Centennial – #5 (by Puchi Ann)

Summary:  Part five of a seven-part series.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  47,000


 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Both of the Cartwright brothers had benefited from a good night’s sleep, and both appeared to be enjoying breakfast, although Adam felt some concern when his younger brother ordered only a soft-boiled egg and toast.  The kid simply wasn’t eating enough yet to gain back any of the weight he’d lost over the past week or so.  Adam had insisted on adding a glass of apple juice to that order and was pleased when Joe didn’t object.

As they ate at the small table in the parlor of their suite, church bells began to peal in the distance.  Seeming surprised, Joe looked toward the open French doors.  “Is it Sunday?”

“Yes, it is, Joe,” Adam replied.  “Would you like some strawberry jam with that toast?  It’s really delicious.”

“No, thanks,” Joe said quickly.  “Plain bread is fine.  Which Sunday?”

“Which?”  Adam looked confused; then he smiled as the light dawned.  “Oh, you mean the date.  It’s the sixteenth.  Lose track of time a bit, did you?”

Joe laughed lightly.  “Yeah, I guess I did.  So, what day will we leave for Yale?  Commencement is this week, right?”

Adam’s mouth gaped for a moment.  “Oh, Joe, we’re not going to Yale.”

The toast in Joe’s hand fell to his plate.  “But you promised!” he cried, eyes burning into his brother’s face.

Adam was caught completely off guard by the intensity of his brother’s reaction.  “Joe, surely you realize that you’re simply not up to an eight-hour train trip.”

“Yes, I am!” Joe insisted.  “You promised, Adam.  You made me visit all those other colleges, and now you won’t let me go to the only one I cared about seeing.  It’s not fair!”

Adam stared at him, nonplussed.  “You’re interested in attending Yale?  But I thought—”

Joe brushed the air with his hand.  “No, no, ‘course not, but I wanted to see where you went to school.  You always talk about it like it’s a special place.”

“Well, it is to me, of course.”

“And that makes it special to me,” Joe declared.  “Why are you always shutting me out of your life, Adam?”

Adam reached across the table to grasp his brother’s hand tightly.  “Joe, I’m not.  I was looking forward to showing you around Yale and introducing you to my friends, but you’ve been ill, boy—or did you forget?”

Joe pulled his hand away.  “How could I with you hovering over me like some kind of mother hen?  Worse than Pa, even!”

Had he been in a mood to argue, Adam might have pointed out that his young brother had voiced no objection to the “hovering” before.  If anything, he’d seemed to welcome it.  But Adam was too concerned about the effect that working himself up like this would have on Joe to voice any sarcastic comment.  “Settle down and eat your breakfast before it gets cold,” he said with firm authority.

Joe pushed his half-finished meal away.  “No!”

Adam took a deep breath and pushed the plate back.  “Now, don’t be childish,” he chided.  “If you think this display of petulance will change my mind, you are sadly mistaken.  I’ll be glad to take you to New Haven after you’ve recuperated fully, but I’m afraid you just won’t be strong enough to make the trip by Tuesday, and that’s when we’d need to leave.”

Joe flushed with embarrassment in sudden realization that he had been acting like a child.  Not only was that behavior an exhibition of ingratitude for all Adam had done for him, but it wouldn’t work anyway.  He knew from experience that he wouldn’t get anything by throwing a tantrum, not from Adam, but he had other methods he was skilled in employing.  With a pleading look plastered on his face, he implored, “Will you at least think about it, Adam?”  He glanced up slyly.  “I’ll eat if you promise to think about it.”

Adam almost laughed aloud at the blatant attempt to manipulate him.  The little scamp must be feeling better if he’s up to bargaining and blackmail.  Aloud, he said, “Well, if I’m going to agree to that, my conniving little brother, I’m afraid you’ll have to make a better offer.  Promise me you’ll eat three substantial meals today, and I promise I’ll give some thought to taking you to Yale for Commencement.”

Joe smiled, relishing the challenge of give-and-take with his older brother.  Adam had plenty of conniving talent himself, but he evidently needed to be reminded that he was competing with a master.  “Well,” Joe said, drawing the word out to get Adam’s attention, “if you’re gonna up the ante, big brother, you’ve got to make a better offer, too.  I’ll eat the best I can today if you promise to give just as much thought to figuring a way to get us to Yale for Commencement as you do to all the reasons you think we shouldn’t go.  Deal?”

Fingers stroking his jaw line, Adam sat in silent consideration; then he stretched his hand across the table to seal the bargain.  “Deal.”  He pointed at Joe’s plate.  “Now, eat.”

With a cocky grin Joe picked up his fork and lifted a bite of egg.  With the fork halfway to his mouth, he halted.  “Well, what are you waiting for?  Start thinking!”

Adam laughed and nodded his acquiescence.

After breakfast and his morning bed bath, Little Joe was sitting on the balcony.  Adam joined him, carrying the copy of Ivanhoe.  “Want to hear some more?” he suggested.

“Well, I would,” Joe said puckishly, “except that’ll keep you from thinking, like you promised.”

Adam chuckled.  “You have a one-track mind, little brother.”

“I know what I want, if that’s what you mean,” Joe replied with a grin, “and you did promise.”

“True,” Adam conceded, ‘but I need some time alone for any serious thinking.  Tell you what, I’ll spend this morning with you; then, since you’ll probably be tired, I’ll put you to bed after dinner and take a walk out in the garden while you’re resting.”

Joe nodded in agreement.  “Yeah, that’s what you need, Adam.  Some fresh air is sure to help you think straight.”  He favored his brother with his most beguiling smile.

Adam shook his head, chuckling as he opened the book.  Even when he knew the smile was a deliberate attempt to captivate, he still found himself susceptible to his younger brother’s considerable charm.

Little Joe made a credible attempt to eat a good dinner and went to bed willingly after reminding Adam that he needed to get outside “to do some proper thinking.”  Armed once more with that persuasive smile, he added, “And remember, I was right about that hospital, Adam, and I’m right about this, too.”

“Quit trying to influence the jury, boy,” Adam snorted as he smoothed the sheet over his brother.  “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to take up the study of law?  I see some definite talent in that direction.”

“Not time for the jury, Adam.  I ain’t made my final argument yet,” Joe quipped, keeping up the analogy.

Adam groaned audibly, but he was grinning as he left the hotel room and made his way toward the elevator.  The kid was sharp as a tack today, but that was a source of encouragement, even if it did make his younger brother harder to handle.  Exiting the elevator, Adam walked through the handsomely appointed lobby and out the back doors into the garden.

As he made his way through the graveled walkways separating the colorful flowerbeds, he pondered the decision before him.  His first inclination, of course, was to reject out of hand the inane notion of attending Commencement.  If they left on Tuesday, that would be only eleven days after Little Joe had undergone abdominal surgery, only four since he’d left the hospital.  The idea was utterly ridiculous!

Still, he had promised to give the matter some real thought, and the little conniver would hold him to that bargain.  For that matter, Adam would hold himself to it, for he couldn’t expect Joe to be honest with him if he didn’t display the same integrity to his younger brother.  So, as promised, Adam tried to analyze the possibility that Joe could tolerate the journey.  Eight hours was longer than the boy had sat up at one time since his illness began, but he was staying up a bit more each day.  With only two days remaining until the trip would have to begin, however, would he be able to make enough improvement?  Hard to determine, but Adam suspected that the answer was no.

Was there a way to ease the journey, then, so the boy didn’t have to sit upright for eight hours straight?  They could leave tomorrow, instead, perhaps spending the night in New York, to break up the travel time.  Adam sat down on one of the garden benches, crossing his right leg over his left knee.  What about a night train?  If there were one leaving Tuesday night, Joe could spend most of the trip lying down, sleeping.  Not quite as restful a night as in a stationary bed, but it was an attractive possibility.  Joe would have a few hours extra rest here in Philadelphia and a more relaxing eight hours to New Haven than if he spent them sitting up.  I’ll check the train schedules, Adam decided.

He realized, though, that he needed to see how much exertion Joe could handle before making a final decision.  I’ll bring him down here for a short walk later this afternoon and see how he holds up to that.  Maybe shortly before supper, and we could eat in the restaurant together afterwards.

Looking up at the fifth floor windows, Adam decided that he had left Joe alone long enough, so he headed back upstairs.  His brother was sleeping soundly when he entered the room, so, leaving both Joe’s bedroom door and the French doors wide open, Adam took a book out onto the balcony, where he could catch the slight breeze, and began to read.  He hadn’t been there more than an hour when he heard Joe calling him and went at once to his brother’s side.

“So, what did you decide?” Joe asked eagerly, rising on his elbows.

Adam slid him gently down and pulled up a chair.  “I haven’t made a decision yet, Joe.”

Joe was crestfallen.  “But, Adam, you promised.”

Adam tapped his brother’s forearm with his index finger.  “To think about it—and I have, but I have not yet come to a decision.  There are some things I need to check out first.”

Curiosity flickered in Joe’s eyes.  “What kind of things?”

“First, I have to more fully evaluate your strength,” Adam said with a smile, almost knowing what his little brother would say next.

“Oh, that’s easy; I’m doin’ great, Adam.  I’m strong enough, honest I am.”

Adam shook his head, amused by the predictability of younger brothers, this one in particular.  “There is nothing honest about that assessment.  It is based entirely on what you want to be true.  It may be correct, but you’re going to have to prove it to me.”

Joe looked thoughtful.  “Well, okay.  How do I prove it?”

“First, I’m going to get you dressed and take you out to the garden,” Adam explained.  “If you’re not up to that brief an outing, there is no way you can tolerate a trip to New Haven.”

That test seemed fair and reasonable to Joe, and he was eager to demonstrate that he was strong enough for a simple walk in the garden.  Adam had only said, “First,” though, so that meant there were other tests to be passed, too.  “Then what?” Joe asked.

Adam chuckled.  “One step at a time, all right?  I’ll get your clothes.”

Joe was the perfect picture of cooperation as Adam helped him sit up and assisted him in dressing in a shirt and trousers.  After a brief stop by the bathroom for both brothers, they headed out to the garden and began strolling leisurely through the beautiful blooms.  Concerned for his brother’s stability on this first extended jaunt since leaving the hospital, Adam insisted on holding Joe’s elbow.  Joe didn’t think he needed the support, but he made no objection.

Despite the slow pace, after awhile Little Joe had to request that they sit on one of the garden benches.  Adam eased his brother down and then sat beside him.  “More tiring than you thought?” he asked.

Joe nodded, but lifted his chin with determination.  “Not more than I can take, though.  Besides, it’s all that time in bed that saps the strength out of a fellow.  You should know that, Adam.”

It was Adam’s turn to nod, for his own experience with enforced bed rest had taught him the same lesson.  “I do know that,” he admitted, “but there are still limits to what someone who has been as ill as you were can handle, Joe.”

Joe licked his lips nervously.  “Yeah, but this is my first time out, Adam.  I’m bound to be a little shaky at first, but I’ll be stronger tomorrow.  Try me again then, okay?”

“Okay,” Adam agreed.  “Do you feel like sitting here or on the verandah awhile longer or would you prefer to go upstairs and lie down?”

Though Joe didn’t realize it, the question was another test, one he passed with flying colors, in Adam’s view.  “Oh, I’d rather stay here,” Joe answered honestly.  “It’s cooler outside.”

Adam smiled, pleased to see that the brief walk had not so exhausted his brother that he felt a need to lie down.  They sat side by side, enjoying the fragrant scents wafting toward them on the gentle breeze and chatting conversationally until the sun started to dip toward the horizon.  “Getting close to supper time,” Adam suggested.  “Feeling hungry?”

“Yeah, I kind of am.”  Joe sent a mischievous grin in his older brother’s direction.  “See?  Being up and out is good for me, helps work up that appetite you’re so worried about.”

Chuckling, Adam stood and helped Joe to his feet.  “Since we’re already downstairs, shall we eat in the dining room?”

Something in Adam’s face must have given him away, for this time Joe recognized the query as a test.  “Absolutely, big brother!” he declared with energy.  “Just like we’ll do in New Haven.”

Adam had to laugh.  Sometimes the kid was just too sharp for him.  “Come on,” he said, guiding Joe toward the back verandah and helping him up the short stairway.

They shared a delicious meal in the main dining room, and for once Joe ate almost everything on his plate, though he had again selected a light repast.  Adam was satisfied that this test, at least, had been successfully passed.  After the meal, Joe admitted, somewhat reluctantly, that he was tired, and he submitted without complaint to being put to bed as soon as they returned to their suite.  As Adam pulled the sheet over him, Joe couldn’t resist asking one more time if Adam would take him to Yale.

Adam wagged a remonstrative finger beneath his brother’s nose before sitting down to answer him seriously.  “I’m still not sure, Joe.  In fact, it will probably be tomorrow afternoon before I make a final decision, so stop nagging, all right?  I’ll tell you as soon as I’ve made up my mind.”

“All right,” a frustrated Joe muttered, “but you sure make it hard for a fellow to sleep, not knowing.”

“Oh, you’d better sleep,” Adam admonished with a sardonic smile.  “A restless night will not work in your favor, my boy.”  Laughing at the alarmed expression on his brother’s face, Adam turned him gently over.  “Seriously, Joe,” he said as he administered what was becoming a nightly rubdown, “if you have trouble resting—for whatever reason—just call.  I can give you a sleeping powder.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think I’ll need it.  I was just—well, just . . .”

Adam quirked a crooked smile.  “Tightening the thumb screws?”

Joe tittered.  “Yeah, something like that.”

Adam patted his brother on the shoulder.  “Sleep well, Joe.”

Joe did sleep well and when he awoke, he did his best to look chipper and cheerful.  “Good morning, big brother,” he said when Adam came in to find him already awake.  “I had a good sleep, and I’m feeling really—”

“Persuasive,” Adam interrupted with his Cheshire-cat smile.  “You’re feeling really persuasive.”

Realizing he’d been caught, Joe shrugged.  “Yeah, but I am feeling good, Adam.  Why don’t I get dressed, so we can have breakfast downstairs?”

“All right, let’s do that,” Adam agreed.  He first bathed his brother, as he had every morning, and helped him tend to his personal needs before assisting him in dressing, allowing Joe to do a little more for himself this morning than he had before.  As they breakfasted downstairs, he could tell that Joe was trying hard to look better than he really was, but even taking that into account, the boy seemed much improved.  Maybe he needs this kind of incentive, Adam mused.  Maybe light activity will speed his recovery more than if all he has to look forward to is lying around, reading and resting.

“Shall we go out to the garden again this morning?” Joe suggested after finishing his meal, which for the first time had included a slice of bacon with his scrambled egg.  “I’m ready for another walk, big brother.”

Adam snickered at the obvious attempt to sway his decision.  “You can have a brief one,” he told Joe.  “I need to check on some things outside the hotel, and I want you lying down before I leave.”

“What kind of things?” Joe inquired, brow wrinkling.

“Well, the train schedule, for one thing, in case we do travel tomorrow,” Adam said, not wanting to reveal too much.

Seeing that informational quest as an indication that Adam was leaning the direction he wanted him to, Joe agreed at once.

Upstairs after their walk in the garden, Adam removed Joe’s shoes and shirt and let him stretch out on the top of the sheets, instead of tucking him in, as before.  “If you need the water closet before I get back, get up slowly and carefully,” he cautioned, “and sit on the edge of the bed ‘til you’re certain you won’t be dizzy.”

When Joe acknowledged the instructions, Adam left the hotel and walked up to the corner of Elm and Belmont.  Turning left, he went about half a block to the Centennial depot of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  On inquiring about train schedules, he learned that a train for eastern destinations would leave at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.  Adam was a little disappointed that the departure time was that late.  He’d been putting Joe to bed shortly after supper each night, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt the boy to stay up a little later one night, especially if he got some extra rest during the afternoon.  Putting him in his berth that late should insure that Joe would be tired enough to sleep through the entire trip, but leaving at ten would rush Adam himself a bit.  He’d have only about three hours between the train’s arrival in New Haven and the meeting of Yale’s alumni on the campus that morning—barely enough time to get to the hotel, register, have breakfast, take a bath, shave, dress for the meeting and get his brother settled.  Traveling at night would be better for Joe, though, and, therefore, worth the sacrifice.

Adam felt fairly certain now that the trip would not be overly tiring for Joe, but what about Commencement itself?  A full day of activities was slated, quite possibly more than Joe should attempt at this early stage.  Still, the hotel would be nearby, just two blocks off campus.  If the boy appeared tired, he could take him back and put him to bed at any time.

Adam walked around the neighborhood awhile to give himself time to mull over all the factors involved.  If only he could ask a doctor’s advice, but having made himself odious to the doctors at the hospital, he felt he couldn’t return there, and to consult a stranger, some doctor unfamiliar with Joe’s case, would provide him no real peace.  Suddenly, he thought of Dr. Havershaw at the Yale Medical School.  What a relief it would be to have him examine Joe and get some reassurance that he’d made the right decisions regarding the boy’s health.  Adam knew he would get a completely honest evaluation from the professor, and if there were problems, Joe might even be better off in New Haven, where Dr. Havershaw would feel a more personal concern for the brother of a former student.  Adam would not, of course, mention the possibility of another examination to Joe, who had no trust whatsoever in doctors at the moment and wouldn’t welcome being “poked and prodded” by anyone except his own brother.  A few days’ stay near the seashore might be good for Joe, too.  If nothing else, it would get him away from the stifling heat of Philadelphia, which according to the Public Ledger, was experiencing the highest temperatures in eighty years.

Checking his watch, Adam noticed that it was nearly noon, so he hurried back to the hotel.  Joe was sitting up in bed, reading the dime novel Adam had bought him, but he immediately set the book aside when his brother walked in.  “Did you decide yet?” he asked, and then bit his lip as he remembered Adam’s admonishment to stop nagging.

Adam seemed unperturbed by the query this time, though.  “Let’s go down to dinner and talk about it over the meal.”

Joe rolled his eyes.  “Would it really kill you to just say yes or no, Adam?”

Adam twirled his tongue around the inside of his mouth.  “Yup, pains me mightily to say anything but ‘maybe.’”  He drew Joe’s shirt back on and while Joe was buttoning it, he tied his brother’s balmorals.  Then he ran a comb through Joe’s pillow-mussed curls and helped him up.

Joe could barely contain his curiosity long enough to select his food, and as soon as their orders had been placed, he began to wheedle.  “Come on, Adam.  How long are you gonna keep me in suspense?  I don’t think that’s real good for me, you know—probably upset my digestion or something.”

Adam laughed, knowing how little it took to turn Joe’s attention off a meal.  “It probably would, at that!  Okay, buddy, no more suspense.  Unless I see something today to change my mind, we’ll plan to travel to New Haven tomorrow.”

“Whoopee!” Joe cried.  Other diners turned in their chairs, as Adam, embarrassed, shushed his exuberant little brother.  Joe gave him a sheepish grin.  “Sorry, but I am happy enough to shout, Adam.”

“You might want to hold that shout until you hear the conditions,” Adam advised with an arched eyebrow.

Joe frowned.  “Conditions?  Aw, come on, Adam, what kind of conditions?”

Adam folded his arms on the table and looked seriously into his brother’s questioning eyes.  “Joe, I am still concerned about the trip being too long for you this soon.”

“No, Adam.  I’ll be fine.  I—”

Adam held up a hand for silence.  “Hear me out.  Because of that concern, I’ve decided to purchase tickets for the train leaving at ten tomorrow night.  You’ll go to bed immediately and spend the rest of the journey lying down, hopefully asleep.”

Joe grumbled a little about not being awake when they passed through parts of the country he’d never seen before, but Adam remained adamant and Joe gave in fairly soon.  In his heart he knew Adam was right.  He really wasn’t ready yet for a long train trip, and if sleeping through places as fascinating as New York City was the price he had to pay to make sure his older brother didn’t miss his first chance in ten years to reunite with fellow students, then it seemed a small return for all Adam had already given up for his sake.

*****

TWENTY-EIGHT

Following breakfast the next morning, which Adam had insisted on their taking in the suite, he announced that he was going out for a while.  “You are to stay in this room and rest,” he told his brother.

“Where you goin’?” Joe inquired.

“I have several errands to attend to,” Adam replied.  “First, I want to purchase our tickets, so we’re assured of getting the train and berths we want.”

“Well, that won’t take long,” Joe said.  “Depot’s right across the street, isn’t it?”

“Basically,” Adam admitted, “but I need to go downtown, as well, Joe.  I need to take some cash from the bank for the expenses of the trip, among another things.  Now, can I trust you to stay put?”

“What?  No adventures in Shantyville?”  Joe chuckled.  “It’s a big temptation, brother, but I’ll try to resist.”

Adam regarded his brother with a serious expression.  “I mean it, Joe.  No further than the balcony.  If I’m detained, you can go downstairs for dinner, but use the elevator.”

“I’d rather wait for you,” Joe said at once, “and you don’t have to worry, brother; I’ll be good”—he flashed a quick grin—“present or no present.”

Adam smiled.  He did have a purchase or two in mind for his younger brother, but he said nothing.

“I guess I’ll put the time to good use by packing my bag,” Joe said as he wiped his mouth with his napkin.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort!” Adam admonished sharply.  “Absolutely no lifting, young man.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sakes, Adam,” Joe sputtered, tossing the napkin to the table.  “Since when is a shirt a heavy weight?”

“Since eleven days ago,” Adam responded dryly.  “Mind what I say, boy.  I will pack for you after I return, and you will ‘put the time to good use’ by resting up for the trip.”

Joe’s lips drooped in a petulant pout.  “You are no fun at all, older brother.”

“And you, younger brother, are not up to what generally passes for ‘fun’ in your book,” Adam remarked dourly.  He pointed an authoritative finger at his brother.  “Rest.”

“Yes, sir,” Joe grumbled.

“See that you do,” Adam admonished again.  Getting up from the table, he pushed the cart into the hallway and continued to the elevator.  Exiting into the lobby, he went first to the hotel desk to inform the clerk of their plans to be in New Haven for a few days.  “We do wish to retain the room, however,” he said, “and I’d like to pay in advance to secure it.”

“Very good, sir,” the clerk demurred, taking the money and making a note in his registry book.  “Oh, there are two letters here for you, Mr. Cartwright,” he added, reaching into a cubbyhole behind him.

“Thank you,” Adam said automatically.  As he moved back toward the elevator, he stared at the envelopes, one addressed to him and one to Little Joe in their father’s neat script.  Though he felt a genuine dread of what his letter might say, Adam knew he needed to read it before doing anything else, in case what was written necessitated a change of plans, and certainly Joe would want to read his right away.  Joe, after all, had nothing to fear from Pa.  Retracing his steps, Adam returned to the suite he shared with his brother.

Joe was reclining on the padded chaise, but he pulled up when the door opened.  “Hey, you back already?”

Adam placed his black hat on a side table and walked toward his brother.  “I haven’t left yet.  There were letters from Pa waiting downstairs.  Here’s yours.”

Joe sat up and reached eagerly for the letter, tore it open and began to read, while Adam settled himself in a plump-cushioned armchair and opened the one to him.  As they read, the expressions on their faces were markedly different, however.  Adam’s somber countenance revealed that his letter contained caustic words of reproach, while Joe’s face glowed with the love he felt pouring from each line:

My beloved Joseph,

How concerned I was to learn of your recent illness and how grieved I am that I was prevented from being with you when you needed me most.  It appears that you are now out of danger, for which I thank God, and your brother Adam feels that you do not need me at this time.  However, if you wish me to come to you, Joseph, you have only to send me word, and I will be there.  Your brother will not deny you this—or he will answer to me, as I have so informed him in his letter.  I would cherish hearing from you personally as soon as you feel able to write.

Please be assured that I will provide anything required for your comfort during your recovery.  I will be forwarding a letter of extended credit to the bank in Philadelphia, to insure that you need lack for nothing.  Do not hesitate to ask your brother for anything that would ease your convalescence or speed your recovery.  Let me spoil you a bit, son, as it is all I can do from this distance.

Adam has told me that you and he have encountered some difficulties, but he seems to feel the two of you can work out your problems if you are allowed time together to do so.  I realize that you may feel very vulnerable right now, Joseph, perhaps unable to withstand your brother’s arbitrary decision, but if you are in any way dissatisfied with your current circumstances, please write me, and I will come at once to personally assume your care.

Mere words are inadequate to express my sentiments as I write this to you, son.  I yearn to be with you, to hold you in my arms and impart to you my strength in your hour of weakness.  If you—not Adam, but you—feel that it is best for me to deny myself that joy for a brief season, then I will do so.  I do hope that I will hear from you soon, so that I may be assured of your contentment and your continuing improvement.  I remain

Your loving,

Pa

As Joe looked up, smiling, he noticed his brother’s downcast countenance, and his eyes clouded with concern.  “Something wrong back home?” he asked anxiously.

Adam glanced up lethargically.  “What?  Oh, no, no.  Everything’s fine back home.”  He returned his letter to its envelope and placed it inside his coat pocket.

The lines creasing Joe’s forehead only deepened.  “You wouldn’t keep things from me, just ‘cause I’ve been sick?”

Adam came to his brother’s side and rested a reassuring hand on his shoulder.  “No, it’s nothing like that.  I just got the written equivalent of a ‘very necessary little talk’ from Pa, that’s all.”  And it hurts worse than if he’d tanned me!

Joe cocked his head, regarding his older brother with eyes wide with amazement.  “What on earth did you do, brother?”  Unlike him, Adam never seemed to get in trouble with Pa, and he couldn’t help wondering what could possibly have gotten back to Pa to land his brother in this much hot water now.

Adam sat at the end of the chaise and took a deep breath.  “Pa’s upset with me because I didn’t wire him about your illness or the surgery.  I sent the news by regular mail, so it would be too late for him to do anything about it.”

“Oh.”  Joe’s eyes fluttered to the side, as if he were fearful that a direct gaze would reveal too much.  “I wondered why he—why I hadn’t heard from him ‘til now.  Didn’t seem like Pa, but I never figured he just didn’t know.  Just thought he was busy, with political meetings and such.”

“He’d never be too busy for you; you know that.”  Adam placed a hand on his brother’s knee.  “I’m sorry, Joe.  I didn’t mean to cause you concern.  I probably overstepped my bounds in keeping things to myself, but—well, I had reasons, but they seem like pretty selfish ones now.”

Joe looked back at his brother.  “So we could work things out?  Pa said you’d written him something like that.”

“Well, yes, that was my reason,” Adam admitted.  “Like I told you before, I want a chance to make up for how miserable I made you.”

“Adam, I haven’t been miserable,” Joe objected.  “Not then, not now.”

“And I still think you’re being overly generous,” Adam stated, “but we won’t argue about that now.  The important thing is how you feel.  Do you want me to send for your pa, boy?  ‘Cause I will, if you need him.”

Joe pressed his lips together in thought.  “I miss him,” he admitted.  “Hoss, too, but I knew I would when I left home.”

“You’re dealing with a little more than just homesickness now, Joe,” Adam said gently.  “If it’s Pa you need, then I want you to have him.”  Even if it ruins our chance to come together.  He waited for Joe’s decision, trying not to let his anxiousness show.

“I think you’re takin’ real good care of me, Adam,” Joe said finally, “and I guess I’d rather we did just go on as we are.  Pa’s got things he needs to be doin’ back home, especially with the convention comin’ up, and maybe you and me do need some time to work at gettin’ along better.  I can’t say I think you were right, keepin’ things from Pa—or from me, either—but mostly, you’ve done right by me.”  He smiled brightly.  “I’ll write Pa and tell him that, okay?  See if I can’t get you out of some of that hot water.  Pa says he wants to hear from me as soon as I feel up to writing.”

“Well, presumably, since you feel up to an eight-hour trip to New Haven, you’re strong enough to lift a pen,” Adam said wryly.

Joe grinned.  “Yeah, I can do that while you’re out—if you’ll loan me some stationery.”

Adam released a deep, throaty laugh as he stood up.  “Oh, I’ll gladly donate to the cause of getting me back into Pa’s good graces.”

Joe’s high-pitched giggle followed Adam as he walked toward the desk.  “There’s a change,” Joe teased, “me getting you out of trouble!”  He swung his legs to floor and stood up carefully.

Adam smiled as he opened the desk drawer and took out three sheets of stationery.  He had to admit the shoe was usually on the other foot, but he really could use his little brother’s intervention this time.  “Incidentally, I didn’t write Pa about the circumstances under which you left the hospital.  He just thinks you’d improved enough to be dismissed.”

“We’ll just let that be our little secret, brother,” Joe said as he sat down at the desk.  “Like I’ve tried to tell you many a time, Pa don’t have to know everything.”

“I seem to recall arguing that point a few times,” Adam said, “but I’m willing to test your theory this time, little brother.”  He gave Joe’s curly head an affectionate tousle.  “Well, I’ll head out now.  I’m glad we talked, but this has put me a little behind schedule, so don’t wait to have dinner with me.  You eat downstairs, and I’ll get a bite downtown.”

