Sneak Peek: For Love of Faith by Tricia McGill


Faith quickened her pace as she neared the store, her Ma’s list clutched in her hand. This visit had become the highlight of her week, for the anticipation reached a level she could not understand. She sincerely hoped that the owner’s son, one Walter Finch would be working behind the counter. The store contained everything from cooking ingredients for the women, to shovels and hats for the men working out at the diggings, and had taken on a new pleasure in the past few months. She was at a loss to understand quite why this should be.

Previously Walt had barely passed the time of day with her until one morning as she handed her list over to George Finch, his son had come out of the back room, wiping his hands on a scrap of rag. “Finished out there, boy?” his father asked and with a nod Walt came towards Faith and smiled—and her heart was lost as he asked after her welfare and made some comment on her appearance that completely took her aback. Until that morning, no lad of similar age had shown the slightest interest in her and certainly not in her state of health.

Suddenly the one who now seemed to fill her thoughts far too often was striding towards her. Too late to step from the firmer path that had been laid down in front of the shops to protect the boots of the ladies, and to head across the street. Probably best, as after the heavy October rain overnight her only boots would soon be mud spattered, giving her Ma something new to complain about. Spare money for clothing was scarce these days according to her Ma, so these boots would need to last a few more winters.

Nothing for it now but to come face to face with him. She pulled the brim of her bonnet low over her face in an effort to cover the blush she knew was rising. Would she ever get used to the horrors attached to having a skin that her mother often likened to oatmeal? Her Ma put it down to her English background, and one of her main aims in life was to ensure that Faith kept her complexion from becoming shrivelled by the often-blazing sunshine before she reached full maturity. Her Ma had a thousand rules she lived by, far too many for Faith to keep up with at times.

Already Walter Finch was heading unerringly it seemed straight to her, so there was no escape. “Good day to you Mistress Boswell,” he said with a distinct chuckle in his voice to prove that once again he was likely set on teasing her.

“Good morning, Mister Finch,” she mumbled, side stepping to dodge his nearness. Of course, as always, he was out to confuse her by standing far too close for what good manners dictated. Often Faith considered these rules of etiquette so out of place in this land that abounded with scoundrels, hard-working miners, and bushrangers. Not that she ever had been confronted by a bushranger—but according to her Ma’s reasoning, just because she had never come across one did not mean they were not out there waiting to rob, or worse, ravish every female they met.

“You are looking particularly fetching on this dull old day, I must say, and a sight for these sore eyes.” Doffing his wide-brimmed hat Walt added a small bow, as if he was some gentleman of high breeding. According to Faith’s Ma, Walt, his father George, plus his mother Daisy, were living a pretense. Just because they owned one of the most important establishments in town—a shop that included just about everything needed by most inhabitants of the area, did not give them the right to think they were aristocracy or at least above their station in life according to her Ma.

Rather, Gertrude insisted they were no better than she was, just lower-class folk trying to earn an honest living. Faith often wondered just why, if that was her Ma’s opinion, she put on false airs and graces herself. Not that Faith would have the temerity to ask her Ma such. Faith knew Walt’s sister Florrie well, for she was of similar age and a likeable girl. Faith had also met their Mama, Daisy, and thought her kind and loving towards her family and always polite to their customers. Faith could not understand her own Ma’s reasoning. Although she insisted they were lower class, her set of rules at times commanded Faith behave as if she was a countess or of some higher rank.

“A small birdie told me that someone is nearing a special birthday. Seventeen is an age for rejoicing.” With a devilish grin, Walt bowed again, sending a lock of his thick dark hair across his forehead. As he straightened, he flicked this back carelessly.

“How so? It is just another number—nothing at all to rejoice about,” she remarked pertly, although inside she did feel that this birthday was rather special indeed. A few of the girls of similar age around the town and diggings were already wed or planning to wed their beaus by the time they reached her age. Mind you, by her Ma’s reasoning a lot of them wed for reasons of convenience rather than affection.

“By that I presume that your mother has no plans for a big celebration for her only daughter.” Faith could not be certain, but thought she heard a touch of disdain in that statement. “Florrie has been enjoying parties most of her life and our Ma would not dream of letting such an important occasion go by without at least inviting a clutch of her friends to celebrate along with her. It was she who told me that she was waiting on an invitation to your festivities.”

