The Baby From Ayers Rock
By John Laird

Coffee For Two

The Journey To Uluru

Jim Henderson

The Lawyer

The Goldsmiths

The Doctor

The Women

The Journey To Wexford

'Somebody’s Darling'




Dedicated to Lindy Chamberlain, who endured great pain, grief and sorrow without despair; great cruelty, yet asked no revenge; suffered great humiliations without resentment; and bitter persecution, but kept the faith.

A strong and faithful woman. We have great need of such.


When the story began, it was intended to be only the story of a tragic theft, and to express in some way the regret of the main protagonist; of Jim Henderson’s lifelong defense of his daughter. That simple story would have revealed only part of his character.
  The story of his goldmine is indeed based on such a find, but in a different time and place. It is included in the story because it becomes relevant to later events; similarly the story of the lawyer is also based on such a character and is included as a catalyst, provoking other action through the story. The story of the goldsmiths also has some basis in fact, and is included simply because everyone, well almost everyone, loves gold. The good Doctor Smith is also based on such a man. He also has a determining place in bringing out the character of the Henderson’s, and Janie's ultimate perception of the realities of her obsession. Mrs. Granger clearly but only one of the thousands of girls who had their babies stolen from them under psychological pressure. The practice was well established long years both before and after we inflicted it upon our Aboriginal peoples. The simple purpose is to show that such events are common enough in the human story, even as they are implicit in the known evidence of this extraordinary saga. Could this have been the real story? So many people believed the child to have been stolen.

Some may well ask, “What about the lunatic fringe?” Not the critics, but the smart people, hoping for some notoriety, to get their pictures in the papers by claiming to be the baby, who would now be a young woman.

Like the Elvis lookalikes; the old Russian princess thing; bound to be some of these over the years. That risk has been considered, and I must say, that though some foolish child might some day be tempted, there is now, in genetic testing, infallible proof of relationship. So, sorry girls, there is absolutely no hope, so don’t try it on, please, for your own sake.

That I have written of a woman bereaved and deeply hurt, yet living a life of joy and love with a stolen child, should surprise no one who has ever felt the fire and the glow of love. Many will say of Jim Henderson, that he should have restrained her; those of us who have been in that place where it is ‘them’ or my child, will understand his deep distress, his long conflict with conscience; dying was the only shelter for his guilty spirit; but love was his reward. As for Janie, her own grief obscured and veiled her guilt; and her joy in the gift of the gods was her justification, yet in the end the scales were balanced for her, as they must be sooner or later for all.

Some will question my use of the artifact of Fate. It does not conform with today’s materialism; but who can deny the fate which directed, drove and guided David Brett from his home in England across the world; across the Great Dividing Ranges, and across the relentless Simpson Desert, on foot, grossly ill-equipped, and where many better men have perished, to that special and significant place at Ayres Rock, where his death initiated a vindication of the Chamberlain’s. We must ask not only what so drove him, guided him, but why.

This was fate indeed. The thing confounds us. The interaction of life within life is an imponderable mystery. It works upon us all for good and ill, and none can deny it. The soulless intellectualism that is nurtured in the materialism of today has little to do with the realities of existence. The attitude is a product of the hubris of wealth. In the widespread poverty of the world is a clearer understanding of the realities of life.

It is with such reality that the story deals. Most readers will relate to their own experience of life before dismissing the travail of the Chamberlain family, of Janice Henderson and her father, the fated journey of David Brett.

For my own satisfaction, I repeat, this is a story; I have worked to make it a good story; some will find it convincing and will wonder. I am one of the many who, at the time, were convinced that the baby had been stolen, and have wondered ever since.

The trackers traced thus far very clearly, then the track disappeared; the only conclusion was that someone had taken the child from the dingo at that point. In the confusion of the ensuing few minutes escape was simple for someone such as Jim Henderson who had just arrived and had not yet booked into the camp; no one would miss them, no one knew they were there; the fate which has driven them from the beginning would surely guide them now. Thus it was.

As for the official story, that is an infinitely more complex matter. It will be the story of a protracted police investigation of an alleged crime; a crime that was never committed; a story of faulted scientific work; of grave legal inconsistencies. How otherwise can we judge the determined rejection of the eyewitnesses evidence, the patently fallacious ‘scientific’ evidence; the nonsense on the nature and capacity of dingos? This, in the eyes of all who know the animals, to be wrong to the point of absurdity.

Rarely has an Australian jury been so grossly misinformed, and if these events are ever so examined some attention must surely be devoted to what seems to many people to have been political pressure to secure a conviction at whatever cost. These several features of the trial should be subject to serious study, if only to show how easily justice can be perverted, how the media; once, well within living memory, accepted as being ‘the watchdog of public morality’, can prejudge, and mercilessly exploit both evidence and character; and as in this case, destroy a character and ruin a family, however strong, however innocent.

The victim, in this landmark case has had to seek safe haven elsewhere. No refuge here.

So, this is the story of the baby, told as a fiction, but with the hope that those with eyes to see will read it with a greater understanding than the media gave to the tragic Mother.

It well may be, in a year or so, perhaps after the turn of the millennium, when the computer crisis has exhausted it’s ignominies upon us, and the planes are flying again, that there will be the opportunity for yet another story. That well may be the story of Julieanne and her child, and their ‘Journey to Damascus’, and of Janice Henderson’s full salvation, in her renunciation of the child.

Since the above was written, In the week about April 6, 1998, a baby was stolen by a dingo on Fraser Island. So much for the ‘scientific’ evidence demonstrated to the jury to ‘prove’ that a dingo could not carry a baby away.
The brutes can, and do. The child taken on Fraser Island was larger and heavier than Azaria. The father ran the dingo down and saved his child from a terrible death. Had the animal disappeared with the child the unfortunate parents could well have found themselves suffering the same wretched perversion of justice as inflicted on the Chamberlain family.

For a full account of David Brett and his fateful journey across the world to that place and time see ‘Azaria’ by Richard Shears, published by Hutchinson, Sydney.

Those not informed of the terrible ordeal of Lindy Chamberlain and her family, may care to read ‘Through my Eyes’, Lindy’s own story, published by Heinemann's Pty, Sydney.


Coffee For Two

My first meeting with the man I shall hereafter call Jim, was in the Coast Roast Coffee Shop in Cairns. I like to holiday in Cairns. I like the tropical flavour, and this time I was keen to look through the Casino. Very impressive when you think of it’s purpose. A far cry from the Pakapoo dens of old Chinatown. I also like the Coast Roast - an excellent range of coffees - spotless - delightful aroma - good quality music, and this, thank god, presented quietly. I guess it was coffee time at the local offices, for as I read, the place filled up, and I became aware of this chap. Obviously looking for a seat. With three seats unoccupied at the table there was nothing for it but to say ‘be my guest’.
He muttered the obligatory ‘thanks’, sat down and looked at me, and I at him. He could have been my brother. In his late 70’s I guessed, same long face, similar sun proof eyes, very few of our generation need sunglasses, a modern fad; same white hair, short back and sides, and thinning on top. We both walked with a limp, I later noticed, his an old war injury, mine from a disastrous car accident, and both now compounded with arthritis.

Both of us with telltale work worn hands; his with the strength that comes from long years of work with an axe, the firmness from long years at the control ends of a bridle; in my case some years of mixed affection for a hammer, and the handles of a wheelbarrow, for since I retired I have put in several years of easygoing labouring for a builder son. We were both old men, wear and tear of life plainly visible, both lonely, and both glad of the chance of a yarn and a bit of congenial company.

From that first chance meeting - chance? I now doubt that, the rest of this story followed.

I had Sara Henderson’s ‘From Strength to Strength’ on the table.

“I see you read well,” he said.

“Yes, you’ve read it?”

“Oh yes. She’s a good one that. She and her girls. I’ve known several fellows like Dick. They can’t manage themselves at all. I’ve been over Bullo. Took a mob out of Victoria Downs that way. That Nor-west corner was pretty dangerous when I was a kid. But that was well before they settled in. I preferred the Queensland side of the country. You a stockman?”

“No. I did a bit of work outback before I married. My girl was a squatters daughter. She said, if I wanted her I’d have to get a job in town. She’d had it farming. As you’ll know it was a pretty rough life if you weren’t rich, so that was it. I went to town with her. She was well satisfied, but her old man used to say he was never able to get a hired hand to work as well.”

“I love the country still,” he said, “But haven’t been on a horse since the War. Wrecked me for hard work. Until then it was my job, and I loved it. Been droving since I was a kid.”

“Did you know Kidman?” he asked.

I smiled at the artless link, kid - Kidman.

“No, never met him. Read a bit about him, Ion Idriess, mainly.”

“You mean Jack Idriess, yes I knew him too; I worked for Kidman a bit. I liked him. A very decent chap. Didn’t drink, never lost his temper, never swore, and a mind as big as Australia. A lot of young blokes looked up to him.”

So we rambled on; war years, we both have done our bit, but mainly that wonderful outback country that he loved. The people out there, and the Depression, and the way we coped; that made an indelible impression on the minds of most of our generation.

I noticed that he drank his tea black, no sugar, a Depression habit.

Then my friend arrived. I spotted him in the doorway, looking around.

“Sorry, I must be going,” I said, and uttered the fatuous, “See you round.”

“Good luck, take care,” he said.

That was our first meeting. Nothing to it.

A couple of days later I was on the plane to Sydney. I saw him in the concourse, and again on the plane. I am sure he did not see me. He left the plane at Brisbane. Once is chance, twice is coincidence.

A week or so later I met him in The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. I was having a few days with my daughter and had not long arrived in town.

“Hullo - hullo.” he greeted me.

“Fancy meeting you again.”

I thought, twice is coincidence. Three times?

“Well you get around a bit yourself,” I countered, “Had a cuppa yet.” It was well into the morning. “I’m meeting my son at the Centrepoint Restaurant at twelve. What about a cuppa, and lunch with us?”

Once again I had seen the loneliness on his face, and he was, as I was, clearly tired. Later I was to learn that like me he was widowed, and that’s the worst loneliness. He brightened up a lot, “Yes, thanks, I’d be glad of a break.”

So we walked through the rush of the heart of Sydney through that very sensible subway, to the restaurant below the Tower. I always eat here when in Sydney. A wide choice always available, and cosy alcoves ensure reasonable privacy. An excellent atmosphere. I usually have a beer, but remembered the Kidman influence, and settled for coffee. He had his pot of the black; no sugar, real camp cooking. When I was outback there was usually a tin of condensed milk. A very old favourite.

As we settled in, I remarked, openly curious, “Surely you’re not selling still, not at your age - our age,” I amended at a look on his face.

“What makes you think that.”

“Well,” I replied, “Perhaps I didn’t think, but meeting you in Cairns, and you left the plane at Brissy, and now I meet you in Sydney CBD. You’re bound to be selling.”

“Look,” he said, “I reckon you’re all right. Look at these little beauties.” And digging into his waistcoat pocket, yes, I had noticed the waistcoat, an old fashioned one, none of your Andy Denton glamour, he laid his closed fist on the table, opened his fingers, and there in the palm of his hand, three beautiful gold nuggets; small but well chosen, beautiful.

“Good god,” I exclaimed, “What little beauties.”

“Nice,” he said, rolling them over, “Well you’re right. I was selling, still selling. I’ve known the buyer in Cairns a long time; since the war; met him in New Guinea. He’s an old friend. Gives me an excuse to go up and have a few days with them. He’s no longer in the business, but he can get rid of as many of these as I let him have. Probably my last trip though. We’re both pretty old. Same in Brisbane, same here. I never have any trouble getting rid of them. Tourists love ‘em, same as I do.”

I saw the look on his face, which I’m pretty sure is shared by gold lovers all over the world. It was plain on my face just then. I picked up one of those lovely little nuggets. The smoothness, shaped in a million years of rolling down some ancient riverbed, you can sense the time; the colour; the strange weight. All the magic of gold flooded through my mind. How well I know it. How deep the love. How strangely the lust for gold has shaped us.

Whether it be that beautiful gold coronet of Nefertiti, or the deathmask of Agamemnon, or the beautiful pebbles in my hand, the fascination is immediate. I dropped the nuggets back into his hand, and looked up into his face. He nodded slightly “I see you know about gold,” he said, “Like to hear a story?”

“Yes indeed. Couldn’t be otherwise.”

So, in the cool of the restaurant, with Sydney steaming overhead, he told me a tale of work, of dreams, of ceaseless search, and at last the intervention of Lady Luck in the finding of his personal El Dorado.

As he traveled hundreds, thousands of miles every year while driving for Kidman and others, it was always with eyes open for hints, signs of the golden prize. As with thousands of others, he had his copy of ‘Prospecting for Gold’, Idriess’s book, commissioned by the Government, well read by thousands, and the talk round countless campfires. The book, as it was intended, kept thousands on the alert for sign of the precious metal. His ‘luck’ came, not in dreaming, but from hard work, and as a reward almost, for a simple decent act.

Dingos had disturbed a mob one night and there was a breakaway. He was sent out after the bunch, but those cattle had purposes of their own. Dawn came, and morning. He was miles from the herd, when, beside a clump of mulga he found the pathetic remains of a swaggie. Little more than a skeleton, the dry bones scattered about with a few bits of clothing; a rusted old billy, a belt, a boot, the prospectors shovel and panning dish. There was nothing to identify the fellow. During the Depression there were many such sad little finds outback. There’s not much left of a man when the others have finished with him. It’s a harsh country for new chums; suicide to go on your own. Still that way.

He dug the grave with the mans own short handled shovel. Four feet below the gibber strewn surface, he dug into gold. Alluvial gold. Gold in plenty. The sands were full of colour. Lady Luck had led him to an ancient river bed, and there was gold all around. What a fate he thought, to be buried penniless with the wealth of kings about him.

He made a tight circle round the cattle to head them back to the mob, and was careful to set up marks for the future location of his El Dorado. He did better than Lassiter, for his marks were reliable, and the find kept him in a simple luxury which he enjoyed for the rest of his life.

Every now and then he would drive out, park the car in a patch of dense scrub, hump his bluey over the last couple of miles, and spend a week or so sifting through the rich gravels and sands, raking out the ancient crevices. Then covering over all traces, careful at all times to preserve his secret. He never had any trouble selling. Alluvial nuggets are a dwindling asset always eagerly sought after.

“I’ve only worked a chain or so of that bonanza. No idea of the size of the field; could be just a rich little pocket; I just don’t know. I’ve always been content with enough; never wanted to be filthy rich. I make a few bob on the Stock Exchange, and with these we’ve got plenty. I’ve let my daughter into the secret; I know she’ll look after it.”

“What would you get for one of these?” I asked.

“They would weigh them up, of course, but roughly two to three hundred this size. The tourists pay more, and when I get a really good one there’s always the collectors.”

“I’d like to have one; want to sell?”

“Would you? Well two hundred flat. No cheques. Cash. Take your pick.”

So I took my pick; had the money with me, and have that lovely nugget still.

By then the place was filling up, and sure enough, my son appeared and found us. I started to introduce them, and realized that I did not know his name.

So, I said to the boy, “Philip, meet -? this a clear question.”

The answer was equally clear, “Jim, just call me Jim. Ships that pass in the night, you know,” and so it was.

Later, during some chat over Sara Henderson's book, my son said, “Do you know that Dad writes.”

Jim instantly perked up, “Do you?”

So I said, “Not much.”

“Published?” he asked.

The answer seemed to disappoint him, when I said, “Not that kind of writing.”

Once again the talk rambled on, the usual small chatter. I said nothing to the boy about the gold. I had a strong sense that the gold story was confidential, in spite of my elation over the nugget in my pocket. When my son stood up to go, I stood with him, but Jim detained me.

“Hang on a minute mate. You and I understand each other. I’d like to tell you something. Got the time?”

So we said goodbye to Philip, and settled down to another pot of tea, black, no sugar, and a good coffee. He started in right away. A typical Australian trait.

“I’ve been trying to write something since Christmas.” he said “Do you know the Chamberlain story?”

“Oh, yes, Lindy and the dingo.”

“That’s right, Mrs. Chamberlain and the dingo,” he corrected me.

I later realized that he had a strong mental bloc against using Lindy’s name. He literally couldn’t use her christian name, and I soon realized that this fixation was very deeply entrenched. He just could not bear to speak of her in any familiar way. God knows what his inmost thoughts were. I think sometimes that he almost worships her. I know that the Chamberlain story had generated enormous polarity at the time, so I did not probe. However I was to discover deeper insights into his feelings, and into the Chamberlain saga.

He was deeply in earnest now, “Did you read the story about her in ‘The Australian’ before Christmas; that was back in December 1995.”

“I guess I did. We get the paper regularly.”

“What did you think about it?”

“Well,” hedging somewhat, “I read it but didn’t think much about it. Just another witch hunt. You know what the papers are like. Any kind of witch hunt is good enough.”

“I read it,” he said, “And I agree with the writer. It’s time something was done for that family. Listen, I can give you some very interesting information about that family. Ever since I read that item, I’ve been trying to write my side, but just can’t manage to get it right. I’m no writer.”

“So you want me to write your story for you. Sorry. Surely you can imagine what the b-----s would have to say. I wouldn’t want to stick my neck into that noose,” and mixed metaphors by adding, “And get my fingers burnt.”

He looked at me, a long moment.

“Someone's got to do it,” he said firmly, “And I think you’re my man. A reporter would be more than useless; dangerous. You know that. I want someone to say simple, plain and clear just what happened. Nothing more. No more inquiry, no questions, no nothing. Just what happened.”

“What happened. What do you mean?”

“I mean, I could settle that matter once and for all.”

“How?” I demanded.

“Look, I can’t say too much. Might have said too much already. But you can write, and I trust you. I can tell you a simple story, not a long one; all the steps laid out clear and simple; but no names, just the few facts. You don’t even know who I am; you never will. Yet we understand each other, and you could help me a lot. Do something for me that I can’t do myself.”

“It’s nothing that you couldn’t handle. Just a short story.”

He was pleading now. “Only a few pages, but it must be clear and simple, so the experts can’t twist it, and the lawyers can’t pull it to pieces, so that the people concerned are fully protected. If I go to that lawyer, or any other lawyer, they could cause untold damage. I’d be helpless in their hands. I can’t risk it. The harm they would do to my family, and Mrs. Chamberlain would be dragged through it all again. Think about it man. You’re as old as I am. How old are you, anyway?”

I told him.

“Hmm, you’re older than me. You’ve weathered well. I’m a bit younger than you, but I guess I’ll be gone first. We’ll both be gone soon, then there’ll be no one for them to hack away at.”

He stopped. It was a good effort. He was clearly deeply moved; and it was at this moment that I realized very surely why he was so strongly begging my help. He could not write; ‘Clancy and his thumb nail dipped in tar’. Perhaps his own name and not much else. Reading Idriess and Sara Henderson would have been long slow and hard work for him, as for thousands of others, even in these days of compulsory education. With thousands of other bush children in those days, myself included, we were working at five years, working like men at ten. Schooling came a poor second. We rarely noticed the loss, working in the country, but when we moved into town, I quickly felt the impact of the weakness and rectified the deficiency. I didn’t speak of it to him. Why make an issue of it?

It was clear enough, and the realization started me thinking furiously. I’ve had very little published. All my work has been reports, surveys, assessments, research for other men to use. I visualised the reception another Chamberlain story might get. A hundred Dimedenko’s. The literary fringe on the warpath; all that venom stirred up; the lawyers, the man in the street. Are there responsible journalists still?

I used to think so. But poor Lindy; poor little Darville. Just a kid making a start. I’m pretty sure that if she hadn’t won the prize, there would have been little rumpus. Many I would have vouched for stooped to pick up one of Garner’s stones.

So, I decided, then and there that I would write his story for him. It was my glimpse of that lack of schooling that converted me. Later though, I had a few serious thoughts about Fate.

He poured another cup of black tea, no sugar. I needed another coffee, but before I went for it, I looked him in the face, and told him.

“OK, Jim, I’ll do your story for you. It’ll have to be incognito. No names, no packdrill.”

“I thought, hoped you would. My thanks.”

I went for my coffee.

When I returned I said, “It’s going to be a risky business. You know what it was like before, I’m not using my name. I don’t even know yours. What if they treat the whole thing as a hoax.”

He sighed. “I don't know. Well there’s nothing more I can do. If your best’s not good enough. I don’t know. What I do know is that I will never reveal my identity. That would lose us everything we have lived for all these years. Nothing more than this; ever.”

“Well, then when I write it for you. They will say hoax.”

“As for hoax,” he said, “What do you think? Do I look like a joker. You judge. I’m happy with you.”

“And what say they throw it in the waste paper basket?”

“I don’t know.” he muttered, and it was clear that in spite of his Aussie toughness, he was close to tears.

“Cheer up,” I said, “If it’s a good story, you’ll get a publisher all right. We’ll give it a go. What’s your story?”

For answer he reached into his anti-Denton pocket, exposed those two lovely nuggets again. “Accept my thanks.” he said.

I looked at him. “You know your man.” I said with a touch of rancour.

“I think so,” he replied, “And I trust him. You can do this for me, I’m sure, and you don’t need to risk your happiness. Protect yourself from the Press, the public and the poison tongues.”

I liked the alliteration.

It was thus, and with Sydney roaring overhead, he with his black bitter tea, me with a fresh coffee, he told me the story.

I have recorded his story quite separately, as nearly as possible in his own words, though I have not ever had any opportunity to check or to verify any small point on which I may have had a doubt, for, other than the contacts reported here, I have not seen him again. I have woven a larger story around his brief account of his journey to Ayres Rock with his daughter. Almost certainly that story on it’s own would have been treated as hoax. Hopefully in this romanticised model it will have a wider readership.

Our chance; if it be a chance meeting, is but remotely related to the Chamberlain tragedy.

Other than as I have told it; and what a story. Of love and tragedy; of gentle care and devotion, a story of love deeply scarred by pain and by guilt; an enduring love sadly tempered by fear, and as he related the story I saw all that love and fear and grief in the face before me, and I was glad that I had offered to do this simple thing for him and the secure little family waiting for his return in some small back country town; or were they equally safe in the suburban anonymity of the City?

I did not take a single note. There was no need. The progression of blind obedience to what befell them, to the clear understanding of the purpose, is plain and uncluttered. In his words, they obeyed orders, so often against his better judgement.

He finished his story; and I wondered and wondered -- and wondered.

“Are you sure that I can do this for you? It’s a darn sight bigger than I imagined. It’s dynamite.”

“Yes,” he replied. “I think you will handle it. The story is simple. Keep it that way. What they do with it afterward is out of your hands. But the older I get the more I am compelled to let Mrs. Chamberlain know. I don’t want to die with this on my mind. I know that my daughter will never say a word; yet that lady had such a terrible time. She well deserves to know.”

“All right. I’ll risk it, and what about these?” I asked, exposing those beautiful nuggets in my hand. “You still happy about these?”

“Oh, yes. You happy with them?”

“Of course. Feel a bit guilty about them really.”

“Don’t. Guilt is terribly corrosive. I wonder if the same fate as used us isn’t fingering you. I can only hope that you can find a decent publisher. If you can’t, will you consider just sending the story to Mrs. Chamberlain. That lawyer would forward it on to her, I’m sure. I trust you as I trusted that Fate.”

"Well, my thanks again, I guess it’s goodbye.”

He offered his hand, shook firmly, and walked out of my life.

I watched him weaving between the tables, he never looked back. It was goodbye all right, and I confess that I felt a loss.

God knows what the end will be; I guess the lawyer he was so fearful of will have some thinking to do; and a lot of other people. Each will do his own thing, some with love, some with logic, some will hold bitterly to their own deceits. The human animal at his best and worst.

While I listened to his simple terrible story, I felt a compassion stronger than caution, a sympathy stronger than self interest.

The drama is already old. Three of the actors already dead; a woman driven so close to the edge of insanity; two others already saying unspoken farewells to friends and family; the Chamberlain’s and the hell they endured; and standing between these two families, both racked with pain and sorrow, an innocent child, her innocence threatened by the miseries of exposure to an utterly indifferent and callous public.

So, I too must remain unknown; as for those who will judge me, I can think of nothing more suitable than ‘Judge not, for you too will be judged’.


The Journey To Uluru

We simply do not care about people ‘out there’. We - I, know what happened at the Rock; we know why, and how. All I want to achieve in this statement, is to let Mrs. Chamberlain and her family know that we; my daughter and I, saved the tiny baby’s life, and that she has been loved and cared for with great devotion, and is now a lovely young woman.
Before you condemn, read how it all happened, and make no judgement until you have felt in your own life the compulsions which drove my daughter and me on our fated journey.

I am now very old; I do not wish to die with this dreadful but lovely crime on my mind. If I do not tell, that other so sorely persecuted family will never know.

I know that my daughter will never; under no circumstances ever reveal our secret, our identity; our location. Nothing ever at all. The shell of our security is fragile indeed. It could so easily be shattered. That we cannot risk, yet for me to go, to die, without letting that other family know, is but compounding the crime.

We have suffered several bad frights over this terrible threat of discovery. When that lawyer’s story appeared in The Australian, that would be December 95, the child concerned read the story in the paper and was deeply touched by the Chamberlain trial and the horrific cause; the injustices heaped on Mrs. Chamberlain; and wanted to know more, as I imagine would many of the younger generation. My daughters old fears were aroused, and she was ill with fear for days, terrified that the child would start to explore the story more thoroughly. Thankfully, other interests diverted her and the danger to our happiness faded.

What I want to make clear to everyone is that every step on our way has been controlled by someone out there, someone or something, planned to take us to that one special place on earth at that one special vital moment of time, and we believe, for that one special purpose.

Why us? Why the Chamberlains? Why, of all things a dingo? Is it because I have shot hundreds of the brutes in my time; so have other stockmen. Why, why, why? we ask, endlessly; and we look at the beautiful young woman given into our care and are answered. But why the horror of the persecution suffered by an innocent family? Why the horror of hate in so many people? Why the venom? Why the follies, the stupidities; the hounding from Government? The incident exposed a naked cruelty, an utterly ruthless cruelty in sections of the Australian media that I had never seen before, and hope never to see again.

Well, it’s exposed now in all it’s senseless folly, it’s ugly cruelty. We can only hope; I’m not a praying man, that having seen the evil, we will turn away from it.

When I go, my daughter must carry the burden alone. I can do no more than my best to protect her; but if I do not write this it will never be done, so determined is the girl to protect their peace and safety. Yet not letting the Chamberlains know that we saved her baby, as precious to them as she now is to us, is as heavy a guilt as the taking of her.

Through it all is the clear knowledge that we obeyed our unwritten instructions at every step on the way; even this one; each step a compelling fate; always the strong conviction that the plot is too well organised ever to be chance.

I do not believe in any afterlife. No ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’, for us; nor any punishment there.

Our only justification is the knowledge that we went to that child at that critical time; in her moment of greatest need; and that we have loved and cared for her as a gift - yes, a rich gift - from whatever gods may be.

The love, the confidence, the security, and the pleasures and the joy we have shared with her are our reward, saddened every day of our lives by thoughts of the sorrows endured by her own true family.

What fate drove us, what fate drove the Chamberlains, to that place at that time? That beautiful strong character to be savaged by such elemental cruelties, while we ran, devastated with guilt and fear, with an utterly innocent child.

Looking back, the first stroke of that fate, was surely the sudden death, utterly unexpected; no prior warning; of my wife, Julie. Again and again I am compelled to ask, was she taken deliberately, to be the first link in the chain of events driving us to Ayers Rock and all that followed after. Left me, made me free to drive my daughter to receive her fated gift.

This first death was a terrible shock to us. Our daughter is an only child, and was closely bonded with her mother. When her mother died, the girl was in the early stages of pregnancy, the loss of her mother was doubly painful. Then a short three months afterward, her husband died. Again suddenly, without warning, a severe heart attack. A young healthy man, taken without warning. She was utterly devastated.

She asked me if we could make one of our outback camping trips - get away from the house, with its memories and its dark association with death - help her get well again, and I agreed and spent a few days checking the car, and stocking it for the trip, checking the camp gear and supplies. But before we were ready to leave, Fate struck yet another devastating blow. The baby was born prematurely, the mother weakened by the stress and pain from the deaths of her loved mother and husband.

Once again the child worked her way through the stress and the pain. Through it all we wondered who would be the next to be taken. I had the doctor examine me thoroughly, fearing it would be me, or the girl? Or the precious baby so deeply wanted and dearly loved after the terrible losses suffered?

It was a very stressful time for all. We put all thought of a trip outback aside for a few months until my daughter recovered her health and control somewhat. The lovely little prem, a girl, whom she named Julieanne, after the mother so suddenly taken from her; had gained weight, and was holding her own, and appeared strong enough to travel. The doctor strongly advised against taking her into the country, because of the risk. He finally, clearly reluctantly, admitted that the trip could be good for the mother, and for me, for I also was showing signs of the trauma and stress of that terrible year.

We always travel easy on our outback trips. Well equipped in every way, yet at a very simple level. All experienced campers. So we set off, little realizing that this premature birth was but another step leading us to an appointment with destiny; a very decisive step toward the final fated act.

We drove out through the mountains on the old unformed outback roads along which I had worked and driven mobs of cattle for Kidman and others before the war. Along our way were still a few old mates, most married now with families, all of them men like myself who have worked the big stations and the big herds in their youth, and now growing old and glad to meet and have a yarn.

We always stock up well for these trips. You may smile but a few simple things like cottons, matches, candles, toilet paper, a bit of good soap, torch batteries and bulbs; a good can opener (the new ones are marvellous compared with the old ones); tins of peaches and other delicacies. These are nothing when you live in town; out back they are always welcome, as are a few packets of aspirin and painkillers, oil of cloves for toothache, and always with a few sweets and things for the children. Something I learned from Kidman. We always carried a pile of these small things, and stocked up at the small towns as we passed through. This slow trip was foe sheer love of the country, quiet lonely and beautiful.

Not that the coast isn’t beautiful, but it’s so crowded. Out behind the ranges, it’s different. Wonderful country when there’s water. I know the country well, and watched over the years the big bulldozers, and the big trucks and the cars transforming that countryside; the improvements to the roads and the water supply, and the quality of life for the outback.

So we worked our way North, camping for days sometimes at favoured spots, meeting the old mates, sometimes the widow of an old mate, still not quite ready to leave the country and live in town with one of the children.

My daughter loved every minute of it and the baby too. We had often made such trips when her mother was with us; she had been a selectors daughter, and loved the country. We moved into town when we married. In one of the small towns on the edge, but a decent bit of land, where she could make a garden to her hearts content. So the daughter grew up well used to these outback camping trips and was a good experienced camper.

As well as the personal contacts, there is the sheer beauty of the country; the flocks of birds, galahs, parrots, finches of a dozen kinds, emus, roos, wallabys and snakes; depending on just where you are, and all the little fellows hanging round the watering places. Sunsets, when flocks come in for a drink, and the sunset colours, and watching the huge bronze orb of the sun slipping down into nothingness below the horizon; and the quick dark, followed by the stars, and the stillness and the cold of night. The wonder and the beauty always a delight.

All too often we would see rabbits, still eating the heart out of the country. We often had one for an evening meal, carefully screened for traces of myxamytosis, still persisting in some.

One such camp was critical in our journey; it was a lovely spot, and we stayed a week, swimming, exploring, just enjoying the life, and the girl getting better all the time, but on the seventh day, she said, quite out of the blue, “I’ve had enough Dad. I want to move on.”

I asked, “Want to move back home?”

But she was very definite. “Oh, no Dad, Let’s just keep moving.”

Later, though, I realized that fate had an appointment with her elsewhere; and it was now time for us to be moving on, and subconsciously, she was obeying orders.

So we moved even deeper into the country, me thinking that the poor child still could not face up to the pain of that silent house.

We had already been away much longer than usual, and travelled much further than ever before. But I met her wishes. I wanted nothing other than to see colour in her cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes. So we packed up, and moved north by west, deeper into the country.

The next day we ran into one of those heavy tropic storms. Often dry electric storms heavy with wind. This one was hot, wet and oppressive.

We were lucky. Or were we? The unformed road was becoming impossible when I sighted an old shed. Red with the rust of the outback, but with a roof. Some outbuilding for a distant station, and we took shelter.

Cleaned the place out pretty quickly, and settled in till the storm passed over. It was more than just a flash storm. What with the state of the roads we were trapped there for over two weeks.

On the morning of the third day my daughter wakened to find her beautiful little baby dead in the carrycot beside her. I can never forget her scream as she touched the tiny dead thing; or the shock of horror that swept over me.

This yet another most terrible time for the dear girl. She collapsed again, utterly devastated. Just how much can one be expected to endure? How many of us could take such terrible blows? The sudden death of three deeply loved ones, mother, husband and child, and each one so sudden - no chance to say goodbye, no warnings. Just taken. I was helpless to console or help her. She was so utterly shaken, devastated - hurt beyond healing; unwilling to part with the tiny cold body. The only medication available aspirin, and such small comfort as I could offer.

The rain continued off and on for days, the roads impossible. I buried the tiny thing, in the rain, by necessity. A very bad time. Still so, after all these years. Much of my own faith in life went into that tiny grave. And I know that the keen edge of my daughters sanity was buried there. She broke, that dreadful day and has never regained her old self. I have never heard her laugh since that day. Smile, yes, life goes on even through those sad days when we too could wish to go; but those who have been there know only too well that life is not easily forsaken. One has to live, in spite of it’s calamities.

When the roads were fit, we moved on again. Once again I suggested that we go home. Once again she pleaded ‘just go on’. So we moved on to a main road, and were far enough West to head for Alice. ‘Just where she wanted to go’ she said; so to please her, we went.

I had intended to report the baby’s death at Alice but put it off for the time being, because of my daughters distressed condition. She was in no fit state to withstand a police interrogation. Neither was I. It is never easy reporting a death to the police. They seem to have all the time in the world, and small respect for your needs, however important to you. Everything must give way to that statement they must secure and check and investigate. To have put my daughter through that ordeal at that time could have done grave harm to her.

The police can be very tough when it comes to a death. Properly so, I’m sure. Their questioning can be a traumatic experience, and would have been so for the girl. In the Depression days outback we stockman would sometimes come across a pitiful little heap of dried bones; sometimes more; in some lonely spot. Many a swaggie finished that way, and most of them nameless. Sometimes a gun with the empty shell still in the breech. The lawyers call it suicide, but we never thought of it that way; just common sense. He was lucky if he had a gun. Much better than fighting off dingos in your last moments.

They don’t wait till you’re dead; just helpless.

It would cost a man weeks of sheer nuisance to report them. The delays, and worse still, the implied suspicions were just not worth while. We gave the remains a decent burial, and kept our mouths shut.

So I put off the registration of the baby’s death until the mother was strong enough to stand the ordeal, planning to rest up for a few days and get her to a doctor.

But the girl took yet another fateful step. We had hardly arrived when she said she wanted to drive on down to the Rock.

I was horrified. “Come on girl; we’ve only just arrived. You’re tired and so am I. You’re anything but well enough for another four hundred miles. We should wait till tomorrow at least. You should see a doctor. Get some medication, I’m more than concerned for you. What say we wait till tomorrow.” But she pleaded, was insistent, so once again I gave way to please the child. I checked the car over, and topped everything up for a long drive, for I had in mind to continue on down South from the Rock; and we headed off as the girl wanted.

We were at the Rock only minutes, on our way to check in with the ranger, when she said, “I’m sorry Dad, but can we go now please.”

Frankly I was horrified, indeed angry, a very rare state for me. We had been driving for days; she was plainly ill, plainly very tired, and in no fit state for any more. I was tired too, clearly feeling the pressure.

I did a bit of pleading myself; telling her we were both tired and in need of rest, that we should get some sleep and leave early next morning.

However she was insistent with that blind insistence of the sick mind; and rather than further disturb her, once again I agreed. I well knew that she was really ill from the tragedy of the past year and specially so since the baby’s death. It was a great deal more than just depression; it was heartbreak; despair, a very deep grief and needed a great deal more than a man could offer.

She has never fully recovered. This year has changed her life forever. At that time I feared for her; was deeply afraid that she might never recover.

So I never argued; but treated her very gently, hoping all the time that her natural resilience would lift her out, knowing that this healing would be long and trying for us.

When she asked to go it was late in the afternoon.

Twilight is quick out there. We had not yet entered the camping area. The car was on the road outside. Many of the campers were already cooking tea. We were on our way. I was going to let the ranger know that we were well set up and on our way South.

We were close to the ranger’s house in the deepening dusk, when we spotted a dingo, head up and carrying a bundle. This was no surprise There were several round the campsites; and they are natural scavengers, steal anything eatable. The tourists encourage them throwing bits and pieces just to see the quick upward leap and the snap of the jaws. I have never liked the brutes. No stockman ever does. I have never been able to understand how any outback policeman could listen without protest to the stupid so called ‘Scientific’ evidence that the brutes could not take a baby. They can pull a full grown sheep down, and lambs are an easy prey. I challenged the dingo, and kicked him, He dropped his bundle and snarled at me. I kicked him again, and he ran off, the Aboriginal trackers traced him to that point the following morning. So did the police.

I touched the bundle with my foot. It moved.

My daughter stooped and picked it up.

I can never forget the look on my daughters face; her voice; she whispered, “My God. It’s a baby.”

I know with absolute certainty that her thoughts then were of her own lost child.

She spoke in a whisper, “This is mine, a gift from God.”

She placed the tiny thing against her shoulder, covered it with her jacket. She looked at me with such a fierce intensity as I had never seen before, not even in battle, and by God, you see plenty of spirit there when men are fighting for life with every fibre of savagery in the human frame.

“It’s mine. C’mon Dad Lets go.” She hissed the words.

So we went. Fated yet again. I could not have stopped her without great harm.

The dingo snarled and snapped at her demanding it’s prey. I kicked it again. The brute ran with us to the car, snapping and snarling. I turned the car on to the rough road back to Alice, the brute still in pursuit of it’s prey.

In the car, the girl had already stripped the filthy clothing from the limp child. Blood, saliva and the red dirt of the country, swabbed the worst of the blood with a garment, and threw them out of the window, where the dingo pounced on them and ran into the night.

The first aid box in the car was a godsend. The wounds were foul with saliva and dust; blood already clotting in them. Thank god, plenty of clean water in the bottles, Dettol and sulpha something, I can’t remember, in the first aid kit.

“Thank God,” I heard her say, “No arterial wounds.” But the soft flesh of the throat and shoulder still weeping; the child in shock.

So we drove off into the wilderness. I was deeply disturbed, knowing all too well that we were doing the wrong thing; that we were guilty of a most terrible thing, running with a child stolen in such dreadful circumstances. I was as much disturbed with the thought of the distress of the mother, as I was with concern for the baby and for my daughter. All through that dreadful night was the image of the frantic mother, the hopeless searching in the dark, the agony of the realization that the baby was gone, lost forever to her.

