Monday, April 25, 2016

Except from 'True to the last or Aunt Milly's Christmas Box' Chapter 2

A very early fairy tale based around the Blowhole at Kiama by F. S. Wilson (Frederick Sydney Wilson, 1830-1901) who was a journalist and poet who contributed pieces to various colonial publications until the mid-1870s when he joined the Anglican ministry later becoming Archdeacon of Bourke, New South Wales.

"To thee the love of women hath gone down.
Dark roll thy tides o'er manhood's noble head,
O'er youth's bright locks, and beauty's flowery crown; 
Yet must thou hear a voice-Restore the dead ! 
Earth shall reclaim her precious things from thee;
Restore, restore the dead, thou Sea!" HEMANS

The sunlight glinted right joyously over the undulating line of western hills rilling in the background as you glanced from seaward over the quiet little town of Kiama. Here, the dusty red band of road leading inland, stretched abruptly from the foot of the town to the ridge of Pike's Hill, and then fell away quite as suddenly to the green mountain belted slopes and flats of Jamberoo. At different heights on the hill overlooking Kiama, cottages peeped archly from snug coverts of orange trees, and sent up curling lines of smoke to tremble and melt in the breezy air. Over some of the paddocks, shuffling herds of cattle were lazily jogging home to be milked ; while a few bullock teams were leaving the steamer's wharf, on the route to Jamberoo or Gerringong, trotting along to the rough music of the jangling dray-bells, the shouting of the drivers, and the lusty barking of the cattle dogs.

The harbour slumbered in the snowy arms of the sand-beaches, heaving softly up and down, as if just breathing in its sleep; and a little line of glittering waves fondled the rocks, and lifted the sea-weed clinging to them, as tenderly as a lover would pass his fingers beneath a shower of sunny curls. Leaving these, the eye could travel along the coast, catching glimpses of white and patches of brilliant green, dashed out, here and there by abrupt masses of sombre rock, round which - the sea waves began to curl in an angrier mood, till the vision was bounded by the faint line of reef trending away far to the north, where the steamer bound for Sydney had already disappeared.

Leaving the group of idlers on the wharf, and passing through the crowd clustering about the horse-yards and verandah of the Steam Packet Inn, we rise on the Flagstaff Hill until the fresh sea-wind scatters the curls from our faces, and the smell of brine and the sound of tumbling waters washing among caverned rocks, and the deep music of wives dripping and gurgling among the hidden nooks, falls pleasantly on the senses. Towards the extreme eastern point is situated that remarkable natural curiosity, commonly known to residents in the district as the Thunder Cave, or Blow Hole, a spot well calculated to inspire the beholder with feelings of awe, and fill him with pleasurable wonderment.

The action of the rollers heaving in from the Pacific for successive ages has caused huge blocks of rock to fall from their places, and fragment after fragment has yielded to wind and wave, until the sea, forcing its way along a subterranean tunnel, has burst through the end, where the land now slopes in an irregular basin-like hollow towards the rude aperture. Even in the calmest weather lies fathoms deep along the fractured floor of the cavern, looking sombre and gloomy enough when viewed from above; but when the heavy roll of the Pacific sets in, the huge billows filling the passage from floor to floor, rush through the intense darkness, tearing bunches of leathery kelp from the slippery sides, and, dashing through the Blow Hole, cast up a glittering tower of spray, thirty to fifty feet in height, sending its thunder for miles along shore, while the sparkling mist comes sifting landwards. 

Down by this fantastic piece of Nature's handiwork sat Milly Grafford on the evening in which my story opens, thinking of Christmas days long since passed, and faces long since seen, but fresh in memory. Her face was one of those on which the searcher for beauty, after gazing for some time, might pass his opinion, that "there was nothing in it;" but it possessed a look of indefinable sweet-ness that attracted you without your scarcely knowing why, and filled you with ambition to get a merrier curl on those quiet lips, and a merrier twinkle from those full hazel eyes, down-drop and tender.

A straw hat hung from her arm by its broad ribbon-strings, and the gusts of salt wind didn't at all seem to like her dark hair smoothed in such matronly folds; so, furtively shaking out one or two glossy locks, it whistled and chuckled right mischievously, as if it had never been brought up to any thing sober, staid, and serious! Very pleasant it was, though, for all that, and so was the charming touch of sunshine that shimmered like a saintly halo around her head!

Everything and everybody it seems loved gentle Aunt Milly, and the blustering breeze and glorious sunbeam formed no exception to the general rule. Full and deep was the sorrow that had tested her heart, and settled that calm cloud of melancholy over her face; and as she gazed out to seaward where the blue line of horizon already seemed fading into purple shadow, she could only compare with it the closing shadows of her own weariful existence. The vessel carrying the rich freight of her heart's holiest and deepest affections had faded far out beyond that dim outline of tossing waters; and after it her memory wandered in ceaseless search, returning oft and again to her tireless heart, having found no rest for the sole of its foot.

