( A short story by Mona Moonie, published in The Queenslander in 1929, and inserted here to instruct readers who wish to become bushwomen.)
Of course, it was not Sam’s fault that it would not rain, and that the dust, and heat, and flies made life a burden, but somehow Ellie could not help thinking of the sea with the little boats dancing on it, and a seat in the shade of the cliff where she used to sit sometimes in the old days. The old days … and the old ways … Ellie gave up trying to dust the home-made sideboard and sat down in the coolest spot she could find and let her mind wander lazily back.
She had been a waitress in the old days, when she could get a job, but sometimes the intervals between one position and another had been longer than her credit, and the fear of these occasional lean periods had been a sort of nightmare to Ellie.
Sam had sat at her table one day, and also the next, and the next. In three days some men would have known all there was to know about her, but Sam was a bushman, and his methods had not the rapidity of most of the frequenters of the cafe, so when he came the fourth day and Ellie was not there, Sam didn’t know where she was to be found. He made inquiries, but met with no success, except that he learned she had been put off because business was slack. He hung disconsolately round the vicinity for three more days, and, at last acknowledging himself beaten, he wandered into the Gardens. He finally made up his mind that he would go home as soon as possible. Yes. Tomorrow would be Tuesday, and he could get a through train, and once he was back at his work he would forget all about her.
He rose from his seat and started resolutely in the direction of his hotel. Near the gate of the Gardens, on a seat nearly hidden from the path, he found her, a little, dejected heap of misery, red-eyed and pitiful.
“Why, Ellie,” he said, “whatever is the matter?”
“Oh! Sam. I’m out of a job, and my moneys all gone, and—and you don’t know what that means.”
“You poor little girl! Can’t I help you?”
“What can you do, Sam? You might give me some money that would carry me on till I get a job, and then, later on, I’ll lose that because I’m over age, or trade is slipping, or something, and then it’ll start all over again.”
“I know what I could do, Ellie—if you’d let me.”
“What’s that, Sam?”
“I could—that’s if you’d think of such a thing—if you only would, Ellie, I’d marry you.”
“That’s sweet of you, Sam, the sweetest thing you ever said—but I really couldn’t. You—you don’t know what I am, and you deserve someone a lot better than a little guttersnipe like me.”
“I – I’m sorry, Ellie. I only thought you might. I haven’t got much to offer you, only a selection, and a few sheep, and if I could strike a couple of good seasons things wouldn’t be so bad then, but there’s a home, and a man that wants you, and—and I’d always be good to you, Ellie!”
There was a world of tenderness in Sam’s voice, and Ellie hadn’t met with much tenderness in her lifetime, and so, in the long run, Elite Shorter became Ellie Wilkes, and Sam returned to his selection with his bride.
(Continued in The Bushwoman — Part 2)