Porcelain (Part 38)

Issac’s cheerful announcement had lightened up the mood during the course of dinner that evening and for the first time in quite awhile Wyatt felt no palpable tension as he ate.  When he awoke the next morning his son was already gone and Wyatt enjoyed his pipe in silence until Claudia peeked her head out the door.  She was silent but he knew that she must be hungry, so he prepared them a small meal and then announced that they were going back into town.

“Horses?” Claudia asked, a small smile on  her face.  She had been quite taken with the ones that had pulled their wagon from Hamburg and her fascination seemed to have survived their departure.

“No, not today.  We are going to have to walk.  It will be a bit of a long journey but I will carry you if you get tired.  It will be a little adventure for us, we can explore the land around here.”

Claudia seemed content with that explanation and they set off thirty minutes later, Wyatt having packed some fruit and a loaf of bread into a bag along with a flask of water.  The walk was indeed long but they found diversions along the way, Claudia chasing after animals such as hares, marmots and even one badger that was inexplicably out wandering the edge of the forest during the daytime.  Wyatt called her back off of that chase, fearful that the animal would decide to stop running and instead attack the small girl.  For his part, Wyatt spent his time trying to identify all of the various trees they walked past and had to admit to himself that there were a good number that he knew nothing about.  The oaks were impressive though, strong and broad, all of them seeing to be extremely old and gnarled, broken limbs strewn about the ground beneath them.  He did have to carry Claudia several times, but she was still small enough that this caused him little inconvenience.  By the time they reached town both of them were hungry again.  After eating their lunch leaning against the fenceposts of a small farm, Wyatt managed to get a message sent back to his sister from the telegraph office.  That conversation had been difficult, mostly pointing and small German words, although the operator did seem to know how to send a telegram in English.  At least Wyatt hoped that was the language it arrived in, as Harriet would likely not be amused by one sent in German.  He did not recall her as having much of a sense of humor.


Wagner & Apel Porzellan as it looks today

Wagner & Apel Porzellan as it looks today – courtesy wikipedia

Exhausted by the time they had returned to the estate, Wyatt listened without comment as Isaac regaled everyone with the details of his day at the porcelain factory.  The company apparently was fairly new, having only begun to produce products in 1877, and had recently taken on a new partner in Mr. Laube.  Isaac was quite taken by Bernhard Wagner, who he described as the genius behind the operation and a tall and imposing gentleman.  Whatever he had done, it was working, as Issac also noted the large number of items being produced and the notoriety the small company had achieved in just its few short years of operation.  The mention of porcelain products managed to get Lydia’s attention, who had been absent-mindedly nodding up to that point.

“Just what do they make Isaac?  Have you seen their porcelain?”

“Of course my dear, of course.  As I said, I was right there as they were arranging them for the kiln.  And what an oven that is! I cannot imagine the temperatures they achieve in that factory, although I am sure I will find out soon.  Their smokestack is tall, very tall, it rises up over the factory itself, you should see it sometime.  Quite impressive.”

“But the products husband, what do they make?”

“Oh yes, well I saw many mugs, several different kinds, and pipe bowls, egg cups, a few small figurines, of children I think.”

“Well, I shall be expecting a new set of mugs then, we can certainly use them around here, especially as some of our crockery was broken.”

“Yes, I know, you already told me what you found in those chests.”

“Just get it replaced for me Isaac.  I am sure that your new employer can accommodate some small items for their employees.”

“I will see what I can do.”

That had ended the meal, and although there was tension again, it had not been directed at Wyatt or Claudia, and they got up and left quietly for their cabin.  After singing her to sleep, Wyatt climbed into his own bed, admitting as he did so that every muscle in his body was quite sore.  The next morning he felt no better and Claudia was gone.

It had not been apparent at first, as the usual routine, established in just a few short days, was for Wyatt to smoke his pipe and await Claudia’s head peeking out the door.  The morning had worn on though, the tree-filtered sun just starting to crest over the pine tops when Wyatt put his pipe down and walked back into the cabin.  Not finding her in bed had given him a small surprise, and he quickly determined she was not tucked away into any of the few corners and crannies in the cabin.  At that point he had assumed she was at the main house, although for what reason, or on what strange initiative, he could not begin to guess.  Walking in to find Lydia unpacking another large chest, he tried to be as pleasant as possible.

“Good morning.  Where is Claudia?”

Lydia took her time, pulling out some of Ambrose’s clothes and setting them on the table, picking up her tea to sip at it before answering.

“Why would I know such a thing?  That girl is your responsibility.”

“Yes.  Well, I haven’t seen her this morning and she is not in our house.  So I though she might be over here.”

“For what possible purpose?”

“Well, I wondered the same myself, but still this is the only other place she could be.  So you haven’t seen her?”

“I most certainly have not.  If I had, I would have sent her away back to you, you can be certain of that.”  Lydia placed her teacup back down and turned her back on Wyatt, who walked out the door and surveyed the land around the house.  He found it inconceivable that Claudia would have taken off by herself.  The girl had achieved a small amount of independence, and had shed some of her societal reservation, on the trip, but taking off into the woods or elsewhere seemed a large step up from that.  A strange and foreboding thought glimmered in his mind for a second, something he could not quite chase down.  His next thought was to ask himself if Isaac had taken her somewhere.  But why would he do that, especially given his own disliking of the girl?  And where would be take her?  Then Ambrose flashed through Wyatt’s mind and he thought he might be on to something.


