Authors: Golden Days
Copyright © 2007 by Mary Connealy. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 721, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.
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April 2, 1898
The Alaskan Gold Rush had turned Seattle into a madhouse.
Amy Simons hurried along the noisy, teeming street. She had taken over the job of running errands for the mission because the other teachers dreaded going outside.
Amy staggered as rough, crude men shoved past, trying to move faster. The tread of booted feet and the loud shouts of gruff voices overwhelmed all other noise. Ahead, a busy street rushed with carriages and wagons. People sick with gold fever darted across. The loud lash of a whip broke through the noise. Amy glanced at an oncoming wagon drawn by four horses.
A hard shove sent her stumbling off the wooden sidewalk. Something caught her foot so she tumbled to her hands and knees into the path of the charging horses. As she fell, she heard the shouts of alarm mingled with raucous laughter.
A roar of warning from the driver barely reached her. With a shriek of terror, she threw herself out of the path of iron shod hooves. One hoof landed solidly against her side, and her head hit the hard packed ground with a sickening thud.
hintak xóodzi! The white bear is coming!” With a deep-throated growl, a huge white bear reared up on hind legs, its claws slashing in the air.
Her father lay bleeding on the frozen ground in front of the roaring bear. He needed help. He needed her. “I will help you. I am coming, Papa.”
“Amy, wake up.”
The cold of artic ice bathed her face. The polar bear growled and slashed.
“Papa!” Amy swiped at the ice on her forehead. Her eyes flickered open. The dim light blinded her. Mercifully, she left the nightmare behind. An agonizing pain in her head nearly kept her from recognizing Mrs. McGraw holding a cool cloth to her forehead.
“You’re safe, Amy. I’m here.” The parson’s wife who helped run the Child of God Mission had been mothering her since she’d arrived as a confused, grieving twelve-year-old.
Amy’s eyes fell shut against throbbing pain; then she forced them open. Her stomach heaved. Mrs. McGraw became blurry,
and there suddenly appeared to be two of her sitting on the
“There you are, young lady.” The scolding voice echoed as if Amy heard it from across a great chasm. “Finally you’ve come back to us. Whatever on earth is hintak xóodzi?”
Where had Mrs. McGraw learned the Tlingit term for the great white bear? Amy hadn’t spoken a word of her mother’s language since she’d come south.
“It is the great white bear, a polar bear.” Mother’s accented English slipped from Amy’s lips. Years of struggling to speak more like others in Washington State were forgotten as Amy remembered the dream of her father in danger.
“Oh, polar bears. I’ve heard of those. You sounded as if you were being chased by one, dear. Were you in danger from polar bears where you lived?”
“No, although they’ve been known to rove far from their territory, I’ve never seen one. But my mother’s people were nomadic and often traveled to the far north lands. I heard stories of them.” The vicious, beautiful beast seemed to follow her into wakefulness, to roar and slash inside her head, or was the roaring and slashing from the pain?
Nausea twisted her stomach. She rested one hand on her belly as she fought down the urge to vomit. As Amy squinted up at the two Mrs. McGraws, one of them faded away while another remained behind, sitting at her side on the bed. Amy realized that, although the McGraws knew of her heredity, she never spoke of her mother’s Tlingit tribe to anyone.
Struggling to sit up, every movement sent pain tearing through her body. Her chest blazed with an ache so deep it seemed to come from her heart. Her head pounded. Agony wracked one arm and her neck.
“Now just you stay put.” Mrs. McGraw’s strong, gentle hands eased Amy back. “You’re going nowhere.”
“But dinner. I promised to help. And I. . .” Amy tried to remember what happened. “You needed flour. I am so sorry I did not get that chore done. What happened?”
“Lie back, Amy. You were run down by a freight wagon three days ago.”
“Three days?” Amy lurched upright again. The movement sent a shaft of pain through her chest and her right arm. Her left arm lashed her with pain when she moved it to clutch at her chest. Amy encountered heavy bandages wrapped tight around her ribs. She stifled a groan. “The children and the classes—I have left everything for you.”
Mrs. McGraw’s chubby, competent hands rested with gentle firmness on Amy’s shoulders. “We’ve managed, child. We missed you, but we got by. Now don’t fret.”
Amy knew that was more than true. She wasn’t needed, but Mrs. McGraw was too kind to say so. It hadn’t mattered so much when she’d been paying tuition to go to school and helping out with teaching duties. But this year, her father’s tuition money hadn’t come. Amy had been trying to earn her keep, but due to Mrs. McGraw’s hard work and efficiency, there was little to do.
