A sentimental journey through Sydney, five
Whereas today migration means poor, defeated masses from ruined mainly excolonial countries seeking food and rejected, in yesteryears New Australians meant pampered escapees from communism received with open arms in capitalist prosperous countries.
A sentimental journey through Sydney, Five
Fernando García Izquierdo
Many an ancient traveller went round faraway islands and took possession of the land (‘res nullius’, they called it) before God and Man, on behalf of his Sovereign. It was a question of dominion and the sacred right of property; followed by the exploitation of the soil, the subsoil and of the inhabitants. Plenty of benefits. Precious, valuable, yellow metal, and the rest. The land soon changed into something else.
‘Terra Australis’, the lost continent of the south, was for a long time forgotten by all. Portuguese, Dutch and other mariners had a glimpse of the land as they passed by far away; but they did not set their feet on it. The French, who did, reported that the country was barren. They happened to have landed on the north-west of the continent, one of the most arid regions in the whole world. When they chanced to see, walking about in the distance, a handful of savage individuals, the civilized Frenchmen sailed away. And the country returned to its ten million year solitude. The walkabout people or blackmen, of course, did not chose to inhabit the desert, and if the French had landed on the east of the continent, they might have reported differently.
The country had been inhabited for ten, or twenty thousand years, no more, by a people come from India during a period which again must have lasted thousands of years, walking or on makeshift boats or piraguas, passing from island to island, perhaps settling down for a while and then continuing the journey south. They spread throughout the continent, in preference, it is to be assumed, where life was not too rough, in the more fertile regions. The soil was generally poor, but it always produced enough for people satisfied with little. These first immigrants lived naturally, and when they died left the land to their descendants more or less as they found it.
The same, of course, cannot be said of migrants descending from the Europeans. Around the beautiful cove called today Sydney, the original native populations still lived in the State of Nature. They ceased to exist as people. For the land being at once occupied, the previous inhabitants were exterminated or little by little dislodged. Colonisation began on 26 January, 1788, with the arrival of the First Fleet of sixteen small ships. That same day the continent’s fate was sealed. For better or worse transformation would never cease, and the change would continually accelerate.
There were very few skyscrapers then In town and none of them was very tall; Caltex House being one of them. To it Luis Galvao directed his steps every working day, from the bus stop in Circular Quay to George Street and onwards. In effect, the old registered attorney, Mr. Kevin Dean, had retired and the Spaniard had been called in to take his place. He was not very well paid, and that was one of the reasons why he went on lodging at the boarding house in Harris Street, Ultimo. The other and more important reason was Malgorata. They were for all intents and purposes a married couple, the husband having now disappeared, it seemed, for good.
In the office, Luis Galvao was allocated his own cubicle. The firm’s premises occupying nearly the entire seventh floor of the building, as corresponded to a firm of great ambition which expected to be expanding all the time, as the whole nation was expected to be, he had his own corner, where he worked and in spare moments studied. There were a number of corridors in the premises, crisscrossing one another, with offices on either side, some big, some medium-sized, some rather small. The biggest was the one occupied by ‘the typing-pool’, a place with about ten identical small desks, each one with a big typewriter on top, and the same number of chairs, each one occupied by a young female, who spent the day attacking the keys of her typewriter with great monotony, continually producing an almost unbearable noise, rather like the one produced by the military on their training fields, ten machine-guns or something: tack, tack, tack, tack, tack, tack!’ Then, there were some half a dozen offices for clerks, male or female, and as many cubicles, besides, for the junior associates, men destined to be one day lawyers or patent attorneys, and some to acquire a partnership. The present partners had, of course, larger offices with big windows, of which Mr. Hutchkinson’s was the largest. Luis Galvao, on the contrary, had the tiniest cubicle, in the centre of the premises, with no window. The narrow door and the four walls constituted his world for about seven hours each working day. The walls were partially made of glass, from about the distance of a man’s waist half way up to the ceiling, which was not very high. The rest was perfectly varnished wood.
A few days after he joined the firm he saw the head and shoulders of a very young woman moving along the corridor, past his office. She was very blond and very pretty, though to tell the truth he hardly had the time to see her face. A quarter of an hour later the intercom rang. He was summoned into the managing partner’s office. He stood up, crossed the narrow door and proceeded for a while along the passage. He stopped short: “MR. K. HUTCHINSON, Managing Partner”, he read on an opaque glass-door, the rest of the wall to the ceiling being varnished wood. Entering the room, after duly knocking, he found the nice platinum girl with Mr. Hutchkinson, who said to him: ‘Mr. Luis Galvao! Let me introduce you to Miss Lida Kirolenko, your new secretary.’
Luis was dazzled. No better word for it. Such a pretty girl. He tried to look through the window at the bay, for he felt he was blushing. The office occupied a big chunk of the premises, exactly where the building formed a corner. The whole house was air-conditioned.
… I was contemplating absentmindly the bay of Port Jackson, on my right, and through the other window, the beginning of an arm of water called Darling Harbour, full of docks, many wharfies in grand activity.
… the boss, the girl, and poor me deep down in a reverie. “Now, why had Mr. Hutchkinson said ‘Your new secretary’, why ‘new’?” I haven’t had a secretary or any similar personal aid in all my born days!”
He felt he had to say something, anything. The girl had stood up to shake hands, and he was stupidly holding the five delightful fingers in his grip. Nothing doing. He must look silly, still trying to glance at the blue sky outside. He didn’t know why, but the idea of having to share his little office with such a pretty vivacious person, at least every time he summoned her in for dictation, embarrassed him.
‘Of course you will have your post with your typewriter in the main room, the typing pool,’ the boss said to the young woman.
Beyond the sea the chunks of forest or other vegetation and red-brick houses which constituted North Sydney. He had never seen it so near; what, two or …three miles? Poor Luis was confused. It had come to happen in particular that Luis Galvao had recognised the girl. The two had been, with Princess Danilova, very close all the three, one day, at a wedding reception.
… the image of the Russian girl Irina marrying the Latvian Vitas came vividly to my mind. I prayed to God she would not recognise me. I wouldn’t have known what to do.
Mr. Hutchkinson was looking at us. Apparently the girl did not remember anything, and Luis Galvao thanked heaven for it, though on the other hand his ego suffered: to know that such a beautiful creature had not seen him that day, when she had been eating an extra piece of wedding cake… and he felt himself like eating that piece of pretty little platinum blonde!
