City Of Discoveries — Episode 27

“I’m not certain ‘agreed’ is the correct term, my dear,” Wilma said sweetly.

“Certainly, a trip would be good,” Elspeth agreed. “Particularly if one wanted to encourage others to think about emigrating here.

“However, I have heard a rumour about the new railway station.”

“At Regent Street?” Wilma asked. “Oh, my dear, that would be interesting for the readers.”

“You could take a trip by rail,” Harold said, delighted that his wife could travel without recourse to horses and tents.

“Where does the line run to?”

“Lidcombe, for the Rookwood cemetery,” Elspeth said and watched the colour fade from Harold’s complexion.

“The trains are dedicated to carrying coffins and mourners as there are no spaces left in central graveyards.”

“Interesting,” Wilma said. “I had a letter from an English friend two months ago, who had attended a burial on a similar train from London.”

Harold cast his mother an anguished glance and, pushing back his chair, took his leave of the ladies.

“I suspect Harold doesn’t think this a subject suitable for his womenfolk or the readers of this new journal.” Elspeth smiled.

“I don’t wish to tease him, so perhaps I’ll send the editor a piece about koalas.”

“We must jolt Harold out of his rut,” Wilma said, and Elspeth thought how glad she was that they’d put up the older lady while her house was renovated.

“Did you have something in mind?”

*  *  *  *

Hetty Wilson curled her fingers into her palm in frustration.

Watching her cousin attempt to organise her imminent marriage to Newfoundland whaler John Crombie, and prepare for life across an ocean, was trying her patience.

Normally business-like and efficient, Carrie was defeating her own efforts to sort out her own life.

Why had she booked the dressmaker and asked the minister to arrive at the house at the same time?

Hetty had a suggestion.

“Carrie, I know you have an amount of arrangements to deal with at the suffrage office,” she began.

“Yes, there’s any amount of . . . Just think, Hetty, a person like me will soon be a wife and in charge of a household.

“I am sure I have learned much from watching you run this house, but I am not sure how I can recall it all and apply it.

“It will be hard when the dishes John expects to eat will be different from the dishes we eat here. I –”

The door opened and Agnes entered with the morning mail. The ladies took it from the maid and Carrie sorted through it.

“I see there’s a letter from Australia,” Hetty said, and Carrie gave it to her.

She pushed her chair back from the breakfast table a little.

The room was warming up and a glimmer of sun shone through the snow-laden clouds they could see over the house.

Hetty was glad of her warm wool skirt and swept a few crumbs from it.

She spoke firmly.

“Carrie, I wonder if you would let me deal with your marriage arrangements? It must be difficult to keep things separate.”

She pointed to the large book in front of Carrie.

“I see from your diary that you have many appointments to do with transferring the management of the suffrage office, and arranging for others to step in for you at Sooth’s.

“Keeping it all on a simmer must be hard.”

Carrie flushed. The young woman was out of her depth, as well as being distracted by her feelings, such new and exciting feelings, for John Crombie.

“Oh, Hetty, I am so unschooled in domestic matters!

“I have never bought more than two dresses for any new season and indeed, I didn’t buy anything last year.

“Then there are undergarments and stockings, and I have no notion of how to keep an actual pot at a simmer!”

Hetty struggled to suppress her laughter.

She did remember how strange it was to find oneself in charge of a house, and how arguing over issues in the kitchen always ended badly, with food scorched or half raw.

She needed to instil some confidence in Carrie.

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”.