Conversation with Grandfather by Vicki L. Nelson

Word Count 3,236



Many thanks to my beta, Raian, for her invaluable input and to Adriana for help with my espanol!

Who Makes Me Happy #4


Several days had passed and while Scott was feeling better, he still hadn’t been cleared by Doc Jenkins. During Scott’s recuperation, his whole family looked in on him from time to time. He welcomed Johnny, Teresa and Maria, but was politely distant to both Murdoch and his grandfather.

Johnny was visiting with his brother, his feet up on the bed and bringing Scott up-to-date on the goings on, both at the ranch and in the home.

Maria burst in and practically slammed down the tray. Stunned, Scott reared back in surprise as she’d been solicitous up until then. “Is there a problem, Maria? Is it something I’ve done?”

In reality, after several days of freezing Murdoch out, it seemed she’d had enough. Giving him a dark look, Maria grumbled under her breath. “Tu pobre padre se siente muy miserable. Estas siendo muy grosero con el. No es como tu desgraciademente. Tu abuelo puede ser mas compansivo con el, pero no lo hace. Me siento muy decepcionada de ti, m’hijo.”

She exited the room, practically slamming the bedroom door. Scott stared at the door open-mouthed.

Johnny swung his feet off of the bed, planting them on the floor with a thud. Giving out a sharp whistle, he said, “Hooey, brother. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes right now. She is not happy with you! Maybe I should be one of them royal taste testers, you know in case she poisoned your grub.”

Confused, Scott stuttered. “What exactly did she say? I’m picking up Spanish, but she spoke way too fast for me to catch that.”

Shaking his head, Johnny said, “She scolded you like a little kid.”

Scott gawped at his brother, looking lost. “Why, what did I do? Tell me what she said.”

Taking a deep breath, Johnny said, “You sure you want to know?” Scott nodded. “Okay, she said, Your poor father; he is miserable. You are being very rude to him. It isn’t like you, for shame. Your grandfather may deserve it, but he does not. I’m very disappointed in you, my son!

Scott’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Yep. Hey, not to change the subject but your abuelo is chomping at the bit to leave and the mood is pretty frosty. We’re kinda ready to let him leave, so if you’re gonna have a talk with him, better do it soon.”

Scott tossed the bed covers aside, swinging his feet to the floor. “I guess I better get this done with; this has gone on long enough…”

“Whoa, where do you think you’re going?”

“Downstairs. What’s it look like?”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Doc hasn’t given you the okay yet. Murdoch will throw you over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and toss you back in bed.”

Scott stuck out his lower lip. “I’d like to see him try!”

“So would I! I’d even pay to see that.” Johnny guffawed.

Scott gaped at him, angry and dumbfounded. After a few seconds, his expression changed and he snickered. The mood lightened, Scott relented. “Okay, better get this over with. Johnny, will you ask Grandfather to come up here?”

Giving him a lop-sided grin, Johnny let out a sigh of relief. “Gladly, brother, gladly. Good luck.”


There came a knock on the door. “Enter.”

Harlan peeked his head around the door hesitantly. “You wanted to see me, Scotty?”

“Yes, and it’s Scott.”

Harlan advanced slowly and stood beside the chair next to the bed. “Now that you seem to be on the mend, I feel I must be going soon.”

“Not before you and I have a long overdue discussion.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sit down, Grandfather!”

Harlan took a step back. “How dare you speak to me like that? You were raised better, young man!”

Scott, clenching his bedclothes, took a deep breath. After a long pause, he tried to get his emotions under control. Softening his tone, he said, “You’re correct and that’s what I want to talk to you about. Please sit down, sir.”

A few seconds passed as Harlan, slowly and warily sank down into the chair next to Scott’s bed, perching on the edge of his seat as if he were poised for flight.

Taking a deep breath, Scott went on. “Grandfather, I want the truth about how I came to be raised in Boston by you.”

“I’ve given you the truth!”

“Have you, sir? I want the real truth and, if it’s not forthcoming, I do not intend to ever see you again.”

“You can’t mean that! I raised you!”

“And you have my gratitude…”

“Gratitude is something I never wanted from you, my boy!”

“I’m afraid I do mean it. It seems you’re hesitant, sir. Let me ask you a question. Would my mother have approved of me being raised in Boston instead of returning me to Lancer to be with my father? Is that what she would have wanted?”

