Summary: After serving coffee and pie, young lady opens up to Adam about the Sadie Hawkins Dance and serves up reasons why he hasn’t been asked. Honesty and trust help develop the relationship even though her family doesn’t like the pairing.
Word Count: 10,825
Not sure how to even approach him, Marcy decided on the direct approach. She served him the coffee and pie he had requested and stood at the table until he took notice that she wasn’t leaving. Usually he was one to banter with her so she was concerned that something might be wrong which is what he asked her.
“No, but I was wondering if something was wrong with you. You seem extra quiet.”
“Just my brothers. They’ve been giving me a harder time than usual.”
“What about this time?”
“No one has asked me to the dance. They’ve both had multiple offers to mull over, and I haven’t had even one. They both have theories about why, but most center on my faults. They claim its that I’m always too picky, too serious, too arrogant, and well, you can guess at the rest.”
“Well, there are those stories about you spanking a woman who was a guest in your home.”
“That was one time, and she destroyed my guitar, my brand new guitar that I sent away for all the way to New York.”
“That could be seen as a good reason, I suppose. Now there is the saloon girl you took up with who got killed, and you ended up in jail. You’ve ended up in jail charged with murder more than once. That could be offputting to a lady, don’t you think?”
“I’m sitting here free so nothing ever came of any of it.”
“No, you were always found to be innocent, but you do seem to get in a lot of messes. And the friends you pick! Now that could worry a woman. There was that Tom Wilson, and Howard Mead, Sam Bord, Sherman Clegg.”
“Clegg was no friend.”
“Well, you get the general idea though. And all the ladies you’ve been with, and not a one ever got a ring.”
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying.”
“You didn’t seem to try too hard with Laura Dayton.”
He smirked a little. “Do you blame me for that one?”
“All right, that one was smart. I’ll give you that. Aren’t you ever lonely?” She could see that hit home as his shoulders slumped a little even if his face gave away nothing.
With eyes that seemed to reflect a million miles of empty trails, Adam looked at her. “You’re good for me. I like talking with you. If it was within the rules, I’d ask you to the dance.”
“If I thought you weren’t toying with me, maybe I’d ask you to the dance.”
Adam Cartwright pushed the plate and cup of coffee away as he looked around the restaurant. It was two in the afternoon and all the other customers had left the small café. He stood and Marcy thought she might have offended him somehow so she expected he would drop some money on the table and leave. Instead, he took one of her hands and tugged to see if she would willingly step toward him. She did. He wrapped his other arm around her waist and pulled her close but not too forcefully. If she had resisted, she knew he would stop, and she didn’t want him to stop. As he moved his hand from her hand to her cheek caressing it softly, he leaned down and kissed the other cheek. Kissing her nose next, he moved to her lips and brushed his lips across hers before pressing his lips to hers which yielded under the pressure. She was grateful for that muscular arm around her waist. She wouldn’t have been able to stand without it. Pulling back a few inches then, he looked into her eyes, and she could still feel his warm breath as he asked her a question.
“Are you willing to ask me to the dance now?”
“Dance? What dance?” He smiled down at her in his arms as she shook her head slightly. “Oh, yes, the dance. Adam, would you please take me to the dance?”
“I would be most pleased to take you.”
Kissing her again and pulling her tight to him, he made it clear that there was a double meaning to that. She knew all she had to do was give him permission. There was enough talk for every woman to know the character of every man, and many had talked about him. He could be many things, but with a woman, he always asked even if he used everything he had to try to influence that answer.
Although she worried about what she might say to him if he asked her more directly, that quandary was postponed when customers came in the door followed by Adam’s brothers.
“Hey, older brother, does it take you longer to do everything these days? We been waiting on you.”
Both Hoss and Joe said nothing about Adam having her in his arms when they all came in the door although raised eyebrows and smirks promised there would likely be ribald comments and plenty of teasing later. Adam did his best to ignore that. Looking back at her, he had only one question to which she agreed.
“Marcy will you have dinner with me first, say about six and I’ll pick you up at your house?”
After Adam left the restaurant with his brothers, they were anxious to find out everything. After all, Adam hadn’t been smiling much lately nor much interested in any woman. Both had changed and they were happy about that and curious.
“She’s nice and I enjoy spending time with her. She didn’t have anyone to ask so she asked me.”
“From what we saw, it was a lot more than that.” Joe wasn’t about to accept such a sanitized version of events.
“Maybe, but that’s all you get to know.”
And that was all that Adam told anyone including his father. He did as he promised and picked Marcy up for dinner and took her to the dance. She noticed that some of that faraway look was back. As they rode back to her house in the carriage, she thanked him for a wonderful evening and then because being direct seemed to work best with him, she tried again.
“Would it be too much to expect that there might be another evening together?”
The long pause before answering sank her hopes.
“I’m afraid it won’t be possible. I’m planning on leaving. I haven’t told my family yet though I’m sure my father and Hoss have guessed and Joe too although he likely wouldn’t admit that even to himself. So please don’t say anything to anyone.”
“Thank you for trusting me.”
“I do trust you. I don’t know why, but I do. You’re that kind of person.”
“At least that part makes me feel better.” She paused then as he pulled the carriage up in front of her house. Normally this would be when a couple would steal a kiss, but the mood had changed dramatically during the ride.
“Are you going alone?”
“Yes. It wouldn’t be fair to ask someone to join me on a journey with so many question marks.”
“No, it wouldn’t be fair to ask.”
Adam felt vaguely disappointed by her statement though he had no expectation that she had any commitment to him. Then she surprised him.
“But, what would you do if someone volunteered to go with you and share your adventure because they had the same feeling of being unfulfilled and unhappy?”
Stunned, he did the only thing he could think to do. He kissed her as passionately as he knew how to do.