How bright and happy Nature looked without-how sad and lonely she felt within yet, as the wind floated about the cliffs, she fancied she could almost hear it singing the words, 'Wait for the morrow-wait for the morrow," and the waves tumbling over each other got up a tremendous song, full of hope and heart cheer, singing of how they went and ever returned, constant as true love, and every tiny ripple joined its tinkling voice, and chorussed, "So he will return  so he will come back." Their friendly faces began to peer from rocky crannies, whispering comfort to Aunt Milly, of fadeless love and bright Christmas days to come.
The drifting spray from the Blow Hole, rapidly increasing in volume under the auspices of a rising southerly gale, bore on its misty particles an arch of glowing prismatic splendour; and as Aunt Milly looked at it, leaning back in a convenient rocky hollow, she began to read the cheering words, 'Hope on, hope ever!" in every glorious band of its dazzling colours.
Suddenly the chime of dashing waters resolved themselves into delicious music-a deep, solemn strain of harmony, like the grand swelling notes of a cathedral organ-a thunder of sweet low sounds ; then came the burst of mighty sea-bells, mingled with the chimes of smaller ones, whose tinkling melody sung, "Welcome to the merry Christmastime!" At it they went, clashing and clanging, and chinkling and rumbling, loudly and lustily, nearer and nearer, until they seemed to be approaching the storm-worn aperture of the cavern! Then came trooping forth crowds of sea fairies with golden hair flecked with ocean spray, and robes curiously wrought of the sunny sea-serge; some had their tresses looped up with twigs of blood-red or snowy coral and sparkling sea blossoms, while others were girdled with feathery garlands of sea ferns, gold and green; and all bore shells of every imaginable shape, size, and colour, from which they rang out the most enchanting melody in a right glad welcome song to merry, merry Christmas !

In  the midst of this cloud of airy beings, one ascended who seemed to command the reverence and obedience of the remainder: for while two or three placed a light mother-o'-pearl throne on the cavern's edge, the rest drew round it, glancing curiously at Aunt Milly, and awaiting their leader's pleasure. This personage was a fairy fragile-looking girl, whose limbs were most exquisitely proportioned, and whoso features bore the impress of queenly beauty. The gold washed from the creeks of Australia was not brighter than the ringlets of this fair being; and they played about her snowy arms and shoulders until they fondled a waist zoned by a blue girdle, on the centre of which shone five dazzling stars-the Southern Cross of this sunny land!

Her robe was formed of a gauzy texture, woven from the rainbow-bubbles of the ocean-surf; and the play of her polished limbs could be discerned under its half-transparent folds. Bunches of coral and delicately-tinted sea-flowers gemmed with spray-drops were looped about it at intervals, aud a wreath of pearls, twined among her golden curls, rested lightly on her forehead. In her hand she carried a tapering wand, formed of glittering gems, and surmounted with a diamond, which shot forth flashes of brilliant light, and seemed to possess the power of calling every feature upon which it rested into good humour and kindliness.

All this time the attendants of this ocean-nymph had been untiringly chiming out their Christmas music; but when she lightly waved her wand, the melody ceased, and all turned their gaze to Aunt Milly. Inexpressible love and gentleness beamed in the eyes, and twinkled about the mouth, of the fairy queen, as she looked on that pale, patient face, and addressed Aunt Milly in a voice soft as the wind passing through a shell: "Mortal! what dost thou here? and why wear so sad a countenance in a season consecrated to joy and happiness ?" This demand so completely surprised the person to whom it was addressed, that she could not reply; but her questioner, scarcely pausing, continued in a still gentler tone: "Never mind! I know your troubles and your sorrows, and can fully sympathise with you. Nay, more-I may have it in my power to flush that pale cheek with startling tidings, and bring back, sensible to sight and feeling, that which can only how be regarded as a sorrowful remembrance !"

At these words Aunt Milly so far mastered her amazement as to inquire the nature of the strange being who stood before her. "Who am I ?" repeated the fairy being - breaking into a silvery laugh, at which all her attendants rang a merry peal upon their bells" I am Christmas !"-the Australian Christmas queen of the brightest land the sunshine ever gladdened! This is my palace home - but once a-year, at this hallowed season, I girdle the mighty coasts, and send this darting light into the hearts of old and young, sad and gay. See! mark its brilliance!" she continued, twirling her starry wand, "it's light is love. Waved over the saddest spirit it heals it for the time, and infuses a merrier feeling into the hearts of the merriest! But my task for the next four-and-twenty hours is one which will . not admit of loitering: before to-morrow night falls thousands will have felt the influence I bear about with me-thousands who have suffered three hundred and sixty-four days of wretchedness will And in their dark lives a gleam of joy tomorrow!-thousands who have cherished dark, revengeful, and forgiving thoughts through the past year will find them sunned away to-morrow! Thousands who have waited and watched through years of almost hopeless love will find their clouds dispersed tomorrow ! Among the last there is yourself patiently, with fond and trustful love, you have watched and waited through the night of many years: but Christmas brings a balm for you, as well as for others. No heart ever loved on, in firm undying faith, that did not receive its reward at last; and I know you, Milly Grafford, that through many, many months of sickening hope-destroying doubt you have been true to the last!"

At these words the whole troop of Australian Christmas spirits caught up the refrain "True to the last! true to the last!" ringing it out musically from the bells ; and one tiny imp gave vent to such exuberant mirth that he lost his balance, and tunbled into the cavern's yawning mouth,  from whence he was speedily ejected by a mighty billow, covered with spray!

