Authors: Di Morrissey
Di Morrissey is one of Australia's leading novelists. Her first book,
Heart of the Dreaming,
launched her best selling career and paved the way for her further bestsellers,
The Last Rose of Summer
Follow the Morning Star.
Known as a TV presenter on the original âGood Morning Australia' show for many years, Di has also worked as a film producer, broadcaster, scriptwriter, advertising copywriter, journalist and editor.
She has two children, Gabrielle and Nicolas, who attend university in the USA, and currently lives in Byron Bay where she devotes herself to writing.
Di Morrissey can be visited at her website:
Also by Di Morrissey
Heart of the Dreaming
The Last Rose of Summer
Follow the Morning Star
The Last Mile Home
Tears of the Moon
When the Singing Stops
Scatter the Stars
In association with
First published 1991 by Pan Macmillan-Publishers Australia
This Pan edition published 1994 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney
Reprinted 1992 (twice), 1993, 1994 (twice), 1995, 1996 (twice), 1997,
1998 (twice), 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (twice), 2005, 2006
Copyright Â© Di Morrissey 1991
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any
information storage and retrieval system, without prior
permission in writing from the Publisher.
National Library of Australia
Heart of the Dreaming.
ISBN 0330 27283 7
Typeset in 11/13pt Andover by Post Typesetters
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of
the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
These electronic editions published in 2007 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced
or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any
person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any
form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying,
recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the
Heart of the Dreaming
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For the Revitt girls â
My lovely mother Grace (Kay),
grandmother Grace Louise,
Bette (Annette), Rosemary and Vivian.
And especially for Ken Cowley, the bush and
its people who inspired this book.
For my children, Gabrielle and Nicolas, for their constant love and encouragement; Jim Revitt who is more than Uncle. Ted and Dawn Herman for the peace in which to write; Peter, Dorothy and Bill Morrissey, my American family I love dearly; Jim and Judy Hain of Warialda for their friendship. To all those who have been such loving and supportive friends.
In Aboriginal lore the place where you are born is where your spirit lives â a sacred Dreaming place.
It is a place of belonging, of being one with the land. A place where knowledge, peace and joy are found.
It is not a place recognised by white man's law, or marked on maps; but Dreaming sites blanket the face of Aboriginal Australia, exerting a pull on the spirit and soul always to return to the heart of one's Dreaming.
The late afternoon sunlight slanted between the tall eucalypts, great runny slabs of hot primary colours sliding off an artist's pallette.
Against the reds and burnt golden tones, a flash of black movement darted between the trees. As swift as a shadow from some great black bird, it was accompanied by pounding earth and cracking twigs, as the beast thundered through the still landscape.
It was a horse as powerful and proud as any depicted in myth and legend. Despite its magnificent size and all-out flight, it moved lightly, gracefully responding to the touch of the small fingers which held its reins. For astride this animal sat an eleven-year-old girl, gently guiding the horse between the trees as they sped down the gully.
Slung across her back was a small rifle. The two dead rabbits hanging on the saddle
attested to her skill with the weapon she had been taught to use with respect and care.
Ahead of them dashed their quarry â a small ginger rabbit; its white scut bobbing frantically as it scurried towards the safety of a hollow log or comforting warren.
Its salvation, however, came from another direction, diverting the attention of horse and rider.
Startled from its camouflaged stance in the trees, a huge grey kangaroo leapt forward with a push from its muscular legs and bounded ahead. Here was a new and stimulating challenge and, laughing aloud, the girl increased the pressure of her legs against the horse and the animal surged forward.
The ground became more open as it sloped steeply towards the creek running along the bottom of the gully. The hill rising on the other side had a thicker tangle of undergrowth, and this was where the roo headed.
âIt's going to get away from us. Come on, Pegasus,' she shouted. The black horse headed down the slope at breakneck speed, never once faltering.
The horse was gaining, and as the kangaroo heard the snorting breath of the giant animal behind, it reached into its pouch and flung a tiny pink bundle to one side. Then, with a mighty bound, it crossed the creek, slipping on a rock before regaining its balance to land safely on the opposite bank, where it disappeared into the trees.
Horse and rider pulled up and watched the blue shadow bound away. Flinging one leg
over the saddle the girl slid to the ground and went back over their tracks.
