This is the journey which Scott mentioned during my story ‘Painful Remembering’ and is now described in more detail
“For the third time of asking Scott, will you stop daydreaming and take your elbows off the table!”
Grandfather’s chastising voice brought me back from my wandering thoughts to the here and now. He was a stickler for proper etiquette when dining and I immediately removed the offending elbows and sat back in my chair.
“Really young man, your manners have been woefully lacking lately. I can’t imagine what’s been going through your mind, but you seem to have been in a daze most of the time,” he continued to exclaim as he wiped his mouth on a napkin. “Just make sure you don’t show yourself up at the Henderson’s while you’re staying with them, or I won’t allow you to visit with Henry-Jack again.”
I gulped a little nervously. “I won’t sir.”
“I take it you’re all packed up and ready to go?”
I lowered my gaze. “Yes sir,” I said with a feeling of shame, as I had no intention of staying with my best friend’s family during the next few days. My thoughts over the past weeks had been on another journey I was about to undertake. For at the age of ten, going on eleven, and to my mind nearly a man, I’d decided my place was now with my father in California.
Strange to think we’d never met. My mother died when I was born yet my father never got to see me before I was taken to Boston. I’d often asked Grandfather why he never came to claim me and take me back to the place of my birth in the months and then years that followed.
The reply given was always the same and repeated word for word, time after time. ‘Murdoch Lancer was more interested in building up his new empire than looking after a child, even his first born. He considered you a hindrance to his plans and it was a perfect excuse to have nothing to do with you.’
With no reason to disbelieve what I was told, at first I accepted what my grandfather told me, knowing no better. However the older I got more questions filled my head; questions I wanted answered. Were there other reasons I’d been left in another’s care? I also wanted to know what Murdoch Lancer looked like, the sound of his voice, whether we shared similar features. Grandfather was never forthcoming with this information, only saying he couldn’t understand what his daughter saw in him. This made me more than curious to find out for myself.
Without letting Grandfather know, month’s before I wrote a letter to my father, explaining I was now at an age where I could be of use to him and promising to work hard and not be a nuisance. Henry-Jack helped with my spelling. He’s a couple of years older than me and a lot cleverer.
Christmas came and went, Easter followed, but I never received a reply. I refused to believe my father wouldn’t still want me, so decided to head west before the summer was out and meet him, face to face.
I told Henry-Jack of my plans. He said I was crazy and it was a fool idea and far too dangerous. I could see he feared for me and didn’t want me to go. He also knew once I’d made up my mind to do something, nothing would change it.
“I hope you realize your grandfather is going to be real mad when he finds out where you’ve gone.”
I suddenly felt anxious at the thought he’d tell him of my intention in an attempt to stop me going. “You’re not going to snitch on me, are you?”
Henry-Jack shook his head. “Friends don’t snitch on each other, especially best friends.”
“Will you help me run away?”
My best friend smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.”
So it was Henry-Jack who came up with the idea to tell Grandfather I was invited to stay with him. It was an excellent plan. That way my absence wouldn’t be immediately noticed and I’d have time to get away before being declared missing. He also helped to figure out the best route I should take on my journey west. We fixed a date for my departure, and after many weeks of planning between the pair of us, today was the day I was due to leave.
The sound of a loud booming clock indicated the hour as it struck nine, and Grandfather checked the time on his pocket watch as he did every morning. “Well, I have important business in town and had better be on my way.”
His voice jarred me from my thoughts again as he rose from his chair.
Suddenly my heart sank within me as I realized this might be the last time I saw him for a very long while, if ever again. I did love him and knew he loved me. For though he wasn’t the most demonstrative of men and a strict disciplinarian, my childhood had been relatively happy in his care.
My face must have reflected my thoughts for he frowned slightly as if sensing I was troubled by something.
“Are you feeling ill?” he asked. “If you are, we can postpone your visit away until another time.”
I hastily forced out a smile of reassurance. “I’m fine sir,” I answered though my stomach was tying in knots inside me as I then uttered a lie. “I guess I’m just a little excited about staying with Henry-Jack.”
