Thursday teaser: Mist-chi-mas: A Novel of Captivity

Share

This week’s excerpt is from the historical mystery-romance

By J.L. Oakley

At six o’clock a sergeant came over to escort the women to Captain George Pickett’s quarters next door where Pickett personally greeted Jeannie and the Jenkins women at the door. For the second time that day she mused that she was the same height as the captain. With dark shoulder length hair, mustache and a long unruly goatee, Pickett was only a little over five and a half feet tall. What he lacked in height, however, she had already learned he made up in audacity, charm and a strong scent of Jamaican rum cologne. He offered her his arm and led her into the candlelit dining room.

Gathered around the table was a collection of men and women from the area. Pickett gave immediate introductions. “May I present Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Marshall of Port Townsend, my second lieutenant, James W. Forsyth, two British naval officers from the HMS Satellite, Lieutenant Fuller—Mrs. Jenkins’ brother visiting from Fort Steilacoom, and Andrew Pierce from the settlement of Seattle.”

The men rose as the women were escorted to their seats at the table. The Jenkins women were treated with courtesy, but from Lucy’s pout not enough. When Pickett pulled out her chair, Jeannie thanked him for his hospitality and sat down.

“Now, Mrs. Naughton,” Captain Pickett said as he sat down. “Do tell us all about your time in Kanaka Town. It has concerned us all, considerin’ someone has left his earthly bounds.” He put his napkin in his lap and sipped water from the crystal glass at his place.

Jeannie glanced around. The table was set just as fine as the officer’s table at the Royal Marine Camp with a linen cloth, several candlesticks spread out down the middle, and a large hurricane lamp set in the center. The candles cast soft yellow light on all the diners. Captain Pickett winked at her, but she pretended she did not notice. “An act of bravery, I might add,” Pickett went on. “Do tell.”

Jeannie wasn’t sure what account to give or whether it was a proper subject for the dinner table, but they seemed anxious to know about her time with the people of Kanaka Town, so she told them of her days there. When she was done, Pickett directed the dinner guests to a discussion of health in general. He sat at his place at the head of the table, his long hair curling at his jacket’s collar, like a country gentleman hosting guests at his estate. Jeannie could understand why Mr. Breed said he was popular with both military camps and civilians.

It soon became apparent that the women were not taken with her account. Mrs. Jenkins’ lips seemed to get acutely puckered as Jeannie went on. Mrs. Marshall, the merchant’s wife, burst out that the whole affair was unseemly.

“Don’t you think, Mrs. Jenkins, a woman should be more particular in what she chooses to undertake?” Mrs. Marshall’s rag curls banged against her neck.

“I do indeed. Don’t you, Mr. Pierce?”

Andrew Pierce was mid-bite on an appetizer of oysters. He looked startled, then blushed at Jeannie sitting next to him. “You caught me off-guard, ma’am. I’ll have to think on it.”

“I don’t believe that there is anything to think on,” said the captain of the HMS Satellite. “Women served valiantly in our hospitals in the late Crimean War. Miss Nightingale for one. An extraordinary woman. Saved many a soldier’s life.”

Mrs. Jenkins and the other ladies shrank back when the military men agreed. The matter of Jeannie’s incautious adventure was settled and to her relief, in her favor. The men agreed that containing the smallpox was imperative. It touched her deeply when they gave tender acknowledgment to her loss and the irony she could not help her son.

Dinner was served in the French style with all the dishes on the table and the serving plates assisted around. Pickett continued playing host, leading the conversation and letting topics flow from local politics to news of the social season. Occasionally, he’d interject, “Sir, ah believe that is the most interesting thing ah heard” or something to that effect. Jeannie found his accent hard to understand.

During the second hour, the conversation turned to more national subjects, though Jeannie noticed that by some unspoken agreement, they did not speak of the growing discord and talk of secession back in the States she had heard during conversations in Victoria. Instead,

the conversation settled on Pickett’s exploits in the Mexican war. The British officers were interested in the tactics of General Winfield Scott. Pickett obliged them with an arrangement of salt cellars and candlesticks on the table.

As he laid out the battlefield, Jeannie was amused to see that he had brought Mrs. Jenkins and the other women to a complete stop. Their fan-covered faces and asides were muffled. The officers leaned over and the battle began. When Pickett was done, salt had been spilled and a candlestick dripped its beeswax onto the linen cloth. To that, everyone clapped. The officers raised their glasses as Pickett returned to his seat in good cheer.

About Mist-Chi-Mas

In Mist-chi-mas, everyone is bound to something.

Jeannie Naughton never intended to run away from her troubles, but in 1860, a woman’s reputation is everything. A scandal not of her own making forces her to flee England for an island in the Pacific Northwest, a territory jointly occupied by British and American military forces. At English Camp, Jeannie meets American Jonas Breed. Breed was once a captive and slave — a mistchimas — of the Haida, and still retains close ties to the Coast Salish Indians.

But the inhabitants of the island mistrust Breed for his friendship with the tribes. When one of Breed’s friends is murdered, he is quickly accused of a gruesome retaliation. Jeannie knows he’s innocent, and plans to go away with him, legitimizing their passionate affair with a marriage. But when she receives word that Breed has been killed in a fight, Jeannie’s world falls apart. Although she carries Jonas Breed’s child, she feels she has no choice but to accept a proposal from another man.

Twenty years later, Jeannie finds reason to believe that Breed may still be alive. She must embark on a journey to uncover the truth, unaware that she is stirring up an old and dangerous struggle for power and revenge…

Find it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley

writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.

In addition to historical fiction, J.L. has also written the Hilo Bay series of four mystery novellas set in the Hawaiian Islands. Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017.

 Get to know more about Janet on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley13.

Share

Comments

  1. Mahsie or thanks for featuring me.