Design a site like this with
Get started

In Transit by Sherri

This story is an orphan – that is, the writer has not been active in the fandom for a long time, and the story has been rescued from the old, defunct Yahoo groups. So that we don’t lose the story entirely, we’re storing it here.

However the original author still owns this story. Should they reconnect with the fandom at some point, we will naturally respect whatever they want to do with their story.

Word Count 3,353


Thank you for making Scott Lancer an unforgettable character (and especially for Buscaderos!).

Many thanks to Sharon for helping me stay on track and offering some
suggestions that really improved this story!!


Scott Lancer grabbed the familiar leather handles. Again. Just a few
days ago, he had stowed these bags on the same buckboard. The
differences between then and now were more than he had had time to
grasp yet. Too much like the aftermath of battle, that sense of
stunned relief that it was all over, whoever won, whoever lost, it
was just over.

Again, he was conscious of his silent father’s eyes watching him. And
his grandfather’s. The two men allowed themselves a liberty Scott had
no energy to take — not really ready to try to make sense of what he
saw in either man’s eyes.

He shoved the bags under the box seat then turned to offer his
grandfather a hand up. “You still remember your good manners,” his
grandfather had said when he picked up the bags.

“Manners,” Grandfather had told him long ago, “will see you through
any situation, no matter how uncomfortable.”

“Thank you, Scotty.”

The clasp of the dry hand was brief. Practiced as he was in reading
his grandfather, Scott had never seen Harlan Garrett quite like he
was today. Shaken. Shamed. Remorseful. Had there been a lesson on
manners to cover this? He tried to remember as he snapped the reins
on the horses’ backs to set the wagon in motion for the long drive
into town. Maybe there was something in those lessons to help his own
case. There must have been one about anger.

Neither of them spoke as they approached the Lancer entrance. Scott
clearly recalled the first time his grandfather had criticized his
manners. The two of them, man and boy, were walking past Scott’s
schoolyard one afternoon. Fresh snow lay on the ground and some of
Scott’s classmates were still at play, tossing hard, wet snowballs at
each other. Scott’s grandfather had left his office early, as he
occasionally did, and come to walk home with Scott, sending his
carriage on ahead. He needed the exercise, he claimed.

They were still within sight of the playing boys when they met old
Mrs. McQuinn in the street. Mrs. McQuinn lived in a small house
close by the school. Elderly and stooped with a face shriveled by
years, she was everything the lively boys were not. Her shabby, dark
clothes marked her as different from their own mothers and aunts. She
walked wherever she had to go, no carriage at her disposal. It was
probably inevitable, Scott thought now, that she had become both a
figure of fun and a fright to all the boys, who mocked her at a
distance and trembled if caught within range of her dark eyes.

But Scott’s grandfather stopped when Mrs. McQuinn approached and
tipped his hat to her. Worse, he gave Scott a look that commanded him
to exchange greetings with the old crone, too. He could hear his
friends’ vocal amusement as he made a slight bow and wished her good
day. Mortified, he listened as his grandfather offered to call back
his carriage, at no great distance yet, for her use. She declined at
once, to Scott’s relief. Looking back now, he realized the woman had
been too embarrassed and proud.

When they went on their way again, his grandfather had told Scott
that his poor manners had disappointed him. Manners, Scott had
thought then, were about handling forks and spoons properly and
opening doors for ladies, not about speaking to scary old ladies in
the street. But here was his grandfather telling him he must not fail
to speak to Mrs. McGuinn whenever he met her.

“That’s one of the things good manners are for, young man,” his
grandfather explained. “By showing respect to others, we restore
their station to those who have lost it and give power back to the
powerless.” He had gone on to tell Scott Mrs. McGuinn’s story — an
all-too-common one of a misguided marriage, a husband addicted to
whiskey and children to launch into the world. Now she was alone and
poor, shunned by the society she had been born into. Mocked by their
children, Scott thought.

As they passed under the Lancer arch now, Scott felt his grandfather
shift beside him. Was he relieved to be off Lancer land? Scott was.
Out here, somehow, it was just the two of them again, as it had been
for most of his life. Out here, they were away from that bitter
battle between father and grandfather that locked both men into a
past older than Scott himself.

Harlan Garrett cleared his throat.

