Summary: Juliette will be off her game in this story due to her condition, and yet things will work out far better than she wants them to work out. You’ll have to read it to understand that. It’s a much more light-hearted story than the previous two, and only the weather is the villain, and well, lady luck plays a role too.
Rating: T Word count: 8676
A Monetary Affair
All that shimmering might have been pretty under other circumstances, but the summer drought and severe hear had made that impossible. The way the road shimmered ahead of them and looked like a new vast lake of clear water was a horrible tease. The red sky at sunset might have inspired poetic verse except they all knew it was because of fires breaking out all over the forests of the Sierras. Storms with lightning but no rain were igniting fires every week. Inexplicably, far to the east, some of the Carson Valley had gotten a succession of rain events keeping their crops and fields growing and verdant. They were the envy of ranchers to the west who watched their cattle die even as cows gave birth to calves but couldn’t produce enough to suckle them. Only carnivores and scavengers were having a good season.
The second scourge of that horrible summer was the unrelenting heat wave. No one could remember temperatures so hot so often and for such long stretches. For the Carson Valley where rainfall was adequate, the heat made crops grow fast and tall. For everyone else, the crops withered and died leaving brown stalks of plants that had sprouted but never grew much. Food began to be hoarded which meant those who needed it most, the poor, got the least of it.
To make the situation worse, rumors and misinformation spread faster than Doctor Martin’s advice could reach people. Finally he was invited to address congregations on Sunday mornings to try to stem the tide of deaths he thought could have been avoided and should have been avoided. First he addressed one persistent rumor that had the potential to lead to many more deaths.
“I’m sure many of you have heard that Purvis McMaster died when he was working and went to rest in the shade, drank a large amount of water, and then fell dead. Unfortunately, many have drawn the conclusion that drinking the water is what killed him. That is wrong. Purvis was already in deep trouble when he sought out that shade. Had he gotten in the shade sooner and had water sooner, he might have lived. Those of you who have to work in the heat need to take breaks to cool down, and you need to drink a lot of water. If you have ice available, an iced drink will help. Straw hats, wet cloths to wipe your face and neck, or any other means you have to keep cooler are things you should do. It could save your life.”
Then Paul addressed a second issue that had begun to be a problem only in the previous week. Scurvy now threatened to take as many lives as dehydration and heat stroke. Fresh fruits and vegetables were not available in the stores. The vegetables grown in gardens were already consumed and with the weather, few more could be expected for harvesting. Paul told the people that vinegar and hard cider were good substitutes in fighting scurvy so pickles or any pickled food should help.
Some listened, but many were not convinced. As the Cartwrights left the church service that morning, Juliette Cartwright was terribly uncomfortable. In a wrap dress which was standard for women as far along in pregnancy as she was, she could find no way to be cooler. Hearing the comments of people as they left, only angered her.
“People can be so stupid. I heard someone say everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Well, no they’re not when they’re disputing facts. They would rather believe that water killed Purvis and not heat and dehydration. Now that is stupid.”
Taking his wife by the elbow and steering her to their carriage, Adam smiled at his family. Ben and the others were sympathetic knowing how uncomfortable she was and how snappish it had made her. After helping her into the carriage, Adam shrugged and climbed in beside her for the ride to their house. Michael had asked to spend time with his grandfather and uncles which his father had granted. The boy didn’t fully understand his mother’s moodiness, but he did know enough that it would be best to give her some quiet time. As Adam drove the carriage home, Juliette had a question for him.
“We have plenty of fruits and vegetables. Why don’t the people here buy them from the Carson Valley like we do?”
“We can buy them because we have a lot of money. The prices are very high so most people here cannot afford them.”
“Adam, I’ve been thinking about something else, and the ride today confirmed the conclusion I’ve drawn.”
“That sounds serious.”
“It is. I can’t keep riding to town with you several times a week. For the next couple of months and probably longer when the baby arrives, I want to stay home most of the time. It would be more comfortable.”
“That’s reasonable. I don’t see that as something that even required a discussion. It’s your choice.”
“Well, there is this other thing. I won’t be able to communicate with my bankers and my broker. I want to transfer all my accounts to the same broker and banks that the Ponderosa uses, and I want you to handle everything until I can do some of it again.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“You heard how I was after church services. When I get so miserable, I don’t have my usual judgment. I want you to take care of things until I can be more in control of my emotions and my thoughts.”
“You will have to take one more ride in to set all of this up.”
Turning to him with that look that said she had other plans, he guessed it before she said it. She wanted him to get the paperwork, bring it to her for signatures, and then file it with the appropriate officials at the bank. He agreed and over the next few days, that was done. It was at the end of the week, that she had an entirely different look when he explained how it had all turned out.
