KEZIA RUTH DUBOIS
written about the age of 12 or 13 and not historically accurate
"Mum when I grow up what might happen?"
On that day 9th February 1940, the first chapter of Kezia's life was quietly passing. She seemed to sense a great burden of a seventh birthday as she looked up to her mother sewing by the fire. The uncertainty of the hazy future made her rather awed at their mention.
Mrs Dubois stopped her work, looked pensively at her daughter and replied "My little child, anything might happen between now and then, for you have a long while to wait, and even one day may bring unexpected changes. We cannot tell - . I hope I shall still have my babies safe and sound."
"Your threepenny bitser?"
"An' your twopence halfpenny?" asked Kevin from the depths of the arm chair.
There was a pause. Mrs Dubois sewed quietly, looking at her two children wistfully. Kezia was her baby no longer. She was soon to start school and as quickly as the first seven years, the second chapter of her life would pass, and Kezia, a dimpled babe-in-arms of yesterday would be almost a woman. Kevin was five, quieter and more docile than his sister, not very confiding not free to express feelings, but happy and sweet-tempered. Both were healthy and bright, but their mother was dubious about their starting school too early and so Kezia was kept a baby as long as possible. For the approaching event of starting school, Kezia had grown two plaits of which she was justly proud, but as her brother said, "not even ten plaits could make up for being a girl."
They say that each seven years comes a change in young lives... How would Kezia accept her first change? Would she make friends at school? Or would she grow away from her home, her mother, father and brother?
A quick familiar step outside interrupted these motherly meditations and soon Mr Dubois was seated among them, Kevin on his knee.
"Kez better go to school tomorrow. 's going to be a rush rush of new 'uns starting school" was all that he offered.
"Norm I don't think..." Mrs Dubois slowly murmured, but she was interrupted by Kezia, who announced ruefully that most children go to school at six, and seven was quite, quite old enough to commence the new life with its excitement and fun. Kevin agreed that seven seemed old indeed, and so by a majority of three to one, Mrs Dubois was overwhelmed and Kezia was pronounced a school girl starting from tomorrow.
One morning a few months later, Kezia was dressing for school as usual, for she was by then well initiated into the new routine. Kevin watched proceedings with wistful interest. Glowing with pride, as she felt his admiring eyes on her, she kissed her mother and brother, childish dignity and happiness teasing every word and action. Off she went, a new leather schoolbag on her shoulders, and presently only the flutter of her floral frock could be seen, as she ran up to the corner. Turning to wave, she disappeared.
'Billabong', set back among trees and rose-bushes, in extensive grounds, was a large weather-board house. Wide partially closed in verandahs overlooked flower and vegetable gardens and beyond these were lawns, a fowl run and an acre of clover. For the most part the grounds at the back were untended and grass, clover and wild daisies grew freely. In these open suburban surroundings the children had spent their lives, happy as brother and sister.
Generally on her way to school, Kezia met other children, to whom she said hullo, but she did not make friends as her mother had foreseen; however the children ate their lunches together under the flame trees, and so she was not ever lonely. Her desk was shared by a brilliant young boy, who was absent half the time with all manner of illnesses, but who still managed to come top of the boys. Kezia proudly was dux of the class.
The journey home was always enjoyable for two girls and a boy lived near her, and these four walked home together. The boy was an only child, brought up very correctly by adoring parents, and was reputed throughout the Infants' school as having one day told Kezia she was pretty and having kissed her blushing cheek. For no particular reason Kezia always came home with these children, neither liking nor disliking them, but always being careful to avoid her annoying childish admirer. She had not yet learnt to choose friends.
After school messages were run, and then brother and sister played. Kezia took great delight in Kevin, as an older sister does a tiny baby brother. She tried to teach him what she was learning at school, and gave him sisterly superior advice, none of which Kevin ever believed, or if he did, his pride would not permit him to show it. But together they were happy, chums and playmates.
At seven, young eyes detect differences in attitude, and young minds begin to realize that the people who fill their worlds aren't all cut from the same pattern. Mr Dubois was outstanding in Kezia's mind as being "a very queer sort of father nowadays." Indeed her father's outlook and disposition were changing, for, as she noticed, he no longer took delight in telling stories about his childhood or drawing comical figures for his admiring children. No longer gay and jolly, he seemed too tired to be a proper father and was indeed acting queerly.
One day soon after Daddy decided it was too much to ask of one man to sleep in the same room as a woman like his wife, Kezia developed whooping-cough. On asking advice the only reply that Mrs Dubois, troubled in mind, received from Daddy was "For Pete's sake I don't care!" That was not Daddy of a year ago. What was happening to the world? Could no-one not even your own father, be depended upon?
What else that happened in the three months that followed, Kezia could not remember. But after a continuous period in bed with whooping-cough and measles, she found that her Daddy didn't even live at Billabong. True he came there to sleep nearly every night, but it was no longer his home and he no longer gained any pleasure from the happy company of his children, or the dutifulness of his wife. Kezia found that her father no longer played any part in her life. She seldom thought of him, except to wonder why the sudden change had swept over his attitude to life.
