Summary: Long-distant cousin Rupert brings greetings and glad tidings to the Ponderosa.
Word Count: 2,230
A writing challenge: Several relatives of the Cartwrights have turned up from time to time. Are there more and what affect do they have on the Cartwrights?
I declare, Ben Cartwright is going to hear an earful from me. How dare he treat me, the son of his second cousin, once . . . or are we twice removed? It doesn’t really matter how we’re related; just that we are. Maybe if we weren’t family I wouldn’t construe this as an insult. However, rest assured that Father will hear all the details of my humiliation.
Is it possible Father knew, and that is why he requested that I act as his emissary? No, Father had other business elsewhere. Imagine if Father had made this trip; well, maybe it would have been different. Regardless, dear Ben should have made proper arrangements and sent one of his sons to meet me, or at the very least commanded one of those cowprodders to attend me.
A body could get lost out here. Oh . . . I wonder, who would be the first to send out a search party should I fail to arrive; the livery for this . . . beast, or Cousin Ben?
“Come along horse, trot faster!”
Did I just talk to an animal? Rupert, get a hold of yourself. Breathe in and out, slowly. I should have brought James along; Father warned me of the solitude and the risk of losing my sanity. Though I can’t see asking James to suffer through everything I have endured, all to bring glad tidings. Breathe, deep breath in, exhale slowly, that’s it. James is the epitome of a gentlemen’s gentleman; had he come, he’d be more distressed than I. Yes, I came alone for James; it was too great a burden to request he accompany me. Once more, breathe in, out.
Pray tell, why have I been forced to endure this indignity?
The train service was what could be expected for first class passage; too bad Father required the private rail car. As for the rest of this journey, it’s a disgrace! That interminable stagecoach; the owners should pay us, the passengers, for suffering through such horrid service. The padding in the seats was much too thin to offer any comfort. Bodies being thrown left and right without warning. And every-last driver was named Charlie. Must be a prerequisite for the position. Do you think they could have hit any more holes in the road? Road?! Ha! I haven’t seen a decent road since St. Louis. Maybe that’s why there was no glass in the windows. The company must have replaced all the broken glass with sheaths of material to keep out the dust and the rain. It will take days to clean and air out my clothes. Maybe Father was right, Hanson deserves a raise for all the years he’s faithfully and diligently transported our family and taken care of our conveyances.
Just wait until I notify the stage line of the conditions of their way stations, why they were little more than hovels. How are plank tables and benches in the middle of the room considered a dining room? And what they called tableware? Mismatched and dented. No respectable hostess, Mother included, would dare serve guests on anything but the finest china, silver, and crystal. As for the meals? If I’m offered one more plate of johnnycakes and stew; beef stew, lamb stew, vegetable stew, stew, stew, stew, ARGH!!! . . . I’ll shoot them!
And the lavatory; the offering of a wooden bench over a hole in the ground in an outdoor shack, and lugging water from a well for my morning ablutions? Any one of those station keepers would probably die of apoplexy if presented with Isaiah Rogers’ design of indoor plumbing. Remind me to thank Father for his considerations at home.
Then there’s the overnight accommodations; not proper at all. Forcing the men to share one room and sleep on bunks! Of all things. Rope-strung bedding, not one location provided a deep, feathered bed. I swear I had tiny, creepy, crawly companions in some of those mattresses. Most uncomfortable, not at all acceptable. Thankfully the children slept in a separate room with the women.
What is it with these ‘frontier parents’; have they forgotten that children should be seen and not heard? Or better yet, left at home with the nannies! There should be a policy against children and their endless babbling, and sticky fingers, and . . . diapers.
Which leads me to another insufferable; the stench of women wearing too much perfume and men who could do with a good scrubbing of their flesh, and their clothes. Maybe I should be somewhat thankful the glass windows were missing. Still, I’ll never understand how a person can forego basic, proper, personal hygiene.
