Word Count: 5700
The Cartwrights had sat down to supper even though Adam wasn’t home yet. The sixteen-year-old had spent the week breaking horses and then helping to deliver them to the Army. Ben knew his son would be home sometime this evening.
“How come we ain’t waitin’ on Adam?” asked Little Joe.
“Because Hop Sing doesn’t want supper to get cold,” answered Marie.
“He shore is missin’ a great meal,” said Hoss as he cut up a large slice of the pork roast on his plate.
The door opened and Adam walked in, dust covering his clothes and boots. He hung up his hat and walked towards the staircase.
“Sit down and eat, son, before you fall down,” said Ben.
“I’d like to wash up first.”
“Non, your père is right. Come and eat. Then you may wash up,” said Marie.
Going to his chair, Adam heavily plopped himself down. Marie went to the kitchen and came back with a plate for her step-son. As he reached for the mashed potatoes, Ben cut off a slab of the pork roast and put it on Adam’s plate. Hoss poured his older brother a glass of water. Little Joe didn’t think it was fair that he had to be clean before supper but Adam was allowed to sit at the table covered in dirt.
“How did the delivery of those horses go?” asked Ben.
“Just fine, Pa. We had no problems.” Suddenly remembering the bank draft in his boot, he pushed back from the table and bent over to retrieve it.
Curious, Little Joe bent sideways and peeked under the table. Seeing Adam pull the bank draft out of his boot, Little Joe now knew where his brother hid things. The boy thought he could hide stuff he didn’t want anyone else to see in his brother’s boots from now on.
Sitting back up, Adam handed the draft to his father. Ben placed it in his shirt pocket for now. He’d have to wait until Monday to take the draft to the bank for deposit. With a harrumph, he got Little Joe’s attention and the boy popped back up, head above the table.
“Didja have fun with the horsies?” Little Joe asked.
“Sure did, Buddy,” said Adam with an indulgent smile.
“When kin I go on a trip like that, Pa?” asked Hoss.
“When you’re much older,” replied Ben.
“How much older?” asked Hoss. Since he was big for his age, he hoped that he would be allowed to take that kind of trip soon.
“I wants ta ride buckin’ horsies,” said Little Joe with excitement. “I won’t never get tossed off neither.”
“It’ll be a long while before you’re doing that, young man,” said Ben to his youngest.
“In two or three years?” asked Little Joe with green eyes sparkling. That was a long time in his mind.
“Oh no, mon fils,” replied Marie. “You are limited to your pony until your père and I decide otherwise.”
“But, Mama…” he started to whine.
“Non. Hoss is not allowed to ride the broncos yet and he’s ten.”
“So how old has I gots ta be, then?”
Ben was going to answer, but a gesture from Marie caught his eye. Looking over to Adam, he saw that his oldest had fallen asleep, a fork-full of mashed potatoes just above his plate. All Ben could do was smile warmly. The boy must be completely exhausted. Good thing he hadn’t gotten in the bath, thought Ben.
Seeing his parents looking at Adam, Little Joe looked hard across the table and then rubbed his eyes. Nope, Adam was definitely sleeping. That just wasn’t fair. Not only did he have to be clean, he wasn’t allowed to sleep at the table.
“He must be so tired from all of the work this week. You shouldn’t work him so hard, mon chere.”
“Adam works hard by choice, darling.”
“I’ve just never seen him like this, though. A mother worries about her children growing up too fast.”
“Good thing he fell asleep here instead of on his horse,” said Hoss.
Ben laughed at that.
“What’s so funny?” asked Hoss.
“There was one time, when Adam was five, he fell asleep almost like this. The wagon train had stopped at a small lake for a couple of days to rest and water the stock. Adam and some of the other boys spent the first day chasing locusts in the tall grass. Everyone was amused by their antics until the boys started putting locusts down the backs of girls’ dresses. We got our sons all sorted out and back to their mothers. During supper, Adam fell asleep with a spoonful of stew halfway to his mouth. Inger and I got him to bed, where he slept soundly through the second day. When he woke up, we were on the move again.”
Marie smiled fondly, imagining Adam as a boy about Joseph’s age, carefree and having fun.