Only once did I stop the car, tell the girl that we must return the child to the mother, but was met with such insensate fury that I could not even try battle with, and so, against all my principles, my concern for the mother, against my better judgment, I drove on, well knowing myself to be a defeated man, and a most unhappy man. And utterly unable to reconcile my own action or even belief, with those of my daughter in the back seat, washing those wounds, crooning over the baby, giving it warmth and life. At that time it was so clear that I could not possibly deny the girl her ‘gift’ without driving her into insanity.

So, torn with conflict I drove on into the night. Never can I forget that journey. All three of us in deep trouble. The girl washing and cleansing the deeper wounds, controlling the bleeding, warming and talking to the child, working with that special energy that comes to us from some deep spiritual source in such emergencies; the wounds dressed, she wrapped the child in her own dead child’s clothing, warming her, yes - the little thing was a girl - with all the love and warmth of her body, reduced the trauma of shock, and rejoiced, thanking God, with every fibre of her spirit, when the little limbs moved, and the child opened unseeing eyes and wailed, and was comforted.

Thus I drove on, wracked with the sure knowledge of the turmoil and distress of the distraught mother so desperately seeking her child in the dark night around the Rock. I know, God, how deeply I know, but don’t blame me; I know, only too well, that I should have turned back to the Rock; I know also, that to have done so would have broken my own child. What real choice does a man have in such circumstances? So I have lived with the guilt and the shame; and my daughter with her strange gift of love and joy. The child has responded beautifully to my daughter, and to this day they are close and responsive to each other.

We topped up in Alice. The girl would not leave the car. We had the gear belonging to little Julieanne still with us in the car. I now made no attempt to register the death of her baby. I clearly saw this as another of those fateful compulsions that have so disturbed and altered our lives; clearly saw here a purpose, unstated, but clear. I was now seeing with equal clarity that I was as deeply an agent of that purpose as was my daughter; but why?

We rarely spoke of such things. My daughter was clearly obsessed with the ‘gift’, was so completely beyond doubt that the events were directed; the loss of mother, lover and child, deliberate, necessary steps toward the final act; and that the purpose was simply the ‘gift’ of the child to her. All through this unwanted drama, we have been led without either understanding or consent, until the last terrible act, and the compulsions at that time almost beyond control. It is with that ‘almost’ that I must live, even as my daughter lives in the joy of her gift. Yet there were times when she too felt the burden of guilt. Guilt and the fear of detection; but most of her days were hours of joy with the baby, sheer happiness.

That happiness was healing very deep wounds in her. It was later that we faced the guilt stirred by grief and concern at the treatment of the Chamberlains. Every day on that long journey home through the country we loved so well, we were saddened by the people talking of the tragedy at the Rock. At that time most outback people thought that the dingo had taken the child The tracks were clear, and everyone out there knew what a dingo could do, and did often enough to lambs and other stock.

It wasn’t until later that some perverted mind engineered the cruel fabrications against the Chamberlains; made a mockery of the evidence of the campers, and of the Aboriginal trackers; made a mockery of the law as perverted by political interference; and still without the courage or the intelligence to finally clear that persecuted family.

What a scarce and precious thing is simple common sense. My daughter is my own flesh and blood. I could not possibly betray her to the terrors being loosed up North. The price of the child was being exacted and as the Chamberlains were dragged through their hell, so my daughter walked into hers, and of my own free will I walked with her. I know that I should have spoken earlier. There may have been some chance to redeem that which we have done, without exposing ourselves to the mob. But the very venom, the mindless persecution, filled us with dread.

We know; we so deeply feel that our only justification is that we saved that innocent child from an awful death; and by the sacrifice of my daughters mother, her husband and her own new born, all deeply loved, and that strange compelled journey to that one special place in Australia, at that one critical moment of time was for this purpose. A woman tormented nearly to insanity. Few people will be able to comprehend the compulsions. of that moment; the blinding realization that the child was indeed a gift. One terrible journey accomplished. Another beginning.

As the wretched attack on that family gathered force, we grew even more fearful of detection, more and more sickened with guilt.

Those dreadful days marked me for the rest of my life. I know I should have done something; at least something like this, to let them know that the baby had been saved from the dingo. But that would have started a search for us; set the newspapers on us; set the public loose on us and that we could not bear. Any good policeman could have found us/ So we kept silent; my daughter in fear; my self in a maze of guilt and fear, until, my death seen clearly near, I can keep silent no longer.

We were terrified when the first inquest ruled; no body; no motive; no evidence. We were sure that some policeman would consider the clear evidence of the trackers. And reach the obvious conclusion, “This is the spot where the baby disappeared; here. Some person, as yet unknown, has taken her from the dog. She is somewhere about, and we will find her. I am sure the Aboriginal people know what happened. Not who? But certainly, how.”

Any policeman worth his salt should have so known. All the signs were there until trampled out by the very people who should have and could have saved the Chamberlains, and started the hunt for us. So, who are we to say that the same fate that led us to that place at that time for that purpose, did not shield us then, and will not guide and shield us now.

All that was then. Now it is different.

Mrs. Chamberlain, we wept with you and your family all through those terrible days. We weep now, for now, not even for a free pardon will we ever reveal our identity. Yes, I know well that this is cruel, but I am sure that you can see that it is necessary to protect the child from the harm and the pain of publicity to which she would be exposed, and above all, to protect and preserve her trust and confidence in the family to whom she was entrusted. I know that I can never justify my actions, but I pray that you will understand the forces driving us; even now, despite the everlasting conviction of guilt, I sometimes think as my daughter does, that the child is indeed ‘a gift from god’, so much joy and goodness has she been in our lives.

So we will never betray the trust placed upon us by fate.

We well understand that when this is known, that there are plenty out there who will judge us as they judged the Chamberlains. So be it. It is agonizingly clear to us that anything that we do now to right the wrong, will destroy our family and again bring harm to them. They would survive again supported by their faith and the strong beautiful spirit of Mrs. Chamberlain, but we would be unable to meet the storm.

We would be utterly crushed by it. Our lives scarred and broken by the mindless publicity. So as we remained silent, we will remain silent, our guilt and fears our own.

The sole reason for this confession is to let Mrs. Chamberlain know that we saved her child and have loved and cared for her, literally, as a gift from God; and to tell those people who believed in her innocence, that their faith was justified.

As for the others. God forgive them.

Mrs. Chamberlain, we bow our heads to you. We dare not even ask your forgiveness. We respect you greatly for the strength and faith you showed all through that terrible ordeal; strangely it helped us bear our own distress.

Please do believe me, we thought the Court must surely clear you. The signs were so clear. We can only hope that you will have some understanding of my daughters state of mind, some sympathy with her in the tragic deaths, such loss, and of her deep and continuing acceptance of the child as a ‘gift from God’.

It well may be, long after I am gone, that my daughter will tell the child of the fate which so strangely guided us to her in her moment of greatest need; and it may be that your child will seek you out of her own free will, privately and safely, to satisfy that bonding established between you in those first precious months with you; if she does so, and the child twinkles her lovely eyes at you, you will then feel that the terrible injustices inflicted on you will not have been entirely in vain.

Mrs. Chamberlain, forgive us; Your child has indeed been a most treasured gift from God.


Jim Henderson

The Jim Henderson of this story was a typical outback man of the early years of this century; some might say, the horse and buggy years, rather than the motor car, computer driven years. He was always a worker, even as a young man about the house, quick and eager to learn, and with the facility to see the cause of the problem and to fix it, and no nonsense. He was not at any time the owner or the lessee of any of the vast stations on which he worked, nor, in the later more prosperous years of this remarkable century, a pilot, a motor cycle stockman, nor the proud owner of a 4WD.
His known ancestry is brief. He is the third generation born in Australia. Both his father and himself the only children of their little families, both stockmen, but the Jim Henderson of whom the story is concerned, died without a son.

His great grandparents were amongst the tens of thousands who colonised the New World; a seeming endless flood of adventurous souls facing the rigours and the unknown dangers of the new lands, and in most instances most glad to put the poverty, the stilted class infected society of the Old World, with its undeclared but brutal class wars, behind them. That they invaded and destroyed the life and culture of the native peoples of those lands hardly impacted on them; it was ‘them or me’ as it ever was and is, even with us to this day. The forced clearances of the Scottish Highlands and of rural Ireland together with the opportunity for millions of the poor of the sprawling industrial cities to escape the tyranny of destitute poverty, drove the great waves of colonists to the shores of the Americas, and into the Pacific countries, and so Jim Henderson's people came to Australia.

The tracing of his ancestors was most simple. They are, simply, his mother and his grandmother. He was told little of his grandmothers parents. She, or they, had severed all contact. He knew that their original home, for many generations, had been the Isle of Burray, in the distant Orkney Islands; and it was that grandmother, who with the rugged beautiful outback of Australia molded and shaped him into the man of this story.

Beyond that any further information meant a personal visit to the Islands and a search of Parish registers, and of land titles. We knew that the family name was Wyllie, the ‘Red Wyllies’ for obvious reasons. The oral tradition led back to the 8th century, to the settlement of the Orkneys and the Western Isles by Viking families fleeing the excesses of Harald Halfdanarssen, ‘Fine Hair’, King of Norway. The Vikings, pushed the old pagan Celts and Scots back into the harsher outer islands and in the way of colonists, took their land their flocks and the viable girls. As noted earlier the colonising process is as old as the human race. Few indeed have not suffered from it; few have not benefited. The colonising era is nearly over; shadowy, in the future, our history points to the one race of humankind.

The Wyllies arrived with a precut house in the hold of the ship, and four daughters. Their sea journey in the ‘Sirius’ was slow; ninety-six days. The journey was, for the parents, an anxious and trying time. The girls ages ranged from twelve to twenty years; conditions on shipboard were cramped, uncomfortable, and without the privacy they would have chosen for their girls. The girls on their part greatly enjoyed their new liberties; adventures beyond their wildest island dreams.

Originally their destination had been New Zealand. The Sirius dropped anchor in the open waters of New Plymouth, to be immediately encircled by two great Maori war canoes, each with forty warriors, faces deeply tattooed, armed with heavy clublike spears; and not a smile of welcome on any face. There was no further threat, but those grim faced men in their powerful canoes circled the ship and effectively prevented Port officers from visiting, and any possibility of passengers from landing. Few of the passengers slept that night, despite the Captains assurances that the ‘Wars’ were over, and that the natives were ‘Friendly’.

The following day, as they gathered unhappily on the deck awaiting developments, they suffered yet another unexpected and most unwanted shock. A strong earthquake created panic on both ship and shore. They watched in horror the wave like movement of the buildings; saw the solid land heave and ripple, heard the crash of falling chimneys, the cries of terrified children, the agitated screams of terrified horses; and felt the sea trembling and heaving as it had not ever in the 12 thousand miles from Liverpool. The tremors continued through the day as did the terror and distress of the ships company, filling them with a deep anxiety and a most unnatural fear of this new and clearly savage country. The Maori fighters disappeared, and late that afternoon the Health Officer rowed out to the ship. He informed the Captain, that although the war in the Province was settled there was strong opposition to more immigrants. The natives clearly recognised that they were steadily losing control of their land. ‘There is no more land’ they say. He gave the ship a clean ‘Bill of Health’ and advised the Captain to proceed to Wellington, the Capital, where all was quiet; no; not Auckland; still fighting up there; but Wellington would be safe. The Captain held an impromptu meeting with his more important passengers, and with their hearty approval told all that he proposed to sail to Australia; was cheered at that, and whilst building up steam sent a boat ashore with the mail, including many hastily scribbled explanations of the changed plans with the reasons thereof; then headed for Sydney, the favoured port of arrival amongst his passengers.

Thus the Wyllie family arrived in Australia. The parents were James and Jessie; The girls, Betsy, Margaret, Jessie and Janie, short for Janet. All were pleasant, well featured with fresh complexions and sturdy of build, bright of eye and all with the family bronze shaded or auburn tint of abundant hair; piled high on the head as was the style of the day. The older two are already glowing with that nameless grace with which Mother Nature adorns young girls as they enter into their maturity.

They spent a year or so in Sydney, James ‘looking around’ and working hard in the quickly developing city, saving to add to his bit of capital, before buying land. The women hated Sydney, ugly, hot, rude, uncivilized. Jessie wondered wistfully about New Zealand. Her sister with her family had settled at Mosgiel, well down in the South Island. ‘A Scottish settlement, no Maoris, beautiful country gentle hills, and the grasses knee deep and the cattle fattening before your eyes, and some Australian miners have discovered gold in the back country’.

All went gladly enough with James to his farm block, the grant of one hundred acres in a vast flood plain, part of the Nepean - Hawkesbury river system. They were to discover that the plain did indeed flood; a vast turgid flooding, swift and relentless in it’s coming, flooding from horizon to horizon. But that was later.

On this block James chose a reasonably safe site, near to a clear running stream and with some wooded country behind and erected his precut house, Precut for English conditions; designed by a builder with an eye for profit, knowing full well that the house would be erected a long long way from his factory; and designed without the slightest understanding of the harsh summers of Australia; it’s rooms small; hot and impossible to ventilate, the ceilings low, the windows tiny; the finished house stuffy, without grace or comfort.

The girls hated it; Jessie tolerated it. James inordinately proud of it. Had he not erected it with his own hands?

He had, indeed, but that failed to satisfy the girls, already wistfully dreaming of the comforts left behind at Lochellen Farm in the so distant Islands, the brisk sea breezes and the lads, alas back there.

Round this house, Jessie, in time learned to tame the hard soil; learned to read the seasons, and the often unstable weather. Learned the unforgiving way the need for good strong fencing to protect her hard won flowers and vegetables from the voracious little animals, unseen by day but clearly, from ample evidence, about in plenty in the cool soft nights. She loved her garden. It satisfied many of her submerged longings for the old life, many of the unvoiced discontents of the new life; and there was a real challenge to keep her fresh complexion and her mass of beautiful hair soft and bright, under the huge wide brimmed hat she had brought at a street stall in Barbados on the way out; and she did her fair share of the toil which they entered into to develop their block as an orange orchard; and they prospered, Jessie creating a little oasis of beauty around the house, James establishing their place in the community as his work prospered.

The girls learned the subtleties of the inward looking social life; the so different attitudes of the available young men; the slow acceptance; the almost insolent appraisal; the isolation of the so distant neighbours; were somewhat surprised at the ready offers of help in times of real need, and came gradually to realize that this slow acceptance was but a self defense; an essential aspect of survival in the harsh reality of outback life in the torrid climate.

The three younger girls grew slowly into the district with it’s rare entertainment and rather closed society, every social event a reassessment of their place and opportunities.

Janie hated it. To her already settled mind the German neighbours, two miles down the hot dusty unformed road, were rough uncouth foreigners; even though her father found their support and wider knowledge of the land; the care of animals in the intemperate weather, to be invaluable to him, and their friendship a welcome easement into the social life of the district.

So it had to happen.

A young stockman riding by, easy in the saddle, bright of eye, virile, handsome, respectful in the manner of men in those times, caught her eye, and in that electric flash of recognition, she with fresh good appearance, that lovely head of glowing auburn hair, caught his. Without a word between them, she knew that those demands of her maturing femininity, for the good companionship, would be well satisfied with him; she went with gladness and without reserve.

The family opposed her. Betsy said “You are a fool.” She at 18 had already assessed the value of a good woman in the desperate loneliness of the outback world, and knew that she could have her choice of several willing men, but was coolly weighing her prospects, other aspects of worth. Her mother who had hoped for a good marriage for her firstborn, was kinder than Betsy. She said, “Do be careful darling. It may be only a passing whim.”

Margaret and young Jessie wept for her, begging her to keep in touch, “Do write to us, do keep in touch.” Her father became cold, angry. He also had planned a good marriage for his beautiful daughter, a marriage which would have improved the standing of the family in the society of the district very considerably. Now he withheld all support, would not even wish her ‘Good luck’ as she left the house. Thus, Jim Henderson's grandmother, young, beautiful and loved, left home.

She never saw her family again. Her man came for her in a trap. A one horse, light cart, a backed seat across the front, and a canvas hood over all, and took her to his simple home. It was a long journey of more than three weeks; they were in no hurry; they enjoyed a honeymoon more romantic, more intimately satisfying than she could ever have dreamed. Beautiful nights, camping and loving under the stars; wonderful stars, and the wonder of moonlight, marvellous sunsets and glorious dawns, and when there was no moon the darkness so profound you could almost hear it; and every moment of that wonderful journey her wonderful man beside her, learning and teaching the dignity of love, the gentleness of passion, the joy of their companionship; their first steps into a new way of life for them both.

She enjoyed the quick breakfasts over a warm fire, the boiling billy, the warm dampers her Jim knocked up so quickly; she enjoyed the rare encounters in that long journey with the tiny settlements, the local pubs; enjoyed the simple ample meals, and was not offended with the open interest and admiration of the men; was later to learn with a sense of wonder that in that loneliness men would travel miles for the simple deep pleasure of just looking at a woman; remembering with deep insight her father’s often admonition to his girls, ‘That the worth of a good woman is greater than that of rubies’,
“And don’t forget young woman, that rubies are more precious than diamonds.”

Much later on that never forgotten journey, she laughed almost hysterically at a rough hand painted notice tied to a gate at the end of a dirt road leading apparently to nowhere; ‘Wanted women, any sort, ask here, quick’. Later, at the last pub on their way home, she was neither offended nor alarmed when one old fellow, brash, but clearly sincere, asked Jim if he could touch her hand. So she offered her hand, he touched it, and she laid her other hand over their clasped hands, and there were tears on the fresh young face as there were on the grubby bearded face of the old fellow, and a sudden silence over the men at the bar.

It was mid spring when they reached Jim’s place; another hundred acre block, but here the selection had been made with a more experienced mind, and the earth was kinder; here with a wild blaze of flowers, and the grass was thicker after the warm spring rains, as it is so often over wide areas of this land of sudden contradictions. Land, bare for months, years all too often, can bloom, miraculously, after rain. The valleys grow their green carpet, crops get started, stock fattens; and the great myth that this is a rich and fruitful country is uttered yet again; only to be shattered yet again by the following drought.

His home was the typical outback shack. A slab hut with hand cut shingle roof. Large, simple, durable and adequate. Two bedrooms at one end, the huge kitchen-living area dominated by the big fireplace, the walls are only half timbered, and screened with wire mesh against the flies and innumerable other flying creatures, often in vast swarms. The house sparsely furnished, man’s style but adequate. Outside he has made many improvements. He rarely went on the big month-long drives, for he was a careful and skilful man, and usually engaged on the better paid construction and maintenance work available on the big stations. Work well beyond the skills of the average man. He neither smoked, gambled nor drank, was no wowser, just a steady, thoughtful man determined to better himself in a hard world.

He had spent most of his earnings on improvements round the property. A windmill shadowed a big 12,000 gallon concrete tank, feeding into long narrow troughs. These troughs were shaded by coolibahs, paper gums and river oaks and other selected trees, which she watched grow into deep shady groves; the stock access to the water controlled by wing walls, the stands hardened by rock slab embedded in clay; he was not interested in breeding, preferring to buy small lots of store stock and fattening for the market; he rarely had to throw a beast, using a simple narrow race as a crush, and branding his animals with dye rather than the hot iron in general use. Usually he beat the ever threatening drought, with carefully thought plans for conserving both water and feed, never overstocking, and his often the only mob of fat stock offering at the market. Myriad's of birds of many kinds made free use of his water. She counted sixty two varieties in one week of watching. He rotated his small herds through four paddocks, each contoured to feed its own dam, and each of these shaded and the watering places hardened and controlled. Each of these paddocks was harrowed and oversown as the stock moved on. This simple policy she was to discover kept most of the dry seasons at bay. He told her, “Only possible on a small place; on the big places the stock trample everything into dust.”

When the big drought dragged on, draining practically every waterhole in the country, even his little oasis suffered as the water table dropped, and their precious 12000 gallons were poached every evening, every morning by thousands of birds and other creatures, and in the long run she was walking daily to the tiny water hole at the base of the low bluff that stood out in the wide spaces about them.

Not a long journey, about a mile from the house; there she patiently filled a bucket, this the days ration for the house, and was devoutly thankful for it; but thankful as she was, her practical Methodist self wondered why so much of His handiwork should suffer so much for the want of just a little more rain; rain she well knew to be available in such terrible abundance as to be a death dealing flood, and that same practical mind told her that there was no answer to that ancient question.

One hot dry day they walked down to the waterhole, that sweet companionship which is love alive between them, “Why didn’t you build the house down here, Jim?” So he walked her over the ground, pointing out the lay of the land, the gullies, told her of the savage rain storms; storms which she was to experience many times. Showed her how the waters gathered into larger and larger streams; see here and here, and all dry now but in the rare times of heavy rain the waters roared down over the flats until it fans out in sullen flood below them.

“That’s why, dear girl, floods, but you’re safe up there where you are; a bit harder to make a garden, but a lot safer.”

Then he said, “And another thing. This spring has been a watering place for the Aboriginal people for thousands of years, wouldn’t be right to take it. You’ve got the windmill. Suits everyone.” And so it was. That sturdy dependable windmill with it’s no nonsense pumping. In all of her seventy years in that solid simple home, only half a dozen times did the drought drain the water table, empty the big tank and the dams in the paddocks, and then it was a daily walk down to the spring with a bucket to keep her going in the house. Jim never restocked when it was clear that this bunch of stock would be the last to be fattened till the rains came.

In all her years there she was never bothered by the native people. She saw them only occasionally. She respected them; they respected her. Sometimes a neighbour would call to see ‘if she was alright’? She always was. They were good neighbours. Occasionally one of the women would ‘drop in’ for company, and the ever ready ‘cuppa’; sometimes the call from someone for help in an emergency; Mother ill or an accident, all too often serious injury; all the interlocking supportive life of the widely scattered district, but in the main it was herself and Jim, and both were deeply satisfied.

The tiny spring fascinated her, “Where does it come from?” she wondered. “Just out of the earth?”

“Not sure,” said her Jim, “Up North you can see the rivers from the mountains disappear into the sands of the desert. They think there is a huge underground lake. A bit of pressure here and there and it pushes up springs like this. Plenty of settlers put wells down, pretty deep most of them. Some places, like this, the water’s close to the surface. Why I chose this place. This spring never dries out. Even in a bad drought they get water here; sometimes they might have to dig a soak, go down a few feet, but always water. The windmill goes well down into the water table.”

She was to learn, slowly over the years, but with a certainty beyond question, the ageless primitive reality of the words ‘water is life’.

In the vast dry country the lessons are grim. Day after day, sometimes reaching tragically into years, she watched the great flotillas of clouds forming and drifting, rainless over the parched land; come to understand that even the underground waters were daily being sucked up by the relentless sun; that the fragile shield of the land and it’s waters is the forest cover, and watched in shocked disbelief and anger as great stretches of that forest were cleared to make grazing land; sometimes the greater folly of crops, green and gold, but only for the brief good year. Then all too soon, the harsh soil exposed, and reduced to dust and then left to drift into desert. Her mind, conditioned in a culture that nurtured and treasures it’s thin soils, was scarred in those early years, when they lived through the most harsh drought of all her time at Lochellen, and taught her the never forgotten lessons on the constant need to value and conserve water.

She was hurt to the bone to see the deaths without number of animals, all foreign to this soil, this arid country, animals with an ancient heritage of abundant water and lush grasses, dying in their thousands, as the great drought tightened it’s grip on the parched lands, even the tough saltbush and spinifex, native survivors over millennia, now yellow and brittle in the hot blaze, and the dusty soils of those crazy clearings lifting and drifting in vast destructive clouds of dust.

She dreamed of the slow emergence of a vast mountain range rising into the sky, from the edge of the land against the Southern sea, and reaching without a break, icy snowy peaks hard and sharp against the blue sky, and reaching across the continent into the waters of the distant Gulf in the Far North; and in the mornings the sun on the Eastern slopes, the winds heavy with rain against the mountains, filling the streams and the great rivers, draining the Eastern watershed into the plains and the lowlands, now greening with forest, rich with fattening stock, alive with contented men and women; and in the afternoon heat of the day, that same sun lighting the western slopes of the great mountain range, and the rains and the snows and the rivers draining the great Western watershed, and the miracle of the greening of the vast Western plains, and the great cycles of the sun on the sea, and the winds, heavily laden, condensing on the snow covered peaks of the great central backbone of a new land of plenty; but awakened from dreaming to the reality of yet another hot dry day.

He bought her a small ‘lady sized’ shotgun, this for snakes and the even more dangerous rabbit; he made constant improvements to the house; built, a healthy distance from the house, a well fenced yard to contain a brood of chicks; set out, equally well fenced a patch for a vegetable and flower garden, with lemon and orange trees; taught her the value of humus in the hard washed out soil. Plenty of straw for the chooks, and when it’s broken down, used as a deep mulch round your fruit trees; all the house wastes returned to the soil, and warned her, that despite the netting, the snakes would get in.

So, she was never lonely in the little oasis they were creating, and was glad, when, during one of those wonderful nights, she was able to tell him that she was pregnant.

Jim would not hear of her waiting her time out without help, and engaged an half caste aboriginal woman whom Janie knew and liked from her occasional visits to town; those trips when Jim had a mob at the saleyards. Aranta was a capable young woman, though with a different feeling for time as had Janie. The women managed well together, and she was surprised at the ease with which Aranta changed direction and attitudes with her. In town, Aranta had lived mainly the free and easy native style; here the young woman adapted quickly without conscious intention or guile, becoming a good companion, and in time a close friend.

Then, one never to be forgotten day, Jim was asked to give a mate a hand, taking a mob up north. “I’ll only be gone a week or so; you take care darling.”

She never saw him again.

The usual week or so of absence dragged into months, the months into years; long years of hope deferred and the fears and pain of the ultimate acceptance.

The child was born in the house with the solicitous support of her friend, and Janie was soon about again. The baby a boy. She named him Jim after the sorely missed father; she has never met Jim’s people; he had spoken of them only once when she asked about them. Jim’s usually pleasant face had clouded. He said, “It’s a long story. You wouldn’t like it.” But he had held her tightly then, and she guessed that perhaps they, as had her own father, might have had other plans for the marriage partner of their son. It was clear from his attitudes; his respect for women, and the high level of competence he showed that he had come from a good home, and from odd comments she believed his home to be ‘Up North; in the Territory. Thousands of miles away’.

She soldiered on, caring for the farm as he had taught her; Aranta the good companion; teaching the boy their way of life, to read and write, and years too late for him to be interested, sending him off to the little school now started in the district. He disliked school intensely, preferring to help around the farm, and so grew up, as did so many bush children of those times as a hard working, practical young man, good looking, as was his Dad, and with few literary skills, a lack he rarely, if ever found to be any disadvantage.

For seven long years, Janie asked at every opportunity after her Jim, always believing him to be dead, never, for a moment thinking that he might have deserted her. Then, one day at the market, she heard. “Yair, Jim Henderson. I remember him. A young feller, Yair, a steer got him. My word, sorry, You his missus. They was bringing a mob down outer the Channel country. Up North of here. Yair, he’s up there somewhere. Bulloo Downs I reckon, try up there. Might pay to go East a bit from here, Roads better that way.” She found the mans name was Dave Stevens, and where he lived, in case her search failed.

So with young Jim and confident that Aranta would manage reasonably well she set off, walking in the moonlight, or no moon, only in the hours about dawn and sunset, on a journey of nearly five hundred miles, stores in the trap and money for a change of horse and supplies as they passed through the tiny settlements on the way. She walked at the horse’s head, the boy with her a good traveller, alert to everything on the road, till he tired, when she lifted him into the trap to sleep; in the heat of the day sought out shade, often at the side of water, and slept. The rough road lay through low rolling foothills to the mountain range, and the streams were many and the country good, and had nothing to fear from either man nor beast through the entire journey.

Travelling East had indeed brought her on to the through road linking Milparinka, Tiboburra, then Warri Warri on the border; at these places she was able to replenish her stores, rest her horse, enjoy better meals, a bath for both, and a couple of days rest, for she well knew that there would be no warm welcoming arms for her at journey’s end; no loving reunion at Bulloo.

They were well received at the homestead. “My, what a journey, and the boy, my you are a brave little man.” And for Janie the long look, the understanding in the eyes, the warm welcome the quiet sympathy over the tragic little story. Later when they showed her the grave, he was not alone. Several others were there and she found it in her self to wonder if the other wives, the other mothers would like to know where their sons and lovers were laid. They left her with young Jim at the grave side but there were no tears. Janie had long since past tears. She had learned the corrosion of nurtured grief, and shunned it now. To the lad with her, the silent mother was little different from the mother he has always known. He was well acquainted with that sadness, though not knowing the emotions which lay behind it, so he helped her with the small task of tidying the little plot; heard without sadness that it was his fathers grave, for this simple assurance gave him some satisfaction. He well knew that other people had fathers, and had more than once asked if he too had a father, and where was he and was rarely satisfied with Janie’s own unsatisfied, “I don’t know, darling. All I can tell you is that he went droving, and he hasn’t come home yet.”

They stayed for ten days at the pressing invitation of the lady of the house, desperate for the companionship, eager ‘to build you up for your return journey’, avid for news of the little towns on the way, eager for talk of her family, horrified at her home leaving, eager to talk of her Jim, of Aranta, of the tiny farm, and of Jim’s policies. “Really. Why you’re doing better than we are, and on such a tiny place.”

Thus rested and well supplied they returned home, safely, as she had never doubted that they would.

Back at home she asked no help, other than that of Aranta, only too willing to stay with her. Young Jim grew quickly into the life of the farm. He had his fathers good looks was bright eyed and quick to learn and as he matured became the capable enduring man that his father had been, and the source of great pleasure to Janie, and an eagerly sought after partner at the local dances. Young Jim stayed with her until Nature, garbed as a fresh faced and attractive young woman, started to appear at those dances. However, unlike Janie, who was resolute to be partner only for that dance, the newcomer most decidedly had deeper interests. That first eye to eye contact, electric and compelling, was not to be denied. Young Jim Henderson, handsome, alert, capable, with a local reputation as a ‘good bloke, looks after his Mum, keeps a good place’, was her only choice, and she his. As Janie thought, rather sadly, ‘like father, like son’. Margaret did not ever want to go with him to live with Janie, though she loved the delightful shaded oasis they have created in their corner of the foothills. She has an excellent job as cook-housekeeper at one of the big stations, and, incidentally, loved to tell the story of getting that job.

Passing through Walhalla one day, window shopping whilst waiting for a friend, she spotted the notice reproduced here. She said to her companion, “They want a lot in one woman, don’t they; but I think I could match up.” Another woman, reading the same notice, said, “Well. Could you really? That’s not our notice, but I’m in town looking for a cook for the station. Are you really a good cook? Are you looking for work?” Margaret gave the woman a smile, saying, “I’m not sure about all those requirements, but given a bit of leeway, I think I could satisfy. I don’t know about corruption. I havn’t really been tested on that.” The woman returned the smile, “I think you might satisfy us, we’re reasonable people. Would you come out for a month or so and give it a try?”

Margaret went. Was satisfied and found satisfactory, became ex officio, a member of the family and spent her working life with them.

Thus Jim Henderson, with some regret at the thought of leaving his Mum on her own, left home; but he left with a blessing from his Mother and went with his new wife and worked as carpenter cum storeman and maintenance man on the station, higher wages and better conditions, largely because of Margaret’s status in the family.

Janie heard, a year or so later, of the safe birth of their baby, Jim Henderson the third. A short five years later, his father was struck with infantile paralysis, and after a long and terrible illness, died; the women devastated, Margaret supported by the family, Janie by Aranta, and the demands of the farm. In the harsh reality of the outback, life is a precarious thing, all too easily lost, and the times for grieving are quickly submerged by the ever pressing needs of the daily round.

Margaret, busy at the house, increasingly left young Jim to fend for himself through the day.

This never a problem to the boy, who slipped easily into the life of the few Aboriginal children at the stockmen’s quarters; this in a rather different way a reasonable education, although less than satisfactory to Janie, who when she became aware of the state of affairs, promptly came to an arrangement with Margaret, to take the boy to Lochellen, ‘for his own good’. Margaret, at her wits end to keep an eye on him, agreed and so young Jim, the main male character in this story, went to live with his grandmother, to be influenced and moulded by her in a very different tradition.

As with thousands of children in the vast open spaces of the outback there was little opportunity for conventional schooling. His mother, in her scant free hours. gave him some slow competence in reading and writing. The Aboriginal children with whom he shared his happy childhood, shared also their expertise in reading the more intricate life of the flora and fauna of their surroundings, taught him something of their ancient culture, some insights into their way of thinking; so it was an utterly new life for young Jim in the shaded quiet life with his grandmother and Aranta, at Lochellen Farm. He adapted well, easily, quickly in the new routines, and by the time he entered his teen years, was literally the ‘man about the house,’ with much the same abilities and values as the long gone and unknown grandfather; the same enduring qualities as the grandmother. He grew up with the developing technologies of electricity, and the enormous impetus which that source of power brought to the outback; became an excellent hand at ‘bush’ carpentry, and an all round ‘good keen man’ never short of work, never ever having to ‘hump his bluey’ in search of work and the means to just keep alive, the fate of so many young men of his generation.

Although he rarely worked as a stockman, this was sometimes necessary. It was on one such long drive that Lady Luck smiled on him and he dug his way into his El Dorado. She stayed with him, a fortunate man, for only months later, he was caught by that flashing eye, that look of instant recognition, and Julie came into his life. Julie was a squatters daughter, and told him bluntly, “That if you want me, you will have to get a job in town.” Julie knew all too well the trials of women in the country, and even though she loved the country, the quiet life, the dawns and sunsets, the wonderful silences, she did not want the long hours of absences, the days stretching into weeks; the uncertainties, the privations. She wanted a more settled life, the opportunity to have her family, not so much in comfort, as in safety; and because the changing times were making such a life possible for many, Jim agreed with her. At that time she had no knowledge of his access to the gold, that was his secret until his first trip out as a married man, and understandably he wished to surprise her. All his life he remembered her in that hot afternoon sunshine, the air still about them, and she silent, quiet, staring at the first few nuggets in her hand, he leaning on his shovel, watching her face, her reactions. All too clearly Julie realized the implications for her, for them. She looked from the gold treasure in her hand, looked at her man, and burst into tears. So the home they built out of Wexford, was comfortably adequate; and although they could have lived off the gold, he preferred the undoubted pleasure of having constructive work to do and raised quarter horses for the still existing market in the country.

Janie refused several times their invitation to ‘sell the farm and come and live with us in town’. Even after Aranta died and was buried in the shade of the trees she loved, and Janie realized that she too was growing old, she preferred to remain in the simple lovely home that her Jim had built. It was the same with his own mother. She too preferred to remain with the extended family she had so long been a member.

Then one day Janie heard with horror that Jim had been called up and posted to New Guinea, then on to the already well known Kakoda Trail where so many had already died, fighting more for life than for country; then learned that he had been invalided home, though severely wounded. Learned also with some surprise that Jim, somehow, had ‘come into some money’ and would be alright.

Then Janie Henderson, far from the far islands of the Hebrides, died, alone but never lonely, for loneliness is of the spirit, and in the great open plains of outback Australia with it’s so distant neighbours, Janie and thousands of women like her are the real living heart of that great loneliness. The machines and the new technologies creeping in are aids indeed, but in no way defeat the lone days and nights, the days that lengthen into weeks, the weeks into months, waiting for the man to return, for the children in the city to come home, for the mailman to bring a letter.

They sold her farm to a young couple, the wife delighted with the trees and the garden, the chooks; the husband with the simple but adequate routines.

The rest of Jim Henderson's story is told elsewhere, and not the least amongst the regrets and disappointments is the simple fact that he had no son. They called the daughter Janice, after the grand old lady; Janice also would have liked a brother, but New Guinea and the jungle virus that invaded his system and finally killed him, also made a brother impossible.

When the inevitable end came he sought no relief in the vast hospital systems of the cities; had no desire for the senseless prolongation of life with mechanical aids; knew well that death was inevitable and a kindly release from the burden of disease, a welcome release from the terrible burden of guilt from the theft of the child.

He had watched over his daughter with all the care and compassion at his command; had nursed her through black despair, through fear and guilt, those deadly enemies of both body and spirit, and knew as he passed away, that she was now strong in her self confidence; strong in her conviction that she was destined to have. The child was happy that Julieanne was both safe and supremely happy with her, and died deeply satisfied that Janie was beside him, her hand on his.


The Lawyer

There is in Sydney a lawyer; many, as in the way of cities, for ‘where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered’. There was nothing remarkable about this one, a standard run of the mill lawyer, mentally bound by his training and the unwritten rules of his professional trade union, which, whilst rigorously protecting him, also gave him a very comfortable living. The simple story of the old man and his daughter with their heavy burden of guilt and fear, balanced and justified by their joy and pleasure in the care of a stolen child, secure in their unknown home, somewhere south of the ‘Black Stump’, had intrigued him.
“Justice,” he said to himself, “As well as the Fates, are ancient old women, not at all related to the blind Goddess we worship as the law.”

As for the two he was reading about, it shouldn’t be too difficult to check them out. The attempt at secrecy intrigued him. Anonymous writers are very soon sussed out. The story is just a yarn, there’s no doubt the dingo took the baby, but the little sub story about the gold; that has a different ring. Just too good to be a yarn, for he knew from experience that more than one miner sold his gold over the counter. Well known that the old miners never declared all their finds; just enough to keep the inspectors happy. This chap was just thumbing his nose at the taxman. Much too good a story not to be true.

He was, as he well knew, tainted, as are so many of us, with the ancient lust for gold, and he could smell it here, richly stimulating.

He recalled that no less a genius than the redoubtable George Bernard Shaw once said, “I am myself, labeled liar, coward, thief and so on,” and added, “So is everyone else.” Then qualified the remark by adding, “And it is my deliberate, self respecting and cheerful intention to continue to the end of my life, deceiving people, avoiding danger, and indulging my appetites whenever circumstances commend such actions to my judgement.”

“Well,” he said to himself, “Sharing illegal gold with Jim Henderson commends itself to my judgement.”

