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REMEMBER SEPTEMBER

 

Joyce Dingwell

 

Nothing was the same, not even the man!

And Paddy, remembering the happy, friendly time she’d had with him last year, grieved over Jerry’s death.

Now there was just Magnus—Jerry’s hard and unfeeling older brother who refused to believe anything good about her. Why had he brought her to the ranch when he seemed to hate her?

If only it didn’t matter so much. But even the web of lies and deception between them couldn’t hide the fact that Magnus was the man she loved!

 

CHAPTER ONE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

PERSONAL AND MISSING FRIENDS

‘MARYROSE: REMEMBER SEPTEMBER? MAGNUS.’

Paddy (christened Padua) put down the paper and went to stand at the window of her fifteenth floor bed-sit. From this height the roar of the traffic came muted and not unattractive, the dust and grime of industry less distasteful, but descend a few flights, Paddy grimaced, and all that goes with a concrete jungle would enclose you again, you would be prisoner once more in a big city.

However, all that was over now ... or soon would be; the unpolluted bliss of country life was about to enfold her instead. Paddy had the frankly surprising evidence of this in the form of a just-opened letter on the table behind her, indeed she had actually started to hug herself in glee when Jerry’s advertisement had caught her eye. Dear Jerry, she had smiled fondly at once, so he was still remembering after twelve hectic months.—Yes, they certainly would have been hectic, as hers had been, for at twenty racing helter-skelter to twenty-one, life is like that.

Paddy traced the busy passage of a beetling bus in the teeming street below and wondered how Jerry looked now that he, like she, had come of age. Yet somehow she could not picture Jerry any older, she could not imagine him caught up in maturity, he had been so fresh, so naive, so much the eternal elf, the constant sprite. She had even told him so once, she recalled, had said he would never grow old, but his face had clouded so completely she had added soothingly that she wished that she anyway could remain in spring.

Spring! It was spring again now, Down Under September, the first month of the Australian breakthrough, when fat buds burst and blossoms froth out, and Jerry, that eternal elf, that constant sprite, was saying in an advertisement:

‘Maryrose, Remember September? Magnus.’

‘Yes, Magnus,’ Paddy smiled aloud, ‘I remember.’

It had been at Pelican Beach on the far north coast, a bitten-in bay with yellow sand, lapping tides, a smell of fish, a cottage with a caretaker, an exclusive camping ground, and little else. Paddy had been given a loan of a friend’s tent and tent-site on the exclusive ground so as to have a quiet spot to study for her finals. Jerry’s reason to be at Pelican ... he had been in the one cottage ... had been rather the same, Paddy had gathered, if vaguely, for a subject as prosaic as study very soon had been well down on both their lists.

Yes, precious little revision the pair of them had done, she recalled, and she had meant precious in another way as well, for it had been a very precious period.

Not sentimentally precious, not even nostalgically so, just two young people coming together and forming an instinctive friendship, liking to do the same things at the same time, not needing to talk but when they did talk, talking eagerly, easily and with laughter.

‘You’re the best damn mate a fellow could ask, old man,’ Jerry had praised. He often called her old man.

‘You’re the nicest idiot I’ve met,’ Paddy had returned.

‘Tch, tch, such love talk!’ Jerry had grinned. ‘But I
mean it, old man.
I’ve never had a friend. I didn’t have enough time at school to collect one. I was considered delicate, ho-ho, so I had lessons at home.’

‘And now you’re taking your deprivation out on me.’

‘I think you’re enjoying it as much as I am.’

‘It’s fine so long as it doesn’t set me back in the exam,’ Paddy had pointed out.

‘You were only chewing over old lessons, anyway, the break will do you good, clear your head.’

‘Yours, too.’

‘I haven’t any.’

‘Head?’ Paddy queried.

‘I really meant brains in it. Big Brother got them.'

‘Oh, so you have that trouble, too,’ Paddy had groaned. She had told Jerry about her two sisters, both doctors, then about the third little pig in the family, herself, who had only received half their grey matter.

