Summary: Adam has been disappointed so often by friends and in romance that it is not surprising that he has lost faith in human nature. Naturally prone to moodiness and introspection, Adam has a disposition that only gets worse until he decides he needs to make a drastic change to free himself from that unpleasant past.
Rating: T Word count: 23,081
Fighting His Demons
Dropping the axe handle he was about to use to clobber his opponent, Joe Cartwright let his temper cool enough to know he would regret doing that. It was wrong to even want to do that. Yet the man across from him could infuriate him like no other. He stood there now wondering if it was over or if he had to defend himself against another onslaught. Joe was mad enough yet to make him have to ask.
“It’s over?” Adam relaxed his guard somewhat when he saw Joe lower the wooden weapon.
“Yeah, it’s over. I could have finished you for good, but that would have made Pa real upset for a while.”
“Yeah, for a while.”
Then Joe saw that Adam had that damn crooked half smile again that made Joe want to hit him again. Why was everything serious so funny and everything funny not funny to him? It only got worse since Laura, and now after he killed Howard, it was a slide down a cliff. To Joe, it was getting next to impossible to get along with his oldest brother.
“Why do you have to be this way? No one ever meets your standards. No one is ever good enough or does anything well enough. You wait for them to fail. You expect the worst and get it or assume it’s bad or will be. Don’t you ever think good things can happen? You bring everybody down with your attitude. We all walk around waiting for the next time you’re going to blow. It’s miserable around here lately because you’re miserable.”
“Thank you for pointing that out. I mean it. I guess I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing to others. I was too caught up in my own misery.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way. You could let go of the bad memories and try to make something good happen.”
“If only it was that easy. It isn’t easy to shed twenty years.”
“You could try.”
“I could if the memories would let me go.”
Not knowing what to make of that statement or the reference to twenty years, Joe instead suggested it was time they went ahead with their tasks for the day. Adam agreed without argument for a change. Joe wasn’t happy about leaving things the way they were, but at least Adam wasn’t complaining or even arguing with him.
Later at his work site where he was fixing flood damage to a bridge, Adam sat on the edge waiting for Hoss to bring more timbers to finish the repairs. He wished there were timbers that could repair his heart and mind. Somehow, he felt that they had been damaged by emotional storms much as this bridge had been battered in the last storm. When Hoss arrived, Adam could tell that he must have talked with Joe. He had that look that said he wasn’t happy with his older brother again. Adam wished he didn’t have that effect on Hoss, but it happened far too often.
“You had a go round with Joe again.”
“I did. Not much happened.”
“He was pretty upset about it far as I can tell.”
“No more than usual.”
“What started it this time?”
“About the same as always. He doesn’t like the tone I use with him, or the words I use, or the look I have. I guess I shouldn’t talk with him at all when it comes to work.”
Tired of all the turmoil, Hoss had no sympathy left for his older brother. “Maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Tomorrow, you can have the honor.”
“Don’t get smart with me too.”
Guessing that Hoss didn’t like his tone, his words, or his look, Adam said nothing more and didn’t react in any visible way to the remark. Inside though he jerked with shock as he realized how much his relationship with Hoss had been harmed already. They worked quietly the rest of the day. The next morning, Hoss and Joe headed out to work together. That evening, there were only three place settings at the dinner table. Ben had been unusually quiet until then.
“Your brother has decided to take some time off. He thinks some time away may help him with his ‘attitude’.” Ben looked directly at his youngest son with that last part.
“We did have a little disagreement yesterday morning, but I thought we had things settled.”
“Well, Adam seems to think you made some good points about him. He said “I’ll be gone for a couple, and when you see me again, I hope you will all find me more agreeable.”
Curious as to his father’s phrasing, Hoss had to ask. “Did he say a couple of days or a couple of weeks?”
“I didn’t press him. He only said a couple, but perhaps Hop Sing can tell us as he helped him with provisions.”
Listening from the kitchen, Hop Sing came in with the information. “Mister Adam only take enough for a couple like he say to you. I try to talk more, and I try to give more, but he say he no need more. He real quiet like he hurting inside.”
Worried earlier about his son’s state of mind, Ben Cartwright was more worried now about what he suspected his son may have done.
“I saw Sport in the barn when I got back.” Hoss pushed his chair back then and left the house. He was back in a few minutes. “He didn’t take his saddle either. You know what he always said. Using another man’s saddle is like wearing his undergarments.”
“Hoss, do you think that means what I think you’re saying it means?”
Looking at his father, Joe’s eyes got big. “You don’t think he would hurt himself, do you?”
“No, of course I don’t because your brother is no coward.” Ben glanced at Hoss and saw the worry lines in his forehead. Knowing that Hoss must have reached the same conclusion, he shared it with Joe while watching his middle son. “We think he’s gone.” Hoss nodded.
“Joe, our older brother talked about leaving sometimes, and whenever he did, we’d all argue with him about it. So, I agree with Pa. I reckon he decided to do it with no trouble. When he said ‘a couple’, I figure he meant years. He knew we’d figure it out right quick enough so it’s like he told us but not soon enough as we could argue with him about it.”
“No, he wouldn’t do that, would he? Well, let’s go after him and tell him to stay.”
“Joe, he’s got a day’s lead on us. He’ll be wherever he plans to catch a stage before we could ever catch up to him. My son is gone. I can only pray he can find some peace and happiness that he hasn’t ever had.”
“Why not, Pa? What happened twenty years ago? He told me he’d have to drop twenty years of memory in order to be happy. I know what happened with Laura and with some others. But what happened back then?”
“Joe, I don’t know all of the story, but I know he was devastated by a woman he wanted to marry. He thought he had his future all set. He thought he was going to be happy until it all crumbled down around him. He was supposed to marry her and work with her father in business and he was betrayed by her, by her father, and by a man he thought was a friend. That changed him so much. He lost that trust that he needed. He came back here changed in ways that I had never expected, and I guess he was already set on the road to this. You and Hoss still see the good in people and hope for the best. I kept hoping that he would find someone and be able to find his way back, but each failure only made things worse.”
“You think that what happened back then was so awful that it was why Adam was always waiting for something bad to happen.”
“Yes, Hoss, I’m afraid that too often he is and yes, the reason for it is back there in his past. Every time he would try to get past that and try, the tragedy was that he could never seem to have it work with anyone here.”
“Pa, we both know that even when things seemed to be going good, he didn’t trust it and he’d drag it out so long that the gal would give up on him like it did with Virginia and with Barbara.”
“I know, and although Virginia found someone else, Barbara has never married.”
Getting impatient though, Joe wanted more. “So, Pa, are you going to tell me and Hoss the story or not?”
“I can tell you what I know. You know how your brother is sharing only what he wants you to know and keeping the rest to himself. Only Adam knows the full story and why it affected him so much.”
Twenty Years Earlier
When Adam had arrived in Boston, the experience had nearly overwhelmed him. He had already been taxed almost to the limit by the travel by ship and then by land to get to Boston. He had paid for some of the passage and worked for the rest. By the time he arrived, he was physically worn out yet it was time to sign up for classes, meet his grandfather, and begin working at his grandfather’s shop as a way to pay for his room and board. There was hardly time to be homesick, but he managed. With nothing familiar and no one he knew, there was no comfort. Doing what he had done since he was a young child, he pushed the emotional hurts down and concentrated on what had to be done. For four years, he did that.
Diligence and perseverance as well as hard-headed stubbornness paid off. After three years, he was able to find time for something more than work and study. His performance in his classes had drawn the attention of a number of local businessmen who thought he might make a fine addition to their growing corporations. There was interest even in a few firms from as far away as New York. Adam reveled in the attention, but one local businessman had a distinct advantage because Adam found his daughter quite charming, and she seemed to reciprocate. He asked for and got permission to call on her. Every Sunday, they went to church services together and then on a carriage ride together. It was common knowledge that when he graduated, he would take a position in her father’s firm and the formal courting would begin. With no sons in the family, it seemed a perfect solution.
“Will your family be terribly disappointed that you do not return to the farm?”
“It’s a ranch not a farm, and yes, they may be disappointed. However, they have managed without me for nearly four years. I would guess they could manage without me from now on.”
“Will you continue to work with your grandfather until you graduate? Well, you see, it is rather demeaning for me to have to tell my friends and my aunts and such that my handsome young man works in a chandler’s shop. Surely your grandfather doesn’t need you to work there.”
“No, he doesn’t need me to work there.”
“Then why do you do that?”
“Because we believe in working for what we get.”
“Oh, so now I suppose you think it wrong that we’re wealthy and inherited some of that wealth.”
“No, I never said that. My father will leave his wealth to his sons too, but he worked for that wealth, and I helped him.”
“Wealth? You call what you have out in that wilderness, wealth?”
“Oh, you don’t understand at all.”
“I do. It is you who don’t understand that there are many kinds of wealth. The wealth in the west is untapped, but there is vast potential there.”
“Adam, don’t be silly. No one is going to go live in the Great American Desert.”
“It is not desert. There are vast areas that are flat and don’t have trees and rivers like New England or other parts of the east, but those areas are not desert. There are seas of grasslands and ranges of mountains. Someday when the railroads expand across the nation, we can travel there and you can see for yourself.”
“Sometimes, you sound like such a dreamer and romantic. I love that about you, but we have to be practical too. Railroads crossing all the way across that expanse? For what purpose? That’s plain silly.”
“It will happen. With all those people rushing to California now, there’s even more talk of how a transportation system will be needed someday.”
“Oh, I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.”
Being a young man in love, Adam dropped the topic and found other ways to engage the beautiful young Beatrice. The first semester of his fourth year seemed to fly by but just before Christmas, everything in his life in Boston fell apart. The first hint of trouble was hearing a cough that his grandfather had. It started with a simple cough but developed into a deeper cough until it was a wracking cough that left the old man struggling to breathe. Nothing the doctors recommended helped. No home remedies helped. Over only two weeks, the man lost weight and lost what strength he had at his age. Fighting the disease in his weakened condition caused other problems and then cost him his will to live as the fight became too much for him. Struggling to keep the business going, tend to his grandfather, and keep up with his classes, Adam had little time for Beatrice. When his grandfather died, he went to her to ask if she would attend the funeral with him. She declined saying it wasn’t appropriate as they were only social acquaintances. Wrapped up in his sorrow, he didn’t question it at the time. Selling his grandfather’s business took more time, and despite that, he had to finish his exams for the first semester. He went to call on Beatrice and found her less than cordial.
“I am sorry I was not able to call on you for a month, but you must know how difficult this past month has been for me.”
“Well, surely you must know that made it most difficult for me as well. I had no escort for the most important social events of the season. My father had to ask another young man to escort me. It was so embarrassing. It was as if I wasn’t a desirable woman to be seen with a man. I’m sure some were laughing at me.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Of course not. With your background, you don’t understand such things.”
“May I call on you on Sunday?”
“I’ll let you know.”
Baffled by her response, Adam was further shocked on returning to his quarters to find a directive to go to the dean’s office at school. When he got there, he found he had been accused of cheating on his semester exams.
“Who could have accused me of cheating? I never would. Who said I did?”
“That does not matter. What matters is that your answers match perfectly to the answers of another.”
“Certainly the other must have copied my answers then.”
“The other student is above reproach.”
“But I am not? I have done nothing here that would support a contention that I would cheat.”
“Your background is such that we would support the other student’s word over yours.”
“My background?” Then he knew. “Is this over the competition to be the class valedictorian? Is this the contest that is to be decided now by underhanded means because my grades are better with these exams? The only way he could compete was to cheat and then accuse me of doing so?”
“Those are groundless accusations that by themselves could get you expelled.”
“That’s what you intend to do?”
“No, if you will withdraw voluntarily, we will note that you were in good standing at your withdrawal, and there will be no mention of any such charges in your record. You may tell anyone any reason you wish for your withdrawal.”
“You don’t leave me any choice.”
“No, we don’t.”
Concession was Adam’s only choice. He had no powerful family who could put pressure on the school on his behalf. If he fought it, he would come out worse. He accepted the terms.
