Hello any wonderful reader who chances upon this post.
For those who know me, they might welcome this, the beginning of my next novel, I have provisionally titled 'Cousin John's Inheritance'.
This story was one of many I found while reading my grandmother, Eusebia's diaries. It is the story of a brave woman from an abusive home who married a good man, who unfortunately could not father children.
How my aunt Violet navigated her marriage and her life almost defies belief, but as they say, 'truth is stranger'.
I have posted the the prologue and the first chapter for your perusal and hope you can find time to follow her story as she tries so hard to make a home for her husband and then to create a family with his (probably) reluctant cooperation. But as you will see, he loved her enough to go to lengths that few men would, to keep her and help her fulfill her dearest wish, that is, to become a mother.
I do hope you can stick with me to follow her story as I post chapter s as they are written. I do know how it all ends, but you will have to wait. I have a wager running with my Sister-in-law Cate that it will be finished by the end of June. I do expect to win and hope you enjoy reading this story.
Cousin John’s Inheritance.
Eusebia’s diary. Sunday, October 12 1924, “Ella and Owen went to Orangeville. Father, Marjorie and Eric walked over to the melon patch”, until April 21 1959. “I have to go to hospital tomorrow to be operated on for a cyst”,
Every day for these thirty-five years, Eusebia Turnbull entered her day’s events into a diary.
For several days from the 5th of June 1971, her elder daughter and trusted keeper of her legacy, sat inside a locked room, anxiously reading her mother’s account of family history.
Ella Turnbull Jones was a student of literature and had a degree to prove it, so one could have presumed that her mother’s legacy was her interest. But on this occasion, she was searching for clues to specific events.
Her brother Owen had unburdened himself of a secret, so profound that it threatened to destroy much of what she had sacrificed so many years to achieve. Although she could be reasonably sure the secret would die with his passing, she was equally sure her mother knew and could not have resisted recording at least a hint of it in her diary.
On the first count she was wrong, but on the second, her frantic search revealed the information she sought and she would attempt to remove all traces of it from the record.
So, she concentrated on certain years, tearing out pages and half pages that could have been used in a court of law to challenge her brother’s will, and so undo the years she had slaved to ensure her son’s inheritance of the family property, "Coromandel".
At the death of his father Irwin, Owen Turnbull inherited Coromandel, and although the farm had passed to him free of debt, it had never managed to create enough wealth to take advantage of the agricultural revolution sweeping across the world. It needed a capital injection and Ella Jones offered to lend him enough to build dams and buy machinery that would provide irrigation water and transform the property.
But there were conditions. One condition was that: should he die before the loan had been repaid, “Coromandel would be bequeathed to Ella’s only child, Walter Turnbull Jones”, proud member of the Turnbull clan, nice guy and congenital incompetent.
But the secret did not die with the passing of Owen, and although Ella’s vandalism had successfully prevented a challenge to Owen’s will, she failed to destroy the facts, clues to which still remained in her mother’s writing in Esperanto, a language in which Eusebia was expert, but not known to Ella. There was also the memory of Owen’s own confession to his other sister, Marjorie, that had been passed on to her elder son, the teller of this story.
For a woman of letters, to tear out a page of history, rip it up and burn it, was an impelling indication of her anguish. Here, a few words in Eusebia’s diary could destroy what she had strived for all her life. Of course, the conditions of the loan were weighted in her favour. Of course, she had grabbed with both hands the opportunity to control Coromandel. For goodness sake, none of those ignorant bumpkins was capable of even contemplating her vision, much less realising it. If she had her way, the Turnbull family would once again be in control of the family estate, or what was left of it, and none of it would be broken up and sold as were surrounding properties. “Owen with children? My God!”
As she watched the paper burn in the sink, guilt hit her as if she had been struck. Her breath laboured as she fought for control. The injured book was still as she had left it, thrown into the corner of the room, pages awry and open on the floor.
A cooler head would have read more, but the offensive words were gone and she could not bear to look at the book again. She picked it up and placed it carefully in the old butter box with the other diaries. Fifty years of family history, every day of every year reported faithfully in that stylish hand, oddly unchanging over the years from young bride to great-grandmother. Her mother. What had she done? She looked again at the ashes in the sink. Grey and black. They shouted their accusation.
