The next morning, a sunny November the thirteenth, Wyatt and Claudia got up early and were at the dock well before Isaac and his family showed up. As they approached the wharf where their ship, Marathon, was docked, they walked hand-in-hand with Claudia pointing at each new curiosity they passed. Wyatt had started to explain to her exactly what she was seeing but soon realized that the young girl was far too distracted to listen. When they finally saw Marathon, they both stopped to admire the ship as it received the hurried rush of departure day loading and final touches.
Wyatt had looked up some information on the vessel prior to leaving Denver; however, those facts proved to be no match for the experience of actually seeing her in the water. First launched in 1860, the Marathon was over two thousand four hundred gross tons and three hundred and thirty-six feet in length, with an iron hull and room for nine hundred and twenty passengers, most of them in third-class berths. Painted mostly a dark red, the brilliant white deck rails and superstructure stood out starkly as the sun struck them from the east. It was a fine looking ship.
Sitting down on a bench near the entry to the wharf, Wyatt and Claudia watched the traffic, both people and boats, until Isaac and his family alighted from a hansom cab twenty minutes later.
Lydia was dressed in her very best, a blue velvet hobble-skirt clinging to her body and her face shielded from the sun by a straw hat tied under her chin with a white ribbon. Wyatt shared a private joke with himself as he envisioned his son trying to strap his wife into a corset tightly enough to get her into the dress, some version of Isaac’s foot planted in her back continuing to dance around in his head.
“Is something funny father?” Isaac asked this as he stepped out into the street to pick up his son’s jacket, which had fallen from the boy’s grasp as he exited the cab. He and Ambrose were dressed much more modestly than his wife.
Realizing that his own wry amusement was showing through, Wyatt removed his smile and replied, “No, nothing at all, just happy to be starting our trip.”
As they made their way toward the line to board for the second-class section of the ship, Claudia stayed firmly by Wyatt’s side, ensuring that her great-uncle was always between her and Ambrose. The boy occasionally would poke his head around, trying to get into her line of sight; however, for once Isaac seemed determined to keep the boy at bay and retained a tight grip on his collar. The jostling and maneuvering of the other passengers in the line kept them all in continual motion and Wyatt was fairly tired and irritated by the time they arrived at the front. Turning over his tickets to the porter, he heard a woman several places behind them mention that perhaps the “woman up there in the blue hobble” was in the wrong line. Turning back toward the voice with a sneer, he shouted, “No, she’s in the correct damn line, just over-dressed, that’s all!”
As he turned back, he realized that his outburst had made a profound impact on his son and daughter-in-law, one red-faced in embarrassment and the other seething in anger. With a shrug, he grabbed Claudia’s hand and pulled her forward, past the porter and onto the gangplank to board the ship. They had taken only five steps when Wyatt felt a tug at his sleeve and turned, expecting to face bluster and indignation from Isaac. Instead, his son threw a punch that cracked across Wyatt’s jaw and sprawled the older man over the edge of the raised gangplank rail. Claudia let out a shriek as Isaac followed up with two more punches to his father’s stomach before a tall man, who was boarding after Lydia, push forward and pulled him off. Leaning on the plank rail for support, Wyatt straightened himself up as the line to board started to back up behind them.
“You’ve done it father, your last and worst, you’ve finally done it! I won’t have you insulting my wife like she is some common street woman!” As he spoke, Isaac continued to struggle to escape the hold of the tall man. Wyatt took one step forward but then stopped and replied while holding his hand against his rapidly swelling jaw.
“Not me. It’s you that have finally done it, boy. Your wife is common, just as common as they come, that’s plain enough to see!” His entire body was shaking in anger and he fought to control it. “I’m done with you all!”
Isaac, equally shaky and furious, spat in his father’s direction as the older man turned and walked into the ship with Claudia running to catch up. When the tall man finally released him, Lydia came forward and took her husband’s arm, guiding him into the ship with her head held high.
Despite Wyatt’s previous determination to ensure that Claudia had some fun on the voyage, they did end up spending the first three days in their small cabin, with the ship’s medical staff checking in on Wyatt twice daily and bringing meals for them both. Although his bruised jaw was healing well, his humor was not, and all of Claudia’s attempts to cheer him up were unsuccessful. He spent most of his time sitting in the one chair in the room, a straight-backed and uncomfortable affair, staring at the wall and smoking his pipe. Claudia amused herself as best as she could, drawing on the slate they had brought along and singing songs to her dolls. When he awoke on November sixteenth, Wyatt realized that his mood had finally improved.
…to be continued