Wanderlust and Consequences (by BettyHT)

Summary:  A NaNoWriMo entry, this story begins when Ben and Adam traveled west and built the Ponderosa and Hoss and Joe joined the family and Inger and Marie are there as well. Then as an adult, Adam traveled to help Hop Sing get his wife, and he finds adventure and love before returning home for more. There is a surprise too in the last chapters that ties the story back to the prequel first part of the story.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Word Count:  102,892


Chapter 1 prequel

Laying as still as he could to limit the pain in his backside and in his ribs, Adam Cartwright felt an emotional pain that was almost too much to bear. He tried so hard to be the son his father could be so proud of but no matter what he did, it seemed it was the wrong thing to do. He had told his father he didn’t steal that pie from Mrs. Chambers. When his father saw the stain on his shirt, he told him he had lied and that would double the punishment. He tried to tell his father that the stain came from those Morgan boys and their friends but Pa wasn’t listening. He had found his father seldom listened when he was angry. Adam didn’t understand how that happened but had experienced it a number of times. Those Morgans had thrown him up against a wagon wheel when he had walked up to them when they were eating a pie. He had innocently asked where they had gotten a whole pie, and they had whirled on him in anger.

“Don’t you say nothing, Cartwright. Ifn you do, you’ll get a lot worse than this, and maybe your ma will get some too. You wouldn’t want her to fall down and get hurt real bad, now wouldja?”

“I won’t tell, I promise. Just don’t hurt my Ma.”

Those boys had laughed and hit Adam, and that’s when he had balled up his fists and hit back. They were so surprised by that action that they had released him, and that was all he needed. He had run from them back to his wagon. By then, Mrs. Chambers was talking to his Pa. When his father finished talking with Mrs. Chambers, he had questioned his son, but he had that look that said he already knew the answers he wanted to hear. Adam didn’t give him those answers, and that’s when his father got very angry. Then he had noticed Adam’s shirt was torn and pulled up his son’s hands and saw that he had been fighting. Adam tried to explain that too but it did no more good than his trying to explain about the pie. After he was punished, he was told to go lie down for the night without any dinner. He wasn’t that hungry any more by then anyway, but he was very thirsty. He asked if he could have some water, and his father had glowered at him until he pulled his bed roll from the wagon and placed it underneath the wagon where he usually slept. He pulled a blanket over himself and waited. He expected his Ma back at any time and hoped she would let him have something to drink.

“You punished him, but now you wish to deny him nourishment. That is not fair. He is already too thin. I will bring some food to him.”

“You would undermine my authority with my son that way.”

“No, you can decide to tell me that it is all right to feed our son.”

“Oh, go ahead then. You’re going to do it anyway. He probably isn’t hungry anyway if he ate a whole pie!”

Shaking her head at her husband, Inger had filled a small bowl with stew and walked to the opposite side of the wagon. She thought that Adam probably had moved as far away from his father as he could because of what had happened. Kneeling down next to her dark haired son, she set the bowl of stew between them.

“Adam, son, I have some dinner for you.”

“Ma, I’m not very hungry.”

“Is it true then, that you took that pie and ate it?”

“No, Ma, I wouldn’t lie to Pa. I didn’t take that pie.”

“Adam, tell me, how did you get that stain on your shirt then?”

Looking at his Ma, Adam could feel the tears coming. He thought now that she didn’t believe him either. He tried to roll over to turn his face away, but Inger wouldn’t let him. She took a firm grip on his arm and made him stay close to her.

“Adam, tell me what happened.”

“I can’t.”

“Son, of course you can. Did you try to tell your father?” At Adam’s slight nod, she continued. “Then you can tell me. If you trust me, then tell me because I trust you, and I know you will only tell me the truth.”

“They said they would hurt you if I told.”

“Who told you that?”

Not at all sure any more what he should do, the tears did start to roll down the little boy’s cheeks. Inger reached out to pull him to her. She moved the bowl of stew out of the way, and pulled the crying child into her arms.

“Adam, tell me. You know that we will find out eventually. Your father will protect me, and no one will hurt me, but we must know the truth.”

Hesitantly and with a quaver in his voice, Adam told her of walking past the Chambers wagon after coming back from the grove of trees near them, and of seeing the boys eating a pie. They had threatened him and hit him, and he hit them only enough to get away. Then he started sobbing when he talked about trying to tell his father who had accused him instead of lying. Inger’s temper rose quite a bit at that point. She soothed her son, and then got him to eat the small bowl of stew. He asked for water, and she got him some. He asked for more, and she felt his forehead and that truly dismayed her. Adam had a slight fever. She asked what he was doing in the grove of trees and could tell he was embarrassed and didn’t want to tell her.

“You have said you never lie to me. Now not telling what you know is a way of lying too. It is a lie of omission. Now please tell me why you were in those trees.”

“I had to go. A lot. It took a long time cause I had to go so many times.”

“Is your stomach upset?”

“No, just down lower.”

“You need to rest then. I’ll be back later with more water. You may hear some loud talk between me and your father. Try not to let it upset you. Sometimes it is the only way to talk with your father.”

Purposefully, Inger stood and walked to the Chambers wagon to ask exactly what Mrs. Chambers had seen. Then she walked back to where Ben sat on the other side of the wagon. She was sure that Adam’s soft voice and her responses had not been heard by him over all the noises of the camp in the evening. He looked up at her from where he sat, and she could see that he wasn’t ready yet to listen so she decided to lay it all on him at once to shake that self-righteous conviction he had that could be so infuriating some times.

“You punished Adam for stealing and accused him of lying and punished him for that too. You never gave the boy a chance to explain. Then you punished him for fighting and again never let him explain. Well I have talked with Mrs. Chambers. She never saw Adam take that pie. She saw him walking by and when the pie was gone, she assumed he took it. The boys who took that pie threatened our son and hit him to scare him so he would not tell anyone who took that pie. You punished him for defending himself. Now he is ill. Will you punish him for that too? You expect too much of him. You want him to be perfect. No one is perfect. Let me tell you, if I was looking for a perfect husband, I would not have married you.”

“I can’t believe you’re saying these things to me. I thought you loved me.”

“I do love you, more than life itself, but I love our son too. He is very hurt and it is much more than the physical pain he is in.”

“I’ll apologize to him. I’ll be sure he knows how sorry I am.”

“And the next time? He needs your love more than your discipline. What kind of man will he grow into if he feels he must be perfect in all that he does? He will never be happy. He will never find contentment. Is that what you wish for him?”

“Of course not. But Adam is a stubborn boy too and requires a firm hand.”

“A firm hand can be a guide or a force. Which one will you be?”

“I have tried to guide him, but it is all so difficult. There are so many dangers out here, and there isn’t time to explain each one every time. Adam has to learn to obey without questioning.”

“He is already too old. He’s only a five year old boy but seems to be more than twice that. He worries that you do not have money, that we will not have enough food. He’s concerned over his lack of education and worries constantly that we will not find a place to make a home and that we will wander forever as you have been doing for years. He has no idea what a home is, and I worry that he won’t ever be able to put down roots and stay in one place.”

“Inger, I promise you we will have a home. Adam will get to be a child and play and have fun. You’ll be there to help him while I’m working at building our place. I’m looking forward to settling down and having a place to call home too.”

