Return to the Islandby Gloria Whelan
Is Mary home for good?
It is the spring of 1818 and Mary O'Shea has returned from England to her beloved Mackinac Island. She loves her life on the family firm and knows that she chose wisely in declining a marriage proposal from James Lindsay, a young duke she met during her travels. She is also delighted to once again spend time with/i>/h4>… See more details below
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Is Mary home for good?
It is the spring of 1818 and Mary O'Shea has returned from England to her beloved Mackinac Island. She loves her life on the family firm and knows that she chose wisely in declining a marriage proposal from James Lindsay, a young duke she met during her travels. She is also delighted to once again spend time with White Hawk, her dearest friend. And although he is often called away to defend Indian claims to native lands, Mary cherishes White Hawk's visits, and hopes that one day he will stay forever. Then suddenly Mary's future comes into question when James appears at her doorstep to ask for her hand -- and refuses to leave until she consents. Now it seems that the only way for Mary to discover what her future holds is to uncover the truth of her own heart.
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Our island of Michilimackinac had never been more alive. White-winged schooners flew in and out of the harbor. Fishermen set their nets at dawn and were back at twilight with their catch. The heartbeat of the Indian drums sounded day and night. A thousand Indians were crowded onto our shores. I could make out the Ottawa teepees, and those of the Ojibwa, and the Potawatomi. The smoke from their campfires rose and mingled with the low clouds that hung over Michilimackinac. Many of the Indians were there to receive a yearly payment in exchange for having given their land to our government. But some of them were still loyal to the British. Each spring they camped here on their way to Canada, where the British kept their friendship with generous gifts. In the fall, on their way home, the same Indians would stop on the island once again, proudly showing off jackets of fine British broadcloth and arms ringed round with gifts of silver.
The voyageurs were arriving from the east, their bateaux loaded with trade goods, their red caps and sashes bright as a cardinal's feather, their French songs drowning out the cries of the gulls. Day after day the brigades of traders returned to the island with stories of lands farther north than Superior and farther west than the great Mississippi. Their pelts were weighed and baled, put on cargo canoes, and sent down Lake Huron and across Lake Erie to Buffalo. From Buffalo the furs traveled by wagon to Albany, then once again by boat down the Hudson to New York and then across the sea. It was a journey I had made myself only two years before when I had visited my sister, Angelique, in London.
Beyond thecrowded, noisy town, the rest ofMackinac Island was unchanged. The waves still argued with the rocky shore. Forests of spruce and cedar huddled together to shut out the sunlight. The rackety eagles' nest that White Hawk had discovered in the crown of a tall pine was still there.
From my perch at the edge of our farm I looked out at Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east. In the sun their waters shone like endless bolts of blue and green silk.
It was here that we had buried Papa. The lilac bush I had planted beside his grave was bursting into bloom. Papa, who had slipped away in the autumn with no more fuss or struggle than the gentle falling of a leaf, lay beside Mama. Their gravestones read: Annette Duclouis O'Shea, born Beauvais, France, June 1774, died Michilimackinac, March 1800. Matthew O'Shea, born County Wicklow, Ireland, April 1768, died Michilimackinac, November 1817. Mama had to flee France because her family had supported the French king, while Papa had to escape from Ireland because his family had opposed the English king. Now my sister, Angelique, was married to a British man, Daniel Cunningham, and living in England with him and their nine-month-old son, Matthew. The only family I had on the island was my brother, Jacques, his wife, Little Cloud, and their son, Renard.
Before she had married and left the island Angelique had planted primroses and lilies of the valley around Mama's grave. These May flowers were blooming now, the primroses in bright yellow and purple, the lilies of the valley sending up their fragrance. Mama had died the year I was born. All I had of her was a box of her recipes and her silver cross. I had sent Angelique the miniature portrait of Mama that Papa carried always. Papa had been everything to me. He had left me the farm when he died. All winter long the farm had been asleep. Now, with the spring planting, I hardly knew which way to turn, and I certainly had no business dawdling about and thinking idle thoughts.
The idle thoughts were swept away when Little Cloud came running toward me, long braids flying, Renard's cradleboard bouncing on her back. �Come quick, Mary! Jacques and Mr. Astor's bad man! They are killing one another!�
Together we flew down the path to the village, slipping on the sand and tearing our skirts on the briars. Shouts were coming from Market Street. We ran past the row of whitewashed houses, safe behind their picket fences. There in front of the American Fur Company office I was horrified to see my brother, Jacques, rolling around in the dust of the street with Mr. Brandson. There was no killing. The two men were hanging on to one another so tightly they hardly knew whose body to pound. The door of the office swung open, and two clerks ran out. While Little Cloud and I tugged at Jacques, the clerks pulled at Mr. Brandson. Little Cloud and I landed on our bottoms with Jacques on top of us, while Mr. Brandson was caged in the arms of the clerks.
�Jacques! What can you be thinking of to brawl in the streets like some ruffian!� In my anger and shame I felt tears stinging my eyes.
�You'll never be a fur trader again!� Mr. Brandson shouted. �I'll see no company ever buys another pelt from you.� His hands were doubled into fists. Since Mr. Astor had put this large, loud man in command of the American Fur Company, Mr. Brandson had strutted about town like the only rooster in the yard. But now, as I watched him brush the dust from his clothes and head for the office, my shame dissolved.
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Though he tried to look dignified, he was limping along on one shoe, and a rip in the back of his trousers revealed a large patch of flannel drawers.
Jacques had to have the last word. He called out, �You're a thief and a bully, Brandson!�
Half the town had gathered to witness the fight. From the corner of my eye I saw a shocked-looking Mrs. West and her daughter Elizabeth. Her other daughter, Emma, was hurrying toward us. �Mary, you and Little Cloud and the baby must come and tidy up.� She brushed the dust from my skirt and put Renard's cradleboard to rights on Little Cloud's back...Return to the Island. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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