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West to the Bay

Chapter 1



Stromness, Orkney Islands. Northern Scotland. April, 1750


It was still dark when fifteen-year-old Thomas Gunn jumped out of bed and donned his work clothes. His excitement had been building for the past few days and he had hardly slept. Today was the day of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s interviews in Stromness. He felt his way out of the bedroom, careful not to bump into the beds of his two brothers who shared the room with him, and went into the kitchen. Using the smoldering remains of the hearth fire to light his way he crossed the kitchen. He took the poker from where it leaned against the stone wall and stirred the embers. When they glowed brightly, he placed kindling on them then leaned over and blew, watching as little flames licked at the wood. Soon the small pieces of wood caught fire and he placed some peat on top.

No one else in the household was up but he could hear his parents stirring in their bedroom. Usually, his mother had to call him twice before he crawled out of bed and dressed for chores, but today was different. Thomas grabbed the two wooden milk pails and went outside. It was near the end of April and the cool pre-dawn air made him shiver. He ran to the barn where the cows waited, their breath misting around them. He opened the door and the animals automatically walked to their stalls. Thomas took the milk stool from its hook on the wall and set it beside the first cow. He sat, placed one pail between his knees and rhythmically swished the milk from the cow’s udder into the pail.

When he had finished milking the cows and the pails were brimming with frothy, warm milk he headed to the house. His mother, Mary Gunn, looked up when he walked in the kitchen.

“I thought it might have been you who started the fire,” she said, as she stirred the gruel. “Anxious to get into town, are you?”

Thomas nodded. He strained the milk through a cloth into a large bowl. He set the bowl aside to let the cream rise to the surface for skimming. Later, the cream would be made into butter.

“Are you certain you want to do this? You can work here on the farm, and I am sure Stuart will keep you on as help when he takes it over.”

Stuart was Thomas’ oldest brother, and as such, he inherited the farm once their father passed away. The rest of the children had to look after themselves, the boys finding work, the girls marrying. Thomas could not see himself working for Stuart. Like his older brother Edward, who had gone to the New World, he wanted his own life. And, hopefully, today was the beginning of that.

“I am certain,” he said.

Thomas returned to his bedroom where twenty two-year-old Stuart and twelve-year-old Bruce were waking up. In the bedroom beside theirs a blanket had been strung across the middle when his oldest sister, Molly, married. She and her husband shared one half, while his sister, Isabel, had the other.

“What are you doing up so early?” Bruce asked, rubbing his eyes.

“I am going to my interview today,” Thomas said. Using the light that seeped through the small window, Thomas changed into his best breeches and ruffled shirt. He pulled the long stockings up over the hem of his breeches which ended just below his knees. He tied his shoulder length brown hair into a tail at the nape of his neck.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” Bruce jumped out of bed. “Can I come with you?”

“No, you have to stay and help me work the land for planting,” Stuart said. He was already dressed and on his way out the door.

Bruce made a face. “I do not want to,” he said to Stuart’s back. He turned to Thomas. “I want to go with you.”

“You cannot. You are too young,” Thomas replied.

“I will lie about my age.”

Thomas laughed and rumpled Bruce’s hair. “It is too late, the notices have been taken down. You will just have to be patient. You only have three years until you are fifteen. I have had to wait the four years since Edward left, and he had to be sixteen before Father let him go.”

Thomas led the way out to the kitchen. Isabel, Molly, and her husband, Harry, sat at the table where his mother had dished up the gruel. Molly had married Harry in the summer. He had been a sailor on a Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship and met Molly on one of the annual visits. Last year on his stop, he proposed. Molly accepted and he jumped ship to stay with her. He agreed to work on the farm for a small wage in order to learn how to run a farm of his own.

“How is Father this morning?” Stuart asked.

“He had a bad night,” Mary said. “I am going to take him in a bowl of gruel and see if he can eat it.”

“Shall I get the doctor while I am in Stromness?” Thomas asked. Stromness was the largest town on the Orkney Islands, and the only one with a doctor.

“I do not think that is necessary, yet,” Mary said, heading for the bedroom.

The others looked at each other. Their father, Duncan, had been sick with consumption for almost two years. Some days he was his normal self while on others he could hardly get out of bed. Stuart had taken over the running of the farm.

Thomas gulped down his breakfast and stood. “Can I take Buddy into town?” He was the youngest and fastest of their horses.

