Summary: Sequel to Quest on D Street
Word Count: 3649
Emily Thornton turned and saw Little Joe Cartwright sprinting toward her. She stopped and waited for him.
Joe stopped in front of her and smiled. “Hop Sing sent you this,” he began, handing her a napkin covered bundle. “He said none of us boys deserve it.”
Emily knew the bundle would contain something delectable from Hop Sing’s kitchen. Since Hoss had left school at the end of the last term, Hop Sing repeatedly sent her treats by Joe. “Tell him I’m glad he thinks I do and thank you.”
“Adam sent you this,” Joe continued handing her a book. “He wants to talk to you about it when you finish.”
“Tell Adam thanks too and that I’ll be looking forward to discussing it when I see him next.” Since Adam had returned from college three months before, he regularly loaned Emily books and always discussed them with her.
“That can be Sunday ‘cause Pa said to ask if you and your pa would like to come for dinner after church.”
“Tell your pa we gratefully accept his invitation.”
“I will.” Then Joe added with a smirk, “And Hoss sent you this.”
Emily took the folded paper from the boy’s hand. She missed seeing her best friend each day at school since he had turned sixteen and begun working fulltime on the ranch, but they saw each other often and exchanged notes every few days.
“It ain’t,” Joe began and then caught Emily’s look,” isn’t school time yet, is it?”
“No, not quite. Why?”
“Then I can ask ya something.”
“Ask me what?”
“Does Hoss write good love letters?” inquired Joe giving Emily a cheeky grin. During school hours Little Joe was careful to behave as respectfully toward Emily as he did toward Miss Cutter for Emily worked as an assistant to the teacher part of the time, but outside of school Emily was a family friend and as safe a target as his brothers.
Emily frowned, but her eyes sparkled. “You know better, Joe, and you best not let Hoss hear you asking things like that.”
“Aw, Hoss won’t do nothing.” Joe’s confidence in his older brother’s inability to harm him in anyway was absolute.
“Then perhaps I’ll have too,” Emily said raising her hand but retaining a smile.
“Have to catch me first,” Joe called as he darted away. Miss Cutter rang the school bell, and Emily followed Joe to the door. Standing in line with the other students, Joe gave Emily his most innocent look as she walked up. “Good morning, Miss Emily,” he said with a smile.
“Good morning, Little Joe.”
Adam read the letter he had received from San Francisco and smiled. He placed it in his pocket and started down the street whistling. He was quite pleased with himself and his plan. Grinning widely, he decided to save the surprise for Sunday dinner.
Adam put down his fork and surveyed the table. Everyone was about finished with the apple pie Hop Sing had served for desert. Now would be a good time to reveal his surprise.
“I have some news.” Every eye at the table settled on Adam’s face. “I received a letter from a friend in San Francisco. He and I knew each other in college. Well, the thing is, his family is involved with a very fine school for young women there in San Francisco. The school has a policy of offering a scholarship each year to a deserving girl who would not have the resources to continue her education I had told Michael about Emily when we were at school. We traveled together some of the way back home and had a lot of time to talk. Well, anyway, we discussed his family putting Emily’s name in consideration for that scholarship. I gave him the information that was needed. I received a letter from him Friday.” Adam paused to glance around the table at the faces of his audience. “Emily has been chosen for the scholarship if she wants to accept it. It covers all the costs of her education, room, and board. Michael says that she should be able to do some tutoring to earn spending money.” Adam finished with a smile at the astonished girl sitting across from him.
Before Emily could speak, a crashed echoed through the room. Hoss had bounded to his feet with such force that his chair had toppled backward falling to the floor.
“No! No, you don’t, Adam!” Hoss stood glaring down at his brother shaking with anger.
Astounded, Adam simply stared up at Hoss.
“Hoss! What in the world…” Ben began.
“He ain’t got the right, Pa,” Hoss shouted, and then he turned and stomped from the room and out of the house through the kitchen.
Before anyone else could move, Emily sprang up and dashed out through the front door.
“I’ll speak with her,” Emily’s father said as he rose and followed her out.
Ben started to rise, “I’ll…”
Adam interrupted him, “No, Pa, I need to talk to Hoss and find out what in the world is wrong.”
Isaac Thornton came up behind his daughter. In the year since he had become sober, the two of them had begun to rebuild their life, but often he was still unsure in his paternal role. “Emily.”
She turned and looked at her father. The only reason he stood there now was that Hoss had given him back to her. “I don’t have to go, Papa. It was fine of Adam to think of me, but, well, I don’t have to go.”
“You want to go, though, don’t you, child?”