Grandfather gave a nod, seemingly believing me. “I see. Well I hope you both have a good time together.”
He started to make his way out of the dining room.
I called after him. “Grandfather…goodbye sir.”
He stopped and turned, managing a rare tender smile toward me. “Goodbye Scotty. I’ll see you when you get back.”
Then he was gone.
My eyes began watering but this wasn’t the time for tears. I wiped a hand across my face. I knew running away was wrong, and hated the thought of causing my grandfather much upset when he found out I was gone. However it was as if there was an inner magnet fitted to my heart, drawing me across those thousands of miles to my father’s side. The pull was too great and the need to see him too strong to resist.
When I heard the sound of Grandfather’s horse and carriage disappearing down the street, I pushed away from the breakfast table and made my way up the stairs. I quickly changed from my very best clothes into a well worn shirt and pants. They were more comfortable and though shabbier would make me less conspicuous in a crowd. Henry-Jack had warned me pick-pockets were always on the look-out for well-dressed easy prey.
After putting on my coat which in truth had also seen better days, I took out a thick wad of dollar bills from deep within the inside pocket and stared at it for a long moment. The night before I’d waited until Grandfather was asleep before creeping into his room and taking it from his money box to fund my journey. I wasn’t proud of my actions as my dishonesty went against all I’d been taught, and dreaded him finding the IOU I’d written and realizing what I’d done. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that once I started to work for my father I would pay him back little by little however long it took.
I returned the money to its secure resting place, and for a final time looked around the room I’d slept in every night for the past ten years. I silently said goodbye as if to an old friend and picked up a small travelling case, packed full with spare clothing and two special possessions I couldn’t bear to leave behind. There was a small miniature of my mother, painted when she was my age, and a fob watch which once belonged to my great-grandfather Garrett and had been handed down to me.
As I went down the stairs I heard the sound of familiar muffled voices in the kitchen. In my grandfather’s absence the cook, housemaids and gardener were chatting and laughing together. I wondered whether to say goodbye to them all but decided against it as they would notice my change of clothes and become suspicious. My grandfather never allowed me to visit anyone in the city without dressing in the smartest and most fashionable attire.
I opened the front door and felt the warmth of a late-summer sun beat down as I stepped out into the street. My hand lingered on the brass handle. For the first time I suddenly felt scared as I thought about the voyage I was about to embark upon. I then remembered something I’d read in a book Grandfather had given me for my tenth birthday. “Always do what you are afraid to do.”
With Emerson’s quote repeating in my head, I pulled out my cap from my pocket and put it on, and taking a deep breath closed the door quietly behind me.
At the railway station I asked a guard when the train to New York was due out. He told me it would be leaving in fifteen minutes. I bought a second class ticket as Henry-Jack once told me third class carried un-clean, foul-mouthed folk and first was a whole 50 cents a mile dearer.
It was the first time I’d travelled on the railway, and felt a mix of excitement and trepidation at the thought of what was to come. I boarded my carriage and found a seat beside a window.
A middle-aged smartly dressed couple appeared. “Are these taken?” the man asked as he indicated towards two empty seats.
“No sir,” I replied and remembering my manners in a ladies presence I removed my cap.
They both smiled and settled themselves opposite me.
Almost immediately an elderly and heavily built gentleman sat down by my side. He straightaway struck up a conversation with the husband and wife facing him, offering over a cigar to the man and seemingly glad to have someone to talk to.
I looked out of the window and was too fascinated by what was going on outside to listen to their grown-up chatter. A fine looking carriage which I recognized as one of the most expensive models approached the train. It was just like the vehicle Grandfather was thinking of buying, so I knew its owners must be money folk.
An immaculately dressed coachman pulled two matching chestnut horses to a halt and hastily opened the carriage door. He helped two young women to get out. They were very pretty and as they made their way into the first-class compartment, the heads of many men standing on the platform turned towards them. I don’t think one lady approved of her escort giving the eye to another female. She promptly took hold of her parasol and began hitting him, much to the amusement of all those watching them.
