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Section One: Chapters 1 - 12

Chapter 01 : From Highlands
Chapter 02 : All at Sea
Chapter 03 : Bonnie Prince Charlie
Chapter 04 : In America Now
Chapter 05 : The Business of Land
Chapter 06 : A Series of Meetings
Chapter 07 : A Novel Encounter

Chapter 08 : Common Ground
Chapter 09 : Boston Times
Chapter 10 : Letters to Catherine
Chapter 11 : Early Days
Chapter 12 : The Season of Goodwill

Chapter Notes

Bibliography and Timeline
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Chapter 1: From Highlands

“Here laddie, take this.” Unfastening the gold fob watch the old clockmaker pressed the apprentice piece he had worn for over fifty years into his grandson's hands. “It's auld but it still keeps good time. It would please me to think you carried something of me in a strange land.”

Looking down, the young man accepted the treasured timepiece. “Aw Granda, are you sure? Thank you. I will think of you whenever I use it.”

The two men hugged awkwardly. Ancient hands, aged-spotted and wrinkled, then pushed his grandson towards the door. Murdoch MacKinnon, ‘Maker of Fine Clocks and Watches,' would not see his namesake again. “Away with you. I've work to be doing.”

The shop bell jangled as Murdoch Lancer stepped out onto the grey cobbled street slick from the drizzle that had blanketed the town most of the morning. Funny, as much as he longed to leave, he would miss Inverness with its dour stone buildings and narrow rows of houses, its damp mists, green-black hillsides and dark mysterious waters. And oh, how he would miss that wizened, old man, who had been father and grandfather combined since his Da had fallen to his death all those years ago.

Rubbing the smooth gold between his fingers Murdoch looked up to the parting clouds, blinking rapidly, before putting the watch safely away in the top pocket of his jacket. His eyes then searched the far end of the street to find his mother and sister waiting with his trunk outside the coach house. Where was Jock?

“Behind you.” Come straight from the byre, having helped birth a new calf, Jock Lancer was still rolling down his sleeves as he strode towards his younger brother. “A bull. An easy delivery, thank God. I thought when she started, it would make me late.”

Jock threw his arm around his brother's shoulders and they continued on together. “One down, two to go. Sure you won't change your mind and keep working for the laird? You know he'll have you back. Best cattle man for miles, he says—next to me of course. We share our father's knack with them bonnie beasts, laddie.”

“No Jock, you know that wouldn't work. The laird is changing to sheep like the rest, and besides I've got the hunger for adventure. It's America for me now I've saved enough. It's different for you.”

Coming to a halt, the younger man turned towards the brother he admired so much. At fourteen, Jock had taken on the roles of man of the house and bonnet laird with stolid determination, refusing Murdoch's help beyond a few chores and insisting that he stay at school. Their Da would have wanted it that way. Supported partly by their grandfather's generosity, Jock had barely kept the farm going that first year, but thereafter he had found his stride. He was soon teaching grown men a thing or two about raising cattle and managing a farm. As a result Glenbeath was one of the few Highland farms still able to make ends meet while continuing largely with the cattle that he and Murdoch both loved.

In his second year of farming Jock had employed another labourer to help with the heavier work. At the time his holding was not large, and he would have had to let this man go if Murdoch had come to work there. Neither he nor Murdoch wanted that, and besides Jock had better things in mind for his brother. When he had finally allowed Murdoch to abandon his books, it had been to take up a position with the local laird as assistant to the factor. Murdoch had a natural affinity with animals of any sort and coupled with the best education Jock and his grandfather could afford, the laird took little persuasion to employ him. Already knowledgeable about cattle, Murdoch would work as a stockman when needed, but would learn all aspects of estate management and eventually become an estate manager himself.

Naturally Murdoch had contributed regularly to his family's income, but from an early age he had a dream, and he had saved most of his earnings to finance it. “I dinnae begrudge you the farm, Jock. It's yours by right, but I want land of my own, freedom and space. Scotland can't offer that.”

“Aye, with the clearances, folk are leaving in their droves, but there is always a place for skilled and educated men. The laird has been hard pushed to find a replacement for you as factor. He has asked Robertson to come out of retirement while he advertises further afield.”

“I didna know that, but it makes no difference.”

“No? Well, you can't blame me for trying one last time.” Laughing with resignation, Jock gave his brother a playful shove. “Come on. Now you must pay the price for your stubbornness and bid farewell to our mother and Maggie. The coach will be for Greenock soon.”

Fresh horses were being harnessed to the mail coach by the ostler as they approached the front entrance of the inn. Smartly dressed in black and scarlet livery, the driver and guard loaded the luggage and the mail box. Jock lent a hand with Murdoch's black leather and timber trunk, heavy with everything he was taking with him to the New World, as his brother went to bid farewell to his mother and sister.

Taking his leave of his womenfolk was tearful. Murdoch knew it would be, but there was no help for it. A youthful nonchalance and excitement to be finally on his way helped him through the worst.

Maggie tried to hide her feelings behind pragmatisms but her blue eyes watered all the same. “You'll write at least once a month, and mind you eat properly.”

“Yes Maggie, I promise.” He smiled and nodded towards her rounded midriff. “And you look after yourself and the bairn.”

“Rob is sorry he couldn't be here to see you off, but auld man Macpherson wouldn't hear of him taking the time. I'm sure he's the reason the Sassenachs say we Scots are tight-fisted.”

“No matter, Maggie. We said all there was to say last night.”

“Remember you have kin in America, but they likely spell the name differently,” his mother reminded him. “You should try to find them.”

“America is a big place, Ma, but I will let you know if our paths cross.”

Murdoch knew he was just humouring his mother. The chances of him meeting his American kin were very slim after so many years with no contact and no knowledge of where they had settled. His uncle had left Scotland well before Murdoch was born. If it helped her to believe that he would have family nearby to support him there however, he would not dampen her hope entirely, and he would look out for the name or any similar spelling.

“You'll always be my bairn,” wept Ellen Lancer forcing her youngest to stoop to hug her for the umpteenth time. Ellen was dwarfed by her sons. In terms of height, they favoured their father, as she did hers, but courage and determination came from both parents. “You'll be a success, son. I ken that. Oh but it's hard to have you go so far away. You stay safe. You hear me?”

Gently Murdoch prised her arms away from his neck and kissed her tear-washed cheek as the coachman gave the final call. Turning to his brother he offered his hand. Like two towering pines, the brothers stood facing each other, drinking in the other's image; each etching a picture in his mind that must likely last a lifetime.

“Take care of them, Jock—and yourself.”

“Good luck, brother.”

Firmly shaking hands and embracing one last time, the Lancer men parted. Murdoch hauled himself up into the carriage. The coachman cracked his whip and four strong horses headed south, hooves clattering over the cobbles and splashing through puddles. Holding back the leather curtain Murdoch leaned out waving until all sight of his loved ones was lost, and then he settled back in his seat next to a rotund scrivener. Moving his legs politely to one side to make more room for the seamstress sitting opposite, he swallowed the lump in his throat and looked to the future.

Two days later after an uneventful journey he arrived in Greenock as dusk enveloped the port. He took a room at an inn near the dockyard, so he would not have far to walk the next morning. Boarding was to be early. Ordering a good breakfast in advance, he made his way upstairs long before the singing and laughter ceased and the other patrons meandered homeward. As he drifted off to sleep on a lumpy straw mattress, images of rolling hills, wide valleys and free ranging cattle filled his mind. What would it be like to live in such a place, to own such land? If it pleased God, he would soon find out.

The distant Highlands were haloed by a rising sun as the Duchess of Argyle slipped her moorings the next morning. The breeze caught the mainsail and the emigrant ship glided towards open seas. Standing on the main deck, elbow to elbow with others making the voyage, dreams of the New World and adventure were temporarily laid aside. Picturing each loved face, one by one, Murdoch bid a silent final farewell to his family and homeland.

Chapter 2: All at Sea

For the fourth time in as many minutes Murdoch heaved. Gulls circling overhead dived with great expectations but came up short as they realised that source of nourishment had dried up. There was nothing left of the good breakfast of porridge and milk followed by eggs and bacon that he had treated himself to at the tavern before boarding the Duchess of Argyle . He had felt fine as the vessel eased itself away from the wharf. Caught up in thoughts of family and home, he had barely noticed the swell increasing. When the ship reached the Tail of the Bank all the passengers had been called to the quarter deck to undergo medical inspection and to hand over their tickets, and he had happily agreed to be one of the ship's constables. The responsibility for supervising the allocation of rations and liaising between the passengers and ship's officers would add interest to the journey. When the barque truly broke free into open water, however, and the mainsail embraced a lively breeze, it was a different story. He began to wonder whether he would be able to stay on his feet long enough to fulfil his duties.

He was not alone. Draped over the rails nearby or collapsed in misery around the deck and below decks were many of his fellow passengers. As the ship rose and fell on the waves so did the contents of their stomachs.

“Land lubbers,” chuckled a grey-whiskered seaman behind Murdoch as he hauled on a rope to secure the rigging. Chewing tobacco he spat with precision over the side and hailed the cabin boy just about to disappear down a ladder.“Here Tom, get some fresh water for these folk.”

Water was rationed but the old sailor knew the captain made allowances for the first day or two when his passengers had particular need. The boy soon returned with a pail of fresh water and a ladle. Murdoch took a small amount to swill his mouth out and then swallowed a mouthful. His innards felt a little more settled as he nodded his thanks, and the cabin boy moved to another man further along the rail.

By late afternoon a squall got up.

“Passengers below decks,” ordered the captain as sailors ran backwards and forwards and climbed like monkeys up into the rigging to bring in the excess sails.

The single men were in the bow, about as far away from the single women in the rear of the vessel as the god-fearing owners could arrange. Murdoch was amused by a precaution so clearly unnecessary at the present moment. Male or female, many could hardly raise themselves to stand and were far from fit for anything more energetic.

Although Murdoch was no longer vomiting, others were still severely indisposed. The passengers were confined below decks in an area known as steerage, which was partitioned by heavy canvas walls with sections designated for single men, families or single women. Each section was divided by a narrow corridor between two-tier bunks with belongings and rations stacked precariously in the centre. With the slop buckets in regular use positioned at either end of each ‘cabin', the atmosphere was highly unpleasant.

Murdoch had the extra difficulty of being taller than average. At six feet five inches he was a giant compared to most of his companions. There was little more than seven feet of head room in steerage, and it took him some time to find a position that was comfortable enough for him to fall asleep on the six foot square bunk, which he shared with three other men. In his slumber his legs sought release by extending out into the gangway. Another passenger, dashing madly in the dark for the slop bucket, tripped over them. Murdoch awoke suddenly, in time to witness the contents of the poor man's stomach exploding forth as he hit the floor.

“I won't get in the way, sir, but I'd be grateful if you would let me sleep on deck where there is more room,” Murdoch petitioned the captain the next morning. “I could spread out by the life boats or anywhere else you'd prefer.”

“Note in the log, Mr Adams, permission granted to Mr Lancer to sleep on deck during fine weather due to his exceptional size.” Captain Livingston's voice was stern, but there was a glint of amusement in his eyes. “You will go below decks with the rest at other times, sir, and if you do get in the way, you will stay down there.”

“Yes sir, thank you.” Murdoch made a swift retreat before the captain could change his mind. Sleeping under stars in fresh air instead of under creaking timbers in a miasma of body odour and vomit was a concession, for which he was very grateful. He would take no risks of getting that permission revoked.

Over the following six weeks he got to know many of his fellow passengers well. He still spent about half his days and nights in steerage due to the weather conditions and routine of the ship; passengers were only allowed on deck at certain times of day when they would not get in the way of the crew. Despite the segregation of their quarters and on deck, some intermixing of the sexes still took place. As constable, Murdoch had to collect the daily rations from the galley for his part of steerage, and in doing so came in passing contact with his female counterparts. Everyone was officially allowed to mix together for church services on a Sunday, and there was the occasional dance when the weather was fine.

One day when a young shepherd was feeling unwell, Murdoch offered to feed his dogs and discovered how his bedfellow had become so friendly with a young woman from Dumfries. To get to where the dogs were kennelled, he had permission to cross over the poop deck, which was reserved for the single women. In addition, the kennels were very conveniently out of sight of the quarterdeck.

“You jammy beggar,” Murdoch ribbed the man upon his return.

“Ah well, it's amazing how long it takes to feed three dogs,” sighed the shepherd with mock gravity as he roused himself from his sick bed to accept a smuggled gift from his Mary.

“How thoughtful,” he said, shaking out the neatly stitched handkerchief and blowing his nose vigorously. “I only sneezed a couple of times yesterday. Or do you think she objected to me using me sleeve?”

Although no particular girl caught Murdoch's eye, with his tall good-looks he was the focus for more than his fair share of flirting. It would have been rude not to respond in kind. His mother had always taught him to be polite, had she not?

Most steerage passengers were penniless crofters evicted from their livelihoods by landlords enclosing land for sheep. Some had their passage paid for by those same landlords. It depended how you looked on it whether that was generosity or simply an attempt to assuage their consciences and get rid of a problem. The remaining passengers were those who deliberately sought greater opportunities in a new land, mainly artisans, domestic servants or skilled agricultural workers. Some a social degree higher, like Murdoch, could have afforded a cabin, but preferred to save their funds for their new lives.

When they were not allowed on deck, they were confined below in cramped conditions. Apart from carrying out basic housekeeping chores as directed by the constables, the men passed the time by playing cards or games like shove penny, carving small trinkets, talking or telling stories. Some artisans earned money during the voyage by plying their trade. Only a few like Murdoch could read and write much beyond their name. That was one reason why he had been chosen as a constable.

Many of those who were literate kept a journal, read or wrote poetry to pass the time. The ship boasted a small library for the use of its constables, and besides that the men readily shared what books they had brought with them. An avid reader with eclectic tastes, Murdoch had enjoyed Charles Dickens' earlier works, so he had brought Nicholas Nickleby with him to help pass the time. He was not disappointed. Another passenger lent him Frankenstein in exchange when he was finished. He started to read a translation of Homer's Iliad , but unfortunately the ship's copy had pages missing. He put it aside in favour of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar with every intention of reading the Iliad another time when he could spare the money to buy his own copy.

Sometimes a man would read aloud, usually poetry. A book of poems by Robbie Burns naturally proved popular. Though it may not have been the best choice psychologically during a sea voyage, Murdoch's passionate rendition of The Wreck of the Hesperus by a new American writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was also a favourite.

A special friendship developed between Murdoch and a young cordwainer from Hexham. Ben Telford was one of the few Englishmen aboard ship. By his way of it, he was not only escaping his father's workshops, but also his domination. Like Murdoch, Ben was emigrating to seek his own fortune and adventure. When he was not adding to his savings by mending his fellow passengers' boots and Murdoch had fulfilled his daily tasks as constable, they shared their enthusiasm for all they had heard and read about America. Many otherwise empty hours were filled discussing their hopes and dreams.

“I'll get work with a Boston manufacturer for the first year, maybe two. Once I've earned more money, I'll head west to a town without a bootmaker and set up my own business. I'll prove to the old codger I can make it on my own, if it kills me.” Ben jumped his black checker piece over several of Murdoch's red ones. If Ben thanked his father for anything, it was his insistence that the boss's son must learn his trade like any other man before being allowed a say in how the workshops were run; the fact that his old man would not listen to any of his suggestions even when his was qualified was his main complaint. Inadvertently, however, his father had given him the key to his freedom; he had a trade as well as business experience, and he had been fairly paid for both activities while living under his father's roof. Now he aimed to put his skills, knowledge and savings to good use in America. “I have a cousin near Boston, who will put me up for a while. That's why I paid passage on the Duchess .”

“I'm for California eventually, but I need the help of land agents based in Boston to arrange things,“ Murdoch replied. He had researched America and its neighbours for several years. Originally he had envisaged settling within the existing territories of the United States, but when he read Two Years before the Mast he knew California was where he wanted to be. It was currently part of Mexico, but from what he had read it would soon become part of the United States. It was only a matter of time. There was something exciting about being a pioneer in a new territory or state. “See here, land in the north is expected to become available soon and sell cheaply. I have a letter of introduction from my old employer to a man of influence in Boston. With luck he will be able to put me in touch with the right people. I need to borrow a little more capital to help with set up costs.”