After leaving the dean’s office, Adam had another strong suspicion. He went to see Beatrice on Sunday, but this time, it was from a distance. His rival, the young man who had cheated and blamed him, a young man who he had thought was a friend, was there in his fancy carriage with Beatrice beside him. Adam guessed that the young man’s wealthy family had made an alliance with hers making Adam the sacrifice. He waited on Monday for her to take her walk in the garden and went to see her.
“You made the bargain with the devil.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see what you would say when I saw you face-to-face.”
“Adam, it would never have worked between us. Father talked to me and explained it all. After what you did, I could never have respected you.”
“You so easily believed the lie then. Your new beau and your father set me up. That’s the life you’ve chosen. I hope you enjoy living with liars. One has to wonder what else they would do. Clearly they have no ethical or moral standards. Doesn’t that bother you at all? I loved you. Apparently that doesn’t matter to you either. I don’t know how I could have been so wrong about you and so many other things.”
There was one regret Adam didn’t have. There had been a number of occasions where he and Beatrice had gotten close to being intimate. On almost all occasions, he had resisted out of respect for her. He was so glad now that he had because that might have led to a complication he couldn’t imagine facing. The thought of touching her or kissing her now left him with a feeling of disgust. That he still felt love for her hurt even more, but he knew in time, he would get over it. Like most pain in his life, time would help him heal.
There was one more person to see before he could leave town. He called on Martin Smith at his parents’ home. Although Adam had been a guest there many times, he was no longer welcome and made to wait on the front stoop instead of being invited in. Martin finally appeared at the door clearly not comfortable confronting Adam.
“If it was so important to you, why didn’t you tell me? I could have worked something out with you. You didn’t have to betray everything that is right.”
“Don’t act all high and mighty with me. You never fit in here. You were always a mascot, not a friend. It was fun to have you around as a curiosity, but you outlived your usefulness. Now go back where you belong, farmer. You don’t belong here.”
“I’ll make you eat those words someday.”
Laughing, Martin stepped back and slammed the door.
Humiliated, Adam couldn’t stay in Boston, and none of those job offers were going to be any good. Even with the dean’s offer of an untainted record, leaving school with one semester to go was going to be looked at with suspicion. Without an alternative, Adam his grandfather’s house up for sale. One thing he did have was money after the sale of the business and now the pending sale of the house. While waiting for the house to sell, he got an unexpected visitor, Thomas Reynolds, a student from the school who had worked with him on a project.
“I’ve heard of your unfortunate circumstances.”
“That’s such a polite way of putting it.”
“I have a suggestion for you if you’ll hear me out. My parents never approved of me attending Harvard. They wanted me to attend William and Mary. I wanted to be on my own, experience life away from my family. I’ve seen enough. I’m going to go spend my last year and a half at William and Mary. I took the liberty of enquiring if they would have room for a young man as yourself to complete a semester there. They say they do. If you would like to spend some time in my homeland, William and Mary has a spot for you. Listen, even George Washington got his surveyor’s license there. Surely there must be some coursework you would find interesting. Perhaps you might even take some of the law classes relating to your field of study.”
While Thomas had been talking, Adam was thinking. It was a possibility when there were no others. He agreed, and soon the two young men were on their way to Williamsburg, Virginia where they enrolled in the college. The administration was a little cool to him but respectful. From their comments, Adam got the impression he had been admitted due to the influence of the Reynolds family. Although he had suspected that would be the case, it was humbling.
College there though was far more enjoyable than his time in Boston. With no job responsibility, he could concentrate on being a student. The atmosphere was far different than what Adam had experienced at Harvard with a more collegial and genteel environment. He immersed himself in his studies and was able to heal at least somewhat from the terrible strains of what had happened to him. When the semester was over, Thomas invited him to visit his home before he left for Nevada. He accepted.
Lulled into a sense of gentility by the tree lined drive and the white house at the end of it, Adam was shocked into reality by the slaves who came to take the carriage. He hadn’t realized that the well-dressed driver was a slave. Looking around, he saw many slaves, mostly barefoot in the May weather, working at many tasks. Some were shirtless and scars marred some backs. Most kept their eyes averted. He had the good sense not to stare or let his innermost feelings show, but he had known but not faced the fact that Thomas must come from such a home in order to live as he did. His wealth and that of his family were earned on the backs of others who had no choice in the matter. Visiting there made Adam feel guilty. What he witnessed in his short stay sickened him and changed forever his views of slavery and the inhumanity of it. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the light-skinned children there were the product of the rape of the females by the white men on the plantation. The fear in the eyes of the younger black females when he was anywhere near them made him feel guilty even though he would never harm them. Although he wanted so much to tell them that, he knew they would not believe him because they had no reason to believe a white man in anything.
Somehow though, the pain in his eyes must have communicated something to those in bondage there. The night before he was scheduled to leave, he took a walk in the garden and looked up at the stars as he was prone to do each evening. He found the air inside stifling. As he stared at the stars, he was startled by a voice in the dark.
“Can I trust you?”
“I thinks you a real Christian man and not a false one. I gots to know is that true?”
“What you think ’bout this all here?”
“I hate it. I don’t know what I can do about it.”
“You can buy my daughter.”
“What? I can’t buy your daughter. I’m not that kind of man.”
“Shh. Not so loud. I know you not. I kin see that in your eyes. My daughter. They looking at her already and she only twelve. I got a brother who got free. He be in Ohio. You buy her and take her there. She be free. She be safe. You fight this one person at a time.”
Not generally prone to impulsive actions but unable to resist this plea, Adam had to ask. “Where in Ohio?”
The man knew then that he had found one more white man who would help. “Here.” The man handed Adam a piece of paper.
“I didn’t think you folks could read or write. That’s what I was told.”
“Well, white folks wrong about a lot of things.”
The next day amid snickers and some derisive looks from Thomas and others, Adam bought the young black girl. She was pretty. He knew that as he traveled, people were going to make assumptions. That made him feel sick, but he had to play along with the idea while he was there, and that made him feel even sicker though he couldn’t show it. It was several days on the road before the girl realized she could trust him and he wouldn’t touch her. She had been told by her father that this was a good white man, but she had never known such a person and didn’t know if it could be believed. In Ohio, it was more complicated than he thought. After contacting her uncle, he did free her there, but then had to flee town before he was lynched for his abolitionist activity. The girl’s uncle was the one who told him to go and how to elude those who were so upset with him, and lucky for him, he heeded that advice.
After four years, Adam was headed home with an education but it was one that was far more inclusive than his father had ever imagined. On the trip west and in building their life in a new land, he had learned to be careful, observant, and cautious in all things. A broken heart and betrayal had left him with a strong sense of suspicion of others, skepticism, and a strong sense that people were going to disappoint when given the chance, and these had seemingly forever colored his view of the world.
Most of that story was forever Adam’s only. He told his father some of it, but much of it was too painful for him to share. What he had done in going to Virginia and in freeing a black girl, he would never tell his father expecting disapproval for those actions though he had thought they were his only choices at the time. So, Ben told his younger sons only those parts Adam had shared with him. Most of the details were therefore unknown to them so they didn’t understand why Adam was the way he was and why he felt a need to make such a dramatic break with the past.
Leaving the Past Behind
If Ben Cartwright and his younger sons had chosen to follow Adam, they would never have found him. He didn’t opt for stage transportation. Riding north through hills and valleys, he lived off the land avoiding people of any kind. He had taken few provisions but plenty of ammunition. Soon, he wished he had taken a packhorse, but that would have made his intention obvious and might have induced one or more of his family to follow him. So he had the minimum of clothing and only a simple bedroll. As his days became consumed with survival, he was able to block out thoughts of anything else. Necessity dictated that he block out thoughts of anything except what he needed to consider for there were potential dangers all around him. Alert to anything or anyone who might intend harm, he couldn’t let his mind wander. There were not even brief moments of leisure as he was always on alert. Usually at the end of each day, he was so exhausted that sleep came naturally without the tossing and turning that had plagued him at home. Life for him was primal as he sought to slough off the years of bad memories.
Along the way, Adam had direct contact with people only once. He stopped at a trading post and bartered the silver beads in his hat band for some coffee. It was safer if no one knew he was carrying money. By the time he did that, his clothing was in need of laundering if not disposal, his hair had grown out some, and his beard was filling in rapidly. With a plain horse and saddle, he looked like any other saddle tramp.
As he rode into Montana toward the gold fields, the signs of the mining were clear. Adam noticed the water was tainted in streams flowing out from the hills long before he reached the area. Coming across a prospector with a wife and child, he was met with a rifle and a shotgun pointed at him.
“I mean you no harm. I have some antelope meat I’d trade for some information and a home-cooked meal.”
The man with the rifle conferred with the woman holding the shotgun. Apparently his manner and the haunches of antelope slung over the back of his horse were convincing enough. The weapons were lowered.
“Sorry, mister, can’t be too careful here even with a poor claim such as we got for ourselves. Claim jumpers are all over.”
“Why don’t you tell me more about the area. I was thinking of trying my luck here. My name’s Adam.”
“I’m James and this is my wife Tilda. That’s our boy John in the cradle there.”
Dismounting, Adam pulled both haunches from his horse and carried them to the little campfire laying both down beside it.
“Adam, we can have both?” Tilda’s voice was almost pleading with the question.
“Well, cook up both, please. I’d like to take some with me when I go, but you can have the rest. Looks like you could use it.”
Tilda had tears in her eyes. James told her to get busy cooking, but he said it gently. He turned to Adam then to let her collect herself. Although Adam wondered how a man could subject his wife to such conditions, he said nothing about it.
“We can go look at where I’ve been working.”
“I got a small sluice. It’s hard to work it alone. Say, if you’d like, you could work it with me. We could share whatever we get from it. It would give you a stake, and I think we’d get more with two of us working it. The way it is now, I gotta shovel dirt in and then I gotta go open up the end to let the water run through. Well, you must know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean.”
Doing his best to leave the past behind, Adam accepted the offer from James on face value. He began working with him that same day. It was backbreaking labor for up to twelve hours a day, and he found he enjoyed it. He lost weight and got stronger. Every night, he slept well once he got to sleep. As he lay down at night and took a look up at the stars, he had to smile at times. His father would likely be amused to find that he was doing this trading looking at the backsides of cows for hard labor looking for gold. So far he hadn’t made a great change in his life. The only real change so far was making his own decisions and deciding each day what he would do that day. There were nights when he lay down and thought about what he didn’t have. When he did that and heard his new friends talking or doing other things, it only made the pain in his heart worse. Those nights, sleep came more slowly. Eventually he was able to block those kinds of thoughts and look more forward than back.
Sometimes, Adam took a few days off and went hunting bringing back meat because he wasn’t going to live on the beans that would be the main meal if he didn’t hunt. Tilda was a talented cook as long as she had more to work with than beans. She smoked some of the meat when there was extra. It made for good breakfasts to have that with the fresh biscuits she would make.
After the first month, Adam noticed that every time it rained, they took in a better haul no matter where the sluice was located on the claim James had, but it was especially good in one area. After one strong storm the next month, the take there was exceptional. Adam questioned James.
“Yeah, it’s always like that with the rain washing more downstream to me. I guess most of the miners do better after it rains.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve been in the main camp after rains and heard men complaining about the mud and how some things got washed out. I’ve never heard any talk about more gold in the streams or in the dirt.”
“Maybe they don’t want to let on to anyone that they’re getting more on their claims.”
“If it was a regular thing, it would happen to everyone. I don’t think there’s enough water washing down this stream to move that much gold. Gold is heavy, heavier than stones and sand. You know that. It’s why a sluice works.”
Looking up the slope, Adam wondered and announced he was going into camp again. James and Tilda guessed he was up to something. When he returned, he asked James to come with him. They had missed most of a day’s work making James testy.
“Why should I? We had a deal that you would work every day to get a share. You go off hunting which is fair cause you bring back meat. But going into camp during the day ain’t part of the deal.”
Frowning, Adam leaned back against a tree. “You done?”
“Well, I guess I am.”
“You coming with me or not?”
