Beta by Lacy!)
morning was bright and cool, and the men of Lancer were enjoying a brief moment
of relaxation before the daily grind began.
was inside reading the paper with his last cup of coffee.
and Scott were outside admiring the new horses Murdoch purchased last week.
The sound of carriage wheels caught their attention, and they both
smiled. Teresa had spent a few days
visiting at Sara Miller’s place, and was due back today.
up, brother. I told you she’d be
here at the crack of dawn.” Scott
shook his head, smiling as he took a dollar out of his pocket. “She can’t stand being away from us for long.”
expected her around noon,” he said puzzled.
One large hand pushed his blonde hair back out of his eyes.
“I guess the women out West aren’t as eager to stay away from---.”
looked over at his brother, wondering why he stopped speaking mid-sentence.
Scott, eyes wide, mouth open, was staring in the direction of the buggy.
the--?” Johnny said. Teresa waved
as Sara and her father disappeared down the long road. “What’s that on her head?” Johnny asked.
the most atrocious piece of millinery I’ve ever seen,” Scott whispered.
“Looks like an ugly hat to me,” Johnny drawled.
what I said,” Scott whispered.
has better taste than that,” Johnny insisted.
this time,” Scott muttered.
Johnny!” Teresa practically ran to embrace her “brothers”.
“I sure missed you both!”
Scott said, his eyes drawn to the object resting on his “sister’s” head.
missed you, too,” Johnny smiled, ducking slightly as feathers threatened to
poke his face.
then, the front door opened, and Murdoch rushed out.
I hear my girl out here?” But the
smile on his face froze the second he saw her hat.
Teresa hugged her guardian with eager affection. Murdoch glanced at his sons, who shrugged.
what do you gentlemen think of my new hat?”
She twirled around, laughing.
ain’t gonna help,” Johnny whispered out of the side of his mouth.
it’s just as foolish looking from the back,” Scott agreed.
Teresa faced Murdoch, a look of youthful expectation on her face.
Murdoch said nervously. “A new
HAT! My, my.”
Johnny broke into an easy grin, appreciating the discomfort his father
what she said, Murdoch, a new hat,” Johnny repeated. “What do you think about it?”
Murdoch laughed nervously. “What
do you think, Johnny? You’re
the one the women go to for advice.”
think it’s very---,” Johnny swallowed hard.
Scott piped in.
Murdoch agreed. “It’s very
unique,” Johnny concurred.
feathers,” Scott added.
lots of feathers,” Murdoch said haltingly.
feathers,” Johnny said, trying to think of something else he could possibly
say about the monstrosity perched on Teresa’s petite head.
doesn’t often see orange feathers on a blue hat,” Scott noted.
not usually,” Johnny nodded.
in this case, they look perfect!” Murdoch smiled. But his eyes told a different story.
Johnny said, still nodding.
the bird---,” Scott began.
the bird---,” Johnny continued.
a bird!” Murdoch concluded. “A
you think it lays eggs?” Johnny whispered.
ostrich eggs.” Scott faced the
fence in back of them and turned to Johnny.
“We’ve got to burn that hat.”
can’t do that,” Johnny continued, talking out of the other side of his
mouth. “Maybe Barranca could
accidentally eat it.”
horse would touch that hat,” Scott muttered.
woman at the millinery store was worried that it might be a little big for
me,” Teresa said.
forced a smile. “But what does
only runs the place,” Johnny agreed.
what I thought! I just loved this
hat when I saw it!”
The question slipped out of Murdoch’s mouth before he knew it.
Teresa swung around to face him, puzzled.
why did you like it so much?
What about it appealed to you?” Scott jumped in quickly.
Johnny had to laugh. Fortunately
for Murdoch, Ol’ Scott possessed a silver tongue and a Harvard brain to back
veil?” Murdoch asked.
see,” she proceeded to unhook a small orange veil from some place on top of
the hat, and pulled it over her face.
veil.” Scott glanced over at his
that’s a veil alright.” He
looked at Scott, eyebrows raised. “An
it is…quite orange,” Scott pursed his lips.
He turned to face Johnny. “The
person who made that thing must have been drinking tequila,” he whispered.
was thinking of wearing it to church tomorrow,” she said happily.
church we go to?” Murdoch asked weakly.
Murdoch, the church in the next town,” Johnny snickered.
you’re all teasing me now. But I
won’t be deterred!”
won’t, huh?” Murdoch sighed. “Well,
good.” Murdoch picked up
Teresa’s bag and followed her into the house.
Before he went inside, he turned around and gave his sons the “Do
something about this!” glare.
think Murdoch’s gonna pass out.” Johnny mumbled, still smiling.
don’t you get too cocky, little brother.
She’ll be sitting next to us as well.”
The smile vanished from Johnny’s face.
got to burn that hat,” Johnny said with determination.
just said we couldn’t do that.”
you’ve got to tell her.”
What am I going to tell her?”
thing on her head ain’t going to church with us!”
should tell her that?” Johnny
put a firm hand on Scott’s shoulder and smiled.
Boston, you’re gonna be charming and smooth and tell her to leave the hat at
I thought ‘charming and smooth’ was your specialty.”
na, na,” Johnny said shaking his head.
yes. That’s what you’re always
you’re so charming with the women---.”
you can get them to do anything---.”
you talk to her! Just
tell her the hat isn’t fashionable.”
don’t care which one of you tells her!”
