A Change Of gender And Beyond
Chapter 1
by F.W. Hinton
          ' Luckham Downs'  a ten thousand acre cattle station west of
          the Gregory Range  was  owned and run by Angus Maclaren. His
          only son Ian,  and  two  daughters, Jane and Susan were born
          there. Ian remained at the station most of his life, but his
          sisters moved to  the  city the day after they were married.
          At the age of twenty Ian married Rachel Carlyle.

          In Richmond, where Rachel had grown up, her father owned the
          general store, had  been  moderately  well-off  and popular.
          Rachel, the youngest of three girls,

          had always been  thought of as being too pretty to remain in
          a sleepy, North  Queensland  out-back town, whose population
          never passed a thousand souls.

          At nineteen, the  mystery  was,  that Rachel Carlyle had not
          married. It was  rumoured,  around  her home town that she'd
          had  proposals  of   marriage  from  station  owners,  store
          keepers, and a  cane farmer from the coast. Her father, when
          asked about this  on  one of his nightly visits to the local
          hotel simply said,

          " Although women  of  nineteen  were  thought  of  as  being
          spinsters by some  folk.  It  was  common  for  girls in his
          family not to  marry  young."  He put this down to the fact,
          that  his  grandmother,   married  at  sixteen,  bore  seven
          children in as many years and was dead at twenty seven.

          Rachel, herself was  not  concerned.  She was young, strong,
          and very much  alive.  She  liked  people,  and usually they
          liked her. Marriage  was  there, in the future, but she made
          no effort to  find  it,  until Ian Maclaren came to town for
          the Saturday night  dance  and  supplies  for  the  Station.
          Within a month  they  were  married,  and Ian took his bride
          home to Luckham Downs.

          The aged Homestead  was  long  and painted white. There were
          plenty of windows  on the ground floor, opening on to a wide
          veranda that ran all around the house. Red, white and purple
          bougainvillea, red poinsettias,  yellow  alamanda bells, and
          red, fragile frangipani  covered  the  house.  The homestead
          looked a happy garden, a house of flowers.

          Inside it was  richly  decorated.  Most of the furniture was
          antique. Oil paintings  in  gold  frames hung in every room,
          and thick Persian rugs lay on every floor. There were plenty
          of comfortable leather armchairs, and in one room a roll-top
          desk, where Ian's father sat poring over the Station books.

          Every weekend Ian  would take Rachel dancing in the Richmond
          Town Hall. Their  friends  thought  they  were  a marvellous
          couple, who needed  only  a  baby  to  make their marriage a
          perfect union. Certainly Rachel adored children, and nothing
          pleased her more, than to nurse her sister's babies whenever
          the opportunity arose.

          Every time she  felt  her husband's sperm flood her womb she
          prayed for the  miracle of fertility. Her prayers, it seemed
          had been answered.  One  afternoon before the dance, she had
          gone to the doctors and learned she was pregnant. She waited
          patiently to go back to the homestead to share the news with
          Ian, not daring  to  tell  him during the dance, for fear of
          causing too much excitement.

          For  the  past   few   years   the   Station  had  run  into
          difficulties, and Angus  Maclaren  had been forced to borrow
          heavily from the banks.

          Luckham Downs had  suffered  a  long  drought, then came the
          biggest wet they had seen in years. It had taken Ian and his
          father by surprise, and most of the stock had been lost.

          Rachel was fond  of  her  father-in-law.  She  felt that the
          worry of the  Station,  and the relentless harassment by the
          banks, had caused  his  untimely death more than his nightly
          nip of rum.

          Her pleasure in  the coming baby had been little more than a
          tender seedling, when  the fears of the isolation of Luckham
          Downs began to  spring  up  all  around. It absorbed all her
          thoughts, all her  days.  Now  she  understood  why Jane and
          Susan had moved  to the city, never wanting to return to the
          loneliness of an out-back station.

          Her pregnancy, which  recurring nausea forced her to notice,
          had seemed little  more  than a medical term, like mumps, or
          tonsillitis,  a  swollen   condition  with  a  predetermined
          outcome. Ilarra, Joey  the station hand's lubra, who ran the
          homestead had given  her  pods  to  chew on and the sickness
          went away.

