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"Barney, Take Me Home Again"
by [?]

This is a sketch of one of the many ways in which a young married woman, who is naturally thick-skinned and selfish–as most women are–and who thinks she loves her husband, can spoil his life because he happens to be good-natured, generous, sensitive, weak or soft, whichever you like to call it.

Johnson went out to Australia a good many years ago with his young wife and two children, as assisted emigrants. He should have left his wife and children with her mother, in a street off City Road, N., and gone out by himself and got settled down comfortably and strengthened in the glorious climate and democratic atmosphere of Australia, and in the knowledge that he could worry along a while without his wife, before sending for her. That bit of knowledge would have done her good also, and it would have been better for both of them. But no man knows the future, and few can prescribe for their own wives. If we saw our married lives as others see them, half of us would get divorced. But Johnson was sentimental, he could not bear to part from his wife for a little while. Moreover, man is instinctively against leaving his wife behind; it may be either a natural or a cowardly instinct-but we won’t argue that. I don’t believe that Johnson was a coward in that direction; I believe that he trusted his wife implicitly, or rather that he never dreamed of such a thing–as is the way with most married men. Sentiment is selfishness, perhaps, but we won’t argue that, such arguments come to nothing.

I heard from a fellow-passenger of Johnson’s that he had “a hell of a voyage” because of his young wife’s ignorant selfishness and his own sensitiveness; he bribed stewards for better food and accommodation for his wife and children, paid the stewardess to help with the children, got neither rest, nor peace, nor thanks for himself, and landed in Sydney a nervous wreck, with five pounds out of the ten he started with.

Johnson was a carpenter. He got work from a firm of contractors in Sydney, who, after giving him a fortnight’s trial, sent him up-country to work on the railway station buildings, at the little pastoral mining and farming town of Solong. The railway having come to Solong, things were busy in the building line, and Johnson settled there.

Johnson was thin when he came to Solong; he had landed a living skeleton, he said, but he filled out later on. The democratic atmosphere soothed his mind and he soon loved the place for its unconventional hospitality. He worked hard and seemed to have plenty of energy–he said he got it in Australia. He said that another year of the struggle in London would have driven him mad. He fished in the river on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and, perhaps for the first month or so, he thought that he had found peace. Johnson’s wife was a rather stout, unsympathetic-looking young woman, with the knit of obstinacy in her forehead; she had that stamp of “hardness” on her face which is the rule amongst English and the exception amongst Australian women. We of Solong thought her hard, selfish and narrow-minded, and paltry; later on we thought she was a “bit touched;” but local people often think that of strangers.

By her voice and her habit of whining she should have been a thin, sharp-faced, untidy, draggled-tailed woman in a back street in London, or a worn-out selector’s wife in the bush. She whined about the climate. “It will kill the children! It will kill the children! We’ll never rear them here!” She whined about the “wretched hole in the bush” that her husband had brought her to; and to the women whom she condescended to visit–because a woman must have a woman to talk to–she exaggerated the miseries of the voyage until the thing became a sing-song from repetition. Later on she settled down to endless accounts of her home in London, of her mother and sisters, of the way they lived. “And I’ll never see it any more. I’ll never see them any more.”