5 'A Sentimental Journey through Sydney' edited
Sydney in 1959 was one of the world's wealthiest cities; The government, in order to stay so, joined USA, attacking Vietnam. The nuclear war base in the desert contained anti-communists. In Woomera the free-world army was preparing for the attack.
5 ‘A sentimental journey through Sydney’, edited
Fernando García Izquierdo
Those days there were very few skyscrapers in town and those few that existed were not very high. Caltex House had twelve floors and two underground for motorcars. It looked taller because of its being situated on a height, not far from the region called the Rocks, where the British troops built the first garrison after invasion in what we now call colonial times. Towards it, Luis Galvao was directing his steps at this moment. His office was on the seventh floor, “ Hutchkinson and Whyte, Registered Patent Agents.
The old attorney Kevin Dean having retired, the Spaniard was called in to take his place. He was not very well paid and he had to pass a trial period before being confirmed in his post, but he felt confident he would overcome all trials and difficulties and his salary would soon be that of a lawyer.
To exercise the profession, he was allocated his own office, a cubicle in fact, but for for him quite impressive with wall-to-wall carpet and the rest, the firm’s premises occupying nearly the whole of the seventh floor, as corresponds to a firm of great ambition which expected to expand as the whole nation was expanding. He was pleased with the course his life was now taking: he liked studying English common law and he liked his tiny office, which was more than he would have got in the Spanish Administration in any case, supposing he had followed his father’s advice and stayed in Spain.
His sentimental life was now taking a good turn: he loved Malgorata and she loved him. Leonidas Krappov had disappeared. This had to do with the fact that the Ukrainian’s crimes were now being investigated. In other words, the Israelis were after him. It was Lasek, his solicitor in the matter of divorce, who had told him.
There were a number of corridors in the premises, crisscrossing one another, with offices on either side, some big, some medium-sized and some rather small like his own. The biggest was the so-called typing-pool, a place with a dozen identical small desks, each one with a big typewriter and the corresponding elevated chair on the side, each occupied by a young female, who spent the day attacking the keys of her typewriter with great monotony, continually producing an almost unbearable noise, rather like the rattle of machine-guns in a military training field: ‘tack, tack, tack, tack, tack, tack!’ Then, there were some half a dozen offices for clerks of varying ages, all together, both male and female: and cubicles similar to the one he had; others somewhat larger for junior associates, men destined to be one day patent attorneys, and maybe enter the partnership. The present partners were two and had larger offices with big windows facing the city or the harbour. The place was perfectly (and perhaps abusively) air-conditioned.
A few days after he joined the firm he saw the head and shoulders of a very young woman moving along the corridor pass his office. She was very blond and very pretty, from what he figured out. For to tell the truth he hardly had the time to see her face.
A quarter of an hour later, the intercom rang. He was summoned into the managing partner’s office. At once, he rose to his feet, crossed the narrow door and proceeded for a while along the passage. He stopped short before a big opaque glass door: “Mr. K. M. HUTCHKINSON, Managing Partner”, he read. Entering the room, after duly knocking, he found the nice platinum girl with Mr. Hutchkinson, who said to him: “Mr. Luis Galvao! Let me introduce you to Miss Lida Kirolenko, your new secretary.” Luis was dazzled. He tried to look out through the window to hide his embarrasment. The office occupied a good part of the premises on the side where the building formed a corner. Still standing up, he fell into a sort of reverie.
… I was contemplating absentmindedly the bay of Port Jackson on my right through the biggest portion of the window; those two sides of the room were pure glass, from top to bottom.
… on the left I saw another arm of the sea, which I knew was called Darling Harbour, full of wharves and warehouses, that constant activity which is common to all big ports.
… the girl was standing, too. I heard their murmured voices, felt the pomp, great sumptuouesness of that office; and what I was doing there, shaking hands, feeling feeling the touch, those delightful tapering fingers.
… ‘Now, why had Mr. Hutchkinson said “Your new secretary.” Why ‘new’?’ I haven’t had a secretary or any similar personal aid in all my born days! And I saw a teenage eating a wedding cake.
He felt he had to say something, anything. The girl, who had stood up to shake hands, might be expecting him to say something, and he was stupidly holding the five delightful fingers in his grip. And had not yet opened his mouth. He must look silly, still trying to glance at the blue sky outside.
Mr Hutchkinson was the only one speak. “You’ll obey Mr Galvao’s orders,” the boss said to the young woman. “Of course you’ll have your post with your typewriter in the main room for girls, the typing pool.”
Beyond the sea the chunks of forest or other vegetation and small buildings, red-brick houses, the Northern Suburbs. Suddenly he recalled something: the two had been together on some other occasion, with Princess Danilova in between. That wedding reception at Bondi Junction.
Thank goodness Mr. Hutchkinson was still addressing himself to Miss Kirolenko, and himself was breathing with relief. Apparently the girl did not remember anything, and Luis Galvao thanked heaven for that, though, on the other hand, his ego suffered to know that such a beautiful creature had not seen him that Saturday of the Russian wedding in Bondi Junction not so long ago.
Summer found Galvao in a fearful state of indecision. He had always suspected that, when he started to work in the law, the struggle would continue. Australians are not like Americans, and when a big industrialist, whose call was passed on to him by Mr Whyte, noticing his foreign accent, told him very rudely, ‘Must I talk to a New Australian?’, he flew into a rage; for he was a haughty Spaniard after all. About that time, he began to write poetry, “Remembrences of my life in Madrid.” And against the advice of his friend Manuel he became a member of the Realist Writers’ Group, of which Dame Mary Gilmore was the honorary president, and where he met Australian writers, like Frank Hardy, Kylie Tennant and Norman Danton; through Danton he met Paddy, who had been a member of the International Brigades, and encouraged him to write a book on the War of Spain.
From the moment his secretary entered the tiny cubicle in her miniskirt and satin blouse, pens and block in hand, he became nervous and confused, without knowing why, for he had his own adored beauty at home. But that sheeny natural platinum hair. He stared while dictating his letters, to the point of causing the girl to feel harassed and embarrassed. Once, they had just parted company in his office, near lunchtime, and they collided, each coming out of a different lift. They went out into the street talking together and halted before a Fish-and-chips shop. The day was warm, and they sat on the grass, at Wynyard Square, munching their lunch. He learned she lived in Lidcombe and came by train every morning, and he thought of accompanying her one evening, just for the pleasure of chatting with her in the train, telling her a fib: saying he was a curious person and wanted to see how commuters travelled by rail, from the outer suburbs, and see a bit of that world.
