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Island of Whispering Winds


  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  40. Annotation


I'd like to dedicate this book to our dog Scully, not only a loyal, faithful and intelligent companion, but a real character. We have eight years of wonderful memories of your time with us, Scully, and you were truly brave to the end. You'll be forever in our hearts. RIP



Australia, September 1845

Off the southern coast of mainland Australia

“Lucy! Bring my parasol at once, do you hear?” The beautiful young dark-haired woman called impatiently. She was obviously worried about her peaches-and-cream complexion.

“If your skin is burning, Miss Divine, perhaps you should come out of the sun,” Lucy advised her employer in a kindly tone. She was aware of how powerful the sun’s reflection off the sea could be. With her blonde hair and fair skin, she burned in a matter of minutes. She was standing in the shade of the aft deck, sheltering as much from the rising wind as the sun, while the S.S. Gazelle rolled and dipped over mounting waves. They were traveling along the southern coast of Australia, heading for Backstairs Passage, a notoriously volatile stretch of water that separated Kangaroo Island from the mainland, but with strong head winds the crew claimed it would be dark before they got there. It was almost October, and the weather should have been mild to warm, but the wind was as chilled as a winter’s morning.

Amelia Divine was standing at the ship’s railing, glaring at her servant. “This terrible rocking motion is making me feel ill, Lucy. If I don’t keep the breeze in my face, I am likely to feed those horrible mutton chops we had for lunch to the fish.”

Lucy inwardly groaned. Amelia had done nothing but whine since they set sail from Van Diemen’s Land five days ago on the steamer Lady Rosalind, and it was taking its toll on her nerves. It was too warm. It was too cold. The food was terrible. The crew were rude. They were being forced to mix with steerage passengers. On and on and on …

Even the brief stopover in Melbourne, before boarding the steamer Gazelle, had not improved her mood.

Lucy was convinced it was too windy to hold a parasol, but she went below to fetch it, just to keep her ladyship happy. She’d no sooner given it to Amelia when the bracing wind whipped it from her hand, and she screeched in annoyance as it flew over the side and was quickly swept away on the crest of a wave.

“Perhaps it would be wise to come out of this wind, Miss Divine,” Lucy suggested. Amelia was so slight that Lucy feared the strong wind might carry her overboard.

“I told you, I’ll be sick. If you haven’t any more helpful suggestions, leave me be,” Amelia said sullenly. She was turning the same pea-green as the sea, Lucy noted, and was obviously bent on making Lucy bear the brunt of her ill temper, as she had done more than once in the past few weeks. Lucy returned to the shelter of the aft deck, where she was awaited by a fellow passenger, who’d introduced herself as Sarah Jones.

Sarah had overheard Amelia’s tirade. “I don’t know how you put up with your employer’s whining and the disrespectful way she talks to you,” she said, glaring at Amelia, who was clinging to the railing with a snooty expression on her pretty face. She’d had the displeasure of meeting lots of Amelia Divines over the years. She’d been spoken to in the same insolent tone many times. Due to her circumstances, she’d had no choice but to accept it, but she didn’t understand why Lucy put up with it. She was a servant, yes, but obviously a free person.

Sarah had an expert eye for those who were in the same position as herself, and Lucy wasn’t one of them. If she’d been in Lucy’s shoes, she’d have told Miss Divine exactly what she thought of her. It would probably have cost her position, but the satisfaction would be worth it.

“I need the work and lodgings,” Lucy said by way of explanation. “I came out to Australia eighteen months ago with one hundred and fifty-six children from a London orphanage. The minute any of us turn sixteen, we are expected to make our own way in the world. I had my sixteenth birthday only last month, but I was lucky enough to get this position with Amelia.”

“Miss Divine can’t be much older than you,” Sarah commented, still glaring at Lucy’s employer. “Where are her parents?” They were obviously rich and had brought her up to look down on the working class, which only increased Sarah’s dislike of her.

“She’s nineteen. Her life was one to envy … until a few weeks ago, when her parents and young brother were killed.”

“What happened?”

“An enormous gum tree fell on their carriage during a violent gale in Hobart Town. Apparently they didn’t stand a chance. I was hired to accompany her out to her appointed guardians, who live in the town of Kingscote, on the island. Amelia hasn’t seen them since she was about eleven, but the family butler told me they’re wonderful people, so I’m sure they’ll be very kind to her. I’m praying she keeps me on as her companion because despite how difficult she’s been, looking after her is certainly not hard work.” Lucy was way too sweet-tempered to feel anger about Amelia’s behaviour. Her soft nature even showed in her gentle features and her warm smile.

Sarah gave Lucy a look that suggested she’d rather put up with scrubbing outhouses than be anywhere near Amelia.

“If I wasn’t Amelia’s companion, I’d be working in a factory or doing cleaning work, and I don’t fancy that,” Lucy said. She glanced at the cracked skin on Sarah’s hands and knew they’d been in water more than they’d been out. Her own hands had been in a similar condition when she lived in the orphanage.

Sarah’s dislike of the haughty Amelia was not softened by hearing of her loss. She was sure she wasn’t penniless, and she had guardians to look out for her. There was no doubt her future was going to be anything but hard. Besides, she was too beautiful to be pitied. In fact, Sarah disliked her because they were so different. Though they both shared the same features – long, dark brown hair, a fair complexion and brown eyes –, Amelia’s face was beautiful, while Sarah’s was rather plain. Though they both were going to live on Kangaroo Island, their new homes could not be more different. And of course, while Amelia was born with wealthy parents, Sarah came from an English working-class family.

Sarah could, however, see Lucy’s point of view. Even so, it still galled her that the Amelia Divines of this world thought they had the right to treat anyone of a lower class like doormats.

Lucy noticed dark clouds were gathering over the mainland and prayed they would reach their destination before a storm hit them. “I am so curious to see the island. One of the other passengers told me the beaches there have beautiful white sand, and that the fishing is excellent. Amelia was a little dismayed when she heard the population is so small, because she thinks there won’t be many stores where she can shop, but I’m looking forward to seeing the seals and penguins. I was also told the climate is similar to Van Diemen’s Land so we shouldn’t have too many hot days.”

Sarah shrugged her shoulders. It didn’t matter to her what the island was like. She had not had the choice to go there.

“What type of work are you going to be doing on the island?” Lucy asked Sarah.

It was an innocent enough question, but Sarah had every intention of telling Lucy a pale version of the truth. “I’ll be living on a farm and taking care of some children who lost their mother nearly a year ago.”

“Oh dear, what happened to her?”

“I believe she died giving birth to her seventh child.”

“Does that mean one of your charges will be a newborn?” Lucy asked. Although she felt sorry for the farmer’s children because they’d lost their mother, she couldn’t keep a hint of excitement from her voice. She just adored babies.

“I was told the baby died, too,” Sarah replied. Not for the first time she was thinking that the farmer’s wife should have refused her husband’s amorous attentions. If she had done so, their children might still have a mother. But Sarah was realistic enough to know that the poor farmer’s wife had no choice but to accept her fate and be a dutiful wife, and she’d paid the highest price.

Lucy was still thinking about the poor baby who’d died at birth. “So you’ll be a governess to six children,” she said. It was a naïve statement that did little to hide the fact that she was reminded of the toddlers and babies she’d taken care of at the orphanage, the poor unwanted mites who had not a soul in the world to love them. Leaving them behind had been one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do. She could remember the day, just a month ago, when she’d walked out of the orphanage. It felt like only yesterday. The babies were screaming and the toddlers were wailing, but the nuns wouldn’t let her stay. It had broken her heart, and she still felt a tremendous sense of guilt for deserting them.

Sarah was relieved with how Lucy perceived her situation. Being thought of as a governess was far better than Lucy knowing she was an indentured convict, a ticket-of-leave prisoner. At the age of fourteen she had been convicted and sentenced to a term of seven years for stealing. She’d served five hard years at the Cascade Female Factory in Degraves Street, South Hobart, doing laundry work. As there was a labour shortage on farms in Australia, the men and women from penal settlements who had been on good behaviour were allowed to finish their terms working on the land.

Sarah had been escorted aboard the Montebello in Hobart Town by a prison guard and accompanied to Melbourne, where she was put aboard the S.S. Gazelle. She was to check in at the police station in Kingscote upon her arrival and they were to see to it that she got to Evan Finnlay’s farm on the far west coast of the island. She’d been dismayed that he wasn’t meeting her, because apparently the farm was a hundred miles from the town, but he’d told the authorities that he couldn’t leave his livestock or children. However, she’d been assured that someone would take her out to the farm, by all accounts situated in a very wild part of the island.

There were eighty-one passengers aboard the Gazelle and twenty-eight crew members. Her cargo consisted of copper, flour, general merchandise and seven horses, four of them racehorses bound for Adelaide. Three of the passengers, Messrs. Hedgerow, Albertson and Brown were the owners and they’d been heard bragging about one of their horses’ successes in the Flemington races in Melbourne.

An hour later, the sky had darkened ominously and the wind had become fierce. The masts and rigging on either side of the Gazelle’s central funnel creaked and groaned under the strain and the crew feared her sails would be unfurled and ripped to shreds. There was nothing they could do as the ship was tossed from one crest of a savage wave to the next. They were five miles south of the Cape Willoughby light on Kangaroo Island, flashing its perilous warning, when the heavy ocean swell threw one of the racehorses on his back in his box. The captain ordered the ship’s bows turned southwest, out to sea and into the swell, and the speed reduced while the horse was righted.

