Chapter 142925567

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Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142925567
Full Date1910-05-14
Page Number55
Corrections0
Word Count3900
IllustratedN
Last Corrected1970-01-01
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Syren: Told by the Paper-Weight
article text

THE STORYTELLER.

THE SYREN. I

TOLD BY THE PAPER-WEIGHT.

Bv M. FORREST.

T -was broken from a reef in Cleveland Bay during one of the periodical cyclones, and tossed up by a green-lipped wave on the very bluest day I have ever seen, on

to an island, and into human lives, and that was how 1 became a paper-weight—a' paper-weight! I, who have seen the mer maids combing their long straight hair with' a comb of mother or pearl, have heard the pipes in the roek-girt reedy pandamus, and the storm witches whistling between the calms—but let me (with the philosophy of the coral-bred), cease repining of the base rises to which I have come, and go back to the Blue Day that was the beginning of %y experiences of humanity.

The wave lifted me on to the silky white sand, and then retreated, laughing low. .There was a trail of lettuce-green seaweed about me like a sash, and presently it began to die in the sun, and to weep for the ocean bed from which it came. I felt the sun, too, I can tell you; for since I wias built I had known nothing but the cool amber jay* that slip through the shallow water, reach ing their pale fingers to caress the reef at middav. 1 had not yet reached the sum mit which is bare at low tide, but was con tent to lie modestly just below the surface. But the cyclone came with its immense seas, that battered on the brown Towns ville beach, and roared along almost to the feet of t he heavy Morelon Bay fig trees, and some wreekage was driven on to the reef, and so I was shattered from my parent stem, and cast into the outer seas. Sharks swooped past me as I was lifted along by, the racing currents: they had been nosing about among that wreckage, and some were distended as after a full meal; agitated stingarees careered above me; shoals of silvery fish swam by, and I was carried on, round and round, for days, weeks—months of submarine life, till at last that wilful sneering wave flung me on to the white sands of Magnetic Island. It was not far

f: <a \'.i >? v v.] -r- the boats from the

r.-:r;lfli.-«

'i !,e ?•;->« :/ or. I r-cek. ed my first iiijv.i-.. ?; a hoh.iay. and there v. <:i" i •/')]#: dotted about the heicb. a.-.'i. i ;» t re grey granite tor*. and tse

*• '•?-."?? i be pines held their euro. I

f i r.*. •> ii). /..? -moke went skywards.} h---" • * - «•<!.-. alt v.ere bias—bfue—bl«;e— | 5"'-v? d-epf-aing to jicrple. in the i ' ?" ? ma^f. and a nooi o: s.;r. on j i; ? r'tui 'r**. The seaweed died, sts; " ?' -• n m« i>.L*xed their hold and j eh.-i.v .e , u-t tse tihrt—the sand gti-'ened • ' - nitl, 'Mj.tn.Ted heat—the tana ra

r.t.i. .sr. i a -alr_ breeze sprang up and

'•'-.'•f 1 ' jve- oack vaia to the rhoie: ?

;r'' r..,.,'d reach me and stick rne j i -i us.-jw- fi!,- raid depths of re*:, she ' '? *r d*.d ,.ng c-r pink ten m the } s-ami it:.rT;ng niio the wares as ? s.;f r*sr.jj everything—man. woman. | avj •.n.a. v Lo -.rroe her war. She bad a { hi"- ~ ..o h'/r.ri':*. oh her head, and a white i fr .. 6. v she ?,eid well above her fi !,re.. '? rouii'i--'i ar.idef. I knew aer at once

'?>*. * "yrcn-hough she combei no long j >e<c>w hair—:n hers was^abort and! euriy, sr.d f gh vie ended in fee: instead i r'i a>"V'- '•'**>'.* re «ii t he same, once you look j s'ra.rhr n, : ..--.r <~ts. where man. I argoMe, hats: gone to wrt-i.k. ' I

The rr-ti "ii With her ">r co:.r<-, tfier.- - r,- a nisi, a sunburned .eic.-r. --no ' look-d - • -a v. m- nrst. |

T':1'-"- •< ?? ' e./ral. frM"." £•? -a d.

*"• ; !•- -'.of-fed and picked me .jii ; f ct s--aw.-ei t; e

t " ' '.r r '.--re .t got de—r.t b::ri-ii. ' 8-'-rv' V- " » ?; oh rcavisirti '

i k iK.rt- a« « '?" *• • i"e-" :cto a

1 '.r.'-'i e ! r-.-.-f

? V . .

