Porcelain (Part 39)

For a moment he paused, wondering if he should go back inside and ask Lydia if she knew the whereabouts of the boy.  That, however, seemed unlikely to elicit anything more than a furious reaction as to why he though he could inquire about the location of her son.  Instead, Wyatt started to wander down the path that had been partially beaten-down into the bramble and wildflowers behind the main house.  It meandered a bit, around a copse of young elm trees, skirting the edge of a shallow gully and splitting in two around a large rock that poked out of the ground near a thicket of blackberry bushes.  Just as he stepped around the north side of that rock, Wyatt spotted Claudia and Ambrose, both of them kneeling down next to what looked like a grave marker.  There did not seem to be any immediate danger to the girl, so Wyatt paused, slowly sinking down so that the wildflowers screened him from their view, curious as to just what they might be doing.  After the confrontation in the hotel room with the young boy and the stick, Wyatt had carried an uneasiness with him about any unsupervised time that Ambrose and Claudia might spend together.  The boy’s previous tormenting of the girl had been cruel, but not something which caused Wyatt to have concern for her safety.  The hotel incident had been different, seeming to carry with it a hint of real danger and evil intent.  Claudia had not been effected by that incident at all of course, and although she remained wary of Ambrose from their prior interactions, had tried to engage him in play activities a few times since they arrived at the estate.  Today the scene appeared to be innocent enough, Claudia playing with something Wyatt could not see on the ground while Ambrose looked on.  Claudia laughed a few times as he watched, and when he rose up to walk over and talk to them, Wyatt did so with a feeling of relative ease about the situation.

That changed abruptly as he got close enough to see the ground around the two children.  Ambrose was simply kneeling there, clean and with an amused look on his face, at least up until the moment he turned and saw Wyatt walking toward them.  At that point his face had blanched for just a second, to be replaced quickly by a smirking grin.  Claudia, however, was very dirty, her dress spotted by dirt, mud and grime covering her arm up past her elbow.  Strewn around among the two children were the various bones of what appeared to be a dog.  After a sharp command to stop what they were doing, Wyatt quickly looked around the area where the children were sitting.  It was clearly some kind of a graveyard, likely one that had been used by the families occupying the estate in the past.  The graves were haphazardly arranged around a slightly depressed area of the land that was dominated by two large trees, an oak and an elm.  At first glance Wyatt counted fifteen mounds, a few of them marked with makeshift crosses and one with a small, etched stone marker.  Three of the graves appeared very small, either children or pets, and he briefly offered up thanks that it was the latter of these which Claudia had dug up.  The girl, who had been oblivious to his approach until his command to stop, now stared at him with the wounded look of a child interrupted at play.

“Get over her Claudia, now,” Wyatt commanded while reaching his hand out for her.  She remained kneeling though, reaching back down toward another bone that was sticking out of the earth.  This animal had not been buried very deeply, and Wyatt figured that one of it’s bones may well have been sticking out of the earth when the children arrived.  Perhaps that had been what prompted her to start digging.  That, or the influence of Ambrose, who still had the smirk on his face.  He returned his attention to Claudia, grabbing her arm and hauling her up.

“I said to stop it girl.  Now, get over there by that tree.”  He pointed and she went, starting to cry now as she realized she had angered him.  After Claudia had taken several steps, Wyatt turned and looked at Ambrose.

“You get back to the house boy.  Or somewhere else, not here.  You shouldn’t be this far away from your mother.  And stay away from Claudia from now on.  I mean it.  I’ll be watching, so stay away.”

The boy stood there for a moment, a look of contemplation on his face, and then he took off running back in the direction of the house.

After spending a few minutes trying to talk to Claudia , all of it seemingly useless as she continued to cry over his words, he took her hand and they walked back to the cabin together.

That night, Lydia started right in as they began to eat.

“Isaac, you may want to know that your father’s young charge is apparently a grave robber.”

Isaac stopped with his food halfway to his mouth, a dubious look on his face.  “What makes you say that?”