Soon the seas had become mountainous and the S.S. Gazelle was being lashed by a squall. The captain decided it was safer to circumnavigate the island to get to the port of Kingscote, rather than try to turn back and go through Backstairs Passage in the storm. He’d then wait for calmer weather before traveling on to Adelaide.

“When will we reach port on that wretched island?” Amelia complained for the hundredth time. She’d been forced into the passenger lounge by the rain, where she’d been violently ill, and the brief glimpses they’d had of the island had faded in the falling darkness and heavy rain. As the hours passed and the ship was completely enveloped in darkness and a heavy squall, Sarah and Lucy prayed for salvation, while Amelia continued to complain.

Captain Brenner saw the flash from another lighthouse, and knew they must be off course. He hastily consulted his charts. Visibility was almost non-existent and he hadn’t realized they were so close to the island. He searched the charts for treacherous reefs.

His first mate joined him. “If that’s the Cape du Couedic light, sir, and it can’t be anything else, then we should go wide of the island.” He’d been on ships in the area before and knew only too well that many had come to grief.

Captain Brenner swung the wheel to portside, but too late. Just as one of the crew called out a warning from the bow, a violent jolt knocked most of the passengers and crew to the boards beneath their feet.

“God have mercy on our souls,” the captain said. The ship had hit a partially sunken reef. The terrifying grinding sound as the wooden hull scraped over the jagged reef was something no one could ever forget. Screams filled the ‘tween decks as the children aboard clung to their weeping mothers. Prayers were hastily offered up as a swell lifted the ship a further twenty or more feet onto the rocks, impaling her. Hit by another powerful wave, she keeled over onto one side, with her port side out of the water. Bodies were flung on top of each other and cries snuffed out by shock as seawater flooded the lower decks. The engines were immediately stopped to avoid the propeller being smashed on the reef. The sounds of crashing waves and the screams of the passengers were deafening. The crew waited anxiously for two minutes to find out their fate.

When the ship seemed to be holding steady, Captain Brenner gave orders to get the passengers into the life rafts. A moment later the Gazelle’s funnel smashed onto one of the rafts, separating the bow from the stern. The ship’s beams gave way under the strain and she broke into three sections. The cabins and lounge areas fell into complete darkness, leaving the passengers terrified. Several of the passengers, crew and cargo were swept – along with more life rafts – into the volatile sea. Over the portion of the reef where the mid-ship and fore section lay, there was a greater depth of water than where the aft section rested, high out of the water. The panicking passengers in the mid and fore sections of the ship tried to scramble to the aft, using a line they’d thrown which was secured by a crewman, but most were swept away.

Lucy, Amelia and Sarah Jones were in the lounge in the stern of the ship. They were unaware that most of the life rafts had been torn from the ship and floated away, but were still overwhelmingly petrified. Amelia could only think that she was to follow her family to the grave and Lucy was too shaken to reassure her.

As the stern of the Gazelle rocked on her precarious perch, at the mercy of the churning sea and howling wind, the crew frantically tried to save lives. Messrs. Hedgerow, Albertson and Brown offered them one hundred pounds to get them to safety, as they witnessed three of their prized racehorses swim for it and the fourth dashed on protruding rocks by waves. William Smith, a second-year seaman, was horrified, especially when witnessing the look of sheer disbelief on the face of a mother of four small children when she overheard the offer. He told the rich men that the women and children were to be saved first, but two other members of the crew were tempted. Ronan Ross and Tierman Kelly, both first-year seamen, would have gladly taken the rich men’s money, but they could not guarantee anyone would get to safety, rich or poor. They all knew it would be a miracle if anyone survived.

So the crew concentrated on emergency procedures. They found a few rockets and fired them, hoping to attract the attention of the lighthouse keeper, but they were too damp and fizzled ineffectively. The ship’s bell was rung in the hope that a passing ship or the lighthouse keeper might hear their distress call, but in the howling gale, it was unlikely.

One of the crewmen in the bow spotted an upturned raft floating nearby. One of the passengers, a Dutch seaman, offered to try and swim to it with a rope attached to his waist. He miraculously made it to the raft, and was given a round of applause, but the attached line came undone, stranding him. In no time he was swept out to sea, still clinging to the raft’s hull.

The two crew members in the stern of the boat managed to loosen the ropes of the only life raft left available to them and set it right. While one, who was holding a lamp, climbed into the raft, the other managed to move up the steeply angled deck to the lounge doorway and lowered passengers down into thigh-deep water, where the crewman within the raft helped them aboard. It was tricky work with waves constantly washing over them.

The crew estimated there were about thirty-five passengers in the stern, too many for the raft, but they were determined to save as many as they could. The children were put in the raft first, along with their mothers, followed by some of the eldest women and men. Lucy, Amelia and Sarah were at the very back of the lounge, in pitch darkness, as the panic-stricken passengers pushed forward. Those related were desperate to stay together but confusion reigned in the darkness.

Somehow Lucy and Sarah became separated from Amelia, who was still suffering the effects of sea-sickness. It was pandemonium as people pushed, shoved and cried, all desperate to get out of the lounge and into the raft before the stern was swept into deep water by the relentless surf.

“Lucy,” Amelia called when she realized she had lost her. “Lucy! Lucy! Where are you?” Amelia was terrified of being left alone, and fought her way to the opening of the lounge. Gazing down at the raft, she searched for Lucy, but in the dull lamplight and rain, she couldn’t see clearly enough to recognize her.

“Sorry, no more,” the crewman in the raft shouted up. “The raft is full.”

“Lucy,” Amelia screamed when she thought she caught sight of the top of her head in the raft.

Lucy had wanted to wait for Amelia, but she’d been thrust forward in the push for the lounge door and the crewman had practically pulled her out. Sarah was also in the raft, just behind her.

Lucy looked up and Amelia caught sight of her. “Lucy, wait for me,” she screamed.

“I’m sorry,” the crewman beside her said. “The raft is full, miss.”

“Lucy,” Amelia screamed. “You can’t go without me.” She turned on the crewman holding onto her. “Lucy is my servant. She can’t go in the raft unless I’m with her.”

“The raft will capsize if it’s overloaded, and it’s full to capacity now, miss.”

“You don’t understand. I must get into the raft,” Amelia said almost hysterically. She scrambled free of the crewman, and fell into the water, beside the raft. When she surfaced, she clung onto the side of the raft. “I must go with Lucy,” she cried, gasping. She couldn’t comprehend being left aboard the Gazelle, and surely as a first-class passenger, she had more right than steerage passengers to a place in the raft.

“I’m sorry, only one of you can go,” the crewman reiterated. He tried to pull Amelia from the water, but she would have none of it, flailing her arms like a madwoman and causing those in the raft to become near hysterical, fearing she might rock the raft so much they’d all end up in the water.

“It should be me,” Amelia screamed. She glared at Lucy, huddled in front of Sarah.

“Stay here,” Sarah said urgently to Lucy. She clasped Lucy’s arm as she tried to get up.

Lucy didn’t know what to do. If Amelia caused the raft to capsize, then no one aboard would have a chance to be saved. She glanced at the faces of the terrified children around her. How could she be responsible for them not making it to safety? “Please let Miss Divine come aboard,” she pleaded to the crewman in the raft.

“We can’t,” the crewman said. “The raft will be overloaded.”

“Lucy,” Amelia screamed. “You can’t go. You can’t.”

Taking a deep breath, Lucy stood up. “I’m coming,” she cried to Amelia, pushing forward.

“No, Lucy,” Sarah pleaded. “Stay aboard.”

“I can’t,” Lucy said. She knew she had no right to take a place that Amelia could have, so she shook free of Sarah’s clasp and climbed out of the boat. As she did so, the crewman fished Amelia from the water, and helped her aboard.

“Lucy, come with us,” Amelia shouted angrily. She had not even understood that Lucy had sacrificed her own safety for her. She stamped her foot like a child. The life raft rocked, and those aboard screamed in terror.

“I’ll get her to safety,” the other crewman called, as he took hold of Lucy’s arm and lifted her back to the lounge door. Using an oar, the crewman in the raft pushed away from the stricken ship.

Sarah looked up at Lucy, who was watching them from the lounge doorway. Even in the dull glow of the crewman’s lamp, she could see her expression was of someone sentenced to death after thinking she was going to make it to safety. Sarah was so livid she wanted to attack Amelia Divine, but as waves battered them, she had more pressing things on her mind.

The crewman aboard the life raft tried to turn the boat for the coast, but even in the darkness he could see the black outlines of jagged rock outcrops protruding from the sea. To get the raft safely through a space between the rocks was going to be difficult because of the unpredictable waves. They needed a miracle, on a night that had so far been short of miracles.

The life raft hadn’t got more than a hundred yards from the ship when the bow section of the Gazelle broke up and disappeared to the ocean’s depths. Those in the raft heard the timbers being smashed against the rocks, and then the strange eerie noise of air spurting from the cabins as the bow sank to her watery grave. There were no cries for help on the wind, as the poor wretches aboard didn’t stand a chance. Amelia and the other passengers in the raft held on to the boat and each other for grim death. They couldn’t help wondering whether they were the lucky ones, or were they also doomed?

When the raft reached the breakers, it was hurled forward. There was only one small beach on which it was possible to safely land, as the rest of the coast was cliffs. Just when it seemed they might ride the breakers into shore, the raft hit rocks and was flung sideways. A few moments later it was hit by another wave, and capsized.

