Summary: A WHN with an alternative version of how the future could have gone for Margarita and Adam after the episode Woman of Fire.
Word Count: 4464
Joyous, Margarita Manuel walked with Don Luis in the garden at the Ponderosa. The picnic had been a success as far as they were concerned. Adam’s ploy had worked and shown Margarita’s true personality. Don Luis could not have been more pleased at least once he and Margarita were able to clean up and change into dry clothing. Both laughed when they saw Adam arriving with his father and then pouring water from his boots before heading into the washroom. Ben only shook his head before going into the house. Adam had pushed one and then the other into the water and had stoked Margarita’s impressive furnace of a temper to overheating, but that had been exactly what Adam had intended. Don Luis wanted a fiery woman and he got one. However he pushed Adam into the water as ‘a matter of honor’ before he walked away with his fiancé. All had to return to clean up and get dry clothing after that.
Later as the sun was setting, Adam stood at the dining room window looking out over the lake. Don Luis and Margarita walked by outside, and all he could do was to sigh deeply. Don Miguel walked up beside him.
“They make a beautiful couple, do they not?”
“A beautiful couple, yes.”
“I am most grateful to you. No one was able to do what you did and in such a short time. You are most gifted. All the beauty that was within my darling daughter now shows. My Margarita has bloomed like a rose. Yes, she still has thorns, but Don Luis seems to like that prospect. Getting by the thorns makes one appreciate the glory of the rose, no?”
“Every time I’ve held a rose, it seems I only felt the thorns.”
Frowning for a moment, Don Miguel looked out the window at the couple still walking arm-in-arm planning their future together. When he looked back at Adam, he could see the pain reflected in those hazel eyes.
“Does she know?”
“That you are in love with her?”
Adam squeezed his eyes shut. It wouldn’t be seemly to have his eyes glistening when he turned to talk to Don Miguel. When he opened them, he had regained control of his emotions. “She will never know how I feel.”
Nodding in appreciation of the sacrifice, Don Miguel was silent for a time. “Thank you. You must love her well to put her happiness above your own.” He paused once more for a time. “Someday, Adam, you will write a song. You have the soul of a poet and the heart that wishes to sing. You will write of the rose with the thorns that you could not have. I hope that you write it after you have found love with your own rose.
Many years later:
Wanderlust, frustration, and a desire for opportunity caused Adam to leave the Ponderosa. Though he went many places, he didn’t find what he was seeking never satisfied that where he was could be the place where he was destined to be. As Adam traveled, he often played his guitar and sang. Some songs were standards and others were songs he had written. Many of those who heard him sing wondered at the sad and wistful song he wrote and sang at the end of every performance. They wondered who the mysterious dark-haired woman symbolized by the rose had been.
Visiting friends in Monterey, Adam was once more pressed into providing some impromptu entertainment. He finished as he was prone to do with the beautiful if haunting song about a rose. The crowd dispersed after the last chords faded away, and Adam sat quietly as the sun set. He was startled a bit when a cool hand touched his arm.
“You never found your woman of fire then?”
Turning, he saw a woman he had never expected to see again. “Margarita.”
Although pleased to see her, he was wary. His feelings for her though buried were not dead, and she had a husband with a temper. She must have read his mind.
“Don Luis is not here. Why don’t you put your guitar in your room, and we can walk together under the stars and the moon. It is the moon, is it not.”
She smiled reminding him of the last picnic they had attended and his insistence that the sun was the moon in an effort to get her to lose her temper to show her fire to Don Luis. He didn’t rise to the bait but stayed well within the bounds of propriety.
“Is that proper?”
“I have not changed that much. Do you think that I care so much about that as I care about taking a walk with you?”
After putting the guitar in his room, Adam returned to the garden and offered his arm to Margarita. They strolled in silence until well away from the house and anyone who could hear their conversation. Adam waited for her to talk knowing she must have something important to say to ask him on a walk as her first request. When she said nothing, he decided to open the conversation. Doing his best to keep any bitterness from his voice, he asked what he assumed was the polite question after so many years.
