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HOME > Classical Novels > Kangaroo > CHAP: XVIII. ADIEU AUSTRALIA
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 Kangaroo died and had a great funeral, but Richard did not go up. He had his on the Manganui, and would sail away in twenty days. To America—the United States, a country that did not attract him at all, but which seemed to lie next in his line of destiny.  
Meanwhile he wandered round in the Australian spring. Already he loved it. He loved the country he had railed at so loudly a few months ago. While he “cared” he had to rail at it. But the care once broken inside him it had a deep mystery for him, and a dusky, far-off call that he knew would go on calling for long ages before it got any adequate response, in human beings. From far off, from down long fern-dark avenues there seemed to be the voice of Australia, calling low.
He loved to wander in the bush at evening, when night fell so delicately yet with such soft mystery. Then the sky behind the trees was all soft, rose pink, and the great gum-trees ran up their white limbs into the air like quicksilver, at the tips with dark tufts. Like the white ran up from the white trunk: or like great nerves, with nerve-like articulations, branching into the dusk. Then he would stand under a tall fern-tree, and look up through the whorl of lace above his head, listening to the birds calling in the evening stillness, the parrots making a chinking noise.
Sitting at the edge of the bush he looked at the settlement and the sea beyond. He had quite forgotten how he used to at the throwing of here and there and anywhere: how he used to hate the tin roofs, and the untidiness. It recalled to him the young Australian captain: “Oh, how I liked the rain on the tin roofs of the huts at the war. It reminded me of Australia.”
“And now,” thought Richard to himself, “tin roofs and will always remind me of Australia. They seem to me beautiful, though it’s a fact they have nothing to do with beauty.”
But, oh, the deep mystery of joy it was to him to sit at the edge of the bush as fell, and look down at the township. The bungalows were built mostly on the sides of the slopes. They had no foundations, but stood on brickwork , which brought them up to the level. There they stood on the hillsides, on their short legs, with darkness under their floors, the little bungalows, looking as if they weighed nothing. Looking flimsy, made of wood with roofs. Some of them were painted dark red, roofs and all, some were painted grey, some were wooden simply. Many had the white-grey zinc roofs, pale and delicate. At the back was always one big water-butt of corrugated iron, a big round tank painted dark-red, the corrugation running round, and a jerky, red-painted pipe coming down from the eaves. Sometimes there were two of these tanks: and a thin, not very tidy woman in a big straw hat stooping to the tap at the bottom of the tank. The roof came down low, making a long shade over the wooden verandahs. Nearly always a little loggia at the back, from which the house-door opened. And this little verandah was the woman’s kitchen; there she had a little table with her dirty dishes, which she was going to wash up. And a cat would be around, as if it had not an enemy in the world, while from the verandah a parrot called.
The bungalows near the bush edge had odd bits of garden nipped out of the paddocks and carefully railed in: then another little enclosure for the . At the back the earth was scratched, there was a rubbish heap of ashes and tins slipping into the brambles, and very white clustering for bed-time. In front of the house, in another bit of garden with wooden palings, two camellia trees full of flowers, one white and one red, like artificial things, but a bit seared by the wind. And at the gate the branching coral trees still flowering flame from their dark, strong-thrusting, up-curving buds.
So, with evening falling. There were green roads laid out in the wild, with but one lost to them. And a lost horse wildly round the corner of this blind road, to quiet down and look around. A belated collier galloping stiffly on his , out of the township, and a woman in a white blouse and black skirt, with two little girls beside her, driving a ramshackle little buggy with a quick-legged little pony, homewards through the trees.
Lights were beginning to glint out: the township was deciding it was night. The bungalows scattered far and wide, on the lower levels. There was a net-work of wide roads, or beginnings of roads. The heart of the township was one tiny bit of street a hundred yards long: Main Street. You knew where it was, as you looked down on the reddish earth and grass and bush, by the rather big roof of pale zinc and a sandy-coloured round gable of the hotel—the biggest building in the place. For the rest, it looked, from above, like an inch of street with tin roofs on either side, fizzling out at once into a wide grass-road with a few bungalows and then the bush. But there was the dark railway, and the little station. And then again the big paddocks rising to the sea, with a of coral-trees and a farm-place. Richard could see Coo-ee with its low, red roof, right on the sea. Behind it the rail-fences of the paddocks, and the open grass, and the streets cut out and going nowhere, with an odd bungalow here and there.
