To enhance your reading enjoyment, with an understanding of Australian words, there is a glossary at the back of this book with the equivalent word in US version of English to the AU version used in the Dreaming Billabong books. I hope you enjoy your reading experience in this chapter excerpt from the book.
Copyright © 2017 by Ryn Shell
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Historical adventure novels by author Ryn Shell
A ghost may be heard if you walk by that billabong. Parents of lonely children be warned. Harry’s imaginary friend was real—well, she was to him.
These rural-lit novels by award winning author, Ryn Shell, may be read as stand-alone novels or as a complete series in chronological order.
7-Book Bundle: The Stolen Years Series:
Book 1. Gold: Novella
Excerpt from Billabong Ghost Novella: Admella's Heroes
Book 2. Billabong Ghost
Book 3. Billabong Escape
Book 4. Billabong Dream
Book 5. Billabong Land
Book 6. Billabong Fire
Book 7. Star Struck
Readers, this story depicts the growth of the community of a small inland Australian country town, settled by Douglas and Jane Fife.
You do not need to understand the inter-family connections of the characters before reading on, but some readers have asked to know in advance how the teenagers and young adults Jarrah, Emily, Harry, Billy and Jim relate to each the founders of Fife Springs.
Following, is the family connections of Jarrah, Emily, Harry, Billy and Jim, the 1945 children from the Woggan-Wandong, Fife, Mutta, Buckram and/or Knapman families of Fife Springs.
The Fife Family:
Douglas and Jane, (Introduced in the book Gold by Ryn Shell) became the first white settlers of Fife Springs. The Fife family start as sheep graziers turned cattle station owners under the direction of Alan Fife in, Savanna country, north central Queensland.
Great-grandparents of children Emily and Harry:
Douglas Fife (Born 1830) married Jane Mutta. (Born 1833)
Grandfather of Children Emily and Harry: Alan Fife. (Born 1864)
NOTE: Emily and Harry’s grandmothers are (unofficially) unidentified Woggan-Wandong women, former house maids, and (the official story) they are the grandchildren of Alan’s Scottish wife (who none ever met.)
Alan is the acknowledged father of his first three grown children who have been brought up as white Australian: Iain, Ted and Lesley.
Parents of Children Emily and Harry:
Lesley Fife (Born 1910) married Peter Mayer, (Born 1905, formerly known as Peter Buckram)
Uncles of Children Emily and Harry: Iain Fife, (Born 1915) manager of Fife Downs Cattle Station, and Lawyer Ted Fife, ((Born 1920. Fair skin, as has sister Lesley.)
Children: Brother and sister, Harry (Born 1939). and Emily Fife-Mayer (Born 1945).
NOTE: Emily and Harry are fair skinned, part Scottish and part Aboriginal decent. Denied knowledge of their aboriginal connection, and identified as white Australian.
The Woggan-Wandong Family, the Aboriginal people of
the country settled as Fife Springs district and Fife Ridge.
Family of Emily and Harry’s distant cousin Jarrah.
Great-grandparents of Jarrah: Jarkanga - married Jane (nee Mutta) Fife.
Grandfather of Jarrah: Kanga - Elder of the Woggan-Wandong.
Parents of Jarrah: Guruwari, the head stockman at Fife Downs Cattle Station. Married to Jarrah’s mother, a Fife Downs cattle station housemaid, Koorine.
New generation - Son: Jarrah (Born 1940.)
NOTE: Jarrah is part Scottish, part Aboriginal decent. He proudly identifies as Australian Aboriginal. His character is written as a tribute to the author’s youngest grandson, Christopher, who has reconnected with his Aboriginal cultural past and acknowledged his aboriginally.
Grandparents of children Jim and Billy:
Douglas Fife (Born 1830) married Jane Mutta. (Born 1833)
Parents of Jim: Mother is Coral, father is Alan Fife.
Parents of Billy: Mother is Allora, father is Alan Fife.
New generation - Jarra’s cousins, Jim (Born 1936.) and Billy. (Born 1937.)
Coral, Allora and Jarrah’s mother Koorine are sisters.
Jim and Billy have been brought up as Australian Aboriginal, known by the Australian government at that time by the derogatory term, half casts, who would become victims of Australia’s Stolen Generations’ tragedy.
Jim and Billy are not publicly acknowledged as Alan’s sons.
In writing of Billy and Jim’s story, I, the author, add my apology for my country’s treatment of mixed heritage children. I am sorry.
The Buckram Family
Early Settlers of Fife Springs Township.
Great-grandparents of Harry Fife-Mayer: - William and Amy Buckram
Grandfather of Harry Fife-Mayer: - Raymond (Ray) Buckram.
Aunt of Harry Fife-Mayer: Charlotte Buckram, Raymond’s sister.
Parents of Harry Fife-Mayer: Father - Peter Buckram (alias Peter Mayer) - married to mother, Lesley Fife-Mayer.
New generation - Son: Harry (Born 1934.) Half-brother to Emily Fife-Mayer.
The Knapman Family
Early settlers and sheep graziers of Fife Springs hills country.
Great-grandfather of Emily Fife-Mayer: Robert Knapman.
