Book by: Miranda J Taylor
Genre: Historical Fiction
“Now, I want what’s owed to me today. I don’t care if it comes out of your own pocket. I’m holed up at me brother’s house with his nasty missus and their brood of screaming kids, while you waltz in here and take over the joint. I was promised compensation by the governor himself, and I’m here to collect.”
“Have you no decency man! I told you, I won’t discuss this in front of my patients. Now, if you please, we’ll talk outside.”
“I’ll talk with you on the surface of the moon if it means I’m going to get me money." He pushed his hat back onto his head and accompanied Tom to the entrance.
Kit stood aside as the two men exited the building and continued their conversation.
The man shouted. "I want me money now!"
"I don't have it," Tom said. "But I'll talk with Governor La Trobe and if you come back in a week I might have it then."
The man turned to leave, paused, swung back around and threw a punch that landed squarely on the side of Tom’s jaw.
He fell to the ground just as Finley emerged from around the side of the building, grabbed the man by the shoulder, and spun him around. He landed a blow to his cheek that sent him reeling, but he remained on his feet.
“Don’t you dare touch the Doc. Not ever!”
“Who the hell do you think you are?” The man spat blood onto the ground. He charged at Finely like an irritated ram, knocking him to the ground. They wrestled, stirring up dust and wildly swinging punches at each other until three sailors rushed in and pulled them apart.
One of the sailors pushed the man aside.
“I’ll be back for me money." The man picked up his hat and pointed it menacingly at Tom sitting in the dirt. “Or else your lot can clear out.”
The three sailors stood shoulder to shoulder in front of Tom, and glared at the man who wiped blood from his chin. He made his way back around the outer row of tents and out of sight.
Kit and Finley helped Tom to his feet.
“I’ll be all right,” he said. “Don’t fuss.”
“But you’re hurt.” Kit pushed his hair back from his eyes.
“I said I’ll be all right,” he repeated, before disappearing into the cottage.
Kit turned to Finley and examined his face.
“You’ll need some attention to those cuts. Follow me.”
She took him to the other cottage and sat him in front of a basin of water. She dabbed at his wounds with a wet cloth. “You have a lot of dirt in these cuts. It’s going to be a bit of a job to clean them up thoroughly.”
“You don’t have to bother with the likes of me. I’m sure there are plenty of others who need your attention.”
“Likely there are, but you’re here now. About what just happened - it’s a gambling debt, is it?”
“What? No, the Doc wouldn’t be into that kind of nonsense – he’s as straight as an arrow. That man is Mr Tyler Sullivan. He owns the two cottages and the lime kiln over yonder by the trees. The Governor promised him compensation to clear out but hasn’t delivered, and because the poor Doc is in charge, he's answerable. It’s all a load of bulldust if you ask me.”
"Well, I can understand that the poor man has lost his property and his livelihood, but to attack Tom like that is purely scandalous. If you hadn’t been there to stop him, I shudder to think what would have happened. It was very brave of you to take the man on like that.”
“Brave? Nah, I was just defending me mate. Him and me went to school together, if you could call sitting in a wood hut for a few hours a week schooling. Tom was the bright one and I . . . well . . . was the dumb one.” Finley avoided making eye contact.
Kit lowered the cloth and gently grasping is chin, turned his head to meet her eyes.“You’re not dumb, Finley.”
“Yeah, I reckon I am.”
“Had you ever made a cross before you made the one for Robert?”
“No, I can’t say I did.”
“Well, look how beautifully you carved the wood without anyone ever having taught you. That takes some solid thinking.” She continued tending to his wounds as a smile crept across Finley's face.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He winced as she dabbed at the deep cut above his eye.
“There now.” She placed the cloth in the basin and stood back to look at him. “I’ve cleaned all the wounds but you are going to have some substantial bruising by the look of things. Already I can see your left eye is closing over. You should rest for the remainder of the day, and perhaps for tomorrow as well.”
“Rest? Nah, I don’t have time for any of that. I’ve got a group of immigrants working on the new storehouse. If I’m not there to keep them under control, the buggers will just wander off and lay beneath the shade of the trees all day. They’re a lazy lot all right.”
“Well, don’t do anything too strenuous.”
“I won’t, Kit, I promise.” He rose and placed his hat on his head. “And thanks for fixing me up.” He touched his hat's brim before leaving.
Kit went to check on Tom, but he was nowhere in sight. She approached his mother, who was tending to a patient on the far side of the room.