“We have been through this before,” Stuart said. “I need Buddy today. You can take Nellie.”

“I can walk faster than she goes,” Thomas grumbled.

“Then walk, but you are not taking Buddy.”

“I will take Nellie, then.”

“How long will you be?” Stuart asked.

“I do not know. It depends on how long the interview takes.”

“Well, hurry back. There is lots of work to be done.”

Thomas went to the barn and saddled up Nellie. She was the oldest of their three horses. She had been a work horse for years, but now was only used for trips into town. As much as Thomas would have liked to gallop her into Stromness, he cared for the old nag, and a hard run would be too much for her. He kept the pace at a nice easy walk knowing he would still be early. The shops in Stromness did not open until nine and very few people were out before then.

He rode to the Kirke’s house and tied Nellie to a post. There was a light in the window so he knocked on the door. It was opened almost immediately by his best friend, John. Thomas could see the pent-up excitement in his eyes that matched his own.

“Hello, Mrs. Kirke,” Thomas said, entering the flagstone house.

“You are here mighty early,” Martha Kirke said. She was already working at the laundry she took in to support her and John. “You must be as excited as John. He cannot sit long enough to eat.

“The boys grinned at each other.

“I just have to hang these sheets for Mother, and then we can go,” John said.

“I will help.”

They each took the end of a sheet, careful not to let it drag on the floor, and carried it outside to a rope, fastened between the house and an old shed. There, they hung it to dry. When they had four sheets on the line, John said. “We are going to walk down to the recruiting office.”

“It is not nine, yet,” Martha said, putting a shirt in the wash tub. “You will not find anyone there.”

“We know. We just have to go.”

Martha smiled at her only son. “Way you go, then.”

“Look at that line-up,” John said, when they reached the office. “We do not have much of a chance of being picked now.”

“Yes, we do,” Thomas said, although not with as much confidence as he had felt when they signed up.

They took their place at the end of the long line of boys, and as he waited Thomas thought back over the past weeks.

At the beginning of April, he and John had stood in front of the Stromness church and read the notice posted on the door. Wanted: Boys between the ages of 14 and 18 to sign up with the Hudson’s Bay Company for duty in the New World. Names must be on this form before April 22, 1750. Interview date is April 25 at the recruiting office in Stromness.

Thomas had been the first to pick up the quill and dip it in the ink. He wrote his name on the top line, making sure it was legible. John quickly added his name below.

“At last,” Thomas said, looking with satisfaction at his name. “At last, I can go.”

“We have not been picked yet,” John cautioned. “We still have to go through the interview and physical examination.”

“We will be picked,” Thomas said, with confidence. “The Company has been taking boys from these islands for years. There probably are few left to choose from.”

They watched as Henry Spence and Francis Isbister put their names on the paper, Francis adding that of his younger brother Richard. At sixteen, Henry and Francis were a year older than Thomas and John and usually did not speak to the younger boys. However, they walked over to where the two stood.

“Henry and I are going for sure,” Francis said, with a grin.

“So are we,” John answered.

“You will not know that for weeks.”

“Then how do you know you are?” Thomas asked.

“Because my Father is a good friend of Anderson’s.”

“That does not mean anything,” John scorned.

“It will when the final list comes out.”


* * *


Thomas now studied the boys in the line ahead of him. The notice had been posted on the doors of all the churches on the Orkney Islands, and many of the boys had come to Stromness from those villages. Some were dressed in torn and patched clothing, many seemed younger than the suggested age, but all were looking for a chance to start a new and hopefully better life.

Interviewing took all day. Each boy entered the office while the others watched the door, counting the minutes until he came out again. When he did come out his face was carefully scrutinized for any sign of what happened behind the door. None of the boys showed any emotion when they came out. Each just walked down the street to their homes, or to where they were staying.

It was an unseasonably hot day and as the sun rose higher in the sky the boys sweated under its glare. Although he was scared right down to his toes, when it was his turn Thomas entered with his head held high. He wanted to make a good impression.

“Your name?” David Anderson, the recruiting officer, asked. He knew some of the boys, but he had to go through the formality.

“Thomas Gunn, Sir.”


“Fifteen, Sir.”

“Do your parents know you signed the notice?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Do you understand that if you are accepted you will not be allowed to return home until your servitude is over?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Do you want to sign for three or five years?”