“Well, when this baby arrives, I want you to know I expect you will treat him always with love and kindness so that he can grow into a man with a sweet and gentle soul.”

“Of course, of course, ah, what? What baby? You’re having a baby? We’re having a baby?”

“I thought you knew this afternoon when I fell after helping to push the wagon.”

“Well I did think so, but you said nothing more, and I assumed I must have been mistaken.”

Ben grabbed Inger in a hug and a kiss then. He called to Adam to come join them. Adam didn’t know what had changed and actually preferred where he was for the time being. When Adam didn’t join them, Ben looked under the wagon and saw his son with his eyes closed. He walked to the back of the wagon and reached out a hand to touch his son’s forehead. He was warm but not too much. A bit relieved at least by that, he walked back to Inger and they talked into the night about the expected arrival of a baby.

Gradually, hearing the murmuring of his parents’ voices, Adam drifted off to sleep. The next morning, he slipped out of his sleeping roll and headed into the trees to relieve himself. Dinner had gone right through him. He felt weak and slightly nauseous, but went to collect firewood that was his morning chore nearly every day. He heard his name being called and hurried as fast as his sore backside permitted. He tripped and dropped the firewood he had collected, and in rushing to pick it up so he wouldn’t get yelled at for not responding quickly enough, he dropped it all again. He was picking it all up once more when he saw his father’s boots come into his field of vision. He did his best to pick the wood up but tears were starting to form in his eyes blurring his vision. When he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder, he couldn’t help it and he flinched. Ben felt the shudder that passed through his son just from his touch, and knew right then that Inger was correct. Adam was more afraid of him than anything else.

“Adam, Adam, you have nothing to worry about. Dropping the firewood is not a problem. Come here son.” Ben wrapped his arms around his son and pulled him close. “I am so sorry about yesterday. There is no excuse for the way I acted, and you have every right to be angry with me.”

That was very confusing to Adam. He had never thought to hear his father say something like that. Oh, he wanted him to say that a number of times, but had never expected him to actually say those words. He didn’t know what to say.

“Your Ma gave me a good talking to last night. She gave me a pretty hard time, and I deserved it. I’ve been forgetting why we’re out here. It’s to build a dream for my family. I can’t do that and hurt my family at the same time. Now, can you forgive me for what I did, and give me another chance? You know, I’ve never been a father before, and apparently there’s a lot I have to learn.”

“Pa, I was never a son before. I guess I have a lot to learn too.”

Ben started laughing then, and picked up the firewood. “Come on now. Your Ma has been fixing up a special treat for breakfast. She remembered that it’s your birthday today. So we get to have flapjacks for breakfast and use some of that maple syrup she’s got stashed away with her special treats.”

That evening, there was cake to celebrate Adam’s birthday. He had felt better and better as the day went on. He was able to relax and the stress he had been feeling was gone. For dinner, there was extra bacon in the beans and apple cider to drink. There were no presents because there was no place to purchase even the smallest item. However Adam was as happy as he could remember except perhaps when he had found out that Inger would be his mother. That had meant that he slept under the wagon by himself at night because Inger took his spot next to his father in the wagon at night. It had been a small price to pay to have a mother to love and who loved him. Adam got hugs from Inger every day. Inger encouraged Ben to hug his son as well. On this birthday though Adam got to ride on the seat of the wagon with his father as Inger reclined in the back. She had placed a pillow on the seat for him, and his father wrapped his arm around him several times that day. Eating his cake that night, Adam could only grin.

*****

Chapter 2

Holding his hands over his ears, Adam tried to fight down his fear. Inger had screamed so loudly several times that he was sure something terrible had happened. No one else seemed overly concerned. They told him to be a good boy and sit quietly. That morning, Ben Cartwright had gone off with a hunting party to resupply the wagon train with fresh meat, and Adam fervently wished that he would come back very soon. Adam did sit out of the way and wondered what had happened. After many hours had passed ever so slowly for the young boy, he heard a baby wailing, and it seemed to be coming from their wagon. He couldn’t understand that at all because he had not seen anyone go into their wagon with a baby.

Finally, in late afternoon, Ben returned from a successful hunt. Mrs. Chambers immediately went to him and they talked quietly but rapidly. Then Adam watched as his father rushed by him and climbed into the wagon. Ben had not noticed Adam sitting so forlornly next to their wagon. There was more talk in the wagon but Adam could not understand what the low voices were saying. Another woman climbed out of the wagon carrying a sheet bundle. Even more terrified by that sight, Adam felt his heart begin to pound when he saw the sheet was bloodstained. He had not known that Inger was hurt, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He wanted to run and hide so no one would see him cry, but then he heard his name being called. His father wanted him to get into the wagon it seemed, but he stood frozen unwilling to see what he thought must be a ghastly sight.

“Adam, come into the wagon, son. Inger wants to show you something.”

“Ma! Ma’s alive?”

“Well, of course she is, son. Women don’t die when they have a baby.” But a cloud passed over Ben’s face. Adam thought he knew why too because he had overheard his father tell more than one person that Adam’s mother had died at his birth, but Adam was also rapidly processing that his Ma was all right. Ben quickly recovered his full smile though and held the canvas flap aside as Adam climbed into the wagon. What Adam had failed to fully process was that Inger had had a baby. He stood in shock seeing Inger holding a baby wrapped in a soft blanket.

“Where did that come from?”

“Son, your mother had a baby. You have a little brother now.”

“He’s bigger than the other babies on the wagon train. Where did you get him, Ma?”

“Ah, that is a question you need to ask your father sometime.” Inger chuckled a little then at the grimace her husband had in response to her statement. “Come closer, Adam, and greet your little brother, Eric.”

“How did he get that name?”

“Your Pa and I discussed it, and we decided we liked that name.”

“Didn’t you tell Uncle Gunnar that you would call a son ‘Hoss’?”

“we can’t christen a baby with a name like that.”

“Well, I’m going to call him Hoss. He looks like a Hoss not an Eric.”

“Adam, mind your manners with your mother.”

Recognizing that tone, Adam was immediately silent before saying he was sorry. Inger sighed deeply and audibly, and Ben frowned but then smiled. The longer he was married to Inger, the better he was doing as a father and as a husband. He wrapped an arm around Adam.

“Do you want to hold your brother?”

A little worried but even more intrigued by the idea, Adam moved closer to Inger. Ben picked up the tiny bundle that was Hoss and placed him on Adam’s lap showing Adam how to use his arm to support the baby’s head. Grinning, Adam looked to his father to his mother and back to Hoss. A year earlier, he would not have imagined being this happy.

“Pa, we better get to that land you want. Four of us just won’t fit in this wagon.”

“We’re getting close, son, but I need to find some work. Next spring we’re going to finish this long journey and get to that land.”

Because Inger wanted to try nursing, Ben escorted Adam from the wagon. He was overjoyed to find that there was fresh meat with potatoes and onion cooking in their stewpot over their fire. Ben couldn’t stop smiling, but Adam had a question.

“So, Pa, Ma said you could tell me where she got the baby.”

With a deep sigh and then another, Ben tried to buy some time. He had hoped Adam would forget to ask, but the look of curiosity he had proved that wasn’t going to happen. Ben was thinking those earlier questions about why the sky was blue and where stars came from were a piece of cake compared to this one. Finally, he tried.

