FANFIC - This is the sequel to "Rescue and Redemption", a story I wrote at the end of season 5 when our family couldn’t wait to see what had happened to Sully. That story was written before I knew others wrote fanfic and that there was even a forum to post such works. I would recommend reading that story first in order to get the most out of this one, but in case you haven’t, in the previous story Sully goes on trial and is convicted of treason (I had no idea he’d also be accused of murder so that doesn’t come into the story). Rather than sentencing him to death, a compassionate judge sentences him to spend the next two years trying to right some of the wrongs that happened due to his actions - rebuilding the burned homesteads, etc. The judge also arranges a loan with Preston’s bank to pay for the work and in exchange, Sully is also to finish building Preston’s homestead. The judge will return in two years to see if the sentence has been satisfactorily completed and to decide whether to declare Sully a free man or impose further sentencing. This story begins near the end of the two years. Because the first story was written before season 6 aired, there are some seeming inconsistencies in the story - Matthew is still sheriff, Marjorie did not die, Michaela did not have a miscarriage and the circumstances of Anthony’s death are different.
by Rebecca Burkhart
"I hope you're overlapping those shingles enough, Sully!" Preston's imperious voice carried up to the porch roof from where he was sitting on a stump. "I don't want to have to worry about leaks. I know you're anxious to complete this project by the time the judge comes back so you can truly be declared pardoned, but I don't want you taking any short cuts. Your wife would be very unhappy if you landed in jail – or worse".
Sully, thankful his mouth was full of nails, settled for giving Preston a dark look and returned to his hammering. Matthew had told him he didn't think anything could be done about Preston's constant haranguing. It was, after all, his property. After changing his mind a dozen times about what type of house he wanted, Preston had finally settled on a miniature replica of his Springs Chateau. Completing the home would complete the last part of the sentence the judge had imposed on Sully nearly two years ago when he had been convicted of treason. Matthew had told Sully the judge was due in Colorado Springs in about a month's time. If he worked hard and nothing went wrong, he had just enough time.
"Oh, and speaking of the lovely Michaela," Preston went on mockingly, "I saw her by the clinic today with that new bachelor homesteader - what's his name? Clarence Hartley. They did seem to be getting on famously. Of course, Michaela is charming with everyone, especially the men, but it does seem young Clarence has had more than his share of ailments lately". Preston settled himself more comfortably, stretching his legs out in front of him and taking a deep breath of the clear air. "I guess with working so hard and such long hours it is hard for you to keep the home fires burning. With little Gordon's birthday in September, it is easy to assume he is the result of a little Christmas revelry," Preston mused, eyes to the sky, "But with you working so much these last few months, I just wonder what outlet Michaela has found for her passions, how she..." at a noise, Preston sat up straighter, prepared to defend himself against the onslaught he expected, had, in fact , been trying to provoke. But all he saw was Sully's back as he stalked away down the road. "You won't get very far by quitting early!" Preston shouted after him. "This is not the way to get the job done!"
Sully sat quietly under a large oak, allowing the anger within him to subside. It seemed no one could get to him, or even wanted to, the way Preston could. He knew it would do no good to strike back. That was just what Preston wanted. He stood up, ready to continue to the homestead. He was glad he had come on foot today. It would give him more time to figure out how he was going to talk to Michaela. He had to talk with her about what had happened but he knew he'd have to tread easy. These last couple years had been full of ups and downs that had put them and their marriage under a tremendous strain.
It seemed they had been through the worst a year and a half ago when they'd almost lost their homestead, but their love for each other and the love of their neighbors and friends had pulled them through. Sully's almost dying from the fall over the cliff and then his coming very close to being hanged for treason had taught them never again to take their time together for granted. But now as he raced the clock to complete the terms of his sentence before the judge returned, Sully was feeling the tension again. It wasn't easy for Michaela, either, with an active 3-year-old and an young baby. Sully smiled as he thought of 9-month-old Gordon Michael - Michael in honor of Michaela and Gordon for the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, the closest Sully would come to allowing his son to be named for him.
To add to the tension, Michaela's mother, Elizabeth, and one of her sisters, Rebecca, had come west to see the new baby and visit the rest of the family. They were staying at the homestead, this time, making things very crowded. Brian was spending nights at Matthew's homestead, trying to ease things a little, but Gordon's crib had been moved back into their room. Michaela, remembering the difficult period of adjustment when Katie was a baby and trying to be sensitive to their need for privacy had moved him into Colleen's old room while she was away at school. But now that room was needed for Elizabeth while Rebecca occupied Brian's room and privacy was a thing of the past. There was always someone around and even their own bedroom was not a safe haven. He just hoped they could find a private moment tonight when they could talk quietly. He needed time to broach the subject slowly and carefully so as not to upset Michaela. Sooner than he could have imagined, his footsteps carried him to the homestead and he took a deep breath and prayed for strength and guidance in the evening to come.
Supper was over, chores were done, Matthew and Brian were headed back to the new house on the old homestead. Katie had been reluctantly tucked in and Gordon had been nursed fast asleep. Michaela entered the bedroom, having seen to the comfort of her mother and sister and settled herself at her dressing table with a sigh.
"You're making a fire?" she said to Sully. "I didn't think it was that cold!"
He looked up and smiled. "Just a small one. Thought it would be cozy".
Michaela shrugged and began brushing her hair. Sully finished at the fireplace and came up behind her. "Here, let me". He took the brush and began drawing it through Michaela's long, auburn locks. She sat very stiff and still, not relaxing or giving herself to his ministrations as she usually did. He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her neck, sensing a tension in her. He wondered if he even ought to begin this conversation. But if not now, when? Very gently he said, "Michaela, I need to talk with you about something".
She closed her eyes and sighed. "I'm very tired, Sully. Can it wait?"
He thought about it, then said, "I'd really rather not wait. I really need to talk to ya".
"All right" she nodded reluctantly and turned in her chair to face him. He squatted in front of her and took her hands in his, unconsciously massaging them as he spoke.
"Michaela," he began, "you are a beautiful woman, inside and out and I ain't the only one who can see that beauty and be affected by it. I don't think you realise the effect you have on people".
"What are you getting at, Sully?"
"It's just that when you're extra friendly with some of your patients, well, maybe they get the wrong idea..."
"Wrong idea about what? Sully, I wish you'd stop talking in circles and get to the point!"
This was going to be harder than he thought. "Well, like that fella, Clarence - he's been by the clinic an awful lot lately..."
"Sully, he has an infected toe and needs frequent check-ups and treatments". There was puzzlement and a trace of impatience in her voice.
"It's just that when you smile at people the way ya do and are friendly the way you are, people...maybe get the wrong idea".
"Preston mentioned that he saw you and Clarence outside the clinic earlier today and that you and he seemed very ... friendly. I just..."
"I cannot believe this!" Michaela was incensed. "You're taking some little piece of gossip from Preston... Preston! And turning it against me. Don't you trust me, Sully?"
This was turning out all wrong. "Of course I do, Michaela! It's not just Preston. I mean, if he sees something, maybe others do, too. When you look at people the way ya do...I'm not talkin' about what's really goin' on - I know that's nothin'. I'm talkin' about how things look..." he trailed off when he saw the look on Michaela's face.
Two bright spots of color had appeared on Michaela's cheeks, but she spoke quietly. "I never thought you were one to worry about how things look, Sully. You always try to do what's right without worrying about appearances!" She raised angry eyes to Sully. "But speaking of how things 'look' - did you worry about that back when you were kissing Catherine in front of the children? Were you concerned about how things 'looked' when you were sneaking around to see Dorothy that time? Or how it 'looked' when you were seen out at the Reservation during the uprising and almost hanged as a result?" Her voice had risen and tears filled her eyes, threatening to spill over.
Sully stared at her incredulously. "I cannot believe you're bringin' all that up again! There was nothin' goin' on with Catherine or Dorothy. You know that!"
"Of course I do, but does everyone else in town who might have seen you? I mean, how did it look?" she replied sarcastically.
Now Sully was becoming angry. "Michaela, that's not what I'm talkin' about. I'm talkin' about the way you react to people - to men in particular - maybe givin' them the wrong idea...I seen the way you are sometimes - like with Ethan Cooper that first time he was here - laughin' and dancin' with him, and that time you was kissin' the Reverend. the way you were with that doctor in Boston - William - hangin' all over him and when David came back here makin' him stay when you were supposed to be engaged to me ..." Sully shook his head, knowing he'd gone too far. A lot of past hurts he didn't even know he still harbored were coming out. He didn't seem to be able to stop himself. "Look what happened with Daniel!"
