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 othergirls. 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, asusual, 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 pickedup 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. Nothingbad 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 Ifound 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 meby 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 changemy 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. "I wish she weren't real," I murmured. They nodded. "Now come to town," Sootie said, tugging at my arm. "Before all the fabric is gone!" I looked out at the sparkling bay and sighed. I couldn't very well hide forever, could I? I brushed off my hands on my skirt, tugged my bonnet over my wild red curls, and stood up. "Very well," I agreed, and then gave them a small wink. "But if Sally Biddle comes to haunt me, I'm sending her after you
Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer L. Holm. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.