“A little more capital? You'll need more than a little capital to finance what you've written here! I know you said you'd been saving, but even in your lofty position as estate manager, you can't have been earning that much surely? You may have to lower your sights, my friend.”

“Ah well, my brother and grandfather insisted on giving me what they said was my inheritance before I left, and it was nae just my wages that I was saving,” Murdoch admitted. “I had other income from a deal I made with the laird some years back.”

“Go on with you! The likes of us don't make deals with lords,” Ben retorted. “Seriously?”

Murdoch shrugged and smiled. He remembered clearly the event that had proven so profitable. It could have easily gone the other way. It could have seen him dead.

Chapter 3: Bonnie Prince Charlie

“I'd been working for the local laird about a year when his prize bull calf strayed through a broken wall and fell into a ghyll,” Murdoch recalled. Moving his checker piece out of danger, he stood up from the bunk where he and Ben were playing. To relieve the cramp beginning in his legs, he reached up to touch the timbers above his head and bent at the knees up and down a few times before settling back to the game.

“A what?”

“A glen with verra steep sides.”

“You mean a ravine,” corrected Ben running his fingers back through tangled, unwashed hair. “You need to learn to speak English—well, American at any rate—if you want to do business with the moneymen of Boston. I'm told they're a snooty lot.”

Murdoch continued unperturbed by his friend's insult—the pot calling the kettle black after all. “The poor beast was unhurt but marooned on a ledge about half way down. The burn was deep at the bottom and there were no rocks to climb up from. It was cliff either side for several yards so there was no hope of rescue that way. The only chance was with ropes and straight down from the top.”

“And your lord ordered you down?” Ben asked incredulously. “You could have been killed.”

“Aye, I could have been. It was how my father died, trying to rescue one of his own cattle, but nay, the laird didna order me down. I volunteered.”

The memory of that day filled his mind as he retold the story. The laird had been called to assess the situation. Murdoch and three other men had stood by waiting for instruction, including the stockman whose job it had been to repair the broken wall the day before the calves were released into that paddock. Murdoch had watched the laird ride southward and look back to see what Murdoch and the others already knew.

The animal had survived the fall. It must have wandered too close to the edge where the ground had jutted out with nothing to support it. The weight had caused the soil to give way and a slide of scree could be seen to the south end of the ledge where the calf now stood. A solitary clump of gorse clung to the rocks at that point. It must have been the only thing between the calf and certain death as the rock face fell almost straight down from there to the burn below. A miracle the beast had not broken something, but it was on all fours and apart from a few scratches apparently unscathed. There was no way of reaching it however. No man could navigate the slip itself even with ropes. The cliff extended too far either side of the outcrop to make a sideways approach feasible. Straight down with ropes from the place where the men now waited for him seemed the only option, with few footholds and only a couple of hardy gorse bushes to hold onto. The last few yards to the ledge were a sheer drop and any man attempting the task would be relying solely on the rope and the strength of those at the top manning it.

Murdoch knew the laird was considering whether to send one of them down. By rights Grant, the shirker responsible for mending the wall, should be the rescuer, but he was the heaviest and he had a wife and bairns. Murdoch was the lightest and most agile despite his height, but he doubted the laird would ask him to do it. Allowing for the difference in social standing, the laird had called his father ‘friend'. He would not want to be responsible for putting Murdoch in danger of being killed in the same manner.

“Shoot it,” the laird ordered having ridden back to the waiting group. “We cannot bring the beast up safely. Better it have a quick death than starve slowly.”

Macleod, the headman, retrieved the flintlock rifle strapped to his horse. He had come prepared, guessing the laird's decision. Valuable as the calf was, the laird held fast to the traditions of Clan Chief. To put any of his men in harm's way for the sake of an animal would have been out of character.

“Wait.” Murdoch stepped forward and held his arm out to prevent Macleod going to the cliff edge. “Let me try to bring him up.”

“I will not ask you to risk your life to save a beast,” responded the laird.

“You're not asking, milord, I'm offering—if the others will manage the ropes and if you will make it worth my while.”

“I'm listening.” The laird looked down at his assistant factor with interest. The bay hunter beneath him snorted and shook its head restlessly.

“If I save him, I get half the value of his off-spring.”

“Half the value of …. Ha, you're your father's son, all right—as canny as your brother an' all.” The laird threw back his head and laughed out loud. “Well, if you're sure, I have nothing to lose by the attempt.”

Murdoch grinned with youthful confidence and faced the other men. “Will you help me? Man the ropes and I'll stand you all a drink whether I'm successful or no.”

“Aye, we'll help,” nodded Macleod. “But leave your purse up here, laddie—just in case.”

Ropes were fetched and the three stockmen stripped off their jackets and took their positions. The laird and horse at the rear would act as final anchor as there was nothing else to do the job. Murdoch took off his coat and tied the rope securely around his waist. With smaller ropes slung over his head and shoulder he stepped back over the edge and inched his way slowly down the steep stony slope until he reached sheer drop. Finding firm footing against two lichen-covered rocks, he adjusted his grip and tested the rope once more before lowering himself over the edge as the men at the top paid out the slack to his shouted instruction. It seemed like a lifetime before his feet touched solid ground again, yet looking up there was only about thirty feet of cliff above him. The stranded calf bellowed pitifully and nudged against him almost sending him over the edge.

“Get back, you damn fool!” Shaken, Murdoch looped one of the smaller ropes around the animal's neck and looked for something to fasten it to. Nothing—he gave up and just used the rope to hold the calf steady while he forced it down on its side and bound its legs. As the young bull struggled, however, Murdoch realised there was no way he would be able to carry the beast and climb to safety at the same time.

“You need to make a harness for the calf. Attach it to a separate rope. I think I can guide the calf over the edge, but I cannae carry it over.” Standing on the narrow ledge high above white water with hundreds of pounds of squirming, terrified beef, Murdoch cursed his own stupidity. Everything had seemed so simple when he had been safely up top. He had gotten carried away with his own cleverness for making money. He had minimised the difficulties and dangers of the task. Murdoch knew he had proved his grandda right; he was a young fool. So what that he had been correct in believingthe laird's love of ingenuity and daring would outweigh his caution, and his fondness for the late John Lancer would cause him to accept a deal more financially beneficial to his friend's son than to himself. Murdoch should have realised from the outset that the calf would be too big and heavy to carry.

His da had descended only with ropes, but there had been a narrow path to navigate not a sheer drop. John Lancer would have succeeded except that the panicked steer had knocked him onto an outcrop, which gave way. His brother-in-law Alex Fraser and old Fergus Ross, who had manned the ropes above, had been able to slow his descent, but a minute later the steer had toppled over the edge after him. John had been crushed between the beast and the jagged rocks of the burn below. Why had Murdoch been so cocksure he could achieve such a rescue when a similar attempt by his father had gone so horribly wrong?“If I get out of here alive, Ma will kill me.”

More men were brought from a nearby field. A harness was made and lowered, and Murdoch secured it to the calf.

“Haul away!” Murdoch helped the animal avoid injury as the ropes lifted it upright. The calf rose into the air bellowing in terror. When it reached the top of the vertical rock face and could go no further without his help, Murdoch called for the men to start hauling him up. Reaching the same point he let go of the rope and grappled desperately for leverage, his legs swimming in thin air. With every muscle protesting, he dragged his body up and over the edge of the overhang onto the steeply sloping upper ground. A few minutes rest face down on the rocky incline, the plaintive sounds of the calf ringing in his ears, and then he carefully repositioned himself sideways. As the men pulled from above, he used one foot and arm to prevent himself falling and the other leg and arm to push the animal wide of the edge. On the fourth attempt he managed to manoeuvre the calf over and onto the slope beside him.

“I must be mad.” Gasping for air, he adjusted the ropes around the struggling calf. Then he cut its legs loose and helped it upright. Now the young bull could climb the remaining distance as the ropes dragged it upwards. “Stark, staring mad!”

Mad or not, Murdoch and the calf had finally reached safety and over the following years his agreement with the laird had been highly profitable. Bonnie Prince Charlie, as Murdoch christened the bull, proved no worse for wear due to his ordeal; in fact it rather seemed to have increased his appreciation of life, particularly when it came to the opposite sex. Once the animal was of age to begin breeding, his libido seemed to have no bounds and his progeny was soon to be found the length and breadth of the Highlands. Each one sold reaped Murdoch half the sale price and when he finally left the laird's employ and the value of the stock still held was calculated, he came away with a tidy sum. Added to that was also what he and the laird agreed would be fair compensation for any future progeny. Murdoch was not prepared to relinquish his rights just because he was emigrating. He had intended to ask the laird to pay his brother instead of sending payment to America, but the laird suggested a lump sum to buy out his share. That suited them both and an agreement was soon reached.

“So how much is a cow worth and how many did Bonnie Prince Charlie sire?” enquired Ben so engrossed in the tale that he had inadvertently allowed Murdoch to nearly clear the board of his checkers.

“Enough,” replied Murdoch, “Just enough.”

Chapter 4: In America Now

Before the Duchess of Argyle docked its passengers were ready on deck with their belongings, eager to see their new homeland and to feel its solid ground beneath their feet. The ship would return to Britain within a few days, the hull filled to capacity with cargo. The crew started dismantling the bunks in steerage to allow for this even as Murdoch and Ben made their way to disembark. Behind the docks they could see the bustling city of Boston spreading out before them.

“Not as big as Glasgow, I think, but bigger than Inverness.” Murdoch gazed about with interest.

Ben stopped at the end of gangplank and grinned over his shoulder at Murdoch.“Next step American soil. Dare I do it?”

Murdoch laughed. Shoving Ben forward, he stepped onto the wharf after him; his sense of achievement exhilarating. He had made it. The first hurdle of crossing the Atlantic was behind him, and the next stage of his great adventure was about to begin.

Heaving his heavy trunk up onto his shoulder, Murdoch followed Ben through the throng of families and seamen. He was now wishing he had travelled lighter. Ben had just brought a haversack—much easier to carry on your own. The Northumbrian was no fool. The friends manoeuvred their way off the crowded pier and headed into the city as far as Dock Square.

“I'm going down Washington Street.” Ben pointed to the signpost just past a fishmonger's stall as Murdoch lowered his trunk to the ground and rubbed his shoulder. “Are you sure you don't want to come with me? My cousin won't mind putting you up for a night or two.”

“That is kind of you, but I have affairs to attend to here in town. I'll find a room near the business district so I can make an early start. I have your cousin's address. I'll be in touch.”

Ben was for Roxbury, a town on the outskirts of Boston. Murdoch watched him as he crossed the square. Doffing his cap in a polite negative to the invitations of a couple of early rising strumpets, who were gossiping beneath a lamppost on the corner, Ben raised an arm in final farewell to Murdoch and disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the main road going south.

Before the ladies could transfer their attentions to him, Murdoch hoisted his trunk onto his shoulder again and headed west. He wended his way through unfamiliar streets towards the business district, seeking directions along the way. Boston was much larger than Inverness. The strange sound of American accents mingled with the normal hubbub of carts and horses. He stopped occasionally just to listen and watch. There were an incredible variety of people and commercial activities, and one extremely vocal puritan on his soap box preaching hellfire and damnation. Stepping quickly back to avoid a bar brawl that spilled onto the street, Murdoch bumped into a customer exiting an apothecary's shop. Apologising profusely he stopped mid-sentence and just gaped for several seconds—the fellow was black. Murdoch had never seen a negro before. The man was in a hurry and did not seem to notice Murdoch's astonishment. Mercifully he was able to close his mouth and pull himself together without drawing too much attention. Still he felt incredibly foolish.

His first business was to locate the bank to deposit his gold and acquire some American currency. His laird had given him a letter of introduction to the manager of one of Boston's leading banks. He was a relative and the laird was confident there could be none better to advise a new immigrant of means. Murdoch found the bank without mishap, a large red brick building with marble portico. Inside he was asked his business by a smartly dressed young man not much older than himself. This fellow stood near the door, and his sole purpose seemed to be to greet customers and usher them to the appropriate bank official. He escorted Murdoch to an imposing oak door and bid him wait as he knocked and went inside. Through the doorway Murdoch could see a middle-aged man in a dark suit seated behind a large mahogany desk, engrossed in the contents of a leather-bound ledger. His escort hurriedly whispered something in the other man's ear. The manager nodded and closed the ledger. The younger man beckoned Murdoch forward as he departed.

“Mr Lancer, welcome. I am Douglas Muir.” Theban manager stood and stretched out his hand, giving Murdoch's a hearty shake before waving him to a seat. “Young Evans tells me you wish to open an account with us and that you bring word from my cousin in Inverness.”

“That is correct, sir.” Murdoch put his trunk down on the floor and settled into one of two polished-wood chairs in front of the desk. “I've just arrived from Scotland and I have gold I wish to deposit for safe keeping until I can purchase land in California. I worked for your cousin for some years. He was kind enough to give me this letter of introduction.”

Douglas Muir unsealed the letter and quickly surveyed its contents. “My cousin speaks very highly of you, Mr Lancer. A man well-suited to the challenges of the west I should imagine. I'll be pleased to help you in any way I can.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Muir referred back to the letter and then looked enquiringly up at Murdoch. “He says here you may have no small sum to deposit with us today.”

Murdoch nodded and bent to retrieve the gold from his trunk. He had stored the money bag in the strongbox in the captain's cabin during the voyage. Since recovering it shortly before leaving the ship that morning, he had been careful not to let his trunk out of his sight.

The bank manager counted Murdoch's worldly wealth and opened an account for his new customer without further delay, eventually dispatching the gold away in the care of a punctilious clerk with orders to return with some American currency of various denominations. While Muir talked and wrote, Murdoch noted he sounded remarkably American for a man who claimed to have only left Scotland six years earlier. “You have lost your Scottish accent, sir.”

Douglas Muir looked up from his writing, taking a moment to appraise the man in front of him.“I will speak frankly, Lancer. In America, as a rule, money speaks louder than background or name. Here in Boston, however, it's a little different. There is an elite. The moneymen you may need to do business with take pride in being among the first Americans. They could look down on you, because of your background. Your speech draws attention to the fact that you are a new immigrant. I would suggest you do what you can to alter it.”

Recognising the bank manager was genuinely trying to help him, Murdoch was not offended. Ben had after all offered similar advice. “Useful to know, sir. I will try my best to do that.”

His business done Murdoch asked Muir where he might find comfortable, inexpensive accommodation close to the centre. He was referred to a boarding house for single gentlemen a few blocks away, owned and run by a respectable widowed lady.

Mrs Matilda Merriweather, Tilly to her friends, was a very round, very pretentious and very talkative woman of indeterminate age. Her fisherman husband had come to an untimely end when he had jumped from his fishing boat to the jetty and missed.

“Oh, it was awful. Crushed he was, crushed between the boat and the pier. My poor William never stood a chance. God rest his soul.”

Mrs Merriweather had bought her boarding house with the proceeds from the sale of her husband's fishing boat. She only accepted men of good character into her establishment. A referral from Mr Muir at the bank was considered very satisfactory evidence of such character. The bank manager would never send her a gentleman who could not pay his way.

“A storm was coming in, you see. But they had a problem at sea and were late returning. The wind had got up. Young Obadiah was trying to secure the rope at the bow, but he saw the whole thing. Poor, dear, dear William—he tossed the mooring rope, but missed the bollard, so he tried to jump ashore. Such a brave man, but foolish, foolish thing to do in such weather. A wave took the boat up. Knocked him off balance, and he fell between the schooner and the wharf as the wave dropped.” Mrs Merriweather drew in a great breath and exhaled audibly, shaking her head and dabbing at the corner of her eyes with a lace hanky.

“It must have been very distressing for you. Did you say you had a spare room, ma'am?”

