Tim by Colleen McCullough


  Mary Horton gazed at Tim, dumbfounded. Had he lived two thousand years ago, he might have served as model for the greatest Apollos of all time. Instead of standing with such superb lack of self-consciousness in a city street, he would have lived forever in the cool, smoothly satin curves of pale marble, an object of awe for generations upon generations . . .

  Other Avon Books by Colleen McCullough

  A Creed for the Third Millennium

  An Indecent Obsession

  The Ladies of Missalonghi

  The Thorn Birds

  The First Man in Rome

  The Grass Crown


  Title Page

  Other Avon Books by Colleen McCullough



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  About the Author

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  The Hearst Corporation

  1350 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, New York 10019

  Copyright © 1974 by Colleen McCullough Cover art by Glenn Harrington

  Published by arrangement with Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. ISBN: 0-380-71196-6

  All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law. For information address HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022.

  First Avon Books Printing: November 1990


  Printed in the U.S.A.

  RA 10 9 8 7 6 5 4


  Gilbert H. Glaser, M.D. Chairman, Department of Neurology Yale University School of Medicine with gratitude and affection


  Harry Markham and his crew arrived on the job at exactly seven o'clock that Friday morning. Harry and his foreman Jim Irvine sitting inside the pickup cabin and Harry's three men in the open back of the truck, perched wherever they could find a level space for their behinds. The house they were renovating lay on Sydney's North Shore in the suburb of Artarmon, just behind the spreading desolation of the brick pits. It was not a big job, even for a small-time builder like Harry; merely covering the red brick bungalow with stucco and adding a sleepout to the back veranda, the kind of job Harry welcomed from time to time « because it filled in the gaps between larger contracts.

  The weekend promised heat and endless sun, if Friday morning was any indication; the men piled out of the pickup grumbling among themselves, plunged into the gloomy tree-shielded aisle of the side passage and shed their clothes without a twinge of self-consciousness or shame.

  Changed into their work-shorts, they came round the back corner of the house just as the Old Girl was shuffling down the backyard in her faded pink chenille bathrobe, circa 1950, carefully carrying a gaudily flowered china chamber pot in both hands, her head a twinkling mass of tin butterfly hair wavers, also circa 1950. No new-fangled rollers for Mrs. Emily Parker, thank you very much. The yard slipped gradually into the maw of a gravelly clay canyon which had once been the source of a considerable number of Sydney's bricks; now it served as a convenient place for the Old Girl to empty her chamber pot every morning, for she clung doggedly to the habits of her rural origins and insisted on her potty at night.

  As the contents of the pot flew in a solid-looking arc of pale amber toward the bottom of the brick pit, she turned her head and eyed the nearly naked men sourly.

  "G'day, Miz Parker!" Harry called. "Oughta finish this today, I reckon!"

  "And about bloody time, too, you lazy lot of bots!" the Old Girl snarled as she came slopping up the yard again, quite unembarrassed. "The things I have to put up with on account of youse! Miss Horton complained to me last night that her prize pink geranyimums is all covered with cement dust, and her maidenhair fern got squashed flat when some useless coot buzzed a brick over her fence yestiddy."

  "If Miss Horton's that prune-faced old spinster next door," Mick Devine muttered to Bill Nai-smith, "then I bet her bloody maidenhair didn't get squashed by a brick only yestiddy, it up and died years ago from no fertilizer!"

  Still complaining loudly, the Old Girl disappeared inside with her empty chamber pot; a few seconds later the men heard the energetic sounds of Mrs. Emily Parker cleaning her chamber pot in the back veranda toilet, followed by the swoosh of the toilet cistern discharging and a sound of ringing china as the pot was hung on its diurnal hook above the more orthodox repository of human wastes.

  "Jesus Henry, I bet the bloody grass is green down in that brick pit," Harry said to a grinning crew.

  "It's a bloody wonder she ain't flooded it out long before now," Bill sniggered.

  "Well, if youse asks me, she ain't the full quid," Mick said. "In this day and age and with two proper bogs in her house, she's still peeing into a guzunda."

  "A guzunda?" Tim Melville echoed.

  "Yeah, sport, a guzunda. A guzunda is the thing that guzunda the bed every night and that you always put your flaming foot in when you get up in a hurry," Harry explained. He looked at his watch. "The Readymix Concrete truck ought to be here any tick, I reckon. Tim, you get out the front and wait for it. Take the big wheelbarrow off the truck and start ferrying the mud back to us as soon as the blighter shows, okay?"

  Tim Melville smiled, nodded, and trotted off.

  Mick Devine, absently watching him go and still pondering on the vagaries of Old Girls, started to laugh. "Oh, struth! I just thought of a beaut! Listen, you blokes, at smoke-oh this morning you just follow my lead, and maybe we'll teach Tim a thing or two about guzundas and such-like."