The following day, a Friday, when Malgorata had been playing the violin in town, for she was now a teacher at the conservatory, she came to him at middday to have their lunch together in a nice little garden near where he worked. They actually could see people going in and coming out of Caltex House, opposite the road. The two were sitting on a bench in an oval with some trees, a lawn and even flower beds. You could see from there the office employees and others filling up from time to time the entrance to the building, up to the revolving doors. “Look, darling,” Galvao called, “that is my little secretary, the platinum-blond one.” He had called her little though she was in fact only slightly under average stature. It was an affectionate way of speaking of the girl, who at that distance really looked like a doll. Malgorata found her pretty. As an artist she was always appreciative of beauty. There was in the way he had spoken a note of admiration (akin to love, she thought); but there had never been in her, nor was there on the way she now spoke, the slightest trait of jealousy.
In the evening he made his way to Ultimo on foot, as he liked it, both because of the exercise and the interesting sight through the back streets by the port, because the time consumed to reach Harris Street that way was shorter than going through the city by bus.
One day, as he was making his way back home from the office, Luis ran up against a wicked-looking Malgorata, who was coming to meet him. It was almost half past six.
“Naughty, why d’you do this to me?” she asked, and it was a justified lament. She had given herself to him entirely as he had and now Luis had broken his vow in changing unilaterally the rules of their union. These days he never came home as before, around half past five.
However Luis was adamant. ‘You’re spying on me? I won’t tolerate it,” he said, making to go.
… ever since his employment at the law firm his colleagues had been inviting him to join them for a drink after work. A routine for them which, for him, was rather tedious. Like some religious ceremomy: for about forty minutes in the Marble Bar (that was the name of temple, where Mammon taught the youth how to get entangled to become rich), a famous hotel in George Street, where the regulars, all men, enjoyed some shop-talk over a glass of beer, after office hours, surrounded by gilded mirrors, fine-wood furniture and chandeliers. They exchanged confidences, as young professionals do, relaxed cracking jokes, rather noisily, and laughed stamping their polished shoes on the marble floor. And yet, he had to do it: those things were essential for his career.
Luis Galvao was now currently meeting real Australians, that is, men born and bred in the country, both professionally and in society. Real Aussies (you could also say), in the sense that not only were they born there, but their immediate ancestors as well, or nearly all; a minority of these could even boast of descending from the convicts. Members of a club known as the “Chain and Bolt”.
One of these acquaintances was Douglas McLachlan, an officer in the R.A.N., who also was in the service of the American CIA. ‘I’m telling you,’ he was boasting before Galvao and others, one day, at the Marble Bar, ‘I take the frigate with my men up north, in plain Pacific Ocean, and all I have to do is to note in the log book the number of ships passing by, the name and quality, nationality, direction and all those things, you know.’ He mentioned this to his secretary, who remarked: ‘It’s good Australia takes part in the war against communism.’
She was taking some notes in his office and Luis Galvao, who had drunk a glass of beer too many, felt like talking to the pretty ‘blondinette’.
“Why were you introduced by the boss as Lida Kirolenko,” he asked, “and you ask me now to call you Maureen?”
“I’m not Russian, nor Ukrainian,” she answered, challengingly, “and I hate the name. Maureen is my second christian-name. I am Australian, as it happens. Nothing else. Born in Paddington Maternity Hospital. Eighteen years ago, if you want to know.” And he could not but ask himself, his eyes fixed upon her pretty face:
… now, should I try? Gosh! I’ll have to be careful. Falling in love with the girl, what a complication. It won’t do. I nearly double her age. She’s a minor. I might end in prison.”
In the evening Luis drove with Malgorata to a little harbour beach, where they had a fish meal in a restaurant known as the ‘Ozone’. It was owned by a Londoner, who had once been a famous rock singer, married to a handsome Dutch woman, much taller than him. The ex-crooner, Freddy Lane, now owned what was really a refreshment-bar on a little beach. He came to talk to them, and at the end of the meal, Luis and Malgorata walked down a wooden platform and then strolled on the sands carrying their shoes in their hands: he having rolled up his trouser-legs and she holding up her skirt, they walked in the sea. Watson Bay being the last one inside the harbour the waves broke somewhat alarmingly at their feet, with the result they soon retraced their steps shouting and laughing, and entered the bar, where modern music was being played, by means of a juke-box.
By the end of November, with the hot weather, many Sydneysiders began to go down to the sands in the evening, and in many instances night sunk upon them enjoying a picnic on the beach. Specially on Saturdays, there were many couples spending enjoyable hours at night on beaches around Sydney, both in the harbour and along the ocean coast, and it was a pleasure to see young women getting that really trendy suntan that a nude body only obtains under the moonlight.
The McLachlans were a very sportive couple, swimming, playing and sunbaking. Her name was Tessa, pretty black-haired of Irish descent, with immaculate blue eyes and a rosy face, while her husband was quite fair with the sun-tanned body of an athlete and a traveller at sea, profession which he adored.
“That way, I’m not tied to my wife’s apron strings,” he used to say at the Marble Bar, when he came back from one of the CIA expeditions and was back at the Navy Headquarters in Sydney
It was somehow arranged that one afternoon they would drive together to a spacious ocean beach and stay there all night. Now that the advance on science had produced the miracle of the pill, which had made women free, as they said, often two friends exchanged wives for the night, when out for picnics, for instance, on the beach.
On Saturday Luis and Malgorata drove to Redfern, where the McLachlans had prepared a barbecue dinner, after which they drove in two cars to a rather wild point of the south coast where the ocean became really turbulent and the beach was full of weedcovered rocks.
They had brought a number of ice-boxes with refreshments and a large variety of drinks. Doug lay flat on his belly upon the sand, among some trees, and Malgorata lay by his side, her hands resting on the sand, thinking, contemplating the darkening cloudless sky the while. The other two were sitting on their respective towels nearby. Luis was talking, trying to interest the Irish beauty, and getting himself every instant more interested in her. It was Doug who had suggested the adventure, the Spaniard being more conservative, old-fashioned in these matters, but, on second thoughts, now that he had the girl with him, he looked forward to trying. They say that in questions of sex you have to experiment and search and search for the perfect copulation.
Then, suddenly, he had second thoughts, stood up, and grabbed Malgorata by the wrist and pulled her up with him to play volley-ball on the wet firm sand by the rocks. Soon the other two joined in the game. They threw the ball in the air with the tips of their fingers, trying to keep in a circle. Then, after a while, Doug and Tessa went surfing, promising to come back in half an hour: ten o’clock which was when the switch over of ‘the birds’ for the rest of the weekend was to take place.