With an angry sigh, James nodded, and Adam led him to the slope he had stared at earlier. He began a hike up that slope looking at the ruts made by water that flowed down the slope each time it rained. He paused a number of times to scrape at the dirt and stones on the surface. James began to pay attention too, and what he saw made him begin to understand what they were doing. Once they got to an almost level area, Adam paused.
“You saw it, didn’t you?”
“There’s flakes of gold on this slope.”
“Yes, and I think the source is up here. With that, Adam went to the more exposed rock and began to examine it. Soon he found what he wanted to find behind some brush. There was a small vein of quartz and next to it was a thin shiny line. He pointed to that.
“Do you know what that is?”
“No, but it is a pretty rock face.”
“That’s what a vein of gold looks like.”
Dropping to his knees, James looked closely and then stared in wonder up at Adam who was beginning to examine more of the rock face. James followed him and saw more of the quartz that was exposed.
“Adam, we should go to the camp and file a claim on this.”
“I already did.”
A bit of a temper flared up in James at that point. Because Adam wasn’t looking at him, he didn’t see it. They did more exploring and found a larger overhang with a nice flat area sheltered from the elements.
“James, I think you ought to bring Tilda and John up here.”
“Because I’m going to go to Virginia City and talk to the mining company that buys up claims. I’m going to see if I can sell our claims to them. When word gets out that we have a valuable claim, our lives will be in danger until the papers are signed. Now, I put this claim in an either/or category. I can sell or you can sell it. If something happens to me, it will belong to you. You’ll know if something happened to me because men will come here after you. If you and Tilda stay up here, I don’t think they’ll find you. You can take the paper and hire some men to guard you and try to sell it yourself.”
“Adam, I got to apologize to you.”
“A little bit ago, I was mad at you thinking you was claiming all this for yourself. Now I find out you had me in it from the start. I’m a sorry excuse for a friend being so suspicious and greedy and all. Then I find out you included me in the planning and was looking out for my family too, and I feel real bad about that.”
“It’s all right, James. I’ve been fighting my own demons like that for twenty years. Now, let’s go tell Tilda and hope she approves.”
Although scared, Tilda agreed to the plan. She and James packed up their belongings and moved their camp up to the hillside out of sight of their original camp. Adam told them to only have a small fire in the early morning for cooking and then nothing the rest of the day. The prevailing winds would blow the smoke away and likely there would be no hint of it in the air by the time any riders came there.
“Now, it will take me a day to get there, clean up, and then make the offer. If anything is going to happen, it won’t be for at least two days. Use the time to clean up any tracks on that hillside so there’s no hint of where you might have gone. Bring all the water up here that you will need for at least four days. I’ll be back by then, or someone will be here.”
“When will you go?”
“Tomorrow morning. I’m going to collect some samples for assay. That’s all I’ll need.”
Three days after Adam left, a group of men rode into the abandoned camp and tied off their horses. James had a sinking feeling in his gut until he recognized Adam who looked nothing like he had when he left. Longish hair and a full beard were gone. Clean clothing and shiny boots had replaced the worn and soiled clothing. As Adam led the men up the slope, James watched from hiding as he pointed out several areas and men chipped away at the rock bringing samples to the well-dressed man who stood at Adam’s side. When he had looked the samples over, that man stuck out his hand to shake Adam’s. Turning to where he assumed James was watching, Adam signaled to him to come out.
“James, this is the new owner of our properties. We have agreed to sell for sixty thousand dollars. You can stay and work for him if you wish or go anywhere you want for your share of the money. I have agreed to work here for a time, but not because I need more money. I like the area and I’d like to stay a bit longer.”
“Well, I been here for a winter already. I’d just as soon move on.”
“Where were you planning to go?”
“I thought I would like to go to Oregon.”
“I was there as a child. I don’t remember too much except I liked it.”
“When you’re done here, maybe you can come visit us.”
“Maybe I’ll do that.”
It didn’t take long for a small tent city to be erected and then a few small wooden structures were built as the mining company began moving in their men and equipment. Soon a manger and engineers were there, and Adam was ready to move on. He found he didn’t like being part of the operation. Taking his wages for the few weeks of work he had done, he got unsolicited advice from the manager of the property.
“If you’re going to amount to anything, you need to stick to a project and finish it.”
“I guess so. Well, maybe I’ll do that next time.”
A week earlier, Adam had sat in his quarters and realized how long he had been gone and that he had failed to communicate anything to his family. Knowing they must be worried and that it was his fault, he penned a letter to them. Including a bank draft for his share of the sale of the claims, he hoped it would help resolve any lingering ill feeling.
“I offer my most sincere apology for leaving the way that I did. Knowing I would leave regardless, I didn’t want it to be an occasion of argument and anger. I know there would still be negative feelings with my abrupt departure but hoped that perhaps it would be less. If that was a miscalculation, then I must apologize for that too. I’m sending some of the money I made prospecting in Virginia City, Montana. Perhaps you will invest it in the Ponderosa on my behalf to make up for my absence and any hardship that may have caused. I’m moving on now in my journey. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I will write when I get there. I am well, and promise I will endeavor to be more diligent in corresponding.”
Thinking about Oregon, Adam couldn’t see going anywhere past there. He sold his horse and saddle and bought passage to Denver. He thought of all the roads that led from Denver and hoped that he might find one of them intriguing enough to follow.
When the letter from Adam arrived on the Ponderosa, Ben tore it open. The short missive was a relief and yet disappointing. There was so little there. When he handed it to Hoss and Joe, they had mixed feelings too. Hoss was as disappointed as his father that there was no more information, but he was glad to know Adam was all right. Joe wanted to know how much he had sent. Ben unfolded the bank draft. It took him a moment to accept that the amount he was reading could be real.
“Fifteen thousand dollars.”
Shocked, both brothers repeated the amount. Then both asked their father if he was serious.
“Yes, that’s the amount.”
“That’s impossible. How could he have done that in only a few months? And it’s only ‘some of the money’ he made there.” Joe found it hard to believe.
“Well, he’s had experience with mining here, and I did send him to school to learn about engineering and things like that. I guess he may have had some knowledge others didn’t have and must have made a strike.”
Hoss shook his head. “That Adam. He’s so lucky in making money, and so unlucky in what he really wants. I hope he can turn things around.”
Snickering, Joe had to comment. “You mean come home poor but married?”
Hoss rolled his eyes, but Ben was thinking home and married sounded good.
The family and many others might have learned a great deal more about Adam Cartwright if Tobias Wentworth Finch had followed up the story he thought he had. In the Willamette Valley, Finch met James and Tilda as they moved in and purchased land, set up a business, and built a grand house. Hearing some of their story, he thought he had an angle for a sensational one that would earn him some good revenue and went to interview them about their partner, Adam Cartwright. That the eldest son of one of the wealthiest men in Nevada was prospecting for gold in Montana and struck it rich working with a poor uneducated man from Wisconsin made for a great story in his mind. However after talking with James and Tilda, the man they knew didn’t fit the description at all of the Adam Cartwright that Finch had met. This one didn’t wear black, didn’t carry a gun like a gunman, and certainly wasn’t intimidating to anyone. With ordinary clothing, a mild demeanor, and a willingness to throw himself into days of backbreaking physical labor, this one couldn’t be the other, or at least that was the conclusion Finch drew. He put the names down to coincidence and went looking for another story. His frustration was evidence of the beginning of the transformation that Adam had been seeking. He wanted to throw off the defensive postures he had adapted over the years to keep people away.
After enduring one bone-jolting and back-jarring stage ride after another, Adam regretted selling his horse and saddle. Although riding that far on horseback would have been tedious, dangerous, and difficult especially as fall was there already, he was sure it wouldn’t have hurt as bad as that stage trip. There was also the smell of the other passengers, some of whom had less than adequate hygiene habits, as well as the barely palatable food served at most of the way stations along the way. He did his best to ignore the other passengers, but it was difficult with their knees pressed against his, their shoulders against his side, and their incessant and intrusive questions. When given the chance, he rode next to the driver with a bandanna over his lower face and his eyes squinted against the sun and dust.
By the time Adam arrived in Denver, he looked more like a saddle tramp than the successful businessman he wanted to appear. However, Denver didn’t look very good to him either. He had heard so much of the booming city and expected more such progress there now that the War was over. Instead, the town looked awful with barely a leaf on a tree or a blade of grass to be found. Boarded-up houses and businesses were all over. Given his appearance, he had expected some dismay at the hotel, but they seemed quite happy to have one more customer regardless of appearance. He leaned on the front desk and queried the clerk.
“What’s happened to this town?”
“What hasn’t happened to this town is the better question. We had a plague of grasshoppers that ate everything. If they got inside, they even ate up cotton curtains. Some days, the sky was black with the evil things. The silver has run out and people are packing up and heading to where the pickings are better. Ever since they announced the railroad is gonna be built through Cheyenne, most folks figure this town is dead. That don’t do much for anyone wanting to do business here.”
“Not much left then.”
“Well, we still got the territorial government here, and there’s still gambling, drinking, and women although I don’t know how long those will last. Some good restaurants are still open.”
“For now, I would like a bath and a room. Once I get enough sleep, I may consider those other options.”
Later, sliding down in a deep copper tub of soapy water, Adam let his worries wash away like the dust and tensions of the trip. He was in Denver and had plenty of money to stay for a while and see what would happen. So after his bath, he dug out his only set of clean clothing and dressed. After rolling all the rest of his clothing into a ball for the laundry, he set out on that mission and then planned to find a restaurant and eat the finest dinner he could order. The desk clerk saw his bundle of clothing and immediately summoned someone to take it to a laundry for him and then gave him a recommendation for a restaurant only a short distance from the hotel. He had a standard meal of a steak but the side dishes were superb. By the time he finished, the sun was down. The clerk had done well so far so he asked him for a reputable saloon. He had a whisky there and declined a friendly game of faro saying he was too tired to play but promised he would be back the next evening. With that, he retired for the night.
The following morning, Adam got a newspaper after breakfast and the stories confirmed what the desk clerk had told him. Things were not going well in Denver, but it seemed the Territorial Governor, John Evans, was not giving up. He was working on a project apparently to try to revive the city. Details were lacking but the guess was that it had something to do with the railroad that was being built. Speculation was that he was trying to find a way to connect with the transcontinental line to keep the city alive. There was one very good reason to believe he might be successful. Even when the cross-country line was completed, passengers had to disembark at Omaha and use a boat to get to the next part of the line. If Evans could somehow get a line through Denver, it would eliminate that hassle. It would take a huge amount of capital and looking at the losses the town had taken, Adam had to wonder how the governor hoped to raise such funds.
For himself, faro and an occasional poker game were all he needed to raise some funds. He didn’t win big most nights, but he did win. He was looking to increase his cash at least modestly but often found the pot included some deeds to property in the city. The first time it happened, he questioned it, but the other players were quite agreeable to it saying it was quite common. So much real estate was selling for as little as ten cents on the dollar that it was about the same as using cash. They all seemed to have some that were thrown into the betting when cash got low. With his skills, by the end of the first week, he owned ten properties and by the end of the second week, two dozen. Although he assumed these properties were not likely worth much especially in light of the fact that the population was decreasing, he wouldn’t embarrass a man who put one of those up as a bet even when he had far more than he thought he could ever use. All too often, such a bet was a desperate move and the man lost.
On the third Sunday he was in town, Adam decided to take a small tour and find out what he owned. He was shocked to find that most of the properties were in good repair and looked like they were worth far more than they had been used as a wager in the games. Then he guessed they would only be worth that if there was a buyer who wanted the property. As he stood outside a boarded-up bakery and restaurant that he apparently owned, a couple pulled up and sat on their wagon regarding the place. He couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.
“See, I told you there was a nice place here that I bet we could buy for not too much money. The owner would probably be willing to sell it cheap as it isn’t even being used.”
“But it’s a fine place, and I can see through the gaps that the tables and chairs and everything is still inside. That’s going to cost more.”
“Maybe if we offered him cash, he’d take it even if it was less than he wanted.”
“Or we could pay some now and more later when we get some money in.”
