Just Too Much to Bear
Ruby rose early, lit the fire in the kitchen stove and made a large pot of tea. She laid out bread, butter and jam.
“How will I tell Walter?” she thought. “And what will his reaction be?”
Her husband appeared through the low doorway, dressed for work. Silently he poured himself a cup of tea and began sawing through the loaf of bread.
“Walter!” Ruby paused and collected her thoughts “I’ve something to telI you.”
He looked at her enquiringly.
“I’m going away.”
The man stared at her, puzzled.
“You know how we never have any money and those debt collectors scared the life out of me and I’m too scared to answer the door or go out.” Ruby paused for a breath which became a sob. “Anyway, I’ve got a job a long way from here. I’ll earn good money and Annie will be safe.”
“You’re leaving me?” Walter said hesitantly.
“We’re catching the ten to five train this afternoon.”
Ruby waited for Walter to exhibit some emotion, to beg her to stay or tell her things would get better. Instead, he stood up, grabbed his coat and disappeared into the hall. The front door slammed and a moment later Annie’s cry could be heard from the bedroom.
It was the last straw. Two weeks before, Ruby had been busily working on a magyar sleeve while Annie played with cotton reels on the floor. A loud, violent knock at the front door made Annie cry and filled Ruby with apprehension.
Who would knock like that? The area they lived in was near the docks and there were a few undesirable types who frequented the local public houses.
“Who is there?” asked Ruby fearfully.
“We are friends of your husband. He told us to come and pick up something that belongs to us. Open up or we will have to break down your front door.”
Ruby didn’t think they sounded like friends and had no intention of opening the door but a man appeared at the back step and opened the screen door which was unlocked. He swiftly opened the front door and two more men pushed their way in.
“Wally owes us quite a sum of money.” said the first man. “So we thought we might get some of it back.” He cast his eyes around the sparsely furnished rooms.
“Right, men, get that sewing machine, the silver teapot, the spoons…” He turned to Ruby. “Tell your husband that unless we get paid soon he might be losing his house and you and the little ‘un will be out on the street.”
Ruby was left in a state of terror. The loss of her sewing machine was a bitter blow and the thought that these men might be back filled her with dread.
“I’m forever running away,” she thought ruefully, “but I must get out of here as soon as I can.” She looked again at the newspaper she had kept from a few days before.
Even though it was the Melbourne Age there was an advertisement in the job vacancies for far away Queensland that had caught Ruby’s eye.
Wanted: Domestic staff for the Hotel Charleville. Maids, waitresses, laundresses, seamstresses, kitchen hands. Please apply to Mrs H Christakos, Hotel Charleville, Charleville, Queensland.
The job had possibilities. With the loss of her sewing machine Ruby now had nothing to keep her in Williamstown. The response to her letter was swift. Mrs Christakos would be happy to employ her and would offer accommodation on the premises.
Ruby had not been completely truthful in her application. She had given her circumstances as “recently widowed” and neglected to mention that she had a two year old daughter.