Faith chewed on her fingertip, unsure how to answer him. In fact, he knew that Faith had been one of the friends invited to Florrie’s sixteenth birthday celebration last year. It was on that afternoon when Walt had first seemed to realise Faith was not a silly child anymore. At the time, Faith had become confused and flummoxed by his attentions while inside she felt as if a hundred butterflies fluttered there. Because she had never attended school, as her Ma had been her only teacher, there had not been a lot of chance to mix with many of her own age, boy or girl. It had pleased her no end when Florrie befriended her after meeting her at the store one day. She did learn that day that Walt was about three years her senior, and to Faith he seemed to possess more self-assurance than she ever would.

“Ma is too busy with the many chores the lodging house demands of her to worry about celebrating the passing of a year of her daughter’s life.” Even as she said the words, Faith knew that nonetheless inside it did hurt.

“How is it that your Ma has no husband to assist her?” He put a hand on Faith’s arm as he rushed to add, “I apologise if that is too impertinent a question. But most women who arrive here in the diggings follow their menfolk, few come alone.”

“I thought it was common knowledge that my Pa died after coming here and setting up the lodging house—about three years ago.” It shamed Faith but truth was, her Pa died in a fight with a miner over a gambling debt. She never found out the whole truth as her Ma refused to talk about it—likely because she too was ashamed to admit she had married a gambling man who drank to excess.

Pa had never favoured Faith with a lot of attention, and although she knew her parents did argue a lot behind the door of their bedroom, he had never been unkind to her. As far as she knew he was not a brute of a man, but she felt that somehow her Ma did not grieve excessively over his passing. As luck would have it, she knew how to run the business, so managed adequately without him around.

* * *

Faith fidgeted with her bonnet, then her hand went to the pocket of her skirt where the brooch was safely tucked. Determined that her Ma would not see her getting onto Walt’s cart, she had walked a distance up the road, safe in the knowledge that Bertha would do her best to keep her Ma occupied for an hour or two with doing a thorough survey of their rations in the pantry.

When Bob came running to her as Walt’s cart appeared, the butterflies that had inhabited her stomach since early morning turned to full-blown nerves and her hand shook as she stroked the dog’s ear. As Walt pulled the horse to a stop, he saluted her before climbing down. “Well, here’s a nice surprise. I thought you would be waiting at home.”

“I was ready early and as it is such a nice sunny afternoon; I thought I would stroll along to meet you,” she lied, sure that he would guess the real reason.

“It is a pleasant afternoon, isn’t it? Where would you like to go on this fine day?” He bent to lift Bob up to place him in the back of the cart and then offered a hand to assist Faith onto the bench seat. “Thought Bob would be safer up here with us as we might be going a bit faster than usual,” he explained as Faith straightened her bonnet and then her skirt.

“Good idea. I have no idea where to go, Walt, I will leave the choice to you as I seldom go further than the main street to be honest.” Faith thought a while as he clicked the horse into a slow trot, then added, “I would like to see the diggings, perhaps at Bowden that I have heard lodgers talking about. Oh, and could we go past the site of the stockade?”

“Your wish is my command, madam. Good choice.” He sent a grin her way.

Faith’s heart felt so light she thought it might fly from her chest. In all her years she had never shared a drive with a young man, and the thrill of sitting beside Walt made her want to shout for joy. It did not take long to reach the place where what was called the Eureka Stockade took place. Nobody would believe that a battle occurred there, as it now seemed a peaceful spot. “It is hard to believe that so many men died that awful night. I heard that one of your uncles was involved in the fight.”

“Yes, that’s a fact. He was severely injured.” Walt heaved a heavy sigh. “’Twas almost six years to the day and he has never recovered. Still mines in the hope of striking it rich. Was your Pa involved in the battle?”

“No. We came up here from Melbourne and I think he had ideas of finding gold, but then decided to open the lodging house.” Faith gazed at the trees waving in a slight breeze. “My Ma does not talk about him now, but I do have memories of their arguments because she considered him too lazy to try his hand at digging. Did you ever meet Peter Lalor, the man who organised it all?”

“No, but my uncle has spoken of his regard for the man. Shall we continue with our ride?”

“Of course.” Faith settled back after reaching behind her to pat Bob. “He has grown a little since you first got him. Do you think he will get much bigger?” she asked, simply for something to say to hide her foolish nervousness.

“Who knows? As I have no idea of his parentage, it is a waiting game.” Walt sent a grin her way. “I am so glad you agreed to this outing, Faith. What did your Ma say when you told her?”

Faith swallowed. Should she tell him the truth of the matter? “I told her I was visiting Florrie,” she blurted as her cheeks flamed. “My Ma has some funny ideas, and I was not sure how she would react if I told her I was spending time with you.”