“Adam played wif bugs?” Little Joe asked in awe. Hoss was usually the one who helped him collect crickets and lightning bugs.
“My Ma took really good care of Adam, huh?” asked Hoss.
Ben looked across the table and saw tears in Marie’s eyes. “Yes, son, your Ma did and now Mama takes good care of Adam.” The thank you in Marie’s eyes nearly melted Ben. He knew Hoss hadn’t meant to be insensitive. All the boy knew about his mother came from his father or Adam. Plus, after Ben married Marie, Adam constantly compared her mothering skills to Inger’s.
Standing, Ben said “I’d better get this sleeping beauty to bed.” Marie and Hoss giggled. Little Joe looked at Adam in confusion.
Gently, Ben removed the fork from his son’s hand and sat it on the plate.
“Do you need help getting him into a nightshirt?” asked Marie.
“No, I’m just going to take his boots off. He can sleep dressed.”
“But what about the dirt?” she asked.
“It’ll wash out of the sheets.”
Little Joe again thought how unfair things were. He was never allowed to go to bed dirty and he had to wear a nightshirt. Maybe he could go to bed dirty and sleep in his clothes when he got older.
Ben had picked Adam up and was heading for the stairs. Adam’s head hung back and his arms and legs hung limply. Even though muscular, Adam’s frame hadn’t filled out yet and he was gangly. Little Joe watched their progress carefully. Adam must be in a deep sleep, the boy thought.
Coming back downstairs, Ben brushed the dust from his clothes. He went back to the table to finish supper. “You boys be quiet this evening so Adam doesn’t wake up,” said Ben gesturing to Hoss and Little Joe with his fork. “Especially when you go upstairs for bed.”
“Yes, Sir,” they both replied.
When they went up for bed, Hoss and Little Joe decided to check in on Adam. Surely Pa didn’t put Adam in bed fully dressed. Hoss held the lamp while they peeked in the room. Adam was lying on his back, the covers pulled up to his chest. His arms were above the quilts and his hands were one on top of the other on his stomach. His shirt was still on, because the tan sleeves covered his arms. Hoss pulled back the covers at the foot of the bed, exposing one leg of Adam’s jeans. As Hoss put the covers back over Adam’s leg, he and Little Joe looked at each other in surprise. Pa had put their brother to bed fully dressed. Adam’s boots were on the floor at the foot of the bed. Quietly, the two boys left Adam’s room and headed for their own rooms. They certainly didn’t want to get caught disturbing their older brother.
In the morning, Little Joe got up, dressed, and headed for the stairs. On an impulse, he decided to peek into Adam’s room. The boy was shocked to see Adam still in bed. What was more shocking to Little Joe was that Adam hadn’t moved since he and Hoss had checked last night.
Now scared, the four-year old went to his parents’ room in the hopes of finding his mother or father. Marie was gathering up clothes that needed to be laundered. She glanced up to see her youngest looking frightened.
“What’s wrong, mon petit?”
”Is Adam dead?”
“Why would you ask that?”
“He don’t look like he’s breathin’.”
“Hush. Adam is just sleeping. It’s alright.”
“But it’s mornin’. Everyone’s woked.”
“Your frère is just trés tired from all of the work, mon fils. He’ll wake up when he’s not tired anymore.”
“Probably in a couple of hours. Until then, play quietly.”
“But what if he’s really dead?”
Marie picked up her hand-mirror and took Little Joe by the hand. They quietly went into Adam’s room, where she held the mirror’s surface below Adam’s nose. Little Joe saw the mirror fog up. Marie then took Little Joe back to her room. “You see the fog on the mirror, mon petit?” Little Joe just nodded his head. “That’s from Adam’s breath. He’s just sleeping.” She put the mirror back on her dressing table. Shooing Little Joe out of the room with a smile, she said, “You’d better go downstairs and eat some breakfast.”
Arriving downstairs, Little Joe wasn’t surprised to be eating alone. Papa was probably working and Hoss was doing chores. He probably had to do Adam’s too. The boy piled eggs and bacon his plate as Hop Sing came out of the kitchen with a glass of milk.
As Little Joe ate, Hoss came in the house. He hung up his hat and came over to the table. Picking up a piece of bacon, he said, “Pa says I can play the rest of the day. You wanna go fishin’?”