“Well, she spent the day digging up bodies in some old cemetery on  this property.  Playing with the bones and everything.”

“You cannot be serious.  Father?”

Wyatt had remained silent as she spoke, wondering just how outlandish the tale was going to get.  Claudia had stopped eating, realizing that she was being talked about.  He patted her hand and encouraged her to go back to her meal before he responded.

“Hardly the truth.  Perhaps madam,  you should ask an adult who was actually there instead of listening to the garbled tales of a three year old boy.”

“He knows what he saw.”

“He certainly does, and I wouldn’t put him as the angel in this story.  He’s the one who wanted the grave dug up.  Just because he managed to get Claudia to do the digging doesn’t mean he is free from blame.”

“He did no such thing.  He never should have been running around with that vile little girl!”

Claudia had stopped eating again and Wyatt had heard enough.

“We will be taking our meal with us tonight.  As for the truth Isaac, just so you know, there was a grave dug up, just one, and it was a dog.  Both of these children were there, and I am quite certain both were involved.  I will deal with the girl.  You should tend to the issues with your boy.”  With that, Wyatt grabbed his and Claudia’s plates, piling up a few extra rolls on his, and then helping her down from the small chair she sat in.  As he did so Isaac stood up.

“You will not be leaving with our plates father.  Eat here or leave them.”

“I think not son.  We will not sit here while Claudia is attacked like she is invisible, and for something in which your son shares the blame.”

“My house father, my rules.  Stay or leave the food.”

“Not your house, boy.”  Wyatt stopped and looked directly back at Issac.  “And we are leaving,” he finished tersely.

Isaac’s face had turned bright red but he said nothing, and as they left Wyatt heard Lydia scoff.

“Whatever was that old fool talking about?”

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 36)

“Damn this place!  What have I done so wrong to anyone here to be treated like this?”  Isaac walked on past Wyatt, raising up his hands repeatedly toward the sky as he lamented whatever it was that had set him off.  Wyatt followed him with his eyes, wondering when it was going to come, which it did eleven minutes later.  Having finally circled in toward his father, Isaac stood over him, blocking out the sun which had felt rather good on Wyatt’s face.

“I’ll be needing money father.  Get your satchel.”

Wyatt peering upward at Isaac, who’s face was pinched from the strain of having to ask for assistance, abrupt and rude as that request may have been.

“What is it?  What has happened?”

“Father, I need money, so go and get your satchel.”

“I said I would follow your direction, but that most certainly does not extend to you producing orders in regard to what I may do with my money.  Now, what has happened?”

Isaac threw his hands up in apparent exasperation and stalked off, muttering to himself.  Wyatt returned to enjoying the sun on his face but was interrupted five minutes later by the return of his son.

“Very well, I shall tell you, but I will not have any of your condescension about what happened, or what I should have done differently if only I was as smart as you.  You understand me?”

Wyatt just crossed his arms in reply.

“Apparently, my last payment was not received or recorded,” Isaac continued, “which I find impossible to believe as I sent it through just as I had the others, which were all received in good order.  It has certainly been long enough for the funds to have made their way here.  So, I cannot get access to my estate unless I produce that money.”

Wyatt remained with his arms crossed.

“And I don’t have it.  As you are well aware, I have been channeling what money I did have toward this move, which has left me little.  I thought this was all worked out so we could come over and I would assume ownership of my estate as I had planned.”

More silence and crossed arms from Wyatt brought the blood rushing to Isaac’s face.

“So I need money father,” he shouted, “so go and get your damn satchel!”

Wyatt moved then, pulling the battered black case out from between two large trunks, and setting it down as his feet.

“How much then?”

