Read Keeping Secrets Online

Authors: Joan Lowery Nixon

Keeping Secrets

Books by Joan Lowery Nixon

FICTION

A Candidate for Murder

The Dark and Deadly Pool

Don’t Scream

The Ghosts of Now

Ghost Town: Seven Ghostly Stories

The Haunting

In the Face of Danger

The Island of Dangerous Dreams

The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore

Laugh Till You Cry

Murdered, My Sweet

The Name of the Game Was Murder

Nightmare

Nobody’s There

The Other Side of Dark

Playing for Keeps

Search for the Shadowman

Secret, Silent Screams

Shadowmaker

The Specter

Spirit Seeker

The Stalker

The Trap

The Weekend Was
Murder
!

Whispers from the Dead

Who Are You?

NONFICTION

The Making of a Writer

The soldier quickly glanced inside the buggy. “You haven’t got traveling bags with you, so I take it you don’t plan to stay long.”

“That’s right. Just today.”

“I’d caution you not to return after dark. There’s no telling who you might run into on these back roads.”

From the corner of her eye Peg shot a quick glance at the soldier with the beard, who was still looking at the reticule.
Union Army or not, I’d hate to run into this one anywhere!
Peg thought.

“You may proceed,” the sergeant said.

Miss Hennessey smiled again, picked up the reins, and clucked to the horse. The soldiers rode past them with a great clatter, stirring up clouds of dust that caused Peg to cough.

The moment they were out of hearing Peg asked, “Why did you say that I was your daughter?”

“Not now.” Miss Hennessey’s voice was low and quick.

“What do you mean, not now? I—”

“Hush!”

To Peg’s amazement Miss Hennessey pulled a small handgun from her reticule and tucked it on the seat under her skirt. In a low voice she said, “Whatever may happen next, don’t be afraid.”

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 1995 by Joan Lowery Nixon and Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc.
Cover art copyright © by Robert Papp

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. Originally published in hardcover by Delacorte Press, New York, in 1995.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
ISBN 978-0-385-32139-6 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-440-21992-7 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-0-307-82754-8 (ebook)

First Delacorte Press Ebook Edition 2013

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

For Katherine Joan McGowan
with my love.

A Note From the Author

During the years from 1854 to 1929, the Children’s Aid Society, founded by Charles Loring Brace, sent more than 100,000 children on orphan trains from the slums of New York City to new homes in the West. This placing-out program was so successful that other groups, such as the New York Foundling Hospital, followed the example.

The Orphan Train Adventures were inspired by the true stories of these children; but the characters in the series, their adventures, and the dates of their arrival are entirely fictional. We chose St. Joseph, Missouri, between the years 1860 and 1880 as our setting in order to place our characters in one of the most exciting periods of American history. As for the historical figures who enter these stories—they very well could have been at the places described at the proper times to touch the lives of the children who came west on the orphan trains.

1
 

“F
INISHED
!” J
ENNIFER PUT
the last dish away in the cupboard and quickly turned toward her grandmother. “You promised to read to us from Frances Mary’s journal as soon as the kitchen was in order.”

“It looks good to me,” her brother, Jeff, said. Hoping that Grandma wasn’t watching, he brushed a few stray toast crumbs from the kitchen counter into his hand and stuck his hand in the pocket of his jeans.

Grandma winked at Jeff. “The kitchen looks good to me too—especially that very clean counter.” She held up the book, which was covered in faded blue fabric, and said, “I have the journal right here, so why don’t we settle down on the screened porch, and read about the Kelly family’s next adventure?”

Jennifer and Jeff raced to see who could get to the porch first. Jennifer curled up on the cushions of one
of the wicker chairs and squirmed with anticipation as Grandma opened the book to Frances’s delicate, spidery handwriting.

“Frances Mary dated this entry, ‘Autumn of 1863,’ ” Grandma said.

“Was the Civil War over then?” Jeff asked.

“No,” Grandma said. “The War Between the States had escalated. In January of 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in Confederate states, and the bitterness and anger increased.”

Surprised, Jeff said, “But that was two years after the war started. I thought that freeing the slaves was what the war was all about.”

“Last year in history class Mr. Wilson told us that the main reason for the war was economic,” Jennifer said. “The northern states wanted to put a stop to slavery in the United States, but the people in the southern states said their economy would collapse without slave labor. They seceded from the Union so they could form their own country, and they fired the first shots, which began the war.”

Wishing that Jennifer weren’t always such a know-it-all, Jeff grumbled, “Okay, okay. Let Grandma get started. I want to hear more of Frances’s story.”

“So do I,” Jennifer said. She settled back as Grandma began to read:

No one who has not been touched by the devastation of war could possibly understand its horrors. With some commanders and their troops it is not enough to win a battle or lay claim to strategic areas. People like Confederate William Quantrill and his raiders seem to take great satisfaction in
terrorizing entire villages by stealing, burning, and destroying homes and stores and—even worse—randomly killing all males who favor the Union, including young boys and elderly men.

During the fourth week of August we gave shelter to a badly frightened woman, who had escaped Quantrill’s murderous sack of the town of Lawrence by fleeing northward. It was the mercy of Providence that led her to our quiet farm community and to our home. In spite of the kindness and reassurance shown her by the Cummingses, Violet Hennessey—for that was her name—was so shaken and fearful that for days she could not abide to be left alone.

“I cannot remain in Kansas,” Violet told us. “I want to go home to Boston.”

“Travel at this time will be very difficult,” Mrs. Cummings told her, but Violet was insistent.

“I’ve heard there are still trains able to leave St. Joseph for the East,” she said. She seemed intent—almost stubborn.

“St. Joseph, like all of Missouri, is in turmoil.”

“But the area in and around St. Joseph has been spared the violent attacks from jayhawkers and bushwhackers that have plagued the counties along the border farther south. Frances, you told me yourself that your family members who live in and near St. Joseph have remained free from harm.”

Violet’s thoughtful, deliberate words were in vivid contrast to her ordinary manner. As soon as she had finished speaking, she pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders, her sad little face poking out like a wary swamp turtle’s. “If I can get to St. Joseph,” she said, “somehow, somewhere
,
I’ll find a safe place in which to stay until I’m strong enough to travel.”

A safe place in St. Joe.

Immediately, I thought of Ma.

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