“Oh yes—the room. Please excuse me, young man. It's the emotion of it all, you see. It still affects me. Poor widowed woman that I am.”

Murdoch endeavoured to look sympathetic, but really he was still not absolutely certain that the lady had a room available.

“There will be no spirits, smoking or women upstairs, Mr Lancer. I lock the front door at 10 o'clock. Breakfast is between 7 o'clock and 8 o'clock in the dining room, and I insist that you present yourself shaved and fully dressed. The evening meal is at 6 o'clock sharp. I don't provide luncheon. You will do me the courtesy of informing me in the morning if you will not be in for your dinner.”

“Yes ma'am, that sounds fine. May I see the room?”

The widow led the way up two flights of stairs. “You may have one bath per week. Water is precious here in Boston, so do not waste it. We are fortunate to have our own well, but who knows how long that will last. You must carry the water up to your room yourself and empty the bath once you are done. The tin bath is kept in the cupboard under the stairs. Rent is payable weekly in advance on Fridays.”

She opened the door into a tidy but basic bedroom that overlooked the street. A multi-coloured patchwork quilt covered an iron bedstead, and a commode could be seen under one end. There was a doily-covered washstand with china jug and basin in the far corner by the casement window, and a serviceable chest of drawers with a small mirror above it to its right. The only other things in the room were an upholstered hard-backed chair next to the bed and a rather worn Persian carpet on the polished floor.

“Seeing you are such a tall young man, I'm not sure the bed will accommodate you fully, but you'll just have to bend some. I assure you it is the standard length. You won't find longer.” Mrs Merriweather bustled into the room and ran a finger over the dresser top. “That girl,” she huffed, taking a rag from her pocket and dusting everything within reach.

“I'll take it,” said Murdoch. “I'll pay up to Friday week now, shall I?” His new landlady accepted his money with a nod of approval and handed him the key before closing the door behind her. He heard her calling out for the housemaid as she descended the stairs.

Dropping his trunk Murdoch pulled his boots off and bounced up and down to test the bed springs. Folding the pillow double he leaned back on his new bed. Oh, the luxury of having it all to himself! Stretching out he found lying diagonally he could just fit within its confines. The day had been long. There was just over an hour until tea. He would rest his eyes for a few minutes before unpacking. He would just …

Sadly the good impression Murdoch had made on his landlady lasted less than two hours. He arrived late for his dinner. Mrs Merriweather made her displeasure known, much to Murdoch's chagrin and the guarded amusement of the other guests. “You may join us for your dinner, sir—this once—but I will not stand for you to be late again. Boston is not some Highland farmyard. Timeliness is the foundation of good manners, sir, and in Boston, good manners matter. Leave your foreign ways at the door, Mr Lancer. You are in America now.”

Chapter 5: The Business of Land

Murdoch went down to breakfast in good time the following morning, eager to recover some ground with his landlady, but she was not there. He soon learned that Matilda Merriweather rarely appeared before mid-morning. Breakfast was prepared and served by the housemaid, Rose, a cheerful girl, who was a great favourite with the boarders.

“Pull up a chair—Lancer isn't it? I'm Jim Harper, one of the longer serving inmates.” A dapper young man stood up from the table and offered his hand. “This is Charlie Beckinsale and the body behind the newspaper is Henry Thompson.” A toast-filled hand rose up from behind the Boston Post in casual greeting.“Help yourself to coffee and toast, and just let Rose know whether you want eggs and how you like them—sausage or bacon depending on the day. Today is a sausage day.”

An hour later after a well-cooked breakfast, Murdoch and Harper left the boarding house together heading in the same direction. Murdoch had an appointment with land agents in the centre of town. They were about halfway there when they stopped outside New England Enterprises.

“Wholesalers and General Importers,” Murdoch read the inscription above the entrance. “Is this where you work?”

“It is. The owner, Mr Kirby, is an excellent employer, old Boston family, very respectable. He's grooming me to take over as manager—introducing me to all the right people. No sons you see. I, Lancer, am going places.”

Murdoch followed Harper's directions and soon located the land agents' office. As promised, Douglas Muir had notified G. W. Burke and Son to expect him, and he spent a very productive morning discussing potential land purchases with Mr George Washington Burke and his son, Alfred.

In addition to other types of property, ex-mission land was slowly becoming available. Vast areas held by Franciscan missions had been repossessed by the Mexican government a few years earlier and divided up into large land grants, most of which went to existing landowners. The grants were provisional for five years. Increasingly the Californio ranchos, who acquired land in this way, were legally able to sell.

“Burke and Son have been active in California for five or six years now,” explained Alfred Burke. “My father foresaw there would be an increase in the number of land transactions when the Mexican government started repossessing mission land. Once I joined the firm, I began to visit the area regularly. We have established extensive contacts and have now visited most of the estates north of Santa Barbara.”

“Some landowners with close affiliation to Spain were always likely to be unhappy under Mexican governance,” George Burke elaborated as he searched his waist coat pockets. Not finding what he wanted, the land agent paused and went over to the coat stand near the door. With a grunt of satisfaction, he retrieved a vesta case and tobacco pouch from the side pocket of his jacket and began to fill his pipe. “Many landowners of pure Spanish blood think too highly of themselves and resent being told what to do by Mexican riff-raff.”

“Father, watch where you throw your matches. You'll start a fire.”Mr Burke Junior hastily picked up a blackened match from some browning parchment and transferred it to the ash tray on the mantelpiece. “It stands to reason too that more and more of those who acquired grant land early will want to sell now their ownership is confirmed.”

“For the past two years we have paid a resident surveyor a stipend to relay information back to us. He acts as our agent. More and more Californios are approaching us to sell land on their behalf. We currently have two substantial tracts on our books that might suit. The Estancia Diaz is here on the coast some distance north of the San Francisco Bay.” Mr Burke Senior pointed to a large map on the office wall.“It's about the size you had in mind.”

“No, Father, that land is more suited to horticultural use. Mr Lancer is a cattleman. Now the San Joaquin estate on the other hand would be perfect.” Unrolling a large map, the younger Mr Burke pointed out both estates, but his enthusiasm for the land in the San Joaquin Valley was clear. “We have only just been contracted to sell the Estancia Talavera, and it is an excellent property. It will not last long on our books, even though it has been neglected by its owner for the past year. The estate comes with established cattle herds and a workforce. More land will become available, Mr Lancer, but I visited this estancia two years ago before Señor Talavera returned to Spain, and frankly I do not believe you could do better.”

Unfurling another large chart, Alfred Burke showed Murdoch a more detailed view of the ranch's boundaries while his father enjoyed his pipe and went to the window to investigate the source of a commotion outside. “As you can see, it is more centrally located than the other estate, with a variety of land, but mostly suitable for cattle. It's within two days ride of Yerba Buena where ships regularly stop for hides and tallow.”

“Get that muck out of here!” The immaculate Mr Burke Senior hollered like navvy through the open sash. Murdoch and Alfred Burke moved quickly to the other window to see what was happening. A pure-finder's barrow had been clipped and overturned by a brewery dray as they passed each other. Now the contents of the barrow were spread over the street outside the land agents' office, and the pungent aroma of dog faeces was beginning to fill the air. The pure-finder was screaming insults at the drayman, whose Anglo-Saxon response was clearly heard by all three men. George Burke slammed the window shut and straightened his vest. “Now where were we?”

Grinning at the gentleman's sudden change in demeanour, Murdoch went back to the desk and turned his attention once again to the maps. He recognised the potential of the property immediately. He had researched California as far as possible before leaving Scotland. He knew this area had land suited to cattle, but he also knew water was a fundamental consideration. The map in front of him showed a significant river as well as a small lake and some smaller streams. Upon request, Mr Burke provided more maps, geographic reports, sketches and a written description of the land; its climate and population; and what towns, resources and transport links were nearby.

The land comprised secularised mission land and other land adjoining. By the terms of the original grant the mission land could not be rented or subdivided and no public roads could be closed. The profits from hides and tallow were modest, and the Mexican government currently restricted trade through high customs duties. These considerations limited the value of land, but Murdoch was still surprised the asking price per acre was so low.

“This is not Scotland, Mr Lancer. There are very few people and even fewer, who know how to develop the land or who have the inclination to do so. You have read Two Years Before the Mast ? Yes, I thought so. Dana does not exaggerate. Many existing landowners are not driven to enterprise.”

Mr Burke Senior sat down at his desk and surveyed Murdoch through pince-nez spectacles. “We have been contracted to sell this land, and we have encouraged the owner to offer it at a very reasonable price as he wishes to liquidate his investment quickly in one transaction. We do not wish to waste your time or ours by misleading you. The price per acre reflects the emptiness of the country, the current income and legal limitations, and the vendor's eagerness to sell. It also reflects the undeveloped and variable nature of the land. Within this parcel there are some very fertile areas, some excellent pasture, a little cultivated land and much more yet to be developed. Horses roam wild and are free for the taking. There is, however, also some rough hill country and barren wasteland. Some of these more difficult areas could be brought to life with investment and hard work, but other parts are unlikely to ever be productive for agricultural use. Cattle are raised on the estate for a modest profit and have been for several years. We believe there is potential for higher profits through cattle and other enterprises, but there is no denying that it will take foresight and a lot of effort.”

Murdoch knew he would be buying potential income after a lot of hard work rather than immediate comfort. He would be gambling on a growing population and increasing demand for cattle products over time. Like the Burkes, he believed strongly that the expansion west of the United States, new technology like railways and steamships and possibly even new trade between Pacific nations would increase the market for beef and other cattle products. His research had told him that land prices were low. He had expected to buy more land than was common in Scotland, and he knew that was needed to make a Californian ranch viable. He had not expected an estate of this size however, and he was somewhat daunted by the prospect. There were no land taxes under the Mexican regime though, and in every respect other than size the estate was exactly what he was looking for. Unbelievably the asking price for the estate in its entirety, including cattle and chattels, fell just within the bounds of what Douglas Muir had indicated the bank would lend based on the deposit he proposed, the money he would have left and the knowledge, expertise and reputation he brought to the enterprise.

Murdoch's gut told him this was an opportunity too good to pass up. Only viewing the property would confirm his choice, but he was optimistic. “Sirs, I can hardly believe I am saying this, having only just arrived in America, but I am very interested.”

“Excellent! The land grant was provisional on certain conditions. We have confirmed that all were met by the current owner, at least to minimum standards. To be secure of your purchase, we would recommend you do more comprehensive surveying and marking, and that you endeavour to meet every other condition as well.” Mr Burke Senior peered over his long nose and spectacles, making sure he had Murdoch's full attention. “It is important that you abide by the rules, Mr Lancer. You must leave no doubt to your legal title. We have it on good authority that land title would be rigorously scrutinised if California became part of America. You would be safeguarding your interests under both governments if you were meticulous in this respect.”

“Understood. Is there anything else I should know?”

“You must apply for Mexican citizenship as soon as you commit to the purchase,” Alfred Burke advised.“The original grants were only made to Mexican citizens and California is still part of Mexico.”

“Are you a religious man, Mr Lancer?” enquired Mr Burke Senior.

“I believe in God, if that is what you mean? But wait, I know what you are going to say: to be a Mexican citizen one must be Catholic. I am.”

“You surprise me. I somehow thought you would be Church of Scotland.”

“I'm both,” replied Murdoch, enjoying the puzzled looks. “My father's family is still papist. It's not uncommon in the Highlands, though increasingly the Kirk is taking over. My mother's family is Protestant. I was brought up in that Church, but my father never converted. His sister persuaded him to have all his children baptised when I was just a babe—done in secret, behind my mother's back. There was hell to pay when she found out. The two women haven't spoken since, though I understand they had plenty to say to each other at the time.” Murdoch chuckled.


“That would be putting it mildly—or so my brother told me. Neither woman is known to back down from an argument, and while I've only seen my mother really angry once, I can tell you the sparks fairly flew.”

“I take it you were the target of her displeasure?”

“Aye, a small matter of a calf and a ravine. Perhaps I'll tell you about it one day, but after that my sympathies lay squarely with my Auntie Morag. Besides, unwittingly she did me a great service. I have a parchment that confirms the baptism amongst my papers.”

“Well, it certainly makes things easier in the first instance. We predict California will eventually transfer to American control, and then it will likely not matter.” Mr Burke Senior started to rummage around his desk. Stacks of files teetered along one edge and scrolled maps of varying sizes were scattered among a jumble of other documents. Murdoch had never seen such apparent disorganisation. It was in stark contrast to the son's orderly desk, upon which they now worked. “Where have you put my pipe, Alfred?”

Ignoring his father, Alfred Burke continued, “If and when California does join the Union, we recommend you apply for American naturalisation promptly. It would be an advantage to be an American citizen when confirming your claim to the land under the United States government.”

“I've always hoped to become American eventually.”

“A clipper, the Mary Ann , is scheduled to leave for South America in just under four weeks. I have already booked passage to Chagres for my own purposes. The river and mule journey across the Isthmus of Panama and then on by ship is by far the fastest way to get to California. We would disembark at Monterey, the centre of government and about three days ride from the Estancia Talavera. If you wish to proceed, I will arrange for you to accompany me.”

Finally finding his pipe where he had left it on the window sill, Mr Burke Senior reminded Murdoch he would need more than just the purchase price. “You need to cover set up costs and have access to enough capital to cover your expenses until your ranch begins to make money. The hide market in particular is profitable and several Boston businesses are involved so you should not have too much difficulty in finding a backer with your credentials, though it will depend on what you are prepared to put up as collateral. I doubt the bank will lend beyond the mortgage on the land until you demonstrate your ability to make a go of it.”

“Aye, Mr Muir, the bank manager, has already warned me that would be the case and has given me the names of some potential investors,” Murdoch agreed, pulling a list from his pocket. “I had not envisaged finding suitable land so soon, but now that I know what it will cost me and have evidence to support my application, I'll visit these gentlemen and see what can be arranged.”

“Who has he suggested?”

“Edgar Harraway, George Muller—and Harlan Garret as a last resort, though he didn't say why. Do you know anything of them?”

“All are men able and willing to invest in more risky ventures for a decent return. I would avoid doing business with Garrett if you can, but it will not hurt to sound him out. The knowledge that you are talking with him might stir one of the others to support you. There is a degree of competition between such men.”

“And why should I be wary of Mr Garrett?”

“On your voyage from Scotland, sir, did you happen to see any sharks?” replied Mr Burke Senior, blowing a large smoke ring into the air and watching its progress before looking enquiringly at Murdoch.

“No, sir, but I hear they are most unpleasant beasts.”

“Once a shark bites, Mr Lancer, it does not let go. Its jaws are made that way. Once Harlan Garrett invests money in an enterprise, he has a tendency to behave in a similar manner. His contracts have been known to make grown men cry when they realise there is no getting rid of his interest in their businesses. If you are forced to deal with Harlan Garrett, Mr Lancer, make very sure you employ a good lawyer and read the fine print before you sign.”

Chapter 6: A Series of Meetings

Murdoch had every intention of employing a good lawyer regardless of any dealings he may have with the infamous Mr Garrett. Douglas Muir had set up an appointment for him with a personal friend, James McIntyre, who had offices conveniently situated between the bank and the land agents. After another meeting with Muir the next morning, Murdoch headed to the lawyer's office eager to make his acquaintance and to familiarise him with his plans.

As he approached McIntyre and Associates he saw two young women leave the building. They were clearly friends as they were chatting and laughing and paying too little attention to the steps they were descending. The more animated of the two stumbled, and Murdoch ran forward to prevent her falling to the pavement.

“Are you all right, Miss? He supported her as she hopped back to sit down upon a lower step.

“Oh yes, thank you. Silly of me, I should have been looking where I was going.”

“You've hurt yourself, Catherine. I'll get help from inside.” Her friend made to go back up the steps.

“Don't fuss, Beth. You're acting like father. I'm not a porcelain doll. I've just twisted my ankle a little. It will be fine in a moment.” Raising her skirt slightly the injured girl rubbed her ankle and Murdoch enjoyed a quick glimpse of her neatly booted foot and white stocking before he remembered his manners and looked away.

