The Illegitimate Son (by Tessa)

Summary:  Adam received his one hundred thousand dollar inheritance, and word of his father’s death.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  8,290


The boys had their shirts off and slowly worked up a sheen of sweat as they labored on their chores. It was a fine spring afternoon and all of the Cartwrights enjoyed this favored weather. Hoss greased the axles and wheels of a wagon. Joe and Adam helped each other split some wood and piled it high next to the house. All the while Ben leaned back in his chair on the porch and sipped on a glass of cool lemonade. He watched his three sons as they worked hard and joked with each other.

It wasn’t long before Adam sat down on a nearby log. He wiped his forehead with his left forearm and asked his brothers what he thought would be a simple question. “You two want to break and have some lemonade?”

Joe grinned big and turned to Hoss, “Hey, Hoss! You see our brother, Adam, over here? He’s already sitting down wanting some refreshments. That’s what happens when you get old.”

Adam just looked at Joe and Hoss. Once again, his innocent comment made him the fish that bit his brothers’ hook and they were about to reel him in.

Hoss laughed. “If he’s sitting down already, then he ain’t our brother. You and I could go for hours in the blazing sun before we’d need anything. Yeah, he’s ready for the pasture.”
Adam joined in on the fun, but still tried to defend himself. “What do I have to do around here to get a little understanding? Fall down at your feet and pass out?”

“Well, now Adam,” Hoss answered, “Joe and I aren’t cold-hearted.” Joe giggled and shook his head ‘no’ to Hoss’s statement. Hoss continued, “Now, if you older folks need some help cooling off, then Joe and I can help you go swimming in the trough over there. The horses ain’t using it.”

Joe and Hoss both had a good laugh on that one. Pa’s laugh was on the silent side and that meant no one was coming to Adam’s aid.

Adam stood up. “Thanks for the offer thoughtful brother of mine. Out to pasture, huh? Instead of being easy on you two, I’ll just show you how to work hard. I just thought that maybe the younger generation around here needed examples set for them on everything.”

They all laughed at Adam’s comment. The laughter died down when a buggy was heard coming into the yard. A man dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and black string tie pulled up and stopped where the boys were standing.

Ben joined them and was the first to greet their guest. “Welcome to the Ponderosa. I’m Ben Cartwright.” Ben extended his hand.

The man pulled out a hanky and wiped sweat from his forehead. He extended his hand and greeted Ben after he climbed out of the buggy. “I’m pleased to meet all of you. I’m Jasper Kelsey from Silver Springs.”

Ben offered his guest some lemonade and wasn’t turned down. “That means you had a half-day’s ride to come here. What can we do for you?”

The boys put their shirts on and joined their father and Jasper at the table with the lemonade. Adam, Ben, and Jasper sat at the table while Joe and Hoss stood nearby.

Jasper pulled a folded up paper from inside his breast pocket and then spoke, “I’m here to see…” he strung out the word ‘see’ while he opened the paper, “Adam Cartwright.”

“I’m Adam. And what can I do for you, Mr. Kelsey?” responded Adam.

“Oh please, I like people to call me Jasper.” Without hesitating, Jasper handed Adam a piece of paper that was the size of a bank draft. Then he took a long drink of his lemonade. “Oh, Mr. Cartwright, this lemonade is delightful and I am indebted to you for it. I had a very hot trip.”

Ben acknowledged Jasper with a quick smile and nod, but was more interested in Adam’s perplexed look as he stared at the paper. “Adam, something you want to share with us?” Ben asked and hoped Adam was game.

Adam turned the draft towards his father. “This is a draft for one-hundred thousand dollars with my name on it.”

Hoss and Joe stayed silent, but Joe elbowed Hoss and both had looks of surprise mixed with puzzlement on their faces.

Ben echoed Adam. “A hundred thousand dollars! In your name? For what?”

Joe joked, “Yeah, what bank did you rob?”

Jasper drank half his glass of lemonade before he began to explain to the confused Cartwrights. “Adam, I’m sorry to take so long to advise you of the demise of your father, but I’m afraid I was so hot when I first arrived that I needed this refreshment.”

“My father died?” Adam asked

Jasper was there to provide information, but after he just informed Adam that his father died, instead of clarifying things, the confusion got a little thicker.

“Yes, son, and I’m very sorry to have to deliver this dreadful news to you, but maybe this gift of money will help ease the pain of your sorrow,” Jasper said in an appropriate sad voice. Then looked over at Ben. “Thank goodness you have an uncle and friends here at this time.”

Adam clarified the situation for Jasper. “This uncle you refer to IS my father. He is Ben Cartwright. These two friends you refer to are my brothers, Hoss and Joe Cartwright.”

Hoss spoke up, “Yeah, we sure are Adam’s brothers, but if he’s getting a lot of money, he might even be a friend.” Hoss and Joe were still in a teasing mood as they laughed at Hoss’s comment.

Ben didn’t think this was funny at all and looked at Hoss and Joe. “Boys! Would you please be quiet while we try to understand this thing?” Ben then looked at Jasper/ “You gave my son, Adam, some money and then you tell him his father died. Could you, please, explain this?”

