Tangled Secrets by Carol Preston

Posted on Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chapter Two

Parramatta, August, 1840

Beth had only been in the colony for two months when she met William Thorne. He was eleven years her senior: a tall rangy man of twenty-eight with sandy hair and sharp angular features. He almost tripped over his own feet rushing to help her pack the family’s monthly supplies in her father’s cart one morning outside the general store in Parramatta. After awkwardly introducing himself he talked non-stop in a monotone voice about his family. His mother and father, both now deceased, had arrived in the colony as convicts in 1791. Sam Thorne was freed from servitude in 1797 and became a prosperous publican and businessman and later a rural landowner. He married in 1811 in Sydney and had eight children. Three of their sons died in childhood, making William the youngest surviving son.

Beth felt saddened by William’s soliloquy, but she was quite mystified as to why he was telling her his life story.

‘Thank you for your assistance, Mister Thorne,’ she said as she climbed onto the bench seat when the cart was fully packed.

‘Does your father have a farm?’ William said.

‘He works for a sheep farmer just out of town.’

‘You haven’t been in the colony long, have you? I can tell by your accent.’

‘My brothers and I arrived a couple of months ago. My father’s been here for a number of years.’

Beth stopped short of revealing her father’s past, though she wondered why, since William’s own father had come to the colony as a convict. Bridget had bailed Beth up on more than one occasion and warned her to keep the truth to herself, insisting it would hurt Bill if people knew about his past. She said that people in the colony looked down on those who’d been convicts. Beth had sensed a little prejudice in some people but for the most part she found folk around Parramatta respected those who had served their time and got on with making a decent living. She’d been hoping her father would explain to her brothers why he’d been taken from them. She was sure the truth would come out sooner or later and she wanted Henry and Nipper to hear it from their father. Still, it seemed he would rather keep the peace with Bridget than to tell the truth and so Beth decided to keep his secret for the time being.

‘He came a few years ago, when my mother died in England,’ she continued. ‘He’s been working hard to bring me and my brothers here.’

William nodded. His smile seemed strained. Beth decided he was making quite an effort to be friendly but it certainly didn’t come naturally to him. He rarely made eye contact when he talked and there were small jerky movements around his mouth that were quite distracting. It seemed that he was very nervous about conversing and she was bemused as to the purpose of his attempt. He was surely under no obligation to the storekeeper to pack customers’ carts for them, yet he seemed to have made a special effort to help her.

‘I’d best be going,’ she said. ‘I’m sure you have more deliveries to do.’

‘I’m on my way back to my brother’s property at Richmond, about twenty miles from here. I bring goods into the stores regularly for him.’

‘I see.’ Beth nodded and resettled herself on the bench. ‘Well, you’ve quite a trip ahead of you.’ She took up the reins and indicated she was ready to leave.

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Genre – Historical Fiction

Rating – G

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