Now, instead of mathematics and navigation, Patience is forced to study sewing and French. To make matters worse, Fanny Starbuck, the most empty-headed widow in Nantucket, has shown up in Hawaii and seems to be after Papa's hand in marriage! Not if Patience has anything to say about it!
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Education of Patience Goodspeed
By Heather Vogel Frederick
Simon & Schuster Children's PublishingCopyright © 2004 Heather Vogel Frederick
All right reserved.
For a love letter, good paper is indispensable.
-- Ladies' Indispensable Assistant, Being a Companion for the Sister, Mother, and Wife
"That beast must go," said Reverend Wiggins flatly, who was, predictably, furious when the insects were identified as fleas. Thaddeus looked so downcast at this pronouncement that Dr. Phillips stepped in.
"Don't you think you're being a bit hasty, Brother Wiggins?" he said.
"Nonsense -- this heathen hound has brought a pestilence upon us," retorted Reverend Wiggins. "He must be banished."
Dr. Phillips rubbed his chin, his gaze shifting from my brother to Friday, who had slunk onto his belly next to Thaddeus and was looking suitably hangdog.
"Come now, Titus, this is an affliction that a good scrubbing will cure," he said. "Young Thaddeus here is obviously taken with the creature. It would do the boy a world of good to have a pet, what with his father so far away and all."
"But we have limited resources here at the school," protested Reverend Wiggins. "And I am highly vexed that Captain Goodspeed didn't see fit to send along a donation to cover its care."
"I'm quite sure table scraps will suffice. Having a dog is good for a boy's health. For that of your boys as well. Keeps them fit."
"Their health, you say?" said Reverend Wiggins suspiciously.
"Absolutely," said Dr. Phillips.
Reverend Wiggins looked down at Friday with distaste. Friday stared back up at him, panting happily. One eye was headed due east, the other due west.
"Oh, very well, then," he said, not bothering to disguise his irritation.
Dr. Phillips smiled. "It's settled, then."
Reverend Wiggins nodded reluctantly. "Doctor's orders."
August 31, 1836
After our poor flea-bitten guests had taken their leave, Mrs. Wiggins set us all to work vanquishing the intruders. First we boiled water, great vats of it, with which we doused the lanai's wooden floor. After the boards were duly scrubbed, we sprinkled them thoroughly with salt, making sure that plenty of it fell between the cracks. We left it overnight, then swept it up this morning.
The remedy appears to be effective, for the "pestilence of fleas," as the much chagrined Reverend Wiggins calls it, seems to be over.
I only hope that Thaddeus and Friday manage to stay out of further trouble.
At exactly ten minutes before noon a couple of days later, as Fanny was supervising La'ila'i and the other girls in setting the tables for luncheon, Aunt Anne left the parlor and headed for the girls' privy.
I waited for a minute or two, then did likewise, looking back over my shoulder several times to make sure we weren't being followed. But no one paid us any heed.
Our privy was situated on a small rise on the far side of the dormitories, shielded from public view by a thicket of hala trees. Aunt Anne was waiting for me, gazing out toward the distant Pacific.
"Did you bring it?" she asked.
I patted my pinafore pocket. "Right here."
Aunt Anne checked the small gold watch pinned to the bodice of her dress. "It's time," she said.
I reached into my pocket, brought out my sextant, and handed it to her.
"Mathematics has never been my strong suit, but I firmly believe it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks," Aunt Anne had told me last night when she asked if I'd teach her to navigate. "Plus, it will be a surprise for Isaiah. Two assistant navigators for the price of one."
Papa would indeed be surprised, I thought. I, on the other hand, was not. Aunt Anne's curiosity knew no bounds. Fanny was right; her nose was always stuck in a book, but only because she wanted to know about everything she encountered. The name of every bird, of every plant, of every constellation in the sky -- Aunt Anne drank in information like a sponge. She'd even managed to inspire the boys with her enthusiasm for learning by setting them to collecting insects in pasteboard boxes. Reverend Wiggins had taken to calling her -- albeit grudgingly -- a "most efficient female."
