Echoes of the Heart

By Sharon 

This story follows the WHN for “The Kid” & “Blue Skies” in my story sequence which begins with  “Boston, 1870.”  It’s not necessary to have read any of the others in order to follow this one, but the rest of the sequence may be found at:



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 1.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“Almost home.”

Scott Lancer smiled to himself as he realized that he’d uttered the words aloud. As his stockinged chestnut trotted briskly in the direction of the archway that marked the entrance to the main compound of the Lancer ranch, Scott felt very pleased to be returning home once more. “Home”-- that’s how he thought of Lancer now, or at least that was how he thought of the ranch most of the time.  But having spent the first twenty-four years of his life in Boston, it was difficult for him not to still think of that large Eastern city as his “Home,” as well.

The young man was returning from a brief visit to a much smaller city, Stockton, California, a trip necessitated by personal business. Jarrod Barkley, a lawyer as well as a family friend, had arranged for Scott to meet with one of his associates, a financial advisor based in San Francisco.  On the occasion of his recent twenty-fifth birthday, Scott had come into control of a sizeable trust fund and he had sought Jarrod’s assistance in making the appropriate legal arrangements.

Although he would more typically have traveled to Stockton by coach, taking a room in one of the smaller towns en route, this time Scott had journeyed on horseback, sleeping alone under the stars.  He had decided to follow his own timetable, rather than relying upon that of the stage company, since Murdoch Lancer had been quite adamant that his elder son be away from the ranch for as short a time as possible. Murdoch had indicated that he viewed Scott’s planned departure as highly inconvenient, grumbling that it was a very busy time at Lancer.   As he had just prior to his departure, Scott again considered that it really wasn’t any more--or less--busy than any other time; he doubted that there was ever a period when there was not too much work to be done on the ranch.  There was a cattle drive coming up, as well as a bridge in need of repair ---and supplies on order that hadn’t yet arrived when Scott had set out for Stockton.  But it had been fairly evident that his father’s displeasure was not so much due to Scott’s proposed absence of a few days, but more likely prompted by the purpose of the trip. 

The funds in question had been part of an inheritance that Scott had received from his mother and maternal grandmother, prudently invested by his grandfather, Harlan Garrett. There was significant antipathy between his father and grandfather, and Scott was painfully aware that even indirect references to the older man were an irritant to Murdoch Lancer.  Of course, ever since his grandfather’s disastrous visit to the ranch, even Scott found references to the elderly man to be a highly uncomfortable topic of conversation.

Shaking off those thoughts, he concentrated instead on reminiscing about his very pleasant stay with the Barkleys. When Murdoch had first introduced his two sons to the family--the widow and children of his old friend Tom Barkley---- Scott had immediately found common ground with Jarrod, the attorney.  Scott had always been intrigued by the law, had even seriously considered entering the field after taking his Harvard degree in literature and classical languages---- quite useless topics of study, according to his grandfather, who had repeatedly urged “Scotty” to develop more “practical” interests. Scott particularly admired Jarrod’s ability to attend to his legal practice while still remaining involved in the operation of the family ranch. 

It was unfortunate that they didn’t have more opportunity to see each other; whenever the two families did get together, Murdoch Lancer would talk about cattle and fence lines for hours with Jarrod’s brother, Nick, and Murdoch’s ward, Teresa O’Brien, always enjoyed visiting with their sister, Audra. It had turned out that Scott’s brother Johnny had actually crossed paths with Heath Barkley at some point in the past.  Victoria Barkley, the matriarch of the family, graciously presided over them all.

Visiting the Barkleys on his own had afforded Scott the opportunity to closely observe, and fully appreciate, the manner in which Victoria Barkley interacted with her daughter and her three very different sons. She was graceful, intelligent and articulate, somehow managing to combine an air of sophistication rarely seen in these parts with an equal share of common sense. Scott liked to think that had his own mother survived, she might even have been somewhat like the estimable Mrs. Barkley.

Scott had also considered that Murdoch and Victoria might be an  . . . interesting, albeit unrealistic, pairing.  Unrealistic since it was impossible to imagine them being willing to relinquish control of their respective ranches. The only feasible solution, he told himself, would be for the two of them to start a completely new enterprise midway between the present ones. As he approached, and then passed under the Lancer arch, Scott entertained himself with the thought that even starting from scratch, Murdoch Lancer and Victoria Barkley together would most likely be able to quickly build up an estancia to rival the existing Lancer and Barkley spreads.  Scott also had to acknowledge that, left to their own devices, the Barkley boys, with their far more extensive ranching experience, would no doubt leave the Lancer brothers far behind in their dust.

Smiling to himself as he pictured Nick Barkley’s triumphant expression, Scott removed his work-stained hat in order to swipe at the sweat on his brow before resettling it on his head, the brim lowered to shield his eyes from the sun that was drifting downwards in the sky. The day had been quite warm; Scott had shed his jacket by mid morning, only to replace it with a light coating of trail dust.  The sleeves of his beige checked shirt had been rolled up to just below the elbows, revealing strong forearms that were tanned and sinewy. 

The fair skinned Easterner never went about shirtless, but if he were to do so, Scott knew that he would definitely have what back in New England would be termed a “farmah’s tan”. The dramatic demarcation of skin tone would present undeniable evidence of manual labor, something that the young ladies of his acquaintance back in Boston would have found quite distasteful.  As for the local females . . . well, Scott had to ruefully admit that it had been far too long since he had been unclothed in the presence of willing young woman.  He smiled to himself as he contemplated taking a ride into Green River, soon—perhaps the next evening.  For tonight, a bath, Maria’s cooking and his own soft bed would be comfort enough. 

Scott was grateful when Miguel greeted him near the front door; the young vaquero quickly took charge of Brunswick and could be relied upon to do a thorough job of stabling the weary horse. Given the time of day, Scott was not surprised when he did not encounter any members of either his family or the household staff as he entered the Lancer hacienda.  He assumed that a few of the women would be back in the kitchen making preparations for supper. Glancing at the clock, he noted with pleasure that he had at least two hours to settle in prior to that event.

As Scott came through the front door, he paused to remove his hat and place it on the stand just inside the entry.  The absence of another hat or of a holstered weapon indicated that neither his father nor his younger brother had returned from wherever their tasks had taken them that day.  Slowly he unbuckled his gun belt, and grateful to be relieved of the burden, hung it beneath his hat. 

It had taken the Easterner some time to acquire the habit of constantly wearing a gun.  In fact, there was still the occasional morning when he walked out the door without it, especially if he was thinking hard about something else.  After noting one such occurrence, Jelly Hoskins, if he were anywhere in the vicinity, had formed the pattern of watching for it, inspecting Scott each morning as he exited the hacienda.  If the Easterner’s weapon was missing, the smug self described horse wrangler would quickly point it out: “Ya forgot ya gun belt agin; yur in California now; livin’ out here, you might just as well think about goin’ off without ya trousers.”

Of course, Scott was certain that his brother, the former gunfighter, was even more likely to notice any such omission, but Johnny was not always as eager to mention it.  Just last week, the two of them had been heading out somewhere together, had actually reached the arch, before Johnny, feigning a casual disinterest, had finally posed a question: “So, Boston, am I guardin’ ya t’day?”  Scott had given his brother a quizzical look, then realization had dawned and, with a small sigh, he had turned Brunswick back towards the ranch house.  Teresa had greeted him at the door, smiling sympathetically when Scott reached for his gun belt with a rueful grin and a comment about “seeming to have forgotten a little something.”  

“How far did you get before you remembered it?”

“I didn’t,” had been the honest reply, and Scott repeated the question that Johnny had asked him on the far side of the Lancer arch. 

“Wait here,” she’d told him and had disappeared in the direction of the kitchen, returning with a fresh muffin, still warm from the oven.  “I’m taking some of these over to the Hendersons’ later this morning.”

Scott had accepted it, smiled his thanks and then promptly requested one for Johnny as well. Teresa had shaken her head at him.  “Why?” the petite brunette had demanded, hands on hips

“Well,” Scott had explained in his most serious tone, “because the last time, Johnny waited until we were half way to Green River before he asked me if I thought that my horse was appreciating  ‘carryin’ a lighter load’.”

Still shaking her head, the young woman had returned to the kitchen to comply with Scott’s request and retrieve a second warm muffin. When Scott had caught up with Johnny once more, he had found his restless younger brother engaged in tossing his hat to the ground and practicing picking it up from astride a moving Barranca, a difficult skill at which Johnny was particularly adept. Certain that Johnny was well aware of having been observed, Scott had paid the younger man no compliments upon his feat, offering a dry comment instead: “It looks as if you’ve been working up an appetite.”  Scott had then described in mouthwatering detail the oven fresh delicacy that he’d enjoyed during his return to the house, waiting until Johnny looked suitably dismayed and deprived before relenting and tossing him the extra muffin.   

Scott smiled now as he recalled the incident, thinking again how glad he was to be home. But the smile swiftly disappeared as he noticed, lying on the hall table beneath the collection of letters that had accumulated during his absence, a very large, thick, envelope.  Pushing the other mail to one side, he could see that it appeared to be from the Boston law firm—Hayford and Son-- that represented his grandfather. Scott pressed his lips together in annoyance as he realized that the packet might include yet more paperwork relating to the trust funds and other legal matters which he had just spent the last few days taking care of . . . .or thought that he had taken care of.  As he held the envelope in both hands, he considered that it might also be the revised copy of his grandfather’s will; the older man had mentioned in his most recent letter a plan to update that document and have a copy forwarded to Scott. Since neither prospect seemed to promise enticing reading material, Scott dropped the heavy packet on the table and decided that it could wait there on top of the rest of the letters while he proceeded to his room to get cleaned up, change his clothes and hopefully have a few moments to stretch out on his bed before coming down to supper.




When he finally descended the stairs a few hours later, wearing a clean white shirt and with his freshly combed hair still slightly damp, Scott discovered that the rest of the family had already assembled in the Great Room. Teresa greeted him first with a bright smile and a quick embrace, as she departed for the kitchen to check on the progress of the mealtime preparations.

Johnny had a grin and a friendly punch on the arm for his older brother, as well as some predictable questions: “Hey Scott . . . How were things in Stockton? . . . See much of Audra?” 

When the brothers had first been introduced to the Barkleys, Johnny had quickly decided that Audra and Scott were the ideal couple, offering as his most compelling evidence the fact that they both had “pretty blond hair.” 

Scott would not have been Harlan Garrett’s grandson if, soon after he had met Murdoch’s friends from Stockton, he had not at least briefly considered that many people might consider Audra and himself to be a “suitable” match.  During his last few years in Boston, Scott’s movements in society had taught him that most families viewed a young man of his background, reputation and position as either a “good catch” or a threat, depending upon whether they were overly eager to marry off their darling daughter or were overly protective of her.  There had been no such response from the Barkleys. 

Audra had much to recommend her---she had a pleasant, gentle demeanor, she was used to life on a ranch, and she was most definitely attractive, with long golden blond hair. Johnny might find it amusing, but Scott privately considered that he would have been very interested in Audra Barkley---- if only her beautiful face had been combined with some measure of her mother’s strength of personality.  Not that he would ever reveal a negative opinion of a young woman who was, after all, a family friend. Besides, Scott knew that if he ever once gave voice to his sincere admiration of Victoria Barkley, he would only succeed in providing Johnny with something else to rib him about.

Now, Scott grinned back at his dark haired younger brother.  “Well . . . I did catch a glimpse or two,” he said in arch response to Johnny’s question about Audra. 

He walked over to the table where Murdoch was pouring himself a drink, and offered a “Hello, Sir.” His father nodded, gestured with his glass and, in response to Scott’s own nod of assent, poured a second drink and handed it to his elder son.

Once the three of them were seated, Murdoch repeated Johnny’s initial inquiry: “So how were things in Stockton?” then went on to pose additional, specific questions about the Barkleys’ stock, irrigation efforts, fence building program, and several other things that Scott had had absolutely no opportunity to discuss, let alone thoroughly investigate, during his very short stay. 

When Murdoch displayed a visible degree of irritation with Scott’s inability to supply informative answers, the younger man finally pointed out that his trip to Stockton had had another purpose. 

“I certainly could have stayed longer, Sir, had I known that you wished me to give a full report of the goings on at the Barkleys’,” Scott added with a smile, hoping to mitigate Murdoch’s annoyance at the oblique reference to his trust fund.

“Well, then, let’s come to a decision about which breeding bull we want to purchase.”

Scott looked over at Johnny with an expression of undisguised dismay.  The three men had been discussing this topic for several days prior to his departure for Stockton.  If anyone had questioned him, Scott probably would have assumed that the decision had been made, the bull bought and paid for and that the animal might even already be “hard at work,” ---although, come to think of it, he couldn’t recall which of the three bulls under consideration had been selected.  Over on the sofa, Johnny merely looked back at Scott and shrugged.

Scott sighed. He stood up, set down his drink and walked over to Murdoch’s desk.  Only half listening to his father’s familiar lecture on the importance of careful selection of breeding stock, Scott searched the desk surface for a letter opener.  Finally locating the desired object, shaped like a miniature medieval sword, he leaned over and picked it up.  When he straightened and turned from the desk, he found that Murdoch had paused and was looking directly at him.

“Go on, Sir, I’m listening,” Scott assured the older man, and then crossed to the hall table and snatched up the packet from Boston. Murdoch eyed the movements with an expression of evident disapproval, although without any further breaks in his monologue. 

Noting that his brother was looking particularly bored, Scott returned to his chair, dropped the packet and the letter opener onto the seat which he had been occupying, and picked up his nearly empty glass.  As expected, Johnny quickly drained his own and handed it to Scott as he passed by. Once he was standing with his back to the room, pouring two fresh drinks, Scott waited for Murdoch to pause for breath and then interjected a quiet comment. 

“We could still purchase two, or even all three bulls, and do things on a larger scale.” 

As he moved to hand Johnny his refilled glass, Scott continued to speak but his words were addressed to Murdoch. “And if you are still against my doing this, then why not consider it a loan?  You name the interest.”

Wearing a grim expression, Murdoch responded. “We’ve already discussed it.  The answer is no.”

Scott looked at the older man directly now. “We didn’t discuss a loan,” he pointed out.

“And what if, at the end of the year, we’re not able to repay it?” Murdoch demanded.

Scott glanced down at the drink in his hand, before looking up at Murdoch to deliver his reply.  “I believe that the lender is a reasonable man, and would be willing to be patient in that event.”

Murdoch managed a taut smile.  “Then it wouldn’t really be a loan,” he said, a note of grim victory in his voice. 

Scott raised his drink to his lips, while keeping his solemn eyes trained on his father.  After a long sip, he lowered the glass and turned, reluctantly, to face Johnny.  Prior to his departure for Stockton, Scott and Murdoch had debated Scott’s offer to use his personal funds to purchase additional syock for the ranch.  Murdoch had been steadfastly against the idea, while Johnny, wisely in Scott’s opinion, had refrained from entering into the discussion at all. Scott was well aware of how uncomfortable it could be to be caught in the middle of an argument between his father and his brother, since he’d been in the situation often enough.  He therefore had hesitated to place Johnny in that same position, but now, feeling frustrated by what he viewed as the older man’s unreasonableness, Scott ventured to address his brother.

“So . . . Johnny, what do you think?”

Johnny had been closely observing the other two men; now rather than looking at Scott, he lowered his gaze and in that moment Scott knew that his brother was not going to side with him on this.   Looking at the glass in his hand, swirling the amber liquid, Johnny spoke very softly, with a note of regret,  “I guess I kinda like us bein’ equal partners . . .”

Murdoch nodded in emphatic agreement while Scott sighed in resignation and returned to his seat. As he settled once more in his chair, picking up the letter opener and the packet from the Boston attorneys, Scott registered that Murdoch was once again enumerating the pros and cons of each of the prize-winning animals under consideration: Angus, Fernando and Hannibal by name.   As he carefully wielded the tiny sword to slit an opening in the top of the large brown envelope, he reflected that he had long ago come to the conclusion that the various advantages and disadvantages seemed to simply cancel each other out. The cost of each of the bulls was also comparable.  Murdoch had actually examined the animals; Scott wished that the man would simply choose one. There was no question that both he and Johnny would go along with their father’s selection.  <<But, if he asks me, I suppose I’ll choose . . . Hanna bull . . >>

Looking down inside the envelope, Scott saw that it was filled with what appeared to be pages of legal documents. But in the front of the packet, he noticed a small, lighter colored envelope and recognized it as matching his aunt’s writing paper.

Cecilia Garrett Holmes was his grandfather’s much younger half sister.  When Scott was growing up, “Aunt Cee” had resided in the Maine coastal town of Brunswick; Scott had spent many weeks each summer visiting his great aunt and her husband, Elwood.  When Scott was older, “Uncle El” had taken his wife’s young nephew on excursions into the north woods, camping, trapping, fishing and canoeing.  Now widowed, Cecilia Holmes continued to spend time at her Maine residence during the summer months, but the rest of the year resided with her brother in Boston.   

Noting that Murdoch was still talking about the breeding bulls-- Fernando at the moment-- Scott pulled the smaller envelope from the packet and slit the top edge.  Placing the letter opener on his knee, he withdrew several sheets of fine paper and rested them against the larger envelope that he still held upright on his lap, as if the brown paper could shield him against having to hear once more the details of Fernando’s procreative potential. 

My Dearest Scott,” the letter began. “I pray that you will be able to forgive me for the delay in this news reaching you, but I could not bear to communicate it in the spare words of a telegram . . .” As Scott continued to read, Murdoch’s voice faded until it became nothing more than the rumble of very distant thunder.

When he finally reached the end of the second page, Scott forced his hands to very gently refold the delicate pages of his aunt’s letter and carefully return them to the envelope. 

“Scott??” Murdoch’s voice broke into his thoughts.  “Scott, which bull do you think we should choose?”  

“I’m sorry?”

“Which bull do you think we should choose?”  

“What?  Which bull?  oh . . . ah . . . Hannibal.”

“Why?” Murdoch swiftly demanded.

Scott looked up, uncomprehending. 

“Why Hannibal?” Murdoch repeated insistently.

“Oh . . . well, I guess because . . . . because I like the name . . . ”


The sound came from Johnny as he tried to stop himself from laughing at Scott’s bewildered expression and vague response.  He then simply burst into laughter at Murdoch’s look of utter astonishment. 

“Oh come on, Murdoch, it’s as good a reason as any . . .” Johnny choked out finally. “Seems like we been talkin’ ‘bout these three bulls forever . . .” 

Surprisingly, Murdoch’s own lips twitched and the dour rancher’s face widened in an answering smile. “Well, if that’s the basis for our decision,” he solemnly intoned, “then of course I’ll have to cast my vote for Angus.”

“Well, then it looks like we might have ourselves a real problem,” Johnny replied with a grin, “’cause it just so happens I was leanin’ toward Fernando . . .”

While Johnny and Murdoch indulged in a hearty laugh, Scott shook his head and rose from his seat.  He was holding two items in his hands, the thick brown packet and the thinner dove-colored envelope, but the letter opener clattered to the floor. 

After staring at the implement for a brief moment, Scott slowly bent to retrieve it, as his father and brother, their laughter having run its course, exchanged a meaningful look.  Beginning with the large envelope from the lawyers, numerous pieces of mail from Boston had accumulated during Scott’s absence and speculation about their contents had been a topic of discussion at the Lancer dinner table the previous evening. The conversation had included a few unfavorable remarks about Scott’s grandfather, Mr. Harlan Garrett, as well as scathing references to the man’s one and only visit to the ranch. Now it was clear that whatever information the missive with the ominous origin might actually contain, the message had had an unsettling effect upon Scott.





ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 2A.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook

 “Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“Johnny . . . let him go.”

Despite the murmured instruction, Johnny threw his napkin down, pushed his chair away from the table and slowly rose in a tentative effort to follow Scott from the room. 

“Give him some time,” Murdoch Lancer urged his younger son.

Now Johnny stared after Scott, his eyes narrowing as he considered his father’s recommendation, and then finally nodded in acceptance.  Although Johnny had to admit that he didn’t really know exactly what he’d say to Scott if he did go after his brother, he still resumed his seat with considerable reluctance, grabbing at the napkin and gripping the cloth tightly in his clenched fist rather than replacing it in his lap. Beside him, Teresa sat staring at her plate with a stricken expression on her face. 

“Poor Scott,” she said softly.

With a shake of his head, Johnny started to voice his own regret: “Sure wish I hadn’t said that ‘bout— ”

“You couldn’t have known,” Murdoch interjected firmly, his hasty reassurance an indication that perhaps his own thoughts had followed a similar line.  They’d both had plenty to say the previous evening . . . 

“We didn’t know,” Murdoch reiterated.

Johnny nodded again, and began idly toying with the food on his plate.  The fact was that they had known that something was wrong, it had been plain enough to see, but when it concerned Scott and old man Garrett, well, you didn’t always ask questions.  Still, there’d been no doubt that something just wasn’t right, even a casual observation would have told anyone that, and Johnny had been carefully studying Scott across the table ever since they’d sat down to supper.

Scott had barely settled in his seat when he’d reached for the bottle to pour himself some wine--and he’d been refilling his glass before the rest of them had finished filling their plates. Teresa had come in with a basket of biscuits that she’d passed to Johnny as she sat down in her chair opposite Scott.  Then it had taken Juanita several trips from the kitchen to convey the rest of the meal to the table; it was a variation on a beef boiled dinner with succotash, prepared especially by Maria in honor of Scott’s return to the ranch. It certainly hadn’t escaped Johnny’s notice that Boston had mostly just moved the food around some, instead of tucking into it the way you’d expect of a man who’d spent the last few days on trail rations.

Murdoch had filled Scott in on what had happened while he’d been away, and informed him that he and Johnny would be clearing out a section of the stream up in the north pasture. It was messy work and hard, not exactly a ‘welcome back,’ but Scott had just nodded his acceptance of the assignment without even shooting Johnny a wry glance across the table.

Then Teresa had tried to ask Scott some questions about his trip, especially his stay with the Barkleys, but had given up when she hadn’t gotten much for answers. She’d started telling him about a book she’d been reading, but, uncharacteristically, Scott hadn’t seemed much interested in that either, saying “Really?” and nodding his head a few times, but not looking as if he’d actually heard what was being said.

Finally, Teresa had paused for breath and Johnny had seized his chance.  “So Boston, who is she?” 

Scott had reacted to the name “Boston,” squinting over at Johnny with his lips parted in a questioning expression.  Johnny obligingly repeated his inquiry, gesturing with his fork at the pale grey envelope by way of clarification.

On the other side of the table, Scott had looked down at the small square lying atop the larger brown packet.  The dove-colored surface was blank except for his own first name inscribed in an elegant, feminine hand.  “The letter  . . .  is from my Aunt Cecilia,” he’d replied, the tone indicating that he had no desire to expand upon the topic.

There was a small clinking sound at the head of the table, as Murdoch Lancer set his fork down against the edge of his plate.  “Cecilia? Is she all right, Scott?” he asked, his question closely followed by another from Johnny: “She the one you used to visit?” 

Scott turned to Murdoch first.  “She’s fine, Murdoch.”

Again, Johnny heard a finality in his brother’s voice.  However, Scott still looked across and answered him as well. “Yes, up in Maine. Grandfather’s younger sister.”

Spying that pretty writing paper, Johnny had wondered if maybe it didn’t have anything to do with Garrett after all, but perhaps his brother had gotten some bad news from a female admirer, one of those many ladies he’d hinted at being “acquainted” with back in Boston.  Maybe one of them had gotten tired of waiting and was writing to say that she’d married someone else.  Johnny’s disappointment at not being able to kid Scott about his ‘women troubles’ was quickly supplanted by that other concern.  As he reached for his glass of milk, Johnny fired a question across the table.

“So’s she workin’ with the old man now, writin’ t’ try to talk ya into going back East?”

“Johnny . . . ” Murdoch’s voice had issued a warning.

“No,” Scott had said, his typical intonation making the short word seem longer. Then, rather than looking at Johnny, he’d lowered his gaze and in that moment Johnny knew that his brother was going to say something pretty important. Looking at the table through the wineglass in his hand, Scott spoke very softly.

“She’s writing to me about my grandfather  . . . .   to tell me he’s passed away.”

The only sound was the soft thud as Johnny set his glass of milk back down on the table.  No one spoke; a long moment slid past. 

Into the shocked silence that followed his announcement, Scott whispered a polite, “If you’ll excuse me . . . ” Gathering up the two envelopes, he rose from his seat. Scott’s eyes skimmed over the table, failing to meet any of the pairs staring up at him.  Then he simply turned and walked out, leaving behind an empty wineglass, a plate of barely touched food and three stunned family members.




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 2B.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



“ . .  . . he’s passed away.” 

Although the phrase, spoken in his own voice, had repeated in his thoughts several times as he’d wearily mounted the stairs to his room, Scott still couldn’t quite accept that it was true.

Once inside his bedchamber, he gently placed the two envelopes on the top of his dresser, carefully centering the smaller one atop the larger, then leaned, straight-armed, against the solid bulk of the heavy piece of furniture.  As his eyes closed and his head dropped, Scott found himself listening for the sound of Murdoch’s heavy tread on the stairs, for Johnny’s jingling footsteps in the hallway, for Teresa’s gentle knock on the door.  His relief was tinged with only a faint hint of disappointment when there was nothing but silence beyond the echo of those words in his head.

After a long exhale, Scott straightened and fingered Aunt Cee’s letter.  Ever since he’d read it downstairs—and he knew he hadn’t fully absorbed everything that his aunt had written—Scott had felt cold to his very core, frozen in disbelief.

Now there were a few stirrings of anger, irrational flickers of feeling not anywhere near enough to warm him. First, there was anger at his aunt, for having written the words.  He knew instantly that those thoughts were unfair.

Then there was anger at his grandfather . . .  for dying.  Even worse.

But most of all, he was angry at himself.  For not knowing.

<<”My grandfather can take care of himself. . .”>>

How often had he said that?  How wrong he’d been.

Scott pushed away from the dresser.  He blinked hard as those sparks of anger were nearly smothered by an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss.  Nearly. He shoved sorrow aside, stirring up the coals instead.

He hadn’t been there. Despite what he’d said, he hadn’t given any real thought to going home for a visit.  He hadn’t yet answered Grandfather’s most recent letter. 

Now it was too late.

He reached for the packet and flung it hard against the far wall.

His breathing ragged, Scott stood staring at the dented brown rectangle lying on the bed, some of its contents sliding out onto the counterpane.  He never should have opened the damn thing.

Scott slowly crossed the room, but not to retrieve the envelope—instead he turned his back on it and sat down heavily on the edge of his bed.  He swallowed hard as his head dropped into his hands, fury now blanketed by the ashes of regret.

He should have written sooner. He should have been there. He should have known. 

And he shouldn’t have told them. Not like that.

He hadn’t intended to say anything, downstairs, not right away. He should never have carried the envelopes with him to the table, prompting his brother’s inquiry that in turn had led to his own blunt announcement.  How much better to have waited, to have first carefully read over all the information, digested it and then shared the painful news with Murdoch, Johnny and Teresa.

The silence that had greeted his revelation had probably only lasted a brief instant or two, but it had seemed to stretch well beyond a merely awkward pause.  No one had hastened to offer up a polite condolence and Scott could hardly blame them, given his grandfather’s behavior during his one brief sojourn at the ranch.  Scott had, in fact, been quite grateful, when, in the aftermath of that visit, the rest of his family had generously chosen to avoid the topic altogether.

But he and Grandfather, the two of them had talked, on the trip into town.  Afterwards, they’d exchanged letters, both working to try to repair some of the damage done. The older man’s actions had left Scott feeling more deeply shaken than he had cared to admit, even to himself.  Grandfather had always been the one constant presence in his life, their relationship an integral support, central to Scott’s very foundation.  Prior to his grandfather’s stunning betrayal, Scott had been convinced that nothing could change what they’d had between them, not even the fact that he had begun to build a new life for himself at Lancer.     

Grandfather had always been there. Now he was . . .  gone.

The cold disbelief had melted away, and Scott felt completely empty inside. This was the dreaded fulfillment of his greatest childhood fear-- that something terrible would happen to his grandfather, and he would be left all alone.

That was ridiculous. He was no longer a child.  And he was, after all, the one who had left.

He had a new home now, with Johnny, Teresa and  . . .  and with Murdoch, the father who refused to discuss the past. Something to which Scott himself had reluctantly acquiesced, in part because of his growing conviction that, far from throwing light upon the subject, any responses given to his burning questions would merely cast shadows upon all concerned. 

So, he’d kept his questions locked inside, his memories too, and hadn’t ever said very much to any of them about what it had been like, growing up in Boston--- except, of course, during the few weeks prior to his grandfather’s ill-fated visit.  Even then, he’d hardly talked anyone’s ear off. Now his earlier reticence, coupled with that weighty silence he’d felt downstairs, left Scott feeling very much alone.  More than the fully laden supper table downstairs or any closed door, the unshared past seemed a solid barrier separating him from the rest of his family.

He should at least have brought the bottle of wine upstairs for company.

Shaking off that thought, Scott rose quickly, retrieved the small envelope from the dresser and threw himself down on the bed, thinking to reread his aunt’s letter and then find out exactly what was contained within the set of legal documents.  His head had barely touched the pillow when he suddenly felt that he had to get out, that he couldn’t remain confined within the four walls of his room.  On his feet once again, Scott hastily shrugged into the dusty jacket he had worn on the trail. 

Of course, his hat was hanging on the stand by the front door, along with his gun belt.  But he couldn’t go back downstairs. Not yet.

Crossing to the wardrobe, Scott threw open the double doors.  He blindly snatched a hat off the shelf and then saw that it was one that he hadn’t used since his early days at Lancer, the jaunty one with the turned up brim and the leopard skin band.  As he eased it on his head, he recalled having been informed in no uncertain terms, first by Teresa and later by Johnny, that the headgear was not appropriate attire for a California rancher, but for now it would have to do.  As for a weapon, he still had his carbine in the sheath attached to his saddle; that would suffice as a protection against any predators that he might encounter as nightfall approached. Scott tucked the papers and Aunt Cecilia’s letter back inside the large packet and slipped out through his room’s exterior door and into the gathering twilight.




Having already covered many miles that day, Brunswick had earned his rest, so Scott had saddled Rambler, his secondary mount. The familiar motions of preparing the animal, usually performed as a backdrop to other thoughts, had absorbed his complete attention tonight.  Now, as the powerful and sure-footed sorrel picked his way up the incline, Scott gave him his head to do so, while still focusing his entire concentration upon the horse.

Once he’d arrived at one of his favorite spots, a small stand of trees overlooking the main buildings of the ranch, Scott swung down from the saddle and untied the lantern he’d borrowed from the stable. There was still perhaps enough daylight to read a few lines, but it would not last for long, as the first familiar stars were already beginning to wink faintly through the graying skies overhead. Down below, the windows of the hacienda glowed with lamplight; from his vantage point, Scott could clearly see the large yellow rectangles extending from Lancer great room’s French doors. 

Scott set Rambler to grazing, then carefully lit the lantern and hung it from a sturdy branch. He sat down against the tree, trying to relax his head and shoulders back against the trunk, staring up at those multiplying stars for another moment before sitting up and reluctantly reaching for the large envelope lying on the ground beside him.

He withdrew Aunt Cecilia’s letter and read it once more, slowly this time, striving to hear his aunt’s gentle voice as he deciphered the words. The cold facts remained the same:  Working late, his grandfather had collapsed in his study.  One of the servants had found him the next morning.  Harlan had slipped away later that day, without ever regaining consciousness. His sister had been sent for immediately, arriving too late to do anything other than make the necessary arrangements for burial. The memorial service would await Scott’s return.

Grandfather had been gone now for over two weeks.   He’d died alone.

His aunt had tried to cushion the news, offering what comfort she could in the lines of flowing script. Her brother hadn’t suffered; he’d been spared the ravages of a lingering illness or increasing infirmity. The graveside committal service had been well attended; she had received many heartfelt condolences from Harlan’s friends and business associates, several of whom had already indicated a willingness to speak at the memorial.

The letter ended with Aunt Cee’s assurances that Scott had continued to be uppermost in his grandfather’s thoughts.

“He was always so very, very proud of you, and rightly so, as you are without question his finest legacy. Keep close to your heart your fondest memories, as will I, against the day we might share them with each other. 

Your Loving Aunt


As his hands mechanically folded the pages and carefully eased them back into the envelope, Scott’s eyes were focused on a succession of tear-blurred images from his past, memories in which Grandfather figured prominently. They were happy memories, most of them. Holiday celebrations, their travels together, the habits and little rituals they’d developed, since, so often, it had been just the two of them. Grandfather smiling as he presented yet another extravagant gift, as he pointed out a famous site. Grandfather lifting his glass as he offered up a toast. 

His grandfather holding his hand . . .

Harlan Garrett had not been a demonstrative man, but he’d never hidden the fact that he’d been proud of his grandson. If they’d disagreed at times, if Grandfather had often been too demanding, or overly insistent, there’d been no question that he’d cared. Sometimes too much.

Scott swiped at his face, and then slumped back against the tree while bitter regret held his sorrow in check once more. Less pleasant recent memories forced themselves to the forefront.  The struggle of trying to develop an adult relationship, the conflicts they’d had after Scott’s return from the War.  The chill of his grandfather’s stern disapproval. 

And then, finally, that shocking betrayal with Grandfather’s calculated efforts to use those Degan brothers. And Julie, God, he’d even tried to use Julie against him.  Oh, Scott could rationalize that the older man had somehow—somehow-- convinced himself it truly was “all for the best,” the forced reunion with Julie perhaps most of all.  But when the plan had fallen apart, Grandfather had refused to listen to reason, had stubbornly persisted rather than following his own good recommendations. 

“You must be determined to win,” he’d always said. “But a good businessman also needs to know when to cut his losses, Scotty.”

Grandfather hadn’t heeded his own advice, and had thereby risked throwing away everything they’d ever had between them. But, in the end, what had existed for so many years could not be cancelled out by one series of indiscretions, no matter how egregious.  Even after being shot by the Degans, Scott’s own pain and confusion had been secondary to a desperate fear for his grandfather’s safety.

Grandfather could have so easily gotten himself killed then. At the time, that had simply been yet another addition to Scott’s lengthy list of grievances against the elderly man. A list that he had refrained from airing, in part, he admitted, from force of habit. But Scott had also recognized his grandfather’s remorse and the shame concealed beneath a dignified front. The older man had acknowledged his wrongdoing--- “I’ve been a great fool,” he’d said----and then had offered Scott an awkward formal apology.

Coming from his grandfather, those concessions had been considerable. But at the same time, after what he’d done, they hadn’t been nearly enough.

Their parting had been painful.  The conversation on the ride into town had helped to ease Scott’s feelings of anger, disappointment and disbelief. He’d asked some pointed questions, his grandfather had answered them. Scott’s anger had been first to go, but that was the way it had always been with him. It would flare up, strong and hot, propelling him to take quick and decisive action, but then just as quickly subside—only rarely hardening to cold resentment. Right or wrong, Scott had held those cold and hard feelings against his unknown father for too many years. He’d be damned if he’d harbor them towards the man who had raised him.  He owed his Grandfather so much, how could he withhold forgiveness?  

But Grandfather hadn’t asked to be forgiven.  He hadn’t asked for anything.

Once he’d seen his grandfather safely to the stage, Scott stood watching until it disappeared from view.  At the time, he’d felt, perhaps selfishly, mostly relief that the man was gone. He’d taken his time driving home, avoiding his family as long as possible, feeling deeply embarrassed by Grandfather’s behavior. 

There’d been only considerate silence when he returned.  No one had said much of anything, not Teresa or Johnny and most especially not Murdoch. It was almost as if the visit hadn’t taken place.  Well, except for Teresa’s watchful concern, when she thought he wasn’t looking. And the special treats she and Maria had prepared for him.  Johnny had apparently decided that forced activity was the answer, so he’d offered himself up at the chessboard, and insisted that he needed company on the ride to town the next Saturday night.  

Murdoch had seemed untroubled, even content. Somehow expectant as well, at least during the first few days after Grandfather’s departure.  But having been rebuffed by Murdoch, Scott couldn’t, he wouldn’t, approach him again. Besides, he’d finally learned most of what he needed to know, from talking with his grandfather. 




Rambler snorted in the darkness, chomping at the grass just beyond the circle of light cast by the lantern. Scott wondered how long he’d been sitting there, staring out at nothing, and seeing everything. 

Too long. He had a task to complete. Turning his attention to the packet, he discovered inside various legal documents, including a copy of his grandfather’s recently revised will.  As he looked over the sheaf of papers, Scott found that all of the changes the older man had mentioned had been made. Paragraphs no longer necessary now that Scott was of age had been eliminated.  There were some puzzling additions to the list of monetary bequests to other individuals, names that were unfamiliar to him, but most of them Scott recognized as long time Garrett employees.  Further provisions had been made for Cecilia and other relatives. It was certainly typical of Harlan Garrett to have handled his affairs in a timely manner. 

When he reached the final page, Scott stared down at his grandfather’s well-known signature, wishing there was more, something besides this paperwork--a personal note of some sort. Realizing that there were, in fact, a few more sheets of paper, he looked beneath the signed page and discovered what looked to be a letter.  Chills traveled up his spine.

Evidently his grandfather had taken the envelope of documents from his attorney’s office with the intention of enclosing a message.  Although the pages in his hand remained steady as he held them closer to the lantern, Scott was trembling inside as he forced himself to read the lines.

To his dismay, the first page was merely a painstaking reiteration of his grandfather’s explanation of each of the small changes made in his will, the majority having little or no impact upon Scott, all of which had been thoroughly covered in previous communications.  He skimmed through the words impatiently, fearful now that no other topics would be addressed, or worse, that this last letter might not have even been finished.

Relieved when the text shifted to more usual subjects, interesting events in Boston and news of mutual acquaintances, Scott forced himself to slow down. The words were comforting in their mundane familiarity.

After the initial difficult exchange of stilted and dutiful letters following the older man’s return to Boston, their correspondence had fallen once more into its former pattern.  By unwritten mutual agreement, further discussion of the disastrous visit had been avoided. So Scott was taken by surprise when the final paragraphs not only made direct reference to Harlan Garret’s trip to Lancer, but also contained echoes of the conversation the two of them had had en route to the stage. 

Grandfather once more termed himself “a great fool,” as well as “a lonely and hollow old man.”  He stated emphatically that his actions had been “unforgivable.” 

And then he asked Scott’s forgiveness.

There were only a few more lines.  A cautious question as to whether his grandson might perhaps be willing to consider visiting Boston sometime in the near future. An expression of hope that Scott would write soon. Another signature.  

The lantern must have been low on fuel, or perhaps the wick was used up. Scott had barely finished reading the letter, when the flame went out. 




Miguel was there to greet him at the stable doors, snatching up Rambler’s reins as Scott slowly dismounted.

“Buenos noches, Senor Scott. Senor Lancer, he wishes to see you . . . He’s waiting inside.”

Scott nodded. “Gracias, Miguel.”

Removing the saddlebags containing the papers and the two letters, Scott draped them over one shoulder.  He walked past the large front door of the hacienda towards the glass paned double doors, stopping just short of the squares of light cast on the ground at his feet. He took a few deep breaths.  After one last glance up at the night sky, Scott stepped up to the left hand door, grasped the knob and pushed it open.

As he entered the room, Scott quickly took in his assembled family: Murdoch seated at his desk, Johnny lounging idly on the couch, Teresa in the blue armchair with some darning.  He wondered which one had come after him, who it was who had discovered his absence.  

Turning his back to the room, Scott carefully closed the door, head bowed to fix his complete concentration upon the often uncooperative latch.  He’d reflexively removed his hat as he’d entered, and regretted that, considering that perhaps he might still need the shelter of the brim.  Well, there was no help for it now.

Facing forward, he lifted his chin, and met his brother’s concerned eyes, unabashedly examining him from across the room


Scott nodded in answer to the unspoken question in Johnny’s greeting, then directed his attention to Murdoch.  Advancing resolutely across the room, Scott halted a few paces from the desk. Tucking his hat under one arm, he began to methodically remove his gloves, while keeping his gaze trained upon his father.

“I’ll be needing to go to Boston.”

Murdoch pushed himself away from the desk, arms locked against the heavy piece of furniture as he contemplated his son.

“Well, it won’t be easy to get along without you Scott, but we’ll manage.”

Scott aligned the gloves in his hand, palms facing each other.

“I’ll plan to leave within the next few days.”

Murdoch bowed his head, nodding as he considered this. “You’ll be gone a month, I would guess,” he said, looking up at Scott again.

Scott had already half-turned, holding his hat in two hands, with the gloves resting inside the crown.  He glanced down at them, then at his father.

“Longer, Sir. It’s over two weeks of traveling, there and back.  There’ll be . . . a memorial service.   Then . . . there are things to settle.”

“Of course you should take as much time as you need, Scott.”

“I will, Sir. Thank you.”

Scott waited this time, in case there was more, regarding Murdoch with a carefully neutral expression.  The older man appeared to have nothing to add, so Scott turned and started to move away.

Still clutching a wooden egg filled sock, Teresa jumped to her feet to intercept him as he passed by. A spool of light colored thread dropped from her lap and rolled away across the floor.  Her fingertips ruffled the feather as she reached past his hat to rest her hand lightly on his arm.

“Scott, we’re sorry, we’re all sorry that you’ve had such sad news.”

“Thank you, Teresa.” Scott swallowed and looked past her.  His gaze skimmed over the room, pausing briefly when he reached his brother, before darting away.  He found himself looking down once more into Teresa’s compassionate eyes, but he simply wasn’t ready for sympathy yet.   Scott sought out his father’s face.

“I’ll need to go into town tomorrow, send some wires.”

Murdoch nodded.

Teresa still stood there, sadly looking up at him.

“It’s been a long day,” he offered, hoping she might understand.

Her hand slipped off of his sleeve. “Good night, Scott,” she said softly.

He nodded gratefully, said “Good night,” to the room, and made his way towards the staircase once more.




Author’s note: Scott’s recollections of his conversations with his Grandfather are based in part upon Sherri’s story “In Transit,” which is located in the Wayne Maunder Birthday Stories 2004 Folder.



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 3.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



“Come in.”

Johnny didn’t usually stand out in the hall listening for a response, most of the time he gave a quick knock on the door and then went right on in. But this morning, he waited.

Scott noticed. At least it looked like he had. When Johnny eased into the room, his brother was mostly dressed, in stocking feet, with his shirt hanging untucked and still unbuttoned.  Scott was standing in front of his washstand, shaving. Although he should have been able to see Johnny in the mirror just fine, his reflection anyway, Scott still turned and looked over his shoulder. He gave a little nod and went back to work, paying real careful attention to scraping the last bits of soap off of his chin.

Johnny pushed the door shut behind him and then plopped down on the edge of Scott’s already made up bed. He started to swing his boots up so he could stretch himself out, then thought better of it and sat upright again. It was hard to tell if Scott had noticed that, since he was busy working the razor along his jawline now. Their eyes met in the mirror for a moment, then Scott lowered his gaze to the basin in front of him and swished the blade around in the water.

“Where are you heading today?” Scott asked when he finally turned away from the washstand, dabbing at his face with the towel he had draped over his shoulder.

Scott’s boots were positioned side by side on the floor near the bed.  Johnny nudged them out of line with one foot.

“Oh, you know, still hafta get that stream cleared.”

The towel stopped a few inches from Scott’s face. “You’re going up there alone?”

“No, the Walts are goin’ with me.”

Scott’s eyebrows shot up. “Both of them?” 

The Johnsons were father and son ranch hands with the same first name. The younger man was Johnny’s age; Walt Senior was a long time employee who most often worked around the hacienda itself.

Johnny grinned. “Guess the Old Man thinks it’s gonna take both of ‘em ta replace ya.”

Scott exhaled derisively, shook his head a bit and then finished wiping off his face.  

Johnny considered that if Scott remembered where it was the two of them were supposed to be heading this morning, then he probably remembered a few other things that had been said as well.  He sighed and rubbed his own hands along his thighs, staring at a spot on the floor for a moment before he looked up at his brother.

“Look, Scott, I’m sorry . . . ‘bout your grandfather. And about what I sa---”

“I know.” 

Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t, Johnny thought as he watched Scott carefully place the damp towel over the wooden bar on the side of the washstand.  Scott sounded tired, looked it too. No need to push him.

“Murdoch’s gettin’ a wagon ready for you to take to town.”

Scott had been moving over to his dresser, but that caught his attention.  “A wagon?”

“He figured you could pick up those supplies he thinks might be waitin’. For the bridge. And Maria and Teresa are workin’ on a list.”

“I’ve got a lot of things to take care of.”

“I know,” Johnny said sympathetically.

Scott glanced up sharply at that, but he didn’t say anything, just took a file out of the case on top of his dresser and started using it along his thumbnail.

Johnny blew out a long breath and slowly stood up. “You gonna be all right?” He asked Scott’s bowed head.

“I’ll be fine.”

As usual, the words came out strong and level, not dropping off at the end the way it was with most people. Johnny waited a moment to see if there was anything more. His brother appeared to have nothing to add, so Johnny started for the door.

He was just reaching out for the doorknob when Scott spoke again.

“What he did, when he was here . . . he’d never done anything like that before.”

When Johnny turned back around, he was still looking at the back of Scott’s head.

“Not to me.”  His brother faced him now, the slight squint failing to mask the angry intensity in his eyes.

Johnny leaned back against the door, folded his arms across his chest, cocked his head. “I figured,” he said softly.

During the week or so before that visit, Scott had practically talked his ear off, going on and on about “Grandfather” and their life together in Boston.  In fact, Johnny’d rarely seen his brother as openly happy as he’d been right before Garrett arrived.  And never quite so low as he was right afterwards, though Scott had tried hard to hide it. That alone was good enough evidence for Johnny that the old man’s behavior had been unexpected.

“He’d never done anything like that before.”  Scott’s confident assertion had taken on a faintly defensive edge, and he lowered his gaze.  He started working on the buttons of his shirt.

“Well . . . he sure weren’t very good at it.”

Scott’s head came up slowly, his expression suggesting that it hadn’t really occurred to him that that might be to his grandfather’s credit.  “No,” he said, drawing out the word.  “He wasn’t.”

“The way I see it, none a that matters much now, long as things were squared between the two a you.”

Scott nodded soberly. “We were . . . working on it.”

Johnny unfolded his arms and tapped the fingernails of one hand against the bedpost beside him. He’d figured Scott and his grandfather had talked some, knew there’d been letters back and forth after Garrett had left. 

“Well, Brother .  .  .  that’s hard.  When things ain’t finished.”

And it was hard to see Scott struggling with those kinds of feelings, so close to the surface. Johnny studied the top of that bedpost some more, but out of the corner of his eye he could see his brother buttoning up his shirt. When Scott finished with the last button, he kept looking down towards the floor a few moments longer before he finally tucked his shirt in and sat down on the bed.

Boston slowly leaned over and picked up his left boot, held it in one hand, considering it for a moment. Johnny watched his brother’s profile and waited.

“Johnny, I, ah . . .  I never really thanked you . . . for coming after us.”  Scott sat up then and looked Johnny right in the eyes. “You could have just let me go.”

Johnny shrugged. “Yeah, well, I could tell you maybe didn’t think it was the right thing ta do.”

Scott sighed. He pulled the boot on, then reached for the second one. “It wasn’t. I just wanted  . . . to get him away.”

That made some sense. Scott had been caught in the middle, having to choose between his grandfather and Murdoch. And he would have felt responsible for Garrett being here.

Johnny let out a small sigh of his own. Truth was, he should have realized something was wrong sooner than he had. But he’d been angry that Scott hadn’t talked to him, even angrier at the thought that his brother was just going to up and leave. So, uncharacteristically, he’d let his emotions get in the way and he’d been just a bit slow to see what should have been obvious.  He’d never known Scott to hold back once he’d decided on the right thing to do. The man would do exactly what he thought had to be done, look you in the eye and say what needed to be said.  But when it came to heading back to Boston, Scott had let his grandfather do the talking. 

Despite what Garrett had been trying to pull, Scott probably felt he owed the man something. Still . . .

“Those Degan boys weren’t goin’ anywhere, Scott. They were bound ta try something.”

Scott nodded. “That was the problem.  I thought of sending a wire back, to warn you.  But we didn’t get that far.”  He tugged on the second boot. “I’d expected them to go to Murdoch for more money.  Threaten to press charges.”

“Murdoch told me what really happened back then. Didn’t sound like there was anything much to it.”

Scott rose to his feet and reached for the jacket draped across the trunk at the foot of his bed. “It still would have been a murder charge, Johnny,” he said as he drew on the dusty looking garment.

Also sitting on the trunk was what Johnny thought of as Scott’s “Boston cavalry” hat. It wasn’t one of those round bowler hats like his brother had been wearing when he first arrived on the stage. This one with the brim folded up on one side was supposed to be some kind of riding hat. Scott picked it up and adjusted the spotted fur band and then slid his fingers along the edge of the feather.

“Grandfather had known about the Degans for a very long time.” Scott eased his fancy hat on his head. “Apparently he believed the accusation had some merit.”

When Johnny didn’t even try to keep his opinion of that idea from showing on his face, Scott just shrugged and started towards the door.

“It was a long time ago.” There was no edge of any kind to Scott’s voice now, just a dull fatigue.

“Yeah, I guess,” Johnny agreed, as he pushed himself away from the wall and turned to open the door. Of course, maybe what his brother meant was that neither of them knew much of anything about Murdoch’s past, what he’d been like even five years back, let alone twenty.  Deciding what to do would have been just that much more difficult for Scott, if he’d thought there was the slimmest chance that Murdoch had killed the Degan boys’ father in anything other than a clear case of self-defense.  And most likely old man Garrett had presented the murder as a fact.

Johnny looked back over his shoulder as he stepped out into the hall. “You ever talk to Murdoch about it?” But of course he knew the answer to that question even before he’d finished asking it.




Recognizing that they were almost home, the pair of horses picked up the pace as they approached the Lancer arch.

“Casi . . .” Big José murmured to them, flicking the reins unnecessarily. “Almost.” It was practically the first word the vaquero had uttered on the long drive from Morro Coyo. Beside him on the buckboard seat, Scott couldn’t help but think about how happy he’d been—was it only yesterday?---to ride beneath this same arch towards the hacienda, never suspecting what news awaited him there.

José’s characteristic silences had suited Scott today; it had been one reason why he’d commandeered the man as a driver.  When he’d followed Johnny down the stairs and out the front door this morning, Scott had noticed the rest of his mail still stacked on the table in the entryway.  He had a clear idea now why there were so many more letters than usual, and knew that most would not require an immediate reply. Still, he’d thought it only wise to sift through them, just in case. 

Once Johnny and “the Walts” had headed off for their day of stream clearing, Scott had sought out José and found him hitching up the team. Informing the stable hand that he’d like him to drive the wagon into town, Scott had then requested that José —his friends called him “José Grande” to distinguish him from another vaquero of the same name—saddle Brunswick as well, and then let Jelly know they’d be leaving. Once José had nodded his agreement, Scott had headed around the back of the house to the kitchen. Although he didn’t feel as if he really needed any breakfast before leaving for town, he’d been hoping to find some coffee still warming on the stove.

Instead, he’d found Teresa and Senora Maria and was immediately greeted by both women as soon as he slipped inside the kitchen door. The diminutive Lancer cook hurried over with a soft rush of words. Scott picked out one of them, “abuelo”; the Senora had made sure to teach him that one prior to Grandfather’s visit.  Scott allowed the rest of the words to wash over him without even trying to translate each one. The tone and Maria’s sympathetic face told him all he needed to know.  

“Gracias, Senora.”

“Triste, muy triste . . .,” she said, shaking her head.

“El café por favor, Senora.  Necesito . . .”

Hearing Scott’s request for coffee, Teresa responded that she would get it, while Maria bustled over to the stove and proceeded to pile far too much food onto a plate. Recognizing that he wasn’t going to be allowed to settle for just a half cup of the “café,” that was all he needed, Scott removed his hat and sat down at the kitchen table to await his meal.  “Desayuno,” that was breakfast, and this one was probably going to be far too “grande,” but he found himself welcoming the ladies’ attention. And, after all, Big José probably wouldn’t mind waiting—and would never complain even if he did.

As he placed his hat on the table beside him, Scott considered that he might perhaps exchange it for his usual one when he gathered up the mail waiting in the foyer.  He remembered that his well-worn hat was hanging on the rack beside the front door, as was his gun belt. He’d almost left without it, and needed to remind himself to put it on, since apparently Jelly wasn’t around this morning to do so.

Scott had barely formulated a plan of assault for the mountain of food in front of him, when Teresa settled into the chair cater corner to his own, a piece of paper in hand.

“Here’s our list.”

Scott glanced at it, his fork halted in mid air. “It’s long.”

Teresa frowned. “Murdoch said to put down everything we needed.”

“I’m sure he did.”

“I know you have things to do, Scott. I could come with you.”

“I’ll be fine.” He’d said it too quickly, and she’d looked downcast at the rebuff. “Besides, today’s laundry day,” he’d added, nodding his head towards Senora Maria, who was already occupied in preparations for the mammoth task. “I’ll be looking for clean clothes, when I start to pack.”

Teresa had brightened at that, promising him that they’d take very good care of his things. Maria had made her own assurances and then both women had been openly dismayed when Scott rose to depart without having consumed much of the food on his plate.

It was not so much that he’d been in a hurry to escape from their care and concern, but he’d been reminded of Aunt Cecilia. He’d thanked them and tried to explain that he needed to get to town in order to communicate with his aunt. 

“We’ll see you at dinner?” Teresa had asked hopefully.

“Probably not until supper time. I’ll need to stay in town, wait for some answers.”




Now it was well after the supper hour. Scott’s plan had been to send his wires and then pick up the items on Teresa’s list while José took care of loading the materials for repairing the bridge. The vaquero could then return to the ranch with the wagon and Scott would ride home on Brunswick later, once his own business was completed.

He’d traveled into town seated beside José Grande, reading his mail and making notes of the messages that he wished to send.  Brunswick trailed behind, tied to the tailgate of the buckboard. 

There were several letters of condolence. One was from Mrs. Hayford, a neighbor whose late husband had been Harlan Garrett’s attorney, a position now filled by her elder son.  She mentioned that she had communicated the news to Scott’s very good friend, her younger son Will, in Sacramento.  Several of his grandfather’s long-time associates had sent expressions of sympathy as well.  Scott was surprised to find a note from Melissa Harper, who was the daughter of a man Murdoch had known long ago in Boston.  The young woman had returned to that city after spending some time living with an aunt in San Francisco and studying at an institute there.  It had actually been at the very same time that Melissa had been about to board the stage after her own eventful stay that Scott had announced to his family that he had invited his grandfather to visit.  

As they’d approached the edge of town, Scott had folded up the papers and slipped them inside his saddlebag.  Only then had José broken his silence with a comment on the condition of Brunswick’s shoes. While there were a few Lancer employees who were capable of doing such work, Scott preferred more experienced hands for his horse. Each of the three towns in closest proximity to the ranch had an able blacksmith, but in Scott’s opinion, it was really only the man in Spanish Wells who could be considered a highly skilled farrier. 

Which was not to discount Miss Guthrie’s considerable abilities. Scott considered that he’d prefer to see to the task himself rather than leave Brunswick to be re-shod in his absence, so he’d thanked José for the reminder and asked him to stop by the smithy.

Unfortunately it had only been after an exchange of pleasantries and once he’d made his request that “Gus”, as Miss Guthrie was known, had delivered the bad news that she simply wouldn’t have time to do the work that day.  She’d quickly offered to put the horse up for the night, and do the shoeing first thing in the morning.  Rather than risk offending her, and wishing to avoid discussing his upcoming travel plans, Scott had simply agreed.  Whoever escorted him to the stage could retrieve the horse, and Miss Guthrie no doubt would be filled in on all the details of his trip during the next poker game.

Since he, José and Murdoch’s supplies would now be returning to the ranch at the same time, there’d been little need, after all, to draft Big José as a driver. Picking up the building materials was an easy enough task, and Scott purchased all of the items on Teresa’s list while doing some shopping of his own.  Then Scott visited the barber, had a beer in the saloon and completed several other errands in between waiting for telegraph responses from Boston.  José had spent most of the day in one of the cantinas.  Big José hadn’t seemed to mind waiting----not that he’d ever complain if he did.




The soft popping sound of the needle wasn't loud enough to rival the ticking of the grandfather clock as Teresa pushed it through the tightly stretched fabric, but she was listening so intently that she was conscious of it, nonetheless.  The sound would change as the material caught inside the round wooden hoops loosened, and eventually she would need to stop, release it and reposition the rings.  Teresa had already done that, twice.

She had carefully positioned herself on the sofa so that she would be able to see the buckboard through the glass panes of the French doors.  She kept looking up from her embroidery, even though she knew she would hear the sound of an approaching wagon long before it came into view.  Johnny had noticed and he’d teased her, putting on a serious face and making a drawling comment to Murdoch that “I figure Scott must be ‘bout halfway to Boston by now.” Then he’d laughed at the startled reaction she hadn’t been quick enough to hide. 

Even though Scott had been trying to disguise it, she still thought she knew something about the pain he must be feeling.  One thing that the two of them had in common was that they had each grown up without their mothers.  And now . . . It had only been a few years ago that her father had been killed, right before Scott and Johnny had come home to the ranch. She and Daddy had been so very close and it had been her worst nightmare to lose him.

“He’s always been like a father to me.” Scott had said that once, about his grandfather.

They’d talked a bit about themselves, that very first time they’d ridden into Morro Coyo together, and more on other drives to neighboring spreads or one of the surrounding towns. Murdoch had forbidden her to travel so far alone, and Scott never seemed to mind going along, whether it was something important, like taking medicine to the Indians, or just a trip into town to do some shopping. So rather than listen to Murdoch and Johnny make excuses, she’d fallen into the pattern of always asking Scott first.  She enjoyed their time together and their conversations. Scott had seemed especially interested in hearing stories about her childhood at the ranch, though early on she’d been worried about that, afraid that he might resent her, since, for reasons she still didn’t completely understand, Scott hadn’t grown up at Lancer.

Scott had always spoken very highly of his grandfather and had been so looking forward to Mr. Garrett’s visit.  Mr. Garrett had seemed nice enough when he first arrived, pleasant and polite, very well spoken. But he’d brought that woman with him, that Julie. It had been such a stunning revelation, to learn that Scott had actually been engaged to marry her. Truthfully, learning about Julie had been even worse than when Mrs. Cassidy had told them the shocking news about Scott having been imprisoned during the War and that he was the sole survivor of an escape attempt.  Back then it was understandable that Scott hadn’t ever said anything about being captured, since he hadn’t been at the ranch very long, and they hadn’t known each other very well yet.

But he’d never, ever, mentioned Julie, not even once.

Not only had his grandfather brought Scott’s former fiancée along with him, he’d also tried to take Scott away, back to Boston.  Apparently, Mr. Garrett had lied to Scott, told him half-truths about Murdoch and made threats. Teresa hadn’t been told all the details, although she’d learned some of it from Johnny---and of course she hadn’t wanted to ask Scott a lot of painful questions. There also hadn’t seemed any good way to let Scott know that she understood how hurt and betrayed he must have been feeling. She’d felt that way when she’d found out that Daddy and Murdoch had lied to her all those years, that her mother hadn’t really died, that the grave upon which she’d lovingly laid bouquets of flowers was empty.

It had been terribly wrong. Oh, they’d somehow believed they were doing what was “best” for her, she understood that, but they’d been so very wrong.  Though of course she couldn’t hate them for it, she’d forgiven them both, she’d had to, just like Scott had surely forgiven his grandfather.

Scott had apparently forgiven Murdoch too, for leaving him in Boston all those years, for never contacting him. She hadn’t been able to do that yet, forgive Angel for leaving her. It still hurt.  Scott had probably grown up believing that Murdoch hadn’t wanted him either.  In her heart, Teresa knew that Murdoch had cared, even though she couldn’t explain her guardian’s actions—or lack of them. That was another subject that she didn’t think she should ask Scott about.

But Scott was the one person that she felt comfortable talking to about her mother. Scott had assured her that when Angel had left—for the second time--- that it had been because she did care.   A few weeks later, a letter had arrived from Angel. It had been short and tentative and when Teresa had shown it to Scott, he hadn’t seemed at all surprised.   Scott had encouraged her to respond and she and Angel had written back and forth a few times now. 

Teresa glanced up at the clock, then over at Murdoch, who was seated at his desk, apparently absorbed in some paperwork. Johnny had disappeared; he’d probably gone out to join some of his friends in one of the bunkhouses. She continued to mechanically push the needle down and up, listening for the buckboard in between the loud “tick tock” of the clock.

She’d almost finished the last yellow flower petal when she finally heard it.

When the heavily loaded wagon rolled slowly past with José at the reins, Teresa felt a momentary relief at the sight of Scott seated beside him, even though she’d known he hadn’t really left. Dropping her needlework on the sofa cushion, she hurried to the front door and was outside to greet Scott before he’d even climbed down from the seat.

“Scott, you’re home!”

Scott finished his conversation with José before he turned to face her, reaching up with his left hand to push his hat back onto the crown of his head.  She immediately noticed that he’d visited the barber in town and that his hair was much shorter than it had been for a very long time. Scott managed a tired smile and raised his right arm up a bit as she came closer, lifting it just enough for her to slide underneath for a welcoming hug.

She closed her eyes. She felt Scott breathing, heard his heart beating and beyond that, the sound of Big José urging the draft horses into motion again, and the wagon rolling starting forward.

“Miguel! Git yerself out here and take care a this wagon fer José!”

Teresa’s eyes flew open, and her right arm dropped as she turned towards the stables. Miguel came running out of one of the barns and then waited patiently while José slowly clambered down from the buckboard seat.

“I’ve got some packages of my own in that wagon,” Scott said, but he made no move to go after them. They just stood there together, her left arm still encircling his waist, Scott’s hand resting lightly on her shoulder--- and watched Jelly.

Jelly’s bearded chin jutted first towards one, then the other vaquero, as he issued his usual vociferous instructions to Miguel concerning the care of the horses and the unloading of the supplies, then turned his face upwards to ask José just what in tarnation he was still standing there for, telling him to “git inside afore the grub’s all gone.” Once he’d dispersed the two hands in opposite directions, Jelly looked over at her and Scott. He shook his head sadly and then stepped purposefully towards them. 

A few paces away, Jelly stopped, removed his cap and stood holding it with both hands in front of him. “Jist wanted ta say I’m real sorry, Scott. It’s a hard thing, ta lose the man what raised ya.”

Scott’s arm slid away from her shoulders and then he stepped out of her embrace to shake hands with Jelly. “Thank you, Jelly.”

The handyman flipped his cap back onto his head. “There’s anything atall I kin do fer ya now, all ya need ta do is jist ask.” 

She knew it was the sort of thing people said, when there really wasn’t anything they could do. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to make things better when you lost someone you cared about.  But to Teresa’s surprise, Jelly just stood there, as if he actually expected Scott to think of something.

“Well, there is one thing . . . .” Then Scott was turning and looking down at her, a question in his eyes. “Teresa, do you remember, there were some boxes that came from Boston, a while back?”


“There was a large trunk—full of clothes?”

“Well, you said you didn’t think you’d be wearing any of them, so I asked Walt Johnson to put it in the store room.”

“Jelly, do you think you could get someone to take that trunk up to my room?”

“Sure can, Scott, sure can, won’t be no trouble atall. Won’t take but a minute ta git some help.” 

“Thanks, Jelly,” Scott said, smiling as the older man hurried away.

“I’ll show you which one it is,” Teresa called after him.  Then she turned her attention back to Scott. “All of your clothes are clean and ironed,” she informed him, though recalling Scott’s attire when he’d first arrived at the ranch, she had doubts that he’d actually be taking many of his freshly washed beige checked work shirts to Boston. “Come inside, we saved some supper for you.”

She turned away from him, towards the front door, before she asked the question.

“When do you think you’ll be leaving, Scott?”

“I’ll take the stage from Morro Coyo in two days.”



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 4.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb


“Ready for dessert?”

Since he thought he’d recognized the approaching footsteps, Scott couldn’t help but turn in surprise at the unexpected question--- then couldn’t hold back a small, wry, smile when he made out what it was that Murdoch held in his outstretched hand. Scott set his stemmed wineglass on top of the adobe wall and accepted the tumbler of scotch.

He’d gone down to the wine cellar for a bottle, after Teresa had finished asking questions about his travel plans and left him alone in the kitchen with his supper. In addition to the trunk full of clothes from Boston, she’d promised to have Jelly--- assisted by whichever ranch hand he’d badgered into the task--- carry his traveling cases up to his room as well. So it had been no surprise when she hadn’t returned by the time he’d eaten his fill.  Scott wondered now if his father had noticed the plate on the table, the half finished meal. Or that bottle, more than half empty.

It was a weakness, something else he’d fought against, once. He and his friend Will. He’d known of more than a few men who’d succumbed to it, among those who had returned from the battlefields of the “Rebellion.” Or from its prisons.

As Murdoch stood silently beside him, sipping from his own glass, Scott wondered if perhaps the drinking was something else he’d inherited, along with the large hands and long fingers that so resembled his father’s.  He’d noticed the similarity, when he’d first arrived, when he’d been studying Murdoch so intently, looking for something  . . . searching for a connection to the newly met stranger.  Scott stared down at his own hands now, encircling the scotch, and waited.




Once he’d tasted a bit of everything Teresa had put on his plate, Scott had refilled his wineglass and wandered out to the kitchen garden, to lean against the wall and stare up at the stars.  It still seemed strange to imagine that they were the same ones that twinkled down over the towns and forests of New England. They were more visible here, thanks to the open spaces. Back home, they were viewed in smaller sections of sky, as you looked up at them past the rooftops or through the branches of lofty pines.

He’d stood there for a while, his thoughts drifting backwards and eastward. First picturing the familiar cobblestone streets of the city and the mist hovering over the Harbor, hearing the ringing clip-clop of horses’ hooves and the cries of the gulls soaring overhead.  He remembered the spring green grass of the Common and the shouts of children playing, as well as summers spent further up the coast, with the eternal waves rolling in and crashing against the rocky shore.

Winters in Boston brought the cold and the snow. But also the round of activities, dinners and dances, concerts and plays.  Warm gatherings of friends and family.

He missed it.

Of course he missed it, most of it.  He’d thought it would always be there, to visit, perhaps even to go back to, someday. And most of it would.

But not Grandfather. They’d never again discuss the books they’d read, never dine together at the Club. The night around him solidified into dark wood walls, filled with quiet voices and the aroma of after dinner cigars.  Afterwards, the two of them would stand gazing up at the stars while waiting for James to bring the carriage around.

Of course, other nights, he’d taken his leave, and moved on to other entertainments. Attentive as Grandfather had been, Scott had still been raised to be independent. He hadn’t been much more than six or seven when he’d first traveled to Maine to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle. Often he’d been invited to take trips with the families of boys who were his friends.  He’d toured Europe. He’d gone off to War.

Grandfather has always been there to say farewell, usually with a few last reminders and admonishments. He’d always been there, waiting with eager questions, to welcome Scott home. 

Not this time.

It’ll be approaching autumn, Scott thought, as he drained what little remained in the glass. Arguably the best time to be in New England.

Since he’d been at Lancer, Scott had found he was capable of going for days, sometimes even weeks, without giving much thought to anyone or anything back East, not even his grandfather.  By focusing upon his tasks in town today, he’d managed to avoid thinking too much about the past.  Now, standing by the garden wall, absently rolling the stem of the wineglass between his fingers and looking up at the sky, he allowed himself to indulge in some of those treasured memories that his aunt had mentioned in her letter.  He pictured his grandfather smiling and presenting him with his first pony.  Grandfather pointing out the Parthenon, positioned high atop the Acropolis, on their trip to Greece. Grandfather lifting his glass as he offered up their favorite toast. 

His grandfather holding his hand . . .

When the back door to the kitchen had first opened behind him, Scott had expected Teresa, not Murdoch.  Teresa might have actually offered him dessert, perhaps a piece of pie or a slice of cake, along with a sympathetic ear.  But Murdoch’s presence was not unwelcome, especially as there was something he needed to ask his father about anyway. Now Scott waited a moment more, to see if Murdoch had anything to say.




“Teresa tells me you’re leaving in two days.”

“That’s right. I’ll take the Monday morning stage . . . The memorial will be on the eighteenth.”

“So Teresa said. But, that’s good, gives you some time . . .”

Scott nodded, finished what was left of the scotch, placed the squat, heavy tumbler on the wall beside the tall, elegant wineglass and waited to see if Murdoch could find the words to fill the space between them.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Son.”

Such simple words. But sincere, and honest. 

Scott was beyond hoping that his father would ever willingly open a door to the past, but at least there was no attempt here to deny it, and no profession of admiration or respect where there was none.  Murdoch’s large hand, briefly clasping Scott’s shoulder, offered him some comfort.  Murdoch’s words, despite being a heartfelt expression of sympathy, also served to remind Scott of the stark truth. This was his loss, and his alone.

“Thank you, Murdoch.”

It was enough. Scott really didn’t want or need to hear anything more, at least not now.

“I had a letter from Melissa Harper.”

Murdoch waited a beat. “It’s been quite awhile since I heard from Jim,” he offered hesitantly.

Scott mentally shook himself and turned to face his father. Crossing his arms over his chest, he glanced down at the ground, framing his words, before looking up at Murdoch.

“There’s something I wanted to ask you . .  .”

Now, even in the gathering darkness, there was no mistaking the look of concern on Murdoch’s face, but the older man nodded encouragingly nonetheless. “Go ahead, Scott.”

“I’d thought of inviting Teresa to go to Boston with me.”

Scott couldn’t blame Murdoch for looking perplexed.  Although Melissa Harper’s note had been a short and straightforward expression of sympathy, reading it, Scott had been reminded of the young woman’s time at the ranch. Just before Miss Harper had boarded the stage to begin her trip back to San Francisco, she had very seriously urged Scott to take Teresa along when he returned to Boston for a visit, adding an arch look and a knowing comment about “the benefits of travel.”  Murdoch hadn’t heard what Melissa had said and therefore couldn’t possibly begin to understand the connection. That all seemed too complicated to explain.

The simple truth was that Teresa, who had grown up at Lancer and had rarely left the ranch, had always seemed fascinated by descriptions of faraway places.

“I think she would enjoy the opportunity to travel, see another part of the country.  It would do her good.”  Scott turned away then, pushing his hands against the garden wall and gazing over the dark and empty yard beyond.  But the words still slid out.

“ . . . And I would appreciate the company.”

The admission floated on the evening air and then drifted quietly into the shadows before Murdoch finally spoke.  “I’m sure Teresa’s looking forward to it, Scott,” he said slowly. 

Scott turned back to face him, leaning against the wall. “Well, I haven’t asked her yet. I wanted your permission first.”

“I see . . . ”

Now it was Scott’s turn to feel disconcerted, when the expected assent wasn’t immediately forthcoming. “If there’s a problem, Sir--”

“Oh, no, no, it’s just that, . . . well, it’s just that your brother and I were talking about trying to make it to Boston by the eighteenth. For the service.”

Caught off guard, Scott was momentarily at a loss for words. He’d never contemplated that possibility.

