Grin and Bear It
Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.
Mary Shelley’s words from her novel, which Scott had used to bolster Kinsey’s reprimand, now came careening back to give his own brain a smarting thwack.
“My boy, is the notion of your grandfather setting forth on a new adventure to embrace his only grandson’s western lifestyle so inconceivable it’s left you speechless?”
Staring at the backends of the buckboard’s trotting horses, Scott and his comprehension didn’t fully commit to the definition of speechless -
- but came damn close. However, when silently envisioning Murdoch Lancer’s response upon hearing this news where speechlessness would not be an issue, comprehension excelled.
“Scoootteee, remove the look of trepidation from your face. It’s not like I’m taking up permanent residence in the room next to yours.”
“Good to know.” Trepidation moved over for confusion to climb on board. “So, what is it like… exactly? Are you selling the brownstone? Liquidating assets?”
“Liquidating our businesses? Selling the home that has been in the Garrett family for decades? Heavens no!” The patriarch’s billowing sails of blustery rebuke soon luffed and lost momentum. “No, no, no. I simply wish not to leave this world like my brother. Alone and unhappy.”
“Fletcher left with a cigar in one hand and a bourbon in the other while firing an employee. The man was neither alone nor unhappy.”
“You’re being difficult.”
“I’m being honest.”
Harlan’s hand swished away his weighted sigh as if it was a buzzing horsefly and offered common ground. “Yes, I suppose you are being honest. Well, can we at least agree my brother was a shining example on how not to spend the later years of one’s life?”
“Agreed.” An eyebrow raised. “And you, sir, will be?”
“Ah, the details of my venture. Of course.” A chuckled apology shook the elder’s head. “I fear my train of thought has strayed from the cow drive.”
“Cattle.” Scott’s smirk reiterated. “It’s cattle.” Let the record show - now the grandson was being difficult.
Harlan’s brief frown dismissed further discussion on proper ranching terms, allowing anticipation to dive into the details regarding his proposed exemplary shine during the later years of life. “The gentlemen at the Union Club call it seasonal residence: a warm place to hang one’s hat during Boston’s show of winter months. They say this uplifting change in surroundings reaps benefits both physically and mentally.”
“And financially?” A sideways glance waited for a reply.
“I believe we can both agree that with any venture there is always the prospect of financial gain. And, so I ask you, what better location for such a residence than the state of California?”
A list of 35 other stately choices tumbled through Scott’s head. “Sir, have you considered -”
“I wish to purchase the Garrett’s migratory home in Sacramento: a beautiful city, from what I understand, possessing prosperous businesses and opportunities while showcasing its social venue as California’s capital. Much like Boston if one takes the time to ponder the similarities.”
Pondering, Scott's gaze drifted to the cloudless blue sky above. A prayer for the appearance of one or two snowflakes seemed rather fruitless.
“I know what you’re going to say, Scotty.”
“Rest assured none of the staff will be let go. The brownstone will require constant upkeep in my absence. Of course, if any of our employees wish to pull up stakes and travel west, I’d certainly consider it. If not, I’m confident Sacramento offers adequate domestic help. And during my grandson’s frequent visits we’ll feast on lobster canapés at the Arcade Hotel. Won’t that be grand?”
“Grand.” Being a word Scott hadn’t planned on saying, it struggled to sound complying, which necessitated a follow up of optimism. “You’ve certainly given this all some thought.”
“My boy, when have I not thought things through?”
The last time Scott checked, hiring the Degan brothers still maintained a comfortable lead in Harlan Garrett’s horse race of things not thought through.
Ah, ScottyGarrett, ye grandfather’s tryin’. Give ‘im a wee bit of a nod. Every coin has two sides.
True. And when one faces the light, their backside is to the dark, Winnie.
“Young man, in the past I’ve rejected the idea that Boston can no longer offer the future you wish to have or feel you deserve. At the time, I felt I knew best. I was wrong.” The Garrett patriarch leaned in. “Now, how often have you heard your grandfather utter those three words?”
“And mean it? Rarely.”
The wagon’s passenger sat back with a huff, suggesting frustration with his driver. “Scott, I wish to be near my family. I wish to be a part of their lives. I pray they will permit me as I take the next steps to fulfill my desires.”
Next steps. Scott’s eyes settled on his grandfather’s coat pocket housing the letter to Roberta Westcott as the wagon hit a bump creating a slight tilt which gave the sensation of taking on extra weight. The elephant in the museum had sat down between the two men and insisted on Scott asking its question.
“Is Seth’s mother aware of Kinsey’s inheritance and the generous amount?”