A rough looking man was cursing loudly as he attempted to lead a goat into one of the third-class carriages. The goat however had no intention of being cooperative and was butting him at every opportunity. I could hear the swearwords clearly as did all those around me. The lady opposite took out her fan, and began fanning herself furiously as if in an attempt to hide her blushes at the bad language spoken.
Eventually the lure of a carrot persuaded the goat to jump into the already overly full carriage. With each coach now filled to capacity there was a loud toot of a whistle, and slowly and steadily the train began to move off.
I sat with my face pressed close to the glass as the countryside soon flashed by at such an alarming rate. I couldn’t imagine the speed we were going but felt exhilarated at the fast pace nevertheless. I thought how much fun it would be to share the experience with Henry-Jack or even more with a brother of my own. But that was a wish which could never be granted.
Suddenly I felt a tap on my arm.
“Would you like an apple young man? It’s freshly picked.”
I looked towards the man across from me and shook my head. “No thank you sir. I’m still full from breakfast but I’m much obliged for the offer.”
My politeness seemed to please him. “Why don’t you keep it for later then,” he said and placed the fruit on top of my case.
“Thank you sir,” I replied again and hastily placed it into my coat pocket.
“Are you on your own son?”
I turned my head to the man sat beside me. He had a pleasant voice and a kindly face and I nodded towards him, noting concern in his eyes. “Yes sir, but I’m meeting up with my uncle and staying with him and my cousins for a while.”
The ease by which the lie escaped my mouth surprised me. It had been said in an attempt to quell any fears about me visiting such a large city on my own and to stop further questions being asked. My three travelling companions appeared satisfied by my answer, and began talking between themselves again.
This allowed me to stare once more through the window, totally fascinated as each mile travelled revealed a fresh and never before seen view to my wide-open eyes. Tree covered hills stretched far into the distance. Rivers and valleys were crossed, several lakes flashed by. Such a different scene to what I’d been used to in Boston.
With low pitched rumbling and bone-shaking trembling, the train continued on hour after hour speeding it’s way though the countryside on its long haul south. It stopped a couple of times at places I’d never heard of to allow some passengers to move off while others got on.
Although the seats were firmly padded they were not the most comfortable on my backside, and the carriage stunk of burning coal and cigar smoke. Nothing could dampen my spirits as the journey progressed though, not even the degree of guilt I still felt for leaving my grandfather in such a deceitful way.
I felt drowsy but fought against closing my eyes as I was too interested in what was going on around me. The aisle was filled with luggage and two boys who were dressed alike so I guessed were brothers, roamed its length, clearly bored. They began to play tag but one of them tripped over a case, knocking a lady’s hat off and then falling headlong into her lap. She was clearly not amused and gave him a severe telling off. It seemed to have little effect however as he just poked out his tongue and disappeared towards the back of the coach, his younger sibling in tow.
In the noisy atmosphere a few passengers were attempting to sleep, heads bobbing as they swayed from side to side. Their train ride would be ended well before dusk. My thoughts then turned to my father and mother and the hardships they must have endured as they travelled west.
Not for them this fast mode of transport. In their day there was only horse or mule drawn wagons available to cover the harsh terrain which needed to be crossed. How determined they must have been to follow a dream to make a new life under such difficult and trying conditions. Maybe that was where I got my stubborn single-mindedness from, and I couldn’t help but wonder. What kind of life would I have enjoyed in California had my mother lived?
Not that I hadn’t been given a fine upbringing in Boston. I’d never wanted for anything and for that I was truly grateful to Grandfather. Yet still I wished…
My thoughts were interrupted as the man by my side nudged me and pointed through the window. I couldn’t help but smile excitedly as tall church spires and stone built buildings several stories high loomed into view.
The first stage of my journey was completed. There was no turning back now; I’d arrived in New York.
As the train slowed to a halt, I began to work out my next course of action. Darkness had not yet settled outside so there’d be plenty of time to take advantage of the light and make my way to the East River.
By now the carriage was slowly emptying and I took my turn to disembark. I stood for a moment on the platform and felt a hand grip my shoulder. I looked round with a start, anticipating trouble but had nothing to fear. It was just the well dressed husband and wife who insisted on waiting with me until I was collected so they’d know I was safe.