“Of course, we can’t leave right away. And we would need to come straight back.” There was an unaccustomed note of apology in Murdoch’s voice. “We do have the drive coming up, we’re behind schedule on the bridge repair . . .”

“I know.”

It certainly would be difficult for any of them to leave the ranch for so long. That Murdoch would even consider doing so, well, it meant a great deal.

“You know, it might be best, Scott, if Teresa did travel with you.   Just in case . .  . .  that is, if you really think she can be ready in time.”

“Now that . . . that could be a problem.”

Scott heard Murdoch laugh softly in the darkness.

It felt good to have something to smile about. Almost as good as it felt to have his father’s arm across his shoulders as Murdoch gently guided him back towards the open door of the brightly lit kitchen.




Teresa moved rapidly down the hallway, her mind racing with thoughts of all that needed to be done. It was Saturday, typically a baking day, and she also wanted to talk to Maria about what they would serve for meals on Sunday, which should be very special since it would be Scott’s last day. He’d be away so long.  She’d miss him terribly, they all would.  . .  but she couldn’t stop to think about that now. 

There was still some of the ironing to do. Scott’s laundry had been taken care of, but he might have some other things that needed to be pressed, perhaps a suit or maybe some fancy dress shirts, like the one he had been wearing when he first arrived at the ranch.  Not that she could recall him ever wearing a ruffled shirt again, not after that first day.  He usually wore plain white ones now for special occasions, and he liked them to be starched and well ironed.  In fact, when he’d gone into town yesterday, Scott had been wearing a crisp white shirt beneath his cropped jacket with the suede leather trim.

After she’d hurried Scott inside for some supper last night, he’d removed his hat, but not the jacket, before wearily lowering himself into a wooden chair. When Scott had leaned forward with his elbows on the kitchen table, she’d been struck by the fact that his hair, which that morning had hung down over his collar, was now short enough to expose the white skin on the back of his neck.  She must have stood still for a moment, looking at that pale band, and he’d almost caught her, gently putting a question mark to her name as he glanced back over his shoulder.

“Oh, I was just noticing that your jacket could use a good cleaning,” she’d said as she hastily set a plate on the table in front of him.

He’d shrugged and told her that he probably wouldn’t be taking it with him.  But he’d still removed it willingly enough when she insisted that she would take care of it, just in case. 

She was carrying the jacket in her arms now. It smelled of dust and sweat and Scott.

The door to Scott’s room was standing open, which probably meant that he was already downstairs having breakfast. She hurried towards the staircase and was almost past the doorway before she could stop.

“Johnny . . . ? What are you wearing?”

“What’s the matter, Teresa, ain’t you never seen a man wearin’ a cape before?”

Actually, no, she hadn’t.

Johnny was standing with his hands on his hips, dressed in his usual side buttoned calzoneras and favorite faded rose-colored shirt. But a cascade of black fabric flowed over his shoulders and hung down past his knees.

Scott’s room was in unaccustomed disarray. Scott himself was methodically removing things from the very large trunk that stood open on the floor beside the bed. The counterpane was already covered with items, articles of clothing in dark or dull hues, some of them made of fairly heavy looking fabrics. Beyond him she could see the collection of freshly washed beige work shirts folded and stacked atop his dresser.

“Good morning, Teresa,” Scott said, turning his attention from the handsome white vest he was holding. It looked to be of silk, and appeared to have pearl buttons. “You did instruct me to sort through this trunk ‘first thing,’” he reminded her with a smile.  “And, as you can see, Johnny has decided to help.”

Johnny obligingly flapped the sides of the cape.  “You ever see a man have so many clothes?” he asked as she stepped further into the room.

Actually, no, she hadn’t.

Next, Scott lifted up a black silk vest, followed by a black jacket cut short in the front, with tails behind. “Evening wear,” he offered, by way of explanation.

“Scott, you can just set aside anything that needs to be aired out, or washed or pressed.” She’d stopped beside Johnny, but the words rushed out ahead of her.

“Well . . . I’m not sure I’ll be using many of these things, after all.”  Now Scott was examining a pair of trousers of fine wool broadcloth, also black.  “I’m not sure these still fit.”

Johnny laughed. “That’s what hard work and good cookin’‘ll do for ya, Brother.”

When the two young men had first arrived, Maria had spent a great deal of time fretting over them, insisting that “Senor Scott” in particular was “muy delgado,” “too thin.”  He was still slim, of course, but looking at those slender trousers in his hands, and then considering Scott’s form, it was abundantly clear to Teresa that they might no longer fit his more . . . muscular frame.  Her face warmed at the thought, so she quickly looked down at the jacket still cradled in her arms.

When she glanced up again, Johnny was smiling and watching her stroke the soft leather of the lapel.  She felt the flush deepen.

“Why don’t you two go on down to breakfast? I won’t be much longer. Go ahead.”

Scott’s words of dismissal evoked immediate dismay. She dared to look up and saw on his face a knowing look, matching his indulgent tone.   

“We’re stayin’.  We don’t wanta miss anything,” she was relieved to hear Johnny answer, while she herself could only stand there, uncertainly.

“So what’s in the box?” Johnny asked, gesturing at the tall container that Scott had just removed from the trunk.

Instead of answering, Scott set the box down on the bed, removed the lid, and, with a flourish, lifted out a very elegant top hat.  He extended it towards Johnny, who promptly accepted it and put it on, stepping around Scott to examine his appearance in the mirror over the washstand.

Even from behind, the effect was quite comical, as the tall hat perched on the back of Johnny’s head at a jaunty angle. 

Teresa couldn’t help laughing. “Johnny, I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to look.”

“Yeah, is that right?” he demanded, pretending to be insulted.  Johnny removed the hat and handed it back to Scott.  “So how ‘bout you show us how it’s done, Boston.”

Johnny remained across the room from her on the other side of Scott, leaning against the tall dresser and folding his arms across his chest.  Scott carefully positioned the hat atop his own head, tilting it very slightly forward and to one side. He didn’t need to glance in the mirror to get it just right.  Scott looked just like the pictures of handsome gentlemen in the romances she’d read.

While Johnny untied the cape and draped it across the foot of the bed, Scott started rummaging through another box. He lifted out several pairs of kidskin gloves; one pearl grey, then a darker pair, and several more that were white or very light colored.

“White gloves? Now what kinda ‘work’ would a man be doing ---wearin’ white gloves?”

At the suggestive comment, Scott grinned at his brother from beneath the brim of the very formal hat that he looked so very comfortable wearing. 

“An evening of dancing can be physically demanding,” he assured Johnny, gesturing with the gloves in his hand. “Lacking a pair of these, a lady would refuse to take the floor with you.”

A lady like Julie, Teresa couldn’t help thinking, as she fingered the buttons on Scott’s jacket while the two young men joked some more about the gloves.  Julie must have spent entire evenings dancing in Scott’s arms.  Julie, who wore fashionable hats and beautiful dresses, who rode sidesaddle and . . . probably had interesting things to say. 

She suddenly felt very conscious of her quite unladylike pants, her bare face and hastily pulled back hair.  Not to mention her sparkling conversation about laundry. 

Looking up at him from beneath her lowered lids, she could see that Scott had returned his top hat to its box and was standing now, hands on hips, staring at the bed and surveying the array of items spread across it.  Even though he was wearing ordinary brown trousers and a familiar shirt, the deep blue one that so nicely brought out the color of his eyes, he still seemed different. It was more than just the haircut. Understandably, there was an air of sadness about him; even the banter with Johnny was subdued.  But Scott also seemed somehow more “Eastern” today.

Maybe it was just in her head, because of those formal clothes lying about or perhaps it was simply knowing that he was going back to Boston.  It wasn’t as if Scott had ever stopped being an Eastern gentleman; he couldn’t, it was a part of him. Despite blending in so well with everyone here, he’d not lost a bit of his fine manners.  Scott always remembered to hold a lady’s chair, always seemed to say the right thing.  At social gatherings, he would always ask if he “might have the pleasure” of a dance, and when Scott said them, the words sounded completely natural.  He always escorted his partner back to her place too, rather than uttering a quick thank you when the music ended and abandoning her in the middle of the floor, the way some of the local men liked to do.

In addition to agreeably joining in with their little homespun entertainments, Scott had also thrown himself willingly into every chore the ranch had to offer, getting just as dirty and sweaty as everyone else-- if not more so.  He no longer ‘dressed up’, but Scott still always washed and changed for supper.   Even if the only work he’d been doing that day had been on the accounts, come mealtime, he’d sometimes change into a fresh shirt.

She was vaguely aware of Johnny saying something about shirts now, commenting on the number, wondering where Scott intended to put them all.  Scott had lifted a pile of folded shirts from the trunk and was looking through them. Some of them, she could see, were fine white cotton or linen, with pleated fronts, while others were wools or flannels in shades of brown, blue or grey.  

Suddenly Johnny addressed her from across the room. “Teresa, didya know Scott always keeps a coupla spare shirts in his saddlebags?”

“No, I didn’t . . .”

“I sometimes have an extra shirt on hand,” Scott admitted mildly.

“Oh, I bet you’ve got two, maybe even three shirts packed in your saddle bags right now.”

“Well, Brother, you’d lose that bet.”

Teresa heard the warning note, that slight edge in Scott’s voice-- she could tell Johnny did too, because he gave her one of his biggest grins, while directing his next words at Scott.

“Well, I’d say you got enough of ‘em now . . . not that any of these shirts here’d attract much attention.”

She waited for Scott to respond to the jibe with one of his typical comments about the “deficiencies” or “distinctiveness” of Johnny’s wardrobe, and was surprised when he didn’t.

“Never seen a man change his shirt so often,” Johnny continued, using his most serious tone and shaking his head in disbelief.  “Now what I’d really like ta know, Boston, is if you’ve ever worn the same one for more’n two days runnin’.”

Well, of course he must have, out riding the trail or driving the herd, but Scott didn’t say anything in response to Johnny’s teasing. The only sound was the soft thump, as some of the folded woolen shirts were dropped back into the bottom of the trunk. His face was in profile and she caught it then, the tightening along his jaw.

“I wore the same clothes every day, for the better part of a year.”

Johnny’s grin slipped away while Scott’s words hung there, strung out taut in the air. 

Another shirt dropped into the trunk.

With a sick feeling in her stomach, Teresa realized Scott was referring to the time he’d spent in that prison camp, during the War.  She’d never heard him talk about it.  Ever.

She’d asked Johnny a few questions, after the Cassidys had left, asked him what he thought it must have been like for Scott.  “Well, Teresa,” he’d said slowly, “I figure it was probably pretty close to Hell.” Johnny had talked about the deprivation, the things that prisoners had to do without.  “That’s how they try ta break a man down, by takin’ things away from ‘im.”  Not just food and water, he’d said, but freedom and dignity. He’d sounded as if he’d known, and she hadn’t asked him how, couldn’t bear to think of either of them being treated that way.  It must have shown on her face, because Johnny had stopped, and put his arm around her. “But Scott’s okay, Teresa,” Johnny had whispered.  “You can see that.  What he’s got inside, they couldn’t take it from ‘im, even with a year of trying.”

Scott finished refolding one of the fine white dress shirts and stood holding it, with his head bowed, one hand fingering the pleats. He sighed. 

“I ah . . . well, I promised myself that when I got home . . . I’d have clean clothes everyday.”

His voice held an apologetic note. The white shirt was carefully replaced on the bed.  Scott reached for another, a dark flannel, and tossed it into the trunk.

Teresa looked past Scott’s purposeful movements, at Johnny. Their eyes met briefly, but then Johnny’s gaze skimmed away before she could send her silent request. She wanted him to say something.

Finally, he did.

“Well, Boston . . .”

Or started to at least.  Johnny paused a moment and then waited until Scott looked up at him. Scott slowly straightened, as Johnny very deliberately surveyed the display of clothing. Then he reached around to pick up the beige checked shirts from the dresser behind him. Wearing his most serious expression, Johnny held the stack of shirts in two hands, studying them, weighing them, while taking a few steps closer to Scott.

“It sure is good ta know  . . . you’re a man of your word.”

Suddenly, Scott reached out to give Johnny a quick little backhand slap to the shoulder, before looking down with a rueful smile on his face, shaking his head. It was Johnny’s warning that Scott had better be careful not to “mess up” his shirts, which finally prompted her to action.  Teresa hung Scott’s jacket on the bedpost and hurried to snatch the pile of clothing from Johnny’s hands.

“Scott, where would you like these?”

“In the wardrobe would be fine. Thank you, Teresa.”

Johnny held his hands up in mock surrender and then sauntered towards the door. When she turned back from the wardrobe, Johnny hadn’t left, merely taken up a new position, leaning comfortably against the doorframe.

“Scott . . .  is there anything you’d like me to do?” she asked.

He paused to consider that, just as he had with Jelly, the evening before.

“Well, yes, actually there is---- I’d like you to say that you’ll come with me.”

“Come with you?”

“Yes, travel with me, to Boston.”

She was stunned.  Then she wanted to say yes, to be happy and say yes, but was afraid that she might not be understanding him correctly.

“To Boston?”  She looked past Scott to Johnny and saw that he looked surprised too.

Scott followed her gaze and glanced back over his shoulder at his brother. She just glimpsed Johnny pushing himself away from the doorframe, before Scott stepped nearer and then all she could see was Scott looking down at her.  His face was so serious and when he started speaking, his tone was as well.

“I know it’s a long ways to go. And we’ll be away for quite some time. If you think it’s too far . . .”

“No! No, no, it’s not too far.”  She shook her head, fearful that he was changing his mind.

“So . . . you’ll come with me?”

“Oh yes! Yes, I will. I’d love to!” Two quick steps and she threw her arms around him, pressing her face against the dark blue of his shirt. Scott squeezed her back, before moving away, and placing his fingers under her chin for a moment, lightly lifting until she was looking up into his face again.

“Now, Murdoch and Johnny are planning to make the trip as well.  Murdoch said they’d leave later in the week.”

“Murdoch and Johnny are coming too? Oh, Scott, that’s wonderful!”

His hands were on her shoulders now; a concerned look in his eyes.  She tried very hard to concentrate on what he was saying.

“So Teresa, if you don’t think you have enough time to get ready, you could wait, and come with them.”

“I can be ready, Scott.”

“Good,” he said.  And smiled. Then he gently turned her around and steered her towards the door. Johnny was standing there, laughing, laughing at her, she knew, but she was so happy, she didn’t care.




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 5.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



“Scott Lancer, are you in need of prayer?”

He’d been taken aback by the question, though he really should not have been. Eulalia Hargis was nothing if not direct. 

“Well . . . aren’t we all, Mrs. Hargis?”

That’s what he could have said to her.   It was true, after all.  Although the Widow Hargis was sincere in her offer, prayer wasn’t something he felt entirely comfortable requesting.  Instead, Scott had simply informed the elderly lady of his loss, and been grateful for the opportunity to practice saying the words.

It had been tempting to wear his usual tan jacket and light brown hat for the trip to town with Teresa and Murdoch for the early morning church service, to dress as if it were any ordinary Sunday.  Instead, feeling that he’d delayed long enough, Scott had put on a black western style suit and black hat, the attire originally purchased for evening entertainments in San Francisco or Sacramento.

He’d stopped short of the announcement inherent in donning the black crepe armband, although he’d placed it in his jacket pocket for safekeeping.  The suit had been more than enough, as first Teresa, and then Murdoch had been pulled aside and questioned by curious acquaintances. Only Eulalia Hargis had approached Scott directly, although others had hastened to offer their sympathies once the service was over.

Back at the hacienda once more, the conversation around the Sunday dinner table had centered on the trip that he and Teresa would be commencing the next morning.   By suppertime, however, Murdoch had shifted the discussion to what the next few days at the ranch might hold.  In between, Scott had spent several solitary hours riding Brunswick. He’d gone out again, on Rambler, after supper, and had just finished putting the horse up for the night. 

Now the sun had set and here he was again, alone in the dark, leaning against an adobe wall.  In front of the hacienda this time, rather than outside the kitchen, but still gazing upwards at the evening sky.  Not as many stars tonight; a flat paste of clouds had moved in at dusk, spreading across the sky in an uneven layer.

After spending much of the previous day upstairs, choosing clothes and packing them, as well as advising Teresa on her own selection of garments, Scott had let his brother talk him into heading into town last night. He’d been hesitant, but all too aware that it might be quite a while before they had another Saturday evening together. The ride into Morro Coyo had been easy enough, listening to Johnny talking and laughing with some of the hands who were heading in the same direction, their pockets weighted down with a week’s pay.

Once inside the saloon, there’d been more raucous laughter and louder talk, a convivial, celebratory atmosphere fueled by beer and whiskey.  He’d found he couldn’t stay.

The saloon girls had been warm and welcoming, and he’d briefly considered escaping upstairs with Jennie or Nan, since he wasn’t likely to make it to Green River anytime soon.  But in the end, that hadn’t seemed right either, so he’d escaped through the batwings instead.

Out on the boardwalk, near the entrance to Manuela’s restaurant, Scott had encountered Big José. He would have simply given the man a brief nod and continued past, except that the normally stoic vaquero had actually offered a greeting—and then suggested he come inside and eat with some of the men.  Scott had thanked him for the invitation, then impulsively removed his billfold from his jacket and given José enough money to buy several bottles for the Lancer hands.

“El dinero . . . para . . . el tequila,” he’d said with a smile.  José had willingly agreed to spend anything left over down at the saloon—and to let Johnny know that Scott had returned to the ranch.

Meeting up with José had reminded Scott of Brunswick. Naturally, Gus Guthrie’s shop was closed up for the night, but he’d tied Rambler to the hitch rail out front and gone up the back staircase to let her know he’d be claiming his horse.  The genial lady blacksmith had insisted Scott “sit for a spell,” saying she was just about to pour herself some coffee, with “a little extra.”

“Goin’ all the way ta Boston, I hear,” she’d observed, once he’d settled in a wooden rocker holding a hot mug liberally laced with “extra.”  Miss Guthrie didn’t ask why, and if she already knew, she hadn’t said.  Her eyes and tone made him suspect that perhaps she did.  After one cup of coffee and a few minutes of friendly conversation about such things as horses and iron shoes, Scott had taken his leave.

She’d followed him to the door. “You take care a yourself, now, you hear? Sure gonna miss ya at the poker game next week.”

“Now Miss Guthrie, I hope that’s not just because I had such an off night the last time?”

“No, now that ain’t the reason, Scott, you know better’n that. And ain’t I told you a hundred times, it’s ‘Gus’?”




Last night, the golden glow of lamplight had still been streaming out of the windows when he’d trotted past the front door astride the newly shod Brunswick, with Rambler trailing behind. Once inside the stable, he’d had both animals to attend to, and he’d taken his time. The Great Room had been dark when he’d finally gone in.

Now behind him, the light flowed out on the ground in the familiar block pattern cast by the glass-paned French doors.   Once again, he wasn’t in a hurry to go inside.  Scott realized that he was waiting--- probably for Teresa to track him down with one more question about yet another item she was considering fitting into her small trunk.

Yesterday afternoon, surveying the array of garments that Maria had helped to spread about Teresa’s room, he’d realized just how few of them were suitable for traveling, let alone appropriate attire for attending functions once they arrived in Boston.  There’d been a few ribbon trimmed white blouses and dark skirts that he’d deemed acceptable, as well as Teresa’s “Sunday best” dresses.  One was lavender and another rose-colored, but after all, she wasn’t expected to be in mourning.  He’d easily covered his dismay with a confident assurance that his Aunt Cecilia would be more than happy to advise Teresa on her wardrobe, once the two of them arrived at his grandfather’s house.  Senora Maria had hastened to add a few comforting words in Spanish, before busily removing the rejected articles of clothing.

For the dusty trip by stage to Stockton, Scott had suggested that Teresa save her dresses and wear the cinnamon colored skirt and jacket, one of several gifts that he’d given her.  He enjoyed buying her things.  Although there was nothing that Murdoch would have denied his surrogate daughter, Teresa tended to spend her guardian’s money on practical items, rather than the luxuries that most of the ladies of Scott’s acquaintance preferred.  Of course, Scott’s own selections for her tended towards the practical as well.  The items were, however, generally of a higher quality than Teresa would have chosen for herself. 

Following the distressing episode with the Blake brothers, Scott had especially wanted to do something to cheer Teresa up---and, if he was honest, also assuage his own guilt.  He, after all, had been escorting her when she was kidnapped.  He also blamed himself for not recognizing sooner that something wasn’t quite right about the young man they’d mistaken for a member of the posse.  Scott had been surprised—and, if he was honest—hurt---that Teresa hadn’t confided in him. Even now, it still angered him to think that Andy Blake had been able to get so close to her.

So he’d hovered a bit, after that. And he’d decided to get her something special.  He’d recalled a rather attractive outfit that Melissa Harper had worn, a split skirt with a matching jacket, and had written to solicit that young woman’s assistance in procuring similar attire for Teresa.  Teresa had been thrilled with it and the fitted jacket, in particular, had looked very nice on her.  Much better, in fact, than it had on Miss Harper. 

Behind him, one of the doors creaked open and Scott turned expectantly. But it was his brother who stepped out onto the carpet of pieced squares of light, his face in the shadows as the door slammed softly closed behind him.  Not that Johnny’s presence was at all unwelcome; there were a few things that Scott wanted to talk to his brother about anyway.

Johnny’s boots crunched along the walkway, until he drew close enough to the adobe wall to place his elbows along the top edge.

“You all packed?”

Scott smiled into the darkness. “I have been, since yesterday.”

“Well, Teresa ain’t. She headed back upstairs.”

“Seems she’s looking forward to the trip.”

“Well,” Johnny said after a pause, “Least one of ya is.” 

Scott reached for the crown of his hat and lifted it, moving it just a bit further back on his head.  It took another moment before he was sure he could speak in a level voice.  He hadn’t been prepared for the sympathetic tone, let alone his reaction to it and turned to imitate Johnny’s position, resting his own jacket-clad elbows on the wall and gazing up at the night sky.

“I am looking forward to showing her the city; I just don’t know how much time I’ll have. To show any of you around, for that matter.”

“Me and Murdoch?” Johnny snorted softly. “You heard that list he was rattlin’ off at supper. It just gets longer by the minute . . .” 

Without looking, Scott could feel his brother turning towards him and hear Johnny’s hand lightly tapping the adobe.  He bowed his head and ran his own hand over the rough surface. 

“Look, Scott, there’s a hell of a lot needs ta be done, and that drive is pretty important.”

“I know.”

“Well, I’m thinkin’ you might have ta show us around Boston some other time.”

Scott looked up at the note of apology. “Well . . . you’d only have been there a few days.  It might be better, another time,” he said slowly.  “And . . .  I do appreciate the offer, Johnny, even if it doesn’t happen.”

“It was Murdoch’s idea, ya know.”

Well, no, actually, he hadn’t known.  It both surprised and pleased him.  

“Well . . . Teresa can represent you, and Murdoch.  Of course,” he couldn’t resist adding, “I can’t exactly give her the same sort of tour I’d had in mind for you, Brother.”

Scott heard Johnny laugh softly in the darkness, then felt his brother’s hand slap at his shoulder.

When Johnny asked a serious question about the things that needed to be taken care of in Boston, Scott decided to move to one of the wooden benches tucked in against the hacienda wall.  He removed his hat, dropping it on the seat beside him, and raked his fingers through his too short hair. Leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees, Scott explained that as his grandfather’s sole direct heir, he would inherit the bulk of Harlan Garrett’s estate, including the elderly man’s home and business. 

“During the past few winters, Aunt Cee has been living in our house in Boston and Grandfather has made sure that she will be able to continue to make her home there as long as she wishes.  Grandfather also provided that Cousin Wade will become a partner and run the company.”

“But all that’s still yours?”


“So I guess he never gave up on you goin’ back.”

“No, I suppose not, not entirely.”

“So . . .  maybe he fixed things so you’ll have ta stay.”

“Johnny . . .  he was my grandfather. He would never—”

Scott stopped himself. It was still difficult to believe just how far his grandfather had been willing to go to achieve his ends. In fact, it had been about the same time of evening, right here, in front of the hacienda, that he’d found Julie with her bags packed, and heard her confess to the real purpose of her visit.  And then . . . then Grandfather had introduced what he’d termed “a more pressing reason” for Scott to return to Boston--- the Degan brothers, and their accusations against Murdoch.   Scott tried to push those memories aside, memories made no less painful by the fact that he’d been dwelling upon them for the past several days.

He simply hadn’t been prepared for anything like that, had never imagined his Grandfather going to such lengths to force him to return to Boston.  Eventually, Scott had decided that the man who had stood here, making those threats, that man simply wasn’t the grandfather he’d known all his life, the man who had raised him.  Johnny’s casual observation in reference to Grandfather’s scheming, that “he sure weren’t very good at it,” had been oddly comforting . . . but the recollection still weighed heavily.

“Johnny, I’ve seen the will.  In fact, I have a copy of it.”

And although discussion of that will had dominated their recent correspondence, Grandfather’s death was still something else he hadn’t been at all prepared for.  Regret seeped in again, as Scott recalled his own too polite promise, here in the Great Room, to return to Boston for a visit, “some day.” Grandfather had nodded and urged him to do that “some day,” his tone clearly conveying doubt that Scott ever would. 

But in town, at the stage depot, Scott had repeated the promise and meant it.  On the ride to town, his grandfather, always so self-assured, had termed himself “a fool” and apologized.  The elderly man’s dignity had slipped just enough to convince Scott that the remorse was indeed genuine, and not merely mortified chagrin at the failure of his grand scheme.

When the coach finally rattled away in a clatter of hooves and a cloud of dust, Scott had already forgiven him.

He’d done so willing, without having been asked. But Grandfather had died without knowing that.  Now the letter containing the request lay safely in the envelope along with the will, carefully packed in his largest valise.

“I  . . . don’t regret that part of it, growing up with him, in Boston.”

That was the truth.  He’d thought about it, many times since coming West, tried to imagine what it would have been like to grow up here, on the ranch, with Murdoch and Johnny.  It had been an impossible task, like trying to picture himself as another person entirely.  His life experiences, both good and bad, would have been completely different; he could only believe that he himself would have turned out very differently as well. 

And while there were things in his past that Scott would gladly have altered, or omitted, the relationship he had once enjoyed with his grandfather wasn’t one of them.

“I know.”

Scott hadn’t been quite certain that he’d uttered his thought aloud, until he heard Johnny’s soft response, and saw his brother’s head nodding in the shadows. 

It wasn’t just because of the advantages he’d enjoyed, the fine house, the fancy clothes, education and travel.  It was more than that and Scott wondered how to explain.

“I sure wouldn’t give up the time I had with my Mama. And none of the rest, I guess, neither. Good n’ bad, it’s all a part a me.”

In his brother’s case, more than his fair share of bad, or so it had always seemed to Scott.  He should have realized that Johnny would understand how he felt. The two of them had come from very different worlds, but they’d found common ground here at Lancer.  Their pasts had formed them, and would always remain a part of them.  It was hard to imagine that Maria Lancer could have thought she was doing what was best for her son; she should have sent Johnny home when she realized she couldn’t provide for him.  Yet Johnny seemed to have forgiven his mother for all of that, even her lies about Murdoch.

Yes, he should have realized that Johnny would understand.

“Somethin’ I been wonderin’ about.”

Scott leaned back on the bench and stretched out his legs. “What’s that?”

Johnny stood silently by the wall for a long moment.  When he finally spoke, it was with an uncharacteristic hesitancy.  “That talk you had with Murdoch, back when your grandfather was here. You came in and said the two of ya were due---”

“I remember.”

Scott sat up straight and reached around to pull out the gloves he had tucked up under his gun belt.

“Well, I was standin’ out here an’ I saw you leave. That talk didn’t last too long.”

“No, it didn’t,” Scott replied evenly.  He hunched his shoulders, keeping his gaze on the gloves in his hands.  “I asked him a question.  He wouldn’t answer.”

“You try talkin’ with him afterwards?”


“Well, maybe you should.”

Scott looked up then, trying to fathom the shadows, and wondering why Johnny was pushing on this. “Why? Are you suggesting he might answer me now?”

“Just seems like there musta been a reason why he took so long.”

“Took so long?”

“To get in touch with ya.”

<<He was too busy.>> The thought came with the usual bitterness, though Scott was careful not to say the words aloud this time.  <<Too damned busy to write a letter.>>

It seemed crystal clear that Murdoch Lancer had been fully occupied with overseeing his one hundred thousand acres.  Running his twenty thousand head of beef.  Too busy living his own life.

Apparently Murdoch had also been trying to track down his runaway wife, trying to find his younger son. Although Scott couldn’t prevent the thoughts from coming to mind, he would never say those things to Johnny.

Instead, Scott carefully aligned the gloves, one on top of the other, palms facing, while he carefully lined up his next words.  “Grandfather and I did talk a bit, before he left here. And, he finally told me about Murdoch’s trip to Boston.  It was a long time ago.” 

But, of course, Johnny already knew that, because he’d asked questions of Senora Maria.  Johnny’s shadowy form was leaning against the wall; his brother shifted a bit, and seemed to be looking at the ground now.  Scott sighed.  He too had actually learned of Murdoch’s long ago journey east from Maria. And she had only shared the story out of guilt, because she’d already told Johnny. It had rankled a bit that Johnny had known first, but Scott couldn’t really blame his brother, or the Senora, for not wanting to tell him. Both of them surely realized the implications of Murdoch Lancer going all the way across the country to Boston, and then coming back alone.

It hadn’t been until after Julie and his grandfather had arrived at that ranch that Scott had finally posed his own question, “Why didn’t you come to claim me in Boston?” He’d fully expected his father to say: “I did.”  Or “I tried.” 

But he hadn’t said that. Murdoch hadn’t said much of anything at all.

“Grandfather told me that he introduced us. But I don’t remember.”

Scott had tried to recall being presented to a very tall man named Murdoch. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t begin to envision a younger Murdoch Lancer.

It had been his fifth birthday, Grandfather had said.

Scott could recall several childhood celebrations, elaborate affairs with a cake and presents, decorations and many other children, though not specifically his fifth birthday. He knew what he’d looked like at that age, because Grandfather had had a daguerreotype made, capturing the image of a small boy with blond bangs and a serious expression.  Scott could imagine how it must have been, even picture how he would have been dressed, when he politely reached up to shake the tall man’s hand. But he couldn’t remember meeting him, no matter how much he thought about it.

What he’d tried not to think about, was what it meant when a man traveled hundreds of miles to see his son, took one look at him, and left.

It didn’t matter now.  He wasn’t that little boy any more. Murdoch was right, it was all in the past, and it was their present relationship that mattered.  Even if it wasn’t quite Father and Son, at least they had one.  

Murdoch did care. Now.  Scott believed that. He had told his Grandfather so.  And Julie. Will.  He’d written assurances to Aunt Cee. Tried to convince them.  

Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that, when asked the question, his father hadn’t been able to admit that he’d traveled all that distance and then come back empty handed.  If Harlan Garrett was to blame, Murdoch had had the opportunity to say so.  He hadn’t. Murdoch would have had to fight to take him, Scott knew that, and Grandfather had acknowledged as much. But, clearly, Murdoch hadn’t fought.

Instead, he’d returned here, to his ranch.  And resumed his search for his other son.

Johnny had asked once if it “made a difference,” to Scott that Johnny’s mother had been Mexican. Well, it had, but not in the way Johnny had been thinking. 

Grandfather might have thought of her as a “foreigner,” but to Scott, what it meant was that Johnny belonged here.

“So I guess the old man wouldn’t give you up?”

“No . . . not easily. Grandfather admitted that he threatened Murdoch, told him he’d use the courts to keep me in Boston.  I was already five years old and . . . the judge would have seen I was better off staying with him.”

“That still could’ve been quite a fight.”

“It could have been. Though I doubt Grandfather would have risked any sort of public scandal.  But there was no fight.  Murdoch left.  And I never heard from him, not until he sent that Pinkerton agent.” 

Scott knew his brother had another question. It was almost palpable, even in the shadows.

“You sure he never wrote ya?”

Scott sighed. “You mean am I sure that my grandfather didn’t keep Murdoch’s letters from me?”


“I did ask him, Johnny.  There weren’t any letters.”

Johnny lounged silently against the wall.

“Grandfather said he’d thought about that, what to do if Murdoch sent something--a letter . . .  or a present.  If he’d kept them from me, he would have worried that I’d find out one day. He said he’d thought of putting them aside until I was older. But as it turned out, he never had to make that decision.”

Scott knew in his heart that his grandfather’s actions weren’t entirely defensible.  But Grandfather was gone now. There was no one else to defend him. Whatever he’d done, his grandfather had always cared, and shown it in a hundred different ways.

Scott stared at the top edge of the adobe wall, trying to find the words to explain.  To make Johnny understand.

“Johnny . . . my grandfather  . . . was a business man.  And in business negotiations, you . . . you always start off by presenting your demands, everything you want, even when you don’t expect to get it. Your opponent does the same.  After that, you can start working towards the middle ground.  Argue it out, until a compromise is reached. And then you shake hands.” 

“Business, huh?”

“I’m not saying it was right,” Scott said sadly. “But when he said he never expected Murdoch to just give up, I believed him.”

“So you think Murdoch didn’t even try? He oughta get a chance ta answer to that, Scott.”

“Johnny, he’s the one who chose not to talk about it.”




And Johnny had to admit there was no way around that.  Murdoch’s silence translated into guilt.

The Old Man sure hadn’t hesitated to announce that his second wife had run off on him, just picked up and left, kid and all.  He’d said that first thing, to the two of them, standing right there in the Great Room. He’d as much as said Johnny had been stolen, though Johnny hadn’t believed a word of it at the time. 

Scott probably wouldn’t have believed anything against his grandfather either. 

But Murdoch hadn’t said anything at all against Mr. Garrett--- in fact it had sounded for all the world as if it had been Murdoch’s own choice to leave Scott with his mother’s family.  If that wasn’t true, or if there was a good reason why Murdoch hadn’t ever written, hadn’t ever visited—except for the one time—then why the hell hadn’t he made sure that Scott knew about it, first thing?

Because the past was past? But it wasn’t, really. And never would be.  Johnny and Murdoch had talked some; Johnny now knew that Murdoch had searched for him, that his father had hired agents to try to track him down. But Murdoch had known right where Scott was, all along.

It made sense that old man Garrett wouldn’t have given Scott up without some kind of fight, especially after five years. It was pretty hard to imagine Murdoch Lancer not fighting back, but that’s what Scott seemed to think, that Murdoch had just given up. Thanks to Murdoch’s silence, Scott didn't have much choice but to believe it ------and maybe wonder if Murdoch had wanted him at all.

Well, maybe he could get Murdoch to see that, while Scott and Teresa were off in Boston.  Dios, they were going to have to talk about something when they were left alone all that time, just the two of them.

But for now Johnny cast about for something else to talk about, some other question about the trip to Boston.

“So--- you think you’ll see anything of Julie while you’re in town?”

“I expect she’ll pay a condolence call.”

Scott’s clipped tone suggested the change of topic didn’t please him any more than the previous one, but Julie was something else Johnny’d wondered about ever since that visit.  He sauntered over, but instead of sitting on the other end of Scott’s bench, Johnny settled into the chair along side it.

“You sure were taken with her, huh?”

Scott regarded him with a furrowed brow. “Taken enough to ask her to marry me,” he said. “Twice.”

Johnny shook his head at that. “Been turned down at time or two myself,” he said softly.   “But ain’t there something about the third try . . . ?”

Scott looked away, staring down at the gloves he was holding in his hands. “She’s engaged to be married to someone else. In fact, I believe she’s ‘Mrs. Prescott’ by now.”

When Julie had disappeared so quickly, Johnny had wondered if she’d somehow been a party to Garrett’s plan to drag Scott back to Boston; he had to admit, she’d been pretty attractive bait.  He hadn’t wanted to ask Scott any questions about that back then, and now wasn’t looking like a good time to bring it up, either.

The other thought that came into his head was that Teresa probably wouldn’t be unhappy to hear that Julie had married another man.   She’d asked plenty of questions about Julie—like had Johnny known that Scott had been engaged to the woman? Well, he hadn’t.  And what did Johnny think of her? Teresa sure hadn’t liked his answer to that one much, especially the part about wondering how Murdoch ever managed to convince Scott to leave Boston in the first place.

It had been obvious to Johnny practically from the start how much Teresa had admired Scott, though his brother didn’t seem to see it. In fact, Scott had hinted more than once that he thought Teresa was particularly fond of Johnny. Johnny had been concerned enough to ask her one time. He’d made it out to be a joke, of course, wondering did she still think of him as a brother now that she’d gotten to know him better, and she’d teased right back, saying “yes”—but that he “acted like her little brother” most of the time.

Johnny started to ask Scott what sorts of things he’d be showing Teresa, in Boston, but Scott must have had enough of being on the receiving end of questions because he took over.

“Johnny, there was something I wanted to ask you about.”


“When you came back from McCall’s Crossing, you were worried about word getting out that you were working again.”

“That’s right.”

“So . .  have you heard anything?”

“Not yet. But it hasn’t been that long either.”

“Have you told Murdoch what happened down there?”


“Well, I think you should.”

Johnny looked into his brother’s concerned face and bit back the urge to tell Scott he wasn’t one to be giving out that kind of advice. The man was right, after all, and the two of them had even had this conversation once before.

“We’re gonna have lots of time t’ talk, Scott, with you and Teresa gone.”

Scott just looked at him for a moment, and Johnny waited. Even in this light, Scott could read him in a way that no one else could.

“You’ll get along just fine—”

Johnny snorted.  His brother wasn’t wrong all that often, but when he was, Boston sure could fire wide of the mark.  Then again, Scott didn’t know about the latest disagreement, since he’d been in Stockton, at the Barkleys’.  It probably wouldn’t have been half as bad if Scott had been here. No need to weight him down with it now.

“Yeah, sure, Brother. We’ll get along just fine.”




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 6.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb




“I won’t be needing this.”

Johnny looked up as Scott rose to his feet and stood in front of the bench.  Scott unfastened the plain silver buckle of his gun belt, removed the belt from his waist and then set about refastening it, forming a large loop of black leather.

“I’ll take care of it for ya. Give it a proper cleaning-- for a change.”

Even as a greenhorn, Scott had never been slack when it came to tending to his weapons, but the man couldn’t possibly measure up to a former gunfighter’s exacting standards. Few could.  Scott didn’t smile at the friendly jibe—or if he did, it didn’t show in the shadows. Scott didn’t seem to take offense either, he just rolled the holstered gun inside several layers of belt and bullets and handed it over.

“Thanks for the offer,” Scott said, in his familiar dry tone. Then he picked up his hat and gloves from the bench seat.  “I guess I’ll see you in the morning.”

Johnny had just nodded, watching in silence as Scott headed back inside.  If Scott had been listening at all to Murdoch’s plans for the next few days, then he knew just how early Johnny and the rest of the men would be heading out.

Leaning back in the chair, Johnny lifted his left leg up and rested the ankle on his other knee, drumming the boot heel with the fingers of his right hand. As he looked up into the night sky, he decided he’d gotten off pretty easy. They’d spent some time talking about Scott’s grandfather and Boston, and even touched on his brother’s broken engagement, but there’d only been a little bit of passing conversation about Johnny’s time down in McCall’s Crossing. 

Ol’ Boston sure did like to play the big brother, and if he hadn’t been so distracted thinking about his trip, he probably would have pushed harder about Murdoch getting a warning that someone might come looking for Johnny Madrid.  Scott probably would have offered more advice about how to get along with their father, too.  Which Johnny had to admit, Scott managed to do most of the time. Not always though, and the more he thought about what little he knew of the circumstances around his brother’s birth, the more Johnny had to wonder about Scott’s willingness to overlook the past.

The past sure had a way of nudging at you sometimes.  Scott’s past had come to call once or twice, and it hadn’t exactly knocked politely, either-- take that fool Cassidy for example. But all in all, his brother’s past didn’t seem to stalk him.  Although he’d tried to leave that life behind, sometimes Johnny felt as if Madrid was looming in the shadows behind him, waiting and watchful.  There’d been times he’d come face to face with Madrid, and hadn’t at all minded having Scott standing tall, right there at his side.

Well, if anything actually did come of his “hiring out” to young Andy Cutler down in McCall’s Crossing, it’d be better if he dealt with it alone.  Johnny eased his ankle off of his knee and let his foot drop heavily to the ground.  A late night in town followed by the forced idleness of Sunday had left him feeling more listless and weary than any two days out working on a fence line. It seemed he’d spent most of the day listening to Murdoch, and then again after supper they’d been left alone together.  Teresa had been occupied with packing and repacking, ironing, sewing on buttons and who knew what else, while Scott . . . Scott had just plain disappeared.  Off riding somewhere, but he hadn’t wanted company or he would have asked for it. Scott and Teresa hadn’t even left yet, but already it felt like they were gone.

Johnny reluctantly shoved himself up onto his feet.  Still carrying Scott’s serviceable rig, he moved slowly towards the Great Room doors, stopping short of the squares of light paving the hard packed ground. Johnny could hear their voices, Murdoch’s and Scott’s, and edging around a bit he could just glimpse his brother standing near the liquor table, glass in hand.

Scott typically poured himself a scotch or brandy before supper and another one after, in addition to having wine with the meal.  It hadn’t escaped Johnny’s notice that Boston had been drinking more than usual.  Murdoch liked his liquor too, something else he and Scott had in common.  The two of them could go on and on about different brands of scotch or varieties of wines, discussing ages and vintages with the same enthusiasm they devoted to the characters in the books they were always reading. Not that Johnny had anything against having a drink; he liked beer and was always happy to share some tequila with friends.  But in his former line of work, a man just didn’t last long if he made too much of a habit of anything that might interfere with his judgment—or his aim.

Murdoch was still sitting behind his big desk, rumbling away at Scott. Whatever it was about, Johnny’d probably already heard it, and he figured he’d hear it all again soon. He’d been pretty relieved when Murdoch had been too entrenched in paperwork to follow him outside.

Which reminded Johnny of that faint note of relief in Scott’s voice.  If he’d read it right, Scott hadn’t exactly been disappointed by the suggestion that he and Murdoch might not make the trip to Boston.

Johnny toed the ground, scuffing up the dirt at the edge of one of those squares. Scott’s behavior over the past few days had reminded Johnny of what things had been like back in the beginning, when his new brother had been so hard to read.  In addition to being all dressed up like an Eastern dandy, Scott had seemed stiff and kind of defensive.  He’d had a polite smile that didn’t always reach his eyes and a habit of making statements instead of asking questions.  Johnny’d been fooled a couple of times by that calm voice and mild expression, taken by surprise when Boston’s temper heated up.  Now he knew the man well enough to recognize that Scott was working hard the past few days to keep his feelings reined in.

Asking his brother about all the things that needed to be done in Boston had told Johnny what he’d needed to know. Other than offering what would be a pretty costly show of support, he and Murdoch wouldn’t be much help and might even be in the way. Bottom line, Scott had been pretty quick to agree that “another time” might be better.

It made sense, Johnny thought, as he hefted his brother’s gun in one hand. It was Scott’s other life after all. Johnny knew how that could be, since he had one too. Sometimes, it was just easier to keep’em separate.




Scott’s black hat dropped off its hook again, grazing his shoulder as it tumbled into Teresa’s lap. She smiled as she handed it to him, but he couldn’t help sighing as he hung it up once more. The bone-shaking, teeth-jarring motion of the stagecoach was always worse than Scott remembered----for the first few miles at least. Somewhere during the first hour of travel, you grew resigned to it, proving yet again that a man could get used to anything.  Not that the discomfort of the stage could in any way compare to the extreme hardships he’d once more stoically endured, but all that seemed like another lifetime ago.

At least the quarters weren’t cramped. Scott had Teresa seated beside him and beyond her, Mrs. Ada Henderson, also a small woman, though not as petite as Teresa.  As soon as her sharp eyes had spotted Scott’s black crepe armband, Mrs. Henderson had ventured a polite inquiry.  Although she had been at church the previous morning, apparently the woman everyone addressed as “Miz Ada” had somehow not been made aware of Scott’s loss.  So he had explained about Grandfather’s passing, and Teresa had helpfully reminded the elderly woman that Scott had grown up with his maternal grandfather in Boston.

“Ah, that’s hard news. My sympathies to you,” she’d said, reaching across Teresa to clasp his hand.  “Still,” Mrs. Henderson added, indicating her approval of Scott’s attire, “it’s nice to see a young man who knows how to show a proper respect.”

Respect and proper manners also dictated that Scott continue to remain forward on the seat, in order to look Miz Ada in the eye while they conversed.  Sitting upright, deprived of the ability to brace himself against the walls of the coach, meant that Scott felt each bump and lurch of the stage all the more keenly.  Ada Henderson had proceeded to ask a series of questions about “the arrangements,” as well as offering commentary upon the city of Boston, which it seemed she had visited during her now distant youth.  Again, Teresa had intervened, tactfully suggesting that Scott take up his book so that she and Miz Ada could discuss upcoming church activities.

Gratefully, Scott had opened his volume on the Napoleonic Wars. With a brief nod towards the three women seated opposite, none of whom he recognized, but who nonetheless had been unabashedly listening closely to the discussion of his personal history, Scott swiftly paged to the chapter on the Battle of Eylau.

Previous confinements had proven that it was too difficult to follow Emerson’s lines of thought, or to appreciate the elegant turns of phrase employed by his other favorite authors while rattling along in a stagecoach.  Scott had discovered that he could sometimes absorb a few chapters of history, particularly if the text dealt with events with which he was already familiar.  In any event, a book always provided something other than the passengers opposite to stare at on those occasions when he’d been deprived of a window seat.

He occupied one of the coveted positions today and it wasn’t long before the square of dusty scenery drew Scott’s attention away from the fatal maneuvers of the French and Russian troops on the blizzard covered battlefields of eastern Prussia.  Marking his place with one finger, Scott allowed the heavy volume to fall closed on his thigh, and for once wished for lighter reading.

A dime novel, for example, would seem almost weightless, though he wasn’t sure he’d wish to be seen holding one of the orange covered works in his hand.   Encouraged by his grandfather, Scott had always been a voracious reader, devouring Shakespeare and other classics, histories and biographies. As a boy, he’d also ---secretly--- read books and articles about the West, including everything he could find about the Gold Rush, simply because the event had taken place in far-off, mysterious California.

Only later had he discovered the stories of noble frontiersmen, such as Seth Jones, a man of fictional renown who originally hailed from nearby New Hampshire.  The first of the “Tales of the West” had appeared in print not long before Scott had joined the cavalry.  During the War, Western stories of duels between gunfighters or conflicts between cowboys and Indians, had been very popular with the men in his company, something to while away the long periods of boredom in between their own bloody battles. 

Perhaps a few of those saffron colored paper books were still hidden behind the more serious tomes on his bedroom shelves back in Boston.  He considered that it might be interesting to reread some of them now, to contrast the novels with the West as he had come to know it.

Thinking about those romanticized tales of gunfighters, reminded him of his brother and the concern that some up and coming gun hawk aiming to make a reputation for himself might come looking for Johnny Madrid.  Most such encounters had occurred away from home; very few men had actually tracked Madrid to the San Joaquin.  Evidently the first rumor which had circulated had been the news of Johnny’s death by execution down in Mexico; later the word had spread that Johnny Madrid’s wealthy father had hunted him down and handed him a piece of a ranch, just like some story book prince.

Johnny had made it clear that there were men who wouldn’t care that he’d “hung up his gun,” and Scott’s own observations of Kansas Bill Sharpe up in Onyx confirmed that no matter what their age or condition, gunmen could never truly “retire.” If it became known that Madrid was working again, by virtue of having “hired out” down in McCall’s Crossing, then any number of young guns might decide to come looking for him.

And if that did happen, if Johnny was “called out,” he’d made it abundantly clear that Scott was to “stay out of it.”  Not difficult to do, Scott thought grimly, if he was thousands of miles away, in Boston.  

Boston, where men didn’t stroll the cobblestone streets with weapons strapped to their hips.

Scott sighed. He knew full well that Johnny wasn’t likely to go looking for a fight, and that his brother was used to handling things on his own.  Still, Scott couldn’t help wishing that he’d said more about it, pushed harder to convince Johnny to tell Murdoch what had happened, what might result.  But his own thoughts had been elsewhere, centered upon the trip to Boston and his grandfather’s memorial service. 

It was actually the eulogy that had most occupied his thoughts. Scott had already considered at length what he might say; he would be able to start writing once they were on the train headed East.  Train travel was also more conducive to private conversations, and once more he felt grateful for Teresa’s company.  He was looking forward to arriving in Boston and being reunited with Aunt Cecilia. There was also the household staff, James, Fredericks, Mrs. Hudson in the kitchen, as well as Cousin Wade and other relatives, and he was looking forward to introducing Teresa to each of them.  Of course Scott realized that there would be many other people paying condolence calls and attending the memorial service, particularly his grandfather’s friends and business associates.

But he hadn’t thought about seeing Julie again, not until Johnny had asked about her last night.

Closing his eyes, he could picture her, standing there—stunningly, unexpectedly--- in the hotel in Morro Coyo.  Smiling that cat with cream smile, saying “Hello, Scott,” in that knowing voice.  She’d always been well aware of the power she held over him.  

Seeing her, he’d been overjoyed, and overwhelmed by the realization of how much he’d missed her.  She’d been such a central part of his life, in Boston.

He leaned his head back against the seat and the now gentle motion of the stage called up memories of riding in a carriage at night, with Julie.  It was the one place they could be assured of complete privacy.  Maintaining a discreet distance, the two of them would attempt to make a slow and dignified exit from a dinner or ball, politely smiling as they bade goodbye to anyone they encountered en route.  Their steps would quicken as they approached the carriage and Scott would hurriedly hand Julie up into the vehicle, then clamber in behind and firmly shut the door.

Once inside, she would give him that smile---after reading Carroll’s Adventures of Alice, he’d come to think of it as Julie’s “Cheshire cat smile,” since it was all he could see in the darkness, and then it too would slowly disappear from view as they moved closer.  Even now, he could all but hear her murmuring “Hello, Scott” in his ear as their bodies pressed together.

With a young woman of Julie Dennison’s background and breeding, there were well-understood boundaries, of course.  Still, inside the darkened interior of his grandfather’s carriage, Scott’s hands were allowed liberties that would have been denied them anywhere else.  And, to his constant delight, Julie did more than simply allow liberties, she eagerly took some of her own.  In fact, Scott had found that if he sank wearily into the cushioned seat and waited, she might often take the initiative, unwilling to waste even a moment of the short drive.  First there would be the insistent pressure of her lips, then her hands skillfully unfastening the mother of pearl buttons of his shirt or tugging at the waistband of his trousers.  He could well remember Julie’s voice saying “Hello, Scott” when—

Scott’s body actually lifted up off of the seat as the stage hit something, a rock or a bump in the road.  There was a collective startled gasp from his fellow passengers, quickly followed by “Oh my!” and  “Goodness!” and then a flurry of concerned inquiries.  Teresa had slammed against his left arm; she’d nodded “yes” and flashed a grateful smile after he’d asked if she was all right, then turned her attention to helping her elderly neighbor get resettled.  His book had landed near his feet; Scott cautiously leaned forward to retrieve Napoleon.  Miraculously, his hat hadn’t tumbled to the floor of the coach; looking up, Scott saw it still somehow clinging to its hook.

Much as he’d clung to Julie.  Scott slumped back against the seat, staring unseeing at the scenery rolling past. She’d been the one to break off their engagement, admittedly with good reason.  His behavior in the months afterwards had no doubt served to confirm the wisdom of that decision. 

Once he’d settled in at the ranch, he’d written letters to her, carefully worded letters, with never a single reply. And then, miraculously, she’d been standing there. Smiling.

Despite having been tossed about, he’d been happy to believe that he’d somehow landed back in the same place, and had therefore accepted Julie’s sudden appearance without question.  Scott’s grip tightened reflexively on his book and his jaw clenched at the memory of having asked her to stay, to marry him and stay at Lancer. 

It had seemed the best of both worlds, a means of linking together his Eastern past and his new life in the West. Julie was someone from home. They had a history; she knew him as well as anyone.

And he’d loved her.

But apparently he hadn’t really known her. At least not well enough to see that she was playing a part.  Even after they’d spent an entire afternoon alone together, he hadn’t seen it.  And Julie hadn’t confided in him, hadn’t trusted him to protect her from the threat his grandfather had made against her father’s company.  John Dennison was an old, sick man, whose business would have gone bankrupt long ago without Harlan Garrett’s intervention. Grandfather had done so reluctantly, at Scott’s request.  Scott had vowed never to tell Julie about that.

And Julie obviously hadn’t planned to tell him about his grandfather’s scheme to lure him back to Boston.  If he hadn’t stepped outside, Scott wouldn’t have seen her there in front of the hacienda, her bags packed, about to leave.   

After Julie had revealed her role as the “romantic decoy,” Scott had taken her in the buckboard back to Morro Coyo. She’d insisted upon going back to the hotel in town. He certainly couldn’t put her in the care of the despicable Degan brothers and he couldn’t let her drive that far alone.  It had been a silent ride.

And his family had been just as silent about Julie as they had about Grandfather. Surely they’d wondered at her sudden arrival and equally abrupt departure, but none of them had ever expressed concern or asked any questions.

Again, he’d chosen to view it as a considerate silence, and had been grateful. The truth was that Julie’s betrayal had been even more humiliating than his grandfather’s had been.

Grandfather at least had apologized for his unconscionable behavior.  And, by virtue of considerable effort devoted to the task, Scott could rationalize the older man’s actions--- having lost a daughter, he had valid reasons to be concerned about life in far off California. He’d naturally wanted to have his only grandchild close at hand.  Grandfather had held a firm conviction that Scott would be “better off” in Boston. 

But Julie, how far might she have carried the charade? What if he had agreed to go back, there, for her?

Looking back on it, it seemed so unreal, all of it, but most especially Julie’s brief appearance at the ranch, the phantom of a former love. He hadn’t allowed himself the release of feeling anger, not towards a woman, and especially not towards Julie, accustomed as he was to absolving her of blame. He had felt a deep disappointment, when he hadn’t heard anything more from her.   

Some months after her return to Boston, Julie and William Prescott had become affianced; Grandfather had written to him about that. Then there’d been letters from several acquaintances, innocently inquiring as to whether he’d heard the news of Miss Dennison’s betrothal, but still no communication from Julie herself.  As he’d told Johnny, she might very well be “Mrs. Prescott” by now. 

Since Julie, there really hadn’t been anyone else and certainly no one Scott could imagine marrying.  After Julie had returned his ring, there’d been a succession of attractive debutantes back in Boston; he’d played the part of gallant escort in public and contented himself with whatever role the young lady in question would allow in private.  He’d decided that he liked his women “a little older”, the phrase more a veiled reference to experience than actual age.  In truth, his most lasting relationships had been as a regular patron of a certain establishment.

That hadn’t changed. Scott’s current favorite in that regard was Irene, a seductive beauty employed at the saloon in Green River.  With a lush figure and a mass of dark hair, Irene was a professional who took both pride and great pleasure in her work. Her accent was Eastern, but she hadn’t wanted to say where she was from, or how she’d ended up in a small California town.  At least not at first, but then, he was a very good listener.  And she was too good to stay in such a place for long. She’d been pleased by that assessment, but had also wickedly informed him that not all of her customers received the same “extra special treatment.”  Regrettably, Irene would more than likely have moved on by the time he returned West.

There had been other women who had passed through. Moira McGloin for one.  After the first few tentative kisses, she’d been more than willing to take his hand and lead him up into the hayloft. It had only been after her indignant assertion that “it won’t be me first time, you know,” that he’d even considered it. Moira’s assurances that she was a woman of the world notwithstanding, he’d ascended the ladder doubting things would actually go very far.  But Moira had been quite enthusiastic, albeit unseasoned, and Scott had found he rather relished the tutor’s role.

But that had probably been the extent of their compatibility. She’d said she’d be back, and he’d realized at the time that that was unlikely. Still, sometimes Scott wished he knew where Moira McGloin had ended up.

After arriving at Lancer, Scott had sometimes escorted a rancher’s daughter to a town social or invited one of the girls from town to join him at a picnic.  At the church dances, he usually took a turn with each lady present, young and old, and willingly engaged in polite small talk, however he’d rarely encountered a local female with whom he’d felt he could truly have a conversation.  At some point, he’d started to think of himself as “hard to get to know.” He and Julie had been acquainted before he’d gone off to fight in the War, so when he’d come back, and they’d fallen in love, she’d already known most of what she needed to.  There’d been something comfortable—comforting—about that.

Another jolt of the stage and his hat fell off the hook again, tumbling all the way to the coach floor this time.  Teresa leaned down to pick it up, then carefully brushed some dust off of the brim.  Her hands were small and delicate, and he’d often watched surreptitiously as she plied a needle in the evenings with quick, precise movements.  They were capable hands too, strong enough on the reins to control a stubborn horse, or in the kitchen, deftly shaping the dough before rolling out biscuits.

Teresa gently placed the hat in his hands and gave him a sympathetic look. Scott smiled his thanks, realizing guiltily that he must have told her more than a few times how much he disliked traveling by stage. Teresa lightly rested her hand upon his knee for a moment, and then turned her attention back to Mrs. Henderson.

The three ladies opposite smiled and the two younger ones exchanged a knowing glance. Scott shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He decided to hold his hat on his lap and stared out the window, trying very hard not to think about dark-haired women.



Author’s Note: Will Hayford is an original character created for the story “Betrayal,” written by the ScottLand Queens, Sammi and Sharon.  He appears here and in the first story in this series, “Boston, 1870.”   The events of “Betrayal” are an alternate reality not part of this story sequence.


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 7

How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“I expect she’s married by now.”

Julie. Scott had said that, about Julie. It had been Scott’s friend, Will Hayford, who had first mentioned her name, over dinner, last night. Teresa had sat frozen in place, intently waiting for Scott’s response. Mr. Hayford hadn’t noticed, his one eye had been trained on Scott. And Scott’s attention had been upon his plate. The words had come out evenly, but Scott couldn’t help but be sorry.  After all, he and Julie had been engaged.

<<Julie’s married.>>

As she stood looking out the window at the roofs of Sacramento, Teresa knew that she wasn’t sorry. Not at all. Julie might have been “a lady,” but she hadn’t been the right one for Scott.

Pulling her robe tighter, Teresa turned away from the window and sat down on the edge of the bed to brush her damp hair.  Scott had arranged for her to have a bath and something to eat here in her room this morning, while Scott himself was meeting Will Hayford for breakfast.  Then the two men were going to visit a tailor here in the city, to have measurements taken to wire to another tailor in Boston, someone who would make some new suits for Scott.

How her friends would have giggled about that, Scott being “measured.”  At least Nellie would have giggled, in response to whatever comment Alondra came up with.  Alondra Zamora was easily the most forward of their little circle.  Teresa didn’t mind the teasing, most of the time, but then, both Alondra and Nellie Hildenbrand thought they were “in love” with Johnny.   Of course, there were other young women who were enamored of Scott, chief among them Corinna Cushman and Leah Anderson. The four girls had long been her closest friends, although lately Teresa was finding it more and more difficult to confide in them. 

Continuing to wield the hairbrush, Teresa surveyed her clothing for the day, already carefully laid out.  Her cases stood ready; she would finish packing once she was dressed.  The outfit that she had traveled in, the cinnamon colored skirt and jacket Scott had given her, was already folded away in her small trunk.  A maid had come up to her room the previous evening, escorting a man rolling in a bathtub on wheels.  Anna, the maid, had also brought towels and soaps and had inquired as to what time she’d like her bath. Then Anna had asked whether Teresa had any clothes to be cleaned.

Scott hadn’t said anything about that, but Teresa carefully quizzed Anna on everything—how long it would take, how much it would cost.  It made perfect sense to pack clean clothes rather than dusty, dirty ones, and Murdoch had given her a considerable sum of spending money.  Earlier this morning, while the bath was being readied, another maid had returned several articles of clothing, including her cleaned and pressed skirt and jacket.

It wasn’t much, but Teresa felt some satisfaction in having arranged that herself. She’d made up her mind that she was going to have to ask questions and figure things out on her own, if she didn’t want to be a burden to Scott.

She was used to doing that, asking questions and figuring things out; it came of growing up without a mother.  Teresa smiled sadly as she recalled how often poor Daddy had simply been at a loss. Sometimes the local ladies, ranchers’ wives or women from town, would remember to take “Paul’s daughter” under their wing, but being busy with their own families, they didn’t always think of her. Of course, at the hacienda, Senora Alvarez had taught her everything she needed to know about cooking and needlework, but on other subjects, Maria had often encouraged Teresa to consult with some of the women in town, or those she knew from church.

She’d made mistakes, but over time, Teresa had come to be selective about following the advice offered. She had gradually learned which woman’s opinions were to be carefully considered and who should be politely thanked and then quickly disregarded.   Mrs. Henderson, for example, was wise in the ways of herbal medicines and teas.  The Widow Hargis was a good God- fearing woman, always ready to quote scripture and give instructions on proper etiquette----- and she had also taught Teresa to play several hymns on the old upright piano at the church.  Corinna Cushman’s mother was from back East, and was most likely to be up to date on city fashions. 

Which reminded her that she couldn’t keep sitting here on the edge of the bed; she needed to be dressed before Scott returned.  As she set the brush aside and removed her robe, Teresa reflected that everything had happened so quickly, with Scott’s sad news and the hastily made travel plans, that she simply hadn’t had time to consult with Mrs. Cushman or anyone else.  She hadn’t failed to note Scott’s reaction to her wardrobe, however. He’d assured her that his Aunt Cecilia would help, and Teresa hoped that would prove true; in any event, she certainly planned to seek Mrs. Holmes’ frank counsel.  And there was also Melissa Harper. Teresa had continued to correspond with Melissa even after she had completed her studies in San Francisco and returned to her native Boston.  Scott and his aunt would no doubt be occupied with other things; Teresa was determined that she would somehow get in touch with Melissa.

Clothing wasn’t her only concern, of course, there would be other differences. Teresa was observant, used to studying older women and their behavior, and she intended to continue to do so while in Boston. But the fact remained that in social situations a woman’s attire did attract attention.

Today she would be wearing a simple black skirt and a long-sleeved, high-necked ruffled blouse-- in the deep rose color that Scott had once said suited her.  As she stood before the pier glass and fastened the mother of pearl buttons of her blouse, Teresa recalled with some embarrassment the first time that she had come to Sacramento with Murdoch and his two sons.

Scott had somehow convinced Murdoch and Johnny to agree to attend the theater.  For the occasion, Teresa had worn this same blouse and a similar dark skirt, with a black- fringed shawl that Senora Maria had given her. The shawl had woven into it flowers of the same rosy hue.

The men had been having a drink in the bar, and she’d met them in the hotel lobby when it was time to leave.  Murdoch, of course, had immediately told her how lovely she looked, and Johnny had teasingly agreed, asking why she got to wear “his” color and he had to wear a plain white shirt with his suit. Scott had simply smiled and offered his arm, commenting that the shawl looked “very festive.”  When they had arrived at the theater, she’d understood. Most of the women wore tight dresses with low cut necklines, brightly colored ones that also exposed bare arms.

Well, on their next city excursion, they’d attended a concert in San Francisco. That evening, she’d worn a dress she’d made herself, of form-fitting rose-colored satin, with the same shawl.  Perhaps still not elegant, but she hadn’t needed anyone to tell her that she looked very nice-- though she’d still enjoyed hearing it. And seeing the quiet approval in Scott’s eyes.

Now, as she smoothed her dark skirt and turned to check the hem in the mirror, Teresa was able to give her appearance a confident endorsement. She’d traveled on trains often enough, after all.

After being jostled around on the stage for a day and a half, it had been a relief to finally board the train in Stockton yesterday for the trip to Sacramento. She’d spent the entire time on the stagecoach sitting next to Scott, but though they’d been bumped against each other from time to time, they’d barely spoken.  There was little privacy on the stage and the passengers opposite had seemed to avidly follow the few words they’d exchanged.  Besides, Teresa had been occupied in conversing with Mrs. Henderson until she disembarked, and then later with a middle-aged woman, a teacher from the mid-west, who had taken Miz Ada’s seat. Scott had his book, though she hadn’t seen him read much of it.

The three women riding opposite had journeyed all the way to Stockton, so Scott had been the only gentleman other than the stage driver and his outrider at the way station the night before. Conversation over supper had been general and then the men and women had gone to separate rooms to sleep.

It had only been once they’d boarded the train for the relatively short ride to Sacramento that she’d had an opportunity to talk with Scott. She knew that he too was happy to be off the stagecoach, and had half expected him to lose himself in the book that he seemed to have given up trying to read on the stage.  Instead, they’d talked about meeting Mr. Hayford in Sacramento.

Teresa had met Will Hayford a few times. He was a lawyer from Boston and he and Scott had grown up together. He had brown curly hair and was as tall as Scott. Like Scott, he had also fought in the War, but Will had been badly injured, losing most of his right arm. He also wore an eye-patch and had scars on the right side of his face. Mr. Hayford was rather frightening looking, until he smiled, which he did often—he and Scott were always joking back and forth when they were together. 

Will liked to “tell tales” about Scott and Teresa enjoyed hearing about Scott’s life growing up in Boston. It was hard to imagine Scott as a little boy; his upbringing seemed to have been so very different from her own life on the ranch—though of course that would have been Scott’s life too, had his mother survived.

Scott had said once that Will and his brother John had been like his own brothers; she knew that John, the middle Hayford son, had been killed during the War. Yesterday, on the train, Scott had described the “schoolroom,” a large airy chamber on the third floor of the Hayfords’ home, which had once been used as “the nursery.” For a time, Scott had shared lessons there with the Hayford brothers, but the space also served as a playroom during cold weather. 

“I spent so much time with Will and his family, that I was sometimes referred to as ‘the youngest Hayford,’” Scott had said with a smile.

“So Mrs. Hayford must have been like a mother to you?”

Scott’s smile had softened and he’d shaken his head ruefully. “No . .  . she was –--she is—a wonderful woman, but I only made that mistake once.”

“What mistake?”

“Calling her ‘mother.’”

The way that Scott had told the story, Mrs. Hayford had come to the schoolroom door to announce that lunch was ready and that it was time for the boys to wash up and come downstairs to eat. George, the eldest son, had dutifully put down his book, saying “Yes, Mother.”  When the three younger boys had delayed giving up their playthings, Mrs. Hayford had clapped her hands at them, whereupon John and Will had obediently chorused “Yes, Mother.”  Then Scott had echoed their words.

“John and Will didn’t hesitate to set me straight.” Scott shook his head at the memory. “We were all very young.”

Teresa had suddenly recalled once being taunted by other girls about her own motherless state. She imagined that little boys would hardly be less cruel.

“What happened?”

“Well . . . I tried to escape from the room, and ended up running straight into Mrs. Hayford’s arms.  She scolded Will and John quite severely---- which didn’t endear me to them in the least.” Scott laughed. “But we’d all forgotten about it by the time we’d finished lunch.”

But Scott hadn’t forgotten, not really. Neither had Teresa.

Fortunately, she’d always had Daddy. And Scott had had his grandfather. She’d been about to ask a question about what it had been like, growing up with Mr. Garrett, when Scott looked out the window.

“We’re coming into Sacramento,” he’d observed. “Will should be waiting.”




Not only had Mr. Hayford been waiting at the train station, but he’d already made arrangements for their luggage to be transported to the hotel.  He’d announced that as soon as he and Scott had exchanged greetings.  The two young men had clasped left hands, Teresa had heard Will saying “I’m sorry, Scott.”  They’d stood there for a moment, while Scott accepted his friend’s sympathy.  Once Will had begun to talk of the plans he’d made for dinner, Scott had placed his hand on Will’s shoulder and quickly turned to draw Teresa in.

“Teresa, you remember Will; Will, Teresa O’Brien.”

“Hello, Mr. Hayford.”

“It’s Will,” he’d reminded her, smiling and extending his hand.

“Hello, Will, it’s nice to see you again.”

She remembered to offer him her left hand, which he’d held for a moment, assuring her that “the pleasure was all his.” Then he’d looked over at Scott and suggested a restaurant for dinner. “It’s quite near your hotel.”

“Is it within walking distance?”

“Not too far, Scott—I guess you need to stretch your legs?” Will had asked with a grin. Scott had nodded grimly, offered his right arm to Teresa and then the three of them had set off down the street. She’d listened as the two men had talked—literally—over her head.

“I have your train tickets, and I’m afraid there wasn’t a suite available. But they’ll be adding cars in Ogden,” Will had hastened to add, “and then you’ll have one.  No dining car until Ogden either, so you’ll be taking your meals off of the train until then.”

“So you won’t be traveling with us?”

“No, I’m afraid I have to be in court tomorrow afternoon and the next day as well. It’ll be a few days before I can leave here.”

“Well, thanks for getting the tickets. We’ll settle up---”

“After dinner,” Will had said, waving Scott off.  Then he’d turned his attention to Teresa, and proceeded to extol the virtues of the particular restaurant, the Eagle, and the adjoining Grand Union Hotel, as they continued along the busy street.

“It all sounds wonderful.”

“Oh, it is—if we ever get there.”

“Now, Will,” Scott admonished him. “I thought you liked to walk.”

“I do,” he asserted. “But,” Will added, in a confiding tone to Teresa, “Scott was always one for riding, even when we were boys.  My brothers and I thought we’d never hear the end of it when Mr. Garrett presented Scott with his first pony.”

“We all had ponies---” Scott started to explain.

“But little did we know, Teresa, that we were looking at a bona fide cavalry officer in training.”

Mr. Hayford, Teresa remembered, had served in the infantry during the War, and he and Scott had joked about that, cavalry versus infantry.  Scott was smiling, and from the glint in his eyes, he was no doubt preparing some gibe of his own, but when he started to speak, Will cut him off again. “Miss Teresa, would you care to guess the pony’s name?”


“Oh, I’m sure I couldn’t guess! What was it Scott?”

“Yes, Scott, go ahead, tell her.”

Scott sighed. “He was white, with brown spots. So that’s what I named him.”


“That’s right. Of course, my good friends--”

“Called him ‘Spotty’!” Will interjected. “To go with ‘Scotty.’ But, that was all John’s idea, of course.”

“Of course,” Scott agreed, dryly. 

Teresa couldn’t help giggling. “Did . . .  did everyone call you ‘Scotty’?”

Again, Will answered. “Oh, we all had those names, when we were boys: Georgie and Johnny, Willie and Scotty. ‘Scotty’ lasted longer, I think because Mr. Garrett never did make the change.”

On her left side, Teresa was conscious of Scott’s head lowering, at the mention of his grandfather.

“Scott convinced us, finally —and rather forcefully—that he preferred to be addressed as ‘Scott’.”


“Well, Teresa, Scott was not always so mild mannered—in fact, he was known to use his fists upon occasion.”

Will Hayford’s ironic tone was not lost on Teresa, as she had several times witnessed Scott in action. On that very first trip to town, Scott had had to defend himself against Pardee’s men in Senor Baldemerro’s store, and later, he’d been so angry at Johnny for not doing anything to help that he’d knocked his brother down with one punch.  In fact, despite his fancy Eastern attire, the formal suit and ruffled shirt, Scott hadn’t been “mild mannered” at all; he had been every bit as ready to fight as Murdoch and Johnny and the other men.  He’d helped save the ranch; Scott had shot and killed that murderer, that monster, Day Pardee. Later, it had been Scott who had ridden to rescue her from Angel’s husband, Carl Bolton, Scott who had saved her and Melissa Harper from those horrible Cooper brothers. Reflexively, she tightened her grasp on Scott’s arm; he looked down and smiled, and then rolled his eyes at Will.