So it was all round—a far and wide of pale-roofed bungalows at among , cut-out streets, all along the levels above the sea, but keeping back from the sea, as if there were no sea. Ignoring the great Pacific. There were and pieces of blue -hollow, blue of fresh-water in on the yellow sands. Up the knolls perched more bungalows, on very long front legs and no back legs, caves of dark . And on the sky-line, a ridge of wiry trees with dark plume-tufts at the ends of the wires, and these little loose crystals of different-coloured, sharp-angled bungalows cropping out beneath. All in a pale, clear air, clear and yet far off, as it were visionary.
So the land in grassy , past the railway, steep up to the bush: here and there thick-headed palm trees left behind by the flood of time and the flood of both: bungalows with flame-trees: bare bungalows like packing-cases: an occasional wind-fan for raising water: a round well-pool, round: then the bush, and a little colliery steaming among the trees. And so the great tree-covered of the tor, to the red of clouds, red like the flame-flowers, of sunset. In the darkness of trees the strange birds clinking and trilling: the tree-ferns with their knob- trunks spreading their marvellous circle of lace overhead against the glow, the gum-trees like white, naked nerves running up their limbs, and the dead gum-trees grey limbs into the air. And the thick dusk settling down.
Richard wandered through the village, homewards. Horses stood motionless in the middle of the road, like ghosts, listening. Or a cow stood as if asleep on the dark . Then she too wandered off. At night-time always these creatures roaming the dark and semi-dark roads, eating the wayside grass. The motor-cars rushing up the coast road must watch for them. But the night straying cattle were not troubled. They dragged slowly out of the way.
The night in the township was full of the sound of frogs, , , whirring, like a whole fairy factory going at full speed in the creek-bottom. A great grey bird, a crane, came down on wide soft wings softly in the marshy place. A cream coloured pony, with a snake-like head stretched out, came cropping up the road, cropping unmoved, though Richard’s feet passed within a few yards of his nose. Richard thought of the snaky Praxiteles horses outside the Quiriline in Rome. Very, very nearly those old, snaky horses were born again here in Australia: or the same vision come back.
People mattered so little. People hardly matter at all. They were there, they were friendly. But they never entered inside one. It is said that man is the chief environment of man. That, for Richard, was not true in Australia. Man was there, but unnoticeable. You said a few words to a neighbour or an acquaintance, but it was merely for the sake of making a sound of some sort. Just a sound. There was nothing really to be said. The vast continent is really void of speech. Only man makes noises to man, from habit. Richard found he never wanted to talk to anybody, never wanted to be with anybody. He had fallen apart out of the human association. And the rest of the people either were the same, or they together in a fashion. But this speechless, aimless was in the air. It was natural to the country. The people left you alone. They didn’t follow you with their curiosity and their and their human fellowship. You passed, and they forgot you. You came again, and they hardly saw you. You , and they were friendly. But they never asked any questions, and they never encroached. They didn’t care. The profound Australian , which still is not really . The of the social mankind back to its elements. Rudimentary individuals with no desire of communication. Speeches, just noises. A together like dumb cattle, a like animals. Yet the basic indifference under everything.
And with it all, on with civilisation. But it felt like a clock that was running down. It had been wound up in Europe, and was running down, running right down, here in Australia. Men were mining, farming, making roads, shouting politics. But all with that basic indifference which dare not acknowledge how indifferent it is, lest it should drop everything and into a blank. But a basic indifference, with a of excitement over a horse-race, and an occasional joy in a row.
It seemed strange to Somers that Labour should be so in Australia—or that Kangaroo should have been so burning. But then he realised that these men were all the time to some work, they were all the time in the collar. And the work kept them going a good deal more than they kept the work going. Nothing but the absolute drive of the world’s work kept them going. Without it they would have into the old bushranging recklessness, lapsed into the profound indifference which was basic in them.
But still, they were men, they were healthy, they were full of energy, even if they were indifferent to the aim in front. So they embraced one aim or another, out of need to be going somewhere, doing something more than just backing a horse. Something more than a day’s work and a gamble. Some at the old established institution of life, that came from Europe.
