Authors: Vivienne Dockerty
But first he had to tell his sister of his plans and Kathleen could be a formidable woman if challenged.
“So what is going to happen to Patrick if you ask him to leave the homestead?” Kathleen had demanded, when Joseph had spotted her going into the dairy on her own one day. Her tone didn't bode well as she asked him and her manner was like a protective mother hen who was shielding one of her chicks. “This is the only place he's known since arriving in Australia. What has he done to deserve you saying he has to up and go?”
“Needs must Kathleen” Joseph wheedled, wishing he had asked his wife to have a word with his sister, as Kathleen could always make him feel wrong footed if he ever argued with her. “I'll give him a reference, say what a hard worker he is. After all we have to think of the future of our family. What if the boys were to find themselves wives and we've more mouths to feed at the homestead?”
“Though you won't take into account the needs of your sister. Patrick has been like a son to me and in my unmarried state, there is no possibility of me ever having children.”
Joseph scoffed. “There are plenty men out here who would jump at the chance of marriage with you. Look at Frank Lucas, he's had a crush on you for years. You're too damn picky, Kathleen.”
“One eyed Frankie, married twice already and I had a lucky escape the last time he asked me, before he married the poor woman who died.”
“You're only thirty seven, still time to have a family and I've my mind up anyway. Patrick is going, Kathleen, whether you like it or not. I'm determined to turn our cottages over to holiday homes, there's a lot of money to be made from doing it too. You can move in with Maureen and me and that'll be the end of it.”
“Then if he goes, so will I.” This was his sister's parting shot as she strode out of the dairy, crashing the creaky old door behind her as she went.
Patrick strolled down the road from the village of Aldinga. He had spent the afternoon walking along the coastline, where the beach was thick with layers of washed up seaweed and lined with hilly dunes. He had wandered first through the nearby scrub, which had always been a source of attraction. There was a wildness about the scrub, this bush land, where dense thickets of native gums, colourful flowers and foliage, all grew in profusion amongst the grassy undergrowth. Reedy clumps invaded the swampland and the bracken. Some of it was as high as the height of a man and was home to all sorts of birds and wildlife. He would often sit there quietly, listening to the rustlings of the many little animals that called the scrubland home; the clicking sound of insects and the screeching and squawking of the green and red parakeets as they flew in and out of the trees. He imagined himself back in Killala, the place where he'd far rather be.
It had never gone away, this great desire to return to his homeland and if it hadn't have been for the fact that he was penniless, he would have jumped on a ship and gone. He knew he should be courageous, take a chance and walk to Port Adelaide, where a skipper might take him on as a deck hand and he could work his passage back home, but deep down he had to admit he was a bit of a coward. Kathleen had made his life too comfortable and he didn't want to give it up. He whistled “Danny Boy” as he loped along, hoping that the family were attending an evening service at church, so that he could end this peaceful day with more serenity. Joseph's boys liked nothing better than to egg him on to spend an evening drinking, but he would only have to ask for money from Kathleen and that was something he didn't like to do. Oh, she clothed and fed him from the pittance that Joseph paid her for her work in the dairy, but he hated to ask her for anything for himself, though he supposed that really Joseph should be paying him a bit of a wage as well. He worked the same as everyone else and was now a man of twenty two.
The almond trees were awash with blossom and Patrick looked on appreciatively as he began to pass the Aldridge groves, with his thoughts going to the forthcoming Almond Blossom Festival, a big event in the Willunga calendar, along with the local agricultural show. He was a solitary young man, hadn't really fitted in with the local boys, didn't attend the youth groups, sporting events or the village dances and couldn't be persuaded by Kathleen to attend the Wesleyan church, but he loved the carnival atmosphere of the festival, the crowds and the excitement in the air.
He felt hungry. The sea air had given him an appetite and he liked nothing better than Kathleen's Sunday roast. She would have left his dinner warming on top of a saucepan if she was attending an evening service, he could be sure of that. He heard the angry voices as he passed the homestead window. Not an unusual event, as Joseph liked to speak his mind to members of his family and Patrick felt sorry for whoever it was that was on the receiving end, but then he heard that it was Kathleen's voice that was raised and sounding anxious and if there was one thing in life that Patrick had learnt to hate, it was the woman who had taken the role of his mother being badly treated or spoken to disrespectfully. He stopped in his tracks. This wasn't the first time that this beloved woman, who worked her fingers to the bone for her brother, served on committees for the benefit of others and had taken him in and treated him like her son, had run foul of this dictatorial man.