“Oh yes, Miss O’Brien,” Will was saying dramatically, “You’re certain to learn many more of Scott’s deep dark secrets on this trip to Boston.”

Scott made some remark about it perhaps being a good thing that Will wouldn’t be able to travel with them, and then asked some questions about the businesses they were passing by on route to the restaurant.

The Eagle Restaurant was indeed an elegant establishment.  Once they were seated, Scott had more questions about his friend’s legal work, and Will began to describe his current case while Teresa spread the fine linen napkin across her lap and sipped from a heavy crystal water glass.  The waiter carefully used a pair of silver tongs to deposit a warm, crusty dinner roll on each bread plate. The little pats of butter accompanying the bread were in the shape of shields with eagles’ heads embossed upon them.

Unexpectedly, Scott picked up his dinner roll and split it into two halves, proceeding to carefully spread the surface of one half with butter.  Mrs. Hargis had long ago impressed upon Teresa that it was “proper” to break off a bite-sized piece of bread and then butter only that small portion.  Of course, most people did exactly what Scott was doing now: they would split the roll or biscuit in half and slather butter on each half. Then they would set it on their plate, picking it up from time to time to take bites out of it.  Scott was one of the few men she knew who would habitually employ what Mrs. Hargis had explained was the correct method.  It was very puzzling to see him behave so out of character, and in such an elegant setting.

It became clear, once he’d finished. Scott placed the butter spreader on the edge of his bread plate, then picked up the entire plate in one large hand. With the other hand, he removed Will’s bread plate and set down his own, with the buttered roll, in its place.  Will murmured a thanks, but there was really no break in the conversation as they continued to converse about the upcoming trial.

Teresa tried to listen to the discussion-- she knew she should make an effort to participate, but she’d missed the beginning, when she’d found herself watching Scott’s hands.  He now set about to sample his own dinner roll, using the method approved by the Widow Hargis.  Scott had long fingers, with oval nails, which were always clean and polished. The silver butter spreader seemed so tiny in his hands.  Strong and capable, large enough to span her waist, whenever he lifted her down from a carriage . . . 

It was some time after their meals had arrived that the young men’s conversation had shifted to talk about mutual acquaintances in Boston. Will had asked if Scott had heard anything about Julie. Scott’s hands, grasping his utensils, had paused over his plate, then continued their motion and he’d answered in that even tone, announcing that Julie was probably married.

<<Married.>> she thought now, with a smile.

There was a knock on the door and Scott’s voice saying “Teh-ray-sa?” ---his usual pronunciation of her name, and tacking a question onto the end. She flew to the door to open it and there he was, tall and handsome, in his black suit, holding his dark hat and asking if she was ready.

“Almost.” There were just a few small items to pack, and she did so quickly.

“Someone will come up for your luggage,” he said, once her cases were closed.  She stood there for a moment, in her high-necked rose-colored blouse and long dark skirt.

Scott smiled. “That color does suit you,” he said.

When she turned to settle her hat upon her head, she could see Scott in the mirror behind her, looking about the room.

“Do you have a . . . wrap?”

Suddenly, Teresa realized that Scott might actually be expecting a black-fringed shawl with rose-colored flowers, and almost laughed.  “Yes, Scott, I have a jacket.”

She handed it to him and he helped her with it, first one sleeve then the other. It was a cropped and fitted jacket, in a fine, lightweight, black wool.   Adorning the lapels was a swirling design of leaves and flowers she had embroidered herself, in exactly the shade of pink to match her blouse.

“Well, Miss O’Brien, I do believe that we have a train to catch,” Scott said as he offered his arm.

The approval in his eyes was unmistakable.




Despite his lowered lids, he could feel the woman watching him, feel her admiring smile.  The slender fingers slipped lightly, teasingly, through the sweat-slicked mat of dark hair on his chest as Johnny released a long slow breath. 

He’d slipped away from the bridge crew, soon after supper.  They’d been camping and eating out of the chuck wagon, hoping to speed the work along by eliminating the time spent traveling to and from the main compound. The rest of the men had been gathering around the campfire, preparing to pass the time singing songs and telling stories. Johnny had let them think he was heading back to the hacienda for the night, to consult with Murdoch, report on the progress made that day.  He’d actually ridden in that direction until he was well out of sight before he’d cut back and turned Barranca towards Green River.

Although Morro Coyo was the nearest town from the hacienda, Green River was closer to this corner of the ranch.  It had been a while since he’d gone into town on a weeknight, even longer since he’d ridden in alone.  The main street was dark and largely deserted, but the lights of the saloon beckoned, above and below the distinctive shape of the batwing doors. He’d looped the reins around the hitch rail and made his solitary way down the wooden sidewalk.

None of the usual sounds of music and laughter flowed out onto the boardwalk, and Johnny imagined that the sound of his booted footsteps would announce his arrival. There were actually a few other paying customers scattered about, nursing beers, barely enough to outnumber Hank and the three girls who were supposed to be working the room. 

The women all looked up and smiled when Johnny pushed his way through, and he smiled back at each one of them, sending a little extra towards Scott’s ‘friend’ Irene, knowing she was going to be disappointed when Boston didn’t come striding in behind him.

“Slow night?” he’d asked Hank, tossing his hat onto the bar, leaning forward on his elbows and grinning at the sour expression on the barman’s face.


“Sure, why not?”

Hank filled up one of the tall mugs and set it in front of Johnny, a trail of foam running down the side of the glass onto the polished surface of the bar. At least wiping it up later would give Hank something to do, Johnny thought.

“You alone, Johnny?”

Johnny let his grin slide off of his face and made a show of looking around. “Guess so. Sure looks like it, anyway.”

“Well, then who’s payin’?”

Johnny snorted at that, then looked down, shaking his head. He lifted the mug in a mock salute to Hank, figuring they were even.  As he took his first long drink, the bartender snapped the cloth off his shoulder and made a show of wiping up the wet spot on the bar.

“You just let me know when you want me ta top that off fer ya, Johnny,” Hank said as he moved down the bar. “I’ll put it on Scott’s tab.”

Johnny idly rotated the mug with one hand while he waited to see which one would come over. He wasn’t sure himself if he’d rather spend time with Caroline or Kitty, but he knew from past experience that he’d enjoy the company of either lady. He smiled at the sound of approaching footsteps and tried to guess who it was.

“Hello, Johnny.”

He was surprised to see Irene standing next to him, large dark eyes looking at him knowingly beneath that cloud of dark hair. She smelled nice.

“Scott ain’t here.”

“I can see that.” Irene smiled and leaned on the bar beside him. Her dress was tastefully low cut.  Since there was a lot to see, Johnny took a moment to appreciate the view.

“Your brother hasn’t come by for a while.”

Johnny sighed, and returned his attention to his beer. “I’ll tell ‘im you’ve missed him.”  But he gestured to Hank anyway, and the barkeep poured a shot for Irene, skillfully sliding it the length of the bar. Irene caught it, and smiled her thanks at Johnny. 

“Just remember, Scott’s payin’,” Johnny said over his shoulder to Hank, as he turned to lean sideways against the bar, so he could face Irene. No question, she was one attractive woman. Looking past her, he could see that Caroline was trying to get cozy with a bearded cowboy seated at a corner table.

So it would be Kitty then, once he finished drinking with Irene.  

“Scott’s headed to Boston. Left yesterday, won’t be back for about a month.”

Irene hadn’t tried to hide her disappointment.

“Month’ll go by before ya know it.”

“No,” she’d said, shaking that mass of hair. “I’ll be leaving here myself in a few weeks.  For San Francisco.” She smiled wickedly. “I just would have liked to have said a proper good bye, that’s all.”

When Johnny had said “I’ll give him the message,” that’s all he’d really meant. The brothers’ unspoken agreement was that if either of them had a ‘favorite’ amongst the local females, even the working girls, then the other one stayed real far away.  But Irene had been very persuasive and it appeared that Scott wasn’t going to get to spend any more time with her, so . . .

Johnny laced his fingers behind his head and stared up at the ceiling. Beside him, Irene stretched languidly, still smiling that self satisfied, professional smile.  He had to admit that the woman was good, very good, and she knew it. Probably would do just fine in the big city too. Still, Johnny was surprised that Irene’s treatment wasn’t quite as “special” as Scott had implied.

Scott and Teresa would be on the train by now, heading East out of Sacramento.  Johnny felt as if he hadn’t really gotten to say a proper good bye to his brother, which didn’t make sense, really, they’d talked plenty and it wasn’t as if Scott was going to be gone forever.  Earlier today, the Old Man had ridden out to check on the bridge crew and he’d finally hinted that their own trip might not happen; Johnny figured that in a day or two Murdoch would have come around to where he could admit that the two of them taking two weeks to travel to Boston and back just wouldn’t be a good idea at this time of year.

But the other morning they’d still all been pretending that he and Murdoch would be heading East themselves soon. Scott and Teresa had done nothing but get ready to leave for days it seemed, so it should have been easy enough to say good-bye. Instead they’d all been standing around in front of the hacienda, as if they didn’t know what to say. He and Scott had been talking together about nothing much.  Murdoch had been squeezing Teresa for all she was worth, forcing some more spending money on her, then hugging her again.  Johnny had just been about to offer to ride Brunswick from time to time, when Teresa had come bouncing over to throw her arms about his neck and announce that she was going to miss him very much. He’d swung her around a bit, just catching a glimpse of Scott ducking his head to hide a knowing grin, and then his brother had moved off to shake hands with Murdoch.  Johnny set Teresa down, and she’d followed his gaze as he watched Scott walk away.

“I’m sorry, did I interrupt you?”

“Nah, it’s okay, Querida, he just thinks . . . ” Johnny had stopped himself.  “You won’t have time to miss me, you’ll be too busy seein’ the other half of the country.”

“We’ll be seeing it together.”

“Maybe.  Me and Murdoch might get held up here . . . you know that.” Teresa had looked unhappy, but not entirely surprised by the prospect.  “We do, you’re gonna have ta take care of Scott.”

“Oh, I will,” she’d said with a great big smile. Johnny had enfolded her in his arms and whispered in her ear, “You just make sure and bring him back.”

Then he’d pushed her away, spun her around towards the wagon. Scott was waiting there, to help her up onto the seat. Then Scott had offered his hand.

“Take care of yourself, Brother.”

“You too, Boston. See ya when ya get back home.”

Scott paused for a moment, like he was going to say something, then thought better of it and climbed up into the buckboard.

Jelly was driving the two of them into town.  Full of self importance, Jelly clucked to the horses and slapped the reins just as soon as Scott was settled, one long black-sleeved arm stretched across the back of the seat. Teresa was sitting up straight in the middle, but it was Scott’s unfamiliar dark hat that Johnny had stood watching, watching until it was out of sight.  




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 8. 


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“Murdoch didn’t send for me.”

It was a simple statement, uttered in a calm voice, the words flat and strictly factual.  Although Scott’s face didn’t reveal any of the emotion that must have accompanied the realization, Teresa was certain that her own keenly felt dismay was openly displayed.

“He would have . . . he wanted to.” Even to her own ears, the words lacked conviction.

“He didn’t.”

Scott looked away then, his jaw set, his eyes fixed on the back of the empty seat in front of them. Although he made no other movement, Teresa still kept a restraining hand on his arm, as if she expected Scott to bolt.

But she would have been surprised if he had. Scott had no less of a temper than the other Lancer men, but he had rarely been the one to be carried off by his anger, to stalk out of the room or to jump on a horse and ride away. Instead, Scott would stand his ground, attempt to contain his ire and rationally present his case.  So there was probably no need to hold him in place, but still, that light touch kept them connected as she struggled to find the words that might help Scott understand how it had all come about, and, most importantly, somehow make him believe that Murdoch had always cared.

Their conversation had started innocently enough, when she’d asked Scott about his westward journey two years ago— how long it had taken him to travel from Boston.  They’d reboarded the train after an early morning stop for breakfast in Elko and were sitting in one of the sleeping cars, now reconfigured for daytime use. In response to her question, Scott had told her that he’d actually started his trip in St. Louis, something he hadn’t ever mentioned before.

Seeming faintly embarrassed when she’d asked the reason, Scott had explained that his grandfather had sent him there on business, something that had come up suddenly, the morning after he’d encountered the Pinkerton agent Murdoch had hired.  Scott also told her that he hadn’t even had an opportunity to tell his grandfather about the invitation to California before he’d left Boston, let alone decided whether or not to accept it. 

“I almost didn’t come,” he’d admitted.

“Why not?”

Scott had leaned back in his seat and taken some time to consider his answer. “The agent, Lawby, he told me that . . . my father wanted to see me . . .  but there was no personal communication.  Just an offer of money.”

He’d that last part tightly, and Teresa had seen the disappointment in his eyes.  Scott had mentioned his meeting with the Pinkerton man before, during one of their drives into town together soon after he and Johnny had arrived.  She’d been more careful then, said very little and asked no questions.

But now the note of regret in Scott’s voice compelled her to reach out to him.

“We were all so afraid you wouldn’t come.”


She’d slipped, and he’d picked up on it.

“Well, Murdoch and I . . .” She’d felt her face flushing. “And . . .  Sam.”

“Doctor Jenkins?”

“Ye-es.  Dr. Jenkins. He and  . . . Daddy . . . and Cleve Anderson, too, all of Murdoch’s friends, they’d been trying for years to convince him to write to you.”

Scott had considered that for a moment, before he nodded. “And then Murdoch almost died.”


Scott had covered her hand with his own then, knowing that she’d be remembering that terrible time, when Daddy had been killed and she’d almost lost Murdoch—he’d been “Mr. Lancer” then---as well.  She swallowed hard, and tried not to think about her father and how very much she still missed him. Instead, she attempted to offer some reassurance to Scott.

“Scott, when they brought Murdoch home, he. . . he could barely talk.  But he made me promise to send for you right away if . .  if he didn’t make it.  He told me to have Sam get in touch with the Pinkerton Agency, and where to find the money to hire ---”

“He did make it.”

“But we weren’t sure that he would,” she’d said tremulously, recalling that desperate period.  “Murdoch was so very weak, he’d lost so much blood . . . then he developed a terrible fever, he didn’t even know what was happening . . .”

She’d seen her danger then, in the lift of Scott’s brow.

“So Sam decided to take matters into his own hands?” Scott had asked quietly, his serious blue-grey eyes locked onto her face as his hand slipped away from hers.  Teresa stared back at him and clutched at the dark fabric of his jacket sleeve.

He must have seen his answer in her eyes, and before she could respond, Scott had come to his own conclusion.

“Murdoch didn’t send for me.” 

And then he’d firmly turned aside her feeble protests as to what Murdoch had surely intended to do, someday.  She’d willed herself not to tighten her grip as she wondered how she could possibly explain Murdoch Lancer to his son.

“Teresa,” Scott said forcefully as he turned back to face her, “Dr. Jenkins shou—”

“Scott—Scott, please . . . please don’t think badly of Sam. He . . . I . . . I told him that Murdoch wanted us to send for you, right away.”

“You l---?” 

Scott stopped, pressing his lips firmly together, and lowered his head for a moment.  His eyelids fluttered closed, opening again as he looked up, facing resolutely away from her once more.

“But that wasn’t true,” he said softly, instead.

There was no accusation in the words. Just another simple statement of fact.

“No, no it wasn’t. I did lie--–I lied to Sam.  But, Scott—you came. And . . .  and, I’m not sorry about that.”

He regarded her then, considering carefully. “Neither am I, Teresa,” Scott said finally, as he gently removed her hand from his arm.  There was a silence and she waited anxiously for what he might say next. “Neither am I.  Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .”  Murmuring something about stretching his legs, maybe getting some air,  Scott rose from his seat, and then he was gone.




<<Murdoch didn’t send for me.>>

Scott had made his way up to the observation car, and then, walking against the forward motion of the train, past the few bundled occupants, took a seat at the far end.

<<He didn’t.>>  The words repeated themselves in an endless refrain, keeping rhythm with the wheels of the train.

It had been Teresa who’d made the decision. Dr. Sam Jenkins who had hired the agent.  One or both of them had decided upon the message to send, such as it was. Murdoch Lancer, hovering between life and death, hadn’t known anything about it.

It all made sense. If Murdoch had sent for him, if his father had really wanted him to come, then surely the communication would not have been so cold and impersonal. There’d been no note, nothing at all in writing, simply a Pinkerton man stepping out of the shrubbery beneath Barbara Otis’ balcony to issue a blunt announcement.

<<Your father wants to see you.”>>

That’s what the agent had said, and it had been that line forming the refrain that had echoed through Scott’s head that evening.  He’d been startled to hear the name Murdoch Lancer, then angered to receive what amounted to an imperious summons from a man he’d never met.

There’d also been the offer of money, travel expenses and “one thousand dollars for one hour of your time.”  A bribe, no less. As if he would simply overlook twenty-four years of silence, if only the price was right.

<<Your father wants to see you.”>>

Surely Murdoch would have phrased it differently.

If it had been true. 

Scott crossed his arms over his chest, pulling his jacket closer. He had no hat to protect his head, but at least his short hair was little disturbed by the wind. It was quite cool, up in the open rooftop deck, though for now his emotions warmed him.  Oblivious to the magnificent mountain views, he remained lost in his own thoughts.

There really shouldn’t have been any need to hire an agent to find him; it wasn’t as if he’d actually been “lost.”  For most of his life, Scott had been right there at his grandfather’s house in Boston, right where Murdoch Lancer had left him.  His father had waited until Scott was five years old before he’d ever ventured back East.  He couldn’t have stayed very long.  Then . .  . nothing.

Even if Murdoch Lancer had made a considered decision that his son was better off being raised in another place, by another man, surely he could have written. But he’d chosen not to. Scott had never received a single letter from California. 

And now Scott understood that Murdoch hadn’t intended for him to receive that summons, either. Not even when the ranch was imperiled. Not even when faced with the possibility of his own death.  If Murdoch Lancer had had his way, the only communication Scott would have received would have been the one bearing the news of his father’s passing.

<<Murdoch didn’t send for me.>>

Well, that explained a lot of things, in addition to the impersonal nature of the message relayed by the agent.  It explained why it had been Teresa and a couple of ranch hands waiting to meet the stage, rather than Murdoch himself.  It explained why his father had seemed so angry, almost hostile, rather than welcoming.

<<“You’ll get no apologies from me!”>>

That had been Murdoch’s angry retort, when Scott had murmured some polite lie about there being no need to apologize.

Murdoch had seemed to be addressing both of his sons, but there had been other points during that initial meeting when Scott had felt excluded from the conversation entirely. He’d realized that he would have been the one they’d expected to be on the stage, that it was Johnny who had been the surprise—to himself most of all.  But it made sense that Murdoch would have assumed that Johnny, the gunfighter, would be the greater asset in the battle against Pardee and his “land pirates”, and therefore had focused his attention upon the younger man.  It had only been after the fighting was over that Scott had seen the short report Agent Lawby had written, which mentioned his time as a cavalry officer during the War—and very little else.

Scott had wondered about that—had Murdoch known about his military service prior to issuing the invitation? Well, now he knew the answer, he thought bitterly.

Had Johnny’s timely appearance also been due to Teresa and the good doctor as well, he wondered?  Based upon the larger number of detailed Pinkerton reports on Johnny, Scott had deduced that the agents had been working on the case for years. If his brother’s “invitation” had been a standing one, perhaps Sam and Teresa had simply decided to make Scott the same offer.

Murdoch had spent considerable time with Johnny, while his younger son was recuperating from his bullet wound. Scott had guessed that the two of them must have talked and somehow reconciled their two different versions of the circumstances surrounding Maria Lancer’s departure from the ranch.  

But as to his own history . . . Murdoch had never volunteered any additional information at all.  There had never been any excuses, or explanations, for his years of silence--- not during the initial meeting, not afterwards. 

<< “I left you in their care. Period.”>>

And that’s where Murdoch had left things.

As he’d come to know the man, Scott had dared to hope there might be more to the story than that final punctuation point. He believed that Murdoch did care about him and that his father harbored some regret about the lost years.  Though evidently he remained unwilling to admit it.

To be scrupulously honest, Scott had to admit that he had allowed that “period” to stand.  He’d deliberately banked his burning questions, leaving them to smolder, until the time of his grandfather’s ill-fated visit. Actually, it had been his conversation with Julie that had stirred the fire, and still---and still, it had been so very difficult to ask.

And then the man had refused to answer.

Faced with his brother’s example, the knowledge that Johnny’s mother had lied to her son about Murdoch, Scott couldn’t help but wonder about growing up hearing only his grandfather’s view of events---not that Grandfather had ever been especially forthcoming about the past.  In each of the first several letters that had arrived at Lancer, Grandfather had carefully inquired as to what Murdoch had told him and urged Scott not to be taken in by “some sordid version of the truth.”  Well, he needn’t have worried, Scott thought bitterly.

No doubt Harlan Garrett would have revealed more details of his own, had he known about the summons to California.  However, he hadn’t learned of it until Scott was already on his way West.

On the evening of the encounter with the agent, Scott had stopped by the Hayfords’, and shared the news with Will.  By the time Scott had returned to his grandfather’s house, the elderly man had already retired for the night.  Scott had overslept the next morning, missing Grandfather at breakfast. He had decided to pay a call upon Agent Lawby before going to work that day.

If the agent had been surprised to see him, the man had covered it well. George Lawby had explained how the costs of travel would be handled, if Scott decided to go West. But he was unable to provide any other facts about Murdoch Lancer or the reason for his communication. The Pinkerton man had explained that he could not have shared any details about a client unless authorized, but in this case, he simply had no additional information. He himself had never had contact with Murdoch Lancer, having been wired the assignment by an agent in California.

Agent Lawby had also told Scott that he would be sending word later that day that his task had been completed. And he’d asked if Scott wished him to relay a response.

The previous evening, Scott had been certain that his answer would be a firm “no,” but that morning, he’d hesitated. He knew he would still categorically reject the “one thousand dollars for one hour of your time.”  But even if he still refused to travel across the country, he thought he might like to frame his own succinct reply. 

“I could say that you’re still  . . . considering.”

Scott had gratefully acceded to that diplomatic suggestion. Had the agent pushed him, he most likely would have reverted to a simple “no.”

Upon his arrival at the office, Scott had immediately been summoned to a private audience with his grandfather.  He’d assumed he’d have to offer an apology and account for his late appearance, but he’d intended to tell his grandfather about the “invitation” right away, anyway.

He hadn’t had the opportunity.  Scott hadn’t had the opportunity to say much at all during the highly embarrassing interview. For, as it had turned out, an angry Harlan Garrett had already had his own very upsetting encounter with an even angrier Harrison Otis.

“In the man’s own home? In the girl’s bed chamber, Scotty?!”

Immediately following the conclusion of the brief, mostly one-sided conversation—what after all, could he say?----Scott had returned home to pack for his departure for St. Louis.   He was being sent there to conduct “business” which could have easily been handled with a few telegrams or letters. It would take far longer to travel to Missouri and back than it would to do any of the work, even if it took time to schedule the meetings.  Grandfather had made it very clear that Scott should plan to spend a few additional days beyond what was necessary in St. Louis.  As humiliating as it was to be so summarily “packed off,” Scott had to admit he had no burning desire to face Mr. Otis’ wrath.  Prudently, he’d filled his bags as if he might possibly continue on to California.

So Harlan Garrett had never had a chance to try to dissuade Scott from undertaking the journey to Lancer, since he’d only been informed of it in a lengthy letter-- which he could not have received until Scott was already nearing his destination.

Unquestionably, Grandfather would have strenuously argued against Scott accepting Murdoch Lancer’s “invitation,” no doubt emphasizing the insult inherent in the offer of money.  Scott could not have disagreed.  His grandfather might also have raised questions about the timing of the summons as well, again, paralleling Scott’s own line of thought.

But had he known that Scott was going west, surely Grandfather would have told him about Murdoch’s journey east.  Reading between the lines of those first letters to California, that now appeared to have been the elderly man’s chief concern, that Scott had heard all about that visit from Murdoch Lancer.

However, it had been Senora Maria who sat him down at the kitchen table and hesitatingly informed Scott that his father had once made a trip to Boston.  It hadn’t been until Grandfather and Julie were actually at the ranch that Scott had finally asked Murdoch the direct question “Why didn’t you ever come to claim me?” And since Murdoch had kept silent about his brief sojourn, it had, after all, fallen to Grandfather to describe the event, while Scott was driving to meet the stage for the elderly man’s own lonely journey back home to Boston. 

Scott had never asked Murdoch “Why did you send for me?” though he’d wondered about that, during the many idle hours in St. Louis.  He had been certain then that if he rejected the summons to California, there would be no further messages, let alone repeated invitations. Since the timing of the long awaited communication from his unknown father hadn’t coincided with any significant event in Scott’s own life, he had assumed it was prompted by a change in circumstances for Murdoch Lancer. It had certainly occurred to Scott that the older man might be seriously ill or injured.  Which meant that if he passed up the opportunity to confront his estranged father, there might never be another.

So, instead of returning to Boston, Scott had traveled West. Upon his arrival, Teresa had revealed that Murdoch Lancer had in fact been shot, the wound had been serious and her own father, Murdoch’s good friend and the ranch foreman had been killed. In addition to perhaps recognizing his own mortality, Murdoch Lancer had clearly wanted help.  He’d needed, not sons, but first and foremost men who could help him defend his land.  How had he phrased it? He’d wanted their legs, their arms, “their guts”—if they had any. Murdoch had offered each of his sons a one-third share of Lancer, not on the strength of the blood ties between them, but on the stated condition that they first help him hold onto the ranch. The answer to at least one unasked question, “Why did you send for me?” had appeared to be sadly evident.

It had simply never occurred to Scott to inquire if his father had, in fact, actually sent for him at all.





ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 9.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“He won’t come.”

Murdoch had been so certain. But he’d been wrong, wrong about Scott. He had come. And Murdoch had been grateful.

Her guardian had never been a particularly demonstrative man, but Teresa could recall standing beside him, his arm about her shoulders, as they watched Scott work with a horse in the corral one bright morning, not long after his two sons had come home.   Murdoch had given her a sudden squeeze and whispered “Thank you, Darling.”

They had both known what he meant. If she hadn’t convinced Dr. Jenkins to hire the agent to contact Scott in Boston, Murdoch would never have had both of his boys at the ranch.

He’d been so utterly certain that Scott would reject the unexpected invitation from the father he’d never known, be insulted by the offer of money. Murdoch had, in fact, assured her that the young man probably wouldn’t even bother to respond to the message at all, “not if he has any pride.”

Teresa sighed. It certainly wouldn’t help matters to tell Scott that. Or to let him know that after learning of the contact initiated by the Pinkerton agent, his father had sat down at his big desk with the announced intention of writing a letter to his elder son, “explaining things once and for all.”  But nothing had ever been produced—at least nothing that Murdoch had been willing to sign and place inside an envelope. 

The truth was that Murdoch might not ever have sent a message of his own. 

Murdoch had had agents searching for Johnny for a very long time, Teresa knew that, and, she was certain, so did Scott.  Murdoch had always known right where Scott was and the contrast was troubling. But surely Scott had to realize how much it meant to Murdoch that his two sons had come to the ranch, and that they had decided to stay.  Both of them. 

Anyone could see how very proud Murdoch was of Scott, whenever he introduced him to his friends or other members of the Cattleman’s Association.  Significantly, Murdoch had relinquished to Scott a great deal of responsibility over the ranch finances, had quickly allowed him to negotiate contracts entirely on his own.  And the two of them had seemed to get along so well, almost from the very start. Of course, Scott seemed able to get along well with almost everyone.

It was quite apparent, however, that Scott and Murdoch had never talked about the circumstances surrounding Scott’s summons to the ranch. Teresa couldn’t help but wonder what else they hadn’t ever discussed. 

<<”Murdoch didn’t send for me.”>>

She kept hearing Scott’s voice, uttering those words. Each repetition evoked a sick, empty feeling, deep in the pit of her stomach. Despite the flat tone, she knew the realization had hurt him and she hated that, blamed herself for it.

Yesterday, Teresa had simply been enjoying the train trip, and had been especially fascinated by the changing scenery. Now, she sat staring dejectedly out the window, oblivious to the passing countryside, thinking only about what she was going to say to Scott when he returned.  No matter how terrible she felt, she did know Scott well enough to be confident that he wouldn’t hold her revelation against her, nor would he resent her for not having told him sooner. No, the question now was how could she possibly convince Scott that his father had truly wanted him to come to Lancer?  It didn’t help that she was unable to point to any actions on Murdoch’s part which might serve as evidence. 

Teresa had never understood why Scott had been raised by his grandfather, or, more importantly, why her guardian had never communicated with his son, but Murdoch Lancer was a good man and there had to be a reason. Daddy had said that there had been some conflict between Murdoch and his former father-in-law.  It certainly hadn’t escaped anyone’s notice that, prior to Mr. Garrett’s visit, Murdoch had been in a horrible mood, angry and irritable.

Then again, it could possibly have escaped Scott’s notice, since he had been the opposite, cheerful and more talkative than usual, his conversation uncharacteristically punctuated with references to his life in Boston.  Scott had also willingly shared his plans about all he hoped to show his grandfather during his stay, including a trip to Sacramento and perhaps even to San Francisco as well.

Well, Julie’s unexpected arrival had certainly altered those plans, since instead of entertaining his grandfather, Scott had instead spent most of his time alone with her.  Then, a few days after Mr. Garret’s arrival, Scott had bluntly informed them that he would be leaving, going back to Boston.  His Julie had disappeared, not that anyone had noticed right away, not in the shock of Scott’s announcement. It had all happened so suddenly, it hadn’t seemed real, standing in front of the hacienda the next morning, watching Scott load his traveling cases into the wagon and willing herself not to cry. Teresa had assumed that Julie was the cause; that Scott was abandoning them to be with her.

<<“You got along all right without me before, you'll do just fine from now on.”>>

Scott had said that, as if he didn’t think they’d care if he left.  But he couldn’t have believed it. He couldn’t have. It wouldn’t have been true.

But no one had tried to stop him that morning. When Scott had said they could visit him, in Boston, it had been clear that no one expected that might actually happen, you could tell from the way the words had hung in the air, the way none of them would look at each other.  Someone had said that Boston was far away. It had seemed that if Scott left, if he returned to his old life, they were all supposed to go on as if he’d never even been at Lancer.

But they couldn’t ever have done that. No, they wouldn’t have been “fine” at all.

Later that day, she’d heard riders, and a buckboard, and had hurried to the door.  They’d brought Scott home, lying in the back of the wagon, and she’d felt panic at the sight of the thick bandage wrapped about his head. A bullet wound, just a graze, but a hair’s breadth more and he would have been dead, lost to them forever. Scott had smiled wanly at her, then insisted on struggling to his feet and walking carefully through the front entrance---- though he’d accepted Johnny’s help up the staircase.  Mr. Garrett had just stood there, watching them. The man had appeared to be in shock, and Teresa had steered him into the Great Room, helped him to a seat and poured him a drink. It had only been later that she’d understood that it had been due to Mr. Garrett that Scott had been in danger and that his grandfather had somehow tried to force Scott to return to Boston.

Yet, when she’d checked on Scott a while later, his first question had been about Mr. Garrett, wanting to know if he was all right.  It shouldn’t have been surprising. If Scott could show compassion to people like the Cassidys then surely he could forgive his own grandfather.

There was no doubt that no matter what he’d done, Scott still loved his grandfather very much, and had been deeply affected by his death. Well, Daddy had been stubborn and wrongheaded sometimes, and Murdoch too. They’d both lied to her about her mother. They’d each done other things over the years that had made her angry, but because she loved them and knew that they loved her, she’d been able to forgive them.

She wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to forgive her mother though. Scott had pointed out that she and Angel lacked a history, and that made things more difficult.

Well, Scott and Murdoch certainly lacked a history as well, but despite that, Scott must have forgiven Murdoch for all those years apart; he would never have agreed to stay otherwise.   But then again, Scott had naturally assumed that it had been Murdoch himself who had finally broken that lifetime of silence and decided to send word to his son.




The train stopped in Ogden, a bit later than usual for the mid-day meal, but Scott still hadn’t returned.  The grey-uniformed conductor announced that they would have almost two hours, since the train was picking up additional cars.  Teresa knew that when he had secured their tickets, Mr. Hayford had reserved one of the drawing rooms that would be on the Pullman parlor cars being added at Ogden. 

Apparently the drawing rooms had sofas and chairs, windows and curtains and every two drawing rooms shared a wash closet in between. The sofas and chairs in each room could be made up as beds. Unfortunately, Mr. Hayford had been unable to secure two such rooms; since it would not be proper for both of them to sleep in the same compartment, Scott would still use one of the narrow berths on an adjoining sleeping car at night. But Scott had explained that all of their luggage would be stored in the drawing room, and that they would share use of the comfortable and private space during the day.

She also understood that from here on, the journey would proceed more quickly, because several dining cars were also being added to the train, and it would no longer be necessary to make prolonged stops to allow the passengers to disembark for their meals. In three days, the train would pass through St. Louis, and early on the third day after that, they would arrive in Boston.  The route would take them through many large cities, including Chicago and New York. Understandably, Scott was anxious to arrive in Boston as soon as possible, but he had suggested that they might stop off to see some other places on the return trip.

Most of the other passengers had left the car, and Teresa was about to reluctantly follow them when Scott finally reappeared. He looked cold, his cheeks and the tip of his nose had a rosy hue and his hair was ruffled. He smelled of fresh air.

“Are you ready for lunch?” he asked.  “I understand the Ogden Eating House comes highly recommended.”

“And then we’ll have our ‘drawing room’ when we get back on the train?”

“We should.”

As they moved towards the door of the car, Teresa turned back to study Scott once more.  As usual, his expression gave nothing away; it was as if their previous conversation had not ever taken place.

“Have you been up in the observation car, Scott?”

“Yes. We could go up there this afternoon, if you’d like.”

She ventured a smile, reaching up and touching the back of her hand to his reddened cheek and shivered.

“We might have to dress a bit more warmly,” Scott admitted. “But the mountain air is very nice.”

Throughout the meal, at Utah’s well-advertised Odgen Eating House, Scott was pleasant and relaxed, conversing easily with the other passengers seated at the same large table. His attire, and particularly the crepe armband, continued to garner polite inquiries.  The revelation of their final destination would inevitably lead to conversation about people and places in the city of Boston.  Teresa would listen intently to all that was said, storing up information as well as questions of her own.

When they reboarded the train, the conductor personally escorted them to their sitting room in the newly added Pullman parlor car. Having studied some of the advertisements posted in the Sacramento train station, Teresa knew that there were very few such rooms on any one train, and that the cost of having the use of one for the remainder of their trip would be well over fifty dollars. One of the porters had already placed their traveling cases inside and Scott’s book even lay waiting for him on the seat of one of the cushioned chairs. The drawing room was almost as wide as the car itself; there was only a narrow passage-way outside for those walking through to the rest of the car. There were wooden blinds as well as curtains at the windows, several looking glasses hanging on the wall, more books on shelves and even a small writing desk.

The conductor showed Teresa the dressing closet and demonstrated how to bolt the two doors of the adjoining drawing rooms in order to insure privacy. He smiled at her questions about how a bed might be made up from the chairs, and said that the porter would work that magic in the evening, whenever she decided she was ready to retire.  Meanwhile, Scott after removing from one of his valises some writing paper, pen and ink, had placed the items on the small desk.

Once the conductor had departed, Scott removed his jacket, loosened his string tie and unfastened the topmost button of his shirt.  But, instead of sitting down at the desk, he took up his book and stretched out on the small sofa. Looking up and seeing her still standing in the middle of the drawing room, he mildly suggested that she might wish to unpack a few of her own things and “settle in.”

As she moved quietly about the small space, Teresa couldn’t help sending worried glances towards Scott’s serious profile.  Scott appeared to be completely absorbed in his reading; it was something about Napoleon, she’d noticed the title back on the stage. While Scott’s hair was still shorter than she was accustomed to seeing, it had lost its new-cut edge. Still, he seemed more exposed somehow, without the longer, softer length to frame his face.

She’d brought along some needlework to occupy herself on the train. She knew she could just sit down with it and they would probably spend the next few hours in companionable silence.

If anything more was going to be said, she was going to have to say it.

“Scott . . . I’m sorry.”

He looked up, reluctantly, she thought.  “For telling me.”

Teresa nodded. “Or for—--for not telling you sooner.”

“I never asked.”

Scott slowly sat up, still holding his open book in his hands. He fixed his soft blue-grey gaze upon her. “Teresa, there’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”

It was exactly what she’d expected him to say, but that gaze drew her nearer, and she moved to sit in the chair facing his sofa.

“Scott, does it really matter who sent the agent?”  The poorly chosen words came out in a rush, and she didn’t need to catch the glimmer of disappointment in those eyes to realize just how foolish the question seemed.  Of course it mattered.

Scott looked down, but she could still see the slight lift to one edge of his mouth. He closed the book carefully, using one long finger to hold his place.  “I would have preferred it to have been Murdoch.”

“I’m sure he would have been wiser about what message to send.”

Scott glanced up then, eyebrows raised. “If he’d sent one at all.”

Teresa found that she could no longer meet his eyes, and stared instead at the needlework she was holding in her lap.  Scott rose to his feet, and after two quick steps, his next words came from behind her.

“Teresa, we don’t have to talk about this.”

She quickly turned in her seat. “But Scott . . .  I want you to understand him. Try to, at least. Please.”

It took a moment for him to answer.  “All right.” Scott tossed his heavy book onto the seat of the other chair, folded his arms across his chest and stood there a moment, studying her.  “Tell me, then, what did Murdoch say, when he learned what Dr. Jenkins had done?”

She hesitated, but he wasn’t going to allow it.  “The truth, Teresa.”

The words were hard, but when she looked up, searching his face, those eyes were still soft. Not that she could have lied to him anyway.

“It was what I asked Sam to do, Scott. You mustn’t blame him for believing me.  And I didn’t tell Murdoch anything, not right away. He was so very ill  . .  .  And Sam didn’t think . . . he just didn’t think you’d come.  So, there wasn’t any reason to say anything to Murdoch.”

“Right. No need to upset him.”  Uncharacteristically, Scott flushed a bit, and looked as if he wished the bitter words back almost as soon as he’d uttered them.  He moved further away, and took up a leaning position near the window, his arms still folded across his chest. 

“There was no need to get his hopes up,” she said firmly. “Not until we knew . . .”

Teresa carefully set her needlework aside and slowly stood, considering just where to begin. “One day, there was a wire, from the Pinkerton Agent, saying that he’d spoken with you. I opened it, but since it didn’t say if you were coming or not, I still didn’t tell Murdoch anything.”

Scott’s profile didn’t change; his lips remained pressed together, his eyes apparently focused on something outside.

“Then, a packet arrived. It must have been over a week later, because it was soon after Dr. Jenkins had given Murdoch permission to get out of bed. Murdoch opened it.  It was a report, from the Agent.”

Scott turned his head slightly. “I’ve read it.”  His tone was dismissive.

“So did your father. Over and over again.”

Teresa stepped closer.  “Scott. I know it didn’t say much, but it . .  it meant so very much to him to finally learn something about you.  And .  .  . and Murdoch wasn’t angry when I explained what we’d done.”

Scott turned to face her then, leaning back against the wall beside the window, his expression skeptical. 

“He wasn’t.  But Murdoch . . .  agreed with Sam. He didn’t think the message would be enough, not to make you travel so far.  And . . . and he thought that the money . . . that you didn’t need it and that it would seem like---”

“A bribe.”

She nodded.

“He didn’t think you’d come. Or even send a reply. But he sat down and started to write you a letter. He worked on it and he worked on it and then, then there was another wire.  The one that told us you were coming.”

Scott lowered his head, waiting.

“He was glad Scott. Murdoch shouted for me as soon as he opened it, and he read it to me.  He was happy.   He said . . . he said he knew you wouldn’t want the money.”

Scott didn’t look up.  “What else did he say?”

There was something about the downward gaze, and the pause before the careful question. Gazing at the bowed blond head, Teresa felt at that moment that she would willingly have revealed any and all of Murdoch Lancer’s secrets to Scott, if she only knew them.  She crossed the room and shared without hesitation the only one she had.

“He was afraid, Scott. He said . . .  he didn’t know how he could face you.”




Author’s note: please credit documents on the CPRR website for information on traveling across country and descriptions of the railroad cars.  There is truly a wealth of information to be found there.  


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 10.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



“Thank you, Teresa.”

As Teresa stepped forward, Scott had welcomed her embrace, and perhaps that was what he was most grateful for, since the words escaped so quickly.  He realized that he should also thank her for setting in motion the events which had led to his arrival at the ranch; despite his dismay at learning the true sequence, Scott knew he would never regret coming west.  But on second thought, it was her honest replies to his questions that he most appreciated.  Those questions had been difficult enough to ask and he suspected that they hadn’t been easily answered; he wondered about the cost, in Teresa’s love for, and loyalty to, Murdoch Lancer.

Still, it was a comfort to stand there for a moment, with their arms about each other and her dark head pressed against his chest. It didn’t even seem to matter that she might possibly be able to hear how unsettling this conversation had been.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Teresa reflexively started to spin away, but Scott just as swiftly reached for her.  His hand resting gently on her shoulder was enough to halt her movement. There was no need, after all, for her to react so.

Another knock. “Come in,” he said firmly.

The door opened to reveal the dark-skinned porter.

“’Scuse me, Suh. Ma’am. Ah was just checkin’ ta see if yah needed anythin’, Suh.”

Scott thanked George for the inquiry. In honor of Mr. Pullman, many of the passengers referred to, and some even addressed, each of the porters as “George”; but Scott had ascertained that this particular young man was in fact actually so named.  Scott paused politely, to allow Teresa to respond as well, and was mildly surprised when she did make a request, asking for some hot water.  George readily agreed, and once he’d departed, Teresa set about removing some clothing from her traveling case. Discreetly, Scott turned his back, rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt and then settling in at the small desk.

Now Teresa was sequestered inside the dressing closet and Scott was attempting to keep his thoughts focused on the paper in front of him. During his solitary rides prior to leaving Lancer, and again on the stage from Morro Coyo to Stockton, he had carefully considered what he wished to include in the tribute he would deliver at his grandfather’s memorial service.  Although Scott had managed to write down most of his ideas, his thoughts still kept straying to Murdoch, and what Teresa had said about him.

His grip on the pen slackened as he mentally reviewed scenes from that memorable first day at the ranch, attempting to apply the tint of fear and uncertainty to his images of Murdoch. It was at least a partial explanation of why his father hadn’t ever communicated with him. While Scott couldn’t recall everything they’d said to each other in that initial meeting, he was able to remember some of it in distinct and vivid detail. Now he examined the words, wondering if there could have been a hint of guilt or a note of apprehension hidden beneath the gruff and angry tone.

Scott hadn’t seen it. He hadn’t heard it. 

But it wasn’t entirely impossible.

When Teresa emerged from the dressing room, Scott realized he'd wasted considerable time in a fruitless inspection of his slim catalog of memories involving Murdoch. Teresa, he noted, had changed into a fresh white blouse, a plain one with half sleeves and a simple collar, in contrast to the ruffles and high neck of the rose colored garment she had been wearing when they’d left Sacramento.  She smiled softly, and Scott assumed she’d seen him sitting there, staring at the wall.  He quickly lowered his head and set to writing once more.

While still remaining keenly aware of the young woman’s every movement, Scott stared at the lines he’d written, pondering the challenge of organizing the disparate thoughts into a coherent address.  He continued to avert his gaze while Teresa replaced a few items in her trunk, turning only after she had resumed her seat on one of the red plush upholstered chairs, facing away from him, towards the sofa. 

She’d taken up her embroidery once more, the slight incline of her head as she examined her work exposing the length of her neck.  Her hair was up, leaving the shorter strands at the nape to form a soft fringe.  One longer tendril of dark hair had escaped, and gently wound its way down the pale skin towards the white band of her collar. 

The dark head lifted, and Teresa glanced back over her shoulder, catching him again, gently putting a question mark to his name.

Quickly, Scott gestured towards the delicate hands whose movements usually drew his attention. 

“I was noticing that . . . you’re very good at that.”

“Maria taught me.  We started when I was six or seven.”

“She’s a good teacher,” Scott acknowledged with a smile. “But was she always such a difficult taskmaster?”

When he’d first arrived at the ranch, the Easterner had enlisted Senora Maria’s assistance in learning the basics of the Spanish language used by so many of the ranch employees as well as the local inhabitants. Teresa was well aware of Maria’s enthusiastic acceptance of the task and her continuing determined efforts to instruct “Senor Scott” in her native tongue.

“She never threatened not to feed me!” Teresa laughed. “But, of course, she taught me how to bake, too. I remember spending hours and hours in the kitchen with her, while Daddy and Murdoch were out working the herd.”

They talked about that for a while, how difficult it had been for a little girl to wield the big rolling pin, how her father and Murdoch had offered enthusiastic praise for her culinary efforts and then dutifully eaten every single bite.  As they conversed, the silver needle resumed its movement within the ring of the embroidery hoop, rising up and then plunging back down again, always trailed by the twisted strand of colored thread.

Teresa was quite fluent, so at her instigation, they’d tried slipping into Spanish for a bit. It was a simple conversation, about different types of foods, but for some reason Scott found himself hesitating over words he’d known for some time. Teresa must have noticed, since after offering a few corrections, she shifted back to English with a quick apology.

“I’m sorry, Scott, you have work to do and I’m keeping you from it.”

Scott sighed, and turned back to his writing.  Although the ink had long since dried, he went through the motions of blotting the uppermost page, and then set the sheaf of papers face down upon the desktop.

“I think I’ll read for a bit,” he said, retrieving his book from the cushioned seat of the other armchair and then returning to his spot on the sofa. 

Teresa worked steadily for a few minutes, the thread gradually growing shorter. When she could no longer continue, she set the needlework aside and announced that she was going to take a short walk. Thinking she might be en route to the water closet, Scott refrained from offering to accompany her.

“I thought I might go take a peek in at one of the dining cars,” she said as she slipped into a tan wool jacket. “But I won’t be long.”




Returning to the chapter he had tried to read on the stagecoach, Scott finally reached its conclusion and the Battle of Eylau’s inevitable result—or rather, lack of one. Technically a French victory, it was still the first serious check to Napoleon Bonaparte’s string of military triumphs.  The chapter ended with Marshal Ney’s assessment the next morning, as he rode over bloodstained snow littered with frozen corpses: “Quel massacre! Et sans resultat!” Of course, the same could be said of a great many battles.

For some reason, Grandfather had always been particularly fascinated by the French emperor. The two of them had visited Napoleon’s tomb in the Hôtel des Invalides during their stay in Paris.

With a few notable exceptions, Scott’s gifts from his grandfather had tended to be in a practical vein: books and clothing, useful items such as pens and writing paper.  The trip abroad had easily been Grandfather’s most extravagant ---and memorable--- present.  His grandfather had been well-read, and had delighted in pointing out the sights of each European capital: the ruins and monuments, museums and cathedrals. They’d stayed in the best hotels, dined at the best restaurants.  At meals, it had been their ritual to offer toasts appropriate to each city. 

Scott closed his eyes, and other images, from different moments in time shuttled past, flowing at a rate more rapid than the steady forward progress of the train. In addition to the memory of the older man sharing in his young grandson’s delight over a fat spotted pony, there was also the vision of Grandfather smiling as Scott opened the cover of a gold pocket watch or lifted the lid of a small tin box to reveal a colorful collection of fishing flies.  He could picture the two of them strolling through Boston Common, as well as walking along the Thames or standing beneath the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. There was Grandfather watching as Scott blew out the candles on a boy’s birthday cake, Grandfather’s undisguised pride as he toasted Scott’s twenty-first year. 

Most of all, he remembered his grandfather holding his hand . . .

The words of the text swam in front of his eyes. Mindful that Teresa could return at any moment, Scott swallowed hard and fought to maintain his composure.  He sat ruffling the pages with one hand, and, once he’d won the battle, firmly closed the book.

Putting Napoleon aside, Scott reluctantly considered returning to the desk, to resume once more the daunting task of consigning a wealth of fond memories to the space of a few pages.  Grandfather’s conflict with Murdoch, his visit to the ranch, the Degans, Julie—of course none of that was forgotten---and none of it would be mentioned. Scott was determined to craft a dignified and heartfelt tribute to his grandfather and confident in his ability to do so, but perhaps not today.  Instead, he pulled out his watch and checked the time. Teresa had been absent for a good while, but they still had nearly two hours before the evening meal would be served.   Scott snapped the watchcase closed and returned it to his pocket. It was a fine watch, the cover beautifully engraved by George Southworth down in New Haven. Yet another of Harlan Garrett’s gifts, the watch had replaced the one that had been taken from him when he’d been captured during the War. 

Grandfather had given it to him as part of their celebration of Scott’s twenty-first birthday.  He’d also presented his grandson and heir with the expected partnership, a junior one, of course.  But it was the final gift that had been unanticipated, a copy in miniature of Scott’s favorite portrait of Catherine. They’d dined alone together at the club-- Grandfather had offered a toast and then sent Scott off to spend the remainder of the evening with Julie.  Scott had asked her to marry him that very evening, and given her his grandmother’s ring.

A few nights later, he’d celebrated his birthday, his partnership and his engagement with a gathering of friends; Will Hayford had been among the group of young men. They’d all gotten quite drunk, Scott most of all.  In the wee hours of the morning, it had just been the two of them, he and Will, when Scott had offered up a final toast—to Murdoch Lancer. After his twenty-first birthday had come and gone without any message from his father, Scott had given up hope of ever hearing from him. The bitter toast, seconded by a less than articulate, but nonetheless tipsily supportive Will, had been something about hoping that the man might someday know exactly how much his son hated him.  Then Scott had belligerently announced that he no longer cared if he ever heard from his father. 

A rational and sober man might have pointed out that antipathy and indifference were not generally compatible emotions.

But it wasn’t entirely impossible.




In the end, Johnny had to convince Murdoch that it just wasn’t possible for the two of them to go to Boston.

“Let it go, Murdoch. There ain’t enough time.”

They were seated at the long dining table having supper, separated by those empty chairs, Scott’s and Teresa’s. Murdoch set his knife down on the edge of his plate—it made a chinking sound—and reached for his wineglass. He took a long sip and then carefully replaced the glass before he finally spoke.

“Johnny . . . I think it’s important that we support your brother in this.”

Johnny sighed. “I know, I know.”

“Well then—”

“Look, Murdoch, you said yourself it’d be more’n two weeks travel just to be there for that one day. That’s a long time for us both to be gone. With the drive and everything else, well, I just think it would be smart if one of us stayed here, is all.”

Murdoch leaned back in his chair.

“An’ I don’t mind stayin’.”

When Murdoch lifted his chin and regarded him contemplatively, Johnny held his gaze. Murdoch lowered his eyes first.  

“You talked to Scott about this.”

Damn, if the Old Man didn’t sound just like Scott right then, making a statement instead of asking a question. But it really was a question, and one Johnny didn’t mind answering.

“Yeah, we talked some. He said if we didn’t get ta Boston, he still ‘preciated the offer. That some other time might be better, he could show us around more then.”

“So you think he’d rather we didn’t come?”

“Maybe. But, look, it weren’t like that. Murdoch, you know this don’t really have to do with us. It’s about Scott sayin’ good bye to the man tha— It’s Scott sayin’ good bye to his grandfather.”

Murdoch nodded thoughtfully, then picked up his utensils and turned his attention to the beef on his plate.

Johnny reached for his milk. “I only met Garrett the one time.”  He took a few gulps, draining half of the glass before he set it down again. “You didn’t seem ta think much of ‘im, even before he showed up here.” 

“That doesn’t matter now.”

And that’s where Murdoch would have left it. First, he seemed to concentrate on his meal for a few minutes. Then he calculated out loud, to try to figure when Scott and Teresa would be arriving in Boston, and said that he’d send Scott a wire then. After that, Murdoch kept the conversation centered on the ranch.

Once they’d finished eating, Murdoch settled into his big leather chair, his after dinner scotch in one hand and a book in the other.  Johnny flopped onto the sofa and lay there awhile, idly turning the beaded leather bracelet on his wrist.  Finally, he just decided to go ahead and ask.

“How long since you been back to Boston, Murdoch?”

Murdoch looked up at that. Reluctantly, Johnny thought.  Murdoch carefully set his drink down on the table beside his chair.

“A long time, Johnny. Too long.”

“You went back there after my Mama left.”

Murdoch closed the book.  “How do you know that?” he asked cautiously.

Johnny exhaled, took a moment to ponder how he was going to answer. Just one brief moment was all it took to decide he’d better stick to the straight truth, since that’s what he was hoping to get out of Murdoch.

“Maria told me—now, it ain’t her fault, she didn’t want to, but I asked her.  She said she remembered Scott’s mother.  It was back when Melissa Harper was here visitin’.” 

Murdoch looked puzzled by the reference to Melissa, but he didn’t respond; it looked like the Old Man wasn’t going to volunteer anything. Which sure was no surprise.

“Thing is, Maria, she felt kinda guilty for tellin’ me about it, so she . . .  told Scott too.”

That got a reaction from Murdoch.  “Scott knows that I went to Boston?”


“He never said . . .”

“Well, he’s known for a while. Then I guess before old man Garrett left, the two of them talked some about it.”

Murdoch looked troubled, and his hand reached for his glass.

“What I was wonderin’ was . . . how come Scott didn’t grow up here?”

Murdoch drained his scotch and then took such a long time to answer that Johnny was about ready to give up.  When he’d gotten information before, from Maria, he’d satisfied his own curiosity, but Johnny hadn’t felt it was his place to be the one to tell Scott. And now Scott wasn’t even around anyway.  Johnny was just starting to push himself to a sitting position when his father finally began to speak. Murdoch seemed to direct his halting words to the empty glass he was holding, but at least he was talking.

“When I lost Cath—after Scott’s mother died . . . I . . .  I couldn’t have raised an infant here, not then, not alone.”  After a long exhale, Murdoch continued, woodenly.  “The baby came early, I wasn’t there, Harlan was.  He took your brother and went looking for a doctor. Eventually they went back to Boston. Catherine and I, we’d talked about that, that she should go back there for a while.  She didn’t want to . . .”

Johnny sat on the edge of the sofa, his forearms resting on his thighs. He waited a beat, to be sure Murdoch was finished. “So when Garrett took off with Scott, you didn’t go after him.”

There was another silence. Even though he kept his own eyes fixed on the floor between his boots, Johnny could still feel Murdoch’s gaze. But it was the barely suppressed anger in his father’s voice that made him look up.

“My wife was dead.”

“I know—”

“Your brother was just a baby, new born. The midwife . . . I talked to her. She didn’t . . .  she didn’t think he would survive.  I was days behind Harlan, and . . . I needed to get back here.”

There was a finality in Murdoch’s tone, and maybe that was why Johnny stubbornly decided to press on. Even if he wasn’t exactly the right son to hear the story, he was the only one around. 

“But you did go to Boston?”


“So . . . how old was Scott?”

“He was . . . five.”

Johnny nodded; that matched what he’d already heard.  He got up, removed the glass from Murdoch’s hand, and continued on to the liquor table. Johnny waited until he had his back to Murdoch and was occupied with refilling his father’s glass before posing his next question.

“So Murdoch, why’d you wait so long?”

“I couldn’t leave her, Johnny, not while she was carrying you.”

And just like that, the tables turned. It wasn’t just about Scott any more. Johnny knew, in his head, that it wasn’t his fault. But still, he hated any suggestion that the reason Murdoch had ignored or neglected Scott might be because of his mother, because of him. Johnny looked around for a glass for himself.

“The travel, it was harder, took a lot longer in those days. After you were born, well, I couldn’t leave her then either.”

“And there was always the ranch,” Johnny said pointedly, turning to face Murdoch with a glass of imported whiskey in each hand.

“Yes.” There was a touch of defiance in Murdoch’s eyes, though his tone was matter of fact.  “We didn’t have the men we have now.”

Johnny stepped nearer, extending the glass. They made the exchange without their hands touching, but Murdoch didn’t look away.

“There’s something else you want to know.  Go on and ask.”

Now here was an opportunity.  Johnny considered and then rejected the idea of asking another one of Scott’s questions.  What would he do with the answer, after all?  Best leave those for Scott. Besides, he did have one of his own.

“You ever tell her about him?”

Murdoch’s gaze dropped away then. “No.”

Johnny moved back to his seat on the sofa, sitting back against the cushions and resting his ankle on the opposite knee. 

“I figured.”

He took a sip before he continued. “She’d a told me, it woulda fit right in with her lies about you throwing us out, if she could’ve said you had another son you didn’t care about either.”

“Johnny, I searched for you----”

“I know, I know.” He did. They’d gone over all of that, long ago.  And Johnny had already decided that if Mama had known anything about Scott, she would most likely have filled his head with stories about how his gringo father favored his older, gringo, son.

Murdoch sighed. “Your mother. . . I wanted to tell her, but . . . she was . . .  jealous of Catherine, didn’t even want any reminders here in the house.  And there were times . . . so many times, she promised me a healthy son, ‘one that would live,’ she said.  It just . . . it just never seemed to be the right time.”

They both worked on their drinks for a bit then. Johnny was pretty sure there never would have been a “right time.” Kind of like his waiting for the “right time” to tell Murdoch about what happened down in McCall’s Crossing, he thought wryly.  But that’s the way it usually worked, when you kept secrets, held things back. It was always best to just get it said. 

“So how come everyone here thought Scott was dead?”

Murdoch didn’t even ask how Johnny knew this time, or if Scott knew about that, too. He just slumped a bit more in his big chair. The Old Man’s tired voice matched his posture. “I never intended it that way, Johnny.  When I came back here alone, they all just assumed. Even Paul. By the time I realized what they all thought, well, I wasn’t sure myself if the baby had survived.  It was a long time before I heard from Harlan.”

“You did hear from ‘im?”

“Yes.  Months later.”

“But you didn’t tell anyone.”

“To what purpose? Your brother was on the other side of the country.”

“Your son, Murdoch,” Johnny corrected him quietly.  “Me, I wasn’t even born yet. I never knew I had a brother til I came here. But you knew you had a son---” 

“And didn’t do anything about it, is that what you think?”

“Don’t matter what I think Murdoch.”

There was another long silence. Maybe Murdoch was thinking the same thing, that Johnny wasn’t the right son to be hearing this story.  Johnny wasn’t expecting the Old Man to say anything more, and was very surprised when he did.

“Harlan wouldn’t give him up, he had legal custody. He said he’d fight me, put Scott in the middle.”  Murdoch’s tone was flat.  He set his empty glass down on the side table. “I’d waited too long.”

“So you had ta gave in.”

Johnny’d tried to make the statement sympathetically, but Murdoch’s cheeks still flushed at the words. “I didn’t have the time or the money to fight him in court,” he said tightly.  “I came back here, kept looking for your mother, tried to find you.”

“And tried to forget about Scott.”  Johnny tossed what was left of his whiskey.

“No! I never-- I never forgot.”

Johnny shook his bowed head, studying the glass he held cradled in two hands. “But you left him----”

“He was better off, Johnny.  There were things Harlan could do for him, that I couldn’t . . ”

Listening to his father, seeing his big hands clenching the leather armrests, Johnny had to wonder how many times Murdoch had had to say those things to himself before he’d come to almost believe them.

“But I did go back to Boston,” Murdoch added quietly. “I traveled across the country again to see him, when he was eight.”

Johnny’s head came up slowly. Scott had suspected as much. When Melissa Harper had been at the ranch, Murdoch had said something about last seeing her when she was just three years old.  Scott had picked up on it, and Johnny had overheard his brother asking Melissa if she’d ever been away from Boston as a child. She’d said she hadn’t. And Scott was about five years older than Melissa.

“Seems like Scott woulda remembered----”

“He wasn’t there. He was up north, on a fishing trip with his uncle.”

So Murdoch had taken a second wasted trip, come back empty-handed again.  It probably would have been a lot to ask, for him to try it a third time. Still, an awful lot of years had gone by.  Johnny realized he was doing it anyway, asking Scott’s questions, even though he’d told himself he wouldn’t. Maldita sea, he just wanted to know.

“So . . . did ya ever write to Scott?”

“No, Johnny. Harlan would never have allowed him to read a letter from me.”

Johnny thought about Scott’s response to that question, all those other things Scott had told him about Garrett’s side of the story.  He wasn’t sure if he believed all of it, or any of it, even if Scott seemed to. Not that it really mattered, since none of that was his to share with Murdoch. 

And, of course, Murdoch probably shouldn’t have been answering these questions, not if he hadn’t ever had this conversation with Scott.

“You and Scott, well, you gotta talk to him, Murdoch.” 

“I know, Johnny, it’s just never seemed---”

“Like the right time?”

Murdoch sighed.  “It won’t be easy for Scott to hear those things about his grandfather, especially now.”

“Murdoch . . .”


Johnny hesitated.  Despite all the horrible things his mother had told him about Murdoch Lancer, as a small boy Johnny had still sometimes dreamed about his father riding into town one day. He’d always pictured a man who’d be sitting tall, astride a golden horse, bringing all kinds of wonderful presents. Johnny knew that over the years, Murdoch had tried, and failed, to find him; his father seemed to blame himself for what he knew of Johnny’s deprivation and difficult childhood, and even for his decision to become a gun for hire.  Johnny firmly believed that if Murdoch Lancer had ever been able to locate his runaway wife, the man would have come charging in, snatched up his son and used any force necessary to bring him back home.

What Johnny needed to know was why Murdoch hadn’t done that for Scott.

“Look, I know Scott grew up in a big house an’ all, but I guess I don’t see how you coulda let a man like that raise him. I mean, not that Scott didn’t turn out fine anyway, ‘cause he did, but . . .  it just seems like you didn’t have any reason t’expect it.”

Murdoch had been gazing across the room, staring at nothing. But now he turned to look Johnny right in the eyes.  “Oh, I had reason, Johnny. And I’m grateful . . . that Scott turned out to be so very much like . . .  his mother.”




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 11. 


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“Grateful for what----you let somebody else raise your son!"

Although Scott was typically mild-mannered, and unfailingly polite, Murdoch had observed early on that his elder son had a temper.  But he’d rarely seen Scott as angry as he had been then. 

But it was the truth, he was grateful.  Also angry, bitter, resentful---and Lord knows his shoulders had been burdened with over twenty years of guilt as well.  But he was thankful that as a child, Scott had always been safe and well cared for, and that he’d been raised to be the sort of young man anyone would be proud to call “Son.” 

At least Scott knew that part of it, that Murdoch was proud of him, surely there could be no doubt of that?  He’d as much as told him so, more than once.  Scott had to know how much he cared about him.  Now. But the past, the past still loomed between them.  It was like some kind of rogue bull, deceptively placid while grazing, yet those horns were deadly and could do a lot of damage. Best to leave it alone.

After Johnny went upstairs to bed, Murdoch sat alone for a time, brooding in his leather chair, staring at the empty hearth.  This was the second time that Johnny had asked questions about why his older brother hadn’t been raised here at the ranch, why Murdoch had never contacted Scott. They were obvious questions, ones he’d expected Scott to demand answers to right away.

Those questions pushed him up onto his feet, but it was his answers that propelled him through the kitchen and out the back door, until Murdoch found himself leaning against the adobe wall, looking up at the night sky.

Pardee and the present had been the priority when the boys first arrived, and not answering questions about the past; Murdoch had insisted upon it. Unbelievably, his sons had accepted his decree.  In fact, Scott had only raised a single question at that first meeting, a pointed one, despite the almost cavalier fashion in which he had posed it--- “What do I call you?” ---followed immediately by an insincere assurance that no apology was “necessary.” Murdoch still clearly recalled his own churlish response, harshly dispensing with each son’s history in a few blunt sentences.  But he’d been more than a little irritated by Scott’s cool tone, the smoothly polished manners, his expensive and too formal attire.  The young man’s physical resemblance to his mother had been achingly evident, but Murdoch had been hard pressed to recognize anything of himself in the stiffly self-confident Easterner.   He had looked at Scott and seen “Harlan Garrett’s grandson,” a reluctant visitor, rather than someone who belonged here, at Lancer.

How wrong he’d been.

Murdoch pushed himself away from the wall, and walked with a halting step towards the stable. As he eased in through the side door, he recalled how the “Eastern dandy” had helped fight the fire, working right alongside the Lancer vaqueros in the charred field. 

Inside the barn, some of the horses whinnied a welcome. His Toby, the massive roan with the wide white blaze, was in a stall at the farther end, beside Johnny’s Barranca, but in the nearest stall Brunswick tossed his head at Murdoch’s approach.  In the adjacent space stood Rambler, the sorrel that had carried Scott up into the mountains to create the decoy for Pardee. 

Although Rambler was no longer Scott’s primary mount, he was still stabled here with the horses used by the household.  Recently, Jelly had started to include the animal in the remuda and today one of the hands had claimed Rambler.  Brunswick was more spirited and not easy to handle.  In Scott’s absence, only Johnny had ridden the stockinged chestnut.   Johnny had been on Brunswick yesterday; Murdoch had found it unsettling, spying his younger son at a distance, astride his brother’s horse. 

Brunswick nickered softly at him, and Murdoch wished he’d brought something from the kitchen, a bit of apple or a lump of sugar. Instead, he stroked the white blaze. 

“I miss him too,” he admitted softly.

Murdoch sighed and moved down the center of the stable. His old injury was acting up, and his uneven steps echoed woodenly on the hay-littered planks.  His thoughts hurried away from him, moving backwards to the time when he’d first become acquainted with his sons. Scott, the city dweller, had convincingly demonstrated his horsemanship, had quickly proven himself with a gun. Surprisingly, Scott had been the first to actually agree to the offer of a partnership in the ranch, and then given every indication that he really did intend to stay.

Johnny’s plans had been less certain.   When the fighting was over, Murdoch had ventured some conversation with his younger son, once Johnny had started to recover from his bullet wound.  When Murdoch had asked how he was feeling, Johnny had responded with an abrupt question about his mother’s departure from the ranch, saying that he’d “heard a few things”---- Murdoch had never known from whom.  No matter, the two of them had talked and cleared the air, really cleared it. It had been difficult for Johnny to accept that his mother had lied to him. And it had been difficult for Murdoch to hear what few details Johnny had been willing to share about his life with her. Murdoch would never look back without feeling deep regret, but at least Johnny had heard the truth:  Murdoch had loved his mother, and over the years, had tried to find them, putting considerable time and money into the effort.

While Johnny was recuperating, Scott had kept busy outside the hacienda, taking charge of the cleanup efforts, laboring alongside Cipriano Sanchez and the other men.  Since his decoy plan had proven effective and he’d successfully led the defense of the hacienda, the Lancer hands held Scott in high regard.  But Murdoch had realized that any Easterner, no matter how versatile, would still have a great deal to learn when it came to the specific skills needed on a ranch, and so he had asked Cipriano to see to his son’s instruction.  He knew that Scott hadn’t always had an easy time of it, but the young man had never complained, and Murdoch respected him for that. 

Like everyone else back then, Scott had put in exceedingly long days.  In the evenings, it had been the three of them, Scott, Teresa and himself. Once Johnny was on his feet, Murdoch had made sure that his sons had opportunities to spend time together, get to know each other.  But in those early days, beyond brief conversations---usually updates on what was happening at the ranch---- Murdoch hadn’t spent any time alone with Scott. He’d made sure of it.

He hadn’t made it easy for Scott to ask him any more questions.   Scott had come up with his own answer to the one inquiry he had made, calling Murdoch by his given name, or, later, addressing him with polite formality, as “Sir.” 

Until that disastrous conversation here in the Great Room, Murdoch had only rarely heard his elder son use the phrase “my father.”  That day the young man had seemed uncharacteristically hesitant, reluctant to initiate the discussion.  And then Scott had asked it, the very question that Murdoch had expected to hear on the very first day. He hadn’t had a good answer then, and when Scott finally asked why he’d never come to Boston to “claim him,” Murdoch still didn’t have one.  Murdoch couldn’t even recall now exactly how he had replied, other than saying something about how it hadn’t been possible. 

“But you’re my father,” Scott had said to him.  As if he had needed to be reminded. 

Murdoch stopped opposite Toby and the horse raised its large head to eye him quizzically.

“I’m not sure why I’m here either.” Murdoch knew he needed to go back into the house, go to bed—at least lie down and rest even if he couldn’t get to sleep.

He retraced his steps, but his thoughts remained behind, still with that conversation in the Great Room.

Thanks to Johnny, Murdoch now knew that Scott had expected him to say that he *had * come to Boston.  But Murdoch hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it, to admit that he’d tried and failed. And so, he’d failed, yet again.

When Murdoch hadn’t offered him an explanation, Scott had simply walked out.  Days later, after Harlan had left, Murdoch had been prepared to try to explain at least some of it, but he’d waited for Scott to come to him.  Waited too long; looking back, he should have known that Scott wouldn’t ask again.

And now he’d learned that Scott had talked with his grandfather instead. Who knew what story Harlan, desperate to redeem himself, might have told him.

As he entered the hacienda and slowly made his way back through the darkened first floor rooms and up the stairs to his bedchamber, Murdoch acknowledged that he had only himself to blame---after all, he’d had plenty of opportunity. He could have raised the issue any time during that first year, brought up the topic once he’d learned of Harlan’s impending visit, or even once he’d realized what his former father-in-law had in mind.  Yes, he’d assured Harlan that he wouldn’t try to persuade Scott to stay, foolishly agreed not to attempt to influence the young man’s decision, but he hadn’t promised not to answer any questions Scott might ask.

Guilt had reined in his tongue.  He couldn’t convince himself that he’d kept silent about his trip to Boston in order to spare Scott, and it certainly hadn’t been from any desire to protect Harlan. It had been purely to shield himself from seeing the inevitable disappointment in his son’s eyes.

For no matter what he said or how he explained it, it still would be obvious that he hadn’t tried hard enough.  And then he still would have to face the other questions that surely would follow ---including the one Johnny had asked--—why had it taken him so long?  




“You kept my son away from me for twenty four years!” 

That was one of the first things that he’d said to Harlan, when Scott’s grandfather had finally shown up here at the ranch.  He’d been waiting to say it for a very long time. Over the years, Murdoch had proclaimed his hatred of the man each time he announced his grievance to Paul, Sam, Cleve: “He’s kept my son away from me.”  Murdoch had often uttered the words to himself, but he hadn’t ever truly believed it was that clear-cut, not really, not in his heart. Otherwise, he would have said them to Scott.

Murdoch picked up the mallet to attack yet another bent nail, pounding with far more force than was necessary to straighten it. He often came here to the forge to work off his frustrations, to hammer out his anger, to try to force feelings of disappointment and regret to ooze out of him like the sweat seeping through the clothing beneath the leather apron.

How could he ever get rid of his burden of guilt?

Surely not by methodically tapping at crooked nails.

