Several years in the writing, this book has matured like good wine.
1850, a small town in Australia: Glindi, an Aboriginal woman, gives birth to a daughter, the result of a rape by a white man. She names her Maraglindi, meaning "Glindi's sorrow," but the girl is a joy to all those around her. She has the gift of love.
During her short life, she encounters everything intolerant, cruel Victorian society can throw at people it considers to be animals. She surmounts the savagery of the white invader by conquering hate with love. Even beyond death, she spreads compassion, then she returns a second time, with an ending that will touch your heart.
Maraglindi: child of the land, fruit of an evil deed, and instrument of love.
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Read two extracts
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A superior Person has been assigned as guardian angel for people on earth, but first needs to live as a human. For Her first life, She chooses to be born as the daughter of Glindi, an Australian Aboriginal woman who had been raped by a white man. Instead of dark brown, the baby is the colour of a mud frog. Glindi names her Maraglindi, meaning "Glindi's sorrow," and her loving nickname is Froggie.
It is 1850, the times of Queen Victoria. White invaders consider the native people to be animals, and impose dreadful living conditions on them.
During the fourteen years until she dies, Maraglindi encounters everything that intolerant, cruel Victorian society can do. On one occasion, seven white boys set their dogs on black toddlers, killing one. Six of these boys die from the magic man's retribution. The seventh, Gerald, is transformed by the experience, and becomes a friend and advocate of Aboriginals.
Glindi becomes a wet nurse for Alice MacCaffery's baby, and "Mrs Mac" comes to love Maraglindi. Impressed by the little girl's intelligence, Alice sends her to Mrs Talbot's Ladies' Academy in Newcastle.
Kirsten Petersen and her friends are outraged that "a half-caste Abo slut" could have been admitted to the school they are so proud of, but by the end of her first year, Maraglindi has conquered the hearts of all those capable of love.
Maraglindi is killed by a drunkard in horrific circumstances, but even then, in a twist of the tale, she has the last word and promises him a chance at redemption.
Having finished her education, Kirsten Petersen is back home in Griscombe. Her father has arranged a marriage to Luke, who has been bullying and torturing her for the past 14 years. Now, he thinks to overcome her resistance by raping her and getting her with child.
Gerald is appointed as Deacon to Griscombe, and saves Kirsten from Luke in his first week there. But Luke is the only son of the town's ruler, the wealthiest man and magistrate.
Maraglindi's ongoing Spirit wants Gerald and Kirsten as her second pair of parents. But can they overcome the opposition of the town's two most powerful men?
This meticulously researched book of historical fiction is very relevant to our current world with its new infection of hatred, discrimination and fear of those different from us.
From Chapter 3
Mick opened his eyes to see the doorway as a faint rectangle, with a bit of a breeze fluttering the makeshift curtain. He rolled to his feet, quickly dressed and walked out into the pink of dawn. Somehow, something was wrong. He heard a sound that should not have been there, a faint drumming in the soles of his bare feet. Galloping horses.
Then it was too late to do anything. Five horses charged into the little collection of huts. Five hated men rode them, shouting and yelling now.
A brown gelding with Archie McTaskill on it shouldered into a hut, knocking it sideways. Screams came from inside.
A terrible, sharp sting struck Mick's chest. His already tattered shirt split in two.
Whiskey bottle in his left hand, whip in the right, Harry Highfield shouted, "We're having a hunt. Run, ya black bastard!" Mick's blood stained the end of the whip.
Richardson, coming in last, yelled, "Nah! Not yet, it's no sport that way. Line up five bucks, and we'll give 'em five minutes' start."
The two Geery brothers rode together, as always. Each held a gun, and their eyes looked crazy. Jim Geery said, "Everyone out or we'll start shootin' into the hovels!"
Mick knew that people would be huddling within their homes, and many understood little English. So, he shouted in the language, "You must come outside or they start killing. Come out now."
People did. Mick saw scared faces and tense bodies, as they slowly emerged. Glindi walked out from their hut, already swelling a little with the next child, carrying Maraglindi. Jila supported her with a hand on her other arm. The three older children huddled close to them. Within minutes, the terrified little crowd stood there, waiting.
Richardson nudged his horse into a slow walk, and pointed his gun at Riso, then in quick succession at Tiri, Mick's younger brother Tako, Harodim, and finally at Mick.
"I have a wife and children," he said.
