― 185 ―

Mrs. McSweeney's Bike

“The bane of middle loife,” said Mrs. McSweeney, as she passed the sugar to Mrs. Tacitus, “is fat.”

“It is,” said Mrs. Tacitus, as she took two pieces of sugar, and noticed that Mrs. McSweeney was wearing a new collarette.

“But is there no cure for it?”

“Well,” replied Mrs. McSweeney, “it is a long toime since I turned me thoughts to the devilopmint of me figger. The bane of a perfect figger is fat, the remedy for fat is calesthanics, and the best calesthanics is the bike. Now, you know, me dear, silf praise is not me wakeness, but I may say that me physic is good, though me devilopmint is such that I find it hard to presarve me cemetery. I have heard lately that all the noicest people are takin' to the bicycle, and shure am I that an exorcise that is fit for the King's daughters - God bless him! - is not unbecomin' to your humble servant. So I sat down the other wake

  ― 186 ―
and indoited a small billydoo to a firm in Sydney, asking for prices of a bicycle fit for a dacent female to ride. I resaved in reply a catalog, and to me surprise I was tould to sind the lingth of me leg and weight. The lingth of me leg I would reveal to no man, and I think it the height of impidence to ask it; and as for the lingth of me weight I did not know how to sind that, but shpeakin' to Mrs. Jackson on the subject, she said it was me weight itself she required. I consulted me butcher, but he said that his scales would only weigh twenty-eight pound of mate at a toime, but the produce man weighed me, and found me corrict weight to be a thrifle over two hundred and ten pounds aver-de-poy.

“I was waited on soon afther by a smart young man, who said he came from the firm to see if he could git me ordher. I informed him, wid the stoyle of dignity I can ashume so well, that if the lingth of me leg was indispinsible I should renounce the idea. He tould me, however, it was of no consequince, so we come to turms. I got me machane the following day on toime paymint. Shure, it was a beautiful machane, and I pictured the look that would be on Mrs. Maloney's face when she, would see me glidin' gracefully down the sthrate. Sure, it was a proud day to me whin it was delivered

  ― 187 ―
at me residence, wid its nickel-plated handles and patent rheumatic toyres.

“I consulted wid me friend, Mrs. Jackson, as to me costhume, and she said that the devoided skirt was anasthetic, but that bloomers was the most rekerky (that's Frinch, ye know). So I wint wid her to a shop in town, and ordhered a fine, light-blue bloomer costhume, thrimmed wid pink ribbins. Mrs. Jackson came to help me dress, and I was rather surprised whin she said I was finished."

“‘Where's the rist?’ says I.

“‘There is no rist,’ says she, 'you've got 'em all on.’

“I felt as if there was something wantin' about me lower extremities, but when I gazed at me profile in the glass it was not bad. Mrs. Jackson said that the bould outline of me limbs would dhrive Mrs. Moloney green wid envy, so I was satisfied. Her youngest boy, Antonius, was houldin' me machane in front of the door, and I paused on me step to fasten me gloves, bekase I knew that Mrs. Moloney - bad cess to her - was papin' through her balkinny blind. I then tuk me green parasol from Mrs. Jackson, and prepared to start. I whispered to Tony to hould her tight, and I tuk me sate.

“‘How do ye do it, Tony?’ says I.

  ― 188 ―

“‘Jest put ye're fate on the threddles, and let her go,’ says he.

“‘Hould on,’ says I, for I had dhropped me parasol.

“‘Now,’ says he, when I had got me parasol, 'look out whin I give her a push.’

“‘Hould on a minute,’ says I.

“‘Hould on you,’ says he, and he started the machane rollin'.

“Just then I seen young Moloney, wid the red hair, standin' forninst me, like a danger-signal.

“‘Git out o' me road,’ says I.

“‘Be the holy post, 'tis the missin' link!’ says he.

“Jist as he shpoke me machane took a sudden turn, and before I could sthop I was layin' on the broad of me back inside Mrs. Moloney's gate, and me limbs and me machane was that way entangled, that if it hadn't been that Pat at that moment came up the sthrate, I don't belave that I'd ever have been able to perform the operation of exthrication. If I live to be a centurion I'll never forgit the look on Pat's face whin he sthopped in front of Moloney's gate.

“‘Phwat blatherin' nonsense is this?’ says he.

“‘Sure,’ says I, 'help me up, and don't sthand stharin' like a pig in a fit.’

  ― 191 ―
“Wid that he guv the machane a wrinch, and I thought one of me limbs was broke. He banged the machane in the gutter, and in a tone of acrimoniousness he said 'Go indoors and dhress yerself.’

“‘Pat,’ says I, rising to me fate, 'is that the way so shpake to yer own lawful, wedded woife when she's in throuble, and the eyes of envy and malice upon her' (for I seen Mrs. Moloney grinnin' over the balkinny). Jest then, to let me know she was there, she says, 'Will ye koindly shut me gate, Mrs. McSweeney, whin ye've gathered up yer machanes and things?’ Then she added, in a tone of satire: 'Don't ye think the Centennial Park 'ud be the best place to practice in?’

“‘What do you mane,’ says I, 'by interferin' wid yer betters?’

“‘Shut up!’ says Pat, in a tone of thunder. 'I'll have no more of this. I'm goin' to put me fut down on ye, and kape it there! Get into the house this minit, and put on some clothes becomin' a daycent famale woman.’

“I rose to me full hoight, and I says to Pat: 'Pat,’ says I: -

'Bridget McSweeney is me name,
And Ireland is me nation,
Sydney it is me dwellin' place,
And - '

  ― 192 ―
“Wid that he gev me a shove, and seizin' me wid the grasp of a madman, he hurried me in a most unbecomin' manner into me own door. Faith! it's small assistance I get from Pat in me endayvours to kape up the thraditions of me ancesthry. Whin I tell him that me father's great-uncle, on his mother's side, lived in a castle, he only whistles.

“I'm still payin' five shillins' a wake to the collector. I've a bicycle to sell chape. It's nearly all there, only some of the pieces that ought to be bint are shtraight, and those that ought to be shtraight are bint. But it's a new machine, only used wanst.

“Ah!” sighed Mrs. McSweeney, after a pause, “'Tis a quare wurruld, so it is. The only things you can depind on in it is the conthradictions of it.”

The last observation escaped the notice of Mrs. Tacitus, whose mind was concentrated on an effort to decipher the post-mark on a letter that was on Mrs. McSweeney's mantelpiece.