“That would be better as we would need some of our money for supplies to get started. I don’t think the banks here would loan us money with the town being as it is.”
Unable to resist, Adam spoke up. Introducing himself and explaining he owned the property in question, he removed the boards over the doorway and led the couple inside for an inspection. The place was indeed fully furnished and relatively clean. It wouldn’t take much to open it again. Adam made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: half the price down, some paid each month as they could, and the balance at the end of the first year or the second year if they couldn’t pay the full amount the first year.
Bernie and his wife weren’t sure if they could believe their luck. “I’m sorry, Adam, but we only just met so how do I know I can trust you?”
“You hand me the money we agreed upon and I’ll hand you the deed.”
“Even though we only paid half?”
“Trust has to go both ways to work.”
“It sure does. You wait here a minute, and I’ll be back with your money.”
They made the exchange, shook hands, and talked a little about what would happen next. Adam said he didn’t require their agreement in writing but would engage a lawyer to take care of it if they wanted that.
“I’d just as soon we are friends and keep it as that, but if you need a lawyer paper, I’ll sign it gladly.”
“No, I’d like to be able to trust you. Let’s be friends.”
In Adam’s mind, the property had come to him for no cost. He would use it to test his new found ability to trust people. He prayed he wasn’t going to be disappointed. Apparently Bernie knew a number of other people who had similar interest in settling in Denver. Adam was contacted by others who wanted to know if they too could make such a deal with him. He showed people the properties he had and the ones he got by continuing to play faro and poker. Some of the people who came to him showed less than savory personality traits. They didn’t get a deal. However, there were some who had a genuine interest in working with him and who seemed honest and sincere. He took a chance on a number of others selling properties in much the same way he had sold to Bernie. His bank account was growing as was his circle of friends. There were any number of invitations that he got until he got one that caught him by surprise. There was an invitation to meet with John Evans. He didn’t know why the Territorial Governor wanted to meet with him, but he was intrigued enough to accept. He did have to ask when he finally met the man.
“Why? Sir, you have almost single-handedly raised real estate values. The market for property here was falling every day until you arrived. I don’t know how you did it, but you started selling properties and now the demand is up and prices have halted their catastrophic collapse. You are quite the entrepreneur. Was that your plan when you came here?”
“My plan? I didn’t have a plan. I won those properties in faro and poker and by accident overheard someone who wanted to buy one. We made a deal and then others came to me to make the same kind of deal.”
“Unbelievable. My assistant, who also favors games of chance, told me he thought that must be what happened or something like that, but I couldn’t believe it. I looked into your background, and I assumed you must have had a plan.”
“No, just lucky I guess.”
“Well, I do have a plan. You may have heard about it. I want to get a railroad line from here to Cheyenne. There’s another group in Golden trying to do the same. They’re having trouble raising the money. I think we can do better than the three hundred thousand they have.”
“I have some money, but I nothing that is going to help you get very close to that amount.”
“You have something else I think we can use. You have connections. Now I have talked to local businessmen. We can all chip in and that will match or exceed what Golden has raised, but we can do better.”
“If we can get East Coast and West Coast investors to match or exceed what we have, we’ll be able to build it.”
Then Adam thought he knew why he had been summoned. “You think I can help you get those investors.”
“Yes, I think you can. For every investor you bring in, you will get five per cent of the amount they contribute credited to you as an investment. We will pay your travel expenses too.”
“Ten per cent and you have a deal. I have some money that I would like to invest too.”
“About twenty thousand.”
The two men smiled and shook hands. Together they were going to make this work.
San Francisco was the city Adam went first to perfect his pitch for investment funds. He knew those wealthy men better than he did any in the east so he worked the city for a couple of weeks getting a significant amount of money for the project. He realized as he sent the news to John that people in the west were interested in the railroad because the efficient movement of freight would be a boon to every other kind of business. Once he had worked the investors there as well as he thought he could, he packed his things for his trip to the east. He planned to stop to visit his family but when he contacted them, he found they were heading out on a trail drive. They wouldn’t be there when he was traveling through. He promised to make an effort to come visit after he returned from the east coast even knowing that would be at least a year with the difficulties of travel and with the task he had ahead of him.
Spending almost a month in the New York area, Adam doubled again the amount of money invested in John’s project. Knowing they would meet their project goals meant he could be more confident in talking to potential investors. Using the names of those who had already invested was another way to encourage further investment because these wealthy men were so competitive. No one wanted to be left out of a profitable venture that their rivals were using to their advantage. More investment money poured in during a shorter visit to Philadelphia, but then it was time to head to the Boston area. That was the most difficult part of the trip.
In Boston, Adam began making the rounds and discovered he need not have feared being in the city at all. Apparently most had not heard of the circumstances of his abrupt departure from the college and the city or discounted the importance of it. If they had known and thought it important, they had conveniently forgotten about it for purposes of hearing of this financial opportunity. All were cordial considering the contacts he had already made, and some invested in the project. He did avoid going to see Martin. It wasn’t that he was worried about seeing him, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask the man for anything. It was Martin who pushed the issue though confronting Adam at a gentleman’s club after Adam had been in the city for several weeks. Pushing through several men, he stood belligerently and demanded Adam’s attention.
“You haven’t come to see me and given me this great opportunity to make money you have offered so many others. What’s the matter with it? Is it a big con?”
“It is an honest investment. I didn’t know your family needed money so badly.”
“Don’t go trying to insult me, farmer.”
“My family owns one hundred thousand acres of land, cattle, horses, mines, and stands of timber. We have a lumber mill, a grist mill, and sell horses to the Army as well as ship out silver ore and some gold bullion. Furthermore, we have investments in banks and in building railroads. I have never farmed in my life. If your conversation with me is to begin with petty schoolboy taunts, it is over now.”
Standing toe-to-toe with Martin, the contrast between the two men could not have been more startling. Adam was tall and trim with a build that showed he was fit. Martin was bent forward slightly and his clothing could not conceal the paunch and the large backside. The red bulbous nose and bald head made him look years older though the two were the same age.
“Just remember, she picked me not you.”
“I wonder what she thinks of her choice today.”
With that, Adam turned and walked away from the man leaving him sputtering and unable to come up with an appropriate response. All he could think to say was more embarrassing than what he had already said.
“I was class valedictorian not you.”
Pausing briefly for a retort, Adam turned with a smirk. “I’m sure everyone asks about that when considering whether to do business with you or not. Somehow, it has never come up in business discussions I’ve had.”
The other men at the club could hardly contain their snickers. Adam planned to leave the city the next day because there was nothing more for him to do there. Now that he had infuriated Martin, he thought it wise to keep to that plan. The man was vindictive and as immoral and unethical as possible. Having already experienced that with him, he didn’t want to give him time to work out a plan for revenge. In the morning, he packed his things, took a carriage to the cemetery where his mother and grandfather were buried, and said goodbye once more. As he walked toward the cemetery exit, he was greeted by a familiar voice.
“I thought you would at least come by to say hello.”
“I don’t know why you would expect that.” His voice was cold and emotionless for until that moment he had never confronted the issue of whether he could forgive her or not.
“You told me you loved me.”
“Told me or loved me.”
“You don’t say much. I remember you as being more talkative.”
“I was a lot of things then that I am not now.”
“Yes, I can see that. Adam, I was wrong. I made a mistake. I listened to my father instead of to my heart. I should have gone with you.”
“It won’t work.”
“What won’t work?”
“Whatever game you’re playing. I don’t know what you want, but I’m leaving now.”
Walking to his carriage, Adam saw two police constables waiting down the street. They tried to look nonchalant, but he knew they had been waiting for a signal of some kind to summon them. He could guess what Beatrice was going to claim. He waved to them and got in the carriage telling the driver to take him to the train station making sure he was well on his way before Beatrice and Martin could hatch another plot. Now he knew that what had happened to him was not only because of Martin but that Beatrice had been complicit. It eased the hurt a great deal to know that he was lucky to have escaped that relationship with only a broken heart. So much more damage could have been done had he been ensnared into a marriage to her.
Before Adam returned to Denver, he had one more stop he wanted to make. Thomas Reynolds had been kind to him once, and he wanted to see him to find out how he was doing and thank him once more for his kindness long ago. His disgust at the institution of slavery had led him to express less gratitude than he should have when he left so many years earlier. When he arrived in Norfolk, he was shocked at the condition of the area. Traveling to Williamsburg, everything he saw was testament to the great conflict waged for four years. Not surprisingly, the Reynolds’ home was in ruin. There was a smaller house on the property that looked well-kept and some of the fields were producing crops. He rode in to see what he could find. He was met by Thomas holding a rifle and another man with a rifle.
“Thomas, it’s Adam Cartwright. I mean no harm.”
The rifles were lowered as Thomas came forward amazed to see an old friend after all this time. Where Martin had been fat and flabby, Thomas was thin and hard. Clearly he had been engaged in hard physical labor unexpected for one who had been a wealthy man before the War.
“Troops from both sides came through. They commandeered whatever they could find. The Union soldiers set the house on fire. It may have been an accident as it started in the kitchen. I don’t know. They did nothing to help stop it. All our coloreds left. It was too easy as close as we were to the lines. Mama and Papa got sick and passed. My wife and daughter went to live with her family, and I have heard nothing from her or them since. I haven’t been able to locate any of them. I fear they have all been killed or died. That whole area is in ruins.”
“Where was her family?”
“Atlanta. We thought it was deep enough in the South to be safe. By the time I knew it wasn’t, I couldn’t go to her.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Adam, that girl you bought from us. You freed her, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Her father asked me to do it.”
“You’re an abolitionist?”
“I guess I was.”
“You risked your life for one girl?”
“What was happening to these people was wrong. I couldn’t do much, but I could do that. So I did. I didn’t hurt anyone, and I helped her.”
“I figured it out. At first, I thought you were a son of a bitch to take a young girl like that, but as we corresponded over the years, and there was no mention of her, I knew what you must have done.”
“But you never said anything.”
“I came to understand why you did it, and wondered why I couldn’t do that myself.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“The more I thought about the whole thing, the more I wanted to, but I felt that I was betraying my parents, my state, and all the people here who had taught me and cared for me all my life. In my mind, I knew it was wrong, but my heart wouldn’t let me do anything that would so upset my parents.”
“Did you fight in the War?”
“No, I did not. I took a big risk and refused. I could not betray my country. That was a step too far for me to take. I don’t know what I would have done if they had forced the issue. Skedaddle like so many others, I guess.”
“I’m trying to adjust to the new reality. It’s not easy. Most of my neighbors look on me with suspicion. William and Mary is closed. One of the main buildings was badly damaged by fire. Everything I knew and was taught to honor and uphold is damaged or gone. It’s a lot to face at once.”
“Who’s the man here with you?”
“He stumbled in near the end of the War, wounded, and can’t quite remember where he’s from or if he has any relatives. I took care of him, and he kinda just hangs around here because he has no better place to go. Soon even that may not be an option for either of us. I’m likely to lose the place anyway as I can’t pay the taxes with the money I make on the little that I can grow here with only two of us working.”
“Maybe you could come with me.”
“To Nevada to work on your ranch?”
“No, I’m not living in Nevada now.” So Adam had to explain all that had happened and the opportunities in Denver as well as the uncertainties there.
Then Thomas offered up his own surprise. “Adam, my wife and daughter are not here, but the flowers and the garden are looking so good because my younger sister is here. Her husband was killed in the War. She stays out of sight when any man shows up. For obvious reasons, we don’t want men to know she’s here. There isn’t any decent law enforcement anywhere.”
“She could come too. From the way you describe things, it would be safer for her in Denver.”
The man with no name decided to stay, but Thomas and his younger sister, Selina, packed their belongings to head to Denver with Adam. He paid to ship their larger items and they carried their personal belongings with them. On the way, he told them how he was creating a large real estate business in Denver. Thomas was amused but Selina was shocked that he was building a business based on gambling. Thomas chided her, but her look said she still disapproved. In general, she seemed to disapprove of Adam. He didn’t know why, but he was a Yankee, an abolitionist, and had convinced her brother to take them away from the only home she had ever known. For those reasons alone, Adam guessed she had some cause not to like him. She was attractive, but the fact that every time she looked at him, it was with a scowl or a frown meant that the impact of her beauty was mostly lost on him. Thomas was happy about that remembering how women were so attracted to Adam when they were in college and happy that his sister wasn’t affected.
