A Gift that Grows
Summary – Marty Johnson is spunky, talented, and a dreamer. After attending art school in San Francisco, she returns home to her grandfather who is now living in Virginia City. These are two short WHN stories for The Way Station.
In Chasing Rainbows – Marty settles into her new home and has a new dream. Will this one come true, too, or is it just another elusive rainbow?
In The Art of Life – Someone is leaving anonymous gifts around Virginia City and Adam Cartwright’s curiosity is piqued to discover who and why.
Word Count: 10,814
The stagecoach rolled and bounced along the rut-filled dirt road close to Virginia City, Nevada, rocking its passengers side to side and front to back. Two business men talked quietly to each other, discussing some papers in their laps. The third passenger, a young lady, looked out beyond the window shade at the snow capped mountains and tall green pines, her eyes widening with excitement and anticipation.
This was the last leg of Marty Johnson’s long journey which began two years prior as she boarded a stagecoach from Virginia City to San Francisco. Now she was returning home, ready to begin a life she had only dreamed about. While the stage rolled on, her mind filled with more excitement as she looked forward to being reunited with the one man who had made it all possible.
After settling his black gun belt around his hips, Adam Cartwright bent over to tie the string around his thigh. Straightening up he reached for his hat just as his father called from the breakfast table.
“Adam, are you sure I can’t convince you to let one of the hands go to town?”
Adam rolled his eyes, knowing his father couldn’t see him. “Yes, Pa. I told you Jesse can’t meet the stage since that mare stepped on his foot so he asked me to do it for him. You know how important this day is.”
Ben came around the corner smiling at his son, coffee cup in hand. “I know. I guess we’ll just have to work on those contracts later.”
Adam smirked as he headed out the door. “Why don’t you get Joe to help you? He could use the practice.” He walked quickly to his waiting horse as his father followed him more slowly with a grunt.
“Hrmph! Not these timber contracts. You know how complicated they are. I’ll let him deal with the railroad next month.”
Adam focused on adjusting his saddle, purposefully ignoring his father’s steely gaze. He was confident in Joe’s abilities to handle the contracts but that conversation with his father would have to wait for another time.
Ben noticed his son’s sudden silence so let the matter drop, for now. He gulped down the last of his coffee. “You’re not taking the buggy?”
Adam paused in his work to look over the saddle at Ben. “Nope. You recall you wanted me to check out the herd in the northern pasture before roundup. I’ll rent a buggy in town.The stage arrives around ten o’clock and I thought I’d pick up a basket of food to take to Jesse’s for lunch. I’ll check the herd on the way home.”
“Lunch is a nice idea. Well, enjoy yourself. And make sure you’re back in time for dinner or Hop Sing will have your hide.” Ben stepped back as Adam mounted Sport and tightened the reins to control his excited horse. “Oh, and don’t worry about me, son. I’ll just be slaving away on those timber contracts.”
Adam didn’t miss the sarcasm nor the glint in his father’s eyes. He touched the brim of his hat before nudging Sport into a canter out of the yard.
Ben shook his head and returned to the house, a warm smile on his face. He didn’t mind teasing his son about this special day. Adam had been talking for days about welcoming Marty Johnson home from San Francisco.
Upon arriving in Virginia City, Adam quickly exchanged Sport for a buggy at the livery and picked up the lunch basket. Now he leaned against a post about twenty feet from the back of the stage. It had just arrived in a cloud of dust and Adam decided to wait for Marty to disembark before he revealed himself. He watched two businessmen step down, retrieve their bags and head for the hotel down the street. Growing a bit concerned that no one else was exiting the stage he straightened up just as the full skirt of a dark blue traveling suit floated out of the door. Next he saw her head as the driver helped her down to the street. Adam waited a few moments to enjoy watching Marty take in all the sights. Her dark brown eyes were as full of wonder as they had been when she’d left but now she seemed different. More mature, that was it, Adam thought. Marty had grown up in the last two years.
Adam’s long strides helped him close the distance to the stage while he signaled the driver to remain quiet. Standing right behind Marty with his hands clasped behind his back he spoke softly, a smile in his voice.
“May I be of service to you Miss?”
Marty spun around, not quite believing that the owner of that familiar voice was right behind her.
“Adam!” She squealed and threw herself into his waiting arms. The two friends hugged for a moment before Marty pushed away, concern replaced her smile. “Where’s grandpa? Oh Adam, nothing’s happened has it?”
“Shh, he’s fine Marty.” Adam rested a hand on her shoulder. “He injured his foot last week, so he asked me to meet you today. I have a buggy across the street and I’ve picked up a basket of food for us to enjoy at your grandfather’s house. Let’s get your bags and we’ll be on our way.”
The driver offered to take the luggage to the buggy so Adam offered his arm to Marty and the two strolled across the street, Marty looking every which way, taking in all the changes to the town. Despite her outward excitement, deep down she was quite content to be walking alongside Adam once again.
Adam pulled the buggy up to Marty’s grandfather’s house, a small but well kept cottage. It was located in a quieter part of town but near almost everything Jesse would need. A couple of months after Marty left for art school in San Francisco, Jesse decided to retire as a way station attendant. He asked Adam to help him move to Virginia City. Once settled there, he found a part time job at a livery just a few blocks from his home. The job kept him busy most days but also gave him the free time he wanted after years of working at a way station.
Jesse had worked hard to get the little house ready for when his granddaughter would return home. Now it looked welcoming with a picket fence at the street, a small front yard, and a couple of rocking chairs on the front porch. As Adam drove up a familiar person rose from one of them.
Marty squealed and jumped from the buggy. She ran up the walk and into her grandfather’s arms. Adam did his best to give them privacy as they hugged, wept and laughed over Marty’s homecoming. While he pretended to check the harness Jesse called from the porch.
“Adam, what in tarnation are you standin’ down there for? Marty tells me you brought lunch. So get on up here and let’s get to eatin’.”
Adam cheerfully complied, grabbing the basket and following Jesse and Marty into the house. After a tasty lunch, and lots of talking and catching up, Jesse suggested they move to the parlor to have coffee and visit some more. Adam tried to explain he had ranch work to get done but Jesse insisted he stay just a little longer to discuss the plans for Marty’s art shop. Marty’s eyes lit up at that topic.