Grandfather of Emily Fife-Mayer: Warren Knapman.
Father (not acknowledged) of Emily Fife-Mayer: Dave Knapman.
New generation - Daughter: Emily Fife-Mayer, (born 1945) and raised believing she is the daughter of Lesley Fife Mayer and Peter (formerly Buckram) Mayer.
Emily’s character and story is loosely based around Ryn Shell’s early life and experiences. You may read a short, autobiographical story, about the real-life girl who inspired the character, Emily, by subscribing to the author’s newsletter.
…and a ghost may be heard if you walk by that billabong—and she befriends lonely and neglected children. Parents, be warned!
Monsters aren’t born with black hearts, they are created.
Who’s to say they can’t appear as an angelic, blue-eyed, blond child longing to please Mummy?
Harry Fife-Mayer wanted to be his mummy’s ‘good boy.’ When she was too busy to notice, he tried to be a good boy and please his great-aunt Charlotte. He tried hard to be a good boy and please the people he loved—that was his mistake.
* * *
The first chapter is a re-cap from To Kill for a Ghost, showing seven-year-old Harry’s confusion on meeting his father and his grandfather Ray, his father’s father for the fist time in years. Harry has been living with his Uncle Iain, since before his sister Emily’s birth, and they have only just arrived to bring him home, a year later. If you recently read To Kill for a Ghost, you may wish to start reading t chapter three.
* * *
“I caught them at it, you know’” Raymond told Harry, and conjured a confused image of a man and woman seemingly entangled in and out of their clothes to the young boy. He saw his grandfather as a young man, equals intimidated by this younger Raymond as he was now.
Raymond had defiled his perfect memory of Charlotte. Moreover, this gaunt-looking teenager had violated their secret friendship.
In Raymond’s eyes, Harry watched his grandfathers. A younger version of Alan, stared into the pasty face of fourteen-year-old Raymond and he wondered how a child so young could be so evil?
‘I told your grandfather he had to marry my sister. So, you see, Charlotte and Alan would have gotten married, for sure, if Alan had listened to me. I’d planned to get rid of the Fifes once shed been married into that family. Had Charlotte survived I could have got work on the Fife property. With Charlotte set up on Fife Downs Sheep Station, Alan might have had an accident, and I could have taken over. Something would have occurred to give me control of the property in the Buckram name; it still will. This old man’s goals are yet to be fulfilled. My son Peter is a Buckram to the core.”
Ray took a step towards Harry. “We are not done yet.” Ray jerked Harry’s chin up so he could shout into his face. “What’s the matter with you?”
“You tell lies,” Harry shouted back.
“Hah!” Ray splattered Harry’s face with spittle as he yelled. “Who do you think set the whole thing up then? Did you think it all just fell into place by chance?”
“I’m not sure,” Harry said in a tiny voice. “What are we talking about?”
“What started the payback?”
“Fouling the billabong.” Harry trembled. “I guess.”
“Definitely,” Ray said quickly. “To the Woggan-Wandong, the Rainbow Serpent is a malevolent male identity that punishes people who neglect their responsibilities to the land and their people. They had to avenge, lest he take vengeance for defiling the billabong with faeces. There was no way that wasn’t going to lead to reprisals. But it wasn’t the blackfellas’ way to kill the sheep and leave it out the front of the baker’s store. They wouldn’t have done that. It’s a wonder people didn’t wake up that it was whitefellas stirring up trouble for the Aboriginal people.”
“You set it up?” Harry whispered.
“I told Mama the cesspot needed emptying and Charlotte should tip it in the Billabong so we could get that black camp off the grazing country. Mama wasn’t too bright. She never bothered to learn how the Woggan-Wandong felt about not disturbing their Rainbow Serpent. I also made sure we were running low on logs for the ovens so I’d need to get more and I wouldn’t be sent there to do the dirty work. I got well out of the way before the payback started.”
“So it was your idea. You started it, but you didn’t…”
For a moment there was murderous hatred in Ray’s twitching eyes. “I planned it all?” Ray threw his head back and chuckled. “I sure did. The slaughtered sheep on the doorstep was easy.”
Harry shook his head. “The Woggan-Wandong did that.”
“The butcher and I did it. Didn’t Charlotte tell you about the missing hind legs? That was an easy trade—his services for a couple of legs of mutton.”
“But the note said…”
“Yes, well, I always was an articulate writer.”
“You killed Millie?” Harry’s voice rose in accusation and distress. “You caused…” Harry trembled, and he tried to pull away. His chest was heaving, his mouth blue. He gasped Charlotte’s name with a barely audible breath. When she didn’t appear, he knew Raymond controlled her—Harry didn’t.
“I’m the one who brought my mama the dingo poison while she was distressed over the sheep being killed. I planned everything—other than Charlotte being held responsible.”
Harry flung feeble punches at Grandpa Ray, and the man threw his head back and roared with cruel laughter, a sound more hurtful than anything Harry had heard before.
“You got Charlotte blamed for what you started.”
“No one should have blamed her. Girls really didn’t have much say back then. Like her mama told her, she had to do as she was told, or else…”
“They still don’t have a lot of say in things because my mum’s the oldest, and she isn’t going to inherit Fife Downs Cattle Station.”