“Okay,” Joe said, nibbling on the end of the pen.

Adam stared at the blank page.  “Lay it on thick, huh?”

“As only I can, brother,” Joe promised.

After purchasing the train tickets, Adam caught a horse car and rode downtown.  Reading his father’s letter a second time while he rode, he decided that it wasn’t all bad news.  Though Pa had held his eldest suspended over a roasting fire through several painful paragraphs, he had ultimately agreed to stay home “unless Joseph is dissatisfied with your cavalier treatment,” and he had promised to send a letter of credit to the bank, to cover Joe’s medical expenses and anything else the boy might need.  That help was sorely needed, for Adam had incurred unexpected expenses, and while he didn’t begrudge Joe the money, even if he had to pay it out of his own pocket, having the extra funds to draw on would mean he could do more for the boy.  Pa’s letter had made it clear that his baby boy was to be pampered, no need—or even want—to go unmet.  “This is no time to practice your renowned New England frugality,” Pa had written.  “Be expansively generous with him, and this time I do mean financially, as well as with your heart.”

Getting off the streetcar at the familiar Eighth Street and Chestnut stop, Adam walked a block to the Bank of the Republic, where he had deposited his funds on arriving in Philadelphia.  Discovering that the letter of credit had already been transferred to his account, he withdrew a larger amount than he had at first intended, so that he would have funds available for some additional pleasures for his little brother.

His next stop was the Western Union Building, where he sent a telegram, apprising Pa of his sons’ trip to New Haven and where they might be reached for the next few days.  Then he wired the New Haven Hotel, praying they would have accommodations for him and Joe.  Though Adam had originally made reservations before leaving the Ponderosa, he had cancelled them while Joe was in the hospital, believing that they would be unable to attend Commencement.  Though messages tended to receive prompt replies here in the East, Adam elected to do his shopping first and drop back by for the reply before having dinner.

He headed for Market Street, his prime target the gargantuan dry goods store of Hood, Bonbright and Company, where he felt certain he would find the specialized clothing he was seeking.  Sure enough, on the fourth floor he found a wide assortment of bathing clothes and selected a set for both himself and Little Joe.  He had been hoping to make a short trip to the seashore as a surprise for Joe, and Pa’s letter of credit had made it possible for him to do so without worrying about the added expense.  As he started to leave the store, he snapped his fingers, thinking of another item his brother would need for Commencement.   As attached as Joe was to that straw hat, it really wasn’t quite the right accessory for the gray suit he would undoubtedly wear to the ceremony, so Adam bought a stylish gray bowler.

Clothing purchases taken care of, Adam stopped by Claxon, Remson and Haffelfinger to pick up another dime novel for Joe, who would have some time to kill at the hotel in New Haven, while Adam attended his alumni meeting.  He’d noticed that Joe had already half-finished the one he’d bought him last week and seemed totally disinclined to read Ivanhoe for himself, preferring to hear his older brother read it aloud.

“We have the latest Frank Starr American Novel,” the clerk told Adam when he saw him looking at a table of dime novels.  “Just out today and selling like Centennial waffles.”

“Is this J. Thomas Warren a decent writer?” Adam inquired, examining the cover when the clerk handed him the slim booklet.  “I’m not well acquainted with the dime novel genre.  This is a gift for a youngster.”  A prideful demurral, of course, and one that would probably have earned him a punch in the snoot from the “youngster,” if Joe heard himself called that, but Adam didn’t want the clerk to think that this was his normal choice of literature.

“Oh, excellent, sir,” the clerk bubbled, tapering his enthusiasm as he added, “judging by what I hear from our younger customers, that is.”  Obviously, he, too, wanted to be seen as a connoisseur of finer literature.

“Well, at any rate, I can be sure the boy doesn’t have this one,” Adam said with a smile, “if this is, as you say, the first day it’s been on sale.  I’ll take it.”

“Very good, sir.  Anything else?”

“Possibly,” Adam replied.  “If you’ll hold that, I’d like to look around a bit more.”

“Take as long as you like, sir.”

Adam wasn’t sure what to buy for himself.  Something light, for reading on the train or in odd moments when his brother was napping, but he didn’t want to waste his time with dime-novel fodder, either.  He finally settled on The Poet at the Breakfast-Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Though he’d read most of the pieces when they came out in the Atlantic Monthly, it would be nice to have them bound in a single volume, and Holmes’ sophisticated humor should lighten those long hours of travel and keeping an eye on Joe.

After dinner he returned to the Transcontinental Hotel, where he presented Joe with his new book, having left the clothing purchases at the hotel desk downstairs to be sneaked up after Joe went to bed.  After expressing his thanks, Joe immediately opened Old Ben Manx; or, The Secret Dispatches, but Adam took the book from him before he could read a single paragraph.  “That goes in your carpetbag, to be used in New Haven,” Adam dictated, wagging his finger under Joe’s nose.

“Aw, Adam, it looks good,” Joe pouted, “and I gotta do something, since you won’t let me help pack.”

“I’m glad you mentioned that, little brother,” Adam said with a smirk, “because I have just the job for you.”  He put his arm around Joe and helped him up from the chaise.  “Go find your bed and hold it down for me while I pack.”

“Adam, I’m gonna be sleepin’ the whole way to New Haven,” Joe complained.  “I don’t need to sleep now, too.”

“You look tired,” Adam said, his eyes more serious.  “I think you would profit by lying down ‘til suppertime, and I insist that you do.”

Grumbling that he wasn’t sleepy, Joe went to his bedroom and stretched out on the bed.  Though he was determined to stay awake, enforced stillness had its usual effect, and he soon dozed off.  Adam moved quietly about the room, selecting the clothes and grooming accessories his brother would need and packing them, along with Ivanhoe and the new book in the carpetbag Hoss had given Joe for his birthday.  He slipped downstairs long enough to pick up the packages he’d left there and included them with his own luggage.

Joe never knew he was gone and, characteristically, when suppertime arrived, he had to be awakened from the sleep he had declared he didn’t need.  “I’m not hungry, Adam,” he mumbled from the folds of the sheet covering him.  “You go on without me.”

“Nothing doing,” Adam snorted, jostling Joe’s shoulder.  “I will not have you going to sleep with nothing on your stomach.”

Joe groaned.  “You’re gettin’ bad as that other brother of mine, always pushin’ food on me.”

“I have not done that,” Adam denied, “although, to use one of our brother’s colorful expressions, you have not been eating enough to keep a bird flying.”

Joe yawned, stretching his arms above his head.  “So buy me a couple of popcorn balls to eat on the train.”

Adam lightly slapped his brother’s cheek.  “You’re going to sleep as soon as you get on the train, remember?  And I most certainly am not going to put you to bed after eating nothing but popcorn balls.  Surest road to nightmares, in my opinion.”

Joe eased up to a sitting position and grinned.  “I was kidding, but I’m really not very hungry.”

“Just eat something,” Adam urged.  “I laid out your ranch clothes for the trip, so go ahead and get dressed in them and we’ll head down to the dining room.”

Joe cocked his head.  “Won’t you be ashamed to be seen with me, dressed like that when you’re in a suit?”

On his way out the door, Adam spun around.  Leaning back against the doorjamb, he folded his arms.  “Nope.  You can even sleep in your clothes tonight without hearing your older brother make a fuss.  That way I won’t have to wake you so early in the morning.”

Joe chuckled.  “Brother, sometimes you seem almost human.”

Adam rolled his eyes and went to his room to freshen up before going downstairs to supper.  When Joe saw that his brother had changed into his familiar black shirt and pants from home, he looked surprised.  “Trying to go beyond ‘almost human’ to fully so,” Adam quipped.

Joe grinned back.  “You’re making real progress, brother.  Now, if you’ll just agree to sleep in those clothes . . .”

“I intend to,” Adam returned with a smile.  “I can clean up after we get to New Haven.”

“Brother, I’m thinkin’ there’s real hope for you.”  Joe crooked his arm through his brother’s elbow.  “Let’s see how these city folks take to a couple of cowmen in their fancy dining room.”

After eating, Adam gave in to Joe’s earnest entreaties to go outside into the garden for a while.  The fragrant air was refreshing to both of them, and there was really little point in telling the boy he had to rest until time to go to the depot.  Better to let him stay up, even past his normal bedtime, so he’d sleep well on the trip.

About 9:30 the Cartwright brothers walked to the Centennial depot, where Adam immediately parked his brother on the nearest bench.  Though the walk had been a short one, Joe was obviously fatigued.  “Joe, are you sure you can make it?” Adam asked as he squatted in front of his brother.  “It’s only a five-minute walk from the depot to the hotel on the other end, not much more than what you just did, but I don’t want you to strain yourself.”

“I’ll be fine,” Joe insisted.  “Will you quit worrying and sit down, Brother Hen?”

With a grin Adam took a seat beside his brother and, draping an arm across the slim shoulders, intoned solemnly, “Cluck.”

Joe panned the waiting room, surprised to see it so crowded at nearly ten o’clock at night.  “I figured we’d be about the only folks on the train at this hour.”

“It wouldn’t be profitable to run it if that were the case, Joe,” Adam pointed out, with no hint of mockery in his voice.  “Most eastern travelers, unless they’re new to the experience, prefer to travel at night and avoid the boredom of long journeys.  Nothing to see they haven’t seen a hundred times before.”

Joe grinned.  “Sort of like us wishin’ we could sleep through a cow gather, huh?”

Adam laughed.  “Something like that.”

Soon it was time to board, and when they did, Adam immediately steered Joe toward the sleeper car.  “Aw, Adam, I think I could sit up a bit,” Joe cajoled.  “After all, I did all that extra resting this afternoon.”

“Nope.  Bedtime for you,” Adam insisted, seating Joe on the lower berth and stooping to remove his shoes after stowing their carpetbags beneath the berth.  He eased Joe down and tucked him in.  “I’ll be sleeping right above you.  Call if you need anything.”

“Okay,” Joe said, yawning in spite of himself.  “You turning in now, too?”

“Soon,” Adam said.  “I’m going down to the parlor car to read, just enough to unwind, and then I’ll be hitting the hay, too.”  He tapped Joe’s nose.  “You had better be asleep when I get back.”

Adam made his way to the parlor car, with the Holmes book in hand, and settled into one of the comfortable, tufted chairs.  Half an hour’s enjoyable reading was sufficient to relax him, so he made his way back to the sleeper car, checked on Joe, who was snoring softly, and hitched himself up into the berth above his brother.  Wish the kid was still spry enough to jump up here, he moaned as he drew his long legs up into the cramped space.  A healthy little brother was definitely a luxury when traveling by train.  Well, it was a luxury he would just have to do without this trip—and all the way back to Nevada, as well.  He had no intention of allowing Joe to put any strain on his abdominal muscles until he was safely home and had been examined by dear old Dr. Martin.

Adam tended to be a light sleeper, compared to either of his younger brothers, and he was always especially so whenever he was watching over one of them.  When he woke, sometime in the middle of the night, he cocked an ear, sensing something wrong.  Hearing soft moans coming from the lower berth, he immediately sprang out of his own bed to see what was causing his brother’s discomfort.  He squatted at Joe’s side, pulling the dark curtains aside.  “Joe, did you call me?” he asked anxiously.

Joe made no response, though he continued to moan at intervals.  Looking more closely, Adam saw that his brother had fallen onto his right side, jarred by the movement of the train, and was lying directly on his incision.  The discomfort hadn’t been enough to wake him, thank goodness, but it might if allowed to continue, so Adam reached into his upper berth and, taking the pillow, propped it against that tender side after rolling his brother back to a more comfortable position.

“Excuse me, suh, but is dere sumtin wrong?” a dark-skinned porter asked, coming up to Adam.

“No, not really,” Adam answered.  He explained briefly what he had done and why.  “Would it be possible to get another pillow?” he requested.

“Yassuh, I get you one right away,” the porter replied.  Adam thanked him and made certain to reward the man’s helpfulness with an appropriate tip.  He stood in the aisle, watching Joe for a few minutes, noticing that the pillow did help keep the boy from rolling about in the berth.  Then he climbed back into his own bed and after listening carefully for any further sounds from below, fell asleep once more.

He woke to the sound of the porter moving through the aisle, announcing the next station.  It wasn’t New Haven, but Adam recognized the name and knew that the train was about thirty minutes from their destination.  He got up, slid down to the aisle and began the arduous task of waking his younger brother.  When Joe finally responded, Adam observed dryly, “Now I know you’re feeling like your old self—hard to get to bed, harder to get up.”

“We in New Haven already?” Joe asked, yawning.

“Almost.  Let me help you sit up, and I’ll put your shoes on.”

Once he was upright, Joe giggled at the sight of Adam’s stocking feet.  “Don’t you think you ought to get your own on?”

“I hadn’t forgotten,” Adam grunted, reaching under Joe’s berth to pull out two pairs of balmorals.  Once both of them had their shoes on and had combed their hair, more by feel than sight, Adam led his brother into the parlor car and eased him into a chair.  “Almost there now,” he said.  Taking a chair opposite Joe, he pointed out the window to a smooth-sloped elevation about three to four hundred feet high.  “That’s West Rock, about two miles from New Haven.”

“Pretty country,” Joe observed, looking at the bushy-topped trees lining the foot of West Rock; the green fields before it, divided by dark rail fences; the picturesque farmhouses and the steeple of a small white church set against the golden blush of the rising sun.

“It was always a pleasant walk from New Haven to here,” Adam said, smiling in fond memory.  “We’d often make up a party and walk out on a Sunday, just to enjoy the exercise and the fresh air.”

Pleased that Adam was sharing a memory with him, Joe wanted to ask for more detail, but the train was pulling up to the depot, and he knew Adam didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  He followed his brother, who was carrying both carpetbags, down the aisle and out onto the platform.

“Tell me if you need to stop and rest,” Adam urged as they headed down the street.

“I think I can manage to stay on my feet for five minutes,” Joe grunted with a roll of his eyes.

“Okay, follow me,” Adam ordered.

They soon arrived at the hotel, and Adam told Joe to take a seat in the lobby while he checked them in.  Joe shook his head at the over-solicitousness of Brother Hen, but he had to admit that sitting down did feel good.  Adam was back soon.  “I’ll take our bags up,” he said.  “You just sit here, and I’ll be right down, so we can go to breakfast.”

Joe nodded in agreement and spent the time looking around the lobby.  It was nicely appointed and comfortable, although its décor was simpler in style and less elaborate than that of the Philadelphia hotels.  Bet they don’t have the bathroom right in the suite here, he observed, surprised that he would miss what had at first seemed to him so strange.  Adam had been right; it was downright convenient, having it so close, especially when a fellow didn’t feel up to a trip down the hall or out back, the way it would have been at home.

Having taken time only to place each carpetbag in the appropriate bedroom and to lay out his suit, Adam wasn’t gone long.  He guided Little Joe toward the dining room, which had a homey appeal.  White wallpaper, twined with vertical rows of ivy vines sat above thigh-high white paneling.  That, along with the bank of tall windows with white lace curtains across the front side gave the room the feel of a garden bower.  The food, while not quite up to the standard of the Transcontinental, was tasty, at least in Adam’s opinion.  He didn’t think Joe was qualified to pass judgment yet, since he’d only ordered a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of apple juice.   Don’t watch every bite he eats, Adam lectured himself.  He’s right; you are getting as bad as Hoss.  He smiled wryly.  Of course it would be easier to resist tallying up every bite if the kid would give just him more bites to count!

They went upstairs after finishing the meal.  The parlor to this suite was very small, holding just a square table between a settee and side chair in Queen Anne style, both upholstered in autumn gold, while the curtains at the room’s single window were cream with gold roses.  After taking a quick peek at his bedroom, sparsely furnished with only a bed, washstand and starkly plain chest of drawers, Joe sat down in the chair, while Adam got into his robe, gathered his grooming gear and headed down the hall for a bath and shave.

When Adam came back, looking refreshed and slightly damp about the ears, he took an appraising look at his younger brother, who was sagging in the chair, his head falling to one side.  “You look tired.  Do you want to undress and go to bed?”

“Naw, I’m not that tired,” Joe insisted, straightening up.  “I might lie down after while, but I’m not going back to sleep.”

Adam’s lips curled in a dubious expression.  “Uh-huh.”  He knew that as soon as Joe put his head down, he’d be out, so he decided not to argue the point.  “I’ll turn down your bed, just in case.”

“I won’t need that, Adam.”  Joe sounded a trifle perturbed.

“Just in case,” Adam said and went into Joe’s room to turn back the covers and plump up the pillows.  While he was there, he unpacked his little brother’s carpetbag, mostly so Joe wouldn’t be tempted to do it himself, but he brought Joe’s slippers back with him and knelt down to remove the boy’s street shoes.

“Why are you doing that?” Joe demanded.

“Just to make it easier if you should decide to lie down,” Adam explained.  “I don’t want you bending over, straining those muscles.”

As his older brother placed the slippers on his feet, Joe gazed warmly at him.  “You think of everything, don’t you, Adam?”

Adam gave his brother’s leg a pat as he stood up.  “Well, I try.”  He went into his own bedroom then and dressed in the suit he’d laid out earlier and combed out his damp hair.  When he was ready to leave, he set the new dime novel on the small end table next to Joe.  “In case you’d like to read while I’m out,” he said.

“Everything,” Joe said softly.

“Hmm?”

Joe’s smile reflected how loved and protected he felt.  “You think of everything,” he amplified.  “Really—everything.”

Adam touched Joe’s shoulder with a tender hand and started to leave.  Then he laughed at himself.  “Well, I did almost forget something pretty important.”  He came back to face his brother.  “If you need me, for any reason, just ask the desk clerk to send a message to Alumni Hall.  That’s where I’ll be.”

“I won’t need you, Adam,” Joe said, “but thanks for thinking of that, too.”  He gave a short laugh.  “That way, I’ll know where to come looking if you stay out too late.”

Adam tousled Joe’s hair.  “I’ll be back for dinner, you scamp; wait for me.”

“I will,” Joe promised.  “Have a good time, Adam.”

Adam found it hard, however, to think about having a good time as he walked the short distance to Alumni Hall on the campus of Yale University.  He’s tired, he scolded himself, too tired.  Can’t believe I let him talk me into this.  I’m supposed to be the strong one, the one member of the family impervious to that kid’s cajoling charm.  Yeah, impervious, you bet.  Getting so he can wrap me around his little finger as easily as he does Pa.  Not quite as easy a prey as Hoss, though, at least not yet; that’s one comfort—mighty small one.

When he reached Alumni Hall, however, and found himself caught up in greeting old friends and hearing them express how glad they were to see him again after all these years, the encroaching guilt faded to the back of his mind, and Adam began to let himself enjoy the moment.  After all, it’s what Joe would do, Adam concluded, so he decided to take a lesson from his baby brother’s book for once and felt forced to admit that the kid did have a knack for getting the most out of life, a kind of inner wisdom, one might even call it.  A chance to learn that wisdom was one of the reasons he’d given God for sparing Joe’s life, so it was time to start putting the lessons into action now that God had blessed him with the opportunity.

The meeting began promptly at half past nine, and the next couple of hours were devoted to offhand speeches from Yale graduates.  Adam himself spoke of his fond memories of life on the college campus, the lessons learned and the friendships formed.  He mentioned how thrilled he was to see so many familiar faces already and how he hoped to renew still more acquaintances as the Commencement ceremonies continued.

When all the alumni who wished to speak had done so, the obituary record was read.  Many of the names were familiar to Adam.  Seventy-five Yalensians had died in the Civil War, and while he hadn’t known them all personally, others were close friends, young men with whom he’d competed for school honors, rivaled in sports matches—and lost in a far deadlier contest.  These were the memories Adam always tried to avoid: lives snuffed out when their flame was brightest, others irreparably altered by the loss of limbs and livelihood.  Somehow, though, it seemed right to remember them here today, in this way; somehow the load seemed lighter as he sat with men who shared it.  He’d always known that many hands made light work when dealing with ranch chores; funny he’d never made the application to his inner load.  That, too, was something Joe, that intuitively wise child, had sensed.  Keeping the horror inside had made the pain last long past the time it should have ended, just as the boy had said on Independence Day.  It was time to let it go, and the reading of the obituary was, for Adam, the first moment of release.

The program moved on to the oration, given by a graduate unknown to Adam.  Since the man was only an adequate speaker, Adam found his flowery words less moving than the simple list of those who had passed on, whether in battle, through illness or, for those most blessed, of old age.  Following the oration, officers of the alumni were chosen for the following year.  As most of the candidates were unknown to him, Adam voted only for the orator to speak at the next alumni meeting and was pleased when his choice, a man of his own graduating class, was chosen.  Without doubt, next year’s oration would be more worthy of an attentive ear than the one presented today.

The meeting broke up just past noon, and the alumni scattered, rushing to nearby restaurants for a dinner that was already late.  Several fellow students invited Adam to join them, but he turned down all invitations, explaining that his brother was expecting him.  “Well, at least join us down at Eli’s for a game of billiards this afternoon, Adam,” urged the classmate who had been elected orator for next year’s alumni meeting.  “I haven’t had a decent game since our senior year.”

Adam laughed.  “I’ll try to oblige you, Peter, if I can get away, but prepare to be trounced.”

Peter groaned.  “The same old Adam, I see.  I was hoping that they didn’t have billiard tables out west yet, so you’d be out of practice and I’d have a chance for a change.”

Adam placed his palm on his friend’s firm shoulder.  “Ah, but we do have billiard tables ‘out west,’ spoopsey, and I assure you I’m up on my game.”

Peter feigned offense at Adam’s use of the old college slang term for a silly fellow, but he punched Adam lightly in the ribs to signify acceptance of the joke.  “I’ll look forward to seeing you at Eli’s then.”

“If I can,” Adam promised.  He spotted the medical professor he’d hoped to see across the room.  “If you’ll excuse me, I’d like a word with Dr. Havershaw.”

He came up behind a gray-haired man about a head shorter than he.  “Dr. Havershaw?”

The man turned, dark eyes lighting with pleasure.  “Adam!  Adam Cartwright,” he said, enthusiastically pumping Adam’s hand.  “I knew you the minute you walked forward to address the group.  What a pleasure to hear your fine speaking voice once more!  How long has it been, my boy?”

“Ten years since I graduated, sir,” Adam replied, returning the handshake with warm affection.  Though he had taken only a few science courses under the professor of medicine, they had been among his most enjoyed classes, for Dr. Havershaw was an excellent teacher.

“And what finally brings you back from the wilds of—Nevada, isn’t it?” the doctor inquired.

Adam smiled.  “Yes, Nevada, though it’s not so wild as you might think.  I came back here for the Centennial.”

Dr. Havershaw nodded.  “Oh, of course.  Hoping to get there myself, now that the term has ended.  Well, it’s marvelous to see you again.”

“And you, sir,” Adam said, hurrying to add, “but I came over because I need your help, your medical opinion, that is.”

Dr. Havershaw’s eyes showed immediate concern.  “You’re not ill, are you, my boy?”

“No, sir,” Adam assured him quickly, “but I traveled to Philadelphia with my youngest brother, Joseph—he’s just nineteen—and he became gravely ill while we were there, with an inflammation of his appendix.”

Concern wrinkled the doctor’s face.  “Oh, dear.  That is serious.  You consulted a doctor, I presume.”

“Of course.  He advised admitting Joe to the hospital, and Dr. Thomas Morton, whom I’m sure you know, if only by reputation, operated on him there twelve days ago—to remove the appendix.”  Adam paused to give the professor time to absorb the unexpected news.

Dr. Havershaw leaned forward, his interest intense.  “The result?”

“The surgery was successful,” Adam stated, “and Joe seems to be doing well.”

The dark eyes now reflected sympathy for the man standing before him.  “I’m certain it was difficult for you to leave him behind, especially in a public hospital, but the Pennsylvania is one of the finest in the nation and—”

“I didn’t leave him behind, sir,” Adam interrupted to say.  “He’s here with me in New Haven.”  He hesitated, took a deep breath and continued.  “You may think me a fool—and I’m not altogether sure myself that I did the right thing, but I removed him from the hospital—against the advice of the resident in charge of his case in Dr. Morton’s absence.”

If Dr. Havershaw was surprised, his face, while grave, did not reveal it.  “May I ask why?”

“You’re better acquainted with public hospitals than I, sir.”  When Dr. Havershaw nodded, Adam asked, “Would you want a member of your family in such a place?”

“No, I would prefer to care for a family member in my own home, of course, as most people of means do.”  The doctor laid a supportive hand on his former student’s shoulder.  “Were I far from home, as you are, however, I would not hesitate to seek medical help at any public hospital of good reputation, as that one certainly is.  Were you dissatisfied with the care young Joseph received?”

“No, not really,” Adam admitted.  “I will be eternally grateful to the surgeon for helping my brother, and I believe Joe received the best care available.  I simply came to believe that having him with me would enhance his recovery.  There were certain policies of the hospital that were disturbing to the boy—and to me, for that matter—but Joe was becoming increasingly distraught, to the point that it was affecting his recovery, in my opinion.”  He explained briefly the hospital policies that had upset his brother and told about his attempt to escape.

Dr. Havershaw nodded in slow acknowledgement.  “Those are much the same policies in effect across America, Adam.  I’ve advocated the need for change for some time, but change happens slowly.”

Adam pinched the bridge of his nose.  “That escape attempt is what motivated me to remove Joe from the hospital.  I believe I did the right thing, and his improvement since leaving there seems to bear me out.  Now I’ve let that boy wheedle me into bringing him here for Commencement, and I’m concerned that the trip may have been too much for him this soon after surgery.”

Dr. Havershaw’s eyebrows, which were a shade darker gray than the hair on his head and his beard, drew together.  “Well, I definitely wouldn’t have advised it, Adam.  If you had wired me, I would probably have suggested leaving your brother in the hospital until you could return.”

“I would not have left him,” Adam declared, “although missing Commencement would have been a bitter disappointment.”

More friend than physician now, Havershaw smiled.  “He’s very important to you.”

Adam licked his lips and gave a nervous nod.  “More than I know how to say.  I realize I’m asking a huge favor, but would you be willing to examine him, see what you think of his current condition, give me some advice on his further care?  There is no one whose opinion I would respect more, sir.”

The professor laughed.  “I see that your young brother comes by his ‘wheedling’ talent legitimately.”  He clapped Adam on the back.  “You know I’d do anything for you, my boy, though you did hand me a disappointment in not choosing medicine as your career.  Certainly, I’d be happy to examine your brother.  In fact, I could do that right now.”

“I don’t want to keep you from your dinner, sir,” Adam demurred.  “The hour grows late.  Just come at your convenience.”

“Nonsense!” Professor Havershaw proclaimed with another hearty clap to Adam’s shoulder.  “It will take only a few minutes, and my family is quite used to my arriving at all hours for meals.  Where are you lodging?”

“At the New Haven Hotel.”

“Ah, a pleasant block or so away—excellent choice.”

“Thank you for agreeing to come, sir,” Adam said as he fell into step beside his old professor.  As they walked toward the hotel, beneath the shady elms arching over the street, Adam and Dr. Havershaw briefly brought each other up to date on the changes in their lives in the last ten years.  Adam talked about the growth of the Ponderosa and the engineering and architecture projects in which he’d been involved, while Dr. Havershaw mainly spoke of the birth of his three grandchildren and what joy they had brought into his life.

When they entered the hotel suite, Joe was not in the parlor.  “Must have decided to lie down,” Adam told the professor.  “He seemed very tired, even after sleeping the entire trip.”  He walked into Joe’s bedroom and found him sound asleep, linen sheet reaching about halfway up his bare chest.  The shirt was lying across the foot of the bed and his slippers sat in the floor at the side, but no other clothing was in sight, so Adam presumed that his brother was still wearing his trousers and socks.  He touched Joe’s shoulder and gave it a gentle shake.

“Guess I was more tired than I thought,” Joe said, stretching his arms above his head.  As he looked up at Adam, he suddenly became aware of the stranger standing at his brother’s side and pulled the sheet up to his shoulders.

Adam knew he was in trouble the minute he saw his brother trying to hide behind that sheet.  Really shouldn’t have sprung this on him.  It was too late to correct the mistake, however, so Adam decided to bluff his way through it.  “Joe, I’d like you to meet Dr. Abraham Havershaw.”

Joe cut a suspicious glance at his brother.  “Doctor?” he asked, his tone laced with acid.

Adam cleared his throat.  “Yes, an old professor of mine.”

Joe relaxed a little, although he still felt awkward at being caught half-dressed and in bed in the middle of the day.  After another cutting glance at Adam, Joe tried to sit up, clutching the covers to his chest.  “Oh.  Well, nice to meet you, sir.”

As Adam helped his brother up and placed pillows behind his back, Dr. Havershaw extended his hand.  “Nice to meet you, young man.”  Joe pulled his hand out from beneath the sheet to shake the professor’s hand.

Adam drew a deep breath, bracing himself for an explosion.  “Joe, I’ve asked Dr. Havershaw to examine you.”

