A 'Small' Matter to Contend With
by  Vicki L. Nelson

 A Lancer WHI


One of the Lancer hands had delivered a weeks' worth of mail to the hacienda.  I was sitting at my desk in front of the large picture window that overlooked Lancer land, riffling through the letters and bills.  One of the letters stood out which I stopped to examine; it was a cream colored envelope addressed to me.  That in itself wasn't the extraordinary thing, it was the return address and the handwriting on the envelope.  Slitting it open with the letter opener, I began to read:


December 19, 1859

Dear Sir:

Today I am thirteen years old.  I have written to you in the past but you never answered me.  I thought that I would try one more time.  I no longer live on Beacon Hill with Grandfather.  I now attend Latin School in Boston.  You probably don't know what Latin School is, but it is a boarding school for boys.  This is my first year, I am in the seventh grade. 

We just had Parent's Day at school.  Grandfather couldn't come because he was busy.  He is always busy.  Will's parents took me under their wing so that I wouldn't feel left out.  It was nice of them, but it wasn't the same as having my own parents there.  Will Snowden is my best friend at school.

Anyway, I would like to meet you.  Would you like to meet me?  I don't know why you wouldn't.  I have a lot of friends and they all seem to like me.  I get very good grades and I can be quiet if I have to be.  I think I am a nice boy and I wouldn't be any trouble to you.

I hope you will write me back.

Your Son,

Scott Garrett Lancer


Reading the letter from the son I hadn't heard from or laid eyes on in eight years caused a myriad of emotions in me:  pure joy, longing, regret, and sadness for the little boy who had to borrow parents for Parent's Day.

I dashed off my reply immediately.


January 15, 1859

Dearest Scott:

I cannot tell you the joy your letter brought me.  I have longed to know what your life is like.  I did not know that your were at Latin School and no longer living with your Grandfather Garrett.  Thank you for telling me that Latin School is a Boarding School.  You are right, I did not know that.

Son, I have written you many times.  I do not have any idea why you have never received my letters.

Sadly, I never knew that you had written me because I never received your letters, either.  Please know that there hasn't been a day gone by that I do not think about you and wonder how you are.  Of course, I would like to meet you!  Never doubt that.  You wouldn't remember this, but I met you once on your fifth birthday.  I liked you then and I know I would like you now.  You should know I more than 'like' you, but that I love you.

Please write back soon.  I am anxious to hear from you.

Your Father,

Murdoch Lancer


The letter was mailed to Scott's school that same day.  Of course, I had lied in the letter to spare his feelings.  I told him that I didn't know why he or I had never received our letters to each other over the years.  I had a suspicion and that suspicion's name was Harlan Garrett.  The only reason that I finally received a letter from Scott was that he was no longer under Harlan's roof or control.  Letters could not be intercepted as easily any more.  Harlan must be slipping if that hadn't occurred to him.  Apparently, he had underestimated his grandson; my son. 

I wanted to tell Scott about his brother, Johnny, but I couldn't do that in a letter.  I would wait until we were finally face-to-face to give him that news.  I don't know how he would take the news that he had a younger brother although I had a feeling he might be excited about it.  Although I didn't know much about my oldest son, I had a feeling that he was a very lonely child growing up in that stuffy old mansion on Beacon Hill.  Sadly, though, while I could tell him he had a brother, I could not tell him where he was.  Johnny's mother had taken him from me shortly before his second birthday.  He would be ten years old now and I had tried desperately through the years to find him, with no success.

Well, one step at a time.  Perhaps I would soon have Johnny's older brother in my life.  After that, we could both concentrate on bringing Scott's little brother back to Lancer, as well

I waited anxiously for an answer from Scott which never came.  I didn't know what to think.  Had he read my letter and decided he had no need for the father who had literally abandoned him?  Had Harlan Garrett found a way to thwart the two of us again?   Should I leave immediately and go to Scott's boarding school to see him?  As was my pattern when faced with big decisions, at least in my private life, I did what I did best.  I did nothing.