“Well, when a man and a woman, are married first though, want a baby, they hug and kiss and are very nice to each other, then the mama gets a baby.”

“So you and Mama did that? Where did you do that?”

“Well, every night we hug and kiss before we go to sleep.”

“So you and Mama made a baby in the wagon?”

“Um, yes, well we did, but people don’t usually talk about that.”

“Why not?”

“Making a baby is a very private thing that a husband and wife do.”

“Is that why Mama was hiding that baby until today?”

“Oh, Adam, she wasn’t hiding the baby. It was inside her.” As soon as those words left his lips, Ben wanted to pull them back. Adam was staring at him wide eyed and incredulous.

“Where?”

Sweating now even though the evening was cool, Ben grabbed two plates to serve up some stew. His son was far too patient and his memory too good for Ben to think that he would forget what he had asked. Ben was furiously thinking about how to explain it all, and finally decided that the truth was the only way to go. “He was in your mother’s tummy. You remember when the Chambers’ cow gave birth don’t you, and that calf came out of the mother. You talked about that for days. Well that’s how Eric came out of your mother. That’s how you were born too.”

Almost praying than that Adam would not ask how the baby got in there, Ben turned to hand his son a plate of stew. He saw that his son had a look of dismay on his face as he processed that information. Adam was silent as he ate and then asked to be excused. Ben was relieved. He wouldn’t have to deal with any more difficult questions for a while at least it seemed for Adam was focused in on that last bit of information. Adam went behind some trees and took care of his business. As he emerged from the shadows of the trees, he was confronted again by the Morgan brothers, older than he was and downright disagreeable.

“So, your ma had that baby. Now I suppose that wagon will be rocking again.”

“Why would that make the wagon rock?”

“Well cause your pa can start poking your ma again, that’s why. Or are you too stupid to know how she got that baby.”

“My Pa told me how they got him.” And Adam proceeded to tell them what his father had told him. The Morgan brothers were laughing hysterically by the time he finished his short version. Then they filled him in on the exact way a baby got inside a mother. Adam couldn’t believe what they were saying. Once they had finished, they laughed again and told him to go talk to his pa again.

Walking back to the wagon, Adam was thinking about all that he had learned. He wondered if his father had lied to him, or if the way he said things was because Adam was so young he didn’t think he would understand. Then again, he wondered if the Morgan brothers had lied for they were well known for lying, stealing, and cheating as well as general ruffians. When Adam got back to the wagon, Ben noticed how serious and even worried he looked. He thought perhaps he had told him too much earlier and felt a bit guilty. It was days later before he found out why Adam had that look.

The following day, walking behind the wagon, Adam could see Inger holding Hoss and nursing him. It was another wonder he had wondering how she could be feeding that baby by holding him to her chest with a blanket over him and her. He knew that there had to be an explanation and was thinking about not much else. Several times he had dropped things or bumped into things as he was thinking, and his father had reprimanded him to keep his mind on what he was doing. Each time that happened, Adam would see a disapproving look on his Ma’s face. He wondered what she was thinking when she did that for he didn’t know whether the frown was for him or for his father. Inger was very good about talking with them privately when she had a concern. Adam waited each day and there was no talk so he assumed it was his father who had done something of which she disapproved, but he didn’t know what it was. Inside the wagon, there had been a number of conversations.

“Our son is very curious, and that is just one sign of how intelligent he is. By trying to discourage him from thinking and dreaming, you are discouraging the development of his mind.”

“His mind isn’t going to do him much good if he can’t take care of himself. There are a lot of things out here to worry about, and he’s got his mind on other things far too often.”

“Ben, don’t you remember what it was like to be a child? He’s only six years old. You always seem to expect him to act much older. He’s very smart and can do that sometimes, but he’s too young to be pushed so hard.”

“Adam seems to be a happy boy. I don’t know why you worry so much about him.”

“I worry because I see how he looks at you when you’re not looking at him. He fears you too much, and he doesn’t trust you enough.”

“A boy needs to have some fear of authority. He needs to know there are rules to follow and consequences when those rules are broken.”

“Yes, but Ben, there has to be some balance too. A boy should be able to have some fun without looking over his shoulder worrying if his father will disapprove. He’s going to start hiding things from you. He’ll keep things to himself because he’s not willing to risk your displeasure by discussing them with you. Is that what you want?”

“How do you know so much about this?”

“My father was like that, always waiting for some bad behavior he could punish. Gunnar is the result because he was the one most often who got caught.”

“And you?”

“I was better at hiding what I did.” Inger had a bit of a smirk then, and Ben had to smile.

“I’ll talk to Adam when I get a chance and try to find out what’s been on his mind and distracting him so much.”

“Thank you. You’re a good father.”

“With your help. I love you so much. You have made my life complete, and we have such a wonderful family now. Next spring when we head to our home, we can talk about what kind of house you want.”

“Did you know Adam has some ideas about that? He’s been reading some books and the illustrations gave him ideas.”

“He’s reading books by himself?”

“Oh yes, the others on the train have been loaning books to him, and he’s been going through them as fast as he can. He has a thirst for knowledge that is amazing. He might even end up smarter than his father.” Again Inger smiled, and Ben’s heart melted. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have such a wonderful, intelligent wife.

That evening, Ben asked Adam to sit with him after dinner and chores had been completed.

“Adam, you have been very distracted lately. I would like you to tell me what’s been on your mind.”

Looking down at his feet, Adam didn’t want to answer. He had watched two horses mating after they were corralled inside the wagons the day before. He knew when he saw it that the Morgan brothers had not been lying, but he had no idea how to broach this subject with his father.

“Son, you can tell me anything. I promise I won’t be angry. I need to know what you’re thinking though so we can work out this problem you’ve been having keeping your mind on what you’re doing. It’s a dangerous country out here, and people can get seriously hurt or even killed with even a small amount of carelessness or inattention. What do you say? Can you tell me, please?”

Embarrassed at what he had been thinking but wanting to please his father, Adam told Ben what the Morgan brothers had said to him, and what he had witnessed between the two horses. It hadn’t been the first time that he had seen something like that but it was the first time he had an understanding of what they were doing. “So, Pa, did they tell me the truth?”

Ben was thinking that he was sure he didn’t know this much when he was six years old, but had to admit that perhaps Inger was correct and this boy was even smarter than he had thought. “Yes, Adam, it is. I didn’t explain all the details to you because I thought you were too young to know all about that, but if you wish, we can discuss it now.” Adam nodded so Ben explained what happened between a man and a woman that he repeatedly said had to be married for that to happen. When they finished, Adam only had one thing to say.

“Pa, I’m never gonna do that.”

“Oh, son, I think you’ll change your mind on that someday.”

“But, Pa, that’s gotta hurt. I fell wrong a couple of weeks ago, and it hurt me there something fierce. I can’t see that I would want to do anything like that at all.”

Ben reassured him that he had many years before he had to be concerned about that. The two of them slept much better that night, and the next morning, Adam pulled out a sheet of paper that he had folded inside the book he was reading. He showed it to Ben who was amazed to find a drawing of a house. It was well drawn and reasonably to scale which was remarkable.

“See, Pa, we could build this first part and live in there, and then we could add on over here for a kitchen, and then over here for bedrooms upstairs. There’s room for a bedroom here for you and Ma. Then there’s a little space over here where Hoss and I can sleep.”

