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MAID IN SHEPHERD'S CREEK

maid in shepherd's creek cover

Kate Macarthur is no ordinary girl. Popular and precociously talented, she grows up in the farming community of Shepherd’s Creek in a loving family who have many secrets. She lives an almost fairytale existence until she is confronted by the harsh realities of life and death and the imperfections of those around her.  

Kate excels in whatever she puts her mind to both at school and university. On the way through she picks up many male admirers but casts her suitors aside when they fail to measure up to her lofty standards. 

In her final year at university Kate begins a relationship with her cousins’ teacher Matt Hanson which is threatened when she uncovers criminal activity in the company she works for. Compromised and with her community’s wellbeing at stake Kate is forced to make a far reaching decision which could jeopardise her relationship with Matt as well as putting at risk the livelihoods of the people she loves.  

Set mainly in the sixties and seventies but with a historical backdrop that spans more than half the century, Kate is a heroic figure whose life is sprinkled with amusing and often touching relationships. Her character shines through when she shows courage and integrity by standing up against the injustices she come across and her actions are vindicated by her final triumph at the end.      

In Store Price: $33.95 
Online Price:   $32.95

ISBN: 978-1-921574-88-7    
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 429
Genre: Fiction
Cover: Clive Dalkins

By the same author: Three Miles in the Dry and Twelve in the Wet.

 
Buy as a pdf  Ebook version - $AUD9.00
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Author: Ken little
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English

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Author Biography: 

Ken Little grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches where he was a referee, coach and keen sportsman representing his district in cricket, rugby union and athletics. He went to school at Narrabeen Boys’ High and trained as a primary school teacher at Wagga Teachers’ College from where he was selected to play rugby union for New South Wales Country. He was appointed to a small school near Wagga and played with the local Australian Rules team. A crippling injury at the school saw him transferred to the Correspondence School in Sydney. While there he wrote three books in a series of school readers on Australiana called Bunyip Books. During this time he coached a sub district rugby team.  

Later he worked as an itinerant teacher based in Bourke where he visited students living on isolated properties. He returned to Sydney to study special education and taught special classes for the next 17 years. During that time Ken wrote musicals and plays for schools and church groups, completed a script-writing course and studied for a master’s degree in Ministry. He has taught children’s groups at church for many years and presently he tutors primary and high school students and has been a JP since 1993.  

His first novel Three Miles in the Dry and Twelve in the Wet was published in 2007. Maid in Shepherd’s Creek is the long awaited sequel.  

He lives at Collaroy Plateau on Sydney’s northern beaches with his wife Jenny, (a midwife and lactation consultant) and has two children, Stephen, (a graphic designer and uni student), who is married to Dani, and Alison, (a school teacher).

Chapter 1

 

Early Days

 

 

The little girl heard her name being called and glanced up. She frowned then hurriedly returned to her task. Her nimble fingers moved swiftly until the flower stems were threaded tightly together and the chain complete.

The voice called again, louder and more insistent.

“Coming, Grandma.”

Satisfied the little girl sprang quickly to her feet and carrying her knotted treasure carefully in her left hand padded across the stubbled grass towards the distant figure.

“Where have you been? Didn’t you hear me calling you?”

“Yes, Grandma.”

“You need to come straight away,” the old lady scolded. “Where are your shoes?”

“I made this for you, Grandma.”

“That’s nice, dear,” she said but then her tone became severe. “You shouldn’t play in the grass child. There are too many snakes about. And you shouldn’t be getting around in your bare feet either.”

The little girl looked down at her bare feet then back at the stately gum tree she had been sitting under, its protective branches thrusting out over her throne of endeavour. There was a wistful look on her face.

“Yes, Grandma.”

“Come on. We have to get back.”

The old lady grabbed her small hand and led her back through the dry spindly grass towards a creek and a distant house. Suddenly she stopped, sniffed the air and shook her head in disgust.

“Those Kirkwrights. They shouldn’t be burning off on a day like this. After last month’s bushfires they should know better. Nearly stopped the cricket match it nearly did.”