One windy day he collected his possessions, silently and sullenly, tramping about, and fuming under his mask of coolness and fierce calmness, and left, closing the door behind him. The children and their mother gave vent to their pent-up feelings in tears but nobody could say anything.
So a year slipped by. Perhaps Kezia from her own experiences, had begun to understand the tangle that life holds for many. During that year she had had her first illness and lost her father. On her return to school after her illness, Kezia was very improperly put into 2nd class for the last week before the Christmas vacation. The threads which the three months absence had broken were hard to find, and often the join when put to the test proved itself very poorly knit.
Kezia was very grieved about her lost honours in the schoolroom, and very vexed, but understanding how hard her mother was working, she never worried her by voicing her thoughts and so far had not found a friend in whom to confide. And so her secrets were fondled in her own heart and buried deep in her own mind.
AN EVENTFUL DAY
After a jolly Christmas vacation, spent in the extensive grounds of Billabong, Kezia returned to school and was promoted to the Primary school.
Kevin now commenced his school life at the age of six and enjoyed an uninterrupted year, while his sister was struggling to keep her head above water among her classmates. Moreover she was lonely and miserable as all her friends of first class were now still in second class and she was regarded as an intruder among her new classmates.
One day while she was eating her lunch alone under a certain distinguished old flame tree and thinking of friendship and happiness which seemed so far away, a girl came to tell Kezia Dubois that the teacher wanted her. When she arrived the teacher told her that her father was waiting to see her.
"What's the matter child?" asked the teacher, knitting furiously as she strolled around the playground. "Your brother has come over from the Infants' Department to say that your father wishes to speak to you. I dare say Kevin should know who your father is?"
Kezia's heart missed a beat. Panic and dread seized her. She felt helpless and desperate.
The headmistress suddenly appearing, sent Kevin to tell his father he must speak to Kezia within school grounds. From the school gates, the frightened child watched her brother run calmly over to the familiar old green car in which Mr Dubois waited impatiently. Climbing onto the running board, the khaki-clad boy talked for a few minutes with his father. Kevin returned laden with three parcels, while the car was driven off at a reckless speed. Daddy hadn't time to waste, said Kevin and would give Kezia her presents after school one day.
Naturally the headmistress who knew Kezia's story was much agitated and sent the children home early with a note stating what had occurred and asking if Mrs Dubois desired to have her children see their father. With this note the two tramped home the weary mile, Kevin light of heart but Kezia deep in thought. Kevin was glad to see his father and often spoke of him with great admiration. He loved his father more than anyone else and with a sinking heart, his sister thought "If he goes away...if Kevin should leave.."
Mrs Dubois replied with a letter stating that she would not interfere with her husband's wishes, and so Mr Dubois often saw his children after school. His presents won Kevin's heart but Kezia was aloof to all his kindnesses. She could not forgive her father for going away. Her young mind did not understand his emotions. She despised him.
Another year passed--happily enough, for young hearts soon forget and the children were now accustomed to the breach in the family.
As months and years passed, Kezia found herself planning her future home and the characters and names of the children who would grow up and be happy there. But always she reckoned without her husband and when she did remember him, she could never imagine what he might say nor what he would do in the scenes she enacted, drawn from the future. Often he had to be packed off on a holiday, so that things would happen correctly; but her events were not really correct at all, for they were built upon the warped idea of family life that she was growing up to believe as correct.
As the time flitted by, Kezia found and lost her first friend. She was a quiet subdued girl a little older than Kezia but the two became very attached to each other and confided all their childish secret hopes and wishes. Nobody ever heard Kezia speak of her friend other than "the girl I sit with".
Then one day silently and suddenly, Jill found rest for her weary pained body and left Kezia more lonesome than ever and almost heartbroken, in her forlornness and loss. She too almost longed for that same peace and rest.
But Kezia never grew morbid. She was happy enough with her young brother and lived in the future. It was really quite easy for her to forget the past and all its sorrows and deep disappointments. So she passed her ninth year and quite suddenly found that she was nearly ten.
Off to Katoomba! and what an enjoyable holiday followed in the playground of the Blue Mountains!
The days passed quickly for there was plenty to do and still more to see. Beauty-loving eyes were contented by the splendour and weary hearts found rest and peace in the solitude of the mountains. Every morning the sun rose over mist-capped mountain peaks and shone on the township, waking early to make the days seem longer. Every night the moon and stars shone on the silver-leaved trees and sparkling streams of Nature's playground. People strolled late in the evening to one of many lookouts and stared in wonder at the silver-clad valleys and faintly discernible mountains. Sometimes snow bathed the scene with its whiteness, and sometimes rain made the rivers swell and the waterfalls fall in a tumultuous roar over steep precipices.
The days were packed with loveliness and care-free happiness for Kezia and her mother and brother. A fortnight was not long enough to do everything and they were very disappointed to have missed the snow. Kezia has a rendezvous with the Blue Mountains for some happy future holiday.
