Scott and Johnny Lancer were walking toward the hacienda laughing and talking. They were done with work for the day. As they got closer they could hear a child crying. Scott looked at Johnny in confusion. The cry was a frightened cry. Johnny got a worried look on his face and ran to the door with Scott following. Inside the Great Room they found Teresa and Jelly staring at a little girl standing in the corner crying. Teresa had tears in her eyes and Jelly looked beside himself.
“What is going on here?” Scott asked softly.
“Oh Scott, I’m so glad you are here. A woman dropped off this little girl 3 hours ago and just left her here. She said she was paid to deliver her to Lancer. She’s so frightened. I’ve tried everything. If you try to go near her she just cries harder.” Teresa said a worried voice. “I feel so bad for her.”
“She left this here letter for ya, Scott” Jelly said handing it to Scott.
Scott looked at the letter. It had his name on it. He opened it up and just decided he would read it out loud. He had a suspicion what it would say as the little girl in the corner resembled him. He felt his heart begin to race and his stomach seemed full of butterflies.
Dear Mr. Lancer:
This is Emma who has just turned 3 years old. She is the product of your dalliance with my daughter, Barbara Stanton, some weeks before you left Boston. Barbara had her confinement in Europe and then returned to society in Boston. Although you did your best to ruin my daughter’s reputation and life, she has married well to Mr. George Ralston.
The child was given to a maid and her husband to raise as their own. Unfortunately they were killed in a carriage accident 6 weeks ago. Therefore, I am sending the child to you and insist that you take responsibility for her. Unfortunately the child has been diagnosed as an imbecile. She speaks very little, may have a problem with her hearing and cannot follow simple instructions. Do with her what you will.
Scott looked up color rising in his cheeks. He looked very serious and his eyes were sad. Scott handed the letter to Johnny. He regarded the little girl silently. She stood in the corner clutching a rag doll to her chest. She was a beautiful child with golden curls much like Scott’s had been when he was her age. Her blue eyes were the same shade as Scott’s. She had Catherine Lancer’s eyes. Those eyes were filled with tears and fright.
“Oh God, what have I done?” Scott said in anguish. “I don’t know how to…. Scott stopped and took a deep breath. He took a few steps closer to the child but still far enough back as not to scare her. He squatted down to her level. “Hello Emma” he said in a kind voice. “My name is Scott. I am your new Papa. This is your Aunt Teresa and Uncle Jelly and Uncle Johnny.” Scott smiled at her. It was hard to tell if she could hear him although she seemed to be watching him intently. Scott turned to Jelly. “Jelly, could you please go get a couple of those new kittens from the barn?” Jelly nodded and left the room. Scott looked back at Emma. “Emma that’s a very pretty doll you have. Does she have a name?” Emma looked at Scott and almost imperceptibly gave a little nod. “Can you tell me her name?”
Emma looked at her doll and then looked at Scott. “Tilly.” She said in a quiet voice. She looked at all of them. “Mama?” she pleaded in a hopeful voice. Teresa’s hand flew to her mouth at the poignant asking that Emma did for her mother.
Scott swallowed hard. “I’m sorry Emma; your Mama isn’t here right now. Tilly is very nice name for your doll.” Jelly came in and handed Scott the kittens. Scott took them and sat on the floor Indian style. “Do you think Tilly would like to come over and pet a kitten?” Scott set the kittens in front of him. The kittens were young, unable to crawl much. Scott motioned for Emma to come closer. The child timidly came over and sat by the kittens. She tentatively held out her hand and touched the kitten.
Scott motioned for Emma to put her hands in a cup and he put a kitten in her hands. She smiled at him a joyous smile and he could not help but smile back. She was very gentle and put the kitten on her lap and petted it.
“Jelly could you send a hand to get Sam. Tell him it’s not an emergency, to come out when he has time” Scott said quietly. “I want her looked over.”
Johnny looked down at the letter. “Scott what’s an imbecile?”