Adam stared at Jasper. “I agree with my father…my real father, Jasper. You have my name right, but everything else is wrong.”

“Well, Adam, I have been sent here by Sheriff Fletcher Jones of Silver Springs. Ben Greer apparently wrote a note six months before he died. Since it’s the only written document of his decision on what he wants done with his money, it’s considered his will. It claims you are his illegitimate son and that he wants you to have all his money.” Jasper then handed Adam the note that was the will.

“Illegitimate!!!” Adam and Ben expressed their surprised shock in harmony.

Hoss and Joe broke into a hearty laugh. This was getting funnier all the time and would provide great dirt for future teasing.

Ben frowned at them and ordered them to be quiet, again. They tried, but both their mouths were ready to explode with laughter.

Ben turned his attention to Jasper, but it was Adam that responded. “Jasper, my father is Ben Cartwright and I’m not illegitimate. So this money is not mine.”

Jasper was there to do as he was told and that’s all he cared about, “Adam. I’m just here to do the job I was asked to do. If you don’t agree, then you will have to look into it. I was just told to come to the Ponderosa, make sure that Adam Cartwright, Ben’s illegitimate son, was here and give him his money.” Jasper hoped that would end it.

Hoss and Joe laughed again. Illegitimate. Boy, is this story going to get around Virginia City. This was the best laugh they’ve had at Adam’s expense in a long time. Ben finally ignored them.

“I’m not illegitimate and this other man named, Ben, is not nor has he ever been my father.” Adam was a little exhausted. All this news, all this money, and all used in the context of the word, ‘illegitimate.’ It was starting to irritate him. Especially with each giggle he heard from his brothers.

Jasper stood up and extended his hand to Adam, “Young man. If there is some doubt about anything, then it’s up to you to sort it out. I’m sorry. I have to leave now as my job is finished. I wish you well.”

Ben and Adam also stood up with Jasper. Jasper turned leaving the four men still a little confused.

Ben looked at Adam, who was now looking over the bank draft and the copy of the will in the name of Ben Greer. “Adam, I think we all should saddle up and go to Silver Springs and get to the bottom of this. You’re not going to deal with this by yourself.”

Adam agreed.

Hoss put in a request first. “Hey Pa! You think maybe we could have a roast pork sandwich before we ride off? You know, I wouldn’t want to upset Hop Sing by ignoring the food he expected us to eat.”

“Good idea, Hoss. If we eat before we hit the road, then we could ride straight to Silver Springs. We’ll only stop at Juniper River to water the horses,” Ben agreed.

Hoss and Joe headed for the house laughing and looking over their shoulders at Adam. Adam gave them his usual smirk.

Adam folded up the draft and will, and stuck them into his breast pocket where they stayed for his trip to Silver Springs.

*****

The ride to Silver Springs was an easy one. The men took rooms at Hannah’s Boarding House, which was recommended to them over the town’s two hotels. The only reason given was that Hannah washed the sheets after each visitor left.

After a good dinner that filled their stomachs at Hannah’s, the Cartwright family retreated to the coolness of the front veranda and enjoyed a couple of hours of talking.

As their conversations began to quiet down, Ben commented to Adam, “Son, I think we should go see the Sheriff early in the morning. Maybe he could straighten this whole matter out.”

“I sure hope so, Pa. What bothers me about this whole thing is that someone deserves this money and could probably use it,” Adam responded,

“Yeah,” Joe’s chuckle turned into a good laugh, “And I can’t get over the thought of Adam being illegitimate. No wonder he doesn‘t look like us.”

“JOSEPH!” Ben said forcefully but quietly, “there’s a lady in the house, so watch your language.”

Adam’s comment to Joe was a little dry. “I’m not worried. I have a solid witness right here that can say exactly where I came from.” He pointed to Ben.

Ben was in deep thought and didn’t pay any attention to what the boys said after his comment to Joe, “Adam. This Ben Greer. I can’t recall you ever mentioning him.”

Adam filled his family in on some details. “I never said his name because it never seemed important. Remember last year when I was on my way home from buying cattle south of here?”

The other three Cartwrights nodded.

“I stopped for the night here in Silver Springs,” Adam continued. It was warm that evening and I decided to spend some time in the saloon, instead of tossing and turning. Only two people were in the saloon and one of them was a Ben Greer. He was pretty loaded with whiskey, but I found him to be pleasant company. He and I seemed to get along well and we talked almost till morning. Now that I think about it, he talked some about a son. How he was disappointed in his son and that they weren’t on speaking terms.”

Ben looked concerned, as he hated any reference of a father and son not talking to each other. He interjected, “Did he say his son’s name or where he lived?”

Adam answered, “No, I don’t remember that. I just felt sorry for him because he seemed like a nice man and his son didn’t sound like he was bad either. In our conversation, I did tell him about going to college and my interest in fine arts and architecture. As drunk as he was, he seemed to be impressed with my pursuits.”

Out of the blue, Joe made an observation. “You must have thought it was just conversation. But from what happened this morning, it sure sounds like it was more than that to him.” Joe’s family agreed.

