My office was very small, and very stuffy, though under the floor covering whenever I lifted it up, it was damp and mildewed.
The day was hot and steamy, and before me on the desk was a loose-leaf ledger that simply bristled and screamed with figures.
The headings were such as this: "30 x 5.77 Covers, 710 x 90 Covers, 30 x 31 B.E. Covers, many-figured Tubes," etc., etc., and the columns were serial numbers of tyres containing as many as nine figures.
One figure denoted the year in which the tyres were manufactured, another the month, and intervening figures accounted for wealth of fabric or cord, and other details of tyre-building.
For we were distributors of motor-tyres.
The little half-door between me and the shop gave me a view of the counter; and the shelves, packed with little red bags, were heavy with their goods.
In the little red bags were the inner tubes.
Men came in and went out.
Some took price-lists. Some asked questions only, and then retired.
Some made a purchase and haggled about the discount, and some wanted to see the Chief.
My eyes ached and my head was not altogether free from a feeling like neuralgia.
The mildew, the heat, the figures-all were contributing factors.
Then I heard a voice that made me drop my pen and peer out towards that end of the counter near the door, and just out of my view as I remained seated and at ease.
As near to the outside door as she could stand while yet within the shop-that is the position taken up by the owner of the voice.
And such a voice! Smooth and soft and cushioned!
As velvet is soft to the touch, so this voice is soft to the ear. Perhaps not everyone's ear, but certainly to mine.
My twisting office-chair creaked as I stood up. Stood up to attention as rigidly-hatless and coatless as I was-just as I sprang to it with a click when the General addressed me away over in Palestine.
"Nungurra ilukka," I said.
The owner of the voice-a lady-shy, timid, reserved, refined-turned to me.
"That is the language of my people," she said.
"Come here, please, and speak to me," I said.
Now 1 have heard some people snigger at the walk of those to whom this lady belonged.
It is certainly as different from that of most Sydney people, or any other white people, as the step of a peacock is from the tramp of a camel. It has the qualities of the peacock.
It is soft. It is noiseless. It is dainty.
It takes up its full share of the floor. Every toe finds its level, and the heel is planted as firmly as the supports of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
As I said before, it is noiseless.
When I had found the lady a seat, and had resumed mine, I asked, "In what part of your country were you born?"
She answered evasively.
It is as natural for her and her people to be evasive as it is for the most shrewd of us to refrain from telling the whole truth when we want to sell a secondhand car or a groggy horse.
"My father," she said, "came from the South and my mother from the North. His language was not the same as my mother's. I speak between the two. My words are both his and hers. Yours are neither. You speak like the people of far, far away. I do not understand you. But I know your words are of my country."
Then she leaned forward and put a hand as soft as her footfall and as soft as her voice, on my shoulder.
She peered into my face and searched me as if she expected to see something she would be afraid of.
But she was not afraid.
"Excuse me putting my hand on your shoulder," she said. "Perhaps I have no right to do it. But I know now you do not mind, and you will understand."
Then her lips quivered and her eyes filled.
She leaned forward.
"You know my people?"
She questioned me.
Yet it was not really a question. It was a statement of fact.
"Yes," I said, "I know your people!"
Then she overflowed.
"And aren't they GOOD people?"
It was an unburdening! It was a cry!
"Yes," I said. "They ARE good people!"
Then she removed her hat.
Her hair is white and old.
"My father was a King. I am a Princess. My blood is royal!"
"And where was your father a King?"
"He was a King of his people, and they lived around Wollongong. I am a native of the Wollongong district-born at Unanderra!"
"Was your father ever crowned?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, "when I was a grown girl-a young woman-he was crowned by the white people at a Wollongong Show. They gave him the title of 'King Mickey!'"
Then I saw a picture of my tiny boyhood.
In the Show ring, just after the high-jumping contest was decided, a black man was taken by the hand by a Wollongong dignitary and led to a small dais.
Some ceremony was enacted, but I was too small and too young to understand.
I saw that black man invested with something, and the people cheered and the black man shouted and waved his hands, and he had a string round his neck, and a brass crescent hung over his broad hairy chest.
"I saw your father crowned," I said, "and since then I have seen many of your people. They are GOOD people."
I bowed my royal visitor out.
She carried an inscribed copy of a little book about her folk.
"My grandchildren will read it to me," she said, "and I will come back one day, and I will tell you some more of our stories-stories we do not tell excepting to our own people. But I will tell them to you!"
"This," I said, "is a Royal visit."
"Your people came here and took our country," she said very quietly, "but just a few of you understand us. I go now to Wollongong." My Royal visitor has been back to my office.