He’d had a sleepless night, knew he wasn’t fit to live with, and had decided to avoid everyone for a few hours. Reaching into the bucket, he drew one thick nail out, decided it was too rusted and tossed it aside. It took a moment to fish out another, his large hands made clumsy by the heavy leather gloves, the pointed pieces of metal shifting and eluding his grasp. Finally he threw two of them down on the anvil, reached for the tongs, selected the more twisted of the pair and began his assault.

Murdoch couldn’t recall many specifics of the angry conversation that had marked the unwelcome reunion with his former father-in-law. The anger had been all on his side, or so it had seemed. Harlan Garrett had appeared calm and supremely confident.  The Bostonian had displayed exactly the same haughty demeanor that had so easily intimidated a poor young immigrant, back when he’d first dared offer himself as a suitor to Catherine.

Catherine.  So lovely, so wise, so sophisticated--- yet at the same time, so very down to earth. It had been more than twenty-five years . . .  Now her father was gone too.  Despite his feelings towards the man, they’d had their love for Catherine in common; with Harlan’s passing, Murdoch couldn’t help but feel the loss of a connection to her.

Murdoch’s last glimpse of Harlan Garrett had been of a subdued, chastened man taking leave of the ranch, with Scott driving his grandfather to meet the stage.  But in that initial interview, Garrett’s control had slipped only when he’d spied his daughter’s portrait.  Not that Murdoch had been inclined towards sympathy.  Though he’d voiced it less often, he had always wanted to blame her father for Catherine’s death.  

He’d voiced it that day, determined to draw first blood, but, surprisingly, Harlan hadn’t defended himself; he’d barely dignified the accusation with a response.  Garrett hadn’t struck back, hadn’t bothered to point out that it had been Murdoch himself who had brought Catherine all the way out here, to California, that it had been Murdoch who had sent her away during the deadly raids.  Not that he’d needed to; it had all been said long ago.

Harlan hadn’t even denied keeping Scott from him; much the opposite, he’d acted as if Scott had been better off having nothing to do with his “dreamer” of a father. Harlan had always referred to them as “sugar dreams,” but Catherine had shared those visions of their future together.

When they’d lost her, it had been Harlan who had been there to lay claim to the child.  Scott, who would never know her, was their strongest tie to the young woman they’d both loved so dearly.  But Murdoch had been given little hope that the infant would survive, and in all honesty, he hadn’t been sure he could face raising their son without her, hadn’t been sure he could face much of anything at all without Catherine. 

Murdoch halted the hammering motions long enough to use his forearm to swipe at the sweat beading on his brow. Catherine. God, he’d loved her.  He’d come to depend upon her as well, her calm, quiet strength, her perceptive and compassionate nature, her loving support. She’d been willing to work alongside him to make their visions a reality—practical dreamers, they’d been.

And despite what he’d said to Johnny, Murdoch had never dared dream that Scott would be so like her.

After his return from Carterville, Murdoch had been determined to put reminders of Catherine aside, believing that would ease his grief.  He’d refused to think about the child who had once figured so prominently in their hopes for the future, though he’d been honestly surprised to learn that everyone at the ranch believed the baby had been lost along with his mother. 

Surprised—and relieved. The rhythmic beat of the mallet upon the anvil increased as he recalled his acquiescence. There was no need to try to explain. Not that there was anything shameful in allowing his son to be raised by relatives, ones who could offer him all sorts of advantages. There had never been any question but that Scott would be well cared for, and most of all, safe, growing up in Boston.

Still, he’d been glad not to have to see the judgment in the eyes of those who wouldn’t comprehend how dead he felt without Catherine, who wouldn’t understand his willingness to be so far away from their ‘nino.’

Ashamed as he was to admit it now, back then, he had been willing. It had taken time and hard work to rebuild the ranch.  He couldn’t have cared for a child; what, after all, had he known about babies, especially ones who came early, who might be frail or sickly?  His infant son was motherless, but he, he’d lost his wife, his helpmate. His Catherine.

To the few letters he’d received from her father, Murdoch had sent short, polite replies. It was good to know that the child was thriving, but he hadn’t allowed himself to be much interested, let alone happy---happiness had simply been beyond him. When he’d received Joe Barker’s request for help, he’d lost no time in packing up his saddlebags and heading south. To earn money for the rebuilding, he’d said; but mostly it was to leave his empty house behind.  The ranch he’d entrusted to the care of the foreman, old Ben Johnson, by then mostly recovered from the bullet he’d taken during one of Haney’s attacks, and to the new man, Paul O’Brien.

He’d worked with Joe for a time, thrown himself into the job. It was a wonder he hadn’t ended up in the cemetery in Abilene with the other deputies; he’d been told quite candidly there was a special section for them.  That would have been good enough; no need for Joe to bother sending his body all the way back to the ranch. 

Then he’d met Maria.

Magical Maria, who had drawn him forcefully from beneath the suffocating blanket of dark and brooding loneliness under which he’d ridden all the way from Lancer to Matamoros.  Only later had he realized that the blazing heat of their love had been too intense to last; but anything less would have failed to thaw his frozen heart.

She’d been several months pregnant when they’d returned to the ranch. He himself had been reborn, and with a renewed faith in the future was already making plans for a life that would include his new wife and their child—--and for the first time he’d begun to contemplate the possibility of Catherine’s boy coming home as well.  He’d briefly considered leaving straightaway, alone, bringing Scott back in time to welcome his new brother or sister. He’d even thought of taking Maria along with him. Neither plan was practical; he was afraid to risk her traveling, and, even if he’d dared to leave Maria alone in her condition, he simply couldn’t be away from the ranch again so soon.  But while riding out on the range, overseeing the herd, he often traveled across the country in his mind.

Murdoch sighed, and examined the bucket of nails. The number had decreased considerably, as he mechanically removed them, straightened them, dropped each one into the wooden box lying on the ground on the other side of the anvil.  An unnecessary exercise, they could afford many new boxes of nails. But back then, when he was first starting out, he’d had to count every penny. 

But he wouldn’t have accepted a penny for his thoughts, since even back then, he’d avoided conversations about the past. He’d told Maria about Catherine, of course, or, at least that he’d been married before. But Murdoch had said nothing about the circumstances of his first wife’s death. Maria had been sympathetic, and hadn’t asked many questions, but once at the ranch, she’d quickly learned the rest of the story.

In contrast to Catherine, who had been full of quiet wonder and contentment, Maria had been invigorated by the child she carried, her body becoming ever more ripe and sensual. But her moods—first anger at her growing discomfort, railing at him, he was to blame—then, without warning abruptly shifting to tearful apologies and fervent promises that she would give him a strong, healthy child.  Always stopping short of saying that she would do what “Catherina” had been unable to, but her meaning had been clear.  She’d insisted too, that her child would be a son, to inherit his father’s grand estancia.

How could he have told her that Catherine had already given him one?

Not unreasonably, Maria had requested that they occupy a different room, a different bed than the one he had shared with his first wife. But he hadn’t recognized the extent of her insecurity until the day she had walked in to find him seated at his desk holding Catherine’s picture in his hand.

She’d furiously accused him of still being in love with his dead wife.   He’d had to deny it.  Then he’d hidden the picture away.

And then, at last, Johnny was born, a precious gift from the beautiful mother he so resembled.  Murdoch had held the dark-haired infant whenever he could, never tiring of watching him yawn, blink, smile.  But at times he found himself picturing another child, one with Catherine’s coloring.  For it was only after Murdoch had cradled his younger son in his arms that Scott had become real for him and his heart had ached at the thought of all he’d missed. He’d become more determined than ever to go after his first born, unite his family---- but how to break the news to Maria?

She’d become moodier, after Johnny was born, and he’d been caught up in the tides of her emotions, swept along in the ever-changing currents.  She accused him of not trusting her, of keeping secrets.  Of course, it was partly true, and at times he’d feared that she had somehow found out about Scott.

The sad truth was that Murdoch hadn’t trusted her, or at least that he hadn’t trusted her not to react with hurt and bitter anger, not to accuse him of planning to displace her child with another.  Looking back, it had been a mistake, not telling her.  Then again, she might have left him even sooner, had she known.

But she’d never known, though it had taken the previous evening’s conversation with Johnny to confirm that fact.  Maria had told Johnny terrible lies about him, and she no doubt would have used Scott as a weapon as well.  After she’d left, he’d gone after her, tried desperately to find her, and failed. He’d returned to the ranch sporadically until finally one day he had announced that he was through riding south, that instead he was going East, to fetch his son. Catherine’s son.

Murdoch had known even then what it would look like, to Ben, Paul, and the others, once they’d gotten over their stunned surprise.   They must have thought that he hadn’t really cared about Scott, that he was only trying to replace what he’d lost, the child that Maria had so cruelly taken from him.  It must have seemed that way to Harlan, and would have appeared so to a Boston judge---if Murdoch had dared to face one. 

That was what Scott must think now.

Murdoch’s foot found the bucket, and he kicked it hard against the wall.

His breathing ragged, Murdoch stood staring at the dented container rolling on the ground, some of its contents spilling out onto the hard-packed dirt.

A replacement . . . In a way, it had even been true; he loved Johnny so much and he wanted to be a father again.  Catherine’s death, the ranch, Joe, Maria, Johnny--- none of it seemed now to be a good enough answer to the question of why he’d waited so long to go to Boston.  How could he present his grief as an excuse?  Still, there was no question that Scott should have heard the story from him. Fifty-five years old, and he hadn’t learned anything. Not a damn thing.

Murdoch wearily crossed the yard, but not to retrieve the bucket—instead he turned his back on it and sat down heavily on the wooden bench.   He swallowed hard as his head dropped into his hands, his sudden anger now completely smothered by regret. 

What he’d told Johnny had been true—he couldn’t have afforded the time and the cost of a court battle, a battle he was likely to lose anyway, and which could have proven harmful to Scott.  He couldn’t have matched what Harlan could provide---was already providing. What reasons could he have given for taking the child from the only home he’d ever known? He’d had little else to offer the boy.  He could no longer promise that Scott would have a loving stepmother and adoring younger brother, couldn’t offer evidence in court of his own strong paternal feelings towards him, couldn’t have justified allowing five years to slip by.  Not challenging Harlan had been a painful, but practical decision.

And he’d been a stranger to his son.  Scott hadn’t known him. It had been humiliating, standing there in a house in which he’d never felt welcome, looking down into that serious child’s face.  Being introduced as Harlan’s “friend” Murdoch.  Why the hell hadn’t he properly identified himself? What could Harlan have done?  He’d often wondered how his life might have changed if only he’d insisted upon staying for the boy’s birthday party.  It was unlikely that Harlan would have risked disrupting the event by forcing him out. How many times over the years had he berated himself with the same damn questions?  He hadn’t done anything, hadn’t said anything other than “hello”---- just stood there grasping that small hand, looking into Catherine’s eyes under hair that matched hers, and seeing Harlan Garrett’s grandson.

He’d been convinced the man would never relinquish custody, and would even place the child in the middle if necessary—but Garrett might have been willing to compromise to stay out of court.  It hadn’t occurred to Murdoch until he’d already been on the way back west, that he could possibly have negotiated and salvaged some connection to his son.

<<“My son”>>—he’d kept telling himself that. He’d treasured that glimpse, tried to hold onto the image. But God help him, he hadn’t been able to picture that polite, well-dressed little boy living here at the ranch.

There’d been only considerate silence when he’d returned, empty-handed.  No one had said much of anything, not even Ben or Paul, though they must have had questions.  He’d told those two some of it, after a few rounds of drinks in town, on a Saturday night.  Others had no doubt heard some of the details from them.  But for the most part, it was almost as if the trip to Boston hadn’t taken place.  Murdoch had been quite grateful, when in the aftermath, everyone else at the ranch had generously chosen to avoid the topic altogether.

Not that he’d stayed put very long. He’d formulated new plans to try to track down Maria and Johnny, then headed back out on the trail. It was a miracle he’d held onto the ranch in those days.

Murdoch rose wearily, removed the leather apron and hung it on a nail. Then he slowly walked over to the bucket, carefully folded his long legs into a crouch and began to gather up the scattered nails.




<<“You’re gonna have to take care of Scott.”>>

Teresa’s eyelids fluttered open and she stared at the ceiling of the darkened drawing room.  It was Johnny’s voice that had wakened her, repeating what he’d said that morning when she and Scott were leaving the ranch.  It was wonderful how the two brothers looked out for each other, and so like Johnny to be concerned about Scott. Not that Scott very often needed taking care of---in fact he was the one who usually seemed to look out for everyone else. 

With a sigh, she rolled onto her side, one arm reaching up to hug the pillow under her head, and felt the soothing, constant motion of the train carrying them across the miles even while they slept. She had hoped that even if she couldn’t “take care of” Scott, she would at least be of some help to him. But so far, she’d been no help at all.

Learning the truth about who had actually summoned him to the ranch had clearly unsettled him, though they hadn’t spoken of it again. Scott had been very quiet the past few days, spending his time reading, writing letters or working on the piece he was going to deliver at his grandfather’s memorial service.  Today though, he’d talked quite a bit about Boston, outlining the events that would take place there as well as describing his house and the people she would meet.

She’d finally asked him what it had been like, growing up there with Mr. Garrett. Scott had told her about their travels together and shared a few happy memories of life with his grandfather. The changing seasons had figured prominently in his recollections and the demarcation was clearly much more dramatic than it was in California. Scott was especially happy that it would be almost autumn when they arrived, though he said he was sorry that he wouldn’t be able to show her “Boston in winter.”

Not surprisingly, in speaking of his childhood, Scott made no mention of his father’s absence from his life. Teresa wondered how much he’d known about Murdoch, but she’d been reluctant to bring up her guardian’s name. She’d half hoped to hear some hint that Scott was sorry that he hadn’t grown up at the ranch with Murdoch, some suggestion that he felt he’d missed something. But Scott hadn’t said anything to indicate that he had any regrets at all. In fact, it was becoming quite clear that if it were not for the sad purpose of their eastward journey, Scott would have been very much looking forward to returning to Boston.

<<“You just make sure and bring him back.”>>

When Johnny had whispered those words into her ear, she’d thought he was joking; of course Scott would come back to Lancer. But now, lying here in the dark, she was afraid. Scott had family in Boston, and friends. It sounded as if there were so many things to do there—the theater and the symphony, dances and dinner parties. He’d talked about taking her shopping in the city, had mentioned dining at several favorite restaurants. What if Scott had had his fill of herding cattle and clearing streams and drinking warm beer at the saloon in Green River? She was certainly well aware of how much he disliked the dust and heat of California. 

And now Scott knew that Murdoch hadn’t sent that Pinkerton agent. His “invitation” to Lancer hadn’t been from his father after all.

And that was her fault.

Teresa wasn’t sure if she’d allowed an unhappy sound to escape her lips, but she pressed them firmly together when she heard the rustle of movement in the other bed. 

The bed she was sleeping in had been formed from two plush armchairs. Each evening, George or one of the other porters knocked and requested permission to set up the drawing room for sleeping. The curtains were drawn and pillows, sheets and blankets removed from overhead storage compartments.  The sofa pulled out into a very roomy bed and Teresa had slept in that one the first night. Each drawing room could accommodate four people, but since Scott was still using a berth in the adjacent sleeping car, Teresa had had the space to herself. 

Then, last night, they had dined with the Miss Harringtons, two middle-aged sisters from New York state, Miss Virginia and Miss Louisa.  The dining car had been added to the train in Ogden and in Teresa’s mind it rivaled even Sacramento’s Eagle Restaurant in elegance.

The compact kitchen occupied the center of the dining car. Teresa had had a glimpse inside; she couldn’t imagine how so much food could possibly be stored and prepared in such a small space. There were dining rooms at either end of the car, finished in black walnut and well lighted by large hanging lamps.  The tables were covered with beautiful snow-white linen cloths and were each set with silverware, china and crystal glasses for four people. Each dining room held six tables; when Scott and Teresa had entered the car, Miss Louisa had waved them over and invited them to join her and her sister at their table; they had previously become acquainted while dining at one of the eating houses.

Miss Louisa and Miss Virginia were aspiring travel writers, hoping to write a guide for ladies planning excursions across the country by train.  The two sisters were apparently from a somewhat moneyed family, were well-read and peppered their conversation with phrases from a smattering of languages. Miss Louisa had previously informed them that her sister was a “très” talented watercolorist and cellist, while Miss Virginia had extolled Louisa’s ability as a pianist. She had also assured them that her older sister was quite an accomplished gardener, as well as something of an authority on ferns. Most entertaining, to Teresa at least, the two ladies had vied to outdo each other in describing their misadventures in the kitchen; it seemed that one thing that neither woman could do was cook.

As usual, Scott had helped her with her seat, and he’d hardly settled in his own chair beside her before the Harringtons had started asking questions about their drawing room.  Scott had politely invited them to visit and see the compartment for themselves. After much protestation, insisting that they “didn’t wish to intrude,” the sisters had happily accepted. And before they had finished the main course, Teresa had invited them to leave behind their berths in the sleeping car to occupy the double bed in the drawing room.

She’d hesitated; after all, Scott had hired the room, and he was paying fifty dollars for it. But she’d caught his eye when Miss Louisa was bemoaning the noise and discomforts of the sleeping car and Scott had smiled and nodded his encouragement. 

“For shame, Sister!” Miss Virginia had said, scolding Louisa and accusing her of hinting for just such an invitation.  Red-faced, Miss Louisa had quickly apologized and insisted that they couldn’t possibly impose in such a manner.

Then there had been an awkward silence, into which Scott had inserted a smooth assurance that as the space was available, it would be no imposition at all.  Both of the women had smiled happily and thanked “Mr. Lancer” profusely for his kindness. On her side, Teresa had made sure the first evening to emphasize to the sisters that Scott would need quiet and privacy each day in order to work on his eulogy.  The next morning, she’d risked being rude by reminding them again, and had been gratified when they had vacated the compartment promptly and stayed away during the day.

Now, the Harrington sisters were apparently sleeping soundly, while Teresa continued to lie awake, thinking about Scott and Boston, wondering about his grandfather and Murdoch.  She kept recalling different parts of conversations she had had with Scott; in particular, painfully reliving her revelation about Dr. Jenkins having hired the Pinkerton agent. And she kept hearing Johnny’s voice, telling her to be sure to bring Scott back.

Teresa squeezed the pillow more tightly and tried to quiet those voices inside her head. She told herself not to worry, things always seemed worse in the night. She reminded herself that Scott had chosen to come West, and decided to stay. He had to come back. She knew him, and she knew he was happy living with them at Lancer.

But Johnny knew Scott better than anyone; if Johnny was worried, then perhaps she should be too.




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 12. 


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



“Sending for that boy was one of the smartest things you ever did, Murdoch.”

Murdoch had merely nodded in response to Sam’s comment; it was exactly the kind of blunt statement that Sam Jenkins didn’t shy away from making, no matter who was sitting across the table.

Sam had been out early to help deliver the Ramos baby, and had stopped in on his way back to town. The plain-spoken country doctor had easily been persuaded to join them for dinner.  In the course of the mid-day meal, they’d discussed Scott and his trip to Boston; Sam hadn’t heard the news about Garrett’s passing and had numerous questions about the impact the event was likely to have on Scott.  Johnny seemed to know a good deal about Harlan’s will and all that Scott was in line to inherit from his grandfather.

Once he’d finished eating, Johnny headed back to work while the two older men lingered. Although it was a bit early in the day for it, Murdoch poured himself a half tumbler of scotch, and then moved to one of the blue armchairs, while Sam seemed content with another cup of Maria’s strong dark coffee. Murdoch waited as his friend remained at the table a moment, thoughtfully stirring in his customary single level teaspoon of sugar before joining him in the sitting area.

Once settled on the sofa, Sam took a few appreciative sips before he finally spoke.

“So Murdoch, how long do you expect Scott to be away?”

“That’s hard to say, Sam. He has a lot of things to take care of.  I’d say he’ll be gone a month, at least.”

Sam carefully placed his half empty cup and saucer on the side table near the sofa, and then turned the full force of his steely-eyed gaze upon Murdoch.

“If I read the boy right, Johnny’s worried. Is there any chance that Scott might not be coming back?”

“He’ll be back, Sam, I’m sure of that.”

Sam continued to stare at him, unblinking. Murdoch stubbornly waited for his old friend to ask a question, to openly express his clearly held doubt.  

“What makes you so sure?” Sam asked with a sigh.

Murdoch lowered his eyes, taking no pleasure in this particular victory.  “He has Teresa with him,” he said evenly. Then he finished his scotch.

Sam shook his head, a disapproving expression taking hold of his angular features. “So Scott has to bring her home, is that it? Was that your idea?”

“No. Scott invited her to go with him.” Murdoch sighed as he set aside his empty glass. “Originally, Johnny and I planned to follow them, but we would have needed to leave today to get to Boston in time for the memorial service. And we would have had to come straight back.”

“It would have been a lot of traveling.”

Murdoch nodded. He considered refilling his glass, actually filling it this time, but decided to wait until after Sam had left. Sam reached for his coffee cup once more, stirred what remained and then savored it before speaking again.

“You were very lucky, Murdoch, that Scott was willing to listen to that agent, and came out here. Best thing that could have happened, if you ask me.” There was a chinking sound as Sam set the cup back on its saucer. “Too bad you were stubborn enough to wait until you were practically dead before you finally decided to send for him.”

Murdoch had spent the last several days chewing upon the things he should have done differently when Scott was a child, dwelling upon the now pressing need to talk to his son about the past. He’d somehow mostly avoided thoughts of more recent failures.  But there it was again, the other piece.

“Well . . . I didn’t, Sam.”

Sam snorted. “Didn’t die? No, you didn’t and I’d put that down to stubbornness as well. It was a touchy business, taking that bullet out.”

“I didn’t decide to send for him.”

“What do you mean?  Teresa told me—”

“I told Teresa to send word to Scott if I *didn’t * make it.”

“Now, that’s not what the girl told me—”

“I know, Sam. She lied----and I’m glad, damned glad, she did.”

“Well. I never . .  . well, it’s a wonder Scott came, the message we sent.”

Sam drained his cup.  Then, shaking his head, he slowly rose and moved to refill it from the coffee pot that still sat on the dining table. Murdoch watched him repeat his ritual with the sugar.

When Sam returned, instead of resuming his seat, he stood sipping at his coffee, looking down at Murdoch speculatively. “First he’d ever heard from you, isn’t that right?”

“Sam, Garrett would never have let Scott read a letter from me.”

Sam shrugged, and set his cup down on the side table.  “I suppose that was true enough, when he was a child.”

Despite the thoughtful tone, his friend’s words stung just as much as any finger-pointing accusation.  Murdoch made no effort to hide his irritation.  If he wanted another drink he was damn well going to pour himself one, and it didn’t matter if Sam Jenkins had anything to say about it.  In fact, if Sam had any comments to make about how stiffly he lifted himself out of his chair, or the fact that he was limping as he stepped over to the liquor table, then let him.  The long days were taking their toll; Murdoch knew he was in no shape to go traveling across the country.

Murdoch waited for Sam to make some caustic remark, but when he looked back over his shoulder, his friend was preoccupied with wiping his bulbous nose with a handkerchief.  After deliberately repocketing the fabric square, Sam reached for his coffee cup again.

“You did go to Boston, once?”

The question prompted Murdoch to turn his attention to refilling his still empty glass. It was another one of Sam’s annoying habits, asking questions when he already knew the answers.  When Johnny was born, Sam Jenkins was just starting up his practice; he’d delivered the baby believing he was Murdoch’s first child.  The two men hadn’t been well acquainted back then, but Sam most certainly did know about that wasted trip east.

“It was after Maria left, wasn’t it?”

Murdoch set the cut glass decanter down on the table with considerably more force than he’d intended.

“I went again, a few years later. I didn’t tell anyone.”


“And, Scott wasn’t there. He was visiting relatives.  I stayed with an old friend. I’m sure Harlan never even knew I was in town.”

“Does Scott know?”

“No. At least, I haven’t told him,” Murdoch added glumly.

“Well, I think you should.”

Sam was right, of course, not that that made it any easier to hear. Johnny had said much the same thing, that he and Scott “had ta talk.”

Murdoch couldn’t deny the truth of that, any more than he could deny that the conversation should have taken place a long time ago.  And he should have written letters, of course he knew that too, had tried to so many times over the years.    He’d never known quite where to begin, never known how to explain things to a child.  And if he had actually sent a letter, how, after all, would he ever have known if it had arrived safely in Boston, let alone made it’s way into Scott’s hands?  Still, with each passing year, he’d been burdened with the ever increasing weight of what he “should do.”  Finally, with his son’s twenty-first birthday looming, Murdoch had found a new determination, valiantly struggling to write page after page, only to send them crumpling to the floor in anger and frustration.  He was a stranger to his son; what reason did he have to think the young man would have the least interest in anything he had to say?  Murdoch had come to view it as his one last opportunity, certain that if he ever actually sent a letter to Scott, that would be the end of it.  Since he had no real expectation of receiving a reply, Murdoch steeled himself to endure the anticipated silence of rejection, and swore that he would never try again.

Perhaps that was why he hadn’t been able to bring himself to finish writing that letter.

It had been easy, when Scott was a child, to self-righteously refuse to send any messages that would prompt a response from Harlan, exulting over how much the boy was thriving in his care.  Convinced that Garrett would have withheld from Scott any and all communications from California, Murdoch had resolved to deny his former father-in-law that small satisfaction as well.

He’d only deviated from that course once.  A few years after his second wasted trip East, Murdoch had decided that his son was old enough, and so had swallowed his pride and sent a letter to Boston, inviting Scott to the ranch for the summer.  It would have been a long, difficult trip, but he’d thought to forestall Garrett’s objections by offering to meet the boy en route or even travel all the way to Boston himself, if need be.   The journey wouldn’t have been dangerous at that time of year, at least not until they reached the mountains.  He’d promised that Scott would be back in plenty of time to resume his studies in the fall.  After ruminating over the plan for months, Murdoch finally sat down and wrote a letter, sending it into town with one of the hands the very next day, before he could change his mind.

Of course, he’d expected it might be a month or more before he would have a reply. He’d spent that time alternately regretting offering Garrett the opportunity of a summary refusal, and worrying that the man might actually agree and the boy would come—and be utterly miserable.  As months passed, he repeatedly interrogated the hapless ranch hand he’d entrusted with the missive—Tom something or other, the man had moved on by the next season.  Murdoch had been consumed by impotent anger and, finally, despair, believing that Garret hadn’t even deigned to respond. 

But weeks after he’d given up hope, when the summer was already half spent, an envelope finally arrived from Boston.  It contained a politely formal explanation that “Scotty’s” plans for the summer had already been made well in advance, that he “always” spent time with Harlan’s half-sister, Cecilia Holmes, and her husband up in Maine.  The following summer would include as well a trip to Canada with friends, and then after that Harlan himself planned to take his grandson on a tour of the Continent. There were a few lines extolling the benefits of European travel. Garrett had concluded the brief letter with an assurance that it was doubtful that “Scotty” would be very much interested in visiting a ranch.

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried. He had, dammit! Two humiliating trips to Boston, a rejected invitation. Back then, it had seemed like too much, but now Murdoch knew that it hadn’t been nearly enough.  And he hadn’t wanted to admit to Scott how little he’d done.

But Scott had never asked, Murdoch reminded himself defensively, only the one time, and then he’d never raised the question again. Of course, that meant Scott had assumed there was nothing to be said.  Or else that he’d gotten his answers, elsewhere.

After Sam had finished his second cup of coffee and headed back to town, Murdoch sat for a long time with only his dark and brooding thoughts for company.  Sitting in the daylight this time, and now he could see his course more clearly.  Moving to the chair behind his big desk, Murdoch purposefully cleared off the polished surface.  Carefully assembling writing paper, pen, ink and blotter, he started to write a letter, one that was many years over due.

He worked steadily throughout the afternoon, and was just signing his name when Johnny came in for supper.




Throughout the afternoon, Scott watched the passing scenery, enjoying the increasing familiarity of the countryside. Not that he recognized the particular areas through which they were passing, but the forests, fields, trees and hills, reminded him of New England, even though they had yet to officially enter his home territory.  The train would arrive in New York City quite early the next morning and in Boston some five hours after that.

They’d already dined and the porter had made up the drawing room beds; the Harrington sisters wished to retire early in preparation for disembarking from the train the next day.  So Scott sat here in the common area of the parlor car looking out the window as the sun slowly set.  Now that the lamps inside the car were lit he could no longer actually see anything outside, but that wasn’t what he’d stared at for the past hour anyway. Scott found that as they drew nearer to Boston, he was becoming more preoccupied with memories of growing up on Beacon Hill.

He looked forward to his reunion with Aunt Cecilia and the various members of his grandfather’s household staff, a few of whom had been employed for as long as Scott could remember. What was difficult to imagine was entering that house knowing that Grandfather wouldn’t be there.

Teresa shifted slightly in her seat; she’d sat quietly beside him for the last hour or so.  He’d been well aware of the furtive, concerned looks she’d been sending in his direction for the past several days, and reasoned that she still felt unhappy about her revelation concerning his summons to Lancer.  Scott himself had tried, unsuccessfully, to put it out of his mind; it certainly wouldn’t have helped to talk more about it.  They’d said all there was to say.

He had thought a bit about Teresa’s question—did it really matter who had sent the agent?  An emphatic “yes” had been his initial mental response, but after giving it some thought, he was less sure.   Learning that the ‘invitation’ had been extended by well-meaning friends might actually be an improvement over believing that Murdoch Lancer had finally sent for him simply because he needed another gun to help defend his ranch.  Giving the man the benefit of the doubt, perhaps his father had refrained from contacting him at that time precisely to avoid the appearance of only doing so out of need.

<<”My father.”>>  Those words evoked very different feelings now than they had only a few years before.  Almost immediately, Scott had been favorably impressed both by Murdoch’s accomplishments and the obvious loyalty he commanded from his men. Over time, Scott’s sincere admiration had been joined by affection, even if he still couldn’t quite imagine calling Murdoch “Father.”  He did, however, often address Murdoch, very deliberately as “Sir.”  As a child, Scott had been told that “Sir” was the ‘proper’ title for any older gentleman, and of course it had been expected for officers in the army. But once his military service had ended, Scott had resolved that he would in the future reserve the term only for men who had actually earned his respect. Murdoch Lancer had done so.

Scott had thought the feeling was mutual, but the rebuff he’d been given when he’d finally asked Murdoch why he’d never come to Boston had for a time called that into doubt.  Now, having learned the truth about his summons to the ranch, Scott couldn’t help but wonder how his father truly felt about him, and what other secrets were yet to be revealed.   Scott would never regret having met the man, but the question still remained whether or not, left to his own devices, Murdoch would have ever sent for him.

It wasn’t a question that anyone could answer. Weary of the wing beats of his own ever-circling thoughts, Scott wished to be free of the confines of the train, with its constant noise and motion.  He’d welcome equally the opportunity to ride the range or to walk along city streets.  Instead, he turned to Teresa with a question about her thoughts on train travel, now that she’d “done so much of it.”  She smiled warmly, responding with a fine approximation of her customary enthusiasm.

“But I suppose that it’s no longer very exciting for you,” she added.

“I have spent considerable time on trains.”

“Really? How old were you when you took your first trip?”

Scott had to consider that for a moment. “Well, we sometimes took the train north to visit Aunt Cecilia and her husband at holidays, and in the summer.  I must have been about seven or eight years old, the first time I traveled to Maine on my own.”

“All alone?”

Scott grinned.  “Yes, and it seemed like a great adventure at the time. But Grandfather put me on the train in Boston and Uncle Elwood was waiting at the station in Brunswick to take me off.  Then they reversed the process, for the return trip.”

“How far is it?”

“I’m not sure of the distance, in miles. But I’ve heard that when Aunt Cecilia first married, the trip took them two and a half days. Now, it’s only six hours.”

“It’s nice that your grandfather was always there waiting for you.”

“Well . . . not always. Once I was older, it would be our driver, James, who would wait on the platform. Grandfather would stay in the carriage, or if it was during the work day, wait for James to bring me round to his office.”

“Will he—James---be waiting for us when we get there?”

“Yes. I’ve already asked the conductor to have a wire sent from New York, letting Aunt Cee know the time of our arrival.”

Scott had been sitting with his hands lightly clasped and resting on his thighs. Now he studied his hands for a moment, remembering.  Sighing, Scott stared once more through the darkened pane of glass.

“The last time Grandfather met me at the station, I was coming home from the War.”

When Teresa didn’t reply right away, Scott dared hope that he hadn’t uttered the thought aloud.  Though they’d often talked about their pasts, he’d always carefully kept the conversation away from any references to the War, and particularly anything that might touch upon his imprisonment.

“You . . . you must have been so happy to see each other again.”

Scott nodded soberly, without looking at her. “He was waiting on the platform that time, I saw him from the window as the car moved past.” 

What Scott couldn’t try to explain was what he’d actually felt when he’d seen Grandfather there waiting.  He wasn’t sure that he’d ever understood it himself, exactly, the reasons why he felt ashamed.  Despite having eagerly anticipated arriving in Boston, despite his absolute joy at the thought of being in familiar, comfortable and safe surroundings once more, Scott had suddenly been reluctant to leave the confines of the railroad car.  He had, in fact, remained motionless in his seat until all of the other passengers had departed.

“I’m sure you couldn’t wait to get off the train.”

“No,” he’d said, and then lapsed into silence.




When Scott finally stepped out onto the platform, he entered a whirl of motion, with people hurrying about, some of them struggling under the weight of their traveling bags, their clothing buffeted by the stiff spring breeze.

He himself was empty handed; the thread-bare coat and ill-fitting uniform he’d been given upon his release from Libby fluttered about his gaunt frame.  The long hair in front of his eyes obscured his view.  Pushing the blond strands away from his face, Scott had no difficulty making out his grandfather’s stiffly erect form some distance down the platform, a solitary island in a sea of movement.

Grandfather faced away from him, looking in the opposite direction as Scott started walking towards him. Other passengers were being welcomed with warm smiles and hugs. Scott had to weave his way through groups of people loudly and happily exchanging greetings. Finally, his grandfather turned towards him, eagerly searching.  But there was no sign of recognition, not right away.

Scott couldn’t blame Grandfather for that; when he looked in a mirror he had a hard time recognizing himself.  He’d tried hard to scrub away the filth, and on the surface he had, but he knew the stain had gone deeper; perhaps that was why he’d kept the protective layer of beard, trimming it instead of shaving it all away.  His face had changed in other ways as well.  He wasn’t the same—how could he be?  Anyone who looked into his eyes would know.

Resolutely, Scott continued his approach, willing himself not to falter when he drew close enough to see the uncharacteristic display of emotion on the older man’s face.  Willing himself to conceal his dismay at how much his grandfather had aged.   

Coming to a halt, a few feet way, Scott had to bow his head when Grandfather spoke his name, embarrassed by both the familiar diminutive and his own emotional reaction to it.  His hands remained thrust deep in the pockets of his second-hand coat when his grandfather reached out to awkwardly pat his shoulder. 


Grandfather repeated the name, a note of uncertainty in his voice. 

They exchanged a few formal words of greeting; Grandfather was pleased to see him, Scott was happy to be home.  The crowd continued to surge around them.

“And where are your bags, Scotty?”

“I  . . . don’t have any, Sir.”

And with that, Grandfather took charge, forcefully escorting Scott to the carriage and directing James to take them home “straight away.”

The driver held the door, smiling broadly. “Welcome back, Master Scott.  It sure is good to see you home.”

Scott managed a quick, “Thank you, James,” and then Grandfather was urging him inside.

Once they were settled, Scott near the window, and his grandfather seated beside him, the older man had tried to combat the lengthening silence with a battery of matter-of-fact statements. Scott half listened while Grandfather informed him that the entire staff would be waiting to welcome him; Mrs. Hudson had a special supper prepared.  His grandfather mentioned that a new gardener had been hired, with elaborate plans for plantings later in the spring. He observed that Scott would no doubt immediately notice the new shutters, but assured him that nothing inside the house had been changed.

Scott nodded woodenly, staring out the window at the familiar cityscape while Grandfather forged on, for some reason eschewing his favorite topics of business and politics. Instead he relayed the news that an elderly cousin had passed away last winter, there’d been less snow than usual this year, countless friends and acquaintances had asked after him.  An awkward silence ensued once the arsenal of information was depleted. Surely the past year in Boston could not have been so uneventful?

“Grandfather . . .  tell me . . .”

“Yes, Scotty?”

“Tell me who won’t be coming back.”

There was a long pause, and for a moment, Scott thought that he might have to ask again. Then, slowly, tentatively, his grandfather began to list the names of the fallen. There were so many names, too many, but only some of them were painfully familiar. There were social acquaintances, such as Robert Emmett, killed at Bull Run.  Andrew Smith, a former employee, had died on another battlefield.  Other men were identified by the names of those they’d left behind.  Mrs. Hudson, their long time cook, had lost a nephew; their neighbor Mrs. Wilmot mourned her husband, an officer in the infantry.   Thankfully, there was no mention of any close friends, like John Hayford who’d died at Gettysburg prior to Scott’s own enlistment.  The litany ended with a reference to Simon Merrill, one of Grandfather’s business associates, whose own grandson had died in captivity, in Andersonville.

“Thank you, Sir. I  . . . wanted to know.”

Grandfather didn’t say anything, though Scott thought he might have nodded. He himself sat motionless, still looking out the window with his hands loosely clasped and resting on his thighs.  They’d entered an area of imposing brick structures, much like their own residence. When he felt his grandfather reach for him, Scott blinked hard to keep those passing houses in view. For the remainder of the trip home, he held on tightly.

When the carriage turned into the drive, his grandfather was still holding his hand.



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 13.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“This is Miss O’Brien, my father’s ward.”

Scott had introduced her that way, so many times now.

Teresa set her embroidery aside and looked out at the trees visible through the second story window of her very comfortable guest bedroom.  “Beacon Hill” that’s what Scott had called it, an area of beautiful homes within the city of Boston larger than many of the towns she’d been in.  When the carriage had pulled up in front of the imposing three-story brick mansion four days ago, she’d been more than impressed. There were graceful arches over the first floor windows and the front door, with wide stone steps leading up to the entrance. Every one of the windows was trimmed in white paint with black shutters on either side. As soon as they had walked through the gate of the elegant wrought iron fence that surrounded the front lawn, the door had opened to reveal a white haired gentleman dressed in black.  For one startled moment, Teresa had thought that it might be Mr. Garrett himself; she’d even uttered a surprised “oh!”  Thank goodness Scott hadn’t seemed to notice, since it was not, of course, his grandfather, but Mr. Garrett’s butler.

Scott had greeted the somber-faced man as “Fredericks” and once they’d reached the entry, had been about to respond to the butler’s formal words of condolence when they’d been interrupted by a feminine voice murmuring Scott’s name. Fredericks had discreetly stepped aside to allow the approach of a woman in a long black dress, with silvery upswept hair.

Scott’s Aunt Cecilia had hurried forward to grasp her nephew’s hands. He kissed her upraised cheek and they quietly exchanged a few words before Scott turned to make his introduction. Smiling through her tears, Mrs. Holmes had pulled Teresa into a welcoming embrace.

Then Fredericks had led them through the foyer to a wide hallway that opened onto an area where the entire household staff stood assembled in a row beneath the curving banister of a magnificent staircase.  Scott moved along the line, greeting each man or woman in turn. He’d listened to their expressions of regret, paused to console the cook, Mrs. Hudson, and engaged in lengthier conversations with the senior employees. And he’d introduced her to each one as his father’s ward.

The number of people, the size of the house—Scott had taken her through it before supper---- it had all been rather overwhelming.  Teresa was glad to be off the train. Truthfully, she’d become weary of sitting and having altogether too much time to think.  The first evening in Boston they’d shared a quiet meal with Mrs. Holmes, but since then, the days had been a constant flurry of activity.  Neighbors had come by to visit, including Will Hayford’s mother and older brother. Many other people had left cards when they found that Scott was out.

Scott had been “out” a good deal, running errands, having fittings for the suits he’d ordered from Sacramento.  Scott had also been spending a great deal of time at his grandfather’s office, consulting with his cousin, Wade Garrett.

Actually, it was Scott’s grandfather and Wade Garrett’s father who were cousins, although Wade had apparently worked for Mr. Garrett for quite some time and referred to him as “Uncle Harlan.”  A stocky, bearded young man, Wade Garrett had accompanied Scott home to dine with them their second evening in Boston. Scott had still been attired in his black Western clothes, but Teresa had worn a very pretty, deep violet colored dress on loan from Melissa Harper.  Mrs. Holmes had been kind enough to arrange for a message to be sent to Melissa, Melissa had sent a carriage and Teresa had spent a few hours visiting with her that afternoon. 

Both young men complimented her, and then Wade Garrett posed several polite questions about the trip east while Scott talked quietly with Mrs. Holmes until Fredericks appeared with a stack of letters. The butler was also carrying a small tray filled with cards that he presented to Scott.  Apparently visitors turned down one corner of the card to indicate the purpose of the call. Mrs. Holmes had explained earlier that a folded lower right corner meant “Condolence.”




Teresa watched Scott smile as he considered one of the larger calling cards, saying that he’d known the man well at Harvard, but hadn’t heard much from him since.  He quickly shuffled through the rest until he came to one that gave him pause.  Scott studied the card and then looked up at Mr. Fredericks quizzically.

 “Fredericks . . . Mr. John Dennison was here today?”

<<Dennison.>> That had been Julie’s name.

“Yes, Mr. Lancer, he was here this afternoon. Accompanied by a Mr. William Prescott.”

“That’s Julie’s husband, Scott,” Wade Garrett said helpfully.  “You did know she was married?”

“Yes, I knew.” Scott turned his attention to the remaining cards.

“Going to have a baby too, I hear. Did you know that?”

“Yes, I’d heard,” Scott responded, with a glance at his aunt. Cecilia Holmes frowned at Wade Garrett, gently reproving him for his “indelicate” remark.

“Well, perhaps there’s one thing you haven’t heard yet, as I did ask Aunt Cecilia not to say anything.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m engaged to be married myself.”

Scott looked surprised and mechanically offered his congratulations. He glanced downwards briefly before turning to address the butler with a smile. “Fredericks, perhaps you might select something special from the wine cellar to toast my cousin’s news.”

“Very good, Sir. Also, if I may point out, amongst your correspondence you’ll find a telegraph message. The boy didn’t wait for a response, so I presumed it wasn’t urgent.”

The butler departed and Scott sifted through the envelopes until he located the one containing the wire.  When he shot her a glance across the room, Teresa knew the message was from Lancer.  Scott’s neutral expression didn’t change as he quickly scanned the few lines.

“It’s from Mur—my father.  It seems he and Johnny won’t be making the trip.”

“Well, now, that is too bad, Scott. I would’ve liked to meet them.”

Mrs. Holmes murmured something sympathetic as well.  Before Teresa could decide what to say, Scott had already folded the slip of paper and placed it in the pocket of his black jacket. “Perhaps another time,” he said evenly. “Now, Wade, when will I have the honor of meeting the future Mrs. Garrett?”

It was impossible to tell whether it bothered Scott that Murdoch and Johnny weren’t coming, not that she would have expected him to show it. The news certainly hadn’t been a complete surprise, although in light of what he’d recently learned about his father, Teresa was worried that Scott might even be glad.



He found the letters first.

They were his own letters, pages of neat script posted from California, full of detailed descriptions of his new life, filed along with copies of his grandfather’s replies.  Recent enough that they seemed reassuringly familiar, when he skimmed through them.

Initially, Scott had avoided the study; he’d allowed himself only a quick glance inside when he’d given Teresa a tour of the house the first evening. Walking through the upstairs hall past his grandfather’s bedchamber, seeing the unoccupied chair at the dining room table--- there were already stark reminders of Grandfather’s absence at every turn.

This evening, Wade had joined them for supper and Scott had assumed the place at the head of the table.  Finally, after his cousin had departed and Teresa and Aunt Cee had both retired for the evening, Scott entered the room that had been his grandfather’s sanctuary.  He had deliberately refrained from asking any questions about where and in what condition Grandfather had been found, but it was impossible to look around the study without wondering.  Shaking off those thoughts, he moved directly to the desk with a determined step. Once seated, Scott took a moment to gather himself, and then arbitrarily selected one of the lower drawers, only to find the well-organized collection of correspondence.

After spending an hour looking over those recent communications, Scott removed a second folder from the same drawer, and found another series of letters.  They were older ones, shorter messages, many hastily scrawled beside some campfire. Some of his carefully self-censored accounts were so badly smudged or mud stained that they were difficult to read.  In the file as well were meticulous copies of his grandfather’s missives to “Lt. Scott Lancer,” many of which Scott had never received.

Those were lengthy letters, most of them, the evidence of Grandfather’s futile attempt to maintain a line of communication effectively blocked by the walls of Libby Prison.   Scott could almost hear his grandfather’s typically perfunctory, matter-of-fact tone as he dispensed with the standard openings, bluntly informing his grandson that he expected to hear from him soon. The detailed descriptions of all the activities his grandfather had planned for him upon his return would have been a great comfort, had Scott read about them while at Libby. As Grandfather went on to relay various bits of news, Scott easily imagined the older man’s enthusiasm or harsh disapproval, depending upon the topic. What he could neither hear in the words nor see on the pages were indications of worry or deep concern.

He didn’t need to. That first day at the train station, it had been clearly displayed on Grandfather’s face, just how hard that year had been.

Not long after the hall clock had chimed the eleventh hour, the door to the study swung open. Startled by the movement, Scott looked up, half expecting his grandfather to enter.

Instead, a handsome grey-striped tabby paused in the doorway, staring at him with large, unblinking eyes. Quickly losing interest, it proceeded to rub its neck vigorously against the edge of the door.  Scott watched with mild amusement as, tail high, the solidly built feline next padded purposefully around the perimeter of the room, from time to time slowing to sniff at a spot on the carpet or to twine itself around the leg of a piece of furniture.

The cat had surprised him at breakfast, brushing against his leg and leaving a sprinkling of light colored hairs on his trousers as Scott served himself from the sideboard. Apparently Aunt Cee had brought the pet from Maine well over a year ago He’d been just a kitten then she’d said. She also claimed that her brother had become “quite fond” of it, something Scott found difficult to believe. But apparently Grandfather had given the animal a name. Napoleon.

Eventually Napoleon advanced around the corner of the desk, to stand beside the chair gazing upwards with pale green eyes.  After another moment, he gracefully lifted up onto his hind legs and placed his white front paws on Scott’s thigh. 

When Scott reached out to rub the stripes on Napoleon’s forehead, the cat pulled away, plunking all four feet to the floor. Seeming to reconsider, he raised up again, forcefully nudging Scott’s hand with his nose and chirruping softly.  Scott scratched the animal behind the ears and then gently stroked the white bib.

“I miss him too,” he admitted softly.




With a soft sigh, Teresa approached the cheval glass and slipped on her new jacket, inspecting the decorative silver filigree embroidery she’d added.   The jacket was to be worn over a silvery-grey taffeta walking skirt, an extravagant and unnecessary purchase that she couldn’t imagine ever wearing again once she returned home. Melissa had talked her into buying it.

Teresa had expected that she would need to purchase something to wear on the day of Mr. Garrett’s memorial service, but seeing the wreathes on the doors, the mirrors draped in crape and all of the household staff in their black uniforms, she’d quickly realized how few of her own garments were suitable. She knew she would feel conspicuous in either of her best dresses, wearing light lavender or deep rose in this house so obviously in mourning. 

And it hadn’t just been the colors, Teresa reminded herself, as she adjusted the stylishly well-tailored jacket. Melissa had taken her shopping, armed with a list compiled after careful consultation with Mrs. Holmes.  Scott’s aunt offered many tactful suggestions and once at the shops, Melissa had repeatedly reminded her that her appearance would reflect upon Scott.  The shop girls had echoed Melissa’s recommendation that she wear vests or fitted jackets that would accentuate her figure, though of course they hadn’t joined in her friend’s bland assurance that “Scott will appreciate that too.”  Melissa had certainly made much of the fact that Scott had invited her to accompany him to Boston.  It had been a bit embarrassing, but knowing Melissa, Teresa had decided it best not to say anything at all in reply.

Everyone had agreed that as she was not related to Mr. Garrett, black would only be necessary for the service itself. After selecting a two-tiered bombazine skirt and a blouse with black lace yoke and cuffs, Teresa willingly considered other colors. In addition to various items of clothing that Melissa had deemed essential-- a few skirts, a white blouse trimmed with Venice lace and two more casual but still feminine tops in striped cotton-- they’d also selected the clothing she was wearing today, a skirt and matching blouse in a rich shade of plum.

At Melissa’s insistence, and to Teresa’s further embarrassment, they’d also bought petticoats and a quantity of other undergarments, including a corset. And, at Mrs. Holmes’ direction, the bill for the entire wardrobe was to be sent to Scott. When Teresa had protested that she had money of her own, money that Murdoch had given her, the older woman had merely smiled and suggested she might keep it to spend on gifts for people back at the ranch.

But apparently Mrs. Holmes had also had some discussion with her nephew as well, because before he’d left that day, Scott had stopped to make a point of telling her that he expected to pay for all of her clothing purchases “whenever you and Miss Harper undertake your surprise assault upon the shopkeepers of Boston.”

In addition to “assaulting” the stores, Melissa had also shown her a bit of the city. Yesterday, they’d attended a concert in the Boston Music Hall, listening to the great organ there.  According to Melissa, it had been shipped all the way from Germany, where it had been built. Since one of her topics of study at the institute she’d attended in San Francisco had been music, Melissa knew something about the pieces played as well as the instrument itself.  Cased in dark wood with brightly burnished pipes, the organ sounded impressive indeed. 

The only disappointment was that Scott hadn’t accompanied them. Since he was in mourning for his grandfather, it would also be inappropriate for him to join them at the theater this evening, or any other social gathering.  Teresa sighed again, and slowly removed the jacket. 

Thanks to her new wardrobe, the mirror reflected the image of a young lady who could move easily and comfortably in Boston society.  Meeting her own gaze in the glass, Teresa suspected that anyone looking into her eyes would know that wasn’t true.




Two days had passed since Scott had stayed up past midnight reading and rereading pages from his grandfather’s cache of letters.  Although he’d been busy going over business concerns with Wade, Scott couldn’t help thinking about those letters, especially the ones that he had sent to Boston during the War.  After his release from prison, Grandfather had welcomed him home; the older man had been solicitous at first, but had clearly expected his grandson to quickly put the War behind him. It hadn’t been long before he’d grown impatient with Scott’s difficulties in doing so.  That had caused considerable tension between them, to put it mildly, but now Scott felt more sympathy for his grandfather’s inability to comprehend how much he had changed. The letters were proof of how little he’d shared of his wartime experiences; after his return, Scott had never said much at all about his time in the field and even less about the ordeal at Libby.

Just as Grandfather had never told him very much about the fire that had, less than a year ago, decimated much of Boston’s commercial district. Scott had only just learned some of the details from Wade, who had proudly taken him through the renovated areas of construction along newly widened streets. The fire had started one evening in early November and raged through the night, destroying over seven hundred buildings, including several Garrett warehouses located near the wharves.  Grandfather’s office on Milk Street, a considerable distance from the waterfront, had been spared, just barely.   Wade said he and “Uncle Harlan” had spent most of the night there, watching the flames.

Lives had been lost, homes destroyed, but most of the burned buildings had housed businesses.  Many formerly wealthy men had been ruined financially. Grandfather had once sat on the board of directors of several now bankrupt insurance companies.  But, regrettably, he hadn’t shared much of that information with Scott.

Reconstruction had begun almost immediately and his grandfather had been an active participant.  According to Wade, this had not been without risk, necessitating the sale of some stocks as well as real estate elsewhere in the city.  Grandfather must have worried a great deal about his finances, but when he’d visited the ranch, he hadn’t talked about it.

It was just another one of the many things Grandfather had chosen not to discuss.

This afternoon, Scott intended to focus some attention on the household records. But he had also thought of trying to find information that might help to explain those unknown people mentioned in his grandfather’s will. On the list of bequests, amongst the familiar names of long time employees, there had been a few he had failed to recognize:  Mrs. Edward Pierce, Bertram Bennett and M.F. Mathieu.

Looking through one of the upper drawers, he soon came across the ledger for the household accounts, but continued to survey the contents of the other desk drawers. Although Scott had yet to identify those mysterious recipients of Grandfather’s monetary gifts, he did find a very interesting file.  It was a Pinkerton file, although the report inside didn’t much resemble the more recent ones Murdoch had given him to read soon after he and Johnny had arrived at Lancer. This one dated from 1850, the very first year of operation for Allen Pinkerton’s Chicago– based agency. 

Seated behind his grandfather’s mahogany desk, studying the pages in front of him, Scott saw that like many of the others he’d read, this “report” mentioned his younger brother, although the focus of the investigation had been Murdoch Lancer.

It wasn’t entirely a new discovery; Scott was actually rediscovering it, since he’d found it once before, many years ago when he was just a child.  He must have been nine or ten years old, and well aware that Grandfather’s study was “off limits”.   He wasn’t supposed to be in the room at all, let alone seated in his grandfather’s chair. But that day he was, and he’d spied a folder on top of the desk.  It had the name “Lancer” written on the front of it.  Curious, he’d started to look at the pages inside, seen the word “California.”  Scott knew that his father lived in that far off territory, but what had really captured his interest was the part that told about a baby being born, a baby named John.  But then, a page later, the baby was gone, and exactly where was “UNKNOWN“. 

Scott recalled hoping that the baby was coming to Boston; he had been turning pages searching for another mention of the child when he’d heard the front door open.  His Grandfather was returning home with some dinner guests. Scott had raced from the room, running to greet him.  He had never quite dared to ask any questions about what he had read and Scott had never found that folder again. As time passed, and he grew older, Scott had no longer been quite sure if he’d remembered it correctly. 

He’d always wished for a brother.  During summer visits with his aunt and uncle in Maine, he had spent many afternoons combing the beaches with his little brother Johnny at his side.  And, back home in Boston, he had devoted hours to aligning tin soldiers in endless battle formations, and placing the blame squarely on Johnny if any of the men toppled over.  His childhood fantasy of another blond-haired blue-eyed child joining him in Boston had clearly been prompted by that forbidden glimpse of the Pinkerton report, further embellished by the vivid imagination of an occasionally lonely little boy.  Scott had never completely forgotten its origin however, and en route to California he’d wondered whether he would soon meet a stepmother or half-siblings.  “Do I have a brother?” would surely have been one of the first questions directed to his father, if the answer hadn’t crowded in next to him on the stage to Morro Coyo.

Scott was not at all surprised that his grandfather had gathered information on his absent father; Harlan Garrett was a man who liked to be well-informed, even if the intelligence wasn’t put to immediate use.  “Knowledge always gives a man the advantage, Scotty,” he’d often said, though clearly he’d seen no need to offer this particular advantage to his grandson.  Murdoch Lancer had always been an awkward topic of conversation.  Grandfather had rarely voiced any direct criticism of his former son-in-law, he hadn’t had to, but he’d also never had anything good to say about the man. 

At least there was no indication in his grandfather’s papers that he’d ever had any further information about “John Lancer,” let alone “Johnny Madrid.”  It was hard not to feel resentful that knowledge of his half-brother’s existence had been withheld, but it was at least somewhat understandable that Grandfather had never told him about a small child who had seemingly vanished so long ago.  

It was more difficult to excuse his grandfather for some of the other details contained in the file labeled “Murdoch Lancer.” 

Here was the evidence that Grandfather had known about the incident with the Degans’ father all these years. At least when he’d finally used it, it had been to threaten rather than actually bring a murder charge. Scott found some comfort in that. His jaw clenched at the painful memory of his grandfather’s introduction of the Degan brothers as part of a “more pressing reason” for him to return to Boston. Scott forced himself to read through all of the material about the Degans, including the more recent efforts of the Pinkertons to track down the two brothers, and was relieved when he did not find anything to directly contradict his hope that his grandfather had considered the accusation against Murdoch might possibly have merit. That was nonetheless a two edged sword; either Grandfather had been willing to see a man he knew was innocent face such an accusation, or he had kept silent about Murdoch’s possible guilt.  Of the two possibilities, Scott much preferred the latter.

There were just a few more sheets of paper, but before Scott could turn to them, there was a gentle knock on the door. In response to his invitation, it swung open to admit Teresa.  Scott closed the file and carefully returned it to its drawer. He tried to put his memories and mounting resentment aside as well.




“So what have you been working on, Scott?”

“Oh . . . just going through some of Grandfather’s papers.”

Teresa couldn’t help but notice that the papers in question seemed to disappear as soon as she entered the room. She really didn’t mean to pry.  Scott had been so busy lately, and today he’d spent the entire afternoon here in the study. He did always take the time to inquire as to how she’d spent her day, made sure to compliment her on her new clothes, reiterated promises to show her the city. And he would, she was sure, once the memorial service was over and other things were attended to.

“I’m sorry, Scott, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” She turned to leave, thinking of going to her room, perhaps finishing the work on her jacket.

“No, wait, Teresa. Stay, please. Just give me a few minutes to look over these household expenses, and then we can talk.”

It was silly, she told herself, how very happy that invitation made her feel, how much she enjoyed the prospect of just staying in the room with him. She forced a deliberately casual “All right,” over her shoulder, and tried not to imagine Melissa Harper’s knowing smile.

While Scott directed his attention to copying some numbers from a ledger, Teresa strolled around the study. In addition to the large desk, the room was furnished with chairs and tables of dark wood and leather.

The walls were lined with shelves, many of them containing books, but others displaying various objects that Mr. Garrett had accumulated over the years. There were a few large fish mounted on plaques on the walls; Teresa recalled that Scott had mentioned going on fishing trips as a boy, usually with his uncle, Mrs. Holmes’ husband, but sometimes with Mr. Garrett himself.

Noticing that there were some photographs displayed on the shelves along the wall facing the desk, she moved towards that corner of the room. One of the pictures most certainly had to be of Scott as a child.  He must have been about five or six; a pair of serious eyes stared back at her from under a thick fringe of pale hair.  She reached out to pick up the photograph, then looked over at Scott and lowered her hand, turning her attention to the other image on the same shelf instead.  Teresa easily recognized the subject of the small daguerreotype. It was “the Lady,” Scott’s mother, Catherine Lancer.

The face was younger in this image, but it was the same woman depicted in the photograph that had stood on Murdoch Lancer’s desk for as long as Teresa could remember.

Her guardian’s desk was usually covered with stacks of papers, except for an island of space in one corner, near the pen stand. “The Lady’s” picture had always been there.  Growing up without a mother, doted upon by her father, and by Murdoch Lancer as well, young Teresa had spent hours in the Lancer Great Room, either curled up in a chair reading, or doing needlework and listening to her father and Murdoch.  She’d always been fascinated by that portrait and had often daydreamed about the pretty blond woman with the half smile and those eyes which could look either happy or sad, depending upon Teresa’s own mood.  Not having a picture of her own mother, for a time the two had even become intertwined in her mind. When she’d asked her father about “The Lady,” Daddy had explained that Murdoch Lancer had been married to her a long time ago, and that she had died.

The photograph still stood on Murdoch’s desk back at Lancer.  In order to remedy the awkwardness of having on display an image of his first wife, but not of his second, her guardian had given his only portrait of Maria Lancer to Johnny shortly after his son had returned home.  Johnny had been happy to have a picture of his mother, and kept it on a shelf in his room.

Teresa picked up the daguerreotype and studied it, noting once more the marked resemblance between Scott and his mother.  Something else came to mind, something that Paul O’Brien had said when a teenaged Teresa had asked him “What was she like, Daddy?”

Her father had responded first with a physical description—the blue-grey color of Catherine’s eyes, her petite size, her graceful laugh. Then, with a touch of envy, Daddy had said that she had been Murdoch’s support, his partner. More than that, Catherine had been his “safe harbor,” a “calm port in the storm” through the challenges and difficulties of life on the ranch.

Carefully returning the elegantly framed daguerreotype to its place on the shelf, Teresa next turned her attention to a photograph on the shelf below.   It was an image of Scott in uniform, standing beside an older officer, very similar to the one that stood on his dresser in his bedchamber at Lancer.  She liked to look at the picture whenever she was in Scott’s room putting laundry away, and often stopped to use the hem of her apron to wipe away the fine film of dust covering his youthful face. “General Sheridan” –that’s how he’d identified the older man when she’d asked him about it.  Then she noticed the small flat box resting on the shelf beside the photograph, a wooden square with a glass front. 

“Scott, did your grandfather serve in the army?”

“Hmm?” he asked absently, his attention on the pages in front of him. “Grandfather, in the army? No . . . he wasn’t a military man.”

“Then the medals in this case must be yours.”

Scott sighed softly, barely glancing up. “I was awarded a few medals,” he said reluctantly.  “Grandfather always felt they should be properly displayed.” 

“What’s this piece of cloth?”

Scott’s head snapped up at that. “Cloth?”

“Yes, there’s a piece of fabric here, inside the case with your medals.”

It was placed in the center of the flat box, with the medals arranged around it.  The fabric looked to be a dark blue silk; one edge appeared torn, but the other had a piece of gold-colored fringe attached.

His expression unreadable, Scott carefully set down his pen, slowly sat back in the chair and extended his hand. She hurried across the room to give him the box. He sat motionless for a moment with his head bowed, holding the flat case in two hands. 

She dropped to her knees on the carpet beside him. “Tell me about it,” she urged softly.

Scott shook his head, a distant look in his eyes, and for a moment she thought he meant to refuse.

“It’s a piece of our flag,” he said finally, resting his fingers gently on the glass. “Our regimental colors. We knew we were about to be captured, so Dan ordered us to tear up the flags--- to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.”

He looked down at her then, his gaze intense. “I kept this with me, the whole time, at Libby.”  Scott’s eyes slid away again, she knew he must be remembering that place, and without thinking, she reached out and took his hand.

“When I came home, I still had it.  I’d caused him so much worry and I wanted . . .  to give him something.”

Scott smiled sadly at her, and she smiled encouragingly back.

“I never thought he understood. It seems I was wrong.”



Author’s notes:

For this chapter and the ones that follow, I’m indebted to a number of different websites for descriptions of period clothing and houses, as well as details of mourning rituals.

For more information on the Great Boston Fire of 1872, please see the following:

Scott safeguarding a fragment of his regiment’s flag is based upon an actual event resulting from the 16th Maine Infantry Regiment’s attempt to hold off the Confederate line on Oak Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Virtual Tour at the Gettysburg National Military Park website makes reference to the regimental flag being destroyed so that it would not be captured when the unit was forced to surrender.  During the summer of 2005, newspapers reported the donation of one of the flag remnants to the Maine State Museum. A cloth fragment handed down in the family of Pvt. Isaac Monk of Turner, Maine was donated to the museum’s collection by his great grandson.


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 14.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“My father is an old, sick man.”

Julie had been truthful there at least. John Dennison was clearly in very poor health.  The man was close to Grandfather’s age, and looked older, his daughter the product of a late second marriage.

Although the folded corner of Dennison’s calling card had marked his visit as “condolence,” Scott had reason to suspect that there was more to it than that, so he’d escorted Mr. Dennison and his son-in-law into the privacy of Grandfather’s study.  Once his guests were seated on the sofa and the formalities completed, Scott sat back in his armchair and waited.

The ensuing silence was interrupted by a harsh, hacking cough from John Dennison. Scott rose to pour a tumbler of water from the pitcher on the side table, which the older man gratefully accepted.  Dennison also accepted the offer of a cup of coffee, although William Prescott declined.  Fredericks was summoned and the beverage requested.  Scott returned to his seat and regarded Mr. Dennison expectantly.

“Don’t grow old, Sc—Mr. Lancer,” he said in a quavery voice. “Don’t grow old. That’s what I tell William here.”

Scott smiled politely.

“My daughter  . . . was most insistent that we should pay you a call.”

“I trust she’s well.”

It was Prescott who responded. “She is.”

Prescott’s lips were pressed together in a thin line, barely visible between the straw colored beard and moustache.  His hair was the same pale, dull color, what was left of it; Prescott was Scott’s age, but had a prematurely receding hairline. Scott had known William Prescott socially--- which was to say that he’d barely known him at all. Julie’s husband was from a well regarded, but not especially wealthy family. Scott politely extended much belated congratulations on their marriage; Prescott thanked him. The awkward moment concluded, the two younger men promptly returned their attention to John Dennison.

Julie’s father heaved a great sigh.  “Well, Scott, it’s a disagreeable matter, damned disagreeable. But there is a bit of business needs to be discussed.”

Since it all had been undertaken at his own request, Scott was well aware that his grandfather had funneled clients in the man’s direction in addition to lending him money.  Despite an oft-expressed opinion that such a poor businessman deserved to go under, Grandfather had, in the end, reluctantly agreed to help and had taken steps to keep John Dennison solvent.  He could hardly have refused since Scott and Julie had been engaged at the time. 

Going through his grandfather’s records, Scott had learned that even though that connection had ended, even though it had been his daughter who had, in fact, ended it, John Dennison had nonetheless approached Harlan Garrett directly, asking for assistance both before and after the devastating fire.

In response, Grandfather had extended a series of loans totaling a considerable sum of money. Scott had discovered the records of those particular transactions filed away here in the study rather than down at the office on Milk Street. The terms of the notes indicated that payment-- in full-- could be demanded at any time.

“May I assume that you’re referring to business between my grandfather and yourself?”

“Yes, that’s right, my boy. Harlan and I had  . . . dealings.”

The conversation halted when Fredericks entered bearing a coffeepot and accoutrements on a tray. Scott looked on silently while John Dennison was served.

A few questions to Wade had revealed that Julie’s father had been among those unfortunate men who had lost the majority of their holdings in the fire.  Scott couldn’t help recalling Julie’s assertion that if she hadn’t gone along with Grandfather’s attempt to lure him back to Boston, her father would have been bankrupted. Clearly, it would have been easy enough for his grandfather to do.

Ever since hearing Wade’s account of the fire, and then seeing for himself the impact, both upon the Boston landscape and upon the Milk Street ledgers, Scott had wondered to what extent anxiety and overwork had contributed to the stroke that had felled his grandfather. Scott also believed that worries over business concerns might account at least in part for Grandfather’s desperate actions during his visit to the ranch.

Although not particularly surprised, Scott was nonetheless saddened to learn that Harlan Garrett had been so circumspect in sharing details of his own financial setbacks.  Yes, Grandfather had extended numerous invitations for Scott to return home, but he’d never offered him any reasons other than Boston being “where he belonged.”  If his grandfather had only said that he needed him, how could he have refused? It would have been impossible. But when Grandfather arrived at the ranch, it had been with blackmail rather than persuasion in mind. 

No, that wasn’t exactly true. Blackmail had been the second option, persuasion the first choice ----and Julie had been the “persuasion.” Grandfather had callously tried to take advantage of his persistent feelings for Julie, use those against him.

And Julie had gone along with the scheme. 

She hadn’t gone through with it, but she’d gone far enough. Impassively regarding John Dennison and his son-in-law, Scott wondered how much they knew about the purpose of Julie’s trip to California. 

“I came across the records just yesterday,” Scott informed his visitors, once the butler had left the room.  He rose and invited the other two men to join him at the desk.   Positioning himself in his grandfather’s chair, Scott retrieved the file labeled “Dennison” while William Prescott assisted his father-in-law to one of the seats opposite. “Though Ju—Mrs. Prescott did mention it, when she accompanied Grandfather to California.” He watched for Prescott’s reaction. There was none.

So he knew.

“It is a considerable sum,” Scott added coolly.

John Dennison looked aggrieved. “I’d never have agreed to her traveling across the country otherwise. Harlan insisted.  Then sending her back alone. A bad business, that.”

William Prescott sat forward in his seat. “Remember, Father, we thought that Mr. Lancer might appreciate assurances of our discretion regarding  . . . Mr. Garrett’s  . . . actions.”

“My grandfather, as you well know, Mr. Prescott, is deceased,” Scott replied coldly. “But there are others upon whom the tale will reflect badly, if it’s told.”

John Dennison coughed, nervously this time. “Ahem.  Exactly what are you saying, Scotty?”

Again, Prescott intervened.  “I think, Sir, that Mr. Lancer may have a proposal for us.”

Scott studied Julie’s husband carefully. It had been some time since he’d played this game, but he knew that emotions had no place in negotiations. How often had Grandfather reminded him of that?

Clearly, these men were aware of what his grandfather had tried to do. Of course it would be better for Harlan Garrett’s reputation, if the story were not widely known.  Scott tried to distance himself from that flash of anger at Prescott’s slighting comment and the realization that Julie must have told him what had happened.  Scott wondered if she’d mentioned how happy he’d been to welcome her, how he’d even asked her to marry him and stay at Lancer.

Scott knew what they would think if he required immediate payment be made; it would look as if he was acting out of revenge, or jealousy.  He was sure that’s how it would seem to members of his grandfather’s circle, once it became known. That’s how it would appear to Julie.

“Now, although it might be expected when settling an estate, I have no intention of calling in the notes at this time.”

John Dennison smiled. Scott quickly held up one hand to forestall whatever expression of gratitude the elderly man was preparing. The truth was that even if he were inclined to do so, he wasn’t prepared to simply forgive the loans. The sum was too significant and he hadn’t yet conducted a thorough enough study of his grandfather’s finances to fully understand how things stood.

“What I propose, gentlemen, is that we consolidate the debt to one figure and that you present a schedule of reimbursement—whatever you deem to be feasible, and fair.  If your plan is satisfactory, we might remove the stipulation of full payment upon demand.”

“I think you know we didn’t come here to discuss a schedule of repayment, Lancer,” Prescott began heatedly.

“Oh, I do understand that, Mr. Prescott. You came, as did Mr. Dennison, to offer condolences on my grandfather’s passing.”

Scott rose, and came around the desk to offer his hand to the older man. “Thank you, again, Mr. Dennison.”

Julie’s father remained seated, raising rheumy eyes in confusion to regard first Scott and then his son-in-law. It was only when Prescott stood beside him that he seemed to comprehend that the conversation about the “awkward business” had come to a quick and unsatisfactory conclusion, and reluctantly clasped Scott’s hand.  Leaving William Prescott to assist his father-in-law, Scott moved to the door to summon Fredericks to see the two men out.

“I’ll hope to hear from you soon, Gentlemen.”

John Dennison managed a weak “Yes, of course, Sc—Mr. Lancer . . .” as he exited the room.

His son-in-law offered a grim “Good day.”

Scott considered it unlikely the two men would be at the next day’s church service. Of course Julie wouldn’t be there, not if Wade was correct and she was expecting Prescott’s child.  Did it matter? He’d already forgiven her, forgiven his grandfather as well. At least, he wanted to believe so.

A few minutes passed, and then Fredericks returned to inquire whether Scott had need of anything.

“Yes, I believe I’m in need of some fresh air. I’m going to take a walk. If anyone else calls, take their card.”




“Oh, Teresa, how I would have loved to have seen their faces!”

They’d spent the morning exchanging stories; Teresa telling Scott’s aunt about some of his adventures at the ranch, many of them featuring Johnny. Mrs. Holmes in turn had shared numerous tales of her nephew as a young boy. They’d sworn each other to secrecy, promising not to breathe a word of what they’d learned to Scott.