Instead of choosing Murdoch’s study with its fine leather and first editions, Scott had decided the shade of an old oak tree filtering afternoon sun would be a better setting to talk to Kinsey about Fletcher’s will and her future.
The bewildered beneficiary pointed to one of the many documents containing confusing Legal English laid out in front of her - stones holding the papers in place against the breeze. “Is this figure correct?”
Scott nodded. “Your grandfather's assets were more than we first thought.”
“Who knows this?”
Scott was caught off guard by the question. “Well, there’s you and me…”
“Yes. He helped me with the paperwork. I wanted to confirm I understood it all.”
“What about Uncle Harlan?”
“According to the rules of attorney-client privilege, my grandfather should not be aware of the final figure. However, the gentleman is a master in maneuvering around obstacles in his way so chances are good he may know.” Scott sighed as he tried to guess what was going on inside his cousin’s head. “Kinsey, I’ll do my very best to keep this information from becoming common knowledge but eventually, word will get out. There will always be situations we have no control over - like being named as the sole heir in the will of a man you hardly knew. Now, according to that paper, it's official and time to figure out our next steps.”
“If Roberta is knowledgeable of my niece’s financial security, my boy, she didn’t hear it from my lips.” A hand patted a coat pocket. “Or my pen.”
What about Uncle Harlan?
Yes, little one, he knows.
As Green River drew closer, attempts to fill in multiple gaps regarding the Garrett patriarch’s westward plans produced start and stop discussions, all of which danced around but never truly waltzed again with the topic of Kinsey’s inheritance.
Inheritance? Ho, ho Lancer! Beating that dead horse with a stick again? Tell me, old boy, at this point what the hell difference does it make?
Well, MacCallister, according to a certain Boston lawyer the answer would be ‘none.’
Inspired by two stubborn mules in a Beacon Hill brownstone, Kinsey had hired Jonathon Masters, Esquire to begin the battle over her grandfather’s will. It was Masters who then recommended his nephew to continue the legal fight from his office in Philadelphia. Both men assisted Scott as he waded through lawyer language in correspondence and Harlan Garrett’s demands until the final draft of the trustee agreement was official. Later, during a return trip to his grandfather’s, Scott had sat in front of the lawyer’s desk once again and sought out a scratch to relieve a brain itch which had arisen with Kinsey’s first sighting of one Seth Westcott.
Scott had crossed ankle to knee as he settled back in a well-worn leather chair reserved for clients and determined little had changed over the past several months in the office of Jonathon Masters.
The lawyer plopped a large portfolio on his desk. With raised eyebrows, the gentleman stated the apparent. “Your grandfather’s barristers are rather chatty.” Patting the papers in front of him, he sat down. “Now, what can I clear up for you?”
Scott shifted in his chair. “Well, if Kinsey was to be married -”
“A wedding! Marvelous!”
“No! No wedding.”
“An engagement, then. Please send my congratulations -”
“No. No engagement.”
“No. I mean… no suitors I’m aware of.”
“I see.” Masters sat back and folded his hands across his chest. “Shall we call this planning for the future in case the young lady is smitten with love at first sight?”
“Yes.” Scott’s eyes widened to emphasize his concern. “Smitten. My question is if Kinsey were to marry before she reaches the age of twenty-five, how would this legally affect the trust and her inheritance? I know it was a point of contention which traveled back and forth between the various parties. My memory needs refreshing.”
Truth be told, Scott’s memory didn’t need jarring. He remembered quite clearly how it was stated in the final document. However, now there lurked a question in the back of his mind and he had to be certain of the answer.
Masters adjusted his reading glasses as he scanned the trust agreement searching for the correct passage. “Ah, here it is. As in said first party -”
“Wait.” Scott held up his hand and displayed a sheepish grin. “Layman’s terms. Please. Legal English gives me a headache.”
Masters nodded. “Understood. It gives me indigestion.” He gathered his thoughts. “Mr. Lancer, you’ll remain the executor of Miss Furlong’s inheritance until she reaches the age of twenty-five. If Miss Furlong weds before the age of twenty-five, your duties as trustee will end.”
Scott leaned forward. “And?”
“And...” Masters cleared his throat. “The newly wedded Miss Furlong will be in control of her inheritance.”
“And her husband?”
