A Summer Secret (by Debbie Ann)

Summary:
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  G
Word Count:  4600


 

The summer sun was setting over the Ponderosa as Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright were returning to the house after successfully fishing all day.

Joe was beaming at his brother. “Pa’s gonna be happy to get all these trout.”

“He sure will,” Hoss answered.  “But he ain’t gonna be happy how late it is.  We shoulda come back sooner.”

“You’re right,” Joe grinned, with the altogether too familiar mischievous glint in his eye.  “Race ya’ back!”

“HEY!” Hoss shouted after his little brother and tried to catch him up.

As they got to the barn, both boys hurriedly stabled their horses.  Little Joe, placing his saddle on the saddle stand, thought he heard a noise coming from the hayloft.

“Hoss, do you hear that?” Joe queried, looking toward the hayloft.

“Hear what, Joe?” Hoss snapped.  “We gotta get inside.  It’s probably just an ol’ hoot owl.”

Again glancing toward the hayloft, Little Joe shrugged, saying, “You’re probably right.  Let’s go in.  Come on!”

Running into the house, they found Ben sitting in his chair reading.          He looked up at his two young sons, fighting back a grin at the sight of them dusty from their race back to the house and proudly displaying their catch. “I hope you two have a good reason for being so late,” he said calmly.

“Pa,” Joe started.  “We’re sorry bein’ so late.”

“We lost track of time.  We caught a lot a’ fish, though,” Hoss chimed in hoping his Pa wasn’t too mad.

Ben couldn’t hide his amusement any longer.  He let out a full belly laugh and said, “Well, I guess I know what’s for breakfast tomorrow.  We need to get them cleaned.  Go on.”

Hoss and Joe looked at one another and went to do just that.

The next morning, the fish was all cooked up and the three Cartwright’s ate heartily.

“Okay, boys,” Ben spoke up.  “It’s about time to set to your chores.”

“Sure, Pa,” came the answer in unison as Joe and Hoss stood up from the table and bolted out the door.

They had finished their yard chores and had started on the barn chores when they again heard a noise in the hayloft.  Joe looked at his brother, nervously asking, “What was that?”

“Dunno,” Hoss responded, looking up to the loft.

Quickly letting any fear go, Joe walked to the ladder and said, “We should go see.”

Joe was the first to scramble up the ladder while Hose lumbered up behind him.  When they got to the top, they were surprised by what they saw.

Cowering in the corner of the loft, they found a small Indian girl of about 6.

“Hey,” Joe greeted the girl.  “What are you doin’ here?”

“P-p-please, you not tell,” pleaded the child.  “My name Singing Dove.”

“Hi, Singin’ Dove,” Hoss said.  “I’m Hoss and this here’s my brother Little Joe.”  He then asked the girl again, “What are ya’ doin’ here?”

“Hiding from uncle, Raging Bull,” she replied.  “He hurt Singing Dove.  Father not know.”

“We can talk to our Pa…” Hoss began but was quickly interrupted

“No…cannot tell!” Singing Dove again pleaded.

“Hoss,” said Joe.  “She can stay up here.”

Hoss looked into the tear-filled eyes of the little girl and then to his brother.  Joe was gazing back at him, giving him the “look” which he knew his older brother couldn’t resist.

“Please, Hoss,” Joe said.  “We can help her.”

“Joe, how can we help her?” he asked his little brother.

“We can bring food out for her and I’ll bring her a blanket,” Joe told him.

“Joe, Pa won’t like it.” Hoss responded to his brother’s pleading with worry in his voice.

“Pa won’t know, Hoss,” came the answer.

With another look into his little brother’s eyes, Hoss gave in.  He could deny Little Joe nothing, which usually got him into trouble.

Sighing, Hoss agreed.  Looking at Singing Dove, he said, “Wait here; we’ll bring some food out in a while.”

“Thank you.   I wait for Hoss and Little Joe.” Singing Dove agreed gratefully.

“Boys!”  Ben called from the        house.  “Come on in for lunch.”

“Comin’, Pa,” Hoss called back then turning to his brother added, “Come on, Joe.”

Joe turned to Singing Dove and said, “We’ll be back.”

With that, the boys raced to the house.

Lunch was quiet and uneventful.  Both boys realized Ben was preoccupied and were hoping that he would not notice the fact that each boy was sneaking little bits of food and stashing it in his pocket.

