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Solomon was a most precocious young man who reached puberty earlier than most. His body was developing a lot faster than his brain. He lived in an isolated community on Back River, outside New Norfolk and had experienced little of life. His world was the immediate family and the hills behind his house. Sol was the first child of the very fertile William and Ann and, as such, had pride of place in the growing family. By the time his little adventure begins he’s already the eldest in a family of ten children, and he’s only eleven years old.  There would eventually be 14 children from that marriage, so even by that early age Solomon was well aware both of the mechanics and the practicalities of having children. They were everywhere in his life, the house was a baby factory. The Triffitts were increasing exponentially and consequentially most of Solomon’s friends were family. They liked to keep together.

He was pitched at the point where innocence and rat cunning met, with racing loins and the mind of a small child. It’s a devastating conflux normally contained – but Solomon was an enquiring lad. There were few family secrets in hisVan Diemen’s Land. He had grown up sharing one room with his parents, there was little in their active sex lives that he hadn’t come to know. The world of reproduction for a farm boy is not one of mystery and intrigue, he and his family treated the whole business with a disregard for the niceties borne of close living and small community.

Sex was no stranger to the Triffitt children but Solomon took his enthusiasm to new levels. He wouldn’t be the first young lad with a big dick wanting to try it out. Aunty Ellen can’t have been too shy about giving him the opportunity. He led a carefree country existence, his bad behaviour rarely noticed in the daily cacophony that was ten children.

Eleven year old boys, hovering on that high-pitched edge of puberty, are hateful little things, all piping voice and sharp minds, their clarity not yet dulled by the leaden weight of scrotum, hair and trouble Solomon’s adolescence came so early he was catapulted into adulthood, missing a stage, his body growing out of control while his mind stayed rooted in childish things, little boy enthusiasms, banalities. Ellen had watched him grow up but suddenly she was looking at a lanky young man, not the ratty little sprog of yesterday.

She was 17 and pretty naive herself, but she knew what Soloman was good for now he’d grown. I can’t imagine Sol had had much practice in the marital arts, he’d barely had time to learn masturbation, so perhaps Aunty Ellen saw it as her familial duty to train him up. She may have had some experience in the matter. Most girls of 16 in that environment were pregnant and married. Inexplicably, to Ellen, she had missed out. She set out in a calculated fashion to find out about sex and didn’t have to look very far at all.

Ellen must have taken more than a leading role in his education but somehow, I don’t think Solomon was hanging back. He was certainly delighted to have some use for that large and angry appendage that seemed to have taken over his life. In late August, 1849, exactly 100 years before my birth, Ellen took Solomon by the hand and led him down a one way path.

Did they consider that there might be complications? Probably not. Just two very young things led by exactly the forces that had led young people for millennia – but Aunt and nephew? That might be taking it altogether too far. None of this would have crossed their minds as they shagged away inexpertly, both much too full of the wonderment and the intrigue, nor would any thought of possible consequences come to mind. Just lust in a climate of complete licence.

In their self-centred childish world both would have found satisfaction, both would have walked away guilt-free and satisfied, planning to do it again. Things probably continued for a while until the blossoming Ellen noticed something wrong. By Christmas that year an air of crisis had descended. Even by the very loose standards of the time and the Triffitts in particular the idea of going at it quite so young was a novelty. Solomon blushed with shame while secretly enjoying the notoriety. He was a man and now everybody knew it.

Ellen was removed from the randy young sod and, for a time, things went on as if nothing had happened. Every now and then Ellen would be glimpsed growing heavier by the month but Solomon was largely unconcerned. He had turned thirteen in October and was feeling very grown up indeed. He could say the word ‘baby’ but really had no idea. Sol was enjoying a kind of hero status amongst his younger male relatives and cast the future out of his mind. A cloud sometimes passed over his natural exuberance but it was brief and passing.

A great silence fell over the Triffitt household in early May. Ellen was at full term. She retired behind closed doors to perform her function while Sol was swimming in the last heat of autumn with his friends. Sol sailed through the air on the end of rope, letting go at the height of the swing, dropping, shouting, splashing his way back to the surface, pale muscle and wide smile dashed by the Derwent. He was blissfully unconcerned.

Mary arrived in May 1849. Solomon was dressed and made to travel with his father to Ellen’s house. He wasn’t overly popular. The child was thrust at him, blinking sleepily as he held her for the first time. ‘Here she is, this is what you’ve done young man,’  hissed his father, but secretly he was pleased.

As Solomon held Ann and stared deep into her eyes a most unusual sensation flooded into him. He looked up and his eyes went straight to Aunt Ellen, sitting placidly in her chair. She looked straight back at him and the first glimmerings of adult love tumbled reluctantly into their minds. Solomon smiled to himself and looked back at the baby. Ann gurgled and closed her eyes. All was good with the world.

Then, after three months, she died. The bellow of pain Ellen let out that night could be heard right down the valley. Solomon was at her side and for a while they were able to help each other as they watched helpless while their daughter expired. All bets are off at a time like this, all enmities forgotten. Two very young parents stood and watched their child die. They fell in what they thought was love while they did it.

Ellen was distraught and Solomon was endeavouring to find his feelings. He was confused and sad and frightened and so was she. Their relationship began to grow in the limited way they were capable of and that involved more sex.

