A Reason to Give Thanks (by Debbie Ann)

Summary:
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  G
Word Count:  3840


 

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.
It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

                                                                 Author Unknown

 *****

The November air was crisp as Adam Cartwright finished picking up supplies in Virginia City.  The wind was stronger today than he’d seen in his 23 years and was biting his cheeks as he turned the corner, unexpectedly running into a stranger who had climbed down from the stage only five minutes before.

“Oh,” the young woman gasped.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Adam said contritely.

“No, sir,” she began.  “Excuse me.  I wonder if you might assist me.”

“I can certainly try, ma’am.”

“My name is Victoria Esther Stanton.  I’ve come searching for an old friend of my father; a Mr. Ben Cartwright by name.  Does he still reside in this area?”

“Yes, ma’am, he certainly does,” Adam started.  “I do apologize, I’ve forgotten my manners.  Name’s Adam…Adam Cartwright.  Ben Cartwright is my father.”

“Really,” Victoria delightedly responded.  “I was so hoping I would find him here; I’ve been traveling for so long.  Perhaps, once I get settled the hotel, I might…”

“Hotel?!?” Adam interrupted.  “Nonsense.  My father would never hear of it.  You must come to the Ponderosa and stay with us.”

“Mr. Cartwright, I didn’t come from London to be an imposition.”

“It’s no imposition.  And please, call me Adam.  May I help you with your things?”

“All right then.  Yes, thank you,” she conceded.

“The buggy is hitched up just around the corner,” Adam directed.

As they rode, Adam listened as Victoria told him of her journey; he was captivated by her British accent.

“I’ve been traveling and searching for 6 months.  I left London on May 17th.  The only thing I had to go by was the last post my father received nearly 16 years ago,” she admitted.  “Father did tell me that Mr. Cartwright had two sons and that he had settled on a piece of land that he called the Ponderosa.”

“There are actually three of us now.”  Adam smiled, then sympathized, “It must have been difficult for you to leave home.”

“For more reasons than you know,” she agreed.

“I faced a similar choice five years ago when I decided to go to school in Boston.”

“This is lovely country, Adam,” Victoria admired.  “I can see how it would be difficult to leave.”

“Yes. The ranch is straight ahead.”

After stopping the buggy into the yard, Adam got down, dashing to the other side to help his passenger down.

“I’ll take you in to meet Pa, and then I’ll come get your things,” Adam offered.

“Thank you, Adam,” she said as they walked.

Entering, Adam spied his father working at his desk while Hoss and Little Joe were both doing homework.

“Hi, Pa,” Adam said.  “I’ve brought someone to meet you.  She’s been looking for you.”

Ben, looking up, was immediately propelled into his memories.

*****

“Name’s Jeremiah Stanton,” spoke the young man with dark blond hair and deep blue eyes, “and yours?”

“Ben…Ben Cartwright.”

“Good to know you, Ben.”

It was Ben’s first excursion to sea and he was relieved that his bunkmate seemed friendly.  He and Jeremiah served on that ship for three years together and shared many adventures.

*****

Standing, Ben looked at Victoria, saying, “Good heavens.  You are the image of your father.”

“Yes, sir,” she agreed.  “I’ve often been told that.”

“It’s Victoria, right?” Ben asked, moving to take her hand.

“Yes, Victoria Esther Stanton,” taking his hand as she answered.

“Please,” Ben suggested, moving into the sitting room.  “Please sit down.  You must be exhausted from your trip.”

“Yes,” Victoria agreed.  “As I told Adam, I’ve been traveling for six months.”

“Well, I’m glad you chanced to meet Adam in town; he’s my oldest,” Ben said, as the other boys came to join him.  “This is my middle boy, Erik; we call him Hoss.  And my youngest, Joseph; we call him Little Joe.”

“I’m very glad to meet you all,” Victoria stated, covering her mouth to hide yawn.  “Excuse me, please.”

“That’s quite all right,” Ben assured her.  “Would you care to lie down before supper?”

“Mr. Cartwright, I’ve been looking for you for quite some time for a reason…” Victoria began.

“Whatever the reason is, I’m sure it can wait a little longer until you’ve had a chance to rest,” Ben declared. “We have plenty of room. We can talk after you’ve had an opportunity to rest and refresh yourself.”