“What do you mean that I have five hundred thousand in my accounts? I should have over twice that.”
“Yes, I know. You backed the Ponderosa and us, but since you left the city, it seems your broker with your bank’s tolerance, has been using your accounts in some risky investments.”
“I never gave them the right to do that. It’s embezzlement. I hope you’re going to have them arrested.”
“You’re not going to like what I’m going to say next.”
“I suppose it’s that you aren’t going to have them arrested?”
“There wouldn’t be much point to having them arrested. It would be your word against theirs.”
When Adam was silent then, she fumed. She knew what he meant. No jury was going to accept her word over that of a man. She could say she had never authorized them to do what they had done with her money, and they would say she had.
“So we do nothing?”
“We can hope that some of what they did will at least bring a return on the investment, but I wouldn’t count on it considering the projects in which the money was invested. I wish I had known more about your broker. With all your connections in California and that your husband had worked with him, I had wrongly assumed he was an honest man.”
After a pause, Juliette was suspicious. “What are you saying without saying it? Are you saying that this man is part of the corruption in California? If he is, are you insinuating that Tobias knew that?”
When Adam said nothing more, Juliette felt sick to her stomach and not only because of her pregnancy. There had been a few times she had worried about this, but Tobias had always assured her that he was following a different path than his father. By the way Adam looked and his unwillingness to say anything more, she knew even before he handed her a stack of documents and reports. She read for nearly a half hour before looking up at him with tears in her eyes.
“How dirty was the money Tobias accumulated for us?”
“Some of it was legitimate.”
“Maybe half was. It’s hard to know. He did have a number of good, legal investments and accounts. That’s what you have left.”
Closing her eyes in emotional pain and turmoil, Juliette thought about that and knew that the money invested legitimately had probably been gleaned from illegal activities. Everything she had was dirty money in one way or another.
“What do we do now? I can honestly say I don’t want this money. You and I can live comfortably on what you earn. We’re lucky to be tied to the Ponderosa and have those resources close at hand too. I want to get rid of this ill-gotten wealth.”
“If we give it back to the state of California which was the source of much of it or the rest to the state of Pennsylvania from where the initial investment money came, corrupt politicians are likely to plunder the new-found source of revenue.”
“But what else could I do with it?”
“The orphanage has been asking for a new larger stove for their kitchen, and the fire company in town is trying to raise money for a new pumper and wheel cart for the hoses.”
“Those are good ideas, but at that rate, I’ll still be doling out money when I die.”
“For a much larger project, the Ponderosa could use grain and hay. They have it in Carson City from the Carson Valley farms, but prices are so high, we can’t afford to haul that here.”
“But you don’t have enough wagons to haul all of that anyway.”
“If you’re willing to spend the money, we could buy wagons, and we could bring lumber from our mills to set them up for hay. I can ask Hoss and Joe if they will start doling out what little grain we have to the horses that have to pull those wagons. It’s going to be exorbitantly expensive to do all of this.”
“Good. I have the money to spend and the faster, the better. Now, while you were talking, I had another idea. When you’re in Carson City, buy up some additional fruits and vegetables. We can give them to Doctor Martin because he knows best who needs those asks as those who have lots of money. He can even go to the people he knows are sick and prescribe eating vegetables and fruit. I doubt that those who are already sick are going to argue with him about what he tells them to do. In fact, why don’t you put in a standing order that we can pick up every other day in the amount like we have for the first time. Oh, and get eggs too. The hens here aren’t producing very well, and Israel would like more eggs, and we can give some to Hop Sing too if he needs them.”
“We haven’t talked about the effect of all of this on Michael.”
“No, we haven’t because he’s too young to be included in this process. When he’s older, he’ll have to believe we did what was in his best interest. And the best part for him will be his trips to Carson City with you.”
Knowing better than to argue the point about the trips, Adam simply sighed. He would have to take time away from his work and take Michael with him too to handle driving a freight wagon which he had not done in years. He couldn’t upset her though by interjecting his concerns. His thought the main issue to be addressed for Michael was that she wanted to spend all the money from Tobias without setting anything aside for Michael. When he was older, he might decide to do the same with the money because of how it had probably been acquired, but perhaps Juliette should consider letting him make that decision someday. However he did doubt she could manage to liquidate the entire fortune before the baby was born. When that event happened, all he could hope beyond a healthy baby and wife was that she would regain her equilibrium emotionally although he did know that sometimes new mothers had some difficulties too. Rebecca had started to prepare things like hot chocolate in the evenings and cool teas during the day for Juliette so Adam knew he wasn’t the only one who noticed how moody she was. At least he had an out now to be gone for extended stretches of time when she was not likely to complain about it.
“Do you want to come with me when I go tell my family about your plan?”
