“That’s one fine horse you gifted to the little lady, John.”
“Appreciate you sayin’ so, Grape-crusher.”
Neither man made eye contact with the other. Their sights targeted the corral’s current activity of a little lady and her fine horse. However both men, Scott noted, wore subtle smiles shaded by low-seated hats.
Seth’s Boston letter revisited the confines of his back pocket and talk of Beacon Hill guests had momentarily stepped aside for Kinsey’s enthusiasm regarding the brindle. The stallion had graduated to a saddle after only a few days of groundwork. Also graduating quickly: a discussion to a debate between wrangler and owner.
“Half-pint, I hate repeatin’ myself, so you best dig those potatoes out a your ears.”
“Are you suggesting my ears are dirty?”
“No. I’m suggestin’-”
“Well, one needs dirt to grow potatoes, Johnny. I thought that was a well-known fact.”
Leaning on a fence rail, Scott grinned over his customary sunrise mug of coffee. Quietly watching the sky put on its show of colors while letting Maria’s strong brew wash away any lingering cobwebs had become part of his routine in starting the day.
Recently, Scott’s morning of one-cup-tranquility had acquired somewhat amusing entertainment, compliments of a brother, a cousin and a horse.
Murdoch’s mantra a ranch doesn’t run by itself didn’t include hours spent training a brindle on his youngest son’s chore list. Likewise, Kinsey working with the animal solo didn’t appear on Johnny’s Acceptable Situations list. A compromise was reached: an hour or two of training as the sun broke the horizon.
“It’s certainly not gardening, John, that gets me up at the ass crack of d-”
“Whoa. Watch the sass.”
“May I remind you asscrack tumbled out of your mouth when-”
“I know what I said and when I said it.”
“Well said is better than well done when putting off today what one can do tomorrow. You would be wise to follow those words of wisdom from Ben Franklin, Johnny.”
Out of respect, Scott’s chin dipped in a moment of silence for yet another slaughter of the Founding Father’s wisdom.
Johnny tugged on his hat brim as if funneling down what little patience he had left. “Wouldn’t want to get the reputation of passin’ on words a wisdom from old Ben so we’re puttin’ off your britches sittin’ in that saddle today and tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.”
“The brindle isn’t ready.”
“Yes he is. D'Artagnan is a fast learner.”
“Is that what you’re namin’ this fella? D'Artagnan?”
“It’s the perfect name for this fella.”
Scott had to agree. His fondness for Dumas’ The Three Musketeers had returned with Kinsey’s discovery of the tale resting on a Great Room bookshelf. Matching Scott’s love of the story, she devoured page after page. And the nights when her weary eyes blurred printed words, the young lady insisted her older cousin read a few chapters aloud, which Scott gladly obliged.
Yes, the name fit. The brindle possessed the attribute D'Artagnan would be proud of. Loyalty.
“…and did you know, Johnny, there were actually four musketeers? Few people are aware that all four are based on historical figures. Let’s see….” Kinsey’s fingers began ticking off the names. “There was Armand de Sillegue, Isaac de Portau, Henri d'Aramitz and Charles de Batz. All four came from Gascony, and all four were members of the elite Black Musketeer regiment during the 1640s. So actually it should be The Four Musketeers, but The Three Musketeers does roll off the tongue nicely. They were so dashing…”
Johnny’s head slowly pivoted toward the older brother.
All for one and one for all. Seeing his younger sibling’s pained expression seeking support, Scott raised his now empty mug in a gesture of good luck, Godspeed, and bon voyage down the young lady’s latest rabbit hole.
“Hold up there, Half-pint. Thought you and I came to an agreement.”
Kinsey had been leading the brindle through its daily exercises of moving between one bucket offering bites of grain to another, all the while practicing cues of whoa and forward. D'Artagnan’s willingness to stop and then move ahead would hopefully eliminate the urge to buck, the basis for a never-ending debate between the horse’s gifter and giftee.
Guiding the stallion to the corral’s mounting block, D'Artagnan’s Queen Anne glanced over her shoulder. “I believe an agreement requires two people sharing the same opinion. I’m unaware of that ever happening.”
“Goddammit, Scott! She’s goin’ to break her neck.” Johnny’s strides took him from being a spectator to a participant. “Kinsey Rose. Stop right there.”
A voice perceived from the left. “A man might think your brother is still in love with the little lady.”
The inflection Seth’s statement carried inspired a side glance from Scott. Westcott’s subtle smile had been replaced with the countenance of a gambler contemplating the odds. “Well, sir, a man might think all he wants, but the fact remains the little lady is marrying you.”
