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Little Sister and the Pony Express

Updated: Mar 27, 2023




San Joaquin Valley

Lancer Ranch


One of Harvard’s earliest graduates, Gershom Bulkeley, scripted: Actions are more significant than words. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, on the other hand, took a more aggressive view when writing: The pen is mightier than the sword. Whereas Emerson, with his transcendental thinking, simply stated: Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.


However, surpassing the insights of scholars and philosophers in its efficiency, there’s S.G. Lancer’s utterance: Get it said.


Scott’s eyes glanced at his scrawling handwriting spelling out Seth Westcott’s name across the plain envelope residing next to the journal.


When tackling the task of informing our vineyard business partner the details of the convenient delay his fiancée has provided us, I decided the best approach was to take my own advice often given to a little brother. Get it said.


Truth be told, no matter my wording of the mishap or the reassurance that the young lady’s injuries were minor in comparison to what could have happened, Seth Westcott will be on his way to Lancer five minutes after receiving my correspondence. I won’t find fault in the gentleman’s decision not to stay put or the likely reaction to the situation upon his arrival. If in his shoes, I’d do the same.


A polite knock on the bedroom door failed to lasso the author’s full attention from weighing his thoughts, allowing only a muttered come in to be voiced.


The polite knock repeated itself.


A slight sigh upturned the corners of Scott’s mouth. “Come in, Teresa.”


The moment Murdoch Lancer’s two sons first stepped off the stagecoach, Teresa O’Brien’s endearing enthusiasm knew no bounds… or barriers which included bedroom doors. Bursting in on a gent’s private domain without knocking was viewed as acceptable with her repeated mantra: think of me like a sister. Scott endured this new sister’s unannounced invasions until the day she ambushed him one towel from buck naked. Enough was enough. A gentle but firm reprimand resolved the issue and inspired Teresa’s teasing insistence to knock twice before entering, followed by the customary...


“Are you decent?


“So I’ve been told.” Scott grinned at his now-expected response suggesting past romantic encounters while always offering varying additional information. “Some ladies have described the experience as life-changing.”


“Scott Lancer. Your crowing is quite -”


“Cocky?”


Scott coined it The O’Brien Staredown: one arched eyebrow poised above two cornflower blue eyes which complimented a delicate smirk of disapproval. The girl could hold her unflinching, silent expression longer than a Roman sculpture. However, it was noted the blush highlighting Teresa’s cheeks, brought on by good-natured jests, had diminished over time. His double-meaning shenanigans were losing the high ground on embarrassment. A throat cleared. “My apologies, young lady. I interrupted. You were saying?”


“Mistaken. Your crowing is quite mistaken.” Teresa’s smirk morphed into a sympathizing smile. “At least that’s my understanding from the discussions at the Green River dress shop.”


Scott’s laughter rolled across the room and invited the visitor in while his eyes spied what she held in one hand - an envelope of peppermint hue. If his memory held true, it had been selected from Miss Provenience’s stationery, reserved only for Labyrinth of Love advice up until her recent retirement. A good guess for Teresa’s visit formulated as Scott set his pencil aside, exchanged his offered chair for a bed’s edge and waited for the small talk to commence.


“I think your grandfather’s extended holiday is progressing very well.” Positivity painted a pretty picture.


“Most four-hour extended holidays usually do.” Raillery reeled in reality.


“This evening’s supper conversations were congenial.”


“Agreed.” Scott thumped his chest where dyspepsia had plagued him in the past. “Very little indigestion.” A need for confirmation on a prediction turned the thumping fist into a pointer. “Is that a shingle from the chickens’ pink palace you’re holding?”


“Don’t be silly.” To be certain a magical transformation hadn’t occurred, the young lady glanced at the envelope clasped in her lap. “It’s a letter to Seth Westcott.”


“Oh?” With the knowledge that his title of A Good Guesser remained intact, Scott ventured forth. “Can I assume you assisted in writing the letter considering my cousin’s hand is cocooned in layers of gauze?”


“Kinsey felt Seth’s correspondence deserved a feminine touch.”


“A feminine touch?”


My dearest love wouldn’t express an accurate sentiment in your chicken scratch.”


Scott nodded. The girl had a point. “Speaking of accuracy… did Lancer’s daredevil explain to her intended the little stunt she pulled?”


“Of course.” Teresa reconsidered her commitment to the truth. “I mean… in her own way.”


“Right. Tell me, how much sugar got stirred into my cousin’s coffee mug of words?”


“Perhaps a spoonful more than you would recommend, but I think Seth understands Kinsey’s tendency to do so.”


“He does.” Scott grinned. Teresa O’Brien. Diplomat. The governor would do well to hire the young lady as an advisor.


“Kinsey mentioned you had a personal pony express?” The statement tickled a question which kept the pink correspondence in the safety of feminine hands.


“That would be Ben.”


Benjamin was the youngest of nine boys Tom Hillard gifted to his wife. Although Scott wondered if asked, would Dorothea Hillard consider her husband’s generosity too ample as their brood of rambunctious lads kept increasing? To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the question had never been posed to the woman.


Nor did anyone take the time to query Ben on his thoughts regarding the position of last in the line of nine. But if asked, the boy’s answer would undoubtedly be: suits me just fine. Being the youngest, there was very little trouble the lad could get into that his brothers hadn’t already thought of and lived through so parental reins were loose. Morning chores began Ben’s days and a good meal ended them. However, as he entered adolescence, the time between his starts and stops drifted from lackadaisy focus on school work to seeking out prosperous ventures. It was a fact, Benjamin enjoyed having a few coins jingling in his pocket to call his own. It made him feel grown-up like his pa, a man he worshiped and strived to make proud.