Amelia’s scream was swamped by seawater as she was dragged under the surf and tumbled over and over. When she finally surfaced, she was thrown against something hard. She was dazed, but instinctively reached out and clung on to rocks. The next instinctive thing she did was suck air into her bursting lungs as the seawater withdrew, trying to drag her battered body with it. She could barely catch her breath as another wave crashed over her. Her face, arms and legs all throbbed with pain, but she couldn’t see a thing, as her long, wet hair covered her face.

With her arms wrapped around the rock, Amelia clung on for dear life, constantly pounded by the surf that sucked and dragged at her weary body. Minutes felt like hours, but her numb fingers held fast as her body was battered time and again. She had no idea how far from shore she was. In a break between the waves, she pushed her hair out of her eyes. With what little strength she had left, she climbed as high as she could on the rocks, where she could rest, but her lower body was still below the water line.

Amelia lost track of time. When she opened her eyes the next time, the light was strange and she realized dawn must be breaking. She was holding on to a large, barnacle-encrusted rocky outcrop. Her fingers, arms, knees and shins were bleeding, and she was shivering so hard her teeth were chattering. She turned to see land some distance away. It was mostly a sheer cliff face, but further along the coast there was one small strip of sand. She tried to focus, as something was moving on the sand. As she watched, fascinated and frightened at the same time, she realized it was a colony of sea lions. Amelia also suddenly remembered being told the sea around the island was shark infested. She shuddered with fear and tried to pull her legs up out of the water, but it was impossible. She glanced up at the cliff where the lighthouse stood, still flashing its warning. Could the keeper see her? Did he know the Gazelle had gone down just offshore?

Amelia wondered if the tide was coming in or going out. She thought about when it had been dark. She’d barely had her head above water, and now the waves lapped at her feet, so she assumed it was low tide, which gave her a little time to contemplate how she was going to get to safety.

Turning, Amelia looked out to sea and gasped in horror. There was no sign of the mid or stern section of the Gazelle, but not far away she could see bits of timber, a cushion, a shoe, a suitcase floating on the ocean’s surface – morbid reminders of all the lives lost.

“Oh God, am I the only survivor?” she cried.

Amelia closed her eyes and sobbed. Gulls mewed overhead and the waves crashed against the rocks. She’d never felt so utterly alone. Suddenly she thought she heard something. It sounded like a groan of pain, but she was sure she must be hallucinating. She turned and looked around her. “Who’s there?” she called, daring to hope she was not alone. When she couldn’t see anyone in the water, she realized the noise must have come from the other side of the rocky outcrop.

“I’m … over here,” she heard someone say. A wave crashed against the rocks as the survivor spoke, but Amelia was sure it was a woman’s voice she’d heard.

“Lucy,” Amelia cried, her heart swelling with hope. “Is that you, Lucy?”

“No,” Sarah Jones said flatly. She realized it must be Amelia Divine on the other side of the rocks, if she was asking for Lucy.

Amelia turned her head to look out to sea again, wondering … praying … that Lucy had somehow survived, and yet in her heart, she knew the chances were slim to none. Her eyes filled with salty tears and not for the first time she wondered why God had spared her life, not once, but twice now. If she hadn’t been feeling unwell on the day her parents and brother, Marcus, had been crushed in their carriage by a tree, she would have been with them. If she hadn’t been in the life raft, she would have gone down with the Gazelle.

Amelia was sure the water lapping at the rocks had started to rise. “The tide’s coming in,” she cried, turning to look at the land again. Just thinking about trying to swim to shore scared her to death. She wasn’t a good swimmer and she was terrified of being attacked by a shark.

Suddenly a head came around the side of the rock. Amelia was so relieved to see another person, but Sarah was thinking of Lucy, and glared at her.

“Are you alone? Are there any other survivors?” Amelia asked her.

“I don’t think so. I saw a body. I think it was the crewman.” He’d had a huge gash in his head, so Sarah assumed he’d been smashed against the rocks. She glanced at the strip of beach. “What is that on the sand over there?” she asked, daring to hope there were other survivors. She could make out dark shapes and some were moving, but she had sea spray in her eyes and couldn’t see clearly.

“Sea lions,” Amelia said.

“Will they attack us?” Sarah hadn’t had much education.

“No, I don’t think so, but I believe sharks feed on them,” Amelia said, glancing at the vast water around them. “Oh, God. When the tide comes in, the sharks will get us.” Amelia started screaming.

“Will you shut up,” Sarah snapped. “Becoming hysterical will not help us.”

“Don’t tell me to shut up,” Amelia sobbed.

“Well, what good is screaming? I am going to swim for shore. Are you coming?”

“No, I am not. There are sharks in the water.”

“Suit yourself.”

“Don’t you dare leave me here alone,” Amelia said.

There was that insolent tone again. “You can’t cling to these rocks forever. If we are to save ourselves, we have to swim for shore.” Sarah was loath to help Amelia, especially as she’d cost Lucy her life, but she didn’t want to be alone either.

Amelia glanced at the water surrounding the rocks, and suddenly screamed again.

“Stop that,” Sarah shouted at her.

“I saw … a fin. Sharks are circling us.” Her eyes were wide with terror.

Sarah looked at the water. “I can’t see anything,” she said, not sure whether to believe Amelia or not.

“It’s gone below the surface,” Amelia cried. She pulled her feet up out of the water.

Sarah glanced at the beach again and saw two sea lions dart out of the water. Perhaps it was likely Amelia was telling the truth. If she was, then it was too dangerous to try and swim for shore. But what was their alternative?

“The tide is coming in,” Sarah said. “We can’t stay here. We might get washed off the rocks.”

Amelia shook her head, crying and shivering, as much with fright as the cold. The sky was still dismally grey, hiding any sun that might have warmed the girls, and the wind was icy.

Sarah glanced at the water, searching the surface for a black fin. If Amelia hadn’t mentioned seeing a fin, she would have tried to swim to land.

“Perhaps the lighthouse keeper can see us and will come to our rescue,” Amelia said.

Sarah was sickened that Amelia always presumed someone would come to her aid. In her experience, that rarely happened. “He would have been here by now. It’s been light for some time.”

“Then what can we do? Wait for a shark to take us?” Amelia snapped.

Sarah was too exhausted to think. She closed her eyes, believing if she snatched a few minutes of sleep, she’d wake up and know what to do.

Amelia glanced up at the lighthouse again. She was certain the lighthouse keeper would come. He had to. She too closed her eyes, utterly exhausted.

By midday, the tide had risen considerably. As waves pounded the rocks, they huddled as close as they could. Sarah had just summoned up the courage to swim for land when she thought she saw a fin in the water.

“Oh, God. There is a shark circling us,” she screamed.

Amelia almost fainted with fright. She closed her eyes and clutched the rocks as waves washed over her. Even though they’d climbed as high as they could on the rocks, the water had reached the girls’ waists, so their legs were completely submerged.

“We’re going to die,” Amelia sobbed. She wished she had died with the others. It would have been a much kinder death than being eaten by a shark.

Sarah said nothing. She had been keeping an eye out for a large piece of timber that they could use as a raft. Several pieces of wood from the shipwreck had floated within their reach, but none had been big enough to support one person, let alone two. She could see a barrel about fifty yards away and prayed it would come closer.

Sarah was watching the barrel intently, with her back towards the land, when suddenly she heard a splashing noise that was different from the crashing of waves. She turned to see a rowboat coming their way. The man at the oars had his back to them, but he was making straight for them.

“Someone is coming,” she said. “We’re going to be saved.”

Amelia lifted her head and pushed her sodden hair from her face. Just as she did, a wave washed over her, and she spluttered as she swallowed seawater.

“Help us,” Sarah called before she too was swamped by a wave.

The man turned the boat when he was about ten yards from the rocks. “I’m going to throw you a rope,” he called. “Take hold of it and I will pull you towards the boat.”

Amelia closed her eyes. “Sh-ar-ks,” she cried. She was so cold and frightened she could barely speak.

“You’ll be all right,” the man called. “I can’t come any closer because of the rocks.”

“I saw a shark fin a little while ago,” Sarah called.

The man looked around him. “That would have been a dolphin,” he lied. “There are lots of dolphins in this area.”

“Do you hear that?” Sarah said. “It was a dolphin we saw. They’re harmless.”

“It was a sh-ar-k,” Amelia said. “I … know it was.”

The man was having trouble keeping the boat in one position because of the crashing waves. “One of you grab for the rope and I’ll pull you in,” he said as he wrestled with the oars. When he had the boat in position, he whirled the rope above his head and then let it go. It landed on the rocks. Sarah reached for it but a wave washed it away before she could grasp it. He drew the rope in, and then turned the boat side-on to the rocks again. “I can’t stay here much longer,” he said, twirling the rope again.

This time, Sarah caught the rope with one hand. As a wave washed over her, she let go of the rocks and allowed the wave to take her. The man pulled her towards the boat, and then hoisted her aboard. Amelia was watching, but she had no idea how she was going to find the courage to let go of the rocks. Her hands were so cold, they were numb. She couldn’t pry them off the rocks if she tried.

As waves crashed around the rocks, the boat was flung sideways. The man quickly battled with the oars to turn it back. Amelia was sure she was going to be left behind. She closed her eyes, too weak to fight her fate.

