Read The Claim Online

Authors: Jennifer L. Holm

The Claim

BOOK: The Claim
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This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning those persons are fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2004 by Jennifer L. Holm

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, in 2004.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Holm, Jennifer L.
Boston Jane: the claim / by Jennifer L. Holm.—1st pbk. ed.
p. cm.
Sequel to: Boston Jane: wilderness days.
Summary: The arrival from Philadelphia of her spiteful nemesis Sally Biddle and the return of her corrupt ex-fiance William Baldt spell trouble for seventeen-year-old Miss Jane Peck, who has survived on her own in Shoalwater Bay, a community of white settlers and Chinook Indians in 1850s Washington Territory.
eISBN: 978-0-375-89401-5
[1. Frontier and pioneer life—Washington (State)—Fiction. 2. Washington Territory—History—19th century—Fiction. 3. Orphans—Fiction. 4. Chinook Indians—Fiction. 5. Indians of North America—Washington (State)—Fiction.]
I. Title.
PZ7.H732226Br 2010
[Fic]—dc22
2009005126

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

v3.1

For my father, William Holm, M.D.,
and for my aunts, Elizabeth Holm and Louise Hunter.
Oysterman’s kids, every one.

Contents
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As always, many thanks to all who have helped Jane Peck claim her place in the world.

For aiding me in my research, I would like to thank the usual suspects: Gary Johnson, Chairman of the Chinook Tribe; Bruce Weilepp of the Pacific County Historical Society; Joan Mann of the Ilwaco Heritage Museum; Paul and Ginny Merz; Elizabeth Holm, Matthew Holm and my father, William Holm, M.D. And, of course, the wonderful Janet Frick.

A special thanks to my own sewing circle: Jill Applebaum, Shana Corey, Wendy Wilson, and Mercury Schroeppel.

I owe a great debt to Willard Espy, who so wonderfully chronicled his family’s experiences on Shoalwater Bay. And also to a girl after Jane’s own heart, Louise Espy—a lady who went out to the wilderness and lived to tell about it.

Finally, a special thanks to the real Jehu Scudder for always making my coffee so perfectly.

 

In this privileged land, where we acknowledge no distinctions but what are founded on character and manners, she is a lady, who, to in-bred modesty and refinement, adds a scrupulous attention to the rights and feelings of others.


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

CHAPTER ONE
or,
Old Ghosts

I was standing on
a high bluff looking out at the vast shimmering sweep of blue-green water that was Shoalwater Bay.

Spring was in bloom, with drizzly rains and soft nights, and occasionally, a glorious day such as this one—when the sun broke out from behind the clouds and brushed the lush green wilderness with a golden tint. A sweet, salty wind swept over the waves, sending my thick, curly red hair flying in all directions. Gulls swooped and cried like nosy neighbors, diving low to the water. I should have been strolling through town, enjoying this rare and dazzling May day. Unfortunately, I was not feeling very well.

As a matter of fact, I was puking.

I had thought she was a ghost, perched behind Jehu in the back of a rowboat heading toward shore. I wished she were a ghost.

I retched again, but there was nothing left in my stomach.

Sally Biddle
. With her wealthy family and faultless manners, she had been the belle of Philadelphia society when I lived there.
But beneath her blond ringlets and fashionable gowns, she was a perfect monster, one whose chief amusement was tormenting other girls. Or at least one girl. Me. She had contrived to make my childhood a misery. And whenever I had earned small victories, Sally had always made me pay for them tenfold.

Trust me, you would puke, too.

Sally was one of the reasons I had been so eager to leave Philadelphia to put an entire continent between us. And now, here she was. What possible reason could my childhood tormentor have for following me to the farthest reaches of the Washington Territory? It made no sense. Had she traveled all this way just to torture me?

But there was no denying it. She was real. No ghost would wear such an elegant dress with a matching cape and smart bonnet. Why, Sally looked as if she were on her way to tea, and not arriving from a sea voyage of several months. She looked perfect, as usual, not at all like the sad sack I had been upon my arrival more than a year earlier.

When Jehu’s rowboat had hit the sandy beach, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach exploded, and a single thought thrummed in my head:

Sally Biddle is here!

Sally had stood up and held out a hand to Jehu, and the sight of that gloved hand resting on Jehu’s strong arm as he helped her to shore had shaken me like nothing else could. I had done the only thing a lady could do in such a situation. I had picked up my skirts and run all the way up here to the high bluff to be sick in private.

Now, with each breath of crisp air, I felt my stomach settle and a measure of calm return to me. I was on
my claim
, I told myself over and over, like a litany. Behind me was the beginning of the beautiful new home my sweet Jehu was building me. Nothing bad could happen to me here.

Something in the distance caught my eye. A blond-haired figure was slowly strolling through the woods, pausing here and there. At first glance I feared Sally Biddle had followed me, but then I saw that it was clearly a man, and not a lady.

“Boston Jane!” a voice cried from the other direction.

I turned to see little Sootie and her cousin Katy barreling toward me, dolls in tow. When I looked back to where the figure had been, he was gone, vanished into the thick dark woods.

“We’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Sootie exclaimed in a rush.

Sootie was a whirligig of energy. With her thick black hair, copper skin, and bright, excited eyes, the daughter of Chief Toke of the Chinook tribe took after her mother, my friend Suis, who had died in the smallpox epidemic the previous year.

“Star’s has new fabric! It just arrived on the schooner!” she exclaimed in a rush, waving her rag doll at me.

Sootie, like her mother before her, was a skilled trader, and she had amassed a small collection of dolls from other children of the settlement through her skillful dealings. I had promised her that I would make a dress for this latest doll.

“Why are you all the way out here?” Katy asked curiously.

Katy, the eleven-year-old daughter of a local pioneer and his Chinook wife, had inherited the fair skin of her father and the
brown eyes and lustrous black hair of her mother. She was an uncommonly beautiful little girl with a gentle disposition that I found charming.

“I’m hiding from a
memelose
,” I said lightly.

“A
memelose
?” Katy asked in hushed tones, looking around nervously. “Really?”

Memelose
was the Chinook word for spirit.

“You should change your name, Boston Jane,” Sootie said, all seriousness. “Then the
memelose
won’t be able to find you.”

The Chinook believed that if you changed your name, you could outwit a
memelose
who wanted to lure you to the other side. And in a manner of speaking, I had done just that. I was now known to many here on the bay as Boston Jane, a name bestowed upon me by my Chinook friends and dear to me for what it implied. Boston Jane was a woman of courage. She had survived and endured in the wilderness, carving a place for herself in this fragile settlement at the edge of the frontier. But I knew that I could change my name a thousand times and it would not alter the fact that Sally Biddle was here on Shoalwater Bay.

“The
memelose
has already found me,” I said.

Sootie considered this for a moment, then declared bravely, “I’m not afraid of
memeloses
!”

I wanted to tell her that Sally Biddle was one
memelose
she should fear.

“Don’t worry, Boston Jane,” Katy said. “We’ll protect you!”

“She’s not really a
memelose
,” I admitted. “She’s just a girl.” A rather disagreeable girl, I wanted to add.

“You can tell us the truth, Boston Jane. We’re not afraid,” Katy said.

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