Summer found Malgorata in a fearful state of indecison. In her heart the old worry persisted: the bear would one day reappear after all. As for Luis, he learned one day through his friend Manuel that Leonidas Krappov had been found to be a confirmed Nazi criminal, whose real name was Ladislav Cruszczov. He could not figure out why Manuel had spoken so frankly about the Ukrainian. They were intimate friends: lovers, had said the other fellow-lodger Heribert, who had lived in the house longer than Luis. Perhaps Manuel had given up meeting the Ukrainian. At any rate, the man had been hiding for some time in some recondite spot of Western Australia, from what the Spaniard could gather. But how long Luis and Malgorata would be allowed to live their love story was another question. She was very nervous these days.
Then he was an inconsistent character. He liked his secretary, without stopping for a minute loving his darling wife, as he called Malgorata. It happened that the second day they worked together in the tiny cubicle he had been allotted in the firm, after an hour of dictation, going out for the lunch hour, he and the girl bumped into one another as they were coming out into the street. They walked together along York Street engaged in conversation and halted before a Fish-and-chips shop. The day was warm, and they sat on the grass of Wynyard Square, munching their luncheon.
One Friday when she had been playing the violin in town, she came at midday to have lunch with Luis, both seated on an oval garden opposite the entrance to Caltex House, where office workers usually spent the lunch-hour under the trees. One could see the entrance to the building, with people moving at that hour in and out through the revolving glass-doors. “Look, Malgorata, that is my little secretary,” he said, “there she goes, see! the platinum-blond one.”
He had called her little though she was in fact only slightly under average stature. It was a most affectionate way of speaking of the girl, slim, young and very beautiful. Malgorata found her pretty and it did not escape her that her man spoke of the girl with great affection, which caused the worm of jealousy to enter her soul. He accompanied her to George Street where she picked a bus to Harris Street, for she no longer had anything to do in town. In the evening he made his way to Ultimo on foot, through the back streets by the port, first at the back of the warehouses along Sussex Street, then strolling along the bridge, ready to turn left into Ultimo.
One day, as he was making his way back home from the office, Luis ran up against a wicked-looking Malgorata, who was coming to meet him. It was almost half past six.
‘Naughty, why d’you do this to me?’ she asked, and it was a justified lament; for Luis had always been very punctual concerning his walk back home in the evening: half past five, more or less. It was now ten past six. Her eyes shone silver, disparate. She had not had that regard since the days of their first encounter, and he loved her.
However Luis was adamant. ‘You’re spying on me? I won’t tolerate it,’ he said, feigning disgust. He got rid of her embrace and made to go.
Ever since his employment at the law firm his colleagues had been inviting him to join them for a drink and in the end he had accepted the invitation. On the spree for about forty minutes in the Marble Bar, a famous hotel situated in the most busy portion of George Street. It was a place full of guilded mirrors, fine-wood furniture and chandeliers, where the regulars, all men, enjoyed some shop-talk over a glass of beer, after office hours. They exchanged confidences for an hour or so: Young professionals with ambition who relaxed cracking jokes rather noisily, stamping their polished black shoes on the marble floor.
He was looking for intense renewed love, more manly, as if he needed now another woman, a stronger feeling. ‘A successful passion!’ he thought. And poor Malgorata was looking at him, those piteous eyes. ‘What made me think before that I had enough? Besides, I want to be seen in the office, the suburb, everywhere as a man leading a successful life. A perfectly married couple with a family’. But in the end Galvao saw he was being unjust. And Malgorata was the more beautiful of the two. ‘I shall have only one woman. I shall marry her. I shall go and see Alex for advice, and we shall sue for divorce. Stranded husband, abandonment of domicile. He’ll know.’
Luis Galvao had asked his secretary to come to his office for dictation. ‘Why were you introduced by the boss as Lida Kirolenko,’ he said, ‘and you ask me now to call you Maureen?’
‘I’m not Russian, nor Ukrainian,’ she answered, challengingly, ‘and I hate the name. Maureen is my second christian-name. I am Australian. Nothing else. Born in Paddington Maternity Hospital. Eighteen years ago, if you want to know.’
And he could not but ask himself at night. ‘I’ll be careful. Falling in love with the girl? It won’t do. Asking her to marry me? Otherwise… a minor… I might end in prison.”
In the evening Luis drove with Malgorata to a little harbour beach, where they had a fish meal in a restaurant known as the ‘Ozone’. It was owned by a Londoner, who had once been a famous rock singer, married to a handsome Dutch woman, much taller than him. The man, Freddy Lane, came to talk to them, and at the end of the meal, Luis and Malgorata walked down a wooden platform and then strolled on the sands carrying their shoes in their hands, he having rolled up his trouser legs. Watson Bay, the last one inside the harbour, where the waves came breaking on to the shore.
They came back towards the restaurant but did not enter the place. There was away from the establishment a boat-shed and three weedcovered rowing-boats. There they lay down, between the old boats. They sat up afterwards and talked. She was pretty. Yet he did not mention to his beloved that at noon he had had lunch in town with Maureen, his secretary. The matter was not important in itself (he thought), but he knew his poor head was whirling round away from what had always been his normal character. Something new and complicated he might be in the end unable to control. However, they did not walk together in the street nor ever have lunch again together, either in a restaurant nor in the Wynyard gardens. Ah, yes! he still felt guilty.
Another evening Luis found Malgorata frightfully depressed and on the brink of tears. He could not figure out what had happened and, when he asked, she replied somewhat calmer, that she had received an airmail letter, with Christmas and New Year’s greetings from a Russian friend in England. The girl, Anna, had been her pal when they both were young. They had played together in the Kiev orchestra. Anna had defected to the West in London (a few days before her own defection in Manchester) and was still a member of the London Philarmonia.
‘Luis, tell me,’ Malgorata asked, ‘why don’t we elope to London, now? She says I could find a place in the orchestra. Anna will help me.’
‘I see, and who would help me? England, you say. Am I going to start anew… now I’ve got a job in the law? I’ve registered at the New South Wales Barristers Admission Board, dearest. You know very well.’
‘But you’ll find a job, you’ll find some work, dear Luis! You are very intelligent.’
‘You think so?’ he shouted in a very bad temper. ‘Let us see, my dear. What is what you want? The violin is your life, oh! the violin is your life. You don’t know what you say. Music or plenty of money? Art? You should not have left the Soviet Union.
Not another word was said on the subject.
