First, I want to apologize for taking so long (again). Unfortunately, lately, my time is not my own. Please know that I will continue to write. I'm not going anywhere...permanently anyway. And second, I want to thank a reader, Different Guest, for pointing out my temporary lapse. In explanation, I've done a great deal of study to get all the historical points of this story, at least, close to correct. In my haste to write the last chapter, I swapped the location of the end of their trip on what was considered the first transcontinental railway and the other side of the river. The city where our travelers disembarked the ferry for dry ground was actually Council Bluffs, Iowa after leaving the train in Omaha, Nebraska. Thank you, Different Guest.
While Abel alternated days between the Slater, Cartwright and Kelley offices and the Slater home, Beau went into the office each day. Since Adam's primary work was the City Hall, Beau decided he'd take part in order to start learning about the actual work that his father directed. He thought by doing the work, he'd absorb more, and because his direction was mostly coming from his father, he'd receive a more detailed explanation of why things were done certain ways. If he decided to go back to New England for school, he'd be more prepared than those who would be his classmates.
Unfortunately, Adam's work involved measuring, staking out lines for support walls and sketching, so there wasn't that much for Beau to do until Adam gave him a small board, paper, a drawing pencil and a ruler. After that, most of his time was spent with his tongue sticking out of one side of his mouth as he learned how to draw depth.
The first evening back at the house, Beau compared his drawings with his father's and realized his father could have been an artist. Then he remembered his father's sketch of Shiloh with her horses hanging over the fireplace at the stock ranch and smiled. "I guess he is an artist," he said to himself.
When Lo stepped into the office to tell Beau dinner was ready, Beau stood. "I need to go get them, Lo. Pa took Abel for ride. It might be few minutes."
"Lo keep dinner warm." The Chinese man bowed and left with Beau right behind him, but when Lo reached the bottom of the stairs, he turned left toward the kitchen.
Beau walked out the front door. He found his own horse tied to the rail below the high front porch. He mounted and headed down the road, knowing he'd be able to see off into the fields if Adam hadn't stayed on the road. It wasn't long before Beau spotted them off in a field of grass.
Adam was standing on the ground while Abel was in a saddle much too big for him. Still, Abel held his feet tight against the sides of the horse as he worked the reins so the horse walked in circles around his father.
"Pa! Lo has dinner waiting," said Beau as he approached them.
Adam gently grabbed the bridle of the horse Abel was riding, then moved to its side and stepped up in the stirrup, landing behind Abel in the saddle. "Take us home, Son."
Turning his body to look up at his father, Abel smiled, nodded and reined the horse toward home as Adam gave it a gentle nudge with his heels.
Isabella was awake early. She'd let the children and Amalee sleep while she dressed and left their compartment. Announcing her arrival before she actually arrived, she listened for anyone to yell, "Wait!". There was no such warning, so she stepped through the arch of the corridor and walked on.
Most of the musicians sleeping in the middle portion of the car were awake and dressed, and were righting their beds, making seats in their places. Some were already checking that their instruments were adequately packed away for the last leg of their journey from the train station in New York to their accommodations.
She continued on to the private cabin at the back of the car, where Titus and their orchestra conductor shared the room, and knocked on the door.
"One moment, please," came Titus voice.
Isabella waited patiently, moving to the wall of the cabin, leaning against it and crossing her arms.
"Uh oh," said one of the cellists. "Titus is keeping her waiting."
Laughing, Isabella said, "I don't mind waiting. I'd rather they be dressed when they open the door. Raising her eyebrow, she gave the cellist and those who had gathered around him a cheeky smile.
"What are we doing when we get to New York?" asked another of the musicians.
Pushing off the wall, Isabella walked among them. "First, we are resting."
At the incredulous looks she received, she said, "We've all been stuck on this train for eight days now. I want you all to take some time to enjoy yourselves in the wide open once you get settled in your hotel rooms. We are staying at the Grand Hotel for a few days, courtesy of the City of New York and Niblo's Garden while Niblo's prepares our floor of their hotel. You'll need to check in every evening. Titus will have to tell you when Niblo's will be ready for us, so you will need to be ready to leave with the rest of us or you will be left behind to get there on your own."
A collective grumble moved from one end of the car to the other.
"Now, don't be so chagrined. Niblo's is only a few blocks from the Grand. But seriously, New York is an easy place to get lost. And there are some places you don't want to go, just like in San Francisco, so please listen when Titus speaks to you.
At that moment, Titus opened his cabin door and stepped out just in time to watch the musicians go back to their seats.
Looking down at Isabella, Titus asked, "What did you say to them?"
"Basically that New York is a big place, and they have to accept some responsibility for themselves. And that we will be at the Grand Hotel for some unknown time before we move to Niblo's Garden. Here," Isabella said, handing Titus a envelope. "All the details are in there."
