Summary: What Happened Next after the episode ‘The Avenger”.
Word Count: 1300
The sun broke through Ben’s window, lathering him with warmth as he gently stirred. Slowly opening his eyes, his face was graced with a great smile.
‘Home,’ Ben prayed to himself. ‘Oh, what a blessed place. Thank you, Lord, for returning Adam and I to the bosom of our family and this land.’
“Pa,” Little Joe knocked and called through the door. “Are you up yet?”
“Yes, Joe, I’m coming.” Ben smiled, thinking how many times he had heard that voice asking the same thing. ‘I’ll never take that for granted again.’
“I’ll let Hop Sing know!” Joe said as he turned to rouse his eldest brother.
As Ben dressed, his thoughts turned to the celebration they enjoyed the previous night.
As the Cartwright’s arrived at the ranch house, Hop Sing, their cook and faithful friend, ran out the door. “Mista’ Cartlight! Mista’ Adam!” he chattered excitedly. “I know you come home! I know they not hang you!”
As the Cartwright’s dismounted, the Chinaman quickly embraced Adam and Ben.
“Thank you, Hop Sing,” Ben admitted. “We missed you, too.”
“I make all your favorites for dinna’! We celebrate you come home!” Hop Sing then returned excitedly to the kitchen muttering in Cantonese.
“I think Hop Sing’s glad to see you, Pa,” Joe grinned.
“I think you may be right, Joe,” Adam agreed, returning the grin.
“All right, boys,” Ben ordered. “Let’s get our horses taken care of before we celebrate.”
The feast and celebration was indeed great. Everyone rejoiced in the stranger from Lassiter, Kansas that road into town in search of the men responsible for the unjust hanging of his own father. While there, he saw with the Cartwright’s a situation that mirrored his own. He was able to convince Sally Byrnes to tell the truth before it was too late. With her revelation to the sheriff that she had not actually seen Ben and Adam kill her father, she saved the lives and won the freedom of Adam and Ben Cartwright.
“I don’t rightly know what woulda happened ifn’ ‘Lassiter’ hadn’t come when he did,” Hoss admitted.
“You were right, Pa,” Little Joe declared.
Looking puzzled, Ben asked, “What about, boy?”
“You and Adam came out of it ‘right-side up’,” Joe laughed and was soon joined by the rest of the family.
As Ben descended the stairs, he heard his boys talking. Yet another smile broke across his face.
“Mornin’, Pa,” Joe boisterously offered, soon joined by a nod from Adam and a wry smile from Hoss.
“Good morning, boys,” Ben responded as he sat down.
“Well, Pa,” Adam began. “I don’t see any reason not jump in with both feet.”
“You’re right,” Ben agreed. “We need to go ahead and check the fences in the winter pastures.”
“And I have a string of horses for the Dailey’s that need to be broken,” Joe admitted.
Suddenly, Ben realized his middle son was not only being very quiet but was also not really eating.
“Hoss,” Ben questioned. “Are you all right, son?”
“Yes, sir,” Hoss lied. “I’m just not very hungry this mornin’.”
At this statement, three heads turned in astonishment. Hoss’ appetite was legendary throughout much of the territory.
“You sick, brother?” Adam queried.
“No, just not very hungry,” Hoss claimed. “Pa, would you mind ifn’ I go start gettin’ the barn chores done?”
“All right, son. We’ll join you shortly.”
Ben watched as his middle son slowly rose and exited.
Confused by the feeling of rejoicing and relieve he was still experiencing, Joe questioned, “Pa, what do you suppose is wrong with him?”
“I’m not sure, Joe,” Ben began. “I’ll give him a few minutes and then see if I can get him to talk to me.”
“Pa,” Adam offered. “Do you want me to try talking to him?”
“No,” Ben declared. “I think whatever is troubling that young man may just be a Pa problem. Thank you, though, son.”
“Pa,” Joe admitted. “I really missed you bein’ here. You, too, Adam.”
“Thank you, son,” Ben smiled.
“Thanks, little brother,” Adam replied with a smile as well. “I think I speak for both of us when I say we’re glad to be here, too.”
“Boys,” Ben said as he put his napkin on the table and rose. “You finish your breakfast. I’m going to go talk to your brother.”
Opening the barn door, Ben entered finding Hoss quietly talking to and stroking the velvet nose of his horse, Chubby. “Hi, Pa,” he said, not looking away from his mount.
Moving into the barn, Ben went over to some crates and sat down, saying, “Son, why don’t you come sit and talk to me?”
Slowly, Hoss went over to join Ben, keeping his eyes focused on the floor.
“Erik,” Ben said, gently lifting his son’s chin so he could look into his crystal blue eyes. “What is it, boy?”
“I’m not sure, Pa,” he admitted. “I’m just confused about what I’m feelin’.”
“Maybe I can help,” Ben offered.
“Well, I’m happy that you are alive and home. But at the same time, I’m feelin’…I don’t know…a mite guilty, I reckon.”
“And what do you think you’re feeling guilty about?” Ben inquired, knowingly.
At this point, Hoss looked directly into his father’s eyes. Seeing the love and concern that filled those dark eyes, he began, “I disobeyed and lied.”
“Can you explain, son?”
“Well,” Hoss continued, “Sheriff Hanson told us to not bring guns into town. We did; we broke down our shotguns and then reassembled ‘em and hid ‘em at the livery.”
“And the lying, Erik?”
“At the jailhouse…you made me…make a promise…” Hoss’ voice trailed off as he again looked away.
“Go on, son.”
“Pa, I promised you that we wouldn’t do anything outside the law and go against the sheriff or our friends,” he admitted as his eyes turned back to the ground. “I had no intention of keepin’ that promise.” Returning his eyes to his father’s, he continued, “I lied to you, Pa…I lied right to your face. I’ve never directly lied to you, Pa, before that moment.”
“Well, son,” Ben began, “when you were boys, if you disobeyed or lied, how did I deal with that?”
“A ‘necessary talk’ in the barn,” Hoss admitted.
“’Cause lyin’ and disobeyin’ is wrong.”
“Has that changed now that you are grown?”
“But that’s not all that’s bothering you, is it, son?” Ben observed.
“No, sir,” Hoss began. “You kept prayin’, Pa. Even down to the end…even when they put the rope around yer’ neck.”
“That’s right, son,” Ben replied, beginning to understand exactly what was troubling his son. “I knew I could trust God because His Word promises that He’ll never leave us or forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“I know, Pa, but…but…” Hoss had difficulty finishing so Ben finished his thought for him.
“You lost faith?”
Putting his elbows on his knees and burying his face in his hands, Hoss answered, “Yes, sir.”
“Son, I think that may be what’s at the heart of what you’re feeling right now.”
Thoughtfully, Hoss agreed, “I think you’re right, Pa.”
“Well, I think that’s something you have to work out with God. I’m going back in the house. By the way, boy,” Ben continued with a grin. “I forgive you for lying to me.”
Returning a smile, Hoss replied, “Thanks, Pa.”
As he returned to the house, Ben turned to see his middle son, eyes closed in prayer, doing his business with God. He breathed deeply; glad to be back on his Ponderosa.