The hostler said to watch for a large pine tree surrounded by boulders and to take the left trail. . . . at least he didn’t say road . . . another fifteen or twenty minutes should see me there. If the directions I received are correct, I should arrive at the Ponderosa before sunset.
Well, I will say one thing for Cousin Ben, as descriptive as he was of the land, his words pale in comparison to witnessing this country. I’ve never seen anything so magnificent in all my travels. The grandeur of the colors in the sky, the reds and pinks and oranges are so vivid, and the land, from the lush green grasses in the valley to the . . . is that snow on the mountains? One can truly see forever.
This is majestic. So peaceful and relaxing; a man could lose himself in appreciation. This almost makes up for having to find my own way to the Ponderosa; still, a word with Cousin Ben will do him good.
I wonder . . . had one of Ben’s sons come for me, would they be sympathetic to my plight and offer me a brief respite here? I should be thankful that none of those cowprodders were assigned the task to meet me in town; they’d probably be worse than those stage drivers. Heaven forbid, my possessions strewn from here all the way back to town.
As for Ben’s sons, if I remember correctly there’s Adam, the oldest, followed by Eric, no that’s Horse.
“Oh shut up, I’m not talking to you horse, I’m speaking of my cousin.”
Rupert, you just reprimanded an animal. But . . . I wasn’t speaking out loud. Surely, that horse can’t read my . . . mind. It’s just not possible. Impossible I say. Take a breath. Once more, breathe in deep, out slowly. And again.
Yes, much better. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Horse, funny name, but when in Rome, as they say. And then there’s Joseph, or Little Joe. He probably will grow up to become one of those insufferable urchins. Why do parents have children?
Well, enough, I must get to Cousin Ben’s. “Move on horse. Giddy up!”
If only this equine would move faster; at this rate, it will take forever to reach the Ponderosa. Can you believe the hostler had the audacity to charge the price he did to rent this ‘flea-bitten’ nag? It isn’t even a proper carriage horse, it has no finesse. Look at its back; it is way too long; and its head, there’s no refinement. I’m sure there is no connection to any of the royal lineage in its pedigree, that is if it has any papers. Why, anyone back home would be laughed out of the city should they be seen driving something as atrocious as this. And they call this a carriage? I’ve rented buggies back home that ride better than this. Where are the springs to help soften the ride? I’ll admit, it appears freshly painted and a few of the spokes in the wheels have recently been replaced. However, the proprietor needs to find a decent leather worker to flock and repair this seat.
“LOGS!” It’s a bloody log home? And only the one window upstairs? Where is the white limestone façade and the stately marble columns rising to the second floor? And they call that a porch? It doesn’t even have a proper wrought-iron balustrade. Whoever the architect was who designed this, this . . . monstrosity needs to be tarred and feathered! Certainly, he never attended college, nor learned of architectural design or structural engineering.
Is that a barn that close to the house? No, please. Don’t tell me I came all this way . . . Oh, I’m going to be sick. This is horrid. Father, how could you?
Maybe if I turn around, no one will know I’ve been here. Oh no, not the door. Please, let it be the wind blowing it open.
“Welcome to the Ponderosa. Can I help ya mister?”
My God! He’s a, a, a giant! He’s as huge as a mountain! What should I do? You’re a college graduate, think of something. Don’t sit here looking daft.
“Mister? Ya lost or somethin’?”
“Yes, I’m lost.” Don’t panic. “I took the wrong fork in the trail.” Please horse, cooperate. Get me out of here! “I’ll just return the way I came.”
“It’s gonna be dark real soon and we got plenty of room. Wouldn’t want ya gettin’ lost again.”
“No, no, not proper. It’s just not done. I’ll, I’ll. . .” Oh lord, what next? Don’t tell me Cousin Ben employs old men to work for him.
“Hoss, who’s our visitor?”
“Not sure who he is, Pa. Let me take Buck. Fella said he was lost and gonna head back to town.”