Emerald eyes shot arrows at ebony ones, but, angry as he was, Joe didn’t want to be discourteous to his brother’s old teacher.  “I—uh—don’t see any call for that.  I don’t mean any disrespect, sir, but I’m doing just fine.  I don’t need any more doctors pokin’ at me.”

“Joe!” Adam hissed, face flushing.

“It’s quite all right, Adam,” Dr. Havershaw offered conciliatorily.  “I’m sure this young man and I can come to an understanding.”  He smiled at Joe.  “I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling well, son, and I understand that you’ve probably seen as much of doctors as you care to.  Your brother, however, is feeling some concern about his decision to remove you from the hospital and to bring you here for Commencement.  I’m here simply to ease his mind.  Wouldn’t you like to see his concerns relieved?”

“They’d be relieved if he’d just believe me,” Joe complained.  He appreciated being treated with respect, as if he had the right to decide whether he were examined or not, but he was still disgruntled by what he saw as a betrayal by his brother.

Dr. Havershaw chuckled.  “Well, some men are just stubborn enough to prefer the opinion of a professional, and frankly, my boy, I always found your brother Adam to be more stubborn than most.”

Despite his desire to maintain an offended attitude, Joe quirked a smile.  “You really do know him!”

Adam cleared his throat loudly.  “I didn’t invite you here to give my brother ammunition for sniping at me later, Professor Havershaw!”

The doctor laughed, mostly to put his patient at ease.  “Oh, but younger brothers need all the ammunition they can stockpile; at least, that’s how it was in my family.”

Joe was grinning broadly now and beginning to feel more comfortable with the genial old man.

Seeing the patient’s relaxed attitude, Dr. Havershaw asked, “May I examine you, Joseph, just to give our stubborn Adam some peace of mind?”

“I guess I can put up with it,” Joe conceded, “seein’ as how I’m not as stubborn as him.”

Adam rolled his eyes in disbelief at the enormity of this falsehood.

With a smile the doctor drew back the sheet, unbuttoned Joe’s pants and pulled them down below his hips.  He conducted the exam in a casual manner, keeping his touch light on the tender area of the incision, especially after seeing the patient bite his lower lip when the mildly arthritic fingers passed over that area.  The doctor asked a few questions that Joe found embarrassing, regarding the function of his bowels and bladder, but didn’t dwell on that subject, once assured that everything was in working order.  Finally, he drew Joe’s pants up and buttoned the opening, thanking Joe for allowing him to make the examination.

“Is that all?” Joe asked, looking surprised.  The doctors in Philadelphia had pestered him much longer each morning.

Dr. Havershaw smiled and patted the boy’s leg before pulling the sheet over him again.  “That’s all.  Not too horrible, was it?”

Joe grinned, his relief evident.  “No, sir.  I’d sure like to send some of those Philadelphia doctors here to your school.  You could teach them a thing or two!”

The professor laughed.  “And perhaps they could teach me a thing or two, as well, but I accept your compliment, young man.”  He shook Joe’s hand in farewell.  “Again, it was a pleasure to meet you.”

Adam moved swiftly to Joe’s side and helped him sit up again.  “Put your shirt back on,” he suggested.  “I’ll see Dr. Havershaw out and be back to help you with your shoes.”   He escorted his old professor into the parlor, closing the bedroom door behind him.

“A most personable young man,” Dr. Havershaw commented.

Adam gave a brief nod.  “Yes, he’s quite the charmer, especially with young ladies.”

The doctor chuckled.  “I can see how he would be—incredibly handsome lad, though that seems to run in the family.”

“How is he?” Adam asked anxiously.  “Have I done him any harm by the unorthodox actions I’ve taken?”

Dr. Havershaw grasped Adam’s shoulder in support.  “He appears to be recovering from the surgery very nicely, Adam.  I would say that both the doctors at Pennsylvania Hospital and you have provided the young man excellent care.  He is tired from the journey, of course, and I would advise keeping him relatively quiet today.”

“And tomorrow?” Adam inquired.  “Is he fit enough to attend the activities?”

The doctor stroked his whiskers in thought.  “It will be a long day, of course—always is—but I’d say so, as long as he doesn’t overextend himself.”

“I’ll see that he doesn’t,” Adam stated firmly.

Dr. Havershaw smiled at the expression of determination, which he had so often seen on Adam’s face when he was a student at Yale.  “Yes, I was sure you would.  Do you intend to return to Philadelphia after Commencement?”

“He doesn’t know yet, but I had intended to take him over to Savin Rock for a few days.”

“Oh, excellent!” the doctor said enthusiastically.  “A few days of good sea air should act as a natural tonic.”

“That’s what I thought, especially since the heat in Philadelphia this summer has been stifling.  I planned to return to Philadelphia afterwards, though, and begin touring the Centennial again, if you think he’d be up to that.”

Again the doctor scratched his beard.  “Well, I don’t know, Adam.  From what I’ve heard, that entails more walking than I would advise this soon after surgery.”

Adam spread his hands toward the ceiling.  “He’s normally such an active boy, though, that I know keeping him confined to a hotel room is going to be very difficult.  I thought perhaps taking him out for half a day, using the rolling chairs available at the Exposition . . .”

Dr. Havershaw nodded.  “You’ve thought it out well, Adam, but that was always your hallmark.  I think that might work.  Just keep an eye on him to ascertain that he isn’t becoming overtired.  He doesn’t strike me as the kind of lad who would volunteer that sort of information.”

Adam laughed.  “Oh, no, he’s definitely the type to hide any discomfort that might get in the way of a good time.  I’ll watch him like a hawk.”

Or, more applicably, like a mother hen, the professor thought, unconsciously echoing a description Adam had already had tossed in his face by a certain little brother.  “Those stitches really should come out right away,” the doctor advised.  “If you’d like, I could return this evening and tend to that.”

“I’d appreciate it, sir.  What time?”

“Let’s say eight o’clock,” the doctor suggested.  “I’ll administer light sedation, so he’ll be more comfortable, and then he can go directly to sleep.”

“That sounds ideal,” Adam said.  “Thank you.”  He saw the doctor out and then returned to Joe’s room, as promised, picking up the balmorals, which were still beside the chair in the parlor.

Joe was sitting on the side of the bed, impatiently tapping the toe of his stocking on the floor.  “Well, that took long enough.  You and the doc have a nice talk about me, behind my back?”

“We talked about you,” Adam said, squatting down at Joe’s feet, shoes in hand, “but there’s nothing secretive about it.  I just asked him how you were doing, and he assured me everything was looking fine, and we talked some about how much activity you could handle.”  He glanced up after slipping on Joe’s left shoe.  “Still mad at me for bringing him?”

Joe shrugged.  “No, I guess not, but I don’t much like bein’ surprised like that, Adam.”

“Sorry,” Adam said as he tied the laces on the shoe.  “I was a little afraid you’d bolt if I told you ahead of time.”

Joe smiled slightly as Adam eased his other foot into its shoe.  “Yeah, maybe, but he was okay, treated me like a real person.”

With the shoestring looped in one hand, Adam looked up in surprise.  “Didn’t the doctors in Philadelphia treat you like a ‘real person,’ Joe?”

Joe scowled.  “Not like he did.  Mostly, they talked about me, not to me, and they didn’t even call me by name, just ‘the appendix surgical case’ or something like that.”

Catching the meaning, Adam nodded as he finished tying the shoe.  “They were treating the illness, not the person.  Well, that’s all past now,” he said as he stood, “and what’s directly ahead is dinner.  You want yours on a tray or would you prefer to eat downstairs?”

“Downstairs, of course,” Joe replied with complete predictability.

They were soon seated in the dining room, and Adam shook his head when he heard Joe order only veal pie.  Meat and gravy in crust might make a good entrée, but as a full meal, it left much to be desired.  “Add baked squash and buttered peas to that order, please,” he told the waitress, “and I’ll have the same.”  He gazed back imperturbably at Joe’s glare.  “You’ve got to start eating more, boy,” he said.

“That some of the good doctor’s advice?” Joe snorted.

“No, just common sense,” Adam said.  “You don’t have to clean your plate; just eat a little of each, please.  I’m concerned about you.”

The final sentence wiped the anger from Joe’s face.  “Don’t be,” he said softly.  “The doc said I’m doing fine, remember?”

“I remember.”

“You have any more meetings this afternoon?” Joe asked, smiling at the waitress as she delivered the iced tea chosen by both him and his brother.

“Not exactly,” Adam said, handing Joe the sugar bowl so he could sweeten his drink first.  “I was invited down to Eli’s for a game of billiards.  That was a popular student hangout when I attended school here, and some of my old classmates are meeting there this afternoon.”

“Could I come?” Joe asked.  “I’m rested up now, and I don’t want to sit up in that room alone all afternoon.”

“I wouldn’t leave you alone, Joe,” Adam assured him, “but if you think you’re up to it, you may come with me.  I would enjoy a good game of billiards.”

“I’m ready, older brother,” Joe said with a smile.

“No, you’re not,” Adam said pointedly.  The waitress chose that moment to deliver their food, so he waited until he and Joe were alone to explain his statement.  “Eat your dinner, little brother, or there’ll be no outing for you this afternoon.”

Recognizing the teasing tone in his brother’s voice, Joe feigned a pout, but he also knew that Adam meant what he said—no food, no fun.  He cut into the pastry covering the veal pie to let the steam escape and took a bite of squash while he waited for the meat dish to cool.  He ate about half each of the entrée and squash and all of the peas, one of his favorite vegetables, especially when they came fresh from the garden, as they obviously did here.

Adam seemed satisfied with the amount Joe had eaten, and they were soon walking to Eli’s.  “There it is, just past the post office,” he said, pointing to a small building behind a white picket fence.

To Joe, the place—from the outside, at least—looked like it held a more sedate style of fun than was his preference, but once they walked in, his smile widened.  The walls of the front room were paneled in dark wood, but the gas lighting kept the darkness from being oppressive.  Round tables for four were scattered across the floor, and a long, marble-topped bar stood along one end.  The room rang with lively conversation, and it was obvious that the patrons were having a rollicking good time.

“The billiard tables are in the back room,” Adam chuckled, seeing his brother’s lingering gaze on the bar.  Snagging an elbow, he guided Joe into the next room, a much lighter one, for it was lined with windows on three sides.

A brown-haired man, slightly shorter than Adam, raised his arm and waved to attract their attention.  “Adam!”

“Hey, Adam!  Glad you could make it,” called a man on the opposite side of a billiard table, and several others in the room echoed the welcome.

“I’d about given you up, old boy,” the first man said as he walked over to grasp Adam’s hand.   Noticing the boy at his friend’s side, he asked, “Who’s the lad?”

Joe rolled his eyes, wondering why all these eastern fellows insisted on calling him lad.

“This is my brother, Joseph Cartwright,” Adam responded.  “Remember, I told you he was with me?  Joe, this is Peter Pierson, an old friend.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Joe said politely.

Peter looked up and down Joe’s slight frame.  “Well, this can’t be the burly one, big enough to lift a horse, so I take it you’re the little mischief Adam used to tell me about.”  He laughed at the irritated glare Joe sent toward Adam and extended his hand to distract Joe.  “Welcome to Eli’s, young fellow.  First drink’s on me.”

Shaking Peter’s hand, Joe cut an inquiring glance at his older brother.  He hadn’t tasted liquor since his illness and wondered whether Adam would permit him to have it.

Adam nodded.  “As long as it’s beer—and nurse it slowly because you won’t get more than two this afternoon.”

Peter laughed.  “Holding the lad to a higher standard than you ever kept yourself, aren’t you, spoopsey?”

Joe’s mouth curved upward.  “Spoopsey?”  He just barely avoided giggling out the question.

“Never mind!” Adam said curtly.  He glowered at his friend, who only laughed at how successfully he’d repaid Adam for the earlier jibe.  Finally, Adam smiled in acknowledgement of being trumped.  “He’s been ill,” he explained to Peter, “and I’d prefer he save his appetite for nourishing food.”

“And I’d prefer you quit worrying,” Joe muttered.

Peter looked sympathetically at the young man.  “Well, I’m sure he has your best interest at heart, lad, but I’ll still claim the honor of buying you that first beer.”

Joe smiled, irritation diffused by the man’s friendly manner.  “Thank you kindly, sir.”

“Almost done with this game,” Peter said, pointing to the billiard table, “and I’ll be ready to take you on by the time you’ve ordered that beer for the boy, Adam.”  He pressed a quarter into Adam’s palm.  “Does your brother play billiards, too?  I might stand a better chance against a youngster like him.”

Adam laughed.  “You could probably defeat him with one arm tied behind your back.  Joe’s never shown much interest in the game.  His taste runs more to arm wrestling, I’m afraid.”

Peter chuckled.  “Since he’s been ill, I won’t challenge him to a match at that.  However, you, sir, will receive no mercy from me.”

“Nor need any, unless your game has vastly improved,” Adam retorted with an arch of his eyebrow.  He went to the bar and brought back a foaming mug of beer for his brother, handing it to Joe after taking one long swallow.  It was all he had time for before the billiard match began.  Several of Adam’s old acquaintances gathered around in anticipation of a challenging match.

As the balls were racked and the game began, Joe stood watching, sipping at his beer.  He’d never paid much attention to billiards before, mostly because Adam’s explanation of the playing technique sounded like an arithmetic lesson, all angles and calculations.  Now, seeing Adam in a sporting competition with his friend, exchanging crisp banter back and forth, the game looked like fun.  Adam . . . fun . . . Joe shook his head.  The words scarcely seemed to fit together.  Adam was always associated, in Joe’s mind, with words like ‘work’ and ‘study’ and ‘responsibility.’  He was seeing a different Adam today, though, one capable of making friends and sharing a good time.  Adam had friends back home, too, of course—not as many as Joe, but a few tried and true ones.  However, Joe sensed that his brother was more at ease among these eastern comrades.  Stood to reason, he figured.  Adam had more in common with these educated folks; he could relax and be himself without anyone staring at him if he used a long-handled word or made some reference to a book or play.  Joe soon grew weary of standing, however, and took a seat at a nearby table, where he could still watch the action of the game.

Several minutes passed before Adam noticed that Joe wasn’t where he’d last seen him.  Looking around, he spotted his brother and walked over while Peter was racking up another set of balls.  “You okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” Joe assured him.  “Just got a little tired of standing up.  Can I have that second beer now?”

Adam chuckled as he lifted his hand to attract the attention of a barmaid.  He laid a long bit, worth fifteen cents, on the table, so Joe would be able to pay for the beer when it arrived.

“Hey, Adam, you’re going to give me another chance, aren’t you?” Peter queried, walking toward the Cartwright brothers.

Adam folded his arms and coolly surveyed his friend.  “And what makes you think another chance will lead to a different outcome?”

Peter shrugged and looked at Little Joe.  “Sure you won’t give me a game, lad?”

Joe grinned.  “No, thanks, but I’ll wager five dollars my brother gives you another sound thrashing.”

“Joe!”  Adam thumped his brother lightly on the top of the head.  “You rascal, you absolutely will not bet on this contest.”

“Why not, Adam?” Peter sparred.  “Afraid you’ll be the cause of the little lad losing all his pocket money?”

Joe started to rise in response to the insult of being called a little lad, but Adam pressed down on his shoulder and turned to Peter with a lofty smile.  “The ‘little lad’ will soon be five dollars richer.”  He ambled toward the billiard table, crowing, “Like taking candy from a baby”—his voice dropped to a mutter—“and giving it to another one!”

Adam once again won the game easily, and Peter, though disgruntled by the second loss, willingly paid his debt.  Adam winked at Joe as the boy pocketed his winnings.  Then he noticed the strain on his brother’s face and turned to his friend.  “Much as I’d like to trounce you again, my friend, it’s time we took our leave of you.”

“Here now, that’s not fair!” Peter protested, though with a good-natured smile.  “Take my money, then run off without giving me a chance to win it back?  It’s not done, sir!”

“I need to get him back to the hotel,” Adam said seriously.  “He’s tired, and we have a big day ahead tomorrow.”

Joe raised a pair of drooping eyelids.  “No, Adam, go ahead,” he urged.  “I’m all right.”

In answer, Adam merely assisted Joe to his feet and, taking firm hold on the boy’s arm, said good-bye to his friend.

Peter shook his hand.  “Perhaps we can have another go before you leave town, and I’ll take you next time, spoopsey.”

“Follow my advice, spoopsey,” Adam tossed back, “and don’t wager against me next time, especially not with this little sharper.  Come on, Joe.”

“Good-bye, lad,” Peter said.  “Don’t spend it all in one place.”  He laughed as he gestured to the barmaid for another drink.

No sooner had he and Adam cleared the swinging picket gate on leaving Eli’s than Joe began to protest.  “I can go back to the hotel alone.  No need to sacrifice your fun with your friend.”

“No sacrifice involved,” Adam replied.  “Peter’s a good opponent, but I’d probably just hand him another defeat if I stayed, and I’d prefer not to do that.”

“You’re really good at this game, aren’t you?” Joe asked, his admiration showing.

Adam shrugged.  “It’s all a matter of applied mathematics.”

Joe groaned.  Now, this was the Adam he knew!  Adam laughed at his brother’s woebegone expression and circled his waist as they walked the short distance to the New Haven Hotel.  Joe looked up, mischievous twinkle in his eye.  “Whatever you say, spoopsey, whatever you say.”

Adam dug his fingernails into his brother’s ribs.  “If you repeat that word back home, I will personally bend you across my knee—and that is no idle threat, sonny.”

Joe nodded in exaggerated solemnity.  “Yes, spoopsey.”

Adam let his hand slide up to take hold of Joe’s neck.  He gave it a slight shake and then slapped Joe’s backside with a chuckle, just before they mounted the steps to the hotel.  As soon as they were inside their suite, Adam told Joe to get undressed and go to bed.

“It’s the middle of the afternoon,” Joe whined.  “I’ll lay down for awhile, but—”

“You will lie down the rest of the day,” Adam dictated firmly.  “You look exhausted, and tomorrow’s schedule will be heavy, so get into bed like a good little boy, and I’ll have your supper brought up on a tray whenever you’re ready.”

“You are just plain bossy, spoopsey,” Joe grumbled.

“Bed,” Adam ordered laconically, and with a sigh Joe headed for his room.  Adam followed him in, took a fresh nightshirt from the chest of drawers and helped Joe change clothes and get settled into bed.  Then he pulled a chair over and straddled it, resting his arms across the back.  “You know, Joe, you don’t really have to attend the ceremonies tomorrow if you don’t want to.”

Joe looked up with a pained expression.  “Are you afraid I’ll embarrass you in front of your fancy eastern friends?”

“Joe, no, of course not!  I wouldn’t have invited you to Eli’s this afternoon, if that were the case.  I’m simply concerned that the day will be tiring for you, as well as rather boring.  There’ll be a dozen speeches, most of them on literary subjects, which would be of little interest to you, and since I’ll be sitting with the alumni, we wouldn’t even be together.”

Joe frowned for a moment.  “That’s not all there is, though, right?”

Adam shrugged one shoulder.  “It’s the major part, yes, so I’d understand if—”

Joe interrupted, “But it’s like what you did when you graduated, right?”

“Yes.  In fact, I was one of the speakers back then,” Adam told him, pride showing through just a bit.

“Well, I didn’t get to see that, so I’d like to go now, so I could at least get a feel for what it was like for you,” Joe said.

“All right, little brother,” Adam said gently, nonplussed by the intensity with which Joe seemed to yearn for knowledge of those years the two of them had been apart.  “You can see whatever you like.  Get yourself some rest now, and I’ll wake you for supper.  Know what you’d like?”

“Just some soup.”

Shaking his head, Adam left the room.  Soup again.  It was becoming standard fare for the boy who had eaten everything in sight when he first came east.  Still, Joe’s appetite was beginning to pick up, so he wouldn’t push the issue.  No, he would not be like Hoss and beg or bully the boy into eating “just one more spoonful”!  He did, however, choose the heartiest soup on the menu, beef and barley in rich, dark gravy with peas, carrots, potatoes and onion.

When Joe, sitting up in bed, finished it later, Adam set the tray outside the door and returned to his brother’s room.  “I don’t have to go right back to sleep, do I?” Joe whined.

“In an hour or so,” Adam replied, taking a seat and facing him.  “I don’t want to be accused of ambushing you again, so I’d better tell you that Dr. Havershaw is coming back over about eight o’clock.”

“Why?” Joe demanded.  “Not even those docs in Philadelphia pestered me at night.”

Adam smiled.  “You really didn’t like them, did you?  Well, you probably won’t like what’s happening tonight, either, but it’s necessary.  Dr. Havershaw said it was time for your stitches to come out, and he offered to take care of that tonight.”

“Ugh!” Joe grunted.  He’d had stitches removed on a few other occasions and wasn’t looking forward to repeating the experience.

“I know, I know,” Adam soothed sympathetically, “but you know it has to be done, Joe, and you’ll feel better once they’re out.”

“I guess so,” Joe muttered.  Looking up, he added, “Thanks for telling me before he got here.”

Adam nodded.  “Sure, only fair.  Would you like to hear a bit of Ivanhoe ‘til he arrives?”

“Yes, please,” Joe said with a smile.

Adam took the book from the top of the bureau, and he and Joe were soon absorbed in medieval adventures in merry old England.  About an hour and a half later there was a rap at the door.  Adam answered it and ushered his old professor into Joe’s room.

“Ready to get rid of those stitches, my boy?” the doctor asked.

“Ready as I’m gonna get,” Joe replied with a trace of nervousness in his voice.  “Sure hope you’ve got a steadier hand than the fellow that put ‘em in.”

Dr. Havershaw gave the boy’s knee a kindly pat.  “I’ll be as gentle as I can,” he promised.  He opened his doctor’s bag and took out a syringe.

“What’s that for?” Joe asked, eyeing the instrument with edgy distaste.

“Just a mild sedative,” the doctor explained as he filled the syringe from a small vial.  “It’ll make you more comfortable for the procedure.”

“Couldn’t I just bite down on a piece of wood?” Joe grunted.  “Westerners are tough—or so I hear.”

“Joe,” Adam scolded.

The doctor just laughed.  “Let’s do it the easy way, shall we?”

Joe gave in and was soon glad he had, for even the “easy way” was pretty tough to take.  Each stitch stung and pulled the tender flesh as it was removed, and the stinging was only accentuated by the swabbing of alcohol that completed the procedure.  The sedative helped, although it wasn’t until the doctor had redressed the wound and slipped out to the parlor with Adam that Joe actually fell asleep.  Adam was glad that Joe had the extra aid to rest that night.  Since the ceremonies would begin at 8:30 the next morning, they would need to rise early to dress, eat and be on campus by then.

*****

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Dressed again in the black range outfit he’d worn on the train, Adam set a loaded tray atop the chest of drawers in Joe’s bedroom and moved toward the bed to wake his brother.  “Up and at ‘em, Sleeping Beauty,” he teased.  Joe groaned and tried to roll away from his older brother, but Adam blocked the movement.  “Joe, you have to get up.  It’s seven o’clock.  Come on, boy.”  When he saw Joe’s eyes open, he walked across the room to retrieve the tray.  “Breakfast is served,” he announced cheerily.

Joe scooted up in the bed, and Adam positioned the tray over his legs.  “We could have gone downstairs together, Adam,” Joe said.

Adam perched at the foot of the bed.  “I wanted you to sleep as late as you could.  It’s gonna be a long day.”

Joe grinned impishly.  “Now, why can’t you be that accommodating back home?”

“Because back home, letting you sleep in also means doing your chores,” Adam returned with a whimsical smile.  “Now eat.”

Joe dragged his left hand to his eyebrow in a salute so sloppy it would have earned him a court martial in the military.  “Yes, sir, spoopsey!”  As he picked up the fork, he frowned down at the tray.  “Awful lot of food here, Adam.  You mistakin’ me for Hoss again?”

“Now, don’t hand me that nonsense.  I ordered the short stack,” Adam said, referring to the buckwheat cakes.

Joe drizzled maple syrup over the three hotcakes.  “That’s still about two too many,” he complained, “and sausage and bacon, both.  How you expect me to eat all that?”

Adam shook his head.  “Just eat what you want.  I won’t complain, so long as you drink all the juice.”

Joe shrugged.  “Okay, but it seems like a waste of money to me.”

“Since when do you worry about the condition of my pocketbook?” Adam chided and immediately regretted the words when he saw his brother’s countenance drop.  “Oh, Joe, that’s not why you’re eating so little, is it, to save me money?”

Joe shook his head.  “No, but I am sorry about the way I ran up your bill before, Adam.  I wish you could forgive me.”

Adam waggled Joe’s foot back and forth.  “Already done, little brother.  Now, while you finish your breakfast, I’ll dress for Commencement.  Then I’ll help you get ready.”

“What about your breakfast?” Joe asked, cutting off a bite of buckwheat cake and swirling it through the syrup.

“I ate downstairs earlier.”

Joe nodded, satisfied, and turned his attention to the meal as Adam went into his bedroom to change clothes.  He returned a short while later, dressed in his black suit and matching crimson vest and cravat.  He shook his head as he carried the tray out to set it in the hallway.  Joe had eaten the equivalent of, maybe, one and a half hotcakes, two slices of bacon and none of the sausage, but the juice glass had been drained, so Adam felt he couldn’t complain.  At least, buckwheat flour made hearty hotcakes.  Hopefully, they’d stick with the kid throughout the long morning.

Coming back into Joe’s bedroom, Adam saw that his brother had started to dress, putting on a crisp, white linen shirt.  He helped the boy into the gray broadcloth trousers of his suit and after putting on his brother’s stockings and shoes, asked Joe which vest and cravat he’d like to wear.  “What do you think would look good?” Joe queried.  “I mean, you know more what’s proper for an occasion like this than I do.”

Pleased to be asked, Adam suggested the gray broadcloth vest that had come with the suit, set off with the royal blue cravat he’d purchased the day Joe left the hospital.  When Joe agreed, he brought them from the chest of drawers.  Joe put on the vest and jacket; then Adam tied the cravat into a snappy bow and stepped back to view the finished product.  “You look very handsome, Joe,” he said when he saw Joe suck in his lips under the scrutiny.

“Hey, you, too, brother,” Joe returned, smiling in relief that he’d passed muster.

Adam stroked his chin.  “There is just one thing.  You should wear a hat.”

“I’ve got my straw.  We left the other one in Philadelphia.”

“No, that’s too casual,” Adam said.  “I’ve got an idea; wait here.”  He went into his bedroom.

Joe followed him as far as the parlor.  “Any hat of yours is gonna be too big, Adam.”

Adam came out, smiling, gray bowler in hand.  “Try this one,” he suggested.  “I think it might fit.”

Joe knew instantly that the hat had been specially purchased for him.  “Aw, Adam, you shouldn’t have.”

“I thought we agreed that the condition of my pocketbook was none of your business,” Adam said as he placed the hat on his brother’s head.  “There—the perfect picture of a stylish college candidate.”

“Adam,” Joe remonstrated, drawing the word out.

“Which you’re not,” Adam agreed at once, “but I think you might want to look the part today, just to fit in.”

Joe grinned.  “Yeah, guess so.  You’re sure I look okay?”

“Perfect,” Adam assured him.  He drew his pocket watch from his vest pocket and announced that it was time to leave.

They went down the front steps of the New Haven Hotel, with Adam keeping a solid grip on his brother’s elbow as they descended, and started walking up Chapel Street toward the college.  It was a short walk, just two blocks, not even as distant as the depot had been the day before.  After covering half that distance, the Cartwright brothers passed by an open area of grassy lawn with wooden benches scattered beneath shady elms.  “Easterners go in for these squares, don’t they?” Joe commented, looking approvingly at the patch of park.

“This one is called the Green,” Adam explained.  “It’s sort of the unofficial boundary line between the town and the college.”

“It’s pretty, in a tame sort of way,” Joe said.  “Just not enough of it to do much good.”

“Oh, you’re just missing Wissahickon Park,” Adam teased.  Not to mention the Ponderosa.

“Yeah, I liked that place,” Joe said wistfully.

“We’ll see about visiting it again after we get back to Philadelphia,” Adam promised, though he knew it would be awhile before Joe was up to traversing anything but level terrain.  They had passed the Green now, and Adam paused at the corner of College and Chapel streets to run his hand over the round wooden rails of the fence that surrounded Yale University.  “Oh, this brings back some grand memories,” he said, smiling at his brother.

“The fence?” Joe asked, one side of his mouth curling up in a lopsided smile.  “We’ve got plenty of fences back home, brother, if you’re feeling homesick for them.  I bet Pa would be glad to save all the ones that need mending for you.”

“Spare me that!” Adam laughed.  “It’s not the fence, buddy; it’s what we did here.  When the weather was agreeable, we’d come out by the dozens after dinner or supper to perch on the fence.  Sometimes all we’d do was chat or laugh about some antic that had gone on in the classroom or chapel that day, but most times we’d sing, sometimes by classes, sometimes all together.  A hundred hearty voices made a glorious sound.  I’ve never heard singing like that anywhere else.”

