At first light, Kit awoke to the sound of people talking loudly as they traversed the hallway.
She dressed and combed her hair, fixing it into a tight bun. She woke the girls who, now well rested and eager to explore the town, could barely stay still to have their hair platted.
“First things first,” Kit said. “We must find somewhere to eat.”
“Good, I’m starving,” Lizzy said.
“Me too. I could eat a horse.” Clara giggled.
“Well, I could eat a bear.” Kit made claws with her fingers and tickled the girls. They left the room and went downstairs.
“Leaving so soon?” Vera appeared at the doorway to the kitchen. “Don’t you want to have breakfast here? Me fresh stores haven't arrived yet, but I could offer you some fish head stew or some bread
with lashings of duck fat left over from last night’s dinner.”
Kit swallowed hard. “As nice at that sounds, I’m in a hurry to find my husband.”
Vera wiped her hands on her apron and stepped forwards. “The local priests know most people hereabouts. The church is just a short walk from the post office. Just look for the bell tower. You can
see it from almost anywhere in town.”
“Thank you kindly,” Kit replied. She ushered the girls out the door.
“I want to go find Papa now,” Clara said.
“No, first we must eat,” Kit replied. “I saw a pleasant-looking tearoom on the way in. We’ll go there and have some breakfast, then we’ll find your father.”
“How far is it?” Lizzy swapped her case from one hand to the other. “This is heavy.”
“We’ll be there before you know it,” Kit said.
They had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and bread with jam before setting off for the church at the end of the street. Kit left the girls outside with the cases and entered the
building. Although small and dull from the outside, the bluestone blocks enclosed a light-filled and colourful space inside.
Kit stepped lightly over the polished wooden floorboards. “I do beg your pardon.”
A small man turned from the lighting of candles at the front of the church.
“Good morning, ma’am.”
“Hello. My name is Kit Monahan. I was told you might be able to help me find my husband James. He is just as often called Jimmy.”
“Yes, I know Mr Monahan. I have offered him counsel on occasion.”
“You have? Where is he?”
“He resides in a small cottage on the other side of town.”
“Is he well, father?”
“That he is.”
Kit left and fetched the girls sitting on the grass beneath a tree.
“I’ve found your papa, Clara. We’re going to him right now.”
“We’re going to papa?
“Oh, mama.” She hugged her and lifted the case as high as she could and strode down the street.
“Clara,” Kit called.
“Come on, mama. We have to see papa.”
“I know, dear. But you’re going the wrong way.”
Lizzy giggled and followed Kit, looking over her shoulder as Clara struggled to catch up.
A half hour later they arrived at the gate of a small stone cottage. A large eucalypt shaded much of the front porch. Two small windows looked out over a bare patch of dirt bordered by bluestone
blocks where plants had likely once grown.
“Is this where papa lives?” Clara let her case thump to the ground.
“Yes. I believe it is,” Kit replied.
“Papa, papa!” Clara pushed through the wire gate and ran to the front door. She pounded her fist against the peeling brown paint and shouted again for him.
The door creaked open. An unshaven face peered around the side and looked out then down at Clara.
“Clara? Is that you?”
“Yes papa, it’s me.” Clara wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in his shirt.
He knelt down and held her face in his hands. “It is you. My little Clara. My how you’ve grown. You’re a right little young lady now and as pretty as your mama.” He stood and peered out into the
“Kit. You came.”
She wiped a tear from her cheek and started towards the cottage. Jimmy strode towards her and caught her in his arms. He held her as tightly as he dared so not to hurt her and stepped back.
“Let me look at you. You’re as beautiful as the day I left. I’ve missed you so much. And the littleuns.” He looked over her shoulder at Lizzy. “Where is our Robert?”
“Kit lowered her head before meeting his eyes. “Can we talk inside?”
Kit motioned for Lizzy to follow them and they stepped inside the cottage and into the tiny parlour at the front. Clara sat opposite Kit and Lizzy on Jimmy’s lap. She smiled at him, seemingly
unable to take her eyes from his face.
“Our Robert died on the journey here, Jimmy. It was the typhus that took him. It took many onboard as you are aware.”
He nodded and kissed Clara on the forehead. “I knew of it. But I never thought it would take one of you.”
“There’s nothing I could have done to prevent it. The conditions onboard the ship were – ”
“You don’t have to explain, Kit. The Ticonderoga is all folks talked about for weeks after I came here.” He forced a smile. “And who’s this young lassie?”
Kit put her arm around Lizzy. “This is Lizzy. She’s part of our family now. I’ll tell you all about it later when the girls have retired for the night. How did you come about this cottage?”
Jimmy grinned broadly. “I bought it with my earnings from the diggings.”
“The diggings? But I thought you were arrested for claim jumping?”
He shook his head. “No, that mess was because of that no good partner of mine. We hit a seam, as thick as my finger and he got greedy. Before we’d reached the end of digging out the gold he
took my hat and shovel and put it at another claim. He didn’t take nothing else but he didn’t have to. When the miners showed the traps, that was enough for them. They sent me to the island.” He
stared off into the distance.
“What did you say, love?”
“You were telling me about being arrested. How did you get your gold back?”
“I took it back. I knew that thieving, lying snake-in-the-grass better than his ownself, and when he went drinking at his favourite watering hole at the end of the week, I took the gold back from
our secret hiding spot. “That stupid bast – ” Clara craned her neck to look up at him and he started again. “That silly man didn’t even think to find another rock to hide it under.”
“So, this cottage is yours?”
“No, love, it’s ours.”
Kit cupped her mouth with her hand. “Oh, my goodness.”
“Let me show you around.” Jimmy shifted Clara and stood. He offered his hand to Kit and she closed her fingers lightly around his. “Well, as you can see, this is the parlour. It needs some new
curtains, and the settee has seen better days, but it’s a start. Come through to the kitchen.”
Kit followed with the two girls close behind as Jimmy proudly showed her through the cottage.
In the bedroom, a curtain separated a small area opposite the window. Jimmy pulled it back and pointed to two mattresses on the floor.
“I was expecting Clara and little Robert.”
Kit placed her hand against his face. “I’m so sorry.”
“I know you are.” He pointed at the double bed. “This is the finest I could find. It has a new mattress and I had one of those lace covers you like, especially made by the seamstress down the
street. She does the finest work in town. Now, come look in the wardrobe.” Jimmy placed his hand on her back and urged her to the other side of the room. He stood to the side and placed his
hand on the wardrobe knob. “Are you ready?”
Kit nodded and he slowly opened the door.
She clasped her hands together under her chin as though in prayer. She stepped forward and took the edge of one of the dresses in her fingers. She lifted the skirt until it spread out for her to
“This is too fine a frock for the likes of me.”
“Nonsense,” Jimmy said. “It’s just what a lady of the town is expected to wear.”
“It’s beautiful, mama.” Clara ran her finger down the gold thread of the bodice.
“There’s six dresses in there. I had to go by memory for the sizing.” Jimmy ran his eyes over the slim figure of his wife. “Looks like you’ve lost a bit of weight.”
Kit caught his gaze and let the skirt fall. She closed the cupboard door.
“I’m sure they’ll be just fine. I must meet the seamstress and thank her for her work. Perhaps we’ll see her at church on Sunday?”
The breath caught in Jimmy’s throat and he coughed. “Perhaps. Let's retire to the parlour and you can tell me all about what you did at the quarantine station. I'm sure you have many a tale to
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