That brought the first big grin he had seen from his wife in quite some time. When he snarled in response, she actually laughed.
“You don’t have to enjoy it so much.”
“It’s the look you have when you have to go tell your father something you know he won’t like. It’s funny. You face down dangerous men and you deal with powerful men all the time, yet your own father is the one you least want to face.”
“It’s because it seems to always be the same thing. We’ll argue, I’ll demand, and he’ll finally give in. I only wish we could streamline the process and I suggest and he agrees.”
“Take Michael with you.”
“Ah, yes, the secret weapon could help. He’ll be more careful what he says around his grandson.”
“You’re good at being sneaky.”
“It’s another reason we’re so well matched.”
Of course, Michael was happy to go with his father. Before he left, Adam handed a leather journal to Juliette.
“It’s to keep track of all the ideas you have for spending away your fortune. Put each idea on a separate page and we’ll start estimating how much each will cost to see how you’re doing.”
“Now that’s an excellent idea too. It will give me something to do, and if I have any more ideas, I can write them down too.”
When Adam returned from his conversation with his father and brothers, he found Juliette sleeping in the chair where he had left her. The journal was unopened in her lap. Apparently the activities that had already occurred had given her enough peace to relax and sleep. She did stir when he came in though and soon opened her eyes to see his slight smile.
“It must have gone better than you expected.”
“Only because of you. Pa had the usual reaction, but finally he told me he couldn’t stop you if you wanted to throw your money away.”
She had to match his grin then because of course, he couldn’t stop her and throwing her money away is exactly what she wanted to do.
“Hoss is on the trail of some wagons and Joe will see about getting some teams. Both of them think if we can get mules, we’ll be better off using them. With the downturn in business due to the drought, there are probably a few muleskinners we can hire too. Wages for muleskinners are likely to be twice what we pay a hand here on the ranch running as much as seventy to eighty dollars a month.”
“Why do we need muleskinners? I thought you and your brothers or the hands could drive the wagons.”
“With the roads going into and out of Virginia City, we don’t want inexperienced drivers. You’re not talking about one trip. We need drivers who know what they’re doing.”
“All right, that makes sense. I didn’t start on the cost estimates but we can do that now. How much for wagons and mules?”
“If we can find some California freight wagons, they will run us about four hundred each in this market or less if the owners need money. Teams of six mules will be about five hundred to six hundred. Harness per pair and to hitch to the wagon will be twenty-eight dollars.”
“How many wagons are we looking to buy?”
“That will ultimately be up to you. Hoss is looking for three to start. Two for hay, and one for grain, fruits, and vegetables. If we use regular wagons for the hay and reinforce them, the costs will be lower.”
“I don’t want the costs to be lower. I want to do this well and spend some of this money doing good things. How much to fill those wagons?”
“We’re going to have to spend premium prices for grain and hay because of the short supply. I would say we will pay at least two dollars for every one hundred pounds of corn although oats would be cheaper. I know you don’t want to go cheaper, but we could use some oats too. Hay would be about the same cost per wagon load most likely. I would say we could fill each wagon for about sixty-four dollars.”
After writing furiously in her journal, Juliette looked up in dismay.
“Adam, that all adds up to less than four thousand dollars.”
He raised his hands palms up to say he could do nothing more. She knew she could do more and had another idea.
“Well, make one of the wagons all fruits and vegetables and bring that into town for the people to have what they need. We can sell to the stores in town at bargain prices if they promise to sell at low prices too. Then we’ll buy as much corn and other grains as we can. I’ve heard Hoss talk about corn-fed beef and that the restaurants would pay a premium price to get those. How about giving him the chance to find out?”
“Lady, it’s your money to throw away.”
With that, they both laughed only imagining the look on Ben Cartwright’s face when he found they were buying corn at premium prices only to feed it to cows. Neither had to say it. They knew what the other was thinking because they knew Ben Cartwright that well. It was only a matter of time before he let his opinions be heard.
Two months later, Ben Cartwright sat in Adam’s home waiting with his son as Juliette gave birth to their child. Michael was outside with Lincoln and Amy being entertained by Israel to keep him from hearing his mother’s moans and occasional screams from the pain of labor. Rebecca was assisting with the birth and Doctor Martin had just arrived to oversee the final stages. Ben couldn’t help talking about the freight hauling now that the drought had ended with several rainfalls and declining temperatures.
“You must have spent thousands of dollars on your freight hauling and what have you got to show for it that you wouldn’t have had by waiting for it to rain?”
“Yes, we spent over ten thousand dollars. Juliette wanted to do that. It’s her money to spend. If she wanted to use it to offset the worst effects of the drought, it was hers to spend.”
“I don’t know why you can’t have more influence over her. You are her husband.”