“It’s been over five years since I have seen you. Do you and Don Luis have children?”
Feeling her hand tighten on his arm, Adam wondered at what had caused the tension. There had been the announcement of their wedding and later of Elena’s. Occasionally his father had gotten letters from Don Miguel but nothing significant had ever been mentioned as far as he knew though he had been gone for two years.
“With the illness, Don Luis was not able to have children.”
“Illness? I’m sorry. I did not know of any illness.”
“It is I who should be sorry. We told no one assuming that time would be all he needed to get well. The doctors at first said it was only a fever, and then they had other theories, and then more theories, and all the time, Don Luis did not get better.”
“I am truly sorry.”
“The doctors thought at one point that I was poisoning him so I went to live with my father to prove to them it wasn’t me.”
Taking a deep breath, Margarita paused, and Adam knew that whatever purpose there was to this walk was about to be revealed. She turned toward him and took both of his hands in hers.
“I knew that you would be here. I had contacted your father, and he found where you were and let me know. He does not know why I needed to see you, but he trusted me when I told him that you were the only one who could help me.”
His heart breaking at the news of what she had endured, Adam still wasn’t at all ready for what she told him and what she proposed.
“Don Luis passed from this world almost a year ago. It was almost a blessing after years of suffering especially that last year.”
“I had wondered at the black veil.”
“It has been a year. I could stop wearing it now. On a practical side, I have been running the ranch for much longer than that, and I have turned our rancho from sheep to cattle and what my men call truck farming. It is a garden and an orchard as far as I can tell, but they are very big ones. Now the ranch is making a great deal of money, and that is the problem.”
“You are beset with suitors?”
“No, by white Americans who want to take my land because they say I am not an American. Adam, I want you to marry me and put your name on all the property so it cannot be taken away from me.”
Shocked into silence, Adam stood unmoving. Of all the possibilities, he had not considered she would propose marriage.
“You would not have to be my husband in fact. You could keep traveling if you wish or do whatever you wish. You could take some of the profits from the ranch to pay for your travels if you needed. Adam, will you help me? There is no other man I can trust to do so. I need the rancho to be owned by a white American, but it must be a man I can trust with all my heart.”
By that point, stunned and shocked were almost too mild to describe the state Adam was in. He struggled to think of what to say and had only one response he could muster. “What does your father think of this? Have you told him your plan?”
“I did. He said he thought you might do it. I’m not sure why he thought so, but he did. He thought I should try.”
“Margarita, I need to think about this.”
“I expected you would. I wanted to tell you away from the house so you could have time to compose yourself. I thought it would come as a great shock to you. A woman of fire asking you to do this must seem crazy, no?”
“Crazy, yes.” After a short time, Adam spoke again. “I do need time to consider all you have said, but perhaps less than you think. I’ll walk you back. We can talk again after dinner. Come to the bench in the garden after dinner, and I will have an answer for you.”
At dinner, Margarita was quiet. It was out of character for her making her hosts wonder what was wrong. In fact, she expected Adam to reject her offer. His rather brusque reply at the end of their conversation had made her feel that her last hope was lost. No matter how hard she tried, she could not think of another acceptable solution to her dilemma. Although she avoided looking at Adam, she could not help thinking of him, and hearing his voice made her heart hurt. She could hardly wait for dinner to be over so she could escape to her room except she had agreed to meet with Adam to get his answer. Like the condemned walking to the executioner’s block, she walked to the garden and sat on the bench as he had asked or rather commanded. His voice from the shadows startled her.
“I’m not used to you doing as I tell you. That should work well in a marriage.”
“You will marry me then?”
“Under some of my own conditions.”
Her hopes had risen only to fall once more, except Adam moved from the shadows to stand before her. He reached for her hands and pulled her to stand in front of him. She couldn’t help herself and looked up into his eyes. He was smiling at her.
“How can you smile? My life is nearly in ruins, and you smile!”