As they were finishing up, Ben told the boys, “I need to go to town for a meeting.  I want you two to finish cleaning up that barn while I’m there.”

“Yes, sir,” both boys said, attempting to get up so that Pa wouldn’t notice the food bulging in their pockets.

They returned to the barn and waited for Ben to leave for town.  When he did, they took the food up to Singing Dove.  Hoss also ran back into the house to fill a canteen with milk for her.

“Oh, thank you,” she said, taking the food as though she hadn’t eaten in a couple of days.

“Now how ‘bout ya’ tell us what’s troublin’ ya’?” Hoss asked.

“Already tell.  Raging Bull hurt Singing Dove,” she answered between bites.  “Father not know.”

“Well, why’d ya’ run?” asked Joe.  “Why didn’t ya’ tell yer pa?”

“Raging Bull say not tell.  Say he hurt father if tell.”  Singing Dove explained as tears began to fall.

It hurt Hoss to see the girl in such pain.  “That’s awful!” he said.

“Yeah,” Joe piped in.  “Our Pa can help.”

“No, please.  If you tell father, he look for Singing Dove father.  Make father hurt,” she cried.

“Alright,” Hoss answered.  “You just calm yer’self.”  Then, looking at Little Joe, he said, “We better get this barn finished.  We don’t need Pa lookin’ too close.”

“You’re right, Hoss,” Joe agreed, smiling at Singing Dove then going down the ladder.

The two brothers worked furiously to get the barn finished.  They wanted to be sure Pa spent as little time as possible in there.

“Whew!” Joe commented.  “You reckon this is good, Hoss?”

“Uh huh,” he answered.  “I expect it is.”

Suddenly, they heard Ben ride up.

“Hi, Pa,” both boys said, as their father entered the barn.

Hoss added, “Yer’ back early, Pa.”

“Yes, they cancelled the meeting,” Ben responded.

“How’s the barn look, Pa?” Joe boldly asked.

“It looks real good, boys.  You must have worked very hard.”  Ben said, smiling with pride.  “What say we go in and eat supper?”

Both Hoss and Joe took a quick look toward the hayloft as they started walking toward the house.

As they sat down to eat, Ben realized his two normally chattering sons were being too quiet.

“So,” Ben broke the silence.  “What else have you been up to today?”

“Oh, nothin’, Pa,” Hoss nervously answered.

“No, Pa,” added Little Joe, “We just played when we finished the barn.”

“Then why do the two of you act like a fox caught in the hen house?” Ben questioned.

Both boys nervously looked at one another with their mouths hanging open, wondering how Pa could possibly know that they were hiding something.

Ben was always able to read his boys and on their faces today he read volumes.  “Joseph…Eric…I suggest you tell me what’s going on,” Ben demanded.  “Now!”

Hoss started, “Pa, we made a promise

“To whom?” Ben asked.

Joe spoke this time. “To Singing Dove.”

“Who in thunder is Singing Dove?” Ben asked, beginning to lose his patience.

“Pa,” Hoss answered, “she’s an Indian girl.  Her uncle’s been hurtin’ her and threatin’ to hurt her pa if’n she told.”

Joe piped in with, “Pa, ya’ just can’t take her to her pa.  Her uncle might hurt  him.”

Ben looked at his boys, proud that they would try to protect this young girl, yet aggravated that they wouldn’t confide him.

“Boys, why did you not come to me with this?” he asked.

“We promised Singing Dove we wouldn’t, Pa,” Hoss answered.

“Yeah, Pa,” added Little Joe.  “We gave our word.”

“Boys, I know that our word is our bond, but when someone is in danger, you should always tell Pa.” Ben said.

Once again looking at each other, then back at Pa, both boys answered, “Yes, sir.”

“We will talk about this later,” Ben said in a disturbingly calm voice.  “Now why don’t we go out to the barn and get your friend.”

“Pa?” asked Hoss.  “Are you gonna look for her pa?”

“Well, the first thing we are going to do is give the girl a proper meal, then a good night’s sleep.”

All three headed for the barn.  Ben waited below as Hoss and Joe went up to the loft.

“Singing Dove,” Joe said.  “You still up here?”

“Why you bring father?” she asked.

“He found out you was here.  He wants to help.  You can trust him.” Hoss said.