They were both young and self-centred so the death of baby Ann, thought huge at the time, soon passed into ancient history. With the callow pragmatism they thought was wisdom they set out to make another one. It was an uncommonly hot day in the DerwentValleyin January 1850 when Solomon and Ellen had their next recorded roll in the hay. He was 13 and feeling very grown up. Things were more balanced between him and Ellen now, even though she’s was 19, they’d shared a big experience together and had bonded. They didn’t know why. Deep thought and motivation was beyond them, they were just genitals and raw inarticulate emotion in a tiny country town.

Emily Amelia was born with much excitement in September and Solomon and Ellen began to make plans. He held his infant daughter in his arms on his 14th birthday a month later and started to think seriously about his future. He had become a father properly now, with as full an awareness as he was capable of, he was grown tall and strong and, with his parents blessing, was thinking of striking out of home.

On the 23rd of August 1851 they married with the full blessing and noisy attendance of the clan. It was a happy occasion despite the startling youth of the groom. He was 14, two months short of his 15th birthday, stood tall and solid beside his not so blushing bride. Their 8 months old child howled in the corner as all parties toasted their success. There was another baby on the way.

The young couple saw the New Year in with great enthusiasm. She was seven months pregnant and they sat with their baby in the privacy of their own house looking forward to the future. Emily was 15 months old and the picture of health. Things couldn’t be better.

Ellen’s miscarriage came upon her spontaneously. Without warning she was stricken and there was blood on the floor. She was all alone and desperate, with just her toddler daughter for company. By the time Solomon came home from the fields it was all over. Pale and shaken Ellen had miscarried, cleaned up and begun to make the tea.

Her tears were real and heart-felt. Solomon even felt something he thought might be emotion. They both looked toward Emily and, in that moment, simultaneously placed their hopes and dreams in her.

When she died suddenly in May that year they were both astounded. Emily had been the picture of health all her short life then, at eighteen months, started to fade. From a bright enquiring child she turned sullen then sick, moving through the stages of function collapse, piece by piece, limb by limb until she was a limp, emaciated grey thing. She simply closed her eyes and died feebly in front of her parents and a mystified doctor, leaving the house emptier than it had been for a while.

Three children. If Ellen or Solomon ever thought there might be something wrong they probably didn’t say. They had no knowledge of genetics, no idea of what might occur when two closely related gene banks rub too intimately together. Solomon was the son of cousins, his wife was his Mother’s sister, the genetics of this are too awful to contemplate, but with a blind inevitability the rules of science would apply.  Unwittingly Solomon and Ellen were receiving the legacy of the deeds of strangers as well as their own. Were they aware? Almost certainly not. Just in the grip of their own private genetic war.

With refreshing optimism Solomon and his wife retired to bed and continued to shag like snakes. There is a strange correlation between grief and rut and the two found the nexus. In July she fell pregnant again and carried the child through her full term, only to have it arrive still-born.

This was Samuel William who has no records. His existence is noted but with no other data. Poor Samuel is officially just a whisper in space – but to his sad parents he was much more than that. Ellen started to panic at this rush of dead babies. This wasn’t what she had signed up for. Her grief revealed itself inevitably in anger on occasion, but it was her role, as the woman, to accept all blame for her failure to conceive children who would stay alive. It didn’t occur to anyone that other factors may be in play.

She was advised to rest and took to her bed in a sulk, grieving all her lost babies in a most self-indulgent way. So said the relatives. They were a rough, tough crowd who appeared to have babies for breakfast, given the apparent ease with which the progeny flowed. They all had a no-nonsense practical approach to matters reproductive and couldn’t understand Ellen’s distress. Ellen could feel her time running out. She would be an old woman soon. Her existential despair lasted most of 1854 but eventually the fog lifted and she rejoined the world, and her uncertain husband, around Christmas time that year.

The ghosts of four dead children hung over the two of them as they settled down into their warm bed in May. Inevitably Ellen became pregnant again. She was becoming obsessed with the deaths of her children so took great care of herself this time, returning to her bed and being waited upon by a roster of female family for the rest of her pregnancy. Solomon went in and out and worked and wondered whether this one would be a goer. She needed a child.

He was emerging into a kind of adulthood by now. Premature but based on experience. Young Sol had a lot happen to him in a very short space of time. He was only 19 but maturity and a kind of wisdom had set in. With his wife either pregnant or grieving most

of the time it had fallen upon him to run the place. He was in control. At least until the next hurricane came along. Sol was growing into a practical big hearted fellow with experience far in advance of his years. But he didn’t have success with children.

Edwin Charles Triffitt emerged into the world with a roar on the 11th of February, 1856 and survived to the age of 81. Sol and Ellen couldn’t quite believe it at first. They had one that worked. They watched attentively as he passed 18 months and saw no sign of his dead sister’s mysterious illness, they watched and waited for the inevitable sorrow, but it never came. The proud parents grew to relax and thought of having one more. A boy needs a brother.

It’s July 1859 before their next, and last, recorded conjugal moment and a healthy boy was born on the 14th of April 1860. This is Josiah Augustus, who is to have an exciting life cut short through no fault of his own. He’s only 24 when he dies but up until that unfortunate moment, he was the very apple of his father’s eye.

Ellen finally had what she’d been looking for all this time and with success came a certain disenchantment. For Solomon too, the future seemed spread out ahead of him. Two boys, a wife, work hard, die. With the callousness of youth and the lure of great expectation elsewhere Solomon left for the Goldfields and the marriage dissolved. The great and most unexpected romance between young Solly Triffitt and his Aunty Ellen drew to a natural close and they never really knew why.

But reasons and motivations, concepts and science were not part of living in New Norfolk in the 1850’s. Life was too hard for that. Let people take their pleasures where they may. Rabelais would be proud.

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