Scott glanced at the man beside him, who gazed at the rolling hills
around them. ” This land . . .” his grandfather said softly. “Murdoch
has done well with it, but to me it has always had the look of

“You have been here before then.”

“Never here, exactly, until now. But yes.”

As a child, Scott had simply been told that when his grandfather had
brought him to Boston after his mother’s death out west. He had never
known exactly where his mother had died. Whenever his grandfather had
told him about being with her at the end, Scott had not asked many
questions. Once he had pressed his grandfather for details, and the
look in the man’s eyes had frightened him. He had loved his
grandfather too much to ask for more than the man could tell him. His
father, he had been told, had a hard life in a rough country, no
place for boys. It was a terse summation but not an unkind one. By
the time Scott was old enough to think of writing to his father, he
had had no interest in doing so. There had been no messages from the
unknown man out west, no tokens of concern or interest in all the
years of his life. His grandfather had been his father, in every
sense of the word. He still was.

Grappling with emotions too complex to name, he heard himself
ask, “She died in California?”

Harlan Garrett nodded, his face, pale under the midsummer light.

Would he tell him more? But with a short spurt of anger, Scott
acknowledged that that old story from the past was not what he wanted
to know about now. “What about now, about you and me?” That’s what
he’d like to ask. He only half understood the anger welling in him —
sharper than the sense of betrayal and loss he’d already suffered —
he was unwilling to examine it too closely.

That was another of his grandfather’s lessons in manners — how a
gentleman behaves when he is angry. A lesson drilled into him more
firmly by Johnny Reb than Harlan Garrett. Scott frowned at the memory
that surged into his mind, pushing it back. Too much to deal with
already, but anger had been at the core of his war experience, even
before he left Boston.

So he knew how to hold it in. And wait, even without hope.

Long moments passed in silence. Wasted. He was taking his grandfather
to catch the stage that would take him to catch the train that would
take him back to Boston — and after that, who knew if they would ever
see each other again? They couldn’t part like this, could they? Far
worse than when Scott left Boston, because he had thought, then, that
he would probably come back. Or return closer to home, anyway. He had
been at a crossroads then. Maybe he still was. He checked that
thought, too. That was for later.

The sun poured down on the open wagon. Scott had asked Murdoch once
about planting a few trees alongside the road, only to see his father
look askance. But the only shade was in the valley and the road
hugged the ridge. Sweat crawled under Scott’s hatband. He glanced at
his grandfather to see how he was making it — he was older and unused
to this kind of heat and light …

His grandfather met his look, with something urgent in his eyes.

“Scotty. I’ve been a great fool. I just want you to know that I know
that. And regret it.”

No excuses. No pleas. No self-justification. The way a man should
apologize when he knows he’s done wrong. Just like this man had
drilled it into him all those years ago.

“Why?” The word escaped him, but he could add nothing to it, only
look at the older man for one moment, before turning his attention
back to the horses as the road entered a descending curve. He didn’t
want to see his grandfather marshal defenses, prepare to argue.

“Why?” It had taken his grandfather an eternity to repeat the
word. “My actions have been inexcusable, Scotty. Unforgivable. But
the `why’ of it — that, at least, I thought you would understand.”

The silence that followed those words stretched out so long that
Scott thought that was the end of it. Hot words burned inside him,
but he, too, said nothing.

The road leveled and straightened and soon the horses’ hooves
clattered on the wooden bridge over Buck Creek. There were trees
here, providing a few precious moments of relief from the sun, and a
refreshing coolness from the water.

Once on the rutted road again, Scott spared another glance for his
grandfather. This time Harlan did not meet his eyes. But he spoke at

“I lost one child to this land, Scotty. To this man. I didn’t — I
don’t — want to lose you, too.”

“I’m not my mother, Sir.”

To Scott’s surprise, his grandfather smiled at his tense words. But
the man’s voice was husky when he said, “I know that, Scotty.
Contrary to what you may think, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Scott caught his breath, savoring the words — an answer to years of
hungry doubt. But there were other things in his grandfather’s words —
he blamed Murdoch for his mother’s death. Scott had not known this.
Scott had heard from his childhood that his mother had a difficult
delivery when he was born, in a wild country with no doctor to help
her. His father hadn’t been there, something about the ranch — he
didn’t remember the details, had always been focused, like his
grandfather, on his mother when the story was told —

His grandfather interrupted Scott’s wayward thoughts. “I know who you
are, Scotty. And I know — who better? — how strong you are.”

