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Updated: Mar 27, 2023

“You’ve been rather quiet, Grandson.”

“I’ve been contemplating where you went wrong with the Spotted Dick.”

Ah, now don’t be fibbin’ to yer grandfather, ScottyGarrett, when ye know that’s not what’s weighin’ on yer mind. Can’t ye see the Good Lord has blessed ye with a day’s worth of the man’s undivided attention?

I wouldn’t be calling it ‘blessed,’ Winnie. And the Spotted Dick comment was more of a jesting dodge than a deliberate fib.

Scott gifted an eye roll to his own reasoning, which compared to Kinsey’s Statements of Convenience. Truth be told, any current pondering wasn’t aimed at Harlan Garrett’s culinary skills but his letter to Roberta Westcott.

Also earning consideration: a day’s worth of the elder Garrett as a captive audience… or perhaps it was the other way around. No matter. What was to be an early start on a brisk, solitary ride to Green River with a punctual return home had now shifted to a delayed departure seated on a rattling rut-seeking buckboard doubling Scott’s travel time. No, the divide and rule opportunity hadn’t simply knocked, it’d kicked down the damn door and he sure as hell better take advantage of it.

“It’s quite obvious where I went wrong. Old man foolishness clouded my confidence that I could match Mrs. MacLoughlin’s talents in the kitchen.” An offered chuckle fell short of its humorous intention. “She was a good employee.”

Scott’s brow dipped. “She was a good friend.”

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Harlan wiped palms across his trousered thighs. “Old man foolishness has also clouded my vocabulary.” A smile of regret targeted the buckboard’s driver. “On more than one occasion, I’m sure you’d concur.”

Scott let his silence speak as confirmation before flipping a page in conversation. However, hesitation permitted his grandfather to select an entirely different book from the verbal shelf.

“Tell me about this young lady of yours. Emily Browning.” Scott’s slow turn of the head inspired a grandfather’s observation. “Well, it appears my vocabulary has achieved a moment of clarity.”

An eyebrow cocked. “Indeed.”

Harlan splayed the fingers of his hands as if to corral a fleeting afterthought. “Kinsey may have mentioned the name in passing.”

“Would that be before, during or after Victor Frankenstein’s haunting of damp hallowed graves?”

“Scotty, please.” An aged boyish smirk gathered its reply. “I believe it was after.” A snorted laugh punctuated the statement.

Admitting the day’s discussions had to start somewhere, Scott’s puffed-cheeked sigh of deflating resignation was softened by his fondness for the subject matter. “I met Miss Browning in Sacramento -”

“Ah, Sacramento.”

“Yes, Sacramento…at a viticulturist gala at Leland Stanford’s -”

“The governor’s mansion.”

“Right. Miss Browning, being the head chef at the Arcade Hotel -”

“An independent woman with a fine work ethic.”

“I tried one of her canapés -”

Lobster canapés. Well now, she’s charming and persuasive.”

Scott pulled on the reins, bringing the buckboard to a halt. “Why am I getting the impression you know Emily Browning better than I do?”

A throat cleared. “Kinsey may have mentioned more than just the woman’s name and she sounds delightful.”

“She is. I’ll be certain to introduce you at the wedding.” Clarity continued to dictate. “And that would be your niece’s wedding, not your grandson’s.”

“May God grant these bones time here on earth for both blessed events.”

Scott grinned. “Sir, I suspect the Good Lord is in no hurry to call you home.” A snap of the reins lurched the buckboard on its journey. “Now, why don’t you tell me more about Roberta Westcott.”

“I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. Our mutual interests regarding the welfare of our children and other matters have allowed our acquaintance to grow into the familiarity of friendship.”

Scott suppressed a laugh. Familiarity of Friendship. A phrase which Miss Providence would have embraced. “It has occurred to me your conversancy with Seth’s mother far exceeds that of mine and Kinsey’s combined. I’d like to hear your impression of the woman.”

“As opposed to Roberta’s son and father-in-law’s perspectives?” A gray eyebrow arched. “I suggest, young man, you apply a dose of my aforementioned clarity to your last request.”

“All right. It is a fact Phillip Westcott has very strong opinions of his daughter-in-law which, in turn, may have influenced his grandson’s views. Certainly not the first time an elder’s convictions have swayed younger thoughts.” Scott’s nod of the head accompanied his slight smile. “Clarity added to query and respectfully resubmitted for your approval.”

Harlan’s grunt implied his approval was minimal. “I believe our definitions of respectfully differ, however, I will agree with your assessment of Phillip.”

“Which is why, sir, I’d appreciate hearing your perception of Mrs. Westcott. It’s difficult to determine an accurate point of view when given only one angle.”

“Well stated, Scotty, and a good rule of thumb.” Harlan readjusted his backside more accustomed to overstuffed leather chairs and padded carriage seats. “And one I’ve ignored at times when it could have proven beneficial.”

Scott’s peripheral vision captured his grandfather’s wistful expression. “Hindsight possesses an outstanding amount of clarity.”

“Indeed it does.” The Garrett patriarch rubbed his hands together as if the sun’s warmth couldn’t reach them. “So, my thoughts regarding Roberta. She loves her son very much. She’s made that quite clear to me.”

“Yet, she returned to Boston after her husband’s death without her son.”

“She’d hoped he'd eventually join her, but… life can be a bit stingy with hopes. She blames too much Westcott blood running through Seth’s veins.”

“What do you think, sir?”

“Well, I think Seth Westcott is a fine young man.”

“I believe we were discussing Roberta Westcott.”

Tells. Everyone possessed a few, in Scott’s opinion. Kinsey bit her lower lip when bluffing while Johnny tugged his earlobe when avoiding. And Harlan Garrett? Well, he dipped a chin with crossed arms when contemplating.

Right on cue, Harlan contemplated. “Scotty, some people were never meant to leave Boston.”

“Another shared mind in the familiarity of friendship?”

“Ho, Ho! I think I’ve fared well here since my arrival.” The elder Garrett leaned in as if to share a dark secret. “Just keep me out of the kitchen and away from cattle drives.” The enjoyment of the joke dwindled to a serious tone. “Each year Boston offers me fewer reasons to stay.”

Scott’s brow creased at his grandfather’s vague comment. “May I suggest, sir, you apply a dose of your aforementioned clarity to that last sentiment.”

“Rooms in the brownstone echo more. Sighting old acquaintances lessens. The accounting firm along with Garrett businesses are in capable hands of gentlemen who don’t need an old coot breathing down their necks to make day-to-day decisions.”

Old coot. His grandfather’s use of the phrase painted a smile on Scott’s face. “So what are you saying? You’re pulling up stakes?”

“Pulling up stakes! A man my age pulling up stakes.” Palms slapped on thighs. “Oh, I like the sound of that! Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

“Wait.” Reins tightened and the buckboard came to halt for the second time in its journey. Scott’s thumb pushed on his hat rim. Sitting back with a tilt of the head, he stared at his travel companion. “You’re serious?”

Look at that ol’ man’s face, brother. He’s as serious as a kneelin’ nun on a Sunday.

Scott’s eyes squinted in scrutiny. “You are serious.”

“Tell me, what does Green River offer in overnight accommodations?”

“What has that got to do with this?”

“Because if you keep stopping, young man, we won’t be reaching our destination until sundown.”

“Right.” A half-hearted twitch of the reins resumed the clip-clop of horse hooves as Scott’s clarity struggled with Divide and Rule taking on a new meaning.

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