Quest to Transform a Family
Two weeks later, on a sunny Saturday morning, the sound of hooves heralded the arrival of Fred. The children surrounded him with joyous laughter. Everyone wanted to talk at once. Al took the horse away for a drink and a feed while Fred carried a bag into the kitchen from which he extracted two live hens.
“A present from the Boss,” he said, grinning.
Ruby wondered if the Boss knew about his kind gift but decided not to say anything.
“Good layers, they are, so don’t be chopping their heads off. You should get two eggs a day from them and next time I’ll see if the Boss’ll give me some more.”
“So, have you got a job?” Ruby watched his face expectantly.
“Have I got a job! You bet I have! They are so short of workers at Widgee they didn’t know where to put me first. Did a week of fencing. Then it was time for crutching so it was full on. The Boss says if I play my cards right I could get to be an overseer in time. I just need to get a bit more experience with the sheep.”
Fred unrolled an oilskin and onto the table fell five crumpled pound notes. One he gave to Ruby. The rest he put back in the oilskin and slipped inside his shirt.
“That is your first pay, Mrs Lane and the rest goes to Bill Barker at the Store. Best get there before he closes up shop.”
“I’m taking the children to church tomorrow. I thought it would be good for them to go out and mix with the rest of the people in the town.” Ruby looked hopefully at Fred.
“I’m not one for going to church. But I reckon I owe it to the girls to do this for them. God knows they’ve been through a lot. Al should go too. It won’t do him no harm.” Fred scratched his head. “Looks like we’ll all need a bit of scrubbing up before we can show our faces.”
During the week Ruby had examined the girls’ “Sunday Best” dresses and decided they had outgrown them. She was able to pass each dress down to the sister below but Muriel was a problem. Although not fully grown, the eldest girl was solidly built but would fit into one of Ruby’s dresses if the hem was taken up.
Saturday night saw four girls bathed and ready for bed with rags in their hair. A night of lying uncomfortably on their pillows would be rewarded with glorious curls the next day. Al and Fred submitted to haircuts performed by Ruby. Shoes were polished and socks and stockings darned. Ruby was going to show the world the transformation of her new family.