“I saw a blue tongue lizard, Grandma.”

“We really need some rain,” said the old lady frowning at the sky.

The ‘clip clop’ of horse’s hooves on hard-baked soil caught their attention as a rider rode towards them. He glanced up, nodded, then resumed his journey.

“Who’s that, Grandma?” the little girl whispered.

“It’s Mr Hardman.”

“What’s he doing here?”

“Grandpa asked him to fix the gate and finish the boundary fence.”

The little girl watched as the horse and rider passed by. Then she called out to the rider, “Hello, Mr Hardman.” The rider stopped suddenly, his head swivelling around. He gave her a stern look then his face softened into a half smile. All the time Agnes Macarthur watched with pouted lips.

“You need to keep away from him.”

“Why, Grandma?”

“Don’t ask questions all the time, Kathryn. Just do as you’re told. Hurry up or we won’t have time for your piano lesson.”

“Why does he ride a horse, Grandma?”

“I don’t know child. I suspect he doesn’t have a car.”

Kate turned to watch the horse and rider until they were out of sight all the time being dragged along by Agnes. “Where does he live, Grandma?”

“I think he lives up West Ridge way.” She gazed off into the distance then shook her head. “I hope you never have a horse, child.”

As always Kate listened to all her grandma told her. She had made a habit of storing up the information she liked and discarding the rest as unworthy of saving. On this day she had committed to memory all Grandma had told her about Mr Hardman while discarding the rest as useless prattle.

“What is it now, child?” Agnes said impatiently when Kate stopped again. “What are you looking at, lass?”

“Those trees, Grandma. Don’t they look like a family having a picnic?”

“My word you say some strange things, Kathryn.” Agnes was quiet for a moment then continued. “Your father used to climb trees when he was young. He’d climb to the very top and then yell out at the top of his voice.”

“What did he yell out, Grandma?”

“He was a strange one then. Just like that he’d climb a tree and yell things out.”

Kate sighed to herself and continued on, her spritely step now becoming a tedious plod since Grandma had taken all the enjoyment out of her day. She thought that climbing trees and yelling out wasn’t a bad idea at all. If Daddy did it then she would do it too.

 

Kate Macarthur was six. From the time she was born she had been a bright, thoughtful girl with a peaceful and caring disposition. She was always asking questions but didn’t fuss about the unimportant things in life which tended to dominate other children. Instead she was a keen observer of things around her and determined from an early age to get on with the serious business of growing up. Her mother, Meghan, came from a mixture of handsome Italian stock through her mother Nina Panetti, and from her father Oswald’s Irish forbears the Lathams. The Macarthur name came through Kate’s father’s Scottish ancestors who arrived in Australia at about the same time their more famous namesake was experimenting with wool. Over the years the Macarthurs followed the explorers south eventually ending up on the fertile western slopes just north of Wagga with large parcels of land. There they commenced farming and raising generations of Macarthurs.

 

They arrived back at the farmhouse and immediately headed for the music room for Kate’s piano lesson. If Kate hadn’t loved music so much she would have found it tiresome but music danced through her soul so the time passed swiftly. After her lesson Kate found her way into the kitchen where her mother and her Aunty Lyn were preparing the evening meal.

“Hello, Mummy. Hello, Aunty Lyn.”

They greeted Kate with hugs and kisses.

“Mummy, who’s Mr Hardman?”

“Oh just a fellow who works around here. He’s doing a job for Pop at the moment.”

“Why is he so sad?”

“How do you know he’s sad?”

“Because he looks sad.”

“I don’t know why, Katie.”

“Why don’t you ask him?”

“I couldn’t ask him that, Katie.”

“Why not?”

“You just don’t do things like that, sweetie. Now tell me what you’ve been doing. You look like you’ve been having lots of fun.”

Kate looked down at her dirty feet then looked up at her mother. She liked to talk to her Mummy because Mummy listened to everything Kate said, unlike Grandma who only listened to what she wanted to.

“Mummy I saw a lizard family today. There was a mummy lizard and she had some dear little baby lizards.”