Joe smiled up at his older brother.  “I can see why that’s a fond memory.  You sing so well, Adam.  Did you have a favorite spot on the fence?” he asked as they turned right and began walking alongside the round rails.

Adam shook his head.  “There were traditional areas where each class held court,” he explained.  “Nothing official, but accepted by consensus.  Where we’re walking now, for instance, was sophomore territory.  Juniors and seniors ruled along Chapel Street, and freshmen, of course, simply weren’t allowed to join in.”

“Well, that’s mean,” Joe said.  “Makes me all the more glad I’m not ever gonna be one.”

Adam nodded.  “Yes, the hazing could get bad, but mostly it was just a time of proving yourself, of earning the respect of your elders.  I went through something very similar when I went back home.  Took awhile for some of the men to accept me as an equal, much less a boss.”

Joe shook his head, for what his brother was saying didn’t mesh with his memory of how the men had always felt about Adam.  As long as Joe could remember, Adam had been treated like just what he was, Pa’s right-hand man.  The nineteen-year-old couldn’t conceive that it had ever been any other way, any more than he could conceive that he might ever earn the kind of respect that seemed to flow naturally to his older brother.

Adam led Joe through a gateway in the fence and down a row of brick buildings.  He pointed to one as they passed.  “That’s the Lyceum, where I’ll be gathering with the graduates and other alumni before we march in.  I’ll take you down to the chapel first, though, as that’s where the Commencement exercises will take place.”  He walked past one more building before stopping at the one beyond that, a large structure with four smooth white pillars across the front and topped by a tall, white steeple.  A crowd was gathered on the lawn, and two policemen stood ready to handle any problems.  “Here’s where you go in,” Adam told Joe.  “The right side is reserved for the graduates, the center for alumni and the gallery for ladies, so pick a spot on the left, preferably near the aisle”—he saw the questioning look in Joe’s eye—“so I can find you more easily afterward.”

“Okay,” Joe said.  There were only three steps up to the entrance, but Adam insisted on supporting his brother as he mounted them.  Then, as Adam turned back toward the Lyceum, Joe went through the arched doorway, and an usher helped him find a seat on the left side of the main auditorium and handed him a program.  Joe took a quick look at that and then craned his neck to see up into the gallery, thinking it a crying shame that he couldn’t sit up there with all those pretty ladies.  He was feeling particularly handsome in his eastern finery and sincerely wished he could exercise his charms on a few of the younger beauties he spied up there.

A bell rang, signifying that half past eight had arrived, and the strains of a band playing outside could be heard.  Little Joe turned toward the back of the auditorium, hoping to see Adam enter.  He saw the doors open, and the band entered first, marching to the front, but the men who came to the doorway next looked so young that they almost had to be graduates of 1876.  The students had marched to the door in double file, but then the ranks opened to permit older men to pass between the rows of younger ones.  The first men through the door were very old, indeed, several of them as silver-haired as Pa, and Dr. Havershaw was among them, so Joe was sure they must be the faculty, trustees and other important guests.  That conclusion was confirmed when they headed for the platform at the front.  As each man came through the door, he doffed his hat, and Joe quickly raked his off his head, embarrassed that he hadn’t noticed before then that all the other male spectators had bared their heads.  Blame it on the ladies, he thought with a grin.  They’re just too doggone pretty.

Behind the faculty and dignitaries came younger men, but still older than Adam, who finally entered about two-thirds of the way down the long line of what Joe decided must be the alumni, since they filed into the center section to be seated.  Joe was tempted to let out a whoop when he saw his brother, but decided that would not reflect well on either his older brother or Pa’s upbringing.  He saw Adam searching the aisles on the left side of the auditorium, trying to spot him, so he gave a discreet wave.  Adam nodded and turned his attention to taking his seat.  Those marching in after him appeared younger and younger until, finally, the ones Joe had seen at the doorway took their places with the other fresh faces on the right side of the room, so Joe knew he’d correctly guessed their identity.

A distinguished-looking, gray-haired man in a black silk and velvet robe rose from his cushioned seat within the pulpit and stood behind the lectern to welcome the graduates, alumni and guests to the Commencement exercises of Yale University, which he then opened with prayer.  A quick glance at the program told Joe that this was the President of Yale, Noah Porter.  The speeches Adam had warned Joe about began next, but bored didn’t begin to describe how Joe felt as the first orator started speaking in a foreign language.  Joe recognized the language, but couldn’t understand a single word, despite the fact that he’d studied—or, rather, hadn’t studied—a smattering of Latin in school.  Joe just blocked out the meaningless words and pictured his older brother, standing behind that pulpit and impressing everyone in the room with his profound oration.

The young speaker appeared to make three separate addresses: one to the President, one to the graduating class and the final one to the audience.  When he concluded, he was applauded, and a young lady in the balcony tossed down a bouquet of flowers.  Blushing as he endured the teasing laughter of his peers, the first speaker scooped up the bouquet and hurriedly took his seat.

The next speaker just bowed to the President, instead of addressing a speech to him, and when he did begin his oration, he spoke in English.  That’s a relief, Joe thought, but he didn’t find the young man’s remarks about the poetry of John Milton to be much more interesting than the Latin gibberish of the speaker before him.  There was applause, but no bouquet for this young man, though the third speaker did get an honorarium from a pretty girl.  Joe shrugged.  Some fellows had a way with girls and some just didn’t.

There were musical interludes between each speech, and Joe noticed that a number of people would get up to leave while the music was playing.  He couldn’t understand that; they were missing the best part of the program, in his opinion, but it wasn’t long before neither daydreams nor music could hold his attention.  As the fourth speaker droned on, Joe slumped in his chair and closed his eyes.  He didn’t fall asleep, but he was startled when he felt a tap on his shoulder during another musical interlude and looked up to see Adam motioning him out.  He wanted to object, assuming that Adam was leaving only for his sake, but he didn’t want to disturb the program, so he followed his brother out quietly.

No sooner had he passed through the outer doors, however, than he began to protest vociferously, plopping his hat on his head.  “You didn’t have to leave on my account, Adam!”

Adam put on his black bowler and hooked his brother’s elbow so he could help him down the steps.  “I didn’t, entirely.  I was getting a little bored myself, as a matter of fact.  I thought we’d walk around a bit, let me show you a few of the major buildings and then go back for the valedictory.”

“The what?”

Adam waited to explain until they were on level ground again.  “The final speech, made by the top man in the class.  It should be worth hearing.”

“Is that the speech you made when you graduated, Adam?” Joe asked eagerly.

Adam draped an arm across his brother’s shoulders as they began walking down the row of brick buildings facing the Green.  “No, I made the salutatory.”  Noting Joe’s expression of puzzlement, he added, “That means I stood second in the class.  The first speech you heard today was the salutatory.”

“Oh, the one in Latin.”  Joe had seen ‘salutatory’ on the program, but it hadn’t meant anything to him.  He glanced up with a smile only slightly diminished by the revelation that his older brother wasn’t quite perfect.  “Well, I’ll bet yours was the best of the day, anyway.”

Adam chuckled, pleased but amused by Joe’s fraternal pride.  “I’m wondering now if all those speeches I thought were so wise and philosophical back when my class graduated really sounded as simplistic and juvenile as these!”

“You, simplistic or juvenile?  Naw,” Joe scoffed with an impish grin.  “Stuffy and boring, maybe, but—”

Adam cut off the rest of that sentence by tipping Joe’s stylish gray bowler over his nose.  Joe grinned and pushed it back into place.

“This is North Middle,” Adam said, gesturing toward the building next to the chapel.  “It’s one of the four main dormitories, at least in my time.  I understand a couple of new ones have been built.”

Joe glanced quickly at the four-story building, remembering it from the picture he’d seen in the Main Exhibition Building in Philadelphia.  “I’ll bet I can guess which ones are the other three.  They all look alike: same size, same number of windows.”

“They are all alike, architecturally,” Adam admitted, “though some are older than others.  Each has thirty-two chambers; that’s an apartment for two students.”

“Oh, yeah, you roomed with that friend of yours from St. Joe, didn’t you?”

“Wouldn’t have had anyone else,” Adam concurred.  “Jamie’s been a good friend from the time I was six.”

“Yeah, I know.  Too bad he couldn’t make it to Commencement this year, but I guess he’s busy with his preaching chores, huh?”

Adam laughed.  “I don’t think he considers it a chore, little buddy.  He always was a good speaker; in fact, he usually bested me in any class that required skill with language.  I was better at mathematics and science, though.”

Joe scanned the bank of windows as they walked past North Middle.  “So, which room was yours?”

Adam guffawed this time.  “Which year, kid?  Seniors always get first choice, so you sort of have to work your way up to a good chamber.  Freshmen generally have to lodge in town, for lack of space on campus, which is what Jamie and I did our first year.  We had a terrible draw our sophomore year—fourth floor of South Middle. That’s this next building,” he said, pointing to one just past the Lyceum, which was used mostly for class recitations.  “Worst dorm on the yard, oldest on campus, but I didn’t end up staying there because that was the year I enlisted.”

Joe’s eyes brightened, and he started to ask Adam why he’d decided to enlist in the Army, but he stopped himself just in time.  Today was a special day for Adam, and he didn’t want to spoil it by bringing up bad memories.  Besides, he’d promised himself he wouldn’t pry into his brother’s private recollections ever again.

They had come to a building similar in style to the Lyceum, although obviously older.  “This one looks different,” Joe said, “not like the dorms.”

“No, it’s not, although sometimes indigent freshmen did lodge here in the Athenaeum,” Adam told his brother.  “It was the original chapel, but it was used for classes in my day.  I attended my first recitation here.  Scared to death I wouldn’t do well, but I got through it with a decent mark.”

“Well, of course, you did, Adam,” Joe said.  “I could’ve told you that.”

Adam hooted.  “Joe, you were four years old at the time!”

“But I knew, even then, that you were the smartest man alive,” Joe insisted.  He tossed a naughty grin in his brother’s direction.  “‘Course, you’ve gotten a lot dumber since then, spoopsey.”

Adam cuffed his brother’s ear, and then pulled him between the Athenaeum and the building beyond it.  “That’s SouthCollege, where seniors generally stay,” he said, gesturing to his left at the dormitory at the very end of Brick Row.

“So you stayed there your last year?”

“Second floor front,” Adam said, pointing to a particular window.  “It was a good room.”  As they reached the back of the building, Adam turned his brother back in the direction from which they’d come, but they were walking along the backside of Brick Row now.  He began pointing out other buildings across the yard as they came into sight: the laboratory, scientific cabinet, library and gymnasium.  “I spent many a pleasant hour in both of those,” Adam said, referring to the final two buildings.

“Well, the library I can believe,” Joe laughed.  “You and your books!  What did you do in the other one?”

Adam grasped his little brother by the nape of the neck and gave it a gentle shake.  “Kept myself in shape for dealing with you when I got home!”  They were standing directly behind the chapel now, where the Commencement speeches were still going on.  Adam pointed toward the two-story red sandstone at the northwest corner of College Yard.  “That’s Alumni Hall, where my meeting yesterday was held—and here we are back where we started.”  He gestured toward the chapel.

Joe gave the obligatory moan.  “No more Latin, I hope.  What’s the use of that, anyway, Adam?  Nobody talks that stuff in the real world anymore.”

Adam shrugged.  “No, no more Latin.  You have a point, but there is something to be said for reading the classics in the language in which they were originally written, Joe.”

Joe shook his head at this further confirmation that his older brother was stark, raving crazy when it came to book learning.  His alert ears picked up strains of music coming from the chapel.  “Does that mean it’s okay to go in now?” he asked.

Adam smiled at his brother’s quick perception.  “Yes, that’s the way it’s done.  Anyone can come and go during the music, but it’s considered rude to walk in or out while a man is speaking.  From the number of people heading for the door, I’d say we timed it just right to hear the closing speech.”

“We’d better hustle in then,” Joe suggested.

“No hustling for you, young man,” Adam said with mock severity.  “Slow and easy, and let your big brother help you up the stairs.”

“Yes, sir,” Joe said, willingly taking the arm Adam offered him.  Though he would not have admitted it, the walk had tired him, and he was ready to sit down for a while.

He was surprised, but pleased when Adam took a seat beside him on the left side of the auditorium.  Must’ve figured there wasn’t much use sitting with his friends for just one speech.

When the music ended, the final speaker approached the pulpit and made a brief speech to the President, just as the first speaker had done.  Joe was surprised to see the entire graduating class rise to their feet when the valedictorian turned to address them.

“Tradition,” Adam whispered, seeing Joe’s questioning look.

Joe nodded.  Yes, the top man in the class deserved that extra honor.  He felt just a tinge of disappointment that such an honor had not been accorded his older brother and wondered if Adam himself hadn’t been bitterly disappointed when he failed to achieve the highest goal.  Was that why he’d pushed his little brother to do well in school, to make up for some empty feeling inside?  Probably not, but Joe suddenly wished that he’d worked harder at his studies.  Though it wasn’t likely he could ever have stood first in his class, he wished he had done more to make his big brother—and Pa, too—proud.

When the valedictory ended, the seniors left, and Little Joe started to rise from his seat.  Seeing the movement, Adam pressed down on his brother’s knee.  “It isn’t over,” he said.  “We can leave if you like, but you might like to see the conferring of the degrees.”

Joe smiled, nodded and scooted back in his seat.  Only a few minutes passed before some of the students who had just left returned, accompanied by others who hadn’t chosen to be in the auditorium for the valedictory, a dozen in all.  The twelve seniors came down the center aisle and stood in a semi-circle before the president’s desk.  The president spoke briefly in Latin, handing several scrolled diplomas to the man nearest him.  “He’ll hand them out to the others once they’re outside,” Adam whispered to his brother.  The twelve seniors bowed to the president and then departed via the south aisle, while twelve more filed down the center aisle, and the simple ceremony was repeated.

Finally, all the diplomas had been awarded, and the Cartwright brothers made their way out with everyone else.  “Four years of work for one little piece of sheepskin,” Joe murmured with a shake of his head.  “Not much of a bargain, Adam.”

Adam chuckled.  “It’s not the document, foolish child.  It’s what you’ve store away in here that matters.”  He tapped Joe on the forehead.  “Ah, just as I suspected . . . hollow.”          Joe rolled his eyes, but grinned in acknowledgement of walking straight into that barb.

Adam put an arm about the boy’s slim shoulders and gave him an affectionate squeeze as they moved toward the Green.  They were stopped by a familiar voice.  “Adam, wait a minute, my boy.”          Both brothers turned to see Dr. Havershaw, still in his formal dark robes, hurrying toward them.  When he caught up with the Cartwrights, the doctor smiled at Little Joe.  “Well, young Joseph.  Good to see you, lad.  How are you feeling?”   Joe responded with the same words he almost always used when a doctor asked that question.  “I’m fine, sir.”       Dr. Havershaw gave Joe’s arm a supportive pat.  “I’m glad to hear it, young man.”  Looking at Adam, he inquired, “You’re not leaving now, are you?  Surely, you’ll join us for the dinner.”    “I’d like to, of course,” Adam replied, “but the boy—”

“Appears to be fine,” Dr. Havershaw, smiling, interrupted to complete the sentence.

“I am,” Joe insisted with an irritated glance at his brother.  “What kind of dinner is it?  Will there be more speeches?”

Professor and former pupil both laughed, and Dr. Havershaw explained, “Well, perhaps a few, but I’m confident you’ll find them more enjoyable than what you heard this morning, my boy.  This is just an informal dinner for our new graduates and alumni.”

“Oh, well, that wouldn’t include me,” Joe said, “but you go ahead, Adam.  I can get dinner back at the hotel.”

“Nonsense,” the professor declared.  “We do permit a few guests, primarily graduates of other colleges, but I think I have enough pull to issue an invitation—and, after all, some privilege should be granted one of our war heroes, such as Adam here.”

Adam flushed crimson.  “I did no more than others—and far less than many.”

Dr. Havershaw shook his head, giving the young man a chiding smile.  “Adam, Adam—you always were too modest about your service to our country.  Never mind.  I have no wish to embarrass you, my boy, but I must insist that both you and young Joseph attend the dinner as my guests.  Perhaps, between us, we can influence another Cartwright to matriculate at Yale.”

Adam laughed.  “I wouldn’t hold out much hope of that, sir, but we’ll be glad to attend—provided Joe feels up to it.”

“I’m fine, Adam,” Joe said tersely, for he was getting tired of repeating the same message.

Adam arched an eyebrow, but let the remark pass.  As the doctor left to join his colleagues on the faculty, Adam looked at his brother with concern.  “Are you sure?  I would like to spend a little more time with my friends, but I don’t want you pushing yourself.”

Joe shrugged.  “I’ve got to eat somewhere, don’t I?”

Adam gave him a nod of concession.  “This is liable to take considerably longer than a meal at the hotel, however; in fact, it generally lasts throughout the afternoon, though we don’t have to stay for all of it.  You let me know if you need to leave, and we’ll go at once.”

“Yeah, sure,” Joe muttered impatiently.  “Now, where do we go?”

“To Alumni Hall.”

Thanks to his earlier tour of the campus, Joe needed no directions.  He walked around the chapel and headed northwest, with Adam at his side.  The distance was the shortest one he’d covered that day, only a few hundred yards.  “Are we eating outside?” he asked when he saw the huge tent spread on the lawn.

“No, that’s just to give some shade while we wait for the tables to be set,” Adam explained.

“Good idea.  Hey, there’s your friend!”  Joe waved at Adam’s billiard opponent from the day before, and the man smiled and waved the two of them over.

“I was afraid you’d left when I didn’t see you,” Peter Pierson told Adam.  “You’ll sit at our table, won’t you?”  He gestured toward some other alumni nearby.

“If there’s room for both of us,” Adam said.

“Of course, there is,” Peter declared enthusiastically.  “Can’t have the little lad roaming about on his own, can we?”  He laughed when Joe scowled at him.

“If you recall,” Adam remarked with his best Cheshire-cat smile, “the last time you twitted the ‘little lad,’ you ended up handing him five dollars.”

“Ouch!” Peter exclaimed, but his eyes were twinkling.  He turned to another alumnus standing nearby.  “What did I tell you, Jacob?  Still the same rapier wit!”

“Now, the two of you don’t intend to duel over dinner, do you?” curly-haired Jacob inquired.  “That is one memory of the old days I shall be quite content to forego.  I, for one, want nothing more than good food, good music and good company for the remainder of the afternoon.”

“As do I,” Adam agreed, smiling.  He extended a hand to Peter.  “Truce?”

“Truce,” Peter chuckled, shaking Adam’s hand.

Someone came to the door of Alumni Hall to request that those who would be sitting at the head table, the same dignitaries who had been seated on the platform in the chapel that morning, enter and take their places, followed by the alumni, oldest class first.  No one exactly lined up, but the various classes began to congregate in the approximate order in which they would enter.  “You stay with me,” Adam said.

“I feel funny, marching in with your class,” Joe whispered.  “Are you sure it’s all right?”

“I’m sure,” Adam said.  To the contrary, he knew that guests ordinarily entered after the graduating class, the newest alumni, but he preferred to keep Little Joe at his side.  If anyone says anything, we’ll just leave, he determined.

When the Class of 1866 was called, Adam and his friends, with Joe a bashful tagalong, entered Alumni Hall and sought out an available table, where they could all sit together.  Platters of food were already set out, but none of the five hundred guests ate until everyone was seated and grace had been offered by one of the trustees sitting at the elevated table of honor.  Little Joe spotted Dr. Havershaw at that table and waved to him, though he lowered his hand quickly when Adam cleared his throat rather noticeably.

“Hunky blowout, as always,” Jacob proclaimed, standing to carve the roast beef for his tablemates.

“Now, how am I supposed to convince my young brother here that a college education improves a man’s communication skills if you insist on using that old college slang?” Adam kidded his friend.  He winked at Joe.  “What this disgrace to the institution is trying to say is that the school always lays out an excellent spread for the Alumni Dinner.”

“They sure do,” Joe agreed, adding with a giggle, “spoopsey.”

Adam’s eyes glinted as he heard Peter laugh at Joe’s use of the college slang he’d picked up the day before.  “You, sir, are a cad,” Adam intoned with exaggerated solemnity.  “You see what you have foisted upon me?  How could you place such a weapon in the ‘little lad’s’ hand?”  He arched an eyebrow in his brother’s direction.  “As for you, sonny, get that word out of your system quickly, for the consequences will be dire should you repeat it outside New Haven.”

“Who, me?” Joe queried, laying his hand on his chest with an air of total innocence.  “Would I do such a thing, brother?”  His impish grin implied that he not only would ‘do such a thing,’ but that he was not above using the inside information as blackmail in some appropriate hour of need.

“Gentlemen, you promised a truce,” Jacob reminded them, laying a slice of beef, dripping with succulent juices on Adam’s plate.  “Cut that with your rapier wit, old chum.”

Platters of beef and bread made the rounds, along with bowls of mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered carrots and tender green peas.  Everyone at the table dug in heartily, with the exception of Little Joe, who took more modest portions, but still ate more than he had at any meal since his surgery, perhaps because, feeling inadequate to converse with Adam’s learned friends, he kept his attention on his food.  Joe could not help noticing how at ease Adam was, regardless of the topic of conversation, and how much he seemed to be enjoying the sophisticated banter.  The old fear rose up within Joe that his older brother would rediscover the pleasures of life in the East and want to stay.

When everyone had eaten his fill, the plates were cleared and replaced with others holding fat slices of rhubarb pie.  Finally, those, too, were swept from the tables, and one of the younger alumni passed out printed sheets of words so everyone could join in the songs that would begin the afternoon’s celebration.  “We’ve really missed hearing your voice, Adam,” Jacob said, and the sentiment was echoed by every other man at the table.

“And I’ve missed singing with all of you,” Adam returned graciously.

The music began, and they all lifted their voices.  Though Joe was unfamiliar with the college tunes, he soon caught the melodies and was able to sing along.  Though not as gifted a vocalist as his older brother, having a slight tendency to go flat, Joe enjoyed singing, especially those times when the four Cartwrights would sit around the great room after supper and sing song after song to the accompaniment of Adam’s guitar.  The singing this afternoon reminded Joe of those happy times, and he hoped Adam would remember that this was one pleasure he didn’t have to give up to stay on the Ponderosa, where he belonged.

As Dr. Havershaw had warned Joe, a speech followed the singing, but this was no classical oration, such as had been presented at the Commencement exercises.  Instead, the symposiarch, the man chosen the day before as president of the alumni, congratulated the newest graduates on their achievement and welcomed them to the ranks of the alumni.  Then he called on several other Yalensians to make toasts.  Though the only potables available were water, lemonade and coffee, the toasts were drunk as enthusiastically as though more traditionally celebratory drinks were on hand.  Toast followed toast, speech followed speech, until finally the name of Major-General Wager Swayne was announced, and a man on crutches made his way to the front to the sound of heart-felt applause.  Joe swallowed hard at the sight of the man’s right leg, amputated above the knee, a keen reminder of the price some had paid to hold the Union together.

General Swayne, however, appeared to give no attention to his disability, nor did he make mention of any part of his distinguished military career.  He was there as an alumnus among other alumni, and his words were warm with welcome for the newcomers to their ranks.

As the general made his way back to his table, a man leaned to whisper something in the ear of President Porter, who then came forward to address the alumni.  “It has been pointed out to me that another of our graduates, who distinguished himself in service on the opposite side of the late conflict, is among us today.  Knowing you would wish to hear from him, gentlemen, I give you Colonel Luke W. Finlay of the Class of ’56.”

General Swayne, who had just sat down, seized his crutches and came forward to meet Colonel Finlay and escort him to the speaker’s stand.  The two one-time enemies shook hands, and the room erupted in thunderous applause as every hard feeling washed away in the renewal of the bonds of mutual brotherhood.

“Oh, bravo, bravo!” cried Peter Pierson.  There were similar shouts voiced throughout the room.

Adam leaned forward, elbows resting on the table, both hands covering his mouth, eyes fixed on the two men at the front.  He felt a slight hand on his arm and turned to see his brother’s eyes shining with understanding of what the moment meant to him.  Adam dropped one hand to cover Joe’s, and the two brothers sat in silent reverence for the scene, so symbolic of what was happening across America in this centennial year.  The wounds of war were finally being healed.

More toasts, more songs, more talk followed, but nothing could reach the heights of emotion achieved by that poignant reuniting of North and South.  It was nearly six o’clock when the final song was sung and the benediction given.  The alumni slowly made their way outside, but many lingered to continue conversations beneath the striped tent on the lawn.

As they reminisced over old times, Peter and Jacob seemed especially reluctant to let Adam leave.  “You’re not heading back to Philadelphia tonight, are you?” Peter asked.  Adam had told them about traveling to New Haven on the night train, so that Joe could lie down on the journey.

“No, I plan to take Joe over to Savin Rock in the morning,” Adam responded, “and spend a few days at the old Rock House.”

“Oh, Adam, you can’t,” Jacob inserted quickly.  “It burned down several years ago.”

Adam’s face fell.  I should’ve checked, he chided himself.  “Surely, there are other hotels.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Jacob replied.

“The Sea View House is the best, don’t you think, Jacob?” Peter suggested.

“Definitely,” Jacob agreed, “but very popular.  You might find it hard to book a room without a reservation.”  He snapped his fingers.  “What a dolt I am!  My family maintains a suite there throughout the summer, for weekend use.  You can use that.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly keep your family from their planned recreation,” Adam argued.

“No, it’s perfect,” Jacob insisted.  “The wife’s been wanting us to make an excursion to the mountains, and this would be an ideal time.”  He clapped Adam on the back.  “No more argument, my friend.  I’ll drop the key by your hotel this evening on my way to the peanut bum—unless you’re coming, that is.  Hope you will.”

“Of course, he’s coming,” Peter announced with a determined nod.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to,” Adam said.  “It depends on how Joe is.”  His head snapped up as he suddenly realized how long it had been since he’d seen his younger brother.  He began to look around frantically.  Where was the boy?

“He’s over there,” Peter said, in answer to the unspoken question.  “Maybe you’d better check on him, Adam.”  He sounded concerned.

Adam glanced in the direction of Peter’s pointing finger and saw Little Joe, back to them, leaning against a tree about twenty yards away.  He excused himself quickly and hurried toward his brother.  “Joe?”  His voice was laced with worry as he touched the small of his brother’s slumped back.

Joe turned slightly and looked up at Adam with enervated eyes.

“Oh, buddy, I’m sorry,” Adam apologized.  “You must be exhausted.”

“I’m okay, Adam,” Joe said, but his voice was weak.

“Don’t lie to me,” Adam ordered firmly.  “We’re going back to the hotel immediately, and you, young man, are going straight to bed.”

Joe smiled faintly.  “No argument here, big brother.  I am kinda tired.”

Since Joe was notorious for hiding any weakness, Adam knew that “kinda tired” was euphemistic for “completely done in,” and as he took his brother’s arm, he cursed himself for getting so lost in his own enjoyment of the day that he’d failed to watch over Joe as he should have.  He set a slow pace for their walk back to the New Haven Hotel, for it was obvious that Joe could barely put one foot in front of the other.

The walk that had seemed short and pleasant that morning felt endless to both brothers that evening.  When they finally arrived, Adam immediately undressed Joe and put him to bed, apologizing again for not noticing how tired the boy had become.

“I didn’t want you to notice,” Joe said.  “You were having a good time, and I was, too, Adam.  It just got to be a little much toward the end.  I guess I’m still a little wobbly.”

More than a little, Adam thought, but he kept a cheerful countenance for Joe’s sake.  “Shall I order some supper sent up?” he asked once his brother was settled in bed.

Joe groaned.  “Are you kidding?  I couldn’t eat another bite after that spread they put out.”

Adam chuckled.  “I know what you mean, though you had considerably less to eat than the rest of us.  I’ve been invited to a peanut bum tonight, but I’m not sure I could eat a single one.”

“What’s a peanut bum?” Joe asked, turning on one side.

Adam pulled up a chair.  “Oh, just a gathering of my senior society members—food, drink, cigars and good conversation—just another part of college life, Joe.”

Joe tried, but failed, to stifle a yawn.  “Sounds like one of the fun parts, the ones you never tell me about.”

Adam looked chagrinned.  Had he really made college sound like all work and no play to Joe?  No wonder the fun-loving boy had no inclination toward it!  “Joe, I promise I’ll tell you about ‘the fun parts,’ but not tonight.  You need to sleep—now.”

Joe nodded groggily.  “Uh-huh.  You gonna go to that peanut thing?”

Adam ran his hand up Joe’s arm to focus his attention.  “If you’re just tired and not hiding anything else, yes.”

Joe presented him with the spectacle of a prodigious yawn.  “Just tired, Adam.  Go away and let me sleep.”

Adam stood, rumpled Joe’s hair and started to leave.  Joe’s voice stopped him at the door.  “Bring me back some of those peanuts, okay?”