“I agreed with her plan.”
“You did. Why?”
“Paul worried about scurvy becoming a serious problem. It wasn’t. We put enough fruits and vegetables into the market and enough into the church poor relief that everyone got some of what they needed to get through the crisis. We got enough hay to stop cattle from dying and keep calves alive. Hoss got to try out his experiment on corn-fed beef. A lot of people got jobs who might have had a hard time working otherwise. The Carson Valley farmers got paid well for their work and are happy about that. What’s the downside?”
“You lost over ten thousand dollars.”
“I don’t think of it as losing. We still have all the mule teams and the wagons.”
“What are you going to do with those?”
“I don’t know. We hadn’t thought about that. Sell them, I suppose.”
“What about all those farmers who have come to depend on selling to you and on the merchants here who buy from you now instead of shipping items in from California because your items are cheaper?”
“I hadn’t thought of that. I guess we may have a short-haul freight company now. At least we’re not competing with anyone. None of the long-haul companies do what we’re doing. If they did, we would have paid them to do what we wanted.”
“What is it that you wanted to do, Adam? It was like you wanted to throw money away.”
“I don’t know how much of this to tell you, because it is Juliette’s story to tell, and she hasn’t shared it with anyone but me and our banker and broker. She lost almost half her money by trusting the broker her husband used. As it turned out, he is not an honest man and neither was her husband, Tobias. It puts all of her fortune under suspicion of being tainted by corruption. She wants to be rid of it but do some good with it in the process. We’ve helped a fire company in town and the orphanage, but so far we have spent very little of her fortune. In fact, she has made money on those investments in the meantime so it’s actually larger than when we started throwing money away.”
Before Ben could react, Michael came in the house to announce that his uncles had arrived. Adam thanked him for the news and went to send him back outside again. When Hoss and Joe came in, they were all grins slapping Adam on the back and shoulder to congratulate him even though the baby had not yet arrived although from the sounds they were hearing, it was close. Then they gave Adam and Ben completely unexpected news.
“Pa, here’s the bill of sale for the cattle. It was a little drive, but we done made more money than I think we ever made on a cattle drive.”
Because of the drought, the cattle drive had been the smallest and Hoss and Joe had handled it without either Ben or Adam needing to help.
“With the drought, there was a shortage of cattle coming to market. When those buyers saw our herd coming in and how good they looked, they were bidding over each other to get our cattle. Me and Hoss stood there waiting for the dust to settle and the price nearly knocked us over.”
Still silent, Ben handed the bill of sale to Adam whose eyes got wider as he looked at it. The profits on the cattle drive were huge. It would help the Ponderosa get through the next year in great shape and make it a profitable year when they had been thinking it might be a break-even year. About that time, they heard a baby wail, and then a call from Juliette for Adam. Actually it contained two expletives and demanded his presence. He didn’t mind. It meant she was alive and well, and the baby’s wail said the baby was doing well too. When he got to the room, Doctor Martin said he had wanted Adam to wait a bit longer but his wife insisted it was time for him to arrive.
“It’s all right, Paul. I’ve seen worse.”
Waiting as the afterbirth, the soiled linens, and the sweat soaked gown were removed, and clean linens and a clean gown brought in, Adam was quiet and smiled gently each time Juliette looked at him. Once Rebecca had cleaned up the baby and wrapped him in his receiving blanket, she placed him in Juliette’s arms where he finally stopped fussing.
“They often do that when they hear the heartbeat they’re used to hearing. Hold him close, and he should be fine.”
As the two left the room, Adam moved to the side of the bed and sat beside his wife and gently touched the side of his baby’s face.
“Yes, and he’s a stubborn one. First he want to come early, but then he didn’t want to come out for the longest time. He picked his moment though and then there was no stopping him. He’s a true Cartwright. It has to be his way.”
“He’s beautiful. He’s the greatest treasure.”
“Are we still agreed on the name?”
“Yes, I like it. Gabriel it is.”
“You can call your father up to see him now.”
“My brothers are back from the cattle drive too.”
Although she saw a funny look he had for a moment, she ignored that for the moment.
“Invite them all to come up then and bring Michael. It will be easier for him too with Hoss and Joe there.”
There was all the appropriate oohs and ahs about the baby and congratulations all around. Michael took the lead of his uncles and smiled at the baby. Then it was time to move on.
“Adam, where are the cigars and brandy you must have gotten to celebrate. Me and Joe been on that cattle drive for weeks, and a nice cigar and some good brandy would go a long way to settling our aches and pains of all that work we done to make all that money.”
Wincing, Adam looked to Juliette who had heard and was staring at him.
“I’ll explain later. For now, let me get them settled with the cigars and the brandy and let Israel know we have guests for dinner. You can talk to Michael about the baby and the name we picked and why.”