‘So,’ she had finished, ‘I’ve taken this less grey matter course.’

‘Tell me about it again. Sort of housemother, isn’t it?’

‘I do dream at times that I will eventually become Matron, but that would be years away and I’d have to have a comfortable bosom first.’

‘Never you, old man,’ Jerry had grinned.

‘It’s practical nursing, practical cooking, practical psychology and a smattering of teaching all mixed up together to comprise a new diploma,’ she explained. ‘After you graduate, you do day stuff for years, then one morning, heigh ho, you’re given a family of your own.’

‘Without marriage lines?’

‘With hard work and application, dopey,’ Paddy had said.

‘Also that comfortable bosom.’

‘Probably, but once I’m through my finals I’m going to apply for every vacancy, bosom or not, with the hope that at last the C.F.A.—Closer Families Association— recommend me, if only to stop seeing my name,'

'The name of Paddy,’ Jerry had nodded.

‘Actually Padua. My parents loved Padua when they were in Italy ... cathedrals, ancient bridges, arcades. Of course I hated it. Girls mostly hate their names. I always yearned to be called Maryrose.’

‘Why?’

‘It’s pretty. Didn’t you want a different name?’

‘You bet. Magnus.’

‘That means great.’

‘Which I’m not.’ Jerry had given his rather thin shoulders a resigned hunch. A little abruptly, Paddy had regretted, for she would have liked to have heard more, he had dropped the subject to challenge instead: ‘I’ll race you to the buoy. Last out of the water buys the lunch.’

—That had been the kind of September to be remembered; it had been ... casual bits and pieces about families but nothing intimate—why, they hadn’t even bothered to learn each other’s surnames, it had been either Paddy and Jerry, or old man and mate, and occasionally ... as in the ad ... Maryrose and Magnus.

They had fished together, prawned together, climbed a headland together, sailed together, then one evening Jerry had said:

'Thirty days hath September, and tomorrow I’m expected home.’

‘I’m expected, too. It’s been great. I hope you pass your exam.’

‘My exam
..
. Oh, yes. And I hope you get a comfortable bosom.’

At
the bus the next morning they had grinned goodbye to each other. Later Jerry had bought Paddy a paper at the station to read on the Sydney train; he lived inland from Pelican Beach and would be home hours before she would, he said.

‘I always look at the P. and M.F.,’ he had told her of the paper.

‘P. and M.F.?’ she queried.

‘Personal and Missing Friends—the agony column. Have a look, old man, there might be one in for us.’

‘Don’t be silly!’

‘Well, there will be next year. You watch for it. ’Bye now, Pad, and thanks.’

He had gone one way, she had gone another. Because of the name omission she’d never found out about his exam ... nor he, she grinned, about her comfortable bosom, lack of. But she had passed quite well, though little good it had done for her. As Mr Aston, the Principal of Closer Families Association, had said, in a calling like this it was age and experience that the Board looked for, not high marks—why, some of the wards to be house-mothered might be almost the same age as Paddy herself, and that would never do, my dear.

‘You must be patient and wait,’ he had advised.

‘Until I have a comfortable bo ’ Paddy had almost finished for him, and she had wished she had had Jerry beside her to giggle with her.

Well, she hadn’t had him, but evidently she did now in spirit. Who else but Jerry would have inserted: ‘Maryrose, Remember September? Magnus.’

So that eternal elf, that constant sprite had not grown up after all... just as she hadn’t, and Mr Aston had been rather pessimistic about that.

‘Maturity is what counts most. Now take this latest assignment. It’s really quite an important position, Padua, but you look—well ’

Paddy had gulped at what he had not said but had still prompted: ‘The position, Mr Aston?’

‘A place called Yoothamurra. Very apt, don’t you think?’

‘Apt?’ she asked.

‘The name is aboriginal and fits its purpose perfectly. But of course, you’d already know about that, knowing, as everyone must know, about Yoothamurra.’