Adam laughed aloud.  This was the little brother he remembered from the Exposition, willing to put anything into his mouth, especially if it were something he didn’t normally eat at home.  A key, perhaps, to tempting a better appetite?  The notion would bear mulling over.  He closed Joe’s door quietly after promising to bring him back some peanuts; then he freshened up a bit and headed out for the meeting of his senior society.

*****

CHAPTER THIRTY

Little Joe slowly opened his eyes, squinting at the unaccustomed brightness of the light pouring past the lacy curtains of his bedroom window.  He wondered for a moment if, perhaps, Adam might be sleeping in, too, after his late night out, but the sound of soft footsteps, moving about his room, told him otherwise.  “Hey, brother,” Joe murmured, pushing up on his elbows.

“Hey, yourself,” Adam chuckled.  He placed the nightshirt he’d just taken from the chest of drawers into the carpetbag sitting, open, on the Windsor chair and moved toward his younger brother.  “Hungry?”

“Not especially,” Joe said, stretching.  “What time is it?”

“Just past nine o’clock,” Adam said, turning back to the chest of drawers.

“What time’s our train?” Joe asked, noticing the carpetbag for the first time.

Adam dropped three pair of dark socks into the bag.  “No train.”  Lips twitching, he turned away.

Joe’s forehead wrinkled in thought.  No train?  Then, how were they getting back to Philadelphia?  “It’s kind of a long walk, older brother,” he muttered.

Adam laughed.  “I don’t know what this younger generation is coming to.  Why, I used to walk it regularly.”

“To Philadelphia?”  Joe shook his head in disbelief.  “You never did.”

A droll expression on his face, Adam turned, leaning back to prop his elbows against the chest of drawers.  “Philadelphia?  No, that would be an amazing feat, even for my stalwart generation.  Whatever made you think I meant Philadelphia, youngster?”

Joe cocked his head, mouth twisting awry.  “We left our things there?”

“Oh.”  Adam chuckled.  “Not a bad piece of deductive reasoning, little buddy, but I had a different destination in mind today.”

Joe pulled himself up and folded his arms across his chest.  “And just where might that be?”

“It’s a surprise,” was all Adam would say, turning back to his packing duties.

“You’re just full of those lately, older brother,” Joe said, a smile playing about his lips.

Adam threw a grin across his shoulder.  “Aren’t I, though?”  Dropping another garment into the carpetbag, he walked to Joe’s side, helped him swing his legs over the edge of the bed and assisted him to his feet.  “Get yourself washed up, and I’ll lay out your clothes.”  He pulled Joe’s nightshirt over his head and then poured water from the pitcher on the washstand into the waiting basin.

Bending over the basin, Joe splashed his hands in the water, lathered soap between them and scrubbed his face and torso well, rinsing and toweling himself off vigorously.  He wasn’t surprised to see his ranch clothes lying on the bed since Adam had indicated they were going for a walk.  He just hoped it wouldn’t be a long one since he still felt drained from the amount of time he’d spent on his feet or sitting upright the day before.  He didn’t really want to confess that to his brother, so he asked tentatively just how far they would be walking that morning.

“Not far,” Adam said cryptically.  Closing Joe’s packed carpetbag, he caught a glimpse of his brother’s nervous nibble on his lower lip and felt a sudden concern.  “Joe, we don’t have to go anywhere if you’re tired.  I know yesterday was a long one for you.”

“Yeah, it was,” Joe admitted.

“Can you make it as far as the college?” Adam asked, troubled by Joe’s atypical acknowledgment of weakness.

Joe shrugged, reaching for his shirt.  “Sure, but I thought Commencement was over.”

“It is,” Adam said.  “The campus is not where we’re going, but you won’t have to walk much further than that, just down to the dock to catch the ferry.”

Joe perked up at once, at the prospect of a boat ride.  Adam might be full of surprises, but for the most part they were turning out to be pleasant ones.  “Just for fun?” he queried.

Chuckling, Adam gathered up Joe’s pants and helped his brother step into them.  “Our destination is only four miles away, by land,” he said, finally answering his brother’s earlier question, “but I thought traveling by water would be easier on you than taking the stage or the horse cars.”

“You sure take good care of me,” Joe murmured warmly as he fastened his pants.

“Ah, then you’ll understand why I insist on our stopping by the dining room for breakfast before we leave,” Adam said with a wry smile.

Joe rolled his eyes, but by the time they reached the dining room, he had managed to work up enough appetite to eat a couple of glazed donuts and drink a cup of coffee.

Adam checked them out of the hotel and tucked one carpetbag beneath his arm, while holding the other by its handle.  That left him one arm free to help Joe down the steps.  When they were on level ground again, he switched the bag under his arm to his other hand and led the way toward the dock.

Joe felt bad about letting Adam do all the toting, but he knew there was no purpose in arguing.  More to the point, he didn’t feel like arguing.  Though it rankled him, he knew he had no business carrying anything.  It would be enough of a challenge just to get himself to the dock, much less his baggage.

Adam paid the fare of ten cents for each of them and tucked one carpetbag back beneath his arm so he could steady Joe’s ascent of the gangplank.  Soon the little steamer was chugging its way across the harbor toward the smaller community of West Haven.  The Cartwright brothers stood at the rail, letting the cool breeze feather through their hair and the salt spray mist their faces.

The voyage was a short one; nevertheless, as the Cynthia pulled into the dock, Adam noticed his brother’s white-knuckled grip on the rail and slid a supportive arm behind his back.  “You okay, buddy?”

Lips set, Joe nodded.  “Is it far to the hotel?” he asked, irritated by the tremor he heard in his own voice.

“I don’t think so,” Adam said.  “Sea View House is supposed to be about a hundred feet back from Beach Street.”  He caught sight of a three-story building with a tower and broad verandas facing the waterfront.  “That must be it.”  He pulled Joe close to his side.  “You’re going straight to bed when we get there.”

Joe gave his brother a dismal nod.  He couldn’t help feeling that he was once again interfering with Adam’s plans.  He wasn’t sure why his brother had wanted to come here—some old memory he wanted to relive, maybe—but as far as Joe was concerned, one bed was pretty much like another, and it was beginning to look as though he didn’t have much to look forward to except spending time in some bed somewhere.  The two days they’d spent in New Haven had been wonderful opportunities to answer some of the old questions he’d had about Adam’s years here in the East, and he had thoroughly enjoyed everything from the billiard match to the rousing songs at the alumni dinner.  Now, however, his body was demanding a price for that pleasure, and Joe knew he didn’t dare ignore its pleas for rest.

They walked the short distance to Sea View House, pausing to admire the beautiful lawn and gardens surrounding the beachfront hotel.  When they crossed the verandah and passed through the lobby, however, Joe was surprised that Adam didn’t stop at the registration desk.  “Don’t we need to check in?” he inquired.

“No.  You remember Jacob?” Adam asked.

Joe chuckled.  “You mean, all the way from yesterday?  I’m not feeble-minded, big brother, just wobbly in the legs.”

Adam swung one of the carpetbags toward a hallway on the left.  “That way.  Anyway, he was kind enough to loan us the use of his family’s suite here for the weekend, and he’s already sent word to the hotel that we’re here by his permission.”

“Real nice of him,” Joe said as Adam set down their bags and unlocked the door to Suite 104.

Opening the door revealed exactly how nice Jacob had been.  The parlor was luxurious, particularly after the austere quarters of the New Haven Hotel.  The furniture was white wicker, padded with flower-bedecked cushions, which matched the draperies at the wide windows on either side of French doors that led to a private verandah with direct access to the beach.  Thick, intricately patterned Turkish carpets covered the polished hardwood floors in each room.  The bedrooms left somewhat to be desired, as they were obviously set up to accommodate a family with small children.  One was spacious, with a double brass bed, while the other was miniscule by comparison and held two single beds about the same width as a Pullman berth.  “We can sleep together,” Joe offered when he saw Adam set his carpetbag in the doorway to the smaller bedroom, while carrying Joe’s into the larger one.

Adam arched an eyebrow.  He could just imagine what Florence Nightingale would say to that suggestion!  “We cannot,” he said firmly.  “This is your bed, and I want you in it now.”

“But I wouldn’t mind—honest.”

“But I would.  Bed, Joe.”

Joe nodded, sitting in the spindle-backed Windsor chair to unbutton his shirt.

Adam, stooping down to unfasten his brother’s shoes and remove his socks, heard Joe’s deep sigh and looked up.  “Something wrong, buddy?”

“Just don’t understand why I give out so easy,” Joe murmured.  “All I’ve done today is walk a few steps.”

Adam pulled back the covers and eased his brother, still wearing his trousers, onto the plump mattress.  “It’s not the few steps today, buddy; it’s all your body went through leading up to today.  You’ve been through a lot, and it doesn’t help that your older brother neglected to keep a proper eye on you yesterday.”

“I enjoyed yesterday; I wouldn’t change a minute,” Joe insisted.

“I know, and neither would I,” Adam admitted as he drew the coverlet over his brother, “but you need to take it easy today because you overextended yourself yesterday.  It’s about an hour and a half ‘til dinnertime.  You rest ‘til then, and if you’re feeling up to it after we’ve eaten, I’ll take you out on the beach.  How’s that sound?”

“Sounds good.”

Joe drifted into a light doze, during which Adam unpacked both carpetbags and arranged their belongings to create as homelike an atmosphere as possible in temporary quarters.  When Joe awoke, about an hour later, Adam helped him freshen up, pleased to see a livelier spark in the boy’s eyes.

In the dining room, bright with light from banks of windows on two sides, Joe perused the menu with greater interest than Adam had seen his brother exhibit since his illness.  “They sure go in for seafood here,” Joe commented.

Adam laughed.  “Well, what did you expect at a place called Sea View House?  The old Rock House, where my friends and I usually ate when we visited Savin Rock, always served excellent seafood, and I’m sure that’s true of this hotel, as well, since they have such ready access to a fresh supply.  You should try some.”

“Yeah, I think I will,” Joe said, “the crab cakes, maybe.  You know what Saratoga potatoes are?”

Adam nodded.  “Yeah, they slice them paper-thin and fry them crispy.  They’re good.”

“I think I’ll try them, too,” Joe said.

Adam smiled.  Joe was doing a good job of proving his theory that variety was the key to a better appetite, and the clean plate at the end of the meal gave further evidence.  “I understand from Jacob that the blackberry pie is the specialty of the house,” Adam stated.  “Would you like a slice?”

“Maybe tomorrow.”  Joe patted his stomach.  “I don’t think I could do justice to it right now.”

“Perhaps the rice pudding with brandy sauce, then?” Adam suggested.  “That would be a little lighter.”

Joe put his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his interlaced fingers.  “You trying to fatten me up?”

“That obvious, huh?” an abashed Adam asked.

“That obvious,” Joe chuckled, “but I might try that pudding if you don’t mind me leaving some in the dish.”

“I don’t mind,” Adam assured him.  He motioned for the waitress and ordered the pudding for Joe and the blackberry pie for himself.

After they finished their desserts, Adam polishing off the remainder of Joe’s pudding, Joe was surprised to see his brother head back down the hall toward their borrowed suite.  “I thought we were going out on the beach,” he said.

Adam turned the key in the lock and held the door for Joe to enter first.  “We are, as soon as we change.”

Puzzlement wrinkled Joe’s brow.  He looked down at the familiar tan shirt and gray pants he often wore at home.  “What’s wrong with these clothes?  How fancy does a fellow have to be to walk in the sand?”

Adam laughed.  “Not fancy.  You just need to wear the proper kind of clothes for water bathing.”  He pushed his brother through the parlor into the large bedroom and opened the second drawer of the bureau.  “Here you go,” he said, holding out a beige and blue sleeveless striped jersey with tight, knee-length, solid blue pants.

Joe gaped at the odd costume.  “You’re not serious.”

“You don’t expect to go skinny-dipping like back home, do you?”  Adam smiled in amusement.  “It’s pretty crowded out on the beach, buddy.”

Joe plucked at his shirt.  “Why can’t I just wear this?”

“Well, you could,” Adam conceded, “but a bathing outfit is more practical when there’s a chance of getting wet.  Besides, you’ll look more out of place wearing a shirt and pants than this.  Didn’t you notice what people were wearing on the beach when we arrived?”

Joe lifted his eyes with chagrin.  “Can’t say as I noticed much when we got here, Adam.  Kind of tired, if you remember.”

“Well, I can assure you that all the gentlemen were wearing outfits just like this.”  Adam dropped the jersey and tights into his brother’s lap and rested a hand on his shoulder.  “Come on, buddy, get into your new clothes, while I change into mine.”

Joe frowned as his brother left the room.  He held the bathing outfit at arms’ length and shook his head.  He just couldn’t see himself parading out in public in anything that looked this ridiculous, and it was even harder to imagine his staid and stodgy older brother wearing something so outlandish.

Within five minutes Adam came bounding back into his brother’s room, sporting an outfit identical to Joe’s, except that Adam’s bathing clothes were cream and crimson.  Joe laughed aloud at the way the tights clung to his brother’s muscular thighs, revealing every bulge and ripple.  “Okay, okay,” he giggled.  “If you’re brave enough to let folks see you looking like that, I guess I can, too.”

Pleased to hear his little brother laughing again, Adam struck a series of manly poses with biceps flexed and calves extended, just to elicit more of that endearing sound.

“Stop, stop,” Joe begged, falling back onto the mattress, clutching his side.  “I’ll do it, but don’t make me laugh any more.  You don’t know how bad it hurts!”

Instantly, Adam was kneeling at his brother’s side.  “Joe, I’m sorry; I didn’t think.”

As the tremors in his lower abdomen subsided, Joe grinned up at his brother.  “It’s okay, just don’t do anything that funny again, okay, spoopsey?”

Adam stood up. “I shall be at my boring best the rest of the day,” he vowed as he helped Joe sit up again.

Joe struck his chest melodramatically and emitted a horrified groan.  “Oh, anything but that.  I’d rather you kill me with laughter than boredom.”

Once Joe was dressed, Adam led his brother through the French doors, out onto the verandah, and helped him down the two steps to the lawn surrounding Sea View House.  Crossing the grass, the two brothers reached the smooth sand and headed toward the gentle waves slapping the shore.  Darting his eyes this way and that, Joe began to relax as he saw other men costumed just as he and Adam were, and when he started to notice the young ladies walking around in their long bathing dresses, striped stockings and India rubber slippers, he automatically flashed his dazzling smile in their direction.

“Oh, no, Romeo,” Adam cautioned.  “Don’t even think about it.  You are in no shape to chase skirts.”

Joe’s emerald eyes were sparkling in the sunlight reflected off the rippling water.  “But they’re cute, Adam—and look!  I think that tall brunette has her eye on you.”

Adam tried to take a quick peek without being observed, but the trio of young ladies suddenly giggled nervously, turned and ran the other direction.

“Nice work, brother,” Joe grumbled.

Adam shrugged.  “They looked a little young for me, anyway.”

“They weren’t too young for me!”

Adam just laughed and with a firm hand on his brother’s elbow led him into the water.

“Not much surf, is there?” Joe commented as the waves lapped lightly over his bare feet.

“Long Island acts as a barrier against the rough waves,” Adam explained.  “That’s what makes this such an ideal spot for water sport—boating, fishing, swimming—although you have to go out a long way before it’s deep enough.”

“Are we going out that deep?” Joe asked.

“No, of course not.  Nothing but wading for you today, little buddy.”

Joe nodded, knowing that Adam was right.  Even walking along the beach, sand squishing through his toes, soon grew tiring, but Adam was quick to notice his brother’s flagging steps and lead him back to the verandah, where they could sit overlooking the water and observe the men, women and children flitting up and down the beach.  After a while even that was too much for Joe, his eyelids growing heavier and heavier, and he finally told Adam that he thought he needed to lie down for a while.

“Sure, buddy,” Adam said at once.  “Let me help you.”

Joe smiled, but laid a restraining hand on his brother’s arm.  “I don’t need help.  Stay out and enjoy the sights—especially the brunette ones.”

Adam laughed.  “Are you trying to marry me off?”

Joe grinned.  “Well, I’m pretty sure Pa would thank me if I did.  I think he’s about to despair of getting any grandchildren out of you.”

Adam tweaked his brother’s ear.  “That does it; I am definitely sending you to bed before you have a chance to spout any more nonsense.”

Though Joe had said he needed no help, Adam assisted him to his feet anyway, and the two brothers walked into the suite, where they were surprised to see a basket of fruit on the table.  Adam read the card that protruded from the basket’s side and smiled; then he read it aloud for Joe:

 

Hope this helps put the bloom back in the “little lad’s” cheeks.

Your constant friend,

Peter.

 

Joe smiled.  “That was thoughtful of him.  I really liked your friends, Adam.  They were a lot different than I thought they’d be.”

Adam guffawed.  “Oh, let me guess.  You assumed we did nothing but spout Shakespeare and debate the principles of applied physics.”

“Well . . . yeah.”

Adam shook his head, grinning, and pointed toward Joe’s bedroom.  “Get some rest.  I may be out for a little while, but not long.”

“Sure, go ahead and enjoy yourself,” Joe said, stretching his arms back  “I think I’ll just leave this rig on while I sleep; it is kind of cool and comfortable.”

“Yeah, it is.”  In fact, Adam wished that he, too, could stay dressed in the comfortable beach clothes, but eastern etiquette required that he don his high-collared shirt and tie, trousers and frock coat before entering the hotel.  Since he had some arrangements to make for that evening’s activities, Adam was forced to change.  Completing his preparations, he returned to the suite and immediately stripped down to shirt, unbuttoned to mid-chest, and pants.  Taking his Holmes book out to the verandah, he sat down to read.

Little Joe, peeling a blushing-sunset orange, found him there a couple of hours later.  “Adam, Adam,” he chided.  “That is not what I meant by enjoying yourself.”

Smiling, Adam closed the book.  “Ah, but I did.  Life may be more than Shakespeare and physics, but it’s more than frilly frocks, too, my boy.”

Joe grinned.  “Yeah, I know, but if I gotta make a choice . . .”

“Oh, everyone knows what choice you’d make, little brother,” Adam hooted, “and I’d advise you to watch your step.  Pa may be looking for grandchildren from me, but he is definitely not ready to see any progeny from you!”  He patted the arm of the slatted deck chair beside him and Joe sat down.  “Ready for some more time on the beach?” Adam inquired.

“Yeah, I’d like that, but it’s getting close to suppertime, isn’t it?  Guess I’d better change.”

Adam stood up and patted his brother’s shoulder.  “No, you sit still and I’ll change.  For what I have planned, you’re dressed just right.”

Joe started to ask what Adam had planned, but he realized with a shake of his head that his surprise-filled older brother would probably just tell him to wait and see.  By the time he finished his orange, Adam was back, dressed in his crimson and cream beachwear.  Helping Joe to stand, he held his brother’s arm as they descended the short steps to the lawn.  Then Adam turned toward the side of the hotel.  “We’ll begin our supper with a cup of chowder in the beer garden,” he said.

“That sounds good,” Joe agreed, “and I probably won’t want more than soup, anyway.”

“You’d better,” Adam chuckled, “because I’m preparing a feast tonight, boy.”

Uneasiness marked Joe’s countenance.  “You’re cooking?”

“I certainly am—and don’t look so worried.  I know what I’m doing.”  Adam selected a wooden table beneath shady elms and told Joe to wait there while he ordered their clam chowder.  He returned a few minutes later, carrying a bucket that sloshed with each step and a burlap bag.  “Soup’ll be here soon,” he said as he sat down across from his brother.

“Okay, I give up,” Joe said.  “What kind of feast are you fixing, big brother?”

“Oh, I just thought I’d give you a taste of the fun of college life,” Adam chuckled, “in this case, a good, old-fashioned clambake.  It’s traditional for the freshmen to take some sort of day-trip after Commencement, and my class came here to Savin Rock for just the kind of meal you’ll be enjoying tonight.  Of course, we dug our own clams, but we’ll do it the lazy way.”

“Because you don’t think I’m up to digging clams?”

“I’d rather you just rested,” Adam admitted.  “I’m honestly not sure what you’re up to and what you’re not, Joe, and I probably will err on the side of caution.  If it irritates you, I’m sorry, but¾”

“It doesn’t irritate me,” Joe said quickly, wanting to alleviate his brother’s concern.  Then he broke off with a sheepish grin.  “Well, maybe it will if you go overboard with it, but right now I just feel real . . . well . . . cared for.”

“Good,” Adam said.

Steaming bowls of clam chowder and crisp oyster crackers were delivered to their table, along with two mugs of beer, and conversation died as the Cartwright brothers began spooning in the rich, creamy broth, generously laden with minced clams and diced potatoes, onions and bacon.  “That should hold you until the rest of the meal is ready,” Adam said when they had both finished.  “Let’s get down to the beach.  I know the perfect spot.”

“Lead on then, brother,” Joe said.

With Adam cumbered by the pail and bag, Joe walked unassisted to the place his brother had selected, but his older brother eased him down to the sand when they arrived.  “Now, sit and watch,” Adam instructed.

Joe gave his brother a lazy salute.  “Yes, sir.”

“Shouldn’t that be ‘aye, aye, sir’ so near the ocean?” Adam chuckled and Joe laughed in response.

Adam started by digging a pit in the sand, which he then lined with rocks.  On the rocks he built a bonfire and settled down beside his brother to watch the fire die down to coals.  When it had, he took the lid from the pail and placed a layer of clams on the hot coals.  Covering them with seaweed, he next layered ears of corn, whole potatoes and onions, with seaweed between each layer.  Finally, he put two lobsters on top and covered everything with a piece of sailcloth, weighted down with rocks.  “Now, all we have to do is let it steam, dig in and stuff ourselves silly,” Adam said.

As they waited for the food to steam to perfection, Adam began to share with his brother some of the good times he remembered from his college days: the mad free-for-alls when one class challenged another for possession of a city street, carrying off the gates of New Haven citizens to pile them in the college yard on the night before Thanksgiving, glee clubs, baseball games, boating, walking and camping out, just as they were doing tonight.  As Adam talked, Joe began to understand that college and the East had meant more to his brother than just book learning and culture.  It had also been a time for building relationships and making memories.

At first, seeing Joe’s warm response, Adam felt encouraged that his younger brother might be losing some of his opposition to a college education, but when asked, Joe still insisted that college, even with fun mixed in, just wasn’t for him.  “There are some things I’d like to learn, though, if I had someone to help me along, kind of show me what to read, explain the hard parts, that kind of thing,” Joe hinted with a shy glance at his brother.

Surprised and pleased, Adam asked, “Are you asking me to be your mentor?”

Embarrassed, Joe dipped his long eyelashes toward the sand.  “I guess so, if that’s what you call it.”

“That’s what you call it.”  Adam gently lifted his brother’s chin.  “Joe, I’d be honored.”

Joe responded with a nervous giggle.  “Not just any and every thing you think I ought to learn, though, understand?”

Adam chuckled.  “I understand, little brother.  I won’t try to make a Yale scholar out of you.”  He scooted forward to the pit and began to remove the sailcloth.  “Get the plates out of that bag, will you?  I believe this meal is ready for the attack.”

Attack, they did.  Adam had to finish his brother’s lobster, but other than that, their appetites were evenly matched.  Holding his gorged belly, Joe scooted back to lean against a boulder behind them as Adam built up the fire again and moved back to sit beside Joe.  Gazing into the fire, they talked over old memories of camping out in the Sierras, and though Adam knew he should get his brother into bed, he was enjoying the camaraderie too much to listen to the voice of reason.  They sat, side by side, backs against the boulder, long after the sun had set.

As the light from the fire cast a ruddy glow over their faces, Joe’s head dropped to Adam’s strong shoulder, and with a smile Adam slipped an arm across his brother’s shoulders and pulled him close.  His throat tightened as he thought about how close he had come to losing moments like this, and a tear splashed down onto Joe’s face.

Joe’s eyes immediately opened, and he called his brother’s name with concern.  “Adam?  What’s wrong?”

Adam dashed the dampness from his cheek.  “Nothing, Joe; it’s nothing.”  Then, seeing the rebuke in his little brother’s eyes, he swallowed the lump in his throat.  “I was just remembering how I felt back in the hospital, while you were in surgery and I thought I might never see my kid brother again.  Kind of got to me for a moment, that’s all.”

Joe smiled up at him.  “That’s a lot, big brother.  It’s—it’s special.”

Adam brushed his brother’s breeze-blown curls.  “Yeah, special.”  Shaking free of the sentimental mood, he doused the lingering fire with sand and announced that it was time Joe was in bed.  Joe’s nod of unquestioning acceptance aroused Adam’s concern.  Fearful that he had again overtired his brother, Adam helped the boy to his feet and supported him as they walked back to the hotel.  After stopping on the verandah to wash the sand from both Joe’s feet and his own, Adam helped the sleepy boy change into his nightclothes, much as he had when Joe was very young.  Warm with memories both recent and distant, the two young men soon entered the land of dreams.

*****

The Cartwright brothers practically lived on the beach throughout a long, lazy Saturday, though Adam was careful to alternate light exercise with lengthy lounges in the shade.  After breakfast he and Joe changed into their bathing attire and headed for the dock, where Adam rented a boat and took his brother on a short excursion along Long Island Sound.  Their only moment of friction that morning arose from Joe’s attempt to take a pull at the oars.  Surprised into a sharp rebuke, Adam then tempered it by remarking that it was only fair that he do all the work today.  “After all, you did the rowing on Wissahickon Creek, so turn-about here is simple justice.”

Joe knew there was more protective hovering than simple justice involved, but he played it the way he might have had he been fully well and, therefore, more inclined to shirk work.  “That being the case, older brother, I’ll just lean back here and enjoy the ride.”  To complete the picture of lazy languor, Joe tipped his straw hat over his nose and stretched back against the hull of the boat.

Having gotten exactly what he wanted, Adam merely smiled and continued to row.

Joe gazed eastward toward Long Island.  “That’s the one across from New York City, isn’t it?”

“Glad to see you remember some of your geography,” Adam teased.  “Yeah, we could follow this channel all the way to New York City, if we were of a mind to.”

Joe sat up straight and asked eagerly, “Are we of a mind to?”

“We most certainly are not!”

“Aw, Adam, it would be real educational,” Joe wheedled.

“But I’m through educating you, remember?” Adam joked.

Joe shook his head.  “No, you’re not; you’re my mentor now, remember?”

“Touché.”  Adam conceded the point gracefully, but added, “My mentoring duties, however, will not begin until we’re home.  We’re just after fun now.”

Joe quickly sported his most disarming smile.  “But, Adam, the night life of New York City would be fun, I’m sure, and if we’re doing things my way now . . .”

“All right, I give up,” Adam laughed, “but I am not rowing you all the way to New York City.  We’ll stop there on our way back to Philadelphia.”  He didn’t tell Joe, of course, but he had already discussed with his friends possible ways to ease the return journey and had developed a plan that would take them, by short stages, through the great metropolis.  “Don’t get your hopes set too high, though, little brother.  We won’t be doing much sightseeing, and we will definitely not be sampling any of the nightlife!”

“Aw, Adam!”

“Oh, hush.”

After dinner and a brief nap for Joe, the brothers were back on the beach, wading for a while and then settling down on the wet sand to build sandcastles.  While Joe’s structure looked completely uninhabitable, Adam’s was an architectural wonder that drew a flock of admiring girls.  Seeing that, Joe scooted over to pat the sand walls of Adam’s castle, as if he and his brother had been partners in its construction.  It soon became apparent that the young ladies admired the handsome architects as much as the architecture, but since each came well equipped with chaperone or doting parent, the boys weren’t able to enjoy the company of any one of the bathing beauties for more than a few minutes.

As they walked through the gentle surf at various intervals throughout the day, Adam could almost see his brother gaining strength, and the delicious seafood served in the dining room had definitely improved his appetite.  They took one last walk as the sun dipped beneath the western horizon, casting a golden glow over the rippling Sound and bathing the distant island in a harvest haze.  Returning to the hotel as twilight faded to night, Joe went to bed at once, while Adam stayed up to write a letter to their father, describing how well Joe seemed to be recuperating from his illness and when they expected to return to Philadelphia.

*****

Concerned that he had kept his brother too active the day before, Adam basically enforced Sunday as a day of rest.  Joe slept late, only waking when the church bells began to call the devoted to their houses of worship, and it was nearly eleven o’clock when the Cartwright brothers entered the dining hall for brunch.  Adam personally thought that crab cakes and scrambled eggs made a ridiculous combination, but he restrained his laughter.  At least, the kid was eating.

Afterwards, they changed into their beachwear and took a short walk along the shore, and then Adam suggested that a nap was in order for his younger brother.  Joe, of course, protested, just as he had at two and three and four years old.

“We’ll be traveling tomorrow,” Adam pointed out, “and I want you well rested for that.”

“In the morning?” Joe asked with sly calculation.  If resting today meant he would be allowed to travel to New York City in daylight, instead of sleeping away the journey at night, he intended to be cooperative.

