The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
We can't choose our relations, unfortunately, or I would have at least a dozen like Charlie's aunt. A clever author said once, "a certain comic significance clings to the -word aunt". True enough, but there are aunts and aunts; and the one who owns Charlie Rancombe as nephew is—well, ask Charlie.
* * * * * * *
Charlie got the address from a scrap of perfumed pink norepaper, pinned to a pair of backsheech socks, part of a box of comforts sent out by some "Keep the Boys Cheerful" society, in good old Vic. The paper was embossed with a crest and the motto, Esto quod esse videris, in China blue. It looked most impressive. Charlie puzzled over the Latin for awhile, but could make nothing of ft. So he tossed the note to Jack Harley, his bivvy mate, who has some reputation as a scholar. Jack read it over a couple of dozen times, then gave this verdict: "The words are spelt wrong; but it's something about 'Good people keep out of quod,' I think".
But Charlie was sceptical. He reckoned that a girl with such a pretty name as Lavinia wouldn't have a magnune motto. Lavinia was the name penned daintily on the pink notepaper: Lavinia Hylan, Sassafras Avenue, Warregiltown, Victoria. And there was something also about "Best wishes, and may you come safely home".
"Lavinia Hylan", murmured Charlie, who is a sentimental kind of chap, "I'll bet she's as pretty as a movie girl. I'll write to her. It's up to us fellows to tell the girls at home that we appreciate their gifts."
"Write if you like", savs Jack, "but don't be an ass over it. How about giving us the socks? I rather fancy green and yellow".
"Wouldn't take fifty dizzies for them", cried Charlie. And he meant it. I'm pally with him, and he showed me the letter he [unclear: wrte] to Lavinia. After some preliminary flourishes, it read thus: "I'm pretty lonely. I've got an old uncle in India,—he was a Colonel or something and went through the Mutiny— but I don't remember his name even, and he hasn't written to me. It makes a fellow feel rather blue when he sees all his cobbers getting stacks of mail, and he gets none. Well, it's jolly good of you girls to make socks for us; so I thought I would write and tell you how much we appreciate them. Green and yellow are my favourite colours......It would be great to get a letter from dear old Aussie."
Charlie watched me closely while I read his epistle to Lavinia. But I managed to keep a straight dial.
"It ought to do the trick", I remarked, "if you want to add to your extensive correspondence."
And that "lonely soldier's" letter went overseas in a green envelope.
* * * * * * *
Four months later, when a big mail lobbed in camp, Charlie, as usual, got a pile of parcels and thirty odd letters from adoring relations and admiring friends. I dropped into his bivvy that evening, and was surprised to find him with a gloomy face.
"What's up, old chap?" I asked sympathetically. ''Bad news from home?"
"Yes", he cried savagely, "darned bad news. I've slipped to glory over that letter to Lavinia. Read this". And he gave me a sheet of perfumed pink notepaper, with an embossed crest and motto in China blue.
"My Dear Nephew", the note ran, "I was very pleased to receive your nice letter, thanking me for the socks. It was strange that you should get them. How dreadfully your memory must have suffered through life in the Desert. You seem to have forgotten all your relations. But, of course, you couldn't be expected to remember me, anyhow. I am the sister of your old uncle in India; we only came to Victoria this vear. I have seat vou a parcel by this mail. Your loving Aunt, (signed) Lavinia Hylan."
I laughed like a kookaburra. Charlie glared for a minute, then he joined in.
"After all", he chuckled, "it serves me right. And she's a good sport, is Miss Lavinia Hylan".
But we hadn't heard the last of Charlie's aunt—not by a long way. Nearly every mail, Charlie lands a parcel from Miss Lavinia Hylan. And in each of them, on top of the contents, there is a piece of nink notepaper bearing the words "For a Very Lonely Soldier".
My cobber wore those green and yellow socks to the last thread almost. He parted with them at last to the "finish rubbish" wallad, who consigned them to the incinerator; thev were too far gone even for Ali.
By the way, we got the Padre to translate that motto; it means: "Be what you seem to be". There's a moral hanging to this tale. Do you get me, Steve?