In Denver again
Back in Denver, Adam got his deeds and made a tour of the houses he owned that he hadn’t sold to anyone yet. He and Thomas picked one that had four bedrooms and looked like it had been a grand house before it was abandoned. When Selina saw it, she poked around outside and declared that there were gardens that she could bring back to life. Soon the three of them were hard at work bringing the house back to a livable condition. Adam was visited by a number of people to whom he had sold properties. Some brought food and a number of them offered to help him renovate his home. With their help, the house was ready in a few weeks. Thomas already knew of the deals Adam had made. As a businessman, he didn’t approve, but as a man, he could see the benefits of doing what Adam had done. Selina though was surprised.
“How does a landlord get people to like him? I can’t imagine being so nice to someone who held a lien on property I was working day and night to keep.”
“They trust me not to do anything underhanded.”
“Why would they trust you that way?”
“Because they hold the deeds to the properties already.”
“What? Why would you do that? They might not pay you.”
“Maybe, but we shook hands on every deal. We have a contract between us. Men of honor will stand by something like that. If they have trouble, they know they can talk to me about it. We can work something out.”
“What about all the rest of the property you own? Thomas said you have a stack of deeds to other properties.”
“I’m going to put Thomas in charge of those. He can decide how to sell them. We’ll look at some of them and renovate them like we did this one. Others we’ll sell as they are. Written or oral contracts will be up to Thomas to decide.”
“Would you consider selling one to me?”
“Yes, I’ve thought of having my own dress shop. I know a lot about fancy work and dresses. I sold dresses from my home before the War. I’d like to be able to support myself.”
“Do you have enough to buy a place and buy materials to get started?”
Selina bit her lip and looked away at that point so Adam knew the answer. He knew that Thomas might be able to come up with some of the money but probably not enough for what she was proposing.
“Perhaps we three should discuss this and how we could make it happen.”
Nodding, Selina still couldn’t look at Adam. She knew he was likely going to help her do this, and she didn’t want to be grateful to him, but she couldn’t turn down his help either. She knew Thomas was happy to accept his help, but she still resented it. Later, Thomas came to talk to her.
“Adam told me that you mentioned a dress shop.”
“We have a small shop that would probably be suitable.”
“You say ‘we’ but isn’t it really Adam’s shop. Everything we have here is Adam’s and nothing is ours. I want something to be ours.”
Thomas took her hand then and led her to the small study that he used as his office. He opened the roll top desk and handed an envelope to her.
“What is it?”
When Selina opened it, she looked at Thomas with eyes wide. “But he never said anything to me.”
“Because it was his gift to me. He said he was so grateful for what I had done for him all those years ago and had to do something to show me how much it meant. He deeded this house to me. He’ll live here until he decides which of the other houses he wants to make his own.”
“Is this your payment for working for him?”
“No, I earn a commission on each sale too. He’s putting me in charge of collecting money from everyone too so I will earn a salary for that. I’ll keep his books for him as well because he’s going to be involved in building that railroad line to Cheyenne.”
“They got the money then?”
“Yes, with all the fundraising he did, they were close to their goal and when others heard about that, they wanted in. The Golden group is so far short, investors are abandoning their options on that one and joining this one. The Denver Pacific Railway and Telegraph Company is officially ready to go. They’ll start building next year. Soon Adam will be involved in drawing up the plans for the initial build. He’ll be out there surveying the site first and then back here to work on the design.”
“So that’s why he wants you to take over everything else.”
“Yes, so I have employment, a fine home, and money in the bank. I was thinking of buying property from Adam because when that railroad line gets finished, this town will grow and property values will shoot up. A dress shop is a good way to begin.”
“Can you afford it?”
“I’m making the same deal Adam has made with almost two dozen people here. I’ll pay part of the purchase price, and then some each month until I can pay the balance in a year or two.”
“Oh, Thomas, when I start making money in the shop, I can pay.”
“Well, we’ll see about that. Selina, are you happy now?”
“Not yet, but I finally see some blue sky where before all seemed black.”
“Good, then you will be willing to go with us to the Governor’s ball. He’s throwing a party to celebrate and we are all invited.”
“Yes, I think I’m finally ready to go to a party.”
“You’ll need a new dress.”
“I can make one.”
“The party is tomorrow night.”
Instead of making a dress, Selina went with Thomas to look at the shop he thought she might want and then to a dress shop. There she found a dress she thought would do if she added a few embellishments which she could do in a day. When she walked down the stairs the next night ready to go to the party, Adam saw her in a way he had not. She smiled and in that dress, she was stunning. Thomas saw his reaction and smiled not thinking that there would ever be a relationship between the two because of Selina’s animosity toward Adam. However as the night wore on, he realized her frosty responses to Adam had warmed somewhat. They even danced together once. Later he worried for a moment when he didn’t see Adam in the ballroom, but then he saw that Selina was still there. He asked her if she knew where Adam had gone. She told him she had seen Adam step out onto the veranda. Thomas found him there looking up at the stars.
“You worried about something?”
“No, only thinking about things. Sometimes all the social talk at parties becomes rather boring and I would rather be alone with my thoughts. I have a lot to do this week, and I was thinking about that.”
“Is Selina part of your thinking?”
“Selina? Thomas, we only danced one dance.”
It was only later that Thomas realized that Adam had not answered his question. However he packed up and headed out of town for a week, so there was no opportunity to talk. Thomas was busy learning to do his new jobs. Selina was busy getting her shop ready to open. And when Adam came back, he was hurt and exhausted. He had stepped in a prairie dog hole and twisted his ankle badly. Continuing to work the rest of the week, he had suffered with what he thought was a bad sprain. He couldn’t even walk into the house and had to be helped by two men. Thomas had them put him in his bed and summoned a doctor. The doctor disagreed with Adam’s assessment of his injury.
“You broke it.”
“It’s broken. Swollen as it was in your boot, it wasn’t displaced. You were very lucky that way. Still, it didn’t do much good for you to be putting pressure on it like that. You need to be in bed with your leg up in the air just like I have it now. In fact, it would be better if it was pulled up higher. If you were in the hospital, we’d have it stretched out in traction with enough weights and pulleys to make sure everything stays lined up.”
At that moment, Adam’s leg was splinted and resting on a wedge of pillows. Thomas and Selina had done that for others on their plantation and told the doctor they could take care of Adam including getting his leg up and in traction.
“Good. Do that and don’t let him out of bed for at least a week to get that swelling down. Two weeks would be better.”
“But I have to get out of bed for some things.”
“No, you don’t. Everything can be done right where you are. You want to keep that leg, you’ll do as I say.”
Thomas and Selina were about to find out just how grumpy their friend could be. The complaints as they pulled his leg up in the air were just the beginning. When he realized he was wearing nothing under the nightshirt he had on, he was embarrassed. Thomas assured him when Selina left the room to get some lunch that the blanket he had across his middle had covered everything. That was reassurance enough at that time. When Selina returned with food, Adam found he wasn’t hungry although he was thirsty. Selina sat on the bed and put an arm around his shoulders to help him sit up enough to drink. As she did so, her breast was pushed up against the side of Adam’s face. He couldn’t ignore it as he had been dreaming about them since he had danced with her and stared down at the dress that showed the deep cleavage between her breasts. That night, he had stepped outside to cool his ardor, but now he could go nowhere. He hoped she wouldn’t notice that his body was beginning to respond to her. She said nothing and took the glass away when he finished drinking the lemonade. Too polite to say anything about it, she had noticed.
Over the next week, Thomas noticed that Selina did her best to avoid going to Adam’s room whenever she could. He did what he could, but he had work to do and couldn’t always help Adam do what needed to be done. Finally, he had to ask.
“Did you do something to make my sister uncomfortable around you? She doesn’t seem to want to come in here.”
“I didn’t consciously do anything to upset her.”
“Well, she clearly is bothered by something, and I know better than to ask her.” Then Thomas thought about how Adam had phrased his answer. “What do you mean by not ‘consciously’ doing anything to upset her? How could there be any other way?”
Very careful in how he worded his answer, Adam hoped his friend would understand. “Thomas, your sister has very nice attributes that cannot be ignored especially in close proximity.”
“Oh, my Lord, you’re interested in my sister. But she’s twelve years younger than you. When you visited with us, she was a little thing in pigtails and a white frock hiding behind furniture because she thought you were such an angry and frightening man. Of course, that was a long time ago, and what does age have to do with attraction, I suppose.”
“Damn, Thomas, I wasn’t interested in her when she was six. I hardly remember that you had a sister then.”
“Two, Muriel is married and living in Maryland. I think she was eight or nine then. So, you’re interested in Selina now?”
“I didn’t say that either. It’s only that she is very attractive and that’s quite difficult to ignore.”
With a smirk, Thomas sat down then relieved that there was no problem but wondering what would happen next. “This could be interesting. I get the feeling that she thinks the same about you. But you needn’t worry. She isn’t like Beatrice and won’t do anything underhanded or mean. She is what she is. There’s never anything more than what she presents.”
“Thomas, I think you read more into what I said than I meant.”
“No, my friend, I think it is you who are denying the truth to yourself. You have told me what you set out to do. You wanted to combat the worst demons of yourself. You have done a lot, but you’re not ready yet to trust your heart to another. You are not ready for love. It’s one more of those you have yet to defeat. I’m not saying that this is the match for you. I’m saying that Selina needs to try out a little romance to see that there’s life after widowhood, and you need to see that there can be love in your life with a woman you can trust. Perhaps all you will be in the end is friends. Would that be so bad?”
“A few minutes ago you were shocked that I might be interested in your little sister, and now you’re pushing us together?”
“I’m beginning to consider the advantages. If you and she get together, I would no longer be responsible for her.”
“While we’re on the subject, you’re pushing me to find a woman to love. What about you?”
It was impossible to miss the dark look that passed over Thomas’ face. Adam knew there was a sad tale there and waited to find out if he was going to hear it. Apparently he had shared so much with his friend, that Thomas felt he had to tell the story though it took some time before he was willing to talk.
“I made the worst possible mistake a man could make, I guess. I fell in love with a woman who was married to another. I thought that somehow there might be a way that we could be together, but it never happened. With the War, her husband was off fighting with the Army of Northern Virginia. The casualties were high. He was wounded more than once. It was unlikely he would survive the War. She had relatives staying with her here and she helped them care for the wounded and the sick. Lots of times, there were more sick than there were wounded. Like a lot of others, she became ill. Like so many, she died not in battle but because of the damn War. Her husband did come back but was a broken man and died too. Their children are with relatives somewhere. When I knew there was no hope there and knew that my own wife and child were also lost, I felt only guilt. I also had very little to offer any woman. I need to be sure of what I do now. I’m changing my ways here though. That party we attended was the start. I now have a couple of women who seem as interested in me as I might be in them. I will take my time and be sure of what I do. When I make a commitment this time, it will be forever.”
“So that accounts for the smile and the spring in your step lately. You’ve got ladies on your mind.”
“Two actually. Nothing serious yet, but it is a good feeling. Now, back to you. What are your thoughts?”
“Maybe I’ll let you know when I know.” Looking at his leg still suspended with weights and pulleys, Adam sighed. “It’s almost two weeks. Can’t I get this contraption off my leg?”
“I’ll ask the doctor to come tomorrow. Actually, you have been far more patient than I thought you could be despite your incessant complaining.”
“It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“Only in that it wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
There was a knock on the open bedroom door then and Selina asked if a visitor could come in. She was smiling so the two men agreed. Governor Evans came in as soon as the door swung open wider.
“Adam, I had to see this for myself. I couldn’t believe that they could keep you down this long. How are you doing?”
