And then he speaks [[as if you had not spoken|as if you had not spoken]].
She scans your face.\n\n'Let's take a walk', she says. 'Do you have time? I've just arrived back in Brisbane. I've been away many years, though my sisters kept me in good touch with what's been happening here. Do you live nearby?'\n\n'On Sydney Street', you say.\n\nShe stops and smiles at you as if you're old friends. 'My childhood home was on Sydney Street', she says. 'It's still there I believe. Where did you go to school?'\n\n'All Hallows', you say.\n\n'Why, [[so did I|so did I]]', she says.
You walk for quite a long time. You start to [[wonder where you are going|wonder where you are going]].
You look around.\n\nYou think you're still in the same place.\n\nThere's All Hallows' across the road, where it's always been.\n\nYou're still on an empty piece of land.\n\n[[Mostly empty.|Mostly empty.]]
'And then what happened?', you ask.\n\n'He died', she said. 'In the 1960s. And they eventually stopped using the crypt altogether. But they didn't seal it and it was vandalised.'\n\n'And is it still there?' You peer at the grass covering the uneven land. Perhaps there are foundations after all. Perhaps there were junkies.\n\n'[[It was bulldozed|It was bulldozed]]', she says.
'You're buying a flat in here?' you ask, still seeking confirmation.\n\n'[[I've bought a flat|I've bought a flat]]', she says. 'Just now. I've just left the sales office'.
It reminds you of what it feels like when a storm is coming. When the clouds have turned charcoal and raced across the sky, but then they stop.\n\nThey always stop just for a moment.\n\nAnd during that moment the world quietens down and you have time to absorb the gathering sense that something is wrong.\n\n[[Something is wrong.|Something is wrong.]]
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At first he regards you without surprise.\n\nYou are still holding the booklet. It is getting wet. You [[hold it up to him|hold it up to him]] as if to say hello.\n\nWhen he sees the image of the cathedral, he visibly takes a short, deep breath. And then he speaks to you through the glass. You can't hear him, but it distinctly looks as if he says "This is a folly".
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'Thank you so much for organising my books for me', he says. 'You and the rest of your [[your classmates|your classmates]]'.
This is a Folly
You stare blankly at the books on their shelves.\n\nYou don't remember how much time has passed and you wonder if you've already been to McWhirter and Son. You look down at your hands to see if you're holding a parcel with the fabric you wanted inside it. \n\nYou are holding something, but it's not a parcel. Instead you realise that you have a school hat in your hand. And you're wearing what looks like [[a school uniform|a school uniform]].
He moves quickly out of the room and you follow him in silence.\n\nHe does not to pause to look at you and seems to want to [[lead you somewhere in particular|lead you somewhere in particular]].\n\nYou pass through some of the most beautiful rooms you've ever seen. Your impressions are of gold and red with dark wood panelling and paradoxically, lots of light.
'[[Come inside dear|Come inside dear]], come inside...'\n\nHe gets up, picking up his walking stick as the crocheted blanket slides from his knees.
Gradually, you begin to see where you've arrived.\n\nIt's a vast room filled with wooden pews. At the far side of the room there is an altar covered with a simple white cloth and overlaid with many gold adornments: chalices, a plate and candlesticks.\n\nAnd there is [[a man standing behind the altar|a man standing behind the altar]].
You look at the man. He's holding a walking stick and leaning on it heavily. \n\nYou hadn't noticed the walking stick before. You look down at it for a moment, wondering how he could have walked so fast.\n\nAnd then you look up.\n\n[[His dark hair has turned to white.|His dark hair has turned to white.]]
'They pulled it down', she says. 'My sisters told me but still I could not imagine it.'\n\n'Pulled what down?' you ask.\n\n'Everything that was left', she says. 'The stairs, the crypt.'\n\n'[[Stairs and crypt?|Stairs and crypt?]]' you ask.
