at our balls and soirees. She neither played nor sang; she never lifted a linger to help with the ba zaars or fitful efforts of charity; and yet Lucille was the axle on which we turned. \\ e circled round her. Our maidens be^an to come forth "all in virgin white arrayed," but tl|6^ didn t look like Lucille. Xlie duui ber of black satin ball-dresses became fune t d'd not collfomd them with Lucille. We only wondered why other tned for tlle unattainable. Oh! Lu cille. Lucille! 1 keep the one white bank sia rose you gave me still, a crushed brown fragment, among the papers in my desk, and there is always an old pain and an old unsatisfied question at my heart when I look at it What were you, Lucille? No Cleopatra, that I swear. Will I likewise swear that you were a Penelope? I answer not. To that query my heart cannot-or will not-reply. 13ut the poor "Beast," the lawful lord and master of this fairy-framed thing of ours? We heard all about it afterwards. The papers published some sickening details after the first telegram had smitten a sud den horror upon our laughter-loving com munity. But, after all, it was only the old story-only another crime the great lone bush has to answer for-of weary men on foot deceived by distances, weary men be neath a blazing sun, in the midst of Band hills in drought time, within never a drop of water within miles except to those who knew the route, and these did not. Just tue old horrible tale of empty water-bags and intolerable thirst and sunstroke ter minating hours of agony. And the strong arms that had won Lucille, and caressed her and rocked her to sleep, even as one would rock a babe, were fighting off death in a hopeless struggle; and the bearded lips that had touched Lucille's red mouth were blackened and cracked with a horrible con suming thirst. Oh, God! to think of it! And Lucille, unknowing, was laughing, dancing, gliding smoothly through life, while Jim Derrick lay dying of thirst and hunger in a desolate waste of scorching sand! Why did I go to condemn you, Lucille, when I heard the news? To condole with you I know I did not go. But when I saw "vou lying prone, with your long glory of hair across your face, I said never a word. Were you weeping, I wonder, under your yellow locks? You lay marvellously still so still that I thought you were dead, and touched your hand with mine, and then a tremor shook you, and the hand was warm and moist, and full of glad young life; and the poor "Beast's" hands were rotting in a hastily-made grave! I notiecd boAv the wedding-ring slipped up and down on your white finger. Perhaps you had ever worn it loosely. But I will not reproach you now, Lucille, for I did not do so then, i only took "a last farewell of all I loved" as you lav there, almost speaking aloud those lovely lines-as if I had been Jim Derrick himself "I did not come to curse thee, Cuinevere." But I am getting old, and 1 twaddle. Lu cille's soul mav have been as white as her gowns, for all 1 know to the contrary. Soon after that she left Mernngly with out (so gossip, hydra-headed, had it) one of her aforetime admirers having asked to fill the dead husband's place. But alter that there were many long faces in "our set," and society languished, ; ,, The newspaper reports on the Ueast s death remarked that "on the breast of the dead man the portrait of a beautiful womau in evening dress was found. That was the first and last time I heard Lucille called beautiful.