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A Camp-Fire Yarn
by [?]

“This girl,” said Mitchell, continuing a yarn to his mate, “was about the ugliest girl I ever saw, except one, and I’ll tell you about her directly. The old man had a carpenter’s shop fixed up in a shed at the back of his house, and he used to work there pretty often, and sometimes I’d come over and yarn with him. One day I was sitting on the end of the bench, and the old man was working away, and Mary was standing there too, all three of us yarning–she mostly came poking round where I was if I happened to be on the premises–or at least I thought so–and we got yarning about getting married, and the old cove said he’d get married again if the old woman died.

“‘You get married again!’ said Mary. ‘Why, father, you wouldn’t get anyone to marry you–who’d have you?’

“‘Well,’ he said, ‘I bet I’ll get someone sooner than you, anyway. You don’t seem to be able to get anyone, and it’s pretty near time you thought of settlin’ down and gettin’ married. I wish someone would have you.’

“He hit her pretty hard there, but it served her right. She got as good as she gave. She looked at me and went all colours, and then she went back to her washtub.

“She was mighty quiet at tea-time–she seemed hurt a lot, and I began to feel sorry I’d laughed at the old man’s joke, for she was really a good, hard-working girl, and you couldn’t help liking her.

“So after tea I went out to her in the kitchen, where she was washing up, to try and cheer her up a bit. She’d scarcely speak at first, except to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, and kept her face turned away from me; and I could see that she’d been crying. I began to feel sorry for her and mad at the old man, and I started to comfort her. But I didn’t go the right way to work about it. I told her that she mustn’t take any notice of the old cove, as he didn’t mean half he said. But she seemed to take it harder than ever, and at last I got so sorry for her that I told her that I’d have her if she’d have me.”

“And what did she say?” asked Mitchell’s mate, after a pause.

“She said she wouldn’t have me at any price!”

The mate laughed, and Mitchell grinned his quiet grin.

“Well, this set me thinking,” he continued. “I always knew I was a dashed ugly cove, and I began to wonder whether any girl would really have me; and I kept on it till at last I made up my mind to find out and settle the matter for good–or bad.

“There was another farmer’s daughter living close by, and I met her pretty often coming home from work, and sometimes I had a yarn with her. She was plain, and no mistake: Mary was a Venus alongside of her. She had feet like a Lascar, and hands about ten sizes too large for her, and a face like that camel–only red; she walked like a camel, too. She looked like a ladder with a dress on, and she didn’t know a great A from a corner cupboard.

“Well, one evening I met her at the sliprails, and presently I asked her, for a joke, if she’d marry me. Mind you, I never wanted to marry her; I was only curious to know whether any girl would have me.

“She turned away her face and seemed to hesitate, and I was just turning away and beginning to think I was a dashed hopeless case, when all of a sudden she fell up against me and said she’d be my wife….And it wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t.”

“What did she do?”

“Do! What didn’t she do? Next day she went down to our place when I was at work, and hugged and kissed mother and the girls all round, and cried, and told mother that she’d try and be a dutiful daughter to her. Good Lord! You should have seen the old woman and the girls when I came home.