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Thursday, November 15, 2012

MY WESTWARD TREK Chapter 8

Widows Walk
courtesy photobucket.com

As the passengers walked down the gangplank, Morgan's eyes were on Ellie.  He stared at what was going to be her wedding party, until they were out of sight.

Then he heard the Captain bark out some orders which included him. There was cargo to be taken off, and the ship which had to be cleaned, repaired and made ready for the voyage home.

Save for a few crew members, the Captain was satisfied with the way most of them had performed during the trip.  Now he was hoping that they wouldn't jump ship, and head for the gold mines.

There were many stories going around about the killings, and many seekers not finding enough gold to feed themselves let alone get rich. While preparing to return home these stories increased, and there were many men who wanted to sign on just for the fare home.  Within a few days the ship was fully laden with products from the near east, and almost a full complement of passengers.

Morgan eyed each one as they boarded, looking for a lassie with a tender eye but none of them came up to the measure of Ellie. There were one or two young woman that he felt might do for conversation purposes, but he still couldn't get the image of Ellie out of his mind.  

Most of the crew knew how he felt about Ellie, and wanted to make fun of him, but they realized how much he was hurting so they left him alone and didn't say anything.  Morgan didn't know which was worse, the crew just standing around, and not saying what they were thinking or coming out and making fun of him. If they had laughed at him he could have fought back but their silence was difficult to deal with.

The passengers were the last to load, just before sailing. There was a flurry of activity as people found their berths below decks, and the ones who could afford a cabin settled in.  Many returned to the top deck to wave goodbye to friends they had made.

The ship was towed from the dock, and the sails began to catch the wind. The Captain himself guided the fine ship past all the vessels which lie at anchor, and then it was through the Golden Gate and into open water. We were headed on our way back home.

There was a new deck hand who actually took the job that nobody else wanted, but it had to be done, which included cleaning up after everybody. This consisted of cleaning the cabins, which were unseemly due to the rank nature of some of the people.  Also the garbage removal and the scrubbing of the galley for the Captain demanded the ship be clean as possible.  

The new hand did his work without complaining although he did not take abuse very well. Those who usually had this job were treated like the refuse they cleaned up, but when one of the crew tried to treat him thus, he knocked the man unconscious.  No one tried to mess with him for the rest of the journey saying he must be crazy, and he would best be left alone.

During the trip home Morgan became friendly with him, and discovered that he had been a professor in a college, and his wife had left him for another man.  He had caught up to them, and disabled the man somewhat severely and then headed west to the gold fields. There he had little success, and had been robbed of what he had.  So as a last resort he signed on to the Westward Ho to return home.

The Professor, as he was called, had brought little with him.  His only possessions were a few books he treasured, and had managed to carry wherever he went.  He allowed Morgan to read them during the months sailing home, and then he would explain what the author meant for some things were difficult for Morgan to understand.

Morgan's duties caused him to work double shifts the first few days for trying to get these non-sailors to the rail to get relief from their queasy stomachs.  It also took much of the crew’s time cleaning up after those who didn't make it to the rail. This was an additional task for the whole crew and one which they didn't appreciate.

We were under full sail again and each day brought us nearer home and to our folks.
 
There were several widows on the return trip having lost their husbands in the gold fields. Some of the men had died, some disappeared, and some just left them for various reasons. In any case they were a sad and confused bunch of ladies.

One woman who seemed especially forlorn had come overland by covered wagon to be with her new husband, but when she arrived her husband never showed up for her. She didn't know if she was married or single due to husband being missing.  She finally got employment with a wealthy woman, and had saved enough to travel by ship back home.

Morgan found her to be interesting for she seem to be living a life of desperation. After hearing what she had been through the last two years he wondered if he could have stood up to she suffered.

Perhaps she was stronger than she knew.

To be Continued  

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