Now, right off, you might think that this is a “Johnny” story,
but it’s actually for all those “Scott” ladies out there...
L L L L L L L L L L
“Just don’t say it again, Boston, or I’m gonna punch you in the mouth, I swear it!” Johnny finished his tirade as he flung open the front door of the hacienda, practically pulling it off its heavy hinges, and ran up the stairs, heading for the refuge of his bedroom.
Scott knew better than to look at Teresa as she sat silent and unmoving beside him in the backseat of the carriage. Murdoch sat in the front, reins in hand, also remaining perfectly still with eyes forward. The three waited as long as possible, until none of them could stand it any longer and...
...the night erupted in a riotous burst of their laughter.
Finally Murdoch was able to catch his breath and managed to descend from the carriage to assist Teresa. They were careful not to catch each other’s eye however, wary of setting off another fit of guffawing at Johnny’s expense.
Scott had gotten out on the opposite side, and as he wiped at his tear-moistened eyes he offered, “I’ll take care of the carriage and horses, sir.”
“Thank you son,” Murdoch responded, then advised, “Oh Scott. You might want to consider sleeping with one eye open tonight. I have a feeling your brother is just a little upset with you right now.”
“Little?” Teresa repeated. “Try lot!” she corrected, then giggled.
“Me?” Scott challenged back, astounded. “You were both there. You don’t think he isn’t angry with the two of you?”
“Yes, I’m sure he’s annoyed with us as well,” Murdoch agreed. “But it was you that he kept looking to for rescue. You know how embarrassed your brother gets when he’s paid too much attention. You could have been more helpful.”
“What was I supposed to do?! It’s not my fault that my brother looks good in a suit. I may have helped pick it out, but Johnny’s the one that wore it so well. What should I have done? Encouraged him to buy the ugliest and worst fitting set of clothes in the store?”
“Not at all,” Murdoch concurred. “But did you have to keep whispering to him all night how ‘pretty’ he looked?” Murdoch started sniggering again. “There was a moment after he finished dancing with Bess Fletcher, when I actually thought that he was going to shoot you.”
Scott took umbrage at his father’s censure, and grew indignant. “Well, he seemed to get such enjoyment in telling me how ‘pretty’ I looked when I first came west. I just couldn’t resist paying him back a little.”
“Little?” Teresa repeated. “Try lot!” she corrected – again – which – again – set her off into a fit of giggling.
Murdoch shot her a grin and a chuckle in agreement, but quickly stifled his renewed merriment as he addressed his older son authoritatively. “That might be true, Scott. But you have to admit that the particular style of clothes you brought with you from the east really weren’t appropriate for out here. A formal suit may belong here in the west, but I have a feeling that Johnny no longer believes that one belongs on him.”
Realizing for himself the palpable truth of that statement as he’d voiced it, Murdoch’s mood sobered slightly as thoughts of Johnny’s predicament during the evening finally lost a bit of their humor. “Can you see the difference son?”
Scott considered the idea, and had to agree with the logic of it. He now sobered somewhat as well. “Yes sir. You’re right. I should have been more supportive.”
Also recognizing the astuteness of Murdoch’s insight, Teresa finally suppressed her own titters as she acknowledged, “It’s not really just Scott’s fault, Murdoch. We all could have been more sympathetic. Most of those girls have met Johnny plenty of times. There was no excuse for such inappropriate behavior. I would have been embarrassed too if every man in town suddenly started to flirt with me.”
With a certain amount of introspection, she added, “Although, I really can’t blame the ladies. That suit certainly did bring something out in Johnny that I’ve never noticed before. He... he...”
Murdoch and Scott both stared at Teresa incredulously, as she suddenly seemed to take on a familiar looking expression of girlish infatuation herself. Noticing their scrutiny, Teresa tried to regain herself, but she could do nothing to keep the blush from rising in her cheeks as she attempted to stammer out an excuse.
“I only mean... It’s just... Well, he was very handsome, and... it’s not like he isn’t normally... but... well he...
Oh! That’s all I have to say. I’m going to bed!” she finished with a strained finality, giving up and quickly stamping off, having become utterly and irrevocably embarrassed by her admissions.
Father and son watched her enter the house, then turned to each other and again burst out in mutual laughter.
“Oh my heavens. Poor Johnny,” Scott offered in sympathy, realizing for the first time how really dreadful it must have been for his brother to be forced to watch girls behaving like that around him all night.
“My heavens indeed,” Murdoch agreed with a bemused shake of his head.