As the years had gone by, Joseph plagued with ill health and never really getting over the trauma of serving in the Second World War and coming back a cripple, had become something of a despot. His word was law, whether you liked it or not. Many a time Kathleen had been taken to task for not “cutting off the orphan's apron strings”, but she'd been resolute; Patrick was her adopted son.
“What do you want, bog dweller?” Joseph asked nastily, when an irate looking Patrick stood before him in the parlour, where Maureen sat like a statue listening to the ranting of her husband and Kathleen was standing over by the window, staring into space. She turned when her brother used the derogatory tone, seemingly ready to commence battle again judging by the clenching of her fists and her angry countenance, when she saw it was Patrick that her brother was speaking to.
“I come to find out what all the shouting is about, Mr. Aldridge, Sir” Patrick said quietly. “I was on me way back to the cottage when I heard it.”
“None of your business, lad, other than you can pack your things and get off back to where you come from. It's time that you were gone. You're a man now and it's time you weren't hanging on to my sister's petticoats.”
“Joseph, that's enough. Just because you want to use our cottage for your holiday homes, doesn't mean that Patrick has to leave the farm. He's a good worker, I've heard you say so yourself. He can have a room in the homestead with me.” Kathleen's tone sounded pleading, but it seemed that even belittling herself to him was of no use.
“I've made my mind up. There won't be any work for the lad once the harvest's in, only enough for my boys as it is. Martin's courting and will be bringing another mouth for us to feed once he's married, along with any children they may have. Jimmy's already having to work up at the Alma to bring some extra money in, now that he's got himself that motorbike. Maureen and me could do with taking things a bit easy and she can have the job of cleaning the cottages after the people have gone.”
“Which leaves me.” Kathleen had a note of sarcasm in her voice which didn't go unnoticed.
“Yes you, my spinster sister, who in the terms of me father's Will I have to look after until I die â my spinster sister who could have found a man to marry her if she hadn't been so picky, someone else to support her until her dying day.”
“That's not fair. I do my share on this farm and if it wasn't for a twist of fate, I could have been the owner of Aldridge Farm
run it better.”
“Kathleen,” Patrick said, trying to rein in his own temper and keep the peace. He saw that Joseph was very red in the face after Kathleen had alluded to his return from the war, and noticed that Maureen had gone white as a sheet with the shock of all the discord. “Let's go back to the cottage and talk things over. I can pack up me things and go, if that's what Mr. Aldridge is wanting.”
“Never,” said Kathleen. “If you go, so do I, so put that in your pipe, brother and smoke it!” She stalked to the door, leaving Patrick not much choice but to follow. “The cheek of the man” she muttered, as she hurried along to the cottage, with Patrick trailing her closely, not sure what he should do. Perhaps it was time he put his plan in action. He couldn't stay at the farm forever, especially now that he wasn't welcome. “We'll have our tea, then we'll start our packing” Kathleen said, as she opened the cottage door and strode firmly into the kitchen, leaving Patrick open mouthed on the doorstep after hearing her words. It appeared that she really meant it.
“But Kathleen, you don't have to leave just because Joseph wants to be rid of
. Where would we go, what would we do for money? I'd be better off making me way alone.”
“You're going nowhere on your own, Patrick. We'll travel. I've a mind to see the world before I die and don't you be worrying your head about money, I've got plenty.”
“But I thoughtâ¦”
“You thought I was dependent on my brother for my living. So do lots of people, but my father put money in a Trust for me, in case I didn't find a suitor. It wasn't mentioned in his Will, but I was called to the office a few weeks after the funeral and the solicitor told me. If I didn't marry by thirty five the money was mine. Of course if I'd married sooner I would have had to hand it over as a wedding settlement, but I'm thirty seven now Patrick. Yippee! This is my chance. I can travel around the world if I want to and not be dependent on any man.”
“Oh” was all Patrick could respond with, looking across at this stolid looking woman, dressed in a shabby, knitted cardigan and a loose, calf length dress, who was giggling now like a young girl as she rustled up a couple of plates to serve their meal on. It was only an hour ago that he was wishing he was back in Ireland and now it could be true, if Kathleen was willing to accompany him there.