  Mary Horton screwed her long, very thick hair into its habitual bun on the back of her neck, thrust two more pins into it and eyed her reflection in the mirror without joy or sorrow, or indeed much interest. The mirror was a good one, and gave back her image without flattery or distortion; had her eyes been engaged in a more personal inspection they would have seen a short, rather stocky woman of early middle age, with white hair as colorless as crystal pulled cruelly away from a square but regular-featured face. She wore no make-up, deeming it a waste of time and money to pay homage to vanity. The eyes themselves were dark brown and snappingly alert, no-nonsense eyes which echoed the
decisive, slightly hard planes of her face. Her body was clad in what her fellow workers had long ago decided was her equivalent of army uniform or nun's habit; a crisp white shirt buttoned high at her throat, over which the top half of a severely cut gray linen suit slipped smoothly. Her hemline was decently below her knees, the skirt cut generously enough to avoid its riding up when she sat down, her legs were sheathed in sensibly thick support hose, and on her feet she wore black lace-up shoes with solid block heels.

  The shoes were polished until they twinkled, not a speck or a spot marred the white surface of her shirt, no crease sullied the perfection of the linen suit. To be at all times absolutely impeccable was an obsession with Mary Horton; her young assistant at the office swore that she had seen Miss Horton remove her clothes carefully and put them on a hanger before she used the lavatory so they would not become creased or disarranged.

  Satisfied that she measured up to her inflexible standards, Mary Horton nudged a black straw hat onto the upper margin of her bun, stuck a hatpin through it in one movement, drew on her black kid gloves and pulled her huge handbag to the edge of the dressing table. She opened the bag and methodically checked to see that it contained keys, money, handkerchief, spare Kotex pad, pen and notebook, appointment diary, identification and credit cards, driver's license, parking lot gate card, safety pins, straight pins, needle and thread box, scissors, nail file, two spare shirt buttons, screwdriver, pliers, wirecutters, flashlight, steel tape measure in centimeters and inches, box of .38 cartridges, and police service revolver.

  She was a crack shot. It was a part of her duties to do Constable Steel & Mining's banking, and since the time she had neatly winged a felon as he scuttled away with Constable Steel & Mining's payroll under his arm, there was not a criminal in Sydney with sufficient intestinal fortitude to tackle Miss Horton on her way from the bank. She had yielded her briefcase so imperturbably, with such composure and lack of protest, that the thief had thought himself perfectly safe; then as he turned to run she opened her handbag, took out the pistol, leveled it, aimed it and fired it. Sergeant Hopkins of the NSW Police pistol range maintained she was faster on the draw than Sammy Davis, Junior.

  Thrown on her own resources at the age of fourteen, she had shared a room at the YWCA with five other girls, and worked as a salesclerk in David Jones until she completed a night secretarial course. At fifteen she had commenced work in the general typists' pool at Constable Steel & Mining, so poor that she wore the same scrupulously laundered skirt and blouse every day and darned her cotton stockings until they contained more darns than original fabric.

  Within five years her efficiency, unobtrusive quietness, and remarkable intelligence took her from the general office to the post of private secretary for Archibald Johnson, the managing director, but during her first ten years with the firm she continued to live at the Y, darn her stockings over and over again and save much more than she spent.

  When she was twenty-five years old she approached Archie Johnson for advice on investing her savings, and by the time she was thirty she had made many, many times her initial outlay. Consequently, at the age of forty-three she owned a house in Artarmon, a quiet middle-class suburb, drove a very conservative but very expensive British Bentley upholstered in genuine leather and paneled in genuine walnut, owned a beach cottage on twenty acres of land north of Sydney, and had her suits made by the man who tailored for the wife of the Governor General of Australia.

  She was very well satisfied with herself and her life; she enjoyed the small luxuries which only money permitted, kept almost totally to herself at work and at home, had no friends save five thousand books which lined the walls of her den and several hundred LPs devoted almost entirely to Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, and Handel. She loved gardening and cleaning house, never watched television or went to the movies, and had never wanted or had a boyfriend.

  When Mary Horton let herself out of her front door she stood on the stoop for a moment, screwing up her eyes against the glare and checking the state of her front garden. The grass needed mowing badly; where was that dratted man whom she paid to barber it every Thursday fortnight? He had not come for a month, and the closely cropped green velvet surface was becoming tussocky. Most annoying, she thought, really most annoying.

  There was a curious thrumming in the air, half a sound and half a sensation, a sort of faintly heard boom, boom, boom that seeped into the bones and told the experienced Sydneysider that today was going to be a very hot day, up over the century. The twin West Australian flowering gums on either side of her front gate fluttered their blue, sick-led leaves limply downward in sighing protest against the hammer of the heat, and Japanese beetles clicked and rattled busily among the suffocating masses of yellow flowers on the cassia bushes. A bank of magnificent red double oleanders flanked the stone-flagged pathway leading from the front door to the garage; Mary Horton set her lips together tightly and began to walk along it.