Michael was curious about that last part and moved to take his father’s place by his mother’s side to hear that story. Downstairs, Adam’s brothers and father were curious too.
“In some families, there is a pattern to names. Sometimes they all start with the same letter, or for girls it might be Hope, Faith, and Charity, or something like that. We decided that Michael is an angel, so we picked the name of another angel. We both have mothers in heaven and liked the idea of a connection that way.”
Joe grinned and couldn’t help himself. “But what if it had been a girl?”
“You should have expected that, Joe. Our brother always has a plan.”
About two hours later, all were seated at the dining table. Juliette was seated in a padded chair with arms that Adam had pulled from the seating area so she would be more comfortable. With a sleeping Gabriel in her arms, she sipped tea and nibbled a few biscuits while the others had their meal. Even though they had to keep their voices down, Hoss and Joe couldn’t help talking about the drive and how well it had gone especially the great price they got at the end. Juliette got a lot of credit because it was her freight hauling business that had allowed them to have cattle that looked so good even during a drought. Ben knew more of the whole story and noted the looks Juliette kept giving to Adam, and he guessed his son was going to have a difficult conversation once all of them were gone. He hoped it wouldn’t put too much of a damper on the day of celebration. No one stayed long after dinner knowing Juliette would be tired and the family needed quiet time. Michael went to stay with Lincoln for the evening so it was only Adam and Juliette with the baby.
“You remember saying that the wealth you have is like a curse. Well, I guess it must be a good kind of curse. We got the best return on a cattle drive that we ever got. The profits are huge.”
“But most of the money is for the Ponderosa so it won’t be coming to me.”
“Not directly but I will get part of it as part of the Ponderosa. We always get a share of profits.”
“Oh, no, but at least we lost money on the freight hauling end of it.”
By the way Adam didn’t want to look at her at that point, she knew there was more.
“You may as well tell me the rest.”
“I think we have a profitable freight-hauling company too. We can’t stop.”
“Too many people depend on us now and there’s no one else to take over what we’ve set up. Frank Shaw does the long-haul freight in western Nevada and California. Remi Nadeau goes as far north as Montana and as far south as New Mexico with his freight line. Banning and Alexander specialize in hauling freight to the mining camps. There is no company that regularly handles freight hauling between Virginia City and Carson City. There is some serious talk about building a railroad, but even when they do, it won’t stop along the way like freight haulers can or go directly to a ranch or farm like they will.”
“So you’re saying we’re definitely in the freight hauling business, and it will likely make a lot of money too?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“The cattle drive made money too so now your father sees the advantage in what we did because he made more money than what we spent on hay and grain?”
“Yes, that’s true too.”
“Adam, I do feel cursed with this money more than ever. We have to find some big project to spend the money on. Maybe even a risky investment but one that could work possibly. You know what I mean. We need to find something like the project you told me about that you did with Diedesheimer in shoring up the mines. Now that was expensive and not particularly profitable except in avoiding cave-ins, right, but it saved lives. A project like that could use a lot of money and do good for people.”
“Yes, there are always projects like that being proposed.”
“What about that Sutro tunnel project I’ve heard people discussing?”
“No, not that one. Its chance of success is so limited and the good it will do almost negligible, I don’t see the point of it. It has a lot of people pushing it, but not me.”
“It’s an engineering problem with no good solution. They want to use it to drain the lower mines, but the only way to get the tunnel here is to get it to the level of the upper mines which is sixteen hundred and forty feet. They will still have to pump the water up from the lower mines into the tunnel and then let gravity push it down the slope to Dayton. The cost for a way to drain the water from pumping is prohibitive. They could do the same as they do now for the same cost. There is no benefit that I can see.”
“How about that railroad then?”
“Now you’re talking about a high-risk project that would do some good if they can get it done which is still in doubt.”
“Why is it high-risk? There are so many railroads being built now. Surely one little short line shouldn’t be such a difficult thing to do.”
“It wouldn’t be so difficult if we didn’t have a city on a mountain. The railroad has to go down over sixteen hundred feet in just over thirteen miles. That’s a steep grade all the way. There are valleys to cross too. They have hired an experienced man, Ike James, to lead the project who says it can be done at just over a two percent grade per mile and using circles which would mean track of over twenty miles to go that thirteen or so to the mills in the Carson Valley.”
“So it will be an ore train?”
“That would be the primary purpose, but a few days a week, they could attach a passenger car or freight cars. The key would be whether it can be built at all. The Bank Crowd isn’t as confident as you might think. They’re soliciting investors.”
“I want to do it. I’m sure they would take the money I have, and then we would be done with it.”