“He not look for father?” Singing Dove queried.

“Nope,” Joe answered.

Timidly, Singing Dove went to the ladder and started to climb down.  The boys quickly followed her down.

Ben looked over the young visitor, noticing that she appeared frail.  As he gazed at her, he gently spoke, “I’m Ben Cartwright.  Would you like to come in with us and eat supper?”

“Yes.  Singing Dove like supper,” she answered.

Once they all sat back at the table and began eating, Ben began to wonder how long this little Indian girl had been wandering before coming to the Ponderosa.  He could see fear in the depths of her eyes, but decided to let her settle into these new surroundings and get more comfortable.  ‘Maybe when she’s more comfortable, she’ll open up,’ He thought.  ‘And those boys.  I do believe a demonstration of a lie of omission is in order.”

When supper was over, Ben told Hoss and Little Joe to go up to their room, change for bed, and wait for him.

“Yes, sir,” they both responded, remembering that Pa had said that he would be talking to them later as they stood up from the table.

“Singing Dove,” Ben said.  “My oldest son, Adam is at school back east.  You can sleep in his room tonight.”

“Many thanks, Ben Cartwright,” she replied, sounding exhausted.

Ben showed her up to Adam’s room and retrieved one of Marie’s nightdresses to let Singing Dove sleep in.

As Ben covered her with the quilt on the bed, Singing Dove said, “Ben Cartwright, see good in eyes.  Good in heart.”

“Thank you, Singing Dove,” he answered.

“Father not be mad at boys.  They make promise for Singing Dove.  They help,” she pleaded.

Smiling, he whispered, “Don’t worry, I’m only going to talk to them.  They won’t get tanned.”

With that, Singing Dove drifted off to sleep, not having slept well for several days.

Ben had no intention of spanking either boy, but he allowed them to think they were going to have one of their “necessary little talks” to demonstrate a lie of omission so that they would understand.

Walking into the hallway, Ben spoke in a low, ominous tone. “Boys.”  As the two faces appeared in their bedroom doorways, he finished, “Let’s go talk in my room.”

Swallowing hard as they exited, Joe and Hoss followed their Pa down the hall to his room.

Closing the door behind them, Ben said, “Sit down,” pointing to the bed.

Both Little Joe and Hoss quickly obeyed, watching as Ben pulled the chair out from his desk and sat down.  Wideeyed, both boys again swallowed hard.

“Boys,” Ben declared, “you lied to me.  By not telling me about Singing Dove, you lied to me.”

Both boys looked puzzled when Hoss spoke, “I don’t understand, Pa.”

“It’s called a lie of omission.  You kept information from me.  The child had said that her uncle hurt her.  You should trust me enough to tell me when someone is in trouble,” Ben explained, sounding disappointed as he spoke.

“Sorry, Pa,” both boys nearly whispered, looking at the floor.

Then, with all the courage he could muster, Hoss asked the question that was weighing heavy on both he and Little Joe. “Pa?  Are you gonna tan us?”

Hoss loathed waiting to get a tanning, but not knowing for sure was much worse, especially when he knew they broke one of Pa’s big rules.

“No, Hoss, I am not going to tan you,” Ben said.  “I wanted you to really understand what a lie of omission is.”  Both boys looked perplexed, so Ben continued, “What happens when you are told to go to your room, change into your nightclothes, and wait for me to come talk to you?”

Joe stammered, “Y-ya’ usually tan us.”

Hoss suddenly realized what Pa was saying and said, “And you let us think we was gettin’ tanned when ya’ weren’t gonna.”  At this, Ben also read understanding on Little Joe’s face.

“That’s right,” Ben said, eying both boys.  “Do you understand that a lie of omission is every bit as bad a flat out lie?”

“Yes, sir.  We understand,” they both responded, looking first at one another then back at Ben.

“Alright then, off to bed with you.  In the morning, Hoss, I want you to ride into town to fetch Dr. Martin.”

“Yes, Pa,” he answered, relieved to not be getting tanned for lying.  “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Pa,” Little Joe chimed in.

“Goodnight, boys,” Ben said as his boys disappeared into their rooms.

During the night, shrieking came from Adam’s room, abruptly awakening all of the Cartwrights.

“STOP!  NO HURT! PLEASE STOP!” Singing Dove screamed.

