This is the first chapter of the “Eagles Nest.” It was the dream of a wealthy east coast financial tycoon to build a house out in the wild west of California on the buffs over looking the Pacific Ocean.
This is the story of the house and the town that came to be….
James Heart was a very successful man. He was born near the end of the seventeen eighties and was afforded a very good education. His father had been a successful farmer. Over several years of local politics he eventually became a state senator from Ohio.
The elder Mr. Heart had very little education and always felt inferior for that reason, even with his great successes. Due to that, he made his son go to Harvard to become an educated man. James inherited his father’s work ethic and his endless curiosity.
James worked on the family farm for years while he was growing up, like most of his neighbor’s children and then struck out east for his education. He and his father felt that studying business for a few years at Harvard would start his son off with the right education needed to be a valuable employee. With the help of his fathers name and fortune he completed the task set before him in less than three years.
He left Cambridge and Harvard after graduation and moved to New York City. He soon started his working life with a large brokerage firm.
He had met his future wife at college in his second year. Her name was Rebecca Myers. Yes, she came from that well-placed and very wealthy Myers family. He had started college a little late in life and she had started at a young age, so there was some difference in their ages.
Her family watched over them very carefully from the moment that they first met, through their courtship of two years and until they, were married. They were a little uncomfortable with the age gap between the two lovers. Her father, The Honorable Mr. Myers, a judge and real estate tycoon wanted to make sure that James Heart was the right man for his one and only, daughter, Jennifer.
James had finished his studies with high marks and was quickly offered a good job on Wall Street and never looked back. The couple was married only after what her family thought to be “an appropriate length of time.”
The wedding was a “large and costly affair,” according to all the stories in the papers at the time. But that was to be expected, as the bride and groom came from two of the wealthiest families on the “Eastern Seaboard.”
James made a good salary at his first job, but his drive and quest for knowledge made his career moves come faster than most others. He had a corner office and his own secretary in just a few years.
Many thought that the marriage of James and Jennifer Heart was one of security for the bride and convenience for the groom. It was supposed that it was not a “love marriage,” but one used to build a union of two great families and companies. That might have been true to some degree. However the couple did love each other in the beginning.
The children came every year for four years. They were all boys, to James’s great joy. He was a mature father, most certainly. He was thirty-five when his first son was born. The boys were Charles, Hank, Sam and Richard.
James ventured into many successful business deals with many investors on the east coast. His father-in-law saw to that. He soon, had many friends among the oldest and wealthiest families in the eastern part of the country and had started his own financial company.
James was a talented man in his own right, and would have succeeded without the help of his in-laws and his father, but that help did make his life easier in the beginning. In time he made his own fortune and continued to raise his family near his wife’s grand home, called The Vineyard.
His family had stayed in Washington for his father’s career. He was a senator for many years and help Ohio prosper a good deal. He helped bring the railroad to the state and which in turn helped the farming interests of that state.
It seemed to James Heart, that way too soon, his four sons had grown into men and much of his life had passed before him without him even noticing. He had suffered little, had many adventures, experienced pleasures to no end, and had been very lucky in life.
James Heart had always had a fascination with architecture, art and the wild and untamed west of America. He had bought and built several fine homes along the east coast and down to Florida, but they were not his favorite. Eventually he had a home built on the edge of The Pacific Ocean in California in a very small town south of the gold fields in the “Wild West.”
He already had three mansions on the east coast and had filled them with the finest art treasures that money could buy from his travels all around the world.
He had a member of his staff hired for the sole function of searching the world for artifacts of some historic, artistic and financial value for Mr. Heart to purchase. Mr. Forbes had worked at a fine museum in New York City before Mr. Heart “had stolen him away” from that famous institute. I will not mention the name of that institution as there is a shadow surrounding that unseemly event.
James Heart’s fascination with art had taken him around the world, more than once, during his life and to places not often seen by the average traveler.
James Heart’s financial resources had made it possible for him to buy what ever he found interesting or pleasing to the eye and that which he had decided to bring home. He was in placed in peril more than once on some of these journeys to Africa and Asia.
There was one event in Egypt involving some disgruntled Bedouin, but we will not discuss that at this time. The legal status of those artifacts purchased have not been worked out yet to anyone’s satisfaction, though they remain in one of Mr. Hearts homes in America, as we speak.
He had traveled the world looking for “historic trinkets” and “serious art” for many years during and after his company had grown to the point that he could take as much time away from work as he wanted.
His four sons couldn’t tell one painting, artist or statue from another, sadly, and didn’t care to learn, that his main disappointment in them.
James had tried to come out at least once a year to vacation with his family in the California Mansion, called “The Eagles Nest” after it was finished. His first voyage around Cape Horn was with a ship laden with fine timber for the construction of “The Eagles Nest” and those foremen in charge of its construction.