“Maybe, but we still would have profits coming in from the freight hauling business.”
“I’ve got another idea about that. Let’s make a deal with the drivers and let them buy the company as part of their wages. It won’t take that long then to be rid of it.”
“I like that plan. We can make them work for it, and use the profits to pay their wages and expenses while we put the rest into an account for the company that will go to them when they take over. That way none of the money will come back to us.”
“Excellent. I love how you get into this and work out the details. You plan better than anyone I have ever known. Now all you have to do is tell them in a way that they understand.”
That didn’t go as well as they expected. The muleskinners were a tough bunch, and never had they ever met someone as generous as Adam and Juliette seemed to be. It was disconcerting.
“Now, you’re giving the company to us? Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing is wrong with it. That’s the problem. It’s working out very well for everyone.” Adam saw their looks and knew how skeptical they were after hearing him say that. “Listen, we never meant to get into this business. We only did it to survive the drought, but now a lot of people are depending on it. I have two jobs already. My wife helps me with one, and now she has to care for our baby. We don’t have the time to keep running this business, but lots of people including the six of you now need this freight hauling from the Carson Valley farmers to the livery stables here to the stores that sell what you haul and so on. We don’t want to just quit and leave you all in a lurch.”
“All right, then, you can explain again how this share thing works. We’re listening.”
“We’re going to create three hundred and twelve shares or parts of the company. Each week, you will earn one share as part of your wages. So at the end of this week, the six of you will have six shares and my wife and I will have three hundred and six. Each week you get another share for the next year until all the shares have been distributed.”
“What if I get a bunch of them shares, but then I want to leave?”
“You can sell your shares to any of the other drivers for whatever price you can agree is fair. It will be an employee-owned company so only drivers can own shares once we divest ourselves of our shares.”
“Pay out our shares to you.”
“All right, I guess we’ll try it, but you better not be fooling with us. We’re not the forgiving type if you know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean, and the shares will be paid out just as I’ve told you. Now you do understand the wages will be less, but you can draw on company profits for expenses once you’re an owner. That will happen by the end of this next week.”
“What does that mean exactly?”
“On Monday, you can start charging your meals and rooms to the company account. Your, ah, entertainment expenses will still have to come out of your own pocket though.”
“All right, that seems fair. How about we go to the saloon and have a drink on it? You know, seal the deal. Tomorrow’s Sunday so ain’t none of us working.”
The one drink turned into several, and Adam arrived home late and a bit tipsy. His wife was not amused having worried for hours about what had happened to him. Rebecca was sitting up with her and wisely left when Adam came through the door. He asked her if Lincoln could please take care of his horse and then he laid down on the large leather couch.
“I know you’re upset with me. It wasn’t easy convincing those men I was being sincere. They insisted I drink with them. They do drink a lot. I tried to limit how much I had, but I believe they may have been filling my glass when I wasn’t looking.”
“Fine. I’ll see you in the morning.”
As she headed up the stairs, Adam guessed it might be best if he stayed where he was. The room wouldn’t stay stationary anyway. He closed his eyes and hoped he would feel better in the morning.
When the sun was barely up, Rebecca woke Adam to tell him that Israel had a hot bath ready for him. All Adam wanted to do was roll over and sleep more, but with a groan, he stood instead although his head and stomach protested. In the large combined washroom and laundry room, he stripped off his clothing and stepped into the tub. Some vigorous rubbing with a bar of soap and a few dunks of his head in the water, and he did begin to feel better. Israel brought him coffee but told him not to relax too much. Adam knew what he meant. Falling asleep in the bath could be disastrous mainly in his relationship with his wife. After drinking the coffee down, he forced himself to stand, dry off, and move to the mirror to shave. Once that was done, he could don the clothing Israel had brought to the room.
“Why, Adam, I think your wife might find you tolerable about now.”
“I hope so.”
“How was her night with the baby?”
“We only heard the baby cry once, so she had a pretty good night once she got over worrying on you.”
“I did bring good news and my condition was a direct result of that.”
Spending a few minutes explaining to Israel what had happened with the muleskinners, Adam didn’t notice the two ladies enter the room. It was only when the baby began fussing that he turned.
“So you drank with them to make them trust you?”
“Yes, they didn’t want to believe I was telling them the truth. I finally got them to trust that I was, but if I refused their offer, they would have questioned that trust again.”
“I’m sorry. I should have let you explain last night.”
“It’s all right. I’m not sure how well I would have been able to explain things last night. I’ve been thinking about something else though. Should we make a similar offer to Israel and Rebecca?”
“I can’t hand over this property without my family’s agreement.”
“How about some other property?”
“We could do that.”
Israel and Rebecca looked confused so Adam and Juliette explained.