"Time hastens," pursued Christmas, "and so must we. It will not allow of a long story in words but watch these pictures as they pass and fade -they will tell their own tale." Standing on the verge of the chasm she waved her wand until the sheet of filmy spray thickened into a dazzling screen, illumined with a pale golden light. As she struck her wand over the screen, as a painter would work before his canvas, shadows began to flit across it ; and these quickly resolved themselves into light and color, till a picture intensely real hovered upon it. There was an old school-house, a long red-brick-ed building, with little diamond panes in the casement, so long and narrow as if they were trying to squeeze through slits in the wall, to get away from the pleasant warmth glisten-ing within, to where the cold dark glossy leaves of the ivy were clustering without. It seemed to be Christmas long, long ago in a far-off distant land;  for though the sound of merry bells came floating through the air, the snow spread its white sheet over the land, and rested in heavy clots on the leafless trees and fences. Two children stood by the door of the schoolhouse, with tears resting on their ruddy cheeks, and childish hearts big with, sorrow. The girl was leaving for home, and her companion, the lonely boy of the school, was to remain to drag out the wearisome holidays, so full of fun and happiness to other people.

Kisses-warm, pure kisses, such as only childhood knows were given on trembling lips; then the girl was lifted into a chaize, the wheels whirled rapidly through the snow, and the boy stood by the gate-alone! Quickly the picture grew dim and hazy, and where the semblance of the schoolhouse had been, a long blue line of sea spread out; with stately ships and fishing crafts lifting on the waves, and boats drawn up on the shingly beach. A girl, whose features, though shadowed by sickness, wore the counterpart (of the child's face seen in the former picture, reclined in an invalid's chair, and glanced out at the sea so full of life and motion, and so strangely different to the pulseless languour she herself experienced. A man servant, who drew the vehicle, was humouring the watery propensities of an unruly Newfoundland dog, who persisted in bringing out everything that was thrown in the tide, and ever and anon shook the water virgorously from his shaggy coat. The figure of a youth, strangely like the lonely boy at the school, passed the beach, and, after questioning the servant, advanced to the sick girl, clasping her hand with wild energy; a few fervent words were interchanged, and the light of love was suffusing their faces as the scene changed and showed a vessel crowded with sail, winging her flight to Australia, and leaving the white shores of England in the distance.

These gradually melted in the gathering mist, and the ship seemed to traverse many hundred miles of her outward voyage, when suddenly a streak of smoke curled up quietly from the hatch, accompanied by an alarmed crowd of passengers, and these again were followed by tongues of glittering flame, which twisted themselves like flying fiery serpents about the tarry cordage, and leaped from shroud to shroud ! Hoarse voices shouted commands, to obey which was utterly impossible; and these, mingled with the screams of women and children, surging wildly up in the dark, smoke-laden air.

Men sang away cheerily enough, and drew water to cast it on the deck, while others cleared away the boats, hitrriedly storing them, and lowering into them a timid freight of women and children. Still nothing stayed the fire-patches of burning canvas whirled off into the night-masts and spars toppled and fell, till at last the flames seemed licking up the very ocean! Then there was a dull roaring explosion, and only fragments of charred timbers, together with three heavily-laden boats, dotted the dull waste of waters.

Again the sunlight seemed to breathe over the picture, brightening it into daylight, and disclosing the boats drifting heavily along. This seemed to be their situation for many weary days, until exposure and famine had thinned the boats of their sickliest passengers then a white speck, bike a sea-gull's wing, rose on the horizon, gradually shaping into a brig, until attracted by their signal she bore down upon them, and took on board the survivors of the ill-fated 'Agenoria'.

"These are phantoms of a few incidents occurring in your own life, and in the life of one far dearer than self to you ! said the Spirit of Christmas. But patience and unswerving affection shall be rewarded. A mighty power has held the golden cords that bound your loving hearts together; and now the twining ends, for many years so far apart, are beginning to enfold and draw towards each other. Ah! if all hearts were as faithful as your own, dear Milly, many sorrows that now shadow the world would melt into brightness !

"But time speeds; I must away to other business, none of I which will be more pleasurable than that I am now transacting. Here, Milly, is something to hold in trust, as an earnest of something better to come. It is an Australian Christmas-box, and with it accept the blessings of one who, although a spirit, loves those mortals who are true to the last!"

As she spoke, Christmas placed a packet at Aunt Milly's feet,  and then retreating into the cloud of misty spray, she floated softly into the cavern followed by her attendants, who each and all saluted wondering Aunt Milly with a parting smile and a. merry peal on their sea-bells, as they sank from sight.

When they had entirely vanished, Milly Grafford rubbed her eyes to satisfy herself that she had not been dreaming. The sunshine shot over the rocks in a perfect flood of glory, and the sparkling spray rose from the Blow Hole like a snowy tower surmounted, spanned by a rainbow of dazzling beauty. All this was real and right enough, just as it had been when she sat herself first beside the cave. Nothing was wanting but Christmas and her train of fairy followers !

Aunt Milly sighed involuntarily, to think how fancy had cheated her senses; then feeling cramped at having reclined so-long in one position on a rough couch of rock, she rose to wend her way home again before the sim sank behind the ridge of western hills. As she turned to depart her eyes encountered an object lying at her feet, that drove the life-blood back from its veins, and almost chilled it at its fountain!

Apparently it was something cast up by the waves, and rested wet and dripping on the verge of the Blow Hole. On examination, it proved to be a bottle clustered with seaweeds and barnacles, as if it had drifted for months to and fro on the waves, at the mercy of' changing currents ; still through its slime covered sides. Aunt Milly could perceive that it contained papers and snatching it up, she fled homewards with a wild tremor fluttering her heart, confident that she was on the verge of some important discovery.

