When the pavilion opens [short story by Jack Moses]

[Editor: This is a short story from Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse (1923) by Jack Moses.]

When the pavilion opens

The “big” day was bright and warm, and the crowd had congregated early at Wattle Flat Show, with a hope of doing the pavilion before the serious business took place in the ring. Outside the pavilion, of course, sundry knots of exhibitors had gathered to await the flinging back of the main doors.

At the iron tank at the side of the building, half a dozen Wattle Flat urchins had gathered with a Wattle Flat thirst. On this occasion, there being no cup at hand to drink from, the youngsters were putting their mouths under the tap or, to vary it somewhat, cupping their hands to quench the thirst. One bright youngster was struck with the idea of filling his felt hat, when along came the flower steward to fill a can. After he had given the utensil a swirl out, one of the youngsters remarked, “Say, Mister, what about a drink out of that?”

“All right, son,” said the steward. “It’s quite clean; dip your muzzle into it.”

“We can all have a swig, can’t we, Mister?” suggested one lad.

“Yes,” said the steward; “bog in, boys; there is plenty of it in this old iron vat.”

One kid, taking the can, said, “Hold my bread-and-butter, Mister, while I have a drink.”

He quenched a long thirst and then handed the can back to the steward. Wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve, he said:

“Thanks for the water; it was bosker.” And then, rather anxiously, he asked, “Will you be ’ere all day, Mister?”

At that moment the doorkeeper hailed the good Samaritan with the query, “Will we open up and let ’em in, Mister Jones?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Jones, “the netting’s all up, the prize tickets are on the exhibits, and everything is O.K, for the President’s inspection.”

Then suddenly Jones remembered procedure and called out, “Wait a moment! The Governor, the President and the Member must have a private inspection. Keep the crowd back a bit.”

The doorkeeper exercised his authority and pushed two youngsters back as the Governor’s party approached.

The local hand struck up the National Anthem, the crowd quickly formed a passage for His Excellency to pass through, and the caretaker then threw wide-open the doors and the party passed inside.

The first section inspected was the domestic section, and sure there were same excellent samples of toothsome sweets and dainty edibles, reflecting great credit on the homely abilities of the ladies of Wattle Flat.

Mrs. Martin buttonholed the President in his rounds and complained, “I don’t think it fair, Mr. President, the way I’ve been treated in this butter-judging. The schedule distinctly says the prize would be awarded for the best roll of butter, but the one with the blue ticket is not a roll.”

“What is it?” enquired the President.

“Well, it’s a pat.”

“Isn’t that urge and the same — pat and roll?”

“Oh, how absurd!” said the complainant with dignity. A roll is round and a pat is square.”

“That’s right, my dear,” interrupted the husband of the lady; “they’re all considered rolls of butter, whether they are rolls or not.”

“Well, I’ll enter a protest,” the lady warned them.

“That’s right,” said the President, “let the Committee thrash it out.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” urged Mr. Martin, “God knows what they might develop into. It may mean a lawsuit.”

“Excuse me” said the President, “His Excellency is waiting.”

At the school exhibit, His Excellency was interested in the maps of Australia, drawn by boys under twelve, showing samples of products in various divisions of the Continent. These rather attracted all the Vice-regal visitors.

One of the exhibitors in this class was standing nearby, and the President, grasping the opportunity, introduced the successful competitor, bursting with pride, to His Excellency.

“This is the lad who carried off first prize honours, me Lord.”

“Me Lord” said he was very pleased, and, at this moment, a bright-faced youngster, who had broken entrance at the time of the incoming of the Vice-regal party, interposed and said: “I showed a map, too, sir.”

“And did you win a prize also?” queried the Governor.

“No, sir; but I will next time, sir.”

“Ah, that’s the spirit!” beamed His Excellency. “You’d like to win a prize, would you not?”

“Yes, sir; but I like to exhibit to help the Show, too, sir.”

“Well, that’s very good. If all worked on that principle, what a great world it would be!”

“Come along this way, your Excellency,” said the President.