Aunt Anne grasped the brass sextant with both hands and brought the telescope eyepiece up toward her face. As she swung the instrument skyward, I grabbed her arm.
"Never toward the sun," I said firmly. "You could damage your eyesight most severely."
That was the first thing Papa had told me when I was learning, as I had made the very same mistake. "Like this," I explained, reaching over and tilting the sextant downward. "Toward the horizon."
I flipped a filter over the end of the eyepiece to lessen the glare. When the sextant was pointed into the distance, the index mirror would position the sun properly in the horizon glass.
"Aha," said Aunt Anne with satisfaction. "There it is."
"Now, set the orange on the table," I continued, using sailor's slang for adjusting the angle of the sextant until the sun appeared to come to rest on the distant line of the horizon.
"I have it!" she cried in triumph a moment later.
I smiled, recalling my own delight the first time I had managed it. Aunt Anne was a quick study. She tightened the tangent screw to lock the sextant's index arm in place, and we jotted down the reading from the scale on the arc. That number, which indicated the sun's altitude above the horizon, would help us determine our latitude when we did our calculations later tonight, back in the privacy of our hut.
As I tucked the sextant back in my pocket, I heard a rustling in the bushes behind us.
"Who's there?" I called, praying it wasn't Reverend Wiggins. He had made his feelings about female navigators abundantly clear, and after the recent fiasco with Friday I saw no point in gallying him further.
The rustling stopped. There was no reply. Then a nose poked out of the underbrush. A small, furry nose.
"Friday!" I said in relief. "Good dog."
The bushes rustled again and we froze. When they parted this time, Charity emerged.
"I didn't mean to startle you," she said sheepishly. "I was on my way to the necessary and couldn't help noticing what you were doing." She pointed to my sextant. "What is that?"
"It's a sextant," Aunt Anne replied. "It's a navigational tool, used for fixing a ship's position at sea."
"Is that what you used to save your father and Thaddeus?" Charity looked at me, her brown eyes alight with interest.
"Do you think I might learn to use it?"
"It's what your father might call kapu, you know," Aunt Anne said gently.
Charity kept her eyes fixed on the sextant. "I know."
Would wonders never cease? I thought. First Friday was allowed to stay, and now this. Someone must have left the door on the whatnot cabinet ajar, for lo and behold, it appeared that Charity Wiggins possessed a spark of spirit after all.
Aunt Anne passed her the sextant without another word. Charity turned it over in her hand, fingering its fine brass fittings.
"Patience, why don't you show your new student how it works," my aunt said.
Charity's pale face was flushed with excitement by the time our lesson for the day was finished, and she eagerly swore an oath of secrecy on the way back to the lanai.
"Do you think you could come to our hut tonight without anyone knowing?" I asked.
Charity's face settled into its familiar timid lines. "I don't know," she said doubtfully.
"It's just that I'm going to work with Aunt Anne on her mathematics and show her the formulas for fixing latitude. I could show you, too."
Charity gave me a sidelong glance. "I might be able to manage it."
"There you are!" cried Fanny, pouncing on us as we rounded the corner of the lanai and causing Charity to start in alarm. "We're just about ready to be seated." She handed me a platter of sweet potatoes. "Put this on the table, will you, Patience? Wait, let me fix your hair -- it looks like a bird's nest."
I pulled away in irritation. Fanny could never resist finding fault with my appearance, and her constant attempts at mothering me were growing most annoying.
Fanny sighed. "Do try and be more agreeable, Patience. 'A bad-tempered woman is a burden to herself, and a pest to those connected with her,' says Hester Halifax."
"Hester Halifax is the only pest around here," I muttered to myself, starting for the table. "Besides you."
At luncheon, Reverend Wiggins announced that a messenger had just arrived from Lahaina with a packet of mail. Our first news from the Morning Star!
"There's quite a stack," he said, holding up the envelopes. "And even one for me as well. I do hope that Captain Goodspeed has included a donation for the hound's care."
Aunt Anne and I exchanged a guilty glance. That was hardly likely.