“Five years, Sir.”

Anderson stood and walked around his desk. He looked Thomas up and down.

Nervous sweat, mixed with the sweat from the heat, ran down Thomas’ back and belly. He hoped the dampness would not show as Anderson continued questioning him.

“Do you have all your fingers and toes?”

“Yes, Sir.” Thomas held out his hands.

“How is your hearing?”

“Good, Sir.”

“Your eyesight?”

“Good, Sir.”

“Have you ever had any broken bones?”

“No, Sir.”

“Do you have any pains?”

“No, Sir.”

Anderson returned to his desk and wrote something beside Thomas’ name. Thomas craned to look at it.

“That will be all,” Anderson said, without looking up.

“When will the list be ready, Sir?” Thomas asked.

“In two days.”

“Two days?” How was he going to wait that long?

“It takes me time to go through the notes I have made,” Anderson said, as if reading his mind.

As Thomas closed the door, John whispered at him. “How did it go?”

“It is easy,” Thomas whispered back. Then he went and sat at the corner of the building and waited.

Soon John was beside him. “That was not as bad as I expected,” he said.

“Look,” Thomas pointed. “There is old man Isbister with poor Richard. He is going to make him join the Company, along with Francis.”

“Yeah, my mother claims he believes the change will be good for Richard.”

“There are a lot of boys who will be picked before Richard.”

“Mother says Anderson owes Isbister a favor and he is going to collect.”

They watched as old man Isbister and Richard stepped in line. Richard had been a sickly child since birth and he was small for his age of fourteen. He did not look very happy.

The boys stood and walked down the cobbled street to John’s house.

“Now we have to wait two more days,” Thomas said.

“How do you know?” John asked. “He never told me anything.”

“I asked.”

“Did he say how many boys the Company needs?”


“It is going to be tough waiting.”

Thomas mounted Nellie and headed to the farm. After the initial elation of the morning, he now felt discouraged. There had been more boys in line at the interview than he expected. His chances of being accepted were worse than he ever imagined.


* * *


It was again early morning when Thomas was back in Stromness. He was eager to find out if he had been chosen by the Hudson’s Bay Company to cross the ocean to one of their posts in Rupert’s Land.

“I have never washed and hung so many clothes in my life,” John said, as they walked to the recruiting office. “And even then the days passed slowly.”

“Yes, I did extra chores to make the time pass faster, but they were the longest two days of my life.”

At the office there was no list on the door, yet. They sat on the bench in front, their elbows on their knees, chins resting on their palms. There was nothing for them to say to each other. They had discussed this day for months now and there were no words left. Francis and Henry joined them.

“Do we wait, or do we knock on the door?” Henry asked.

The others shrugged.

“Is he in there?” Francis asked.

John tried to look in the window but it was curtained. “I cannot see.”

“Should we leave and come back later?” Thomas wondered.

No one wanted to answer that question so they waited. Soon the street in front of the office was filled with the boys who had been interviewed. They shuffled their feet. They glanced up and down the street then back at the closed door. They looked at each other, then away, the butterflies in their stomachs threatening to make them sick. No one spoke; each knew his hopes and dreams would either be dashed or fulfilled in a few minutes.

Finally, the door opened and Anderson tacked the list to the outside of it. “Pretty eager, are you boys.” He grinned at them as he closed the door.

The crowd of boys rushed to the list and each quickly searched for their names.

“I have been picked,” John yelled.

“Me, too.” Thomas and Henry said, in unison.

“I see my name,” Francis said. “And Richard’s.”

They stepped away as the other boys pressed forward. There were others yells of happiness and some sighs of disappointment.

“We all made it,” John said in wonder. “The five of us are going to the New World together.”

“Officially known as Rupert’s Land,” Thomas reminded him, with a relieved grin.

“Officially known as Rupert’s Land,” John repeated. “And we are sailing on Master Given’s ship.”

They yelped and laughed and hit each other on the back, giddy with excitement, forgetting the age difference.

“Let us make a pact,” Francis said suddenly, a grave expression on his face.

The others stopped and looked at him.

“What kind of pact?” Thomas asked.

“Well, we are the only ones from town who are going to York Factory, so let us agree to look out for each other and help each other.”

“Agreed.” And the four solemnly shook hands to seal the deal.

“What about Richard?” Thomas asked.