  Then the duel began, the struggle which recurred every morning and evening of summer. As she drew level with the first beautiful, blooming bush, it began to shriek and caterwaul in an incredible volume of shrilling sound which rang in her ears until it set her head reeling.

  Down went the handbag, off came the gloves;

  Mary Horton marched to the neat green coils of the garden hose, turned its faucet full on and began to drench her oleanders. Gradually the noise dwindled away as the bushes became saturated, until there was only a single basso profundo "breek!" emanating from the bush nearest to the house. Mary shook her fist at it vindictively.

  "I'll get you yet, you old twirp!" she said through clenched teeth.

  "Breeeeeek!" answered the cicada choirmaster derisively.

  On went the gloves, up came the handbag; Mary proceeded to the garage in peace and quiet.

  From her driveway it was possible to see the mess that had once been Mrs. Emily Parker's pretty red brick bungalow next door. Mary eyed the havoc disapprovingly as she hefted up the door of her garage and glanced idly toward the sidewalk.

  Walton Street's sidewalks were lovely; they consisted of a narrow concrete path and a beautifully kept, very wide stretch of lawn from path to curb. Every thirty feet down each side of the street there grew a huge oleander tree, one white, one pink, one red, one pink, in successive quartets that were the pride of Walton Street's residents and one of the chief reasons why Walton Street was generally a prizewinner in the annual Herald garden competition.

  A massive concrete carrier was parked with its idly revolving drum slapping against one of Emily Parker's sidewalk oleanders, and a chute was discharging gluey gray gallons of concrete on to the grass. It dripped from the sad, petrified branches of the tree, it ran and oozed sluggishly into pools where the lawn was uneven, it slopped onto the paved path. Mary's mouth was a thin white line of vexation. What on earth had possessed Emily Parker to poultice the red brick sides of her house with this disgusting substance? There was no accounting for taste, or rather the lack of it, she reflected.

  A young man was standing bare-headed in the sun, dispassionately watching the desecration of Walton Street; from where she stood some twenty feet away Mary Horton gazed at him, dumbfounded.

  Had he lived two and a half thousand years before, Phidias and Praxiteles would have used him as model for the greatest Apollos of all time; instead of standing with such superb lack of self-consciousness in the backwater of a Sydney street to suffer the oblivion of utter mortality, he would have lived forever in the cool, smoothly satin curves of pale marble, and his stone eyes would have looked indifferently over the awed heads of generations upon generations of men.

  But here he stood, amid a slushy concrete mess on Walton Street, obviously a member of Harry Markham's building crew, for he wore the builder's uniform of khaki shorts with legs rolled up until the lower curve of the buttocks was just visible, the waistline of the shorts slipped down until . they rode his hips. Aside from the shorts and a pair of thick woollen socks turned down over the tops of heav
y, clumping workman's boots, he wore nothing; not shirt or coat or hat.

  Momentarily turned side-on to her, he glistened in the sun like living, melted gold, legs so beautifully shaped that she fancied he was a longdistance runner; indeed, that was the cast of his whole physique, long and slender and graceful, the planes of his chest as he swung toward her tapering gradually from wide shoulders to exquisitely narrow hips.

  And the face-oh, the face! It was flawless. The nose was short and straight, the cheekbones high and pronounced, the mouth tenderly curved. Where his cheek sloped in toward the corner of his mouth on the left side he bore a tiny crease, and that minute furrow saddened him, lent him an air of lost, childlike innocence. His hair, brows, and lashes were the color of ripe wheat, magnificent with the sun pouring down on them, and his wide eyes were as intensely, vividly blue as a cornflower.

  When he noticed her watching him he smiled at her happily, and the smile snatched Mary Horton's breath from her body in an uncontrolled gasp. She had never gasped so in all her life; horrified to find herself spellbound by his extraordinary beauty, she made a sudden mad dash for the haven of her car.

  The memory of him stayed with her all through the crawling drive into North Sydney's commercial center, where Constable Steel & Mining had its forty-story office building. Try as she would to concentrate on the traffic and the coming events of the day, Mary could not banish him from her mind. If he had been effeminate, if his face had been merely pretty or he had exuded some indefinable aura of brutishness, she could have forgotten him as easily as long self-discipline had trained her to forget anything unwelcome or upsetting. Oh, God, how beautiful he was, how completely, appallingly beautiful! Then she remembered Emily Parker saying the builders would be finished today; driving on doggedly, everything in the quivering, shimmering mist of heat around her seemed to dim a little.

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