Over the years he had placed hundreds of antiques, valuables, statues and paintings in his western home. He knew the climate in California was perfect for their wellbeing and safety.
On another voyage years later he had traveled from New York by sailing ship with his new “Italian pieces” and sailed around the tip of South America once more. He made the journey several times. It usually took around forty-three days if all went well. He had asked his wife to join him with the boys again, but she would have none of it.
“My sons will never travel on that dangerous sea,” was her response to the request made by her husband. He refused to listen to her and took the boys to sea anyway. This did create a rift in their marriage that existed for some time. He was delighted with his sons as companions and the danger’s that they had faced along the way.
Mr. Heart came to “Eagles Nest” nearly every summer as he neared retirement. His treasures came by ship from all over the world for many years. He often waited with anticipation for the day of their arrival each summer.
Of course, he never knew exactly when the ship might arrive due to weather and other events out of his hands. He never lost a shipload of his beloved pieces o the sea. Sometimes it took a dozen men to lift the crates from the wagon and onto the ground, once they had arrived at the house.
In the beginning, when he first arrived, he could see the crates being lowered into the ship’s small boats from his rooftop vantage point through the large antique spy glass mounted on the open top floor of his house.
He watched his treasures in horror as they were rowed to the shore in both rough and smooth seas. The large breakers at the shore were his main concern. He thought the journey was a far too perilous for those large crates coming to shore in the high surf. He worried that his prized possessions would fall into the sea after coming half way around the world.
After watching that spectacle once, he immediately had a long pier built so that the large sailing ships could dock there and unload their valuable cargo in safety. The next year, the crates were unloaded on to the pier and then brought up to the house by horse drawn buckboards.
The house sat on the bluffs above a sheltered harbor and it was possible for the ships to sail into the harbor and tie up to the long, sturdy pier.
He would often sit on the fourth floor of his house and watch. That roof had been built as a deck so that that he could see all around the countryside with an unobstructed view. He often complained that, “he couldn’t see past his nose in New York City with all of the tall buildings in his way.”
He would sit on his deck with his telescope and peer out into the vast Pacific looking for the white sails that would precede the arrival of his new artifacts. He often watched them being unloaded from the ship that had brought them to his home through a fine pair binoculars.
When he wished to, he could turn the long spyglass to the east and see up into town and past it out into the low hills where hundreds of cattle grazed lazily, unaware of their fate. In the winter and spring, the oak trees stood out against the hills in dark green while the grasses were many shades of green and yellow, with brown spots that indicated the cattle spread out against the hillsides. There were eventually wire fences crossing the hills as the land was sold off and broken up into smaller farms.
Eventually a few farmhouses could be seen on the hills with barns behind them and thin brown lines running down the sides of those hills. They were small dirt roads coming down toward town and ending in a broad flat plain that spread out to the sea. That plain was where our town was built, just next to the Pacific Ocean.
Mr. Heart had intended to live out his life here in the “dry climate of the west” after his working days had ended, living among his favorite pieces of art. He had created a vast collection of art over his long lifetime and had intended to enjoy it here.
His many homes on the east coast were filled with art, but those pieces sent west were the “best of the best.” He knew that the climate in California was perfect for their long-term welfare.
Sadly, his sons had no interest in the esoteric aspects of life and no desire to learn. They came less often as they grew older and he came and over saw the growth of his collection and the town.
His four sons were content to work in the family investment company with stocks, bonds and mergers and to create great fortunes of their own. Money was their primary concern and quest.
They too, were soon married into some of the greatest families of the American elite.
I will not bore you with their names, but you would recognize a few of them if I were rude enough to mention them. Most of these families are very discreet and are still unknown tycoons. They are old money and have a circle of their own that they travel in. They have no desire to “mingle with the nouveau riche.”
The sons had no desire to acquire or develop an understanding of art in the least, to the disappointment of their father. Money was their goal and prime pursuit.
Art meant nothing to them and they often wondered why their father was so interested in traveling so far away to find these “great masterpieces” and buying those pieces of art that he brought home.
James Heart knew that money was not the root of all that was evil. He also understood, however, that it takes more than money to make one happy. These beautiful things made him happy. It was that simple. The journeys to find them gave him pleasure, as well.
As time has a way of doing, and after nearly eighty years of a full and interesting life, James Heart went to meet his maker. It was January the first in the year eighteen-fifty. He had come to his large mansion on the beach many times but not as many as he had hoped or wished to. He was very disappointed about that on his deathbed, among other things.
His wife refused to accompany him to sea after just a few trips “out west.” She was a formidable ally but she was also a formidable foe. She had decided not to return to the “The Eagles Nest,” after her first trip there and she never did return. The boys did come often in the summer. The sea voyage was a great adventure for them even as they were watched over by Jerald, the second butler of the Heart household while Mr. Heart read or wrote in his journal.
