Sunday, 21 January 2018

Cousin John's Inheritance,chapters 6 and 7. Violet's father in trouble again and Marjoriie pregnant (again).

To my dear readers. What you are seeing is the first draft as she is writ. If you see any anomaly, please comment. If it is boring in parts (or the whole) please let me know. 
Particularly for my overseas readers, it any terms need explaining for you to understand the meaning, please say so.
 Also, if you are enjoying this little sojourn into the past, I would be overjoyed if you say so.

3  Fairfield 1937.

‘Hello Mum! Put the kettle on.’
Martha rushed to the back door to hug her daughter. Flour from her apron rubbed off onto Violet’s navy skirt.
‘Oh Vi, how are you?’ Violet brushed the flour away as she kissed Martha on the cheek. He mother watched her hand brushing, then her eyes rested on her stomach. ‘You’re not pregnant are you?’ She flushed then gabbled on. ‘Not that I don’t want a grandchild, you know I do. How’s Hovee?’
‘If you mean my husband, he’s well and the old man’s good too.’
‘How’s he taking the loss?’
‘That’s the thing with them, Mum. They seem happy that she’s with God and Jesus in Heaven. Of course they miss her, and she was lovely. I seem to be the only one who cries for her.’
‘Strange people aren’t they!’
‘Yes, they are, but they’re mostly happy in a serious sort of way.’
Martha took her arm. ‘Let’s have a cuppa.’
She led violet to the kitchen and pushed her toward the ice chest. ‘We have fresh milk today.’
‘Good. I don’t like condensed in tea. Where’s Dad? Has he got a job?’
Martha was spooning leaves into a teapot. She stopped and fixed Violet with her serious stare. ‘No, he’s in court today.’
Violet sighed then smiled back at her mother. ‘What’s he done this time?’
Martha carried the tea pot to the stove and poured boiling water over the leaves. ‘Driving with someone else’s number plates. He says he found them on the side of the road.’
‘What, both plates?’
‘Yes, both of them, and he put them on his truck.’
Violet laughed, despite her mother’s serious face, as she continued. ‘He was pulled over by the sergeant because those very same number plates had been reported stolen just over a week ago.’
‘No!’ she exclaimed. ‘He pinched someone’s number plates? Oh sweet Jesus! Did he really?’
‘He says not, but you know what he’s like: one law for the proletariat and a different law for him. He might even go to jail this time.’
‘Then what will you do for money?’
‘Young George works part time as a barman at the Cabramatta Hotel now, so that brings in a bit, well, what he doesn’t drink himself. Margaret has a part-time job at the grocer’s and brings home food that can’t be sold, you know, stuff in broken packages, fruit with spots.’
Martha lifted two cups and saucers from a shelf, placing them either side of the table, poured milk into a small jug which she covered with a delicate, crocheted cover, held in place by tiny seashells sewed into the edges. ‘The chooks are laying, so we have eggs. Young Louis looks after them, He’s a good boy.’
The tea pot was now at the centre of the table, a woollen cosy with a red pom-pom adding a jaunty touch to an otherwise drab room.
‘How’s things with you?’ She poured tea for them both, barely taking her eyes off her daughter’s face.
‘I’m a bit worn out, catching the tram to Burwood then the train to the hospital every day. I’m hoping Bill gets a real job soon. We want a baby.’
Martha smiled. ‘If you’re anything like me, you’ll fall every time you do it!’ She laughed, embarrassing herself. ‘I mean there were times when we didn’t.’ Now she was laughing harder, even more embarrassed.
‘Don’t worry about it Mum,’ Violet laughed. ‘There’s no chance of that. We’ve been trying for nearly two years and believe you me, Bill is insatiable.’
Martha sighed and took Violet’s hand. ‘You poor girl. George can’t get it up anymore. Too much beer, I reckon. I’ll be glad when he stops bothering me altogether.’
Violet squeezed her mother’s hand. ‘Poor Mum. It must be hard.’ Her eyes opened in surprise at what she had said. She laughed. ‘Sorry Mum, you know what I mean. No, I love it that Bill is always ready for me. I just adore making love with him.’
Martha was blushing as she poured more tea. ‘I just hope that never stops then.’ She looked up as she replaced the teapot. ‘Does Hovee know you’re here?’
‘No, Mum. I’m forbidden from coming here since Mother Ray died.’
‘Why’s that? She seemed to support you coming to see me.’
Violet sat back, tears filling her eyes. ‘She left a huge hole in the household. And some of them somehow connect me with her death. It’s horrible.’
‘Who? Why would they blame you?’
‘It’s not all of them, not the men except for old Hovee, just the two older women, the more devout ones. They always seem determined to make a connection between anything that happens to a sin someone has committed. Like… it’s the idea of revenge. Someone sins and God’s wrath descends.’
‘That’s horrible. Is it Clarissa?’
‘No, Mum, Clarissa is an angel and Mary is a ball of fun. They are like sisters to me. I love them both and I know they love me.’
‘So it’s coming from the old man then.’
‘Some of it, but he’s not consistent. Sometimes he just doesn’t talk to me but on many occasions he has said I am good for his son. No, it’s the mainly the other two girls I think. Anyway, I can handle it. Don’t worry.’