Several months passed with no word from Scott.  I had resigned myself to being happy that I at least had received a letter from him and knew that he was well. 

It was very late at night, around 2:00 am, when someone knocked loudly at the front door.  Awoken out of a sound sleep, I threw on my robe and bounded down the stairs.  Yelling through the door, I asked, “Who is it?”

“Cipriano, el Patron,” came the answer.  I threw open the door, frowning.

“Cip!  It's late, what's happened?  Is something wrong?  Is there an emergency somewhere on Lancer?”

Cipriano stood in front of me, his hat in hand, and said, “No, Patron.  There is no emergency but there is a 'small' matter that I felt you should deal with right away.”

“A 'small' matter, Cipriano?  It's after 2:00 am!  Why would you wake me up out of a sound sleep for a 'small' matter?” I groused.  It was then that I noticed a small bay horse tied to the hitching rail in front of the house.  It was a strange horse, not a Lancer equine.

Cipriano reached behind him and pulled forward a young blue-eyed, towheaded boy, around twelve or thirteen.  My jaw dropped....”Scott?” I said, stupidly.

The young scamp stepped forward, took off his cap, and held out his hand, as big as you please.

“Hello, Sir.  It's nice to meet you again!” he crowed.

I gaped at him in surprise, but what could I do?  I shook his hand, enveloping it in mine, and pulled him into the house.

Well, I hadn't had much practice at being a father, but I knew that it was late and that my child should be in bed.  I asked if he was hungry; he was.  I rustled him up a sandwich and a glass of milk and escorted him up the stairs to one of the extra bedrooms.  He had no nightshirt so one of my shirts would have to suffice.

The next morning, I awoke early as was my habit.  I peeked into the bedroom across the hall and there was my boy, sound asleep in bed.  Nope, it had not been a dream!  I closed the door softly and let him sleep.  I had no idea how he had traveled from Boston to Lancer all by himself but I planned to find out soon.  I suspected that he was tall for his age but no one could have surmised that he was old enough to travel across country all by himself!

Just before Scott woke up, I received a telegram from Boston, from Harlan Garrett.

                        “Scott missing from Boarding School.  Do you know anything?

Oh yes, I knew something but I was in no hurry to share it with Harlan Garrett.  After all, he had waited a long time to inform me of Scott's disappearance.  It was then that it occurred to me; I now had Scott in California.  He was no longer under the jurisdiction of the Boston courts and, if Harlan Garrett chose to fight me for custody, he would have to do it in the California courts.  For once, the advantage would be mine.

Around seven am., Scott stumbled downstairs, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, and practically swallowed up in one of my shirts.  He joined me at the breakfast table and I introduced him to our housekeeper, Maria.  If she was surprised to meet the Patron's oldest son, she covered it well.  She loaded up a plate, poured him a glass of milk, and murmured in Spanish that the 'chico' was too thin.  She would need to fatten him up.

I watched him dig into his bacon and eggs with gusto, seemingly without a care in the world.  Apparently my boy felt he belonged here and, of course, he did.  He didn't seem at all concerned that I might have questions about how a boy so young had up and appeared at my doorstep in California.  He noticed me watching him and he looked up from his plate and grinned.  I couldn't help but return his smile; my oldest had nerve to burn.  I didn't know whether to laugh or take him to the barn and whale the tar out of him. 

These father feelings were new to me but I knew better than to laugh, I could not encourage him in his recklessness.  A thirteen-year-old boy running off by himself from Boston and traveling all the way to California scared the life out of me.  Even though it seemed he had come through his trip unscathed, I worried about all the things that could have happened to him.  It was time for me to step up and become the father to him that I always should have been.

“Well, Young Man, I got a telegram from your grandfather.  It seems you've gone missing from your boarding school.  I think you and I need to have a long talk.”


The End






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