“I’m Ben Cartwright.”
That’s Cousin Ben?! What is he doing riding a horse at his age? He’s filthy. Don’t tell me he can’t afford to hire enough men to do the work. How do I get myself out of this?
“It’ll be dark long before you reach town. If you’re not familiar with the route it’s too easy to miss a landmark and get lost. Please stay the night; the Ponderosa has plenty of room. In the morning, I’ll have one of my sons escort you back to town.”
“But I can’t stay here, Cousin Ben.”
Now you’ve done it. You had to use his first name. “I’m Rubert, Rupert Garamond. I’m the eldest son of Percival Garamond.”
Oh no, he’s holding out his hand, and it’s probably covered with . . . I don’t want to know. How can I decline? My handkerchief, that’s it. A proper gentleman always maintains a clean handkerchief for such occasions.
“Rupert, this is unexpected. Welcome to the Ponderosa.”
“Hoss, if you would, take Rupert’s bags up to the guest room.”
“No, no. I really can’t stay.”
“Please, we have rooms to spare.”
“I just stopped to deliver a message from my father, but I really must return to town.”Why, he’ll want to know why. “I, I have to catch the early morning stage. I have a ticket to San Francisco tomorrow.” Just hand him the damn letter and leave.
Oh no. Is that one of Cousin Ben’s cowprodders?
“Pa, I stopped by town and picked up the contract from Hiram.”
If the big one is Horse, I mean Hoss, then this must be Adam, and he looks as if he’s in mourning. “Cousin Ben, I thank you for your generosity, but I really must decline, especially under these circumstances. You shouldn’t be burdened during your family’s time of bereavement. Tut, tut! Cheerio!”
“Pa, who was that?”
“Adam, that was Cousin Rupert Garamond, Percival’s son.”
“Which side a the family were . . . are the Garamonds, Pa?”
“Hoss, the Garamonds are on your maternal great-grandmother’s side of the family. Cousin Percival and I shipped out together on a few of my earlier voyages, long before I signed on with Abel. According to Grandfather Cartwright, it was either that or he’d have been disowned by his father; something about the boy needing to learn to be a man.”
“Pa, if Great-Grandfather Cartwright said Percival needed to learn to be a man; looks like this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.”
“That Cousin Rupert sure was a strange fella, Adam. You didn’t see ‘em when he first arrived. I didn’t think he coulda looked any greener and then Pa introduced hisself. Did ya see that funny little hat a his . . .”
“Little brother, that hat is a bowler, and it is considered proper attire back east.”
“Oh, I give up!”
“Pa, what’d he mean about us bereavin’?”
“Blame your brother for wearing black all the time.”
“That’s funny Pa, very funny. But why would Cousin Percival send his son all the way out here, unannounced, just to deliver that letter, and then abruptly leave?”
“I have no clue Adam. It’s been ages since I’ve heard from him.”
“What’s he got ta say in the letter say, Pa.”
“Well according to this, Percival is sending congratulations to the family on the birth of Little Joe.”
“Shortshanks? But he’s . . . he’s . . . ”
“The kid’s . . . nineteen.”
“Boys, stop laughing. And don’t give me that look. Yes, I found the whole encounter amusing, too. Come on, I’m sure Hop Sing has supper ready.”
“Suppa been ready! You not come. Hop Sing go back China. Bread get dry and beef stew get cold.”
Thank you to Cheaux and to jfclover for your help!
Author’s Note #1: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Isaiah Rogers (August 17, 1800 – April 13, 1869) was a US architect who practiced in Mobile, Alabama, Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, New York, Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio; and designed the Tremont House (1829– c.1895) in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a four-story, granite-faced, neoclassical building, located at the corner of Tremont and Beacon Streets, with its main entrance on Tremont. It incorporated many hotel “firsts”:
Indoor toilets and baths
Author’s Note #2: I took on a personal challenge to see if I could write a story in dialogue-only format. I hope I succeeded.