News From Norfolk Island
Several weeks later, the new immigrants prepared to leave the quarantine station. One of the hospital cottages stood empty and the other held a few patients convalescing from severe sunburn, injury
and illnesses unrelated to the typhus outbreak onboard the Ticonderoga.
Ginny and the girls finished decorating the empty cottage with vessels of wildflowers for the marriage ceremony.
“You look as pretty as a picture you do,” Ginny said. She placed the last of the flowers in Kit’s hair as she sat, examining herself in a mirror.
“She looks like a doll, Ma,” Lizzy remarked.
“You look beautiful, Mama." Clara put her hand on her mother's shoulder and smiled at their reflection in the mirror.
“Would you try to find Finley for me, Ginny?” Kit asked.
“You know he don’t want to talk to you, love. You broke his heart. He’s done nothin’ but work from sun up to sun down since he heard about your weddin’. Leave the man be. He’ll get over it.”
“The Father’s here,” shouted one of the labourers through the cottage door.
Father Dixon entered the cottage with Tom who nervously pulled a sleeve of his crisp white shirt to his wrist and ran a hand over his freshly oiled hair.
Kit’s breath caught in her throat and the pink daisies she held in her hands trembled.
She swiveled in her chair to face Ginny standing beside her. “I am doing the right thing, aren’t I? What’s right for me and Clara?”
“Just look at that man.” She turned her head towards Tom, standing in front of them in conversation with the Father. “He’s an oil painting. If he were here for me, I’d not have a doubt in my mind.”
Tom moved next to Kit’s chair and faced the Father.
Clara and Lizzy, wearing their best dresses, giggled excitedly at Ginny’s side.
Margaret, who stood next to her son acting in the place of her deceased husband, kissed him on the cheek and waited for the Father to begin.
A hot burst of air swept into the cottage as Finley pushed open the door.
Kit twisted in her chair and she gripped her flowers tighter when she saw the stern look on his face.
Finley avoided Tom’s unwelcoming glare as he approached the Father.
“You can’t marry them, Father.”
“What' s all this about?” Father Dixon waited for an answer from Tom.
She’s already married." Finley turned to Kit. “I know where your husband is. He’s alive. I’ve met someone who saw him just weeks ago.”
“But that can’t be. He’s dead. You heard that old man tell me himself.”
“He was mistaken. James Monahan was arrested, trialled and transported to Norfolk Island. I have a letter from him for you, given to me by a man who served time with him. I met him in town last
night. He is waiting for his wife to be released from quarantine. He was going to give it to you tomorrow.”
He took a crumpled and soiled piece paper from his shirt pocket, unfloded it and handed it to Kit.
She thrust her small posy into Ginny’s hands. She took the letter from Finley as Clara moved to look over her mother’s shoulder. Kit began to read.
“Is it from Papa?” Clara gripped the side of Kit’s chair. “Is he really alive?”
“Yes, Clara, it’s from your papa. He was arrested for claim jumping and said he'll explain the mix up when we see him. Your Papa heard about the Ticonderoga and the quarantine and sent the
letter ahead. He writes he still has two months to serve, but this letter is dated three months ago. He wants us to travel to Melbourne to meet him."
“Well then,” Father Dixon shifted his gaze from Tom to Kit and back again. “This is a most unexpected turn of events.”
Kit folded the letter and twisted in her chair to face Tom. She took his hands in hers. “He’s my husband. I must go to him.”
“I understand. You must do what is right.” He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “Whatever happens, I’ll be here for you.” He strode from the cottage, kicking over a chair before exiting.
“You know what Norfolk Island is, don’t you?” Finley said.
“It’s a penal colony.”
“It’s much more than that. I’ve heard stories from men from the diggings. Just be prepared that Jimmy might not be the same man you knew.” He nodded to Father Dixon and left.
Ginny leaned over and hugged Kit. “Don’t you worry about what he says. You’re getting your husband back and that’s all that matters.”
Kit turned to Father Dixon. “I feel so foolish, Father.”
“The Lord has intervened before a dreadful mistake could be made. You and Clara have been truly blessed. May He continue to watch over you all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must return to my
“Of course, Father. Thank you for coming today.”
“Let’s return to our tents.” Ginny handed Kit her walking stick. “I’ll help you out of that dress and get you a nice cup of tea. Then I’ll take Clara and Lizzy for a dip at the beach.”
Kit's head felt light as she ambled out the door.
Three days passed as the new immigrants had their final medical examination in preparation for discharge from the quarantine station. After the last clean bills of health had been issued,
Kit worked with Tom in the cottage as the number of patients dwindled to only three.
Finley avoided her whenever possible, and when he couldn’t, he spoke about nothing except the weather.
The morning of their departure, Kit rose early and packed the last of her and Clara’s belongings.
Father Dixon had arranged transport for them on a private coach travelling to Melbourne with a wealthy couple from the district. He'd also sent word to the church to find Jimmy and tell them of
Kit's expected arrival.
Kit and Clara visited Robert’s grave and left fresh wildflowers and vowed to return to him soon. They gathered under the meals tent to bid farewell to Ginny and Lizzy. Lizzy approached, her eyes on
the ground, lifting them only when she stood in front of Kit.
“Where is your mother?” Kit asked.
“She’s gone, Miss Kit.”
“She hitched a ride with the Chieflys.”
“The family who bought the horse and dray from the Sullivans?”
“Yes. She’s gone to the diggings.”
“The diggings? But I thought she was taking you both to your aunt’s house in Melbourne.”
Lizzy’s lower lip turned inwards and tears trickled from her eyes. She threw her arms around Kit’s waist. “There’s no aunt in Melbourne. There never was. I couldn’t go with her. I don’t want to be
“There, there, Lizzy. It’s all right.” Kit smoothed her long hair with her hand.
“I didn’t want to leave Ma, but I don’t want to go to the diggings and be with all those men.” Her arms fell to her sides and she stepped back. “I want to make something of meself. I want to
be a lady like you, Kit. Please let me stay with you. I promise I won’t be any trouble, and I’ll work hard and do whatever you say.”
“But I’m on my way to Melbourne. It’s a long way from here.”
“Please, Mama,” Clara said. “We can’t leave her here all alone. She can have my seat on the coach. I’ll sit next to the driver if I have to.” Clara moved next to Lizzy and held her hand.
Kit beheld the two friends standing before her, their eyes pleading with her to grant their wish.
“We can work something out, I suppose.”
The two girls squealed with delight..
“Thank you, Mama. We’ll be the best behaved. I promise.”
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