“After my teachers suggested I set up a studio to show my work and hopefully sell them, I couldn’t wait to write to you both. Have you had any luck finding a place?” Marty perched on the edge of the sofa, her hands clasped tensely in her lap while her eyes darted between her grandfather and her friend.
“Well, Adam, quit tryin’ her patience an’ tell her what ya found.”
Adam lifted his eyes to meet Marty’s. “It took awhile to locate a suitable place but I did finally find one. It’s an empty store about two blocks from here. I helped Jesse set up the lease for a year, and we got it all cleaned out. All that’s left is for you to move in and set it up the way you want it.”
Marty leapt off the sofa to hug her grandfather then Adam. “Oh, thank you. Thank you both. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go see it.”
“Now just settled down, young lady. Adam’s already said he’s got some work to get to an’ you need time to rest. Adam do you think you could take us over to see the place t’morrow?”
“But Grandpa –”
“Marty, Jesse’s right. Now’s not a good time. I’ll pick you both up at ten tomorrow and we’ll help you get it all set up. How’s that sound?”
“Oh, I guess it will have to do. I do feel rather tired and I’ve kept you from your work long enough.”
Slipping his hat on, Adam picked up the empty food basket and bid farewell to his friends.
As he set the basket in the seat and started to climb up, Marty called from the porch.
“Adam, wait. You forgot the cloth and some dishes.”
“I see I have. Thanks Marty.” He placed the items in the basket and climbed into the seat. Picking up the reins, he turned his head toward Marty when he felt her hand on his arm.
She looked up at him shyly as she made eye contact with him. “Adam, I know I’ve said this many times but I really am grateful for all you’ve done for me and Grandpa. I’m so excited to have a dream that can finally come true. I feel like I’ve been chasing rainbows most of my life and now I’ve found the one with a pot of gold at the end. I can’t wait to open my shop and see what happens.”
She paused as Adam smiled gently and spoke in a soft voice, “Marty you’ve grown into a beautiful young woman in the last two years and I’m pleased to see how far you’ve come.” He laid his hand over hers. “You have a bright future ahead of you and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Without warning, Marty put her foot on the buggy step to rise up and give Adam a long, warm hug which he gently returned. Before releasing him she gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek.. “See you tomorrow, Adam.” A big smile lit up her face as she stepped down to allow him to pull out into the street.
Taken aback by the hug and kiss, Adam could only nod and turn his attention to the horse. With his back to her as he drove away, Marty didn’t see the furrowed brow or the look of confusion on his face. When he turned the corner and disappeared, she bounced back into the house.
“Grandpa, I’ll be in my room. I need to unpack and organize my drawings before tomorrow.”
Jesse watched Marty head to her room then turned to look through the screen door. Giving his mustache an absentminded brush, he tried to make sense of what he’d seen take place between Adam and his granddaughter, considering she had just gotten home. “Now just what’s goin’ on between those two?”
Late at night on the Ponderosa, Adam remained wide awake as he scrutinized Marty’s actions that afternoon. She had a sweet and trusting personality. He’d been pleased to help her reach her dream with her art and to assist her in getting her shop up and running. But now he wondered if she was mistaking his help for something different, perhaps even something romantic in nature. That thought had given Adam his fitful night. Sleep finally claimed him after he’d decided to watch his words and actions carefully, and to see if Marty was expecting something more than friendship between them.
The warm air and bright sun added to the exuberance already present as Marty, Jesse, and Adam stood outside the empty store, soon to be The Sierra Art Shop, Marty Johnson, Proprietress. Marty’s excitement oozed out as she patted tears away and fingered the locked door. An aged arm appeared over her shoulder, dangling a shiny silver key.
“Go ahead, Marty. Open it up.”
She lifted her head to look first at her grandfather, then over his shoulder at Adam who gave her a smile and wink.
With shaking hands she slid the key into the lock and turned it. A quiet click was heard and the door swung open on well-oiled hinges. Small steps led to bigger ones as Marty entered the large interior. Within moments she was flitting around the room and talking a mile-a-minute about where everything should go. Adam and Jesse remained just inside the door with huge grins lighting their faces.
As lunchtime approached Adam was installing shelves around the shop as Marty unpacked her trunk and hung a few drawings on the wall behind the counter. Marty had been thrilled to see the shop in such good condition when they arrived, and immediately began giving directions on where she wanted things to go.
Jesse sat with his foot resting on a low stool, all the while offering suggestions to Marty on where to hang her pictures. After Adam finished setting up the shelves, it was Jesse who suggested they stop for lunch, so Adam retrieved a basket from beside the front door and they all sat around a table and shared in the meal which Hop Sing had prepared for them.
By the end of the day, everything was in place and the shop was ready to open in a couple of days, since the next day was Sunday. Three exhausted but satisfied people locked up and headed back to Jesse’s house for a light dinner before Adam headed home.
After he had washed up, Adam sat in the parlor alone while Jesse freshened up and Marty worked in the kitchen to prepare dinner. He had time to reflect on the day and felt all seemed fine between him and Marty. She didn’t say anything about the kiss and didn’t seem to act any differently. Adam was beginning to think he’d imagined the whole thing.
Dinner was a quiet affair with little talk since everyone was so tired. Adam asked if they might be at church the next day but Jesse said no, due to his injury. Adam nodded in understanding. He did mention that the following Sunday was the monthly church picnic at Washoe Lake. He invited them to join his family after services as a way to welcome Marty home. Jesse and Marty were pleased to accept.
As the sun began to set, Adam bid farewell and headed outside. Marty went with him to see him off. They stood on the porch for a moment, watching the first stars come out.
Marty sat down on the porch step. “It’s so different here than in San Francisco. So much quieter. I’d forgotten what it was like to see so many stars at night.”
Adam sat down beside her, draping his arms over his knees and fiddling with his hat. “Do you miss the city?”
“Oh no, not in the least. Oh I had a good time and enjoyed my classes but everyday I missed you and Grandpa. The letters helped but,” she sighed and looked at Adam with her big doe eyes, “it’s not the same.”
Adam nodded. “I know what you mean. I felt the same way when I went to college. Those four years were the longest in my life, and the most exciting.”
“Exactly. You do understand, Adam.” She leaned against his arm.
Adam put his arm around her shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. “Well, it’s good to have you back home, Marty. Your grandfather is a different man now that you’re here.”