“I am obliged to you, Mr…?” She raised grey-blue eyes to take in her gallant rescuer properly. Murdoch turned back to face her.

“Lancer, Miss—Murdoch Lancer.”

“I cannot thank you enough for your quick thinking, Mr Lancer.” She smiled shyly and blushed. “I believe with your assistance, I could stand now.” Murdoch was entranced. Ash-blond ringlets framed the young woman's face and the soft blueness gazing up from behind long lashes was mesmerising. She stretched out an elegant, well-manicure hand, and he helped her to her feet. Still holding on to his arm, she tentatively put weight on her injured ankle. “You see—good as gold.”

“In that case, we should be going,” declared the other young woman, checking the small watch on her chatelaine. “You must excuse us, Mr Lancer, but we are late for an engagement.”

The two friends hurried away, arm in arm. Murdoch watched their progress down the street, their heads together in deep discussion. Reaching the corner, they looked back, but seeing his eyes still upon them, they turned quickly away. A moment later they were gone.

His thoughts were still on Catherine with the grey-blue eyes as he entered the lawyer's office.

“May I help you, sir?”

Murdoch stated his business and was invited to take a seat opposite the secretary's desk. “Mr McIntyre is finishing preparations for his court case this afternoon. He won't be long.”

Picking up a copy of The Liberator from the pile of newspapers and magazines next to him, Murdoch scanned the first article before pretending casual conversation. “I passed two young ladies as I came in. They seemed in a great hurry.”

“Miss McIntyre and her friend, do you mean?” The secretary dipped his pen into an ink pot and continued to transcribe the many-page document on his desk. From Murdoch's vantage point, it looked like some kind of contract.

“I suppose I do,” answered Murdoch, casually crossing his legs. “Is Miss McIntyre called Catherine?”

“No, no, that is her friend, Miss Garrett. Miss McIntyre is Elizabeth, the darker of the two.” Pausing, the man looked over at Murdoch, taking him in properly for the first time.“Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason. Well, actually that isn't true. Miss Garrett took a fall on the front steps, and I was thinking I should make inquiries later to be sure she is all right.” Murdoch folded the newspaper and glanced up at the secretary.“You don't by chance know her address?”

A small bell tinkled in the background.

The older man's eyes twinkled. Murdoch tried to hide his embarrassment; his attempt to maintain an air of innocent enquiry had failed miserably. The secretary got to his feet. “She is not a client, but I know her father's name and I have an idea where she resides. I can look the address up for you in the directory while you are talking to Mr McIntyre. He is ready for you now. This way.”

His meeting with the lawyer took little more than half an hour. James McIntyre seemed an efficient and intelligent gentleman. He promised to get the legal documents from Burke and Son, and review them thoroughly.

“I have dealt with George and Alfred Burke before and don't foresee any difficulty. Theirs is an established and reputable firm. It's always wise to examine sale and purchase agreements with a fine-toothed comb though, especially when foreign laws are involved. One of my associates specialises in Mexican law so I will get him to examine the documents as well.”

Murdoch commended the lawyer for his thoroughness and then broached the subject of his potential backers. McIntyre did not represent any of the three men recommended by Douglas Muir.

"Conflict of interest. Besides there's too much profit to be made in arguing against them and dissecting their contracts.” The attorney smiled as he rose from his chair to escort Murdoch out. “Joke, Mr Lancer. I'm joking.”

Murdoch laughed along with him but suspected McIntyre was only half joking. Nevertheless, Murdoch left the office of James McIntyre and Associates in good humour; he had Catherine Garrett's address tucked safely away in his coat pocket.

He had not gone far when he bumped into Jim Harper.“Hold up, Lancer and I'll introduce you to the gastronomic delights of Boston's eating houses. I'm on my way to lunch. Just dropping these papers into our lawyers first.”

“Your company uses McIntyre and Associates? I've just hired Mr McIntyre as my legal adviser. He came highly recommended by my bank manager.”

“Yes, very efficient and reliable. New England Enterprises has used James McIntyre for several years, and he has built up a good team of associates. McIntyre is an abolitionist of course, so some don't like him, but I can assure you he is not a fanatic, and he is very good at the law.” Jim hurried off and true to his word was back within a few minutes.

He took Murdoch to the Oyster House in Union Street. Seated around the semi-circular bar, they tucked into generous bowls of clam chowder and fresh baked bread. Not satisfied, Jim then ordered a dozen oysters to share.

“My treat,” he declared toasting Murdoch's beer with his brandy and water.

Murdoch accompanied Jim as far as his office and then headed off to locate and make appointments with the three potential investors. Their businesses were all in the same general area, and it did not take him long. After that he went to collect the letters of introduction promised by the bank and the portfolios of documents from the land agents that were to be ready for him by 4 o'clock. He now had everything he needed to make his case for backing, and little more than three weeks to wait before sailing to California.


His first appointment was the following morning with George Muller at 10 o'clock. An outwardly amiable gentleman, George Muller had the unnerving ability to make men divulge more than they intended.

“Welcome, Lancer. Take a seat.” Accepting the papers Murdoch offered him, Muller tossed them unceremoniously onto his desk. Pouring two large glasses of brandy from a crystal decanter on the side cabinet, he handed one to Murdoch with a friendly smile.“Imported from France—the only vice I admit to.” Muller winked and swirled his brandy around the glass a few times before quaffing a healthy mouthful. With eyes closed, he savoured the flavour and then addressed Murdoch with mock consternation. “Drink up, young man. First class Cognac is for drinking not looking at.”

Returning to his desk he read quickly through Muir's letter of introduction and skimmed the contents of the land agents' portfolio. “Tell me about yourself.”

“What would you like to know, sir?”

“Everything. Start with your successes and your plans for California. What challenges do you expect to face there?”

Murdoch outlined his background and his plans for the future with enthusiasm. Muller spoke very little, preferring to let Murdoch fill any silences that arose. Every so often the businessman would egg Murdoch along by praising him for a decision or course of action taken, congratulating him on the gambles that came off. Murdoch relaxed into friendly conversation and shared stories that he never imagined would form part of this meeting, including the tale of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The bank was prepared to lend Murdoch a substantial amount of money, and Muller made no secret of the fact that he was impressed. “I knew if that wily old Scot was willing to part with his bank's money to a man of your age, there must be something to you.” He topped Murdoch's glass up and settled back into his chair.“No doubt made a few mistakes as well though, eh Lancer? Lord knows I've made plenty. Tell me about some of them—always good for a laugh in hindsight, don't you think? What have you learned?”

The topic was introduced so casually, with such bonhomie, that Murdoch very nearly disclosed one of his more serious gaffes. Just at the point when he felt the urge to let words run away with him however, a crucial piece of brotherly advice sprang to mind. Jock had always warned him never to say more than was necessary when negotiating. Information was power. “Keep as much power as you can in your own hands. The principle holds true whether you are negotiating a loan or buying a heifer.”

Aware that he may have already said more than was wise, Murdoch reined in his words. This time he answered more cautiously with the hope of making light of youthful acts. He now realised some could be seen in an adverse light by a potential investor. “I believe my adventure with the calf was my most impetuous act, Mr Muller, and that was a calculated risk. I wouldn't have attempted it if I hadn't known the men well and trusted them. I was in no real danger with them supporting me, and fortunately my exploits paid off. Even so, I believe I have matured from that time. Business will always involve certain risks, but I intend to take a little more care of my life and your investment in future.”

George Muller continued to encourage Murdoch to talk, never asking any question that could be answered simply yes or no, and always appearing to be in sympathy with Murdoch's actions and decisions. He flattered and laughed, but Murdoch stopped drinking his brandy and took more care with his answers. Upon reflection he had revealed a lot more about himself and his plans than he had intended, but he would not make it any worse. The gregarious Mr Muller eventually gave up his delving. Murdoch departed unsure whether the meeting had been a success or not.

Harraway was easier to deal with. Again he took little notice of the paperwork, saying he would read it later. He said he wanted to find out about Murdoch the man, but in fact, during the first half hour, he talked much more about himself. “Harvard educated, Mr Lancer. Studied the law but went directly into the family business. The Harraways came out on the Mayflower you know. Now not even my good friend Sam Cabot can claim that!”

Edgar Harraway was a frightful snob. Recognising this, Murdoch made a real effort to tone down his Scottish brogue. It pricked his conscience a little, but he exaggerated his brother's wealth and the closeness of his relationship with his former employer. Without actually lying, he allowed Harraway to believe that the money he had in the bank was a truer reflection of his background than it actually was.

“So you are related to the Earl?”

“Yes sir. My father and the Earl were cousins. They hunted together in their youth and remained good friends until my father's death. The Earl has always taken an interest in my affairs.”

It was all true up to a point. There are cousins and there are cousins; the kinship was very distant. Similarly, ‘friends' may have been too strong a word to describe men, who as adults moved within different levels of society. Certainly, the laird had always taken a pleasing interest in Murdoch, but how much that was due to the deal they had struck and the fact that he worked for the man, Murdoch was not entirely sure himself. All things being equal, however, Murdoch departed reasonably confident of Edgar Harraway's interest.

That left Harlan Garrett. Murdoch approached this meeting the following day with more trepidation—the disadvantage of listening to others. The plushness of the businessman's premises did nothing to put him at ease. Thick Persian carpets lay over highly polished floors. Leather upholstered furniture and the very best mahogany and inlaid desks and cabinetry combined to make the office almost as daunting as the man himself. The other two men had not displayed their wealth at their place of work so blatantly, unless he counted the brandy.

Harlan Garrett was clearly well-to-do and not embarrassed to show it. A greying man around fifty, of average height, richly dressed and well-groomed, he was not handsome but exuded that aura of power and influence that cannot help but intimidate and attract. Social standing was obviously important to him, and Murdoch's youth and newness to America were immediately commented on with disdain.

“Why should I risk my money or reputation backing a young man who only just stepped off an immigrant ship?”

“Why do you ever risk investment, sir? The rate of return on your investment is negotiable. With the help of Mr Muir from the bank, I have prepared a proposal that I believe is fair to both parties, but nothing is set in stone.” Murdoch looked Garrett directly in the eye. He needed a backer, but he did not want Garrett to get the idea he could be easily intimidated.

The businessman leaned back in his chair and was silent for several minutes. Murdoch felt uncomfortable under his gaze, and was almost relieved when the interrogation began. What were his plans and what evidence could he provide to prove his ability to fulfil them? No pretence of affability in this interview. Murdoch felt like he was being appraised like a diamond in the rough. Was the gem worth the polishing or would cracks appear? What would its ultimate value be and can I own it? No, Mr Garrett, you cannot.

“The particulars about the land are here, sir. With the bank's help, I can finance the purchase myself, but that will leave me with less capital for initial running costs than I should wish. The bank will not lend to me in my own right for that purpose until I have established a credit history in this country. What I am looking for is an investor to guarantee me a line of credit either directly or through the bank for up to five years.”

“By which time, if successful, the bank will lend to you in the normal way, but in the mean time you are a risk.” Garrett wrote a calculation on the blotter in front of him, contemplated the numbers for a moment and then crossed them out.“What you propose is a very great risk. California is a long way off and currently part Mexico. While there is some talk of it eventually coming under American control, that is not likely for several years. All manner of catastrophes could befall you or your enterprise. I know nothing of you as a man, or, perhaps more importantly, as a cattleman and businessman, than what is contained in these letters and what you tell me of yourself. You are very young and you have no social or financial connections of any worth in this country. I am thinking, if I make you an offer of investment, it would require more substantial collateral than you have indicated here.”

Murdoch considered his words carefully before he answered. “The terms are negotiable up to a point, but there should be no misunderstanding, sir, I am not willing to offer shares in my ranch. Edgar Harraway and George Muller are also considering my proposal. I am expecting a decision from those gentlemen within the next week.”

“I will examine the documents you have provided, Mr Lancer. I will be in touch.”

Murdoch knew he was dismissed. He debated if he should ask Mr Garrett whether he was related to Miss Catherine Garrett, but decided against it. He had intended to ask McIntyre's secretary, but the man was busy with another client when Murdoch departed. He only briefly interrupted his conversation to pass over the promised address. As for asking Harlan Garrett, Murdoch decided it would only complicate matters. If he was a close relative, and now he sincerely hoped he was not, it could remove any reason for calling upon her. Her uncle, or—God forbid— her father, would certainly be able to give the assurances of well-being that Murdoch would supposedly be seeking. He did not want to lose the only excuse he had for contacting her.

That was something he hoped to do very soon. Checking his grandfather's watch as he reached the pavement, he was surprised to find it still only 11 o'clock. The inquisition had seemed much longer. Miss Garrett lived in what Murdoch already knew from Jim to be the best part of town, within ten minutes' walk of where he now stood. There was no time like the present. Murdoch headed for Beacon Hill.


Catherine Garrett's home was an imposing four-storied brick and stone residence in Louisburg Square, one of the most fashionable addresses in Boston. Its grand oak door, black shutters, wrought-iron balustrades and white stone portico were daunting, but Murdoch bravely lifted the iron door knocker and rapped loudly. A uniformed butler answered and Murdoch stepped into a spacious, tiled reception area.

“Would Miss Garrett— Miss Catherine Garrett— be at home?” Murdoch hoped he did not appear as nervous as he felt.

“Who shall I say is calling, sir?” The butler's gaze was inscrutable.

Murdoch gave his name and waited while the manservant went to enquire whether Miss Garrett was at home to visitors that morning. Murdoch could hear someone playing the piano and tried to catch the tune as the butler ascended a sweeping staircase to the first landing. After tapping on the door at the top of the stairs, the man entered the room and the music ceased.

A minute later, without warning, the front door opened and Harlan Garrett strode across the threshold. Murdoch stood up immediately. Garrett stopped dead in his tracks.“Mr Lancer! What are you doing in my house?”

“I beg your pardon, sir. I didn't realise it was your house,” Murdoch replied with as much composure as he could muster. “I came to enquire after the health of Miss Catherine Garrett. We met briefly the day before yesterday—she tripped.”

“Miss Garrett is pleased to receive the young gentleman, sir.” The butler approached from the stairs.

Murdoch looked towards the door at the top of the landing, but he could only see a servant girl dusting an ornate picture frame. Harlan Garrett followed his gaze and recalled his attention abruptly.

“My daughter did not mention such an incident, and I can assure you she is in perfect health. She is not, I am afraid, receiving visitors.” Garrett glared at his butler. Putting his arm out, he ushered Murdoch towards the door. “I trust you will understand me, Mr Lancer, when I say my daughter will not be accepting visits from any young man, of whom I have not first approved. Also, I have considered your business proposal, and I shall not be investing. I do not expect there will be any need for you to call at my house again. Good day, Mr Lancer.”

Evicted and despondent, Murdoch made his way out of Louisburg Square and back down Mount Vernon Street. How could he get to see Miss Garrett again now? He was about to turn into Walnut Street when he heard the sound of running behind him.

The housemaid from the Garrett mansion arrived at his side panting and holding a stitch.“Begging your pardon, sir, I have a message from my mistress.” The girl gasped to catch her breath. “The Athenaeum, sir, on Pearl Street—Miss McIntyre and my mistress always exchange their books there on a Monday afternoon.”

Bobbing a curtsy, the maid scurried away before Murdoch could utter a word.

Chapter 7: A Novel Encounter

There never was a longer weekend. Not even visiting his shipboard friend, Ben Telford, in Roxbury could divert Murdoch's thoughts entirely from Catherine Garrett and the memory of her grey-blue eyes.

“Oh, you've got it bad!” Ben chortled after Murdoch had unconsciously brought the conversation back to Miss Garrett for the third time. “I'd be more worried about losing her father as an investor if I were you.”

“Och, he was always a last resort, just from what others had told me, but you're right, I need to keep my mind on other things. Tell me about your first week in America.”

