It’s Sharon Gosling’s turn to choose someone to haunt today and she’s gone for someone breathtaking:
If I could haunt anyone – and it would have to be in a nice way, not a scary way – it would be a woman called Isabella Bird. She’s been dead for a long time herself – she was born in Yorkshire in 1834, and died in 1904. In between she had an extraordinary life. It was full of exploration and travel, all of which she did completely on her own – something that was virtually unheard of for a woman in that time period. She went to Hawaii, to Japan, to Tibet, to Korea, to Kurdistan. When she died, in her early 70s, she was planning another solo trip, this time to India.
She funded her travel in part by writing letters home to her sister, which were then serialized in newspapers. One of her most famous expeditions was to America. On this particular trip she rode for 800 miles, mostly alone, through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. She found her way into Estes Park, which today has roads running through it and even a town, but back then was completely isolated Only populated by hardened hunters, there were no roads or even clear tracks, yet she found her way over the high mountain passes and into the remote, lush natural ‘park’ beyond. She was so hardy that she survived a winter there – and that was no easy task. Even most of the hunters left for warmer climates over the worst months, but not Isabella.
While there, she fell in love. Well, from her letters it seems as if she might have done, anyway – she was a God-fearing, tee-total, bible-loving woman, and he was a one-eyed, murderous scoundrel nicknamed ‘Mountain Jim’. She wasn’t much more than five feet tall, and he was both huge and hugely strong. Reading between the lines of her carefully edited letters, it’s possible to see that he was as enamored of her as she seemed to be of him, and tried to convince her to marry him. But it seems that his bad past held her back, and eventually she decided that she would have to leave Estes Park and Mountain Jim before something untoward could happen.
She started her ride out in the middle of a blizzard, and the only path still clear led right past Mountain Jim’s cabin. Mountain Jim, a man with many enemies, saw this person on horseback coming through the snow and thought he was under surprise attack. He tried to shoot the rider (he missed, thank goodness), and only realised when she fell that it was his beloved Isabella. He picked her up and took her to his cabin, but she wouldn’t stay. She mounted the horse again and left him behind forever.
A few months later, Mountain Jim was shot dead by an aggrieved fellow hunter. When Isabella heard, she finally agreed to marry another man who had been trying to persuade her for years – with the proviso that she would still be allowed to travel wherever and whenever she liked, alone.
Isabella’s life was truly extraordinary, and how I would have loved to be able to follow her around as she lived it – and to find out whether Mountain Jim ever managed to coax a kiss from her. I’d like to think he did, don’t you?
Wow, what an inspirational lady! Thanks, Sharon!
Sharon’s latest book is The Ruby Airship (I’ve read the first book in the series, The Diamond Thief and it is brilliant)
In this action-packed sequel to The Diamond Thief, trapeze-artist Remy has left the circus and her life as a jewel thief behind, but doubts that the young detective Thaddeus Rec will ever truly trust her. Torn between her new life and her old, her mind is made up when Yannick, a fellow circus-performer from Remy’s past, arrives in London. Remy decides it’s time to go with Yannick to France, and rejoin her best friend Claudette and the circus. But Thaddeus is sure that Yannick is up to no good. He’s determined to track them down and win Remy back, even if he has to embark on a perilous journey by airship to do so.
Find out more about Sharon on her blog or catch her on Twitter @sharongosling