Scott first met Ben at Green River’s post office where the lad took on the role as the official errand boy. His duties ranged from lifting heavy canvas bags to running package deliveries to fetching a cool pint for the postmaster. With a week’s worth of Lancer mail in hand, Scott always took a moment to say hello and hear the latest tale Ben wanted to share. Reflecting a young lad’s perspective, the narratives often proved mischievously entertaining and, at times, soberingly insightful. Listening to Ben, it became clear to Scott the boy struggled to gain his father’s attention which was mostly gobbled up by Hillards one through eight. Yes, Murdoch Lancer’s oldest son saw a bit of himself in Tom Hillard’s youngest boy which sparked a friendship between the two. Simultaneous circumstances solidified it.


********


Reading the postmark on the envelope plowed Scott’s brow. As he floundered to stay one step ahead of his grandfather poking holes in Fletcher’s will, the latest correspondence from Garrett lawyers had been collecting dust at the Green River telegraph office for several days. “Damn.”


“Somethin’ wrong, Mr. Lancer?”


“Lawyers.”


“It is a fact, ladies can crunch a fella’s cojones.” The errand boy sighted his source of information for validation. “At least that’s what my brothers say.”


“Well Ben, lawyers can have a similar effect and that too is a fact.”


“Sorry, Mr. Lancer. Thought you said ladies.” Benjamin Hillard plopped down on the wooden bench outside his place of employment. “I don’t know much about lawyers.”


“And may you never have to.” Scott observed the rejected look on the lad’s face and settled in to join him. “What’s her name?”


“How did you know?”


“Oh, I’ve experienced a few crunches of my own. Sarah Sophronia Shaw was the first.”


“A fella can get crunched more than once?” Ben shook his head. “Damn.”


Scott rolled his eyes and prayed he hadn’t added a new word to the boy’s vocabulary. “So tell me about this young lady of yours.”


“Abigail Maples.”


The name was given the inflection reserved for Helen of Troy. It sounded as if Benjamin’s longing for an aggie marble shooter had grown less and interest in Abigail Maples’ affection had grown more. “Pretty name.”


“Pretty girl.”


“I’m not seeing the problem here, Ben.”


“Sasparillas. Abigail can’t get enough of them. And I don’t need to tell ya, Mr. Lancer, sasparillas don’t grow on trees.”


“No, I guess they don’t.” Scott dipped his chin to stifle a smile. In his travels, he’d met a few Abigail Maples: pretty girls with expensive tastes. “I’m also guessing this young lady prefers a gent who can provide her with a few sasparillas.”


“Never had any trouble keeping money in my pocket until I met Abigail. And it’s hard for a man to make a girl smile unless he’s got a few coins to spend on her. That there is the truth.”


“Indeed it is.” Scott studied the letters in his hands. The one causing him worry he held out for Ben to see. “Can you tell me where this envelope came from?”


“Sure!” The errand boy squinted at the postmark. “Boston.”


“Correct. Boston and one of many that I’m certain will be coming my way with important information I need to read in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, this one has been sitting here in the post office far too long.” Scott returned the letter with the others. “I might have a business proposition for you which could prove profitable if you're interested.”


“I’d be mighty interested in hearing it, Mr. Lancer.”


“Well, whenever you spot one of these letters from Boston, you hand-deliver it to me at the ranch.”


“Like the Pony Express!”


“Exactly. And in return, I’d pay you… oh, let’s say a silver for the service.”


The boy’s low whistle indicated calculations were being made on the number of sasparillas one silver dollar could buy. “Mr. Lancer, you got a deal!” Ben spit on the palm of his hand and held it out.


Recognizing the seriousness of a gentleman’s agreement from his childhood, Scott followed suit. “Deal and done.” Rising to leave, advice was offered. “You know, Benjamin, you may want to consider finding a young lady who’s more interested in you than sasparillas.”


“Yeah. I know. But, gee Mr. Lancer, Abigail sure has a pretty smile.”


Scott nodded. So had Sarah Sophronia Shaw.


********


“Kinsey thought perhaps this young man would be willing to deliver her letter to Seth.”


“Oh, I think that can be arranged for the right price. And Benjamin would heartily agree with his namesake Franklin - time is money.”


Silence.


Scott arched an eyebrow. “Let me guess. My cousin has come up short. And I’m referring to her finances, not height.”


“Dodgy rot. Surrender up a silver and quit nickin’ from your own lil’ cousin.” Teresa’s stab at Kinsey’s accent indicated the young ladies had previously discussed pony express payment.


“Right.” Outnumbered. Silver surrendered. “You may leave the pink letter of passion next to my journal. I’ll ride into town tomorrow.”


Fingers set aside Kinsey’s brightly-colored correspondence in exchange for a spied plain envelope displaying Seth Westcott in familiar scrawled handwriting. A smile of realization graced Teresa’s face as she returned Scott’s letter to its place on the desk and rose to leave. “I think I’ll freshen up a guest room.” An afterthought was given with the closing of a door. “Perhaps the one next to Kinsey’s.”


Scott’s pencil returned to its task with the journal.


But rising above all philosophical views on expressing one’s thoughts, is the perfectly worded female intuition.


~ S.


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2 Comments


vlnelson1955
vlnelson1955
May 02, 2023

Wasn’t it Johnny that said “Get it said?” Or is Scott channeling his baby brother. Btw, I would think Scott would have wonderful penmanship having been educated in the east. On to the next chapter.

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Janet McKinney
Janet McKinney
Nov 09, 2022

I do look for Scott's Journals entries....please keep them coming....at least until the wedding.

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