Less directly, Gemmy changes other lives. An epilogue shows Lachlan, the endearing young imperial boy, as an old politician whose rise is curtailed by an act of conscience. His cousin Janet, who burned with puzzled envy of his boy's freedom, will find a different identity in her mother's charity toward Gemmy, work with him and an old woman neighbor on her beehives and eventually become a renowned entomologist. Malouf is never insistent; far from stressing what happens to his characters, he lets them fall away or wander off. His touch can be as fugitive as a trick of light.
Gemmy, awkward and misfitting, we feel intensely and never see entirely. He did not come to join the settlers, but to pull together a haunted memory. His stay is an act of exorcism. He never relinquishes what the aborigines instilled in him, and eventually he will quietly go back among them. Gathering plants with Frazer, he had sensed the hidden presence of a group of black watchers. He knew what they were seeing:
"He himself would have a clear light around him like the line that contained Mr. Frazer's drawings. It came from the energy set off where his spirit touched the spirits he was moving through. All they would see of Mr. Frazer was what the land itself saw: a shape, thin, featureless, that interposed itself a moment, like a mist or cloud, before the land blazed out in its full strength again and the shadow was gone, as if, in the long history of the place, it was too slight to endure, or had never been."
Malouf, however, does not condemn his whites to invisibility. They can open up to the country, he suggests. He speaks, above all, through the polymathic and inquisitive Rev. Frazer. Perhaps he will become more than a shadow. Botanizing with Gemmy, learning all the plant names and getting some wrong, he is the antithesis of the settler mentality that seeks to implant England in Australia. A vegetable idealist, he petitions the governor to alter the emphasis on growing lamb and wheat in favor of developing the continent's own native fruits and roots:
"This is what is intended by our coming here to make this place, too, part of the world's garden, but by changing ourselves rather than it, and adding thus to the richness and variety of things."