Marty looked out at the darkening sky. “And what about you, Adam?”
Surprised by the question Adam looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Are you glad I’m back home?”
“Of course.” Becoming uncomfortable, he stood to leave, slipping his hat onto his head. “Listen I’ve got to get home. I’ll see you on Monday.”
Marty stood as well, and watched him walk away. Her heart was pounding as he climbed into the carriage. She ran up to him.
“Adam, do you think we could have a picnic tomorrow? After church is over of course.”
Adam turned to look down at her. She looked so hopeful, so innocent, so…lovely in the twilight. Adam closed his eyes for a moment, unsure what to say. “I wish we could Marty but Pa and I have to catch up on some paperwork.”
“Oh, of course.” Her countenance fell for a moment, but she perked up again. “I understand. I’ll see you on Monday for the grand opening. Have a good trip home.”
He nodded and clicked to the horse. He gave a sigh of relief as he drove away, but concern filled his head that Marty had definite feelings for him.
Marty watched as he disappeared into the darkness then turned to go into the house. He’s so easy to talk to, she thought to herself. I hate being away from him. Oh, I can’t wait for Monday, and then the picnic next Sunday. With that thought, Marty entered the house and said good night to her grandfather. She headed to bed with great enthusiasm for the upcoming week.
The air was full of excitement early on Monday morning as Marty flitted around her shop, double and triple checking everything. Adam and Jesse eyed each other and shrugged. Both knew she wouldn’t last the day if she didn’t settle down.
“Marty, for Pete’s sake, come over here an’ sit down. You’re wearin’ me out jest watchin’ you.”
“Oh Grandpa, I’m just so excited. I want everything to be perfect when I open the doors in a few minutes.”
Adam walked over to her and placed his arm around her. “Come here young lady and sit down. Everything’s ready and you need to calm down.”
Marty took a deep breath and leaned into Adam as they walked over to the bench Jesse was sitting on. She gave Adam a brief hug then sat down. A bit taken aback, Adam glanced away then noticed several people had gathered at the door.
“Marty, I think it’s time to open the doors.”
The day flew by. Adam and Jesse greeted the first customers while Marty circulated around the room answering questions and making sales. Adam’s family came in just after lunch and agreed to have a family portrait made at a later date. Hoss and Joe left to run errands and get a couple of beers. Ben remained to keep Jesse company as Marty and Adam attended to customers. Some of the subtle looks from Marty toward Adam and her quiet actions of touching his arm or shoulder weren’t lost on the older men. Both men shared questioning expressions but neither had any answers. Knowing his son so well, Ben did notice that Adam didn’t reciprocate any of Marty’s gestures.
After Marty closed the doors at the end of the day she collapsed beside Jesse onto the bench at the back of the small shop.
“I’m exhausted. Oh Grandpa, I can’t believe so many people came and how much they bought.”
“Well, why not? You’ve got quite a gift and the customers know it. I’m proud of you Marty.” Jesse leaned over to kiss her on the top of her head.
Adam, leaning against the counter, smiled and winked when she looked his way. “We better get the shop cleaned up so you both can get home to eat and rest.”
Not wanting to walk too much on his sore foot, Jesse cleaned off the counter while Adam helped Marty put away her art samples and lock up the money box.
He drove them home and tended to their horse and buggy. Marty gave him a warm hug before he headed to the livery to get Sport and head home himself. He was tired but pleased that all had gone so well. However, something about the day kept niggling at the back of his brain. He wouldn’t fully understand what it was until next time he saw Marty.
Marty had decided to have the shop opened on Mondays and Thursdays to give herself time to learn the business side of running a shop, and to have time to work on her orders. Adam came by Thursday afternoon to see how she was doing. He was surprised to see the shop empty and Marty counting money.
“Hey, how did your day go?”
Marty looked up and a warm smile brightened her face when she saw Adam leaning against the door frame, hat in hand. She met him at the end of the counter and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek when he stepped inside.
“It went very well. I only had three customers but two bought my drawings of the bay in San Francisco, and the other is bringing his family in on Tuesday for a portrait. I’m so pleased. I’m just finishing the books. Would you mind checking them to see if I did everything right?”
“Sure.” Adam laid his hat on the counter and stepped over to study the books. Marty hovered close to him, occasionally brushing his arm as she reached across to point out an entry. He found himself losing his focus as she leaned against him and a delicate scent rose up to greet his senses.
“Um, everything looks correct. You’ve done a very good job. Listen, I, uh, need to get going and finish some errands.”
When he turned to leave he found himself looking straight into her dark brown eyes. She stepped closer and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. Locked in her embrace, he realized what was about to take place. Before he could react, Marty gently pressed her warm, soft lips against his. For a few seconds, neither moved until Adam carefully placed his hands on her shoulders and gently moved her away.
“Marty…” his voice caught.
She tried to lay her head against his chest but Adam stepped back. “Marty, I have to leave.”
A bit stunned by his abruptness, she caught his arm as he reached for his hat and opened the door.
“I’m looking forward to the picnic on Sunday, Adam.”
He nodded once then made his escape. The look on her face said way more than he was prepared to accept.
Flustered and worried by Marty’s kiss, Adam decided his errands could wait. He wanted to leave town quickly; he was in desperate need of some thinking time. As he made his way to the livery to pick up Sport, a well-dressed gentleman entered the shop. Marty was in the storage room when she heard the door open and close. She put the ledgers away and walked out quickly to see if it was Adam who had returned.
“Adam? Did you forget something?” She froze when she saw the man before her.
Feeling lightheaded from the surprise, she leaned against the counter. “David, what are you doing here?”
“I came to talk some sense into you, Marty. You left without giving me an answer to my question, or even saying goodbye.” David Cooper placed his hat on the counter and reached for her, drawing her into his arms. “I missed you so much.” With two fingers he tilted her head up and gave her a soft kiss which she didn’t return.
Stepping back David studied her face. “Marty, what’s wrong? Aren’t you glad to see me?”
As panic rose within her, Marty pulled away and drifted over to the large front window, catching a glimpse of Adam as he disappeared from view. David strolled over to stand behind her and saw a man in dark clothing turn the corner. He realized it was the same man that had left the shop just before he had entered. David spun Marty around.
“Who is he, Marty, that man who just left here? You thought I was him didn’t you?”
