Read Wilderness Days Online

Authors: Jennifer L. Holm

Wilderness Days

BOOK: Wilderness Days
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For more than forty years,
Yearling has been the leading name
in classic and award-winning literature
for young readers.

Yearling books feature children’s
favorite authors and characters,
providing dynamic stories of adventure,
humor, history, mystery, and fantasy.

Trust Yearling paperbacks to entertain,
inspire, and promote the love of reading
in all children.

OTHER YEARLING BOOKS YOU WILL ENJOY

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Jennifer L. Holm

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Gary D. Schmidt

THE MISADVENTURES OF MAUDE MARCH
Audrey Couloumbis

BELLE PRATER’S BOY,
Ruth White

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A lot of very kind people helped Jane find her way in the wilderness.

I would like to thank Gary Johnson, chairman of the Chinook Tribe, for his continued support and advice. His suggestions have made this a better book and me a better writer. Likewise, I’d like to thank David Youckton, chairman of the Chehalis Tribe, for his invaluable counsel, as well as Trudy Marcellay and Hazel Pete for their generous assistance with Chehalis history. Also, James A. Hanson, Ph.D., historian at the Museum of the Fur Trade, helped me add flavor and twang to Mr. Russell’s story.

A big shout out to the usual suspects—my brother Matt; my husband, Jonathan; my agent, Jill Grinberg; my folks; Paul and Ginny Merz; my uncle Tommy Hearn—the most encouraging librarian ever; the fabulous Kristin Marang; and especially the fellow authors who’ve kept me going—particularly Brian Selznick, Shana Corey, and Audrey Couloumbis.

For my brother Matt—
If he were lost in the wilderness,
he’d probably just build a tree fort
.

There is great danger of the young and ardent doing injustice to their companions by magnifying trifles, drawing large conclusions from small premises, and judging from a partial knowledge of facts
.

—THE YOUNG LADY’S FRIEND
(1836),
By a Lady

Contents

Other Books by This Author

Title Page

Acknowledgments

Dedication

Chapter One or The Luckiest Girl

Chapter Two or All Alone in the World

Chapter Three or The Most Disagreeable Man in the Territory

Chapter Four or Mr. Swan’s Gamble

Chapter Five or A Lady at Last

Chapter Six or The Charming Mrs. Frink

Chapter Seven or An Unexpected Guest

Chapter Eight or A Gentleman Arrives on the Bay

Chapter Nine or A Startling Announcement

Chapter Ten or M’Carty’s Strange Story

Chapter Eleven or Jane Peck’s Amazing Tonic

Chapter Twelve or A Powerful Smell

Chapter Thirteen or Introducing Mr. Hairy

Chapter Fourteen or Memelose Stories

Chapter Fifteen or Into the Wilderness

Chapter Sixteen or A Girl like Jane

Chapter Seventeen or The Rendezvous

Chapter Eighteen or A Patch of Land

Author’s Note

Resources

About the Author

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE
or,
The Luckiest Girl

It was a sweet
September day on the beach, much like the day I’d first sailed into Shoalwater Bay that April. The sun was skipping across the water, and the sky was a bright arc of blue racing to impossibly tall green trees. And for the first time since arriving on this wild stretch of wilderness, I felt lucky again.

You see, I had survived these many months in the company of rough men and Chinook Indians, not to mention a flea-ridden hound, and while it was true that my wardrobe had suffered greatly, one might say that my person had thrived. I had made friends. I had started an oyster business. I had survived endless calamity: six months of seasickness on the voyage from Philadelphia, a near-drowning, a fall from a cliff, and a smallpox outbreak. What was there to stop me now?

Although a life on the rugged frontier of the Washington Territory was not recommended for a proper young lady of sixteen, especially in the absence of a suitable chaperone, I intended to try it.

After all, I did make the best pies on Shoalwater Bay. And striding up the beach toward me was a man who appreciated them.

“Jane!”

He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen, bluer than the water of the bay behind him. A schooner, the
Hetty
, was anchored not far out, and it was the reason I had packed all my belongings and was standing beside my trunk. The same schooner had brought Jehu Scudder back to the bay after a prolonged absence. Indeed, when Jehu left, I had doubted that I would ever see him again.

“Jane,” Jehu said gruffly, his thick black hair brushing his shoulders, his eyes glowing in his tanned face. I had last seen him nearly two months ago, at which time I had hurt his feelings, and sailor that he was, he had vowed to sail as far away as China to be rid of me.

“Jehu,” I replied, nervously pushing a sticky tangle of red curls off my cheeks.

He shook his head. “You’re looking well, Miss Peck.”

“As are you, Mr. Scudder,” I replied, my voice light.

We stood there for a moment just looking at each other, the soft bay air brushing between us like a ribbon. Without thinking, I took a step forward, toward him, until I was so close that I breathed the scent of the saltwater on his skin. And all at once I remembered that night, those stars, his cheek close to mine.

