|Newspaper Title||Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||John Williams's Battlefield|
A COMPLETE STORY.
JOHN WILLIAMS'S BATTLEFIELD.
By WABD MUIE,
John Williams was simple — like his name — simple and red-faced and loud-voiced, and altogether commonplace, and he was foreman in a newspaper printing-office. Minnie, hia wife, was one of those pale wisps of women
who, just for the sake of contrast, always seem to marry big husbands like John Williams. And John Williams and Minnie and the two kids — he always called them the kids, for John was given to an affec tionate sort of vulgarity-^svere coming home by train from their annual fortnight at Brighton. Furthermore, John Williams, was very angry — or pretended to be very angry— at an article which he had been reading in a magazine. 'The 'No-Holiday Craze,' indeed!' John Williams snorted, quoting the article's title. 'Nonsense! 'The breadwinner ought to get away to come quiet place and leave his wife and family for a change..' ought he? Nonsense!' ''The idiot who wrote that article doesn't
know what he's talking about!' John Wil liams boomed, as he threw the magazine on the floor of the railway carriage. 'Doesn't the wife need rest from the children as well a6 the husband? Bah!' Minnie smiled. Her t£hn hand had stolen into the vast, horny paw of her husband, and lay there. 'I don't know what our holiday would be without you, John.' whispered Minnie gratefully. 'You never seem to tire ol amusing the children.' She leant to him, and her eyes were very soft. 'John, I want to say it again— John, I'm grateful.' 'Grateful?' John's voice was quite shocked. 'Grateful because you tnresv yourself away on a poor working man like me?' 'I 'threw myself away' on the truest and kindest soul in the wide -world,' laughed Minnie, 'and I realise that more and more every day. Dear old John! The way you devoted yourself to Min and Jackie, and let me sit quietly in the eliade ? ' 'But I like paddling! I like making sand castles. They're the only sort of castles yon «nd I are^ver likely to have anything t0 do with, anyhow!' John WiUiamsr creat
lolly Jaugu boomed iortb. 'And what's a holiday for, if not to give you -some rest— eh, little girl?' 'You need rest, too,' she protested. 'No; only a change of occupation,' he said. A ghade had crossed his brow. Darkness had fallen, and the train was nearing Lon don. London! This was John Williams' battlefield— the battlefield in which he fought fiercely— oh, so fiercely— for the wherewithal to feed Minnie and Min and Jackie. And how he hated the battle field! Not even Minnie kuew how he hated it. At least, he thought Minnie did not know. But therein, as it .happened, John Williams was wrong. For Minnie did know. Minnie toiew also that cheery John Williams was tired— though he would not admit it— tired in spirit if not in body. But a strange tiling happened before John Williams reached his battlefield. The Williams family lived in a poor little flat in the south-eastern district, so when Clapham-junction was reached, Minnie and Min and Jackie got out, with all their be longings, in order t0 take the quickest way home. But John Williams stayed in the compartment and proceeded in the train towards Victoria, lor he had to go to his jrrint ing-office that -same night, and work as was his wont, till the morning. ' And beuold, as soon as theirain left Gros venor-road, the ticket-collecting station, John felt something or other pushing at his feet. The something or other resolved it self into a figure of a man. The man, who had been hiding under the seat through out the whole journey, now crawled forth. The apparition was elderly, -wizened, and, in fact, altogether different from John Williams. His clothes were not bad, it is true, hut were very dusty. John Williams .had been startled, but John Williams's nerves were sound.
'So you're back again, George?' .he said.. 'Landed from South America stony broke, a week ago. Tramped from iSouth ampton along the coast. Decided to come to London. 'Stonisked to see you and Minnie and the kids at Brighton station. You and Minnie went to the bookstall to Ket.a magazine. I nipped into your com partment while the kids were looking out of t'other window. Hid under seat. :No ticket. Thought even if caught you'd pay any £ne^' 'The stranger told his stoiy in jerks. .' 'Minnie's brother!' breathed John Wil liams. 'And in difficulties again!' Then John Williams flushed suddenly. It ?had struck him that this scamp .had over heard -the -conversation in the train — had overheani -the sboy-and-girl love-making! It. seemed dike a defilement. ;? But John swallowed his anger. ..'youVe lost that hundred pounds I lent yen 'to go, abroad -with?' he asked.. ? ? 'Would I he &ere if I Jiadn't?' Min-: iiie'-s -brothjer asked bitterly. i John Williams thought o£ that boarded, hundred 'pounds— all Jris .-savings— and how. useful it dtnight have been to him aiow. Sail, Minnie'ts .flesh and -blood' anust not starve. H^ Pu*- «hw 'hand in Jus pocket and pulled -out ,3ialf-a*8ovei'eign, , : ? '% doii't ,waiifc. -to 'he Tiard on you,' Georfle.'J JijBvsaid; ''Sou'v^ liad toad luck, ll dare say. and neaveri 'knows when a stroke