He loved gold; gold for it’s own beautiful sake. In his office safe he kept a very respectable collection of gold coins. Gold sovereigns in beautiful tooled leather cases; a complete collection of English sovereigns, the issues spanning the reigns of four monarchs. Most of them in what the dealers call excellent condition. In slightly larger cases was a collection of American Eagles. Adding lustre to the collection and obtained over his more affluent years were Liberty Heads in both the ten and twenty dollar coins; with them some St. Gaudens, a lovely coin, reputed to be the most beautiful coin ever minted. He cherished a first grade ten dollar Indian Head, enjoying the magnificent strongly designed head of the Indian chief, as much as the value of the coin. None of his pieces were special rarities, but for all that, his collection of English and American gold was of great intrinsic value to him, giving many hours of contented enjoyment. Beside these much admired coins he had a more generalised collection of the issues of the Perth Mint, including a full range of the Kangaroo nuggets; the usual range of Kruger Rands, Canadian Maple Leafs, together with a gathering of Mexican Spanish and Dutch and other miscellaneous items. Gold, after all said and done, is gold, and he bought almost anything that came to his notice.

Of all his holdings, that which he most treasured, really enjoyed handling was a small chamois sack containing a dozen or so alluvial gold nuggets. Red gold, yellow gold, and pale yellow gold, straw coloured, near to white, a beautiful collection, gathered over many years and known only to himself.

As he pondered the story, he speculated on the gold, the nuggets, their beautiful colour the strange weight, the primitive joy of possession, and decided that from the story, gold nuggets deliberately mentioned; the fellow was surely boasting about his gold, and that there’s the possibility of a decent sized nugget, somewhere in the background; if and when I catch with this lucky man, we can have a serious talk about gold. He dreamed, as do all those infected with the love of gold, of one day, that wonderful day dreamed of by all the world, the day when our dreams come true; that he might have a really big piece; he knew that it could not be smoothly rounded, all it’s edges worn smooth with thousands of years being washed by the waters of some river; like the precious pieces in his hands; the big pieces are always new, more or less; craggy, with bits of quartz or ironstone or crystals of fools gold; a bit brassy against the real thing; always a bit of mother country showing, and here was this fellow boasting of an unregistered claim and all alluvial; I suppose it’s possible that he too has a little collection of the very best nuggets he’s found. wonder what colour his gold is.

Let’s see now. Coffee house in Cairns. Should be easy enough to verify that. Gold buyer in Cairns. That too; Gold buyer, Brisbane; another, right here in Sydney. All sales in cash, over the counter. I can get him on tax.

He called his receptionist, “Please check the Cairns telephone directory. Is there a Cairns Coast Roast Coffee shop?” Then Brisbane; leave that till later. If the story is true, I could well have the information by then. Then the Queen Vic Building. His receptionist came in and placed a slip of paper on his desk. It read; Cairns Coast Roast Coffee Shop, Lake St Cairns. Phone…….

Now, that was interesting. So much for all the talk of anonymity I wonder why?

He smiled, certain that he was on to something. Smelling gold again he decided to go to Cairns, well aware that his interest was not justice, but gold, not even money, but gold.

He was a lawyer. He knew from long experience, enough about his fellow men to know that many were fools, and most foolish, if not quite fools; that everyone lied when hard enough pressed, even about little things of no consequence; that some are congenital liars, and that many lies are just a proclivity to hyperbole, inexactitudes, evasions, petty escapes. He knew that most people were compassionate and humane, but that the smell of money could change even these into greedy opportunists. He never ceased to be moved by examples of selfless devotion, and by that most powerful emotion which we call love, but is all too often brutalized and reduced to plain loveless sex. His professional experience, the day to day exposure to life in life’s more ugly aspects had made him unduly guarded, for there is much more of good amongst us than bad, but some weak trait made him ever suspicious. This is quickly felt and resented by women, and as a result he had never married; never had a really enjoyable love affair, and was now a dry unemotional man, with no real friends, just professional acquaintances and the rather detached members of his family. He had been in practice long enough to be comfortably wealthy; had never been tempted to spend good money on expensive chambers in the CBD. His little suite in the suburbs has provided all the space necessary to serve a good clientele. Lawyers don’t need to advertise, when people need them they quickly find them. He had never considered a partnership, notoriously difficult, and so he has prospered. He did not own a motorcar, taxi’s were quite adequate to his few needs for transport; an intelligent man of simple tastes, single and absorbed in his professional work and it’s devious intricacies.

He read the story again with the verified existence of the coffee shop in mind. He reasoned, this first story is true, or partly so; it is to give substance to the second story which is sheer romance. Fate doesn’t work that way, but why pick so volatile a subject? That will stir a few tantrums. He was well read and he had, as so many others taken an interest in the Chamberlain case when it exploded into the Australian psyche so long ago.

From the unhappy beginning he had seen the untenable flaws in the prosecution, had clearly understood the undisclosed powers so determined to ensure conviction; had wondered appalled with many others at unlimited use of public money to secure that conviction, the unsustainable ‘scientific’ evidence to distort obvious truth, and had felt a decided relief when in the long extended end, an impartial juror had reviewed and then discarded so much of the painfully contrived evidence and found as had the first coroner, and was glad that justice was at last vindicated and was personally pleased that the profession had justified itself.

However, it seemed a safe assumption that the old fellow sold gold, and, by Jove, he got it for nothing. “Me, or the taxman,” he said, “The rest of the journey may be harder to follow, but it’s well worth following.”

So he had his receptionist book him an open ended flight to Cairns, his first ever flight in an aeroplane; and an interesting search at the end, and hopefully a very profitable one. A few inquiries would soon show if he was on to a sure thing.

He travelled business class, and because it was his first flight, enjoyed the experience immensely. Once off the ground, he enjoyed the impersonal friendliness of the hostess, the cheerful competence of the crew, the freedom of movement, for he had imagined the seating to be crowded and uncomfortable, and he felt, as the airline planners had hoped he would, that he was receiving both good service and good value for his money. He had to change planes at Brisbane, and spend an hour or so there. The huge modern airport fascinated him; the moving walkway a small marvel, the flow of bright animated faces, people obviously going somewhere, so different from the worried looking flow in the city; it seemed a totally different world inside the huge building. As he settled at one of the big observation windows, the huge machines, the sustained roar of the engines filled him with a simple pleasure he had not felt since as a boy, he stood on the overhead bridge at Strathmore, watching the trains roaring by. Then, in another of those wonderful planes, to Cairns.

He took a taxi into the city and was pleasantly surprised at the close proximity to the airport. The fresh tree lined streets such a pleasure compared with the tiring journey to the Sydney airport; the suburbs do nothing for the city there; and was again surprised ant the size and modern crispness of the city, The lush beauty of the tropical growth in almost every street a revelation. In his generalised opinion Queensland was another country, tropical, and either in flood or on fire, drought stricken, humid, and barely civilised, and mostly all at the same time. The reality was a modern, beautifully green city. The taxi took him directly to the coffee shop.

“Yes.” The driver knew it.

“Yes, Cairns is growing, great place to live, but getting too big if you ask me.”

“You on holiday?”

“No, business.”

“Best of luck then.” And left him at the door.

He waited, examining the display cabinets until the counter was clear, and introduced himself as rehearsed. “Good morning, I am a lawyer. I am hoping to obtain information about a writer. He mentioned your shop in a story. Favourably.” He added quickly.

The owner interrupted him, “Yes that’s right. He sent me a copy of it. I gave my consent. A good yarn. Time someone did something for the Chamberlains. He used to come in here. What about it? Nothing wrong, I hope.”

“No. A small matter of some benefit to him.”

“Sorry, all I know is he used to come into the shop sometimes. Why don’t you try his publisher?”

“Good question. We thought that he probably lived in Cairns, and in any case his name might well be a pseudonym. It’s rather a controversial story. Already causing some comment.”

“That’s his name alright. Here, look at this.”

He reached over the counter and picked up a small picture frame. In it a verse, ‘The ambiance of coffee’.

The lawyer read it. A pleasant sonnet on the gift of coffee to the world. It was signed. No doubt about it, this is the name. Shocked somewhat, the lawyer thought; impossible. He quite deliberately said he would write the story anonymously. Why. Why this?

He restrained his surprise. “That’s open enough.” he said, “I wonder if you can remember a companion. Another oldish chap. Both well into their sixties I imagine.”

He could feel a stiffening in the man’s attitude. Too many questions. So he lied. “I am interested because one of my clients feels he needs support and has left a generous sum with us for his sole use.”

“I imagine he could well use that.” said the owner of the shop, “We see all kinds in here; they didn’t look all that wealthy to me.” He indicated the occupied tables with a wave of his hand. “We get a good crowd in here. Plenty of money walks in that doorway. “But the old fellows, always neat, but pretty much run of the mill.”

“Does he live in Cairns, do you know?”

“I wouldn’t think so, only saw them over a few weeks. We’d see more of them if they lived here. They mentioned New Zealand once. Try the telephone book.” He ordered a coffee and a couple of crisp home made biscuits, and sat inside the shop. Warm outside. That was one fact verified, or was it a deliberately contrived ‘proof’ of an assumed name? A double blind?

All men are liars, he thought, recalling his own lie to the coffee vendor. Good coffee, nothing like good coffee, and wondered if the girls in the office could manage a decent machine; brew the stuff properly. Seems a pity to put up with that instant stuff when we could have better. Too often have to tell another lie to support the first. Most are only little perversions, little half truths, sometimes white lies, sometimes deliberate whoppers, sometimes desperate necessities, and the political ones the most devious.

He recalled a client who told him, “Truth is a philosophers fancy; survival is the reality.” A Greek client who said, “Truth only curdles the milk.” In practise, only what can be proved is the truth, and he thought of Francis Bacon, and his bitter, “What is truth? asked jesting Pilate, and would not stop for an answer.”

They call it CPI he thought, really it’s the price of keeping a family going; they call it unemployment but really it’s the inability to support that family; we call it justice, really it’s only the law, society is people; stories are only tarted up yarns, but gold is gold, and the practical realities associated with that thought, awakened him from his reverie, well pleased with his first day in Cairns. The man in the coffee shop was right, the publisher was the obvious first call. He had dismissed such a move as being too risky after the Darville affair. They would be wary of pseudonym, and enquiries about authors. Would almost certainly want to protect an author from any probing lawyer. His mind ran on Henry Handel Richardson, those Victorian ladies Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell, George Sand and Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain and Lewis Carrol and Dr. Seuss and dozens of others, all fancy names, and what’s wrong with them? But this fellow? Makes a point of telling us that he’s writing under an assumed name, then using his own. What is he up to? Surely a bit risky after the Darville affair.

So one of the old fellows went home; to New Zealand, or was it both of them? But using his own name? Perhaps he was scared stiff after the Darville row? But does it matter? They certainly were here, in Cairns. That much is true, how much else? So he enjoyed his coffee, asked the way to the Casino, “Down there. You can see the dome from here.” He walked into the hot sunshine, toward the waterfront, the domed roof of the Casino in view.

Inside the building he stared in shocked disbelief; the huge gaming room with it’s rows of glittering machines, it’s El Dorado’s, King Solomon's Mines, Sheba's Treasure Chests, Lady Luck, Lady Bountiful, and a hundred other deceitfully attractive names, with their promises of rivers of gold; gaming tables, the boutique bars, Kino bars, with their generous jackpot promises, the Great Wheel of Fortune; and not a hundred people in the place. The beautiful opalescent ceiling, the lovely moulded glass paneling, beautiful timber work, all designed for the pleasure of thousands, and, he thought, the coffee shop more busy. Just for luck he put a couple of dollars into the nearest game machine. Once again his luck was in. Within a few minutes his two dollars was four, so he took the money and left while he was still ahead, well aware that was the only way to make money gambling. He walked upstairs and spent a pleasant half hour in the beautiful rainforest garden on the roof, vastly intrigued with the waterfalls and streams all skillfully contoured on the roof of the building. Good workmanship is always admirable. He thought it a pity so fine a place was not better patronised.

That evening he listed the goldsmiths and jewellers in the telephone directory. Less than half a dozen, discounting the couple of dozen retail jewellers and opal houses, and retired, reasonably content with the day.

The morrow was Saturday, in Cairns, for visitors and residents alike, Saturday means Rusty’s Markets. Rusty himself will be there. For the lawyer, fresh from his sheltered restricted life in Sydney. The place was an exotic adventure. Though living in Sydney, he had never been to Paddy’s Market or to any of the other great markets in the region. The local shopping centre supplies most of his modest needs; usually his sister, who keeps house for him does most of the shopping. Never has he experienced so much warm friendly activity; the attractively laden fruit and vegetable stalls were a visual delight, many of the fruits being quite unknown to him; carambola, lychees, guava, mangosteens, durian, rowlina, rambutan, sapote, breadfruit, soursops, all new to him as were many of the vegetables; he saw for the first time ten varieties of tomato, most bush ripened, and wondered yet again about the hard tasteless tomatoes offered back home; then stood fascinated before a plain steel table, displaying thousands of dollars worth of opal jewellery, ‘All my own work’; and to his own surprise took an inviting smile from the tall redhead offering a neck massage, enjoyed the novelty of the experience, and wondered if he could get the same kind of thing in Sydney. The redhead was sure that he could.

Later he drew in his breath, sharply. Here was a working goldsmith, and amongst the small display box’s on that plain steel table at Rusty’s, pins and brooches, all featuring small beautiful alluvial gold nuggets. No ornate shop here, choked with plate glass, dazzling lights and mirrors, just the honest simple work, and a book of photographs showing the miner, the man himself, slaving away at the job in a seeming desolate wilderness, swirling the gold dish in a 44 gallon drum of water ‘worth it’s weight in gold’ out there; and the prices. Without thinking he had imagined the prices to be at the same level as the prices on the fruit and veges.

As he watched, fascinated, a group of chattering Japanese youngsters, all apparently on honeymoon, surrounded the stall and he witnessed an interesting exercise in bargaining, of desire stimulated then satisfied; gold has it’s fatal attraction all over the world, every race and people. After much talk, the broken English spoken with eyes and smiles, and the vendor using much the same universal language, the ladies had chosen, the men demonstrated their worth, the group edged away, well satisfied.

"That was interesting.” He said, noting that the goldsmith had, on his part, noticed him on the edge of the group.

“Yes,” came the reply. “Third time they’ve been here. Heard of me in Kyoto, they said, had a good look, and been round town comparing prices. I notice you’re interested.”

This was an invitation to trade, but it gave him a lead into his own needs. “Yes, everyone’s interested in gold. I see you get your own.”

“Yes. Got a claim back country.” Then Lady Luck smiled at him again, sweetly, right here in Rusty’s. The man said, “Some of the diggers come in with their stuff. Good market for alluvial gold.”

He indicated a dozen or so of the pins, plain pins but each capped with a small alluvial nugget.

“Like these.” he said, and the dealer nodded. He thought of his own precious collection of nuggets. “Gold often has very interesting colour,” he said, “Do you have anything different on hand?”

“Always.” said the dealer with a smile, and from under his counter produced a small bag, and rolled on to the square of black velvet several nuggets of an astonishing and lovely light auburn colour. “Colour of a woman's hair,” he said proudly. “Interested?”

He was, intensely, and selected a thousand dollars worth, the largest of the handful.

“Cash, no cheques.” said the dealer.

He nodded, said, “Don’t let it go; I’ll have to get the money. Any ATM’s round here?”

He could draw only $500 from the ATM, but this allowed him to complete his purchase, his best ever gold deal. He then produced his card.

“I’m looking for an old miner, not a local, from down South; one of his friends has left him a small legacy; an old soldier, fought in New Guinea. All we know of him is he came up to Cairns every couple of years or so with gold. He had a claim down South somewhere. Another of his old wartime mates is a goldsmith up here.”

“Oh yes, that’ll be old Jim. Dad used to buy from an old mate. They stick together these old boys. A real brotherhood.”

The lawyer felt his blood rush. He knew he was right. There’s gold at the end of this road. “You know his name, of course?”

“Sorry, mate not me, he always talked with Dad. I only knew him as Jim.”

“What about your Dad. Could I have a yarn with him?”

“Sorry, Dad’s gone, just after Jim's last visit. I suppose Jim’s gone too.”

“Well, we don’t know. He would be about the same age as your Dad.”

“What about notes, invoices, receipts?”

“Sorry again mate, Dad did all the business. I expect all cash; no names, no packdrill.”

He nodded glumly. So near; so far. But it was a dead end, he smiled at the unintended pun; and wondered at the soldiers phrase ‘no names, no packdrill’. Just like this sale. He had heard the phrase several times in his practice, always with something to hide.

The man was not busy, so he tried again

“Well, thanks for your help. May I leave my card? If you do find a reference to the old chap, perhaps you could let me know. I begin to suspect that he too is gone. It’s for his benefit. Do you know if he supplied any of the other goldsmiths?”

“I wouldn’t think so. Dad would take all that he had. If you do meet up with him tell him Geoff’s running the business, and will be glad to take anything he’s got to sell. Here, you take my card,” and offered his hand and it was goodbye.

Yet another small group of Japanese honeymooners were being shown the delights of the stall. Clearly business was good and he reflected, Jim Henderson’s gold would be well appreciated here; always another crop of honeymooners ripening. He tried the next two goldsmiths on his list, but the instant suspicion his inquiry aroused made the job distasteful to him. Despite his professional acceptance of lying, the practice of the deceit was offensive to him, so he stopped his search, confident that the story of the gold was well and truly confirmed, and well content with the beautiful red gold nugget in his pocket.

Once again the thought crossed his mind that confirmation of the first half of the story had been made relatively easy for the sole purpose of giving credence to the real story, that compelling second half, and wondered again about the Chamberlain trial. That was someone else’s business, he was after gold. So he allowed himself a very pleasant Sunday in Cairns. The weather was a treat, ‘another perfect day in paradise’, the locals say. He spent the morning at Rusty’s, nodded cheerfully at the redhead, and to his surprise shouted himself a neck massage at her hands. She told him that her name is Marylyn, and she is here every weekend.

He later took a taxi to The Pier, “The long way round, please,” he told the driver, “See something of Cairns.”

The long way round took him out to Holloways Beach, through development he did not see in Sydney, and he had a well informed driver. Finishing the trip with a slow run along the Esplanade, where he saw pelicans for the first time, then a light lunch on the wide veranda overlooking Trinity Inlet, busy with watercraft; pored over the glassblowers intricate work, examined yet another goldsmith cum miner’s skills, but only yellow gold there and the equally good work of a score of other craft people. Then back to his hotel, altogether a good time well spent.

Back to Sydney and the comforts of his own home.

In Sydney that same week, his first inquiry in the beautiful Queen Victoria Building struck gold, but he was made to wonder at the fate which appeared to be guarding his quarry, “Yes, I know him well. What do you want of him?”

This a clear statement. ‘If it doesn’t suit me to answer, that’s it’.

So he produced his card and told his little lie. “Nothing wrong in any way. I am a lawyer, and one of his old war mates has left him a small bequest. Neither he nor any family are at the last address we have. They seem to move about a bit.”

“That sounds like an old friend of Dad’s. Used to drop in for a yarn when he was in town. Dad bought gold from him. No, I havn’t done business with him. Dad always handled that. It was always cash, no cheques. No names, no packdrill. A gentleman’s deal.”

A little old lady, seated in an alcove behind the counter with it’s ornate jewellery, so different from the effective plainness of Rusty’s market; the man’s mother, he decided came to the counter. A trim looking woman, pink rinse, well groomed, and he thought, as sharp as a needle. The son said, “You would remember him Mother?”

“You’re talking about Julie Henderson’s husband, Jim. Julie and I were at school together. A little country school. Mrs. Wilson ran if for some years before the place was big enough for the Government to start a proper one, I knew Julie well they had a daughter, Jim ran a few horses. I think Julie’s dead now her daughter Janie lost her husband just after her mother died. It must have been a terrible year for the poor child. Then she had the baby premature. A very bad year. Yes, it’s all of fifteen years since Julie died. She wasn’t much more than a child.; I met her in Grace Bros. A few years ago. She had a new man with her. I never heard his name. He had a little boy and she had the little premature one with her. She’s a lovely looking child. You’d never believe she was born so early. They’re often a bit peaky. Janie seemed very worried about something, said things were not going right. I didn’t question her, she was very upset. I didn’t have time to ask after Jim, but he’s all right, he’s been in once or twice on business. He was always very good on prices, I think his little claim was very good.”

“Do you remember where they lived?” He asked, thinking a direct question would be easier than working through the lady’s memory.

“Oh, yes. I think Jim went to live with Janie when Julie died. I think it was No 7 Eccles St. No, someone else lived there, Julie lived at No 14. Janie lived out a bit. They had a big block. I don’t remember the number.”

“They had a couple of horses there. He was wounded in New Guinea. Jim came into some good money just before they married. He was brought up by his grandmother, a real pioneer woman.”

“Do you recall the town where they lived?”

“Of course. It was Wexford. Well out in the country They were all good country people, they never lived in the city. I lost contact with Julie when I married and came to live in Sydney. Out back of Bourke somewhere; I suppose that’s where his little gold mine was.”

He thanked her warmly, raised his hat to her as he went, and thinking as he threaded his way through the crowd pouring into the building from the railway station, “Thank God. I’ll have him now.”

Back at the shop the goldsmith, who had watched his Mothers effort with some amusement, said, “A bit talkative Mum. I wouldn’t have told him so much. He’s the bloke Geoff rang about from Cairns. He had his little story off pat. I bet he’s after Jim Henderson’s gold.”

His mother smiled, though not at all amused, “I think so too. What I didn’t tell him is that Jim’s dead, and he’ll never find Janie. That I know, and it will serve him right, waste some more of his time, for I’ve sent him off to Wexford on a useless trip.”

The trip out to Bourke was long tiring and expensive; the taxi ride, some thirty miles to Wexford, also long tiring and expensive; gave him a new insight into Blaneys ‘Tyranny of Distance’. At the tiny branch office of the Shire Council, the girl on the desk was helpful. “Yes, a Mr. J. Henderson used to own land at Holles St. Sold to Mr. A. Nicholas in 1981. Why, that’s a long time ago. What do you want them for? No, we have no further information about the Hendersons. Mr. Nicholas is still at Holles street. No, there are no other Hendersons in the district. Mr. Nicholas lives at Number 5.”

Once again he told his tiring little lie. “A small bequest for Mr. Henderson. If he has died we will need to find the daughter.”

“Sorry, that’s all we have. Try Mr. Nicholas. He will help you if he can.”

Tramping up the hot dry and dusty length of Holles street, he discovered that the blocks of land were large; that there were no names, no house numbers. The blocks were known by the Lot numbers on the plans of subdivision, and were painted, not on the gates, but on the sides of the motley collection of old rusty milk cans and other unusual mail containers. These, he thought, after the suburban disciplines of Sydney, were a fair comment on the more easy going rural attitudes, but why, for goodness sake, were the wretched numbers not painted on the gates?

He was startled by the small goanna at rest in one of them, and was later informed by Mrs. Nicholas, that he lived there and the box holder fed the little fellow daily. However, before he discovered the Nicholas house he had to trudge up two long and dusty driveways; no one at home in the first; the next showed him the Nicholas house. But dammit, they both had dogs; but thank God, no dogs at the Nicholas place.

As he thus experienced the rural life of Holles St. he wondered about trying the Mines Dept. regarding Jim Henderson’s claim and decided it was too risky. He was pretty sure the find was private, confidential and illegal. He was a very tired lawyer who knocked on the door of the Nicholas home, a reasonable looking block, though drying out under the prolonged dry spell. A pleasant faced woman answered his knock.

“Mrs. Nicholas?”


He launched into his tiring little lie.

“Oh, yes we bought the house from Mr. Henderson. But that was years ago.”

A strong male voice called from within the house, “Who’s there Mother?”

She called back, “A lawyer looking for the Hendersons.”

“Bring ‘em in Mother.”

So Mother ushers him into a large comfortably furnished room, a bright fire burning in preparation for the cold night, and a large cheerful Mr. Nicholas before it.

“Coffee or tea?” he asked, “We’re teetotalers,” and pushed a chair forward.

The lawyer opted for tea, “Thank you. It's a hot day.”

“That it is; but will be cold tonight.” Said Mr. Nicholas, and they chatted amicably whilst Mother settled down at the small table with tea and Anzac biscuits, an old favourite of his. He recalled how that his Mother always had a supply in the biscuit tin, though he rarely saw her making them.

“Now what do you want of the Henderson's? Nothing wrong I hope?”

He told his little lie again. How sick he was of the petty deceit.

“Well, naturally I wondered,” said Mr. Nicholas. “When they left, they just walked out. Asked if we would mind if they left everything, furniture, car, horse, the lot. I drove them, him and the girl and the baby over into Bourke. Walked out with just a suitcase or two. The old fellow said the girl just couldn’t live in the house. Not surprised. Her mother and hubby dead within a couple of months.”

“Yes I heard that. Most unfortunate circumstances. I can quite understand the young woman’s feelings.”

“Me too, though I’ve seen no ghosts here. What about you, Mother?” He asked this as if it was the first time the thought had crossed his mind.

“Oh, no,” said Mother “This is a most comfortable house.”

Indeed, he could see that Jim Henderson, with his illegal gold mine had built in many improvements for his daughter.

“They stayed in the house for some little time after the sale. Part of the settlement. They were very generous. Chucked the car in too, all their stuff, the lot. No, there was no forwarding address. They wanted to make a clean break. They went to Sydney. They had a bad time that year, The girl specially. Said they were going to live at the seaside somewhere, so the girl could pick up a bit. She was in a bad way when they came back from that trip outback.”

“They went outback?”

“Yes, they were good campers. Real outback people. They often went out. Loved it. Just couldn’t settle down. Don’t know how they’d manage in Sydney.”

The lawyer smelled gold again; camping trips, generous to a fault, independent. Yes there’s gold here alright, all for free and no taxes. I’ve been right. Right from the beginning.

Mr. Nicholas looked at the lawyer a long moment, then said rather carefully, “And then there’s the car.” As if expecting him to say something about it. Something of importance to Mr. Nicholas. The lawyer recognised the change of tone, the defensive attitude. The body language was strong.

“What happened about the car?

“So you don’t know anything about the car?”


“Mother,” he sat upright, “Where’s that gold?”

“In the tin, where it always is, just above your head if you care to reach for it.”

He reached up to the mantle shelf above his head, to a small tea caddy, Chinese scenes on it’s four sides in green and black and gold, a bright little thing, and with a flick of his hand, rolled out across the table half a dozen beautiful little gold nuggets.

The lawyer muttered, “That’s my man, alright.” His heart jumped, increased it’s beat, the adrenaline flooding, so that his hand trembled slightly.

“So it’s not these you’re after?” said Mr. Nicholas.

“No, not at all. What’s the story? They’re nice aren’t they. May I? He picked up a couple, weighing then in his hand, “Lovely.”

”Yes, nice. Well if you’re not after them, I can put them back again, I suppose.”

The lawyer laughed slightly, “I think you are a very lucky man Mr. Nicholas; and you madam.” He had noticed a definite hardening of her attitude, and sought to soften it, “If you found these in the car, and all these years you’ve been waiting for Jim Henderson to come back and claim them, well, I think your luck’s in. I’m pretty sure that they went with the car and with Jim’s good wishes. Jim cannot be found. He could well be dead. If ever you wish to sell them, try this shop in Sydney, The Queen Victoria Building. I’ll mention the matter when I pass through. They won’t ask questions, and will give you a fair price. Here, have my card.”

He made his thanks, and left, to all intents and purposes, the trail lost once again, another dead end, and no pun untended.

However Mr. Nicholas had another couple of surprises for him. In the doorway, “Hold on a minute mate, the boy over there’s going into town. He’ll give you a lift.” He hailed the young fellow who stopped at the gate for him.

“Thank you very much,” he said, “It’s a long way and I’ll be very glad to accept.” Then Mr. Nicholas turned to Mother saying, “Mother, didn’t we meet them somewhere?”

“We?. It must have been a long time ago. I forget.”

“Come on, Mother. It was at a motor camp. Up in Queensland, Alexander Heads. At Christmas, some time ago.”

The lawyer could see that Mother was angry with Mr. Nicholas. What did she know?

He glanced at her sharply, but she was not to be intimidated. She returned his look, and said simply, “Goodbye.”

He raised his hat to her, knowing full well that there was more, and that he would never hear it.

The young man opened the car door for him, said cheerfully, “Going’ to town?” And that was Wexford.

Inside the house, Mother said, “You shouldn’t have told him about meeting them on the Coast. Let him do his own searching. That man was lying. I know it. He wants them for some other purpose. He’s not after Jim Henderson; he’s after Jim Henderson’s gold.”

“Oh, come on Mother, he wasn’t even interested in the gold.”

“My word, you men are blind. The sight of that gold fired all his cylinders. What he’s after is fifty times what you’ve got there, and you’ve put him on their track. Alex, I do wish you’d think before speaking to lawyers. They spend their lives wrangling over lies and deceits. It’s part of them. I saw through him right away.”

She changed her tone, and smiled into his face and said gently, “Let’s go out for tea tonight Alex.” Knowing that her big cheerful man would do anything he could to please her, specially after such a blue. So they had tea at the local pub - a good meal and pleasant talk with friends till late in the evening; a most satisfying evening for her.

The next morning the lawyer found himself at the little country hospital. A uniformed sister was bringing the Henderson file up on the computer, when she exclaimed, “Oh, Dr. Smith, this man is looking for information about the Hendersons. Their file is ages old.”

The lawyer recognised the situation. He had been referred to higher authority, so turned and offered his hand. The Doctor was definitely a different proposition. His look though not hostile was impersonal, the firm hand shake formal.

He entered his old ritual, “Please accept my card, I am seeking to establish the whereabouts of Mr. Jim Henderson. He lived here at 5 Holles St. I have found that he and his family have left the district. But I hope to confirm that he is the person we are seeking. We know that he is a war veteran, was wounded in New guinea, that his wife Julia died about 1980, that the daughter Janie lost her husband about the same time. If Mr. Henderson is deceased the daughter will inherit.”

The Doctor softened somewhat. The man has the facts. All he wants is confirmation. “My name’s Smith, Graham Smith. Yes, since you have the information we can confirm it for you. Do you have the file there Sister? Do you need the exact dates?”

“When we can ascertain that Mr. Henderson has gone; we had hoped you might have some information on that. We hoped they might have sought some treatment for his war wounds, and that you might have a later address. Perhaps they saw you about the baby or whatever.”

Dr. Smith glanced at the papers in his hand, “Nothing like that, I’m sorry. He turned to the Sister, “Anything for me today, Sister?”

A clear dismissal. They watched the man walk down the steps. “Something about him.” Said the Doctor.

“Yes,” said the Sister, “I’ll be very surprised if it’s a bequest.”

All through that day as the Doctor worked, the tragic losses suffered by that family stirred in his mind. He recalled the daughter, Janie vividly. The mother suddenly taken, the husband so tragically soon after; the premature birth, dangerously early, not much chance of survival at all, and the outback trip. He had opposed that because of the baby; Janie had gone against his advise. He recalled her rather odd insistence, obstinate, he thought, for an intelligent woman.

He recalled her condition on their return. She was much worse than when they set out. The old man was also upset, under strain. He had thought ‘he’s had a bad time; a sick woman on his hands. He was sure it was to do with the baby, and she will be what that damned lawyer is after. Janie’s little prem was a tiny wee thing and although she had picked up a bit of weight a little before they left, it was still tiny. A little fine boned thing, clearly the mothers child. When she came home the difference was striking. He had spoken to Jim about it, Janie was too ill, too distraught, to be questioned, and she had told a foolish lie. In spite of Janie’s condition they never called him again. Then he heard they had left the district.’ So ran the unhappy tape through his mind. He took the printout home and re-read the notes carefully. But the reading served only to confirm his suspicion that the lawyer was more interested in the baby than in Jim Henderson. Why else, so long afterward, is he poking and prying into the family history.

He remembered his shock over the sturdy little changeling baby, his clear warning to Jim, that he could see that the child was not Janie’s, his warning to Jim to be careful. And was sure that Jim understood his meaning. That was why they left. Janie would want as few as possible to see the child. His thoughts ran on. This pair are very interesting. There’s the woman; the child; there’s Jim and his gold. Perhaps it’s the gold, the legal beagle is after.

He recalled that Jim was one of the patients he had inherited with the practice. In those days the great gash in the thigh suppurating with an intractable tropical infection required constant treatment. They talked about the usual generalities, but one day, news of a rich gold strike turned their talk to gold. Jim Henderson knew a lot about gold. He told him about the Ion Idriess book, and the many tales of the early search for gold in the outback. Then one well remembered day, Jim had said, ‘Hey, you’re building a house?’ The very house he was living in, and then said, ‘You could do with a bit of that stuff, right now.’ A couple of weeks later he had come to the surgery with a canvas bag of gold, had waved his protestations down.

“Tons of it out there if you’re lucky. You’re busy enough here, Take it while you’ve got the chance.” That was Jim Henderson.

He wondered, ‘So what’s that lawyer fellow after, the baby or old Jim's gold?’ But found no answer. Regretted that he couldn’t even warn them that the fellow was after them. Blast him, he’s likely to open a real Pandora’s box of trouble, whoever the prey. Back then he had pressed neither Janie nor Jim for explanations. He was sure now that the little family was, if not in hiding, at least keeping a low profile.

Back in his office, later in the week, the lawyer reviewed his little gathering of facts.

The story thus far based on fact. The coffee shop verified; the name verified; the two old fellows verified. The persona of one of them verified as being Jim Henderson, and at one time of known address. The gold claim almost certainly verified, strong circumstantial evidence. Janie and the baby verified. The goldsmith’s mother knows them and has seen them. The family wealthy to the point of being independent. They move around a lot. Probably to escape tax. The first half of the story proven true, fact after fact. That second half based on the belief that the Chamberlain baby had been stolen. But all those fates, one coincidence after another, the contrived arrival in the miraculous fated instant, pure romantic fiction. Fates, instead of the Fairy Godmother. They would never convince a court with that level of ‘evidence’. He thought grimly of the price they would pay for his silence when he caught up.

A week or so later, he flew up to Brisbane; another flight to Maroochy, then a long taxi ride to Alexander Heads, and the caravan park there. A good drive through a sea of nothing but new houses. After Sydney a real treat. The caravan park was the usual assemblage of permanents and casuals. A smattering of young couples saving for the deposit on the dream house; a sprinkling of lonely widowed folk; a few social misfits; the mobile caravans of travellers; much the usual thing.

The proprietor was very down to earth. “No, don’t know them. Only been here three year, and that’s enough. It’s a hard life. Anyone would think I was married to them, the things I’m expected to do. Most people need a manager. We’ve gotta keep the books for seven years for the tax man. They’re over there. In those cartons. Put ‘em back when you’ve finished.” Then left him to it. However his heart was softer than his voice.

Whilst the lawyer was leafing through the dusty records, he came back with a little old woman; pink rinse, well padded, and a mine of information.

“I remember them well. Such a nice little family. There was the old man Jim, and Janie and Julieanne, her little girl. Such a nice girl. No I don’t know where they went. The little girl told me they were going to go walkabout in a motor car. She was quite excited about it. They didn’t have a car when they were here. Hardly went anywhere. They were as brown as berries. They just loved the beach. Little Julieanne sent me a Christmas card.”

“Do you have it still?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t part with it for anything. Come down to the caravan. I’ll get it for you.”

They walked through the little tented city. Caravans big and small. She nodded at one fellow. “That man’s writing a book.” She whispered. The permanents were easy to note, with their tiny little gardens. A few bright flowers, some with herbs, a few hibiscus, and some welcome shade trees and with awnings over the small assemblages of outdoor furniture. The little old lady was one such, and he sat in the shade on one of her plastic chairs while ‘she popped inside’, to get the card, a picture of Santa with a happy child, clearly still a believer, on his knee. On the back, ‘From Julieanne with love’ and he stared in astonishment. Postmarked Nyngan 2825, Nyngan, on the way to Wexford. On the way outback. On the way to the gold claim, Once again he was being proved right. ‘But heavens, this is ten years ago.’

“Anything wrong?” Asked the little old lady anxiously, “They were all right?”

“Oh yes. Nothing wrong, I assure you.” He patted her hand to reassure her. “It’s just that we need to locate Mr. Henderson. Very much to his advantage. I assure you.

The old lie, but this time of very great advantage to me.

So it was walkabout, and without a doubt, gold when they went walkabout. No wonder they loved it. What do they do? Leave the child somewhere? My word, that Mrs. Nicholas, I wonder. Surely it’s damned hard work getting gold. He would hardly take the child into the wilderness. My word, he could have relatives in Nyngan

In Nyngan, after yet another expensive and tiring journey, the Post Office was not very helpful. There were only three Hendersons. “We deliver to house numbers, hardly look at the names. Try the Rural Delivery. All the Hendersons live out of town.” On the rural mail runs, the driver on the first run knew his Hendersons. “Live up on Hill road. Been there for years. Jim Henderson, Beryl and five kids; no, never leave the place. Try number two run.”

He told his little lie again, and the woman driver thawed. “Yes, two Hendersons. The old fellow lived by himself, kept hens and sells the eggs. Been there twenty years, more, now I think of it. The other was his son. He’s got his own place a mile or so away. Keeps an eye on his Dad. His wife, Margaret Henderson. They’ve got four children; the oldest girl went to Melbourne. No work round here. Damn shame. Breaks up the families; got into trouble in Melbourne, and came home with a nice little baby. Could have got one of them round here if she thought about it. A nice girl really; any of the blokes round here would have had her. Pity she didn’t marry one of them. Damn shame isn’t it? Those fools in Canberra should do something for these small towns. No, his Jim Henderson’s not round here. Probably posted the card on the way through. Sorry.”

That was Nyngan, Zip code 2825. The woman was right. They really should do something more for the small towns. Cities full of lonely youngsters; the towns full of lonely parents. Simple enough to build up a system of small secondary industries, each town with it’s own specialty. Hundreds of ‘Towns like Alice’ simply to do something like that.

Over a light dinner he reviewed his small gathering of facts, verified bits of the story. Sufficient to establish identity, a deliberate setup, and an equally deliberate and very effective cover over every subsequent movement. Then he recalled with a start. It was only his own fruitless effort that suggested a cover up. What if there’s no cover up? Just an average family of independent means, enjoying the outback, the beach, the occasional shopping trip into town. No relatives, thousands like it in Australia, must be ten thousand caravans on the road at any one time. But, ‘going walkabout in a motor car’ had tickled the child's imagination. Hired car, of course, they didn’t own their own car; and he started again, why of course, too easy to trace them through the registration; hired; they wouldn’t steal it, hired to go outback, walkabout, a stop here, a stop there, old friends, and somewhere along that walkabout, a stream or a river where Jim Henderson every now and then replenished his gold stocks; Jim Henderson’s El Dorado.