Settling into his seat, Adam Cartwright prepared for the stage ride into his future whatever it held. After the near disaster he had made of his departure, he had less confidence that anything good awaited him. Although he had a plan, it had a lot of question marks in it and it seemed he had lost all semblance of good judgment and was acting as impulsively and without regard to consequences as he had often accused his younger brother. That thought had first hit him after his talk with Marcy’s father, but then he had made it worse though most would have thought there was no way to make that worse. Accused of any number of things including debauchery and dishonesty by her father, he hadn’t been able to completely deny his accusations. At his age, there certainly had been instances in his life when he had indulged his baser desires. Those episodes were coming back to haunt him. Marcy’s father had been direct.
“Have you been to those fancy houses?”
Never expecting such a question, Adam had hesitated too long in answering. Anyone within earshot knew the truth.
“Have you ever been drunk?”
Again, he hadn’t wanted to admit that either though it wouldn’t be nearly as awful to say as the other. Most men would have to answer in the affirmative to that.
“Did you ever steal anything? Cheat at cards? Lie? Break the law? Kill a man? Break the Sabbath? Treat a woman badly? Consorted with criminals? Been in jail?”
The questions had come in quick succession, and of course those things required answers with qualifications because out of context, they could seem to condemn him. Later, after her father had not only rejected any offer he made to see Marcy but forbid him to see her on any basis, he had to look hard at himself. It wasn’t the kind of examination anyone liked to do. He knew too that her father had known the answers to most of those questions before he asked them so the answer to Adam’s question had been premeditated. In her excitement, Marcy most probably had confided in her parents. It was so much like her to do that, it made him smile slightly despite the hurt.
Marcy was innocence and courage. She was also very young. Looking at himself, he wondered if he was attracted to her because she could make him feel young and clean again. Perhaps she could bring back the feeling that there was good in the world and one had only to seek it out. Maybe he had been hoping she could possibly scrub away the dark film on his heart and soul. Now that he looked at what he had considered doing, he had some idea what it would do to her to be trapped with him and his snide reaction to others who were continually bright and cheery. Slipping into dark moods and melancholy states, it would take a strong person to be able to fight being dragged down by him.
Forbidden to see her, Adam penned a long letter to her blaming himself for the lack of a future together and painting a bleak picture of himself too. He asked Hoss to deliver it.
“You better make sure her father is nowhere around. He has forbidden me to have any contact with her. If he sees this letter, she never will.”
“You sure you want to send this letter?”
“Why wouldn’t I? I need to explain things to her. I owe her that much at least for getting her hopes up. I never should have done that. I don’t know what made me think that there was any chance that I could have a romance again at my age. All I did was set her up to be hurt. I’m very sorry for that. My desire for something I couldn’t have has perhaps made her unhappy. I hope she can get over it quickly.”
“You shur are talking a lot for a man who’s made up his mind.”
“Maybe I’m still trying to find a way to justify what I did. Maybe I want you to understand too.”
“Oh, I understand more than you do, I think.”
“You understand me better than I do?”
“Yup, I do.”
“Well, care to share your insights.”
“Shur. You was planning on leaving, but you was worried about it all. Having Marcy say she would go with you made it all easier to face. You wouldn’t be alone. Pa’d be happy you was married at least. It’d be hard for me and Joe to say anything against you having a new future with your new wife. Yeah, it’d all be easier for you especially you not being alone.”
“You thought I was leaving?”
“Course you were. We all figured it. It was only a question of when you were going to say it.”
“You all knew?”
“Let’s get back to the other thing. You shur you want to say goodbye to that gal? Seems she’s the best chance you’ve had in a long time.”
“She’s too young.”
“Too young for what? She looks like a woman to me. From what I saw, you kissed her like she was. You danced with her and talked to her like she was a woman. So, I can’t figure what changed now except her father said no. Never knew you to take no for an answer so easily.”
“Hoss, I can’t take her away from her family and drag her across a continent when I don’t even know what I’m going to do.”
“Then figure out what you’re going to do and then take her with you.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Never knew you were afraid of something that was hard either. You’re the one always saying there ain’t no shortcuts; only hard work.”
“I thought you would be upset with me for wanting to leave.”
“Don’t know why you’d be thinking that. I’m sad about it. Hurts my heart thinking on you being gone again. It was hard the last time you was away, and this time there won’t be that promise that you’ll come back home, but I reckon it’s something you got to do to be happy. All I want for you is to find what you need to find and be happy. It’s what being part of a family is, ain’t it. Like I’m happy here, and you wouldn’t never take that away from me.”
“I was worried about talking to you about this. You made it so easy.”
“It ain’t easy. It’s hard cause I want to tell you to stay, but I know it’s best for you to go. First though, you gotta figure on a way to take that gal with ya. Best for you and best for her. I saw how she looked at you. Don’t go trying to fool yourself that leaving her behind is the best for her. If that’s what you said in this here letter, I ain’t gonna bring it to her. It would be too hurtful.”
“What should I say?”
“I think you know.”
“I need a plan, but I don’t even know what I’m doing when I leave. How can I create a plan based on a lot of questions?”
“Then you tell her you’ll work out answers and then work out a plan. The thing is, she needs to know she’s still important to you and you’ll fight for her. Don’t give up.”
“I was about to do that.”
“I know. I figured I needed to kick you in the butt some. Pa coulda done it, but I told him I was a better one to do it.”
Adam wasn’t sure if he should be offended that they were talking about him when he wasn’t there or to be happy that they cared so much. “You talked to Pa about this?”
“No, not just Pa. Joe got his two-cents worth in too.” Hoss was grinning broadly by then. “I know you don’t like us talking about you, but this was different. Sometimes a stubborn man needs somebody else to get him moving in the right direction. Now come on in the house and tell Pa and Joe what you need to tell ’em, and we’ll work out the details too.”
