Linda looked over her shoulder to the sea behind her, the vast expanse of blue water that had been her home for the past three months. There was no way she could go back, no matter how much she wanted to. Sighing in the way that only an eight year old can sigh, she turned back to the approaching shore and the bustle of the many people on the cargo dock. How would she ever find her Uncle George among that chaos?
So enthralled by the never ending ebb and flow of people, moving just like the ocean waves she’d been watching for the past weeks, Linda didn’t hear the ship’s cabin boy approach and was startled when he spoke.
“Linda, the Captain wants you in his quarters please. It is for safety while we unload the cargo.”
Wordlessly she nodded and turned to follow him. He had been the first person on this ship to say comforting words to her. Oh everyone had been kind enough, but he’d been more of a friend, seeking her out and talking to her whenever he was allowed to.
As she joined the handful of other passengers in the Captain’s cabin, Linda was again filled with the same thoughts of trepidation and uncertainty that she had had every day on this voyage.
What if Aunt Helen doesn’t like her? What if Uncle George doesn’t come for her?
Her mind was filled with what if’s.
Some time later, as the yelling, clanking, banging, and general noise of the cargo being offloaded started to settle, there came a quick knock at the door and the Captain entered. He filled the doorway with his large frame and made the room feel even smaller than it already was.
The Captain addressed the other passengers, moved to one side to allow them to leave, and then spoke directly to Linda.
“I have a letter here. I am to put you on a train.”
Linda’s heart sank and she started to cry softly. He hadn’t come.
“Oh hush child, no need to cry. Your Uncle is on the train. You will see him soon enough.”
Although his words were sharp, his voice was soft and kind. His own daughter was also eight years old and he could not imagine having to send her on a cargo ship all alone to the other side of the world. What had happened to this child’s family? He didn’t know, she had not said two words all voyage, even to his cabin boy.
Linda dried her tears, hiccuped, and settled her mind. He had come after all. Sort of. She still had a way to go to get to him.
But a train though, she’d never been on a train before. Although, before three months ago, she’d never been on a ship or even seen the sea before either.
The Captain hoisted Linda’s bag containing all of her worldly possessions onto his shoulder and offered her his other hand.
“Come child, the gang plank is slick and we don’t want you falling in the drink or getting lost in the crowds.”
Linda placed her small hand in the Captain’s. For such a rough and calloused palm, his grip was gentle but firm. Linda was almost immediately grateful for that firm grip as her shoes were not suitable for walking on the steeply sloped gang plank and she would have indeed fallen into the drink as the Captain had predicted if she was not secure in his grasp alongside his sure footing.
Jostled and bumped by the crowds on the dock, Linda’s short stature meant that she was essentially unseen by the workers. Just as she thought she would lose her grip on the Captain’s hand and that she would be lost in the throng forever, the crowds thinned to reveal a horse and cart loaded with some of the supplies she had seen on the ship. The Captain placed Linda’s bag in the back, and quickly and easily lifted her onto the cart before climbing in himself.
The journey to the train station was only a short distance, and the salty grime and hustle of the docks soon made way for the bustle of the city, and then the smoke, steam, clanks, whines and other noises of the busy railway station.
The Captain lifted Linda and her bag off the cart and strode quickly towards a small wooden building not far away. Linda had to run to keep up with him.
The Captain spoke to someone standing just inside the door, “I’m looking for George MacDonald, I’ve been told he’ll be the guard on the Toowoomba train this afternoon.”
Linda was too far away to hear the reply from inside the shed, but the Captain responded to whatever was said with a kindly laugh as he stepped aside.
“Yes, I have your very precious cargo right here.”
Linda looked up at the face of the man who now stood in the doorway. Even though she had never seen this man before in her short life, she instantly knew that this man had to be her Uncle George. He had the same wonderful kind eyes, that same smile, and the same rumbling laugh that she knew from her father and uncles back home.
Linda burst into tears as she ran to him, and buried her head in his shoulder as he scooped her up to comfort her.
“Hush now Linda, it’s been a rough time for you I know, but I’m here, and you’ll soon meet your Aunt Helen and cousin Flora, and we’ll make sure that all is as well as it can be in your world again”
Linda raised her head, turned to the Captain and spoke for the first time.
“Thank you Captain, may the wind always be in your sails.”
Linda jumped as a train whistle screamed close by. George shook the Captain’s hand and thanked him for his assistance, took Linda’s bag, and hurried to board the train, settle Linda, and take on his role as guard on the train journey to Toowoomba.
Linda was here, safe, and he would write home to Scotland with that news tomorrow.
This story is a completely fictional hypothesis as to how an 8 and a half year old child named Linda came to be in the family of George and Helen MacDonald of Toowoomba, Queensland, and remain with them for long enough for Linda to consider them her parents. So while the names, and locations are accurate, the story itself is fictional, unless evidence is found to the contrary. Other stories have also been written about this event.