The middle of December was only just past and already there were public gatherings everywhere celebrating the birth of the Infant Saviour. Malgorata had read in a local paper about some ‘’carol singing by candlelight’’ going on in one of the posh Eastern Suburbs; she mentioned it to Luis, and to the suburb in question they drove one evening, taking with them a couple of wax-candles as required. The singing took place on an oval green field where a nice soft breeze, that blew now and then, denoted the proximity of the ocean. Every generation of Sydneysider was there represented, from the old grandparent who had seen better times to the young toddler who had just begun to walk, standing in the field, facing a choir with a lady conductor on a platform, all chanting carols with great fervour, for which purpose the congregation had been provided upon arrival with stencilled copies of the songs and hymns to be sung that night and which they consulted by the light of their candles as soon as night began to draw in. “Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the new.born King! Peace on Earth….”
Afterwards Luis and Malgorata went for a stroll along the waterfront among the promenaders, their hands entwined and their bent heads touching. Strangely enough neither of them seemed particularly animated at the moment; though from time to time she did hum the tune of one or other of the carols they had been singing on the oval. There was a line of lampposts which gave a subdued yellow light all along the promenade, which was of a circular shape, with a beach, Coogee Bay; a strip of lawn on the opposite side of the road and, after another narrower roadway, a line of small houses, with shops, refreshment-rooms, cafés and a hotel-or-public-house, all of which were closed at that hour. Eventually Malgorata led the way to the stone parapet separating the walk from the sands, pulling Luis up with her. After a lapse of a few minutes, during which she was quietly staring at the ocean and he watching her with a wondering smile: ‘Sweetheart,’ he began, ‘I noticed you hardly looked at the stencilled sheets while singing, do you know all them carols by heart?’
‘I’ve always sung carols at Christmastime, love,’ she replied; but her mind was obviously occupied with other matters.
They were seated on the stone parapet, for the moment not quite close together. She was wearing a light sleeveless top which did not even reach her waist, her navel showing most deliciously just above a black miniskirt. He came nearer and laid one hand on her warm thigh, caressingly. But she did not seem to notice; only her dangling legs were moving, her toes playing nervously with her flip-flop rubber sandals, until at length one of them fell to the sand below, which again she did not seem to notice.
‘Back home,’ she said, without looking, ‘I sang ever so often. Both my parents are good singers.’
‘Pity I can’t say the same about mine; I believe I never heard my Dad sing. As for Mum, just a few lines from a popular hit when she was in the kitchen or making the beds. Well, you can see the result: I can’t sing for nuts.’
‘My poor boy! Take heart,’ said Malgorata with a note of irony. ‘You’ve a strong baritone voice.’
He was going to remonstrate with a kiss, but she drew away resting the palms of her hands on the parapet, and then, balancing her body firmly on the stone, she threw herself over upon the sand, picked up the missing thong and away she trod barefoot, moving her arms, a thong in each hand, letting the breeze caress her pretty face. Luis followed suit, and ran after her, and when he caught up embraced her tightly from behind, his lips touching her neck and little round ear. She turned round, and in her eyes he detected a sadness which had not been there before. Why the change? Some secret woe?
… it was a feeling common to many migrants, which crept into your heart from time to time, and often on special occasions during some celebration. You’re in a country to which you don’t belong. The Aussies won’t understand, they don’t realise what it means to sing ‘White Christmas’; to spread artificial snow over the Christmas tree… in midsummer.
‘It always happens at this time of the year,’ she muttered, and the tears were struggling to get out of her eyes.
There was in those eyes tonight something new, profound. A melancholy to which his own heart was no stranger. That vague sense of loss and regret of the exile. The realisation that part of one’s life has already gone, vanished. The irretrievable past. They sat on the sand, close but not touching. ‘’I love you,’’ he whispered bending to kiss her ear.
‘And I love you too!’ she cried; but her gaze was turned to the ocean: the murmuring surge of the coming waves, one after another.
Luis touched her shoulder, trying to make her look up. ‘Is it that post… London orchestra?’ he asked in a whisper. ‘Do you want to leave?’
‘I should not have left my land, my friends, my art, all that!’ she whispered back.
‘I know how you feel,’ he said with a sigh. ‘I too feel homesick, I too made brilliant studies. I chose exile...’ and added: ‘We have roamed from place to place, carrying with us a despondency borne of the knowledge that we don’t belong here, anywhere. We’ve lost our roots.’
She assented with her eyes. ‘I’ve lost them completely, Luis, irremediably! And I feel it most particularly today,’ she muttered. ‘This lovely summernight. The waves, the sea, the horizon. How strange!’
She stopped, and he wanted her to go on. ‘Malgorata, tell me!’
‘In summer, August overthere, they took us to the Black Sea.’
There was a growing darkness over the ocean, while the expanse above was full of luminous stars. Behind them, along the promenade, that long line of lampposts of yellow light, like little incandescent circles. No longer so many promenaders.
‘How strange, you’ve said,’ he began. ‘How strange, I say too. And how lucky we’ve met. In a foreign country! Foreign for you, foreign for me… You know, to tell the truth, this feeling…’ he did not finish his sentence, as if the idea had gone from his mind, and, in despair, he fell back upon the sand, and lay down, watching the stars.
‘I was a pioneer back home,’ he heard her say. ‘D’you know what that means?’
‘I know the meaning of the word, yes.’
‘They took us to holiday camps, I’ve said. It was fun of a summer evening… In August nights already came earlier. Well, you know.’
He murmured assent. And she went on: ‘I mean, now it’s winter overthere… Here it’s summer, yet Christmastime… Oh, I’m getting myself into a mess! Well, we were taken to the mountains or the sea, depending on where you lived. Simply staying out around a bonfire was great fun: we chatted, told stories, put potatoes in the fire, and of course played music and sang. When the fire burned out, we watched the stars.’
Of a sudden they saw something shining faraway at sea, something which from a line along the horizon turned into a shining segment of blood-red matter, and then, a bright glowing orange of enormous proportions, girdled all around with a halo of white light, as if the earth was giving birth to a ball of fire, and at the same time a crimson flash burst out upon the entire surface of the ocean, a long line of light approaching wider right to the water’s edge and the beach. And the glittering distant object over the horizon crept up to the middle of the sky. It was the moon, round and pearly white.
Malgorata now stood up and moved, as in a trance, towards the sea; she stripped herself of her blouse and miniskirt, letting them fall down, and trod ever so lightly on the firm wet sand, raising her arms in the air. The waves came bubbling to meet her and she let them wet her thighs and panty and tiny bra, still playing with her hands. And the moon and the stars were peeping down upon the goddess as she swam eagerly towards the surging ribbons of white foam. Turning round, she paddled with the surge, and soon a sharp keen wind pushed her back to the sand with the rollers. She left her wet bra and panty on the sand and lay down, swaying with the regular swell of the sea. Then stood up, playing gleefully with hands and feet as if she were dancing, jumping up and down and twisting her legs above the foaming surf; until she came panting to Luis, who was approaching. “I come to her I love most, oh, my sweetheart!”
