Tails Carried High is Carmel Rowleyâ€™s debut novel and the first in the Daughters of the Wind series. Dreaming about horses and losing herself in books were essential parts of Carmelâ€™s childhood in Melbourne. It took until she was thirteen for her parents to purchase her first horse. The desire to breed horses became a reality when she married her dearly-loved husband, Don. Together, they have owned purebred Arabians for over thirty years. In 1988, the stud was moved from Donâ€™s family farm in Gippsland, Victoria, to just outside Toowoomba in Queensland. The years of breeding combined shared triumphs and sorrows, made lasting friendships - many from around the world - and produced horses which exemplified a personal ideal. Riding, owning and breeding horses became the impetus for writing breed articles in which Carmel shared the knowledge she had gained with others. Fiction writing seemed like a natural progression. From ancient legends to the complicated emotions of those who own them, the Arabian horse has offered excitement, humour, pathos and magic in its very existence. Today, the breeding program is gradually scaling down but, every day, as the stables are cleaned and the horses put into their paddocks, inspiration remains all around. Ten purebred Arabians and a multitude of birds and wildlife share a lifestyle full of gratitude and happiness.
Also by Carmel Rowley
Book two of the Daughters of the Wind series Available at www.carmelrowley.com.au
Tails Carried High Copies of this publication are available from www.carmelrowley.com.au Copyright ÂŠ Carmel Rowley All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. The information, views, opinions and visuals expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect those of the publisher. The publisher disclaims any liabilities or responsibilities whatsoever for any damages, libel or liabilities arising directly or indirectly from the contents of this publication. Every reasonable effort has been made to contact copyright holders of material reproduced in this book. If any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers would be glad to hear from them and make good in future editions any errors or omissions brought to their attention. A copy of this publication can be found in the National Library of Australia. 1st Edition 2009 This 2nd Edition 2010 ISBN: 9781921681004 (pbk.) Published by Pearsons View Publishing email@example.com Book layout by Kingfisher Creative - www.kingfishercreative.com.au Printed by Griffin Press
DEDICATION This book is dedicated to my husband
with all my love. Also to my grandmother
Who left me with the memory of healing hands and a dancing spirit of love. This book would never have been written without either of them.
ACknowledgements Although my name is the one on the cover of this book, the process has been a concerted effort to the end. A special thank you is extended to: Lyn Stead and Lorraine Kauffmann for their friendship and positive, helpful critique. Kim Baird my gorgeous model on the front cover. Aleksi Busch and Oliver Wibihal who always encouraged and approved of my writing. Wendy Richards for her input, understanding and editing skills. Also warmest thanks to all my supportive friends and family. For all who gave me insight into specific fields of interest: Professor Tom Broad St Lucia University, DNA Laboratory, Queensland. Ann Tresize Ph.D. the Assoc. Professor and Director, Australia Equine Genetics Research Centre, Queensland. Judy Bradford from The Chronicle Newspaper, Toowoomba, Queensland. Gail Lipke Historical Consultant, Toowoomba, Queensland. Lastly the inspiring Arabian breed. Of the books that helped in my research, I am indebted to: The Classic Arabian Horse by Judith Forbis. Arabian Horse Breeding and the Arabians of America by Dr. Ameen Zaher. Straight Egyptian Reference Handbooks printed by The Pyramid Society USA. Genetic Principles in Horse Breeding by John F. Lasley. The First Quilty the Birth of Australian Endurance Riding by Erica Williams. Collected Verse of A.B.Patterson by A.B.Patterson. The Arabian horse Society of Australia Limited. Ben Jonson: The Alchemist,II:i. All cover photographs by Carmel Rowley Although some of the, places, events and an occasional name in this novel are real all of the characters are fictional, and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is unintended and coincidental.