“I feel like I’m seventeen again.”
Hoss laughed loudly, and all Adam could do was shake his head. It was a role reversal with the younger brother offering wise advice. Inside the house, Hoss words were echoed by Ben Cartwright who asked Adam about his plan to win Marcy. When Adam admitted he had no plan, Ben’s response was predictable.
“Son, it’s not like you not to have a plan. I thought you were thinking about leaving for some time now. I would have thought you had plans and alternative plans worked out already. Surely you can come up with something.”
“If you can’t, just call on me. I’m good at coming up with ideas for things like this.” Joe was eager to help.
The look of horror on Adam’s face was priceless. He didn’t respond directly or verbally to that offer but didn’t have to do so. He did decide to share what he had been thinking.
“I had been thinking of relocating to San Francisco to try to find work there in design and construction. The problem is that I have no experience in the kinds of projects they’re doing. I might have to go east to take up one of the offers I’ve had to join a firm there and work at learning what I need to know for the big projects that companies are doing now that the War is over. Going east though means saying goodbye to Marcy. I’ve been trying to convince myself that’s what I have to do.”
“How’s that going, son?”
“Makes me feel awful. I think I’m the least acceptable suitor she could have especially after those questions her father threw at me.”
Hoss threw a glare at Joe to make sure he didn’t make a joke about that. This was too serious to make light of anything. He knew that only a few weeks earlier, they had been teasing Adam unmercifully, but that was before either of them knew how much it had hurt him. Hoss wanted to make sure Joe remembered. He did and seemed offended that Hoss was expecting him to be anything except supportive. Both brothers remained quiet and let their father talk.
“Perhaps San Francisco can still work. You could start out by handling our affairs there while you seek out other opportunities. It wouldn’t be too far and you could still visit which means keeping in touch with Marcy even if indirectly.”
So, the family worked out the details. Adam wrote a new letter to Marcy, and again left it up to Hoss to get it to her. Then he headed to San Francisco not at all confident in any of the decisions he had made, but willing to take the chances he felt he needed to take to chase an elusive dream of the future.
Marcy’s father was only too happy to report to her that he had seen Adam getting on the stage with luggage that indicated he was leaving.
“His family was with him. He’s finally gone. Now you can do as I ask and marry Abel Jenkins.”
“Abel Jenkins is twice my age and smells bad. I don’t want to be anywhere near him. I’m not marrying him.” She ran up to her room and got dressed for her job.
Marcy’s father and mother talked when she was gone. Worried that she wouldn’t go through with the marriage, her father asked her mother what she could do. They agreed to get the whole family involved in putting pressure on her to marry Abel. Confident in their plan and comfortable with the knowledge that Adam was finally gone, no one in the family walked with her to her job at the restaurant. It was easy for Hoss then to slip the letter from Adam to her. He simply walked up to her, greeted her, and when he shook her hand, passed the folded paper in the palm of his hand to her hand. She nearly dropped it but knew it had to be important. When she read it, she smiled and her mood improved significantly. Her customers noticed as did her family when she returned home. They thought she was getting over Adam and must have had a good day at work. Marcy hid the letter in her room taking it out to read only when she was positive she wouldn’t be interrupted by a family member. She decided that she would write a reply as soon as she figured out a way to do that and how to get it to Hoss undetected.
News could only be shared sporadically between Adam and Marcy. It required that there be some meeting between Hoss and her that was without suspicion. The first letter from Marcy to Adam wasn’t passed until her family sat behind his in church on a Sunday. She tapped him on the shoulder to pass him a copy of the hymnal. About to refuse it because he didn’t need it, he saw the look in her eyes and accepted graciously. When her family filed out at the end of the service, he flipped through the pages until he found it.
“Hey, Hoss, what you got there?”
“Quiet, Joe, or you’ll ruin everything.”
Hoss’ voice held urgency and command. Joe was quiet but full of questions. However, both Joe and Ben waited until the ride home to ask. Then with a sigh of relief, Hoss could answer.
“Marcy’s done answered the letter from Adam that I passed to her a while back when Adam left. I shook hands with her outside the restaurant. Her folks would be mighty upset to know they’re writing to each other. She answered so that must mean she agrees to his plan.”
“He’s got a plan?”
“Yes, Pa, or rather, he’s working on it like you told him to do. For now, he’s asked her to be patient as he has work to do for the ranch and to get started on a new thing too.”
“If they have to do this all in secret, I don’t know that it will ever work out.” Ben worried that Adam was setting himself up for another heartbreak.
“Pa, I think they mean to stand up to her parents when the time is right. Adam kind of hinted at such before he left. I’m guessing that is more likely now that he’s gone and missing her.”
“Pa, I think she can do it too. She’s a feisty one.” Joe grinned when he said it so they knew he had firsthand experience.
“Joseph, I hope that I’m not going to hearing some story about how my son acted inappropriately with the young lady.”
“Me too, Pa. I hope Adam has been behaving himself.”
“You are well aware that I was not talking about Adam behaving himself. Now, what do you have to say about your own behavior in regard to the young lady?”
“Pa, I was only joshing you. No, I tried to see if she was interested in spending a little time with me, and she listed all the ladies I’d ever been with and challenged me to explain all of those. I surrendered and told her to have a nice day.”
Hoss was chuckling. “I kin just see Adam when she did that only he’d take it as a challenge to prove her wrong. He’d show her he wasn’t no dandy going from one lady to another.”
“Hey, Hoss, I bet you’re right, and in doing it, he fell right into her trap like a spider catching a fly.”
“Could we please talk about something else? Hoss, will you post that letter to Adam tomorrow?”
“Yep, I plan to ride in tomorrow and send it off to him.”
“I have some other things to send. Let’s put it all together tomorrow morning, and you can take it in to send it.”