L '' v^ - '

1 ^ ""]>

re c."»rr--..-.g

s

L i:.: ' ?' •' '" •• " ^

I> h ???: ^

lilt".' r , \ Ji- w :=b';:'C - '. l-r-" ' J vri ^ c.fr.

fceep o I

>ae « g.„ .j ,»*a! of i.-s -

t.ng on r.r ... ... And -ic-king- :net '

Weil • b;-r ; , • -;e rest r,f O... .. ...... ! Api»-ir»-r:t;! -• <- f..!ir.d r;< rr- .

Ffi: ve,'. but I'

Ki" I'- ; in? r

UP;

in J.:'4- pOfk-v.. ar.,i -rbenerer ' s."- a< '•'df-r." ireiii he.i iiini. • ,'ther in. f '. !:r among ti.e stone, or in pa--:ng !

s • i .Of;i-?in)A 'and it a r.refv j freorient a:.i< r.:1. I used to f.-el h:.- b^ar" t byrry «. tho-.g', it had sorsiething *o f-a-..;.,, I «'r f-'ii-r—. J see not Ling. into a 1

*' Wf! <1 tijOi1"' ''i piL1^

ar.o an mo kr.ife; hut I heard a g>od 0^3-. j' a"; • ' notfe-d tnat h-r voire bad d ~c'*e*rr ' tor,--- ford.trTerr men. It at- hk- a"~-is'-1

.r-r, .-ment r",a red -ipor, by rar-ed hands '

t.v; > a- c.tt i- thr seas ii-b jbe i

f^.* It.-- slid her1 fc -' - ' - S -- • r 1-ts «afe. '?

s—"«. r* "r TZ* ' "* *'*'•* •

—r" I Ir-5k * pT>^ *yMajj -

i — r1.;A"; I

&• •'i" .r'. " x yj*r. f A *.'-?* 1 j--* s ia-r rcr>* If.-k *tt \ mek f-.j- a wi V. ?

" " "? - oacd V-nstp-d s-e. :'~»fhsg f.-* -f ?".;e. H« Etost Lire

t:.—' ?— X-—r* •" rr -? -k*.1 d y-'f. ~ ; rd ti e r?;4 o-* wa-er- art -ye

W^i:<efess• -e ;ea" « h.-W. !

.""/>»• 0-s.;-e. gtrf." he «rd. "Ob. O-»•->. Z-ri." arvt ' -n be gs-e a ^-,r' of hs

t-" se • • ? '!••-»» ~r'ge-- d-j»-- -.;.., .-e>gh ' • rrer-f- ,n -p- r-v^fc. and i> afrat-i .* ar:f» :

b-t<- x'* b-a k fo th- mvr.cr <K*an again, j

Ooug home tl.» water got into the Jy,z:.' and tii»v vr-r- ail vrTy 'wet. "Hie giri : ?IwcgJir it a tretceminus joke. To«- hiis-A i her an to the roof of the tinv d't-k fabin, I and the m-n growped at her iee- Tlie blue j day srs» dying into a twilight of rose and I grea-. Th- w .ves were whste^apjr>f-d. hhe j P»ok ine out and looked at me. and vowed I! would have to b- thrown averfioard. that. Ii U'3* a .Jonah, that was why tbov Rep— har-' jug -neb a rough passage bark :o rhe town; and I saw. high in the eolotirle*- evening sky, or.c star prick suddenly. It was mrange to *e«- t!»e wide arch of the ^ty with no water between, but -lie had rained n»r hopes in vain. She put in- baefc fo Dick's coat, saying that I should be to her ever a pleasant reminder of her "liappy bkte day." when she was far away from ail Kt "dears." and she gave a little sigh. "Yon could have any number—a lifetime — of bine days, ii you wouUi." said Dick fg-n iy. and tbere was such a world of yearn ing in h * yfu'cf that even f, with all my own trouble* to think of, felt sorry for him'.

"You forget that I am signed and sealed and all but delivered to my lawful lord," she began, and she went off in a chatter of laughter and nonsense again. She was go

to be marri'if that day week to a man who ri> efffni"ng i'loru :he aouth to take Iter aw?y, and thi, ^vas her last as she

tervu-d it.

