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Catherine Helen Spence
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People married young if they married at all in those days. The single aunts put on caps at
30 as a sort of signal that they accepted their fate; and, although I did not do so, I felt a
good deal the same.
I went on with daily teaching for some years, during which my father's health declined,
but before his death two things had happened to cheer him. My brother John left
Myponga and came to town, and obtained a clerkship in the South Australian Bank at 100
pounds a year. It was whilst occupying a position in the bank that he had some slight
connection with the notorious Capt. Starlight, afterwards the hero of "Robbery Under
Arms," for through his hands much of the stolen money passed. In 1900, when Mrs.
Young and I were leaving Melbourne on our visit to Sydney, we were introduced to "Rolf
Boldrewood," the author of that well-known story. His grave face lit up with a smile
when my friend referred to the author of her son's hero. "Ah!" and he shook his head
slowly. "I'm not quite sure about the wisdom of making heroes of such sorry stuff," he
replied. I thought I could do better with a school. I was 20, and my sister Mary nearly 16,
and my mother could help. My school opened in May, 1846, a month before my father's
death, and he thought that our difficulties were over. My younger brother, David
Wauchope, had been left behind for his education with the three maiden aunts, but he
came out about the end of that year, and began life in the office of the Burra Mine at a
small salary. My eldest brother William, was not successful in the country, and went to
Western Australia for some years, and later to New Zealand, where he died in his
eightieth year, soon after the death of my brother John in his seventy-ninth, leaving me
the only survivor of eight born and of six who grew to full age. My eldest sister Agnes
died of consumption at the age of 16; and, as my father's mother and four of his brothers
and sisters had died of this malady, it was supposed to be in the family. The only time I
was kept out of school during the nine years at Miss Phin's was when I was 12 when I
had a cough and suppuration of the glands of the neck. As this was the way in which
Agnes's illness had begun, my parents were alarmed, though I had no idea of it. I was
leeched and blistered and drugged; I was put into flannel for the only time in my life; I
was sent away for change of air; but no one could discover that the cough was from the
lungs. It passed away with the cold weather, and I cannot say that I have had any illness
since. My father died of decline, but, if he had been more fortunate, I think he would
have lived much longer. Probably my mother's life was prolonged beyond that of a long-
lived family by her coming to Australia in middle life; and if I ever had any tendency to
consumption, the climate must have helped me. There were no special precautions
against infection in those days: but no other member of the family took it. and the alarm
about me was three years after Agnes's death.
But to go on to those early days of the forties. There were two families with whom we
were intimate. Mr. George Tinline (who had been clerk to my fathers' old friend, Williarn
Rutherford, of Jedburgh), who was in the bank of South Australia when in 1839, my
father went to put our small funds in safety, introduced us to a beautiful young widow,
Mrs. Sharpe, and her sisters Eliza and Harriet, and her brother, John Taylor. Harriet
afterwards married Edward Stirling, a close friend of my brother-in-law, Andrew Murray,
and I was a great deal interested in the Stirlings and their eight children. Mr. William