One day a hike was decide upon and the three set off early in high spirits, to descend a long flight of winding stairs into the valley below. That hike was unforgettable.
The path lay between thick banks of ferns and underbrush, like a dancing streamlet. The track seemed to infect its own liveliness and light-heartedness, into the stream of picnickers who walked briskly along it. Above tall trees rose to the sky like a canopy of green and all was cool and green and tranquil.
Streams were crossed by a row of smooth stones over which the icy water trickled, or a rustic bridge and then the meandering track led on, up and down hills, beneath the sky and amid all that was beautiful.
Below a waterfall they stopped and while they ate sandwiches and fresh blackberries, gazed up at the sparkling veil of spray that ascended the jagged cliff. This was the crowning glory of the valley, its boom making sweet music in their ears.
Up once more and on till the track led up a flight of steps, through a jungle of green foliage, still wet with morning dew, and then back to the top of the waterfall. Viewed from above, the falling water seemed even more delicate, the spray more fine.
As they strolled home again along a quiet road they looked down to the dancing track far below along which they had come only that morning.
During all this time Mr Dubois lived with some of his friends and often saw his children. His violent anger was wearing off. His general health was improving and with it his outlook. But for his pride, harsh unconquerable pride, the unnatural state of affairs might have changed for the better. Meanwhile he had applied for custody of the children and when this was granted he began to feel that his children were all that he really wanted.
Kezia could not overcome her contempt for her father and did not look forward to the fortnightly visits with enthusiasm. Kevin was always eager for them and was growing to be more and more dissatisfied with the life at Billabong. Mrs Dubois naturally was anxious for the family to be reunited, for the distorted view of family life that her children were acquiring was very detrimental. She longed for a father's strong hand over them to help her in their upbringing, for it was now very hard for her to keep going.
During the visits Kevin and his father slept in the same room as Mr Hastings, the master of the house. His aged mother had her own bedroom and Kezia was put onto the lounge. This was not right thought the little girl, who felt that she was not wanted. Did not Daddy really like Kevin better? Kevin had everything he wanted now and seemed to be forgetting that he had a sister and mother who still loved him. Mr Dubois had forgotten his wife and daughter many years ago - or so it seemed to Kezia as she pondered her life, on the uncomfortable lounge at night. What was wrong with the whole world she wondered.
Tears trickled down her cheeks and she felt like an unwanted orphan. Was something really the matter with her? Why was her father contemptuous of her? Even though she despised her father she respected his opinions and did not want him to hate her as he did her mother.
How many people really liked her? Very few. She had few friends who were steadfast and until now cared for few. But now it all seemed different. She wanted a real friend who really liked her, but it seemed she was too horrid to be liked by even her own father. Until now she had never worried about what people thought of her. But now that was all that mattered. Never before had she felt so inferior and unnecessary and this feeling grew upon her through the years that followed. Almost to the end of the story Kezia wonders and worries what people think of her; fretting over insignificant and idle remarks about her, wishing she had not said this or done that.
Although quite conscious of this, Kezia cannot throw it off. She does not wish to lose her guiding lights, for she would rather endure the almost heart-rending self-reproach, than to become like a certain girl she knew. Her name is forgotten, but her character stands like a light-house to warn a struggling little craft that these waters are dangerous.
It was about this time too, at the age of ten, that Kezia was fired with a desire to express her ideas in verse form. She laughs when she remembers with a gleam of pride, the simple poem which once won her first prize in a competition.
"Behind a shell-strewn cave extends,
While below a placid river wends
Its way rejoicing to meet the other streams,
The Creator's work a Garden of Dreams".
Only the last verse can be remembered but the glory will never be lost.
Another great vent for feeling she found in music, and longed to learn to play. However her uncle gave the family a miniature wireless as a gift and plenty of sweet melodies were listened to intently. Kezia also had an offer to be taught music by the same woman who the year before had given Kezia a beautiful sleeping doll. But it was impossible to learn without a piano on which to practise and soon the idea was given up by all.
KEVIN COME BACK
Kezia had been chosen to go to an Opportunity Class, so although her class test results never showed it, she must have been quite a bright child. But there came a time when her visits to her father began to interfere with her school work and play upon her nerves especially when Mr Dubois called for the children straight after work on Friday. So Kezia asked after a while, if she might stay at home and when told she might, was very hurt. So Kevin went on the visits alone and enjoyed himself immensely.
The boy never showed much feeling and didn't ever seem to feel keenly about things. Always he was subdued and quiet without being serious or losing his childishness. Kezia felt she would die if her little brother ever became ill and was waften away to the world of Perpetual Forgetfulness.
Then one morning she found Kevin's initials and her father's address in one of his books. Tears welled into her eyes and her loving heart ached for her brother. That day as she said goodbye to Kevin before his usual excursion, she sensed that something was amiss and her heart told her she was saying goodbye for the last time. His hopes were all centred on his father and there he was going.