After a bit of small talk, the reason for the governor’s visit came up. “I’ve had some correspondence from two old acquaintances of yours. They say they wanted to invest in our project but you wouldn’t let them. They claim it is because you lost out in love and hold a grudge.”
“Martin and Beatrice Smith, I presume.”
“Yes. So is it true?”
“I was involved with Beatrice when I was a student in college. She broke off the relationship and took up with Martin. That is not the reason for the bad feeling. No, I never offered them the chance to invest so there never was a rejection of an offer. That is a lie. It is only one of many they will tell if you give them the opportunity. That is why I didn’t give them the option to invest. They are dishonest. I only approached investors whom I thought were as honest as I could hope because we don’t want this project tainted with corruption. That is what you hope too, isn’t it?”
Thomas spoke up then. “Sir, I concur in everything that Adam said. Martin worked with others to have Adam kicked out of school so that Martin could get the valedictorian spot. The deal was made between his family and Beatrice’s family. The casualty in all of that was Adam who did nothing wrong except to trust people who didn’t deserve that trust.”
“Sir, does the project need more money? I thought the fundraising was enough.”
“Yes, Adam, we have enough, but a contingency fund would be nice to have.”
“My commissions can be that.”
“You would do that to keep Smith out?”
“To keep the project untainted, I would. I’m working on the project. I can do whatever I can to make sure we don’t need that contingency fund. If we do, than it will be partly my fault anyway.”
“Adam, I don’t think I have ever worked with a man with more integrity. I hope you get out of this bed soon and join the design team. They’ve been hard at work, but I know they could use your help.”
“If they could meet here, I could look things over and see if I have anything to offer.”
“Clear a big table. I’ll have them bring everything over on Friday.”
The doctor cleared Adam to be freed from traction. He did have an unwieldy cast on his leg which didn’t stop him from clomping about. By Monday, he insisted he was ready to go to work. The driver had to help him into the carriage and meals had to be brought to the office, but he managed to work. Each night though, he was exhausted and went to bed without talking or any leisure activity.
On Friday morning, Selina did not allow Thomas to wake Adam as he had done every morning to help him dress. It was eleven in the morning before Selina heard him yell. She went to his room.
“I should have been at the office hours ago. Where’s Thomas? I need some help to get dressed.”
“First of all, I sent the driver with a note that you wouldn’t be in today. Secondly, lunch will be ready soon. I’ll help you into your dressing robe and you can come down and have lunch.”
“I don’t need any help. Well, then what?”
“I asked the driver to bring back anything they wanted you to do today. He brought back some papers. You can look at them after lunch.”
Before Adam could really get going, she left as quickly but with as much dignity as she could muster. Seeing him in his nightshirt with his hair mussed from sleep and with that stubble made her heart beat faster. He was so unlike her husband had been yet she found herself drawn to him. Taking the cowardly route, she had work to do in the gardens and chose that time to do it. It was nearly four before she heard the clumping down the stairs that indicated Adam was outside. Unwilling to face him directly after being rather outrageous in her behavior, she concentrated on the rose bushes she was trimming.
“I hope you don’t see me as that angry and frightening man that you met so long ago.”
Still not quite ready to face him, she answered while working. “No, but I did overstep my bounds, and you did have every right to be upset with me.”
“Perhaps, but I understand why you did it. I do feel quite a bit better than I did yesterday. I was forcing the issue and working too much. I found errors in the work I did. I can see why they sent the papers the driver brought back. I would guess they’ll be working tomorrow. I’ll go in for a short time and bring those papers and find out what else they think I can work on at home for a few days.”
“You’re not mad at me?”
It was a little difficult with the crutches, but Adam managed to reach out and touch her arm and tug slightly to get her to turn toward him. He smiled which made her relax.
“I bark and I grumble, but I am never truly ‘mad’ at you. I’m sorry if my manner makes you think so. I’m going back inside. If you want to play cribbage or have a chess match, I’m available.”
As Adam turned to go inside, Selina wished she could throw her arms around him and hug him, but she thought he wouldn’t welcome that. If only she had known that he had wanted to kiss her when they had stood close together, but he had thought she wouldn’t welcome that. Despite Thomas’ predictions, the two were still quite standoffish with each other. That behavior continued for another two months in which their friendship developed but there was no romance. Then it was time for construction to begin and Adam packed his belongings to head out to the site.
Although Selina knew that Adam was working on a railroad project, she had no idea he would actually be gone during the construction phase. When she thought about it, she realized she should have known but it had become so nice living as they did that she had not considered that change was coming.
“How long will you be gone?”
“The estimate is that the project will take a year and a half to two years. If all goes well, the year and a half is the target.”
“You’ll be gone that long?”
“Not all the time. I’ll be gone for a couple of months as we set up the plans for the most complex parts of the project. They will be built first. Laying track in between is more the surveyors” problem so I won’t have much to do with that. After the first hectic months, I’ll have to be there on a regular schedule to monitor the building but I won’t have to be there continuously.”
“I’ll miss you.”
Smiling, Adam wanted to hug her. “That’s the nicest thing you have ever said to me.”
“Well, you could say you’ll miss me too.”
Because he was grinning so much, she was upset. Hurt, she turned to walk away, but he grabbed her hand to pull her back toward him.
“I will miss you.”
His voice was low and soft. She thought he might kiss her.
“Oh, am I interrupting something?”
Thomas was back and at the worst possible moment as far as Selina was concerned.
“No, Adam was telling me his plans for the next few months. Now, if you’ll both excuse me.” Selina pulled her hand free and went upstairs to her room not sure if she was going to cry or daydream about what might have been if Thomas had not interrupted. She was no shy innocent schoolgirl, but somehow, she felt that way with Adam sometimes.
Downstairs, Thomas noted how quiet Adam was. He said nothing and waited for his friend to say something. When he did, it was a surprise.
“While I’m gone, would you find me a house. You have made this a home for yourself. I’d like a place of my own. You have a fair idea of what I like. If you could locate something that I could quickly renovate into a home, make an offer on it for me please.”
“With your skills, you don’t want to build one?”
“I don’t want to take the time. The way things are, that could take a year.”
Smiling inwardly, Thomas suspected he knew the reason but said nothing. He was going to work hard at finding a very nice place for his friend.
After finishing his packing, Adam went to Selina’s room and knocked on her door. She asked who it was and seemed reluctant to open the door. When she did, Adam told her he had a question for her. Although she had some hopes for what it might be, he was too businesslike for it to be what she wanted and she was correct about that. He only asked if she would agree to help Thomas with the business correspondence and keeping records for him as he sent papers back. He needed all of them duplicated and wouldn’t be able to do that very easily where he was. She agreed and it was the last conversation they had for nearly two months.
When Selina saw Adam again, she hardly recognized him. She was having a conversation with Thomas about returning to Virginia because Adam wasn’t interested in her.
“I haven’t heard a word from him in two months. He sends work to me and there’s not a personal note of any kind attached. In all this time, he has made no effort to be here to see me. Despite what you have been telling me, I think you’re wrong, and I have placed my faith in something that will never happen.”
“He’s the kind of man who thinks too much. I know that. It’s one of those things he ought to work harder at overcoming. He’s done a lot to try to improve himself, but apparently he can’t get over that. I’m sure he’s looking at it from every possible angle. Give it a bit more time. With the weather turning as it has, some of the work will be suspended. He will be here.”
“How long do I wait?”
“How long do we wait, don’t you mean? I couldn’t let you go back alone. If you go, I go. So, wait long enough for things to work out one way or another. You have waited this long. As much as he thinks too much, you are impatient.”
“Have you thought at all about everything he has to do? His responsibilities?”
“I suppose he does have a lot.”
“And he was injured.”
There was noise and loud thumps at the front door then. Both hurried there to find an unkempt man with a beard and dirty clothing standing in their front vestibule. They would have ordered him out except he greeted them with that familiar voice.
“Sorry, but there wasn’t a chance to clean up before I got back. I promise to be more presentable by dinner.”
“You were too busy to shave or wash?”
“Selina, conditions were far more primitive and far less private than I expected. Before I return, I intend to make some purchases to remedy that situation. However, I do want a bath so much and the chance to wear clean clothing. May I explain all of this later?”
When Adam came down the stairs, he still had the beard, but it was neatly trimmed. Selina liked the look and told him. Other than that, she was cool to him, and he knew they had to talk. He waved at Thomas and took Selina by the elbow ushering her into the office and closing the door.
“You’re mad at me.”
“Oh, why would you think I would be mad at you?”
“Listen, I was in quarters with five other men. It was far less private than I ever thought it would be. I worked with other men in crowded conditions when there was a chance to write. There was no possible way to send you any kind of message without other men reading it. None of the other men wrote to their wives either because of the same issue. I wanted to write to you. I wanted to hear from you too. I worked ten to twelve hours every day. On Sundays when the crews had a half day, we used the down time to go do inspections. There was no time off to do anything like writing a letter to you.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t write to you. When you didn’t write, I didn’t think you wanted to hear from me.”
“Maybe we both think too much about some things.”
“Yes, maybe we do.” She smiled then. “I do like the beard now that it’s trimmed and you’re clean. You look very good that way.”
“Thank you. Now, let’s go have dinner. I’m hungry and tired. Can we spend tomorrow together?”
“Ah, yes, of course we can.”
At dinner, Adam asked Thomas if he had found a suitable house for him. He had, so Adam asked for the address saying he planned to look at it the next day after checking things at the office.
“I thought you wanted to spend the day with me?”
“Yes, I hoped you would come with me.”
“Oh, of course. Yes, I will.”
The next day, Adam included Selina in every meeting he had at the office letting the men there know that she was privy to all the details of the business. Then he suggested they have lunch before heading to the house Thomas had found for him. Selina thought that Adam seemed far more relaxed than he had before he had left for the work on the site and said so.
“I think I am. I think I finally have a better idea of what I want to do and how I’d like to do it. I’ve been floundering around for so many years, I needed to focus on what was the most important to me. I have done that now.”
Selina would have asked questions to follow up on that except the waiter brought the check and it was time to leave. As they traveled through the city, they discussed how the city was growing again and how the railroad line would accelerate that growth.
“I want to be part of that growth. I hope to continue with construction projects and be part of building things that will last and that I can look at with pride.”
“Something better than the backsides of cattle and miles of fences?”
“Yes, I guess I have mentioned that complaint a bit too often. Ah, here’s the house.”
The house was in reasonably good condition and was furnished although most of the furnishings were going to have to be cleaned up or replaced as nothing had been covered. The windows too needed cleaning. However, none were too bad so the house could likely be ready to move into in a few weeks. The view from the back was very nice with large windows over a garden that framed a vista to the west. Adam stood staring out those windows and Selina walked up beside him.
“You like this house, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. Thomas did a good job. Do you like this house?”
“It’s very nice. I think you will be happy here.”
“Would you be happy living here?”
“Yes, would you be happy living here with me?”
“Adam, what are you asking?”
“I’m asking you to marry me and live with me the rest of my life.”
“You have never even kissed me and now you want to marry me?”
“I can take care of that if you don’t mind.”
Reaching out, he took her chin in his hand to tilt her head up brushing his thumb across her lips. Leaning down, he did the same with his lips softly kissing her until her arms came up and around his waist. It was only then that he wrapped his other arm around her and pulled her tight against him to kiss her more deeply. When they broke apart, he smiled at her.
“Now, will you answer my question?”
“Yes, I will marry you. Yes.”
“I thought I would follow the basic rules and begin courting you now. That means in six weeks we would marry. By then the house could be ready for us. Is that enough time for you?”
“Yes, enough time. Yes.”
“Can you get a dress and arrange a party in that time because I’m going to be busy and won’t be able to help? Are you sure?”
“Yes, I can do it. Yes.”
“You seem to be at a loss for words. Are you in shock?”
“Of course I am. You string me along for months and then this.”
Before she could say any more, Adam kissed her again. She forgot what she was going to say. He had thought that would work.
“I brought a picnic basket and a blanket as well as a bottle of wine. I thought we might have a picnic dinner in our new home to celebrate.”
A roll of thunder punctuated his words. He hurried outside to get the items and brought them inside after making sure the carriage horse was securely tied off under the portico.
