The changing face of Surry Hills

End 18th century Britain occupied a narrow coastal strip of eastern Australia claiming the whole continent for the Crown, arguing land was 'res nullius'. However there was an aboriginal people. Herein a vision of newcomers in 19th and 20th centuries

The changing face of Surry Hills

Fernando García Izquierdo

There was at one time a riding post on the way from Sydney Town to Surry Hills, and the inhabitants of the colony used to follow that route when travelling east to the coast to enjoy the vision of an immensely open blue space, the biggest mass of matter moving together across the surface of earth. The sky, the line of the horizon and the sea, that was all ahead of you, if you stood at the eastern end of a continent formerly called ‘Terra Australis’. As far as the eye could reach, and you could not have imagined greater beauty.
Our traveller (this time a non-specified New Australian) stood rather early that day on the spot, a sharp cliff. That is what he liked: the sun would be making its appearance there at five a.m. First a gleam of light. He would see it coming to life for another day far far away, between heaven and ocean. After having had a well deserved night’s rest it (the sun) was rising fully to a new life, bringing with it forward for us that new life, for mother earth, in a mysterious and necessary embrace, every day.
Thus did our Sydneysider enjoy life; but more often, on certain dates, the citizens would be making the trip when the sun had already risen and would be staying there upon the cliff several hours contemplating the ocean with a special intention, that is, in the hope of seeing a sailing vessel arrive across that blue mass, right to the entrance of the bay.
There was a strong garrison situated in the tiny town of Manly, north of the port entrance, built by the soldiers of the First Fleet with convict labour, as was SydneyTown, almost simultaneously. If there was now the occasion (when a vessel crossed the line of the horizon) to send a despatch-rider all the way to Government House (‘Ship ahoy!’) it would be done. The spectators on the cliff would become more numerous.
*
The wind was bringing safely to port one of our vessels (at times a small flotilla) after thousands of miles voyaging across the seas from the home country. Always - oh with so much wanted new stuff! And news, specially for some. Not only the royal mail with royal papers, orders and dispositions, official commands… and much-expected new people, soldiers and officials, civil servants and much.needed workers. Lots of free settlers and new clusters of men, women and children forcefully transported to the colony.
Also much-needed supplies of another kind, industrial, commercial and even agricultural commodities. The home country was engaged in the flurry of a successful industrial revolution, mercantilism, the beginning of an export-import era. No wonder commodities were produced aplenty: Work, the Wealth of Nations. So, many things were brought up to the new colony now, on those modern sailing vessels.
Husbandry, too, was in the mind of the colonisers. Back home, in England, they were the best and one had to copy necessarily from the best teachers. Some new heads of cattle, soon to be seen spreading across the land of Australia. Like the sheep, brought from Estremadura and Saxony, thousands and thousands of ‘heads’ of those patient beings, now humbly trodding along, upon the plains and valleys the new land.
And all those things which were so needed in the new mercantilistic era: goods, merchandise, all those commodites that make one’s life really worth living, specially for citizens of high standing, powerful and wealthy. Important for them, to import luxury articles, so long expected and so sorely needed by the settlers, the smartest among them. Even in the new country, this division of society into classes.
… all expecting something. People of all kinds, but specially single men looking with deep feeling at the horizon. Their need is so pressing. That is what is good with man, sentiment, Love.
… and that is what is bad for many men in Australia. Women do not travel alone. More important than wealth is love, and also more important than scientific progress, of which the inhabitants of the new colony are also to benefit more than can be imagined.
… new tools for agriculture, husbandry, and other items, right down to the smallest seeds for farming. Men and women labourers ready to work and transform the land. Have I said seeds, insignificant tiny specks? Why, in the Bible (I think) it’s mentioned that an infinitely small grain of mustard will eventually bring forth a gigantic tree. Nature at work.
*
Behind the coastal strips of mountains and densely covered hills, sometimes clothed in lush rainforests but mostly in smaller eucalypts and acacia and in the small spectacular region of hills and ravines, gorges and encarpments pouring water to the brown rivers that cross the land to the ocean, there lay a vast world, new to her. She’s rejoicing, lovely young girl who has always in her still short span of life interested her heart in nature, human relations, work…everything. Really, only women are thus open to admiration and love. Oh, yes, she feels homesick, an unavoidable feeling in the circumstances. Any living being feels attached to the earth, and even more a human who knows where he (she) belongs.
But it had never been milady’s way, her character, to mope. The land was beautiful, the climate fantastic, and now that the sun was climbing to its zenith, there was light and colour all about. The slanting rays of the sun filtering between the pale trunks of the lofty trees here so abundant filled her with joy. Our Father the sun had now converted the scenery into a Flash of Life. Anybody can enjoy life. But youth is the time to appreciate this. And Milady is just twenty-two.
She was an animal lover, and from her seat near the little open window, she saw and she heard, all around, the Green Land calling, host to an enormous range of unique and active animal life. The flow of the breeze regenerated, filled with happiness, all her being, caressing softly her rosy ckeeks.
The changing face of Australia. We are in the eighteen fifties and the country has already changed somewhat. The Governor and his Lady are travelling, a beautiful coach-and-four to the ocean coast. Milady likes these natural lands near the coast.
*
They were not alone on the road, and for most of the fellow-travellers that was what they wanted, the coast. Utilising this coastal track, they’d soon reach a spot called the Gap, on top of the cliff, from where the entrance to the bay of Sydney became quite visible.
The track which had appropriately received, therefore, the name of South Head Road, ended precisely where the rocky promontory calleded South Head stood guarding with the North Head the strategic ‘Gates of Sydney’.
As from the middle of the seventeenth century Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and other navigators had been crossing the Pacific Ocean first south, bypassing so to say the extensive land which someoned had name ‘Terra Australis’, and was found uninteresting. So, they quickly went on their way for gold or other riches on the many islands to the north.
For the first time in 1770 an English explorer called Captain James Cook, in his three hundred and sixty-four ton vessel ‘Endeavour’, came close enough to percive something of greater interest: there might be something of value attached to that long green-crowned dark cliff eternally battered by the waves.
Astounded and dazzled, the mariners of the ‘Endeavour’ gazed. It was a young modest person, a sailor in the ‘bird’s nest’, on duty that evening on the vessel’s tallest mast, that noticed the presence of a natural harbour there, and gave the alert. The name of the mariner is marked in some history books, not much more. Captain Cook, always restraint and always busy, took the necessary steps to record the fact. Port Jackon, he marked in his books. Thus satisfied, he ordered a turn north, to continue his own job and vocation, exploring, touching some of the most fantastic islands of the Pacific; until he came face to face with his destiny: a native blackfella killed him with a spear, Captain James Cook, circumnavigator of the globe.
*
Eighteen years later, Captain Philips, commanding an armada of eleven ships, callled the First Fleet, after unsuccessefully trying to settle with his men and cargo on an extensive and quite accessible bay, which he named Botany Bay, gathered together his Fleet and sailed north. They entered Port Jackson, just a dozen miles north. The British newcomers, mariners, soldiers and convicts alike, entered the bay, and saw a marvellous world all around them. The fleet landed on sure terrain this time, a circular sandy beach which received the name of Sydney Cove.
The British settled down, the Colony of New South Wales grew in size and in the number of inhabitants. New Governors succeeded Captain Philips, and although the Lady of the present one (now travelling with her husband in the coach-and four) felt desperately homesick at times, she didn’t let nostagia succumb her. At the present moment she was very happy.
… not many in the colony can imagine how pleased she feels at times of being a New Australian. Indeed, the Governor’s Lady is always nice and happy, a very pleasant person.
… as a matter of fact she has always lived enjoying life, full of energy and vigour, working, acting and satisfied with all the things she does and meditates about.
… just now she’s smiling, turning her eyes right or left and enjoying all that Australia is offering her as she journeys through life. It is a pity that nobody is seeing just now her bright blue glowing eyes.
… she has always been like that: analysing, observing. A poet. ‘By channels of coolness (she muses) the echos are calling’. And a musician too. If only she could now put on paper all that feeling which is in her heart.
… all her life so far she has been just a very fine English girl, fond of playing, dancing and singing. She wanted to be creative and always worked hard to achieve her goal.
… she was, with a million other women of her class, a necessary element in a chain of similar elements who together made a social compact in the country of her birth. No individuality allowed.
… Cousin William and her brothers Harry,Tom and Charles had been fond of calling her a silly little romping girl. But she’s not little, for she is twenty-one and rather tall. And she hates to be called silly by the boys.
… she turns her back on them and goes on dancing (not romping) on the lawn, singing aloud and calling her two dogs, Miska and Saska which are always frisking about her on the grounds of the property.
… and that night that changed her life for good. Music and playing the violin (not only the piano. Her elder brother (ten years older) had taken her to a Concert Hall. Hardly a teenager then.
… she now knew what her destiny was in life. She would be a composer. She’d had the chance of seeing a very handsome composer in London, Felix Mendelssohn.
*
The breeze, coming from the right (the sea) was caressing her cheeks, and she half-closed her eyes. At that side, leaning like herself on soft cushions, she had seen the silhouette of the Governor, her husband. She thought of the day of their encounter in a rich mansion of the City.
… a year or so ago she had been spending the summer in the manor house, in Surrey. An active life, mainly because she was always full of energy and enthusiasm. She was observing and learning about life (the life of the men and women of her class).

… playing the piano, that’s what Mum liked her to do, she played it so well. And singing Haendel with her brother Clive, who was playing this time the piano, both before an audience.
… her Dad owned a large property in the country, and there were always guests from the local nobility and from rich men who owned banks, entrepreneurs. Always much money.
… but, in the mornings, that was another thing. Her father possessed an important library, and there is where she hid, for she had got hold of a set of Byron’s poems: she was reading and writing poetry.
… had she been encouraged she could have become famous. But her writing was largely ignored. Only Clive, who loved her very much and was now always at the piano when she sang. She loved him, too.
*
The carriage-and-four rolled along South Head Road, and Milady was looking and thinking. There had lived around there, before the British invasion, a group of primitive people known as the Woollahras, or something like that. And she imagined (in her head) how they lived in the state of nature. They had since been exterminated or pushed away somewhere. She did not know much on the subject. Nobody spoke around her of those things.
She had to laugh the other day when a servant in her mansion, Government House, told her about those funny animals: ‘Oh, no, please my lady! kangaroo is not really the name!’ In effect, a soldier of the garrison (she learned), member of the First Fleet, had wanted to know (as did my lady now), ‘That funny animal running overthere on the plain, eh you blackfella, how do you call it?’ and the Aborigine had asked in turn: ‘Kan ga roo?’ (which one do you mean?), and kangaroo the animal became forever more.
*
Now! how graceful does this soldier riding next to her window on his smooth-shiny steed look! a member of the escort, no doubt. In effect, a young lieutenant had just come to pay his respects to the Lord Governor, who has not even noticed him, for he had chosen the wrong window, the one on the left side of the carriage.
And, instead, she (having found herself between the two men) had offered the lieutenant a smile. His fine hazel eyes had met hers so keenly. She had felt a pleasant thrill about her body, just a moment. The incident has sent her dreaming.
… funny, October is the beginning of spring over here. Back in the old country it was autumn. She thought of her cousin William who had since joined the Royal Navy.
… here, at home, in Government House, she liked to go out and ramble about with young people. The grounds of the residence constitute an immense park, lovely, must have been a primeval forest long ago
… nature all around. She sees herself running, stepping on the Government House grounds, either alone or with her maids or friends. Always with the two dogs running and frisking and barking.
… on the path under the trees, in what is really a promontory, they all go; and at the end of the way, a chunk of land descending like a long green arm onto the soft blue of the bay, she sits down, alone.
*
Some labourers, knowing that Milady liked to contemplate the scenery, had built for her a special Chair, made of hard wood (euchalypt which will never rot). And when she likes she can sit for hours watching full of enthusiasm the most beautiful large bay in the world. ‘Milady’s Chair’, it was called henceforward.
… it is not that she no longer feels homesick. A living being needs roots, like the trees: it is contact, nourishment, matter… that gives all living beings their existence. There must always be that feeling.
… how could she ever forget the walks with her sisters in the manor house’s grounds overthere? Her heart belonged to Surrey, where she was born. Under the broad leafy trees in October, all so golden.
The paths, the valleys and the hills of New South Wales are glorious. The woods and gorges are dressed in full array. Australia must be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, she thinks. There is a most delightful soft breeze, which traversing the carriage from window to window gives freshnes to her rosy cheeks.
… a year of so ago, in eighteen thirty-three, when she was being introduced in society, she got a flare for dancing and pretty robes. Joy, great amusement, party celebrations, dinners with a thousand guests, balls till the early hours, young gentlemen embracing her by the waist.
And now it is nature, the trees, pale lofty trunks reaching the sky, green-silvery leaves. Whole families of cute koala bears live there. They munch eternally the gum leaves, make love and procreate. She’s heard they never come down to the ground. When they need a new supply of nourishment, they move away, their young ones clinging with their sharp claws on the wooly coats of their parents, and without leaving their arboreal habitation look together for some neighbouring tree rich in new fresh gum leaves. As humans do when migrating.
… yesterday morning, from her bedroom window, contemplating Sydney Town, down below she spent almost one hour, entirely alone. And further ahead she saw the garrison, looming high. Upon the Rocks. The garrison that had been built upon arrival of the First Fleet, in 1787. She was glad that the military had worked hard to ensure the newly conquered land would be defended from the enemy.
*
On her portion of the ample seat with the two red velvet cushions where husband and wife sit, milady looks perfect and glowing with the advancing new morning. Women are somehow more easily satisfied.
Her husband? as if he were not there. Never mind, looking his way, she sees and smells the sea. On her left the green hills and ravines already full of life and sounds, and down the deep gorges the echos are calling. Once more she closes her eyes.
… that morning, towards the end of her sojourn in the country, autumn-time, she found herself walking on the soft extensive lawn with her sisters and girlfriends. A few days ago, she had overheard her father tell a friend that he was going to marry her off.

… it was at the end of a great grand ball. The end of the season too. The thing happened so quickly. She had been obliged to dress richly, and a couple of servants or seamstresses laboured (and kept her standing up) for close to one hour. The light blue silken robe. And then, to wear a most valuable string of pearls around her neck, and many diamonds crowning her pretty blond head; and on her fingers.
… and she had been dancing all night with the man she was to marry. (Next morning she would be talking with her sisters, about it, strolling in the hilly park of Surrey, southern England.)
… under the leafy golden trees, as other mornings; but the lawn was full of leaves, some yellow, some orange, some brown, and the four were stepping on them.
She was not moping, no. Australia was so beautiful, so new. On her seat, her hair was fluttering with the wind. She was observing from her window, thinking of Sydney Town. It was not like London, but she nevertheless liked it. The noise and tumult, the ambience, the people. She was not supposed to do it, but sometimes she went out of Government House and walked in the thoroughfare streets. Some times she found herself strolling down town, first along the waterfront, the quay. More often she ambled all aroundd the plaza for a while, always full of traffic: coaches, carts and wagons, cattle and horses. The other day she saw two lads riding a very tall mule, nude from the knee to the feet. Through the open door of a church, incense wafted out. Men were praying in singular devotion. Contrition and faith, probably Irish. ‘Oh, sublime Mother of God, do this for us, intercede before your Son Christ! Secure a better existence for us!
She saw working men cracking jokes and calling one another ‘Mate!’ Opposite the way, always looming high some barracks, the King’s garrison. And houses built on the side of the rocky hill, the main street of the town, and an old man preaching. She approaches the group: the old fellow has a thick stick and sports a beard. He is telling the others to obey. It is the Word of God. ‘A strand of a woman’s hair emerging freely in the air is a dagger drawn towards the heart of religion. Respect your manhood.
She leaves the preacher and his crew, letting her blond tresses flutter in the wind. For there had been a change of the weather, which has suddenly become stormy. It begins to rain. A man calls to her, from inside a covered wagonette, ‘Come here! ‘an’if you please, Milady! Do protect your nice hair from the rain!’ She passes in and recognises one of the labourers who had built ‘The Chair’ for her. They talked of the old country. And what a coincidence, he came (as she did) from the county of Surrey. They spoke of their respective lives over there, and his talk suddenly turned sad, he spoke of the day when he was caught poaching on the lord’s estates at night, for he was a farmhand, and his only child was dying for lack of nourishment. ‘Oh,’ he wailed, ‘I shall never see again the dear old hills of my childhood!.
And she thought, when the rain had ceased and they shook hands, as she left (with his kind grey eyes keenly fixed in hers) that perhaps the nice man had been transported because he went poaching upon her Dad’s estates. Was that just? She again turned her gaze round, to give him a kind last regard, ‘Thanks!’, she muttered, but the fellow was no longer there.
It was now midday as the carriage-and- four with the escort, following South Head road, came very near the cliff. The Governor’s lady had now before her eyes, beyond her husband’s still silhouette resting on his velvet cushion, a whole vision of the ocean.
*
He shook himself awake. Somebody opened the tiny door for him and helped him to climb down from the carriage to the ground. Soon the Governor was plodding on the grass upon the cliff platform overhanging the sea and the little sandy beach with seaweed-covered rocks. The members of his escort and some other citizens came to be near him. Near them was the rocky promontory South Head, one of the guardians of the entrance to the bay. The other could also be seen from there, the North Head.