An impure breed could never have maintained itâ€™s essential sameness and characteristics so uniformly for so many thousands of years as the Arab has done, nor would men of all nations have so uniformly and so universally praised an animal which was not of surpassing excellence. If he pass away by human folly, you will never see his like again. the Hon. sir James Boucant circa 1912 Australia
Exhausted, Emma slid into a chair in the kitchen and rested her head in cupped hands. Nothing could erase the night-mare of the last half hour. This evening, she had set eyes on a devil and, without any remorse, banished him. She was ashamed of losing control but at least the action silenced his tirade. ‘You stupid bitch’, he raged ‘One day you’ll know the truth and by God you’ll wish you were dead.’ ‘Get out’, she cried. ‘You’re finished with Empire.’ He lunged at her, grabbing her arm and wrenching it upwards, causing her to cry out in pain. Emma’s borzoi leapt to his feet and attacked. She watched in horror before coming to her senses and dragging Chez off him. ‘Get out’, she screamed, tightening her grip on the dog’s collar. Shaking, she held onto the dog as if her life depended on never letting go. Dragging the still-snarling dog with her, she fled from the room. It took all her remaining strength to shout back over her shoulder, ‘Pick up your cheque in the morning and never set foot on this farm again’. Foul language followed her and, in her haste to get away, she missed his final words. ‘God, you bitch. One day soon you’ll wish you were dead.’ He slammed the door so hard, it rattled every window in the house. Emma lifted her head and gazed up at the clock on the wall. On automatic pilot, she rose, filled out a cheque before placing it in an envelope and leaving it in clear view to be found in the morning. She sat back down and reached down to stroke Chez’s head. He made a soft, grumbling sound. Her brave dog, she thought, her wonderfully brave dog. Remembering the horses in the barn Emma knew she had to go and turn off the lights. Leaving the house with Chez, xi
she looked up at the night sky. It was so peaceful outdoors, the stars glittered and winked like jewels in the inky black heavens. The darkness helped to calm her. While Chez went off exploring, Emma paused to breathe in the cool night air. It took a few moments before she realised there was none of the usual calling and shuffling noises coming from the barn. Instead, the building was uneasily quiet. Her heart was racing as she jogged down the breezeway, glancing into each stable. She stopped at a horrible rasping sound coming from Saarhm’s stall. Frantic now, Emma ran towards the end stable. Grabbing the top of the half-door, she was riveted with horror. ‘No, no’, she barely whispered, but in her head it was a wild keening scream. Her magnificent Arabian stallion stood swaying in the corner, legs splayed wide as he struggled to remain standing. His snow-white coat was black with sweat. Foam and saliva drooled from his mouth. Unable to think straight, Emma called his name, but there was no reaction. All his energies went into a valiant effort to focus through glazed eyes. In her haste to open the door, she fumbled with the catch, sliding the metal bolt so hard it crashed against the fixture. The sound magnified in the horse’s senses, sending him into a frenzy. Saarhm flattened his ears and bared his teeth, lunging at the noise. He hit the door at the same time Emma began to push it open, sending her hurtling backwards across the walkway. She slammed with a sickening crunch into the sandstone wall opposite. Chez bounded into the stables as she slid unconscious to the floor. The dog scratched at Emma’s crumpled body before beginning a heart-wrenching howl. The stallion staggered, snorted with fear at the smell of blood, then fled into the night. xii
From the moment Jessikah left Brisbane airport, the azure sky and white fluffy clouds enthralled her. It was a brilliant sunny day. Somewhere between London and Brisbane, this same sky had changed from a gloomy slate grey to an infinite clear blue. Her reaction to the sunshine was immediate. It lifted her spirits and with renewed energy she drove west towards Toowoomba. Winding down the window, Jessikah breathed in the scents of Brisbaneâ€™s sub-tropical breezes. She felt almost light headed with excitement. Australia, she thought, this is Australia. Her newfound cheerfulness had her turning up the radio and singing the entire one hundred and thirtyeight kilometres to Toowoomba. The little car carried Jessikah easily to the top of the steep range crossing. To her delight, the bustling city charmed her. Eighty thousand people made it one of Australiaâ€™s largest inland cities and, as she drove down the gracious tree lined streets, Jessikah fell in love with its colonial architecture, parks and colourful gardens. After settling into a motel opposite Queens Park in the city centre, she walked to one of the nearby restaurants to enjoy a cup of coffee. Across the street, mature trees towered above a riotous hotchpotch of primary coloured annuals, which cheated the ever-present sunshine by growing lush and plump. Jessikah leaned on her elbows, thinking about her travels. She had come a long way. But her journey was not related to the distance between England and Australia her journey was about dealing with the unhappiness of the 1