Mrs. Heart’s life was in New York and Baltimore where there was more than enough excitement and adventure for her there. Besides, she was younger than he and had “the boys, to raise.” That was her argument for staying in the east.
There were plenty of libraries and museums there for her and for her children to visit and more parties than one could imagine for her to attend. She had no desire to create a life out west in that “God forsaken land.” Their love of each other had endured through their separations and, “might have prospered, because of it,” some have said.
The sons had only been out to the “western house” a few times as small children in the summers and had no interest or attachments to it or its contents. They had not even thought of it for years until it became necessary with the death of their father. Their mother was old and frail by then and so the task of clearing out the house and selling it was left to them.
The four brothers were close in many ways. They worked in the same company owned and created by their father, but they were not “peas in a pod.”
One brother did have an interest in real estate and was building, his own, portfolio, separate from the others, and unknown to them. His brothers were content to work in the business that they had grown up in and understood so well. Stocks and bonds were their stock in trade and first and only loves.
Richard, the black sheep of the family, was not a bad son, but he had been known to do some shady things in his business dealings, to his father’s, and brother’s alarm.
He had not brought ill repute to the family over the years, but the men had all feared that that was to come sooner rather than later. They had, happily, escaped that situation up until the time of their father’s death, however. He died as content as any man can.
Luckily their father had died without seeing his name drug through the mud of Wall Street. Richard had not yet been caught being underhanded and that was the problem. He had not yet been punished or learned his lesson from doing his small white-collar crimes. Larger crimes were sure to follow and the family lived in fear of those discoveries.
His father prided himself on the reputation of his company, which had been one of honesty and integrity. Even as his father’s estate was being settled, Richard’s mind was busy with schemes and plots to cheat his three brothers out of their full inheritances. His plans were unknown to them.
He couldn’t help himself. It was his nature.
Mr. Heart’s interests in California were watched over by a family out west that lived near the father’s mansion and who came to be friendly with James Heart. Mr. Heart had asked the patriarch, of that family, who had become a close friend during the “Eagles Nest” construction, to watch over the mansion for a small monthly fee the first year of the building.
He had become a trusted friend of the “old man” over the years and watched over the project. James Heart considered him almost, “one of their own.”
They were the Coopers.
The first caretaker was William Cooper. He was nearly the age of James Heart and was a farmer as Mr. Heart had been as a young man and as his father had been before him. Mr. Cooper was said to have dirt in his veins by some, with a sneer. He was a farmer at heart and the two men hit it off from the start.
Sadly, William Cooper died long before James Heart and so his son became the next caretaker. He lived in town and not far from “the Eagles Nest” as the neighbors now called the house, after nearly fifty years.
William Cooper was my grandfather. Charles Cooper was my father. I am known by the name, Tom Cooper. I have been in that wonderful house many times and seen it’s, treasures.
As a young boy, I entered it often with my grandfather on his rounds and remember him telling me bits and pieces about all of the art and the house itself. It was a wonder to me then and still is to this day.
My father watched over it until his growing practice made it impossible for him to continue to do so. I inherited the job from him then, if not the house.
I was thirty at the time.
I had gone into the house often as a child and looked over its contents with little understanding of the importance of the collection. Its contents and size did bring back fine, old, memories of my grandfather every time that I entered it, however.
My grandfather had told me that the treasures in this house were valuable, “beyond measure.” He had told me stories about most of the paintings and their creators. I was just a young boy and had no interest or understanding of such matters at the time. I remembered little about them, except that many were large and all of them were beautiful.
My father was a doctor and had never developed an eye for art or beauty, except in women. My mother is an example of his leanings. She is slim, with a pleasant face and dark eyes and hair. She had the blackest hair one had ever seen. It is now gone completely white, but she is still an Irish beauty.
My father was a practical man except for his taste in women and had no time for such “nonsense” when it came to art. I on the other hand developed some interest in fine art and it’s history while in college, before medical school. This ended up serving me well as you will see if you read this tale. I have a similar taste in women as well. I suppose that is no mistake.
Perhaps it was the time spent I spent in the house as a child that gave me that interest and desire to understand and appreciate fine art in the first place, I have no idea. I suppose we will never know the answer to that question. I too became a doctor, but I also love art and the joy that it brings to most people.
If you choose not to read this tale, I wish you well, but you will never know the secrets of “The Eagles Nest.”
I would love to hear some feed back from anyone who might read this, it would be a great help. The novel is finished and I am now looking for the best way to get it out to all of you who might want to read it.
If you would like the second chapter, send me your email address and I will send it to you. I am at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, I know that your time is valuable, R.C. Hand.