“Not nearly as exciting as yours, but I've got myself a job as overseer in a boot factory about a mile from here. Convinced them that with my experience in my father's workshops, I could handle a bit more responsibility despite my age. Pays a dollar a day more than working the tools alone.”

“Good for you. You'll have that nest egg in no time. Maybe I'll see you in California one day.”

Murdoch enjoyed the walk to and from Roxbury. After a week of paved streets and city buildings, it was refreshing to see and smell countryside again. His thoughts were never far from Monday afternoon however.

On Monday morning Murdoch attended to a few business matters, and then made his way to the Athenaeum. Although his head told him he was far too early, he entered the building soon after 12 o'clock.

Murdoch occupied himself in the reading room looking through The Liberator and Boston Post . Every twenty minutes or so, he rose from the comfort of his turned-wood chair and wandered through the other areas, hoping to find the two young ladies. He was surprised to discover that there was an art gallery and lecture hall as well as the library, and he spent some time examining a fine painting of two war ships battling in open seas. Returning downstairs he finally spotted Miss Garrett and Miss McIntyre perusing the recent-returns shelf.

“Miss Garrett, Miss McIntyre, how fortunate to meet you here.” Murdoch bowed, raising his hat.

“Why, Mr Lancer, what a surprise.” Miss Garrett inclined her head gracefully. Responding more loudly than was strictly necessary for the benefit of the patrons nearby, she smiled mischievously up at Murdoch.

The threesome moved towards shelves where there were fewer people to overhear them.

“I must apologise for the other day, sir.” Miss Garrett kept her voice low voice and she glanced briefly away to be sure that they were not drawing attention. “I love my father, but he does tend to be rather over-protective of me.”

“You mean he treats you like one of his commodities.” Miss McIntyre selected a book from the shelf and opened it to the first page. With mock seriousness, she met Murdoch's eye. “You may as well know, Mr Lancer, that Miss Garrett is destined to marry high. Nothing short of a Lowell will satisfy her father's aspirations. What Catherine herself thinks, doesn't appear to matter.”

“Oh Beth, that's not fair. He just wants the best for me. I admit I would like more freedom, but since mother died, I'm all he's got. I think he's afraid of losing me.”

To Murdoch's amusement, Miss McIntyre shook her head, sighing dramatically. “Perhaps, but I think he's more afraid of losing money and high connections should you become attached to a young man of lesser financial and social worth. Still, you know him best.” She returned the first book to the shelf and selected another. Then she looked Murdoch up and down with same good-humoured rudeness, she had just demonstrated towards her friend. “You are Scottish, I believe, Mr Lancer—newly arrived?”

“I am, Miss McIntyre. From Inverness.”

“Indeed? My father's family came from the Highlands—a little further south.” She considered for a moment. “I am puzzled. Lancer is not a name I associate with Scotland—or anywhere for that matter.”

“No, it's not common. It's from a French name, ‘Lancret'. My great grandfather, Jean Lancret, came to Scotland in support of Charles Stuart in '45. He was killed at Culloden. My great grandmother was already with child. She returned to her family in Inverness after the battle.”

“Oh, how sad!” exclaimed Miss Garrett, bringing a gloved hand to her lips. “How-ever did she manage?”

“I don't expect it was easy, but her father was reasonably well-off, a tacksman—that's a landholder related to the laird who doesn't farm himself but lives off his rents. Lancret left some gold too. That was used to buy land for their son when he came of age.”

“But the name, Mr Lancer. Why has it changed?” Miss McIntyre was both inquisitive and persistent.

“My father wrote in our family bible that my great grandmother dropped the t in the aftermath of the Rising. Jacobite sympathisers were hunted down by the English, and a French name would have drawn attention. My father changed to the L-A-N-C-E-R spelling and pronunciation when he married. I think he simply got tired of people misspelling his name and pronouncing it in different ways. His older brother came here to America before then though. Likely his branch still goes by L-A-N-C-R-E.”

“So you have family here, Mr Lancer. Where do they live?” Miss Garrett enquired with interest.

“I don't actually know. Uncle Willie wasn't the best at keeping in touch. We know he married the daughter of a German farmer somewhere near New York and moved west, but no one ever heard where they settled.”

The conversation continued on the subject of family for a little while longer, and then turned to books. Murdoch responded with good humour to all the ladies' questions, giving a full account of his varied tastes. Then remembering she had promised to bring back a particular book for her mother, Miss McIntyre excused herself and went in search of it. Murdoch and Miss Garrett were left alone, smiling self-consciously at each other.

“And what do you like to read, Miss Garrett?” Murdoch asked.

“Oh, you will find me very shallow, Mr Lancer. I admit I am not one for histories or essays. I enjoy novels, short stories and poetry most. I share your liking for Charles Dickens and I am not averse to Shakespeare, but you are welcome to the Classics with all their wars and monsters, and I prefer to avoid any writer who lectures me on my behaviour or morals.”

Murdoch laughed at this. “I can't imagine you need lessons on morals, Miss Garrett. I agree there are some rather tedious preachers writing at the moment. I have a book of poems by your Mr Longfellow, however, that is much more entertaining. It proved very popular on my voyage over. Do you enjoy his verse?”

“I do—very much.” Miss Garrett answered with enthusiasm, her eyes shone and her cheeks were the prettiest shade of pink. “I also have an interest in women writers. I am particularly fond of the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Cynthia Taggart.”

“I expect there are a number of American writers I am unfamiliar with. Cynthia Taggart is American?”

“Yes,” Miss Garrett agreed. “I suspect, though, you would enjoy short stories like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving more than Miss Taggart's poetry.”

By the time Miss McIntyre returned carrying several books, their conversation had moved on to California and Murdoch's aspirations for the future. Murdoch had the pleasure of noting a flicker of disappointment on Miss Garrett's face when he revealed he would be sailing for California in a few weeks' time and then a look of relief when he disclosed the need to return to Boston some months later to finalise business.

Miss McIntyre reminded Miss Garrett that she needed to choose some books of her own. All too quickly their time at the Athenaeum had come to a close. It had been so enjoyable, however, that neither young person wanted to part without making arrangements to meet again. Murdoch could tell Miss Garrett regretted deeply the need to deceive her father, but as she was certain Mr Garrett would not approve her seeing him, he was pleased she was not above a little subterfuge. Her friend seemed wholly in support of him, and with her help arranging to see each other again would be so much easier.

“I believe, if the weather is fine, Miss McIntyre and I will be taking the air on the Common tomorrow afternoon,” Miss Garrett remarked quietly as Murdoch escorted them from the Athenaeum. “I do so love watching the tadpoles at this time of year.”

In full view of Boston society the three conspirators parted company formally with polite bows. If word got back to Harlan Garrett that they had met, Miss Garrett could pretend it was a casual meeting and Murdoch had merely enquired after her health. The only thing that could belie the claim was the sparkle in two sets of blue eyes.

Chapter 8: Common Ground

“Frog Pond, of course.” Jim Harper put down his coffee and began to butter another slice of toast. “How do you think it got its name? It's full of tadpoles in the spring. Why do you ask?”

Helping himself to strawberry jam, Murdoch made light of meeting ‘someone' on the Common that afternoon. “I didn't realise at the time how big the Common was, but I recall they said they wanted to see the tadpoles.”

Jim looked at him suspiciously, but Rose picked that moment to lay scrambled eggs and bacon before them both so he said no more.

Frog Pond was more like a small lake than a pond, and sure enough Murdoch spied tadpoles wiggling their way through the reeds at the water's edge. He was peering at one in particular that was half way to transforming into a frog, when Miss Garrett and Miss McIntyre joined him carrying a rug and a picnic basket.

“There is a pleasant, private spot further along.” Miss Garrett pointed towards a grove of wild cherry trees a short distance away. “We often spread out the rug and read or draw on a sunny day.” Murdoch noticed that both girls had brought sketchpads with them as well as novels.

Arranging the rug so they could enjoy sun and shade, they sat down to savour the contents of the small hamper.

“What has Mrs Pearson given us?” Miss McIntyre rooted about in the basket. “Ooh, her homemade lemonade, yum—devilled eggs, tongue sandwiches and apple pie. What can I tempt you with, Mr Lancer?”

Murdoch accepted a sandwich and a glass of lemonade. It really was delicious.

“My compliments to Mrs Pearson. This is the best lemonade I've ever tasted.”

“Yes, the Garrett's are very fortunate with their cook.” Miss McIntyre wrapped the cloth back around the sandwiches and selected an egg. “I've suggested she might like to jump ship and come to work for the McIntyre family instead, but she won't abandon Mr Garrett. She must be the only person who really likes your father, Catherine. I can't understand it.”

“Take no notice of her, Mr Lancer.” Miss Garrett's eyes sparkled behind long lashes as she laughed. Wiping her fingers on a napkin, she took a sip of lemonade. Her gaze stayed fixed on Murdoch. “It is true my father is very fond of a good meal. He frequently praises Mrs Pearson, and thankfully I'm sure she would never dream of leaving us.”

“I hope, Miss Garrett, I am not putting you in an awkward position with your father meeting like this?” Murdoch held his breath for her answer.

“Unfortunately, I would do very little I truly enjoy if I confined myself to what Father wants.” Miss Garrett sighed and brushed a blossom petal from her dress. Looking pensive, she fiddled with the pretty butterfly brooch she wore on her bodice. “He would have me always the lady, taking tea in the best parlours and discussing only dresses and balls with the sisters and mothers of Boston's most eligible bachelors.”A gentle breeze played with the ringlets framing her face. Her ash blond hair appeared like strands of gold in the mottled sunlight as it filtered through the branches above. “It's not that I do not enjoy society, Mr Lancer, but sometimes I feel trapped, and Boston's most eligible bachelors seem mostly arrogant or insipid.” Murdoch tried to look sympathetic, though he was in fact rather pleased with this news. Having relieved her conscience with reasons for deceiving her father, Miss Garrett perked up. She glanced teasingly at Miss McIntyre. “Besides I have this outrageous friend who persists in leading me astray.”

The lady in question shook her head sorrowfully, her face penitent. “Well, of course I forced her to attend my aunt's luncheon for Miss Ward last week to hear her thoughts on slavery—that is where we were going when we first met you; and without doubt, I compelled her to be less than forthright with her father today. I am a very bad friend.”

“I think perhaps you are a very good friend, Miss McIntyre. I for one am very grateful to you.” Murdoch grinned and accepted a slice of apple pie.

For a few minutes they fell silent as they ate. Miss Garrett nibbled half-heartedly at a small piece of pie. When she spoke again it was in an attempt to justify her father's unfriendly behaviour. “Father changed when Mama died. He doted on her, and when he buried her, he buried himself in his work. I was only fifteen. I didn't know how to console him when I was so forlorn myself. Now I fear it is too late. He blames God for taking her from him, I think, and now selfishly guards what is his, including me. He was never a demonstrative man, always prone to seeing things in terms of profit and loss, but I think my mother instilled a balance in his life. I don't know how to explain it, but the laughter reached his eyes when Mama was alive.”

Miss Garrett looked sad and bemused. Murdoch said the first thing to enter his head to distract her. “Your father would not have approved you attending a talk about slavery. He is not an abolitionist then?”

“Like many, Father does not approve of women speaking in public and Miss Ward is known to do so. She would be considered a bad influence. My father is anti-slavery, but more from an economic standpoint than a moral one. He believes slavery gives the South unfair economic advantage.”

“And that is one point upon which our fathers would agree, but I do not want to talk about them.”Miss McIntyre started putting the leftovers back into the hamper. “I'm going to read my book. Why don't you two go down to the water and feed the last of these sandwiches to the ducks?”

Murdoch helped Miss Garrett to her feet and they strolled down to the water's edge. Standing in the shade of a blossom tree they threw pieces of bread to a family of mallards.

“You must be tired of water after so long at sea, Mr Lancer.” Breaking a sandwich up, Miss Garrett tossed a morsel to each of the ducklings squabbling to be fed. “I can't imagine spending so long confined. What on earth did you do to pass the time?”

“As you might imagine, we read and talked, played games and made music.”

“I love music and games as well. What kind of games did you play—card games?”

“Yes, and board games like chess, and we told or read each other stories. Sometimes we posed riddles—whatever came to mind really.”

“Oh riddles! I do so enjoy riddles, though I am not very good at them.” Filled with merriment, grey-blues eyes looked up at Murdoch. “Tell me a riddle, Mr Lancer—one that you shared with your fellow passengers on the voyage to Boston.”

Casting his thoughts back, Murdoch smiled as the breeze brought a shower of blossom down upon them. He picked a petal from Miss Garrett's hair. “I think I know the very one, but it's designed to be sung. You must make allowances for me, Miss Garrett. I am not an experienced singer.”

“I am sure you sing beautifully, Mr Lancer. I am eager to hear you.”

Grinning Murdoch began to sing in a rich baritone voice:

Come a riddle, come a riddle, come a rote, tote, tote,
A wee, wee man in a red, red coat.
A stick in his hand,
And a stone in his throat,
Come a riddle, come a riddle, come a rote, tote, tote.

“Oh, how marvellous.” Miss Garrett clapped her hands with glee. “You were teasing me, Mr Lancer. You sing very well. Now let me see, the riddle. Can I make it out. ‘Come a riddle' and so on is just an introduction, I think.” She looked at Murdoch for confirmation and then went on. “After that we have a wee man in a red coat, so something small and red?”

“You're doing well.” Murdoch was amused by the look of intense concentration on her face.

“A stick in his hand and a stone in his throat. What is small and red with a stick and a stone? This is harder than I thought. Oh, what can it be?”

“Can't you guess?” Murdoch raised his eyes to the tree above.

“A cherry! That's it, isn't it, Mr Lancer?” Miss Garrett exclaimed, grabbing his arm in her excitement. “The answer is a cherry; it's small and red and has both a stick and a stone. I am right, aren't I?”

“You most certainly are, Miss Garrett,” Murdoch laughed, relishing her delight.

“I think it is time you called me Catherine, Mr Lancer. I really do. We can't go on being so formal when we are alone in each other's company.”

“I am honoured—Catherine. And you must call me Murdoch.”

“I suspect—Murdoch—that we are behaving very indecorously, but I do so want to know you better before you leave for California. I would have you stay in Boston much longer, but I know you are eager to go. You will definitely be coming back, won't you?”

“I will need to return briefly at some point, but I will also need to stay several months before doing so, if things go as planned.” California was his dream, but at this moment, Murdoch wished he and Burke would not be sailing so soon. Offering his arm to Catherine he helped her up the grassy slope. “We must make the most of the few weeks we have left and see where they take us.”

They walked lazily along the banks of the pond, hatching a plan whereby they might meet almost every week day. Weekends alas would be too difficult. Harlan Garrett generally spent time with his daughter then. Evenings too were usually taken up with engagements or the theatre. The mornings were reserved for visiting or waiting at home to be visited by other society ladies, but Catherine's afternoons were largely her own now she was of age. Murdoch would schedule any business he had in the mornings, and the afternoons would be theirs to do with as they pleased. Garrett was so used to his daughter spending time with Miss McIntyre that, as long as Catherine was in her company, he would have no cause for alarm or suspicion. The Athenaeum, its art gallery or library, would be wet-weather retreats, and when the sun shone the Common was the perfect meeting place. Miss McIntyre—Beth—happily agreed to act as chaperone and look out as circumstances required, and the two young people parted with high hopes for the weeks ahead.

Chapter 9: Boston Times

As the week progressed, Murdoch began to worry that he had not heard anything from the other potential investors. A message finally arrived on Friday morning inviting him to meet with James McIntyre at 11 o'clock on Monday. The arrangement had been that Edgar Harraway and George Muller would respond to the lawyer so that he could review any conditions they made before Murdoch considered them. Murdoch had told McIntyre not to expect anything from Harlan Garrett, but he had not explained why.

“I actually heard from Harraway last Monday. He declined to back you.” McIntyre pushed Harraway's missive across the desk.

“But he seemed interested. Why did he change his mind—and so quickly?”

“I'll get to that. I heard from Muller on Wednesday. He's willing to accept your proposal without any extra conditions at all.”

