From the Inside, Looking Out
“Scotty, come away from that window!” Harlan Garrett ordered in a gruff, no-nonsense voice as he sat at his desk going over some paperwork from the office.
“Grandfather?” Thirteen year old Scott Garrett Lancer said with quiet respect as he moved to stand beside his grandfather’s desk.
“Yes, Scotty?” Garrett kept his eyes on the paperwork, having found the problem in the addition of the columns of numbers he was working on, he was irritated with his grandson at his unusual persistence. “What is it?”
“It’s nothing, sir,” Scott answered just as respectfully as he turned away from the desk and walked quietly across the study toward the doorway.
“Where are you going?” Garrett asked, never raising his voice, yet the boy stopped in mid-stride and pivoted on his heel to look back at the older man.
“I’m going to my room to prepare for my party, sir,” he said, knowing that this answer would satisfy his grandfather, which it did.
“Very good, son. I will see you in an hour so we can greet your guests at the door.” Garrett returned to the paperwork, effectively dismissing his grandson as he did so. He missed the expression of need on Scott’s slender face as the young man dropped his eyes to the oriental rug beneath his shoes before turning and walking out of the room with a silent sigh.
Reaching his bedroom, Scott did change for the party to be held on his behalf. He was thirteen years old today and though it was to be a celebration of his impending manhood, he felt that something was just not right. All of his life he had lived in the lap of luxury, never a day of hunger or of need for anything material, though he hadn’t actually realized it until he had seen a wagonload of orphans in town one afternoon. The boys and girls were dressed in clothing that more resembled rags than anything that might protect them from the elements, and it had been a cold New England day.
Walking over to his wardrobe, Scott opened the cedar-lined door and peered inside at the rows upon rows of suits, shirts and pants that he owned, some of which he had never worn. Reaching out a trembling hand, he fingered the thickness of a wool overcoat and wondered why it was that he had so much when other children had so little. He quietly closed the wardrobe door and shook his head sadly when the picture he had of his long-deceased mother toppled over from its position atop the wardrobe.
Reaching his long arms up to set the picture aright, Scott instead took it down and moved to the bed to sit down and study his mother’s smiling face. The portrait had been painted several years before his mother’s marriage to Scott’s father, showing a youthful, happy smile and shining eyes to perfection. Scott briefly wondered again of his long-absent father, thinking what his life might have been like had his father bothered to come get him and bring him back to the ranch he owned in California. Scott shuddered at the idea and quickly jumped to his feet to replace the portrait as he heard his grandfather’s footfalls near his bedroom door.
“Are you ready, Scotty?” Garrett asked as he entered the room after a cursory knock on the opened door.
“Yes, sir.” Walking over to stand beside his grandfather, Scott suddenly realized with some surprise that he was nearly as tall as the white-haired man. Something within Scott ached to wrap his arm around his grandfather’s shoulders, but decorum and his grandfather’s edict that men do not hug kept him from actually following through with the almost overwhelming need.
As they walked down the sweeping stairway of the mansion, Garrett reiterated everything that he expected of his grandson when dealing with guests at a party given in his honor. Scott’s mind was whirling by the time they reached the door to greet the first of the arriving guests. It would be some time later that night when Scott would realize just how hollow his life had become.
Recklessly driving his grandfather’s team of perfectly matched bays through the city streets of Boston, Scott laughed when the phaeton in which he was riding skidded on the cobblestones before straightening again as he skillfully guided the horses.
“SCOTT LANCER!” It was the feminine voice that caused him to rein the fast-moving steeds to the side of the street.
Pulling the phaeton to a stop in front of the millinery, Scott lithely leapt from the buggy as his blue-gray eyes searched the crowded sidewalk for the girl who had called to him. With a bright smile, he saw Emily Barrett standing half a block down the street, her white gloved hands fisted upon her slender hips.
He swiftly tied the horses to a hitching post and sprinted hastily to Emily’s side. Sweeping his bowler hat from his head, revealing a shock of sandy blond hair, Scott leaned over at the waist and bowed his head.
