Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2304399-The-Great-Depression-Pt-1
Rated: E · Fiction · Fanfiction · #2304399
When the banks take a hit, Preston has to find other options to survive
The Great Depression
A Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman Fan Ficton
By Sarah Heard
© 2023


The news only seemed to make him more depressed, yet he was bound by duty and his profession to keep an eye on what was going on in New York. He waited patiently while Horace Bing retrieved his mail, which consisted of two letters from his father in Boston…which he’d no doubt ignore again, and two newspapers from Boston and New York.
“Here ya are, Preston…anything else I can do for ya?” Horace said as he put the mail on the counter.
“No, that’s all I need for now, thank you Horace,” Preston said politely, remembering his upbringing.
Preston turned to walk away when Horace broached the topic the whole town was wondering about, “Any idea when you can get back the town’s money?”
Preston closed his eyes, and clenched his jaw and his fists before turning back around and faking a smile, “I wish I knew something, but I’m just as clueless as the rest of you are about that situation.”
Horace nodded, “It just don’t seem right.”
“Hmm…” Preston agreed, then turned around and walked away.
He hoped he wouldn’t have to answer anymore questions as he climbed onto his horse and rode towards his now closed Chateau where he lived alone. He missed Andrew, especially during this time and wished someone was there to discuss things with. Even though he and Andrew had gotten into a few heated arguments, he cherished the young man's wisdom and missed him dearly. He had to fire all of the help shortly after Andrew and Colleen left for Philadelphia and soon after the Chateau closed for good. All that remained at the Chateau was a small little dog one of the guests had left behind that Preston now took care of and fondly named it ‘Baby’.
As Preston neared the Chateau he recognized one familiar face he didn’t mind seeing frequently. Dr. Michaela Quinn, ‘Dr. Mike’ as the townsfolk called her. She checked on him regularly, and that made him glad he was a part of this town, despite what some of the townsfolk had threatened to do to him when their money was lost after the banks crashed. He didn’t let her know that he was depressed and sometimes wished an Indian ‘Dog Soldier’ would just come through his property and kill him…though somehow he suspected she knew as she came by every other day or so to make sure he was okay and eating. He didn’t understand why she would do that, when most of her family had lost their money in the bank as well, including her family back East in Boston.
Michaela was sitting on the porch of the Chateau, a porch that badly needed repair and repainting. She was holding Baby, watching him as he climbed down from his horse and reached into his saddle bag to grab his mail and packages he’d acquired from Brays Store.
“Michaela…I told you I’m fine, you don’t need to check on me so much!” he exclaimed, walking up the steps.
“ Oh, it’s really no trouble…I came out this way to see Cloud Dancing and Dorothy anyways, so don’t mind checking on you.” Michaela said smiling.
Preston nodded. Cloud Dancing and Dorothy moved onto land just next to the Chateau, so were his closest neighbors.
“Are you doing okay?” Michaela questioned.
Preston flashed his fake smile and lied, “Doing just fine, Michaela, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well Preston, you lost everything when the stock market crashed last year. Many bankers and wealthy men aren’t doing well. Some have even taken their own lives,” Michaela began.
Preston listened, but tried to let her words go in one ear and out the other as he opened up the Boston Globe and began reading an article that looked of interest to him.
“Others, well, they had their lives taken by people who were angry at them for not preventing their money from being taken during the stock market crash,” she continued, “Well, the other day I read an article in a paper from Denver about…”
“That’s all very interesting Michaela, but I’m rather tired from my trip to town and would like to lay down for a bit,” Preston interrupted, folding up his newspaper and putting it under his arm with the other one. He stood up and picked up his packages from town and letters from his father and walked towards the room he’d decided to call his own. As he closed the door, he saw Michaela climb onto her horse Flash and ride towards town.
Preston sighed as he dropped his things in a chair, sat down on his bed and bent down to loosen his boot lace. He was tired of all the talk about the stock market crash…they weren’t the only ones who suffered. He had just spent the last of his money on a couple cans of food and some soap. Soon he would have to start selling…or trading things around the Chateau so he could continue to survive…if he decided to keep on ‘surviving’ at all.

