Much Too Soon (by BluewindFarm)

Synopsis: News of his father’s death brings a son home.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  K
Word Count:  6,710


 

An impressive dark metal canopy extended from the doorway out to the edge of the street. The entire front of the building was surrounded by a decorative, wrought-iron fencing. The canopy and fence stood in stark contrast against the stately limestone façade of the hotel.

The doorman, dressed in a long, split-tail, black coat, black pants, a white shirt with a frilly cravat, and a tall-black stove-pipe hat, stepped to attention as a horse drawn carriage stopped. The single passenger stepped from within into the chilled evening air, the threat of rain hung oppressively.   Standing on the cobblestone sidewalk, the traveler handed the driver a generous tip for his efforts before retrieving his briefcase from inside the coach.

“Thank you, sir,” the coachman tipped his hat before placing the currency within his pocket and signaling the horse to move on.

“Welcome to The Elliott,” the doorman greeted as he held the door open and tipped his hat. He eyed the guest and knew from the way the man carried himself and nodded and bid him good evening at passing that this was a man of importance and means.  Yet he also felt this man knew what it was to be on the outside looking in. So many other guests just walked through the entrance, oblivious to the man holding the door open.

Entering the lobby, the gentleman removed his top hat and gloves as he approached the front desk. Addressing the man behind the counter, he said, “I believe you have a reservation for me, my valet should have arrived earlier.”

“Welcome to The Elliott. What name would the reservation be under, sir?” the desk clerk greeted.

“Cartwright, Adam Cartwright.”

“Yes, Mr. Cartwright. We received your reservation and a suite was made ready for you as requested. Mr. Bastian did arrive with your luggage. He indicated that you were indisposed in a meeting and would be joining us later.”

The clerk watched as the guest signed the register, he quirked an eyebrow as the guest, in an elegant script, wrote his hometown. This man had no accent to match that of his valet, or others who had visited from Great Britain.

Adam Cartwright, London, England

“Are there any messages for me?” inquired Adam.

“Yes sir. Mr. Bastian stepped out earlier and asked that I present you this note at your arrival.”

From the partitioned shelving unit behind the desk, the clerk retrieved and handed Adam a small envelope bearing the hotel’s crest, and his name.

“Your suite is on the top floor. The captain of our bellmen, Marcus, will show you to the elevator, our rising room, which will take you up to your floor.”

It was Adam’s turn to arch an eyebrow; he was not aware this hotel boasted an elevator.

“I assure you sir, our rising rooms are quite safe. And a lot easier than walking up so many flights of stairs.”

“I’m well aware of the mechanics behind them, sir. I’ve helped retrofit a number of buildings to accommodate this method of conveyance.”

“I’m sorry sir, I did not mean to presume…” the man had the good fortune to quiet and motion Marcus to proceed. “I hope you’ll enjoy your stay at The Elliott.”

Marcus smiled at the guest, allowing him to enter the elevator first. After the door closed, Marcus said, “Mr. Cartwright, please forgive Reeves, sir. You’re one of very few guests who hasn’t thrown a fit at the idea of riding… up.”

****

Impressed with the layout of the suite, Adam tossed his top hat and overcoat onto the back of one of the chairs sitting around a low table in the middle of the room. After tipping Marcus, Adam closed the door and exhaled. Sitting down in the chair opposite from his coat and hat, Adam slipped the note from the envelope and read.

Dear Mr. Cartwright,

My apologies for not greeting you during your arrival; however, I am making further arrangements per your instructions.

Cordially yours,

Bastian

Shaking his head as he returned the note to the envelope, even after all this time, the man was still formal. It was on the rare occasion when he would actually use his employer’s first name, yet he was always… Bastian.

Standing to his feet, Adam walk over to the window and leaned against the frame as he pushed the curtain aside and looked out onto the street. His eyes followed several horse-drawn carriages that were out at this time of night as they made their way along the cobblestone street. People hurriedly walked along the sidewalk or cut across the street, darting around a carriage if necessary. Many things had changed in the town where he had lived during his college years, but many things remained the same; the noise and congestion, and individuals going wherever without acknowledging the people they passed.

