Summary: A missing scene or two for She Walks in Beauty — written by William Stuart and directed by Don McDougall
Inspiration for this story is from the song Today’s Lonely Fool sung by Tracy Lawrence, lyrics by Stanley Paul Davis and Kenneth Matthew Beard.
Rating: K+ (1,550 words)
Yesterday a Jealous Man
(aka Today’s Lonely Fool)
My family tried to tell me. But I weren’t listenin’. She was so beautiful, so elegant; a real lady. And we were in love.
I can’t believe what I’d seen earlier, Adam leanin’ against that tree with his arms around her, and forcin’ her to kiss him. But I saw it with my own eyes. Don’t know when I’ve ever felt that mad before. How does a person get so confounded mad they want to tear their brother limb from limb?
Sure Adam and Little Joe have gone round a time or two, but that’s different. Adam knows when to pull his punches. He hits just hard enough to get his point across, but not as hard as he would if’n he’d been fightin’ someone threatenin’ his family. And Joe? Sure, he can pack a wallop, but he never goes all out against his family. Not enough to truly hurt a body.
But I did, I crossed the line. I let a woman come between me and my family. Shucks, I even argued with Pa, shoutin’ at him how wrong they was. I was gonna marry her, Miss Ragan loved me.
But she didn’t, at least not enough to change her ways.
Aw, she wasn’t one of those loose women, a soiled-dove type woman; she enjoyed bein’ loved. I’d of given her everythin’, the stars and the moon, if’n I owned ‘em. But I didn’t. All I had was my horse and gear, and what little was in my bank account. Sure I was part owner in the Ponderosa, but that wasn’t mine to give.
A leopard can’t change their spots any more than a tiger can change its stripes. At least that’s what Adam tried to say. But he was wrong. I changed.
Big, gentle-hearted me. I woulda done anythin’ for my brothers, I’d never laid a hand on them in anger. I’ve known for a long time that I could really hurt someone without meanin’ to. Maybe that’s why most people don’t think of me as smart as my brothers; I make sure I’m slow to anger, that I think before I act.
And I did think, and the more I thought, the madder I got. I let a pretty face turn my head, and my heart. Just like Joe when he accused Adam of tryin’ to steal Miss Melinda from him, I knew different. I’d seen the way she acted with Joe, and then with Adam. But when I saw them together, Adam and Ragan, I felt the same as Joe. Adam was tryin’ to steal away the woman I loved to prove he was the better man. And if he didn’t really love her, then he was tryin’ to prove me a fool.
But he didn’t prove me a fool. I did.
My punches sent my brother across the bunk house and he never once lifted a hand to defend himself or to retaliate.
I’d had Pa invite all our friends for a party to introduce her and her sister. When she arrived for our engagement party, she didn’t look like the Ragan I knew, the Ragan I thought I knew. Dancin’ with all those men; never sittin’ out a single dance. Later, I found her and Pa out talkin’ on the porch.
She tried to tell me the truth. She explained what happened earlier with Adam.
Like Pa always said, the past was the past. It didn’t matter to me; I knew it was Adam’s fault. But for some reason it mattered to her. I wanted to make her happy; I’d do anythin’ to see to her happiness, even livin’ in the big city.
It made no sense for her to say the worst thing to happen would be for her to love me, how her love would destroy me; if we were together, that shoulda been enough.
I never saw Adam last night, not after he left the bunkhouse. Later, after Miss Ragan left, I needed to talk, but his door was locked; a sure sign he didn’t want to talk.
Pa and Joe helped Hop Sing tidy things up in the house, but I couldn’t face them. Like a curtain pulled back, I was beginnin’ to see things differently. After changin’ outa my good clothes, I left the house, and my home. As I rode through the night, I finally began to understand, she was all about parties and fancy clothes, and bein’ seen as someone important. Somethin’ niggled in the back of my mind about her climbin’ the social ladder and havin’ men fall over themselves at her feet.
Chubbs nickered from the lean to, guess Pa or Joe finally come lookin’ for me.
Pa, footsteps were too heavy for Joe. He knocked.
“Come in.” As a sign of respect, I stood.
“Thought you might be here.”
Twirlin’ his hat around in his hands like he does when he don’t want someone ta know he’s nervous, Adam entered the line shack. “You ready to come home?”
“Pa send ya?”
“Why didn’t he or Little Joe come?”
“Because I asked them to give you time; and to let me be the one to bring you home.”
“And what if I don’t wanna go home with you?” Yeah, I was still mad.
“That’s your prerogative, but Hop Sing’s threatening to go back to China if you don’t come home.”
“Ain’t funny, Adam.”
“No, but he misses you. So do Pa and Little Joe.”
I also heard what he didn’t say, he did too. But I couldn’t. “Yeah, well, they’re all better off without me. Safer for ‘em.” Adam winced, rubbin’ a hand across his chin; guess he remembered those punches, “Sure you wanna be here with me?”
“You do know that’s not the way I wanted it to happen.”
Walkin’ away from my brother, I kept the table between us; sorta like a barricade. “How did you want it to happen?”
“I don’t know.” Tossin’ his hat to the table, he pulled out a chair and sat. “I knew what I heard in San Francisco and I wanted to protect you. I just didn’t know how to do it without hurting you.”
Pullin’ out the other chair, I sat and faced my brother. “I loved her Adam. I wanted the kinda love Pa had with Ma.”
“I think we all want that.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes, lookin’ at each other, then lookin’ at our hands. We ain’t never had a mess like this before, not me and Adam. But still, it was comfortin’, here was my big brother.
“Do you think Miss Ragan…”
“Hoss, no. Don’t ask that question. She is who and what she is. I think she tried to get away from the rumors and came here to be with her sister. Emilia wanted her to be something she wasn’t, and that’s the Ragan you fell in love with. She couldn’t have kept the pretense forever.”
“That’s what happened yesterday afternoon, weren’t it?”
“I’m sorry I pounded ya.”
“No you’re not. You meant it, and I suppose I had it coming. I should have stopped her. I knew she couldn’t stop herself.”
“Would you have, had ya known I came back?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to see how far she’d take it; how far she’d allow herself to go before she’d stop.”
With fingers interlaced and on the table in front of him, Adam said he was truly sorry. And I know he was, and not just because I’d seen ‘em. Just like Joe and the Banning incident, I’d only seen what I wanted to. I had refused to accept that my big brother was tryin’ to protect me.
“I was so jealous of ya.”
With palms flat on the table, Adam pushed himself up, and reached for his hat.
“Love can do that to a man. The best you can do is don’t let it harden your heart.”
Standin’ to my own feet, I slipped my hands into my pant pockets and shuffled along behind Adam.
Adam rode Sport right past the turn off to home; he kept ridin’ to Virginia City with me by his side.
“Ragan’s leaving town on the late afternoon stage.” Adam didn’t look at me, he just kept ridin’.
I didn’t really want to go; but I had to see for myself and I guess Adam knew it was for the best.
A wise man once said, “If ya love someone let ‘em go, if they come back…” I don’t think Miss Ragan will be comin’ back. I hope someday she finds what she’s lookin’ for.
When we finally headed home, and with the sun shinin’ on my brother’s face, I saw the bruises I’d put there. Yesterday I was a jealous man, and when I woke this mornin’ I was a lonely fool. Again I was wrong, Adam proved that. I might be a fool, but not a lonely one; not with my family backin’ me. Cain’t ask for a better family than what I got.