She might have other plans.
“Eat up, dear Patrick, this could be our last good meal for a long while,” she chuckled, after she had put down a plate of roasted chicken, potatoes, lots of leafy vegetables and gravy in front of him at the table, then gone into the larder and brought out an apple pie. “What a shock he'll get in the morning when he finds us gone and no one to work in the dairy. It'll serve him right, though I can't help feeling sorry for Maureen.”
“Kathleen, are you sure this is what you want to do?” Patrick poised mid meal, suddenly thinking that this was all his fault and that Joseph was right to get rid of him. After all, he'd been an orphan not a member of the family and Kathleen, a Christian woman, may have only seen his upbringing as her duty.
“You mean give up my boring life, a life of servitude to my brother and the community, when I've the chance to go places along with you?
going to think of myself as the Aldridge pioneer, an independent woman like Elizabeth Blackwell or Emily Pankhurst, a freedom fighter.”
“Steady on, Kathleen” Patrick laughed, suddenly seeing this normally dour woman in a different light than he had seen in the past ten years. “You've only said you'll leave the farm. You won't be changing the world, you know.”
“Ah but I'll be changing my world, Patrick and hopefully we'll be doing that together. Now what is it that
would like to do?”
He didn't have to plead for a job with a sea captain, rather he was treated with the utmost respect as the nephew of a lady passenger who had booked two single berth cabins on the RMS Arcadia for their voyage across to Tilbury. There had been the option of travelling across to England in an aeroplane, as after the war the Commonwealth had set up the Trans-Australia Airlines, but early planes had to refuel on a regular basis and Kathleen, initially excited by the idea of being the only person in Willunga who had flown to the other side of the world, soon realised that the cost would be prohibitive. She would have to conserve her money, for the time being anyway.
The morning of their departure had been distressing. Maureen, under the thumb of her husband, had sneaked along to the cottage after Joseph had set off to check on a sow that had just given birth to a glut of piglets. She had implored the pair to stay, especially as it was only eight weeks away from Christmas. She said that it was the war that was responsible for Joseph's quick temper; he would feel very guilty once they had gone away.
“It's my one chance in life to do something with it” Kathleen answered, enthused now by the thought of her adventure, wondering why she hadn't thought of it before. Why shouldn't a woman travel the world, see the sights that might only be dreamt of if she had stayed living her life for the benefit of others? This was providential. With Patrick being ordered to leave the homestead, there was no reason now for her to stay.
“I'll miss you, Maureen” she murmured, touched by her sister-in-law's genuine distress at her leaving. “I'll write. I'll send postcards from all the places that we go to. I promise that I'll come back to see you one day.”
“You won't, I know it,” Maureen said, mopping at her tears with her apron. “You'll meet a man who'll sweep you off your feet and you'll have a ruck of kids with him.”
“As if,” Kathleen said gaily. “But if that happens you will be the first to know. Patrick,” she looked up at the young man who had been in her life and heart for the past ten years, after she had glanced at her gold watch, a present from her late father. “Can you take our bags and wait by the gate for Mr. Evans to collect us? He said he'd be here by half past when I telephoned.”
“Where will you go?” Maureen sniffed, seeing her sister-in-law's determination, as Patrick set off carrying his small, fibre suitcase which he had been given at the orphanage all those years ago and a large tapestry bag that belonged to Kathleen.
“Well, first we'll go to the city and spend a few days there having a look around; buy a few clothes in Rundle Street when we have decided on our destination. Warm clothes or light clothes, the world's our oyster as they say. Oh, I'm so excited. Sorry, Maureen. I will miss you, you know.”
“We'll all miss you too, Kathleen. I know that the boys have drifted a little now they're grown, got their own interests and dare I say it, Joseph can be a pig headed swine, but if you change your mind, you can come right back again. It will be easy enough to speak to you now that Joseph has put in the telephone.”
“And have Annie Pilling at the telephone exchange tell everyone in the village of my whereabouts? It'll be all over Willunga that I'm going to the city today. No, I'll send you a letter if I'm on my way back home.”
“God speed then, Kathleen. May He watch over you until we meet again.”
Kathleen nodded in agreement, then walked away.