"You're blaming me for that?" Michaela cried.
"It's what I've been tryin' to tell ya!" Sully replied. "You got a way about ya that just draws folks to you. It's part of what makes you a good doctor. Ya just gotta be careful is all..."
"So you just want me to stop being me, is that it?" Michaela retorted. "You're always telling me not to try to change you, but here you are doing the same thing to me!"
"It works both ways, Michaela. You’re always tellin' me what's wrong with me, askin' me to change but you can't take it when it's directed at you. You always have to be perfect - ya can't do anything wrong. Ya ask me to tell ya my thoughts and feelings, but when I do, ya don't wanna hear it!" Sully was almost shouting.
Aware of the sleeping baby and people in the rooms around theirs who might not be asleep, Michaela hissed, "Please keep your voice down, Sully, there are other people in this house!"
But Sully was reaching for his jacket. "There'll be one less tonight" he said, pulling it on.
"So you're going off to sulk?"
Sully sighed tiredly. "I think we just need some time apart. I'll be out in the barn if ya need me". His voice softened. "Good night, Michaela". But she had turned away. He went out, closing the bedroom door quietly behind him.
Michaela stood stock still as he exited, but when she heard the door close, she burst into tears.
- Part Two
Before first light the next morning, the barn door creaked open and Michaela entered. Sully was sitting quietly in the hay, leaning against one of the support beams. Michaela hesitated for a moment, then walked over and sat beside him. He moved over a little to give her room. "I couldn't sleep" she said, not looking at him.
He was quiet for a moment then replied, "Me neither".
They sat in silence for awhile, staring at nothing, and then Michaela spoke. "You were right, you know".
For the first time, Sully turned and looked at her. "About what?"
She turned to face him. "About a number of things, actually". She breathed deeply and went on. "It's true I feel I always have to be right, that I can never make a mistake". She was choosing her words carefully. "When a male doctor makes a mistake, or his patient dies through no fault of his own, people may be upset and angry but in the end, they accept it. They realise that even the best doctors lose patients. But when they come to me, their first comment is usually that they want a real doctor. When they avail themselves of my services because I am the only doctor, I feel as if I am on display and if anything goes wrong, they say, 'There, you see, if we'd had a real doctor this never would have happened'. I'm always having to prove myself, much more than a man ever would. And I suppose this attitude carries over into the rest of my life, as well.
"I've always said I was too busy with my studies, when growing up, to go to dances or to be interested in young men. The truth was that I very much wanted to go to some of those affairs, but no one was interested in inviting me. I suppose I intimidated the men I knew who were used to women being more ornamental than anything else. There were
doctors and interns at the hospital and I would have loved to have gotten to know some of them outside the work relationship but none of them were interested ... until David". She paused, gathering her thoughts. "I never told anyone this, Sully, but when David and I started getting serious, he told me that if we married, I would have to stop being a doctor. He was afraid if I continued to practise medicine it would adversely affect his career. I told him that would be impossible and he left shortly thereafter for an internship in Philadelphia. I was devastated. I gave up all hope of love and a family. But I knew, inside
me, that I had made the right choice. Giving up medicine would have made me far more unhappy than giving up my chance for love would". Sully said nothing, but reached over and took one of Michaela's hands in his. She continued, "Eventually David returned. He told me he found he couldn't live without me and he wanted to marry me, career and all. We became engaged. Then he went to war and ... you know the rest.
"When I came out here, I wasn't looking for love or running away as so many people supposed, I was looking for acceptance. I found both... acceptance and love ... with you. Sully, I believe the reason I ... act the way I do ... is to prove to myself that I am a woman as well as a doctor, that I can be considered attractive. I know that you see me this
way and it should be enough, but maybe unconsciously, or even consciously, I am still looking for the attention and approval I missed while growing up. I suppose, deep down, I am still very insecure. Perhaps flirting with my patients while still belonging to you, provides a 'safe' way to deal with that insecurity. Perhaps I am flattered by the attention people give me, pleased by the reaction I can get. And there's something else".
Sully looked at her questioningly.
"I think there have been times when I have been angry with you and maybe was trying to get you to react - when we first knew each other because you would never say how you felt about me and more recently, because you have been so busy. I haven't been thinking about how my behavior would make you feel or how it would look to others. I promise
you, I will try to be more aware, Sully, and to deal with my patients in a completely professional manner. I love you, Sully, and I'm sorry for any hurt or discomfort I may have caused you".
Sully moved closer to Michaela, released her hand and put his arm around her, reaching across with his other hand to enfold both her hands in his. He spoke for the first time. "I know that, Michaela, an' I never really doubted your love for me. I guess I need to admit that I feel insecure a lot of the time, too". Michaela turned and looked at him in surprise and he grinned ruefully. "I ain't always sure of my path. I do what I think is right at the time but it don't always work out. Look what happened two years ago! I made the decision to help Cloud Dancin' and the other Indians, but I never really considered the effect it might have on the rest of my family. An' back before our courtship, even - I wasn't sure of myself with you either! Do you know how many times I wanted to tell you I loved you before I finally got up the courage?" He shook his head. "I was finally gonna ask ya to go for a walk with me that Sunday you got the telegram from Boston. An' then you were gone an' I hadn't heard from you but that one time. I talked with Cloud Dancin' and decided to go to Boston. But when I saw how happy you seemed I didn't know what to do. I questioned my own feelings an' I questioned whether I was right about how I thought you felt about me. I began to figure you'd be a lot better off stayin' in Boston with William - you were so much alike an' we were so different ..."
Michaela gave his hand a squeeze. "Only on the surface, Sully. Down inside, where it counts, you and I were - are - the perfect match. Sully, I know it's been difficult these last two years. You've been working so hard and then the baby came and I haven't been able to work as much ..." Taking a lesson from when Katie was born, Michaela had waited longer to go back to work after Gordon's birth and even now was working only half days unless an emergency required her to lengthen her hours. "I feel bad that I haven't contributed to our income as much as I'd like..."
"It's all right, Michaela, you're doing the right thing bein' home with Katie and Gordon. They need you. It's not like we still have that mortgage ... " Both were silent remembering the Christmas miracle a year and a half ago when their friends and family had rallied to pay the indebtedness she and Sully had incurred as part of Sully's sentence. Then Sully continued, "I'm so close to finishing the work of my sentence, but with the judge comin' soon, I guess I wonder if I'm gonna finish in time. Then I just let Preston get to me ..."
"It hasn't made things easier," Michaela added, "having Mother and Rebecca staying at the homestead ..."
Sully answered with a heartfelt "It sure hasn't!"
Just the other night they had been enjoying some rare "alone" time when Elizabeth had knocked once at their bedroom door and then walked right in, saying "Michaela, I just went in to check on Katie and she feels a little warm to me. I thought you might want to..." She'd stopped short inside the doorway when she saw the startled couple in bed, covers drawn up to their chins. She'd surveyed the clothes scattered about on the floor and with a muttered "Excuse me" had quickly exited.
Michaela looked at Sully now and realised they were remembering the same incident. "Mother spoke to me about that last night" she said.
"She did?" Sully asked incrdulously.
"Well, indirectly. It's part of why I was so upset when I came to bed".
"What'd she say?" Sully figured this was going to be good.
"Oh, she talked about propriety and decorum and being 'discreet' when performing my 'wifely duty', especially when other people are in the house".
Sully grinned. "Good thing she wasn't around for that last ride we took out to Midnight Lake a few weeks back. I'm not sure how 'proper' she would've thought we were there, in the back of the wagon".
Michaela blushed and said, "Stop it, Sully!"
"Stop what? Elizabeth should be proud of her daughter!"
"What do you mean?" Michaela wasn't sure she would like the answer.
Sully turned toward her, enfolding her in his arms and nuzzling her ear. "Why, at how devoted you are to your 'wifely duty'!" He gave her a kiss and added, "Good at it, too!"
"Sully!" Michaela exclaimed, but she submitted to his kisses, allowing him to lay her back in the hay.
Their kisses became more passionate before Sully broke it off, sitting Michaela up and saying, "Not here. Not now." Seeing her disappointment, he glanced at the barn door saying, "Matthew and Brian will be here soon to do the chores". He kissed her again and grinned wickedly. "But I have a plan!"
"Hun-uh" he said, helping her to her feet. "Later". He smiled down at her lovingly as she turned toward him.
"Forgive me?" she asked, looking into his eyes.