In San Francisco, a few days later, when Adam retrieved his mail, he was disappointed that there still was no letter from Marcy. In his flat later though when he emptied the large parcel from the Ponderosa, he found the envelope from Hoss which contained the letter from Marcy. There was also a short note from Hoss explaining how he had slipped Adam’s letter to her and how she had been able to finally send a letter back. It was only then that Adam realized how difficult communication was going to be.
Reading her letter over and over, Adam frowned at the part about Abel. It meant that he was going to have to move faster than he had first anticipated before her parents managed to break her down and push her into that marriage. There were parts of the letter that he relished though because they spoke to his heart and nourished his soul. She did have a way with words that he appreciated. He got out paper and began to write a letter to her but it took several days until he thought he had included enough. Knowing how difficult it would be for Hoss to get the letter to her, he tried to be as succinct as he could, but he had to tell her he loved her. As he was about to write those words, he hesitated. Several times, he repeated that process until, taking a sigh, he committed them to the paper. It was something he had never done. He had said the words only a few times. It was always difficult to pry that kind of phrase from him no matter how strongly he felt. Apparently, Marcy was already changing him. Not sure how he felt about that either, he decided not to worry about it. He already had enough worries.
Hired by a construction firm, Adam was being tested. On the following Monday, he was going to the site of a railroad trestle under construction. They were having problems with the design because of the terrain. There were elements there that had not adequately been taken into consideration by those who had designed the span. Adam’s job was to work with the on-site building engineers and their staff to redesign the trestle and get the project back on schedule. If this worked out, Adam knew he had a place in the firm. If it didn’t, he was going to have a difficult time finding any kind of employment in the construction firms there because word of his failure would get out. Making the most of the few days he had to study the plans and talk them over with the architects and engineers in the firm before he headed to the site, he felt as prepared as he could be. Still nervous though, he also had some business he had to do for the Ponderosa before he left. Writing the letter to Marcy filled up any other time he had. When he left for the construction site, he had done all he needed to do. He hoped that on his return there might be a letter for Marcy waiting for him.
It was ironic though that he had made the trip to San Francisco to get away from sleeping on the ground and riding his horse from dawn to dusk, and here he was sleeping in a tent and riding or hiking around the rather massive building site with a planned ride further upstream where he could cross safely to go to the other side for a tour of that part of the site. It took him four days of measuring, interviewing the team and discussing option with them, interviewing the construction foreman and some of his workers, and talking to the locals about the weather before he had his ideas ready to propose. They were met with skepticism to outright derision. So, he had been there five days and there was no progress. He had seen almost immediately what was wrong with the original plan, but what was more difficult was coming up with a plan that should work. The walls of the gorge were steep, there was a dry streambed at the bottom, and frequently it was windy.
At the end of the week, one of the partners in the firm, Quincy Reynolds, arrived to try to get the project moving again. He asked Adam to explain what he thought should be one. One of the others interjected a comment before Adam could begin.
“He wants to double the cost with the changes he wants us to do. He’s got no idea of what to do. He has no experience. If you can believe it, he wants to build a bridge on top of a bridge.”
Although Reynolds raised an eyebrow at that, he wasn’t derisive or negative when he asked Adam to continue but he did quiet the others. “If you don’t mind, I would like to hear his ideas for myself and make up my mind based on my experience and knowledge.”
“There’s a streambed down below. Although it’s dry now, the gorge floods significantly at times. The water levels can be as high as twenty feet directly below where we’re building. We can’t put any supports there or they won’t last even a year. They could be taken out by the first big flood through there. If not, they will be undermined and weakened. I’m proposing an arch bridge over the narrowest part of the gorge about forty feet above the streambed. It would be anchored by massive timber supports on either side where the rock is the strongest in this whole gorge. The span of that bridge would be wide and designed in a square set manner. It would support the trestle of the main bridge that would be built as it has been started. The center span of the top trestle bridge would be cantilevered reducing the stress on the trusses with the wind that can blow at high sustained speeds through the gorge.”
“How do you know about the rain and the wind?” Reynolds was curious about how Adam could know such things about an area when he had been there less than a week.
“I talked to the local population and looked for evidence in the lower part of the gorge. The debris left by the floodwaters is piled up at least twenty feet above the floor of the gorge. There are a lot of trees blown down as well. Some were ripped up with their roots especially those with full canopies.”
“And we don’t need to redo any of the work already completed?” Concerned about profits, keeping costs down was paramount to Reynolds and his partners.
“No, there might need to be some adjustments, but overall what has been completed will fit into the new design. The only change will be to switch to building the lower part of the bridge next and then get back to building the top section. It won’t increase costs because the lower arch bridge will now be more narrow than the original plan. We’ll be using a square set for that section to support the tripod trestle section of the upper cantilever span bridge.”
Reynolds didn’t see any advantage to waiting. “Gentlemen, unless you hear something different from the main office within a day, this is our new plan. All of you get busy with the design and shifting whatever needs to be done to get going on this. Cartwright, good work. You seemed to be what we needed: a fresh perspective to deal with these western terrain problems. The rest of you need to make this work. You know how these plans are drawn. He’s got ideas and you have skills so the four of you should make a great team. Get busy. Oh, one more thing: Cartwright, when the plans have been drawn, come back to the city. We’ve got another project for you.”
When Reynolds exited the tent where the design team was meeting, he motioned for the construction foreman to come talk with him. When the man got there, he was direct. “I don’t want anything to happen to Cartwright. I know he’s brash and doesn’t know whose toes he’s stepping on, but he’s an asset the company needs. I want him back in the firm, healthy and ready to work soon. Am I clear?”
“Yes, sir, I got the message. He’ll be taken care of real well.” He smiled then. “Usually it’s the young ones I got to watch over for you.”