Having cried till her heart nearly broke, Kezia fell asleep to find herself in a very muddled and distorted world from whence dreams come. Two children played in a sunny field and a man beckoned to them from the edge of a dark wild wood. The trees were dark purple and black, the man was clad in sombre colours. Suddenly the boy jumped up to answer his call and the boy and man were soon lost in the shadows. Dread and terror seized the girl who was prevented by unseen hands, from following.
Kezia awoke, crying. She called, her voice full of despair and fear "Kevin; Kevin come back."
FAREWELL TO BILLABONG
But Kevin didn't ever come back. Apparently he lived happily with his father, as Kezia soon learnt to do with her mother, for things happened quickly in the year that followed, and Kezia although now very lonely, was cheerful and busy.
Firstly at the Opportunity Class she now attended, she was happy with a beautiful, charming teacher, and a pleasant class of girls. About August, after a quiet year, the class was disturbed by their dear teacher having to leave her career to attend to "domestic duties". There was quite a little speculation about a baby and on the off-chance Kezia knitted a dainty matinee jacket, bonnet and bootees. These were kept by, hoping that their speculations were correct.
Secondly Kezia's newfound delight in poetry and music kept her busy and activity kept her content.
However financially Mrs Dubois was poor and great economy kept their requirements within their means. It was certainly hard and at times her loneliness and poverty made Kezia very bitter, sad and wistful.
About August word came that Billabong had been sold over their heads by Mr Dubois. Billabong had been theirs for seventeen years, and Kezia had lived there all her life. Another home meant rent to be paid to an exacting landlord and probably due to the housing shortage, another home would be small and dingy and maybe even shared with others. Until the tedious search for a home began, neither of them realized how acute the housing problem was. Eventually however a room and kitchenette were obtained and the packing and other arrangements settled. Very little of the furniture which had always been part of Billabong, could be taken, so most of it had to be disposed of.
Then there was the everlasting pile of hoarded rubbish, hidden for so many years in the corners and cupboards of the big home and it was certainly hard to burn all the memories of early attempts at writing and drawing, sewing and knitting, childish toys and baby's rattles. It was almost like destroying a childhood. But it was all rubbish and could not be taken.
Almost before they realized it, Tuesday 14th August arrived and passed. There was no time for tears, as while the sun lay sinking in the west, Mrs Dubois and Kezia set out upon their travels - a new home - new prospects!
NEW HOME - NEW LIFE
New home-life began with a dull morning spent unpacking in a tiny room. The small portion of furniture they now possessed had to be arranged. Kezia despaired before it was half-finished and sat on the door step to contemplate her woes, which at that moment seemed very great.
Next door lived a girl named Barbara who began a very harmless friendship by saying;-
"Hullo. Have you come to live there? Where's your father? I haven't any brothers or sisters either, so you can play with me."
This was Kezia's second friend - a happy but unreliable sort of friend, in whom Kezia never wanted to confide. They were not akin spirit.
Their friendship was shortlived however, for Mrs Dubois was dissatisfied with the people who were their landlords. Mr Price was often drunk and the children were a very bad influence. As soon as possible they moved again to an even tinier room in a small three-roomed house which they shared with a harmless old woman whose sister had just died.
The district was a fine one with many large attractive homes, but five or six of the houses were dark and ugly, all built to the same pattern and built by the same man. The owner had long since passed on and now his grandson and three children lived on the rent exacted from five or six pensioners who rented the houses. The ugliest of them was the one which became their new home.
Of its three rooms, they were to have one and share the kitchen-dining room. To make up for defects, the lovely garden had an unwanted corner which became Kezia's.
Miss Campbell had a dog named Billy who came snarling about their feet as they settled their clothes into drawers and crockery into cupboards. From the first Kezia detested Billy who was so old that his teeth were falling out and so bad-tempered that his habit of growling and barking at all visitors, made people stand at the gate and shout to be let in.
But these were unknown to her as she was arranging furniture and hanging curtains on that day, 6th December. She could not foretell what should happen from then until June 30th, eighteen months later. So she was quite happy and looked forward to her new life.
That week slipped quickly by and Christmas holidays came once again, as they did every year. Kezia had an invitation to spend them in the country, and having gained permission to go and looked forward to her trip with great excitement and enthusiasm. What new thrills and experiences were waiting to meet her? Excitement knew no bounds and many hours were spent in wondering and foreseeing what she hoped would happen. Could she learn to ride? Would they have cows?
Finally however the holiday was imagination no longer. It was upon her!
MEET THE DUNHAMS
Many times since then, Kezia has been back to the same farm to spend a happy vacation. But a diary that she faithfully kept calls back clear memories of her first visit.
From the station the family lived about 26 miles and Kezia had grand visions of a hut set in a wilderness of dark green trees. However from the five children whom she met at the station and who told her, all together about what she might expect, she gained a very different impression. She was anxious to see for herself, but two full hours passed, before they even started for home. Then the car ride took an hour and a half along an amazingly good road, and through valleys of tall trees.
