Henry needed two weeks to recover from the near tragic episode at the old well. He ached in so many places that even moving in the bed was a challenge. His head throbbed as though a dozen hammers were beating a tattoo inside, and his pride and self-confidence had also received a severe bruising. But he was a resilient fellow, and Eve was a good nurse. Soon he was able to sit on the verandah and watch Tallimba as he tried to cope with everything single-handed.
"We're going to have to get more help," he said one morning.
"Why dear?" asked Eve in surprise. "We have Tallimba, and you'll soon be well again."
"Yes. I'll soon be well again, but Tallimba is destined fpr better things."
Eve watched Henry's face.
"I owe him my life. If it wasn't for him I'd be dead now. I have to do something for him. But what can I offer?"
"Tallimba looks for no reward," said Eve, and her eyes followed the boy as he led the cow into the barn for milking, marvelling to herself at his faithfulness. "We're so lucky to have him," she said, and I believe that he truly loves us."
"I agree," said Henry,"but the debt is there, isn't it? It's up to me to repay it."
Eve did not speak
"I'm going to give him the best thing that I have to offer . . . I'm going to give him life, as surely as he gave me mine."
Eve was mystified, and said so.
"Eve, I'm going to educate him. I'm going to pass on my knowledge, my experience, my understanding. I'll teach him everything I know. I'll raise him from his present level of existence to an awareness of life that he's never dreamed of. What do you think?"
"I don't know what to think, dear."
"Well, it's an exciting prospect. Not merely to teach -- to impart learning to our offspring, but to transform a child of nature, of a completely different culture, into a polished member of our own society."
Eve had some misgivings as to whether such a thing could be accomplished, or indeed whether Tallimba would want it. As if in answer to her unspoken doubts, Henry went on: "There's no reason in the world why it shouldn't succeed. The lad is of the highest intelligence. Why, you've seen for yourself the way he's acquired quite a lot of English. It's been only a few months since he came to live with us, and he's using a very large vocabulary already, and continues to learn new words every day. He only needs to be shown something once, and he grasps it immediately."
Eve smiled at her excited husband, and kept her thoughts to herself.
The very next day Henry arranged for a man from the town to come and live with them: Reg, a man in his forties, and Tallimba's education began almost simultaneously with Reg's arrival. The boy was puzzled at first by the complete change in his routine. The sight of Reg working in his place had filled him with misgivings, and keeping his hurt to himself, he'd wondered, what it was that he'd done to displease his beloved Boss. Periods were spent on the verandah with Boss: short periods at first, according to Henry's strength, learning the shapes of the strange pictures which the white man seemed to recognize and understand without effort. But even short periods he found irksome. The counting game, though, he liked. Henry taught him to count to twenty. So many names for such a small quantity were puzzling to Tallimba, whose people never counted past five. After five it became "little mob", or "little big mob", or "big fella mob."
When he learned to count, Henry taught him games to play with the numbers, and the boy delighted in them. He particularly enjoyed the game when Henry tried to trick him by setting out the numbers on paper, (sums he called them), and waiting to see if Tallimba could arrive at the right answer. But more importantly he taught him that this new regimen was not a punishment, a falling from grace, but rather a reward. Tallimba had read the gratitude and emotion in Henry's eyes more than he understood his words, and he came to realize that these periods with Henry were some sort of honour: a git being bestowed from a thankful heart. Once this essential knowledge was grasped, Tallimba gave himself heart and soul to the studies, and Henry was gratified . . . and a little dumbfounded, at te brilliance displayed by his student.
* * *
Three years passed since Tallimba's education had begun: three years in which the young man had become proficient in reading and writing, and Henry declared him a developing genius at Mathematics. His English was no longer halting, but spoken with ease and confidence, and Henry was presently introducing him to the wonders of English literature.
With all this acquired learning one would expect that Tallimba would be a sought after employee. Henry suggested that Tallimba choose a European name for himself. He chose Charles Bowen, and Henry arranged for him to become an assistant to the local school master. But when the children stopped coming to school, the school master had no choice but to let Mr. Bowen go, with an apology for the bigotry of the townsfolk. Next, Henry found him a job as a teller in the Goulburn bank, but the rumours began to filter through that he had been nothing more than a farm hand on a white man's farm: a black boy who was reaching above his station, and the same prejudice became evident there as well. When the customers began changing banks Charles Bowen was dismissed, with the excuse that his polished manner and speech made the other employees nervous. And so he returned to the farm and tried to hide his disappointment and resentment by pretending to be bored with his learning, and yearning to return to physical farm work.