For efh after that I was packed awav among white clothes that smclled of Uven&*T. in a woodtm box that aremed to be always movii^. I was parched and suffocated, and altogether enrmye, but I daresay she wax baring a good time. «nen I saw the light again it was in a large and handsome room in a city hotel. She wjp Mfrobligig lhing» pefl-mellout of the s!^pias''WJ?.I t'inibled with them. Among the linen lace I did not fall vcrv heavily, j W,11 nojac elippiug on the floor, and xhe sairl. '• What ever m- tjiat!" went rtown^ fip her knees, aod-rnmhiameiMS fAc fonna mc. Slic wa« richly dre/Sed, «ta;7ffl<» Jfiofced prettier than c\rer4 and ijwrjwiir^nui worked up into wonderful rolla, kure «om«? of them came off, but she sat tailor faahiort on tlrt floor in her silk skirl, and mused aver me. She cdglied. "Thai was » day- she said, and then, "Poor old Dick!

Horn SLrpu,-:nj ther ali were/' and "Poor old J Dick!" again. I

Her fausban i came in behind her. He was j

a heavy rr.aii —big i-.-et. big hands—every

thing aW.: Lira vreizhcy. nothing subtle, j nothing He lifted her to her feet ' and her. For all his middle-age I and his weight; nes»s, his eyes were very 4 fond. Most men's eyes r.enl s31y when

they looked at heri. " His were no exeep-; tion. and this was their honeymoon, the J still gripped ise. There were a good [ many ring? on her lingers now. They ; grated on my gr*»ved sides. In the frill of my front were a few sand grains and bits of broken ebili. Jriie began to prod these

out with her forefinger. {

"What have you there?" asked her bus- ; hand. " j

"A bit of coral we found on Magnetic . Island one day." she said thoughtfully, i "before 1 was married to roc.'" [

''.Scene other fellow's gift. I suppose." lie J had the heavy eyebrows that go with a j jjr-*lou- nature, and h«» was not smiling. i Sh»- threw rue back into the box and kissed

him. v\btte anus folded about his neck, as I i have --en syren arms round dead men's ; ?h "'>£**?. I

••lioo-e." ,*he tr.nrmured. j

T-jaf-r on she put me on bis witting tabic ar>d tod him I would be a capita! thing to k'-ep or. h's s. ierre notes, but that was after t'uey had settled in their own bouse, and I had -pent some more weeks abut in a trunk amongst women's finery. The window of hi- study looked on to a thick shrubbed garden, a paling fence, a sweep of gra«-hoand sand, and the sea—the dear biue. calling sea. So I had no objection to my n-"*-' quarter-. It was better than

hvjng on her <!-«*-:ng-tab-e amongst pour- [ ?i-r pi- and -liver fal-lals, in an atmo- ! -pkere of c-s-n.-ti- and perfume. I. who r.id r* .ciP-i -r. the great, clean, sal: wave

.-nd the tang of the open breeze-. Some- ; times tim «;r„3 blew Lis taper- about the . r*»'W. >r.i "her. h was clad of me. and I rrr to sitting on bis piles of nasG--r.pt. Me wa- as neat as she was • arrie--. .r. -pie of his h'g. sonare-upped tnger- ar..; L 4 creaking boots. It was an •'.xti-a ordinary thing bow hi- boots creaked. Every n- " w:r s-eined the same as the

'!' irritated her immensely, ami gradua'.' * ;e esme less into his study, and.

1 third .r. urn-. he came to be glad of that. , >h«- ccria nu:«-et ins ideas, and sometimes lac- .i.k '... •. v her she did come in. with toe hanging -!<ev*.-'of her wrapper or the ewirtmz ' ' i -r skins. One day the watted - -c t. — -.e paper to try a new c-rirr-p ir: h-r r.air. and she rushed in and

sua", ifri *he firs* she could see on his table ; to twi-t i.e-r short golden locks up in. and when he • ?» h- me to find his latest notes missing. L- v? ? -r.t pale and his hands shook, and v her. -!.-•• c.^pfesecd airily to having taken tL- r..'?•? "thicr.y" stuff for her ex

perimer.'a' hair-dressing. he sat perfectly 1

-.till. v. itii n.- grev head in his big hand for ! a long tin.-. \V ten he looked up his eyes J

were c >'.d. i

"I d/r.'t think rcsi know what a selfish! woman >oy are, Orar—be said; "those1 Rotes w.-rt the- outcome of deep thought and

ranch labour." j

''r'treJy you can wriie them again—dear, i big bratn alway- works." she answered and she sponged up to him and put one or her beautiful arms round his neck ami let her

soft hps. brush his checks. All the time j I could see she was studying her reflection . in the little mirror he so seldom used, and'

that «ke did not care a jot if he was able j

to rerion-truct Lis memorandum or no. !