“M’lady, to what do I owe this pleasure?” He asked in a sultry voice as he reached out to grasp one of her hands to bestow a gallant kiss atop the fingers now clutching his. He grinned inwardly at the conquest and slowly raised to his full six-foot height and smiled down at the much shorter young woman standing before him.
“I wanted to make sure you remembered that my parents are giving me a birthday party this Saturday. I’ll be sixteen, you know,” she answered demurely, though her light green eyes were hungrily devouring the slender man before her. She had been watching Scott Lancer for as long as she could remember, always imagining that she would one day become his wife. Now her heart fluttered in her chest as a genuine smile burst across his expressive face just before he leaned down again and kissed the smooth skin of her wrist, just beyond the glove. She thought she would swoon right then and there.
“Of course I remember, sweet Emily. I sent back my RSVP, didn’t I?” Scott inquired with a grin. He knew that Emily liked him, and he liked her too, just not to the point of actually ever considering marriage to her. In his mind, at seventeen, he was much too young to marry anyone. “I will be there at four o’clock sharp, as the invitation states.”
With one last kiss to the back of her gloved hand, Scott smiled and turned back to his buggy. Just as he reached the conveyance, he looked back at the girl still standing on the sidewalk watching him.
“What is your favorite color, Miss Emily?” He called out seriously.
“Why, pink, of course,” she answered with a slight frown on her lovely face. “Why do you ask?”
Wagging a gloved finger at the girl, Scott shook his head at her. “Oh, no you don’t. It’s a secret.” Bounding up into the buggy after untying the horses from the hitching post, Scott and the phaeton were soon careening off down the street and out of Emily’s sight.
The birthday party had been a success. There had been more food and cake than the twenty young people could ever hope to consume and from the looks she’d been receiving, Emily Barrett was certain that Scott Lancer was as much in love with her as she was with him. However, at one point she had caught him staring almost forlornly out the bay window in the parlor while everyone else was out on the lawn playing croquet and badminton. She had noticed him missing and had gone in search of him inside the house, praying that he hadn’t gotten bored and had simply gone home.
As she had stepped quietly into the parlor, she stopped in the doorway when she saw the sad expression on his handsome face.
“Scott? Are you all right?” Emily asked as she continued across the floor to his side with the smooth glide she had worked on so hard, her skirts barely making a noise on the hardwood flooring. Placing a gentle hand on Scott’s arm, Emily noted the tension in the muscle there and gazed worriedly up into his smoky gray eyes. “What is it? Are you bored?”
Wrapping an arm around Emily’s small shoulders and breathing in deeply of the rose scent she wore, he propped his chin atop her carefully coiffed head and sighed.
“Emily, you’ve heard that there is a war going on, haven’t you?” Scott asked softly, his voice velvety soft and soothing to her ears. Emily had to suppress a shiver of need at having him so close, yet so far away. She had just barely registered his words, so overcome by his nearness was she. “Did you hear me?”
“Of course, Scott. A war. Yes, I am well aware of our conflict with the southern states,” she said quickly in order to cover her inattentiveness. Shifting closer to his lithe body, Emily lifted her hand and boldly splayed it across his broad chest. To her shock his heart seemed to be pounding beneath her hand and suddenly her womanly intuition informed her that his rapid heartbeat had nothing to do with her feminine charms. “What is it, Scott?”
“Emily, what would you say if I told you I want to join the war effort?” Scott whispered, his chin still propped atop her head. He watched for her reaction from their reflection in the clear glass of the bay window.
“What?” Emily exclaimed, wrenching herself out of Scott’s embrace and falling back against the window frame at his words.
“I-I can’t just ignore it anymore, Emily. Men are dying everyday for what they believe in and I feel that I have to join the cause,” he said almost pleadingly. Reaching out to her, he clasped her cold, trembling hands in both of his and held them tightly. “Can’t you see?”
“No, Scott! I can’t. Why would you do this? Your grandfather can pay for someone to take your place. Please, don’t do this to us!” Emily cried out as she grasped hold of his fingers with a vise-like grip in an attempt to get him to see reason.