Cecilia Holmes had a musical laugh and relaxed manner that belied her elegant appearance. Though they appeared to share similar coloring, there was only a slight family resemblance between Mrs. Holmes and her niece Catherine, and less between Mrs. Holmes and Scott. His aunt’s eyes were nothing like Scott’s in either color or shape, but they did have the same delighted sparkle that his took on, whenever he found something highly amusing.

Teresa turned her attention to the tatting shuttle and thread once more. Mrs. Holmes had been teaching her this new skill, and while it was proving less difficult than expected, Teresa still found that she couldn’t ply the shuttle and tell a story at the same time.

They were interrupted by Jane, one of the maids, who had been sent from the kitchen with a few questions.  Teresa listened while Mrs. Holmes gave directions concerning the day’s menu.

“Scott won’t be joining us for lunch?” she asked, after the maid had left.

“No, dear, he’s meeting Will Hayford.  I believe the two of them intend to visit Mount Auburn.”

Teresa knew that Mr. Hayford had arrived in Boston the previous day, but she was puzzled by the reference to “Mount Auburn.”

“Is there really a mountain here in Boston?”

“Oh no, Teresa, I’m sorry. Mount Auburn is a cemetery in Cambridge. It’s where my brother is buried.”

Ever since they’d arrived, Mrs. Holmes had been most considerate about explaining things that she thought might be new or unfamiliar; it made it easy to ask her questions.  In turn, the older woman had posed a great many inquiries of her own about life on a cattle ranch. At first, Teresa had hesitated to let this proper Boston lady know that she actually kneaded biscuit dough with her own hands and helped with the laundry, let alone divulge how well she could sit astride a horse and load a rifle.  Mrs. Holmes had assured her that her own life was much simpler at home in Maine than it was here on Beacon Hill, and revealed that she herself had even been known to wear trousers and cast a fishing line upon occasion.

Based upon Scott’s descriptions of her, Teresa had expected his “Aunt Cee” to be a wonderful woman, and she truly was.  Teresa had liked her almost instantly, and Mrs. Holmes seemed to reciprocate the feeling, often addressing her as “dear” or “my dear,” just as she did Scott.

Only Mrs. Holmes pronounced it “de-ah.” And, since Scott had introduced them, his aunt also called her “Teh-RAY-sah.”  That was how Scott had pronounced her name when he’d first come to Lancer.  It hadn’t been long before he’d realized that everyone else called her “Tah-REE-sa.” He’d apologized and assured her he would make the change.  But she’d told him she liked “Teh-RAY-sah,”--- and then she’d told him again and again, each time he corrected himself.  Now he rarely seemed to notice, and when he did catch it, he’d simply give her that wry look, with a lift of the eyebrows accompanied by a slight smile.

Now, after a few more few days in Boston, she was actually starting to feel like a “Teh-RAY-sah,” rather than plain old “Teresa O’Brien.” Scott was probably too pre-occupied to notice anything different. Which at least meant that he was probably also too pre-occupied to notice that because the two of them had traveled so far alone together, people seemed to make certain assumptions.

It had been no surprise when Melissa Harper had made much of the fact that Scott had invited her to join him, but even on the train, there had been other passengers who had seemed to assume that they shared a special relationship. The Miss Harringtons, for example, had left a very nice note expressing thanks for their hospitality in sharing the use of the compartment on the parlor car. The message had ended with “Best Wishes to a Lovely Couple.” Teresa still had the note, but she hadn’t ever shown it to Scott.

Now Mrs. Holmes seemed to be making the same sort of assumption, though she hadn’t said it in so many words. And Teresa wasn’t quite sure what to do about that. 



Since Scott had been absent at noon, his aunt announced that she was expecting his company for afternoon tea. Scott was more than happy to oblige his “favorite” aunt as he often fondly, teasingly, referred to her.  His Great-Aunt Cecilia was, so far as he knew, his sole relative who could lay claim to the title of “aunt.” 

He’d had few opportunities to spend time alone with her, but this afternoon Teresa was with Miss Harper and as yet no visitors had come to call. The two of them did have a great deal to discuss, first reviewing the plans for the next day’s memorial service and the gathering afterwards.   They also talked about possible activities for the remainder of the week.  The official reading of Harlan Garrett’s will had been delayed until the following week, but Scott had already been working from his own copy.

“It seems Wade’s not happy about the terms of Grandfather’s will. That so much control is in my hands.”

Aunt Cecilia frowned at that. “He forgets Scott, how hard you worked, before you left.  Still, Wade will be a partner, you said?”

“Yes. But he’s hinted he might not stay, that he could find more lucrative employment elsewhere.”

“I suppose it is something he should investigate, in view of his upcoming marriage to Miss Sturgis.”

Scott sighed. “Of course, if Wade is the one here running things, he should be generously compensated; we’ve already talked about a substantial increase.  But the commissions still aren’t back to where they were a year ago, before the fire.  I have some ideas as to what we should do about that.”

Cecilia smiled. “Oh Scott, you do sound like Harlan. Now, don’t look at me like that, Dear, I mean that you sound so  . .  enthused. Determined. Just as he always was whenever he spoke about his business endeavors.”

"Well, I am determined that everything that Grandfather worked so hard to build isn’t going to simply fall apart, now that he’s gone.”

“Perhaps Wade will come around. He worked so closely with Harlan for so long.”

“Yes, he did.”

Cecilia sipped thoughtfully at her tea, before turning the conversation in a slightly different direction.  “Now tell me, Scott, what did you think of Miss Sturgis?”

Scott poured himself another cup of coffee---Aunt Cee was well aware that he preferred it to tea.  Cousin Wade’s fiancée had joined them for dinner the previous evening, and Scott had had to forego an invitation to dine with the Hayford family in order to meet her.  Miss Mary Sturgis was a round faced, solidly built young woman. Not unattractive, but she’d been difficult to talk to, her interests apparently few and tending towards the pedestrian.  She simply lacked the ‘spark’ and the lively sense of curiosity that a young woman like Teresa had.

“She and Wade seem well suited, I suppose.”


Scott grinned. Of course Aunt Cecilia had seen through that, so he cast about for something more generous to say about the future Mrs. Wade Garrett. But evidently Aunt Cee wasn’t particularly interested in Miss Sturgis after all.

“Now, Miss O’Brien is a most delightful young woman.”

“Yes, she is.”

“And she seems quite fond of you.”

Scott exhaled, lowering his gaze as he realized instantly where his aunt was going with this. Best to clear things up right away. “Has she told you anything about Johnny?”

“Your brother? Oh yes, a great deal.”

“They’ve always been very ‘fond’ of each other.”

With a puzzled expression, Cecilia Holmes carefully placed her cup and saucer on the table in front of her.  “Why do you think so?”

Scott considered that for a moment. “Well, they are of an age. That counts for quite a lot, I suppose.”

“Now Nephew, that’s not what I meant.  But, tell me, do you truly believe that age makes such a difference?  After all, my Elwood was nine years older than I.  Did you know that your grandmother Elizabeth was seven years younger than Harlan? She was just twenty- one when they married. And dear Catherine was---”

The litany of ages stopped abruptly, when the butler appeared in the doorway.

“Do excuse me, Ma’am.  Mr. Lancer?”

“Yes, Fredericks?”

“There are two men here to see you. It’s a Mr. Nell and the Reverend Grimes.”

“All right, please show them in.”

“They suggested, Sir, that you might wish to come out to them.”

Scott quickly made his apologies to his aunt and excused himself.  But before he left, Cecilia Holmes informed her nephew in no uncertain terms that she meant to continue this particular conversation.

The Reverend Leonard Grimes and Mr. William C. Nell were both free-born Negroes who lived on the “North Slope,” often referred to as “Black Beacon Hill,” as well as other more derogatory terms.  Both men had been effective leaders in the abolitionist cause; the Reverend Grimes was the minister of the Twelfth Baptist Church and had served as one of the “conductors” on the Underground Railroad.  Mr. Nell was a postal clerk and the first Negro to ever hold a federal government position. A published historian, Nell had led the fight to successfully integrate the performance halls and public schools of Boston and continued to spearhead the efforts to achieve racial equality.

Scott was surprised that the two men had come to call; Harlan Garrett had been an active supporter of the anti-slavery movement and had made significant monetary contributions, but since the War’s end, he had parted ways with many of the former abolitionists.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen. Mr. Nell. Reverend.” Scott shook each man’s hand and then led the way towards the front parlor. “Please come in and sit down. Could I offer you some coffee, or tea?”

Both visitors declining the offer of refreshment, Fredericks departed.  Once seated, each of the callers offered condolences on his grandfather’s passing.  Scott listened gratefully as they went on to praise Harlan Garrett’s involvement in the effort to eliminate slavery.

“Of course, it went well beyond a financial contribution to the cause, since he sent his own grandson off to the fight,” Mr. Nell concluded.

Scott smiled ruefully at that. “I think, Mr. Nell, you may perhaps recall that he wasn’t exactly in favor of the idea.”

“Yes, but in the end, Mr. Garrett’s opposition to bondage did require him to support your enlistment,” the Reverend Grimes pointed out.

Scott nodded. It was one argument with his grandfather that he’d actually won outright. 

“I trust you’re both aware of the memorial service tomorrow at Old West.  I’d like to invite you to come back here afterwards . . .”

The two men exchanged a glance. It was Mr. Nell who answered.

“We do plan to attend the service, Mr. Lancer, along with a few of our colleagues. But, as you’re aware, Mr. Garrett did not invite any of us here when he was alive.”

Scott bowed his head in recognition of the hard truth being tactfully expressed. The Garrett household had, from time to time, employed colored servants, but Negroes had not been entertained here as guests.  Grandfather’s stubborn stance on issues of race had always been dismaying. 

“You don’t have to remind me, Sir, that for my grandfather opposition to slavery did not, unfortunately, translate into support for equality. I regret that.”

“He did what he could do, Mr. Lancer.  It was more than many.”

Scott tried, and failed, to find comfort in the minister’s words.  Mr. Nell must have seen that.

“Do you, Mr. Lancer?”

“Do I . . .?”

“Do you support equality of the races?”

“Yes, Sir, I do. I would hope that you know ---”

“And surely Mr. Garrett was aware of this?”

“Yes, he was.”

“Did he make a particular effort to persuade you otherwise?”

Scott considered that. They’d strongly disagreed but there’d been surprisingly little argument. “No, I can’t say that he did.”

“So, despite his own feelings on the subject, your grandfather did not impart them to you.  Something which, given Mr. Garrett’s force of will, I believe you must concede that he might have succeeded in doing, had he tried.”

“In this world, it’s best not to dwell upon the faults and failings of others, Mr. Lancer, since we all possess them,” added the Reverend Grimes. “That is why forgiveness is such a great virtue and our Lord directs each and every one of us to forgive, and to do so from the heart.”




The morning of Harlan Garrett’s memorial service dawned bright and clear.   When Teresa, still in her robe, ventured downstairs, she found Cecilia Holmes taking tea in the sunny breakfast room.  Mrs. Holmes was also still in her dressing gown, but Scott had already had some coffee and gone out for a walk.

The two women lingered over their poached eggs and toast.  Finally, Mrs. Holmes suggested that they should allow Jane to clear the breakfast things away, so that she and Mrs. Hudson could finish in the kitchen.  All of the household employees would be attending the service; hired carriages would transport them to the Old West Church.  A cook, butler and maids on loan from the Hayfords and other neighbors would serve at the reception that would take place here following the memorial.

Mrs. Holmes sent her own maid, Marguerite, to Teresa’s room to assist her in getting dressed and doing up her hair.  Teresa had donned a crinoline upon occasion, but was unaccustomed to wearing the bustle that Melissa Harper had insisted was necessary to support the draping of her new skirt.  Marguerite’s assistance was also required to do up the row of tiny buttons on the lace-trimmed blouse.  Teresa’s long dark hair was pulled up and back, and then curled; her new black bonnet was cut away to allow the hair to hang freely behind.  It seemed that almost all of the ladies here in Boston wore their hair up in some fashion; only young girls allowed it to fall down upon their shoulders.  Marguerite had a particular talent for dressing hair; the young French-Canadian woman with the strong accent had experimented with a number of different hairstyles over the past few days and this one had been deemed both “lovely” and “appropriate” by Mrs. Holmes.

It seemed to take quite some time this morning before Marguerite was finally satisfied with her handiwork. “Très jolie---very pretty.”

“Thank you, Marguerite, thank you very much.”

“You arh ver-ree welcome.”

As Marguerite departed to attend to her mistress, Teresa remained in front of the mirror, eying her reflection. Marguerite paused at the door.

“Mis-terre Scott, he eez downstairs. Een the front parlerh room.”



When she found “Mis-terre Scott,” he was standing near one of the windows, gazing out towards the street. Chestnut Street, it was, one of several named after trees, though if Teresa had had to guess, she would have said that Scott wasn’t seeing the street or the trees or anything else. He seemed a thousand miles away.

“Hello, Scott,” she said hesitantly.

He looked up and smiled. He was wearing a black double-breasted frock coat and dark grey trousers with a darker stripe. The frock coat was a longer length than the jackets he’d been wearing, accentuating his height.

“Good morning, Teresa.”

He studied her for a moment. “You look quite . . . elegant.”

She twirled about for him and he stood very straight and still, with his right hand clasping his left wrist, considering.  “You are beautiful,” he amended.

“Thank you.” Pleased by his assessment, as well as a bit embarrassed, she tried a small curtsey. “Thank you, Kind Sir.” He smiled again, but Scott’s eyes remained disconcertingly serious.

There was a large wing chair just inside the doorway. A black top hat finished with a black silk mourning band rested on the seat cushion, along with a pair of dark gloves. Teresa picked up the items, but then hesitated to sit down. She looked over her shoulder at Scott instead.

“I like your new hat.”

She hadn’t thought he’d remember, but even before he spoke, the answering grin told her that he did.  Scott glanced down, and when he looked up again, although he was trying to keep the smile from his face, the amusement still shone in his eyes.

“Well, this one was a bit more easily acquired.”

“Really? I think it’s much simpler to go shopping in Morro Coyo compared to Boston.”

“You may be right; there is only the one store.”

Scott strode across the brightly colored carpet—from India, he’d said, when he’d given her the tour the first day---to accept his things from her hands. She suddenly found herself at eyelevel with silk covered black buttons, below the black cravat tied in a Windsor knot, below the stiff white wings of his collar, below his clean-shaven chin. Standing close enough to take in the light scent of him, a blend of starch and soap and Scott.  With just a hint of bay rum. She stepped back as she relinquished the hat, and met his eyes.

“I wasn’t sure you’d remember.”

He smiled down at her. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget those first few days.”

Scott set the gloves and hat down on the side table and indicated they should move to the sofa. It took a moment to get her skirts settled, but it wasn’t as difficult as she’d feared.

“How are you?”

“I’ll be fine.”

She stifled a sigh at the flat response; it was no more than the tentative question deserved.  She would hardly have expected him to say otherwise. He and Johnny were alike that way.

Recollections of that day at the riverbank led to thoughts of Johnny riding up, the brothers fighting, hearing the horrible things that Johnny had believed about Murdoch and his mother.  She’d tried to explain it, how it had really happened, but Johnny hadn’t wanted to listen, hadn’t seemed to believe her--- and then the alarm had sounded and they’d all ridden away.

Later, when Johnny was still recovering from his wound, he’d surprised her by bringing up the topic. “I talked to Murdoch,” he’d said. “Looks like it happened the way you said.”  And he’d thanked her, for “bein’ straight” with him.

This time the sigh escaped. Scott had thanked her too, of course, for being truthful.  The difference was that with Johnny, the news about his father had been good.

“Teresa . . . there’s something else I haven’t forgotten.”

“What’s that?” she asked with a guilty start.

“What my grandfather did, what he tried to do, when he came to the ranch.”

She had no idea what to say; fortunately, Scott didn’t seem to expect her to say anything.

“When I speak about him today, I won’t mention any of that. You’ll be the only one there who knows.”

“I’m sorry Murdoch and Johnny couldn’t come.” She immediately realized that didn’t sound quite right.

“That came out wrong. I didn’t mean because they know about your grandfather, I just meant---”

“I know. I’ve been thinking about them too.”

For a moment they each contemplated the hearth opposite the sofa, its elaborately carved mantelpiece adorned with a gold-faced clock.  A large painting of Scott’s mother hung above the fireplace.  She wore a white lace dress and held a bouquet of pink roses in her lap.  She was smiling, gazing off into the distance, her face in three-quarter profile. On canvas, “The Lady’s” face was petite and soft and feminine, while Scott’s own features were strong and sharp and masculine. But the likeness was there, nonetheless.  Scott called her “Catherine” and he’d said that this portrait of her was his favorite.

“Scott, when we go home, perhaps you should bring this painting with you.”

He looked surprised by the suggestion. “I’d never considered that,” he said slowly. “It’s hung right here for as long as I can remember.”

Teresa watched as Scott absently rubbed one hand over the smoothly polished wooden armrest.

“Teresa, there was something else . . . when we do go back, we’ll be traveling with the Hayfords---”

“Yes, and so we might not stop in St. Louis and some of the other places we talked about.”  Will Hayford’s mother was planning to go with her son to pay him a visit when he returned to Sacramento, and she had proposed to Scott that they travel together.  Mrs. Holmes had heartily endorsed the idea, and Teresa had the distinct impression that it might even have been Scott’s aunt who first suggested that Mrs. Hayford undertake a journey west.

“Perhaps . . . but Mrs. Hayford might appreciate a break in the travel.  It’s just that . . . there’s a possibility that I won’t be going with you. There are still things I need to settle here, but you should still go, and keep Mrs. Hayford company.”

<< “You just make sure and bring him back.”>>

Johnny’s voice. He’d whispered the words in her ear, but in her mind she could imagine his face, how serious he’d been. Teresa tried not to show her dismay, but it was difficult, especially when she could feel Scott watching her, waiting for a reaction. She swallowed hard.

“How much longer do you think you’ll need to stay, Scott?”

“That’s hard to say.”

She nodded her head, without looking at him. She knew she couldn’t ask if she could stay here with him, she knew how it would sound—childish.  She certainly didn’t want to cry, and she knew she couldn’t ask the question she most wanted to ask without risking tears.  She couldn’t ask if he was ever coming home. 

“I did think we might take a trip north with Aunt Cecilia.”

She looked up then, feeling hopeful, but not yet able to trust her voice.

“Will’s brother George Hayford was grandfather’s attorney; he needs to be out of the city for the remainder of the week, so the reading of Grandfather’s will has been delayed.   Aunt Cecilia has invited us to go up to Maine with her.”

“I would like that, very much.”

“She has a house—a cottage--- in Popham, on the ocean.  It’s been years since I’ve been there.” He smiled and added, “I’d like to show it to you, Teresa.”

She knew she only sat there smiling back at him for a moment, but it was a wonderful moment.  Then Scott was squeezing her hand and rising to his feet in response to Fredericks’ appearance in the doorway.

“Mr. Lancer?  There is a gentleman here to see you.”

“And who is calling here---”

Her own cry cut off Scott’s question, as she spied the tall figure stepping into view behind Mr. Fredericks.  More quickly than she would have thought skirts and bustle would allow, Teresa hurried across the room to fling herself into her guardian’s outstretched arms.




Author’s note: William C. Nell and the Reverend Leonard Grimes are real people and the very brief biographical information included here is true. Their words and characterizations however are intended to be entirely, and respectfully, invented.

For further information, please see:

The Heritage Guild:

The Boston African-American National Historic Site:


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 15. 

“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



<<“He belongs in the world he grew up in.”>>

The unwelcome thought pressed forward, pushing aside other ideas and intentions. The words that came to mind were Harlan’s most likely, but the voice uttering them inside his head was Murdoch’s own. He didn’t want to believe the sentiment was true, but the young man moving towards him was the very image of a Boston gentleman; at this moment it was difficult to picture Scott in what had become his trademark attire of non-descript work shirt, worn leather gloves and sweat-stained hat.

The eyes at least were familiar, and the slow smile seemed genuine enough, though his son had clearly been taken by surprise.  Murdoch tucked Teresa under his left arm, not yet ready to relinquish his darling girl, but eager to accept his son’s firm handshake.

“We weren’t expecting you, Murdoch. Your wire ---”

“Well, there was a change of plans, Scott. I wasn’t sure I’d make it here in time.”

“Johnny didn’t come with you?” Teresa asked, concern evident in her tone.  “You traveled all that way alone?”

Scott’s expression became serious once more, releasing the handclasp.  Reluctant to relinquish the physical connection, Murdoch gave Teresa another little squeeze, but kept his eyes fastened upon Scott.

“Your brother . . . drove through the night to get me to the train.” 

Scott gaze dropped to the floor, another smile playing about his lips as he absorbed this news.

“Johnny offered to stay behind, take care of things at the ranch. We have that drive ---”

“I know,” Scott said, looking up again. “And, I expect Johnny will say that I ‘owe him.’”

Murdoch chuckled softly. “Yes, Scott, he probably will.”

“It is good to see you, Sir---”

“Oh my goodness, now ---you must be Murdoch Lancer.”

Murdoch turned towards the approaching voice in time to see an elegant older woman glide through the doorway.  Teresa slid away from his arm and Scott quickly stepped up to supply the introductions, but Murdoch already knew who the woman in the tasteful black gown had to be.

“That’s right Aunt Cee.  This is my father, Murdoch Lancer. Murdoch, may I present my Aunt, Mrs. Holmes.”

“It’s a real pleasure to finally meet you, Mrs. Holmes.” 

Since she hadn’t been living in Boston at the time, Murdoch had never been introduced to his wife’s aunt, though even after the move to California, Catherine had kept up a correspondence with her.  He’d been disappointed that he’d never heard from the woman when Catherine died, not even after Harlan returned here with Scott.  Of course, he’d never communicated with Mrs. Holmes either. 

“Scott’s told us a great deal about you,” Murdoch said, as he took her hand. “May I offer my condolences on the loss of your brother.”

“Thank you, Mr. Lancer.  I’m so very pleased to meet you as well. It’s good that you could be here,” she added meaningfully.  Turning towards Scott, she placed one hand on her nephew’s arm. “Scott, dear, why don’t you take your father to the sitting room?  Teresa and I will join you in a few minutes.”

Cecilia Holmes looked up at Murdoch appraisingly. “There’s a rather well stocked liquor cabinet in the sitting room, Mr. Lancer. It’s early yet, but I believe I could do with a sip of sherry; I’m counting upon you gentlemen to join me.”

One quick glance at Scott’s face and the young man’s affection for his great aunt was evident.  But Murdoch was only vaguely aware of the sound of Scott’s voice agreeing with Mrs. Holmes’ suggestion, because over his son’s shoulder he saw her.


He heard Scott speak his name, heard the note of concern, but Murdoch still couldn’t pull his eyes away from the image.

“That’s a . . .  beautiful painting,” he forced out, his voice low.

“Yes it is, Sir.”

Murdoch rested one hand on his son’s shoulder as they both faced the portrait.  “Your mother was a beautiful woman, Scott.  In so many ways.” 

Scott crossed his arms over his chest, acknowledging the statement with a nod.  His wife’s pastel shadow gazed serenely upward, while their son stood beside him, head bowed. Murdoch suddenly felt overwhelmed by all he wished to say---and couldn’t.

Thankfully, Cecilia Holmes gently intervened.

“We’ve quite a long day ahead of us,” she reminded them softly. “You two go along now and do some catching up; Teresa and I will check on the staff.”

The four of them exited the front parlor, Murdoch casting one last glance over his shoulder at that portrait.

“It’s always been my favorite,” Scott murmured.

Murdoch nodded mutely as they moved together along the corridor. The painted double doors he recognized, but once they’d passed through them to the elegantly appointed sitting room, nothing inside seemed familiar. Murdoch tried to make himself comfortable in one of the large wing chairs while Scott set about pouring drinks, first a couple half tumblers of scotch and then a finger of sherry in each of two small stemmed cordial glasses.

“The service is at noon, Miss Harper tells me.” Noting Scott’s puzzled expression at the reference to Miss Harper, Murdoch reluctantly explained. “I arrived yesterday, late yesterday, and decided to impose upon Jim.”

“Yesterday? Murdoch, you should have---”

“Well, I didn’t want to interrupt you Scott, you weren’t expecting me and I wanted to be sure nothing had changed . . .” Murdoch accepted the glass of scotch with a fleeting wish that it was more full.  On the long trip East, it had crossed his mind that the plans could have been altered or that he might have gotten the date wrong and missed the service entirely, but once he’d arrived at the Harpers’, he’d learned that wasn’t the case. The truth was, he hadn’t been eager to return to this house.

“I came by this morning to let you know I was here.”

“You are coming with us to the church?” Scott had remained standing and looked down at him now with a searching expression.

“I thought I might slip in the back, Son.”

Scott pressed his lips together, and studied his glass for a moment. “If you’d rather not attend . . .” he started slowly.

“No, Scott, no-----I have every intention of being there. It’s just that . . .  well, I’ve been told I’m not suitably dressed.” 

Scott examined him then, appearing to notice his attire for the first time. Murdoch was wearing his dark grey jacket over ordinary black trousers, with a white shirt and simple string tie.  At least his boots were polished, thanks to someone in the Harper household.  The Garrett butler had relieved him of his Western style hat, also black.  A bit uneasy under his immaculately attired son’s scrutiny, Murdoch furthered his explanation. “Jim Harper didn’t think so, but he didn’t have anything to fit me. Not even a hat.”




Scott had to smile at that, recalling the pompous Mr. Harper.  Of course the Bostonian’s clothes would never have fit, not the way that Murdoch towered over his friend. But then, Murdoch towered over most everyone.

“I think you’ll do just fine, Sir.  And I hope you’ll change your mind and sit up front with us---- that is, if you’re willing to take my opinion over that of Mr. Harper.”

Murdoch laughed amiably at the jibe directed towards his friend.

<<“This ranch, your mother----you--- wouldn’t be here without him.>>

That’s what Murdoch had said, when he’d informed his sons that he was sending them off to mining country to find the elusive Melissa Harper.  It had been one of the very few times that Scott had heard Murdoch utter that phrase “your mother” in reference to himself.  He and Johnny had left so quickly that Scott hadn’t had an opportunity to ask his father any questions. After they’d returned with Melissa in tow, there had been the entire episode with Johnny’s impulsive decision to help the young woman return to her unsavory fiancé. They’d had to rescue her once more, and it had been a close call. After the Harpers had departed, they’d quickly fallen back into the daily routine and become occupied with other things.  Even when Melissa had paid a return visit, that particular aspect of Murdoch’s friendship with Jim Harper in Boston, the part that involved Catherine, had never been mentioned again, though Scott had thought about it from time to time. 

It was surprising how little he’d thought about the ranch and the people there since he and Teresa had arrived in Boston. Now Scott realized how much he missed Johnny; of course Teresa had clearly been greatly disappointed by his absence as well.  This reunion would have been less awkward if his brother were here to lighten the mood, although it was difficult to actually picture Johnny in this house. It was hard enough to believe that Murdoch was sitting here.  

“I’d like to hear about Mr. Harper sometime, about how he helped you.”

“It’s a good story.”

And Murdoch seemed willing to tell it, but just then Aunt Cecilia came in with Teresa to announce that the carriages were pulling up in front of the house. Scott handed his aunt a glass of sherry and Teresa one as well.  They all lifted their glasses in a solemn, silent toast before they drank.




As the carriage wound it way through the tree-lined streets of Beacon Hill to the Old West Church, Teresa asked after everyone back at the ranch. Both she and Mrs. Holmes had questions about Murdoch’s trip east as well.  Scott, Murdoch noted, seemed initially attentive when his brother, Jelly and Maria were discussed, but as they neared their destination, his son grew ever more distant, his attention focused upon the passing scenery.

Murdoch also noted that he and Teresa were the focus of considerable attention themselves, as he escorted his ward down the main aisle.  Barely audible beneath the organ music, the faint murmuring of whispered speculation amongst the assembled mourners followed them the length of the church.  Not that it mattered, let them say and think whatever they liked. If he’d had any doubts about the wisdom of being here, Scott had laid them all to rest. Just before they’d entered the huge front doors, his son had turned to him and said, “Thank you for coming, Sir. I’m glad you’re here.”

That simple expression of gratitude made it all worthwhile, all of it--- the uncomfortable night in the buckboard, the tedious week on the train.  Even the painful memories associated with being here in Boston.

Murdoch clung to that thought as the service progressed. He’d been prepared, he supposed, to hear his former father-in-law’s praises sung, but hadn’t considered how difficult it would be to listen when some of the speakers went well beyond extolling Harlan Garrett’s legendary business sense and contributions to the community to mention his devotion to his daughter—and to cite raising his grandson as one of the man’s crowning achievements. While Murdoch couldn’t disagree with the complimentary things said about Catherine and Scott, it was hard, damned hard, to hear his son’s virtues credited solely to his grandfather’s guidance.  One man, apparently an old friend of Harlan’s, even went so far as to describe Scott as Garrett’s “greatest legacy.”

For different reasons it had to be difficult for Scott to attend to all of it as well, but his son’s solemn profile gave nothing away. They were seated in the first row, the four of them; Murdoch had Teresa on his left and Mrs. Holmes on his right. Scott was positioned on the other side of his aunt, next to the main aisle. 

Following a brief and somewhat repetitive talk by a bearded young man identified as “Wade Garrett,” the minister introduced Scott as the final speaker.  Scott’s expression was determined as he rose to his feet, pausing to shake hands with his Garrett relative before striding confidently to the podium.

Murdoch drew in a breath and steeled himself for what was to come.

As had previous speakers, Scott carefully enumerated Harlan Garrett’s accomplishments, but Scott’s eulogy of his grandfather was matter of fact, devoid of the lofty words and flowery phrases that had embellished the other addresses.  He also described some of the more personal experiences he had shared with his grandfather over the years. It was a well-written piece that Scott delivered while calmly looking out over the congregation. He spoke clearly, with assurance, but without looking down at the faces of those friends and family members seated in the nearest pews.

For the first time, Murdoch wondered if his own presence here might be awkward for his son.  But if Scott was uncomfortable lauding the man who had raised him while his father listened in the front row, he gave no sign.

“For everything that my grandfather did for me, I feel a tremendous gratitude . . . ”

The already silent gathering hushed still further in response to the slight catch on the word ‘gratitude;’ it was the first time Scott had faltered. The quiet anticipation was palpable.  Murdoch felt himself nodding encouragingly, even though Scott’s eyes were fixed on the pages in front of him.

Then Scott looked up, and completed the sentiment in a strong voice.

“. . . and more than mere gratitude, affection and esteem as well.”

After a deliberate pause, Scott continued.

“My grandfather expected me to be independent and to make my own decisions----- something that he came to regret on more than one occasion, as many of you know.”

And with that wry comment, Scott took a half step back and appeared to depart from his prepared script. “My choice to enlist was one of those decisions,” he said slowly. “Several speakers have made reference to the fact that I was  . . . captured and held prisoner during the War, and what a difficult time that was for him.”

Scott studied the top of the lectern for a moment, before looking up at the assemblage once more.  “Before I left, Grandfather . . . my grandfather informed me that I was expected to return unharmed, and I promised him I would.  Of course, we both knew the words offered no safeguard.  I can only say . . . that there were times that it made a great difference, knowing that I had a home to come back to.”




“This is Scott’s father, Murdoch Lancer.”

A great many people seemed to be eager to meet Murdoch. It was curiosity, she supposed, since so few of them had ever seen Scott’s father.  As Scott and his aunt were occupied with their roles as host and hostess, Will Hayford kindly stood with her and Murdoch for a while, making introductions and telling them a bit about some of the guests. 

She, of course, was introduced each time as “Miss O’Brien, Mr. Lancer’s ward.”

Melissa Harper came by briefly with her father; Teresa had seen them enter and stop to talk with Scott.  Once the Harpers had made their way over to their corner of the sitting room, Mr. Hayford had left the four of them on their own and gone to mingle with the visitors.

Teresa found herself sitting alone after Melissa and her father had departed.  Murdoch and Scott were conversing with a whiskered gentleman Will had identified earlier as one of Scott’s favorite instructors at Harvard. Teresa looked around for Mrs. Holmes, and spying her sitting with a cluster of older women, was moving in that direction when a group of young woman, most appearing to be around her own age, invited her to join their circle. The young ladies introduced themselves but Teresa found that she couldn’t begin to keep their names straight, other than Margaret Reid, the heavy set, auburn haired girl who had first drawn her in, and a Charlotte Cushing, who somewhat resembled her friend Corinna Cushman from Green River.  The group wasted little time with pleasantries before they began plying her with questions about the ranch ---or, to be more exact, with questions about Scott and his life as a rancher.  They seemed quite amazed to learn that he did indeed herd cattle and spend his time performing various forms of manual labor.

“Well, I can’t imagine why Scott Lancer would want to live there, it sounds so hot and dirty!” said an elegant looking blonde.

“Perhaps he’s come back home to stay,” added another of the girls hopefully.  “That would certainly make a lot of young women happy.”

Margaret laughed and turned to Teresa confidingly. “I can assure you, Miss O’Brien, after he broke it off with Julie Dennison any number of eligible young women set their caps for Scott Lancer . . . isn’t that right Barbara?”

All eyes turned towards the tall blonde, who looked decidedly displeased by the comment. “Yes, there were a great many who were interested in him, as I recall,” she replied, pointedly looking around the circle. “Now, if you all will excuse me, I must go find my fiancé.”

Muffled giggles followed Barbara’s departure, though Teresa was at a loss as to why the young woman had seemed so angry or why the other girls found her displeasure so amusing.

Margaret asked a few questions about the towns nearest the ranch; the Bostonians were all dismayed to learn that the area lacked the theaters and concert halls and other entertainments they considered essential.

“It must be so tedious —whatever do you do for social discourse, Miss O’Brien?” asked one of the more serious of the group. Teresa thought her name might be Sarah.

“Well, sometimes there is a sewing circle or quilting bee in town, and often one of the ranches will host a dance or a social on the weekend. We don’t do much visiting during the week; there’s a lot of work to be done on a ranch, and everyone puts in very long days.”

“Surely you don’t have anything to do with the cows?” Charlotte Cushing asked, clearly horrified by the notion.

“Not a great deal, though I do have a large collection of recipes for beef,” Teresa responded with a smile.

Charlotte’s eyes grew rounder. “Oh, my. You don’t mean to say that you . . . cook?”

“Well, yes. . .”

“But the house---the ‘hah cee en dah’ did you call it? It sounded quite large--- aren’t there any servants?”

Teresa smiled encouragingly at Sarah’s attempt to pronounce the Spanish word. “We have Maria, our cook, but she’s like family, really. I like to work with her in the kitchen. And Juanita helps out with the cleaning and the laundry, and some of the other vaqueros’ wives---”


“The ranch hands. Lots of the men who work on the ranch are Mexican so most of us speak both English and Spanish.  Scott’s been learning Spanish too—Maria’s been teaching him.”

Amused laughter greeted this news.  “Now I’m sure that’s been quite different from his classes at Harvard,” Margaret observed.

“Actually, I’ve found the Senora to be as strict a taskmaster as any of the professors there.”

Scott’s arrival was hailed with smiles and a chorus of “Hello, Mr. Lancer.” He smiled and nodded in turn, having already greeted each of the guests when they’d first arrived at the house.

“I’ve a long ways to go before I can hope to be as fluent as Teresa,” he added, smiling down at her.

“Miss O’Brien was telling us all about your ranch, Mr. Lancer,” Charlotte Cushing assured him eagerly.

“It all sounds so very exciting,” added another. Teresa didn’t recall her name, but remembered that earlier she’d voiced the hope that Scott was back in Boston to stay.

Scott smiled politely. “There’s a great deal of work involved in running a ranch.”

“Yes, Miss O’Brien was telling us that she sews and cooks!”

“Well, she is quite an excellent cook. But I assure you, she does a great deal more than that. She can drive a team of horses, load and fire a sidearm, rope a calf, tend a bullet wound---- ”

“Goodness!” “Oh my!” “Really!”


Teresa wasn’t certain which was more embarrassing-- the young ladies’ startled exclamations or Scott’s admiring tone.

“Suffice to say, Miss O’Brien excels in many of the skills essential to life on a ranch. And,” he continued, “she ably represents Lancer in any number of community activities.”

Scott offered her his arm. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Ladies, it’s time to go in to dinner. So, Miss O’Brien, if you’ll do me the honor . . .”

As she slipped her own arm through Scott’s, Teresa noted the circle of envious faces watching them. She thought she knew what they might be assuming, and she didn’t mind at all.



Murdoch had assumed that he would have an opportunity to chat with his ward over dinner; Teresa had said there was something she wanted to talk to him about.  Murdoch had escorted Mrs. Holmes into dinner and now he could see that the seating arrangements would make that conversation with Teresa impossible.

Mrs. Holmes was seated beside him, with Scott on her other side. Teresa sat between Scott and Wade Garrett, who Mrs. Holmes had explained was the son of her cousin Walter, now seated across from them with his wife.

There were several other tables for the dinner guests; only relatives and Harlan Garrett’s closest associates and their families had been invited to stay. Several toasts to Harlan’s memory preceded the meal.

After Wade Garrett had offered his tribute, he turned to look directly at Murdoch and asked, sotto voce, if he wished the opportunity to speak.

Murdoch had declined, then regretted it, worried about disappointing Scott.  Of course, since he had nothing prepared, he would likely have disappointed, and possibly embarrassed, his son anyway.  After Wade had resumed his seat, Scott, ever the gracious Boston gentleman, had risen to eloquently toast the assembly and thank the guests. However, once the servants had started to carry in the first course, Scott had disappeared.

His son was absent long enough that Murdoch finally voiced his concern to Mrs. Holmes, who explained that Scott had gone to look in on the members of the household staff who were dining in the kitchen.

“The men and women who are serving here tonight are employees on loan by some of our friends and neighbors, so that our own staff could share the meal.”

“In the kitchen?”

“Yes . . . well, I’m afraid that things are done rather formally here, Mr. Lancer. Scott suggested that our people should be included amongst the guests, but Mr. Fredericks and I persuaded him that it simply wouldn’t be suitable. Or comfortable, for any of them.”

“He’s known some of them all his life,” she added with a sigh. “Which is why it’s going to be difficult when they have to leave.”

“Why do they have to leave?”

“I am only in Boston for a part of the year, Mr. Lancer. Unless Scott were to decide to live here himself, there simply is no need for a full time staff.”

“But if he sells the house, wouldn’t the new owner ask them to stay on?”

“Under the terms of my brother’s will, I am to receive a life interest in this house; Harlan wanted to provide for me, you see.  Even if he wished to, Scott cannot sell it. Mrs. Hudson, I think, will be content to move in with her sister in Braintree and come back to cook for me here in the winter. But the others . . . the others will need to secure permanent positions. Of course, Scott will do all that he can to help them, I’m sure.”

“I’m sure he will.”

Murdoch made a show of sampling his meal, but his appetite had been considerably dampened. He’d realized, of course, that Scott was Harlan’s principal heir, and assumed that Scott would inherit the bulk of his grandfather’s estate, including this house.

Until now, Murdoch hadn’t really contemplated what that would mean to his son, but now it was clear that of course this house held a wealth of memories in addition to familiar furnishings and significant objects, like the portrait of Catherine he’d seen that morning. And in addition to his Garrett relatives, there were also the loyal employees, some of whom might, even here in Beacon Hill, be almost considered members of the family.

This house was the one that Scott had grown up in. It was his home, had been his home for twenty-four years. 

And there was also the business; Scott must have inherited that as well. Teresa had mentioned that it had been Melissa Harper who had taken her shopping and shown her around the city, because Scott had been spending so much of his time at his grandfather’s office.

Murdoch couldn’t help remembering what Harlan had said when he’d come to the ranch, how he’d proudly announced that there was an estate, “a legacy of considerable worth” awaiting Scott in Boston.   

In Boston.  Where, some might say, he belonged.


To see an image of Boston’s Old West Church:



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 16A. 

“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“There were times that it made a great difference, knowing that I had a home to come back to.”

A home provided by Harlan Garrett. His grandfather’s house had been Scott’s home for twenty-four years, the home he’d referred to in his eulogy. It had been Catherine’s too, Murdoch reminded himself.  But this would be the first night that he had ever spent under this roof, in the house his son now owned.

Someone had been sent to the Harpers’ to fetch his things and Murdoch’s bags now awaited him in a comfortable upstairs guest chamber.  A small fire burned on the hearth here in the room that Scott had identified as “Grandfather’s study.” After carelessly draping his finely tailored suit jacket over the back of the sofa, Scott loosened his tie and took a seat in front of the fireplace.

His wineglass and a bottle of burgundy had already been deposited on the small table between the sofa and his chair.  Having filled his own glass, Scott gestured with the bottle at the nearly empty one in Murdoch’s hand.


“No, thank you, Scott, I’m fine.”

Scott set the bottle on the table, then took up his glass and lowered the level by half before putting it down again.  Leaning back into the armchair, he set to work unfastening the buttons of his black vest.

Murdoch left his own wine glass on the mantel and began to move about the room, scanning the spines of the books arrayed on the shelves. The weighty silence was relieved by the plunking sound of stone on wood as Scott dropped first one, then a second, oval jet cufflink onto the small table, removing them preparatory to rolling up his sleeves. 

“It was a fine service, Scott.  You did a fine job,” he offered.

“Thank you, Murdoch. I thought it went well.”

The slender thread of conversation frayed, but before it snapped Murdoch caught it back up again, spinning a query about the identities of the other speakers.

Resting his head against the antimacassar-covered armchair, Scott began to list the men by name, indicating each one’s connection to his grandfather.

Murdoch’s movement about the perimeter of the room eventually brought him to the corner near Harlan’s desk, where a group of framed photographs drew his attention further away from Scott’s weary recitation.  Murdoch mentally chided himself for only half listening, though truthfully he had primarily been interested in filling the awkward silence----and perhaps avoiding other, more difficult topics. 

“ . . . Mr. Merrill has done business with Grandfather for many years . . .”

Murdoch reached first for the image of Catherine, a daguerreotype depicting a woman younger than the one he’d known and loved, just a girl really.  The eyes were the same though, and Murdoch gazed into them searchingly for a long moment before sadly returning the portrait to its place on the shelf.

He picked up the next frame, containing another daguerreotype, this one of Scott at about five or six--- the age he’d been when Murdoch had last entered this house, the age he’d been when Harlan had introduced them.  Staring at the framed image in his hand, he remembered this same serious child’s face gazing up at him, so many years ago, remembered shaking that small hand. Murdoch found he couldn’t look into those eyes and set the picture back down again. 

Glancing over his shoulder, he could just glimpse the top of Scott’s blond head, all that was visible over the back of the chair. 

“Wade has been working with Grandfather for some time . . .”

The last image was one of Scott in uniform, standing next to an older man, a general.  Hands at his sides, Murdoch wistfully studied the youthful lieutenant. There was a similar photograph sitting atop Scott’s dresser in his bedroom at Lancer, and although Murdoch had always wondered about the identity of the older officer, he knew he wouldn’t ask now.  He wasn’t willing to hear about another man who might possibly have been a father figure to his son. 

He knew that Scott had been in the cavalry, but little else about his son’s service during the War. When he’d finally learned of Scott’s year-long imprisonment, he’d heard about it from a stranger, that Cassidy woman, who’d come to the ranch to warn them about her vengeful fool of a husband. 

An officer, charged with leading men into battle, then a prisoner of war and the sole survivor of a failed escape attempt—he’d come so close to losing this son, the one who was supposed to be “safe in Boston,” come so close without ever knowing it. Without ever knowing him.  The realization never failed to turn Murdoch’s insides to ice.

He wondered if he would have heard the sad news from Harlan, if Scott had failed to keep his promise to return. It was yet another addition to Murdoch’s long list of grievances against Harlan Garrett.  The man could have written to tell him about Scott’s enlistment, he could have notified him when his son was captured.

But in all honesty, Murdoch couldn’t help but wonder how the news would have affected him.  By then he’d long given up the idea of trying to communicate with his eldest son, certain that Scott would have no interest in hearing from the father he’d never met. 

He’d been so grateful for the scant information contained in the unexpected Pinkerton report, rereading the few pages countless times. When the boys had arrived, there’d been little time for talk, and afterwards . . . well, he could hardly have asked questions about the past without being expected to answer some of his own. Scott had volunteered little about his life in Boston, and nothing at all about his captivity, neither before nor after the episode with the Cassidys.  Clearly, it was a topic his son preferred to avoid.  It had been a surprise when Scott had made reference to his imprisonment during the eulogy.  Murdoch sighed and turned away, casting one last glance at that young soldier. 

Scott, Murdoch realized, had stopped talking; the only sound was the popping and crackling of the logs burning on the hearth. With his elbows on the padded armrests of the chair and his long legs stretched out in front of him, his son sat staring into the flames.  Scott cocked a brow in his direction as Murdoch moved slowly to the armchair on the opposite side of the fireplace, but didn’t speak. The wine bottle on the table beside him now stood empty.

Beside Murdoch’s own chair was another table, a larger one, upon which rested a reading lamp and several book-marked volumes.  Once seated, Murdoch mechanically reached for one and read the title: The Capture, the Prison Pen and the Escape.  Quickly turning to the inside cover page, he read the full description of the book’s contents: “Giving a complete history of prison life in the South, principally at Richmond, Danville, Macon, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Belle Isle, Millin, Salisbury, and Andersonville, describing the arrival of prisoners, and plans of escape, together with numerous and varied incidents and anecdotes of prison life.”  It was a fairly recent work, published in 1870, and written by a Captain Willard Worcester Glazier.

“Is this something you’re reading, Scott?”

Scott’s eyes had drifted closed.  They opened reluctantly, that hauntingly familiar blue-grey regard taking in the book cradled in Murdoch’s hand. He shook his head slightly.

“No, my book is upstairs .  .  . that must be  . . . Grandfather’s . . .” Scott said sadly and returned his gaze to the hearth.

Murdoch set the first book on his lap and examined the second. LIBBY LIFE: Experiences of A Prisoner of War in Richmond, VA, 1863-64  By F.F. Cavada.  He opened the book to the middle of the first chapter, and started reading partway down the page.

“There are filthy blankets hanging about the room; they have been used time and again by the many who have preceded us; they are soiled, worn, and filled with vermin, but we are recommended to help ourselves in time; if we do so with reluctance and profound disgust it is because we are now more particular than we will be by-and-by.

We have tasted of the promised soup: it is boiled water sprinkled with rice, and seasoned with the rank juices of stale bacon; we must shut our eyes to eat it---

“He always preferred histories.”

Startled, Murdoch looked up. Scott managed a tired smile.

“So, what is it about?” he asked, pointing at the open volume.

Murdoch closed the book.


The distance between them was too far to reach across easily, so Murdoch reluctantly pushed himself up from his chair and took the few steps necessary to close the space.  Looking puzzled, Scott sat upright and extended his hand.

After a swift examination of the covers of the two books, he uttered a harsh expletive. Murdoch remained standing, looking down at him.

“Have you read either of them, Scott?”

“This one, no,” Scott replied, indicating the thicker volume. “But this other, Cavada’s work, I’ve read.”

“Is it . . . accurate?”

“Yes . . . as far as it goes. He was there in ’63. Conditions were  . . . worse by the War’s end.”

Scott stood, swayed a bit, and dropped the two books onto the cushion of his vacated seat.


Murdoch wasn’t sure if the milder curse was another expression of displeasure at Harlan’s selection of reading material or a reaction to the empty wine bottle.

Scott folded his arms across his chest.  “He never asked any questions.  I would have  . . .  ” Scott drew in a deliberate breath, his hands dropping to his sides.  “We never talked about it,” he said tightly.

Snatching up his glass, Scott drained what little was left, though it could hardly have been enough to douse his barely suppressed emotion. It was hard to see Scott struggling with those kinds of feelings, so close to the surface.  Murdoch thought for a moment that he might even fling the delicate piece of glassware against the furniture or one of the walls but instead Scott set it back on the table with exaggerated care.

“There were  . . .  so many things we never talked about,” he said, finally looking up and meeting Murdoch’s eyes.

“Scott . . . there are some things we need to discuss. I’m ready,” he added firmly, in response to his son’s openly skeptical expression. 

It was Scott who turned away. “I’m not sure I am.”

Murdoch tentatively dropped one hand upon his son’s shoulder. “It’s been a long day.”

Scott nodded mutely. “Perhaps . . . tomorrow.”

“Well, Son, I do have a ticket for the ten a.m. train.”

“You’re planning to leave in the morning?” As Scott turned to face him, Murdoch’s hand slipped off of his shoulder.

“I need to get back, and I thought  . . . I thought you’d have things to do . . . Teresa tells me you’re going up to Maine.”

Scott regarded him calmly, folding his arms over his chest and standing his ground. “We’re not leaving right away; Aunt Cee wanted a day before she had to think about packing. To recover, she said.  I don’t have anything that I have to do tomorrow . . . so I could show you around the city.”

“I have been here before, Scott,” Murdoch pointed out gently, but too quickly, and wished the words back as soon as he’d said them.

Scott’s mouth quirked up into a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Then perhaps you might show me around, Sir,” he said dryly.

Murdoch nodded in grateful relief. “Perhaps we could each-—there are places I’d like to see again. I’d like to show them to you, Scott.”

“Well, then, we’ll make a day of it.”

“I’d like that, Son.”

Scott nodded, then exhaled audibly. “Now, I think it might be a good idea if we both turned in. I could use some sleep.”

“You go ahead, I’ll be up soon, after I find something to read.”  Murdoch bent to pick up the two books and felt Scott watching him warily as he crossed in front of the fireplace to return them to the their place beneath the reading lamp. “Something a bit lighter,” he assured his son as he carefully set them down.

“All right . . . well, good night, Murdoch. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Good night, Scott.”

After Scott had departed, Murdoch dutifully perused the shelves, selecting a volume of short stories to take up to bed.  But first he sat for a while before the dying fire, paging through the slim volume of Libby Life until a particular passage gave him pause.

“There is a group in a dusky corner that I can see from here: some one is playing "Home, sweet home! " on a violin. It is a very dismal affair, this group: the faces are all sad,-no wonder, for the tune is telling them strange, wild things : there are whispering voices in its notes . .”




Author’s note: For more on Federico Fernandez Cavada's 1864 book about his Libby Prison confinement:


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 16B. 


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



<<“You’ll get no apology from me!”>>

The voice had been angry, the words startling.  An apology, or rather, an attempt at one, had been exactly what he had expected from his father. It hadn’t happened when they’d met and most likely wouldn’t happen today either.

Perhaps there might finally be some answers-----but was he prepared to hear them, Scott wondered.  Was he even willing to ask the questions? To be honest, the question uppermost in his mind this morning concerned the wisdom of urging Murdoch to stay on another day in Boston.

The face staring back at him in the mirror looked just as weary as he felt. His aunt had planned to sleep in, and as he moved slowly down the stairs, Scott wished he’d done the same. 

It was no surprise to find Murdoch downstairs in the dining room, dressed and ready for the day, his breakfast half eaten.  Scott cinched the belt of his robe more tightly and settled into his seat at the head of the table. 

Murdoch offered a “good morning” in a sympathetic tone, but further conversation was curtailed by Jane’s entrance. The maid efficiently served what Scott hoped would be a revitalizing dose of coffee.

Fortunately, Teresa soon joined them, her cheerful conversation with her guardian affording Scott some time for the coffee to take effect.  In response to Murdoch’s expressions of concern, she assured him that she’d be quite fine on her own for the day. When his father voiced regret over not having had a chance to sit down and talk with his ward, Scott realized that Teresa could not have had an opportunity to let Murdoch know about the revelation concerning the Pinkerton agent.

“It’s much more important that you and Scott have a chance to spend some time together,” she said, brightly.  Too brightly—and she was looking at Scott when she said it.  No doubt she was worried, but since Murdoch wasn’t aware of her disclosure, there was little danger of him bringing it up, even if the man truly was prepared to break his long-standing pattern of avoiding discussions about the past. 

While Scott did have hopes of hearing a bit about Murdoch’s time in Boston, and perhaps some of the details of how his parents had first met, he wasn’t anxious to probe the matter of why he had been raised by his grandfather in Boston.  Grandfather’s loss was still too painful and it was hardly the sort of conversation he wanted to have while suffering the after effects of a long day with too little food and too much wine, followed by an even longer night with too little sleep.



Scott had already spent several restless nights thinking about the things to be done after his grandfather’s will was read and the decisions that would have to be made about the house and the business. 

Last night other matters had kept him awake, as he had first reviewed the memorial service in his head, particularly his own carefully crafted speech. Scott didn’t regret his departure from the written page, wasn’t at all sorry to have expressed his affection and admiration for his grandfather publicly.  But his forgiveness he had offered silently, before leaving the podium at Old West.

<<“I do forgive you, Sir.”>>

Best not to dwell upon others’ faults and failings, the Reverend Grimes had said, yet it was impossible to forget what Grandfather had done, what he’d tried to do.  His grandfather had, at least, offered an apology.  Although Scott had at times questioned his ability to truly accept it, when he had concluded his eulogy and bade Harlan Garrett a final farewell, it had been with the conviction that his forgiveness was indeed coming from the heart. 

Equally as important, returning to this house, finding the letters and the framed flag remnant and now with the discovery of his grandfather’s selection of reading material, Scott in turn felt forgiven. 

The longer he’d thought about it, the more Scott’s initial dismay at what the older man must have learned about the conditions at Libby was replaced by appreciation of the fact that Grandfather had wanted to know. Although they had often corresponded about the books they were reading, on this subject, his grandfather had been secretive, and Scott had to admit that he most likely would not have welcomed the news. He’d always been relieved that Grandfather hadn’t ever asked many questions.

Only one person had heard the worst of it, really, and that was Will Hayford. Of course, at first that had been largely unintentional, as Scott had believed his friend to be even more inebriated than he himself at the time. But the next day, they’d both remembered and continued the sobering discussion.  It had helped a great deal, talking with Will.  Although he’d never been captured, there was no question that Will understood, having survived his own hell at Gettysburg and bearing his own, much more visible, scars. 

Scott had never been eager to talk about his incarceration in Libby Prison, but he would have answered honestly any questions asked. Or so he told himself.

Unlike Murdoch Lancer, who seemingly had no difficulty refusing to answer even a direct question. 



 <<“Why didn’t you come to claim me in Boston?”>>

The words came unbidden, as Scott sipped at his coffee, regarding his father’s profile and only half listening as Murdoch conversed with Teresa about things that had happened at the ranch during their absence.  Rebuffed the first time he had posed the awkward question, Scott had refrained from asking it again, even when opportunities presented themselves. 

There was another opportunity now, with Murdoch here in Boston. His father’s last minute arrival had been one of the few genuinely happy moments of the past few days. It was a long journey from California to Massachusetts, and Scott understood fully its significance as a gesture of support.  He was well aware that Murdoch Lancer hadn’t traveled so far simply to pay his respects to his former father in law.

Finding it much easier to think about what they might do, rather than what they might talk about, Scott had used a portion of his wakeful night to plan their travels about the city. He’d more or less determined a route and despite his weary, wine soaked thoughts, was starting to look forward to that part of the day.

The coffee was helping, as were a few pieces of dry toast. Scott would welcome whatever memories Murdoch cared to share, but this would also be an opportunity to show his father his home and the city he knew so well.  The home he’d had to leave behind. 

Just as he’d grown up understanding that it was best not to mention Murdoch’s name in Harlan Garrett’s house, once settled in at the ranch, it had seemed advisable to refrain from saying much about his life with his grandfather.  Here in Boston, it had never been especially difficult to avoid talking about a man he’d never met; at Lancer, it had proven to be more of a challenge to omit references to the only home he’d ever known, and to the grandfather who had raised him.  Sometimes, in the beginning, he’d felt a bit like a ship adrift in the harbor, cut loose from its moorings. 

It seemed strange to recall that even in the midst of his hasty departure for St. Louis, when he hadn’t yet made up his mind to continue on to California, he’d still taken the time to pack a few mementoes to share with his father, tangible connections to his past.  The photograph of himself with General Sheridan had been one such item, but Scott had never actually shown it to Murdoch. The shock of meeting Johnny, their father’s less than warm welcome, and the subsequent series of events in the bloody conflict with Pardee had left no time for introductory conversation. He’d gotten to know Murdoch Lancer first through observation, judging him by his actions and interactions with others, rather than by asking questions.  Apparently, his father had been satisfied to do the same.

Johnny, however, had asked questions, and right away. Recollections of that first morning never failed to bring a smile to Scott’s lips. His brother had been a study in contrasts.  Although there had been a certain amount of what he now viewed more fondly as “brotherly behavior,” Scott had been well aware of the purpose of Johnny’s early morning visit –it hadn’t been simply to snap up another twenty dollar gold piece, but it hadn’t all been friendly either. Curious questions coupled with cold warnings. Bravado masking just a bit of uncertainty, or so Scott had suspected.  While studying the photograph and trying on that hat, Johnny had been forming a careful assessment.  The verbal sparring had made it clear to Scott that he’d been underestimated. He’d rather enjoyed proving his brother wrong.

Later, both Johnny and Teresa had asked questions about Boston, about his friends and family, about his life there.  Scott had been quite aware that he’d grown up amidst luxury, in decided contrast to what his brother had known. Even Teresa’s happy childhood at Lancer, where her father, Maria and Murdoch, had, by all accounts, doted upon her, paled in comparison. 

One day, Teresa had inquired about the photograph. He’d talked about his time in the cavalry a bit, but the War wasn’t really something he wanted her to hear about.  Teresa had a kind heart, and she worried about things—worried about things that weren’t her fault, things she couldn’t change. 

Grateful that she had kept Murdoch engaged in conversation, Scott smiled reassuringly at her now, and quickly downed one last cup of coffee.  Although he’d never shown Murdoch the picture taken with General Sheridan, today he would take him on a tour and show him Boston. Scott headed back upstairs to prepare to spend the day with his father.


As the carriage moved along Chestnut Street, Scott pointed out the Hayfords’ house.  Wending their way through Beacon Hill, he identified a few of the other residences. Teresa would have recognized them, but the names were unfamiliar to Murdoch.  

They passed down Walnut to Beacon Street, which bordered the northern edge of “the Common.” A huge public park, British troops had camped there prior to the Revolution. Scott was about to share some of the history of the place when Murdoch spoke.

“That’s Boston Common,” he said reverently, without turning away from the view from the carriage window.

“That’s right. I understand cattle still grazed here, forty or fifty years ago and---”

“I met your mother here.”

It had been a Sunday afternoon, he said, and they’d each been strolling through the park with friends. Although Murdoch had never appeared to be a man inclined to pay particular attention to the details of feminine attire, he seemed to easily recall exactly what Catherine had been wearing, how she’d worn her hair. While Scott listened intently and his father continued to gaze out at the green expanse, Murdoch spoke at length about Catherine’s eyes, Catherine’s knowing smile.

And finally the mystery was solved, partially at least, as to the role that Jim Harper had played, the debt that Murdoch had owed to that self-important little man.  It had been Mr. Harper—Murdoch called him “James”—who had accompanied him to the Common that day; Murdoch had been employed by his father “Big Jim” Harper, loading and unloading ships down on the waterfront.

In the course of their maiden conversation, Catherine Garrett had mentioned that she looked forward to attending the theater later in the week.  Barely able to afford the price of a ticket, Murdoch had appealed to his friend for assistance in obtaining suitable clothing to wear.  All so that he could spend a few minutes conversing with Miss Garrett in between acts.

As the carriage carried them across the Charles towards Cambridge, Scott heard for the first time about the earliest stages of his parents’ courtship.  A concert had followed the encounter at the theater—though, just as with the play, Murdoch could provide no information whatsoever about the content of the performance.  As it had turned out, the young woman who had accompanied Catherine to the music hall was suddenly taken ill very soon after their arrival, necessitating an immediate departure. Clearly, in addition to Melissa Harper’s father, a great debt was also due to Catherine’s unnamed friend, since Murdoch had been invited to occupy her vacated seat.

As it happened, they arrived at Harvard College well before Murdoch’s story reached the point of his first encounter with Catherine’s formidable father.  They were passing by the ‘delta,’ a triangular area bounded by Quincy, Kirkland and Cambridge streets, the site of ongoing construction work that captured Murdoch’s attention.

“They’ve made great progress,” Scott observed. “The cornerstone was laid shortly after I left for California . . . as you can see the transept is almost completed.”

In response to Murdoch’s questions, Scott told him what he knew about the work in progress.

“It’s to be called ‘Memorial Hall,’ in honor of the Harvard men who were killed during the Rebellion,” he explained.  “The plans call for stained glass windows and marble plaques with the names inscribed. There will also be a theater inside and eventually commencement exercises will be held there.”

Once they’d moved beyond the work site, Scott called for the vehicle to halt. The remainder of the morning they spent walking about the college grounds, stopping to talk with a few instructors they encountered. Scott pointed out other buildings and was happy to satisfy his father’s curiosity about his studies.  He was grateful that Murdoch elected not to pursue any further the subject of his son’s departure for California, or anything more about the War. 

At mid-day, they drove back across the river to Boston to dine at the Parker House.  The restaurant attached to the elegant hotel had become well-known for both its buttery soft rolls and for the Parker House Chocolate Pie, the creations of, respectively, a very talented German baker and an famously highly paid French pastry chef.

They disembarked on School Street, opposite city hall.  Mounting the white marble steps, they entered the lobby of the hotel itself, taking in the impressive display of chandelier and oak paneled walls, thick carpets and horsehair divans, before passing through to the restaurant.

Once seated, Scott placed an order for drinks, eschewing the concoctions of mixed spirits that also held a featured spot on the Parker House menu and requesting the establishment’s best scotch whiskey. Since the hotel and restaurant hadn’t begun operations until after he and Catherine had departed for California, Murdoch had never dined at the Parker House. “Not that I could have afforded it,” he added ruefully, looking around at the luxurious surroundings.

“It must have considerably more difficult to travel so far then, and costly.”

“We went by ship. I had enough money saved for the trip and to make some sort of a start in California.  Fortunately, your mother insisted upon paying her own way.”

While an efficient waiter provided them the beginning courses, including bowls of creamy clam chowder, Murdoch described the westward journey. The hacienda entered the story just as the main course of whitefish--the day’s best catch, termed “scrod” at the Parker House---arrived at their table.

“So how were you able to purchase the ranch?”

“Although it was in poor shape, it still cost much more than what was left from my savings.  But your mother had come into a portion of her inheritance from your grandmother . . .”

Scott arched one brow. “So she used her own funds, her inheritance,” he said carefully, “to make an investment in the ranch?”


From the expression on his father’s face, Scott gathered that the point had been taken, and so he didn’t press it. Time enough for that if and when he himself returned to Lancer. Deftly shifting the topic, Scott told what he knew of Harvey Parker, another self-made man, who had traveled by boat from Maine, arriving in Boston virtually penniless. Working as a coachman, he’d saved enough money to purchase his first small café, turning it into a successful enterprise. Eventually, he’d fulfilled his dream to construct a first class hotel and restaurant at the base of Beacon Hill.

The Parker House had in recent years become the home of the “Saturday Club” a group of Boston’s brightest intellectual lights, many of them writers, who gathered there on the last Saturday of each month. The “membership list” was impressive, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, Francis Parkman, Charles Francis Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, a cousin of Aunt Cee’s late husband.  Scott recalled the stir created when British author Charles Dickens had visited Boston after the War, offering public readings of his work while in residence at the Parker House.

The fine meal was concluded with coffee to accompany slices of the renowned Parker House Chocolate Cake, a pudding pie cake with chocolate glaze.  The afternoon was spent touring the rebuilt areas of the business district and the waterfront.  Murdoch found that time and the devastating fire had significantly altered much of what he had known.  Although he refrained from pointing them out to his father, Scott was pleased to see that most of the establishments he had once frequented had been reconstructed. While he had been happy to meet a few old acquaintances in the environs of Harvard and the Parker House, he was just as happy not to encounter anyone he knew along the waterfront. Apprehensive about being pulled into a business conference by Cousin Wade, Scott pointed out the office on Milk Street as they rode past, but decided against stopping in.

There were still a few hours remaining before suppertime when they returned to the house on Chestnut Street. It had been an enjoyable day, a day of shared memories.  And by unspoken mutual agreement, it had also been a day of avoiding difficult topics.

When they did not immediately encounter either Mrs. Holmes or Teresa, Murdoch suggested they adjourn to the study before supper.  Once the door closed behind them, he wasted no time.

“Scott, I’m leaving tomorrow. I know you have questions. Go ahead, Son, and ask them.”

Scott considered and swiftly rejected the idea of asking once more a question to which he already knew the answer.  When he’d finally asked his father why he’d never come to claim him, he’d expected Murdoch’s response to be “I did,” but that hadn’t been the case.  Now, if he asked his father “Why did you send for me?” Scott knew that the most truthful answer would be “I didn’t.”

Despite the fact that Murdoch was now indicating his readiness to discuss the past, Scott was unwilling to be disappointed again. 




“There was something that I was wondering about, Sir,” Scott finally offered, after what seemed an interminable silence.

 “What’s that, Scott?”

Leaning against the front edge of his grandfather’s desk, Scott folded his arms across his chest and studied the floor.  Murdoch recognized it as a posture reminiscent of the one he’d assumed that day back at Lancer, in the Great Room, when he’d reluctantly admitted to having questions about the past.  When he’d asked why his father had never come to “claim him” in Boston.  As he regarded his son’s bowed blond head, Murdoch resolved that whatever this inquiry might be, this time--- this time--- he would answer. 

“Did you ever . . .  write to me?” Only after he’d forced the words out did Scott look up. Murdoch met his gaze, still determined not to back away from the question.

“Yes, Scott.  Many times . . .”

Scott pushed himself to his feet and turned away, but not before Murdoch had caught a glimpse of the dismay there.  Scott moved around behind the large desk.

“Then I suppose I’ll find your letters somewhere, in amongst Grandfather’s papers,” he said tightly. 

“No.  No you won’t Son.”

Then those eyes were upon him again, the slight squint of intense examination. Lips parted, the question evident in his facial expression, still, Scott didn’t ask. 

Murdoch inhaled once and plunged in. “I suppose you might find a few letters that I wrote to Harlan, when you were very small. Very few, I’m ashamed to say. But the letters that I wrote to you, Scott . . . I never sent them. I’m not sure I ever even finished one.”

Lips pressed together now, Scott’s gaze slipped away once more. Murdoch slowly withdrew the thick envelope from the inner pocket of his jacket.

“Until now.”

It was a relief to hold the letter in his hand, after bearing the weight of it against his heart the entire day.  Murdoch stepped forward, and when Scott made no move to accept it, placed the envelope upon the desk.  The stark white rectangle, blank except for Scott’s name written in Murdoch’s own hand, lay on the dark, highly polished wooden surface that stretched between them.

“It’s long overdue, Scott, but I finally wrote down everything  . . .  everything that I’ve wanted to explain for years.  Things I should have written, or said, to you a long time ago.”

“Why didn’t you?”

The abrupt question gave Murdoch pause. “I just . . .  I never could. It always seemed too hard,” he admitted finally.

“And it’s easier now.  Now that he’s dead.”


With an effort, Murdoch swallowed his angry reaction to the accusation in the words, tried to focus on the sadness lying beneath the surface of his son’s attempt to affect a carefully neutral tone.  He reminded himself that it had been only yesterday that Scott had spoken so eloquently at his grandfather’s memorial service.  Given Murdoch’s own reluctance to discuss the past, and his undisguised antipathy towards his former father-in-law, it was understandable that Scott might expect the thick envelope to contain an indictment of Harlan Garrett.  Until he opened it and read the pages inside, Scott could have no way of knowing how much Murdoch blamed himself.

“No, Scott, what made it easier was that now . . . I know you.  I know what kind of man you are.”

<< Compassionate. Understanding. Qualities you share with your mother>> he wanted to add, but didn’t. Instead he watched silently as Scott reached out, reluctantly, with one hand to finger the envelope. His son’s head was lowered, so Murdoch couldn’t begin to guess at the emotions the young man was experiencing. With Scott, it was never easy to tell.

“You don’t have to read it now. But when you’re ready, it’s all there.”


The challenge in his son’s eyes was unmistakable. “I’m sure you’ll still have questions. And I promise you, Scott, I’ll be ready to answer them.”

Scott’s gaze dropped to the thick envelope once more. “I should probably tell you  .  .  .  I know you didn’t send that Pinkerton agent.”

Not Sam, Murdoch decided quickly. Teresa then. He wondered how long Scott had known.  Murdoch’s response was measured. “Then  . . .  you won’t be surprised, when you read about that.”

Scott’s head came up then, his serious expression giving nothing away. He nodded slowly, and then finally reached down to pick up the envelope.  Scott started to tuck it into the inner pocket of his black jacket, then seemed to change his mind. Pulling open the center drawer of his of his grandfather’s desk, he laid the thick envelope inside.



<<"Seems to me, Murdoch, you could have tried a little harder. You could have put up a fight.>>

Johnny’s angry words echoed in Murdoch’s head, what his younger son had said when they’d stood in front of the hacienda watching Scott drive away with his grandfather. It had been different then, Scott was no longer a child, he was a man, more than capable of making his own decisions.  Still, the words had struck a familiar chord because they matched the accusations echoing in his own guilty thoughts over the years. They all came back to him now, as he tried to absorb Scott’s announcement.

Now he and Scott were standing side by side on the platform, amidst the coming and going of passengers and railroad employees, waiting for the call to board the train.  Anticipating being confined for the next week, Murdoch wanted to be out of doors, even if the air was rife with the noise and fumes of the locomotive.

The first call sounded, though there was no need to hurry yet. Murdoch felt he should say something, but the truth was that everything he needed to say had already been said, either in the stories he’d told yesterday, or in the pages of the letter that now lay in a drawer of Harlan Garrett’s desk. At least Murdoch assumed it was still there, carefully sealed inside its envelope, for if Scott had read it, his son gave no sign. Surely if he had, Scott would have had additional questions to ask.  Surely they would have run out of time.

Now, in the final minutes remaining before he would board the westbound train, it seemed the two of them had run out of things to say, and were reduced to repeating previous conversations in order to fill the space between them. 

“You’ll wire us when Teresa leaves with the Hayfords? Someone can meet her in Sacramento.” 

“I’ll do that. And I’m sure Will won’t mind sending word too, when they get close . . .”

“Hopefully you won’t be too far behind them, Scott.”

Scott lowered his gaze, and in that moment, Murdoch knew that he didn’t want to hear what his son was about to say.

“Murdoch . . . I may decide to stay.”

Johnny’s accusation came instantly to mind. Murdoch recalled what his response to Johnny had been— Scott wasn’t a little boy, he was a man.  His decision. 

He’d chosen to leave because of Harlan’s machinations, but it had been Scott’s decision, nonetheless. Still, whenever he recalled that sad departure, Murdoch did have regrets.  He wasn’t quite sure how to respond now, but he’d be damned if he’d make the same mistakes again.

“It’s your decision, Scott,” he started, tentatively.  The blond head remained bowed, nodding woodenly.  Murdoch stepped around to face his son, gripping one of Scott’s arms with each hand, forcing him to look up.

“But I want you to know this: I hope you’ll come back home. To stay.” Their eyes locked.

“And if I don’t?”

Murdoch lowered his own gaze, but only for a moment. “If you don’t . . . if you don’t, we’re still a family, Scott.”