4Booralla Road, September 1940.

Little Eleanor ran into the kitchen when she heard voices, frilled pillow under her arm, big blue eyes excited.
Violet lifted her to be kissed on the cheek then sat her on her knee to continue the cuddle. She sniffed the child’s bright ginger hair then squeezed her again. She tried not to show her envy as she noted Marjorie’s awkward gait.
‘When are you due?’
Marjorie looked down at her swollen body and sighed. ‘October, I think and it’s a girl.’
‘How do you know it’s a girl?’
She carefully lowered herself into a pale green spindle backed chair that made up a set of four that Stafford had bought for one pound from Harry’s second hand timber yard in Smithfield Road, along with the matching table.
‘She is higher than Ford, more like Eleanor was but she doesn’t kick as much. Got to be a girl.’
Violet smiled then kissed Eleanor’s hair. ‘I’d settle for either… or both.’
‘I think you’re too stressed to conceive.’ Marjorie suggested. ‘I’ve seen it before; women who are highly strung, then something happens to change things and Presto! They’re pregnant.’
‘Yes, it’s a bit awkward there.’ She broke off a piece of sponge cake Marjorie had retrieved from the Coolgardie safe, and popped it into the child’s mouth then took a bite from the remainder. ‘Bill doesn’t have permanent work and I leave early every day for the hospital, so I’m tired when I get home and he isn’t. Clissy’s wonderful, but I’d really like to get away from the judgement.’
‘What’re they saying?’
‘Nothing to my face, but I’m sure they’ve said something to Bill about Mother Ray’s death and the behaviour of my family being connected.’
Marjorie laughed and stood to make the tea, her back to violet. She was still laughing. ‘I know it’s not funny to you, to read about your dad and that woman at Smithfield. Let’s hope they don’t get the “The Biz” down there!’
‘Oh, I’m sure they know. The Fairfield Brethren read the Fairfield papers no doubt… and theirs is a small world.’
‘I thought it was really funny. I can imagine George rushing to the aid of a damsel in distress, so long as it wasn’t your mother.’
‘Yes, poor Mum. She suffers the embarrassment… and there’s the fines. It’s hard enough for her to put food on the table without the embarrassment of Dad being drunk or having our name in the papers so much.’
‘It’s just your dad though, isn’t it? Is George Junior behaving?’
‘No, he’s been caught driving without a licence, again, and this time he had dodgy number plates as well!’
‘How awful for your mum. How would you like to live here?’
Violet’s attention was suddenly drawn away from Eleanor to stare at Marjorie. She had come to ask that very thing. But now she was afraid she might have pushed her sister-in-law into making the offer.
‘Are you sure? Is… are your bedrooms ready? Where will you put the new bub?’
‘She’ll be in with us for a while, but then she can sleep in with Eleanor. She’d love a baby sister. We’re totally out of the shed now, so if you and Bill wanted to move in, I’d love to have you closer.’
‘It would be a lot easier here than being cramped up in that house, but what do you think Stafford would say to that? I get the impression he’s glad to be away from the Baker Street mob. He doesn’t go there much.’
Marjorie poured water into the tea pot and refilled the kettle.
‘He doesn’t go anywhere much. He works five and a half days at Chartres in Liverpool Street, has to ride his bike to Cabramatta station to get the train, then spends every other waking moment working on this house. He would like to go to the meeting every Sunday, but there just isn’t time.’
‘What does his father have to say about that?’
We don’t have a phone, so they don’t bother us much.’
‘How do you think Staff would react to Bill starting a business here?’
‘What sort of business? Have you and Bill been planning on coming here all along?’
Violet looked away, through the open back door where a big melaleuca dominated the skyline but there was no help there. Marjorie had returned to the table with the tea pot, her eyes on Violet who seemed to be contemplating the demise of the many flies attached to the helix of sticky paper hanging from the ceiling, entrapped by their lack of acuity.
‘No, she replied, eyes back on Marjorie’s, her heart racing. ‘We had hoped to get a place where Bill could establish a poultry farm but it was me, just now, that thought that this might be a good place to start.’
“Hovee might not like the idea of moving here,” she thought, “but it was not Hovee that was the target of innuendo, it was she.” She needed to have a plan to get him away from his father and that house.
‘No, he’s been talking about getting our own place but there’s no money even for a deposit and Staff’s not doing much with the land. What do you think? We could work out a deal that paid you something as well.’
Marjorie poured tea for both of them then sat back to engage her newest sister-in-law. She smiled. ‘Yes, I would like you to be closer. I can’t have close friends that are not in the Meeting. There are no other Brethren around here, so I feel very much alone sometimes.’ She glanced over her shoulder toward the neighbour’s house. ‘Ruth Brazel is nice, but if I invited her for a cuppa and the Brethren found out, I would be ostracised by everyone.’
‘Where will you send Fordie to school?’
‘He’s at school. Kindie.’
‘Oh yes! I had noticed he wasn’t here. Where did you send him?’
‘Canley Vale.’
Eleanor was bored with talk about her brother and was wriggling to be put down. Violet lowered her to the floor and watched as she ran outside, then looked back at Marjorie.
‘Why not St John’s Park, it’s closer.’
‘Staff didn’t want him mixing with the local kids, the Italians and reffo’s.’
‘No, you wouldn’t want that.’