She knew her father would not believe a lie. “I…of course, the thought of school…well, yes, Papa, I would like to go. I could become a real teacher.”
“You don’t have to stay for me, child,” Isaac Thornton stated firmly.
“I wouldn’t want to leave you alone on the ranch.”
Isaac reached out and took his daughter’s hand. “I’d miss you something fierce, child, but it wouldn’t be forever, and we could visit.”
“Papa, I wouldn’t want to, well, to risk…” her words faded away.
“You’re afraid I’ll start drinking again.”
Emily shook her head, but the truth was there between them.
“Before that happened, I’d sell the ranch and come to you in San Francisco. I want this for you, Emily Ann. If I take it from you, the guilt will be all mine.”
“No, Papa.” Emily placed her arms around her father and clung to him. “I’ll go, Papa, unless…”
“Unless Eric asks me not to.” She pulled back to look directly into her father’s face. “I won’t go if he asks me not to, Papa. I couldn’t.”
Isaac drew his daughter back into his arms and held her tight.
Adam knew where to find his brother. He walked up and sat down next to Hoss. He could feel the anger emanating from the boy beside him and spoke softly. “Tell me, Hoss,” he said sternly.
“She ain’t going, Adam. You ain’t sending her away.”
“Sending her away! Hoss, I thought I was giving her a chance, an opportunity. Emily has such intelligence, and she has a talent. After two years at this school, she’ll be able to get a job teaching anywhere.”
“She don’t have to go to San Francisco to become a teacher.” Hoss’ tone was petulant.
“San Francisco’s not that far. I know you’ll miss her, but you can write and visit even. Emily will come home to visit her pa. If she doesn’t have the money, I’ll see to it. I’ll take you there to visit her.”
Hoss picked up a rock and threw it. The sound of its striking told the force Hoss had used to launch it. “Just ’cause you had to go off…well, she ain’t going, Adam. I won’t let her.”
Adam peered through the shadows trying to see his brother’s face. “I came back, little brother. Emily will come back too.”
Hoss turned and shoved Adam with a force born of rage. “NO!” Hoss sprang up and stomped over to a large pine. The punch he delivered to its trunk set the high branches shaking.
Adam brought himself up onto his elbows, and watched his brother punch the tree trunk repeatedly. He scrambled to his feet. My God, he’ll break his hands!
Coming up behind Hoss, Adam wrapped his arms around him and grabbed his wrists. Adam was ready for a fight, but Hoss suddenly slumped against the tree. Adam could feel his brother crying even though the only sound was that of shallow breaths.
Adam held Hoss until his breathing became normal. Then he stepped back. Hoss turned and slid down the trunk to sit beneath the tree with his head bowed.
Adam knelt in front of him. “Tell me, Hoss.”
“I lost some of ya, Adam. Ya came back, but still I lost some of ya that I can’t never get back, and you’re my brother. If Em goes, I’ll lose most of her, Adam. I will.”
Adam tried to think. The pain he saw in his brother was tearing into him and making it hard to focus. He was considered the smart one; he should be able to understand, but he did not.
“Hoss, I never thought to hurt you; I just…Hoss, Emily would gain so much. She’d grow up some while she was way, but everybody grows and changes, Hoss. It doesn’t mean you lose them.”
Hoss shook his head. “Ya don’t know, Adam ’cause it’s different for you.”
“I want to understand, little brother, really I do.”
“It’d be like when Em and you go off where I can’t go.”
“When Emily and I go off? Emily and I don’t go off anywhere, Hoss.”
“Yes, ya do whenever ya talk about one of them books ya give her to read or something ya learned at that college, and I know I done lost part of ya ’cause I can’t never go with.”
“Hoss, Emily and I are usually sitting on the settee hardly a dozen feet from you when we discuss a book,” Adam replied, but slowly he was coming to understand Hoss’ fear.
“Ya leave me behind, Adam. I don’t want Emily to go and leave me behind forever ’cause she can go off with smart people like you and her, and I’m too dumb.”
“Hoss, you’re not dumb, and Emily wouldn’t ever think that,” Adam stated, but the realization that there was some truth in what Hoss said started his stomach sinking.
“Adam, tell Pa I’ll be in a bit.”
Adam sighed, “You need to have your hands looked after.”
“In a bit. I’ve got thinking to do.”
Adam did not like leaving his brother alone, but he knew that for Hoss the secluded woods held more comfort than he could find within any four walls.
Ben waited for his eldest son. Little Joe had been sent up to his room. Isaac Thornton had spoken with Ben and then left with Emily. Ben heard the door open and watched Adam walk into the house alone.