Ben got up with the boys following his movement. “You boys can sit here and talk if you want, but I’m going to bed. I want to have a clear, rested head for tomorrow.”

“I agree, Pa. From what Jasper said, I think a few people believe his story that I’m this man’s son,” Adam commented.

Joe wasn’t letting this go. “You mean, illegitimate son, don’t you?” He laughed again.

“Joe, this is getting old,” Adam began to argue. “I’m not illegitimate and I’m tired of hearing it.”

Hoss chuckled, “Adam, you always have a home with us. We never turn away anyone who is unwanted, unloved, or illegitimate.”

“Boys, come on, let’s get some good sleep,” Ben said halting the teasing. They were all tired and, at this point, teasing could easily turn into an argument.

*****

Morning seemed to come quick. After getting dressed and shaved, they headed for the dining room for breakfast. Hannah liked the Cartwrights and felt sorry for Adam when she heard the reason for their visit to Silver Springs. They asked her what she knew about Ben Greer and his life in the town. She wasn’t able to help since she only lived here for the last eight months. She didn’t recall his name or running into him.

But she did fill them in on the Sheriff. “Sheriff Jones is an honest man and does a pretty good job. But he doesn’t seem to handle a lot of details very well. You might have to push him a little.”

The Sheriff’s Office was close enough to the boarding house that the Cartwrights had a nice walk. Ben was satisfied that this entire crazy matter will get settled and they would be on their way home by afternoon.

Sheriff Jones looked up at the four strangers that entered his office. He greeted them, but didn’t get up from his desk where pancakes and bacon sat before him. His cloth napkin was tucked into his collar and hung down his front. He dealt with this morning’s business with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other.

Adam approached his desk. “Sheriff Jones? I’m Adam Cartwright and I’m here to clear up a matter that apparently has people a little confused.”

Sheriff Jones chewed while he spoke. “Adam Cartwright. I know that name. But fill me in a little. I hear a lot of names and I don’t remember why I know it.”

Adam reminded him of Jasper. “You sent a Jasper Kelsey to my ranch up North with the will of Ben Greer.”

Sheriff Jones moved forward a little and focused on Adam. He presented a question of curiosity to Adam. “You got a will, you say. What about some money? You get that or do I have to chase ole Jasper down?”

“I got the bank draft,” Adam assured him.

The Sheriff continued, “I remember now. I knew Ben for a few years. According to him, your mother was ashamed of your father for his gambling and drinking. Your mother was a stubborn woman and wouldn’t give you your father’s last name. So, you got hers. Now legally, you should be Adam Greer, although your parents weren’t married. Unfortunately, you’re illegitimate. But it doesn’t matter; you’re entitled to the money.”

“Sheriff, I am Adam Cartwright. My mother was Elizabeth Stoddard and, by no means, ashamed of my father. This is not my money,” Adam stressed to the Sheriff, who looked like he didn’t hear a word Adam was saying.

Ben tried to help. “Sheriff, I’m Ben Cartwright and I can vouch that this is Adam Cartwright, MY son. There’s been a big mistake and all we want to do is clear this whole matter up and make sure that the rightful owner gets this money.” Ben chuckled expecting the Sheriff to join him and realize this was just one big hilarious misunderstanding.

The Sheriff had a big glob of pancake in his cheek as he talked to Ben. “You think this is funny? I suppose you’re calling the law a liar? Now listen, here,” the Sheriff shook his fork right in Ben’s face, “I knew Ben Greer and he was an honest man. If he says his son is Adam Cartwright, then his son and heir to his estate is Adam Cartwright.”

Adam rolled his eyes upward. What a fiasco!!

Ben then heard Hoss call him in a whispered voice. “Pa! Come here,”

Ben and Adam both walked over to Hoss and the four Cartwrights stood in a circle. Hoss offered a suggestion. “Pa, Joe and I were talking and we think you should ask him about this woman. You know, Adam’s mother? If Adam can confront her, then surely she could tell the truth.”

“Good idea, Hoss.” Ben had let himself get so flustered that he didn’t think of the obvious. Ben came out of the huddle and walked to the Sheriff who scrapped the last of his syrup up with his piece of pancake.

“Uh, Sheriff, where can we find this woman, Mrs. Cartwright? The woman you claim is my son’s mother.” Those words almost stuck in Ben’s throat.

“You ain’t gonna find her. She’s dead,” the Sheriff said matter-of-factly.

“Dead?” Ben said.

“Yep, dead.” the Sheriff continued. “Her name was Prudence Cartwright and she died while eating dinner one night. She was eating some chicken and choked on a bone. Leastwise, that’s what Ben told me.”

Adam couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “She died on a chicken bone? Doesn’t that sound a little far-fetched?” Ben’s expression showed that he agreed with Adam.

“It can happen. People choke all the time.” The Sheriff stood his ground.

Adam came back at him. “Where did this conversation about Prudence occur?”

“Over at the Horseshoe saloon. Why?” quizzed the Sheriff who didn’t think that Adam’s question was that important.

“Figures,” Adam responded.