“I will look after him,” Francis said.

“I had better go tell my parents,” Henry said.

“Yes,” John said. “My mother made me promise to hurry home and let her know.”

Thomas and John ran back to John’s house. They burst in the door.

“We made it, Mother,” John cried. “We have been chosen.”

Martha Kirke smiled though there were tears in her eyes. “I am glad for you, my son.”


* * *


The ride back to the farm seemed slow, but once there, instead of going straight to the house, Thomas headed for the sheep pasture. The wind whipped at his hair and billowed out the front of his shirt as he strode through the short grass. He still was in a state of wonder at being accepted as a servant of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In a few weeks he would be heading to York Factory on Hudson’s Bay in the New World. His dream had finally come true.

When Edward sailed away four years ago, Thomas was eleven and he climbed the harbor tower for a better view over the heads of the townspeople. He watched as Edward, and the other boys who were leaving Stromness, boarded the departing ship. He waved until the sails of the ship were out of sight and, as he clung to the tower, he decided he was going to join the Company when he was old enough. And now it had happened.

Thomas picked up a rock and threw it as far as he could, watching as it hit the ground and bounced before rolling to a stop. He then walked over to the stone fence he and Stuart had built around the pasture. He sat, not caring if he dirtied his best breeches. He looked out over the land which would be Stuart’s when their father died. That was why his oldest brother had never joined the Company and left the island. Stuart’s future was assured.

And now so was his. Thomas smiled to himself. His life was just beginning and it was going to be a great one, if he could believe even half the stories told by the men who had returned home after years with the Company. Certainly a lot more thrilling than if he stayed here on the island.

Thomas stood and walked towards his home. The flagstone farmhouse had been built years ago by their father, the spaces between the stones chinked with peat, and later with lime mortar. He walked into the kitchen where his mother was preparing their noon meal. She looked up at him, her eyebrows raised.

“Yes, I have been accepted,” Thomas said, grinning.

Mary nodded. “Your father will be happy.” She bent her head as she rolled out dough for biscuits.

“Now, Mother,” Thomas said, walking around the table and giving her cheek a kiss. “You know I really want to go.”

Mary wiped a tear from her eye. “First Edward and now you.”

“You still have Stuart, and Molly, and Isabel, and little Bruce, to keep you busy. You will not even miss me.”

“Yes, I will. A mother always misses a child.”

“But I am not a child. I am fifteen, a man.”

Mary smiled and patted his cheek. “You will always be a child to me.




Chapter 2



York Factory, Rupert’s Land. April 1750


Little Bird left the Home Guard Cree village with her grandmother, heading to the frozen river for water. The day was warm and sunny. Water dripped from the snow melting off the tree branches and the smell of spring filled the air. Little Bird had one of the axes her grandfather had given them balanced on her shoulder. The wooden pails they carried were also from her grandfather.

As she walked beside the straight backed, always energetic older woman she saw for the first time that she had grown taller than her grandmother. She wondered when this had happened. She had not noticed it over the winter as she sat listening to her grandmother’s stories, or when they made baskets together, or when she braided her hair.

Although her grandmother’s hair was gray, Little Bird never thought of her as old. They spent so much time together, her grandmother teaching her the ways of the Cree, telling her about the life she had lived as an Inland Cree, and how her parents had come to live with the Home Guard Cree.

She explained that the Inland and Home Guard Cree were both members of the Swampy Cree tribe. The name Home Guard had been given to the band by the white man because they had set up their permanent camp near the fort. They hunted for their food and trapped, trading the furs to the Company.

Although they spoke their native language in the village, most of the Home Guard Cree knew English, and her grandmother had taught her the language at an early age. Occasionally, she spoke about her life with Little Bird’s grandfather, a grandfather they only saw once a year.

At fourteen, Little Bird was almost old enough for marriage, but there were so many questions she wanted to ask her grandmother about her own marriage, and how she felt when her husband left her with two children to look after. Questions she wanted answered before she wed.

As they walked to the river she asked. “Grandmother, why did you not marry one of our men when Grandfather left?”

Her grandmother, who was called Patient Woman by the band, looked at her and Little Bird held her breath. Her mother had warned her never to talk about her grandfather leaving unless her grandmother mentioned it first.

Her grandmother smiled at her. “There was no one I cared enough about.”

“But you must have been so alone.”