Adam walked over and took a seat facing his father.
“Where’s your brother?”
“In the woods.”
“Did the two of you talk?”
Ben waited for Adam to continue.
“I didn’t mean to hurt Hoss, Pa. I never thought. I mean I knew he’d miss her, but I thought he’d be happy for her. Hoss is, well, you know, Pa, Hoss is one of the least selfish people I know. Why he never even asked me once not to go away to college. I know he was older and all, but Joe carried on something awful about my going while Hoss just wished me well.”
“Your brother knew how much it meant to you, but you must know that it was no easier for Hoss to let you go than it was for Joe. In a way I think it was much harder for him.”
“Pa, I know all of you missed me, and I missed you too. If I could have…”
“Adam, it was the right thing for you to do.”
“It’s the right thing for Emily too, Pa.”
“Adam, Isaac spoke with Emily. He told me that as much as she wants what you’ve offered her, she will not go if Hoss asks her to stay. Isaac and I both think that is the simple truth.”
“He’ll ask her not to go.”
“He feels that way now. Adam, the two of them are very close, and it will be hard for Hoss, but I think after he’s had a chance to think it through, well, like you said, son, your brother is an unselfish person. I think he’ll come to the right decision.”
Adam considered what Hoss had revealed to him. “Pa, Hoss is afraid, well, that he will lose Emily to, to, well, to more educated friends.”
“I don’t think Emily is the kind of girl who discards old friends so easily.”
“No, I don’t think so, but, well, I’ve been thinking since Hoss and I talked, and, well, I don’t know how to say this without sounding mean and condescending, and I don’t mean it that way. You know what I think of Hoss. It’s just…” Adam words faltered.
“Say what you need to say.”
“Hoss thinks that if Emily goes away to school she’ll, well, that she will start to see him differently, that she’ll, well, that she’ll come to see him as too dumb for her.” Adam swallowed hard and then blurted out the rest, “There’s a chance she might.”
“Adam! Your brother…”
“I know, Pa. That’s not what I meant. It’s just… Pa, I knew some people at college, well, I saw some of them change their feelings about some of the people they had known who hadn’t continued in school, old friends they suddenly had no time for.”
Ben Cartwright knew the fears he had had that Adam might find the ranch, the town, even his family lacking after four years of college and the refinements of the city. “Do you feel that way about people without your education or intelligence?”
“No.” Adam’s answer was simple and truthful.
“Then we need not assume that Emily will have any less wisdom in the matter than you.”
“No, but we can’t make Hoss any promises either.”
Ben looked up as his middle son walked into the house. “Hop Sing kept some supper warm for you, son.”
“Not feeling hungry, Pa. Think I’ll just go up stairs.”
“Pa, his hands need tending,” Adam interjected.
“Get what we need from Hop Sing, Adam. Come here, son.”
Hoss obediently come over and took a seat across from his father. Ben lifted Hoss’ right hand and looked at the bruises and split knuckles. Gently he probed both hands for broken bones. Hoss sat passively and did not even flinch. Adam walked back into the room carrying a tray with warm water, clean cloths, and lineament. Hoss looked up at his older brother. “Adam, I shouldn’t a done what I did. I’m sorry.” Hoss’ voice was soft but steady.
“Hoss, I never…” Adam started.
“Ya did something good for somebody; ain’t no reason for ya to be sorry.” Hoss sighed. “Emily’s always dreamed of more learning. She’ll do real well at that school.”
Ben and Adam exchanged a glance over Hoss’ head. Ben started cleaning the wounds on his middle son’s hands. “You want Emily to go away to school then, son?”
Hoss looked into his father’s eyes. “It’s the right thing for her to do; I can’t stop her.”
Adam swallowed hard, “Hoss, Emily won’t go if…”
“That’s not what I meant, Adam. I won’t ask Emily to stay; won’t do that to her. I can’t.”
“Son, Emily’s not the sort of person to…” Ben faltered as he saw the despair in his son’s eyes.
Hoss shook his head and then closed his eyes. Ben finished bandaging both Hoss’ hands.
“I think I’ll just go up to my room for awhile, Pa,” Hoss said wearily when Ben finished. “Adam, you’ll need to be writing that friend of yours, so they know that Emily will be coming.”
Little Joe stopped outside his brother’s door to listen. Hearing no snoring, he slipped inside Hoss’ room. Walking over to the bed, he softly called his brother’s name.
“What ya need, Short Shanks? Ya should be sleeping.”