In the twilight of the advancing night, still hitting the ball in the air, now the two of them alone Luis discovered (once more) that he was in love with Malgorata, and nothing more: she looked adorable and pure, wearing her new bikini of a tawny gold hue.
Full of lust and desire he caught her in his arms, and kissed her again and again. There was nobody else on the whole immense beach. Standing as they were on the sand, his hands caressing her pretty straight-up back, he ended undoing the string of her bikini and embraced most lovingly her perfect firm breasts.
They sat on the sand. He said, sad and strangely confused:
“I don’t like this.
“Well, my dearest angel, we’re not animals, are we?”
“What do I say, worse than animals, objects, robots, machines dropping about their sperm like drops of oil. Now, you remember when we had the second-hand car?”
“And in order to let you drive alone, so as to permit me to watch at a distance your defects, and at the same time to let you feel freer, more yourself?”
“And that Freddy Lane told us afterwards we were breaking the law, with the letter L.”
“What I mean to say, dearest love, is that I saw the Hillman was ejecting… ejecting is the word… drops of dirty black oil everywhere, the yellow car did in Sussex Street”
She was looking at him half in surprise and half laughing , but this time said nothing.
“I said like objects, quite mechanically,” he went on. Worse than animals. Even the birds constitute couples, male and female, when they make love. They are in Love. It’s not only sex, the lust of a moment. Not just physical excitement.”
“I am for leaving, now, this very minute. Before they finish their swim.”
Said and done. They stood up, packed their things, threw their clothes on, and some minutes later, they were in the car-park, got into their new, glittering Holden, and the two driving, alternatively, along Princess Highway, Kingsway, and then some other narrower roads, they arrived at Harris Street in the early hours of the morning.
Early one afternoon, having said to Mr. Hutchkinson (who always went on Thurdays to play golf in Rose Bay) that he would be in the evening, as agreed, working with him in his office (for the boss needed his advice in certain important files), Luis Galvao left the office and walked to Market Street, to talk with his solicitor. He was surprised to find in the lawyer’s office a Tomek Bilski, a neighbour of Harris Sreet, who was married to Sylwia and the father of the two boys Malgorata was teaching in Ultimo.
Lasek Scziadobo told Galvao that there were good prospects for securing the desired divorce. Apart from other things, there was proof that the husband was homosexual and that his marriage to Malgorata had not been consumated. However, there was also some bad news, and this came from the Polish fellow, who explained something of which Galvao had never heard before. The US Military were itching to invade the Soviet Union. In a word, Krappov and other elements, now residing in the Kimberly Range of Mountains, were to be transported to Lublin, in eastern Poland, in preparation to the filtering of an invading force into Ukrainia. It happened that the bishop of Lublin hated homosexuals and knew that Ladislav Cruszschov (Krappov’s real name) was one, and, like when the Ukrainian was employed in Woomera, Central Australia, the bishop wanted proof of Cruszschov’s being a married man. Two members of CIA had just landed at Mascot, their mission being to catch Malgorata and take her to Woomera, an American nuclear base in the desert, with a view to smuggling the two together behind the iron curtain.
The middle of December was only just past and already there were public gatherings everywhere celebrating the birth of the Infant Saviour. They went to Coogee, one of the eastern suburbs one night. ‘’Carols by candlelight.’’ They had to take their own wax-candles: the singing took place on an oval green field where a nice soft breeze, that blew now and then, denoted the proximity of the ocean. Every generation of Sydneysider was there represented, from the old grandparent who had seen better times to the young toddler who had just begun to walk. The congregation had been provided upon arrival with stencilled copies of the songs and hymns to be sung by the light of their candles as soon as night began to draw in. “Hark the herald angels sing,Glory to the new born King! Peace on Earth….God and sinners reconciled”…etc.
Afterwards Luis and Malgorata went for a stroll along the waterfront among the promenaders, their hands entwined and their bent heads touching. Strangely enough neither of them seemed particularly animated at the moment; though from time to time she did hum the tune of one or other of the carols they had been singing on the oval. There was a line of lampposts which gave a subdued yellow light all along the promenade, which was of a circular shape. There was a strip of lawn with flower-beds on either side of the road and, after another narrower roadway, a line of small houses, with shops which were closed at that hour. Eventually Malgorata led the way to the stone parapet separating the walk from the sands, pulling Luis with her. After a few minutes, during which she was quietly staring at the ocean and he watching her with a wondering smile: ‘Sweetheart,’ he began, ‘I noticed you hardly looked at the stencilled sheets while singing, do you know all them carols by heart?’
‘I’ve always sung carols at Christmastime, love,’ she replied; but her mind was obviously occupied with other matters.
They were seated on the stone parapet, for the moment not really close together; she was wearing a light sleeveless top which did not even reach her waist, her navel showing most deliciously just above a black miniskirt. He came nearer and laid one hand on her warm thigh, caressingly. But she did not seem to notice; only her dangling legs were moving, her toes playing nervously with her flip-flop rubber sandals, until at length one of them fell to the sand below, which again she did not seem to notice.
‘Back home,’ she said, without looking, ‘I sang ever so often. Both my parents are good singers.’
‘Pity I can’t say the same about mine; I believe I never heard my Dad sing. As for Mum, just a few lines from a popular hit when she was in the kitchen or making the beds. Well, you can see the result: I can’t sing for nuts.’
‘My poor boy! Take heart,’ said Malgorata with a note of irony. ‘You’ve a strong baritone voice.’
He was going to remonstrate with a kiss, but she drew away resting the palms of her hands on the parapet, and then, balancing her body firmly on the stone, she threw herself over upon the sand, picked up the missing thong and away she trod barefoot, moving her arms, a thong in each hand, letting the breeze caress her pretty face. Luis followed suit, and ran after her, and when he caught up embraced her tightly from behind, his lips touching her neck and little round ear. She turned round, and in her eyes he detected a sadness which had not been there before. Why the change? Some secret woe?
… it was a feeling common to many migrants, which crept into your heart from time to time, and often on special occasions during some celebration. You’re in a country to which you don’t belong. Other people don’t realise what it means to sing ‘White Christmas’ and spread artificial snow over a Christmas tree… in midsummer.
‘It always happens at this time of the year,’ she muttered, and the tears were struggling to get out of her eyes. There was in those eyes tonight something new, a melancholy to which his own heart was no stranger, that vague sense of loss and regret of the exile; the realisation that part of one’s life has already gone. They sat on the sand. ‘’My love, I adore you,’’ he whispered, bending to kiss her little ear.