The amount Isaac stated was large enough that Wyatt suspected his son may not have made several of the payments for which he was responsible in regard to the purchase of the estate.  He also knew that giving up such a large amount was going to severely deplete the small amount of money he still had in reserve.  Reluctantly, he counted out the funds to Isaac, who turned and stormed off after a very perfunctory thank-you.  An hour later, with the sun just starting to slip behind the tops of the western tree line, all seemed to be in order as Isaac stepped out from the small business where he had been finalizing his purchase.  There was a satisfied smile on his face as he strode across the roadway to a livery company, emerging from there ten minutes later.   Once all the belongings were loaded up again Isaac walked over to the business office and returned with Lydia and Ambrose.  As he helped them up into the smaller of the two wagons Wyatt overhead Lydia expressing how proud she was of her husband, after which Isaac shot him a withering and warning look.  Clearly, Lydia had somehow been kept ignorant of the fact that Isaac had not properly paid for their estate, and just as clearly Wyatt was not supposed to mention that or his loan to his son.  An interesting tool to have at his disposal was what Wyatt thought of that arrangement, keeping quiet as he lifted Claudia into the other wagon.


middle german house courtesy wikipedia.org

middle german house courtesy wikipedia.org


The estate which Isaac had chosen turned out to be rather nice Wyatt thought as they approached, secluded but not in a haunting or isolating kind of a way.  Tucked around a curve in the rutted trail they had traveled in on, the front of the estate was framed by two towering oak trees that spread their heavy limbs over the path that was cleared into the property.  It was evident that this area had formerly been very well tended, although it was now overgrown with wildflowers and tall, thin grass.  The edges of the path were lined with cornflower and chamomile which had been somewhat overtaken by weeds.  In the distance, about one half mile down the path, stood both the larger, main house and the cabin.  The house was two stories tall, with a thatched roof and exterior framing, several entrances being visible in the middle of the structure along with a low, white-washed brick wall.  The cabin was made of logs and seemed fairly new, and although it was much smaller than the house, Wyatt felt it would be sufficient for he and Claudia to live in.  After everything was unloaded and the unpacking had begun, Wyatt was surprised, and silently pleased, to hear Isaac announce that he intended to start seeking work the following morning.  Perhaps his repayment was going to come sooner than expected, although Wyatt figured it was more about his son’s wounded pride and desire to be rid of the debt.  Wyatt did not plan on making any immediate fuss about who may or may not be the master of the estate, although he was pleased to have a trump card in reserve.  He also knew that Isaac would consider it a priority to be able to claim himself as such without any worry about what his father might say.  Early the next morning, even before Wyatt was up to smoke his pipe, Isaac strode off into the darkness, headed toward town.  Later that afternoon, as Wyatt and Claudia sat silently in the  house, waiting on Lydia to serve dinner, Isaac rush into the main living area with a smile and a shout.

“It’s done!  It took me all day, and much walking, but I have secured a position in the town.  I knew I could do it!”  Isaac picked Ambrose up and twirled him around several times before setting the boy back in his seat.  After giving her husband a hug and a small kiss on the cheek, Lydia asked the question.

“Where at Isaac?  Where will you be working?”

“You’ll never guess.  Would you like to try?”

Wrinkling her nose, Lydia replied. “I hardly think so.  I know nothing of this place, so how am I supposed to guess?”

Wyatt smiled at the sarcasm in her voice, but it did not seem to deter Isaac, who continued to beam as he answered her question.

“I will be working at Wagner, Apel & Laube,” he stated proudly while taking a deep breath before finishing with, “a local Porzellanmanufaktur!”

… to be continued

Porcelain (Part 35)

They walked along together for about ten minutes before ducking into a worn-down wooden building with a faded sign out front advertising rooms for rent.  Surprisingly, this did not turn out to be the lodging house that Isaac had chosen to rest at for the night, and they continued on for fifteen more minutes, admiring the scenery along the way.  Then Wyatt spotted what he was certain was the correct place.  One story tall and made of broken and crumbling brick, the irregularly shaped building peeked out from behind a thick wall of beech and poplar trees.  Run-down and hidden, Wyatt thought to himself, a perfect place from his son’s point of view.  After entering and being informed that the, “American family that just arrived,” had not secured an additional room for anyone else in their traveling group, Wyatt paid for his own room and he and Claudia retired for the night.