          Ian sat on the edge of his wife's bed,

          " Ilarra's delivered  plenty  of  babies," he told her, when
          she began to  cry  with  worry,  "  she  had a baby---Joey's
          child. It died in a flood. She can't have any more." ".

          " I hate  this place," Rachel cried, turning on her husband,
          " I need a civilized world. A doctor, people, a hospital."

          When Ian promised  faithfully  to  take  her to the Richmond
          Base Hospital, long  before  the  baby  was  due she stopped
          crying. She tried  hard  to  put  to  put the worry of being
          alone in the out-back out of her mind.

          At first it seemed like nothing at all. Then came the merest
          trembling of a  leaf  under  the  white smock Ian had bought
          her. Rachel held  her  breath.  It  did not come again until
          hours later when she lowered herself into the warm bath that
          Ilarra had prepared.

          This time the  sensation was just as delicate but prolonged.
          Tendrils, curling, relaxing under the gentle movement of the
          water, that seemed  to  tilt  at  breast and thigh. She felt
          faint. Instinctively her  hands went to the roundness of her
          belly,  covering, protecting.   Something  was  turning  and
          stretching inside her.  The  thing she referred to as a lump
          in her thoughts had become a baby, her baby, hers and Ian's.

          " We'll be  all  right,"  she  whispered  to the baby in her
          womb, " soon your daddy will take us to the hospital. I know
          he has arranged everything.

          A week before  the  baby  was due the big wet came down from
          the North with  a  force  that broke all records.  Roads and
          tracks were impassable,  the  river  broke  it's  banks, the
          homestead surrounded by water. Food that had been stored was
          rationed. Ian moved  Rachel and Ilarra into the bedroom that
          was Angus Maclaren's.  The  station hands took refuge on the
          verandah. For hours  Ian walked up and down the long passage
          way with Rachel, trying to help ease her labor pains.

          When Ilarra thought  her time was near she sent Ian and Joey
          away, making her husband, who obeyed her every word, promise
          to keep Ian out of the house until sent for.

          She gave Rachel  pods to chew on to ease the pains while she
          arranged things as  best  she  could.  She worked around her
          patient, singing and  laughing  in  an  effort  to make it a
          joyous affair.

          For two humid days and two freezing nights Ilarra battled to
          save the life  of  Rachel Maclaren and deliver her child. On
          the third night,  Pauline  was  born, and only after she was
          sure the baby would live, did Ilarra attend to it's mother.

          Ian was sent  for,  and  with  tears of relief and happiness
          that streamed down his cheeks he picked up his daughter.

          " Next time,"  he  said,  "  I'll have me a son, but for now
          Pauline Maclaren you'll do just fine."

          The day George  Maclaren was born Ian was over the moon with
          excitement. At last, he thought, there'll be someone to take
          over the Downs, someone to carry on the name of Maclaren.

          There was plenty  of  room  at  the  homestead. It was small
          enough to be snug, large enough to be airy, with spare rooms
          for visitors, including  Rachel's  father.  With a boy and a
          girl Ian felt  his  family  was  complete.  He thought about
          extending the property  and  improving  the  strain  of  his
          cattle. But Rachel  fell pregnant again and Jillian Maclaren
          was born on  the tenth of March, two years to the day of the
          birth of her brother in nineteen twenty eight.

          Sitting on the verandah pondering his problems Ian realized,
          that despite their being careful Rachel was falling pregnant
          every two years.  Luckham Downs was almost free of debt, and
          Ian felt that providing the weather held and a with a little
          luck, next year would see them out of the red.

          Nineteen thirty two  came  and  went.  Both  Ian  and Rachel
          thankful  that there  was  no  baby  on  the  way,  although
          secretly Rachel longed for a baby in her arms.

          In Nineteen thirty nine World War two began. Ian heard about
          it, but busy  with the Station never gave it a great deal of
          thought. In the summer of forty the battle of Britian began.
          News drifted through  from  the Richmond and the coast. They
          read of the  German  Luftwaffe.  How  it  swept over England
          destroying everything. Of the destruction of Royal Air Force
          planes on the ground. Ian bought a wireless set in Richmond,
          and when the  news crackled through, it told of London being
          bombed out of existence, and of the German night attacks.