Tom Geery lifted his gun, and Mick saw little Kohli's head explode. Red gore splashed Glindi and the other children. Kohli's body flew back against the hut, then slid to the ground.
Silence followed the bang. Then Tom laughed into it as he started to reload his gun. "One less, ya black bastard. Argue, will ya?"
Mick's inside froze. He had never been this angry in his life, but it was a cold, calculating anger. "I will run," he said, surprising himself with the level tone of his voice. He then turned to the other four, and said in the language, "Start running now. If I can, I'll delay them for a little while. Go!"
They took off at a lope, toward the forest, maybe half a mile to the north.
"You too!" Jim Geery said with a sneer, pointing his gun.
Mick said, "What your Jesus think about this, ey?"
Richardson waved at Jim to stop him from shooting. He sneered down at Mick. "Jesus is fer people, not fer monkeys. Now run ya black bastard or I will let him shoot ya."
He didn't know what a monkey was, but this monkey had teeth. His three spears and the launcher were hidden under the fallen log, a few steps within the forest.
As he ran, his heart's eyes kept seeing his daughter's headless little body, slumping down. They could do nothing worse than this. He would kill them.
He reached the trees, and as soon as he was under cover, he turned left and found the mossy old fallen log. He picked up his weapons, then stopped on the north side of a tall tree. He called on the Spirits, as on a hunt. They can't see me... they can't see me, he kept chanting without sound, over and over.
This magic worked on kangaroos and emus. It worked on the white men. He felt the vibration of their coming through the ground, heard the hoof beats and the men's drunken shouting. Two charged past, then two more. Being heaviest, Richardson was the last by more than a horse's length.
Mick had a spear ready, its end snuggled into the launcher. He drew back his arm and hurled true.
The force of the spear threw Richardson forward. He slid to the ground on the right side of his horse. The animal slowed, and then stopped well beyond.
Mick was there in an instant. The spear had struck the back of the man's fat neck and exited through his mouth. Mick jerked it out, then turned the big body over. Blood gushed from Richardson's mouth, and his eyes looked puzzled. Mick placed the point of the spear on his chest and put all his weight on it. Through the heart. Good, he thought. This one was for Glindi.
He knew the big mare, he'd trained her himself before Richardson had bought her. He clicked his tongue, and the horse came to him. He mounted, and then got her to run. If he'd had the time, he'd have killed the monster slowly, but four others waited...
He lay down flat over the horse's neck, holding his spears horizontally, and once more invoked the magic: They can't see me... They can't see me...
The other white men had spread out, riding among trees as they were. Mick used his knees to steer the horse toward Harry -- payback time for the whipping.
Harry must have heard his coming, for he turned in the saddle. "Hey, Isaac, where are ya?" he asked, then louder, "Richarson's off his horse!"
Close enough. Mick sat up, right arm already drawing back. Harry's mouth opened, whether to shout or in surprise, Mick didn't care. His spear entered that open mouth, with enough force that its broken tip lifted the man's hat off his head.
Harry crashed to the ground as Mick galloped past.
"Whatya sayin', Harry?" came Archie's high-pitched voice from the left. He rode into sight, and like Harry Highfield, his look of amazement was comical, but Mick wasn't laughing.
Archie lifted his gun as the two horses approached each other at a great rate. Mick had his next spear ready, but too slow. He threw as he saw the gun's recoil punch into the white man's shoulder.
The bullet went someplace, nowhere near him, but the spear flew true. Archie was thrown backward as the two horses raced past each other.
But now the Geery brothers were coming at him, side by side, guns raised. He threw himself to the right and jerked the horse's head around too. Instantly, he pulled her left. He heard the two guns shoot, almost at the same time. A frightening whistle went past him, then he rode for the brothers again.
Jim was raising his right hand. It held a short gun.
Mick fitted his last spear and threw. He saw it penetrate Jim's chest.
Tom, the one Mick really wanted, wheeled his horse to the south and kicked it into a gallop. Back to town...
No time to retrieve a spear. Mick urged his horse forward, with kindness as always, not like the wretch ahead who used whip and spurs to torture more speed out of his mount.
Go horse! He killed my daughter! Go horse! He killed my daughter! Mick's inner chant carried him closer and closer to his quarry.
Tom was heavier than Mick, and Mick could always get the best out of any animal.