She couldn’t believe her father was dragging her across the country to this god-forsaken place, and making her take a stage-coach of all things….she was practically royalty. She tossed her father a fake smile in response to his gentle pat on her shoulder as the stage-coach approached their destination. What type of place didn’t even have a train? From the looks of the place, they must have had one at one time, because she observed train tracks further down the road and what looked like a train station. As the coach lurched to a sudden stop, she held onto her fathers arm, expecting some luggage to fall off the top. To her dismay, everything stayed. She needed some excitement, considering that this town…if that’s what you would call this place, looked rather dull and boring.

“Welcome to Colorado Springs! I’m the Mayor, Jake Slicker. We are so glad to finally have people come to our town again…uh…if I, or my business partner can be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to visit us at The Gold Nugget Saloon and Hotel.” As soon as the door to the stagecoach swung open, the ‘Mayor’ made his grand announcement…or speech or whatever it was.

Ruth rolled her eyes, and looked at her father as he stood up to disembark. He was a rather short, stout man and so standing up didn’t cause him to hit his head like most average sized men would.
“My name is Jebidiah Newman, and I am looking for someone to take my daughter and I to the Springs Chateau and Health Resort,” her father said when his feet hit the dirt beneath them.
“Well, the Chateau has been closed for the past few months…no one stays out there anymore…” Jake replied.
“I can take ya out there, if you don’t mind waitin’ for a bit till I get my wagon from Robert E….” a rough looking man replied. He had long hair and wore buffalo skins and carried a small ax or hatchet on his belt. Beside him was a wolf.
Ruth’s father nodded, “Thank you, we will wait right here with our luggage,” he said as he offered his hand to her, helping her climb down.
“Alright, I’ll be back in a few…” he said, turning away to walk down the street.
“Who is that man?” her father asked, and she knew he was hoping he hadn’t just volunteered to have them scalped by an indian savage.
“That’s Byron Sully, you don’t have to worry about him…real nice fella,” a tall gangly man said as he grabbed a large bag from the stagecoach driver.
“I’ve got two for ya today, Horace,” the driver announced, reaching for another large bag.
Each bag had US Postal Service written on them. So he was the local postman.
“What brings ya’ to our town?” an older gentleman asked, reaching for a wooden crate full of trinkets Ruth knew came all the way from Denver.
“Well, I heard that there was some trouble with your little Chateau and wanted to see if I could help,”
This made the older man stop in his tracks, “Awe, Preston won’t like the sound of being bought out by someone….”
Just then, their transportation to the Chateau arrived, and Ruth was happy she didn’t have to listen to any more questions from the townspeople of Colorado Springs. Their reason for being here was none of anyone's business at the present moment.
Mr. Sully reached over and took her hand to help her climb up into the seat beside him before her father climbed up into the seat beside her. It was a tight fit, but they did fit. She had no fear of falling out as they began their trip to the Chateau.
Mr. Sully was quiet and didn’t ask why they were in town, or why they were traveling to the closed down Chateau. No, instead he let her father talk, and talk he did. He was a regular chatterbox about the things they had seen on their trip from the East and asked about the things he hoped to see, like real indians.
The rugged man ended his silence by volunteering that his wife's family was from Boston, so they had made many trips East themselves. As for ‘Real Indians’, there was a Cheyenne man and his wife who lived near the Chateau, which made her father excited at the prospect.