“Were they going shopping, Katie?” Lyn asked looking up from the sink.

“No–o,” Kate laughed at the silliness of it.

“Then they must have been going for a picnic,” Meg said confidentially. “Do you want to help with dinner, Katie? The men will be home soon.”

“Yes, Mummy. We have to feed our men don’t we?”

Meg looked at Kate with a loving smile. “Yes, Katie. And we love our men too, don’t we?”

 

When Will came in he met Meg’s look with a shy smile and received a lingering kiss.

“How are you, my darling?”

“I’m better now,” he grinned. Then he saw Kate and swept her up into his arms. “And how is my little bundle of happiness?”

Kate giggled and flung her arms tightly around his neck as he swung her around. “Butterfly kiss, Daddy,” she said fluttering her eyelashes against his lips.

“How’s the bottom paddock looking, Will?” Meg said when Will had put Kate down.

“A bit dry. If we don’t get any rain soon I might have to move the sheep up to Dunbar early.”

“Jack hasn’t finished the fence yet has he?”

Will shrugged. “We can’t wait. We’re taking up too much of Dad’s feed.”

“No you’re not, Will,” Tom Macarthur said as he came in through the door. “You stay as long as you need to. Macarthur Park is your home too until you’re good and ready to move. Anyway it’s going to rain soon.”

 

Tom and Agnes Macarthur owned Macarthur Park. In its original state it was 20,000 acres of prime grazing land that was well watered by Shepherd’s Creek and drought proofed by the lagoon size billabong the creek had created on its journey south towards the Murrumbidgee River. Will was their eldest and had married Meghan Latham from Ballycastle. With a growing family of three, Terry, Kate and Damon he had acquired the adjoining property Dunbar, just over 2,000 acres of good land which had been calved from the northern part of Macarthur Park and was also serviced by Shepherd’s Creek. Second son, Les, had turned the back paddocks into the 2,000-acre property Highview where he lived with wife, Eileen, and their two children, two-year-old Michael and baby Debbie. John was the youngest son. He had recently married Lyn Galloway and was staying on at Macarthur Park to help Tom and Agnes run the place. Youngest daughter, Jean, was eyeing off Tim Shepherd while their other daughter, Contessa, lived in Sydney with husband Robert and their young daughter Kirsty.

 

Teatimes brought the Macarthurs together as a family. There around the dinner table, Tom would hold court and Agnes would complain. Tom took his position as family patriarch seriously, whereas Agnes had determined that her purpose in life was to fuss over her talented granddaughter, Kate. This night was no different with the meal filling and the conversation lively.

“So what do you think about the new Stock and Station agent, Dad?” Will said tucking into a baked potato.

“It doesn’t matter what I think about him it’s what I know about him that’s important. And I know this; he’s a Nancy Brown. Not even from the bush I hear,” Tom thundered like an Old Testament prophet.

“What do you hear, Dad?” John said joining the conversation.

“He’s from the city. He’s one of those real estate agents.” Tom almost spat the words out while shaking his head. “What is this world coming to? Our Stock and Station agent is just a salesman.”

“I notice Jack’s was riding ‘Chauvel’, Dad. Doesn’t seem to like using the bike,” Will said changing the subject.

“Well that’s because his horse is a noble animal.”

“What do you mean, Dad?”

“His sires go right back to the Light Horse. Now they were noble animals. Magnificent animals those walers were.”

“They charged Beer Sheba, didn’t they Dad?” John added.

“Did they ever. Gave Johnny Turk what for,” he said shaking his head in admiration. The children sat around listening and digesting, not only their dinner, but all the information that had been dropping like crumbs during the course of the conversation. As Kate glanced around the table she was puzzled by Grandma’s reaction which was to purse her lips and offer no comment all the way through the discussion.

 

After dinner Kate went to the bookcase, took down a dictionary and looked up the word ‘noble’. She liked the sound of it and rolled ‘noble’ across her tongue a few times. But she liked what it said ‘noble’ meant better. “I’m going to get a horse like Mr Hardman,” Kate decided.

 

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