At exactly the right time, he stood on the saddle and leapt. Hands around Tom's neck, he dragged the two of them to the ground. He landed with Tom under him and they rolled over and over.
Finally they stopped moving, Tom underneath again. Mick stared into his terrified eyes as he squeezed the last bit of life out of him.
He was unable to move for a long time, just lay in the long grass, exhaustion and grief and the last remnant of anger weighing him down.
At last, he felt the running footsteps from the north, and then his four friends were with him.
Tako said, "Brother, ey, you have killed them!"
Mick struggled to his feet. "I have killed all five of the monsters. May their spirits rot forever."
"That's wonderful," Riso, the eldest, said. "But now what will they do to the people, ey?"
"What were they doing to the people already, ey? This rotten shit" -- he kicked Tom's head -- "killed my darling little Kohli."
"I know, Mikadaragutara." Riso's use of Mick's full name meant serious business. "Now we must protect our people from payback."
Harodim started to laugh, although the sound was savage rather than happy. The others looked at him.
"Risobanda, your Father and his Father before him and his Father before him were magic men, all the way back to the Spirit Ancestors, ey?"
"Yes, and I also know the magic."
"Then you have used it. These white men hunted us. We went into a secret place in the forest, and there you used your magic and turned them into black ravens and they flew away."
Tako said, "We first have to get rid of the bodies."
That was not a problem. Mick answered, "We tie stones to them and throw them into the river, well downstream. I have watched them clean their guns before, so I am sure I can do it. We clean their guns so it looks like they have not been used, except for this Tom monster's, because he used it... at our place." He had to stop a moment to gather himself. "And we make sure the horses look exactly the way they should, no trace of blood or anything but sweated up from running, then let them wander off. They are sure to get to their homes some time or other. Then, Risobanda, you need to put on a convincing storytelling for the white men. Trick them into believing. And you know Sergeant Dawson is a good man. He'll be angry with them for killing a child."
"Sure. I can do that."
It was nearly night by the time the five bodies were safely at the bottom of the river, and the five men were able to go home.
Mick saw Glindi, sitting on the ground, cuddling a little shape wrapped in one of their sleeping blankets. Her eyes were swollen and red, but she was no longer crying.
She looked up and a brief smile came to her lips. "You're still alive. Good."
"I have killed all five."
Maraglindi was snuggling against her mother's side. Now she stood and held out her arms. Mick picked her up and was instantly comforted. He felt the tension go from his shoulders. The little girl took hold of his beard and turned his head. Her green eyes gazed into his, and then she spoke the first words he had ever heard her say: "Kohli happy now. I look after her." This made no sense to him whatever, but all the same, a feeling of peace and acceptance soothed his spirit.
The police came the next morning. Sergeant Dawson rode in, with two troopers behind him. He came to Mick's hut and dismounted. "G'day, Mick."
"I may need your tracking skills."
"What happen, ey?
"Five men must have gone out yesterday, but their horses came back without them."
"Sure thing. I help. Who, ey?"
"The Geery boys, Harry Highfield, Isaac Richardson and Archie McTaskill."
"Then Sergeant, I happy they lost. All cruel men."
Dawson looked shocked. "Archie is a Church elder. Richardson is one of the richest men in the district. You cannot make such a statement, my lad."
"Sergeant, I know people from what they do. These are not kind to my people. You, fair man. Hard if needed, that is good, ey? But you are not cruel."
"Thanks for the reference, lad. Now I'd like you to come to Richardson's, that's the nearest, and backtrack their horses to see where they've been."
Mick had to think fast. If he showed the white man the tracks, they would lead back to the village, right here. Then he'd be caught for not telling the truth. Should he tell the Sergeant about yesterday's hunt, and then use Riso's magical demonstration? He knew the magic man was ready with his show. But would it be safer to mislead the police?
Dawson looked at him. "Somethin's on your mind, Mick." Mick looked at the solid strength of this man. He is smart. He will know if I track wrong. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Sergeant, no need to track. I tell you what happen yesterday."
He looked around, to see the whole little village in a semicircle, watching, listening. Mick touched eyes with Riso, who signalled 'yes.'
"Those five men. At dawn they rode right into here. I can show you the tracks. They had guns, and were drunk. Prob'ly drink all night. Mr Highfield hit me with a whip." Mick lifted the front of his shirt, showing the long scab over split skin.
The sergeant looked angry, clearly sympathetic to Mick.