Upon hearing a wagon approaching, Preston stepped out onto the porch and watched as Sully stopped at the spot where guests used to be dropped off.
"What are you doing here, Sully?" Preston asked, noticing two passengers.
"They come to see you. All the way from New York," Sully said, jumping down from the driver's seat. He reached for a young woman's hand and helped her down as a short and stout man climbed down on the other side.
Preston smiled, and reached his hand to the gentleman as he came around the wagon and approached him. "Preston A. Lodge the Third."
"Jebidiah Newman," the man said, shaking Preston's hand happily, "And this is my daughter Ruth."
Preston blushed a bit, as he took her gloved hand and gently kissed it, "Miss Ruth." She couldn't be more than 17 years old, yet had an elegance about her that surpassed her years. He turned to look at Sully who was unloading their luggage. "Wait, I'm afraid we don't have rooms available for staying anymore. All of my staff is gone. The Chateau doctor has left. I just cannot allow you to stay here."
"Nonsense! I insist we stay here and see what this place is all about!" Jebidiah bellowed.
"It's hardly anything like what it was before the market crashed," Preston admitted.
"Then you can tell me about it over supper, you do have a chef here on the premises?" Jebidiah replied.
"Like I've said, I have no staff," Preston said sheepishly.
"Hmm...well then...Mr. Sully, where can we get a hot meal served to us in a restaurant setting?"
"Graces Cafe," both Preston and Sully said at the same time.
"Alright then, we shall discuss this at this cafe...where should Mr. Sully put our things?"
Preston sighed, "I suppose you can have Andrew's old room and your daughter can stay next door," he said as he led the way.
Ruth was anxious to wash up and put on fresh clothes when she was left alone in her room. She would prefer to avoid supper and just rest. She glanced over at the wash basin and pitcher on the dresser and wondered where she might get water for a sponge bath. She opened a door in her room and sighed in relief...this place had plumbing and running water. Not so primitive after all! It had been awhile since she'd used an indoor toilet and she took full advantage before drawing herself a REAL bath, with her rose scented bath oils she had purchased in Paris last spring. She was just finishing up her bath when she heard a knock on the door to her room.
"We're leaving in twenty minutes!" her father called from outside.
Ruth sighed and pulled the plug on the tub, watching the water drain from around her. She pulled herself up and wrapped a towel around her tiny frame before walking to her bed to look through her trunk of clothes. Everything she owned was elegant and she felt out of place wearing them in town, but only the best for New York Royalty, right?! Why shouldn't she look elegant? She dressed and then went to arrange her long golden locks into a style that might give Mr. Preston A Lodge reason to give her more attention than he had earlier. She liked him, and knew he came from one of Boston's finest families so a union with him would be well suited for both of them. If she had to be here in Colorado Springs, she was going to make sure she benefited too.
She grabbed her parasol, in addition to a small handbag and stepped out onto the veranda to join the men for dinner. She smiled to herself...before this was over, the Chateau would belong to her father and Preston Lodge would belong to her.

Ruth was relieved when Preston pulled up in front of the Chateau driving a black surrey with dark tassels hanging from the roof. The horse that pulled it was a chestnut colored mare, more than likely his own personal horse. She smiled sweetly at him when he jumped down and came around to greet her.

“I’m a little embarrassed to say that it’s not in the best of shape. It’s been locked up in a carriage shed for months gathering dust. I sold all of our horses to pay back loans back east so I had to hitch my own horse up and hope she can pull it alright.” Preston said as her father joined them.

“It’s quite alright, young man! It will do nicely,” Jebidiah said, then turning to Ruth and saying, “Definitely a far cry better than the wagon we rode in earlier.” At this he chuckled a bit.

“Hmm…quite.” Ruth agreed before offering her hand for help into the carriage.

Once they were all settled in the carriage, this time Ruth in the back on her own seat, Preston began the drive to town. As usual, her father became a chatterbox, talking non-stop while she quietly listened and watched the scenery.

“You said that you had a doctor at the Chateau once?” Jebidiah asked.

Preston nodded, “Andrew Cook. He was from Boston. He married Sully’s daughter Colleen and they moved to Philadelphia leaving me without a doctor. Not that it mattered much though because shortly before their wedding was when the market crashed anyways and I was forced to close my bank in town and call in all of the towns loans. Didn’t make me a very popular person for quite some time. In fact, a lot of people still don’t want to acknowledge me in town.”
“That’s a shame that all of that happened to you. I was fortunate enough to be wary of banks and kept all of my money locked up in a vault at home in New York.”

Preston looked at Jebidiah, “I wish I had kept some of my own money somewhere else too.” By now they had reached town and were approaching Grace’s Cafe. Preston pulled to a stop, and climbed down, offering his hand to Ruth. He blushed, just the mere touch of her hand sent electric shivers throughout his body.