Together they went up the beach, where the sand was soft and warm. “My! she exclaimed, flinging herself on the ground. She lay on her back, then on one side, then on the other, rolling her delicious body about, all covered with sand, until she rolled herself still. Luis had fallen on his knees to kiss her; but she turned round on the sand once more, offering her back to him. ‘Now you’ve got to work,’ she said. ‘Brush the sand off my back.’
That day the Council was to send around the so-called ‘surplus lorry’, with the task of collecting any amount of rubbish which the neighbours might care to deposit in front of their houses and which was not collected on a daily basis in the ordinary way. By midday Harris Street was full of heaps of waste, discharged all along the pavement. Only one side of the street was concerned, as the other side was entirely occupied by sundry factories and warehouses, which were not meant to benefit from this municipal collection.
Manuel Suárez had begun the day looking prim and bright, dressed in white; but as the day advanced he appeared flushed and suffocated, as he helped Big Nino to carry away chunks of broken plaster, lumber, metal piping, rotten shelves and dusty cupboards, and other unwanted matter which had been accumulating in the backyard since the Council lorry last came along.
On their way across the house with the rejected material (or back to the yard, through the house, from the street), they ran up against Malgorata and Luis, who had offered to help and had in fact joined in the cleaning. ‘’Come, give me a kiss!’’ was Luis saying to Malgorata, thinking they were alone, in the back garden. She wore a well-fitting light-blue dress, and her short wavy hair shone prettily in the mid-morning sun; and she wore sun glasses accentuating the beauty of her rounded rosy checks. Luis held her by the waist, caressing her body, which was bent backwards. ‘Let’s go back with the others,’ Malgorata said, with a little toss, as the other two entered.
‘Wait,’ he said, retaining her by the arm, ‘don’t you think it would be a good idea if we were to look inside that old bomb. Come along, let’s have a peep.’ They went to the Austin Somerset wreck, just by the back gate; and Malgorata opening the door, ‘Look!’’ she cried with excitement. ‘A pussy there!’
In effect, a very tiny black kitten was lying asleep on the torn leather seat in the back. She got the dear little thing in her arms, caressing its fluffy coat and calling it ‘beauty’ and ‘my own.’ ‘Oh, you knew about it, and wanted to give me a surprise, thank you, Luis!’ she said, blowing him a kiss.
‘Seriously I didn’t know, or I wouldn’t have opened my mouth; for now I’m jealous.’
‘You did!, you did!’
‘I guess its mother left it there one night, knowing as there’s a cat lover on the premises.’
They brought the little creature into the house, Malgorata gave it a saucer of creamy milk, and Manuel, who had again entered the kitchen, pronounced it to be a female. Whereupon Malgorata christened the baby ‘Kittusha,’ and again called her ‘my own’ and ‘deary’.
Eventually all but Malgorata went back to work. The narrow pavement of the long street, right and left, was now full of disorderly heaps of old timber, rusty steel pipes, bricks, slabs and other building material, greasy batteries and other spare auto-parts, old mangles, hoists and copper-boilers, rusty garden tools, old furniture, pieces of carpet, rugs and kitchen utensils of all sorts, speckled mirrors, washbasins and toilet bowls, showerheads, sinks, taps, disjointed windows, doors and mosquito nets, broken crockery, kettles, pots and pans, coffee-machines, pressure cookers, radios, pick-ups, electrical appliances, as well as broken branches of dead or recently felled trees, all kinds of shrubs, flower pots and countless other things.
In the afternoon, the building of these heaps had not yet been completed and already some small vans and station-waggons were cruising along in search of discarded ‘treasures’; they were seen suddenly pulling up, here and there, to take away some of those precious articles, and then driving on, the drivers’ eyes always on the heaps on the pavements.
‘Shall we go back to the garden now and have a well-deserved rest?’ Manuel suggested.
‘That’s a great idea,’ Galvao answered.
‘Nino’s been tidying the place for us,’ Manuel added, as the two were joined by Malgorata, who was stll wearing her big sunglasses.
The Sicilian had in fact been raking the ground in the backyard, where most of the lumber had previously been, and blades of fresh grass were showing on the black, recently watered soil. Two pelargonium plants, one on each side, just by the fences which separated the property from the neighbours’ yards, equally seemed to have taken on a new lease of life and were full of previosly unseen red and white flowers. The yard also contained a small gumtree, and the big boy was under it, trying to protect himself from the sun, which just at that moment was very fierce. Everyone congratulated him for a job well done, but he remained with his chin tucked in and his lips pouting, just uttering a grunt of recognition.
‘Now, Nino!’ Manuel uttered in a rather shrill cry. ‘Take your hands out of your pockets, and help me bring out some chairs.’
Chairs and a table were brought out, everybody collaborating; as well as a large beach-umbrella, which Luis got out of the garden shed. Then everybody sat down but Manuel, who stood, rubbing his hands together. He asked the company (but with his eyes fixed on Galvao) what they would like to drink.
‘Cocoa for me,’ Luis said, mockingly.
‘Do you, really?’ Manuel asked, somewhat taken aback. ‘Oh dear, wouldn’t you rather have cold beer, that sort of thing?’ He really looked worried now.
‘I’m very fond of cocoa,’ Luis rejoined. ‘Besides, I want to try that cake you were baking last night.’
Manuel looked flushed and quite embarrassed. He had never understood his friend’s strange sense of humour. He glanced at Big Nino. A ray of sun was hitting him straight on the face, and he held out his right hand towards the disk of the sun. ‘Okay!’ he asked Nino. ‘And you?’
‘Cocoa, too,’ replied the fat boy.
‘Nino!’ Manuel exclaimed in utter amazement. ‘Don’t you want ginger beer? You used to like ginger beer. I know you love it, and I bought a fresh bottle for you only yesterday.’
‘No, cocoa,’ replied Nino, his face becoming red like a tomato.
‘Of course, he doesn’t want ginger beer,’ Luis intervened, visibly enjoying himself. ‘Warm cocoa in the evening, isn’t it? And a piece of…’
‘I won’t have it!’ Manuel cut him short. He flew into a rage. ‘I know what is best for Nino, and you aren’t to interfere.’
Whereupon, Nino stood up and, with his hands stubbornly in his pockets, took a few steps backwards silently looking on the ground. Only that swollen under-lip of his was moving.
‘Nino!’ Manuel shrieked.