Progress. He slowly shook his head in a moment of disappointment. All his life he wanted to help build, to be a part of that progress. First came the Ponderosa, then college and a return to his home. Eventually he followed his own dream by his crossing the Atlantic to Europe, where he helped retrofit and construct new buildings to complement the existing architecture and culture. His name was well known within the engineering and architectural circles throughout Europe because he devoted the extra time and effort to keep the classical lines of the existing building alive within the new structures he designed. A feat admired by the building owners, new and old alike. But as his name became known in wider circles, other people wanted the best for their modern buildings, with modern designs, and modern amenities; thus his return to America on business.

It was all in the name of progress, people and their own self importance. He wondered what happened to the friendly people who would stop and help a stranger or to bid a neighbor hello and ask of the family… Memories have a way of coloring the actual events of the past, some for the better and others that filled one’s soul with regret.

Adam’s attention was drawn to his own reflection looking back at him. In three years of living abroad, he’d managed to keep active enough to prevent putting on too much weight, but he knew he had gained some. In a way he missed the physical exercise provided by working the Ponderosa. The hair on his head was thinning and was showing flecks of grey. During his first winter in England he’d taken to growing a beard, which was peppered with even more grey, giving him a distinguished bearing. He turned at the opening of the door.

“Mr. Cartwright, I hope your meeting was a success?” Bastian greeted as he entered with several newspapers under his arm.

Bastian’s demeanor gave an indication that he was slightly built, but appearances were deceiving. He’d spent years as a gentleman’s gentleman and had borne up well under all the efforts required. Though he wasn’t an imposing figure, he could be when required by the situation. A man in his fifties, who had faithfully tended to all the needs of Adam Cartwright for the past three years, almost before he set foot on English soil. His light British accent was easier to understand than some of the members of Parliament whom Adam had to deal with through various business engagements.

This current employment arrangement had come highly recommended to Bastian by Sir William Jolliffe, just before he had been named Baron of Hylton. The soon to be Baron and his wife had spent several months abroad, traveling for pleasure. On their return trip from America they had befriended the American businessman.

Once he assumed his duties as Baron, Jolliffe would no longer be in need of his personal manservant who had faithfully attended him since before his marriage. With status, life changes… everything and everyone he required would be provided by the household due to his position, and thus Bastian found himself soon to be unemployed. The transfer of his duties to a new employer was at first refused, but as Adam Cartwright learned during their voyage just how far away he would be from home, he greatly accepted the services offered. As the friendship and employment relationship between the two men grew, Adam learned there was truly more than just miles that separated him from all he had known. This was a whole new way of life; he looked forward to the man’s help as he navigated his new future.

“A success? So far, Bastian… But tomorrow will tell. I hope they’ll sign what they have verbally agreed to be the final contract.”

“It was not signed today?” Bastian inquired as he walked to the liquor cabinet, knowing that his employer would soon need one, or two.

“No… much to my regret.” Adam returned to the chair and picked up his coat and hat. Quickly, he hung his coat in the closet and placed his hat onto the shelf, before he returned to sit in one of the chairs.

One thing Adam had not gotten used to was having a man do everything for him. Yes, he had lived with Hop Sing on the Ponderosa, but there were certain things that Ben Cartwright had insisted his sons do. Picking up after oneself was one of those. If you wore it, you hang it up or place it in a laundry basket; articles of clothing were not tossed about and left for the help to pick up after.

And Bastian learned early on that this American still held to the ways in which he was raised, he did for himself as much as he could. Quite a contrast between working for European ‘old money’ and those who made their fortune in America by working for everything they earned.

“How I hate sitting in stuffy boardrooms,” Adam sighed.

“Thus the reason for reserving this suite, sir.” Setting the newspapers aside Bastian poured two fingers of the honey colored drink and turned, walked over and handed the brandy to his employer.

“Something on your mind, Bastian?”

“Yes sir. I know your fondness for reading various papers from your homeland, and I thought that even though we were here… you might still enjoy reading the news from around America.”

