Authors: Janine McCaw
Tags: #romance, #history, #mining, #british columbia, #disasters, #britannia beach
Letting his guard down was not something
William Bower was want to do, even amongst his family, as he
suddenly remembered. He cleared his throat and glanced at his
“Get inside and say good-bye to your Mother.
It’s time we were off to the docks.”
Olivia turned and took one last glance at her
childhood home. Nothing, she knew, was ever going to be the
As the boat headed north towards the
international border, Olivia smiled, remembering the last few
moments she had shared with her father by the pier. She took a
moment to gaze at the beautiful scenery surrounding her. Mount
Rainier was a magnificent snow topped sight in the distance.
“What are you staring at, Olivia?” William
“The mountain. It is always different. All
fourteen thousand feet of it. Every time you look at it, it’s never
quite the same. Whenever I lost direction, I would just look up and
find it, and I knew it was to the southeast. I am not going to know
where my southeast is anymore. I want to hold this vision in my
“You’re going up the coast to an ore-mining
town. I suspect you’ll be sick of seeing mountains soon enough,”
her father had laughed.
The Captain of the steamer the Northern Mary,
Frenchie Cates, had leaned over the stern side of the vessel.
Olivia noticed its home port was Britannia Beach, British Columbia.
The boat belonged there, and soon she would too.
“Fitzpatrick,” he had yelled. “Get yer
kiester aboard m’ship. Time’s a wastin’. I gotta get ‘er goin’
while the tides awit’ me. I called ye once, me mate called ye
twice, if ye aren’t here, we’re leavin’ witout ye.
“That’s you, you know,” William cajoled.
“Oh my heavens, I forgot…” Olivia said,
astonished. “My married name hasn’t quite sunk in.”
“Daddy, please…” she pleaded.
“You’re right. I’ve said my peace. Good-bye
Mrs. Fitzpatrick,” said her father as he kissed her good-bye on the
“Give my love to mama,” she said. “I’m sorry
she didn’t come to see me off. Tell her to please stop crying.”
“She’ll be fine Olivia. She’ll be busy once
the baby comes.”
“You know Dad, she is getting a little old
William’s voice became embarrassingly
“There are things, Olivia, that a respectable
woman does not discuss, not even…especially not with her
Olivia returned the tone of the voice.
“There are things, my father, that a
respectable man, does not do, or at least is more careful
An awkward moment of silence was slowly
broken as a smirk crossed her father’s face.
“Git yer kiester aboard the boat, before I
throw ye in,” he laughed, mimicking the Captain’s accent. “Have a
safe journey. Godspeed, my child.”
With that, Olivia had boarded the boat the
Northern Mary, waving good-bye to her father and the rather
affluent lifestyle she had been raised in. The Bowers may not have
been the richest family in Seattle, but they were far from the
poorest. William Bower’s family had been in the banking business
for generations, most recently in California, and were only now
going their separate ways, diversifying and using their family
connections to spread the new found wealth amongst the old found
few. Michael Bower Jr., Olivia’s oldest uncle, remained in the
banking business along with her grandfather, who had not yet
retired. Mackenzie “Mac” Bower, the second born son in her father’s
family, was the attorney general for the State of Oregon. Aaron
Bower, the next in line, was the risk taker, and had several
interests, some legal, some not, including a newspaper chain, a
metal fabricating plant and running Mexican tequila up through
Olivia’s father had met her mother, Grace,
and became betrothed to her while he was away attending university.
Grace was the daughter of the mayor of Los Angeles, California.
Olivia’s grandfather had found that a good business match for his
son William, and her uncles were envious for the same reason, her
father had told her, particularly Uncle Mac, who had a few other
reasons of his own to be jealous.
“One of your Uncle Aaron’s football
team-mates had set him up with Grace, but he wasn’t sure he wanted
to go,” her father had told her. “So he wanted me to arrive early
and see what she was like. If she was less than desirable, I was to
make excuses for Uncle Aaron, meet him at the concession stand and
he would sit somewhere else in the ballpark and watch the game. We
were cads, no doubt about it. I got there a half an hour before the
game, and there she was, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
So I made excuses for Uncle Aaron anyway, told him she was as ugly
as sin, and stole her away. I don’t think he’s truly forgiven me
for it, to this day.”
