Authors: Nikki Tate
1.Â Â Â Carson City
2.Â Â Â Dayton
3.Â Â Â Miller's
4.Â Â Â Fort Churchill
5.Â Â Â Buckland's
6.Â Â Â Shelly Creek
7.Â Â Â Cold Springs
8.Â Â Â Jacob's Spring
9.Â Â Â Dry Creek
10. Grubb's Well
11. Robert's Creek
12. Sulphur Springs
13. Diamond Springs
14. Jacob's Well
16. Mountain Springs
17. Cherry Bend
19. Egan Canyon
Copyright Â© 2002 Nikki Tate
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Tate, Nikki, 1962-
1. Pony express--Juvenile fiction. I. Title.
PS8589.A8735J67 2002Â Â Â Â Â Â jC813'54Â Â Â Â C2002-910250-2
Summary: In 1860, a young girl escapes from an orphanage in Carson City, disguises herself as a boy, and joins the Pony Express where danger and adventure await.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002102203
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support of its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design by Christine Toller
Cover & interior illustrations by Stephen McCallum
Printed and bound in Canada
Teachers' guide available.
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 5626, Station B
Victoria, BC Canada
IN THE UNITED STATES
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 468
Custer, WAÂ Â USA
04Â Â 03Â Â 02Â Â â¢Â Â Â 5Â Â Â 4Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 1
For Toby in anticipation of future reading adventures
and for Dad and Stew, who both urged me
to “Go West.”
The chestnut mare galloped across the flats outside Salt Lake City.
“Go!” I pressed my heels to her sides, wrapped my fingers in her wild tangle of mane, and urged her on, my own hair whipping about my face.
I laughed, thinking of the warm biscuits and gravy Ma would have ready when I got home. I'd give Marigold's legs a good rubdown when we got back to the farm. Already I could feel her muscles unknotting beneath my hands.
Marigold took the bit between her teeth and bolted.
“Watch out!” I screamed, hauling her head to the side, desperate to turn her so she didn't step in the â
Marigold lurched as her foot hit the rabbit hole. With a sickening
, she stumbled. Down she went, her eyes wild. I sailed over her shoulder, my mouth gaping as I tried to scream. Only a harsh gargle came out as I hit the ground.
. For a moment I thought it was Marigold, trotting away without me. But the chink and jingle of harness and the rumble of a heavy cart made no sense.
I opened my eyes to the shadowy gray shapes of the orphanage sleeping room. I swear, I didn't know whether to laugh with joy because Marigold hadn't really broken her leg or weep with the knowledge that I was still at the Carson City Home for Unfortunate Girls. There would be no warm biscuits and gravy, for my mother was dead, lost in childbirth along with my tiny
baby sister, Grace. At the thought of my dear mother and sister, my eyes stung and I rolled onto my stomach and buried my face in the pillow.
Sliding my hand along the rough sheet, I felt for my penknife hidden under the pillow. All around, thirteen other girls slept, their breathing deep and even. I envied them their last moments of rest. Heaven knows, Miss Critchett would be coming around soon enough to wake us.
“Six o'clock, ladies,” she'd say. Then we'd pray and Mrs. Pinweather would deliver a solemn sermon about proper deportment and the evils of gin before we would be allowed to form two smart lines and march â in silence â to the eating hall.
Breakfast was never a meal to get excited about. Porridge and weak tea filled our bellies, I suppose, but my, how I missed Ma's biscuits and bacon. Worst of all, we had to eat that paltry meal without speaking a single word. Now why, I ask you, would the good Lord have put tongues in our heads
if he didn't mean for us to make good use of them?
Miss Critchett and Mrs. Pinweather saw things otherwise. Both held the opinion that excessive chatter was one of many behaviors considered pernicious. They never explained exactly what
meant, but they made it clear that it was neither
conducive to the development of good moral character
Supposing nobody dropped dead of boredom during the morning lessons in reading, writing, and numbers, we were allowed an hour for a silent dinner before afternoon lessons in deportment and domestic studies. Those, I loathed more than anything. I'm no good at needlepoint and mending. Why should we be judged as valuable or not based on how perfectly we can stitch
Lord Bless This Home
? Nobody asked whether any of us could gentle a foal, handle a team, or start three-year-olds under saddle. At these I was as skilled as any boy, but at the orphanage it was considered most unladylike to be
interested in the work of men.
Wide awake after my horrible dream about Marigold, I crept to the window and ran my fingers under the window ledge just as I had done every morning since July 8
, 1859, the day my brothers left me behind. One notch for each day of my imprisonment.
. I dug the tip of my knife into the soft wood and made a slanted mark through the previous four.
“One hundred,” I whispered. One hundred days since my brothers had abandoned me. One hundred and two days since the death of my father on the wagon trail. Fifty-six days since my twelfth birthday.
I closed my eyes and pressed my forehead to the windowpane. What would Pa think of me being here and the boys going on to California? Surely that was not what Pa had in mind when, through his pain and fever, he had said, “Jackson? Will? You take care of little Joselyn, you hear?”
My throat felt funny when I thought of him lying in the back of the wagon,
his face flushed, his skin dry and hot, and his wounded foot oozing and swollen so big I couldn't even see his toes.
Joselyn, I scolded myself, that's no way to remember your beloved Pa, God rest his soul. Don't dwell on such things.
Outside, two men rode past, hats pulled low and shoulders hunched against the cold. I rubbed my arms: Miss Critchett didn't believe in wasting coal while we slept. Creeping back into bed, I tugged the gray blanket up around the back of my neck. Miss Critchett didn't believe in thick blankets, either.
The one-hundredth day. Perhaps it would be different from the ninetynine others that had come before. I wrapped the blanket more closely about me, for once eager to hear Miss Critchett's footsteps in the hall.
“But, Ma'am â ”
I sat back down on the bench, too low to see out the window. The door burst open and Miss Critchett entered, her skirts swirling, her hands twisting together. She whispered something to Mrs. Pinweather and our teacher's hand flew to her mouth. Both women turned to stare toward the window and the other girls shifted uneasily on the benches.
“In â di â ans.” I mouthed the word
to Mary Brown who sat beside me. She bit down so hard her teeth made two white lines in her bottom lip.
“Here?” she whispered.
I nodded. Outside, the street was filled with Indian men on ponies.
The two women spoke in hushed voices. Mary Brown reached for my hand.