“What would we use that space for later when we build bedrooms for you boys?”

“I don’t know. What kind of rooms do people put in houses? I’ve never lived in a house so I don’t know too much about that.”

“Well it could be a parlor, or a sewing room, or even an office.”

“See, Pa, you can see it too. We’re gonna have a great house. All we need to do is get to that land.”

“We’re going to have a great house.”

“Oh, Pa, you know it too. Can I go show Ma the house we’re gonna build for her?”

“Going to build for her.”

“Yes, Pa, thank you.”

And Adam ran to show Inger the drawing of the house they would build with the office for his father when he got rich and powerful. Inger smiled at her son for he was starting to sound like he shared his father’s dream.

*****

Chapter 3

“He’s such a charming boy. And your little one is so sweet, and smiles more than any baby I can remember ever seeing. With those beautiful blue eyes, it’s like looking at the sun to see him.”

Mrs. Joy Martin was sitting with Inger as they watched Adam play with Hoss in the grass that was beginning to look spring green. Ben was working for Mrs. Martin’s husband as a freight hauler. This was where many of the wagons heading west passed through before they hit the other trails heading to Oregon, California, Nevada, or Utah. Most headed to Oregon but not all. Some were heading into the territories owned by Mexico because many of them did not believe they would be living under Mexican rule for long. And as far from Mexico City and any garrison of Mexican troops that there were, they pretty much just lived the way they wanted anyway. Joseph Martin was a fair man. He had two rooms in his barn that he let drivers use while they were working for him. Ben was the only one there, so he let the family use both rooms. One was for cooking and eating which was where the boys slept when Ben was there. The other room was a bedroom for Ben and Inger and where most of their possessions were stored while they lived here.

Hauling freight to Fort Hall in Idaho or going to get freight from as far away as Kansas had Ben on the road most days. The winter had been difficult, but March and April had been warm allowing much more ease of travel. Inger didn’t fear so much now for her husband, and they were able to put away a sizeable amount of money from the work. Joy and Inger spent a lot of time sewing and Adam and Ben both had better clothing than they had had for years. Hoss had a good supply of gowns to wear too. Many days, Inger wished that these days could continue for a long time. It was relaxing to be a wife and mother without having to be a traveler and sometimes wagon driver too. Hoss had grown well and was a very healthy and happy baby. Adam had filled out some and wasn’t so skinny although he was still slender. He worked hard to provide the firewood they needed and helped with barn chores too. But that still left time for reading, studying, playing, and talking. He was a much more verbal child than when Inger had first met him.

“I almost hate to think of leaving here. This is the first home those boys have known. Adam has become so much more joyous here. And I have so much time to spend with Hoss. He is such a sweet baby, and it has been just a pleasure to be able to hold him and play with him so much. These days pass so quickly. It seems only a short time ago I was laying in a wagon giving birth, and now he’s almost ready to walk it seems.”

“You know you’re more than welcome to stay. Joseph has a hard time keeping drivers here, and there’s always work to do.”

“Don’t you worry here about Indian attacks?”

“Not here. I do worry when Joe is on the road. Just like he told Ben though. Our wagons always carry extra to pay the Indians for crossing their lands. He says they ride down to the wagons real friendly like every time. They get the payment, and there’s never any trouble.”

“Perhaps it is the respect he gives them that is the main thing. He’s is not taking from him as so many whites do out here.”

“The real threat are Indian hunting parties that are moving through and don’t know that. The biggest threat Joe had once was a party of Pawnee who chased his wagon. He tossed out enough stuff that they stopped to collect it which made it possible for him to get away. The tribes who live along the roads he uses don’t ever act that way. Heard there was some trouble west of here though. People using the southern route to California been having some big problems.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, you never hear exactly. Trains have been attacked though. Some whites killed some women and children of one to those tribes from the deserts, and they been fighting back. It’ll calm down in time. Maybe you oughta delay leaving.”

“No, we can’t. Ben has his heart set on this year being the year we get to some land we can buy. He said we have to leave early enough to get some crops and a garden in as well as build a house and shelter for the animals.”

“Well, I’ll be praying for you and those two beautiful boys you got. The men should be home tonight. We’ll make a big stew for dinner and some fresh baked bread. We’ll have a little celebration of your traveling on then.”

As expected the men arrived home with the wagons that night but much later than expected. Muddy roads had slowed their progress each day making for two very tired and grumpy drivers. Ben ate some stew that had been heating for hours awaiting his return and then rolled into bed for some sleep. He barely had a chance to say hello to his wife and children before exhaustion overwhelmed him. It delayed their departure for only a day though as Ben packed up the wagon the next day, and prepared to head out the following day. By then sunshine and wind had dried the mud and traveling was easier. Inger mentioned the Indian troubles that Joy had told her, but Ben said he had heard and seen nothing. They headed out with several other families going in the same direction.

The first few weeks that the group traveled west were uneventful. Their most serious problems were getting clean water and dealing with rain swollen creeks and muddy roads. Then as they got further from settlements and into Mexican territory, there were signs that there had been trouble recently. They found several burned out wagons and old corpses that were little more than bones. It appeared that all the dead were men making everyone wonder what had happened to the women and children who must have been on these wagons. There were metal tools and other evidence that this was a group headed west to farm so the assumption was that there must have been families traveling together as they were. That night the group took extra precautions, but for several days did not see any more evidence of trouble. They hoped it would remain that way. Ben thought he needed to explain things to Adam in case there was trouble. With his voice a bit tremulous because of the situation in which he had placed his family, Ben pulled Adam into a hug.

“Adam, I don’t want to frighten you, and of course I know you will be, but there is the chance that there could be very serious trouble. Now if anything happens, the very first thing I want you to do, if you can, is to grab Hoss and hold him tight to you. The other thing you must do is to do exactly what Ma or I tell you to do and no questions. There isn’t time in a dangerous situation to ask and answer questions. Do you understand?”

With eyes opened as wide as he could because of his worry, Adam nodded. He had known that things were very tense, but until this moment, he did not realize his father was scared. The most frightening thing he had ever experienced had happened with that one statement for he had never seen his father afraid of anything.

“Don’t go away from the wagons for anything without one of us with you. That includes taking care of your business. I will go with you when you need to do that. I know that might be slightly embarrassing for you, but it is far better to be that than to be in danger.”

Inger had been telling Ben that Adam behaved much better and was in a much better mood if rules and expectations were explained to him rather than just demanded of him. Ben had found that to be true, and his relationship with his son was getting stronger by the day. They talked of everything now and not just the questions that Adam asked although his questions still had a candor sometimes that caught Ben unprepared.

“I saw that calf that was born on the last train sucking at the momma cow. They told me that was how it got milk, and that’s where our milk comes from. Is that how Ma feeds Hoss?”

“Ah, yes, Adam, that is how Ma feeds Hoss.”

“Then who fed me cause you said my mother died when I was born?”

“How did you know that?”

“I heard you talking sometimes.”

“Eavesdropping is not polite to do.”

“Is it eavesdropping if I was laying in my bedroll, and you were sitting by the fire talking with some of the men?”

“Well, perhaps not, but you could have let me know that you were awake and listening.”

“I didn’t know that you were gonna talk about anything I wasn’t supposed to hear.”