I was embarrassed; they believed what I’d told them. I looked blankly for a moment as I worked out what to do. I couldn’t tell the truth. Not wishing to cause unnecessary worry, I thanked them for their concern and made a point of searching the crowd for several seconds. I gave a yell and waved to my imaginary uncle as if I could see him in the distance, and after saying a hasty farewell quickly rushed away from the thoughtful couple’s sight.
Once out of the station I asked directions as I had no idea which way to go. From what I was told the harbor was some distance away, and keen to get there quickly I decided to take a horse-drawn cab.
The driver raised a questioning eyebrow as I told him my destination. For a moment I thought he’d guessed I was a runaway and considered handing me over to an officer of the law. However I think the sight of my fare offered towards him was too much. He gave a nod and before I knew it I was on my way.
As I settled back in my seat and watched the unfamiliar buildings of New York pass by, I could feel my empty stomach starting to grumble. Remembering the apple I munched my way through it down to the core, but still my hunger wasn’t satisfied.
During the few times I’d been allowed to wander the Boston waterfront with my grandfather, I’d noticed many dockside restaurants which seemed to do a flourishing trade. It gave me hope there’d be the same around the New York wharfs, and I found myself drooling at the thought of a bowl of stew to gratify my appetite.
Finally the cab stopped and I got out. The driver turned his horse and returned the way he came, and I clasped my case close to my chest and stared about me. The chaotic activity at the rail station was multiplied tenfold. Even though it was dusk the sidewalks were full of people and the streets congested with heavy wagons as they made their way to and from cargo-bearing vessels.
I began to slowly walk along the jam-packed waterfront, thankful for the warmth of my coat as there was a cool evening breeze. It tasted salty. The air was filled with the scent of the sea while seagulls screeched loudly above my head. I looked towards the many piers on the waterfront. Several hundred ships seemed to fill every inch of available mooring space, and with my hunger temporarily forgotten, the enormity of my situation hit home.
How could I find a suitable passenger ship en route for the Missouri River amongst the countless on view? That was where I’d need to go if I was to join a mule-train heading for California from St Joseph. Would I be thought too young to take the sea journey on my own? What would I do then? Go back to Boston? Panic filled me.
‘Stop it! You’re not Murdoch Lancer’s son for nothing. He didn’t give up at the first major hurdle on his trek west and head back with his tail between his legs!’
My silent telling off instantly calmed me but I still didn’t know what to do. If I couldn’t buy a berth legally should I risk being a stowaway? The thought didn’t appeal but wasn’t immediately dismissed.
With my mind fully occupied on my predicament I didn’t realize I was standing still until I heard the thunderous sound of clattering hooves close at hand. I stared as if hypnotized towards a team of horses galloping fast towards me.
“Get out the way!” the driver warned, yelling at me as he fought to regain control and pulled with all his strength on the reins. For some reason I couldn’t move my legs. Then I heard a woman’s scream which seemed to waken me from my self imposed trance.
I leapt to my left and struck the earth hard as the wagon flew past inches from where I lay. I tried to rise but a piercing pain shot through my head. My world began whirling and everything turned an ominous shade of black. I knew no more.
I woke in a soft bed and dressed in my nightshirt. A cool damp cloth was on my forehead and the face of a beautiful, blond-haired angel stared down. I was convinced I was in heaven. Could this be my mother? I hoped it was.
The angel spoke and smiled. “Doctor Guthrie, he comes round at last.”
The sweet sounding voice had a strange lilt I’d never heard before. A cup returned to a saucer, a chair scraped back, and then a bearded man’s face appeared into view. “Can you understand me boy?”
I nodded and managed to croak a reply. “Yes sir. Am I dead?”
The doctor gave a deep throated chuckle. “No boy, you’re not dead. Though from what I heard you came pretty close to meeting your maker.”
“Where am I?” My anxious expression did not go unnoticed.
“No one’s going to hurt you son. You’re in a rented room belonging to the Sorenson’s. Mrs. Sorenson insisted you be brought up here after witnessing your accident, and then sent for me. We’ve been waiting for you to wake as you’ve been out cold for a couple of hours.”