Relief warmed those blue-grey eyes. The smile started there, but hadn’t yet reached his son’s lips.  “I understand the trains do run pretty regularly, in both directions.”

Reluctantly, Murdoch released his grip, allowing his hands to slide away.  “I’ll send your brother here first,” he said casually, as he moved into position beside his son once more. Deliberately, Murdoch rested one arm across Scott’s shoulders. “Then you can take him to all the places you didn’t show me yesterday . . .”

Scott looked up in astonishment, mouth falling open in guilty reaction. And then he laughed.

It felt good to have something to smile about. Almost as good as it felt to have his son’s hand come to rest upon his own shoulder when Scott gently guided him towards the open door of the railroad car.



Scott was still smiling when he climbed back into the carriage for the ride home to Chestnut Street. He’d dreaded telling Murdoch that there was a chance he might decide to stay permanently here in Boston. Now that it was done, he realized that what he’d feared most was that his father would simply say that it was his decision and leave it at that.

Nothing that had been said between them would make the final choice easier, yet Scott still felt better about the decision to be made.  And he felt ready to read the letter awaiting him in Grandfather’s desk drawer. 

When he arrived home, Scott directed James to go ahead into the carriage house, indicating that he’d get out there and make the short walk to the rear entrance.  He was surprised to see an unfamiliar vehicle parked in the drive behind the house; Scott assumed that someone was calling upon his aunt, although visitors’ carriages usually pulled up in front to await their owners’ departure.

Once inside, Scott headed towards the kitchen, but was intercepted by Fredericks.

“Ah, Mr. Lancer, you’re home, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Yes, and now I’m hunting for a cup of coffee.”

“Let me take care of that for you, Sir.”

“Thank you, Fredericks. Is my aunt around?”

“Mrs. Holmes and Miss O’Brien have gone to pass the morning with Mrs. Hayford. But you do have a visitor, Mr. Lancer, in the sitting room. She asked if she might wait for you---it’s Mrs. Prescott.”

For one brief moment, Scott wondered who ‘Mrs. Prescott’ might be and why she wanted to see him.  But only for a moment.  



Additional Information on the internet:

Harvard’s Memorial Hall:


The Parker House Chocolate Pie is now more familiarly known as “Boston Cream Pie.” For more on the Parker House, see:


And here is a Biography of Harvey D. Parker, a Maine boy who “made good.” ;-)


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 17 


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 


“Hello, Scott.”

It wasn’t lost on him what a faint echo her greeting was of the one he remembered from the hotel in Morro Coyo; the tone was subdued, the smile uncertain.

Julie was standing when he entered the sitting room; her face seemed flushed and Scott had the impression she’d been pacing. She was behind one of the wingchairs, and as she stepped around, he could clearly discern that although she couldn’t be very far along, her condition was indeed a delicate one.

“Hello, Julie. Though of course it’s Mrs. Prescott now.”  He added the one word, “Congratulations,” pleased to hear it coming out all on one level, evenly.

“Thank you,” she responded, with a lift of her chin.

He might have known that she wouldn’t be easily disconcerted; she never had been.

“Please, sit down.”

As she carefully settled herself in the wingchair, Scott took the seat opposite. Julie neither offered sympathy on his grandfather’s passing, nor initiated polite conversation about the memorial service. Good manners precluded his asking a blunt question about the purpose of her call. So instead, Scott informed her that Fredericks would be arriving shortly with coffee and tea. Since the absence of any preliminary small talk might indicate that his guest expected to quickly arrive at the point of the visit, he wanted to signal the anticipated interruption.  

They’d always danced well together, and so it was no surprise when Julie followed his subtle lead and glided into the expected condolences and inquiries. She only faltered once, showing genuine surprise when Scott made mention of his father’s attendance at the memorial service.  Julie then asked after his Western family, rather stiffly he thought, with a few cool questions about how “Miss O’Brien” was enjoying her stay in Boston.  Then Fredericks entered, and while she poured herself a cup of tea, Scott smoothly steered the talk to recent news of mutual acquaintances. They waltzed around each topic like strangers, maintaining a formal distance.

Once the door closed firmly behind the ever-discreet manservant, it was as if the music abruptly stopped. Scott studied the coffee in his cup and waited.  As expected, Julie came quickly to the point.

“Scott, I’m here to talk to you about my father. About the money he owes you.”

“Julie . . . those were business dealings between Mr. Dennison and my grandfather---”

“Were they? You asked your grandfather to loan him money, though you never told me about it.  Mr. Garrett made it more than clear that he would never have given father the funds otherwise. ”

“When he persuaded you to travel to California?”


“And you only came with him because he threatened to call in the notes.”

Julie calmly regarded him.  “That was one reason.”

The challenge in her voice was unmistakable. Scott carefully set his cup down on the table positioned between them, sat back and waited for her to continue.

“Your grandfather said that he was very worried about you . . . ”

“Go on.”

“And that you were still in love with me.”

Scott had prepared himself not to react, and believed he’d managed not to do so despite the unwelcome revelation.  He derived some satisfaction from the fact that Mrs. Prescott had the grace to blush.

“He wasn’t entirely wrong, as must have been evident from the welcome you received.”

Julie’s blush deepened. Scott exhaled softly, and relented.

“I had no idea you were coming, Julie.”

“I could see that---”

“Your father, when he was here, seemed to have understood something of the purpose of the trip. Though I am curious about Mr. Prescott----how much did he know?”

“He didn’t know; he hadn’t proposed yet. I told him everything, when I returned,” she added somewhat defiantly.

She didn’t add what was evident, that William Prescott loved her and had been eager to marry her anyway. She didn’t need to.

“Now, I’m sorry, Julie, I’m sorry for what my grandfather tried to do.  If you’re worried about the loans, well, I’ve already informed your father that I have no intention of calling in the debt. So there’s no need for you to worry.”

“But you did ask for a schedule of repayment.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Scott, Father can’t repay the loans. He never expected to, the largest sums were borrowed when we were still engaged. And then after the fire, he borrowed more . . . ”

“A great many businessmen were badly hurt by the fire, Julie, including my grandfather. But until I’m sure the money won’t be needed, I can’t forgive the notes.  It’s not spite, whatever you may think.”   

“I know it’s not spite,” she said, turning her attention to the teacup cradled in her hands, but not before he caught a glimpse of tears in her eyes. “I do know you better than that, Scott.”

Scott had to lower his own eyes. His Julie had never been one to cry easily.  It was difficult to see her now, with those emotions so close to the surface.

“I did tell your father that the repayment schedule could be whatever he thought feasible. I promise you, I’ll accept it.”

To his dismay, the tears now began to fall in earnest.  “He can’t pay, he can’t pay anything. You’ll never get a penny from him.”

Scott rose and offered her his pocket-handkerchief.  He returned to his seat, grateful that Julie had chosen an armchair rather than the sofa, and waited for her to regain her composure. 

“Scott, Father lost everything in the fire.“


She bravely managed a weak smile at the question. “Yes, everything. Of course, by then he had very little to lose.”

“What about his business?”

“Oh, there isn’t one really. An old friend has allowed him the use of a small office, and Father dutifully goes there every day.”

“He still has a fine home,” Scott offered.  Julie had told him once that the Dennisons’ elegant mansion had come to the family through her father’s childless first marriage.

“The house on Mt. Vernon Street, and all of its contents, is now in my husband’s name. Fortunately, we were able to convince Father that the only way to preserve it was to sign it over to Mr. Prescott as part of my dowry.”

Scott nodded thoughtfully. Julie spoke again, the words rushing quickly, one after another.

“Scott, if you do try to get any of that money, you’ll only succeed in bankrupting and humiliating my father.  I know, I *know * it’s a great deal to ask, and I have no right to ask it of you, but if you could only---”

“I’ll forgive the notes, Julie.”  Standing, he added, “If you’ll just wait here, I’ll go get them for you.”

He was almost at the door when her voice halted him, and he turned back to look at her expectantly.

“Scott, wait. My husband doesn’t know I’m here. He . . . he expressly forbade me to come.”

“Then we’ll have to make sure that he doesn’t know.” Scott smiled reassuringly. “I’ll have the papers brought round to your house later this evening.”

The clock chimed the hour and Julie’s expression of gratitude and relief swiftly disappeared.  She rose to her feet hastily, one hand reflexively curving over the slight round of her abdomen.

“You have another appointment?”

“Yes, my sister-in-law is expecting me.”

“Come this way,” he said, motioning towards the door. “Your carriage is parked in back.”

“Scott.” The one word stopped him again, and he waited as she approached. The urge to take her into his arms was almost too much to resist. He wanted only to comfort her, he told himself. Anything more was a reflex, a footnote to their history, with its sad conclusion, although he’d once hoped to share his future with this woman.  Scott reminded himself of the child she was carrying, a child that wasn’t his.

But might have been.

Julie placed one hand upon his arm.  Scott gazed down into those still bright eyes and resisted the urge to touch that glossy dark hair. 

“Thank you, Scott.”

He nodded mutely, and opened the door. They passed through the corridor without speaking, in step, his strides shortened to fit hers. When they arrived at the rear entrance, she stopped him again, reached up and gently kissed his cheek.

“Good bye, Scott.”

“Good bye, Julie.”

He stayed in the doorway watching her, allowing her driver to clamber down to escort her to the carriage and help her inside. He stood watching until Julie drove away, nodding as the vehicle moved past, then remained there a few moments longer.

Once back inside, Scott moved directly to his Grandfather’s study, sat down at the desk and removed from the drawer the papers describing each of the Dennison loans. It took some time to find an envelope large enough to hold them, and a bit longer to resolve against enclosing a personal note.  It was then an easy decision to address the package to Mr. John Dennison rather than to the care of Mrs. William Prescott.  Scott summoned Fredericks and requested that a delivery be made to Mt. Vernon Street that evening. The papers would no doubt be burned, the debt cancelled.

If only other things were as easy to forgive.




Scott considered going through more of his grandfather’s papers, then wondered if it might not be better to read Murdoch’s letter instead. He hadn’t yet had time to act upon either of those thoughts when he heard a gentle knock on the door to the study.  He expected Teresa, thinking she might have questions about his farewell to Murdoch.  But it was Aunt Cecilia who stepped into the room.  His aunt’s presence was not unwelcome, especially as there were some things he wanted to talk to her about anyway.  Scott swiftly closed the drawer containing his father’s letter and rose to greet Aunt Cee.

“I understand you had a visitor while we were out,” she announced without preamble. Dark skirts rustling, she advanced to the sofa in front of the fireplace, obviously intending to take a seat there.  

Scott remained standing behind the desk, his attention drawn to the doorway.  The cat his grandfather had named Napoleon appeared in the narrow opening left by the partially closed door.  The animal looked searchingly around the room and then trotted hurriedly after her.

“Come, Scott, leave off working and sit down a moment,” Aunt Cecilia urged, gesturing at one of the armchairs.

Meanwhile, the cat stopped in front of the sofa and gazed quizzically up at the woman seated there for a long moment, then gathered himself.   The grey tabby floated gracefully into the air and landed with a heavy thump on the cushion beside her. 

Scott came around the desk to occupy one of the armchairs.  He took his seat with some reluctance, suspecting that his aunt had her own agenda firmly in mind for this conversation. 

“Now, you do understand that it is rather unseemly for a married woman to be seen paying a social call upon a man to whom she was once engaged. Even one of condolence.”

“Her driver parked in the back.”

“Did he?  Well, that’s something, I suppose.” 

“As you point out, she is married. There was nothing improper between us---”

“Of course not. I know you better than that, Scott.”

There was a brief silence, during which Aunt Cecilia eyed him speculatively.  Beside her on the sofa, Napoleon, who had folded his pure white paws up under his equally pristine white bib, regarded Scott balefully with unblinking green eyes.

“She was only here out of concern for her father.”

“I see.”

His aunt pensively scratched the appreciative tabby under the chin. Napoleon closed his eyes and leaned into her hand.

Cecilia sighed. “Sometimes things do work out for the best, Nephew. Harlan never was particularly enthused at the prospect of a connection to the Dennisons.”

“He never said so.” Scott was sincerely surprised by his aunt’s statement; Harlan Garrett had never been one to keep his opinions to himself.

She smiled. “When your grandparents married, people said that my brother had made a good match, that he’d ‘married up.’  I believe he was rather pleased to think that his grandson was regarded as ‘the catch.’ And he was most satisfied to think of you as being settled my dear.”

It was true. Despite his negative assessment of John Dennison as a businessman, Grandfather hadn’t said very much at all to discourage his grandson’s engagement to the man’s daughter.  In fact, Scott would have said that his grandfather seemed to approve of his choice.

“Of course, Harlan did mention once that your Julie had a grandmother who was a Cabot. Or was it a Lowell? Not a *Holmes *, in any event,” she said, with her musical laugh.

Cecilia Holmes’ late husband Elwood, though related to the Boston Holmes’ and an instructor at Bowdoin College, had been no society swell, but simply a Mainer first and foremost.  And no one who had ever seen “Cee” and “El” together would have doubted that their union was anything other than a marriage of the heart. Even as a boy, Scott had been aware that the relationship between his aunt and uncle was somehow different from that shared by the parents of his friends.

There had been times when Scott had secretly wished that the Holmes’ had actually been his parents, each time feeling disloyal to his grandfather.  Aunt Cee had shared some wonderful stories about his mother, but, to Scott’s disappointment, she had never met the man her niece had married.  And so she was unable to tell Scott very much at all about his father, except to sadly say that Catherine had loved Murdoch Lancer and that it was too bad he had taken her so far away from home. Catherine had traveled north to Maine for a farewell visit, but her future husband had remained in Boston. When Scott was older, Uncle El had explained that his wife had been unable to attend her niece’s wedding due to her confinement for what would be the last in a tragic series of stillbirths and failed pregnancies.

In Scott’s eyes, Elwood Holmes had been a role model. An erudite professor of classical literature and languages, he was also every bit at home on excursions into the Maine woods, where, in the company of a rough hewn guide named Ned “Smudgy” Pierce, he’d instructed a young boy from Boston in the intricacies of hunting and fishing.  Uncle El had also answered his country’s call, enlisting to serve under his Bowdoin colleague, Colonel—later General-- Joshua Chamberlain.

Although wounded and sent home after a year of service, it had been sickness, rather than a Rebel bullet that had struck him down.  Already seriously ill when Scott returned from Libby, his uncle had passed away not many months afterwards. Grandfather had waited a few days after Scott’s arrival in Boston before finally relaying the sad news, then the two of them had made the journey to Brunswick together.

The three of them had gone fishing, though Uncle El had mostly sat and watched.  Scott had listened while the two older men talked about the provisions to be made for Cecilia. Except for his uncle’s funeral, it had been Scott’s last visit to Maine.

“You were very fortunate to have found each other.”

“Yes, we were, although it took us more time than you might think, to realize it.” Cecilia’s smile softened, threatening to melt, as she absently rubbed at Napoleon’s ears. Even from several feet distant, Scott could easily discern the sound of the animal’s contented purr.

“I do look forward to attending your wedding one day Scott, even if it means traveling to California.”

“Now, Aunt Cee, are you trying to marry me off?”

“Not all young men of your age and station are ready for a wife and family, but you were ready, ready to marry Miss Dennison, were you not?  You’ve always been . . . responsible, Scott. And willing to take care of others, as well, I believe.”

Scott smiled. “Yes, as you’ve said, I’m a ‘good catch’.”

“I’m terribly biased as you know, but that has always been the truth---even more so now, thanks to your legacy from Harlan. Though I hardly think many of our Boston debutantes would adapt very readily to life on your ranch.  And you do intend to return there, don’t you?  Miss O’Brien mentioned that you might not be leaving with the Hayfords.”

“I’m not sure, Aunt Cee. I’ve asked Will if we can delay our departure by a few more days, but he does need to be getting back to Sacramento. Although even if I stay behind, Teresa will still travel with the Hayfords.”

“So she said.”

Scott was puzzled by his aunt’s tone.  “Murdoch and Johnny will be expecting her.”

“This is the first opportunity she’s had to be away for any length of time, is it not?”

“That’s right.”

“Tell me, what sort schooling has she had?”

Scott considered this for a moment. “In a formal sense, very little, from what I can gather.  Teresa doesn’t read a great deal, but she does have a deep curiosity about other times and places.”

Cecilia nodded approvingly. “I’ve noted that Miss O’Brien does not hesitate to ask questions. She seems to be fitting in here quite well. In fact, I’d wondered if she might appreciate an opportunity to remain in Boston, and study along with her friend Miss Harper. I could invite her to stay on with me here through the winter.”

“Then you’ll force me to stay through the winter as well.”

Now it was his aunt’s turn to look puzzled.

“Aunt Cee, if I were to return to Lancer without Teresa, my father and brother might very well shoot me. Which would at least be quick and relatively painless, in comparison to what I would suffer at the hands of Senora Maria.”

Mrs. Holmes frowned. “You’re joking, of course, but it’s still strange to imagine living in such a dangerous place where guns are a part of everyday life. And I know,” she said, holding up one hand to ward off his protest, “they are a tools, as you say. But deadly ones, nonetheless. I do worry about you, Scott, that is my prerogative as your ‘favorite’ aunt.”

Scott smiled at that, shaking his head.

“It’s also my prerogative to decree that all difficult decisions shall be postponed until after we return.  And that you will not worry about anything while we are in Maine.”

If only it were that easy. Still, far be it for him to disagree with his beloved aunt. “I am looking forward to the trip. It’s been a long time.”

“Well, then I suggest you pack; you’ve time before supper. We are leaving very early in the morning.”

“Yes, ma’am, right away,” Scott replied in a mock serious tone, getting quickly to his feet and offering Mrs. Holmes a smart salute.  Covering the small space between them in one long stride, he assisted his aunt to rise from her seated position.  Jostled by the movement, Napoleon jumped down from the sofa and fled the room. .

“Thank you, my dear.”  Cecilia Holmes started to follow sedately in Napoleon’s wake, but then turned back to face Scott.  “I do think, Nephew, that we might make a pact, and agree to leave off our mourning clothes once we arrive at Popham.  It is, after all, but an outward sign of what we carry with us in our hearts----and the seagulls will likely be our only society there.”

Scott readily agreed and proceeded to his room, hoping to find some of his “Maine clothes” still there.




<<“Teresa O’Brien, just think about what you’re doing Child!”>>

Her conscience, in the form of the Widow Hargis’ distinctive voice, chided her inattention to the musical notes that were also swirling around inside her head. With a sigh, Teresa shook herself and started in again at the beginning.

“Blest Be the Tie That Binds” was one of the hymns which had been performed at Mr. Garrett’s memorial service. It was also one of the pieces she had learned to play by ear, on the rosewood-encased melodeon in the small church just outside of Spanish Wells.  Mrs. Hargis had been a demanding taskmaster, even more so when they’d begun to work on learning to read the music.

It had been difficult, with the instruction coming in short snatches. When Teresa did go to town during the week, it was because there were errands to run. Even when there was extra time, the Widow wasn’t always able to be away from her store, especially after Zee left.  So most often the lessons took place on Sundays prior to the service, with the earliest arrivals sitting in the pews listening in.  She’d envied Melissa Harper her opportunity to study music at one of the institutes for young ladies in San Francisco. Now her friend was taking classes here in Boston, but still seemed quite unappreciative of the education she was receiving. Teresa had heard only complaints from Melissa about her exercises in elocution and readings in Mrs. Siddons’ poetry class.

Weary of hymns, Teresa returned to trying to pick out the notes of “Oh, Susanna,” but before she realized it she was once more idly fingering the ebony and ivory keys. The piano at which she was seated was a fine instrument, with an ornate inlaid cabinet, and easier to play than the melodeon, since there was no need to worry about working the pump with her foot. Scott had identified this small space as “the music room,” although it was really a section of the main sitting room, closed off from the larger area by a pair of curtained French doors.

She’d managed to have some conversation with Scott before supper, and had been reassured that all seemed to be well between him and Murdoch.  She’d had no real opportunity to converse with her guardian during his very brief time in Boston, even though there had been quite a few things she’d wished to talk with him about.  Teresa’s hands dropped into her lap; she had no idea how long she must have sat there, thinking and staring at nothing, until Scott came in and caught her.

“Teresa—I wasn’t sure you were still here, since I didn’t hear you playing.”

“Oh . . .  this is such a beautiful piano, Scott. It’s just that I don’t really know that many pieces.”

Scott moved to a nearby mahogany cabinet and opened the door to reveal narrow shelves stacked with sheet music. Quickly shifting through them, he picked out a number of pages. Leaving some of the papers atop the cabinet, he brought the rest to the piano and propped them up against the music stand. Then he proceeded to light the candles standing in the sconces on either side.

“Scott—you know I’m not very good at reading music.”

“No, not yet, it takes a great deal of practice, Teresa. But you play very well by ear.”

“So you’ll play it for me first then?” she asked with a smile.

To her delight, he readily agreed.  “I intend to try.”

He removed his black jacket, tossed it over a nearby chair, and rolled up the sleeves of his white linen shirt. And then Scott was seated on the piano bench alongside her, his light hair silvery in the candlelight.

He began with Stephen Foster’s “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair,” sitting back and dropping his hands on his thighs when he reached the final notes. “Well, It’s been a long time,” he said with a rueful smile.

Then it was Teresa’s turn, to pick her way through the tune, with Scott patiently pointing out the notes whenever she faltered. 

Even Teresa had to agree the song was becoming recognizable by the time Mrs. Holmes opened up the French doors.  Scott’s aunt returned to her chair near the lamp in the sitting room, where the light was better for her needlework, but smilingly assured them that she did very much enjoy hearing both the music and their laughter.

They spent the rest of the evening seated at the piano, sometimes actually attempting to play music, as Scott told stories of long ago lessons, and Teresa shared tales of her more recent tutelage under the formidable Eulalia Hargis.

Though she could feel Scott smiling down at her, it was difficult to look up at him, sitting so close together, so Teresa watched his hands instead.  They were so large and the fingers so long that Scott could reach across a good number of the black and white keys with little effort.  Strong and capable, she imagined that one of Scott’s hands might easily envelope both of her own.  She thought about how easily he could span her waist; rather than simply offering her a hand down from the buggy or the buckboard seat, Scott was more likely to physically lift her up into the air before gently setting her feet on the ground.

They retired a bit earlier than was usual, since they needed to meet the train promptly the next morning.  Teresa found it difficult to get to sleep, and lay awake for hours thinking about the trip to Maine.

And Scott’s hands.




ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                                    Chapter 18.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



<<”I don't know how you ever got him to leave Boston.”>>

Johnny’s words, though he hadn’t been the only one to ever voice that thought.  More than a few of Murdoch’s friends and fellow ranchers in the Cattleman’s Association had said much the same thing.  Murdoch would have asked the question of himself, except that he knew he hadn’t “gotten” Scott to do anything in terms of leaving Boston--—that credit belonged to Teresa, and to Sam.

Murdoch was proud of both his boys, although he could take very little credit there, either. Still, few things had given him as much pleasure as introducing them at the annual meeting in Stockton not long after they’d come home.  Not surprisingly, Scott, with his cultured background and fine Eastern education had been very much at ease in social gatherings.  Scott had asked careful questions of the older men and listened attentively to the answers, thereby learning a great deal about ranching in a relatively short time. Johnny had picked things up quickly too, of course, but his independent younger son had a bit less respect for the voices of experience and even less patience for the endless meetings that the association members so enjoyed.  While he probably would have preferred to join his brother in seeking other forms of entertainment, Scott hadn’t seemed to mind attending even the lengthy business sessions.  Consequently, now when Scott had something to say, the senior members tended to listen.  Cleve Anderson and others had often commented on what a good head Scott had on his shoulders, observing that he must have given up some fine opportunities back East.

More recently, Jim Harper had spoken of the more “civilized” society to be had in Boston, as well as the increased social status that would accompany Scott’s inheritance. But Johnny hadn’t been thinking of the social, cultural or economic advantages of living in an eastern city; no, his remark had derived solely from his very favorable impression of the young lady who had accompanied Harlan Garrett to California. 

Miss Dennison had been undeniably attractive, well turned out in what Murdoch had presumed to be the latest fashion.  She’d seemed confident and polished, although with a slight hint of condescension in her tone. Still, he’d welcomed her for Scott’s sake, even while privately considering her unlikely to adapt readily to ranch life. He’d been surprised to learn that Scott and Miss Dennison had once been engaged; Johnny had said so, and he had apparently obtained that information from Harlan. Scott had never mentioned it. He’d merely introduced Miss Dennison by name, although it had been easy—even for Murdoch, who often failed to register such things--- to see how smitten he’d been.

Then, unaccountably, Miss Dennison had disappeared, although, what with Scott’s abrupt announcement that he was returning to Boston, Murdoch hadn’t spared the young woman much thought. Later, after Scott had recovered from his injury and Harlan had left, well, it hadn’t seemed like the right time to raise the question, especially when he had his own theory about Miss Dennison.  To be honest, after failing to respond to Scott’s queries about the past, Murdoch hadn’t felt that he had the right to ask his son anything at all.  

But he had questioned Mrs. Holmes, when he was seated beside Scott’s aunt at supper the evening of the memorial service, wondering if he had simply failed to notice the young woman at the church or the reception afterwards.  Miss Dennison, he had been informed, was now Mrs. William Prescott; Scott apparently had been aware of this for quite some time.  Mrs. Holmes hadn’t tried to hide her surprise that Murdoch hadn’t known. 

He sighed. There was still so much he didn’t know.

Seeing his son in Boston, briefly viewing that city through Scott’s eyes, he could no longer blindly ignore the eastward pull.  Scott had a house—no, Scott had a home--- and a history, in Boston. But if there was one thing Murdoch was sure of in this life, it was that even though neither of his sons had grown up at Lancer, each of them had come to care deeply for the land and its people. If he had to, he’d find a way to remind Scott of that . . .

Murdoch sipped at his scotch and gazed out the windows at the passing scenery. It was early to be seated here in the well-appointed dining car, as it wasn’t yet time for the evening meal to be served. But he’d needed a drink and something to rest it on, so here he was, alone at a table set with crystal and silverware for four.

<< “ . . .  I may decide to stay.”>>

Disturbing as it had been to hear his son utter those words, Murdoch could at least console himself that it had nothing to do with a woman; that might have been an impossible battle to win.  Although he still firmly held that it was Scott’s decision to make, and told himself that he would accept and respect his son’s choice, Murdoch was determined that he would indeed “put up a fight” this time--- and to hell with the contradiction.  He wouldn’t give up, wouldn’t go back home and try to forget, not this time.

All those years ago, he’d convinced himself that Scott was better off in Boston; that leaving him there was in the boy’s best interests.  He’d told himself that he loved the child, but the sad truth was that as much as he’d wanted to feel more for that small blond stranger, he simply hadn’t experienced anything other than a dull aching in his heart. 

It was different now.  Painfully so.

With each passing hour, this train carried him further away from Boston and Scott, further away from a young man he had come to love more than he could have imagined. Further away from his son.  This time he would refuse to allow the physical distance between them to lengthen into lost years.  

Having made that resolution, Murdoch was still at a loss as to exactly what he might do. So much hinged upon Scott’s reaction to the letter, if and when he read it.

In his lowest moments, Murdoch wondered if it would even matter.  There had been too many years of silence, too many questions, and Scott had finally sought his answers elsewhere.  Perhaps it was simply too late.  Murdoch punctuated that dismal thought by draining what remained in his glass.




They spent a good part of the day aboard the Boston & Maine, traveling north to Portland.   Teresa sat next to Marguerite, the maid who had accompanied Mrs. Holmes to Boston. Across the aisle, Scott sat beside his aunt. 

Even so, Teresa found that the trip passed quickly. Marguerite was a pleasant young woman, very easy to talk to and the passing scenery was also fascinating. Where the trees on Beacon Hill were for the most part still dressed in summer greens, those in New Hampshire and Maine were already beginning to don warmer shades of yellow and red. 

In Portland, they changed to the Maine Central line for the trip to Brunswick, disembarking at a large new train station where the Holmes’ carriage waited to take them across town.  As they drew up to the intersection with Federal Street, Scott pointed out a large white house off to the right; it was the one in which Mrs. Stowe had written Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the book that President Lincoln himself had said “started the War.”  Continuing past that house and up the hill would bring them to the grounds of the college where Mrs. Holmes’ late husband had taught, but instead the carriage turned left. Although there were one or two brick mansions, most of the stately homes were large wooden edifices, many colorfully painted and most embellished with porticos and cupolas, with shutters at each window.  Although still sizable and very attractive, Mrs. Holmes’ residence was one of the smaller houses on the street.

The next morning they were up and out very early again, with another short train ride along the coast to the city of Bath and from there a bumpy journey by wagon to Phippsburg. The Popham “beach house” was a small wood framed structure sided with weathered grey shingles. Overlooking the shore, it was surrounded by a white-washed fence with widely spaced pickets enclosing a “lawn” of tall beach grass. It took time to settle in; Teresa helped Mrs. Holmes make up three beds with fresh linens and unpack the provisions they had carried with them from Brunswick. Meanwhile, Scott opened the windows to air out the rooms and filled the wood boxes, then busied himself with other projects outside.

It was nice to see Scott in his ‘everyday’ clothes--- familiar serviceable brown trousers and even one of the beige checked work shirts that he so often wore at the ranch. Mrs. Holmes had exchanged her formal black mourning attire for a simple blue flowered dress with a knit sweater over it; her normally upswept silver hair was pulled back in a low chignon.

It was just the three of them; Marguerite had been given several days off and Mme. Carrier, the smiling Federal Street housekeeper and cook, had packed up the food supplies, but stayed behind as well. Teresa welcomed the opportunity to work alongside Scott’s aunt in the small kitchen, taking charge of rolling out biscuits while Mrs. Holmes prepared a seafood dinner. En route to the beach house, they’d stopped to make a few purchases from local fishermen and so that evening dined on crabs and “steamers.”  Teresa had never sampled these delicacies before and she’d been skeptical at first, especially when, rather than using a tablecloth, Scott had covered the kitchen table with pages from a newspaper and various items that resembled tools more than utensils.  Before the informal meal was over, she’d heard several entertaining stories of Scott’s summers in Maine, and also become something of an expert at deftly picking the sweet pink meat from crab legs and claws. 




“Excuse me, but are these seats taken?”

Startled from his reverie, Murdoch looked up to see two attractive middle-aged women standing beside his table, the resemblance between then strong enough to indicate they must be sisters.  As he hastily pushed back his chair and struggled to his feet, Murdoch registered that the other five tables in the dining car were now mostly occupied. 

“No, no, they’re not taken and I’d be pleased if you Ladies would join me.”

One end of the table was pushed up close to the wall beneath the window, so Murdoch came around the other end to assist each of the women with her chair. 

“I do thank you very much, Mr---?” murmured the first woman he seated, while her sister stood waiting patiently.

“It’s Lancer, Murdoch Lancer.”

“Thank you so very much, Mr. Lancer,” the second sister beamed up at him.

Once he’d resumed his seat opposite, the lighter haired woman completed the introductions.

“My name is Miss Virginia Harrington, and this is my sister, Miss Louisa Harrington.  We are very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Lancer.” 

Handshakes were extended across the table, while the efficient dark skinned waiter appeared to distribute menus and fill their water glasses.  Miss Louisa studied the list of offerings, then, once the waiter had departed, leaned forward, a curious gleam in her eyes.

“You did say ‘Lancer’? I must say it’s not a common name,” she continued, encouraged by Murdoch’s nod.  “It just so happens that we met a young man by that name on the eastbound train not so very long ago.”

“Yes,” added Miss Virginia, “A Mr. Scott Lancer. It was very sad, he was traveling to Boston for his grandfather’s funeral.”

“Well, then you’ve met my son.”

“Your son!? Oh, how very delightful! And the sweet young woman accompanying him . . . ?”

“Is Teresa O’Brien, my ward.  Her father was a good friend and she’s like a daughter to me.”

The sisters exchanged a look; it was Miss Virginia who spoke. “Well, Louisa, it seems we were mistaken. You see, Mr. Lancer, they made such a handsome pair, that we thought-- ”

“Now, Sister,” Miss Louisa interjected, “there’s no need to trouble Mr. Lancer with our silly little malentendu.  You must be quite proud of your children, Mr. Lancer, they do seem to be very fine young people.” 



“Good morning, my dear.” 

Teresa turned from the window to smile a greeting at Mrs. Holmes. Scott’s aunt was just entering the front room, carrying a saucer and cup of tea.  “Do you see anything out there, is there a boat passing by?” the older woman asked, her eyes bright and expectant.

“No, I was just watching the waves, and the birds.”  The gulls wheeled about overhead, black lines in a sky layered with clouds reaching down to the most distant edge of the glassy waves. “But, I do think I see something swimming out there.”

“Do you? We often see seals swimming in the channel,” Mrs. Holmes informed her. She set down her tea and joined Teresa at the window, with a pair of mother of pearl opera glasses in hand.  “But seals don’t often have blond hair,” she added with a smile a moment later, passing the glasses to Teresa.

Teresa peered through the panes more intently. “Isn’t the water cold?”

“Oh yes, it is very cold.  And don’t allow that nephew of mine to try to tell you otherwise! However, if you’d like to go in, I believe I might find a bathing dress and shoes to fit you.”

“I’ve never been in the ocean.”

“Well, then, perhaps it’s something else you should try.”

Teresa had never learned to swim, and she was quite certain that none of her friends could do more than paddle about either.  There were several nice spring –fed ponds that were popular swimming holes, one of them located on Lancer land. On the hottest days, the girls would pack picnic lunches and spend the afternoon splashing in the water wearing only their under things, then lie on the rocks to dry off in the sun.  They usually had an older woman along—sometimes Maria, or perhaps Mrs. Cushman----someone to keep watch for any sweaty cowhands who might have a similar idea.  Scott, unaccustomed to the heat and the dry dusty summers in California, would often ride out of his way at the end of the day in search of a swim. 

Deciding that Scott might appreciate a hearty meal after spending time in the waves, Mrs. Holmes returned to the kitchen.  Teresa lingered at the window a few moments longer, but soon joined her there.  Once the table was set and preparations well underway, Scott’s aunt turned from the cook stove.

“Teresa, dear, could you please go out and let Scott know that breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes?”

Scott was just coming out of the water when Teresa stepped through the door onto the small porch. He was wearing what looked like a suit of long underwear, but dark in color, and, as it was wet, quite form fitting.  Intent upon picking up a towel he’d left resting on the sand and then using it to dry his hair, he didn’t see her watching him. Draping the towel over his shoulders, Scott trudged up the beach and reached the white picket fence before he noticed her.

“So, how cold is it?” she asked as he turned to close the gate behind him. She hugged the edges of her light jacket more tightly together against the light ocean breeze.

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” he offered, but his grin and reddened cheeks gave him away.

“Your aunt warned me that you’d say that. She also said to tell you that breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes.”

“I guess I’d better go around the back then, and rinse off.”

Teresa nodded and hurried inside, knowing that if she stayed, she wouldn’t be able to help herself from staring as he walked past. 




Mrs. Holmes’ ‘hearty breakfast’ consisted of stacks of French Acadian style buckwheat pancakes ---called ‘ployes’ which rhymed with ‘boys’---slathered with butter and maple syrup.  By the time breakfast had been eaten and cleared away, the clouds had blown over and the sun laid claim to a large patch of clear blue sky. Aunt and nephew smilingly agreed that the day promised to be “a slice of summer.”

Since the tide was going out, Scott proposed a walk to Fox Island. Mrs. Holmes proposed to accompany them as far as the end of the channel, at which point, Teresa could decide whether to return with her to the cottage or to continue on with Scott.

Teresa had declined the heavy navy wool bathing dress with the weighted skirt and matching pantaloons that Mrs. Holmes had offered her, but had agreed to the loan of a pair of long stockings and lace-up surf boots. These she wore beneath an old skirt of dark cotton fabric, so that she might go wading. Scott’s aunt had also supplied her with a wide brimmed straw hat to shield her face from the sun.  

As they headed along the shore towards the open sea, Teresa looked back over her shoulder and noticed a very large stone structure looming some distance down the beach.

“Scott, what’s that building?”

“Fort Popham. The government started building it during the War, but it was never finished.”

Having rolled up his trousers, Scott stayed close to the water’s edge, with the foamy lips of the waves lapping at his bare feet.  Teresa joined Mrs. Holmes on the margin of damp, hard packed sand left by the receding tide. There were interesting pieces of silvery grey driftwood cast up higher on the beach, but it was more difficult walking in the dry, white-gold sand which surrounded them.

The receding waves left seashells behind on the sand, and Mrs. Holmes named the different kinds.  The most common were the shiny black half moons of mussels and the thick white quahog clams, much larger and heavier than the shells of the steamers they had eaten the night before.

Near the mouth of the Kennebec River, Mrs. Holmes pointed out Pond Island, with its picturesque lighthouse, then prepared to turn back.

“Enjoy yourselves. And you will remember to keep an eye on the tide, Scott,” she reminded her nephew with an arch look.  

“Yes. I will.”

They bid the older woman farewell before turning right and continuing along the beach. 

“It sounds as if there’s a story there,” Teresa observed.

“Well, I did once spend the night on Fox Island,” Scott said with a rueful expression. In a familiar gesture, he reached up with one hand to grasp the crown of the broad brimmed grey felt hat he wore, lifting it, then replacing it more squarely on his head.  Scott explained that each low tide revealed a sand bar stretching to the island and connecting it to the shore. “I was on the island and I lost track of time, ended up being marooned.  Uncle El made sure of where I was.  He could have tried to come after me in a boat, but he didn’t.”

“What did you do?”

“Spent most of the night being angry ---with myself. But I did have a few ‘provisions’,” he added, gesturing to the rucksack on his back. “Food, water and a jacket, so it wasn’t so bad. But it was a lesson learned.”

“Why didn’t you swim back?”

“There’s often a ‘rip’ along here, an undertow. It’s a current that can pull even a strong swimmer out to sea. But it is safe to wade in the water.”

Lifting her skirts, Teresa ventured a little ways into the surf. After discovering that the ocean temperature was an ankle-numbing cold, she decided to stay on the sand up out of the swells, though sometimes an especially strong wave came up to catch her.

Now that they walked along the open ocean, the waves were bigger and stronger. Marking their reach were dark strands of seaweed scattered along the shore.  Sprinklings of bits of broken shells also formed white shadow outlines of where the waves had once been.

It had turned out to be a very pleasant day; it was warm enough, although the breeze was constant. She could taste the salt air on her lips and without the ribbons to fasten beneath her chin, she could never have kept the straw hat on her head for more than a few moments. It appeared that they had the beach mostly to themselves, except for the birds. Scott identified several different varieties--- the black-capped terns skimming low out over the water, the groups of long-billed sandpipers skittering on pipe-stem legs through the shallows, and, of course, the large white seagulls standing guard in the sand, staring with their baleful yellow eyes.

Once they reached the edge of the wide sand bar linking beach and island, Scott slowed his pace, studying the water with increased intensity.  Finally, he bent down and lifted something from the water, examined it and smiled.  He held out one hand, and she could see a white circle resting in the center of it.

“Here, it’s a sand dollar.”

She picked up the disc, which actually was the size of a dollar coin. On closer examination, it had a slightly raised petal-like star on its surface. 

By the time they reached the island, Scott had gathered a collection of sand coins in white and shades of grey.  The ‘dollars’ varied in size, with the largest ones much bigger than a double eagle in diameter. Initially, Teresa carried a box that he had produced from the rucksack and into which several deposits were made, but then she decided to try her own luck.  Rolling up the sleeves of her blouse and gathering up her skirt in one hand, she imitated Scott’s method of walking along in the surf and attempting to peer beneath the surface of the waves.

The first two times she eagerly reached down into the water, Teresa was disappointed when her hand brought up only clamshells. 

“Don’t look for color, look for shape,” Scott advised her. “Try to see the circles, perfect circles.”

He also said that sometimes the sand dollars were partially buried in the sand, leaving only a portion of a circle visible.  Teresa was again disappointed when her ‘first sand dollar’ turned out to be only half of one.  She would have continued hunting, but finally Scott stowed the box away, saying she could renew the search when they came back down after lunch, which they planned to eat on the island.  It was necessary to clamber over some seaweed-covered rocks at the base, but he assured her they would eventually come to a path.  Stepping carefully in order to gain a solid footing for his bare feet, Scott went ahead, then reached back to assist her.

Teresa found that the smooth soles and high laces of her slightly too-big borrowed boots made climbing over the rocks very difficult.  At least as they moved away from the sand bar, there was less seaweed; still, she moved cautiously.  

Suddenly her foot slipped over the edge of one of the rocks and Teresa fell heavily against Scott, losing her hat as her head struck his chest.  Arms encircling her, he looked down with a concerned expression.

“Teresa,” he said slowly, “We need to be careful.”

Heart pounding in his embrace, she looked up into those eyes and waited, barely breathing.

“The rocks here are slippery.”

Propelled by disappointment, she lowered her gaze and moved hurriedly past; if Scott hadn’t quickly stepped out of her way, she would have pushed by him.  It was silly, she knew it was silly, what, after all had she expected he would say? The salt wind blowing in her eyes blurred her vision.  

Then she slipped again, and this time Scott wasn’t there to catch her.

Her ankle twisted and she landed on the hard packed ground beside one of the smaller boulders.  Scott was beside her in an instant, helping her up.

“I’m all right, really-- ” But she couldn’t help wincing as she put her weight on her left foot.

“Just take it easy.”

Scott got her settled upon a stone seat, with the wayward straw hat beside her. “Let me see,” he said, taking her hand in his and holding it palm up to study the scraped skin. Shucking off the rucksack, he knelt down in front of her to remove a water flask and a small pouch. After rinsing off her hand, he offered her the flask while he removed some salve and bandaging from the pouch.

“I can do it, Scott,” she murmured, still too embarrassed to meet his eyes.

“No, now, just let me take care of it, Teresa.

She watched silently as he gently applied the salve and then wrapped a bit of bandage around her hand. 

“You might want to keep this out of the salt water,” he suggested. “Now, how’s your ankle?”

“It’s fine, Scott. It’s just that these shoes---”

“You’re not used to them. And they don’t look very comfortable,” he added, as he pushed himself up into a standing position.

“No,” she said, looking enviously at Scott’s bare toes.

He swung the pack up onto his back, while she picked up her hat and rose more tentatively, testing her ankle. It seemed fine.

“Put your right hand on my shoulder.”

Mystified, she did as Scott instructed---and then he simply scooped her up.


He just smiled, obviously pleased with himself, and started to carry her up the slope.




She didn’t weigh anything, really. She fit comfortably in his arms and it was easy to carry her, even while having to pick his way along the beaten path that wound through the grass and boulder-studded ground.

Scott flashed on the memory of carrying Polly Foley just like this, only she had been pregnant, and very near her time.  Even in the borrowed skirt, Teresa’s tiny waist and flat stomach were a decided contrast to his mental image of Polly. He noticed that the fabric of her blouse was stretched taut across her breasts and then decided that he’d better focus on the trail.  

It didn’t take long to reach the top.  Barefooted, he wouldn’t try to carry her down the southern side of the island, so he set Teresa on the ground and they carefully worked their way to a large, flat rock that offered a secure picnic spot facing the open sea.  Scott sat down with his feet resting on one of the rocks below, while Teresa sat back from the edge with her legs tucked up beneath her skirt. They dined on bread and cheese and crisp MacIntosh apples while the waves crashed against the rocks down below.

Uncharacteristically, Teresa seemed to have very little to say.  Scott pointed out some of the nearby islands, including Seguin and its lighthouse off to the southwest.  He suggested that once they were back on the beach, Teresa might remove the surf shoes.  He reminded her that she hadn’t yet found a whole sand dollar, talked a bit about the tides.

After repacking what was left of their lunch, Scott leaned forward, resting his beige checked elbows on his thighs and studied the delicate profile shaded by the brim of the straw hat.

“Something’s bothering you. What is it?” he asked finally.

There was a long pause.   “Tell me,” he urged gently.

“Scott . . . how long are you going to stay in Boston?”

“It’s hard to say.  Long enough to finish taking care of things.”

“I’d, I’d like to stay with you.”

Scott was taken aback. “Well, the Hayfords---”

“You said I should see Boston in the wintertime.  And then, then we could go back together--- in the spring. They’ll need us at Lancer in the spring, Scott.”

“I suppose they will.”  Not that he’d mind at all having her continued company, in fact, he’d welcome it.  Scott had to admit it would make staying easier. But he was still surprised that Teresa was willing to delay her own return to the ranch. 

“The winters are long here, and I thought you’d be eager to go back home.”

“Not without you.” He studied her, trying to fathom this. His scrutiny seemed to make her uncomfortable, because she tried again to explain.

“Scott, I can’t go back without you, because  . . . we’d all miss you.”

“You’d be fine.”

“That’s not true. Besides . . . Maria would never forgive me. And Johnny—Johnny would probably just get on the first eastbound train and come right after you.”

“Bring me back at gunpoint?”


Despite his own attempt at humor, he could see she was serious. And she wasn’t through yet. 

“Murdoch, wants you to come home too, I know he does, even if he didn’t say it.”

“He did say it,” Scott said softly, and it was his turn to feel uncomfortable. He looked out at the ocean and thought once more about Murdoch’s letter.




Although Scott hadn’t actually agreed that she could stay, Teresa was heartened by the fact that they did talk a bit more about Boston winters.  When she suggested that she might attend classes with Melissa Harper, Scott seemed intrigued by that idea. He also mentioned the possibility that she might consider studying music at the same institute in San Francisco that Melissa had attended--- when ‘we’ return to California.

Finally, Scott looked at his pocket watch and announced that it was time to go back to the beach. They made the descent without incident, and once safely on the sand, Teresa gladly removed the surf shoes.  It did feel somewhat daring and indecent, having ankles and toes exposed to view.  Scott smiled down at her feet, but didn’t say anything, simply tied the cumbersome footgear onto his rucksack, where they jounced around as he walked.

On the way back to the beach house, Teresa paused to examine more closely the sprinkling of broken shells marking the different levels of the tides. Upon closer inspection, she discovered that amongst the broken bits there were perfect, tiny, whole shells. There were bright yellow coils which Scott termed snail shells, tan and white striped periwinkles, miniature mussels, and many other varieties. Most remarkable were the diminutive sand dollars, smaller even than a three-cent coin.  Although she hadn’t discovered any of the full-sized sand dollars, Teresa decided that she was quite happy with her collection of petite treasures.  Once back at the cottage, Mrs. Holmes paused in her supper preparations to show her a large glass jar filled with sand dollars of every size, most of them Scott’s finds over the years.

The evening meal included Boston baked beans and brown bread, with an apple pie for dessert. Afterwards, Teresa insisted that her injured hand should not prevent her from helping with the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Mrs. Holmes reluctantly agreed, but when Scott offered his assistance, he was shooed away.  Banished to the front room, he could be heard starting a fire.  Edging back into the kitchen, he poured himself another glass of wine from the bottle standing open on the table.

“I think I’ll step outside,” he announced.




Scott stood on the small porch, leaning against the support post and looking out over the tall blades of grass waving in the fenced in yard.  Far beyond, the rolling watery sound of the waves washing up from the channel provided a backdrop to his thoughts.  

Those thoughts drifted backwards, and westward. He pictured the main street of Morro Coyo, heard the dull thuds of the horses hooves plodding along and the creak of wooden wheels as they churning up the ever-present dust. He recalled the views of rolling hills, remembered looking down the winding road leading to the familiar Lancer arch and the gleaming hacienda beyond.

Since leaving California, Scott had found that he was capable of going for hours, even days without giving much thought to what must be happening now at the ranch. Once he’d arrived in Boston, he’d been focused upon the tasks at hand. Now, standing here absently rolling the stem of a wine glass between his fingers and looking up at the sky, he allowed himself to indulge in some treasured memories of his life at Lancer with Murdoch, Johnny and Teresa. The images rolled by, fleeting, like the waves shimmering in the moonlight.

He missed it. And it felt good, knowing that he had Lancer to return to. 

The moon was half full, fixed high in a night sky crowded with stars. In Boston, close and comfortable, the stars were viewed in smaller sections, as you peered up at them past the rooftops or through the branches of trees. Here, the vast expanse of stars seemed to go on forever, reminiscent of the night sky that hung over the ranch.

In the days before his departure, he’d spent considerable time gazing up at those stars, as if he might find some answers there. One night he had stood near the wall overlooking the kitchen garden, another out in front of the hacienda.  Murdoch had joined him the first evening, Johnny the next.

Behind him, the door opened and there was a light step on the wooden planks of the porch.  As Scott turned to greet Teresa, it was with a sense that he had been waiting for her for a very long time.  



Popham Beach:

Pond Island Lighthouse

Seguin Island Lighthouse



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 19. 

“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb


“Ready for dessert?”

Scott bowed his head to hide his grin at the memory evoked by those words, the image of his father extending a tumbler of scotch in one large hand.

“The apple pie is waiting.” Teresa stepped up beside him as he turned to face the ocean once more.

“I was watching the waves. Seems I never get tired of it.”  No longer eager to go back inside, Scott resumed his position leaning against the post.

Alongside him, Teresa crossed her arms against the chill. The wind loosened her hair, so that some of it floated free on the breeze. 

“I can understand now why this place is so special to you. I’m glad I got to see it, Scott.”

“I’ve enjoyed showing it to you.”

Glancing down, he searched for her answering smile, but waving tendrils of hair obscured her face. Scott reached out with his left hand to gently sweep the wayward strands back behind her ear.

The sensation, when his fingertips brushed against her cheek, was like a tingle or a small shock. He really couldn’t have described it, but the feeling was startling enough to cause him to quickly drop his hand. It dangled there awkwardly between them, until he pulled it up and across his chest, folding the right arm over it with the empty wineglass still clasped in his hand.

Scott stared out at the waves, but the feeling of calm well-being had disappeared.

He knew he was in trouble.




She’d felt Scott pull away, out on the porch.

When they’d gone back inside, he’d been so quiet the whole time they were sitting   in the kitchen with Mrs. Holmes, the three of them eating thick slices of Madame Carrier’s apple pie. Then he’d hidden behind a book for the remainder of the evening.

Teresa knew, with sick certainty, that Scott had withdrawn because he’d somehow felt it, finally, her aching for more.

What she couldn’t understand, as she lay awake in the narrow bed staring up at the slanted ceiling, was how. Or why now, when he’d never before seen what she feared was all too evident in her eyes whenever she looked at him.  When he’d never heard it in her voice, even though at times it had been plain enough to her own ears, causing her to hold her breath in dread of what he might say in reply.

The day had been so very wonderful and while strolling along beside Scott, she’d felt once more like a welcome, even a cherished, visitor to his past. It hadn’t hurt one bit that the walk had afforded ample opportunity to admire his strong legs in rolled up trousers.  She’d always appreciated Scott’s sculpted profile and the slow smile that started in his eyes, the smile that was still a smile even when it didn’t quite reach his mouth.  Today, it had; he was happy here. 

She’d been happy too. They’d had the beach to themselves and she’d even allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to be marooned with Scott on Fox Island over night. Falling on the rocks had been embarrassing as well as dangerous, dangerous in that he might read her thoughts, especially when he’d gently cradled her injured hand in his.  Being swept up in Scott’s arms had been exhilarating, like a fairy tale come true, emboldening her to finally raise the question about his going home and risk confiding her desire to stay with him in Boston.  Scott had clearly been surprised, and she’d thought at the time perhaps even pleased, but now she realized how unlikely that was. Whereas earlier she had been heartened by the fact that he hadn’t yet given an answer, now she curled up in despair, expecting that he would be all to eager to send her back with the Hayfords.

If he knew, then everything was about to come crashing down; what she couldn’t bear was the thought of losing what she’d always had: Scott’s steadfast support, his quiet trust, his affection. Scott had always been generous but sincere in his compliments; he meant it when he’d told her she was pretty, but of course that wasn’t enough for him.  Only in fairy tales did brave knights or handsome princes fall in love with silly maidens. 

Teresa felt utterly alone, and for the first time since leaving Lancer, homesick.  Thousands of miles away from Murdoch, Maria and Johnny, on the opposite side of the country from her friends and the older women she’d trusted for advice. Not that her feelings for Scott were anything she’d ever dare express to any of them.

Melissa Harper had guessed, and then had taken the entire situation far too lightly, making assumptions she had no right to make.  Mrs. Holmes was a wonderful lady and Teresa felt certain would offer sage counsel, but of course she couldn’t confide in Scott’s aunt.

Painfully, the person she really couldn’t talk to, the person with whom she had in the past shared so much, was lying asleep in the very next room. 

Teresa turned onto her other side pulled the light wool blanket more securely under her chin, but couldn’t block out thoughts of Scott, sleeping.  It was no use, she couldn’t contain her longing and she couldn’t hope to hide it from him if they remained in such close proximity.

Closing her eyes tightly, feeling the hot tears spill out onto her cheeks, she knew what she had to do.




Scott lay awake staring at the curtains as they lightly floated away from the window. It wasn’t warm, so he’d pulled the blanket up to his bare chest, but he’d wanted the salt air and the sound of the ocean enough to leave the glass raised a few inches.

He didn’t expect to fall asleep anytime soon; he couldn’t stop thinking about Teresa, and that unanticipated physical reaction to the merest touch.

How many times had he taken her hand, or she his arm? Countless.  He put his hands around her waist and lifted her down from the wagon or the buggy whenever they arrived in town; hell, today he’d even carried her in his arms to the very top of Fox Island.  How many times had they actually embraced, and yet he’d never felt quite so  . . . connected.

It was as if today a wall of some sort had been breached.  But to say that he’d never felt anything at all before, well, that would be a lie. Teresa was an attractive young woman. Regardless of her actual age, she was a strong and capable young woman, not a girl, something he’d recognized right away.  And she was not his sister, although some people seemed to assume that he would regard her as such. Never having had a sister, he simply treated her as he would any other young lady—with respect and consideration.  Well, to be honest, he was probably a bit overly protective of her.

Realizing that she’d rarely ventured far from the ranch, he’d enjoyed escorting her in Sacramento and San Francisco, and had relished the thought of being able to show her Boston. They’d always gotten on well together and he’d greatly appreciated her company on this trip East.

Yet it was Johnny with whom she seemed to share an easy familiarity, laughing and teasing. Johnny had tried to tell him it was nothing, “That’s just how it is with little sisters, Boston,” but Scott had been skeptical.

Earlier this evening, he’d been trying to read in the front room while Teresa and his aunt lingered over their pie.  He’d heard them talking about the ranch, and how long he and Teresa had been away. 

“Tell me, Dear, is there a special young man waiting for you there?”

He’d lifted his head, listening intently, unable to hold back a surprised smile at the firmly negative response.

“No Mrs. Holmes, there isn’t.”

But he wasn’t smiling now, stretched out with his hands behind his head, considering.  What if Johnny was right, and Teresa had all along . . . had he led her on in some way? While he certainly hadn’t been immune to Teresa’s charms, any sort of dalliance with his newly met father’s surrogate daughter had been out of the question, even for him. Besides, when he’d first arrived at Lancer, he’d still been writing to Julie and hoping  . . .  Of course, that hadn’t stopped him from regarding with keen interest the steady procession of local women of marriageable age.  He’d gotten to know a few of them, not that anything much had ever come of it. 

Despite Johnny’s insinuations, Scott assumed that Teresa had come to regard him as an older and wiser brother.  The two of them had spent considerable time together, however, and they’d talked a good deal, plied each other with curious questions. He’d shared as much with her as he had with any other woman.  Even Julie.

Was that it, was it because his heart was finally free? Teresa deserved much better than to be some sort of replacement.  Before anything more could happen, he had to be sure.

For a lot of reasons, he had to be sure.




The next day, the three of them walked down to the fort and back, stopping to call at a friend’s house along the way.  Teresa kept her distance, always strolling on the opposite side of his aunt.  Scott told himself it was ridiculous to be so fanciful as to want to “test” for that sensation that he’d felt the previous evening, but he probably would have, if afforded the opportunity. The day was half past and he and Teresa had barely exchanged a glance or more than a few words.

Over lunch back at the cottage, Aunt Cee encouraged Teresa to go swimming, so that she could say she’d “truly been in the Atlantic.”  Attired in a bathing costume supplied by his aunt, Teresa had ventured into the waves. Scott had accompanied her, and they’d spent an awkward half hour standing a few feet apart in the water, under the older woman’s supervision.

Teresa still seemed subdued over supper, and Scott could only shrug in response to Cecilia’s concerned expression.   He had no answer to his aunt’s unspoken question.  As they would be leaving early the next morning for the return trip to Brunswick, it was no surprise when, soon after the supper things had been cleared away, Aunt Cee tactfully announced she was turning in.

When Teresa indicated her intention to follow suit and started moving towards the stairs, Scott quickly intervened.

“Teresa, wait.  Come take a walk with me.”

She tried to decline, murmuring that it was late, that she didn’t have a jacket.

“Please, it is our last night here. Besides, it’s not so late,” he assured her, as he removed the wool shirt he was wearing unbuttoned over his cotton one.  “You can wear this; I have a jacket hanging near the door.”

The day had been crisp, more fall-like than the previous ones, and so the evening air was considerably cooler as well. They set off briskly towards the mouth of the Kennebec; as they were both wearing shoes, they were careful to walk well beyond the constant reach of the waves. 




Despite remaining strong throughout the day, or perhaps because of it, she hadn’t had the strength to say “no” to Scott’s invitation.  She hadn’t had the willpower to refuse the wool shirt he’d offered, warmed from his wearing.  Unfortunately, it hadn’t yet picked up his scent, disappointingly it only smelled like a garment that had been stored away for some time. Teresa wrapped the oversized shirt around herself as they stepped outside, keeping her arms crossed over her waist as she walked along beside Scott.

They came to an abrupt halt when Scott stopped to pick up one of the large white clamshells lying on the damp sand. After he flung it out into the waves, they stood facing the water, neither one having spoken since they’d exited the cottage.

The stars were out, although many of those in the northern sky were obscured by thick clouds.  The half moon was rising, leaving a path of silvery light across the tops of the rippling waves.  Scott seemed particularly pensive, though of course he looked very handsome in the moonlight. His thoughts seemed to have drifted far off from shore.

“Have you . . . have you spent much time out on the ocean Scott?”

He seemed mildly startled to hear her voice. “Have I . . . ?”

“Spent much time on the ocean.”

“I’ve spent more time in boats on lakes and rivers. Though I sometimes went out with a few of the local fishermen here in the summers.”

Teresa nodded. It seemed that Scott wasn’t especially interested in conversation; she was somewhat relieved, but still wondered why he had been so insistent that she join him.

“I have sailed to Europe, with my grandfather.” He smiled and shook his head. “It’s hard to believe, that there’s a whole other world waiting across the Atlantic.”

“I’d love to see it someday.”

“I wouldn’t mind going back there myself . . .”

She told herself that the way her heart lifted at his words was only a silly reflex. “I was thinking that I probably should go back with the Hayfords after all.” The words sounded abrupt, but at least she’d said them.

Scott looked down at her, eyebrows lifted, but didn’t speak. Teresa resolutely looked back out over the water. “Mrs. Hayford is expecting me.”

“Now, Aunt Cecilia told me she invited you to spend the winter with her in Boston.”

Teresa swallowed. “Yes, she did mention it, while you were out swimming this morning. But I’d already decided . . .  one of us really should go back, Scott.”

“So . . . if I were to return to California with Will and his mother . . . then you’d consider staying in Boston?”

“I might . . . but—you don’t really expect to be ready to leave so soon.”

“No, I don’t.”  He sighed, sounded disappointed.  If Scott was sorry not to be going back to Lancer, then that was a very good sign.   He suggested they continue on to where the shoreline turned before heading back, so they started walking once more.

Scott wasn’t wearing a hat, and his hair was ruffling in the breeze. He’d shortened his strides, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep up.  Then she realized it was because his shoulders were hunched forward and he had his hands in his pockets, an unusual posture for him.




It was mystifying.

Yesterday, Teresa had seemed determined to stay in Boston, insistent that she couldn’t return to the ranch without him, almost as if it was her responsibility to bring him back.  Today, even while spending the day in close proximity, she’d still managed to essentially avoid him. And now, it sounded as if she was planning to be on the opposite coast from whichever one he chose.

Other than not immediately agreeing that she should remain behind with him when the Hayfords set out for California, he couldn’t think of anything he might have said or done to provoke such contrary behavior.  It was one of the things that had always made spending time with Teresa so pleasant; she’d never been one to easily take offense or engage in silly pouting. She’d always been open and direct.

Of course he’d been pleased when she’d indicated that she wanted to stay with him, but there was plenty of time to think about it, to discuss it at greater length. And Murdoch should be consulted; he was, after all, her guardian.

However, if his failure to be sufficiently enthused about her desire to stay was the problem, then it cast Teresa’s subsequent behavior in a familiar, feminine light. He couldn’t help thinking that this might be a good sign. 




They stood facing the Pond Island light, on the curve of land where the river met the sea and the beach turned away behind them to the west.  Off in the distance they could see the dark outline of an approaching ship.  She felt Scott’s hand came up to rest upon her shoulder. 

“He’s fortunate, to have the light to guide him home.”

Teresa resisted the urge to curve one arm around Scott’s waist.  But she couldn’t help wondering if Scott might not be thinking of something more than a boat trying to find its way to the mouth of the river.

“The old sailors say you can hear voices when the wind comes off the water.”

How she loved that, hearing Scott talk about such things. She’d always enjoyed listening to him anyway, to the Eastern accent, the cadence of his speech, even if he was just reciting the list of supplies they needed to pick up in town. But so often he’d discuss things she’d never heard of or thought about, books he’d read, far off places he’d visited, interesting ideas.  She was immediately intrigued.

“What sort of voices?”

“Lost sailors, I suppose. ‘Those who have gone on before’ is what I was told.  Now, I prefer to think it could be anyone, anyone you want to hear.”

They stood still for a while, listening.

“You still miss your grandfather.”

She could feel Scott exhale beside her, and his thumb rubbed her shoulder a bit.

“Yes, but not here so much. He rarely came to the shore.”

“It’s like a different world right here.”

“Yes, it is,” he said, smiling down at her. “And yet, I’ve never wanted to stay. It’s almost as if it’s too special for that, more a place to come back to.”

They turned to start back along the channel toward the beach house.  Although Scott’s hand gently caressed her back as it slipped off of her shoulder, she instantly felt bereft of his touch. 

To their right, the waves washed the shore, but on the left, up the slope of the beach and back from it stood a row of houses, many of then standing dark and empty, their summer inhabitants already departed.  Others, occupied year-round, had curtains drawn over the lights marking each window. 

In front of one house, Scott pointed out the remains of what he termed an old “snow fence,” jagged wooden slats held together by long twisted strands of wire.  He explained that here at the shore, such structures were often used in an attempt to control the drifting sand dunes.

“The sand and the winds change with the seasons, so it’s intended to be temporary, not like the fence lines at the ranch.”

“It looks like an easier fence to put up.”

“Much easier.” Scott shook his head slightly. “One time, I was working alone, repairing a section in the south pasture.  It was a long day and I started thinking about  . . .  I started thinking about how the fence posts reminded me of Murdoch. “

“You mean because they’re tall?” she asked doubtfully.

“Well, yes, but  . . . it was more than that.” Scott paused long enough for her to wonder if he had changed his mind about sharing this story.  “The posts are solid, rooted in the land, they  . . . stand guard over it.” Scott sighed. “They’re also rigid and unbending, and I guess that’s how I saw him then.”

“He’s a good man, Scott.”

“I know. But he still doesn’t bend very easily.”  Scott smiled, and it was clear he intended no criticism of his father. “The same was true of my grandfather.”

She couldn’t resist. “So he was like a fence post too?”

“No, Grandfather was more like a . . . stone pillar.”

Teresa smiled, thinking of the stone pillars that formed a part of the stately brick walls she’d seen so many of in Boston. 

“Uncle Elwood, he was a good old fashioned New England stone wall. Now, some people think they are just piles of rocks, but there’s an art to putting them together, so that they last as long as they have.”

As he so often did, Scott started to warm to his topic, and his enthusiasm as he continued his comparisons was infectious. “Aunt Cecilia, she was more of a challenge. I finally decided she’d be like a wrought iron fence.  Graceful and elegant but also strong . . . ”

“And what about Johnny? Did you think of something for him?”

“Well, he was the hardest one of all; the analogy seemed to fail with Johnny. I couldn’t think of any type of fence to describe him.”


“At the time, I decided that he was more like the wire than anything else.  It’s tough, twists in unexpected directions, not easy to nail down. And then there are those sharp points . . . ” Scott gave her a wry smile. “I’m not sure I can explain it exactly.”

Listening to Scott, she’d not been conscious of how far they’d walked, and so was taken by surprise when he turned to start up the sandy slope towards his aunt’s house. He lengthened his stride and she had to take several quick steps to catch up to him again.

“So—what sort of fence are you?”

Now apparently it was Scott’s turn to be surprised and he came to a complete stop not far from the cottage’s fenced yard. She guessed from his expression that he’d never given any thought to where he fit in.  Then he shrugged and turned to continue on.

Teresa reached out to catch his arm. “No, Scott Lancer, now you’re not going to get off that easily.”

Furrowed brow and pursed lips indicated he was considering the possibilities, then even in the dim light she could see his eyes brighten. 

“A picket fence,” he announced, gesturing with one hand towards the one surrounding the small yard. “Only with taller pickets ----and closer together, makes it harder  . . . to see in.” His eyes slid away from her on that last and she withdrew her hand as he gazed out over the waving beach grass.

Feeling dissatisfied with Scott’s depiction of himself as a commonplace wooden picket fence, Teresa started to move ahead of him towards the gate, but paused when he spoke again.

“Now you, you would be a hedge, soft and flowering.”

He came up to stand very close behind her, and his hand brushing the hair off of her shoulder caused the familiar aching to start again.

“Always growing and changing, like this rosa rugosa here.”




“Beach roses” some people called them, the flowers were most often a strong clear pink, with cheerful yellow centers. There were still some fragrant blossoms scattered here and there along the rose bushes that threatened to swallow up the low picket fence in places. But the rose hips had also already formed, and earlier that day his aunt had gathered some of the bright red bulbs to bring back to Brunswick so that Madame Carrier might turn them into jam.

Of course, when he’d decided long ago that Teresa was a flowering hedge, he hadn’t been thinking of rosa rugosa.  No particular flower really, and not a formal, clipped hedge; it would have to be something that grew freely.  A more typical, classic rose would be in keeping with her delicate, classic features.  But roses had thorns.  Scott decided that he needed to work some more on this particular analogy. . .

“The gate. You’re like the gate.”

As Scott stared over her shoulder at the gate in front of them, Teresa turned to face him. 

“You close them to protect people. It lets them in or out. The posts and the wire, they can’t be a fence without a gate. All fences need gates.”

But did hedges? Scott lowered his gaze and shook his head, thinking her analogy as flawed as his own.  But he knew she was thinking about his father and brother, how much she felt they needed him. He met her eyes when she repeated the statement.

“All fences need gates.”

“And what about you?” he asked seriously, looking down at her. “What do you need?”

Scott just glimpsed the startled, almost panicked look in Teresa’s eyes before she turned away, saying something about needing to go inside.  Before she could push open the gate, he grasped one of the pickets and held it firmly in place.  Reaching down brought his mouth close to her ear.


It seemed a long moment before she finally turned around again.  Scott released his hold on the gate, and straightened, but Teresa still refused to look up at him.  Sensing a sadness in her, he wanted to fold her into an embrace, but resisted the urge to simply pull her against his chest.

Placing one hand gently beneath her chin, he lifted her face. Looking his question into her eyes, he found the answer there.   

For one more instant, Scott heard the pounding of his own heart in his ears, the crash of the waves, the singing of the wind. Then there was only Teresa. And when her soft lips started to move, he used his own to silence them.



Rosa Rugosa:

Scott’s thoughts about his family as fences first appeared in “Crosswinds” a two-part WM Birthday story that was co-written with Chris W.  Special thanks to Southernfrau for her comments at that time regarding hedges and gates. :-)

This chapter also owes a nod to the song “Voices on the Wind,” by Little Feat, from the 1988 “Let It Roll” album.



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 20A.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



Even after their lips parted, neither of them tried to speak.

Scott reluctantly released her and took a small step backwards.  Teresa moved with him, sliding her hands beneath his unbuttoned jacket and around his waist, her face against his chest.  Scott’s arms encircled her shoulders; he closed his eyes and rested his chin on the top of her head. 

Scott couldn’t have said how long they stood there, silently sharing this new connection. After a time, he became aware of the familiar music of the waves and the wind.

Although he knew in his heart that kiss was irrevocable, he still allowed himself the token equivocation of tense. 

“It seems I’m falling in love with you.”

Then he waited, eyes open now and squinting into the darkness, as if that would help him listen more intently.  But he heard only the passage of time, counted off by the drumbeats of his heart. 

Finally, the words were murmured into the fabric of his shirt.

“I love you, Scott.”

Her voice sounded tremulous to his ears. Lifting his chin in disappointment, Scott grasped her shoulders and gently eased Teresa away from him, enough to search her face.  Gazing into her eyes, he saw them glistening in the moonlight.

“Show me.”

A man could learn a great deal from a kiss.

After only the briefest hesitation, one hand reached up and firmly clasped his neck. The other pressed against his chest, then he felt her fingers curl over the edge of his shirt pocket as their lips met once more.

She kissed him as if she meant it.

He held her tightly, and continued falling.  




<<He kissed me...>> 

It was wonderful, amazing, unbelievable.

<<He said he was falling in love with me…>>

It was the incredible realization of what would have been her heart’s deepest desire, had she not been so determined to deny it. And perhaps most astonishing, Scott seemed to be seeking assurance from her. She had eagerly accepted his challenge, surprised by her own sense of confidence.  His response to her kiss was nothing less than thrilling.  She felt . . . powerful.

And kitten-weak when the moment ended.

Scott reached past her. She was aware of him lifting the latch and pushing the gate open, and he guided her through it, with one hand on her back.  Her steps shaky, she preceded him along the path to the porch and up the few steps.

When she reached the landing, he stopped her. 

“Teresa . . . ”

Scott was standing on the step below, which brought their faces more nearly opposite.  This time when they came together, she was able to use the fingers of both hands to ruffle the hair on the back of his head.  And when the kiss ended, she was acutely aware of Scott’s hands, one covering her hip, the other pressing against her back.

“Teresa,” he said again slowly, a moment later, “I think we’d better go inside.”

On the other side of the door, he helped her out of the wool shirt and removed his jacket.  She waited uncertainly while he hung up the garments.  The task completed, Scott turned to face her, brow furrowed.  Then, in a characteristic mannerism, he glanced down at the floor.

It was only a moment before he looked up and met her eyes, but surprisingly, he didn’t say anything. Stepping forward, Scott reached out with one hand to cup the side of her face, the thumb outlining her cheekbone. 

“I love you Scott--”

“Shhh . . . ”

Now his thumb was tracing her lips, and Scott was looking down at her with a very serious expression.

“We’re going . . .  to need to talk.  But it’s late . . . we should say good night.”  

She nodded mutely as his hand slid away. Already reassured by the repeated use of the word “we,” Teresa released a shaky breath when he pulled her close. Her fears as to what that talk might entail were further alleviated by the intensity of Scott’s whispered “good night” and the manner in which his voice caressed her name.