Little Joe looked up at his older brother and said, with complete seriousness, “I think Adam’s under a spell. That’s why he ain’t woked.”
“You heard Papa call him sleepin’ beauty. A witch musta used a spell on him ta make him sleep.”
“He’s jes’ sleepin’. You saw how tired he was last night.”
“Uh-uh. I saw Adam put his finger in his boot. He fell asleep while eatin’.”
“Adam had the bank draft in his boot fer safe keepin’. That was all that was in there.”
“The witch musta put the spell on that, then.”
“But Pa touched that bank draft, too. He’s out in the barn right now workin’.”
“Then it musta been somethin’ else in his boot. When he touched it, it poked his finger and he fell asleep.”
“You’re not makin’ sense, Shortshanks.”
Marie came downstairs and interrupted the conversation. “Hoss, you’ve already had breakfast. Let your frère eat. If there is anything left, you may have it.”
“Yes, Ma’am” answered Hoss.
Their mother went over to the sideboard and picked up her sun hat. Tying the ribbon under her chin, she said “I’ll be in my flower garden. You boys be quiet if you stay inside.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” they replied in unison.
After Marie went outside, Little Joe and Hoss resumed their conversation. “I can prove Adam’s under a spell,” announced Little Joe.
“Wait here.” Little Joe got off of his chair and went into the kitchen. Hop Sing was preparing vegetables to make stew for lunch. Standing on tippy-toes, Little Joe tried to see what was being cut up on the work table.
“What boy want?” Hop Sing asked.
“Can I have a pea?”
“Peas not cooked yet. You wait until runch.”
“No, I need one that’s not cooked.”
“What boy need raw pea for?”
Trying to think fast, Little Joe replied “Hoss an’ me are playin’ marbles and we’s one short.” Fixing the cook with his green eyes, Little Joe raised his eyebrows in a pleading manner.
Unable to resist, Hop Sing went to the sack that held the peas. Pulling out a pod, he shelled the peas and handed them to Little Joe. “I only need one,” the boy said.
“Take all. You might need. Now, outta kitchen.”
Returning to the big room with his prize, Little Joe waved for Hoss to follow him up the stairs. The boys crept into Adam’s room. Whispering, Little Joe said “We gots ta put the peas under Adam. If he ain’t under a spell, he’ll wake up.”
Little Joe’s little hand slid under Adam’s back with the peas. Adam didn’t even stir. Sliding his hand back, Little Joe and Hoss waited. Nothing happened.
“Now what?” whispered Hoss.
“He shoulda woke up. That witch musta used a strong spell.”
Leaving the room, the pair headed down the stairs. Marie walked in with some fresh-cut flowers for the table. “What were you boys doing upstairs?”
“Nothin’,” said Little Joe.
She fixed the two with a look and said “You two should play outside.” Marie then took the flowers into the kitchen to put them in a vase.
Going outside, Little Joe and Hoss stood on the front porch, wondering how to break the spell Adam was under. “Maybe we should make him look like a princess in a story.”
“But Adam’s a boy,” said Hoss.
“Yeah, but in the stories, the witch always puts a princess to sleep. Maybe the witch couldn’t see too good.”
“Hmph,” was Hoss’ only answer.
“Dontcha see?” asked Little Joe. “The princess can’t sleep when a pea is under her back. Adam didn’t wake up and we used three of ‘em.”
“But in the story, the pea goes between two mattresses. You jes’ put it under his back.”
“He didn’t wake up, Hoss.”
“That just proves he ain’t a princess.”
“It means that he’s under a real strong spell. What do the princesses in the stories have?”
“Long hair?” asked Hoss, trying to be helpful.
“No. Flowers,” replied Little Joe. “We gots ta put some flowers on him.”
“The smell of the flowers will wake him up.”
“I don’t think that’s the way the stories go,” advised Hoss.
“It gots ta work,” said Little Joe. He then led the way into Marie’s flower garden. “Get some of those daisies, Hoss,” the younger boy said. Hoss pulled up a big clump, roots and all.
“What’re we gonna do with these?” he asked.
“Make a crown.”
“And then what?”