A porter made his way through the car toward Shiloh. "Mrs. Cartwright?"
"Yes?" she said, acknowledging him.
"We'll be arriving at the station in New York in about an hour. There will be several coaches waiting for your company to take you to the Grand Hotel. And this message was received at the last stop."
"Thank you," said Shiloh, taking the envelope and glancing at it.
"Breakfast will be served in just a few minutes," said the porter. "Excuse me."
Shiloh nodded, and once the man had turned away, she looked closer at the envelope. The only thing written on it was 'Mrs. Adam Cartwright.' She smiled knowing only Edwin would have used that name. Quickly ripping off the end of the envelope, she pulled the contents out and unfolded the pages, her eyes quickly moving from one line to the next. As she skimmed over it again, she said, "Titus, I won't be going directly to the Grand. Amalee, the children and I will be staying in Gramercy Park at the Booth residence for a few days. Edwin wants to personally see that I rest," she ended, giggling. Looking up at Titus with a sweet smile, she added, "Doesn't he know that's all I've been doing since we left Council Bluffs?"
At the clatter of dishes entering the car, she said, "Titus, you'll be busy getting everyone in the coaches taking you all to the Grand, so I will say goodbye here. I'll be in touch in a few days. In the meantime…" She leaned in and spoke quietly, "Let them enjoy themselves. Once we start, they won't have much time for anything else but work."
Titus had hardly said a word. Even now, he simply leaned down and gave her a peck on the cheek. "In a few days," he said with a smile before he sent her off to her cabin.
Once breakfast was eaten, Amalee and Shiloh packed away the rest of their belongings and let the children play. When the porter announced their eminent arrival at the New York train station, she gave each of the children their dolls that had been sent for them by their father. Pulling Anna and Aaron close to her before they left their train car, Shiloh said, "Now, you must hold onto your dolls very tightly. We won't be able to stop to find them if you lose them. Do you understand?"
Aaron and Anna wrapped their dolls up in their arms, but it was Amalee who assured the dolls wouldn't be lost by tying a ribbon around an arm of each doll before she tied the ribbon's ends together and slipped it over each child's head.
Smiling, Shiloh said, "Hold on tight anyway, just to make sure, all right?" Receiving another nod, she stood just as the train came to a complete stop. Shiloh met a porter at the door of the car where he ushered a veritable army of porters into her cabin to bring out all the trunks and luggage. Once placed on several carts, the porter led the little family into the train station and all the way through to the other side where Shiloh found Edwin standing next to a coach waiting to whisk them all away.
Edwin sucked in a breath at the wide smile Isabella was wearing. It reminded him of her time in New York a short seven years in the past. No one was supposed to know Isabella would be arriving at the train station, but somehow word must have gotten out because by the time she was almost to the front door, she had a following up until the time she arrived at Edwin's coach. Edwin moved Amalee and the children inside quickly, but Isabella had turned to face her admirers.
At first, Edwin was angry, but then he relaxed. She was the same Isabella they had come to think of as one of their own…always smiling, always gracious, and always with something nice to say to them and about their city. She was as they all remembered her. Her appearance was even much the same.
After signing a few playbills for Redemption and blowing a kiss to the crowd, she turned back to Edwin who helped her into the coach and followed her, closing the door behind them.
"I never expected that," said Isabella as she looked out the window of the coach, occasionally waving at someone who was waving excitedly at her.
"New York and Boston have been talking about your trip back for weeks," said Edwin.
"How did they know when I'd be here?"
"Niblo's has been advertising. I've been advertising, and the Boston Theater has been advertising."
"I assumed they…you…would be. But how did they know I would be here…today…now?
Edwin chuckled then cleared his throat. "The people on the east coast have been reading about your trip across the country since you left Reno, Nevada."
"Oh." Her eyes widened. "Oh no!" She grimaced and asked quietly. "Everything?" When Edwin nodded his head, she sank down into the seat. "I'm ruined."
Edwin huffed. "Hardly."
"What does that mean?" she asked, giving him a horrified look.
Smiling as he had been for the entire conversation, Edwin said, "You have sparked the imagination of an entire city. No, two…very large cities. Everyone is scrambling for tickets, especially to Redemption. Most are bent on meeting you, and not just because you sing and act, but because you…act…upon whatever is thrown in your path, whether it be kind, charitable or…fierce." He leaned toward her and lowered his voice. "They still believe you belong to them."
Isabella watched out the window at the bustling city. "It seems so long ago that I was here. How could they still feel that way?"
"Because, my dear," Edwin said as he took her hand in his and gave it a pat. "You've always given them something when you were here and after you left, even if it was just a good read. The reviews of your performances…well, you'd think they could close their eyes and hear your voice."
