New Cousin

By MoulinP

Han and Jed have escaped Valparaiso helped by Jericho Crowther, who helps them further by giving them money for the train. However, the boys have a difference of opinion about where they go. So intractable in fact they go their separate ways. Jed to return to his childhood home town to find Grandpa Curry. Heyes ventures further afield in search of Uncle Jonathan, the man whose letters sustained him in Valparaiso.


Heyes walked out of the station in Eustace, Utah and consulted the letter again. He didn’t need to. He knew the address by heart. Just for reassurance.

“Excuse me sir,” he asked the vendor at the newspaper stand. “Can you tell me where Switchback Street is please?”

“Sure sonny.” He gave the directions. “’Bout half a mile.”

Heyes smiled and set off.

As he walked, his mind gave way to a few things he hadn’t wanted to think about before. What would he do if the man he had come to visit didn’t live at the address anymore? And if he couldn’t find him? It was all very well planning a contingency with Jed. But, could he really face him having failed?

Heyes had corresponded regularly with Uncle Jonathan while he was in Valparaiso. Right from the start, he had been adamant that Heyes couldn’t come live with him but didn’t offer any explanation. Heyes had given up asking in the end. He valued the exchange of letters and he didn’t want them to stop. It had been one of the rare things he had looked forward to at Valparaiso. It was with regret that he had to destroy the letters in case they fell into the wrong hands, although he carried the latest.

So, what could he expect now by just turning up? Would the door slam in his face? Would he be welcomed with open arms? Perhaps it was just as well Jed wasn’t with him. The uncertainty was making his stomach churn.

Despite his reservations, which seemed to be getting bigger the nearer he got, he continued to trudge on. As he did so, he became conscious of how he was dressed. At Valparaiso, clothes were communal. A set of clothing was handed out each week. No one was too picky whether it fitted well or not. So long as it was about right.

The legs of Heyes’ overalls were far too short, more suitable to a boy of Jed’s age. Conversely, the shirt was too large, the sleeves had to be turned back otherwise they would flap over his hands. He had no hat or jacket. Since he had left the relative warmth of the train, he was beginning to feel cold. His feet were encased in boots, although relatively new, were a size too big. He had pulled the laces tight to keep them on and one side had snapped. They were threatening to come undone and trip him up.

Most of his share of Jericho’s money had gone on the train ticket. He had nothing with which to sort his clothes. Then as he passed the back yards of a few houses, he realised it was laundry day. Clothes fluttered on several lines.

Heyes stopped and wriggled his lips back and forth. He grunted. An idea came to him. Now he just had to put it into practice.

“Betsey Lou, would you come in and help me please?”

Heyes looked round at the sound of the voice. He was just in time to see Betsey Lou, on the back porch, summoned by her mother, disappear into the house. She left behind the brown corduroy jacket she had been brushing. Heyes grinned. He liked the look of it. If he wasn’t mistaken it looked about his size. And he was cold.

Keeping an eye out for a returning Betsey Lou, Heyes crept into the yard and up onto the porch. Carefully he removed the jacket from its hanger and ran. When he was out of sight, he slipped the jacket on. It was a perfect fit, even had some growing room in it. He frowned down at his overalls and fiddled with the rough shirt. They looked out of place now under his new jacket.

“Hmm, let’s see what else I can find,” he said to himself.

A few minutes later, Heyes was hiding behind a sheet on the line and shimming into a pair of buttermilk, coloured pants. They fitted much better than the awful overalls, even if they were a little damp. He left the overalls on the line in compensation. Another ten minutes later, he was wearing a new but wrinkled dark blue shirt. Again, a little damp.

He felt smart now as he tripped along with a spring in his step. He smiled proudly to himself and he missed the turning, having to double back. As he did so the change of direction, blew his hair and he ran his fingers through it to push it back. Perhaps finding a hat was too much to hope for. Nevertheless, he was beginning to like this town. There were a lot of boys his size in it. If nothing else came of him being here, he was assured of an extensive wardrobe!