“Assuming the marriage is performed under the state law of California…” The lawyer rose to select a dusty leather-bound book from a shelf holding similar editions. “... and according to the California Constitution of 1849 - distinguishing a wife’s property from community property…” Jonathon Masters flipped through the pages and stopped. “All property, both real and personal, of the wife, owned or claimed by her before marriage, and that acquired afterward by gift, or descent, shall be her separate property; and laws shall be passed more clearly defining the rights of the wife in relation as well to her separate property as to that held in common with her husband. In other words, Miss Furlong keeps sole control of her finances unless she legally states through the courts a change on how the property is to be shared.” Masters removed his reading glasses and placed them on the open book. “I believe this is where the word smitten comes into play.”
Love at first sight.
Scott slowed the wagon as it passed Miss Providence’s former place of employment -
Labyrinth of Love.
— and came to a halt across from the Green River telegraph office. Call it what you want. In a few short weeks, Kinsey would be marrying the man she’d chosen to be her husband. And the way Scott saw it, her trustee’s final duty would be seeing all loose ends neatly tied up in a wedding bow.
Scott spotted Benjamin Hillard balancing a few packages in one arm while managing a wave and a shout. Returning the gesture, a request was made. “Ben! Hold up.”
“Sure thing!” A wide smile on the boy’s face suggested he welcomed a break in chores as tumbling packages landed haphazardly on a nearby bench.
Scott rolled his eyes. Hopefully, none of the boxes contained jelly jars destined for the Hargis store. Pointing to the lad, a decision finalized. “Sir, I’d like you to meet my private Pony Express.”
Ben jogged across a dusty street and stood patting the nose of the wagon's nearest weary horse. “These fellas looks a mite thirsty, Mr. Lancer. Want me to go fetch them a drink from the stables?”
Scott smiled as feet hit the ground. Benjamin Hillard, entrepreneur. “Good idea. Saving me the trip should be worth a sarsaparilla or two.” Spying the lad eyeballing with curiosity the elder gentleman at Scott’s side, introductions commenced. “Ben, I’d like you to meet my grandfather, Mr. Garrett. Sir, this is Benjamin Hillard - one of Green River’s more industrious residents.”
“A pleasure to meet you, young man.” Harlan offered a handshake.
Wiping off on his pant leg any telltale dirt from the palm of his hand, Ben accepted the greeting. “Likewise!”
“If you have a minute we have a profitable proposition for you, Ben.” Scott snagged two letters from a coat pocket and signaled to his grandfather to produce Roberta’s correspondence. “These three letters need to be delivered to the Westcott Vineyards. Know of the place?”
“Sure do! Me and Pa rode out there last year. He’d run out of his grape juice.”
“Right.” Scott surrendered the envelopes to the lad. “I know it’s a lengthy journey to the Westcott’s so you’ll need your father and mother’s permission first.” An eyebrow raised. “If I hear differently on their nod of approval, you and I will be having a discussion.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Lancer. I’ll ask them at supper. Could leave early tomorrow morning.”
“That works just fine. Tell them you’d be spending the night at the Westcott’s and heading back home the next day.” Scott smiled. No doubt with Seth as an escort. “Now for payment.”
A throat cleared with Harlan stepping forward, leather coin purse in hand. “I’d like to cover the finances for this business transaction.” Coins were fished from the pouch and placed in the boy’s hand.
Scrutinized compensation painted astonishment on Ben’s face followed by a dipped brow of concern. “You best put on your spectacles Mr. Lancer’s Grandpappy. These here are gold coins, not silver.”
“Spectacles not needed, my boy. I recognize high-quality service when I see it.”
Scott’s low whistle stated the obvious. “That will buy quite a few sarsparillas for Abigail Marples.”
“Who?” Ben squinted upward, “Oh. Her. She likes Billy Saunders now. Tell you the truth, Mr. Lancer, she was getting kind of expensive.”
A solemn condolence of similar experiences stifled Scott’s laugh. “Understood.”
“Well now -” Harlan rubbed his hands together. “I find myself a bit peckish and parched. Do I detect the aroma of baked apples in the air?”
“The hotel’s serving Widow Patterson’s pies today.” Ben lowered his voice to share sensitive information. “I’ve seen Sheriff Crawford walk down that way three times already. You best hurry.”
“Sound advice, Master Hillard.” A half-hearted promise sent the patriarch in the direction of satisfying sweetness. “I’ll try and save you a piece, Scotty.”
A grandson’s pained expression, keeping in time with his grandfather’s departure, required its own condolence. “It’s all right, Mr. Lancer. My ma calls me Ben-Ben. Embarrassing as getout but sometimes a fella just has to grin and bear it.”
Placing hands on hips, Scott’s puffed cheeks slowly deflated with a sigh. “Indeed, a fella certainly does.”