“David, please. That was Adam Cartwright, the man who helped me go to art school and open this shop. He’s been a good friend to me and Grandpa. He’s helped us so much.” Marty’s voice trailed off as she realized David didn’t believe a word of what she was saying. “It’s true David, Adam’s just a….”
“No Marty, I don’t think so. You have that look for him you used to have for me. Marty what’s going on here? Are you in love with him?”
Surprised to hear the words but made confident by them, Marty pushed her chin out and looked David in the eye. “Yes, David, I am. I’m sorry but what you and I had is over.”
“No! I don’t believe it is. I love you Marty and I know you love me. You’re just running away because you’re afraid to trust my love for you. Please don’t do that. I love you and I want to marry you.”
“No David, you’re wrong. I love Adam and one day I’ll marry him.”
“Not if I have a say in the matter.” David grabbed his hat and stormed out of the shop. Marty ran after him but he moved too quickly. She realized he was heading in the same direction that Adam had gone.
Marty leaned against the door frame, tears trailing down her cheeks. “Oh David, why did you have to follow me and ruin everything?” Suddenly filled with new resolve, she brushed the tears away and returned to the shop. “Well, you’ll see David. After the picnic on Sunday, Adam and I will be courting and then you won’t have any claim on me.” She locked the shop door and headed home. As she walked her heart pounded in turmoil. Her feelings for David and Adam ran rampant through her mind. By the time she entered the house the tears had returned and she ran past Jesse to her room, slamming the door.
“Marty? Marty!! What in tarnation…” He hobbled down the hall and knocked on her door.
“Marty? What’s wrong? Did somethin’ happen at the store? Adam was lookin’ for ya. Did ya see him?”
A muffled voice came from within. “Yes, I saw Adam. Grandpa, I really don’t feel like talking right now, please.”
With a sigh, Jesse gave in to her request and returned to the living room. Settling down in his chair he tried to figure out what could have upset his granddaughter. The only thing that came to mind was Adam Cartwright. Jesse slapped his hand down hard on the chair arm. “By golly, if Adam broke her heart, he’ll have me to answer to.”
David moved quickly down the street trying to find out where this Adam Cartwright had gone. As he turned a corner he saw the dark-clad man leave a stable and ride wildly out of town. David watched him for a moment then headed to the stable hoping to find some answers.
Looking around the dark interior of the barn he found a man cleaning out a stall. “Excuse me. Did a man in black clothes just ride from here?”
“Huh? Oh, hello mister. Charlie’s the name. What’s that you said?”
“I asked if a man in black…”
“Oh you must mean Adam Cartwright. Yeah, you just missed him. An’ the way he was ridin’ I reckon he’s long gone by now.”
“Can you tell me where he went? I need to speak with him.”
“Well, he didn’t rightly say but I ‘spect he’s headin’ fer home. The Ponderosa.”
“Fine, I’ll need a horse please. Can you give me directions to this ‘Ponderosa’?”
Charlie glanced out the stable door then back to the man in front of him. “I can set you up with a horse mister, but you best be waitin’ till t’morrow. The Ponderosa’s ‘bout two hours from here and you’d never find yer way after dark. Come back in th’ mornin’ an’ I’ll help you all I can.”
David was not pleased but he seemed to have no other choice. “Very well. I shall return in the morning. Thank you, Mister, um, Charlie.”
David left the stable frustrated but decided to make good use of his time during the evening. He headed toward the hotel to get some dinner and decided to quietly find out all he could about this Adam Cartwright.
After a few well-placed questions, David learned a lot about the Cartwrights and their ranch. He also heard that there was a large picnic planned for Sunday afternoon at a nearby lake and that there was no doubt that the Cartwrights would be there. He decided to wait until then to speak to Adam Cartwright and make him fully aware that Marty Johnson was not available to any other man.
In the meantime, David tried to see Marty again but she refused. Her grandfather welcomed him into his home and was now trying to figure out if there was an apparent love triangle with his granddaughter. He worried that she would once again end up with a broken heart and he would be picking up the pieces.
Over the next two days, Adam threw himself into his work. He was gone before sunup and back just in time for dinner. Ben was growing concerned but Hoss and Joe were able to reassure him that Adam was catching up on all the work he missed while helping Marty. Away from their father’s presence, both brothers had to agree that something was bugging their elder brother but neither was willing to approach him. They agreed to bide their time until Adam would choose to speak about it.
On Sunday morning, Adam was harnessing up the horses to the surrey to take the family to church. Hoss ambled across the yard after tending to the barn chores. Seeing his brother looking a bit more serious than he thought he should, Hoss offered to help with the harnessing.
“Need some help there Adam?”
“Nah, I got it.”
“Suit yerself.” He leaned against the hitching post and rubbed the neck of one of the horses.
“Damn! I thought I told Joe to get this harness repaired last month.” Adam began taking it off but Hoss moved around to look at it.
“It’s okay Adam. It just needs a bit of adjustment. Here I’ll fix it.”
Adam stood back and waited for Hoss to make the adjustment. Afterwards, the big man patted the horse’s neck and turned to his brother.
“You seem a might tense this mornin’. Something botherin’ you?”
Adam remained silent but Hoss saw his jaw muscles clench. “I don’t want to discuss it right now.”
“Okay. But I’m here if you change your mind.” Hoss turned to go into the house.
“She kissed me.”
Hoss froze in mid stride then slowly turned back to his brother. “Who?”
Adam looked up to the brightening sky then glanced at his brother. “Marty.”
Hoss returned to his place against the hitching post and fingered a loose piece of wood as he considered what he’d just heard.
“Well, don’t you have anything to say, Hoss? She kissed me and I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Wal, I take it you didn’t want her to kiss ya.”
“I had no idea she was even thinking about it. I mean, I guess I should have seen something like this was coming. Whenever we were together she’d stand very close and kept touching my arm or giving me kisses on the cheek.” Adam shrugged and rubbed his neck. “Last Thursday, I stopped by the shop on my way out of town to see how her day went. We were talking just before I left and next thing I knew she was kissing me.”
Hoss kicked at the dirt a bit then studied his brother. He could see he was quite agitated. “Adam, um, you know I ain’t no expert on women and such but it sounds like she’s got feelings for ya. I mean look at all you’ve done fer her an’ her grandpa. An’ you said some of her last letters were gettin’ kinda personal, about life an’ dreams an’ such.”
