Summary: Just what’s so funny about women’s underthings?
Word Count: 1800
It had been one of those afternoons, Ben Cartwright thought with a stifled sigh. Yet another of those widowed ladies from Virginia City had come calling on him with the hope of becoming the next Mrs. Benjamin Cartwright. Ben had been trying to have a surreptitious snooze behind his desk, while pretending to work on the accounts, and now his plans were ruined. How to get rid of the old dear?
There was a sudden rumpus out in the yard, and moments later the door opened to admit his eldest son, Adam, who looked furious. “That’s it!” he declared, totally ignoring the lady seated on the hideously uncomfortable sofa. “That bear has to go!”
While Ben blinked in astonishment at this show of petulance, Joe and the Giggly Sisters came through the door, carrying Paw, the blonde’s pet bear, who was looking distinctly sticky. Close on their heels was Hoss, the middle son.
“You were told not to give him that ice-cream,” the blonde stated, in icy tones. “He’s only a baby; what did you expect?”
“What’s going on?” Ben asked, dazedly.
“That bear dropped ice-cream on my saddle!” Adam sulked. Ben suddenly found he had to cough very hard to stop himself laughing.
“We’re just going to give Paw a bath,” the redhead informed him and she, Joe and the blonde disappeared to the wash house.
As Adam and Hoss went back outside to try and deal with the ice-cream spill on the saddle (a nice bit of saddle soap or linseed oil ought to do the trick, Ben thought), the lady, Mrs. Prentice, smiled sweetly at Ben and said, “Those are such charming girls, Ben. But why do you let them wear those unsuitable clothes? Why, they’ll catch their death of cold! Winter is fast approaching, you know.”
At that moment, the redhead walked through the great room and started to climb the stairs. Her top was soaked, and left very little to anyone’s imagination. Ben couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Well I never,” sniffed Mrs. Prentice.
About two seconds later, the blonde came through, dropped a towel-wrapped bear onto his almost-grandfather’s lap and followed her sister. Joe was next through, sans shirt, and looked as golden-hued and muscular as ever.
Paw, having thoroughly enjoyed soaking everyone during the course of his bath, gave Ben a snuffly kiss.
“Do you think the bear’s hygienic?” asked the lady. “And neither of those girls had on a corset! It’s disgraceful!”
Actually, this was one of the things Ben liked best about the sisters. He was a red-blooded man after all! He gave Mrs. Prentice a beady look. “And exactly how many ladies on this show does Wardrobe see fit to outfit in the proper underwear?”
Mrs. Prentice was stymied. Like most of the female guest stars, she had never even been offered such a garment and her only familiarity with corsets was limited to that scene in Gone With The Wind. In fact, the only people on the show who wore anything approximating to supportive underwear of the bodice to hip variety were the showgirls and most of them appeared to be appareled courtesy of Las Vegas. In fact, most of them dashed back in the evening to provide stalwart support at the sell-out shows of Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack.
Casting a guilty look at her ample bosom, Mrs. Prentice desperately tried to conceal the fact she was sporting a slightly ludicrous brassiere with pointy cups. “Well, they are trying to draw a delicate balance between 1860s fashion and modern expectations,” she floundered.
Ben snorted loudly and the ensuing gust blew the papers on his desk into disarray. “Poppycock!”
Mrs. Prentice looked shocked, but she was also secretly impressed with his manliness and had to take several deep breaths before she could continue. “And while the low-cut necklines might not be totally in tune with the sensibilities, it would be a shame not to make the most of the undoubted assets many of the young ladies bring to the show.”
“I think you’re missing one vital point,” Joe said, with deceptive quietness that was totally undone by the wicked glint in his eyes. “The girls don’t need to wear corsets.” He looked meaningfully at Mrs. Prentice, who flushed but stubbornly refused to leave.
Ben sighed, but could not help admiring her persistency. The woman certainly was not a quitter, he had to give her that. If only his dear wives, Elizabeth, My Love, Inger, My Love and Marie, My Love had only a little of her tenacity, then he might not be in this predicament. Sadly, all three had succumbed to early deaths: Elizabeth gave birth to Adam and had only a glimpse of her baby son before dying; Inger was shot by an arrow, while Marie fell off her horse and was squished before his very eyes. Not that the viewers got a chance to see the tragic scene… Indeed, the family had recovered so well from this tragedy that they had even been know to play jolly games of horseshoes on the very spot poor, pretty Marie/Felice had breathed her last. Luckily, Joe had been blind during The Stillness Within and so had not realized the unfortunate location Ben had chosen for the morale-boosting game.
“Have you noticed how few women are ever shown riding side-saddle?” queried the blonde. “There was a brief display of this in The Countess, but apart from that… And no lady would ever dare to ride astride, far less wear a divided skirt. Besides which, a properly tailored riding habit is so attractive.”