It was the height of summer when Jessie became curious about Tallimba's past. The whole family was in the habit of spending the evening on the verandah. After tea Henry and Tallimba would sit out there in the refreshing, leafy coolness and talk. When the dishes were done Eve and Jessie would join them and all four would sit and enjoy the evening breezes, talking or not talking as it suited them
"That red hen has gone broody again," said Eve one night. "I put her in the broody hutch this morning."
"I thought as much," said Henry. "She's not a very good layer, that one."
"I was reading," said Tallimba,"that they're raising a breed of hens that don't go broody at all. Well, not as much, anyway."
"That'd be a leap forward for science," laughed Henry.
"That'd be wonderful for eggs," said Eve, "but what about chickens?"
"The scientists are hatching the chickens themselves in incubators . . . keeping them warm artificially," explained Tallimba.
"That sounds like a lot of trouble to go to," said Eve. "I think I prefer things the way they are -- broody chooks and all!"
The conversation revolved for some time around the benefits and disadvantages of the specially bred hens, until Henry stretched and yawned. "I'm for bed I think . . . I've got a big day tomorrow."
"I'll come too, dear," said Eve. "Jessie?"
"I think I'll just sit out here a bit longer Mummy. It's beem such a hot day."
"Alright dear. Goodnight then."
"Goodnight Mummy . . . Daddy."
Tallimba leaned against the railing for a few moments,then said, "Well, I'll say goodnight too," and he made to go inside.
"Oh, don't go yet, Tallimba. Stay and talk to me for a little while."
"Anything -- about you. You never told us about your life before you came here."
"There's nothing to tell."
"Oh, I can't believe that! Surely you have some exciting stories, about hunting wild animals, or having fierce battles with white men?"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you Jessie. No battles with white men."
"Well, what about the hunting? What's the biggest animal you ever caught?"
I never learned to hunt," said Tallimba quietly, "not properly, anyway."
"Why not? I thought all aborigines hunted."
"They do. My father taught me to stalk, and track, and he made me a small spear and taught me to throw it. I killed a few small things: lizards, baby goannas, birds and a few fish. But he never took me on a real hunt. You see, I was only ten years old when he died."
"I'm sorry. I'm sure you must miss him."
"He was a good father." Tallimba was leaning on the verandah railing, his shoulders hunched. He didn't want to talk about this, but Jessie was silent; she seemed to be expecting him to say more. "He tried to take the place of my uncle."
"Your uncle!" Jessie was puzzled. She didn't understand that at all.
"It's a long story," said Tallimba, "but my father taught me all about his tribe, the laws, the taboos, the totems, and the stories from the dreamtime."
"Stories?" She sounded interested. Perhaps, he thought, if I tell her one of the stories, she might stop asking all these questions, which hurt so much to answer.
"Yes, shall I tell you one?"
He sat down beside her, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees. "Let's see now." He looked up at the night sky. The Southern Cross hung low, glittering brightly in the velvety blackness. "There," he said, pointing upwards, "that's Bulala and his daughters."
"Bulala?" laughed Jessie.
"Don't laugh, or I won't tell you."
She closed her lips tightly.
"Bulala was the leader of his tribe. He had four daughters, all beautiful, and all unmarried. He loved his daughters, but he worried about them, because they had no brothers to take care of them after he died. He was growing older day by day, and one day he called his daughters to him and said, 'I'm getting very old. Soon I will die. I'll be leaving you to go and live in the sky. Since you have no brothers, and no husbands to take care of you when I am gone, I think you'd better come with me."
"His daughters thought that was a good idea, and when their father died, they went to see the Grey Kangaroo, as their father had instructed them. 'O Great Grey Kangaroo' they said, 'will you please spin us a rope of your silver fur, so that it will reach up into the sky?' So the Grey Kangaroo did as they asked and spun them a silvery rope, so long that it reached up into the sky. When they had the rope, they went to see the wild goose. 'O wild goose,' they said, 'will you take one end of our silvery rope and fly up high into the sky with it please?' So the wild goose took the end of the rope, as they had asked him, and flew up high into the sky. The four daughters quickly climbed up the rope, and when they reached the top, there was their father waiting for them. And there they are." He pointed into the night sky, "See? The four bright stars are the four daughters, and the little star is Bulala." He looked at Jessie for her reaction.