“You are quite thoughtful and correct,” Adam relaxed back, allowing the brandy to work the tension from his body. “What has America been up to while we were at sea?”

“Unfortunately sir, the newspapers harbor bad news. Regrettably, I must inform you of the death of your father…”

“What?!” Adam sat forward, dropping the empty glass tumbler to the floor.

Retrieving the newspapers, Bastian handed them over. “I presume upon receiving word of our reservation and my request for copies of the newspapers, the hotel kept these due to your name, sir.”

From the Chicago Express the headline read, Famed Westerner Ambushed. Days later, the Boston Leader proclaimed, Western Leaders Attend Cartwright Funeral.

“I took the time to see if any shops held copies of the newspaper from your hometown or that of Carson City.”

The Territorial Enterprise newspaper contained more details under the headline that screamed, Coroner’s Verdict: Murder! All Nevada Seeks Assassin. The Carson City Courier ran a follow-up story, Joseph Cartwright Named Delegate; Son Assumes Ben Cartwright’s Duties.

For over an hour Adam read the news reports of the mysterious sniper who had ambushed his father in the middle of the yard between the house and the barn. His own memories of home envisioned his father walking to the barn and crumpling as the bullet struck. There were quotes from Sheriff Roy Coffee and Deputy Clem Foster indicating they were doing all they could to locate the perpetrator in an effort to bring him to justice.

Adam read the praises from friends and strangers alike who had attended his father’s funeral. It didn’t surprise him that so many people respected his father. The hardest words to read were those from his brothers, the love they conveyed towards the man who had raised them. Then there were the bitter words spoken by his youngest brother, aimed toward the coward who had ripped out the soul of the Ponderosa; words that threatened the man with dire consequences.

One story went into the gruesome details of how Ben had been shot, struck in the head; quoting directly from Doctor Wilson’s medical report as well as adding extra commentary for dramatic purposes. Though he didn’t want to, Adam continued to read of the ugliness that had struck down his father.

Adam thoroughly read the news report of Joe’s succession of their father as a delegate to the convention nominating the candidates for the Governor of Nevada. Adam remembered the last time Joe was a member of a political convention. At stake that time had been Nevada’s petition for statehood, and determining which side in the burgeoning War Between the States they would align, the North or the South. Back then, it was apparent that Joe’s last-minute addition as a delegate was a ploy by Judge David Terry, hoping to ensure Nevada would side with the Confederacy, due to the youngest Cartwright’s romantic interest in his daughter, Morvath.

Now, Nevada stood to nominate and elect their next governor, regardless who was elected, Nevada would move forward in progress. But without their father at the helm, how would the Ponderosa fair? Adam had confidence in his brothers, but did they? Would they be able to see beyond their grief to weather this storm? Would they be able to guide her safely into port? What contracts were outstanding, being negotiated… There was so much to the Ponderosa, so much more than one man could handle alone; and she was surely to have grown in the time he’d been away.

Returning his attention to the papers on the table, ‘Why?’ and ‘Who?’ echoed in his mind. Those facts weren’t contained within the stories. It made no sense to the oldest son, who felt farther away from his family than if he had been in London.

Bastian reentered the suite to refresh Adam’s cup of coffee.

“I can’t believe he’s gone. It’s much too soon…” Adam murmured. “I thought I’d have time to return home… to see him again…”

“It is a shame for a man to be cut down in the prime of his life. If I may say, his legacy lives on within you, and your brothers.”

Adam’s mind returned to another time when he and his brothers had feared their father dead, they had seen the evidence and followed the trail. The brothers were ready to condemn the men based on circumstantial evidence. Individually, each brother trailed their suspect, eager for retribution. They couldn’t let their father’s memory down – they couldn’t fail the man who meant the most to them.

As the two oldest sons returned the home, they rejoiced when they realized their father was alive. They had lived up to their father’s legacy in teaching wrong from right, it had been a close call, but common sense ultimately prevailed.

“In my business, a man can count himself lucky if he’s two thirds successful,” stated Mr. Dorman, the peddler who had found and brought Ben home.