You cross Ann Street and continue down Brunswick through the Valley Mall. McWhirters is just on the corner.\n\nBut it's shut. Locked. All those little shops that used to be inside are gone. [[You're too late.|You're too late.]] It's an empty shell.
Is it the same man?\n\nYes, he has the same eyes and the same [[kind expression|kind expression]].
It starts to rain.\n\nYou [[look into the nearest window|look into the nearest window]].
And he is smiling at you as if he knows you. As you gaze back, you begin to think that maybe you know him too.\n\n'My dear child', he says. 'I would have recognised you anywhere. After all these years [[I'm happy to see you again|I'm happy to see you again]]'.
It's too wet to read. It says something about Cathedral Place. You've never heard of it.\n\nBut McWhirter and Son, this is a tremendous shock. Surely this news must be wrong.\n\nYou hurry down Ann Street in its direction, crossing the road and avoiding the trams and the drays.
You have an idea that you'll go and sit in Centenary Park for awhile. It's just here, a little further up Ann Street.\n\nBut first you reach that empty piece of land. The grassed-over one across from All Hallows'. It takes up a whole block. You remember the stories you've heard that there are junkies in the foundations. But what junkies? What foundations? There's just grass covering uneven land. And a newly erected sign on the Ann Street and Gotha Street corner. You walk over to it. "Acquired for Cathedral Place", you read. Something about that name rings a bell.\n\nYou walk right into the middle of the site and you [[sit down|sit down]].
You walk a little further, as far as All Hallows'.\n\nBut her attention isn't on your mutual school. It's on the empty piece of land across the road from it.\n\nYou've gone past this site on foot and by bus hundreds of times and you've never paid much attention to it. That's probably because there's nothing to see. It's an entire block that's empty. Empty except for the grass. And a newly erected sign on the Ann Street and Gotha Street corner. You walk over together to read it. "Acquired for Cathedral Place", it says. Something about that name rings a bell.\n\nYou've heard stories about junkies lurking in the foundations, but there are no foundations. And no junkies. [[There's just grass.|There's just grass.]]
And then, because you know that doing so will make you feel better, you lie down on the grass.\n\nYou might close your eyes.\n\nBut you [[don't fall asleep|don't fall asleep]].
A picture of McWhirters with the words "Stylish Fortitude Valley Living" above it in large type.\n\nYou read the print underneath. "We are developing the iconic McWhirters building into luxury one- and two-bedroom flats."\n\nStill holding the flyer, you sat down on the front stairs. You could smell frangipani on the air and heard the sound of children playing across the road in New Farm Park. \n\nThe blue sky [[stretched on|stretched on]] above you.
'Yes', he says with visible relief.\n\n'Where will you build it?' you ask.\n\n'This is the best piece of land I have', he says. 'I will build it here'.\n\n'But it's such a beautiful house', you say, looking around you.\n\n'It will be an even more beautiful cathedral', he replies. 'It will be the largest cathedral in the southern hemisphere'.\n\nAnd then he stands up. 'Come with me, [[I have something for you|I have something for you]]'.
Ann Street does he mean. When you get outside you're no longer on Brunswick Street. [[This is Ann Street.|This is Ann Street.]] You know that because you can see All Hallows' School across the road and All Hallows' is on Ann Street.\n\n
Eventually you reach an [[enormous library|enormous library]].
You see a man standing in a library. He, too, is wearing the clerical collar of a priest.\n\nBut he is not the same man and it is not the same library.\n\nAs the rain gets harder, water starts to come through the ceiling. The man reaches for an umbrella and then opens it, at the same time looking out the window directly into [[your gaze|your gaze]].
As you march into the Valley you plan [[everything you will say|everything you will say]] to those developers if you get half a chance.
