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Healy, Lewis, now Newby had each staked his soul on Jimmies failure.

Sweat was an art the Newbys knew. Others knew it too, from Mackay to Adelaide. From Eden to Tibooburra. Sweat was the national virtue.

it doesnt matter how many times yer descendants bed down, theyll never get anything that dont have the tarbrush in it. And itll always spoil em, that little bit of somethink else.... Newby... spoke as if condoling Jimmie for a sad disease....

The home paragon was Miss Petra Graf, schoolmistress at Wallah, lodger at the Newbys. Against her the Newby girls, who were big, meaty, thick-pored, could try their opinions and discover how viable they might be in proper company. For although Miss Graf was a big country girl herself and could eat a pound of steak without feeling satiated, she gave off a soft musk of delicacy and knew etiquette.

Gilda, in fact, wanted to die. For weeks she had told herself that she would have a new house. Now Gilda found herself in a definite oneroom shack, she wept. although she had known that this was all she could expect.

the strangers who had claim on him.

untold liberties of rage and rampage.

Killing Newby, however, was not it. When he put his rifle against Newbys gut, he knew that he wished to kill that honey-smooth Miss Graf.

His desire for her blood, he understood, came as a climax to his earlier indecencies.

a drunken judgmental majesty.

a tender-hearted murderer who needed to feel that he was priest and judge.

No fire, Jimmie said, Theyll be lookin fer fires.

Wholl be fuckin lookin? The schoolie [ . ..] needs a cup.

Dont be such a bloody ole lubra*. Hes here fer us. Were not here fer bloody him.

would itemize Healys guilt, to make it commensurate with the mess in the kitchen corner.

I can understand your being angry. Oh, I can imagine it, Jimmie.

How many aborigines did the whites kill? The answer is a quarter of a million. Two hundred and seventy thousand have gone. I can understand your being angry.

Mort Blacksmith, however, still had his nearly intact black soul.

Surely his brother saw it, McCreadie hoped. Like magnet to magnet it [the place. ..] snatched up Morts mind. It left Jimmie unpolarized though uneasy. And surely Jimmie saw it! [ . . ..].

* lubra . ( ) [4, . 133].

I have separated them, McCreadie thought, staggering, sweating, eager for breath. Or assured their separation. No small thing. No small thing.

It was sick-grey quarter-light and the harsh myrtle-trees watched him with the remote quizzicality of witnesses.

if the Taree footballers had not fallen to celebrating their skill on the consecrated stones of another race, there would have been no killing at the Newbys.

both brothers needed a third party, could not imagine speaking without McCreadie about. Also, McCreadie filled and diverted their day...

McCreadie peered at all their quarrels as if about to intervene like a polite guest and say they should not go to trouble for him.

He needed simple deliverance. He needed what the State of New South Wales had had for three months the disappearance of Jimmie Blacksmith.

had done all the things that portended happiness.

It was unsuitable, too indicative of what had been suppressed in the countrys making, to hang two black men in the Federations early days.

if society is ready to accept the ambitious aborigine.

Then Australia became a fact.

Had anyone in London, Paris, Vienna, Washington even hinted at such eventualities? You could bet your bottom dollar they hadnt.


The river itself now. Another remaining inhabitant. It reached around a bend amongst willows people had planted here in the last half a century. Low yet still three times wider than old world rivers, and deep and richly green. Take a glimpse too at the mountains in the west richly blue, the underside of a mallards wing. So that was it. He [

. ..]d appreciate his bright surroundings, the unembarrassed light and the blue hills and the deep, navigable Macleay river olive with mud.

The opening of the bridge. Imagine a line of men, women, even children, receiving medals and certificates for valour.

Young Shaw, Tessie Venables... Yourself. With yourself, Tim, we begin to get an array of appropriate acts of gallantry. I see you standing at the mouth of the bridge, at the mouth of a new century. Standing for our community... I have been waiting some time for the third appropriate act to report to the main committee in Sydney... It is a time in the Empires history when in each community an exemplar, a paladin, is very much looked for.

without malice and with keen interest.

4 His son. He could turn out to be a great lop-eared Australian - few opinions, few ideas.

was easy with life, uninflamed by ambitions... Very suntanned and muscular, and his big hands were the map of small, hurtful accidents to do with loading and unloading wagons.