The man could tell he was going to have trouble getting her off the rocks, so he made a lasso. When he got close enough and had the boat in position, he threw the rope and miraculously it went over Amelia’s head.

“Put your arm through the rope,” he called. He knew if she didn’t, the noose would tighten around her neck. “Hurry,” the man called as he watched another large wave rolling towards the boat.

“No,” Amelia said, shaking her head.

The man had to think quickly. “In about an hour, the crabs will come.”

Amelia looked at him.

“Giant crabs,” he called. “I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but they’ll eat you alive.”

Amelia took one hand off the rock and moved her stiff arm to put it through the rope over her shoulders, but as she did, a wave crashed over her and she lost her grip on the rocks. The rope quickly tightened around her, and she felt herself being dragged through the water. The same wave pushed the boat further away. Amelia struggled as she was dragged under the surf. With the rope around her neck and under one arm, she couldn’t swim, even if she’d had the energy to do so. As she was dragged, she went limp and seawater filled her lungs.

By the time the man had pulled Amelia out of the water, she was a dead weight. “Christ,” he muttered. When he had her in the boat, he hung her head and chest over the side, and pummeled her back. “Come on,” he shouted, pummeling again, and Amelia coughed up several mouthfuls of seawater.

“Take care of her,” he told Sarah as he manned the oars.

Sarah glanced thankfully at the young dark-haired man who had rescued them. She was soon to know that his name was Gabriel Donnelly, the lighthouse keeper from Cape du Couedic. He had seen the girls from the cliffs through a telescope, but was forced to wait until high tide before attempting to rescue them. As luck would have it, there’d been a brief lull in the wind, but dark clouds were looming again now and the wind was picking up. He had yet to get the girls up the cliff face, so he had to hurry. If another storm came in before he could get them to safety, they’d all be in trouble.



Cape du Couedic

As had happened the previous night, gusts of wind came out of nowhere. Gabriel cussed under his breath as he pulled with all his might on the oars, trying to keep the small boat from being pushed in the direction of the rocks at the base of the cliffs. To make their journey more difficult, they were being lashed with salt spray as the wind whipped the foamy caps off the aqua-green waves.

Sarah and Amelia huddled in the hull of the boat with their heads down. They were freezing cold, wet, bruised and cut, and absolutely exhausted. But they were alive. That in itself was miraculous. Their savior was a man around thirty years of age, draped in oilskin, who had yet to introduce himself. His hair was covered by an oilskin hat from which sea spray ran off, falling on shoulders as broad as an easy chair. His face was deeply tanned, suggesting he spent a lot of time outdoors, but the dark stubble on his chin indicated he cared little for habitual grooming. He spoke sparingly, but his piercing eyes, almost the same hue as the wild sea, seemed to miss nothing. The girls couldn’t tell whether he was angry or just doggedly determined to get them to safety. They didn’t stop to think that he’d been up all night, tending the light and watching helplessly through a telescope as the Gazelle broke up after she’d hit the reef, and that he was exhausted, too. Sarah was thinking that perhaps rescuing them was an imposition, something he had to do. Either way, she and Amelia were grateful. They owed him their lives.

Gabriel was tiring as he battled with the oars, but somehow he managed to maneuver the boat around the headland upon which the lighthouse stood, and into Weirs Cove, where there was a jetty at the base of a three-hundred-foot cliff. He tied the boat to the jetty, and helped the girls alight. Once they were standing on the jetty, they both glanced up and their mouths dropped open.

“We can’t get up there,” Amelia said through chattering teeth. Steps had been carved into the rock to give foot access up the cliff face, but they looked extremely slippery and the climb was almost vertical. She was sure even a mountaineer would have second thoughts about tackling them.

“Two tons of stores go up there every three months, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you,” Gabriel said matter-of-factly.

Amelia found being compared to sacks of grain rather insulting. “We’re not stores, to be tied in a bundle and hoisted up, and we’re not mountain goats, either.”

The lighthouse keeper’s eyes narrowed and Amelia had the impression he was ready to throw her back to sea, like a fish that was too small to fry. She folded her arms and glared back at him. She didn’t care if she sounded churlish. After all she’d been through, she thought she deserved to be handled with care.

Sarah dropped her head. As much as Amelia’s whining annoyed her, she had to agree the cliff face looked insurmountable.

Gabriel turned to Sarah. “I’m going up. When I get to the top, I’ll lower a rope with a harness on it. You fix the harness on her,” he gestured towards Amelia. “When you have it secure, I’ll winch her up. Once she’s up, I’ll lower the harness again for you.”

When Sarah looked at him blankly, he asked, “Are you taking all this in?”

She nodded but her mind was practically numb, like the rest of her body.

Amelia panicked. “Surely there’s another way.”

“You can climb the steps or you can stay here. That’s your only two other choices. So what is it going to be?”

Tears welled in Amelia’s eyes. “I’m cold, I nearly drowned thanks to you, and I hurt all over, so I’d be grateful if you stopped bullying me.”

“Are you forgetting I just saved your life?”

“That doesn’t give you the right to treat me like a sack of … of potatoes.”

“Look, lady, I’ve been up all night, tending the light and watching the Gazelle through a telescope. I don’t have the time or the energy to deal with hysterics. So I suggest you just do as you’re told and stop complaining.” His voice had become rather loud and tense.

Amelia was shocked into silence.

The lighthouse keeper almost leapt at the cliff and began scaling it. The girls watched his progress, their hearts in their mouths when he lost his footing twice on the slippery steps, which looked too narrow for his large feet. Fortunately, he was holding on to the rock with his strong hands, which prevented him from falling.

It seemed to take just a few minutes before the lighthouse keeper reached the summit and disappeared over the top. They waited in the biting wind for a few minutes before a rope came over the cliff face, with a harness attached to it. The wind whipped it around so it took Sarah a few moments to catch it. Her hands were frozen but she assessed the harness while Amelia watched. Eventually she thought she had it figured out and put it around Amelia and fastened the buckles. Straps went around her waist and over her shoulders, and there was a wide strip of leather for her to sit on.

“I can’t do this,” Amelia said, looking up the cliff face in trepidation. “Why don’t you go first?”

Sarah glared at her. “Because you were chosen to go first. If the lighthouse keeper had asked me to go first, I would have, and it wouldn’t have mattered to me if he left you down here. But he’s obviously smart enough to know that if I went up first, you wouldn’t have a clue how to secure yourself in this harness.”

Amelia was startled by Sarah’s anger, but before she could retort and ask what she had done to offend her, the lighthouse keeper called, “Ready?”

“Ready,” Sarah shouted up.

When Amelia was suddenly hoisted off the jetty, she screamed in surprise. Clinging to the rope above her head, she was slowly lifted up the sheer cliff face. Once off the ground, the wind caught her and she started swinging from side to side. She had to let go of the rope and put her hands out to stop herself being thrown against the rock.

The higher Amelia got, the more the wind caught her, swinging her like a pendulum. She cried out twice when she was flung against the cliff forcefully, hitting her knees. Sarah wanted to tell her to use outstretched arms and legs to protect her body from hitting the rock, but she knew she wouldn’t be heard.

Amelia was almost to the top of the cliff when she began to swing quite dramatically. At one point she swung out, spun around, and came back hard against the rock, hitting the back of her head. Sarah witnessed her go limp and knew the impact had knocked her unconscious. Fortunately she was almost at the very top of the cliff and secure in the harness. She saw the lighthouse keeper come to the side of the cliff and lift her over the edge. She waited for a minute or two, and then the rope and harness came over the side again.

When Sarah had fastened herself in the harness, she waved her arm to signal that she was ready. When she was lifted off the ground she also began to swing in the wind, but she tried to keep herself facing the cliff and used her legs to keep her body from colliding with the rock. It worked well and she was proud of herself when she reached the top without mishap. When the lighthouse keeper pulled her over the edge, she noticed Amelia was lying on the ground, and she wasn’t moving.

“Is she all right?” Sarah asked the keeper as she wriggled out of the harness.

“I thought she’d fainted, but the back of her head is bleeding, so she must have hit the rock face.

“She did,” Sarah said. “I saw her knock her head when she was almost to the top.”

The lighthouse keeper picked Amelia’s limp body up and carried her to his cottage, which stood beside the lighthouse, a hundred yards away. Sarah took a deep breath and looked around as she followed him. The view of the ocean from the cliff top was rather spectacular but the last thing she wanted to see was the sea, so she turned to look at the lighthouse keeper’s cottage, which was a small white-washed building with a thatched roof. Its rather plain façade was broken only by a window on either side of the black door. The storage cottage, where he’d deposited the harness, looked very similar but it was much larger. She was not to know it could house another family as well as the stores. Suddenly a strong gust of wind almost blew her off her feet and chilled her to the bone. It also looked like it might rain again.

Once they were inside the cottage, the lighthouse keeper put Amelia down on a chaise lounge. She noticed a door leading off the sitting room and supposed it led to his bedroom. He asked Sarah if she thought there were any more survivors. “I have no idea,” she said. There had been about seventeen people in the raft, but she hadn’t seen any of them. “We had a crewman with us but I saw his body floating in the water.”

“I’ll go out again and look for survivors before it gets dark,” the lighthouse keeper said, as he threw several logs on the fire and handed Sarah a blanket. “It’s unlikely, but someone might have made it to shore.” He threw a blanket over Amelia. “Some personal belongings have washed up on the rocks. I’ll pick them up, and maybe some stores if they are salvageable.”