Adam started to deny it all but stopped to think about Hoss’ comments. He ran his hand through his hair and down his neck. “I don’t know, Hoss. It could be. She is pretty impressionable. But I haven’t done anything to lead her on. At least I don’t think I have. Oh, hell, I don’t know!”
Hoss moved closer to Adam and put his hand on his shoulder. “Brother, from what I’ve observed watching you and Joe, I get the feeling with some women it don’t take much to give ‘em ideas.”
“I’m not sure that helps. If that’s the case with Marty, what am I going to do? I can’t encourage it, I don’t feel that way about her. But if I say anything…”
“You could hurt her feelings.”
“Or worse, lose the friendship.”
Hoss nodded. “Yeah, guess it’s a bit of a sticky situation. Wal, why don’t ya go and just try to focus on church and the picnic today. Maybe she’ll have gotten past it and it’ll all be fine.”
Adam chuckled. “My brother, the eternal optimist.” He gently patted Hoss on the stomach. “Thanks for listening. Maybe this will all just blow over and I won’t have to say anything.”
“That’s the spirit, brother.” Hoss slapped him on the back. “Listen, all this advice-givin’ has made me even hungrier. Let’s go get some breakfast before little brother eats it all.”
“Sure. As Pa says, you can’t solve any problems on an empty stomach.”
“Hey, I thought I said that.”
The brothers laughed as they headed into the house.
During the ride to church and the church service, both Ben and Joe noticed Adam’s edginess and silent demeanor. He even stopped singing during a couple of hymns. After church they tried to speak to Adam but Hoss ran interference so Adam wouldn’t have to answer any questions. Hoss could tell by Adam’s distant expressions that he was working hard to formulate what to say to Marty at the picnic.
When they arrived at the site, the family found a shady spot close to the lake for fishing. Adam volunteered to care for the horses and Joe went with him, hoping to get some information from his brother. Before Joe could ask his first question, Jesse hobbled over with a serious look on his face.
“Adam, I wanna speak to ya.” He noticed Joe standing nearby and added, “Alone.”
Adam glanced at Joe then followed Jesse away from the horses. Before he could say anything, Jesse rounded on him.
“Adam Cartwright, I want ta know what you did the other day ta upset Marty. She’s been crying off an’ on since Thursday an’ won’t tell me a dern thing.” Jesse shook his forefinger in front of Adam’s face. “So help me if you done broke her heart, I swear you’ll be answerin’ ta me.”
Adam held his hands up in an attempt to calm Jesse down. “Jesse, get a hold of yourself. I haven’t done anything to upset Marty, at least I don’t think I have.”
“Now what in tarnation does that mean? I know you two have eyes for each other and…”
“Hold on there Jesse. Did Marty say that? What has she told you?”
“She didn’t have ta say anything. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, every time you two were together since she got home.”
“Jesse, listen to me. I do think Marty has some romantic inclinations towards me but I promise you that I have not encouraged her in any way.” Jesse’s eyes flared but Adam held his hand up. “Let me finish. I care for her very much and it’s been my privilege to help her these last two years, but I don’t love her. Now I believe that she thinks she loves me. And that is the problem I have. I don’t know how to help her with this. I don’t want to hurt her or damage our friendship.”
Adam could see Jesse was losing his anger and beginning to ponder his words.
“You haven’t led her on?”
“But I saw you two huggin’ and she kissed ya a couple of times.”
“I was only giving her comfort and the kisses were all from her. I didn’t return any of them.”
Jesse thought some more then looked straight at Adam. “Adam, I owe you an apology. I’m sorry for what I said an’ I reckon I shouldn’t a been watchin’ anyway.” He held his hand out.
Adam took it willingly. “It’s okay Jesse. I know you’re just looking out for Marty’s well-being. Now what I’m going to say to Marty?”
“Well you better figure it out quick. She’s a-comin’ right now.”
Adam spun around and realized she had seen them both.
“There you two are. Grandpa, Mister Cartwright is looking for you. The horseshoe competition is starting and Hoss is in the first round.”
“Oh…well I reckon I best be making my way there. Adam, I–”
“It’s alright, Jesse. I’ll work things out. You needn’t worry.”
Jesse smiled then began hobbling his way up the hill.
Adam turned to Marty whose eyes were bright with expectations. She looped her arm through his and together they walked along the lake’s edge.
“Marty, let’s sit here. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Adam led her to a log and they sat down together. Looking at Marty, Adam’s insides went to jelly. Her face was rosy from her walk across the grounds but it was the look of anticipation that made him pause.
“Marty, you’re a special girl. You’re bright, gifted and you’ve done quite well since you left for San Francisco, and returned. You’ve got a bright future ahead of you. But,” he had to pause to gather his reserve to say the next part, “I’m concerned that you want to include me in that future.”
“Of course I do, Adam.” Marty scooted closer and took hold of his hand. She held it gently as she looked off toward the lake. “It’s all I’ve thought about since I arrived in San Francisco. I couldn’t have done any of it without your help and I just knew it was all because of the way you felt about me. Adam you were so patient with me when I tried to leave with Luke*. I realized I was just trying to get away from that station, like Mama did. But once I reached San Francisco, Lucy* helped me so much and I met so many interesting people, but you always stayed in my thoughts and dreams. I missed you so much Adam and your letters let me know you felt the same way. I knew I would always come back here because of Grandpa, but I knew you would be here too.” Marty sighed and lifted her deep brown eyes up to look at Adam, a sweet smile forming around her lips.
Adam studied her face for a moment, gently squeezed her hands, and took a deep breath to compose his thoughts.
“Marty, I know I’m going to say this badly but…”
Marty threw her arms around Adam’s neck nearly knocking him off the log.
“Oh Adam you can’t say badly what’s in your heart. Yes, I’ll marry you. You’ve made me so happy.”
As Marty gave him a big kiss Adam put his hand on her shoulders and pushed her back so he could speak. “Marty, I’m sorry but that’s not what I was going to say. I care for you very much but I can’t marry you. I don’t love you in that way.”
His arms dropped like lead weights as she pulled away from him, stricken. She stood and tried to find the words through her tears to make Adam change his mind. “I don’t believe you. Your letters, the nights we spent on Grandpa’s front porch, all the support and encouragement you gave me.”