“Well, no picnic outside, and we’re not going anywhere for a while. The weather rolling in looks bad. How about an indoor picnic?”
“I would love an indoor picnic by candlelight. We do have candles, don’t we?”
“We may have to do a bit of searching to see what we can find before it gets any darker in here.”
After finding a number of candle stubs and bottles and bowls in which to put them, they set up their picnic in front of the large windows. The great view was offset by the gathering ferocity of the storm and led them to move to a room with less danger of broken glass flying in on them. The temperature dropped too with the wind and the storm. As Selina shivered, Adam offered her his coat.
“Then you would be cold. Perhaps we could share it.”
With a smile, Adam leaned against the wall and opened his coat for her to snuggle against his chest. She pushed the picnic basket off the blanket and pulled some of the blanket up with her. Adam tugged the other side of the blanket across his side and legs. The two sat quietly for a time listening to the storm and content to be close. Then they began talking with Selina telling Adam about her life before the War. Adam told stories of coming West, building the Ponderosa, and the reasons he left it.
The Past Intrudes
Many hours passed and they didn’t realize the storm was over until the candles burned down and almost burned out.
“I guess it’s time to go.”
“Adam, this was a magical time. I wish we never had to leave.”
“Well perhaps I could make that come true.” A woman stepped from the shadows with a small pistol aimed at them.
Shocked, Adam pushed Selina behind him as he faced her. “Beatrice, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to get justice. I thought I could get you to do the right thing, but I got here and found out you had taken up with this southern trollop.”
Selina could feel Adam’s reaction to that. He was angry but he couldn’t do much with the pistol still aimed directly at his midsection now.
“Justice for what?”
“Martin is dead. He killed himself because of you. All those stories because of you.”
“I didn’t tell any stories.”
“No, but you showed up again looking like you look, and confident, and wealthy, and all those old stories came back up again, only this time, people believed the opposite. They took your side. Even about our daughter. Oh, I heard the insinuations back then when they joked about how her dark curly hair and hazel eyes and that damn dimple made her look more like you than Martin. She was like you too. Stubborn and willful. I told her not to go near those waves until I was ready to walk with her. But she had to run down to that beach on her own. Martin can’t swim. He couldn’t go in after her. By the time someone could go after her, it was too late. She was limp and pale. We never had another child. There were things people said about that and about Martin too. And it had died down until you showed up again. He began drinking more and more, and then it was too much.”
“How can you hold me responsible for what happened in your life when I wasn’t there and it was your decision to send me away. Martin is the one who made sure of it.”
“Oh, don’t try to make excuses. Now you think you can marry her and be happy. Well, I won’t have it. It isn’t fair.”
“Listen, Beatrice, I’ll go with you. We can do whatever it is that you want. Let Selina have the carriage out front, and I’ll go with you. You’re in charge here. I’ll do as you say.”
“What? But you told her you would marry her?”
Selina shivered knowing that Beatrice must have been in the house most of the time that she and Adam had been together. It was creepy to know she had been lurking in the shadows listening. With the storm, neither had heard anything.
“I guess it’s because I asked you first. It’s only fair.”
“Yes, I suppose you would see it that way. Well, let me think.”
Because the candles were sputtering, there wasn’t much light in the room. Adam had taken advantage of that to move slowly off the blanket keeping Selina behind him. She wasn’t sure what he planned but trusted him and did what he indicated he wanted. Once their feet were on the wooden floor, he halted apparently waiting for an opportunity to do whatever it was that he had planned or hoped to do. It happened when Beatrice stepped forward with her right foot on the blanket before she stopped. Adam bent down suddenly and upended her by jerking the blanket forward. She held onto the pistol unfortunately.
To protect Selina, Adam charged Beatrice and tackled her trying to hit her on the chin. The gun discharged twice. Adam finally landed a blow that knocked her semi-conscious. Selina rushed back into the room.
“We have to restrain her, and I have no idea where to get any rope.”
“Adam, we can use the blanket. Roll her up in it, and then we could use your belt around it to keep her in it.”
“Good idea. Let’s get that done before she comes around.”
“Where’s the pistol?”
“Across the floor somewhere.”
Working together, they got Beatrice rolled up in the thin blanket. Then Selina asked Adam for his belt. As she worked it around the bundle of Beatrice and the blanket, her hand was wet.
“Adam, you’re bleeding!”
“Yes, now that she’s secure, I could use some help getting to the carriage. I think you need to get me to a doctor.”
On the Ponderosa:
A knock on the door the next morning brought Ben to answer that summons as his sons had already gone out to work. He was surprised to see the messenger from the telegraph office.
“It’s marked ‘Urgent’ Mister Cartwright. I thought I ought to get it to you right away.”
After giving the man a coin, Ben tore the envelope open.
“Urgent. Adam hurt. Please come. Selina Reynolds.”
After sending riders to alert his sons, Ben went to his room to pack. He didn’t know much, but he wasn’t going to wait either. He was going to Denver to see his son.
When Hoss and Joe got to the house, they agreed that Ben should go. Looking at each other, the two brothers knew one should stay and the other should go. They flipped a coin with the loser saying he would be there as soon as he could get everything organized.
“You be sure to let me know what’s happening. Dadburnit, I’m gonna be sick to death worried until I hear from you two.”
“Hoss, you should go. Hearing your voice and seeing you will do more for Adam than me being there. Like you, I want to hear from you two as soon as you know something though. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Thank you, Joe. Thank you.”
Seeing the relief on Hoss, Joe knew he had done the right thing. As soon as Hoss hurried up the stairs to pack, Ben turned to his son.
“Joe, I know how hard that was for you. Thank you. That was a very generous thing to do.”
“I know you’ve said those two have been tied together with an invisible string ever since Hoss was born. I guess I felt it was only the right thing to do.”
“Still, very kind and thoughtful. Now, we’ll leave our horses in town. If you can have someone pick them up, that will be good. If there isn’t time, that’s fine. They’ll take good care of them.”
Unable to leave that day, Ben and Hoss stayed in town and got tickets to leave the next morning.
In two days, riding express, Ben and Hoss were in Denver. They headed to the only address they had, but no one was there. They knew that Adam worked in an office sanctioned by Governor Evans so they headed there next. It was there that they found out where Adam was. Arriving at a doctor’s large office, they were greeted by Thomas in the waiting room. He looked at them with curiosity until he saw the size of Hoss.
“You must be Adam’s father and brother. Selina is in with the doctor now as he examines Adam once more. They should be out here soon.”
Even as he was talking, the doctor ushered Selina through the door. Their looks were not hopeful.
“There’s no change.”
At the doctor’s questioning look, Thomas explained for his benefit and for Selina. “This is Adam’s father and brother.”
“Your son was shot. The bullet did little damage except for nicking his spleen. He bled a great deal. It is that blood loss that is the problem. We don’t know if his system will shut down or come back up. He has been unconscious since he was brought to my office.”
“Doctor, my son is a fighter. One thing I can tell you is that the best way to get him to fight is to have one or two people he knows sit with him, talk to him, and hold his hand to encourage his struggle.”
“That is not our usual policy. We keep the patient quiet so they can use their energy to heal.” He saw the determination in Ben Cartwright, and although disapproving, he wouldn’t deny the father his rights. “He is your son. If you can take the responsibility for what happens, I can’t stop you from doing what you will.”
“I want to be with him too then.” Selina looked directly at Ben who nodded.
For the next day, they spent most of their time sitting with Adam and talking as Selina filled Ben in on what had happened. At first, Adam did not respond to either of them so there was plenty of time to do that. As Adam seemed to be more cognizant that there was someone there, they talked to him more of what the future would hold. It was then that Ben learned of Adam’s plan to marry and about his new house. He saw a small smile appear on his son’s face as Selina talked about those things and hope grew exponentially. Selina saw the smile too and talked more urgently to Adam about opening his eyes. But Ben took over then commanding his son to open his eyes and wake up. It was that teamwork that did it. The others waiting outside heard the sounds of joyful celebration and had to go see. Both Thomas and Hoss joined in the smiling and joy when they saw Adam’s eyes open and him drinking spoonfuls of sugar water from Selina. The doctor warned them that he could still relapse, but they were hearing none of that. With the four of them, Adam got round the clock nursing. When Joe arrived, Adam was sitting up in bed although propped up by pillows, and he was drinking a cup of broth.
“Well, I broke my neck to get here, and you look fine.”
“Good to see you too, little brother.”
The weak voice and clipped words let Joe know how sick his brother still was. He was pale too. Joe wasn’t going to say anything about that though.
“Well, it’s one way to have a family reunion.”
“I was hoping to ask you all here in about six weeks for a wedding.”
“You’re getting married? Who did you pay to be your wife?”
Selina grinned and looked at Adam. “You were telling the truth when you described your family. Every one of them has been exactly as you told me to expect them.”
“Miss, are you the unlucky but beautiful lady that has been tricked into marrying my brother? I promise the rest of us will be as kind and sweet to you as we can be.”
Seeing how tired Adam looked even as he grinned, Ben suggested they all leave him in Selina’s capable hands and take Joe to their hotel.
“I thought Adam had a house here.”
“He does, but it isn’t quite ready to accommodate guests.”
“Yeah, Joe, Pa plans on staying here until the wedding to help get his house ready and take care of things until he’s feeling up to it. Me and you can head home in a few days to run things and then come back for the wedding.”
“I was hoping we could have some fun too.”
“Oh, tonight we’re going to the Governor’s mansion for dinner. How’s that for some fancy fun?”
“Really? How did Pa wrangle that?”
“He didn’t. Seems Adam is a personal friend of Governor Evans, and he wants to welcome us here. So we get a fancy state dinner tonight. After that, Adam told me where he goes to play faro.”
“Hey, now that part I really like.”
Meanwhile, Adam asked what happened to Beatrice. The answer was sad but not unexpected. Selina told him what she knew.
“By the time the authorities picked her up, they said she was foaming at the mouth. They thought she had rabies. They found out she didn’t, but she’s being held as insane. They found a hospital under construction in Kansas that will take her if her family will pay some of the costs. They should know soon. As it’s a new facility, the Kansas Insane Asylum, at Osawatomie, so she would be treated well.”
“What if her family won’t pay?”
“Then they will ship her off to whatever facility will take her. The sheriff said they heard back from Athens, Ohio and Trenton, New Jersey that those facilities have room for her. Otherwise, he said they would have no choice but to put her in a prison cell. In that case, she will likely never get out.”
“Selina, that might not be the worst thing. She is dangerous. I don’t want her to come after you.”
“She won’t. I saw how she looked when we rolled her up in that blanket. She was defeated.”
“You were very brave.” Reaching up, Adam brushed his fingers across her cheek. He would have said more, but his father came into the room.
“Perhaps it’s time to transfer you to your house.”
“It needs a lot of work.”
“I’ve had a crew working there already. We have a bedroom ready for you, and the kitchen is clean. If you don’t mind some noise, they can keep working with you in the house. You can come out and tell them what you want and supervise as you are able. I’ll be there to assist as necessary. I’m sure Selina will come by to help out too.”
So, Adam took a slow ride to his house accompanied by his father. He had a long recovery that he didn’t want to accept. The first full day there, he insisted that he was going to get dressed and see what was being done. Selina arrived at the house about ten and asked Ben where Adam was. Ben couldn’t help the small smile.
“Last time I checked, he was still asleep in the chair in his room. He said he was going to dress and come see what was being done. You know I couldn’t argue with him about it so after I brought up some breakfast for him, I set out everything he needed to clean up, shave or trim that beard of his, and then dress. Well, he did manage all that but when he didn’t come down, I went to see, and he was sitting in the chair with his boots next to it. He looked like had had laid back to close his eyes a moment.”
“And fell fast asleep?”
“It appears so. I’ve checked on him twice since then, and he’s been sleeping.”
Selina went up to check then and found Adam waking with the noises in the house and after several hours of sleep in his nap. He appeared quite sheepish to find her there knowing he must have slept quite some time.
“I suppose Pa is amused.”
