City Of Discoveries — Episode 25


Elspeth decided it might be time to steer the conversation on to safer ground.

“How is Tammy, Wilma? And baby Eric? We enjoyed your letters, but is the baby feeding well?”

Elspeth guided Wilma out of the hall and into their parlour.

“He is thriving, my dear, which is why I thought to return earlier than I might have done.

“I have been feeling a little guilty about deserting you so soon in your life here.

“It is such a big shift, from living among people you have known for ever to a new society in a new country.”

She accepted a chair and the glass of lemonade Harold offered her.

Elspeth took one, too, but Harold did not meet her eye when she would have sent him a smile of thanks.

“That is really thoughtful. I have made several friends,” she said to Wilma.

“You mentioned Bethany Davis in the last letter I received before taking ship.”

“Yes, Bethany is a lovely person, and her little boy is delightful. We have made several trips out together. Bethany brings him and his nanny, too.”

“I am glad. I was a little concerned that Grizel might allow her supposed injuries to influence some of the young matrons,” Wilma said.

Elspeth was touched by her thoughtfulness. Grizel Stewart had formed an attachment to Harold which Grizel could not believe he did not return, and she regarded Elspeth as having broken their engagement.

“I’m afraid Grizel has been up to her nonsense, Mother. I had to have a word with her brother.”

Harold did send Elspeth a smile then.

“It may have got through to her, because when I encountered her three weeks ago at an evening event she turned her back.”

“Oh, dear!” Wilma swirled the lemonade around in the bottom of her glass and looked thoughtful.

“Perhaps I need to have a word with her mama, although she is probably the source of Grizel’s silliness. It may only serve to make things worse.”

It was while they were eating dessert that Wilma returned to the question.

“Were you at the professor’s, then, when Grizel was misbehaving?”

“I was,” Harold said, and sent Elspeth a warning look.

“You stayed at home?” Wilma asked Elspeth. “So very wise. How I wish I had been able to avoid many of those tedious events when Harry was at work.”

She set her spoon down.

“But perhaps for a while it would be a good idea to let Grizel get used to seeing you together.”

“Elspeth had had a very busy day.”

“Actually, I did intend to go, but Harold was already on his way out when I came back from Johnson’s Creek and could not wait while I changed.”

Elspeth did not see why Harold should shut her up.

“Johnson’s Creek?” Wilma said, aghast, and Elspeth realised Harold had not exaggerated the creek’s reputation. “Oh, my dear, that was most intrepid, but perhaps not in the dark.”

“Mother!”

“Harold has made it very plain I should not have gone there on my own, and I do understand now that it wasn’t a very sensible expedition,” Elspeth said.

Her dress felt a little tighter than it had done when she slipped it on earlier.

Wilma fiddled with her napkin and rolled it into a tube before fitting it into the silver ring on her plate.

“I am wondering why you lovely young people are so uncomfortable with one another when you were in such harmony before I left for Tasmania?”

“We are not uncomfortable, Mother. Please don’t write in drama where none exists,” Harold protested with a lighter tone than Elspeth might have expected.

“Actually, Wilma, there is an issue troubling us – or me,” Elspeth said.

She felt tears well in her eyes and choked a little as she tried to suppress a cough.

“I accepted Harold’s proposal of marriage partly in the expectation that I would be part of his life.”

“I am not to blame if you aren’t home in time to dress appropriately for social events,” Harold said with a distinctly heavier touch.

“Dinners with the professor are a part of it,” Elspeth agreed. “But what I had hoped for was the chance to travel through this amazing new country.”

“Travel?” Wilma asked. “Why, of course you can travel. What’s this, Harold? Haven’t we read so many wonderful accounts from Mr Murray’s publishing house in London? Many women are now travellers.”

“This is exactly what I suspected. Mother, I wish you would not encourage my wife to think I will allow her to behave like one of those women.”

“Harold, calm down, please,” Wilma said.

“What is the difference between a woman who travels to Tasmania to assist her daughter, and a woman who travels to Norway to see the skies in their splendour?”

“The differences are many. I think the travellers are people without husbands or family responsibilities.

“It is all very well that they should ride astride a horse or find a bed where they can under canvas and among the bush creatures. It is not the way my wife is going to go on.”

The two Mrs Sutherlands looked at him in some confusion.

Harold pushed back in his chair and stood up.

“I can assure you now, I will not expose Elspeth to that kind of life.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.