"That's silly!" she said. "Whoever heard of climbing up a rope into the sky? Girls becoming stars. It's unbelievable!"
"It's just a story," he said defensively. "You have your Greek mythology, which is just as unrealistic."
"Yes, but nobody believes it."
"I think the ancient Greeks probably did."
She thought about that for a moment. "You're quite right," she said. "Maybe some day the stories from the dreamtime will be just as famous as the stories from Greek mythology. And it was a pretty story." She gave him a condescending smile. "You may tell me one more," she said.
"Another time," said Tallimba decisively, standing up as he spoke. "Right now I'm going to bed. Goodnight Jessie." And before she could respond, he had gone into his own partitioned bedroom, at the end of the verandah leaving her alone. except for Bulala and his daughters winking down at her.
It was the same the following evening. Henry and Eve retired, leaving Jessie and Tallimba sitting together on the verandah. "What a lovely night," said Jessie. "Have you any more stories about the stars?"
"No," said Tallimba.
She pouted. "Don't be a meany. Tell me another of your pretty stories."
"Why? So you can laugh at it, and tell me how silly it is?"
"I won't laugh. I promise."
A bird call sounded, sweet and clear in the moonlight. "Dirigeree . . . Willy Wag-Tail," said Tallimba.
"I didn't know Willy Wag-Tails sang at night," said Jessie, "and such a beautiful song."
"It's a very bad omen when Dirigeree sings at night. Means something bad will happen soon."
"Oh, that's horrible, and he's such a pretty bird."
"The blacks call him 'properly cheeky feller'. They won't talk private business when he's around, because he's notorious for carrying gossip. He'll tell everyone!"
Jessie laughed in her light musical way and Tallimba turned to look at her. There was no doubt about it, she was a beautiful girl: beautiful like a butterfly, and dangerous like a wasp. He turned away. He was conscious of her beauty as he was aware of his growing need. Afraid of the wasp's sting and very, very vulnerable to the butterfly's dance. So, in spite of the longing for her closeness, he held himself aloof and apart: pretending indifference, even disdain.
"And how did the Willy Wag-Tail earn such a scurrilous reputation?"
He turned to look at her again. "Long, long ago, only Bongaree, the great hunter knew how to make fire. All the other tribesmen were jealous because he would not share this great secret with them, so one night at the council, they planned to sneak up on Bongaree and watch him making his fire, and perhaps learn his secret. But Dirigeree was listening, and he flew straight to Bongaree and told him of their plan, and Bongaree was so angry that he waited for the tribesmen to creep up on him and when they did, he took his fire and flung it wide, so that it flew in many directions and started a terrible bush fire: the very first that had ever been experienced in their land.
"They learned to make fire, but they paid very dearly for the secret, because after the fire had burnt itself out there was no more wood to burn, and all the birds and animals had run away to other places and the tribe was very hungry. They had to live on witchetty grubs and lily-roots until the trees and grasses grew again. When everything was back to normal, they knew how to make fire, but they also knew about Dirigeree, the Willy Wag-Tail, and they never again spoke about anything of imporltance if he was nearby. To hear him sing at night, means he's spying on you, and planning some mischief."
"Oh, well, I shall be very careful when he's around," she said mischievously. "Is that one of the stories your father told you?"
"No. That one was told to me by -- someone else -- of a different tribe."
"What is the name of your tribe, Tallimba? Who are your people?"
"I have no people," he said, almost angrily. "It's late now. Goodnight." And he disappeared into his room, banging the screen door behind him.
But now the pattern was set, and for the next few weeks Jessie continued to be left alone with Tallimba each evening. Once he didn't appear on the verandah, but went straight to his room, and later he was immeasurably astonished when she came to his room looking for him. Thereafter, he felt it was safer to face her on neutral ground and attended faithfully the evening sessions, and subjected himself to her scrutiny and her questioning.
But try as she might Jessie could discover very little about his background . . . until blackberry picking time. The land beyond the creek and the surrounding slopes were rife with blackberry bushes, which seemed to increase every year. Henry said that the time would come when he'd have to uproot the lot, but in the meantime Eve was making the most of their presence, and when the bushes were laden with plump, sweet berries, she made blackberry pies, blackberry jam, blackberry preserves, and blackberry wine, and every meal was finished with a dish of fresh, juicy blackberries covered with cream.
