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In Galveston, Texas, a rich twelve-year-old girl and an orphaned fourteen-year-old boy work together to save themselves and others from the terrible hurricane of 1900.
Before the storm, Maggie McKenna lived in a bighouse, tall and white. Inside it smelled of furniture polishand the roses from Mama's garden. Upstairs in her bedroom,Maggie had new dresses with lace and starched collars. Onher bed were a pink organdy spread and big soft pillows.
Before the storm Maggie's house stood on the corner of awide street lined with huge oak trees. Around the house wasa sparkling white fence that separated Maggie's house fromher city. Maggie loved her city. She loved Galveston, Texas.Maggie's papa called Galveston the Queen of the Gulf. Galvestonhad sturdy brick buildings, theaters, and flowers. Best ofall, Galveston had the sea with its crashing blue-green wavesor its peaceful lapping sound. Maggie loved to walk on thebeach with her collie dog, Bonnie, and she loved to run intothe water with her friends, Beth and Harriet. Papa taught allthree girls to swim in the gulf, and on summer evenings heoften took them to enjoy a dip. Before the storm Maggieloved the sea.
The storm came in September, but all that summer Maggiefelt a storm building inside her, a dark storm caused byjealousy. "Don't be so hateful," she would whisper to herselfwhen she felt the storm rumbling inside her. She would shakeher head and try to smile, but the darkness would not bedriven out. Maggie's father liked boys best. She knew thatwith a terrible certainty, knew it whenever she saw Papa withFelipe, who came from the orphanage to work in the garden.
"What a fine knife," Papa said to Felipe one day in earlyJuly. Maggie had just carried Felipe asandwich to eat forlunch and a big glass of lemonade. Mama always liked tomake sure Felipe ate well when he worked throughlunchtime. He laid down the knife he had just used to cutstring to tie up a rosebush.
Maggie saw her papa coming up the walk and ran tomeet him. He put his arm around her shoulder, and theywalked together to the back steps. There Papa stopped andspoke to Felipe. He also looked down at the knife. "That's afine knife," Papa said.
"It belonged to my tata." Felipe stroked the knife that laybeside him. "It is all that I have of his. My tata could carvefrom wood, beautiful things. I am trying to learn."
Papa put his hand on Felipe's shoulder. "I enjoy carvingtoo," he said, "although I am no great artist. Maybe we couldwork together sometimes."
Felipe looked up at Papa, and Maggie saw how his eyessparkled. "That would be very nice," he said.
"I am sure your father was proud to have a son like you,"Papa said. "Any man would be proud."
Papa's arm was still around Maggie's shoulder, but she wiggledaway and went on inside. Tears burned at her eyes. "Don'tcry," she told herself. She knew she shouldn't. Hadn't Papa toldher just recently that he was proud of her? Couldn't she shareher papa a little with an orphan like Felipe? She went often tothe orphanage with her mama. Mama liked to help there withthe sewing for the children, and Maggie liked going; She neverminded when Mama lifted a lonely child to her lap. Maggiedid not mind sharing Mama, but Papa was different. Mamadid not like boys best.
She had known that Papa liked boys best for severalmonths now, since not long after Felipe came to work forthem. "Perhaps we should consider taking in one of the boysover at St. Mary's," Papa said to Mama. Maggie had sat quietlyon the front porch swing, and she heard the conversationthrough the parlor window.
"Oh, no, Charles." Mamas voice sounded horrified. "Thechild would not be a true McKenna. I know I will give youa son. Just be patient."
"It isn't the blood that matters, Katherine," Papa said."Look at young Felipe. He is dear to me already. Perhaps weshould adopt him."
"Charles! What a strange idea. The boy is practicallygrown. He's far too old. I can't take some boy who is almosta man into my home. And what about his little sisters? Hewouldn't want to leave them at the orphanage. Besides,there's Maggie. She could never adjust to suddenly having ahalf-grown brother."
