Porcelain (Part 34)

Wyatt stood there for a moment, taking in the strange look on the boy’s face.  Ambrose had indeed been cowering at first, trying to fit his frail frame into an even smaller place than it usually occupied.  As the seconds passed he had, however, slowly unfolded himself and now stood up straight with the stick held in front of his chest like a toy rifle.  He was not looking at Wyatt, which was certainly what might be expected in this situation.  He instead seemed to be looking at Claudia in the way people look at common animals in the zoo.  Interested, but in a disinterested way, looking at something they have seen before but wondering if it is going to do anything unusual.  That was what Wyatt thought the look was all about anyway until he stepped over, closer to Ambrose, and caught the actual look in his eyes.  That was not the disinterested look he had expected.  It was instead a menacing one, which seemed to be seeking a way to do some mischief to the girl even with an adult in the room.  Abruptly Wyatt reached out and shook the boy’s shoulder.

“What are you doing in here Ambrose?  Just what are you up to?”

As a response he received only a sharp howl, followed by Ambrose bolting out of the room, and perhaps not so accidentally poking Wyatt in the ribs with his stick on the way past.  The sound awoke Claudia, who rolled over to look toward the door, and also Isaac, who shouted from the other room.

“What is going on out here?”

Wyatt paused to reassure Claudia before stepping out to confront his son.  The ensuing discussion was loud and heated, although in the end Wyatt had to restrain himself from delivering his full suspicions to Isaac, who he knew would just laugh them off.  Instead, he made his point about the inappropriateness of Ambrose being in Claudia’s room while she slept, and the fact that he thought he was up to some mischief, and left it at that.  Four hours later they all stood on the edge of the pier at the St. Katharine dock by the River Thames, a look of considerable consternation on Isaac’s face.

st katharine dock courtesy british-history.ac.uk

st katharine dock courtesy british-history.ac.uk

“Just what is the meaning of this father?  I asked you find us passage, and by that I meant passenger-style.  Not this!”

Wyatt did not bother to respond, enjoying the moment and his son’s anger.  Gazing up at the ship he finally replied.

“You said that we needed to leave today and I arranged it.  You certainly know that arrangements on such short notice are not easy, and I did have to keep your frugal nature in mind after all, even after your outburst the other day.  So, this is what we have and I’m sure it will be fine.  We aren’t going that far after all.”

Isaac took a few steps over so that he could lean in and hiss in his father’s ear.

“I will not have my wife and child traveling in this way.  This is too much, too far, you have mistaken my intent.”

Wyatt glanced over at Lydia, once again in her traveling clothes, and was fortunate enough to watch her eye.  She was certainly furious.

“Well, we have the tickets and I cannot return them.  And you need to get to Germany, so I guess you can take it or leave it.”  Wyatt knew it was a rather bold move on his part, basically a dare offered to his son, and if Isaac refused to board he was not so sure what he was going to do.

The captain of the cargo ship, a rather poorly kept one at that, strode over to the bow rail and shouted down.

“If you people are planning to board, you best do so now.  We cast off in five minutes!”  With that he turned, pitching the stump end of his cigar into the water.

Wyatt took Claudia’s hand and stepped toward the ship.  He heard Lydia whisper “No,” to Isaac but them heard his son’s small family following behind them.  Once aboard, Lydia did her best to project some false air of prominence, trying to remain aloof from what she obviously considered transport beneath her station in life, such as it was.  Wyatt and Claudia enjoyed themselves on the short journey, getting a tour of the engine room from a greasy mechanic named Murray and visiting the captain for several minutes on the bridge.  They did not see Isaac or Ambrose until they were stepping off the ship onto the picturesque dock in Hamburg, Germany.  His son’s family had apparently departed from the ship with extreme haste once it had docked.

hamburg port

hamburg port

The port area was bustling of course, mostly with persons leaving to emigrate to the United States, and there seemed to be much more traffic coming onto the long pier than there was leaving it.  Claudia ran ahead of Wyatt all the way to the very beginning of the dock, suddenly much less inhibited than she ever had been before.  He had to almost run himself to keep up and finally caught up to her near the small clock tower that stood on the main thoroughfare past the port.  Sitting down, he purchased an apple from a passing vendor pushing a cart, and then cut it up with his pocketknife to share with her.  They had finished it and were watching the passing crowds when Isaac and his family finally arrived.

“Nice place here.  I like the clean air.”  Wyatt had offered the comment as a gesture of peace, but received only a glare in return.  Hailing a passing wagon, Isaac conversed briefly in German with the driver and then, at least from what little Wyatt understood, received directions to a nearby lodging house.  With a hard look back at his father he then strode off with his wife and son in tow. Claudia stood up to start following them but Wyatt grabbed her arm and shook his head.

“They leaving us.”

