Kak Alla Pugacheva s dru.., p.1

Nanberry, страница 1



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  To the extraordinary people in this book, and

  to all those who helped me find their stories.

  Also to the children of the Wallaga

  Lake Community, with love.





  Chapter 1 NANBERRY


  Chapter 3 MARIA

  Chapter 4 MARIA


  Chapter 6 NANBERRY

  Chapter 7 MARIA

  Chapter 8 NANBERRY


  Chapter 10 NANBERRY

  Chapter 11 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 12 NANBERRY

  Chapter 13 MARIA

  Chapter 14 NANBERRY

  Chapter 15 MARIA

  Chapter 16 NANBERRY

  Chapter 17 NANBERRY

  Chapter 18 MARIA

  Chapter 19 SURGEON WHITE


  Chapter 21 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 22 NANBERRY

  Chapter 23 NANBERRY

  Chapter 24 NANBERRY

  Chapter 25 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 26 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 27 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 28 RACHEL

  Chapter 29 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 30 RACHEL

  Chapter 31 NANBERRY

  Chapter 32 NANBERRY

  Chapter 33 RACHEL

  Chapter 34 NANBERRY

  Chapter 35 NANBERRY

  Chapter 36 RACHEL

  Chapter 37 NANBERRY

  Chapter 38 NANBERRY

  Chapter 39 NANBERRY

  Chapter 40 NANBERRY

  Chapter 41 NANBERRY

  Chapter 42 RACHEL

  Chapter 43 RACHEL

  Chapter 44 RACHEL

  Chapter 45 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 46 NANBERRY

  Chapter 47 SURGEON WHITE

  Chapter 48 RACHEL

  Chapter 49 NANBERRY

  Chapter 50 NANBERRY

  Chapter 51 RACHEL

  Chapter 52 RACHEL

  Chapter 53 RACHEL

  Chapter 54 ANDREW

  Chapter 55 ANDREW

  Chapter 56 RACHEL

  Chapter 57 ANDREW

  Chapter 58 RACHEL

  Chapter 59 RACHEL

  Chapter 60 NANBERRY


  Author’s Notes


  About the Author

  Other Books by Jackie French






  The harbour was emu-berry blue, the ripples playing with the sun. The breeze smelt of smoke and cooking fish. Nanberry waded in till the water tickled his waist, felt the sandy mud between his toes, then took a deep breath and dived down.

  It was a new world. Light drifted in gold shivers from above. Nanberry wriggled like a fish, turning so he could see the surface of the water. He loved this most of all: how in one instant you could change from air to sea.

  At last his lungs began to ache. He pushed himself into the daylight in one strong sweep.

  One of the girls yelled at him from the shore — his sister, Yagali, catching a ball of twisted twigs and feathers as one of the others threw it to her. ‘Hey, you with empty hands! Where are the dainya?’ The other girls laughed. Behind them the stream trickled between the trees and mud flats to join the waves.

  Nanberry grinned. Who needed dainya, the mud oysters? The women had been out in their low-slung canoes, hauling in fish with nets and lines. Colbee had speared a giant waragul, a mackerel, too.

  The girls went back to their game. Nanberry began to wade to shore.

  ‘Maigul!’ Stranger!

  Nanberry turned to see where Yagali pointed.

  For a second he thought he dreamt. His eight years had been full of familiar things. The warriors and old women knew all that was important in the world. But no one had ever spoken of anything like this!

  Massive canoes surged across the water. They looked like whales that had learnt how to swim on top of the sea. Giant skins flapped on tall spears jutting from their middles.

  How did canoes move with no paddles? Had the spirit ancestors made them?

  The girls ran for the trees. Their ball lay abandoned in the sand. But Nanberry stayed, his toes in the mud and sea, his eyes straining to capture every detail of the big canoes.

  ‘Nanberry! Guwi!’ Nanberry, come here!

  Colbee strode towards him. Colbee was his mother’s brother, a warrior. You obeyed when a warrior called you, especially if he was your mother’s brother. Nanberry splashed back to the shore, then turned once more to stare at the strange canoes.

  ‘Into the trees,’ yelled Colbee. He pointed to the women and children standing still and almost invisible next to the tree trunks.

  This time Nanberry didn’t move. ‘What are they? Are they ghost canoes?’

  ‘I don’t know. But others have seen things like them before.’


  ‘It is no business for small boys.’

  Nanberry still didn’t move.

  Colbee gave a half-smile. His eyes shifted back to the strange canoes. ‘A runner came from the south. A great fleet of murry nowey came to their country. The murry nowey slipped across the line between sea and sky, the land of clouds and ghosts. The murry nowey gathered in the runner’s tribe’s bay. The creatures on them had white skin, like ghosts, but they looked for water, like men, and hunted with long sticks that went babooom.’

  The murry nowey were even closer now, gliding across the water.

  ‘Go!’ ordered Colbee.

  This time Nanberry went.