It was usual for Eve and Jessie to go together to pick the berries, taking a packed lunch with them, since it was quite a walk from the house. But the rest of the harvest was catching up with Eve. Baskets of peaches and plums were waiting to be done and soon the early grapes would be ready. "You go alone dear," said Eve. "I'll have to get started on this fruit or it will get over-ripe."
"Alright Mummy," Jessie answered. Then, as though it was an afterthought she said, "Do you think Daddy would mind if I took Tallimba with me? I mean, one more day of concentrated picking should just about finish up the blackberries, and with Tallimba to help I could be finished today, and be able to start helping you with all this." She waved her hand around the kitchen to encompass the baskets of waiting fruit.
"That's a very good idea. I'm sure your father won't mind. You go and ask him and I'll pack a lunch for you both." She busied herself at once. "My, I will be glad of help here, that's a certainty."
So it was arranged, and with fear and trepidation Tallimba set out with Jessie across the creek: pleased yet fearful: excited as a schoolboy at the idea of spending the day alone with her, yet wary as a hunter. It wasn't that he couldn't see himself as her lover. That was the trouble -- he could. But he could also see the thousand and one reasons why she was taboo to him. After Henry's kindness, he would rather die than betray his friendship that way. But he was so lonely, and it would seem that his new sophisticated life amongst the whites was dooming him to perpetual lonliness. Of course the white girls were friendly: were very willing to dance with him at the socials, but he knew that this was only because he was different: a novelty -- a black boy dressed like a dandy with the speech and manners of a gentleman. He knew that if he held out his hand to any one of them for anything more than a dance, he'd be left standing alone, like that big old pine tree on top of Danver's Mountain.
His plight was made all the more hard to bear by the simple fact that everyone around him seemed to have somebody, with the exception of old Reg, and he at least had his memories. But there was no-one for Tallimba, and he needed someone. If he'd been brought up as a member of his father's tribe, a wife would have been selected for him from birth. It wasn't the way the white people did it, but it was far preferable to being alone. As it was, he knew of only one black girl: Mrs. Cox's kitchen-maid, Alice. She was a tribal woman and would have nothing to do with him ever since he'd been unable to tell her the name of his "skin", or even the name of his country. Besides, she was already promised to a member of her own tribe: one who was "right side" for marriage. But Tallimba wasn't terribly perturbed by this. Alice was clean and neat, and he supposed by aboriginal standards, quite attractive, but after Jessie's golden beauty, Alice appealed to Tallimba, not at all.
All morning they picked blackberries, working for the main part in silence, Tallimba keeping assiduously to the opposite side of the clump. He took delight in stealing furtive glances at her, but every time she looked up he apeared to be absorbed in his berry picking. Jessie could not really understand her preoccupation with Tallimba. For many months after his arrival at Cherrybrook, she had thought of him only as a servant: a mere savage to be used and tolerated and ignored. In fact, she had voiced those very thoughts on more than one occasion. Therefore, it had come as a surprise to her to see him blossom and develop into the nearest thing to a gentleman that she could hope to encounter at the farm. He was quite good-looking too. Not like an aboriginal at all: more like a handsome Indian Rajah, with his flashing white smile and his liquid brown eyes. The truth was that Jessie was fascinated by him, and had unwittingly turned her attention to Tallimba in a kind of rebelliion without even realizing it.
In the beginning she'd had no thoughts other than friendship, and the satisfaction of her own inquisitiveness, and yet, once her feet were set upon the path of trying to beguile him, whatever the reason, she was driven forward relentlessly by that restless spirit which governed her, until she was no more able to draw back than could a piece of driftwood caught in a fast current. Now, as they worked together, she found herself wishing that he would show at least some small morsel of interest.
At last it was time to stop and eat, and Jessie with her course plotted and her sails set carried the basket to a clearing, selected a smooth rock just big enough for both of them to sit side by side, and sat down prettily, patting the vacant place beside her. When Tallimba elected to sit on the grass some five feet away, she bit her lip in exasperation, but not to be out-manouvered, she picked herself up again, and sank gracefully onto the grass beside him. "I thought the rock might be a safer place," she smiled sweetly "from the ants." He merely pulled the chequered cloth from the basket and said, "What's for lunch?"
She snatched the cloth from him and spread it on the grass, then began emptying the contents of the basket: some sandwiches, two slices of blackberry pie, and some peaches and plums. "Mummy says it's our duty to eat these because there are so many." She giggled. "I don't think we'll have any trouble, do you?" She looked up into his eyes as she bit into her sandwich.