“Really? Well, that's excellent.”

“Yes, but equally strange. I didn't get in touch with you earlier, because I wanted to dig a little.” The lawyer stood up from his desk and went to the sideboard where he kept a decanter and glasses. “Whisky, Mr Lancer?”

“Yes, thank you. I think I need one at the moment. What did you find out?”

“You're seeing rather a lot of my daughter and her friend, Miss Garrett.”

Murdoch, taken by surprise, looked at his feet in embarrassment. “Well, yes sir, but I assure you it's all very respectable. I wouldn't dream of compromising either lady's reputation.” He looked Beth's father in the eye and hoped he appeared sincere.

“Beth is perfectly capable of raising eyebrows without your help. My fault entirely. I've allowed her too much independence.” James McIntyre's exasperation and pride were plain. Clearly he was a more tolerant parent than Harlan Garrett. Taking a sip of whisky, the lawyer perched on the corner of his desk and gazed down at Murdoch, sitting in the chair in front of him. “Miss Garrett is a different story however, and my sources tell me, it is Miss Garrett you are interested in.”

“Yes sir.” Murdoch felt like a school boy in trouble with the headmaster. “But what has this got to do with Edgar Harraway and George Muller?”

“Their spies tell them the same thing, or at least George Muller's spies do. Edgar Harraway was scared off by Harlan Garrett. After some incident at his house between you, Garrett sought out both gentlemen and talked you down as only Harlan Garrett can do. Harraway listened. Muller asked himself why Garrett was so bothered and investigated. There is no love lost between Garrett and Muller. Once George Muller determined it was a personal matter that had set you at odds with old Harlan, he was even more interested in backing you than before.”

“Dear God, does Harlan Garrett know I am seeing his daughter?” Murdoch was now worried for Catherine. The fact that Muller was willing to finance his plan was a secondary consideration.

“No, I don't think so, but you are right to be worried. Harlan Garrett is a dangerous man to have as an enemy, Mr Lancer. More importantly, though, I like Miss Garrett. She is a frequent guest in my house and I would not want to see her hurt by you or her father. Unless you are very serious in your intentions, I would ask you to break it off now, before he finds out.”

“We have only known each other a week, sir, but I can't. She is the most wonderful, beautiful … I just can't imagine …” Murdoch bowed his head in confusion. How could he explain, how he felt? How she felt too—because she did feel the same way. He knew it. To feel that strongly about each other when they had only recently met was not reasonable, and yet the only thing stopping him asking her to marry him immediately was his planned expedition to California. If all went well, he knew he would ask her upon his return.

“I see. Well, we will deal with whatever we have to deal with, when the time comes. You have the promise of backing on your own terms so I suggest we accept, subject to the land purchase proceeding. I will send a letter of acceptance and draw up the contracts ready for your signatures upon your return from California. You'd best be on your way and get something for your lunch. Beth mentioned at breakfast that she and Miss Garrett were going to Dock Square today. You'll need all your strength if you are escorting them on a shopping expedition.”

Three weeks passed far too quickly. Murdoch's mornings were filled with finalising paperwork and arrangements, preparations to stay in California if all went as planned. With Beth McIntyre's help, his afternoons were devoted to Catherine.

He wrote letters to his family telling them of his experiences so far, his good fortune in finding land and an investor and his up-coming voyage. And he wrote of Catherine: She is about the same height as Maggie with bonnie ash-blond hair and grey-blue eyes. I know you would like her .

On the Sunday before he left, Murdoch dined with his friend Ben in Roxbury and bade him farewell. “I probably won't see you again until early next year, if all goes to plan. If you abandon Boston before then, leave a forwarding address at my bank.”

Murdoch was already receiving letters care of the bank. Douglas Muir had promised to forward any arriving for him in his absence. He would dispatch them whenever a vessel left intending a reasonably direct passage to Monterey or Yerba Buena. With luck Murdoch would receive mail every few months during his initial sojourn in California.

Standing under the wild cherry tree once again Murdoch and Catherine said very little at their final rendezvous, but there was by then no need for words. The strength of their feelings was conveyed by look and touch. Catherine took a small package from her pocket. “It was taken on my twenty-first birthday.”

The daguerreotype was exceptionally detailed, though it made her hair look darker than it really was. Murdoch could not see the colour of her eyes nor appreciate the full beauty of her low-cut gown, but she posed tall and slender against a plain backdrop. Her long, luxuriant hair tumbled down her back and across her bare shoulders. There was the hint of a smile on her lips, and he could tell she had been happy on that day. He wished he had arrived a few weeks sooner so he could have shared it with her, so that they could have had more time together before being forced to part.

In exchange he handed her a similar package. She undid the brown paper to find the sketch Beth had made of Murdoch three days earlier. Catherine had exclaimed over her friend's ability to take his likeness so precisely. Murdoch had begged the sketch from Beth, who had agreed but only after she had added some colour. It really was very well done. He had had it framed in bird's eye maple. “Our minds think alike.”

“I'll miss you so much,” Catherine whispered, finally giving way to her tears. “I'll write every week.”

Murdoch took Catherine in his arms and wiped away her tears—then he kissed her. It was a long, slow, gentle kiss and the young lovers melted into each other as though they were one. “I must go now, but I will be back. Wait for me. If all goes well, you know what I will ask.” Kissing her gently on the forehead, he turned and walked away, not daring to look back.


That night Murdoch drowned his sorrows with Jim Harper and the other gentlemen of Mrs Merriweather's boarding establishment. Murdoch knew he had an early start in the morning and should not be out late, but his friends were persistent and he needed something to take his mind off Catherine. Until that night, he had revealed very little to his fellow boarders about the young woman, who had captured his attention. By the end of the evening, however, he had told Jim almost everything.

After pouring Murdoch through the back entrance of the boarding house, Jim helped him to his room. Rose bolted the scullery door behind them and stole back to her bedroom off the kitchen. Beckinsale and Thompson stood guard on the landings in case the lady of the house should wake.

“Come on now, Murdo, quietly does it.” Harper panted as he staggered under the weight of his friend. “Don't want to wake Mrs M.”

“Shush! Must not wake Tilly.” Murdoch brought a finger to his lips as he slurred. Not watching where he was going, he stumbled on the top step to the first landing and Thompson only just reached him and Jim in time to stop them falling back down the stairs. Oblivious to his near miss, Murdoch turned solemnly towards his rescuer and prodded him in the chest. “Verra nice woman is Mrs Merri…Merri…feather. I like her.”

“Well, she won't like you—or let you back here—if she sees you in this state. Keep it down.”Jim grabbed Murdoch by the arm and dragged him up the second flight.

Eventually with the help of the others Jim got Murdoch onto his bed just after midnight. He was asleep within seconds.

The Mary Ann weighed anchor and sailed out of Boston harbour on the morning tide. A very hung-over Murdoch Lancer and the land agent, Alfred Burke, stood by the rail watching the city of Boston fade into the distance. They would share a cabin for the journey. The clipper would dock again briefly in New York that evening, and then it would be non-stop to their destination on the Isthmus of Panama. All being well they would reach Chagres within ten days. The next stage of Murdoch's great adventure had begun.

Chapter 10: Letters to Catherine

My Dearest Catherine,
We arrived safely in New York last night.

The Mary Ann manoeuvred into a mooring between a frigate and a barque at dusk. The voyage from Boston had been uneventful except for the splitting headache, which reminded Murdoch relentlessly of the night before.

“I will never drink that much again!” he assured an amused Alfred Burke as they retired to their cabin.

Our accommodation on the ‘Mary Ann' is definitely a step up from steerage on the ‘Duchess of Argyle', but it still took some ingenuity to sleep comfortably in my bunk. I felt a bit like a concertina. Unfortunately Burke snores—loudly, but I did eventually fall asleep.

We have no time to go any further afield than the dockyards this morning, but we will stretch our legs ashore while more passengers board.Burke wants to find a boy to deliver some business letters.

The clipper was devoted mainly to cargo, but there were a small number of cabins for passengers. When the Mary Ann set sail shortly after 10 o'clock, all twelve berths were occupied. Passengers could socialise in a communal area below decks, and Murdoch soon got to know most of his companions. The majority were heading for South America, but Spaniards, Señor and Señora Alvarez, were returning to Los Angeles in California. Although Murdoch's Spanish was limited, he tried hard to converse with them.

Señor Alvarez is some sort of government official. I had hoped he and his wife would tell me more about California, but they are not very friendly. Burke speaks Spanish well, and he says they do not like Americans or Scotsmen. I can only hope that is not the prevailing attitude in my new homeland.

The clipper made fast passage, but still ocean-weary from his trans-Atlantic trip, the voyage held little attraction for Murdoch. He practised his Spanish, wrote to Catherine and his family, and read. Catherine had lent him the book of short stories, she had recommended at their first meeting at the Athenaeum.

You were right; I did enjoy ‘Rip Van Winkle'.

Burke proved to be something of an artist. He set up an easel on the main deck and painted with water colours.“I'll give you one of my seascapes if you proceed with the purchase.”

“Muchas gracias,” replied Murdoch. “Quiero pintar mi pared.”

“You want to paint your wall?” Burke lowered his brush from the canvas and thought for a moment. “I think you mean ‘Me gustaria una pintura de la pared'. You want a painting for your wall.”

Murdoch shook his head and laughed. “Well, I got one word right.”

He checked the index of A Compendium of the Spanish Language and began to study the pages related to mealtime conversation.

This evening we dined with the captain and three other passengers, Mr and Mrs Ballantyne and their daughter, Lavinia. The Ballantynes are sailing to Rio de Janeiro. Mr Ballantyne is an engineer, and he is going to help with the construction of a new bridge. I found him very interesting, but unfortunately I did not enjoy Miss Ballantyne quite so much. She is a rather tiresome girl of fifteen, and she interrupted my conversation with her father several times for no apparent reason.

“The iron has been hot blasted in Shropshire and shipped out for the purpose.” Richard Ballantyne explained his latest project to Murdoch with enthusiasm. He was in his mid-forties with long sideburns that joined to his moustache. A Scotsman like Murdoch, he had not lived in Britain for many years. Instead he travelled the world building the bridges that were his passion.

Murdoch found the details of bridge building fascinating. “Indeed, sir, and it will be the first bridge of its kind in Brazil?”

Ballantyne was about to answer when his daughter addressed him from the opposite side of the table. “If I am to endure such an uncivilised city as Rio for your benefit, Papa, you should buy me a lapdog to keep me company. Mama agrees. A little pug would be divine. Mr Lancer, you must have seen pugs on your travels. Don't you just adore their little squashed faces?”

Murdoch kept his reply to Miss Ballantyne as short as politeness allowed. He tried to steer the conversation back to bridges and other things of more interest to him than pampered pets, but Miss Ballantyne persisted. She seemed determined to be the centre of attention throughout the entire evening.

A few days later, the Mary Ann experienced rough seas.The passengers were confined below decks as the vessel rolled with the waves.

For all the misery of steerage on the ‘Duchess', I never had to hold the bowl while a spoilt young lady emptied her last meal into it. How I got into such a predicament, I still do not know. One minute I was walking past the family and the next, Ballantyne was thrusting the bowl into my arms, declaring he had to attend to an urgent matter.Her mother held her hair back and I was obliged to hold the bowl—for over an hour. At first I naively expected her father to return, but the truth eventually dawned. I only escaped when Miss Ballantyne ran dry. It was not funny, so don't you dare laugh!

Worse was yet to come, though Murdoch chose not to write about it to Catherine. After the bowl experience, Miss Ballantyne latched onto Murdoch like he was her own personal knight in shining armour. Wherever he went, she would appear. Whatever he said, she would sigh and gaze at him, doe-eyed. Burke and her father thought it was hilarious. Murdoch could not wait to reach Chagres and be rid of her.

A small pod of dolphins joined the ‘Mary Ann'as we approached the Isthmus of Panama. They dived below the hull, appearing starboard and aft, racing each other and us into harbour. One animal rose up on its tail above the water, bidding the ship farewell in a high-pitched bark. I have read stories about dolphins rescuing shipwrecked seamen. Now I have witnessed their antics, I believe those tales. They really are the most amazing creatures.

Chagres was a small port on the Isthmus of Panama comprising onlya few buildings of a purely serviceable nature. Bidding farewell to the Ballantynes and most of their fellow passengers, Murdoch and Burke took a room for the night at the tavern. Their journey by river boat and mule the next day would begin from outside its doors. Before turning in for the night, Murdoch delivered his first letters into the care of the captain of the Liberty. The barque had followed the Mary Ann into the bay, and it would be sailing northward to Boston on the morning tide.

Six travellers began the four day crossing of the isthmus with their guides soon after dawn: the Castilians from California, two Peruvian gentlemen, Burke and Murdoch.

How wonderful and how terrible the journey turned out to be. Mosquitoes plagued us from the start. No matter how hard I tried to cover up, they still found their way to my skin. Strangely, though, our guides didn'tseem to get bitten at all.

“Fresh blood,” declared Burke knowledgably, slapping an insect that dared to dine on his cheek. A smear of blood marked the spot. “I've made this crossing several times, and it's always the same. They go for the visitors and leave the locals largely alone.”

The group took cayucas as far as Cruces, and then mounted mules to follow the old Spanish trail to Panama. They made slow progress as the road had fallen into disrepair.

Clay once covered the river stones, but that has long since worn away leaving them exposed. Even the most sure-footed of our mules found them difficult to navigate. Mules also proved inconveniently low to the ground for a man of my stature. I walked whenever practical.  

The heat was oppressive. Even when they were being poled up river, there was no respite. The waterway was too full of dangers to risk dangling feet or hands into its coolness. Alligators and snakes slithered through the murky shallows and disappeared to suddenly reappear in deep water, often with lethal results for some poor fish or bird.

Murdoch wrote less about the dangers, however, than the beauty in his letters to Catherine.

Despite the discomfort there was much to enjoy. I have never seen such jungle, the lushness of the trees and flowers, the variety of insects and birds. Our trail traversed ravines and waterways. I saw beasts that I have only ever seen in books before.

Within a few days of their arrival in Panama, the Artemis gave Murdoch and Burke direct passage to Monterey. Señor and Señora Alvarez remained behind as the brig's captain refused to put in at Los Angeles just for their benefit. Though for different reasons, Murdoch was as pleased to part with their company as he had been to say goodbye to Miss Ballantyne.

The Señora walked about as though she had a permanent bad smell beneath her nose. I think it was me. For some reason she seemed to despise me even more than Burke. I am certain she understood a little English, but she never deigned to speak it. Her husband would occasionally say something to us in Spanish, but she would only ever whisper to him from behind her fan. No doubt Los Angeles is a pleasant place, but she has made me glad that I am heading further north.

Murdoch discovered the Artemis's captain had sailed the Pacific coast for more than ten years, and he knew a lot about Californian ports and commerce. He confirmed what Murdoch had learned from his research; vessels still had to pay duties at Monterey before plying their trade along the coast of California.

“I have read as much as I can about this part of the world, Captain, and Mexico seems determined to limit trade through high tariffs.”

“There are ways around the rules,” Captain Jessop assured him as he watched a sailor trim the mainsail. “Don't you worry, Mr Lancer, the likes of the Hudson Bay Company and several Boston-based firms make healthy profits. There is a definite market for cattle.”

The Artemis was scheduled to stay four days in Monterey to sell goods brought from America and pay its duties. Then the brig would continue north to Yerba Buena in the San Francisco Bay to fill its hull with hides and tallow.

Burke sketches and paints his way up the Pacific coast, and patiently teaches me Spanish at the same time. His conversational Spanish is excellent due to his many visits to California. My Spanish improves slowly. I can tell you it is a lot easier learning from Burke than from some dry texts with only my schoolboy Latin to help me. Still, I worry I will struggle to make myself understood after we part company. I must take every opportunity to practise when we make shore.

The Artemis finally dropped anchor in Monterey harbour mid-afternoonon June 11, 1842. Within the hour Murdoch stepped onto the wooded shore.

