Authors: June Venable
Tags: #Young Adult Historical
by June Venable
Published by L&L Dreamspell
Cover and Interior Design by L & L Dreamspell
Copyright © 2008 June Venable. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, except for brief quotations used in a review.
This is a work of fiction, and is produced from the author’s imagination. People, places and things mentioned in this novel are used in a fictional manner.
Visit us on the web at www.lldreamspell.com
Published by L & L Dreamspell
Produced in the United States of America
There are many to whom my thanks are owed. My friends from Story Spinners—Helen, Judy, Joy, Trudy and those who were part of our critique group at the time of my novel’s reading. To Joan Hall—editor, fellow writer and friend, my heartfelt thanks. Last, but not least, many thanks to my husband for hours of reading and re-reading my manuscript, and to my family whose encouragement keeps me going.
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Hannah’s Journey is dedicated to the big and little kids of the family: Barbara, Paul, Julie, Brent, Eric, Zach, Cole, Wade, Ronnie, Justin, Jordan, Day ja, Alexis, Jade and Chloe. Hope you enjoy my story.
CHAPTER ONE – THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Hannah stared as the raindrops traced patterns on the dusty window. Unshed tears glistened in the girl’s large brown eyes. Her stomach fluttered as the train’s engine lurched into motion. The odor of coal smoke stung her nose and throat.
Trembling, she touched the small locket that hung from her neck. The ladies from the Children’s Aid Society of New York City had hurried her along saying they could take care of anything she needed. They hadn’t seen Hannah slip the delicate gold chain beneath her collar before they took her away.
She clutched the black cardboard suitcase and peeked around. Some of the younger children giggled, looking as if the trip were a grand adventure. Didn’t they know some of them might never return?
Her fingers shook as she unhooked the clasp, opened the heart-shaped locket and gazed at the small pictures of her mother and father.
“Where are you, Papa? You don’t even know that Mama died and I’ve been taken away. Will I ever see you again?”
“Hey! Are you crazy? Crazy people talk to themselves.”
Startled, Hannah looked up to see a boy leaning over the seat in front of her. “I’m not…” she began, then hot with embarrassment, she brushed at her tears and turned away.
“Yeah, looks like you’re a crybaby too.” The boy jeered. “Whatcha bawling about?” Hannah stole another glance. The boy looked well-dressed in spite of his rough manners. His hands, red and raw, showed bitten nails. Freckles dotted his turned up nose and the scowl on his face made Hannah decide to ignore him.
Suddenly, his eyes gleamed. “What’s that?” His greedy fingers snatched the gold locket from Hannah’s grasp.
“You give that back! It’s mine, and you can’t have it.”
“Just you try and get it. It’s mine now. I betcha I can get a whole dollar for it.” The boy laughed as he swung the locket high in the air out of Hannah’s reach.
Hannah rose awkwardly from her seat and reached for the shining chain as it dangled far above her head. At that moment, the train picked up speed and Hannah, caught off balance, fell to the floor.
“Ha, ha…” the boy’s laughter stopped as he looked down at Hannah. She lay in a tangle of blond curls and blue striped dress, which slipped above her knees revealing the metal brace that encircled her right leg. The boy stared at the brace, swallowed, and stretched out his hand.
“I can do it myself.” Hannah shook her head and, biting her lip, pulled herself up by the armrest of the seat.
“What happened here?” The matron bustled down the aisle toward them. When neither child spoke, Miss Sutton looked from one to the other. The boy’s blue eyes begged Hannah not to tell. He’s been blamed for many things before, Hannah thought.
The girl hesitated for a moment. “I tripped, Miss Sutton, that’s all. I’m all right now.” She sat down and turned her face to the window. When the matron went to see to the younger children, the boy slipped into the seat beside Hannah.
“Uh, thanks for not squealing on me. Here’s your necklace.” He dropped the chain into Hannah’s hand. “Say, what’s your name?”