“He’s older, but he doesn’t have the experience of working with the packs of wolves we have like the three in there. Those men would tear out each other’s throats if I asked them to do it. Cartwright wouldn’t.”
“I took him as an equal to the three of them. He did things the others never thought to do. He talked to me and the men asking them about the rock we’re working on and what happens when we drill into it. He headed down into the gorge to see the terrain for himself.”
“He definitely knows what he’s doing. He’s got a bright future with our firm based on what he’s managed here in less than a week.”
“I’ll be sure to keep someone watching out for him the whole time he’s here.”
That night when Adam went to his tent, his mind was so preoccupied he never noticed two men following him. One stayed in the shadows to watch over him while the other reported to the foreman that clearly Adam didn’t feel threatened. They knew that made his position all the more dangerous because he wouldn’t be expecting whatever the other three might be plotting. They were correct. Adam’s thoughts were full of thoughts of Marcy. He knew now that his future was more secure as he had a job. He would be able to get a better place to live, and as soon as he could, he was going back to Virginia City to confront Marcy’s parents. She was legally old enough to marry without her parents’ permission and they were ready to force that issue. At least she would be with him at her side.
While his guardians kept watch and protected him, what Adam didn’t know was that Hoss was desperately trying to get in touch with him with news about Marcy. He had sent two telegrams directly to Adam and then one to a good friend. No one could seem to locate Adam. No one in the family knew about the firm where Adam had been hired. Because he wasn’t certain that it would last, Adam had not written to his family to let them know and had not even confided in his best friends in the city.
After two days, Adam and the others finished the plans. They had noted that he was never alone in the camp and suspected he was under the protection of Reynolds. Smart enough to see the obvious, they began to be friendlier to him as they worked which is why they were done so quickly. It meant that Adam got to return two days sooner than he had expected which was very lucky for him although he didn’t realize it with the reception he got. When Adam returned to the city and opened the door to his apartment, he was shocked to find a pistol aimed at his head although it was quickly lowered. Hoss stood there and demanded to know where he had been.
“Has something happened to Pa? to Joe?”
“No, they’re fine, but where were you?”
“I was at a railroad construction project. I got a job. Why are you here?”
“Is she sick? hurt?”
“Maybe worse than that: she’s marrying Abel Jenkins.”
“Her father up and made the arrangements. If nobody is there to make an objection, she’ll be married to him in two days.”
“Damn, I wish that railroad was already done.”
“I’ve got the schedules. If we hurry, we can be in Sacramento tonight. We can catch a stage there and be home in time.”
“Hoss, what happened?”
“Not sure, but ifn I had to guess, I’d say her parents found your letters.”
With substantial bribes, they managed to get to Sacramento and then got tickets on the stage early the following morning displacing some freight that was going to have to go on the next one. It was an express freight and mail run so there was no stopping at way stations for food and rest. They rode into town and headed to the church because by Hoss’ estimation they were cutting it close, but people were still walking in that direction dressed in their finest so they hoped it wasn’t too late.
In the church, Marcy was replaying how this horrible event had come to be. She had not closed the door to her room tightly. Her little brother spied on her and saw her hiding something behind a picture on the wall. Later that same day, he grew angry at her when she laughed because he dropped some food on his shirtfront. He had yelled out her secret then.
“Marcy is hiding something in her room. I saw her put it behind the picture on the wall.”
It had the desired effect of taking parental interest away from him staining his shirt to her as they immediately questioned her on what she was hiding. She couldn’t lie to them.
“It’s a letter from Adam. Please, it’s all I have from him.”
“Let me see it.”
“Please, Papa, it’s private.”
“This is my house. It is not private here.”
Marcy knew then that she had made a grave error in not discarding those letters. Her father would know now what they planned to do. He grabbed her by the upper arm and forced her to walk up the stairs to her room. As she stood there unable to stop what he was doing, he pulled the picture from the wall and retrieved both letters. He read one and then the other with his face turning red as he did so. Then he turned to his wife, her mother.
“He plans to confront me and demand her hand in marriage. He thinks she will agree to marry him under such circumstances. She hid these away instead of telling us about them so I can only believe she meant to do as he said.”
Confined to her room, she had not known for several days that her parents had contacted Abel Jenkins to come to the house to discuss marriage to her. Her father guessed quickly that someone was passing the letters to her when she went to work so he stopped her from working even though the family could use the money. When her mother came to her room to help her dress to come down to see a visitor, she had tried to decline, but in fact she wanted to get out of her room. When she saw it was Abel Jenkins, her heart broke for she knew what her parents had planned for her. Within the hour, they had made the arrangements for her to marry Abel in a week and a half. Sunday in church the wedding plans were announced.
Almost as soon as the members of the congregation filed out after the services, Hoss began trying to contact Adam. He had been in shock when he heard the announcement and knew what he had to do. When he couldn’t get a response from Adam, his father encouraged him to head to San Francisco, and he arrived there on Thursday. He found Adam’s residence, but it was clear no one had been there for days. About to leave, he heard someone at the door. Adam returned and he told him what had happened. Working as a team, they got back in time, but now had to stop a wedding and stop Marcy’s parents from interfering in the romance between Adam and Marcy. Adam had assured Hoss that once they stopped the wedding, he thought he could handle the rest.
“You got a plan?”
“I have a plan. It scares me a bit that it seems more like something Joe would do, but it feels right.”
“I like the way you’re loosening up a bit, older brother. You’re gonna enjoy life again now that you see the bright side of things.
Standing in the back of the church, Adam saw Marcy and wanted to go to her, but Hoss reminded him they had a plan and should stick to it.. All the doubts that had bedeviled Adam since his confrontation with Marcy’s father disintegrated when he saw her. She was facing what must to her be a horrible situation yet she stood tall and stoic refusing to show any weakness. He knew that inside she must be hurting, but most could not see it in her demeanor. Even though he had not known her long as a suitor, he had known her as a friend, and he could tell. A couple of her friends seemed to know too as did her employer as they all walked up to her and offered congratulations that seemed to be more consolation. Then it was time as her father walked her the short distance to the front and the minister launched into the service.