“No girl, they aren’t going far.  Don’t worry, we can catch up.  It will be the most miserable looking hotel in the area, so it won’t be hard to find.  But maybe I deserve it this time.”  He finished with a wink at the girl, who laughed slightly and then sat back down.  After buying and finishing another apple Wyatt finally got up to follow after his son.

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 32)

liverpool dock courtesy cumberlandscarrow.com

liverpool dock courtesy cumberlandscarrow.com


He and the young girl passed the remainder of the voyage on the deck and were among the first passengers to disembark in Liverpool.  The day was overcast and gray, smoke and other debris filtering down through the air as they stepped out onto the dock row.  The long storage buildings dominated their line of sight, with a tall smokestack looming up in the distance.  Wyatt mentioned to Claudia that he thought the air smelled like rotten cabbage, but the young girl just shook her head and replied, “Dirt.”

They waited together, pushed up against the side of a building by the rush of passengers and dockers.  About forty-five minutes later Isaac and his family finally made their way down the gangplank, Lydia once again dressed in the blue hobble-skirt.  Wyatt waited for them to make their way through the thickest part of the crowd before approaching with Claudia in tow.

“We will need to find some accommodations for the night, for all of us.  Then we can finalize a plan to get to London,” Isaac announced without preamble, and much more graciously than Wyatt expected.  Suppressing his own desire to be in charge he nodded and replied.

“I will get us a cab then and hold it out by the street.  You follow along as you wish.”   He and Claudia stepped off briskly, reaching the edge of the row in five minutes and securing their ride in much less time than had been needed in their past experiences together.  By the time that Isaac and his family emerged twenty minutes later, the impatient driver had already needed to be bribed twice by Wyatt to wait.  Several stops and starts later, they had found a hotel that met Isaac’s frugal requirements, and they all quickly turned in without supper,  too exhausted to argue about anything.

grand hotel london courtesy fineartamerica.com

grand hotel london courtesy fineartamerica.com


The next day plans were made for train transport to London, and by  their third evening abroad they were ensconced at the Grand Hotel in London, occupying a family suite on an upper floor.  This was a luxury which Wyatt insisted on paying for, unable to face another night in a place selected by his son, and not wanting to start any kind of an argument.  His son had accepted with a muttered comment about wasting money, but at least they would be safe and comfortable until they left to cross into Germany.  During the days that they waited to arrange passage, Isaac spent most of his time at the telegraph office, attempting to arrange the final purchase of the land he had come over to Europe to establish his family upon.   Although he initially had his mind set on owning a piece of the island at Malchow, Isaac had later turned his attention to the small town of Lippelsdorf.  He had heard that a small estate was available there, right on the edge of the Thuringian Forest.  It came with both a main house and a smaller cabin that he planned to use to house his father and the girl.  All of the long distance planning had gone well, at least as far as he could tell, but he still worried that things would go awry before he arrived to secure his property and future.  He had sent money ahead, a down payment, on land he had never seen and was anxious to know that his investment was secure.  The replies that he was getting at the telegraph office were vague and noncommittal, a fact that drove him into a frenzy of worry and fear, and he stormed back into the hotel room on their third evening at the Grand.

“Have you secured the boat then?  When do we leave?”

Peering up from the newspaper he was reading, Wyatt replied, “What has you so agitated?”

“I asked about the arrangements!  When do we leave?”

“I haven’t quite finished looking into it yet, and I don’t see the need to hurry.  Or at least you shouldn’t see any need for it, as none of this is costing you a penny.”

“You are one to talk about money, but you should be saving it, not throwing it away on this place.  How much can you have left?  Not much I suspect, and there won’t be a penny to raise that girl up with. Now, when do we leave?”

Claudia had emerged from the bedroom and stood leaning up against the side of the doorway, taking in the argument.

“As I said, I have not yet finished looking into it.  You told me quite plainly to find the cheapest passage and I’ve been going to every place I can find to try to meet your wishes.  It takes some time.”

“Well we haven’t any more time left.  Take the money I gave you and go purchase the cheapest tickets you have found.  We leave tomorrow.”

Wrinkling his nose up slightly, Wyatt pulled his paper back up.  “Yes, well, I’ll go in the morning.  They’re closed after all, its evening.”

He made good on his promise, getting up early and heading out by himself as Claudia had not yet awoken.  He returned forty-five minutes later, opening the door quietly in case all were still asleep in the room, as they had been when he left.  As it opened,  he caught a flicker of movement in the dim light coming through the sheer curtains, a shadowy figure that seemed to disappear as he stepped into the room.  Putting the tickets he had purchased down on the table, Wyatt slowly took off his black overcoat and hat. He then quietly stepped toward his bedroom, as that was where the apparition had seemed to be headed.  As he entered he saw two things; Claudia still asleep and curled up on the small extra bed, and Ambrose, cowering against the near wall with the stick, from his hoop-and-stick game, tightly clenched in a small hand.

hoop and stick

hoop and stick


…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 31)

“Come on Claudia, let’s take a walk.”  As he spoke, he shook her gently from her sleep.  “It’s about time we checked this place out.”