Murmuring her own good night, Teresa reluctantly started up the stairs. When he didn’t follow, she looked back over her shoulder.  Scott offered her a wry smile and quietly said he’d “be up soon.”

Reaching the door of her room, she glanced back again and saw him still standing in the shadows at the foot of the stairs, watching her.  She smiled uncertainly, but couldn’t discern a response.  Once inside the bedchamber, Teresa closed the door and then turned and fell back against it, wrapping her arms around herself and closing her eyes in heart pounding recollection of Scott’s hand touching her face, his lips pressing against hers, the sound of his voice . . . 

<<“It seems I’m falling in love with you.”>>

It was several long minutes before she stirred herself to light the lamp and prepare for bed. It was simply impossible to stop smiling into the mirror as she brushed her hair.  The phrase “I love you Scott” kept echoing in her thoughts; at times she couldn’t help softly uttering the words aloud. And after she changed into her nightgown, she couldn’t prevent herself from twirling ecstatically around the room, before finally climbing, exhausted, into bed.

Not that she could possibly fall asleep; instead Teresa found herself reliving each step of that evening’s walk along the beach.  When she finally heard Scott’s tread on the stairs, she held her breath, listening intently as he stepped past her door.

As she tried to detect the sound of his movements in the next room, Teresa pictured Scott sitting on the bed, removing his boots.  She imagined him unbuttoning that familiar beige checked shirt, one that she must have washed and ironed many times back at the hacienda. 

Pajamas and nightshirts, she knew, had no place in Scott Lancer’s wardrobe.

Teresa snuggled in closer beside her extra pillow. Even before she fell asleep, she was already dreaming of lying beside Scott, safe in his arms, with her head resting on his bare chest.




Scott stood in the center of the moonlit kitchen, listening for Teresa’s light step in the room overhead.  Knowing that he wasn’t anywhere near ready to turn in, he decided to warm the coffee left over in the pot on the stove.

He was able to keep his attention focused on the tasks of kindling a fire in the stove and then locating a coffee mug and spoon. Conscious of the small size of the summer house and the near proximity of his aunt’s closed bedroom door, he moved silently and deliberately, until finally there was nothing more to do but wait.

Seated at the small table, Scott removed the cover from the sugar bowl and began lifting rounded spoonfuls of sugar, each time tilting the utensil just enough to allow a wide stream of granules to flow back into the bowl.  He thought about Teresa.

He’d done his testing, tentatively resting his hand on her shoulder out on the beach. Before that, there had been the slight brush of their hands when he’d given her his wool shirt to wear, neither contact triggering anything like the previous evening’s startled recognition that something was different. 

Not that he needed another reminder. He already knew that everything had changed.

But that wasn’t true, not everything. Despite the sudden epiphany, it was somehow a natural progression. It felt right.

Dropping the spoon onto the tabletop, Scott skittered his chair back from the table so that he could reach for the coffee pot, only belatedly recollecting the need for quiet. The liquid he poured into the thick white mug wasn’t steaming hot, but it was warm enough.  He returned the coffee pot to the stove and then carefully pulled the chair back across the rough wooden floor. 

<<“It does feel right,”>> he repeated to himself again, as he ladled a generous scoop of sugar into his mug.  There was no need to enumerate each one of Teresa’s many good qualities, he knew them all full well, by heart. He knew her. Scott sat hunched over the table, still needlessly stirring the coffee even as his thoughts spun away from him, back to the beach.

He hadn’t intended to kiss her, not so soon. He didn’t regret it, but he’d have to move more slowly. It had already required an effort on his part to hold his hands steady, to resist exploring a bit more than just her lips.

Despite Teresa’s responsiveness, he couldn’t be certain of the extent of her ‘experience,’ although he suspected that her romantic encounters had been limited in number.  At least the ill-fated association with Andy Blake had been blessedly brief. 

With hindsight, it was significant that in all the time they’d spent together and the various subjects they’d discussed, certain topics had been avoided.  He’d never questioned her closely about Andy, and Teresa had never said much about any of the young women with whom he’d kept company. They’d never once spoken about Julie.

Certainly Teresa never lacked for masculine attention at social events.  On occasion, she had pressed Johnny into service as her escort, although this was perhaps to counter to Johnny’s habitual reluctance to attend at all. While no one had ever come to the hacienda to call for her, there had been times when it had been understood that Teresa was ‘meeting someone’ at the dance.  On those evenings, he and his brother had often been unforgivably inattentive to their own dance partners, in their efforts to watch over Teresa.

Now that Scott expected to be Teresa’s ‘someone,’ he wondered how Johnny would react.  There was no question but that he would have to endure some “I told ya so” or “It sure is about time” comments from his brother, although he expected that Johnny might actually be pleased.  But as he sipped thoughtfully at his coffee, Scott found it difficult to imagine his father’s reaction.

Thoughts of Murdoch reminded him once more of that letter waiting in the drawer of Grandfather’s desk.  He’d intended to read it immediately after Murdoch’s departure, but Julie’s unexpected visit had scotched that plan.  While packing for the trip to Maine, he’d made a mental note to bring the envelope along, but had only remembered it after they’d boarded the train in Boston.

That thick, sealed envelope was merely one of several possible complications awaiting him in Boston, and Scott again contemplated not opening it at all.  He knew that once he returned to the city there would be the reading of his grandfather’s will and decisions to be made about the business and the household staff. 

Suddenly Scott’s attention was drawn to the ceiling once more, as he tried to decipher the flurry of what sounded like faint footfalls overhead.

Staying on for a time in Boston would be much easier, if Teresa would stay too.  As he finished his coffee, he hoped that she might be persuaded. 




She awoke very early the next morning, but when she eased the door open, Teresa could see that the door to Scott’s room was already standing ajar.  Securely belting her robe, she ventured downstairs and proceeded to heat up some wash water, hoping to carry the kettle back upstairs before either Scott or his aunt appeared.

While the water heated on the stove, Teresa slipped into the front room and used the opera glasses to scan the channel.

“Did the two of you have a pleasant walk last night?”

“Oh! Mrs. Holmes . . . good morning.”

“I’m sorry, Teresa, did I startle you?  I do beg your pardon, Dear.  Is Scott out for one last swim this morning?”

“Yes, yes, he is.”

“Well, it’s still early yet. But Mr. Rideout will be here with a wagon within the hour.”  Mrs. Holmes studied her with a thoughtful expression. “You go on upstairs and get dressed, now, and I’ll just stir up some oatmeal for breakfast.”

Up in her room, Teresa filled the basin with warm water from the kettle and went back downstairs to replace it on the kitchen stove.  This morning she was more attentive to her toilette than she had been previously during their stay at Popham. Because they were going back to Brunswick, she put on traveling clothes.  Displeased with her first choice, she changed to another outfit and then attempted to arrange her hair in one of Marguerite’s styles. 

Teresa was still dissatisfied with her appearance when she heard Scott return to his room. Hastily buttoning her jacket, she prepared to go downstairs, but paused for a moment, listening at the door.

She was avoiding him. All of her giddy excitement of the previous evening had disappeared and she felt hollow inside.  She was afraid, so very afraid that things would be different now it was daylight, that Scott would look at her this morning and see only ‘Teresa.’  

She knew Scott, knew that he would still love her even if he wasn’t in love with her.  He would never want to hurt her, and would be very sorry if he had.  He would feel responsible.  Her stomach clenched at the thought of looking into his eyes and seeing an apology there.

Even worse would be actually hearing the words.

Of course, he now knew exactly how she felt, she’d shown him in her kiss, she’d told him she loved him.  If she had been a self-assured, worldly and mature woman, experienced in matters of the heart, she would have boldly knocked on Scott’s door and demanded to know his intentions—and would have somehow managed to feign indifference if his response was less than hoped.  Since she was none of those things, she slipped out of her room and down the stairs to join Mrs. Holmes at the breakfast table.

She sat and sipped her tea, attempting to swallow a bit of toast. She pretended to carry on a conversation with Mrs. Holmes, when really all she was doing was dreading Scott’s arrival in the kitchen. 

Cecilia Holmes asked a question, but the sound of his feet on the steps echoed the pounding of her own heart and prevented Teresa from hearing the words.  The older woman smiled kindly as she rose to pour her nephew a cup of coffee.

Scott said “good morning” as if it were any other morning and then took a seat opposite his aunt. Like Mrs. Holmes, Scott had resumed his mourning attire for the return to town; his trousers and jacket were black, with a string tie gracing the collar of his fresh white shirt. Mrs. Holmes presented Scott with a healthy serving of oatmeal and the two of them conversed easily about the journey to Brunswick, the times of the train, the next day’s departure for Boston.  Scott inquired if there was anything she wished him to take care of before they left.  His aunt explained that she would be sending people to close up the summer house, to clear the cupboards, strip the bed linens and, finally, board up the windows; for now she only wished him to check to see that they were closed.

Silent since offering her own “good morning,” feeling excluded and growing ever more certain that a humiliating and painful mistake had been made, Teresa excused herself to finish packing.

“Teresa, I’ll come up for your traveling case in a few minutes.”

Even Scott’s “Teh-RAY-sah” sounded ordinary this morning. She nodded without meeting his eyes, and escaped.




There were only three small bedrooms upstairs. Teresa had occupied the larger one, which had a tiny room opposite; his own door was cater-corner to hers.  Scott dutifully looked in to check that he had in fact closed the windows and hadn’t left any personal items behind.  Having completed that unnecessary task, he slowly retraced his steps, stopping beside Teresa’s door.

He stood there for a moment, arms folded and head bowed.  There had been no welcoming smile this morning, in fact, she’d barely acknowledged his presence.  She hadn’t joined in the conversation about travel plans, hadn’t even asked any questions.  Despite their close proximity at the small kitchen table, he hadn’t managed to catch Teresa’s eye, not once. So, perhaps she was having second thoughts; perhaps he’d moved too quickly.

It was possible that he’d badly misread the signs that last night had seemed so unmistakably clear. He dismally considered that it wouldn’t be the first time.

If that was the case, then the sooner he made amends the better.  Scott took a deep breath and knocked firmly on the door.


“Come in.”

Scott pushed the door open, but remained standing in the hallway. Teresa was just closing up the traveling case that was resting on the bed.

“I’m almost finished,” she said, glancing in his direction with the briefest of smiles before returning her attention to the straps she was fastening.

Dismayed by how nervous she seemed, Scott sighed and leaned against the doorframe.

“Teresa, I ah . . . I crossed a line last night.”

She nodded, still staring down at that damn case.

“I had intended to do it again.”

He had her attention then; she stared at him with an apprehension in her eyes that was painful to see.

“Now, I understand, if that makes you uneasy. And if you’d rather I didn’t, we could just forget---”

“No.”  She shook her head, took a deep breath. “No. I can’t forget. I don’t want to, Scott . . .”

Contemplating her lifted chin and determined stance, Scott couldn’t hold back a relieved smile.

“Neither do I.”

Teresa moved around the edge of the bed and towards the doorway, her delicate features still so serious, those large brown eyes studying his own. But when he gave her his best wry look and lifted his right arm, she smiled--- her wide, warm, familiar smile ----and quickened her step. Teresa fit in close beside him, exactly where she belonged, and he reached up with one hand to smooth her hair.

“You were worried.”


“Trust me.”

He felt her relax then.  “I do.”




Mrs. Holmes’ voice pushed them apart, when she came around to the bottom of the narrow staircase to announce that the man had arrived with the wagon to take them to the train station in Bath. Scott had carried her traveling case down the stairs and out the back door along with his own, then, while the driver, Mr. Rideout, had taken care of Mrs. Holmes’ bags, Scott stepped out onto the small front porch for one last look at the channel.

When Teresa joined him, he was squinting out at the ocean. 

“It’s hard to know, if I’ll ever be here again.” 

The wistful words were delivered in Scott’s usual matter of fact tone. She said something about what a special place it was.  He looked down at her and took her hand and told her that she had “made it more so.”

She trusted him, she truly did. It wasn’t his fault that it all still seemed much too wonderful to be real.

The day’s traveling was pleasant and uneventful. It was a bright autumn day, breezy and cool, but not uncomfortable.  After helping the two women up onto the rear bench seat, Scott sat in the front alongside bewhiskered old Josiah Rideout, talking about some of the people who lived along the bumpy route to Bath.  The short trip by train to Brunswick passed quickly; Scott occupied the seat opposite them while Teresa again sat beside his aunt.

Mrs. Holmes took charge as soon as they arrived at her residence, ordering up tea to be served in the parlor while their bags were carried upstairs and requesting that baths be readied. Once the maid had served the tea, Madame Carrier’s presence was requested, but instead of sitting down to discuss the evening’s menu the cook had waited in the doorway, indicating that she wished to converse with her mistress privately.  

Scott picked up a newspaper, but alternated between scanning the headlines and shooting concerned looks in his aunt’s direction as the two women conducted a whispered conversation.  They were talking about someone; Teresa heard the word “she” several times and possibly the name “Marie.” Judging from her stiff posture and fierce expression, Mrs. Holmes was not at all happy; Madame Carrier appeared equally grim.

Finally, Scott laid the paper aside and asked his aunt if every thing was all right. She swiftly assured him it was, that there was nothing for him to be concerned about. Madame Carrier nodded and smilingly announced that she had made a “tortiere” for supper.  Scott was clearly pleased, and responded with the French phrase for “thank you very much” which Teresa recognized since he had taught her how to say it to Marguerite.   After they had exchanged a few more words in that language, Madame Carrier excused herself to return to the kitchen.

Mrs. Holmes resumed her seat, still seeming somewhat unsettled; Scott lifted his brow and shrugged his shoulders in reply to Teresa’s silent question, but he elected not to press his aunt.  Teresa filled the awkward pause by asking about the “tortiere.” Scott explained that it was one of his favorite dishes, a French Canadian pork pie typically served at Christmas time, which in turn led his aunt to share reminiscences of her nephew’s holiday visits until the three of them finished their tea.

Teresa enjoyed a leisurely bath, and afterwards, Marguerite came in to help her dress and do up her hair for dinner.  They were expecting guests; a Professor Alpheus Packard, who had formerly worked closely with Mrs. Holmes’ late husband and was now the librarian of Bowdoin College, would be joining them along with his wife.

When she entered the room, Scott was engaged in conversation with Professor Packard. Swiftly excusing himself, he crossed the room to greet her; his eyes told her what she wanted to know long before he whispered a compliment in her ear. Scott made the introductions before they proceeded to the dining room, where, owing to many curious questions from the Packards, conversation centered comfortably around ‘life in the West.’

Teresa enjoyed the savory tortiere and after the meal was concluded took the time to visit the kitchen in order to consult with Madame Carrier on the recipe and its preparation.  Other friends stopped in, long time neighbors who had learned from her staff that Mrs. Holmes would be departing again the next morning, and so the remainder of the evening passed quickly.

The next morning, when they boarded the southbound train for Boston, Mrs. Holmes announced that Marguerite would sit beside her, freeing Scott to share a seat across the aisle with Teresa. 

She had the place near the window, with Scott seated to her left.  They chatted for a while, with Scott occasionally commenting upon the passing scenery. But after a time, he took up his book; he was still trying to read about Napoleon.

When he came to the end of a chapter, she asked about it, why he was so interested in Napoleon.  Scott explained that General Bonaparte had been recognized as a superb military strategist, at least until the disastrous miscalculations that had brought about his downfall.  He added that Mr. Garrett had been particularly fascinated by the French general.  Then he’d smiled and asked if she remembered seeing a grey tabbycat in the house on Chestnut Street, informing her that apparently his grandfather had named the animal “Napoleon.”

They talked about pets for a bit: Mrs. Holmes’ soft grey Minou, Napoleon’s mother, Jelly’s Dewdrop, Murdoch’s prize sow.  While they hadn’t exactly been household companions, there had always been a few cats roaming the stables at the hacienda and a dog or two occupying the yard.  Although he’d had a succession of ponies, beginning with the infamous Spot, Scott admitted that his grandfather had never favored the idea of keeping a cat or dog.  Teresa asked a few questions about what it had been like growing up with Mr. Garrett in Boston, but, as often happened, Scott steered the conversation towards her own childhood at Lancer.

“I feel guilty sometimes, that I grew up there, and you and Johnny didn’t.”

“There’s nothing for you to feel guilty about,” he assured her.

“But I still do.”

Scott studied the cover of the book he still held in his hands, before turning to look at her. “Tell me, can you imagine growing up anywhere else?”

“No, no I can’t.”

“Well, neither can I, Teresa. And I really don’t regret growing up in Boston.”

She hesitated.  “I  . . .  I never understood why though,” she ventured finally.

Scott nodded, eyes front now.  “It’s  . . .  complicated.”

The finality in his voice and the slight set of his jaw indicated he was finished with the topic, so she was quite surprised when he bowed his head and continued.

“Before he left, Murdoch gave me a letter, explaining things.”

Teresa bit back her questions, forcing herself to wait.

Scott sighed and lifted his head again.  “I haven’t read it yet.”

Instantly, she was reminded of the first letter she’d received from Angel. She hadn’t wanted to read it, putting it off for days.  She hadn’t wanted to have to think about that whole painful episode, but lacked the willpower to simply throw the letter away unopened.  But the stark truth was that her mother had abandoned her.  Which had forced Daddy and Murdoch to lie to her for years, pretending her mother was dead.  When Angel had returned, it had been to selfishly try to take her away from her home and family. And in the end, the woman had rejected her again, though Scott had suggested that there might have been more to it than that.

The letter had been short, barely a page, and when she’d shown it to Scott, he hadn’t seemed surprised. He’d actually encouraged her to respond.  She and Angel had written back and forth a few times now, and although Teresa doubted she would ever completely forgive her mother, at least she didn’t hate Angel any more.  Of course she’d forgiven Daddy and Murdoch, because she knew how much they loved her.

Even though it looked as if Murdoch had abandoned Scott, there had to be more to it than that.  Murdoch Lancer was a good man, who loved his sons. 

“You have to read it, Scott.”

“I know.”

He still didn’t look at her and he sounded so  . . . resigned.

“Scott . . . did you ever ask Murdoch about  . . . that Pinkerton agent?”

“He said he wrote about that, in the letter. Among other things. I think it’s . . . quite long.”

Scott seemed so pensive after that, and when he tried to take up his book again, it was evident that he was only looking at the words, not actually reading them. They traveled many miles while the volume remained open to the same two pages.

He caught her once, studying his profile.  He arched his brow, and after a quick smile, she turned back to the window to resume watching the passing scenery.  But the second time, he reached for her hand.

“Teresa . . .  what are you looking at?”

“I was just wondering  . . . what those are called.” 

“What what are called?”

Reluctant to remove her left hand from his grasp, she reached across with her right. 

“This little strip of hair here, in front of your ear, what is it called?”

Still puzzled by the question, Scott paused to consider. “Well, my grandfather called them ‘side whiskers;’ he used to wear his quite long, when he was younger.”

She nodded; of course she’d heard that term before. “I just wondered if there was a special name.  Like ‘chignon’ is used for a bun. Or ‘ringlets’ for curls.”

“In the army we called them ‘burnsides,’ after one of the generals--- but his covered nearly half of his face.”

She couldn’t resist, and gently stroked that line of hair with two fingers.  She pulled her hand away as if she’d been burned when Scott turned his head and lightly kissed her palm. The touch of his lips sent a tremor coursing through her body. 

The way he smiled, it was almost as if he knew it.



Much as he was enjoying Teresa’s company, Scott’s spirits were progressively lowered as they neared Boston and he began dwelling on all he had to do. He had to decide very soon whether to join the Hayfords on the westbound train to California or remain for a time in the house on Beacon Hill.  Since his aunt intended to be in the city during the winter months, at least the household staff could stay on that much longer. And while Mrs. Holmes was in residence, both he and Teresa, pending Murdoch’s approval, could remain as well, since they would have his aunt as chaperone.  Then he could take his time settling Grandfather’s estate, and perhaps Teresa might attend the classes she’d mentioned.  They could return to Lancer in the spring.  It had, however, occurred to Scott that the two of them traveling alone together might no longer be deemed acceptable, or wise.  And therefore it might be best if Teresa left with Will and his mother after all.

Also looming ahead was the meeting with George Hayford and the reading of his grandfather’s will.  He also needed to have some serious and detailed discussions with Cousin Wade about the company.

But the first order of business was to read Murdoch’s letter.

Leaving Fredericks to attend to his unpacking, Scott went directly to his grandfather’s study and sat down at the desk.  The thick envelope still lay in the center drawer, its surface blank except for his own name written in Murdoch’s hand.  Taking up a letter opener shaped like a miniature cavalry officer’s sword, Scott carefully slit the top edge of the envelope.  Abruptly deciding that he simply couldn’t read this letter while confined within the four walls of the study, he pushed away from the desk and headed towards the door.

It had been many years since he’d entered the rooftop cupola.  The octagonal space was level with the tops of the tallest trees, and afforded a view of the rooftops of the stately mansions nearby.  Scott had spent countless boyhood hours in this aerie, reading and daydreaming. He couldn’t help recalling that the little room had sometimes been a place of refuge from the disappointment of yet another birthday passing by without any communication from Murdoch Lancer. It took a few tries before he found which of the large windows would easily open and allow some cooler air in.  Carefully removing the pages from the envelope, Scott dropped onto one of the window seats.

He started reading the letter, the first one he had ever received from his father.



Author’s note: the Bowdoin College professor mentioned in this chapter, Alpheus Spring Packard, was a real person. Like the fictional Elwood Holmes, Prof. Packard was an instructor in the department of languages and classical literature.


For an image of General Ambrose Burnsides:


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 20B.


 “How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb



<<“What do I call you? Under the circumstances, ‘Father’ hardly seems---”>> 

The letter was signed, simply, “Murdoch.”

As if he couldn’t bring himself to write the words “your father.”

Of course, that was patently unfair, when Scott himself had been so quick to deny Murdoch Lancer that title. 

Scott felt frozen, cold with disbelief, even though it was still warm in the glass-enclosed cupola, brightened by the late afternoon sun. He could see movement outside, a soft breeze riffling the tops of the trees.  It shifted through the changing leaves, then slipped in through the open window to brush against the papers in his hand. 

He’d read the entire letter, and knew he’d have to read it again, knew he hadn’t fully absorbed everything Murdoch had written.  

But the closing lines he’d read ten times over.

“I love you, Son. And I want you to know how proud I am to call you that.”

It was far easier to focus on those sentiments than to dwell upon the rest.  The pages Scott held in his hands clearly represented Murdoch’s honest feelings, line after line laying bare both heart and soul to reveal shadowy layers of guilt and regret. Far from being passed and gone, the events and the emotions described seemed to be still very much here and now.  Scott didn’t doubt that it had been a painfully difficult letter to write; he knew for a fact it had been a damned hard one to read.

He set the accordion-folded sheets down on the window seat.  Elbows on his thighs, Scott rubbed his face with his hands and tried to decide which man he was most angry with, his father or his grandfather. 

<<It would be easier to simply hate both of them,>> he thought bitterly, with a renewed sense of betrayal.  But he knew well how destructive that emotion could be.

He also knew he should feel appreciation that Murdoch had finally set the record straight. But too much of it hurt. On some level, Scott had always known that it would, and surely Murdoch had too. He ran his fingers through his hair, the nails furrowing his scalp; the mild physical pain a welcome distraction.

<<Well, Boston, you may as well get it over with.>>

Scott straightened and forced himself to take up the letter again; he’d left the last page lying on top. That one included the expected revelation that Teresa had made the decision to send for him and that Sam Jenkins had engaged the Pinkerton agency. Murdoch was “grateful” to both of them, terming himself “a stubborn fool” for not contacting Scott years before.  He admitted to a series of vain attempts over the years to write a letter he considered worth sending, thwarted by his certainty that Scott would have no interest in hearing from him. 

<<He was wrong.>>

Murdoch should have sent a letter, something, after all, what did he have to lose? How hard would it have been to post a short note?  It hadn’t been until after his twenty-first birthday had come and gone that Scott had decided he no longer cared if he ever received a communication from his absent father. He’d gotten drunk with Will and offered up a caustic toast, something to the effect of hoping that someday Murdoch Lancer would learn how very much his son hated him.

He had hated Murdoch Lancer, but only as much as you could hate someone who was nothing more than a name.  Now that he knew the man, he couldn’t feel the same way.  Scott knew in his heart he could never hate his grandfather either.  He shook his head; although hatred could be useful at times, there was never anything easy about it.

What he felt was  . . .  disappointment. Hardly a strong enough word by itself, but it was ‘deep’, it was ‘profound,’ Hell, right now it was damn near bottomless.

Wearily, Scott leaned forward once more and resumed reading about how grateful Murdoch had been to learn that he had agreed to come to Lancer:

“The day that I received word you were coming, was one of the best days of my life.”

Of course Murdoch had no way of knowing how close Scott had come to rejecting the imperious summons with its accompanying promise of travel expenses and what could only be considered a generous amount of bribe money. If it hadn’t been for Barbara Otis, or more to the point, her irate father, Scott would have been unlikely to travel as far as St. Louis, let alone California. 

Murdoch didn’t say anything about the less than warm welcome he had extended to his sons, nothing at all about how he’d actually felt that first day. Before closing, Murdoch did offer up a positive assessment of how well Scott had fit in at the ranch. He praised Scott’s work ethic, leadership ability, his willingness to learn. However, on second reading, many of the compliments were qualified. Murdoch had been “surprised,” or “impressed,” he “hadn’t expected.”  Perhaps Murdoch meant well, but it served to remind Scott of the extent to which his upbringing set him apart from his peers.   He had received a fine education and more opportunities for travel than most.  In addition, Scott had been raised by a man who was both demanding and attentive; the fathers of many of his friends simply left their sons in their mothers’ care, to be raised by assorted tutors and governesses. Scott also had his military service, as well as his boyhood experiences hunting and fishing in Maine; more than most city dwellers, he was accustomed to being on horseback and comfortable with firearms. 

What would his reception have been, had he lacked those particular qualifications?

He could easily think of several young men of his acquaintance who wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days at the ranch: Freddie Harroway or Lowell Jones or Cousin Wade. Most likely they would have been packed home soon after the $1000 interview. Murdoch would never have signed over one-third of his property to any of them, since of course, they couldn’t have earned it. Perhaps the reason why his father had never sent for him was because all that Murdoch expected from Boston was a “fancy dan” or Eastern dandy.

He’d had no right to expect anything else.



Scott turned to the first page of Murdoch’s letter; he needed to re-read it, slowly and carefully this time, and he needed to keep his emotions in check in order to be objective.  He exhaled slowly. This was, after all, what he’d always wanted, wasn’t it? Answers.

Well, Murdoch had provided them. Some at least. The tone of the letter was both regretful and matter of fact.  Murdoch was ashamed that he hadn’t done more, he said it was “unforgivable” but asserted that the “loss was all mine.”  Rather than attacking Harlan Garrett, Murdoch seemed to make an effort to be scrupulously fair to his former father-in-law, even stating that he could find no fault with the manner in which Scott had been raised. 

Murdoch began with a simple statement that it was time “to clear the air”--- not that he apologized for taking so long to do so.  Then he started writing about Catherine.  Except that Murdoch referred to her as “your mother” rather than by her name. 

“I want you to know how very much I loved your mother. You remind me of her.”

Even the second time through, Scott found he had to swallow hard. He imagined hearing his father’s voice saying the words even though they had never had this conversation; in truth, they’d hardly ever spoken of her at all.  Murdoch enumerated Catherine’s fine qualities, many of which he seemed to believe she had somehow transmitted to her son. Scott was skeptical, but at least it was clear that for Murdoch, these perceived similarities were entirely welcome reminders.  The resemblance between his grandson and his beloved daughter had often seemed a two edged sword for Harlan Garrett.

While he didn’t share any stories about her, Murdoch expressed his intention to “talk more about your mother” in the future.  He did make a point of saying that the ranch had been a dream that they both had shared and how proud she would be that her son was contributing to its success.

Scott managed a grim smile at his father’s choice of words. Unlike Catherine, hadn’t he found that his ‘contributions’ were unwelcome if they involved Garrett money? 

While Scott assumed that Catherine had been a supportive wife, he also suspected, reading between the lines, that after her death, Murdoch had thrown himself into ranch work to assuage his grief. He’d seen signs of such behavior from his father first-hand, a tendency to channel difficult emotions into physical labor.  Murdoch may have told himself he was continuing on in her memory, but from what Scott knew of Catherine, and of young women in general, her ambitions would more likely have centered around home and family, rather than hundreds of acres of ground or heads of cattle.

The fact remained that Murdoch had chosen to concentrate upon building their ranch, allowing someone else to raise their child.  Oh, he frankly explained that he hadn’t felt capable of taking care of an infant; he’d been relieved to know that Scott was safe and well provided for in Boston.  Murdoch did acknowledge that the people back at the ranch had assumed both mother and baby had died, and confessed to being ashamed of not setting the record straight as soon as he realized the misunderstanding.

Little was said about the second Mrs. Lancer, and nothing of Johnny’s birth, and Scott had to guiltily admit that he was glad of that. He’d always told himself that it didn’t matter that his brother had been born at Lancer; he was glad that Johnny had lived there for a time and fervently wished it could have been longer.  But it was hard to read Murdoch’s admission that he hadn’t truly felt like a father until he’d held Johnny in his arms.

It was honest. It made sense—after all, Murdoch had no idea what his other son even looked like. That didn’t make it any easier to read.

Murdoch wrote that after Johnny’s birth, “I wanted to bring you home.” But it had been “complicated” because of the cost and the length of time needed for a trip to Boston.  He didn’t add that Maria Lancer had been unaware that her husband had another child, and he never mentioned her leaving.  He didn’t need to. Scott had long ago figured out what the timing must have been. Murdoch had arrived in Boston for his fifth birthday, which meant that Maria Lancer had already taken her young son and fled.

It was a relief that Murdoch’s spare account of his visit to Boston closely matched the details that Scott had already obtained from his grandfather.

“Harlan introduced us and that’s when I laid eyes on you for the first time. We said hello and you shook my hand.”

Murdoch revealed nothing about how he’d felt during that encounter. Since he couldn’t recall the incident at all, Scott wished that his father had said more to indicate how memorable it had been for him. In contrast to Scott’s purely hypothetical grievance that Murdoch would have rejected him as an adult, had he been nothing more than an Eastern society fop, the possibility existed that the rancher had simply lost interest after he’d shaking the hand of a polite, well-dressed city boy ill-suited to the rough and tumble life out West, who like the mother he resembled, might not be strong enough to survive.

No, Murdoch Lancer could be a hard man, but he wasn’t that hard. Giving Murdoch the benefit of the doubt, more likely he’d been reluctant to uproot a child and deprive his son of the advantages he was enjoying. But if that was the case, Murdoch didn’t say.

He did say that he had been angered and discouraged by Harlan’s threats to use the courts to maintain custody. However, Murdoch blamed himself for having waited too long to make the trip East and then giving up too easily. He regretted not having pushed to see how far his former father-in-law would go, but explained that he’d lacked the resources necessary for a prolonged legal battle.  He said that he needed to get back to the ranch. Murdoch didn’t say that he needed to resume the search for Johnny and Maria.

Murdoch freely admitted that he should have done more, tried harder. He confessed that he’d been reluctant to tell Scott anything about that trip to Boston for that very reason.

He assumed responsibility for his subsequent inaction, quickly describing what little else he’d done, primarily the letters he’d intended to write, the gifts he’d meant to send, prevented from doing so by “damned foolish pride.” Apparently, Murdoch had been certain that Grandfather would withhold anything he sent, and therefore had sent nothing.

As Scott had already deduced, based upon his father’s comments to Melissa Harper, Murdoch had journeyed once more to Boston, “a few years later.”  He said that he’d stayed with his friend James, and that he’d learned that Scott had been “up north.” As far as he knew, Harlan had not even been aware that he’d been in town.

Murdoch’s account seemed strictly factual, nothing like the blistering indictment of Harlan Garrett that Scott had dreaded.  Of course, Scott recognized, and appreciated, why Murdoch avoided criticizing the older man; it wasn’t out of deference to his grandfather. 

And then there it was, that one sentence.

One sentence, in the brief account of what Murdoch Lancer had done, one sentence that formed a small part of his litany of not having done enough.  The one phrase, more wounding than anything else to be found in the six pages of closely spaced script.

“A couple years after that, I wrote to Harlan and invited you to the ranch for the summer. I’d waited too long, and he replied that plans had already been made, for a trip to Europe, I believe. After that, I’m ashamed to say I stopped trying, Son.”




<<“Invited you to the ranch.”>>

Reading those words, even the second time, was worse than being punched in the stomach. This, this was more how Scott imagined it would feel to be run through with a sword.  One that was so razor sharp that a man couldn’t even feel it slicing in, not right away.  Much as that phrase had initially taken a moment, to register. 

<<He did want to see me.>>

An actual invitation had been extended, not just a summons relayed second or third hand.  His father had sent for him, and his grandfather  . . . his grandfather had spurned the request.  Worse, Grandfather had never said one word about it. He’d allowed Scott to grow up believing that his father had abandoned him, ignored him. That Murdoch didn’t care.

It was another betrayal, and unlike Grandfather’s attempt to use Julie to lure him back to Boston, or to force his return by threatening him with the Degans, this action had never been revealed.  Until now. 

 “What he did, when he was here . . . he’d never done anything like that before. Not to me.”

He’d said that, to Johnny, and believed it. And he’d willingly forgiven his grandfather for what he’d tried to do, long before being asked.

The pages of the letter slipped from Scott’s hands and fluttered to the cupola floor, falling like the proverbial house of cards he’d constructed in an attempt to explain his grandfather’s betrayal, to excuse his deceit.

But no, Scott corrected himself, as he wearily leaned down to retrieve the scattered papers, there had been sound reasoning to each of his arguments. Certainly his grandfather had many good reasons for being firmly convinced that his heir was “better off” in Boston.  Grandfather had favored the marriage with Julie, and thought it would make his grandson happy to be reunited with her. For years, his grandfather had believed the worst of the man who taken Catherine away, including those reports suggesting Murdoch’s culpability in Degan’s death.  And since his only daughter had died in California, it was understandable that he particularly mistrusted the place. Added to all that, Grandfather was old, he was lonely and under stress due to the lingering effects of the devastating fire. 

The defenses had been arranged so meticulously, like setting up a protective stockade. 

Grandfather had always been the one constant presence in his life, their relationship an integral support, central to Scott’s very foundation. Now, that foundation had shifted once again, leaving those carefully assembled pickets tilting crazily in all directions.



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 21.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook 

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb


“It was Mr. Lancer who had two.”

He’d let Scott ask the obvious question, and when Teresa had answered, it had taken all of his concentration to cover up his stunned surprise with his best trademark cocky grin.  Johnny smiled now as he surveyed the dusty street, the spot in front of the stage depot where it had all happened.  Never in a lifetime of guessing would he have figured the fancy dressed gringo for his brother—even if he’d known he had one.

Sure, he’d considered the possibility that Murdoch Lancer had taken up with some other woman, started a new family after he’d shown Mama the door.  But Johnny hadn’t wasted much time thinking about the man having a wife and kids, since he’d been determined not to let anyone get in the way of what he might have to do.

But at that first meeting in the Great Room, when Murdoch had recited their histories-- the short versions anyway-- Johnny had discovered that the Easterner was his older brother; Scott was the elder son.  Not that it mattered any more, but at the time, Johnny hadn’t been very happy about it.  Of course, that smaller concern had faded pretty quickly in light of what Murdoch had said about Mama taking off.

It hadn’t been until long afterwards that he’d taken time to wonder about what Murdoch had said to Scott about his own mother.  It sure had sounded as if Scott had been born back East and Murdoch had just left him there.  Now he knew there was a whole lot more to the story. Well, maybe Scott and Murdoch had talked some, while the Old Man was in Boston.

Johnny set the brake on the buggy and settled in to wait. “Arrive noon stage,” that was all the wire had said.  He was expecting Murdoch to be alone, though he sure wouldn’t mind if Teresa and Scott were with him. <<Don’t get your hopes up, Madrid,>> he told himself, but he couldn’t help it. He missed them.

Funny, how he’d shown up here in Morro Coyo for the money, or maybe for revenge-- or both--- and ended up staying for a home and family.  When he’d gotten off the stage, he hadn’t owned anything, except for his rig, of course, and his saddle—although he hadn’t even had a horse to put under it. And now he was part owner of a 100,000 acre spread. But family, that was the important part, and ol’ Boston had maybe turned out to be the best part of the package---though Johnny never would have believed that when he was sitting squashed in beside the stiffly mannered dude on the stage---or when he’d sat there grinning while Scott went on about “simple military problems.” 

Of course, even before Scott had called him on it, he’d known the man wasn’t too impressed with him either.  When he’d announced that what he had in mind was a “one man deal" his new brother had just smiled.

He’d mostly always worked alone, though over the years Johnny had signed on with a few crews, even ridden for a while with a couple of gun hawks. But being a gunfighter was a pretty lonely business most of the time.

Now, he’d gotten used to having a partner, a compadre, and it felt pretty good. He didn’t even mind when Scott tried to act like a big brother sometimes. Even though he hadn’t recognized it as quickly as he should have, Scott was a good man, one of the best.  A man you could trust to watch your back. Which meant that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all that Scott had been away, because when it came down to it, Johnny wasn’t sure he could have trusted his brother to stay clear.

<<Now, ‘course if Scott was here right now, he’d be the one driving this buggy,>> Johnny thought with a grin.  Lieutenant Lancer sure liked to take charge. Johnny preferred to lounge in the front seat and “supervise,” or, better yet, ride escort on horseback.

Knowing that the noon stage hardly ever showed up at noon, Johnny slouched down and tried to angle his body into a more comfortable position on the seat.  He’d been pushing pretty hard the past few days, so the thought of having himself a little siesta was tempting.  The sun was blazing high straight overhead, which meant there hadn’t been a shady side of the street to stop on.  Johnny could feel the drops of sweat rolling down his back. Not a cloud in sight either, but he’d already decided to avoid the saloon, even if it was likely to be pretty empty this time of day. He took one last careful look around the quiet main street. Just before easing his hat down over his face, Johnny caught a glimpse of a couple of ranch hands coming out of Baldemerro’s store across the way and loading boxes into a wagon.  For some reason, it made him think of Scott putting his suitcase into the buckboard that day he left with old man Garrett.

Heading back to Boston, just like that.  Johnny had gone through a lot of different thoughts and feelings after Scott’s announcement, but by morning mostly what was left was cold anger all coiled up inside like a diamondback ready to spring.  He’d been waiting out front with the rest of them when Scott finally appeared, carrying his case and dressed in traveling clothes, and Johnny had made a strike at him first thing.  Instead of coming back with his own verbal bullets, Scott just calmly mouthed some stupid bull---- about how he “wasn’t cut out” for ranch life.  But what had wired Johnny’s jaws shut was when Scott said something about how they’d all gotten along without him before and they’d be just fine without him again.

Which sure as hell wasn’t true, not then and not now. 




Johnny must have dozed a bit, because the clatter of the stage arriving burst in on him all of a sudden instead of growing gradually out of the usual sounds of the street.  He lifted his hat as he pushed himself upright, watching the coach and its trailing cloud of dust. When the vehicle came to an abrupt halt, the dust just kept rolling on past the big horses standing and blowing with their sides heaving. The wheels had barely stopped moving when the door swung open. And even though he had expected to see only Murdoch, Johnny still felt a twinge of disappointment when he realized his father was alone.

Johnny settled his hat back onto his head and jumped lightly down from the buggy.  He paused, knee deep in his own minor dust cloud, adjusting his gun belt and sliding the tail of his damp shirt back into place while the particles spread out and floated away in the sunlight. He ambled over to the stage, arriving just as Murdoch finished saying goodbye to a middle-aged female passenger, not anyone Johnny recognized.


His father turned around, his face widening in a smile as he said his name. “Johnny!”

It appeared that Murdoch was glad to be home—or glad to be off the stage. But that didn’t mean that his trip had gone well. Johnny stuck out his hand as the Old Man stepped towards him; Murdoch accepted the handshake, but also dropped his other hand heavily on Johnny’s shoulder.

“How’ve you been?  Everything going well?”

“Yeah, that first group of drovers got to Modesto and back no problem. Cip and the main herd headed to Stockton this morning, right on schedule.”

“Good!  Any problems come up while I was gone?”

Murdoch tightened his grip, and Johnny lowered his head for a moment. But it wasn’t hard to give the man the answer he wanted. 

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Murdoch released the handclasp and captured Johnny’s other shoulder.


“I figure with some fast horses, we can catch up with the drive in a couple days.”

His father’s hands fell to his sides.  “A couple of days? Johnny, we’ll leave tomorrow—”

“Mr. Lancer---here’s your bags.”

Murdoch turned to look up at the outrider perched on top of the coach waiting to hand down his traveling cases. Freed from his father’s grasp, Johnny moved swiftly, stepping around to position himself to catch the first one.

“I got it---thanks, Pete.”

“No problem, Johnny.”

The second, smaller bag followed, and Johnny silently handed that one off to Murdoch. Each toting a bag, the two of them headed side by side across the street towards the buggy.

“I just figured you might want to take a day before we headed out. You know, rest up.”

Murdoch shook his head. “No, Johnny, I’ve been resting for a week, staring at the scenery. Good meals though, ----slept well, too. I’ve been traveling in comfort—your brother arranged it.”

Johnny waited until they’d deposited the suitcases in the rear of the buggy before asking the question.

“So how’s Scott doin’?  . . .  and Teresa?”

“Teresa’s well; I take it she’s been spending quite a bit of time with Melissa Harper . . . and Scott . . . well, Scott’s got a lot on his plate right now. But he’ll be fine, Johnny. He’ll be fine.”

Murdoch sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. Feeling less than reassured, Johnny moved to the front of the buggy and sprang up to his seat, then waited while Murdoch climbed up more slowly on the other side. His father hadn’t gotten any smaller, and it took some work for the Old Man to fold his legs into the buggy. Finally, Johnny released the brake and set Zanzibar and Mozambique in motion.  Doc Hildenbrand and Sheriff Gabe were standing on the sidewalk in front of the bank and Murdoch exchanged greetings with them as they rolled past; Johnny was relieved when his father didn’t ask him to stop. He still figured that even after they’d cleared the buildings of the main street, he wouldn’t be able to relax, since Murdoch would get back to asking questions, but Johnny was determined to beat him to it.

“So, when they comin’ back?”

Murdoch sighed, and took his time answering. He seemed to still be in the habit of staring off at the scenery, as if he thought he was back on the train.  When he did speak, it was in a carefully neutral tone.

“Scott has things to take care of, Johnny. He thinks he’ll have to stay on a good while.”

Johnny pressed his lips firmly together while his favorite Spanish expletive exploded in his head.  The echoes faded away without Murdoch expressing any opinion of his own.

“Well . . . then I guess it’s a good thing he’s got Teresa with ‘im.”

He could feel Murdoch staring at him. “Why do you say that?”

Johnny shot his father a grin. “Cause he’s gonna hafta bring her home sometime.”

Murdoch exhaled slowly, and dropped his gaze to his loosely clasped hands. Johnny had a pretty strong feeling he wasn’t going to like what the Old Man had to say next.

“Teresa may be here soon. There was talk of her traveling with Will Hayford . . . and his mother. Seems she’s coming out for a visit----”

“Dios, Murdoch. Is he comin’ back?”

“I hope so, Johnny . . .”

“Well, what did he say?”  Johnny tried again, in a less edgy voice. “Did ya talk to him?”

“Yes, Johnny. I  . . .  I told him I wanted him to come home.”

Johnny nodded. That was something, at least.

“It’s his decision, Son.”

“Yeah, I know, Scott’s a big boy.”  Johnny took his irritation out on the matched set of horses, slapping the reins even though they were already moving along at a good clip.  Not as fast as a train though, and Murdoch was back to studying the damn scenery.

“He’s a man, with responsibilities. And you know as well as I do that your brother isn’t one to shirk responsibility.”

Johnny nodded again. Weren’t that the truth.

“However,” Murdoch added shifting in the seat so that he was half turned towards Johnny,  “I did tell him that if he stayed . . . if he stayed too long, then . . .well, then I’d have to send you for a visit.”   Murdoch kept a straight face, though he couldn’t hide the twinkle in his eye.  But as far as Johnny was concerned, this was a serious business.

“Well, I guess I wouldn’t mind seeing the place. Maybe do me good ta get away for a while.”

Murdoch couldn’t hide his surprise, but before his father could ask any questions, Johnny started telling him about the cattle drive.




Tired of looking out at the busy city street, Teresa glanced sadly over at Scott. He was staring out the window on his own side of the enclosed carriage.  She’d been so pleased that morning at breakfast when he’d announced he was taking her shopping, and he had helped her pick out some very nice things as gifts for a few of the people back home.  But it was easy to tell that his heart wasn’t in it.



“You seem very far away.”

He shot her a confused look. “Oh, sorry.”  Scott slid over to the center of the seat—not exactly what she’d meant, though of course she didn’t mind at all having him closer.  It was even better when he leaned towards her, pointing out the window to identify some landmark. Not that she heard what he said, not with Scott so near. Not when she was so worried about him.

It was another bright fall day, and outside, the cobblestone streets were crowded with carriages. More people moved along the busy sidewalks, many of the women wearing clothing to rival the colorful changing leaves. As usual, Scott was somberly attired, in a well-cut black suit that fit his mood. He looked tired as he settled back against the seat, but seemed determined to resume his duties as host and guide. 

“We’ll be going past Faneuil Hall soon; it’s where---”

“I know, Scott. You already told me all about it this morning.”  She’d actually been listening then, when Scott had described the meetings that had been held there in colonial times and pointed out the famous grasshopper weathervane.

“Did I?” Scott shook his head with a rueful expression, then reached out to take her hand.  She was wearing a new pair of gloves, ones that he had purchased for her just that morning. He appeared to be studying the raised design on the back of her hand.

“It seems I’m not very good company today.”

She squeezed his hand.  “You have a lot on your mind, and a lot to take care of. I’m sure you have more important things to do than take me shopping.” Truthfully, she’d rather Scott took care of those other things if it meant that he might be on the westbound train at the end of the week.  “Are you . . .  worried about the reading of your grandfather’s will tomorrow?”

“No. I’ve already seen it,” he said flatly. “There won’t be any surprises there.”

Her left hand was still enveloped in his, so she used the right to smooth the folds of her silver-grey taffeta skirt while she considered.

“Scott, . . . did you read Murdoch’s letter?”

“Yes I did.”

She didn’t know what frightened her more, his tone, the set of his jaw, or the fact that he released her hand. Scott folded his arms across his chest, and she clasped her hers together in her lap.

“Were there any surprises?” She knew she sounded anxious. What if Scott was angry with Murdoch, angry enough to stay away from the ranch? He looked down at her speculatively, and she tried to calm herself. It helped when she remembered that they’d stopped in a spirits shop and Scott had selected several bottles of scotch whiskey, a costly brand that he said had been bottled near Inverness in Scotland.  Glen Something, it was called, and he’d bought it as a gift for Murdoch.

Still, her apprehension increased the longer he delayed answering. Finally, Scott shifted his gaze to the opposite wall of the carriage.

“Much of what he wrote matched what I already knew,” he said slowly. “Though he did mention something that surprised me.” Scott exhaled. “He said that, years ago, he invited me to the ranch for the summer.”

Once the words were out, Scott turned his head, watching for her reaction. It took a moment for Teresa to register what he’d said, then a relieved smile spread across her face.  She’d been so afraid he was about to air some serious grievance against Murdoch.

“Oh Scott, that would have been wonderful!”

Scott unfolded his arms, dropped the forearms to his thighs and studied his loosely clasped hands. “Yes, it would have been.”

“So why didn’t you come?”

“Apparently that was the summer Grandfather and I toured Europe. My plans were always made for me, well in advance,” he added dryly.

“At least . . . at least Murdoch invited you,” she offered slowly.

“Yes.” He was studying her intently.  “That’s what he said. However, my grandfather never mentioned it.”

She understood then.

“I’m sorry, Teresa, I shouldn’t be . . .  burdening you with this.” Scott looked away, through the window on the other side. “We’re just passing Faneuil Hall; the restaurant’s not far.”

Of course it was terrible for Scott, to learn that his grandfather had kept such a thing from him, but what was uppermost in her mind was that Murdoch had invited Scott for a visit. He could have met his father, years ago, if only Mr. Garrett had allowed him to come. They all could have met Scott. Teresa was glad, fiercely glad, that at least now Scott had proof that his father had wanted him, proof that Murdoch had cared. But she could hardly express that, not when Scott seemed so very unhappy.

“Your grandfather must have spent a great deal of time arranging your trip.”

“I’m sure he did.”

“He probably thought he was doing what was best for you.”

“It would have been best to tell me the truth.”

The words, which could have been either hard and cold or hot and angry, instead simply sounded weary. Teresa knew it must hurt to learn that his grandfather had lied; she knew all too well how it felt to make that kind of discovery about someone you loved and trusted.

Beside her, Scott exhaled slowly and then firmly changed the subject.

“I am looking forward to escorting you to lunch.”  His expression remained serious, but there was an unmistakable gleam in his eye.  “And, just in case I haven’t mentioned it, Miss O’Brien, you do look especially nice today.”



And she did, with a stylish hat perched on her upswept hair. Without the long dark tresses framing her face, Teresa’s exquisite features seemed even more delicate, like a cameo. She was wearing a soft grey skirt and a fitted black jacket, with some sort of needlework in silver thread on the lapels. It only now occurred to him that she might very well have added the decoration herself. It was a simple design, pretty without distracting at all from the shapely silhouette.

The gloves had been the finishing touch, and they’d spent quite some time in the small shop selecting the perfect pair.  The shop girl’s cheerful observation that it was best not to have the fingers too snug to “allow for a ring or two” had brought a pink flush to Teresa’s cheeks, but had served to remind Scott that she wasn’t wearing any jewelry at all.  He resolved to do something about that, perhaps starting with a necklace or a pair of earrings.

He also resolved to be more attentive; he was supposed to be taking care of her, showing her the city, not dwelling on events long past, circumstances that could never be changed. When they pulled up near the Parker House, Scott called to James to stay up on his box, and opened the carriage door and handed Teresa down himself. She stood gazing up at him with those liquid brown eyes brimming with compassion, worry creasing her forehead despite her effort to smile. Scott tucked her arm through his own, gave James some final instructions and guided Teresa inside.

She was suitably impressed with the oak and crystal elegance of the main lobby, but there was still that sympathetic look in her eyes that warned him Teresa wasn’t likely to easily surrender her concern.

But she did, for a time—at least until they were well into the main course. Beforehand, Teresa admired the tableware, enthused over the menus, complimented the service, and seemed interested in the Parker House history. She asked questions and listened to the answers, albeit without her customary intensity.

Looking back, he had to admire how she’d done it, subtly directing the conversation. When the main course arrived, they’d discussed the meal; on Scott’s recommendation, Teresa had selected the scrod, while he had ordered quail.  After Scott related the story of Harvey Parker, his German baker and his highly paid French chef, Teresa had asked questions about the different foods he’d eaten in Europe.

Because Grandfather had viewed the European tour as an essential part of Scott’s education, they had visited each of the capitals, as well as many of the major cities, of France, England, Spain, Prussia, Bavaria, Italy and Greece. They’d spent considerable time in Paris, since the older man, in addition to being fascinated by Napoleon, was also something of a Francophile. Even though his grandfather had been well read, he’d hired guides to take them to see the various monuments and lead them through museums. And in the evenings, they’d dined at the best restaurants, sampling the local cuisine.

Scott had described his travels many times before, and Teresa had always evinced a great curiosity in hearing about castles and cathedrals.  But today she asked more questions about where “the two of you went” and what “the two of you” did, leading Scott to recall many enjoyable aspects of the trip, and pleasant memories shared with his grandfather. It was a surprise. He would have expected Teresa to side with Murdoch, to be angry on her guardian’s behalf that his invitation had been rejected.

It wasn’t until after they had been served slices of the famous Parker House Chocolate Cake that Teresa finally posed the question. Though it wasn’t really phrased as a question at all, rather more of a gentle assertion.

“You loved your grandfather.”


“Then you’ll have to find a way to forgive him, Scott.”




He had to. It would eat at him other wise. Still, Teresa wasn’t sure how Scott would react to her saying so, especially when he’d made it clear, back in the carriage, that he didn’t want to talk any more about it.

Scott pressed his lips together and nodded, then turned his attention to stirring more cream and sugar into his coffee. His jaw tightened perceptibly, and when he spoke, it was without looking up.

“Some things are harder to forgive than others.”

“Scott . . . my father lied to me about my mother . . . ”

His head came up slowly at that, those blue-grey eyes softened in sympathy.  “He was protecting you. He didn’t want you to know that your mother had left.”

Teresa carefully set her fork down on the edge of her plate. “She didn’t just leave, Scott. She . . .  abandoned me.”

“And your father didn’t want you to know that. My grandfather . . . allowed me to believe that Murdoch didn’t care.”

“And that was wrong, because Murdoch did care. But . . . he didn’t ever send you any letters, did he?”


“Daddy and Dr. Jenkins were always telling him he should. And I think—I know, *I know *--- he wanted to.  But Scott, Angel sent me letters on my birthday, and Daddy never gave them to me.”

Scott’s face clearly registered his surprise. “I suppose he thought he was doing what was best for you—”

“But he was wrong. Even when I was older, he still didn’t tell me the truth. He would go with me to the cemetery and watch while I laid flowers on an empty grave.”

Scott glanced down for a moment, though she doubted he was seeing anything on the table.  “I guess it’s hard to undo a lie, no matter why it was told,” he said slowly, meeting her gaze. “But he must have thought he was shielding you; it’s not quite the same---”

“What is the same is that they’re both dead and  . . . and we can’t ever ask them why. They can’t ever try to explain, or say they’re sorry. Or ask forgiveness.”

The quaver in her voice on the last word was her undoing; somewhere along the way, her heart had started aching for herself as well as for Scott. It was still painful to think about it, any of it, even after all this time. Just saying that other word, that Daddy was dead--- it sounded so final and it hurt to say it, it made her throat start to close up tight and she could feel the tears starting in the back of her eyes.  It didn’t help that Scott was looking at her so sadly; then he softly said her name and she looked down at her plate of forgotten dessert and swallowed hard.

Scott reached across the table, resting his hand on the snowy white tablecloth and she gratefully placed her hand in his. The connection, the gentle pressure, gave her the strength to continue.

“He was wrong, Scott, but I love him and I just can’t let myself stay angry. When . . . when I do start to feel hurt, or disappointed in him, then I think about all the good memories I have of Daddy.” Teresa paused, trying to gauge from the look in his eyes if she was convincing him, or only herself.  “I remember the good things instead,” she concluded simply.

“‘It’s best not to dwell on the faults and failings of others’ . . .” Scott said thoughtfully.  “A very perceptive man said that to me recently.  And that it was important to forgive . . .  from the heart.”


She smiled at him, despite the tears threatening to spill from her eyes, but it was Scott who lowered his gaze. “I’m not sure that I can do it. Not yet, anyway.”

Teresa squeezed his hand. “I  . .  I don’t think it’s something that you do, exactly. You have to let it happen. But thinking of good memories helps, Scott, it really does.”




They didn’t talk very much after that, other than a few comments about the coffee and the dessert.  But it was a comfortable—a comforting—silence.  His heart felt less heavy. When he helped Teresa from her seat, Scott murmured a “thank you” in her ear and was rewarded with a dazzling smile, which made it feel lighter still.

Once outside, he pointed out the City Hall and some of the other buildings nearby as they strolled along the busy street, enjoying the crisp sunshine.

“You’re happy to be here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied, looking down at her. “It’s a fine city. Does that surprise you, that I could feel about Boston the same way that you feel about Lancer?”

Her grip on his arm tightened noticeably, and her tone also changed, from an easy curiosity to taut concern.

“But you’re happy at Lancer too, aren’t you?  It’s where you belong, Scott.”

“Yes, I’m happy there, but I’m not sure how long it takes, to feel as if you belong in a place.”

“Do you want to stay here, in Boston?”

He abruptly halted their forward motion, drawing her in close to a shop window so that the flow of pedestrians could continue past. When she refused to meet his eyes, he gently used one hand to raise her chin.

“Teresa, I may have to stay.  Are you willing to stay with me?”

“Yes,” she responded with a smile that started in her eyes and then widened those enticing lips.  He prudently dropped his hand away from her face.  Quickly, the happy expression transformed to one of determination.  “Yes, I’ll stay, as long as you’ll promise to come back to Lancer with me in the spring.”

It was his turn to smile. “Well, I can hardly let you go back there without me, now can I?”

She lifted that chin. “To stay.”

He paused for a moment. It wasn’t an answer he gave lightly. “Yes.”

Apparently satisfied, Teresa captured his arm again and they proceeded some way along the sidewalk.

“But . . . you’ll still miss Boston.”

“Yes, I will. However . . . I believe that I could content myself with an occasional visit---as long as I had company.”

Finally, they came to where James had parked the carriage and Scott helped her up into the vehicle. Teresa sat in the middle of the seat and, after confirming their next destination with the driver, Scott settled in close beside her.

“Tell me, have I mentioned how beautiful you look today?”

Teresa laughed. “Yes, a few times now.”

Then she slid away from him, towards the window. Mystified, he watched as she very deliberately ran the edge of one gloved hand along the seat between them.

“Teresa, what are you doing?”

She smiled up at him, a warm and gently teasing smile. “I’m making a line.” Then she clasped her hands primly in her lap. “I’m waiting for you to cross it.”

It felt good to have something to laugh about. Scott moved in closer and reached past her to draw the small curtains on either side of the window.  




They arrived at the Harper residence far too soon, but Scott hardly felt that he could instruct James to take an additional turn around the block. Teresa smoothed her hair with her gloved hands and carefully replaced her hat, but the sparkle still remained in her eyes. 

Melissa Harper was clearly delighted to see them while Scott was secretly relieved to learn that her father was not at home. They declined the young woman’s offer of refreshments and sat chatting for a time in the sitting room. Scott waited patiently until they had visited for a suitable amount of time before reminding Teresa that there were a few things he needed to attend to at the house on Chestnut Street.

Melissa quickly intervened. “Oh, Scott, why don’t you go on and take care of your business; Teresa can stay here with me.  Don’t worry, I’ll send her back in our carriage when my father returns. Teresa, I want to hear all about your trip to Maine—everything!”

Since Teresa seemed agreeable to the suggestion, there was nothing for Scott to do but reluctantly prepare to depart alone. In the foyer, Teresa took advantage of the fact that Melissa’s attention was momentarily claimed by a member of the household staff to offer him a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Teresa . . .”

“Don’t worry, Scott. Melissa doesn’t need to know ‘everything’!”

On the return trip to Chestnut Street, it occurred to Scott that despite the wisdom and maturity she often displayed, he still needed to bear in mind Teresa’s relative inexperience in “affairs of the heart.”  Despite his own certainty, something could happen—Teresa’s feelings could change---he needed to insure that things didn’t develop too quickly for her.  It might therefore be better if few other people were aware of their relationship. He could, however, foresee that it might not be easy to convince Teresa of that.

Finally, James pulled up in front of the main entrance and Scott stepped out. He had barely closed the door when he noticed a woman coming along the walk towards him.  Since he didn’t recognize her, he politely nodded, then started to unlatch the gate.

“Mister Lancer! Please, I must speak with you. I have been waiting—”

He stopped. “Waiting?”


“Well, you could have waited inside--”

She shook her head. “Mister Fredericks, he would have sent me away.”

Struck by the fact that the woman referred to Fredericks by name, Scott studied her more intently. She was older than himself, very slender and plainly dressed. Her light brown hair framed a too thin face, dusted with freckles and flushed with the exertion of hurrying along the sidewalk. There was something vaguely familiar about her hazel eyes, but still Scott couldn’t place her.

“You do not recognize me,” she said softly; either her French accent was becoming more pronounced, or his ear was becoming more attuned to it.

“No, I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t, Miss . . .”

“I am Mrs. Mathieu now, but when you knew me I was—”



Author’s note: 

Faneuil Hall is one of the sites on Boston’s Freedom trail :-)



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 22.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb


“Miss Harper sent word, Sir, that Miss O’Brien will be dining with her this evening.”

Under the circumstances, it was welcome information. Scott had thanked Fredericks and inquired as to his aunt’s whereabouts. Learning that she was believed to be in the sitting room adjacent to her second floor bedchamber, Scott grimly mounted the stairs.

At least now he knew the identity of one of those three unfamiliar names listed as beneficiaries in his grandfather’s will: M.F. Mathieu. He’d spent considerable time talking with the young woman while James slowly drove the carriage through the streets of Beacon Hill and along the boundaries of the Common. When the awkward conversation reached its conclusion, they delivered Mrs. Mathieu to a boarding house near the train station.

Outside the door to Cecilia Holmes’ sitting room, Scott paused for a moment to gather himself before knocking, then entered at his aunt’s invitation.

“Oh, Scott dear, you’re home---did you have a pleasant day?”  She smiled warmly and set aside the book she had been reading.

“Yes . . . I left Teresa at the Harpers’; she’s dining there this evening.”

“And how did our Miss O’Brien find the Parker House?”


Suddenly at a loss as to where to begin, Scott moved around the perimeter of the small room and stopped in front of the seascape hanging above the white marble fireplace. Although he was avoiding meeting her eyes, he could feel the older woman’s intent scrutiny.

“Well, something isn’t fine. Come now, sit down and tell me what’s wrong.”

Scott turned to face her, but remained standing. His aunt leaned upon the arm of the blue wing chair, fingering the jet brooch pinned to her bodice with one hand and looking up at him with concern. But for her expression, she might have been posing for a portrait, in her elegant black dress, with every upswept grey hair perfectly in place.

“When I returned earlier this afternoon, there was a woman waiting outside to speak with me.  I believe you know her-- Mrs. Mathieu.”

Immediately, his aunt’s gaze fell away, her raised hand also dropping to the armrest.  While her lips formed a thin line of displeasure, her fingers curved over the fabric, the nails tapping against the carved wooden end piece.  Scott crossed his arms over his chest and waited.

“I left word that there was no need for concern.  If only she had been patient---”

“You can hardly blame her for being impatient, when it involves the welfare of her child.”

Cecilia silently considered him, her expression more wary than surprised.

“The welfare of my child.”

“So she told you everything.” It was a cold flat statement.

“Reluctantly.” His own voice was equally cool. “And I’m grateful, since no one else saw fit to tell me anything.”

He saw it then, a spark of anger in her eyes.

“Well, Nephew, you can hardly expect that I would be eager to discuss your indiscretion.”

At the uncharacteristically imperious tone, and the biting emphasis placed upon the word “indiscretion,” Scott felt his face flush, his own grievance forgotten for the moment.  It occurred to him that he couldn’t recall his beloved aunt ever being angry. At least not with him.

“I’m sorry to have disappointed you.” Scott turned away and stared unseeing at the daguerreotypes arrayed on the mantel. The words sounded stiff, resentful, and he didn’t intend them to be.  He sighed and resolutely faced her again.

“I am sorry, Aunt Cee.”

“You were young,” Cecilia said softly, looking down at her hands, adjusting her rings. “Much too young to be going off to war---”

“I was irresponsible.”

Her head came up. She uttered one emphatic “Yes,” her agreement propelling Scott into motion. He stepped away from the mantelpiece, but hadn’t gotten far before her voice arrested him. 

“You’re pacing again. Please, Scott, do sit down. Let me try to explain.”

Scott reluctantly complied, perching on the edge of the chair facing her, a twin to the one in which she was seated.  He rested his forearms on his thighs and waited while his aunt smoothed her dark skirts and reached for a cup of tea in a saucer on the small table between them. While she sipped, Cecilia regarded him over the curved china edge, then made a business of carefully returning the teacup to its place.

“After you left, the girl managed to keep her condition a secret until it was too late to do anything about it. Fortunately, Harlan was able to make arrangements.”

“He must have forgotten to mention it to me.”

There it was again, that flash of anger, this time ignited by his own dry response. 

“And when should he have told you, Scott? What would you have had him do, send a letter of announcement to you, on the battlefield?  Offer his congratulations? It was hardly a cause for  . . . celebration.”

“I would have taken responsibility--”

“How? What would you have done, left the army? Returned here, to marry my French maid? Tell me, how often did you think of her, once you’d left?”

He bowed his head beneath the barrage of pointed questions. Of course he would never have deserted his post, but it was the last query that hit the hardest. The truth was that he had forgotten Marie-Flore very quickly, once he’d set out from Boston and joined up with his regiment.

Although Marie-Flore looked older now---she’d said something about having been ill, but hadn’t elaborated—she was only a few years his senior.  But a few years had meant a great deal at that age, and he’d always considered her pretty.  And then there was that beguiling French Canadian accent. They’d carried on a lengthy, harmless flirtation, smiles and suggestive comments leading to furtive kisses in darkened hallways. He was certain that neither of them had seriously expected things to go any further.

But as the time for his departure drew near, their encounters had intensified.  Those last weeks, he’d gone out often with friends, partaking in what passed for the ritual of young men preparing to go off to war.  Although he was eager to enlist, the drinking, the women, the combined air of celebration and fatalism seemed at odds with his idealistic desire to serve his country bravely and honorably.  When he slipped in, well after midnight, there were times he'd found Marie-Flore waiting to offer her own farewell.

Not exactly something he wished to discuss with his great-aunt.

“I used poor judgment. I’d been drinking---”

“Not enough, apparently.”

Taken aback by the blunt comment, Scott was unable to form a reply.  Cecilia sighed, then resumed speaking.

“When she confessed her situation, I had no choice but to believe her, particularly since Mrs. Carrier had seen the two of you together.  The girl did make it clear that she hadn’t been forced, she assured me it had been only once. But these French women, they breed so easily; it seems all of them have six, seven, eight children or more.”

Scott remembered that Aunt Cecilia had come to stay with them, with him and Grandfather, when Uncle Elwood went off to fight. Mrs. Hudson had been called away for some reason, so Cecilia had brought the cook with her, Madame Carrier, as well as a driver and her maid.  While it was true that Marie-Flore had been willing, it had been more than ‘only once.’  He ascribed his aunt’s disparaging reference to the size of French families to her present displeasure with him.

“She has just one child, a daughter.”

“Yes, and they’ve been well-provided for, you can be assured of that.”

“In exchange for a promise not to contact me.”

“That is correct.” 

Frustrated by his aunt’s matter-of-fact response, Scott rubbed at his face with one hand, then took a deep breath before allowing himself to respond. “I’ll need to go back to Brunswick, to see -----”

“You cannot claim this child, Scott.”

Cecilia Holmes drew herself more upright, her posture as resolute as her words.

“She is my daughter---”

“No, she is not, not legally. Harlan arranged all that, complete with a marriage certificate, to give her a name and---”

“To avoid scandal?” Scott asked bitterly. “Or to protect me?”

“No! It was to protect the girl. And her child. At my request.”

Despite his aunt’s assured response, Scott was still skeptical but he decided that he needed to hear her out. He sat back in the chair.

“I’m listening.”

Cecilia arched her eyebrows, but rather than reprimanding him for his tone, simply resumed the story.

“As I said, when Marie-Flore finally told me, I believed her-- but we could have simply rejected her claim, dismissed her, washed our hands of her. She would have had nowhere to go; she could hardly return to her family, unmarried and carrying a child. It would have been a disgrace; Solon Beaulieu would have disowned her.”

Beaulieu, that had been her name, Marie-Flore Beaulieu.  It translated into “beautiful place.”

“She said that Grandfather somehow arranged a marriage . . .”

“What Harlan obtained was a certificate of marriage; I’m not sure how. He had a gardener who was from a family of French-Canadians, and this man had a cousin who had been killed in the fighting. Once the baby came, the child was taken to a priest and this Mathieu’s name was placed on the baptismal record.”

“Marie Christine Mathieu.”

“Yes.” Cecilia regarded him uneasily for a moment before continuing. “After the child was born, Marie-Flore contacted her family to tell them the news. She begged their forgiveness for keeping her marriage a secret and relayed the sad news of her ‘husband’s’ death. As we expected, when she returned home, her father demanded proof of the marriage before he would even allow her under his roof.”

Scott considered all this for a few moments; Marie-Flore had been reticent, but the information she had shared matched his aunt’s account. 

“And Grandfather was sending her money . . .?”

“Indirectly, yes. And I kept an eye on them, of course.  Once the child was old enough, I helped Marie-Flore find a new position.  She hasn’t had to work hard, thanks to that small income from Harlan. And he most likely provided for the funds to continue, but until his will is finalized . . . ”

At least Scott knew that his grandfather had indeed made some provision. However small the sum, Marie-Flore had clearly come to depend upon it.

“I need to –”

“You do not *need * to do anything, Scott. They are fine. The child has a name, and a father.”

“On paper. I’m her fa---”

She cut him off, impatiently. “Scott, do listen to reason. If you claim this child you will proclaim her to be illegitimate. Une bâtarde, as they say. And her mother will be known as a liar and an adulteress.  It would shame the family. Is that what you want?”

Of course not. He shook his head.

“I understand that Marie-Flore is keeping company with Alphonse Morin, a widower with children of his own.”

“I’d like  . . . to see her.”

There was a silence, during which Scott considered that perhaps he should clarify that he meant the little girl, not her mother. But his aunt seemed to realize this.

“To what purpose?” Cecilia asked gently. “Travel all that ways so that her mother can make the introductions and you can shake the child’s hand? You are a stranger to her.”

Scott studied his aunt intently, but could see no sign that she recognized the significance of the scenario she described.

“These people are not stupid, Scott. If you were to take an interest in the child, they would wonder at it.”  His aunt hesitated. ““I will say that while Marie Christine lacks your coloring, there is . . . some resemblance,” she confessed.  “Believe me, Nephew, it would be best for everyone if you simply stayed away.”

It still seemed wrong, but at the moment, Scott had no rational counters to his aunt’s arguments.  He remained slumped against the back of the tall wing chair. The initial shock of learning that he had fathered a child had worn off, and Scott was left with the stark fact that he had a daughter.  But there were no mental images to go along with it, and he possessed few details other than a name: Marie Christine.  There was little to accompany the thought of her other than feelings of guilt and shame ----and a burgeoning sense of responsibility.

With no outlet for it.  Apparently, the little girl had gotten along just fine without him.  She was eight years old and had a loving mother, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And, since the unknown man named Mathieu was a dead soldier, a hero for a father.

Scott couldn’t help but look for parallels to his own situation with Murdoch, but the lines were skewed. He hadn’t willingly neglected the girl, since he’d been unaware of her existence. She couldn’t feel abandoned by him, for the same reason; as far as the child was concerned, her father was dead. And while there was no question that Marie Christine was being lied to, along with every one else, it wasn’t exactly similar to Teresa’s situation either.  Paul and Angel had been married, as had Catherine and Murdoch.  He and Marie-Flore had barely known each other. There was little he could do without risk of conjuring the specter of illegitimacy.

Scott was distantly aware of Aunt Cecilia rising from her seat, moving to a table against the far wall and silently filling two glasses----- sherry was not Scott’s drink of choice, but it would do. He drained it quickly and then sat studying the facets of the small glass as he rotated the stem between the fingers of his left hand.