Suddenly her hands were dropped and Scott took a quick step back, his eyes wide. “What do you mean, ‘don’t do this to us’?” He demanded in a low growl, ever conscious of the help possibly listening to their conversation. “There is no ‘us’, Emily.”
“But, Scott! I-I love you. I have always loved you and if you go away to that war… you may be killed… or-or maimed… and I’ll never…” She stammered to a stop and clapped her hands over her mouth as tears of remorse trailed down her pale cheeks. When Scott pivoted on his heel and marched out of the parlor, Emily reached out one hand toward him, but he never looked back to see her distress.
Crumpling to the floor, irregardless of the starched crinoline that held her skirts just so, Emily wept bitter tears. She pulled herself to her knees when she heard a horse racing wildly from the stables and watched through the large bay window as Scott rode out of her life, perhaps forever.
“It is out of the question, young man!” Harlan Garrett had been at it for two long hours. The harder he insisted that his grandson would not join the Union army, the more he could see Scott’s face setting in a determined mask. Nothing Garrett had said seemed to sink in to the boy and now Garrett was so angry at the outright disobedience of his grandson that he lost his composure, mentioning the one person he had never spoken of to Scott before.
“You are just like Murdoch Lancer!” Garrett snapped as he slapped a hand down atop his mahogany desk in frustration. “You will not join this war, Scott Garrett!”
“I’m like my father, eh?” Scott asked quietly, well aware that his grandfather hadn’t meant to utter the hated man’s name. Scott actually couldn’t recall another time he had ever heard his grandfather speak of Scott’s parentage, other than of his mother, Catherine, Garrett’s beloved daughter. “Well, if you mean that I am stubborn and determined to do as I say, then I suppose I am.”
“Scotty!” Garrett cried out as Scott turned on his heel and started from the study. “Please don’t do this, son.”
“Sir, you’ve just reminded me that I am not your son. I have decided that I will join this war in an attempt to help bring a conclusion to it once and for all.” Scott continued out of the study and took the stairs two at a time as he hurried to his room to collect the bags that he had packed in preparation of leaving.
It tore at Scott’s heart to hear his grandfather’s pleading voice, something he had never heard before in all of his seventeen young years. However, the young man knew that he had to do something, anything, to find out what life had in store for him. Living in the lap of luxury and being the heir apparent left him discontent and yearning for more. More of what, Scott didn’t know, but he did know he wouldn’t find it in Boston while his grandfather paid someone else to take his place on the battlefield.
Lifting the bag in his hand, he took a slow glance around the room and his eyes fell upon the likeness of the mother who had died at his birth. “I’m sorry, mother. I have to do this.” With that said, he walked resolutely away from the only life he had ever known.
Meeting his grandfather at the bottom of the stairs, Scott steeled himself for more pleading. He wasn’t prepared for the vehement glare from those familiar gray eyes.
“Scott Garrett Lancer, if you leave this house to do this thing, you will be cut out of my will. Nothing you’ve worked for over the years will be yours. Are you prepared to face the consequences of your ridiculous actions?” Garrett demanded in an angry hiss as his arthritic hands reached out to grasp Scott’s right arm with a steel, vise-like grip.
“Sir, I’ve explained why I have to do this. Nothing you say, or do, will dissuade me from my decision. If you feel that you need to follow through with your threats, then do so.” Shifting the heavy bag in his left hand, Scott pulled his right arm out from his grandfather’s tight grip and headed for the front door.
“I hope you have a way to get you to your destination,” Garrett said snidely as he followed right behind his grandson. Standing on the front porch, the old man forced the fear back as he clasped his trembling hands together tightly behind his back so that Scott couldn’t see just how upset he was. “You’ll not be taking any of my thoroughbred horses into battle.”
Only a slight slump of his shoulders gave evidence to Scott’s disappointment in not being able to take his favorite horse, Avalon, into the battlefield with him, but he quickly recovered and strode down the front steps without another word.
“Scotty!” Garrett cried out, but Scott was already through the front gate and striding purposefully down the walkway toward his destiny.
Created May 8, 2007
Constructive criticism welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org