Scott stood up. “It means someone who will never have normal intelligence.” Scott said his voice strained. “Will you all excuse me for a minute?” Scott made for the French Doors and went outside. He went into the courtyard and leaned against one of the columns. He closed his eyes and then blinked back tears. He bent over and put his hands on his knees and tried to control his breathing. He knew he was hyperventilating but he had a 3 year old little girl, an imbecile it said. They had given her to a maid and her husband and he was never supposed to know about her. But now the only parents she had ever known were dead. What Barbara must have went through. It was his mistake and they had all were paying for it, Emma, Barbara, her parents, his family.
Johnny came out and watched his brother’s anguish. He went over and touched Scott’s back. “Scott, I’m sorry about that question. I…”
“No Johnny, it’s not that. I really messed up this time. All of this should have been my responsibility from the beginning. I failed Barbara and I failed that little girl.” Scott said in a wretched voice. Scott stood up too quickly and a wave of dizziness passed over him and his knees buckled.
“Scott!” Johnny shouted as he caught him and eased him to the ground. It was to this scene Murdoch Lancer came home for dinner.
“Boys?” Murdoch questioned with concern striding over to them. “Scott? What’s wrong, son?”
“I just got a little dizzy. I’m fine, Sir.” Scott answered allowing Johnny to help him up. “Actually, there’s someone inside I want to meet, Murdoch.”
As they entered Emma was still playing with the kittens. When she saw Scott she jumped up and ran to him. “Papa?” She questioned looking closely at him.
Scott nodded. “Yes, Papa.” He said his voice hollow. Emma held up both her arms up and Scott picked her up. Emma kissed him on the cheek. “Murdoch.” Scott said ruefully. “This is my daughter, Emma. I’m sorry sir. This has been a shock to everyone.”
“Glad to meet you. Emma.” Murdoch said to her in a gentle voice. Johnny handed Murdoch the letter to read. Murdoch frowned as he read the letter. “They never planned to let you know about her?”
Scott shook his head. The child was almost clutching at him. It was obvious she felt so alone and unwanted that she was only too happy to accept him as her self-professed Papa. He could not imagine how frightened she must have been taken from the only home she’d known and being dragged cross country by a stranger and deposited here.
Teresa came over and held her arms out. “Emma” she said smiling at the little girl. “Would you like to come with me and get a glass of milk?” Emma looked at Scott who nodded and she went to Teresa.
Murdoch looked at his son. “Scott, I don’t understand why the girl didn’t wire you.
“Neither do I, sir. They didn’t know where I was but they could have easily asked my grand…..Oh God…he didn’t….he wouldn’t.” Scott bowed and covered his eyes with his hand. “Oh my God, did he keep me from my daughter like he kept me from you? He paid them didn’t he? For the trip to Europe, for keeping it quiet, he probably found the parents for her.”
Murdoch regarded his son soberly. “Scott, we don’t know that.”
“I’m tired, Murdoch.” Scott said in a strained voice. “I’m tired of all the subterfuge, the half-truths, people doing things that are best for me. I just want the truth so I can make informed decisions about my own life, that’s all.”
Scott was shaking with anger. Johnny took his elbow. “Come on, brother. Let’s step outside for a bit.”
Scott nodded and followed Johnny. They both sat down on a stone bench. “Crazy day, huh?” Johnny asked in a caring voice.
“Johnny, I’ve made such a mess out of things. I don’t know anything about being a father. I am afraid I’m going to fail her just like I failed her mother.” Scott said in a wretched voice.
“Scott, you didn’t know about Barbara. No one told you. Maybe Garrett did pay them to keep it from you, maybe not. You are going to be a great father, Boston because you are a great son, brother and friend. You’ll make some mistakes but no more lettin’ it eat at you. That little girl has already figured out you care about her, why do you think she latched on to you? And I am going to be the best uncle.” Johnny said in a reassuring voice.
“Thanks Johnny.” Scott said with a thin smile. “Hey here comes, Sam.”
Teresa chattered about making Emma comfortable while Sam examined the little girl. Scott found all her ideas fine and nodded his agreement to Emma having the room down the hall next to him. Teresa said her old little bed was still in the attic but they would need a new mattress. Emma also had a little bag with her but she would need many more clothes. She also conveyed that Emma seemed to be well trained as she had used the water closet without problem. She also said that they would need toys and picture books. Scott listened with interest glad that Teresa had thought of these things. Finally Sam came out with Emma.