Not sure if his chuckle meant that he thought her stupid or not she remained silent until he said, “That there is the quartz crushing battery.” He pointed to the collection of small structures that had been erected a few years earlier. “If we continue to the top of the hill, you can see the digs and the river below, and we will stop to stretch our legs.” Saying that, he continued upwards following the path. Once or twice, he sent a wave to a miner who was either working or sharing a drink with someone.

“It’s a hard life, is it not? Do many of them make a fortune?” she asked, holding onto her bonnet that threatened to blow away, for the wind grew stronger as they climbed higher.

“I don’t suppose they would let on if they did. We hear stories of the ones who make it and end up wealthy, but they keep it close to their chest. Whoa, Matilda,” he pulled the horse up for they had reached the peak of the hill. “Shall we rest here awhile? Bob would like a run.” Glancing about, he added, “and there’s a patch of grass for my girl to pick at.”

Faith was still smiling at the name he had given his mare, which she found endearing. “That would be nice.” She waited until he came around to hand her down. As he placed her on the ground, it seemed he held her around the waist for longer than he needed to. This brought their faces to within an inch or two of each other and Faith licked her lips as she stared up at him, wondering if she imagined the small groan that left his lips before he released her.

Going to the cart, he assisted Bob down and then brought a blanket, which he spread out on the ground near a spindly windswept tree. “Ma thoughtfully sent us some lemon cordial and biscuits. Would you like some?”

“Yes, thank you. That was very thoughtful of her indeed.” Faith swallowed at that for it sounded very formal. “Where did you pick the name for your horse?” she asked, as she stroked the mare’s smooth neck.

With a small chuckle he put a finger to his nose as he said in a hush, “’Twas the name of one of my Pa’s favourite customers. The old biddy would come into the shop and um and ah for half an hour over her choice of some silly thing. Pa jokingly said she had a thing for him. Sadly, she left this world when all alone one harsh winter’s night.”

“That is sad. It is not nice to be alone in the world, is it?”

* * *

Why I chose these excerpts:

Because this book is set in Ballarat, Victoria in the 1860s when men, and sometimes women sped to the goldfields in search of making a fortune, therefore, life was ruled by a different set of morals and manners. I seem to return to the early years of Australia as I find the settlement era fascinating, and my readers seem to like returning to this time in history as much as I do.

I decided on Faith as my heroine, as she was quite naïve and her young life had been shaped by her Ma who was a bit of a slave-driver to be honest. Poor Faith was treated no better than a servant but that is all she knew, and of course she wished more than anything to be free to do as she chose. This chance arrives one day in the form of a gentleman who turns up at the door of their lodging house in search of Faith’s Ma. She spurned him immediately, but Faith’s interest is roused by his apparent interest in her, as well as her Ma.

Faith has a liking for young Walt, the son of the owners of the local store. Never sure if he likes her as much, brought about by her innocence, she is to learn that he can be steadfast and trustworthy. My younger self within sort of fell for Walt too as he is such a likeable fellow, and is prepared to go to any lengths to assist Faith to make her dreams reality.

* * *

Behind the scenes:

Any historical novel takes a lot of research even before the first paragraph is put down. I am lucky for I love this part. I have learnt so much about this country I call home and how it was in the early days of settlement just on my research alone. I have covered almost all of the original colonies that were formed in Australia. In my early days of writing, I would need to spend many hours at the library delving into books on the past, and then making reams of notes. These days it is so much easier for all we need to know is at our fingertips, from when sewerage was developed in certain parts to how the population coped with things like starvation and lack of proper medical treatment. I often think, while I am engrossed in a past time, that I would love to own a time machine so that I could hop back to a period to see first hand what it was all really like. My time machine must be capable of bringing me back though, for I don’t think I could cope without running water or proper toilet facilities. One of my first questions on researching a certain period is how did they clean their teeth. There were many methods of course, but none of them as proficient as modern toothpaste.

Once I know the period fairly well, I next concentrate on my characters. I need to know them inside and out, and how they would cope when faced with a certain situation. I usually spend a lot of time deciding on names for my main protagonists. Faith and Walt, lead characters in For The Love of Faith came very easily, as did the title, which was a matter of finding one where Faith was prominent. Not the religious kind of faith but the kind of faith we possess in another human being. It’s a well-known fact that I am an animal lover and somehow an animal or two always seem to creep into my stories. In this one Walt’s mare Matilda plays a vital role in the story, along with Bob the stray dog he picked up.

I have made many friends over the years through my writing and will never meet the majority of them face to face, but the internet provides us with the means to keep in contact. I love to hear from my readers. If you have questions concerning my research or stories please get in touch. My contact details can be found on my web page:

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