And an important discovery was made when the cork was extracted from the ocean waif, and sundry
papers were released from their glassy prison, papers penned, or rather pencilled, by the very fingers of the missing Fred Langholme! They gave a rough, guess at the vessel's position on the chart-no observation having been taken and were brief announcements of peril and suffering:  "Ship Agenoria, Wilfington, commander; sailed from London August 23, 18-; now burnt to water's edge. Passengers and crew all safe at present, stowed in three boats, but dreadfully crowded. Provisions scanty. Only chance of safety, being picked up by a passing vessel. God send help soon ! FRED LANGHOLME. "

"Thank Heaven  there is a chance of his still being alive!" cried Milly, bursting into tears, and clasping this roughly written, mean-looking scrap of paper as if it constituted her prize ticket in the lottery of Hope and Love. Mr. Grafford gave it as his opinion that there was a very strong possibility of young Langholme having escaped; and Mr. Phelim O'Grady, who happened to be in the room, asserted that there was no "chance about it at all at all, but all sure sartinty : 'cause why? thim fairies had pledged their word to bring all fair an' square ; and who-ever heard of the fairy folk bein' guilty of falsehood ? Not he, no, nor any one who ever had any dalings wid thim !"

As for the possibility of Aunt Milly having dreamed all about the Christmas spirits, Mr. Phelim indignantly repudiated any such idea. "Sure an' they cudn't be no dhramin' about it ! There was what they had said and showed about the vessel bein' burnt at say ! an' there was the bottle of papers to the fore to prove it a dumb witness spakin' as if to the truth of all that the good people had said!"

In fact, when some of the other servants in the kitchen ventured to hint that Miss Milly had fallen asleep, Phelim wrathfully quitted the company of such unbelievers, and went to the lucky spot (as he termed the Blow Hole), to try whether he himself couldn't dream some piece of good fortune relative to the exact latitude and longtitude of the pot of gold he had once dreamed of before.

But, after all, he only dreamt that he had fallen out of bed, and found his dream verified and himself lying several feet below where he had perched himself, with a thundering blimp on the back of his head, never before idefined by phrenologists.

And as to the bright sunny Christmas morning, when it came, who do you think came with it ? Well, there's no use in making story longer than necessary, and I, for one, dislike keeping people in suspense, so I may as well tell you at once, that when the 'Kiama ' ran alongside the buoy and took up her moorings, a sun burnt-looking sailor-fellow came ashore with the other passengers, and made enquiries for Mr. Grafford's house.

Yes ! just as you have guessed dear reader, it was none other - than Fred Langholme! I did not intend to tell you, until he had met Aunt Milly, and she had fainted in his arms, and then laughed, and cried herself into composure again; but such scenes when the one long-loved and mourned for comes back, as it were from the dead, are too holy and sacred for other eyes to gaze upon. 

Mr. Phelim O'Grady was one of  the first to get wind of the new arrival, and he cried "Hooray for Miss Milly! and hooray for the lost shape, Mister Fred! and hooray for everybody especially hooray for the good people of the sea - the Australian Christmas Spirits!" and, finally, Mr. Phelim was discovered by his master on the landing, kissing Mary, and certainly never foretold by the fairies, although Mr O'Grady wisely laid all the blame on "them,  the crathurs !" 

If my province extended so far, I could go on to tell you how Milly Grafford and Fred Langholme were married, but I am afraid such an interesting event would claim a whole chapter to itself. One thing I am bound to add, that when the ceremony was performed the health of the newly wedded pair was drunk in wine poured from the bottle that had conveyed Fred's despatches. Moreover, one and all joined in this toast "When adversity, time, or distance would widen the gulf between two loving hearts, may each one prove true to the last!"


Thursday, November 5, 2015

An Australian Fairy Tale (1896) By Carneil

Here's an Aussie fairy king with a slouch hat, who speaks slang, bets on the horse fly races, has subjects who get 'eucherd' and thinks moonlight is washed-out. 

Some children assert that there are no fairies in Australia. Wait until you read this story, and then you shall judge for yourself.  It was summer; there had been no rain for many months; hardly a blade of grass was to be seen; the little left was of the colour of stubble. The once full-flowing creek was a chain of water-holes, very muddy, and harrowed with hoof-prints. The cattle and horses made tracks through the puddles night and morning. These thirsty half-starved animals came long, weary marches over the plains to drink, plodding through the water to the other bank in their weary search for grass or anything to feed upon. The only water for miles around was the turbid and scanty supply in the creek-already fast drying up. Settlers brought their tanks on drays, sometimes a distance of ten or twelve miles, taking a whole day to travel thither and back. By day the sun was blazing, and sank to rest in the evening a fiery-red veiled in a smoky shroud. Even the moon when it shone at night seemed sultry. As for the winds they appeared to have gone over the sea on their summer holiday. Only came occasionally the fierce, hot gust, whirling the dead, brown leaves in with Ounces round and round raising whirlwinds of swirling dust that could be seen far away over the brown, bare plain.

"No fairy could ever live in such a place," sighed Katie Burton. She had been sitting on the bank of the creek with her chin on her hand, for an hour. Her father and brother were filling the tank at the muddy holes below. Katie had been waiting for them, and occupied her little fancy in thinking about fairies all the time. She was just eight years old, and some friend had given her a book of fairy tales for a birthday gift but those lovely English fairies! 'Their abodes were amongst green grass and beautiful flowers, where tinkling streams ran softly by. It was enough to make one's mouth water only to read of it.