But the young man would not budge. Manuel stood up, grabbed him by the arm, and brought him back to his chair. ‘Well,’ he said, devastated, ‘cocoa it will be for all of us!’ and he went away, without caring to ask any more. As he was near the kitchen, however, he turned round and added in much humility. ‘All right, Nino, it was wrong for me to shout, but be an obedient boy.’ And he went into the house.
The night was drawing on. For some minutes the sky was of a beautiful crimson red, and the reflection of an unseen setting sun could be detected on the walls and roofs of sheds and outside toilets and on the top leaves of the gumtree. There was not a whiff of wind, and almost no noise was heard, not even people’s calls or the usual jackdaw cry. Only from time to time the shouts of an isolated drunkard were heard, followed by the barking of dogs.
Luis was looking at his friend as he arrived back from the house, carrying a big tray with mugs and saucers and a large cake complete with icing and a little plastic Father Christmas and crinkly paper-wrapping all around the base.
‘Luis dear, have the goodness of not looking at me so, today of all days.’
‘Well, you can see why. I know I must look like a scarecrow. Stained, sweaty, haggard-looking and uncombed,’ Manuel reasoned. He had left the tray on the table and went in for the hot cocoa. Then he sat down, carefully passing the palm of one hand over his uncommonly tousled hair.
‘May I serve you a piece of cake?’ asked Malgorata, knife in hand, taking off the plastic and paper decorations. She was looking at Manuel.
‘Not necessarily me. I can wait, absolutely.’
There followed a moment of great movement, during which the cake was being cut and served. Manuel, producing a new golden packet of ‘Benson & Hedges’, took out a cigarette and began to smoke, after first having offered the packet to the others, who all refused.
‘Later!’ he said to Luis, who was passing on the plates with pieces of cake. ‘Sure you don’t want to smoke?’ He looked somehow very disappointed.
‘No, thanks,’ Luis replied, ‘I’m enjoying this too much.’ He slowly rolled the cocoa around in his mug, emptied it, and dried his lips with a paper serviette.
Meanwhile Nino was tackling the Christmas cake with obvious relish and Manuel, who noticed it, said, raising his voice once more:
‘Stop it, Nino!’ He rapped his boyfriend’s fingers and went on in a softer tone: ‘’Okay, if you want to keep on adding stones to your weight, go on. I shan’t care.’
‘May I serve you a piece now?’ Malgorata asked in an attempt to mollify Manuel.
‘No, thank you,’ he replied, and, looking at Luis: ‘But if anybody else wants to repeat, don’t let me discourage you.’
‘Thanks ever so much,’ Luis said with a smile.
Malgorata had gone into the kitchen and come back with the pussycat, which she now caressed on her lap. ‘D’you still work with your father in the shop?’ Malgorata asked Nino, just in order to start a conversation, for she knew perfectly well that he did.
The young man again blushed to the roots of his hair, and said in a low voice: ‘Yes, ma’am.’
‘Work in the shop!’ Manuel put in with a frown. ‘If you can call that work. Slavery would be a better term, absolutely. He treats my Nino as a servant, he does. Now,’ (turning to the big boy and dropping his voice into a whisper,) ‘roll your cocoa about in the mug, as you’ve seen Luis doing; otherwise you’ll leave all the sugar in the bottom.’
At that they noticed they were being observed by strangers. The fence separating them from the garden on the left was made of tall wooden palings, held together by two long transversely nailed beams. Four red-haired children were now perched on the top beam, watching. Luis stood up and drew near the fence, followed by Malgorata, who had the cat in her arms.
‘Oo, a peety pussy!’ mumbled the smallest of the children, a girl. ‘Lemme ooch ‘im.’
‘It’s a she,’ answered Malgorata, lifting the cat, over the fence.
One of the boys, the eldest, put in: ‘Olly wans the boofull lidy to sing.’
‘And who may Holly be?’ Galvao asked.
Three of them, all boys, immediately pointed to the little girl. ‘She is.’
‘What d’you want me to sing, deary?’ Malgorata inquired.
‘Dunno,’ the little girl replied, blushing.
‘Loike this mornin’,’ one of the boys uttered, ‘please.’
Malgorata left the cat on her chair and sang for a minute or two a Ukrainian ditty, and then asked: ‘Was that it ?’
The girl nodded in silence, and another of her brothers said: ‘I’s asked Santa to brin’ me a violin.’
‘And d’you think he’ll bring it to you?’
‘Oi dunno,’ he answered. And the other three giggled.
‘Santa won’t, ‘cos he’s naughty,’ said the eldest boy, and the third one added: ‘Mum syse as he’s a bad’un.’
At that they all heard the mother in the kitchen chanting out: ‘Wee Willy Winky’s a-coming, the children should be in bed!’ And the four little persons scrambled down the paling and stampeded into the house.
When Luis and Malgorata turned round, they saw the other two were no longer there. Malgorata put out her hand to Luis, who grasped it as they went into the house, where she left the pussycat in a basket, which she had prepared that afternoon. They entered the bedroom hand in hand. She was all joy and sweetness. He kissed her. She threw her arms around his shoulders, and both expressed confidence in the future together, wherever they lived.
‘Close your eyes for a moment, I’ve a surprise for you,’ she said, drawing away.
‘Why, a Christmas present?’
‘You just close your eyes,’ she replied. ‘Wait!’ she exclaimed.
She stripped herself naked, and put on a night-gown of transparent muslin with some slight tint, like a morning sky. Her slim yet shapely figure looked ever so attractive, under the soft nearly transparent blue, so much in accord with those bewitching eyes of perfect reverie! You can open them now (he thought he had heard.) He saw a most exceptional woman, inviting him to lie the night on their common bed of love.
… that summernight, near the canal when I caught her in my arms. My love, I’ll worship you! Forever you’ll be mine!’ When I said I would come back to you, my sweet Solveig, I wanted to... and it was you who came!
… my love! if you hadn’t come to Madrid! I didn’t know what to do with my life. We believed then in a revolution which never came. We were betrayed and fell under the boot of fascism. Smashed! Oh Margaret, it wasn’t my fault!
In their bed of love she had fallen asleep in his arms, but the two bodies were linked together for a long time. Luis was holding Malgorata’s head, the gorgeous golden curls in the palms of his hands, kissing her again and again, her lovely face and her exceptional attractive eyes, which were tightly closed. Some hours passed but he could not follow suit. He became convinced he would not go to sleep at all. At four o’clock he heard the usual shrill cry of the yellow-beaked jackdaws, which in summer nestled in a hole under the roof. Dawn was approaching. He heard the two of them, just above the window, and he heard the engine of a lorry coming, stopping every few minutes, and he heard the shouts of the dustmen flinging the chunks of lumber and other stuff, quite noisily, into the immense surplus-lorry
‘Now, make haste!’
