Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

If I kept thinking about her, maybe she wouldn’t die. I shut my eyes, just for a second. I’d thought the word now. I’d let it in. Elsie dying. Elsie, and all the bright days of our future, lost … The little boat took me right in to Sydney Cove, below the Johnsons’ house. I leaped out in the shallows, thrust a shilling at Whiskers and ran up the hill, my wet trousers clinging to my legs. I didn’t even knock on the door … ‘How’s Elsie?’ The convict maid looked up from her darning, Milbah and Henry playing at her feet. She was new since I visited last — none stayed long these days. They’d get drunk, and then there’d be bad language and worse behaviour … ‘Mr Barney? Mr Johnson said you’d come. He’s down with the governor, but Mrs Johnson is with the poor young lady in the isolation hut at the hospital.’ I nodded, still out of breath. I turned to run down to Cockle Bay, but the maid spoke again. ‘The mistress said to give you a crock of soup to take down to the hospital. It’s keeping hot by the fire.’ I waited while she poured it out and placed it far too slowly into a basket with a loaf of damper and a tiny


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