"Of course," he answered.
She continued, "I really do appreciate your opening up to me and sharing your feelings, even if they do hurt. I suppose they hurt because they are so true".
"Well," he replied gently, "I hope you'll forgive me for bein' so clumsy and not always knowin' how to say things ... I do love you, Michaela ..."
"I know," she said quietly.
Their kiss was interrupted by Brian and Matthew bursting into the barn. Matthew leered appreciatively and Brian smirked, "Oops!"
Sully and Michaela said a flustered "Good morning!" and exited the barn, their arms around each other, leaving Matthew and Brian to their chores.
- Part Three
Later that afternoon, Michaela sat at the clinic nursing Gordon and wondering what Sully was up to. She had come in to work around noon, planning to leave at four but Sully had popped into the clinic earlier to ask her to wait for him until six. Now, as it neared that hour, she smiled in anticipation. Sully's surprises used to annoy her, she who liked to plan every little detail of her life. But she had come to enjoy his sponaneity and it always amazed her how well he knew her and could plan exactly what would please her, though often something she wouldn't even think of, herself.
Exactly at 6 o'clock Dorothy Jennings breezed into the clinic. "Good afternoon, Michaela!" she said cheerfully.
"Oh, Dorothy," Michaela said regretfully, "I haven't seen you in so long and I'd love to chat, but I'm expecting Sully momentarily and ..."
"I know!" Dorothy replied, glancing behind her as Sully followed her into the clinic. "That's why I'm here."
"I beg your pardon?" Michaela looked from Dorothy to Sully in puzzlement. They were both grinning. Sully was freshly washed and combed and had donned clean clothes.
"I'm here to watch Katie and Gordon and give them supper while you and Sully have a nice, romantic dinner together!"
Katie, who had been absorbed with a toy in her corner of the clinic glanced up, then trotted over to Sully. "Papa!"
Sully swept her up into his arms. "You be a good girl for your Aunt Dorothy, Kates, and watch out for your brother while your Mama and I have a night out."
"I will, Papa" Katie promised. "'night!"
"Good night, Katie-girl" Sully kissed her and set her down.
Michaela handed the now-sleeping Gordon to Dorothy. "What a wonderful surprise! Dorothy, I can't thank you enough!"
"Thank Sully - it was his idea. I'm just glad to be able to help out!"
Michaela smiled at Sully who helped her on with her coat. They waved
good-bye and headed over to Grace's.
When they got there, Grace smirked at them knowingly. "Your table's all ready for ya, folks!" she said and led them to the remostest part of the cafe. There, by candlelight, they dined on roasted chicken and potatoes, fresh spring vegetables, with plenty of Grace's best cider, followed by pecan pie and coffee. They talked of simple things - of past joys, present happines and their hopes for the future.
"It sure was nice an' quiet at Preston's homestead today" Sully remarked with a grin. "Seems his nephew, Trevor, arrived from Boston today. Just finished at some fancy boardin' school back East, now he's gonna spend the summer learnin' banking and hotel runnin' from Preston."
Michaela made a face. "I can just imagine what types of things Preston will be teaching him!"
"Well, at least maybe it'll keep his mind off other things."
Sully put down his fork and used his napkin. "I saw Peter today. He just got back from talkin' to the government about the Palmer Creek land."
"And ...?" Michaela was anxious for the reply.
Sully sighed. "Government wants to take bids for it."
"Oh dear. Well, at least Roberta's father was able to get President Grant to pressure the Army to allow the remaining Indians to go North to be with their people rather than being sent to East Fork."
Sully nodded. "I just hope Preston don't find out they're gonna take bids on the Reservation land. If he gets hold of it, he'll destroy it in no time."
Michaela reached across the table for Sully's hand. "Let's talk about this another time. This is supposed to be a happy dinner." Sully smiled and took her hand as she continued, "I'll bet Roberta is glad Peter is back. She certainly has her hands full with the twins. Goodness knows one six-month-old can seem like four babies at times!"
"Bonnie and Sam are old enough to help out, now" Sully commented.
"Bonnie can certainly help out a little," Michaela agreed, "but she's just learning. And Sam ..." she paused.
"What about Sam?" Sully asked.
"Oh, Roberta says he's becoming quite rebellious. I remember Brian was like that a couple of years ago."
"Still is, sometimes" Sully commented ruefully.
They looked up as Grace approached their table. "Can I get you folks anything else?"
"No, thank you, Grace. Everything was wonderful" Michaela said.
Sully reached into his pocket for the money to pay but Grace waved him away. "It's on the house, tonight." She leaned closer to Sully and said, "Been lookin' for a way to pay ya back for fixin' all those tables for me. If I'da waited for Robert E they'da never gotten done!"
Sully swallowed his protests, saying, "Thanks, Grace", tapping her lightly on the shoulder.
"Yes, thank you, Grace" Michaela said warmly.
She and Sully walked slowly back to the clinic, hand in hand, just enjoying the evening and each other. As they reached the door of the clinic, Michaela said, "This has been wonderful, Sully, it's just what I needed!" He smiled and kissed her lightly on the lips, then guided her into the clinic.
Dorothy was sitting at Michaela's desk, writing. Katie was asleep on a blanket on the floor and Gordon was lying in the crib Michaela kept in the clinic, awake, and looking about interestedly at everything with his big, blue eyes. As they entered, Katie looked up sleepily. "Mama! Papa!"
"Hello, Katie. Did you have fun with Aunt Dorothy?. Michaela hugged her.
"Yes. We picked flowers and made ..." she broke off as she saw Dorothy with her finger on her lips. "Oops! It's a secret!" She put her finger to her own lips.
Michaela was bustling about, picking up toys, grabbing the children's coats when Sully put a hand on her arm. "Why don't you nurse Gordon now," he suggested.
She looked up, surprised. "I'd rather do it when we get home, Sully,
then I can put him right to bed."
He smiled a secret smile a her and said, "Trust me!" She glanced in puzzlement from him to Dorothy who smiled and nodded. She shrugged and picked up Gordon who was more than willing to lunch at his mother's breast.
When Michaela emerged from the room where they'd gone for privacy, Dorothy reached for Gordon. She already had a sleepy Katie in her coat and now she put Gordon's wrap on him. Holding Gordon in her arms, she guided Katie out the door saying, "Good night, folks!" and waving a cheery good bye.
Michaela took a step toward the door, saying, "What, where ..." but Sully stopped her with a hand on her shoulder, spinning her around for a passionate kiss.
"They'll be all right" he said, finally. "Dorothy's takin' 'em home where your Ma and Rebecca'll look after 'em. Ya got some of that infant food there if Gordon gets hungry again. It don't bother him like it did Katie and he'll eat some cereal or somethin', too. They'll be fine. We're stayin' here."
"Mm-hm." Sully grabbed the lamp with one hand and reached for Michaela's hand with the other. She allowed herself to be led through the doorway and up the stairs to one of the recovery rooms. Sully pushed the door open with his foot, then stepped back as she entered. She gasped in surprise. The room was lit in the soft glow of several candles. Fresh spring flowers arranged in bowls added a faint fragrance to the room. The bed had been freshly made, adorned with a lovely quilted bedspread.
Michaela turned to a grinning Sully. "Sully I ... I don't know what to say ..."
Sully put the lamp down on the bureau and took her into his arms. "Say you love me" he said.
"I do ... I ... are we staying here all night?"
"Yup. Seemed like a good way to get some privacy." He bent to kiss her again.
Suddenly she broke it off. "Sully ... I don't .. have any night things ..." she glanced about uncomfortably.
Sully smiled, knowing it took her time to adjust to unexpected circumstances. Still holding her close, her whispered, his lips brushing her ear, "You ain't gonna need 'em tonight". He leaned in and kissed her again, his hands lingering near her buttons.
"Mmmm ... you seem to have thought of everything" Michaela said dreamily, at last giving herself completely to the occasion. Suddenly she stiffened and drew back. "Oh no! Sully! What on earth did you tell Mother?"
Sully grinned. "Simple. Told her ya wouldn't be home tonight. That ya had 'duties' to take care of at the clinic!"
"Sully, you didn't!"
"Yup!" Then, feeling that they were wasting time, he swept her up and deposited her on the bed. There, all conversation ceased as they began to make up for lost time...
- Part Four
Very early on the morning after their tryst in the clinic, Michaela and Sully returned to the homestead. As their wagon drew up in front of the house, Elizabeth, holding Katie's hand and Rebecca, carrying Gordon, emerged.