Harlan sat motionless, looking through Scott, not at him. After a long pause, he buried his head in his hands. “I did what I thought was best for you, but no, I don’t believe she would have.”

“That’s a start. Now, tell me, how did I come to be raised in Boston?”

Harlan rose and walked to the window. He remainedsilent for so long, Scott began to believe his grandfather was not prepared to tell him the truth. Scott saw the usually ramrod stiff spine sag. Turning away from the window, he faced his grandson, a resolute expression on his face.

“I suppose you’re old enough to know the truth and you are owed. I never wanted your mother to marry Murdoch. He was a penniless immigrant, fresh off the boat from Scotland. She could have done so much better. Yet, nothing I did or said could stop her from falling in love with him and marrying him. I was resigned to that fact, but when he announced he was dragging my daughter to the other end of the continent, I was appalled! Who knew if I would ever see her again?”

“Surely, Grandfather, with your business dealings and your means, you could have seen her if you’d chosen to…”

“Not as often as if she’d remained where she belonged – in Boston.”

“You’ve made your feelings known, but you still haven’t told me how I came to be raised in Boston.”

“I received news from your mother telling me she was in the family way. I was happy about a grandchild but horrified that he or she would be raised in the wilds of California. Then,before her time was nearly upon her, I received a telegraph from Murdoch, telling me that he was sending her away from Lancer due to land pirates in the San Joaquin valley. Of course, I was horrified and that telegraph only proved to me that my fears were grounded. I was to meet her and escort her to San Francisco, where she would give birth. I met her on the way and you were early.”

Hands behind his back, Harlan began to pace back-and-forth, as if reliving the moment. He was gripping them so hard, Scott noticed his white knuckles. “We couldn’t make it to San Francisco. She delivered you on the side of the road and I was so frightened, trying to help but wondering if I would lose the both of you. After giving birth to you, we found the nearest burg, Carterville, I believe it was called. We found a midwife there, but I didn’t trust the woman to help. Catherine was able to hold you and nurse you for a short while.Soon afterwards, she developed a high fever and you refused to nurse.

“What was I to do? If we’d remained in Carterville, she would have died. Her chances, your chances, were better in San Francisco. To have any chance of finding a wet nurse, we needed to reach a real city for you, and we set out towards San Francisco. After a short while on the road, we could see your mother had taken a turn for the worse. We immediately turned back for Carterville, but my sweet Catherine died on the way. I left money for a fine burial and left, taking you.”

Scott’s mouth dropped open and he almost jumped out of bed. Just in time, he remembered his head. “You didn’t even stay for her funeral?”

“You don’t understand, I was stranded in the middle of a godforsaken place with a premature infant. I was frightened for you and felt that time was of the essence. We immediately left for San Francisco.”

Scott laid back in bed and stared up at the ceiling, not able to utter a word, while he digested what he had just been told. There was pregnant pause. “You arrived in San Francisco. Why did you not stay there until my father could catch up with us?”

“I planned to, but I fell in love with you the moment I laid eyes on you. You were a living link to my daughter, and a need to protect you came over me. I couldn’t let you go back to that wilderness. What kind of life was that for a child?”

Upon hearing that Grandfather loved him, Scott was flummoxed. He couldn’t remember his grandfather ever telling him he loved him.

“Did you love me for myself or see me as a substitute for my mother or a chance to exact revenge on my father? If I understand you correctly, you felt like you’d gotten a second chance…with me?”

Harlan looked like a gutted fish. “I never thought of it in those terms. I just wanted the best for you and the best was back in Boston. I gave you the best education, the best of everything.”

“I understand that I led a privileged life, a much nicer life than my brother’s…” Scott’s words dwindled, as he looked down at his clenched hands. “Speaking of my brother, did you know I had a younger brother?”

Harlan grimaced. “Not at first. I found out later when I kept tabs on your…Murdoch. I also didn’t feel as if Johnny would be a good influence on you, being half Mexican and raised God knows how, in those seedy little border towns…”

Scott looked as if he was going to jump out of bed and throttle his grandfather. Harlan held out his hand. “I realize I was wrong about him. I’ve gotten to know him and he is a decent person, considering how he was raised.”

“Well, that’s a big concession for you, Grandfather. I’m glad you realize that Johnny is a good person; I’d do anything for him.” Scott leaned back and seemed to consider something else. “Wait, you kept tabs on my father? Why did my father pose some sort of threat to you?”

