The Horse Thief’s Daughter

Victoria Dock, Caernafon, Wales | Pete Edwards 360uk , Google Maps

Today, a preamble rather than a postscript on my story:

When I see places as lovely as Portmeirion Village, Wales, I wonder what possessed my ancestors to leave such a lovely country. And then I remember there was probably some misbegotten criminal matter or some unseemly circumstance behind it. Which is how this story happened.

My grandma liked to say that the riderless horse on the family crest was because we were horse thieves from way back. And then there’s the matter of the childless fifty-something couple in Nebraska that suddenly gave birth to my great grandmother. Yes, there are all sorts of interesting things in history, I imagine.

The steward eyed her midsection as she boarded. “Yer husband be waiting in America?”

“Yessir.”

There was no husband. There was only a charming rogue and a fortnight of promises. Her hand curled to the growing curve of her belly.

“Yer name?”

“Eliza.”

“Eliza what?”

She cleared her throat. Giving her surname—even in this port—was risky. Her people were vagabonds and miscreants. It was no wonder she’d taken a bad path.

She would make it in America, though. She couldn’t heft a pickaxe, but where there were miners, there were hungry men who’d pay a shilling for a hearty cawl and brown bread. She’d take care of the young one now slumbering in her belly. Raise him as a widow and turn her life around.

Her eyes shifted to the barrels on the deck. She couldn’t read, but she knew the sounds of some letters. “Rawson,” she guessed.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

24 Comments

  1. Nice one. Yea, the tales that turned the many Europeans into New World immigrants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some real doozies, I’ll bet. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure; enjoyed. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love that. And I imagine that many of us have similar stories in our ancestry. I have been told my grandad was once running out the back door as the police were coming in the front … Love the imagery, the voices, the determination of your lead character. Enjoyed from start to finish. Great stuff, Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, that’s a funny story your grandad shared. It would be interesting to have a crystal ball into the past and see all the shenanigans. Glad you enjoyed the story!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It would be nice to be able to divine the family fact from folklore. Great read

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent story. I think my forbearer was passed out and they just said his name was “Carroll” because he was a drunken Irishman and they all were named that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL, I’ve got an Irishman in my family tree too. Actually, he fell out of the tree. 😉

      Like

  4. Lovely story, Karen, and you tell it very persuasively. I love the way Eliza chooses her alias!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. peterkirsch

    Oh wow, KR. What an exceptional embrace of a new beginning.

    If it eventually brought us you, then who gives a sh!t what anybody thought back then. Tahellwitem, I say!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tahellwitem–is that Welsh?😊

      Like

    2. I can’t find a translation for it either. It is one of those rare words that returns only two Google results.

      Thanks for reading Peter!

      Like

  6. So well done! It is likely the story – in this or that variation – of many who crossed to the “new world” with wishes to leave behind the legacies that led to them wanting to take a dangerous path across the ocean to begin with.
    False names.
    Embellished stories.
    Anything to make the chance of going from where one could not remain, to where there was, perhaps, some hope.
    It is the story still today. Of so many. And of the ancestry of some in ‘highest’ places, besides, even if they’d rather we all forgot.
    Na’ama

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words Na’ama. I agree, I’m sure there are many plot twists in history we may never know about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m pretty sure you are right about that!
        Here’s to finding out what we can as we can about what we can, and here’s to the enduring mystery of history …
        🙂
        Na’ama

        Liked by 1 person

  7. lillmcgill

    I wonder if you have actually guessed the truth?
    Bravery trumps shame!

    Like

    1. I love that you said that, lillmcgill. That is a great mindset!

      Like

  8. Ah! I love that you included a bit of your history, or possible history, in this wee tale. My ancestors were rum runners along a river in Kansas. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rum runners, eh? That’s intriguing! I have a friend who is a descendant of Jesse James. Thanks for reading, Lish.

      Like

  9. So crazy but true, in a time before databases.

    I’ve been watching the new season of Henry Louis Gates’ show, Finding your roots, with much interest, and celebrities and politicians are finding similar stories in their pasts, from the “W” for widow, used to cover an unseemly split or a child out of wedlock, to a changed name to cover less-welcomed minority religious or racial origins, or to ease difficult spellings.

    Sounds like a smart cookie, and if she can survive the voyage she should be fine. How interesting to take a peek into your Welsh past!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Andrea! With the availability of DNA tests, we may all find out none of us are who we think we are. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful story, Karen. The persistence of you character is admirable. The dreams of a new life she has are so uplifting. I think this Reason will go far!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Kelvin! Your kind words mean a lot.

      Like

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