The Governor wore a blue swallow-tailed coat with brass buttons, a very high velvet collar, bright-red waistband announcing the importance of his commission; he had a white waistcoat and scarlet underwaistcoat (very colourful) with a pair of cream-coloured duck trousers and high black boots very well polished; his hat was white and so were the gloves which he carried in his left hand.
Milady had seen him descending through the little door on the right, puffing and with some help. One minute passed and she was still sitting, considering. She left her seat through the little door on her left. She loved to show her gleaming black boots, each one with a silver buckle. Her husband had turned round, was looking.
Milady was now feeling quite hot, and a little lazy, and her husband was waiting. Lifting with delicate fingers the skirt of her yellow dress, she stepped with her right foot on the footboard; then the other, showing most gracefully her leather boots and perfectly white stockings. She stepped on the bufallo-grass. Decking her shoulders she wore a fine Indian kerchief which added colour to her delicioulsy roundish chin and slightly protruding cheeks. Her husband was still looking. She trotted on the bufallo-grass, flipped back with her fingers her large white-and-yellow hat, which now hung on her shoulders, held there by means of two golden silk ribbons (parasol and gloves having been passed already to her maid).
As she walked on what seemed to her like an extraordinary soft lawn, she again caught sight of her husband and noticed he was waiting, and she hurried up to him. She put her right cheek up to the governor’s grizzled moustache and laughed.

*
Another day, other people watching the same prospect, or nearly. Matter and movement. Today, beyond the immense blue mass of the ocean some long long lines of turbulent dark-blue water are seen, all crowned with white. People are looking at the rollers with apprehension, constantly approaching one after the other, frittering out near the coast with a splash like a explosion: the flat platforms where at times a man is seen fishing, the rocks, the side of the cliff. A constantly moving mass, constantly recommencing on the horizon, and constantly ending down below, near where the people are gazing with alarm.
It is not only that the entrance to the bay is very narrow (they cogitate), but in addition the two promontories are distorted, so to say. They don’t have an easy geographhy. The North Head comes down south, slightly turning east, as it approches, and proceeds to embrace the South Head); then, when the mariner is perforce obliged to turn slightly north to proceed into the bay, there is another promontory impertinently coming out from the north (the little town of Manly, which was the second one to be built by the English in the new colony), and he has to avoid it turning brusquely south… and into the bay. It is called the Middle Head, this one.
As for the spectators on the cliff, more and more, they are turning their gaze upon to the horizon. It was winter, but not too cold. It is the wind that worries them now. And they had a lot of reason to worry. History records the date, a tragedy took place that day: the twelfth of August eighteen fifty-seven. There were records of ships going down to the bottom of the sea every now and then. On this winter evening of August in Australia it was the case of a most exceptionally refined ship, coming from Plymouth to Sydney. She was bringing to the colony ‘inter alia’ one hundred and twenty people, from nearly all of the British Isles. After months of hazardous sailing, crossing three oceans and going half around the world, she had been signalled (in the colony) as approaching. Ship, goods and people, just there, Sydney. A few more hours of good sailing, a final push of the wind forward, and she would be entering the bay, reaching Sydney Cove! But it was not to be.
On the cliff, just now, sudden impertinent rain. ‘Spoil sport!’ It is human nature: many began to foresee a disaster coming. A cluster of peaceful citizens began to lament their luck (this torrential rain!), coming closer together, and many opening umbrellas.
And it was not this the worst. When at last the majestic modern craft made its appearance far far away, and began the last leg of its journey to Australia, a flash of lightning was seen on the now darkening sky, followed by a threatening thunderbolt. Soon the newcomers and their ship were in the midst of a very bad storm, as those on the cliff could see. That fear, that weariness which springs among humans when somehow they foresee a catastrophe seized them all. And it was worse, of course, because they knew they would be unable to help.
All the same, a great cheer had been heard at the time the Dunbar was first seen passing the line of the horizon, as it were. However, an hour later no one was cheering. They had come all close together. All was silence, solitude, in addition, on some faces, had appeared some prophetic tears. The Dunbar was indeed majestic, but pitiful for some.
She stood straight up even in a turbulent sea, advancing surely. The masts were standing up so high. The sails were filled and extra-white. Oh, she was there! that was the thing to remark, hardly a stone’s throw or two from the cliff.
In a minute the winds became of gale force and the ship was stripped of her large sails, one by one. Those on the cliff saw these flow away and land far away upon the water. Mountainous waves had been battering the sides of the Dunbar for about one hour now. One side, the other, then monstruous frothing rollers mounting one another and all attacking the same victim. Poor Dunbar the great clipper. Until the ship bent down on one side, as though to rest for a few moments.
She never rose again from her supine position, the Dunbar. From there on, things proceeded speedily. She ran around upon some rock and eventually all that was left of the vessel went down to the bottom of the ocean. Not a person dead or alive (it seemed) was to be seen on the resulting mountain of debris. Some fragments of various undefined objects, chunks of timber or metal, which drifted about for a while: wood, masts, planks of some sort, pieces of furniture, rests of machinery maybe, and a lot of dirt, much dirt; all spinning round, boisterously, restlessly: unendingly for the citizens on the cliff.
But this changed suddenly and unexpectedly. A bit of calm. Among the dispersing debris, the bodies of some people, it would appear… Persons alive! swimming! Some hope had reappeared in the living humans crowding together on the edge of the cliff. It was not that any of the citizens still watching had seen anybody or recorgised anything… a dear one still struggling? Simply some black specks, that is what they saw… moving. Verily, there is so little we human beings need to see ‘rinascere la speranza’!
As it turned out, only one person of the hundred and twenty odd passengers and crew, a man who must have been an athlete and a great swimmer, saved his life that night. The surge must have pushed him towards the Heads… and there ‘¡Oh great luck! Nature helped him. He swam and swam and the bay welcomed him: he worked hard, deserved to become a New Australian, as the ‘boat people’ a hundred or so years later. The only one of the Dunbar’s newcomers to survive.
After the tragedy, with the dawn, came the Hand of God with a sponge and wiped the whole sea clean. The spot upon which so many lives had been lost now appeared for the spectators on the cliff, beautiful and clean. The whole ocean calm, blue with millions of shiny little diamonds floating, all around, a rising sun.
*
It was a poignant moment when a trail of people previously standing on the cliff, watching the tragedy, commenced the journey back home to Sydney Town that day of the thirteenth August, 1857. They took the coastal road, inside the harbour bay, much calmer waters, having left the ocean behind, all the south side of the harbour to the capital, a sandy beach, a double bay and to the capital. It was an entirely new way, which had been recently completed with convict labour and which was named New South Head Road, partly along recently deforested areas on the plain.
Irony of ironies, the new day announced itself as warm and very luminous. At five o’clock the sun was already rising, starting to flood the world with its light. Little by little the whole surface of the ocean was filled with tiny shiny sparks. Like so many diamonds.
Before reaching their destination, Sydney Town, our travellers had to cross an extensive territory called Woolloomooloo, probably because previously an important group of Aborigines, the coiners of the word, walked freely upon these same territories, in the lee of forest-covered hills, which in some parts reached right to the jagged coastline. Naturally they entered Sydney Town trailing one another. Those riding horses were the first. Then others, two young riders on a big mule, man and woman, wrapped together in a huge blanket, still wet; after them coaches and other carriages, carts, wagons, a covered wagonette filled with very sad people.
There was now splendid sunshine, brightening the prospect before the travellers’ eyes: or rather which would have brightened their view, if thhey had not been again mostly weeping. The capital of New South Wales was the usual animated colonial town. As if nothing had happened last night on the open sea near the Heads. Most were hearing now of the catastrophe for the first time. When all those that had travelled to the cliff were back in town, there were in consequence renewed tears and lamentations. People hugging one another and wailing together, asking the Lord Above for help.
*
Among the spectators on the cliff, Sydneysiders who had expected to see the magnificent vessel crossing safely, between the Heads, into Port Jackon, and who instead had watched with terror the great tragedy, there had been one, a most genteel gentleman, called David Greener, who had just lost his wife and two children in the wreckage. All his life, poor David, until a slight mistake was made, or bad luck had cropped up (or who knows what), which suddenly altered everything, had been honest and correct in everything. Then came that trial in His Majesty’s Courts, that judgement. He was sentenced for fraud. It happened not so long ago, in London. Until then his existence had been an uninterrupted flow of joy and family happiness.
In other words, his marriage to Susannah Kenn (now twelve years ago) had given him great joy. Mutual love had made of their lives together a paradise on earth. Until one day the unexpected happened. Something changed the natural course of events. Overnight. He was found guilty and condemned to be transported for life to the colony of New South Wales.
Born in York, he had one day moved to London with his family. He was by then a well-known architect. One of his brothers, Jacob Greener, had requested him to join him in London, for there had always existed a lot of affection between the two brothers. As the famous professional man that he had become, David Greener found in the capital much to do. He worked hard and made quite a lot of money for about two years.
Jacob Greener, a banker and jeweller, had all his life been a very busy man, loyal to the class and to the people to which he belonged; and when all these qualities are combined in one man, it cannot but make of him a successful professional. Much money, good standards, titles.
Jacob Greener and Co. was a juridical person. It was involved in business, speculations, all kinds of deeds. At a certain moment it must somehow have made one speculation too many. Suddenly Sir Jacob was brought before his country’s justice. He was committed to the courts, for fraud. And poor David Greener with him. The elder brother, shortly afterwards, died in confinement. The famous architect went to trial, was judged, found guilty and sentenced to be transported for life.
In Australia, David Greener was soon appreciated for what he was, a sublime artist and a wonderful man. Respected by his fellow convicts, loved by many of them and by the men whose task was to keep him in chains. And it was soon discovered that back home he had been a very good architect. The Governor pardoned him and eventually became his friend. The ex-convict worked and worked. The town was now full of buildings due to his hand and brain.
But he was an intensely miserable man, he had been condemed to transportation for life, proscribed from ever returning to his homeland. On the other hand, he yearned to be with Susannah and the children. Having acquired (for the second time in his life) a fat bank account, he purchased near Sydney Town, in Glebe, a large house with grounds where there was a gigantic Morton-Bay fig tree, which had made him decide to buy the property. He transformed it to his liking, and took the decision to bring his family over from London.
*
From the very edge of the cliff David Greener glanced for ever so long towards the dark spot where she had disappeared, and his two sons with her. How very few knew that Susannah was an angel! And he had lost her! It was his fault, all his fault!
He hardly saw or heard the birds surrounding him. Flying and cooing. Overhead, about him, down below; or perched on the protruding stones of the cliff, or on the branches of young bushes growing between the cracks and chinks; nor did he hear their calls and screeches that would have sent any normal person crazy.
The hours passed. The prussian-blue of the sea had become a lighter blue with streaks of black, green, white. A moving mass, perpetually going and coming. But he saw nothing, for he was crying. When he opened his eyes again, he twisted his head to look round and fixed his eyes on the now shiny blue spot of the sea where his love had gone, and also, as he did so, at a solitary purple flower coming out of the cliff.
He had left his steed, when he was with the others, tied up in a copse of euchalypts situated on a stretch of the land going towards South Head. He would not go back there, he knew, for he would never want to leave the spot from which he saw the sea where she had disappeared, where all that he had loved in the world had gone. He still saw the seagulls and other maritime birds flying up and down or perching on the side of the cliff. Turning his gaze towards the horizon he noticed the ocean was now calm and beautiful.
… ‘Oh, I know, I know! I’ll get rid of this painful feeling, my angel, and will be full of joy with you again – oh, darling Susannah, my Susi at the bottom of the ocean, can it be true?
… If I could rise in the air, on feather-winged arms, like the birds and fly! Fly calling for you… and know that you still love me, that we can meet again, that our love can become eternal.
… my pretty Susannah, to see you again, and our children, coming to Australia! In the most magnificent vessel in the world. I had become a freedman, no longer guilty, accepted, and again quite wealthy.
… and what for? in me the fatal curse of heaven. Nowhere to go, to escape this malediction.
Lazily David Greener takes a step forward. Near the edge. Turning turning... the rollers are coming, continually, calling him. With a strong heave and a sob, he took a step forward.
… an outcry: ‘Sus… suuu Sussanah! Two years I have… waited. My fate is fixed.
Another step forward. In the void, where the gulls are flying. ‘I want you, my angel,’ he cries. ‘Farewell joy! farewell happiness! Oh, Sussiii… farewell life!’
*
The bus-shelter is hardly a stone’s throw away, but in his precipitation Luis Galvao misses it, takes the wrong turn, and next moment finds himself trudging up a steep hill at the end of which he feels so weak and tired that he has to sit down somewhere. He finds a heap of stones and broken bricks near a building site, and there he rests for a moment, meditating, almost like a stone figure.
Until he is ready to move again in that interminable tangle of narrow streets and lanes criss-crossing one another. There are very few people around, and those he comes across, who could help him to find a bus stop or taxi stand, swish past very quickly, obviously in a hurry. They fail even to notice the presence trudging along on one side of the road. The chimes of a church remind him that it is Sunday today. Perhaps everyone has gone to some temple or other: there are so many, of so many denominations, as they say, in this country.
Every tme he is going downhill he accelerates. He runs so fast at times that when reaching the bottom of a rather broad street he trips over a slightly protruding cobblestone and falls flat on the ground. An old man with a thick stick and a beard comes to the rescue, it would appear, but instead, nasty old fellow, hits him on his right hand, which Galvao has lifted to protect himself from the attack he saw coming. ‘You start early, dog,’ the man growls, ‘And on the day of the Lord!’ But Galvao snatches the weapon from his hands and retaliates severely, throwing the stick in the air afterwards and leaving the old guy howling on the ground.
It has begun to drizzle. Galvao crosses the street, thinking of protecting himself on the covered veranda of a house he recognises vaguely. The one where his love used to live.
… that is it, this terrace house. She disappeared through that pink-and-white door one morning about a fortnight ago, when they both were coming from Paddy’s Market. Not together. He was following her.
… Krappov had taken her away from him, to the bush. He was that morning in Paddy’s Market with his friend Manuel, when suddenly she appeared in a beam of sunlight coming in through a high narrow window.
… it was a Saturday, great crowds, with the sound of the rain on the corrugated-iron roof. It was raining hard when she left the market with a wicker basket hanging from her left arm; in the other hand she was holding an opened pink umbrella.