          Rachel received a  letter from her sister Lisa in Melbourne.
          She  told of  the  fevered  digging  of  air-raid  shelters,
          testing of sirens,  and  sand-bagging of city buildings. All
          ominous  signs  that   war  might  come  to  the  shores  of
          Australia.  Both Lisa  and  her  other  sister Katrina asked
          Rachel if rumours of invasion of the Northern Territory were

          Ian wanted to be in on the fight. He didn't want to stand on
          the perimeter. He wanted to get in his own blows, and talked
          to Rachel about joining up.

          " You're doing  your  job.  You're helping the war effort by
          running a cattle  station. It is an essential industry," she
          argued, " besides,"  she  said  in desperation, " you're too

          " I can't  agree with that," he returned quickly, angered at
          the thought of  being  too  old, " George, as young as he is
          can run this place, with the help of Joey and Ilarra."

          Ian Maclaren's last  leave  was  in  December Nineteen forty
          one. When he  returned  to his unit they were sent to Darwin
          to man the  coastal defences. Early in February of Forty two
          an island coast watcher radioed a warning.

          " An unusually  large  formation  of aircraft are headed for
          Darwin," the radio  crackled, " identity suspect. Visibility
          not clear."

          The handful of  coastal  defence  guns  were  of  little use
          against  the hundreds  of  fighters  and  dive  bombers  the
          Japanese  aircraft  carriers  had  launched.  The  few  tiny
          Kittyhawks on the  ground  were wiped out. Even the hospital
          with it's Red  Cross  sign hurriedly painted on the roof was
          cut in half.  Wharves  and  Bases were destroyed, and as Ian
          Maclaren worked his  gun  he  realized  the  hell  people in
          England must have  suffered.  The  planes  from the carriers
          dived and dived  again and again. Hundreds were killed, even
          more were injured,  and  Ian  Maclaren  was  never  heard of

          Rachel Maclaren gave  birth  to Shaun and Casey Ann the year
          their father died.  This  time  there was no Ian to hold her
          hand. No one  to  walk up and down with, and no pods to ease
          the pain.

          There   wasn't  even   Ilarra   who   did   everything,   so
          matter-of-factly. It was Ilarra's chuckle that Rachel missed
          most of all,  the way she used to make it a happy affair, an
          orgy of creation.

          Rachel lay on a narrow hospital bed covered only with sheet.
          The room seemed  suffocating,  the window too small to allow
          the air to circulate. Her hair was spread out on the pillow,
          wet with sweat  at  the roots. A nurse came in and wiped her
          small-featured  pale face  with  a  damp  cloth,  as  Rachel
          murmured her appreciation.

          Wondering why her  patient's pains persisted so long with no
          labor beginning, and  the  intervals  between  pains  evenly
          spaced, when they  should  be shortening, the nurse spoke to
          the doctor.

          " How long do you think it will be?"

          " Can't tell,"  the  laconic  doctor  answered  stroking his
          narrow chin, " I'll examine her again in half an hour."

          Darkness lay beyond the windows when the surgeon entered the
          operating room. At  the edges of white light the world was a
          sombre green. Green  rumpled  cotton,  green  refracted from
          bottles in the  cabinet.  Green  the  sterile  cloth  on the
          table, where the  tools  were set out like a palace banquet.
          The two assistants  waited  while  Dr Eastman looked up, his
          eyebrows rising like  parentheses  above  his white mask. He
          brought down his  knife  into  a spurt of fresh blood, which
          was sucked up  and  sponged  away. The Caesarean section had

          It was midday  when  John  Carlyle  walked  wearily into the
          Richmond Base Hospital.  He  was  Rachel's closest relative,
          and the hospital  Matron, after consultation with Dr Eastman
          decided he should be sent for.

          " Mr Carlyle,  I'm  glad  you  came," the doctor said coming
          towards him, "  I  suggest  you  allow us to send for Father

          " Is there danger?" John asked, his pale face flushed, as he
          let out a gasp, half horror, half despair, " her mother died
          in childbirth," he added.