“Yes, in the morning,” Adam responded with sly subterfuge, knowing that tomorrow’s journey would not be nearly as lengthy as what his young brother was obviously envisioning.

“Okay, then,” Joe agreed with a smile of triumph.

Adam responded with a soft chuckle of the same.

While Joe stretched out on the bed in his swimming jersey and dozed lightly, Adam moved quietly around the suite, packing their bags after laying out what they would each need that night, a suit for supper and a nightshirt for bedtime.  Then, dressing in his suit, he slipped out to check available departure times.  He couldn’t purchase the tickets on Sunday, but he made all the advance preparation he could.  When he returned, Joe, who had at first declared himself not tired enough for a nap, was still snoozing soundly.

*****

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Over breakfast Monday morning, Little Joe inquired about the trip plans.  “What time is our train?  Must not be too early ‘cause you didn’t wake me up.”

Adam cut off a piece of waffle with his fork.  “What train?”

Joe rolled his eyes.  “The one to New York City, obviously.”

“We’re not taking a train to New York City.”  Adam popped the bite of waffle into his mouth.

Joe propped his elbow on the table and, cupping his chin in his hand, regarded his brother thoughtfully.  Yes, there was that Cheshire-cat smile that always told him when big brother was up to something.  “Hmm, let’s see.  The last time we had a conversation like this, it turned out we were taking a boat, instead of a train.  Couldn’t be that again, could it?”

Amused by his brother’s perceptiveness, Adam laughed.  “It could.”

Joe’s green eyes sparkled.  “Really?  A boat down the Sound?  That’ll be grand, Adam.”

“Not down the Sound,” Adam corrected, “just across it to Greenport.  We’ll board the Long Island Railroad there.”

“Oh.  Well, that sounds good, too.”  He couldn’t imagine why Adam thought it was better to go down the Island, rather than along the mainland shore, but since Joe hadn’t seen either, he really didn’t care which route they took.

Adam hid his smile in his cup of coffee.  Joe still hadn’t guessed his older brother’s real plan, but that wasn’t surprising; with his limited knowledge of eastern geography, it was unlikely that he could.

Adam carried both carpetbags to the boat dock shortly before time to board and led the way up the gangplank onto the ferry.  As the Cartwright brothers leaned on the rail, watching gulls swoop above their heads, the boat pulled away from shore, heading slightly northeast toward the narrow strip of land near the end of Long Island.  Little Joe looked fondly back at the shore behind them.  “Kind of hate to leave,” he said.  “We had good times here.”

“Who says they have to end?” Adam queried, a smile playing about his lips.

“I guess they don’t,” Joe conceded.  “I’m just trying to say thanks.  It was a special time, Adam.”  His voice held a wistful note as he remembered how close he and his brother had seemed their first night at Savin Rock, and he wondered if Adam might have shared more memories of the hidden years if they could just have stayed a little longer in that magic setting.

Reading the longing in Joe’s eyes, Adam nodded silently, for he was still waging an internal debate.  There was no doubt in his mind what his younger brother most yearned to hear, but to share those memories would be harder than talking about camping trips and college pranks.  Adam wasn’t sure he had the courage to open up that dark period of his personal history, especially to the boy he still thought of as little more than a child, however much he tried to play the part of a man.

The ferry pulled in to the old whaling center of Greenport, and Adam and Joe got off and made their way to the railroad depot.  “How far to New York?” Joe asked as the train pulled out after half an hour’s wait.

“Ninety-four miles,” Adam replied.

“That’s not shorter than going down the coast, is it?”

Adam hid his mouth behind his hand until he could control his expression.  “No, it’s not.  About six hours to New York City this way.  You don’t object to the slow, scenic route, do you?”

“No, of course not,” Joe said, gazing out the window as the massive bay between the two narrow arms at the northeastern end of Long Island moved past on his left.  He was somewhat puzzled, though, for Adam had consistently tried to make things easy for him since his illness, and extending the journey would do the exact opposite.

As the train reached Mattituck, Adam began to reconsider his original idea of springing a last-minute surprise on his little brother, and by the time it rolled through Jamesport, he knew that this was one surprise Joe probably wouldn’t immediately welcome.  Better give the kid some warning and some time to express his frustration, Adam concluded.  “Joe, we’ll be getting off at the next station,” he said.

Joe’s head snapped back from the window.  “It hasn’t been six hours, so I know that’s not New York City.”

“No, that would be Riverhead,” Adam stated calmly.

Joe’s gaze grew grim.  “Oh, let me guess.  You don’t think your poor, frail baby brother can make it all the way in to the big city.”

“Not without exhausting himself,” Adam admitted, “not if the way he held up at Commencement is any indication.”

“I made it,” Joe growled through gritted teeth.

“Just barely.”  Adam laid a conciliatory hand on his brother’s arm.  “You’ll still see New York, buddy, just a few days later.”

“When?” Joe demanded.

“Thursday.”

“Thursday!” Joe screeched.  “We’re gonna stretch a six-hour trip out to four days?  Adam, I’m not that feeble!”

“Well, your grip on that famous temper of yours certainly is!” Adam hissed.  “I’ve tried my best to plan a pleasant excursion for you, and the least you could do is exhibit a trace of patience ‘til I can explain the details.”

Sudden chagrin closed Joe’s mouth for a moment.  “Sorry,” he muttered when he found his tongue

Adam nodded acceptance of the apology.  “We’ll just spend the night in Riverhead.  It’s a quiet place, not a lot to do, but you can spend a little more time on the beach this afternoon.  Then in the morning we’ll move on to our next stop, where we’ll spend a day and a half on the Atlantic shore before traveling on to the city Thursday morning.”

“I’m gonna see the Atlantic Ocean?”  The emerald eyes began to glow with expectation.

“If you’re a good boy, I might even let you sail on it.”

Little Joe put on his most angelic aspect and said in a little-boy chirp, “I’ll be good, bubba.”

“You always were easy to bribe, little fellow,” Adam chuckled.  With a final pat he withdrew his hand from his brother’s arm.

To Joe’s view, “quiet place” did not begin to describe the summer resort at the head of the Peconic River.  “A fellow could get a real rest cure in a place like this,” he grumbled as he and Adam walked down a nearly empty street to one of the few hotels available at Riverhead.

“Precisely,” Adam said, laughing heartily at the scowl that met his laconic reply.

Despite the scarcity of accommodations, the Cartwrights had no difficulty obtaining a ground-floor room, even without a reservation.  “We don’t often get guests on a Monday,” the clerk offered in apologetic explanation, “but many families appreciate our quiet amenities for a weekend away from the city.”

Joe slumped against the registration desk.  Quiet.  There was that word again, a word Webster should have defined as “exhibiting no possible hope for fun.”

Adam, however, misinterpreted his brother’s drooping posture.  “Do you need to lie down awhile before dinner?”

Joe straightened at once.  “No, of course not.”  As they moved toward their room to drop off the carpetbags, he glanced quickly over his shoulder to make sure the clerk couldn’t overhear him.  “You think there’s a chance a decent meal is among those ‘quiet amenities’?”

“I’m sure the food will be fine,” Adam said as he unlocked the door to a single room with two narrow beds.  “Some fine fishing goes on in that harbor.”

The food in the small hotel’s dining room proved to be all either young man could have hoped for.  With fried strips of clam as an appetizer, grilled sea bass, well basted in butter, formed the centerpiece of the meal, accompanied by a pleasing complement of corn on the cob and cabbage slaw.

Afterwards, Joe confessed that he was feeling a little tired and agreed to lie down for a couple of hours.  Then he and Adam walked down to the bay to watch the ships plying its waters.  Adam pointed out the various types he recognized, adding when his knowledge gave out, “It’s a shame Pa can’t be here.  Obviously, he knows much more than I about sea vessels.”

“You think any of those is like the ships Pa sailed?” Joe asked, gazing out at the harbor.

Adam shook his head.  “I doubt it.  Pa sailed merchant vessels most of the time.  I’m sure they would dock closer to the city.  It’s fairly unpopulated out here.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Joe grunted.  “Not a pretty girl in sight.”

Adam threw an arm across his brother’s slim shoulders and turned him back toward their hotel.  “Like you said, a fellow could get a real rest cure in a place like this, and when it comes to pretty girls, little brother, I do believe a rest cure is in order.”

“Only goes to prove you don’t know any more about girls than you do about sea vessels,” Joe tossed back with a naughty smirk.

Adam let his arm slide down to swat his brother’s ill-padded posterior.

Suppertime was drawing near as they entered the hotel, so after changing back into their suits and freshening up, the two brothers made their way to the dining room for another excellent meal centered around seafood, oyster pie for Little Joe and codfish cakes for Adam.  Both finished the meal with a dish of apple cobber, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Though Adam suggested that they make an early night of it, he did consent to walk with Joe out to the beach, where they sat on the sand to watch the setting sun casting a fiery splash across the horizon, against which were silhouetted the tall spars of sailing ships and the broad sides of steamers.

*****

“The desk clerk was telling me that we could get to East Hampton by stagecoach,” Joe offered at breakfast the next morning.

Adam chuckled as he reached for the salt and pepper.  “Oh, so that’s what you were up to when you disappeared this morning,” he said, sprinkling his eggs with both seasonings.  “I thought you were gone a rather long time for a simple visit to the water closet.”

“Well, you’re not exactly forthcoming with information,” Joe grumbled in a purely token manner, “so I asked him to recommend a nice spot on the Atlantic shore, just to see if I could figure out your plans, and that’s what he mentioned.  Is that where we’re going?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Adam scoffed.  “You’re in no condition to be bounced around that far in a public stage.  I’m sure East Hampton is very nice, but that’s not where we’re going.”

Secretly, that news pleased Little Joe, for the clerk had described East Hampton as an extremely quiet spot, one that didn’t even have a single hotel, although local families would board guests.  If there was a summer resort quieter than Riverhead, Joe had no desire to see it.  Of course, knowing Adam, the spot he had picked might turn out to be even quieter and mind-numbingly boring than East Hampton.

Joe spread his toast with plum jam.  “So you gonna tell me or leave me guessing?”

“The latter suits me fine,” Adam replied dryly as he swirled the white of his sunny-side-up egg through the runny yolk.  Then he laughed at the pout that met his remark.  “All right, Sir Curiosity, the first leg of our journey today will be on the Long Island Railroad again, just as far as Medford.  Then I’m afraid we will have to take a stage to connect with the South Side Railway at Patchogue.  I regret that, but it’s only four miles, so I hope it won’t be too hard on you.  We’ll take the train to Bayshore, and that’s as much as I’ll tell you ‘til we get there.  Now eat or we’ll miss our train.”

Satisfied with what he’d learned, Joe dug into his breakfast with hearty appetite.

Passing through a pleasant plain lined with trees and farmland, the train ride to Medford was uneventful.  After a brief layover, Adam and Joe boarded the stagecoach, with Adam settling Joe next to the window, so he could watch the scenery.  About halfway through the brief journey, however, Joe turned away from the window to lean heavily against his brother’s side.

Instantly concerned, Adam bent forward to examine his brother’s face.  The tense jaw and taut smile said it all.  “Pain?” Adam asked anxiously.

“Some,” Joe grunted.

“Oh, buddy, I’m sorry,” Adam said, putting an arm around his brother and bracing the boy against his strong side.  “I guess it’s still too soon for this, even over these smooth eastern roads.”

“I’ll make it, Adam,” Joe assured him.  “I just get a real jolt every now and then.”

“Is the young man ill?” asked a solicitous matron on the facing seat.

“No, ma’am, I’m fine,” Joe answered quickly, fearful that Adam, left to himself, would provide too many details.

“At least, he will be once we’re off this rather bumpy conveyance,” Adam added with a smile at the woman.  “Recent surgery,” he confided, ignoring the curl of Joe’s lip.

“Oh.  Well, I wish you a speedy convalescence, young man,” the woman said.  “You’re quite right, of course,” she continued chattily. “The condition of the roads is appalling.  I do wish someone would build a branch between these two rail lines and abolish this interminable jostling.”

Both Cartwright brothers were tempted to laugh aloud.  Having careened up and down the switchbacks of the Sierras on some of Hank Monk’s wild stage rides, the “interminable jostling” here seemed negligible, even to Joe.  Both boys controlled the temptation, however, and Adam responded politely, “Perhaps someone will.”

Warming to the topic, the woman began to tell them how frequently she made this trip to visit her married daughter and, by her own account, the two most precocious grandchildren ever to grace the face of the earth.  Only reaching the terminus at Patchogue rescued the Cartwright brothers from her recitation of the antics and exploits of her wonderful progeny, aged five and seven.

When the vehicle came to a stop, Adam quickly opened the stage door and reached back to assist his fellow travelers, which included the loquacious woman and an elderly gentleman, apparently unrelated.  Then he reached for Joe.  “Let me help you,” he said firmly enough to make the offer an order.

“No argument here,” Joe said, bracing his hand on his brother’s shoulder as he stepped down.

Adam slid an arm around his brother’s waist.  “How far to the train depot?” he asked the driver, who was taking their carpetbags from the boot of the stage.

“One block that way,” the man said, jerking his head over his shoulder.

Adam handled both bags with one arm, leaving the other free to continue supporting Joe.  “Can you make it that far?”

“Sure, I’m okay now,” Joe insisted.

“Uh-huh.”  Adam’s mutter was clearly skeptical.

Joe pushed away from Adam’s side, pulled his back straight and forced himself to walk steadily toward the depot.  The charade ended as soon as they entered the depot of the South Side Railway, however.  Spotting the nearest bench, Joe collapsed onto it.

“Uh-huh, you’re okay now.  I can see that,” Adam muttered as he squatted in front of his brother.  “Just how bad is this pain?” he demanded.

Joe shook his head.  “No pain now.  Just tired.  Is there much of a layover ‘til the next train?”

“I’ll check.”  Adam stood and approached the window of the ticket agent and then returned to sit beside his brother.  “Next train’s in twenty-seven minutes,” he reported, “and then four hours before another one comes through.”

“We better take this one then,” Joe said.

“Not if you need more rest than that,” Adam replied tersely.  “We can even spend the night here and continue in the morning if you need to lie down.”  With effort he lightened his tone.  “We’re on a holiday, Joe, no set schedule.”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m sure I’ll be okay by the time the train pulls out,” Joe insisted.  “Just need to settle down a bit from that ‘interminable jostling,’” he added with a chuckle.

Adam laughed.  “What was really interminable was that woman’s tongue!”

“Boy, wasn’t it?”

At Adam’s suggestion, Joe stretched out on the long wooden bench, and by the time the train pulled in, he appeared rested and ready to continue the journey.  Careful scrutiny convinced Adam the appearance wasn’t an act, so he once again hefted the bags and assisted his brother up the three steep steps into the railcar.

Joe, once again being given the window seat by his accommodating older brother, peered through the glass at the calm water as the train glided past the shore.  “So that’s the Atlantic.  I thought the surf would be heavier.”

Adam laughed as he tousled his brother’s chestnut curls.  “That’s Great South Bay.  There’s a long string of narrow islands between it and the ocean.  You’ll see it later today, I promise.”

“Okay.  Fair enough.”  Joe turned his attention back out the window.

Sometime later a conductor moved down the center aisle, announcing, “Next stop, Bayshore.”

Joe glanced over at Adam.  “Ours?”

“Yes,” Adam agreed.

Three minutes later the train pulled into the small town on the south shore of Long Island, and a few passengers, including the Cartwrights, disembarked.  Adam immediately herded his younger brother into the depot.  “Sit here while I check on a couple of things,” he directed, motioning toward a bench by the window and depositing their carpetbags at his brother’s feet.

Through the window, Joe watched as his brother went across the street and down to the waterfront.  Must be checking dock times, he concluded.  Sure.  Stands to reason we’d have to take a ferry across this bay to get to that Atlantic shore he keeps promising me.  He was puzzled, however, when his older brother didn’t return immediately, but made his way up the main street.

Within five minutes, though, Adam was back at his side.  “Ready for dinner?” he asked.

“Is there time before the ferry leaves?” Joe asked with a knowing smile.

Adam chuckled in acknowledgement of his brother’s powers of deduction.  “Yes, we have just over an hour, and I’ve located a restaurant that looks favorable.  Shall we?” he asked, reaching to help Joe to his feet.

“Seafood on the menu, I presume?”

“Without a doubt,” Adam agreed with a wink.

Being assured by the waitress that broiled lobster was the finest dish on the menu, both brothers chose that, cracking open the scarlet shell to dig out the snowy flesh and dip it in clarified butter.  Roasted red potatoes and creamed peas were served on the side, and while apple brown betty was the only dessert available, its crispy crust and cinnamon-seasoned apples left neither young man wishing he had another option.

Finishing the meal with time to spare, Adam and Joe strolled leisurely toward the dock, where they left their carpetbags with the ticket agent and walked along the beach for about ten minutes.  “The sign said ‘Fire Island,’” Joe commented.  “Is that where we’re headed?”

“That’s right,” Adam replied.  “Peter recommended it.  He said both hotels on the island were of good quality, the beach is particularly fine for surf bathing, and the fishing is superb.”

Joe looked up eagerly.  “Are we going fishing?”

“Tomorrow, if you’re willing to get up early.  Peter said the boat heads out about 6:30.”

“I’m willing,” Joe bubbled.  “You bet I’m willing!”  He looked away for a moment and then turned back, his voice almost shy as he said, “You’re so good to me.”

Feeling awkward, Adam forced a laugh.  “Well, you don’t have to make it sound like the surprise of your life!”

Joe stopped.  “No, I didn’t mean . . .”

Adam’s awkwardness vanished in a desire to alleviate his brother’s display of the same feeling.  “I know, and I didn’t take it that way.  I guess I just don’t handle a compliment very well sometimes.”

Joe smiled softly.  It was a rare occasion when his virtually perfect brother admitted a personal weakness, and it made it easier for him to acknowledge his own.  “Yeah, me either, sometimes.”

Adam wrapped an arm around his brother’s shoulders.  “Come on.  We’d better get back to that dock or the boat will leave without us.”

By the time the ferry docked at Fire Island and Adam had checked them into the larger of the two hotels, Joe was willing to admit that he was exhausted from the journey, and he spent most of the afternoon napping.  When he awoke, it was so near suppertime that Adam suggested they eat first and then change into their bathing jerseys to spend the remainder of the evening on the beach.

The surf was stronger on the Atlantic shore, so Adam kept a firm grip around his brother’s waist as they waded through the white-topped waves pummeling the crystalline sand.  Joe’s face showed keen delight in the fierce attack upon his calves, but he was less steady on his feet than he had been in the gentler waters of Long Island Sound and the bay at Riverhead.  Noticing the weariness that quickly set in, Adam steered him out of the water and suggested they rest awhile.  “We can go back in later, if you’re feeling up to it.”

Joe shook his head.  “No, I’m tired, and if we’re getting up early, I should probably turn in fairly soon.”

“After sunset?” Adam suggested, knowing how Joe enjoyed watching the burning path of the fading sun on the water.

Joe smiled.  “After sunset.”

*****

Despite the early hour, the emerald eyes peering from beneath the floppy tan fabric hat that Adam had purchased the previous afternoon while his brother slept were almost dancing as the sailboat pulled away from the shore of Fire Island.  Adam, sporting a similar gray hat, smiled at the boy’s air of excited anticipation.  Glancing up at the sails billowing in the wind, he was certain he knew what Little Joe was feeling, for the same emotion was surging through his own breast, just as the blood of the man they both were thinking of flowed in both their veins.  Here, on the ocean Ben Cartwright had sailed, it was impossible not to think of him and try to imagine what that young man had felt when first driven before the wind.

After half an hour’s sail Adam slipped closer to his brother’s side.  “How you doing?” he inquired.  “Not seasick, I hope.”

Joe shook his head.  “Just a touch at first, but my stomach’s settled down now.  You?”

“I’m fine,” Adam said with a light clap on his brother’s back.  “I guess we’ve both got a trace of Pa’s salt water in our veins.”  They stood shoulder to shoulder, gazing out over the endless aquamarine expanse, as the wind continued to push the small sailing vessel out to sea.

Finally, it dropped anchor, and a bowlegged mate ambled down the deck.  “Fishing gear, gents?” he inquired as he passed each guest on this morning’s sail.

“Can we?” Joe asked his brother when he first heard the offer.

“Well, I can,” Adam said, his teasing manner dropping at once when he saw how quickly Joe’s countenance fell.  “Oh, all right,” he agreed, “but you’ll have to call out for help if you hook anything very large.”

“Oh, when have I ever needed your help to land a fish?” Joe scoffed.

“I can remember a time,” Adam chuckled, thinking of Joe at three or four.  Then his expression grew serious again.  “I mean it, Joe.  These won’t be little perch biting on your bait out here.  If you feel the slightest strain on those abdominal muscles, you sing out for help.”

“Okay, okay,” Joe said, wanting to stop that line of conversation before the mate, now approaching, reached them.

Adam selected appropriate tackle for both himself and his brother and paid the small rental fee for use of the equipment.

“Good luck with your fishing, gents,” the mate said, “and if you should happen to catch more than meets your need, there’ll be local buyers waiting when we come back to harbor.  They’ll be expecting a bargain, of course, but anything of eating size should still fetch a fair price.”

“That’s good to know,” Adam said.  Reared to respect and conserve the natural resources of land and water by Ben Cartwright, neither he nor Joe would have been comfortable seeing the fish wasted.

“Guess we’ll be selling all ours,” Joe sighed.

“Do what you like with yours,” Adam said with a grin, “but I intend to eat all I can.”

“Really?  Can we?” Joe asked eagerly.

“A nice fish fry on the beach tonight is what I’m planning,” Adam replied as he took a position slightly down the rail from his brother.  “Sound good to you?”

“Sounds great!”

Adam was the first to land a fish.  Hurrying over to see the foot-long fish with blue-green back and silver belly, Joe exclaimed, “What a beauty!  What kind is it, Adam?”

“Not sure.  Bluefish, maybe,” Adam said as he removed the hook from the fish’s mouth.  “Peter told me they’re prevalent hereabouts.”

“Aye, bluefish it is,” said the ship’s mate, coming up behind the Cartwright brothers, “and you’d best let me gut and bleed it for you, sir, and get it on ice.  Bluefish spoil easy.”

“I’ll take your advice on that,” Adam said at once, considering the service well worth the small fee charged.  “Is this the typical size for bluefish, sir?”

“Aye, though I’ve seen some better than a yard long,” the mate confided.  “It’s a fine fighting fish when it gets that size.”

Joe’s eyes glistened.  What he wouldn’t give to bring in a bluefish of that length!  The one he hooked some ten minutes later was only about half that size, but the struggle it put up proved what a fighter the bluefish was.  Determined to bring the fish in, Joe tensed his muscles, trying to ignore the painful pull along the line of his stitches.

Hearing a strangled grunt to his left, Adam looked up from re-baiting his hook after landing a second fish and saw at once the strain on his younger brother’s face.  Dropping his own pole, he grabbed for Joe’s.  “Let me have it!” he ordered tersely when Joe didn’t immediately turn loose.

Unable to fight both Adam and the fish, Joe let go and, gasping for breath, took hold of the ship’s rail for support as Adam landed sixteen inches of flopping, fighting fish.

Seeing the struggle, the mate hurried over to help with a net.  “Oh, that’s a grand one, sir!” he cried.  “A real prize.  You might wish to have that mounted.”

“No, thanks.  Just treat it like the others, please,” Adam said, handing over the shimmering fish.  As the mate left, he took hold of his younger brother and spun him around, a hand clamped firmly on each shoulder.  “Didn’t I tell you to call me if you needed help?” he scolded.  “What am I going to do with you?”

Joe peered up with sheepish eyes.  “Give me another chance?” he suggested.

The response was so typical of Joe that Adam found laughter hard to resist.  “I’ll think about it,” he conceded, “but what I’m going to give you right now is some enforced rest.”  He swept a hand toward a deck chair.  “Sit,” he ordered.

Adam’s face had a definite no-argument look, so Joe just scowled and sat down, hoping his older brother would soon relent and give him that second chance to behave himself, as the soreness in his side indicated he should.

Twenty minutes later Adam dropped into the chair at Joe’s side.  “How you doing, kid?”

“Fine,” Joe assured him.

“Any pain?  Be honest.”

“No, none—well, okay, just a little sore, but not much more than before; it’s nothing to worry about, and that’s honest.”

“Good.”

“So, does that mean I get a second chance?”  Joe was almost begging.  Pleasant as it was to sit on deck with the salt breeze caressing his cheeks, it wasn’t nearly as interesting as angling for bluefish or sea bass, even given the indignity of having older brother help pull them aboard.

Adam patted the knee peeking out beneath his brother’s blue bathing jersey.  “You get another chance, but why don’t we check out the contents of that lunch hamper the hotel fixed up for us first?  I’m getting hungry.”

Joe smiled and nodded his compliance, for though it was still well before noon, their early breakfast had been a light one.  “Yeah, me, too.  Let’s eat, and then we’ll see who can catch the biggest fish.”

Adam gave his brother’s bare calf a solid pinch.  “It had better not be you,” he declared as he got up to get the wicker basket.

Between the two of them, Adam and Joe managed to demolish the entire contents of the hotel’s hamper, from fried chicken to oatmeal cookies.  Then they gathered their fishing tackle and took to the rail of the ship.  Joe was on his best behavior the rest of the afternoon, possibly because Adam carefully positioned himself at his younger brother’s elbow, and he quickly called out for help whenever he felt a warning strain in his side.  “We make a pretty good team,” Adam said as he brought the foot-long bass over the rail, the words taking the sting out of the need to ask for help.  Toward middle of the afternoon, both brothers decided they had fished enough and sat, side by side, in deck chairs, enjoying the salt-tipped fragrance of sea air for the final two hours of their excursion.

At five o’clock the boat pulled back into harbor at Fire Island, and all the passengers disembarked, many pausing to thank the captain or a member of his crew for an enjoyable trip.  Adam made a point of speaking to the mate who had assisted them with their fish and inquired if he had a family who might enjoy a taste of bluefish for supper.  “Aye, sir, I do,” the mate said.

“Take the large one, then,” Adam offered.  “The smaller ones are really better suited to cooking over a campfire, as I intend.”

“That they are; this size is better stuffed and roasted.  Me and the missus and my young ones thank you, sir.  We’ll have a grand supper this night.”

Joe sent an admiring smile toward his older brother as they went down the gangplank.  “That was nice of you.  The big one would have brought a good price.”

“The look on his face was a better one,” Adam said.  As the mate had informed them, a number of locals met the ship, and he had no trouble selling the extra fish he and Joe had caught.  When he had the money in hand, Adam passed it over to a surprised Little Joe.  “There’s a little extra spending money for you, kid,” Adam chuckled.

Joe smiled as appreciatively as the ship’s mate had.  It wasn’t a large sum, but it would help buy more souvenirs and presents when they returned to Philadelphia.  At least, he hoped he would have an opportunity to do that before leaving.  “Adam, when do you think we’ll be heading home?  I mean, we were supposed to start back right after Commencement, but I guess you don’t think I’m up to that yet, and I was just wondering  . . .”

Adam ran his hand over Joe’s shoulder blades as they walked along the beach.  “Let’s just take it a day at a time, all right?  I think it’s too soon to even consider a journey of that length, and I’m sure Pa would prefer that we remain here until you’re fully fit to travel.”

“I’ve been traveling,” Joe pointed out.

Adam gazed back with sober eyes.  “Short jaunts, and some of them have been too much for you.  I hope today wasn’t overly tiring.”

“I am tired,” Joe admitted, “but resting on the boat helped.  I definitely want to stay up for that fish fry you promised.”

“I want that, too,” Adam said.  He wanted it, in fact, more than his younger brother could possibly have dreamed.  Adam had finally decided to share some of his darker memories, and before doing so he wanted to revive that spirit of closeness he and Joe had shared around the campfire in New Haven.  “Here, this looks like a good spot.  You settle down on the sand there and relax while I get the fire started and the fish cooking.”

“Okay.”  Joe stretched out on his side and, cradling his head in the crook of his right arm, watched as Adam prepared their supper.  While the fish was roasting over the open fire, Adam walked into the hotel and came back bearing two plates, two sets of utensils and two steaming mugs of soup.  “Bluefish chowder,” he said.  “Specialty of the house.”

Joe sat up to take his mug and began to spoon in the soup at once.  “It’s good,” he reported.

“Excellent,” Adam agreed as he scooped up a second spoonful.

By the time they’d finished the chowder, the fish was ready, and Adam divided them equally, hoping Joe would eat his full share.  Picking flaky flesh off the bones, they almost burned their fingers in their eagerness for the sweet, satisfying meat.  When nothing remained but bare white skeletons, Adam built up the campfire, just as he’d done that night in New Haven.  Moving next to Joe, he put his arm around the boy and drew him close.  “You still want to know about the war?” he asked softly.

Joe looked up, trying, but not quite succeeding in his attempt to hide the longing in his eyes.  “Not if it’s too painful for you to remember, Adam.  I-I shouldn’t have pushed before.”