Aaahh, thought Tallimba, it's going to be a difficult afternoon, and he spent the rest of the time in silence.
"Tallimba," she said at last. "What did you mean that night when you said that your father tried to take the place of your uncle?"
He shrugged. "Nothing important."
She pouted. "Sometimes, Tallimba, I think you don't like me very much."
"I like you well enough."
"Then why won't you tell me about your life?"
For the first time during their meal he turned and looked at her squarely. "It's no use, is it?" His voice was tinged with anger. "It doesn't matter how much I hedge and avoid your questions, you're going to keep on and on about it, aren't you?"
She was surprised by his outburst, but not cowed. "It's just that you're so mysterious about it. I can't help wanting to know."
"And so, I must bare my soul . . . tell you all the details of my infancy and past life, just to satisfy your idle curiosity?"
"It's not idle curiosity. I'm really interested Tallimba. You're a very nice boy and -- I thought we were friends." She looked genuinely hurt, and for one awful moment, he thought she was going to cry.
"Alright, alright, I'll tell you the whole story . . . everything. And after that, I don't want to hear one more word about it. D'you hear?"
"Yes," she said meekly.
He sat cross-legged and stared resignedly before him. "The reason I said what I did, is because among my father's people it is the maternal uncle who is responsible for the upbringing of the sons. I know it sounds strange to you, but the fact remains, that is how things are done amongst my father's people." He took a deep breath. "Since my father was an outcast from his tribe, an exile you might say, there was no uncle to be responsible for me, and that's why I said my father tried to take my uncle's place."
"But why was he an exile?"
"Be patient. I"ll tell you everything, but don't interrupt."
She became silent.
"The first thing I can remember was sitting at a camp fire in the bush, on the outskirts of a cattle station. It's a long, long way from here, a very, very long way: right up in the north of Queensland. We had a bark hut, and a few blankets, a bag of flour and a tin of tea. It was my mother who first told me the story. First she told me what a great man my father was in his tribe: a Djungayi, a sort of combination judge and priest, and inspector general within the ritual of the Kunapipi -- that's a corroboree. She told me how honoured he was, and all about the special work he did, and how the Corroboree couldn't begin without his word and his presence. Of course, she knew nothing of the Corroboree itself, women were prohibited, and the chants and body decorations were all secret, but she knew of his position in the tribe, and was proud of him in her own way."
Tallimba took another deep breath and seemed to be looking at a spot far off amongst the trees. "Then she told me how she belonged to another tribe, and how my father fell in love with her. But she was beyond his reach as far as the law was concerned. She was the wrong "Skin." He found that he could not live without her, so he began to acquire her magically. He sang to her, at night when she sat by her camp fire. Nearby in the bush, he sang her the ancient Tjarada, magical love songs. On other evenings he would dance before her, a special mating dance, calling her name softly. Then he took the small symbolic bull-roarer, called Irrimbinji, spat on it and whirled it around until she was hypnotized by the sound. In the end, she was his: not quite against her will, but beyond her power to resist. He called her and she went to him. She left her tribe and went to him, and they broke the laws of their people."
"But surely," ventured Jessie, " they weren't banished from their tribe for that!"
"No, they weren't. The law said that they must return to the tribe and face the elders before the next sunset. They did this, and they took the beatings which were given as punishment. If they'd returned to their proper tribes, all would have been forgiven, but their choice was to run off together, and because of that decision they could never go back. Because of that, I have no people. I don't even have a proper name."
"Of course you do. Your name's Tallimba."
"That's not a name. It's just what an old aboriginal used to call me. It means 'young man' in his language. My mother used to call me a name which meant 'little black bird' in her language, but my father just used to call me 'son'. He couldn't seem to bring himself to give me a proper name. He had no name to give me."
"What a sad story," said Jessie, and in her eyes he read sincere sympathy, "but they must have been very much in love to give up their heritage that way."
"I wonder," he said slowly. "I wonder if you realize how much they gave up. It wasn't just their tribes and their countries, but their totems, their dreamings, their entire reason for being." He leant a mite closer to her in his earnestness. "You see, to an aboriginal, the very essence of his being is his origins: his tribal roots, and his relationshiip with the earth and the sky and the trees and the animals and the rocks. That's where his spirit is: his dreaming. Take that away from him and he is nothing -- a lost soul, drifting haphazardly from one degradation to another. Hunting in another fellow's country: tantamount to stealing game, or doing menial work for white men he happens to chance upon, and sacrificing his self-respect in return for flour and tea and tobacco. This explains in part, why so many tribes died out when the white men moved into their country. The black man was ousted from his own land and the whites just couldn't understand that he had nowhere else to go without encroaching on his neighbour's land. They had nowhere to go, so they died out."