“Excuse me, we haven’t been properly introduced.”
The woman finished tucking a sheet beneath her patient and turned to greet Kit.
“You’re Kit, and I’m Margaret. There now, we’re introduced. Nice and simple. That’s the way I like things.”
Kit smiled and nodded in agreement.
“I was wondering how Tom is.”
“He’s fine, just a little sore is all. He’s tending to a passenger who’s taken ill in one of the tents. It’s a dreadful business this is. My Tom is barely out of his time and he’s been put in charge of taking care of sixty patients all on his own, and having to deal with that ghastly lime burner. He needs help, anyone can see that, but all he has is me and four labourers who are run off their feet day and night. And, of course you, Kit. We are so grateful that you have come to help us.”
“It’s my pleasure, Margaret. What would you like me to do next?”
“I’m afraid nothing too pleasant.” She glanced over at the mop and bucket leaning in the corner.
“I’ll get to it right away.”
Kit spent the remainder of the day mopping the floors of the two cottages and tending to the many feverish patients requiring assistance with drinking water. When she’d finished, she walked down to the beach to check on Clara and found her happily building a sand castle with Lizzy. Ginny was nowhere in sight.
“Where is your mother?” she asked.
“She’s gone somewhere with Mr Charmers.”
“Who is Mr Charmers?”
Lizzy shrugged. “I don’t know, just some man she met yesterday at breakfast.” She sunk to her knees and continued pushing sand up to the castle.
“It’s lunchtime now. The two of you come with me to the tent to get something to eat.”
“Can’t we just play here?" Clara asked. “I didn’t care for the pea soup we had yesterday. It tasted like dish water.”
“No, worse than that." Lizzy giggled. "It tasted like a horse had peed in it. Maybe that’s why it was called pea soup.” The two girls giggled and threw sand on top of their castle.
“Come now, you two funny girls, it’s time for lunch. No matter what it is, we need to eat.”
Kit and the girls walked from the sand up to the lunch tent. The sides had been lifted to let the air flow and create a large open-air dining area for the immigrants. Just as they were about to enter, Finley ran over to them.
"Kit. I've got some news about your husband. You have to come now."
© Copyright 2023 Miranda J Taylor. All rights reserved.
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This chapter had some funny moments, which is good as humor lightens the mood of the story, which can be a bit grim at times; suits the station itself.
Pea soup was widely used on board ships for sustenance. It was also cheap, easy to make, and could be flavored with ham hocks and carvings of meat and gristle sliced right close to the bone. Peas also contained Vitamin C, which was proof against scurvy, which was the bane of both sailors and colonists.
Is that an Austrialan phrase? I keep thinking why would a man go to Australia for gold and leave his family, with a newborn child behind. Is Liverpool that desperate? We need a backstory on that. Chapter moved smoothly except this is a strange hole in the story.. So she likes Finnley and the doctor, they are schoolmates. My question is why is Finnley there now?
Thank you for your review. The limeburner at the quarantine station made a material to use
for mortar for buildings for the burgeoning town. It was a dangerous job because the resulting material was highly caustic. Finley is a labourer at the station. The station employed four labourers who did everything from building to helping out in the hospital.
I was sorry to read that you used to be homeless. I can only imagine how lost you must have felt. I visited the US in April last year. I went to New York, Washington DC, Hawaii, San Francisco and drove from Salt Lake City to Rapid City. Everywhere I went in the cities there were large numbers of homeless people. It was both shocking and saddening. A tour guide told me that it is largely a result of the government not putting enough money into mental health. You are self-taught in physics. Wow! I studied physics in secondary school but didn't attempt it in my final year because I struggled with it. I couldn't possibly learn about it without guidance, so I'm impressed by your achievement. I would never have guessed that you are nearly 80 because you write with the energy of a younger person.
Hey, Miranda. You've really got a neat intuition for storytelling and writing. I also like how you put something meaty at the end of your chapters!
So Finley and Tom are friends. Cool! I like how Kit cheered Finley regarding his intelligence. She's VERY right! The brain is at work whether one is doing math, writing, sculpting, drawing, doing automotive mechanical work, stretching the body, lifting weights - heck, the things science and medicine have uncovered about the brain over the last twenty-five years or so!!!
Everyone of your characters are VERY well-rounded. You breathe a lot of life into them!
Thank you for the review and your welcome encouragement. Strangely, I sometimes read my work and think it's mediocre, and other times I think it is all right. That is the complexity of the brain and it's response to my moods, no doubt.