… she had been going away from him all the time as they crossed the thoroughfare, George Street, Oxford Street, outdistancing him as they went, and he losing her under the overhanging, when she closed the umbrella, among the Saturday morning shopping crowds.
From the open window, next to the pink glossy door of the terrace-house, there comes the sound of a Russian ditty accompanied by the notes of a violin. ‘Kalinka, kalinka moià! Svadova, iádoga, kalinka moià!’ A vision. He has been having the same dream three nights running. Malgorata dancing with a handsome blond Cossack she had met in the outback. Now two escapees on the run. Only, he was not sure at this moment if he had seen the Ukranian girlfriend in his sleep, or Margaret, his beautiful English girl.
The fellow is holding her tightly by the waist, stamping his knee-high leather boots on the checker-patterned vinyl floor, while she remains static. And there is the music, a violin is playing in the background; unless it is someone having a shower.
For Luis Galvao one thing is now certain: he is ill and feverish. The music is still heard, but when he fixes his eyes on what seems like a shower-cabin in a corner of the small bedroom, he only hears a voice, singing: ‘Kalinka, kalinka, moià!’.
Suddenly, two white hands are seen pulling the sash window from the catch down to the window-sill, and he now only sees his own reflexion in the dusty window pane. After a moment of indecision, noticing it is no longer raining, he moves on to the middle of the street, always looking.
Turning right, and into another hilly lane, he finds himself in the commercial part of the suburb. Perhaps he’ll find someone who’ll give him some directions. As he creeps up the top of the hill, he sees there are two equally narrow ways coming together in a tiny plaza, on top, and there is, in the conjuction of two streets or lanes, a corner store. A sunbeam illuminates the store’s glass-door. For the weather is now glorious. A couple of stone steps lead up to the store, which is rather narrow, due to the fact that the two lateral façades form an angle, and the door is squeezed between them, with not much space to spare.
The building is old and dilapidated. Discoloured advertisments on both sides, each façade with a tiny window. The shop is advertising ‘TIP TOP BREAD’, ‘ROZELLE FOOD’, ‘PETERS ICE CREAM’, ‘SALTED PEANUTS CRISP AND CRUNCHY’. Luis has climbed up the two stone steps, gluing his body to the glass door, his nose stuck to the glass.
One would have said Mr. and Mrs. Van Es were there, inside, behind the tin-and-copper cash register waiting, expecting to make good business today, lots of money: and it can’t be, for today it is not Saturday, but Sunday, the Day of the Lord, I know. And I have my nose nearly touching (on the other side of the glass) the notice CLOSED. Clearly.
‘Even if we live in a world where commerce and greed always reign supreme, why, these two old Dutch people from Indonesia, I’m sure, wouldn’t commit such a grievous sin. On the Day of the Lord! Always so devout! Always good protestants!’
Downhill once more. On the hard-wood veranda under the strip of corrugated iron roof, in case the weather changes again, he observes a brassplate with a name on it in black: LAURACE. He plies the knocker. The sound reverberates over the narrow street. For a moment it seemed as if someone was laughing. He observes that the sash is already up in the window next to the door.
At length the door is flung open and a stout flat-nosed woman appears in the doorway. ‘Miss… Missus Laurace,’ Galvao articulates, ‘supp… I guess that is the name…’ (glancing at the brassplate.) ‘You sse… you know… I’m looking for a girl… blond and beautiful.
‘Lookin’ for a girl, are ye?’ she laughs, ‘I say, mate. Wot’s happened to yer arm?, hand is bleeding.’ ‘No, lady… no, Ms Laurace,’ he says, hiding his hand, ‘it’s only an old fella, down in Albion Street, as wanted me to go back to church.’
‘Say, mister, haven’t we met somewhere?’ the woman says, fixing her piercing gaze on his face. She has set her arms akimbo, occupying the whole space of the doorway, as if she were determined to bar the way to an intruder.
‘No, madam, you must confuse me with somebody.’
‘Somebody me foot! We have, and ye bloody well know we have. You must be an escapee from Callan Park. I’m a nurse there, ye know?’
‘No, Madam… eh! no Sister Laurace! It’s not true. I know nothing about mental hospitals. Somewhere else, Sister Laurace. Oh! it was in a restaurant in Pitt Street. That’s it. Nothing to do with any hospital.’
‘Why, an ospital’s wot ye need, in any case. And that is for sure! Anyhow, ye’re bleedin, ye know.’
‘No, sister, (hiding his wounded hand once more.) It’s only… I’m only looking for a woman, I need her badly.’
‘Wot!! Oh no, sir! Ye’re knockin on the wrong door, wot d’ye think? No, sir, this is not that sort of house. Go away! No woman to be had in this house. Not for love or money.’
Still with her arms akimbo, quite alarmed now, ‘This is a decent place!’ she growls ferociously, while she scrutinises him with that piercing gaze. ‘I live alone, ye see.’ She breaks into a prolonged chuckle of laughter.
At that there is the sound of music, like a woman singing. The sound is coming from the open window on the left. ‘You see, Luis exclaims, turning his gaze to the window.’you do have at.. least one tennant.’
‘Oh, heavens!’ he hears. And a strong bang, like the slam of a door. He turns to see what has happened. The woman is no longer there. The door is shut and, for what he knows, has bolted.
He now moves decidedly to the window, has a glimpse of a checker-patterned vinyl floor which is quite familiar to him, for he has seen that same floor quite often in his dreams.
… the window being accessible from the floor, he takes a step forwards with the intention of jumping in, but he trips up and simply lies down, with his arms on the windowsill. A small but tidy bedroom with a makeshift glass cabin in the far corner.

… the sound of water running fast, someone is singing. He fixes his gaze on the glass door of the cabin, sees the diffuse silhouette of a woman having a shower, the palms of her hands holding her face, which is turned upwards, letting the water run down her face and hair.
… be it because the temperature inside the cabin is very high and is now spreading around the room, of a sudden Luis Galvao feels sick and feverish. ‘And a more humane Mikado never did in Japan exist!’ he hears someone singing, the song accompanied by the sound of running water.
… presently the singing ceases, and then the surging sound of water as well. He opens his eyes, the glass door of a shower-cabin opens. Coming out, her body shrouded in a mist. There figure of a woman ever so white that no blood would appear to circulate in her veins.
… oh yes, coming forward! she is such an endearing girl. What bliss! It is she, my only love. No one will take you away from me, now. Luis still resting his arms on the windowsill, his head on his interlocked fingers. He has temporarily closed his eyes.
… she stops short in the middle of the room, seeming to hesitate. Or perhaps she hasn’t seen him. He stretches his unwounded arm, clasps her fingers and now looks at her face, tries to kiss it. She looks at him in astonishment.
… ‘Please, don’t go, my angel, my only love,’ he wails. I didn’t mean to abandon you, it wasn’t my fault,’ he pleads, ‘I need you so.’ I’ve been waiting all this time for an opportunity to explain myself.
… he remembers, creeping to the top of the hill for nothing. A horrible man taking her away. He is torn inside himself as she recalls certain things. But the girl turns round, and hope has turned into despair. ‘Pray stay, don’t hide again from me, my own girl so beautiful. I’ve been looking for you for so long.
… She comes, her body now wrapped in a large white towel, which seemed to turn the rest of her visible skin into pure alabaster. ‘I know you’ve been ill,’ she answers, resting her left knee on the window-sill, ready to help him. I shall cure you, my only love.’ And he wants to take her in his arms, but can’t.
… it seems that the haze from the shower has reached the window, and the young woman, who is now standing up holding the towel around her body with both hands seems about to disappear in a now invading cloud. ‘Please no!’ he says. ‘Come, we’ll run away together. Wander no more’.

Just at that moment he feels like a grip on his back and, simultaneously, hears a shriek: ‘Aha, thief! I’ve caught you, this time. I knew I had to do with a madman. Yes, sir, you belong in Callan Park.’
Galvao screams back, struggling: ‘Let go, you whore!’ he said making an effort to turn round and face her.
‘On no, sir!’ she exclaims, holding him tight now by his jacket lapels, ‘ye won’t run away from me this time; for I’ve called the police.’
And Luis see her ugly face, gesticulating, a big red wart on her chin. The same woman who antagonised him in the Chinese restaurant of Pitt Street. The same, now dressed up and with her flat hat on.
At that the sound of a siren is heard. Taking advantage of a moment’s hesitation on the part of his adversary, he gives her a tremendous punch on the chin, and the wart explodes splattering blood. The woman cries out, Luis pushes her away and hardly hears her, all kinds of insults and lamentations in her mouth. For he is escaping now, not from her, but from the Black Maria which he sees coming up, right at the bottom of the hill. He tries to reach the next corner, but he is too weak to run now even downhill.
Luis Galvao and the Black Maria cross one another half way down the street, but soon Luis hears the vehicle at turning back, still in pursuit of a poor madman. He hides behind a very tall black dustbin and has, for a change, the satisfaction of seeing the police vehicle pass by and disappear. And he goes on rambling like a drunkard, in a suburb in which he is a complete alien, full of streets, lanes and alleyways which have turned long for him into an inextricable labyrinth.
At length he lands upon a square which contains some familiar elements. He hears the chime of some bells and see some gulls flying around the towers of a Catholic Church, the starting point of the sad calvary he has been undergoing all morning.
He makes a bee-line across the square. Burning the last particles of energy left in him, he stumbles forward, nearly crawling up the flight of stone steps, and enters the temple just as he hears the siren of the Black Maria again.
An old bearded priest is saying mass to an Italian audience, as an exhausted Luis Galvao moves along one of the lateral aisles looking for an empty seat. ‘La vita è sempre dolore (he hears the priest)… dolore… soltanto dolore… soltanto Dio è… notra pace… oh, ricordiarse del tempo felice…’
And the sound of low voices around him, as he steps between two lines of parishioners; for he is holding on to the back of the long bench, constantly knocking with his shoes the feet of those on one side and with his hands disturbing at times those leaning on the back of the bench in front.
The priest is going on and on with his praying, followed closely by his accolyte, who is also saying something. After a while, when Luis Galvao reaches his own seat, he sits down and falls asleep. He is awakened by the sound of bells. At the beginning he thinks it is again the police. Then he notices it is the accolyte, who holds in his hand a set of golden bells, which roll around producing a sort of music. The old priest with the beard is moving away from the altar, holding the chalice up with two hands and bending his brow low. The accolyte with the set of little bells follows him.
There is great turmoil in the church. Luis Galvao stands up, following the example of the rest of the audience. He realises that they are all going away, and gets frightened, in case the police now enters and takes him away to the Black Maria. On the top of the flight of stone steps he halts for a minute, searching, but there are no policemen waiting for him.
He contemplates the prospect with admiration. It is the first time he sees Surry Hills as a whole, an inner suburb of Sydney, the capital of New South Wales. A motley array of innumerable small cottages, old somber houses most of them. At times it looked as if some of the small buildings were standing one on top of the others. The old hills.
‘What, the crowd is dispersing already?’ He feels quite alarmed, accelerates his pace. ‘I haven’t even reached the bottom of the flight of steps, and the street is emptying.’
He trips over. A woman comes to his rescue. ‘Dio!’ she cries. A man joins her. He shouts. ‘Luigi amico! What’s happenned to you?’
… the ghost of the past visit Galvao’s mind… those days long ago, when he was working in the soap and chemical products factory.
… people talking in Italian, gesticulating all the time… his mates, Bruno, Pippo, Joe, Paddy, Luis, Norman, Lee… ‘Mates!!’
He is fainting. A call: ‘Luigi amico, where do you live? Luis recognises Pippo, a Sicilian friend of Bruno’s, his mate at the factory. Someone replies for Luis. Some two or three words ‘Then, I’ll take him,’ Pippo says, ‘my card’s parked round the corner.’
They all want to carry the wounded person to the car. He is shoved in, placed on the passenger seat.
He recognises Elizabeth Street as they speed across the city. They hit the Cahill Expressway, he knows well the way. A turn right and onto the Harbour Bridge, over the blue waters of Port Jackson. And into North Sydney. ‘Where in Kirribilli you live?’ He supplies the information. ‘Jef… Jeffrey Street… two.’
Pippo waits, both now standing in front of a tall building. Luis opens the door. Both enter the hall. ‘Thank… you, mate,’ Galvao mutters.
‘Take you to your home unit. You just tell me.’ Pippo says. Luis has pushed a button. ‘No… no, mate. I’m all right… Thanks so much, he says entering.
Pippo sees him pressing number ten. ‘Bye-bye, caro Luigi, take care.’
As soon as Luis Galvao gets out on the tenth floor, he goes into his flat and remains a few seconds resting his tired body against the closed door. Then he threw himself, fully dressed, on his bed and lost conscientiousness altogether.
There, on his bed under the window, he lay alone as he had always been, with no possibility of being looked after by wife, or lover or anyone.

fg.lzquierdo@yahoo.es

The changing face of Surry Hills

Fernando García Izquierdo

There was at one time a riding post on the way from Sydney Town to Surry Hills, and the inhabitants of the colony used to follow that route when travelling east to the coast to enjoy the vision of an immensely open blue space, the biggest mass of matter moving together across the surface of earth. The sky, the line of the horizon and the sea, that was all ahead of you, if you stood at the eastern end of a continent formerly called ‘Terra Australis’. As far as the eye could reach, and you could not have imagined greater beauty.
Our traveller (this time a non-specified New Australian) stood rather early that day on the spot, a sharp cliff. That is what he liked: the sun would be making its appearance there at five a.m. First a gleam of light. He would see it coming to life for another day far far away, between heaven and ocean. After having had a well deserved night’s rest it (the sun) was rising fully to a new life, bringing with it forward for us that new life, for mother earth, in a mysterious and necessary embrace, every day.
Thus did our Sydneysider enjoy life; but more often, on certain dates, the citizens would be making the trip when the sun had already risen and would be staying there upon the cliff several hours contemplating the ocean with a special intention, that is, in the hope of seeing a sailing vessel arrive across that blue mass, right to the entrance of the bay.
There was a strong garrison situated in the tiny town of Manly, north of the port entrance, built by the soldiers of the First Fleet with convict labour, as was SydneyTown, almost simultaneously. If there was now the occasion (when a vessel crossed the line of the horizon) to send a despatch-rider all the way to Government House (‘Ship ahoy!’) it would be done. The spectators on the cliff would become more numerous.
*
The wind was bringing safely to port one of our vessels (at times a small flotilla) after thousands of miles voyaging across the seas from the home country. Always - oh with so much wanted new stuff! And news, specially for some. Not only the royal mail with royal papers, orders and dispositions, official commands… and much-expected new people, soldiers and officials, civil servants and much.needed workers. Lots of free settlers and new clusters of men, women and children forcefully transported to the colony.
Also much-needed supplies of another kind, industrial, commercial and even agricultural commodities. The home country was engaged in the flurry of a successful industrial revolution, mercantilism, the beginning of an export-import era. No wonder commodities were produced aplenty: Work, the Wealth of Nations. So, many things were brought up to the new colony now, on those modern sailing vessels.
Husbandry, too, was in the mind of the colonisers. Back home, in England, they were the best and one had to copy necessarily from the best teachers. Some new heads of cattle, soon to be seen spreading across the land of Australia. Like the sheep, brought from Estremadura and Saxony, thousands and thousands of ‘heads’ of those patient beings, now humbly trodding along, upon the plains and valleys the new land.
And all those things which were so needed in the new mercantilistic era: goods, merchandise, all those commodites that make one’s life really worth living, specially for citizens of high standing, powerful and wealthy. Important for them, to import luxury articles, so long expected and so sorely needed by the settlers, the smartest among them. Even in the new country, this division of society into classes.
… all expecting something. People of all kinds, but specially single men looking with deep feeling at the horizon. Their need is so pressing. That is what is good with man, sentiment, Love.
… and that is what is bad for many men in Australia. Women do not travel alone. More important than wealth is love, and also more important than scientific progress, of which the inhabitants of the new colony are also to benefit more than can be imagined.
… new tools for agriculture, husbandry, and other items, right down to the smallest seeds for farming. Men and women labourers ready to work and transform the land. Have I said seeds, insignificant tiny specks? Why, in the Bible (I think) it’s mentioned that an infinitely small grain of mustard will eventually bring forth a gigantic tree. Nature at work.
*
Behind the coastal strips of mountains and densely covered hills, sometimes clothed in lush rainforests but mostly in smaller eucalypts and acacia and in the small spectacular region of hills and ravines, gorges and encarpments pouring water to the brown rivers that cross the land to the ocean, there lay a vast world, new to her. She’s rejoicing, lovely young girl who has always in her still short span of life interested her heart in nature, human relations, work…everything. Really, only women are thus open to admiration and love. Oh, yes, she feels homesick, an unavoidable feeling in the circumstances. Any living being feels attached to the earth, and even more a human who knows where he (she) belongs.
But it had never been milady’s way, her character, to mope. The land was beautiful, the climate fantastic, and now that the sun was climbing to its zenith, there was light and colour all about. The slanting rays of the sun filtering between the pale trunks of the lofty trees here so abundant filled her with joy. Our Father the sun had now converted the scenery into a Flash of Life. Anybody can enjoy life. But youth is the time to appreciate this. And Milady is just twenty-two.
She was an animal lover, and from her seat near the little open window, she saw and she heard, all around, the Green Land calling, host to an enormous range of unique and active animal life. The flow of the breeze regenerated, filled with happiness, all her being, caressing softly her rosy ckeeks.
The changing face of Australia. We are in the eighteen fifties and the country has already changed somewhat. The Governor and his Lady are travelling, a beautiful coach-and-four to the ocean coast. Milady likes these natural lands near the coast.
*
They were not alone on the road, and for most of the fellow-travellers that was what they wanted, the coast. Utilising this coastal track, they’d soon reach a spot called the Gap, on top of the cliff, from where the entrance to the bay of Sydney became quite visible.
The track which had appropriately received, therefore, the name of South Head Road, ended precisely where the rocky promontory calleded South Head stood guarding with the North Head the strategic ‘Gates of Sydney’.
As from the middle of the seventeenth century Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and other navigators had been crossing the Pacific Ocean first south, bypassing so to say the extensive land which someoned had name ‘Terra Australis’, and was found uninteresting. So, they quickly went on their way for gold or other riches on the many islands to the north.
For the first time in 1770 an English explorer called Captain James Cook, in his three hundred and sixty-four ton vessel ‘Endeavour’, came close enough to percive something of greater interest: there might be something of value attached to that long green-crowned dark cliff eternally battered by the waves.
Astounded and dazzled, the mariners of the ‘Endeavour’ gazed. It was a young modest person, a sailor in the ‘bird’s nest’, on duty that evening on the vessel’s tallest mast, that noticed the presence of a natural harbour there, and gave the alert. The name of the mariner is marked in some history books, not much more. Captain Cook, always restraint and always busy, took the necessary steps to record the fact. Port Jackon, he marked in his books. Thus satisfied, he ordered a turn north, to continue his own job and vocation, exploring, touching some of the most fantastic islands of the Pacific; until he came face to face with his destiny: a native blackfella killed him with a spear, Captain James Cook, circumnavigator of the globe.
*
Eighteen years later, Captain Philips, commanding an armada of eleven ships, callled the First Fleet, after unsuccessefully trying to settle with his men and cargo on an extensive and quite accessible bay, which he named Botany Bay, gathered together his Fleet and sailed north. They entered Port Jackson, just a dozen miles north. The British newcomers, mariners, soldiers and convicts alike, entered the bay, and saw a marvellous world all around them. The fleet landed on sure terrain this time, a circular sandy beach which received the name of Sydney Cove.
The British settled down, the Colony of New South Wales grew in size and in the number of inhabitants. New Governors succeeded Captain Philips, and although the Lady of the present one (now travelling with her husband in the coach-and four) felt desperately homesick at times, she didn’t let nostagia succumb her. At the present moment she was very happy.
… not many in the colony can imagine how pleased she feels at times of being a New Australian. Indeed, the Governor’s Lady is always nice and happy, a very pleasant person.
… as a matter of fact she has always lived enjoying life, full of energy and vigour, working, acting and satisfied with all the things she does and meditates about.
… just now she’s smiling, turning her eyes right or left and enjoying all that Australia is offering her as she journeys through life. It is a pity that nobody is seeing just now her bright blue glowing eyes.
… she has always been like that: analysing, observing. A poet. ‘By channels of coolness (she muses) the echos are calling’. And a musician too. If only she could now put on paper all that feeling which is in her heart.
… all her life so far she has been just a very fine English girl, fond of playing, dancing and singing. She wanted to be creative and always worked hard to achieve her goal.
… she was, with a million other women of her class, a necessary element in a chain of similar elements who together made a social compact in the country of her birth. No individuality allowed.
… Cousin William and her brothers Harry,Tom and Charles had been fond of calling her a silly little romping girl. But she’s not little, for she is twenty-one and rather tall. And she hates to be called silly by the boys.
… she turns her back on them and goes on dancing (not romping) on the lawn, singing aloud and calling her two dogs, Miska and Saska which are always frisking about her on the grounds of the property.
… and that night that changed her life for good. Music and playing the violin (not only the piano. Her elder brother (ten years older) had taken her to a Concert Hall. Hardly a teenager then.
… she now knew what her destiny was in life. She would be a composer. She’d had the chance of seeing a very handsome composer in London, Felix Mendelssohn.
*
The breeze, coming from the right (the sea) was caressing her cheeks, and she half-closed her eyes. At that side, leaning like herself on soft cushions, she had seen the silhouette of the Governor, her husband. She thought of the day of their encounter in a rich mansion of the City.
… a year or so ago she had been spending the summer in the manor house, in Surrey. An active life, mainly because she was always full of energy and enthusiasm. She was observing and learning about life (the life of the men and women of her class).