Adam came in, enjoying a beef sandwich, with pickles on the side. “It’s not safe to ride side-saddle,” he announced in long-suffering tones.
The redhead nonchalantly filed her nails. “The Queen rides side-saddle when Trooping the Color.” This effectively stopped all further conversation on that topic.
“I noticed the mercantile has got in winter underwear,” Hoss said jovially. “It’ll be getting’ real cold soon, Pa, so we’d better stock up.”
“Do long-johns come in other color other than pink?” asked the redhead. “It seems rather girly to me.”
Ben looked embarrassed. “They come in warm red flannel,” he replied stiffly. “And repeated washings make them fade to pink.”
“The mercantile has some very nice thermal vests in stock,” Mrs. Prentice whispered to the girls. “You can’t go around without a vest on in the winter. You’ll catch your death of cold.” She looked disapprovingly at the matching lilac tops the girls were wearing. Yes, they had long sleeves, but revealed rather a lot of bosom, it had to be said.
“The bingo tops,” Joe announced delightedly.
“’Bingo’?” Ben echoed, wondering what the tops had to do with bingo. He did enjoy a nice game of bingo in the Virginia City town hall on a Friday night.
“Eyes down!” Joe cried, laughing, having noticed that his family’s eyes were riveted to the display of marvelous cleavage. The girls smiled modestly.
Not to be deterred, Mrs. Prentice declared, “And it’s just a disgrace they way they go around wearing pants!”
“I would hope they do,” Joe responded, having learned that the Scots didn’t refer to trousers as pants. However, this sally went right over Mrs. Prentice’s head. “They look jolly good in pants,” he defended them.
“They should be wearing skirts down to the ground, with at least a dozen flannel petticoats,” the harridan insisted. “Hussies!”
Ben thought back to his three wives. Elizabeth had favored cotton garments, while Marie had swished and sashayed around in lace-edged silk. Inger, being from a sturdy, Scandinavian background, had been the only one to actually wear flannel petticoats, which had been recycled as diapers after her tragic death. Waste not, want not, he thought thriftily.
The blonde regarded Joe curiously. “In The Crucible, you were wearing bluish-grey long johns in the bath!”
“I got Adam’s left-over bath water!” Joe protested. “What else did you expect?” He looked utterly mortified. Adam merely looked relieved that, as first-born son, he was automatically entitled to first claim on the bath water.
“Of course, sometimes Joe don’t bother with no underwear at all!” Hoss interjected. At first, Mrs. Prentice looked as if she was about to have several dozen fits, but then she leant forward and studied Joe intently. “Stand up!” she commanded.
With a weary nod of his head, Ben indicated that Joe should humor their guest.
Joe performed a neat pirouette.
Nodding in satisfaction, Mrs. Prentice passed judgment. “The seamstress in Virginia City sure does know how to tailor a pair of pants! The fit around the butt is sheer perfection.”
“I’ve often thought that!” agreed the blonde, who was something of a connoisseur in this specialty.
“They don’t have any belt loops!” Joe said mournfully. This was a source of great personal sadness: the lack of belt loops had never been explained to Joe’s satisfaction.
“I can see why young Joseph wouldn’t want to spoil the fit around the butt with some unsightly underwear lines!” Mrs. Prentice confessed, twinkling wildly. Both Joe and Ben looked rather queasy.
“Good thing you were wearing your drawers during The Hayburner, eh Joe?” Hoss joshed. “Your pants done split in two there!”
“You had white long-johns on that day,” the redhead chortled. “Or white shorts.”
Joe blushed. If only several million people hadn’t seen that! But on the other hand, he supposed it was better than several million people seeing his naked butt – not that the fans wouldn’t have liked that, for they certainly would!
Luckily, Mrs. Prentice had lost interest in that thread, as it was just too risqué for her. “Adam, I noticed you aren’t wearing a vest!” she said, sternly. “And you didn’t wear one in The Gift or The Savage. Or even in Springtime. You’ll catch your death of cold.”
“I will not!” Adam protested indignantly. “I have a lovely furry chest to keep me warm!”
“An’ me!” Hoss beamed. “I’m hairy all over an’ it keeps the heat in wonderful like!”
The sisters shuddered at the thought of all that hair. They liked their men smooth and well-muscled, like Joe. Smiling, Joe draped an arm round each girl. “Well,” he said, cheerfully, “there’s one member of the family who will never catch cold.”
“Not the way you three share body heat, that’s for sure,” commented Adam, jealously. Those girls were always draped over Joe, he thought. It wasn’t fair.
“And who is that, son?” Ben asked, choosing to ignore Adam’s comment.
Performing a series of neat somersaults, Paw rolled across the floor and finished up on his hind legs, grinning broadly at the assembled company.
“Paw!” chorused Joe and the sisters.