"Here they are, children!" Elizabeth announced.
Sully helped Michaela down from the wagon, smiling secretly into her eyes, as Katie ran up to them. "Papa! Mama!" They hugged her as Elizabeth and Rebecca approached more slowly.
"She missed you," Elizabeth said. "Honestly, Michaela, I can't imagine what kind of duty would keep you at the clinic all night, away from your home and your family..."
Rebecca sidled up to Michaela, handing her Gordon and winking conspiratorially. "I can" she whispered, including Sully in her glance.
Michaela, blushing, took Gordon as her mother went on, "Your father was the same way, always off with some patient or other, often up all night. I must say, though, you look well-rested. Better than you have in awhile. I guess doctoring agrees with you!" she said resignedly.
Michaela could see that Sully was about to burst a blood vessel from suppressed laughter and quickly ushered him and the children into the house. Rebecca followed, eyes twinkling.
After a quick breakfast, Sully was ready to be off to Preston's homestead. He kissed Michaela and the children. "See ya at supper. Be good for yer ma, Kates, and Michaela - don't work too hard!" Then he spoke to Brian who had just come in from doing chores. "Brian, I know your summer break just started and you'll wanna be off fishin' with Sam,
but I'd appreciate it if you'd stop by an' give me a hand sometime today."
"Sure, Sully, I'll be there!" Brian said. "What time do ya need me?"
"Sometime after lunch would be fine. Thanks, Brian!" and with a nod and a wave, Sully buckled on his tool belt, grabbed his jacket, and left.
Later that morning, Sam Taylor and Brian sat at one of their favorite fishing spots. "I was sure glad to get out of the house this morning!" Sam declared. "The twins were making an awful lot of noise! Mother says they're getting teeth but they sure don't seem to be happy about it!"
Brian nodded sympathetically. "Katie was like that when she was around six months old an' Gordon went through it, too. Still is. It must be awful with two of 'em at once!" They fished in companionable silence for awhile, then Brian asked, "Do ya ever miss Philadelphia?"
"Nah. I like living in the country. I mean, there's some stuff I miss, I guess, but I'm glad we decided to live on the land your Pa gave us."
They were interrupted by a crackling of twigs behind them as a tall, well-built young man walked into the clearing by the stream. He looked to be about 16 - a year or so older than Brian's 14 and Sam's 13. He was dressed in fancy city clothes of a type one didn't often see around here. There was something vaguely familiar about him. The boys put their poles down and turned to face him.
"Hey!" Brian greeted him and Sam nodded and waved. "I'm Brian Cooper and this here's Sam Taylor. Did ya come out here to fish?"
The stranger put out his hand. "Trevor William Lodge, here" he said, shaking hands with Brian and Sam.
"You must be related to Mr. Lodge at the bank!" Sam guessed.
"Alas, 'tis true" Trevor replied dramatically, then, in a more normal voice, "He's my uncle. I'm staying with him."
"Will you be going to school with us, then?" Brian asked, "I mean, when it starts up again? It's a real good school!" Sam nodded in agreement.
But Trevor was looking at them as if they had crawled from beneath a rock. "Hardly" he replied condescendingly. "I just graduated from Andover" he declared. Seeing their blank looks he added, "Phillips Academy?" Sam and Brian looked at each other and shrugged, then shook their heads at Trevor who rolled his eyes. "Uncle Preston warned me" he sighed. "It's a prestigious preparatory school in Andover, Massachusetts. That's near Boston," he added. "You have heard of Boston?"
"Oh sure!" Brian replied. "My ma's from Boston. She's probably heard of your school. I've been to Boston!"
"Will wonders never cease" Trevor replied sarcastically, then went on, "I'm spending the summer with Uncle Preston so I can learn about banking from him and so he can show me how he runs his resort. In the fall I'll be going back East to attend university - probably Harvard.
"Well, we could show ya around" offered a somewhat subdued Brian, "that is, if ya wanted us to. You could tell us about your school! Did ya like it?"
"It was all right. Academically it's one of the best in the country. That's boring stuff. But I could tell you about some of the things we did after lights out. Then we really had fun!"
"Lights out?" Sam asked.
"You know, after we were supposed to be in bed."
"You mean you lived at the school?" Brian asked incredulously.
"Sure. All the best prep schools are boarding schools. I've gone away to school since I was six years old!"
"Wow! Didn't ya miss your Ma and Pa?" Brian asked.
Trevor squinted at Brian. "What are you, some kind of sissy?"
"No, but if I was away at school all the time I sure would miss my family!"
"Well I don't, all right?"
"Okay, okay" Brian said.
Trevor put a hand on Brian's shoulder. "Hey, I'm sorry. Why don't you pick up your fishing things and you can show me around and then we'll find somewhere where I can show you fellows something! All right?"
"All right!" Sam and Brian agreed in unison.
A few hours later Brian and Sam led Trevor into a cave in the woods. "We hid my Pa here, once" Brian said, "before he was really my Pa."
"Before he was your Pa?" Trevor asked.
"Yeah. He an' Ma were courtin' then. Only Ma had to go away and the Army shot Sully so we hid him in this cave until Colleen and Mr. Slicker could take the bullet out an' we could go home and tell the Army that Sully didn't do what they said he did!"
"Sounds like something from a dime novel" Trevor said. Then something struck him. "Wait a minute. Sully is your father? I thought you said your name was Cooper?"
"It is. But my real Pa left us and my real Ma died so Dr. Mike took us in and when she and Sully got married, they adopted us. Do you know Sully?"
"No," Trevor laughed, "but my uncle's told me all about him!"
Sam and Brian exchanged glances, knowing whatever Preston had to say was probably not very complimentary.
But Trevor was changing the subject. He had pulled three long, brown objects from his shirt pocket. "Smoke?" he offered. He put a cigar in his mouth and carefully lit it, puffing away to get it going.
Brian and Sam each took one gingerly, as if they were afraid it would explode in their fingers. "Uh - I think I'll save this for later" Brian said.
"Me too," Sam agreed.
Trevor laughed and produced a little silver box from another pocket. "Maybe you'd prefer a cigarette," he said, holding the box out. "Rolled them myself." When Sam and Brian looked dubious he added, "Come on, you've got to start smoking sometime and this will be a better way to start!"
Sam and Brian each took one and allowed Trevor to light them. They were immediately overcome by fits of coughing. Trevor laughed, but told them how to puff without inhaling too much, gradually adjusting the amount of smoke they took in. After awhile he said, "That's enough for the first time. You can try again later. Meanwhile, I'll tell you some of my school stories."
He kept them in stitches for another hour until Brian noticed the shifting light at the mouth of the cave. "It must be gettin' close to chore time and supper" he said, "and we wanted to stop and ask Miss Bobby if Sam could eat at our house. You wanna come, too, Trevor?"
"No, I need to get back to Uncle Preston's hotel. Tell you what, though. We could meet back here, say, around midnight. We could have another smoke, I could tell you more stories, and ... I could show you something else ..." Trevor paused temptingly.
"What?" Brian wanted to know.
"You'll find out when you come!"
"I dunno, Brian" Sam said. "I'd have to do extra chores for a month if I got caught sneaking out here after dark!"
"Me, too" Brian said. "We best not."
"You mean you'd miss out on the fun just because you're afraid of being punished?" Trevor asked.
"It ain't just that," Brian tried to explain. "Sully's been workin' real hard 'cause of some trouble he got into a couple years ago, and Ma has a new baby ... they got plenty else to worry about..."
"Not a lot of time for you, huh?" Trevor said knowingly.
"All the more reason for you to come, as far as I can see. But have it your way" Trevor grinned. "If you change your minds, I'll be here."
- Part 5
That evening at supper there was a tension of which everyone except Brian seemed aware. He was disappointed that Sam had not been allowed to come home with him for supper, but Sam was in trouble for leaving that morning without completing his chores and for arriving home after his designated curfew. So, not only was he not allowed out tonight, but he was to be kept home tomorrow, as well.
"I was gonna do 'em when I got home," Sam said bitterly when he was saying good-bye to Brian. "I don't see what difference it makes as long as they get done. My folks just don't understand I'm growing up and need time to myself!" Brian nodded in sympathetic understanding. He didn't envy Sam the next few hours.