Well the trip to Alexander Headland had been worthwhile after all, one step after another, it’s all you need for a clear trail. But his luck ran out. No hired cars in Nyngan. “Bourke, perhaps,” said the mechanic, “Sydney, anywhere.” Throughout the long journey home he pondered the possibilities yet again. He was certain that the first half of the story was true enough, and for the sole purpose of setting up the second half. That second half pure sentimental romance, sympathetic support for the family. The pivotal figure throughout is Henderson. Well Jim and I will get on very well when I find him. Then the doubts set in. What if Jim’s dead? All his tracks are years old. The writer must have known him a long time ago. How old might he be now? Perhaps it wasn’t Jim with the writer at the Coffee shop. If Jim’s dead who’s digging gold now; that’ll be Janie. Janie who? Who did she marry? Probably de facto, these days.

On the wall of his office were a few simple words framed. His Mother had given it to him when in her words ‘he had hung his own shingle out’, started his own practice. She had said, “It will make more than one of your clients think again when they read it.” It reads, ‘He knows deep and mysterious things, and sees that which is hidden, and the light dwells with him’ and it had indeed made one or two rethink their words. It was a good insight, and he frequently meditated on it in respect of the problems he was asked to resolve. He knew too that a good night’s sleep often brings an answer to difficult problems, but neither a good night’s sleep nor meditative thinking helped in his thinking on this problem.

A week or so later a letter arrived. A letter to set his hopes alive once more.

Dear Mr. Lawyer, “I know that you are looking for Jim Henderson. I know that you got details about the family from Wexford. I know that you saw Alex Nicholas, I got your address from him. I also know that you got the family history from the hospital. I also know Janie Henderson. I can give you some very useful information about her and her father, and I expect to be paid for it. I can guess what you’re after with that family, and I expect to get what you chaps call valuable consideration. If you are still interested in Jim Henderson, we should talk. Ring me on -----.

He thought long on that one. Who knows what I am after? How can they know? What indiscretions have I committed? Somebody from Wexford, knows everything that happens. Some woman, possibly, just a gossip, put two and two together and come up with a four. Clearly a hard nut. The blunt demand for money spoke volumes. I can’t imagine the family living anywhere near Wexford now. Perhaps she’s seen Janie lately?

So he rang the telephone number. A male voice answered.

“I am a lawyer. I was asked to ring this number.”

“That’ll be sweet Alice. Hang on.”

Sweet Alice said, “Glad you rang. Is it about the Henderson’s?”

“Yes we need to contact Mr. Henderson on a matter of some importance to him. I must say that from your letter I fear you may be under some misapprehension. Let me say right now I am acting on Mr. Henderson’s behalf. There is no ulterior motive as you suggest.”

Alice said sharply, “Oh, come on, that’s only the bait. You’re after the girl.”

“Alice, may I call you Alice? If your information allows me to contact Mr. Henderson, I will see that you are rewarded, amply. Tell me why should I be interested, and in which girl?”

“Oh, come on, you’re a lawyer. You know all about that family, you know that Janie came back with that changeling. They were away long enough to get to Ayers half a dozen times. We all know the dingo took the kid, and someone took the kid from the dingo. All the trackers said so. Some woman pinched that baby and bolted. All the rest was just hokum. Someone pinched that kid, and I reckon it was Janie Henderson. Hundreds of women would pinch a baby if they thought they could get away with it.”

“I’m sorry Alice. All that is supposition. There’s absolutely no evidence that they were anywhere near the Rock. Heavens it’s more than 2000 thousand miles from where they lived. I’m sorry Alice, but what you have told me is interesting, but is no help to me in tracing them.”

“Then why have they disappeared?”

“Who said they have disappeared? The jeweller’s mother met them in Sydney; they camped in their own name at a Caravan Park, that’s not disappearing. Nothing wrong with moving around. Janie was ill. The doctor confirmed that, and the doctor recommended getting away from the house, go to the seaside and recuperate. How would you like to live in the house, sleep in the bed your husband died in? The family had a terrible year. You do them a grave injustice. They simply made a fresh start. That little girl is a big girl now and has to go to school, you know. The fact that Mr. Henderson has been left a settlement is incidental.”

“Well, I don’t believe you. I think Janie Henderson pinched that baby, and is scared stiff she’ll be caught, and her old man’s protecting her, and you’re after her.”

“A lot of people believe Lindy Chamberlain innocent. A lot of people believe the dingo took the baby and a lot of people believe, like you that the baby was stolen. I should hope so. Facts, however usually outweigh our hopes. Ask yourself Alice. Are you trying to make your beliefs fit the facts? That’s what happened at that unfortunate trial. Never works, believe me.”

“Well I still think it’s the girl your after.”

“Alice, will you tell me simply and clearly, can you help me trace Mr. Henderson? I am prepared to pay you well for the information.”

“No, damn you, I won’t. And you can go to hell.”

He needed a drink, had it and spent the evening mulling over improbable possibilities. Later that night he awakened from a disturbing dream. He was asking a policeman if he could tell him the worth of Jim Henderson’s legacy. A week later he rang Sweet Alice again. Her interest in Janie might be worth exploring.

The same male voice answered the phone, “Hullo.”

“Good evening, I wonder if I may speak to Alice again. Please tell her it’s the lawyer.”

“Hang on mate,” The message was powerful. “Alice says she told you to go to hell. Hasn’t changed her mind. If you ring again she’ll charge you with stalking.”

Meanwhile fate was still interested in Janie. The little old lady with the pink perm, spotted her in Grace Bros, in the heart of Sydney. This time she took the girl by the arm, and said very firmly, “There is a lawyer looking for you, come and have a coffee with me and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Seated in the quiet of an alcove in the restaurant below the Tower, she told a shaken Janie of his visit to the shop, As Janie started to speak the dear old soul said, “Don’t tell me a thing Janie, I don’t want to know. I just pray that you are happy and safe, and, please God, may it stay that way for you and yours. But now that you know that man’s poking round do something wise. Preserve your safety. Do you have any money?”

Janie nodded, numb for a few moments with the old fears

“Now Janie, dear, you must be brave and wise, and not lose your head. Do you have passports?”

Janie shook her head.

“Well get them. You may need them some day. One for your daughter, another for yourself. Are you still with that man?”

Janie shook her head. “He made it up with her. They’re together again. We went out to Dad’s claim for a week, to finance them. They’ve gone back to New Zealand. Jordy, the little boy was hers.”

The little old lady said, “They will want references. If you have any trouble, write to me at the shop. Apply for the passports separately. And if you do travel make the first stage separately. Go to New Zealand for a year or so. This fellow is working on his own, for his own purposes. Lord alone knows why. So don’t worry, dear, just keep calm, and don’t forget Janie, now that Dad’s gone you are the only person in the world who knows what happened. This man’s only guessing, and in any case I’m sure he’s after Jim’s gold. So keep it between yourself and God. Not another soul, not me.”

“Now, Janie dear, give me a smile; I don’t want to know, but if there is anything, you should leave town, go interstate. If you can afford it, why not go to America and see someone?”

“No, I can see that you’re not ready to do that yet. But, Janie, before you die you must give Julieanne the truth.”

Janie nodded dumbly.

Letting her words sink in, the little old lady asked, “Do you still get gold?”

Janie shook her head, “I have a business, which keeps us very comfortably.”

“Well, could you go up North for a year or so till this blows over?”

Janie, now recovering from the shock said sadly, “I don’t think it will ever blow over. But I’m sure you’re right. I could start up again. I’m with a PR company, and should have no trouble with a franchise.”

“That’s good Janie. That’s the thing to do. Go up North, and start again. Lot’s of opportunity up North.”

Janie was recovering her composure, “Who are you? I guess you knew Dad?”

“No, not really, it was your Mum I knew. I went to school with Julie. We were good friends. It was such a shock when she died. So suddenly. We lost contact when we opened the shop. You were only a little girl then. Your Dad used to come in with gold. He was a good friend of my husband. They were in the war together. Now, this is the shop address, this is my home address. If you’re ever in trouble, any reason at all Janie, just ring me or come in and talk. Now, don’t waste any time, just go. There’s nothing to fear right now, but leave Sydney as soon as you can. The young lady will be at college. No trouble there. A letter to each of your clients, perhaps you can farm your long term clients out?”

Julie nodded. That thought had already crossed her mind. “I don’t really need to work. I’m quite wealthy. It’s just that I’m happier working, love the job, really. You know I nearly died when that story appeared. To think that Dad arranged it.”

“Well always remember that you are the only one who knows. Your Dad did not implicate you. I’m sure the lawyer somehow sussed out about the gold. He went up to Cairns to find the gold dealer up there. Then he came to our place. Clearly gold. I only guessed the rest because I knew Jim and about Julie and your dear husband dying in the same year. And the little premature baby. Your Dad had a terrible time that year, and he had a very sick woman on his hands. All the tragedy of that year. Your Dad had to speak up for his soul’s sake. I don’t suppose you will ever know what your Dad went through. A real soldier to the last. He just had to let that other woman know that her baby was safe and in good hands. I guess it was the only way to do it because of the dreadful publicity. You’re not the only woman to have taken a child. It seems plain that you and not another soul was meant to be there at that moment. But he still owed it to that other family, and you must still care for her.”

Janie said simply “I love her.”

“Well it’s your duty now. Love has very special obligations. You’ll love it up North.” Whilst she was speaking she stood up, smoothing her dress, gathering her handbag. A quiet homely little lady, thousands like her, quietly competent, quick witted, and hearts of gold.

Janie smiled, confident again, put her arms around her, kissed her, “I thank you with all my heart. I don’t even know your name.”

“I’m Helen,” said the other, “And you have my full support. Now, God bless you my dear; He already has, don’t let Him down. A beautiful gift. Good bye my dear.” And walked out of Janie’s life.

The little lady with the pink perm said nothing to her son of the meeting with Janie, remembering an old saying of her late husband, ‘no names; no packdrill’. She was sure there was a relevance.

A week or so later the lawyer appeared in the shop again to say he had met a Mr. Nicholas during his search for Jim Henderson. He might be in with half a dozen nuggets. I don’t know what story he might tell you, but I’m quite certain that Mr. Henderson meant him to have them. He has been honest, keeping them safe all this time in case Jim ever came back for them.

“Thanks for the information,” said the goldsmith, “I might have been hard on him.”

The little old lady with the pink perm, smiled sweetly at him and nodded as he bid her “Good bye,” and said to her son, “He’s a gentleman. He raises his hat to a lady as he says good bye.”

In keeping with the Biblical inscription on the wall of his office, the lawyer had long hours of reading in his quiet evenings at home. For companionship he employed as a live-in housekeeper an elder sister. She kept his house in excellent order, and their tastes were modest and their means adequate; she spent much of her leisure hours at the theatre, either live or in the spectacular unreal, in the company of one or another, and often all, of a sisterhood of eight or nine of like minded women, some single, some married, some de facto, some separated, or divorced, but all intelligent, charming in their feminine way, and lively. Once or twice a year they dressed on some outlandish theme, even faerie, and invaded one of the many restaurants available for a long nights fun. The women generally offered a strong counterpoise to his own rather austere life. His sister sometimes made a dinner evening at home, a talkfest from which he fled to the sanctuary of his own room to read, or into the city for a quiet meal. He usually read, had long since become bored with television and radio, little joy in being talked at ad nauseam, and found quiet satisfaction in working through the intricacies of imagination, the stimulation of thought, the quest for solutions to the infinity of our human problems; the complexities of our interactions, and the conflicts of reason and emotion as recorded in our vast English literature. Such interest possibly explains the attraction of the mystery, the suggestion of undisclosed incident and purpose which led to his pursuit of Jim Henderson and his gold.

It was such a Saturday window gazing in the Queen Victoria Building escaping also the steamy heat of Sydney, when the goldsmith, shutting up shop, spoke to him. “Remember me? Ever catch up on Jim Henderson?” knowing full well that Jim was forever beyond pursuit.

“No,” he said, “I believe him to be dead, he was an old man, and we must all go, sooner or later.” The goldsmith thought, ‘He’s human all right’, then said rather maliciously, “Someone must have caught up with him; I had a lady in the shop, Alice somebody, with some of Jim’s gold, as well as the chap you sent in. Must be plenty of it out there if you could get your hands on it.”

The lawyer shook his head and told another fib, “No I know nothing of the lady. I’m sure Jim Henderson meant Alex to have those nuggets.”

There was a moments hesitation, and he broke the contact by saying, “I’m glad you helped Alex, been nice to meet you again,” and raised his hat in the old fashioned gesture of respect and passed on. The goldsmith watched him thinking, “I bet he’s wondering how the woman got her hands on some of Jim’s gold.”

To the lawyer however, the news of Alice having accessed gold simply confirmed his belief that Jim Henderson had access to gold, and it seemed clear, to plenty of the stuff. But Jim was dead, and the case was closed. Or was it. The stuff was still being circulated.

If Alice had her hands on it, someone else probably supplied her. Alice though a gold digger, was no miner. Who?

He recalled her letter well detailed, she clearly had done some work on that, she might be good for some more information, so he decided to risk calling Alice again. It was Alice answered the phone this time, but Alice had not long since digested the letter the other lawyer had sent her; if her plans were wrecked she would certainly not assist his, so she interrupted him saying, “I told you I would charge you with stalking; put the phone down immediately, or I report you to the police.”

He replaced the phone on it’s cradle, smiling at his image of Sweet Alice in righteous mood.

This was indeed the end, but he thought the long journeys not wasted. That beautiful red gold nugget was ample consideration. Perhaps, he thought, the whole adventure was but another aspect of the same fate which had guided the woman to Ayers Rock, and had touched and guided him simply to lead him to the red gold nugget in his hand, “Who knows?” he said to himself “Who knows?” But clearly, without the pursuit of the unknown Mr. Henderson he could not have obtained it. A lovely little treasure. He recalled the trials endured by the Count of Monte Christo to gain his treasure, and thought himself lucky.

He stopped the idle train of thought, momently shocked by a revelation. He, with Sweet Alice, and Alex Nicholas, all have come, consciously or by chance, close to a concealed truth, and have, each in his own way, been bought off with gold. Yes, that doctor too; he will have seen the baby, she would have wounds still plainly visible; he’s had gold too I guess; even the hidden writer of the story was paid in gold nuggets. Who else? Is this story about the baby; is it about gold; or is it something to do with a deeper purpose? And Jim Henderson, or whatever his real name is, led to, given that gold long years before the drama began? All arranged in advance. A decent fellow like Nicholas guided to Wexford; a man who would keep his mouth shut about anything he saw. And that Mrs. Nicholas to make sure of it; and Sweet Alice with her sharp intuition getting a job in the Shire Office, and a non literary chap to write it up, not conditioned by the Establishment; yet the whole thing could have been done without the drama, without the destruction of the Chamberlains, without the years of guilt and fear; he laughed, without me being led by the nose up to Cairns and out into that Godforsaken wilderness round Wexford.

Well he thought - this is the end of it.

It was not the however the end. Returning to his office one warm afternoon, his receptionist had an interesting message for him. “A Mr. Nicholas called. He said he was in Sydney to see about the gold. He left you this little box.”

It was indeed a little box - just a matchbox - but it was heavy, for the size, and he knew it was gold.

There was a short note from Mr. Nicholas

“Dear Sir,
I have sold the gold from Mr. Henderson.

Thank you for talking to the goldsmith. He was really friendly. He helped me with choosing a nice design for a brooch for Mrs. Nicholas.

Thank you very much for your help and advice about the gold. It has been very helpful to us at our age.

Please accept the enclosed nugget as our grateful thanks for your interest and advice.

Mrs. Nicholas says to pass on her good wishes for you.

Alex Nicholas

He sat a long while, over that one, rolling the little nugget in his fingers - a full ounce, he knew.

That Mrs. Nicholas; he was sure she had told Alex to do this. Her way of telling me she saw through my little lie. She read me rightly

Well the woman had indeed, and the nugget in his hand surely gave him membership into this strange brotherhood. He too was now bought?; rewarded?; tainted? With Jim Henderson’s gold. The deeper implications of deliberate planning suddenly became clear to him.

This gift seemed real evidence of such long term deliberate planning. Henderson led to the gold so early in the drama; and everyone touched by these events - including Henderson, paid off with gold.

This was Fate indeed, and Fate with a long term purpose. He saw now that the purpose must be to do with the daughter and the baby - and of course the Chanberlain family.

And why me?

And is the drama finished?

If not when? And who? And why?

Was this nugget payment for services rendered?

The end for me?

But what of the others?

The possibilities, endless. He needed another whiskey, and made it a generous one.


The Goldsmiths

It was later in the warm afternoon, the crowded alleyways of Rusty’s Market thinning out, the stallholders packing their wares, and himself packing the small display boxes of gold and silver, opals and the lesser gemstones, strings of cultured pearls, seeded in the warm waters of that treasure house of Australia, the fabulous north western corner on the Indian Ocean, that his mind turned again to the lawyer, “All the way from Sydney; that’s about three thousand miles away. I bet he didn’t come all that distance for fun. The man’s got other game in sight.”
Later that night he spoke to his father about the incident; the father was retired, not dead as he had said; the son’s lie was just a fib, harmless, a natural reaction to an enquiry that might trouble the family. No lie in the accepted sense, just a defense against a possible threat, and in that circumstance, wholly justified.

The father asked, “Did you find out what he was really after?”

“No. He had a story about a bequest.” The father laughed, “A few dollars won’t interest Jim Henderson. Both his needs and his wants are simple, and his means more than adequate; Jim’s been keeping low for some years now. I wouldn’t know where he is, a bit odd, something to do with his daughter; she’s been very restless since her hubby died, lost her Mother the same year. Had a very bad time Jim told me, and he humours her, looks after her very well; you did well to fob him off; and he bought gold; that’s interesting. Probably chasing Jim’s gold.”

The conversation turned to the days business, the replenishment of stocks, wondering if they would ever see more of Jim’s gold, and what’s happened to his rich source; the differing tastes between the Japanese and the European customers, the flow of visitors from overseas.

Later, the father rang his and Jim Henderson’s friend in Brisbane, and in Sydney, and alerted them to the lawyer and inquiries about Jim.

His first meeting with Jim was on the muddy bank of a fast rushing stream high up in the rainforest of New Guinea, a few yards from their ill defined rest area on the Kokoda Trail. Jim had a tin bowl and was washing dirt from the bank of the stream. He well knew what Jim was doing, but stared in disbelief. “Hey, what are you up to?”

Jim had replied, “Take a look at this.” There was a tin plate beside him. On it a tiny shining heap of golden grains and flakes of gold.

“Hell.” he said.

“Plenty more where that came from, I guess. Pity we’ve got to move on.”

He had said, “You’ve done some prospecting before?”

“Yes, plenty,” said Jim, “You?”

“No, not prospecting. I’m a goldsmith, make the stuff up into jewellry.”

“Where do you work?”


He recalled, vividly, the close hot rain, the mud, the sodden clothing, the chap before him on his knees beside the stream; the shining pile of gold on the tin plate, the man’s casual attitude toward the gold. He well knew that in different circumstances a find like this would cause mayhem, and recalled the man’s next remark.

“That so. Might get in touch with you when all this is over. Here, you take this, you know what to do with it.” and he handed me the gold.

I said, “Don’t be crazy. The stuff’s yours.”

“Got plenty,” he said. “Tell you all about it one day, just get me out of this alive.”

Later, in the course of a couple of months, they met up with another gold bug, also an apprentice smith, and agreed to keep in touch, Jim telling them that he would be supplying them with all they need, joking as ever, “Just get me outer ‘ere alive.”

One desperate day, rain relentless in the steamy afternoon, the knee deep mud, the entangling bush, a Japanese sniper caught Jim Henderson as he crashed into a black water filled hole in the jungle. The bullet tore open his thigh, the wound filled with swamp water, and Jim joined the thin stream of wounded wending their way back to Base in the hands of the gentle Fuzzy Wuzzy’s, his system racked with poisons.

In time the others reached the summit, and began the slow assault on the bunkers, the stores and the ammunition dumps below them, their target now more or less in sight.

The day came when the killings stopped for a brief while; they rested, bone weary, sick with the sodden food, nerves like piano wires with the eternal vigilance, sick of death and injury, and watched the fleeting glimpses of the great naval and aerial battles so far away, and sensed from the few signs available to them portents of the distant victory, and returned to the killings, but now assured of victory.

The fierce ardour of war forged friendships deeper in spirit than is possible in the pale conflicts of the city, or the competitive strictures of the sporting fields, and he was not altogether surprised, when, years later Jim Henderson limped into his shop in Cairns, “Gidday, mate, remember me?” and had rolled out onto the little black mat on his counter, a treasury of beautiful gold nuggets.

“Any use to you?” asked Jim, “Absolute bedrock prices.”

Jim stayed with them. He wouldn’t allow a motel room for his few days in Cairns; met his beloved Mary, talked of the others, the chaps who had not come back, relived the better of those horrendous days, but neither man spoke of the killings, sometimes a sniper might be mentioned, or the gold, or a bunker, but Mary knew full well of the horror of those few years, so much a part of his life. Now that they were ageing all too often the early hours of the mornings were too disturbed by unbidden memories for sleep, and they now rose when he wakened, and walked the beach or the garden until the hours again granted rest.

“Best not to talk of it at all.” said Jim, “Rouses up memories and thoughts we are better off without. What use to blame yourself? Yet so much is recalled as grief, regrets and guilt. God knows,” and this with no conscious thought of any God, “God knows none of it was our fault. When you’re fighting for your life, it’s him or me, no prisoners. We were all savages.”

So the talk is mainly of home. Of Mary’s garden; the amazing, bizarre but beautiful heliconia's and ginger's; Jim telling of his home at Wexford, his family, his horses; the vast flat plains, the endless horizons, the wildlife; all so different from the lush green of the rainforest in which Cairns City is but an enclave. Of the vast wilderness in which his rich El Dorado is hidden; of his old happy life with his grandmother, and her tiny but prosperous farm, and his new life on the stockmarket, ‘different stock altogether’.

And years later the tragedies which swept the family, then it was always Jim and his daughter, and her little Julieanne, and now, some damned lawyer poking round, and very interested in gold, Jim’s gold.

So he telephoned a warning to his old mates, alerting them to a nosey parker who likes gold. His old mate in Sydney, now gone, the son told him, and hasn’t sighted Jim for a long time. Wonder what happened to his gold mine?

He put the phone down with the clear understanding that it wouldn’t be long before his son, too, would be running the business, and that evening took Mary out to dinner at her favourite restaurant, and determined to do so at every opportunity; Mary, who understood him even better than himself, realized the wellspring of the thought, and eased his brief remaining time with loving care.

The goldsmith in Brisbane was not bothered by the lawyer nor had he seen Jim for some time and hardly expected to see him again. He also wondered what became of Jim’s bonanza. In Sydney, his shop in the Queen Victoria Building, an international stream of humanity his daily interest, the Sydney goldsmith told the lawyer nothing, but his Mother, who spent much of her time in the shop, fascinated with the human ebb and flow so richly displayed there, had sent the fellow off on what she believed to be a fruitless errand to Wexford, the long hot dry dusty journey with little pleasure in it for him. She had clearly read his eagerness for information, had sensed it’s basis in gold; why check out the goldsmiths? Why, indeed? So she had sent him to Wexford, from whence the Hendersons fled long years ago.

She was not at all surprised at meeting with Janie so soon afterward. Pressed, she would not admit anything more than simple coincidence; long experience had made clear in her world the interactions, the endless connections that bind our affairs into the wholeness of life; the knitting of our diverse experiences into patterns sometimes felt to be commonplace, even drab, but often into patterns complex and beautiful, and with clear purpose.

Jim Henderson, her dead husband’s old friend, now gone, she pointed his daughter into a new and safe and wholly satisfying way of life, and passed on, duty done.

Janie did not renew either the Cairns nor the Brisbane contacts. She had made no visits to that EL Dorado for many years. A couple of times with Jim, he being anxious for her to be able to identify the guidemarks in the flat uniformity of the outback country bordering on the Great Southern Desert. Later she went out, finding her way through the wilderness; later again she went out for her companion when his wife returned looking for warmth and her child, and she went out to finance a new life for the reunited family. Her last trip had been so painful, her first ever visit to her child’s grave, and the shock of ‘Somebody’s Darling’, and Mrs. Granger had stirred ghosts in her psyche and instilled doubts in Julieanne’s young searching mind.

Now Julieanne was pressing her to go again, and this time to take Peter. Janie was shocked. It was her father’s mine, why should Peter know about it?

“But Peter already knows about it.”

“Julieanne, you shouldn’t have. What if you separated. It’s so dangerous.”

“No, Mum. It’s not that way at all. Peter had to know. I couldn’t keep it secret from him. We’re in love and we are going to get married as soon as possible.”

Janie, whose strength for many years has been in the companionship of the child, now faced the dilemma faced by so many parents. The fledgling, because of the patient nurturing, is now competent and capable, and has visions of leaving the nest. So she had ‘a talk’ with Julieanne.

“Can you be sure it’s love? Not just a youthful fling with a man?”

Julieanne, indignantly, “Of course, Mum. You know me better than that. We are going to get married as soon as I’m twenty.”

“That’s young for these days.”

“I know, but we’ve been together since I was a kid, and we’re going to stay together.” That wasn’t so long ago, thought Janie, but Julieanne went on, “Peter’s a good man, he never bothers me, he’s very considerate and I’m very capable. You’ve been a wonderful Mum. I can run a home. I can run a business.”

Janie knew that this was so. Has she not worked toward that end for the best part of that twenty years?

“I’d sooner be married early. Have my children while I’m young. I don’t want to waste my life at University. Peter and I have plans.”

“Plans, so soon?”

“Yes, Peter is already making inquiries about an apprenticeship.”

“An apprenticeship? In what? He’s already becoming expert with the computer.”

“A goldsmith, of course. He’s starting at TAFE in the New Year. We were going to tell you at our next evening at King Arthur’s.” This is a favourite restaurant in Southport. “I’m sorry it’s all come out this way Mum.”

So they had their evening at King Arthur’s Table, and discussed this brave new world with Graham and Janie. Graham was very supportive and it was agreed, Janie shocked at the risk, to take another trip out west with Peter; Peter firm with his assurance that he would never breach the confidence, and pointing out that such a source of income should most certainly be kept alive and in the family.

It was a party of somewhat differing feelings that drove out through the suburbs, then the Ranges; the vast tract of mountainous country that separates the populous Coastal strip from the dry outback; then through the wide cattle lands to the very edge of the Great Central Desert. Janie pointing out the faint landmarks, all important reference points to the location of the gold. All difficult, so faint the guiding marks in the wild empty country.

Peter, however confounded her. Whilst she was driving, he produced from his pack a gadget; “it’s a GPS.” he announced proudly, “And here’s a map.” He then produced also a 1:50,000 Commonwealth scale map; something Janie had never thought to do, “When we get there we will have the coordinates from this little gadget, don’t even need a compass. Janie felt a hot surge of anger. How dare he. The location had been her secret, now Peter would have it. Who next? But she held her tongue, said nothing, realizing that it would have to be Julieanne watching over Peter, and found it in herself to be rather pleased that the location was now fixed and hoped, with a pleasing degree of confidence, that ‘her secret’ would now be safe with the young people. So she showed them how to hide the car among the stunted trees, how to locate the tiny campsite; had some fun inducting Peter into some of the more inconvenient aspects of camp life in the bush. Told them yet again of the great need to move about without leaving tracks that would, could, lead some curious and observant stockman to their worksite. Showed Peter the gibber covered flat where the treasure was buried; invited him to show her where they last worked; he had not the slightest clue; showed him how to remove the hot stones; the necessity to replace then with care. “Sunny side up.” said Julieanne.

Peter absorbed in a flood of new experiences, gained a new understanding of the two women and the more generalised experience of Australia, thought that as a pair they were sufficient to test the endurance of any man. Born and reared in the urbanised glamour of the Gold Coast, he, as with thousands of others had little idea of the vast sunburnt country beyond the Ranges. Books and pictures are one thing; all on a flat plane and bounded by edges. Out here the reality is a shock; the sun a burning threat; the space almost illimitable; the soil burned red, vegetation a stunted remnant; and the flies; what do they live on?

In time, and in spite of the flies, he began to have a feeling for those spaces. The distances, the wide flat horizons, the shattered remnants of mountains and the potent magic of the silent cool of the nights, seemed in time to be some compensation for the hard unusual work in the ancient river bed, the harsh endurance of the heat of the sun; the work necessary to fill those little canvas bags.

He wondered aloud, “What are you going to do with it?”

“Keep it,” said Julieanne, “Stock for our business.” Their spartan late afternoon meal was yet another lesson in the austerities of life in the outback, and provided other surprises. When the big goanna appeared, neither of the women appeared surprized; Peter was, indeed somewhat shocked. Julieanne said, “Hullo, back again?” and tossed him a slice of her damper.

“Give him some, Peter,” she said, “You’ll have a friend for life.”

“What, does he appear every time you come out here?”

Janie nodded, “An old friend.”

Peter asked, “Do we have an obligation to feed him?”

Julieanne said, “He likes our company. Everyone likes a bit of variety. He likes damper, and beans and everything.” She tossed the creature another slice of their still warm bread, and with a slow look around at them, it disappeared, as quickly and as silently as it had appeared.

Janie recognised that they were not experienced prospectors. They simply collected any visible gold. If Janie had not learned from her father to save and wash the sands, they would not have garnered that harvest; little realising that there was more in those sands than they garnered in nuggets; so there was much that was passed over. Tiny nugget grains and flakes not observed. They knew that the paydirt was rich but took only a fraction with them, and had no practical understanding of the full potential of the prospect, whether it was a pocket, or if they were working a real bonanza.

The largest nuggets were not big. Nothing ever was spectacular, their best piece was only about 5 ounces.

The small sizes spoke eloquently of long ages of tumbling in fast waters, so much reduced to grains and flakes, so their recovery rate was low, the work required arduous and prolonged.

Later, the little bags filled, the campsite and the working face on the riverbed all carefully restored to it’s natural state, the goanna fed the last scraps and every tiny piece of rubbish, every trace of their presence removed, they regained the road. Later still they called at Holles St, surprising an older but delighted Mrs. Nicholas, Janie reliving for Julieanne her early childhood, Julieanne pleased to be showing Peter round, setting up contacts for their future.

Later again they followed the long tedious journey through the plains, the road littered with each nights kill of roos and other small life. As the houses thickened into suburbs the road kill lessened and then it was the real suburban wilderness of Sydney, so different, so much more ugly than any rural wilderness, and so into the very heart of the City.

Here the goldsmith was pleased indeed to see them. “Yes, he was sorry, Mum was gone now. Some time ago.”

“And Jim?”

“Yes, he too.” He recalled the lawyer’s ‘we all must go, sometime’, but he was so pleased; he has wondered many times if he would ever see Jim again, and here was Janie and the daughter and her young man. He was even more pleased as the young couple showed a sound technical understanding of the trade, and discussed possible designs for their own supply of the gold, with Janie again finding herself on the outside of the animated little group, and reflecting yet again that the younger generation was proving to be thoroughly capable of looking after the world. The goldsmith told them with a chuckle of Sweet Alice, her careful planning to make the most of her little store of Jim’s gold; of her scornful dismissal of the lawyer and her satisfaction from knowing that he had never caught up with them; spoke to them of Alex Nicholas and his gold, and Janie was able to tell him that Jim would certainly have wanted Alex to have the gold.

He told them of his last chance meeting with the lawyer, right outside the shop, and of his teasing of the fellow with the information that Alice also had her hands on some of Jim’s gold

“And did it press a button on him? asked Julieanne.

The goldsmith smiled, “Yes, easy to see; it made him wonder how much he might have missed.”

This was a most informative and stimulating contact for all, allowing Peter to exercise his developing skills, Julieanne a good and shrewd companion beside him, the goldsmith pleased to maintain the old relationship, and to preserve it for another generation. He tried to tempt Peter with an interest in the business should they ever think of moving down to Sydney.

The young people laughed at that one. “Live in Sydney? After Southport, not us.” So the goldsmith compromised. Offered them a night out in Sydney, to Julieanne’s delight, she having vivid memories of the magical night when Janie and Graham’s eyes were opened to each other. They spent the next hour or so in the Building, buying outfits more suited for such an evening in Sydney. Definitely not the place for blue bush singlets; so Peter wore a formal suit for the first time in years.

The women also needed evening wear more suited for the occasion, they thought Janie looked very smart in black with a white classic shirt over, and Julieanne absolutely ravishing, thought Peter, in a simple form fitting blue dress. So it was yet again another wonderful evening in Sydney, and this time clearly for her and her Peter.

On the morrow, they visited Centrepoint with that magnificent panorama of Sydney, the Harbour; the Heads; the Bridge and over the City to the ramparts of the Blue Mountains; had an excellent lunch downstairs, and set out on the long drive up the Pacific Highway to Graham and to home.


The Doctor

As he came into the foyer of the hospital the Doctor noted the man at the desk. Sister at the monitor bringing up the files.
“Good morning Sister. Anything for me?”
“Good morning Doctor. This man is a lawyer and he is hoping to contact one of the locals through our records.”

“Indeed,” said the Doctor, “Nothing confidential, I hope?” Knowing that Sister was one hundred per cent reliable. His comment was for the lawyer, and he turned appraising eyes on the man, a glance that said plain and clear ‘what do you want?’

The lawyer saw the defensive walls going up. He knew and read the signs; had often provoked them in his work, and could understand the defensive signals now firing before his eyes, and knew that he must be careful.

“Good morning Doctor. Please have my card. I am a lawyer; no, this is no legal matter, nothing contentious. I am trying to find a Mr. Jim Henderson, in the matter of a bequest of some benefit to him. We have his last address as being 5 Holles Street. The County Clerk suggested that you might have a later address. That he may have referred to you in respect of his wound, or because of the baby, and thus have had a later contact. I should add that we are aware of the tragic events which probably influenced their decision to leave here.”

This clear statement appeared to satisfy the Doctor. As did the simple request for verification. He turned to the Sister at the computer. “Do we have any later address?”

“No, I’m sorry. Just 5 Holles Street. Nothing since then. I’m sure they left the district. Our last entry is 1981. My, that’s a long time ago.”

“Yes,” said the lawyer, “That's when my enquiry starts, and when it appears to finish.”

“They might know at Holles street.”

He shook his head. “No, they have no forwarding address.”

“Well,” she said, “I’m afraid that’s all we can tell you.”

The Doctor asked, “Anything for me Sister?”

She shook her head, and they watched as the man walked down the steps.

“Something about the chap,” said the Doctor, “He changed his tone when he spoke about a bequest. That sounded like a fib.”

“Yes,” said the Sister, “He’s after Jim Henderson for something. I’d be surprised if it is a bequest. He’s already quizzed Alex Nicholas, by the sound of it. No forwarding address there. He hoped for more than that.”

“Indeed,” said the Doctor, “Unusual for a principal to be spending so much time ‘just looking’ for someone. Usually get an agency to do the dog work. It’s a long way from Sydney. Must be costing to be doing it himself.”

“And therefore,” said Sister a trifle maliciously, “He hopes to get a lot more for his trouble.”

Thoughts of the confidentiality of patient records were running through his head. The tragic events in Jim Henderson's life so far back in the 80’s. The two deaths, and then the daughter Janie, her delicate premature baby and now this lawyer fellow knows all about them. Why? He spoke to the sister, in whose mind similar thoughts had been alive, stirred by her glance over the files as she took the notes off the computer.

“I think our lawyer friend is lying. Please give me a printout of everything we have on the family. The daughter's married name was Martin.” He smiled at her, “I’m sure there won’t be any papers leaked from here.”

She smiled back to him, “I don’t know how they manage. We do much better here.”

He waited till the printer ticked out the notes for him and walked with them in his pocket as he did the rounds, then a coffee in the Staff Room, before settling in his office. The files covered five members of the family Jim, with his shattered thigh, and the intractable tropical virus, Julie, his wife, her sudden death; the similar tragic death of Janie’s husband, both from an aschaemia, odd that, then Janie's collapse, the premature birth barely over the twenty eight weeks, and then both Janie and the baby improving, Then that ill advised camping trip outback; might be good for Janie but terribly risky for the baby. She had been happy enough to come to the surgery for a check up before leaving, and he had again warned her of the risk; had flatly opposed the trip, given grudging consent only because of her really stubborn insistence that she must get away from the house for a while; the memories too raw, the very atmosphere a hurtful experience.

So in the end he had consented. “But only because you must.”

He put the files away with the clear conviction that his unrest lay at that point, Janie and the baby.

Duty called, but it was the image of that tiny little premmie that floated intermittently through his mind as he worked. Sister was at his side, with a nurse; setting up a sling for a young motorcyclist with a broken leg, a shattered forearm, and wicked gravel burns deep in his hands.

“Sister, did you ever see Janie Henderson and the baby after that camping trip?”

“Well before my time,” said Sister, “The notes said you called. She was too ill to attend surgery. Medication only. No notes on either surgery or hospital treatment of any kind.”

He nodded thinking, ‘no, she wouldn’t have come here. Definitely wouldn’t want anyone to see the child, poor little beggar’. That was all then. The work on hand claimed their skills and the Henderson’s faded back into the shadow of earlier years.

In his study, in the quiet of the evening, the image of the lawyer troubled him again; the lie, and the prying. Why? Why is always a tough question, and again the answer seemed to be Janie and the baby. Or was it Jim Henderson and his gold? He decided that it would be Janie and the baby. He recalled Janie’s return from the camping trip, that wonderful outback trip that was going to be so good for her, and lapsed into reverie, and walked again with Jim into Janie’s bedroom at 5 Holles Street so long ago.

Jim had said, “Thanks for coming. I’m afraid Janie’s slipped back. Needs some help.”

I said, “How’s the baby?”

“Oh, she’s lovely. Nothing wrong with her. It’s Janie needs your help.”

“She was reasonably well when you left. What happened?”

I could see that I was pushing Jim, he was more than a little upset.

“I don’t know. I guess it’s coming back to the house again. Too many bad memories here. I’m selling up. Go to the Coast. The sea will do her good.”

I said, “That sounds a good idea. That camping trip probably was too much for her with the baby.” And I went in to see Janie. Her appearance shocked me. When I saw her last, it was depression, and she was moving out of it. I know that deep shock always takes time and grief can scar for many years. But this was much more than grief. This woman was literally sick with fear. Literally hiding in the bedclothes. I chatted, and soothed her a little. Inducing some calm, questioned her gently, but could find nothing relative to her distressed condition. Asked about the baby and was surprised at the overwrought insistence that the baby was all right; no need to see her. She lied to me. The lie was palpable, said the child was with a neighbour whilst she was in bed. So I placated her gave her a sedative from the bag; this girl was not so much ill as she was afraid and too afraid to confide in anyone. I waited till the sedative took her into sleep, then went out to Jim. I told him I thought it looked more like a job for a priest than a doctor.