… playing the piano, that’s what Mum liked her to do, she played it so well. And singing Haendel with her brother Clive, who was playing this time the piano, both before an audience.
… her Dad owned a large property in the country, and there were always guests from the local nobility and from rich men who owned banks, entrepreneurs. Always much money.
… but, in the mornings, that was another thing. Her father possessed an important library, and there is where she hid, for she had got hold of a set of Byron’s poems: she was reading and writing poetry.
… had she been encouraged she could have become famous. But her writing was largely ignored. Only Clive, who loved her very much and was now always at the piano when she sang. She loved him, too.
*
The carriage-and-four rolled along South Head Road, and Milady was looking and thinking. There had lived around there, before the British invasion, a group of primitive people known as the Woollahras, or something like that. And she imagined (in her head) how they lived in the state of nature. They had since been exterminated or pushed away somewhere. She did not know much on the subject. Nobody spoke around her of those things.
She had to laugh the other day when a servant in her mansion, Government House, told her about those funny animals: ‘Oh, no, please my lady! kangaroo is not really the name!’ In effect, a soldier of the garrison (she learned), member of the First Fleet, had wanted to know (as did my lady now), ‘That funny animal running overthere on the plain, eh you blackfella, how do you call it?’ and the Aborigine had asked in turn: ‘Kan ga roo?’ (which one do you mean?), and kangaroo the animal became forever more.
*
Now! how graceful does this soldier riding next to her window on his smooth-shiny steed look! a member of the escort, no doubt. In effect, a young lieutenant had just come to pay his respects to the Lord Governor, who has not even noticed him, for he had chosen the wrong window, the one on the left side of the carriage.
And, instead, she (having found herself between the two men) had offered the lieutenant a smile. His fine hazel eyes had met hers so keenly. She had felt a pleasant thrill about her body, just a moment. The incident has sent her dreaming.
… funny, October is the beginning of spring over here. Back in the old country it was autumn. She thought of her cousin William who had since joined the Royal Navy.
… here, at home, in Government House, she liked to go out and ramble about with young people. The grounds of the residence constitute an immense park, lovely, must have been a primeval forest long ago
… nature all around. She sees herself running, stepping on the Government House grounds, either alone or with her maids or friends. Always with the two dogs running and frisking and barking.
… on the path under the trees, in what is really a promontory, they all go; and at the end of the way, a chunk of land descending like a long green arm onto the soft blue of the bay, she sits down, alone.
*
Some labourers, knowing that Milady liked to contemplate the scenery, had built for her a special Chair, made of hard wood (euchalypt which will never rot). And when she likes she can sit for hours watching full of enthusiasm the most beautiful large bay in the world. ‘Milady’s Chair’, it was called henceforward.
… it is not that she no longer feels homesick. A living being needs roots, like the trees: it is contact, nourishment, matter… that gives all living beings their existence. There must always be that feeling.
… how could she ever forget the walks with her sisters in the manor house’s grounds overthere? Her heart belonged to Surrey, where she was born. Under the broad leafy trees in October, all so golden.
The paths, the valleys and the hills of New South Wales are glorious. The woods and gorges are dressed in full array. Australia must be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, she thinks. There is a most delightful soft breeze, which traversing the carriage from window to window gives freshnes to her rosy cheeks.
… a year of so ago, in eighteen thirty-three, when she was being introduced in society, she got a flare for dancing and pretty robes. Joy, great amusement, party celebrations, dinners with a thousand guests, balls till the early hours, young gentlemen embracing her by the waist.
And now it is nature, the trees, pale lofty trunks reaching the sky, green-silvery leaves. Whole families of cute koala bears live there. They munch eternally the gum leaves, make love and procreate. She’s heard they never come down to the ground. When they need a new supply of nourishment, they move away, their young ones clinging with their sharp claws on the wooly coats of their parents, and without leaving their arboreal habitation look together for some neighbouring tree rich in new fresh gum leaves. As humans do when migrating.
… yesterday morning, from her bedroom window, contemplating Sydney Town, down below she spent almost one hour, entirely alone. And further ahead she saw the garrison, looming high. Upon the Rocks. The garrison that had been built upon arrival of the First Fleet, in 1787. She was glad that the military had worked hard to ensure the newly conquered land would be defended from the enemy.
*
On her portion of the ample seat with the two red velvet cushions where husband and wife sit, milady looks perfect and glowing with the advancing new morning. Women are somehow more easily satisfied.
Her husband? as if he were not there. Never mind, looking his way, she sees and smells the sea. On her left the green hills and ravines already full of life and sounds, and down the deep gorges the echos are calling. Once more she closes her eyes.
… that morning, towards the end of her sojourn in the country, autumn-time, she found herself walking on the soft extensive lawn with her sisters and girlfriends. A few days ago, she had overheard her father tell a friend that he was going to marry her off.

… it was at the end of a great grand ball. The end of the season too. The thing happened so quickly. She had been obliged to dress richly, and a couple of servants or seamstresses laboured (and kept her standing up) for close to one hour. The light blue silken robe. And then, to wear a most valuable string of pearls around her neck, and many diamonds crowning her pretty blond head; and on her fingers.
… and she had been dancing all night with the man she was to marry. (Next morning she would be talking with her sisters, about it, strolling in the hilly park of Surrey, southern England.)
… under the leafy golden trees, as other mornings; but the lawn was full of leaves, some yellow, some orange, some brown, and the four were stepping on them.
She was not moping, no. Australia was so beautiful, so new. On her seat, her hair was fluttering with the wind. She was observing from her window, thinking of Sydney Town. It was not like London, but she nevertheless liked it. The noise and tumult, the ambience, the people. She was not supposed to do it, but sometimes she went out of Government House and walked in the thoroughfare streets. Some times she found herself strolling down town, first along the waterfront, the quay. More often she ambled all aroundd the plaza for a while, always full of traffic: coaches, carts and wagons, cattle and horses. The other day she saw two lads riding a very tall mule, nude from the knee to the feet. Through the open door of a church, incense wafted out. Men were praying in singular devotion. Contrition and faith, probably Irish. ‘Oh, sublime Mother of God, do this for us, intercede before your Son Christ! Secure a better existence for us!
She saw working men cracking jokes and calling one another ‘Mate!’ Opposite the way, always looming high some barracks, the King’s garrison. And houses built on the side of the rocky hill, the main street of the town, and an old man preaching. She approaches the group: the old fellow has a thick stick and sports a beard. He is telling the others to obey. It is the Word of God. ‘A strand of a woman’s hair emerging freely in the air is a dagger drawn towards the heart of religion. Respect your manhood.
She leaves the preacher and his crew, letting her blond tresses flutter in the wind. For there had been a change of the weather, which has suddenly become stormy. It begins to rain. A man calls to her, from inside a covered wagonette, ‘Come here! ‘an’if you please, Milady! Do protect your nice hair from the rain!’ She passes in and recognises one of the labourers who had built ‘The Chair’ for her. They talked of the old country. And what a coincidence, he came (as she did) from the county of Surrey. They spoke of their respective lives over there, and his talk suddenly turned sad, he spoke of the day when he was caught poaching on the lord’s estates at night, for he was a farmhand, and his only child was dying for lack of nourishment. ‘Oh,’ he wailed, ‘I shall never see again the dear old hills of my childhood!.
And she thought, when the rain had ceased and they shook hands, as she left (with his kind grey eyes keenly fixed in hers) that perhaps the nice man had been transported because he went poaching upon her Dad’s estates. Was that just? She again turned her gaze round, to give him a kind last regard, ‘Thanks!’, she muttered, but the fellow was no longer there.
It was now midday as the carriage-and- four with the escort, following South Head road, came very near the cliff. The Governor’s lady had now before her eyes, beyond her husband’s still silhouette resting on his velvet cushion, a whole vision of the ocean.
*
He shook himself awake. Somebody opened the tiny door for him and helped him to climb down from the carriage to the ground. Soon the Governor was plodding on the grass upon the cliff platform overhanging the sea and the little sandy beach with seaweed-covered rocks. The members of his escort and some other citizens came to be near him. Near them was the rocky promontory South Head, one of the guardians of the entrance to the bay. The other could also be seen from there, the North Head.

The Governor wore a blue swallow-tailed coat with brass buttons, a very high velvet collar, bright-red waistband announcing the importance of his commission; he had a white waistcoat and scarlet underwaistcoat (very colourful) with a pair of cream-coloured duck trousers and high black boots very well polished; his hat was white and so were the gloves which he carried in his left hand.
Milady had seen him descending through the little door on the right, puffing and with some help. One minute passed and she was still sitting, considering. She left her seat through the little door on her left. She loved to show her gleaming black boots, each one with a silver buckle. Her husband had turned round, was looking.
Milady was now feeling quite hot, and a little lazy, and her husband was waiting. Lifting with delicate fingers the skirt of her yellow dress, she stepped with her right foot on the footboard; then the other, showing most gracefully her leather boots and perfectly white stockings. She stepped on the bufallo-grass. Decking her shoulders she wore a fine Indian kerchief which added colour to her delicioulsy roundish chin and slightly protruding cheeks. Her husband was still looking. She trotted on the bufallo-grass, flipped back with her fingers her large white-and-yellow hat, which now hung on her shoulders, held there by means of two golden silk ribbons (parasol and gloves having been passed already to her maid).
As she walked on what seemed to her like an extraordinary soft lawn, she again caught sight of her husband and noticed he was waiting, and she hurried up to him. She put her right cheek up to the governor’s grizzled moustache and laughed.