‘And I love you too!’ she cried; but her gaze was turned to the ocean: the murmuring surge of the coming waves, one after another. That magic distance.
Luis touched her shoulder, trying to make her look up. “It’s homesickness,” he said, “we left, darling, our homes, carrying with us a despondency borne of the knowledge that we don’t belong here, anywhere. We’ve lost our roots.’
She assented with her eyes. ‘I’ve lost them completely, Luis, irremediably! And I feel it most particularly today,’ she muttered. ‘This lovely summernight. The waves, the sea, the horizon. How strange!’
She stopped, and he wanted her to go on. ‘Malgorata, tell me!’
‘In summer, August overthere, they took us to the Black Sea.’
The darkness deepened over the ocean, while the infinite expanse above was full of luminous stars.
‘How strange, you’ve said,’ he began. ‘How strange, I say too. And how lucky we’ve met. In a foreign country! Foreign for you and foreign for me, you see. To tell the truth, this feeling…’ he did not finish his sentence, as if the idea had gone from his mind. He fell back upon the sand, and lay down, watching the stars.
‘I was a pioneer back home,’ he heard her say. ‘D’you know what that means?’
‘I know the meaning of the word, yes.’
‘They took us to holiday camps, I’ve already said, I think. It was fun of a summer evening, you know. In August, night started to approach earlier.’
He murmured assent. And she went on: ‘I mean, now it’s winter overthere… Here it’s summer, yet Christmastime… Oh, I’m getting myself into a mess! Well, we were taken to the mountains or to the sea, depending on where you lived. Oh, it was fun, fun! Simply staying out around a bonfire was great fun, yes! yes! We chatted, told stories, put potatoes in the fire, and of course played music and sang. When the fire burned out, we watched the stars.’
Of a sudden they saw something shining faraway at sea, something which, from a line along the horizon, turned into a shining segment of blood-red matter, and then, a bright glowing orange of enormous proportions, girdled all around with a halo of white light, as if the earth was giving birth to a ball of fire, and at the same time a crimson flash burst out upon the entire surface of the ocean, a long line of light approaching wider right to the water’s edge. And the glittering distant object over the horizon crept up to the middle of the sky. It was the moon, bright, round and pearly white.
She now stood up and moved, as in a trance, towards the sea; she stripped herself of her blouse and miniskirt, letting them fall down, and trod ever so lightly on the firm wet sand, raising her arms in the air. The waves came bubbling to meet her and she let them wet her thighs and panty and tiny bra, still playing with her elevated hands. And the moon and the stars were peeping down upon the goddess as she swam eagerly towards the surging ribbons of white foam. Turning round, she paddled with the surge, and soon a sharp keen wind pushed her back to the sand with the rollers. She left her wet bra and panty on the sand and once more lay down, swaying with the regular swell of the sea. And when she was tired of swimming, she stood up, playing gleefully with hands and feet as before, dancing, jumping up and down and twisting her legs above the foaming surf; until she came panting to Luis, who was approaching, giving a deep sigh: “I come to save her I love most, my sweetheart!”
Together they went up the beach, where the sand was soft and warm. “My! she exclaimed, flinging herself on the ground. She lay on her back, then on one side, then on the other, rolling her gorgeous body about, all covered with sand, until she rolled herself still. Luis had fallen on his knees to kiss her; but she turned round on the sand once more, offering her back to him. ‘Now you’ve got to work,’ she said. ‘Brush the sand off my back, come on!’
That day the Council was to send around the so-called ‘surplus lorry’, with the task of collecting any amount of rubbish which the neighbours might care to deposit in front of their houses and which was not collected on a daily basis in the ordinary way. By midday Harris Street was full of heaps of waste, discharged all along the pavement. Only one side of the street was concerned, as the other side was entirely occupied by sundry factories and warehouses, which were of course closed over the weekend.
Manuel Suárez had begun the day looking prim and bright, dressed in white; but as the day advanced he appeared flushed and suffocated, as he helped Big Nino to carry away chunks of broken plaster, lumber, metal piping, rotten shelves and dusty cupboards, and other unwanted matter which had been accumulating in the backyard since the Council lorry last came along. On their way across the house they ran up against Malgorata and Luis fulfilling similar tasks.
“Come, give me a kiss!” said Luis to Malgorata when they were alone, in the back garden. She wore sun-glasses, and her short wavy hair shone prettily in the mid-morning sun. Luis held her by the waist, caressing her body, which was now bent backwards. But Malgorata said, with a little toss, “Now, let’s go back with the others.”
‘Wait,’ he said, retaining her by the arm, ‘don’t you think it would be a good idea if we were to look inside that old bomb. Come along, let’s have a peep.’ They went to the Austin Somerset wreck, just by the back gate; and Malgorata opening the door, ‘Look!’’ she cried with excitement. ‘A pussy there!’
In effect, a very tiny black kitten was lying asleep on the torn leather seat in the back. She got the dear little thing in her arms, caressing its fluffy coat and calling it ‘beauty’ and ‘my own.’ ‘Oh, you knew about it, and wanted to give me a surprise, thank you, Luis!’ she said, blowing him a kiss.
‘Seriously I didn’t know, or I wouldn’t have opened my mouth; for now I’m jealous.’
‘You did!, you did!’
‘I guess its mother left it there one night, knowing as there’s a cat lover on the premises.’
They brought the little creature into the house, Malgorata gave it a saucer of creamy milk, and Manuel, who had again entered the kitchen, pronounced it to be a female. Whereupon Malgorata christened the baby ‘Kittusha,’ and again called her ‘my own’ and ‘deary’.
The narrow pavement of the long street, right and left, was now full of disorderly heaps of old timber, rusty steel pipes, bricks, slabs and other building material, greasy batteries and other spare auto-parts, old mangles, hoists and copper-boilers, rusty garden tools, old furniture, pieces of carpet, rugs and kitchen utensils of all sorts, speckled mirrors, washbasins and toilet bowls, showerheads, sinks, taps, disjointed windows, doors and mosquito nets, broken crockery, kettles, pots and pans, coffee-machines, pressure cookers, radios, pick-ups, electrical appliances, as well as broken branches of dead or recently felled trees, all kinds of shrubs, flower pots and countless other things.
In the afternoon, the building of these heaps had not yet been completed and already some small vans and station-waggons were cruising along in search of discarded ‘treasures’; they were seen suddenly pulling up, here and there, to take away some of those precious articles, and then driving on, the drivers’ eyes always on the heaps on the pavements.