Gave him the prescription, saying, “That will calm her quite a bit. Get her out of here, the beach somewhere is a good idea.”

Then I said, “Can I see the baby?”

When Jim hesitated I knew they had talked about this. No doubt, Jim had very firm instructions.

I gave him little chance to prevaricate, saying, “Jim, that child is a twenty eight week prem. She has very slim of survival. I really should see the baby.”

Jim swallowed on that, and silently led me into a back room to the child, sound asleep in a carrycot.

“I see Janie uses a carrycot. A baby like this should be left alone no longer than absolutely necessary. All new babies have a lot to learn, prem’s specially so. They can even forget to breathe, and need Mum at hand at all times.”

Jim said, “Yes we know. Usually she’s with Janie.”

I said, a little sharply, “They are both at risk Jim.” I awakened the little thing gently; and picked her up. My first thought, ‘heavy for a prem at this age’ then saw the reason for Janie’s fear and Jim Henderson’s concern. No doubt about it. This baby was born full term. No mistake about it. She was beautifully robust, solidly built. Janie’s baby was a delicate fine boned little thing. Then I noticed the wounds on the throat. I pulled the shoulder covering down exposing the scars there. All were healing but all so clear, I glanced at Jim. He hung his head like a sick child, said nothing. Nothing to say, I thought; I ran my fingers over the scars feeling for lesions, splintered bone, but the wounds were clear; I said to Jim, “What happened? A dog? The marks are clear.”

He nodded, couldn’t trust himself to speech.

I placed her down, putting a forefinger in each tiny little fist. She grasped easily, secure in her own grip. I put her back into the cot, tucked her up, saying “She’s lovely. Sound as a bell.”

I looked Jim in the eye, and said, “Janie’s very lucky. She has a beautiful child. Quite outgrown her birth. She seems a different child.” and saw him wince.

“Tell Janie, I quite support your plans to go to the seaside. Do some consistent swimming. She will soon be well again. And, tell her Jim, that she has nothing to fear. Just be very careful Jim, Janie could not take another shock. Don’t leave any loose ends lying around. Take care. You have a double responsibility on those shoulders now. Just be very careful.”

I did not see them thereafter. Heard through the grapevine that they had sold up and gone. I noted on the file the visit, the medication, and that the baby was well. But now this damned lawyer poking and prying. Who is he after, Jim or the baby?

Now, he wondered, what is it to me; and found no answer other than the conviction that the lawyer had much more than a bequest on his mind.

Now, only a few weeks after the lawyer, there is a telephone call from Janie Henderson. She was at an hotel in Sydney.

She introduced herself, “I am Janie Henderson, You were our Doctor some years ago. My Dad, Jim Henderson told me that if ever I was in trouble to see you. Now I have real need.”

“Well Janie Henderson, I’m really pleased to hear from you. Some lawyer turned up at the hospital looking for information about the family. He’s not blackmailing you, is he?”

“No.” said Janie, “He hasn’t found us and I think he’s no longer interested. He knows that Dad is dead now, I think he was after Dad’s gold, but he did give me a very bad fright. One of Dad’s friends told me about him.”

“Well Janie, what can I do for you?”

“We moved to Southport recently. I had a nice business in Sydney. But went to Southport because of that lawyer. You remember Julieanne?” Of course he did. How could he ever forget.

“The dear girl had to see a doctor for a simple problem. A new man for us. He did a blood test then typed it, I don’t know why. Then the fool told her she could not be my child. We have incompatible blood types. She must be adopted. Now she wants to know about her true parents. Doctor, I don’t know what to do. I just know that I cannot possibly tell her the truth.” There were tears in Janie’s voice.

Doctor Smith was all too well acquainted with the note of tragedy in the human voice, and he remembered his parting words to Jim Henderson, “Take care of her. You have a grave responsibility Jim.”

Janie was pleading, “So I’m asking you Doctor, please can you come down and talk with her. Time after time fretting about this, my mind keeps turning to you.”

“God help us both, Janie. Only you know the truth. How can I help?” and his thoughts ran back over the years to Janie, racked with fear, to that beautiful impossible child, clearly not Janie’s; to his comment to Jim Henderson, ‘more a job for a priest than a doctor’. “Janie, how can I help?”

Janie, dully, “Dad’s dead; Mum’s dead; Alex is dead, my baby died; if I even thought of telling, I think I would die too. Doctor this is a fate. You know it has driven me for years. Now I need help.”

“Janie, should I become involved? Where is this going to end?”

“What can I say; Doctor, this child has cost me so much. I am certain, absolutely certain, that I was meant to have her. We, Dad and I, saved her life. She would have died there without us, and now she wants her own Mother. She’s not ill. She just wants to know. Doctor, please come and help me. As a friend Dad told me you would. I need you so much just now.”

Thus Doctor Graham Smith went to Sydney, a friend in need. Made the necessary arrangements and drove down the long miles to Sydney, and to Janie Henderson, torn to pieces by her beautiful baby, and, he thought grimly, now he too fingered by the same fate.

Janie was waiting for him in the foyer of the hotel, with her a very attractive young woman, the fateful Julieanne, no doubt. Janie put her arms round him, a warm friendly greeting, or is it he wondered the action of a disturbed child seeking assurance?

She introduced the Doctor, “Julieanne, meet Doctor Smith. Our family Doctor from the old days. Darling, I’ve asked the Doctor down to confirm what I hoped I should never have to tell you, but now that you know that you’re not my child, I must tell you.” Janie was tense, but not defensively so.

Julieanne was clearly interested in him. “What does he know?” Not stated, but evident in the cool appraising glance as she acknowledged his greeting.

He said to her, “Resident Doctor at Wexford. I looked after your mother when she lost her husband. Your mother had an extremely bad time that year. You have his name.”

He was cool, she decided, and was surprised by his youthful appearance. She had expected a family Doctor to be much older.

Janie had booked a comfortable suite for the weekend. As they settled in, she said to the girl, “Please wait here. I must talk with the Doctor; my past,” she said with a rather sad little smile. They settled in another room.

“I’ve come to you because Dad told me to see you if I was ever in serious trouble.”

He nodded, “Yes I realized when I saw you and the baby after that tramping trip. She is clearly not your child, and probably the cause of your fears.”

Janie nodded, “Dad told me you saw that.”

“Only an observation at the time. I was, of course, intensely curious. But it was no business of mine unless you confided in me. You were in no mind to confide in anyone, and as your Doctor my interest was confined to your health. As you are well aware, I didn’t even have the opportunity to care for your health. You fled, with your Dad. I’ve wondered, many a time how you managed to drag out of that depression.”

She shook her head, “I’m sure you must have a good idea of what we went through, but we both came through on the right side. We had to, for her sake. Dad was marvellous. I couldn’t have survived without him.”

“Well Janie, you are clearly well, in excellent health now, and so is the young lady.”

“Yes, that’s so. But now Julieanne knows that I am not her Mother. She has every right to ask, but I cannot, I dare not tell her the truth. Dad’s gone and you’re the only one who can help me.”

“Janie, all I know is that somewhere along those outback roads, your baby died, and that somehow you found another. It was almost certain that the little premmie would die. Now I don’t want to know any more.”

“She was a gift from God.” said Janie. All the horror of that terrible year was again alive, dark and powerful, coursing through her, and in spite of her resolution, the tears flowed. “If I told you everything you would weep with me. Dad’s gone. I have to tell her something. Something to stop her searching. My God, she might uncover the truth. It’s only natural. Please, you’ve got to help me.”

“Janie, I can’t see that I can.”

“Please, Doctor, It’s only a little lie. Just confirm what you do know. One little lie and it’s all over.”

“Little lies have potential. They can grow into big ones. Often they can’t be sustained.”

“Yes, Doctor, that I know all too well.”

“What does Julieanne know, Janie?”

“Almost nothing. She has her birth certificate, and this doctor tells her that I am not her Mother. She loves me. I love her. She doesn’t want to hurt me. I don’t want to hurt her. But now she knows, and wants to know more.”

Then he asked the question that Janie has feared so many years, “And what really did happen, Janie. Just tell me as much as you need to.”

“My little Julieanne died. Just as you warned me she would. So suddenly. Just like Alex and Mum, no warning, not a cry. I broke down. It was raining hard, rained for two weeks. Dad had to bury her; in the rain. It was more than I could take. I broke down I didn’t want to live.”

Janie was shaking with tears, fighting for control. “In the rain. Dad was wonderful. Part of me died out there. I wanted her so much after Alex died. If Mum had lived we wouldn’t have gone camping. When the roads dried out a bit, we went on, I don’t know where, I just couldn’t go back to that empty house. I didn’t care I wouldn’t let Dad come home. I’m sure I would have died if we had. Then we came to this old broken down wreck of a hut, an old car outside, and this fellow waved us down. He begged for help. The fool had a girl there. She was in labour. Out there on the edge of the desert. My first thought was, she’s dying. They were fools.”

Janie had to rest, she smiled weakly at the Doctor, “I really needed you then. The girl was too weak to deliver the baby. We had to ease her out, pull her out. That’s her out there waiting for us. Yes, I took the baby. A gift from God I took her. I might have saved her life, but I know that she saved mine. I’ve treasured her ever since Dad knew. Of course he knew. He’s felt guilty about it all his life. We buried the girl, wrapped the poor thing in one of our blankets. You know what it’s like in that heat. While we were working over the girl the fellow drove off. Never asked about his girl or the baby. He was a rotter. Told us nothing. We never had even a name. Dad was wonderful to me all through that terrible year. So we came home I had my own baby’s clothes with us in the car. There was nothing in that hut. Nothing, no food, nothing. Dad said he had her out there on purpose to get rid of the child, perhaps both of them. He was a rotter. When we came home we kept to ourselves. Those of our friends who saw her thought her lovely and she was. Only you knew and it was such a wonderful relief when you let Dad know that you knew, and warned him to be careful I’ve thought so much of you for that.”

“After that Dad said I could trust you. Just tell her that you knew. That there are no parents. I should have told you before, but I’ve been so afraid. She would have died before she was born in that awful place.”

The Doctor was visibly touched. “That's a terrible story, Janie. A very stressful time for anyone. You did very well. But, tell me Janie, that’s not the whole story, is it?”

Janie winced visibly, “Please Doctor, not the whole truth. God save me, but it’s so nearly so.”

“Did the girl live and did you steal the baby?”

Janie was crying openly; pressed too hard, he thought.

“Oh, God, please don’t ask me that.” She was choking on the words. “If I tell her that she will want to find her mother. Dad said I could trust you. Please don’t let me down. I’ve said too much. Please don’t make me tell her everything. Just one little lie. Her mother is dead. Her father unknown, not worth knowing. He didn’t wait to see her. Yes I stole the child, but I’ve paid for her. The guilt nearly killed Dad, a hundred times. I don’t feel guilty. I was meant to have this child. I was so hurt that year. Just one death after another. Why? Why? Then this baby given to me. Surely by the Gods. She saved my life, my reason. Yes, I told a lie, yes. I stole a child. But I’ve given my life and everything I have to pay for it. The child has had nothing but love. Surely it’s worth a lie to protect that love?”

“Janie, I agree with everything you say, but have you ever thought that the unknown mother might right now be desperately driven by longing for the child she lost? Julieanne’s natural instinct is not dead, nor will it be in the mother; the everlasting doubts, the unvoiced questions, the might have been; all unsatisfied.”

Janie nodded miserably, “You can’t tell me anything new about it. I’ve lived every possibility a thousand times. It never ceases. I try to think I’m prepared for it. Now it’s the reality. I must still lie to her. All I really need is you, my Doctor, to say that you know, that her mother is dead. That there are no parents, only me; only me; and that’s so nearly true. Please do this simple thing for me.”

Doctor Smith was well used to tears; always hard when they cry for the children. He thought yet again of the other mother; was the child stolen; bought with some of Jim’s gold; or did she substitute her dead premmie for the living child; that’s been done before. Something desperate done somewhere. Something she cannot or will not talk about. And Jim knew. Jim was as honest as the day. He thought of the wounds on the throat, the shoulder; yes something happened all right, and he would probably never know. Well, now’s not the time to make an issue of the matter.

‘She’s finished’, he realized. ‘Pushed too far’. He admired her strength. Tears, he well knew were a better healing than repressed emotion, so he walked to the window. Give her a chance to control herself: dry her eyes. He knew now that the ‘little lie’ was the key to Janie’s distress. ‘The mother is dead’ is the lie. The mother is alive and may also be searching; no, the other mother believed her child to be dead; Janie knew the other mother would not be searching, but Janie was desperately afraid that the child, her wonderful ‘gift from God’ would start a search; and Janie could not live through that.

She was coping well, composing herself. She’s been through this before, the Doctor realized. Brave little beggar; she’s had enough, and despite the questions thronging his mind, asked no more.

“All right, Janie. You’ve told me the story. I think you will probably be safe after all this time. But, you must always bear in mind, that if the young woman survived, whatever the circumstances, she also could be making inquiries. I’m sure you will never have to be concerned about the father. He didn’t have her out there for any good purpose.”

“Yes Janie, I think I can confirm your story. After all, I did know the child was not yours; and I let your Dad know that I knew. But it is you who must tell the young woman the full story.”

He scribbled a few notes on the printout thinking, not the first little lie I’ve told. I wonder what the big one is, and waited at the window again, that wide view of Sydney a relief after the tension. Janie composed herself, face and emotions, her tumultuous thoughts.

Janie smiling again, though still somewhat disturbed, they moved into the outer room Julieanne went at once to her mother; she well realized that Janie had been on the grille, and needed comforting; Janie ordered, and whilst waiting room service, the Doctor produced the printout and went over the main items with Julieanne. Jim Henderson’s persistent war wound; the sudden death of Janie’s mother, followed so soon by that of her husband; Janie’s breakdown; the premature birth, just the bare twenty-eight weeks; and he here emphasised the slim chance the little thing had to live. A fragile undeveloped grasp of life. His reluctant consent to the camping trip. His warning of the risk. His consent given only because of their long experience, and the probable benefit to Janie.

The return home; Janie’s condition deteriorated, and his shock at the new baby. Janie’s prem was a tiny fine boned child; Janie came back with a well built robust child; “You my dear.”

“Now, Janie, it is for you to tell Julieanne what happened. You see Julieanne, it is no responsibility of the doctor to ask what happened. I could see that you were not Janie’s child. I could see also that Janie was in no condition to be questioned. I knew; I was of course concerned; I was curious, but as neither Jim nor Janie was prepared to offer any further information, I could only administer professional help, offer Janie medication, help to restore her to normality. A Doctor has the moral and legal responsibility to preserve any confidence given by a patient, and although I had serious concerns, I respected and accepted Janie’s account of the trip; and her sturdy new baby.”

Once again Janie recounted the shocking experience of the camping trip; the pleasure, her recuperation, the rain, the death of her baby. The desolate burial of her hopes and her love, out there in the loneliness, in the rain; the hopeless misery of one death after another. All she loved; gone. Dad decided to drive on. He knew people about forty miles on, he might get something for me there. We were a good thousand miles up from home, he must have missed the place. We drove for hours, it seemed then this man stepped out into the road and waved us down. Just the ruin of an old shed, and an old car. He pleaded for help; there was a girl in that ruin and filth, in labour and nearly dead.

“Dad and I delivered the baby. You Julieanne. The mother died. The man left us to it. Went without asking how she was, if the baby was alive or dead. We brought you home with us and said nothing to anyone; The mother died; in childbirth. We buried her. Wrapped her in one of our blankets, and buried her. To the few people who saw you, you were my little premmie, now grown well and strong. Only the Doctor knew that you were not my own baby. You have been my precious gift from God, ever since.”

Both women were in tears. He felt much the same way.

Julieanne said, "So you're not my Mother?”

Janie cringed visibly. Could say nothing.

The Doctor thought, “She’s had enough. A whipped animal.”

The girl said, “What did she look like, my Mother?”

Janie strained to speak clearly, "I can’t tell you. She was in labour, dying. She looked awful. All I can say is her hair was dark. Look in the mirror. There was no chance to talk. I had to pull you out. You would have died if we had been only a minute later. You would have died. Oh, my darling if only you could know.”

“What about my father?”

“No one knows. He could have been the girl’s father. Why did he have her out there? A hundred miles from anywhere. Why not a hospital; in a decent home? Just the ruin of an old hut; no bedding no water, no food. No nothing, We nearly drove past. You were born only minutes after. Oh, my Julieanne, why did he run away? He didn’t wait to see if you were a boy or a girl. Probably doesn’t ever want to know. We knew only one thing. Julieanne, God led us to you at that one crucial moment of time, when you most needed help, and we have loved and cared for you ever since.”

The girl went to her Mum, and both were in tears.

The Doctor, wondered, tears of sorrow, or tears of happiness; and thought ‘still no explanation for the wounds’. He walked to the window, a different view from this window, and gazed out over the inspiring panorama of Sydney under the benison of a rising moon, reflecting ‘she has said nothing of the great pain the woman must be suffering. She would have tried to speak. This sounds like fiction.

Later Janie touched his arm, “We’ve dried our eyes; thank you dear man, I love you.”

He turned to Julieanne. “You are a very lucky little baby. Lucky to be alive, and here. If you had been born in an hospital in only slightly different circumstances, you would have been made a ward of the State, and raised in one foster home after another. Her eyes flooded again, and for a long moment, all three were immersed in the stark loneliness of the human spirit. How do we reach out to one in such deep distress?

Julieanne deeply concerned over her usually wonderfully competent Mum; the Doctor realizing that something really grim lay behind the night’s work. This is only a reprieve; the real problem has not been addressed, and he wondered, not without cause, just how deeply he was now implicated? To ease the tension he said, “Why don’t you take Julieanne out over those same roads. It was good for you. It would help Julieanne.”

The comment shocking to Janie was eagerly accepted by Julieanne and when the child said, “We might be able to find my mother’s grave.” She could not refuse and so it was agreed.

“Now, what about supper somewhere,” he offered, and took them out to a marvellous evening in Sydney. Janie somewhat subdued. Julieanne responding with all the lovely vitality of youth, clearly appreciative of the lively world around them; the Doctor thinking, ‘it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a practise round Southport somewhere.’

Very late that night as he slipped into sleep he thought that there are times when a small lie is worth the doubts, but, would it, as do so many lies, breed a dozen others; and what was Janie hiding so desperately? That scarred throat, the shoulder? Powerful stuff whatever it is; and what about Julieanne’s Mother; was, is she real, is she still alive? Did they take her to a hospital?

Hardly possible, the birth would have to be explained. Too many questions to be answered.

He reached the only conclusion possible; the story’s a fabrication. The real story is not yet ready to be told, and a dog has an important part in it.

He said a more or less formal ‘good bye’ the next morning, hoping against hope that Janie would keep in touch; was deeply moved when she gave him her business card, and hugged him again. He noted with surprise that she was openly named Janice Martin, with her own agency, and no doubt doing well.

She settled the hotel bill against his protests, and he thought again, ‘a good woman and a good companion’. Once again he felt the loneliness of his quiet life, lacking always the warm companionship he had enjoyed for so short a time with Janie. The warmth and strength of her body, the soft touch of her lips, and he begged her to keep in touch.

“Let me know what comes of your trip outback?”

On Janie’s part, the wonderful reassurance of the security and trust of her daughter, her trust in the Doctor.

Julieanne, secure in all these things, wondered with sure feminine instinct, “Mum’s going to miss him. I wonder how old he is?”


The Women

Because of Julieanne’s eager insistence, they planned the trip outback much earlier than Janie wished. She had many doubts, more planning to do. At Wexford, they were at the start of the road out. Whilst in Sydney, they hired a car and drove out through the Blue Mountains, Bathurst, Dubbo and from there the long dusty road to Bourke, where Dad kept the camping gear, then up through the outback roads to Hungerford, then over the Queensland border to the edge of the desert, and the gold claim.
From Southport, it would be a different matter. On the old run she had a good mental picture of the roads, all the way; from Southport all was different. However the roads were good, for the most part, and she had little doubt about finding her way through the network of the outback roads, so, outward through Cunningham’s Gap. Toowoomba, then on to the Warrego Highway, to Charleville, down to Quilpie, then out.

She decided, for the girl’s sake, to do the long round trip, finishing with the gold, strike East and through to Sydney, do something with the camping gear, and the car; that would be one of the national hire people, fly to Coolangatta, and home, a long and rather troublesome trip, and a very long one.

The items at the blacksmith’s forge would be useless to them on this trip, so they went shopping. Julieanne bubbling with excitement at the prospect before them, and Janie suddenly realizing that she would have a real problem with Julieanne being so near to Wexford. Deep within herself she knew that she was not yet ready for that, so changed her plans accordingly. From the goldsite she would move East and North, drive through Hungerford, then over to the Ballone Highway to St. George, and through the Darling Downs and home.

Another barrage of lies, she thought bitterly. How they proliferate, for she would have to deliberately thwart Julieanne’s plans for Wexford, by moving East in the fruitless search for that ruined hut which she has created as a lie, and must now perpetuate with another. Once more Janie felt her old fears rising again, and knew that she must lie yet again. Julieanne’s visit to Wexford must have to wait. Not now, Julieanne, but sometime, truly I’ll take you there, but later.

Janie hoped that the excitement of finding gold, and the reality of the baby’s grave at that shack, and the contacts that would meet on the way, and the stark beauty, the austerity of the wide horizons and the sheer pleasure of camping out there, hoped that these things would absorb the child, and that the pressures from that other search would be eased. On this trip, Julieanne must concentrate on learning the subtle indicators to the claim; how to make a secure camp; to cover all tracks if she wanted to preserve the rich little find; how to save and wash the rich paydirt without other keen eyes watching, and make the contacts in the City for the sale of the gold, and, she determined, learn to use and invest the money wisely, and build a solid base for her future. She would teach the girl to use her wealth sensibly and generously as her Dad had taught her.

Janie had little need to go to the gold strike. Dad had accumulated a respectable portfolio of blue chip shares, and she enjoyed her own quick forays into the risky battleground of ‘puts and calls’, playing the market with skill. Her cash flow was such that she could and did plunge heavily on a promising prospect, her shrewd business sense anticipating the ever moving bull market. The PR agency was a steady earner also, but she was determined that Julieanne was not ever going to become a rich and useless socialite, so the girl became involved in the planning; in the purchasing of the camping gear; guided through the huge variety of expensive impedimenta available to the inexperienced; learned that survival was possible at a very reasonable level, specially with a Mother who not only knew the ropes, but planned her journey to include side trips to some small township with a decent hotel, which meant a decent shower, a comfortable bed and decent meals.

But for all her planning, Janie was uncertain. She well realized that she would, more than once, have to lie to her daughter, and that she must handle the disappointment of bypassing Wexford. She had no idea as to how the girl would react to the baby’s grave; or even if Julieanne would be able to endure the long hours of driving through the isolated countryside, the unformed bush roads; the physical discomforts of camp life after the pleasant comforts of Southport; if she could stand up to the challenge of the loneliness, the profoundly silent nights.

But to her delight Julieanne loved it all; became a quick methodical campmate; helped with the rough driving, determined to become an expert driver long before applying for her license. She loved the wide open spaces, that incredible horizon with it’s such striking sunsets; the cold brilliance of the stars; the wonder of the full moon over those vast open spaces. She absorbed the strength and reserve of those silences; and in the few weeks they were away, Janie saw the child develop a new depth to her already strong character. She was fascinated by the wildlife. Her mental image of the outback had been that of a vast empty desert. Here there were great flocks of birds. Beautiful galahs, wedge tailed eagles; hawks, small birds of a dozen brilliant kinds; always amazed at the colour, beauty for it’s own precious sake. She saw kangaroo in numbers she could hardly believe, and as they moved North, great flocks of Emu. To the city bred girl, but with an eye for beauty, the wide spaces became the ever unfolding of a rich experience and she opened her mind to it with all the eager vitality of her youth.

They were shocked at the ravages of the prolonged drought; the reality so much more devastating than any newspaper report, and were glad of the side trips to the tiny towns where they could refresh themselves, top up the car, and their supplies, and Julieanne ever alert for Janie to remember homes and other places from her past, Janie sometimes defensive.

“For,” she explained, “When we came out here for gold, it was from the Wexford end of the road. We’re at the opposite end. The only time I ever came this far North was when I was so ill, and Dad did all the driving. This is all new country to me.”

The following day, in the heat of the early afternoon she stopped the car, “Can you see the shed?” she asked.

Julieanne searched long minutes before she spotted the brief glint of rust red in the sea of shrub and small trees. Just a faint tinge of colour, that peculiar red oxide which through the ages has coloured the very soils and stones, stained even the remnant mountain ranges of this ancient country; the shed almost invisible in the vast landscape.

Janie drove carefully the mile or so from the road, weaving through the scattered clumps of spinifex and stopped the car a good half mile from the hut.

“When we came here it was in torrential rain,” said Janie. “It was touch and go for me then. If I cry, forgive me. Look, someone’s been here lately. Look, hoof marks.”

They stood beside the car, considering the possibilities.

There was no sound, the quiet almost to be felt under the hot sun.

"A few day’s ago,” said Julieanne, “See the prints are crumbling; there’s no one around here.” They walked the half mile or so to the hut. They pushed the door open, swinging on it’s leather hinges. The place was littered. Blankets in one corner, a small pile of food in another, baked beans, condensed milk, tinned beef; a pair of packsaddles and harness in another. The women studied this temporary home with interest. “Out back hut for some station.” said Janie, “That’s why it was built. We might even see the men. That'll be fencing or something.”

Julieanne, always good for a joke, said, “Let’s give them a surprise.” And walked back to the car.

Within seconds of being alone in that hut, Janie’s resolve broke down. For a bleak few moments she was with her father again, the baby in her arms, the rain thrashing down; she relived, as we all would do, those terrible memories; relived her desperation at the baby’s death; the savage desolation of pain trembling on the edge of endurance, relived the desolate moments of farewell; the wrapping of the tiny thing, the coldness of it; her Dad’s ‘You stay here girl’, quiet but firm, as he carried the dead child out into the rain. “Oh Dad.” She whispered again, and wished again for his strength and support.

But it was Julieanne's arms about her, Julieanne’s, “What’s wrong Mum?” set the tears flowing; Julieanne’s murmurings, her strength and anxious alarm that soothed and restored her.

“So sorry, dear child, the memories took over, I’m all right now. What on earth have you got there?”

Julieanne, still concerned at her Mum’s tears, said, “I thought to play a joke on them. Some tins of peaches and a bottle of Coke. I hope they don’t shake it. These will give them a surprise.” She had wrapped them in newspaper to help conserve the cold, as she had taken them from the Esky. And tossed a blanket over the little package for the same purpose.

Janie smiled, despite her feelings, and the little joke eased the tension for both the women.

They left, closing the door against predators, and walked to the back of the hut. Janie paled again and held the child’s arm, “Look. Oh, My God.” For from the hut lay a narrow path, cleared of all weeds, for the hundred yards or so to her child’s grave.

“What have they done? Oh Julieanne.”

Janie Henderson wept on her child’s shoulder, but was to weep yet again.

They walked that narrow way in single file, Janie again in deep distress, for at the head of the tiny grave, was a rough cross, and cut in the cross piece, the word’s ‘Somebody’s Darling’. She wept without restraint. So many years of restrained grief poured out of the anguished spirit, and the girl at her side wept with her.

It was the younger one said, “C’mon Mum, Lets get out of here.” Led her out through the scrub to the car, waited patiently till Janie recovered herself.

“That could’ve been me.” She said, at which Janie lifted her face to her and said, “Yes, you, dear child, and if fate hadn’t done this thing to me and driven me to you at that very special moment, you would not be here either.”

Julieanne saw so very clearly that there was no dissimulation here and that there was indeed something so much stronger, yes, and stranger too, in Janie’s story than any simple coincidence.

She started the car and they moved carefully through the bare patches to the red dirt road, glad to relieve the tensions generated in that decrepit hut; the path, cleared, out here, could it just be some sentimental man? And the grave with it’s poignant inscription; immensely grateful for the air conditioned comfort of the car, but thinking, ‘Nothing wrong there. That’s the hut, and that’s the baby’s grave, and I’m the baby’s replacement, all right; but what about my Mothers grave?’

She looked at the small tense woman beside her, still shaking from the experience, and thought, ‘She’s my Mum, but not my Mother. Will I ever know what happened?’

Later Janie asked, “Do you still want to go on dear.” Hoping that the child would be satisfied. “I don’t know if I can really find that other place, I don’t know exactly which way we went.”

Julieanne said, “It’s out there.” Indicating the flat immensity with a wave of the hand “Somewhere.”

Janie gave her a faint smile, “Yes, out there. One of Dad’s old friends lives a few miles along the road. We might stop there. She’s been there for years, She might know something.”

Forty miles further on a blaze of scarlet bougainvillea showed against the blue of the sky. Beneath that startling landmark, a sprawling iron house, a surprising garden, real flowers, and in the background fruit trees. Oranges, a fig, a lemon. Janie could hardly believe her eyes; in the huge yard, a bright yellow grader, a red loader, and three young children clustered in the doorway, a red collie held by the boy.

A big cheerful woman emerged, “Hullo, travellers? Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

“Gidday,” called Janie, “Mrs. Olsen used to live here, but I can see things have changed.”

“Well, well, well,” she exclaimed, “You come on in, I’ve got the kettle on.”

Janie looked at Julieanne, “It’s a lot different from Southport, but you’ll love it.”

The huge house had only three rooms. The kitchen sprawled across most of the space; a long table along one side, where the wall was only three feet high, the top securely screened against the flies and insects, a wide veranda beyond that, also screened; some comfortable chairs, a big array of shelves displaying a collection of jars of pickles chutneys; jams and preserves, ‘nothing wasted in this household’, thought Janie, ‘all home made’, a big sink with only one tap, and across the end of the room a huge fireplace traversed by a heavy iron spit, from whence hung several hooks and from one, a big black kettle. On the wide stone hearth, a slab of timber leaned against the mantle shelf, a baffle against the heat of the fire.

“Always on the boil.” said the lady, who had watched Julieanne’s amazed inspection with friendly interest. In the side embers of that open fireplace a large dixie, and unmistakably, a roast dinner cooking, with a delicious aroma.

“My word,” said Julieanne, “It’s different.”

“I guess so,” said the lady, busy with teapot and biscuits. “Old Mrs. Olsen died like most of the oldies do. Long time ago now. Just as well or there’d be too many of us around. You passing through?”

“Not really,” said Janie taking the opportunity, “I think we’ll turn back from here.”

“You mean you came out all this way just to see Mrs. Olsen? My word, that’s some trip. Where do you come from?”

“Southport,” said Janie, “Dad and I used to go camping when I was young. I’m showing my daughter round, and getting the feel of the country again. My word, it’s dry. ‘We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan’.”

The woman laughed at the line. “I thought you were Jehovah’s Witnesses or something. The girl must take after her Dad. Doesn’t look like you at all.”

Janie paled, but said firmly. “Yes I know. Just like her Dad. Her Dad died before she was born.”

“My, but you have had a bad time,” said the lady of this beautiful big house. “A bit like me; I had my first when I was about your age.” looking sharply at Julieanne, “Dangerous time for us girls. Full of life but no experience. Well, we soon get that. I never really saw my baby. They took her away. Told me I was a silly girl, and took her away. Said I’d never be able to care for her; I’ve cared for plenty in my time. I signed papers I never read what they were. Always some officious snooty woman telling us what to do. Told me there was sixty couples, all lovely homes, waiting for babies. Foolish kids, they said. We knew a lot more than they did.”

Julieanne, listening to this open talk with avid attention asked, “Didn’t you grieve for her?”

“Course we did. Broke many a young heart. But we had to put up with it. Nothing else we could do in those days.”

“And afterwards, did she go to a good home? Did you try to find out who took her?”

“I think she did,” said the lady, “Most of them did. Always good women looking for a baby. It’s what happens about your age when it starts to hurt. When the kid’s find out they’re adopted. That’s when it starts to matter. I guess my little one is a married woman by now, with her own family, but I bet she still wonders where I am and who I am and if I’m all right. Just like me wondering all the time about her.” She said defiantly, “Well I ain’t grieving.” But at the same time she was wiping tears from her eyes.

Julieanne impulsively put her arms around the weeping woman, kissed her and comforted her, tears in her own eyes. “There, that’s right, we’re not grieving.”

“They blocked me all ways trying to find her. In the end I just gave up.”

“I’m adopted,” said Julieanne, “My Mum died when I was born. Janie,” she touched Janie’s arm, Janie faint and desperate beside her. “Janie took me. She’s been a wonderful Mum.”

The big woman smiled at Janie. ‘my that cut close to the bone’, she thought, but said, “Bless you missus. I hope mine did as well.” She understood the expression on Janie’s face, and said to the girl. “I don’t even try now. Just names on a piece of paper.”

She realized that Janie did not want, would never want the girl to find her Mother. “Forgive the tears,” she said still dabbing her eyes, “First time I’ve talked about her for twenty years. You never forget.”

Julieanne was at her side again, tears in her eyes, and Janie realized with a deep shock, that Julieanne was releasing a deep unconscious need for her own true Mother, the power, the knowing of that early bonding is never lost.

“We’re looking for an old house,” said Julieanne, where I was born. Round this way somewhere, my Mother’s buried round here somewhere. A very old place. It must be gone now.”

Janie realized only then how eagerly the child had accepted her story. Once again Janie Henderson was in the hands of the gods, thinking bitterly, ‘My lies are Gospel truth for her’ and steeled herself, sipped her tea, whilst her darling child worked through her tangled emotions.

The big woman looked at Janie, met the anxious eyes, read the repressed emotion, and felt a strong sympathy for her. “Don’t know of any place like that hereabouts. Lots of old places, just disappearing. Scrub takes over very quick. Countryside’s emptying out too. Everyone’s going into town these days. Drought’s ruined lots of people. Some old graves round but they’re fading away too. People got buried where they died in the old days. The graves just fade away. Grass and scrub takes over. You about sixteen years? Lucky to find anything like that now.”

Julieanne thought of that desolate little shed where Janie had lost her baby; recalled the lonely grave and shuddered. What had her own Mum felt, what had she suffered in such a moment, being taken to such a place in her hour of need? Julieanne felt a sudden shock of revulsion against the unknown father, a revulsion so deep that she knew in an instant her thoughts and her feelings toward her Peter were irrevocably changed; if Peter wanted her, Peter would have to prove his worth. Someone like her Grandad, like Jim Henderson, someone who would stick by her through whatever happened. Someone with guts, little understanding that the old Anglo-Saxon word was welling up through her consciousness through two thousand years of bitter human experience.

She said, “You seem very happy here; three lovely children and this lovely simple house.”

The lady smiled, “Yes, I like things this way. It’s a good life when you get a good man, and it’s a pleasure keeping it that way. I never had much confidence after the baby. Not till I met Jim. Men can be a problem. That so?” this remark to Janie.

“Yes, the good things are always worth waiting for.” Knowing that the remark was for Julieanne’s benefit, but both the older women quite unaware that Julieanne’s ‘benefit had been well established only a few moments earlier.

The lady of the house saved the day. “Well I’ve work to do. Must feed the fowls; like to look at the garden?”

The boy looked at his Mum. It was his job to feed the chooks; his sisters to bring in the eggs. He looked at the visitors, saw something of the pain, and his life also was altered; just a tiny change, but even one point of change at the beginning can mean a different destination in the long haul. So they moved out of the house into the hot dry sunlight, and down the yard to where a dozen or so hens scratched and fossicked in a deep bed of good wheat straw, and the girls gathered the eggs, first banging on the boxes, ‘to scare the snakes’, the lad informed them.

Julieanne was surprised at the garden, as indeed was Janie. A bountiful little oasis in rich contrast to the vast scrub lands surrounding them.

“Yes,” said the lady, “It’s the windmill. The Council put that in for us. You can grow anything out here when you’ve got water. All those trees got dripfeed at the roots. That and the mulch from the chooks.”

“Nothing like this when Mrs. Olsen was here.” said Janie, “It’s a little marvel really.”

“That’s right. Things are so different when there’s water.” As they moved back into the house.

Janie asked, “Would you mind if the children have a few sweets and things?”

“That’s good of you.”

So the boy is sent to the car with Julieanne. “The yellow bag for the children.”

“And what have we got here?”

“Open it up,” Janie told him, “What’s his name?”

“That’s my Martin, and the girls are Helena and Anna, the dog’s Margaret. Helena is the older girl, and my name’s Ethel. Ethel Granger. My man is Jim, he’s the roadman, but he’s away for a couple of days.”

Squeals of delight from the children as the boy, ably interfered with by the girls, unpacked the bag.

“This for old time’s sake, Dad always had something for the children of his old friends, something for the house too,” said Janie, smiling at the woman’s evident surprise.

“What? You got something else?”

“Not much. Anything you’d like?”

"Hey,” said the lady, “You ain’t selling?”

Janie smiled at her, “No, we’re not selling. There’s a couple of tea towels, and some decent soap. I see you make your own, Mrs. Olsen used to make her own too; something nice for a change, and other things old Mrs. Olsen would have wanted. If she had been here we would have left it all. So please. You are truly welcome.” So Julieanne fetched it all and again there were tears in Mrs. Granger’s eyes. She said to the children, “Now then, what do you say?” So they said their thanks.

“No need for that really, you can see their thanks in their faces. Look at them.”

The little parcel of goodies had certainly changed the children. The reserve, the ‘best behaviour’ attitude softened, the smiles now friendly, and real human rapport clearly established.

Mrs. Granger also had felt the less formal attitude. “What about a bed for the night? My man wont be home till the weekend, and there’s plenty in the dixie for all?”

So they feasted on the contents of the dixie, and sat around chatting of house affairs, until the peace of the night was disturbed by a howling of dingo. The animal was close, unusually close and Julieanne was startled.

Mrs. Granger said, “Dingo. After something out there. Talking about babies, it was one of them got the Chamberlain baby; long time ago. That was a bad show.”

This to Janie, who nodded, unable to speak, the bubble of the day’s pleasure suddenly burst about her; thankfully Mrs. Granger did not pursue the matter, but bustled about with rarely used sheets on the children's beds, and the order of priority established for their places in her room for the night.

The dingo howled again, and the lady said, “Must do something about that.” So they went to their beds, the children in Mother's room, the visitors comfortable in the children's.

But the night has it’s own life.

Mrs. Granger slept well, reflecting on her own past, now completely accepting the strange power of tears to soothe after so many years; and warm with the kindly thoughtfulness of her guests.