My pulse was taken and a few moments later the doctor gave a nod. “At least that’s improved though you’re still looking flushed and have a hint of fever. Do you feel like you want to be sick?”
“No sir, but I’ve got a real bad headache.”
“Hardly surprising the size of that bump on your head. Do you remember what happened?”
I scrunched up my brow as I thought back. “I was walking on the waterfront and a wagon nearly mowed me down.”
The doctor smiled. “Well there’s nothing wrong with your memory. Do you live nearby so we can contact someone?”
I stared up at the ceiling, not answering for a moment as I thought of the home I’d only left that morning. “No sir. I’m not from around here. I only arrived in New York today, intending to buy a boat ticket and leave tomorrow to join my father in California.”
“Have you no other family?”
Another white lie escaped my lips. “There’s only my grandfather but he’s elderly and not able to take care of me anymore. That’s why he was willing for me to leave him and go to my father.”
The doctor stroked his beard thoughtfully but didn’t press me for further details. “Well I’m afraid you won’t be going anywhere for quite a while young man. Any head injury can be potentially fatal, and to be on the safe side you need to rest quietly until that swelling goes down. That could take several days.”
“But I have no place to go…” My voice trailed. I felt a sudden panic as a thought occurred. I looked around frantically. “My coat and case, where are they?”
A hand was laid gently on my shoulder. “Don’t worry son, everything is here,” the doctor said as he gestured to all my belongings now lying on the floor a few feet away. “I apologize for opening your case but I wanted to see if you had an address written down in it. I also checked your pockets for the same, though I couldn’t help but notice that’s quite a roll of dollar bills you’ve got hid away.”
I gave a sigh of relief and once again forced out a lie. “My father sent me the money. If I’d lost it I don’t know what I’d have done.”
“Well you have no need to worry. No one here is going to take it from you.”
His tone was sincere and I believed him. As I rubbed my head in an attempt to get rid of the painful pounding, my touch made me wince. The angel, who I now realized was flesh and blood, gently pushed my hand away. “You must keep still child. Now what we call you and where you come from?”
I started to answer then hesitated. Maybe I should pretend to be someone else in case Grandfather had found out I’d run away and was searching for me? Pale blue eyes stared kindly at me and I knew I could tell no more lies. “My name’s Scott and I’m from Boston, Mrs. Sorenson.”
“Nice to meet you Scott and please, you call me Christina.”
The door opened and a tall, well-built man around thirty walked in, his handsome face concentrated towards a sleeping child in his arms. With long blonde curls flowing down her back she was gently placed on a second and larger bed on the other side of the room and a blanket wrapped around her.
In a whispered voice there was a short discussion as Christina spoke to the man in a language I’d never heard before. I assumed he was her husband, and he answered back equally quietly.
Eventually Christina turned to the doctor. Her English was faltering at times but I understood the gist of her conversation. “Scott he…he stays with us. We look after him…until he better.”
Doctor Guthrie gave her a questioning look. “I thought you said you were sailing tomorrow?”
“No. Jacob agrees to postpone trip. We take care of boy.”
With a nod of the head the doctor picked up his bag. “You’re good people,” he said, looking between them both. “Thank you for the coffee and I’ll check the lad over again in a few days to make sure all is well.”
He made to leave and Christina took out a purse from her apron pocket. “Doctor, I pay how much?”
There was a shake of the head from the doctor. “No charge. Good night,” he said with a smile, and left the room.
Christina closed the door behind him and returned to my side.
I began to realize the seriousness of what might have happened and how lucky I was to be alive. I also felt a tremendous sense of gratitude to this kindly stranger. “Thank you for taking me in ma’am. I hope it’s not too much trouble.”
“It no trouble,” Christina said as she gently eased a rogue lock of blond hair off my forehead. “You wish food?”
The word brought a loud rumble from my stomach. “Guess I am a little hungry.”
“We have use of kitchen. Won’t be long,” she said and disappeared. Within a minute she returned as promised carrying a bowl of steaming broth.
Jacob helped me to sit up and Christina pulled a chair close to the bedside and spoon fed me.
