Chapter 142944889

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Chapter Number
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1911-06-10
Page Number59
Word Count1581
Last Corrected1970-01-01
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleIn the Life of a Latch-Key
article text




I am a_ latch-key. I am grooved down e middle and straight on one side; but

rrated on the other. Naturally, I was; ender and upright; but after my acquaint- j ce with the disappointed actor I acquired, bend, which he caused ope night when he uld not find the key-hole. I Yet I rather liked the actor-even after y accident,and consequent disfigurement.

|le was so cheerful, and he took me to suchj

aqueer, interesting plates. Then he used to

Recite all sorts of unusual scraps of speeches' ?and lines of poems to the cracked wash-j

:jug in his room and to the violets he brought Ijiome in his coat, after a performance. His

loom always smelled either of brandy or| liiolets. In-the end the former drowned the] jjatter; but the day he looked his"last out'

aof the high window above the street at the !fpirt of the cathedral, and the long, red iuildinjjj, with its thirteen verandah pillars, which is the City Mint, and then for the $rst time down the barrel of- a revolver, Ihere were violete fresh and sweet in* the Sapel of his shabby coat. I heard someone! among the quiet-looking men who came to I Juke him away Bay ne had just miBsed iiving a fine comedian. 1 often, wondered low and why the viplets came, for no one

ipoke of a woman. j

After the actor came tbe lady from an-' sther State, who filled her windows with!

Rattle, and lived on toast and coffee. She!

ittered the place with, magazines, and] rhen 6^e ..di¥\ screen with'the put-pie! ris on it across one end-t)f the room, trans-j orming the-other into quite - a cosy little ilting-toom, a man. used to come up and ilk. to, , 1 would be sitting on the IresB^ng-teble, beside her silver-backed, irush ang eau de cologne bottle, and I could' ratehthemin the glass. It struck me as'

iUnoy somet^nes that they never shook

lands. Vljen tbey met. .The first thing ie $way$;$id W8i?;io4ightaira*arette. .Theri ie ueed.tpsit and look at her without speak ng,' and ;a gradual contentment stole "-over I119 face.- . : Theydid not talk much;- I never

taw him touch her, and yet -I somehow tonceivfcdth^ notion that they were lovers.; Whenhe^window frame rattled in the' Sigh eoutfr .'wind, and the bunch of chry-, ia ntheinums-she had bought in Market-j bl&ce thfeateHed .ito pitch over into the1 street, hV devjsed- a cunning J>lan -for keep

rag the lattice still. "I gaiiered that he

j was ^ mechanical engineer, I noticed

they. sometimes talked. Of engines/ tut hevfei* of personal matters. .

I One night he called in a fusey motor-car I to take her to the. theatre, 1 had watched her for an hoax* titivating herself before the glass, so I guessed something special was | in ;the wind. She. did her hair - her

long, reddish-tinted hair - three times before it Satisfied her, and her gown was | a. shimmering keeping thing of silk. He brought her a pink rose, and she stuck it ahove' one ear, standing, before the long wardrobe mirror. : .

I "How do I look ?" ehe asked, glancing over

her shoulder at him.- '. ' .? "

| He took the inevitable cigarette out of his mouth. It was a email mouth for aman. ; For a moment it seemed he had nothing: to

feay. Then "Sweet,""he answered. It was, |,tbe way some people say "Amen" quietly,

in the' eorncr of diin churches. Instead of | blushing her thanksto his compliment, she

grew suddenly pale, then hurriedly, "The others will be waiting," she said,'and tucked ' me away in the tiny silk bag she carried.

I _ That night she began to pack .after taking

off the pretty shimmering frock/* and fold | ing it veiy carefully. The rose she put in a glass of water on the table._ I noticed , it was not there when she returned me to j the landlady the next afternoon^

I The landlady left me on the edge of the

chest of drawers, and forgot me. The roo'm i was very still after she went. I 6aw the

glimmer of the street-lamps grow along the pane, . heard the taxis skidding paBt,« taking people out to dinner, the beat of a cab-horse's feet, the band beginning in Ilyde-park. Then, someone knocked softly "at the door, and pushed it gently open.

! The man stood in the doorway^ looking , into the empty room. He had no cigarettfe |1n his hand, ready to light, this time; liis mouth wore a determined expression, his | eyes were like twin fires.