Maggie had slipped off the swing then and made her wayquietly down the stairs. Felipe was working in the back garden,pulling the tiny pieces of grass that kept trying to comeup in the flower beds. His dark head was bent over theflower beds, and he could not see Maggie watching him. Hesang as he worked, but the words were ones he had learnedin Mexico before he came to Galveston with his mother andfather. Maggie could not understand his song.
"Sing in English," she said to him. Then she lied to theboy her father wanted for a son. "Papa said you should alwaysspeak English here."
Felipe raised his head, but he did not turn toward Maggie."I was not speaking to you," he said. "I was singing tomyself and to the flowers."
"It is silly to sing to flowers," Maggie said. "How old areyou?"
"I am thirteen years."
"That's older than I am," she said. "Thirteen is too old tobe adopted!" Maggie's words came out as a shout.
"I do not plan to be adopted," Felipe said quietly. "Whenmy birthday comes next year I will leave St. Mary's. The sistersthere are good, but an orphanage is no place for a fourteen-year-old."
"Where will you go?" She did not shout this time. Shecould see that Felipe would not tolerate much shouting. Ifshe wanted to talk to him, she could not speak in anger.
This time he turned to look at Maggie before he spoke."What do you care where it is that I go?"
Maggie shrugged her shoulders. "Just wondered."
Felipe pointed. "That way," he said. "I will go back toMexico, and I will find my abuelos."
"Abuelos? What does that mean? Speak English."
"Grandparents," Felipe said, and he bent back over theflower beds. "I will go home and find my abuelos."
"You will leave your little sisters in the orphanage?" Maggieasked. Maggie had often seen Felipe at the orphanagewith his twin sisters. She liked him then, forgetting how jealousshe felt when her papa stopped to talk to him even beforehe came into the house to say hello to her and Mama.Felipe was good to the little girls, who seemed always to befollowing him.
"I have two little shadows," she had heard him say. Helaughed and hugged the little girls to him. Maggie had likedhis laugh at the orphanage, but now she felt too jealous tolike anything about him.
He did not answer her question, so she asked again."What about your little sisters?"
"I will return for my little sisters," he said, and he wentback to pulling weeds. Maggie could see that the conversationwas over. She would be glad when Felipe left for Mexico. Lethim find his own family and leave hers alone.
But that had been a few months ago, before anyone knewthere would be a baby. Mama and Papa did not talk to Maggieabout the baby because they thought she was too youngto know about such things, but Maggie knew. "If God ismerciful," Maggie had heard Mama tell Aunt Susan when shehad come from Houston to visit, "I'll carry this child untilDecember."
Maggie wished Mama and Papa didn't think she was tooyoung to talk to about the baby and too young to knowabout the others, the babies that had come too soon to live.Maggie knew. She knew why Mama had stayed in bed cryingand Papas face had looked gray and sad.
In late July Maggie celebrated her birthday. After dinnerthat night, Harriet came from across the street, and Bethcame from across town. The two girls walked up the frontwalk together, and Maggie watched them from the doorway.She felt lucky to have such good friends. They were nothingalike. Beth was blond, like Maggie herself, and she laughed almostall the time. Harriet had dark hair and eyes. She did nothave to fear the Galveston sun as much as her fair-skinnedfriends did. Harriet did not laugh as much as Beth, but shenever missed anything. Maggie had never told either girl howshe felt about her papa wanting a boy, but she was prettysure Harriet knew.
Both girls carried gifts wrapped in bright paper, and Maggieopened them as soon as her friends were inside. Beth's giftwas a book full of clean white paper for drawing. Harrietbrought a necklace, a small white heart painted with roses.
"Thank you," Maggie said as she opened each gift, andshe said thank you again before her attention turned to thetable with her cake. Mama felt tired, so she sat with her feetup on the settee beside her. She took a small box from beneatha pillow and held it out to Maggie.
"This is from your papa and me," she said. Mama gaveMaggie a hug when Maggie bent down to take the gift.
The box held a beautiful pearl ring. "Oh!" said Maggie."Oh!"
"You are a young lady now," Mama said. "Twelve is oldenough to wear a real pearl ring."