'But you don't mind that they're redeveloping this building?', you ask. 'You remember how it was'.\n\n'How it was', she repeats. 'McWhirters was taken over by Myer in the 50s. Myer moved out in the late 80s. They haven't been able to make a go of the building since then. All those little businesses that were in here, they weren't bringing the shoppers back.'\n\nYou fold your arms.\n\n'Would you prefer that they tear the building down?' she asks.\n\n[[You don't reply.|You don't reply.]]
You try to remember everything that just happened.\n\nYou were walking up Brunswick Street to get some fabric from McWhirter and Son. You walked past the Archbishop's house, Wynberg, and saw him sitting in his garden. He invited you in and took you to his library.\n\nAnd now you're on Ann Street, a 20-minute walk away. \n\n[[This can't be.|This can't be.]]
This is our neighbourhood, we're not going to let you just [[take it away|take it away]] and give it to someone else.
You're supposed to be going to McWhirters, for [[one last look.|one last look]] \n\nInstead, you've stopped on your walk up Brunswick Street and you're looking over at an old man sitting in a garden. Crocheted squares sit on his knees and the clerical collar of a priest hangs around his neck. There is [[something about his face|something about his face]] that is kind.
'Which floor was the haberdashery department on?' you ask.\n\nShe smiles at you. 'It took up the entire [[fourth floor|fourth floor]]' she says. 'It's how they started. Both McWhirters and Beirne's. Fabric. You took an express elevator up with a very nice man who opened and closed the doors for you. The elevator was made of wood and always smelled of orange, as if it had just been polished. When you stepped outside, everything was very neatly organised. Half the room was filled with rolls of fabric and there were tables covered with sewing patterns over by the windows. The centre of the room looked like a tea shop, there were women sitting and standing and looking and measuring and chatting and all the while sipping tea out of McWhirter and Son's own bone china cups.\n\nHer words bring this scene to life. While she's talking, you feel better.
You turn to look at the building you've just left. It's a kind of three-storey mansion with imposing columns and lots of balconies. No sign of the marble fountain. It's not Wynberg, the house you went into. It couldn't be anyway, it's in the wrong place. \n\nYou turn back. You see a group of girls in school uniform going into the gates of All Hallows'. One of them turns around and [[beckons to you|beckons to you]].
She turns to you. \n\n'This store used to have such a rivalry with T.C. Beirne's' she says. 'Do you know where that was? Just further up the Valley Mall. Before there was a mall of course, back when cars could still drive along here. My mother used to buy all her kitchen goods from Beirne's. But we came here for the haberdashery. They had the [[most beautiful fabric|most beautiful fabric]] I'd ever seen.'\n\n
You look at her but make no sign of recognition. You are still puzzling over what has just happened. \n\nAnd then you feel a shift in the air and [[everything goes still|everything goes still]].
You've walked past this house so often but have never paid it very much attention. What you have noticed is the fence in front, which is made of a stone foundation topped with green wrought iron.\n\nThe stone needs to be cleaned and the wrought iron needs to be repainted.\n\nThe centre of the fence holds two gates standing between two pillars. The pillar on your right has the word WYNBERG engraved into it.\n\nToday the gates are open and the space is wide enough that a car could drive between them, but you can see that no car has ever driven there because [[a large fountain|a large fountain]] is in the way. It is made of white marble and there is a smiling cherub on the top. There is no water in it, instead a dark, furry moss.\n\nBehind the fountain is the front door.
And then you walk back the way you came, up the Valley Mall to Ann Street.\n\nWhen on a whim, you [[turn right|turn right]].
The wooden pews are still there, but they've been smashed and graffitied. The altar covering and ornaments are gone. Broken glass is strewn all over the floor and there's an overpowering stench of urine.\n\nYou turn on your heel and not caring about the darkness, [[run as fast as you can up the stairs|run as fast as you can up the stairs]].
Eventually you reach a [[dark wood-panelled room|dark wood-panelled room]] with golden chandeliers. There are red silk-covered chairs around a large table.