“We’ll buy a small property like this but not on the Ponderosa. Every year for the next ten years, each month, you will get a share of that property as part of your wages. At the end of ten years, you will own it outright.”
“What do we have to do on this property?”
“Nothing. We’ll rent it out. The rent will go back into improvements to the property. Israel, you and Lincoln can help me with those. First though, you’ll have to help me pick out a property to buy.”
“Adam, how much is this rent going to be?”
“Well, we got some relatives would like to settle some place, and if the rent wasn’t too much, they could rent it. Then we would have some family close, and someday, we could all run the place together.”
“Are they hard workers?
“Oh, that they are. They work as hard or harder than me and Rebecca.”
“Then we can make their work be their rent. On the Ponderosa, we always have extra work that comes up and need extra hands for a short time. We can pay them anything above and beyond what the rent would be. It would be a good way for them to learn about ranching too.”
“Adam, they’re farmers.”
“Yes, that’s why they need to learn about ranching. It would be too difficult to make it out here as farmers only. They need to raise beef or horses or something to survive. My brother Hoss knows all there is to know about cattle. He could help them get started.”
“Maybe I ought to go in and fix the best darn breakfast you all ever had to seal the deal.”
That got a chuckle. That Saturday, Adam and Israel toured a few properties looking for one to purchase and quickly made a choice with an older childless couple who wanted to retire. The small ranch was in reasonable condition and they bought it with the stock on it. The couple agreed to stay until the new family arrived.
Once all of that was accomplished, Juliette and Adam felt good about what they had done, but she still had a concern about how much money they still had. She reminded him about the potential for investment in the railroad venture.
“I still want to do that investment with the railroad that we discussed. These other ideas are good but we are only getting rid of a very small part of the money. I would like to be done with it.”
“I don’t know that we discussed it. I explained what I knew, but then we talked about the freight company.”
“Well, I don’t know that there is much more to discuss. You said it was a risk, but you also said it might work. If it does work, then it will be beneficial. If it doesn’t, well lots of people will get paid and everyone will find out if it can be done or not.”
“I want you to be aware that it’s not like what we did with the muleskinners or with Israel and Rebecca because there’s a real possibility that no lasting good will come of it.”
“I already explained what I think about that.”
“All right, then. We can go into town and talk to those in charge and see how much money they want.”
As it turned out much like Adam suspected, they wanted it all. Within weeks, all the proper papers were signed and the rest of the wealth accumulated by Tobias had been invested in the building of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. All that remained was to see if Ike James’ calculations were correct and if his plans would work. When Adam asked when they thought they would construct the line, he was amazed at the answer. He told his wife and was skeptical that it could happen.
“They plan to break ground in February and finish by fall, and be in operation no later than February of next year. I don’t know how that’s possible. They have seven tunnels to carve through the mountains, and they need a huge trestle over the Crown Point ravine. They have all sorts of engines and cars to buy, crews to hire, and everything else.”
“You found out a lot while you were investing the money.”
“Oh, they hired me as a consulting engineer too on the tunnels and as a consulting architect on the trestle.”
“How are you going to find time for a third job? You have your construction company and you have work on the Ponderosa.”
“There isn’t much work to do on the Ponderosa in the winter months. As a consultant, I don’t have to stay out there in the construction camps either. I can be home with you and the children every night.”
Juliette was willing to accept that as reasonable. By the end of the year, the railroad was built according to plan and there was enough money to buy the rolling stock and construct the necessary buildings to allow operations to begin soon after. Adam was commissioned in the fall to build a couple of the necessary buildings which helped his construction company. The wood needed for the trestle, the tunnel supports, and the buildings meant the Ponderosa also had a windfall. They also didn’t need to have the expense of a cattle drive selling beef to the construction camps at exceptionally good prices. Without the expenses of a drive, the profits were enormous.
In January, the first trains began to run. Low-grade ore was shipped out and covered expenses which meant the mine owners could benefit from all the profit from the high-grade ore. Lumber and other materials were shipped in at about half the cost of what freight haulers had charged so expenses were lower too and not only for the railroad. Citizens were guaranteed jobs and cheaper goods and food. It was a winning proposition for all. Juliette was quite pleased and basked in the good feeling of the positive comments she and Adam received. That lasted for a few months until Adam came home to find her with tears in her eyes. Michael had met him outside the house and told him.
“Mama’s really sad. Israel brought the mail home when he got supplies. She was even crying for a while when she got the mail.”
Rushing inside, Adam could see his son had not been exaggerating. Rebecca had been sitting with Juliette but excused herself when Adam got there and took Gabriel with her.
“Adam, things just never work out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at this.”
She shoved a paper into his hands.
“It looks like a bank draft for a thousand dollars.”
“It is. Look who it’s from.”
