By the same author
|© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland|
Chapter 8 - Hildebrand, Sole and a sockIn the taxi, on the way to Camberwell Junction, Monique, who was sitting in the back with Priscilla, Henry and Rachael, cleared her throat and said, 'Excuse me, but I should like to thank you all for your beautiful message of welcome that I found in Priscil...I mean to say-our bedroom-after breakfast this morning. I am very thrilled that you give me such a thing of welcome. I am so fortunate to have been able to come here to your new home, and to be made to feel that I am not a stranger. The elephant meets with the kan-gar-oo. Is that how you say its name? Your drawing of them both is very skilful Henry.'
'Howja know I drew them?' said Henry, peering around his sister.
'The skull and cross-bones, my hearty. Pirates are your favourites, yes?'
'Well yes,' replied Henry, 'but I didn't think girls in Africa would know much about Captain Blood and Long John Silver,'
'You are forgetting, even though my skin is black, my Father is French, and there were many famous French pirates. Perhaps I shall tell you of them some day.'
'Yeah, alright. O.K.' Henry appeared a little subdued, almost as if he had suddenly been made aware of Monique's skin colour and her heritage, and in some way this puzzled him.
'So again, thankyou,' Monique continued, 'and may we all become good friends.' (And to Priscilla, she whispered-'The Bateleur Eagle-the black girl-meets Priscilla Black-the white girl. That is a good thing, non?')
Priscilla squeezed Monique's hand, as Rachael, who had been concentrating on where they were going, said, 'Now what's this all about? Have I missed something? Just down to the market carpark at the rear of the shops Driver, we can find our way from there. I shall ring your company after lunch to book a cab home. Now what was I saying, Priscilla Dear?'
'Something about hamburgers and thickshakes Mum, right Louis?' said Henry, brightening and stretching his luck. Louis nodded enthusiastically from the front seat of the cab, (riding in the front seat made him feel pretty important. It was a 'man-in-charge' thing.) being mindful of his inventive younger brother. 'Yes', he nodded solemnly, 'better pay the driver Mum, and then we can get on with books and uniforms before lunch. Monique's really keen to try Macka's.'
Rachael unzipped her little purse and passed the driver a one hundred dollar note, 'I should like a receipt for the fare please, just for accounting purposes. And...' she added, rather archly toward the other passengers, 'we shall not be taking lunch at some place that is designed for children. I am an adult, and you, young people, are my guests. Therefore I shall decide where we will enjoy our midday repast!'
'What the heck did Mum just say?' muttered Henry, after they'd shuffled out of the cab, and were standing on the pavement.
'Don't bother your tiny brain, young feller,' answered Louis, 'we just might get a better result out of this if Mum thinks we're trying for McDonalds.'
'But I am trying for Mc...'
'No you're not, you dope. That's just the carrot for the donkey. Let's let Mum think she's in charge here and see where it gets us.'
After visiting several stores in Burke Road for school books (And here Louis led the girls through the procedure, having done it the previous year.) and going on to a shop that dealt exclusively with uniforms, fittings, and accessories like bags, hats, shoes and other odds and ends, the group finally halted for lunch at an outside table of a fashionable cafe two blocks from the Junction, where croissants and coffee were served for breakfast, and fresh rolls with soup and pasta were midday selections along with a variety of salads and cheeses. It also had multi-flavoured thick-shakes and a wonderful variety of ice-creams and gelati.
Rachael was especially pleased, considering that she had been approached twice by women who recognised her as a film and television actor, and she had actually been asked for her autograph.
'There you are, you see my dears, it's so good to be out in the mainstream,' she commented happily after paying the bill. 'How nice to think that people remember and want to speak with me. If you can all manage these packages, I think we might promenade down past the stores for a little sight seeing and window shopping. I'm sure Monique will be interested. I shall call a cab to take us home from there.'
At the Junction, where Burke, Camberwell and Riversdale roads intersected, Priscilla asked if she could go up to the real estate office, and Rachael, after enquiring as to her purpose, gave her permission. 'That shouldn't take very long,' she said, smiling at a couple who were staring hard at her. 'Off you go. We'll wander behind and catch you up. Of course,' Rachael added, flashing a radiant smile to the world in general, 'I may have to sign a few autographs along the way.
Much to Priscilla's surprise, Henry decided to tag along with her because, as he explained, he too was interested to find out more about their house. Soon, they were standing outside the estate office, its windows covered with photographs and information on many properties in the Camberwell and surrounding areas.
'Hildebrand, Sole and a sock', Henry read aloud.