California at last ! I will forever celebrate this day as the beginning of my new life.

Burke took me directly to the home of Herman Richter, a surveyor, who acts as agent for G.W. Burke and Sons. His house is like others in the town, a neat whitewashed adobe cottage with a red-tiled roof. It lies within sight of the Presidio.

The Presidio is a small square fort with the Mexican flag flying from a pole at its heart. It is the centre of activity for the town. Soldiers and officials regularly come and go, and thanks to their convenient location, the Richters are among the first to learn of any new arrival.

Herman Richter was not at home when the travellers knocked on the door, but his Mexican wife made them welcome. She greeted Burke like a long lost brother and showed her guests to a comfortable room overlooking the bay. She sent one of the children to find her husband. By the time the two men had freshened up, Richter was settling himself into a chair under a nearby tree and pouring out drinks.

Richter had passed through the Estancia Talavera only five weeks before on his way to an on-going job further north.

A new settler, John Sutter, is establishing a trading post, and he has employed Richter to survey land recently granted by the Mexican government. That is interesting as Sutter has apparently only resided in California for two years and he has only been a citizen for one. What Richter tells me of the Estancia Talavera, however, is of more immediate concern. He says there are about a dozen vaqueros remaining with their families, and they take basic care of the hacienda and surrounding fields and cattle.

The Mexican and Indian workforce, however, did not in Richter's estimation exert themselves to any high degree of effort. “It would not surprise me if most were not being paid. They probably do a little work in exchange for being allowed to remain in their homes, but a new owner will need to attend to a lot of deferred maintenance.”

While even a big ranch could survive during winter with a small workforce, Murdoch knew it needed many more workers and effective leadership to run efficiently between spring and fall. The Estancia Talavera had been rudderless for over eighteen months.

“The headman speaks only a little English, but he has been at the ranch for many years. He is loyal and hardworking, I am sure he will cooperate with a new owner.”

Although there was no guarantee Murdoch would ultimately buy the San Joaquin estate, he had decided during the voyage that he was committed to remaining in California, and it would make sense for him to apply for Mexican citizenship while still in Monterey. Two days after his arrival therefore, he swore allegiance to the Mexican flag.

Once I produced my certificate of Catholic baptism, I was welcomed. The governor-general took my oath without hesitation . Citizenship is a means to an end, but I will abide by the laws of this land and defend its shores while this government defends the rights of those it governs. My citizenship still needs to be endorsed by central government to be absolute and that will not happen overnight, but what I have done today permits me to buy land in California.

That afternoon Burke and Richter had other business, so Murdoch ventured out on his own to complete the preparations they had begun together the day before. Richter had acquired horses for them, but they still needed supplies. Following the surveyor's directions those were soon purchased, and Murdoch spent the rest of his time exploring the town. Shouting, screeching and the flapping of wings drew his attention to a small crowd.

I had heard cockfighting was a popular pastime in California. Two roosters tearing each other apart is not really my idea of entertainment, but to be sociable I pretended more enthusiasm than I felt. Betting was fierce and the battles bloody. I lost a few real to the locals but was rewarded after the fighting with an invitation to join them at the cantina. I was able to practise my Spanish, and my new amigos introduced me to the local drink, tequila. Powerful stuff and not unpleasant, but I'll stick with beer and whisky if given the choice.

Soon after dawn the next day, Murdoch and Burke rode towards the San Joaquin Valley. The journey to the Estancia Talavera was expected to take about three days. Trying hard to keep his excitement and hope under control, he left behind letters, which Richter promised to deliver into the hands of the next captain sailing for Boston. Murdoch concluded his epistle to Catherine minutes before he and Burke mounted their horses.

Si Dios quiere el viaje me llevará a casa.
All my love

Chapter 11: Early Days

The deal was done. Various documents were signed by Murdoch and witnessed by the Estancia Talavera's foreman and Alfred Burke on the kitchen table. There was one copy of the sale and purchase agreement each for Murdoch, the land agents, Talavera, his lawyer, Murdoch's lawyer and his bank. Also among the papers was the release authorising the bank to transfer the money as soon as his lawyer confirmed everything was in order. Murdoch had seen Alfred Burke on his way north with the precious documents tucked safely away in his saddle bag. Burke would carry out the final legalities with the Mexican authorities upon his return to Monterey, and then seek passage back to Boston. Those last technicalities were still several weeks away as Burke had other business to attend to in Alta California, but for all intents and purposes the Estancia Talavera was no more. The ranch that spread out before Murdoch as he stood on the high road from Morro Coyo was now called Lancer.

Home! Murdoch had gazed over this land in silent certainty when Burke had stopped at the same place nearly two weeks earlier to point out various landmarks and extol their virtues.

“The ranch extends to those hills in the east, some of the hill country you can see north and south, all that grassland and beyond.”

Early morning mist had clung to the gullies, not yet burnt off by the heat of the day. A river snaked its way across the vast valley of rolling fields backed by dark tree-covered hills. The river swelled to a small lake and then drained out of sight.

“The lake and river have never dried up. Some of the streams will do so during a hot summer, but you should always have water. You could even consider charging your neighbours in time of drought.”

“Not something I'm likely to do. I would rather foster a relationship with my neighbours of mutual goodwill and assistance when needed—no strings.”

To that end, Murdoch had insisted on visiting some of the neighbouring ranchos while Burke was still there to introduce him. He met Don Domingo Allende Rivera to his north, Don Frederigo Caldera Palmero to the south and Don Jorge Marques Diego to the west. He found all three to be well-educated, intelligent men, but Californios and all that the term implied. They were privileged, owners of estates rather than cattlemen per se and naturally a little suspicious of him. They warmed slightly when Burke made it known that Murdoch was baptised Catholic as an infant in Scotland, and he was not just taking on the religion for convenience; and a little more when they ascertained that not only was he a cattleman, but also reasonably well-educated and gentleman-like. Murdoch had some experience dining and conversing with their British equivalents thanks to his laird's affable nature. He was reasonably confident he could maintain productive neighbourly relations.

Murdoch made a mental note to attend the occasional church service and to show some goodwill toward the local mission. Although the mission no longer controlled much land, the priests still wielded influence. The ranch would give him an excuse not to attend mass too often, but he had taken the precaution before leaving Scotland of accompanying his Auntie Morag to her church occasionally. Consequently he understood the format and meaning of the Catholic service. He suspected he actually understood a great deal more than his aunt given Father MacTavish had spoken entirely in Latin. It eased his conscience somewhat to learn that the essence of the religious message was not that much different from that of the Kirk.

“Did you know, Burke, that before Catholics take communion, they must first confess their sins? I was surprised to find that it inacceptable not to go to confession with any regularity. My Uncle Alex declared he hadn't taken communion for a whole year for that reason, and the worst he got was a scowl or three from my aunt and the occasional polite reminder from the priest.”

Murdoch reasoned that this interesting fact would enable him to avoid taking communion without undue comment. With luck he would never need to divulge that he had not been confirmed. As transubstantiation was the most contentious difference between the Catholic and Protestant churches, he argued his Protestant God would not look too critically upon him for crossing the threshold if he did not take communion—and what his mother did not know would not hurt her.

Murdoch and Burke had ridden widely over the Estancia Talavera during the previous ten days, escorted by José Ramos, the foreman. Ramos had more English than Richter had believed. Recent contact with Americans had increased his vocabulary, so that he and Murdoch were usually able to understand each other without Burke's help. Ramos had acted as general caretaker for the estate since the owner had returned to Spain to claim an unexpected inheritance. When faced with a choice, Don Talavera had abandoned the challenges of a rancho in the New World in favour of the wealth and comfort of a centuries-old estate in central Spain.

Before Don Talavera had left, however, he had constructed a substantial multi-storied hacienda, which now nestled at the end of a well-formed road in the southern foothills.

“It was a condition of the government grant to construct a residential dwelling on the land within the first year,” Burke had explained, dismounting after a day in the saddle. He had stamped the stiffness out of his legs.“It didn't have to be as grand, but Don Talavera has always been wealthy and he was not going to be outdone by his neighbours.”

Upon closer inspection Murdoch had discovered most of the main house fully completed with timber or terracotta tiled floors in the living and bedrooms and flagstones in the kitchen, but some rooms upstairs, the two wings and out-buildings were just shells. Outwardly they were part of an impressive adobe mansion with balconies, graceful arches, glazed lattice windows and clay tiles on the sloping rooftops. Inside some rooms still had dirt floors, and most had little decoration and no furniture or window dressings. The interior walls of several out-buildings, intended for offices and servant or guest accommodation, had still to be plastered. Like the rest of the ranch, they were a work in progress, and in a way Murdoch was pleased about that. He had comfortable living quarters in the main part of the house, and he would be able to clearly stamp his mark on the rest.

An alert was shouted from a roof top balcony as he neared the hacienda. Murdoch raised an arm in greeting as the wagons were pulled back from the entrance to let him through. “Hola! Ramos, quiero que.”

The foreman followed Murdoch into the house and in a mixture of slow Spanish and English Murdoch gave his first instructions as owner. “I want those calves moved to an enclosure with some shade, and then I would like you to gather the men and their wives out by the corral. I want a few words and then we will divide the men into work crews and make a start.”

“Si, Señor Lancer.”

“I will need someone to cook and clean for me. Can you arrange that?” Murdoch lifted a dust cloth to reveal an ornate sofa. The owner and land agents had agreed that any prospective buyer should be accommodated at the hacienda while they were being shown the estate. Consequently, Murdoch and Burke had stayed in the main house, but they had not bothered too much with the furniture. They had only uncovered what they needed to use and they had been out on the ranch so much that they had needed very little. Most of the furniture in what was referred to as the ‘gran sala', or ‘great room', was still draped with cotton sheets. “She could start by straightening up in here.”

“Estella, who cooked while Se ñor Burke was here, would be willing to continue, if you were happy with her work.”

Si, that will be fine, but I thought she had niños to look after?”

Si, but they are old enough that she can leave them to play nearby and she would welcome the extra money.”

“In that case, please tell Estella I would like breakfast at about 8 o'clock, after I've got everyone organised for the day. If she makes dinner for 6 o'clock, she can leave it in the oven to keep warm if I'm late in, and go home to her family. I'll fend for myself during the day, and she can do the other housework as suits her. Is there no school for the older children?”

“Father Ruben runs a school at the mission, but that is three miles. They do not always attend.”

“They do now.” Murdoch looked up from exploring the desk he had just uncovered at the far end of the room near the picture window. “I am a great believer in education. I would like the children of this ranch to have the opportunities that education brings. Please get someone to take them in a wagon each morning. It can pick them up as well if there is a man free, otherwise they will have to walk back.”

An hour later, about twenty men and a dozen women, some with children, gathered by the corral.

“Buenos dias.” With Ramos translating Murdoch continued. “I am the new owner. My name is Murdoch Lancer and this ranch is now the Estancia Lancer. I hope you will all stay and continue to call this place home. I am grateful to you for keeping the ranch going for the past year without an owner in residence. Your efforts and loyalty have impressed me greatly, and I would be proud to employ any one of you. With your help, my aim is to make Lancer the finest ranch in California. If you are willing, we start today. Gracias.”

Ramos dismissed the women and called the men to come closer. At Murdoch's request he named the vaqueros one by one, and identified their skills. Murdoch acknowledged each man.

“Do you think you could make this brand?” Murdoch handed a drawing to a man said to have some skill at blacksmithing. Murdoch had designed the brand with Burke's help and the application to register it was among the documents Alfred Burke now carried in his saddle bag back to Monterey.

“Si, Patrón. The circle is easy. The ‘L' is trickier, but I think I can make it.”

Together Murdoch and Ramos divided the other men into crews and set them to their tasks. Murdoch had noted down the work that needed to be done as they had toured the ranch. In the evenings he had prioritised and planned.

“This crew is to go here,” he ordered pointing at a map. “The stream is blocked with branches. I want it cleared today.”

Two more crews were set to gathering strays out of the hills. He wanted to know how many cattle he was starting with and in what condition. He needed to get them branded.

“Those remaining can make a start on this list of repairs around here. Who can read?”

A lad of about seventeen stepped forward, holding his sombrero respectfully in front of him.

“Cipriano, is that right?” If first impressions were anything to go by, Murdoch thought Cipriano had great potential. He was tall and sturdy, and looked like he could handle himself in most situations, but more than that, Murdoch had noticed him working on the ranch. Like most of the other vaqueros he was an excellent rider, but Murdoch had been particularly impressed by the young man's understanding of cattle. He had a way with the animals that only another cattleman could truly appreciate. Murdoch was pleased he could read. Cipriano might make a good foreman in a year or two. “Well, you take the list and share the jobs out. Let Ramos know who is doing what. I expect them all finished by the end of the week.”

Over the next few days, between checking on the crews, Murdoch and Ramos rode out in search of more vaqueros. The men who had stayed were mostly older men with families or disabled in some way, which meant it had been more difficult for them to up-root. Murdoch and Ramos visited Morro Coyo, a small, mainly Mexican town in the south and Green River, an even smaller but mainly American town to the northwest. They included the mission in their visit to Morro Coyo and returned with four Paiute Indians with cattle experience. In total they employed a dozen new men that first week, some of them the older sons of the hands who had stayed, but more importantly the word was out that Lancer ranch was hiring. Thereafter the men came to them.

The wranglers and gunhawks who found their way to Lancer over the next few months were a mixed bag of Indians, Mexicans and Americans. Most had some experience with cattle, and some were hired more for their abilities with a gun. Murdoch soon learned that there was no law in this part of California, except the unofficial law wielded by large landholders and he was now a large landholder. He needed to learn how to use firearms himself and he needed to employ at least a few men primarily for their skill with a gun.

During this time he also became aware that Ramos was less than the man he needed as a second in command. As a foreman Ramos was willing enough, but he was not a man to show initiative or leadership. Murdoch was not comfortable with the idea of leaving him in charge of the ranch when he returned to Boston, which he would need to do in the New Year. He did not want the ranch to regress to what it had been when he arrived.

Murdoch was giving serious thought to how he could solve this problem, when a stocky American wrangler called Paul O'Brien rode up to the hacienda.

“I heard you were hiring, Mr Lancer. I have experience.” O'Brien was Kansas born, only a year or two older than Murdoch. He had been wrangling from Nevada to Texas. “I was trail boss for a couple of years and foreman for a ranch north of Denver for about eighteen months until earlier this year.”

“Why did you leave?”

“Curiosity. Wanted to see California. Wagon train headed for Utah needed a guide, so thought I may as well get paid for part of the journey. Got references.” O'Brien handed Murdoch a battered leather wallet.

“Can you read and write?”

“Well enough.”

“Know any Spanish?”

“No problem. Spent five years around the borders. Speak some Indian too—Apache mostly but a little Paiute.”

Murdoch took O'Brien on as another foreman, dividing the responsibilities between him and Ramos. O'Brien's references were good. He had held down two foreman's jobs and had testimonials from his time as trail boss as well. He soon proved himself good with the men, and he worked in well with Ramos too. Surprisingly the older man did not seem to resent his presence. Murdoch got the impression that Ramos may have even been relieved to have O'Brien around. The new foreman was not a highly educated man, but he and Murdoch had shared interests in cattle, far off places and human nature. They got on well together, and a friendship soon developed. Within a few weeks Murdoch stopped worrying about who he would leave in charge when he went back east.

Chapter 12: The Season of Goodwill

By December the Lancer ranch was into a new routine. Murdoch had learned how to use a lariat and a gun, and his ranch hands had learned there was a new order. In his letters to Catherine and his family in Scotland he described his experiences with an increasing sense of belonging.

The men from Lancer took part in two general round ups on neighbouring estancias during this time, gathering the cattle and horses, sorting them and branding the beasts with the mark of the ranch, to which they belonged.

The locals call these events ‘rodeos'. They usually last three days. I've not experienced anything like them before, but they have given me new respect for my neighbours as cattlemen and horsemen.