" So," she said in a very decided tone, "I'll never see a fairy in Australia. It's much too hot and dry here. They'd frizzle up, poor little things !" Just then she was aroused by the rattling of the harness as the horses began to drag the now-filled tank up a gently sloping part of the bank from the bed of the creek. The horses toiled wearily up the track; the men walking by their side. Then Katie called out, "Ready, father?' " No, I and Ned’ll have a smoke first; you can sit still where you are. I'll call out when I'm going."
So Katie sat very still and watched all sorts of wild things come to the creek to take their evening drink now that the dray had gone. The sun had dipped suddenly below the horizon, a gentle breeze had sprung up as if by accident. First came some lovely bronze winged pigeons. Their home was in the mallee, three miles away. Katie liked to listen to the startled whirr of their wings when they rose to fly away. Soon came an army of rabbits, very thin and gaunt. They had lived mainly on the bark of small mallee trees for many weeks past. Poor things! They went about heavily now, without any of their usual lively scuttling. Then, when it grew dusk, a sneaking-looking dingo came ever so softly down the opposite bank, took a hurried drink, and ran off with his tail between his legs, looking from aide to side as if he scented danger around. Katie was next delighted to see two grey shadows hopping steadily across the plain, which she knew were kangaroos. Katie made a little movement to get nearer to them when they had begun to drink, and one of them stood up quickly, holding out its fore-paws and looking so startled and so funny that she laughed. That child's laugh finished the poor kangaroos! With a frightened scuffle they hopped off, never stopping once until they were out of sight in the shadowy distance. Katie wished she could stay longer, till the moon was up, for she knew there were opossums to come down from the gum trees, and it was SO very pleasant to watch the stealthy little animals climb about the branches, and listen to their hissing chatter. But just then she heard her father calling her from a little distance on the road. He had finished his smoke and was heading for home. So Katie ran to him and he helped her into the dray, and away they rumbled. The tank could have been heard far creaking in the distance. Sometimes an extra deep rut in the road would send the water spinning over the top. After a while the shaking and rumbling grew monotonous. Father and Ned were not very talkative. They were inwardly wondering what would happen to everybody if the rain did not come soon, and their wondering did not tend to enliven them. Perhaps Katie went to sleep and tumbled off the dray.