“Thank you ma’am,” I said once I’d finished and settled back down into the bed. “I’ve never tasted better.”
Jacob took the empty bowl from his wife’s hand and placed it on a side table. “My wife best cook,” he said, looking at Christina with genuine love and affection. I felt a warm glow in my heart at the sight.
“Where do you come from Mr. Sorenson?” I asked with ten year old curiosity about his accent.
“Please, you call me Jacob and we come from Sweden. Make new life in America now and go California soon.”
“That’s where I’m heading. My father has a ranch there and I’m going to live with him,” I said and could feel my eyes growing heavier and tried to suppress a yawn but failed.
Jacob patted my arm. “You sleep boy. Tomorrow we talk. Ja?”
I watched as he took hold of an oil lamp and turned down the wick. I could see his face illuminated by the flickering light. It was a face I instantly trusted, and as the room darkened I closed my eyes and almost immediately fell fast asleep.
I have no idea how long I slept, but when I awoke the room was bathed in soft light, and the morning sun shone through the window.
For a moment I couldn’t work out where I was or why, but soon the memory returned. I turned my head and found myself looking at a face with the biggest pair of blue eyes I’d ever seen.
“Hello,” I said towards a little girl of about four years old.
The sound of a child’s foreign chattering filled the room, but was quickly hushed from a chair in the corner.
“Anna you speak only English now,” Christina reminded toward her daughter.
Anna pursed her lips tight in deep concentration. “You want play with me and Rosa?”
“Rosa?” If there was a second child, I hadn’t seen her. I cast Christina a questioning glance but only saw a glint of humor in her eyes.
A crudely made doll suddenly appeared and was placed on my chest. “This Rosa. You play?”
Christina laughed. “Boys not play with dolls Anna, and Scott feel unwell so don’t pester.”
The little face darkened slightly towards me. “You sick?”
I tried to appear braver than I felt as my head still ached with a dull thudding. “I had a bad fall…see?” I said, carefully parting my hair and pointing to the tender and painful lump.
With a wide-eyed gaze Anna studied it closely. “Rosa kiss it better,” she finally said and gently laid her doll’s face on my head.
I couldn’t help but join in the game. “Thank you Doctor Rosa. You must be very good at your job because I feel better already.”
Anna placed her hand over her mouth and giggled. “You silly,” she said, turning as the door opened.
As Jacob entered Anna ran straight into her father’s outstretched arms. “Papa,” she cried happily, hugging his neck. “Boy play with Rosa.”
“Boy has name Anna,” Jacob finally responded as he eased his daughter to the floor. “Scott.”
“No Anna, Scott.”
Anna lifted her chin a little, determined to keep saying her version of my name. “Stott.”
I smiled at the exchange as Jacob shrugged; seemingly realizing he was fighting a losing battle with his daughter yet again.
Christina rose from her chair and laid a hand on my forehead. “No feel hot now. It’s good sign.”
I could hear the reassurance in her voice, but also felt another pain and looked towards Jacob, sensing a hint of color creeping up my face. “Erm…sir. Please may I talk to you for a moment? In private?”
Christina exchanged a glance with her husband and moved away as Jacob made to my side and lowered his head towards mine.
“I need to…you know…go,” I whispered.
Jacob frowned, his eyes narrowed bemusedly. “Go? Go where?” Then his face lit up with understanding and he turned to his wife.
He said a few words in Swedish and opened a cupboard door beneath a wash-stand. As he pulled out a weighty chamber pot Christina took hold of Anna’s hand. “I go make you breakfast,” she said, and happy to give me some privacy, mother and daughter disappeared through the door.
I suffered a fresh flush of embarrassment. Could I manage to hold on until I had the strength to make my own way to the outhouse by myself? My full bladder ached to be emptied however, and I accepted what had to be done.
A short while later I sank back with relief onto my pillows. Jacob’s easy going manner freed me of any feeling of awkwardness at my call of nature while in a stranger’s care. He went downstairs to empty the contents of the pan, and now alone I took a moment to look around me.