For Janie the night became nightmare. ‘Somebody’s Darling’ and Aboriginal trackers and the police, the newspapers and those dingos howling out there. She could not sleep and turned to Julieanne for support, but Julieanne’s bed was empty. ‘My god, the child has gone.’

Julieanne also had been refused the benison of sleep and had slipped quietly into the garden with it’s fragrances, honey sweet, orange and lemon; seeking peace in the profound silence of the outback night. The flooding radiance of the moon. a magic so different from that same moonlight spread out over the sea, so scattered over the broken contours of the city, calmed her, and she walked slowly in the garden, musing of helpless children so utterly dependent on others, on their Mums, for life; of those Mothers in tears over lost babies; of that pathetic ‘Somebody’s Darling’ in so lonely a place; of the prospector her Grandad had found and buried in a wilderness; he too was ‘Somebody’s Darling’ once; his parents would never know, always waiting for news; of the University women who had so little understanding of the tragedy of the stolen child. Nor the silent contempt those ‘foolish girls’ could feel for them, even after twenty years; all those snooty women swanning around, know everything except what really matters; think they can run other peoples lives. Most of them end up divorced or not wanted; high price to pay for education; I reckon we run things pretty well; look after the man; keep the place clean; do the garden and the shopping; carry the children then raise them; funny how some men go bad; some women too, I suppose; but men, the jails are full of them; plenty of them in the streets too; yet it' us mothers raise them; something goes wrong somewhere; funny that, you’d think it impossible for a mother to see her children go wrong; too many good men killed in the wars I suppose; now they kill themselves in motor cars; get lost with the booze; expendable, I suppose; only need one good man every thousand women really but they say that’s no good for our genes; we all want our own man; even a bad one’s better than none; funny isn’t it; I think my Peter will be all right; he’s really decent to me; some girls are asked for it all the time, funny that, some people don’t seem to have any control; themselves or anyone else; it’s really good when we both want it; it’s lovely to be loved; when they really care we’ll do anything for them; you just have to be careful; too many people on earth; it’s only a tiny place really stuck out here in space; they kill baby girls in lots of places; should kill the boys; they’re the ones responsible; most of the time anyway; I wonder if it’s easier for a nun than for a priest; Grandad was a lovely man; I suppose most of them are; every one was ‘Somebody’s Darling’ once; children are so clear and innocent; something happens along the way; I wonder why; some are ‘Somebody’s Darling’ all their life, that’s the way it ought to be I suppose; I wonder what my own are going to be; Mrs. Granger still wants her baby; I guess she still thinks of her as a baby; she couldn’t know what kind of woman she’s grown into; like me if I’d been raised in foster homes; I’d be different from what I am now; I suppose nobody’s perfect, not even me; not even Janie; not even Peter; there’s that dingo again; fancy that baby being eaten by a dingo; no wonder Janie hates them; lambs eaten as soon as they’re born; and my own mother; and Janie had to pull me out of her dying body; god I’d have been left there with my dead Mum; then Janie came; and here I am at Mrs. Grangers place.

The tears came also; Julieanne wept in the garden, and it was only when she felt Janie’s arms about her that she fully realized that Janie had saver her from death, and had given her life. But this night there was born, from the simple words of Ethel Granger, a faint recollection, a subtle memory, unformed, unable to be spoken, just the sensing of the presence of a dingo, a recollection, a deep natural instinct of nurture at another breast, of the warmth of different and loving hands, a warm and different shoulder; a sense of Mother.

Fleeting, faint, undefined, but the realization was born that the tiny inconstancies in Janie’s story could hide a deeper reality; and for the first time was afraid. She realized her own need to walk carefully, and to think clearly, and to speak with caution if she was to maintain the fragile security that Janie has built around them; and at that moment, with Janie’s arms about her, that fragility was so much stronger, Janie’s strength a safe reality.

They stood quietly in the fragrant moonlit air secure in their togetherness, but neither aware that this night would change their lives, and went glad into the silent house, and to their beds, this time to sleep.

The morrow was another day, hot, but fragrant. They helped the children with lessons; read to them, and moved gently through the day, helped with the simple meals; Julieanne delighted with the children’s response to the bottle of Coke, and the tinned fruit. All warm, but clearly acceptable. There was little serious talk. Mrs. Granger somewhat remorseful over the confidences of yesterday; but as the evening deepened, a dingo howled again, unusually close to the fence and all fell silent, listening.

“Damn things,” said Mrs. Granger, “Must do something about them. You know it was one of them got the Chamberlain baby?”

Janie was glad of the flickering light. It helped hide the shock from the innocent remark.

“Everybody knows that damn dingo got the baby; you remember that?” to Janie, who with the courage made strong by necessity said “Yes. That was terrible, that poor woman.”

A sympathy echoed by all.

Julieanne said, “Lindy’s in America now, she married again.”

“Yes, that’s so. They made it pretty hot for her here. The newspapers were tough. I don’t blame her getting out.”

Julieanne said, “There seems to have been a lot more to it than just the baby.”

“That’s so. It became a real witch hunt. Just like the Middle Ages when they burned the old ladies with their cats,” mixing the centuries in an common though unbalanced frenzy.

“And the people in Salem, only last century.” offered Janie.

“There’s a terribly ugly side to human nature. Even good people can be caught up with it. Remember that little girl with AIDS. She had to go to New Zealand; they wouldn’t let her go to school here.” said Janie diverting the conversation away from babies if she could.

“Where was that?” asked Julieanne.

“A few years ago now, you’d only be eight or nine. In New South Wales, Gosford way, from memory. People gave the parents a terrible time. They were literally driven out. Such a little thing, only six or seven; she became contaminated in a hospital somewhere. They had to run for safety. Some dreadful cowardly fools even sent death letters. They went to New Zealand where she had every love and care. She died when she was ten. The New Zealanders thought she was an angel.”

Mrs. Granger nodded. “It’s the climate here makes some people see red. Like the gibber plains, the red earth. You’d think humans would do better. Some people are troppo all the time.”

The dingo howled again, and was answered from afar.

“They’ve got something out there.” She said. “Always hungry. Pity they got the baby.”

“They seem to fit in with the landscape.” Said Julieanne, “Don’t worry Mum, they can’t hurt us.”

“I hate them. My father hated them too. He was a stockman and he hated them for very good reasons. I hate them, and I hate the sound of their crying.”

Mrs. Granger nodded in sympathy. “I don’t like the brutes, nobody does, my man hates them too.” And in simple innocence of the power of words. Returned to the earlier conversation. “Mrs. Chamberlain must hate them too. That was a terrible thing. Lots of people don’t believe the dingo finished her off though, the blacks tracked her so far, then said the baby was gone. Someone must have taken her. She never came back to her Mother. Yes, someone got that baby, and please god, she’s well and cared for to this day.”

Janie at that judgement seat, wordless; stricken; devastated. The dingo howled again close. Mrs. Granger rose, said, “Excuse me.” And took from the rack on the wall a .22 rifle. “We use high powered bullets. The shock kills them.”

“Here,” to Julieanne, “You take the torch,” this a useful nine volt thing. “And come with me.”

Janie rose too, faint and in so much need of the comfort which only Julieanne has been through these long years.

She imagined Mrs. Grangers next words. ‘About 16 years ago. My, that’s when your Mum got you wasn’t it.’ This with a look at Julieanne. ‘Yes, that’s right, that’s when Lindy lost her baby and your mum got you.’ And there would be a dreadful silence, and the other two would look at her, and Mrs. Granger would be thinking ‘Well, that’s a coincidence, isn’t it?’ And you darling child, would be thinking the same, wondering if that’s why she can’t find that grave, a grave that doesn’t exist. I don’t look anything like her, Do I look like Lindy?

Could you really forget where you buried someone?

Thus Janie’s troubled fearful thoughts tumbled round in her mind; body and spirit in turmoil. Lies, lies, lies. God save me.

But it was the dingo saved her, and she thanked God from the bottom of her heart for that dingo. Julieanne was calling from the garden.; Mrs. Granger’s innocent trend of thought now, thank god, diverted, her cheerful intuition suspended, hopefully for ever. She went obedient to the child, out into that beautiful fragrant garden, into the cold refreshing night, with it’s star spangled sky, to the darling child. Reprieved.

Mrs. Granger was speaking softly. “Shine the light on the ground ahead.” Guiding the girls hand with her own strong hand. “There, that’s right see his yellow eyes, keep it steady.” She sighted the rifle along the beam of light and with one quick clean movement, fired. The dingo doubled over with the explosive force of the high velocity bullet.

“You got him.” exclaimed Julieanne.

“Never miss ‘em. Hit him fair between the eyes You’ll see, he never even felt it. Won't be much left by the morning. There’s a family of them out there Like dogs, If you get a puppy young enough you can tame them they make a good cross with a kelpie.”

Back in the house Mrs. Granger cleaned the rifle, used the pull through, oiled and polished and replaced it in the rack, she too, grateful for the interruption, Janie’s distress was so evident. She went over to Janie, still pale and thanking the gods for her deliverance, for, of all things, a dingo at the needful moment.

Mrs. Granger though concerned at her guest’s distress, read the signs in her own way.

“Don’t worry so, dearie. I don’t think the dingo got the baby. Somebody in need took her, She’ll be all right.”

Janie could offer no more than a weak smile, and trust, as only the despairing can trust, for trust is stronger than hope, that there would be no more talk of the baby.

Julieanne was fascinated with the guns, handling them, feeling the balance, visioning the power, handling the bullets, the shot, interested in everything. She handed the girl another from the rack. “That’s a shotgun. Small bore; for snakes; and this one’s for roo’s, brumby's, and anything else that’s a nuisance. You could kill an elephant with that.”

Outside the fence the dingo’s were dealing in their own way with the dead; there was no longer the hunting call; sometimes a yap indicating their presence. Mrs. Granger asked, “Like to have a shot?”

“Oh, yes, may I?”

So she was shown how to carry a weapon safely, lectured in a friendly way of the danger of climbing a fence with a gun; warned of the folly of a loaded gun around children, they too are mighty keen to learn; stood her up, showed how to put gun to shoulder, finger to trigger, eye along the barrel, sighted on the target, and fire; “Just press the trigger gently, don’t pull it; see like this, no fooling around, just do it in one clean movement.”

Took her outside into that lovely fragrant garden again, and this time it was her hand held the torch but Julieanne’s eye that saw the head lift up to the light, Julieanne’s eye that lined up target and gun, Julieanne’s hand that closed gently but firmly on the trigger. Saw the sharp backward snap of the head Julieanne proud of her kill, her return to the house a small triumph; Mrs. Granger again busy cleaning, and very approving of the young woman’s interest.

Janie, grateful that there is talk now only of dingos, snakes, and brumbys, and accidents with guns and a dozen other outback incidents; the baby, thank god, supplanted by the excitement of the night.

So to bed.

But the great silence was now alive with dingos and renewed fears and restlessness; and that deep river of mingled thought and emotion, so difficult to suppress, so violent with it’s wild waters; guilt so strong, so long repressed, guilt now reduced to shame and remorse, and turbulent fear; illuminated always with the image of a tiny baby, filthy with blood and dust and the saliva of a dingo; and of her own savage possession of the helpless bundle; and she prayed tonight as she has prayed a thousand times, through all those wonderful years with the child; ‘Keep us safe God keep us safe’, but tonight there is no blessing but the same squalid procession of policemen and reporters, TV cameras, and lawyers and judges with their unholy lust for argument and victims and for money, and people, always people, unthinking cruel insatiable for the tragedy of the other man. So Janie’s fears; but even as she prayed, and the golden light of another glorious dawn gave promise of yet another day of drought, she knew with awful clarity, however happy she might be with Julieanne, however safe in the big city, however busy and successful with her work, that she could never forget.

By some grace, some mercy, some growth of her own perception of Julieanne’s needs, such torrid nights were becoming rare. She had long since learned to waken on such onslaught; to affirm her mental stability; to calm the terrors, and to restore the balances; and to find refuge in the sure conviction of the rightness and the purpose of the fate which had driven her to that appointment at Ayer’s Rock so long ago. But tonight just a kindly soul like Ethel Granger had, with a few innocent words, released that river of terror; just as the threat of an unknown suspicious lawyer, had disturbed the turbulent stream, and just the concern of a decent honest man; and such the mercy, that her thoughts of Dr. Graham Smith had the blessed quality of healing, and it was by such grace that the tormented Janie at last received the benison of sleep.

Julieanne, tired with the excitement of the evening, also dreamed of dingos; but hers were in the sights of a gun, and the hands and the eyes of the woman with the gun were steady and strong; and the girl awoke refreshed and eager for another day in Paradise. Her young spirit had a fleeting glance of that better world, the world in which there no deceits, no lies, no lawyers; the world for which mothers all over the wide world pray,
‘A better world, Dear Lord, a better world for our children’.

The morrow saw them on their way. Mrs. Granger grateful for the contact, with the outside world, present and past; the children pleading for a return visit, soon; Julieanne fired with the possibilities of the road ahead. “Strange, isn’t it, that it’s Dads old friendship with the Olsen’s has put us in contact with that family What lovely children. That boy is twice his years.” Janie thinking of the few markers leading to the gold site; and planning to avoid Wexford, in spite of the girl’s pleas, so when Julieanne spoke about that house, she had to prevaricate, her words only slightly lesser than lies, “We’ll keep looking, but I don’t really know. I was so ill and Dad was driving, I’m sure it wasn’t about here; but keep your eyes open. If we see anything likely we’ll stop and have a look.”

So Julieanne consented. She was beginning to miss Peter, so Janie moved down into country better known to her, and she settled in to enjoy the country, every appearance of wildlife a mild excitement, and passed few other travellers on a thousand miles of road.

Janie said, “Most people stick to the main roads now. You can drive right round the country now, on tar.” Which was not quite right, there was still a stretch on the West Coast yet unsealed. ‘Mainly only locals use these roads’; they made yet another detour, to top up the car and replenish supplies, camp tucker for the stint in the sun, sifting gold from the sands.

“Such a tiny town,” said Julieanne. After Southport; just a pub cum store, cum petrol pumps, but the two houses and the few dusty cars on the roadside spoke of unseen homes in the isolation, and the justification for a name. She was pensive when they took to the road again. Her Peter; the father she could never know, and Grandad; these images roused by the open admiration at the pub, a subconscious process of assessment, which soon faded to a glimpse of her equally unknown Mother, Do I really look like her? Or do I resemble my Dad. That’s only Janie’s story. Doesn’t mean a thing. Janie’s fib. She looked at the competent bush woman beside her, thought of the competent business woman in Southport, and the competent woman who could so easily be reduced to tears when the talk turned to babies, and thought of sympathetic Dr, Smith, and was distracted by a noisy flight of rosellas or are they parakeets?

They bypassed the turnoff, that faint track to the hut where the tiny grave was, Janie deathly afraid now that she knew it was not only used, but the gravesite cared for. Who cared? What did they know? Why did they care? Long miles later they turned off the road again, on to an even less used dirt road, Janie pointing out almost invisible landmarks, till at last she was able to show how to hide the car among the stunted trees, so that it could not be seen without search; walked, carrying their gear to the other site, where they set up their tiny camp; and everything stowed secure from bush rats and ants. From here yet another walk, to the grave her Dad had dug as a young man, and so to the gold. There she showed Julieanne how to move the stones where they would dig; all with care, for the gibbers must go back pretty well in the same places, otherwise telltale slight discolouration would show knowing eyes that the area was worked. Then it was digging into the hard packed sandy sediments of the ancient stream, fed as it had been from the long gone ancient mountains of a land so incredibly old that it’s mountains are worn down to low dark hills; and at last in the trench the gleam of gold, alluvial nuggets, rounded by years of tumbling in swift running waters; the sands rich in golden grain. This is bitterly hard work for both women, even as it would be for any man, in the hot sun After only one day Julieanne wondered aloud “Is even gold worth this kind of work?” Janie, ever practical, replied, “Well, as you should know, we really don’t need it, I’ve brought you out to show you the ropes; just in case there’s a time when you do need it.”

This stint proved even harder than most, for the gravel’s were unusually poor; they worked the patch until stores were running low; then Janie realized that they were not following the course of that ancient stream, dug a trench at right angles to their work, and with grateful hearts and blistered hands, at last filled the canvas bags. Then it was more work. Janie showed her how the gibbers had to be returned, right side up to their original places as much as possible; the digging tamped down; no footprints or any sign of activity, no trace at all of their work, and then dust over their faint tracks, and drive out on a different track to the road.

Bone weary from the hard physical work, the sun, the dry air, the lack of restful sleep, the longing for a cool shower, the women fell with grateful hearts into the car, comfortable and air conditioned. Janie telling the girl, “This is the hardest it ever been, Not always as tough as this; however it’s been a good introduction for you. We’ve enough to live on, and live well, as you know; but I’ll bring you out again; often enough to make sure you can find it when I’m gone. And you will do the same for yours.”

So they drove down to the road at Hungerford, from there due East by North, a quick run up the Mitchell, across the lonely run on the Ballone to St. George, then Goondiwindi, the road to Darling Downs, traffic thickening as they moved East, and all that long way on the tarred roads, dreadful toll of dead animals and birds; kites and hawks and eagles too slow to move away from the littered carcasses of the night’s kill. “A thousand times worse than fox hunting.” said Julieanne.

Thus on the luxury of smooth roads; the so different driving skills; the endless purposeful flow of city traffic; and at last; home, and the sheer pleasure of plentiful water, and showers, and one’s own bed; then the hours of readjustment from the fugitive motion of the car, and Peter, and work and the busy life, all so different, again. Julieanne’s first night at home was as restless as that night at Ethel Granger’s; but here no fragrance of orange blossom, nor the profundity of a silent night for solace; but scattered flashes of a windmill. it’s waters drawn from so deeply under the earth; of graves, the one impossible to find; the other such a shock when found; tended by strangers; or were they ‘Somebody’s Darling’? Well, I’m ‘Somebody’s Darling’, Janie’s, but not my Mum’s. She was ‘Somebody’s Darling’ once; where’s her grave? The child desired so much to find it, to tend it; put up a cross with ‘Somebody’s Darling’ carved on it; or did they buy me and my Mum’s alive and wondering about me like Ethel Granger. Buy anything for a bag of gold. Did she give me away, just a name on a bit of paper, Why does she get so upset when people say I don’t look like her. Plenty of girls look like their Dad’s or Grandad's, Ethel Granger’s a bit the same as me; always worrying about ‘Somebody’s Darling’, hers and somebody else's now, same as me, only I’m always thinking about my Mother these days, Ethel and babies and dingos I s’pose she thinks of Lindy’s baby every time she hears a dingo. Funny that, she said Lindy lost her baby about the same time Janie got me. I wonder what he said when he found the peaches. I’m going to Wexford next time and Janie’s going with me; I’d love to see the house where we lived. Don’t remember it at all, and I’m going to get her to Graham. She had her own horse there, I get any old nag at the riding school. I’d love to have my own horse; one of those tough outback ones that can go for days. Wonder why they left Wexford? Me, I s’pose. All these years afraid to go back, must be a reason, me I guess. Locals would see the difference same as the doctor. Poor Mum frightened all these years I wonder why that man left us? And his little boy I guess the gold got him. He went out with her, filled his pockets, and joined up with the woman again. I thought they were separated. Love’s a funny thing, he was a lovely father while he was with us, Does Janie miss him? I don’t suppose they were married. She never says, I never heard of a marriage or a divorce; de facto, companion, friend, relationship, all kinds of names; all mean the same. Must find out, another shock for Janie if I ask.

Although Julieanne did not realize just what was happening, her growing maturity was quite naturally asking, not only interesting and important questions, but was demanding more satisfactory answers than had formerly satisfied, and of course there was always the new understanding to be fitted into the picture. For her, in this stage of her life, endless questions, about herself, her Mum, Peter, and many other things. It is the questions without answer, so different from High School, where they had answers to everything, and most of it pointless, even the real things seemed lifeless, and Julieanne, her young mind filled but not confused with questions of life and death; of lies, and of an unshakable loyalty challenging those lies; and always Janie; Janie so afraid of something yet so competent, so strong; why is Janie afraid? Of babies? She told us what happened. Why be afraid? She’s so afraid, so what she’s told us is not everything; that everything must be potent to make Janie afraid. She needs a man, and I think it’s going to be Graham Smith; if I can get her to Wexford; and the girl rose in her restlessness, and sat at her dressing table and examined yet again the face in the mirror; her mother or her father?

Father or Mother? But found for answer that it was indeed a feminine face; a decided feminine shape to the eyes that stared back at her, The hair bout the temples, nothing masculine there, the skin, soft and fine, feminine; so are my ears and decided that she must look like the Mother, clearly not at all like the fine boned English look of Janie, and certainly nothing like the cowardly rotter who had taken her Mother to that beastly hut and deserted her, failed her. She realized for the first time, taken her there with the murderous intention of deserting her. Deliberately taken her out there away from all help until Janie Henderson arrived from nowhere, grieving for her lost baby, and saved her from death, dragged me into the world and looked after me ever since.

Thus Julieanne’s first night at home, and the dawn, which brought sleep to her, the sky above, the sea below, pale in turquoise and the subtle blue and green, so different from the strong bold dawns above those outback horizons.

Janie, the author of all her alarms and doubts, slept, as they say, like a log, and met the new day with her old confidence, the country of her deep unrest a thousand miles away, and the child safe in the house.


The Journey To Wexford

Julieanne was determined to go to Wexford. Janie was determined to go only when it suited her to do so. Not until she felt the confidence to face the uncertainties which might so easily arise.
So many miles from home, from Wexford, from Ayer’s Rock, at Ethel Granger’s place, that ghost from long ago had leaped out at her, all unseen to the others, but dark and menacing, standing over her ready to reveal the long hidden truth. The truth, simple and unadorned; the deadly contestant of the lie.

What shocks might be felt at Wexford were better left unexplored, and so Janie fearful of further revelation, resisted the child’s pleas for so simple a thing as a visit to Wexford.

But in the end she gave way. Julieanne said, “Mum, you’re afraid, you’re afraid to go near the place. Why?”

Janie protested, “Nonsense. We can’t be away from the business all the time; and as for being afraid, you know why I left. I just couldn’t live in that house again.”

“But that was years ago Mum, I’d love to go I really, really want to see it.”

So Janie gave way, and went back to Wexford, little realizing as she made the decision that the same fate that had driven her with such purpose so long ago, was moving again, had also guided this decision, and that the appointment in Damascus was to be consummated in Wexford.

They made the necessary arrangements. Anne at the agency happy to be in control again and thoroughly reliable; this time they flew down to Sydney, hired a car, and drove out through the long miles, the roads narrowing, the horizons wider, the traffic thinner. The air cleaner; the wild population increasing as the human population dwindled through the broad acres. Janie was content to navigate; Julieanne’s driving skill now officially recognised. They loaded the car with camping gear from the blacksmiths, the old man sorry to hear that Jim was gone; open admiration of the women ‘taking it on themselves’; replenished their stores, had a pleasant night in town, and were off as dawn broke, on the long run through Hungerford and out to the edge of the desert, Janie again pointing out the sight lines, the marks so necessary to locate the place in the wilderness. There they exposed their hidden treasure, so much easier this time than the last, but suffered a real shock, thank god, on their last day. They finished early, as usual, Janie would not have a fire at night, ‘too much of a beacon for sharp eyes, had covered all traces of work and the tracks to the site, and were having their simple meal, when they heard from afar the steady rhythm of an horse approaching.

They stood, rather defensively, Janie thought, before the rider stopped. He clearly had seen them. Julieanne said softly, “Sprung.”

Janie took the initiative. “Hi,” she called, “Care for a cuppa?”

The man surveyed them carefully. “My word, Yair. Thanks. Sugar if you’ve got it. Two women. You’re a long way from home, Ya don’t live hereabouts.” This a statement.

“No. We’re travelling. Prefer camping out to motels. It’s better for your health.” Then she realized he must have seen the shovels, added, “And we do a bit of prospecting.”

“So I see.” he smiled obviously trying to put them at ease. "Well you won’t find anything out here. They went over this ground years ago. Nothing Old man Walters though.” He waved his arm over an arc of that immense horizon. “Up North of here there's a bit of gold about there. He’d be glad if you found a decent pocket. He’d let you prospect there.” He laughed, “If you ever got past the house.”

“What do you mean?” asked Julieanne.

He chuckled, obviously amused, “Old Mrs. Walters would nail your feet to the floor. Talk you dry. Be there a week and lucky to get a word in edgeways.”

“How far up?” asked Janie.

“About 60 miles North of here. The house is well back from the road, but you couldn’t miss it. The old lady’s made a real park out of it. They got water there. Well thanks for the tea. Gotta be there before dark.”

Then he said, casually, “I guess you must be the two women left peaches at the fencers hut. Few months ago?”

“Sorry, said Julieanne, “If we had peaches we would be eating them.”

“So long.” he wheeled the horse into a canter and was gone.

The women looked at each other. “That’s why we eat early,” said Janie. “They’ve got eyes like hawks If we had a fire after dark it would be spotted from miles away. I wonder if he’s been watching us? Did he see the car?

I’m sure he will have noticed you didn’t give him a direct answer about the peaches.”

They had little need to worry. The man had crossed their path by chance, on his way back to the fencers hut and because he was a decent man gave them no cause for concern, thinking only that women can do anything these days.

He knew he would speak of them to Walters, for he had indeed noted Julieanne’s prevarication over the peaches, and he was sure in his own mind that they were interested in ‘Somebody’s Darling’ as well as prospecting. “Be the older woman lost the baby,” he thought, “The grave’s been there a long time now.”

It was a very thoughtful Julie who returned to Bourke the following day. Australia is a very big place, but the outback network is swift and keenly observant.

She decided against going to the Walters place. She had thought foe a few moments of doing so to give verity to the prospecting story. Her common sense however said ‘no’. Why expose yourself to an interrogation by Mrs. Walters, to the scrutiny of her husband? He probably talks to the Grangers, as indeed he did, and knows about the visits to the little grave; so he knows who we are; and so do the stockmen; and they talk to their mates in town and to their girl friends, First it was the grave, and then the visits, and a laugh over the peaches, two women prospecting, been a couple of times to the same place, somewhere behind old Walters fencing hut. Must have struck it, because on the last run they took a man with them. Hard work out there in the sun all day.

Janie would have been shocked to know how much of her interests were being discussed, and it was fortunate that the visits were widely spaced, or the site would surely have been noticed. As it was one or two of the station hands did do some casual fossicking, but the gold was four feet beneath the surface, beyond the reach of even the best of the new gold detectors.

So the went to a little river a couple of hundred miles down the road to wash their gold, and fill the chutney jars with the beautiful tiny grains and flakes of gold. As they neared Wexford, it was Julieanne realized how far it was to Mrs. Grander’s. “Over a thousand miles.”

Janie offered some consolation, “It’s much closer from Southport, and we’ll go out again some day.”

Thus Janie Henderson returned to Wexford.

In the township they enjoyed the amenities of the pub ‘Oh the luxury of hot water’, then phoned the Nicholas home.

“Yes, of course.” said Mother, "I’d love you to come out. Alex is working but I’m home and do please come.”

So they went, and Julieanne met Mother, now so much more motherly with advancing years, and was shown the house which her Grandad had bought and altered to suit his Janie; saw Janie’s old room and Jim Henderson’s; so much of life and death in this house, and she realized with a new clarity, the impossibility of Janie living in the house again; went outside to the stable where Janie had groomed and cared for her horse, and the big paddock, for he too had ‘gone with the house’ when they left; saw the fowl yard where Janie had gathered eggs, and Mrs. Nicholas now gathering eggs; heard all about the school, and Janie’s old friends and neighbours; the friends and neighbours she was so determined must not see her new baby; and so they knitted up many threads of Janie’s life in Wexford. Looking out over the wide miles of saltbush and mulga the girl felt strongly the great contrast between life on the edge of the wilderness, and though it had a stubborn enduring type of beauty, she was glad they lived by the sea, pleased that she had been raised in the city, found herself greatly, emotionally grateful for the so much richer life she enjoyed in the lively cultured activity of the Gold Coast. Yes, it was different; and the difference was wonderful. She well knew that if she had to she could live in Wexford, but was eternally glad that Janie had moved out.

Said Mrs. Nicholas, “I suppose you know that the Hospital’s gone? Government has closed so many of the small hospitals. Everyone goes into the main towns now. Spend more on running them than they do on the patients. Would have been more sensible to keep the country ones, and give the doctors some support. Doctor Smith spent most of his life here. Brought you into the world, Julieanne, and most of the youngsters round here.”

Julieanne so nearly said, “No, not me,” but checked herself in time, shocked at how easily she could have said so.

“Where did he go?” she asked, seeing all her plans falling apart.

“Didn’t go.” said mother Nicholas, “He’s in private practice in his own house.”

“You have his telephone number, Mrs. Nicholas?”

“Of course. You’d like a chat. There beside the telephone.”

When Julieanne was at the telephone in the hallway, Mother asked Janie, “Did that lawyer ever catch up with you?”

Janie, startled asked “What lawyer?”

Mother told her of his visit, his questions, the little sub story of his interest in the gold; and her Alex’s indiscretion.

So Janie told her of his visit to the goldsmith, of her meeting with the goldsmith’s mother; of her move to Southport, of the visit to Mrs. Granger. Glad to find a confidant, the warm human security that only understanding can offer.

Julieanne with a triumphant look at her Mum, rang the Doctor; said who she was, “Yes, here in Wexford, yes, with Janie. Was he busy?”

He laughed at that, country doctors are rarely busy, said “Yes. Do come.”

To Mrs. Nicholas, “Thanks ever so much. You’ve been so kind to let us see the house. If we stay a day or so we would love to come back. Yes, Dad’s gone. That old war wound of his at last.” And it was agreed they should call again.

Graham Smith also had done a deal of thinking since that night in Sydney. So much small drama, the loneliness dispelled in such pleasurable hours. His ever present memory of Janie, her warm strength, her scent, the pleasure of her kiss, his real concern for her welfare.

As the women mounted the steps of the house, the door opened and a patient walked out. She stared at Janie; stared at Julieanne, and as the Doctor invited them into the house, pushed in after them.

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Eacham. Are you ill?”

“No.” she said, “I’m not ill. I know these people and I’m going to know more.” and she stared into Janie’s face. “That woman stole that baby,” she said pointing to a startled Julieanne. “And I think I know whose baby it is. There was a lawyer round here trying to find her, but she’s gone into hiding. Nobody’s seen her till today.”

Doctor Smith was angry, “Mrs. Eacham, how can you, how dare you?”

“Oh, I dare all right; there’d be an unholy row if I said all I know. She pinched that kid all right. Look at her.”

Janie was clearly upset. “I don’t know what you know, and you’re talking dangerous rubbish. Julieanne is my child, and the Doctor knows that better than you could know anything.”

“Oh nonsense. You were away six weeks on that trip; long enough to walk round the country; you left here with a premature baby, every one in town knows that; and you came home with this one.” with a toss of her red head at Julieanne, “She doesn’t even look like you.”

“Image of her father.” said Janie, “As for that trip, well we often went outback. My Dad had a gold claim out there, and we go out a couple of times a year to work it; everyone in town knows we used to go walkabout. That’s where we have been on this trip.”

The redhead sniffed, “That’s a likely yarn. That kids not yours by a country mile.”

Julieanne said, “Old wives tales. Everybody talks about everybody in these villages. Not much else to talk about.”

Mrs. Eacham shouted, “Then why did you go into hiding?”

The Doctor knowing much more certainly than Mrs. Eacham that what she was saying might be true, but trying to defend Janie, said, “Please don’t excite yourself Mrs. Eacham; please don’t shout. I don’t think Mrs. Martin went into hiding. Would you want to live in the house where your Mother and your husband have died? Mrs. Eacham, you are being aggressively rude.

“That’s what that damned lawyer said, ‘can’t live in the same house’.”

“That’s precisely why we left.” said Janie, now in possession of herself. “I have my own business, and an extensive one. Here have my business card. I’m known to many people; you’ve let your imagination run away with you.” She turned to Julieanne, “Please bring me one of the jars.”

Julieanne grinned, an impish smile, and went to the car.

Janie continued, “We came to try and induce Doctor Smith to consider a practice up North. As you can see from that card, I have a PR. Agency, and work for one of the Medical Centers. They want a new man. Here’s Julieanne. We went out to the gold field before we came here, and we dig and pan our own gold. All above board, as you will see.”

Julieanne, with an eye to the spectacular, had thrown a head scarf over her hands. The Doctor could see the muscular effort The girl said, “Still need convincing, Mrs. Eacham?”

Her Mother whipped the scarf off the girl’s hands, revealing the chubby chutney jar, filled with gold dust and flakes, beautiful and convincing.

“Well?” said Janie.

Mrs. Eacham stared, speechless.

Julieanne said, “Here, hold it, in case everyone round here thinks it’s fairy floss.”

The woman took the jar, her arms sagged with the unexpected weight. Julieanne, who knew how heavy the jar was, had her own capable hands under it. “Real pure gold.” said Julieanne, “Just like me, and everybody knows it.” Her eyes were on Mrs. Eacham’s face. And we know all about the lawyer. He was after Grandad’s gold, but he missed out. You see, he was wrong, just as you are wrong.”

She turned to the Doctor, “Can I have a medicine glass, about 20 ml.” She filled the little phial with gold. “Here, Mrs. Eacham, that’s for you. Real, pure, gold. No mistakes about it. There’s enough there to make you a ring and a nice brooch; just to remember Julieanne Martin, who takes after her Dad. So good bye, we have business with Doctor Smith.”

The woman looked around the little group. Janie stared her down; the Doctor smiled slightly and nodded; Julieanne said, “It’s all right Mrs. Eacham, we all have outlandish fancies, even at my age. I thought all men were wonderful till I found out.”

The woman looked round the faces again, suddenly aware that there was no antagonism; remembered some of her own discoveries about men.

Janie knowing, how keenly, the truth sharp in her mind, but determined that she would not accept it in this way, sought to lessen the pain for the woman, said, “It’s all right, Mrs. Eacham. We all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty, some bad one’s. Don’t worry about it.”

The woman said, “My name’s Alice, Alice Eacham. Thanks for this stuff. First time in my life I’ve been given anything worth having. Tell me what will you do with the rest of it?”

“We take it to a goldsmith in Sydney, and he makes it into jewellery; we sell it as a side line in my business.”

“I know about that goldsmith.” said Alice, “The lawyer gave Alex Nicholas his address; Jim Henderson gave Alex some gold too. Must be plenty there.”

The Doctor also remembered that Jim had given him some gold, a great deal, and thought, yes, plenty there.

“Of course.” said Janie frankly, “Lots of it, I suppose. Hasn’t run out yet. But it’s very hard work; pick and shovel work in the hot sun, sweat and flies and blisters.” she showed her calloused hands. “Always get blisters after months in town. I’d sooner be swimming.”

Mrs. Eacham, however had another shock for Janie Martin, nee Henderson. She said, “So that damned lawyer was after gold. I’m really sorry about this. I honestly thought that you were the one who stole Lindy Chamberlain’s baby. Every one knows that someone took her from the dingo. It was terrible, but I can see that I’m wrong. I’m very sorry.”

Julieanne saw Janie go pale, moved swiftly to her side, saying, “You’ve been standing too long. Here, sit down.” and to cover the movement said rather rudely to Mrs. Eacham, “Would you have stolen a baby?”

But she had a searing recollection of Janie at Ethel Granger’s, pale and upset when the talk turned to babies and that dingo, and Ethel Grangers “My, that’s when Janie got you.”

Mrs. Eacham thought that she had said too much, Said to Janie, “I’m really sorry about this; I can see I’ve tired you. May I go now Doctor?”

“Of course, Mrs. Eacham.”

But before she went, Janie said, in a valiant effort to recover herself, “If you take that gold to the Sydney goldsmith, show him my card and just say, ‘Janie gave me this’, It won’t cost you anything to have the work done.”

So Alice Eacham, who worked in the Shire Office, left; but left behind her more than she could ever have dreamed.

“How do you know he won’t charge her?” asked Julieanne, referring to the goldsmith.

“Because we will call on the way through, and have words with him about several things.” Janie replied.

Doctor Smith ushered them into his living room, not the surgery. He also was having very serious thoughts about babies. He had a shocking vision of a fear driven woman, and a baby with barely healed wounds, clearly inflicted by a dog, or he thought grimly, a dingo; and he wondered if perhaps Alice Eacham was right, her speculation, the secret so carefully guarded; and he asked himself, as he had done in Sydney, whether he should become involved, decided that he was already committed, and said, “My word, you girls handled that very well.”

Janie, recovering from the shock and pleading silently with her fate that there would be no more talk of babies, said, “It was a shock, but we’re in Public Relations, which is about personal relations really. What’s wrong with her?”

“She comes to me for skin cancer. A problem with many redheads, for some reason; the other thing clearly an obsession. I wonder how the lawyer met her. He certainly covered a lot of ground.” and for Janie’s sake said nothing about his other wonderings.

Julieanne, also with new ideas in riot in her mind, but with more immediate plans to accomplish said, “Where’s your kitchen, Doctor? I’ll make you a meal. You and Mum need to talk.”

He showed her the kitchen, saying, “What are you at, young woman?”

She laughed in his face, put her arms around him and said, “Look, Doctor, I live with Mum. I know her. I saw the way you looked at her in Sydney, you would have stayed if she had asked you; go and talk with her. She would have stayed if you had asked her.”

He returned to Janie. “Your daughter’s matchmaking. Frankly, I’m very pleased to have a matchmaker round. It makes things a lot easier for me.”

Janie’s face was a study. The mask she has worn since that wonderful night in Sydney, stripped from her by a child.

She looked round the sparsely furnished room. Clearly a bachelor apartment “Graham.”

He started, looked at her. This is the first time she has called me Graham.

“Graham, if we do, you must remember it’s sixteen years since I thought seriously about a man. If we do, we will both have to make changes. You are a country doctor; I’m a city woman, have a business. Oh, Graham I don’t really know. Then there’s Julieanne. I don’t want to involve you. It might be trouble one day. You know I’m at risk with her.”

Graham stood with her, said gently, “Yes I know all that. I saw this afternoon the possible cause of the wounds on the baby’s shoulders so long ago. I don’t want to talk about that, only in your good time. What I want now is you, and if you’re in trouble, ever, you can count on me. But Janie, there are other problems. I’m only a country doctor, and few of us make a good living; and as for intimacies, I have long since committed myself to celibacy. You too, will have to be a little understanding.”

Janie caught him by the arms, kissed him, and kissed him again, “I’m sure that Julieanne has worked all such problems out.” and talking over several problems at once, said, “She knows that I’m a wealthy woman; I know you’re ten years older than me, neither of us are children any longer, both a bit old for honeymooning, and I’m very confident that the Julieanne problem will unfold itself with time. I think we should have a trip round the Pacific, on one of those nice liners. Get to know each other.”

