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ALBERT DORRINGTON

LA REVANCHE

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2019


Ex Libris

First published as by "Alba Dorion" in
The Bulletin, Sydney, 26 June 1897

Reprinted in
Castro's Last Sacrament and Other Stories,
The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1900
An Austral Garden: An Anthology of Australian Prose,
G. Robertson, Melbourne, 1912? (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-08-24
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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A WHEEL grinding in a near rut woke Carnac from his torpor. He shuffled to the door and peered into the hollow which separated the homestead from the little bush township. The cart rumbled across a narrow bridge that spanned a gaping fissure in the basalt slope, and the echoes recalled the sound of gun-wheels. Carnac struck a match and ran his shaking fingers over a shelf in a far corner of the room. Helene had put a candle there. The evening always came upon him unawares; it seemed but a moment ago since Helene had skipped from the room with her big sun-hat dangling over her arm.

Carnac could not accustom himself to Australian sunsets—the darkness struck a man with the quickness of a breath. He shivered in the doorway; the wind from the ranges bit into his bones.

"Helene! Helene!" He stepped on to the wet grass and called softly. There was no response—nothing but the gun-wheel echoes beating from the gully to the sandstone ledges above.

Below him was the dark vineyard where Kellermann worked. The few lamps of the distant town ship winked like a band of jewels; a faint light in the eastern sky lit up the grey-roofed homestead across the flats; a dog barked savagely as the gun-wheel echoes cracked from ridge to ridge.

"Helene! Helene!" He stamped fretfully on the grass and blinked under his shaking fist towards the road that led to Brougaud's farm. How late she was! How cheerless and empty the place seemed without her prattling voice! Never again would he allow her to go away after dusk.

The damp from the earth, the very moisture from the trees, seemed to grip his bones with teeth of iron. Of late he had begun to hate the land that sweated his body from morning till night, the relentless sun and the frosts that came with fiendish regularity to rob him of the fruits of his labour. He should never have left the quiet valley of the Rhone. That accursed war of '70!

The gun-wheel echoes died away. A volume of sound rolled up from the darkness of the orchard—sudden, clear, vibrating with lusty insistence. Carnac limped down the vine-skirted track, and listened. A splinter of light from the shed located Kellermann—singing and picking among the piled up grapes on the floor. Carnac groped nearer, and the old sabre-wound across his hip wrung a sharp cry from his lips; Kellermann might have heard had he not been chanting through his nose


"Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein!
Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein!
Fest steht und treu
Die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!"


Carnac stopped his ears and stole back to the house. Three months before Kellermann had come to him footsore and begging work. Kellermann was a German vigneron, but Carnac, the cosmopolitan, gave him a trial, and the wine he made was equal to his own. Bit by bit, the innocent Kellermann had told the story of his life—the campaign of '70 and '71—with flushes of pride that he had not learned to conceal. ln return, Carnac said nothing; but here, in the Australian wilds, Sedan came back to him—the crowd of beaten lions trapped into a hole, and butchered by German mathematicians.

"Der Deutsche bieder, fromm und stark," chanted Kellermann. Carnac swung round in the track, with the blood leaping to his listening face. A sudden moisture gathered on the temples: the ferocious pain across his hip brought with it the memory of a Uhlan and a back-handed sabre-lick under Moltke's smoking guns. The sabreur was a countryman of Kellermann's, possibly a relative. Kellermann fought at Sedan, in the front line of Uhlans; it might have been Kellermann!

Carnac staggered through the long grass, and the moisture from his face dripped to his sleeve. He reached the house and brought out a polished sabre—keen-edged and unfleshed since Sedan. No sound about the house: Helene had been away since dusk. She had gone over to neighbour Brougaud's to play with his children; it was good for Helene to meet other little folk. She would stay there till ten; she always did. What luck!

His pain-dragged body quivered; his sword-arm flew right and left until the sabre sang behind his ears. Helene might miss Kellermann; but he could say that Kellermann had gone west, and she would soon forget.

A chance air had opened the shed door; the splinter of light was now a white beam against the darkness, and Kellermann's neck was moving in it, sideways and forward, to the slow rhythm of his fulsome hymn. The neck attracted Carnac—it was so full, so sinewy and round, within arm's length of the doorway; and Carnac knew a certain cut to fit the narrow space—a short-armed slash that would send the napeless head bumping over the wine- bin.

A dingo howled on the near ranges, and in the stillness that followed Carnac heard the stones clittering over the rain-flushed creek below.

Kellermann was talking—to himself seemingly, and his voice was soft and very winning.

Carnac crouched nearer until his torpedo-shaped beard brushed the door. Kellermann's neck swung across the light, but something was around it, something white and dimpled like a child 's arm. Keller mann spoke again.

"You creep und creep in here, und you frighten me like a leedle ghost. Vhere haf you been, Helene?" His colossal form heaved above the child's, while she explained in a whisper that mother Brougaud was teaching her to sew. She nodded sleepily from the vine-covered bench, and Kellermann laughed at her in his big bass. "Himmel! I tink dot I should die in dis wilderness if it were not for you, Helene—I tink dot I should die!"

He took her up and placed her on his shoulder. "Mein work is done, Helene; led us go to your fader." Her hand rested quietly in his sunburnt fist. He took his pipe from a shelf and tramped up the silent track under the windless eucalypt that barred out a red half-risen moon.

Helene laughed until her long curls shook about him like smoke-wreaths. Her piping treble chorused to his deep bass—


"Die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!"


Carnac crouched back and stumbled; something clashed on the stones; he stooped, and his blinding tears fell upon the sword.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Administered by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.