“Isn’t it dangerous?” Sarah asked. She really wanted to ask whether it was in good taste to scavenge from the wreck. It seemed morbid and disrespectful.

“It would be wasteful to leave stores out there. If a supply ship can’t dock in the cove because of bad weather, then something extra means I might not starve. As for personal belongings, if the owners are dead, then they’re no use to them.”

Sarah supposed he was right.

“Perhaps you’ll be lucky.”

“What do you mean?”

“A piece of the luggage on the rocks might be yours.”

Sarah thought of her one small case. The odds of finding it were surely remote.

The lighthouse keeper examined Amelia’s head and then got his first-aid box out. “You’d better clean her wound and bandage it,” he said. “The cut isn’t too deep, but the lump is large. Only time will tell what affect it will have on her.”

“What do you mean?” Sarah asked, but the lighthouse keeper didn’t reply. He donned his oilskin hat again. “Help yourself to tea,” he said and went out the door.

The wind howled around the cottage. After Sarah had cleaned and bandaged the wound on Amelia’s head, she poured herself a mug of tea and huddled close to the fire, trying to get warm. She wished she had some dry clothes to put on and thought of her case. It would be a miracle if the lighthouse keeper found it.

After she had finished the tea, exhaustion overcame her. She could barely keep her eyes open. She dozed for a while, but she suddenly came awake with a start when Amelia groaned. For a moment Sarah thought they were still on the rocky outcrop. She expected to hear the pounding surf, but all she could hear was the wind howling outside the door. She thought of the lighthouse keeper out battling the waves. What if he didn’t return?

Amelia groaned again and Sarah turned to look at her.

“Where … am I?” Amelia asked as she opened her eyes. Her voice was weak.

“We’re in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage,” Sarah said.

Amelia put her hand up to her head and winced. “Why does my head hurt?”

“You bumped it coming up the cliff.”

“Up the cliff?” Amelia looked confused. “What cliff?” She looked at Sarah intently. “Should I know you?” she whispered.

Sarah thought Amelia looked vague. “I was a passenger on the Gazelle.

“The Gazelle?”

“Don’t you remember the shipwreck?” Don’t you remember poor Lucy?

“Shipwreck? No.” Amelia murmured. She tried to remember something, anything, but her mind was a complete blank. “I don’t remember being on a ship. Where was I going?”

Sarah frowned. “Do you know what day it is?” she asked.

“Of course I do,” Amelia said faintly, and then thought about it. “It’s … it’s …” She became quiet and shook her head in disbelief. “I don’t even know what month it is, or what year,” she said. Tears sprang to her eyes.

“It will come back to you,” Sarah said. “Just rest for now.”

Amelia closed her eyes again, feeling absolutely exhausted and dazed. The pain in her head was almost unbearable. Perhaps that was why she couldn’t think straight. It would all come back, in time.

Amelia had drifted back into unconsciousness by the time the lighthouse keeper came back into the cottage. Sarah glanced at the clock. Almost two hours had passed and the weather looked calmer outside. He was carrying three suitcases he said he’d found on the rocks around the cliff. They were all waterlogged, but Sarah noticed one looked like her small case.

“You found my case,” she said, grateful to have some of her clothes. “I can’t believe it.”

“I said you might be lucky.”

“Did you find any … survivors?”

“No.” He hadn’t seen any bodies either, but there were several sharks in the bay. “If there were any bodies, they’ll be taken down the coast by the currents.”

Sarah had very little; a few dresses, a spare pair of shoes, a coat and a few bits of underwear. It all fitted into one small case, but right now the few things she had were precious. She could dry them out by the fire and have something to change into. While she took the case to open it, the lighthouse keeper put the other personal belongings, which included a violin case, in a corner. He then disappeared outside. Sarah looked through the tiny window to see him putting two barrels he’d found into the supply hut. They looked like wine barrels. She wondered how he’d gotten them up the cliff face, but then thought he had probably taken a cargo net out of the storage cottage where he’d put the harness. When he didn’t return after a while, she assumed he’d gone into the lighthouse.

Sarah focused her attention on her suitcase. When she went to open it, she thought the lock looked different, and the key was tied to the handle. She knew her key was sewn into the hem of her petticoat. Convicts are by nature extremely mistrustful, or they soon learn to be. She reached down and felt the wet material of her petticoat. The key was still there. She studied the case more carefully. Although it had been battered by the sea and rocks, upon closer inspection she could see that it was the same size and similar in colour, but it was of a better quality than hers had been.

Sarah was curious about the contents of the suitcase. She thought about what the lighthouse keeper had said about the belongings being no use to those who’d lost their lives. She knew he was right and she had to get over the feeling that she was doing something sacrilegious in opening the case, especially as it now seemed that she and Amelia were the only survivors. Another thought crossed her mind. What if the owner of the case was a man? If that was the situation, nothing would be useful to her.

Using the key, she opened the locks and lifted the lid. She was lucky: It was the suitcase of a woman. On top of a few items that included scarves, gloves and bits of underwear, and a pair of shoes, all of which were of good quality, there was a journal. Sarah was startled to see the name Amelia Divine written on the front.

Sarah glanced at Amelia, wide-eyed. She was still unconscious, so Sarah turned the pages. The book contained some poems and some journal entries. The pages were wet, and some of the writing smudged, but otherwise it was intact.

Sarah sighed in frustration. She sat down by the fire again, thinking about their lives and mentally comparing their circumstances. She had two years of hard work ahead of her, labouring on a farm and taking care of several children, before she would be free. Amelia, on the other hand, had a lifetime of being pampered to look forward to, with servants to do her bidding.

Sarah’s thoughts drifted into a flight of fancy. As she began to feel the warmth of the fire, she thought about what it would be like to be Amelia Divine. Lucy had told her that the Ashbys hadn’t seen Amelia since she was a girl. Sarah imagined them welcoming her in Amelia’s place. She saw herself being nurtured in their care, showered with kindness. She imagined them hovering over her, taking pity on her, and doing all in their power to ensure her happiness. That was the life Amelia had to look forward to.

It didn’t matter that Amelia had been selfish enough to take Lucy’s place aboard the life raft. It didn’t matter that Lucy had lost her life because of Amelia. If Amelia’s memory didn’t return, then she’d never have to feel ashamed of her actions. She’d never suffer a moment’s distress over her companion. Sarah barely knew Lucy, but even so, she felt so much anger towards Amelia. In her mind, Lucy represented the likes of herself, someone that rich folk walked all over.

Sarah was the fourth of ten children from a Bristol working-class family. Her grandparents on her mother’s side had been quite well-to-do. They’d been very unhappy when their only daughter, Margaret, married Reginald Jones, a factory worker, but as she was pregnant, there was little they could do about it. Margaret was well spoken and well educated and had taken a teaching position in Bristol, which was where she met Reginald and lost her heart. After marrying and having more children, Margaret taught them how to speak and read well. Because she was cultured and well spoken herself, she found work sewing for the more affluent women who lived on the better side of town. When Reginald lost his factory job, and the family needed more income, Margaret got Sarah a position first as a kitchen hand, then as a maid, working for one of the well-to-do families she sewed for. Sarah was fourteen at the time.

The Murdochs had two daughters, both very much like Amelia. Sherry and Louise were spoilt and bad-mannered, and neither had liked her. They were always taunting her, particularly as she spoke well for someone from a poor family. They thought she was putting on airs and graces and made it their mission to see her cry. When she didn’t respond to hair-pulling, they tried to get her into trouble every opportunity they could, but no matter what they did, Sarah had been determined not to oblige them by crying. Frustrated, they told their father she had stolen from them. She denied it, but they had planted Louise’s bracelet in the pocket of her coat. Sarah was convicted and sentenced to seven years hard labour in Van Diemen’s Land, and she did cry when she said goodbye to her mother. Knowing that her mother’s heart was broken was almost unbearable. She may not have survived Van Diemen’s Land if not for thinking she would one day see her parents again. Just thinking about them now brought tears to her eyes.

Sarah’s thoughts were interrupted when she heard voices. Curious, she went to the window. The lighthouse keeper was talking to someone just a few feet away. She was inquisitive about what he was saying, so she went to the door and opened it wide enough to hear their conversation.

“A ship went down last night on the reef,” she heard the lighthouse keeper say. “It was the Gazelle.

The Gazelle? My labourer was coming on that ship.”

Sarah gasped. Surely he wasn’t talking about her?

“I’ve found two survivors. The sharks must have got the rest.”

Sarah gasped again. He’d lied to them. She shuddered in horror to think about what her fate might have been.

“I couldn’t leave the light until dawn,” the lighthouse keeper said. “It was too dangerous.”

“You could’ve called me to tend the light.”

“You have enough to deal with. Besides, I couldn’t get the women off the rocks until high tide. It’s just fortunate they held on that long.”

“Aye, and it would be my luck that my labourer drowned.”

Sarah noted the lack of sympathy in his tone and her hackles rose.

“You were expecting a woman, weren’t you?”

“Aye, someone to look after the children.”

Sarah’s heart began to pound.

“Maybe she’s one of the two women I have in the cottage.”

Evan Finnlay glanced in the direction of the cottage, so Sarah pushed the door to so he wouldn’t see her. When he looked away again, she opened it wide enough to hear what he said.

“Does either of them look like they could pull a plough?”

The lighthouse keeper laughed, but Sarah was appalled.