Sam patted Scott’s arm. Scott seemed rather tense. “Well, Scott Murdoch showed me the letter. I have my doubts on the diagnosis about her intelligence. She is healthy but she is delayed in her speech. I believe she does have a hearing problem but she isn’t deaf. I think she has an infection behind her eardrums. Most children outgrow this as they grow older. You may have to speak a little louder to her. It also seems to help that she is looking at you as I believe she reads lips a bit. I think the more you speak to her, the more she will speak. I will re-evaluate her again in one month.”
“Thanks Sam” Scott said thinking that maybe things weren’t as bad as they first thought. “You’ll stay for dinner?”
Dinner was a pleasant affair. The food was good. Emma ate well. She did not say much but she seemed to watch everyone as they spoke a little grin on her face. Her eyes shone when Scott talked to her but she never spoke back. After dinner Teresa gave Emma a quick bath and put her in her night gown. Scott took her to his room speaking gently to her. “Emma, this is my room. If you need anything come in and get me.” He showed her Johnny and Teresa’s room and then her own. He put her to bed with Tilly alongside her and sat down beside the bed. He turned down the lamp and began to talk to her. He told her that she would soon have a smaller bed, toys and new clothes. He told her that this was her new home and that they were her new family and they were going to take care of her. It did not take long and she was asleep. Scott kissed her and went downstairs.
Murdoch looked up as Scott came down. He went over and poured them each a brandy. “Let’s go outside and have a talk, son. It’s a beautiful night.”
Scott nodded and took his drink and followed Murdoch outside. They both leaned against the courtyard wall. “How are you handling all this son?” Murdoch asked in a soft voice.
Scott took a long drink. “Not very well, Sir.” Scott said his voice filled with self-recrimination. “I was so unsettled when I came home from the war. I’m afraid I drank too much, womanized too much. I just couldn’t get myself back on track. I’ve made a mess of things, Sir. Barbara had to give up her child because of me and because of me Emma’s mother is lost to her forever. Barbara wasn’t an innocent but she came from a good family. When she offered herself to me I should have declined. Do you know where I was when your agent found me? I had just jumped off the balcony from Barbara’s bedroom because her father was pounding at the door. It was already too late then, I’d been with her the week before.” Scott set his drink on the ledge; his head bowed and wrapped his arms around himself.
Murdoch took a step closer and put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Enough self-recrimination now Scott. Perhaps if you had known things would have been different. What you do now is what counts. Emma is here now. She is a Lancer and she belongs here with us.” Murdoch said meaning it.
The next few days Teresa took care of Emma while Scott worked. Emma developed a good relationship with all of the family but it was Scott she adored. Teresa had gone to town and purchased the things Emma needed. One morning Scott appeared in the kitchen. Emma was playing on the floor with her toys while Teresa baked. Emma ran to him and he picked her up and hugged her. “Emma, I have to speak to Teresa. Can you play some more?” Emma smiled at him and sat down with her toys.
“What is it, Scott?” Teresa asked in a curious voice.
Scott turned his hat in his hands. He seemed nervous. “Ah Teresa, I’ve talked to Murdoch and with Emma here we’ve agreed we need more help which I will be hiring. My question to you, and I want you to know that I want you to make the decision on what you want, not what you might think Murdoch or I want. Emma needs a caregiver, a governess. What I want to know is do you want that job? If you do we will hire more kitchen help. If not I will hire someone to care for Emma.”
“You’d trust me to care for your daughter whenever you are gone?” Teresa said a bit surprised.
“Of course if you would like to. I promise it will be flexible.” Scott said trying to keep his voice neutral.
“Scott, I would love that. Thank you.” Teresa said hugging him.
Scott smiled and hugged her back. “I’m glad.” He said in happy voice. He thought Teresa was perfect for the job. He knew Emma trusted Teresa. They hired Maria’s daughter-in-law to help with cooking and cleaning.