“I wanted to see if he was prospering; if there was a chance he might try to reclaim you again.”

“What do you mean by ‘again?’”

Harlan turned away; he hadn’t meant for that to slip out. When he turned back, Scott was glaring at him and he knew he had to come clean. “Murdoch came to Boston on your fifth birthday.” He paused.

Scott raised up abruptly and he gaped at Harlan in disbelief. “Go on!”

“He came for you. I don’t suppose you remember as you were so young. I called you into the parlor and introduced you to’Murdoch.’”

A sense of wonder washed over Scott. “I do remember meeting a man, a very tall man. He made quite the impression on me because of the Jack and the Beanstalk story. I felt like Jack and he was the giant!” Lowering his eyes, he asked plaintively. “Why didn’t I go home with him?”

Harlan turned ashen and sputtered. “I…I wouldn’t let him.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t you see, I couldn’t let you go back to that wilderness. I would always worry about you like I worried about your mother.”

Scott’s face dropped as he turned away. Turning back, he looked lost as he asked, “How did you stop him?”

“I threatened to take him to court. I threatened to drag you through court. I suppose he didn’t want to do that to you, as well as knowing that you were happy in Boston with me. He knew he couldn’t offer you the same life I could.”

“In essence, he gave me up because he thought that was best for me. Would you have really dragged me into court?”

“No, I wouldn’t have done that to you, but apparently Murdoch thought I would. The man gave up too easily.”

Scott stared at him in shock. “He thought he knew you too well; you called his bluff. You should have made your living by playing poker, Grandfather!”

“Don’t be impertinent!”

Scott scoffed, “I was cosseted until I got older and went to Harvard and began to see how the world works. Not everyone was as privileged as me. Do you wonder why I was so anxious to break away? Did you wonder why I snuck away and joined the Army when I was underage? I felt as if I needed to be a part of something bigger than me.”

“There was no need for you to see the real world! I tried to get you out of the Army. I offered to pay for a replacement.* When you refused that, stubborn boy, I tried to buy you a commission.”

“I didn’t want that. I saw what the real world was, and when I was captured and thrown into a Confederate POW camp, I saw the worst of humanity.”

“When you have children, grandchildren of your own, you’ll understand that I was terrified every minute you were gone. I was afraid I would lose you, as I lost your mother.”

“And if I had died, I would have gone to my grave without my father ever having the chance to know me.”

Harlan’s eyes widened as he gasped and turned away. Scott saw him tremble as he composed himself. “I didn’t think about that. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself for that.”

Scott grew contemplative. “After you turned away my father, did he ever try to contact me again?”

Harlan looked upwards as if he could pull the words out of the air to explain himself.

“The truth, Grandfather!”

Harlan lowered his eyes. “Yes, he used to send you letters and packages. I didn’t give them to you as I didn’t want you upset and confused.”

“You did the exact opposite! Don’t you suppose I was upset and confused wondering why my father didn’t want me, why he never contacted me or came for me? It was all a lie!”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“No, you didn’t.” Scott had turned beet red, then seconds later he paled. “Then when the Pinkerton agent showed up and told me my father wanted an hour of my time, I nearly laughed in his face. Here I was, twenty-four, and my father finally gave a thought to me. I almost didn’t go, but my life after the war had grown unbearable. I was a driftless playboy with no ambition and less drive. That wasn’t me.”

“You could have had an important position working for Garrett Enterprises.”

“I didn’t want that. Maybe I do have something of my father in me. I never wanted anything handed to me; I wanted to earn it.”

“Lancer was handed to you.”

“No, it wasn’t. I worked hard to earn my third of Lancer!”

“You have a legacy waiting for you in Boston!”

“I have a legacy for me here at Lancer that was always mine, my birthright!”

“I thought I was doing the right thing by you.”

“By taking me away from my father, by depriving me of the life I was always meant to live? I know you love me, but it’s a conditional love. Love doesn’t blackmail. Love doesn’t lie. I’m not sure I can ever forgive you for the dirty tricks you pulled to get me back to Boston.”

“Imagine how lonely my life would have been without you.”

“Did you ever think of my father’s loneliness? You hated Murdoch for taking your only child away from him, but you had twenty years with your daughter. My father had none of that. He never experienced my infancy, my childhood. He missed out on all of that and you had that! Did you take me out of love and concern for me or out of revenge?”

Harlan had been pacing when he suddenly stopped and sank into the chair. Bowing his head and clasping his hands, he whispered, “I suppose both, now that you point it out.”