'That's "assoc". It's short for associates', Priscilla hissed as they entered.
Henry pursed his lips, then grinned, 'I knew that.'
Inside, the office was all dark, panelled timber, the not unpleasant smell of wood-polish lingered about a tall front reception desk, behind which stood a man leafing through various papers. He looked up at the sound of the door, his face transforming into some kind of instant welcome. 'Ah!...err...' he said, as his eyes fell upon Priscilla and Henry. 'Well now youngsters, what can I do for you both?' he asked, tweaking his yellow bow-tie.
'We have come to speak with Mister Hildebrand. Is that you?' Priscilla enquired.
'No, I'm Morris Sole, Mister Hildebrand is in his office. May I ask what is your business?'
Almost at once, Henry decided that he didn't like this man. He didn't like his little yellow bow-tie, his cold, empty blue eyes, his false demeanour and his skinny, fidgeting fingers.
'We want to ask Mister Hildebrand about a house we've just moved into. We'd like to find out about its history,' Priscilla answered.
'Its...history?' Morris Sole said abruptly. 'Whatever for? We haven't got time to be...' he halted in mid sentence, almost as if he was calculating the value of the conversation. 'Then again...Are your parents outside?' he asked rather brusquely.
Priscilla shook her head while Henry tried not to glare.
'I see. Just wasting my time then,' Sole muttered to himself, then fluttering his long fingers at them, he said, 'I think you'd better be running along children, Mister Hildebrand and I are far too busy at the moment.'
'What, busy at getting us out the door?' said Henry, before Priscilla could restrain him.
Morris Sole's pale blue eyes bored down into Henry's. 'Now look Sonny Jim, I don't like a smart-ars...aleck. See that map on the wall?'
Henry glanced over at a very large map of Camberwell's districts with scores of tiny red pins stuck into it. 'Yeah, I see it.'
'Well,' said Morris Sole, acid drops in every word, 'try getting lost. Beat it, the pair of you!'
'Now, now Morris, that's not the way to treat young people who drop by. One day they'll be wanting to purchase property too you know,' said a cheerful voice from beyond the front counter. Priscilla, by standing on tip-toe, could just see the balding pate of a man who was evidently either kneeling down or was very, very short. He emerged out into the open, handing a pile of photos to Sole as he passed. As it turned out, Reginald Hildebrand wasn't much taller than Priscilla, but he certainly was much more jovial than his junior partner. 'I expect you can find a moment to put these into the window Morris, oh and please give Roger Trumble a call. He wants a word in regard to the vacant shop in Burke Road.'
Morris Sole glared at the photos and dropped them on the receptionist's desk. 'Shirley can do that when she comes back. I'll be on the phone to Trumble in my office,' he growled, retreating through a doorway and closing the windowed door rather abruptly.
'Now then Miss...Hmm, first off your names please?'
'I'm Priscilla Black and this is my Brother Henry. Our Mum and Dad...'
'Of course! Silverglade Road! Two-twenty-two A. Your Mother is Rachael Davies. She was in that comedy series...What was it called...Yes! "All quiet on the Vestry Front." Oh I did enjoy that one, and then she did that sad movie...something about a bird...' Here Mister Hildebrand faltered.
' "The Fallen Lark," very boring,' muttered Henry, nosing about among the leaflets and advertising pamphlets for various house and business sales.
'Well, my wife and I found it rather poignant,' Hildebrand replied, somewhat deflatedly. 'And your Father,' he seemed to be searching in his memory, 'he's a film director?'
'Mathew Black,' said Priscilla, prompting him.
'That's right! Why it was only a month or so ago that we negotiated the sale. And how could I not remember your name, Priscilla. I don't suppose you could favour me with a rendition of "Anyone who had a heart?" ' Hildebrand chortled.
'If my world ceases to beee! Then it's the end of my world for meee!' Henry screeched at full throttle, apparently hoping to shatter the glass in Morris Sole's office-door window.
There came a muffled imprecation and the sound of a phone slamming. Seconds later the door flew open and Sole appeared, his face a red mask. Just then a young couple entered the office, looking eagerly toward both men.
'You little ba...Well hello, good people! How can Hildebrand and Sole help you?' said Morris Sole, positively leering in a sudden about-turn. His bow-tie almost twanged as he gathered the innocent pair toward his office lair. 'Interested in buying here in cosmopolitan Camberwell? Of course you are, and I have quite a few select properties for offer at the moment. Do come through.' He ushered the young man and woman in, fleetingly turning to glare at Henry, who wickedly rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue.