Reverend Wiggins doled out the letters -- one for Aunt Anne from Papa, one each from Charlie Fishback and Glum for me, and a full half dozen for Fanny Starbuck. She rifled through them, blushed, and tucked them into her pocket.
"Who are they from?" I asked, in as careless a tone as I could manage.
"Oh, just a few of your shipmates," she replied in an equally careless tone.
After lunch, Reverend and Mrs. Wiggins retired to the parlor with the latest edition of Ka Lama Hawaii -- The Torch of Hawaii -- a Hawaiian newspaper produced on the printing press at Lahainaluna. Fanny retired to her room, pleading a headache. I knew she wanted to be alone with her letters, and I longed to follow and see if I could discover who they were from. But Aunt Anne and Thaddeus were eager to hear all the news from our shipmates.
I read my letter from Glum aloud first:
"Dear Miss Patience," he wrote. "Do you remember where you put the cloves? I have a hankering for gingersnaps and cannot find the blasted things. We gammed with the Emily Morgan out of New Bedford last week, and Sprigg acquired a monkey from one of her foremast hands. He paid three dollars for it, which he thinks is a fine bargain, but Chips and I suspect the former owner got by far the better end of the trade. Jocko is its name, and a wicked thieving creature it is. Just yesterday it made off with Chips's best wool socks and fired them into the galley stove. I caught him red-handed and chased him out with a broom. It could use a good thumping with Sprigg's thimble, but that is not likely to happen, as Sprigg spoils it quite shamelessly.
"Speaking of the galley, it is altogether too quiet in here without you. I hope you and your aunt are well, and please give my best to Fanny Starbuck. Oh, and tell Tad that Daisy the goat has gone into a decline in his absence. Yesterday she ate the lace curtains in the deckhouse."
The letter was signed "Obadiah Glumly" and dated nearly two weeks ago, shortly after the Morning Star had sailed from Wailuku. Old news, but still, better than no news.
"Read me the bits about Daisy and the monkey again," begged Thaddeus, but I shooed him off so I could read my letter from Charlie in peace.
It was much briefer, just a few lines in smeared pencil telling me that they had taken a whale four days earlier. Kanaka Jim, the harpooneer in Charlie's own boat, had struck it, and Papa was pleased with them both. Then he added: "I wish to learn to navigate. Will you teach me? I plan to have a ship of my own someday and will need to know how."
He had signed it, "Your friend, Charlie Fishback."
I nearly laughed. All this sudden interest in navigation! Somehow I had obtained three students in one day. And Charlie, of all people! It was hard to believe this was the same farm boy who had shipped aboard the Morning Star just a year ago, as green as a shamrock and all thumbs. The only sea he'd ever viewed before that was a sea of Ohio wheat, and now he was talking about wanting to be captain of his own whaling ship? Smiling, I reread the letter, then tucked it back into its envelope.
"Your father sends his regards," said Aunt Anne, looking up from her letter.
Not his love? I felt a twinge of sadness. Papa must still be displeased with me. My father could be as stubborn as a mule -- or as his equally stubborn daughter. Perhaps I would relent and write him an apology after all.
"What else does he say?" I asked, wondering if he had mentioned Fanny.
Aunt Anne passed me the letter. I scanned it briefly, but it was mostly just a recounting of the weather and their taking of the whale, along with an admonition to Thaddeus to behave himself. He didn't mention either of our birthdays, or Fanny, and had signed it, "Your brother, Isaiah."
"Not a very satisfactory letter," I grumbled.
Aunt Anne shrugged. "Isaiah never was one with words."
Fanny reappeared for our afternoon music lesson, looking flushed and pleased. I was fairly frantic with curiosity about her letters by now but couldn't bring myself to ask again.
Who could have written to her? Mr. Macy and Mr. Chase, surely, and possibly Charlie as well -- but were all the rest from Papa? Had he asked her to marry him already? I could hardly bear not knowing.
As Charity launched into "Blessed Be the Ties That Bind" on the melodeon -- she was really quite good, much better than Mrs. Chapman, in fact, who barely managed to keep up with the congregation at our Sunday worship services -- I offered to prepare tea.
