Problems and Solutions
Copyright© 2017 by Peter H. Salus
Michiko and Sarah were excessively excited. Chaz, Al and Henry seemed to take Rachel’s pregnancy as a normal biological event. The dealers were happy with the text and the selection of illustrations (Patrick had suggested six, knowing that only four would be used. The dealers suggested that Patrick give a presentation in the ACT, as he could give a presentation at the Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery.
Rachel was delighted: she would see her parents and view the Dupains and the Williamses at the National Gallery. Patrick got a booking at the Hyatt. They would drive. The presentation would be at 1800 on a Friday, as the Gallery closed at 1700. The drive had been pleasant, with Rachel sipping ginger ale and nibbling crisps.
Rachel phoned Michiko from the Hyatt; Patrick called the Gallery. Rachel phoned someone Winnie knew at the National Gallery and arranged to view the Williams works and the Dupain New Guinea photos.
By Sunday, they had fulfilled their chores: Patrick had spoken to a group of over a dozen dealers as to the nature and meaning of the artifacts; they had both assured Rachel’s parents of her well-being, pre-natal care and potential due-dates; and Rachel had been thrilled by the pictures.
“I’m really impressed with Gordy’s observations! How did he manage to note the detail?”
“Ants are small. To be a myrmecologist you need to note small details. You had focussed his attention on Dupain and on Williams. He looked at the works with an eye towards similarities and differences.”
“You make it all so straightforward!”
“In some ways, it is.”
The next Wednesday, Patrick returned from running errands to be reminded that he was to accompany Rachel to the ob-gyn visit the next day.
“I know, dear. It’s on the calendar.”
“I’m just nervous.”
“Do you feel OK?”
“So it’s just you.”
“I guess so. I haven’t been throwing up. I’ve no cravings for pickles or ice cream. I feel there should be something significant.”
“There is. You’re pumping new and wond’rous hormones. They’ll draw some blood tomorrow and if there’s anything amiss they’ll say something.”
“True. [pause] I’m edgy anyway.”
“Come into the bedroom and I’ll relax you.”
“You know,” Patrick said an hour later, “You may be getting a little rounder. Right here. Will they do a sonogram tomorrow?”
“I think so. You mean I’m beginning a baby bump?”
“We can be sure of that. It’s just a question of how far along you are.”
By noon Thursday, there was no longer much of a question. Rachel was “just about fourteen week along and look!, you can see it’s a boy and here’s an ear.” They’d phone if there was anything untoward in the blood test.
“Do I need to paint the study blue?” Patrick asked.
“I don’t think so. But we should think about names.”
“What was Stuart’s given name?”
“God, they’re boring!”
“Well, were you expecting Ethelred or Athelstan?”
Patrick laughed. “No. You’ve got me.” His cell rang. “Hollister ... Hi ... Really, that’s quite flattering ... Yes, I’ve kept receipts ... Where? ... Melbourne and Adelaide as a triangle? ... Let me call you back in an hour or so ... Great.”
“Obviously the dealers loved you.”
“Yes. Now they want a triangle tour in a week or so.”
“Can I come with you? I can see the pictures in both places and we can visit Sarah and Henry.”
“We’ll have to be careful.”
“There are things a pregnant woman may not see.”
They ended up going to Adelaide first. Patrick thought that they might fly there, take the train to Melbourne and then fly home. Rachel concurred. Patrick’s presentation would be at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. After looking at the map, Rachel suggested they book into the Mayfair, an easy stroll to the Institute, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, and the University. Though they’d be away for just over a week, they decided to travel as light as feasible: a small case and a garment bag. Sarah was ecstatic, Henry said he’d a question about an object at ‘his’ museum.
Taking the 10:45 from Sydney, they were at the Mayfair by 1300. Before 1400 they were sitting in the restaurant at lunch when Sarah and Henry arrived. While Rachel and Sarah exchanged obstetric observations, Patric asked Henry about the Museum.
“The collection is enormous and varied. I keep coming across things I would never have thought of. One of them I want to show you. Perhaps Rachel, too. It’s a ceramic puzzle.”
“What’s it like?”
“Well, first of all, it was excavated near Pine Creek in the Territory.” Patrick nodded. “It’s a fragment of white porcelain, perhaps a fragment of a statue. It’s most of the head of a woman about eight centimetres high with a snake wound around her head. A fragment of the material was analyzed and from the kaolin it seems to be a piece of Hirado ware from the Meiji period. I’ve got several questions.”
“What is it? How did it get there? When did it come to Australia?”
“Well, coal was the first recorded traded commodity from Australia to Japan ... and that was in 1865.”
“That works. The Meiji period began in 1868.”
“So, it might have be part of the household goods of a coal merchant. Another possibility is that there were some Japanese among the ‘Chinese’ labourers in the gold fields. I can’t recall exactly when gold was found around Pine Creek.”
“Found in 1871, first Chinese labourers imported in 1874.”
“You have done your homework!”
“But I didn’t think it worthwhile to associate a Japanese artifact with Chinese workers.”
“Rachel can identify it.”
“Yes.” Patrick raised his voice. “Rachel!”
“Henry has a piece of a woman’s head with a snake around it in white porcelain.”
“Thanks.” He turned to Henry. “And there you are.”