Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2016 by Parker Sheaffer
Lucas sent a telegraph to Clive in San Francisco and asked if he could arrange storage for his art collection. A few days later he received a positive reply, so he had everything packed up and shipped out. It would all be warehoused until his return to the States.
Laurent and his friends were sorry to say adieu to the Americans, of whom they had become very fond. The boys had been a mystery and a welcome diversion for their circle. Gifts were given and received, along with promises of future correspondence.
Then he and Andy did the grand tour. They traveled by train and by boat as they visited the great cities of the world, Venice and Rome, Madrid and Seville, Berlin, Brussels, Vienna, Prague and Copenhagen, and others. They were both particularly charmed by the preserved beauty of Amsterdam and enjoyed its canals and streets lined with picturesque old houses and warehouses.
Andy lost count of how many castles they had visited along the way and Lucas never grew tired of the gardens with their riotous colors of flowering plants and perfectly pruned hedges. Of course, there was art everywhere. The Europeans had invested much more money in creating and displaying sculptures and paintings than America, and the result was wonderful to see.
They did present an odd sight wherever they went, a pair of beautiful boys on their own, enjoying the best that life had to offer. Tourism is a great deal more fun when one has money and can stay in the better quality hotels and inns. Still, the pair shunned the more elegant places. In San Francisco and Portland they had lived in comfort, but neither of them had forgotten their earlier years spent in poverty, when the basic needs of life were appreciated. Even Clive, with all his wealth, had avoided ostentatious displays of wealth, and had opted for a lifestyle of simple comfort. Both Lucas and Andy felt more relaxed in smaller hotels where they could interact with ordinary people and learn about their lives. When those other curious tourists asked about their origins in turn, the boys had great fun making up stories to amaze their listeners. Sometimes they pretended to be the sons of wild west ranchers and told tales of fighting injuns and rattlesnakes, and of surviving stampedes and wildfires. Other times they said that they were born on ships that sailed the Pacific Ocean and encountered cannibals and typhoons. It amused them and they laughed about it afterwards, knowing that if they told the truth about Lucas then no one would believe them at all.
The pair spent a couple of years exploring Europe and enjoying each other's company. Lucas was able to relax and forget about his troubled past, especially as they spent so little time in any one place there was little chance of making enduring acquaintances. During this time Andy grew a moustache which made him look old enough to be Lucas' older brother. This made their daily interactions with others go more smoothly. There were many adventures to be had, some small and some quite exciting and beautiful as they drifted about, but there were also dangers to be found along their way.
Although they tended to frequent the more artistic and educational areas of each city, places which were policed heavily and appeared safe, they still occasionally found themselves to be tempting targets for criminals. On one particular evening, on a foggy street in Vienna, they were accosted by two thugs armed with knives who demanded their wallets and jewelry. Amazingly, their earlier martial arts training came into play and the hyenas found that instead of a pair of meek kittens their easy prey turned out to be a couple of lions. The assailants left empty handed but properly chastised.
In Venice they were enjoying a week in a charming old hotel, enjoying long strolls and gondola rides around the shimmering city. They were lying on the beach at nearby Lido, listening to the soothing sound of the Adriatic waves licking the sands when the sounds of children's laughter caught their attention. A group of five little blond nippers came running by, chasing each other and squealing with delight. Lucas and Andy both laughed along at their antics. There were three girls and two boys, obviously all siblings. The oldest was a boy who looked to be around twelve years of age, followed by the three girls, all younger, and finally the smallest boy who was no older than six. They were a handsome group, dressed out in their white linen suits, and Lucas spied the couple who were obviously the parents ambling more slowly up the beach. They shared a strong resemblance to their progeny and were so striking that Lucas had to speak to them.
"Your children are charming," he called out as they approached. "It's a joy to see them having so much amusement. It makes me wish I was young again."
The couple laughed, thinking that he was joking. "If you were any younger you would be in short trousers," said the father.
Lucas blushed as he remembered how he appeared to other people. "Oh, I'm older than I look," he said mysteriously. They chatted for a few minutes until the children returned and demanded their parents' attention. Lucas was surprised to find that they all were staying at the same hotel and promised to see them at dinner that evening.
The family, whose name was Rutherford, were friendly and they shared some interesting conversations over the next couple of days. On the third evening Lucas was surprised that they had not come down to dine at the usual time. In fact everyone in the dining room seemed uneasy, both the guests and the staff. He began to overhear whispers of alarming news. There was cholera in the hotel.
Lucas was not frightened for himself, but Andy was certainly susceptible to the terrible disease. Lucas had encountered it before and saw firsthand its devastating effects. Untreated, the victim could die in as little as two hours. Cholera drained the body of its fluids with severe diarrhea and vomiting. By this time it was known to be spread largely by contaminated water so Lucas forbade Andy to drink anything until they could be certain of the source. He sent Andy to his room while he asked about for more details.
