Twenty Five Years Ago
The working class knows its duty to humanity and can be trusted to carry it out. Rupert Lockwood, Australian Journalist 1908-1997
Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory with its dreamtime caves, Anangu peoples heritage and the rugged workmen ploughing the gush coming from the oil fields of East Timor. A stretch of ocean between Darwin Harbour and East Timor makes a route for the enterprising local smugglers, looking to cure the incurable, a lust for riches, ambitious men, their own enemy. On the other side of the Harbour, rheumatic Darwin hopes to leave its smuggling sciatica in the sulphurous baths of the Timor Sea. Faith saves Darwin, in spite of iron, oil and gas.
The peninsula of Wickham, the farthest limit of Darwin Harbour spreads out like a fan between the Little Apron Hotel and Wickham Point gas plant. The point borders the Timor Sea rising near the centre of the point, one precipitous side of which is watered by the dark tide of three bodies of water. On this rise is a sprawling castle belonging to the House of Dowling. The Dowling family made its fortune in mining and was so rich that not even scandal could assail its good name. Tradition reports that the patriarch of the family, Lucien Dowling, said to be very much like an 18th century aristocrat raised the ramparts round his castle to protect his English empire after the indigenous tribe of Darwin came to have a grievance against him and called it terra nullius. Dowling the Younger, heir to the House belongs to our story.
In 1995, Darcy was a man of 26 whose liquid dark eyes and wavy hair revealed his true ardent nature. A disciple of Plutarch, Darcy was guided by one motto the wildest colts make the best horses. Having followed with success the London court in the 1980′s in all its splendour and folly, Darcy now returned from seven years abroad a qualified lawyer and a noble presence in the town. He lived alone with his widowed father and took over the running of the estate which was at this time losing vast sums of money from its mines. To make matters worse, workers on the Dowling estate were screaming rights.
Darcy, a learned young man of good conscience wanted friendly relations with indigenous Australia and sought the counsel of an Oxford brother to help him understand ‘the true meaning of sovereignty.’ This man, a young Australian naval officer and loyal companion to Darcy named Whitlam Bligh was of a highly intelligent nature and plays an important part in our story.
Some leagues off in England, Silas Dowling, Darcy’s first cousin, a Cambridge man, eager to undertake colonial service arrived in Darwin with his squire, a young British soldier called Augustus Rochester and took up residence at the estate. Silas was twenty five with fine, slightly effeminate features. His black hair fell in heavy curls round his white forehead, his large, brilliant eyes shone with English pride. He was tall and his gestures had an almost theatrical majesty about them.
Silas Dowling, flattered the pride of Dowling Senior. His family on his mother’s side was illustrious that vied with the House of Windsor and said to have an immense estate in England. No one suspected Silas Dowling of desiring his cousin’s death but it was out of his power to prevent it, and that death would put him in possession of millions.
It was a beautiful day in autumn, Dowling senior was growing old and tired of business, the peace of East Timor had been concluded still skirmishes continued over the maritime boundaries, and the Darwin smuggling route was not free from marauders. Dowling Senior opened the ramparts of the castle and let the dogs out. The tropical air refreshed the young men. The master of hounds, an indigenous stockman named Waru arrived holding the reins of three matching white stallions. One of the stallions broke free and galloped towards the three men. The stallion pulled up short near the cousins and began to butt Darcy’s face, playfully. Darcy, Silas and Rochester mounted their stallions and decided to follow the chase as far as the peninsula would allow.
But young Darcy could not keep up with Silas and Rochester being the stronger competitors. He pulled in the reins of his horse and listened to the dogs bark in the distance. Young Darcy, overcome with fatigue dismounted his stallion and got lost in the tropical beauty of his surrounds. A frantic sensation of thirst came over him and he sought shelter at a woodcutter’s cottage. Darcy tethered his white stallion to the fence. He strolled to the opposite side of the street, stopped and examined it more closely. Wooden steps ran up to an open front door, over whose lintel a big enamel metal sign announced Makarrata in white on dark blue. Of the two broad windows that bracketed the door, the left hand one was shuttered, but the right hand one was a single broad sheet of dusty glass through which a table and chairs could be seen. But in the background, there was one very beautiful willow tree in full bloom. Darcy guessed it was as old as the land, perhaps a thousand years and owned the property by right of strength and adornment.
Darcy walked back across the street, opened the cottage gate and entered onto a cracked cement path overgrown with weeds that led onto a small wooden porch. In the delicious shade of a Darwin afternoon, a pretty indigenous girl in a two seater swing chair sat carving a boomerang. She had bold, brown eyes, slightly uptilted at the corners beneath a fringe of silken black hair. She wore a long flowing white dress with indigenous print, and voluminous folds of lace fell over her shoulders. Although not yet 20, the beautiful curves around her mouth already bespoke sadness. A grief from having felt loss. The soft eyes, heavily shaded with their long thick lashes opened wide at the sight of the handsome stranger. The fair unknown remained silent. Darcy was curious.