A few months flew by and it seemed as if Emma had always been there. She loved her Uncle Johnny who would oftentimes get down on the floor to play with her. She also liked to sit on her Papa’s shoulders and watch her Uncle Johnny breaking horses. She adored Teresa. They would bake together. Teresa would work with her on words and her speech was improving slowly. She followed Jelly around when he worked near the house. She and Dewdrop had become friends and Emma liked to feed him from her hand. Grandpa Murdoch often read her books. Sometimes when Scott was busy he would take her for a ride on his big bay. But her favorite thing to do was spending time with Scott. The bond between Father and Daughter had grown and it was obvious to everyone around them. But it was riding up in front of Scott on Charlie that Emma loved the most.
Scott came out of Hacienda. Charlie stood outside already saddled. He was going out to meet Johnny and help with some fencing. His daughter was following him saying Papa Charlie over and over. Scott turned and looked down at her with a grin and met Teresa’s gaze. She had followed them out.
“It’s been 5 days since her last ride, Scott” Teresa said with a grin.
Scott sighed. “I have been remiss.” He said in an amused voice swinging Emma on Charlie. “Come on, Little Miss. Fencing will have to wait an hour.” Scott got up behind Emma and tipped his hat to Teresa and they were off. Scott headed towards where Johnny and Jelly were working to let them know he would be late.
Johnny looked up and smiled as Scott rode up. “The little princess wanted a ride, huh?” Johnny said laughing.
“Yes, she did.” Scott said smiling back at his brother. “I’m going to ride up the section, see if there is any damage. I’ll save driving up with wagon if it’s intact.” Johnny nodded and Scott rode along the fence line. He’d gone nearly 3 miles when he came to a hole in the fence with a steer caught in the broken barbwire. The animal was trying to make its way back into the pasture but its back leg was caught in the barbwire. Scott looked doubtfully at the cow and Emma. Finally he made his decision and dismounted. He tied Charlie and took Emma down and put her behind a large rock 50 feet from the cow. Standing up she could just see over the rock. “You stay put.” Scott said in a firm fatherly voice. “Papa will be right back.”
Scott went and got his wire cutters from his saddlebags and went over to the cow. As Scott reached over to cut the wire the cow bucked and pulled on the wire making it taunt. It broke and backlashed toward Scott. He put up his arm just in time to keep it from hitting his face. The wire rolled around his arm. The cow continued to buck and one of its back hooves gave Scott a glancing blow on the side of his head knocking him out. The cow ran off and when it was all over Scott laid unconscious half his body on the ground and half of his body suspended due the barbwire wrapped around his right arm.
Emma watched in horror at what happened. Her Papa was quiet with his eyes closed. She wanted to go to him but he had told her to stay put. Her little face showed doubt but her Papa not moving frightened her. Slowly she went to him and touched his face. “Papa?” She asked in a plaintive voice. Scott did not move and it was then she noticed blood dripping from his arm. Her Papa was hurt and he needed help. She thought of Uncle Johnny and looked back towards where she had last seen him. Uncle Johnny would help her Papa she thought and began to walk towards him along the fence line. er little 3 year old mind was very worried
Her 3 year old child’s mind was very worried about Scott and her focus was to get to Johnny to get him help. But when she could no longer see Scott and Johnny was not in sight she became a bit frightened but she knew she had to keep going, that Scott needed her. She loved her new Papa and seeing him so still and bleeding worried her.
Jelly and Johnny were so busily working at repairing fence they didn’t notice Emma until she was almost to them. “Dios Emma!” Johnny said in a surprised voice and ran to her.
Emma was so happy to see Johnny she hugged him. Her little face was red with exertion. “Unca Johnny, elp Papa. Papa urt,” She said in an excited breathless voice.
Johnny looked in the direction she had come from. He couldn’t see Scott. He kissed Emma and told her he would help her Papa and handed Emma to Jelly. “Bring her along in the wagon. I’m going to ride ahead and find my brother.” Johnny said swinging into the saddle and urging Barranca into a gallop. As he got closer he could see something caught in the fencing. Charlie seemed to be grazing calmly. Johnny kept his eye on the object in the fence. As he got closer, he realized it was a man, most likely his brother. Johnny reined and jumped off Barranca and knelt beside his brother. Blood dripped from his arm at an alarming rate congealing in a pool of blood in the dirt. “Dios Scott. How did this happen to you?” Johnny said grabbing the wire cutters Scott had dropped. He carefully cut Scott loose and lowered him to the ground. He went to his sadpudle bags and pulled out some bandages. He gently pulled Scott’s head and shoulders on to his lap and lled out his knife and cut away his brother’s shirt sleeve. There was an area on his brother’s arm where the barbwire was buried deep in his brother’s biceps. That was where the heavy bleeding was coming from. Johnny folded one of the bandages up into a pad. He grabbed the end of the wire and slowly pulled it out.
