Word Count 1,271
A short scene from a story that was never written.
The past few days, Scott had been more like himself; getting a letter from Teresa had put him in better spirits. But tonight, he had something heavy on his mind. At least he didn’t have much to add to Murdoch’s litany of all that needed to be done. Johnny had no problem taking up the slack; he had his own ideas about which work crews should be moved where and when. Sometimes he felt like an outsider, listening to Scott and Murdoch, but tonight it was him and the Old Man doing the talking over Scott’s bowed head.
Johnny forked a couple more slices of meat onto his plate and set the platter back down in front of his brother. Scott’s knife and fork rested on his plate; at least he’d eaten what he served himself, though that had been little enough. He’d drained his wine glass and now sat staring at the empty goblet, idly turning the stem with two fingers. The pointless motion abruptly ceased when a stream of dark red flowed into his glass. After pouring a generous serving for himself, Murdoch put the empty bottle aside.
“Something on your mind, Scott?”
A start of surprise, then Scott lowered his gaze again. He started to reach for his glass but then shook his head a bit as if deciding he didn’t need it just then.
Scott looked the Old Man square in the eye. “Murdoch, there’s something I need to ask you.”
Murdoch hesitated. Then he pushed his chair back and stood up, towering over the table before leading the way to the sitting area. Scott was a beat behind, each of them snatching up half-filled glasses of wine. Murdoch settled in his big leather chair, but Scott bypassed the sofa, placed his goblet on the mantle, and remained standing.
Johnny reluctantly eased away from the table. “Guess I’ll head out to the bunkhouse for a bit ….”
“Johnny, you should hear this too.”
There was no reassuring grin, not a trace of that familiar gleam in his brother’s eye; Scott’s expression was too damn serious. Murdoch took a fortifying swallow of wine and, after casting a longing glance at the liquor table, set his nearly empty glass down next to the book he’s been reading. The Old Man’s evident unease made Johnny wish for a shot of something himself, but he resisted the impulse to saunter over to the array of bottles. He perched on the arm of the sofa instead, real casual.
Murdoch shot him a quick, questioning look, and all Johnny could do was shrug his shoulders. He had no idea what he was about to witness between his father and brother, but he had a bad feeling. ‘Witness,’ Johnny reminded himself. However, this played out, he needed to remember that, listen, and not jump in. Not unless he had to.
“So, is this a business proposal, Scott?”
Murdoch had been hoping it was, you could hear the hint in his voice. He still managed kind of a smile, though. “So, I should respond as your father and not your business partner.”
“No, Murdoch, you should respond as … Teresa’s guardian.”
The Old Man gave a solemn nod, but Johnny could see how much he relaxed back into his armchair.
Scott, on the other hand, stood facing Murdoch like he was on trial or something. He glanced briefly at the floor before looking their father full in the face.
“Murdoch, I’d like your permission to ask Teresa to marry me.”
“Woo-ee!” Johnny couldn’t hold back a whoop of delight, slapping his thigh, probably grinning like a fool, but forcing himself to stay put while Scott waited for Murdoch’s answer.
For a long moment – too long – there wasn’t any.
Well, now there was no doubt about it. Murdoch hadn’t seen any of the signs. Of course, it had taken Johnny a while to pick up on it too – well after things must have changed between Teresa and Scott.
“I assume you have reason to expect that she’ll say yes?”
“Yes, Sir, I do.”
Murdoch studied the floor as he considered this.
“I didn’t realize,” Murdoch started to say, then stopped short of admitting it. “Scott, you suggested sending Teresa away to study.”
“It seemed like an experience she should have.”
Murdoch shook his head regretfully. “She never said ….”
Johnny shifted uncomfortably. He’d felt kind of badly himself that neither one of them had told him, but at least he’d finally figured it out on his own.
“We decided not to say anything, not right away. I wanted Teresa to be sure.”
Which was the same way Scott had explained it to him. Of course, Scott never would have started anything with Teresa unless he meant to see it through, but for some reason, the man had some notion that he needed to give Teresa more time.
“Now, since you are her guardian, I’d like your blessing before I propose to her.”
Scott was still talking to Murdoch as if he was Teresa’s father and not his. And Murdoch, he was sitting with his hands on the arms of the leather chair, like some kind of judge, stern and thoughtful. But any moment now, the Old Man was going to break out in a big smile. Because this had to be Murdoch’s dream come true. He’d just been taken by surprise, was all, and needed a minute to understand what it meant.
Scott and Teresa, staying here at the hacienda forever.
Finally, Murdoch looked up. “You’ve been engaged before.”
Dios! What a thing to say. But Scott didn’t react, just stood there calmly with his hands in front, one hand holding the other wrist.
“Yes, I have,” he said with a slight nod. “To Miss Julie Dennison. You met her when she accompanied my grandfather here.”
Garrett had let that information slip. Johnny had told Murdoch and then Teresa, and the three of them had wondered….
“What happened?” Murdoch asked quietly.
“She broke it off. Before I came out here.”
Johnny jumped up. “Aw, c’mon Murdoch.” His voice sounded harsh after all that soft talking. Why the hell did it matter anyway?
Scott raised a hand and stopped him in his tracks. “It’s a fair question.”
He said it like he meant it, despite the look in his eyes.
“She believed I’d been unfaithful. It wasn’t true, but I’d given her cause to think otherwise.”
This time it was Murdoch who lifted up a hand. “It took a long time for you to get over her.”
“It did.” Scott nodded once. “Murdoch, I love Teresa.”
“An’ she’s been in love with him ever since he got off the stage.”
Or at least ever since he’d shot Day Pardee. As usual, his bother practically rolled his eyes at the idea. But Scott was a good man; they’d all seen it soon enough. So why wouldn’t Teresa fall for him?
At last, finally, the Old Man smiled. “Well, of course, you have my blessing, Scott.”
Scott let out a breath like there’d really been any doubt.
“There ya go, Boston!” Johnny slapped him on the back a few times.
Then Murdoch stood up and said, “Congratulations,” and when Scott tried to shake his hand, their father grabbed Scott’s shoulders and pulled him in close instead. Johnny headed over to the liquor table, sure this occasion called for a toast. So, he almost missed the rest of it.
“I’ll take good care of her, Sir.”
“Oh, I know that, Son. Just as I know, she’ll take very good care of you.”
2/2009/ Archived August 2022
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