She was looking for the soft little bundle cast so desperately to one side by the mother roo. Finally she found it, smaller than her own hand, and gently laid it inside her soft shirt.
Pegasus lowered his nose into the muddy water and drank noisily. The burning ball of sun was reflected on the surface of the water before it slipped behind the trees. In seconds the shadows of the trees reached forward, swiftly enveloping the creek in deep purple twilight.
A cool breeze rustled through the gums, making the branches creak ominously as the young girl picked up the reins of the horse. Looking into the sky she saw a low line of inky blue clouds overtaking the setting rays of the sun. A chill ran through her; and the horse, sensing her nervousness, twitched its ears and snorted.
She smiled fondly at the horse and rubbed its nose. âTime we were getting back, Gus. I didn't know it was so late. Maybe we'll get rain after all.'
She swung into the saddle, jumping up to grasp the pommel so she could pull herself up and wiggle a foot into the stirrup. Normally she would walk the horse to a convenient log to stand on, but she was anxious to retrace her steps.
She'd been gone from the homestead all day, and although she often spent hours away from home on horseback, today she had ridden through unfamiliar terrain and she wanted to find her direction home before nightfall.
Pulling her favourite knitted cardigan tighter around her shoulders, she settled herself in the saddle, patting the warm bulge nestling on her stomach, and moved the horse forward.
As they slowly retraced their steps, the girl glanced over her shoulder, as if she was being followed. But all was silent. A wall of trees seemed to close ranks behind them as if joined together to form an impenetrable barrier. In the gathering darkness the sky pressed down from above and dark thundery clouds rolled across the sky.
Far above there was an occasional spear of lightning, and the low rumble of thunder reached the girl a moment later.
Instinctively the young girl knew the longed-for rain was going to fall this time. The country was parched, and her father's worried expression had said all there was to say on the state of their dams and the condition of their cattle.
So often the dark rain clouds had gathered on the horizon, then teasingly dissipated, or dumped a heavy curtain of water on a wasteland far to the west. This time she knew the âwet' would be right over their property and although for the moment she was fearful, she was also glad for her father.
As if sensing her trepidation, the heavens began to test her. It grew darker, the thunder began to rumble louder in the distance, and with each far-off flash of light, the black horse quivered.
The horse and girl came to a slight rise and she paused, judging the direction. Unsure, she
stood up in the stirrups, peering forward before making her decision. She nudged the horse down towards the right, glancing up at the night sky, but lowering clouds obscured her guiding stars.
It was scarcely any time before the first heavy pellets of rain slammed into the parched ground, disappearing on impact. Drop followed drop, becoming an incessant drumming curtain. Persistent needles pierced the girl's clothing, drenching her.
Her hair streamed down her back, water ran around her neck and her skin was soon sodden. She pushed the horse into a gallop, but the confidence they felt when they had ridden out was gone. They were now rushing blindly, unsure of their direction. A feeling of desperation pushed them on in the faint hope of outrunning the gathering storm.
The trees, whipped to a frenzy by the screaming wind, were silhouetted against the blinding flashes which came one after the other. Each crack and flash was followed by a bellowing roar as the thunder rolled across the sky.
The horse was terrified and galloped unheeding, with the girl simply clinging on, offering no guidance.
It crossed her mind to pull up and find protection but she was afraid the lightning might strike any tree she sheltered near, and she knew there were no caves close at hand.
The wind was so strong she felt she could be blown from the saddle, and she crouched low, resting her head against the horse's neck as she clutched the shortened reins tightly.
Suddenly she felt a jolt run through Pegasus's body as the skies opened up, and it seemed the earth was cleaving in two. The horse reared in panic, taking faltering steps to one side.
In a burst of light she saw the ground suddenly splinter; great cracks widening as the earth gave way. At the same instant a low groan came from the depths beneath the stumbling horse.
It flashed through her mind that it was an earthquake, but instantly the thought was replaced by the knowledge that they didn't have earthquakes here. Or did they?
The horse stepped backwards, its eyes white with terror.
Looking up she saw the canopy of gum leaves from an ancient eucalypt shiver. In slow motion the tree began to fall, roots pulled from the earth as the wind whipped and lashed.