Scott moaned in pain as he did so. Johnny pushed the pad hard against the wound and bowed down and spoke words of encouragement to his brother. “Easy Scott. It’s okay. Just rest easy and we’ll get you home.” He took one of the bandages and wrapped it around the wound.
Scott’s eyelashes fluttered open. He moaned again as they did. “Emma.” He whispered. “I left her behind that rock. God, Johnny where is she!?” Scott said trying to sit up. As he did he felt excruciating pain in his head along with nausea and dizziness. “Oh God, my head” he moaned letting Johnny ease him back.
“Scott, Emma’s fine. She’s right here with Jelly.” Johnny consoled his brother as Jelly pulled up. “You got a nice lump on the side of your head, Scott. No more quick movements.”
Scott grinned at his daughter trying to put her mind at ease. “Papa’s fine, honey.” Scott said in a reassuring voice. “I should have never tried to help that cow with you around. Papa’s so sorry, baby. I bet you were really scared. I’m sorry.”
Johnny smiled a thin smile. “Come on Boston, you can beat yourself up later. Let’s get you home. Jelly help me get him the wagon.”
“Stupid cow.” Jelly groused “A body never knows what the stupid animal is going to do next.” They soon had Scott in the wagon lying on Johnny’s lap. They put Emma beside Scott’s good arm. Emma stroked Scott’s cheek and then kissed him there. Then she took his good hand in her two little ones and held it.
“How did you find us Johnny?” Scott asked gazing lovingly at his daughter. “Did you come and check since we were gone too long?”
“Actually Brother, Emma came and got us.” Johnny said with a small grin on his face.
Scott turned and looked at his brother sharply. “What did you say?” Scott said in shock and then he moaned in pain his hand going to his head.
“Papa?” Emma questioned looking at her Papa and Uncle.
“Papa’s fine” Johnny said grinning. “He’s got a little headache, that’s all” Johnny looked at his brother. “She walked nearly 3 miles brother, told me Papa was urt and needed elp”
“Dear God.” Scott said in disbelief. “She could have been hurt!”
Johnny put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “But she wasn’t and she probably saved your life. You were bleeding pretty good when I found you.”
“Emma that was so brave of you.” Scott said his voice breaking. “Thank you for helping me honey.”
Emma grinned and held tight to her father’s hand. In a few minutes she was fast asleep in the crook of her father’s uninjured arm and shoulder. When they reached Lancer Murdoch and Teresa came out. Murdoch examined his eldest son’s injuries with concern. He sent a hand for Sam. Johnny slowly walked Scott upstairs. He helped Scott undress and got him into bed. Teresa carried the still sleeping Emma upstairs.
“Teresa.” Scott called from his bed. “Could you please put her beside me for her nap? I feel a need to keep her close, a little parental anxiety after this morning.”
Teresa nodded and laid Emma on the bed and covered her. “She’s tuckered out, poor little girl.” She murmured. Scott nodded and gently fingered one of his daughter’s golden curls.
An hour later Sam was placing Scott’s repaired arm in a sling. Emma still slept and all of the Lancers lounged in Scott’s room.
Teresa sighed. “I can’t believe she walked all that way to find Johnny.” She said in an awe filled voice.
Sam smiled wryly. “I don’t think you have to worry about her intelligence, Scott.”
“She’s pretty amazing.” Scott agreed in a tired but happy voice.
“I don’t see why everyone is so surprised. She is a Lancer after all.” Murdoch said with a hint of pride in his voice.
Johnny met Scott’s eyes. “I guess even the littlest Lancer knows we take care of our own.” Johnny said in his soft voice.