…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 27)

The train ride to Boston passed in much the same manner as the six weeks at the house had, with Ambrose taking whatever opportunity he could to torment Claudia.  The boy, cruel but clever enough, had realized that he did not need to touch Claudia to get her to tears.  Instead, he would just maneuver himself into her line of sight whenever he could, and then mock her, usually by pulling his arm out of his sleeve and then trying to pick things up with the empty cuff or poking himself where his arm used to be.  Although Wyatt saw great strength in the girl when dealing with adult condescendence and mistreatment, the actions of children around her own age had a very great effect on her, although she always refused to speak with him about it.   In the final weeks at the house, Wyatt had foreseen that the coming trip was going to present such opportunities for abuse and torment toward Claudia and had managed to change his ticket to a separate compartment for himself and the girl.  Such arrangements did minimize the chances that Ambrose had to torment her; however, the boy took full advantage of what he did get and by the time the train pulled into Boston, Claudia had not not spoken in five hours.  Her face had remained pressed up against the window for that entire time, her fist curled in a ball as she wet herself, refusing to walk out and down the corridor to the restroom, where she knew the boy would be waiting.

As the whistle of the locomotive shrilled to announce the train’s arrival, Wyatt stepped out of the compartment after handing Claudia another dress to change into.  Standing outside the door, he glared at Ambrose, who stood near his parent’s compartment playing with a tin whistle.  The smirk on the boy’s face had Wyatt clenching up his own fists, trying to resist the impulse to walk over and box the youngster’s ears.  Isaac and Lydia emerged moments later and walked past him without a word.  Wyatt collected Claudia up several minutes later, hoping that his son’s family had gone far enough ahead to be lost in the crowd, a wish that fortunately came true.  That left Wyatt and the girl once again standing together outside a busy station looking for a hansom.

boston 1883 courtesy geographicus.com

boston 1883 courtesy geographicus.com

Having come in on the New York & New England Railroad, the final transfer of their long journey to the coast, they emerged directly into the heart of the wharf district in Boston.  The sharp smell of the salty air was mixed with the pungent odors from the wet docks and the decaying fish that pooled along the edges.  The noise was startling and overwhelming, both to Wyatt and the young girl, and they both simply stood on the edge of Atlantic Avenue for fifteen minutes, wide-eyed and slightly slack-jawed.  The water traffic along the wharf was varied, with fishing boats, tugs and small sailboats competing with cargo ships that seemed to move in slow-motion compared to the other boats.  Slightly farther off in the distance were several large passenger ships, moored at the foreign docks and awaiting the crowds that would soon temporarily move in for their voyage across the ocean.  Behind them, toward the land side, all kinds of large buildings rose up, with the Old Colony Depot, the Post Office and the United States Hotel being most prominent.  Denver might have seemed like a large town to Wyatt, but he had to admit that this was beyond anything else he had seen in his life.  Claudia, initially just as shocked as her great-uncle, recovered more quickly and was well into asking questions before Wyatt shook himself and began to pay attention to her.  As they walked toward the U.S. Hotel, which Wyatt had arranged on his own after finding out about Isaac’s plans for their one and a half days in Boston, he had to admit that he was enjoying the experience despite its strangeness.  Having been on the move for much of his life, he thought that maybe he had been content for too long with his settled-down home in Denver, and that this trip was going to revive some of his spirit.  As they walked into the hotel Claudia had looked up at him with a one word question.

united states hotel boston 1883 courtesy goodoldboston.com

united states hotel boston 1883 courtesy goodoldboston.com


Patting her hand, he happily replied, “Not here dear, he is most definitely not staying here.”

commercial and fleet boston

commercial and fleet boston


boarding house boston

boarding house boston

The next day, their only full one in Boston, Wyatt was determined to go out and walk the town with Claudia, and they had set off directly after breakfast.  Although he was pleased to be away from Isaac’s family, at least until they were aboard the ship, some malicious part of him wanted to see where his son had managed to put his own family up for their stay.  Knowing the address, but of course not the town, it took them two hours  of walking to find it, a dilapidated and leaning building on the corner of Commercial and Fleet Streets.  At first glance Wyatt could not determine which part of the structure was most likely to fall in first, although it all seemed to be leaning away from the water.  Shaking his head, the two of them kept on walking and were able to see many of the nearby sights, including Faneuil Hall and the famous Common and Public Garden.  When they returned to the U.S. Hotel that night, both of them worn out and hungry, they took advantage of the restaurant and ate well, with Claudia finishing up with two bowls of chocolate ice cream.  Before they retired for the night, Wyatt asked the girl to sit down on his bed.

“You know that tomorrow we are going to be sailing away, across the ocean, on a ship.  I won’t bother to promise you that this trip isn’t going to be rough.  Although we have our own compartment on the ship also, it is small and we certainly cannot stay in it for all of the six days we will be aboard.  Besides, I want you to see the ship and have what fun you can.  I am certain that Ambrose will be up to his usual games.  You do understand me Claudia?”

The girl just nodded her head.

“So, let’s just promise each other this.  We stick together okay? And I will keep that boy off of you as much as I can.”

In response, Claudia just took his hand and squeezed it.  At about that same moment, her mother, one arm wrapped around the portrait of her daughter, shuddered and let out one last breath.

…to be continued