"Mr Richardson chose five men. Me and four others. When I argued, Mr Tom Geery killed my little daughter." Mick had to stop for a moment, gathering himself.
And now, Mr Dawson was furious, as Mick had expected. He wished all white men were like this one.
"But Mr Richardson make mistake. He chose our magic man. In the forest, magic man turned them into ravens. They gone. Never people again. And they not know how to be ravens. They not know how to fly. They will slowly die, no food. That is good."
He made sure to say this in a level, matter-of-fact tone of voice. He could see that the two young troopers were impressed. One had his mouth half open. But Sergeant Dawson looked sceptical.
"Oh yeah, your magic man can turn a man into a raven? This I'd like to see."
"All right. I ask, maybe he will show you." Mick waved to Riso.
"Make me a smoky fire," Riso commanded, speaking English for the benefit of the three white men.
While several people obeyed, he painted intricate white marks on his face and chest, taking a paste from a little cane basket he had hanging from a leather thong around his waist. He started to dance around the fire in slow, jerky steps. The fire grew into a yellow roar of flames, and then a couple of people threw green leafy branches onto it. Smoke billowed high and swirled around. Riso stepped into the smoke -- and a raven flew free. It circled above the village once, then flew off.
It took no more than a few breaths for the smoke to clear. When all the area around it was visible, the white men could see that Riso was no longer there.
Mick said, "He know how to be raven. Also, he will change back to man when he want to. Tomorrow maybe he will come back. But those white men not come back. They dead raven."
He saw that all three white men had gone paler. One trooper tried to hide the tremble in his hands, but Dawson demanded, "He could light a fire in the forest? While being hunted?"
"Of course not. But he still have magic paint. Always with him. Fire help. But when need is great, can do with no fire. Even can do with no paint. Magic comes from Spirit Ancestors. And need was great."
Dawson lifted his hat and scratched the back of his head. "Well, Mick, I've always found you to be a good bloke, and nobody should hurt children. I'll be seeing ya."
The three policemen mounted and rode off toward the town.
From Chapter 12
As usual, Kirsten was the first to wake within her dorm. She hopped out of bed, and shivering a little, put on her blue dressing gown, tied the belt around her waist and stepped into her shoes.
Outside, the sky of late summer was ablaze with wonderful red clouds to the east. She stopped to admire the display for a moment, knowing that a day that started with such beauty just had to go well. Holidays in two weeks! she thought happily, while making her way to the outhouses. She'd enjoy time with her friends, particularly Susannah and Caroline, as long as she could stay away from wretched Luke.
She did her business, washed her hands and stepped outside again. Suddenly, unaccountably, she had the feeling of being watched. She flicked her eyes around, glancing in particular at the door of Dorm F, but the little Abo bitch wasn't there.
She took a couple of steps and froze: a snake lay along the path, its head raised, its small eyes watching her. Its mouth opened, showing two fangs, and a tongue flicked in and out so fast she could hardly see it.
Kirsten couldn't help it -- she gave a little scream.
She froze in place, unable to move. Her eyes were fixed on the snake.
The snake also stayed motionless, its eyes fixed on her.
She noticed that its top surface was very dark, almost black but with a few brown crosswise stripes, while the underside was pale. It had to be well over six feet long.
Time stopped. She didn't know if she had been standing there for hours, or only for a fraction of a second. She realised she had stopped breathing, and deliberately took in some air.
Then she sensed as much as heard a movement behind her, and almost immediately a small shape came into her view. It was the Abo girl wearing a nightdress, and she was sprinting toward the snake!
The snake's head swivelled. The little girl dived.
And then, the Abo girl was standing, her hands clasping the snake a few inches from the base of its head.
The snake's body wound itself around the girl's arm, and then her body, but it moved slowly.
The girl looked up at Kirsten, and white teeth shone in the brown face as the little girl grinned. Breathlessly she said, "They can't move fast when it's cold. Please, get Mrs Gately, and ask her to bring a coal bag. I can hold the snake for a little while."
Kirsten came to life, turned and sprinted for Dorm F. "Mrs Gately! Mrs Gately!" she shouted.
The fat house mother put her head out of the washroom. "Oh, Miss Petersen, that is not ladylike beh--"
"One of your girls is holding on to a big snake. Poisonous!"
"She said to bring a coal bag to put it in."