  The warriors strode down to the water, waving their fishing spears, the jagged shell points gleaming in the sun. ‘Jiriya! Wari! Wari!’ Get away from here!

  The big canoes floated straight towards them, as though the warriors were buzzing bees who had no sting. And then the canoes stopped, even though they were still far from the beach. Nanberry stared out between the trees.

  He could see people! Men with white faces, their bodies covered in the skins of strange animals, blue and red and brownish grey. Their voices sounded like human voices, not the wind-whispering of ghosts.

  Some of the white ghosts glanced over at the warriors. None bothered to answer the challenge, or even call a greeting. It is as though we are the ghosts, thought Nanberry. As though they expect us to fade away.

  The giant canoes glided on. The warriors yelled a challenge again. The white ghosts laughed, then looked away. Colbee muttered something to the other warriors. They melted back into the trees, urging the women and children to follow. Whatever the white ghosts were going to do next, it was best to stay away.

  Life would go on, in its proper seasons, as it always had before. The ghosts would float away.

  Only Nanberry lingered, still peering from behind his tree. He had thought he had made himself part of the sea. But these big canoes conquered the waves like the sea eagle controlled the wind. If only he could ride the waves like that. If only he could slip between the wrinkle at the edge of the sea and sky and see the world beyond the blue horizon.

  But he was Nanberry. This was his home, and the Cadigal were his people.

  The breeze held the scent of strange things now, of memories of a world far away. Nanberry took a last look out at the pale men busy with vast ropes, then ran back to join his family.

  Chapter 1



  The wind snickered between the trees like an old woman laughing. Nanberry drew closer to the fire as around him the shadows thickened into night. The girls and women sang as they hung today’s fish up on the lines to dry in the smoke.

  Though the murry nowey had floated away, the white ghosts had not. They had stayed through a whole sky full of seasons.

  Nanberry had expected great warriors to come from such extraordinary canoes. But instead they had been poor strange creatures, small and hunched over, with pale, pinched faces.

  The white ghosts chopped down trees. They built big huts. They lived in them all year, until they stank. Their women didn’t know how to fish and when they gathered oysters they threw away the flesh and kept only the shells.

  The white ghosts stole Cadigal canoes and spears. They tried to attack the Cadigal women, though the women had fought them and run off. They had even made the stream a filthy stinking thing. Didn’t white-ghost mothers tell their children how important it was to keep the water clean?

  How could people be as stupid as these? When they had captured Colbee — maybe so he could show them how to build canoes — it had been easy for him to escape.

  Nanberry had heard the white ghosts had kidnapped Arabanoo, a warrior from another clan, and kept him prisoner. But Arabanoo was not Cadigal. He might have his own reasons for staying in the white-ghost camp.

  The Cadigal warriors had talked about attacking the white-ghost camp. But they had decided to let them be — for now. The land was big. The white ghosts perched on such a tiny part of it. They hurt it now, but it would recover when they left.

  Maybe the white ghosts would simply fade away. How could any people live who knew so little about the simplest things, like hunting food and keeping water clean? It was easy to keep away from the white-ghost camp. Their hunters made more noise than a mob of kookaburras.

  Nanberry smiled at the thought of a row of white ghosts, hunched on a branch like the cackling birds.

  Auntie grinned at him. ‘Are you dreaming of food, boy?’

  Nanberry grinned back. He was always hungry these days. He hoped it meant that soon he’d start to grow tall as a man.

  Auntie thrust her digging stick into the dirt near the fire, and pushed out a cluster of the sweet yams cooking there. ‘Stuff your belly, young one. The rest of us are full of fish.’

  Nanberry looked around to check that no one else wanted yams too. This was the best time to eat them — and bungu too — in the blue and gold days before the cold winds came, when animals and roots were fat.

  But the men had eaten their fill of the badagarang, the kangaroo, left from yesterday’s hunt. The women and children had nibbled freshly caught fish all day, cooking them on tiny fires in their canoes.

  There were fewer fish this year, now that the white ghosts hauled up so many in their nets, but there was still plenty if you knew the harbour.

  Nanberry picked up a yam and juggled it between his fingers till it grew cool enough to bite into. The outside was crisp from the fire and ash; the inside was hot and sweet and good.

  Auntie laughed. ‘Look at the boy. He could eat a whale and still want a feast of grass-seed cakes and figs.’

  ‘I think his legs are hollow,’ said Yagali.

  Nanberry ignored them. Aunties and sisters were best ignored when they laughed at you. He took another yam and bit into its sweetness.

  Auntie moaned.

  Nanberry’s mother looked over from the fish she was hanging up to smoke. ‘What’s wrong?’

  Auntie shook her head. ‘I … I don’t know. It was sudden. Like an axe hit my head …’

  Nanberry’s mother shared a look with another of the women. She vanished into the shadows, then slipped back, her hands full of leaves. She threw them onto the fire, then put her arms around Auntie. ‘Sniff the smoke,’ she said soothingly. Then she held out a small, reddish lump of resin. ‘Here, it’s bloodwood sap. You’ll feel better soon.’

