Arthur W. Upfield


An Extract From An Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Mystery

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What made Bony look to the westward when the machine passed over the boundary fence, instead of to the right to observe Green Swamp Paddock, which seemed to be so important to his investigation, he could not recall. As the gate passed beneath the plane, he saw the netted and barb-topped barrier lying like a knife blade along the centre of a ruler-straight brown sheath dwindling to a point some three miles away.
          For only a half-second did he see this cut line and the fence, but during that fraction of time, he saw, about three-quarters of a mile westward of the gate, a white horse standing in the shade of a tree on the Karwir side of the barrier. Opposite this horse, on the Meena side of the barrier, stood a brown horse, also in the shade cast by a tree. Both animals were saddled, and appeared to be neck-roped to their respective trees. Stockmen chance-met and enjoying a gossip, Bony surmised.
          The machine now was flying along the seemingly endless fence towards the homestead beyond the plain already sliding to pass beneath them. It appeared like strands of black cotton knotted at regular intervals, the knots being the posts. The plain folded away mile after mile to the clean-cut horizon west and south and east. Behind them, the mulga forest was drawn over the swelling curve of the world.
The miles were being devoured of two a minute. Down there on that road loaded wagons drawn by bullocks once moved at two miles to the hour.
The horizon to the south grew dark, darker still, to become saw-edged with tops of tall trees, bloodwood-trees bordering the creek against which stood the Karwir homestead. Tall and taller grew the trees like a row of Jack's beanstalks, and at their feet straight-edged silver panels resolved into the iron roofs and walls of buildings. The fans of three windmills caught and sent to the oncoming plane the rays of the sun. Dust rose from toy yards constructed of match sticks, yards containing brown and black ants and two queer things that were men.
With interest Bony gazed upon the big red roof of the homestead itself, noting the orange-trees almost surrounding the buildings, the trees themselves surrounded by what appeared to be a canegrass fence. They passed over a narrow sheet of water, another line of bloodwoods, and now a little to the left stood the corrugated iron hangar beyond which was the spacious landing ground. A few seconds later they were on the ground, once more earth-bound. The yawning front of the hangar opened wide and wider to receive its own as Young Lacy taxed the machine into it. Then came abruptly an astounding silence in which lived a very small voice.
"There you are, Bony. We have arrived," announced Young Lacy.
"And to think that twenty years ago one would have had to travel that road on a horse or in a buckboard," Bony said, smiling down at Young Lacy, who first reached the ground. The cheerful young man accepted the proffered suitcase and waited for Bony to join him.
"I'll come back to put the crate to bed," he said. "Come on! The old man will be waiting to meet you. Be prepared to meet a lion. The dad's got a lot of excellent points, but strangers find him a bit difficult. The best way to manage him is to refuse to be shouted down. To begin well with him is to continue well."
Bony laughed softly, saying:
"Thank you for the advice. In the art of taming lions I have had a long and constant practice. It seems that your father conforms to a type to which belongs my respected chief, Colonel Spendor."
Young Lacy conducted the detective across a bridge spanning the creek, thence to a narrow gate in the cane-grass enclosing the big house. Within, he was met with the cool fragrance of gleaming orange-trees, and the scent of flowers in beds fronting the entire length of the fly-proofed veranda along the south side of the house. He followed Young Lacy up two steps, and stepped on to the veranda, linoleum covered and furnished plainly but with studied comfort. Standing before one of several leather-upholstered chairs was Old Lacy - a patriarch of the bush, with a pipe in one hand and a stock journal in the other. His feet were slippered. Gabardine trousers reached to a tweed waistcoat open all the way. His plain white shirt was of good quality, but he wore no collar and no coat. His hair was thin and as white as snow. His beard was thin and as white as his hair. There was power in the grey eyes, and character in the long Roman nose. No smile welcomed the detective.
"This is Detective-Inspector Bonaparte," Young Lacy announced.