“That’s what you’ve got a horse for, Evan,” the lighthouse keeper said.

“Clyde could do with a rest.”

The lighthouse keeper shook his head. “By the looks of the two women I’ve got in my cabin, a good gust of wind would blow either of them away,” he said.

The farmer snorted. “I asked for someone fit and strong, but if they’ve sent me someone weak and wiry, I’ll work her just as hard.”

Sarah’s heart sank as she carefully closed the door. She felt physically sick as she went back to the fire. It seemed the man talking to the lighthouse keeper was definitely the farmer expecting her. He was older than she’d anticipated, at least fifty, and his appearance shocked her. He was wearing a hat pulled down over his ears and had a full, bushy, brown beard, so all she could see was a large nose protruding from a face full of hair. She couldn’t even see his eyes, because they were hidden beneath overhanging brows. He was short and thick-set and his voice was gruff. But the way he spoke about her …

It didn’t stretch Sarah’s imagination to believe the next two years would be the worst of her life. She thought about running away, but she’d noticed the vegetation around the cottage was dense. Even if she had been brave enough to enter it, the strange sounds she’d heard coming from the undergrowth made her wary, and she’d been told her intended destination was very remote, so where could she go?

Sarah was in a panic about what she would do, when suddenly the door burst open and the farmer and the lighthouse keeper entered the cottage.

The farmer glanced from the chaise lounge where Amelia rested to Sarah, his beady eyes scrutinizing them.

“Are either of you Sarah Jones?” he asked.

On the spur of the moment Sarah decided to claim she was Amelia. But she had to get the real Amelia out of the way – the girl with no memory. “That is Sarah Jones,” she said, pointing to Amelia.

“Then who are you?” the lighthouse keeper asked, a hint of suspicion in his voice.

“My name is Amelia Divine,” Sarah said. “My guardians in Kingscote are expecting me.” To convince him further she removed a pair of gloves from Amelia’s suitcase and began pulling them on. They were damp and a bit tight. “My mother gave me these for my last birthday,” she said with a hint of melancholy.

“How do you know who she is?” the farmer asked, pointing at Amelia. It was obvious he wondered how someone with guardians would know a ticket-of-leave prisoner.

“My servant became acquainted with her on the ship,” Sarah said. “She told me her name and that she was going to work for a farmer who had lost his wife. Would that be you, sir?”


“I’m Gabriel Donnelly,” the lighthouse keeper said. “This is Evan Finnlay. We’re pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Divine.”

The respect in his voice was something Sarah had not heard for more years than she cared to remember, and even then it hadn’t been directed her way. Her thoughts went back to the Murdochs and their spoilt daughters. Although Sarah was trembling with fear, it thrilled her to be on the receiving end of such reverence.

The farmer hovered over Amelia. “She don’t look very strong,” he said critically.

Sarah thought of poor Lucy. Amelia deserved to get to know what being a servant was like, she thought. “I’m sure she’s more than capable,” she said.

“What’s wrong with her head?”

“She bumped it when I was winching her up the cliff,” Gabriel said.

“She woke up a little while ago,” Sarah added.

“That’s a good sign,” Gabriel said.

“She can’t remember anything about her life,” Sarah said. “She doesn’t remember the ship, or where she was going, or even what day it is.”

“That might be temporary, or then again it might not. It’s hard to say with head injuries.”

“She won’t have time to remember her past. She will be working too hard for me,” Evan said coldly.

Sarah wondered if and when Amelia’s memory did come back whether she’d be believed. She intended to be well gone by the time that happened. “How will I contact my guardians, the Ashbys?” she asked. She saw them as her ticket to freedom. As soon as she possibly could, she’d make her escape and return to England and her family.

“I know the Ashbys well,” Gabriel said.

“Oh,” Sarah said, her heart thudding wildly. She couldn’t have him upsetting her plans. “Then they won’t be happy to learn that you lied to us about sharks being in the waters around the rocks.”

“Did I?” Gabriel said, wondering if she’d been eavesdropping on his conversation with Evan Finnlay.

“I overheard you talking to this man,” Sarah said pointing at Evan. “You can’t deny it.”

Gabriel was surprised she was admitting to listening in on their conversation. “I had to lie to you. You were both exhausted and weakening. How much longer could you have clung to those rocks? Edna and Charlton will understand that I did what I had to do. They’re good people. I haven’t seen them for nearly a year, since I took this posting, but I have the highest respect for both of them.”

Sarah wanted to drop the subject in case he asked her something about the Ashbys.

“Am I to assume that you were going to the Ashbys because you’ve lost your parents?” Gabriel asked.

Sarah stared at him, praying he wasn’t going to make too many enquiries. Her lips quivered.

“I’m sorry if that is a forward question,” he said mistaking her fear for sadness. “I’ve been alone for so long, I may have forgotten my manners.”

“That’s all right,” Sarah said. She briefly wondered about his elegant behaviour and how a lighthouse keeper could know people like the Ashbys as well as he said. “My parents were killed, along with my brother, in an accident.”

“Please accept my condolences.”

“Thank you. You’ll understand if I do not wish to discuss it at length. It happened only a few weeks ago, and talking about it forces me to relive it.”

“Of course.”

Sarah mentally congratulated herself for her acting ability. Perhaps this wasn’t going to be as hard as she’d first anticipated. “How can I get to Kingscote from here? Does a stagecoach come this way?”

Gabriel’s eyes widened. “We’re on the most remote part of the island. Nothing comes this way by land. Even ships and fishing vessels don’t pass often.”

Sarah looked dismayed.

“I’m not expecting a supply ship for a fortnight,” Gabriel said, “but perhaps a fishing vessel will pass tomorrow. I’m sure one of them will be willing to take you to Kingscote.”

Sarah was desperate to get away as soon as possible, just in case Amelia regained her memory in the near future. “I’m anxious to see the Ashbys. I’m sure you understand.”

“I must get some sleep,” Gabriel said. “I’ve been up since yesterday evening and I have the light to tend as soon it’s dark again. But I’ll use a lantern to signal a fishing boat just before dawn tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll come back in the morning to pick this one up,” Evan said, pointing at Amelia.

“Right,” Gabriel said, showing him out the door.

“Good luck to you, Miss Divine,” Evan said, and then he was gone.

I’m surely going to need luck, Sarah thought, but perhaps Amelia will need it more.

Sarah was woken very early the next morning. Gabriel had signaled a passing fishing vessel and they’d pulled into the wharf.

“There’s a boat at the jetty, Miss Divine,” he said. “The captain has agreed to take you to Kingscote.” He’d also agreed to let the shipping authorities know that the Gazelle had gone down on the reef.

Soon afterwards, Sarah was lowered to the jetty, and the Swordfish was underway with her aboard. To her utter amazement, the sea was relatively calm and there was only a slight, fresh breeze blowing. There was no hint of the catastrophe of the day before. It was as if the Gazelle and most of her passengers and crew had never existed. Even the sun was trying to make an appearance between the clouds.

Amelia awoke to find Evan Finnlay leaning over her, and she screamed. Confronted by a face full of hair, a glimpse of bad teeth, a huge nose and beady eyes, she thought she was having a nightmare.

Evan stepped back in surprise.

“Who are you?” Amelia demanded, with her heart thudding wildly.

“Your new boss,” he growled, hoping she wasn’t a flighty female.

“What on earth do you mean?”

“Still can’t remember? How convenient.”

The ache in Amelia’s head had decreased, but she still couldn’t remember how she came to be where she was or anything about her past. It was all a complete blank. “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

“That’s too bad. Up you get. You are coming with me.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are, and be quick about it.”

“Go away.”

“If you don’t come peacefully, I’ll drag you.”

Amelia panicked. “Where’s the lighthouse keeper, and where is the woman that was here earlier?”

“Gabriel is seeing her off. He signaled a fishing boat early this morning. It’s taking her to Kingscote.”

“She can’t leave me here.” Amelia leapt to her feet and her head swooned, but she ignored it. “Why didn’t she take me with her? I want to go home,” she frowned. “Wherever home is.”

“For the next two years, your home is with me. You’re an indentured convict. You’re here to work for me, and there’s plenty to do, so let’s get going.”

“No,” Amelia screamed. “That can’t be right. I can’t be such a person.”

The door opened and Gabriel Donnelly walked in. Amelia launched herself at him. “Get me out of here. This madman thinks I’m here to work for him,” she said.

“You are,” Gabriel said. “You have to go with him. This is Evan Finnlay and you will be working on his farm for the next two years.” He couldn’t honestly say he was upset to see her go and he had to wonder if Evan knew what he had gotten himself into. Then he thought of Evan’s girls, and almost smiled. This woman was going to meet her match in them. “I am Gabriel Donnelly, by the way.” He had just realized that he had never told her his name.

Amelia ignored the introduction. “I am to work for him? How do you know? You don’t even know my name, because I don’t even know it.” Amelia asked.

“You are Sarah Jones,” Gabriel supplied.

It didn’t sound familiar. “How do you know that? I have nothing on me to confirm my identity.”

“The lady who was here confirmed it. Apparently her servant made your acquaintance aboard ship. You told her who you were and where you were going.”

“I can’t be a … convict. I can’t be.”

Evan Finnlay was running out of patience. “Come on,” he said, taking Amelia by the wrist. “I’ve got children waiting for their breakfast and livestock that need tending.” He stopped and lifted her wrist up to his face. “Your hands are soft, but I’ll soon knock the laziness out of you.”