“Hello. My name is Darcy Dowling. I have been riding my horse and have lost my companions, all I ask is for a drink of water.”
The fair unknown recognised the name and suddenly became very nervous. “House of Dowlin’?” Darcy nodded.
“My dad’s a stockman at the estate.” Said the unknown. “What’s his name?” Enquired Darcy.
But she didn’t answer him. The handsome stranger frightened her. The young girl stood up and was about to walk inside when Darcy looked at her with such tenderness she relented and gestured to the swing chair on the porch. Darcy sat down in the chair. The young girl walked inside. A moment later the unknown arrived with a glass of water. Darcy downed it in one gulp and handed the glass back to the young girl.
“Want another one?” She asked.
Darcy shook his head. “No thank you.”
The fair unknown looked at the stranger and marvelled at his fine physique and good manners and thought. ‘If he dies, I will die with him.’
Darcy rose from the swing chair and handed the unknown the empty glass. He placed an outstretched arm on the side of the swing and leaned his body very close to hers.
“Can I stay a bit longer?”
The fair unknown held her breath as she listened to the thundering of her heart. She flashed him an amused smile and said. “Yes.”
From that moment on, Darcy remained with his fair unknown, never leaving her side and his health improved. During which time Dowling Senior, in despair went to Sydney where the Eastern Suburbs gentry borrowed his money and made game of him.
When Darcy finally returned to his castle one year later, he found Silas in the drawing room playing a game of chess. He was alone and smoking a cigar on one of the rich victorian sofas. Darcy sat down opposite Silas in an excited state and confided to his cousin his feelings for the young woman.
“Silas I have brought you good news. I’m going to ask for her hand in marriage, and wager she will accept.”
Silas looked sly at Darcy. “Who is she?”
Darcy’s face reddened. “One of the stockman’s daughters. She makes a living carving boomerangs.”
Silas steadied his eyes on his cousin. His voice was as soft was velvet. Trying to absorb Darcy’s simple mindedness. “You care too much for the workers.”
Darcy shook his head. Now all too clear for him. “What a thing to say! Are you arguing against Australian made? Or that I do not have the right to choose my companions?”
Darcy, too intelligent for Silas saw no sense in fighting with his cousin whom he loved like a brother. He calmed and said, “alright then perhaps I have faults. You’d better tell me them, what they are, so we can remain friends.”
Silas held up his hand suggesting an undertone of distaste for his cousin. “I never say a word but only listen. Though it is not so easy to be silent when asked so many questions.”
“Questions?” Exclaimed Darcy. “What do you mean questions?”
“Oh all sorts of things. Why do you talk of trade unions and equal pay? You are heir to the Darwin Company. Once we get rid of the Indonesians the energy reserves are ours and Australia will become our empire!”
Darcy reflected for a moment then turned pale and muttered. “What are you really driving at Silas? If I marry and produce a child, you do not inherit?”
“I don’t deny it.” Laughed Silas. It was a hard and bitter laugh. “But to lose my right, my reputation and standing to a stockman’s daughter. Never!” Silas slammed down the brandy glass and it shattered into pieces.
Darcy was angry and felt betrayed by his cousin. “I invited you here in good faith. It seems you....
But before Darcy could finish, Silas shot up from the chair and grasped Darcy by the throat. “I’ll finish you myself!” Then sat back down again his chest heaving in anger.
After Darcy’s sudden and bitter departure, Silas rose from the chair. It was noon. Augustus Rochester was waiting for him in the mansion’s lavish hallway with news. Silas looked at Rochester in earnest . “Well brother,” asked Silas. “What news have you of our knaves?”
“Three have arrived,” answered Rochester.
“Where are they?”
“At the Little Apron Hotel on the other side of the point.”
“Who are the two absent?”
“Master Jones Junior of Alice Springs and Friar
Hasluck, his assistant. Two good gunslingers.” “And the other affair?” asked Silas.
“The priest knows.” Answered Rochester.
“About the child?”
“About the child.”
“Have you questioned the priest?”
“Yes, but he is mute.” Confessed Rochester.
“How much did you offer him?”
“One hundred thousand for the papers.”
“He’s the only one who knows where the birth papers are. Without them, this enterprise is worthless.” Silas paced rapidly up and down the hall. “I wish to speak to him myself. You are quite sure it is my cousin’s child?”
“Our confidante’s never lie.”
Silas turned away from Rochester, thinking. He seemed smug now as Rochester moved in behind and stomped down the hallway. They are gone. After a moment, Bligh awkwardly emerges from the shadowy recesses of the grand hallway. The colour drained from his face.