Tails Carried High last few years. She was reminded about things she normally kept locked away in the back of her mind. From the moment she set eyes on this historic city, all she could think about was her father. Jessikah knew he would have loved Toowoomba, the tree lined streets, the turn-of-the-century houses, combined with the thing her father loved most, antique shops. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, carefully. How could she ever forget the day he died? One moment they were laughing together behind the counter of the family antique shop. The next, she was panicking with fear, attempting to breathe life back into his already dead body. He had died of a massive heart attack. Her mother Samantha was left reeling, floundering from the loss of not only her husband but also her dearest friend. He always said his mission in life was to keep them safe, warm and loved, but when they clung together at his graveside they believed they would never be warm and safe again. The business was sold two years ago when Jessikahâ€™s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Deciding to nurse Samantha herself, Jessikah and her mother spent a memorable last year, one Jessikah felt was their happiest time together. Samantha told her daughter to make something of her life and act on her love of writing. Over a cup of coffee on one of her â€˜wellâ€™ days, she told Jessikah stories about a woman who bred horses so beautiful they defied all imagining. Samantha explained that the horses were purebred Arabians, and described how the foundation animals were imported all the way from Egypt. To Jessikah the horses sounded almost too good to be true, fairytales for her imagination, but tales told in such a way that the horses almost manifested right there in the living room. Jessikah never did learn if the stories were true. Just as 2
Carmel Rowley they began to share their dreams and memories, her mother’s health worsened. More than once Samantha ordered Jessikah, ‘Tell the story of the horses, darling, write the story for me’. What story? Jessikah thought. How can I tell a story with only a hazy outline? The whole idea was ridiculous. She had no idea about the horses. But the words lingered in her head. Her mother was buried on an overcast and miserable day. The heavens were lamenting the loss of Samantha as much as Jessikah and her friends and family. It was Samantha who bound Jessikah to her strange and reserved group of English relations. Rain fell, soaking the mourners, but as the gathering shivered, the bouquets of flowers revived, glowing with fresh colour. Jessikah stood at the graveside admiring their beauty, and said a silent goodbye. In the days following her mother’s funeral, Jessikah stayed in the house, surrounded by the things she loved. Her friend Nyla brought meals in the evening, worried at Jessikah’s need to clean the place from top to bottom. When it was the attic’s turn to be tackled, what Jessikah found there astounded them both. An old cedar chest, covered in years of dust, had been hidden away in the corner. Jessikah had to find the courage to lift the lid. Inside she found it was full of her mother’s treasures. There were teddy bears and two beautiful Art Deco lamps wrapped in colourful Indian scarves, but she exclaimed with delight at a small, finely worked painting of a white horse. She hung the painting in her room and, before she fell asleep, willed this Pegasus creature to take her to realms unknown in her dreams. Jessikah had hit the attic with good intentions but, once she found the chest, she became fascinated by its contents and the cleaning was forgotten. The biggest surprise was a faded postcard from Australia, showing a large bluestone 3
Tails Carried High church in a city called Toowoomba. The card was pinned to an equally faded championship ribbon, a tricolour sash with ‘Royal Melbourne Show’ printed in bold yellow along the top and ‘Champion Purebred Arabian Stallion 1968’ underneath. Jessikah had no idea why her mother even had such a thing. When she turned the card over, she found the name ‘Simon Rhodes’ in her mother’s handwriting. Who was this Simon Rhodes, and what was his connection to her mother? Jessikah’s new found interest in Toowoomba led her to wonder about her future. There was nothing to stop her from searching out this Simon Rhodes, and the idea of spending time ‘down-under’ fired her imagination. Images of white sandy beaches, Uluru and unique wildlife were irresistible. Deep down, she knew getting away was just what she needed: the trip could be a journey of discovery. Instead of renting her family home, Jessikah decided to sell. A phone call to an estate agent had the property sold immediately and for more than she expected. With excited anticipation, she began packing, selling and storing her belongings. Before leaving, she telephoned the Royal Melbourne Show Society in Australia to ask for the name of the owner of the Champion Purebred Arabian stallion for 1968. Jessikah nearly dropped the phone when told her grandmother had owned the horse—Emma Hagen had bred Arabian horses in Queensland. The information sent Jessikah into a tailspin. Were the stories her mother told her true? For hours, she sat and gazed at the white horse in the painting, committing the brush strokes to memory, and wondering if the woman who brought Arabian horses all the way from Egypt was in fact from her family.