“We are gathered here today to celebrate one of holiest of life’s great moments, the joining of two hearts and souls forever, and to add our best wishes to the words which shall unite this man and his wife in marriage. Should there be anyone here now who has cause why this couple should not be united in marriage, they should step forward and state that now or forever hold their peace.”
It was the standard beginning and usually there was hardly a pause there before the next part began but Hoss hollered that there was someone even as Adam stepped forward and pushed his way through those standing in his way until he could walk unimpeded to the woman he loved.
“She doesn’t want to marry him. She’s not in love with him. She is in love with me and wants to marry me.”
Marcy’s father stepped out to try to block his way. “I forbid you to see her. You should leave here now.”
Towering over the smaller man, Adam was forceful. “Marcy is of age to make her own decision without her father’s permission. She doesn’t want to marry him. She is being forced into this marriage to satisfy a business relationship.” Turning back to the love of his life, Adam gently asked the most important question. “Marcy, will you marry me?”
There was a gasp from the people assembled even as they had been silent sitting in near shock at the previous development. Marcy did not hesitate.
“Yes, I will.”
Abel got angry. “Wait, she said she’d marry me.”
“I never said that. My father said that. I never wanted to marry you. My father made me come here. It was never my choice. He said you were going to call his loan if I didn’t marry you.”
There was a second loud collective gasp from the congregation and then a buzz of talk. There were loud exclamations and claims of fraud and blackmail. Abel started to get nervous. He tried to make excuses and began to try to make his case to the people there who were not in a mood to listen to him. Someone suggested the sheriff ought to be summoned. Abel rushed through the crowd and out the door. Marcy had gone to Adam and stood with him. She smiled and whispered to him.
“I told Papa I didn’t want to marry that stinky old man, but you don’t smell much better right now, mister.”
“Sweetheart, I spent nearly a week in a railroad construction camp, and I was looking forward to a nice long bath when Hoss showed up and told me about this. I came back riding non-stop on an express stage to get here in time. I would have been here sooner, but we lost a wheel and had to wait until the stage could be repaired. But I got here in time. That’s all that counts. You did say you would marry me. I’m sorry I’m not dressed for it right now. You are so beautiful.”
“I don’t care.”
“Let’s get married right now.”
Not sure what to do, Adam felt a big warm hand on his shoulder. “Pa will understand even if it takes a bit for him to cool down and think about it. He can have a big old party and maybe you can repeat the vows tomorrow in church for him and Joe to see.”
Looking to the minister who must have heard the conversation, Adam asked the obvious. The minister smiled.
“I hope there will be no more dramatic interruptions, but I can see both are willing so yes, I will marry you now.”
“You are no daughter of mine!” Marcy’s father’s voice thundered in the church. He turned to walk out and people began to clear a path for him. He paused to wait for his wife who had no choice but to follow although her face showed her internal turmoil choosing between her husband and her child.
Wrapping his arm around Marcy’s waist, Adam could feel her shaking although that stoic demeanor was again in place. Adam didn’t know what he could say to stop this split because he doubted her father would listen to anything he said. Hoss took charge.
“Now you wait just a minute there. You’d rather have your daughter married to a blackmailer? You wanted a man who would force a woman to marry him than a man who loves your daughter like she loves him. Here’s a man who’s got a good future, a new job in San Francisco and a family here with a darn good future too. Your daughter could hardly ask for more than what her new husband can provide and what our family will stand by to do. Seems to me your damn pride got in the way of an awful lot just now. Maybe you want to stop a minute and think about what you’re doing. Is there anybody in this here church willing to stand with him and say he’s right. Go ahead, just yell out ifn you think he’s right in what he’s doing.”
If silence was deafening, the next moment was one of those.
“Now give a holler ifn you think we should all shake hands and join in celebrating this marriage and moving forward forgetting all that’s gone on. We’ll start fresh and clean. How’s that for a plan?” Hoss had the congregation on his side.
There was a chorus of positive responses and several men walked to her father to see if they could walk him back. He was reluctant.
“I still ain’t happy about this.”
Hoss stepped into the role of mediator. “Then how about you say you’ll try to get along no matter how you’re feeling right now?”
“I guess I could try.”
Walking toward him, Adam put out his hand. It was clear to everyone that her father was reluctant to take it, but he did much to everyone’s relief. Adam turned and shook Hoss’ hand thanking him. Then it was time to stand beside his beloved and say their vows.
The ladies of the church had prepared punch and desserts for a picnic style reception outside the church. Adam was able to talk with Marcy’s parents and tell them about his job and where he was living because Marcy would be there with him. Knowing that her father was concerned about his loan being called, Adam assured him that now that he was his son-in-law, the would be pleased to back his loan.
“Let me know if there is a problem. I’ll do all I can to help.”
“After all that’s happened, you’d do that?”
“Remember what Hoss said? We’re starting fresh and letting go of what’s happened before now. Right?”
It wasn’t likely to be quite that easy, but they had made the first steps. Marcy relaxed with that conversation as did her mother. If there were grandchildren, she wanted to be part of their lives. For Adam, one hurdle was cleared, but he knew his father wasn’t going to be as easy to convince that it was for the best. He wasn’t going to be at all willing to accept that he had missed his eldest son’s wedding. The only good thing was that it was going to fall to Hoss to tell him, which Hoss realized at the end of the reception.
“Aw, Adam, I hadn’t thought on that.”
“Hoss, I plan on getting a room, taking a bath, and spending the night with my new bride. I’ll see Pa at the church tomorrow.”