"Yes," Papa said. "You are a beautiful, grown-up younglady."
Suddenly Maggie wished the ring had been a doll. Shewanted to shout out that she did not want to be grown up.She looked over at her birthday cake on the table. Papastarted to light the candles. Maggie wanted to shout something else too. She wanted to yell that she did not want herfather to have a son either. She knew for sure that if the babyMama would have in December turned out to be a boy,everyone would forget all about her.
"The candles are ready," Papa said.
"Don't forget to make a wish," Harriet said.
"And blow out all the candles at once. That way yourwish will come true," Beth told her.
Maggie closed her eyes. I wish the baby would be borntoo soon, she thought. Then she stopped. How could shewish such a thing? How could she want a baby not to havelife? How could she want her mama and papa to be so sad?Shame spread through her like heat from a fireplace. Whatcould she do to take back her wish? She could fail to blowout the candles. She opened her eyes and blew gently. Onlytwo candles went out.
"Well," she said, "I guess that wish won't come true." Sheblew out the other ten candles at once.
"What did you wish?" Beth asked.
Maggie looked down at the cake and thought quickly. "Iwished school wouldn't start in September. I wished wewould have another month of vacation?"
Beth had doubt on her face. "That's strange. You likeschool. That wasn't your real wish, was it?"
Maggie felt her face grow red.
"You don't have to tell us your wish," Harriet said. "Onyour birthday, you can have some secrets?"
Maggie smiled at Harriet. She glanced at her parents.Good! They did not seem to be listening. Papa was busy cuttingthe cake and putting pieces on little plates. Mama hadher eyes closed and her head back against a pillow.
It was the next day that she saw the dog Felipe hadcarved. It looked like Bonnie. Felipe had it in his hand whenhe knocked on the back door.
He made it for me, Maggie thought, and she felt ashamedof how angry she had felt toward Felipe. The dog was notperfect, but she could definitely tell that it was meant to beBonnie. Maybe she and Felipe could get to be friends, Maggiethought.
Felipe saw her looking at the dog, and suddenly heshoved it hard into his pocket. "It is not very good," he said."Your father tried to help me, but I need more lessons."
Maggie forgot her warm feelings. Felipe had no intentionof giving her the dog. It was not right for him to carve a likenessof her dog with her father. Now he wanted more lessons.
"Papa isn't here," she snapped. "Surely you know he is alwaysat the bank on Monday mornings."
"I do know," said Felipe, and he backed down the steps.
Maggie closed the door and leaned against it. She wantedto cry, but Mama came into the kitchen just then. "Is somethingwrong?" Mama asked.
"Just Felipe." Maggie made a face. "He made a carving ofBonnie. I thought he meant to give it to me, but he didn't. Doyou think he should be allowed to make carvings of my dog?"
Mama put out her hand to touch Maggie's blond hair."Oh, sweetheart, your father told me about the carving. Felipemade it for your birthday. Probably he started to feel tooshy to give it to you."
Maggie shook her head. She did not want to believe it. "Idon't think so," she said, but she wasn't sure. Why couldn'tthings just be simple like they used to be? She took Mama'sarm and leaned her face against it. "Mama," she said, "sometimesI am not a very good person." Tears slipped from hereyes and ran down her cheek. "I am going to try to be better."
"You are good," Mama said, "not perfect, but none of usare." She stopped to kiss Maggie's cheek. "I think you'vegrown up to be a fine lady."
"Mama." Maggie swallowed big. It was hard to talk toMama, but she felt determined. "Don't you think I'm grownup enough to talk to about why you are always sick?"
Mama looked at Maggie for a minute before she spoke."I'm not sick, darling, not exactly, more just tired. It is a hotsummer, but I will feel better. You are not to worry aboutme."
Mama hugged Maggie, who noticed that her mother's faceseemed too white. What if having this baby was too muchfor Mama? Maggie had heard about lots of women who diedgiving birth. Would her papa be happy then? she wondered.Even if Mama died, would he be happy just to have a son?