“Was just that, encouragement and support. I’m truly sorry Marty. I–”
“Oh Adam, you can’t mean that.” Marty turned to run up the hill but tripped on her skirt. Adam helped her up and wrapped his arms around her hoping to calm her down. She fought him for only a moment before dissolving into deep sobs. Adam held her tightly and ran his hand over her head, not knowing what else to do.
Out of nowhere strong arms separated Marty and Adam, and a fist made contact with Adam’s jaw sending him reeling backwards. As he shook off the effects, Adam saw a tall man holding Marty’s shoulders.
“David, let go of me. How dare you come here. Adam…are you alright? Oh David, what did you do?” Marty broke free of his grip and ran over to Adam.
“I’m alright.” Adam rubbed his jaw and realized he’d bitten his tongue. Rising to his full height and placing his right hand near his pistol, Adam confronted the man who’d hit him.
“You better have a good reason for that attack.”
“Adam, don’t. It’s alright. David didn’t mean any harm, did you David?”
“You stay away from my girl, Cartwright or you’ll get worse than a simple punch in the jaw.”
“David, I’m not your girl. I’ve told you that Adam and I…”
Adam held up his hands to get everyone to stop talking. “Hold on here. Marty, who is this man?”
“I’m David Cooper. I’ve known Marty for the last year and had asked her to marry me last month but she disappeared without giving me an answer. I tracked her here and found out you and she are going to be married. I’ll tell you right now, Cartwright, that’ll happen over my dead body.”
Joe, who had been keeping an eye on his brother, ran over after Adam was attacked and stepped between the two men. “Whoa there. I think you two should talk this thing out.”
“Joe, step away. I have no intention of shooting anyone today.” Joe’s brows rose and he started to speak until he saw a familiar smirk playing at his brother’s lips. He stepped out of the way but stayed on alert for more trouble.
“Listen, Mister Cooper. I think we can settle this peacefully. And the place to begin is with Marty.” He turned to the distraught young woman. “Marty, you and I have talked. I think you need to talk to David now and clear all this up. He seems to care a lot for you, enough to follow you here and to fight for you, perhaps to die for you.” Adam winked at David who looked a bit pale at that last suggestion.
Marty looked from one man to the other, then dropped to the ground in sobs. “Oh David, I’m so sorry. Adam’s right, and so are you. I thought I was in love with Adam for all the wonderful things he’d done for me but I see now,” she looked up at Adam, “it was all in friendship. That’s the kind of man you are, Adam.” She smiled warmly at him as he helped her up. Marty put her arms around Adam’s neck and lightly kissed him on the cheek. “And I’ll cherish your friendship for the rest of my life, Adam.”
She released him and turned to David. “David, I’m sorry. You were right, too. I was afraid to trust your love for me. As Adam knows I’ve been chasing rainbows and dreams most of my life and I didn’t realize one of those rainbows led me to my pot of gold. You.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him tightly. David responded in kind, then pulled away to lower himself to one knee while holding Marty’s hands.
“Marty Johnson, I truly do love you. Would you please agree to be my wife?”
Marty nodded through her tears then threw herself at him and both fell to the ground. Amid laughter, cheering and applause from the crowd that had formed, Adam and Joe helped the couple to stand. David gave Marty a light kiss then offered his left arm to her. As she took it he turned to Adam holding out his right hand. “No hard feelings, Mister Cartwright?”
Adam grinned and shook David’s hands. “No hard feelings, Mister Cooper. But I think my jaw and tongue might disagree with that for a few days.” Everyone broke out in laughter and moved back to the picnic grounds.
Two months later, Marty and David were married. Just as they settled into the buggy to leave, Adam approached the bride then lifted a dark eyebrow at the groom. “May I kiss the bride?”
David nodded. Adam kissed Marty on the cheek then stepped back. “Looks like you found your rainbow, Marty.”
“And my pot of gold.” She leaned into David’s embrace.
“That you did, Marty, that you did.” He grinned broadly as the couple pulled away from the church and headed out of town. As his family and Jesse gathered around him, Adam thought to himself, Yes Marty, you found something quite special. Be happy.”
The Art of Life
The summer sun beat down on the streets of Virginia City, adding its own energy to the vibrant town. Adam ambled down the boardwalk enjoying being home after a whirlwind trip to Sacramento to secure a lucrative cattle contract. He tipped his hat to a few ladies chatting in front of a millinery shop as he made his way to the post office in search of the final contracts. While waiting in line he reflected on the success of the negotiations which gave him time for a quick visit with friends in San Francisco. They had befriended Marty Johnson at the art institute and he wanted to share the good news that both she and her art shop were thriving.
A tap on the arm and a quiet cough brought Adam back to the present.
“Adam. It’s a fine mornin’. You have a good trip to California?”
“It went well.”
“Thought your Pa picked up the mail the other day.”
“He did. I’m looking for a few contracts. And you?”
“Jest out watchin’ my town. Seems pretty quiet today.”
Adam stepped to the window and received two large envelopes. “Thanks, Tom. Well Roy, I better finish my errands. Good to see you.”
“Say, Adam, when you’re done will ya stop by my office? I got somethin’ to show ya.”
“Sure. Might be an hour or so.”
Adam gave his friend a smile before tucking the envelopes under his arm and heading across the street to Hiram Baker’s office. Roy watched him for a moment then continued down the boardwalk, greeting folks along the way.
An hour and a half later, Adam thanked Hiram for his advice on the contracts then headed to see Roy. When he entered the homey office, he had to smile. Once again Roy’s desk was buried under wanted posters.
Hearing the door click shut, Roy glanced up and gave his visitor a sheepish greeting. “Well, you caught me once again with a messy desk. I was pullin’ down the old posters so’s I could put up the new ones. Would ya mind givin’ me a hand?”
Adam laid his mail and hat in the chair and began gathering the posters off Roy’s desk. “Sure. All of these go in the trash?”
“Yep, if ya don’t mind.”
Adam shuffled them into a neat stack but noticed one that didn’t fit right. “What’s this?”
He pulled it out to glance at it before handing it to Roy.
“Oh, that’s where that went to. That’s what I wanted ta show ya, Adam. Just toss them others away, will ya?”
Adam did as he was told then scooted around the desk to look at the drawing over Roy’s shoulder.
“I found this slid under my door the other mornin’ after makin’ my rounds. It’s pretty good, wouldn’t ya say?”