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cousin John's Inheritance. Chapters 4 and 5. Violet and Hovee marry.

34.     Drummoyne 1936.

‘Where’s the booze? A man can’t be expected to celebrate a wedding without booze!’ George Dupond senior had clearly partaken of plenty before he gave his daughter away. His beery breath had wafted over the wedding party, much to the embarrassment of Violet and disgust of Hovee. But he did manage to remain standing long enough to witness kissing of the bride and to follow them outside where Martha joined him, holding him as steady as her strength would allow.
‘Shh! George, these people are teetotalers. They won’t be having beer to celebrate. You’ll be lucky to be allowed in for a cup of tea!’
She dragged him to the truck that was their transport and George’s source of income, when he wasn’t in court resulting from his numerous misdemeanours.
He climbed behind the wheel while Martha organised George Junior, Margaret and Louis onto the table top and Alan into the cab, to sit in the middle of its bench seat.
‘Do you want George Junior to drive? You’re a bit under the weather.’
‘Under the weather!’ he snarled. ‘You don’t know what under the weather is!’ He moved the gear stick to “neutral” and pressed the starter. It whirred until it began to slow. ‘Jesus Christ! Don’t say the bloody battery’s flat!’
Martha looked out to see if any of the Rays had heard the language. It seemed they hadn’t, being already on their way in more modern cars that started first go. But she could not let the opportunity pass. ‘George!’ she exclaimed. ‘They’ll hear you!’
‘Let the bastards. See if I care what those bloody wowsers think.’ He tried the starter again and it caught. He rammed the gearbox into first and jerked ahead. ‘Anyway, I can drive pissed better than bloody George can drive sober. I practice driving pissed.’ He laughed as he changed into second gear with a crunch of protesting cogs and accelerated, swinging onto the main road with squeals of fear and delight wafting in from children clinging to the loadboard.

