The page is blank, void of thought and inspiration, but not for long. I pick up the quill and sink it purposefully into the inkwell for I am determined to get this last year down on paper. It has been a decidedly good year, one I want to selfishly hold on to. If only it could be bottled and left to rest safely in the cellar, to be opened and savoured again some celebratory day.
I shake my head at my musings, amused by such a maudlin notion. But my mood turns a little melancholic when I realise this journal will be the only record of an eventful and life changing twelve months. I tell myself it might be an unworthy accolade but still it is an indelible tribute to the effort and hard work that brought this family to where it is today. Strong, proud and above all else united.
To think I almost never came to Lancer! The West had held little appeal, for the most part an uncivilized and lawless territory, its inhabitants a seemingly unsavoury lot. Or so the people back East believed, my grandfather especially. He had called it a Godforsaken place, fit only for the wild and unscrupulous. My decision to come out here had shocked and appalled him “Good Heavens boy! Have you lost your mind?” He had been red faced, angrier than I had ever seen him and in his rage filled rant he had even forbid me come. I had respectfully reminded him of my age and that the decision was mine alone to make.
In the week leading up to my departure Grandfather had tried all ways to change my mind. Murdoch Lancer had come under constant verbal attack, but the merciless character assassination only served to fuel the flame of interest lit days before by the Pinkerton Agent. Could this man really be as black as he was painted? I had to know, I had to see for myself. It was an opportunity to lay a ghost to rest, the faceless spectre who had haunted me my entire life with its wanton absence. I had nothing to lose and secretly I had hoped there was something to be gained, if only the answer to why, why my father had not wanted me?
I am chastising myself now for letting my mind wander, so far I have filled barely one page, but then the trip out here was uneventful. I remember little of the journey, the time spent on the train so very tedious, the stagecoach miserably hot and cramped. My new life really all began when a dark haired stranger climbed aboard. That is where the Lancer story truly begins.
As I open a new paragraph with details of that first encounter I can’t help but wince at the memory. I had looked down my nose at him, seeing only a dust covered wastrel. Johnny hadn’t thought much of me then either, seeing only a well dressed fool.
But it wasn’t long before we were looking at each other in a different light, but not necessarily a more favourable one. Being told we were brothers had opened our eyes a little but not yet our hearts.
The meeting in the great room had been uncomfortably icy but I could tell the tall stranger was holding back. Eyes can not lie, they are the windows of the soul and his were full of longing. It confused me, threw me greatly but intrigued me even more. As did the young man standing beside me, he had been gripped by an intense loathing and yet it sat uncomfortably on his shoulders. It was as if he was no longer sure it belonged there.
That first meeting bore no resemblance to any of the scenarios I had envisioned. We were all so uneasy in each others company but at the same time it seemed so very right… the three of us standing there together.
All doubts fled, chased away by the need growing inside of me. I wanted this to work, I wanted the home and family that was rightfully mine. Although it seemed the odds were stacked against us something told me to stand my ground, to not give in, that it was imperative we fight this battle and win.
Things began to happen so quickly then, there was barely time to draw breath. First the fire, the fight in town and then the blows that were exchanged by the creek. We got off to a bad start and things were only to get worse.
It seemed Johnny had sided with the enemy. Murdoch feigned indifference, but I knew he was hurting badly inside. That heartache deepening still further when he saw his prodigal son fall lifeless from his horse.
The young man was still barely more than a stranger yet in just two days he had become someone important in my life. When I had realized it was he who had been shot, when it seemed he was lost to us forever I too had hurt inside. The pain one I could only associate with grief. I was mourning both the past and the future, both of which fate had cruelly decreed we were never to share.
I can’t describe the elation I felt on seeing him stir or the overpowering need I had to reach him and get him to safety. It was all I could focus on, all else fading into insignificance.
“That was good shootin!” I smile as I remember those words for they had been uttered with a reassuring measure of respect. That moment in time had marked a change in our relationship. For the first time Johnny looked at me with something other than mistrust.
With Pardee dead and his remaining men slinking away like the yellow bellies they were I was unable to stop a victorious smile from settling on my face.
Johnny had smiled shyly in return, genuine warmth visible in his blue eyes. He hadn’t looked anything like a gunfighter then, he seemed unsure of himself, even a little lost. I knew then my brother was no hardened killer; he was as vulnerable as I.
I’ll never forget the way he looked over at our father, as if wary of the reception he would receive. There was now a longing in his eyes, a silent desperate cry for acceptance. Murdoch Lancer was no longer just a meal ticket or a fast buck, he had been acknowledged as the key to a whole new existence, one that should have been Johnny’s all along.
Hope soared inside of me, the future now held so much promise. But I knew even then it was not going to be easy, that dark days still lay ahead. That is when I willingly became the lynchpin, holding a tottering tower together as storms raged in and around it.
Johnny was determined to make his way to the hacienda unaided “I can make it” he had insisted. A few faltering steps and then he was falling unconscious over my shoulder. He was beginning to trust his big brother. We fell into step Johnny and I, Murdoch and I but as for Johnny and Murdoch? No, they mostly fell out…the storms I mentioned earlier! That’s what happens when wrong-headedness and pride collide.
I stood in the middle of it all, became their sounding board, the voice of reason, at times little more than an exasperated buffer. Still I think they learned the most from those experiences, for instance just how easy it was to hurt each other. They learned their lessons the hard way, the best way some would say. Now they know how to talk to each other, how to open up and share something of themselves. They are so very close now.
Perhaps playing mediator was not how I would have chosen to find my own place here but it was certainly a very effective way of doing so. I simply slipped into the role of a supportive son and brother! I hope that doesn’t sound like I resent it any way because I do not, the end justifies the means. Now I have what I have always wanted, a sense of belonging. I never had that in Boston.
I don’t doubt my grandfather’s love for me, but I deeply resent the tactics he used to keep me with him. He didn’t love me enough to be honest with me, his was a selfish love, one that kept me apart from my father and away from the place I was destined from birth to live and with God’s grace to one day die.
I see my fathers love for me as selfless; he did what he did because he believed it was what was best for me. Those two men couldn’t be more different and I can now see why my mother left one of them behind intent on spending the rest of her life with the other.
The truth was painful to hear but with it came freedom. I know who I am now, whose blood runs through my veins. I respect the man who fathered me, and my love for him grows daily.
Well it seems my thoughts have wandered off course again; my mood straying once more into the unguarded grounds of sentimentality. It seems an excess of wine has weakened my normally robust defences…perhaps I should elaborate a little here? You see tonight’s anniversary meal had been resplendent, a fitting salute to all those sitting down to partake. One year ago today we met as strangers, but the toast tonight was to family.
The great room had been filled with warmth and laughter, a far cry from that very first day. We had lingered there late into the night, no one wanting to break the spell. But in the early hours an exhausted Teresa had reluctantly made her way upstairs. Murdoch, the tune caller, insisting his sons follow. I had shut my bedroom door feeling anything but tired; my eyes had been drawn to my desk, to the leather bound journal sitting so idly there. It was then an idea was born, so far it has not come to fruition but it will. I make that promise both to myself and to all of you out there who care about the Lancer family.