“He is. You were so cute there that I’m sure he was amused in a fatherly way. Now, would you like your slippers? I think you will find them more comfortable than boots.”
“A fatherly way?”
“He knows as I do how much blood you lost and how close we came to losing you. You need your rest so your body can fully recover. Don’t even think to argue with me on that. Now, slippers?”
For two weeks, Adam followed his father’s advice and listened to Selina. Then it was too much and he began asserting himself. Both Ben and Selina assumed that was probably all right as his color was better as was his appetite. As they ate dinner one evening, Ben complimented Adam on his demeanor with everyone and how he had changed. He had one caveat though.
“You have always been so curious. I am surprised that you didn’t check out Beatrice’s story about her daughter. I would have thought you would want to know if that was true or not.”
From the look Selina had, Ben could tell there was more to this story. Selina spoke first.
“He checked out more than that.”
“But how? He was in the doctor’s care and then here, and I never saw anything.”
“I asked Thomas to have it done. He had her whole story checked. Apparently there is some suspicion about Martin’s death. She insisted there that he drank too much and shot himself in a fit of despondency. His parents have disputed that ruling from the start. There is now an investigation into her for his murder. An examination of the records indicate that he probably could not have shot himself from the angle the bullet entered.”
“And the story about the daughter?”
“She had a daughter born in October after I left. We didn’t see each other after November of the previous year. There was no possible way it was my daughter. She probably only tortured Martin with that. Dark hair, curls, and a dimple though means the little girl didn’t resemble either of them. Beatrice must have had someone else she was seeing.”
“I think you were lucky she betrayed you.”
“It certainly looks that way now. I think about all that I gained from the losses I had, and all of them seem worthwhile now. I had that tendency to think of what I didn’t have instead of what I had.”
“Some might call those dreams.”
“Except they weren’t because I didn’t even know what I wanted. I know now. I’ve learned how to be happy.”
Ben didn’t ask. He already knew.
About five weeks after Adam arrived at his house, Selina took a ride there in her wedding dress and married him in a small wedding attended by some of the most important people in Colorado as well as family and guests from Virginia City. Her light green satin dress with gold lacy trim looked quite good in contrast to his black jacket and black pinstripe pants and silver and black brocade vest. He still had the beard which she liked. Thomas had a lady on his arm, and Hoss brought along his fiancé from home. Adam promised that they would be there for Hoss’ wedding at Christmas. When the party was in full swing, Hoss asked if Adam was staying in Denver or ever coming home.
“I have more than one home now. Yes, I will be in Virginia City by next year. I have committed to working on some improvements to the Virginia and Truckee Railroad construction. It will be a one-year project so Selina and I will be there that long at least. Thomas will handle our business here while I’m gone.”
“Hot diggity, I like hearing that. Have you told Pa?”
“I think he may have had something to do with me getting that job offer, but yes, he knows. I’ll wrap up what I have to do here, and then we’ll make the move.”
“Adam, I noticed you ain’t wearing your gun no more. Is that cause you got wounded or you jest not wearing one no more?”
“I stopped wearing it when I traveled east and never got in the habit of strapping it on. It was too easy to always use that threat to intimidate people. I wanted to get away from that.”
“People in Virginia City are kinda used to you having one on. You think maybe it might be a good idea to wear one again?”
“I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“Now I got me a toast to make to the groom. I’m in a real good mood so you better be ready for the best dadburn toast you ever heard at a wedding.”
Making his way to where the small band played, Hoss had them hold the next song as he stood with a glass of wine in his hand to offer the major toast of the evening.
“My brother taught me a lot in life. He told me he learned from our Pa and all the people he’s met. He said let my heart be my teacher and to remember we are known by the tracks we leave so learn from the knowledge we get but seek wisdom too. Knowledge is the history of the past, but wisdom guides our future. He said don’t let the past take up too much of today. Grab hold of the future and do the best you can with your mind and with your heart. Seems he’s doing just that now. He and Selina gonna show us all what the Creator intended for them. We wish them all the best.”
With cheers, there was one last dance by the newlyweds, and then the line of guests bidding their good wishes to the couple as they filed out. The family members were last to leave. Thomas had invited them to an after party at his house which had been Adam’s house until he ceded it to Thomas. Closing the door as the last of them left, Adam turned back to Selina.
“You are so beautiful.”
The cooks and servants they had hired for the wedding were still finishing their cleanup duties. It was probably going to be a half hour before everyone left the house. Selina grinned at Adam.
“I think I can see what you’re thinking.”
“They should be almost done. They have been paid so it’s only packing everything away and finishing the cleaning. I told them they could take the extra food from the dinner with them.”
“Not the cake!”
“The special cake is untouched. We will have that.”
He took her hand then and led her into the office which had not been used during the party. Closing the doors, he pulled her to him for a kiss. I waited all day to kiss you properly. It was so difficult to hold back when the reverend said I could kiss my bride. There were so many thoughts running through my head at that point.”
“I could tell.”
After they kissed for a time, Selina called a halt. “I don’t want to spend my wedding night in the office.”
“We’re only kissing.”
“Not with where your hands are roaming we’re not.”
With a sigh of frustration, Adam opened the office doors. There was very little noise. “They must almost be done. You can go to our bedroom if you wish. I’ll be in as soon as they’re done and I can lock up behind them. Oh, and I will bring some of that cake. I plan to make you hungry again.”
Fifteen minutes later, Adam was approaching the bedroom when he heard Selina swearing and rushed into the room. He found her struggling with her dress and had to smile.
“Why are you smiling. I can’t reach a single damn button on the back of this dress enough to open it.”
Shaking his head, he set the cake down and moved behind her opening one button as he kissed her bare shoulder. He opened another and kissed the other shoulder.
“I don’t mind helping.”
“I think I like your way of opening buttons.”
With gentleness and passion, Adam showed his wife how much he wanted her and she reciprocated. Later as he lay back on the bed, he put the plate of cake on his chest and offered her the fork. She had to grin.
“Now this is a picture of my wedding night I never expected. Eating cake while laying naked next to my naked husband and eating cake off his chest.”
“I wouldn’t mind some cake. I brought a large slice so we could share.”
After they finished the cake, she noticed a few crumbs that had fallen on his chest. She leaned down to pick those up with her tongue and a whole new round of lovemaking began. They were glad they agreed to meet Adam’s family for lunch and not breakfast the next day. They slept in and were well rested by the time they needed to leave to have lunch with the family before they left for home.
With promises to be there before Christmas and well before the wedding, there were hugs and goodbyes. Adam and Selina had one more evening to themselves, and it was back to work the next day.
A New Man Mostly
When Adam and Selina arrived in Virginia City, they stayed on the Ponderosa but did spend quite a bit of time in town as Adam had meetings and work to do, and he wanted to find a house there that he could rent or buy. Hoss and his fiancé Linda came into town with them often to have lunch and so the ladies could do some shopping together. There were a number of people who noticed how Adam had changed. Smiling more and unlikely to react to jibes and taunts, he was the calmer, more relaxed version of the angry, intimidating man who had left years earlier. Quite a few women regretted their earlier decisions to end their relationships with him. He had no regrets though quite happy in how his life was progressing.
One thing that bothered Selina though was that he was wearing a gun again. He tried to explain that the long rides between the ranch and town required him to be defensive, but she didn’t buy it. Hoss added that people had a certain idea of the man Adam was and might react to him as if he was wearing one even if he wasn’t.
“That could be dangerous.”
“He could tell them he wasn’t wearing a gun.”
“He might not have time.”
“Selina, my father wears a gun. He doesn’t have a fast draw. He doesn’t get into gun fights. It’s for defense. That’s the only reason I want to wear it. At my age, I don’t think anyone is going to be calling me out for a gunfight, and I wouldn’t go if anyone did. I’ll do my best to stay out of trouble. You know I will.”
On one of the trips, while the ladies were shopping for fabrics for curtains and bedding, Adam and Hoss headed to the saloon for a drink. While there, a young man kept taunting Adam including some particularly nasty comments about Selina and finally called him out. Adam tried to ignore the fellow but it became impossible when he said he would wait for him in the street and draw down on him when he walked out. That was too dangerous a scenario to consider. Adam looked at Cosmo, the bartender, and asked if he had a couple of empty bottles. He did and handed them over. Adam gave them to Hoss and asked him to go set them in the street. Then he turned to the young man.
“Before a fight, I want to see if you are a worthy opponent so we’re going to have a shooting contest first. Come with me.”
But the man didn’t have much choice except to follow Adam’s retreating back and all the others filing out of the saloon. In the street, Hoss had set the bottles side-by-side down the street about twenty yards. Adam pointed at them.
“On the count of three, we’ll draw to see if you can hit your bottle on the right about the same time as I hit the one on the left. If you’re too slow, then there won’t be a duel.”
“All right. I never heard of such a thing, but it sounds reasonable. Who counts off?”
“Hoss can count off.”
He did, and Adam drew and shot both bottles before the young man could fire.
“That ain’t fair! You shot ’em both before I could shoot.”
Silently staring at the young man and waiting for realization to set in, Adam was calm and reloaded his pistol. When realization hit, the young man was embarrassed.
“You made a fool of me.”
Holstering his pistol, Adam answered him. “It was a lot better than killing you, wasn’t it? Listen. Go home. Get a job. You want to use that pistol, work for a sheriff or someone who will let you use it. Your life as a gunman will be short.”
The young man had not holstered his pistol and Adam had kept his attention on that. As the young man began to raise the pistol, Adam hit him with a right cross to the chin that laid him out. The crowd cheered. Sheriff Clem Foster was there to take custody as Hoss was there to place his hand on Adam’s shoulder and squeeze. He didn’t have to say anything to let his brother know he was proud of how he had handled the situation.
“Adam, you did that well. I do have to fine you for discharging a firearm in the street though.”
“I’ll fine you for once. I’ll make sure this one leaves town too. We don’t need his kind around. You gave him the best advice anyone could give him. He was too foolish to listen.”
There were a few chuckles as Adam handed over the money to his grinning friend. When he turned to leave with Hoss, it was only to greet his wife who was waiting with Linda in the crowd. She was quiet on the way home saying nothing about what had happened. At home, the hands took care of the carriage and horses as Hoss went in the house with Linda leaving Adam and his wife some time to talk. Waiting for everyone to walk away, Selina told Adam how proud she was.
“At first, I had mixed feelings and then I realized you did what any man needed to do. You tried to show him the right way to go and offered him a way out. He didn’t take it, but you were careful, kept your temper, and didn’t hurt anyone.” After a pause, she had another question. “What would have happened in the past?”
“I would probably have ended up killing him. With the things he was saying to me, I doubt I would have been able to keep control of my temper. That alone would have changed the situation. Then his face would have joined the faces of all those others I killed and who still haunt my dreams. I couldn’t take that anymore. I never want to do that again; take a life. The cost is so high.”
“I’m glad I met you when you decided to defeat those demons inside you. I love you this way.”
“I like me this way better too.”
“From remarks I’ve heard, your family is very happy to have you this way.”
“Life is better. The anger is gone. It used to smolder inside of me even when it wasn’t apparent. Now there are no dark moods to plague my nights or my days for that matter. I’m happy and much more relaxed. I find it easier to get along with others. I know what I want to do and I’m doing it.”
“And what would you like to do right now?”
“I think you know, but Pa is inside waiting for everyone to sit down to dinner. Do you think he knows something? Now that Jamie is part of the family, he has said there’s seven place settings at the table, but he’s hoping for more soon.”
“I didn’t tell him, but your father and Hop Sing seem to know everything. Maybe somehow they know.”
Inside, Hoss had filled in the rest of the family as to what had happened in town. Knowing that Selina and Adam were outside talking made all of them nervous, but when the two walked in smiling and arm-in-arm, everyone relaxed. Adam truly had changed a great deal, and Selina was a good match for him. Ben announced it was time for dinner, and all headed to the dining room table where Hop Sing had put a glass of milk by Selina’s plate. She looked at Adam who began to chuckle as Ben nodded and smiled.
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Angst, Ben Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
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