Glorious land! Goodbye to stomaching rat-eaten cheese, vomiting the contents of supper because her body had succumbed to food poisoning, tasting wine only to spit it out because vinegar had somehow taken its place in the bottle! Rose thanked the Lord the ship’s crew had bought new supplies at the port of her Mother’s beloved birthplace Ushuaia, cradled in the bosom of Tierra del Fuego. If they hadn’t…
She had weighed the benefits versus the dangers of embarking on the longest route from England to Victoria, Canada, a route that required more time and more fortitude to travel around the entire continent of South America. The route also didn’t cost as much though that was not an issue for Rose. The discovery of her father’s gold vein a year and half ago had put her in a position in which she need not depend on any man or well to do family for life’s necessities and pleasures. She was set for life. Fitting since she had almost lost her life in the process.
Her heart lurched for joy at beholding Victoria after so long. During these long months of sea-hardened travel, it had been the beacon of hope shining in her dreams. It was the city in which an unlikely encounter with a smug cowboy had altered the course of her life. That testy friendship had transformed into a committed partnership which had then blossomed into an unbreakable romance. She would make her home here with the man she loved more than all the gold she owned.
The wind whipped loose tendrils of Rose’s hair as she leaned over the starboard railing. She noticed how desolate the port of Victoria appeared compared to how busy it had been two years ago. The amount of incoming visitors had greatly reduced, and the miners’ tents which use to dot the beach by the hundreds now only numbered a handful here and there. Victoria was now a piddly glimmer of its previous glory.
The activity on the ship’s deck increased as the sailors began to prepare for dockage. After the captain shouted his orders, a handful of sailors which the crew had picked up in Ushuaia chattered together excitedly in their native Spanish. A smile crept on her face because firstly she knew with certainty that she had grasped a good measure of the language to understand their conversation, the enunciations and letter sounds slipping seamlessly one to another, and secondly she empathized with how happy they were to find the necessary opportunity in this land to send monetary help to their families back home.
During their travel from Ushuaia to Victoria, she had initiated many conversations with these particular sailors to practice and improve the Spanish she had begun to learn in England with Lord Faversham. She had regaled them with many of the tales she had lived through whilst finding her father’s treasure. Surprising enough, they had not pinned all their attention on the gold nor on the fact that she was rich but always focused on the parts of her tale that she believed were the most important, her relationships with Dave, Joe, Jack, and Miss Craig.
She considered them as close as brothers. Therefore, she had left in the captain’s care (for he was an honourable and honest man) an envelope with a considerable amount of money for each of them to begin their own stories with a helpful monetary boost.
As the plank settled upon the dock, she bid each of them a fond farewell. She hefted her two valises and stood on her tiptoes to peer over the heads of her shipmates in search of Dave. She surfed on the wave of excitement, hoping it would tamper down her concern, no, fear that Dave wouldn’t be waiting for her where she was to disembark.
There were only a handful of welcomers waiting to greet select passengers of her ship. As soon as she looked through the small crowd and didn’t find his knowing smirk—she spurred onward. Hope that she would find him at the Victoria Hotel fuelled her steps. She hailed a driver and buggy and offered him a more than reasonable sum to drive her to the hotel where she had asked Dave to stay and wait for her arrival a week or two after she was to arrive in case her ship was late, which it was by a few days.
Black clouds rolled over the city. Thunder blew its horn. It reminded her of the first time she had rumbled, in a similar cart, toward the Victoria Hotel. Was it really so different then? Just as she had approached the unknown with fear staked to her heart so did she now approach the unknown with some trembling. Even the weather was setting the stage for a repeat.
As the driver brought her valises to the door, she looked down at her shoes touching her home soil and mourned that she didn’t feel the way she thought she would. Although she knew England would never be where she would settle, she had set up a comfortable routine, filled with pleasant promenades and titillating society.
Did she really believe she could leave for so long and not be affected, not be changed? Her soul ached to piece itself together so it could fit into the mold she had imagined she would enter.
Had Time affected and changed Dave the same way it had her? Would he be happy to see her? For his letters had been uncomfortably absent for far too long…
She took a deep breath and hauled her bags in...