“That would be very nice.  Thank you.”

“Adam,” Ben requested, “would you please show Victoria to the guest room at the end of the hall?  Hoss, Joe, would you please get the rest of her things from the buggy?”

“Yes, sir,” both boys answered, heading for the door.

Sinking into his favorite chair, Ben was reminded of another day on the docks with Jeremiah Stanton.

*****

Raucous laughter filled the air in the saloon on the waterfront.

“Come on, Jeremiah,” Ben chortled.  “We have early duty in the morning.”

“No, sir,” Jeremiah retorted.  “Have another!  I’m getting married and I want to celebrate!  EVERYBODY!  CELEBRATE!  I’m marryin’ Kathleen O’Carroll.”

“All right, another round!” Ben agreed.

Returning to the ship about 4:00 a.m. made duty at 6:00 a.m. very difficult.

*****

Ben was startled from his memory by Hop Sing announcing supper would be ready in 15 minutes.

“Thank you, Hop Sing,” Ben started, turning to Little Joe.  “Would you knock on Victoria’s door, please?”

*****

After supper, Ben, the boys, and Victoria sat and talked.

“The journey from England by sea was the longest leg, and not the most desirable portion,” Victoria admitted.

“Wow,’ Joe commented.  “I can’t imagine traveling like that.”

“Maybe someday ya’ will, short shanks,” Hoss chimed in.  “What was yer’ favorite part?

“Oh, this territory, most definitely,” she declared.  “The mountains and trees are most lovely.”

“Victoria,” Ben inquired.  “Tell me, how is your father?”

She took a deep breath, glanced at the floor and then back at Ben.  “Mr. Cartwright, Father passed away 8 months ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Ben empathized.  “What happened, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Not at all,” Victoria assured him.  “He contracted a rare blood disease.”  Then pausing, wiping a tear from her eye, she added, “Would you excuse me for a moment? I have something for you.”

“Certainly,” Ben said, drifting into another memory.

*****

“Jeremiah, what’s wrong?” Ben asked.

“Ben,” he admitted, “I’m terrified.  I’ve been at sea for so long…what if I can’t…”

“Hey, you can handle anything,” Ben assured.  “You told me that yourself.”

“I did, didn’t I,” Jeremiah recalled.

“Look, she’s beautiful and is absolutely in love with you,” Ben reminded.

“She is, isn’t she.”

“Jeremiah, just breathe and you’ll be fine.”

“Breathe…yes…breathe,” Jeremiah repeated.

“Are you about ready?” Ben asked.

Nodding, Jeremiah with feigned confidence said, “Let’s go.”

*****

As Ben heard the declaration ‘I do’ in his mind, Victoria returned with a letter.

“Father wrote this for you, Mr. Cartwright,” Victoria said, offering Ben an envelope.

“Thank you,” Ben responded taking the letter.

Carefully opening the letter, Ben read to himself.

 

My dear friend Ben,

 As I write this letter, my mind wanders to days gone by; old friends, good times.

 Don’t misunderstand; my life has been very fulfilling.  My lovely Kathleen, rest her soul; my darling Victoria; my shipping business in London.”

 But there is one thing I treasure more than anything and that, my friend, is memories.  Our first meeting on board ship, the day I asked Kathleen for her hand, my wedding day.

 I do have some regrets, though.  Most of all time wasted and lost.  I regret missing your wedding, not being able to stand with you as you stood with me.

 The times I’ve wanted to see you; like brothers we were. I have heard you have sons. I do wish I could have met your boys.  Knowing the man you were, I feel sure you’ve raised fine young men.

 I am sending my daughter to this Ponderosa of yours for two reasons; (1) I wanted her to know personally the person whose friendship I have valued so dearly and (2) I want her to see the land that you love so much.

 I have made arrangements for the base of operations for my shipping business to move to Boston.  Although I know my Victoria is more than capable of running it – she has for several months – I would like to ask if you might check on her from time to time.

 My friend, I know I am asking much.  I do wish I could have come to you in person, but I’m ready to go see my sweet Kathleen.  I feel it won’t be long now.