When they arrived in Adam’s room, Ben and his sons found Singing Dove, still sleeping, flailing in the bed, striking at the air in seemingly protective blows.

Quickly turning to Hoss, Ben directed, “Go fetch Dr. Martin now.  Tell him we have a guest who needs something to calm her.  Hurry now!”

“Yes, Pa,” Hoss said dashing to his room to quickly dress.

Focusing his attention on Singing Dove, Ben reached out, attempting to wake her but she continued to strike out.  Once again, he reached out to the frightened girl, this time successfully pulling her into a tight hug.

Fighting and crying, she continued to scream, “NO HURT!  NO HURT!  NO!  NO!  NO!”

Ben maintained his hold on Singing Dove until Hoss returned with the doctor.  Doctor Martin gave her a strong sedative so that she would rest.  Once she was again resting comfortably, they all went down to the sitting room.

“Well,” Dr. Martin began, “where did your little guest come from?”

“We found her hidin’ in the hayloft,” Hoss explained.

“Do you have any idea what made her carry on like that?” the doctor inquired.

Yawning, Joe replied, “She said her uncle hurt her and then threatened her pa.”

“Okay, boys,” Ben said.  “Why don’t you go on back to bed. Let the doctor and I talk.  Goodnight.”

“Yes, sir,” they answered.  “Goodnight, Pa; goodnight, Dr. Martin.”

“Goodnight, boys,” replied the doctor.

When Hoss and Little Joe were safely out of earshot, Ben, seeing Paul Martin’s expression, asked, “Alright, Paul.  What are you thinking?”

“Ben,” he grimaced, “I’ve heard of this kind of thing before.  Never seen it though.”

“What?” Ben questioned.

“I think her uncle may be more than just ‘hurting’ her.  I have a friend in Carson City that I would like to talk to about this because he has dealt with things like this before.”  Standing to leave, he added, “I’ll come out later to check on the little girl.”

“Thank you, Paul,” Ben said gratefully.  “I’ll see if she’ll talk to me when she wakes up.”

“Now, Ben, don’t push too hard.”

“Of course not, Paul,” he agreed.  “Goodnight.”

At sunrise, Ben, Hoss, and Little Joe were dressed and at the table eating breakfast.

“Pa?” Hoss asked, “What do you suppose is wrong with Singing Dove?”

“I don’t know, son.  Dr. Martin is going to contact a friend of his in Carson City.  Hopefully, he will be able to help.”

“I sure hope so, Pa,” chimed in Little Joe.

“Boys, it’s about time to get started on your chores.  I’m going to bring a tray on up to Singing Dove.”

“Yes, Pa,” both responded, pushing away from the table and racing outside.

With breakfast tray in hand, Ben went up to Adam’s room.

“Singing Dove,” Ben said quietly as he stood outside the closed bedroom door.  “Are you awake?”

“Awake, Ben Cartwright.  Yes.”  Singing Dove answered.

“I’ve brought some breakfast for you.  May I come in?”

“Yes, Ben Cartwright.”

Opening the door, he brought the tray in, placed it on the desk, and sat down.

“Good morning, Singing Dove.  How are you doing this morning?” Ben inquired.

“Singing Dove good.  Sleep good,” she answered.

“Singing Dove, how long have you been away from your family?” he asked.

“13 moons.  Singing Dove go when mother and father sleep,” she replied.

“Do you miss your mother and father?” Ben asked knowingly.

“Yes.  Singing Dove miss mother and father.  Not miss uncle,” she answered sadly.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked hopefully.

“Ben Cartwright have good eyes and kind heart.  Uncle come in night when mother and father sleep.  He hurt Singing Dove.”

“Your uncle comes to you at night.”  Ben was beginning to realize what Paul suspected and it made his blood boil.

“Bad hurt.  Say he hurt father if Singing Dove tell.”  As she said this, her dark brown eyes filled with tears. “Not want father hurt.”

“Singing Dove, your uncle will not hurt your father,” Ben advised gently.  Reaching out to touch her shoulder, attempting to comfort her, he was surprised when the child jerked away from him, but he understood.

“Thank you, Ben Cartwright,” she said, smiling gratefully.

Looking at the food on the tray, he showed Singing Dove to the chair and encouraged her to eat.  As he watched the girl, Ben’s mind wandered to what the frightened child had said about her uncle, causing him to see red.