“Going to talk about. No, I suppose that’s true.”

“So, anyway, who fed me?”

“Ah, I had to hire someone to do that for you. She was a very nice lady, and wanted to travel to Illinois to join some of her family there. She was supposed to join them after she had her baby, but her baby died. So she was available to help us.”

“Do some women have more milk than others because I see some women, and they have very big ones, and other ladies only have little ones?”

Laughter erupted from the wagon then, and Ben knew that Inger was enjoying listening to this conversation way too much. He called back to her. “The rules on eavesdropping apply to wives as well!”

But Ben had a grin on his face by then so Adam wasn’t worried that there would be an argument. He leaned back and grinned. He was starting to enjoy these conversations when he could leave his father nearly speechless and clearly uncomfortable. One of these days, he was going to ask his father about something he had seen down by the creek just a few days before. He was going to get some water and saw some of the women bathing. He had been fascinated, and wanted to ask his father why women did not have penises. He had wondered ever since he saw them how they went to take care of their business because he only knew one way to do that.

There would not be such an opportunity though for trouble started the next morning. A man came riding up to the small wagon train asking if he could travel with them. By noon, they were under attack by Indians. No one on the train knew enough to know what Indians they were and why they were so upset. They had the wagons pulled tightly together, but every man there knew that they would never be able to repulse the forces against them for very long. Crates and boxes had been pulled from wagons and used to erect barriers that were used to shield the children as even the women were wielding rifles or shotguns in defense of their families. It wasn’t until after the attack that the travelers learned that the man who had joined them had assaulted and killed a woman from that tribe.

The attack on the wagons was ferocious and turned deadly when several of the warriors jumped their horses into the wagon enclosure. Ben yelled for Adam to get under the wagon with Hoss. Inger moved to block the view of her children by the attacking warriors and was stabbed by a lance which dropped her to the ground pinning her there as she was clutching her abdomen. Ben ran to her side, but she could only gasp out one thing.

“Save our children, Ben, save our children first.”

“No, I can’t leave you.”

“Come back for me when the children are safe.” Inger’s eyes closed then as her body relaxed in unconsciousness or death for Ben couldn’t tell at first. Placing his hand on her chest, he could not feel a heartbeat and couldn’t see her breathing. All he could see was that lance that had penetrated her body and pinned her to the ground. He pushed himself to leave her side. Standing then, Ben shot one of the warriors at point blank range, grabbed Inger’s shotgun, and killed another.

The attacking warriors did not stop, and all the surviving whites fled to some nearby ruins of someone’s failed attempt to live in this land. Ben had grabbed Hoss from Adam and took Adam’s hand leading his young son at a dead run. The warriors ceased their attack by late afternoon. The man who had joined them was killed. Unknown to the travelers, he had been the main objective of the warriors who converged on the area where they saw that man fall.

When the warriors rode off, Ben nearly ran to the wagons. He couldn’t find Inger, but did see the large dark stain on the ground near their wagon. He dropped to his knees sobbing. A search by the travelers did not locate Inger’s body, and one child was missing as well. They wondered what could have happened. Only the man who had joined them was still there but with his scalp missing and his body mutilated. Several men and one of the women were wounded and needed care. Ben sat by his wagon cradling Hoss with Adam leaning against him. He sobbed his grief as his sons cried. There were many in the camp who watched the scene and cried as well. The family who had lost a child sat in tears as well wondering where their beloved son had been taken. The night was very quiet. The stranger was buried, a cold meal was prepared, and damages were assessed and repaired as much as possible.

“Pa, where’s Mama?” was the most difficult question Adam had ever asked his father. There was only one answer, and father and son cried again as they talked. They both did their best to soothe Hoss and did manage to get the baby to eat some mush. Traveling to follow a dream had lost a lot of its luster that day. But they did travel on and reached the Sierras in Nevada by June. They could have continued on to California, but the beauty of the land, its lush green forests, and mountain meadows seduced both Ben and Adam. Within weeks, Ben had purchased a large tract of land, planted an extensive garden using the seeds that Inger had packed for that purpose, and began felling trees to build a sturdy shelter for the winter. By the time Hoss was a year old, the family had a home and the dream was closer to reality, but the dream was not as pristine as it once was for it had cost them the wife and mother who had given the dream its heart and soul.

*****

Chapter 4

“Stop that!” Ben Cartwright was incensed to see some men pushing a Chinese man around in a circle like they were playing a child’s game. The small town that was growing on the side of Mount Davidson was drawing some rough men at times. The men moved off because they desired some fun and not trouble. The small Chinese man bowed to Ben and hurried away before anyone else could harm him. Adam was sitting on the wagon seat holding Hoss beside him and witnessed the whole event. The small Chinese man came to hide behind their wagon inciting Adam’s curiosity.

“Hello, my name is Adam. This is my little brother Hoss. Do you live here?”

“No, no live anywhere. Come California on ship and now look for work.”

“We just moved here last year. Do you want to work for us? Pa’s had a hard time finding anyone to help us.”

“I cook. I clean. I do laundry. You have work for Hop Sing?”

“Just ask my Pa. He’s coming this way right now.” As Ben strode to the wagon, Adam called out to him. “Pa, there’s a man here who says he needs a job. Do you want to hire him?”

“Where is there a man? I can’t see anyone.”

Hop Sing walked out from behind the wagon then not afraid any longer because this was the man who had saved him earlier. “I cook. I clean. I do laundry. You have work for Hop Sing?”

About to say no, Ben reconsidered. Every day he used at least two to three hours getting his sons to a neighbor’s place so he could go to work, and then retrieved them at the end of the day. In addition of course, he had to pay the neighbor for the service. If he hired someone to work in his home, his children could stay there saving him hours each day, and he wouldn’t have to pay a neighbor. “I can’t pay much. Once my ranch gets bigger and we have more money coming in, then I could pay more.”

“How much you pay?”

“I can pay two dollars a week, and food, and a place to sleep. I’m paying two dollars a week to a neighbor now so that would be your pay. When I can pay you more, I will.”

“Yes. I work for you. I ride in wagon or walk to your ranch?”

Chuckling Ben indicated the wagon would be fine. He went into the store to get the items he had asked for and loaded them in the back after paying for them. He saw that Hop Sing did not have a coat or a hat. “C’mon in the store. You’re going to need more than what you’re wearing. It gets mighty cold here.” Once Hop Sing had a hat and a coat, they all got in the wagon and headed to the Cartwright ranch. When they got to the ranch well over an hour later, Hop Sing was surprised. There was a nice house, a stable, and a small corral and nothing else.

“Where you store food? Where you raise chickens and pigs?”

“I don’t have much to store yet. The garden was overrun by varmints again this year, and I don’t have any chickens or pigs yet. I do have cattle, and I hunt for fresh meat for the table.”

“I do gardening too. You buy chickens?”

“If you know how to take care of them, I’ll get some. I never raised chickens before and have no idea what to do with them.”

“You get chickens, pigs, and cow, and I take care of them.”

This was sounding better and better to Ben as well as to Adam. The more Hop Sing talked, the more they liked the idea of expanding their immediate compound. Adam volunteered to help Hop Sing but Ben reminded him that his first responsibility was to watch over his little brother who was old enough to get into trouble and not old enough to understand what trouble was. Because Hop Sing was a man, Ben expected the cooking to be very basic and very similar to what he was able to prepare for his sons every day. Instead the first meal was beef and vegetable stew over mashed potatoes with biscuits and baked apples.