‘Ye hurry up, ye bastard!’
They were outside the house, and the noise and agitation became unbearable. Once more he heard the engine setting off, the banging of many objects on the lorry, more shouts, but a little farther away. It all was happening in the street, but the voices and noise were getting in his brain, making him nervous. The shouts and the thump of objects falling soon became less offensive. Just a moment later, there was a stop, silence for a minute; but he heard the engine once more, and again the voices, the banging, but all the time less pronounced. First a little bit farther away up the street. Then towards the end of Harris Street, the way to Broadway. And, once more, the jackdaws. And for a long time, it seemed to him, that thoroughly offensive penetration of the noise still in his brain: the same order of things altering his thoughts, the voices, the banging, the birds. Only the engine was heard in the distance, like in a dream. The birds were silent; having gone perhaps in search of early worms to feed their little ones with. Even in his mind fainter and fainter… all the time… all becoming less precise: weaker bangings as if people were playing, not loading or discharging; weaker voices, in the distance… and all turning more melodious, like something… perhaps a Spanish ditty? Had he gone back to Madrid?
He offered to write a poem to her beauty, it was joy to look at her, he said. He had been dictating an opinion and some letters. And then, when she had gone he could not write at all: he needed remembrances of thing past. Tears, because he had lost her. Happiness, when he remembered nights passed, their love.
Happiness comes and disappears, as breezes come and go. And Luis Galvao knows: ‘I will end up falling over a cliff. There came a day when I never saw your young blue eyes again, or if I saw them in my dreams, they were full of tears and I had seen them smiling. Awakened I saw I’d lost you.
‘Harris Street, Ultimo. A slender girl so beautiful. A sudden violent storm of passion. Accompanied sometimes with tears. The fear that the monster will come and take her away into the desert. Oh, no! It won’t happen this time. Faithful heart, rejoice. I’ve had news he’s been taken into a most recondite country.
Luis Galvao was in his new office, back like other mornings. Some time writing law, sometimes sitting at his desk, and on her chair Maureen. He was at times holding pen and paper in his hands. “To a Fair Girl” .
It was an established rule in big firms, and specially law partnerships, that every member of the staff would enjoy the benefit of a day-off (between the tenth and twentieth December) so as to be able to buy Christmas presents at leisure, and it was a joy to see during those days so many people in the streets glowing with happiness, each one of them on a shopping spree. So, one day, Luis Galvao, instead of going to Caltex House to work, went shopping. He had his breakfast together with Malgorata, and they went out together, walking on Harris Street up to the Regent Street corner with Broadway. The large departmental store Grace Brothers was there: an ugly, massive dark-brick building which, however, was much appreciated by shoppers all year round. There were six spacious lifts, but they preferred to utilise the escalator, both being decidedly for innovation. On the escalator they rose to the third floor, Women’s Wear.
Luis had decided, before embarking upon the Christmas shopping spree, to buy a fashionable swimsuit for his lover. The idea was to give the present only on the given day, under the Christmas Tree; then he hesitated, an old swimsuit (which he was to borrow unobserved) would not do, for measuring, and he ended taking the woman with him, but saying that only he was to chose. In fact an hour ago, in the communal kitchen, they had had a discussion on the subject and she got a little annoyed; she did not conceive of a Christmas present which was not kept a present until the exact day. He declared he did not care; all he wanted was to have his angel beautifully apparelled. She smilled. Would he mind to respect christian traditions?
But he was adamant; and the two were now looking through the piles with the help of a nice assistant. They first chose six beautiful articles to try on, which Luis thought were too many (he had already made up his mind on the subject.) She entered the fitting-room, and he squeezed in right behind her: a small cubicle with walls covered with mirrors. And if Malgorata was an enchanting female when dressed, in the nude she was divine, having become these last few days a most charming slender young woman with the jogging they both did together before supper and so much swimming, which also helped her mentally: her depression had now gone.
Luis once more insisted. He would help her to try on the chosen items. And in the end it was he who chose the desired garment, as he had planned in his mind. It was the one he chose at the beginning.
In the street, later on, they continued their stroll, turning into George Street, full as always with the shopping crowds; but now specially, with the glorious summer weather, all was light and colour: very noisy children everywhere, wearing rubber thongs, and some even running about barefoot.
A great mass of humanity surging along the footpaths and entering and coming out of shops and department stores, wealthy abundance: the sun, which was torrid, but friendly. It meant light and did not trouble them at all, as they walked along under the steel-and-plaster overhanging, following the multitude towards Circular Quay.
And Malgorata suggested: ‘Now, let’s go to Manly on the ferry.’
‘What are we going to do there?’ asked Luis, pleasantly surprised to see a pretty Malgorata full of enthusiasm, glaring in the sun of a big plaza full of double-decker buses coming and going. Leaving the bus-stop, they strode among the concrete columns under the highway and boarded the ferryboat to Manly, a little peninsula on the north shore of the bay, where the waters of the ocean entered the harbour. She had not been in Manly for three years, and the ferryboat trip already constituted for her a treat, as she explained to him during the journey, both leaning on the railing on the deck, contemplating all the way those wonderful districts on the northern shore; Neutral Bay, Toronga Park, Balmoral; then, coming nearly out into the open sea as they were reaching the town of Manly, when the crowded ferry actually began rocking, with the tide.
They had a meal in an Italian restaurant generously washed down with delicious South Australian wine. A walk on the promenade came next, facing the little harbour beach, with its shark net. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the fairground, where Malgorata rode on the horses of the merry-go-round, listening to music by the Beatles, and other modern hits. Away from the rocking horses and the rock music, they sat under a twisted gum-tree on a stone bench, near a round-about for young children, with little cars and other tiny vehicles. The owner of establishment was standing nearby. The pick-up was playing a Scottish ditty “These hills are not the hills of my youth!”
They had a hectic day and as they reached the promenade evening was drawing on. Malgorata sat on a bench, holding up her skirt, and Luis followed suit, laying meditatively his palm on her knee: the evening star was already twinkling over the horizon. And watching the wonderful spectacle of the waves rolling in on the deserted beach he stayed put for a while.
‘Let the day-commuters rush back to the city: we’ll catch a ferry later on,’ Luis said.
Night came on with some precipitation, as always happpened in those latitudes, and the sky began to be filled with stars. The moon was still not up, and the twinkling stars of many different sizes and grades of intensity reminded Luis Galvao of the old country, the north-central plateau known overthere as ‘Tierra de Campos,’ or land of many small agricultural properties.
