|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||The Ancient Wrong|
THE ANCIENT WRONG.
Ry M. FORREST.
.MV|iuli<>r h.t<! liown ihc snHoist nr-.lifr.
And \r:is it n:.!ly I and you?"
-W. K. Honloy.
Outside w,i= tlie sound of the Ma. ana
darkness along tlie cliff. Badly lighted, uneven loads, waiting for the moonlight t* glorify and make clear, for the municipality saved on lamps. There was a taste of gum le-ivos in the air-a smell of dewy grasses, and a hint of forgotten flowers in dusky beds. The lamp on the table had a while globe. The light streamed on the bulky book that lay open on the green cloth and on the fingers resting on it. Above the circle of light was a ruffled head of warm, reddish hair, and two blaik-lashed eye? bent on the illumined print. In the next room some young men played cards and two stout women gossiped on the ver andah. The man who stepped out of the darkness and ascended the wooden stair way leading to the verandah could catch b glimpse of a green serge frock, a lamp, and a while hand in the room further on. One of the card players looked up.
"Want the landlady? Just wait a minute, and I'll sing out. Then watch th.e etcps: you'll see her head pop up."
The newcomer made a negative gesture. It was hard for him to articulate distinctly while he could see that motionless figure in the room beyond.
"No," he said at last. "Thank you. The lady 1 want is in there.'' The eard-player apologised, turning down his poker hand, with a sidelong look at the other man. The green serge lady was considered "stuck up" in tlie boarding-house. Besides, she read always out of shabby great books, and refused to be sociable. The card-player would have liked to have her for his par-' tieular friend at the boating picnics and moonlight strolls he occasionally indulged in witn young ladies from the big cily
drane rs'-smarter dressers, no doubt, but | without her "chic" (which he pronounced "chick"). She worked for her living, too, BO. after all, what cause had she to "plav the fine."
Shte, glanced up from her Herbert Spencer
' as tlio shadow foil across the floor from the
! lighted hall. rose, and hold out her hand,
j "How- do you do? I did not Know you
wore down from the luish?''
j "Ali.-ia!" His heart was pnnndmg siek eningly. llo found her inline the most dith en It word Ik' had over spoken. . " Aljc.a. i liis pyps greedy for lier face, "Alicia.'
i Her rami grey eyes watched him: her i hand was slcadv as she drew forward a 1 chair: she was a'littlc bored that he should ; interrupt her reading. "Why. it >s
three years winco \v<- met. she saul lightly, j " J ell me how you have been getting on in 'all that time." .
! 'iiadly in one sense-well in another.
| lie looked round the room, trying to keep : his gaze from her face. focussed blindly on ! the landlady's best oleograph and the en ' lai'iiement of buried relatives; then back jcaiito his eyes to Iters. How warm and
hoary her hair was. He sighed.
| The moon >\;is coming at last-like beaten i copper through the sea mini-stretching a j lincer over 1 ho gradual breakers, outlining
.cliff and dec.
I "Come out. to the sea, Alieia. I can t talk
|t<> you iicre.'"
| 'There was a ,-ort of despair in bis face. | indicating his horror of be-ribboned anti I macassar*. the crazy-work tiro-guard, the
idvod pampas grass in dusty vases. She re
i .nembored that lie had the artistic tempera-1
! ment. and wanted always the hour ana the |
Ijiiaee. She shrugged her shoulders ever sol I slightly, turned down the lamp, with a
'lingering touch on sociology, and went to', jtbc stairway bes'de liiiu, while the land-' | lady'* head popped up with a vengeance i [from some mysterious underworld eon-1
I nected with soapsuds and late laundry-j ! htg. |
Out to the beach and the sea. with her
moon Hags spread: under the rustle of gum j leaf, the sough of boughs. He was radiant i now. He had Alicia to himself at last, ' and after he had explained,
"I was a brute ti> you. dear. Von don't know how I've paid for it; on the cattle
(.amp, in tlie dusty branding-yards, on the, open plain at daybreak; in the timbered I country at dusk, you have haunted me, j dear, haunted me and you were so quiet ]-not a word of reproach. You were try
ing. as you said, to "get my point of view." j and yet you had loved me. hadn't you. j Alicia? And 1 was not worthy to tie your .'
shoe string. Hut now. my dear-oh. mv j
deal"! I can give you love for love- l -l wasn't sure of myself, then-there-there
were lots of things " I
"Y'es." she smiled gently. "Other women.! for instance; but never mind. Roger, that! is 'all gone by," as Carmen sang. _ |
"No- no." He caught the hand that slid j so easily out of his-that smooth, cool I
touch not like the clinging fire ho rem cm- j bered. "Never gone by, dearest-but just >
come to it* fulness now."
Evcrr wave-lip broke into a silver smile.'
the hollows flecked with phosphorus-wet | pebbles gleamed at the sand edge. On (he : cliff a boy whistled, far off eame the clang
ing of a train crossing a low-level bridge-! still Alicia smiled gentlv. She supposed I it was "the hour and tlie place;"' with a fine appreciation and a slight heart con traction, she recognised what such an hour and SUCH a place could be if
Yet she hardly regretted
What she did regret was that her quiet evening had been disturbed by the gnost of a past whose power was numb.
"Alicia! Don't you-can't you-love me
"You do itot understand. Roger, what might have been three years ago with hor-" She spoke of herself, felt of herself as though that bygone self was someone dear and dead-"can never be with the me of
"Ob, won't you forgive me?"'
She moved impatiently, flung out her hands, and clasped them again. "That's the most impossible part oT it-I cannot even feel that there anything to for
" So miny are the deaths we die
Before we can Jjc dead indwd."
"Alieia! Alicia! Y'ou donH know how
"I thought that, too, once. I lav a night in the grass and let the world surmise what it would. 1 remember the scent of the jessamine in the trellis to-day-the strange, half-drowsy stirring of the birds the clieen of some young wrens in a nest-a startled bush rat that peered at me through the passion vine-that part is all clear still, Roger, and will be; but what is not clear to-night is why I ever cared so much for you. T don't mean to be vindictive. I only wish you well. I am a little sorry, perhaps, since love and youth and moon and star-reflex is a pleasant thing, that I can wave no magic wand to bring it hack again-but no-thai part is dead-abso lutely-the ancient wrong is forgotten, just as though it never had been, that is all-so I cannot even feel as though there was any thing to forgive." Sometimes I think I
should he grateful to you-vou drove met to books-to art-to thought-all I had never bothered with in my school-girl days -and they filled your place." She sighed tolerantly, but she wanted to get back to
Hand in hand along the Lover's Walk came two who had a heaven-sent right to wander there. The card-nlayers up at the. boarding-house relit their pipes and scraped squatter chairs along the veran dah; ?he landlady wrung out something steaming and put it on a rope line.
The smell of a turned-down kerosene lamp filled the room, the defunct relatives scowled in the flicker on the walU, and & white moth, blown in through the open window ..with a scent of scrub And tree, settled on "Data of Soei<Jlogy."
Alicia came slowly back to the bouse, turned tip the latnp, Jooked at-herself a moment In the ^u^gf -piantel mirror, was glad with a generalTpeminine vanity that she did not lookherWorst, hoped whole hearted]}' that he had not missed his train, and prese^tfyjjqrafce forgot him, - deep id "Social ibegip .^stitutione." t
? " " ?" !