  Auntie bent towards the fire, shivering. She began to chew the sap. All at once she pushed herself away. ‘Hot,’ she muttered. ‘So hot.’

  Nanberry stared, his mouth still full of yam. Auntie had been cold a moment ago. He looked at her more closely. Her skin was as spotted as a leaf when the sweet insects sucked its sap. The spots were white on her dark tummy and chest.

  They weren’t mosquito bites, or nettle stings. Nanberry had never seen white spots like that. His skin prickled with sudden fear. Were they ghost spots on Auntie’s skin?

  Auntie moaned again. ‘Hot. So hot.’

  Nanberry’s mother nodded at Yagali. The girl fetched a bark coolamon filled with water and began to splash the liquid on Auntie’s body.

  ‘Sleep,’ said Nanberry’s mother. ‘You will feel better after you have slept.’

  Auntie began to pant.

  The wailing woke him. Nanberry rubbed his face and peered out of the hut. Auntie’s body lay in his mother’s lap. Her dead eyes stared at the sky. The spots were bigger now: sores that seemed to weep across her body. It was as though the sores were still alive, while Auntie was now dead.

  Nanberry began to run towards them. Colbee grabbed his shoulder. ‘No,’ he barked. ‘Stand back.’

  Nanberry obeyed. He watched as the women dug a shallow grave and lowered Auntie into it. Around him the warriors had gathered their spears. Now the women loaded themselves with sleeping furs and cloaks, with baskets and hatchets and fishing nets.

  It was time to go. You didn’t stay where someone had died. You never spoke their name or their spirit might call you to the grave too.

  The camp was quiet. Even the kookaburras had stopped their cackling alarm calls to say that humans were near. No one had seen an illness like this, nor any other that killed so quickly. Nanberry looked at Auntie’s grave a last time, the rough soil among the shadows of the leaves.

  ‘Come, boy,’ said Colbee. His eyes were dark with shock.

  Nanberry picked up his soft bungu-skin rug and his knife. The warriors strode into the trees, carrying their spears. The women and children followed.

  They walked towards the sea, away from the stream and from death, further from the white-ghost camp too.

  Nanberry was glad.

  They hadn’t got far when Nanberry’s mother stopped. She put Nanberry’s baby sister down. She shook her head. ‘Hot,’ she whispered. ‘Hot.’

  The baby began to cry. Her face was flushed too. Her eyes looked red, and there was sweat on her skin.

  Nanberry’s grandfather put down his spears, and stared at the white blisters on his chest. An hour ago his chest had worn only his warrior’s scars, and its eagle feather on a string of twisted hair. Now it looked as though an evil hand had decorated it with white clay.

  Colbee gazed at the rest of the clan, one by one.

  He is looking for the white blisters, thought Nanberry. He is checking to see who might have a fever too. He looked down at his own chest and hands, but they were clear.

  Colbee pointed at Yagali. Everyone else stared at her too. Nanberry could see the raised marks of three white blisters just under her chin. Only three, he thought, but there will be more soon.

  Yagali gave a cry. She ran to their mother, and put her hands over her face, as though to hide from what was happening.

  Colbee muttered with the other warriors. ‘We need to go,’ he ordered. ‘Now. Fast, before the sickness spreads. We leave the sick ones here.’

  Colbee’s face looked like a rock. That was what made you a warrior — learning to ignore pain so you could keep your people safe.

  Colbee was right. Nanberry knew that Colbee was right. This strange illness spread and killed so fast that the whole clan might be dead in a few days if they stayed here.

  And yet he couldn’t go. He stood still as a grass tree, as the others began to walk away.

  ‘Come, boy!’ yelled Colbee.

  Nanberry didn’t reply. Let Colbee think Nanberry had the sickness too. It was right f
or his uncle to take the others away. Nanberry wasn’t a warrior. If the illness took him he never would be. But it was right for him to stay here, to care for his family. A warrior ignored the pain so he could do what was right.

  He watched as the clan turned into shadows among the trees — the friends he had swum with, the Aunties peering back now and then with horror and sympathy — till even the last glimpse of them was gone. And then he knelt to help his family. Already his mother was too weak to stand alone.

  He couldn’t let them die!

  Maybe if he could cool their hot skin the illness would go away. His grandfather seemed to have the same thought. ‘To the beach,’ he whispered.

  Nanberry lifted up his little sister. Her body felt like coals in the fire. His grandfather helped his mother and Yagali stagger towards the waves.

  Step after step after step … his grandfather stumbled as Nanberry’s mother and Yagali leant on him. The short walk to the beach seemed like the longest journey they had ever taken.

  Nanberry looked down at the baby in his arms. White blisters seeped across her chest.

  At last they reached the water. His mother and grandfather and Yagali sat in the cool shallows, with the waves lapping at their knees. His mother put her arms up for her baby. The tiny girl began to cry. Blisters had erupted on his mother’s face now too. The spots on his grandfather’s chest had turned to weeping sores.

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