The implications behind those words were worrisome as they waited for Joe… the hot tempered son of Ben Cartwright. Each tried to assure the others, knowing in their own minds they weren’t quite so confident that their father’s teachings would guide the youngest member of their family. It was a long night with no one going to bed.

Adam remembered that night; even now, after all these years, his own words in trying to rationalize his youngest brother’s possible actions were a bitter pill to swallow.

“Look, even if Joe did find his man and kill him, he did it believing the man had killed you.”

“An eye for an eye,” Ben had replied; bitter that his sons would use that as an excuse to justify their actions, forgetting the true meaning of the bible passage.

The sounds of a horse nearing the yard drew the Cartwrights out of their home, as well as Mr. Dorman.

Wrapped in apprehension, Hoss and Adam stopped at the edge of the porch. The brothers hoped their youngest brother would be able to stand up to the oncoming scrutiny. However, they wanted to delay seeing the look of disappointment their father was sure to have should Joe have gone through with his vengeance. Ben had no compunction, he needed to know. And he would know, by looking his son in the eye before he even uttered a single word.

The oldest brothers stepped from the porch at seeing their youngest sibling carrying their father’s rifle; he’d caught up with the man.

‘What did he do?’ they both silently thought.

‘If he did kill a man in cold blood, how is the boy going to live with himself now that he knows Pa is alive?’ Adam thought as he struggled to read Joe’s expression. ‘Regardless, we’ll stand beside him. We’ll explain it all to Roy… even though he warned us about taking the law into our own hands. Lord, this is going to kill Pa.’

Each man’s heart faltered when Joe admitted, “Yeah, I found him. He admitted his doing to his father. Roy’s going out to get him.”

Trepidation turned to smiles; each had learned the lessons their father had taught. All three had lived up to the legacy worthy of being a son of Ben Cartwright.

That night, Adam sat at Ben’s bedside, watching the man sleep as his father had done many times for he and his brothers. When his father had roused and couldn’t get back to sleep, they talked about Mr. Dorman, how his countenance appeared to lessen as each son came home, and admitted he could not go through with his act of vengeance.

“There was sadness about him as he sat on the wagon and refused to accept any payment for his troubles and loss of income from bringing me back home. I knew he was overstating the amount of income he was possibly to lose, but I was willing to pay the difference. But when Joe came home… I sensed an overwhelming sadness in the man,” admitted Ben who sat in quiet contemplation.

“You said Mr. Dorman had told you he had already been paid… What do you think he meant by that?”

“I think maybe, maybe one of his sons faced a similar crossroad as you boys…”

“If so, the actions were those of a son…” Adam countered.

“A son’s actions reflect on the teachings of the father. That’s why even if Joe, or you, or Hoss, had done other than you had… Even if only one of you had killed a man thinking that man had killed me, even if I had been killed… I would have considered myself a failure. Do you understand?”

“I understand. But Pa, even if Mr. Dorman’s son was in a similar situation, and killed a man…”

“No, maybe not that he had killed a man, but that someone else had killed his son… As each one of you returned home Mr. Dorman had to face the senseless death of his son all over again. As far as payment, I think his payment was the restoration of his faith in humanity… that there are good people, compassionate people… That a father can train up a child in the way he should go, and when his is old he will not depart from it.1

*****

“I need to go home,” Adam stated. Even though his father had been dead for not yet a month, Adam couldn’t believe it. He was so sure he should have felt something, wouldn’t he? This was his father… the man who raised him, made him who he was… A man who lived the morals he instructed. Adam was grief stricken that he had not sensed his father’s passing.

“It is late sir… in the morning I’ll look into the train schedule to get you home. Shall I wire your brothers?”

Bastian asked his question a second time before Adam responded.

“No… don’t wire them. They have enough on their hands at the moment; I don’t want them to think I’m coming home because I doubt their abilities.” Adam sat dejectedly, suffering in grief.

The newspapers lay scattered on the table, a horrible legacy left to remind the eldest son that life did change, and not always for the good. If only this time there had been a Mr. Dorman to come along to rescue their father. But the papers stated that Joe and Hoss had been the ones to find their father’s body in the yard after hearing the rifle shot.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t think that. From how you’ve described your brothers they would know that you are coming home to pay your last respects and to offer any support you can give to them.”