He arrived home just as everyone was being seated and after Matthew asked the blessing, was eager to share the day's adventures - well, most of them - and to tell about his new friend. "Trevor was tellin' us about this one time that it snowed a lot - an' he and some of the other fellas from his dormitory (that's where they sleep) snuck out and went over to the headmaster's house (he's like the main teacher) and they rolled this big huge snowball and put it right up against the door of the house! Then they poured water on it so it would freeze real good. Next mornin' he had to climb out his window to get outta the house. It took him all day to chop away that snowball! Never did find out who done it" Brian laughed.
Everyone else at the table was silent, except Katie who was singing a quiet little song, and Gordon who cooed from his sling around Michaela's shoulders. Elizabeth and Rebecca looked quietly at their plates, seemingly absorbed in eating. Sully chewed his food silently and fiercely, an angry glint in his eyes.
At last Michaela spoke. "That seems like a rather dangerous prank, Brian. What if he had needed to get out of his house, or had been unable to climb out the window?"
Brian looked around the table for an ally and, finding none, muttered, "Well, I thought it was funny!"
"It was irresponsible, Brian," Sully spoke up, "just like your behaviour today!"
"What!?!" Brian cried. Then he saw they way everyone was looking at him. "Oh, Preston's homestead! I was supposed to come by. I forgot. I'm sorry, Pa." He took another huge mouthful of food.
"Brian," Sully said, "I was countin' on you today. I needed your help".
"I said I was sorry. We got busy showin' Trevor around and he was tellin' us about his fancy boardin' school back East and we just sorta lost track of time! I'll be sure to come by tomorrow, though!"
"You'll do better than that," Sully told him. "You'll come and work with me all day".
"What!?! All day!! That's not fair!"
"What's not fair, Brian," Michaela said quietly, "is that Sully was unable to do what he had planned today because you weren't there to help him".
"I didn't know it was that important!" Brian protested. "You just said you'd appreciate it if I'd stop by. I said I would if I could".
"No, you said you would be there and ya even asked time. That's as good as givin' your word, Brian. We've always tried to teach ya the importance of keepin' your word".
"What about your word to take care of us, Sully! We had to do without you for weeks and then when you did come home, you're hardly ever around because you're busy doin' all the work the judge sentenced ya to!"
"Hey, little brother" Matthew broke in, calling Brian by a term of affection he hadn't used in awhile, "that's why Sully needs our help when he can get it. The more help we give him, the sooner he'll be done. The judge'll be here in a few weeks and the work needs ta be finished to complete the terms of his sentence!"
"It's his sentence, not mine! I didn't break the law, why should I be punished?"
Sully sat stunned at Brian's tirade, then recovered himself enough to say, "You broke the law of this family today, by not keepin' your word".
"I never promised to be there!" Brian retorted.
Michaela said, "That's enough, Brian. We're all tired tonight and I think it best that you stay here instead of going to Matthew's. You can bed down in front of the fire down here, then you can be ready to leave with Sully first thing tomorrow."
Brian said nothing, but giving Michaela an angry look, he threw his napkin down and stalked from the table.
Michaela and Sully were quiet that night as they prepared for bed, lost in their thoughts, pondering the discussion that was to come. They had agreed long ago to present a united front before the children, saving any disagreements they might have on discipline for a private discussion. Now, as they crawled into bed, Michaela said, "Do you think we were too harsh?"
Sully arranged their pillows so they could talk more comfortably and took Michaela's hand in his. "I dunno, Michaela. I been on my own since I was 10 years old - had to learn responsibility at a young age, without anyone to guide me. Brian's almost 15 with a good home, a family - he'll be finishin' school soon and settin' out on his own. I just want him ta have a good foundation. It ain't even that I didn't get done what I needed to do today. It bothers me that Brian made a commitment, broke it, then acted as if it was nothin'! He can't go through life like that!"
Michaela nestled closer to Sully's warmth. "I didn't realise how much anger he was still holding about your conviction and sentence. Maybe you ought to take some time to talk with him about it".
Sully shook his head. "Is he really angry, or is that just an excuse? I can't figure him out, anymore".
"I guess it's typical of his age that he's resisting authority" Michaela replied. "I remember the trouble we had with Colleen around that age. The hard part is knowing when to clamp down and when to let him learn from his own mistakes".
"We can't just let him go if he starts causing harm to himself - or others".
"True, but sometimes it's hard to tell when that's happening!"
"Until it's too late," Sully agreed.
"Maybe you'll get a chance to talk tomorrow, when you’re working together" Michaela suggested.
"I hope so," Sully answered. He slid down under the covers and pulled Michaela close. " I can only try".
- Part Six
Brian lay on a rug near the dwindling fire, not even trying to sleep. It just wasn't fair. Sully could break the law time and again and everyone still went on about how wonderful he was. But he, Brian, messed up one time and it was like the end of the world. He thought back to that afternoon, to the conversation with Trevor. Trevor wasn't that much older than he was and he would be going away to college in the fall. He recognised that Brian and Sam were growing up, were ready for grown-up things such as smoking or going out at night to meet their friends. With sudden determination, Brian sat up, pulled on his trousers and his boots and quietly left the homestead.
Just before midnight, he and Sam were quietly approaching the cave. Sam had been only too glad to sneak out when Brian came throwing pebbles at his window. He had received a list of the chores he was to perform during his incarceration and was filled with righteous indignation. It would serve his parents right if he never came back. "What do you think Trevor wanted to show us?" he asked Brian as they came to the cave entrance.
"Don't know. Maybe somethin' from his school!"
As they entered the cave, they saw that Trevor was already there and had brought a lantern. "Greetings!" he said. "Glad you could make it, after all!" As Brian and Sam settled themselves on the floor of the cave, Trevor continued, "This reminds me of my school days. There was a cave like this near the school where we fellows would go at night to smoke, plan our pranks and..." from behind him he produced a bottle full of amber liquid, "drink to each other's health!"
Sam's eyes grew round. "Is that... is that whiskey?" his changing voice cracked with incredulity.
Trevor chuckled. "What did you think it was, cider? This is how real men get together, didn't you know that?"
Brian knew that Sully didn't smoke or drink but right now he wasn't very interested in emulating Sully. "Do you - do you have any more of those cigarettes?" he asked.
"Thought you'd never ask!" Trevor produced the silver case and soon all three were puffing away, Brian and Sam beginning to feel like old hands. He then produced three tin cups and sloshed whiskey into them. "There you go" he said.
Trevor tilted back his head and gulped the whiskey down while Sam and Brian sipped cautiously, choking and spluttering as the liquid fire burned its way down to their stomachs. Sam took courage and knocked back the rest of his drink, while Brian put his aside to take a few more puffs of his cigarette.
"That's my man," Trevor applauded Sam and filled his cup again, then poured himself another drink.
Sam bravely gulped down the whiskey as Brian continued to alternate sips of his drink and puffs on his cigarette. Trevor, meanwhile, switched to smoking a cigar as he began, once again, to regale them with tales of the things he and his friends had done in school.
Brian's favorite was the one about leading the cow up into the bell tower. "How'd ya get her to go up there?" he giggled.
"Oh, getting her up there was the easy part!" Trevor assured him. "You can always get a cow to go up the stairs. The hard part is getting her to go down!"
For some reason this struck Brian as very funny and he started giggling uncontrollably. "So what did they do?" he gasped when he had finally caught his breath.
"They had to get a doctor to come in and knock the cow out, then they put straps around her and lowered her down the stairs like a piano".
The thought of comparing a cow to a piano sent Brian into new paroxysms of laughter and he rolled around the floor of the cave, tears streaming from his eyes. Then a new thought occurred to him. "There musta been a real mess to clean up!" One of his jobs was mucking out the barn at home so it didn't take much imagination for him to picture the situation at the top of the bell tower.
"Right you are," Trevor agreed. "You should have seen some of the masters from the school, heading over to the tower with shovels and buckets and mops".
Everything seemed hilarious tonight and Brian once more dissolved in laughter. Only then did it occur to him that Sam had not joined in any of the merriment. No wonder! Sam was sprawled on the floor of the cave, softly snoring.
"You'd better get your friend home" Trevor advised. "Looks like maybe he had a little too much. Oh, and before I forget, better suck on a couple of these, and take a couple for your friend".
Brian examined the paper cone Trevor proffered. "Nah, I don't like peppermints - too strong!"
Trevor rolled his eyes. "That's the idea" he replied. "For your breath - so they won't guess what you've been up to!"
Brian paled. He hadn't thought of that. He helped himself to several of the candies.
"Make sure Sam sucks on one, too" Trevor warned.
Brian nodded and went to wake Sam. It took some doing and when Sam finally lifted his head, he groaned and flopped back down again. "Sam, c'mon. We gotta go!" Brian whispered urgently.