It was a fair-sized room with two beds, and I guessed I’d been given the one originally used by Anna. There was also the washstand, a chest of drawers, two arm chairs and a small table. An assortment of different sized travelling cases was stacked in a corner. The thought of the Sorenson’s delaying their journey just to take care of me brought a lump to my throat.
Jacob appeared and quickly returned the pot to the cupboard. He filled a bowl with water from a jug and brought it over along with soap and a towel. He helped to prop me up on my pillows so I was almost sitting and then I washed my hands and face. When finished the bowl was returned to the washstand and Jacob eased down on one of the armchairs and let out a loud yawn.
The door opened and with a skipping Anna leading the way, Christina set a tray down on my lap. I managed to spoon the plate of delicious scrambled eggs into my mouth without any assistance, while Anna sat on the floor by my side, singing quietly to her doll. The songs were in Swedish and this time Christina allowed her daughter to continue in her native tongue. She settled in the chair opposite her husband and after a few moments was humming along while expertly darning a pair of socks.
It was a family scene I’d never been a part of before and I enjoyed every moment. This was what was missing from my life, and the thought momentarily saddened me with a mix of regret and envy.
After a while Anna finished her singing and went over to the window. Standing on tip-toes she looked out. “We go on boat today Papa?”
Jacob looked at his daughter wistfully. “No Anna. We go when Scott is well.”
This information was absorbed silently by Anna for a moment with a deep sigh. “But you said we’d go today Papa,” she whined, clearly eager to be on her way.
“Mr. Sor…Jacob. Please don’t feel you have to stay here because of me. I’m sure I can take care of myself from now on.”
As if to prove the point I pushed off the blanket and got to my feet. Everything in the room began spinning and my legs started to give way. I suddenly felt Jacob’s strong hands supporting me. He gently eased me back on the bed, and looked at me very seriously. “I cancel today’s passage hour ago. You not try get up again.”
“No sir, I won’t,” I answered without further argument.
Christina put down her sewing and smiled gently. “I tell doctor we take care of you Scott. I not break promise now. When you well, we go California together to find your father. You like idea?”
Before I could answer Anna turned towards me, excitement bubbling from her. “Stott you be my brother on journey. We play every day. Ja?”
Made to feel like I was now part of the family, I nodded in happy agreement. “Ja.”
I soon got to know what being an older brother felt like, for Anna stuck to me like glue from then on, constantly chatting to me in a mix of English and Swedish without a pause. I tried to think up a way to keep her entertained so Christina and Jacob could have a few hours break from the boarding house and take a walk together outside. Pencils and paper were bought and I pretended to be a teacher and gave Anna writing lessons to help with her English words. This exercise proved to be very popular, and I enjoyed the responsibility of teaching her for she was a bright and willing pupil.
In the evenings Jacob would tell long and fascinating stories about their homeland. On one occasion he also spoke with great fondness about the family they’d left behind, and my thoughts turned to Grandfather. I felt a pang of sorrow at the worry he’d go through when he found out I’d gone.
Those few days were the happiest I’d ever had. However all good things must come to an end. Keeping his promise to check on me, the doctor finally gave me the all clear to travel again.
At first light on the fifth morning Jacob went down to the quayside and managed to purchase tickets for a ship sailing on the afternoon tide that very day. When he returned he told me I’d been added to the ship’s manifest under his name so we could stay together as a family. I was more than pleased with the idea of being his son, if in name only for a few weeks, and in a flurry of activity our bags were quickly packed.
With Anna holding my hand tight, we soon found ourselves fighting our way along the quayside to where our ship was berthed. Fellow passengers were already awaiting permission to go aboard and we joined the queue.
I beamed happily, unable to control my excitement to think the second part of my journey was within a few hours of beginning.
At the sound of a familiar voice I felt the color drain from my face. “Grandfather?”
I was hardly able to believe what I was seeing. Grandfather was practically running towards me. For a moment I saw his genuine relief as he drew closer, and I gave an involuntary smile of greeting as he grabbed both my arms.
It took a few moments before he got his breath back and was able to speak. “When Henry-Jack told me you intended sailing from here, I thought I’d be too late to stop you. Thank God you’re still here.”