Paddy had
not
known but had not said so. In this game of getting a job you never missed a trick, you never let on that you were unknowledgeable.

‘The successful house-mother to this Closer Family,’ Mr Aston had continued, ‘will be taking over a large home in the far north coast.’

‘Yoothamurra?’

‘Yes. The patron, a wealthy person, has divided up his substantial residence, one side for the wards and their supervisor, the other side for himself, but he will be constantly in attendance, and since he has donated extremely generously will naturally expect only the best. I’m not implying that you’re not that, Padua dear, not the best in learning, but ’

‘No bosom ... I mean, not experienced enough, Mr Aston?’

‘I hardly think so. And yet ’

‘And yet?’

Mr Aston had not answered that, instead he had advised: ‘So even though I’m telling you to apply, don’t despair when ’

When she had picked up the letter a few minutes ago, Paddy, seeing its source,
had
despaired. Almost she had not bothered to open it, then—well, she had.

‘Dear Miss Travis, Re Closer Families Association appointment, I hereby inform you that you have been successful in your application for the job of housemother at Yoothamurra.

‘If you will call at the above office you will receive particulars as to salary, commencement date, receive your transit ticket, the rest.

‘Yours, etc.

‘M. David.’

It had been a brief intimation but quite sufficient. About to hug herself with joy, Paddy had seen the
Herald,
an old one, she noted, evidently by the brown stains on it wrapped around the potatoes, and she had read the ad and for a short moment forgotten her heady success.

‘Maryrose, Remember September ? Magnus.’

Oh, yes, she remembered, and she even blew a careless kiss to the paper, the kind of kiss an old man would give to a nice idiot... or would an old man and a nice idiot?

But there were other things to be done now, there was her future to be considered. Matron of Yoothamurra! Paddy tasted it deliciously. Or Yoothamurra Housemother? Not so impressive but quite satisfactory. She wondered what Yoothamurra meant.

But immediately she must ring her sisters and tell them. She must give the landlord notice. She must inform Mr Aston. Most important of all, she must present herself at the city office of this person called M. David.

‘So, Magnus,’ Paddy said regretfully to the paper, ‘you’ll understand, won’t you, if I don’t spend much time remembering this year ? How are you, Magnus ? Successful? Starting to get a little pompously paunchy now? On the verge of being married ? Or even’ ... a giggle ... ‘already a fond papa, for you would have had time.’ Laughing at her nonsense, Paddy took up the phone and dialled the office of M. David and was answered at once by M. David’s secretary.

Yes, Paddy agreed with the secretary, she could commence promptly. Yes, that salary was fine. Yes, she could call tomorrow for her ticket. Yes, she would sign the agreement then. Yes, yes, yes.

Waiting in the city office of Mr M. David ... what was the 'function of the office
? ...
the next day, while the secretary attended to the ticket and finished preparing the agreement, Paddy, crossing to a large map on the wall, located her future place of employment. It was on the far north coast of New South Wales, as Mr Aston had said, but in the hinterland section of it. Paddy read Timber, Dairying, Bananas and Blood Stock beside a pencilled Yoothamurra that someone had rendered more prominent by an asterisk also in pencil.

Finished with that, Paddy glanced eastward on the map and of all places found Pelican Beach. Why, the two, Yoothamurra and Pelican, were quite close. Probably Jerry knew this M. David, Paddy thought.

‘Mr David,’ the secretary was saying, ‘is up on the property.’

‘Property?’ asked Paddy.

‘It’s an extremely beautiful part of the state. I think the wards are very fortunate in that, if in nothing else.’

‘Are they one family?’ The policy of the Board was to keep an orphaned or deserted family together, and Paddy’s lectures had mostly been slanted that way.

‘No, four loners. Well, sometimes it does happen that
way.
People do have only children. But you’ll soon learn the rest when you get there, which will be ?’ The secretary had looked inquiringly at Paddy.

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