While the Billy Boils

She Wouldn’t Speak

Henry Lawson

WELL, we reached the pub about dinner-time, dropped our swags outside, had a drink, and then went into the dinin’-room. There was a lot of jackeroo swells, that had been on a visit to the squatter, or something, and they were sittin’ down at dinner; and they seemed to think by their looks that we ought to have stayed outside and waited till they were done—we was only two rough shearers, you know. There was a very good-looking servant girl waitin’ on ’em, and she was all smiles—laughin’, and jokin’, and chyackin’, and barrickin’ with ’em like anything.

I thought a damp expression seemed to pass across her face when me and my mate sat down, but she served us and said nothing—we was only two dusty swaggies, you see. Dave said “Good day” to her when we came in, but she didn’t answer; and I could see from the first that she’d made up her mind not to speak to us.

The swells finished, and got up and went out, leaving me and Dave and the servant girl alone in the room; but she didn’t open her mouth—not once. Dave winked at her once or twice as she handed his cup, but it wasn’t no go. Dave was a good-lookin’ chap, too; but we couldn’t get her to say a word—not one.

We finished the first blanky course, and, while she was gettin’ our puddin’ from the side-table, Dave says to me in a loud whisper, so’s she could her: “Ain’t she a stunner, Joe! I never thought there was sich fine girls on the Darlin’!”

But no; she wouldn’t speak.

Then Dave says: “They pitch a blanky lot about them New Englan’ gals; but I’ll back the Darlin’ girls to lick ’em holler as far’s looks is concerned,” says Dave.

But no; she wouldn’t speak. She wouldn’t even smile.

Dave didn’t say nothing for awhile, and then he said: “Did you hear about that red-headed barmaid at Stiffner’s goin’ to be married to the bank manager at Bourke next month, Joe!” says Dave.

But no, not a single word out of her; she didn’t even look up, or look as if she wanted to speak.

Dave scratched his ear and went on with his puddin’ for awhile. Then he said: “Joe, did you hear that yarn about young Scotty and old whatchisname’s missus!”

“Yes,” I says; “but I think it was the daughter, not the wife, and young Scotty,” I says.

But it wasn’t no go; that girl wouldn’t speak.

Dave shut up for a good while, but presently I says to Dave: “I see that them hoops is comin’ in again, Dave. The paper says that this here Lady Duff had one on when she landed.”

“Yes, I heard about it,” says Dave. “I’d like to see my wife in one, but I s’pose a woman must wear what all the rest does.”

And do you think that girl would speak! Not a blanky word.

We finished our second puddin’ and fourth cup of tea, and I was just gettin’ up when Dave catches holt on my arm, like that, and pulls me down into my chair again.

“‘Old on,” whispers Dave; “I’m goin’ to make that blanky gal speak.”

“You won’t,” I says.

“Bet you a five-pound note,” says Dave.

“All right,” I says.

So I sits down again, and Dave whistles to the girl, and he passes along his cup and mine. She filled ’em at once, without a word, and we got outside our fifth cup of tea each. Then Dave jingled his spoon, and passed both cups along again. She put some hot water in the pot this time, and, after we’d drunk another couple of cups, Dave muttered somethin’ about drownin’ the miller.

“We want tea, not warm water,” he growled, lookin’ sulky and passin’ along both cups again.

But she never opened her mouth; she wouldn’t speak. She didn’t even look cross. She made a fresh pot of tea, and filled our cups again. She didn’t even slam the cups down, or swamp the tea over into the saucers—which would have been quite natural, considerin’.

“I’m about done,” I said to Dave in a low whisper. “We’ll have to give it up, I’m afraid, Dave,” I says.

“I’ll make her speak, or bust myself,” says Dave.

And I’m blest if he didn’t go on till I was so blanky full of tea that it brimmed over and run out the corners of my mouth; and Dave was near as bad. At last I couldn’t drink another teaspoonful without holding back my head, and then I couldn’t keep it down, but had to let it run back into the blanky cup again. The girl began to clear away at the other end of the table, and now and then she’d lay her hand on the teapot and squint round to see if we wanted any more tea. But she never spoke. She might have thought a lot—but she never opened her lips.

I tell you, without a word of a lie, that we must have drunk about a dozen cups each. We made her fill the teapot twice, and kept her waitin’ nearly an hour, but we couldn’t make her say a word. She never said a single word to us from the time we came in till the time we went out, nor before nor after. She’d made up her mind from the first not to speak to us.

We had to get up and leave our cups half full at last. We went out and sat down on our swags in the shade against the wall, and smoked and gave that tea time to settle, and then we got on to the track again.

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