Meanwhile Kezia learnt the names of the children and decided that she liked best the boy about her own age. Eventually Mr Dunham, a tall, grey silent man ran the car off the road, up a short drive and pulled out. The children scrambled out and helped to carry in the week's provisions.
Four more children presented themselves to collect what they could in the way of sweets from their mother. They didn't seem to notice Kezia, except to look her up and down and the child wanted to run away and cry. That night after a piping hot meal in a large lamp-lit room, she crept wearily to bed. She found that her room-mate, a fair-haired girl called Mary, was already fast asleep.
Kezia lay thinking over the day's events and wondering what would happen in the weeks to follow. She no longer felt lonely or miserable, but peaceful and weary as she listened to the owls hooting and the wind murmuring in the leaves.
Presently Malcolm, the boy she had liked and Jack a year older, passed through the room on their way to their own room. Both boys said "Goodnight" and happily Kezia drifted to the sweet land of Dreams.
Next morning when she awoke, she heard happy voices outside, and popped out of bed. Mary was already up, so she dressed quickly, made her bed and hurried out. The children were eating in the dining-room, calling, shouting and eating noisily. A hen clucked as it collected tit-bits from the floor.
Kezia stood at the door for a moment, watching the happy, friendly family and thinking of her own dispersed one. Mrs Dunham beckoned to her, and soon she was among them, doing as they did and making as much happy noise about it.
The days passed quickly for Kezia who was extremely happy under the sunny sky and with nine bush-bred children to enjoy the free bushland with her. They all loved the peace and pleasant solitude of the grassy valleys with plenty of animal company lurking in the underbrush. Kezia here saw her first lyre bird and dingo while other creatures left signs of their hunting grounds or resting places. The Dunhams amazed her with their astounding knowledge of paw-prints, linking one sort with a wallaby and another with a possum. Eggs were recognized by them and the bird easily identified. They knew where it was best to set rabbit traps and where to find wild ducks. Wild violets bloomed on one hillside and mushrooms would be plentiful on another. Years in the country had taught this to them, but Kezia was delighted with the number of wonderful things she learnt in six short weeks.
Besides the familiar life and scenes of the mountains there were innumerable undiscovered things there for the seeking. The children were so friendly and open and confiding, that Kezia realized how lonely she really had been. Nobody minded if she slipped away alone, to a certain pretty glade, and kept a silent tryst with silent friends with which unseen playmates she spent her happiest moments. Although Kezia now had many friends, she had not met any to fill the gap that Kevin's departure had caused. She played, laughed and sang happily with her human friends, but told her hopes, longings and secrets to her silent friends, who were ever ready to hear and comfort her. Real friends were hard and when most she wanted them to talk seriously and confidentially, they would laugh good-naturedly and say "Poor Kez. World's worries weigh too heavy upon her. Oh come on-"
The mountains in the distance and the green valleys and sparkling rivulets instilled in Kezia a love of beauty, freedom and Nature. No matter how often she saw the same whirl-pool or mossy cave or sun-dappled cave, she loved them more. Their familiarity made them more like old friends than inanimate objects.
Healthy-minded children's companionship was most desirable and beneficial, as Kezia learnt how to keep cogs running smoothly with a large family, especially seeing that seven of the nine were boys. In spite of all this masculine company, Kezia never grew used to them, and distrusted them, remembering her unfaithful father and brother. Her doubts were verified when Malcolm, whom she had thought such an ideal sort of boy, quarreled with her. From then on he and Kezia were sworn enemies. Kezia never wanted to make up again. She distrusted any efforts to become friends again on Malcolm's part. To her the joy of the friendship had vanished like frost before a hot sun, leaving only a vapour-like memory. As she looks back now, Kezia reads in the unchangeable record of her childhood, quite a few incidents in which a budding friendship was shattered and forgotten by a quarrel and the distrust which follows it. If the other party came back to piece together the shattered fragments, she found that Kezia doubted her. The friends were friends no longer and Kezia was sad with a loneliness and irreparable feeling of loss in her heart.
Only now does Kezia realize what friends mean to her. The things, poor pleasures with which she thought to replace missing friends, she realizes were useless. She now understands that it is because a real mate means so much to her and because the children in her life always proved so unsatisfactory to her high ideals of friendship, that she had imaginary friends, reliable friends who DID live up to her ideals.
Kevin proved unfaithful, Jill drifted off to the Land of Forgetfulness, Malcolm had proved his unreliability, so all those she now had ever liked so far did not share with her a sweet, confiding friendship she dreamed of. Only her silent friends gave her that.
KEZIA GROWS DISCONTENTED
Settling down to a marked routine was not easy. There were few changes and little variety in the six months that followed. Life flowed peacefully on. There were books to read, knitting and gardening to do and a room to take pride in keeping homelike. The harbour which she crossed on her way to school was always pretty, and many other delightful spots were nearby, including the stone splendour of the Suspension Bridge.
