Taking the Hard Road-C

Catastrophe

Ruby was mortified. All her life she had been brought up to think she was equal to anyone.  Her mother Christina had impressed upon her the importance of correct grammar, good manners and upright posture.  She had attracted a number of suitors but not one possessed the attributes her father desired.  Now she was nineteen and dissatisfied with the noisy, rowdy house and the long hours working at Madame Chanel’s. 

The one important contribution her father Reuben had made to her upbringing occurred on the day she left school.  

“Dressmaking or millinery,” he had said. “I can get you a position in either of those trades.  I’ll not have idle girls hanging about the house all day reading and gossiping.”

That was a stinging rebuke which Ruby resented.  She had missed so much school caring for baby Theo when he was sick that she always felt unable to catch up with her lessons.  At least a job dressmaking would provide money and time away from the multitude of jobs at home.

“Madame Chanel” was really Alice Morecome and although she had never been to Paris, she was an expert dressmaker and a patient teacher.  Ruby became skilled at her work and enjoyed following the latest fashions from Europe, recreating them in the backroom of Madame Chanel’s shop.  One exciting day a representative from the new Myer Emporium in Melbourne came to visit.  He was looking for original designs to add to the store’s collection.  As he was leaving he spoke quietly to Alice so that Ruby could not hear, but he was looking at her with interest.

“Ah, Ruby, would you walk across the room for Mr Adler.  Nice and tall now.  Straight back.”

Bemused, Ruby did as she was told.

Mr Adler looked pleased. “Miss Clark, I think you are what we are looking for to model our gowns for the Spring Racing Season.  With a little bit of training in deportment you would have an assured job with Myer.  Of course you would have to move to Melbourne but all that can be arranged.”

Reuben was incandescent with rage at the suggestion that his eighteen year old daughter should move to Melbourne to model clothes for a Department Store.   Mr Adler left the interview with Ruby’s father glad that he had escaped with his life.

While Walter witnessed the altercation between Reuben and his adversary, Ruby was walking home from work, grieving over lost opportunities.  Loud angry voices woke her from her reverie and all at once she saw her father, the next door neighbour… and Walter.

Ruby’s first thought was to run back in the direction from which she had come.  Instead she hid behind a tree and watched, horrified, as the police arrived and removed both her father and Walter from the scene.  The wife of their neighbour was on the ground beside her husband, cradling his head, but he seemed to regain consciousness rather quickly and was up and about, yelling at anyone who cared to listen that he had nearly been murdered.

If there had been any chance of securing Walter’s affection her father had completely ruined everything.  Why would he be interested in someone from a rag-tag family like hers?  Ruby would have to get away from this family and this town.  A few more months at Madame Chanel’s and she would have saved enough money to make a new start in Melbourne.  This was just the sign she needed.

12 thoughts on “Taking the Hard Road-C

  1. Age eighteen was very different in 1915 than it is today; my great-grandmother would have been of a similar age to “Ruby,” and she had been a schoolteacher for two years (with a college degree from a ‘normal’ school, which was what teacher’s college was called in those days) at age 18.

    Living in a house full of boys, it does not surprise me that Ruby would take on motherly duties as the elder sister. Perhaps that was her value to her father?

    I find myself curious about this “taking care of baby Theo” business.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ruby was the eldest of four children and as a result a lot of the household tasks fell to her. “Theo” was six years younger but developmentally delayed and often sick. She was obviously given the role of his caretaker from an early age.

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    1. I don’t know that in 1915 they were still thought of as property but parents would want to see daughters married to a suitable partner who could support them. Reuben was just a difficult man who liked nothing more than a good argument.

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