‘On summer nights,’ he went on. ‘I always looked for an isolated spot somewhere and watched the stars. It was the first notion I ever got of the Infinite. Nothing before my small presence but an awfully large firmament, full of stars.’
‘I also like to watch the stars on clear nights.’
‘Like eyes gazing at us from outer space, and where did that end? Tell me, Malgorata, what does all this mean to you, this infinite number of stars… celestial bodies, ageless coordinated matter in boundless space?’
‘Oh, no!’ she replied, caressing him. ‘You first, tell me. I know you want to.’
He took sometime to answer. ‘Why, it fills me with awe,’ he said. ‘I suppose. It shows how irrelevant, I mean, how impossible it is to try and comprehend… well, anything,” he paused. ‘To hope that one could grasp, with one’s tiny brain, what is in fact infinite matter! At the same time,’ (gazing at the sky) ‘it gives me some comfort.’
‘Comfort, what d’you mean?’
‘I feel reconciled with myself, you see. Such awful immensity up there! I can say to myself: Oh, man cool it, don’t worry! what does it matter anyhow!’
‘What on earth am I worrying about? Work, hopes, conquests, defeats…, to have to withstand the contempt of others, to be ignored. Their laughs, insults, scorn… all this nonsense. But please, let us go back to the subject. Now you tell me,’ (glancing at the stars again), ‘what does this vast spectacle mean for you?’
‘Music,’ she answered very swiftly.
‘I thought so. How lucky you are. You have your violin. That’s a thing I’ve always tried to possess, art. Poetry, which “gracia no quiso darme el Cielo!” It doesn’t come to me naturally. I cannot but admire you, in consequence, my angel.’
She kissed him on the lips, but he went on with a mind not to change the subject.
‘Tell me, what’s your favourite piece of music?’’
‘Listen to the sigh of the wind,’ Malgorata said in a low mysterious voice. ‘I think it was Debussy who said, “C’est des vagues pour moi la musique”’
‘You haven’t answered my question.’
‘I was going to. Well, Chaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, definitely.’
‘Like the waves coming forth from afar…, that is how it starts: the sound of a number of violins approaching… very slowly. An instant of passion unfolding. That is what pathetic means, passion… not despair. Oh, yes, like the sound of this billowing, that is how it should start! When I was playing it, I often cried. Its music still vibrates in my memory, though I haven’t played it for years. Now, darling Luis! look at the rolling waves approaching!’ she said like in a trance. ‘The tempest of a passion, that is it! sad and poetic and full of surprises… and a sudden change of mood with the appearance of the bassoon, like a premonition of something hard to come… hard not yet evil. You see, Luis, something rearing from the depths of the ocean… like the thunder grumbling behind the driving wind.’
Her eyes were curiously glistening and her voice quavered as she went on: ‘When all the rest is gone, there will always be that remembrance.’
‘Come,’ he said, offering his two hands. And they began to move towards the jetty of the ferryboats. She was holding onto his arm, the left one, and on her own left arm was carrying the bag with the things bought in Grace Brothers that morning.
On Christmas Eve, both feeling not unexpectedly homesick, the evening approaching, the idea came to them both simultaneously that they would not celebrate and would drive instead towards the ocean, which they did, along the south coast of the bay, where they had gone many times. They parked the Holden on a cliff, near the South Head, and clambered down a narrow path onto a small beach on the side the harbour called Parsley Bay. Once settled on the sands, gazing up, they saw the rich mansions on the cliff, so many Men of Property, celebrating with great solemnity and fervour the birth of Baby Jesus, and felt sorry at bottom to be alone. They were indeed, thought Galvao, a very gloomy couple of New Australians. The setting sun was now withdrawing its shiny mantle from the left side of the beach; but the weather was hot and sultry. Having carted down from the car a hamper-basket and an ice-box they had their solitary meal, there was no one else on the sands.
Some dark unfriendly clouds where cruising overhead as they lay down, near but not really close together. She heard some music, floating from on high. ‘A Christmas Carol, Luis, can you hear it?’ No reply: for the last few minutes he had been looking absent-mindeddly at a passing cloud, dark indeed (he thought) but not threatening.
… he fell into a reverie: the old country, those ‘Navidades’, the postwar, the hunger, the cold winters, that big wireless his father bought for the ‘Fiestas’ then; and in particular the night when he thought he might one day become a writer.
… he remembered that in particular. The day he heard ‘A Christmas Carol’ on the radio. He sought for that book afterwards in the public library. He was all the time reading. If he could one day become famous, like that Englishman, Carlos Dickens.
… for he felt that weariness which sprang from the knowledge that the more he advanced in the Law, the more he would forget the aim he had felt that Christmas Eve in Madrid so long ago. Oh, to write one day a long epical novel!
‘Luis!’ he heard Malgorata say. ‘Let’s go for a swim’.
He stood up and followed her. She looked gorgeous in the swimsuit he had wanted her to have that day when they went on a shopping spree in the city. Indeed, her beauty had been haunting him ever since. In that glowing one-piece swimsuit, so well-adjusted to her suntanned body, her short head of hair, blond and wavy, and that pretty rosy face of hers. Oh! divine perfection of a woman.
Conscious of the fascination she aroused in her lover, she came forward, putting out one hand, which he took, and the two entered the water together, still holding hands. They swam very slowly the whole length of the narrow stretch of water, calm and shining; until they reached a tall barrier, made of big interlocked steel rings. Slimy black algae clung about the lower set of rings. Beyond the net, the little bay opened into the large one, and the waves came rolling, noisily.
The two remained for a while holding on to barrier. He spoke of voracious monsters coming to eat them, since it was known that part of the immense Bay was the line of passage for hungry sharks in search of food farther on, around the docks: they were actually near the two promontories called The Heads, though they could only see the north one.
Malgorata, pretty, young and wise was listening; but her thoughts were not of sharks and death, only of love. They had been living for more than two months without the husband having been seen at all, and she now felt euphoric.
… Silwya, a neighbour, married to a Ukrainian who had known Krappov back in the homecountry, had told her that the man would never be seen again in Ultimo. He was being tracked as a war-criminal by an international court of justice; he had no alternative, if he was seen in Sydney he would be captured and taken to Israel for trial and certain punishment.
While they were each involved with their own thoughts, the ocean had been swaying in from the entrance between the two promontories in bigger and mightier waves. She came nearer and resting her hand on his shoulder said: ‘If we had met in another country, say if I hadn’t escaped… why did I leave… my life… then we would be living without complications. You and me… a home… ours,’ she paused, ‘Oh dear, I don’t know what I’m saying!’ And she went back to thinking.