"Lea' me ... 'lone" Sam muttered, hitting out ineffectively. "Wanna sleep!"
Brian shook him again. "You can sleep at home," he said, "but first we gotta get you there before your folks know you're gone!"
Sam sat up. "Brian," he said as if seeing his friend for the first time. Then, "I don't feel so good!" He leaned forward and held his head in his hands.
Brian, suddenly aware of how late it was, tugged at Sam's arm with renewed vigor. "It's gettin' late. We gotta get back before people start wakin' up!"
Trevor, who had been watching with amusement, now rose. "We need to get him on his feet" he said and with the practised air of one who has done this before, he grabbed one of Sam's arms and hauled him to his feet, supporting Sam's arm with his shoulders. Brian, taking his cue, grabbed Sam's other arm, placing it around his own shoulders. In this manner they half-walked, half-dragged Sam out of the cave.
Partway to the Taylor homestead Brian remembered the mints and, making a face, popped one into his mouth. Then he tried to make Sam take one. "It's to make your breath better" he told the near-dozing Sam. "It'll help your stomach, too".
Sam woke up enough to begin sucking the candy but Brian had to keep shaking him to keep him awake so he wouldn't choke. As they neared Sam's house, Trevor unwrapped Sam's arm from his shoulders and declared, "This is where I leave you. Remember - mum's the word!" and he melted away in the darkness.
Brian struggled under his now heavier load. He was bone tired. "Sam, ya gotta wake up!" he cried in frustration. As the came in sight of the house, Sam complied long enough to throw up in the bushes. Brian then practically dragged him to his door saying, "You're on your own, now, Sam. I gotta get home before Ma and Sully get up". He stayed long enough to watch Sam stumble into the house, then turned and sprinted toward his own home.
- Part 7
Brian overslept the next morning but Sully and Michaela were too busy discussing their plans for the day at breakfast to notice him merely toying with his food. They were just starting to clear away when there came a loud knocking at the door. "Michaela? Michaela are you still here?"
Michaela looked at Sully. "That sounds like Roberta!"
Sully opened the door and a worried looking Roberta burst in holding a pale and tired-looking Sam by the arm. They were followed by Sam's 11-year-old sister, Bonnie. "Roberta," Sully said touching her arm with concern. "is somethin' wrong?" He helped her over to a chair.
"Thank you, Sully" she said gratefully, then, "Oh, Michaela, I'm so sorry to bother you at home but it's so much closer than town and I didn't even know if you'd be going in today and I was so worried..."
"It's no bother" Michaela assured her. "What's the trouble?"
"It's Sam!" Roberta gave her son a perplexed look. "I could hardly rouse him this morning for chores and breakfast and he kept going back to sleep! He even drifted off while milking the cow! He had no appetite for his breakfast and he says his stomach hurts and he has a headache. He seems so lethargic. I've never seen him like this before."
"Well, let's take a look at him" Michaela said. She put an arm around Sam and turned him so he was facing her as she sat in a chair to be closer to eye level with him. She peered into his eyes, felt his forehead, probed his glands. "When did you first start feeling this way, Sam?" she asked.
"I dunno," he muttered. "Last night, I guess". He kept his eyes on the floor.
"Do you have any dizziness?"
"Is there anything else, any other symptoms you can tell me?"
Sam shook his head, but Roberta put in, "He seems to be awfully thirsty for all he's lost his appetite. He was at the dipper all the time this morning".
"Has he been vomiting?" Michaela inquired.
Roberta started to shake her head but Bonnie piped up, "Yes he did, last night!"
All turned and looked at Bonnie, including Brian who had been following events with a very definite interest. Bonnie, who had spoken without thinking felt trapped. She had been awakened last night by the light of the setting moon streaming in her window and had gone to look out. She had seen Brian and Sam come stumbling into the yard and then Sam throwing up in the bushes. She had planned to corner Sam today to find out exactly what he'd been up to but she hadn't had the chance. Sam was a good brother, as brothers went and she thought Brian was the cutest and nicest boy in school. She didn't want to get either one in trouble. She took a deep breath. "I woke up. I was looking out the window and I saw Sam throwing up. I guess he couldn't make it to the outhouse." Actually he hadn't been anywhere near the outhouse.
Brian let out his breath slowly. She hadn't mentioned him. She was a good kid and he flashed her a brief, grateful look.
Michaela, meanwhile, was returning to her patient. She palpated his abdomen, feeling for tenderness. "Did you boys have anything unusual to eat or drink yesterday?" she asked, including Brian in the question.
Sam shrugged and Brian, striving for the truth, if not the whole truth, replied, "We each had the sandwiches we brought".
"Well, perhaps something in Sam's was spoiled." She rose and opened a drawer in the sideboard, extracting some packets, which she handed to Roberta. "I'll give you some tea which should help settle his stomach. Brew the tea and give him a cup three times a day. Sam, try to drink it all." Sam nodded. "Sam should probably rest today. Keep an eye on him and if he gets worse, or doesn't seem any better, bring him to the clinic where I can examine him more thoroughly. I'll be there from noon until about 4 o'clock."
"Thank you, Michaela" Roberta said gratefully. "It's never easy when the children get sick, no matter how often it happens". She gave Michaela a swift embrace and turned to go.
"You'll be bringing Luke and Ellen in for their 6-month checkup next week" Michaela reminded her. "Are they doing well?"
"Eating like horses and growing like weeds," Roberta laughed. "Peter's looking after them this morning".
Michaela came out into the yard to wave good-bye and Sully walked over from where he'd been getting the wagon ready for the trip to Preston's. He came up behind Michaela, putting his arms around her. He, too, waved as Roberta drove her wagon out of the yard. "They're good people" he said, kissing her temple.
"Yes," she replied, smiling, knowing that Sully knew, perhaps better than any of them, why the Taylors were like family.
- Part 8
A short while later, Sully and Brian were loading the wagon for the ride to Preston's homestead. Brian seemed tired and cross and the silence between them was not comfortable. Sully was searching for a way to bridge the gap that had sprung up between them. He didn't want to lecture Brian, but he really did want to talk with him about responsibility. He recalled his many fallings out with Matthew as the young man had entered adulthood. Matthew's role as sheriff had pitted him against Sully time and again when Sully tried to act on behalf of the land or the Indians. This last breach, over the Reservation uprising, had been almost permanent, but by mutual effort they had found healing and reconciliation.
He and Brian had always been close as he had gone from hero to friend to "Pa" in the boy's eyes. But something was out of balance, now, and Sully wasn't sure how to begin to restore equilibrium to the relationship.
He knew from past experience that Brian sometimes had difficulty expressing his feelings. He was very sensitive and was always afraid of hurting others so he kept to himself things such as how much he missed Charlotte, his birth mother, and his fears that she didn't remember him in Heaven. He had held in for a long time how left out he felt right after the wedding when Sully and Michaela were absorbed in exploring their new life as a couple, and he never had outwardly expressed any jealous feelings over Katie or Gordon, despite the fact that caring for the babies had occasionally caused Michaela to neglect things that were important to Brian.
They finished loading the supplies in the wagon and climbed up. "You wanna drive today?" Sully offered. Brian shrugged and made no move to take the reins so Sully clucked to the horse and headed toward Preston's homestead. After they had been under way a few minutes, Sully again turned to Brian. "Brian, I think it's important that ya understand why I made you come with me today. Do you?"
Again Brian shrugged which was beginning to drive Sully wild, since lately, it seemed to be Brian's answer to everything. But then he spoke sullenly, "'cause I forgot to come by yesterday", then added something in a low voice.
"What was that?" Sully asked.
"I said, I still say I didn't promise to be there!" Brian said more loudly.
"Brian," Sully said after a short pause, "a promise is a promise no matter how it's made. It can be before people in a church like when your ma and me got married, or on a legal document like when ya borrow money from the bank and promise to pay it back. It can be when two friends shake hands on somethin' or even a spoken promise like when I told
Daniel he could call on me when he needed me - like when you told me you'd 'be there' yesterday."
"But when ya went to keep your promise to Daniel, weren't ya kinda breakin' your promise to us?" Brian's tone was accusatory. "Seems like you're always promisin' somethin' that takes ya away from us!"
"Is that how it seems to you, Brian?"