“I’m not your servant,” Amelia said, absolutely outraged. She shook her head, unable to comprehend the nightmare she had woken up to find herself in.

“As a matter-of-fact, Sarah Jones, that’s exactly what you are,” Evan said.



Cape du Couedic

Evan dragged Amelia to the edge of the bush, waist- to head-high mulga scrub, where there was the beginning of a track. He then pushed her in front of him, as the crude pathway wasn’t wide enough for two and he didn’t want her lagging behind or running away and losing herself in the bush. There was no possibility she had anywhere to escape to, but he had better things to do than search for her.

Amelia walked silently, shivering in the cold wind and almost in a trance-like state, barely aware of the spiky branches scratching at her dress. She needed all her energy and will to keep going, as her limbs, which were covered with bruises, hurt as much as her head, which throbbed when she moved. She felt as if her destiny had been taken over by something completely out of her control. She wanted to scream and fight it, but knew for the moment her efforts would be futile. Even so, she couldn’t believe she had forgotten she was a felon. It just wasn’t possible. Or was it? She considered the idea that she had done something so terrible that she’d pushed it to the darkest recess of her mind, but it didn’t sit well. Something wasn’t right. She was sure of it.

“How far away is your farm?” she asked Evan when they’d been walking for a few minutes in silence. As depressed as she felt, it made sense that knowledge was power. The more she found out about her past and future life, the sooner she’d discover the possibility that a mistake had been made. It gave her a hope to cling to. A reason to go on. Without that, she’d walk off the top of a cliff.

But before she received an answer, something hopped across her path and she screamed in terror.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Evan asked impatiently, as he peered over her shoulder.

“Did you see that?”


“That … large rodent?” she shrieked, stepping backwards, onto his toes. “I’ve never seen a rat that big in all my life.”

Evan shoved her forwards. “What the hell are you talking about? All I saw was a young Tamar wallaby. They’re all over the island.”

Amelia blinked in confusion. “A wallaby!”

Evan suddenly realized that she’d never seen anything like that before. “They’re just a small version of the island’s kangaroo. They eat my vegetables every chance they get, but they’re harmless.”

“Are … you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure, but watch where you put your feet just the same.”


“There are plenty of snakes about. Now get moving. There are lots of chores to do, and the little ones will be hungry if Sissie hasn’t fed them.”

Nothing Evan had said past the word ‘snakes’ had registered in Amelia’s mind. “Snakes! Are … they poisonous?”

“Some of them.”

She went as white as a sheet and wriggled behind him.

“What the hell are you doing, woman?” He tried to pull her in front of him but Amelia was having none of it.

“You go first,” she said, wide-eyed. “I … don’t want to step on a snake.” She felt even more vulnerable, since she’d lost her shoes.

Evan reasoned that she’d probably shriek at every branch on the ground. “All right, but stay close behind me.”

Amelia nodded vigorously. When Evan walked on, she followed, paying far more attention to the ground in front of her. After they’d been walking for a few minutes more, she said, “How many children do you have?”


She stopped. “Six!”

Evan turned and scowled at her. She should have known how many children he had. She would have been given the information he’d supplied. “Five girls and a boy. Remember?”

“How would I know that?”

Evan rolled his eyes. “You’re determined to keep this up, aren’t you?”

“Keep what up?”

“Never mind. I’m not one for playing games, so just drop it.”

As far as Amelia was concerned, he wasn’t making any sense. “How old are your children?”

Evan muttered impatiently. It was obvious he wasn’t used to making conversation. He wouldn’t have answered her at all, but the sooner she knew the children’s names, the better. “Milo is two. Jessie is four, Molly is six, Bess is eight, Rose is ten and Sissie is nearly thirteen. Their mother has been gone nearly a year. I’ve done the best I can, but they’re neglected because I have so much work to do. Now you are here, things will be different.”

Amelia was too frightened to ask what that meant.

He wanted to say they needed a woman’s touch, but he didn’t want a convict mothering them. “As far as the children go, you just have to see they’re clean, clothed and fed, that’s all. Do you understand?”

Amelia glared at him resentfully. She didn’t understand what else he thought she was going to do with them.

A few minutes later they came upon a fenced area surrounding a clearing, and Amelia stepped out from behind Evan.

“Where are we?” she asked, looking at two crudely built huts, one much smaller than the other.

“That’s my house,” Evan said, pointing to the larger hut. “The smaller building is your accommodation.”

Amelia’s mouth dropped open as she stared at the house and her living quarters in utter shock. They were built of rough wood off-cuts. The roof was flat iron covered with thatch, and both huts had only one small window. The main house had a chimney which was fashioned of rough stone and clay and there was smoke rising from it. If there was a door, it was open, so she couldn’t see it. A ramshackle fence surrounded the clearing and something of a vegetable garden had been scratched out of the dirt in the midst of the clearing. Behind the house she could see some of the bush had been cleared, and there were crudely constructed animal pens. She could hear chickens clucking and a cockerel crowing, and a tethered cow was grazing on lush grass. It was obvious to Amelia that it rained often on the island because the grass was a vivid green, but the dark soil beneath her feet was hard and stony, so she concluded the wind quickly evaporated the moisture.

Evan opened a gate and she slowly walked through it, her gaze fixated on the house. As they walked towards it, with Amelia in a state of disbelief, she could hear the shrieks of rowdy children. She hadn’t believed the nightmare she had awoken to could get worse. But she’d been wrong. Dead wrong. She hadn’t known what to expect, but her imagination had traveled along the lines of a rambling farmhouse made of stone, perhaps some solid but comfortable furniture and a big kitchen.

Inside the gloomy house there was a large table constructed of local wood. It was surrounded by eight chairs lashed together with hide strips, of which no two looked the same. Evan had obviously built them himself, probably from the trees he’d cleared to build the house. There was no stove, just an open fireplace with a large black pot suspended over it. On the other side of the room there was a crumpled bed, but that was all. The floor was dirt and cobwebs hung from the ceiling.

The noise the children were making was coming from an annex room made of clay tacked onto the back of the ‘house’.

“I’m home,” Evan called and children started filing through the door, making a ruckus. When they saw Amelia they fell silent and stared at her.

“This is Sarah Jones,” Evan said. “As I’ve already told you, she’ll be working here for the next two years.”

Amelia looked into their dirt-smudged faces. Although her memory was a blank, she was sure they were the scruffiest children she’d ever seen in her life. Their clothes were little more than rags and they had nothing on their feet. Except for the eldest girl, whose hair was a mousy brown, they all had varying shades of red hair that looked like it hadn’t been combed in months, and faces full of freckles.

“Hello,” Amelia said, but the girls remained silent as they regarded her with suspicious intent. It suddenly occurred to her that she must look almost as awful as they did. She put her hand up to self-consciously pat her hair into place and was appalled to note it felt like sticky straw because of the seawater and wind. With bruises and scratches all over her, and her dress torn, she must be a frightening sight. She wanted to tell them she’d miraculously survived a shipwreck, and that she wasn’t who their father thought she was, but she didn’t know where to start.

“Where are your manners?” Evan asked his children, and they mumbled a greeting.

Evan looked around frantically. “Where’s Milo?” he growled.

“Papa,” a little voice called, as Milo came running from the back room and leapt into his father’s arms. Evan’s face lit up as he lifted a little boy with dark curls from the dirt floor. He was clearly a miniature version of his father, minus the facial hair. Evan removed his hat to reveal the same curly hair, although his was quite long and Milo’s was clipped short. Amelia was fascinated by the boy’s impish face which was also smudged with dirt, like his sisters. His nose wasn’t yet large like his father’s but it wasn’t a small child’s button nose either. It gave his face an old wisdom about it.

“Make a pot of oatmeal,” Evan said to Amelia.


“Yes, oatmeal. The children need to be fed.”

“I don’t know how,” she said.

He looked at her in astonishment. “Anyone can make oatmeal,” he said.

Amelia suddenly swayed on her feet.

“What’s wrong with you?” Evan demanded, as she sank onto a chair with her head in her hands.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I feel faint.”

“You’re here to work,” he said. “So don’t be swanning off like some society belle. I don’t know how you got away with it in prison, but by the look of your hands you haven’t done a hard day’s work in your life.”

“That’s because I’m not a convict. I told you that,” Amelia cried. “There’s been a terrible mistake.”

“The only mistake made is you trying to fool me. I’ll go easy on you today, but tomorrow and for the next two years after that, it will be a different story.”

Amelia burst into tears. “I need to lie down,” she said. She got to her feet and went outside. She heard Sissie offer to make the oatmeal and Evan mumbling that she was bone lazy as she stumbled to her hut.

Her hut consisted of one room only, furnished with a hessian-covered straw-stuffed mattress on the floor. Amelia collapsed on it, sobbing.

It was late afternoon when she awoke, shivering, but at least the pain in her head was much better. The smell of cooking meat drifted to her, making her stomach growl with hunger. She was sure she hadn’t eaten for days and no one had brought her any oatmeal. She got up and went to the house, pushing the wooden door open. Evan was cooking lamb chops on a griddle over the fire, and they smelt delicious.

“May I come in?” Amelia asked.

Evan turned in surprise. Her soft tone and manners surprised him, but he was sure it was all an act to convince him she was a lady, so that she wouldn’t have to work.

“Come in and sit down,” he said. “You can eat with us, but in the future, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Do you understand?”