“Your ways are certainly different from what I'm used to, but I see they work well here. I'd be grateful if you'd teach me more. ” Murdoch and Don Frederigo watched as vaqueros culled the cattle belonging to their own estates from the milling crowd of strays, driven down from the hills that marked the boundary between the two ranches.

Appreciating his interest, Don Frederigo and other local dons grew to like and respect the young Scot. He was not like some foreigners, too arrogant or ignorant to ask advice. They beganto offer suggestions unasked and listened to his ideas as well. The real cattlemen among them soon recognised his knowledge and abilities. As Murdoch had hoped, a relationship of mutual cooperation and benefit started to grow.

Two hundred bulls were slaughtered in Murdoch's first month as owner.

We are processing their hides and tallow here on the ranch. The air buzzes with flies, and some days the stench of rendering fat is enough to turn your stomach. Drying racks cover the yard behind the hacienda. Some of the meat is hung or salted for the estate's own use, some is given away, but most we burn. There is currently no market for beef, but the ratio of bulls to cows has been allowed to get too high. I have no choice but to take drastic measures if I am to bring the stock under control.

Wild horses were brought down from the hills and broken for use by his growing workforce. He was impressed by the horsemanship of the Mexicans. He could ride well enough, but his skill was nothing to the skill of several vaqueros he employed. Occasionally, usually on some kind of religious feast day, there would be races and betting, which Murdoch allowed to foster goodwill. As long as they worked hard when required he was wise enough not to begrudge his hands their leisure. He joined in too where his dignity as boss was not compromised.

“You can take bets, Diego, but it stops if there is any trouble. Do you understand me?”

“Si, Patrón. There will be no trouble.”

Thankfully feed crops had been planted in the spring. All the women and children helped with the harvesting, which took on a festive air after the hard work was done. Murdoch was introduced to the delights of Mexican food and fandango, and his letters were filled with colour and excitement as well as labour and heat.

I have developed a taste for morisqueta , a sausage and rice dish , but most Mexican dishes are still a little spicy for me.

The first and second batch of letters from back east arrived together via Don Allende, who had been to Monterey on business. Murdoch dismissed Estella early and took his meal on a tray to the fireside so he could read and eat at the same time. There were letters from Catherine, his sister and mother, as well as business letters. Tempting as it was to start with the former, he forced himself to deal with business first. He had received copies of the officially endorsed legal papers and deeds from Alfred Burke a few months earlier. The letters from his bank and lawyer merely confirmed that everything was in order and the land was now his. Some final bank documents needed to be signed in the spring when he returned to confirm arrangements with George Muller.

Untying the ribbons holding Catherine's letters, he sorted them into date order. The first had been written only a week after his departure from Boston and the most recent two months before.

I miss you already .

Beth and I visited Frog Pond today. The blossom has all fallen and the ground was a carpet of petals. It looked quite beautiful.

Dearest Murdoch, I received your letter from Chagres today. … The dolphins sound delightful, but I do not think I would have liked the Castilians.

You will laugh, but I have persuaded Mrs Pearson to teach me how to cook. I have told a small white lie and begged her to keep our lessons secret from my father. So far I have learned how to soft and hard boil an egg and how to make biscuits. Beth says coming from Scotland you may call these scones, but I assure you in America they are called biscuits. Mine are at present edible. Jemima, my maid, declares that they are delicious, but I am determined not to be blinded by false compliments. Tomorrow Mrs Pearson says she will teach me how to make a white sauce.

I think of you every day.

I met your friend, Mr Harper, yesterday. He came to dine with his employer, Mr Kirby, and several other gentlemen, who do business with my father. I was greatly alarmed when Mr Harper mentioned your name, though it was discreetly done. He approached me as I poured out the coffee, and told me he knew of our connection. He has kindly offered his services should I ever have the need.

Today I received your first letter as owner. The Estancia Lancer—it sounds very romantic in Spanish. You describe it so vividly and I long to see it.

I lie in bed at night thinking of you and imagining the adventures you must be having. I expect you have little time during the day to think of me, but how lonely you must be at night when all is quiet and you are alone. Think of me then and know that I love you.

Mr Burke has just arrived back from California. He called on Beth's father yesterday with the legal papers related to your purchase. I am so glad everything went well. Beth says I must get this letter to the bank by tomorrow morning as a gentleman of Mr Burke's acquaintance is returning to California via Panama on the evening tide. He has agreed to deliver documents and letters to Mr Burke's agent, who will forward any directed to you and their other Californian clients.

Setting the last letter down atop the pile beside him, Murdoch stood up and moved to the mantelpiece. A small sad smile played on his lips. He gazed at Catherine's image in the silver-framed daguerreotype, and brought her laughter and gentleness to mind.

Several minutes later, shaking himself out of reverie, he picked up his dinner tray and returned it to the kitchen. Then pouring himself a wee dram from the decanter on the sideboard, he sat back down in the faded brocade armchair and opened the letter from his sister, Maggie.

Congratulations, you are an uncle. Our bonnie wee girl, the apple of her father's eye from the very moment he saw her, was born in the early hours of Tuesday morning. We have named her Ellen Euphemia. Granny McInnes declares she takes after Rob, but who can really tell at this stage? The bairn is bald as an egg.

The letter from his mother was much thicker, more like a parcel than a letter. It turned out to contain a copy of the local weekly newspaper. When he went to put the Inverness Gazette next to Catherine's letters, intending to read it later, a smaller package fell to the floor. Unwrapping the brown paper and string he found a neat calico bag with draw-string and a note: For the First Footing, in case there is none about . Peeking inside the bag, Murdoch smiled. His mother thought of everything.

Placing the bag on the newspaper Murdoch began to read his mother's letter, a single sheet of close writing, and was greeted with another surprise.

Your brother is to be married on Sunday. The laird finally found a replacement for you as factor, a widower from Aberdeen, Angus Cameron. He arrived about a month after you left, bringing with him his grown daughter, Elspeth, to keep house. To say it was love at first sight for Jock would be something of an understatement. I've never known him behave so soppy over a lass and her all of twenty-six and past her prime. She is an intelligent and useful sort however, and respectful of my place in the household, so I think we shall get on fine.

Murdoch chuckled at his mother's way of putting things. Sipping his whisky, he closed his eyes and pictured her bustling about her kitchen, ordering him and his brother to take their boots off so not to dirty her freshly mopped floor. He said a wee prayer for his new sister-in-law. He hoped she was a patient woman. He had a feeling she was going to need to be sharing a house with his mother.

With a sigh he folded his letters and carefully stored them away to read again another day. Pouring himself a second dram he then began to plan the day ahead.


As it neared Christmas, he thought more and more of the family and friends he had left behind. This would be his first Christmas and Hogmanay away from home, and he could not help but feel a little homesick.

When O'Brien and Ramos came to talk to him about the holiday festivities, he readily agreed to everything they asked. Among other things, they explained about the posadas that would take place over the nine nights leading up to Christmas, and he was touched when Ramos invited him to join in with the celebrations.

“Thank you. I would like that very much. If you and the others would do me the honour of your company again, I would like to throw a party to see in the New Year. In Scotland we call it Hogmanay and it is a special time. I would like to share its customs with you.”

The holiday season began the following evening with the first candle lit procession.

Two young people were selected from the Mexican families to play the parts of Joseph and Mary. Dressed in costume, Joseph led Mary past the workers cottages on the back of a donkey. I walked with the American and Indian hands at the back of the crowd. Each person held a candle. About half way down the row of adobe cottages the procession stopped and Joseph sang out his request for shelter. Pedro, the worker who lives there, sang his response that there was no room, and so the procession moved on. This was repeated at the next house and then at the third the would-be innkeeper, Carlos, finally opened the door wide and invited us all in.There were too many people for everyone to go inside, but those left outside gathered around the doorway and we all sang:

Entren santos peregrinos, peregrinos,
reciban este rincón
no de esta pobre morada
sino de mi corazón.
Esta noche es de alegría
de gusto y de regocijo
porque hospedaremos aquí
a la Madre de Dios Hijo.
In English that means:
Enter holy pilgrims, pilgrims
receive this corner  
not this poor dwelling
but my heart.
Tonight is for joy,
for pleasure and rejoicing
for tonight we will give lodging
to the Mother of God the Son.

The children were then let loose to beat the seven-pointed star piñata that hung from the tree in the middle of the yard. There was great excitement as you can imagine. We adults laughed and cheered them on. When the sweet treats finally showered down upon them, Carlos's family served tamales and a hot drink called ‘ponche' to everyone.

Murdoch accepted his glass and sniffed at it with interest.

“It's made from various fruits that are in season. Every Mexican family seems to have its own special recipe. I've tasted several that are quite different. Sometimes they add a little tequila for the adults.” O'Brien toasted his boss and sipped the warm beverage with obvious enjoyment. “Nope, not this time.”

After they had eaten and talked for a while, the host family distributed small gifts of dried fruit and baking, and carols were sung. Murdoch joined in as best he could, humming when he could not make out the words. Eventually everyone said goodnight and went to their beds. Tomorrow they would do a full day's work before holding the next posada.

There is one posada for every month that the Virgin Mary carried Jesus in her womb.

On Christmas Eve, the final posada ended at José Ramos's house further down the dirt road away from the main ranch buildings. Padre Benedicto came from the mission to hold a special midnight mass for the families at Lancer, and then the feasting began in earnest until the early hours. As dawn began to break all but a few hands, who had volunteered to carry out the essential morning chores, drifted off to their beds and a day of rest. Murdoch too spent a quiet Christmas day reflecting on the events of the past year, writing letters and reading.

The following week was work as usual but at a slower pace. Three days after Christmas,Cipriano asked to borrow Murdoch's carved bone-handled knife to cut some rope, his own being too blunt for the job. Murdoch had bought the knife in Panama, and it had proved particularly useful for all sorts of tasks.

“Get away, you young devil!” Paul O'Brien came on the scene just in time.“Trying to take advantage of the boss like that.”

“I don't understand. Why shouldn't I lend him the knife?”

“Because today is Los Santos Inocentes, Mr Lancer. It's a bit like April Fool's Day, but the main thing to remember is that if you lend anything, the borrower doesn't have to give it back. That young whelp was trying to fleece you of your good knife.”

Cipriano grinned back at them and gave his boss a cheery wave before disappearing into the barn.

On New Year's Eve all the ranch hands and their families gathered in the courtyard to one side of the hacienda for a party hosted by Murdoch.

Cipriano and I spent most of the afternoon hanging lanterns. Estella enlisted the help of the other women and the tables were heavy with food by the time everyone started to gather in the early evening.

The men brought their guitars and other instruments, and the dancing and singing never stopped until the chimes of an old clock, which had been given pride of place atop a wall, warned them that midnight was approaching.

Murdoch took a handful of grapes and swallowed one for luck with each chime of the clock as Estella had instructed, and then on the stroke of midnight he began to sing:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
For the sake of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Some of the Americans joined with Murdoch's baritone immediately and by the end most of his guests were humming or singing along.

“Happy New Year! Now Cipriano, if you would do the honours?”

Murdoch slipped inside the hacienda and closed the kitchen door. Cipriano took a small calico bag from his pocket. Murdoch had given it to him earlier in the evening. Emptying the contents into his hand, he held up a shiny black stone for all to see.

“It's coal—all the way from Scotland,” Paul O'Brien told the guests in both Spanish and English. “Where Mr Lancer comes from, it's seen as good luck for the first visitor of the new year to be a tall dark-haired man, who brings a gift of coal or food to the household.”

Everyone followed Cipriano round to the front of the hacienda and watched as he knocked on the heavy timber door, carrying the coal and a plate of his mother's bunuelos. Murdoch opened the door and welcomed him in. He accepted the gifts and presented Cipriano with a dram of whisky in exchange. Inviting everyone else inside Murdoch made a short speech. “In Scotland we call this night ‘Hogmanay' and the tradition you've just witnessed is the First Footing. I'd like to thank you for sharing your customs over the past few weeks, and I hope you've enjoyed this evening with me.” He then offered all the adults a glass of whisky. “A toast, my friends, to your good health and the prosperity of the Estancia Lancer.”

Later, when his guests had departed, Murdoch stood alone in the deserted courtyard gazing up at the stars. Funny how his family in Scotland could see those same stars, and Catherine and his friends in Boston. It was somehow comforting. Saying a prayer of thanks for his good fortune during the past year, he raised his glass to the sky. “Happy New Year everyone. God bless.”


Continued in Section Two---------->



Chapter 1 From Highlands
1. Scottish naming patterns as they affect this story:
First son is named for the Father's Father.
Second son is named for the Mother's Father.
First daughter is named for the Mother's Mother.

If a child dies in infancy, his or her name is often given to a subsequent child - a natural consequence of the high birth rate and infant mortality rates of past times.

2. A ‘bonnet laird' is a small landowner: Wikipedia says “ Historically, the term  ‘ bonnet laird'   was applied to rural, petty landowners, as they wore a bonnet   like the non-landowning classes. Bonnet lairds filled a position in society below lairds and above husbandsmen (farmers), similar to the yeomen   of England.”

3. I made up the name for the Lancer farm in Scotland. I believe ‘Glenbeath' means valley of birches.

4. Duchess of Argyle was a real ship and during the 1840s transported many hopeful young emigrants away from Scotland.

Chapter 2 All at Sea
1. Duchess of Argyle was a real ship and Captain Livingston was its captain in 1842 when the barque transported Scottish emigrants to Auckland, New Zealand. The appointment of constables and the library for their use are mentioned in the log of that voyage. Other aspects of emigrant ship's rules and conditions have been gleaned from a variety of Internet sources concerning similar ships of the day. I do not know if the ‘Duchess' ever sailed to Boston; I borrowed it for the purposes of this story.

2. In 1834 a young law student, Richard Dana, sailed from Boston to California, by way of Cape Horn.  Six years later he published an account of his experiences, Two Years before the Mast .  He described California as a beautiful land with mountains, pleasant sunny weather and a lack of people.  According to Dana, those that were there did not seem to understand the great potential of the region. 

3. Murdoch sits down to read the Iliad again many years later in Cut the Wolf Loose , Series 2, Episode 6.

4. ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus' was a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Ballads and Other Poems , 1841. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882)   was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline.

Chapter 3 Bonnie Prince Charlie
No notes

Chapter 4 In America Now
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Chapter 5 The Business of Land
1. In 1834 a young law student, Richard Dana, sailed from Boston to California, by way of Cape Horn.  Six years later he published an account of his experiences, Two Years before the Mast .  He described California as a beautiful land with mountains, pleasant sunny weather and a lack of people.  According to Dana, those that were there did not seem to understand the great potential of the region.

2. A pure finder was someone who collected dog faeces to sell to the tanneries, which used it as a siccative for bookbinding leather. Boston was active in the hide trade from California so it is logical that pure finders, usually old women or children, searched the streets of that city.

Chapter 6 A Series of Meetings
1. The Liberator (1831-1865) was an abolitionist newspaper founded in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison.

Chapter 7 A Novel Encounter
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Chapter 8 Common Ground
1. Julia Ward Howe (May 27, 1819 – October 17, 1910)   was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist and poet. She wrote the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic'. Born in New York, she visited Boston in 1841 and in 1843 married Samuel Gridley Howe, a physician and reformer, who founded the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston.

2. Come a Riddle is thought to be an old Music Hall song from the early 1900s, but it could be older. As its words do not date, I decided to use it for this story. The lyrics in the story are as it is sung by my family. There are variations. If you are interested, an old lady sings a version with the same tune on Utube at: .

Chapter 9 Boston Times
1. Jim Harper features in Juniper's Camp , Series 1, Episode 21.

Chapter 10 Letters to Catherine
1. Monterey was the centre of government in California under Mexican rule.

2. ‘Si Dios quiere el viaje me llevará a casa' means ‘God willing this journey will take me home'.

Chapter 11 Early Days
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Chapter 12 The Season of Goodwill
1. Dana, Richard H. Jnr. Two Years Before The Mast . Harper and Brothers, 1840.

2. Davis, William Heath.   Seventy-Five Years in California.   San Francisco: J. Howell, 1929.

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