Author AnneMarie Brear joins me today with an excerpt from her historical Women’s Fiction story…
Where Rainbows End
“I’m not a man, but that won’t stop me. Just you wait and see.”
It’s 1850 and the Noble family have arrived in Australia to start a new life after scandal drove them from their native England. Headstrong Pippa Noble is determined to reclaim their honour by making her father’s plans for a successful stud farm a reality.
Pippa is immediately spellbound by the untamed outback landscape, although she learns the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the bush – sometimes with devastating consequences. When circumstance leads to Pippa tending the new farm alone, it is the steadfast friendship of neighbouring country estate owner Gil Ashford-Smith that helps her through.
Then an unexpected visitor from England arrives, putting Pippa’s dreams in jeopardy. But she refuses to let go. She will hold onto her family’s land and make her mark, even if it means losing everything else …
A sun-drenched morning greeted the party when they headed north-west out of Berrima. Once on the outskirts of the town, the bush grew thick with scrub, rendering the wagon and gig nearly useless. After nearly five miles of battling steep hills and rock-strewn descents, they left the transports and went the rest of the way on foot. However, this setback didn’t deter them, and Pippa, excited as a child at Christmas, hoisted her skirts above her ankles and strode ahead.
Stepping over grass tussocks and around jutting boulders, she jumped as startled kangaroos and rock wallabies bounded away, their thumping feet sounding like distant thunder. Flocks of white cockatoos screeched their disapproval from high in the trees.
The sharp scent of eucalyptus permeated the air and Pippa sniffed deeply, wondrously. At intervals, trees thick with blooms of yellow, which she knew to be called wattles, punctuated the grey-green landscape and gum trees let their little blooms of red dance in the breeze.
She jerked suddenly as a low branch jagged at her skirt. Her father helped to extricate the material and when her petticoat’s lace hem tore, she cared little. Nothing and no one could spoil this day.
Gerald grimaced at the ruined fabric. ‘You should not have come, my dear.’
‘Nonsense, Father.’ Pippa grinned. ‘A little hardship strengthens character.’
‘Mr Noble.’ Robson gestured to a large eucalyptus trunk. The surveyor’s initials were cut deep into the bark.
Gerald consulted his maps. ‘This ridge ends another ten yards further on.’
Pippa hurried the remaining distance, nearly tripping in her haste. She stepped beyond a large tree and stopped.
Below, bathed in golden glory, lay their valley.
Tingles of excitement mixed with reverent joy sucked her breath away. She scanned the horizon of rugged hills and then gazed down at the inviting valley. It was everything she’d dreamed of and more, because it was real. Tears gathered behind her eyes, blocking her throat. ‘It’s perfect.’
‘How in God’s name are we to get down there with the wagon?’ Robson mumbled, breaking her spell of wonder. He walked closer to the edge and peered down at the jagged outcrops of rocks and boulders that broke up the density of the trees and bush.
Gerald took off his hat and wiped his sweating forehead with a handkerchief. ‘Maybe further along there is an easier route down.’
They walked on for another hundred yards before finding another tree with the surveyor’s initials marked in it and also an arrow scratched next to them.
Robson pointed to a gentler slope and a roughly cut track snaking through the trees and scrub. ‘If the surveyor went down there, then that must be the easiest way.’ He frowned. ‘I wonder if he took transports …’
‘Likely packhorses.’ Gerald studied his maps again.
Pippa walked to the edge of the slope. She paused to gauge the steepness and then reached for a nearby sapling to keep her steady as she edged her way down.
Her father’s shout made her stop and glance back. ‘It’s all right, Father. Hold onto the trees.’
Robson and Gerald hurried towards her and gingerly made their way to her side.
Gerald gripped her arm. ‘You are too headstrong. It was a foolish thing to do.’
She tossed her head. ‘I wasn’t going to be left behind.’
‘You’ll be the death of me, girl.’ Gerald panted and wiped his forehead again.
As they concentrated on getting safely to the bottom, the noises of the bush intensified. An unseen bird made the sound of a whiplash cutting the air, flies buzzed, twigs snapped underfoot, and small lizards slithered over rocks.
The track brought them out on the left side of the valley. At the bottom, the trees and scrub thinned out to grassy plains. Emerging out of the shade, the heat intensified. Pippa wished she had brought her parasol with her, but had left it in the gig so she could hold her skirts up with both hands. Sweat trickled inside her collar and dampened her bonnet. She licked her dry lips. ‘Is there water close by?’
‘Here, miss, I have water with me.’ Robson handed her a leather-bound canteen.
‘Thank you.’ She stopped to drink and chuckled as the cool and pleasant water trickled down her chin. Drinking from a canteen was an art she hadn’t mastered.
‘Do you see that thin line of gum trees in the middle over there?’ Robson pointed in front of them.
Pippa studied the ragged thin line and nodded.
‘Those trees must edge the creek bank.’ He turned to Gerald. ‘Do you see that flat rise to the right of the creek bend, Mr Noble?’
‘Aye, lad, I do.’
Robson smiled. ‘I think it would make an ideal homestead site.’
Gerald slapped Robson on the shoulder. ‘I think you may be right, my man.’
Pippa hesitated as the two men walked on. She slowly turned a full circle, taking in the broad sweep of the valley. Acres of waist-high brown grass rippled in the infinite breeze like a long slow wave on a lazy sea.
She strolled on, enjoying the feeling of walking on her own land. She now understood the power it gave men and why they did almost anything to acquire property. They broke their backs trying to keep it viable in the hard times and, in good times, they looked to buy more. The intensity of emotion frightened her. Her land. Her future.
All Amazon Kindle sites; myBook.to/WhereRainbowsEnd
Kobo UK: https://goo.gl/24Tir1
Australian born AnneMarie Brear writes historical novels and modern romances. Her passions, apart from writing, are reading, researching, genealogy, roaming historical sites, buying books and gardening. She is an author of historical women’s fiction, contemporary romance and several short stories and is currently living in England.
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Images courtesy of AnneMarie Brear