Eliza Waite 4 (Chapters 15-25)

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Eliza gets a couple of disappointments.

First, she learns that the boy she had aspirations for is not longer on the island. When she visits her neighbour Tuttle, he tells her that Mad Virgil and his son went to Alaska a couple of months ago, hitching a ride with Indian John. Eliza feels let down as she had fantasised about the boy would replace Jonathan in her heart. I think in that moment Eliza realises that her loneliness is not doing her any good as she even tries to kill herself in the sea.

Then she knits a scarf for Steiner and rows to Orcas Island. When she is in Old Steiner’s store, she watches the men from a discreet corner. There is a group of men talking about men going to Alaska for gold, and then when Alphaeus appears, she trembles in anticipation. Then one of the men talk to the younger man and congratulates him, mentioning a woman who is not Eliza. Then Eliza knows that Steiner has changed her for another woman. I think it was wrong of Steiner to string her along and promising something, and then pursue another woman at the same time. I have to say that Eliza is much better off without this man who could be violent. I don’t think she would have be happy with him, and Eliza is too independent now to have a possessive man by her side.

It is then that Eliza decides to do what many men are doing and travel to Alaska. When she leaves some of her things with Tuttle, she sees a woman sleeping in his bed, wrapped in the blanket that was stolen from her cottage. So Eliza realises that this woman was the one who ransacked her cottage, and she vaguely remembers Tuttle talking about getting a lady friend and Indian John mentioning he had travelled with one of his sisters. So Eliza realises that the woman in Tuttle’s bed is Indian John’s sister and the one who stole her things.

On the ship that would take her to Alaska, Eliza keeps a low profile, but she gets to meet a tall, Scottish man, Shorty. He tells her that she should be careful about people in Skagway. He recommends she stay in Mrs Brown’s guesthouse and also talk to a lawyer, who can arrange for a place to hire. What Eliza intends is to open a bakery. Once in Skagway, she gets a room from Pearly Brown, and we realise that Pearly is the woman Steiner was with when he killed his foreman. Actually, Pearly talks about him to Eliza, but so far Eliza hasn’t mentioned she knows him because she is not sure if it is the same man. Pearly’s guesthouse is actually a brothel, and several women live and work there. Eliza stays there for a few weeks, and she and Pearly become friends. Then she gets a place for her bakery, and from the first moment she is successful. Pearly and Shorty lend her money for a while until she is back to her feet. She works very hard, and her bread, cookies, and other produces sell easily.

Thanks to her friendship with Pearly, Eliza is changing. She is more concerned about how she looks, and she is starting to wear more becoming dresses that Pearly makes for them. She is also more curious about men and sexuality, something which she had always hated because of her first horrible experience and her life with her husband. Pearly doesn’t mince words and talks openly about men, lovers, and sex. Eliza is curious, and seeing Pearly and the prostitutes make her want to know more about those skills that she knows doesn’t have. I think moving to Alaska has proved a great improvement to Eliza’s life. Now she is not just a shadow, but a real person again, and having friends is proving to be what she really needs.

 

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