Ella Turnbull Jones bent over the sink and bawled like a child. What a shit of a life. So much ambition, so much struggle, so many mistakes.
“Oh my God,” she whispered, “Oh my God, why are you punishing me still. Haven’t I suffered enough for my mistakes? My God, where will it end?”
Her tears fell on the ashes until she looked again, turned on the tap and let it run. As if to wash away the sin she rinsed her hands in the running stream. When the tears had abated enough for her to see, she turned off the water. A swell of emotion rose again threatening to gag as the stain was revealed. Was it really there or was it the negative after image of the desecration.
She reached for the kettle and lit the gas. A cup of tea. As the hands moved automatically to measure out the little black flakes of dried leaf, a modicum of calm began to overlay the pain. By the time the kettle boiled and the scalding water hissed into the pot she was again in control and that is where she had to be. If she had learned one thing in this life, it was to stay in control.
It had been a hard school. She cast off the morality of her religious home at a cost. With natural arrogance, she levered herself from the constraints of its conventions. But that same tool destroyed her humility, and what keeps most people grounded; the gift of self-doubt. But in the early years, life was there for the taking and she took it. Of all Eusebia’s children Ella was the only one to seek to exercise all her appetites. She ignored the tacit disapproval of her mother as she fell in love with, and married her first cousin, Edgar who was also her mother’s first cousin.
History was being repeated but with a difference. The abandon with which she had conducted that relationship died with the discovery that her son, her beautiful boy with the curly hair and calm eyes was already where he would always be; a man with a child’s mind. He would live without ambition, without pretension, without, without. His easy nature and confidence that the world would never hurt him were not enough for her. He would not be the one to complete the dream for himself. But she had gone too far to abandon her plans for him. She soon realised that if her plan was to succeed, she would have to do it all herself.
The words from the diary were gone but that act of destruction created a lie and that lie had its reflection in the destruction of her dream. Her guilt, knowing that what was left of the dream depended on maintaining a lie, killed her. Not right away, but the process started then and it would not take long.
1 2. Fairfield 1935.
‘I’ll have to ask Dad.’
Violet Enid Dupond was behind the wheel of Hovee’s 1926 Rugby that she had steered into the lane, to come to a stop out of sight of passers-by.
She pushed the gear stick forward as he slid across the seat to kiss her again. ‘You’re twenty-one, we can elope?’
She pushed him back. ‘I want a wedding like Madge, white dress, flowers, bridesmaid, wine…’
He moved away as she pushed, to lean his arm on the door. ‘I don’t think I could afford any of that and I don’t think George could either.’ He looked over the windowless door to stare across paddocks where shadows lengthened, mist rising from meadow grass through cooling air. She said nothing, watching and waiting for her big man to think it through.
She smiled to herself while he turned to her, his face crumpling as it might have when he found his Christmas stocking lacked what he had hoped for. She turned away then flopped backward, her head resting on his thighs. His big face was now looking down at her laughing eyes. She smiled, inviting. ‘I can ask Marge to lend me her dress. Mary can be bridesmaid.’
‘Dad won’t allow wine, you know.’ He was smiling too now, love filling his heart, warming his stomach, energising his penis, a pressing, pleasant discomfort. They had played this game before and his body warmed in anticipation.
He moved to ease himself. She laughed as she rolled over to bite him through thick moleskin work trousers, then reached up to slip suspenders from his shoulders and with help, worked the waistband down until he was free and in her mouth. His left hand cradled her head as his right slipped inside her pants to find her clitoris.
Hovee’s cry of release was more than that. Pleasure was moderated by fear. His father’s presence was with them in their cramped space and although he could no longer feel the razor strop, he felt the dread, and there was God.
But even his God was not enough to overcome his love at that moment. He lifted her face to kiss her again, tasting his own saltiness, then pulled up his trousers, walked around the ute to take its crank handle and through exertion, leave less head space for “knowledge of good and evil”, spinning the cranky old engine until it spluttered to life.
Violet had moved behind the wheel to adjust spark timing and mixture, so it soon settled into a clunky idle.
With the engine ticking over, now ready to move off, he felt calmer, as if he had turned a page on something in his life. It was not the first time she had done that. When he first spoke to her, a woman not from the Meeting, he had broken a seal on his church imposed morality and knew he would follow this woman, wherever she might lead.
