The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link
subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link
subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link
subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link
subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link
subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link
subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link
subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link

Suzanne

 

 

A Penny For Their Thoughts

This was written for a Lancer Writers Challenge during our Fifty Years of Lancer Anniversary Celebration: Write a short story based on Little Darling Of The Sierras

It was well past midnight when Johnny rode under the Lancer arch.

By the time he crept inside it was later still after stabling Barranca.

The hacienda was in darkness, save for the few lamps someone had left on low and the coals still burning their last gasp in the fireplace.

His hands were numb from the cold so he headed over to the fireplace to warm them up.

“You took your time, Johnny.”

“Whoa!” He whirled around to see Scott stretched out in the dark on the couch.

“What the heck are you trying to do? Scare the life out me?”

Scott sat up, eying him. “The sheriff turned up hours ago.”

“He did?”

“He did.”

Johnny looked around. The hacienda was definitely quiet. “Well, I thought I’d better look around, just in case those hardheads were hanging around Morro Coyo.”

“And were they?”

“Nope, not a sign of them.”

Johnny stretched his back and then rotated to warm the front of him. It was better not to look at Scott, especially when he had an idea Scott was keeping a close eye on him.  The silence was becoming a mite uncomfortable. “Well, I think I’ll mosey on up to bed.”

“You don’t fool me for a minute, brother.”

“What are you talking about?” Johnny said the words over his shoulder, nice and easy-like. It was hard to tell if Scott would see the guilt on his face.

“Penny Rose was really disappointed you weren’t there to see her sing.”

Johnny grimaced. “Did she sing that song she’s been singing all over the place since she got here?”

Scott thought about it. “I’m not sure. I don’t think I heard her sing it before tonight.”

“You were lucky then,”Johnny muttered to the fireplace.

“Johnny, what’s wrong with you? It’s as if you’ve been hiding from Miss Hester and Penny Rose the last two days.”

Johnny turned around and gave Scott a frank look. “Haven’t you noticed the trouble that kid has caused since she got here?” He looked towards the staircase leading to the bedrooms and lowered his voice. “Scott, we’ve got to get those two to leave Lancer as soon as possible,” he said urgently.

“I don’t see why there’s any hurry. Murdoch seems to like having a little girl running around. Look at it this way, it takes the pressure off you and me to start giving him heirs.”

“Scott, we’ve got to get them to leave before we have no cowhands left!”

“What are you talking about?”

“That Penny Rose. I tell, ya, Scott, she’s trouble.”

“Well, what did she do?”

“She went out to the bunkhouse and started one of her re-ci-tation thingies.”

“Recitation. What did she recite?”

“I don’t know, some maudlin thing about a ship and a wreck and some poor kid tied to a mast.” He shuddered. “Worst thing I ever heard.”

Scott grinned. “That would be her show piece, ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus.’”

“Well thanks to her ‘showpiece’ we’ve lost some of our best hands.”

Scott looked sympathetic. “They didn’t like it, huh? I’ve got to admit, it was a trifle unusual when she launched into it at her father’s funeral.”

“Scott, it’s not that they didn’t like it, they loved it!”

“Well, it is quite dramatic.

‘Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman’s Woe!’”

Johnny screwed up his face. “Ole Harlan teach you that? Sounds like the type of gloomy tale he’d enjoy.”

“No, I think I had to learn it at school. But if the hands loved it, then why have we lost workers?”

“You know big Butch Maloney?”

Scott nodded.

“By the time Penny Rose finished he was crying like a baby.”

“Nooo.” Scott sat up, looking shocked. “Big Butch Maloney? Big Butch who eats bullets for breakfast?”

“Yup. Cried like a baby and then told us he was going home to see his mother.”

Scott shook his head. “At least it was only one hand. I know Big Butch probably does the work of four but…”

“No, that makes eight we lost because another three up and left with him, just like that.” He slapped his hands together. “Who knows when we’ll ever see them again.”

Scott winced. “Murdoch won’t be happy.”

“It’s all his fault for bringing her here,” Johnny said moodily. “That kid’s a downright wreck of the San Joaquin. And I haven’t even got started on her singing.”

“What’s wrong with her singing?”

Johnny stared at Scott and stomped his foot. “Brother, are you serious?”

Scott started thinking about her performance last night. “I grant you she might be a little over-enthusiastic.”

“Scott, I’ve heard sweeter sounds coming from a screech owl. Did you know she’s only been here two days and the hens have stopped laying.”  

“You can hardly blame that on her singing.”

“I can when she gets up on a box and sings right outside the henhouse. She told me she was making ’em happy because they looked sad.”

“To be fair, I don’t suppose their life is all that interesting.”

“It’s nothing to laugh about, Scott. I haven’t even got started on how her singing affects the horses. Barranca got such a fright when she started on ‘them slippers things’ that he threw me.” He rubbed his behind as he remembered the moment. “Scott, that kid has got to go. I mean, I’m sure she’s a sweet little kid and all but heck, I’d rather have a hell-fire like Pony Alice to deal with. At least you knew what you were dealing with.”

“I don’t remember you saying that when Pony was living here.”

Johnny grinned of a sudden. “She was a handful alright, wasn’t she.”

“Well, I’ve got some good news for you, Johnny. Tomorrow Miss Hester and Penny Rose are leaving Lancer.”

“They are?” He started to look slightly hopeful. “You’re not just saying that, are you?”

“No, it turns out her father had left her a fortune in stocks and bonds and they were hidden in the pianola. We found them tonight when she was in the middle of her song.”

“Whew, so that means Miss Hester won’t be hanging on Murdoch’s arm anymore? I was getting worried she was going to be another Marcie Dane and start ironing my shirts the way she was going all dewy-eyed over him.”

“I’m absolutely positive. Miss Hester wants to take Penny Rose to Europe.”

Johnny shook his head. “Boy, that seems kind of hard on’em over there,” then he brightened, “but better them than us!”

****

Johnny went down to breakfast bright and early the next morning. He felt like a huge weight had been lifted off him now that he knew Penny Rose and her aunt were leaving that day.

“Johnny,” cried Penny Rose when she saw him. “You missed my thpecial farewell performance last night.”

“Yeah?” He tried to sound sad. “Boy, I’m really sorry about that.”

“It’s okay because I told Uncle Murdoch I’d sing for you before we left this morning.”

Oh heck, that meant the headache he’d had for two day was probably gonna come back. He did his best to try to look happy but he wasn’t sure he was succeeding too well.

Sure enough, right after breakfast, she grabbed his hand and took him into the great room where the piano player was still set up. Before he could talk her out of it, she’d launched into the song of his nightmares, ‘Oh, Dem Golden Thlippers.’

So he sat there next to Scott and Murdoch and tapped his foot and nearly got up three times to leave thinking it was over but every time she’d start up on another verse.

Finally, the song came to an end and Johnny stood up. But when he looked around, he saw most of the hands had their faces up against the window and were staring in like they were listening and watching Miss Lotta Crabtree herself.

And even Johnny had to admit, it was kind of sweet to see how much they liked the kid.

Johnny looked at Scott and Murdoch and they were smiling and so was Teresa and Jelly was of course because he was always mush when there was a kid around. In fact, when he thought about it, everyone looked happy as they watched her sing.

He scratched his head. At least she wasn’t talking about a dead kid tied to a mast.

Well, what did he know about anything? Maybe she really was the ‘Little Darling of the Sierras’ after all?

 

 

~end~
November 2018

 

Want to comment? Email Suzanne