“Pa, this is the best food I ate since . . . ” and then Adam’s voice trailed off as he never finished the sentence. Ben knew what he meant though.

“It’s all right, son. I miss her too. You’ve been a big help to me since then. Now we have more help so I hope you will have some time to play too. You and Hoss can play once you get your chores done each day.”

“Pa, I can do more chores for you too because I’ll be at home.”

Ben nodded and they finished their meal. Then he went to the room they had intended to use as a small pantry to finish building the bed frame he had started earlier. Once that was finished, he and Adam pulled a mattress onto the bed and got an extra sheet and a blanket. Hop Sing was happy to have his own room even if it was small and spare.

Because Hop Sing was there freeing Ben for more ranch work, he was able to complete his fencing project before winter. With Hop Sing and Adam helping, they were able to cut lots of meadow grass, dry it, and fill the hay loft as well as stacking it outside for winter feed for the animals. Ben pulled loads of rocks to an area near the house to build a smokehouse, and framed up a chicken coop and a pig sty. By spring, they would be ready to raise chickens for eggs and pigs for pork, ham, and bacon. The smokehouse would be ready to smoke those hams and bacon as well as some beef for jerky. For the winter, Ben built a small chicken hutch inside the barn. Once Ben purchased canning supplies, Hop Sing canned as much from the garden as he could as well as a few bushels of apples from a neighbor who only wanted some of his own canned for payment. When the first snows hit, Ben felt far more secure than he had the previous winter when he wasn’t at all sure they would have enough food.

Each year, Ben hired men to work for him, and a bunkhouse was added to the compound as well as a storage shed. One of the men suggested they ought to capture some of the wild horses roaming the hills. Once they had those, they expanded the corrals as well. Horses that were not needed for ranch work were sold. Ben’s dream was coming true. There were disasters of course. Mudslides took out some fence lines. Storms washed out the hay crop one year. One winter was especially bad and at least half of the herd perished. But every year the ranch grew larger and more prosperous. Hop Sing learned more English, and taught Adam some Chinese. On Adam’s ninth birthday, Ben told him that he had a surprise for him. Adam waited wondering what it could be for he had already received the gift of a pocketknife which his father told him he should carry with him always because he would never know when he might need it. His father also told him to carry a small tin of matches and a handkerchief every day as well. These were habits that Adam carried into adulthood. But he was intrigued at that moment by what his father had to say.

“Adam, you are nine years old now. You have been a great help to me in building this ranch and taking care of your brother. I want you to know that we will be adding on to the house. I have the men cutting enough logs to start building that second floor that you drew on the plan for this house three years ago. There will be a bedroom for you and one for Hoss.”

“What about you, Pa?”

“The following year, if all goes well, we’ll add more bedrooms. I’ll get one of those. I already have a bedroom down here so you boys need to get bedrooms first.”

“What about Hop Sing?”

“We added on to his room, added a washroom, and a pantry last year. I asked him, and except for wanting a new stove, he’s happy with what he has.”

“Pa, he does complain a lot about cooking using the Franklin stove and the fireplace. He sure does cook good though.”

“He cooks well.”

Adam nodded in appreciation of his father agreeing with him while ignoring the grammar lesson in the statement. Adam could speak basic Chinese phrases with Hop Sing, could read any book Ben had, and was learning arithmetic at an amazing rate. Ben hoped that the town would have a school soon because he knew that it wouldn’t be long before he had exhausted most of what he could teach his son. He needed to learn more about writing and penmanship among other things that Ben did not feel qualified to teach. Ben also did not have the time to teach his son and run a big and growing ranch as well. There was going to be a meeting in town in the next week to discuss hiring a teacher and building a school. They were doing it in that order because there was no point to having a school if they could not entice a teacher to move to the little community in the mountains.

Within two months, a man answered the town’s request to be their first teacher. Ben and a number of fathers in the community held a schoolhouse raising on a weekend. Once the basic structure was there, finishing work was begun, a fireplace was built, and a stove was installed. Families brought loads of firewood, and a necessary was constructed. By the time the teacher arrived, the school was ready. It still smelled of the pine logs that were its shell, but inside it was clean and as organized as any schoolroom in the country. On the first Monday in October, school opened with sixteen students from six through eleven years old. Adam was excited to go to school and Ben rode with him there the first day.

“Now, you mind your manners, and make sure you do everything that is asked of you.”

“I will, Pa. I wanted to go to school for so long. This is a dream come true.”

After showing Adam how to tie his pony for the day, and how to make sure he had food and water, Ben rode home. He had a good day of work, and waited to hear Adam’s pony ride into the yard. Anxious to hear how his first day of school was, when Ben heard him ride in, he walked out to the stable to talk with his son. By the time he reached the stable, Adam was already unsaddling his pony. He was silent as Ben walked in and continued with his chores apparently waiting for Ben to open the conversation.

“Well, son, did you enjoy your first day of school?”

“Yes, Pa.”

“What’s wrong? Did you have a lot of work to do?”

“Yes, Pa.”

“Adam, a dream can be a lot of work to achieve. If you thought that school was only going to be fun, then that wasn’t realistic. School is hard work.”

“Yes, Pa. May I be excused now? I have to clean up, and I have homework to do for tomorrow.”

“Of course. Don’t forget to spend a little time with Hoss. He missed you a lot today.”

“I will, Pa. I missed him too.”

Then Adam rushed to the house so his father wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes. Each day was like that. Ben had thought that Adam would enjoy school more, but thought that perhaps he was so used to the freedom of the ranch that he was taking some time to get used to the discipline of the classroom. The next day, Ben was working at his desk when he heard a horse in the yard. When he got to the front door, he was surprised to see his new friend Roy Coffee leading Adam to the house. Roy had just been elected as a part-time sheriff in town, and Ben assumed that Adam had gotten in trouble.

“Now, Ben, I see that look you got, and afore you say anything, I hafta tell ya, this boy ain’t done nothing wrong. I was riding near the school and seen him leading his horse. I give him a ride home, but as soon as I seen him, I knew there was more to this story.”

Ashamed and hurting, Adam looked up at his father expecting condemnation and seeing only concern. Adam was holding a handkerchief to his mouth, and Ben asked why.

“Now, Ben, ya need to keep control of yourself. I’m a gonna handle this. Adam, show your pa.”

When Adam lowered the bloody cloth, Ben could see that his lip was split, swollen, and bruised.

“Adam, were you fighting?”

“No, Pa.” That was all Adam could say before he broke into tears. Ben reached out his arms to pull his son into an embrace.

“Roy, what happened?”

“Near as I can figure, the teacher hit him. Sounds like he backhanded him pretty hard. Ben, that ain’t all of it, neither. Let’s go inside.”

Once inside, Roy had Adam go into Ben’s bedroom. There he had him drop his trousers, and Ben and Roy saw welts and bruises across his backside and thighs.

“Oh, my God. Adam, who did this to you?” Adam couldn’t talk. He started sobbing.

Looking at Roy, Ben waited for an explanation.

