What’s Keeping Them Now? (by DJK)

Summary:    Waiting for a Cartwright leads to speculation.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Word Count:  1140


“They’re late!” Daisy’s tone was petulant, and the small stomp of her foot that accented her frustration set her skirts switching and her golden curls bouncing. Her eyes swept the town hall where the monthly dance was being held, but no one had appeared in the last thirty seconds.

“They’re more than late!” Cindy’s voice was even more petulant and somewhat whiney. She abruptly turned away from the open doorway with a swoosh and then stopped to smooth her own tumbling locks which were color of burnished copper. She looked down at her dance card that was filled with only one name. She had already missed the first four dances.

“Well, if you intend to keep company with a Cartwright, you’ll have to get use to it.” Hannah admonished the younger girls while pushing her glasses from the tip of her nose toward her dark, expressive eyes. “Of course, since Adam, who is known for punctuality, unlike Little Joe, is among the tardy, it means that there will be an excellent reason.”

Daisy’s periwinkle eyes widened, “You don’t mean…” Concern for Hoss set her stomach sinking.

Cindy’s lower lip trembled. “Oh, you don’t think…” The hand of fear clutched at her heart as images of an injured Little Joe filled her mind.

“Of course, I do.” Hannah nodded sagely. “We are speaking of the Cartwrights. Let’s see.” She tapped her finger against her chin as her eyes searched the room assessing the people present. “Some of the hands are here, so it can’t be sudden illness. Mr. Cartwright would have had the good manners to send us word, and Doc Martin is right over there.”

“I hope it’s not another kidnapping.” Cindy’s hand settled over her fluttering heart, and her emerald orbs shone with worry. Little Joe’s last kidnapping had given her four sleepless nights of worry, not to mention leaving a battered beau too sore to do any cuddling for a week.

“Well, Sheriff Coffee hasn’t had word yet if that’s it. It probably wouldn’t be Little Joe this time anyway,” Hannah patted the younger girl’s shoulder. “Why, he was last kidnapped less than two weeks ago, and I don’t think he’s ever been kidnapped twice in one month. Well, there was that time about two years ago, but I really don’t think things would ever happen that way twice.”

“Well, it could be Hoss or Adam this time,” Daisy mused. “It might even be Mr. Ben.”

“That would be a change. I really don’t think anyone’s been kidnapped. They haven’t sent for Mr. Weems to open the bank. They always have to open the bank to get the ransom money. Really, you’d think Mr. Cartwright would keep a ransom on hand at the ranch. He knows the usual sum by now. Anyway, it’s more likely to be a bushwhacking for Adam or Mr. Ben.”

Cindy’s lower lip thrust out, “I hate when one of them gets bushwhacked. Little Joe either ends up injured or real irritable.”

Daisy and Hannah both nodded. Having one of the family bushwhacked, did make the other Cartwrights irritable for days, and a bushwhacking often left at least one of them injured. The rest of the Cartwrights virtually tied themselves to the injured one’s bed. A good bushwhacking could leave them without their beaus’ attention for weeks.

“Please, don’t let it be a bushwhacking,” Daisy implored. “Why, the Spring Festival is only two weeks away and I bought a new dress and hat. I can’t wait for Hoss to see me in that blue hat.”

“We all missed the last church social because of a bushwhacking,” Cindy whined, “It just wouldn’t be fair for us to miss the Spring Festival too.”

“None of Mr. Ben’s old friends are staying at the Ponderosa, are they?” Hannah asked speculatively. Everyone knew how many of Ben’s old friends arrived with dubious or even vengeful plans.

“I don’t think so,” Cindy replied.

“Hoss hasn’t mentioned anyone,” Daisy added.

At least we don’t have that to worry about that then, and there aren’t any gypsies around right now,” Hannah continued.

Another dance started without them being lead to the floor. The two younger girl’s moods darkened.

“I bet Joe has pulled Hoss into another one of his schemes. Which, of course, went completely wrong, so Adam had to go fix things,” Daisy declared with an even more pronounced pout.

Cindy opened her mouth to defend Little Joe but closed it again with just an expulsion of air. What Daisy said was quite likely to be true.

“Look, girls, let’s not borrow trouble. Maybe they just had to rescue someone in dire straits. That always takes a good bit of time.”

This time it was Daisy’s lip that slipped forward. “Last time they rescued somebody, Hoss got a lump the size of an egg on his forehead and spent so much time with the survivors that I hardly saw him for two weeks.”

“Well, that is the Cartwright way, and part of the reason we love them.” Hannah had known the Cartwrights since she was sixteen, even though she and Adam had been courting less than a year. She sighed. For all three of Ben Cartwright’s sons to have been detained, it would have to be a major rescue, and the effects could linger for many days.

Cindy’s eyes sparkled, “I do love that Little Joe is sweet and brave and caring and dashing and handsome and, oh, those eyes and his little…”

“Cindy! This is a public place.” Hannah felt it necessary to see that the younger girls maintained a certain standard of decorum, even though she had admired that portion of Adam’s little brother’s anatomy herself. One could hardly keep from doing so, but as the Cartwright brothers’ current belles, they had a certain position to maintain in the community. It was important that they keep very high standards.

Daisy giggled. “I love that nothing but nothing on Hoss is little.” The smile that danced on her lips was anything but innocent.

Hannah considered several of Adam’s physical attributes that thrilled her and smiled herself. “Well, there is that too.”

“Well, everything about Joe isn’t little!” Cindy offered in her absent beau’s defense.

“Of course not,” Hannah soothed, “He is a Cartwright, after all.”

Suddenly a horse was heard galloping up. Its rider dashed in the door, and the three girls held their breath. The dusty cowboy went directly to the sheriff. Roy Coffee then departed with haste. Since Doc Martin remained behind, the girls relaxed. Obviously there had been no serious injury. They paused to get a cup of punch before strolling over to find what had caused them to be stood up this time.

***The End***

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