Kit entered the hospital for work the next morning and placed her coat over a chair near the fire.
Laura immediately approached. “Kit, I didn’t think we’d see you this morning because of, well … I’m sorry for your loss.” She looked at the floor, unsure whether she’d found the right words.
“Well, here I am. I’m going to check on Lizzy. She’s due to be discharged today.” Kit quickly strode towards the stairs.
“Wait,” Laura called after her. “She has visitors.”
Kit turned on the bottom step. “Visitors? Who?”
“A distinguished-looking gentleman and a lady who said she’s family.”
“Family? Clara and I are her only family.”
Kit lifted her skirts and took the steps as quickly as she could. She strode across the hallway and entered Lizzy’s room.
Standing next to her bed was a woman wearing a large red velvet bonnet and a matching outfit. A stout man stood to the side impatiently tapping his black top hat against an open palm. The woman
turned as Kit entered the room.
Kit stopped just inside the door and stared.
“Yes, Kit. It’s me.” She opened her arms to receive her friend.
“Ginny! I never thought I’d see you again.”
“Well, here I is. Now come here and give us a hug.”
Kit moved across the room and the two women embraced.
“How’s you been?” Ginny asked. “You look well. A little tired perhaps, but well.”
“I’m just fine,” Kit replied. She glanced over at the gentleman smiling weakly at her.
“Oh, where’s me manners? This is me husband, Oliver Grovedale.”
The man bowed slightly. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”
“He owns The Criterion Hotel, one of the best establishments in Ballarat.” Ginny grinned as though admiring the praise given to her child.
Kit was denied a moment to take in the news by Ginny’s next announcement.
“I’ve come to take Lizzy home with me.”
Kit glanced at Lizzy, who was sitting on the bed, dressed and ready to leave.
“Home? But why? Why take her now? I’ve been looking after her for more than a year. Her and Clara are inseparable and they’re more than happy here. They’ve both started school and --”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Ginny interrupted. She glanced at her husband who nodded and looked at his fob watch. “I’m grateful to you for minding her and all, but it’s time she came back with me. We
going to send her to a boarding school in Melbourne, where she’ll get the best education money can buy.”
“A boarding school? I thought you said you were taking her home with you, but you’re only going to send here away again?”
“There’s no denying who her mother is,” the man interrupted. “She has every legal right to take possession of her own daughter.”
Kit glared at the man and opened her mouth to respond but Ginny turned to Kit and took her hands in hers. “I’ve got meself straight now, Kit. I left me trade selling hot meals to the miners at the
goldfields." She winked at Kit. "And started working behind the bar at the hotel. I wanted to provide a good home for me and Lizzy. Now I’m married to the proprietor himself and I couldn’t be
happier. But Mr Grovedale said I got to send Lizzy to the boarding school because the hotel ain’t no place for a young girl. I got to agree with him there. It can get pretty rowdy when times are
good for some of them miners.”
“But why not just leave her here?” Kit asked. “She wants to be a nurse and she could learn so much being here with me.”
Lizzy slid from the bed and stood beside her mother. “Yes, Ma. Please leave me here with Kit and Clara. I like it here. I can always come and visit you.”
Ginny glanced at Kit then back to the teary face of her child. She smiled and stroked Lizzy’s hair.
Mr Grovedale gave a short cough.
Ginny took Lizzy’s hand. “I’m not here to negotiate me daughter’s departure with you, Kit. I’m here to take her now. Come now, Lizzy. A carriage is waiting downstairs.”
Kit grabbed Ginny’s arm. “Don’t do this. You know this is the best place for her. Why take her when she’s so happy here?”
“Unhand my wife,” Mr Grovedale said. “You have no rights to Lizzy. We thank you for caring for her but that is all. Now we must leave to make it home before dark.”
Kit stood in his way and peered into his small dark eyes. “You don’t want her. That’s why you’re sending her away. Collecting her is just another way for you to wield power. I’ve met your sort many
a times – a heart of stone and a pocket full of gold. What’s best for Lizzy is only ever going to be what you want, not what she needs.”
“I don’t have to stand here and listen to this. I’ve heard all about you, trying to hook the doctor but finding out your poor husband hadn’t conveniently died when he should have.” He turned to
exit, only to find Finely standing in his way, looking every bit the physical being that he was not, with grease up to his elbows and hardened muscles below a sleeveless shirt.
“You’re not going anywhere until you apologise to the lady.”
Ginny took Lizzy out to the hallway but returned and stood in the doorway, a smile curving on her lips as she beheld Finley towering over her ruddy-cheeked husband.
“I’ll do no such thing, you gutter rat.” He pointed his hat at him, but it fell from his shaking hand onto the floor.
Finley raised his foot and stamped on it with his dusty boot, crushing it flat. “I’m sorry about that. I thought I saw a redback spider crawling on it, but I think I was mistaken. I’ve known
men to have been bitten by one, and if it didn’t kill them, it put them in hospital for a week, if you know what I mean.”
He glanced up at Finley’s grimace and down at his hands curled into fists by his sides. He turned to Kit. “I’m sorry if I offended you.” He backed away towards the door. “I have other hats, you
ruffian. Lots of them.”
Finley took a step towards him. “If you don’t get out of here now, I’ll do to your face what I just did to your nice hat.”
Mr Grovedale put his hand on Ginny’s back and ushered her out the door.
Kit and Finley laughed as they heard hurried footsteps descending the stairs.
“I’m glad you turned up when you did,” Kit said.
“I reckon it was him I saved, from one of your tongue-lashings.”
Kit frowned. “I’m not that bad, am I?”
Kit dismissed the acknowledgement with a wave of her hand. “I don’t know how I’m going to break it to Clara that Lizzy has gone.”
“There’s nothing you could have done about it. Ginny is her rightful mother. I only hope they’re going to look after her.”
“As do I. I’m going to miss her dearly. I’d come to think of her as my daughter. First Robert, then Jimmy, and now Lizzy’s gone too. I feel like everyone I’ve ever loved is being taken away from me
one by one.” Kit pressed the back of her hand to her mouth.
Finley stepped forward to embrace her.
Kit stepped back.
She tried to smile. “I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to go through the rest of the day with two black handprints on the back of my white uniform, do you?”
Finley looked down at his blackened palms and smiled. “Nope.”
“Afterall, it might start people talking.”
“Would that be such a bad thing?” Finley winked and exited the room.
Kit sat on the edge of Lizzy’s bed for a long while, looking out the window at the ocean lapping on the sand. Finally she stood and swept her hands across her moistened cheeks and resumed her
After Jimmy’s funeral service the next morning the passenger ship, The Sea Empress, was expected to weigh anchor with two hundred souls on board, another eighty having already been
committed to the depths of the sea after succumbing to scarlet fever.
© Copyright 2022 Miranda J Taylor. All rights reserved.