“Ben, when I offered to give your boy a ride, right off I got the explanation for the lip. But Ben when I pulled him up on my horse, he almost cried having to sit there. I took off my coat and had him sit on that. That’s when I knew there was more to this. Now, you and me need to hear this from Adam. Then I want you to fill out a complaint. Now I see your face, and I know you want to take care of this yourself, but I gotta tell ya not to do that. These boys need you, and you sitting in jail for beating or even killing the schoolteacher ain’t gonna be no good for these boys.”

Slowly, Adam explained that the teacher had called him names from the first day because he knew the answers to every question the teacher had posed. So the teacher had gotten out a big history book and asked Adam questions. When he couldn’t answer, he was told that he wasn’t all that smart. Any infraction of the rules no matter how small, and no matter whether Adam actually did it or the teacher just thought it was him resulted in physical punishment at recess or after school. The other students stayed away from Adam afraid that any contact with him might cause them to get the same treatment.

“Adam, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Pa, he said I was an embarrassment to my father, and brought shame on your house with my actions. I didn’t want you to know.”

“Why did he hit you in the face?”

“I was late to school cause my pony threw a shoe. He told me I had to stay after to make up the time, and I said I couldn’t. Then he got mad cause he said I talked back to him. Pa, I couldn’t. It takes me over an hour to get home and it’s getting darker earlier. I didn’t want to be riding in the dark and making you afraid.”

All Ben could do then was to wrap an arm around his son to reassure him he was loved. By then Hop Sing who had seen the injury to Adam’s lip was there with a poultice. Ben whispered to him about Adam’s other injuries, and Hop Sing said he would draw a soothing bath for the boy. As Adam soaked, Ben wrote out a complaint against the schoolteacher. Roy promised to check with a few other students to corroborate the story, and then he would deal with the abuser.

“Now, you keep Adam home tomorrow, and maybe till the end of the week until this all gets settled out. I’ll let you know what happens.”

After Roy left, Ben went in the kitchen and pulled a chair up beside the tin tub where Adam was relaxing. The boy was holding the poultice to his lip, but leaning back against the end of the tub. Soothing smells of herbs and other things Ben couldn’t identify wafted up from the warm water.

“Adam, I want you to tell me when things like this happen.”

“I couldn’t, Pa.”

“Why couldn’t you tell me? I’m your father. I love you, and I would have helped you.”

“Pa, I couldn’t have said it without crying. You told me when Ma died that I had to control my tears. I try, Pa, but sometimes it’s so hard.”

“Adam, that was a desperate time, and we had Hoss to take care of. He didn’t understand at all why his mother was gone, and we had to control our tears so we could soothe him. I didn’t mean for you to never cry. I only needed you to try to do that then.”

“I didn’t know that, Pa.”

“Adam, I’m so sorry. So often I forget how young you are and how inexperienced. You’re just a boy, but I have needed your help so many times. I’m so sorry that I have taken your childhood away from you.”

“It’s all right, Pa. We’re building our dream, and I know you love me.”

By the late afternoon of the next day, Ben received word that the schoolteacher had been fired and ordered to leave town. A delegation from the town was at Ben’s house the day after that. Although a number of women in the town were going to teach for the rest of the school year with each of them teaching one day a week at most, a trained schoolteacher was needed. The leading citizens thought it would be a good idea for Ben to travel to one of the cities in the midsection of the country to find and hire a schoolteacher.

“Ben, Mary and I can take your boys in this winter if you like. Hop Sing and your hands can handle the winter work. We need you to do this for the town. You’re the best educated man here except for the doctor but we can’t spare him for the whole winter. You’re the president of the school board so we think you oughta be the one to go.”

After a lot of discussion, it was decided that Ben would go to New Orleans. St. Joseph and other cities along the Oregon and California Trails were unlikely to have anyone who would come to their small town. But New Orleans was a city that valued education, and the group thought that perhaps there would be someone there that Ben could convince to come to their small town to teach.

As Ben packed for the trip, he was actually a bit excited to be going no matter how much he let the school board think it was a huge imposition. Ben had always loved to travel, and now he would travel as a successful rancher. He packed his finest clothing and realized he would likely have to have some made while he was in New Orleans.

As much as Ben was excited, Adam was apprehensive. He had not been separated from his father for more than a week or two in his life, and that had been when his father was working as a teamster, and Inger had been there for him. To be without a parent for as many as five months was frightening to him. Doing his best not to show his worry, Adam sat on a chair in Ben’s bedroom and watched him pack. Hoss was napping. Ben was going to drive them to Roy’s home. The boys’ stuff was already in the wagon. Hop Sing would bring the wagon back along with a load of supplies for the winter. The two permanent hands would handle caring for the stock and doing any maintenance they could during the winter.

The plans were made, and the tickets were purchased. Ben had a list of names already of potential teachers. He would meet with those candidates, hire one if he was found suitable, and if not, find other candidates for the position. Although it would not take five months to do that, the travel would take at least two months, and there was no return to the high Sierras in the middle of the winter. Trying to get through the snow in winter would be foolhardy. The plan was that Ben would stay in New Orleans until the end of February and then travel home hoping that the March weather would permit safe travel.

As Ben drove the wagon to town, he went through the list of things he wanted Hop Sing to do in his absence. Then he went through his expectations for Adam emphasizing that he needed to help care for Hoss and do his schoolwork. Adam would be able to get to school on all but the worst days now because the Coffees lived right at the edge of town. Mary had a garden and some animals and was looking forward to having Adam’s help with the harvest and the care of the animals as her arthritis made it difficult to do even the simplest tasks. Adam and Mary got along very well so that wasn’t going to be a problem.

Once Ben pulled up by the stage, Adam felt his resolve not to cry faltering. He played with Hoss and made faces to get the little boy to laugh, and that helped. Roy and Mary were there to see Ben off as were a number of school board members. Ben hugged each of the boys and told them how much he loved them. Then he climbed aboard the stage. Roy had his hand on Adam’s shoulder and could feel the trembling as Adam tried to maintain his composure. As the stage pulled away, Mary distracted Hoss with a cookie. There was no distracting Adam though. He fought down the feeling of abandonment and turned to his little brother. Hop Sing offered to drive the family to the Coffee home that was on the way out of town for him. They accepted and all sat in the back of the wagon. Mary was talking about all the fun they would have, but Roy noted Adam’s glistening eyes. He and Mary were going to have to give special attention to Adam who wanted to be so grown up and in many ways was older than his years. But at this moment, he was a nine-year-old boy who already missed his father.

*****

Chapter 5

As the stage left Virginia City, Ben began reminiscing. He thought about Elizabeth who had challenged him and supported his dreams. When he had first courted her and learned how intelligent she was, he was intimidated a bit by her quest for knowledge, her quick wit, and her unwillingness to accept blind obedience to tradition. She had stimulated his mind as well as won his heart with her fiery passion. He came to admire her strong code of morality and ethics, and her willingness to stand beside him in anything. Unfortunately her body did not have the strength of her intellect. He had lost her but she had made him a man willing to give his all to pursue his dream. She had also given him a son who was very much like his mother in many regards.

Next Ben smiled as he thought of Inger. Fiercely protective of her family, Inger had taught Ben how to love and be loved. She was not satisfied with a New Englander’s assumption that the people around him knew he loved them because he provided for them and worked as hard as possible. No, Inger had insisted that love be shown as love. Hugs and kisses were not something to be treasured and doled out in small payments. No, to Inger, love was to be showered on your family. Her philosophy was that the more love you gave, the more love you got, so give it all away.