*
Another day, other people watching the same prospect, or nearly. Matter and movement. Today, beyond the immense blue mass of the ocean some long long lines of turbulent dark-blue water are seen, all crowned with white. People are looking at the rollers with apprehension, constantly approaching one after the other, frittering out near the coast with a splash like a explosion: the flat platforms where at times a man is seen fishing, the rocks, the side of the cliff. A constantly moving mass, constantly recommencing on the horizon, and constantly ending down below, near where the people are gazing with alarm.
It is not only that the entrance to the bay is very narrow (they cogitate), but in addition the two promontories are distorted, so to say. They don’t have an easy geographhy. The North Head comes down south, slightly turning east, as it approches, and proceeds to embrace the South Head); then, when the mariner is perforce obliged to turn slightly north to proceed into the bay, there is another promontory impertinently coming out from the north (the little town of Manly, which was the second one to be built by the English in the new colony), and he has to avoid it turning brusquely south… and into the bay. It is called the Middle Head, this one.
As for the spectators on the cliff, more and more, they are turning their gaze upon to the horizon. It was winter, but not too cold. It is the wind that worries them now. And they had a lot of reason to worry. History records the date, a tragedy took place that day: the twelfth of August eighteen fifty-seven. There were records of ships going down to the bottom of the sea every now and then. On this winter evening of August in Australia it was the case of a most exceptionally refined ship, coming from Plymouth to Sydney. She was bringing to the colony ‘inter alia’ one hundred and twenty people, from nearly all of the British Isles. After months of hazardous sailing, crossing three oceans and going half around the world, she had been signalled (in the colony) as approaching. Ship, goods and people, just there, Sydney. A few more hours of good sailing, a final push of the wind forward, and she would be entering the bay, reaching Sydney Cove! But it was not to be.
On the cliff, just now, sudden impertinent rain. ‘Spoil sport!’ It is human nature: many began to foresee a disaster coming. A cluster of peaceful citizens began to lament their luck (this torrential rain!), coming closer together, and many opening umbrellas.
And it was not this the worst. When at last the majestic modern craft made its appearance far far away, and began the last leg of its journey to Australia, a flash of lightning was seen on the now darkening sky, followed by a threatening thunderbolt. Soon the newcomers and their ship were in the midst of a very bad storm, as those on the cliff could see. That fear, that weariness which springs among humans when somehow they foresee a catastrophe seized them all. And it was worse, of course, because they knew they would be unable to help.
All the same, a great cheer had been heard at the time the Dunbar was first seen passing the line of the horizon, as it were. However, an hour later no one was cheering. They had come all close together. All was silence, solitude, in addition, on some faces, had appeared some prophetic tears. The Dunbar was indeed majestic, but pitiful for some.
She stood straight up even in a turbulent sea, advancing surely. The masts were standing up so high. The sails were filled and extra-white. Oh, she was there! that was the thing to remark, hardly a stone’s throw or two from the cliff.
In a minute the winds became of gale force and the ship was stripped of her large sails, one by one. Those on the cliff saw these flow away and land far away upon the water. Mountainous waves had been battering the sides of the Dunbar for about one hour now. One side, the other, then monstruous frothing rollers mounting one another and all attacking the same victim. Poor Dunbar the great clipper. Until the ship bent down on one side, as though to rest for a few moments.
She never rose again from her supine position, the Dunbar. From there on, things proceeded speedily. She ran around upon some rock and eventually all that was left of the vessel went down to the bottom of the ocean. Not a person dead or alive (it seemed) was to be seen on the resulting mountain of debris. Some fragments of various undefined objects, chunks of timber or metal, which drifted about for a while: wood, masts, planks of some sort, pieces of furniture, rests of machinery maybe, and a lot of dirt, much dirt; all spinning round, boisterously, restlessly: unendingly for the citizens on the cliff.
But this changed suddenly and unexpectedly. A bit of calm. Among the dispersing debris, the bodies of some people, it would appear… Persons alive! swimming! Some hope had reappeared in the living humans crowding together on the edge of the cliff. It was not that any of the citizens still watching had seen anybody or recorgised anything… a dear one still struggling? Simply some black specks, that is what they saw… moving. Verily, there is so little we human beings need to see ‘rinascere la speranza’!
As it turned out, only one person of the hundred and twenty odd passengers and crew, a man who must have been an athlete and a great swimmer, saved his life that night. The surge must have pushed him towards the Heads… and there ‘¡Oh great luck! Nature helped him. He swam and swam and the bay welcomed him: he worked hard, deserved to become a New Australian, as the ‘boat people’ a hundred or so years later. The only one of the Dunbar’s newcomers to survive.
After the tragedy, with the dawn, came the Hand of God with a sponge and wiped the whole sea clean. The spot upon which so many lives had been lost now appeared for the spectators on the cliff, beautiful and clean. The whole ocean calm, blue with millions of shiny little diamonds floating, all around, a rising sun.
*
It was a poignant moment when a trail of people previously standing on the cliff, watching the tragedy, commenced the journey back home to Sydney Town that day of the thirteenth August, 1857. They took the coastal road, inside the harbour bay, much calmer waters, having left the ocean behind, all the south side of the harbour to the capital, a sandy beach, a double bay and to the capital. It was an entirely new way, which had been recently completed with convict labour and which was named New South Head Road, partly along recently deforested areas on the plain.
Irony of ironies, the new day announced itself as warm and very luminous. At five o’clock the sun was already rising, starting to flood the world with its light. Little by little the whole surface of the ocean was filled with tiny shiny sparks. Like so many diamonds.
Before reaching their destination, Sydney Town, our travellers had to cross an extensive territory called Woolloomooloo, probably because previously an important group of Aborigines, the coiners of the word, walked freely upon these same territories, in the lee of forest-covered hills, which in some parts reached right to the jagged coastline. Naturally they entered Sydney Town trailing one another. Those riding horses were the first. Then others, two young riders on a big mule, man and woman, wrapped together in a huge blanket, still wet; after them coaches and other carriages, carts, wagons, a covered wagonette filled with very sad people.
There was now splendid sunshine, brightening the prospect before the travellers’ eyes: or rather which would have brightened their view, if thhey had not been again mostly weeping. The capital of New South Wales was the usual animated colonial town. As if nothing had happened last night on the open sea near the Heads. Most were hearing now of the catastrophe for the first time. When all those that had travelled to the cliff were back in town, there were in consequence renewed tears and lamentations. People hugging one another and wailing together, asking the Lord Above for help.
*
Among the spectators on the cliff, Sydneysiders who had expected to see the magnificent vessel crossing safely, between the Heads, into Port Jackon, and who instead had watched with terror the great tragedy, there had been one, a most genteel gentleman, called David Greener, who had just lost his wife and two children in the wreckage. All his life, poor David, until a slight mistake was made, or bad luck had cropped up (or who knows what), which suddenly altered everything, had been honest and correct in everything. Then came that trial in His Majesty’s Courts, that judgement. He was sentenced for fraud. It happened not so long ago, in London. Until then his existence had been an uninterrupted flow of joy and family happiness.
In other words, his marriage to Susannah Kenn (now twelve years ago) had given him great joy. Mutual love had made of their lives together a paradise on earth. Until one day the unexpected happened. Something changed the natural course of events. Overnight. He was found guilty and condemned to be transported for life to the colony of New South Wales.
Born in York, he had one day moved to London with his family. He was by then a well-known architect. One of his brothers, Jacob Greener, had requested him to join him in London, for there had always existed a lot of affection between the two brothers. As the famous professional man that he had become, David Greener found in the capital much to do. He worked hard and made quite a lot of money for about two years.
Jacob Greener, a banker and jeweller, had all his life been a very busy man, loyal to the class and to the people to which he belonged; and when all these qualities are combined in one man, it cannot but make of him a successful professional. Much money, good standards, titles.
Jacob Greener and Co. was a juridical person. It was involved in business, speculations, all kinds of deeds. At a certain moment it must somehow have made one speculation too many. Suddenly Sir Jacob was brought before his country’s justice. He was committed to the courts, for fraud. And poor David Greener with him. The elder brother, shortly afterwards, died in confinement. The famous architect went to trial, was judged, found guilty and sentenced to be transported for life.
In Australia, David Greener was soon appreciated for what he was, a sublime artist and a wonderful man. Respected by his fellow convicts, loved by many of them and by the men whose task was to keep him in chains. And it was soon discovered that back home he had been a very good architect. The Governor pardoned him and eventually became his friend. The ex-convict worked and worked. The town was now full of buildings due to his hand and brain.
But he was an intensely miserable man, he had been condemed to transportation for life, proscribed from ever returning to his homeland. On the other hand, he yearned to be with Susannah and the children. Having acquired (for the second time in his life) a fat bank account, he purchased near Sydney Town, in Glebe, a large house with grounds where there was a gigantic Morton-Bay fig tree, which had made him decide to buy the property. He transformed it to his liking, and took the decision to bring his family over from London.
*
From the very edge of the cliff David Greener glanced for ever so long towards the dark spot where she had disappeared, and his two sons with her. How very few knew that Susannah was an angel! And he had lost her! It was his fault, all his fault!
He hardly saw or heard the birds surrounding him. Flying and cooing. Overhead, about him, down below; or perched on the protruding stones of the cliff, or on the branches of young bushes growing between the cracks and chinks; nor did he hear their calls and screeches that would have sent any normal person crazy.
The hours passed. The prussian-blue of the sea had become a lighter blue with streaks of black, green, white. A moving mass, perpetually going and coming. But he saw nothing, for he was crying. When he opened his eyes again, he twisted his head to look round and fixed his eyes on the now shiny blue spot of the sea where his love had gone, and also, as he did so, at a solitary purple flower coming out of the cliff.
He had left his steed, when he was with the others, tied up in a copse of euchalypts situated on a stretch of the land going towards South Head. He would not go back there, he knew, for he would never want to leave the spot from which he saw the sea where she had disappeared, where all that he had loved in the world had gone. He still saw the seagulls and other maritime birds flying up and down or perching on the side of the cliff. Turning his gaze towards the horizon he noticed the ocean was now calm and beautiful.
… ‘Oh, I know, I know! I’ll get rid of this painful feeling, my angel, and will be full of joy with you again – oh, darling Susannah, my Susi at the bottom of the ocean, can it be true?
… If I could rise in the air, on feather-winged arms, like the birds and fly! Fly calling for you… and know that you still love me, that we can meet again, that our love can become eternal.
… my pretty Susannah, to see you again, and our children, coming to Australia! In the most magnificent vessel in the world. I had become a freedman, no longer guilty, accepted, and again quite wealthy.
… and what for? in me the fatal curse of heaven. Nowhere to go, to escape this malediction.
Lazily David Greener takes a step forward. Near the edge. Turning turning... the rollers are coming, continually, calling him. With a strong heave and a sob, he took a step forward.
… an outcry: ‘Sus… suuu Sussanah! Two years I have… waited. My fate is fixed.
Another step forward. In the void, where the gulls are flying. ‘I want you, my angel,’ he cries. ‘Farewell joy! farewell happiness! Oh, Sussiii… farewell life!’
*
The bus-shelter is hardly a stone’s throw away, but in his precipitation Luis Galvao misses it, takes the wrong turn, and next moment finds himself trudging up a steep hill at the end of which he feels so weak and tired that he has to sit down somewhere. He finds a heap of stones and broken bricks near a building site, and there he rests for a moment, meditating, almost like a stone figure.
Until he is ready to move again in that interminable tangle of narrow streets and lanes criss-crossing one another. There are very few people around, and those he comes across, who could help him to find a bus stop or taxi stand, swish past very quickly, obviously in a hurry. They fail even to notice the presence trudging along on one side of the road. The chimes of a church remind him that it is Sunday today. Perhaps everyone has gone to some temple or other: there are so many, of so many denominations, as they say, in this country.
Every tme he is going downhill he accelerates. He runs so fast at times that when reaching the bottom of a rather broad street he trips over a slightly protruding cobblestone and falls flat on the ground. An old man with a thick stick and a beard comes to the rescue, it would appear, but instead, nasty old fellow, hits him on his right hand, which Galvao has lifted to protect himself from the attack he saw coming. ‘You start early, dog,’ the man growls, ‘And on the day of the Lord!’ But Galvao snatches the weapon from his hands and retaliates severely, throwing the stick in the air afterwards and leaving the old guy howling on the ground.
It has begun to drizzle. Galvao crosses the street, thinking of protecting himself on the covered veranda of a house he recognises vaguely. The one where his love used to live.
… that is it, this terrace house. She disappeared through that pink-and-white door one morning about a fortnight ago, when they both were coming from Paddy’s Market. Not together. He was following her.
… Krappov had taken her away from him, to the bush. He was that morning in Paddy’s Market with his friend Manuel, when suddenly she appeared in a beam of sunlight coming in through a high narrow window.
… it was a Saturday, great crowds, with the sound of the rain on the corrugated-iron roof. It was raining hard when she left the market with a wicker basket hanging from her left arm; in the other hand she was holding an opened pink umbrella.

… she had been going away from him all the time as they crossed the thoroughfare, George Street, Oxford Street, outdistancing him as they went, and he losing her under the overhanging, when she closed the umbrella, among the Saturday morning shopping crowds.
From the open window, next to the pink glossy door of the terrace-house, there comes the sound of a Russian ditty accompanied by the notes of a violin. ‘Kalinka, kalinka moià! Svadova, iádoga, kalinka moià!’ A vision. He has been having the same dream three nights running. Malgorata dancing with a handsome blond Cossack she had met in the outback. Now two escapees on the run. Only, he was not sure at this moment if he had seen the Ukranian girlfriend in his sleep, or Margaret, his beautiful English girl.
The fellow is holding her tightly by the waist, stamping his knee-high leather boots on the checker-patterned vinyl floor, while she remains static. And there is the music, a violin is playing in the background; unless it is someone having a shower.
For Luis Galvao one thing is now certain: he is ill and feverish. The music is still heard, but when he fixes his eyes on what seems like a shower-cabin in a corner of the small bedroom, he only hears a voice, singing: ‘Kalinka, kalinka, moià!’.
Suddenly, two white hands are seen pulling the sash window from the catch down to the window-sill, and he now only sees his own reflexion in the dusty window pane. After a moment of indecision, noticing it is no longer raining, he moves on to the middle of the street, always looking.
Turning right, and into another hilly lane, he finds himself in the commercial part of the suburb. Perhaps he’ll find someone who’ll give him some directions. As he creeps up the top of the hill, he sees there are two equally narrow ways coming together in a tiny plaza, on top, and there is, in the conjuction of two streets or lanes, a corner store. A sunbeam illuminates the store’s glass-door. For the weather is now glorious. A couple of stone steps lead up to the store, which is rather narrow, due to the fact that the two lateral façades form an angle, and the door is squeezed between them, with not much space to spare.
The building is old and dilapidated. Discoloured advertisments on both sides, each façade with a tiny window. The shop is advertising ‘TIP TOP BREAD’, ‘ROZELLE FOOD’, ‘PETERS ICE CREAM’, ‘SALTED PEANUTS CRISP AND CRUNCHY’. Luis has climbed up the two stone steps, gluing his body to the glass door, his nose stuck to the glass.
One would have said Mr. and Mrs. Van Es were there, inside, behind the tin-and-copper cash register waiting, expecting to make good business today, lots of money: and it can’t be, for today it is not Saturday, but Sunday, the Day of the Lord, I know. And I have my nose nearly touching (on the other side of the glass) the notice CLOSED. Clearly.
‘Even if we live in a world where commerce and greed always reign supreme, why, these two old Dutch people from Indonesia, I’m sure, wouldn’t commit such a grievous sin. On the Day of the Lord! Always so devout! Always good protestants!’
Downhill once more. On the hard-wood veranda under the strip of corrugated iron roof, in case the weather changes again, he observes a brassplate with a name on it in black: LAURACE. He plies the knocker. The sound reverberates over the narrow street. For a moment it seemed as if someone was laughing. He observes that the sash is already up in the window next to the door.
At length the door is flung open and a stout flat-nosed woman appears in the doorway. ‘Miss… Missus Laurace,’ Galvao articulates, ‘supp… I guess that is the name…’ (glancing at the brassplate.) ‘You sse… you know… I’m looking for a girl… blond and beautiful.
‘Lookin’ for a girl, are ye?’ she laughs, ‘I say, mate. Wot’s happened to yer arm?, hand is bleeding.’ ‘No, lady… no, Ms Laurace,’ he says, hiding his hand, ‘it’s only an old fella, down in Albion Street, as wanted me to go back to church.’
‘Say, mister, haven’t we met somewhere?’ the woman says, fixing her piercing gaze on his face. She has set her arms akimbo, occupying the whole space of the doorway, as if she were determined to bar the way to an intruder.
‘No, madam, you must confuse me with somebody.’
‘Somebody me foot! We have, and ye bloody well know we have. You must be an escapee from Callan Park. I’m a nurse there, ye know?’
‘No, Madam… eh! no Sister Laurace! It’s not true. I know nothing about mental hospitals. Somewhere else, Sister Laurace. Oh! it was in a restaurant in Pitt Street. That’s it. Nothing to do with any hospital.’
‘Why, an ospital’s wot ye need, in any case. And that is for sure! Anyhow, ye’re bleedin, ye know.’
‘No, sister, (hiding his wounded hand once more.) It’s only… I’m only looking for a woman, I need her badly.’
‘Wot!! Oh no, sir! Ye’re knockin on the wrong door, wot d’ye think? No, sir, this is not that sort of house. Go away! No woman to be had in this house. Not for love or money.’
Still with her arms akimbo, quite alarmed now, ‘This is a decent place!’ she growls ferociously, while she scrutinises him with that piercing gaze. ‘I live alone, ye see.’ She breaks into a prolonged chuckle of laughter.
At that there is the sound of music, like a woman singing. The sound is coming from the open window on the left. ‘You see, Luis exclaims, turning his gaze to the window.’you do have at.. least one tennant.’
‘Oh, heavens!’ he hears. And a strong bang, like the slam of a door. He turns to see what has happened. The woman is no longer there. The door is shut and, for what he knows, has bolted.
He now moves decidedly to the window, has a glimpse of a checker-patterned vinyl floor which is quite familiar to him, for he has seen that same floor quite often in his dreams.
… the window being accessible from the floor, he takes a step forwards with the intention of jumping in, but he trips up and simply lies down, with his arms on the windowsill. A small but tidy bedroom with a makeshift glass cabin in the far corner.

… the sound of water running fast, someone is singing. He fixes his gaze on the glass door of the cabin, sees the diffuse silhouette of a woman having a shower, the palms of her hands holding her face, which is turned upwards, letting the water run down her face and hair.
… be it because the temperature inside the cabin is very high and is now spreading around the room, of a sudden Luis Galvao feels sick and feverish. ‘And a more humane Mikado never did in Japan exist!’ he hears someone singing, the song accompanied by the sound of running water.
… presently the singing ceases, and then the surging sound of water as well. He opens his eyes, the glass door of a shower-cabin opens. Coming out, her body shrouded in a mist. There figure of a woman ever so white that no blood would appear to circulate in her veins.
… oh yes, coming forward! she is such an endearing girl. What bliss! It is she, my only love. No one will take you away from me, now. Luis still resting his arms on the windowsill, his head on his interlocked fingers. He has temporarily closed his eyes.
… she stops short in the middle of the room, seeming to hesitate. Or perhaps she hasn’t seen him. He stretches his unwounded arm, clasps her fingers and now looks at her face, tries to kiss it. She looks at him in astonishment.
… ‘Please, don’t go, my angel, my only love,’ he wails. I didn’t mean to abandon you, it wasn’t my fault,’ he pleads, ‘I need you so.’ I’ve been waiting all this time for an opportunity to explain myself.
… he remembers, creeping to the top of the hill for nothing. A horrible man taking her away. He is torn inside himself as she recalls certain things. But the girl turns round, and hope has turned into despair. ‘Pray stay, don’t hide again from me, my own girl so beautiful. I’ve been looking for you for so long.
… She comes, her body now wrapped in a large white towel, which seemed to turn the rest of her visible skin into pure alabaster. ‘I know you’ve been ill,’ she answers, resting her left knee on the window-sill, ready to help him. I shall cure you, my only love.’ And he wants to take her in his arms, but can’t.
… it seems that the haze from the shower has reached the window, and the young woman, who is now standing up holding the towel around her body with both hands seems about to disappear in a now invading cloud. ‘Please no!’ he says. ‘Come, we’ll run away together. Wander no more’.