Ben got a little suspicious. “Sheriff! If you were friends with this Ben, then that means you met Prudence Cartwright. And, of course, attended her funeral?”

“Naw! Never met her. Ben talked about her, though. She was real if you are meaning she wasn‘t.” The Sheriff was beginning to think he didn’t like Ben Cartwright.

“So, if Ben Greer told you something, then you believed it?” Adam saw where his father was going with this.

“Why wouldn’t I?” The Sheriff got a little disgusted with Adam and his stubbornness, “I can’t figure you out. Someone gives you a hundred thousand dollars and all you do is complain.”

Adam responded, “But it’s not my money.”

The Sheriff asked, again, “What’s your name?”

Adam reluctantly answered this same question. “Adam Cartwright.”

The Sheriff fired back, “Then it’s your money.” He looked at Ben. “And you say you’re his father. As mule-headed as the both of you are, I almost believe you.”

“Yes, Sheriff, you can believe I am his father.” Ben tried to stay calm.

“Is he illegitimate?” the Sheriff popped out with one of his crazy questions.

Ben let out a big sigh. “No. His mother died in childbirth. Now, what difference does it make? ”

The Sheriff ignored Ben’s question. “You married her?”

“YES! He’s my son and I was married to his mother when he was born,” Ben said disgustedly

The Sheriff pointed to Hoss and Joe, “Well, who are those two?”

Ben answered, “That’s Joe Cartwright and Hoss Cartwright, my other two sons.”

“Hmm, they don’t look alike at all. They illegitimate?” the Sheriff questioned again.

Ben was now shouting. “NO!!! ALL THREE ARE MY LEGITIMATE SONS.” Most people would have described Ben as a man with the patience of Job. However, this morning, patience was not Ben’s virtue.

Adam interjected, “Pa, settle down. Why don’t we just leave?”

“Because I’m not going to let him speak unfavorably about your mothers.” Ben was committed now. “All three had different mothers. I was married to all three of their mothers when they were born.”

The Sheriff said, “No joking! So, Adam is legit, but these two aren’t. Hmm!”

Ben began to pound a little on the desk, “All of my sons are legitimate. After Adam’s mother died, I married Hoss’ mother; after she died, I married Joe’s mother.” Ben thought that settled that.

Sheriff said, “Sounds like you were married to an awful lot of women and kept yourself busy while birthing sons?”

Ben’s face was a little red and he looked like he wanted to lunge at the Sheriff, but Adam held him back with the help of Joe and Hoss.

Adam said, “Settle down, Pa. Maybe we should leave.”

“Yeah, Pa,” Hoss readily agreed smiling trying to lighten things up. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

“Hey! You all been drinking at the saloon and then come in here to cause trouble with your crazy stories? I can put you in jail for that!” the Sheriff said.

Ben answered, “Sheriff, my sons and I thought the place to find help was here in your office. That’s all we wanted…just a little help from the local law. Is that asking too much?”

The Sheriff was still curious about what he thought was a strange family. “I am trying to help you. I’m just trying to clarify things. I never met a man like you before. Now, were you married to all of these women at the same time?”

Adam rolled his eyes up one more time. What a mistake it was to come in here. “Sheriff, there is nothing wrong with my father’s marriages or how we were born. And it has nothing to do with us finding the rightful owner of this money.”

“It does if he insists he’s your father.” the Sheriff insisted. “Anyway, seems like if your name is Adam Cartwright and that’s the name on the will, then you found your rightful heir.”

Then Adam remembered and thought this would help. “I remember talking to Ben Greer last year and he said he did have a son, but that they weren’t on talking terms.”

The weary Sheriff said, “Mr. Cartwright or whatever your name is and thanks to your father here I’m not that sure. I hope you aren’t going to try and tell me that there’s two Adam Cartwrights?”

Adam answered, “No, there’s only one and that’s me. But he did tell me he had a son.”

Ben started to say something, but the Sheriff interrupted, “Don’t say nothing. I don’t want to know any more of your past than I already know. I normally lock men like you up.”

Adam then responded, “All right, all right. We’ll look ourselves. But if you get any information, will you please contact us? We’re staying at Hannah’s Boarding House.”

The Sheriff made a reasonable plea. “Once this gets straightened out, then will you all leave my quiet little town? Please!!”

Ben was settled down now, but responded with a sarcastic tone, “We’d love to.”

With that, the Cartwrights left the Sheriff’s Office and stopped on the sidewalk just outside.

“Pa,” Adam said, “I get the feeling that there never was a Prudence and that Ben Greer, for some reason, just started to call me his son.”

“I agree, Adam,” Ben answered, “He probably made up the illegitimate son story to avoid his real son getting his money. And you said you impressed him, so when it came time to write out some kind of a will, he remembered you and made up the story about Prudence.”

“Yeah, and whatever this Ben told the Sheriff, the Sheriff didn’t question. From our little experience in there, Pa, I don’t think this Sheriff is always the brightest star in the sky,” Hoss stated.

“Good observation, Hoss,” Ben answered his son.

“Now what are we going to do?” inquired Joe.