Ruth smiled and batted her long eyelashes, offering her arm for the taking. “Lead the way, Mr. Lodge.”

Preston smiled back, “It will be my great honor.”

Jebidiah smiled, “This looks like a fine little establishment!”

Preston led them to a table in the middle of the restaurant, and waved at Grace who grabbed menus and brought them over.

Grace stood with her little notepad, and rubbed her large abdomen when she felt a quick kick.

“You look like that baby is about to come any minute, Grace.” Preston commented.

Grace smiled, “Dr. Mike says it could be a couple more weeks.”

Preston held up his hand, seeing the question Jebidiah was about to ask, “Sully’s wife. Dr. Michaela Quinn.”

“What can I get for ya’ to drink?” Grace asked.

Preston ordered coffee and his guests ordered sweet tea. All three watched as Grace waddled off towards the kitchen area to get their drinks.

“Now, I want to propose a business proposition to you, Mr. Lodge,” Jebidiah said when they’d received their drinks and ordered their meals.

Ruth took a sip of her drink and looked around, watching a group of young children play nearby with a hoop and stick.

Preston nodded, and signaled for Jebidiah to continue.

“I own a rather large chain of hotels in Manhattan and I’m quite interested in becoming your business partner here with hopes to reopen the Chateau.”

Ruth looked at Preston and watched his face turn red. Was he embarrassed? Mad? She couldn’t quite tell.

“Why would you want to help me? You don’t even know me. Wouldn’t you rather get to know me first and see if I’m a risk you’re willing to take? Any good business man would take the time to assess whether it’s a worthy investment.” Preston said. His color had returned to normal.

“I propose we reopen the Chateau, rehire staff and have a trial run,” Jebidiah said as their food was delivered to their table, “This looks very fine indeed,” he praised the presentation of the food, making Grace blush a bit.

“Well, thank you!” Grace said, “if ya’ll need anything else, just let me know!” and with that she waddled back into the kitchen.

“With the train being shut down, I’m afraid we won’t have much business. The stage has just started running again,” Preston said.

“What if I told you, that I have on good authority, the knowledge that the trains will begin running again soon?” This was said in a hushed tone as Jebidiah leaned closer.

Preston wasn’t sure if that was the truth or not. Surely if that were the case, Horace would know something about it.

“What’s the benefit for me?” Preston asked as he took a bite of his meatloaf.

“50/50 split.” Ruth said.

Jebidiah looked from his plate of mashed potatoes he was scooping onto a spoon, and wondered what in the tarnation his daughter was thinking, “50/30 split. 50% of the profits for me, 30% for you. When you’ve proven the Chateau to be a profitable business again, we’ll re-negotiate.”

Ruth looked at her father, and gave him that, ‘Give me what I want or else’ look.

Jebidiah shook his head, “Not this time, darling” he said quietly leaning towards his daughter.

Ruth pouted, sure that Mr. Lodge would want nothing to do with her or her father after their supper.

Preston finished off his meatloaf and moved his spoon around his potatoes creating a ‘river’ in the middle as he pondered the offer. He likely wouldn’t have another offer like this.

“There’s a considerable amount of repairs that will need to be done before we can open again, and I don’t have the funds to pay for it myself…” Preston began.

“No need to even worry about any of that, I will pay for the repairs myself.”

Preston smiled, “And who will be the sole owner of the Chateau?”

Jebidiah looked at Preston, “You will remain the owner, I will merely be a co-owner.”

“Make it 50/40 and you have a deal”

Jebidiah was about to open his mouth to repeat his previous offer when Ruth cleared her throat. “Father.” she simply said.

Jebidiah scowled, “My daughter seems to be determined to be your advocate instead of mine…”

“It only seems fair, Father…after all, this is an investment we can’t afford to lose.” Ruth said.

Jebidiah thought for a moment, “50/40 it is.”

Preston stood up and offered his hand to shake, “You have yourself a deal!”

Jebidiah stood up and took his hand, shaking it vigorously. “You won’t regret it, I guarantee.”
© Copyright 2023 Sarah Heard (sarcheard at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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