William had instantly fallen in love with
Grace and would have married her whether she was rich or poor. But
as it happened her family was quite well off and rich didn’t hurt
as his banker father had pointed out.
William and Grace’s children had led very
comfortable lives. There was always plenty of food and no such
thing as hand-me downs. William, being the youngest in his own
family, had enough of those in his life because Michael Sr. said he
was “rich, not stupid” and refused to throw anything out. Of
William’s girls, Anne, the first-born, became a nun. She had been
born with a quieter disposition and was always a bit of a loner.
Olivia, the middle daughter and Emily the youngest, were both quite
boisterous, and had insisted upon the requisite coming-out parties
into Seattle society. What parties they had been! There had been
dancing until dawn. Hundreds of guests from up and down the Pacific
coast had come to wish them well. Of the boys, Jason, the oldest,
was still trying to find himself, and Bill, who was definitely a
Billy and would never be a William, was studying to get his
carpenter’s ticket. The generations of Bower bankers were not
continuing down this particular branch of the family tree, William
noted, with some sadness, but not surprise.
Olivia had never been to Canada before. She
had met several wealthy Canadians at parties that her parents
hosted every now and then at their home, so she knew they were not
very different from Americans. Not like the Oriental workers that
her father had hired to work on the railway lines stretching down
the Pacific coast. They had brought with them completely different
customs and beliefs and a language barrier Olivia had found
But she was leaving everything thing she knew
behind her, and beginning a journey of her own.
A low whistle from Captain Cates brought
Olivia out of her daydream.
“Yer gonna strain ye neck if ye keep gawkin’
at dat pile a’ rock, misses.”
“The mountains on the horizon, do they go all
the way to Canada, Captain?”
“Aye, up de coast as far as I’ve ever
bin. Course, I’ve been doin’ dis stretch of the Pacific Nor’ West
for thirty odd years now. It’s been the liven’ fer me, so I dunt
see no sense in goin’ any ferder. Gets too cold. Dat’s Mount Baker
Part of de Cascade
Range. I tink e’s one of those volcanoes, but it be
He winked at her.
“Pretty soon,” he continued, “we’ll be inta
de Coastal Mountains. I suppose you’ll be gawkin’ at dem too. Dat’s
okay. Visiters always do. Sorry ‘bout yellin’ at ye earlier. I was
tinkin’ I was waitin’ for a man. Dat’s what dey told me, eh. Told
me to pick up a Mister O. Fitzpatrick. Ye can see how I was
confused. Why don’t ye come inside lady, it’s gettin’ a little cool
out. Ye can meet de odder misses we picked up, and her
Olivia studied the Captain. He must be in his
early sixties, she thought. His grey beard covered the weather worn
skin on his lower face. His eyes were the colour of the sea, a
stormy grey-blue that she envisioned had seen many hardships over
the years. His teeth betrayed the years of chewing tobacco he had
enjoyed. He did not wear a traditional nautical captain’s cap that
her father’s friends with sailboats had worn. He favoured a red
“It is a little cool,” Olivia agreed. She had
bundled up in a new blue wool pea coat for the journey, but the
wind was picking up. They started to make their way into the cabin.
“You know Captain Cates, if I were an artist and someone asked me
to paint the image of a mariner, I think I’d paint him just like
you. You are just like I would have imagined. I get a sense you’ve
been very happy at sea over the years.”
“I’ll take dat like a compliment
Olivia noticed him stretch and flex his hand.
He had arthritis like her mother did. He wouldn’t be sailing the
seas much longer.
“Please do,” she said. “Captain, I’m a little
confused about your accent. It’s not like any Canadian accent I’ve
ever heard before.”
“Ach, yeh. It’s a little bit of dis n’
a little bit of dat, eh misses? Me fadder, ‘e was a Scotsman. Nae
just south of Edinburra ‘e was. Came over ‘ere on one of the Royal
ships as a stowaway. Dey shudda tossed ‘im o’er, but ‘e could cook
up a storm. Dey kept ‘im when the first cook died a’ scurvy. I
‘eard a tale dat it wasn’t really scurvy, dat me fadder just says
dat cuz ‘e poisoned ‘im on purpose, so ‘e could stay like, but I
dunna. “E met me mum somewhere down de St. Lawrence. ‘Dat’s a big
river. She was a French-Canadian Indian. ‘Er mum was an Iroquois,
and rumour has it ‘er dad was a Jesuit priest.” The Captain put his
finger aside his nose. “On the Q.T. like. So, I reckon I’m like a
bottle of good Scotch whiskey…well blended. I grew up in Sept-Iles,
dat’s in Quebec, speakin’ French and what me dad called an abuse of
de English language. But I speak French real good.