‘Shall we go back to the garden now and have a well-deserved rest?’ Manuel suggested.
‘That’s a great idea,’ Galvao answered.
‘Nino’s been tidying the place for us,’ Manuel added, as the two were joined by Malgorata, who was stll wearing her big sunglasses.
The Sicilian had in fact been raking the ground in the backyard, where most of the lumber had previously been, and blades of fresh grass were showing on the black, recently watered soil. Two pelargonium plants, one on each side, just by the fences which separated the property from the neighbours’ yards, equally seemed to have taken on a new lease of life and were full of previosly unseen red and white flowers. The yard also contained a small gumtree, and the big boy was under it, trying to protect himself from the sun, which just at that moment was very fierce. Everyone congratulated him for a job well done, but he remained with his chin tucked in and his lips pouting, just uttering a grunt of recognition.
‘Now, Nino!’ Manuel uttered in a rather shrill cry. ‘Take your hands out of your pockets, and help me bring out some chairs.’
Chairs and a table were brought out, everybody collaborating; as well as a large beach-umbrella, which Luis got out of the garden shed. Then everybody sat down but Manuel, who stood, rubbing his hands together. He asked the company (but with his eyes fixed on Galvao) what they would like to drink.
‘Cocoa for me,’ Luis said, mockingly.
‘Do you, really?’ Manuel asked, somewhat taken aback. ‘Oh dear, wouldn’t you rather have cold beer, that sort of thing?’ He really looked worried now.
‘I’m very fond of cocoa,’ Luis rejoined. ‘Besides, I want to try that cake you were baking last night.’
Manuel looked flushed and quite embarrassed. He had never understood his friend’s strange sense of humour. He glanced at Big Nino. A ray of sun was hitting him straight on the face, and he held out his right hand towards the disk of the sun. ‘Okay!’ he asked Nino. ‘And you?’
‘Cocoa, too,’ replied the fat boy.
‘Nino!’ Manuel exclaimed in utter amazement. ‘Don’t you want ginger beer? You used to like ginger beer. I know you love it, and I bought a fresh bottle for you only yesterday.’
‘No, cocoa,’ replied Nino, his face becoming red like a tomato.
‘Of course, he doesn’t want ginger beer,’ Luis intervened, visibly enjoying himself. ‘Warm cocoa in the evening, isn’t it? And a piece of…’
‘I won’t have it!’ Manuel cut him short. He flew into a rage. ‘I know what is best for Nino, and you aren’t to interfere.’
Whereupon, Nino stood up and, with his hands stubbornly in his pockets, took a few steps backwards silently looking on the ground. Only that swollen under-lip of his was moving.
‘Nino!’ Manuel shrieked.
But the young man would not budge. Manuel stood up, grabbed him by the arm, and brought him back to his chair. ‘Well,’ he said, devastated, ‘cocoa it will be for all of us!’ and he went away, without caring to ask any more. As he was near the kitchen, however, he turned round and added in much humility. ‘All right, Nino, it was wrong for me to shout, but be an obedient boy.’ And he went into the house.
The night was drawing on. For some minutes the sky was of a beautiful crimson red, and the reflection of an unseen setting sun could be detected on the walls and roofs of sheds and outside toilets and on the top leaves of the gumtree. There was not a whiff of wind, and almost no noise was heard, not even people’s calls or the usual jackdaw cry. Only from time to time the shouts of an isolated drunkard were heard, followed by the barking of dogs.
Luis was looking at his friend as he arrived back from the house, carrying a big tray with mugs and saucers and a large cake complete with icing and a little plastic Father Christmas and crinkly paper-wrapping all around the base.
‘Luis dear, have the goodness of not looking at me so, today of all days.’
‘Well, you can see why. I know I must look like a scarecrow. Stained, sweaty, haggard-looking and uncombed,’ Manuel reasoned. He had left the tray on the table and went in for the hot cocoa. Then he sat down, carefully passing the palm of one hand over his uncommonly tousled hair.
‘May I serve you a piece of cake?’ asked Malgorata, knife in hand, taking off the plastic and paper decorations. She was looking at Manuel.
‘Not necessarily me. I can wait, absolutely.’
There followed a moment of great movement, during which the cake was being cut and served. Manuel, producing a new golden packet of ‘Benson & Hedges’, took out a cigarette and began to smoke, after first having offered the packet to the others, who all refused.
‘Later!’ he said to Luis, who was passing on the plates with pieces of cake. ‘Sure you don’t want to smoke?’ He looked somehow very disappointed.
‘No, thanks,’ Luis replied, ‘I’m enjoying this too much.’ He slowly rolled the cocoa around in his mug, emptied it, and dried his lips with a paper serviette.
Meanwhile Nino was tackling the Christmas cake with obvious relish and Manuel, who noticed it, said, raising his voice once more:
‘Stop it, Nino!’ He rapped his boyfriend’s fingers and went on in a softer tone: ‘’Okay, if you want to keep on adding stones to your weight, go on. I shan’t care.’
‘May I serve you a piece now?’ Malgorata asked in an attempt to mollify Manuel.
‘No, thank you,’ he replied, and, looking at Luis: ‘But if anybody else wants to repeat, don’t let me discourage you.’
‘Thanks ever so much,’ Luis said with a smile.
Malgorata had gone into the kitchen and come back with the pussycat, which she now caressed on her lap. ‘D’you still work with your father in the shop?’ Malgorata asked Nino, just in order to start a conversation, for she knew perfectly well that he did.
The young man again blushed to the roots of his hair, and said in a low voice: ‘Yes, ma’am.’
‘Work in the shop!’ Manuel put in with a frown. ‘If you can call that work. Slavery would be a better term, absolutely. He treats my Nino as a servant, he does. Now,’ (turning to the big boy and dropping his voice into a whisper,) ‘roll your cocoa about in the mug, as you’ve seen Luis doing; otherwise you’ll leave all the sugar in the bottom.’
At that they noticed they were being observed by strangers. The fence separating them from the garden on the left was made of tall wooden palings, held together by two long transversely nailed beams. Four red-haired children were now perched on the top beam, watching. Luis stood up and drew near the fence, followed by Malgorata, who had the cat in her arms.
‘Oo, a peety pussy!’ mumbled the smallest of the children, a girl. ‘Lemme ooch ‘im.’
‘It’s a she,’ answered Malgorata, lifting the cat, over the fence.
One of the boys, the eldest, put in: ‘Olly wans the boofull lidy to sing.’