“How about we separate in twos and just mingle around town to see if anyone knew Ben Greer? We might have better luck in getting more information. I’m especially interested in this son of his,” Ben stated.

“Hoss and I can go over to the Horseshoe saloon and see if we can find out anything,” Joe offered.

“Sounds good, Joe. Adam and I will meet the two of you in about an hour there,” Ben said and then decided to add, “And if anyone starts any trouble, don’t get into a fight. Do you hear me?”

“Sure, Pa,” Hoss grinned. He felt he could probably keep that promise.

“What trouble could we get into, Pa?” offered Joe.

Ben said nothing and just gave his younger sons an adamant stare that said volumes to the two of them.

*****

Hoss and Joe stopped just inside the Horseshoe saloon looking around at the people sitting around the room. They could see two games of poker being played at two different tables. The only other table that was occupied had two grubby-looking men. Both men grinned at the Cartwright boys when they entered the saloon.

The bartender approached Joe and Hoss at the bar. He was a tough looking man with some scars on his face. Joe wondered if the scars were from fights in the bar. He had that kind of look about him.

“Howdy!!” the bartender greeted the Cartwrights, “what’s your pleasure?”

Hoss ordered for them both. “Beer.”

The bartender poured the beers and set them down in front of the boys. He then inquired as he usually did with strangers, “New in town?”

Joe answered, “Yeah, but we’re just here for today. We’ll head back North later.”

Hoss added, “We’re wondering if you might know someone we are hoping to talk to?”

“Maybe,” the bartender responded.

“A man named, Ben Greer, was known to come in here,” Hoss inquired.

“Yep, I knew ol’ Ben. Good man. Heavy drinker, but never caused trouble.”

Then Joe asked, “He’s supposed to have a son somewhere. You ever see him around?”

“Hmm. Nope! I heard Ben talk about different things, but I don’t remember anything about a son.”

The bartender then went into the back to retrieve some whiskey bottles. The two grubby men approached the bar near Hoss and Joe. They looked like they were right out of a mine. They were dirty and unkempt. One showed a gap in his grin from missing teeth.

The one with the missing teeth spoke first. “Hey! We heard about a son. An illegitimate son.” Both men giggled with some embarrassment. One hit the other on the head with his hat.

Hoss and Joe looked at them with amusement. “And why is that so funny?” Hoss questioned.

The man kept it up. “You know, illegitimate? You know what that means?” He could barely talk from his laughter. He partially hid his red face behind his hat.

“Yeah.” The other one chimed in as he giggled and partially hid behind his buddy. “That means (giggle) s…e…x…and not with your momma (giggle).” His buddy hit him three times with his hat while both continued in their embarrassed giggles. It was obvious that they had no experience in the subject at hand.

“Who are you?” Hoss asked lightly chuckling himself at the humorous two men who could be a comedy show themselves by their reaction to the word ‘sex.’

The toothless one spoke for the two of them. “I’m Clem and this is my brother, Harry. Now, we’ve known Ben Greer for a long time and we were surprised when we heard that man dressed in black with you was his illegitimate son.”

Joe spoke up. “Hi Harry, Clem, glad to meet you. I’m Joe Cartwright, this is my brother, Hoss, and we’re with our other brother, Adam, and our father, Ben. Can we buy you a beer?”

Harry still giggled. “Oh, is this Adam the illegitimate one?” Harry elbowed Clem, who elbowed Harry and they had a small elbow-poking match between the two of them as they giggled, once again with red faces at the thought of sex.

“Now, Clem, how do you know Ben Greer?” Hoss continued the questioning while Joe paid for their beers.

Clem answered, “We did some work for him on his ranch. We liked him. Treated us nice and all.”

Joe took a sip of his beer and then asked, “He ever mention a son other than this illegitimate son?”

Clem again responded while Harry nodded his head in the positive. “Once, if I remember right, he said he had a son. Didn’t say anything then about an illegitimate one. But we got the feeling that this son didn’t live around here.”

Hoss had a question. “So, you’re telling us that he does have a son somewhere. Do you know his name or maybe where we can find him?”

Harry finally talked. “Naw, don’t know where he lives. But seems like his first name is…uh…(scratches his head)…Bill?…Jerry?…no…”

Clem said, “It was John…yeah, it was John.”

Harry asked his brother, “You sure, Clem, that it was John?”

Clem answered, “Yeah, I’m sure. It was from the good book. Remember, I read it to you once?”

Hoss echoed, “John. His name then is John Greer.”

For the first time, Clem wasn’t giggling when he spoke. “Yeah, John. I’m sure of it. But we never heard Ben talk about an illegitimate son until recently. We just heard of it since Ben died.”

That caught Hoss’s and Joe’s attention. Hoss asked, “So, this whole thing about an illegitimate son is very likely untrue. We know it’s not our brother, Adam.”

Clem answered, “We heard that Ben did name an Adam Cartwright has his illegitimate son. It’s in his will or something.”

Joe looked at Hoss. “Pa will be happy to hear about John.” Hoss agreed with Joe.

Harry started to giggle again and it caused Clem to do the same.