Just at that moment he feels like a grip on his back and, simultaneously, hears a shriek: ‘Aha, thief! I’ve caught you, this time. I knew I had to do with a madman. Yes, sir, you belong in Callan Park.’
Galvao screams back, struggling: ‘Let go, you whore!’ he said making an effort to turn round and face her.
‘On no, sir!’ she exclaims, holding him tight now by his jacket lapels, ‘ye won’t run away from me this time; for I’ve called the police.’
And Luis see her ugly face, gesticulating, a big red wart on her chin. The same woman who antagonised him in the Chinese restaurant of Pitt Street. The same, now dressed up and with her flat hat on.
At that the sound of a siren is heard. Taking advantage of a moment’s hesitation on the part of his adversary, he gives her a tremendous punch on the chin, and the wart explodes splattering blood. The woman cries out, Luis pushes her away and hardly hears her, all kinds of insults and lamentations in her mouth. For he is escaping now, not from her, but from the Black Maria which he sees coming up, right at the bottom of the hill. He tries to reach the next corner, but he is too weak to run now even downhill.
Luis Galvao and the Black Maria cross one another half way down the street, but soon Luis hears the vehicle at turning back, still in pursuit of a poor madman. He hides behind a very tall black dustbin and has, for a change, the satisfaction of seeing the police vehicle pass by and disappear. And he goes on rambling like a drunkard, in a suburb in which he is a complete alien, full of streets, lanes and alleyways which have turned long for him into an inextricable labyrinth.
At length he lands upon a square which contains some familiar elements. He hears the chime of some bells and see some gulls flying around the towers of a Catholic Church, the starting point of the sad calvary he has been undergoing all morning.
He makes a bee-line across the square. Burning the last particles of energy left in him, he stumbles forward, nearly crawling up the flight of stone steps, and enters the temple just as he hears the siren of the Black Maria again.
An old bearded priest is saying mass to an Italian audience, as an exhausted Luis Galvao moves along one of the lateral aisles looking for an empty seat. ‘La vita è sempre dolore (he hears the priest)… dolore… soltanto dolore… soltanto Dio è… notra pace… oh, ricordiarse del tempo felice…’
And the sound of low voices around him, as he steps between two lines of parishioners; for he is holding on to the back of the long bench, constantly knocking with his shoes the feet of those on one side and with his hands disturbing at times those leaning on the back of the bench in front.
The priest is going on and on with his praying, followed closely by his accolyte, who is also saying something. After a while, when Luis Galvao reaches his own seat, he sits down and falls asleep. He is awakened by the sound of bells. At the beginning he thinks it is again the police. Then he notices it is the accolyte, who holds in his hand a set of golden bells, which roll around producing a sort of music. The old priest with the beard is moving away from the altar, holding the chalice up with two hands and bending his brow low. The accolyte with the set of little bells follows him.
There is great turmoil in the church. Luis Galvao stands up, following the example of the rest of the audience. He realises that they are all going away, and gets frightened, in case the police now enters and takes him away to the Black Maria. On the top of the flight of stone steps he halts for a minute, searching, but there are no policemen waiting for him.
He contemplates the prospect with admiration. It is the first time he sees Surry Hills as a whole, an inner suburb of Sydney, the capital of New South Wales. A motley array of innumerable small cottages, old somber houses most of them. At times it looked as if some of the small buildings were standing one on top of the others. The old hills.
‘What, the crowd is dispersing already?’ He feels quite alarmed, accelerates his pace. ‘I haven’t even reached the bottom of the flight of steps, and the street is emptying.’
He trips over. A woman comes to his rescue. ‘Dio!’ she cries. A man joins her. He shouts. ‘Luigi amico! What’s happenned to you?’
… the ghost of the past visit Galvao’s mind… those days long ago, when he was working in the soap and chemical products factory.
… people talking in Italian, gesticulating all the time… his mates, Bruno, Pippo, Joe, Paddy, Luis, Norman, Lee… ‘Mates!!’
He is fainting. A call: ‘Luigi amico, where do you live? Luis recognises Pippo, a Sicilian friend of Bruno’s, his mate at the factory. Someone replies for Luis. Some two or three words ‘Then, I’ll take him,’ Pippo says, ‘my card’s parked round the corner.’
They all want to carry the wounded person to the car. He is shoved in, placed on the passenger seat.
He recognises Elizabeth Street as they speed across the city. They hit the Cahill Expressway, he knows well the way. A turn right and onto the Harbour Bridge, over the blue waters of Port Jackson. And into North Sydney. ‘Where in Kirribilli you live?’ He supplies the information. ‘Jef… Jeffrey Street… two.’
Pippo waits, both now standing in front of a tall building. Luis opens the door. Both enter the hall. ‘Thank… you, mate,’ Galvao mutters.
‘Take you to your home unit. You just tell me.’ Pippo says. Luis has pushed a button. ‘No… no, mate. I’m all right… Thanks so much, he says entering.
Pippo sees him pressing number ten. ‘Bye-bye, caro Luigi, take care.’
As soon as Luis Galvao gets out on the tenth floor, he goes into his flat and remains a few seconds resting his tired body against the closed door. Then he threw himself, fully dressed, on his bed and lost conscientiousness altogether.
There, on his bed under the window, he lay alone as he had always been, with no possibility of being looked after by wife, or lover or anyone.

fg.lzquierdo@yahoo.es

The changing face of Surry Hills

Fernando García Izquierdo

There was at one time a riding post on the way from Sydney Town to Surry Hills, and the inhabitants of the colony used to follow that route when travelling east to the coast to enjoy the vision of an immensely open blue space, the biggest mass of matter moving together across the surface of earth. The sky, the line of the horizon and the sea, that was all ahead of you, if you stood at the eastern end of a continent formerly called ‘Terra Australis’. As far as the eye could reach, and you could not have imagined greater beauty.
Our traveller (this time a non-specified New Australian) stood rather early that day on the spot, a sharp cliff. That is what he liked: the sun would be making its appearance there at five a.m. First a gleam of light. He would see it coming to life for another day far far away, between heaven and ocean. After having had a well deserved night’s rest it (the sun) was rising fully to a new life, bringing with it forward for us that new life, for mother earth, in a mysterious and necessary embrace, every day.
Thus did our Sydneysider enjoy life; but more often, on certain dates, the citizens would be making the trip when the sun had already risen and would be staying there upon the cliff several hours contemplating the ocean with a special intention, that is, in the hope of seeing a sailing vessel arrive across that blue mass, right to the entrance of the bay.
There was a strong garrison situated in the tiny town of Manly, north of the port entrance, built by the soldiers of the First Fleet with convict labour, as was SydneyTown, almost simultaneously. If there was now the occasion (when a vessel crossed the line of the horizon) to send a despatch-rider all the way to Government House (‘Ship ahoy!’) it would be done. The spectators on the cliff would become more numerous.
*
The wind was bringing safely to port one of our vessels (at times a small flotilla) after thousands of miles voyaging across the seas from the home country. Always - oh with so much wanted new stuff! And news, specially for some. Not only the royal mail with royal papers, orders and dispositions, official commands… and much-expected new people, soldiers and officials, civil servants and much.needed workers. Lots of free settlers and new clusters of men, women and children forcefully transported to the colony.
Also much-needed supplies of another kind, industrial, commercial and even agricultural commodities. The home country was engaged in the flurry of a successful industrial revolution, mercantilism, the beginning of an export-import era. No wonder commodities were produced aplenty: Work, the Wealth of Nations. So, many things were brought up to the new colony now, on those modern sailing vessels.
Husbandry, too, was in the mind of the colonisers. Back home, in England, they were the best and one had to copy necessarily from the best teachers. Some new heads of cattle, soon to be seen spreading across the land of Australia. Like the sheep, brought from Estremadura and Saxony, thousands and thousands of ‘heads’ of those patient beings, now humbly trodding along, upon the plains and valleys the new land.
And all those things which were so needed in the new mercantilistic era: goods, merchandise, all those commodites that make one’s life really worth living, specially for citizens of high standing, powerful and wealthy. Important for them, to import luxury articles, so long expected and so sorely needed by the settlers, the smartest among them. Even in the new country, this division of society into classes.
… all expecting something. People of all kinds, but specially single men looking with deep feeling at the horizon. Their need is so pressing. That is what is good with man, sentiment, Love.
… and that is what is bad for many men in Australia. Women do not travel alone. More important than wealth is love, and also more important than scientific progress, of which the inhabitants of the new colony are also to benefit more than can be imagined.
… new tools for agriculture, husbandry, and other items, right down to the smallest seeds for farming. Men and women labourers ready to work and transform the land. Have I said seeds, insignificant tiny specks? Why, in the Bible (I think) it’s mentioned that an infinitely small grain of mustard will eventually bring forth a gigantic tree. Nature at work.
*
Behind the coastal strips of mountains and densely covered hills, sometimes clothed in lush rainforests but mostly in smaller eucalypts and acacia and in the small spectacular region of hills and ravines, gorges and encarpments pouring water to the brown rivers that cross the land to the ocean, there lay a vast world, new to her. She’s rejoicing, lovely young girl who has always in her still short span of life interested her heart in nature, human relations, work…everything. Really, only women are thus open to admiration and love. Oh, yes, she feels homesick, an unavoidable feeling in the circumstances. Any living being feels attached to the earth, and even more a human who knows where he (she) belongs.
But it had never been milady’s way, her character, to mope. The land was beautiful, the climate fantastic, and now that the sun was climbing to its zenith, there was light and colour all about. The slanting rays of the sun filtering between the pale trunks of the lofty trees here so abundant filled her with joy. Our Father the sun had now converted the scenery into a Flash of Life. Anybody can enjoy life. But youth is the time to appreciate this. And Milady is just twenty-two.
She was an animal lover, and from her seat near the little open window, she saw and she heard, all around, the Green Land calling, host to an enormous range of unique and active animal life. The flow of the breeze regenerated, filled with happiness, all her being, caressing softly her rosy ckeeks.
The changing face of Australia. We are in the eighteen fifties and the country has already changed somewhat. The Governor and his Lady are travelling, a beautiful coach-and-four to the ocean coast. Milady likes these natural lands near the coast.
*
They were not alone on the road, and for most of the fellow-travellers that was what they wanted, the coast. Utilising this coastal track, they’d soon reach a spot called the Gap, on top of the cliff, from where the entrance to the bay of Sydney became quite visible.
The track which had appropriately received, therefore, the name of South Head Road, ended precisely where the rocky promontory calleded South Head stood guarding with the North Head the strategic ‘Gates of Sydney’.
As from the middle of the seventeenth century Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and other navigators had been crossing the Pacific Ocean first south, bypassing so to say the extensive land which someoned had name ‘Terra Australis’, and was found uninteresting. So, they quickly went on their way for gold or other riches on the many islands to the north.
For the first time in 1770 an English explorer called Captain James Cook, in his three hundred and sixty-four ton vessel ‘Endeavour’, came close enough to percive something of greater interest: there might be something of value attached to that long green-crowned dark cliff eternally battered by the waves.
Astounded and dazzled, the mariners of the ‘Endeavour’ gazed. It was a young modest person, a sailor in the ‘bird’s nest’, on duty that evening on the vessel’s tallest mast, that noticed the presence of a natural harbour there, and gave the alert. The name of the mariner is marked in some history books, not much more. Captain Cook, always restraint and always busy, took the necessary steps to record the fact. Port Jackon, he marked in his books. Thus satisfied, he ordered a turn north, to continue his own job and vocation, exploring, touching some of the most fantastic islands of the Pacific; until he came face to face with his destiny: a native blackfella killed him with a spear, Captain James Cook, circumnavigator of the globe.
*
Eighteen years later, Captain Philips, commanding an armada of eleven ships, callled the First Fleet, after unsuccessefully trying to settle with his men and cargo on an extensive and quite accessible bay, which he named Botany Bay, gathered together his Fleet and sailed north. They entered Port Jackson, just a dozen miles north. The British newcomers, mariners, soldiers and convicts alike, entered the bay, and saw a marvellous world all around them. The fleet landed on sure terrain this time, a circular sandy beach which received the name of Sydney Cove.
The British settled down, the Colony of New South Wales grew in size and in the number of inhabitants. New Governors succeeded Captain Philips, and although the Lady of the present one (now travelling with her husband in the coach-and four) felt desperately homesick at times, she didn’t let nostagia succumb her. At the present moment she was very happy.
… not many in the colony can imagine how pleased she feels at times of being a New Australian. Indeed, the Governor’s Lady is always nice and happy, a very pleasant person.
… as a matter of fact she has always lived enjoying life, full of energy and vigour, working, acting and satisfied with all the things she does and meditates about.
… just now she’s smiling, turning her eyes right or left and enjoying all that Australia is offering her as she journeys through life. It is a pity that nobody is seeing just now her bright blue glowing eyes.
… she has always been like that: analysing, observing. A poet. ‘By channels of coolness (she muses) the echos are calling’. And a musician too. If only she could now put on paper all that feeling which is in her heart.
… all her life so far she has been just a very fine English girl, fond of playing, dancing and singing. She wanted to be creative and always worked hard to achieve her goal.
… she was, with a million other women of her class, a necessary element in a chain of similar elements who together made a social compact in the country of her birth. No individuality allowed.
… Cousin William and her brothers Harry,Tom and Charles had been fond of calling her a silly little romping girl. But she’s not little, for she is twenty-one and rather tall. And she hates to be called silly by the boys.
… she turns her back on them and goes on dancing (not romping) on the lawn, singing aloud and calling her two dogs, Miska and Saska which are always frisking about her on the grounds of the property.
… and that night that changed her life for good. Music and playing the violin (not only the piano. Her elder brother (ten years older) had taken her to a Concert Hall. Hardly a teenager then.
… she now knew what her destiny was in life. She would be a composer. She’d had the chance of seeing a very handsome composer in London, Felix Mendelssohn.
*
The breeze, coming from the right (the sea) was caressing her cheeks, and she half-closed her eyes. At that side, leaning like herself on soft cushions, she had seen the silhouette of the Governor, her husband. She thought of the day of their encounter in a rich mansion of the City.
… a year or so ago she had been spending the summer in the manor house, in Surrey. An active life, mainly because she was always full of energy and enthusiasm. She was observing and learning about life (the life of the men and women of her class).