"Is that what happened to your mother and father?"
"No. It might have, but as it happened, they were sung to death."
"Sung to death?"
"In some tribes they call it pointing the bone. It's a kind of voodoo, and it works, very effectively.
"Oh, that's horrible!"
"Of course it's all psychological. It can only work if the victim believes it will work, but when the Mulunguwa turned up . . . "
She interrupted, "Mulunguwa?"
"A kind of witch doctor. Anyway, he turned up one day, screamed at my mother and father something about killing a bird in a sacred tree, and gave his performance. After that both my mother and father immediately became sick. As I've said, I was about ten years old at the time, and I remember it well. They grew steadily worse until they were not even able to rise from their beds of paper bark. I ran to the owner of the cattle station, and it's to his credit that he tried to help them, but they began foaming at the mouth, and soon after that they died. An old aborigine on the property took care of me for a while, after that, well, I just drifted from one property to another, always moving southward, and I finally ended up working for your family."
"What a terrible story," said Jessie softly. "No wonder you didn't want to talk about it. I'm sorry I made you." She leaned her head against his shoulder, and he made no move to stop her. Her contrition and sympathy moved him and he felt drawn to her much more than he had ever been drawn by her coquetry. He was feeling very emotional after reliving his story for Jessie, and now, in the silence that followed, he felt his self control slipping away. She was closer to him than she'd ever been. They were completely alone in the isolation of bushland, and her hair, her soft shining, golden hair, was brushing his cheek. She reached out to touch his arm, and he perceived that she was trembling. "It was a beautiful love story, though . . . Tallimba? It must be wonderful to have someone want you so much that they're willing to give up positively everything to have you . . . don't you think?"
Her lips were so close; his head began to spin, and his arm slid involuntarily around her waist. Now, unable to prevent the rush of desire, he gathered her into his arms, and he kissed her.
"What the devil is going on here?"
They looked up at the sound of Henry's voice, and pulled apart guiltily.
"Well?" insisted Henry. "How long has this been going on?"
"Not at all," stammered Tallimba. "That's the first time, Henry -- I swear, and I'm sorry it happened at all."
"Sorry! You're sorry? Damn it all, man, that's my daughter you had in your arms. Is that the thanks I get for everything I've done for you? Where's your gratitude, man?"
"Gratitude! So you think I should feel gratitude, do you?" Tallimba's contrition disappeared as suddenly as Henry's anger had erupted, and he stepped up to Henry displaying all the rage and frustration he felt. "Let me tell you . . . I hate you for what you did to me. Oh, I know it was intended as a blessing, but it's proved to be a hideous curse! You've shown me sights and sounds that I never could have imagined. You gave me learning that's elevated me so far above my own kind, that I have no place with them. And, worst of all, you introduced me into a world that I can never be a part of, because it doesn't want me! And now you have the effrontery to get angry and resentful because I dared to aspire to your daughter's love. I'm good enough for you to take pride in my accomplishments, but Heaven help me, don't allow me to think above my station. Well, this is my country. You're the intruder here. You yourself taught me that much!" He turned his back on Henry and began picking up the baskets of blackberries, still continuing to speak angrily in short bursts. "My people . . . have been invaded . . . dispossessed and imposed upon. Forced to . . . accept laws they didn't understand . . . and ways they could not . . . live with. I know I can't survive in your . . . white man's world."
Suddenly he dropped the baskets and whirled around to face Henry, and almost screamed at him: "I hate you for what you did to me. You tried to educate me: raise me to your standard. Instead you should have gone to work on your own people, educating them out of their bigotry: the narrow minded ideas that blacks are inferior. They're the ones who need teaching, because they're the ones who are stunted and dwarfed. What made you think that I could profit from your civilizing influence? You have cursed me!
He stormed off then, leaving Henry and Jessie staring at one another. When they finally gathered up the baskets of blackberries and returned to the house, Tallimba had already gone. Eve was in tears and begged to know what had happened, but despite their efforts, no-one could find out where he had gone.
Months later a story filtered through that he'd taken the train to Sydney, but after that, nothing more was ever heard of him. It was as though he had disappeared into the mysterious landscape as suddenly as he had emerged from it, and the family at Cherrybrook farm never saw him again.