The nerves increased when he found Switchback Street. The houses were all detached and stood in their own grounds. They weren’t expensive but they weren’t poor either. Modest was the term. And pretty. The gardens were well stocked and well-tended. No lines of laundry here. At least not on the front facing the street.

Could this really be where Uncle Jonathan lived? Heyes scrubbed at his cheek as he walked slowly down the street counting off the houses, until he reached number twelve.

It wasn’t the best house on the street, small by the standards of the surrounding properties. It was double fronted, with dormer windows in the roof and a rose growing up and over the porch. A short front path traversed the narrow lawn between house and hedge. The house was built on the front of its plot. As Heyes peeked down the side through the hedge, there looked to be a sizeable back yard, even though the house appeared to go back a fair way.

Heyes hesitated, with his hand on the gate. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the gate open and made the short journey to the front door. He looked around for a bell or a knocker. To one side of the porch, he found a bell cord.

A quaint, tinkling sound rang out when he pulled it. For a moment, nothing happened and then he heard footsteps approaching. He swallowed hard as the door opened.

A thin middle-aged woman peered out.

“Yes? Can I help you, young man?”

Heyes cleared his throat.

“Er sorry to bother ya ma’am, but does Mr Jonathan Curry live here?”

“I’m sorry; I think you have the wrong address. There’s nobody of that name here.” She started to shut the door.

“Er ma’am. Perhaps he used to live here? I have a letter from him only three months ago and he gave this address.”

“I’ve no idea how that can be. There is no Mr Curry here.” The door started to close again.

“Then ma’am who does live here?” Heyes was wide-eyed and disappointed. His voice betrayed his desperation.

“That, young man is none of your business. Good day to you.”

The door shut firmly.

Heyes stared helplessly at the door. He felt his eyes beginning to water. For three long hard years, he had dreamt about finding his Uncle Jonathan. His mother had told him to come here. She had scribbled this address on the back of the drawing she had done of him and Jed, hours before …..

He rummaged in his pocket and found the crumpled last letter. The address was correct, Number Twelve, Switchback Street, Eustace, Utah. He stepped back and checked the number on the front of the porch. Yes, this was definitely number twelve. Perhaps this wasn’t Switchback Street. He’d go check the street sign.

More in hope than expectation, Heyes turned away. He pulled the gate shut behind him, heard it click with finality, and stepped out onto the street.

So, what did he do now? He had no money. Nowhere to go. He suddenly felt very young and lonely. And there was no one to care.

“Excuse me?” a young female voice said.

Heyes, lost in his disappointment, didn’t hear.

“Excuse me!” The voice came louder.

Heyes looked around with a start.

The head of a young girl looked at him over the top of the hedge where it dipped a little.


“Did you ask for Mr Jonathan Curry?”

Heyes looked confused. “Er yes ma’am.”

“One moment.”

Her head disappeared and then reappeared at the gate with the rest of her.

She was about his height, her hair a similar colour to his own, although hers reached down her back, with the sides pulled back onto the back of her head. She wore a cherry red velvet pinafore dress with a white blouse underneath. She looked about, up and down the street, furtively.

“Do you know Mr Curry?” she asked, quietly. She gripped the top of the gate with both hands.

“Yes ma’am,” he said, cautiously, deciding not to be forthcoming with any more information yet.

“Describe him,” she asked, firmly and folded her arms.

Heyes blinked at the strange question. “Er well. He’s ‘bout five seven, five eight, slim, brown kinda wavy hair, brown eyes.”

She sniffed. “That’s a fairly accurate description of him, I guess. How do you know him?”

Heyes hesitated.

She huffed and folded her arms. “Do you know him or not?” she asked, when he didn’t answer.

Heyes licked his lips and sighed. “Yes, ma’am I know him … well I did. We’ve been corresponding for the last few years.”

He tried a brief smile. This girl obviously knew Jonathan Curry. For some reason she was being evasive and protective. Made sense to try to keep her on side, without revealing his own relationship, for as long as possible.

She unfolded her arms. “You’ve been writing here?”

“Yes ma’am. Number 12, Switchback Street, Eustace, Utah. That is here ain’t it?”

She stared at him for a moment. “Are you? Ooh!” Suddenly her hand went to her mouth in surprise.