 I grow tired now and I must say goodbye.  Please remember the good times, old friend.  Be well.  We shall meet again on the other side of eternity.

Your friends always,

 Jeremiah J. Stanton

 

As Ben finished reading, he closed his eyes recalling his friend’s contagious laugh, his smile, his voice.  He then opened his eyes gazing on Jeremiah’s daughter, compassion filling his dark eyes.

“Thank you, Victoria,” he said gratefully.

“It was Father’s dying wish that I should come to America and seek out his dear friend,” Victoria stated.  “Mr. Cartwright, as I grew, Father spoke of you often.  He valued…no, he treasured your friendship.”

“And I his,” Ben admitted.

“Before he passed, Father made arrangements to change the base of operations for his shipping business from London to Boston,” Victoria spoke with an air of great confidence.  “He taught me all he knew and when I return to Boston, I will be operating the business there.”

Adam looked surprised. “You’re not worried about being taken advantage of in the marketplace.”

“I ran the London operation for over a year,” she snapped.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Adam offered apologetically.  “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Apology accepted, Adam,” she said, turning back to Ben.  “Mr. Cartwright, I am feeling rather fatigued.  Would you mind terribly if I retired for the evening?”

“Certainly, Victoria,” he responded standing.

“Thank you.  Good night, everyone.”

“Good night, Victoria,” Adam and Ben both said.

“Good night, ma’am,” Hoss and Joe chimed.

Ben looked at his two youngest sons.  “Joseph, Hoss.  Don’t you think it’s about time for you to be getting to bed?”

“Yes, sir,” they agreed.  “’Night, Pa.  ‘Night, Adam.”

“Pa,” Adam commented, “Victoria is an unusual girl.”

“None too surprising, boy,” Ben remarked.  “Knowing her father, she’s cut from the same cloth.”

“Do you think she can run her father’s business by herself?”

“Adam,” Ben began, “if that young lady suffers the same determination as her father, there is NO doubt in my mind.”

Smiling at each other, both men decided to go on to bed.  As Ben slept, his dreams were permeated by his old friend.

*****

“Ben, I don’t care how that wind is whippin’,” Jeremiah declared.  “If we don’t get that cargo tied back, the captain’ll have our heads.”

“It’s not worth it,” Ben called back. “You’ll get yourself killed.”

“Too much to live for, friend,” Jeremiah retorted.  “I’m not dyin’ any time soon.”

Ben followed his friend, nearly losing his footing, close to the rail.  Jeremiah seemed more certain of his footing and, taking his friend’s arm, helped Ben along.

“Here, take this and fasten it to that riggin’,” Jeremiah pointed to the rigging close to the center of the ship.

“What are you going to do?” Ben asked.

“Tyin’ the cargo down,” Jeremiah answered, disappearing from sight.

About five minutes later, a great gust of wind tossed a watery arm over the side of the ship, knocking Ben to the deck.

As he stood up, he did not see his friend anywhere.  “Jeremiah!” he desperately called for several minutes.  “JEREMIAH!”

“What are ya’ yellin’ for, boy?”  Jeremiah said suddenly appearing behind Ben.

“You nearly scared the life out of me!” Ben exclaimed.

“Ah!  I told ya’, friend,” Jeremiah retorted, “too much to live for.  Now how about we get down to our cabin and have us a cup of spirits?”

Grinning from ear to ear, the two retreated to their cabin to share a warming cup of whiskey.

*****

As the dawn broke over the Ponderosa, Victoria, who had been up and dressed for nearly an hour, enjoyed a stroll in area in front of the ranch house; the crisp November breeze tossed her golden hair too and fro across her face.

“Good morning, Victoria,” Adam began, startling her as he walked out of the house and into the yard.  “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, Adam, thank you,” she politely returned, “and good morning to you.”

“I truly didn’t mean to offend you last night,” he offered.

“I know.  I’m sorry, too,” she admitted.  “Between fatigue from my journey and existing sensitivity about the business…well, I shouldn’t have snapped.”

“Why ‘existing sensitivity’?” Adam asked knowingly.

“I’ve had to fight to earn the respect of the men my father dealt with daily,” she declared.  “It has been a struggle, but one over which I have been victorious.”

“And what of the move to Boston?” he questioned.