‘And who may Holly be?’ Galvao asked.
Three of them, all boys, immediately pointed to the little girl. ‘She is.’
‘What d’you want me to sing, deary?’ Malgorata inquired.
‘Dunno,’ the little girl replied, blushing.
‘Loike this mornin’,’ one of the boys uttered, ‘please.’
Malgorata left the cat on her chair and sang for a minute or two a Ukrainian ditty, and then asked: ‘Was that it ?’
The girl nodded in silence, and another of her brothers said: ‘I’s asked Santa to brin’ me a violin.’
‘And d’you think he’ll bring it to you?’
‘Oi dunno,’ he answered. And the other three giggled.
‘Santa won’t, ‘cos he’s naughty,’ said the eldest boy, and the third one added: ‘Mum syse as he’s a bad’un.’
At that they all heard the mother in the kitchen chanting out: ‘Wee Willy Winky’s a-coming, the children should be in bed!’ And the four little persons scrambled down the paling and stampeded into the house.
When Luis and Malgorata turned round, they saw the other two were no longer there. Malgorata put out her hand to Luis, who grasped it as they went into the house, where she left the pussycat in a basket, which she had prepared that afternoon. They entered the bedroom hand in hand. She was all joy and sweetness, her hands lay on his shoulders. He grabbed her by the waist. Both felt confident about the future, after the news received from the solicitor.
‘Close your eyes for a moment, I’ve a surprise for you,’ she said, drawing away.
‘Why, a Christmas present?’
‘You just close your eyes,’ she replied. ‘Wait!’ she exclaimed.
She stripped herself naked, and put on a night-gown of transparent muslin with some slight tint, like a morning sky. Her slim yet shapely figure looked ever so attractive, under the soft nearly transparent blue, so much in accord with those bewitching eyes of perfect reverie! You can open them now (he heard.) He saw a most exceptional woman, inviting him to lie with her the night on their common bed of love.
… that summernight, near the canal when I caught her in my arms. O my love, where are you? I worship you! Forgive me. When I said that night I would come back, my own Solveig, I didn’t know it would you that came… and I destroy your existence.
… my love! if you hadn’t come to Madrid… and then I didn’t know what to do with my life, for I believed then in a revolution that never came. We were betrayed and fell under the boot of fascism, ‘los guardias’. Smashed! Oh Margaret, it wasn’t my fault!
His expression was tragic. She had fallen asleep in his arms. The two bodies were linked together for a long time. Luis was holding Malgorata’s head, the gorgeous golden curls in the palms of his hands, kissing her again and again, her lovely face.
Some hours passed, but he could not fall asleep and became convinced he was falling seriously ill. At four o’clock he heard the usual shrill cry of the yellow-beaked jackdaws, which in summer nestled in a hole under the roof. Dawn was approaching. He heard the two of them and the little ones, just above the window, and he heard the engine of a lorry coming, stopping every few minutes, and he heard the shouts of the dustmen flinging the chunks of lumber and other stuff, quite noisily, into the immense surplus-lorry
‘Fair dinkum, mate!’
‘Now, make haste!’
They were outside the house, and the noise and agitation became unbearable. The banging of many objects on the lorry, the shouts a little farther away. It all was happening in the street, but it was penetrating in his brain. Soon the shouts and the thumping of objects falling became less offensive, then ceased eventually, and for a long time then, he heard far away like in a dream the noise of little birds sweetly singing, like a familiar melody he had somehow forgotten which had now wafted him back to Madrid.
In Harris Street, Ultimo, a beautiful slender girl of twenty-three is waiting; her kisses are often accompanied with tears. A sudden violent storm of passion… Will Lasek bring good news about the initiated legal action for divorce? Whatever happens I’m not going to let her down as once I did with that English girl so pretty.
They were to spend the whole day on a buying spree: a pair of lovers exchanging Christmas presents, a multitude of Syneysiders pushing and being bumped into, in and out of boutiques, shops and departmenta stores for hours, a multitudinous shopping spree. “Is that what they call the madding crowd?” thought Luis Galvao to himself.
He had his breakfast in the communal kitchen with his adored girl, and they went out together, walking up to the Regent Street corner with Broadway. The large department store Grace Brothers was there: an ugly, massive dark-brick building which, however, was much appreciated by shoppers all the year round. There were six spacious lifts, but they preferred to use the new escalator. They rose to the third floor, Women’s Wear. Luis had decided, before embarking upon the Christmas shopping spree, to buy a fashionable swimsuit for his lover, and so had told her at breakfast. The idea was to give the present only on the given day, under the Christmas Tree, but she had been asking, “What is it? what is it?”, and all became simpler that way.
The two were now looking through the piles with the help of a nice assistant, who allowed them to chose six beautiful articles to try on. As she entered the fitting-room, he squeezed in right behind her: a small cubicle with walls covered with mirrors. And if Malgorata was an enchanting female when dressed, in the nude (now they went swimming every Sunday) she was divine. In the end it was he who chose the desired garment, as he had planned in his mind. In the street, later on, they continued their stroll, turning into George Street, full as always with the shopping crowds; but now specially, with the glorious summer weather, all was light and colour: very noisy children everywhere, wearing rubber thongs and some even running about barefoot. All in all a great mass of humanity surging along the footpaths, entering and coming out of shops and department stores.
All was (he thought) imposing, he liked it, that wealthy abundance the Australians liked to display; to which he was getting used little by little. The sun which some could call torrid, he called friendly. And that glorious light, as they walked along under the steel-and-plaster overhanging watching that varied multitude of ‘Aussies’ old and new, striding along with them, the kids running, calling, laughing, fighting and screeching.
And Malgorata suggested: ‘Now, let’s go to Manly on the ferry, please, please. Bless my heart! I’d like to spend the rest of the day on the beach.’
‘And I’d like to sail across the harbour on a ferry.’
Circular Quay was full of double-decker buses coming and going, people rushing to board ferryboats sailing to a little peninsula on the north shore of the bay, where the waters of the ocean entered the harbour. She had not been in Manly for some time and the ferry-trip already constituted for her a treat, as she explained to him, both leaning on the railing on the deck, contemplating all the way those wonderful districts on the northern shore; Neutral Bay, Toronga Park, Balmoral; then, coming nearly out into the open sea as they were reaching the town of Manly, when the crowded ferry actually began rocking, with the tide.
They had a meal, in an Italian restaurant, generously washed down with delicious South Australian wine. A walk on the promenade came next, facing the little harbour beach, with its shark net. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the fairground, where Malgorata rode on the horses of the merry-go-round and both listened to music by the Beatles.