Just as the party had completed inspection of the District Exhibits, and His Excellency had expressed great admiration for the agricultural display, a signal from the President caused the doors of the pavilion to be thrown open, and as the Governor’s party moved out, Wattle Flat, its sisters, cousins, and its aunts moved in.

Wattle Flat was most appropriately attired for the occasion, which provided a great opportunity for displaying the latest Wattle Flat modes and fashions, masculine as well as feminine. As a matter of fact, styles of dress had been studied months before in order to do the thing right on the memorable visit of Vice-regality.

“Commemorate the big day and the visit of the Governor by presenting your best girl with her name worked in golden wire,” urged the wire worker as he deftly twisted the name “Lizzie” and handed it to a blushing companion of Sam Wise from the Ten Mile Peg.

“Here you are, sir,” he said to Ned Stevens, who at that moment was hand-in-hand with Maggie Clark, joyful in the anticipation of a long, happy day in each other’s society, and the drive home by moonlight in the sulky behind Peggy the old chestnut mare.

“What name’ll I work?” enquired the weaver of golden romances.

“Maggie,” blurted Stevens.

“No,” corrected Maggie, “Mag. will do.”

“No,” insisted her escort, with, his quiet drawl and happy smile, “I likes you best as Maggie” — and — well, Maggie it was.

Just across the pavilion, Dennis McMorrow, in charge of the piano exhibit, who had rattled the dominoes to the time of “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” just as His Excellency left the pavilion, had drawn a big crowd to join in the chorus of the tribute paid to Royalty.

Dennis realised that he had made a hit, and in order to keep the interest on his exhibit, played some stirring jazz music. Then turning to a friend at his side, and indicating by a nod of his head, he said: “Ah, there’s me opposition over there; his eyeballs be batin’ out a step-dance in his head wid envy.” And confidently to a lady client he confided, “I like to live on good ter-rms wid the wurld, and I don’t look upon me opposition as an inimy at all, at all; for if it wasn’t for a smart opponent bedad, me fir-rm wouldn’t want a smart traveller to ripresint them. So ye see your opposition isn’t your inimy after all — in all truth he isn’t.”

Denny dusted the keys of the piano and continued: “Now look here, I came on top av him the other day win he do be runnin’ down my firm’s piannies, and I sez to him, sez I, ‘Do you know anything about a pianney when you see one?’ I says.

“Sez he, ‘I do, I know it from Hay to Zed,’ he sez.

Well,’ I sez to him, ‘I’ll just ask you one quistion in the prisince of this lady,’ and, I turned to the lady, ‘You heard what he sez, madam; he sez he knows a pianney from Hay to Zed.’

“‘Well now,’ sez I, ‘I’ll ask you this wan quistion: Where is the magnum scrotum in a pianny?’ and phwat do you think he said?”

“What, pray?” asked the lady client.

“That he never heard of such a thing,” said McMorrow bombastically.

“Well, that will convince me,” remarked Denny’s lady friend as she walked away.

Further down the pavilion, the Wine Kiosk attracted the attention of a new settler.

“What ’ave you got in them bootles, choom?” he asked of the energetic man in charge.

“Wine,” came the reply.

“What wine, choom?”

“Australian,” proudly asserted the wine man.

“Ah — ’ow much be it a glass, choom?”

“We don’t sell it by the glass,” the attendant informed him.

“Eh? Well, what do you do with it? The glasses be there and the corks be all drawn.”

“Oh,” smiled the man of the sparkling hock, “we give it away.”

“Ah,” grinned the new settler, “I thank I’ll ’ave a glass then.” Next, after quaffing a glass of rich, fruity, sweet wine, smacking his lips in appreciation and looking at the drained glass, he asked, “what’s the name of that wine, choom?”

“That’s Muscat,” said the salesman.

“Ah — Moosket” enthusiastically answered the taster, “that’s lovely. I think I’ll ’ave another, choom; I mightn’t see you again.”

While the new settler lingered near the Wine Kiosk, a great commotion was in progress at the big doors of the pavilion, where a crowd had gathered quickly and thickly, pushing and shoving excitedly.