“I’ll be victorious in that battle, too,” Victoria confidently announced.  “One very important characteristic I share with Father…tenacity.”

“I can see that,” Adam smiled.  “We’d better go in for breakfast.  Hop Sing will have a fit if he’s made to serve it cold.”

*****

After breakfast, while the boys went about doing their chores, Ben and Victoria visited for a while.

“Tell me more about yourself, Victoria.”

“Well, I’m 22-years-old.  Mum passed away when I was only 5, so Father did most of my raising.”

“My goodness,” Ben exclaimed.  “Your father’s life even paralleled my own somewhat.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Cartwright?”

“I am a widower…three times,” he explained.  “It’s not easy.”

“I know,” Victoria admitted.  “I think that sometimes Father was at a loss as to how to handle raising a girl by himself.”

“And did a mighty fine job,” Ben proclaimed.  “I think your father would be proud of how you have stepped in to take charge of the business.”

“As I was telling Adam earlier, one of the characteristics I share with my father is the tenacity of a bulldog.”

Laughing, Ben said, “I suspected as much.  That determination is a gift, but it can also be a curse.”

“Yes, I know,” Victoria smiled, knowingly.

“Well, I have some business in town I need to attend to.  How long will you be staying with us?”  Ben inquired.

“I should be returning to Boston before the weather turns too cold. One of my assistants is running the business in my absence, but I don’t want to be away any longer than necessary. I want start home before the winter takes hold.”

“Why don’t you stay with us through Thanksgiving? The holiday is next week, and we would enjoy having you celebrate it with us. One more week won’t make much difference,” suggested Ben.

“Oh, Mr. Cartwright,” Victoria exclaimed.  “I would be delighted to.  Thank you for the invitation.”

*****

The next week passed quickly, Victoria enjoyed the cool sunrises and walks by the lake.  She also enjoyed getting to know the man whom her father held in such high regard as well as his sons.

Thanksgiving morning, after breakfast was done, Hop Sing was busily preparing for the afternoons feast.  Every so often, he would bark at Hoss, who kept trying to sneak a bite.

“Mista’ Cartlight,” he grumbled, “you keep big boy out of kitchen.  Be no food for dinna if he keep coming.”

“Hoss,” Ben reiterated.  “Stay out of Hop Sing’s kitchen, please.”

“Aw, Pa,” Hoss griped.  “I’m just getting hungry.  Ain’t doin’ no harm.”

“Just the same, boy,” Ben told him.  “Stay out!”

“Yeah, Hoss,” Little Joe teased.  “We all wanna eat.”

Adam joined in the ribbing. “Yeah and we don’t want Hop Sing packing up and going back to China.”

Everyone laughed until Victoria entered, hair disheveled and face tear stained.  At first no one noticed that she was also holding her right arm close to her torso.

Ben, surprised by her appearance, rose and asked, “Victoria, what on earth happened to you?”

Noticing that she was limping slightly, Adam offered her a seat.

“Thank you,” she said, gratefully.  “I’m not sure.  I went for a walk when I saw an unusual plant.  I went to look at it, not realizing it was close to a steep hill.  I lost my footing.  I think I caught myself with my arm”

“Pa,” Hoss commented.  “Look at that wrist.  It seems kinda swolled up.”

“Yes, Hoss,” Ben observed.  “I agree.  I noticed you limping.  How is your foot?”

“It’s just a bit sore,” Victoria admitted.  “Actually, my wrist hurts quite a lot and my fingers seem to be numb.”

“Joseph,” Ben commanded.  “Go get Hop Sing.  Adam, ride for the doctor.”

“Yes, Pa,” both quickly responded.

“Hoss,” Ben directed, “we need to get that shoe off, just in case.”

“Mr. Cartwright,” Victoria began, but was interrupted.

“Victoria,” Ben firmly stated.  “We need to get that shoe off to be sure that it is just sore.  It will be difficult if it starts to swell.  We’ll be as gentle as possible.”

Hop Sing entered followed by Little Joe.  “Little boy say girl hurt.”

“Yes,” Ben confirmed.  “Would you please fix mustard plaster for her wrist and ankle.”

“Of course, yes, Mista’ Cartlight,” he responded quickly returning to the kitchen mumbling in Cantonese.

