Below is post two of three, should you have not read the first installment, I implore that you read this first -> https://therebemonstershere.com/2016/01/21/coomberdale-kenilworth-b-m-t/
With both hands she lifted the branch with the leaves, snapping the green stick off at its junction on the larger limb, hastily tearing it away, casting it away from her, brushing ants from both arms and hands before it hit the ground. There, what she saw beside the broken limb chilled her to the very quick of her marrow. A gasp escaping her beautiful lips, and she bent down, hand extended, and picked up…………….
……….a pair of boots. The most beautiful pair of mens laced dress boots, polished and black. One had been sitting upright whilst the other lay on its side, the sole facing her, size ten she guessed, with hob nails, all apparently intact and well brushed standing proud, glimmering in the sun. She inspected them, laces in good repair, and quite new judging by the wear on the heel.
Inspection over, telling herself that she was in no way mad repeatedly, she deduced that these were the boots, THE boots that belonged to the man of her affections. Stumped by the ill logic, she stepped back up into the seat, placing the boots up beside her gently onto the splinter giving seat. Again, slowly she shook the reins, and the new old horse stepped away.
That evening, kerosine lamps turned low, snuggled deep down into her camp cot, a curlew sang out giving her a fright. At this, she leant out of bed and extracted HIS boots from beneath her bed as quietly as she could, placing them beside her on top of her threadbare counterpane, and promptly fell back to sleep. In what seemed like a blink of the eye, she awoke to the sounds of the day, a Thursday, starting in and out of the house, again she took up the boots, inspecting for the millionth time a set of initials stamped into the leather sole, just before the heel ‘MORS’, and then placed them beneath the bed. Hiding them behind a reused powdered milk tin, and her small sewing basket.
Her vomiting began in earnest after breakfast, and by lunch all she could do was dry retch into the galvanised bucket beside her bed. After lunch, clutching the bucket to her chest, diarrhea, explosive and unrelenting added to her woe’s; the rest of the afternoon spent on the toilet, and still dry retching, behind the York Gum beyond the house. Unable to tolerate anything by mouth, come sunset her conscious state had dropped to such a point that her mother was forced to hold her in a seated position in the toilet; her complexion was a pasty grey, and she appeared to have lost a dress size in weight. After dark a feeble coughing began, transforming into a full body hacking cough, leaving her short of breath, blueing her lips and fingernails in response; by eight, foamy red blood was coming with every cough, and her diarrhea and dry retching continued.
Earlier, at around mid afternoon, Father had set off for New Norcia in search of the one and only Doctor. Sadly on his arrival, he found that the doctor had headed to Perth on the mail train earlier in the day. Lost for alternatives, he rode back out of town toward home and ‘Dumpinjerry’, hunting down the midwife, Mrs. Halligan; after banging on her door for what seemed an age, it finally came ajar, and he was told by a ten year old lad that ‘Mother is at Waddington ‘elpin’ Mrs. Longman have her wee bairn. An’ we won’t see ‘er until the morrow.’ Flustered and very alone, he rode back into town to the Doctor’s house, summoning the Doctor’s wife, who, whilst having aided in a variety of births and injuries, had no medical knowledge. With reluctance she finally acquiesced, and joined him, driving her cart behind him into the early evening.
When, at last, some two hours later, they arrived at the farm, his beautiful flaxen haired daughter was dead. Drowned in her own lung blood, and succumbing to the wrath of dehydration.
Mother, with the aid of the Doctor’s wife, had washed her daughter’s body, brushed out her hair, and dressed her in her prettiest blue dress, laying her much emancipated body out on her narrow camp stretcher. Father, being a man of compassion, but still very practical regardless of circumstance, gently told Mother that it would be best to get her to town before the sun rose in six hours, the days getting warmer as they recently had been. Sixteen miles was still sixteen miles, no matter how the crow flew.
The drive back to New Norcia had been long and unpleasant for all, the new old horse was utterly blown, sweat dried white over its withers, head hanging, too tired to drink from the trough before it, and Father carried his stiffening daughter in his arms through the front door of the Doctor’s house, into his examination room, gently placing her on the table within. Mother covered her in the counterpane from the dead girls cot, and Father stepped out once more, this time in search of the Father Abbot.
Fearing she be the carrier of some horrid, unknown, and highly contagious disease, the lass was buried that morning in a hastily dug plot outside of town, but as close to the Church as possible; her family being good Catholics as they were. A short service was given, and Mother silently wept. Tears shooing the flies from her face as they rolled steadily down her cheeks; her father flicking them from himself with a switch made from a leafy stick torn from a nearby scrubby bush. The only others in attendance were the Doctors exhausted wife, and the freshly returned midwife from a long and terminal night for both the mother and child she had attended.
