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HOME > Classical Novels > Kangaroo > CHAP: V. COO-EE
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 They went to Mullumbimby by the two o’clock train from Sydney on the Friday afternoon, having managed to get a day off for the occasion. He was a sort of partner in the motor-works place where he was employed, so it was not so difficult. And work was slack.  
Harriet and Victoria were both quite excited. The Somers had insisted on packing one basket of food for the house, and Victoria had brought some dainties as well. There were few people in the train, so they settled themselves right at the front, in one of those long open second-class coaches with many seats and a passage down the middle.
“This is really for the coal miners,” said Victoria. “You’ll see they’ll get in when we get further down.”
She was rather wistful, after the vague coolness that had between the two households. She was so happy that Somers and Harriet were coming with her and Jack. They made her feel—she could hardly describe it—but so safe, so happy and safe. Whereas often enough, in spite of the stalwart Jack, she felt like some piece of fluff blown about on the air, now that she was taken from her own home. With Somers and Harriet she felt like a child that is with its parents, so lovely and secure, without any need ever to look round. Jack was a man, and everything a man should be, in her eyes. But he was also like a piece of driftwood drifting on the strange unknown currents in an unexplored nowhere, without any place to arrive at. Whereas, to Victoria, Harriet seemed to be rooted right in the centre of everything, at last she could come to perfect rest in her, like a bird in a tree that still firm when the floods are washing everything else about.
If only Somers would let her rest in Harriet and him. But he seemed to have a strange somewhere in his nature, that turned round on her and terrified her worse than before. If he would only be fond of her, that was what she wanted. If he would only be fond of her, and not ever really leave her. Not love. When she thought of lovers, she thought of something quite different.{80} Something rather vulgar, rather common, more or less naughty. Ah no, he wasn’t like that. And yet—since all men are potential lovers to every woman—wouldn’t it be terrible if he asked for love. Terrible—but wonderful. Not a bit like Jack—not a bit. Would Harriet mind? Victoria looked at Harriet with her quick, bright, shy brown eyes. Harriet looked so handsome and distant: she was a little afraid of her. Not as she was afraid of Somers. Afraid as one woman is of another fierce woman. Harriet was fierce, Victoria . Somers was demonish, but could be gentle and kind.
It came on to rain, streaming down the carriage windows. Jack lit a cigarette, and offered one to Harriet. She, though she knew Somers disliked it intensely when she smoked, particularly in a public place like this long, open railway carriage, accepted, and sat by the closed window smoking.
The train ran for a long time through Sydney, or the endless outsides of Sydney. The town took almost as much leaving as London does. But it was different. Instead of solid rows of houses, solid streets like London, it was mostly innumerable detached and cottages, spreading for great distances, over hills, low hills and shallow inclines. And then waste places, and old iron, and iron “works”—all like the Last Day of creation, instead of a new country. Away to the left they saw the shallow waters of the big opening where Botany Bay is: the sandy shores, the factory chimneys, the lonely places where it is still Bush. And the weary half established straggling of more suburb.
“Como,” said the station sign. And they ran on bridges over two arms of water from the sea, and they saw what looked like a long lake with wooded shores and bungalows: a bit like Lake Como, but oh, so unlike. That curious sombreness of Australia, the sense of oldness, with the forms all worn down low and blunt, . The squat-seeming earth. And then they ran at last into real country rather rocky, dark old rocks, and sombre bush with its different pale-stemmed dull-leaved gum-trees , and various healthy looking undergrowth, and great spikey things like zuccas. As they turned south they saw tree-ferns standing on one knobbly leg among the{81} gums, and among the rocks ordinary ferns and small bushes spreading in and up sharp hill-slopes. It was bush, and as if unvisited, lost, sombre, with plenty of space, yet spreading grey for miles and miles, in a hollow towards the west. Far in the west, the sky having suddenly cleared, they saw the magical range of the Blue Mountains. And all this space of bush between. The strange, as it were, invisible beauty of Australia, which is undeniably there, but which seems to just beyond the range of our white vision. You feel you can’t see—as if your eyes hadn’t the vision in them to correspond with the outside landscape. For the landscape is so unimpressive, like a face with little or no features, a dark face. It is so , out of our , and it hangs back so . Somers always felt he looked at it through a in the atmosphere; as one looks at one of the ugly-faced, distorted aborigines with his wonderful dark eyes that have such a incomprehensible ancient shine in them, across gulfs of unbridged centuries. And yet, when you don’t have the feeling of ugliness or monotony, in landscape or in nigger, you get a sense of subtle, remote, formless beauty more than anything ever experienced before.