… playing the piano, that’s what Mum liked her to do, she played it so well. And singing Haendel with her brother Clive, who was playing this time the piano, both before an audience.
… her Dad owned a large property in the country, and there were always guests from the local nobility and from rich men who owned banks, entrepreneurs. Always much money.
… but, in the mornings, that was another thing. Her father possessed an important library, and there is where she hid, for she had got hold of a set of Byron’s poems: she was reading and writing poetry.
… had she been encouraged she could have become famous. But her writing was largely ignored. Only Clive, who loved her very much and was now always at the piano when she sang. She loved him, too.
*
The carriage-and-four rolled along South Head Road, and Milady was looking and thinking. There had lived around there, before the British invasion, a group of primitive people known as the Woollahras, or something like that. And she imagined (in her head) how they lived in the state of nature. They had since been exterminated or pushed away somewhere. She did not know much on the subject. Nobody spoke around her of those things.
She had to laugh the other day when a servant in her mansion, Government House, told her about those funny animals: ‘Oh, no, please my lady! kangaroo is not really the name!’ In effect, a soldier of the garrison (she learned), member of the First Fleet, had wanted to know (as did my lady now), ‘That funny animal running overthere on the plain, eh you blackfella, how do you call it?’ and the Aborigine had asked in turn: ‘Kan ga roo?’ (which one do you mean?), and kangaroo the animal became forever more.
*
Now! how graceful does this soldier riding next to her window on his smooth-shiny steed look! a member of the escort, no doubt. In effect, a young lieutenant had just come to pay his respects to the Lord Governor, who has not even noticed him, for he had chosen the wrong window, the one on the left side of the carriage.
And, instead, she (having found herself between the two men) had offered the lieutenant a smile. His fine hazel eyes had met hers so keenly. She had felt a pleasant thrill about her body, just a moment. The incident has sent her dreaming.
… funny, October is the beginning of spring over here. Back in the old country it was autumn. She thought of her cousin William who had since joined the Royal Navy.
… here, at home, in Government House, she liked to go out and ramble about with young people. The grounds of the residence constitute an immense park, lovely, must have been a primeval forest long ago
… nature all around. She sees herself running, stepping on the Government House grounds, either alone or with her maids or friends. Always with the two dogs running and frisking and barking.
… on the path under the trees, in what is really a promontory, they all go; and at the end of the way, a chunk of land descending like a long green arm onto the soft blue of the bay, she sits down, alone.
*
Some labourers, knowing that Milady liked to contemplate the scenery, had built for her a special Chair, made of hard wood (euchalypt which will never rot). And when she likes she can sit for hours watching full of enthusiasm the most beautiful large bay in the world. ‘Milady’s Chair’, it was called henceforward.
… it is not that she no longer feels homesick. A living being needs roots, like the trees: it is contact, nourishment, matter… that gives all living beings their existence. There must always be that feeling.
… how could she ever forget the walks with her sisters in the manor house’s grounds overthere? Her heart belonged to Surrey, where she was born. Under the broad leafy trees in October, all so golden.
The paths, the valleys and the hills of New South Wales are glorious. The woods and gorges are dressed in full array. Australia must be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, she thinks. There is a most delightful soft breeze, which traversing the carriage from window to window gives freshnes to her rosy cheeks.
… a year of so ago, in eighteen thirty-three, when she was being introduced in society, she got a flare for dancing and pretty robes. Joy, great amusement, party celebrations, dinners with a thousand guests, balls till the early hours, young gentlemen embracing her by the waist.
And now it is nature, the trees, pale lofty trunks reaching the sky, green-silvery leaves. Whole families of cute koala bears live there. They munch eternally the gum leaves, make love and procreate. She’s heard they never come down to the ground. When they need a new supply of nourishment, they move away, their young ones clinging with their sharp claws on the wooly coats of their parents, and without leaving their arboreal habitation look together for some neighbouring tree rich in new fresh gum leaves. As humans do when migrating.
… yesterday morning, from her bedroom window, contemplating Sydney Town, down below she spent almost one hour, entirely alone. And further ahead she saw the garrison, looming high. Upon the Rocks. The garrison that had been built upon arrival of the First Fleet, in 1787. She was glad that the military had worked hard to ensure the newly conquered land would be defended from the enemy.
*
On her portion of the ample seat with the two red velvet cushions where husband and wife sit, milady looks perfect and glowing with the advancing new morning. Women are somehow more easily satisfied.
Her husband? as if he were not there. Never mind, looking his way, she sees and smells the sea. On her left the green hills and ravines already full of life and sounds, and down the deep gorges the echos are calling. Once more she closes her eyes.
… that morning, towards the end of her sojourn in the country, autumn-time, she found herself walking on the soft extensive lawn with her sisters and girlfriends. A few days ago, she had overheard her father tell a friend that he was going to marry her off.

… it was at the end of a great grand ball. The end of the season too. The thing happened so quickly. She had been obliged to dress richly, and a couple of servants or seamstresses laboured (and kept her standing up) for close to one hour. The light blue silken robe. And then, to wear a most valuable string of pearls around her neck, and many diamonds crowning her pretty blond head; and on her fingers.
… and she had been dancing all night with the man she was to marry. (Next morning she would be talking with her sisters, about it, strolling in the hilly park of Surrey, southern England.)
… under the leafy golden trees, as other mornings; but the lawn was full of leaves, some yellow, some orange, some brown, and the four were stepping on them.
She was not moping, no. Australia was so beautiful, so new. On her seat, her hair was fluttering with the wind. She was observing from her window, thinking of Sydney Town. It was not like London, but she nevertheless liked it. The noise and tumult, the ambience, the people. She was not supposed to do it, but sometimes she went out of Government House and walked in the thoroughfare streets. Some times she found herself strolling down town, first along the waterfront, the quay. More often she ambled all aroundd the plaza for a while, always full of traffic: coaches, carts and wagons, cattle and horses. The other day she saw two lads riding a very tall mule, nude from the knee to the feet. Through the open door of a church, incense wafted out. Men were praying in singular devotion. Contrition and faith, probably Irish. ‘Oh, sublime Mother of God, do this for us, intercede before your Son Christ! Secure a better existence for us!
She saw working men cracking jokes and calling one another ‘Mate!’ Opposite the way, always looming high some barracks, the King’s garrison. And houses built on the side of the rocky hill, the main street of the town, and an old man preaching. She approaches the group: the old fellow has a thick stick and sports a beard. He is telling the others to obey. It is the Word of God. ‘A strand of a woman’s hair emerging freely in the air is a dagger drawn towards the heart of religion. Respect your manhood.
She leaves the preacher and his crew, letting her blond tresses flutter in the wind. For there had been a change of the weather, which has suddenly become stormy. It begins to rain. A man calls to her, from inside a covered wagonette, ‘Come here! ‘an’if you please, Milady! Do protect your nice hair from the rain!’ She passes in and recognises one of the labourers who had built ‘The Chair’ for her. They talked of the old country. And what a coincidence, he came (as she did) from the county of Surrey. They spoke of their respective lives over there, and his talk suddenly turned sad, he spoke of the day when he was caught poaching on the lord’s estates at night, for he was a farmhand, and his only child was dying for lack of nourishment. ‘Oh,’ he wailed, ‘I shall never see again the dear old hills of my childhood!.
And she thought, when the rain had ceased and they shook hands, as she left (with his kind grey eyes keenly fixed in hers) that perhaps the nice man had been transported because he went poaching upon her Dad’s estates. Was that just? She again turned her gaze round, to give him a kind last regard, ‘Thanks!’, she muttered, but the fellow was no longer there.
It was now midday as the carriage-and- four with the escort, following South Head road, came very near the cliff. The Governor’s lady had now before her eyes, beyond her husband’s still silhouette resting on his velvet cushion, a whole vision of the ocean.
*
He shook himself awake. Somebody opened the tiny door for him and helped him to climb down from the carriage to the ground. Soon the Governor was plodding on the grass upon the cliff platform overhanging the sea and the little sandy beach with seaweed-covered rocks. The members of his escort and some other citizens came to be near him. Near them was the rocky promontory South Head, one of the guardians of the entrance to the bay. The other could also be seen from there, the North Head.

The Governor wore a blue swallow-tailed coat with brass buttons, a very high velvet collar, bright-red waistband announcing the importance of his commission; he had a white waistcoat and scarlet underwaistcoat (very colourful) with a pair of cream-coloured duck trousers and high black boots very well polished; his hat was white and so were the gloves which he carried in his left hand.
Milady had seen him descending through the little door on the right, puffing and with some help. One minute passed and she was still sitting, considering. She left her seat through the little door on her left. She loved to show her gleaming black boots, each one with a silver buckle. Her husband had turned round, was looking.
Milady was now feeling quite hot, and a little lazy, and her husband was waiting. Lifting with delicate fingers the skirt of her yellow dress, she stepped with her right foot on the footboard; then the other, showing most gracefully her leather boots and perfectly white stockings. She stepped on the bufallo-grass. Decking her shoulders she wore a fine Indian kerchief which added colour to her delicioulsy roundish chin and slightly protruding cheeks. Her husband was still looking. She trotted on the bufallo-grass, flipped back with her fingers her large white-and-yellow hat, which now hung on her shoulders, held there by means of two golden silk ribbons (parasol and gloves having been passed already to her maid).
As she walked on what seemed to her like an extraordinary soft lawn, she again caught sight of her husband and noticed he was waiting, and she hurried up to him. She put her right cheek up to the governor’s grizzled moustache and laughed.

*
Another day, other people watching the same prospect, or nearly. Matter and movement. Today, beyond the immense blue mass of the ocean some long long lines of turbulent dark-blue water are seen, all crowned with white. People are looking at the rollers with apprehension, constantly approaching one after the other, frittering out near the coast with a splash like a explosion: the flat platforms where at times a man is seen fishing, the rocks, the side of the cliff. A constantly moving mass, constantly recommencing on the horizon, and constantly ending down below, near where the people are gazing with alarm.
It is not only that the entrance to the bay is very narrow (they cogitate), but in addition the two promontories are distorted, so to say. They don’t have an easy geographhy. The North Head comes down south, slightly turning east, as it approches, and proceeds to embrace the South Head); then, when the mariner is perforce obliged to turn slightly north to proceed into the bay, there is another promontory impertinently coming out from the north (the little town of Manly, which was the second one to be built by the English in the new colony), and he has to avoid it turning brusquely south… and into the bay. It is called the Middle Head, this one.
As for the spectators on the cliff, more and more, they are turning their gaze upon to the horizon. It was winter, but not too cold. It is the wind that worries them now. And they had a lot of reason to worry. History records the date, a tragedy took place that day: the twelfth of August eighteen fifty-seven. There were records of ships going down to the bottom of the sea every now and then. On this winter evening of August in Australia it was the case of a most exceptionally refined ship, coming from Plymouth to Sydney. She was bringing to the colony ‘inter alia’ one hundred and twenty people, from nearly all of the British Isles. After months of hazardous sailing, crossing three oceans and going half around the world, she had been signalled (in the colony) as approaching. Ship, goods and people, just there, Sydney. A few more hours of good sailing, a final push of the wind forward, and she would be entering the bay, reaching Sydney Cove! But it was not to be.
On the cliff, just now, sudden impertinent rain. ‘Spoil sport!’ It is human nature: many began to foresee a disaster coming. A cluster of peaceful citizens began to lament their luck (this torrential rain!), coming closer together, and many opening umbrellas.
And it was not this the worst. When at last the majestic modern craft made its appearance far far away, and began the last leg of its journey to Australia, a flash of lightning was seen on the now darkening sky, followed by a threatening thunderbolt. Soon the newcomers and their ship were in the midst of a very bad storm, as those on the cliff could see. That fear, that weariness which springs among humans when somehow they foresee a catastrophe seized them all. And it was worse, of course, because they knew they would be unable to help.
All the same, a great cheer had been heard at the time the Dunbar was first seen passing the line of the horizon, as it were. However, an hour later no one was cheering. They had come all close together. All was silence, solitude, in addition, on some faces, had appeared some prophetic tears. The Dunbar was indeed majestic, but pitiful for some.
She stood straight up even in a turbulent sea, advancing surely. The masts were standing up so high. The sails were filled and extra-white. Oh, she was there! that was the thing to remark, hardly a stone’s throw or two from the cliff.
In a minute the winds became of gale force and the ship was stripped of her large sails, one by one. Those on the cliff saw these flow away and land far away upon the water. Mountainous waves had been battering the sides of the Dunbar for about one hour now. One side, the other, then monstruous frothing rollers mounting one another and all attacking the same victim. Poor Dunbar the great clipper. Until the ship bent down on one side, as though to rest for a few moments.
She never rose again from her supine position, the Dunbar. From there on, things proceeded speedily. She ran around upon some rock and eventually all that was left of the vessel went down to the bottom of the ocean. Not a person dead or alive (it seemed) was to be seen on the resulting mountain of debris. Some fragments of various undefined objects, chunks of timber or metal, which drifted about for a while: wood, masts, planks of some sort, pieces of furniture, rests of machinery maybe, and a lot of dirt, much dirt; all spinning round, boisterously, restlessly: unendingly for the citizens on the cliff.
But this changed suddenly and unexpectedly. A bit of calm. Among the dispersing debris, the bodies of some people, it would appear… Persons alive! swimming! Some hope had reappeared in the living humans crowding together on the edge of the cliff. It was not that any of the citizens still watching had seen anybody or recorgised anything… a dear one still struggling? Simply some black specks, that is what they saw… moving. Verily, there is so little we human beings need to see ‘rinascere la speranza’!
As it turned out, only one person of the hundred and twenty odd passengers and crew, a man who must have been an athlete and a great swimmer, saved his life that night. The surge must have pushed him towards the Heads… and there ‘¡Oh great luck! Nature helped him. He swam and swam and the bay welcomed him: he worked hard, deserved to become a New Australian, as the ‘boat people’ a hundred or so years later. The only one of the Dunbar’s newcomers to survive.
After the tragedy, with the dawn, came the Hand of God with a sponge and wiped the whole sea clean. The spot upon which so many lives had been lost now appeared for the spectators on the cliff, beautiful and clean. The whole ocean calm, blue with millions of shiny little diamonds floating, all around, a rising sun.
*
It was a poignant moment when a trail of people previously standing on the cliff, watching the tragedy, commenced the journey back home to Sydney Town that day of the thirteenth August, 1857. They took the coastal road, inside the harbour bay, much calmer waters, having left the ocean behind, all the south side of the harbour to the capital, a sandy beach, a double bay and to the capital. It was an entirely new way, which had been recently completed with convict labour and which was named New South Head Road, partly along recently deforested areas on the plain.
Irony of ironies, the new day announced itself as warm and very luminous. At five o’clock the sun was already rising, starting to flood the world with its light. Little by little the whole surface of the ocean was filled with tiny shiny sparks. Like so many diamonds.
Before reaching their destination, Sydney Town, our travellers had to cross an extensive territory called Woolloomooloo, probably because previously an important group of Aborigines, the coiners of the word, walked freely upon these same territories, in the lee of forest-covered hills, which in some parts reached right to the jagged coastline. Naturally they entered Sydney Town trailing one another. Those riding horses were the first. Then others, two young riders on a big mule, man and woman, wrapped together in a huge blanket, still wet; after them coaches and other carriages, carts, wagons, a covered wagonette filled with very sad people.
There was now splendid sunshine, brightening the prospect before the travellers’ eyes: or rather which would have brightened their view, if thhey had not been again mostly weeping. The capital of New South Wales was the usual animated colonial town. As if nothing had happened last night on the open sea near the Heads. Most were hearing now of the catastrophe for the first time. When all those that had travelled to the cliff were back in town, there were in consequence renewed tears and lamentations. People hugging one another and wailing together, asking the Lord Above for help.
*
Among the spectators on the cliff, Sydneysiders who had expected to see the magnificent vessel crossing safely, between the Heads, into Port Jackon, and who instead had watched with terror the great tragedy, there had been one, a most genteel gentleman, called David Greener, who had just lost his wife and two children in the wreckage. All his life, poor David, until a slight mistake was made, or bad luck had cropped up (or who knows what), which suddenly altered everything, had been honest and correct in everything. Then came that trial in His Majesty’s Courts, that judgement. He was sentenced for fraud. It happened not so long ago, in London. Until then his existence had been an uninterrupted flow of joy and family happiness.
In other words, his marriage to Susannah Kenn (now twelve years ago) had given him great joy. Mutual love had made of their lives together a paradise on earth. Until one day the unexpected happened. Something changed the natural course of events. Overnight. He was found guilty and condemned to be transported for life to the colony of New South Wales.
Born in York, he had one day moved to London with his family. He was by then a well-known architect. One of his brothers, Jacob Greener, had requested him to join him in London, for there had always existed a lot of affection between the two brothers. As the famous professional man that he had become, David Greener found in the capital much to do. He worked hard and made quite a lot of money for about two years.
Jacob Greener, a banker and jeweller, had all his life been a very busy man, loyal to the class and to the people to which he belonged; and when all these qualities are combined in one man, it cannot but make of him a successful professional. Much money, good standards, titles.
Jacob Greener and Co. was a juridical person. It was involved in business, speculations, all kinds of deeds. At a certain moment it must somehow have made one speculation too many. Suddenly Sir Jacob was brought before his country’s justice. He was committed to the courts, for fraud. And poor David Greener with him. The elder brother, shortly afterwards, died in confinement. The famous architect went to trial, was judged, found guilty and sentenced to be transported for life.
In Australia, David Greener was soon appreciated for what he was, a sublime artist and a wonderful man. Respected by his fellow convicts, loved by many of them and by the men whose task was to keep him in chains. And it was soon discovered that back home he had been a very good architect. The Governor pardoned him and eventually became his friend. The ex-convict worked and worked. The town was now full of buildings due to his hand and brain.
But he was an intensely miserable man, he had been condemed to transportation for life, proscribed from ever returning to his homeland. On the other hand, he yearned to be with Susannah and the children. Having acquired (for the second time in his life) a fat bank account, he purchased near Sydney Town, in Glebe, a large house with grounds where there was a gigantic Morton-Bay fig tree, which had made him decide to buy the property. He transformed it to his liking, and took the decision to bring his family over from London.
*
From the very edge of the cliff David Greener glanced for ever so long towards the dark spot where she had disappeared, and his two sons with her. How very few knew that Susannah was an angel! And he had lost her! It was his fault, all his fault!
He hardly saw or heard the birds surrounding him. Flying and cooing. Overhead, about him, down below; or perched on the protruding stones of the cliff, or on the branches of young bushes growing between the cracks and chinks; nor did he hear their calls and screeches that would have sent any normal person crazy.
The hours passed. The prussian-blue of the sea had become a lighter blue with streaks of black, green, white. A moving mass, perpetually going and coming. But he saw nothing, for he was crying. When he opened his eyes again, he twisted his head to look round and fixed his eyes on the now shiny blue spot of the sea where his love had gone, and also, as he did so, at a solitary purple flower coming out of the cliff.
He had left his steed, when he was with the others, tied up in a copse of euchalypts situated on a stretch of the land going towards South Head. He would not go back there, he knew, for he would never want to leave the spot from which he saw the sea where she had disappeared, where all that he had loved in the world had gone. He still saw the seagulls and other maritime birds flying up and down or perching on the side of the cliff. Turning his gaze towards the horizon he noticed the ocean was now calm and beautiful.
… ‘Oh, I know, I know! I’ll get rid of this painful feeling, my angel, and will be full of joy with you again – oh, darling Susannah, my Susi at the bottom of the ocean, can it be true?
… If I could rise in the air, on feather-winged arms, like the birds and fly! Fly calling for you… and know that you still love me, that we can meet again, that our love can become eternal.
… my pretty Susannah, to see you again, and our children, coming to Australia! In the most magnificent vessel in the world. I had become a freedman, no longer guilty, accepted, and again quite wealthy.
… and what for? in me the fatal curse of heaven. Nowhere to go, to escape this malediction.
Lazily David Greener takes a step forward. Near the edge. Turning turning... the rollers are coming, continually, calling him. With a strong heave and a sob, he took a step forward.
… an outcry: ‘Sus… suuu Sussanah! Two years I have… waited. My fate is fixed.
Another step forward. In the void, where the gulls are flying. ‘I want you, my angel,’ he cries. ‘Farewell joy! farewell happiness! Oh, Sussiii… farewell life!’
*
The bus-shelter is hardly a stone’s throw away, but in his precipitation Luis Galvao misses it, takes the wrong turn, and next moment finds himself trudging up a steep hill at the end of which he feels so weak and tired that he has to sit down somewhere. He finds a heap of stones and broken bricks near a building site, and there he rests for a moment, meditating, almost like a stone figure.
Until he is ready to move again in that interminable tangle of narrow streets and lanes criss-crossing one another. There are very few people around, and those he comes across, who could help him to find a bus stop or taxi stand, swish past very quickly, obviously in a hurry. They fail even to notice the presence trudging along on one side of the road. The chimes of a church remind him that it is Sunday today. Perhaps everyone has gone to some temple or other: there are so many, of so many denominations, as they say, in this country.
Every tme he is going downhill he accelerates. He runs so fast at times that when reaching the bottom of a rather broad street he trips over a slightly protruding cobblestone and falls flat on the ground. An old man with a thick stick and a beard comes to the rescue, it would appear, but instead, nasty old fellow, hits him on his right hand, which Galvao has lifted to protect himself from the attack he saw coming. ‘You start early, dog,’ the man growls, ‘And on the day of the Lord!’ But Galvao snatches the weapon from his hands and retaliates severely, throwing the stick in the air afterwards and leaving the old guy howling on the ground.
It has begun to drizzle. Galvao crosses the street, thinking of protecting himself on the covered veranda of a house he recognises vaguely. The one where his love used to live.
… that is it, this terrace house. She disappeared through that pink-and-white door one morning about a fortnight ago, when they both were coming from Paddy’s Market. Not together. He was following her.
… Krappov had taken her away from him, to the bush. He was that morning in Paddy’s Market with his friend Manuel, when suddenly she appeared in a beam of sunlight coming in through a high narrow window.
… it was a Saturday, great crowds, with the sound of the rain on the corrugated-iron roof. It was raining hard when she left the market with a wicker basket hanging from her left arm; in the other hand she was holding an opened pink umbrella.