"Goose:" she said, and no doubt she

thought "Beauiv and the Beast"' as she' 1-voices* ut tfte Bi-irrojv He bad a big heart,! haagr? io* love, and the feel of her arms j was"what be paid for. He crashed her; z,f kkrA. ar*i ksAed bard into her eyes.

"I cornier if «oa really love me?" he; a-ked. ... . j

Her w trite rid* d/ooped and her smooth ! cheek was slowly rubbed up and down on

has rough face.

"»jsye>e'" she xftid again. Outside tbe sjtto call of the »ea and the stem of jac taine m a garden.

After a minute"* silence she wee; io ?he window and ke>ked <sut.

"It i* jsweb a blue day," she said.

I remembered another blue day on a far away island. I wondered if she, too, re

membered. I ai-o wondered what had become of Dick. t , . . . 1

A week afterward'? she brougnt him into

the studv to see roe. I

""By Jove!" soid Dick. "So you kept the

old bit of coral!"

Dick did not seem we!!. The sunburn was gone. He looked dissipated. His brown eve- were reckless and bard, but he devoured her face with them.

'•You look amazingly fit." he said

shortly.

She pirouetted. "VThv not? New clothes—heap- of them! Beauty adorned is beauty increased, you know, new render ing of old saw."

"He can give you that—at any rate.'" Dick was becoming his sulky self again. Boyish, disagreeable, as he had been on

the island.

"I have everything I want," she said loyally. I was glad ot that. But, of course, she qualified it the nest minute.

'"All I want—materially." she added.

Dick's eye brightened. He glanced out to the garden. His voice came steadily, "How sweet the jasmine is to-day!"

He said the jasmine, but he looked back at her eyes—her witchery of mouth—her crown of bronze-gold har.

Her husband came in. He shook hands stiffly with Dick. He did not second his wife's invitation for her visitor to Inneh with them. The conversation languished.

Dick said good-bye. ^ j When he had gone she riddled with tne for a minute or two. Her husband sorted

papers with his hack lo her. A big fly buzzed in at the open. lattice, and Wondered out again. She vawned. crossed the room, and put her head against her Goose's shoul

der. Her G>vee was not responsive. i

I us#d to Dick in the garden _ some times after that. He helped to train the

Seven Sisters rtee bush, and he cut the grass ! on the little lawn. She gave him tea under j the cedar. She dallied with him in the1 moonlight, and drove the gardener wild by | insisting that the trees required an extra hosing in the evening, and walking on the flower-beds. It was play to her. Perhaps

found married life rtiootonotw. She came into the study one morning when her . husband was carefully copying a manuscript.' He was a man who had never condescended :

to a typewriter, so gave himself infinite j trouble with his recopyipg. |

She sat on the arm of bis chair.

'"I want to go to the balk this winter." she said, patting the top of his bead where the hair was g-.-t'ing scanty. "I'm fear fully keen on joining tbe private assemblies —and a new frock—do yon think I may, ducky dearest?"

He was not much inclined to be wheedled: he was becoming more absorbed in his scientific research every day, retreating into himself again, accepting her tenderness at its surface value, with that calm philosophy which is the heritage of middle age—ceasing to kick againsc the pricks—ana she was really less necessary to him than she had been, but he liked peace and quietness.

"I think you may." he said; then he put his pen aside, and looked straight at her.! "But I also think that Dick comes here too ranch for hia peace of mind."

"Dick!"' she screamed her astonishment. The idea of Dick's peace of mind being affected seemed qnite novel to her. "DickT \Vhv—he's my—my cousin!"

"How many times removed? However" —his big fist closed very gently over me where I lay on a red ruled sheet of paper, and I felt the iron h» the grasp—"however, that is settled—you go to the balls—without Dick in attendance. Also Dick ceases to call. Now run away and amuse yourself, Grace—I'm busy."