“It sure is. Any idea who left it?”
The two men stood for a good five minutes studying and admiring the pencil drawing of Roy hunkered over his desk working. Adam was amazed at the fine details of Roy’s mustache and glasses, as well as his intense focus on something he was reading. In his opinion it captured the essence of the town Sheriff.
“What’re you going to do with it?”
“Wal, I guess I should put it up on a wall somewheres.”
The two men glanced around the office before finding the perfect spot, near the stove and coffee pot. After Roy nailed it up there, they stood back to admire it, both lost in their own thoughts. After a moment, Adam turned to retrieve his mail and slip his hat.
“Well, I’ll see you around, Roy.”
“Yeah, thanks for dropping by, Adam. Tell your pa and brothers hello for me.”
When Adam was gone, Roy settled back at this desk and began to go through his letters. He couldn’t help but feel a touch of pride in the drawing when he glanced up at it.
“Whoever drew it sure knew what they was doin’.”
Sam, the bartender paused in wiping down the bar when the batwing doors swung open, emitting one of his biggest, and rather dusty, customers. “Howdy, Hoss. What can I get for you today? You look pretty worn out.”
“Hey, Sam. I’ll take a beer and make sure it’s cold. Real cold. Been ridin’ back from the fort after deliverin’ a few head of cattle. Had to get somethin’ to cool me off so I can make it the rest of the way home.”
“No problem. Here you go,” Sam leaned in close to Hoss, “and it’s on the house, but don’t tell anyone.”
“Uh, sure, Sam. Thanks.” The big man took a deep swig of the golden brew, then eyed Sam conspiratorially. “Not that I’d look a gift horse in the mouth, but why?”
“I’m in a real good mood today, and ‘sides, you’re my friend.”
“Well, thanks again. Say, why are you in a real good mood?”
Sam flicked his eyes around the nearly empty saloon before pulling out a thick sheet of paper and laying it on the counter. “‘Cause o’ this.”
Hoss swallowed more beer and set his mug down to peer at the paper. “Well, I’ll be. That’s you, standin’ right here settin’ out some mugs of beer.” Hoss glanced up and down the bar then back at Sam.
“It sure is.” He was grinning to beat the band. “It’s a pretty good likeness, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yeah, it is. Say, who gave it to ya?”
Sam studied the pencil drawing, seeing some new details he’d missed the other times he looked at it. He rolled his eyes up to Hoss and shrugged. “That’s the thing, Hoss. I don’t know. It was early this mornin’. There were a few miners in here and the gals, an’ I was puttin’ up some glasses here behind me. When I turned around it was sittin’ right there. I looked around the room but no one had moved a muscle.” He shrugged, at a loss for more words.
“Well, that is mighty strange. Whatcha gonna do with it?”
“I thought about puttin’ up here, by these bottles.” Sam held it up so Hoss could see it.
“Looks like a good place.” He drank down the rest of his beer. “Listen Sam, I best be gettin’ home. Thanks for the beer, and for sharing the picture. It’s a mighty good drawin’.”
“Yeah. Well, see ya, Hoss. Give my best to your family. I figure they’re all a bit overdue for a beer or two.”
Hoss let out a deep chuckle. “Yeah, they sure are. Maybe this weekend, Sam. See ya.”
“See ya, Hoss.”
After Hoss left, Sam looked at the drawing once more then grabbed his hammer and a nail. A couple of whacks had the picture in place. He smiled again at the amazing details and how good the likeness was of him.
“Sure wish I knew who drew this,” he mused as he returned to wiping down the bar.
Upon hearing the knock on the front door, Clementine Hawkins quickly checked her hair in the mirror by the door. Recognizing the familiar silhouette through the sheer curtains, she swung the door open with a broad smile.
“Well, hello, Benjamin. What brings you to my humble abode this fine day?”
“Well, um, Clementine. While I was picking up some supplies from the general store this box was delivered. The shopkeeper mentioned that it was an important package for you so I offered to bring it by on my way out of town.” He held out the box to her.
“Coo, Benjamin. That’s quite neighborly of you. Won’t you bring it in? You can put it on the kitchen table. It’s a new teapot I ordered. My other one slipped off the counter and shattered into a million pieces.”
Ben set the box down and slipped his hat off. “I’m sorry to hear about that. You weren’t hurt were you?”
Clementine rested her hand on his arm and batted her eyes. “Oh no, deary. Just the pot, I’m afraid. Listen, while you’re here, could I impose upon you to hang a small picture for me?”
“Of course. Where is it?”
Ben followed his friend back to the parlor. “Here it is. An’ I’d like it on that wall by the kitchen.”
Taking the framed picture and a hammer and nail from Clementine, he held the picture to the wall where she pointed. Draping the wire over the nail he hammered it twice then stood back to admire his handiwork.
“Well, Benjamin, I truly do appreciate you helpin’ me.”
“That’s a lovely drawing, and a very good likeness of you.”
“Why thank you. I find it interesting that the artist drew it of me serving tea. That is one of the things I love best. Havin’ guests over and enjoyin’ a cup o’ tea with ‘em.”
“That is a good fit for you. Who drew it?”
“Dear me, I haven’t a clue. I heard a knock at my door a few days ago, an’ when I answered it no one was there, but this drawing was in an envelope on my stoop. I had an empty frame that fit it perfectly so I used that.”
“Well, it is lovely. I best be going. Have a good day, Clementine.”
“The same t’ you, Benjamin.”
After closing the door, Clementine turned to see her newly hung picture. Tilting her head slightly, she smiled. “Aye, ‘tis a nice picture, an’ that’s a fine place for it.”
Paul Martin finished wrapping the finger of ten year old Jimmy Carter. “Now, Jimmy, don’t get that wet for a week. Have your mother bring you back then and I’ll take out the stitches. That cut should be healed by then. An’ no more whittling ‘til your Pa says it’s okay.”
“Yessir. Thanks, Doctor Martin.”
Paul smiled after the young man as he met up with his mother in the waiting room. It was always nice to be able to do some simpler doctoring, especially if it was with kids. And little Jimmy was always a good patient, despite being a bit clumsy. Paul chuckled at that since he was pretty much the same way at that age, and now look at him. “It’s a good thing I grew out of that clumsy stage or I’d have never made it as a doctor.”