At any rate, after they had apparently gone about three miles, she found herself on the road alone, without any idea how she had got there. The creaking she could still hear, but it seemed a very long way off, and although she ran and called to her father to stop, the dray only went the faster. Soon she lost sight of it, and she was now left really alone. Strange to say, she did not feel at all frightened but only wondered what mother would say when she found her daughter was not of the party. She looked around her and saw a belt of timber a few hundred yards away. She ran to it, thinking that under the trees she might find a nice cosy place to couch for the night. Sitting under a she-oak, she was startled to hear a dear little voice call out, " Hallo!" She looked up and there sure enough, hanging by one hand to a rush-like branch, was a tiny human figure! Now it this figure had been at all like one of the fairies Katie had read about in the book, I suppose she would have greeted it almost as an old acquaintance, and would not have been at all started. But the little stranger was a very different description of fairy of the woods. He was of the colour of the dead grass, yet bright and shining: His yellow face was sparkling with mischief. On his head was a tiny, slouch, cabbage-tree hat. His feet and Iegs were encased in yellow boots. His upper garments were simply a shirt and trousers; and instead of the orthodox fairy wand he carried a tiny stock-whip. He hung firmly to the branch, eyeing Katie quite impudently. She fairly started back some steps.
" Well, you’re the little girl that thought fairies couldn't live in Australia. You thought it too hot for them."
" Well, you know," said Katie, timidly, for the fairy had spoken rather sharply, "it was rather hot." 
" Rather hot'!" returned the fairy-man, getting yellower than ever in the face with excitement. “By jingo! if you call this hot, you must be very young indeed. If you'd been here forty years ago you might have ventured to call it hot. One of our fairies was actually known to perspire out in the moonlight. But this! Only a baby would call this hot. __ I say little girl, does your mother know you're out?'
Katie could hardly believe her ears. A fairy talking in this slangy manner! The polite little people of fairy lore! She had often been advised to be like them when her own manners were not quite what her mother thought they should be.
" You're rather rude," she ventured to remark. The fairy took no notice.
I say, little girl," he said again, " I'll tell you what; I'll show you an Australian fairy dance. After that you'll not doubt, our existence fancy. Why we live here under the branches of the she-oak trees. That rustling sound you always hear when you are near these trees is our fairy music, which you could plainly distinguish if your ears were tiny enough."
"Oh! I'm glad you have music," said Katie. " All the fairies in books have lovely bell music all around them. Does your music sound wee and tinkling like bells?'
" Does it sound like a fiddlestick?" replied the rude fairy, and he hopped down on her shoulder and cracked his long whip in her ear. Immediately the music of the tree became audible to her; but, instead of the sweet tinkling of bells, she heard a sound just like the laughter of the jackass birds, with the boom of the bittern for a drum. She drew back, rather bewildered at the noise.
" I don't think it's such nice music as the bells," she said timidly.
" That's because you don't know anything about it. But just wait a minute; I'll show you something that will astonish you more than that." And he blew the whistle at the end of his whip, and then gave a loud  “Co-o-ee." Immediately there darted out from all parts of the tree hundreds of yellow fairies; but these were not so bright as the
newcomer, who was evidently their king. Instead of the slouch hat-which was the badge of royalty they each wore a little yellow cap, and instead of a whip they carried a boomerang.
"Come on, you fellows," shouted the fairy king. " Show this young woman a fairies' dance."
" Right you are," answered the subjects in chorus; and they all got down from the tree, each one bounding as lightly as a piece of cork. Katie remarked at once that Australian fairies have no wings. They ran alone a little track till they came to a very dusty place.
"Now, then, boys!" said the king, jumping down from Katie's shoulder. They all formed a ring around him, and the dance began. Whirling round and round went the fairies, while the music played faster and faster, and the dust rose higher and higher until it reached an enormous height. Katie found out that she was looking at a real whirlwind. The higher the dust went the more the fairies shouted and danced, while the king stood in the centre and administered sundry cracks and flips with his whip to any he thought were lagging.
When at last they stopped the king asked Katie what she thought of it.
"It was very nice," she answered, "but don't you get rather dusty?"
" Do we look dusty?'' asked the king in a slightly aggrieved tone. Katie looked closely, but they were all trim and neat and yellow, without a sign of dust or distress on their funny yellow faces.
"Well, no," she replied, "you don't; but I thought it was impossible to dance in dust like that and not get dusty."
"Well, it just shows your ignorance of the whole thing," retorted the fairy. " And an other thing I forgot to to say is, that you mustn't think we are only moonlight fairies, although we do come out in the moonlight when it is very bright. We look upon moonlight as very wishy-washy light, and much prefer the hottest sun. You may often see our fairy dances on hot summer days; or rather the dust raised by them."
"Oh, what are they going to do now?" asked Katie.
The fairies were shouting and scampering about, at last setting off running to a tree at some distance.
"Oh, they're just going to have a drink," said the king. " Hanged if don't have one too ! Come along !" And he led Katie to a gum-tree, behind the projecting roots of which were standing some fairies. Arranged on the roots were hundreds of little cups made of the dried calyx of the gum blossom.
" The spirit of the bush," said the king to her grimly, *' Have some?"
He handed a tiny cup to Katie. Instead of a drop of honey-dew, such as fairies have always been supposed to drink she found herself half choked with a drop of the strongest extract of eucalyptus imaginable.
" Do you drink eucalyptus instead of water, or honey? Or have you all got colds?" she asked the minute she could speak.
" Now, is there any water, or any of your sticky honey-dew to be had!" answered the king.
" Well there's nothing here but I thought you went to the creek as we do, and had a drink. You could bring some back with you," answered Katie.
" An Australian fairy drink water! Why we'd all die if we were to touch it. Now, did you ever hear of a real native-born Australian man who would drink water neat? If so, I'd like to see him. Oh, no ! We preside over all the cradles in the country, and we take care our men have better heads than all that comes to!"
" And does eucalyptus make you tipsy? asked Katie.
" If you're soft-headed enough, of course it does. Look at that fairy over there. I'm afraid he's about half-seas-over already. And we call it euca for short," he added. " Hence ' euchred’.. See the joke! Ha, ha!"
Katie saw two fairies endeavouring to lead away a eusa-besotted fairy, who was heard to mutter something aloud getting even with some one as he was dragged off.
" Poor fellow !" said Katie, pityingly. " Is he married?"
" Married? Yea. We're all married, but our wives stay at home and mend the clothes. No new women and woman's franchise for us."
" Woman's franchise? What's that? inquired Katie.
" It's a blow at the rights of man-that's what it is-and I'll take jolly good care there's none of that nonsense in my dominions," answered the king, stoutly, with an assurance that many a husband would have
Katie did not quite understand him, so she changed the conversation.
“Please would you tell me what you have to eat, and how you amuse yourselves! Do you knead the pollen of flowers to make bread and do you use butterflies eggs to make cakes?
The fairy laughed long and loud. “My dear child,” he said in a patronising tone, “Why don’t you disabuse yourself of the pure fiction that we are anything like book fairies. Because we are not! We are real up-to-date, fin-de siècle fairies, and very proud we are of it. Why, fancy eating such rubbish as butterflies' eggs and all that stuff! Ha, ha! I'll tell you what we eat. We eat gold-solid, yellow gold."
Katie fairly started. These were wonderful fairies, indeed!
" Is that what makes you so yellow?" she ventured to ask.
" If yon have any complaint to make as to our complexions," said the king stiffly, " I wish you would make it to some one else."
" I beg your pardon," said Katie, humbly, “ I only wanted to know."
" I think we had better change the subject," said the king severely.
"You wanted to know how we amused ourselves. Follow me."
He led the way to the she-oak again.
On the lowest branches were to be seen about twenty or thirty horse-fies, each tied by a halter, and in charge of several fairy grooms.
"There's our amusement," said the king, waving his hand towards the horse-fies. "Some time, it you visit us in our racing season, you may see a great race, by jingo !
It quite excites me even to think of it. ' Four to one I lay the odds. Three to one bar one.' He shouted at the top of his voice. The good old cries.' 
"I thought fairies always ride grasshoppers," said Katie when she could be heard.
The king turned on her quite sharply.
" Did you ever ride a kangaroo “ he asked. "No." said Katie, meekly.
"Then why in Heaven's name, can you expect us to ride jumping jacks of animals when no one else would. If the English fairies can stand such a style of travelling, There’s no reason why we can?”
" Well, no," Katie was obliged to answer,  “but," she went on, " do you every go about in the world helping people and taking care of flowers!"
" Well, no. I can't say that we do," said the fairy king, thoughtfully. "But," he added, after a pause, " we have a jolly good time."
" And don't you grant requests that people make?"
" There is one rule in our fairy-land," he replied, " that is like one of the fairies of book-lore, but I had almost forgotten it so seldom do we require to practise it. It is that anyone asking for a gift from an Australian fairy for the first time may ask for whatever she thinks she would like best, and the fairy must grant her request. So if you're thinking of asking any favour out with it. Mind you don't want to change your mind,"
So Katie thought about all the very nicest things a little girl could possibly have books, dolls, toys, dresses and then suddenly she thought of her father's anxious face when he was thinking of the drought.
" Please, what I would like best of all would be some rain, enough to fill the creeks and waterholes again?"
The fairy shivered.
" You horrid child! Do you want to make us wretched, and the racing season just coming on too!"
He looked so genuinely distressed that Katie wished she had asked for anything else.
"Oh, I am sorry," she cried. "Oh, couldn't I change my wish
"Kit," answered the king sadly, " you can't; but to punish you for your thoughtlessness we will now disappear and you will never see us again."