Johnny almost jumped into Scott’s arms as both of Murdoch’s sons
glared at him.
you trying to kill us?” Scott hissed.
of you---I don’t care which one---is going to convince her that the hat is
offensive, gaudy, and cheap.”
you don’t care which one of us tells her that?” Johnny asked disgusted.
a minute,” Scott said, tilting his head.
“Johnny and I like the hat.” Johnny’s
eyes darted over to his brother. “We think she should wear it to church.”
If you don’t like the hat, you should be the one to tell
her,” Johnny smiled. “After all, you’re her guardian. She looks up to you.”
her you saw someone else with the same hat,” Scott chuckled.
you two! NOW you stick together!”
With that Murdoch marched back to the house.
The brothers turned somber again.
know he ain’t gonna tell her, don’t you?”
Johnny, I know.” The front door
pulled open again and Murdoch stuck his head outside.
none of the work is getting done with you two standing round yakking!”
The hammer of Thor couldn’t have separated the brothers faster.
They hurried off to their respective chores, looking over their shoulder
at their angry father waving his arm at them.
was in the kitchen baking cookies with Maria.
She had enjoyed her visit with the Millers, but was happy to be home.
She was removing the second batch from the oven when she noticed Scott
standing in the kitchen doorway. He
was holding his hat by the brim, nervously rotating it in his hands.
Have you come for dessert? I
can’t believe you beat Johnny.” He
no…yes…no.” He looked at
Maria, who understood he wanted to talk to Teresa alone.
is it Scott? You look like you’ve
been to a funeral.”
Teresa, I have to talk to you about something.”
Scott.” Her face was expectant.
“Let’s have some cookies and milk---.”
thank you. Well, afterwards---if
you’re still speaking to me when I’m through talking.” Teresa frowned.
worrying me, Scott Lancer.”
nothing urgent. It’s…well…
You’re not going to be happy with what I have to say.
But I’m saying it to spare you.”
me?” Scott was shuffling his feet
and pulling at his hat brim. But he
just couldn’t think of a way to tell her without hurting her feelings.
the hat,” he finally said.
hat? You mean my new hat?”
be the one.”
wrong with it?”
it’s….it’s…it’s…..JUST NOT RIGHT FOR YOU,” he finally blurted out.
He continued, trying to think quickly. “You
see, you’re a petite young lady and that-that hat…ISN’T.”
It…detracts…from your face…and everything else.
It belongs on a large woman.”
One with no taste, Scott thought.
guess the woman at the millinery knew what she was talking about.
I thank you for being so honest with me.”
She smiled warmly. “That
couldn’t have been easy. I know
you would never want to hurt my feelings.”
you, Teresa.” Scott exhaled
deeply and smiled. “I didn’t
think you’d take it this well. A
lot of women would be offended.”
let’s have some fresh cookies.”
thirty minutes after Scott left the kitchen, Teresa saw Johnny standing in the
same spot by the doorway. His hat
was off and he was smiling.
I was expecting you a long time ago!
Your nose must not be working very well,” she teased.
I talk to you?” Maria looked up
suspiciously, made a face, and left the room.
is it, Johnny? Would you like some
cake and milk? Sit down.”
would be nice. Thank you.”
Teresa cut the cake and put a big piece in front of him.
He made a dent in the slice before Teresa had a chance to sit down next
Teresa, I want to talk to you about your new hat.” Teresa looked up surprised.
“I know you’re fond of it and it does have its good points….”
You don’t like it?”
isn’t fashionable.” He
smiled as he put his hand on her arm. “I
know you and the other women in town like to be fashionable.”
we do,” she said softly. “So,
you don’t think the girls in Boston are wearing hats like that?”
Johnny leaned closer to her and whispered.
“Scott said so.”
Well, thank you, Johnny. I
figured you didn’t.” With a
smile and a wink, he finished his cake and went back to the chores.
sooner had Johnny left the kitchen, and Maria returned to her baking, when
Murdoch entered. Maria threw
her hands up in the air and stomped out.
wrong with her?” Teresa just
been interrupted all morning.”
Murdoch sat at the table. “Sit,
Teresa. I want to talk to you about something. I know you’ll be upset; but I can’t keep it from you. You’re
bound to find out.”
your new hat,” Murdoch said solemnly. “I
saw one just like it on a woman in town the other day.”
mean someone has my hat?” Murdoch
hated to disappoint her, but it had to be done.
just like it,” he said firmly.
dear. I was told it was an original.” An
original what? Murdoch wondered.
“This hat hasn’t at all been what I wanted.
Scott told me it wasn’t flattering; Johnny said it wasn’t
fashionable.” Murdoch frowned.
and Johnny were here?”
and I’m touched. I don’t think
any other girl has three more considerate and caring men looking after her.”
For a second, Teresa’s eyes misted over.
“Well, the only thing left to do is bring it back.”
Murdoch’s heart was elated, but he pretended to be disappointed.
very sorry. I’ll bring you into
you, Murdoch. I’ll get my hat.”
ran into the millinery while Murdoch waited in the buggy.
Sally Blaine, the shop owner grinned when she saw Teresa.
told you I’d have the hat back before noon,” Teresa smiled.
you win the first part of the bet,” Sally conceded. “What about the rest of it?”
Johnny, and Murdoch,” Teresa said triumphantly.
I thought for sure, Johnny would have come to you first!”
Sally laughed as she handed over two dollars to Teresa.
knows those men like I do!” she smiled sweetly.