Screaming, she kicked the horse forward, its feet leaving the ground as the roots of the tree burst into the air. Ninety feet of solid wood thudded into the ground, making the surrounding trees tremble.
The trunk missed the horse and rider, but they were caught by the tangle of lower branches. The struggling horse was thrown off balance, rolling and twisting down the slope. Its small passenger was hurled into the undergrowth. The horse slammed into a boulder and lay motionless.
In seconds the girl was wrenching the branches apart to burst free, screaming the name of her horse above the wind and rain.
Slithering down the slope she looked for the horse in the next flash of lightning.
Sobbing, she reached the dark shape, and ran her hands over its body to find it was breathing in short painful gasps. The horse turned its deep brown eyes, filled with pain and pleading, to the girl.
She clung to the softness and strength of that proud head repeating over and over, âGus, I love you'.
Then, as the horse flinched with pain, and closed its eyes to cover its agony, the young girl rose.
With the rain still running in rivulets down her body, she reached for the rifle in its leather sheath now strapped to the saddle. With tears blinding her, she aimed the rifle just behind the horse's ear, squeezed her eyes closed, and fired.
It could have been just a small lightning crack which rang around the dark, wet bush, but the noise was that of a girl's heart breaking.
Oblivious to the now gentler, steady rain, she lay down beside the warm horse waiting for the pain to ease, but knowing in her heart it would never go away.
With the soft grey dawn the girl stirred from the gruesome dream world she had passed through during the stormy night. Her back was pressed against the cold, wet body of the horse, and she was curled on the ground, her arms folded protectively against her chest.
She opened her eyes and stared with great
concentration at the tightly furled, fern frond immediately in her line of vision. The clasped green fist would soon open into graceful trailing fingers, part of the beauty of a land which could also be so cruel.
Slowly the girl rubbed her hands over her stomach, probing gently. She breathed a sigh of relief and patted the warm bulge nestling against her skin. She ran her hands along her hips and legs, feeling for bruises.
Stiffly she got to her feet, picked up her rifle, and without looking backward, pulled herself back up the hill. She knew to look back would dissolve what little strength she had left.
She struggled on, still unsure of her direction, but as the sky cleared she looked at the sun and struck out for the north; a tiny determined figure in torn clothing, with mud streaked face and tangled hair.
It was late morning when Snowy spotted the girl in the gully below him and called to her from the top of the ridge. âCoo-ee â¦ Coo-ee â¦' The tall, full blood Aborigine with the shock of prematurely white hair had been following her trail since dusk. He was an Aboriginal tracker and the head stockman from her father's property, Tingulla. He, too, had spent the night in the bush, sheltering in a cave before setting out again at dawn.
Although the storm had washed away the tracks made by the horse, he had put himself inside the horse's head and instinctively followed the direction they had taken.
The girl looked up and saw the black figure in a red shirt waving to her. The strength suddenly melted from her body, and she sank to her knees, unable to go on.
The understanding old man reached her, and picking her up he gently took the rifle from her hand. Holding her in his arms, he set off, feeling the warmth of her tears soaking through his shirt.
After about an hour he stopped, and balancing the girl in the crook of one arm, he cocked the rifle and fired into the air.
In seconds came an answering shot. He moved on, carrying the girl.
Soon came the sound of galloping hooves as her father, Patrick Hanlon, rode frantically towards them.
Lifting her head the girl asked quietly, âSnowy, put me down please.'
Silently he lowered the small girl to the ground and she walked forward to meet the horse hastening to her.
Before the horse halted, the man swung down from the saddle and ran to her. Then, seeing her tragic face, he hesitated. âYou all right, Queenie?'
She nodded, calmly answering him. âGus is dead. I had to put him down.'
Reaching inside her clothing, from against her chest, she brought out the tiny joey flung aside by its mother, the grey kangaroo, in the hope of drawing attention to herself and away from the baby. âI'm afraid this one has lost its mother.'
She stood there, her eyes closed in pain, the infant kangaroo cupped in her hands.
Gently her father took the joey and put it in his jacket pocket. âI reckon well have to feed this fella with an eye dropper eh, Queenie?'
He took her hand and they began walking, while the Aborigine collected the reins of the horse, and leading it, followed behind Patrick Hanlon and his daughter Queenie.