But before long, all her books were read, knitting soon became boring and there was no-one but herself to admire the garden. She grew very lonely. Mrs Dubois thought that her school friends and the few visitors they had, ought to bring enough variety to Kezia's life. Perhaps they ought - she cannot tell - all she knows is that she tired of herself and longed and longed for someone real, someone tangible to be her friend. Imaginary companions weren't anything compared with friends who could do things for you, understand you and for whom you could do the same.
Miss Campbell became the plague of her life. Her dislike began humbly with a quarrel. Kezia's garden occupied a certain area, unwanted hitherto, but which Miss Campbell thought would be ideal for growing spinach, for which purpose she demanded it. Kezia was annoyed but would have obediently submitted had not her mother intervened. A long and hearty argument followed. That was the beginning. Antagonism was cherished and grew, many trifling, annoying incidents adding to Kezia's growing dislike for the domineering old woman.
Billy was a mongrel, foul-smelling, weird-looking and nasty tempered. He was in his second childhood - old and decrepit, whining and crawling about people's feet and snarling at a word of command.
Then the home was dull enough, made of cold stone from which the paint was pealing. The rooms were small, ill-lit, draughty and papered in a sickly yellow. The front door opened onto a well-worn footpath and as Kezia lay in bed she heard people tramping up and down and trams coming to a grinding standstill just outside.
About this time Mrs Dubois health began to fail and Kezia found that she was more and more in demand to keep things running smoothly. Indeed life held little attraction for the child, who could see all around her, luxury and comfort. The duties before her became painfully part of a set routine which occurred day after day, week after week. Life was like an oft-read History book. There seemed nothing in life, nothing to strive for, no-one to strive to please save herself, boring, uninteresting self. Even a short holiday in August did not relieve her feelings and on returning to Sydney, she found that home was growing less and less attractive, Life more unprofitable and that home-duties fell more and more into her incompetent hands.
Kezia stepped out of the steam train, her head awhirl from the unwanten suddenness with which she found herself thrust once more into the bustling, surging crowd of the city. It was dark, the station ill-lit and noisy; people hurried hither and thither, all busy - no-one caring for peace and beauty, which still lingered in Kezia's mind. Perhaps only one of them loved beauty and quiet - one lonely child.
The screeching brakes of an electric train woke Kezia from her reverie and she despondently made her way on. There was nothing friendly about her, nothing peaceful, only a mad rush of people, trains, buildings.
He head ached and hammers beat in her temples. She clenched her fists, digging her fingernails into her palms - making them bleed, but she was conscious of no pain - only conscious of a mad desire to end her miserable feelings. Involuntarily and in spite of the summer weather, she shivered - she was losing control of herself - she was in a fever of loneliness and longing.
Eventually Kezia tramped up the road gazing at all the fine houses until she came to one little stone place. This was home. Here she was supposed to live and be happy.
Mrs Dubois had a smile to welcome Kezia home, but received none in return. She felt worried about her daughter who, after a brief unaffectionate recognition of her kind words, had undressed, climbed into bed and lay there an hour later, as far from sleep as ever, tossing and turning and tugging at the bedclothes.
A candle almost burnt-out lit the room, casting long dancing shadows across the floor and tingeing the furniture with a faint red glow. Everything was ghostly, the wind and the shadows whose thin eerie arms reached across the table and played upon the coverlet. The familiar furniture, wrapped in the disguising darkness seemed unfamiliar and unfriendly to Kezia, weary and afraid.
People were still roaming leisurely home from the pictures after a pleasant evening of entertainment - pleasant enough it had been for those light-hearted, loitering picture-goers - but not for Kezia whose mind was in a frenzy of excitement.
There was something that Mrs Dubois had to tell Kezia. Presently she said "Kezia my dear, I know you have tried to be a good girl for your mother. But you know I've always had to work hard and have such a lot of worries and all...well one day I believe I just did too much...worked too hard - and - well I got a doctor and he said I was very sick. I had a bad heart he said - I have to go to hospital - soon as they can get me a bed, he said. He said I have a very weak heart."
Kezia's head had ached before. Now after this sudden, dreadful news, she felt the torture of her mind was unbearable. Why oh why should everything happen to her, who had been as good as she knew how? How did she deserve this misfortune, her home broken up, her mother ill. Surely life was a terrible nightmare - it couldn't be real. Why couldn't she enjoy herself like other girls? Everything went wrong for HER, she hated everything; life was no pleasure to anyone who had no-one decent to play with, who was poor who lived with a horrid old lady and her horrid dog, and whose mother was sick.
This was certainly a most selfish attitude to adopt but Kezia couldn't see the bright side of things just then.
"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you write?" demanded Kezia in an unfeeling, unconcerned tone. She was certainly very upset but wasn't going to show her mother that.
"Well my dear, I didn't want to worry you or spoil your holiday. There was no need of that, so don't you worry now and pop off to sleep."