"You just rest there, Mrs. Wiggins," I said, as she started to heave herself up from the sofa.
Mrs. Wiggins blinked her pale, rabbity eyes at me in surprise. Aunt Anne, who was helping the boys sort dead beetles into piles, gave me a sidelong glance. It was unlike me to volunteer for any household chore. But neither of them said anything.
Pasting a false-hearted smile on my face, I left the parlor, popped the teakettle on the stove to heat, then crept as quietly as I could upstairs to the room Fanny shared with Charity. The door creaked as I opened it, and I froze. No one appeared, however, and the only further sound was that of voices raised in song. I let out my breath and went in.
The room was small and plain, with a whitewashed floor and a tall window shuttered tightly closed against the fierce afternoon sun. Like our own, the quilt-covered bedsteads were draped with mosquito netting. Between them stood a battered chest of drawers. Against the far wall, an upended trunk with a mirror propped atop served as a dressing table. Fanny had flung large doilies over both.
I crossed the room to the chest of drawers first and rifled through it quickly. No letters, just neat stacks of undergarments, stockings, hair ribbons, and the like.
I looked around, biting my lip. Where could the letters be? My gaze fell on Fanny's jewelry box on the dressing table. It contained only jewelry, however -- a large cameo brooch, a string of pearls nearly identical to my own, a watch fob that must have belonged to Fanny's dead husband, and her wedding ring.
This was a ridiculous idea. Fanny probably still had the letters with her in her pocket. I started to leave, then looked back at her bed. What about under her pillow? No, surely she wouldn't be so obvious. But this was Fanny, I reminded myself.
I crossed the room again and lifted Fanny's pillow. Underneath lay a small book covered in bottle-green leather. Fanny's name was stamped on the cover in gold. Her diary! And sure enough, beneath it lay the stack of letters. I picked up the diary, and my heart sank. The top envelope bore Papa's handwriting.
I started to reach for his letter when I heard the sound of rapid footsteps heading down the hall. I dropped the pillow and whirled around. The diary was still in my hand. As the door opened, I quickly tucked it into my pinafore pocket.
It was Fanny. "There you are, Patience, we've been looking for you," she said. "I thought you were going to make tea."
"The kettle's on," I replied. "And I was, ah, searching for a hairbrush. You said I looked a fright."
Fanny cocked her head and regarded me. "Yes, you do." She crossed to her dressing table and picked up the hairbrush, which was in plain sight. I blushed. "Here, sit down and let me do it."
Reluctantly, I perched on the edge of her bed. Had I put the pillow back properly? Did she suspect anything? Fanny drew the brush through my tangled hair gently, working in quick, deft strokes until it was smooth again.
"What have you been up to?" she scolded, and I nearly leaped out of my skin. "Look at this! Your ribbon is torn, and there are brambles in it." She held it up for me to see. "Honestly, I fear you are in danger of becoming a hoyden. 'Personal appearance is always a matter of importance with a lady,' Hester Halifax tells us."
I gritted my teeth. It wouldn't do to lose my temper now.
"Here, I have an extra you can have." Fanny pulled a sky blue ribbon from the top dresser drawer and proceeded to tie it in my hair.
My heart was thumping so hard I was sure she could see the rise and fall of my pinafore on my chest. And the diary was practically burning a hole in my pocket. What if she decided to look for it now?
"There, that's much better," she said, giving the ribbon a final pat. I stood up and she looked me over critically. I looked back at her. Fanny seemed shorter than she had back in Lahaina.
She frowned. "Good heavens, Patience, you're growing like a weed! That dress is much too short. I can see your ankles." She plucked at the bodice. "And look at the seams here, you're fairly bursting out of this dress. I'll speak to your aunt right away. We must see about getting you something more suitable." She hesitated a moment, then added, "Is there anything you'd like to talk to me about?"
My heart fairly shot out of my body. She knew!
"With all the work to be done here at the school, I've scarcely had a chance to talk with you," Fanny continued. "Isaiah -- your father -- said I might wish to advise you on certain things. Womanly things."
