There was a burnt-out cigarette stump between his fingers. His right shoe and sock were off. He’d been bathing a smashed ankle in the torrent beside him; his face had injuries. He was facing—gazing, it seemed—down the gorge to where lay safety and civilisation, towards which he had unerringly gone from the moment he left the wreck. Beside him on a smaller rock lay a silver cigarette case—Proud’s. I heard later that there had been a sharing of cigarettes on the Saturday night. I took a mildewed wallet from inside his breast pocket; my hands were shaking.
No time now to give way to the savage hurt which I felt; there were two other men dying for want of attention, and every second was priceless—the light was fading, and if caught in that strange gorge in jungle night that was as black as the pit of hell, fatal delay might occur. So I ran off, and left Jim Westray. Time will never remove that picture of him, sitting with his back to the rock.
Bernard O’Reilly was an Australian bushman who wrote about his adventures. The best of them was the story of how he went searching in wild mountain country in NSW for a crashed aeroplane in 1933, found it, and rescued the survivors. The Riddle of the Stinson is one of the best Aussie yarns and they put it in the school reader. I found it and brought it home for Rosely.
“A school book. Boy, you must be getting desperate.”
“They read some bits in class. It’s terrific. Come on, read it to me.”
“I haven’t got any time for reading now.”
Those occasions when she had time were becoming rarer. She was advancing into her teenage years now and far to busy with her own life to be bothered about me. We had developed along the usual lines for brother and elder sister—absolute mutual hatred and all-out war—although a truce had always been called at reading times. But now my younger brother Howie was not old enough to start school and he could read already. Rosely increasingly saw me as a lost cause.
“Pity they didn’t make you read it in class.”
“They tried…” They often did. I managed about five words, more or less, before the teacher sighed with exasperation and ordered me to sit down again.