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Marne, a young woman on her own for the first time, was not prepared for what she found on her arrival in Deadwood Gulch in the Dakota Territory. She came to Deadwood Gulch to help her father work his gold mine because he had taken ill. It was a gold mine of sorts, but not the kind Marne expected. Arriving in Deadwood Gulch, she is met by Ruby Black, a friend of her father’s who had sent the letter requesting her to come. After Ruby informs her of her father’s death, Marne insists she be taken to where her father lived and worked the last two years of his life. It is then that she finds out the Number 7 wasn’t a mine, but a saloon her father won in a poker game.
Darn you, Joseph, why did you have to go off like a fool to mine gold in the Dakota Territory? If you stayed home where you belonged Marne wouldn’t be following you there now, Julia thought as she stared out the window.
She still remembered the morning Joseph was reading the newspaper at the breakfast table. He found an article that interested him about a gold strike going on in Deadwood Gulch. Right then and there he decided to go and try his luck. She tried to tell her brother he was being foolish, but he, like Marne, wouldn’t listen. Joseph was struggling with the death of his wife Mary who had recently died from pneumonia. Julia knew he was just trying to find something to fill the void in his life. Then after being gone for over a year, he wrote and asked Marne if she would come and join him in Deadwood Gulch.
Julia decided to check on Marne to see how she was doing with her packing and tell her she sent Ted, their hired hand, to the attic to get the well-traveled trunk that she used when she traveled abroad when she was younger. She hoped it would be big enough to hold everything Marne wanted to take.
“Marne, I wish you would reconsider and stay home,” Julia said, trying one last time to change Marne’s mind. “The Dakota Territory is not a place a girl of nineteen should be going on her own. There’s absolutely no civilization to speak of there.”
“Now, Auntie, I know for a fact from father’s letters there are civilized people living there. Don’t forget I’ll be there with father.”
“But what about those wild Indians the army is constantly trying to tame? Not to mention all those foolish men trying to find gold. I just know you are going to find it hard under such conditions,” Julia warned.
“Aunt Julia, really, I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. After all, didn’t you travel quite extensively to Europe when you were my age?”
“Yes, I did do a lot of traveling to Europe in my younger years, but where you are going is no place for a lady to be!” Julia interjected.
“Well I’m going and I won’t hear another word about it. Now are you going to help me pack or will I have to do it all by myself?”
“You don’t even know what type of clothes to take with you, for goodness sake!” Julia fussed.
“Father wrote and said the climate is similar to Minnesota’s, so my current clothes should do just fine.”
Marne didn’t think she should mention anything to her aunt about needing men’s work clothes. It would just give her something else to fret about. She decided to wait until she arrived in Deadwood Gulch to purchase a couple of work shirts and a pair of Levi’s. With the amount of miners pouring into the area, Marne knew it wouldn’t be a problem acquiring them. She felt what her aunt didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.
“Oh Marne, you were supposed to start Miss Ambles’ School for Young Ladies this fall,” Julia said, suddenly remembering.
With all the excitement about leaving, Marne had completely forgotten all about it.
“I suppose I could write and ask if they would allow you to start at a later date,” Julia said, flashing Marne one of her sad looks.
“Auntie, you worry too much. Shouldn’t we wait until I return to discuss school? I don’t even know if I want to go there. Right now I need to finish packing then purchase my train ticket for Yankton. By the way, did the information about the Big Horn Steamship or the Northwestern Express Stage arrive yet?” Marne looked up when she didn’t get a response.
“It all should be arriving this afternoon by carrier. You still have time to change your mind,” Julia said hopefully, sadness dripping off her every word.
“Auntie, nothing you can say will change my mind. Father needs me and I’m going. You know you are welcome to come along as my chaperone; at least, that way you wouldn’t worry so much. You’d be with me to ensure I’m safe.”
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 372
Paper Weight (lb): 15.4
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