While Hoss was standing there with a clump of daisies in hand, Ben approached the house. “What are you boys doing in your mother’s flower garden?”
“Pickin’ some flowers for Mama,” replied Little Joe.
Ben was surprised to see a whole clump of daisies in Hoss’ hand, but he didn’t want to fuss too much at the boys. After all, they were trying to do something nice for their mother.
“Can you cut us some roses, Papa?” asked Little Joe.
“I don’t know, boys,” answered Ben. “Your mother prizes this rose bush.”
“That means she’ll really like it when he gives her some flowers from it,” said Little Joe.
“No, boys. The daisies should be enough.” Ben could always order more daisy seed. Rose bushes were harder to come by. He then headed for the house. “You boys coming?”
“In a minute,” said Little Joe. “You gots your knife?” he asked his older brother.
“Cut off one a those branches,” Little Joe instructed, pointing to the rose bush.
“You heard what Pa said,” answered Hoss.
“It’s just one branch. Mama won’t know.”
Hoss handed the daisies to Little Joe and pulled out his pocket knife. He reached for a branch and then pulled his hand back. “Those thorns hurt.”
“Then scrape ‘em off,” advised Little Joe.
Running the knife blade against the cane, Hoss got the thorns off. He then began to saw through the cane. Finally slicing through the stem, Hoss pulled the cutting to himself. This particular cane had half a dozen roses blooming on it.
“Now what?” Hoss asked.
Little Joe led the way to the door and then gestured for Hoss to be quiet. They opened and shut the door quietly, tip-toed over to the stairs, and went up. Going into Hoss’ room, the two sat on the floor and pulled the daisy stems from the clump. Little Joe’s nimble fingers began to weave the stems into a circlet. Finishing, the boy held it up for Hoss’ approval.
“Let’s go put it on Adam” suggested Little Joe.
Coming out of Hoss’ room, the boys ran into their father. Hoss put the roses behind his back. “What are you two doing up here?” His eye was then caught by the circlet of daisies. “Is that for Mama?”
Hoss looked startled while Little Joe’s mind leapt into action. “Yup. We’s gonna s’prise her. You won’t tell, huh?” The boy fixed his father with a puppy look. Unable to resist, Ben smiled and put a finger to his lips. With that, he went into his own room.
Deciding to act fast, Little Joe and Hoss went into Adam’s room. Hoss placed the circlet of daisies on Adam’s head and then slid the roses under Adam’s hands. The two boys took a step back to admire their handiwork. A giggle started to escape Little Joe, so Hoss clamped a hand over his little brother’s mouth and hauled him downstairs.
Reaching the first floor, they were surprised to see Hop Sing setting the table for lunch. “How marble game go?” he asked, fixing Little Joe with a look.
“Good,” answered the boy. “I won.”
Hop Sing shot Little Joe a skeptical look, finished the place settings, and then went back to the kitchen. Hoss noticed that there wasn’t a setting for Adam. He mentioned that to Little Joe.
“Hop Sing must know about the spell.”
“Adam ain’t got a plate.”
Marie came out of the kitchen with a tureen full of stew. “You boys go wash up. Lunch is ready.”
The two quickly washed up and returned to the table to join their parents. “Do you think we should wake Adam, mon chere?”
“No. Let him sleep. He’s earned it. Besides, I once slept for two days after returning from a sea voyage to Europe with Captain Stoddard.”
“Two whole days?” Little Joe asked in awe.
“That’s right. The only reason I know that is because I missed a meeting with Adam’s mother. She took her time in forgiving me.”
“How could she have stayed mad at you, mon chere?” Marie asked teasingly. “I’m sure you charmed your way back into her good graces.”
“Took more than charm” replied Ben, blushing at the memory. “I took her on a picnic. Liz fell asleep after we ate. She looked so beautiful lying under that elm tree. I couldn’t help myself and I kissed her. She woke with a start and nearly punched me in the eye.” Both Ben and Marie laughed. “All was forgiven when I gave her that music box and proposed.”
Marie cherished the few memories Ben shared of his youth. She felt that hearing of his relationship with Elizabeth would help her to better understand Adam. Plus, she liked to imagine her husband as a dashing young sailor on the high seas.