The Dupond family arrived at 38 Baker Street after all the other guests, and were confronted by Violet and Hovee at the front door.
Young Mary had been waiting and led the children through to where scones, cakes, sandwiches and lamingtons had been arranged in the sunroom, while Violet blocked her father’s way. ‘Dad, you’ve been drinking and if you embarrass me in there, I will never speak to you again.’
Martha began to sob as she held her husband’s arm.
Hovee stood with his new wife, his faced hard and fists clenched by his side. George took in the threatening stance and leered.
‘So you think you could take me on, do you? That’ll be the day.’ He laughed and leant forward to push Hovee in the chest. Hovee stood his ground but did not move his hands.
‘This is our wedding day and I want it to be a happy one but this is my father’s house where we have been given a home so…’
‘So what?’ George had stepped back but appeared to be still angry.
‘We don’t allow strong drink in this house, so if you have any on you, I’d like you to leave it in the truck.’
‘In the bloody truck? There’s no booze in the truck or I’d have my own party in the flamin’ truck and bugger you lot.’
Martha was now crying openly. Violet closed the door and stood in front of it, blocking his way. ‘Dad! Leave now. You will not ruin my wedding day.’ She turned to her mother then hugged her. ‘Sorry Mum, I can’t let him in there. They’ll never forgive me.’ She turned to Hovee. ‘Tell George to get the rest of them together. They’re going home.’
Hovee disappeared into the house while her father glared at her.
‘You’re not my daughter.’ He spat at her feet then turned, pulling Martha with him down the three porch steps. On the last step he stumbled and was held up by Martha. He shook off her hands and pushed her ahead. ‘I don’t need your bloody help. Get in the truck!’
Her siblings stared wide eyed at Violet as they pushed past and ran down the steps. Margaret stopped and hugged Violet.
‘Happy marriage Sis.’ She said. Then with a wave, joined the rest of them clambering aboard.
Hands clasped, they watched as the truck lumbered up the hill toward Liverpool Road. When it had left for Fairfield they re-entered the house. ‘I feel terrible about that. Poor Mum, she’ll cop it when they get home.’
He stopped her and lifted her chin to kiss her softly then led her along the hall to the party.
‘Where’s Mr and Mrs Dupond?’
Mary junior seemed oblivious to Violet’s remorse, but her mother was quick to leave her duties at the big tea pot and hug her, then with a soft ‘there, there’, lead her into the kitchen for a chat.

4.     38 Baker Street 1937.

Mary Steadman Ray lay on her death bed. The heart attack that brought her down was no surprise to her family at Four Mile Creek, where Hovee and Violet had driven in the old Rugby for a two weeks honeymoon.
A heart attack had killed Mary’s father and his father before him, but the girls seemed to have escaped the scourge until now.
Violet sat at her bedside holding Mary’s soft small hand and gently murmured a hymn she had learned at school. ‘Abide with me, fast falls the eventide…’ she sang, listening to laboured breathing. All the others were asleep, or at least in bed.
She had taken over the vigil from Clarissa at midnight and she would sit here until the men were up about six. She smiled, as she pictured herself helping Clissy get their breakfasts of oatmeal and eggs with sausage, then cut their lunches while they ate.
They had work now, renovating a cottage for one of the churchmen but that would end in a few weeks and they would have to again rely on the garden and the fowls for most of their sustenance.
She took Mary’s pulse. It was weak and fluttering. She sighed and stood to look out over the dark street in time to see a ragged man stagger along clutching a wine bottle against his chest.
She sighed and mumbled the words that had become her prayer of thanks. ‘Oh Lord, thank you for a loving man who does not smoke nor drink!’
A low moan drew her back to the bed. She lifted one limp wrist and finding no pulse, flicked her stethoscope into her ears and listened. Nothing.
Death was not new to Violet, but she sat heavily and then buried her face in the old woman’s breast. ‘I love you Mumma Ray,’ she whispered and lifted her head to stand and pull the white sheet up to cover Mary’s face.
Outside the room, she walked to the kitchen to fire up the old gas range and move a full kettle onto the burner, then sat to let this moment be hers. The history of this family was etched into the old deal table where, at its peak, ten people ate, argued, laughed and cried. Gouges, where bored children picked with fingernails and some with knife ends told of their immaturity. Spills of a lifetime created a wider mosaic. Her finger traced those before her and she cried for the loss of this brave, warm woman who had taken her in as her own and counseled her in the ways of their two flawed men, who in their own way were sober, hard working and brave.
Old Mary gave her the greatest gift. She taught her how to forgive, even her own father. Mary convinced her she needed to do that so as not deny Martha, her mother who suffered for her love, the occasional presence of all her children and potentially grandchildren.
She sobbed again with the thought that she had not yet conceived. It was not through want of trying. Hovee was a considerate and gentle lover and although fearful at first, now shared with her the desire for a child. Remembering the old lady’s words that: ‘God will bless you soon enough, young lady. Don’t be too keen to bring children into these hard times.’
Violet smiled as she recalled the smells and emotion of love making and counted her blessings.
At last she was ready and stood to wake the family as the kettle began to hum.
There would be a lot of tea drunk today.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Cousin John's Inheritance Chapter 3. 38 Baker St Enfield, 1935.