And he blew his whistle. Immediately the fairies came running, and climbed or jumped to their homes in the tree. The fairy music stopped and the fairy king retired to his home at the top of the tree. Katie was not quite sure whether he was not making an ugly face at her as he disappeared, however.
" He's gone now. I do hope he won't get wet, poor little fellow," she said to herself; " and now I must, try to find the way home."

She ran on a little way, when, to her astonishment, she saw the dray just a little way ahead, with its splashing water tank shining in the moonlight. So she ran on and easily climbed into her old place. Her father and brother had evidently not noticed her absence, so she said nothing till she got home", and then she told them all about her wonderful adventure. Of coarse they laughed at her and said she had been asleep. But all I know is that next morning, when the household awoke, the sky was overcast, and a strong wind was beginning to blow. Soon it got darker and darker, and the thunder began to roll. At last down came the rain-steadily, soaking rain. It rained with hardly a pause for twenty-four hours, and by that time the tanks and dams were full once more.

Katie knows she will never see an Australian fairy again, but she does not regret it very much when she thinks of the dry creeks and bare ground, and how nearly her lather was ruined by the terrible drought. But sometimes, when she sees a whirlwind, she rushes up to it and look for the fairies through the wall of dust. She never sees them; but once she was sure she heard the jolly laugh of that little larrikin king of the Australian fairies.

By Carneil (1896) The Australasian, August 1, p. 27. from

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thesis complete

I have been indebted in the preparation of this thesis to my supervisors Dr Pam Macintyre and Dr Marnee Watkins. Pam’s enthusiasm and passion for literature is contagious while her encouragement and timely suggestions were invaluable in inspiring and challenging me from the very early stages of this research. Marnee’s constructive comments, and her ability to ‘see’ my thesis from a visual perspective nourished an oasis of ideas and possibilities. Above all, Pam and Marnee provided me with enormous encouragement and support in a plethora of ways that has enriched my growth as a student and as a researcher. I thank them for their honesty, and friendship.

This thesis arose from a chance comment by Helen Dixon, Olga Ernst’s daughter in the staffroom at Mt. Dandenong Primary School. I am grateful to Helen and her extended family who generously shared their memories of Olga and their understanding of family history: Henry Dixon, Mary Newham, David Waller, Gwen Winter, Margaret Ford, Trevor Mattiske, and Hans Ernst’s grandchildren. I am also indebted to Herbert Mees and Daniela Timm who took an academic interest in my research and offered assistance.

My dad and meI thank my family and friends whose steady support and encouragement has kept me going. I pay tribute to my friend and neighbour Susan Oakley whose ability to do battle with microfiche, get joyously lost in archives with me, and know instinctively when I needed a ‘coffee and cake’ break was amazing. I acknowledge my father Peter who instilled in me a strong work ethic along with my mother Elaine who shared her love of Australian literature. They have been exceptional role models. Also, my daughters Kellie and Belinda who I love dearly and who think any idea I have is a good one!

Lastly, I thank Ross, my husband and best friend, and my personal champion, who maintained an unswerving belief in my ability to finish while working full-time as an Assistant Principal and who had the energy to read every single word I wrote (time and time again). Thank you Ross for your willingness to follow me anywhere, at anytime, in my quest to learn.    

The joy of editing a thesis

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”  Dr. Seuss 

I have honed the words in my thesis to the satisfaction of my amazing supervisors Pam and Marnee.  I have read and read and reread it.  I invited Alex who lives in my Mac to read my words back to me so I could 'hear' the mistakes. I have moulded and shaped for six years. But if some-one had told me how tedious the final editing of my thesis would be I may have thought twice about beginning. It seemed like every time I thought it was print perfect I would press 'print' only to find something I had overlooked. A space omitted, a word repeated, headings that disappeared as if by magic to reappear somewhere else. Not many errors, but I am not risking leaving one mistake that would jar when read by an examiner. Creating tables and indexes was a battle between me and my laptop. I finally won - I think! 

So what was the joy? Scrolling down the reference list again and again looking for errant spaces, fullstops, and font abberations I remembered with fondness many of the texts.  Sometimes I remembered where I was when I read them, or how I discovered them. Others how they challenged me and sculptured my thinking.  Allow me a brief reminiscence in their order of my favourites in my reference list.

Gumsucker. (1870). Rosalie's reward, or, the fairy treasure. Ballarat, Australia: Wreford.

Entering the quiet and calm of the Heritage Collections Room its importance was heralded by a brief wait  in front of two sets of high double glass doors. The Librarian handed me this small blue book commenting that she thought it 'delightful'. On reading this tale I felt an immediate connection. Although the fairies seemed a little too British in attitude and tone it evoked the sounds and sights of Ballarat at the height of gold discovery. Traditional fairy tale motifs are changed to connect with a different, colonial audience. An old miner is the 'traditional' fairy godmother bestowing an important gift on the young girl; wealth which gives her the ability to charitable works for the rest of her life without the need for a 'handsome prince'. Independence and freedom for a single gal.