Course I dunt get
much use fer it out ‘ere.”
“You said there was another woman on
“Aye, ‘er name is Lucy Bentall. Bin down to
Olympia to see ‘er kin. Show off da kiddies. Lives at de Beach too,
she does. I know ‘er husband Marty. Good man. Some sort of
mineralogist or sometin’. Knows ‘is rocks. Spends most of ‘is time
in the caves, ‘e does. Been to university and all dat. I tink ‘e
was even a professor once, but now ‘e spends ‘is days in de dark.
Makes ya kinda wunder, eh misses? What’s yer fella do up der?”
“I suspect he works in the tunnels too,
although I don’t know exactly what it is he does. He’s a
“Me big foot’s been goin’ in me bigger gob a
lot today, eh misses? Ach ye well, it ain’t de sea, mining, but
it’s an ‘onest livin’, I’ll give yer dat.”
He opened the door to let Olivia inside the
main cabin. He was shocked by what he saw, a young sandy haired
boy, barely more than a toddler, steering the ship.
“Ach matey,” he yelled to the strapping
middle-aged man on beside the boy. Whadda ye doin’ lettin’ de
laddie at de wheel? We’re gonna wind up in the Japans if ye keep
“Sorry sir,” the first mate replied. “I was
only trying to keep the lad amused for a moment. I wanted to keep
his mind off things as he was telling me he was a little tummy
“Come on now wee Robbie, down you get.” The
Captain good-naturedly took the boy by the hand. “Mon Dieu, it’s
‘ard to get good ‘elp dees days, ye know misses?” said the Captain,
shaking his head. “Ach well, no ‘arm dun, as de say matey. Da
waters are pretty still today, the laddie shouldn’t get sickly.
Misses Fitzpatrick, why dun ye take the lad to ‘is mum. I tink
she’s in me private cabin just o’er dere,” he motioned with his
head. “Just go past de galley. Wait, where’s me manners? I canna
let ye go up der until yer properly introduced.”
The Captain took his sextant and tapped on
“Hey, Lucy!” he yelled. “Get yerself round
‘ere. I’ve got someone fer ye to meet.”
The other passenger came out from the private
Lucy Bentall was perhaps one of the most
strikingly handsome women that Olivia had ever met. Her red,
flowing, curly hair betrayed her Irish descent, yet the freckles
that she had, fell only upon her prominent cheekbones, not all over
her body like most of the red heads Olivia had encountered in her
life. It was as if they had been hand painted on a porcelain
She appeared to be in her mid-twenties. She
was tall compared to Olivia. She may have been five-ten, with a
svelte frame that carried her well. She showed no outward signs of
having borne either Robbie, or the tiny baby girl in her arms. She
had the most piercing green eyes Olivia had ever seen. Olivia had
never met many women with green eyes, and certainly not with that
beautiful strawberry hair. She was dressed in a bright red Stewart
tartan skirt, a heavy red Aryan cable sweater with a matching
tartan coat. Her outfit stood out in bright contrast to the
weathered backdrop of the interior of the old boat.
“Lucy Bentall,” the Captain started, “dis
‘ere is Misses Fitzpatrick. I dunna know ‘er given name yet, but
when ye find out ye can tell me and den if it’s okay, I’ll call ‘er
dat because she doesn’t answer very well to Fitzpatrick.”
He noticed Olivia’s pained expression.
“Ach, I’m just ‘aving fun whit ye,
“Hello, Mrs. Fitzpatrick,” Lucy said,
extending her hand. “I’m Lucy Bentall.”
Olivia shook her hand.
“Her name is Olivia, Captain.”
Olivia looked at her, surprised she knew her
“She’s Frankie’s wife.”
“Ah,” the Captain said, making the
“It’s a very small town, Olivia. I already
know a lot about you. Here…” Lucy said, offering Olivia a blanket,
“…put this over your shoulders, and let’s get outside, I need a
breath of air.”