        "Eh?" exclaimed Old Lacy, like a man who is deaf. Young Lacy did not repeat the introduction. Bony waited. To have spoken would have indicated weakness. "A detective-inspector, eh? You? 'Bout time, anyway, that that fool of a Police Commissioner sent someone to look into this murder business. Well, the lad will show you to your bunk."
"Mr. Bonaparte," Yong Lacy said with slight emphasis on the title, "can remain here with you, dad. No arrangements will have been made for Mr. Bonaparte because Diana went out before I left for Opal Town, and I forgot to tell Mabel to prepare a room. I'll get her to make a pot of tea, and then fix one of the rooms."
"Humph! All right!" Old Lacy seated himself in the chair he had but recently vacated, and he pointed to another opposite. "Sit down there, Bonaparte. What are you, Indian or Australian?"
"Thank you." Bony sat down quite happily. "I am Australian, at least on my mother's side. It is better to be half-Australian than not Australian at all."
"How the devil did you rise to be a detective-inspector? Tell me that," the old man demanded with raised voice.
With effort Bony restrained the laughter in his eyes, for he clearly understood that this baiting was a real man's method of testing a stranger. Before him sat a man who, having conquered life by fighting all comers, detested weakness; one who, having fought all comers, continued to do so by habit. Calmly, Bony said:
"My career as a detective, following my graduation from the university at Brisbane, would take a long time to describe in detail. In this country colour is no bar to a keen man's progress providing that he has twice the ability of his rivals. I have devoted my gifts to the detection of crime, believing that when justice is sure, the community is less troubled by the criminal. That I stand midway between the black man, who makes fire with a stick, and the white man, who kills women and babes with bombs and machine guns, should not be accounted against me. I have been satisfied with the employment of my mental and inherited gifts. Others, of course, have employed their gifts in amassing money, inventing bombs and guns and gases, even in picking winners on a racecourse. Money, and the ownership of a huge leasehold property, does not make a man superior to another who happens to be born a half-caste, and who has devoted his life to detention of crime so that normal people should be safe from the abnormal and the subnormal individual."
Into the grey eyes slowly had crept a gleam. When Old Lacy again spoke his voice was less, much less, loud.
"Damned if I don't think you are right," he said. "I've known lots of fine blackfellers and more'n one extra good half-caste. I've known many white men who've made a pile and think themselves king-pins. And as for those swine dropping bombs on women and children, well they're less than animals, for even dingoes don't kill their females and little pups. Don't mind me. I'm a rough old bushy in my ways and talk. I am glad you came. I want to see justice done for what I think happened to Jeffery Anderson. You'll be a welcome guest at Karwir, and you can expect all the help we can give. You'll want that, after these months following Jeff's disappearance."
"Of that I am sure, Mr. Lacy," Bony asserted, conscious of the warm glow within him created by yet one more victory over the accident of his birth. "The lapse of time since Anderson was last seen will, of course, make my investigation both difficult and prolonged. I may be quartered on you for a month, possibly six months. I shall not give up, or return to Brisbane, until I have established Anderson's fate and those responsible for it."
"Ah - I like to hear a man talk like that. It's the way I talk myself, although not so well schooled. Ah - put it down here, Mabel."
The uniformed maid placed the tea tray on a table between the two men, then vanished through one of the house doors. Bony rose to say:
"Milk and sugar, Mr. Lacy?"
"No sugar, thanks. Can't afford it at my time of life. In fact, I never could."
"Sugar is expensive, I know," murmured Bony, taking two spoonfuls. "Still, aeroplanes and things are expensive, too."
The old man chuckled.
"I think I am going to like you, Inspector," he said.

The extract above is from "The Bone Is Pointed" by Arthur W. Upfield.

Scribner Paperback Fiction. - ISBN 0-684-85057-5

This book came to me in my snailmail box, together with two other Bony mysteries, and the second line, below my name, for the street number on the address label was reading: The house next  to the old boathouse.

Who was the source for this generous postal surprise? Oh, that's not a mystery! I know the sender is located at "Sellanraa", a proud Paradise holding down-under, at least that fairylike as Karwir homestead. - Thanks a bunch, pioneer and Rainbow driver, you are a real good bloke!

You have made me love Australia, - and Bony will turn that love into a passion!

Bjørke, 11th October 2004 -   Enok Kippersund

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