Little Joe quickly realized that the only way to wake Adam would be with a kiss. But who could they find to do the job?
When they finished lunch, Marie told the boys to go outside and play. She hoped that Hoss would tire Little Joe out so he would take a nap.
Out in the yard, Little Joe told Hoss, “We gots ta find a girl to kiss Adam. Then he’ll wake up.”
“Where are we gonna find a girl?” asked Hoss, wrinkling up his nose.
“I dunno. Ain’t there a girl in school who’d do it?”
“How would we get to town? Pa ain’t gonna let us go on our own.”
With a snap of his fingers, Little Joe had the solution. “A frog!”
“Yeah. If the frog kisses Adam, he’ll wake up.”
“But in the stories, a girl kisses a frog and it turns into a prince. ’Sides, how can a frog kiss Adam?”
“Let’s go catch one an’ I’ll show ya.”
The boys headed for a nearby pond. They each grabbed a frog, just in case. On their way back, they heard their mother scream “BEN!!!!!!!!!”
Peeking around the corner of the house, they saw Mama standing in her flower garden in front of her rose. Ben raced from the barn, fearing the worst. Marie only called him Ben when she was frightened or extremely angry. He hoped it was just that rat snake again.
Reaching the flower garden, Marie turned to him and pointed at her rose bush. “How did this happen?!?”
“The boys wanted to cut a flower for you, but I told them not to.”
“Didn’t you tell them to stay out of the flowers?!?”
“I told them to leave the rose bush alone. They had already pulled up a clump of daisies.” Ben immediately realized he’d said the wrong thing as his wife’s face turned a deeper red.
“This rose bush came all the way from New Orleans. Where will I get another if this dies?”
“San Francisco?” Ben asked, trying to be helpful.
Seeing that Marie’s temper was about to get out of hand, he told her, “Keep your voice down. Adam’s still asleep.”
Hoss and Little Joe saw Mama take a deep breath. Then they heard her begin to count in French. Little Joe knew she must really be mad because Mama usually only did that when he did something really bad. Deciding to sneak inside with their frogs, the boys quickly went around to the front door and let themselves in.
Creeping upstairs, they went in Adam’s room. Adam was still laying there. With a nod at Hoss, the larger boy touched his frog’s mouth to Adam’s cheek. Nothing happened. Hoss did it again. Adam still slept. “Hold on,” said Little Joe as he put his frog in his pocket.
Little Joe went to his parents’ room and took the hand-mirror off of his mother’s dressing table. Re-entering Adam’s room, Little Joe gave the hand-mirror to Hoss and whispered for him to hold it under Adam’s nose. Hoss did as told and showed the fog on the mirror’s surface to his little brother.
At a nod from Little Joe, Hoss touched the frog to Adam’s cheek again. Nothing happened. Little Joe pulled his frog out of his pocket. He touched his frog’s mouth to Adam’s cheek, but nothing happened.
“These frogs ain’t workin’,” whispered Hoss. “Now what?”
“I dunno. That witch made a strong spell.”
They were so engrossed with touching the frogs to Adam’s cheek that they didn’t hear their mother come upstairs. She peeked in her oldest son’s room since Ben was worried that her tirade may have awakened the boy. “What are you doing, mes fils?”
Little Joe and Hoss practically jumped out of their boots. Hoss turned scarlet while Little Joe put his frog behind his back. Marie was shocked at Adam’s appearance—a circlet of flowers on his head and roses under his hands. She might have laughed if it wasn’t for her sons’ disobedience. Those two had butchered her rose bush and were not leaving Adam alone.
Marie quietly entered Adam’s room and steered the two younger boys by the shoulders out into the hall and then into her room. Sitting them on the bed, she asked “What are you doing with those frogs in the house?” Before they could answer, she asked, “What are you doing to your frère?”
Little Joe and Hoss looked at each other helplessly. “I’m waiting for an explanation,” she said.
The words came tumbling out of Little Joe’s mouth. “A witch gave Adam a sleepin’ spell. The spell started when he put his hand in his boot last night. Hoss an’ me thought it was that bank paper, but the spell didn’t do nothin’ to Papa. We puts peas under him to wake him up but it didn’t work. Then we made him look like a princess in the stories, but he’s still sleepin’. That’s why we’s usin’ frogs.”