“Life with you would be a challenge.”
“If I marry, it will be a real marriage. I will take my wife to our marriage bed, and we will do everything a man and woman can do together. I will live with her and she with me, and no one will have any doubts that there is a real marriage. There will be a large wedding and my father and my brothers and my friends will be there. No one will doubt that there is a real marriage. I am not interested in a sham marriage.”
“But for such a marriage, there should be love between a man and a woman.”
Releasing her hands, Adam wrapped one arm around her left shoulder to pull her close and touched her cheek with his other hand. Then he kissed her gently waiting for her to respond before pressing for more. As one of her arms wrapped around his waist and her hand touched his chest, he almost smiled. Instead, he kissed her with more passion and picked her up to carry her to his room.
“Adam, this is too fast.”
“Only for privacy. The garden has too many eyes.”
As it turned out, it was for more than privacy, but that was hours later after they had talked and shared stories. When it was time for Margarita to leave, she didn’t want to go. Adam told her to stay. She did. The next morning, telegrams were sent, and the couple announced their intentions to their hosts, packed their belongings, and headed to Modesto to make preparations for a wedding.
On the Ponderosa:
A rider from town brought what he said was an urgent telegram. With his heart pounding, Ben opened it and then sat down heavily in a chair on the porch. Hoss, Joe, and Jamie rushed to his side when they heard from the hands that he had received an urgent telegram and collapsed into a chair on the porch. He was still sitting there when they arrived.
“Pa, you all right? What happened? Something happen to Adam? He in big trouble?”
While Hoss waited for Ben to answer, Joe picked up the telegram that lay on the table. He read it and laughed.
“Adam’s in big trouble all right. He’s getting married – to Margarita!”
“Margarita – Oh Lordy!”
“Who is Margarita?”
“Jamie, boy, we got us some stories to tell ya. I think I still got a lump on the top of my head from that woman.”
“You better tell your stories as we travel. They’re getting married in less than a week in Modesto.”
“What happened to Don Luis?”
“Joe, he died about a year or so ago. I got a letter from Margarita’s father. All of you were gone on a cattle drive, and I must have forgotten to tell you when you got home.”
“Dagburnit, that Adam’s been seeing her and he never said nothing about it.”
“Hoss, I don’t think that’s possible. Adam only recently returned to California if you recall. He couldn’t have been seeing her. Whatever happened must have occurred rather suddenly.”
“Well, let’s get packing. I want to hear the rest of this story, and I bet Jamie wants to finally meet him.”
“I don’t know, son. Do you think it’s safe to bring Jamie along? You remember what happened to you the last time we saw Margarita.”
“Yeah, but Pa, I’m sure Adam will have her under control by now. Don’t you?”
“Perhaps, but you need to stay away from any guitars.”
With the comments and the laughter, Jamie was getting insatiably curious. “What happened to Hoss? Why does Adam have to keep her under control? Why would Hoss go near a guitar anyway?”
“Well, punkin, the trip to Modesto might jest be long enough to tell ya all about the woman our older brother is set to marry.”
Stories were told and Jamie’s questions were answered, but nothing prepared any of them for the sight that awaited them when they arrived in Modesto the day before the wedding. They followed directions to the Rocking M and were met by ranch hands who led them to the main house. There, they were told that Adam and Margarita would be right out to greet them. Both were bright and cheery as they approached and Margarita was smiling with her arm through Adam’s left arm. Ben and the others were silent staring at Adam. He had a bloody stitched crease in his scalp where the hair had been cut away. One eye was black and blue as was a significant part of that side of his face. His right hand was encased in a thick bandage and his right arm was in a sling.
Jamie whispered to Hoss. “Based on what you told me about her, maybe getting married wasn’t his idea.”
Although Jamie whispered, it wasn’t quietly enough. Margarita heard him and bristled at his words because of the insinuation. Adam had heard too though and pulled her closer to him.