“Lordy, he’s going to be mighty upset by this.”
“You could start out by saying you have good news. I have a new job, well, if I still do after taking off like I did. I’m home for a visit although it will be short, and then you could say I got married too.”
“Yeah, you make it sound so easy.”
“Or, you could tell Joe when he comes running out to the barn when you put your horse away, and he’ll go racing in to tell Pa for you.”
“You know, that might work. He’ll explode, and I’ll have some time to let him cool down some before I have to see him. Yeah, that’s the plan. Dang, it sure does work better to have a plan, don’t it.”
Marcy was curious. Standing at Adam’s side, she couldn’t imagine that these two big men were having this conversation. “Are you two really afraid of your father?”
“Miss Marcy, you ain’t never seen our Pa when he blows. It’s something that would worry anybody. Now that you’re part of the family, you will get to see it sooner or later.”
“Considering the situation, sweetheart, I would guess sooner might be more likely. But right now, we need to get to the mercantile to buy a few things before they close up shop. I left without packing much and I need some items.”
Walking arm-in-arm, the couple proceeded into town to the mercantile getting congratulations along the way as the story of their wedding had spread like wildfire. Hoss walked beside them until they got to the livery stable where he retrieved Chubb and rode for home.
After the mercantile, Adam headed to the hotel, signed up for the best room he could get, and ordered a bath. Apologizing to his bride, he excused himself long enough to take a bath, shave, and dress in clean clothing. He asked the staff too if his dirty clothing could be taken to the laundry. Before heading back to the room, dinner was ordered and by eight that evening, he and Marcy were alone in their room with dinner consumed and nothing more that had to be done. Sitting on the small couch in the room, Adam had an arm around her shoulders as they sat and talked about moving to San Francisco. She had a lot of questions.
“Are you asking so many questions because you’re nervous about moving to the city down by the bay or are you nervous about something else?”
Adam knew the answer before she said anything, but he gently moved the conversation forward because he could tell how uneasy she was.
“I’m not nervous about moving. I’m looking forward to that. It will be quite an adventure.”
“So, it’s the other thing.”
In a shaky voice so unlike her usual tone, Marcy admitted what was troubling her. She trusted Adam enough to admit it, but the fear had been planted. “My mother talked to me about that, and she didn’t paint a very pretty picture.”
“I won’t hurt you. Can you believe me?”
When she nodded and looked at him with trust, Adam pulled her close. Kissing her gently, Adam kissed her cheeks, her neck, and her shoulders too as he pushed the dress down slightly.
“Did any of that hurt?”
“No, I liked that.”
So, he repeated the whole and then did a bit more with her encouragement.
“How was that?”
“That was wonderful. You’re very good at this.”
Going slowly like that was almost torture for him, but it was necessary so he held back doing what he wanted so desperately to do. When they had finally joined together as husband and wife, Marcy held onto him and whispered to him.
“Mother was very wrong. Loving with a man isn’t to be endured. It is wonderful. I love you. I’ll love you forever.”
Waiting so many years to hear those words by a woman he loved, Adam couldn’t respond at first. Then with a voice hoarse with emotion, he answered her. “I love you. I will love you always. I’m sorry I don’t have a ring. I wasn’t planning a wedding quite so soon. If you recall, I thought we would get to know each other a bit first after I confronted your father and insisted on being able to court you.”
“Do you regret marrying me so fast.”
“Oh, Lord, no. It’s the best thing I may have ever done. But I did tell your father that I had a job and now I don’t know if I do. I have to explain to Mister Reynolds why I won’t show up at work on Monday morning. We have to leave as soon as we can, but if all goes well, we’ll be back in time for me to show up at the office some time on Tuesday.”
“I’ve certainly made your life more difficult.”
“No, never say that. You have made my life better. Now, though, I could use some sleep. My life has certainly become more full.”
So, he did fall asleep with the woman he loved in his arms. In the morning, Marcy had a more serious question for him.
“What would you have done if you got here and I was already married to that stinky old man?”
Although Adam had railed against Hoss about blowing the man’s head clean off or some other mayhem he would do to him, he offered a much milder version of his reaction to his new wife. “I suppose I would have had to get Hiram to get the marriage annulled. I doubt you would have wanted to stay married to him. I would have helped you avoid spending any time with him. With Hoss to help, you never would have either.” The strength of his response though belied the relative peacefulness of his answer.
“That’s no way to start a marriage.”
“By saving you from Abel Jenkins?”
“No, by telling me a lie. How can I trust you if you start out with a lie to a question like that?”
“How do you know it’s a lie?” Looking at her and the slightly crooked smile she had, he knew she knew. “All right, I told Hoss I would kill him employing any means necessary. How dare he step between me and the woman I love?”
That seemed to satisfy her, or her reaction told him it did. After making love again, they dressed and had breakfast before heading to the church. Adam wanted to be there before his father arrived. It almost worked. They arrived about the same time.
“Congratulations, son. I would have liked to be in attendance, but I am pleased that my eldest has married.”
“Thank you, Pa.” Adam heard the hint of disapproval but at least nothing was said openly.
“Hoss tells me that you have to return immediately to San Francisco.”
Adam knew why that was an issue. “Yes, I never asked my employer or even notified them when I left. I hope that if I’m honest with them that they may forgive this lapse on my part. I’ll let you know as soon as I can when we can return for a proper celebration. I did ask the minister if it would be all right to repeat our vows this morning for those not in attendance yesterday. We’ll do that right after the Sunday service for anyone wishing to stay.”
“That’s a good idea.”
“We have reservations for lunch as well. I took the liberty of inviting Paul and Roy as well as Marcy’s family. If there is anyone else who should be included, I’m sure we can add a few more.”
“Thank you. That sounds like a good plan. May I walk your lovely bride into the church?”