All through July and August, Maggie worried. Mamaseemed to have no strength at all. Often she did not leave herbed until just before the evening meal. Maggie felt lonelywith Mama so often in bed. Harriet had gone away on a tripwith her mother to visit relatives in Louisiana, and Beth wasaway at her grandmother's in Houston.
Only Myra seemed to have time for Maggie, and she oftenhelped the housekeeper with her chores. Myra had workedfor Papa's family since he was just a child not much olderthan Maggie. One morning Mama and Papa discussed Myraat breakfast.
"Charles, we have to have more help. Myra is just too oldto manage this house anymore," Mama said.
"She keeps saying she won't have some silly woman gettingin her way." Papa put his newspaper down on thebreakfast table.
"Well, tell her you insist. After all, you are her employer.Of course she will always have her room and her salary, butwe have to have more help. Later, you know ..." Mamamoved her eyes in Maggie's direction. "Later we will need.much more help. Just tell her, dear."
"I will, Katherine. I will," Papa said.
Maggie did not want someone else new in the house. Alreadythere was a new cook, Daphne, who was hard to getalong with. "I'll help Myra," she said. "Myra and I like towork together."
Mama smiled at her, but neither she nor Papa reallyseemed to hear what Maggie had said. They hardly know I'mhere, she thought.
In the evenings Papa spent lots of time sitting besideMama. Sometimes he read aloud to her. "Come and listen,why don't you?" Papa would call to Maggie, but she didn't.
It was a restless, unhappy summer for Maggie, but in lateAugust she decided to go to the orphanage alone. She hadnever been there without Mama, and it made her feel grownup. On the long trolley ride, she looked out at Galveston. Thecity was full of bright flowers and busy people. I want to livehere always, Maggie thought. There could be no other spot aswonderful as Galveston.
Maggie could see St. Mary's from where the trolleystopped. Two buildings stood on the grounds, tall and strong.They were made from brick and rock, and they were surroundedby a black iron fence.
Maggie did not go inside the fence right away First, shewanted to look at the sea. Most of the time Maggie felt reallysorry for the girls and boys who lived at St. Mary's becausethey didn't have a mama or papa or a regular house to live in,but when she looked at the sea, Maggie felt envious of the orphans.Maggie loved the great magical water better than justabout anything. When the children of St. Mary's looked outthe windows after they got up in the morning, they could seethe ocean, and at night the waves would sing them to sleep.
She climbed the stairs to the brick building, and her stomachfelt a little uneasy. Maybe it was silly for her to come hereto help all by herself. Maybe she really was too young to doanything. At the door, she hesitated before she knocked, butthen she drew in her breath and stood tall. The sisters wouldbe glad to see her. They were, Maggie believed, the kindestpeople in the world.
"Is there a job I can do?" Maggie asked the sister whoopened the door. "I'm Katherine McKenna's daughter. Mymama is too sick to come to sew, but I would like to helpsomehow if I can."
"You could play with the little girls," said the sister. "Itwould make them very happy."
"It would make me happy too," said Maggie.
The sister went up the stairs and came back with a groupof little girls, who were all about the same size. They ran eagerlyto Maggie. "Where should we play?" Maggie asked thesister, and she was pointed toward a back door.
When Maggie had the girls settled on the back lawn, shehad the chance to look at them. Felipe's little sisters, Rosa andMaria, were there along with four other girls. "What shouldwe play?" Maggie asked.
"Button, button, who has the button," yelled a little redheadedgirl.
"That would be good. Let me think what we could usefor a button." Maggie felt in her pocket for the nickel trolleyfare she would use to get back home, but she was afraid thenickel might get lost in the grass.
"We could use Rosa's or Maria's necklace," suggested thesame little girl.
The twins looked at each other, and their hands went totheir throats. Each girl wore a small wooden cross fastenedto a black ribbon. The crosses were made of red wood, andthe finish shone in the afternoon sun.
Neither of the little girls said anything, but they looked atMaggie with distress. Maggie smiled at them. "I don't thinkRosa or Maria wants to take off her necklaces," she said.