“I feel sorry for you, Grandfather. I feel sorry for my father, my brother, and myself.”

“Scotty… Scott, I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t make up for any of it, but I love you… I’ve always loved you. I see now that I did you a disservice, but I didn’t think that at the time.”

“And I love you, Grandfather. I always will, but I’ve lost so many years…”

“Can you ever forgive me, my boy?”

Scott couldn’t look at his grandfather and remained speechless for so long, Harlan was suddenly fearful of what he might say; would he be forgiven? Scott finally turned and locked eyes. “Yes. For my mother’s sake and for my own, I forgive you. There’s one thing else I need from you, though.”

“What is it? I’ll do anything!”

“Apologize to my father.”

Harlan nearly choked as he visibly pulled himself together. He would have to eat crow, but he knew the words were long overdue. “Yes, yes, of course, before I leave to go back home. In fact, now that I know you’re on the mend, I will be leaving quite early in the morning so I can catch the first train out. I don’t want you to get up to say good-bye as you still need your rest, my boy. I will say my good-byes tonight.”

Scott blinked. He had been upset with his grandfather, but he couldn’t help feeling somewhat dispirited about his leaving.

Harlan cleared his throat and asked, “Will you visit me in Boston?”

“I will try to get back to Boston – sometime.”

Harlan reached for Scott’s hand, giving him a firm handshake while holding his gaze for a long moment. He then did something that shocked Scott. He rested his hand atop his grandson’s head for a long second, then turned towards the door.

“Yes, Scotty – sometime.”

As the door closed quietly behind him, Scott continued to gaze at it. Clearing his throat and talking to himself, he said “My room must be in need of dusting; I think I have something in my eye.”


To Be Continued

*Many healthy men who were eligible to serve  in  the military  during the Civil War never ended up enlisting. The Enrollment Act of 1863 provided that a draftee could pay  a “substitute” enrollee the sum of $300 (about $5,000  in  today’s terms)  in  order to enlist  in  his place.


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16 thoughts on “Conversation with Grandfather by Vicki L. Nelson

  1. Are yo going to complete this story, Vicki? I was enjoying it. Great to see Harlan get told off. Didn’t know you were a Lancer fan as well,


  2. Hi Vicki, I really enjoyed this! Legacy is one of my favorite episodes and I wish we could have seen what happened between the shooting and Harlan’s departure. I like the way Scott was able to confront Harlan about his behavior.
    Thanks, KathyW


  3. Legacy is one of my favorite episodes. Would love to see an interaction between Scott and Murdoch. Really enjoy your writing and look forward to more stories.


  4. Hi Vicki,

    I really enjoyed your story! You are a very talented writer. I hope you finish this story and I hope to see more by you. Great job! Katie


  5. Hi, all. Thank you for your kind words. I’m not yet finished with the story as there will be at least two, maybe three chapters to go. I have started the next chapter…I’m hoping that I can post it by this weekend.


  6. Vicki,

    Wonderful insight into Scott’s thoughts in those early days at Lancer. Your line regarding his grandfather and father, “One man who loved him too much and one who didn’t seem to love him enough, if at all.” is telling and well-worded. Murdoch certainly didn’t help himself by making no effort to encourage Scott to stay. The scene with Johnny was heartwarming. I will eagerly look forward to more.

    Thanks for sharing!


  7. Great story Vicki, Scott has always been the only blond I’ve ever loved-there needed to be a follow-up to Legacy and you’ve done a wonderful job.


    1. Thank you, Laura. I must admit I liked Billy Blue Cannon and Joshua Bolt as my type seems to be blue-eyed blonds. However, Scott is my favorite! Thank you for your compliment. I intend to write several more chapters.


    1. Mary, thank you. I’m always pleased to get kudos from Johnny gals! I intend to write several more chapters; I hope you’ll enjoy them.


  8. These stories are like potato chips—can’t read just one! I’m definitely hooked. Thank you for writing these wonderful stories


  9. Thanks Vicki really enjoyed reading this story, felt like I was back at Lancer once again finally finishing Legacy the way it should have been.


  10. That’s very flattering! Legacy is my favorite episode but it left too many open questions. I intend to write several more chapters of the story. Thank you!


  11. Well, aren’t you sweet? Now I’m hungry for potato chips. I intend to write several more chapters to this story. Thanks for the kudos!


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