“Sweetheart, it was your idea. However, I most wholeheartedly agreed to it. What the young man has implied though is wrong.” Turning to his family, he pointed to the house. “Let’s go inside. I’m sure you are wondering about my condition. I can explain more inside over lunch.”
Taking the opportunity, Ben introduced Jamie, and then the group went inside. Over lunch, Adam began the explanation starting with how he and Margarita had reunited without the more private details of course. What his family was waiting for though was the explanation of why he looked as he did.
“Adam, you better get to telling who beat you up, or I swear, I’m a gonna beat it outta you, myself.”
“Hoss, it wasn’t one beating as you imply. No, when we arrived here, we had a lot to do, and we thought that those who were trying to get this ranch were the ones trying to kill me.”
“Yes, Pa, trying to kill me. Oh, it didn’t seem so at first. The men here challenged me when we arrived. I got into a fight and that’s how my hand got hurt. They don’t fight fair, or by any rules I think of as fair. One of the men pushed me into a fist fight, but he was prepared. He had a padded board under his shirt. When I hit him in the belly, I nearly broke my hand.”
Jamie was incensed that someone would do that to win a fight. “He did that just to win a fight with you?”
“He did that, but not to win. I won. He did it to hurt me so I wouldn’t be able to use my pistol against them.”
“But how did you win with one good hand?”
Hoss answered. “Jamie, let me warn you. Never get in a fight with our older brother. Ifn he wants to, he can fight real dirty. Them Paiute done taught him all sorts of ways to fight.”
“It wasn’t that complicated, Hoss. I kicked him, and then hit him a few times.”
“You kicked him? Where? Oh.”
“Yeah, there. Then one of the others pulled a knife so they could do what they actually intended, but by then Margarita was there with a pistol and that was that.”
“Son, you think they would have killed you?”
“There was the knife, Pa, and of course, there was the fact that they said they were going to kill me. They were trying to protect Margarita.”
“It sounds as if they were, but I hope they know better now.”
“She fussed over me and cried when she saw I was hurt. They were amazed and asked her if she really cared for me. She told them that she loved me. That surprised them. They thought I was taking advantage of her. Anyway, that was settled with them. However the household staff wasn’t convinced. The cooks tried to poison me.”
“They gave Adam a poisoned sandwich. He doesn’t like how one of our cooks prepares the meat though, and we were walking so I told him to eat some of the bread, and when we got by the pig pen, to drop the rest in the pen for the big one to eat. He would eat anything.”
“And did he?”
“Who? Adam or the pig?”
“Well, both, I guess.”
“Yes, and then the pig fell over and started kicking, and we were shocked.”
“I was more than shocked. I knew that the sandwich had been poisoned. If it was enough to kill that pig, I wouldn’t have had a chance. I stormed up to that kitchen to confront the cook who gave me the sandwich, and she must have seen me. She met me coming in the door with a fry pan to the face.”
“Yes, luckily I saw it at the last moment and turned slightly away. I took a glancing blow, but it was enough to put me on the floor. We replayed a similar scene with Margarita so upset and the household staff surprised to see she actually cares about me.”
“Son, doesn’t that take care of everyone who might want to harm you?”
“The third injury was the bullet that skimmed my scalp. We took a ride around the ranch and stopped for a little picnic. I was standing, and decided to lean back against a tree. My sudden move occurred just as someone decided to try to shoot me, and the bullet went through my hat grazing my head. I’m sure they must have thought I was dead by the amount of blood and Margarita screaming.”
“Of course I was screaming. You had blood everywhere. I thought you had a hole in your head.”
“I didn’t although it still feels like I did. It was only three days ago. I have to be careful walking and can’t ride.”
“Who did that?”
“We don’t know the person, but we know who is responsible. I’ll take care of him eventually, but for now, we took care of his motive. Margarita transferred her ownership of the ranch to me. So, if I die, the ranch goes to the rest of you legally. It protects me and protects Margarita.”
Ben understood although Adam’s brothers did not. Jamie asked which relieved Hoss and Joe who didn’t have to reveal their confusion.