“Yes, yes. Oh!” Then she seemed to get a hold of herself and took one more deep breath. “You must be Hannibal.”

Heyes looked surprised. “Yes ma’am. Do I … know you?” He peered at her hard, trying to recollect.

She shook her head furiously. “No.” She took another deep breath. “No, we’ve never met.” She wrung her hands. “But I know about you. Your mother is Susan Heyes.”

A shadow passed over Heyes’ face at the mention of his mother and he looked down, stirring the dust with his toe. “Yes ma’am. Before that she was Susan Curry, Jonathan’s sister.”

The girl grinned and she stuck out her hand. “I’m Rose. We’re cousins. Jonathan Curry is my Papa.”

Heyes stared at her open mouthed. He hadn’t expected that. He had another living relative. Another cousin.

“I had no idea,” he gasped. “But that lady said he didn’t live here?”

Rose looked around furtively again, making Heyes look as well.

“He goes by another name here,” she whispered. “She … knows him as Jonathan Saunders.”

“W-Why?” Heyes stuttered.

“You don’t know?” she whispered.

Heyes was wide eyed. “Know what?”

Rose sniffed, glanced back towards the house. “You’d better come in and I’ll explain.” She unlatched the gate and winced as it squeaked. “Quietly. We’ll go round the back.”


Ten minutes later Heyes and his new cousin were sitting at a round table in a pretty kitchen, sipping lemonade, through a straw.

“Papa told me about you. He’s always very troubled and sad after one of your letters came.”

Heyes didn’t say anything, just swallowed and put his head down.

“He wrote me back. I had to leave ‘em there,” he said, sighing with regret.



“Where’s that?”

“It’s an orphanage.” He shrugged. “Of sorts. Me and Jed got sent there after …  we lost our folks.” He put his head down. “What did … your Papa say ‘bout me?” he asked quietly, looking up.

“Papa said that … after … what happened to your parents … you stayed at school.”

“Ha!” Heyes laughed, humourlessly. “Is that what he calls it? It’s called a school but it ain’t. School for Waywards.”

“What’s a wayward?”

Heyes looked at her in disbelief and then frowned. Why would she know about that sort of thing?

“Just another term for orphans,” he murmured. He stared at his glass of lemonade and there was an uncomfortable silence.

“Who’s Jed?” she asked, breaking the mood.

“Huh?” The question startled him.

“You said you and Jed? Who’s Jed?”

“Jed’s our cousin.” She looked blank. “Uncle Thaddeus’ son, Jed?”

Rose shook her head. “He must be your uncle. He’s not mine.”

Heyes opened his mind to put her straight but then thought better of it. If Jonathan hadn’t told her about Thaddeus and Jed then it wasn’t his place to tell her. Jonathan would have his reasons and Heyes could guess what they might be. Thaddeus and Grampa Curry had cut Jonathan out of their lives so Jonathan had cut them out of his life.

Heyes shook his head and shrugged. “Never mind. Jus’ a friend.”

Another uncomfortable silence, broken only be slurping of lemonade through straws. Rose sat fiddling with the tassels on the tablecloth as she sought for something to say. Heyes traced the pattern on the tablecloth with his thumbnail.

“So …”

“You …”

They smiled as they started together. “After you ma’am,” Heyes said, politely. After three years at Valparaiso, he hadn’t forgotten his manners. Nor would he, they were deeply ingrained.

“So, what brings you here now?”

“Well, I’m … that age now, when I have to make my own way in the world an’ I … thought I’d start off by visiting my uncle.” Heyes spoke slowly, making up an explanation on the spot. Then warmed to his subject. “Thank him for writing to me an’ to ask …”


“Er that’s between him an’ me ma’am.” He smiled tightly. He had already realised she was pushy. Guess she had been rather spoilt.

She looked a little put out and opened her mouth to say something and then thought better of it when they heard the front door open.

“That’ll be Papa. Wait here, I’ll go get him. He’s going to be so surprised to see you!”

Rose dashed off leaving Heyes swallowing his nerves. Yeah, he sure is, he thought.