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The Strange Case of Baby H

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The Strange Case of Baby H is the eighteenth book in the History Mysteries series.

Characters

  • Clara Curfman
  • Gideon Curfman/Old Sock (Mentioned Only)
  • Alice Curfman
  • Mr. Granger
  • Frederick Curfman
  • Miss Abigail Chandler
  • Mr. Hiram Stokes
  • Miss Peggy DuBois
  • Emmeline
  • Mr. Geoffrey Midgard
  • The Hansen Family
  • The Grissinger Family
  • Fire Chief Sullivan (Mentioned Only)
  • Amelia Wheeler
  • Ottilie Wheeler
  • Helen Forrest
  • Hattie Pitt
  • Edgar Green
  • Mr. Lucas Forrest
  • Mrs. Roseanna Forrest
  • Denny
  • Sid Borden
  • Herman Borden

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

Chapter One: Earthquake!

Clara is dreaming about her brother, but quickly wakes up to an earthquake. She steps on glass, hurting her foot, but runs back in to save her father, who is in a wheelchair from a boating accident. All of the boarders are horrified at the disaster, including the fire sweeping the city. An aftershock starts.

Chapter Two: The World Turned Upside Down

The aftershocks continue and Mother says to prepare the house for more boarders, since people are hurt and homes are ruined. When Mother tries to light the stove, she is stopped by Father. The gas pipes have burst, and when people light a stove, they make the horrid explosions everyone keeps hearing. The Curfmans then make an outdoor grill with bricks. Soon, two families and two sisters arrive at the boarding house. Clara wishes for her old life, before the accident.

Chapter Three: Blessing in Disguise

Clara sneaks away to visit her friend Emmeline, and discovers that though her home is still standing, they are not there. Running home, she finds Father standing guard for looters. When Clara finds a basket and blue quilt gone, she discovers a baby and those missing items on her front porch with a note: "Please take care of me for I am a poor orphan." The baby is originally thought to be a boy, but Clara finds it is a girl when she changes her to a new dress. She also finds the baby's head was shaved, and remembers how she was dressed in boy's clothing. Clara wonders why, and thinks, "It was almost as if...as if the baby were in disguise."

Chapter Four: Pieces of a Puzzle

Clara finds an expensive rattle with a fancy "H" on it, implying the baby is rich. She also finds a note cut from magazine letters reading, "Satchel to Cliff House." Cliff House is where her father and brother, Gideon crashed. The crash killed Gideon, and when Father tried to swim after him, crushed his legs, paralyzing him. When Clara returns downstairs, all able-bodied men are being used by the firemen to create firebreaks. They would explode certain homes so the fire wouldn't destroy the homes behind them. Father is upset that he can not go. Mother is not suspicious in the least about the baby, saying her hair was probably singed, and the clothes the only outfit they could find.

Chapter Five: An Afternoon Walk

Father and Mr. Granger tell the boarders stories of the horror outside. Mother names the baby Henrietta. Later in the day, both Clara and Father venture to Golden Gate Park, but can't bear the horror of the sight and return home. Clara finds a strange woman trying to steal the baby and runs to help. The woman claims it was her baby, and she left it here in the quake since it looked safe. She says she must take her home to avoid horrible trouble, as she is the nursemaid. The woman pleads, but is turned away, threatened by the police. She leaves, saying that they had better keep Helen safe for her.

Chapter Six: Noises in the Night

That night, Clara laments on her life before the accident with Gideon. She is startled by a noise from downstairs. Grabbing a fire poker, she sees an arm reaching through the window, trying to unlock it. Clara instinctively hits the arm with her fire poker, sending both the man and the woman accomplice away. When Father and Clara check the rain barrels, Clara finds a piece of red cloth that matches perfectly the cloth from the red skirt from the strange woman.

Chapter Seven: Tent Town Turmoil

Clara realizes that they want the baby. With Mother's permission, she ventures down to Golden Gate Park to post a notice about Baby H. There she finds Edgar Green, who is in a state of shock. He is an orphan who was leaving with his Uncle James. His uncle was killed in the quake, and neighbors were about to send him to an orphanage. Clara and Edgar find a piece of expensive paper, claiming their baby girl, Helen, six months old, was lost in the quake with her nursemaid, Hattie Pitt. Clara takes the notice and brings it home. Before leaving, she posts a note for Emmeline amidst the sea of paper. Edgar comes home with Clara. In reaction to the disaster, both start laughing to relieve the horror. But, when Edgar drops and cracks his photo of Uncle James, neither laugh anymore.