Adam gazed up at the stars sprinkling the blue-black sky.  “No, you may have been right—when you said it might help to talk, I mean.  Just never figured it would be my kid brother I’d share that horror with.”

“That bad?” Joe asked quietly.

Adam’s grip on his brother’s shoulder tightened.  “Not all of it, but, yes, what was bad was very bad.”  He relaxed his hold and began to talk.  “I didn’t really plan to go to war when I came back east.  I was here strictly to attend college.  In fact, I had promised Pa that I would stay out of what he called ‘the conflict back east’ and at first it was an easy promise to keep.  I’d had a taste of warfare with the Paiutes back home, and that was enough to lose all my schoolboy notions about the glories of war; I wanted no part of more.”

“Bet Pa had a fit when he found out you went against him.”  Though Joe couldn’t remember his father’s reaction when that news had arrived at the Ponderosa, he had no difficulty reconstructing the picture from his own memories of times he’d bucked Pa’s authority.

“Oh, yeah,” Adam drawled slowly.  “His pen poured forth fire, but by that time it was too late; I was a soldier.”

“So why’d you enlist?”

Adam shrugged.  “Who knows?  A combination of reasons: a strong opposition to slavery, a sense of guilt for not doing my part when men all around me were doing theirs, fear for the future of my country if we did become ‘a house divided,’ as Lincoln had called it years before.  I couldn’t see interrupting my education for three years, though, and that was the term of enlistment, so I held off, tried to crush what I was feeling inside.  I’d gotten good at that over the years.  Then Lincoln issued a call for men to serve just nine months, and I felt I no longer had any excuse for not answering that call.  It would put me behind my class one whole year, but my country needed me, so I joined up in October of 1862.”

He talked about how his unit was put together and related how his previous experience with the Army during the Pyramid Lake Indian War had led the men of his company to vote him their sergeant.  “Experience!” Adam laughed ironically.  “I’d been proud of my service back home, thought I knew what war was all about, but I knew nothing.  I had no more idea what I was in for than any of those other raw recruits—and here I was a leader.”

Joe lightly touched his brother’s knee.  “You’ve always been a leader, Adam.  They were right to choose you.”

Adam shook his head sadly.  “You’ll never know how many times I wished I were nothing but an enlisted man, following orders, instead of giving them, and it only got worse when I was promoted to second lieutenant.  I had to actually order men to their deaths then.”

Joe’s grip tightened on his brother’s leg as if to give support.  “I guess that weighed heavy on you.”

Adam closed his eyes and nodded slowly.  “I was only relaying orders from above, of course, but I felt responsible for my men.  Yet there was nothing I could do to protect them, little I could do even to make their lives better when we weren’t fighting.”  His chin began to quiver as he recalled life in camp.  The memories spilled out in bits and pieces, one disjointed phrase at a time, as he described the filth, the stench of hundreds of men living in close quarters for months on end, the disease that had taken more men than died on the battlefield, the senseless killing to capture a point some officer deemed essential, only to lose it again the next day.  “It was almost a relief when I was captured and out of it for a time.”

Joe jerked forward.  “You were captured?  You mean you were a prisoner of war?”

Surprise in his eyes, Adam turned toward his brother.  “You didn’t know?  No, of course not.  How could you?  It’s not the kind of news Pa would have shared with a little boy.”

Bitterness crept into Joe’s voice as he muttered, “No one ever shared anything, and I wasn’t that little.”

Adam brushed a soothing hand through Joe’s chestnut curls.  “Of course you were, a child of five—well, almost six, you’d have been then.  It was about a week before your birthday that I was captured at Chancellorsville.  Pa was right to keep it from you; you couldn’t possibly have understood.  You were in my thoughts a lot that week, though, little buddy.”

“Is that why you never wrote to me, just to Pa and Hoss, ‘cause I was too little to understand?” Joe demanded, voice hardening.  “You were my brother, too, you know!  I had a right to know how things were with you.”

Adam nodded, pulling Joe’s head to his shoulder.  “I’m sorry, Joe.  I tried to write a couple of times, but there was nothing going on around me that I felt I could share with my innocent baby brother.  I wanted to keep you that way, little buddy, and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about the fly-bloated bodies of dead horses and the screams of men as their arms and legs were sawed off.  I only wrote Hoss a few times during those nine months, for much the same reason, but I thought about both of you all the time—and Pa.  I carried your pictures with me into every battle, and when I felt like giving up there in Libby Prison, I’d take out those pictures and remind myself why I had to keep going.”

Always quick to react emotionally, Little Joe blinked back the tears brimming in his eyes.  “I thought you didn’t like me.  I thought you loved them, but not me.”

Tears also began to fill the eyes of the Cartwright who always held his emotions in.  He took his young brother’s face between his hands and looked steadily into the expressive emerald eyes.  “You were a shining star in my darkest nights—Pa and Hoss and especially you, Joe.  You were a symbol of all that was pure and good and untouched by the wrath of man.”

Unable to control himself any longer, Little Joe fell against his brother’s shoulder, sobbing.

Adam stroked the curly head consolingly.  “Shh, shh, easy now.  Don’t get yourself all worked up.”  Though he felt like crying himself, his concern for Joe kept his own emotions in check.  Becoming this overwrought couldn’t be good for the boy.  “I think it’s time we got you back inside,” Adam said softly.  “It’s been a long day.”

Joe pulled back, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded.

Adam quickly doused the embers of the fire and packed their dirty plates and cups into the hotel’s hamper.  When he had helped Joe to his feet, the two brothers walked back to the hotel, each one’s arm about the other, Adam carrying the basket in his other hand.  “I didn’t mean to upset you,” he apologized.  “Maybe I shouldn’t have—”

“No,” Joe interrupted quickly.  “I’m glad you did.  I’ve needed to know for a long time.”  When his brother nodded, he asked, “Did it help to talk, Adam, or make it worse?”

Adam pressed the boy to his side.  “It helped, Joe; it helped.”

Joe smiled.  “I’m glad.”

Inside, Adam helped Joe get ready for bed and soothed him to sleep with a backrub, as he had most nights since bringing his brother home from the hospital.  The rubdown was a lengthy one that night, for each touch of his hand seemed to remind Joe of all that his older brother had endured, and the boy was slow to settle into sleep.  Even after Joe was finally deep in his dreams, Adam continued to stroke those soft curls.  “You’re still my shining star, you know that?” he whispered to the sleeping boy.  “Still, to me, that bright-eyed innocent I want to protect from all the dark things of this world.  It’s what makes me so hard on you sometimes, that need to protect.  Maybe someday you’ll understand; maybe someday it won’t be so hard to tell you.  Maybe . . . someday . . .”

*****

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

Adam patted his younger brother’s right cheek, the left one being firmly ensconced on Adam’s sturdy shoulder.  “Joe, wake up.  End of the line.”  He chuckled as Joe slowly blinked his eyes.  “Much good it did, giving you the window seat this morning, little buddy; I don’t believe you’ve seen a tenth of the scenery available.”

Joe yawned.  “We got up kind of early, big brother.”

“I know,” Adam soothed as he smoothed the tousled chestnut curls into place.  “Two early mornings in a row, but ferries to and from Fire Island are relatively infrequent.  I felt we needed to catch the first one available, but you can sleep all you want once we get to the hotel in New York.”

Joe frowned at the prospect of the enforced bed rest that he suspected his older brother had in mind.  “I’ll be fine by then,” he alleged.

“Or, at least, acting as if you were,” Adam scoffed as he plunked Joe’s straw hat atop his curly mop.

The train pulled to a stop, and Adam, juggling their luggage, assisted his brother from the car.

“Hey, it landed us right at the dock,” Joe said.  Then he squinted at the steamer just pulling away.  “Uh-oh, Adam, I think we missed the boat.”

“Relax,” Adam laughed.  “The ferry service here is frequent, about every ten minutes, unless it’s changed since I lived here.”

Taking advantage of some wooden benches placed at dockside, the Cartwright brothers waited for the ferry that would take them from Brooklyn to New York City.  As Adam had predicted, it arrived some ten minutes later and began loading passengers.  “Lot of people making the trip,” Joe observed as they took their favorite place at the rail.

Adam nodded.  “Some for business, some for pleasure.  Many people prefer living in the outlying areas, and the excellent transportation system makes that possible, even for people who work in the heart of the city.”

“Yeah, that is one good thing about the East,” Joe conceded.  “The transportation sure is better—and faster.”

Adam lightly cupped the back of his brother’s neck.  “And pleasanter,” he added as the ferry began making its way through the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island.  “You’re developing such a taste for water transportation, little buddy, that I’m afraid you’ll be selling Cochise for your own steamboat on Lake Tahoe.”

With a wrinkled grin, Joe shook his head.  “Not a chance, though I might be willing to sneak Sport out of the barn and trade him in for a sleek sailboat.”  The hand on the back of his neck tightened like a vise, but Joe just laughed.  “Besides, if I get homesick for the water, there’s always those steamers from Sacramento to San Francisco.”

“True,” Adam agreed, charitably releasing his hold on a certain impudent neck.

Though he was enjoying the ride, Joe almost immediately opted for seeing the scenery from a deck chair, and Adam settled companionably next to him.  “You’re tired, aren’t you?” the older brother asked, his concern written in the lines creasing his forehead.  Though Adam had tried to ease the journey for his brother, it had still entailed a lot of hours of sitting upright, and although Joe had tried to hide it, the strain was beginning to show.

Joe started to make his usual protestation of feeling fine, but with those ebony eyes fixed firmly on his face, he couldn’t lie.  Nodding, he whispered, “I still tire out so easy, Adam.”

Adam rested a reassuring hand on the slim shoulder.  “Well, you’ll have plenty of time to rest up today.  No activities planned except getting to the Astor House, and when we do, you will go straight to bed.”

Joe grimaced.  Just what he’d feared.  “Adam, I don’t think I can stand stayin’ cooped up in a room all day.”

“You don’t have to stand it; you’ll be lying down,” Adam quipped lightly.  At Joe’s groan, he slid his hand over to caress the boy’s neck.  “I’ll take you somewhere nice tomorrow,” he promised.

“Where?” Joe demanded petulantly.

“I think I’ll just let you entertain yourself this afternoon, trying to figure that out,” Adam chuckled.  “You’ll need something to do while I’m out.”

Joe’s eyes narrowed.  “You’re going out?”

“Not ‘til after dinner,” Adam said.  “It’s nothing that would interest you, Joe; I just want to stop by my old architectural firm and say hello.”

“And you think that wouldn’t interest me?” Joe challenged hotly.  “I’m going with you, Adam!”

Adam set his shoulders as squarely as he could in a deck chair.  “Not if I say otherwise.”

Joe’s chin jutted out, and his eyes snapped.  “You’d better take me with you, older brother, or so help me, I’ll take off on my own, and I guarantee I’ll find New York City’s equivalent of Shantyville, just to spite you.”

Adam folded his arms and fixed a stern glare on the flaming face before him.  “You’d better rethink that threat, little boy, or I just might have to take you across my knee.”

“No, you won’t,” Joe retorted with a sneer.  “Two reasons: I’m too old, and I’m too sick.”

Adam thought the first point might be open to debate, but he knew Joe had him with the second.  He couldn’t possibly be heartless enough to lay that tender belly across his hard-muscled thighs, however much the kid might deserve a few heavy-handed swats on his rear.  Adam cut a quick, appraising side-glance at his brother and knew that, if left to his own devices, the brazen rascal would do exactly what he’d threatened, heedless of the consequences.  Joe had him over a barrel and knew it, the smug smirk on his face the best proof of that equation.  Adam slumped forward, fingers massaging his suddenly aching temple, wondering how Pa ever put up with the stress of managing this little hellion day in and day out.

Seeing defeat stamped on his brother’s face, Joe made a swift change of attitude, from threatening to wheedling.  “Please, Adam.  I want to see where you worked.  It’s very important to me, Adam.”

Head still in his hands, Adam sighed.  I should have known; the kid is absolutely compelled to know everything I said, did or thought while I was back here.  With that understanding of his brother’s motivation, he lifted his head, hoping the boy would respond better to reason than to dictatorial demand.  “Joe, it isn’t that I don’t want you to see where I worked or to meet the man who taught me most of what I know about architecture.  Nothing would please me more.  I’m simply concerned for your welfare, boy.  You are in serious need of rest.”

“I know,” Joe admitted, willing to be reasonable as long as he got his way, “and I will rest.  I promise I’ll go straight to bed without a fuss and stay there ‘til dinnertime.”

Realizing it was probably the best bargain he could make, Adam nodded, but he added one additional condition.  “You will also go straight to bed when we get back from downtown, young man.”

Joe’s lips puckered for a moment, but he could see almost immediately that Adam wouldn’t be swayed by anything as puny as a pout.  “Okay, you win, big brother,” he sighed.

Shaking his head from side to side, Adam choked out a laugh.  Somehow, he didn’t feel like the big victor in this little contest of wills.

The ferry pulled into Peck Slip, and Adam unerringly led the way to the streetcar with the most direct line to the Astor House.  The car was so crowded that Adam had to stand, clinging to a strap, but he managed to manipulate Joe into a seat.

Tired as he was, Joe craned his neck out the open window to gaze in awe at the mass of tall buildings that seemed to thrust the very clouds further into the heavens.  “And I thought Philadelphia was big!” he exclaimed.  “How’d you ever keep from getting lost, Adam?”

Adam laughed down at him.  “The same way you do back home, by learning the landmarks.  Actually, I did lose my way a couple of times my first summer here, so I would advise you to give up any notions you have about sneaking off on your own, little man.”  He gave Joe a light chuck under the chin.

Knowing he was being teased, Joe smiled.  “I didn’t really mean that.”

“Oh, yes, you did!”

Joe suddenly found the buildings of New York City to be of paramount interest.  Arriving at Astor House, he stood looking up at the five stories of gray granite.  The building was plain, almost utilitarian, except for the classic columns on either side on the entrance, and definitely had been around years longer than the Transcontinental back in Philadelphia.  Still, Adam must have his reasons for choosing the place.  Cheaper, maybe, though cost didn’t seem to motivate many of older brother’s decisions these days.  “You’ve stayed here before?” Joe asked as Adam circled his waist to help him up the steps.  “I mean it looks old enough.”

“Yes, I’ve stayed here, and frankly, I wouldn’t stay anywhere else,” Adam said.

“That good, huh?”

Adam chuckled.  “It’s a first-rate hotel, yes, but that’s not my reason.  Let’s just say the proprietor earned my loyalty long ago.”

“How?” Joe demanded.

Having arrived at the top of the steps, Adam pushed Joe toward the front door.  “Surely, that bit of research into my personal history can wait until we’ve registered.”

“Oh, well, I guess so,” Joe muttered.

Depositing Joe on a cushioned circular seat in the lobby, Adam went to the desk to sign in.  Since he had specifically planned to stay at this hotel, he had wired ahead for reservations from New Haven, and registration took only a few minutes.  Collecting Joe, he directed him toward the elevator, for their room was on the third floor.  As usual, Joe looked as though his stomach had jumped somewhere in the vicinity of his Adam’s apple during the ascent of the enclosed chamber, but he gamely accepted the inevitable.  Three flights of stairs were still beyond his strength.  In fact, just walking down the hall very nearly was at this point, but he was determined not to let older brother see that.

Adam unlocked the door and ushered Joe into a richly appointed parlor of classic, though not particularly modern, comfort.  “This is a nice room, just like you said,” Joe commented as he stood in its center, looking around.

Adam nodded.  “Glad you like it.  Now, let’s see you live up to what you said.  Take either bedroom you like, but strip down and get under the covers at once.”

Though he had little faith in its effectiveness, Joe let a pout come to his lips.  “But you haven’t told me yet why you wanted to stay here.”

“I’ll tell you over dinner—provided you get into bed right now,” Adam said, gesturing toward the bedroom on the right.  “Otherwise, you will die wondering.  You promised no fussing, Joe.”

“I wasn’t fussing, just stalling,” Joe tossed back with a grin.  He moved deliberately toward the bedroom on the opposite side of the suite from the one Adam had indicated.

Chuckling, Adam shook his head.  Well, that was predictable, or should have been.  He set each carpetbag in the appropriate bedroom and settled down to relax with a copy of the New York Herald, which he’d purchased from a newsboy outside the hotel.  After reading the headlines, he turned to the business news, hoping to see some mention of Bracebridge, Harwood and Associates.  He smiled when he spotted a small notice of a new office building, whose construction contract had just been awarded to his old firm.

Paging through the rest of the paper, he came to the entertainment section and began to scan its offerings, although he didn’t actually plan to visit any of the theaters of New York City.  While he would dearly love to see a new dramatic production of the quality generally presented on Broadway, his younger brother didn’t need to be keeping late hours, and given recent threats, Joe couldn’t be trusted to stay in the hotel by himself.  Not that I’d do anything that callous and cruel, anyway, Adam told himself.

Then his eyes fell on a notice that made callous and cruel seem a viable option, after all, at least for one selfish moment.  Adam licked his lips, as if tasting the pleasure of seeing Edwin Booth once more in his most famous role.  One night only, tomorrow night, the great Shakespearean dramatist would appear in the theater that still carried his name, although financial reverses had deprived him of its ownership.  Edwin Booth was more, however, than just the finest actor Adam had ever seen; he was, as well, a personal friend, one whom Adam had not seen in several years.  How could he possibly pass up the opportunity?  It was inconceivable, especially in light of how much Booth needed the support and encouragement of friends in the aftermath of his bankruptcy three years ago.  And to be compelled by financial constraints to act as a hired player in the theater he had once owned would only rub salt in the wound; it would be like suddenly losing the Ponderosa and being forced to hire on as a wrangler for the new owner.

Adam’s dark eyes flicked toward the closed door to his brother’s bedroom, and his countenance clouded.  He’s tired, so very tired.  How can I even think of keeping him up past midnight, for my own selfish pleasure?  Yet Joe, too, would enjoy a night at the theater.  In fact, he’d even hinted at something like that back in New Haven, and while Joe had seen Edwin Booth perform on tours out west, he had never seen him as Hamlet.  What kind of mentor would deprive his young protégé of an opportunity like that when it lay within his grasp?  Wasn’t it worth a little weariness?  Joe would be quick to answer yes, of course, which made it all the more incumbent on his older brother to carefully weigh the consequences, to provide the protection the rash younger boy would both require and resent.

Tossing the paper aside, Adam began to pace the Turkish carpet of the parlor.  There had to be some way to work this problem out logically, some way to have his cake without overloading his little brother on sweets, so to speak.  One late night might not hurt the kid, provided he got plenty of rest prior to and after the performance.  Adam started to total up the hours.  The two hours of rest before dinner would be offset by the two it would take to make the visit downtown this afternoon, but he could insist that Joe go back to bed as soon as they returned.  Two or three more hours, then up briefly for supper and straight back to bed.  Yes, that should be sufficient rest for the day.

He’d promised Little Joe some activity tomorrow, however, and it couldn’t be anything strenuous or the boy would be too exhausted to attend the theater.  His original plan had been a shopping expedition to Stewart’s Department Store, the nation’s first, and a carriage ride through Central Park.  They might have to abbreviate both activities to some degree, but Joe wouldn’t object if he knew the icing on the cake would be a night at the theater.  He’d be tired and willing to rest quietly the remainder of the afternoon.  At least, Adam hoped so.

Adequate rest after the performance was the sticking point in these calculations.  Adam had planned to take the Saturday morning train back to Philadelphia, and that would mean rising relatively early.  Up late the night before and up early the next morning?  No, that just wouldn’t work.  It was simply too much for the kid.  Back and forth Adam paced, heels clacking on the hardwood floor each time he came to the end of the carpet, fist pounding the side of his thigh as he tried to walk off his frustration.

Hearing a door open behind him, Adam spun around.  Little Joe, stripped down to his drawstring drawers, was standing in the doorway.  “What are you doing out of bed?” Adam demanded tersely.

“I heard something,” Joe said.

Adam flushed, realizing that it must have been his energetic pacing that had disturbed his brother.  “I’m sorry, Joe; I’ll be quieter.”

Joe’s dark eyebrows came together in one long line.  “Is something wrong?”

“No, of course not; go back to bed.”

“Then, why are you wearing out the carpet?” Joe asked, head cocked quizzically to one side.  He caught sight of the newspaper tossed carelessly on the settee.  “Bad news?  More Indian trouble?”

Adam crossed the room swiftly to rest consoling hands on his brother’s upper arms.  “No, no, nothing like that.  I’m just trying to sort some things out in my mind.”

“What kind of things?”

Adam rubbed his hands down Joe’s biceps.  “Nothing for you to worry about.  Just making plans for tomorrow, the trip home, that kind of thing.”

Joe’s face relaxed.  “Need some help?”

“No,” Adam stated firmly.  “Go back to bed.”

With a sigh of resignation, Joe turned and went back into his room, and Adam quietly closed the door.  He walked back to the settee, pushed the newspaper aside and sat down, bending forward, forearms resting on his knees, thumbs twiddling around each other in a noiseless equivalent of pacing the floor.  Just one more problem to sort out, but he really couldn’t do it without an extra piece of information.  Getting up, he went to Joe’s door, opened it and stepped inside.  “Joe, I’m going out for a few minutes,” he said.

Little Joe rose up on his elbows.  “You promised I could go with you,” he chided.

“No, no, I’m not going far,” Adam explained, “probably just downstairs.  I want to check train schedules back to Philadelphia.  I need to know when we’re leaving before I can decide what we’ll be able to do here.”

“Oh, okay.”  Joe willingly settled back into his pillow, not tempted by an outing of that sort.  He yawned drowsily.  “Wake me up in time to dress for dinner.”

“Will do,” Adam promised.  Once again he noiselessly closed the bedroom door, and then he exited the suite, taking the elevator to the lobby.  He approached the desk clerk and inquired whether he had any knowledge of train schedules for the New Jersey Railway.

“Indeed, sir, I have a complete listing,” the clerk offered.  “How may I assist you?”

“Specifically, I’m interested in any train that might leave early enough in the afternoon to put me into Philadelphia’s Centennial depot before dark tomorrow,” Adam replied.

“Tomorrow afternoon, sir?  Let’s see.”  The clerk consulted a printed listing kept at hand for just such inquiries.  “There is one that leaves at 1:35, sir, which should bring you to your destination shortly after five o’clock.  Would that meet your requirements?”

Adam grinned broadly.  “To perfection.”

“Might I make a suggestion, sir, for your greater comfort on the trip?” the clerk said.

If there was anything that might add to his younger brother’s comfort on the journey, Adam was interested and said so.

The clerk enthusiastically began to tell him about the special Midland Centennial cars, designed with Washington air brakes for safety and furnished with luxurious interiors, including adjustable folding chairs that could be set in four separate positions, even making into a bed, if desired.  “In fact, arrangements can be made to use the cars as your lodging while in the Centennial city, should you find the hotels overcrowded,” he advised.

“We have rooms already, but I’m sure those cars would provide precisely what I’m looking for.”  It could not have been more perfect, Adam reflected as he returned upstairs after accepting the clerk’s offer to make travel arrangements for Saturday afternoon’s train.  Joe could sleep the morning away and still be in his bed at the Transcontinental at an early hour.  Furthermore, those special reclining chairs would insure his complete comfort on the train trip.  Adam rubbed his hands together in glee at the prospect of seeing Hamlet.  He would not, of course, mention it to Joe today.  Time enough for that once he was certain the boy had rested well and was up to a night at the theater.

To Joe, it seemed that no time whatsoever had passed before Adam was bending over him, gently rousing him from slumber, though it had actually been almost an hour.  Joe had reached a stage in his recovery where he didn’t really need assistance dressing, but Adam helped him into his trousers anyway and, as usual, insisted on lacing his shoes.  “I want my blue cravat,” Joe said when Adam started to loop the one he’d worn that morning around his neck.

Adam lifted his brother’s chin with an index finger.  “You don’t have to dress up for Mr. Bracebridge.  He’d be just as cordial if you sauntered in, wearing dusty britches and smelling of horse sweat.”  Nonetheless, he picked up Joe’s carpetbag, set it on a chair and began rummaging through it for the desired neckwear.

Joe giggled.  “Bracebridge.  There’s a name for an architect, if ever I heard one!”

Adam laughed as he tossed Joe’s blue cravat to him.  “Oddly enough, that’s just what drew me to the firm.  Sort of made it stand out from the others.”

“You and me, thinking alike?  That’s scary, big brother.”

“I know; I’m quaking in my boots.”

Joe snickered.  “You mean your balmorals.”

Adam groaned.  “Let’s get downstairs quickly, so you can fill your mouth with something besides nonsense.”  He walked over and tied Joe’s cravat for him, to speed the process.  Then, wrapping an arm around his brother’s shoulders, he steered him toward the door.  “Did you rest well?” he inquired.

“Sure did.  I’m right as rain and ready to go downtown.”

“Uh-huh.  I know a con job when I hear one, little buddy.”

Bantering back and forth, they rode the elevator to the first floor and entered the dining room to the left of the lobby.  The menu was extensive, and it took Joe, especially, some time to decide what he wanted.  Finally fixing on fried veal with tomato gravy, he turned in his order and, propping his elbows on the white damask tablecloth, rested his chin on his interlaced fingers.  “I’m waiting,” he said as if exercising supreme patience.

“Well, of course, you are,” Adam teased.  “You just turned in the order, after all.”

Joe cleared his throat loudly.  “I meant for the reason you always stay at the Astor House.  You promised, Adam.”

Adam chuckled.  “All right.  As I said, it’s a matter of earned loyalty.  The proprietor in those days, Charles Stetson, always had a room for any Union soldier, whether he could pay or not.”

“And you needed that kind of help?”

“Personally, no,” Adam replied, “but a number of my men did, and it’s in appreciation for the help Mr. Stetson gave them that I patronize this establishment, although I can’t imagine he’s in active charge these days.  He’d be sixty-five to seventy by now, if he’s still alive.”

“You should ask,” Joe said.

“I think I will,” Adam agreed.  “I’d like to pay my respects.”

On their way out of the hotel after finishing dinner, Adam stopped at the registration desk to inquire after Charles Stetson and learned that while the elderly man was still living, he only visited the hotel occasionally nowadays.  “I’d like to leave a note for him later,” Adam said, “if you would be kind enough to give it to him on his next visit.”

“My pleasure, sir,” the clerk said, his smile indicating that the words were more than simple courtesy to a customer.

Adam refused to take the first streetcar that passed their stop.  “Too crowded,” he told Joe.  Another car came by five minutes later, however, and while it also was nearly full, there were two seats available.

Trying to put himself in an architectural frame of mind, Joe examined the tall buildings nestled shoulder to shoulder along the streets of America’s largest city.  Occasionally, as the horse-drawn streetcar passed a particularly striking edifice, he would ask Adam about its style and whether anyone from Adam’s company had been the architect.  Usually, Adam laughed and shook his head, but once or twice, the structure was one for which Bracebridge, Harwood and Associates had been the builders.  Once Adam pointed to a red brick building graced with Doric pillars of white marble and said that he himself had been involved in the construction of that one, although only as an apprentice under Mr. Bracebridge’s direct supervision.  Nonetheless, Little Joe beamed with pride and leaned far out the car to gaze at that building, as if memorizing every cornice and column, until it was out of sight.

Finally, Adam signaled that it was time for them to get off the streetcar.  Standing on the street, he gestured toward an imposing building of New Jersey brownstone, trimmed in creamy marble from Ohio.  He helped Joe mount the five marble steps to the entrance, where the younger boy stopped and, peering into the glass panels inserted into the double doors, adjusted his wide cravat and settled his gray bowler.  “Will you come on?” Adam scolded, opening the door and depriving Joe of his mirror.  “You look fine, and, anyway, there aren’t likely to be any girls up there, waiting to swoon over your boyish charms.”

Joe returned a sheepish smile.  Girls were the furthest things from his mind at the moment, but he let his older brother think whatever he wanted.  It was better than admitting the truth.  Adam, who had probably never felt himself less than the equal of any man, just wouldn’t understand.  When it came to meeting folks who held his brother in high regard, “fine” wasn’t good enough.  Joe had to be perfect, he felt, in both appearance and behavior, so he wouldn’t embarrass his brother in front of his sophisticated eastern friends.  Adam, on the other hand, never gave it a thought.

Exiting the elevator at the fourth floor, Adam opened the familiar carved walnut door and held it for his younger brother.  The two Cartwrights stepped to a plain, maple desk, just as a clerk, the sleeves of his pinstriped shirt pushed up his arms by narrow black garters, dumped an armload of architectural drawings onto its surface.  The young man adjusted his spectacles to examine the visitors.  “How may I help you, gentlemen?” he inquired.

“I’d like to see Mr. Bracebridge, please,” Adam replied.

“Mr. Bracebridge only sees clients by appointment, sir,” the clerk advised, “and as his personal secretary, I happen to know that he is not expecting anyone this afternoon.  If you would like to schedule . . .”