As they stepped out of the cabin, she looked up at him and spoke.

“Go to see Isaac?”

“No dear, we are just going to take a walk.  I will go see him myself later.”  He dreaded the thought of that meeting, as he had realized during the course of the previous three days that he had been most completely in the wrong and was going to need to apologize to his son.  Not only because it was the right thing to do, but also because he knew that he needed Isaac’s cooperation to care for Claudia.  He may be able to get them their own compartment on a ship, or take care of a few small necessities for the girl, but securing a place to stay, and maintaining it, was likely going to be out of reach financially for him in Europe.  Making the peace with his son was the only real option he had.

They walked for over an hour before heading to the dining area for breakfast.  There were a few passengers who seemed to recognize Wyatt from the boarding incident, small banter and pointing fingers following them as they made their way to sit down at a table.  Glancing backward, he offered a small salute to those people, an action which promptly made them return their attention to their plates.  Afterward, they headed back onto the deck and spent the next few hours leaning on the rail, Claudia staring at the ocean as Wyatt told her more gold-mining tales.

That day and the next passed in similar fashion, with the two of them spending most of their time out of the cabin, exploring the ship or watching the water.  Wyatt even managed to get Claudia to take part in some of the games arranged by the crew for the children onboard and she seemed to enjoy both the playing and the interactions.  The other youngsters seemed to take her missing arm as a matter of little concern, adapting themselves to whatever she was able to do rather than making her feel out of place.  They did not see Isaac or any member of his family, even at meals when most of the second-class passengers were in the dining area.  That suited Wyatt, although he knew that eventually he was going to have to brace himself and go talk to his son.  He procrastinated as long as possible, but in the mid-morning of the sixth day at sea, with their docking in Liverpool just five hours away, he asked a steward for his son’s cabin number.  After a short walk over, he took a deep breath and  knocked.  When Isaac answered the door, he stood there with his hand still on the knob, barring entry and looking coldly at his father.  Wyatt returned the look, trying to soften the anger that was boiling up inside as he was kept waiting.  Finally, Lydia, out of sight behind the door, spoke.

“Let him in Isaac.  It’s your father, I presume.”

With a final cold look the arm dropped, allowing Wyatt to step into the room.

“Right on time then, father.”

“Hmmm, what’s that?”

“Right on time, I said.  I figured that your stubborn pride was going to keep you away until you absolutely had to come over here and beg for my forgiveness.  And here we are, about to dock and have you and that wretched girl spilled out into Liverpool.  I’m sure you’ve realized that you have little choice but to get back into my good graces.”

Sitting in a chair, knitting by the light of a small lamp, Lydia smirked slightly before turning her head away from Wyatt’s view.  Taking a breath, deeper than the one he had braced himself with before knocking, Wyatt replied.

“Yes, well, here I am indeed.  I hope that you understand that my actions the other day, my words toward your wife and you, were delivered out of frustration, and not intended to insult either of you.  I hope that you will accept this as my apology to you both.”

Silence between them followed, the gentle clicking of Lydia’s knitting needles sounding out of time with the ticking of the wall clock.  She continued to look at the floor, a small, sarcastic smile on her face, while Isaac slowly sat down on a stool.  Keeping his back straight and head turned up slightly, pompous and resentful, he seemed content to let the uncomfortable tension linger in the air.  Wyatt realized that this was just as difficult as he had expected it to be.  Finally, with a sarcastic smile of his own, Isaac spoke.

“And the boy?”

“Ambrose?  What of him?”

“His apology.  You must apologize to him also, he was there when you degraded our family so hatefully.  You surely owe him also.”

Now Lydia could hardly contain herself, a triumphant grin on her face, although she did mange to avoid making eye contact with Wyatt, who looked at her with a certainty that this last stipulation was her idea.  Turning his head toward the bed, he saw the pale-skinned boy sitting in the corner, wrapped up in a blanket, beady eyes peering over the top.

“You can’t be serious.”

“I am father.  You owe us all an apology and so far you have only offered it to me and my wife.  Do you not think that my son was just as humiliated as we were?”

“I hardly,” but Wyatt caught himself before finishing with his own assessment of the boy’s ability to comprehend much of anything.  Turning his bottom lip inward, he bit down hard, a small amount of blood trickling into his mouth.  He had, however, managed to suppress his anger.  After several more moments of composing himself he turned toward Ambrose.

“I do apologize to you also boy, and hope you will accept it.”

With that, he turned and left the room, slamming his hand into a bulkhead several steps after exiting the cabin.  He had done it for Claudia, and that was enough to satisfy him.