Adam stood and entered one of the bedrooms off the parlor, and closed the door.

Bastian tidied up the papers, collecting the coffee cup and saucer he had previously provided after the initial shock of the news had worn off; all the while shaking his head in regret. Regret for the grief his employer suffered, and regret that he would never have the opportunity to meet the man who had raised such a fine son.

*****

Before leaving, Adam sent word to his attorney of his family emergency and authorized the man to act on his behalf later that morning in signing the contract. He also sent word to his contacts in Philadelphia expressing his apologies and requesting a postponement of their scheduled meeting.

*****

The morning train pulled out of Boston station and began its scheduled journey westward; among her compliment of passengers was a man returning home for the first time in over three years and another who had never set foot on American soil any farther west than the major metropolises along the eastern coast.

The train made its way along the countryside, through small towns and growing cities. Much as he had done during his return home from college, the train traveled to Chicago, Illinois before they changed to another train that would carry them to St. Louis, Missouri. However this time, from St. Louis they would travel via train to Carson City, and a surrey to get them home. No uncomfortable stage coach on this trip.

*****

During one layover near Carson City, Bastian found a more recent newspaper indicating the assassin had been apprehended and that a trial was imminent. Another newspaper wrote of the trial, the evidence against the man, his defense, and the jury’s verdict. “Guilty!” …followed immediately by a sentencing to hang at ten o’clock the next morning.

Noting the date on the papers, Adam knew the man had already paid his penance; justice had been served. But still he grieved and mourned, and felt empty inside. Had his brothers moved past their initial grief? Or did they feel as hollow inside as he did?

“Sir, should we wire ahead to make reservations for ourselves at one of the hotels?” Bastian inquired.

“No, you’ll be more than welcome at the Ponderosa. Besides, once we wire our arrival, word would get to Joe and Hoss. I want to pay my respects to our father privately and I’d also prefer our reunion to be without any fanfare, to allow us to grieve properly without the entire town looking on.”

“Yes sir.”

Turning to look out the window at the passing countryside, Adam’s memories took him back in time. Though he had left home on good terms with both his brothers, he wondered how Joe would perceive his return.

Bastian watched as his employer’s eyes misted before closing in an effort to control his emotions.

*****

“Carson City! Carson City!” the conductor declared as he walked the aisle way, alerting the passengers of the next stop they were approaching.

Carrying their luggage, the two men made their way to the platform. Bastian went to make arrangements to have their trunks transported to the Ponderosa while Adam went to arrange for a surrey.  Adam identified himself as Adam Stoddard, a guest of the ranch; he did not wish to discuss the circumstances surrounding his father’s death with anyone before he had a chance to meet his brothers. The proprietor at the livery was more than happy to rent out the vehicle when informed of the end destination.

“I’ll send my son out tomorrow to retrieve it,” the man offered.

“That would be fine. I’m sure I’ll be able to use one of the Cartwright surreys for my needs.”

“Yes sir.”

Adam drove the double team of horses hitched to the surrey back to the train depot, where he collected Bastian and their luggage.

“This is beautiful country. Makes me wonder why you left,” Bastian inquired.

“Sometimes I wonder too… I used to think nothing was as beautiful as the Ponderosa. Pa always jested that he’d never step foot in heaven because nothing could surpass God’s beauty right here.”

“I’m sorry if I brought…”

“No, I just have to get used to the fact that Pa’s… gone.”

Adam encouraged the horses to move a little faster, and told his friend the names of the various rock formations or meadows as they traveled along.

*****

Adam halted the horses and sat still. He looked out across the land, knowing what he would find, but fearing that what he would see would confirm the nightmare he had lived for the past week. Handing the reins to Bastian, Adam stepped from the surrey and slowly made his way into the clearing. The last time he had visited this location was to tell Marie that he finally felt he had kept his word, he had watched over Little Joe until he was ready to take on the responsibilities required. That time he also told Marie that he would be leaving, that he needed to fulfill his own dreams; traveling, exploring, and seeing where else he could put his talents to good use.