But as much as he wanted… needed to love her completely, he was afraid she might become pregnant. It was a fear that joined others, pumped into his growing mind over the years by froth-mouthed preachers and his father, who added a physical reality through regular thrashing, lest the rod be spared and the child be spoilt.
He needed her so much. But he also needed to be able to provide. His own father seemed to find enough work to keep the adult sons employed; building cottages for wealthy Exclusive Brethren clients, and there was just enough to feed his wife and six children still at home. But there never seemed to be enough to pay wages. He pressed the button to kill the engine and turned back to her.
‘Do you want to try that again?’
For a moment she was confused, but as he slipped his trousers off and moved over to kiss her again, she pushed her pants to the floor and lifted herself onto him.
This time it was Violet who climaxed first, crying in joy that her man loved her enough to overcome his demons and if only for a short time, defy his family, his church and his god.
She came again with him, this time deeper, profound. She felt they had sealed a compact that would hold for their lifetimes.
And the compact held. On the way it would be bent and battered, but would endure to the end.
‘I’m getting married!’
Her announcement stopped the conversation as surely as if she had said ‘fuck!’
Brother George Osterley, going on seventeen, already in trouble with the police for driving without a licence, but with his father’s permission, broke the silence. ‘What desperate flamin’ idiot’d marry you, dog face?’ He laughed but was slapped by his father who glared at her from across the table.
‘You’re not marrying that wowser from the bloody Brethren? Not that bastard Hovee Ray! ’ He turned to his wife’s shocked face. ‘Martha, tell her she can’t marry that idiot.’
Martha turned away from Gorge and placed her cutlery carefully on the Irish linen tablecloth. Her daughter’s face lost its excitement as she watched and it hurt her more than George could ever do.
But Violet was the only one of the family in regular work as a nurse’s aide and they needed the money. In that few seconds of silence, her thoughts raced over their lives; the struggle to get food onto the table, George’s drinking, his fighting and the fines. Martha was suddenly aware of the stink of tobacco smoke wafting over her and wondered what it would be like to be married to a non-smoking teetotaller, who never swore, who spoke respectfully and addressed her “Mrs Dupond”.
At that moment she despised her husband. She knew she would pay with a beating later, and if he was able, rape. But she reached out to lay her hand on her daughter’s shoulder. ‘That’s nice Dear, when’s the wedding?’
George lifted himself out of his chair and leaned across the table. ‘She’s not marrying that bloody poofter while she lives here!’
Martha sat back but stared him in the eye. ‘She’s twenty-one, George. She can marry who she likes.’
In the space created by George’s surprise, Violet smiled at him. ‘Dad, I want it to be a nice wedding.’
‘Nice wedding be buggered!’ he yelled. ‘If you marry that ponce, you can go find somewhere else to bloody live.’
Violet stood to face her father. He frightened her still, but she was more frightened for her mother.
‘I am twenty-one and can marry without your permission, but I would like you to give me away and all that.’
‘And what is bloody “all that”? I hope you don’t expect me to pay for any flamin’ wedding. Bugger that! Let the wowsers pay for the bloody thing. I’m not!’ He sat and poured another glass of beer while she stared at him. He took a swig then went back to his sausages and mash.
Violet looked to her mother who was quietly weeping into her apron. ‘Don’t worry Dad. I don’t expect you to do anything. I’ll do it myself.’
‘And what about your pay packet, my girl? We need it here. You’re not going anywhere!’ He slammed his glass down, some beer sloshing over the edge. ‘If you go near that bastard again, I’ll smash his face in. Then you’ll see what he’s really like. He just wants your money, the slimy bastard.’
Eleven year old Louis, sitting on the other side of his mother, feared his father’s temper more than most. He had inherited his mother’s more petite features and so was often beaten as his mother’s surrogate. He was whimpering in the presence of his father’s anger. Martha glared at George and stood, lifting Louis to his feet. ‘Come on Darling, let’s wash your face.’
George sneered as he took the now almost empty beer bottle and upended it into his glass. ‘That’s right Martha, spoil the bloody kid.’
Martha left the room with Louis and Violet following her out. George turned to sixteen-year old Margaret. ‘Get me another beer from the ice chest will you Love, there’s a good girl.’