Lucas had read recent medical reports about contagious diseases and knew that water must be consumed continuously to prevent dehydration and to flush out he germs. The water must first be boiled and sterilized so he set the hotel staff to preparing large kettles of it, enough for everyone. Then he found that two of the Rutherford children were stricken with it, so he went to their room to offer his help.
"This is what we must do," he urged Mrs. Rutherford. "Keep the children away from the sick ones. You must stay away too so that you don't spread it. I seem to be immune so I will tend to your little ones. If we can see them through the first two days then they should recover with no harm done."
His words finally convinced the parents to leave him in charge and his heart went out to the children, the two youngest, as they lay suffering. The staff delivered water and broth to the door and Lucas administered it. The children cried and didn't want to drink any more, but Lucas insisted so they obeyed. He was kept busy cleaning up after them and talking cheerfully to keep up their spirits. Despite their distress he managed to make them laugh now and then.
Lucas stayed awake all through the night, watching over the little ones and waking them to make them drink. Their parents stood outside the door, anxiously asking for news of their condition. There was little improvement the next day, but Lucas stayed at his post. The second night was extremely tiring for him but by dawn their fevers had broken and he could see some color returning to their faces and their limbs seemed plumper, less withered. Also, their eyes were not so sunken and he at last believed that the worst was over.
Fortunately, the outbreak was not a widespread one and seemed centered on one small section of the city. There had been several deaths, but none in their hotel, although a few had fallen sick. Lucas believed that his request that the water be boiled had made a difference. The Rutherfords were endlessly grateful for his help and the mother hugged him tightly and kissed his forehead.
Andy was happy to leave his room and as soon as they could the pair left Venice for Florence, where they took rooms overlooking the Arno. There they stayed for two weeks.
While the jungles of Africa were not a convenient destination at that time, they did manage to visit Egypt and Morocco. Morocco was the strangest and perhaps the most beautifully foreign land that they visited. The architecture was ornate and unexpected and the people were pleasant and colorful. It was difficult to resist the decorative items for sale in the bazaars, but they knew that whatever they purchased they must carry with them or somehow ship to San Francisco so they tried to limit the number of their souvenirs. They traveled to the edge of the Sahara desert and decided they had gone far enough. The endless sea of sand looked uninviting and somehow oppressive, so they turned back.
Andy had become a handsome young man and he unintentionally charmed young women wherever they went. Many of them flirted with him behind their mother's back and a few were able to slip away for intimate conversations. Andy was a gentleman, but he was at that age when desires sometimes won out over his better judgement and now and then he took advantage of a young woman's willingness for romance. They would slip away from her parents and find a secluded spot to couple. Lucas was glad that Andy could find other friends and experience romance, but warned him about the possibility of leaving some young woman in an unwanted situation. It was during this time that Andy requested that Lucas call him Andrew, a more adult sounding name.
Wherever their impulse took them they relied on their Baedeker guides to help navigate the cities and find the most picturesque and cultural spots. Language was seldom a problem in their travels because in most countries they found that both French and English were commonly understood. Italian was close enough to French so they learned enough to find their way about and to order meals. Sometimes when they arrived in a new city Lucas found it convenient and amusing to find a young man to act as a guide. There were many such young men who were without employment and were happy to show the pair of tourists the streets and sights of their home. In return, they received a nice wage and free meals.
One particular fellow, named Franz, recognized that Lucas was of a like mind, sexually, and began to make obvious seductive gestures toward him. It was in Zurich in the summertime and Franz was a very handsome man in his early twenties. Lucas liked his smile and his sense of humor, but Andrew sensed something different. To him, Franz seemed too attentive, too fawning, and somehow false. He didn't trust him and so kept a close eye on him whenever he could and so one day he discovered Franz searching through Lucas' luggage while Lucas slept.
"Thief!" cried Andrew as he threw open the door.
Franz stood up with a surprised look that quickly turned to anger. He was holding a purse that Lucas kept hidden in the bottom of a trunk, and he clutched it more tightly as he prepared to flee the room. He seemed to think that Andrew would be no obstacle to his escape. Rushing to exit he tried to push the younger man out of his way, but Andrew pushed him back, causing Franz to fall and hit his head on the corner of the sofa, leaving his stunned.
Lucas had awakened at the sound of Andrew's cry and immediately saw what was happening. He leapt from the bed and confronted the scoundrel.
"Leave the purse and leave this hotel," Lucas ordered him in a tone that brooked no nonsense. Andrew stepped aside as Franz staggered out of the room.
"Thank you, Andrew. You saved us from being robbed. I never suspected that of Franz. He seemed like such a nice fellow," said Lucas, gratefully.
"I had a feeling about him all along, Lucas. There was just something that felt untrustworthy about him. I'm surprised that you didn't see it. He was just too friendly for my taste."
Lucas laughed and said, "Well, for all of the years that I have lived I don't seem to be growing any wiser. It's an odd thing that I am almost as gullible today as I was when I was a young man."
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