But there was only an apology for sleep for Kezia that night and for many nights after. Ugly demons chased her and people raced around killing everybody, and pushed her under trains or over cliffs. Every night Kezia grew more and more desperate, fighting alone against her unseen adversaries and every night more miserable.
When Mrs Dubois went into hospital, there was no-one to give advice or keep a loving eye on the twelve-year-old who was sick of herself. Often she didn't bother about meals but when she was hungry who was to tell her what to eat? Who was to care what she did?
On her mother's return she was taken to a doctor who prescribed medicine and said that, except that she was highly-strung and nervy, it was all imagination. Who could explain why Kezia grew so melancholy and dejected and unhappy? She was lonely and weary. Hers was a malady, unwritten in any Doctor's book, incurable by any medicine - a longing for the solitude of the open country and the warmth of a friend's hand in hers.
It was about this time that Kezia sat for a Bursary. Never had she dared to hope to pass, but was amazed at the simplicity of the papers. The girls said it was a bad sign for anyone to find an exam so easy, but she still hoped for the sake of the school that she would pass.
So another year slipped languidly by and there were new prospects ahead at High School.
"AND THE FRIENDSHIPS WE'VE MADE HERE"
A further holiday at Dunhams brought back some of her life and interest, while a letter telling her she had won a Bursary, gave her enthusiasm for greater study. Kezia wonders how ever she passed for she took very little interest in school work and her class test showed poor results.
The thought of a different school with new girls, was exciting if a little frightening, but Kezia didn't think for a moment that any of these unknown girls were to be her friends. On arrival at the school grounds she found herself in a sea of foreign faces. Not one of her old school companions had come. Other new girls had one or even two watchful parents - but her mother was too sick to leave her bed - and anyway a girl of nearly thirteen should be capable of looking after herself. For a girl who wasn't afraid of strange faces and unknown places, it would have been - but Kezia just wanted to run away and cry.
However a kindly girl soon set her right and in a bewildering way, found herself among her new classmates. One other new girl was in a similar predicament and she and Kezia were seated together by the roll call mistress and were known throughout the following year as girl-friends.
Francis Grahame was a thin-faced, freckled girl of twelve, who had thin straight gingery hair down to her shoulders. Kezia had parted with her plaits and now had bobbed hair. Francis was a clever girl, rather too proud of her previous successes thought Kezia, a little jealously. She certainly had no great opinion of her friend.
Matters changed when another pair sitting opposite them in the class, joined Kezia and Francis and made a group of four. Laurie McKerrihan was a simple-hearted, honest admirable girl who was good at sport, bad at classwork but much liked by all, even the teachers. The other girl seemed in the first months of acquaintance, to be a shy, good-natured girl, who was also good at sport. Her hair was short and straight, her face plain. There seemed to be nothing about Joan, either likable or dislikable. She nearly always managed to avoid giving her opinion about anything or else worded her ideas, so that nobody could be offended.
Until the first half-year all went well. Lunch time meant a lively talk on lots of subjects, lots of fun and games. But Laurie did so badly in the first exams that she was put down. Then everything went awry. Laurie naturally palled up with a girl in her own class and when Francis spoke nastily to her one day, the sensitive girl was hurt. She made new friends, but somehow seemed unhappy and dissatisfied. She seemed to have as high ideals of friendship as Kezia had. The main difference was that Laurie, although reserved was quite self-confident and frank. Kezia never made friends easily but always waited for her friends to pick her. Of course she didn't like many of the girls who thus became friends with her, but as in the case of Gwen James in 6th class they nearly all just faded away. Francis however was firmly unavoidable. She just told Kezia not to be such a perfect silly whenever they quarreled.
After Laurie dropped out of the foursome, Kezia, Francis and Joan continued together, but in the friendship there was lacking the secrets whispered to each other and the serious talk that Kezia longed for.
Then Mrs Dubois grew ill again and was taken to hospital once more. This time Kezia went to stay with her aunt, uncle and grown up daughter, Sylvia. The months that followed were filled with jolly outings, games and splendid times. Car-rides were frequent, meals were always nicely cooked and daintily served, the house was beautiful, while there were books to read, games to play and innumerable things to pass the time quickly. Sylvia developed and printed her own photographs and didn't mind an admiring audience a bit. Her uncle wrote stories and notes and character studies for school text books. Proof reading these was interesting and earned Kezia a little pocket money. Her aunt was fond of her niece and saw to it that Kezia had a good set of clothes before she left. As it happened she did not leave until school broke up, for Mrs Dubois, on coming out of hospital, spent a long time at her brother's before she and Kezia went home.
During the last term of school Kezia was taught to play the piano by a proper music teacher, became a member of the Argonaut's Club , learnt a lot about photography from Sylvia, saved up £2 from her pocket money, was given a new dress, a new pair of school shoes, stockings and a hat, besides a summer uniform for the hot days. Many more were the benefits of those months with her uncle and happy the days she spent there - happy and well-filled with interesting activities.