Jessikah woke to sunlight blazing into her third storey motel room. With the curtains flung wide, she stood at the window, her face lifted to the sky. She had dreamt she was in Australia and expected to wake up in her room back in London. Today the journey begins, she thought, and laughed at her dramatics. After breakfast she went in search of a telephone directory, where she found around twenty listings for the name ‘Rhodes’ but none with the initial ‘S’. She decided to ring all of them and ask to speak to Simon. It took twelve calls before a cautious voice told her he was Simon’s son, John Rhodes. Jessikah hesitated. She was concerned she might be intruding but, taking a deep breath, asked if she could visit. ‘After lunch would be best for me’, John answered, and gave her directions. It took barely ten minutes for Jessikah to find the street, and when she stepped from her hire car, she smiled as a gust of wind blew hundreds of dried leaves scampering down the road. The dry weather must have the trees dropping leaves, she thought, and she remembered as a child loving to march through piles of crunchy, dry autumn leaves gathered in drifts down the roads outside London. She turned her attention to an imposing, red brick, colonial house. It had decorative fretwork on the wide verandas and a circular tower on one corner. There was even an Edwardian street lamp, with a matching wrought iron seat, placed half way along the path to the front door. Jessikah let the air flow from her lungs and stepped with care onto an ornate and spotless tiled veranda. Her 5
Tails Carried High fingers didn’t even get a chance to touch the polished brass doorknocker before the front door opened. She realized John Rhodes had been watching for her to arrive, and she smiled at the tall, fair-haired young man who stood in the doorway. John caught his breath at the slender girl standing on his front porch. She had thick, copper-coloured hair falling past her shoulders. Her upward tilting eyes were an ice blue, and until she gave him an uncertain smile, they appeared unapproachable. ‘John Rhodes, I presume.’ Her voice was low, with an English accent. ‘Certainly not Livingstone’, he laughed. ‘But your presumption is correct.’ He imitated her accent and she thought he was mocking her. She hesitated before she shook his offered hand. ‘Come in’, he said. ‘How are you coping with the heat?’ Jessikah noticed his voice did have a slight English inflection. ‘The heat is overpowering but better than a London winter’, she replied. John moved aside so that she could step into the spacious entry hall. Once they were seated in the lounge room, he came straight to the point, asking why she wanted to talk to his father. ‘I was hoping you or your father might be able to explain a few things for me’, Jessikah said and pulled the postcard from her handbag. ‘Some months ago I found this postcard. Your father’s name is written on the back.’ She handed the card across to John. ‘It was attached to a sash for Champion Arabian stallion at Royal Melbourne Show in 1968. I rang the Royal Show Society in Melbourne and they told me the name of the person whose horse was awarded the ribbon. It was Emma Hagen, my grandmother.’ John showed no surprise, other than his eyebrows coming 6
Carmel Rowley together in a frown. Turning the postcard over, he read his father’s name on the back. ‘Maybe your father could shed some light...’ she paused, waiting for him to answer. ‘My father is dead.’ ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, you must think I’m…’ Jessikah’s voice shook with concern and disappointment. ‘No, don’t worry, his death wasn’t recent’, said John. ‘Though I know my father did have a connection with your grandmother. He was the stud manager at the time she died.’ ‘My grandmother’s farm manager’, Jessikah repeated. ‘Did he ever speak of his time at the stud, or of my family?’ ‘Jessikah, I have to tell you, my father was not into reminiscing. He shared nothing about his early life, other than that he was adopted.’ ‘So you’re saying his name is only on the card because he was my grandmother’s farm manager.’ ‘I guess so’, John said. ‘He never spoke much about it. And he destroyed all his personal papers. I gathered his time at the stud was not happy. The photograph in the hall is the only thing left to prove what I’ve told you. After he died, I asked my mother about their marriage. But she’s impossible when it comes to Simon and refused point blank to discuss anything about him.’ ‘Could I see the picture?’ Jessikah asked. John pointed down the passage. ‘It’s on the left, just inside the front door.’ Together they gazed at a carefully hung display of old photographs, most depicting local landscapes, while a few featured Toowoomba’s historic architecture. The photograph with John’s father was taken at a horse show. A white horse, two men, a woman and a child made up the composition. 7