“Alone and scared, and lonely and hurt,” Patient Woman replied. “But I always hoped he would return. And I was right.”

“Only once a year, though.”

“That was what he wished, and I was willing to accept that.”

Little Bird thought about her grandfather’s visits. She, her sister, Spotted Fawn, and their mother, Moon Face, would move into her uncle’s teepee to let her grandparents have the teepee to themselves. They either spent the day inside talking or went for a walk holding hands. She saw the love between them and never understood why he did not stay.

“Why did he leave?” She had only been told that he left because his second enlistment with the Company was over. She was sure there was a different reason, because she knew the men could sign on as long as they wished to.

Patient Woman sat on a rock beside the still frozen river. She took the axe from Little Bird’s hand and held it gently in her own. As she spoke her eyes had a far-away look in them.

“Your grandfather was seventeen, and a beggar on the dirty streets of the city they call London, when he was accepted by the Company. He thought it was a miracle because he now had a full belly, clothes to wear instead of rags, and was being paid for his work.

“But his miracle only lasted a few months. He had not reckoned on the quiet, the solitude, and the loneliness, after being raised in noisy London. Nor had he been told about the cold, and the snow in winter, and the mosquitoes in summer. We met during his first winter and were married in the spring.”

“How old were you?” Little Bird asked.

“I was sixteen.”

“Did he marry you because he was lonely?” Little Bird tilted her head to one side.

“At first I thought he did but later I think he really did love me. He was so proud when I gave him a son, and we were the reason he signed on again for another three years when his first servitude was up.”

“But he finally left after Mother was born.”

“Yes, he did. He returned to London and signed on a ship heading to warmer places. But he missed us, and after six years he joined the Company again as a sailor on their supply ship. He could not bring himself to come back here to live, but he has come to see his family once a year for the past twenty-eight years.”

“That must have been hard on Mother and Uncle Red Elk,” Little Bird said, thinking of her own father who had been killed two years ago. She still missed him.

“On your uncle mostly because he remembered us as a family. Your mother has only known his once-a-year visits.”

“So your brothers helped you raise Mother and Uncle Red Elk, just as uncle has helped us since Father died.”

“Yes. And that is why each time your grandfather comes he brings us pots, and tools, and beads. And he gives guns, and powder, and shot, to my brothers. It is his way of helping to take care of his family.”

“And he brings you new clay pipes and enough tobacco to last you months.”

“Yes,” Patient Woman smiled. “He does.”


* * *


Little Bird lay on her mat in her area of the teepee. The fire in the middle had dwindled to a red glow and the cold was seeping in. She snuggled down in her fur skins and thought about her grandfather. Her first memory of him was as a small child peeking around her mother at the tall man she was supposed to call Grandfather. She did not know how old she was at the time, but she did know she had been scared of him. And for the next few years it seemed as if the visits ran into each other. They had been such a small part of her life she had not paid much attention to them. She knew he was her grandfather and she could tell that her grandmother and mother were glad to see him, but she had not understood why.

At the age ten, she was able to remember the details of his visit. And the next time he came she had seen him differently. He was her grandmother’s husband, her mother’s father. And she had noticed family resemblances. Her uncle Red Elk was tall like his father and he had his father’s light hair color. Her mother, Moon Face, looked more like her Cree family. And although she had married an Indian, her children were lighter skinned than she and had finer features from her white blood.

Spotted Fawn, had long, dark hair and brown eyes. Little Bird was a smaller version of her sister, but her own eyes were blue like their grandfather’s.

At the time he left, Little Bird’s grandmother was just one of a number of country wives, as the Indian women were called, abandoned by a white man when he returned to his homeland. These country wives were left to raise the half-breed children alone. Usually they heard stories of their husbands taking white women as wives and starting a new family. But Little Bird knew some white men who remained at the post raising their children with their Indian wives. In spite of his loneliness she felt her grandfather should have done that.

She wondered about the man she would someday marry. Would he be one of the Indian braves in the camp, or would she choose a husband from the Inland Cree who came to the fort to trade. If she did, she would have to return inland with him and not see her family until the next year’s trading.

Maybe she would take a white man for a husband. Marrying a man from the post would raise her status in the band, and she might even be moved into the married men’s quarters at the post. But thinking of the pain her grandmother must have gone through when her grandfather left, she was not sure if she wished to do that.

