Good afternoon, miss. I can see you’re in a hurry, but can you spare a moment to answer a few questions for the readers of Novel PASTimes?
Yes, but only a few, I’m anxious to board my ship.
Of course, as are most of the people we’ve spoken with on the wharf today. Shall we begin with your name?
My name is Eliza Brooks—though some folks may know me as Eli.
That’s a rather unusual name for young lady.
Well, Aunt Cecilia doesn’t like me to talk about it, but I spent some time working the gold fields with Pa. He thought it’d be safer for me to dress as a boy while we were there. Using my full name would have given the pie away, so we shortened it.
I find it difficult to believe a woman as lovely as you managed to pass herself off as a boy.
Well, that was a few years back. Things have changed a lot since then.
Eliza is a lovely name. Is there a story behind it?
I was named after my grandmother—Pa’s ma. Her name was Elizabeth and at first my parents wanted to name me that, but grandma insisted it would be too confusing. So they shortened it to Eliza.
Are you close with your grandmother?
She passed on a few years back. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much more than her pretty smile and warm hugs. She lived in Ohio and my folks moved us out west when I was just seven because Ma had a hankering for adventure and Pa never could tell her no.
He must really love her.
More than you can know. I only hope I can someday find someone to love and who loves me as much they loved each other. You should have seen them waltz. It was like you’d imagine in the fairytales—the ones that fancy tutor read. He had a funny English accent and was supposed to be turning me into a lady, but I drove him so crazy, he finally gave up and started reading in the corner every day until my aunt caught him at it and fired him. Poor man. It wasn’t his fault I had no interest in things like serving a proper tea. Why a person can’t just fill the cups, pass them out, and let people add their own cream or sugar or honey or whatever, I’ll never understand.
Is it safe to assume you and your aunt don’t get along well?
That’s putting it mildly. She’s been trying to get rid of me since the day we met. Lately she’s been trying to marry me off to anyone dumb enough to accept her supper invitations.
I’m sorry to hear that.
Thanks, but I’d rather not talk about her anymore. She just did something… Look, Can we please just talk about something else?
No problem. It sounds like you’ve lived something of an adventurous life, traveling from Ohio, living in the gold fields, and now you’re in San Francisco.
Pa and I lived in Oregon, too, before we came to California.
Were you homesteaders there?
We were and I loved it. It’s so beautiful, so peaceful. No dirty miners turning the rivers to muck and scaring off all the game. No noisy street vendors or drunks wandering the streets. Just the trees and the birds and the little cabin Pa and I built together.
Is that where you’re off to now?
No, I’m boarding the Virginia bound for San Diego.
Where’s your escort?
I’ll be traveling with the captain’s wife. She’s waiting for me onboard. Speaking of which, I’d better get going.
Please wait. I only have a few more questions.
*tapping her foot* Very well, but make it quick. This carpetbag is getting heavy.
What draws you to such a small port town like San Diego?
My pa is there.
You appear anxious. What’s troubling you?
I haven’t received a letter from him in months.
Is that unsual?
Yes! Why does no one understand that? Pa would never just stop writing me without explanation. Something has happened and I must find him. He needs me.
Find him? I thought you said he was in San Diego.
Well, that’s where his last letter said he was going to look for work.
But you said it’s been months since you received that letter. Wouldn’t he have moved on by now?
Of course, he may have moved on, but it’s the only clue I have and I’ve got to start somewhere. I can’t just keep waiting when he might be lying on his sickbed somewhere, wishing I would to come to him. Wouldn’t you go if you’re pa were missing?
My pa can handle himself.
Well, mine can’t. Not really. He forgets to eat, to sleep. He works himself until he’s sick if I’m not there to remind him to take a break.
What if you don’t find him?
I willfind him.
I say, who is that gentleman glaring down at us from the deck of the Virginia?
Oh, that’s just Mr. Clarke. He’s a carpenter who used to work for my uncle but Mr. Clarke’s headed back east now. Apparently his fiancée is waiting for him.
He doesn’t appear pleased to see you.
There was a misunderstanding when he came to supper at my aunt and uncle’s house a couple weeks ago. I’d rather not discuss it. In fact, I really must board now. The captain’s wife will be wondering where I am.
Very well. Thank you for taking this time to speak with us, Miss. Brooks. I wish you a safe journey and will pray that you find your father healthy and happy to see you.
I appreciate that. Good day.
Kathleen Denly writes stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. She enjoys finding the lesser known pockets of history and bringing them to life through the joys and struggles of her characters.
Sunny southern California, a favorite setting in her stories, is also her home. She lives there with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories.
Kathleen’s debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness,released February 4, 2020 and is available wherever books are sold.
When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, she spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.
Always happy to hear from her readers, you can email Kathleen and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. You might also consider joining Kathleen’s Readers’ Clubto learn the latest updates, receive exclusive content and be eligible for KRC exclusive giveaways!