Tails Carried High Jessikah straightaway recognised the white horse and knew it was the subject of her painting stored in London. ‘The photograph was taken at the old Toowoomba showgrounds’, John explained. ‘I love the period architecture behind the people.’ ‘You didn’t keep the photograph because of the subjects then?’ asked Jessikah. ‘To a point, yes, I did, but the buildings are all gone now. The TAFE College is built on the site.’ Jessikah was far more interested in the people than the buildings. ‘I think this must be my mother.’ She pointed to the girl. John looked at the photograph with new interest. ‘This must be your grandmother. You resemble her.’ His finger pressed to the glass. ‘This is my father.’ Simon Rhodes would have been good looking had he not been scowling. His face gazed at the observer with disdain. John watched Jessikah’s reaction. He knew how people often responded to his father. Yes, he was a handsome man but his closed and bitter demeanour always kept people at a distance. Having spent his formative years at boarding school, John learnt at an early age how to control his emotions. It had stood him in good stead when his sister told him the many home truths about his father’s marriage to their mother. Jessikah found it hard to drag her eyes from the picture. ‘What colour were your father’s eyes? They appear pale, like ice.’ ‘He had blue eyes’, John said. ‘They changed colour depending on his moods, but they were as blue as the Queensland sky.’ ‘Just like yours’, she murmured. ‘And yours, Jessikah.’ Jessikah pointed to the other man in the picture. ‘Who is this?’ 8
Carmel Rowley ‘His name is Darion Carey,’ explained John, ‘a prominent local business man. He also bred Arabians, and I happen to know he started with horses purchased from your grandmother’s stud.’ ‘Is he still alive?’ asked Jessikah. ‘No, you’ve lucked out again. He’s dead as well.’ ‘Somehow death is surrounding me’, said Jessikah, and gave a deep sigh. ‘From what my sister told me, Darion Carey owned a full brother to the white stallion in the photograph.’ Jessikah nodded. ‘If Darion Carey is dead, does it mean the stud farm no longer exists?’ ‘No dead end there’, John answered. ‘The farm is one of the most successful Arabian breeding farms in Australia. They sell horses all over the world. Darion Carey’s son operates the stud. It’s called Grandeur.’ ‘Maybe I should visit Grandeur’, Jessikah said, half to herself. John’s face stiffened and he started back to the lounge room. Jessikah wished she could stay and look at the photograph a few moments longer. Once they were back in their seats, John cleared his throat. ‘I know it’s none of my business, but if you’re going to get around the Arabian studs, I think you should keep the fact you are Emma Hagen’s granddaughter to yourself.’ ‘Why would you suggest such a thing?’ His statement alarmed her. ‘It’s too hard to explain in a hurry, but you’ll find out soon enough. I’m sure you can cook up a reason for a request for a visit. Mind you, Grandeur stud is well worth seeing. The Carey family is rich and influential and often open the farm for charity. I was there about a year ago. The place has a serious wow factor.’ 9
Tails Carried High John handed Jessikah back the postcard. As she stood up to leave, she slipped it inside her bag. ‘Sorry I wasn’t more help’, he told her. Jessikah shrugged. Platitudes, she thought, and knew he wasn’t sorry at all. Walking down the passage with her to the front door, John recommended that she contact the Australian Arabian Horse Society. He told her about their office outside Sydney and that she could find their number through the telephone directory assistance. She took in the photograph one last time. As soon as she stepped onto the veranda, John muttered goodbye and shut the door. Jessikah retraced her steps along the path and closed the gate. For a moment, she stood gazing back at the house. The young man inside had her confused. One minute he was all smiles, the next serious and standoffish: so disappointing. She didn’t want a mystery, she wanted answers. His advice about keeping her identity quiet was disconcerting, although she supposed it was of no consequence. She had no reason to tell anyone she was connected to Emma Hagen. After all, her name was different. Jessikah needed to sit down with a strong cup of coffee and think about her plan of action. Her mother’s little anecdotes of wisdom came to mind: ‘write what you think about, get it down right away, you can add to it later’. It dawned on Jessikah that her mother’s advice about writing gave her the perfect reason to visit Grandeur. Whatever she was going to write, she had to do research and a visit to the Careys’ stud would be the perfect place to start.