Later that day, with Hoss and Little Joe playing with Singing Dove in the yard, Ben sat thinking and praying until Dr. Martin returned.

Seeing Ben clearly deep in thought, Paul spoke up. “Hi, Ben.  The boys told me you were in here.”

“Oh, hi, Paul,” Ben answered, looking up.  “Were you able to contact your friend in Carson City?”

“Yes, Ben,” he began.  “And according to the little girl’s actions you described, it would seem that someone has been acting inappropriately toward her.”

“I think you’re right,” Ben agreed, seething as he spoke.  “She told me her uncle comes to her when her parents are sleeping.  He also has been threatening to hurt her father if she tells anyone.”

“I’m afraid the hurt she’s suffering can’t be fixed with my medicine, Ben.”

Ben sat quietly for a moment, and then said, “Paul, when you get back to town, would you ask Roy Coffee to come out.  I’m going to see if I can find out about her parents.  If we can reach her tribe, perhaps we can let her father know what her uncle has been doing to her.”

“Of course, Ben,” the doctor said as he reached into his bag, pulling out a small bottle of sleeping powders.  “This should help the little girl sleep tonight.  Just a half teaspoon mixed in milk.”

“Thank you, Paul, but I want to be able to end this child’s nightmare for good,” Ben declared firmly.

“I agree.  I’ll send Roy on out,” Paul said, walking out the door.

Ben went to the door, then stopped for a moment, thinking.  He called Hoss inside to talk to him for a minute.

Hoss, looking rather confused, quickly obeyed. “Yes, Pa?”

“Hoss, I want you to see if you can find out the names of Singing Doves’ mother and father.  Do you think you can do that?” Ben asked.

“Sure, Pa,” he answered, “I’m purdy sure I can.”

“Good, son,” Ben said.  “Go on, now.”

With that, his middle boy bounded out the door.  Ben hoped that he would be successful in his quest.

Outside, Little Joe was still playing with Singing Dove when Hoss joined them once again.

Hoss remarked, “Singing Dove is a real purdy name.”

Faintly smiling, Singing Dove replied, “Thank you.”

“What’s yer ma’s name?” Joe asked, almost as though he knew what Pa wanted.

“Mother called Laughing Deer.  Father called Soaring Eagle,” she answered.  Then she added, “Father chief of Newe.”

Hoss listened carefully as Singing Dove spoke.  ‘Ma Laughing Deer.  Pa Chief Soaring Eagle.  Newe,’ he thought, ‘I gotta tell Pa.’

Looking into Singing Dove’s eyes, Joe asked, “You must miss yer’ ma and pa bad, huh?”

Tearfully, Singing Dove answered, “Yes, but not go back.  Father see in Singing Dove eyes.  Then know hurt.  Uncle be angry, hurt father.”

Hoss suddenly got up, saying, “I’ll be right back.”  Fearing that he may forget what Singing Dove had said, he ran inside.

“Pa?  Pa?”

“Yes, Hoss,” Ben answered.

“Singing Dove” he started, trying to catch his breath.  “Her ma’s name…is Laughing Deer.  Her pa’s…name is Soaring Eagle.  He’s the…chief of the Newe.”

“Thank you, son,” Ben said.  “You did real good.”

“Thanks, Pa,” Hoss answered with pride.  “Almost forgot, Pa.  Her uncle’s name is Raging Bull.”

“Excellent, son,” he said. At that moment, Roy Coffee rode up to the house.

“Hi, Sheriff,” called Hoss, running out the door.

“Hi, Hoss,” Roy replied as the boy breezed by.  “Hi, Ben.  I ran into Paul on the way into town.  He said you have a situation out here?”

“Hi, Roy,” Ben greeted the lawman, and then told the sheriff the whole story: the little girl hiding in the hayloft, the nightmare, and the uncle mistreating her.

“Roy,” Ben said, “We need to find out where this child’s parents are.”

“I agree, Ben.  I can send one of my men into the neighboring towns and see if there has been anyone looking for the little girl.”

“Roy, it is very important that you not say that she is here.  Her father is Chief Soaring Eagle of the Newe and her mother is Laughing Deer.  If we find them, we need to explain the situation and tell them about her uncle, Raging Bull.”

“Seems well named.  I’ll let you know what I find out, Ben,” Roy said as he mounted up.