Amelia was so hungry that she nodded without any argument. She went to a bucket beside the fire and washed her hands before sitting down. Evan didn’t notice as he took the chops from the griddle suspended by wire over the fireplace and put them on a large tin plate, which he put in the middle of the table. She watched in disbelief as he fished an enormous damper out of the ashes of the fire with a long fork, knocked off the charred outer layer and put it on the table.

“Grubs on,” he shouted, and the children came running from all directions. Little Milo was almost trampled in the stampede.

Amelia was astonished that none of the children washed their hands before sitting at the table. She was even more shocked when they snatched at the chops like barbarians. She watched incredulously as they stuffed the meat into their mouths with their hands and chewed with their mouths open. For the first time she noticed there was no cutlery on the table.

As the meat rapidly disappeared, she took a chop and a piece of bread and put it on her plate. She was staring at Evan as he munched hungrily on a chop.

“What is it?” he asked, while still chewing.

Amelia cringed. “I have no cutlery,” she said.

He stopped chewing for a moment, and then reached behind him and retrieved a knife and fork from a box. He handed them to her, complete with grease from his fingers. Amelia grimaced as she took them and wiped them on the hem of her skirt before cutting her meat. The children looked at her in amazement, but continued to chew on their bones like ravenous animals.

“You can make a stew tomorrow,” Evan said, addressing Amelia.

She didn’t reply. She hadn’t the faintest idea how to make a stew, but now didn’t seem the time to bring it up.

“Did they have fancy manners in the women’s prison?” Evan asked as she cut her meat into small pieces.

She knew he was being sarcastic. “I have no recollection of the women’s prison,” she said. “Because I was never there.”

Evan had to admit she didn’t seem like your typical lower-class convict, but he supposed breaking the law wasn’t confined to a certain level of society.

It seemed in no time the table was clear of food and the children had disappeared outside. Again they didn’t wash their hands.

“Clear this mess up,” Evan said. “I have to check the livestock.”

Amelia looked at the table, covered in bones and breadcrumbs. It made her feel sick. When Evan had gone, tears filled her eyes again. “I can’t do this,” she said to herself. “I can’t.”


“We’ll be pulling in at the Kingscote Jetty in about ten minutes, Miss Divine.”

Sarah had been very concerned about how long the journey would take, but Captain Cartwright assured her he wouldn’t stop before they got to Kingscote. They’d been on the water for ten hours. After leaving Cape du Couedic they’d headed in the direction of Cape Borda. After rounding the cape they entered Investigator Strait with the wind behind them. In full sail they made very good time along the northern side of the island.

“Thank you, Captain Cartwright.” Sarah was standing in the wheelhouse with the captain. They’d just come through the Bay of Shoals and were rounding Beatrice Point. She’d said the breeze on deck was too cool, but in reality she wanted to avoid the pungent smell of his catch – tommies, garfish, whiting, snook and squid.

“I expect you’ll be relieved,” the captain said.

Sarah looked at him nervously. “Relieved?”

“You’ll be keen to get on dry land after all you’ve been through.”

“Oh, yes. At least the weather was calmer today.”

“It can change in a matter of minutes, as you well know. I’ll take you up to Hope Cottage myself if you like.” He glanced at her bare feet.

“Hope Cottage?”

“The Ashbys’ house.”

“Oh.” She wondered if she should have known that. She had to watch herself or slip up. “That is kind of you, Captain.” She hadn’t known how she was going to find the Ashbys and of course she couldn’t walk about the town without her shoes, which she’d lost in the sea. She’d tried the shoes in Amelia’s suitcase on, but they’d been too small.

“Edna and Charlton will be so thankful you are safe and sound.”

Sarah made a mental note of her guardians’ names because Lucy hadn’t mentioned them. She remembered that the lighthouse keeper had mentioned their names as well, yesterday, but at the time she had been too nervous to remember them. She’d better not forget them, she thought sternly.

“The Gazelle was expected in port the day before yesterday,” the captain said, “so they’ll be worrying themselves sick. Mind, there’s lots of folk in Adelaide and Melbourne who won’t get any good news about their loved ones.”

“No.” Sarah thought of all those lost when the ship went down, one hundred and eight people in all, including the captain. Amongst the passengers there’d been mothers, fathers and their children, the elderly and those believing they were on an adventure, and Lucy. She’d never forget poor Lucy. The tragedy made her realize just how lucky she was, but she needed a bit more luck if she was to get back to England in the near future.

“You won’t mind waiting a few minutes, will you?” Captain Cartwright said. “I have to notify the port authorities about the Gazelle.” He didn’t want to say they’d have to send the coast guard up the coast to retrieve any bodies that may have been carried down on the current and washed up on a beach. “They may want to ask you a few questions, as you are one of only two survivors. If you are not up to it today, I’m sure they won’t mind waiting.”

“I’d rather do it another day, Captain.”

“Of course. I understand.”

Sarah suddenly remembered that the prison authorities had ordered her to check in with the local police, who were going to see to it that she got to Evan Finnlay’s farm. She didn’t want a constable to go to the farm and find out that Amelia had amnesia. Even worse, she might have gotten her memory back and be claiming she was not Sarah Jones.

“Captain Cartwright, could you also inform the local constabulary that the convict girl, Sarah Jones, is at Evan Finnlay’s farm? If it’s no trouble. I believe she was supposed to report to them upon her arrival here, so they might be wondering where she is.”

“Of course. It’s no trouble at all. I’ll do it as soon as I have you settled in with the Ashbys.”

Sarah smiled.

Sarah sat beside Captain Cartwright in a buggy, taking in the town of Kingscote as they set off up Esplanade Road. It felt so strange to be free, and she had to keep reminding herself that she was Amelia Divine, and that no one was going to pounce and take her back to prison. She’d caught a glimpse of a general store, and drapers, workshops, council buildings, Miss Barnes’ Dressmaker’s, and the Hemer Brothers’ Pioneer Bakery.

The town didn’t have a village atmosphere, like the smaller towns in England. The streets were wider and the shops spaced out, instead of being crammed together. And everything looked new. The streets weren’t cobbled, either. The roads were dirt, but as it had recently rained, there was no dust blowing about. The town also didn’t seem to be bustling or prospering, but that suited her. She just wanted to blend into a quiet life for a time, until she could break it to the Ashbys that she wanted to travel, and go back to England.

As they turned from Esplanade Road into Seaview Road, Captain Cartwright pointed out Reeves Point, a historic site.

“There’s a mulberry tree planted there in commemoration of the first settlers on the island,” he said. “The island was first discovered by Matthew Flinders in 1802, but on July the twenty-seventh, 1836, the Duke of York anchored in Nepean Bay. That day signifies the beginning of a formal settlement at Reeves Point. But in the early years, between 1802 and 1836, the island was a slaughterhouse, with whaling and sealing being the attraction for hundreds of itinerants of questionable character.”

“Really!” Sarah stiffened. She didn’t like where the conversation was heading. It was too close to home.

“Their activities are well documented, but there’s very little pictorial history. Back in those early days the island was known as Ultima Thule.”

“What does that mean?”

The captain laughed. “End of the world.”

Sarah thought that was ironic because that was how the convicts at Port Arthur had thought of Van Diemen’s Land.

“Because there was a shortage of women in the island’s early history, most of the early settlers brought native wives from the mainland, so you’ll see coloured women and children around. Reeves Point was actually the first site for Kingscote, but when the town didn’t take off as planned, most of the settlers went back to the mainland. When people started coming here again, the site for Kingscote was moved to an area known as Queenscliffe.”

“What is the population now?” Sarah asked.

“They took a census in 1838, and the population was three hundred and five. They haven’t done one since, but I’d say there is close to four hundred people living here now. I believe the Ashbys settled here in 1837.”

“I haven’t seen them since I was a young girl,” Sarah said. “I’m a little nervous.” She was more than a little nervous. She was trembling with fear. How was she, someone from Bristol’s working class, going to sound like the haughty Amelia? She suddenly realized she didn’t even know where the Divines were from. She’d just have to imitate her mother as best she could. She hadn’t had a common Bristol accent. She was from Salisbury in Wessex. “I look such a fright,” she added.

“They’ll understand. They’re wonderful people and they’ve done a lot for this town. Charlton built three cottages on Centenary Street a few years ago. They’re known as Faith, Hope and Charity. He lets Faith out to tenant farmers, he and Edna live in Hope, and Lance lives in Charity.”


“Their son. Have you forgotten him?”

Sarah blushed. “Oh, Lance. To be honest, I’m so nervous that I had. Now I feel foolish.” Did the Ashbys have any other children she should know about?

“Don’t worry about it. You’re a very brave girl, and you’ve been through quite an ordeal, so you mustn’t be hard on yourself.”

Thankfully the captain fell silent for a while. It gave Sarah a chance to compose herself. She’d been thinking of all the reasons she could give for being forgetful about things she was supposed to know. She thought about saying she had bumped her head when the ship overturned, or she was traumatized by the death of her parents. She just hoped she could cover what she didn’t know, and get enough money from the Ashbys to get back home, to England.

“Here we are,” Captain Cartwright said, as he turned the buggy up the driveway to Hope Cottage. It was a single-storey house set back from the road on a very large piece of land. It was built of stone and had an iron roof.

“You’ll be very comfortable here,” the captain added. “There are six rooms, if you count the lean-to at the back.”

Sarah gathered from his tone that six rooms was quite a big house on the island.

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