          " Not your  daughter,"  Dr  Eastman added hastily, " I spoke
          for the children.  Should  they  not  live,  we thought they
          should be baptized. I know Rachel would want it that way."

          " Thank you,"  John  said with a sigh of relief as he sat on
          the seat and rested his head on his hands.

          " I'm sorry  you  jumped  to the conclusion that it was your
          daughter fighting for  her life. She has had a very bad time
          of it. There  was  danger of a breach, and we were forced to
          do a Caesarean.  We  tried not to.  There wasn't enough room
          for the twins.  Her spine is the main problem. She can never
          have any more children, and her age hasn't helped."

          " Will she recover?"

          " It's going  to  take  a very long time and a great deal of
          will power."

          " The twins?"

          " There chances  are  slim,  especially  the eldest one. The
          Matron and I thought they should be baptized, just in case."

          " Will the Priest be here before----?"

          " Sometimes Mr  Carlyle,"  Dr Eastman continued, not willing
          to answer his  unspoken question, " I am at death beds where
          the Priest is  sent  for in the in the desperate need to the
          fleeting spirit. I am often tempted to ask myself, what good
          can another man,  Priest  though  he  may be do, at this the
          twelfth hour where  accounts  have  not been previously made

          It was late  evening when Father Saunders, John Carlyle, the
          nurse and Matron  gathered in the tiny chapel at the rear of
          the base hospital.  The Matron carrying the two tiny bundles
          wrapped in warm pink blankets.

          The service commenced. The Priest took the first born child.

          " What name?" he asked, dipping his fingers in the waters of
          the Font.

          John Carlyle had never given much thought to names. His wife
          had arranged all  the children's names long before they were
          born. He suddenly remembered Ian Maclaren.

          " Shaun!" he said loudly.

          " They're twin  girls  Mr  Carlyle," the nurse proclaimed, "
          I'm sorry, I thought you knew."

          There was a pause.

          The Priest spoke again. " Name this child!"

          " Shaun!" John  declared  firmly,  "  it  is  the  name  Ian
          Maclaren wanted. The other baby will be named Casey Ann."

          The Matron and  nurse  looked  at  him  in  amazement.  Each
          believing  that the  twins  should  have  been  given  their
          mother's names.

          John Carlyle was  not  allowed to see his daughter until the
          following morning. His  eyes  glistened as he looked down on
          her. Her face,  white  as  the  sheets,  but  her  eyes were
          triumphant, filled with  a  tender contrition. He kissed her
          forehead and stroked  her  hair.  She saw his emotion, and a
          faint smile parted her lips.

          " I bore  these  two badly father, but I'm thankful it's all
          over. How thankful,  none  can know only those who have been
          through it."

          " I think  they  can,"  he  said, as tears streamed down his
          weather-beaten face, "  I  never  knew what thankfulness was
          until yesterday."

          " That the babies are safe and baptized?"

          " That you're  safe  Rachel. I never really knew what prayer
          was before."

          " Why did  you  give the girls those names, they sound as if
          they belong to boys?"

          " Ian asked me."

          " Ian!---When?---no. It's  just not possible. They sent me a
          telegram. You read it. It said he was killed in action. Even
          you knew he  was  on the guns in Darwin. How could you stand
          there and tell me , that he told you to give twin girls boys
          names. I never thought you could be so wicked."

          She turned from her father and began to sob. The nurse stood
          just inside the door.

          " I'm not  wicked  or  cruel Rachel, you know me better than
          that---it was just  before  he  went  back  after  his  last

          " I don't  believe  you,"  she  said,  turning  to  face her
          father,  "  he  couldn't  have  known,  couldn't  have  even

          He sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her hair.

          " Ian came  to  see me --on his way back to the barracks. He
          talked about you  and  the children, made me promise to look
          after you. From  the way he spoke it seemed as if he knew he
          would not be  coming  back.  I told him he ought to go Bush.
          Told him to  wait  until  after  the war was over. He became
          angry. Told me  I should be ashamed for even thinking such a
          thing. He said  he  could never let his mates down no matter
          what the cost.