Hoss inquired, “Now what’s so funny?”

Harry answered, “Every time we think about (giggle) s…e…x…it makes us laugh.”

“Yeah, especially naughty s…e…x…” Clem blushed.

Joe got a little tired of the subject. “Don’t you two ever think or talk about anything else?”

Harry responded, “Why should we? (giggle) After working all day, besides drinking, what else is there to talk about?”

Joe and Hoss didn’t try to answer that question. They didn’t want to encourage Harry or Clem anymore than these two guys encouraged themselves. Without saying anymore, Clem and Harry finished their beers and left the saloon.

Once Harry and Clem were out the door, Hoss and Joe looked at each other and had a good laugh. They bought another round of beer and sat down at a table near the door to wait for their father and Adam.

The rest of the hour passed by quickly and Ben and Adam walked in. They sat down and ordered a beer for themselves.

“Well, any luck in here?” Ben inquired.

“We might have learned something,” Hoss responded. “The bartender said he knew Ben Greer, but never heard of a son. Then these two nice old geezers were here and said that they worked for Ben Greer once and he mentioned a son named John. Don’t know where he lives now. And that this illegitimate son had never been mentioned until Ben died.”

Ben clarified, “So, we now have a name.”

Hoss assured him, “Yeah, Pa. They seemed to be pretty sure about the name.”

The Cartwrights were letting this information sink in when a girl came into the bar with a small baby in her arms. She had a sweet, young face and wore her blond hair in two ponytails on each side of her head, which made her look younger. She had an angry look on her face as she looked around quickly and then focused in on Adam. Her quick steps up to Adam were almost an angry stomp.

“THERE YOU ARE…YOU…YOU…! she shouted causing the card players to stop and look over at the Cartwrights.

Adam, who had been slouched in his chair with his legs crossed, immediately sat up and put both feet on the floor. “Miss, do you know me?” Adam wondered.

The girl was still angry. “DON’T GO ACTING LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW WHO I AM. YOU SURE DIDN’T MIND GETTING FAMILIAR WITH ME TO GET THIS BABY BORN.”

A shocked Ben immediately defended his son. “Now, young lady, let’s quiet down a little. You’ve mistaken my son, Adam, for someone else.” Ben pulled out a chair for the young girl, who refused to sit down.

“I didn’t mistake him for someone else.” Her voice was quieter, but the look she gave Adam was just as angry. “You’re Adam Cartwright. The man with the sweet talk about how pretty I am. The promise to take care of me if something happened that night. You sure know how to get something from a woman when you…you…lust for her.” She said ‘lust’ in a theatrical voice.

Adam joined his father in shock. “Young lady, I don’t know who you are or why you think it was me?”

The girl continued, “Like father, like son. You’re Ben Greer’s illegitimate son and now you have your own illegitimate son.” She plopped the baby into Adam’s arms. The baby, who had blue eyes and blond hair, cooed and gurgled at Adam.

Adam sat there in horror at what he just heard and asked in surprise, “Who are you?”

Joe and Hoss sat with amazed looks frozen on their faces. They knew Adam wasn’t this baby’s father, but they were interested as to where all this was going to go.

The girl answered in a dramatic, almost dramatic voice, “Oh, forgot my name already? I guess you just bed ‘em and leave ‘em without knowing the results of a one-night affair? In-the-heat-of-passion that night, you called my name.”

Joe giggled out loud. Ben gave him a stern look, but Joe couldn’t stop. This was just too absurd for him.

The girl looked at Joe with an angry look and then back to Adam. “You don’t remember a Josie? The mother of YOUR child?”

Adam looked at the baby who grinned at Adam and reached up and touched his chin. Adam then responded, “Josie, please sit down so we can talk.” Josie sat down and Adam continued, “You know this baby is not mine and I’m sorry someone got you in this way. It sounds like someone used my name and maybe looks like me, but we both know that I did not father this child.”

It was almost like the baby was in on the conspiracy as he wiggled in Adam’s arms and gave Adam a baby giggle. It was obvious to everyone that the baby liked Adam. Adam smiled at the baby and then handed him back to Josie as quick as he could.

Ben asked, “Josie, how old are you?”

Josie answered trying to sound like she was about to cry. “I’m seventeen. Old enough to get married and make my baby legitimate.”

Ben’s eyebrows wrinkled. He didn’t believe her. “Josie. You know you are not seventeen years old. But I’m bothered very much that you’re a mother at such a young age. Now, how old are you?”

Josie sniffled and her voice was so low that the men had a hard time hearing her. “I’m fourteen.”

Ben answered. “Fourteen!!”

Josie nodded in the affirmative.

Adam let out a big sigh. Joe and Hoss had more serious looks on their faces. None of the Cartwright men liked hearing that such a young girl would have a baby outside of marriage. That someone would do this to her and just leave her alone to fend for herself and a child who deserved much more than what he was getting.

Ben offered, “Josie, my son did not father that child and you know it. But we’ll try to help you as much as we can before we leave town. Now, tell the truth.”