“Stand back there!” said the caretaker.

“Stand back there!” ordered the constable, “Make way there! Where’s the wine man?”

“Over there!” shouted the crowd, excited at the prospect of a dramatic episode in a day’s outing.

“Here, is this your wine?” asked Constable Pincham, breasting the wine man, holding up a bottle of claret in one hand, and gripping with the other the coat and collar of a flash-looking individual of the leery type, whose fringe fell in oily waves over his forehead.

In his visions of coming kudos, Pincham did not wait for a reply to this first query, but proceeded: “You’re in charge of the exhibit here?”

“Yes,” answered the wine man.

“This is your bottle of wine?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, I want you to come with me at once to the Station and lay a charge against this man for stealing. Caught red-handed in the act.”

“Oh,” said the wine man, “I didn’t see him steal it. Who saw him?”

“I did,” quickly interposed a lady whose bosom heaved with consequential pride.

At this period the crowd had increased and the “What’s up here” and the “What’s the matter?” fraternity had gathered.

The wine man became concerned. Visions floated before him of having to leave his exhibit, walk a mile down town, followed by a mass of excited humanity, to lay a charge of a paltry nature against the man now in the iron grip of the law.

Suddenly an inspiration came, and turning to the lady of importance, he enquired: “And pray, madam, where did you say he took the wine from?”

“Oh,” said she, walking hastily to the pavilion end of the exhibit and dramaticaIly pointing with a red parasol, “I saw him deliberately take the wine from the right hand side of your stand.”

Another inspiration came to the wine-seller, who had been sparring for wind, and turning to the man, he said, with ice in his voice, “now, my friend, that’s where you made the bloomer; I told you to take the bottle from the left-hand side, away from the entrance, and you took it from the right-hand side nearest the entrance, and so you’ve caused all this mess.”

“Oh, Hell!” said the constable.

“And Booligal,” added someone else.

Then the crowd laughed the case out of court.



Source:
Jack Moses, Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse, Sydney: Austral Publishing Co., 1923, pages 139-145

Editor’s notes:
bedad = an Irish exclamatory oath, a euphemism for “By God”; from the tradition of avoiding blasphemy and the misuse of sacred words, by substituting words with the same initial letter (exclamatory oaths that use such a substitution for “God” include “by George”, “good golly”, “oh my gosh”, “good gracious me”, and “good grief”)

bloomer = stupid blunder, foolish mistake

bog in = indulge freely; same as the expression “dig in”

Booligal = in effect, a euphemism for Hell; may also refer to hot and uncomfortable places, or places to be avoided (the word was made popular by its appearance in the poem “Hay, Hell and Booligal” by Banjo Paterson; Hay and Booligal are country towns in New South Wales)

bosker = (Australian slang) excellent, very good

flash = showy, vulgar; fashionable or showy, but in a way that shows a lack of taste

good Samaritan = a doer of good deeds; someone who freely gives compassion or help to those in trouble or in unfortunate circumstances (from the Bible story of the Good Samaritan, in Luke 10:30-10:37)

hock = a dry white wine from the German Rhineland; derived from Hochheim, a town in Germany (not to be confused with “hock” as being a part of an animal’s leg or a meat cut thereof, or regarding being in debt or to pawn something of value)

muzzle = (slang) mouth

running down = to be very critical of something, to be disparaging of something or someone

sulky = a light two-wheeled open cart, designed for use by one person and drawn by one horse; however, the term was also applied to similar carts which were able to seat two people

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
av (of) [Irish]
’ave (have)
batin’ (beating) [Irish]
choom (chum)
’em (them)
’ere (here)
fir-rm (firm) [Irish]
Hay (A; i.e. the letter “a”)
inimy (enemy)
me (my)
name’ll (name will)
’ow (how)
phwat (what) [Irish]
pianney (piano)
piannies (pianos)
prisince (presence)
quistion (question)
ripresint (represent)
runnin’ (running)
sez (says)
ter-rms (terms) [Irish]
wan (one)
wid (with)
win (when)
wurld (world)
ye (you)

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