The air cooled as he approached the waterfront, and a chill ran down his spine when he failed to see neither a second tombstone, nor any indication the ground had been disturbed for a grave.

“Maybe they buried him elsewhere,” Bastian commented as he stood behind his employer, hat in hand.

“I know that Joe would have wanted Pa to be buried next to his mother…”

“Your father was a prominent man… it might be that the people wanted to bury him closer to town, so that they could honor him.”

“That could be… I just can’t imagine my little brother agreeing to that.”

“It might have been Mr. Hoss’ decision,” Bastian offered. “Your youngest brother was a delegate at the time. And there were his threats against the man who killed your father; he may not have been home to make the decision with your brother and the town’s people.”

“Let’s get home. I’ll know soon enough.”

*****

Driving the surrey into front yard, memories slammed into Adam as he halted the team.

“One of your cowpokes is coming,” Bastian offered, seeing a man step from the barn.

Bastian watched the young man, in his early twenties, skinny, probably about as tall as his employer, with blonde hair, and freckles across his cheeks.

“Can I help ya?” the man offered.

“Yes, if you’ll take care of the surrey. Someone from the livery in Carson City will be out tomorrow to retrieve it and the horses,” Adam answered.

“Yes sir. You here to visit the Cartwrights?”

“We are…”

“They’s not home.”

“They weren’t expecting us. Is Hop Sing home, or has he left to tend to a cousin?” Adam asked.

“Hop Sing is here, he was out beating a rug to death earlier.”

*****

Pushing open the massive wooden front door, Adam stepped far enough inside to allow Bastian to enter before he closed the door.

“I can see where you inherited your taste for decorating,” Bastian jested.

“I am my father’s son.” It was one of the first times Adam spoke of his father and didn’t feel his heart constrict.

“Who there? Why you no knock?” Hop Sing inquired as he entered the great room, meat cleaver in hand.

“Forgive me Hop Sing, I shouldn’t have presumed entrance.”

The small oriental man approached the two strangers.

“You…” He pointed the cleaver and squinted as he tried to remember; his eyes brightened and he smiled in recognition. “Mr. Adam, why you no wire… Family be upset, find out you here and they not here to greet you.”

“I felt it would be best, I didn’t wish to unnecessarily worry Hoss or Joe.”

“Worry… brothers no worry. Hop Sing happy to see Numba One son. Brothers happy you come home. Numba One son is home? No?”

“I’m afraid not Hop Sing. I only came to see if there were any arrangements that Joe or Hoss needed my attention to handle, and to pay my respects.”

“Respects? No need respects, brothers love brother.”

“I stopped by Marie’s grave, looking for my father…”

“Fatha no there, fatha in town,” Hop Sing answered. The family housekeeper looked to the other man who accompanied his ‘numba one’ son.

“Forgive me, Hop Sing, I’d like you to meet Mr. Bastian, an English version of yourself. Bastian, Hop Sing, the man who really runs the Ponderosa, and threatened I and my brothers on innumerable occasions.”

“A pleasure to meet you, chap,” Bastian replied as he extended his hand, and held back a smile at the Oriental’s efforts to dispose of the meat cleaver.

“Hop Sing happy to meet man who take care of Mr. Adam. Come I show you room. Mr. Adam knows where room is, Hop Sing show Mr. Bastian his room.”

*****

Entering his room, Adam placed his valise on the bed and unpacked a few items he would need later in the day. Weary with grief, Adam sat down on one of the more comfortable chairs in his room. His thoughts turned to his belief that his father and Marie should have been buried side by side. It didn’t make sense why his brothers would have agreed to have their father buried in town, but he had to accept their decisions.

*****

Adam found himself roused from having fallen asleep in the chair when noises from outside intruded into his dreams.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… So you say.” Adam identified Joe’s voice.

“I do say. You cain’t convince me otherwise.” ‘That was definitely Hoss’ voice,’ Adam thought to himself.

Adam rose, glanced in the mirror and ran his hands quickly though his hair before he exited to go downstairs to greet his brothers.