I nearly collapsed on the floor in relief. She didn't know about the letters or the diary. She was talking about my monthlies.
"No," I mumbled, for Mama had told me of them long ago. "Nothing at the moment, thank you."
Fanny smiled at me, and for a moment I imagined her up here at night, exchanging confidences with Charity, and felt a stab of envy. I loved sharing the grass hut with Aunt Anne and Thaddeus and wouldn't trade it for the world, but still, it might be nice to be closer to girls my own age as well. But I quickly banished the thought. I had no more desire to have Fanny as an older sister than I did to have her as my stepmama.
Linking arms with me, Fanny drew me out of her room and down the hall. The diary was still in my pocket. There was no way for me to put it back now, but I must find a way to do so, and soon, before she missed it. For she certainly would.
I sat through tea mute with guilt. When it was over, I excused myself and rushed outside. I needed a quiet place to think.
I made my way to the privy. Here, at least, I could be assured of being left alone. Closing the door, I drew the diary out of my pocket. I turned it over in my hands. It was so very much like my own, except for the color. I thought of my diary, and all the secrets it contained -- all my innermost thoughts and yearnings. I would surely die of shame if anyone ever read it -- even Aunt Anne, with whom I had shared so many passages about our adventures.
No, I couldn't read it. I could never inflict that kind of humiliation on anyone, even Fanny.
"Oh, but you could," whispered a little voice in my head. "For surely she has confided her true feelings about your father on those pages. Surely she has outlined her plans -- their plans -- for the future."
No, I told myself firmly. It would be wrong. I could only imagine what Mama would say about such a breach of trust. I started to slide the diary back into my pocket.
"But don't you want to know the truth?" the little voice whispered again. "Don't you want to know once and for all if Fanny is to be your stepmother?"
I hesitated. My fingers caressed the soft leather. Would it be such a bad thing to read just a sentence or two? Surely that would be understandable -- surely no one could fault me for that.
But I musn't. I had promised Papa I would act befitting a Goodspeed, and I must keep that promise. Resolutely, I put Fanny's diary in my pocket. There was only one course of action -- I must put it back. I would return to the house, smile at everyone, then simply walk upstairs and tuck it back under the pillow. If Fanny followed me again, I'd tell her -- I'd tell her what?
As I tried to think of some logical explanation for my presence in her bedroom a second time, my fingers slipped unconsciously back into my pocket. Once again, they caressed the diary's smooth leather cover, and once again the little voice whispered to me. "Surely there's no harm in one quick peek," it said. "Who would ever know?"
Almost as if mesmerized, I drew the diary out. I stared at it for a long moment, and then I opened it.
The most recent entry was dated today. Fanny must have written in it just after receiving her letters from the Morning Star.
"Unworthy as I am, I have been spared to enjoy the privileges and blessings of another Sabbath."
Pious piffle, I thought. Fanny had been paying too much attention to Reverend Wiggins. I read on.
"And such blessings they are! I am all joy, for today I received not one but three letters from him whom my heart holds most dear, my bonny blue-eyed sweetheart."
I slammed the pages shut. Anger flooded through me. Anger that my suspicions were correct about Fanny and that she had indeed won my father's heart. Three letters! When he hadn't even taken the time to write me a single one! I wanted nothing further to do with Fanny and her silly lovestruck gushings. I couldn't wait to be rid of the diary now.
I opened the privy door and rushed outside to go put it back -- and nearly tripped over Fanny and Aunt Anne.
"Are you all right?" Fanny cried. "You ran off so quickly, we thought you might be sick and need our help."
Her gaze fell on the small green book in my hand. She frowned. "That looks like my -- " she stopped, and her face drained of color. "Patience Goodspeed, what are you doing with my diary?"
I had never seen Fanny Starbuck angry before. Her face turned from white to a mottled red.
"It's not what you think!" I cried.
Aunt Anne's eyes blazed at me. "For shame," she said.
"I didn't mean, I was just going to -- "
Aunt Anne held out her hand. Miserably, I turned over the diary. "Honestly," I pleaded. "I hadn't planned to take it -- it was an accident. I wasn't..."