Once again Brian shrugged and Sully sighed. He had tried to be a better Pa to Brian than the absent Ethan but it appeared that lately, in Brian's eyes, anyway, he wasn't doing such a good job. "Brian," Sully said at last, "life is filled with choices. All of us gotta make choices every day an' those choices usually affect more than just the one makin' 'em". Sully reined in the horse as they pulled up before the partially-built homestead, and he turned to face Brian. "We can't always know what the result will be or how those choices will affect those around us. Brian, two years ago I made a choice to help Cloud Dancin' an' the other Indians get away from the Reservation. If I'da known what was gonna happen, I'd've found another way to get Cloud Dancin' free. I can't take back the pain an' hurtin' my decision caused you an' the rest of the family and townsfolk. I can only go on and try ta do better next time, to learn from this".
"That's not what ya said at your trial" Brian retorted.
"At the trial?" Sully looked at Brian in puzzlement.
"The soldier - he asked ya if ya knew what ya done was wrong an' then he asked if you'd do it again an' you said ya would!"
Sully was at a loss for words. That Brian had held onto his hurt for two years... "Why didn't you ever say anything?" he asked. "We coulda at least talked..."
Brian gave a mirthless laugh. "When? First you were missin' an' we thought you were dead an' then ya turned yourself in an' hadta stand trial an' we thought they were gonna hang you. Ma cried all the time 'cause she was afraid we were gonna lose you. Then you were in jail and right after that ya hadta start doin' all the repairs the judge sentenced ya to. Ya left before sunup, came home after supper, ya weren't even gonna come home for Thanksgivin' supper that first year. We owed the bank all that money an' thought we were gonna lose the homestead. Even when ya were home, you an' ma would go off alone all the time. Then ma got pregnant again and was tired all the time an' ya said we all hadta help her more. Then Gordon got born and then right after that..."
"Are you going to sit there all day or are you going to get to work?"
Sully turned at the sudden intrusion and muttered a word he usually didn't use in front of the children. Preston was standing there with his hat tilted back on his head, a stern look on his face. "May I remind you, Mr. Sully, that the judge is due here in three weeks and from what I can see, you will need every second of that time to complete my homestead. Why, you haven't even started on the outbuildings, yet!"
"You didn't say nothin' about no outbuildings" Sully said levelly.
"Well, of course I need a place to stable my horse, store my wagon. Once I'm living here it will be much more convenient than keeping them at the Chateau or the livery. I must say, Sully, your attitude distresses me," Preston went on regretfully. I would hate to have to testify that you seemed disinterested in completing the terms of your sentence".
Grimly, Sully began to unload the wagon as Preston looked on, smirking. He put his mouth close to Brian's ear and said quietly, "We'll finish this conversation later, okay, Brian?"
Brian just shrugged.
- Part 9
Trevor was bored. His uncle had arrived at the bank in a good mood and immediately had set him to checking some endless columns of figures. Trevor had been working on them all morning. it bored him. He liked action. He watched as people came into the bank to transact business; to deposit money, to withdraw money, to apply for a loan, to make payment on one. Each time money crossed the desk going into the bank he watched that special smile on Preston's face. His uncle had told him that running the bank gave him power in the town, gave him power over people.
A worried-looking man came in and handed over an envelope from which Preston extracted money, counting it rapidly. He smiled a smile with no warmth in it. "You're a dollar short, Mr. Clayton," he said, looking into the man's face.
"I...I know" the man stammered, turning his hat in his hands nervously. "I hadta reseed my field after that big rainstorm last April, it cut inta what we had set aside ta pay the bank. I can make it up to ya when the crops start comin' in ..." he tapered off as he saw the banker's face.
"Mr. Clayton, I cannot be held responsible for your misfortunes or your lack of foresight. You would not have been willing or able to wait to have my institution lend you the money and neither are we willing or able to wait for payment!" Preston looked Mr. Clayton in the eye and showed his teeth.
"But Mr. Lodge, I'll have it soon, I promise! It's just that I gotta get some supplies to tide us over - crops are gonna be later than expected and the kids gotta eat ..."
"One dollar, ten dollars, 2 bits. To the bank it's all the same. Your payment is due today in full or I will be forced to begin foreclosure on your property".
Trevor watched from behind the screen as the man mulled this over, then finally dug into his pocket producing a handful of change which he counted out to make the missing dollar and slammed it down on the counter.
Smiling, Preston handed him a receipt. "Good day, Mr. Clayton!"
When the farmer had stalked out, Trevor's uncle turned to him. "You saw?" he asked. Trevor nodded. "Well, my boy, that was your first lesson in not allowing sentimentality to get in the way of professionalism. If I listened to every sad story that people bring in here or allowed everyone who asked to be a dollar short, I would be out of business in a very short time. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Trevor nodded. "Sure, Uncle Preston." Then he chuckled. "At least that farmer didn't offer you peaches!"
"Remember when you sent me over to get that tonic that was accidentally delivered to the medical clinic here? Well, the lady doctor had just finished treating some old man and he told her he had no money but would bring her a bushel of peaches when they were ripe. She actually said that was okay! Of course there wasn't much she could do since she'd already put a cast on his arm and all, but ..." he stopped because his uncle was holding up his hand and shaking his head.
"Let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Michaela Quinn and family."
"Is that Brian's family?" Trevor asked.
"Adoptive family, yes. They have been a thorn in my side since I first set foot in this town. I first met them when they were returning from their honeymoon in Denver - we were on the same train. I tried to be friendly - as soon as I saw their homestead I knew I wanted Sully to be the one to build mine. But when I asked him to, he refused."
"But now he has to build it because of that trial you told me about" Trevor put in.
"Right. The trial at which, rightfully, he should have been sentenced to death!" Preston said with gritted teeth.
"Why do you hate him so much?" Trevor asked curiously.
"I told you. He's been nothing but trouble for me since I arrived here - he and that Boston-bred wife of his. They headed up a campaign to keep me from cutting down a tree on my own land and when I cut it down anyway, they turned the town against me. Sully foiled my first attempt to build a hotel in town and Michaela endorsed Jake Slicker over me for mayor. That's what really gets me. The people of this town listen to a woman, even when she casts her vote for the town drunk who, by the way, had just had her arrested and put in jail for treating a fugitive Indian".
"What is it with them and Indians, anyway?" Trevor queried. "Didn't you say that was the reason Sully was in trouble?"
"Yes, I did. He incited a riot at the Reservation and turned the savages loose on the rest of us to loot, burn and kill. But instead of being hanged for treason, he was set free just because some ignorant old homesteaders came forward to rave about all he and Michaela had done for them. They're such do-gooders. Watch him sometime with his children, especially the little ones - he's like a little mother, always holding and cuddling them, always talking with Brian, helping Matthew..."
If Trevor had an idea about Brian, he kept it to himself as Preston ranted on:
"Somebody always bails that family out. A few years ago they had to burn everything in the clinic and I lent them the money so Michaela could buy instruments and furniture to start up again. I told you she wears the trousers in that family, she's the one with the real job. I've never figured out what Sully does. Of course the time came when they were unable to meet their obligation, as I knew it would, since I do not accept peaches for payment. That's the trouble. They have no backbone. Michaela continues to offer her services free to those who cannot pay. Under those circumstances, how many patients would admit to being able to pay? Anyway, Sully was away, on an actual job, I might add, and I was about to foreclose, when Sully's rich friend, Daniel, stepped in and paid the whole thing off" Preston could not keep the bitterness out of his voice.
"What do you care, as long as you got paid?"
"Because I wanted the homestead, that's why! It's a beautiful home on a beautiful piece of property. There are people who would pay quite well for a house like that."
"Why'd that Daniel fellow pay off their loan?"
Preston allowed himself a small smile. "Well, I have my own theory about that. Suffice it to say that Daniel was quite taken with his friend's wife!"
Trevor's eyes widened, then he grinned. "Didn't Sully care that someone else paid his debt?"
"Of course he cared" Preston replied. "That's how I got him to start work on my homestead in the first place. He was planning on using the money to pay Daniel back. The odd thing was that Daniel wanted to help Sully with the construction!"
"Strange! Didn't you tell me they had to borrow money from you again?"
Preston grunted. "Yes, after they swore never to deal with me again, they were forced to when the judge at Sully's trial arranged for me to lend them the money to begin the repair work that was part of his sentence. Once again that homestead was almost within my grasp but then..."
"You told me before. All those people got together to pay off the mortgage as a Christmas present to Sully and his family. Why'd they do that?"