“If I died and the ranch went to Margarita, she would be back in the same predicament where they would claim she is not an American and has no right to the land. They cannot have that argument if the land goes to any of you, and we trust you that you would watch out for her interests and not take the ranch from her.”
Jamie understood too then. “Oh, so somebody was trying to kill you so you couldn’t marry her because they wanted this ranch?”
“Yes, and now, we know how far that person will go, but when my hand is healed, he will find out how far I will go.”
“Son, I hope you will stay within the law.”
Joe snickered a bit, and Adam looked at him wondering what he had to say. “With all your injuries, I hope you can still enjoy your wedding night.”
“It’s all right, Pa. No worries, Joe. Margarita and I are quite happy.”
The enigmatic answer was made clear when Margarita’s family arrived, and guest rooms were assigned. There were four bedrooms in the sprawling ranch house and one room converted to a bedroom with beds brought in from the bunkhouse. Ben got one, Margarita’s father got another, Elena and her husband got another, and the brothers got the one with the bunks from the bunkhouse. That left only one. The fathers exchanged looks that said plainly they were glad the wedding was the following day. The brothers and Elena shared looks that were more amused than anything as they did their best to hide smiles.
The next morning, Adam wore a black shirt and brocaded black vest. He still had to wear a sling to support his hand and forearm but removed the white bandage. Wisely, he wore a black hat too for the outdoor ceremony and festivities. Margarita wore a green dress with gold trim. The wedding ceremony was simple but elegant. Afterwards as the celebration was beginning, two carriages came up the long drive. Adam and Margarita walked out to meet them with some of their men with them for protection. The others waited to see what would happen.
“Mister Cartwright and Margarita, I’m Bern Reynolds and this is my wife, Cora. We own the ranch that borders yours on two sides. Over there is Matt Pierson and his wife Stella. They own the ranch that borders yours on this side. We want you to know we had nothing to do with what happened to you. We admit we took legal means to try to get this land, but that’s in the past. We want to try to be good neighbors now that we see how far things went.”
“My wife, Stella, is a good cook. She baked up some things to help you celebrate your wedding and would be honored if you would accept them.”
Looking at Margarita, Adam waited for her reaction. She smiled and nodded. He turned to their visitors. “Would you please join us and meet our families. There is plenty to eat and drink. There will be music too. We can talk and get to know each other a bit.”
“I see from your gate that you changed your brand.”
“Yes, my name is Adam so we used an empty A over the M for Margarita to make a brand that is harder to alter. The ranch was having trouble with cattle being stolen.” Adam saw the looks and knew they had some knowledge of what had happened. “It’s in the past. As long as it doesn’t happen again, I don’t have to go looking to have anybody hang for it.” He saw their eyes get wide. “I come from Nevada. On the Ponderosa, sometimes men died for rustling our cattle.”
“You’re one of the Ponderosa Cartwrights?”
“Yes, Bern, and my father and brothers are here too if you would like to meet them. A number of our friends are here as well. Why don’t you come up to the house and get acquainted? I’m sure they would be happy to meet Margarita’s neighbors.”
By implication, they all knew that stories had already been told of what neighbors had done, but Adam was willing to let bygones be bygones if these people would. Swallowing their apprehension, they agreed to join the party. Margarita turned to Adam as the two couples merged into the party.
“You’re enjoying all of this, no?”
“Almost as much as you are, I would wager, yes?”
“Perhaps, husband, perhaps.”
“I rather like that the information is going to get to our third neighbor now and probably by tonight. Let him sweat a little wondering when I’m coming for him.”
“When are the authorities going to search his ranch for our cattle?”
“Now that I can tell them which ranch to search, I would guess by Monday. They’ll have men watching to make sure he doesn’t try to move them out either. This should all be settled soon.”
“A woman of fire needs a man of fire by her side. I have one worry though.”
“What is that?”
“What will our children be like?”
Laughing, they walked back to their celebration.