The buzz of the alarm woke Jessikah the following morning. After breakfast, she called the Australian Arabian Horse Society in Sydney. Yes, they told her, the Levander - Hagen family had bred purebred Arabian horses for decades. The stud was located near the city of Toowoomba in south-east Queensland and was named the Empire Egyptian Stud. The next phone call was to Grandeur Stud. David Carey answered and, apologising, said that, as he had business meetings all week, Friday was the earliest he would be able to accommodate her request. For Jessikah, three days sightseeing in the meantime would be fun. A visit to the Toowoomba tourist information centre had her armed with leaflets and maps. The Cobb and Co. Museum, the Japanese garden at the University of Southern Queensland, followed by lunch at Picnic Point, gave her new insight into her adopted city. After lunch, using her tourist maps, she wandered the city streets, with her first port of call the bluestone church pictured on her postcard. She stepped over the threshold and slid into a seat midway down the aisle. An imposing leadlight window reflected a myriad of colours across the altar, turning the starched white cover into an explosion of psychedelic patterns. She wondered if her grandparents had been married at St Lukeâ€™s, and could almost hear the organ playing the wedding march. Gazing up at the high timber beamed roof, she closed 11
Tails Carried High her eyes to recite the Lord’s Prayer. It was the only prayer she knew by heart. When she opened her eyes, her first thought was of her grandmother. ‘Tell me your secrets, Emma’, she murmured. ‘It’s time to tell me Empire’s secrets.’ The next day Jessikah ventured to the outlying towns. It was obvious south-east Queensland was a major crop growing region. She discovered how the fertile, black, volcanic soil produced a high percentage of Queensland’s crops, including cotton. The shopkeepers were more than happy to pass the time gossiping, and she delighted in browsing through the many antique shops and galleries, breathing in the scents of furniture polish and old treasures. Vivid memories of her father and his store were awakened. He would have loved to be with her, she thought, searching through the fascinating wealth of Australiana. By the time Friday came around, Jessikah had acquainted herself so well with Toowoomba and its surrounds that Grandeur Stud was easily found. She drove along the lightly timbered driveway that rose from a side gully by the road. In the gully and along the driveway grew towering prickly pear trees. Jessikah braked at the top of the hill. A long drawn out sigh of admiration escaped her. Spread out below, Grandeur Arabian Stud was breathtaking. Wow factor was right, she thought, remembering John’s words. A magnificent horse property stretched for kilometres along the valley floor. The Queenslander style residence with slender poplars planted along the edge of the garden reminded Jessikah of Tuscany, while rows of golden wattles spread a halo of yellow. The timber fencing, the outbuildings and several stable blocks were painted to match the house. In almost oriental splendour, the laneways were planted 12
Carmel Rowley with flowering jacarandas. Massed mauve flowers weighed heavily on the branches, mingling their colours with the varied shades of green. A narrow creek wound through the middle of the valley, glints of silver sparkling in the midmorning light. It was reminiscent of a Monet canvas. As she drove towards the house, Jessikah noticed an elderly man holding a white horse. The horse lifted its head at the car’s approach, giving a high pitched whinny ending in a series of snorts. A foal darted from behind a clump of shrubs. Coal black, with strands of silver in its wispy tail and a smattering of grey hair around its large shining eyes, the delicate animal resembled the prized porcelain statues Jessikah once collected as a child. The foal cavorted and danced around its patient dam. Jessikah was entranced by its feather-light movements and its beauty. Her family’s mysterious past had run straight into the present. ‘Can I help you?’ the man holding the mare asked, leaning towards the car window. ‘Miss, can I help you?’ he repeated. Startled, Jessikah looked up and couldn’t help saying, ‘The foal is enchanting.’ ‘Isn’t he, though?’ the man gave a merry laugh. ‘His new owners will know they’re alive. Do you have an appointment?’ Jessikah nodded at the grey haired man, whose eyes were the colour of jacaranda flowers. Even though he was well past his youth, he stood straight and steady. The mare moved towards the car window and Jessikah reached out to touch her face. ‘I’ve never seen such a beautiful horse.’ The man smiled. ‘Faatiha is one of our best. Like her ancestors, she has a mystical power over some of us. Silly coming from an old codger like me, but horses have supported our existence for centuries and have far more 13
Tails Carried High empathy with us than we have with them.’ Jessikah asked where she might find David Carey. ‘In the barn to the left of the house, just follow the path. The visitor’s car park is over there’, he pointed. ‘Thank you, Mister… ‘Just Doug, Miss. I look after the mares and foals.’ ‘I’m Jessikah, Just-Doug-who-looks-after-the-maresand-foals’’, she replied and flashed him a dazzling smile, reminding him suddenly of someone he had known a long time ago. The mare pushed her muzzle towards the car door, tempting Jessikah to reach out again and touch the velvety nostril. ‘So soft, and so beautifully formed’, she murmured. Jessikah parked the car in the car park near the barn and leaned back in her seat to watch Doug escort the mare and foal back to their paddock. She didn’t notice the man walk up to the car until he spoke. ‘Jessikah Lloyd?’ he asked and opened the car door. She stepped out and shook his hand. ‘Mr Carey? I’m thrilled to visit. I know how busy you are.’ ‘So you’re going to write an article on Arabian breeders in Queensland?’ he began. ‘Yes, a series of articles and maybe later I might consider a book. I was hoping you might lend me some magazines to help me find a starting point. It would be interesting to learn about the type of person who owns Arabian horses’, she told him. ‘Perhaps later I might be able to talk to you about the breeders in the area.’ ‘If only you knew…’ David Carey muttered as he focused on Jessikah’s face. Her startling blue eyes were outlined by long dark lashes that threw a shadow across her cheeks when she blinked. Her pale skin was brought to life by her light copper hair. Her unique fashion sense combined 14
Carmel Rowley contemporary style with a bohemian flair. He liked it, and her tallish thin frame carried it off well. She seemed to be her own person. Yet he felt he had seen her somewhere before, even though her accent and her skin showed that, indeed, she was from England. David’s scrutiny made Jessikah smile. She was thinking about blue eyes and Queensland. Everyone she had met lately had eyes that matched the sky. Even David’s eyes were blue. His close-cropped hair had a scattering of salt and pepper grey above a tanned face. It was evident he was not in his office all the time. Of medium height, he looked slender and elegant in his suit pants and stripped shirt. The neck was unbuttoned and he held his tie in his hands. She was relieved he did not resemble his father. The photograph on John’s wall showed Darion Carey as an unapproachable, no-nonsense person. This man looked and acted as if life would always go his way. He had a self-assured but welcoming manner. Jessikah was the first to speak. ‘This has to be one of the loveliest places I have ever seen.’ ‘We think so’, David said, as he cleared his throat. ‘If you come into the house, I’ll see what I can find for your project.’ They walked across the homestead’s ample front porch and into a large entry hall. Jessikah stopped before an almost life-size oil painting of a black horse and its mirror image in white. Immediately, she recognised the artist. Her painting at home in London was by the same person. This painting was set in the desert, though not the desert of endless sand dunes and pyramids, but a desert of vivid red dirt, scrubby trees and rocks straight from the Australian outback. Illuminated by spotlights, the picture made the viewer stop and step away, as though the horses might jump off the canvas, scattering stones and dirt all over the polished floor. Jessikah smiled in appreciation and turned to David to 15
Tails Carried High share the moment, but it was clear he no longer noticed his surroundings. Jessikah looked around, taking in the expensive furnishings, the Aubusson rugs and the artwork. She took the drink David handed her. ‘Make yourself comfortable. I won’t be long’, he said, and placed the bowl of crisps on the table beside a tapestry-covered sofa, then disappeared down the passage. Jessikah sipped her drink and looked over at a highly polished grand piano standing by the window. The temptation to touch the keys and run her hands over the polished wood was irresistible. She moved to the piano stool and ran off several sets of scales, followed by an easy-to-play sonata by Beethoven. Her fingers always itched whenever she saw a piano and this was one of the finest she had ever had the pleasure to play. On the wall beside the piano, she noticed a collection of antique frames and slid across the seat to inspect them more closely. She was surprised to see her grandmother standing beside a black horse, her hand resting on its glossy neck, a strained smile on her face. Jessikah was lost in thought when David came up behind her, saying, ‘So you play the piano?’ She blushed. ‘I hope you don’t mind. I couldn’t resist. My mother would be ashamed at my playing, considering the money she spent on lessons.’ ‘Kids are the bane of a parent’s life’, David replied and handed her a substantial stack of magazines. ‘This should keep you busy for a few days at least. Would you like a quick walk around the farm before I get back to work?’