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 30)

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.

cunard ship marthon in east boston harbor

cunard ship marthon in east boston harbor


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

Porcelain (Part 18)

August 9, 1883

My Dear Wyatt,

I do hope that this letter finds you well.  I know that we have become estranged over these many years and I fear that this may resolve you to hesitate in considering my request.  I must, however, beg a boon in regard to my recently born granddaughter Claudia.  You will have scarce recollection of my own daughter Olivia; however, she managed to become pregnant several years ago at the rather advanced age of fifty-one.  Perhaps not surprising given my own age when I had her; however, it was most unexpected and rather unfortunate, being the product of a small dalliance I must admit to having a hand in.  For that I may well not forgive myself soon.  The scoundrel absconded at once of course, and I have been raising this child much on my own due to some irregularities with Olivia.  The details will not serve her well; just know that I now fear for the very life of Claudia and have no way to protect her anymore.  I know you are well along in years, just as I am, and may well not welcome the idea.  I still must ask, in fact insist, that you allow me to send the girl to you.  She is well-mannered and causes little trouble, although I must let you know that she was born with only one arm.  I have not seen this affect her in any way and she seems barely aware of it herself.  It may well play larger when she is around other children on a more regular basis, although I feel she will make her way through any challenges that the world puts in her way.  She has proven resolute in the face of her mother’s deterioration and I am certain she will remain so when she lives with you.  Please hurry your response in regard to this request as I must get Claudia safely away as soon as possible. 

With Warm Regards, Your Sister, 


It was into the last week of August by the time that Wyatt received this and Isaac was deep into the plans he was making to depart before the end of the year.  Realizing that a discussion about adding another member to their traveling party was going to need to take place before any further details were finalized, Wyatt folded the letter up and leaned back with his eyes closed.

He was conflicted, both in regard to his obligation to assist his sister, and in his ability to take on such a responsibility as was being asked of him.  He had long ago cast aside any deep sentiments he may have had in regard to familial attachments; however he also still felt a lingering affection for his sister.  Perhaps it was simply that she had been the one to see him off that day, regardless if that was out of obligation or not.  He also understood that he was well advanced in years and may well not be around long enough to raise Claudia properly, or to protect her from Isaac if that became necessary.  Was it right to bring any child willingly into this household that he now had, one that contained a rather unpredictable creature such as his son?  Was the danger here worse than what his sister believed Claudia faced from her mother?  After several long moments, Wyatt stood and walked into the small study where his son was bent over reading ship schedules at his desk.  Sitting down, he waited until Isaac looked up.

“What is it?”

“Have you found a ship for us?”

“There are several, however, it looks as though we will need to leave from Boston aboard a Cunard ship.  I had thought we would be leaving from New York.”

“It hardly makes a difference does it?  I’m sure it will work out just fine from Boston.”

Isaac had stood up and was pulling at his hair as he answered.  “Yes, perhaps it will, although my plans were for New York.”

Wyatt remained silent as his son fought through this change in his head.  He had long ago noticed that any deviation from a previously developed plan gave Isaac serious internal issues, sometimes causing him to become melancholy for several days following a reversal or change.  He may not look at all like his mother, however, much of her temperament seemed to have been passed along and Wyatt had learned to stay silent during these struggles.  Finally Isaac sat back down.

“Our best bet looks to be the Marathon which sails on November thirteenth.  We can get a ticket for us all at seventy dollars.”

“Steerage I take it?”

“Of course father.  We have no money for first class, especially as you know my funds are reserved for purchasing an estate in Germany.”

“Yes, so you have said.  What is the price to add another to the ticket?”

Isaac stood up again.  “We are adding no one else.  Our plans are made and we will leave with you, Ambrose, Lydia and myself, no one else.”

“I have a letter from my sister,” Wyatt began, however, Isaac cut him off.

“We will not be dragging along any remnants of your family, sister or not, I do not care.  Tell her to seek her own adventures, by herself and on her own accounts.”

It took more than an hour for Wyatt to prevail, as he explained the details of the situation with Claudia, his obligation to help and the fact that he would look after the young girl himself.  He then repeated his own insistence that she be allowed to go over and over until Isaac finally agreed in exasperation.

“Not one more change father.  We leave via train on the ninth of November and that girl will be here or she will be left behind.  You will arrange all of those extra details yourself and don’t ask me for funds to assist you either.  This is totally your own affair.”

Wyatt bowed his head slightly in agreement and watched his son storm out of the room.  Allowing a troubled but satisfied smile to cross his face, he then stood up and began to compose a reply to his sister, which he sent the next day along with a Western Union money transfer to pay for bringing Claudia out to Colorado.  As he walked back toward home, Wyatt wondered again about his ability to raise and protect Claudia; however he also knew that there was now no going back from his decision and he would need to meet his new obligation as well as he could.

… to be continued