She was surprised to see his hand, usually so steady, shaking as he pulled on the hand brake outside Number thirty-eight.
‘What’s the matter?’
Hovee looked down at his hand, then followed it as she lifted, then pressed it to her face to kiss his palm. He drew a deep breath and opened the door. ‘I’ll be all right, let’s go in.’
They came together again on the tiled pathway to his father’s Federation cottage. He would usually go up the side driveway past the arum lilies and the gas meter, to the back door, but the front door seemed appropriate on this occasion.
She giggled, squeezing his hand. ‘Hovee Ray! I do believe you are frightened to tell them.’
‘Call me Bill in the house. They all call me Bill.’
‘I know, but I like your name.’ She said it slowly, her voice quavering with laughter: ‘Hoveeeee.’
As they approached the heavy cedar door, its upper half inlaid with lead-light parrots and green eucalyptus leaves, it was opened by eight-year old Mary, her older sister Clarissa close behind. Mary turned back and called into the dark house. “Mum, it’s Bill and he’s with a lady!’
Clarissa nodded to Violet and held the door wider for her to enter. ‘Is this your ladyfriend, Bill? Won’t you introduce us?’
Hovee was flustered. ‘Um, sorry. Clissy, this is my um… this is Violet Dupond.’
Clarissa held out her hand to be shaken, but Violet moved in and hugged her. ‘Bill has told me so much about you.’ Clarissa was released from Violet’s embraces as her mother Mary approached, drying her hands on a kitchen apron. She hugged Hovee, stood back to look at Violet then turned back to Hovee. ‘She’s lovely Bill, can we keep her?’ She laughed then took Violet’s hand. I heard Bill tell Clissy your name’s Violet. Can I call you Vi?’
Violet was dragged through a lounge room of dark cedar furniture and drawn Venetian blinds by this short jolly woman whose brown skin and huge dark eyes hinted at ancestry that was most likely Aboriginal. She looked hard at Hovee, seeking any racial hint but there was no sign to confirm her suspicion. She had little time to wonder, as she was hustled down a dark hallway, past several closed doors she guessed to be bedrooms, past a kitchen on her right and out into an airy space, long and narrow, one side whitewashed and the other lit by clear glass louvered windows that had once been a verandah. Slanting July sun warmed the white wall and reflected its cheeriness.
Sitting in a heavy leather chair, was a bald man who did not stand, but smiled nevertheless when introduced. He paused a moment to assess her as she continued to smile for him, then waved Hovee and Violet to a two-seater opposite. ‘I’m the father of this rascal, so you can tell me what trouble he had gotten you into.’ He laughed then and held up his hand to forestall a reply. ‘Don’t worry, I brought up my boys to be gentlemen and my girls to be ladies. I am sure he has done nothing untoward.’ He raised one eyebrow in question, but did not wait for an answer before addressing Hovee as if they had already been talking about his engagement. ‘Where did you find this delightful creature?’
‘Um… we met on a building site… she was driving a truck for her father and um…’
The old man laughed, cutting him off, then looked up at Mary in time to catch her puzzled frown. Truck driving was not an occupation that would be considered suitable for a Brethren woman, but his continued direct gaze indicated that he was interested more than he was judgemental.
‘And is that what you do for a job?’
She laughed. ‘Oh no, I was helping Dad on a day off. I’m a nurse’s aide at Fairfield Hospital.’
‘And what does your father do, Violet?’
She cast a glance at Hovee and back to the old man. ‘He is a carrier mainly, but there’s not much work to be had, so he does odd jobs.’
She had told Hovee that her father had been too hung-over to drive the truck that day, but she was not about to tell the old man. She took Hovee’s hand in warning that her revelation to him was privileged information.
Her movement was noted by the old man but he chose to ignore it.