Mariza O'Keeffe
As you get closer you see that it leads to an opening not further in, but down.\n\nThis door leads onto stairs.\n\nYou feel a flicker of nervousness.\n\nAnd then you step forward again and [[take the stairs|take the stairs]] down into the darkness.
You stand for awhile, [[looking in through the glass at nothing|looking in through the glass at nothing]].
He is still holding the booklet out to you. His old hands are shaking.\n\nA flyer falls out from between the pages. You both look down.\n\n"Come move into Cathedral Place", it says.\n\nThe old man looks up at you, aghast. 'But that is just a folly', he says.
[[Brunswick Street, New Farm.|Brunswick Street, New Farm]]\n\nThe street is so quiet, where are all the cars?\n\nYou could almost have a picnic on the road.
But it looks slightly different.\n\nThe uneven grass now looks more like rocky bush land. And there is this platform that you're lying on. It wasn't here before and neither were the stairs.\n\nAnd there, over there, are four small round towers, joined together. You can't see past them.\n\nYou get up to go and [[take a closer look|take a closer look]].
You reach the towers, they sit on the Gipps Street perimeter, the part of the land that's closest to the Valley. They appear to have shutter-like windows cut into them, but still you have no clue as to what these towers are for. You circle them to get a better view and this leads you [[out onto the street|out onto the street]].
'Father...' you say uncertainly. '[[I've just been to McWhirters|I've just been to McWhirters]]. It's closed. They're going to redevelop it into flats'.
You want to say something about the booklet, you're not sure what, but you're distracted because you're focusing on his hair. His hair was white, you're sure of it. [[But now his hair is dark.|But now his hair is dark]
His eyes momentarily widen and he gazes at you for [[a long moment|a long moment]].
He is wearing a long black gown and the clerical collar of a priest. That seems to fit, you think you are in a church. [[Something about his expression looks kind.|Something about his expression looks kind.]]
It's an old lady. She is wearing a silken, drop-waisted dress in the manner of a 1920s flapper. She looks very elegant.\n\nThere is something in her hand. As your gaze meets hers, she holds it up to you as if to say hello. It's a booklet, a large, golden-brown booklet with a picture of a cathedral on the front.\n\nYou take a deep breath and [[turn to the old man|turn to the old man]].
And then he is walking through the front door into a large entrance hall. He moves slowly with a particular gait -- part shuffle, part spring and [[you follow him in silence|you follow him in silence]]. He does not to pause to look at you and seems to want to lead you somewhere in particular.\n\nYou pass through some of the most beautiful rooms you've ever seen. Your impressions are of gold and red with dark wood panelling and paradoxically, lots of light.
He's looking at you as if he knows you. And as you gaze back, you begin to think maybe you know him too.\n\nHe's beckoning to you to [[cross the road.|cross the road]]
You turned the piece of paper over, it was a two-for-one. They're redeveloping not just McWhirters, but somewhere called Cathedral Place as well. "Come move into Cathedral Place", it says.\n\nYou turned it again to the front and reread it. And then you were up. And [[off|off]].
That house has faded into the air.\n\nAnd as you watch, a one-storey shack with a flat roof appears in its place. One minute it's not there, the next minute it is. Standing solid and firm as if it's always been there.\n\n[[You stare at this house.|You stare at this house.]] \n\nYou resist a desire to go up to it and touch it.
The old man is standing to the left of the fountain. He leans heavily on his walking stick as [[he waits for you|he waits for you]] to approach him.\n\nHe is so frail standing amidst the humming life of the garden.
'The stairs were to lead to the entrance of the cathedral. He liked to build on hills and there was no hill here so he was going to make one himself. And aside from the stairs, the crypt was the only part of the cathedral that was ever completed.'\n\nHer words are confusing you. All you can do is echo them back to her.\n\n'[[Cathedral|Cathedral]]?' you ask.