Giving Scott a pat on his shoulder he stated, “Well, I guess I should be off to bed, too. Get some sleep yourself, but remember...” he added with a huge grin, “...one eye open.”
“Don’t worry,” Scott assured him with a smile. “I won’t be turning my back on my bedroom door tonight, that’s for certain.”
Murdoch nodded and started to walk away, but Scott called out and stopped him. “Sir.”
“Yes,” Murdoch responded as he turned around.
“You may want to consider keeping an eye on your own door this evening.”
After a moment’s deliberation, Murdoch offered back, “I hate to admit it, but you may just be right about that. I’ll see you – I hope – in the morning.” With that, Murdoch entered the hacienda and closed the door behind him.
Scott heaved a tired but contented sigh, then headed to the barn with the carriage. As he cared for the horses he again considered the events of the evening, and his father’s seemingly facetious warning.
Suddenly Scott found
himself silently appealing, ‘Please don’t let Johnny’s sense of humor
fail me now.’
L L L L L L L L L L
Not surprisingly, Johnny gave not only Scott, but Teresa and Murdoch the cold shoulder for the next couple of days. But the grudge seemed to fade quickly during the following week, until the matter finally appeared to be totally forgotten and in the past.
However, several weeks later, Scott entered his bedroom for the night to discover an ominous package waiting for him on the bed...
L L L L L L L L L L
The next morning found Murdoch, Johnny, Teresa and Jelly in the kitchen, already enjoying their breakfast when Scott finally descended the back stairs and joined them. Catching sight of his older son, Murdoch was immediately obliged to stop cutting into a very nice piece of ham and lay his knife and fork heavily down onto his plate. Teresa’s view of Scott caused her hand to fly up to slap down over her heart in a gesture of obvious astonishment. Jelly looked at Scott, then over to Johnny – then back to Scott, then back at Johnny.
Johnny just sat there calmly as he and his brother locked eyes – silent apologies being mutually given and accepted, for all wrongs recently committed – implied or otherwise.
The Lancer cook, Maria, turned from the stove with a plate of biscuits, which Scott luckily grabbed before they could drop from her grasp. “Madre de dios,” she muttered quietly as she blatantly looked him up and down.
“Thanks, Maria. These look mighty fine, as usual,” Scott complimented as he took one off the plate. He then casually walked to his brother’s side. Holding out the platter he asked, “Biscuit Johnny?”
The youngest Lancer accepted the plate like there wasn’t a thing in the world wrong, and courteously responded, “Thank you, Scott.” As his brother took his seat, Johnny carefully sought the largest biscuit available to compliment his breakfast.
Having found and placed the desired baked good onto his own plate, Johnny formally held the platter out to the young lady at his side. “Miss Teresa, would you care for a fresh biscuit?”
She couldn’t help herself. Johnny’s oh so polite offer was too much.
Teresa started to smile.
Then Murdoch started to smile.
Then Jelly smiled.
Then, as one, the three of them – plus Maria – burst into laughter.
Seeing that the others were obviously going to be preoccupied for a while, Johnny merely set that plate down, then picked up and passed his brother a serving dish filled with bacon and ham. Scott graciously accepted the offered items with an enthusiastic, “Gracias.”
That got everyone else laughing even louder. The hysterical mirth continued until Maria finally had to turn away in tears, suddenly focusing on examining the stove like she’d never seen it before. Teresa and Jelly were both forced to dab at their own eyes with their napkins, while Murdoch salted – then re-salted – a piece of ham so many times that it was surely due to turn into jerky at any moment.
The remainder of the meal passed with everyone but the two brothers refusing to meet anyone else’s gaze.
Finally full and satisfied, both Scott and Johnny rose and headed for the door.
Murdoch could not believe what he was seeing, and figured he better speak up before it was too late. “Scott, you do remember that you and Johnny are supposed to go into town today for supplies. You’re... you’re not actually going out like that, are you son?”
“Why wouldn’t I, Murdoch?” Scott offered back, unperturbed. “Actually, they’re kinda comfortable. I can see now why some a’ the men like to wear ‘em.”
Seeing concern still evident on his father’s face, Scott sought a second opinion and addressed his father’s young ward. “What do you think, Teresa? Do I look okay?”
Teresa held her breath, stifling an instant urge to begin laughing again. But as soon as she took another look at Scott – a really good look this time – the young woman suddenly seemed to regain that familiar expression of girlish infatuation she had gotten the night of the party, when she’d thought about how Johnny had looked in his suit.
