City Of Discoveries — Episode 26

Elspeth finished reading her latest letter from her cousins in Dundee and set the sheets on the table in the back verandah.

She knew her mother-in-law, Wilma, was leaving her to absorb all the news from home, and was grateful for her sensitivity.

Her first cousin, Carrie, was full of the progress of her suffrage office, and the work she did with women and children employed in the jute mill she was a part owner of.

Her other cousin, Hetty, told about the lives they led at a domestic level.

Elspeth was intrigued by Hetty’s reference to a John Crombie of Newfoundland who is showing an interest in Carrie I might describe as fixed, if I were her mama. I begin to wonder if the family will have a traveller in the northern hemisphere soon.

We look forward to learning about your own forays, Elspeth. Where does Harold plan to take you on your first trip?

Elspeth reflected how disappointed they would be in Dundee if she had to write that Harold planned only a round of stultifying morning teas and lectures reduced to a level it was felt women could follow.

“My dear, that frown does not betoken good news. Are your friends unwell?” Wilma asked.

“No, they both seem in robust health and spirits. In fact, Hetty is hopeful my cousin, Carrie, has found a romance.”

She stood up and leaned over the fence round the verandah, to better watch a kangaroo and its joey.

“Harold says there will be another baby attached to a teat in her pouch,” she said. “I find the animals here so strange.”

“The marsupials are very different,” Wilma agreed.

She joined Elspeth and together they watched the young kangaroo climb into the pouch before the mother bounded off.

“I was frowning because Hetty asks where Harold is taking me on my first expedition in Australia,” Elspeth confided.

“She and Carrie will be surprised that my new husband is not planning to include me in his next trip.”

Elspeth refused to think Harold would never include her. That would be too upsetting.

She hoped time would work its magic and Harold would come to understand how much she wanted to get to know the land beyond the city.

“Mmm,” Wilma said. “Harold was the one of my children who fought longest and hardest to hold on to his original response to anything.

“It makes him a very good scientist, but it is a less useful trait in domestic matters.”

Elspeth heard the words with surprise. She had observed older ladies talking at various events and hadn’t heard any of them criticising their sons.

“Harold is a good man and fair-minded, but stubborn. We need a plan,” Wilma added before Elspeth could reply.

“What is the periodical that fell out of your packet?”

“Ah, it is a new publication in Dundee. They are calling it ‘The People’s Friend’. It has lots of interesting reading.”

Elspeth handed the magazine to her mother-in-law just as Harold came back into the house from his greenhouse laboratory.

“How are my favourite ladies?” He kissed them and sat in a chair. “What are you reading, Mother?”

“It’s a new periodical from Dundee. Elspeth’s cousins have sent it out to her,” Wilma said.

“It’s the second copy, Harold. I had an earlier one, if you remember. Hetty tells me in her letter that several ladies are writing for it.

“Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I sent them some of my sketches, and maybe a story or two about life in the colonies?”

“An excellent idea,” Harold said. “Your sketches must gladden the heart of any commissioning editor.”

“How are the seedlings coming along?” Elspeth asked him.

She knew he was fretting because he had so few samples and the research was essential.

“I think we may have turned a corner and they will now thrive.”

“What would you write about?” Wilma asked Elspeth over luncheon.

“Much of what happens in Sydney is already known about. If you were to travel out of the area you would have fresher material.”

“Mother,” Harold said warningly. “We have covered this ground and it is agreed that Elspeth will not be coming on the trip to the Blue Mountains.”

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.