As they reached the promenade, outside the town along the ocean, evening was drawing on, the sky became prussian blue and the evening star was already twinkling over the horizon. They sat watching the wonderful spectacle of the waves rolling in, the deserted beach. They were sitting on a stone bench.
‘Let the day-commuters rush back to the city: we’ll catch a ferry later on,’ Luis said.
Night came on with some precipitation, as always happpened in those latitudes, and the sky began to be filled with stars. The moon was still not up, and the twinkling stars of many different sizes and grades of intensity reminded Luis Galvao of the old country, the north-central plateau known overthere as ‘Tierra de Campos,’ or land of many small agricultural properties.
‘On summer nights,’ he went on. ‘I always looked for an isolated spot somewhere and watched the stars. It was the first notion I ever got of the Infinite. Nothing before my small presence but an awfully large firmament, full of stars.’
‘I also like to watch the stars on clear nights.’
‘Like eyes gazing at us from outer space,’ he said, dreamily ‘and where does that end? Tell me, Malgorata, what does all this mean to you, this infinite number of stars… celestial bodies, ageless coordinated matter in boundless space?’
‘Oh, no!’ she replied, caressing him. ‘You first, tell me. I know you want to.’
He took sometime to answer. ‘Why, it fills me with awe,’ he said. ‘I suppose. It shows how irrelevant, I mean, how impossible it is to try and comprehend… well, anything,” he paused. ‘To hope that one could grasp, with one’s tiny brain, what is in fact infinite matter! At the same time,’ (gazing at the sky) ‘it gives me some comfort.’
‘Comfort, what d’you mean?’
‘I feel reconciled with myself, you see. Such awful immensity up there! I can say to myself: Oh, man, cool it, don’t worry! what does it matter anyhow!’
‘What on earth am I worrying about? Work, hopes, conquests, defeats…, to have to withstand the contempt of others, to be ignored. Their laughs, insults, scorn… all this nonsense… Oh! I feel pessimistic, just now. But please, let us go back to the subject. Now you tell me,’ (glancing at the stars again), ‘what does this vast spectacle mean for you?’
‘Music,’ she answered very swiftly.
‘I thought so. How lucky you are. You have your violin. That’s a thing I’ve always tried to possess,’ he paused, ‘No, no, I don’t mean playing… Art, poetry. But it is very difficult. It doesn’t come to me naturally. I cannot but admire you, in consequence, my angel, a real artist.’
She kissed him on the lips, but he went on with a mind not to change the subject.
‘Tell me, what’s your favourite piece of music?’’
‘Listen to the sigh of the wind,’ Malgorata said in a low mysterious voice. ‘I think it was Debussy who said, “C’est des vagues pour moi la musique”’
‘You haven’t answered my question.’
‘I was going to. Well, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, definitely.’
‘Like the waves coming forth from afar…, that is how it starts: the sound of a number of violins approaching… very slowly. An instant of passion unfolding. That is what pathetic means, passion… not despair. Oh, yes, like the sound of this billowing, that is how it should start! When I was playing it, I often cried. Its music still vibrates in my memory, though I haven’t played it for years. Now, darling Luis! look at the rolling waves approaching!’ she said like in a trance. ‘The tempest of a passion, that is it! sad and poetic and full of surprises… and a sudden change of mood with the appearance of the bassoon, like a premonition of something hard to come… hard not yet evil. You see, Luis, something rearing from the depths of the ocean… like the thunder grumbling behind the driving wind.’
Her eyes were curiously glistening and her voice quavered as she went on: ‘When all the rest is gone, there will always be that remembrance.’
‘Come,’ he said, offering his two hands. And they began to move towards the jetty of the ferryboats. She was holding onto his arm, the left one, and on her own left arm was carrying the bag with the things bought in Grace Brothers that morning.
They came to the edge of the cliff, each carrying something: a big hamper with food and the ice-box with drinks and other things, the rest of their belongings having been properly locked up in the Holden, parked in a tiny lane called Parsley Street, among the big modern mansions where only big industrialists and financiers lived.
Luis looked for a way to go down to the sands and was helped in his task by some brilliant rays of a sun commencing its descent towards the West. Down a well-built path with hardwood boards and steps, right to the sands they went, first carried the bigger objects; and Luis telling Malgorata to wait there, installing the camp, climbed up and brougt the rest down, and they had their meal upon the towels on the solitary beach, precisely under a beach umbrella even though by then no sun was there.
The setting sun, in fact, was shining brightly, yellowish and red and orange over the top of either cliff, the one on the left just a glowing red long line, intense, with brilliant hues of orange, yellow, white; the cliff on the right illuminating yellow that entire side of the inlet, which was a rather narrow long arm of water, called Parsley Bay all the way to the big one of Port Jackson. For the moment the two lovers were lying on the sand, watching the darkening sky overhead and thinking.
… in Madrid aquellas ‘Santas Navidades’ after the war, my father came home one day with a big wireless, almost a piece of furniture, and I listened with my elder brother that very night to a man reading a story entitled ‘Cuento de Navidad’, written by an English author called Carlos Dickens; and I swore I would be a writer like him one day.
‘Luis!’ he heard Malgorata say. ‘Let’s go for a swim’.
He stood up and followed her. She looked gorgeous in the swimsuit he had wanted her to have that day when they went on a shopping spree in the city. So very pretty! Indeed, her beauty had been haunting him ever since: that glowing one-piece swimsuit, so well-adjusted to her suntanned body, her sheeny short hair, blond and wavy, and that pretty rosy face of hers. Oh! divine perfection of woman.
Conscious of the fascination she aroused in her lover, she came forward, putting out one hand, which he took, and the two entered the water together, still holding hands. They swam very slowly the whole length of the narrow stretch of water, so warm, so quiet; until they reached a tall barrier, made of big interlocked steel rings. Slimy black algae clung about the lower set of rings. Beyond the net Parsley Bay opened into the larger one, the portion called ‘the sharks dining room’, the passage line to the wharves, farther on. Hanging to the net, they watched the sea, the ocean swaying into the bay in bigger and mightier waves.
‘Pray, let us go back, I’m freezing.’
‘Yes, let’s come out, but not yet to the sands, darling’ he answered. ‘We’ll have a look at the harbour first.’
It was now the dead of night. They paddled along the safety-net and clambered up onto a narrow footpath, and jumping from rock to rock, reaching an advanced rocky point, they stood contemplating the scenery. Here and there they could detect, in the distance, some concentrated points of light coming from the northern suburbs, beyond the immense dark surface of the large bay: clusters of houses alternating with black spaces, probably parks or forests, some arms of land..