"Our brother made them for us," said the one with thered ribbon in her hair.
"He made it from part of a cedar tree," said the girl withthe blue ribbon. "He used the knife that belonged to our papawhen we had a papa of our very own."
"Felipe remembers our papa and our mother," said theother twin, "but Maria and I were just babies back then." Thelittle girl scooted closer to Maggie.
Maggie reached out to touch the child's dark curls. "Youare Rosa, then," she said.
"Rosa in red, Maria in blue," said one of the other girls,and she pointed to the ribbons in the twins' hair.
"Rosa in red, and Maria in blue. I'll remember that." Justthen Maggie felt a small rock under her leg. She reached forit and held it up. "Here is our button." She turned toward thered-haired child. "What is your name?"
"Well, Judy, this was your idea. You get to be it first." Shegave the rock to the little girl. "Everyone get in a circle, putyour hands behind you, and close your eyes." While Judymoved about, deciding who should get the button, Maggieopened her eyes slightly to see the little girls' faces. Each onehad a big smile.
When each girl had had a turn with the button, Maggietook them to the front where there was a sidewalk. She borroweda piece of chalk from a sister and drew the hopscotchdiagram. The little girls had never played the game, but theycaught on quickly. "You are the funnest to play with," Mariasaid. She put her arms around Maggie's waist and hugged.
"I know your brother," she said to the twins. "He comesalmost every day to work in my mamas garden."
"Is he your amigo?" Rosa asked.
"I do not know what amigo means," said Maggie.
"It means friend in Mexico," said Rosa. "Felipe wants usto know Mexican words."
Maggie looked down at the chalk in her hand. She swallowedhard. "Yes," she said. "Your brother is my amigo." Shewould make it true, she decided. After all, she told herself,it was not Felipe's fault that Papa liked boys better than hedid girls.
The next day, she smiled at Felipe when she took hislunch to him, and he smiled back. But her friendly feelingsdid not last long.
That very evening she changed her mind. She had hopedPapa would take her to the beach, but he said no. "I don'twant to leave your mother alone," he explained. "She doesn'tfeel well this evening."
"I understand," Maggie said. She hoped maybe Papawould talk to her then about the baby, but he only turnedaway to read his newspaper. Maggie took Bonnie and wentup to her room.
Later Maggie came down the back stairs. She had plannedto go into her mother's room to keep her company, but sheheard the sound of voices outside the kitchen screen door. Shemoved quietly to look out into the evening shadows. Papa saton the steps with Felipe. They both held knives, and theyboth worked at wood. Just as Maggie got near the door, sheheard Felipe laugh. Papa reached out and mussed Felipe's hair.
She wanted to scream at them both. Papa must haveknown Felipe would come for a lesson. That was why hewould not take Maggie to the ocean. She put her hand overher mouth to stop the sound of the sob that grew inside her.She tiptoed back through the kitchen, then ran up the stairs.Bonnie followed her.
In her room, Maggie knelt on the floor. She put herarms around Bonnie, and she cried. Her friends were away,Mama was too tired to pay attention to her, and Papa wastoo busy with Felipe. No one loved her except Bonnie. Shestayed in her room, went to bed early, and cried until shewent to sleep.
Excerpted from Stolen by the Sea by Anna Myers. Copyright © 2002 by Anna Myers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted July 4, 2001
Wealthy, twelve-year-old Maggie lives in a large house in Galveston, Texas, with her parents in 1900. Lately, Maggie has felt ignored by her parents. The attention her father gives to Felipe, an orphan boy who does chores for the family, makes her believe he would prefer a son. Now that her mother is pregnant, she fears the new baby will take her place in her parents' hearts. When her father takes her mother to the doctor in Houston, Maggie is left alone with the elderly, sickly housekeeper and the grumpy cook. Even though the town expected a hurricane, it never expected the terrible storm that would hit. Even though she resents him, with the storm raging and the waters rising, Maggie may have to turn to Felipe for help if she is going to survive. I reccomend this book to young readers who like historical disaster stories.
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