Josie sat quiet and thought about what Ben offered, “You’ll give me money? I’ll need lots of money, you know. A baby takes a lot to take care of. However, I would prefer your son marry me and give my baby a proper father.”

Adam interjected, “Josie, we’ll help you in any way we can, but there will be no marriage.”

Ben backed his son up. “I have to agree with Adam. Before we leave town, we’ll make sure we help you as far as a place to stay and some money.”

Josie responded with a little sarcastic in her voice, “Mr. Cartwright, I guess I’ll never understand you men. All men seem to want to do is take advantage of a girl like me, father her child, and then just offer money to make everything all right.”

Josie saw Ben start to say something when she continued, “But, I accept your kind offer. I’m not a girl that would try to ruin a man’s life and quibble over money. How much are you gonna give me?”

Ben said, “Oh, well…how much were you expecting?”

Josie thought. “Like I said children can be such an expense, and then there’s…how about twenty-five thousand dollars?”

Ben sat up quickly, “What?” Adam echoed the same word. Hoss and Joe didn’t say a word. They weren’t involved in this.

Ben added, “Josie, now how do you figure it takes that much for the baby?”

Josie responded in surprise, “Oh…uh…I meant twenty-five hundred dollars.”

Ben’s eyes were still huge with surprise. “Josie…”

Josie interrupted, “I’ll take a hundred dollars.”

Adam had a better solution. “Why don’t we make sure you have a decent place to stay and then decide how much you will need until you can find a job? We may even help you find a job.”

Josie responded, “A job? I don’t want a job. Then someone would have to take care of my baby while I work.” That sounded good, she thought.

Adam turned to Ben. “Pa, I think asking for Hannah’s help on this would be a good idea, don’t you?”

Ben nodded. “Yes, I do. She would probably let Josie and the baby stay at her place to help Josie out. We’ll talk to her.”

Josie jumped in. “Oh Mr. Cartwright. I couldn’t do that. Hannah has a nice business and me and my baby would just interfere. You just give me a fair amount of money and I’ll be able to take care of us just fine. Let’s say, fifty bucks.”

Ben was just about to address this statement when the bartender noticed them talking to Josie and made a direct path to their table.

The bartender shouted, “Josie!! Now you know you’re too young to be in this saloon. So take your little brother and leave or I’ll get the Sheriff.”

Josie’s eyes grew big as she never thought he would be there today. She thought Tuesday was a day off for him.

All the Cartwrights appeared speechless, but Ben spoke up, “Her little brother?”

Now Joe and Hoss were back to laughing at the situation. Adam had a pleasant look on his face. He was pleased that the only people that were being taken advantage of were him and his family. Not a young girl and a small baby.

Ben looked at Josie/ “What do you say for yourself, young lady.”

Josie really looked disappointed. Now she’ll never get that money to go to San Francisco. “I’m sorry, Mr. Cartwright. It’s just…when I heard that your son was getting so much money, I just knew giving me a little of it wouldn’t hurt.”

Ben couldn’t help but laugh at Josie. “You’re very young, but very clever. What’s your little brother’s name, Josie?”

“It’s Jimmy. Are you going to tell my parents?” Josie worried.

“Well, Josie, that’s hard to say. We aren’t interested in getting you into trouble, but if you keep this up, then one day you are going to meet the wrong person,” Ben told her.

“I won’t do it again. I promise,” Josie pleaded.

The bartender stood there and stared at Josie waiting for her to leave.

Ben noticed. “Don’t worry about her. We were just leaving and we’ll be more than happy to escort Josie and Jimmy home.”

As they all walked out of the saloon and down the street towards Hannah’s and Josie’s house, Josie looked at Adam. “You sure are a handsome man. You know, if I brushed my hair down, I bet you’d think I was real pretty.”

Adam smiled and put his hand on her shoulder. “Josie, you are very pretty and smart. Not a lot of women would think up such a story and be able to keep it going. You had me fooled for a while.”

“Yeah, you think I was good? Well, I planned to go to San Francisco someday and be an actress. I practice all the time, you know,” Josie offered.

Ben couldn’t help but respond, “Yes, Josie, we’ve noticed how good you are.”

Before Josie left the Cartwrights, she thanked them for their kindness to her and Jimmy. “Boy, Adam, you must feel rich with all that money.”

Adam smiled and told her what she wanted to hear. “You bet it feels good.”

*****

It was after dinner when a knock was heard at the front door. Hannah responded and greeted a woman. She was obviously a saloon girl as she was still in her red dress with black lace trim. She asked to speak to Ben and Adam Cartwright. Hannah asked her to wait on the front porch.

“Ben,” Hannah said, “There’s a woman named Missy, at the front door. She’s from the Horseshoe saloon and wants to talk to you and Adam.”

Ben and Adam met Missy on the front porch. “I heard about what happened with Josie at the Horseshoe today. I’m sorry that had to happen to you,” Missy said.

Ben smiled and asked, “Are you a part of her family or know of them?”

“No, Mr. Cartwright, we’re not related at all. I know Josie and she’s done this kind of thing before. She’s really a sweet girl and comes from a poor, but good family. She thinks that life is always much better in bigger cities, like San Francisco.”