of j»ad luck may strike any of us. 1 . tell you frankly J Sont' want to see the sight of you again. .Eire's iaif a ^uid; it'* all r.xe got. But I acan't forget Tve a job Id work at, and you Jiave none.' - He handed' the piece -of ^ol& across to the wastrel. The latter took it hurriedjly. 'God bless you, John!' lie muttered. The train slid into Victoria, and John Williams, with a curt nod to his com panion, jumped out. 3Iad John Williams waited a moment lon ger he would have beheld e singular sight, for George, the penniless wastrel, as soon as his i-rother-in-Iaw was out of view, hailed a hansom— a thing which penniless wastrels are not in the habit of doing. The address he jgave to the hansom driver was still more curious. 'Drive to the Carlton Hotel,' wa8 what he said. And penniless wastrels do not stay at the (VI ton. Furthermore, as he closed the doors of the handsome, he pitched forth a small piece of white card which he had been holding in his hand. The white card was a first-class ticket from Brighton to London
Which was queer for a man who had just borrowed ten shillings from a poor, labor ing printer. But honest John Williams saw none ot these things, for he was already plunging towards his last fight on the battlefield. In the grey dawn an all-night tram de posited Jolm Williams at the corner of the dull, lead-colored street, wherein was situ ated his flat. The -shift at the printing works was over, and John was tired — very, very tirea. But it was more than mere tiredness which snowed in John's no longer rubicund visage as he fitted his key into tbe lock and opened the front door. Minnie, in her dressing-gown, met him. She had been up for the last half-hour pre paring, in her simple, loving way her hus band's reviving cup of tea and slice of toast. 'John!' she gasped, as she saw his face. 'Jolin, what's wrong? Are you ill?' Her quick eyes had read the betraying lines round his drawn mouth and on his brow. , 'Got a month's notice,' said John Wil liams.
He was not the man to mince matters. In any case it would have been useless to conceal the dreadful truth from his Min nie. 'A month's notice,' he repeated grimly, sinking into a chair. 'They're going to put in new machines, and don't think I'd be able to run them. As though I wouldn't work myself to death' learning the new ma chines rather than lose the job!' Minnie silently brought the tea and toast and set them down at his elbow. So i' had come at last— the doom she had dreaded for so long! Poor, poor John — beaten in full night on his battlefield! 'Why did you ever many a penniless workingman?' groaned John. ''Oh, Min nie, my girl, it's you I'm thinking of, and the kids— not myself!'
'I know that, dear,' she wjiispfred, chok ing. She was kneeling at his side now, and tacc was on his knee. The grey dawn brightened as they talked in low voices, and at last a ray of pure sunshine came in at the window. Outside rows and rows of chimney-pots began to send up the smoke of cooking breakfasts. London was awakening. Presently a smart footfall sounded on the stair of the flat, and there was a sharp ring at the cheap ejectric bell. A letter dropped through the slit — a letter addressed to Min nie. S.lie went, without curiosity, and picked it up off the mat; and, coming back, Bat down with red eyes to read it, hardly caring waat it? contents might be. John, meanwhile, had taken to drinking hig now almost-cold tea. The toast he c ^ulc not touch. 'Well, who's the letter from, Minnie? Your mother— eh?' But Minnie made no reply. John looked up, and then leapt to his feet. For Minnie was lying back in her chair in a dead faint. Swiftly he brought water, but already she had revived.
She waved him away, almost hvstericallv 'Read that first, John!' He took the letter. 'Wny, it's from George,' tie cried, as he eaw the handwriting. His face had hardened as he thought of that precious halt-sovereign — now ctouuiy precious — and how recklessly he had bestowed it on the wastrel. 'I suppose George wants to borrow more money?' 'No, no! Look at that!' 'A cheque for five hundred pounds!' John could hardly articulate the words as he grasped the slip of pink paper. 'He encloses a little note for you, too,' said Minnie. 'Here' it is.' This is what John Williams read:— 'You're a good sort, John, and deserve your luck more than I deserve mine. I've made .a rpile in South America, and half of that pile is yours— a fair return for the hundred pounds you gave me my start in life with. I went to Brighton and found your lodgings there, only .to hear that you'd just left. Going back to the station, I had taken iny ticket, when I saw that you and the family were already on the same train. Perhaps it was mean of me, but I couldn't resist the temptation to do a little eaves dropping, and make sure you were still as kind to my sister as you used to be; and also to -see what your reception of me ?would have been if I had not returned -with a fortune. The rest you know, or will hear when we meet. — Yours, 'GEORGE.' He says this five hundred pounds .is your first dividend, payable in future half yearly,' -Minnie -proceeded. ? 'A thousand a year!' exclaimed John. ? 'Yes, a thousand a year— your £hare, he «ays, in a mine that he's -got somewhere or other. .60, you see, I find I haven't mar ried a poor .man after all. John!'
..And 'Minnie, foj some inexplicable femi nine reason, dissolved into tears again — tears of joy. For a good, five minutes John gazed at the letter and the cheque. Then he dashed into the bedroom where .Min. and Jackie were newly awake. 'Kids,' he boomed — 'kids, would you like to go back to Brighton for anofher month — eh?' But the shrieks of joy which followed, and the weeping and the laughter and the journey to the bank to cash the cheque, and the visit, of Uncle ; George — who came from the. Carlton in a motor brougham— and all the other wonderful things which happened to the Wilhamses, must be left to the imagination. — 'Answers.'