“Joseph, go upstairs and get my razor strap,” Ben demanded.  “The pain may be great if that ankle is swollen and Victoria can bite down on it.”

“Yes, sir,” Little Joe said bounding up two steps at a time and returning quickly.

“All right, Victoria,” he suggested, handing the strap to her.  “Put this between your teeth and bite down if the pain is too much.”

Taking the strap in her left hand, she reluctantly did as Ben asked.

Ben turned to Hoss and instructed him to carefully remove Victoria’s shoe.  He knew that Hoss was blessed with a natural gentleness and was the best one at this point to remove it.

Gently, Hoss removed the lace from Victoria’s left shoe.  The movement caused her to wince, which did not go unnoticed by Ben.  ‘Clearly, the ankle is worse than you are letting on, young miss,’ Ben thought.  Hoss then opened the shoe as much as it would open.  Taking the heel as gently as he could, he slid the shoe from her foot as she bit down on the strap and squeezed Ben’s hand with her left hand.

Once Victoria’s foot was free from the shoe, she released her hold of Ben’s hand.  Her ankle was indeed worse than she let on.  Ben observed slight swelling and discoloration.

When Hop Sing returned with the mustard plaster, Hoss gently wrapped Victoria’s ankle and then her wrist.

“There ya’ go, Miss Victoria,” Hoss comforted.  “How’s that?”

“Better,” she said.  “Thank you, Hoss.”

“All right,” Ben stated.  “I think the best place for you right now is in bed.”

“Mr. Cartwright,” Victoria objected.  “I don’t want to miss supper.”

“Well, young lady,” he retorted, “that will be up to the doctor, I think.”

She reluctantly agreed, allowing Hoss to carry her to her room.

It was not long before the doctor arrived.  “Hi, Ben,” he said.  “What’s this Adam tells me about your guest?”

“Hi, Paul.  She took a fall down a steep slope.  It looks like her ankle may be sprained and the wrist may be broken, but since you’re the doctor, why don’t I let you make the diagnosis.”

“Well, thank you for noticing, Ben,” the doctor teased. Ben led Doctor Martin to Victoria’s room, with Adam, Hoss and Joe following behind. Frowning, the doctor looked at the Cartwrights who had crowded into the room.  “All right, everyone out so I can examine this young lady.”

“All right, Miss Stanton,” Paul said, turning to his patient.  “Let’s take a look at that wrist.”

“Doctor,” she began.  “I can’t really feel my fingers.”

*****

“It will be okay,” he assured her.  “I am afraid your wrist is broken.  I am going to have to set it.  I will have to wait to put a plaster cast on it until the swelling goes down.”

“I was looking forward to joining the family for thanksgiving dinner,” she explained.

“I don’t think that will be a problem as long as you keep that foot elevated and you use your left hand,” the doctor agreed.  “You also need to keep the mustard plaster on your ankle.

“Oh, thank you, Doctor,” Victoria responded gratefully.

“You mustn’t put any weight on that foot,” Dr. Martin instructed.  “At least not for about three days.”

“Will I be able to travel soon?”

“I’m afraid not, Miss Stanton,” the Doctor admitted.  “You’ll need to stay put for at least 3 weeks.”

“Well, I can think of worse places to be,” she commented, trying to see the bright side.

*****

Later, Hoss carried Victoria downstairs for supper.

As Ben sat down, he offered the blessing. “I thank you, God, for so many things; for my boys, old friends, new friends, the beauty and provision of this land.  Thank you for the bounty of this table and for the hands that prepared it.  May you bless each of us as we enjoy this feast.  In Jesus name.  Amen.”

“Amen!”

“Mr. Cartwright,” Victoria began.  “I would like to thank you for your most generous hospitality.  I truly see the friend that my father cherished.”

“You are most welcome, young lady,” Ben replied.  “It seems that you will be enjoying our hospitality and our company a little bit longer than you had anticipated.”

“So it would seem,” she grinned rather sheepishly.

Celebrating a holiday without her father for the first time, Victoria was truly grateful to have a family with which to share.  With the promise of a bright future, she smiled and offered her own silent prayer of thanks to the Heavenly Father that gave her strength and guided her.

***The End***

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