Waking early the next morning and slipping out to take a walk and smoke his pipe, he ran into Isaac sitting under one of the large trees that surrounded the building.  Starting to veer away from his son to avoid further confrontation, the younger man instead looked up and waved his father over.  Once Wyatt was within a few feet of the tree Isaac abruptly stood up.

The two men stared at each other for long minutes, ones that were quiet except for the cooing of some rock pigeons that were clustered together on the rooftop of a nearby storage shed.  Ultimately nothing was said between them and Wyatt stepped off to resume smoking his pipe.  By that evening though, they had managed to start talking again.  Wyatt, admitting that he knew little of the geography of Europe, had inquired about how long they still had to travel.

“About six hundred kilometers.”

Wyatt gave his best attempt at converting that to a distance that made sense to him.

“Maybe three hundred miles?”

Isaac only shook his head.

“Well, tell me then.  I have no talent for figuring those kind of things out.”

“Three seventy.”

“Hmmm, a long way then for sure.  What are our travel arrangements?”

Isaac took his time responding, finally putting down the newspaper he was reading and looking at this father.

“So, you do wish to continue on with us then?”

Wyatt only blinked back in response.

“If you do, then you will be following my guidance going forward.  And I mean that completely.  You will do as I say or you and that miserable girl can stay here and find you own way about, or back across the ocean, whatever you choose.”

Realizing that he was now being offered a dare of his own, certainly as a well-thought out plan from the scheming mind of Lydia, Wyatt also knew that he was just as unlikely to call the bluff as his son had been.

“Very well, I understand that we have perhaps taken too many pains to aggravate each other.  Claudia and I shall follow along with you and I will follow your guidance.  Leave the girl alone though.  She has done little to you and yet still knows you despise her.  Leave her in peace.”

Rising up, Isaac replied in a mocking manner.  “I do despise her father.  We leave tomorrow by carriage; Lydia, Ambrose and I.  Our, and your, possessions will follow in the wagon, as will you and the girl.   Eight a.m. father, and not a second later.”

“Yes, very well.”

As the horses stepped off the next morning Wyatt struck up a conversation with the driver of the large wagon after getting Claudia tucked in as comfortably as possible among the chests and cases that accompanied them.  Finding out their route did little to aid him in determining where, or even in what direction they might be going, and the driver’s English was poor enough to limit attempts at trying to figure out more.  Place names such as Neuhaus am Rennweg, Probstzella and Creunitz meant nothing to Wyatt and he felt lost during most of the journey, doing his best to keep track of of their direction of travel.  When they finally pulled into Lippelsdorf, he figured that they had traveled mostly South and perhaps a little to the east during their lengthy, but rather enjoyable, twelve day journey.  Traveling in the much heavier wagon, they had fallen well behind Isaac and his family within the first few hours, and the remainder of the time passed slowly although the scenery was enough to keep Wyatt and Claudia’s attention.  The driver also proved to know many good places to rest and eat on their route, and although not much else was said between them, he and Wyatt struck up a silent friendship along the way.  After helping them unload the wagon the driver gave Wyatt a short, friendly hug and then jumped up into the driver’s seat to immediately start the return journey.  Sitting down on one of the cases, Wyatt took some time look around as Claudia ran in circles around the large pile of belongings.

The town was obviously small but neatly kept, with well-manicured bushes surrounding the few homes he could see from his position on the side of the road.  There were several people walking about, one pushing a wheelbarrow and a small family working together in a garden area of their property.  A tall man, dressed in a wrinkled black suit walked right past Wyatt, and although he stared at the collection of luggage and Claudia, did not offer a greeting.  The most striking scene though was the vast forest that rose up around the town, seeming to wrap it in a blanket of pine trees.  Although Wyatt had seen the rise of these metamorphic-rock mountains as they passed along the narrow road bringing them into Lippelsdorf, it was another thing entirely to see the tall peaks from inside the embrace of the surrounding forest.  Wyatt would have been content to sit and admire them for much more time; however, the piercing voice of his son cut into his reverie.

… to be continued

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