*****

Hoss, Joe, and Ben looked up from removing their hats and gun belts at hearing the sound of someone stumbling on the staircase. The cut of the fine clothes identified the man as being distinguished; in stark contrast to his sitting on his backside, hands clenching to both railings, mouth gaping open.

“Mr. Cartwright, are you alright,” Bastian called from the dining room, having heard the noise while in the kitchen.

“I’m alright,” Ben answered to this second stranger.

“My apologies sir, but I was speaking to Mr. Cartwright,” Bastian answered.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know you,” Joe answered looking just as perplexed as Hoss who voiced, “Me neither.”

“Bastian is referring to me…” The stranger on the staircase had regained his feet and was now walking behind the settee. “Is it really you, Pa?”

The three Cartwrights at the sideboard stared, before recognition dawned on Ben’s face, “Adam? ADAM!”

“Adam!” Joe and Hoss cried as all three rushed to surround their long absent family member.

Questions were asked one on top of another, not giving Adam time to digest or reply. Yet he continually looked into his father’s face.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, son,” Ben stated and half laughed as he motioned for Joe and Hoss to step back, to give their brother a moment to gather his wits.

“I am…” Adam breathed as he too stepped back.

“Mr. Benjamin Cartwright, I presume,” Bastian stated, attempting to give his employer time to recover his faculties. “My name is Bastian, and I am Mr. Adam Cartwright’s valet, an English Hop Sing.”

“Pleasure to meet you, but I don’t understand…” Ben looked from the servant to his son.

“We arrived in Boston last week to the newspaper reports of your… murder,” Adam replied.

“My murder…” Ben replied, his eyes widened in understanding.

“Oh Lordy,” Hoss bemoaned.

“You didn’t get our wires?” Joe asked.

“I’m sorry, but if you sent them to London,” Bastian answered, “…we were at sea for several weeks before our arrival. We are happy to see the news of your death is obviously… premature.”

“Not that I’m not happy to see you alive, but what the hell?!” Adam demanded, both fists planted upon his hips. “Do you have any idea what I’ve gone through ever since I read those newspapers?”

“Son… I’m sorry, but it was imperative that it appeared that the attempted assassination was successful. We sent a wire to you in London once everything was over.”

“Well if you read the newspapers, why didn’t you wire us?!” demanded Joe. “We could have told you the truth.”

“Joe, settle down. What’s done is done. Adam’s here, now,” Ben stated, knowing there was a lot going on among his sons and questions needed calm explanations.

“Mr. Cartwright,” Bastian answered Joe. “As soon as we could, we made arrangements to travel here. We didn’t wish to delay our departure or arrival by waiting for a reply wire. Mr. Cartwright wanted to come home to pay his last respects to his father and to help his brothers. We stopped by your mother’s grave… It concerned Mr. Cartwright that his father wasn’t buried there.”

“We done had services for Pa in town, part of his playing dead,” Hoss answered. “Ya should a seen all the people that come Adam.”

“Who’s idea was this?” He looked to his youngest brother, Adam’s arms now crossed over his chest.

“Not me,” Joe quickly replied and pointed straight to their father. “Blame Pa.”

Turning to Adam, Ben asked, “How long can you stay?”

“Well, I did have business in Philadelphia, but now…” Adam retreated to take a seat in the blue chair before his legs collapsed.

“Ya just got here, can’t ya stay longer?” Hoss asked as he walked around and took a seat on the stone hearth.

“I’ve had a whole week to think of what I had lost… I think I can arrange that. That’s one of the benefits of being the boss,” replied Adam. “Now that I think I’m sufficiently recovered… what about the man who was convicted of your assassination? I read where he was sentenced to hang.”

“It’s alright son, Judge Faraday stayed his execution. The poor man was innocent, just a pawn in the whole ordeal.”

“Why don’t you tell me what all happened,” suggested Adam as he accepted a glass of brandy from Bastian.

The family settled into the living room where Ben, Joe, and Hoss relayed the events as they began in San Francisco at Mrs. Wright’s, where Senator Endicott attempted to ensure his man, Judge John Faraday, was nominated and endorsed for Nevada governor.