With strained patience Adam cleared his throat.  “No, I’d prefer to see him now.  Please tell him that Adam Cartwright is here to discuss his offer of employment.”

The clerk’s brushy mustache jerked with a haughty twitch.  “I am quite certain that Mr. Bracebridge is expecting no job applicants this afternoon.  In fact, sir, I know of no position open with this firm.”

“And I was assured by Mr. Bracebridge personally that there would always be a place for me with this firm,” Adam returned with an equally imperious arch of his eyebrow.  “Just give him my name, and if he refuses to see me, I’ll leave at once.”

“As you will, sir,” the clerk said with cool courtesy, apparently thinking that the quickest way to get rid of this intruder was to do as he suggested.

Wrapped up in the exchange, neither young man noted the reaction of the boy standing silently by.  At Adam’s first mention of an offer of employment, Little Joe had begun pulling nervously at his lower lip, his mind racing down apprehensive avenues.  Was that why Adam had wanted to come here alone, to see if there was still a place for him with his old architectural firm?  Suddenly, Joe had no desire to be there and an overwhelming urge to get his older brother back through that walnut door.  “Maybe we should leave,” he suggested.  “Sounds like your old boss is kind of busy.”

“Relax; he’ll see us,” Adam assured him, oblivious to his brother’s agitation since the mention of a standing job offer, while true, had been only a device to move the self-important clerk to action.

The door to the largest inner office burst open and out it flew a lean-limbed man in his mid-fifties, whose unruly mop of warm brown hair, flecked now with a few strands of white, fell loosely over his collar.  “Adam Cartwright!” he cried.  “I had never hoped to have the pleasure of seeing your face again, but I’m delighted!  Come in, my boy; come in.”

At Mr. Bracebridge’s side, his personal secretary adopted an obsequious smile.  “Yes, please, sir, do come in.  I apologize for not recognizing your name, sir, but I am somewhat new to the firm.”

Stretching a hand toward Joe, Adam replied with a mere nod for the clerk.  “Mr. Bracebridge, I would like to present my younger brother, Joseph Cartwright.  Joe, Mr. Addison Bracebridge.”

“Welcome, young man,” Mr. Bracebridge said, greeting Joe with a hearty handshake.  “Please, come in.”

Now reluctant, where moments before he had been eager, Joe dragged after the two older men into the inner office.

Closing the door, Bracebridge leaned back against a massive mahogany desk and smiled at Little Joe.  “So, Adam, have you come to introduce another promising young Cartwright architect or were you serious about finally joining this firm, as I all but begged you to do years ago?”

“Don’t tempt me,” Adam chuckled.  “No, my young brother and I are in the city on holiday, and I just wanted to stop in to see you.  Of course, the boy was so insistent on meeting you himself that perhaps he is beginning to entertain notions of an architectural career.”  He winked saucily at Little Joe, to which the younger boy responded with a decidedly wan smile and a shake of his head.

“Ah, too bad,” the senior architect said in response to that negating motion from the younger Cartwright.  He turned back to Adam.  “Perhaps I could be more successful in tempting you, however, with a look at the plans for our latest project.”

“I’d relish seeing them,” Adam admitted.  Glancing at Joe, he noticed for the first time the downcast face, and his brows drew together in concern.  “Here, sit down,” he urged, moving Joe toward a chair placed at the outer corner of the desk.

Moving toward the door to request the plans from his secretary, Bracebridge paused.  “Anything wrong?”

“He’s been ill,” Adam explained briefly, to spare Joe’s pride as much as possible, “and still tires easily.”

“Oh, how unfortunate on a holiday,” the architect sympathized.  Opening the door, he made his request, and the clerk quickly returned with the plans.  Bracebridge spread them out on his wide desk, and soon he and Adam were lost in discussion of the projected building’s salient features.  Little Joe sat watching them, silently nibbling his knuckles, miserably contemplating the use of his weariness as an excuse to get Adam away from those tempting plans and job offers.

Looking up after expressing enthusiastic endorsement of the plans, Adam caught sight of his brother’s strained face and assumed its tautness was an indication of exhaustion.  “Much as I’d like to continue this discussion,” he told his former employer, “I think it’s time I got my brother back to the hotel.”

“I’d hoped you might come home with me for supper,” Bracebridge urged.  “We have a guest room, where the young man can rest.”

“Thank you.  It would be a pleasure, of course, but I feel an early night would be best for both of us.”  He moved to help Joe rise from his chair.

Addison Bracebridge walked with them to the outer door of the architectural offices.  “I’m so pleased you stopped by, Adam, and I hope you’ll remember that there will always be a place for you here.”

Adam shook the man’s hand.

“And it was nice to meet you, young fellow,” Bracebridge said to Joe.

Only a nudge of Adam’s elbow brought a response from the younger Cartwright.  “Uh, yes, sir.  I mean, thank you.”

The architect chuckled and smiled at Adam.  “The lad’s a bit shy, isn’t he?”

Adam’s eyebrow went up.  “Shy” was not a word he’d ever heard used to describe his loquacious little brother.  “Not normally,” he muttered.  After a few more words of farewell, he parted from his former employer and moved toward the elevator.  “Do you realize you didn’t say one word while we were in there?” he observed.

“Sorry,” Joe mumbled.

“I didn’t mean it as a rebuke,” Adam hastened to explain.  He touched a supportive hand to Joe’s back.  “You really must be tired.”

“No, I’m fine,” Joe grunted.  The elevator doors opened, and he stepped hurriedly in.

Forehead furrowed, Adam followed, but he made no attempt to continue the conversation until they left the elevator on the ground floor.  Then his fingers closed around Joe’s biceps.  “All right, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Joe.”  The boy’s name was drawn out and spoken in a tone of doubting reproach.

“Do you have to tell everyone that I’ve been sick?” Joe growled.

“There’s no shame in that.”  Adam emitted a short laugh.  “Would you prefer to let people think you’re just a natural weakling?”

“I don’t know.  Never mind.”  Joe pushed through the front door of the building and hurried outside.

Adam snared his brother’s arm.  “Slow down, boy,” he ordered, helping Joe down the steps.  He continued to regard his brother with concern as they waited for their streetcar.  “I wish you’d tell me what’s bothering you,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper.

“You want to take that job,” Joe accused, his face hard.

Adam would have laughed, had not his younger brother looked so utterly despondent.  “No, Joe, I don’t,” he answered simply.

“Oh, sure, you do,” Joe insisted.  “I saw how excited you were, just talking about what’s being planned.”  His hand swept from right to left, indicating the ornate buildings lining the opposite side of the street.  “Look at them and tell me you don’t want to be part of creating such things.”

“Come walk with me,” Adam said, taking his brother’s arm.

Joe pulled away.  “Horse car’s coming.”

“There’ll be another soon.  Come on.”  Adam again took hold of Joe’s arm and moved him down the street.  “Look all around,” he suggested gently, “and tell me what you see.”

“Buildings, beautiful buildings,” Joe grunted, “row on row of them.”

“That’s right.  I’m glad you can appreciate their beauty.  Now point out any one of them that is as majestic as a single ponderosa pine, lifting its evergreen spire to the cerulean heavens.”

Joe didn’t know that “cerulean” meant “sky blue,” but he understood what his brother was saying.  “None,” he whispered, head lowered.  “Not to me.”

Adam lifted his brother’s chin with open fingers.  “Nor to me.  I made my choice long ago, Joe.  I’ve never regretted it.”

“Never?” Joe whispered, eyes brimming.

“Well, maybe a time or two when my baby brother was being particularly ornery,” Adam teased and was relieved to see a twinkle replace the tears threatening to trickle down his brother’s cheeks.  “Come on; let’s catch that horse car and get you back to the hotel for some much-needed rest.”

Joe nodded, slipping an arm around his brother as they walked back to the streetcar stop.

*****

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Adam set aside his copy of The Poet at the Breakfast Table and took out his pocket watch.  As his inner clock had suggested, it was nearly time to wake Little Joe from his afternoon nap, so he could dress for supper and the theater afterwards.  Adam still had a little time left, though, to mull over the events of the day, and he did so with satisfaction.  He and Joe had enjoyed a wonderful day together, beginning with the trip to A. T. Stewart’s department store.  The largest in the world, it occupied an entire block, bounded by Ninth and Tenth streets, Broadway and Fifth Avenue.  The huge building featured rows of plate-glass display windows, and Adam had had a hard time tearing his young brother away from the enticing wares exhibited behind the glass.  “You have to go inside to buy anything,” he’d finally felt compelled to point out.

“Oh, I probably won’t be buying anything, anyway,” Joe had asserted as they entered the huge rotunda on the ground floor.  “Gotta save my pennies for the Centennial.  We are shopping there, too, sometime, aren’t we?”

Adam had assured him that he would be able to shop wherever he chose before leaving Philadelphia.  “But I want you to pick out something nice for yourself today, too,” he’d added.  “My treat.”

The smile with which Joe had greeted that offer had been dazzling, but even with that prospect before him, the boy had stared in awe at the domed ceiling five stories above them.  “It’s as grand as any church,” he had commented.  Typically, Joe had been unimpressed by the store’s three hydraulic elevators, but he’d used one without more than a sour frown as they’d begun their exploration at the top of the store and worked their way down.  From the top, they had both leaned over the iron railing to stare down at the shoppers entering the rotunda.

When Joe, with his brother’s guidance, had selected a vest of green silk, flecked with gold threads and a matching cravat, Adam handed a large bill to the cash boy, who carried the money and invoice for the sale to a cashier in an enclosed wood-latticed booth and returned with the change while the salesperson attended to wrapping the package.  “Sure must be a lot of people working here,” Joe had commented as they left the department store.

“Two thousand,” Adam had told him, “more than half of them women.”

Joe had, of course, simply shrugged off the statistic, failing to see in it the significance that seemed apparent to Adam.

Since raising his younger brother’s social consciousness was no longer a priority, Adam had not pursued the subject, suggesting, instead, that it was time for dinner.  Over the meal he had told Joe about the plans for that evening and the necessity of keeping the afternoon’s activity light.  In fulfillment of his hopes, Little Joe had agreed without argument and had not complained about the short time they spent in Central Park.  While park omnibuses stopped at all interesting perspectives, Adam had insisted on hiring one of the carriages available at every entrance to the great greensward of nearly eight hundred and fifty acres, so that he could better control the coach’s speed and stop whenever Joe appeared to need rest.  The result had been a pleasant drive, with a short stroll near the largest lake to watch the pleasure boats and milk-white swans floating on the tranquil green water.

When they returned, Joe had accepted the edict of extra rest in preparation for the late night and, being tired, had almost immediately fallen asleep, but now it was time to wake him.  Adam rose from his chair, stretched and went in to perform what was never a welcome task.

Groggy at first, Joe came fully alert when reminded of that evening’s entertainment and eagerly asked if his nutmeg suit would be appropriate.

Certain he knew the motivation for that query, Adam chuckled.  “I think it would be better if you dressed more formally.”  Seeing his brother slump with slight disappointment, he added, “Your new finery will look almost as attractive with your black suit, you know, and since we’ll be dining at Delmonico’s . . .”  He let the surprise drift out slowly.

Joe’s chin lifted at once.  “Really?  Delmonico’s?  It’s supposed to be the best there is in the whole country, isn’t it?”

“Just about,” Adam agreed.  “Scurry into your fancy suit, little fellow, so we’ll have time for a leisurely supper.”

“Better do the same yourself, old fellow,” Joe parried back.

Adam had also purchased a new vest and cravat, both midnight blue with thin silver threads, at Stewart’s that morning, and he, too, wore his new finery with his formal black suit.  Both brothers caught the eye of female admirers as they passed through the lobby and caught a streetcar straight down Fifth Avenue to the corner of Fourteenth Street.  Like the offices of Bracebridge, Harwood and Associates, Delmonico’s three and a half stories were built of brownstone, trimmed in marble.  The Cartwrights entered between marble pillars, above which, on the lintel, was inscribed the name of the restaurant.  They were seated by waiters in black swallowtail coats and crisply tucked white linen shirts.

Presented with the seven-page menu, printed in both French and English, Joe was overwhelmed by the choices available.  Though he had enjoyed the day, he was feeling somewhat tired and found it hard to concentrate on the dazzling array of options.  Finally, he closed the menu and asked, “Would you just pick for me?”

“Are you sure?” Adam asked.  “Our tastes sometimes differ.”

“I’m sure.  I’ll just have whatever you do,” Joe insisted.  “I trust you, Adam.”

Rare and pleasing words.  Wanting to prove himself worthy of them, Adam gave the menu diligent attention and selected a meal that began with consommé Sevigne, followed by filet de sole, filet of beef with mushrooms, potatoes lyonnaise and petit pois, since he knew the French-style peas were one of Joe’s favorite vegetables.  To Joe’s delight, Adam even ordered Veuve Cliquot, a rich champagne, with the meal and, for dessert, a specialty of the house, Baked Alaska.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Joe said when the meringue-covered ice cream and cake was served.

“Frankly, neither have I, but it looks good,” Adam said.

After eating the confection, Little Joe declared that it was not only good, but downright sinfully delicious.

“Well, you can repent at leisure later,” Adam laughed in response.

“Hey, you, too,” Joe insisted.  “You ate more of it than I did.

“Which only means that you need to repent of the sin of wastefulness, as well as gluttony,” Adam observed airily.

Joe placed his face in his left palm and groaned.  He had little time to bemoan his defeat in the war of words, however, for it was time to leave for the theater, especially since they were almost a mile away and would need to locate and board the appropriate horse car.  Adam’s familiarity with the city again proved an asset, and they were soon on their way.

The streetcar let them off practically at the door of Edwin Booth’s Theater, and Adam, of course, had to spend some time examining the Renaissance styling of the majestic building of Concord granite under a mansard roof.  Flags waved from the towers that rose a hundred and twenty feet above the sidewalk, and even the lightning rods were adorned with stars and crescents.

“It’s like a castle,” Joe suggested.

“Well, why not?” Adam said.  “It was built by the Prince of Players, and a prince should have a palace.”  Unfortunately, the prince had also had to pay for the palace, sparing no expense on either the building or the lavish productions staged within it.  Edwin Booth was long on talent and short on money-managing skills; he’d lost everything as a result.

The reason for that bankruptcy was even more evident once the Cartwright brothers went inside, for the lobby was faced with marble and winding marble staircases led to the private boxes on the upper level.  Ordinarily, Adam preferred to view any play from a box, but this time he led Joe into the main auditorium on the first floor.  Once the younger boy was seated, Adam said he’d be right back and left without explanation.

While Adam was gone, Little Joe looked around the opulent room.  There were paintings on the ceiling that looked like Greek gods, and others on the wall.  Joe recognized Cupid and assumed from her proximity to the little god of Love that the lady driving the chariot must be Venus.  Other paintings appeared to be of Shakespearean characters, and there were busts all around of people Joe couldn’t identify, actors or writers, he suspected.

He was surprised to see his brother return within five minutes.  “I guess he didn’t have time to see you before the performance, huh?” Joe asked as Adam settled into the seat next to him.

“What?”  Adam looked puzzled for a moment and then shook his head.  “No, I wouldn’t dream of disturbing Edwin before a performance.  We’ll go backstage afterwards.”

Joe’s nose crinkled with curiosity.  “Water closet?” he queried tentatively.  That didn’t seem likely, since they’d both gone at Delmonico’s, but it was the only other destination he could imagine.

Adam laughed.  “Wrong again, inquisitive child.”

“Aw, come on, Adam,” the inquisitive child whined with pouty lips.

Adam rumpled his brother’s chestnut curls.  “I just went to see the statue of Edwin’s father.  He mentioned it in a letter, and I was curious.”

“Why couldn’t I see?” Joe demanded.

Adam let his hand rest consolingly on the back of his brother’s neck.  “Stairs,” he answered simply.

“Oh.”  Mood brightening the minute he knew he hadn’t been deprived without reason, Joe pointed out the paintings on the ceiling.

“That would be Apollo,” Adam explained, “and those are the Muses and the Graces.”

“Uh-huh.”  Joe gestured toward the painting of a slender, pale young man on the wall.  “That’s Hamlet, isn’t it?  I seem to remember him bein’ dressed all in black that time Pa dragged me to Maguire’s to see it.”  He cut a sudden, sharp glance at his older brother.  “Hey, is that why you deck out in black so much, to look like Hamlet?”

Adam almost choked.  “No,” he intoned slowly with a droll shake of his head.  “Where do you come up with these ridiculous ideas?”

Joe just shrugged and quickly changed the topic.  “So, Hamlet’s your favorite play, huh?  I never much cared for it, except for the ghost; it just plain didn’t make sense.”

Adam smiled.  “How old were you when you saw it, Joe?”

Joe’s brow wrinkled in thought.  “Fourteen, I think.”

“That’s why,” Adam chuckled.  “You’ll understand it better tonight, especially the way Edwin makes the Danish prince come alive.”

“He’s that good, huh?  I mean, I really liked him in Richard III the last time he came to Virginia City—‘my kingdom for a horse!’—but you think he’s better as Hamlet?”

“He is Hamlet,” Adam said with evident awe.  “Did you know that he once played the part one hundred nights in a row?  That record has never been matched, nor is it likely to be.  That’s when I first met him.  I had come down to New York to see a special performance of Julius Caesar, with the three Booth brothers appearing together for the only time ever.  I was so impressed with Edwin that I stayed over the following day and saw the first of those one hundred nights of Hamlet.  After that I came down practically every weekend and finally worked up the courage to go backstage and meet the man.”

“And the great friendship was born,” Little Joe declared, striking his breast melodramatically.

Adam rolled his eyes.  “You are no Hamlet, boy.”

“Wouldn’t want to be,” Joe threw back.  “Black just isn’t my best color.  Yours, either, if you want my opinion.”

“I don’t.”  Mercifully, the curtain rose just then, sparing Adam any more of his brother’s dubious attempts at wit.  The first scene passed quickly, and then came the entrance of Edwin Booth and the first soulful look from those dark, luminous eyes.  From the first words, “A little more than kin, and less than kind,” the melodious voice wove a spell from which there was no escape—nor none desired.  Little Joe edged forward in his seat, enrapt, for through the subtle use of intonation, cadence and meaningful gestures, the skilled actor revealed the complex character of the melancholy Dane to the complete understanding of his audience.  Only during intermissions between acts did the two Cartwrights or anyone else in the auditorium speak and even then in hushed tones, as if fearful a raised voice would break the spell.

Thunderous applause greeted the final fall of the curtain, but in adherence to his common practice, Edwin refused to appear to receive the accolades of the audience.  “Come on, let’s get backstage before my shy friend has a chance to escape out the back door,” Adam urged, hauling Joe up by an elbow.  He kept a tight grip on his brother as he jostled through the crowd and made his way backstage, where a frazzled man with an unruly thatch of dark sandy hair was waving his palms at a throng of theatergoers, each longing for a glimpse of the famous actor.

“Mr. Booth will not be accepting visitors in his dressing room tonight,” the man was repeating again and again to an unheeding crowd.

Not tonight, nor any other night, Adam knew.  Reticent and retiring even before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, since then Edwin Booth had abhorred and avoided crowds.  Knowing that he was an exception to that rule, however, Adam called, “Mr. Barrett!”  He waved his arm to attract the attention of Booth’s personal manager, who had also accompanied his friend on tours of western theaters, but Barrett ignored him as just one among many eager to disturb the man he protected.  Adam raised his voice and cried, “It’s Adam Cartwright, Mr. Barrett!”

That name caught the manager’s ear and drew his eye.  Recognizing the familiar face, Barrett motioned him forward, and Adam pressed through the jealous crowd, towing his younger brother in his wake.  “Cartwright!  What a surprise!” Barrett cried, enthusiastically pumping the strong hand extended to him.  “Mr. Booth didn’t mention that you were in town.”

“He doesn’t know,” Adam said with a smile.  “I hope it will be a pleasant surprise.”

“Oh, I’m sure,” Barrett replied.  “Goodness knows, the poor man could use one.  Times have been hard of late.”

“Creditors?” Adam asked as Barrett escorted him and Joe toward Booth’s private dressing room.

“Always,” Barrett conceded and then dropped his voice to a whisper, “and there’s the heartache over his wife.”  Though Adam arched an inquiring eyebrow, Barrett merely raised a finger to his lips and rapped on the closed door before them.  Opening it, he said, “A most welcome visitor, Mr. Booth.”

“No, no visitors,” came the automatic response.  “I wish to see no one.”

“Not even me, Ned?” Adam asked softly.

Edwin Booth spun around, and his eyes lighted at sight of his dear friend.  “I’d know that voice anywhere, but I can scarcely believe my eyes.  Is it really you, Ad?”

Smiling warmly, Adam came forward.  “It’s me, Ned, and I hope the surprise is a pleasing one.”

Booth took both strong hands in his own slender ones.  “You know it is.”  His eye fell, without recognition, on the young man standing behind Adam, and a slight frown touched his lips.

Seeing it, Adam pulled Joe forward quickly.  “You remember my brother Joe, don’t you?”

The frown faded, to be replaced by a gentle smile.  “I remember his being much smaller.”  He reached out to lay tender fingers against the young man’s cheek.  “The happy Joseph,” he whispered dreamily, “always so happy—unlike my poor Joseph.”

Not knowing how else to respond, Little Joe returned a strained smile.  On his first visit to the Ponderosa, Edwin Booth had told him that his youngest brother was also named Joseph, so that was obviously whom he meant.  Joe didn’t understand the sadness with which the older brother now mentioned the younger’s name, though, and he didn’t dare ask.  Before Booth’s first visit to Nevada, Adam had cautioned him, upon penalty of a thrashing, never to mention Edwin’s infamous brother John, and Joe feared the restriction might apply to this one, as well.  He could always ask Adam about “poor Joseph” later.

“Come take some refreshment with us and we’ll have a good talk,” Adam was suggesting when Joe came out of his reverie.

Joe bit his lower lip.  Though he hated to say anything, he knew he had to; his body was sending him definite signals that it had been upright a painfully long time.  “Umm, Adam,” he said tentatively.  “I don’t think I should.”

Adam spun to face his brother, and the tremor of his brother’s lips registered immediately.  “Oh, Joe, I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking.”

Joe touched a hand to his brother’s arm.  “It’s okay, Adam.  Just put me on the right streetcar, and I’ll go back to the hotel.  Then you and Mr. Booth can take as much time as you like together.”

Adam shook his head.  “No, I’ll take you back.”

“So the lad’s fallen prey to the constraints of proper society, has he?” Booth muttered bitterly.  “He doesn’t want to be seen with the brother of . . . of him of whom we do not speak.”

Adam, of course, knew exactly whom Booth meant, for not once since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln had Edwin uttered the name of John Wilkes Booth.  In those first early days after the tragedy, society had, indeed, turned against everyone who carried the same last name as the killer, placing two of the brothers and a brother-in-law under actual arrest, while at the behest of friends like Adam, Edwin himself had been put under a sort of house arrest, instead.  Adam was horrified, however, that his friend thought such a sentiment might lie in the bosom of anyone named Cartwright.  “No, Ned,” he hastened to say.  “It isn’t that.”

Even Little Joe had caught the connotation and felt terrible that his covert hint of physical weariness had created such a reaction in his brother’s friend.  “No, it isn’t, honest, Mr. Booth.  I don’t care about”—embarrassed that the taboo topic had almost come flying out, Joe hung his head.  Then he raised it and looked steadily into the dark, troubled eyes of the tormented man.  Adam was right; there were worse things than having someone know he’d been ill.  “No, sir, it’s not that; it’s just that I’ve been real sick, and I’m worn out.  I need to go to bed, but it has nothing to do with you . . . or anyone in your family.”  It was the closest he dared come to speaking the forbidden name.

“He’s telling the truth,” Adam added in soft confirmation.

Edwin nodded.  “I can see that.  He always was a forthright lad, and I shouldn’t have leaped to conclusions.  I have a morose leaning that way, I fear.  My apologies, dear boy.”

Though still feeling awkward, Joe smiled.  “That’s okay.”  Turning to Adam, he again urged that he be put on the right streetcar and sent back to the hotel alone.  “No side trips, Adam; I promise,” he added with a grin, in reference to his previous threat to find New York City’s equivalent of Shantyville.  “I really am too tired to get into mischief.”

Adam chuckled, but shook his head.  “No, I’ll have to take you back to the Astor House myself.  There’s a change of streetcar involved, and I will not leave you on the streets of New York City alone.”

“But, Adam—”

“No argument, Joe,” Adam said sharply.  He turned back toward his friend.  “I’m sorry, Ned, but—”

“Wait,” Mr. Barrett interrupted.  “There’s an easy solution to this problem—your private carriage, Mr. Booth.”

“Of course!” Edwin Booth exclaimed.  “You know I never use the pubic trolleys, Adam—too much chance of being recognized, so we’ll simply take my carriage, drop the lad off at the Astor House and find a quiet place for conversation.”

“That’ll work,” Adam agreed at once, to the satisfaction of all involved.  The party slipped out the back door into the waiting carriage and drove directly to the Astor House.  Adam stepped out briefly to assist his brother down to the sidewalk.  “Straight to bed,” he said, an affectionate hand cupping the boy’s neck, “and sleep as late as you like.  Our train doesn’t leave ‘til after dinner.”

“I know, and I’ll be good, I promise,” Joe said with a smile.  He cast a quick glance back at the carriage and whispered, “Cheer him up a bit, will you?  He’s gloomy as Hamlet tonight.”

“I’ll try,” Adam said, “although I’m not as good at that as you.  Off to bed with you now.”  He gave Joe’s backside a light pat before climbing back into the carriage.

“How ill was the boy?” Edwin asked as Adam settled into the seat opposite him in the covered carriage.

“Very,” Adam replied.  “I nearly lost him.”

“Ah, how fortunate that you did not,” Edwin murmured.  “To lose a brother is to lose a piece of oneself.”

Adam took a breath to steady his nerve.  “You seemed concerned for your brother Joseph.  Have there been any recent problems?”  Goodness only knew, that boy had been a burden on the heart of his older brother times enough in the past, virtually disappearing off the face of the earth for almost three years, only to be arrested in Panama on his way home, where young Joseph Booth had first learned of Lincoln’s assassination by his older brother and temporarily lost his grip on sanity.

“No, just the usual gloomy attitude, what he calls his ‘melancholy insanity,’” Edwin sighed.  “Poor boy, what chance did he have, born into such a family?  My oldest brother June once said he thought all the men in our family were liable to be unbalanced.”

“You’re not unbalanced, Ned,” Adam said softly.  “Anyone who can come through what you have with his sanity intact has little to fear on that account.”

“Perhaps,” Edwin conceded with a faint smile.  “I think giving up drink has helped in my case.  It was my father’s downfall, you know; the man was quite mad when in his cups, and I saw the beginnings of that in me when I was young.”

“You’ve told me.”  Adam knew, as well, that it was the death of Edwin’s first, beloved wife and his failure to be with her at the time that had sworn the man off liquor forever.  He’d been too drunk to read the first three telegrams telling of her illness, and though he hastened home after reading the fourth, he’d been too late.  In an attempt to change the subject to a happier one, Adam inquired after his friend’s present wife.  It was a huge mistake.

“Oh, Ad, leave me one evening free of thinking about her,” Edwin sighed morosely.  “Perhaps it’s poetic justice that a man whose family is tainted with madness would marry a madwoman, as well.”

Adam leaned forward, concerned.  “Are you sure?”

“The doctors seem to be.  We lost a child, you know, and that apparently unhinged her mind, though there were signs of a nervous disposition before.  She has good moments, but others when all I can do is rock her in my arms while she screams out her rage through the walls for all our neighbors to hear.”

Adam reached across the coach to lay a compassionate hand on his friend’s knee.  “Little Joe told me to cheer you up, but, as usual, I’m bungling that job.”

“You don’t bungle, Ad.  No more now than when you rushed to my side after that misguided boy ruined all our lives.  I, too, would have come unhinged in those awful days but for friends like you, and just seeing you again cheers me and reminds me that there is still good in life.  I do wish we could have brought the lad along, though.  I always found his silvery laughter quite contagious.  You’re very blessed in your family, my friend.”

Later, as Adam slipped into the bedroom to check on Joe before retiring himself, he recalled those words.  Edwin was right, of course; he had been blessed with a wonderful family.  He’d had a father who had been a bulwark all his life, who had seen that he had every advantage hard work could bring, whereas Edwin, at the age of thirteen, had been commissioned to ride herd on Junius Brutus Booth, Sr., keeping him away from the bottle so he could fulfill onstage commitments.  Adam had been blessed in his brothers, too, both of them strong, truehearted and good.  In Hoss, he had the best of friends, and even this slumbering little scapegrace, who had so often given him cause for concern, had never brought shame to his family and never would, Adam knew.  He drew up the covers, which Joe had, as usual, tossed off, and covered the boy tenderly with a prayer of thanks in his heart.

***End of Part 5***

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