She opened her mouth to speak, but instead bowed her head. "Edwin, maybe I shouldn't have come back," she almost whispered. "I don't want anyone to get their hopes up. I haven't told anyone this…even Adam…but at the end of this visit, I've decided to announce my retirement."
"You can't do that!" said Edwin, just a bit too crossly. When she looked into his eyes, he could see she was tired, and it wasn't physical tiredness he saw now, but almost resignation. Like she was giving up a fight. "Adam won't hear of it."
"I don't know, Edwin," she looked away to hide the wet glaze beginning to cover her eyes. "I think he'd prefer I were with him. I also think he'd prefer not to have to read about me crossing the country with two of our…" She looked across to the other seat were Aaron and Anna were happily hugging their dolls. "They are so very young."
Edwin brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. "You're just tired from the trip. Once you get to work…get those talented juices flowing, you'll realize you aren't meant to quit so soon. Not when you bring such pleasure to the masses."
Giving him a tentative smile, she raised her head as if to nod, but didn't quite nod. Instead, she looked out the window at the excess of humanity passing by and didn't look back until they were at the Booth residence.
Once the coach had stopped in front of Edwin's home, he held Shiloh's arm before she exited the coach. "Before we go in, I must warn you. There's someone here I want you to meet."
Adam was at his desk when Lo called for breakfast.
Abel walked by the door toward the stairs, but stopped. "Pa, Mister Lo said breakfast is ready? Are you gonna eat?"
"I am," answered Adam without looking up from his ministrations. "Go on down. I'll be down in a minute."
Instead of doing what he was told, Abel walked into the office and stood at the other side of the desk. "What you writing?"
"A letter to your mother"
"Oh. Can I write a letter to Mama?" Abel asked.
Adam smiled. "Of course, you can. I'll wait to post this letter until you've written yours, and we'll send them together."
Abel gave his father one big nod, then scampered out of the office and down the stairs.
Listening to the sound of his son's quick steps going down the stairs, Adam yelled, "Slow down! I don't want to find a pile of Abel at the bottom of those stairs." He waited for the giggle he knew would float up the stairs.
On the way to the city, Abel asked, "What we gonna do today?"
"The same thing we did yesterday," answer his father.
"But we don't do the same thing every day on the Ponderosa."
"Well," explained Adam, "Ranching is different. There's a lot of different things to do on a ranch. When you have a business, you do one thing, and to stay in business, you have to do that one thing very well. Here, we design, repair and build buildings. On the ranch, we take care of cattle, we cut trees and sell them as trees or we cut them into lumber. We also have mines we have to watch, the land we take care of, the occasional spring we have to open or well we have to dig. Sometimes, we have to fight fires…and floods."
"Mama trains horses," said Abel.
"She does, but your uncles and I also catch wild horses and then break them for work. We have to take care of the buildings there more so than here because of the snow in the winter. But here we have heavy salt air, so we take care of the buildings here differently…we paint them every other year. We take care of the wagons and buggies when they need new wheels."
"Whew," said Abel. "Ranching makes me tired, and I'm not even there."
Adam laughed. "I'll be taking you over to the Slaters to play with Robbie today, but we'll go a little later than we usually do. You can write your letter to your mother at the office first."
And there was that one big nod of agreement from Abel.
"Pa, how much longer do you think the courthouse will take?" asked Beau.
Adam tilted his head and raised his brow. "If nothing else comes up, we should be finished within a month."
Nodding, Beau said, "I've…uh…decided to go with you to New York, though I'm not sure I'll make the move over to Boston."
Adam smiled. "I'm glad you've decided to go. Shiloh will be pleased. And you'll get to see how I go about bidding on work…if you'd like." Beau seemed reticent, so Adam added, "There are no expectations that go along with that. I just thought you like to see the rest of the job if you decide this is what you want to do."
"Would you be disappointed if I don't choose this?" asked Beau quietly.
Adam's smile immediately put Beau at ease. "Not in the least. It's always going to be your choice." Adam moved another bite of eggs into his mouth and slowly chewed. "About Boston…this is just my personal opinion, not an order, but I think it would be good to face Bridger as an independent young man who's landed on his feet and is destined for a bright future."
Beau chewed on that as he chewed his food. "It's not that I'm afraid of Mr. Bridger. I'm afraid of the kind of trouble he can cause you while you're trying to get a foothold for your business on the east coast."
After Adam had recovered his jaw, he said, "That, young man, is not your concern. I can handle Bridger. I've already made some inquiries. Lately, he's been more of an irritation among the monied in Boston. It seems he's becoming…mentally questionable."
Beau raised one brow, but said nothing and took another bite.