“The Virginia and Truckee Railroad sent it. Look at the letter too.”
Reading quickly, Adam understood her tears.
“Sweetheart, didn’t you know this might be possible?”
“No, you were so pessimistic, I thought they would fail.”
“A thousand dollars isn’t so bad.”
“You didn’t read it all.” She waited until he read the rest of the letter. “Yes, it’s just the beginning. They think it could be five times that per month when the railroad begins operating at full capacity. Oh, Adam, I cannot get rid of this money.”
“There is something we can do about that.”
“We can transfer your ownership to someone or something else so they get the profits.”
Rushing into his arms and nearly knocking him over, she kissed him soundly.
“Oh, I love you so. Could we transfer the ownership to several somethings and they could get the money every month?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“I want to include St. Mary’s School and Orphanage.”
“How about some for the schools?”
“Yes, and the fire companies.”
“The church fund for relief for those hurt or sick and can’t work.”
“I would love to do all of these, but Adam, they have to be anonymous. Do you think Hiram could handle that for us?”
“I’m sure he could, but why anonymous?”
“Your father told me that the Ponderosa now gets favorable rates from the freight company, and I don’t want everyone who knows to start doing favors because we gave away money. Then we’re getting something for it only in a different way.”
“I’m sure Hiram can handle that. With my office in the same building yet, it’s easy to have a conversation with him and no one would know we’re conducting business.”
“Good, then you take care of it.”
Within a few weeks, Adam and Hiram had worked out all the details for the transfer of stock to the organizations who needed it most and would be the greatest benefit to the community and to individuals in dire straits. Hiram worked with the banks to help the organizations set up accounts to save for future disasters too. Adam remembered the epidemics in the area, and recently the city had experienced some significant earthquakes. Fire was an ever-present danger too. He and Hiram knew that those organizations might have need of large sums of money should any of those disasters occur. Proxies for all those shares in the Railroad were then turned over to William Sharon who had been the driving force behind the construction of the railroad and was working on expanding it to Reno.
With that done, Adam could concentrate on his construction business and his work with his family on the Ponderosa. More than once, he had to have the same conversation with his brothers who had trouble accepting how he and Juliette had given the money away. The final conversation seemed to work.
“Why didn’t you put it into the Ponderosa? We had plenty of things you could have done here with that money.”
“Lordy, Adam, you could have bought some prime breeding stock or some extra land on our boundaries to give us more protection for our water rights. There’s a lot you could have done.”
“Yes, we could have done all those things and increased the profits of the ranch. But that would have brought in more money from bad money. It’s what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to profit from corruption.”
“Well, you could have made the profits and used those to pay back all that money that you think is bad.”
Frustrated, Adam didn’t want to give up.
“What if Michael came to you and said he took one hundred dollars from me. He wanted you to play poker and then he would pay back the money he had stolen, but the two of you could split the profits. Would that be all right with you?”
“Hell, no. I’d drag him right back to you if he ever did that.”
“So it wouldn’t be all right to use that stolen money to make money even if you paid it back?”
“All right, I think I got it.”
“Yeah, Adam, but there’s a big flaw in your thinking.”
“Saying there’s be profits if Joe played poker with your hundred dollars.”
While Joe sneered, his brothers laughed. There was no more questioning of what Adam and Juliette had done though. Adam struggled to make his business profitable, but when he talked about it, Juliette would have almost a smile. His brothers did ask him about that.
“She likes it because it means everything is normal. We’re not wealthy the way she once was. We have to work for what we get like almost everyone else does.”
It seemed the whole issue was resolved until Adam and Juliette got a legal notice from California that they were seeking to get money from Tobias’ estate. Apparently it was because of an investigation into corruption that had uncovered illegal activities he had engaged in with state contracts.
“But Adam we don’t have any of that money. What are we going to do?”
After consultation with Hiram, the couple went to see William Sharon. A few days later, Sharon stopped by Adam’s office in town to let him know the matter had been settled. That night, Adam told Juliette the good news.
“Well, that was easy.”
“Not as easy as it sounds.”
“Sharon doesn’t do things for nothing. I have to send him plans for an addition to his house. He would like me to do it as a ‘favor from a friend’ as he did one for us. It might work out well though. I’m going to put everything I know into it, and if his friends ask who designed it, I could get some good business out of it. Oh, and the next party we have, make sure the he and his wife are invited. I think we have an important friend now. I wouldn’t want to snub him.”
“One way or another, all that money did change our lives, didn’t it?”
Other Stories by this Author
- A Devious Affair (by BettyHT)
- A Twisted Affair (by BettyHT)
- Rendezvous (by BettyHT)
- A New Angle (by BettyHT)
- What Would Adam Do? (by BettyHT)