          Before he left  he  made  me  promise  that  if you did have
          another baby, boy  or  girl  it  would  be  named  after his
          Grandfather Shaun Casey Maclaren. I added Ann. It was as you
          know your mother's name."

          With  tears running  down  her  cheeks  Rachel  clasped  her
          father's hand and closed her eyes.

          " She'll sleep contented now," the nurse told him as she led
          him out of  the  room,  "  the  doctor  wants to talk to you
          tomorrow. There are things that need to be discussed.

          Rachel slept fitfully.  The  nagging  pain  in  her back and
          sides did not  allow  her  to recall the memories in detail.
          They passed through  her  mind like a series of pictures, in
          an unconnected way  of random glances through an illustrated

          She saw at  one  time,  the  Homestead at Luckham Downs. The
          flowers that surrounded the house and had bloomed nearly all
          the year round.  She  remembered  the dances, where in lan's
          arms she had  danced the night away. Then there was Pauline,
          dancing with her  father,  while she held Jillian, asleep in
          her arms.

          With tears that ran hot down her cheeks from closed eyes she
          remembered the baby  they had lost. The race to the doctors,
          of hearing him  telling  her  husband  that she had a slight
          form of paralysis at the base of her spine.

          " Nothing to  worry  about,"  she  remembered  him saying, "
          providing she doesn't have any more children."

          For a little while there was a deep darkness around her. She
          tried to open  her eyes. It was then she saw Ian standing at
          the foot of  the bed, still in his uniform. She held out her
          hands, begged him  to  hold  her. He just smiled, then waved
          goodbye as he turned away.

          It was early  morning  when  John Carlyle came in to see his
          daughter. Rachel tried  to  sit  up  to  greet him. Her legs
          seemed to have  lost all feeling and she found it impossible
          to move. A  nurse  came  in  and  helped  her to sit up. The
          matron placed the  two  babies in Rachel's arms. John looked
          at the twins  and  knew  that  Ian  had given them the right

          " There is  something  we  must  talk  about,"  he  told his
          daughter when at last they were on their own.

          " I know  all  about  it," Rachel interrupted, " it happened
          the last time  I  was  pregnant.  I should have been treated
          then. I will walk again---one day. I will get better, you'll

          " The babies?"

          " They're not  going to be put up for adoption," she shouted
          before her father  could continue, " they're mine. No one is
          going to take  them from me. I don't care what happens. I'll
          manage somehow. Please  Dad---Please  don't let them take my
          babies," she pulled the two bundles closer to her and rocked
          backwards and forwards  as best she could, not daring to let
          them go.

          " It's all been arranged," John told her, trying to calm his
          daughter down, "  Jane,  your sister-in-law is going to look
          after Shaun, and  our  Katrina  will take care of Casey Ann,
          They'll be well looked after."

          " But they  will  be separated," Rachel argued, " Twins must
          be together, always.  What  about  the others? I can't leave
          them on their  own.  Perhaps I can get a wheel chair.  Jilly
          will help, I know she will. George, he's the real worry. For
          weeks he's been  talking about joining up. You know he's far
          too young. He's just turned seventeen."

          " Rachel stop!"  her  father  said impatiently, " I told you
          everything has been  taken  care  of.  Susan,  Ian's  eldest
          sister has gone  back to the Downs with her husband. They're
          going to run the station until you're up and about."

          " George! what about George? I know something has happened."

          " I don't  know how he did it Rachel, but the lad has joined
          the Air Force.  He'll  be  all right, I'm sure of that. This
          war will be over before they send him anywhere."

          " Come along  Mrs  Maclaren," the Matron's voice rang out as
          she entered the  room, " there's a specialist, a Dr Mitchell
          coming to see you this morning," she added, taking the twins
          from her and ushering John Carlyle out of the room.

          Dr Mitchell arrived  an hour later. A short, plump, reticent
          man who kept  his chin on his chest when he spoke. He seemed
          unwilling to confide  his  opinions,  and  behaved as if the
          case involved some secrecy, which took it out of the Matrons
          hands. He examined Rachel's legs and lower part of her spine

          He stroked his chin, glared at Rachel, then at the Matron.