Again, the restrained voice hinted at deep feeling. Scott knew his
grandfather remembered Scott’s homecoming at the end of the War, more
skeleton than man, but too stubborn to die. He hadn’t wanted to lose
another child, he had said — but already he had almost lost Scott..

Again his grandfather interrupted the flow of painful memories.

“I’m growing old, Scotty. It changes things.”

And one of those changes, perhaps, was that his grandfather had
become fearful. Unable to believe that all was well with Scott, way
out here. Especially here. To Scott, Harlan Garrett was always the
man he had been throughout his childhood years. Uncomfortably, he
acknowledged the changes time had made, that his heart overlooked.

“When you’ve lived as long as I have, the early years of life come
back to you. You measure your whole life against them.”

Though he kept his eyes on the horses and the bend in the road ahead,
Scott listened intently.

“Old regrets. Old .. failures. They take up residence in the mind.
They … fill the empty times. Sometimes I think I would give
anything, everything, to call back one day, one moment from the past.
Or to keep from repeating it.”

Scott looked at him then. “I’m not your past either, Grandfather.”
The words were both challenge and, oddly, reassurance.

Harlan Garrett only heard the challenge. His lips curved into a small
smile that held no happiness. “When you were … When I thought
those men had … ” He cleared his throat. “I thought they had killed
you, Scotty.” He fell silent a moment, then shook his head.. “You
said I had `thrown it away.’”

At least he was listening, Scott thought.

For a while they rode in silence. The road still ran by Lancer
rangeland on the right. In the distance, on the left, Scott could see
the foothills of the Sierras, pale against the tawny pastureland.. He
had promised himself a trip into those mountains when he could get
away from the ranch for a few days. Maybe it would be good to go
soon – the mountains promised coolness, distance, a place to regroup.
Or escape – he knew he was using them that way now, mentally
retreating from his present situation, in this wagon, in this country.

Evasion. That was something he had learned during that year at Libby,
the mental evasions that helped a man endure.

Harlan suddenly asked, “Do you remember, once, we talked about
holding onto anger?”

Despite the disorder of his own feelings, Scott almost smiled at the
question. He had recalled that conversation only moments ago. He had
been 13. He had loaned one of his boyhood treasures — a hunting knife
given to him by Ned Pierce on a hunting trip with his grandfather —
to his friend, Nash Hamilton. Nash had not only refused to return the
knife the next morning, he had denied ever having had it at all.
Infuriated, Scott had dogged his footsteps at school, demanding what
was his. The backwoodsman’s knife had been a talisman to Scott, a
link to that different, wilderness world he loved and a sign that the
old man had found him worthy, able to take care of himself. A man.

But in the schoolyard, he had fought Nash like a boy. They had fought
again when Nash passed the Garrett house that weekend.

Confronted by a reproving grandfather, Scott had shown no remorse,
sure that his cause was just and refusing to admit that it was also
hopeless. The stern look in his grandfather’s eyes had melted into a
patient sadness that warned Scott that he would not like the lesson
he was about to receive. Only in his grandfather’s eyes had he seen
his own childishness.

“I remember,” he said now, the words catching in his throat. “You
said not to hold onto my anger when there was no help for it. You
said that … anger nursed past reason turns on us.”

“It’s not an easy lesson, is it?” his grandfather said softly and
raised his eyes to Scott’s with painful candor.

The sun-heated air around them was alive with memories, boyhood
troubles long ago, events of the last few days. No need to question.
Anger like that consumed everything. Even love.

“You learned it better than I did, Scotty.” Harlan Garrett said.

“Maybe.” And maybe it had helped that his teacher had known the
lesson too well through failing to master it?

They each looked away, Scott caught himself glancing off toward the
distant hills again and returned his attention to the road ahead. The
road was badly in need of maintenance. The ranchers whose land it
crossed were responsible for its upkeep, but most of them had too
firm a grip on their pennies and each seemed to be waiting for the
others to act first.