There it is, laid all over the world, the heavy established European way of life. Like their huge cathedrals and factories and cities, enormous of stone and steel and brick, weighing on the surface of the earth. They say Australia is free, and it is. Even the flimsy, foundationless bungalows. Richard railed at the scrappy , till two nights he dreamed he was in Paris, and a third night it was in some other city, of Italy or France. Here he was staying in a big palazzo of a house—and he struggled to get out, and found himself in a high old street with old gable houses and dark shadow and himself in the between: and at the end of the street a huge, pale-grey bulk of a cathedral, an old Gothic cathedral, huge and massive and grey and beautiful.
But, suddenly, the mass of it made him sick, and the beauty was nauseous to him. So strong a feeling that he woke up. And since that day he had been thankful for the scrappy scattering of foundationless and bungalows. Since then he had loved the Australian landscape, with the remote gum-trees running their white nerves into the air, the random streets of flimsy bungalows, all loose from one another, and temporary seeming, the bungalows perched on the knolls, like Japanese paper-houses, below the ridge of wire-and-tuft trees.
He had now a horror of vast super-incumbent buildings. They were a nightmare. Even the cathedrals. Huge, huge bulks that are called beauty. Beauty seemed to him like some turgid . Never again, he felt, did he want to look at London, the horrible weight of it: or at Rome with all the pressure on the hills. Horrible, , man-moulded weight. Heavy as death.
No, no, the flimsy hills of Australia were like a new world, and the inconspicuousness of the landscape, that was still so clear and clean, clean of all fogginess or confusion: but the frail, , inconspicuous clarity of the landscape was like a sort of heaven—bungalows, shacks, corrugated iron and all. No wonder Australians love Australia. It is the land that as yet has made no great mistake, humanly. The horrible human mistakes of Europe. And, probably, the even worse human mistakes of America.
“Then why am I going?” he asked himself.
“Wait! Wait!” he answered himself. “You have got to go through the mistakes. You’ve got to go all round the world, and then half way round again, till you get back. Go on, go on, the world is round, and it will bring you back. Draw your ring round the world, the ring of your consciousness. Draw it round until it is complete.”
So he prepared with a quiet heart to depart.
The only person that called at Coo-ee was Jaz.
“You’re leaving us, then?” he said.
“Rather suddenly at the end.”
“Perhaps. But it’s as well I should go soon if I’m going.”
“You think so? Taken against the place, have you?”
“No—the contrary. If I stay much longer I shall stay altogether.”
“Come quite to like it!” Jaz smiled slowly.
“Yes. I love it, Jaz. I don’t love people. But this place—it goes into my , and makes me feel drunk. I love Australia.”
“That’s why you leave it, eh?”
“Yes. I’m frightened. What I want to do is to go a bit further back into the bush—near some little township—have a horse and a cow of my own—and—damn everything.”
“I can quite understand the ‘damn everything’ part of it,” laughed Jaz. “You won’t do it, though.”
“I never was so in my life. Talk about Eve man to a fall: Australia me. Retro me—”
Jaz was silent for a few moments.
“You’d it, though,” he said quietly.
“I’ll probably repent whatever I do,” replied Somers, “so what’s the . I’ll probably repent bitterly going to America, going back to the world: when I want Australia. I want Australia as a man wants a woman. I fairly tremble with wanting it.”
Jaz looked at Somers with his curious, light-grey eyes.
“Then why not stop?” he said seductively.
“Not now. Not now. Some cussedness inside me. I don’t want to give in, you see. Not yet. I don’t want to give in to the place. It’s too strong. It would me quite away from myself. It would be too easy. It’s too tempting. It’s too big a stride, Jaz.”
Jaz laughed, looking back at Richard’s intense eyes.
“What a man you are, Mr Somers!” he said. “Come and live in Sydney and you won’t find it such a big jump from anywhere else.”
“No, I wouldn’t want to live in Sydney. I’d want to go back in the bush near one of the little townships. It’s like wanting a woman, Jaz. I want it.”
“Then why not do it?”
“I won’t give in, not yet. It’s like giving in to a woman; I won’t give in yet. I’ll come back later.”
Jaz suddenly looked at Richard and smiled .
“You won’t give in, Mr Somers, will you? You won’t give in to the women, and Australia’s like a woman to you. You wouldn’t give in to Kangaroo, and he’s dead now. You won’t give in to Labour, or Socialism. Well, now, what will you do? Will you give in to America, do you think?”
