Summary: Did they learn that at school?
Word Count: 1700
Miss Abigail Jones, the Virginia City schoolteacher, was organizing a fund-raising event for some badly-needed textbooks. She had decided to hold a dance and Ben Cartwright was determined that all his family should attend. None of his sons seemed particularly keen on the idea.
“Didn’t you enjoy your time at school?” the blonde asked curiously, as she tried to coax Paw, the Giggly Sisters pet bear, into his kilt.
Adam rolled his eyes. “I loved school! But that woman terrifies me!”
As attentive viewers will recall, Miss Jones set her cap at the eldest Cartwright son in The Wooing of Abigail Jones. You will doubtless also remember that Miss Jones and her mother lived in a rather nice house, attractively furnished and there certainly seemed to be no shortage of money. It has never been satisfactorily explained just why poor Abby had to teach school.
However, thwarted in her desires for the swarthy Adam, poor Abigail had to settle for a Cartwright ranch hand. Shortly after her marriage, she and her swain disappeared into the netherworld of Bonanza guest stars, never to be seen again. However, she has lived on in the burgeoning world of fanfiction and caused Adam many a sleepless night.
“I went all the way back east to go to college, just to get away from that harpy!” Adam ranted. He tended to get rather emotional whenever Abigail’s name was mentioned and just wished that Wardrobe would find a nice blue dress for her.
The redhead smiled charmingly at Ben. “You taught Adam to read and write, didn’t you?”
Ben nodded happily, as he recalled all those hours he and his son had spent on the wagon. True, Adam’s writing was still decidedly shaky, as he was always wary of another pothole on the trail, but all in all, things had turned out rather well, he thought. Mind you, he started teaching the boy out of sheer necessity. After a couple of weeks going west, Ben thought he’d go mad if he had to stare at a horse’s rear end for a minute longer. Even poor Adam’s dreadful travel sickness as he stared at rows of neatly lettered words was a welcome relief.
“I didn’t really enjoy school,” Joe confessed.
“Now there’s a surprise!” Adam ribbed. Joe glared at him hotly, which showed off his green (or were they hazel?) eyes to perfection. “The teachers never realized my full potential,” he explained to the sisters and Ben smiled paternally, while stroking Joe’s curls, much to the fury of the set hairdresser, who’d spent the best part of two hours and two cans of heavy-duty hair products smoothing out Joe’s unruly coiffure.
“Boy’s got a genius level IQ!” Ben proclaimed proudly. Adam looked sourly at his little brother; Joe looked suitably embarrassed, but managed to look stunningly handsome at the same time.
“I wanted to spend more time outside, throwing things,” Joe elaborated.
“Like tantrums?” Adam queried.
“I was going to try out for the American javelin team,” Joe explained, ignoring Adam, “but there isn’t one yet.” He sighed, for he really had been very good at throwing the Indian lance his friend Sharp Tongue had brought to school with him. In fact, it had been he who had taught Sharp Tongue to throw a lance as far as he had in Far Far Better Thing.
“You must have been good at the dancing classes,” the blonde said, for they had seen evidence of this on many an occasion.
“Dancing classes?” Ben said, raising an eyebrow. “There weren’t dancing classes at the Virginia City school, my dear.” He liked the blonde, for she seemed very squeezable.
“Then where did they learn to dance?” asked the redhead, for she had noticed that all the Cartwright sons could dance, even Hoss, who’s size would seem to be against him being dainty on the dance floor.
“I taught them, of course,” Ben responded, haughtily. He was less keen on the redhead, because she frequently answered him back and asked the most awkward of questions. (Could her hair really be that color of red? he wondered, not for the first time.) “I am a very good dancer.”
“I didn’t say you weren’t,” the redhead told him, politely, “but I assumed you were too busy building up the Ponderosa to bother teaching your sons to dance.”
“Nonsense!” Ben informed her stoutly. Hop Sing was such a jolly good cook after all. “Dancing is an essential part of a young man’s education. I started them off with some simple hornpipes, learned during my seafaring days…”
“Why did you leave the sea?” the blonde asked curiously. Ben took advantage of this and gave her knee a gentle pat.
“I met Adam’s mother and we wanted to settle down and raise a family. Ah, Elizabeth…” Ben paused dramatically and gave his sons a meaningful glance.