“And what do frogs have to do with sleeping?” she asked.
“Nothin’. But if a girl kisses a frog it becomes a prince. If a frog kisses Adam, he’ll wake up.”
Marie had no idea why Little Joe’s logic led him to this conclusion. There were times the boy reminded her of her Oncle Henri. People were easily exasperated by him, too.
Turning the conversation back to their actions, Marie asked “Why did you cut my rose when your père said not to?”
“Papa never said not to,” answered Little Joe.
Marie looked at Hoss. She wanted the truth and she knew Hoss wouldn’t make up a wild story.
Hoss crumbled under her gaze. “Pa told us you really like that rose bush. Little Joe said we had to have the roses fer Adam. But they didn’t work.”
“Why didn’t you boys leave Adam alone like we told you?”
“’Cause he’s under a spell!” insisted Little Joe.
“That’s enough, mon petit.”
“But he’s still sleepin’, Mama,” persisted Little Joe. “We can’t break the spell.”
“Adam is just tired. He’s not under a spell. Let’s go downstairs and wait for supper. Bring the frogs.”
Steering the boys downstairs, Marie saw them to the door. As the boys went out with their frogs, their father came in the house. Ben asked, “What are those two up to?”
“I’m sorry about earlier, mon chere,” said Marie with a kiss to her husband’s cheek. With her finger, she gestured for Ben to follow her. With great curiosity, he followed his wife up the stairs. Instead of going to their room, however, they headed for Adam’s.
Peering in, Ben was shocked at the sight that met his eyes. “What have those two done?” Ben whispered.
Pulling Ben back into the hall, Marie explained Little Joe’s insistence that Adam was under a spell. “Whatever gave him that idea?” Ben asked incredulously.
“You, mon chere.”
“You called Adam sleeping beauty. Petit Joseph already thought Adam had been enchanted because he was sleeping at the table.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Ben with a snort.
“I tried to tell the boys that, but you may have better luck.”
The couple went downstairs as Little Joe and Hoss came back inside. “Boys,” said Ben, “your brother is not under a spell. He’s just tired from all of the work he did this week.”
Hoss and Little Joe weren’t completely convinced. “How come he ain’t hungry?” Hoss asked. Hunger sometimes woke the boy during the night.
“Because his body is too tired to care about food. Now, go to the kitchen and wash up for supper.”
Little Joe and Hoss went into the kitchen. “How can Adam not be hungry? He ain’t ate all day.”
“Must be part of the spell,” replied Little Joe.
Hop Sing gave each boy a dish to carry out to the table. When all of the food was on the table, the Cartwrights sat down to eat. Little Joe noticed that there was no place setting at Adam’s spot.
Upstairs, Adam’s eyelids began to flutter. He opened his eyes to muted oranges and yellows. Must be morning, he thought. His body felt very stiff and sore as he moved his feet under the covers to stretch out his legs. When he decided to move his fingers, he felt something in his hands. Craning his neck, he saw wilted roses under his hands. He didn’t know what to make of that. Noticing his shirt sleeves, he thought Marie would be upset with him for going to bed dressed.
When he sat up, the circlet of daisies fell onto the floor. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Adam was surprised to see his jeans covering his legs. He could understand leaving on his shirt, but his jeans? His feet were covered by his socks. At least he’d taken off his boots.
Getting up, Adam placed one hand behind his back, stretched up, and then leaned back a bit. His hand encountered something smushy. Turning, he looked at the bed and saw what appeared to be smashed peas. He hoped he hadn’t been eating in bed.
Going over to the washstand, he poured some water into the basin and then dipped in his hands. He splashed his face several times and then reached for the towel to wipe off the water.
Still feeling groggy, he changed into clean clothes. The toes of his left foot encountered something in his boot. Pulling it off, he shook the boot upside down. A marble, a checker, and a bird’s feather fell out onto the floor. He just raised his eyebrows and then put the boot on.
Once dressed, he decided to go downstairs. He must be the first one up. There were no breakfast smells. Before he left his room, he picked up the circlet of daisies.