*****

As the story came to its conclusion, Ben stated, “And that’s all that happened.”

“I remember one other time when ‘we’ thought you had been murdered, Pa…” Adam took a drink and emptied the last of his glass of brandy.   “Once I had read all I could find in the newspapers, I wished with all my heart that there had been a Mr. Dorman to rescue you.”

“I remember that time,” Hoss answered. “I felt empty in the pit of my stomach until you walked out into the yard and told me Pa was here, and that he was gonna be alright.”

“I remember it feeling like a whole week, but only a few days had passed from Buck coming home, until I rode Cochise into the yard and there all three of you were,” Joe added. “I can’t imagine what you went through big brother…a real week.” A shiver ran through Joe.

“I’m sorry we gave you such a scare…” Ben acknowledged. “We knew that you’d probably received the Territorial Enterprise announcing my murder at your home any day now, so Joe only sent the wire… three days ago?” Ben looked to Joe who nodded his head.

“What I don’t understand is with all the articles in all the papers about your murder and the murder trial, and then Joe’s nomination… why were there no stories in the papers about Endicott’s scheme?”

“Politics makes strange bedfellows, son,” Ben explained.

“That and Judge Faraday issued a gag order concerning everything until after the trial,” Joe answered. “There’s a special prosecutor and judge arriving to try Endicott on collusion, murder…”

“Murder? But Pa’s alive,” Adam protested as his brain tried to assimilate all the information.

“Oh we forgot ta tell ya, that when Endicott and his man were leaving town, a couple of men were strugglin’ ta lift their trunk to the back of their buggy.”

“Yeah, they dropped it and out pops a hand…” Joe interrupted.

“A hand…” Adam was now totally confused.

“Yeah, it turns out this hand was attached to the arm of a dead guy,” Hoss added.

“A dead guy who happened to be a drummer,” Joe eagerly added.

“Only he weren’t really a drummer, he just used that as a cover…”

“He was an assassin, the man who tried to kill Pa.”

Adam looked back and forth between his brothers as they alternated in telling the story.

“You said he was dead… Who killed him?” Adam asked.

“Endicott,” Ben answered. “So no one can really say anything publicly until after the trial.”

“I heard Normal Stillwell over at the Courier was gonna run a story, but learned he’d have to fork over a hefty fine and possibly face jail time himself for influencin’ any juror who reads the paper,” Hoss stated.

“Sam Burfield at the Enterprise isn’t taking a chance on going against a judicial injunction, not even for the sake of selling more newspapers,” Joe added.

“Ya want a refill Adam?” Hoss asked as he crossed in front of his brother, heading to the table with the brandy decanter. He understood it took a great deal to shake up his normally self-confident brother; and right now, after learning everything he had, Adam was stunned silent.

Adam nodded, thankful his family was whole.

*****

The family sat in quiet reflection as they waited for Adam to process and accept the events as recent history.   Hop Sing announced supper was ready as he and Bastian set the last of the dishes to the table. The man’s announcement seemed to be the key to revive Adam from his brooding.

Ben smiled as all three of his sons struck up their normal banter, banter that had not been heard as lively in the house for three long years. Joe demanding to know why his brother had grown the beard and Hoss commenting that his older brother was beginning to lose his hair on top.

Adam’s response was typical Adam, “When in England…”

“So that explains that frilly shirt, older brother?” teased Joe; his cackle sounding through their home.

~The End

 

Author’s Note: This story contains missing scenes or scenes that the writers should have included as an epilogue to the episode, The Late Ben Cartwright, written by David Dortort and Walter BlackThe story also makes references to The War Comes to Washoe , written by Alvin Sapinsley, as well as scenes and dialogue from The Legacy, written by Anthony Wilson. I also created a missing scene for the end of The Legacy; I hope this helps to  answer why Mr. Dorman looked more despondent as each Cartwright son returned home.

1Proverbs 22:6

And now I can’t get George Jones’ song, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes” out of my head.  Within the song ‘they left this world much too soon…’

Return to Author’s Bonanza Stories Page

Return to WWB Bonanza Library

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.