Ben reacted, “Hmm! She needs to realize that big cities have big problems and home is always a better place to be.”

Missy laughed, “You don’t have to tell me. But when you’re fourteen, every place else is always better than home. I heard that you are looking for the son of Ben Greer.”

Adam responded, “Yes, we’ve very interested.”

“Do you know his son?” Ben asked.

“Yes, I do know him and I knew his father very well. Ben used to come into the Horseshoe almost every evening after his wife died a few years ago. He was always good to me and stood up for me when someone would get a little out of hand. We would talk and talk into the wee hours of the morning. I found him to be very smart and had a lot of ambition for his only son, John.”

“Oh! You’re the first one to talk about an only son and we’re glad to hear it,” Ben exclaimed.

“Ben wanted John to go to college back East and really do something with his life. Apparently, that was his dream since the first day his son was born. But John, on the other hand, just wanted to be a good rancher and raise a family. To him, just doing what you want and doing it as good as you can was being successful. Well, according to Ben, one thing after another happened and they argued to the point where father and son stopped speaking to each other.”

“So, John left to pursue his own dream.” Adam commented.

“Yes,” Missy agreed and went on, “John has a nice little ranch over in Jacks Valley. I went to see him over the years a couple of times in hopes that father and son would come together again. I think there was some progress with John, but unfortunately, Ben died before they got together again. I don’t know what made Ben do it, but I’m aware that he met Adam last year. I heard about the written will and that it named your son, Adam, as his illegitimate son. When he wrote the note, he probably did want Adam to have his money. But I know in the past few weeks he would have felt different and would have named John.”

Ben assured her, “I think that makes a lot of sense, Missy.”

“Hmm, my father and I don’t think it’s right that it came to me. I’m grateful to Ben that he thought so highly of me, but it’s only right that John gets this money,” Adam added.

Missy smiled at Adam. “You’re a very honorable family. Many would just keep the money and not say a thing. I do know that John could use it and I think he would take it. Not for himself, of course, but he’s got a wife and three little kids.”

Ben was very pleased with Missy coming forward. “Missy, we thank you very much for your help on this. I’m still a little bothered, though, by Josie. I’m a little worried about her trying this again.”

Missy reassured him, “Don’t worry about Josie, Ben. I’ll keep an eye on her. She’s got good parents who love her very much. She’ll be just fine.”

Missy gave the Cartwrights an exact location for John Greer, so they could drop by his ranch on their way home. Ben and Adam thanked her for her help and were pleased that they would be leaving early in the morning and finally bring this entire mixed up incident to a close.

Adam was tired and the thought about falling into a comfortable bed was very inviting. He said good night and headed upstairs. When he stepped inside his room, he found he wasn’t alone. He had two brothers who weren’t as tired as he apparently was.

Joe was sitting in a wooden chair with no arms on it and his knees bent with his bare feet resting on another chair facing the chair he was sitting in. He had a small blanket over his front and pulled up to his neck. He had some kind of cloth covering his head as if it were a bonnet. Hoss stood behind the chair with a scarf-type cloth tied on his head. Hoss stood with one of his hips pushed outward and his hand resting on it.

Adam leaned back against the door of his room, crossed his arms over his chest, cocked his head over to one side, and waited to see what his brothers had in store for him.

Hoss threw his voice into a fake female tone, “Kind sir, would you marry me and make my poor illegitimate child honorable by having a legitimate father.”

Adam smirked and answered, “I’m sorry my lady, but if you allowed yourself to get in that way, then I’m afraid I shall not be your knight in shining armor.”

Hoss answered Adam, “But kind sir. This child IS yours.”

Joe tried to cry like a baby, but had difficulty as his laughter kept interfering.

Adam didn’t give in. “I would never father a child that looked like him.”

Hoss lost it and began to laugh hard. He felt as silly as he felt he looked, but he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to tease Adam.

Adam then came back at them. “What would my life be like if I didn’t have two silly brothers? Probably, very boring. Now get out of my room so I can go to bed.”

*****

Sheriff Jones didn’t see the Cartwrights coming down the street on their horses until he was almost right on them.

Ben greeted him, “Good morning, Sheriff. We were able to find out who Ben’s son is and where he is at.”

The Sheriff wasn’t curious. “Really! So Ben did have a son. Well, have a good trip. Don’t want to keep you.” What a strange family. He just wanted to get rid of them.

Ben tipped his hat to the Sheriff and the Cartwrights moved onward.

The Sheriff watched them ride away from him. When they were out of ear-shot, he commented to himself, “Sure glad to see them go. That’s a family that gets out of the bed on the wrong side every morning.”

*****

The Cartwrights found John Greer just where Missy said he would be. Ben and Adam told him what Missy told them. John was, in deed, glad to get the money. His family could use it. He was sorry he didn’t get to talk to his father before he died, but promised Ben that he and his family would go visit the grave. Ben gave John a note that Missy said she found in one of Ben’s pockets. It was a note he was trying to write to John that told his son that he did really love him. The Cartwrights were happy that this misunderstanding was over and it had a happy ending.

***The End***

 

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