Once all the purchases had been made, Florence and her sons set off again, managing to travel for just over 1 ½ hours before stopping for the night, which was a bit less than Florence had hoped, but because of the stopping to chat to people, they had been delayed.
By the time they arrived home two days later, they were tired but glad to be home. Everyone came out to help unload the buggy, surprised to see two piglets amongst the stores. Then the wagon was unharnessed and honey led into the stables, where she had food and water waiting for her, while the piglets were put in the small stockyard which they would share with the chickens and goats at night.
Florence was pleased to see that a stew was cooking on the stove, and that there was freshly baked bread still warm, sitting on the small kitchen table. She quickly freshened up before getting to work to get the dinner ready to be served for the now big family.
“By the way, a Methodist minister stopped me in the street the other day. Heard that we have a school, and he will be calling in on Sunday to give us a church service. I will need to let the Barrington and O’Grady families know,” Florence said after we had all sat down for dinner.
I stopped eating for a moment when I heard this news. It had been a long time since my brothers and I had been in a church, and in a way, I was glad that a minister would be calling by. “Maybe we should have a picnic lunch afterwards, take enough to feed the minister as well,” I commented.
“That I will do, and I will pass that on to the other families, when I go to call on them tomorrow,” Florence replied.
After dinner was eaten, everything was cleaned and put away, and the children were in bed, Archie, Florence and I sat around the fireplace in the living room, where Florence was doing some mending.
“While in town, I also met with Mr Gregory from the Land Registry Office, and he informed me that there was a lot of interest in the land out our way. They have split my family’s former farm into halves, and the farm due east of there has recently been acquired by a family by the name of Frankston,” Florence said to us.
“Is that so. Well then, I may build a solid lean-to building beside the blacksmith workshop, so as to sell some of our produce to our neighbours. The children can restock it every morning when they go to school, and we can put an honesty box for payment of the goods,” I suggested.
“You could ask Mr Barrington to make one for ye, and I am sure your brother can carve a sign for the front of the stall,” Florence said and Archie smiled at this suggestion.
“How about this for a sign – Nothing is for Free, pay what you can, or barter with what ye have,” Archie suggested.
I grinned, “I like it brother. The perfect saying for the front of our produce stall,” I said as I patted him on the shoulder, showing that I was pleased with him.
“By the way, I also spoke to the blacksmith in town, and he gave me something that you had ordered and possibly forgotten about,” Florence said looking directly at me.
“Oh yes, I totally forgot about that. An engagement ring for when I find a kind woman to keep me warm on cold stormy nights. I want to be prepared, and not be caught short,” I said. Archie chuckled at this and I frowned at him.
“What? I just thought you being all gooey-eyed over a woman is something I have not seen in you before,” Archie said in a serious tone.
“Just wait till you get the urges to settle down and start a family, then we will see who will be laughing little brother,” I said in reply.
“I am off to bed. Good night to you both. See you bright and early,” Archie said as he stood up and stretched.
“We may as well get started on that produce stall right away. We will take the big wagon tomorrow and collect some logs and take them straight down to the front of the property, and split it there on site. I think just a plain log lean-to will do. Nothing fancy, just enough to keep the wind, rain and sun off the produce,” I said to my younger brother, who nodded his head and left the room.
After a few minutes of silence, while Florence continued to sew, she stopped and retrieved a piece of cotton cloth from an inside pocket of her dress. “This is yours, I believe,” she said as she handed me the cloth. I unwrapped it and inside was a polished steel ring, but instead of it being a plain band, it contained a mounting and in it was a small piece of opal.
“Wow, I wonder where he managed to get the opal from. It is beautiful,” Florence said as she admired it, with the colours dancing around in the dim light of the lantern. I dropped on to one knee in front of Florence, who gasped in surprise.
“Florence, you are a truly wonderful woman, kind hearted, who has had a difficult time in this past year. Would you do me the honour of being my wife?” I asked nervously.There was silence for what seemed like many long minutes, but was only a few seconds.
“Yes, Edwin, I would be honoured to be your wife,” Florence replied, and I slipped the ring onto her finger. It fitted perfectly, and we kissed lightly.
“About time, you two got together,” a voice said from the doorway, and both Florence and I looked up to see Archie grinning, and we all laughed.
“How long do you want to wait before we get married?” I asked Florence.
“Why not this Sunday, since the minister will be here anyway. I have all my family with me here, and you have two of your family here, plus our neighbours. That is all we need,” Florence replied.
“Very well, this Sunday it is then. I will need Mr Barrington to make some wedding bands, quick,” I replied.
For the next hour Florence, Archie and I worked through some plans for what to do the next day, the day before the wedding. Florence would go and visit Mr Barrington straight after breakfast, to organise the wedding bands, before stopping in at the O’Grady farm, to let them know about the church service and wedding on Sunday, then head back to the house to clean and cook up a feast for the picnic after the service.
