My name is Violet Channing. Orphaned at a young age, I found myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me died.
I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, at his death my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors.
In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire was my greatest fear.
My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor.
“It’s just a cold,” she said.
But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee. “Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.”
Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”
Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her.
Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory. At the corner grocery, I bought a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. On the Classifieds page, an ad caught my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”
I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Could this be the answer?
Before I could grow fainthearted, I penned an application and mailed it off to the address.
A week later, I received a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulsed through me as I withdrew the note which requested that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.
Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dressed carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invited me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson described the job.
Her granddaughter, Jenny, was recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother had died, and the girl’s father needed a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.
The job offer sounded too good to be true until she told me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!
Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I knew about the Yukon was that it is wild and frigid. Did I have the courage to go there?
I thought of my shabby apartment. I had nothing to keep me here, but would I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox?
I decided to take the leap. Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fell in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.
About the Author
ANNALEE CONTI’s experiences growing up in a missionary family in Alaska in the fifties and sixties provide inspiration for her writing. She has published numerous short stories, devotionals, articles, and church school curriculum on assignment for Gospel Publishing House, as well as four books. Beside Still Waters is the third novel in her Alaskan Waters Trilogy that tells the life and death saga of a Norwegian immigrant family who battles the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies.
AnnaLee is also a teacher and ordained minister, who resides with her husband in the Mid-Hudson River Valley. Together, they have pastored churches in New York State for more than 35 years and are now retired. Learn more about AnnaLee and her books at www.annaleeconti.comand sign up for her inspirational blog at http://annaleeconti.blogspot.com/.