Priscilla heaved a rather large sigh, 'Please, Mister Hildebrand, don't mind my Brother, who isn't really my Brother anyway, he's just a very bad press agent and general lunatic.'
Reginald Hildebrand almost broke into a grin, but with some difficulty managed to suppress it. Instead he ran his stubby fingers through what was left of his red (now becoming salt and pepper) hair, and suggested that they come into his office.
'Now then,' he said when they were settled in red leather chairs that creaked and smelled of ancient cow-hide, 'I gather that you want to know about your new house?'
Priscilla nodded. 'My Dad said that he thinks you've been around since the year dot, and if anyone would know the history of the house you would.'
Hildebrand pushed back his spectacles with a forefinger. 'That's what he said, is it? Hmm, I suppose I should take that as a back-handed compliment...In any event, I'll tell you both all that I am able to, and in a nutshell.'
He rose from his chair and went to an old, polished blackwood filing cabinet. After leafing through its contents, Hildebrand extracted a faded green folder, and seating himself once again, began flipping through its jumble of yellowed pages.
'Here we are, our information on Silverglade Road, Two-twenty-two A. Hildebrand Real Estate came into the property in late Nineteen-thirty-eight, just before the beginning of the second world war. My Father established this business only a few years prior. Let me read you his notes: "A well established home, built in Nineteen-sixteen during the subdivisions along and around Riversdale Road. Part of grazing land from the Eighteen-fifties, this house and its adjoining block, Two-twenty-two B. on which stand the original tennis courts, has been well maintained. The ballroom on the second floor is a feature from a time when people still indulged in formal gatherings, and musicians played for their entertainment. The old wine cellar too, is still an excellent cool area for your finest reds and whites. The property features extensive gardens, including a beautiful rose enclosure at the front, and rambling walkways and arbours in the rear. The house comprises an elegant entrance, formal living and dining rooms, a billiards room and two lower bedrooms, kitchen and scullery. The central staircase opens to the second floor ballroom. There is a powder room and a third bedroom suitable for guests. The attic-loft has ample storage." ' Reginald Hildebrand looked up from his father's notes, 'How am I doing? Is this giving you some insight?'
Priscilla nodded, 'Yes, it's helping. Is there anything more on Two-twenty-two B? I didn't even know it existed.'
'Yes you do Sis, it's right next door to us,' Henry chided her.
'I know that there's a tree-filled block of land alongside our house, but I didn't realise that it was once a part of the same property.'
Hildebrand nodded thoughtfully, 'Perhaps I'd better look a little further here...wait just a min...yes...' He dredged out a couple of faded pages and a folded newspaper sheet from the back of the folder, 'Umm, that would be so...earliest...notes that...'
'Well! What does it say!' Henry asked, almost exploding with curiosity.
'It says, my over impetuous young man, that the original pasturage land was held by the Griffons. This family had connections to the convicts from the first fleet...'
'Convicts!' shouted Henry, standing and brandishing an imaginary sword.
'Control yourself Henry, or Mister Sole will have us thrown out!' warned Priscilla sharply, much to Hildebrand's relief.
'Yeah! Sorry,' said Henry, dropping his arm and sinking into the soft leather chair.
'As I was saying,' continued Reginald Hildebrand, in a subdued voice, 'the Griffon family sold the land in eighteen-ninety. A Mister Arnold Coghill bought the entire package. During the beginning of the next century, he sold off sections to various buyers, keeping only the main pasturage for himself. It says here that when he grew too old to continue with the property and desired to leave Australia for his home in Great Briton, he put up the remainder for sale in Nineteen-twenty-seven. It was purchased by a Mister Samuel Crabtree. However, in September Thirty-eight, he placed the house into our hands for sale, as he was moving interstate because of business commitments. A couple by the name of Roselli purchased Two-Twenty-Two, through us, that summer and remained owners for almost sixty years until the the wife died and was followed, only a matter of months later, by her husband. According to a footnote here, they changed the name of the house from its original name Wurundjeri to Roswell and later left instructions in their will for the property to be sold by us and the proceeds, after all expenses, donated to charity. They don't seem to have had any living relatives.' Hildebrand, looked up at Priscilla and Henry, 'Well, that's about all I can tell you. Would you like a photocopy of these documents?'
'Yes please,' Priscilla nodded, and as an afterthought added, 'Mister Hildebrand, did you say Rosewell or Roswell?'
|Australian Page||email your comments to the author||Exchange critiques on the Lit-Talk board|