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During the waning days of the gold rush, Emma Brownston fled a cheating husband and traded an affluent lifestyle in Britain for a bold venture into the Alaska frontier. But life in the fading Klondike city of Skagway soon proved to be far from her last adventure as struggles with health issues and complex ties to Britain hampered her attempts to remove herself from her former life.
With Britian fully immersed in the social uprisings of the Great Unrest, World War I looming on the horizon, and women in Europe and America organizing for the right to vote, would her newfound resolve be enough to help her navigate these tenuous times, or would she, like so many drawn to the gold rush, struggle to maintain momentum in the wilds of pre-territorial Alaska?
Lavender White Arctic Blue is the fictional story of one woman's journey during the early days of the twentieth century. Beginning in Britain at Lavender Blue Estates in 1910, Emma Brownston's story will take the reader across two continents to a new home named Arctic White in Alaska and to an ending the author did not forsee.
Summer of 1910
Emma Brownston walked the narrow path between the mounds of flowering lavender. It was his farm, in his name, and yet despite all that he had done, this alone—this beauty and this peace—had been enough to hold her here till now.
Doc Grant had told her about the consumption just last week after she had started coughing up bits of blood during the night. He had also told her she was with child and had advised that both she and the unborn child could be cared for in the sanatorium in nearby Wembley.
Despite the fact that he had begun arrangements to move her there, she had resisted, arguing that the fresh air and flower-scented fields of her husband’s own estate would provide healing powers far superior to those in group housing near the congested city of London. And so, she had used her status as the wife of Hershell Brownston to prevail—not only dismissing the local doctor, but in deference to his years of service to her family, assuring him that her husband’s influence would ensure her access to proper care.
In truth, her husband would know of neither affliction, for she had decided to find a way to relieve herself of the pregnancy in order to spare the health of her child, beginning with the immediate taking of an extended leave, purportedly to tend to her dying mother.
He, being busy with the harvest, would welcome her departure, of this she was certain; as certain as she was that it had been he who had fathered the child of their house servant, Colleen.
The scent of the lavender soothed her as she walked along, as if healing her from the inner strife that had so weakened her resolve. If only she could walk this path forever and smell these calming fragrances each day, but there was no room for if only in the harshness of her new reality.
A fit of coughing brought up more blood and she spat it into the tall grasses that formed a meadow between the gardens, scuffing it over with dirt so as not to arouse suspicion among any workers who happened by.
Despite the fact that leaving Hershell would be easier than leaving the farm she so loved, both the consumption and the pregnancy mandated not only that she go, but that she conceal both realities from the man she no longer loved.
It had been months since she and her husband had shared a bed—except for that one night that had captured her fertility at its peak. He had cursed her after, boldly telling her that Colleen had been away or he would never have had to force himself on her in this way. Then he had left her alone, sobbing into the very pillow that was the only remnant of her childhood dreams.
She had buried her face into that pillow, calling to heaven for her parents to stroke her streaming hair and embrace her shaking shoulders just as they had done so many times to ward off the nighttime demons that allow a child’s imagination to scare them from sleep. But her cries went unanswered except in her dreams and she awakened to the reality that she was an adult woman clinging to a faded, lumpy, and soggy remnant of the past.
Stooping to pluck a twig of lavender, she felt a catch in her breath and wondered if God’s hand was punishing her for her thoughts about her husband and the baby that neither of them desired.
She had once longed to be a mother—to hold a baby in her arms, to nurture a tiny life and help it grow, and to run laughing with her growing child through these very fields. Perhaps there was a way that she could spare the child she bore— carry it until its birth, and then set it free to find a loving path in life. She coughed again. More blood. It was important to leave soon—before Hershell learned of the truth.
She couldn’t help but notice his boots on the stoop of the servant’s cabin on her way back to the main house. Once inside, she had Jenny prepare her lunch, while she slipped upstairs to pack a single tapestry bag with everything that would become her sole possessions. Then, after sending Jenny to the market, she carried the bag through the grand door that marked the entry to the Brownston Estate, sat it down on the immaculate green veranda, and walked slowly down the wide steps to the carriage she had asked her only trusted servant, James, to bring forward for the journey.
He stood facing her, as if knowing this was more than a temporary departure and insisted on driving her into London. Despite the fact that she assured him she could drive the carriage herself and leave it tied in a secure location, he would have none of it until finally she acquiesced and allowed him to drive her to town and carry the tapestry bag to the wooden boardwalk, where she assured him she would later board the train.
Once he had left, and after a brief nap in a quiet alcove near the cemetery, she carried the bag to the docks and boarded a steamship to America, after which she would cross the United States before boarding another steamship to Skagway, Alaska—her passage being secured with the payment of gold coins at the office of Canadian Pacific for travel on the Princess May.
As she would later learn, hers would become the last Alaska voyage of the year for this iconic steamship—for on its return journey to London on August 5, 1910, heavy with 80 passengers and its heavy cargo of gold, the Princess May would hit a reef and be grounded on rocks in Alaska’s Lynn Canal, taking it out of service for at least another year.
But, by then Emma Brownston would be well established in her new life and Hershell would have learned she was gone forever and would presumably—after a proper interval of public sadness and grief—be celebrating his freedom from the woman he had come to detest for her insistence on using her mind.