Summary: Adam Cartwright knows well there are some things in this world that money can’t buy, and other things are priceless. (Part of the Ties That Bind AU series)
Rating: K+ (1,425 words)
Ties That Bind series
In Memory of Grimesgirl (Edna), my first public reviewer, who loved Bonanza fan fiction more than anyone I know.
A PEARL WITHOUT PRICE
The gray skies over San Francisco couldn’t dampen the spirits of one astute shopkeeper on the verge of a tidy profit. She had sized up her customers within moments after they arrived and produced the most expensive item in her inventory.
“It’s the latest thing from Paris,” she boasted. “And this color is perfect for you. Isn’t it gorgeous?”
The girl drew in a wide-eyed breath and let it go with a sigh. “It’s the most beautiful gown I’ve ever seen! Don’t you think so?”
Her handsome benefactor smiled, though he raised an eyebrow when he heard the price. “It’s a lot of money for a dress.”
“You won’t find another one like it,” the proprietress assured him. It wasn’t a question of money, she decided; he was surely a man of means, but practical enough to require a little convincing. She turned to the girl. “Wouldn’t you like to try it on, my dear?”
“Oh, may I?”
The man nodded.
“Come with me.”
A few expertly placed pins at the waist made it fit like a glove. The girl had a lovely figure and a face to match, she noted with a modicum of envy. Well, so much the better for the both of them. One look at her in that dress and the man wouldn’t be able to refuse.
“Voila,” said the woman as she presented her model. “It’s as if it was made for her – absolutely stunning, don’t you agree?”
She watched him watching her, and a smile crossed her lips. Her work was done. In fact, she might just as well close up early and take the rest of the afternoon off.
“Like I always say, there’s nothin’ like a warm beer on a hot day.” Joe grimaced as he set his mug on the table. “You ready, Adam?”
“Yeah, I’m done here.” He pushed himself up from the chair to follow his younger brother outside. “Did you get the mail?”
“Thanks for reminding me. I’ll get it now.”
“I’m on my way to Mrs. Henderson’s. I’ll meet you at the wagon.”
He was about to leave Edna Henderson’s porch when she finally answered his knock.
“I’m sorry, Adam. I was in the back fitting a customer. Come in, I’ll be right with you. Make yourself at home.”
He sat down in the parlor to wait, twirling his hat on his finger, noting the familiar voices in the hallway. Belinda Parker and Becky Epps liked to call themselves Jilly’s friends, but they were really more interested in Joe.
He stood up and acknowledged them when they emerged. “Good afternoon, ladies.”
“Adam Cartwright,” Belinda gushed, “what are you doing here?”
“Joe and I drew straws to see who would get the mail and who would pick up Jilly’s dress, and he won.”
Becky giggled. “Oh, Adam, you’re so funny.”
“We heard about the dress,” said Belinda. “Did it really come from Paris?”
“So I’ve been told.”
“Here you are, Adam,” said Mrs. Henderson, returning with a large wrapped package. “I think this should be fine, but tell her try it on to just be sure.”
“I won’t have to tell her that,” he grinned.
“Well, if there is any problem at all, just bring it back and I’ll fix it right away.”
“I’m sure it’s more than fine. We’re lucky to have such an accomplished seamstress in Virginia City.” He handed her a bill. “Thank you very much.”
“My pleasure. Oh dear, I hate to trouble you, Adam, but I don’t have change for this. Unless you have something smaller one of us will have to go the bank.”
“I don’t need change.”
She glanced at her lingering patrons and lowered her voice. “It’s too much. I can’t accept it.”
He knew a widow with two children could use certainly use the money but he had no wish to embarrass her. He turned toward the girls and smiled. “Would you ladies excuse us, please? Mrs. Henderson and I have some business to discuss.”
“Yes, of course,” said Belinda. “Becky was just saying she needs to stop at the post office, anyway.”
“I was? I mean, I was…I do.” She giggled again. “Goodbye, Mrs. Henderson. Goodbye, Adam.”
He waited until they were out the door before resuming the conversation. “You may not realize it, but you’ve done us a tremendous service. As I said before, there wasn’t time to have the dress altered in San Francisco. The shop owner offered to send it on a later stage, but Jilly would’ve been on pins and needles until it arrived. So you see – you saved us both time and worry.”
Mrs. Henderson was still doubtful. “It just doesn’t seem right, all this for so little work.”
Adam looked into the tired eyes and careworn face of a woman working her fingers to the bone sewing for others while she probably hadn’t had a new dress in ten years. He knew he had to convince her somehow. “Believe me, Mrs. Henderson, it’s worth every penny. I wouldn’t feel right if you didn’t take the money.”
“I can see right through you, Adam Cartwright, do you know that?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“Then you know I need you to take this. Please.”
She looked at the bill in her hand and sighed. “Well, fortunately for both of us I’m not as proud as you think. But I am truly grateful.” She smiled, looking a little less weary. “God bless you, Adam. Give my best to your family.”
“I certainly will.”
Outside, Belinda and Becky were too engrossed in their own conversation to notice when he came up behind them. “If I was Jilly, I’d get all my dresses from Paris,” Becky was saying. “After all, her father is certainly rich enough, and her mother was French.”
“Her mother was French Creole, from New Orleans, NOT France,” Belinda corrected her, emphasizing the negative in a disdainful tone. “She was actually a saloon girl before she married Mr. Cartwright.”
Becky’s reply was a squeak of surprise. “No, really? How do you know?”
“I overheard my mother and Mrs. Shaw talking about her the other day. Of course they changed the subject right quick when they saw me, but I heard enough, trust me.”
“What else did they say?” Becky urged her.
“Whatever it was, I can assure you it isn’t worth repeating,” said Adam, fixing the startled pair with a frown. “Don’t you know better than to tell tales out of school? Then again, maybe you don’t.” Like mother, like daughter, and likely a hopeless case. “Pardon me, ladies, and I’m using the term generously.”
Belinda harrumphed as he brushed past them without tipping his hat. “Well, I never!”
“Yes, and I doubt you ever will,” he muttered under his breath.
Joe was sprawled across the wagon seat waiting for him when he arrived. “What took you so long?”
“I was putting out a fire.”
“Never mind. Did you get the mail?”
“Yep. Is that the dress?”
Adam laid the package in the back of the wagon with the rest of the supplies from Cass’s General Store. He hoisted himself into the seat beside his brother and handed him the reins. “Do you mind?”
“No, not at all.” Joe clucked to the team, prodding them forward. “I promise I’ll drive extra slow. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to our little friend from Paris. I hear she’s worth a fortune.”
“Adam, I just can’t figure out why a man would spend so much money on a dress for any girl, much less his sister. I mean, you’re supposed to be the practical one in the family.”
“Well, I guess any man can have a weak moment; besides, you didn’t see her in it.” Adam smiled, remembering the look on her face and the way she lit up the room that gray afternoon, and he knew he would do it again. There were some things you just couldn’t put a price on. “You’d have done the same thing in my place.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Well, I’m not so sure but you could be right.”
They rolled along in silence for a few moments until Joe spoke again. “Say, Adam, I’ve been thinkin’…I could use a new suit, and maybe the next time you and I go to San Francisco…”
“I don’t think so.”
“But maybe if you could just see me in it…”
“Nice try, but forget it.”
Other Stories by this Author
- No Ordinary Day (by JC)
- Something About Amy (by JC)
- Interval (by JC)
- Guarding the Henhouse (by JC)
- A Piece of Cake (by JC)