“Seeing the last of you”
“When you’re going away by boat,” said Mitchell, “you ought to say good-bye to the women at home, and to the chaps at the last pub. I hate waiting on the wharf or up on deck when the boat’s behind time. There’s no sense in it, and a lot of unnecessary misery. Your friends wait on the wharf and you are kept at the rail to the bitter end, just when they and you most want a spell. And why? Some of them hang out because they love you, and want to see the last of you; some because they don’t like you to see them going away without seeing the last of you; and you hang out mostly because it would hurt ’em if you went below and didn’t give them a chance of seeing the last of you all the time — and you curse the boat and wish to God it would start. And those who love you most — the women-folk of the family — and who are making all the fuss and breaking their hearts about having to see the last of you, and least want to do it — they hang out the longest, and are the most determined to see it. Where’s the sense in it? What’s the good of seeing the last of you? How do women manage to get consolation out of a thing like that?
“But women get consolation out of queer things sometimes,” he added reflectively, “and so do men.
“I remember when I was knocking about the coasts, an old aunt of mine always persisted in coming down to see the last of me, and bringing the whole family too — no matter if I was only going away for a month. I was her favourite. I always turned up again in a few months; but if I’d come back every next boat it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to her. She’d say that I mightn’t come back some day, and then she’d never forgive herself nor the family for not seeing me off. I suppose she’ll see the end of me yet if she lives long enough — and she’s a wiry old lady of the old school. She was old-fashioned and dressed like a fright, they said at home. They hated being seen in public with her; to tell the truth, I felt a bit ashamed, too, at times. I wouldn’t be, now. When I’d get her off on to the wharf I’d be overcome with my feelings, and have to retire to the privacy of the bar to hide my emotions till the boat was going. And she’d stand on the end of the pier and wave her handkerchief and mop her old eyes with it until she was removed by force.
“God bless her old heart! There wasn’t so much affection wasted on me at home that I felt crowded by hers; and I never lost anything by her seeing the last of me.
“I do wish the Oracle would stop that confounded fiddle of his — it makes you think over damned old things.”
Henry Lawson, Over the Sliprails, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1900, pages 121-122