“Boston Jane! Boston Jane!” a small voice behind me cried.

Sootie, a Chinook girl who had become dear to me, came rushing down the beach, little legs pumping, her feet wet from
the tide pool in which she had been playing. She was waving a particularly large clamshell at me, of the sort the Chinook children often fashioned into dolls.

“Look what I found!” she said, eyeing Jehu.

“Sootie,” I said, smoothing back her thick black hair. “You remember Captain Scudder? He was the first mate on the
Lady Luck
, the ship that brought me here from Philadelphia.”

Sootie clutched the skirts of my blue calico dress and hid behind them shyly, peeking out at Jehu with her bright brown eyes. Her mother, my friend Suis, had died in the summer smallpox outbreak, and since then Sootie had spent a great deal of time in my company.

Jehu crouched down next to her, admiring her find. “That’s a real nice shell you have there.”

She grinned flirtatiously at him, exposing a gap where one of her new front teeth was coming in.

Jehu grinned right back and squinted up at me from where he knelt. “I see you took my advice about wearing blue. Although I did like that Chinook skirt of yours,” he teased, his Boston accent dry as a burr.

The cedar bark skirt in question, while very comfortable, had left my legs quite bare. “That skirt was hardly proper, Jehu,” I rebuked him gently.

At this, his lips tightened and a shuttered look came across his face. The thick angry scar on his cheek twitched in a familiar way. He hunched his shoulders forward and stood up, deliberately looking somewhere over my shoulder. “Ah, yes, proper.”

I bit my lip and stepped back. I had little doubt as to what was causing this sudden transformation. I had rejected his affections, as I had been engaged to another man.

“So tell me, how is your new husband?” he asked in a clipped voice.

“Jehu,” I said quickly.

He turned from me and stared angrily out at the smooth bay. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got supplies to deliver,” he said tersely, and then he turned on his booted heel and strode quickly down the beach away from me.

I took a step forward, Sootie’s arms tight around my legs. What was I to do? Miss Hepplewhite, my instructor at the Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia, had a great number of opinions on the proper behavior of a young lady. I had discovered, however, that many of her careful instructions were sorely lacking when it came to surviving on the frontier. There was not much call for pouring tea or embroidering handkerchiefs in the wilds of Shoalwater Bay. And I certainly didn’t recall any helpful hints on how to prevent the only man one had ever kissed from storming away for the second time in one’s life. So I did something that I was sure would have shocked my old teacher.

I shouted.

“I didn’t marry him!”

He froze and then turned back toward me, walking fast. He grabbed my shoulders and looked down into my eyes.

“You didn’t?” Something indefinable flickered across his face.

“It seems that Mr. Baldt already had a wife.”

Jehu slapped his thigh triumphantly. “I knew he was no good!”

The difficulties of this year, 1854, had culminated in the sad discovery that the man I had sailed around two continents to marry, William Baldt, had married another before I could arrive. Papa would not have been surprised. Like Jehu, he had a very poor opinion of William Baldt.

“Janey,” my white-bearded papa had told me firmly when I declared my intention to accept Mr. Baldt’s proposal, “you are transfixed with William for the wrong reasons. There’s nothing for you out on that frontier. It’s dangerous. There are plenty of eligible young bachelors right here in Philadelphia. There’s no call to follow one out west, especially one with no sense.”

I confess that I couldn’t help but wonder what Papa would think of Jehu. My sweet surgeon father had always been fond of sailors. Why, they were generally his best clients, considering the number of cracked heads that required stitching from drunken bar brawls.

“You’re leaving then?” Jehu asked quietly, gesturing to my trunk on the beach.

That morning upon waking I’d had every intention of leaving Shoalwater Bay and all of its inhabitants behind me. After my engagement to William Baldt had fallen apart two weeks earlier, I had arranged for passage back to San Francisco on the schooner
Hetty
, which was due to arrive with supplies. I had bidden my farewells and taken my trunk down to the beach that morning fully expecting to depart the shores of the bay forever.

But as I had watched the
Hetty
sail in, and considered all I
had been through—and survived—I had realized that I could follow my sweet papa’s advice, and make my own luck right here in Shoalwater Bay.

“Are you going away, Boston Jane?” Sootie asked anxiously, clutching me fiercely around the legs, as if by force alone she could prevent my departure.

Speak up, Janey. Say what’s on your mind
, Papa always said.

I looked into Jehu’s clear eyes, and said to Sootie, my voice shaking slightly, “No. I’m not going anywhere.”

Papa, I thought, would be so proud of me.

Jehu’s shoulders seemed to relax. Was that a hint of admiration in his eyes?

Sootie smiled up at me. “Oh good! Now I can show you how to make me a dolly.” She tugged at my hand.

BOOK: Wilderness Days
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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