He glanced to right and then to left. The j light from the big lamps streamed into the

shadowy room, showing its emptiness. And the fires died out of his eyes, and his hand went quickly over his left side.

Perhaps he was only feeling for a cigar


He closed the door, and I heard his foot

steps faltering on the stairs. All the boy ish -spring seeded to have- gone out of thepi.

. For me, it was just another unfinished story, 6ucn as comes into the life of a latch key,

?I remember the thin old maid, who

, wanted rooms, and who,-when the-landlady ; offered me to ner, said it was the first time

] in her life anyone had dared to hint that

she was not respectable, and the fat woman, i who was always losing me, along with her

.false hair and her poodle; the variety ac I tress, who used to have cosy suppers and

sit on the bed cuddling her pretty red-slip J pered feet in her little hands, rocking -with

laughter at the broad witticisms of choice j I spirits, and, after they had gone noisily j .down the stairs used to take out the faded | portrait of an old lady in a cap. and kiss it, tenderly. She was a good little soul, and

one day she poured scent over me, which I j she called a libation, and told me she was, {going to marry a squatter, and have "Mum" , j to live with her always now. She danced . out of my life a cheery/little sunbeam, and ' an- evangelist, who used to wreetle with , Satan after a lobster supper, followed her. I

Then came the man who sat up half the I night tiying experiments with acids on dif-1 ferent metal*, and watching the police at, the mint opposite. He was different to all the" others, a strange, hawk-eyed mdivj duel, with an immense black beard and a

iwonderful taste in fancy soaps. He had. quepr jangling keys, too, and a black silk | mask, which ne took out of a bag with a ' spring lock, and before he undressed at I night he always turnedhe gas right out. I His end was a man with a warrant and a

! closed carnage waiting below. I fancy he i was more absorbed in the manufacture of

:His Majesty's coin than was altogether | ijhealtliy,.> . .r j

I But there was excitement in the house

.after he w;ent, and the landlady changed.; the curtains, and washed the furniture down -with ^disinfectant. It was ' her way of re

moving undesirable impressions. ;-.;J *. I~ think the funniest person I had to look : after was,; perhaps, the wife who wanted

to be an advanced woman. She brought iW many boxes, and had;so inany women mends in ill-fitting coats and skirts, wijth reckless 'hairdtteeapg, who came to condole with her;;and ehe spent bo much time in telling them.tha.t she had ne^er known whatha'p .piriess was till she became free, and-learned ; to inspect her. sex. She also looked a great ' deal «it of the window at the jstars after

her fnfends had-gone, and the long night ! was before her.

I She hired a typewriter, and said she was

going to make her living typing; but the 'keys always jammed or she hit the wrong , letter, or got herself all over purple from ; the ribbon-and people refused to Rive work

to a typist who forgot to use the space


Her friends! gave her a lot of advice, but th&t seemed about all. One day a big breezy Bort of . /man, with a _ blonde moustache, came "up and took. het on his i knee, aind kisfed her inky fiwrei'B; and asked' j her "Why she was an: idiot, and7 she { said -it -was because he had' said - she was I "losing. her looks," which waa awful'y i brutal aod;«nhuBbandlijker- and he eaidihe

] had jonta been j&king,'\and that-she', wisj

pretiierr.$ha;n wtr,- apa ahe dimpled jvohder-j , fully'.fig.ehe pyt, the .cover on the typfc-] ' ^iBeir/Tand they w?ht"'out. together to

trt^i,"-^f)Ao6«6;af;fiew. Hat former; .. j j 'JjiiFter';8he J^ftj' |itld you could not"Wee 'lifer' : in* the'rah - for* luggage, da studious youth

took the" froom.1' <He ;ne^er but.late, I ?so he vhktdly: needed the, - 'He scent every ei»^ing^*eading up-tlie law. ' .The-on}y:in teresting thing that ever happened in con nection with him was -wlien he was arrested


) was liH&chim to b£ niggardly even his .dig-, t-S^apT 1>:-Z >1 - ^P:

-Since *xhen iEe room has been empty, ex ;bept'^or^hB«erambulations-x»f-^'fitrfiy

| mgSgfjpf' :tW.'^t^See' 'hi


. ing'table-and wonder-what next?