As your grip loosens, something slips out of the booklet and falls to the wet ground, where it sticks. \n\nYou look down. It is an advertisement.\n\nYou bend to pick it up. The ink is starting to run. It says something about McWhirters being turned into flats.\n\nMcWhirters? Do they mean McWhirter and Son? McWhirter and Son is being turned into flats? What kind of madness is that? It's one of the most successful department stores in Brisbane.\n\nYou [[turn the advertisement over|turn the advertisement over]], the man now forgotten.
When you reach the top you find yourself stepping out into a grand library. The ceilings are high and the walls are covered with books.\n\nYou have a dim memory of an empty piece of land.\n\n[[You think you were going to McWhirters.|You think you were going to McWhirters]] You're not sure what happened next.
And then, as if by mutual agreement, you both turn and slowly walk in the direction you came.\n\nThe old lady does not look back.\n\nBut you do.
And then you become aware that someone has joined you. You look to your left. It's an [[old lady|old lady]]. She is wearing a silken, drop-waisted dress in the manner of a 1920s flapper. She is very elegant. She has one hand on a walking stick and another on the glass. She, too, is staring intently into the empty space.\n\n[[You think of talking to her|You think of talking to her]], maybe she remembers McWhirters when it was still a department store, before Myer took it over, before Myer left, before it got turned into a building housing so many little stalls, before they decided they would redevelop it.
The man is sitting and gestures to you to join him. The chairs are high-backed and have embroidered upholstery.\n\nYou sit down and look at him expectantly.\n\nHe leans forward.\n\n'I am going to build a cathedral', he says.\n\n'[[A cathedral|A cathedral]]', you repeat amicably, though you have a rising sense of alarm.
You walk slowly listening to the clip clip sound your shoes make on the stone stairs.\n\nThe darkness does not abate. You use the fingertips of your left hand to keep track of the wall beside you and you pause continuously and check with your right foot to see if you have reached the bottom of the stairs.\n\nAnd then you're there. At the bottom. Faint daylight is coming in, it must be from the shutters in the towers. That's what they're there for.\n\nIt [[takes awhile|takes awhile]] for your eyes to adjust.
But by the time you reach the Valley, you feel limp. They are going to sell off your neighbourhood, bit by bit. And by the time they're done nobody you know will be able to afford to live here. \n\nThere is [[nothing you can do about it|nothing you can do about it]]. It's already happening.
By now you are walking back up the Valley Mall, in the direction of home.\n\nShe walks slowly, leaning heavily on her walking stick.\n\n'The area is very run down now', she says.\n\nYou look around and see cafes and bars and people sitting and chatting at the outside tables. Some of these places you love, some of them you never go to.\n\n'It's not run down at all', you say.\n\n'There's always been something racy about it', she says.\n\nAt her prompt, [[you turn right|you turn right]] onto Ann Street.
He picks up a golden-brown booklet from the table and holds it out to you.\n\nIt has a picture of a cathedral on the front.\n\nYou look at the booklet, but [[you don't take it from him|you don't take it from him]].\n\n
'Did they not tell you about this when you were at All Hallows'?' she nods at the school across the road. 'Once upon a time they were going to build the largest cathedral in the southern hemisphere on this site. There was already a very beautiful house here but they pulled it down so they could use the land'.\n\n'When?', you ask.\n\n'In the 1920s', she says.\n\n'Who?', you ask.\n\n'An Archbishop named James Duhig.'\n\n'But he didn't build it', you say. [['What happened?'|'What happened?']]
[[But you don't.|But you don't.]]
She sighs. [['It was his folly'.|'It was his folly'.]]
'Oh', you say. \n\nYou feel a bit flat. \n\n'But is there anything left?'\n\n'Nothing', she says. 'There's nothing left'.\n\nThere is a pause. You can't think of anything to say. \n\n[[There's nothing to say.|There's nothing to say.]]