He kissed her little ear and whispered: ‘I love you very much!’ After a moment, he said, ‘Come, let us go back, I’m freezing’
‘Yes, let’s come out, but not yet to the sands, darling’ she answered. ‘We’ll have a look at the harbour first.’
It was now the dead of night. They paddled all the way along the safety-net and clambered up onto a narrow footpath; but, in common agreement, instead of returning to the beach went on, jumping from rock to rock, and reached an advanced rocky point where the waves alarmingly broke at their feet. They stood contemplating the scenery. Here and there they could see, in the distance, some concentrated points of light coming from the northern suburbs, beyond the immense dark surface of the harbour: clusters of houses alternating with black spaces which obviously were parks or forests. Luis went further on, while his girlfriend stepped aside, looking for a patch of grass where to sit without ruining her new precious swimsuit.
A speck of light was seen, in the distance, which seemed to be a vessel coming from Manly, in the north-east. After a few more minutes, the ‘speck’ showed to be a ferryboat in great exhuberance of light and colour. ‘This cannot be a ferry on the regular ferry service,’ he thought, ‘it’s half past one.’
He soon understood what was happening. At Christmastime the maritime company used to let for the day some of its ferries to prosperous industrialists and the like. The economy was growing at full speed in Australia then. There was on one side of the ship the traditional seasonal message: “HAPPY CHRISTMAS”, made out with little coloured-bulbs, and all around there were festoons with other decorations and lights. People were strolling on the main deck and on the upper one, under a large canopy, couples seemed to be dancing.
Luis Galvao sat on the rock, looking. There streamed forth from the boat from time to time, over the tumult of the waves, the sound of music.
‘Oh, my darling! You made me love you! I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t want to do it’
… like in a dream, that night came back to me; that end of year celebration in the Briam College where we both taught foreign languages.
… dancing with my English girl so beautiful! blonde, blue-eyed, and that pretty face; all but her nose, which I would have liked pointed, nordic.
… Don Roberto, the headmaster, liked to celebrate ‘Nochevieja’ with teachers and staff, with all solemnity, in one of the more spacious classrooms.
… afterwards, we went with the Madrileños to the Puerta del Sol, the two of us, to swallow the twelve grapes welcoming 1956 in. The riots in Madrid, and I lost you.
‘What’s up with you?’ Luis heard Margorata call. ‘I’m here alone. Oh, Luis, come!’
He came back and sat down beside her: ‘Luis, my darling, tell me, have you loved many women in your life… I mean, before you met me?’
‘I’ve only loved one woman,’ he replied, ‘until I met you.’
‘How did she look?’ she asked resting her hands on the grass, bending her head back, that little pointed nose of hers, which he kissed.
‘Actually, very much like you. I think I’ve already told you,’ Luis said. ‘Only a bit… well, a tiny little bit more weight.’
‘You find me too thin, do you?’ she said cajolingly, ‘tell me, for I shall eat and eat to put on weight to please you.’
‘Malgorata, darling, you’re perfect as you are,’ he said, also bending his head back.
‘No. English. Actually from Manchester. Come on, you already know about her.
They saw the firmament turning little by little pitch black, but no notion of danger ever registered in their mind. There was a sudden gust of wind, and he saw a massive bird passing by and floating swiftly with the waves, forcing its way into the tempest.
‘The cormorant,’ Malgorata exclaimed, ‘the only bird, powerful enough to fly right into the storm.’
The rolling waves were gaining strength and several lines of revolving white foam were seen advancing and pushing back the returning waves with a splash.
Malgorata did not know that Luis had once been a revolutionary,once imprisoned in Cadiz Bay and tortured by fascism. ‘The Blue Mediterranean,’ he thought aloud.
‘Oh, I know the bird!’ he said, sitting up, and then holding her enchanting body by her waist. ‘From the narrow window of that awful castle, in Cadiz Bay, I saw the bird every morning. I watched the rising sun reflecting on the stone wall, the weedcovered rocks, the furious battering of the sea down below.’ He paused, and went on reflectively. ‘Sure enough, there it was!’ (another pause.) ‘The cormorant, you say.’
She passed her arm around his shoulder, and kissed him. ‘Sorry,’ she began, ‘I was wrong to mention it. I didn’t know it would bring you sad memories from the past.’
‘My adored girl, you didn’t know. Besides, it’s no use trying to hide the scars of life.’
They stood up and went back at full speed to the shark-net. The temperature had been going down, without either of them noticing it until then. He stopped short as they reached the flight of hardwood steps; but she did not hesitate: already with one foot on the water and the other on the bottom rung of the ladder, she turned and called him to follow her; then she dived into the now agitated sea. And he followed. The water was cold and turbulent. They had not expected to have to face the danger of an agitated sea in the narrow bay, so they kept near one another until they reached the beach, exhausted and out of breath. Making a big effort they plodded up the sands, to where they had left their belongings almost two hours before, and hugged each other with love. ‘Successful passion!’ he sighed. She pressed her svelte body against his. ‘My adored Malgorata! you’ve always been in my heart.’ They both made a solemn promise: their married life would not be a failure. ‘Oh, my pure angel!’ he exclaimed.
… it could not be otherwise, for we now were sure of one another. That pessimism, that ceaseless gloom! They had sworn they would succeed. ‘I will pay a visit to Alex,’ he thought to himself, ‘at his office, and ask about the possibility of suing for divorce, perhaps on the ground of the man having abandoned the common domicile.’
Heavy winds were threatening when they packed up and went to the side of the beach to commence the ascent to the top of the cliff. It was like a nearly vertical wall, specially at the beginning, but there was again a good flight of hardwood steps, which they climbed one after the other. Afterwards the slope was easier to tackle, and zigzagging this way and that, they marched along the long footpath, protected as they were in most places by shrubs or small trees.
Finally they reached the little lane where, ten hours before, they had parked the Holden, exhausted but very happy. They felt on arrival that they needed a rest before starting to drive back to town, and sat for one hour on the back seat of the car. Day was dawning, but at least in one of the mansions on the cliff they were still celebrating: there was noise and grand illumination. Dancing music was heard in the distance.
‘Happy Christmas!’ he said, kissing her, ‘my adored Malgorata.’
‘A merry life I also wish for both of us,’ she murmured, ‘ the two together. Eternally!’
When they began the drive back upon New South Head Road, all along the south coast of Sydney Bay, the weather had changed for the better, the sun had risen, a perfectly blue summer morning.