Ben offered his arm to Marcy who smiled and accepted. Peace was made between father and son. Hoss and Joe shook Adam’s hand and whispered congratulations not only for the wedding but for handling their father so well. It helped too that most stayed after services to watch Adam and Marcy renew their vows which meant that afterwards Ben could accept the congratulations of his friends on the marriage of his eldest son. There were many comments too on how Marcy was a good addition to the family. She was far better liked than her father.
Although there was some tension at lunch, mostly it was a good celebration. Marcy’s father continued to harbor some ill will about not being the one to make the decisions. Ben asked Marcy if there was going to be trouble in the future because of that.
“No, I doubt there will be any problem. My father sees what is right in front of him and has trouble looking ahead. When he begins to see the benefits of this, he will be quite happy.”
“Adam suggested already that he talk to you about some work. My father is a good worker and has excellent craftsmanship. Adam said you have been talking about adding some storage cupboards and other bookshelves to your home. My father could show you samples of his work.”
Smiling, Ben accepted her suggestion and agreed that it sounded like a wonderful idea. He guessed that Adam also wanted to get the two fathers together with a chance to talk and smooth over any problems. He knew he could do that. There was nothing like two fathers talking about their children and the future to make things look better. Catching Adam’s eye across the table, Ben raised his glass in a toast that everyone took to be a salute to their future, but father and son knew it was for so much more. Trust and love that they would work out any problems together was embodied in that gesture which Adam reciprocated with a grin.
With his father settled down, Adam could relax a little. Marcy’s concerns had been alleviated too. He and Marcy had a more adventurous time their second night together and didn’t get much sleep. The only worry left was Quincy Reynolds and what he might do to change their plans for the future.
On Monday morning Adam and Marcy had to be up early too and climbed aboard the stage for the trip to the city by the bay and perhaps an uncertain future. She had packed her things so they had quite a bit of luggage, but Adam noted that she still managed to fit all of her belongings in three valises. He guessed they were going to be doing some shopping and had one purchase in mind already. Her left ring finger was empty and he meant to remedy that as soon as he could. On the stage, the other two women traveling with them noticed that there was no ring and wondered about the relationship between the two who seemed to be very close. Finally, the older of the two ladies had to ask.
“May I ask where you and your daughter are traveling?”
“I’m not his daughter. I’m his wife. I’m not young enough to be his daughter or you could say he’s not old enough to be my father.”
Marcy had been dozing with her head leaning against Adam’s shoulder. She wrapped an arm around him and snuggled in then for a real nap. He guessed the other ladies wouldn’t be asking any more questions and pulled his hat down over his eyes so he could nap too and avoid any more intrusiveness.
As they passed into California, a rested Marcy began to pay more attention to the terrain for she had never seen it before. Adam enjoyed telling her about each area as they passed through them. She was excited when they arrived in Sacramento, and he wished they could spend some time there, but speedy travel was essential so he promised instead that they would return when they could. Finally, they arrived in San Francisco tired but excited too although Adam had some worries as well. He headed to the office as soon as he settled Marcy in their apartment.
“We’ll get a better place soon. But for now, this is it. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Keep the door locked.”
She wished him luck with Quincy Reynolds and noted how worried he looked. Then he hurried on his way and headed up to his boss’ office wondering how he would be received. It was about what he expected. Quincy Reynolds exploded when he saw him.
“Where the hell have you been? You were supposed to be in this office yesterday morning. I don’t care how good you are, you can’t waltz in here as you see fit. Well, speak up, man. What have you got to say for yourself?”
Taking a deep breath, Adam told the truth. “My brother arrived with news that the woman I wanted to marry was being forced into a marriage by her father. The man told her father he would call his loan if he didn’t get to marry his daughter.”
“What did you do?”
“I went home, stopped the wedding, and married her. She came back here with me.”
Quincy frowned as he looked at him and then grinned. “You did, didn’t you? Damn, man, you have a lot of grit, as they say out here. I do like the way you take charge and roll right over the opposition if they’re wrong. We need some of that here. I’ll watch your back as long as you keep me informed. You caught me off guard with that railroad bridge idea and with this little expedition you took. From now on when you have an unorthodox idea, run it by me first. I think you know I’m open to fresh approaches.”
“I’m still working here?”
“Of course, you are. You are going to be a challenge for me though. I can see that, but at this point, I think you’re worth it.”
“Is that why you had people watching out for me at the construction site?”
“So, you noticed that. I wondered if you would see them.”
“I didn’t at first. I had no idea I would need any. I guess I saw the protectors before I realized I might need protecting and from whom. I guess I need to watch my back.”
“You do, but I think you can handle that. It’s the nature of business these days. They won’t come at you directly. They’ll make it look like an accident or something will go wrong and they’ll try to blame you for it.”
“It is. Now, go ask my clerk for your next project. I told him to get some things together to give you yesterday morning. I wanted it done by Saturday. That still holds so you and your new bride may not have much time to yourselves this week.”
“Yes, sir, I understand. That’s fair.”
Working until the last person in the firm was leaving, Adam stopped on the way home at a restaurant and a bakery to pick up some food for dinner. When he got to the apartment, Marcy had put things away and cleaned up and organized the space. She got dinner on the table as he worked on the project that had to be finished by Saturday. As they ate their dessert, he looked over at her and grinned.
“Coffee and pie. It seems this is where it all started with us.”
“Yes, I’m so glad you convinced me to ask you to that Sadie Hawkins Dance. It’s funny because it seems so long ago, but it wasn’t. I feel loved and wanted now.”
“I feel like it’s been a long time too. It’s that my life has changed so much since then because of you. I feel better about everything and I feel that I have purpose again. There are so many forks in the road, and I think I may have been wandering toward the wrong ones until you helped me find my way.”