Count Ruprecht von Hilgethorp-Wassau VIII had a pronounced accent, and a somewhat depressive temperament. Even minor irritations and disappointments would confirm his glum approach to life. A late train could reduce him to tears, spilling a drink could induce fits of suicidal mortification, and so on.

He was probably not the best choice for the house of Hilgethorp-Wassau to send to Australia to investigate the disappearance of his younger brother, who had fled the Bavarian schwarzwald for the (so rumour had it) rivers flowing with gold in the Bendigo region. But his father, Count Ruprecht von Hilgethorp-Wassau VII, had heard that Australia was a place that made men of boys, and ordered him to undertake the search.

Surprisingly enough, Ruprecht found his brother Osberth without much difficulty, and developed an affection for the rough beauty of Australia – although one that led him more to paint landscapes of it than to ride horses or walk upon it. Ruprecht indulged himself in what must have been one of the slowest train journeys on record, alighting at every stop in both directions of his journey, and spending days at a time on yet another portrait. (A further delay was caused when Osberth took advantage of his brother’s distraction to run away again, necessitating another search.)

But Virgil Stimson, Ruprecht’s guide and navigator, noticed a peculiarity in Ruprecht’s choices of what to paint: he would only paint a place that had a name. (Possibly this had something to do with Germanic notions of breeding and reputation, although why they should be applied to geography is anyone’s guess.) He saved this knowledge against later use, and finally, as their train neared Melbourne once more, and Ruprecht asked him what this area south of St Albans was called, Stimson told the count that he had no idea.

“Ah, dear,” said the count.

Suburbs near Ardeer:

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