Coming downstairs, Adam was surprised to see everyone at the table. And it appeared they were eating supper.
Hearing footsteps on the stairs, the rest of the family looked over. Excited to see Adam awake, Little Joe jumped up from the table and ran to his oldest brother. The boy yelled, “We broke the spell, Hoss!!” Adam was almost knocked over by his youngest brother’s hug.
Even though his body ached, Adam picked up Little Joe and carried him to the table. “What spell?” he asked.
Before either Ben or Marie could speak, Little Joe launched into an explanation about a witch, the boot, how Adam fell asleep at the table, how he and Hoss had tried to break the spell with peas, flowers, and frogs, and how nothing worked. Adam was even more confused.
“You mean I’ve slept all day? Why didn’t anyone wake me up?”
“Son, you needed to sleep. You wore your body out with those horses. Besides, we took care of everything around here today.”
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying that you remained asleep, mon fils,” said Marie. “Your frères tried everything they could think of and you stayed asleep.”
“Yeah, because the witch used a sleepin’ spell.”
“What witch?” Adam asked, really confused.
“The one who put somethin’ in your boot.”
“All that was in my boot was a bank draft from the Army.” Adam started to get up, afraid that he had forgotten to give the draft to his father.
“You gave me that draft last night, son.”
Adam was relieved that he had remembered to do that.
“That was the only thing in my boot last night, Buddy.” Remembering the stuff in his boot this evening, Adam pulled the marble, checker, and feather from his pocket. “These were in there tonight. Any idea how they got there?”
“Uh-uh,” the little boy replied. “That witch put somethin’ in your boot yesterday because Papa didn’t go to sleep when he touched the bank paper.”
“Your brother was exhausted, Joseph, from working all week. There was no spell.”
“But ya called him sleepin’ beauty,” said Little Joe insistently.
“That doesn’t mean there was a spell, son. Adam was just really tired.”
“All the stories say a witch uses a spell and then the princess sleeps ‘til someone wakes her up,” said Hoss. “Me an’ Joe went over some of the stories this mornin’ to make sure.”
“In case you two haven’t noticed, I’m not a princess,” said Adam with a raised eyebrow.
“We know,” said Little Joe. “We tried ever’thin’ in the stories but nothin’ worked. That’s why we knows it was a strong spell.”
“There is no witch,” said Marie. “Let’s not hear any more of this nonsense.”
Thinking quickly, Adam looked at his younger brothers and said, “Now that I think on it, there was a witch. She had long flowing brown hair and the biggest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. And the size of her teeth!! You just wouldn’t believe it.”
Ben steepled his fingers and watched the boys over them. Marie hoped this story didn’t lead to bad dreams for Joseph.
“Did the witch have a name?” Little Joe squeaked out.
Taking a sip of water, Adam paused for dramatic effect. “Her name was Dumpling and she could fly like the wind.”
Little Joe gasped. He knew it!! There had been a witch.
“But Dumplin’s a horse,” said Hoss with disappointment.
”And I fell under her spell,” replied Adam. “Pa, I convinced Captain Howson to let me keep her since her temperament is too sweet for a cavalry horse.”
“Whatcha gonna do with her?” asked Hoss. No one had noticed how disappointed Little Joe looked to find out there had been no real witch after all.
“If it’s okay with you,” Adam said as he looked between Pa and Marie, “I thought I’d give her to Hoss.”
Ben and Marie looked at each other. They would have to discuss this. Hoss had outgrown his pony and they knew they’d need a horse for him to ride to and from school.
“So there was never no witch?” Little Joe asked.
“Nope,” replied Adam. Putting the circlet of daisies on his head he added, “And don’t confuse me with a princess again.”
Little Joe giggled at the sight of Adam wearing the daisies and Hoss made kissing noises at his older brother. Ben rolled his eyes while Marie hoped that Little Joe would forget about witches.
After the boys retired for the evening, Ben and Marie talked about letting Hoss have Dumpling. On their way upstairs to bed, Marie asked, “Perhaps I could be sleeping beauty and you could awaken me with a kiss?” She added a come-hither smile.
“I’m afraid you’d never get any sleep, my beauty,” replied Ben, kissing her on the lips, cheek, and neck.