Luis went further on, while his girlfriend stepped aside, looking for a patch of grass where to sit without ruining her new precious swimsuit. The disappearance of the horrible man, who had enslaved her, and the almost certainty that there would soon come a decision which would permit them to constitute a family, had rendered them both euphoric, even if at times he became suddenly sad and meditative. And while each was involved with their thoughts, the waves had been approaching. A speck of light was seen, in the distance, which seemed to be a vessel coming from Manly, in the north-east and after a few more minutes, the ‘speck’ showed it to be a ferryboat in great exhuberance of light and noise and colour. ‘This cannot be a ferry on the regular ferry service,’ Luis thought, and felt a warm touch on his right shoulder. Malgorata was behind him. ‘It’s half past one,’ she observed, kissing him. He was thinking.
… some companies at Christmastime let for the day some of its ferries to prosperous industrialists and the like. The economy is growing now at full speed. Australia the wealthy, the prosperous, the awaking giant. So many capitalistic enterprises.
There was on one side of the illuminated ship the traditional seasonal message: “HAPPY CHRISTMAS”, made out with little coloured-bulbs, and all around on the deck there were festoons with other decorations and lights so varid, so many. People were strolling on the main deck and under a large canopy, couples seemed to be dancing. And all along the railing, talking and watching the luminous water, couples.
They heard: ‘You made me love you! I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t want to do it.’
… like in a dream, that night in Madrid came back to me, that celebration in the Briam College where we both taught foreign languages: dancing with me an English girl so beautifully blonde.
… afterwards, we went with the Madrileños to the Puerta del Sol, the two of us, to hear the bells of the ‘Ministerio’, swallowing the twelve grapes, welcoming 1956 in. A few months later, the riots at uni and all over Madrid, and I lost my angel. For ever?
‘What’s up with you?’ Luis heard, and Margorata threw her arms around him. A long lusty kiss.
‘Luis, my darling, tell me, have you loved many women in your life… I mean, before you met me?’
‘I’ve only loved one woman,’ he replied, ‘until I met you.’
‘How did she look?’ she asked bending her head back, offering herself like one of those virgins of antiquity, her cute face, that little pointed nose of hers, those red sensual lips, which he kissed and kissed again.
‘Actually, very much like you. I think I’ve already told you,’ Luis said. ‘Only a bit… well, a tiny little bit more weight.’
‘You find me too thin, do you?’ she said cajolingly, ‘tell me, for I shall eat and eat to put on weight to please you.’
‘Malgorata, darling, you’re perfect as you are.’
‘No. English. Actually from Manchester. Come on, you already know about her.
There was a sudden gust of wind, coming from the open ocean; a massive bird appeared overhead from behind and floated swiftly with the waves, forcing its way into the tempest.
‘The cormorant,’ she exclaimed, sounding alarmed, ‘the only bird, powerful enough to fly right into the storm.’
He became stupified, fearful in the advancing night. The rolling waves were gaining strength and several lines of revolving white foam could now be seen advancing and pushing back the returning waves with a splash. She did not know he had once been in his country a revolutionary, caught and jailed in a famous tower by the sea.
‘What, darling?’ she asked, coming closer.
‘I know the bird!’ he answered, stll gazing at the coming waves.
The evening was hot and saltry and a sort of lethargy was taking possesion of him… from the narrow window of that awful castle in Cadiz Bay, he saw the bird every morning, as the sun was rising… the prison’s wall, the battered rocks, the cormorant.
‘Tell me, dearest?’ she ask amorousily, knowing he was suffering.
… the barred window receiving the first rays of a nascent sun and solitude all around, would he escape one day and fly away over the storm like the cormorant?
‘Sorry,’ she began, ‘I was wrong to mention it. I didn’t know it would bring you sad memories from the past.’
‘My adored girl, you didn’t know. Besides, it’s no use trying to hide the scars of life.’
They went back treading carefully, for it was raining; at times they had to jump from rock to rock, and thus they reached the shark-net again, the flight of eight hardwood steps; she hesitated for a few moments before diving in. ‘Come on!’ he shouted already paddling along that usually calm arm of the sea, now in turmoil. It was indeed a rather rough sea and the sky had turned almost black. The drops of rain fell noisily on the surface of the altered little Parsley Bay, augmenting their restlessness and actual fear. They tried to keep near one another until they reached the beach, exhausted and out of breath.
Luckily, the rain did not last, and they reached the place where they left their belongings almost two hours before. They fell in each other’s arms, happy and satisfied as if they had crossed the big bay itself. ‘Successful passion,’ he sighed, ‘successfut achievements.’ She kissed him again. ‘Great love,’ she said.
‘Eternally!’ he confirmed, pressing as if he were to crush her in his arms.
They packed up their things and went to the side of the beach where the footpath to ascend to the top began, and after a couple of times moving up and down the cliff, they settled with their belongings in the tiny lane where the car was parked. Everything was packed in the boot and they sat on the back seats, to see if the storm was definitely over, and to enjoy a well-deserved rest together.
On the north side of the long narrow bay, oppositwe to where they were, there was a natural reserve park full of old trees and other primordial vegetation, wild cherries, tiny sugar-bananas, pineapples and others (they had once been walking there); but on this side there were buildings, mansions, like the manor houses of old, occupying the whole terrain, each with its own immense ground. One specially attracted their attention, with a porticoed entrance and an abundant display of wealth and great ostentation: architecture of several styles and epochs. Oh, happy life.
Above all there was in the middle of the lawn a large fir tree, HAPPY CHRISMAS, all shrouded, it seemed, by a subtle mantle of little coloured dots, round bulbs and many other shining objects, around which people were moving and going away, and entering the house, from which other people were coming out… and the strains of music were heard, alternating with carol-singing… ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night… Away in a manger… Silent night, holy night… all is calm…’
The next big sumptuous property farther on, where the little lane ended, appeared to be situated somewhat higher up the cliff. Servants were lifting the sash windows all around the second floor, where there was already a display of exuberant living and illumination, no doubt announcing the coming of a big grand ball, with young gentlemen and exquisite damsels of Australian high society. Some members of an orchestra were tuning their instruments inside the house.
“Happy Christmas, my love,” Luis said, embracing Malgorata.
Day was dawning when they began the drive back home along the south coast of Sydney Bay, the weather had changed for the better and they entered the City in the rich sunshine of a perfectly blue summer morning.