Lockeyear, J. R. (1891). "Mr. Bunyip", or, Mary Somerville's ramble: an Australian story for children. Melbourne, Australia: Spectator Publishing Co

Possibly the first bunyip in a children's book, very much the wise elder though particularly jovial and pompous. Though a humorous story newspaper reports note that Lockeyear used it as a platform to present an anti-alcohol and anti-violence message to schoolchildren when he visited schools.

Best, A. (2014). Red Cross in Brighton: a history of the Brighton Unit of Red Cross (Victorian division, Australia) 1914–2014.  Brighton, Australia: Red Cross Brighton Unit.

It was a delight to discuss Ernst with Alleyn and I was interested in his methodical and persistent approach to the writing of this book. I discovered a useful photo of Ernst and her Junior Red Cross Circle and their hand-made puppets in this book which I was given permission to use in my thesis. Every conversation seemed to yield another treasure. 

Blamires, D. (2009). The impact of Germany on English children’s books 1780-1918: OpenBook Publishers. (Digital edition) 

My first purchase of an non-fiction eBook and I remember how excited I was to find a book that explored the difference in the constructions of children's literature in cultures. I took this book with me on my iPad as a holiday 'read' as I enjoyed it beyond 'research'.

Brady, P. (1994). Whitefella dreaming: The authorised biography of William Ricketts. Olinda, Australia: Preferred Image.

Around 1991 a friend and I working at a school in the Dandenongs took our children to visit Ricketts' Sanctuary one afternoon. I have a vivid image of thin, bent old man wearing a beret pottering around in his workshop which was on view to the public at that time. His total concentration despite the noise the children made backgrounded this book as I read it. My friend remembers talking some school children to visit and his leap on to a table to share with a lyrical passion his beliefs.

Gerson, C. (2001). Locating female subjects in the archives. In Buss, H. M., Kadar, M. (2001). Working in women's archives: Researching women's private literature and archival documents. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 

Gerson challenged me to think beyond the online search for Ernst to the contingencies of value surrounding the institution of each archive (digital or paper) and to question its neutrality. She discussed the difficulties of locating a subject's papers, particularly those held in private rather than public collections. It was only by a long and arduous process (maybe chance!) that I discovered letters written by Ernst's sister Elsa in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard. I wonder what else I have not discovered. 

Home, R. (Ed.). (1995). Science as a German export in 19th century Australia. London, England: Sir RobertMenzies Centre for Australian Studies.

This small compact book tucked away beside more solid substantial tomes in the University Melbourne Library storage gave me a basic overview of the contribution of German scientists to the city of Melbourne. It was a starting point for my research into this area. A bit like a basic reader. 

Kelsey, J. (2012, July 7). Writing wrongs? Women wordsmiths of the 18th and early 19th centuries. [Blog post]. 

I feel like I am also trying to 'right a wrong' by arguing for Ernst's recognition as an early Australian children's writer of fairy tales. This thought-provoking and readable piece argued for the recognition of women's writing. It inspired me to submit a piece on Beatrice Wilcken to the Women's History Network blog. 

Mackinnon, A. (1984). One foot on the ladder: Origins and outcomes of girls' secondary schooling in South Australia. St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press. 

Mackinnon, A. (1986). The new woman: Adelaide's early women graduates. Netley, Australia: Wakefield Press.
Accolades of the Heyne women, who contributed so much to learning and teaching in Adelaide, are sprinkled through these books. Mackinnon's research enabled me to pinpoint what I needed to research on my visits to Adelaide. The Lutheran Archives in Adelaide hold the Cash Book of the Heyne Bookshop managed by Laura and Ida Ernst, and letters from Laura in German.

Standish, A. (2008). Australia through women's eyes. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Scholarly Publishing in association with State Library Victoria.

Discovered in one of those wonderful bookshops that are slowly disappearing in Tasmania in Salamanca Place, Hobart ( The Hobart Bookshop) this book focused on those women who wrote about Australia for pleasure and payment. I have read and re-read this book purely for pleasure. 

Suzuki, L. A., Ahluwalia, M. K., Arora, A. K. & Mattis, J. S. (2007). The pond you fish in determines the fish you catch: Exploring strategies for qualitative data collection. The Counselling Psychologist, 35(2), pp. 295–327. 

Reading this article as I began the interview process focussed my attention on how my own context, my motivation, my histories, and the situations in which I interviewed Helen, other researchers or relatives may shift meaning. The use of the African proverb “the pond you fish in determines the fish you can catch” as a catchphrase as I began my data collection served to remind me that such contexts determine the outcomes.  

Travers, P. L. (1975). About the sleeping beauty. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

How wonderful to find that one of my favourite childhood authors P. L. Travers (Mary Poppins) had collected a number of versions of Sleeping Beauty, written her own, added a critique of the tales and packaged them in this book. A chance discovery... found while browsing the shelves at the Giblin Eunson towards the end of my research.

Zipes, J. (2013). Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children, and the Culture Industry. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. What can I say about this elder of the fairy tale genre/leading authority on the cultural history of fairy tales Jack Zipes except that his books have become 'old friends', thumbed through until the pages have that look of being well-loved/read? A highlight of my research/life was being invited to be on the same radio program as Jack.