Then at last came the inevitable day to leave. It was not as bad as it might have been, for Kezia and her mother were to have a room at another aunt's, instead of going back to Miss Campbell's. The furniture and most of their goods had already been sent over, only they and their clothes remaining.
It was a sad day for Kezia who saw little happiness ahead of her - who was parting with everything she loved, it seemed. This parting was worse than the time of Kevin's going, for Kezia was older and felt it more now.
That day she and Sylvia were alone, quite wrapped in their own thoughts. Kezia was rather resentful of her grown-up cousin, who was a very accomplished young lady - and knew it! However her pleasure was real when Sylvia told her young, simple-minded, true-hearted cousin a wonderful secret. That was the worst thing about leaving, for having it appeared, won Sylvia's love and trust, it was harder to part, leaving all behind.
The time came at last, and her lovely secret foremost in her mind, there was great happiness as well as sadness in the day, as they drove off to their new home and another new start.
Kezia found it easier to forget than she had thought. The remaining days before the end of the year were occupied by many new interests. There were four cousins, one cousin-in-law and one charming young second cousin to pass the time with. A big party between the three friends at school, and after school a visit to her uncle was an appropriate finish to a year packed with new friends and new experiences.
What lay ahead? What would her 14th birthday bring, for this is the end of the second seven years of her life, and the end of the chapter.
The return to school was exciting, for what should happen during the year, Kezia could not guess. She found that another girl, going to the same school as herself, lived nearby, and for the first time for many years, Kezia had a regular mate to go to school with. She was a lively fresh girl, who was in 4th Year. She always made Kezia feel exhilarated and up-lifted in spirit, after a lively yet serious talk with this new friend. When Kezia found that her name was Shirley, she was thrilled, for that was one of her favourite names.
As the months passed she grew really fond of Shirley and longed to gain her love and trust, as apparently she had Sylvia's. Yvonne, Shirley's girl-friend would hardly have been aware that the little 2nd Year girl, who Shirley knew was both jealous of her and her admirer, Yvonne had everything Kezia had ever wished for, perfect parents, dozens of clothes, a lovely home, good looks, an interesting almost unique personality and above all a wonderful friend. She had at the same time a longing to have a friendship, like that between Shirley and Yvonne.
Every morning a boy, Cecil, who lived near Shirley, travelled half-way to school with the girls. He was an interesting, but very ordinary lad of sixteen, who was Shirley's second-best friend, or so it seemed, for she had so many friends, it was hard for an outsider to tell which she really liked best. Cecil was also a cause for jealous admiration by Kezia, who although she liked Cecil, could not make out, why such an amiable and different girl like Shirley, should like such an ordinary boy so much as to go to school with him every day. Kezia who had grown up with rather a horror of boys would not be seen dead with one. However as time passed she grew more used to him and found him great fun, but at the same time jealously wishing that Shirley would greet her with such enthusiasm as she did Cecil. As days slipped by she grew to like Cecil herself, simply because there was nothing about him that was not likeable.
Shirley was a helpful sort of friend who, before much time had passed had done more to make Kezia a woman, than her whole past life had done. The past was blotted with ugly days, and had made Kezia feel that life was not worth living. The present, her friend, new experiences and different environment gave her a new outlook and a great change swept over her. At last there was someone to admire honestly and encourage her in her efforts at growing up, her efforts at speaking well, dressing neatly, doing her hair in the most becoming way and all manner of other things which before had not seemed worth the time and trouble they demanded.
Kezia was quite conscious that she was a different girl from the sullen, despondent one who had moped about at Miss Campbell's. She was thrilled with the joy of living. This change she humbly and happily attributes to her friend, her true friend, the joy of her heart.
Having now recounted the years, mostly unhappy years, and having come to the concluding joyful year, I could speak rapturously of the days and weeks as they flit by, telling of the time Kezia was first taken into her friend's confidence, and the secrets that consequently poured forth, of the nights when Kezia and Shirley went to the pictures in town, and when they went to a historical lecture, of the afternoons spent together on the beach, or walking pushing in a stroller the baby that Kezia took walking when its mother was busy, of the first time they slept together the holiday they spent together, of happiness and peace unspeakable and joy that knew no bounds. But I must lay down my pen, or I shall never stop. My only wish, and certainly the truest wish I have ever conceived is that, until the next chapter of her life be past, bringing what it may, and until the one come with whom she will share her whole life, may Kezia and Shirley never have cause to part or the friendship that they share, be shattered.
TO A FRIEND
The truest friends must part they say,
The fondest hearts must sever,
But friendship's bonds may last for aye
And mem'ry live forever.
And you will go, and I shall miss
Each word, each look, each smile,
Each vanished pressure of your kiss
And long for you the while.
Each thing that we have seen and lov'd
Each flow'r, each bird, each tree,
Each place where we've together rov'd
Will hold a charm for me.
Then fare you well - this parting pain
For those whom Fate must sever,
I only say "Goodbye" again -
And trust 'tis not forever.