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Something From Frank: Comrades Of The Night

vintage astronomy chart

I’ve been doing some research for a piece I’m writing, and I stumbled across this essay by my great-grandfather, FW Boreham. I thought it was lovely in all kinds of ways, because it talks about home and the view and being somewhere far away. It’s especially relevant as lots of us spent time craning our necks to look up at the very same giant moon last night.

Maybe you will like reading this too? (This is just an extract.)

Comrades of the Night

Tea at the End of the World

We had come to the End of the World; at least, that is what they called it. In point of fact, it was an Australian sheep station, away in the Never-Never country. The nearest neighbors were twenty miles away. All through that golden autumn afternoon our car had been making its way as rapidly as the condition of the road would permit, between the barbed-wire fences that seemed to stretch from one end of the continent to the other. We had been assured, when we left the run at Seldom Seen, that, with luck, we could reach the End of the World by dusk. Perhaps the luck was lacking; at any rate, we were getting nervous about things. The mists were settling down upon the hills; the nip of evening was laying hold of our ears and finger-tips; yet still there was no sign of a settlement. We were gloomily speculating on our chances of getting back to Seldom Seen before mid-night when, all at once, we detected a suspicion of smoke curling up from behind a distant ridge. A moment later we distinctly heard the barking of dogs. Involuntarily we increased the speed of the car, and then, as we swept round the bend of the grassy road, the homestead broke suddenly upon us. We reached the End of the World in time for tea; and tea at the End of the World is a noble meal.

Whole Galaxy of Heaven

After tea we sat around the great log-fire. At the End of the World they build fires such as civilization never dreams of. We talked and laughed together for awhile; and then the experiences of the day began to tell upon me. The fierce glow of the huge fire and the genial atmosphere of the cosy room, following upon the long drive in the strong bracing air of the hills, proved too much for me, and I felt as drowsy as a tired child. Before retiring, however, I stepped out on to the verandah to have a look at the night. There is something very captivating about a lonely Australian scene by starlight. And this particular night seemed to have called out the whole galaxy of heaven. Every star was in its place. I stepped off the verandah in order to get a better view of the skies. Sauntering down towards the great white gate I discovered that I was not alone. The little governess whom they all called Grace was standing with her elbow resting on the top bar of the gate, and her chin resting on her hand. I hesitated to disturb her, but she turned on my approach, and we were soon engaged in conversation. And either the conversation or the night air made me forget my sleepiness. For she said a very interesting thing:

Cure for Homesickness

`I always come out here on a night like this,’ she said. `It does me good, and cures my homesickness. My home is in Melbourne, and I have always been used to the city. But they wanted a governess at the End of the World. They pay well; I needed the money; and so it suited me to come. But, oh, it’s so different from Melbourne in the daytime, and home seems an eternity away. But at night this gate seems just like the gate at home. Everything strange is wrapped up in the darkness, so that I shall not see it. And the stars come out, the very same stars that I used to watch from our dear old front garden. It is lovely to see them. They seem so companionable, and when I stand here and look at them I forget that I am at the End of the World. I sometimes think I could never stay here but for them!’

Odd Coincidence

I left her musing by the gate and went to my room. And then a strange thing happened, one of those odd coincidences that stamp truth as stranger far than fiction. At the last post-town through which we had passed I received a letter from a young fellow away at the war. He came out from England to these new lands five years ago; but, when the war broke out, he heard the call of the flag and marched away with the rest. I glanced over his letter in the car coming along, but in the quietude of my room I was able to read it more carefully. And, to my astonishment, I came upon this:

‘It sometimes happens, ‘he writes from Flanders, ‘it sometimes happens that we really wonder if we are living on the same planet as that which we formerly inhabited. There is absolutely nothing here to connect us with the quiet life we once lived. But at night-time it is different. One by one the stars come out, and we trace the same constellations that we used to watch as we strolled up the old lane or trudged along the great high-road; and when we see them taking their old places in the skies above us, the link with the old land and the old life seems to have been suddenly restored.’

I rather wish I could introduce these two—our little governess at the End of the World and our young officer in Flanders. You never know what night come of it. They evidently have a good deal in common.

 

F W Boreham, ‘Comrades of the Night’, The Silver Shadow (London: The Epworth Press, 1918), 77-86.

Thanks to Geoff Pound for his tireless efforts, documenting Frank’s work online for a modern audience.

Image by Mighty Vintage

8 Comments

  • Reply
    Ria
    November 20, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    So fitting. I too am at the End of World, Darwin that is. At this time of year it feels almost like a different country compared to my beloved Melbourne. On Monday I searched for the Moon but found only tropical storm clouds brewing. Alas, as you head from here towards the Never Never that Frank writes of the skies clear and the stars become brilliant and the nights cooler.

  • Reply
    Kirstin
    November 17, 2016 at 2:56 PM

    This is so lovely. It feels really soft and dreamy and I loved it. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Chrissie Matheson-Green
    November 17, 2016 at 12:16 PM

    Superb writing – made me feel very humble. Thank you so much for sharing, Pip.

  • Reply
    Sylvia
    November 15, 2016 at 9:14 PM

    Wonderful! What a lovely writer.

  • Reply
    Katie
    November 15, 2016 at 11:10 AM

    That is so beautiful. Did he publish anything else?

    • Reply
      Meet Me At Mikes
      November 16, 2016 at 7:35 AM

      He wrote around 50 books – and thousands of editorials for The Age and The Mercury newspapers! So yes!

  • Reply
    Josephine
    November 15, 2016 at 7:10 AM

    Wow. That is a special piece of writing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Susan, Mum to Molly
    November 15, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    Beautiful Pip. Thank you for finding and sharing it. You obviously come from a long line of wordsmiths. I wonder what happened to those two young people – the governess and the officer…

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