Westcott’s slow nod shook off the doubt which had been cloaking his customary smile of casualness. “That is a fact.” Reaching in his back pocket, an envelope from Boston reappeared. “Speaking of an upcoming wedding, I’d like to hear your thoughts on one of the guests.”
A brow raised with Seth sharing what Scott assumed was a letter from Roberta Westcott. Unfolding the single sheet of flower-edged stationery, the assumption proved correct.
My dearest one and only child,
Your telegram released me from my solitude of anguish and I’m grateful for its few concise words reaching across the distance which has separated us far too long.
Scott bit his lower lip to stifle a heavy sigh. It was already clear why Grandfather and Lady Westcott enjoyed each other’s company.
Receiving news regarding the well-being of your two travel companions provided additional blessings in many ways. Of course, dear Seth, it goes without saying relief washed over your mother when learning her son’s anchor of amour remains safe and unscathed.
A grin brushed down on the letter’s eloquent handwriting. Her son’s Anchor of Amour? No doubt needed to sail on one’s Sea of Romance in the Labyrinth of Love.
As I’ve said to you so often in the past, a sable cloud can turn forth her silver lining on the night. These words continue to prove true. From Jupiter’s sable cloud came forth a silver lining on my dark nights of worry. This silver lining has been graciously provided by-
Seth cleared his throat, bringing attention to the current unfolding scene before him. “Should we be a bit concerned here?”
A brief glance up from Roberta’s correspondence treated its reader to the familiar stances of two mountain goats locking horns. “Hard to say. Depends on who throws the first punch.”
“I’m putting my money on the little lady.”
-Mr. Harlan Garrett, a name I’m certain you’re acquainted with considering your business dealings with his affluent grandson S. G. Lancer.
Well now. If memory served Scott correctly, affluent had never been placed before S.G. Lancer until now, indicating Grandfather’s influence of cattle baron exaggeration.
It’s also my understanding this gentleman is Miss Furlong’s cousin. What delightful convenience.
Harlan and I shared a lovely evening at the Parker House in celebration of God’s hand protecting our children. The euphoria of repeated prayers answered led us to a decision of an adventurous nature.
“Mean anything when your little brother keeps rubbing his chin and staring up at the sky?”
“Double down on your wager.”
After rearranging a multitude of social engagements - a task not easily accomplished - I’ve secured time for an extended holiday away from Boston. Dear Seth, nothing gives me more pleasure than the knowledge I will be embracing my son at the end of this month. Yes, Harlan and I have booked passage on the Transcontinental. My only disappointment is not seeing the surprise on your face at this very moment.
Remaining in California will give us plenty of time to reconnect. I’m eager to show Harlan our successful vineyard, which he counters in pride when speaking of his grandson’s expansive cattle ranch. Grandness abounds!
My anticipation would be amiss if it did not include the introduction to Miss Furlong. Even though the young lady is not Boston born and bred, Harlan has assured me her upbringing and social graces soar above all others.
“John Lancer! You unreasonable bloody bugger!”
Soaring? Scott rolled his eyes. Indeed. Soaring like a wing-clipped cockatoo.
I look forward to assisting in the necessary preparations needed for your engagement celebration. It’s unfortunate it won’t be taking place here in Boston where higher standards of etiquette are more attainable, but I’m confident we will make do with the limited resources available on western shores.
May the next few weeks pass quickly.
PostScript ~ Please extend my warmest regards to Phillip.
Observing Scott’s refolding of the correspondence, Seth offered his regrets. “My mother’s reference to Boston born and bred was, as with most of her comments, uncalled for. Her ignorance is bountiful and I apologize.”
“Apologies aren’t necessary, sir.” The letter returned to its owner while a memory of Harlan Garrett’s query regarding Johnny’s mother as a foreigner replayed in Scott’s head. “But since we’re in the business of doing so, let me apologize now for everything my grandfather says and does once he steps foot off the train.”
Seth’s nod of gratitude for Scott’s diplomacy transferred to the mediation outcome in the corral. “It appears an agreement has been reached.”
Johnny’s arm swept out in front of him in the grand style of a Musketeer, uniting Queen Anne with her D'Artagnan. Mounting the brindle, rider and horse began to move as one while Kinsey’s smile displayed confidence.
“I haven’t enlightened my mother regarding the little lady’s inheritance. I think it’s best for now.”
Best for now. Scott smiled and nodded at his cousin and her accomplishment as they trotted about the corral. Considering the company Roberta Westcott had been keeping, it may be too late for what was best.