Read In the Face of Danger Online

Authors: Joan Lowery Nixon

In the Face of Danger

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

IN THE FACE OF DANGER

 … There had been a loud, insistent knock at our door, and Megan ran to answer it. Ma and I were right behind her as she opened the door to a woman who was as dark and wrinkled as a walnut shell. Greasy strands of hair hung over her eyes
.

“A gypsy,” I heard Ma mutter under her breath
.

From under her shawl the woman stretched out a clawlike hand, palm up. “Some coins for a poor old lady?” she whined
.

Ma said firmly, “I’m sorry, but we have nothing for you.”

She had started to close the door, but the woman snatched Megan’s wrist. She poked a long and dirty finger into Megan’s palm. “Ohhh,” she sighed. “What have we here? Could it be that this child is a bad-luck penny?”

“None of that now!” Ma snapped. “Be on your way with that foolishness!”

Megan, whimpering with fear, tried to pull her hand away, but the gypsy’s fingers dug into her wrist. The old woman thrust her face close to Megan’s and muttered, “Bad luck will be with you and yours all the days of your life.”

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 © 1988 by Joan Lowery Nixon and Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc.

Cover art copyright © 1989 by Nigel Chamberlain

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 1988.

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

Visit us on the Web!
randomhouse.com/kids

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
RHTeachersLibrarians.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

ISBN 978-0-553-05490-3 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-440-22705-2 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-0-307-82758-6 (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 Beverly Horowitz in friendship

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 was 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

J
ENNIFER WATCHED
G
RANDMA
ladle hot cucumber pickles into a row of scalded glass jars. The recipe had been handed down in the family, Grandma had said. Jennifer wondered if her great-great-great-grandmother, Frances Mary Kelly, had made pickles like these.

She thought about the six Kelly children, Frances and her brothers and sisters, who had been sent west in 1860 to St Joseph, Missouri, on a train with twenty-two orphans from New York City to find new families to care for them when their own mothers couldn’t How frightening it must have been to be placed with strangers, wondering when you’d ever see your brothers and sisters again! Jennifer shivered at the thought.

Frances had been able to keep little Petey with her, and Peg and Danny had remained together. Mike, who had been arrested for being a pickpocket and had been allowed to go west for a second chance instead of being sent to Tombs Prison, seemed to have had the spirit and gumption to take care of any situation.

But what about Megan, the gentle, shy, twelve-year-old
sister who had been taken far from the others to live on the Kansas prairie?

Jennifer’s younger brother, Jeff, elbowed his way between Jennifer and Grandma, interrupting her thoughts. “Remember, Grandma,” he said, “you promised to tell us Megan’s story today.”

With a quick twist of the wrist, Grandma fastened the last jar top tightly. “I was just thinking of that,” she said. “This very recipe came to Frances Mary from Megan.” Jennifer smiled at that as Grandma went on. “Let’s leave the dishes until lunchtime and go out to the screened porch. There’s no better time to tell you Megan’s story than right now.”

Jeff arrived at the porch first and sprawled in one of the big chairs, the breeze from the large floor fan ruffling the hair on top of his head.

Jennifer immediately dropped into the nearest chair, eager for Grandma to begin.

Grandma sat in the rocker and opened the journal in which Frances Mary had written about her brothers and sisters. “I’ll read a little of what Frances wrote about Megan before I tell you the rest of the story,” Grandma said. She cleared her throat and began.

Maybe I worried more about Megan than any of the rest. I watched her chin tremble before she walked away, back straight and proud, hand in hand with Ben and Emma Browder, ready to face her new life without a complaint. I was heartbroken, not only because I was leaving this sister I loved so much, but because I knew that Megan unfairly blamed herself for what had happened to our family
.

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget that day in
New York City, more than two years before, when a horrible old woman made Megan think of herself as a bad luck penny
.

There had been a loud, insistent knock at our door, and Megan ran to answer it. Ma and I were right behind her as she opened the door to a woman who was as dark and wrinkled as a walnut shell. Greasy strands of hair hung over her eyes
.

“A gypsy,” I heard Ma mutter under her breath
.

From under her shawl the woman stretched out a clawlike hand, palm up. “Some coins for a poor old lady?” she whined
.

Ma said firmly, “I’m sorry, but we have nothing for you.”

She had started to close the door, but the woman snatched Megan’s wrist. She poked a long and dirty finger into Megan’s palm. “Ohhh,” she sighed. “What have we here? Could it be that this child is a bad-luck penny?”

“None of that now!” Ma snapped. “Be on your way with that foolishness!”

Megan, whimpering with fear, tried to pull her hand away, but the gypsy’s fingers dug into her wrist. The old woman thrust her face close to Megan’s and muttered, “Bad luck will be with you and yours all the days of your life.”

Megan screamed, and I let out a yelp and tried to pull her away from the gypsy. Ma picked up a broom and brandished it at the woman. “I said, be gone with you!” Ma shouted
.

As she firmly shut the door, Ma gave Megan a hug and said, “Don’t mind what that evil woman told you, love. It’s all foolishness. She was just
trying to get back at me because I wouldn’t give her money.”

Ma went back to her sewing, but the fear remained in Megan’s eyes
.

Later I found Megan talking to Old Lorenzo with the twisted legs, who sat on street corners to beg. I knew she had been asking him about gypsies, because he whispered, “Of course gypsies can see things others can’t see. Gypsies have the special gift.”

And everyone in the Russian family down the hall became upset when Megan told them about the gypsy’s visit. The grandmother crossed herself and babbled something in Russian, and Marfa, who was close to Megan’s age, quickly murmured, “Grandma says be very careful. Who can tell the effect of a gypsy’s curse?”

I pulled Megan into the hallway, urging, “Don’t listen to the others. Listen to Ma. And to me. What the gypsy told you doesn’t mean a thing. It’s all just superstition.”

But Megan held out her palm, as though trying to peer into it, and shuddered. “All the days of my life,” she whispered
.

When Da died, Megan blamed the gypsy’s curse for bringing bad luck to the family. She had blamed it for Mike’s arrest. Now she blamed it for Ma sending all of us to new homes in the West. As we were tearfully saying good-bye to one another in St. Joseph, Megan clung to my arm. “Oh, Frances, don’t you see?” she said. “All the terrible things that have happened to our family are my fault—since the gypsy made me the bad-luck penny.” She
hugged me tightly. “Maybe you’ll all be much better off without me.”

“Oh, no, Megan!” I cried. But all I could do was watch her go with the Browders and send a prayer after her. I had no way of knowing what spells of evil—or good—might be waiting for Megan
.

Other books

The Great Night by Chris Adrian
Fighter (Outsider Series) by Smeltzer, Micalea
The Banshee's Desire by Richards, Victoria
The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer
Abomination by Gary Whitta


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2022