My words trailed off. What could I say?
With a sob, Fanny grabbed the diary from Aunt Anne, picked up her skirts, and fled.
"For shame," said Aunt Anne again, and turning her back on me, she followed Fanny to the house.
Word of my wickedness quickly spread. No one spoke to me at dinner, not even Thaddeus, who regarded me with round, serious eyes. Reverend Wiggins glowered from the head of the table, and Mrs. Wiggins and Charity both dispensed frequent sorrowful glances in my direction. Aunt Anne ignored me, and Fanny didn't show up at all. La'ila'i and the other girls whispered amongst themselves, and I felt sure they had been told as well. At this rate all of Wailuku would soon know.
Eating was impossible. I stared down at my plate, consumed with anguish. Why oh why had I ever touched Fanny's diary? Finally, I could bear it no longer. I pushed back from the table and ran to our hut, where I flung myself on the bed and cried hot, remorseful tears.
I didn't hear Aunt Anne come in, and I started when she sat down next to me. She was quiet for a few minutes as I struggled to get my tears under control.
"Patience, what you've done is reprehensible," she said finally.
"I know!" I wailed.
"What on earth possessed you? Surely Caroline taught you better than that!"
A fresh wave of remorse swept over me as I thought of what my mother would say if she knew what I had done, and all of a sudden the feelings I'd kept bottled up these past weeks came rushing out. I sat up.
"It was the letters!" I cried. "I was looking for her letters! I had to know -- I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help myself. Oh, Aunt Anne, I simply don't think I'll be able to bear it if Papa marries her!" My outburst ended in another wail, and I flung myself back down again.
"I see," said Aunt Anne slowly. "So that's what this was all about. Well, curiosity certainly killed the cat, didn't it?"
She rose to her feet and paced the small floor. "Patience, I have no idea whether your father plans to marry Fanny Starbuck or not. Frankly, it's none of my affair, nor is it yours."
"But -- "
She stopped and held up a warning hand. "Nor is it yours," she repeated firmly. "I know you think Fanny is a foolish creature, and I'll grant you that there are days that I am in full agreement. I for one would be delighted never to hear from Hester Halifax again. However, over these past months since I first met her in Boston, I have come to see that while Fanny may not be in possession of a keen intellect, and may whine a bit at hardship and spend too much time thinking about frivolous things, she has a true gift, the gift of making people happy. She is doing wonders for the students at this school, and for Mrs. Wiggins, who sorely needs female companionship, given that she spends most of her time with that, that -- "
"Walrus?" I sniffled.
"Exactly -- that walrus of a husband of hers. In fact a kinder heart and sweeter disposition than Fanny Starbuck's I have rarely seen. If that is simply due to the fact that there are no bothersome thoughts rattling around in that pretty head to vex her, well, so be it."
Aunt Anne began pacing again. "I know that your father loved your mother deeply, and I also know that it's not practical to expect him to voyage through life without companionship."
"But he has Thaddeus and me!" I cried.
Aunt Anne gave me a wry smile. "You'll understand better someday, dear heart. Meanwhile, I don't know what your father is looking for in a wife, or even if he's looking for a wife. What I do know is that whatever decision he makes will not be made in haste, and will certainly take into consideration both you and your brother as well. You are very dear to him, you know."
My lip quivered at this, and fresh tears spilled down my cheeks. Aunt Anne fished a handkerchief out of her pocket. "Besides," she added, passing it to me, "he's a Goodspeed."
"Through and through," I finished morosely. I blew my nose and drew in a ragged breath.
"That's the spirit!" Aunt Anne pulled me to my feet. "And you're a Goodspeed too, so now it's time to act like one. To begin with, you owe Fanny an apology, so I suggest you wipe away your tears and march over there and deliver it. As sweet-tempered as she is, I suspect she'll find it in her heart to forgive you."
I nodded, but I wasn't so sure. And the real question remained, could I ever forgive myself?
Copyright © 2004 by Heather Vogel Frederick
Excerpted from The Education of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick Copyright © 2004 by Heather Vogel Frederick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.