Finding her voice, Teresa was surprised to hear herself admitting that, “Scott, it actually makes you look... very... handsome.”
Scott might have thought she was kidding, but when Teresa actually blushed and lowered her eyes, he realized with abject horror that she was serious. To make things even worse, Scott shifted his gaze to the matronly and usually very proper Mexican cook, Maria. She was still trying to blend in with the stove, but was now looking at him admiringly – while making a gesture that made him think that her hand had just been burned by a pan of very hot tamales.
Looking over to his
sibling, Johnny simply cocked his head sideways, then held his hands out in
front of him, palms up, silently asking his brother, ‘How do you like
Scott gaped back at him, stunned, and thought, ‘I’m still a greenhorn and my brother is a clever, sneaky, ruthless, rotten, son of a...’
Johnny had hoped that the actual fun would begin once they’d made it into town. But with his trump card having been played for him, courtesy of the ladies present, Johnny laid the rest of his hand out on the table for his brother’s consideration. “Handsome may be true... but when it’s you bein’ sized up like a piece of prized beef, that really don’t offer much comfort, do it?”
Standing face to face with his brother, Scott had to appreciate the ironic truth of that statement. Murdoch’s insight had been so very right – and to prove the point, Johnny had just asked Scott to – quite literally – do a little walking around in his young brother’s boots. When he’d put the clothes on that morning, Scott had known that that was why Johnny had given them to him – and he had actually thought that he would be able to eat crow and go through with it. But now...
Scott stared at Johnny, standing there looking so natural in his familiar salmon-colored embroidered shirt and calzoneros pants. Then he looked down at himself. He knew, surprisingly, that he did indeed look good in the similar-styled outfit his brother had picked out for him. Scott had convinced himself that he could actually pull off wearing the clothing, but was nevertheless fully prepared to receive some intense teasing from the ranch’s vaqueros for appearing so dressed.
He had been mistaken and incredibly naive, however, in thinking that causing him embarrassment in front of the men would be sufficient revenge for his devious brother.
Scott now knew that Johnny had a much deeper ulterior motive for getting him to dress like this. Because of the outrageous and totally inappropriate feminine attention he had drawn from the Lancer women, Scott was once again feeling totally foreign in the set of clothes. He had felt sure that women would simply find him silly looking like this, or presumptuous, or... whatever, but certainly not... of all things... attractive! That kind of attention was just as abhorrent to him as it had been to Johnny! He’d take the taunts and laughter of a band of raucous ranch hands over the clucking and cooing of a pack of brazen fawning females any day.
He thought that he might be able to get around and still stay mostly unnoticed wearing the dark golden-brown colored shirt with elaborate deep brown embroidery, and maybe even while wearing the concho belt. But those pants Johnny had given him – complete with those conspicuous rows of buttons running down the outside of each pant leg...
‘Oh god, how am I ever going to survive the day?’ Scott thought desperately.
Not allowing him the chance to change his mind, Johnny prompted, “Come on, brother. We really should be running along. The mercantile will be extremely busy today, and I’d hate to get there after everything’s been picked over by all those ladies who usually come into town to do their shopping on Saturday. I bet you can’t wait for them to see how ‘pretty’ you look in your new duds.”
With Johnny patiently holding the door open for him, Scott paused and looked to his father for rescue. But he found absolutely no sympathy in the older man’s eyes, and received a similar response from Jelly, who had heard all about Scott’s teasing and lack of support for Johnny the night of the party.
And Maria and Teresa... well, embarrassed by their previous behavior, they were once again carefully averting their eyes, refusing to look at him at all.
Knowing he had made his own bed and was now was being asked to sleep in it, Scott girded his courage, and with the sentiment, “Well, I guess I’ll see ya’ll at lunch then,” he proceeded out the door to accept his fate.
Johnny grabbed his hat off the peg by the door, then took a moment to settle it squarely onto his head, in perfect mimicry for how Scott usually did it. He then announced to the group, “Oh indeed. We shall both see you for lunch.”
Starting to walk out, Johnny turned back abruptly and added joyfully, “If not before!” Then, with a wink, he was gone.
As soon as the door was closed, the kitchen was instantly filled with booms of laughter, a screeching of chairs, and the stomping of boots and shoes against tile. Four sets of eyes quickly filled the kitchen window to watch the Lancer brothers make their way across the courtyard, side by side, to begin their – what was surely going to prove to be – very interesting day.