By the time the two of them rushed out, several other girls and a couple of women were approaching. The little Abo girl still held the snake, but she wasn't grinning anymore. Kirsten could see sweat covering her forehead, and her usually light brown skin had gone grey. Then she saw the reason: a loop of the snake's body was wrapped around the girl's neck, and she only stopped herself from being choked by forcing her chin down. The snake's tail wildly whipped from side to side, flapping her nightgown as if by a raging wind.
She said, in a strained tone of voice, "Somebody... pull it away."
It's me she saved, Kirsten thought, and surprised herself by jumping forward. If she'd thought about it, she would have been revolted by touching a snake, but she grasped the animal with a hand on each side of the child's neck, and pulled it away. Its strength amazed her.
Something strange happened as the backs of her hands touched the little girl's skin, for the merest instant. Her fear disappeared. In that split second, she saw that the snake was beautiful, the colouring on its body made up of a myriad of little diamond shapes, each subtly different from all the others. She also saw that the little girl in front of her was a lovely child, and felt the warmth of love from her flow into her own heart.
The tiny girl spoke again, panting in short bursts. "Thank you. Somebody else... hold his tail." To her surprise, Kirsten felt ashamed that she couldn't remember her name. It had been a point of honour not to know it till now.
Some girl -- Kirsten didn't know her name either -- jumped forward, and caught the whipping tail after a couple of tries. The three girls held the snake, which was still throwing itself around.
"Mrs Gately. The bag. Please." The Aboriginal child -- Kirsten could no longer think of her as 'Abo' -- was still breathing with many rapid little gasps, but seemed completely calm. She was very much in control of the situation, and Kirsten couldn't help but admire her.
Mrs Gately came forward, rather hesitantly, and held the thick jute bag open.
"Please put it over... my hands and his head."
Mrs Gately did so.
"Now hold it. Through the bag. Just... next to where my hands are." Clearly, she had more and more trouble getting air.
As soon as the woman did so, the little girl withdrew her hands. She added the leverage of her hands to Kirsten's, pulled her head through the loop of the snake's body, and stepped free.
The girl holding the tail actually staggered side to side from the whipping motion.
The brown little girl now grabbed the mouth of the bag. She looked up at the dorm mother. "I'm going to pull the bag up. When I say three, please let go. Kirsten, you too."
Mrs Gately nodded.
"One... two... three!"
In an instant, the front half of the snake was within the bag. The snake must have turned inside, because the bag suddenly bumped out right next to the girl's tightly clenched hands.
Still completely calmly, she said, "Can somebody please tie something around it?"
Kirsten removed the belt of her dressing gown and did so with three quick movements.
At this, the small child let the bagged snake fall to the ground and started to laugh. It was an open-mouthed, joyous, uninhibited sound of merriment, so musical it could have been singing. She looked up at Kirsten, and held her arms wide to each side.
Kirsten felt that new love within her heart burst into an irresistible flame. She dropped to her knees so her face was almost on a level with the child's, and hugged her close. She felt the thin little arms close around her neck, and love filled her entire being.
In a strange way, although she knew that this was merely a young girl, she felt as if she were in the arms of a Mother, wise, strong and loving. She knew that whatever she did, whatever happened, she would have this love, and nothing else mattered.
Mrs Gately's harsh voice broke into her consciousness. "Ladies. This is unseemly. Stop it now!"
Somehow, Kirsten separated from the embrace and stood. "Mrs Gately, this little girl saved my life. She... she admirably coordinated our efforts to capture the snake. I think that a thankyou is more than justified."
The little native girl turned to the girl who had held the tail. "Miranda, thank you too."
"That's all right, Mary. I'm from a farm, and know all about snakes too. But you've done very well." Right. Her name was Mary. Now Kirsten remembered it.
"What are we going to do with this creature?" Mrs Gately asked, as if talking to herself.
The girl, Mary, grinned. "Mrs Gately, if I was still with my people, we'd eat him, and make good things from his skin. We call him a Gadi."
Kirsten shuddered at this, and could see a similar reaction from everyone else.
"But if I were at home with Mr and Mrs MacCaffery, one of the men would cut off his head with an axe. But, you know, we don't need to kill him. Why kill somebody for no good reason? If you like, after I'm dressed, I can take him outside and let him go free near the river."
The dorm mother said, "I shall send for one of the labourers to dispose of it. Now, we are all running late. Ladies, quickly wash and dress, then off we go to breakfast."
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