"Mr. Lancer, could I speak to you for a moment?"
"Certainly, Malcolm. Is there something I can do to help you?"
"I have just received a letter from my former employer." At the look on Murdoch's face, Malcolm reassured the tall man, "Oh no, not Mr. Tucker. The message is from my first employer, Mr. Godwin. It was he who brought me out west. Unfortunately, he was not a very good poker player. He has undertaken to open an establishment much like the one I mentioned to you six months ago when I came to Lancer. He would like me to join him."
Murdoch Lancer looked up. "Has it really been six months?"
"Yes sir. He would like me to be in San Francisco by the first of the month. Since that is three weeks away, I will be able to work two more weeks and still have time to get there."
"I see. Well, you certainly have fulfilled your obligations here so of course you can leave. If you'd like, you don't have to work two more weeks, you can leave immediately."
"Oh no, sir. I am merely giving notice. Indeed I do wish to stay on for that time period."
"Good. We're all going to miss you."
"And I am going to miss all of you......Now I think I should go inform Miss Teresa and Mr. Johnny about my departure."
"Malcolm, have you seen my featherduster? I found an inch of dust under Johnny's bed."
"Yes, Miss. I believe you left it in Mr. Lancer's room."
"Oh that's right. Thanks."
"Miss Teresa, I have something I would like to tell you."
"I will be leaving for San Francisco in two weeks. My former employer has offered me a postion and if it all works out, I can become a partner."
To Malcolm's dismay a tear slipped down Teresa's cheek. She hurriedly swiped at it with her apron. "Drat that dust. It makes my eyes water."
"Quite. Sometimes I have the same problem."
"I am sorry to see you go. Your presence has meant so much to me. I've actually been able to do some of the things I enjoy doing."
"Miss Teresa, I do not mean to give offense, but I would like to say that you are a warm, caring woman who has much to offer--outside of Lancer as well as here."
"But Lancer is my home and they're my family. I can't just walk away from my responsibilities."
"I am not suggesting that you do. I just want you to remember that you too have dreams. I don't want you to lose sight of them."
This time Teresa did hug Malcolm. "Thanks. Don't forget you still have to teach me how to make scones!"
"I will be delighted. Now I must go and inform Mr. Johnny of the situation."
"Malcolm, there's just one more thing."
"If this....if this endeavor, doesn't work out, please know that you are always welcome at Lancer."
Breathless with emotion, Malcolm whispered, "Thank you."
Johnny was out in the stable with Barranca. The palamino seemed to have strained one leg and Johnny wanted to make sure the treatment was working.
"Hey, Malcolm! Can't go for a ride today. Barranca's leg still feels warm."
"I am sorry to hear about Barranca's leg, but I still need to discuss something with you."
"Sure. What is it?"
"I am leaving in two weeks so that I can be in San Francisco by the 1st."
"But you couldn't have saved enough money in such a short time."
"You are right, but Mr.Godwin has offered me a postion, and promised that he will make me a partner within a year's time."
"Godwin? The guy who lost you to Tucker?"
"Yes. It seems that after losing my services, he realized that his gambling had become a sickness. He is now trying to make amends."
"I see. Well, I wish you good luck. You are one fine valet and man."
"Thank you, sir. You are also one mucho hombre as the vaqueros say. And don't worry, I shall instruct Miss Teresa in the secrets of scone making."
Johnny started to laugh, then sobered "It's not just the scones, you know."
"I understand. For the first time in many years I have felt part of a family."
The two weeks passed quickly. Teresa did learn how to make scones--and if they were not quite the equal of Malcolm's--the Lancers still devoured them. On the last day Malcolm went around telling the many ranch hands goodbye. He even fed Dewdrop some extra treats. He gave Teresa his San Francisco address in case she wanted to write.
"I regret that the club will not admit women, but perhaps in time."
"That's allright, Malcolm. Just take care of yourself and let us know how you are getting on."
Johnny drove Malcolm to the Green River stage depot. At first neither man said anything on the trip. In fact there was too much to say that couldn't be said.
Finally, Malcolm mentioned the envelope that Murdoch had given him. "It was most kind of your father to give me a full month's pay when I only worked two weeks."
"You earned a lot more than that. You've been a good friend to all of us."
Flushing with pleasure, Malcolm remarked, "None of my employers have ever been friends as well."
"Well, now you have."
At the depot, Johnny helped Malcolm with his bags, then the two men shook hands.
"Mr. Godwin says that if you and your father ever come to San Fracisco, you will be our guests at the club."
"Hey, that's a good idea. I could wear some of those new clothes I bought. I'll look like a real gentleman."
"You have always been that, Mr. Johnny."
"Just Johnny, my friend."
"Goodbye and thank you...Johnny."
The stage pulled out. The young man started to head towards the buckboard and home, when he stopped. <<Maybe I'll go over to the saloon and see if there's a poker game I can get into. Maybe this time I'll win me one of them French maids."