Preston spread his arms wide. "There you have me. I have never been able to figure it out. That's the way these backwoods types are, I guess. They even tried to help me out that time a tornado practically destroyedthe opening of my resort. Of course, a lot of their meddling did more harm than good but they meant well, I suppose." Preston shook his head. "If he gets my homestead finished before the judge comes back it's likely he'll come out on top again and be fully pardoned".
Preston was interrupted by Horace entering the bank. "Afternoon, Preston" he said, casting a curious glance at Trevor.
"This is my nephew, Trevor" Preston said, "come to spend the summer with me. Trevor, this is Horace, our telegraph operator."
"How d'ya do," Horace greeted Trevor, shaking hands. He handed Preston an envelope. "This came in for ya and ya hadn't been by today. Thought it might be important - it's all the way from Boston! By the way," he turned to include Trevor in what he was saying, "the town's fixin' to have some big doin's next month for the fourth. It'd be great if both of you would join us. There's gonna be a meetin' ..." he trailed off as he saw Preston shaking his head.
"I don't think so. My nephew and I will be otherwise engaged" Preston answered with a formal smile.
Horace shrugged. "Suit yourselves. If ya change your mind you'll be welcome".
After Horace left, Trevor asked "How come we won't be celebrating on the fourth?"
"Oh, we'll be celebrating, all right. I have great plans for festivities at the Resort. You see, Trevor, it doesn't pay for someone in my position to stoop to the level of the townspeople. Next thing you know they'll be wanting me to be baking cakes or supervising the sack races. No, we're better off associating with our own kind." Preston turned around in his chair to face the desk and slit open the envelope Horace had brought. He withdrew a letter and some newspaper clippings. After a glance at the clippings and a quick perusal of the letter, Preston's face hardened.
The articles were from the Boston Globe and had been written by one of his four older brothers, Marshall. They were about banking and finance and leading the world toward the 20th century. The letter was from his father extolling Marshall's accomplishments in the world of banking and also mentioning another brother, Walter's new shipping company in San Francisco, an extension of the business he had begun in Boston. His other brothers, William and Travis were not mentioned. They must not have done anything noteworthy lately. He asked after Preston's health and wondered if he had begun an addition to the Chateau yet. Preston sighed deeply and sat staring into space until Trevor broke his reverie.
"Uncle Preston, is everything all right?"
"Oh yes, I'm fine". He shook himself and snapped to attention. "Why don't you take the rest of the afternoon off?" He handed Trevor a couple of bills. "Get supper at the cafe when you get hungry".
"But I thought we were eating together at the Chateau tonight!"
"Out of the question. I'm meeting with some of my investors and you'd just be in the way. Another time, perhaps". The companionship that had sprung up between them during their conversation about the Sully's had vanished. "Go on," Preston said. "I need to get some things done before supper".
Giving his uncle a curious look, Trevor left the bank. He wondered what was in the letter that had upset him so. It looked as if it were from Grandfather. He knew how his father got when he heard from Grandfather! Trevor tried to tell himself that Preston's change of mood did not really distress him, that having dinner together would have been a bore. He was used to that kind of treatment from his father and grandfather and from his uncles when they were in Boston. It was just the Lodge way. Attention and acclaim had to be earned.
He looked at the bills his uncle had given him, then pocketed them happily and headed down the street toward the saloon.
Preston barely noticed Trevor's departure. He sat at the desk staring at the letter and clippings without really seeing them. Instead, he was transported back to Boston and a time long ago. What was he six ... seven? It was when he still attended Miss Pringle's Day School, before being sent away to the Academy. The assignment had been an essay, "My
Hero" and the teacher had helped them with the hard words. She did not believe in grading such assignments but applauded their efforts and encouraged their creativity, a practice his father called "ridiculous". He believed strongly in grades as Preston already knew from having seen his brothers come under their father's severe displeasure when they brought home anything less than top grades.
Preston was quite proud of his first attempt at writing and had shown it to his mother who had smiled and deemed it "wonderful". "I want to show it to Father , now!" he had declared when she'd finished reading it. "Is he in his study?"
A look he could not fathom crossed his mother's face as he stood with his hand held out for the essay. "Presty, now might not be the best time for that" she'd said hesitantly.
"Why? Is he at the Bank?"
"N..no, but he's very busy today. Perhaps ..."
"I want him to see it!" Preston had insisted, snatching it from her grasp and running toward his father's study. Why wouldn't his father want to see his essay, especially given the subject matter?
The door was ajar and Preston could see his tall father seated at his desk. He was dressed, as always, in a suit from one of Boston's best tailors, his prematurely grey hair impeccably groomed. A small smile played about his lips as he sorted through papers on his desk. Loan applications, Preston guessed. His father was always making derogatory remarks about the people who applied for loans who obviously did not have the means to pay them back. He must have heard Preston then, for he glanced up briefly before returning his attention to the papers. "Yes, Preston, what is it?"
Preston took this as an invitation to enter the room and he did so, standing shyly before his father's desk waiting to regain his attention. Finally his father stopped examining the document he was holding and looked up expectantly.
Feeling suddenly hesitant, Preston held out the paper to his father. "I... I wanted to show you this, sir ..." Preston walked over to the desk to hand it to him.
His father took the paper, glanced at it briefly, then looked up questioningly.
Realising an explanation was due Preston stammered, "It's ...it's an essay!"
"Oh?" His father looked at it with more interest. "Is it one of those chosen to be printed in the Globe?"
"No sir, that was only for the upper formers" Preston replied.
"Oh. Well. Did it win a school prize?" He looked at Preston over the tops of his spectacles, a gesture that always made Preston feel quite small.
"No, nothing like that, Sir". Why didn't Father just read it?
But Preston A. Lodge II had placed the paper flat on his desk and was looking at his son with the first traces of annoyance. "Did your teacher say it was the best in the class?"
"No, Sir. My teacher doesn't say things like that". Preston began scuffing his shoe on the carpet.
His father gave a small derisive snort. "I thought not." He picked up the paper again. "Why are you showing me this? Did your mother not tell you I was busy?"
"She ... I ..." Preston stammered.
"Here, boy," his father waved the paper impatiently. "Go attend to your studies. And ask your mother to come in here for a moment."
Preston snatched up the paper and exited quickly, nearly bumping into his mother who was waiting outside the door. As he went he thought he heard his father mutter "Rubbish" but he wasn't sure.
"Father wants to see you" he told his mother and stood for a moment outside the room, small chest heaving, holding in the hurt and shame. His mother hurried into the study and behind the closed door Preston heard his father's tight voice, "Margaret ... told you I didn't want to be disturbed ... boarding school for the boy ... grades ... no more mollycoddling ..."
He sighed and trudged down the hall. It might not be so bad going away. His older brothers had all gone away at age eight or nine. It might not be so bad ...
The day was a cool one and as he passed the drawing room he saw that a fire was blazing in the grate. He went into the room and stood before the fire, gazing into the flames. As he did so, a single tear slid unbidden down his cheek and onto the paper he was holding, smearing the ink. With a last glance at his essay, he tossed it into the fire watching the edges curl, then the bottom of the paper and finally the title and top of the page broke into flame. But before they did, it seemed that the words blazed forth, as if intensified by the heat. Preston could read quite clearly, "My Hero - My hero is my father and I want to be just like ---" before the whole thing turned to ash and flew up the chimney.
Facts were marching into place in his alert 7-year-old mind and some things were suddenly making sense. He recalled earlier in the week how his father had told him happily of an essay that William had written at school. It had won a prize for his grade and at twelve, William was the youngest in his class. At the time that had seemed incidental to Preston but he now realised that it wasn't the essay that was important but the fact that it had won a prize that made it so great. As he stored that information away for future use, he heard a throat-clearing behind him. John, the butler, stood in the doorway. "Master Preston, it's time for your boxing lesson".
"Coming," Preston said and left the room without a backward glance...
...Boxing! Preston A. Lodge III shook himself out of his reverie and realised that he had crumpled the letter and clippings on his desk into a ball which he now swept into the wastebasket. He remembered those boxing lessons and later, the matches his father set up between him and his brothers when they were all home from school on holiday. As he recalled, the winner used to be allowed dinner in the dining room with Father and Mother. The losers were relegated to the kitchen with the servants. Their father wished to teach them the importance of competition and that there could be only one #1. When he was still very young, Preston, weary of being beaten just because he was the youngest, and angry at being called "weakling" by his siblings, had vowed always to be the best, to go after what he wanted and to get it.
Preston now had plans to do exactly that. He began to tidy his desk and secure things for the evening. He was dining with some of his investors tonight but after that it would be time to think about putting those plans in motion.