'Father...' you say uncertainly. '[[I was just going to McWhirter and Son|I was just going to McWhirter and Son]] to buy some fabric for my formal dress'. \n\n...Fabric? Formal dress? You don't know why you said that. You've been out of high school for years. And you don't remember McWhirters (McWhirter and Son?) ever selling either of those things. \n\nBut McWhirters is where you were heading. You want to go for a last look round before it closes forever.
The old man, or the man who was old but isn't now, is speaking to you. 'I asked you to stay back a moment because I have something for your father. It's the souvenir booklet. I think he would like to have it'.\n\nHe hands you a large, golden-brown booklet with a picture of a cathedral on the front.\n\nYou take a deep breath and open your mouth to say something, but he is already talking.\n\n'Now you better run along back to class. Mind yourself crossing the [[street|street]]'.
You haven't fallen asleep.\n\nBut you're not stretched out on grass any longer either.\n\nInstead, you're lying on an empty platform at the top of a magnificent set of stairs.\n\nIt's uncomfortable and you [[sit up|sit up]].
You got up to have a look and saw it was a piece of advertising. You grimaced, because the "No Junk Mail" sign is always ignored. But something about the flyer caught your eye. \n\nIt was the [[picture on the front|picture on the front]].
The walls are covered floor to ceiling in books and something is making you feel a little confused. Yes, it's the ceilings. They're much higher here than the rooms you've just walked through. How can that be?\n\nYou look at the old man. The walking stick is gone and he seems to be standing much straighter. He had white hair before, you're sure of it. [[But now his hair is dark.|But now his hair is dark.]]
You glance behind you to look again at [[the house you've just left|the house you've just left]].
Before you can comment, she shakes her head.\n\n'And the Depression. The Depression came. Money dried up.'\n\n'But they built a crypt?' you say.\n\n'Yes, and they used it for Mass for a long time.'\n\n'Did you go to Mass there?'\n\n'No, I left Brisbane before it was finished. But my sisters told me it was filled with marble and polished wood and silk brocade threaded with gold. The Archbishop [[always wanted the best|always wanted the best]]'.
'My dear child', he says. 'I would have recognised you anywhere. After all these years it's so good to [[see you again|see you again]]'.
'I am glad you have seen the crypt. Now I must ask you to come upstairs with me as there is something I must tell you'.\n\nHe leads the way up the stairs and as he does a cloud passes overhead and the room momentarily goes dark. Now there is darkness behind as well as ahead of you.\n\nYou pause on the stairs, waiting until you can see again. An instinct makes you turn around and look back into the room. As the cloud passes, the light filters through the shutters once more, but [[it is not the same scene|it is not the same scene]].
There's something about this room that is making you feel a little confused. Yes, it's the ceilings. They're much lower here than the rooms you've just walked through. [[How can that be?|How can that be?]]
One last look.\n\nYou'd been sitting on your front verandah, eating your breakfast, when you noticed [[something|something]] sticking out of the mailbox.
You walk for quite a long time. [[You start to wonder where you are going.|You start to wonder where you are going.]]
Now you can see a large gate. It sits in front of the towers and is made of the same stone as the stairs. In the middle of the gate is a doorway. There is a lamp on either side of the door and above it, carved into the stone, are the words IN HONOREM SM NOMINS JESU. You don't know what that means.\n\nThe door is open but it is dark inside.\n\n[[You take a step forward.|You take a step forward.]]
'The fourth floor is where my flat will be', she says.\n\nYou're startled out of your reverie.\n\n'[[Your flat?|Your flat?]]', you ask.\n\n'Yes', she says. 'Haven't you heard? That's the reason it's empty. They've pulled out all the little shops and they're going to convert the building into flats.'
A few angry steps along Sydney Street, before you turned left into Brunswick, [[stalking furiously up hill|stalking furiously up hill]].
Is it the same man? You blink a few times as you peer at him. Yes, he has the same eyes and [[the same kind face|the same kind face]].
[[It's not there anymore.|It's not there anymore.]]