Law and Order
After visiting Robert’s grave before her morning duties, the arrival of a horse and dray at the east end of the station roused Kit from her thoughts. A small crowd gathered to watch the
unloading of the dray’s contents. Finley sat Clara on his shoulders to see.
Kit joined them, batting at flies as she watched. “Good morning, Finley. What’s going on?”
He lowered Clara to the ground. “Good morning, Kit. What you see here is the first of the prefabricated iron houses for the new police. Doc ordered them after the sailors started fighting with
each other. They’ve come all the way from Sydney Town.”
“When will the police arrive?”
“Tomorrow. A sergeant and two constables are coming from Melbourne. They have to put up their own houses, but I’ll give them a hand when I’m not busy.”
“This place is certainly growing.”
“You bet. The stores house should be finished in a month and then we’ll start building the hospital. There’s going to be two buildings. We’re expecting plenty of business in the future with all the
people emigrating here to the goldfields.” He removed his hat and drew the back of his hand across his forehead.
A small band of men helped to unload, dropping the iron sheets noisily on top of one another as they dragged them from the dray.
Finley sighed then shouted, “Be careful with those, will ya?We don’t want any damage.” He turned back to Kit. “It’s a scorcher today, isn't it, and there’s no breeze to speak of.”
She grinned. “It’s always a scorcher when you’ve come from where I have.”
“Not to worry, you’ll soon get used to it. You may even come to like it.”
He smiled widely and Kit noticed for the first time the small creases that formed at the corners of his mouth.
“I like it already.” Clara took hold of Finley’s hand. “Can you take me to the beach?”
“Not right now, Clara. We have to get back to the quarry and get those men digging out more rock before it gets any hotter.”
She looked at the ground and scuffed the toe of her boot into the dirt. “All right.”
“Now, you do what Finley tells you to do, Clara.” Kit waved a finger in front of her. “I don’t want to hear a word of complaint about you.”
Clara raised her eyes from the ground. “Yes, Mama.”
Kit watched as Finley and Clara walked away hand in hand. Clara removed her hat, dragging the ribbon along the ground as she walked.
“And keep that hat on your head, Missy!” Kit yelled.
Without turning to look at her mother, Clara lifted the hat and placed it back on her head.
* * * * *
After dinner that night, Kit put Clara to bed and ventured down to the beach to put her aching feet in the water. She removed her boots and her stockings. After looking around to ensure she
was alone, she lifted her skirts and ventured into the shallows. She sighed as the cool water enveloped her feet. She gazed at the stars then at the beauty of the moonlight, sparkling like a field
of diamonds on the water’s gently rippling surface.
“It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?” said a voice from behind her.
Kit turned to make out the figure of a man standing on the beach smoking a pipe.
She peered closely. “Tom, I didn’t see you. How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to take in the beauty of the sight before me.”
Kit hurriedly left the water, letting her skirts fall over her feet as soon as she was on dry sand.
“A gentleman would announce himself in the presence of a lady and not sneak up on her in the dark.”
“When I saw you standing there, silhouetted against the moonlight, words failed me.”
“I have to get back to Clara.” She sat on the sand and picked up her stockings and boots.
Tom sat next to her, staring out to sea and drawing from his pipe.
Kit shifted in the sand, turning her back to him while she pulled on her stockings.
“You’re a remarkable woman, Kit. I’ve never seen a woman so strong, so independent.”
“I’m just doing what I need to do to survive.”
“No, it’s more than that. Most women in your circumstances would have packed up their bags and gone back to England, but you, you were never going to run off back home.”
“There’s nothing remarkable about that. There’s nothing for me back in England. Jimmy and Robert are here now, and this is where I will stay.”
“And glad I am of it. I’ve become very fond of you, Kit. You must know that.”
Kit laced up her boots and stood.
“I only found out two weeks ago that I am a widow, Tom. I have no interest in finding another man. Not yet anyway. I’m sorry if I misrepresented my intentions to you. Good night.”
Kit strode across the sand with the words Tom just uttered echoing in her head.
The next morning, Ginny thrust her head inside Kit’s tent.
“Did you hear ‘bout what the police are proposing to do with us single women?”
Kit shook her head.
“Well, to stop some of the fightin’, they are going to have a curfew for all us single women. We must stay in our tents after dark and not come out ‘til it’s light.”
“Not even to use the privy?”
“Nope, they’re proposing we use a bucket. Any single woman caught out after dark will be locked in Sullivan’s lime kiln.”
“That is nonsense. They’re not going to do that.”
Ginny smiled smugly. “Oh yes they is. I heard that your Tom already approved it this morning.”
“He’s not my Tom, and he would never agree to such a thing.”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
Kit reluctantly left Clara with Ginny and strode towards the first cottage and found Tom tending to a young female patient inside. She forced a smile as the woman on the stretcher watched her
“May I have a word with you outside, Doctor?”
“I’m rather busy here.”
“I do apologise, Doctor, but the matter is quite urgent.”
“Very well, then.” He turned to the patient. “ Ensure you rest and don’t get up unnecessarily until the dizziness passes.”
He headed out the door with Kit.
A few passengers ambled from the path to the side of the cottage and leaned against a wall in the shade, prompting Kit to take Tom by the arm and lead him away to the seat under the tree.
As soon as they were seated she asked,“What's this nonsense about a curfew for single women?”
“I was speaking with the local constabulary at the public house a few nights ago, and they suggested it. I only just mentioned it to the labourers this morning to seek their opinion.”
“Well, of course you’d ask the labourers and not the women themselves.”
“Apart from your good self, most of the single women are only interested in one thing.” He peered over at the men leaning against the cottage and lowered his voice. “And that is making a few
shillings by doing favours for the men, including your friend, Ginny. Now, look what you’ve done, forcing me to speak to you so plainly.”
“I’m well aware of Ginny’s extra activities, but I disagree with your curfew. Does this have anything to do with our discussion on the beach last night? Have I hurt you?”
“Do you think that my plan for the curfew is to punish you in any way? Is that really what you are suggesting?”
“So, you are planning on introducing it.”
“Nothing is set in stone just yet, and if it was, it has nothing to do with you and me. There is little for the passengers to do while they are waiting for their clean bill of health. They have
been getting into mischief, as you have well witnessed yourself, and this often involves the single women.”
Kit rose to her feet and stiffened.
“Well then, I have a solution for you. Lock up all the men!”
Kit strode away and entered the other cottage in search of Margaret.
“It is the most ridiculous suggestion I have ever heard of,” Kit told her.
“Well, apart from the typhus, Tom has started to contend with a few cases of venereal disease.”
“There is no evidence that the single women are responsible for that. Locking us up is only going to make matters even worse."
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