“Well, we will just have to organise things differently, won’t we, Harry?”
“We?” Harry took a step back.
He struggled for enough breath to run, but Raymond jammed his arms up his back and bent to snarl close to his ear.
“Look, little twerp, I don’t give a shit about you. I do care about my son—a Buckram.”
He shook Harry while holding him off the ground. The boy’s eyes watered. Ray lowered him. “You are going to do what I tell you from now on, aren’t you?”
Harry looked around, desperate for someone to come and help him. Charlotte had disappeared. The bush looked menacing. The long, dark shadows crept near him, threatening to take him in their clutches. He had never been alone in this part of the country or out this late in the day before, and he’d heard stories all his life of little children lost in the bush and never found. The chilling knowledge that he was lost without Charlotte to lead him home intensified his fear, and his legs couldn’t support him. He hung limp in Ray’s grasp, urine running down his legs.
“We are going to be buddies. Right?” Ray shook the boy.
“Yes.” Harry whimpered.
“Good. We’ve had our little talk for now. I’ll be seeing you again. Count on it. Remember, I know something about you that no one else knows.”
Maybe Ray released him and gave him a shove or he might have simply broken away from the man’s grasp; Harry couldn’t remember. He simply ran in terror, stumbling through long grass and scrub, grateful he had air back in his lungs and praying that Ray wasn’t chasing after him. He ran until he collapsed against a cliff. He rested there, panting.
As the sun set towards the horizon, Harry staggered through the gorge where the Dreaming Billabong lay, falling several times; his fear transcended the pain in his injured knees and tight chest. He stood and struggled on.
Nearing the billabong, the bush rustled around Harry. Angry branches seemed to reach out to clasp and scratch. Confusing sounds surrounded him. It was as if the Dreaming Billabong and the surroundings came to life and spoke in his mind. Some of the voices were hostile; a few sounded sympathetic; and all of them grieved. He told himself not to listen, but he couldn’t block out the breeze wailing a mournful lament.
A sudden gust off the billabong shook the trees, and a bombardment of bark and twigs fell on his head. He believed that there were powerful spirits around the Dreaming Billabong that were attacking him. A cockatoo screeched near his ear, and corellas screamed. Cicadas started a long, high, droning vibration that he thought would send him mad.
He ran out of that horror-ridden bushland, his knees trembling, and staggered up the driveway towards the homestead. The smoke from the kitchen chimney darkened as he drew closer, and the wind whipped it into a drift that attacked him with hot, sooty ash thrown straight into his face.
* * *
Iain went to farewell Janice as she got into Lesley’s car with Emily to head back to Sydney. He found Harry and roused the boy, carrying him inside.
“Your Uncle Ted and Grandpa are quite ill. What’s wrong with you, Harry?”
“Do you feel sick, Harry?”
“No, not sick. The trees came after me.” Harry clung to Iain, weeping in distress.
When Iain called for Lesley and carried the boy into his room, Harry didn’t want to let him go.
Lesley came and watched from the doorway. “It doesn’t look as if he wants to come home.”
“Don’t go without me,” Harry yelled and pushed himself from Iain. “I’ll get ready. I’m ready now.”
“Pack your things,” Lesley said.
“I’ll help you, Harry.” Iain lifted down a suitcase from the top of the wardrobe.
“No, thank you, Uncle Iain, I’m going to have to do things for myself now.” Harry wiped away tears and tried not to show that his chest and knees hurt.
Iain touched his head. “I’ll come visit you and see if we can get you back here for holidays.”
“I don’t ever want to come back.”
“Fair enough.” Iain dropped his arm to his side. “I’ll see you when you’re ready to leave. Grandpa and Ted are ill. I need to go and see Ted and Celeste off, as they’re going home now. Ted needs to see his doctor, and we are getting a doctor to come here to see your grandpa, so you needn’t worry about him—we’ll take good care of him.” Iain touched Harry’s forehead. “Are you sure you are feeling alright to go home now?”
“I just want to go.”
“You don’t need to snap at me. I have to leave you for the moment, anyhow.” Iain put the suitcase on the bed, opened it and returned to the lounge room.
Harry packed his things to take back to Sydney. He wondered how Jarrah would cope once he hadn’t seen his mum and dad for a year and if Jarrah would feel as frightened as Harry felt at that moment?
Peter came to the bedroom. “Get your kit together. Time to leave.”
Harry looked at the stranger who was supposed to be his father. A lump in his throat made it difficult to ask the question he needed to know. “Daddy, do I have another grandpa—Grandfather Raymond?”
“You sure do. You’ll be seeing lots of my dad.” Peter closed the suitcase, locked it and walked with it from the room.
Harry overheard his parents in the hall.
“Things always turn nasty when Ray is about,” Lesley said. “Make sure I’m at work when he visits.”
“Things always turn nasty when I visit the Fife property,” Peter said. “Come on, son,” he shouted. “Don’t dillydally. We’re getting out of here.”
Charlotte appeared beside Harry. “I do not want to lose you.”
“I’m scared.” Harry stretched out his hand to her. “You wanna come with me?”