“Hannah Monroe. What’s yours?”
“Teddy—Theodore Smith, I guess.”
“What do you mean, ‘you guess?’” Her curiosity about this strange boy grew in spite of herself.
“Well, I got left on the steps at the foundling home on the very day that Teddy Roosevelt stormed up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders. No one knew my real name, if I ever had one, so they named me Teddy.” The boy looked sad for a moment, then he brightened. “Teddy Roosevelt did lots of great things. He got elected President, you know. I’ll probably do something famous some day too,” he boasted.
Hannah sat speechless. She had never known anyone who got left on a doorstep, or named for a President.
“Say, Hannah, I’m sorry about the way I treated you. I guess that’s why nobody wants to keep me. It’s my third time on the Orphan Trains.”
“Well, I’m not an orphan.” Hannah clenched her fists. ”I’ve got a Papa. He went to look for work and he’s coming back soon to get me.”
“Golly, how will he find you?”
Her shoulders slumped. “I don’t know. He thinks I’m home with Mama.” Hannah’s eyes again filled with tears. She held her breath for fear he’d ask about her mother’s death. It still hurt too much to talk about.
“You’ll find him someday, Hannah. I just know you will. I’ll help you.”
“That’s wonderful, Teddy. Thank you. Now, won’t you tell me why you went back to the home?”
“Aw, the first two families in Missouri just wanted me to work in the fields. I’m big for my age and they thought I should work from sunup to sundown. I didn’t much like that, so I had them get in touch with the Aid people. They say if you don’t fit, they’ll take you back, and I sure-as-shooting didn’t fit. So back to the home I went.”
Teddy rubbed his hands together in a gesture that caused Hannah to think the boy may not want to tell the whole story.
“How old are you, Teddy?”
“About fourteen. The people at the home said I only looked a few weeks old when they found me.” His face lit up. “The matron let me choose my own birthday, so I picked the Fourth of July. Ain’t that keen?”
Teddy’s just full of surprises, Hannah thought. Getting to choose your own birthday sounded like fun. Then she remembered Teddy’s earlier gesture.
“Why did you try to help me up, Teddy? You acted pretty mean before I fell.”
Teddy’s face glowed red. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled, and looked away. In a few moments he turned back to Hannah. “In the home, they had a little kid who followed me around all the time. He said he’d like to be my little brother. Heck, I never had a brother, so I said okay.”
Twisting in his seat, Teddy continued. “Some of the kids teased him. See, he had a—a thing on his leg like you. I tried to care for him, but he had something wrong in his chest too. He just couldn’t keep up with the rest of the kids. That’s why they made fun of him.”
Teddy’s freckles stood out against the pale color of the skin beneath. “One day I went to the little kid’s dormitory to get him, and he wasn’t there.”
Teddy’s voice faded away until Hannah, caught up in his story, urged him to go on.
“He died during the night. They said pneumonia killed my little brother.”
“Oh, Teddy, I’m so sorry. How you must miss him. Seeing my brace must have reminded you of him.”
“Yeah,” Teddy admitted. “After that, I didn’t much care about anything. Say, I’m sorry about taking your locket, Hannah. Are those pictures of your ma and pa?”
Hannah nodded. “They gave me the locket on Christmas, the last happy time we had together. Papa lost his job and couldn’t find anything in the city, so he went south when he heard the mills were hiring. There’s been no word from him since then. Soon after he left, Mama got sick and passed away.”
Hannah swallowed before she could go on. “Our neighbor took care of me until she went to live with her daughter. Children’s Aid came for me, and that’s how I got here.”
Teddy tried to cheer his new friend. “Hannah, let’s make some plans for the first stop.”
“All right,” Hannah agreed, glad to change the subject. “Tell me what happens, Teddy.”
“Well, we change in Chicago. The next trains go in lots of different directions. I heard one even goes to Texas. I’d sure like to catch that one! I read a story about that part of the country once, and they have cowboys, sort of like the Rough Riders. Do you think I’d make a good cowboy, Hannah?” Teddy’s eyes shone at the prospect.