Across the teepee her sister, Spotted Fawn, was whispering with her husband, White Paddler, another white man. Little Bird listened intently to the conversation and wondered if her mother and grandmother were also listening.

“You do not need to go,” Spotted Fawn said. “You could stay here with me.”

“I have to go,” White Paddler said. “You know that the French have built posts inland and are trading for the best furs. It is only the poor furs that are now brought here to trade. Factor Smith was pleased with the ones we brought back last year and he wants to send another brigade this spring.”

“Why cannot someone else lead them?”

“Because I want to see more of the big land to the west. Last year I did not go very far.”

“I have been there,” Spotted Fawn said. “There is not much to see.”

Little Bird remembered the time she, Spotted Fawn, and Moon Face, had gone inland with her Uncle Red Elk. Although the majority of the Home Guard Cree stayed in the camp year round they were free to return with the Inland Cree who paddled to the fort each summer to trade. Her uncle had decided to do that, and had asked his sister and her daughters if they wanted to visit their distant relatives. They left in the summer and returned the next summer with the trading party. During that year they visited her grandmother’s cousins and their families, and spent the winter in a camp along a big river. While there she had seen her first buffalo hunt and tasted her first buffalo meat.

“From what I have heard, there is lots to see. Last year I went because I had been stuck at the post on this bay for three years. This year I am going to explore the land and meet more of the Cree. I am twenty years old now, and I want to see the mountains away to the west and even reach the other ocean before I get too old.”

“What about us?” Spotted Fawn asked. “How will Mother, and Grandmother, and Little Bird and I, survive without you?”

“You uncle looked after you when your father died. He has agreed to do the same until I return.”

“I will miss you.”

“Why not come with me?” Little Bird could hear the hope in his voice.

“I cannot.” Spotted Fawn’s voice was subdued. “Grandfather will be here this summer and I wish to see him.”

“And so does Grandmother, and so does Mother, and so do I,” Little Bird whispered to herself.

“By going inland you will miss the supply ship,” Spotted Fawn continued. “Maybe this is the one with your brother on it. He will have news of your family, and you will not be here to listen to it.”

Little Bird remembered the times White Paddler, whose white man’s name she had forgotten, had waited for the supply ship. He had eagerly looked for a friend with news of home, and last year he had expected his brother to be here when he returned from inland. He had been very disappointed when he was not.

“If he does happen to come this year, I can hear the news when I get back in the fall.”

“You sound as if you do not care if your brother comes.”

“I do, but not as much as I used to. I have a good native wife.” Little Bird could hear him kiss Spotted Fawn. “I live in a teepee with your family so that I may learn more of your ways. I have forgotten what my family looks like in Stromness. I do not even know if I would recognize my brother. I tried writing them letters the first two years, but I never managed to complete one. Maybe that is why they have never written to me.”

Spotted Fawn sighed. “You are determined to go.”

“Yes. And tomorrow I must start getting new canoes built, and old ones repaired, and deciding how many supplies I will need for the journey as well as what I must take to trade. The Indians will bargain hard knowing we are competing with the French.”

“When will you leave?”

“As soon as the ice is gone from the river. Hopefully, that will be sometime in May.”

Little Bird watched White Paddler get up to add wood to the fire. He was a tall man with skin darkened from the summer sun, and even in the middle of winter his skin retained much of its tan. In spite of his dark skin he was still a white man and Little Bird wondered if he would someday return to his homeland and leave Spotted Fawn alone.




Chapter 3



Stromness, Orkney Islands. May 1750.


“Where do you think you are going?” Stuart asked.

Thomas stood beside Nellie. “I am going into town.”

“Not today. The barn needs cleaning.”

“But I want to watch for the ships. They might land today.”

“Then they will land without you because you are cleaning the barn.”

“Why cannot Harry or Bruce do it?”

“They are out planting.”

Thomas angrily turned Nellie loose in the pasture then went into the house to change into his work clothes. In the barn, he grabbed the fork from the corner and began throwing the dirty straw and manure from the first stall out into the center aisle. His anger increased with each fork full. The Hudson’s Bay Company supply ships usually arrived in Stromness towards the end of May. Since the middle of the month he had been doing his chores then riding Nellie into town to meet with John. Together they would climb the slight hill behind the town and watch out over the water for the first glimpse of a sail.

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