“Your wonderful Australia!” said Harriet to Jack. “I can’t tell you how it moves me. It feels as if no one had ever loved it. Do you know what I mean? England and Germany and Italy and Egypt and India—they’ve all been loved so . But Australia feels as if it had never been loved, and never come out into the open. As if man had never loved it, and made it a happy country, a bride country—or a mother country.”
“I don’t suppose they ever have,” said Jack.
“But they will?” asked Harriet. “Surely they will. I feel that if I were Australian, I should love the very earth of it—the very sand and dryness of it—more than anything.”
“Where should we poor Australian wives be?” put in Victoria, leaning forward her delicate, face—that reminded one of a butterfly in its wavering.
“Yes,” said Harriet , as if they had to be considered, but were not as important as the other question.
“I’m afraid most Australians come to hate the Aus{82}tralian earth a good bit before they’re done with it,” said Jack. “If you call the land a bride, she’s the sort of bride not many of us are willing to tackle. She drinks your sweat and your blood, and then as often as not lets you down, does you in.”
“Of course,” said Harriet, “it will take time. And of course a lot of love. A lot of fierce love, too.”
“Let’s hope she gets it,” said Jack. “They treat the country more like a woman they pick up on the streets than a bride, to my thinking.”
“I feel I could love Australia,” declared Harriet.
“Do you feel you could love an Australian?” asked Jack, very much to the point.
“Well,” said Harriet, arching her eyes at him, “that’s another matter. From what I see of them I rather doubt it,” she laughed, teasing him.
“I should say you would. But it’s no good loving Australia if you can’t love the Australian.”
“Yes, it is. If as you say Australia is like the poor prostitute, and the Australian just her to get what he can out of her and then treats her like dirt.”
“It’s a good deal like that,” said Jack.
“And then you expect me to approve of you.”
“Oh, we’re not all alike, you know.”
“It always seems to me,” said Somers, “that somebody will have to water Australia with their blood before it’s a real man’s country. The soil, the very plants seem to be waiting for it.”
“You’ve got a imagination, my dear man,” said Jack.
“Yes, he has,” said Harriet. “He’s always so extreme.”
The train jogged on, stopping at every little station. They were near the coast, but for a long time the sea was not in sight. The land grew steeper—dark, straight hills like cliffs, masked in sombre trees. And then the first of colliery smoke among the trees on the hill-face. But they were little collieries, for the most part, where the men just walked into the face of the hill down a tunnel, and they hardly disfigured the land at all. Then the train came out on the sea—lovely bays with sand and grass and trees, sloping up towards the sudden hills that were like{83} a wall. There were bungalows dotted in most of the bays. Then suddenly more collieries, and quite a large settlement of bungalows. From the train they looked down on many many pale-grey roofs, sprinkled about like a great camp, close together, yet none , and getting thinner towards the sea. The chimneys were faintly smoking, there was a of smoke and a sense of home, home in the wilds. A little way off, among the trees, of white steam betrayed more collieries.
A bunch of schoolboys clambered into the train with their , at home as schoolboys are. And several black colliers, with tin boxes. Then the train ran for a mile and a half, to stop at another little settlement. Sometimes they stopped at beautiful bays in a hollow between hills, and no collieries, only a few bungalows. Harriet hoped Mullumbimby was like that. She rather the settlements with the many many iron roofs, and the wide, unmade roads of sandy earth running between, down to the sea, or skirting swamp-like little .
The train jogged on again—they were there. The place was half and half. There were many tin roofs—but not so many. There were the wide, unmade roads running so straight as it were to nowhere, with little homes half-lost at the side. But they were pleasant little bungalow homes. Then quite near, inland, rose a great black wall of mountain, or cliff, or tor, a vast dark tree-covered tor that reminded Harriet of Matlock, only much bigger. The town trailed down from the foot of this mountain towards the railway, a of grey and red-painted iron roofs. Then over the railway, towards the sea, it began again in a , spasmodic fashion, rather forlorn bungalows and new “stores” and fields with rail fences, and more bungalows above the fields, and more still running down the shallows towards the hollow sea, which lay beyond like a grey , the strangest sight Harriet had ever seen.

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