          " Should never  have  happened," he grumbled, " how soon can
          the patient be moved?"

          " I will have to ask Dr Eastman. I think it should be within
          the next few days."

          A week later  Rachel  Maclaren  was transferred to the Kenny
          clinic. She responded  well  to  the  treatment of hot moist
          applications  in  conjunction   with  passive  exercises  as
          prescribed by Sister Kenny. But every night Rachel lay awake
          for hours, and  sometimes sleep eluded her completely as she
          lay staring at the ceiling worrying about the twins.

          Casey Ann, she  knew was being well cared for, Katrina would
          make sure of that. It was Shaun that concerned her more than
          she dared to  admit.  Jane  and her husband were years older
          than Ian. Their  family  had  grown  up and left home a long
          time ago. She  knew  her  sister-in-law's  husband was not a
          temperate man. Even  his  own three children had been scared
          of him.

          She accepted the  fact  that George had joined up. On one of
          his weekend leaves he had visited her. She remembered trying
          to get cross  with him for leaving Luckham Downs. Then found
          it impossible when he reminded her so much of Ian.

          Two days before Christmas, John Carlyle took his daughter to
          visit the twins.  They  went  first  Katrina's  house. Casey
          Ann's eyes sparkled  when  she  saw her mother, it was as if
          she really knew  her.  The  baby was blonde and already long
          for her age. She would be large-boned, Rachel thought, as if
          she belonged entirely  to  Ian's  family,  and not at all to

          It was obvious the baby was spoilt. She was loved and adored
          by everyone, and the moment she cried someone picked her up.
          There were toys  of  every  description,  and  her  aunt had
          dressed her in the prettiest of clothes.

          Although John Carlyle  had promised to get his daughter back
          to the clinic  in  time for her afternoon exercises, he gave
          way to Rachel's  determination  to  see  Shaun. It seemed to
          Rachel, as she sat in her wheel chair in her sister-in-law's
          kitchen that the atmosphere was completely different to that
          of Kate's.

          There were no  toys,  no  baby  waiting  to  greet  her,  no
          Christmas tree, not  even a decoration, and Jane not wanting
          the baby disturbed, refused to allow the child to be brought
          down to the kitchen.

          John carried his daughter upstairs to the baby's room. Shaun
          seemed happy enough as she sat in her cot with a cuddle rug.
          Her hair was  straight and short, not like her sister's long
          and curled, and  Rachel  wished  with  all  her  heart  that
          Katrina had taken both her babies.

          " She is  well looked after, clean and well fed," John tried
          to assure Rachel on the way back to the clinic, " Jane is so
          much older than  Kate. You really can't expect her to do the
          same for Shaun  as  Kate does for Casey Ann. I know the baby
          is left in it's cot most of the time. But at least she's not
          been placed in a foster home. You should think yourself very

          With a courage and determination that surprised the staff at
          the Sister Kenny  clinic  Rachel  Maclaren began to take her
          first few steps.  A  month after Christmas she was sent back
          to Luckham Downs,  and apart from her daily exercises Rachel
          was confined to her bed.

          Sometimes she thought  of her bed as a throne. It was raised
          on a low  platform  in the center of a long wall. She leaned
          against fresh, linen covered pillows, under a canopy held up
          by carved rosewood  posts.  It  had been her father-in-law's
          bed, and now  she realized why Angus Maclaren would not give
          the bed to  his  son. Jillian came every day to see her, and
          when Rachel inquired about Pauline everyone told her she was
          working away from home.

          Many times Rachel  thought  of  her  bed as a ship. A great,
          safe ocean liner  similar  to the ones she had read about in
          books. Floating all  night  on  a  calm  sea  until morning.
          Waking early, she  would  open her eyes to the safe haven of
          Angus Maclaren's room at Luckham Downs.

          For a few  minutes  she  would lie quite still, watching the
          first light shake  itself  through white trembling curtains,
          then get out  of  bed  and  force herself to take a few more
          steps. At times  she  wondered  if  this was how a baby felt
          when it stood, or walked for the first time.

          One morning Rachel asked Susan if the twins could be brought
          back to the Downs.

          " I can't!"  her  sister-in-law  replied,  " we've more than
          enough to do without looking after two more children."