His aunt continued to move quietly about the room, as if she didn’t wish to disturb him, though in truth he would have welcomed an interruption of his jumbled thoughts. Skirts swishing softly, Cecilia carried a small bell to the door of the sitting room, summoning Fredericks. Scott could hear her instructing him to bring their supper upstairs. “And a brandy please, Fredericks, for Master Scott.”




While Fredericks and Jane arranged the table and served the meal, Scott sipped at the brandy.  Although he anticipated that once the servants had departed his aunt might wish to move on to other topics, he wasn’t quite finished yet.

“Grandfather should have told me, when I returned.”

“Oh, I quite agree.”

Again, Scott couldn’t conceal his surprise.

“Harlan, I believe, regarded it as a problem which had been completely taken care of; however, I was concerned that you would learn of the situation from someone else---there were others who knew, or might have guessed.”

"It was unlike him not to  . . . comment on such a transgression."

“But Scott, when you first came back from that place, he was so very worried about you, we all were. Then time passed and you were engaged to Miss Dennison. I suppose he felt it best not to bring it up.”

“I’m finding that he kept me in the dark about quite a few things.”

Cecilia lowered her silverware. “What sorts of things?”

Scott sighed. “Well, he never told me just how badly the company was affected by the fire.”

His aunt lifted her fork once more. “Harlan was always circumspect about his business dealings,” she said reassuringly.

Scott nodded, and tried to turn his attention to his meal. He had little appetite for Mrs. Hudson’s hearty pot roast and reached for his glass instead. Contemplating what was left of the liquid as he swirled it in the snifter, he considered that while he had no wish to distress his aunt by airing a litany of grievances against her deceased brother, it was possible that Cecilia might be able to help him try to understand.   He carefully set the glass down again.

“Aunt Cee, I grew up believing that . . . that my father had no interest in me. That he never came here to Boston, that he never sent any letters.  But now Murdoch tells me that years ago he wrote asking if I might visit for the summer. Grandfather refused--- and he never said anything about it.”

Cecilia frowned. “He never mentioned it to me either. But I’m not a bit surprised that he would refuse to allow you to go so far away, to California.” 

Not only was she “not surprised,” it sounded as if she heartily approved.

“It was where he lived,” Scott pointed out.

“It’s also where your mother died.”

“It wasn’t ‘California’ that killed her,” he said slowly.

“No? It certainly seemed a violent, lawless, place. Those men drove your mother from her home. Catherine might have survived, if she’d had a proper doctor.”

“Yes, but apparently she had a difficult time.  Even here in Boston, there would have been no guarantees--”

“Yes, I’m quite familiar with difficult births.”

Stung into awareness by his aunt’s sharp tone, Scott hastily apologized for his thoughtless comment. “Of course. I’m sorry, Aunt Cee.”

“It was such a tragic loss, for all of us. Catherine was his only child, Scott, and Harlan loved her dearly.  I cannot begin to imagine what it was like, not to be able to do anything, to watch her slip away.”

“He blamed Murdoch.”

“It was Murdoch Lancer who brought her there, to California, to that ranch. And then sent her away when it became too dangerous. Much too near her time to be traveling. It was a miracle that you survived, that Harlan was able to get you safely to civilization.” 

“Did you know that Murdoch came for me, when I was five?”

“Oh, yes. Elwood and I were here, to celebrate your birthday.  Harlan told us that the man wanted to take you with him.  Of course, Harlan couldn’t allow it.”

“He was my father. Murdoch  . . . came a long ways to see me.”

“Only after that Mexican woman he married left him, and took their child. That’s when he came for you. And then ---and then he just turned around and left. We never wanted you to know that, dear, that he didn’t care enough to stay.”

“If he hadn’t cared, he wouldn’t have come.”

“Perhaps. But if he cared so much, then where was he for the first five years of your life? It was Harlan who raised you, Scott. Most men try very hard to avoid having anything to do with infants, but your Grandfather doted upon you. You were often ill, and he worried so. Harlan sought the best medical care, hired a fine nurse----and still he sat up with you.  He told me he wrote to Murdoch to report your progress, and your father barely acknowledged his letters. No, Scott, I’m afraid Murdoch Lancer made his choice.”

“His choice?”

“Yes. What was there, after all, to hold him to that ranch, with Catherine gone?  What sort of man chooses to remain thousands of miles away from his son?”




It was a fair question. One that Scott hadn’t ever truly considered. Of course, he’d long ago deduced that among the several factors that had led Murdoch Lancer to leave Boston so hastily and return to his ranch empty handed had been the need to resume the search for his runaway wife and the son she had stolen. But before Johnny, before Maria, what had kept him there?

By all accounts, the property had suffered extensive damage at the hands of Judd Haney and his raiders. His wife was dead, buried in a desolate grave far from Lancer. In his letter, Murdoch had written sparingly of his grief while admitting that he hadn’t felt capable of raising a child there, not alone.  What then had stopped him from cashing in and returning East?

Stubbornness was undoubtedly one ingredient, but had it been pure pride or a grim determination to pursue the dream he and Catherine had shared? Whatever had caused him to stay, the pull had been stronger than anything--- or anyone--- that might have drawn him Eastward.


His aunt’s tentative voice interrupted his musings. 

“I always wondered if perhaps he left so quickly because he simply realized you were better off here, with Harlan.” 

Scott shrugged wearily.  That was one area where Murdoch had failed to offer much insight into his reasoning; there were always other, less favorable, explanations.

“I never knew your father then. My brother certainly didn’t approve of him, but then, he wouldn’t have thought anyone good enough for Catherine.”

“She loved him.”

“Yes, yes, she did, very much. And our Catherine wasn’t some flighty, love struck debutante like so many of these young girls today. She always knew her own mind.”  Cecilia shook her head fondly at the memory. “I told Harlan many times that he had only himself to blame---he raised her to be quite independent.”

Scott smiled ruefully. “Grandfather always encouraged me to make my own decisions as well—but he didn’t always approve of them.”

“I suppose he should have learned,” Cecilia said with a light laugh.  She reached across the small table to pat his hand. “Oh, Scott, he was always so very proud of you. You must know that.”

He bowed his head. “Yes.”

“As were Elwood and I. Although I cannot begin to understand how your father could stay away, I am so very grateful that he did leave you here, with Harlan.  We treasured the time you spent with us.”

“So did I, Aunt Cee.  And please don’t think that I regret growing up here, with all of you. I don’t.”

She favored him with that familiar, loving smile.  “We did try not to spoil you completely.”  Then her expression turned serious once more. “Whatever his motives in the past, people do change, Scott. It was quite clear to me that your father does care, now.  And I believe that you have become fond of him.  Isn’t that what’s important, after all?”



They continued talking while the unappreciated pot roast grew cold. Teresa came in while they were reminiscing about their shared past, talking and stirring generous quantities of cream and sugar into their after-dinner coffee while recalling stories in which Harlan Garrett and Elwood Holmes figured prominently.  Aunt Cecilia returned to her wing chair and Scott joined Teresa on the settee facing the unlit fireplace.  While Jane quietly finished clearing the table so that Fredericks could efficiently remove both dining table and chairs from the sitting room, Aunt Cee quizzed Teresa about the morning’s shopping expedition and inquired as to her impressions of the Parker House.   

Teresa was her gentle, cheerful self, but Scott couldn’t help noticing that his aunt appeared to be tiring. For his part, it was an effort to attend to the women’s conversation, let alone contribute to it. Fortunately, they seemed willing to accept—or to politely ignore—his distracted silence.  He’d removed his black jacket and tie and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt; it was comfortable to sit there between them, with their words flowing past and Teresa’s head resting against the arm he’d stretched along the back of the small sofa.  Scott was surprised to hear the mantel clock chime the ninth hour.  Teresa squeezed his hand and smiled a reluctant good night and Scott reminded her that he and Cecilia would be away the next morning; meeting with his grandfather’s attorney would occupy most of the rest of his day.  She assured him that she would be fine on her own and said she would see them both at breakfast. While Aunt Cee escorted Teresa to the door, Scott slowly roused himself from the settee to retrieve his garments from the back of the wing chair. After the ladies said their good nights, Cecilia turned to regard him appraisingly.

“Scott, are you all right?”

“I will be.”

“Of course,” she said briskly. “However, I fear you’ve had a trying day---and tomorrow is likely to be a difficult one as well.”

“We’ll get through it together,” Scott replied.  He wanted to thank her, to tell her once more how sorry he was, but the words failed and he simply bent down and kissed her cheek instead. He was holding his jacket draped over one crooked arm, and Aunt Cee reached out to clasp his hand in both of her own.  After a moment, she released him, looking up with a smile. 

“Have I mentioned Nephew, that I find your Miss O’Brien to be a delightful young woman?”

“Yes, I believe that you have.”  Although he noticed the use of the possessive pronoun, Scott decided not to comment upon it.  Determined not to give anything away, he attempted to maintain a neutral expression.

“You seem to be quite fond of each other.”

“Fond” was not an especially strong term; certainly there was no sense in trying to deny the truth of it.

“Yes, we are.”


It was disconcerting that she both looked and sounded inordinately pleased, as if some pet theory had been confirmed at last. As if she’d known it would be, all along.

“Well, good night, Aunt Cee.”

“Good night, Dear. Oh, and Scott---”

“Yes, Aunt Cee?”

“The conversation you had today, with Mrs. Mathieu--I see no reason to trouble Miss O’Brien with such things.”

Scott nodded in acknowledgment of her opinion, although it was too soon to know if he agreed with it or not. When he left his aunt’s room, instead of retreating to his own bedchamber, Scott found himself wandering down the staircase and moving restlessly through the darkened first floor rooms.

He wasn’t ready yet for sleep, knew he couldn’t concentrate on a book. When he reached the music room, Scott briefly considered sitting down at the piano, but decided against it for fear of disturbing the household. He wasn’t hungry, told himself he didn’t need another drink, knew that he had no desire to enter his grandfather’s study. Finally, Scott dropped onto the sofa in the front parlor, beneath Catherine’s portrait.

As he studied her eternally serene expression, he recalled Cecilia’s comment about how her niece had “always known her own mind.” Even as a boy, he had never done anything so fanciful as to seek answers from a painting; although this favorite portrait was the last one that had been made, Catherine didn’t appear old enough to be anyone’s mother. Scott had, in fact, already surpassed her in years. Not that age necessarily mattered; Teresa had offered him good advice in regards to his grandfather. Remember the good things, the good memories, she’d said. But when Teresa had asked questions about the trip he and Grandfather had taken to Europe, Scott had felt as if he was reading to her from a detailed itinerary lacking in illustrations. It was unsettling that he was having difficulty doing that now, bringing those fond images to mind once more.

After raising still more questions pertaining to Murdoch, his aunt had encouraged him to focus on the present.  But would he be able to do that, prevent those questions about the past from crowding into his thoughts, avoid dwelling upon those unsatisfactory answers?

And then there was the revelation of the present consequence of his own past actions. Scott dropped his head into his hands, raking his fingers through his hair. What did he know about children, let alone eight year old girls? It still didn’t seem real, more like a puzzle to be solved.  He didn’t know how tall a child that age might be, didn’t know what sorts of things this particular little girl needed or liked to do. And if he followed his aunt’s counsel, he wasn’t likely ever to find out.

Still, he had to do something. Scott sighed, straightened and pushed to his feet. At the very least, it was one more addition to the list of questions he had for George Hayford.

“I’ve read it,” he’d told Teresa, when she asked about his grandfather’s will. “There won’t be any surprises.”

He hoped he was right.




 ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                        Chapter 23. 

“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



“To my Beloved Grandson, Scott Garrett Lancer, I do hereby bequeath . . .”

The amount of money was still considerable, despite the cancelled debts and the other financial losses attributed to the fire.  There were the expected restrictions upon the ownership of the house on Chestnut Street; it could not, for example, be sold during his aunt’s lifetime without her consent.  Cousin Wade received a partnership in Harlan Garrett’s business, with the controlling share going to Scott.

There were no surprises. The document that George Hayford painstakingly reviewed exactly matched the copy that Scott had read by lantern light on the hill overlooking the hacienda, the evening he’d learned of Grandfather’s passing.

It was still damned difficult to listen to, so Scott sat with his head bowed and arms folded across his chest. Beside him, Aunt Cecilia remained composed; Wade Garrett sat solemnly on her other side. Wade’s parents, Harlan’s cousin Walter and his wife, Adella, were in attendance, along with a few other more distant Garrett relatives; the majority of the people in the room were his grandfather’s past and current employees. In the far corner, Mrs. Hudson sobbed quietly, as she had done since George commenced the reading.

Not everyone mentioned in Harlan Garrett’s will was present and M. F. Mathieu was among the missing. Scott wondered if anyone, other than Aunt Cee and himself, would recognize the name.  While riding in the carriage on the way to George Hayford’s office, Scott had asked his aunt if she knew the identity of the other two beneficiaries who were unknown to him: Mrs. Edward Pierce and Bertram Bennett.

After answering in the negative, Cecilia Holmes had posed a question of her own:

“Will she be there?”




Scott studied his aunt, seated across from him in the enclosed carriage. She looked wan and tired, and, judging from the tone of her question, she would much prefer not to see her former maid today. At least he could ease her mind on that score.

“No.  Marie-Flore was planning to take the train back to Brunswick this morning. She said that she trusted me . . . to take care of things.”

“I hope that’s true,” his aunt replied meaningfully.  “Harlan arranged things quite well; you should consider carefully Scott, before you take steps to alter any of that.”

Scott nodded, and turned his attention to the view of the street from the carriage window. He was still resolved to have a candid, private conversation with George Hayford, the sooner, the better.

Although Harlan Garrett had often consulted with other attorneys on business matters, his personal legal affairs had always been handled by his friend and neighbor Charles Hayford and now by his son George, who had been in practice with his father until the senior Hayford’s untimely death.  The eldest of the three Hayford brothers, George was someone Scott had been acquainted with all of his life.  As boys, Scott, Will and John had been practically inseparable, but there had been enough years between them that George had held himself aloof from the activities of his younger siblings and their friends.  Even now, after they’d lost John at Gettysburg, George and Will were not what one would call particularly close. Like his brothers, George was tall, with the Hayford men’s trademark curly brown hair.  Scott knew that George was married—Will was “Uncle Will” to two boys—but little else about his good friend’s older brother.

Scott wondered how much, if anything, George knew about his grandfather’s arrangements for Marie-Flore and her daughter, or if it would be necessary to start at the beginning. He glanced across at his aunt, who was leaning back against the seat with her eyes closed. 

“Aunt Cecilia . . .”

She was instantly, warily, attentive. “Yes, Scott?”

Scott hesitated, considering the wisdom of reintroducing the uncomfortable topic, especially now, en route to the reading of his grandfather’s will.

“If you have a question, Nephew, then please go ahead and ask it.”

He did have questions, several of them, although it was doubtful his aunt would be able to answer them all.

Cecilia frowned at his hesitation. “Should I assume it has to do with Marie-Flore?”

“The topic has been on my mind.”

She lifted one eyebrow, but refrained from comment.

“It’s just that it seems Grandfather went to a great deal of trouble----”

“Yes, he did.”

“ . . .went to a great deal of trouble to obtain legal documents which are not in fact legal---”

Scott raised one hand to forestall his aunt’s anticipated defense.  At the moment, the documents themselves were not his concern, or even their illegality; what was important was that Grandfather’s actions had protected Marie-Flore and her daughter, and however he’d done it, Scott was grateful.  Still, it came as a surprise that his grandfather had expended so great an effort to assist a young woman who was, after all, merely his sister’s maid.

“Now . . . Marie-Flore was here, with you in Boston, not home in Maine.  Her family would never have known if she’d  . . . well, if arrangements had been made for her to  . . . deliver the child and then  . . .”

His aunt rescued him. “We considered that, of course. She couldn’t have stayed here, but we thought of sending the girl out of the city, finding someone willing to adopt the infant. I believe that’s what she expected.”

“Then why  . . .?”

“It was Harlan who convinced her that she should raise the child, insisted that he would provide the means to do so.”

“That surprises me.”

Aunt Cecilia looked at him sadly. “It shouldn’t,” she said softly.  “You’d gone off to fight in the War, Scott.  And, as much as he tried to dissuade you, Harlan was proud of your decision. But he was also afraid, so very much afraid, of losing you.”

Scott bowed his head, studying the hat he was holding in his hands. “Before I left, he made me promise that I’d come home safely.”

“I believe that is the one and only thing that he could never have forgiven you for, Scott----- if you hadn’t survived.”

Scott nodded, without looking up. He appreciated that his aunt was trying to be reassuring, attempting to offer absolution on her brother’s behalf.  However . . .

“I’m sure Grandfather was angry and  . . . disappointed-- when he found out . . .”

“Yes, of course. He expected you to be more  . . . responsible.”

“I’m sure he did.”

In the face of his aunt’s aggrieved tone, Scott felt the returning flush of shame.  It was Marie-Flore who had suffered most as a result of his irresponsibility, much more so than his grandfather or his aunt. Still, even if he couldn’t alter the past, he fervently wished that Aunt Cecilia might have been spared the intelligence of it.  And that he in turn could have been spared the embarrassment of her knowing.

Even when he’d finally gone upstairs to bed, Scott had been unable to sleep. He’d heard the chorus of household clocks chiming the early morning hours, the number of tones multiplying as they’d echoed through the silent rooms.  Scott had tried to remember the time he’d spent with Marie-Flore, but it seemed another lifetime ago, and it had been, in a sense, since it had taken place “Before the War.”  He knew that the encounters had been momentous ones for his seventeen-year-old self, but the truth was that with the intervening years they had long ceased to be memorable. Scott did recall that the young woman had informed him that she knew about “preventatives.”  It was something that had given him pause, particularly since the subject had never come up with any of the working girls. In his eagerness, Scott hadn’t pressed her on it, and so lacked even that feeble degree of ‘responsibility.’ Of course, making reference to such things would not only be indelicate, but might appear to cast blame upon Marie-Flore, with no hope of redeeming himself in his aunt’s eyes.

Clearly, the purported preventative measures, whatever they might have been, had failed.

<<“You cannot claim this child, Scott.”>>

Despite his efforts to use the sleepless hours to consider what he might do, what steps he might take, he’d kept hearing those words instead. The gentle, weary-eyed woman seated across from him in no way resembled the stern, implacable aunt of his late night imaginings. 

In the darkness, Grandfather’s ghost, or rather the elderly man’s disembodied voice, had joined forces with his aunt’s image.  Scott had endured numerous angry one-sided conversations with his grandfather, harsh lectures which made Harlan Garrett’s now even more understandable ire over the incident with Barbara Otis seem mild in comparison.  Listening to that other voice, Scott almost missed what his aunt was saying.

“But he also realized that the child would be a connection to you if . . . if the worst happened.”

“A connection to me . . .?”

“His greatest fear was losing you. Who could blame him, after Catherine?”

For a moment, Scott glimpsed his grandfather’s face, the way he’d looked that day at the train station. How much he’d aged. “I know it was  . . . difficult for him.”

Cecilia sighed. “Harlan wanted you to make your own decisions, and he also wanted to keep you safe, keep you with him.  That’s why he went to such lengths.”

“He went too far, Aunt Cee. More than once.”

“Perhaps,” she conceded. “After he returned from California this last time, Harlan came north, to visit me. He said that he’d done something foolish—what he didn’t say. He was very much afraid that he’d lost you then.”

“He nearly did.”

“He needed you, Scott.”

<<“My grandfather can take care of himself.”>>

It hurt to hear her say otherwise. He didn’t want to believe it.

“If he’d said he needed me, Aunt Cee, I would have come.”

“Harlan was too proud for that. He wanted it to be your choice, though I suspect he took some unfortunate steps to persuade you.  He did say that he couldn’t ask for fear you’d think it merely ‘another ploy’ to convince you to come home.”

“I did write Grandfather saying that I’d be back for a visit . . .”

“Yes, Harlan mentioned it in the last letter I received from him; he said it made him feel almost forgiven.”

“I have forgiven him, Aunt Cee, for what he tried to do when he came to the ranch. But there were other things, in the past----”

“Concerning your father.”

Scott nodded. And now his daughter too, though he didn’t say it.

Aunt Cecilia looked away for a moment, appearing to gather her thoughts as she gazed out the window.

“Please consider this.” She regarded him intently for a moment, then continued speaking, carefully, deliberately. “Your grandfather’s every action, whether wisely taken or sadly misguided, was meant to be in your best interest. It’s too late now Scott to change the past or even to question it.  But Harlan never planned to cause you pain. And if he did things with which you cannot agree, or which *have * hurt you--- well, you simply must believe that was not his intention. Even though he wasn’t the sort of man to say it very often, Scott, he did love you.”




“And to Mrs. Edward Pierce, in memory of her husband, a gift of  . . .”

Suddenly it occurred to Scott that Mrs. Pierce must be the widow of Ned “Smudgy” Pierce, the weathered Mainer who had taken him on hunting expeditions into the north woods with Uncle Elwood. Grandfather had accompanied them as well on several fishing trips and Scott couldn’t help smiling at the image of the dapper businessman standing in a stream, determined to catch the largest fish.

Mrs. Pierce’s inclusion in his will was a clear indication that Grandfather must also have held fond memories of those times. It was good to know.

Scott managed not to react as George recited the provision that had been made for M.F. Mathieu. The identity of Bertram Bennett, however, still remained an elusive mystery.  The name seemed vaguely familiar, or perhaps it was merely the result of having pondered the problem for so long.  It might be a question that George Hayford could answer; if not, Scott felt he would be little inclined to press the point.

At last, Attorney Hayford reached the final page of the document.  There was a respectful but uncertain silence after he read the date and Grandfather’s full name: Harlan Reuel Garrett.

Scott closed his eyes, swallowed hard. Beside him, Aunt Cecilia quietly choked back a sob.

Finally, the lawyer addressed the room. “Thank you all for coming. You will be hearing from me.”

And so it was over. Scott escorted his aunt outside, where they accepted renewed condolences and attended to laudatory remarks from the grateful recipients of Harlan Garrett’s largesse, most of them deserving long time employees.  James maneuvered the carriage to the curb, and Scott helped his aunt inside; she suddenly seemed so frail that he offered to ride back with her. Cecilia rallied then, briskly ordering him to go back upstairs and accusing him of trying to avoid his meeting, before giving his cheek a fond pat.

Scott watched until the carriage turned the corner, then headed back inside to discuss business with George Hayford and Cousin Wade.




“Ah, there you are, Scotty. Are you ready to go over some of the particulars?”

“Yes. Is Wade still here?”

“He’s waiting in my office.  Still chafing a bit, but coming around I think.”  George Hayford turned and led the way down the hallway. 

Two leather padded wooden chairs were arranged in front of a massive desk, one of them already occupied by Wade Garrett. Scott nodded to his cousin and lowered himself into the remaining seat, regarding George expectantly.  Once the attorney had settled behind the desk, he reached for a pen and began writing furiously on a piece of paper. Eventually, he looked up, his attention on Scott.

“Now then, what are your long term plans, Scotty?”

While there was no indication that George was choosing the diminutive deliberately, or that he was even aware of using it, Scott couldn’t help reacting to this second use of the name. No one called him that . . . at least not any more.

“It’s Scott now,” he corrected the older man mildly, briefly acknowledging George’s swift apology before responding to his question.  “I intend to return to California, once things are settled here.”

Beside him, Wade straightened in his seat as Scott continued.  “I’m comfortable leaving Wade in charge of the company, but we need to finish working out the details.”

“Well, my concern up to this point has only been to insure that there are sufficient funds to fulfill the terms of Mr. Garrett’s will. But I understand that the two of you have been going over the business accounts.”

“Yes, and I’ve also reviewed the household expenses as well.”

“Of course, the house will need to be maintained. If you are not planning to remain in Boston, then perhaps that’s something you wish me to handle?”

Scott nodded, then turned slightly to include Wade. “Beyond what was necessary to resume operations after the fire, I found no indication that Grandfather was forced to spend significant amounts from his personal funds. Which means that presently the company profits are sufficient to cover the payroll, including both the office and household staff, as well as other household expenses.”

Wade nodded. “Yes, that’s true, but barely.  Included in the payroll is the additional income above those costs, income Uncle Harlan took for himself, and which I presume will go to you as owner. However, we talked about hiring another man . . .”

“Which would be another salary---” 

“Yes. I’ve already advertised and interviewed several candidates, offering the wages we agreed upon.” Wade hesitated, rubbing at his beard, before forging ahead. “And then there is the matter of my own income, Cousin. I am, as you know planning to be married in the spring . . .”

“A significant increase would be commensurate with your increased responsibilities,” Scott acknowledged. But when he quoted a sum that could be easily managed, Wade was clearly displeased.

George leaned back in his chair, making a tapping sound with his pen. “Are there areas where expenses might be cut? Surely a full time staff at the Chestnut Street house will not be necessary, Scott, if you’re not in residence.”

“At this point, I’m reluctant to let anyone go.”

 “That hardly seems practical---”

“Releasing some of the household employees may be necessary,” Wade stated firmly, cutting George Hayford off in mid-sentence. “It would hardly be wise to draw off profits from the company, money that could be better used to expand our operations, simply to staff an empty house.”

“Mr. Garrett, however, intended for it to be at Mrs. Holmes’ disposal,” George pointed out. “And I do see a problem in offering the hired help only sporadic employment.”

“I have a proposal,” Scott announced quietly, and then focused his attention upon his cousin. “Something for you to discuss with Miss Sturgis. It seems more appropriate to use company proceeds to maintain the house if the man in charge is living there.”

“Excellent idea, Scotty. Scott,” George amended quickly. “It would relieve you of the expense of setting yourself up elsewhere, Wade, and benefit your business by allowing you to entertain in proper fashion.”

Wade had looked startled by the suggestion, then pleased; now he appeared to rein in his enthusiasm.  “Have you discussed this with Mrs. Holmes, Scott?”

“It was Aunt Cecilia who proposed it to me. We talked about the house on our way to Maine but I haven’t had an opportunity to speak with you since our return.”

Wade’s eyes narrowed in thought. “So, I wouldn’t be personally responsible for the basic household expenses—or the wages of any of the current staff?”

“No, all of the present costs would continue to be covered. I would like to see the staff invited to stay on.” Out of the corner of his eye, Scott glimpsed George Hayford writing furiously.  “I can give you each a copy of the household budget, so that we are agreed upon what will be paid by the company.”

George glanced up. “I would think that routine maintenance would be taken care of?” When Scott nodded in the affirmative, the attorney recorded the information. “And the house is already well furnished, so new furniture, beyond any essential replacement, would be at Wade’s expense and thus belong to him . . .”

“That’s fair,” Wade agreed. “Any items we no longer wished to use, would be stored for safekeeping, of course.”

“And I’ll arrange for personal items to be packed up before I leave, particularly from Grandfather’s bedroom, and my own.”

“Now Scott, that’s not really necessary----”

“Well, if you’re going to live there, you should have the freedom to use the house as you wish.  Aunt Cee even indicated she’d be willing to occupy other chambers, but I’d prefer that we try to avoid that . . .”

“Of course. As to your own room, and Uncle’s, we don’t have to decide that right away.”

“Scott has offered you the option, Wade. I’m trying to get this all down, what you’ve discussed.  It is always best to get things in writing.”

Wade nodded approvingly. “That’s what Uncle Harlan used to say.”

It was true. How often had Grandfather told him to “get it in writing, my Boy.” The man had been meticulous, a master accountant, which was why his records were in such good order, not only the business accounts, but his personal ones as well. And Grandfather had kept years of business correspondence arranged in files in his Milk Street office, along with copies of his replies, in the same way that he’d saved letters in the drawer of his desk in the study at home.

Close on the heels of that thought, Scott recollected that he’d never quite finished going through the folders of his grandfather’s correspondence, not even the communications concerning Murdoch. He sighed. Considering the number of personal papers in the study alone, perhaps he shouldn’t have been so quick to assure his cousin of a timely removal of his grandfather’s effects.  It would have to be done, however, and while he could probably count upon his aunt for assistance, Scott certainly couldn’t leave the difficult task to her while he returned to California.  But things were falling into place, and since it now seemed at least remotely possible that he might be able to leave with Will and Mrs. Hayford at the end of the week, Scott willingly returned his attention to George and Wade.



They moved on to the practical topic of how to conduct business once the primary owner returned to the opposite side of the country.  Other than an annual accounting, Scott had a very short list of areas in which he would expect to be consulted, being content for the time being to leave the day to day operations in Wade Garrett’s hands.  George proposed to draw up the tentative agreements regarding the house and to also consult with a colleague more versed in business partnerships.  Saying that he had another appointment, Hayford encouraged the two younger men to continue their conversation over lunch and to keep him informed of any other decisions.

Scott quickly suggested that he would like to stop by the next morning, to discuss some “personal matters. ” Once George had designated a time, the cousins headed for Union Street, to dine at the Oyster House.

The restaurant was the oldest in the city, famous for its seafood, particularly its titular specialty, as well as for the wooden toothpicks provided for patrons at the end of each meal. After a few glasses of beer, the tensions of the morning had begun to fade and the conversation became more relaxed.  Wade announced that they had the entire afternoon to talk about business and that he’d be damned if he’d do so during lunch. Scott smiled and obligingly acceded to his cousin’s demand to “tell me about this ranch of yours.”

Eventually, however, the conversation worked its way back to what Scott would be leaving behind in Boston. Wade confided that he was more than certain that Miss Sturgis would be thrilled by the prospect of residing in the Chestnut Street house, as his fiancée had been very much impressed on each of the occasions upon which they’d been invited there to dine. 

“I thought of giving the staff some time off, and then you can move in whenever you wish.”

“Now that’s a most agreeable idea.”

Scott smiled; Wade still resided with his parents, as did most unmarried men their age.

“You’ll be leaving at the end of the week, you say, Scott?”

“If I want to travel with the Hayfords, I’ll need to be ready by then, yes.”

“Well, then, once we get to the office, I’ll have word sent round to Kooistra, the man I was telling you about, the one I’d like to engage for the position.  You should meet him.”

As they finished their meals, Wade filled Scott in on the admirable qualities of the candidate in question, one Marten Kooistra, an experienced commissions merchant from Philadelphia. Listening to the description, it appeared that the identified strengths of the man Wade was eager to hire seemed to be precisely in what Scott privately considered to be his cousin’s areas of weakness. 

“I’m anxious to meet him. It sounds as if the two of you should work well together,” Scott observed diplomatically.

Wade drank the last of his beer, and then regarded him intently.  “I was looking for someone whose capabilities would be complementary to my own. I’m good with details and organization, but negotiations aren’t my strong suit.”

Making on the spot decisions while dealing with buyers and sellers as a go-between, that had been the aspect of his grandfather’s business that Scott had most enjoyed. It had appealed to his competitive nature, since it was a game of sorts, attempting to arrange contracts with the highest prices for products and lowest costs for transportation and storage, in order to win by coming out with the largest possible profit. Successful negotiations required a man to have accurate information, use tact and diplomacy, and to be able to think on his feet.  Sometimes it was difficult to predict the market, turning the game into more of a gamble, and he’d enjoyed that challenge as well.

“Most of us have an Achilles’ heel I suppose. It’s an advantage to know what it is.”

Wade smiled wryly. “Scott, I worked closely with your grandfather for years. Do you really think I could *not * know my own weaknesses?”

Taken by surprise, Scott had to laugh ruefully at the truth of his cousin’s comment. “He always said mine was being ‘too trusting;’ that I shouldn’t expect people to follow the rules.”

En route to Milk Street, they continued to share anecdotes, telling stories of Harlan Garrett that mingled amusement with admiration. Scott was favorably impressed with Marten Kooistra and the man was hired on the spot.  Scott was also enthused enough about Kooistra’s ideas for increasing commissions to propose that his own personal share of the profits be put back into the company for the coming year.  It would allow Wade and Marten to take a few calculated risks, while covering the inevitable losses that would result.  It was also agreed that in the second year, any overall increase in the profit margin would be shared amongst the three of them.

The cousins continued working through the afternoon.  When they finally returned to Beacon Hill after a late supper, Scott requested Wade’s driver to let him out so that he could stretch his legs by walking up Walnut Street.

Once he turned onto Chestnut, it wasn’t long before Scott glimpsed his grandfather’s house.  A welcoming light shone in the entry, and the main floor was well lit. As he approached the leading edge of the wrought iron fence that enclosed the Garrett estate, Scott considered that Teresa would likely be waiting up for him. 

Abruptly he turned back, towards the stately home located catercorner to his grandfather’s property.  He let himself in through the heavy gate and strode along the brick walkway. As he mounted the stones steps leading to the massive front door of the Hayfords’ home, Scott told himself that he needed to stop in for a minute, just long enough to talk to Will about their travel plans.


Author’s notes:

Toothpicks were first introduced at the Union Oyster House in 1869. According to the UOH website, Charles Forster hired Harvard students to eat in local restaurants and ask for toothpicks after their meals.  Other sources indicate that Forster got the idea while on a trip to South America, where he saw natives using slivers of wood to clean their teeth.

The state of Maine claims the title of “Toothpick Capital of the World,” manufacturing 90% of the toothpicks used in the United States. The preferred wood is white birch and Forster’s factory still operates today, in Strong, Maine.

The Union Oyster House Website:


ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 24A.


“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook

“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb


“The Garretts haven’t exactly been  . . . prolific, now have they?”

It was an opening, but one that Scott prudently let pass by. Although at the time, he’d been almost too startled by the blunt comment to fully appreciate the opportunity it presented.

“What do you mean, Will?”

“Well, Wade’s an only child. So was your mother. You can practically count your Garrett relatives on one hand, Scott.  Though I guess there aren’t many Lancers either--- well, at least as far as we know.”

Will hadn’t really expected a response to his arch comment, which was just as well.

It had been Briggs, the Hayfords’ man, who’d opened the door.  Scott asked for Mr. Hayford, deposited his hat on the carved mahogany hall tree and then followed Briggs down the familiar hallway to the sitting room.  Two sofas faced each other, perpendicular to the fireplace. Scott had been glad to find Mrs. Hayford there too, seated opposite Will. 

For their part, the Hayfords had seemed to welcome his unexpected visit, particularly Will. Scott realized guiltily that he’d last seen his friend the day of Grandfather’s memorial service, but had little time to indulge those thoughts as Mrs. Hayford was making polite inquiries about Mrs. Holmes.

Will’s widowed mother was an attractive woman, about Murdoch’s age, though except for some graying at the temples, Amelia Hayford’s hair was still the medium brown color she had passed on to her three boys.  Rather than sitting on Will’s blind side, Scott joined Mrs. Hayford on the sofa facing her son, while assuring her that his Aunt Cecilia was quite well. 

“Oh, no doubt the reading this morning was wearing—for both of you. I won’t ask how you are, Scott, since of course you’ll say ‘fine.’ But I am sure this has all been very difficult.”

Seated as he was beside Mrs. Hayford’s motherly concern and across from Will’s careful scrutiny, he’d merely murmured an acknowledgment that it all had, indeed, been “difficult.”  Scott might have said more, had Will been alone, but even if he did undertake to unburden himself, where would he begin? With the gaping hole left by Grandfather’s passing, and his own brimming anger? With the lingering doubts and the unsettling discoveries, or with the nagging questions, now destined to remain forever unanswered? 

Perhaps he might start instead with Murdoch---let Will know that Murdoch Lancer hadn’t actually sent that cold message, the one delivered by the Pinkerton agent: “your father wants to see you.” In fact, Murdoch hadn’t sent any message at all. 

His old friend would certainly be interested to hear that he had, at long last, received a letter from his father.  Then Scott could confess that the most painful paragraphs, those relating to Murdoch’s admission that he “hadn’t felt like a father,” had taken on a new relevance. 

He could tell Will something about Marie-Flore, but other than the fact of her existence, he couldn’t tell anyone a damn thing about Marie Christine.

But that wasn’t entirely true.  He knew the little girl was eight years old. He’d been unaware of her that long.  

Of course he would never introduce any of those topics with Mrs. Hayford in the room.  Although Scott had discussed painful personal subjects with Will many times before, it seemed as if that was all he had been doing lately, engaging in difficult conversations with one person or another. With Aunt Cecilia, with Wade. Not to mention the awkward encounters with Mr. Dennison, William Prescott and  . . . Julie. 

He was tired of dealing with the past.

Tired of questions. Tired of revelations.

Tired, period.

Teresa was still the only truly bright light.  But since their return to Boston, with so many other things demanding his attention, their time together in Maine was in danger of becoming a faint memory. 

Suddenly, Scott discovered that he was staring at the patterned fabric of the sofa upon which Will was seated. Forcibly rousing himself from his dark reverie, Scott realized that Mrs. Hayford was talking about Teresa, saying how much she was looking forward to traveling with “your” Miss O’Brien.  A darting glance at Will revealed his friend’s worried expression; Scott quickly turned his attention to Mrs. Hayford, seated to his right.

“Teresa is looking forward to the trip as well, Mrs. Hayford,” he told her, then looked back across at Will. “Will, that’s why I wanted to stop in, to discuss the travel plans----”

“Now Scott, it’s understandable if you haven’t been able to get everything settled yet, but I’m afraid I just can’t postpone again; as it is, I’ve already stayed too long---”


“And booking the drawing rooms complicates things; we already lost the adjoining suites---”

“Will, it looks as if I will be able to leave with you on schedule.”

Mrs. Hayford was delighted. “Oh, that is wonderful, Scott.”

Will was clearly surprised. “You only just had the reading of Mr. Garrett’s will today . . .”

“Yes, but after all, I already knew what was in it.”

Scott quickly filled them in on that afternoon’s conversation with Wade and the likely arrangements to be made regarding the house and the company.  Mrs. Hayford was most interested in the prospect of Wade and his bride taking up residence in the house across the street. Will listened carefully and raised several pertinent questions. 

“Well, it seems as if you’ve covered everything, and the new man at the office sounds like an asset,” he observed approvingly. “I wondered if you and Wade would be able to work things out.”

“Well, I’ll have you know that Wade has asked me to be a member of his wedding party.”

Again, Mrs. Hayford smiled warmly, but Will’s expression turned sardonic.

“A ‘member’? Now, why not his best man?”

“He has someone else for that.”

“Really?” Will asked dryly. “You’d think the gift of a house on Chestnut Street would earn you the ‘coveted’ best man position.”

“Now, I’m still the owner of record, remember, so it’s not quite a gift.”

Will shrugged dismissively. “It amounts to one, for now. So . . . who did he ask?”

“A cousin.”

“Wade has another cousin?”

“On his mother’s side.”

And that’s when Will had commented upon the dearth of Garrett and Lancer progeny. Scott easily imagined that Mrs. Hayford’s fond smiles would fade all too quickly were he to reveal that he had, in fact, fathered a child.

Will would have been more understanding, but George was the Hayford with whom he needed to discuss Marie-Flore and her daughter.  Fortunately, Will moved on to other matters.

“Scott, I’m having a few people in for supper Thursday evening--- you should join us.  Harroway is coming---how long has it been since you’ve seen him?”

“Freddie? I can’t say.”

“I caught up with Lowell Jones and Sumner Stearns at the memorial service; I’ve invited them as well.”

“Yes, I spoke with them, as well, but only briefly.”

Any rejoinder which Will might have made was forestalled by his mother suddenly setting aside her needlework. “It appears, Scott, that my son intends for you to wait until Thursday before offering any refreshment.” She smiled at Will indulgently, before turning back to Scott. “Might I have Briggs fetch you a cup of coffee or tea?”

“No, no thank you, Mrs. Hayford; I only intended to stop in for a few minutes. I’ve been away from home since early this morning.”

Mrs. Hayford rose from her seat and both young men instantly followed her lead. “Then I’ll leave you boys to finish talking over your plans. Good night, William.”

Will approached his mother and dutifully bent down to kiss her cheek. “Good night, Mother.”

Amelia Hayford fondly patted the undamaged side of her son’s face, before turning to Scott.

“Good night, Scott. I am so pleased that we’ll be traveling together.”

“Thank you, so am I, ma’am. Good night.”

Once his mother had left the room, Will resumed his seat, gesturing in the general direction of the liquor cabinet against the far wall.

“If you prefer something stronger than coffee, Scott, you well know where it is.”

Scott considered the offer, and couldn’t resist eying the cabinet, which had always been well-stocked.  Back in the old days, it had been easiest to share their secrets with glasses in hand.  Reminding himself that he was tired of revelations, Scott dropped onto the sofa, reluctantly foregoing the drink.  Routine conversation, that was what he craved. He stretched out his legs and leaned his head against the back of the sofa, working his tie loose with one hand.

“So . . . Harroway, Jones, Stearns . . . anyone else?”

“I was thinking I might send word round to Snell and Batchelder as well, see if they’re free.”

“Orry? What’s he doing now?”

“Still working in his father’s printing business.  Recently engaged too.”

Scott didn’t try to hide his surprise. “Orrin Snell?”

“Yes, he’s going to marry one of the Mortons. And you know that Francis Towle is already four months a husband. I sent a note to his house, but -----amazingly---- there’s been no answer.”

Scott grinned. “Well, Louisa always thought you were a terrible influence on poor Fran.”

Will rolled his eye. “’Poor Fran’ was always more than willing to allow her to think so, when the truth was that--”

“The truth was that you and John and Fran were all a terrible influence on . . . Orry.”

“We were, weren’t we?” Will laughed softly.  Will had actually thanked him once, for not going out of his way to avoid mentioning John, as so many others seemed to do.

“But we never quite managed to corrupt you, did we Scott?” Will continued. “It wasn’t for lack of trying, but Mr. Garrett was much too vigilant.” Will shook his head. “It’s still hard to believe he’s gone,” he commented, then studied Scott intently. “So how are you?”

“I’ve been busy, arranging things. Once we’re on the train, we’ll have time to catch up.”

He might want to talk about a few things, by then. Will nodded, started to speak, then hesitated and averted his gaze. Scott waited uneasily, wondering what difficult topic his friend was about to introduce.

“I don’t suppose you’ve heard that  . . . Alice is married?”

Scott was taken off guard. Will knew full well that he himself would have been the most likely source of such information.  “If I recall correctly,” he said slowly, “she moved to New York State, after the War.”


“How did you hear?”

Will snorted. “I’ve been here nearly two weeks and Mother just mentioned it, this evening. Alice sent her a nice note, she said, beforehand.”

“That does sound like Miss Holley.”

Will stared at the floor and nodded.

Alice Holley had been engaged to Captain John Hayford, before the War. The young couple had been eager to be wed, but both families had protested, firmly discouraging the too hasty nuptials. On the Holleys’ side, there had doubtless been the unexpressed fear that their daughter would be left waiting.  Although the young woman had departed before Scott’s return from Libby, he’d understood that Will and Miss Holley had spent considerable time together, mourning John.

“Did your mother say anything else?” Scott asked carefully.

Will looked up. “Oh, yes. She wants to know when I’m planning to marry. It seems that Mother is dissatisfied with only two grandchildren. Of course, I’ve told her many times that that she needs to be content with whatever George is willing to provide.”  Will sighed softly.  “My mother steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that I might have some difficulty attracting a suitable wife . . .  do you know what she said to me?”

Scott shook his head, but couldn’t help a small smile of anticipation; Will had always been able to perfectly capture his mother’s patrician manner of speech.

“But, William, Dear, you are from Boston!”

Scott laughed.

“All Western ladies are sure to find an Eastern gentleman extremely interesting.” Will paused, then continued in his own voice.  “She read it in a magazine.”

“Then it must be true.”

“Oh indeed, yes—it’s been difficult to fend them off, with one arm.”  Will shook himself and stared at the empty fireplace. “However . . . since Mother is coming to California for an extended visit, I thought it best if I mentioned that there . . . well, that there is a lady with whom I’ve been keeping company.” The announcement made, Will met Scott’s eyes once more. “And you can imagine her reaction; you stopped by just in time to rescue me.”

“For now,” Scott observed dryly. But his curiosity was more than piqued. The last time that the two of them had talked of female companionship, Will had extolled the virtues of one ‘Miss Lorena’ in Sacramento, while Scott had countered with praise for Irene in Green River. But Will would hardly be mentioning a professional relationship to his mother.

“I assume you aren’t planning to introduce your mother to  . . . Miss Lorena?”

Will eyed him balefully and Scott grinned. “I didn’t think so. So, go ahead, tell me about her.”

“She’s a fine lady, Scott. Warm, a good listener . . .”

“Does she have a name?”

“It’s Mary ----Mrs. Harding; she’s a widow. A few years older than I, not that it matters. Well, it does to her, she worries about it,” Will amended. “Needlessly.”

“A widow---are there any children?”

“A boy, Asa. He’s ten. They came west a few years ago.”

Something in his friend’s tone suggested there was more; instead of asking a question, Scott waited this time.

“Mary’s a southerner. From Georgia.”

Scott lifted his brow at that. “Her husband?”

“Wore grey.”

“Does that matter?”

“No,” Will answered firmly. “Not now. Not to me. Or to Mary. To the boy, . . . a little bit. But he barely remembers his father.”

“Will it matter to your mother?”

Will hesitated. “I’m afraid it might.”




For the better part of the next hour, Scott willingly put aside his own concerns. Will’s Mrs. Harding worked in a bank, he’d met her there. She was quiet, had a “sweet disposition,” was an excellent cook. Scott readily agreed that he and Teresa would remain in Sacramento an additional day for the purpose of being introduced to Mrs. Harding and her son. Although Will needed little prompting, Scott did ask a few more questions, but for the most part, was content to listen.

When Will finally ran out of complimentary things to say about Mrs. Harding, Scott steered the conversation to Mrs. Hayford’s visit and Will’s plans for entertaining his mother while she was in Sacramento.  It was late, and Scott knew he should be going, so he sat forward on the cushions, resting his elbows on his thighs as Will mentioned a few of the sights he wished to show his mother.

“Of course, after spending time in the city, she might be interested in seeing a cattle ranch, Scott; perhaps I’ll send her your way, after a bit?”

“I’d enjoy that,” Scott said sincerely, smiling inwardly at the notion of Amelia Hayford being “interested” in cattle.   “How long is your mother planning to stay in California?”

“Well, that’s a problem. I’ll need to find a traveling companion for her trip back East, as I’d rather she didn’t travel so far alone.”

“Well . . .,” Scott ducked his head to hide his smile. “She could accompany me, when I return for my cousin’s wedding.”

When Scott dared to look up, Will was regarding him with mock horror. “The wedding isn’t until late spring. That’s the better part of year away.”

“Yes, it is.”

“My mother is a wonderful woman----”

“Yes, she is,” Scott agreed, emphatically.  “And I’m sure she will get on well with your Mrs. Harding.”

“I hope you’re right.” Will was silent for a moment, and Scott was just about to say good night when he spoke again. “I should tell you that Mother is quite taken with ‘your’ Miss O’Brien, and has repeatedly sought my opinion of her---repeatedly.” Will regarded Scott appraisingly.  “I finally had to tell her that I believe the young lady’s heart is already spoken for.”

Scott glanced down for just a moment, before looking back up at Will. “Yes, it is.”

Will smiled and nodded in satisfaction. “Finally.”




George Hayford’s expression gave nothing away.

He was young to have his own firm, and, but for his father’s untimely passing, would have expected to be in partnership with the senior Hayford for many years. Like Scott, a cavalry officer during the War, George Hayford had since put on a good amount of weight, adding years to his features and increasing his aura of authority.

The attorney’s only comment upon M. F. Mathieu and Bertram Bennett was to acknowledge the obvious fact that they were indeed named as beneficiaries in Harlan Garrett’s will. When Scott explained his own connection to Marie-Flore, it was impossible to tell whether or not the information was news to George, who merely sat listening attentively, while stroking his carefully groomed mustache.

George didn’t react to any of it, not even to the account of Grandfather’s acquisition of a false marriage certificate for Marie-Flore.  George simply allowed Scott to tell the story, and when he concluded with his aunt’s assertion that Marie Christine couldn’t-----shouldn’t -----be claimed as his daughter, George nodded in solemn agreement.

“So, Scott, what is it you want to do?”

A perfectly reasonable question.

What he wanted to do, was to leave. Leave Boston before he did something irrevocable, like travel to Maine to clasp that little girl’s hand. Not that the action would mean anything to her, as he certainly wouldn’t introduce himself. But Scott was afraid that once he saw Marie Christine, he might not have the strength to walk away.

Unlike his father.

“I’m afraid that I have to  . . . concede that my aunt raises some valid arguments.”


But, he hated the feeling that he was running away.

“But, I would still like to do something.”

“Mr. Garrett’s provisions are quite adequate, I assure you.  I suppose that you could augment the amount. Or establish separate funds in trust for the child, similar to those which were set up years ago on your behalf.”

A reasonable, practical, safe suggestion. But then Scott would hardly have expected George to recommend booking a seat on the next train to Brunswick.

“It doesn’t seem . . . enough. Now, George, you have two children---”

“I’m married to their mother.” George Hayford sat back in his chair. “They know that I’m their father.”

“I realize it’s not the same . . .”

“No, it isn’t, not at all. Now, Scott, the girl, and every one around her—except for her mother, of course---everyone believes her father to be deceased, correct?”


“Well, there you are. It would be different if she were already known, or even suspected to be, illegitimate; under such circumstances, there might be some benefit to her in your acknowledgment. But that is not the case.”

Scott nodded wearily. George wasn’t saying anything new.

“Truly, if you wish to do what is best for the child, then you will do . . . nothing. Or very little. You really have no choice.”

Uncharitably, Scott wondered if that was the way Grandfather had wanted it. Instantly, he realized that was unfair. Far from acting out whatever feelings of anger and disappointment the older man might have harbored towards his grandson, he had expended considerable effort to do what was best for both Marie-Flore and her daughter.

“I can set up a trust fund, if you wish. And since I will be communicating with Mrs. Mathieu in regards to Mr. Garrett’s will, I could inform her that I represent you as well, and that I am authorized to act on your behalf. So if, for example, unusual circumstances were to arise, she could communicate with me, here in Boston. It would be easier.”

Again, it was all entirely reasonable.

“You may rely on me to take care of matters---and to keep you informed, of course.”

“Thank you, George.”

“Tell me, Scotty—sorry, Scott. Besides the two of us, Mrs. Holmes, and Mrs. Mathieu, is there anyone else who knows?”

Scott considered that. “My aunt’s cook . . .”

“Yes, well, it’s difficult to keep such things from the staff. But no other friends or relatives?”

“Not that I know.”

“I would advise you to keep it that way.”

Then George abruptly shifted topics. “You know, Scott, since you’re now in possession of significant assets, it would be wise of you to draw up a will of your own. Something simple and straightforward to start with, which of course would need to be revised as your own circumstances change, if you were to marry or have children. I could draw something up . . .”

Scott agreed, and soon George was firing questions and scribbling answers on his sheets of paper. He reminded Scott, unnecessarily, that as far as the Chestnut Street house and its contents were concerned, he was constrained by the restrictions his grandfather had set in place in Mrs. Holmes’ behalf. When Scott suggested that the title to the house might eventually pass to Wade Garrett, George objected, pointing out that if Scott’s legal heirs had no interest in ownership, the proceeds of sale, whether to Wade or anyone else, could still pass to them as a part of Scott’s estate. Scott accepted George’s argument, though in regards to his grandfather’s company, he was adamant that the business should simply pass to his cousin.

Since Scott was sure to continue to accumulate possessions, George advised that it would not be feasible to enumerate specific items as bequests beyond a select few which held particular significance. Instead, the attorney recommended that trusted individuals be assigned responsibility: Mrs. Holmes to take charge of the household furnishings and other items in Boston, with Scott’s father or brother being designated to distribute his personal effects in California.

George also reiterated that funds rather than property would be a more discreet manner in which to benefit Marie Christine.  He did explain that some men had been known to leave behind documents acknowledging their paternity, to be forwarded to the individual in question upon their deaths or simply held in readiness should questions arise after their passing. Stressing that he was neither recommending nor opposing such action, George merely stated that it was an option that Scott might consider.

Finally, he asked about Scott’s share of ownership in the Lancer ranch and whether the agreement specified what was to happen in the event of the death of one of the partners. As far as Scott could recall, there was no such provision. After further discussion, George agreed to draft a will and draw up proposals for trusts, assuring Scott that while he strongly urged completing the arrangements in a timely manner, it would not be necessary to delay his departure from Boston, since they could communicate by mail.

“And, I’d strongly recommend, Scott, that you carry through with your intention to return to Boston in the spring; enough time will have passed to make it worthwhile to review everything, particularly the company’s operation.”

They continued working on the draft of a will until Wade arrived, whereupon the three men turned their attention to the business agreements.



ECHOES OF THE HEART                                                                         Chapter 24B.

“How cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
When memory plays an old tune on the heart  . . .”

----E. Cook


“Home is where the heart is. . .”

--Latin proverb 



<<“You just make sure and bring him back.”>>

There had been times when she’d recalled the words Johnny had whispered in her ear with a feeling of dread, afraid that Scott would continue to find reasons why it was necessary to remain here in Boston. Now, sinking into the down pillows in her comfortable guest room in Mr. Garrett’s house, Teresa could anticipate that they would be going home to Lancer soon. Both of them.

She’d spent the morning helping Jane, the maid, pack up some of Mr. Garrett’s things, the two of them working under Mrs. Holmes’ supervision.  They had concentrated upon boxing up clothing, shoes and hats, leaving items such as jewelry, pictures and books for Scott to go through. Scott had spent the evening in Mr. Garrett’s room; she remembered how hard it had been, going through Daddy’s things.

But packing up the clothing was easy enough; as his aunt had pointed out, there really was nothing that would fit Scott, though they put aside some things to offer to Fredericks and Wade Garrett, as well as smaller objects like cravats, scarves and the like which others might appreciate as souvenirs of Mr. Garrett. 

Apparently, Scott’s cousin Wade would be moving into the house, and his wife would join him after their marriage in the spring. Over breakfast, Mrs. Holmes made plans to invite Wade Garrett and Miss Sturgis to lunch the next day; when Scott reminded his aunt that they had yet to confirm their acceptance of his offer, she’d simply said that they would be “foolish” not to agree.

That would take care of one of Scott’s concerns, keeping the household staff employed during the months in which Mrs. Holmes was not in residence.  From the conversations this morning in Mr. Garrett’s room, Teresa had learned that Jane would be assuming the vacant role of housekeeper, with Mr. Fredericks to instruct her.  On the day of the memorial service, Scott had introduced Teresa to a Mrs. Lanham, saying that she had been their housekeeper as far back as he could remember. She was a sweet-faced, elderly woman, who still spoke in the accent of her native Suffolk. Mrs. Lanham had retired soon after Scott had left for California and her replacement, a woman Scott had never met, had unfortunately taken ill and passed away prior to their arrival in Boston.

Since they’d returned from Maine, Scott had been very busy and lately he’d been looking so very tired. When Mrs. Holmes had raised the question of a housekeeper over breakfast, his expression had been one of open dismay.  Scott didn’t need anything else to do, and his aunt must have seen that as well, since she promised him she would take care of it.  It sounded as if Mrs. Holmes already had someone in mind to fill Jane’s position as well.

Scott had been away all morning, meeting with his cousin and George Hayford at the lawyer’s office to work on business issues, which had evidently taken longer than expected, and so he’d missed lunch. As soon as Scott returned to the house, he’d disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

When Teresa found him there, Scott was seated at the kitchen table eating a sandwich, his black jacket draped over the back of the chair and the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up. The cook, Mrs. Hudson, was just removing a tray of cookies from the oven; the kitchen was filled with the wonderful warm aroma of molasses.

As Teresa settled into a seat next to Scott, Mrs. Hudson anxiously wiped her hands on her apron, admonishing her. “Oh, now, Miss. I tried to tell Mister Scott to let me bring his lunch out to the dining room. There’s sugar and flour and who knows what else all over that table.”

“At the ranch, Miss O’Brien spends considerable time in the kitchen, Mrs. Hudson. In fact, she does quite a bit of the cooking.”

Mrs. Hudson smiled doubtfully at Scott, as she slid some of the warm cookies onto a plate and placed it on the table. “Such a fine young lady? I wouldn’t have thought.”

“It’s true,” Teresa assured her. “And I especially like to bake.”

The cook turned back to her work, placing dabs of sticky light brown batter on a second cooking tray. “Well, then, try one of those and see what you think. They’ve always been Mister Scott’s favorite and I should be giving you the recipe.”

Mrs. Hudson’s sugar-sprinkled molasses cookies were delicious and while Scott finished his lunch, Teresa recorded the recipe, as well as instructions for gingerbread and Boston brown bread and other favorites.  Scott kindly asked after Mrs. Hudson’s family as he sampled the cookies; the cook continued tidying up the kitchen as she told him about her daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren.  When, clutching a handful of recipes, the older woman finally took a seat at the table opposite Scott, Mrs. Hudson kept her eyes on the slips of paper while she posed a question of her own.

“We’ve heard you’re not staying, Mister Scott.”

“Well, that’s true, I’m leaving for California in a few days. I plan to return though, for Wade Garrett’s wedding next spring.”

“But not to stay?”

“No. Though I am hoping that you’ll stay on, even though Grandfather’s gone. My aunt will still be here during the winter months and this morning Wade Garrett agreed to take up residence as well; his bride will join him, after they’re married. We’d like the entire staff to stay on.”

“Oh, now that’s good news,” the older woman said, smiling in relief. “Very good news. I’ve got another few years in me you know, but looking for another place now, at my age . . .” Tears welled in her eyes and she swiped at her face with a corner of the apron. “Bless you now, for putting an old woman’s mind to rest.”

Scott smiled as he rose from his seat and stood rolling down the sleeves of his shirt. “I should be thanking you, Mrs. Hudson, not only for your years of service, but most especially for those cookies.  They’re exactly what I needed today. In fact, Miss O’Brien and I are going out for a drive this afternoon---- perhaps you might pack us up a box?” 

Mrs. Hudson eagerly wrapped up enough cookies to sustain them through several entire days of driving around Boston.



It was easy to see why autumn was Scott’s favorite season. Although the sun shown brightly and the colored leaves on the trees made everything seem brighter still, it was a cool day, and breezy. Scott had requested the open carriage, so they might enjoy the foliage and the brilliant deep blue of the cloudless sky.   He’d removed his hat, and the breeze fingered his hair from time to time; she had to resist the urge to smooth it back into place. Teresa clasped her gloved hands in her lap and felt utterly happy to be riding along on such a beautiful day, with Scott.

They rode in comfortable silence, simply enjoying the weather, with Scott occasionally pointing something out along the way.  Fallen leaves stirred across the still green grass of the Common as they rolled by, tumbling, then resting, before being swirled upwards again.

“Murdoch told me that he met my mother here, on Boston Common.”

Teresa smiled; she was happy to hear that Murdoch had spoken with Scott about his mother and it was a wonderful thing for Scott to know.  She was so glad that Mr. Fredericks had arranged for the large portrait of Catherine Lancer to be crated up for shipment to California.  After her niece’s death, Mrs. Holmes had commissioned a slightly smaller version of the painting and now proposed hanging her copy in the front parlor in place of the original.  Despite initial resistance to the idea, Scott had agreed to it all rather easily, an indication of how much the picture meant to him. 

“I think it will be wonderful to have your mother’s portrait hanging in the Great Room, Scott.  And I know the perfect spot.”

Scott looked a bit wary. “Over the mantel won’t work,” he reminded her.

“No. But I think it’s time we replaced ‘Aunt Haggis.’”

The portrait of the grim faced lady in black had hung in the Lancer Great Room for as long as Teresa could remember, and no one knew who she was. Apparently the picture had belonged to a previous owner of the hacienda. When they’d first arrived, Scott and Johnny had assumed that the woman was one of Murdoch’s relatives back in Scotland; they’d refused to believe her when she’d told them it wasn’t true, teasingly insisting that they could see a very strong resemblance between their father and the stern looking lady in the painting.  When Murdoch had been away one evening, they’d even lifted it down from the wall to examine the back of the frame, searching for some clue to the woman’s identity.

Finding none, they’d decided to give her a name. Scott had pulled a volume of Scottish history from the shelf and found a family tree of Scottish kings and queens. At first they’d wanted something that began with the letter “M”, and there were lots of Margarets and Marjories, but in response to each of the names Scott read, Johnny shook his head, saying it “didn’t fit her face.”  Since he said he’d never had an aunt before, Johnny was insistent that the name had to be just right.

Then Scott suggested “Nessie,” in honor of Murdoch’s home city of Inverness. Scott showed them the map of Scotland, and there was both a river Ness and a lake of that name as well. All three of them had liked the sound of “Aunt Nessie,” until Johnny stood in front of the picture and said it out loud.

“Nope, that’s not her. She ain’t a Nessie, Scott.”

Scott had gone over to stand shoulder to shoulder with his brother and together they’d silently studied the portrait.  She remembered watching them, both standing with their arms folded across their chests, staring up at the painted features. After a moment, Scott had bowed his blond head, then swiftly moved to the liquor table to pour each of them a drink. She’d seen right away that Scott was struggling to hide a grin. The, lifting his glass, he’d proposed a toast to “Ahnt Haggis.” 

Johnny had thought it was perfect, even more so after Scott explained what a ‘haggis’ actually was, and so it stuck. Eventually, they’d used the name in front of Murdoch, and he’d informed his sons in no uncertain terms that the woman was no relation of his and that giving her that name was an insult to a good Scottish dish. Since then, however, even Murdoch had been heard to say that a misplaced item was “on the table beneath Aunt Haggis.”

Scott smiled now when she mentioned the name, but his expression soon turned serious. “We’ll have to check with Murdoch and Johnny first . . . they may not be willing to displace our old aunt,” he added lightly.

Surely Scott couldn’t be worried that his father or brother would mind having Catherine Lancer’s portrait hanging in the Great Room. She’d just have to make sure they both knew how much the painting meant to Scott. Teresa hadn’t missed Murdoch’s reaction to seeing the image of his first wife; he’d said it was a beautiful painting, but he’d meant much more. Still . . . she hoped that everything was all right between Scott and Murdoch.

"Scott . . . you never said anything else about Murdoch’s letter. Just that he’d invited you to visit.”

Scott sighed. “Most of what he wrote, I already knew, or guessed.  It was good to hear it from him, though.”

“But you still have questions?”

“A few.” Although Scott smiled down at her, his tone seemed to indicate that he didn’t intend to share any of them; in fact, as he often did, Scott smoothly changed the subject. 

“Now, Teresa, you said the other day that Angel sent you letters, on your birthdays. You’d never mentioned that before.”

Teresa looked down at her lap, not eager to discuss the troubling topic. “Ye-es. It was in her last letter, the one that came while you were in Stockton.”  In the past, she’d always shared Angel’s letters with Scott. “I . . . didn’t have a chance to look through Daddy’s things before we left. But, he may not have kept them, you know. And Angel did say that she hadn’t sent very many.”  She looked up at him again. “I’m not sure I want to look, Scott.”

Scott nodded sympathetically. “It would be easier to believe her, if you found them.”

“It would mean that she didn’t  . . . that she didn’t just forget about me.”

Scott reached over to take her hand; he seemed to understand her dilemma even before she’d finished explaining.

“But if she did write to me, then ---then that just makes what Daddy did seem even worse.”

Sometimes she still couldn’t believe that Daddy had done it, lied to her all that time. The headstone, the flowers . . .

“Perhaps not. If Angel only sent a few letters and then stopped, that might have seemed to him all the more reason not to tell you anything. And on Angel’s side, while she may have given up too easily, it would be good to know that she tried.”

“That is important, isn’t it? Trying?”

“Yes, it is.”



They crossed the Charles River into Cambridge, since Scott wanted to show her Harvard College.  It felt good to get out and walk around a bit and the grounds of the college were very pretty, with tree-lined walkways and handsome brick buildings. Scott identified some of them, mentioning the classes he’d taken, and she tried to imagine his younger self as one of the students passing by.

They stopped to sit on a bench in view of a building under construction. Scott identified it as “Memorial Hall,” intended to honor the Harvard men who fought for the Union. In the first few years after the war ended, a committee of fifty alumni had collected an incredible sum of money---over $350,000 ----and the cornerstone had been laid in the fall of 1870, shortly after Scott’s departure for California.  Scott laughed when she asked if he’d been a member of the committee, saying that the group included some of the College’s most distinguished graduates, while he’d still been a student. He did admit that he’d recently made a contribution and he seemed to know a great deal about the building. The plans called for the transept to have large stained glass windows and a series of marble plaques listing the names of those who had died during “the Rebellion” ----which was how Scott said many people in Boston still referred to the war.

“We’ll have to come back to see it, when it’s finished.”

How she loved the sound of that ‘we.’  “Oh, yes, we will, it sounds as if it will be a beautiful building.” Teresa hesitated before asking the next question. “Will there be names of men you knew?”

Scott looked up at the building. “A few.”

Then he looked down at his gloved hands, the fingers laced in his lap and pronounced a name. “Joseph Fox. I never knew him well.” It took a moment before Scott identified the man.  “He died in the escape.”

Teresa tensed. Scott sometimes spoke of the War, but rarely mentioned his imprisonment---- and she’d never heard him talk about the escape.  Mrs. Cassidy had first told them about it; none of them had known, not even Johnny. It hadn’t been an escape, not really; sixteen men had been killed, all of them except for Scott

“I paid a call upon his parents, after the War.”

“That was  . . . kind of you.”

Scott exhaled, and his mouth quirked up into a bitter smile as he gazed off into the distance. “I’m afraid they didn’t think so. I was alive, and their son was dead.”

Teresa’s eyes widened in sympathy. Dan Cassidy had blamed Scott, had somehow believed him to be a traitor, when in the end, it had been Cassidy himself who had given the men away.  He’d done so unknowingly, unintentionally, in the midst of delirium, but still, how could he have thought that Scott would ever betray those men? It had never occurred to her that others might also have blamed Scott. She laid her hand on his arm, clutching at his sleeve more tightly than she’d intended.

“Scott, surely they didn’t blame you----”

His head came around, the sudden movement cutting her off. Scott looked sadly down into her eyes. “Teresa, I was the officer in charge.”

“But you didn’t know what Dan Cassidy had done,” she protested.

Scott turned his face away again. “No,” he responded, dragging out the word the way he so often did. “But I could have called it off, waited for Dan. I almost did.”

He sighed, and bowed his head. “The men might not have listened. Will pointed that out, and he’s right, they were----we were---- ready to go.”

Teresa could only imagine what a prison was like, how terrible it would have been to be locked up for an entire year.  It must have been crowded and dirty and the captured soldiers wouldn’t have been given enough food or medicine or blankets or any of the things they needed.  Clearly it had been so insufferable that the men were willing to risk dying in order to escape.

She knew Scott had suffered, because she’d seen the marks, cruel scars on his back.

The first time Scott had been hurt, by Stryker’s men, it had been “just” a graze; they’d ripped off his shirt-sleeve and Johnny had helped her clean and bandage the wound. When that Evans had shot Scott, Frank had tended to his injuries, while Murdoch was busy dealing with his friend Joe Barker. But when Cassidy’s men had put that bullet through his shoulder, it had been more serious; they’d taken Scott up to bed and sent for Dr. Jenkins. Maria had been away, so Teresa had been alone, taking care of Scott, while Murdoch and Johnny dealt with Cassidy and the men he thought might be coming after him.

When Sam arrived, she’d told him what had happened, all that she knew, at least. Scott had been too exhausted to say much and after he’d fallen asleep, she’d asked Sam about those scars.  Sam had looked sad and speculated that the marks might be from some sort of punishment. Then his expression grew very serious.

“Teresa, sometimes when you’re nursing a man, you see things or hear things that you were never intended to see or hear. And, just like a doctor, you owe it to your patient to keep his secrets, even when he can’t. Do you understand?”

She’d understood that she shouldn’t say anything about what she’d seen, not even to Scott. But she would never understand how people could treat each other that way.

“It must have been horrible in that place, that they were all so desperate to get away.”

Scott seemed startled from his thoughts. His brow furrowed and he pressed his lips together as he considered what she’d said. “It was bad,” he said simply. “But that wasn’t  . . . that wasn’t only reason why . . .”

“I’m sure you all wanted to get back home so badly . . .”

“Yes, many of the men had wives, and children,” he conceded sadly.  “But . . . all of us . . . all of us wanted to get back to our regiments. We were . . . just sitting there, doing nothing . . .”

“You . . . you wanted to get back to the fighting?”

Scott opened his mouth to speak, then quickly closed it, and shook his head. “I’m not sure I can explain it, exactly.  No one . . . no one missed the fighting. But we wanted to get back to our companies, where we belonged.”

They sat silently for a bit.

“What happened?” she asked softly, then tried to take the words back when Scott glanced over at her. “I’m sorry, you don’t have to talk about it, if you don---”

“Maybe I do have to,” he said, looking down at her with a crooked smile. Her hand had slipped off his sleeve at some point, and he reached for it now, threading it through to rest on his arm. He covered her hand with his own, and for a moment, it seemed as if Scott was comforting her. As if he knew how badly her heart was aching.

She knew it had all happened a long time ago. And that Scott was strong and brave and more than capable of taking care of himself. But when she looked up at his sad profile, it clutched at her heart and it hurt to think that he’d suffered so.

“This may be the best kind of day to talk about it,” he said, looking around at the colored leaves riffling in the now light breeze, the softly moving shadows cast by the tall trees. Their bench was still in full sun, and it was comfortably warm.

“The guards  . . . were waiting for us. I was first, so I caught the first bullet—in the leg, and I went down.”

The chilling words were uttered so matter-of-fact, but she could tell he was remembering; his eyes as they squinted upwards were seeing something other than the rising Memorial Hall.

“The guards opened fire. Even when we shouted and tried to surrender, the shooting didn’t stop, not until every man was down.”  Scott bowed his head. “They didn’t need to, they were waiting and . . . there was no need.”



She hadn’t said anything; the words that came to mind, that it was awful, horrible, terrible-- the words weren’t enough.  She’d wanted so badly to tell him it wasn’t his fault, but nothing could change the fact that Scott had been the officer in charge; he would always feel responsible. Somehow she’d managed to sit calmly, close beside him on that bench in the sunshine, with students walking past, laughing young men who would never live such a nightmare. She’d just held onto Scott’s arm and listened.

Only now that she was alone in her bed, the tears came. She loved him so much, and if she could take away those memories, she would do it, she’d do anything. He didn’t need her to, she knew that, and it made her love him all the more.  What was it Johnny had said? “What he’s got inside, they couldn’t take it from him, even with a year of trying.”

And back in Sacramento, Will Hayford had said that traveling to Boston with Scott, she would learn all of his “deep dark secrets.” He’d been joking, she knew, but Scott had never shared the story of the escape before, not with her. He still hadn’t said much, not really, hadn’t told her anything about what the guards had done to him afterwards.

Teresa dried her eyes, and resolutely turned the dampened pillow. It was probably best, that she didn’t know it all. What mattered was that Scott had confided in her.  He had always been so supportive, whether she was just fretting about some little thing, or needed to talk to someone about her father, and Angel.  She’d felt so . . . privileged . . .  when he’d told her about Mr. Garrett and Murdoch’s invitation. It had seemed strange to be giving Scott advice, but meant so much when thanked her. 

And now Scott had shared a few of the dark memories he carried with him from that place.

At the beach house, Scott had asked her to trust him, and she did. After today, she felt certain that he trusted her.