Archie suggested that Simeon move into Florence’s room. That way the spare bedroom next to the master bedroom, can be her own private sitting room. Florence looked pleased with this suggestion, and Archie said goodnight once more and headed to his bedroom.
The next morning, after breakfast, Florence dropped the children off at school before continuing onto the Barrington Farm, informing her sons of the marriage proposal that happened overnight. She was pleased that her sons all approved of the marriage.
Meanwhile Archie and I set off to a larger grove of trees, close to the southern boundary, about 2 miles west of the main gate, where we cut down some good-sized trees to become posts, beams and roofing planks for the lean-to produce stall. We had agreed that it should be made narrow in width but deep in length, so there was plenty of cool shade for the more delicate vegetables.
We would build three shelves along the back wall and a table in the centre, so it would be easy to walk around and view all the produce, which we would store in wooden crates, and we would include fresh water from our well as well as milk, butter and cheese.
We arrived at the site for the produce stall, which would be opposite the blacksmiths, and on the north corner of the track to the school, where we found Mr Barrington hard at work in his workshop. “Good day to you both. It is wonderful news that your bride to be brought us this fine morning,” Augustus said smiling.
“Good day to you, Augustus. I appreciate the work you are doing for two wedding rings at such short notice,” I replied.
“That is fine by me, young man. My dear wife, Julia, insisted that I get to the workshop right away to get the job done. They will be done by tonight, so don’t fret about it,” Augustus replied.
“We are building a produce stall across from you, so as to allow our neighbours to collect produce that is available, without having to travel all the way up to the homestead. I will require an honesty box, if you can make one in your spare time please, with a wide slot in the top for coins and such, and a hinged lid on top?” I asked.
“That will be very easy to do, and I will have it done by early next week for you,” Augustus replied.
“I am going to carve a sign that will say - Nothing is for Free, pay what you can, or barter with what ye have,” Archie announced proudly.
“That sounds like a fine idea, young Archie,” Augustus responded.
For the rest of the day, Archie and I were busy splitting the wood, and digging holes for the four main support poles, making the building 4 yards wide and 12 yards deep, with a sloping roof to the back of the building, and by the end of the day we had the support posts in the ground and the main beams and cross beams on top for the roof, which was 1 ¾ yards high at the back and 2 ¼ yards high at the front.
When we arrived home, Simeon told us the news that the school room had been rearranged so it was ready for Church the next day, and that the Frankston family had two children who came to school that day, and they would be attending church on Sunday, plus because he was the oldest, Simeon had to sit on the ground at school, as there were not enough chairs in the school.
“The two plain chairs we have in our sitting room will do for the school. We can easily go without them. Make sure they are on the buggy to take with us tomorrow,” I said to Archie, who nodded his head in understanding.
“Should we take the dining chairs with us just for the service tomorrow?” Florence asked.
“If you are fine with that dear, that will be good, or we will just have to get the children to stand,” I replied.
After dinner the boys took it in turns to get bathed and then went to bed, since it was going to be a big day tomorrow, and we too went to our separate rooms, once all the cleaning up had been done.
The next morning after breakfast and cleaning up, all the chores were completed in extra speed, so as to prepare for church and the wedding. James agreed to bring his mother to the school house before 10am, in the Applegate buggy, while I would take my brothers and the other Applegate boys ahead, once the chores had been completed, taking with us all the food that Florence had cooked over the past two days.
When we arrived, we were surprised to find Augustus Barrington and Shamus O’Grady standing next to the produce stall, which had a completed roof and walls on it.
“Good morning to you all. This is a small wedding gift for you. We arrived at the crack of dawn to get it finished,” Shamus announced, as we climbed down from the buggy and stepped inside, to find 2 shelves along each side and four shelves along the back.
“Thankyou both. This is a wonderful surprise,” I said, just as Augustus brought out a steel honour box from behind his back, and handed it to me. “Well you have been very busy,” I stated with a big smile, as I looked at the 9-inch wide, deep and long steel box, with a hinged top, and even a little loop of steel to secure it with a pin or piece of wire.
From his other hand he produced a cotton cloth which had two polished steel wedding bands in it. I looked at them carefully, noting the two angled marks on the top, that make them not look too plain. “Thankyou, Augustus, these are wonderful. Make sure that I give you a payment for the rings and the honour box,” I said, fighting back a few tears starting to build up in my eyes, as I handed them to Archie for safe keeping.
We moved the buggy up to the school house, so as to unload the dining and living room chairs, taking them inside and setting them up, and that is when I saw Helena and three other ladies spreading out the food on a table along the back wall.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved