The Daughter's WalkJane Kirkpatrick
The Daughter’s Walk
“Jane Kirkpatrick is a wonderful writer who creates a story full of strong, admirable characters with human flaws. Clara and Helga come to life with dimension and depth, pulling us into their world. I walked across the country with them, experienced their triumph and disappointment, and faced the shattered, angry family when they returned. Jane has given readers a wonderful story of a family schism that comes full circle to love and grace, and of the importance of family, especially when one has been an outcast. I highly recommend The Daughter’s Walk!”
—FRANCINE RIVERS, best-selling author
“Jane embraces the finest qualities of the human spirit in all her writing. One of America’s favorite storytellers.”
—SANDRA DALLAS, author of Prayers for Sale
“Jane Kirkpatrick brings immense integrity to historical imagination, using her consummate skills as a historian sleuth and psychologist. A compelling portrait of Clara’s own bold entrepreneurial spirit gives readers believable insight on how a mother and daughter’s love survives financial hardship, a courageous thirty-five-hundred-mile walk, family tragedy, and estrangement. Bravo!”
—LINDA L. HUNT, award-winning author of Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America
“Jane Kirkpatrick gives us inspiring stories of women who accomplish amazing feats. She has done it again with the poignant story of Clara Estby, who walked with her mother from Spokane to New York in a desperate bid to save the family farm from foreclosure. What was left for this daughter when her connection to family was severed? Jane brings Clara’s story to life.”
—DEON STONEHOUSE, Sunriver Books and Music
“Jane Kirkpatrick’s attention to detail and ability to craft living, breathing characters immerses the reader into her story world. I come away entranced, enlightened, and enriched after losing myself in one of her novels.”
—KIM VOGEL SAWYER, best-selling author of My Heart Remembers
“The Daughter’s Walk brings to mind another much-loved book, Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes, which became the Broadway play and movie I Remember Mama. Jane’s Norwegian characters captivated me in much the same way. Uplifting and heartbreaking by turns, this is a wonderful story, superbly written.”
—IRENE BENNETT BROWN, author of Where Gable Slept and the award-winning young-adult novel Before the Lark
Other Books by Jane Kirkpatrick
Portraits of the Heart Historical Series
A Flickering Light*
An Absence So Great
Change and Cherish Historical Series
A Clearing in the Wild*
A Tendering in the Storm*
A Mending at the Edge
A Land of Sheltered Promise*
Tender Ties Historical Series
A Name of Her Own*
Every Fixed Star
Hold Tight the Thread
Kinship and Courage Historical Series
All Together in One Place*
No Eye Can See
What Once We Loved
A Sweetness to the Soul*
Love to Water My Soul
A Gathering of Finches
Mystic Sweet Communion
A Simple Gift of Comfort
Homestead: A Memoir of Modern Pioneers Pursuing the Edge of Possibility
Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community, and Craft*
*finalist and award-winning works
THE DAUGHTER’S WALK
PUBLISHED BY WATERBROOK PRESS
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
Scripture quotations are taken or paraphrased from the King James Version and the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
This book is a work of historical fiction based closely on real people and real events. Details that cannot be historically verified are purely products of the author’s imagination.
Copyright © 2011 by Jane Kirkpatrick
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.
WATERBROOK and its deer colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kirkpatrick, Jane, 1946–
The daughter’s walk / Jane Kirkpatrick. — 1st ed.
“Based on a true story.”
1. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. 2. Family secrets—Fiction. I. Title.
To strong and transforming women of all generations.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Clara Estby daughter of Helga
Helga Estby wife of Ole and mother of Clara, Ole, Olaf, Ida, Bertha, Henry, Arthur, Johnny, William (Billy), Lillian
Ole Estby husband of Helga
Hannah Estby aunt of Clara’s; sister to Ole
*Forest Stapleton son of Clara’s employer
the Rutters employers of Bertha and Olaf
Martin Siverson friend of Ole
Chauncey Depew railroad magnate and philanthropist
Olea Stone Ammundsen New York furrier
Louise Gubner New York furrier
*Franklin Doré agent of Olea and Louise
*John Doré lumberman in Manistee, Michigan
*Characters designated with an asterisk are not based on actual historical figures and are fully imagined by the author.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, 1848
God is love. Love is the proof of God, and forgiveness is the proof of love.
DALE CRAMER IN Levi’s Will
MICA CREEK, WASHINGTON STATE, MARCH 1901
Go back! Just go back!” The woman glared at the dog, who stopped, his tail down, ears tipped forward in confusion.
“You can’t come with me,” she said. “I’m not part of this family anymore.” Her voice cracked at the truth that now defined her life. Heavy, wet snow fell on the solemn pair. The dog failed to obey. Even in this she was powerless. She looked at the window, hoping her mother or sister might wave. No one. She returned to the dog.
“Go back. Please.” She pointed, her voice breaking. “Go, Sailor. Go home.” The dog curled his bushy tail between his legs and then turned, walking toward the farmhouse now shrouded in snow. He looked back once, but she pointed and he continued back to the family as she’d ordered.
The woman bit her lip to avoid crying, then stuffed the packet close to her chest to keep the papers dry. She pulled her fur coat around her. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn it; maybe her success offended them and that’s why they’d refused.
The wind shifted, drove pelting snow into her face. She’d forgotten her umbrella at the house. It mattered little; she’d left so much more behind. She trudged toward the railroad tracks, taki
ng her first steps into exile.
Other Books by This Author
Cast of Characters
Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments
My name is Clara Estby, and for my own good, my mother whisked me away. Well, for the good of our family too, she insisted. Trying to stop her proved useless, because when an idea formed in her Norwegian head, she was like a rock crib anchoring a fence: strong and sturdy and unmovable once it’s set. I tried to tell her, I did. We all did. But in the end, we succumbed to her will and I suppose to her hopefulness, never dreaming it would lead where it did. I certainly never imagined I’d walk a path so distant from the place where I began.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, telling stories out of sequence, something a steady and careful woman like me should never do.
It began on an April morning in 1896, inside our Mica Creek farmhouse at the edge of the rolling Palouse Hills of eastern Washington State, when my mother informed me that we would be walking from Spokane to New York City. Walking, mind you, when there were perfectly good trains a person could take. Walking—thirty-five hundred miles to earn ten thousand dollars that would save our farm from foreclosure. Also to prove that a woman had stamina. Also to wear the new reform dress and show the freedom such garments offered busy, active, sturdy women.
Freedom. The only merit I saw in the shorter skirts and absence of corsets was that we could run faster from people chasing us for being foolish enough to embark on such a trek across the country, two women, alone.
We were also making this journey to keep me “from making a terrible mistake,” Mama told me. I was eighteen years old and able to make my own decisions, or so I thought. But not this one.
Mama stood stiff as a wagon tongue, her back to my father and me, drinking a cup of coffee that steamed the window. I could see my brother Olaf outside, moving the sheep to another field with the help of Sailor, our dog, dots of white like swirling cotton fluffs bounding over an ocean of green. Such a bucolic scene about to reveal hidden rocks beneath it.
“We are going to walk to New York City, Clara, you and I.”
“What?” I’d entered the kitchen, home for a weekend from my work as a domestic in Spokane. My mother had walked four hundred miles a few years earlier to visit her parents in a time of trial. We’d all missed her, and no one liked taking over her many duties that kept the family going. But walk to New York City?
“Why would we walk, and why are we going at all?” I had plans for the year ahead, and I figured it would take us a year to make such a trek.
My father grunted. “She listens to no one, your mother, when ideas she gets into her head.”
“Mama, you haven’t thought this through,” I said.
My mother turned to face us, her blue eyes intense. “It’s not possible to work out every detail in life, but one has to be bold. Did we know you’d find work in Spokane when we left Minnesota? No. Did we think we’d ever own our own farm? No. These are good things that happened because we took a chance and God allowed it.”
“We didn’t expect me to become injured, to mortgage the farm because we needed money to plant and live on,” my father said. It sounded like they’d had this argument more than once but never in front of me. “Bad things can happen, and this … this is a bad thing, I tell you.”
“There is nothing certain in this life,” she said to both of us. “We must grab what is given. ‘Occupy until I come,’ Scripture tells us. ‘Multiply’ is what that word occupy means. Here is our chance to do that, to save this farm, and all it requires is using what God gave us, our feet and our perseverance, our effort and a little inconvenience.”
“A little inconvenience?” I said. “I have plans for the summer, and I’m going to go to college in the fall and work part-time. I can’t leave my job.”
“I, I, I … Always it is about you,” my mother said. “You won’t have money for school if we lose this farm. You’ll have to work full-time to help this family. You see your father. He can’t do carpenter work as he did before. One must risk for family. We must trust in the goodness of human nature and God’s guidance.”
“But who would pay us for such a thing? Do you have a contract?” The wealthy Spokane people I served often spoke of contracts and lawyers and securities as I dipped squash soup into their Spode china bowls or brushed crumbs from their tables into the silver collectors before bringing chocolate mousse for dessert. These were businesspeople who would never try to multiply by walking cross-country without a written contract.
“These are trustworthy people. They have the New York World behind them and the entire fashion industry too.”
What Mama proposed frightened me. “If we make it, how do we know they’ll pay us?”
“If we make it? Of course we’ll make it,” she said.
My father sagged onto the chair at the table, held his head with his hands while my mother flicked at the crumbs of a sandbakkel cookie collected on the oilcloth. I wondered if she thought of my little brother Henry. He’d loved those cookies.
“Who says these sponsors are reliable?” I said. I was as tall as my mother but had a rounder face than either of my parents. My mother and I shared slender frames, but her earth-colored hair twisted into a thick topknot while my soft curls lay limp as brown yarn. My mother set her narrow jaw. She didn’t take any sassing.
“Never you mind.” She brushed at her apron. “They’re honest. They’ve made an investment too. They’ll pay for the bicycle skirts once we reach Salt Lake City, and they’ll pay for the portraits. They’ve promised five dollars cash to send us on our way. The rest we’ll earn. Can’t you see? It’s our way out.”
“So you say,” my father said. He ran fingers through his yellow hair, and I noticed a touch of white.
“But why do I have to go?” I wailed. “Take Olaf. A man would be safer for you.”
“It’s about women’s stamina, not about a man escorting a woman. And you … You’re filled with wedding thoughts you have no business thinking.”
My face burned. “I’m not,” I said. “He’s. I work for his family, Mama.”
How she knew I harbored thoughts of a life with Forest Stapleton I’d neve
r know. I was sure I’d never mentioned him. Well, maybe to my sister Ida once, in passing.
“I know about employers’ sons,” Mama said. My father lifted his head as though to speak, but my mother continued. “Besides, family comes first. You can go to college next year, when we have the money. What we need now is that ten thousand dollars so we can repay the mortgage and not lose this farm. It could go to foreclosure if we don’t do this.” My father dropped his eyes at the mention of that shameful word. “Ole, God has opened a door for us, and we would slight Him if we turned this down,” she pleaded.
“How can you leave your babies?” my father said then, his voice nearly a whisper. “How can you be away from Lillian and Johnny and Billy and Arthur and Bertha and Ida and Olaf—”
“I know the names of my children,” my mother said, her words like stings.
“Ja, well then, how can you leave them?”
“It is only for a short time, seven months, Ole.” She sat next to him at the table, patted his slumped shoulder. “They will be in good hands with you and Ida and Olaf to look after them. It is a mark of my trust and confidence in you that I can even think about doing this thing.” She looked at me now. “When I walked before, that four hundred miles in Minnesota, you did well, all of you. It made you stronger. And I came back.” She patted my father’s hand. “I’ll come back. We will, Clara and I. Everything will be as it was before but with the mortgage made. The entire farm paid off, money for each of my children to go on to college when they want. No more worries about the future.” She took his silence as agreement. “Good. We go into Spokane later this week for our portrait,” my mother said to me, relief in her voice. “These will be sent to the New York papers and the Spokesman-Review.”
My father winced.
“People in Spokane will read about this?” I said. The thought humiliated. What would Forest think? What would our neighbors think?
“People across the country will know of it,” my mother said. She almost glowed, her eyes sparkling with anticipation.