He smiled at the old phrase and it’s implications.

Janie kissed him again, “I bet you havn’t had a holiday in years.” Which is true of most rural doctors. “You can come back here if it doesn’t work out, and we’re still friends. Doctor Smith, “Be a gentleman. Ask me to marry you.”

Julieanne came to the door from the kitchen, stood for a moment, nothing but love for them in her face, then turned back to the stove, juggling dishes to preserve the soufflé from over cooking for as long as possible. Which suited all of them.

Later, Julieanne lost the battle with Janie over a white wedding. She has pleaded for this; chauffeured Rolls; flowergirls; whips of wonderful shopping, and herself as bridesmaid, exotic and glamorous.

Janie was, however remarkably firm; Graham also apprehensive about a fashionable show. So there were only Peter and his Mother, Anne and the office staff, all in their street clothing, with no one at all on Grahams side at the Registry Office.

Alice Eacham, however was still troubled with her own convictions. She had no one to confide in. She would not tell him of the incident; specially not the gold. That was hers; she well knew that if he put his hands on it she would lose it. Nor could she talk with him about much at all. Her life was lived on very limited levels; her work, her home, her few friends, and her rich world of private thought and emotions. She was certain in that miscellany of fact and fiction, that the baby had been stolen. The disappearance was so absolute. If the dingo had eaten the child there would have been the poor tragic remains. But none. Just the few scraps of clothing; filthy from blood and saliva and the red dust of the outback. Deep in her mind she had been forced to the conclusion that someone had stolen the baby. The Aboriginal trackers were sure. If it wasn’t Janie, it was someone else. So she penned yet another letter to another lawyer, a QC. this time.

Dear Sir,
I can say almost certainly what happened to Lindy Chamberlain’s baby.
If you would like to know the truth, please ring me at ---------

A. Eacham {Mrs.}


The QC. did not telephone

His letter had a sense of finality which satisfied her strongest doubt.

Dear Mrs. Eacham,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter regarding the Chamberlain baby.

Sadly, I must inform you that I have received at least fifty such letters

relating to that tragic incident, including far too many from young women,

actually claiming to be the child.

I am sure that you will realize that any such claim in this unfortunate matter

must be supported by incontrovertible proofs, positive evidence, able to

satisfy not only the complex legal demands, but also meet the intense

public scrutiny any such claim inevitably arouse.

I regret, that failing such firm evidence there will be no good purpose served

in pursuing the matter, but thank you for your interest; it is good to know that

some people are still concerned.

Yours faithfully, etc.

Alice Eacham had to think her way through that one; it took her some moments to realize the absolute finality of his letter. ‘Fifty others, god, I’ve been a fool. Yes, I bet it was gold that damn lawyer was after,’ and she decided she would try for two rings and two brooches; a ring for both the old man and herself, and a brooch for herself and daughter, who lived in Sydney, and whom she so seldom saw.

Nearly a thousand miles away, back of ‘The Old Black Stump’ Ethel Granger was also troubled. Too many coincidences, she thought, something not quite right, Janie was too easily upset. Perhaps she was not well? She turned these thoughts over and over in her mind, then explored her husbands mind for instances of lonely graves on the roadsides, for any stories of lonely women dying in childbirth. One night she asked abruptly, “How long would it take to get to Alice from here?”

“In the grader?”

She took him seriously then, “No. In the car.”

Visibly amused he said, “About four or five days, very easy driving.” He knew that she liked to travel easily. Stop for an afternoon perhaps if she liked the look of a place, or if she was tired, and always a stop for the night, A decent pub, a bed, a good meal a cool shower. He added, “Not in the Wet, of course, do it the easy way up through Mount Isa, have a look through the mine, then Tennant Creek and down to Alice. While you’re there another couple of days and down to the Rock. Would you like to go?”

For he knew he could get leave on request; he had years of accumulated leave.

But she said, “No, suits me here with you,” and he agreed, suited him there too, with her and the children. Neither of them wanted the hassle of holidays, when you have the peace and quiet out here.

Her thoughts became even more vague with the passing months, and by the time Janie and Julieanne visited again, with sweets ‘and some things for the children’, and with Julieanne’s choice of Peter approved, Mrs. Granger was visibly moved at the news of Janie’s marriage, ‘and to a Doctor; I hope you’ll bring him out with you sometime’ and her pleasure over Janie’s few photos of the wedding, most impressed by the group round the long table at King Arthur’s, ‘my, you do have a lot of friends’ and by the time all these things have been absorbed, her wonderings were happily submerged in the new affairs and any questions went unasked and unanswered.

But that morning was to change Ethel Granger’s life forever. Julieanne, enjoying Ethel’s full confidence, obtained just a few names, an address, dates, and a birthdate, so well remembered from the past, and walked back into her lovely simple home with a wild hope and a prayer in her heart.

One delightfully sunny morning, early, because Janie made a point of being first at the office; the window of the dining room cum kitchen open to the early sun, a cool breeze from off the sea, the day perfect, Graham remarked to Julieanne, “Your light was on very late last night.”

She said, “That’s so, I just couldn’t sleep.”

Janie asked, “Nothing wrong, I hope?”

Julieanne looked at her for a long moment, then said very deliberately, “I sat up in front of my mirror, and searched my image for a likeness of my Mother.” Her young eyes not leaving Janie’s face for one second, clearly awaiting Janie’s comment; a comment which would pass the next word back to her.

Whatever the thoughts aroused by the remark, Janie was calm. She has sensed so many times the questioning in the child's mind; questionings which, though not voiced, but clear enough from the unusual troubled silences; withdrawn moments of reverie; and sometimes, lately, bursts of emotional stress; and Janie, with her own long years of stress and questioning of self, was all too well aware of the troubling power of a sleepless night, so Janie smiled at her beloved child; reassurance as ever for her. ‘She is now a woman’, she thought with a surge of sadness.

“I am sure,” she said, “You will see a likeness there; we girls usually look like our Mums.”

“Even when we take after our Dads?”

Janie, now painfully aware that she was only the child’s Mum, and now known to be not the Mother, “Yes, my dear, but I really think you will look more like your Mother.”

Graham said nothing. He too was searching an honest answer to a most difficult question. He too believed that that the young woman would more closely resemble the unknown Mother than the unknown father, but what does one say when our own thoughts are dealing with undisclosed realities? Or to a woman so clearly denied the reality of her own self?

She turned to him, “You know what happened. Who do I look like?”

He reached over, placed a hand on her wrist, squeezed gently, a strong gesture of assurance, “As a doctor, I must say you will more probably favour your Mother. Boy’s the father; girl’s the Mother, is Natures way.”

Julieanne sighed, “I just wish I had something of hers. A brooch, even a handkerchief. Oh, I’m not criticizing you, Mum, I know how good you’ve been. It’s just sometimes I want ever so much to have something of hers. It’s terrible when you’ve got nothing. Sometimes I feel that even love’s not enough. I want to know her better.”

She lifted a tragic young face to them, and laughed, a trifle wildly, “I just want my Mother.”

Janie rose, stood behind the young woman, put her arms round her, kissed her hair, said “You were given to me in a very special, a very terrible moment of need; your desperate need and mine. Dear girl, I didn’t choose the circumstances. I had no control over the moment; you at death’s door, I could do no more,” and she buried her face in the beloved child’s hair.

Graham Smith, who had attended many moments of crisis in his professional career, intervened to save Janie; he said “But Julieanne, you are your Mothers gift, yes, look in that mirror again, look at your hands, your beautiful body, you are hers, she made you, gave you life. You will always be her child, her gift to the world. Like Janie, you must treasure the gift.”

He rose, placed his hand on Janie’s for a second, and left the room; nothing more that a man could say. Mother and child alone, each so bitterly alone, as is every woman in the world, and every man. We ease the burden as best we can, at best with love and companionship; with our arts; most of us with the work of our hands; but the vast amusements of this world are devised to protect the human spirit from the splendid isolation of self.

Marx was so wrong, the doctor thought, terribly wrong. Put a lot of people on the wrong track. It’s not religion at fault; that’s been with us from the very beginning; its more the fault of the churches. For most of us religion is the life of the spirit; but the ancient forms of the churches; the archaic vestments; the illogical theology, destructive dogma; the selfish orthodoxy; the parochial follies; these things the rusting encrustation of time, all of which deny the experience of the vitality of spirit.

All our best works are conceived in the quiet of that spirit; our worst from the excesses we use to keep the pristine loneliness at some distance from the present moment. Round the world fathers and Mothers, bonded in the thing we call love ‘whither thou goest, I will go; I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’; building those safe havens of confidence and security where the children can develop that wisdom of spirit which is our strength in the daily battle of existence.

Julieanne, during their honeymoon trip around the Pacific, had more to do than just assist Anne at the agency. The seed so innocently sown by Ethel Granger, and so vigorously tended by Alice Eacham, was not dormant.

She was not greatly troubled, but was concerned over several unanswered questions, the divisions in her mind between her subconscious feelings, and the more critical waking mind following that unforgettable night with Ethel, and the equally unforgettable confrontation with Mrs. Eacham. She had an uneasy feeling that Mrs. Eacham had been fobbed off. Even wondered for a few startled moments, if Janie had bought her off with the gold, but then remembered that it was herself who had given the gold to the lady.

Since such talk of Lindy Chamberlain, the doubts about the baby, all the stuff about the dingo, her own shot, direct and killing, her own long hours of driving in the outback, she realized that the journey to Alice Springs, and then down to the Rock was quite possible, just as Mrs. Eacham said, that her Mum had ‘got’ her just about that time; that Janie’s ‘at that special moment in time’ had a real meaning; that ‘Somebody's Darling’ was called Julieanne, and it was possible that my birth certificate was hers; that was the reason Janie could not find her Mothers grave; that was why Janie was so easily upset; why she had not wanted to go to Wexford. What does Janie mean when she speaks so mysteriously of the ‘Journey to Damascus’?

And she suddenly felt a deep empathy with Lindy, and hoped as all those country people believed, that the baby had been stolen and would be alive and well, and hoped the thought would be some comfort to her. Whatever was to be, she knew without thinking it would never be to Janie’s harm; that would never do; but Lindy’s baby?

Jim Henderson had bequeathed much more than gold to his family. He had left an enduring love, a deep loyalty, a selfless devotion, to his grandchild in her most impressionable years, and such were now her best defenses against new challenges to her. Again the question surfaced in her mind, what did Mum mean when she spoke of ‘The journey to Damascus?’ So one morning at breakfast, the sun falling in golden showers through the clear sweet breeze from the Pacific, Janie and Graham at peace in their new companionship opposite her, she asked for an explanation.

Janie had looked at her a long moment before replying. “Why, was she afraid?”

But Janie was almost beyond fear; she was considering the trip to Damascus. The journey to Wexford was such; was she to walk yet another road to another different Damascus, and would this precious child, God’s saving grace to each in their hour of desperate need, be at her side or at the side of another woman. Could they ever by that same Grace, walk together.

Janie told her the story. A story nearly as old as mankind.

There was a certain man, He had a dearly loved son; one day the son returned home from the market place in terror. There he had seen the specter of Death, and Death had looked directly at him.

The father said, “Son, take our best horse, and ride to Damascus, There you will be safe.”

The father went to the market place and confronted Death, saying, “Why did you threaten my son?”

Death replied, “I did not threaten him. I was surprised to see him here. I have an appointment with him, tomorrow, in Damascus.”

She smiled at Julieanne, saying, “And you sent me to Wexford and Graham got me.”

Julieanne who loved her Mum, and related the old story to gathering insights into her own young life realized the import of the story. She stared for a grim moment into her own possible future, and a ride she might make to Damascus. She felt a fear as she had never known, and turned as ever to the strong loving hands for the comfort that was never denied; stilled for a moment by that poignant glimpse into her future, Janie’s future, and who else, who?

But Janie Henderson as she preferred to be called, was able to comfort her, for her own childlike faith, so much stronger than hope, that a fate had guided her to the child in her moment of desperate need, assured her that whatever threatened, she would be guided, and whatever those events, they would surely not destroy the faith nor deny the purpose.


'Somebody’s Darling'

The fencer, when he returned from the work on the back fence, finding the peaches, and noting the tracks, said to himself, ‘Two women. That’ll be the Mother’, and kept a sharp lookout for travellers as he made his way back to the station.
The story was known on the station, although the incident was old, and excited little interest now. The man knew that the grave had been noticed, possibly only weeks after the burial, for the hut was not deserted, merely little used; he knew that the boss had made the cross; knew that the boss wanted the site kept reasonably clear of weeds and grasses which flourished after the infrequent rains, so he reported the tracks and the peaches, and his thought that the visitors would be the Mother, but the boss shook his head at that, “The Mother probably wouldn’t want it known that she has been there. Probably one of the locals showing a visitor about. Not much to see out here; do you think the Mother would have left peaches?”

The fencer did not argue, just nodded and went his way. Privately he had fantasized a little over the incident. In spite of the boss and his locals, he had never known of any other visitors; had imagined the truth, indeed, that the Mother had been passing through when the death occurred, come from some distance; distances are long, as country miles are long, out here, and this was the first time again since it happened, and she hadn’t planned coming this way, probably come miles out of her way, possibly off the main road which is a couple of hundred miles away, and had no flowers; just saying ‘thank you’ to the unknown who put up that cross. Peaches and coke all she had. Well, he had enjoyed the change. A long time since he had peaches, tinned or otherwise.

The boss also wondered, but did not fantasize over the incident. He had plenty to do, whereas the fencer had about sixty miles of riding in which to occupy his mind. However a few weeks later he encountered the big yellow grader on the road, and stopped to have a chat with Jim Granger. He learned of Janie Henderson’s visit to Mrs. Granger, expecting to find old Mrs. Olsen there still. He laughed at that. ‘You’ve been there twelve years, Jim’. Heard of her girl’s lucky first shot at a dingo; was somewhat shocked to learn that Jim’s grand daughter was adopted’. As far as he knew, Janie’s girl was just that, a little premature thing that had survived and grown up; but who else was in the neighbourhood? Why had they visited ‘Somebody’s Darling’? Two women, after all these years. Why? And those peaches.

He said nothing of this to his wife, well knowing that if she got the slightest hint of a mystery she would pursue it to the end, however bitter the cost. However he made it his business to call on the Grangers during the weekend while Jim was home, and have a mug of tea with them, both glad to see him, for it is by such informal talk that the country wide network is kept alive and informed.

Ethel Granger told him simply and without guile of Janie’s visit; of their talk of abandoned graves, of Julieanne's strange story of her adoption, the killing of the dingo, and of their generosity.

He told her of the visit to the little grave site, of which Mrs. Granger had not heard in all her twelve years, and determined to visit, in spite of the difficulty. After all it was nearly fifty miles away and well off the main road. He was also able to assure her of Julieanne’s maternal bond with Janie.

“Janie had been quite upset with so many people remarking on the difference in their looks, and she invented 'takes after her Dad’ for Julieanne as a child, and Julieanne has grown up believing it.” Which interpretation Mrs. Granger was glad to accept, for it explained Janie’s distress when talking about such things. However she completely missed the discrepancy in the stories, and the boss thought it wiser not to elaborate. It was Janie’s business.

Their talk revealed one or two other inconsistencies. If they were looking for a grave, why did they not mention the visit to ‘Somebody’s Darling’?

And just who is ‘Somebody’s Darling’? And if ‘Somebody’s Darling’ is Janie’s baby Julieanne must be adopted. Be interesting to know what happened. As for derelict huts on the roadside, with unknown graves, nothing like that round here, as both he and Jim Granger well knew.

His thoughts as he drove home took him back many years, Their association had begun as youths working on one of the big cattle drives for Sid Kidman. Later they met again in New Guinea; that experience forged loyalties which would support them for the rest of their lives, for front line service, where loyalties are bleakly survival, weaves a network, deeper in spirit than most human association.

Thousands of young men and women faced and decided those loyalties, and we will surely face them again. Thousands of young women remained single for the rest of their lives when their lovers made the ultimate sacrifice. Those who survived, the Jim Hendersons of those dark days, could never forget, so he shrugged his shoulders, ‘Jim’s business’ and let it rest. He had been saddened to hear of Jim’s death; the goldsmith in Sydney now gone, so many gone

Now there is this second gift of peaches, and Janie with her girl in the district again, and this time a man with them. He hoped they would call. So he had another visit with the Grangers, learned about Peter, decided it was definitely Janie who was visiting ‘Somebody’s Darling’ and this young fellow Peter planning to be a goldsmith, clearly being inducted into the location of Jim’s El Dorado, and wondered bleakly, for he has no son, what he should do, if anything, about his own little find; but sadly no answer. If ‘Somebody’s Darling’ was Jim’s business it would remain so, but deep, unstated, unexplored in his mind is the quiet satisfaction over that simple cross, over ‘Somebody’s Darling’, and the same quiet satisfaction that Jim’s girl cared.



Peter is an only child living with his widowed Mother, who, because of his association with Julieanne, is also a close friend of Janie. The father had died from injuries suffered in an horrendous motor accident; the mortgage insurance had secured the house for the little family; his personal insurance, and compensation meant that they lived in reasonable, even comfortable circumstances; the Mother part time at a Day Nursery, Peter at the beginning of his association with Julieanne, still at High School.
Peter was barely two years old when the father was taken, and has but faint memory of him, none whatsoever as a father.

His Mother has never considered another marriage, feeling that her life with the boy was fulfilled. Deep in herself she was not willing to face the demands of another relationship. The loss of her husband, still her lover, a tragic loss indeed.

Peter and his Mother preferred the quiet life; the developing association with Julieanne drew them both into a warm friendly companionship with Janie, and they had become the nucleus of a closely knit group of people enjoying work and play, mutually satisfied with companionship, pleasant early morning swimming; and good food, either at home, or at a favoured restaurant.

Peter had little time for play, for with Julieanne they were developing their computer skills. Both well beyond the games stage, exploring the depths of Windows and other profundities, and, because of Janie’s interest in the share market, both were becoming interested in Elliott waves and other esoteric market indicators.

Neither was interested in the modern means of killing time; just typical young people able to see what they wanted from life, and enjoying their interests and their time together. Peter was, of course, Julieanne’s confidant, trusted instinctively and implicitly. He knew now the story of Julieanne’s birth, as Janie had told it; he knew of Janie’s work at the PR agency, he knew of their affection for the Grandfather, and of the gold mine, and with his Mother joined in the social round of their lives, met Graham when the Doctor became a member of the family, and lately is talking over new possibilities as Julieanne discovers new possible aspects of her interest in the Chamberlain story.

Again at Julieanne’s suggestion he explored the possibilities of the gold, and again with Julieanne, decided to train at the TAFE as a goldsmith, with the intention to make full use of the gold. On his first trip with them outback, again at Julieanne’s suggestion, carried a GPS handset, and a good map to secure future certainty in the location of the gold; and was pleasantly surprised at Janie’s reaction. He had fully expected her to strongly oppose any such recording of the site, but Janie, initially shocked, realized within those few first shocked seconds, that it was indeed sensible, and approved. It was a simple and direct means of locating the site, so difficult in that wilderness.

Peter discovered at the goldsite, that the strength developed in a gymnasium, was of a different texture from that required at the business end of a shovel under a hot sun. He never fully made the transition, locked in as he was to life in the city and sedentary work; every trip to the site was hard work for him. He was however quite prepared, he said, after his first encounter with the outback, and the discomforts of their simple camping style, to go again, for the sake of Julieanne’s company. “And the gold.” said Julieanne with malicious wit. One afternoon, round their tiny primus, heating beans and ‘other primitive bush tucker’ as he called it, he dropped yet another bombshell into Janie’s lap.

“You really should register this claim, make it legal, just in case some one else stumbles over it; as it is, you could lose it. They can find gold from an aeroplane these days.” Which though not precisely true, was near enough.

Janie looked at him, silent, but thinking, ‘Men are all the same. Different approach about everything. First the GPS, and the apprenticeship, now this; he certainly has the gold on his mind. It’ll be the Stock Market next; and he’s got Julieanne; isn’t she enough’? Without realizing it she was instinctively feeling the beginning of the ‘Mother in law’ syndrome; always, all over the world, the old must make way for the young.

However, she said, “Suited Dad this way. Suits me too. Register it and start a gold rush. The big players would have us out of here in minutes. We only take what we need, and I hope, Peter, that’s all you too will ever take, ‘enough is enough’ is a very good philosophy.”

Peter hardly heard her. His eyes were fixed, startled, on something behind her. Janie froze. One thought in mind; snake.

Julieanne looked, saw the big goanna, only yards away and apparently very interested in his visitors. She tossed him her crust of damper. He took it like a dog, a fast upward flick of the head, the quick snap of the jaws, and, it was clear, waited for more.

Janie relaxed, “He’s an old friend, been round for a long time. We’ve fed him before.”

Peter said, “I bet he wishes it was a T-bone steak. Even a sausage would be welcome.”

However there was no complaint over the several offerings of damper, and Julieanne, with sudden sympathy with her Peter, said, “Never mind Peter, we’ll feed you up when we get back home.”

The incident silenced the discussion over the gold; neither spoke of it again; Julieanne had said nothing; but Janie had felt her support. She said no more, but Peter’s words had aroused some slight sense of change in her mind. Well she would leave it to Julieanne; the future was moving more and more into those capable young hands.

Peter, however had made only an observation. He had no such plans, and was much too occupied with the task of just keeping up with his companions in their competent attack on the heavy compacted sands and gravels of the mining site; their equally competent enjoyment of the simple camping life.

He admitted he was somewhat daunted by the vast spaces; the eerie sense of emptiness, in no way diminished by the few birds, the small life, or the myriad’s of flies; the abrupt change from the tiring heat of the day to the restless cold of night. The cool beauty of moonlight over that wide empty country; the brilliance of the stars, the profound silences, the rugged dynamic beauty of the land was, to him, little compensation for the flies, the heat, the sweat, the billy tea, the spartan meals, and the physical camp discomforts of camplife.

All these things simply emphasised for him, the very agreeable life style of the Coast, and he was acutely aware that he yearned for the interest and the cross talk of his favourite web site, and the milky radiance of his computer monitor.

As Julieanne’s interest in the new possibilities surrounding her birth started to grow into certainties, he also began to realize that his future might well be different from anything that he had planned, or even imagined. He also realized that the gold, though far distant, and difficult to obtain, would also be a significant part of their future.

Julieanne's bluntly stated demand for a girl child, ‘at any cost’, had startled him. As an only child, and his companion an only child, the possibility of managing a large family had daunted him; none of their contemporaries had more than three; most of them only two; Graham, with his ‘six boys before she had a girl’, certainly confirmed the possibility, and his next remark, ‘get advise before you start a family’, sent him searching the family planning sites on the net, for a solution to that future problem.

He felt that he understood Jim Henderson’s desire to assure the Chamberlain’s of the survival of their baby. That was the right thing to do. He imagined a whole new set of problems arising from the revelation. Publicity and lawsuits, possibly criminal charges against Janie; and the rest of us?

Accessories after the fact? The silent accusation of thousands; the anger and pain of the injured family? The risk of so much pain was too much. He talked these so difficult questions over and over with Julieanne; explored all the possibilities, but always forced back to the risk of great conflict and distress. That lady is happy now, she has a new family, she surrendered the baby when the desperate search at Ayer’s Rock failed. Better to leave it that way, but Julieanne had said, “No, that’s not enough. We owe her more than that, and I will never to harm Janie; or you, Peter.”

“I know what Mum’s been through. I’ve read Lindy’s book. She’s a strong and very good woman. She’s brave and understanding. Neither of them had any choice at the time of the tragedy. Both of them have made good of so much wrong. And we will do nothing ever to harm them. No publicity; nothing like that.”

Peter was also firm. His stint outback had hardened him physically, and mentally. He was firm that Julieanne’s planned visit to America was not necessary. It is surely enough to know that the baby survived, and has had a good life.

But Julieanne however, had a greater strength; a deeper conviction; born in the bonding of the first months of life, nurtured on the breast, comforted on the shoulder, the instinctive power of simple Mother love. Peter’s feelings were essentially male; hers utterly feminine and maternal.

So because they did not argue with each other, the difference of opinion just rested. It would come to decision later. Julieanne firm with her vision of the future; Peter confident that with his wonderful girl, they would work things out to everyone’s satisfaction; reasonably content with her vehement assurances that there will be no publicity, no drama; just a personal visit with her baby girl; and the tears in her eyes as she spoke of her Mother silenced him utterly.

Peter was inevitably moving closer to Julieanne through this time. The tensions in her life, though well controlled were evident in their relationship, and it is now to his shoulder that she turns for comfort, when the uncertainties become tension, and the tensions become stress.

It is clear to the young people that Janie’s story is unfinished; although she has indicated the true circumstances, she is not yet able from her own resources to confirm the story, or to face the inevitable consequences, or yet summon the strength to deal with them. And Peter has a clear understanding that it will be Julieanne and himself who will probably be making the “Journey to Damascus’: he is sure in his own mind that Janie will not ever be able to face the other Mother.



Janice Martin has long preferred to be known as Janie Henderson, although her business stationery and cheque books exhibit the formal Janice Martin.
It would be difficult to define the choice. Some might think it an emotional rejection of the name of her dead husband; some might reflect on the poignant relationship with the father; the rock solid loyalty and support so steadfastly given through her years of trial; some would read a retreat to the simple even tenor of her early childhood; others, their minds cluttered with the multitudinous theories of psychology, would see it as yet another manifestation of the intractable lie with which she must, both by choice and the appalling compulsions of that lie, daily live; and because she is ever in the closest association with that lie, leans on the strength and wisdom of the father. She must daily wrestle with her conscience, knowing that wisdom and strength are contestants on both sides of that battle field, and no such battle is easily won.

Whatever the others might think, Janie, would have said, if pressed, “Because I love him. He’s been the best friend, the best father a girl could ever have.”

Julieanne, who also loved her Grandad, felt much the same, and preferred to be called Henderson and with her Mum suffered small difficulties with the arrangement, these mainly small conflicts with the bureaucracy. At the bank, their personal accounts were properly identified as Martin. It was easily accepted amongst her friends that the Martin women choose to be known as Henderson; a personal idiosyncrasy not altogether different from the New Age people who preferred to be known as Cosmos, or Earth, Sun, Star or Moon, and go to some length to explain to the ignorant the remarkable similarities between the ancient Diana, the Moon Goddess, and the universally known and tragic modern Goddess of the same name.

Jim, with his little family lived, financially independent in one of the seaside suburbs of Sydney, until Jim passed on. His war injury, the loss of the mass of the major muscle of his thigh, had never properly healed. Some jungle infection persisted and flowered and plagued him persistently in his later years. At Wexford Dr. Smith had kept the thing under reasonable control, but encroaching years saw the disease gaining on him. They settled in Sydney to have access to the greater expertise available for the treatment of such diseases; even here in Sydney, Jim had been careful not to seek help from the centers specializing in the many tropical infections picked up by soldiers in the tropical warfare. He was prepared to forgo the expertise available in such specialist centers for the sake of their anonymity within the city.

About the third year of his Odyssey Jim’s fears and the sickness of guilt reached crisis point. He was enduring considerable pain from the wound, but more disturbing to him, more emotionally painful, more mentally devastating, the deep sense of guilt in not letting that sorely afflicted family know that their child was safe, alive and well.

He could not possibly talk the matter out with Janie, she too having her own problems with fear, and he did not have it in him to destroy her joy in the nurturing of the child. Driven by his intractable compulsions, he at last gave way to Dr. Smith’s implied advise, ‘More a job for a priest than a doctor’.

In the City, selling gold, he made an appointment with a well known cleric, a man noted for his outspoken comment on social problems of the City, and one he felt he could trust.

Welcomed in the cosy office in the man’s home, he immediately felt the invisible walls taking shape and substance about him. All the old fears of lawyers, inquiries, cross examination, questions and interrogation flooded his mind.

He wasted his time, and that of the cleric, on a hastily and transparently invented problem. He did not realize it, but it was transparently clear to the minister that he had had suffered a change of heart.; ha was hiding the real problem, still unable to face and deal with the guilt.

The cleric, sadly had watched hundreds of such retreats from truth. He realized that the time was not ripe for this man, no salvation here, and had attempted, gently and compassionately, to talk him through his trouble, ease the corrosion of guilt, and restore confidence to the troubled spirit.

“I do not know the circumstances. I can see that the matter disturbs you greatly, but you alone, no other soul on earth can help you with it, until you are ready. Your doctor might prescribe drugs; but these will only dull your mind; the circumstance remains. Time might ease the weight of guilt, but I doubt it with you. So you must accept it as a way of life. Like that leg injury.”

“A war wound?” he asked.

Jim nodded.

“New Guinea?” This the next question.

And the next, thought Henderson. With a rudeness unusual in him, he rose abruptly “You’ve been very good at hearing me out. Yes, you’re right, I’m not willing to risk the truth. Not yet, not now. But thank you, you’ve been good to give me the time.”

He almost ran from that sanctuary, fled from that experienced mind, the kindly questioning mind; knowing the technique, one simple kindly question after another. And after that, another; all too soon too much said, however innocently; those beautiful astute minds, opening doors better left shut. Exposing thoughts better kept secret, then the deep intuitions needing but few facts to enable the keen brain to speculate correctly, however slight the data.

He fled.

Leaving a generous donation, with the bitter feeling that he was buying his freedom; realizing how close he had come to exposing his guilty secret the truth he must forever hide; bitterly aware that only the whole truth would be enough, and now with the clear knowledge that he would have to carry the burden for the rest of his life.

He was never one who wished for death; he knew too well the value of his support to Janie, but when the virus in a virulent flowering invaded his body, he went uncomplaining to his long rest.

Janie nursed him trough that last sickness, a Blue Nurse and the doctor called daily; a shot of morphia to subdue the hot pain; but it was Janie’s hand soothed his last moments, Janie’s voice his last consolation.

In this death the woman was not devastated. This parting had been long forewarned; it’s course inevitable, the end natural, a kindness. The aftermath was a loss, a regret, a passing rich in memory, and was met by the strength and fortitude for so long companions on their shared journey. Janie knew now that she was on her own, her secret, her gift, secure in her own hand and such were the strengths learned at his side on that journey, she faced the future with confidence, her grief private, and governed by the demands of life without him.

She spilled his ashes on the tiny gravesite of ‘Somebody’s Darling’; those two had so much in common; and she in no way wanted to go to Wexford, to the cemetery there where her Mother and her husband were; the memory of their inexplicable deaths still a deep pain with her.

Not long after Jim’s death, the women were in David Jones shopping, and Julieanne touched her Mum’s arm, “Look Mum, that man looks so much like Grandad.” As indeed he did. A younger man by many years, but a similar old fashioned type of man, typical still in many ways.

“I think he needs help.”

The man, a small boy at his side, was indeed at a loss, inspecting packages of sheets; beds single. Double, queen sized. Cottons, pure or blended, synthetics, or satin, plain or fancy, selfs or patterned, coloured and plain, a vast miscellany of brands, sizes and prices. Urged on by Julieanne, Janie offered a smile and guidance. Together they determined his needs, sorted his requirements, from the wide range on offer, the man clearly grateful. Offered a coffee which Julieanne immediately accepted.

He was glad to talk, pleased to have sympathetic company; his wife had left him and the boy Jordy, who smiled at Julieanne when he heard his name mentioned, his wife was homesick, upset, and he had no idea as to where she was. “Probably gone back home, to Blenheim, New Zealand, somewhere.”

They met regularly after that, and in time Janie and he sought and found consolation in each others company, for loneliness is as corrosive as guilt. They were together only a short while, their healing was sound, the parting friendly and thoroughly understood. The homesick wife and Mother sought him out again, and Janie made a special trip out ‘Back o’ Bourke’ and a visit to the goldsmith, and so financed the little family back to her Mother’s home town and her heart’s desire.

It was about this time that Janie met the goldsmith’s mother, and resolved to go North. Dependent on her own strength, she bought an established agency, and because she had put the grief and that paralyzing fear behind her; or at least had them under control, soon built up a successful and relatively prosperous business. Although independent, indeed wealthy, Janie revelled in the healing catharsis of work, and so did well; Julieanne most of the day now at High School, and well able to organize the few spare hours of her own time.

Both the Henderson women were blessed with ‘good looks’, whatever criteria one might use for such. Janice with her light build, and clear skin, a rich inheritance from her father’s ancestry, still fresh despite her childhood under the hot Australian sun, and a valuable asset drawing many second glances. So many lose the ‘nameless grace’ the freshness of youth, because of that sun; it so dominates life here. Her hair is a light brown, very different from Julieanne’s heavy crown of black, and both with that beautiful flowing grace beloved by perceptive men the world over. Janice is still an active swimmer, keeping her body in business trim with a persona of radiant maturity.

Julieanne is into aerobics for the same purpose, to keep fit, and currently assessing her options of more years of study at Uni. against more attractive opportunities, of which she is well aware. She frequently works at the agency, and argues with her Mum. “After all these years at school, I’d like to get away from it; leave Uni. till later. After all Mum you’ve done all right without Uni.”

Janie could only agree, “Yes, ‘get up and go’ is probably better. Unless you’ve really got a call to something special.”

The girl shook her head, “No, I’ve no special talent, I just don’t want to tie myself down for so long.” So it was agreed.

Neither woman was involved in the social round, preferring a small group of friends. Pleasant evenings at home or at a favoured restaurant. Easy talk on current affairs, the stock market, the fast developing area around them; for their corner of Queensland is probably the fastest growing area in the country; and six am swimming parties in tropic seas without threat. It was a well organised life style, and to this small circle of friends, and the staff at the agency, they were accepted as the widowed Mother with the daughter ‘the image of her father’. The pair more remarkable for Janie’s refusal to own a car, than any familial difference.

Now Janie has a new problem to face. Since that night in Sydney with Graham Smith, Julieanne has been pleading for the promised trip; the walkabout in a car, remembered from such an adventure with her Grandad, many years ago. Now she wanted to go to Wexford; to visit the doctor; to see the house from which Mum had fled; to see the grave of that other Julieanne, the one whose name and birthday she now had; to see her Grandad’s goldmine; to find her own Mothers grave to satisfy the instinctive doubts, the questions raised by Janie’s terrible story of her birth. Julieanne’s pleadings were all so reasonable; could not be brushed aside. The child’s hope that there could really be ‘something’ out there, in the quiet isolation of the outback, something to fulfil the deep but rarely spoken sense of otherness, so real so intense, and increasingly troublesome to her, could no longer be denied.

Janie fully realized that Julieanne was entitled to all these things, and that she must, later than sooner, would be her choice, make the trip to Wexford, and ‘God forgive me, look for a grave I know doesn’t exist’. In time, she gave way, and started planning the child’s long desired journey outback, and once the decision made, felt rather pleased that they would visit Dr. Smith, and hoped that the Nicholas people were still there; they had been very friendly, and she thought would be happy to let the child look over the house.

Such reverie, such soul search was, she realized, taking a new direction; an inevitable change brought about by Julieanne’s developing maturity, her increasing understanding of the circumstances and events of her own life, and of Janie’s. Because Janie literally did not recognise any wrong in the taking of the child, there was always an undefined sense of guilt; this the real source of her fears, in her circumstances the emotions inseparable. and so poignant, so devastating the events generating those emotions, the healing has taken many years.

Now it is without bitterness, with only that subdued grief which no Mother ever loses who has lost a child, that she relives those terrible days of horror in that hot strong smelling tin shed; the desolation of spirit holding the dead child; so beautiful in death; ‘Where, Dear God, is she gone?’ The brutal horror of the burial in the sodden earth; so final, so dreadful. God, what a year, Mother, husband and the so desperately wanted child; all taken.

Then so soon after, the near dead child thrust into her hands and into her life. Such a gift. Suddenly the horror softened, the despair relieved by the joy of the gift, yet tempered always by the fear of the loss of yet another child, the dim realization of a guilt in the possession of the child, sometimes a sadness for the other Mother; but above all the strength, the power to save the terribly injured child, and to bring her safely through the years of pain and guilt.

“I did not will it.” She said, as she has said so many times. “I did not will it. You were thrust into my hands. All that I have done is to give you my best. Darling child, I did not will it.”

What other road could she have taken? What else could she do?

Janie, with her father, had lived since that day with fear, but in Janie the fear was almost solely the fear of the loss of the child. As the Chamberlain tragic farce dragged on, she strangely sympathised with the persecuted family, but so deep the wounds of her own tormented spirit, and the strange Odyssey inflicted upon her, that she felt no guilt, no guilt sufficiently defined as to enable her to speak out and end the persecution. The gift of the child was unconditional.

The father suffered guilt. Henderson was a decent man, generous in spirit, compassionate and understanding of the pain and suffering of others. He suffered deeply the indignities and injustices inflicted on the Chamberlains, was tested a thousand times to speak and to suffer the consequences; but a thousand times turned back, debasing his own spirit to save his daughter; has said nothing to threaten her until his own death looming, he decided to tell what happened as best he could without compromising her; thus this story.

The lowered resistance of his body, the increasing infirmities warned him that his time was running out, he arranged this deliberately ambiguous story with the hope of at least easing the hurt which he instinctively knew must still be felt by the wrongly accused Mother.

He well knew the pain of loss; had so long lived with that pain and the loneliness that is never compensated in the death of the beloved companion; he had lived with the grief of the torment so determinably inflicted on the character and life of that other family, the shame of guilt; and the constant fear for his daughters safety, and at last, in the sure knowledge that he had done his best in the shocking circumstances thrust upon him, was glad to go.

Without his strong and vigilant protection, Janie had to use her own powers; more thoughtfully developing a self reliance that flowered in a stronger mental quality; a quality which slowly but surely healed the old spiritual wounds which for so long have protected her, and at the same time blinded her to the full implication of her acceptance of the baby.

‘Somebody’s Darling’ had reached up from that lonely grave; had opened a long closed door in her spirit.

‘Somebody’s Darling’ meant that someone else knew and cared. Then Ethel Granger’s plain honest insights had revealed the fragility of her secret. Then Alice Eacham with her wild guessing, her sharp intuition, and Graham’s awaking understanding of the depth of the deception, and now Julieanne’s intelligent assessments, so true so deliberately soothed by her love and loyalty; and surely Peter, and Anne? And who else?

Janie realized that the work at the agency was indeed a blessed catharsis, was working a healing. The need for care and real interest in the affairs of others was working a magic in her own mind, leading her to a maturity she has not achieved in all the years of his protection.