Mary senior reappeared beside her. ‘Will you take tea, my dear?’
Violet nodded, relieved. ‘Yes please, tea would be nice.’
Escorted by daughters Clarissa and Mary, she left the room. They could be heard whispering as they crowded into the kitchen. Hovee Senior glanced their way then reached for an enamelled tin box and opened it to offer Violet its contents. ‘I hope you like caramel.’ She took one but kept it in her hand. He noticed, nodding. ‘It’s nice. Stafford gets them at Rawleigh’s.’
‘Thank you,’ she smiled gently, ‘I’ll have it in a minute.’
She noted his continued attention on the hand holding onto Hovee and decided she should make the announcement that was the purpose of their visit. ‘As you might have guessed, Bill and I are engaged to be married.’
He snapped the Rawleigh’s sweets lid closed. ‘But you’re not in the Meeting, are you?’
Violet’s questioning eyes sought Hovee’s as he squirmed in his seat as the old man turned to him. ‘You can’t marry her unless she’s in the Meeting.’
‘She’ll join the meeting, Dad.’
His father turned back to Violet. ‘I take it your family is not in the Meeting?’
Hovee’s face registered such desolation that she needed to take charge. ‘No, none of my family is in the Meeting,’ “whatever that is,” she thought to herself. ‘But I’ll join, if that’s what I must do before we are married. What do I need to do?’
‘It’s not quite that simple,’ the old man replied. ‘You need to accept the teachings of our church as the only way to the One True God.’ He observed her confusion, looked to Hovee and barked. ‘She’s not a Catholic, is she?’
Hovee opened his mouth to speak but Violet was quicker. ‘My mother was Irish Catholic, my father is a heathen, but I am my own person and I can be whatever I want to be.’ She popped the sweet into her mouth. ‘Delicious!’ she exclaimed, then continued. ‘And I want to marry your son and join the Brethren.’
Hovee watched with amazement. No woman had ever talked to his father like that. He expected a blaze of wrath but instead, the old man laughed, shaking his head, also in amazement.
Just then, Clarissa entered with a tray of tea, milk and sugar with his wife Mary right behind carrying scones, jam and cream. Clarissa slid the Rawleigh’s tin aside and placed the tray in front of her father as Violet leant against Hovee and patted his hand.
The old man was watching, so she smiled. ‘Can I pour your tea, Mr Ray?’
She took the tea pot and held it over his cup. ‘How do you like it?’
‘White and strong.’ He poured milk into his cup then glanced up at his wife’s concerned face, smiling at what seemed a private joke, but she was not interested in responding to his standing joke about her skin colour and continued to look worried. He turned back to Violet. ‘Yes. White and strong. Come to the Meeting at Ashfield tomorrow night and hear my sermon.’
Her eyes were on his face, inviting him to continue. ‘It’s about Jezebel, a woman who led her husband away from God to worship false gods.’ He sat back and folded his hands over his generous abdomen. ‘She came to a sticky end. Her own servants threw her out of a high window and her corpse was left in the street to be eaten by dogs.’
Violet looked at him steadily, amusement curling her lips as she paused to pour his tea. ‘I’m sure she deserved everything that came her way.’ Hovee shook his head in wonder at how this young woman, who had claimed his heart and body, had so effortlessly tamed his formidable father. He also knew the old man was an intelligent judge of people and if she stepped over a line that seemed to have been moved just for her, his anger would be all the greater for a perceived deception.