… she had been going away from him all the time as they crossed the thoroughfare, George Street, Oxford Street, outdistancing him as they went, and he losing her under the overhanging, when she closed the umbrella, among the Saturday morning shopping crowds.
From the open window, next to the pink glossy door of the terrace-house, there comes the sound of a Russian ditty accompanied by the notes of a violin. ‘Kalinka, kalinka moià! Svadova, iádoga, kalinka moià!’ A vision. He has been having the same dream three nights running. Malgorata dancing with a handsome blond Cossack she had met in the outback. Now two escapees on the run. Only, he was not sure at this moment if he had seen the Ukranian girlfriend in his sleep, or Margaret, his beautiful English girl.
The fellow is holding her tightly by the waist, stamping his knee-high leather boots on the checker-patterned vinyl floor, while she remains static. And there is the music, a violin is playing in the background; unless it is someone having a shower.
For Luis Galvao one thing is now certain: he is ill and feverish. The music is still heard, but when he fixes his eyes on what seems like a shower-cabin in a corner of the small bedroom, he only hears a voice, singing: ‘Kalinka, kalinka, moià!’.
Suddenly, two white hands are seen pulling the sash window from the catch down to the window-sill, and he now only sees his own reflexion in the dusty window pane. After a moment of indecision, noticing it is no longer raining, he moves on to the middle of the street, always looking.
Turning right, and into another hilly lane, he finds himself in the commercial part of the suburb. Perhaps he’ll find someone who’ll give him some directions. As he creeps up the top of the hill, he sees there are two equally narrow ways coming together in a tiny plaza, on top, and there is, in the conjuction of two streets or lanes, a corner store. A sunbeam illuminates the store’s glass-door. For the weather is now glorious. A couple of stone steps lead up to the store, which is rather narrow, due to the fact that the two lateral façades form an angle, and the door is squeezed between them, with not much space to spare.
The building is old and dilapidated. Discoloured advertisments on both sides, each façade with a tiny window. The shop is advertising ‘TIP TOP BREAD’, ‘ROZELLE FOOD’, ‘PETERS ICE CREAM’, ‘SALTED PEANUTS CRISP AND CRUNCHY’. Luis has climbed up the two stone steps, gluing his body to the glass door, his nose stuck to the glass.
One would have said Mr. and Mrs. Van Es were there, inside, behind the tin-and-copper cash register waiting, expecting to make good business today, lots of money: and it can’t be, for today it is not Saturday, but Sunday, the Day of the Lord, I know. And I have my nose nearly touching (on the other side of the glass) the notice CLOSED. Clearly.
‘Even if we live in a world where commerce and greed always reign supreme, why, these two old Dutch people from Indonesia, I’m sure, wouldn’t commit such a grievous sin. On the Day of the Lord! Always so devout! Always good protestants!’
Downhill once more. On the hard-wood veranda under the strip of corrugated iron roof, in case the weather changes again, he observes a brassplate with a name on it in black: LAURACE. He plies the knocker. The sound reverberates over the narrow street. For a moment it seemed as if someone was laughing. He observes that the sash is already up in the window next to the door.
At length the door is flung open and a stout flat-nosed woman appears in the doorway. ‘Miss… Missus Laurace,’ Galvao articulates, ‘supp… I guess that is the name…’ (glancing at the brassplate.) ‘You sse… you know… I’m looking for a girl… blond and beautiful.
‘Lookin’ for a girl, are ye?’ she laughs, ‘I say, mate. Wot’s happened to yer arm?, hand is bleeding.’ ‘No, lady… no, Ms Laurace,’ he says, hiding his hand, ‘it’s only an old fella, down in Albion Street, as wanted me to go back to church.’
‘Say, mister, haven’t we met somewhere?’ the woman says, fixing her piercing gaze on his face. She has set her arms akimbo, occupying the whole space of the doorway, as if she were determined to bar the way to an intruder.
‘No, madam, you must confuse me with somebody.’
‘Somebody me foot! We have, and ye bloody well know we have. You must be an escapee from Callan Park. I’m a nurse there, ye know?’
‘No, Madam… eh! no Sister Laurace! It’s not true. I know nothing about mental hospitals. Somewhere else, Sister Laurace. Oh! it was in a restaurant in Pitt Street. That’s it. Nothing to do with any hospital.’
‘Why, an ospital’s wot ye need, in any case. And that is for sure! Anyhow, ye’re bleedin, ye know.’
‘No, sister, (hiding his wounded hand once more.) It’s only… I’m only looking for a woman, I need her badly.’
‘Wot!! Oh no, sir! Ye’re knockin on the wrong door, wot d’ye think? No, sir, this is not that sort of house. Go away! No woman to be had in this house. Not for love or money.’
Still with her arms akimbo, quite alarmed now, ‘This is a decent place!’ she growls ferociously, while she scrutinises him with that piercing gaze. ‘I live alone, ye see.’ She breaks into a prolonged chuckle of laughter.
At that there is the sound of music, like a woman singing. The sound is coming from the open window on the left. ‘You see, Luis exclaims, turning his gaze to the window.’you do have at.. least one tennant.’
‘Oh, heavens!’ he hears. And a strong bang, like the slam of a door. He turns to see what has happened. The woman is no longer there. The door is shut and, for what he knows, has bolted.
He now moves decidedly to the window, has a glimpse of a checker-patterned vinyl floor which is quite familiar to him, for he has seen that same floor quite often in his dreams.
… the window being accessible from the floor, he takes a step forwards with the intention of jumping in, but he trips up and simply lies down, with his arms on the windowsill. A small but tidy bedroom with a makeshift glass cabin in the far corner.

… the sound of water running fast, someone is singing. He fixes his gaze on the glass door of the cabin, sees the diffuse silhouette of a woman having a shower, the palms of her hands holding her face, which is turned upwards, letting the water run down her face and hair.
… be it because the temperature inside the cabin is very high and is now spreading around the room, of a sudden Luis Galvao feels sick and feverish. ‘And a more humane Mikado never did in Japan exist!’ he hears someone singing, the song accompanied by the sound of running water.
… presently the singing ceases, and then the surging sound of water as well. He opens his eyes, the glass door of a shower-cabin opens. Coming out, her body shrouded in a mist. There figure of a woman ever so white that no blood would appear to circulate in her veins.
… oh yes, coming forward! she is such an endearing girl. What bliss! It is she, my only love. No one will take you away from me, now. Luis still resting his arms on the windowsill, his head on his interlocked fingers. He has temporarily closed his eyes.
… she stops short in the middle of the room, seeming to hesitate. Or perhaps she hasn’t seen him. He stretches his unwounded arm, clasps her fingers and now looks at her face, tries to kiss it. She looks at him in astonishment.
… ‘Please, don’t go, my angel, my only love,’ he wails. I didn’t mean to abandon you, it wasn’t my fault,’ he pleads, ‘I need you so.’ I’ve been waiting all this time for an opportunity to explain myself.
… he remembers, creeping to the top of the hill for nothing. A horrible man taking her away. He is torn inside himself as she recalls certain things. But the girl turns round, and hope has turned into despair. ‘Pray stay, don’t hide again from me, my own girl so beautiful. I’ve been looking for you for so long.
… She comes, her body now wrapped in a large white towel, which seemed to turn the rest of her visible skin into pure alabaster. ‘I know you’ve been ill,’ she answers, resting her left knee on the window-sill, ready to help him. I shall cure you, my only love.’ And he wants to take her in his arms, but can’t.
… it seems that the haze from the shower has reached the window, and the young woman, who is now standing up holding the towel around her body with both hands seems about to disappear in a now invading cloud. ‘Please no!’ he says. ‘Come, we’ll run away together. Wander no more’.

Just at that moment he feels like a grip on his back and, simultaneously, hears a shriek: ‘Aha, thief! I’ve caught you, this time. I knew I had to do with a madman. Yes, sir, you belong in Callan Park.’
Galvao screams back, struggling: ‘Let go, you whore!’ he said making an effort to turn round and face her.
‘On no, sir!’ she exclaims, holding him tight now by his jacket lapels, ‘ye won’t run away from me this time; for I’ve called the police.’
And Luis see her ugly face, gesticulating, a big red wart on her chin. The same woman who antagonised him in the Chinese restaurant of Pitt Street. The same, now dressed up and with her flat hat on.
At that the sound of a siren is heard. Taking advantage of a moment’s hesitation on the part of his adversary, he gives her a tremendous punch on the chin, and the wart explodes splattering blood. The woman cries out, Luis pushes her away and hardly hears her, all kinds of insults and lamentations in her mouth. For he is escaping now, not from her, but from the Black Maria which he sees coming up, right at the bottom of the hill. He tries to reach the next corner, but he is too weak to run now even downhill.
Luis Galvao and the Black Maria cross one another half way down the street, but soon Luis hears the vehicle at turning back, still in pursuit of a poor madman. He hides behind a very tall black dustbin and has, for a change, the satisfaction of seeing the police vehicle pass by and disappear. And he goes on rambling like a drunkard, in a suburb in which he is a complete alien, full of streets, lanes and alleyways which have turned long for him into an inextricable labyrinth.
At length he lands upon a square which contains some familiar elements. He hears the chime of some bells and see some gulls flying around the towers of a Catholic Church, the starting point of the sad calvary he has been undergoing all morning.
He makes a bee-line across the square. Burning the last particles of energy left in him, he stumbles forward, nearly crawling up the flight of stone steps, and enters the temple just as he hears the siren of the Black Maria again.
An old bearded priest is saying mass to an Italian audience, as an exhausted Luis Galvao moves along one of the lateral aisles looking for an empty seat. ‘La vita è sempre dolore (he hears the priest)… dolore… soltanto dolore… soltanto Dio è… notra pace… oh, ricordiarse del tempo felice…’
And the sound of low voices around him, as he steps between two lines of parishioners; for he is holding on to the back of the long bench, constantly knocking with his shoes the feet of those on one side and with his hands disturbing at times those leaning on the back of the bench in front.
The priest is going on and on with his praying, followed closely by his accolyte, who is also saying something. After a while, when Luis Galvao reaches his own seat, he sits down and falls asleep. He is awakened by the sound of bells. At the beginning he thinks it is again the police. Then he notices it is the accolyte, who holds in his hand a set of golden bells, which roll around producing a sort of music. The old priest with the beard is moving away from the altar, holding the chalice up with two hands and bending his brow low. The accolyte with the set of little bells follows him.
There is great turmoil in the church. Luis Galvao stands up, following the example of the rest of the audience. He realises that they are all going away, and gets frightened, in case the police now enters and takes him away to the Black Maria. On the top of the flight of stone steps he halts for a minute, searching, but there are no policemen waiting for him.
He contemplates the prospect with admiration. It is the first time he sees Surry Hills as a whole, an inner suburb of Sydney, the capital of New South Wales. A motley array of innumerable small cottages, old somber houses most of them. At times it looked as if some of the small buildings were standing one on top of the others. The old hills.
‘What, the crowd is dispersing already?’ He feels quite alarmed, accelerates his pace. ‘I haven’t even reached the bottom of the flight of steps, and the street is emptying.’
He trips over. A woman comes to his rescue. ‘Dio!’ she cries. A man joins her. He shouts. ‘Luigi amico! What’s happenned to you?’
… the ghost of the past visit Galvao’s mind… those days long ago, when he was working in the soap and chemical products factory.
… people talking in Italian, gesticulating all the time… his mates, Bruno, Pippo, Joe, Paddy, Luis, Norman, Lee… ‘Mates!!’
He is fainting. A call: ‘Luigi amico, where do you live? Luis recognises Pippo, a Sicilian friend of Bruno’s, his mate at the factory. Someone replies for Luis. Some two or three words ‘Then, I’ll take him,’ Pippo says, ‘my card’s parked round the corner.’
They all want to carry the wounded person to the car. He is shoved in, placed on the passenger seat.
He recognises Elizabeth Street as they speed across the city. They hit the Cahill Expressway, he knows well the way. A turn right and onto the Harbour Bridge, over the blue waters of Port Jackson. And into North Sydney. ‘Where in Kirribilli you live?’ He supplies the information. ‘Jef… Jeffrey Street… two.’
Pippo waits, both now standing in front of a tall building. Luis opens the door. Both enter the hall. ‘Thank… you, mate,’ Galvao mutters.
‘Take you to your home unit. You just tell me.’ Pippo says. Luis has pushed a button. ‘No… no, mate. I’m all right… Thanks so much, he says entering.
Pippo sees him pressing number ten. ‘Bye-bye, caro Luigi, take care.’
As soon as Luis Galvao gets out on the tenth floor, he goes into his flat and remains a few seconds resting his tired body against the closed door. Then he threw himself, fully dressed, on his bed and lost conscientiousness altogether.
There, on his bed under the window, he lay alone as he had always been, with no possibility of being looked after by wife, or lover or anyone.

fg.lzquierdo@yahoo.es

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