Chapter Eight: A Mysterious Message

The men have returned when Clara comes home. They all tell everyone what horrible things are happening. After many moments of panic and utter despair, Clara hands Mother the notice about Helen Forrest, the baby, from the park. Edgar is introduced quickly, and is given a home at the boarding house temporarily. When everyone is seated at dinner, a note is found underneath the door, claiming the baby is theirs, and asking the baby to be returned to them at the Japanese Tea Garden at four o' clock. Clara finds this is fake, as they wouldn't have left the note under the door, and that the notice never said where she'd lived.

Chapter Nine: Nobody's Baby

Some of the men go to the Tea Garden to see who arrives. When Clara is bathing the baby, the strange woman comes, asking once again for the baby. Clara accuses her of kidnapping the baby from the Forrests in Oakland. Hattie is horrified, and says that she is not the kidnapper—she is Hattie Pitt. She is taken inside, and tells how two brothers, Sid and Herman Borden, kidnapped the baby. Hattie and Denny, her beau and the man who tried to break in, tried to get her back. When they learned the fate of Oakland, the two brothers were asking Hattie to kill the baby.

Chapter Ten: The Plot

Hattie said no, and was being hit by Sid, when the earthquake happened. She ran, leaving the baby at the Cufmanns' house. When the parents were discovered alive, Hattie and Denny were sent out to retrieve the baby for ransom.

Chapter Eleven: Kidnapped!

Mother offers to leave with Hatttie for the police station, despite Father's insistent protest. Clara is sent after them, and sees two men, the Bordens, chasing them for the baby. Clara grabs the baby, and tries to run, but is over-taken and knocked unconscious.

Chapter Twelve: One the Rocks

Clara awakes on the rocks under Cliff House. The tide is coming in, and she realizes the brothers left her to drown. Edgar has discovered her, and both sneak into the Cliff House to find the baby.

Chapter Thirteen: Showdown at Cliff House

Edgar and Clara find both Sid and Herman with the baby. Mr. Forrest comes and leaves the money, but when the Bordens come to collect it, they police burst in. The brothers flee, taking the baby. Clara races out, finding them out at sea in a rowboat. They arrive at a large fishing vessel, and board that, leaving the baby behind in the rowboat to be smashed on the rock.

Chapter Fourteen: Peril at Sea

This was where Father and Gideon crashed. But, despite the storm, the tide, and the currents, Clara swims out to sea. She reaches baby Helen, and swims her back to shore.

Chapter Fifteen: Out of the Ruins

When Clara, Edgar, the Forrests, and the police return home, the fires are extinguished, causing the city to celebrate. Clara is considered a hero. All week long, people rebuild houses. Supplies arrive, and the boarders dissipate. Miss Chandler will teach piano in Seattle, and Miss DuBois and Mr. Stokes will marry, with only Edgar, Mr. Midgard, and Mr. Granger left. Emmeline returns, and so do the Forrests, who share their side of the story. They bring the news that the fishing vessel sank, killing the sailors, who may have been innocent, and Sid, who tried to swim. Herman was captured on shore. In reward, the Forrests will pay for Clara to attend Mills College and become a teacher. With the house full, Edgar takes Gideon's chair that has long remained empty. When Edgar takes the seat, he smiles at Clara, and uses the nickname for her that only Gideon had ever used. Clara says she must have imagined it, since there was no way Edgar could know that. Clara thinks on how different her life is now, but when Mother asks for her to do chores, she admits that some things will never change.

A Peek Into the Past

Trivia

  • When Clara goes to Golden Gate Park, the messages to missing family members were actually messages written from the earthquake.
  • In the book, Edgar gets candy from Blum's Candy Store, which had to be blown up as part of the firebreak. The officers really did offer the kids the chance to grab as much candy as physically possible before demolition.
  • Enrico Caruso really did sing his ferry passage.
  • Cliff House really did exist.

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