“You’re battered and bruised everywhere, but nothing’s broken. You just need rest and lots of it, and you’ll be good as new. I’m mighty relieved you’re awake, though. You’ve been as still as death for the most part, then restless at times as if a nightmare gripped you. We’ve near worn out God’s ears with our prayers.”
Amy forced herself to lie still, though she felt an urgency to be on her feet, caring for herself.
Mrs. McGraw carefully passed a bowl of steaming chicken soup to Amy. Amy forced her left arm to work as she took the bowl. With an encouraging pat, Mrs. McGraw left to feed the children in residence at the orphanage. Amy quit pretending to be strong. She set the spoon aside and drank the soup down using only her right hand.
The dream of her father fighting for his life haunted her. He needed her.
A few minutes later, Parson McGraw stopped by. “Awake at last, young lady? Excellent!” The parson’s sparkling blue eyes, half concealed behind a shaggy head of dark hair threaded with gray, reminded Amy of her father.
“Parson, I’ve got to go home.”
His eyebrows snapped together. “What’s this? Why, Amy, home is Alaska. You don’t want any part of these madmen heading north.”
The newspaper called them
, and Amy thought that described them very well. “I have to go. There has been no letter from Papa in too long. And I’m taking up space better given to the children.”
“Now we’ve been a spell between your father’s letters before. Not this long, but it’s too early to worry. And there’s always room in our home for you.”
“I know, and I thank you for that. But Seattle has never been my home; you know that.”
The parson nodded. “I’ve always known you’d return to the north country, but now isn’t right. My heart tells me you should wait.”
Wait on the Lord.
The words startled her as if someone had spoken them aloud but from within. She refused to be deterred. “I am going. I have to.”
Parson McGraw’s eyes softened, and his kind expression grew serious. “This morning during my Bible-reading time I found a verse that seems very appropriate to this moment. In fact, I’m wondering if God didn’t guide my hand to select those pages and that passage.”
“What passage is that?”
“It’s from Isaiah. It says, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ The verse touched me because we’d been so worried about you, and those words encouraged me greatly. But now I’m wondering if God didn’t lead me to them for you as much as for me.”
Amy swallowed, fighting to keep her determination strong in the face of the parson’s gentle wisdom.
“I have such a powerful desire to go home, Parson. I cannot stay here knowing Papa has tarried so long with his letter. He may be in danger. I have to go see.”
He tried to dissuade her. Later his wife took her turn. Amy slept poorly that night, awakening in pain every time she shifted in bed, haunted by nightmares when she did slumber.
And under the pain and the nightmares, both awake and asleep, whispered a voice that said,
Perhaps the Lord himself urged her to accept the generosity of these kind people. But rest went against her nature, and taking charity hurt her independent spirit nearly as badly as the bruises hurt her body.
She wanted the midnight sun.
She wanted the vast, rugged beauty of her home.
She wanted Alaska.
April 14, 1898
On board the steamship Northward
on the Inside Passage to Alaska
A thick-soled boot nearly landed on her drawn-in toes. “Miss?”
Amy jumped at the gravelly voice. Her ribs punished her for the sudden movement.
The man crouched beside her, entering her line of vision as she looked up. Worry cut lines between his dark red brows. “I noticed you didn’t eat.”
She twisted awkwardly to face him and gasped as pain stabbed her.
“Are you all right?” His hair shone red, longish and neglected like her father’s. Unruly curls blew in the salt-water breeze.
His skin was fair, his cheeks chapped by the cold spring air. His face bore the stubble of their week-long passage on the ship. Between the rolling of the ship and the absence of hot water, shaving was impossible. One large freckled hand with clean, blunt fingers, held a plate full of what passed for food on this wretched ship. The bracing wind had banished any aroma of the plate of beans. Just as well. The aroma amounted to a stench.
She didn’t answer his question. Admitting how weak she felt put her at a disadvantage. She knew too well the ways of the wild where a wounded member of a herd faced the destiny of being picked out by the wolves. For pure survival, she forced herself to eat once a day, but she preferred hunger to the mob scene in the galley.
Amy looked at the man’s shining blue eyes and felt as if she could see the wide Alaskan sky. She was tempted to search their depths until she saw home. As she looked closer, she saw that something dimmed the glow. He seemed to bear some weight that surrounded and smothered him. The missionaries had spoken sternly of proper behavior, but nothing about this man seemed dangerous.
“Thank you. That is very kind.” She reached a hand toward the plate and nearly snatched it back when she saw how it trembled. She didn’t think of herself as weak, but her hand told a different story. She didn’t like her weakness revealed to this stranger.