Hearing the front bell ring he headed that way. His bright thoughts dimmed a little when he saw the familiar green jacket.
“Afternoon, Joe. How can I help you? Everyone fine at your house?” He hoped his services weren’t going to be required.
“Hey, Doc.” Joe pondered the good doctor’s question, then caught the doctor’s meaning. He broke out into a grin. “Oh yeah, we’re all fine. No emergency today.”
Paul reflected Joe’s grin. “Well, that’s good. Why don’t you join me for some coffee and tell me why you’re here.”
“Thanks, Doc. Sounds good.”
Sitting at the small table in the kitchen Joe sipped the hot brew before speaking. “Pa sent me. We all realized we hadn’t seen you in quite a while.” He winked at Paul. “I guess that’s a good thing in a way, but well, we haven’t just visited either. So Pa wanted me to find out if you’d like to come to supper one evening. Any day you choose.”
“I’d like that very much, Joe. Let me think, I’ve got a couple of meetings coming up, but Thursday is open.”
“Thursday it is, then. And if that doesn’t work, then any other day is fine with us.”
The men stood and shook hands. “Thanks, Joe.”
As Joe reached for his hat that rested on the table he saw a drawing behind Paul. “Say, that’s a nice drawing of you. Did you do that?”
Paul turned to look at the picture. “Oh no. I’m afraid I have no talent in the realm of art. But it is pretty good isn’t it?”
Joe stepped around the table to get a better look. It showed Paul with a tender, yet wise expression as he wrapped a dressing around a patient’s arm. Joe let out a low whistle then turned back to Paul. “That is really something. Who gave it to you?”
“I don’t know. It was waiting in my post box when I came back from a farm outside of town. I wish I could tell the person how much I really appreciate their work.”
Joe glanced at it once more then left, with Paul promising to see the family on Thursday. Returning to the kitchen, he took a moment to look at the drawing. “To whomever did this, thank you.”
At dinner that evening on the Ponderosa, the four men shared about their activities that day. While they had gone in different directions that morning, by the end of the day they all ended up with one thing in common. Each had seen a unique and mysterious pencil drawing of a prominent citizen and good friend. All were curious to know who the artist was, yet one had an idea who it might be. He decided to confirm his suspicions the next day.
As the midday sun warmed the busy town, Adam entered a small art shop on the edge of town. He waited patiently in a shadowed corner for the owner to finish with a customer. When the door closed he stepped into the sunlight.
“Hello, Marty. I see business is going well.”
Spinning around at the sound of that familiar voice, she grinned and ran to hug him.
“Adam, what a wonderful surprise. It has been too long. Do you know that just last night I told David that it’s been over a month since we last saw you?”
“Has it been that long? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.”
“Oh, don’t feel bad. I know the ranch keeps you busy. I’ve been busy too. I’ve had several families come in asking for portraits, so I don’t have much free time either.”
Adam always found Marty’s bright spirit and enthusiasm contagious. “I came to say hello, but also I’m here for another reason. I have something to ask you.”
Curious about her friend’s mysterious tone, she put out the ‘closed’ sign and led him to her work room in the back.
“I think I know what you may want to discuss.” When she stepped aside in the back room and let him look around, Adam nodded in understanding. Covering one wall were pencil sketches of several well-known people in town.
“I take it you’ve already seen some of the drawings around town?”
“Well, only Roy’s. But members of my family have seen ones of Paul Martin, Sam the bartender, and Clementine Hawkins. That’s what got me to thinking about it.”
Marty tilted her head to the side and batted her brown eyes at him. “I should have known you would recognize my work.” She sat at her drawing table and Adam pulled a stool up to join her. “Many people in Virginia City have in some way helped me get my business going or welcomed my family. Grandpa told me how Doctor Martin was so gentle with him when he hurt his foot, and that the doctor stopped by everyday to make sure he was doing okay. Sheriff Coffee welcomed each of us – me, Grandpa, and later, David – and always has a warm greeting when we pass. Sam was the one who told Grandpa about the job at the livery, and Miz Hawkins invited me to tea one day after David and I announced our betrothal. The dear lady offered to help plan the wedding and introduced me to a seamstress who could make my dress. So you see why I wanted to thank them. It’s just that I didn’t know how. However, one evening at dinner, David suggested I draw pictures for them.” Her eyes sparkled as she caught Adam smiling at her.
When both stood she reached for Adam’s hand. “Do you recall your parting words to me when I left for San Francisco?”
Adam’s dark brows furrowed as he thought back to that day three years earlier. “Make it mean something.”
She grinned again. “That’s what I’ve tried to do everyday since, but now I really know what those words mean.”
Adam’s eyes lit up with his dimpled grin. “I believe you do, and I’m proud of you.” He drew her into a hug.
When he released her, she gazed at her friend with a look of innocence and hope that she had never lost in all the time he’d known her. “Will you keep my secret Adam?”
He put his arm around her as he took in each drawing waiting to be given. “You bet, Marty.”
She leaned into the embrace as she began to tell him the stories behind each picture.
When Adam finally bid Marty farewell with a promise to have dinner with her, David, and Jesse that weekend, he finished the rest of his errands. Returning to his horse, he noticed one of his saddle bags was unfastened. Puzzled, he glanced inside to find a piece of parchment rolled up and tied with a red ribbon. Intrigued, he unrolled it to find a drawing of him and Marty sitting in a barn and chatting. The rendering was so realistic that for a moment Adam found himself back at her grandfather’s way station, in that very barn. Then, she was young, filled with wonder about a world she could only dream of, and using her drawings to create memories. Now, she had fulfilled many of those dreams, and was sharing her artistry with others. The left side of his mouth rose to reveal a dimple. “You heard every word I said to you that day. And you did make it all mean something.”
Adam casually glanced down the street toward Marty’s art studio. Seeing the curtain pulled back he touched his Stetson with two fingers. When the curtain dropped back into place Adam returned the drawing to the saddle bag and mounted up. Nudging his horse toward home, he smiled. “Yes, Marty, your artwork shows a real gift, the art of life.”
A/N – Characters and references from the episode, The Way Station. Two special stories to honor Dawn Wells who brought Marty Johnson to life.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Chance for Love by AC1830
- Christmas Spirit (by AC1830)
- Passions and Dreams (by AC1830)
- A Heart of Hope (by AC1830)
- Christmas Child (by AC1830)