          " Surely Pauline could come home and help?"

          " That little bitch---she's gone," Susan said loudly, " gone
          down south and a damn good job too."

          " How dare  you  call  my  Pauline  that.  How could you and
          Arthur have allowed  her  to  leave home. You must have done
          something to upset her."

          " Me! upset  her!"  Susan screamed, " I don't know what sort
          of up-bringing you  and  my brother gave her, but I can tell
          you that girl is man-crazy."

          " Man crazy? Not my Pauline. I'll never believe that."

          " Then you'd  better  believe it---I ought to know. I caught
          her in bed  with  my Arthur. It wasn't his fault. Twenty two
          years we've been  married,  never  once---until your Pauline
          started flaunting herself  in front of him. I made him throw
          her out."

          " Where is  she  now? I've got to find her. Arthur must have
          encouraged her."

          " So far  as  I  know  she's  gone down south with some RAAF
          officer. She nearly  broke up our marriage. And now you want
          me to look  after your bloody twins? I can tell you here and
          now Rachel Maclaren,  the day you walk down those stairs, is
          the day we leave Luckham Downs."

          " But you're part owner of Luckham Downs."

          " Nothing left to own.'

          " How can  that  be?  There's  plenty  of  stock. I know Ian
          cleared up all the loans. It's free of debt."

          " Not any more. We were forced to borrow from the banks just
          to survive. Who  do you think paid for your treatment at the
          Kenny clinic. If  you've  got  any  sense  you'll get out as
          quick as you  can.  Perhaps  your  father  can  pay  off the

          That night Rachel  cried herself to sleep. When she woke the
          next morning she  looked  around  the room just to make sure
          she was at Luckham Downs, that her sister-in-law's words had
          not been part of a bad dream.

          For along time  Rachel  lay  very  still in Angus Maclaren's
          bed, enjoying the  feeling  of  well-being and a new, sudden
          brightness of spirit. This was the day she was going to walk
          down those formidable  stairs.  This  was  the day Susan and
          Arthur would leave her home and her twins would be returned.

          Her father was  coming  to  see  her. She re-read the letter
          hidden under her  pillow, the letter Jilly had sneaked up to
          her before Susan or Arthur had a chance to read it.

          From her wardrobe  she chose a dress that was long enough to
          cover the boots  the  Kenny  clinic  had forced her to wear.
          Satisfied at last  with  her  appearance  she  made  her way
          downstairs ignoring her  sister-in-law's  glare and scowling
          at Arthur who offered her his hand.

          " I can manage," she said sharply, " I've had all the help I
          need from you. "

          " Look Dad! Look at me! I can walk. I walked down the stairs
          all by myself."

          He held out  his  arms,  she  almost  ran  to  him. When she
          reached him without  falling  he  hugged her. Delighted with
          her progress he  stayed at the Downs for a month.  The twins
          were brought home,  and  Rachel  spent  all her days looking
          after them. A letter from George telling her he was still in
          the country acted  like  a tonic. When Susan and her husband
          left John Carlyle began making inquiries about Pauline.

          At last he  felt now was the time when he could retire. Sell
          the store in  Richmond, take the holiday his doctor told him
          years ago he needed.

          It was dusk  when  John  Carlyle  let himself in through the
          front door of  his  house at the rear of his Richmond store.
          He felt as if a great weight had been lifted off him, all he
          wanted to do  now  was  to  rest.  Too  tired to turn on any
          lights he went  to  the  office  at  the  back of the store,
          slumped in his  chair behind the desk and allowed the desire
          to sleep take hold.

          He'd lost all  track  of time when he awoke, but even in the
          blackness of the  curtained  room  he  knew exactly where he
          was. He sat  for  a  long  time in the dark silence, feeling
          that the deep  sleep,  the  longest  he'd  had  in weeks had
          restored  his  vitality.  His  strength  was  returning.  He
          thought about Rachel.   She could walk again. The twins were
          back, where they  belonged, with their mother. He decided he
          had something to celebrate.