“Oh, you’d make a wonderful cowboy, Teddy,” Hannah answered, not really sure what skills a cowboy needed.
Teddy’s mouth stretched into a wide grin. “Maybe we’ll get on the same train and you can go to Texas, too.”
“What if nobody wants me because of my leg?” Hannah’s smile faded. “My brace gets heavy and I can’t work too long at a time, so maybe no one will choose me.”
“Why, Hannah, that’s not so. You’re smart and you’re pretty.” As soon as the words popped out of his mouth, a telltale blush stained Teddy’s cheeks and he quickly added, “What’s wrong with your leg anyway?”
“I was born like this,” Hannah replied. “The doctors think they could fix it, but we didn’t have the money. Papa wanted to get a better job so I could have the operation. Then, I wouldn’t need the brace anymore.”
“If I’m a famous cowboy when I grow up, I’ll probably make a lot of money. If I do, I’ll give it to you for your operation,” he promised.
Miss Sutton came down the aisle carrying a tray of sandwiches and fruit. “Teddy, could you help me pass these out to the other children, please?”
When he returned, Teddy carried two sandwiches of ham and cheese. The boy had also stuffed a couple of apples in his pockets. “They always have plenty of food on these trains, so if you’re still hungry I can get more.”
Hannah had forgotten her hunger until now. She and Teddy wolfed down the sandwiches and started on the fruit before they spoke again of their plans.
Once finished, Teddy turned. “Now, Hannah, you won’t have any trouble at all. Just act nice. The ladies like kids with good manners. I’m the one who probably won’t get picked.” Teddy laughed at his own joke and waved his arm showing his sleeve stained with mustard from swiping it across his mouth.
Miss Sutton appeared once more. “Try to sleep now, children. Tomorrow morning is our first stop.”
The children curled up on the hard seats, and despite the fear and loneliness, they slept, awakening only when the conductor called out, “Chicago. Everyone off the train.”
For the next half hour, the station thronged with children lining up, their name tags pinned to shirts or dresses. Three official looking men walked down the lines assigning children to the various trains. Soon, most of the younger children had been placed aboard the trains while the older ones remained on the platform.
The three men finally arrived to stand before Hannah and Teddy. The children stared up into the faces of the adults. Hannah’s legs trembled and her mouth felt cottony.
“Well, young lady, how does Texas sound to you?” The tall man leaned toward her and awaited the answer.
Hannah beamed. “Yes, sir, I’d like that.” She stole a glance at Teddy whose face mirrored her happiness.
The men moved on then, checking their notes. The tallest of the three put his hand on Teddy’s shoulder and peered at his nametag. “You’re a fine, strong looking boy, Teddy, I think perhaps a farm in Nebraska could use you.”
Hannah’s stomach plummeted, and Teddy looked as if he didn’t believe his ears. The two youngsters stood frozen until Miss Sutton appeared and led Hannah away. Climbing aboard, Hannah found a seat and pressed her face to the window.
Teddy, about to board his train, turned and searched the windows until he spotted her. Suddenly, he broke into a run and jumped onto Hannah’s train. He raced through the cars until he reached her. “Hannah, we ain’t got nobody but each other now. I promise I’ll find your pa someday, and then we’ll find you.”
“And I promise to wait for you both.” Hannah smiled through her tears. The train’s whistle blew and the sound of the engine’s chug-chug reached them.
“Hannah,” Teddy whispered, “can I have something to remember you by?”
The girl nodded, wondering what she could give her friend. Teddy pulled a pocketknife out and with a swift stroke cut a blond curl from Hannah’s long hair. “I’ll keep it until I find you again, Hannah.” With that, he ran back through the train and leaped off as it picked up speed. She watched until she could no longer see the boy who stood with his arm raised in farewell.