Joe jumped onto his big brother’s bed and settled down facing Hoss. “I needed to talk to you. See, I was listening, and Pa told Adam…”
“Joe, was ya eavesdropping? Pa catches ya doing that again, and he’s gonna warm your britches good.”
“Just listen, Hoss. Pa told Adam that Emily won’t go if you ask her not to, so tomorrow you can just go tell her not to go.”
“No, Joe. Emily’s gonna go to that school and learn to be a real teacher.”
“I don’t want her to; you don’t want her to. Only old Adam does. He’s always thinking somebody should go off and get some more learning they don’t even need.”
“Emily wants to go, Joe. She wants more learning.”
Joe stared at his brother. “Do ya want her to go, do ya?”
“Then I’m gonna tell her you want her to stay.”
“No, Joe, don’t you…”
“If you won’t tell her, I will,” Joe shouted and turned to jump from the bed. Hoss reached out and grabbed him.
Giving him a slight shake, Hoss ordered, “No, you won’t! Listen to me, boy. I ain’t never really pounded ya, but if ya say anything to keep Emily from going, I’ll blister ya good.”
Joe looked at his brother’s face and for the first time in his life thought his big brother would do what he threatened. He pulled himself from Hoss’ grasped, and shouted as he ran from the room, “Have it your way then!”
Hoss opened the door to find Emily Thornton standing on the porch. Instead of inviting her inside, he stepped out and closed the door behind him.
“Eric, I need to speak to Adam. I need to tell him that I can’t accept the scholarship.”
Hoss shook his head. “No, you don’t, Em, you’ll be accepting that scholarship.”
Emily stared up into his eyes. “No, I need to stay here.”
“If you’re thinking of your pa, don’t worry. I’ll see to your pa, Em; ya know I can. He didn’t tell ya you couldn’t go, did he?”
Emily shook her head. “Papa wants me to go, but…”
“Ya thinking of staying for me, ain’t ya?”
“Eric…” Words failed her, and she simply nodded.
“I can’t let ya do that.”
“But you can’t be happy for me either, can you, Eric?”
“That’s me being selfish.”
“You’re never selfish, Eric. You said you’d never lie to me again.”
Hoss turned away from her and spoke softly, “It’s me being scared. You’ll see me different, Emily. It won’t be like it is now.”
Emily gasped and grabbed his arm. “No, Eric.”
He turned and looked down into her eyes. “The more you learn, the more of them smart people ya meet, well, the more you’ll know how dumb I am.”
Her eyes flashed. “No, no, no!” She stomped her foot in frustration. Hoss’ eyes widen. “Damn you, Hoss Cartwright! Don’t your ever say that!
Hoss’ mouth dropped open. “Emily,” he croaked.
Emily’s hands flew to cover her mouth, and a blush suffused her cheeks. She took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. “Listen to me, Eric Cartwright,” she said in a tone she reserved for obstinate children.
Giving her a sheepish smile, Hoss replied, “Yes, ma’am.”
“I…” Emily started, stopped, and then tried again. “I guess it’s something you learned from your pa, but all of you Cartwrights, well, you treat every female like a lady. That’s special, especially for someday like me, but Eric, you’re the only person who ever looked at the drunkard’s daughter and believed I was a lady. That means everything to me.” She reached up and stroked his cheek. “You will always be my Sir Eric. No knowledge from books or teachers could keep me from knowing that you are the truest knight in the realm.”
Hoss grinned. “Then you’ll go to that school and make me proud, Lady Emily?”
Emily felt a shudder run through her body. She reached up and threw her arms around Hoss’ neck. “I’m scared, Eric, so scared,” she whispered into his vest as she began to sob.
Hoss gathered the girl into his arms and sat down on the porch bench with her in his lap. Rocking and patting her back, he spoke encouragingly into her ear. “Now, Em, there ain’t no reason for ya to be scared. We ain’t goanna send ya off all alone. Why Adam and me are gonna take ya to San Francisco, and Adam will introduce ya to his friend. Adam says that Michael is a real good person, and he’ll help ya if ya need, and ya can always wire me. Now, Em, Adam and I won’t be leaving ’til everybody there knows ya got people behind ya and that ya ain’t to be trifled with. Adam and Pa go to San Francisco regular on business, and ya know they’ll be checking on ya, and Adam says he’ll bring me with to visit some. Now, quit ya crying, gal. We’re gonna have a high ol’ time in the city.”
Emily raised her face and looked up through her wet lashes. Hoss pulled out a clean handkerchief and wiped her face. “You can do it, Emily.”
“If you say so, Sir Eric,” she answered looking into the eyes of the bravest man she would ever know.