          He was concerned  about  Shaun.  She  seemed withdrawn, even
          afraid, nothing like  her  sister.  But he knew Rachel would
          soon deal with  that.  His eldest grandson had not been sent
          overseas, the war  would  soon be over. Now he, John Carlyle
          was going to have that holiday he knew he deserved.

          The odour of  the  darkened office was musty, heavy with the
          smell of leather  and  wood.  This  was the first time since
          Rachel had gone to the clinic he had been able to sit in his
          favourite chair.

          "Nearly two years," he said aloud, knowing no one could hear
          him,  "  thank   God   it's  all  over,"  he  grinned,  "  a
          celebration---that's what I'll  have. A bottle- -even two. I
          reckon I've bloodywell earned it"

          For years John  had kept a wine cellar just a few bottles at
          first. Slowly the  stock  had  grown,  too  large for him to
          consume. There had been Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries.
          It seemed that  everyone had given him a bottle or two, most
          of them stored  in  the  cellar.  He thought of the two huge
          racks he had made. How his late wife Ann had laughed at him.

          " You'll never fill them up. You don't like wine anyway."

          John was not  a  connoisseur  of wines, but now he felt that
          the bottle of champagne his doctor had given him just before
          he retired would  make it an occasion to remember. Delighted
          with the inspiration, he switched on the desk lamp, stood up
          and opened the cellar door at the rear of the office.

          From force of  habit  he  closed  the  door  behind  him. He
          remembered Ann telling him to make sure it was closed.

          " We don't  want  the  children  going down there. You never
          know what mischief they might get up to."

          In the total  darkness  he  groped for the light switch that
          had been recently  installed.  He  knew  where  it  was, but
          missed it, then something went wrong. Perhaps going from the
          darkness of the  office  to the light on the desk, then back
          to the dark  cellar.  Perhaps  the  deep  sleep in the heavy
          atmosphere, or the  relief of knowing he could stop worrying
          about Rachel, whatever the cause he fell.

          As his legs  buckled  under him he missed the top two steps.
          He clutched at  the brick wall, scraping his hands, breaking
          his nails trying  to save himself. He felt his legs twist as
          he rolled from  side to side down the long flight of stairs.
          One leg, he  knew  was  broken. The pain seemed to delay the
          fall to the  floor  of  the  cellar.  When  he landed with a
          crash, he lay still, not daring to move.

          In the darkness  he was blind, suddenly deaf. When at last a
          silence entered his  head,  he  realized  he had created the
          silence in the  midst  of  his screaming. His right leg, the
          main source of  his  nightmare, had twisted itself under him
          He reached down,  forced  his  fingers  along the leg of his
          trousers. He touched the broken skin, and for the first time
          in his life he fainted.

          Consciousness returned immediately;  the pain too strong for
          quick relief. He  lay  staring  into the blackness as a pain
          not noticed before  competed with the pain of his leg. There
          was a sound  as  he shouted again. It seemed to be somewhere
          in the distance,  he  thought  it  could  have  been his own
          voice, in a  sort  of  a  cave. Then came a roaring sound, a
          roar from within.

          Irresistible curiosity forced  him  to touch the side of his
          head. The substance  felt  sticky, then it trickled down the
          left side of  his  face,  past  the corners of his mouth. He
          touched it with  his tongue. He held out his hand, trying to
          look at it  in  the  darkness.  Vaguely,  he remembered that
          blindness was a symptom of a fractured skull.

          Without extra pain,  liquid  poured  from  his nose with the
          urgency of a  river  bursting it's banks. It surged over his
          mouth,  he felt  violently  sick,  and  again  slipped  into
          unconsciousness. When he came round he thought he could see.
          He realized it  was  his  body, not he that was fighting for
          breath. It was then he knew he was going to die.

          Part of his  intellect  informed  him that he could not last
          the night. He  screamed, knew no one would hear him, knew he
          would not be  missed. Since Rachel had stayed at the clinic,
          he often closed the store. Sometimes for a week.

          He screamed again,  a  last  protest,  now  no  more  than a
          muffled cry. The  pain--it was gone. This was the way it all
          ended, to die, hoping to die. Believing there was no hope of
          living. Then came  the  moment  no  one has ever told anyone
          about. The secret can belong only to them.