There are now clear images of future possibilities; the shocking realization that if she is not very careful others could take the first steps toward reconciliation, and the old fears blinded her for a few bitter seconds, someone else might uncover her fragile secret, and all the hideous public scrutiny follow.

Once again her faith that they had been led, and for a purpose, and that the fate that had so guided her would surely guide in the tomorrows ahead, came to her aid and soothed the fears.

The child’s ‘I want my Mother’, was, as it is ever, a cry from the heart, and who with the power to grant it, would dare deny it? ‘What man among you, if his child ask for bread, would give him a stone?’

There was a sense of gladness that soon she would be able to tell the child the truth, and the safety and security of the family would rest in the loyalty and love they had so long nurtured. She relived once again that journey through the hot dry heart of the country; the miracle of their intervention. Knew again the certainty never denied that the journey had been timed, directed and fated in every move, from the loss of her Mother, the loss of her husband and lover, and the loss of the so deeply wanted child; all this, to free them; to drive them; to compel them, to the fated moment. Relived again the horror of the moment when she realized the thing in the jaws of the dingo to be a baby. Felt again as she can never forget, the moment in which she felt the living child in her hands and prayed, again, as she has prayed a thousand times for protection, for the strength and wisdom to achieve the purpose, and knew yet again, the assurance that the child was a gift, and that all would be well.

Then there was the week when Julieanne made no secret of her latest acquisition from the library. She was reading Lindy Chamberlain’s own book, her ‘Through my Eyes’.

And seeing the shock in Janie’s face, went to her in the old loving way and enfolded her in her young strength, saying, “It’s all right Mum, I’m only searching.”

And Janie knew then that the child knew, and because the time was not yet ripe, that there was still nothing to fear.

Confident in the new insight, Janie said, “My darling, what can I say?”

Julieanne said, “I can see that your story of how you got me was very close to the truth.”

“Yes, Julieanne. You would have been dead if we had arrived just a minute later. Look, give me your fingers,” And she gently moved the child’s fingers over the tiny white scars on the shoulder, on the underthroat, marks almost gone now, but still traceable. How otherwise to one who had seen them scarlet and open; washed the blood and saliva away, opened those wounds to deep cleanse them, and had used every skill at her command to heal them with the least scarring.

The child said, questioning, not accusing, “So my real name’s Azaria?” And Janie, committed now, could only nod.

“Azaria.” The child said, and again the woman could only nod.

“Mum,” Begged the child, “Just this once. I’ll never ask again. Just call me by my proper name. Just once, please, Mum.”

This, a task imposed by love indeed. Everything, though, surrendered for the sake of the child, Janie lifted her head, looked frankly into Julieanne’s eyes, said, “Azaria, your Mother’s own darling Azaria.”

Her reward the light in the face, the whispered words, “Azaria; Azaria; Azaria.”

“Now,” she said, “I’m not ready to tell you anything yet. Not yet; though I will when it’s time, but you were so close to death, dear child.”

“Please don’t ask too much of me.” She left the room to cry herself into sleep, now certain in the knowledge that she is not alone with her secret.

Over the weekend she reached decision. It was time for a change, and she went into action unafraid. On the Monday morning she was at the office before Anne and the others arrived; cleared her own office of the few personal things which had helped to create it’s character; some photographs; some toiletries, one or two favoured books from the cabinet. The other things, she left and when ready called Anne in. Anne was surprised at the obvious changes.

“Sit down, Anne I want a word with you.”

“Another Pacific cruise?” asked Anne.

“No, I’m thinking of selling and moving out.”

Anne paled. She loved the work, and feared the worst. “Surely not. Things are going very well. Is there anything wrong?”

“No, Anne, nothing wrong. Would you like to take over; lock, stock and barrel; all the contracts?”

“Couldn’t afford it.” Said Anne close to tears. “What about Julieanne? She’s quite good.”

“I used to think that, but not now. Julieanne and Peter have other plans. Peter planning to be a goldsmith.” This with a touch of humour; she could see other things in store for both of them.

Anne was fully conversant with the gold ornaments they sold in the front office. “What are you going to do about the gold work?” she asked.

Janie said, “I’m leaving that with the agency, it’s a nice sideline. Well, would you care to take over?”

Anne said again, “I’d love to, but I couldn’t afford to.”

“Cost you nothing,” said Janie, her father’s daughter still. “If you’d like to take over, arrange the legals, get the contract drafted, and I’ll sign over to you. Cost you five dollars. Legal consideration you know. Now no tears, time for rejoicing.”

She spent the rest of the morning on the telephone to her clients, all her major contacts, smoothing the way for Anne, then booked a long table at King Arthur’s Tavern, for a weekend celebration, with the family and staff, and that evening broke the news to Graham and Julieanne.

Graham asked, “Now just why did you do that?”

She said, “The time is ripe; things are changing, perhaps even coming to a head, and I must be free to act.”

Julieanne said, “I’m sure that Mum’s sure of what she’s doing, and I’m sure there’s plenty of time.” This with a meaning not lost on Janie.

“Time for what?” Asked Graham, rather at sea in what seemed clearly to be woman’s business.

Julieanne said, “For the fruit to ripen, of course.” Then said rather facetiously, “We don’t have to go to Damascus. I’d rather we went to see Mrs. Granger again. I’d love to go walkabout.”

This was however no lighthearted comment; the face which examined her face so often in her mirror, and that inside observer, silent but ever watchful inside us all, closer than breathing, told her, without words, that her time was not yet; so they planned another trip outback, this time just the two women; Graham busy at his practice, Peter at his work, not willing to lose time, and privately, not overanxious to encounter the hardships of the outback.

Julieanne had plans, not only for Peter, but a most daring plan for Mrs. Granger.

But for Janie, that night was to unfold yet a further revelation of the way before her. Now that she was resolving her own insecurities, and released from the demands of the agency, much that had lain unexplored in her mind, began to rise and demand explanation and sometimes action. She could see clearly now that Julieanne’s developing maturity, her sure knowledge of her relationship, would develop into more tangible plans and feelings, and she must be able and prepared to meet them. Janie knew that the realities must unfold; she also knew that she must not allow them to create disharmonies; or, god save me, a separation from the child. Fearful of the future, she pleaded with the fate which has driven her. Demanded why she should be asked to pay so heavy a price when she has only followed the unspoken orders. Why must she have new terrors inflicted upon her; while, sharp in her mind, hard, utterly unforgettable, was the image, the weight, the feel of the faint life; the scarred and helpless child she had taken from the jaws of the dingo; always the savage flame of possession, the hot joy of the gift; always the child, the baby, the helpless mauled thing so strangely given to her in the hot dusk of that compelling day.

Always the child, always ‘Somebody’s Darling’; yes, now, my darling, and now the threat of loss heavy upon her.

Tiny, fragile Janie Henderson, racked with turbulent emotion, relived, with corroding grief as her emotions stirred under the threat of these new possibilities. Mother, lover, child, all taken; the horror of that hot tin shed, the cold dead tiny body; her father’s gruff. “You stay here, girl.” As he took the tiny thing from her into the slashing rain.

Tiny, fragile Janice Martin, so desperately in need.

She wept into her pillow, until at last she wakened with Graham’s arms about her; his concern, his love broke the remaining barriers, and she wept again and told him all; and cried again, and told him again, more coherently, pleading for understanding, for amongst the tears was born yet another most terrifying fear; would Graham condemn her?

It was a woman without hope who lay weeping in her bed, but her fates were kind. Graham understood; not one word of censure, no condemnation, no questions, only his loving strength and comfort; till at last she fell asleep, mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. It was Graham lay awake. So this is her ‘so near the truth’, and what of that other Mother? The cool dawn came up from out of the sea, and despite it’s loveliness, gave him no answer.

He rose early, made up a favoured breakfast, and when she finally stirred, went into the room with the tray, and there was no condemnation in his eyes, but, thank god, only his love and companionship. He would not talk of it, “No, not today, my dear. This is a new situation, and we should both think over it.”

She had, without planning made the most important decision of her life.

In revealing her dark secret she had opened the door into a new world, suddenly enriched by the trust and confidence of Graham, and now energized by, as yet, unspoken desire, not for repentance and forgiveness, but for the more wholesome desire to right the wrong.

How would that other Mother react?

Would she lose Julieanne? She saw, with startling clarity the full implication of Julieanne’s intent to have a baby girl. Would some public revelation be demanded? The old spectre of the cameraman, the soulless journalist, the impersonality of the law, be unleashed?

Yet she knew that the child was right, had every right, in spite of the ‘Gift’ to herself, to be with the Mother.

Now the wider implications of Graham’s knowledge of her acquisition of the child, that Julieanne and Peter have also to come to terms with the truth, she saw with an insight tinged with horror that the truth, so long concealed was now dropped into the general pool of consciousness, and in that pool, ripples spreading and moving to the edges of the pool. No power of hers able to stop the movement, and she confronted the knowledge that many people out there, friends and acquaintances of the Chamberlain family, the thousands who had scrutinized the photographs during the trial; Church people; hundreds of complete strangers; might see in Julieanne the sure likeness; might, as Alice Eacham had, relate times and dates and places, and from two and two and two make a good six; the simple truth seemed now so obvious, so patently clear; and forced her, as a last defense, to the understanding that if the thing happened, she would face it with the same courage and the same faith, the faith which has sustained her through the years, that the child; the journey, and the two families, were all but actors in some undisclosed purpose.

With the practical commonsense so much a part of her nature; and to gain a firmer control of her troubled thoughts, to gain the strength to meet demands to be imposed in the loss of her darling child, the surrender of control to Julieanne; this she must surely face; Janie enrolled in an Elizabeth Kubler-Ross workshop. There she worked, step by step through the events, the tragedy of the deaths, the compulsions, the hopes and disappointments, the joys, and the future fears, until she came to a more certain peace.

Her mind cleared somewhat with the disciplines of the workout, Janie began to see the real significance of the events of her strange odyssey.

A strong conviction of purpose and direction has always been present, never to be denied. What is emerging is an answer to the constant soul wrenching why.

Why my Mother - my husband, my baby?

She sees now that the answer, though never spoken, lies in her acceptance of the experience, despite the pain, and the reason not understood.

She feels now, with a clarity new to her and contrary to her earlier learning, some awareness of long ages of life and learning, a clearer sensing of eternity, or is it a sense of the Order of the Universe, such as we may be able to see?

It was however, a sense of her own growing consciousness, a melding and refining of the human spirit, known to this world and at this time as Janice Henderson.

She came to realise, without conscious search the taming and governing of the wild Celtic spirit; the moderation of the fierce Viking blood; other older more primitive emotions so much a part of her; the long refining of the individual inheritance in the fire and pain of many lifetimes; and saw that the final shape and power is determined by our handling of such tenuous tools; and that there is much yet to be learned.

As her understanding deepened she saw that the purpose for her, for her Dad and perhaps to that other tragic Mother, and yes the other players, was ancient, old beyond all history, an essential evolution from our animal ancestry through millennia of human suffering and exaltation, ever moving to deeper understanding, greater strengths, broader vision.

It is indeed an evolution of spirit from matter; of Order from the chaos of the free will; and came to understand the real nature of the faith which sustained the other Mother in her desolate loss; in her endurance of the ignominies heaped upon her.

That was indeed a refining of spirit and how noble the endurance. Both of us, walking the same ancient way and through the trauma of their shared experience in this place, in this time, achieving a critical peak which has opened for us - a window into a richer world.

What then of the others? The quiet unheard voice told her simply, ‘each in his own way; each in his own time’. All of us, in the long end, enriched with understanding.

She saw, the plea for forgiveness must always be a cry from the heart, the spirit - not from the intellect; if it demands renunciation; such must be; if it demands restitution; thus it must be; if sacrifice; then sacrifice.

All such demands will, as so many have discovered be leavened and inspired; spring from, and be satisfied with simple love, all as demanded by the trials of the day.

All this - and more to follow, how many lives. Dim unresolved from the great depth of the unconscious. She recalled the frequent stories of pasts remembered - then thought with a slight shock the deep intuitions of Julieanne; felt with an humble sense of awe, that the child was in many ways more mature than herself, indeed an older wiser spirit on the way.

Yes, it was so; every tragic step on the long journey was required; every step a learning to surmount loss and fear; to absolve guilt; to accept renunciation; only thus could she achieve salvation.

Thus, with as deep a love as she had accepted and nurtured the precious gift, she was enabled to make the surrender with an open spirit; still wondering at the undisclosed purposes for the child; the meaning and purpose for her Mother; and was given a rich insight into Lindy’s acceptance of the bitter tragedy, and a deeper understanding of her strong faith in God.



Julieanne became acquainted with the Chamberlain saga about Christmas 1995.
There was a story in ‘The Australian’, a story which excited her interest with it’s powerful resume of the tragedy. Her interest was sympathetic only. How could such a travesty of justice occur? The story slipped into her subconscious as do most powerful stories, there shaping the understanding of the world around us.

The incident at Southport, when a young doctor had told her that she could not be her Mother’s daughter had been a shocking experience, only too tragically confirmed by Janie’s reaction when confronted.

Janie had gone white; swayed, almost at collapse for several seconds; the recovery as painful; her explanation clearly improvised.

“That’s not for real,” thought Julieanne, “Mum’s holding out. She’s playing for time.” Then the meeting in Sydney with Dr. Smith; Janie’s distress, and the shocking story of her own birth. The doctor not explaining anything really, just supporting Janie’s story. “Only thing he could do,” she reasoned, “Even he wouldn’t know the full story.”

It had been a very illuminating trip for her in many ways. A puzzling insight into her own origins, Mum definitely hiding something, and something she was afraid of; the equally surprising realization of the doctor’s feeling for Mum. ‘I don’t suppose he could say anything to her, not in those circumstances’, and later, she realized that Janie also had been constrained by the circumstances from having a very different talk with Doctor Smith, and she determined that she would make it her business to get Mum to Wexford; and this in spite of Janie’s strong objection to going there.

In the long run, they made the journey to Wexford; she was thrilled with their responses; felt in many ways very happy with Graham’s presence in the home; a home strangely empty after Grandad’s death.

But now, Ethel Granger, and then Alice Eacham and other niggling little coincidences; twice is coincidence, three times is, what? Well it was three times and four, and all tied in with ‘Somebody’s Darling’ and times and dates; and there will never be my Mother’s grave. Did she buy me? Plenty of money, perhaps a bag of gold. Men would kill for that. Whatever happened to my Mother; then as the nights deepened and the thoughts strayed and the intuitions framed themselves into thoughts and the face in the mirror more and more, clearer and clearer, showed her a picture of her Mother. Yes Graham was right, ‘Boys after the father, girls after the Mother’. That is Natures way.

Gathered at King Arthur’s Table one pleasant evening, the talk turned to Morgen le Fey, King Arthur’s sister and nemesis. The talk rambled on, chatter about coincidence, the little interconnections in our lives, then on to the possibility of changing the future, the esoteric meaning of the kings sword, Excalibur.

“Surely,” argued Graham, “The future was changed because he drew it from the rock. When we do what we have to do, that shapes the future. For good or ill. Life’s a garden, in many ways. You sow the seed; you reap the harvest.”

Anne said, “Here’s a valid coincidence, see that dark headed lady, just walked in?”

They looked, the couple being seated nearby, the woman with a notable head of beautiful dark hair. Anne continued, “She’s a modern Morgen le Fey; a good fortune teller; she could tell you things that might make you change your future.”

Julieanne said, “Do you know her? Could I meet her?”

Janie nearly fainted with shock. “Julieanne, no, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to try her out; should be very interesting.” Said the girl.

Anne had already crossed over to the other table, and, after a quick look at them, the Dark Lady and her companion joined them. Anne completed the introductions.

“Thank you for the invitation,” said the Dark Lady. “We were talking of you only this morning, and now Anne tells me that you are talking of coincidence. Only this morning a friend gave me your card,” this to Janie, “He knows that I’m starting a small business venture, and he said Janice Martin would be able to help me get it running; and, tonight, you invite me to your table. Now, that is a coincidence.” she paused a moment, and said to Janie, “But you seem very distressed about something. Me, perhaps? Can I help you or would you rather that I went away?”

Julieanne, with a quick look at her Mum, said “Oh, no. Please don’t go.”

Janice, intent on recovering the initiative from Julieanne, said, “Yes, I’m Janice Martin, and I could probably help you; but you’re right, I’m afraid you might pick up other threads.”

The Dark Lady said, “I never probe. My little shoulders can’t carry other peoples problems. I offer what help I can only when asked. Even then, I often cannot help. I never speak of others affairs in front of other people.”

Janie could sense that this was so. There was no discernable psychic contact with the Dark Lady. Only the surface contact, safe and reassuring.

The woman smiled at her, “Can I see you tomorrow perhaps, on business?”

Janice, at ease again, smiled, “Certainly. What time Anne?”

Anne replied, “10.30.”

Julieanne, however was not satisfied, “But what about me?”

The Dark Lady looked at her, looked at Peter, said, “You are a very interesting young woman. You plan to marry this young man; and have a girl child; and you have some very interesting plans for the future.”

She shook her head. Julieanne saw with brilliant clear intensity the swirl and flow of time and events in the mass of dark hair. “You have been talking of coincidence; you are going to make a change in your lifestyle in some way, because of a coincidence. You will feel it as a shock, rather than a surprise.”

“Is that all?” asked the girl, fascinated still with the flowing motion of the black hair.

The woman smiled at her, “I wouldn’t dream of talking about your personal plans here.”

She swept a glance around the table. She was clearly the centre of interest.

“Anne knows where I am if you wish to see me privately.”

Anne nodded, quietly pleased with the situation.

The following day Peter raised the matter with Julieanne.

“Sheer cheap fortune telling,” said he, “She knows we’re together, anyone could see that; any woman would want a girl; everybody’s got plans. She’s hooked you. Cost you fifty dollars for a session, and you won’t get much more.”

Julieanne did not agree. “Don’t be too sure; you could have been with any of the other girls; many women don’t want a child, and many women would prefer a boy; not everyone has plans; most just take things as they come; wouldn’t know how to plan. Can’t manage themselves, let alone manage their affairs.”

Later the Dark Lady received her warmly, and seated comfortably, said, “Now, if you really want anything deeply; relax deeply, Just let your mind flow. If you build walls, I won’t be able to move about and see things. Now how can I help you?”

The girl said, “Frankly, I want to test you; then I might ask you a question.”

The Dark Lady said, “Testing makes a free flow between us rather difficult. Most of this is intuitive, and sensitive, a feeling, if that’s the right word, an insight that cuts across normal processes of thought and goes with single mindedness to what it sees as the central point. Never seen in absolute terms. Nostrodamus saw many real events in a very precise way, but he was the great exception. Testing demands specific answers, but I feel an empathy with you. Test away.”

Julieanne said, “Tell me about my Mother.”

The Dark Lady sighed. “I suppose you must ask me that. I sensed at King Arthur’s the other night that Janie Martin was afraid of something like this. Are you sure you want to know? You are not talking of Janice. I think your Mother has literally given you up. She believes you dead. The poor woman suffered greatly because of you. She remembers only a baby. That’s very interesting. Do you want to know more?”

Julieanne asked, “Are you in touch with her?”

The Dark Lady smiled slightly, “Oh, no. I can only pick up your feelings You know, so I can tell you that your Father and Mother had a very bad time. They are no longer together. I know that, because you know it. Then there is another man; he is dead, but he means a great deal to you; and in some way there’s gold; not money, but real gold. I’m sure you know all this. It comes to me very clearly, and I don’t wish to probe any further.”

Julieanne said, “That’s enough, I know what you mean.”

The Dark Lady said, “You seem strangely separated from your father. You’re not really interested in him at all. I wonder why?”

Julieanne said, “Why yes, That’s true. I’ve never really thought about him. That’s odd, isn’t it?”

The lady nodded, “Yes, but one more thing if I may. You will have to defer your plans for a year or more. There big changes in the air for many of us.” and she added with a smile, “Tell Peter that a man and a woman will be the cause of a shock. It will affect both of you, cause a small change in your life style, and will happen very soon.”

Then she said again, “There, that’s enough. I don’t want to go any further, but you know where I am if you ever want to talk about things.”

“No, no talk of payment. Janie is helping me, more than she knows, possibly, so forget that. Let Peter know.” This with a smile, Julieanne liked that.

Back home Peter dissected the news as before. The long delay will be the Millennium Bug; she’s seen the gold at the office. Lord knows what she’s picked up from Anne. She can see that Graham’s not your father.”

“You make everything seem so simple. You should come with me some day. And there was a surprise specially for you. No charge. How did she know you are such a doubting Thomas?

And a man and a woman are going to be a shock for both of us. That’s in the future, so wait and see. It might change your mind.”

So it rested. Peter amused, Julieanne thoughtful. How could she be aware of Peter’s attitude?

At the library they had reserved the next copy of Lindy Chamberlain’s ‘Through my Eyes’, to come in. “Still a lot of interest in Lindy,” the librarian told her. “We’ve four copies of the book and they are always out.”

She took the book into her bedroom, and quietly and thoughtfully compared Andrew Rankin’s picture of Lindy on the dust jacket with the living face before her.

The deeply indented chin; sure sign of determination; one on the book, one in the mirror. The pert nose, definitely feminine, girls take after the Mother; touched that nose with a finger; saw her own face reflecting slight differences, broader cheekbones, after the father; that head of hair, and as the minutes ticked away, as her true identity was confirmed in her mind, she was startled. Such a clear likeness; but the robust inner strength restored her balance, and she realized that the strength that for so long has sustained her Mother, and her Mum, must also govern her, so she said nothing, but read the book openly.

As she read she saw the source of Janie’s fears. The cruel trial by the media; the relentless determination of someone, hidden in the background to secure conviction at any cost; the calculated denigration of the campsite witnesses, the primitive persecution of a Mother, bereaved in dreadful circumstances; the facile structure, at enormous cost, of deeply faulted scientific evidence; the ugly animal instinct of the herd to destroy an injured member; all the indignity and pain heaped on the hapless family, and in the end, so long delayed, exposed in all it’s tainted folly.

No wonder Janie was afraid.

No wonder Grandad had been so determined to shield them.

Well, so would she be. She would never let the herd, either the mindless or the calculated cruel, get at Janie; and she suddenly realized, at Peter. Or Graham; or herself.

She had Peter photograph Andrew Rankin’s picture of the strong young woman whose faith had sustained her through such bitter times; then take another of her own face, at somewhat the same angle’ had both photographs mounted, intending them for her dressing table.

On the warm clear morning as she walked to the photographers to pick up the pictures, she was accosted by a tipsy woman.

“Gidday Lindy.” The fairheaded woman confronting her was clearly expecting to be recognised.

The woman saw the unanswering face, heard the message, “Sorry. You’ve made a mistake.”

She moved a step closer; her breath strong in Julieanne’s face.

“You’re Lindy Chamberlain,” This a statement, not a question.

“Don’t want to recognise me eh? You know me all right; in jail together, up North. Berrima, remember?”

Julieanne smiled, though her heart was beating faster. Said, “Don’t be silly. I’m too young to go to jail. Not old enough. You’re mistaken.”

Her voice was firm. Absolute certainty. The woman recognised it.

“My God, you’re a pretty good lookalike. I was sure you was Lindy. We was in jail together. Sorry kid, course you’re too young. Sorry.”

She gave Julieanne another puzzled, searching look, but moved off, muttering.

Julieanne was somewhat shaken by the incident, a sharp reminder as to how slender was her defense against the world. But fate was not yet finished with her. Not this morning.

At the photographers, the man, wrapping her work, said, “Real look alike aren’t you. A very good likeness, if I might say so.” Startled, shocked even, after the encounter with the woman only minutes earlier, she said, rather defensively, “What do you mean?”

“Well, this one’s Lindy Chamberlain; this one’s you; younger, of course, but a good resemblance.”

She said, “Yes, that’s why I had the pictures taken. Interesting, isn’t it? I guess you get other look-a-likes in for photos?”

“Oh yes. Plenty these days. Diana, or Elvis, or Elle. Often a film star. There’s a near perfect Prince Charles lives about here. Often comes in for prints. He’s a very good studio likeness. Are you interested in the Lindy case? My word, she had a bad time.”

“In a small way.” She answered. “I was attracted by the likeness.”

That was all, but enough to disturb her; twice in one day. This will give Peter something to think about.

The man was a professional. He knows faces. He can read them. The incidents confirmed her own thoughts, the photo’s more revealing than the mirror. As she walked home, she determined to dye her hair, something to make a difference. Now there were this photographer, and the woman. And Alice, and Ethel Granger, and Peter and Graham and Anne, and the Dark lady, and all of them all coincidences. Nothing certain, but in all a growing pile leading to certainty, in my mind and probably in everyone else’s mind too. It was a deeply concerned young woman confronted Peter that evening. “What about this, and plain simple fortune telling? What about the Dark Lady now?”

He looked at her quietly, then said with a slight smile, “She told you that everything would be all right in the long run. Then we have little to worry about.”

So she made no secret of the book, read it openly, exclaiming over it’s episodes; left it, with that strong picture of her Mother on the coffee table, but said nothing to provoke Janie, nothing to disturb, knowing that Janie knew now that she now knew, and just let the new relationship become established; Janie most unwilling to talk, and Julieanne herself, determined and honest in her understanding, refusing to hide her growing convictions, but equally determined that no harm should come to Janie; and both women dealing each in her own way with the accepted burden of reconciliation with the bereaved Mother.

She immersed herself in her Mother’s humiliations, gaining a new awareness of the strength of her Mother’s faith, the strong faith that kept her unscarred through great adversity, and at long last, vindicated without bitterness.

The tipsy woman had indeed been in jail with Lindy. Julieanne found the chapters dealing with her imprisonment, could identify the woman; and realized as she read that there were very many indeed who could and might easily mistake her for Lindy. Old friends from the Church, old neighbours; lawyers, policemen, reporters, photographers; must be dozens of them, all with pictures; people from all over the country; and even after the Commission clearing her name, the many who refused to release her in their own minds, the people who, in the shameful end, drove her away from Australia; and the Child wept for the Mother, and was not comforted.

Peter steady and reliable as ever, helped her through. “Lindy has come to terms with that; the publicity, the bitterness and has found her way to forgive. She is at peace, and we too must come to such a place. It’s you and me together now, whatever happens.”

But for all his wonderful support, he would not hear of her changing the colour of her hair. “Just a different style. The colour is a real part of you; just cut it. A tomboy style would suit you.”

Because she loved him, she settled for the short trimmed cut, which certainly altered her appearance. She supported the new look with light tinted sunglasses, popular with so many people. Peter tolerated the glasses, admitting they would be useful on a bright day, which was so.

She said nothing to Janie of this eventful morning, knowing that it would disturb her. She returned the book to the library through the chute in the door, just in case others might see the likeness; endured the comments over the new hairstyle and sunglasses; kept the photographs in the drawer, instead of on the dresser, once again to save Janie; and wrote up the incidents in her diary now growing fat with the record of her growing awareness of the strange drama of her life; and, as would any reasoning child, the endless why; why; why; so far with only one answer; that Janie should rear her.

Is this the only answer? Is it the only possible answer? It is so unjust to my Mother, to her family.

Sitting thus before her mirror, Julieanne fantasized. What if she met that policeman in the street? He would surely, if only for a second or so, think that she was Lindy. Would look at her, strangely, startled, surprised. What would he say?

What would I do? She knew the answer in a flash. She would say, “I see that you have mistaken me for Lindy. Do you have a few minutes to spare? Please do come with me and have a cup of coffee, we need to talk.”

She would sit him down with a cup of coffee, and she would ask the hundred questions that have flowed through her mind since reading Lindy’s book.

All the why’s. Why was the evidence of the people at the campsite, the only eye witnesses, so strongly rejected?

Who was so insistent for a conviction; even influenced her treatment while in jail? Why the calculated destruction of character; why the contrived ‘scientific evidence’; what about ‘The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’?

He would say, “Well you are a close lookalike, but what is it to you?”

She would say, “But what if I am Azaria?”

He would say, “Impossible. The dingo got her.”

She would say, “Then why the persecution?”

And he would look at her, and she would stare him down.

Julieanne sighed. Fantasies are one thing, realities so different.

She fantasized over a grand tour of the scientific witnesses; that man from England. A top forensic scientist. Cost a fortune to bring him here. And all proved to be a lot of speculation; all based on faulty data; Ho hum. Then that lawyer, QC or not, so dreadfully wrong; and the fellow running round the courtroom with the skeletal jaws of a dingo; that was a University education gone wrong. Wonder if anyone’s told him yet just what a dingo can do? So many of them with University degrees. Why? How could they be so wrong? All because they wouldn’t listen to the Aboriginal trackers. The experts on the job.

Then she laughed at herself, I’m sure they have all had second thoughts. All a bit older and a bit wiser. Wondered again at the enormity of the effort to convict; the nationwide excitement of interest, sadly with many, an hysteria, and the librarian’s comment; ‘Still a lot of interest in Lindy’. She thought yet again of the perils of being a close lookalike; confirmed within herself the choice of the new hair style, though sadly, that meant a more physical aspect of the lie, which increasingly, was influencing her thoughts; and decided that she should make Janie’s ‘Journey to Damascus’, sooner than later.

Why, though, always Why?

The young woman stared again at the image in the mirror, and again, as ever, neither the mirror nor the Fates, gave answer.

Julieanne looked again at the picture of her Mother, searched the strong face, the stedfast eyes for answer, and knew, clear and true that the only answer must; would; only be found on that shoulder, and in those eyes.

One evening, Janie at the office with Anne and a difficult problem, Graham said, “I can see that you have acquainted yourself with the Chamberlain tragedy; I see also that you’ve reached certain conclusions regarding your own possible part in the story.”

She patted the ball back to him, with a quick look at Peter, with whom she enjoyed full confidence.

“Yes, it’s a terrible story, and, yes, I do wonder about the possibilities. What do you think? You know the story of course?”

“Indeed. Who of my generation doesn’t? I was very glad to see her vindicated.”

“But what about the baby? Do you think the dingo got her?”

Graham looked at her. A cool deliberate look which seemed to say, ‘Let’s be honest with each other’; “I used to think so, but it was never proven that the dingo killed her. That was one of the faults of the trial. They could have dug up the dingo’s den. It was well known. To have found the remains of the baby would have settled the matter. Someone was very keen to convict the Chamberlains, and so simple an answer was never attempted. What do you think; did someone take the baby from the dingo?”

Julieanne's face lit up, “Do you think that could have happened?”

“Jim Henderson thought so. You know Janie’s baby died. You have seen her grave; yet Janie came home with you. Janie told you where she found you, and you know that’s not the whole truth; but surely you can see that it’s very close to the truth. I can’t help you past there. The inquest is still open.”

Peter said, “The important thing is, what do you think, Julieanne?”

“I think it’s quite possible, and I think it’s very probable. I’m the living image of my Mother, and Janie doesn’t deny it, but she’s not yet ready to tell me.”

Graham interposed, “Janie’s story of how she found you was so very close to the truth; she saved your life.”

“That I believe,” she replied, “And I will never do anything to harm her.”

Peter asked, “Well; what will you do?”

Julieanne looked at him as she has never yet, and Peter felt a slight tinge of fear, perhaps only an intuition of fateful decision.

She said, very firmly, “I’m going to do nothing; not for a year or so yet. If what I think is true, we can’t change things, but Peter, when I have my own little girl, you and I, and I hope Janie are going to make a journey to America.”

Peter laughed slightly, but was not amused.

Graham also smiled, saying, “There was a lady a few miles out of Bourke who had six sons before she had a daughter.”

She flashed round to him, “Me too, if it’s necessary, so watch your step Peter. I’m giving you fair warning.”

Peter said, “Six boys? You wouldn’t, would you? Is it the right thing to go to America? That lady has established another family there. Isn’t it enough, just do as your Grandad wanted. Just let her know the baby survived; is alive and well. The thing has already broken up one family.”

Julieanne said, “Yes, that’s so,” but she also said “How can I forget. Some things you can never forget, and they grow dearer with time.”

Graham offered, “There are ways round the baby girl problem. When you’re ready, get some good professional advise. I think, Julieanne, your plan is excellent. It’s very fair. I imagine Janie will have come around to it by the time you’re ready; and I’m sure you and Peter will have reached agreement well before then.”

He had seen many miracles of reconciliation, and a new togetherness born with the birth of a child; so common a miracle, but such the nature of life, that the thing we call love, makes the common mystique of birth an intensely personal and intimate thing, stirring the waters of our inmost self.

He wondered yet again at the wisdom of this child, recalling that he owed his own new found happiness, his own experience of love to her intuition, and felt that her assessment of the unique situation in which she was a party; the concept of the trip to that lady in America with a tiny baby girl was an amazing intuition.

He said nothing of this discussion to Janie, deeming it to be Julieanne’s privilege to raise such matters with her Mum. It is very much their business. He was acutely aware of the furore, legal and public, which any such disclosure would arouse, and trusted that Julieanne would act with every consideration when the time came to fruition.

Julieanne, having declared her hand to Peter, and sensing the support of Graham, was content to let the play unfold with Janie. She understood Janie’s struggle to come to terms with the knowledge that Julieanne now knew the truth. Janie’s telling the old story of the ‘Flight to Damascus’ was a revelation of a preparation, an acceptance of the future that was now inevitable.

In the meantime Julieanne had another project on hand.

She rang the Salvation Army.

A rather subdued voice answered, “Captain Hill speaking.”

Julieanne was somewhat surprised at the voice. Without thinking, she had imagined all Sallies to be much more positive than Captain Hill.

Capt. Hill would not be surprised to learn that someone out there thought her to be subdued. All her early experience with the Salvation Army had been positive. Confident prayer, bright singing, good music, and the happy social affiliations had all been positive.

So was the year at Training College; so all her early Corps work; then the posting into Social work.

There the young lieutenant was savagely inducted into the dismal world of the dispossessed; into the bleak world of the lonely; the homeless; the hopeless and the helpless. More horrifying to her, was the pitiable plight of destitute women, mothers with young children, sleeping in squats, or on the streets. She came to work with the itinerant old and homeless, sleeping in bus shelters; with the more or less permanent homeless living in railway stations and other public places; of the youngsters; street kids, they are called; either careless of parents; or children of careless parents; whatever the reason, children the losers; preyed upon, and all too often innocent victims of our society.

Hill became the confidant and protectress of Mothers and wives brutally beaten, the friend of women who have themselves become brutalized; whole families utterly defeated by alcohol or by gambling; ordinary decent people, their world devastated by sudden and unexpected dismissal in the economic folly of downsizing; all this and more.

Poor little Hill had first been angered, then frustrated and angry again with a deep internal rage against such things. Her values had been established in the snug security of middle class suburbia. Hill lost her faith in a God of love, until she learned that love, from whatever source, is the only healing we can offer; had regained her faith as she sacrificed all that she had and knew; and rebuilt her faith on the broader foundation of life as it is for these dispossessed souls; and went daily to the horrors of her work with a clearer understanding of the vast insoluble problems of the human condition.

Julieanne rang utterly innocent of the daily melange of Captain Hill’s life. “I’ve been told that you can advise me of the proper steps to take in a search for a child adopted into an unknown family round about 1950.”

Hill perked up a little; she had been expecting worse. “Yes we can help you, but Jigsaw is your proper channel; do you know the names of those concerned?”

“Yes. I have the dates and the name of the mother, the hospital. I don’t know if the other party is at all interested; I know that the Mother would love to trace the child. I suppose it sometimes happens that one of the parties doesn’t want to know?”

“Yes, that’s so. Always a delicate situation.” said Hill, “Often better for a third party to act as intermediary; test the waters, so to speak. That’s what Jigsaw is all about. How are you involved?”

“I know a lady who had her baby girl taken when she was born; the Mother still grieves over her. I just want to be able to tell her how to go about finding her daughter, her stolen child. I believe it’s no longer blocked by the law.”

“That’s true, the Freedom of Information Act, and the new Family Act make it possible. Would the Mother be able to come in and talk with us?”

“Hardly possible. They live a thousand miles from here. I hoped I might be able to get pamphlets, application forms, stuff like that. Just to let her know that it is possible. How to go about it?”

“Well,” said Hill, “We can certainly do that for you. Can you call in person?”

“Oh, yes.” So it was arranged.

Julieanne, wealthy beyond her own imagining, she has never asked; found herself in the waiting room of a Salvation Army Social Services depot, learning first hand, just a passing glimpse, how some of the others live. In the office at last, a very efficient Captain Hill, who quickly acquainted herself with Julieanne’s need and rearranged her rather nebulous thoughts on adoption procedures. She left with clearer ideas, and a handful of papers for Ethel Granger, and the assurance that if Mrs. Granger wanted to proceed, Jigsaw would act for her; make an impartial approach, insuring that all parties were interested before any information was exchanged.

Chatting more generally, Julieanne expressed her sympathy with the women she had so briefly met in the waiting room. Hill smiled, said, “The women aren’t so bad. Really, women have a much deeper trust in life. For real despair go to the men’s refuge. So many seem to have forsaken everything; Mother, home, a future of any kind. They so often lose faith in every way. Their only hope is that some woman would lift them out of the pit; but who? Yes we can help some, but it is so often hopeless.”

After a talk with Janie about the problem, they sent a cheque, but both women knew that though useful, money is not the final remedy. The real hunger is that of the spirit.

Later, Julieanne with plans for Mrs. Granger, asked, “Ready for a trip outback?”

Janie said, “Yes I’d love to see them all again.” So they planned another trip, out through the mountains, over the downs, and into that wonderful outback. Janie liked Mrs. Granger, had not yet met Jim, and all going well they would visit ‘Somebody’s Darling’ again, with a turn at the gold to replenish Anne’s stock at the agency.

With her Julieanne would be carrying a folder of papers on adoption which she hoped would meet Ethel Granger’s wildest hopes.

Captain Hill had already phoned to say that, through their own resources, she is able to say that the daughter is married, two children, a boy and a girl; the husband a carpenter, self employed, the family secure and comfortable; and that the Jigsaw people would be very happy to make the necessary contacts when she was ready.

Julieanne was very much looking forward to this visit, pleased with her plans, and with the hope of another shot with the little Remington, and perhaps with another dingo in the sights.

Because of Peter’s warnings of a world wide computer crash and it’s attendant mayhem, she is keeping her eyes open in the small outback towns for a reasonable house; one with room for a decent garden, and a good windmill or other sufficient water supply. Peter was becoming increasingly concerned; his long hours on the ‘net’ warning of a possible breakdown of, not one, but all the great public utilities, the collapse of the power system, and with it the banking and computer systems and the loss of other vital public facilities in the cities.

Peter is determined to find a refuge from the disaster he sees as overtaking the cities, and Julieanne wise in her generation, in full agreement.

1998 - 2005