“Thanks, Roy, and Godspeed.”

At supper that evening, the boys and Singing Dove chattered while they ate.  Ben mixed half a teaspoon of the sleeping powders into her milk, as Paul instructed.  He knew she needed to rest and nightmares would not help.  He wished Hop Sing was there but the cook was visiting family in San Francisco.

“Alright, children.  Time for bed,” Ben said.  “Go on up and I’ll be up to say goodnight in a few minutes.”

The boys both answered, “Yes, sir,” and started up.

Singing Dove answered, “Yes, Ben Cartwright,” and also ascended the stairs.

Ben was beginning to realize just how tired he was after last night’s events and decided that he, too, would turn in a bit early.  After saying goodnight to the children, he did just that.

Before daybreak the next morning, Ben was startled from his sleep by a knock at the door.  He went to answer it and was surprised to find Roy Coffee standing before him.

“Good morning, Roy.  What brings you here so early?” he inquired.

“Good morning, Ben.  I got a wire from Carson City this morning.  It seems there have been inquiries about the little girl.  The tribe is headed this way.”

“Alright, Roy, thank you,” Ben responded.  “Please be sure that her uncle does not come to the Ponderosa.  Just remember, he’s called Raging Bull”

“Yes, of course, Ben,” Roy said.  Ben watched as Roy remounted his horse and rode off.

“Pa?” Ben heard Hoss sleepily say, “What’s goin’ on?”

“Hoss,” Ben answered, motioning for the boy to join him.  “Singing Dove’s parents are searching for her.”  Hoss looked worried, so Ben attempted to allay his fears.  “I will speak to her father and tell him what her uncle has been doing to her.  I don’t want you to tell Singing Dove or Little Joe.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, Pa.”

“Thank you.  Now why don’t you go on and get dressed and we can figure out how to keep the little ones busy and away from the yard today.”

“Yes, sir,” Hoss said, returning to his room to get dressed.

After breakfast, Ben suggested the children go to the swimming hole.  His intent was to get Singing Dove out of the yard and away from the house just in case her family came today, giving him an opportunity to speak to her father.

The morning passed uneventfully.  Ben utilized this time to work on the ledgers and think about what to say to Singing Dove’s father.

It was midday when Ben heard horses, and, looking through the window, saw four Indians riding toward the house.  Hurrying to the door, Ben stood in the doorway and watched as they dismounted and walked toward the house. The apparent leader spoke. “You Ben Cartwright?”

“Yes, welcome to my home,” Ben said in a friendly manner.

“Thank you.  I am called Chief Soaring Eagle.  Sheriff tell me daughter, Singing Dove, here.”

“Yes,” answered Ben.  “May we speak alone inside?”

Turning to his companions, Soaring Eagle signaled them to wait where they were.   Entering the house, Ben invited the chief to sit on the settee while he sat in his favorite red chair.  When they were settled, Ben related the events of the last two days, including what Singing Dove had told him about her uncle and the terror in the night.

Shaking his head, Chief Soaring Eagle said, “I know something trouble Singing Dove.  Will deal with Raging Bull.  Thank you, Ben Cartwright.”

As he spoke these words, his daughter entered the room with Hoss and Little Joe.

“Father!” Singing Dove exclaimed, surprised.

“Daughter.  Have missed you.  Father know what happen.  Father deal with Raging Bull.”

“But Raging Bull will hurt father,” the girl said fearfully.

“Raging Bull will not hurt me,” Soaring Eagle promised in a firm voice. “Father stronger than Raging Bull. Father is chief. Father keep Singing Dove safe.”

The fear on Singing Dove’s face was replaced by an excited smile as she ran to her father.

Ben, pleased to see this reunion, asked, “Would you care to join us for the midday meal?”

“Thank you, Ben Cartwright.  Mother miss Singing Dove.  Want to see.  We go now,” the Chief answered.

“May I send some food with you?” Ben inquired.

“Ben Cartwright, you have kind eyes and good heart.  Glad Singing Dove come to you.  Spirits guide her to safe place.”

Smiling, Singing Dove said, “Ben Cartwright, many thanks.  Thank you, Hoss and Little Joe.”

Outside the house, Singing Dove was scooped up by her father onto his horse and the Cartwright’s watched as the little girl who stole their hearts rode away.  This summer secret was now safe.

***The End***

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