Then the anger came like a fast flowing tide as I felt his fingers tighten in a painful hold. “I can’t believe my own grandson could behave in such a reckless and dishonest way. After all I’ve done for you over the years, how could you even think about leaving me without a word?”
I shook away from his grasp and stepped back determinedly. “I’m sorry sir, but I’m going whether you like it or not. I want to live with my father from now on and nothing you can say will change my mind!”
I think my insolence stunned me as much as it appeared to stun my grandfather. His face went red with rage. “You’re more Garrett than Lancer and don’t you forget it boy! Your future is in Boston where you can make something of your life.”
His eyes then fell on Jacob and Christina who were watching the exchange with anxious expressions. “Who are these people?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson are from Sweden,” I quickly explained. “They’re going to California as well and have promised to take care of me until I find my father.”
“Immigrants!” Grandfather all but spat out the word and his tone was clearly hostile.
Anna tugged at my sleeve, clearly frightened. “Stott. Make man go away. Not like man.”
I pulled her close and felt her shaking against my leg as Grandfather went on.
“They have no right to take it upon themselves to escort you anywhere. Did you tell them you took money from me and were running away to a father who doesn’t want to know you?”
I heard Christina give a sharp intake of breath at this revelation. I shook my head, unable to stare her or Jacob in the eye. “No sir. I told them my father sent the money for the journey and that you were willing for me to go.”
“So you deceived them as well!”
I cringed, unable to stare the Sorenson’s in the eye as I nodded.
Christina’s hand rested lightly on my chin and she lifted my face. “I understand why son want to go California, but not good thing you tell lies. Grandfather loves you very much. You must stay with him. Ja?”
“No Christina. I want to go with you!”
My pleading tone was enough to make Grandfather glower between the two of us till a strange flicker appeared in his eyes. “I tell you now young man, you come with me this minute or I’ll see to it this couple are charged with attempted kidnap and thrown into jail. Then I’ll make sure they’re sent right back to where they came from and never allowed back here. Is that what you want to happen?”
His voice was cold with restrained fury.
For a moment I thought about defying him again, but as I looked towards my new found family I felt fearful for their future. Grandfather often boasted he had many friends in high places, and I knew he’d have no hesitation carrying out his threat. I gave a sigh of defeat. “Very well sir, I’ll come back with you.”
“Good decision my boy,” Grandfather acknowledged triumphantly just as the sound of a hand-bell rang out loudly to signal the time had come to board the ship.
The orderly queue of passengers began to slowly move forwards.
“Stott, you come with us?”
Anna’s voice tore at my heart. I shook my head. She started crying and I knelt down and pulled her into a tight hug, unashamedly crying with her. “I love you always Stott,” she said, her voice muffled against my shoulder.
“I’ll always love you too little sister,” I responded, and I meant it.
We clung together for a few moments, and then Jacob took hold of his daughter and extended his arm. I shook his hand in a grown up way. “You fine boy,” he said with a sad smile. “You make fine man one day.”
I sniffed and blinked hard then Christina gathered me into her arms. “You son I wish I had. If I have boy one day we name him Scott,” she told me quietly in my ear. “You like?”
Through my tears I could only manage a faint nod.
Christina gently brushed her lips against my cheek. “Goodbye sweet boy.”
I wanted to say something, to thank them for all they’d done. But I was too choked to speak and didn’t get the chance. I watched as they collected their luggage, following their progress until they were hidden from view and I saw them no more. Grandfather prodded me impatiently. “Come Scott. We’ve wasted enough time here as it is.”
I picked up my case and purposely dragged my feet as we walked away from the wharf side. I only half listened as Grandfather let out another angry outburst towards me about what I’d done. No doubt there’d be more harsh words said before the day was out. Once back in Boston I’d also get to painfully pay for running away, but I had no regrets about my attempt to head west and vowed to try again some day.
I sneaked another look back, silently wishing the Sorenson’s well as they followed their dream of a new life. My time would come though. No matter what Grandfather said, I was born a Lancer and had my father’s blood running through my veins. One day I’d work by his side on the ranch which bore my name, of that I was determined.
So until that time came, well, I could dream, couldn’t I?