As they drove on, the day’s heat seemed to break. Or maybe it was
just the lessening of tension.

It was comfortable, then, to drive on in silence. The inner turmoil
that had stolen Scott’s peace over the past few days eased a bit. It
would take more time to sort out all that had happened, to reframe
the picture of his world.

Unforgivable, his grandfather had said. His actions were

Forgiveness, too, had come into the realm of what Harlan Garrett
considered good manners. That lesson had not come as an examination
of Scott’s behaviour, but after church one Sunday. Harlan Garrett had
never been much of a church-going man but on this Sunday his sister,
Scott’s Aunt Eleanor, had prevailed upon him to accompany her..
Scott, admittedly, had paid more attention to a dimpled brunette in
the choir — he had been just old enough to take an interest in
dimpled brunettes — than he had to the sermon. So he was surprised to
hear his grandfather complain about it once they had taken Aunt
Eleanor home.

“Did you hear how he turned forgiveness into a bargaining chip? Give
it to get it, he says. Do good to get good.”

Scott’s eyebrows had gone up at the contempt in those words, but
before he could say anything, his grandfather went on. “Forgiveness
is a duty. An obligation. It must be freely given.”

The words had carried a personal weight for Harlan Garrett that had
puzzled Scott. As if what his grandfather understood so clearly still
somehow eluded him.

Did his grandfather want forgiveness now? He had already denied it to

With every turn of the carriage wheels they came closer to Morro Coyo
and the stage that would separate them. Only two or three more miles
now. Scott suddenly longed to ask his grandfather the question his
father had refused to answer.

“Did — did you ever hear from Murdoch, during all those years —?”

The answer was not what he had expected.

“With Ellen dead so many years … your mother gone from home and
now —” his grandfather said slowly, “suddenly there was a baby in the
nursery again. I had to find a nanny. The cook and the maid had to
accommodate a growing infant. You changed so fast back then, Scotty —
we were always struggling to keep a step ahead of you. You had the
household staff tripping over themselves to amuse you. My sisters
doted on you. Every day was something new.”

He halted for a moment, then resumed in a firmer voice. “He came when
you were 5 years old. He wanted to take you, right then. I said no,
Scotty. I wouldn’t let him. I couldn’t let you go, let him bring you
to this place.”

His grandfather seemed to expect Scott’s anger, but at this moment
Scott had none to give. He understood. And he remembered too well the
untrammeled joy of his childhood. To hear it recalled with such
affection by his grandfather now . . . .

What he might have had with Murdoch, he would never know, but he knew
what he had had with Harlan Garrett.

Murdoch had always known where he was. When Scott was five, Johnny
was two or three. Murdoch had had, and lost, another wife, another
son. The logic of his timing was inescapable.

They were coming into town now. A few people were stirring in the
narrow street, mostly at the stage office, where the coach was
already being loaded.

Then they were outside the office themselves. Harlan went in to
purchase a ticket, while Scott saw to his luggage. Scott had finished
before his grandfather and he watched Harlan Garrett come down the
office steps into the street. The awkward self consciousness in his
movements told Scott that his grandfather was conscious of Scott’s
eyes upon him now, as Scott had been aware of Harlan’s watchfulness
when he loaded the wagon. That air of remorse and faint bewilderment
still clung to him. Scott looked away.

As others passed him to board the coach, Scott’s grandfather hung
back for a moment. “Someday, Scotty” he said. “Perhaps there can be
forgiveness someday.”

“Write soon, Sir.” Scott said.

His grandfather gave him a long look, as if to be sure he meant it.
As if he were trying to hold onto this moment, to carry it with him.

Then Harlan Garrett nodded and turned to climb into the coach. With
the driver’s touch of the whip to the horses, the coach lurched into
motion. Soon, it was no more than a dusty smudge on the horizon and
Scott stood alone in the street.




Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. You can do so using the ‘reply’ box below.

Sadly, we can’t pass the comment on to the author, as we don’t have a current email address. Don’t let that stop you commenting! If the author reconnects with the fandom in the future, she will see how much her work is appreciated.


2 responses to “In Transit by Sherri”

  1. Wauw, this was a very special moment between Scott and his grandfather. Full of emotion.


  2. Great .love reading it. Thank for writing it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: