P i a n d O
“I’ll be ready and waiting.” Frances smiled, probably to convince her father that this was just another one of her semester break indiscretions. I rather hoped he would not think that. For the rest of the day there were other things I had to do so I managed to avoid Charlie. He knew I was up to something but was not sure what it was. I don’t think he discarded the possibility that what I was up to may have something to do with his daughter.
Next morning when I arrived at the Morrison Winery, Frances was ready to go and had prepared a vinyl carry bag with some food and a thermos flask of coffee.
“We have some food and coffee. But it’s conditional on your carrying the bag.”
“So I have to work all week and on Saturday too?” Lofting the bag onto my shoulder we headed to my car. The main weight in the bag was from the thermos of coffee.
I was not surprised to notice that Frances had dressed for what may have been a leisurely walk through a forest to the top of a low range for a picnic. It was not a pretty little dress with bare shoulders she wore. Frances was dressed in denim jeans with a designer label on the back. A long sleeved bushman’s type shirt with a gaudily chequered pattern was topped with an Akubra that probably cost about a hundred dollars. Her walking boots could have been for mountain climbing. In spite of her apparel, she was as attractive as ever.
We drove to the tip and left my car parked in some bushes. Because of its out of the way location, the quarry was rarely visited by sightseers or anyone out scavenging.
The walk to the crest of the quarry was no trouble but when we turned to go uphill, the bush and scrub formed a dense barrier. At first I behaved like a gentleman, trying to part the bush and make a path for Frances. She laughed at me and waved me away. With her hips and thighs she pushed into the foliage, turning her body to roll through with minimal effort. She was more at home in this environment than I ever would be.
The first two hundred yards was slow going but when we arrived at the timbered ridge, it became easy and pleasant walking across the fallen debris from the trees while protected from the rays of the bright sun by a canopy of leaves. The smell of eucalyptus sap from the trees and fallen leaves made the walk even more pleasant.
When we stopped for a break, we were about half way to the crest of the range, about one and a half miles from the quarry. We kept to the contour of the ridge, neither climbing nor descending. I estimated we would be somewhere to the south of the Consalvi property and maybe right behind it.
In the still of the forest, I noticed that Frances was listening intently. “Can you hear that? It’s like running water.”
“I can hear it,” holding my breath for a moment to listen. “It’s coming from that indentation in the contour of the ridge just up ahead.”
Frances headed off in the direction of the sound. She had gone about twenty paces when she stopped and bent down to peer into a depression in the ridge. “I’ve found it, but that’s not all I’ve found.”
I hurried to join her at a spring of water gently flowing from a rock crevice not more than three feet deep. The clear spring water trickled over the rocks and into a basin shaped pool. I resisted an urge to cup my hands and scoop up some water to taste. It was not the existence of the spring that was of greatest interest. Carefully inserted into the bowl of clear water that had formed naturally, was a half round polythene pipe. It wound away around the ridge, following the contours as Frances and I had done, making its way slowly downward. The spring water constantly trickled along the gutter.
“What do you think of this?”
“For this spring to be flowing at this time of year,” Frances decided, “it has to be permanent. Whoever found it must have known they had struck gold.”
“Let’s see where it leads,”