I’m delighted to sharan excerpt from Catherine Metric’s new book, Cold Blows the Wind.
The meal was served almost immediately, a hearty stew with bread and butter. The whole family sat close around the table on an assortment of stools, benches and chairs, Billy on Ellen’s knee. He fought to get the spoon from her as she tried to feed him. When she thought he had eaten enough, she surrendered the spoon. As much went into his hair and across his cheeks as into his mouth. He happily burbled away as he played with the spoon.
Harry was hoeing into the meal with as much relish as George and polished off the gravy with the bread. He swallowed the last of his bread and said, ‘That was delicious, Mrs Thompson, just like my grandmother used to make.’
Mary Ann stood and went to the stove, pouring water from the kettle into the teapot standing on the hob. Jane collected the empty plates and placed them beside the washing tub on the bench beneath the kitchen window.
Ellen lifted Billy off her lap and handed him to Alice. ‘There’s cake as well.’
‘Take a big slice, Harry,’ Dad said. ‘Ellen baked the cake specially for you.’
She brought the pound cake out of the pantry cupboard. It had turned out perfectly, a lovely golden brown on top, sprinkled with sugar.
‘Don’t be silly, Dad.’ Ellen concentrated on cutting the slices evenly, trying to ignore the heat rising up her neck. ‘I often make a cake on Sundays.’
Mary Ann, busy pouring the tea, snorted and tried to cover it with a cough.
Alice, holding Billy and attempting to wipe the remains of his meal from his hands and face, opened her mouth, ‘But …’ A jab in the ribs from Jane silenced her.
Mam sat back, warming her hands around her teacup. ‘So you’re staying with old Mrs Hennessy.’
‘Yes, on weekdays. I go up the mountain on Saturday afternoon, back by Sunday night.’
‘No time for play,’ Dad said.
‘No, unfortunately. I need to keep an eye on the old folk.’
‘I’ve seen you striding along towards the Huon Road on a Saturday.’ George stretched back in his chair. ‘Too fast for me to catch up. I’d started to wonder if you were avoiding me.’
Harry shook his head. ‘I need to be quick, don’t want to be climbing up the track in the dark.’
‘Summer is on its way, longer days.’ George put his empty teacup down. ‘Time for a beer, I think.’ He went to the sideboard and opened one of Harry’s bottles of beer. Glasses were passed to all but the younger girls, and, drinks in hand, the questioning began.
‘Where was your father from?’ Dad asked.
‘But where? It’s a big place.’
Harry shrugged. ‘Cheltenham I think it’s called, wherever that is.’
Dad nodded. ‘About eighty or so miles south of Stoke on Trent, where I was. Pretty place, from what I’ve heard.’
‘And, Mrs Thompson, are you from there too?’
Before Mam could answer, Dad said, ‘Beth here is English or Scottish depending on her fancy on the day.’
Mam rolled her eyes. ‘We moved around the border. My parents were Scottish, but I were sent here from Carlisle.’
His hazel eyes intent on Harry, Dad asked, ‘Now, young feller, what did you do in Perth?’
‘This and that. I’ll turn my hand to whatever makes a penny.’
Ellen frowned. Why was he being vague? Was he hiding something? Perhaps he had been in gaol. It might not be a problem, depending on his crime.
George clearly thought the same. ‘Ever been in gaol, Harry?’
Harry sat up in his chair, his mouth open, as if he was shocked by the suggestion. ‘No.’ He paused, frowning, perhaps trying to work out why he had been asked. ‘My grandfather had a farm. I worked on that for a few years,’ he finally said. ‘Then did a bit of wandering, joined a party exploring the interior, tried my hand at fishing.’
Ellen listened as he talked of the country he had travelled through—the scenery, the sheer rock walls, the great boulders in all manner of reds and browns, the floods, the wildflowers bursting into bloom as the waters receded. The way Harry described it all, it was as good as the stories Dad read out from the paper.
‘Later I worked on the East-West Telegraph line.’
Harry spoke of the heat and the sand, the scarcity of fresh water, the transport of logs by sea, hauling them ashore and through the coastal scrub to the route of the telegraph line, the raising of the poles and the stringing of the wires overhead, the cheering as the two lines, from Perth and from Adelaide, were finally joined at Eucla. Although, his descriptions were not as vivid as before, Ellen thought they seemed more real.
‘You didn’t think to come and visit your father when you were younger?’ Mam said.
‘It never crossed my mind. There was plenty to do in Western Australia.’
‘Your father said he was a shoemaker in England,’ Dad said.
‘Just like you.’ Ellen smiled at her father.
‘He didn’t do much of it in Western Australia. It was mostly fencing, shingle splitting, a bit of carpentry and hunting ducks and kangaroos.’
‘You must have been young when Mr Woods came here.’ Mam stared straight at him, a line between her brows.
Ellen wondered if she was concerned at the thought of a little boy left without his father or puzzling out his age.
Harry nodded. ‘I was.’ He added nothing more.
‘And your mother?’
‘Dead.’ His terse response brought an end to the interrogation.
Here’s the blurb
Hobart Town 1878 – a vibrant town drawing people from every corner of the earth where, with confidence and a flair for storytelling, a person can be whoever he or she wants. Almost.
Ellen Thompson is young, vivacious and unmarried, with a six-month-old baby. Despite her fierce attachment to her family, boisterous and unashamed of their convict origins, Ellen dreams of marriage and disappearing into the ranks of the respectable. Then she meets Harry Woods.
Harry, newly arrived in Hobart Town from Western Australia, has come to help his aging father, ‘the Old Man of the Mountain’ who for more than twenty years has guided climbers on Mount Wellington. Harry sees in Ellen a chance to remake his life.
But, in Hobart Town, the past is never far away, never truly forgotten. When the past collides with Ellen’s dreams, she is forced to confront everything in life a woman fears most.
Based on a period in the lives of the author’s great-great-grandparents, Sarah Ellen Thompson and Henry Watkins Woods, Cold Blows the Wind is not a romance but it is a story of love – a mother’s love for her children, a woman’s love for her family and, those most troublesome loves of all, for the men in her life. It is a story of the enduring strength of the human spirit.
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Meet the author
Catherine Meyrick is an Australian writer of romantic historical fiction. She lives in Melbourne but grew up in Ballarat, a large regional city steeped in history. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also an obsessive genealogist.
When she is not writing, reading and researching, Catherine enjoys gardening, the cinema and music of all sorts from early music and classical to folk and country & western. And, not least, taking photos of the family cat to post on Instagram.
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