She frowned; bit her lip; watched him oat of the corner of her luring eyes, «wrred a pout, bat she waa do foof; besides, her own comfort came first, and ebe would j not be comfortable if her "goose" turned —well—refractory; and Dick waa rather— rather—in** a little—lately. There were ; heaps ol other men in the world to ansae, when only the passing of tbe hour pfea . tartly waa needed—her goocse knew her \ better perhaps than these other men — bet

ter certainly than Dick. He took up km f pen again. She kissed his ear.

| "Very weil. Na*ry!" she said, and she

lanehed as she swirled out of tbe doorway.

1 bite waa not at home the next time Dick

called, nor the nest. Theft the wrote a note, and addressed it to kun, ftftd blotted it on her husband's blotter.

[ The folio wine day the telegraph-boy rang

at the door. I heard someone cry aloud in the quiet house, and then she came like a hurricane into the study where the weighty man was dusting books. He allowed no one but himself to touch them.

I "Oh! Anthony!" she gasped. I bad

never heard her call him that before, i "Dick's gone mad and shot himself!"

"Good God!" Anthony was shaken out of his nsual calm, and he pocketed the duster by mistake. It was ridiculous, in a way, to see him standing by the red hook case. ramming and ramming at the cloth, which was far too big for his pocket. She collapsed on to the leather couch, and he

? crossed the room, still struggling with the,1

darter, bis face white, his buahy eyebrows

drawn together. - ! | "What hare you been doing?" he asked, ? rougbir; forgot the duster, and caught her wrist, bat the dismay in her face, the real surprise, polled him together, and he patted her bock to quietude again. There was a curious expression in his eyes as he looked over ber bent head, so fair and dainty, againet his breast, a curiously awakened,

alert look.

"It was too bad of him." she sobbed, "to give as such a shock. Dick was always sel

fish!"

| Outside the crisp wavelets danced very i softly on to the white half-circle of the . sands. It was a calm day, and the blue ' was wide and clear. Far awav a sailing . boat rocked lazily, waiting for the wind. I ; remembered the first day I saw ber. I : remembered the sunburned man. and the | leap of his heart when ber fingers felt for me in the shabby serge coat. That heart , was very still now.

Then she went on to recall that there was always something queer about Dick, but , her husband interrupted her.

i She had better not talk alxwt it any more, just now; she-teas becoming hysteri cal. lie would go out and see if there was anything that could be done.

It must have been nearly a fortnight before I saw them in the study again. She was in per. with her hair very neat, and a subdued expression, but the colour ' was

j warm in her cheeks, and a gold buckle

I peeped from under the skirt <5 ber dress. ! There was still coquetry in her shoes. She I held an open letter in her hand, scanning ; it doubtfully. He seated himself at his ? desk and began to lo&k through a note-book. ; She passed backwards and forwards from j door to window, straightening a picture j there, giving a touch to the tall cosmea in

I a vase, generally turning things topsy I terry, in an ill-considered accession of ' house-keeperliness.

! "Do stop fidgeting a minute, dear," he 'mid patiently; "is there anything you want

, to teal me?"

I She swung her foot from the edge of the | table where she perched seductively, and

the buckle shone out over a pretty grey silk stocking, embroidered with tiny rosebuds.

She nibbled the end of the thick, creamy

envelope she held.

"It's about those private assemblies— they've elected me a member—the first is

next month."

"I thought you were not going out this season on account of your cousin's—unfor

tunate—death."

He spoke absently, but his eyes watched

her st ill.

"Well—you S"e," she examined the toe of ber suede slipper with a pensive eye. 'Toot fd'ow—my shutting myself up would not benefit him now, would h? And you like to see me happy, don't you, dear Goose—and- -and after all, Dick wasn't my first cooain, only a second — by mar

? riage

f The bees droned in the jasmine—inad jverteotlv «he brushed roe with her wrist,

and withdrew it quickly.

[ "Nasty, scratchy thing," she said,

j Mnit as you like, Grace." Her husband made another entry in his notebook with a

) steady band. Bat he did not eeetn to notice .when she pureed up her mouth for a kiss, | so. thinking he was too busy Lo attend, she cheerfully slipped from the table, blew a 'caress from finger-tips at the doorway, and went out with a tap of high heels and a

rortfe of «&, to prepare for a vwt lo W dressmakers. He laid down bis pencil 3.4 watched the door dose after her.

1 He drew me towards him, and produce,} a piece of broken. shell out of mr frill «

she had onee done.

Then he smiled grimly. 'And I knew that there was one man whom Ac ayrea could [bewitch no more.