“Heaven preserve me—if I’m to speak beforehand.”
“Why, Mr Somers!” laughed Jaz, “seems to me you just go round the world looking for things you’re not going to give in to. You’re as bad as we folk.”
“Maybe,” said Richard. “But I’ll give in to the Lord , which is more than you’ll do—”
“Oh, well, now—we’d give in to Him if we saw Him,” said Jaz, smiling with an odd he sometimes had.
“All right. Well I prefer not to see, and yet to give in,” said Richard.
Jaz glanced up at him suspiciously, from under his brows.
“And another thing,” said Richard. “I won’t give up the flag of our real civilised consciousness. I’ll give up the ideals. But not the aware, self-responsible, deep consciousness that we’ve gained. I won’t go back on that, Jaz, though Kangaroo did say I was the enemy of civilisation.”
“You don’t consider you are, then?” asked Jaz, .
“The enemy of civilisation? Well, I’m the enemy of this machine-civilisation and this ideal civilisation. But I’m not the enemy of the deep, self-responsible consciousness in man, which is what I mean by civilisation. In that sense of civilisation, I’d fight forever for the flag, and try to carry it on into deeper, darker places. It’s an adventure, Jaz, like any other. And when you realise what you’re doing, it’s perhaps the best adventure.”
Harriet brought the tea-tray on to the verandah.
“It’s quite nice that somebody has come to see us,” she said to Jaz. “There seems such a gap, now Kangaroo is gone, and all he stood for.”
“You feel a gap, do you?” asked Jaz.
“Awful. As if the earth had opened. As for Lovat, he’s absolutely broken-hearted, and such a trial to live with.”
Jaz looked quickly and inquiringly at Somers.
“Sort of metaphysical heart,” Richard said, smiling .
Jaz only looked puzzled.
“Metaphysical!” said Harriet. “You’d think to hear him he was nothing but a tea-pot metaphysical tea. As a matter of fact Kangaroo went deep with him, and now he’s heart-broken, and that’s why he’s rushing to America. He’s always breaking his heart over something—anything except me. To me he’s a millstone.”
“Is that so!” said Jaz.
“But one feels awful, you know, Kangaroo dying like that. Lovat likes to show off and be so beastly high and about things. But I know how he is.”
They were silent for some time, and the talk drifted.
In the newspapers Somers read of a big off the coast of China, which had thousands of Chinese. This cyclone was now travelling south, its tail over the New Hebrides, and its paws down the thousands of miles of east coast of Australia. The monster was expected to have spent itself by the time it reached Sydney. But it hadn’t—not quite.
Down it came, in a great darkness. The sea began to have a strange yelling sound in its breakers, the black cloud came up like a wall from the sea, everywhere was dark. And the wind broke in volleys from the sea, and the rain poured as if the cyclone were a great bucket of water pouring itself endlessly down.
Richard and Harriet sat in the dark room at Coo-ee, with a big fire, and darkness raging in waters around. It was like the end of the world. The roaring of the sea was of such volume, the volleying roar of the wind so great as to create almost a sense of silence in the room. The house was like a small cave under the water. Rain poured in waves over the dark room, and with a heaviness of spume. Though the roof came down so far and deep over the verandahs, yet the water swept in, and gurgled under the doors and in at the windows. Tiles were ripped off the verandah roof with a crash, and water splashed more heavily. For the first day there was nothing to do but to sit by the fire, and occasionally mop up the water at the seaward door. Through the long, low windows you saw only a yellow-livid fume, and over all the boom you heard the snarl of water.
They were quite cut off this day, alone, dark, in the of water. The rain had an iciness, too, which seemed to make a shell round the house. The two beings, Harriet and Lovat, kept alone and silent in the shell of a house as in a submarine. They were black inside as out. Harriet particularly was full of a storm of black . She had expected so much of Australia. It had been as if all her life she had been waiting to come to Australia. To a new country, to a new, unspoiled country. Oh, she hated the old world so much. London, Paris, Berlin, Rome—they all seemed to her so old, so ponderous with ancient authority and ancient dirt. Ponderous, ancient authority especially, oh, how she hated it. Freed once, she wanted a new freedom, silvery and paradisical in the atmosphere. A land with a new atmosphere, untainted by authority. Silvery, untouched freedom.
And in t............
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