Kanga Creek, by Havelock Ellis

Part vi

THE young schoolmaster through the hot November days languidly submitted to the routine of his daily tasks. There were the same walks through the coarse kangaroo-grass, over the hills, along the gorges by the smooth-limbed apple gums, the lessons and classes, the entries in the registers, the weary walk back in the heat to fling himself down on the little bed, or to throw off his clothes and stir his feet in the cool delicious water. These things were the same.

Yet he himself was no longer altogether the same. He was less absorbed in the quiet intoxication of his own abstract dreams, less ready to be stirred by the stimulus of pure beauty around him. He no longer stood among the hills as in the earlier season, loft in the long sunny silences that were but heightened and enriched by some stray remote sound that floated through them, some measured thud of the threshing flail or faint tinkle of ring-barker’s axe, coming one could not say whence. Words and tones, touches, lingering odors, fragmentary visions, came back to him again and again, perpetually, whatever he might be doing. These reminiscences thrilled him, yet their iteration grew wearisome and irritating at length. It was scarcely pleasure and not altogether pain.

In these days, as in the intervals of drudgery he went about his little household avocations, they no longer hinted to him the exhilarating simplicity and joyousness of life. They called up questioning thoughts concerning what she was doing over there towards the east. Each act of his daily life seemed to have a thread tugging at it, and he half knew, yet was never quite sure, what movement was taking place at the other end of the thread. As he went down in the morning with his bucket for water at the creek he knew that she too might be going down to her creek, a larger one than his, in her loose dressing-gown, to take a hasty dip in the pool beneath the shea-oaks. For the most part their lives ran parallel, and each moment brought for each the same occupation. There was always a companion by his side, and yet a companion whose constant imaginary presence he would try to fling off, like the obsession of some verse or line that perpetually repeats itself in the memory.

One thought constantly beset him, the image of that smooth sandstone boulder. He had avoided the spot ever since the unforgettable night that had sunk in the clash of hoofs, yet the vision of that stone haunted him, and possessed him with the desire to see it, to sit upon it. He was for ever longing to wander across the creek, to that stone, for ever repressing the longing. At last, one evening after sunset, when the stars were scarcely out but the moon was over the hill, he found himself on the other side of the creek, walking up the slope, in the silent subdued light.

There, as ever, lay the lichened stone. He was tormented by the desire to sit on that stone as she had sat, and yet distracted by the foolishness of his desire. Vivid memories crowded back, the soft flesh, all the fragrance of womanhood for lonely youth. He was about to fling himself down and kiss the smooth stone.

But suddenly he turned away and went swiftly down the slope over the loose stones in the creek’s bed. The pride and reticence of boyhood, self-contained and self-centred, were as yet beaten down by no irresistible thrust of passion. His green youth still rigidly bound the crimson spike in the blossoming rose of love. The spirit of boyhood was still strong against the destinies of life, suspicious of easy self-abandonment, aloof from the irrational cry of instinct which belongs not to the person but the race; the day of love had yet scarcely dawned.

As he paced up and down the verandah he stopped to look wistfully at the heavy mass of Bambaroo standing out gloomily in the night. It seemed to be expanding in the darkness and pressing towards him.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37