“My Love!” they chorused dutifully. The Giggly Sisters were just half a beat behind but vowed to do better next time.
“Later on, when I’d married dear Inger,”
“My Love!” The chorus was automatic and Ben looked pleased.
“We used to dance the night away, on the wide open prairies. It was very romantic.” Ben’s eyes grew misty and Hoss thought it wise to change the subject.
“Pa done taught us all to dance when we was small,” Hoss commented. “I kin remember Shortshanks doin’ the Virginia Reel when he was just knee-high to a grizzly!”
Joe scowled becomingly, and for a moment the redhead wondered if his eyes were in fact emerald. “Is the Virginia Reel like an Eightsome Reel? Or a Foursome Reel?” she asked.
“I think it’s more like a Gay Gordons,” the blonde advised, totally missing the look of horror that crept across Ben’s face.
“I really don’t think that’s a suitable topic for a family show,” Ben informed her. “Of course, Joseph’s mother was a beautiful dancer, but she preferred fencing.” He looked up to where the epee had hung on the wall in A Rose for Lotta, but it was missing. Ben made a mental note to have strong words with the boys in continuity tomorrow. If he could find them, of course. Every time he went to their room, it was empty and a notice on the door read “Out to Lunch”.
“If my Mama died when I was little, who taught me to fence?” Joe asked. He was still perplexed by the fact that no one was sure if Marie had died when he was five or when he was a baby. Still, at least he’d established that she was indeed called Marie, and not Felice. Of course, Felice, My Love didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
“I did,” Ben answered. “I was pretty nippy with a blade in my youth. I gave Adam lessons, too.”
Hoss looked devastated. “How come Joe an’ Adam got fencin’ lessons and Adam got singin’ lessons too and I got nothing?”
“We tried to teach you!” Adam and Joe protested, remembering their efforts in The Frenchman.
Hoss was not appeased. “I might’ve wanted to be a ballet dancer,” he insisted. “How come I didn’ get ballet lessons?”
They all shot a look at Ben to see how he was taking this news, and he looked absolutely pole-axed. “No son of mine is going around wearing tights!” he bellowed, and several windows shattered. “Social dancing is quite acceptable, but we’re not having any ballet nonsense in this house. The very idea!”
In truth, it was quite a thought. Hoss in tights was not something the mind conjured easily. It was quite impossible to envision him doing a jete during Swan Lake.
“I prefer to dance with a man who can do the waltz and things like that,” the redhead told him, hoping to calm him down. “Most girls can’t do that much ballet, despite going to ballet classes when they’re little.” She spoke from experience here, as she had taken classes and so had her eldest daughter and neither of them had become ballet dancers. But they could both cope with ordinary dances, such as the waltz and Gay Gordons, even if Ben didn’t like either dance.
“You’ll be a hit at the school dance,” the blonde assured him.
“That there Miss Abigail didn’ never like me,” Hoss complained. “Why, when she married Hank, she never mentioned me once! It ain’t fair.”
“But you told us you weren’t in school very often,” the redhead protested.
“Cos she did like me,” Hoss explained which didn’t clear anything up at all. “She kept keeping me behind after classes, just so she could spend more time with me.”
Ben stood up and instantly dominated the room with his patrician bearing. “Boys: better go and put on clean shirts and string ties! We’ll be leaving soon.” He cast a dubious eye at Paw, who was now firmly buttoned into a Fair Isle cardigan, but decided not to say anything.
“And I don’t want to see any of you engaged in that new-fangled waltz!” he proclaimed. Already some of the douce citizens of Virginia City were slightly shocked that the Giggly Sisters were living in the same house as four unattached men (five, if you included Paw). It would simply be adding fuel to the fire if anyone from the Ponderosa engaged in the waltz, which was still regarded as being highly inappropriate, due to all the close contact. Why, the gentleman actually touched his partners back!
“Oh, we’ll stick to the barn dances, strathspeys and the Bluebell Polka!” the redhead reassured him.
The blonde smiled seraphically at Ben. “But you will do “Strip the Willow” with me, won’t you?”
Ben smiled happily: another of those wild Scottish dances, with lots of birling and twirling and general mayhem as people careered madly around the sets, totally out of control. Flashing smiles, brief encounters and the ever-present risk of a life-threatening injury. It was all so reminiscent of life on the Ponderosa!