With the the hole filled, sorrow and anguish hung over Mother and Father, despair lingering above the grief struck couple like some ghastly carrion bird, swooping in to devour all heart and feeling from the pair. The old, old horse, as it had become over night, slowly plodded its way home, head hung the entire way.
The first sign that something was amiss occurred as they rounded the last bend of the home track, slow horse plodding, in the lingering vestiges of daylight was the scent of smoke. When the house came into view, it was merely remains, rather than house they saw. Willy willy’s of fine grey and white ash lifted into the wind around the smoking pile that was once house and home to a happy and contented family. No wood, no uprights, no beams, no walls, no veranda’s, and no floors remained to be seen. Heat distorted corrugated iron lay strewn about the place, scattered haphazardly as if lifted and discarded by Gods hand. The kitchen, separate to the house had vanished entirely, scorched earth and blown ash replacing it. Not even the windmill, nor the dunny had survived, with the tree beside the self same outhouse looking as though it had been struck by lightning. Oddly, and possibly worst of all, there had been no sign of storm nor fire anywhere else; thankfully no beast, all within a paddock next to the destroyed windmill, yet intact trough was missing, and all, from the distance of the seat behind the horse, seemed to be uninjured.
Saying nothing, Father removed the extremely tired horse from its traces, and lead it to the trough, astounded to find water still held within, releasing it there in the knowledge that the beast was too spent to wander. He then went back and helped Mother down from her seat, gently placing her on the ground, walked around behind the cart, dropped the tailgate, and withdrew a length of rolled canvas from it; beneath the cart he unrolled it, a bed for the night now found. Standing again, he unslung the waterbag and then opened the toolbox, extracting a much dented soot blackened kettle, a pair of dented white enamel tin mugs, two reasonably fresh dirt encrusted spuds, and a packet of tea. Wandering back to the house, he scraped some coals from where the eastern veranda had stood onto the iron head of a long handled shovel, and carried it back to the little cart. After scratching a small pile of dried gum leaves into a pile, he dumped the coals on to it, and gently blew on them; little wisps of smoke began to form, the coals reddened, and he began feeding twigs, then sticks, then a couple of more substantial lumps of wood onto them as the fire built. Filling the kettle from the waterbag, he stood it beside the inappropriately happy little fire, and went to fetch Mother. Returning with the silent, emotionally and physically drained woman, wife of 27 years, and sat her on a log beside the fire, making the tea, and then dumping the two potatoes to boil in the remaining hot water within the kettle. Finally he was able to venture back to the house, now in darkness, and attempt to establish what had happened, only to return five minutes later, the night proving a greater obstruction than his spirit could handle.
Fine eastern sunlight caught the inside of the canvas wrapped around them, and he drew himself from his bed into the picaninny dawn. Cool chill and moist air enveloping him entirely; pulling on his boots he walked to the place where his home had stood, and began investigating. Half an hour had passed, and thus far he had found nothing to salvage, nor the starting place of the fire. Lingering over a bowed piece of roofing iron, he lifted it, left handed, and placed in on top of the the small pile of iron he had created. Beneath he stared at the location of his daughter’s death bed, the only bed she had known in life, and stood transfixed. Nothing remained of the little camp cot bar piles of powdery fine white ash. Nudging one such pile with the toe of his boot, he uncovered what he later discerned to be as knitting needles, another pile, beside the first transformed into a blackened old powdered milk tin. Holding the items in his large calloused hands, he realised he was silently weeping, these items proving to be the only things to have survived to prove the existence of his little girl. Standing a while longer, he raised his head, placing the priceless treasures with all the love within him a’top his pile of roofing iron. Turning, he gave a lesser pile of ash, this one beside where the wall had stood, a further nudge with his boot. The rush of air in between his teeth was loud enough for mother to hear a good eighteen feet away. Bending at the waist, he reached down and pulled out, shaking the ash away as he did so, a pair of shiny black, hob nailed and laced boots. Neither boot was harmed, and appeared as though they had been removed from his feet, not from the ashes of a fire that had decimated all it encountered. Turning the boots over in his hands he noted ‘MORS’ stamped into the perfectly oiled sole. Calling Mother, he showed them to her, asking her if she had ever seen them before. Boots in hand, she examined them minutely, on turning them over, soles facing her, she………………….
The final chapter awaits.
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