It was a glorious thing to see fellers like Curran work with their string and pencil and adze... A man like Curran was all grace at work.

Clean cuts, and great florid, generous motions.

Great mockers, the Australians. One of their graces.

And he should not have been a provocateur [ . . ..]...

Is the coming Commonwealth of Australia to operate by such principles?

By spying and provocation? If it is, we might as well be in Europe!.

9 To the memory of my grandparents, who kept a store in the Macleay Valley.

Anniversary Day today. The birthday of Australia, as the newspapers liked to say.

I think there is something of the future to it too. A federal Australia. Sentimentality, old Burke grunted. This is nothing about Australia. This is all to do with Britain, Tim. They would have us raise a Federal army. And where would that army fight? This army would die for British enterprises...I can see a Federal tyranny behind this whole move, and I can see a lot of blood in the end.

was full of suggestions and edicts to do with the coming Commonwealth of Australia.

Britains griefs in Africa filled the papers.

If papa and Hector [ . ..] and I were in a sulky in South Africa. would itve all fallen over like that?.

Great Britain took it into its head to commit aggression against the Boers of the Transvaal, purely for the sake of British gold mining interests there.

Its a voluntary oath, but we all know what to make of those who will not take it.


Tim understood he should have foreseen the direction of the meeting: That there would be a publicly observed vote. Those who did not raise their hands would be counted and listed. There a philo-Boer. There a disloyalist. There an Empire-hater. Bloody awful for a mans business, such a perception.

Those Boer boys are throwing more the way of the bloody English than they ever saw before this, on any battlefield.

It would be another year before Tim Shea would need to frown down upon reports in the Chronicle of General Kitcheners sweeping clearance of the Boer population, of the burning of farms, of the crowding of Boer families into... concentration camps.

But more, more present was Missy. She had so quietly burrowed into his head.

Depending on him for her salvation and her substantiality, poor bitch. Missy had looked up through the fluids, seen him as the towns co-operative spirit, the easy mark, the man who would go to proud and tormented trouble.

That night Missy again and as was to be expected stepped into the room from the sea. She wore a blazer, a mans shirt and a tie. She appeared to have theatrical purposes. You could tell that, since her cheeks were rouged.

He had that wonderful feeling of being married, and of heading home to a place marked with his name in blue and yellow.

A happy, happy soul, that Kitty. Melancholy didnt claim on her.

He hated her tightened mouth at such times, as right as she might be. He hated her to carry her face in those lines.

Seeing this fraught little woman, he wondered how she could ever have been considered beloved, this hard creature who hadnt room for orphans. Who had wheeled him into having no room.

He knew in his blood that she wasnt coming back soon or late. She would lie punishingly far out beyond the surf. Not for days either. It would be decades he would need to wait and wait.

Missy, just like Lucy, made her claims on him through silence.

Kitty drew his gaze, and her frown and her clannishness now seemed beautiful to him. Small, deliciously indented lips. For what hed ranted about at night now had a new light on it.

temperamentally anxious mind.

Kitty didnt seem to mind the idea of a six-year-old swimming about in that massive river.

Thats him. He isnt frightened of a thing in the known world, the little bugger.

If his own father could see this the spacious sky, the violet mountains, the potent river enriched with fertile silt hed be reconciled to the loss of children.

barbarous, Asian place.

he loved all this, the mad antipodean river.

Jesus, he and Kitty would rest here in the absolute end as well. This was the earth which would take them. And they would feed this ground.

His eldest sister had gone to Brooklyn and married a newspaper editor.

And so, one by one, two others of his older sisters had crossed the Atlantic on the strength of that founding bit of emigrant luck. He, Tim, had been expected to join his sister in Brooklyn. From the age of sixteen hed always said in public that he would, and yet knew... he was lying... The thing was the idea of being on his own, away from the maternal manners of sisters.

Just to say we are all in admiration of your bravery and compassion in re [ . . ..] Rochester.

Youre a better poor bugger than most Christians.

The plague returns at the end of a startling century and a new location. To remind us that even here we are dust.

Danggadi was the name of the main tribe here. Talkative ghosts in a town so solidly defined that most of its population could bugger off on a steamer and return to find everything still in place. No dahlias ripped out by the roots, no windows broken.

They were barred from pubs, and so they drank methylated spirits sweetened with syrup. Thats why the man had that look, as if his eyes were not part of his body but were floating, without reference to one another.


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