Cupid and Psyche

Guy Boothby

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Cupid and Psyche

“Handsome, amiable, and clever,

With a fortune and a wife;

So I make my start whenever

I would build the fancy life.

After all the bright ideal,

What a gulf there is between

Things that are, alas! too real

And the things that might have been!”

Henry S. Leigh.

His name upon the ship’s books was Edward Braithwaite Colchester, but between Tilbury and Sydney Harbour he was better known as Cupid. His mother was a widow with four more olive branches, absolutely dependent on her own and Teddy’s exertions.

At the best of times Kindergartens for the children of respectable tradespeople are not particularly remunerative, and the semi-detached villa in Sydenham was often sorely tried for petty cash. But when Teddy was appointed fourth officer of the X.Y.Z. Company’s steamship Cambrian Prince, endless possibilities were opened up.

If you will remember that everything in this world is ordained to a certain end, you will see that Teddy’s future entirely depended on his falling in love — first love, of course, and not the matter-of-fact business-like affair that follows later.

After his second voyage he obtained a fortnight’s leave and hastened home. Being fond of tennis and such-like amusements, he was naturally brought into contact with many charming girls, who, because he was a strange man and a sailor, were effusively polite. Then he fell hopelessly in love with a horribly impossible girl, and in the excitement of the latest waltz proposed, and was accepted, on the strength of a fourth officer’s pay, an incipient moustache, and a dozen or so brass buttons.

During the next voyage his behaviour towards unmarried women was marked by that circumspection which should always characterize an engaged man. He never allowed himself to forget this for an instant, and his cabin had for its chief ornament a plush-framed likeness of a young lady gazing, with a wistful expression, over a palpably photographic sea.

Now, it was necessary for his ultimate happiness that Teddy Colchester should learn that, like his own brass buttons, without constant burnishing, a young lady’s affection is apt to lose much of its pristine brightness, and that too much sea air is good for neither. He ticked off the days of absence, and, as his calendar lessened, his affection increased.

At Plymouth a letter met him — a jerky, inky, schoolgirl epistle, evidently written by a writer very cold and miserable; and the first reading stunned him. Had he seen a little more of the real world, he would have been able to read between the lines something to this effect: “You’re Teddy, three months away, and I’m madly in love with a soldier.” Then he would have noted that the writer was staying in Salisbury, after which he would have hunted up his home papers and discovered that the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry were encamped at Humington Down. But as he had only seen life through a telescope, he could not do this, consequently his pain was a trifle acute.

His mother wrote him four pages of sympathy. But though she wondered at any girl jilting her boy, she could not help a feeling of satisfaction at its being still in her power to transmute three-quarters of his pay into food and raiment for her brood.

Next voyage the Cambrian Prince had her full complement of passengers, and the “Kangaroo Girl,” whom perhaps you may remember, was of the number. At Plymouth a little reserved girl joined, and as she is considerably mixed up in this story, you must know that she rejoiced in the unpretentious name of Hinks.

For the first week or so Teddy held very much aloof from the passengers, engaging himself entirely with recollections of the girl for whose sake he was going to live “only in a memory.”

Being an honest, straightforward young fellow, he of course followed the prescribed programme of all blighted love affairs. He began by pitying himself for the sorrow he was undergoing, then went on to picture the future that might have been theirs had she married him; but before they were clear of the Bay he had arrived at the invariable conclusion, and was pitying himself for pitying the girl who was foolish enough to jilt such an entirely estimable young man as Edward Braithwaite Colchester.

One moonlight night, after leaving “Gib,” he was leaning over the rails of the promenade deck, feeling sympathetically inclined to the world in general, when somebody stepped up beside him. It was Miss Hinks. She prefaced her conversation with two or three questions about the sea, and he made the astounding discovery that her voice possessed just the note of sympathy he required for his complaint. He had felt sorry for her because other people snubbed her, and she for him because she had been told exaggerated stories about his love affair. Together they made rather a curious couple.

“One moonlight night . . . somebody stepped up beside him.”

When, under the supervision of the “Kangaroo Girl,” the shore parties for Naples were being organized, Miss Hinks was tacitly left out. Somehow the impression got about that she was poor, and no one cared about paying her expenses. But eventually she did go, and it was in the charge of the fourth officer. When she thanked him for his kindness, he forgot for the moment his pledge “to live henceforth only in a memory.”

The “Kangaroo Girl,” on discovering that Miss Hinks had been on shore, under the escort of that “dear little pink officer,” was vastly amused, and christened them Cupid and Psyche.

Now, the end of it all was, that Teddy began to find himself caring less and less for the thumb-stained photograph in his locker, and more and more for the privilege of pumping his sorrows into a certain sympathetic ear. Shipboard allows so many opportunities of meeting; and, strange as it may appear, a broken heart is quickest mended when subjected to a second rending. This cure is based on the homœopathic principle of like curing like.

By the time they reached Aden he had convinced himself that his first love affair had been the result of a too generous nature, and that this second was the one and only real passion of his life.

At Colombo Miss Hinks went ashore with the doctor’s party — tiffined at Mount Lavinia, dined at the Grand Oriental, and started back for the ship about nine o’clock.

Teddy, begrimed with coal-dust, watched each boat load arrive, and as he did so his love increased.

On account of the coal barges it was impossible for boats to come alongside, consequently their freight had to clamber from hulk to hulk. Miss Hinks was the last of her party to venture; and just as the doctor, holding out his hand, told her to jump, the hulk swayed out and she fell with a scream into the void. Then, before any one could realize what had happened, the barge rolled back into its place. Miss Hinks had disappeared.

Teddy, from half-way up the gangway, tore off his coat, leapt into the water, and, at the risk of having his brains knocked out, dived and plunged between the boats, but without success. Then he saw something white astern, and swam towards it.

The half-drowned couple must have come to an understanding in the rescuing-boat, for next day their engagement was announced.

The “Kangaroo Girl” gave evidence of her wit when she said, “It was fortunate they were Cupid and Psyche, otherwise they would find love rather insufficient capital to begin housekeeping upon!”

Teddy wrote to his mother from Adelaide, and she, poor woman, was not best pleased to hear the news. But a surprise was in store for us all.

On the Cambrian Prince’s arrival in Sydney, Miss Hinks was met by an intensely respectable old gentleman, who, it appeared, was her solicitor. On being informed of the engagement, he examined Teddy with peculiar interest, and asked if he were aware of his good fortune. Miss Hinks smiled.

Half an hour later we learnt that the girl whom we’d all been pitying for her poverty was none other than Miss Hinks-Gratton, the millionairess and owner of innumerable station and town properties!

The Teddy of to-day is a director of half a dozen shipping companies, and he quite agrees with me “that everything in this world is ordained to a certain end.”

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005