He handed the plate over along with a fork, then turned and settled on the deck beside her. “This is a nice spot. I hope you don’t mind my intruding.”
She noticed he shifted around until his body blocked the wind for her—another kindness. “No, of course not. It is so close inside. I needed some fresh air.”
“Close, huh? A nice word for people packed like sardines into the belly of a converted freighter with no windows, no baths, and no manners.” He turned to look at her as she scooped up the first bite.
She smiled at the Irish lilt in his voice.
“Name’s Braden Rafferty. It’s a sad day when a little lady like you sets off with a boatful of madmen on the hunt for a pot o’ gold.”
Amy grinned. “I am Amy Simons.”
She was tempted to tell him her real name. Papa had thought she’d be treated better with a more American name, and she’d respected his wishes.
“My father is in Alaska close to the area where they found gold. I am forced to accompany seven hundred madmen north.” She flinched and turned, mindful of her ribs. “I am sorry. I did not mean to imply you are a madman.”
She glanced sideways. Braden smiled. The smile broke slowly across his face. It seemed at odds with the downward furrows around his mouth as if his natural expression was always sad. And the smile didn’t reach his eyes—as if no amount of amusement could touch him. But for all of that, it was a nice smile.
“In my own way I reckon I
a madman. I’m joining my brother. He’s got a claim north of Skaguay. He didn’t go all the way into the Klondike. Some old trapper convinced him he’d find all the gold he wanted far closer to civilization.”
Some old trapper
made Amy think of her father.
“Not sure if he’s found any. He didn’t send much money home to buy supplies. But he has found himself a wife, built a cabin, and sounds content.” Braden’s smile faded. “Now here I am, leaving a prosperous farm and my parents, who need me. That’s madness, I reckon.”
Amy scooped up more food, only now realizing how hungry she’d become. She did her best not to taste the bland, mushy mess, but she felt steadier as her stomach filled.
“So, you’re going with this hoard to Dawson’s Creek, is that right?” Braden settled against the bulkhead as Amy scraped the last bite of food off her plate.
Shaking her head, she swallowed. “I am taking this ship to Sitka, then on to Skaguay. From there, I will hike up the Skaguay River to my father’s cabin. He is deep enough in the wilderness as it is. No need to tramp another five hundred miles.” Amy heard her voice taking on the sound of her mother. More and more since the accident two weeks ago, she’d found herself reverting to the heavily accented English she’d learned from her Tlingit mother and Russian father. She liked the sound of the broader vowels and the simplicity of speaking without contractions.
Braden sat up straighter and faced her. “I disembark in Skaguay, too. If you’re familiar with the land, maybe you could look at the directions my brother sent.” Braden reached inside the patch pocket of his buckskin jacket.
Another man stepped in front of them. His body blocked the few pale rays of sun. Annoyed, Amy looked up.
A stocky, middle-aged man in ill-fitting work clothes dropped to his knees on the deck squarely in front of her. With the constant flow of miners at his back, he crowded too close to Amy. Then he smiled at her in a way that reminded her that her name
“Mind if I steal a bit o’ space out’a the wind, folks?”
Since the deck wasn’t hers to give or take, Amy didn’t see how she could say no. She did notice that the man wasn’t out of the wind. He looked blue-lipped and miserable. No light of fanatic gold fever shone in his eyes. Amy glanced at the man’s hands—soft city hands. Lots of city folks had thrown in on the hunt for gold, but you could read the hunger in their eyes. Why would this man be going north if not driven by that same hunger?
“Name’s Barnabas Stucky, miss. I see you’re travelin’ alone. Y’ever need any help, you ask for Barnabas, and I’ll come’a runnin’.”
Barnabas Stucky struck her as more dangerous than most men, and she trusted her instincts.
The fur traders she’d grown up with came in all kinds. Although with her Russian blood, Amy didn’t have coloring or skin as dark as most Tlingits, when she was with her mother, she had faced occasional prejudice. She’d met those who would be kind to a Tlingit child, those that would avoid a child out of awkwardness, and those who were dangerous to anyone, child or adult. Stucky fit with the latter group.
“Thank you, sir. I am fine, but I will remember your offer.” She looked away, hoping the man would leave.
Braden took the plate from Amy. Amy glanced at him, then sideways at Mr. Stucky. Stucky’s eyes narrowed. He took a hard look at Braden, making obvious motions for him to leave. Stucky’s eyes sharpened as if eager to be alone with Amy.
She grabbed Braden’s hand.