Ben frowned then as he remembered Inger’s death and the joy that was stolen from him that day. He tried to hide his sorrow from his sons but knew that Adam sensed that something was wrong. Unfortunately although Adam was mature well beyond his years, Ben could not confide to his oldest son that he was very lonely. Adam was still too young to understand a man’s loneliness especially when he lay in that bed at night all alone. But Ben was very lonely and the more he had thought about this trip to New Orleans, the more he thought about all the young women there who did not yet have a husband. He was thinking that he had five months to find someone who would find him suitable as a husband.

As Ben traveled seeking to achieve two goals, Adam and Hoss settled in with the Coffees for the winter months. There was no snow yet but there was a chill in the air, and the nights were very cold. In the morning, the water troughs each had a thin sheet of ice on them. Later, Adam was told it would be his job each day to make sure the animals had water. Sometimes he would have to haul water from the kitchen pump. Adam also said he could do the job of providing firewood.

“Now, son, I know you do a lot of work, but it can be dangerous working with an axe and a saw.”

“At home, I cut most of the firewood. Pa cuts down some of the big pieces that are too heavy for me, but I do all the rest. I don’t mind, really.”

Now it made more sense to Mary and Roy that Adam could be so slender and yet so strong. He worked harder than most boys his age. They agreed he could cut the firewood than which made Adam grin. He liked chopping firewood. He could think about things, and it was a good outlet for his emotions that he often found difficult to express. He did a lot of chores for Mary who began to wonder how she had managed without him.

Letters came regularly from Ben or as regularly as the weather and stagecoach problems allowed. Each time Roy would read the letter with Adam and was amazed as was Mary at the boy’s vocabulary. Mary was resting one day and heard Adam’s joyful yell so she had to come see what was happening. Adam was sitting side by side with Roy. Once again Mary felt badly about not having children, but the Lord had not blessed them with any no matter how hard they prayed. However, Adam was like a son to Roy, and somehow Mary knew their relationship would last. Adam looked up at her with a grin.

“Pa found us a schoolteacher. Now he can come home.”

“Adam, I’m sorry but the weather won’t permit that. We’re due for snow any day now, and your Pa will take a month just to get to the foothills. By then it will be too late to travel here.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Coffee. I just miss my Pa. I like you a lot, and Sheriff Coffee too, but it’s just not the same.”

“”Boy, I understand that. Now your Pa misses you boys something fierce I’ll wager. Maybe he’ll have a big surprise for you two by the time he gets back.”

Mary’s ‘Roy’ didn’t come out fast enough to stop her husband. Now Adam’s curiosity was piqued and they both knew he wouldn’t be satisfied until they explained what Roy had said.

“Now, you see, your pa’s been real lonely.” Ben had confided in Roy and of course Roy had told his wife.

“Why would Pa be lonely? He’s got me and Hoss and Hop Sing too.”

“Well, son, ya see it’s different for a man. A man can be lonely living without a woman. Now your pa loved his wives, but they’re both passed on now.”

“Pa can’t get married again. Ma wouldn’t like that.”

“Son, your Ma would’ve wanted your Pa to be happy now wouldn’t she?”

“Yes, but he’s married to Ma.”

“Well, you see he’s married to your mother too then, isn’t he. It’s jest that them two is already in heaven, and your pa needs a wife here on earth.”

“He doesn’t need a wife. He’s got all the family he needs.” Adam was angry and upset which caused Hoss to start crying. Hoss had no idea why Adam was upset, but Hoss got upset any time Adam was upset. Seeing that, Adam changed his tone and immediately talked soothingly to Hoss who smiled at the big brother he adored. Adam slept with Hoss at night here at the Coffees. He had acted like it was an imposition not to have his own room but actually it was soothing to him too to have his little brother snuggled up beside him all night. Slowly he began to understand why his father wanted a wife, but he still didn’t like it. He would think about it though for quite a while.

To try to cheer up the boys, when some nice weather rolled in just before Christmas, Roy and Mary bundled up Hoss and with Adam set out for Carson City. They left very early hoping that they could return the same day. They were going to have lunch in the bigger town and then probably purchase a few small items for Christmas.

Adam took along some coins he had earned by running errands in town and asked if he could shop in one of the stores by himself. Roy waited just outside the door as Adam made his purchases. Adam picked out a pretty handkerchief for Mary and bought a small bag of candy for Hoss. He asked the proprietor what he could buy for a man with the money he had left, and the shopkeeper told him he had more than enough to buy two handkerchiefs so he bought a blue one and a red one. He had a present to give each of the four people most important to him and suddenly remembered Hop Sing. He asked if there was enough there to buy some spices. The shopkeeper looked over his supplies and said he would sell him several packets of spices for what he had left so Adam bought those too. Then all of his purchases were wrapped up in brown paper and the package was tied with string. Adam walked out of the store feeling very good until he saw his old schoolteacher walking toward them.

“Well there’s the two who ruined my life. Sheriff, what are you doing with that wretched liar? Come to take another man’s livelihood away?”

“Now you see here. You were lucky to walk away like ya done. I woulda let Ben Cartwright tear you limb from limb except then he woulda gone to jail instead a you. Now you move along. I know the sheriff here too, and he won’t take kindly to you harassing citizens on the street.”

“Well, I’ll move along. You just watch yourself. You never know what might happen.”

Standing with Adam until the man left, Roy told him to sit on the bench by the store until Roy could go find Mary and let her know to watch out for the former schoolteacher. Adam waited patiently until he heard his name being called from the alley by what sounded like a woman.

“Hey, Adam Cartwright, come quickly. The sheriff needs you. Hurry, hurry, he said you had to hurry.”

Adam set his package down on the bench and hurried into the alley but didn’t see anyone. He walked down the alley looking for Roy and wondering who had called him. Suddenly from behind, he heard his name being called and recognized the voice. Whirling around he saw his former schoolteacher, and realized at the same time that there was no avenue of escape from this dead end alley. Adam put his hand in his pocket and carefully opened his penknife with one hand. He waited then to see what the man would do.

“You never got properly punished for what you did to me. I mean to take care of that right now. Don’t run. It’ll just be worse for you if you run.”

The man lunged toward Adam who jumped back but now they were only about five feet apart. The man smiled with a devil’s twisted grin and took two steps toward Adam who pulled his knife from his pocket and slashed the man as he took his next step. He drew blood with the first slash that had struck the man’s forearm. He grabbed the cut with his other hand and was furious.

“You damn insolent brat. I was only going to give you a proper beating for your behavior. But now I think I’ll break your neck.”

Holding his knife in front of him, Adam slowly retreated. He didn’t know what he could do next. The next sound brought relief though. Both of them heard a pistol being cocked and then a second one.

“Now you just turn around real slow like. You make a move on that boy, and I’ll have to shoot ya to defend him. Now mind ya, I actually would like to shoot ya, so keep that in mind.”

Seeing the Carson City sheriff standing next to Roy Coffee, the former schoolteacher tried to explain away his actions. “Sheriff, that boy attacked me. He cost me my job in Eagle Station, and forced me to try to live by manual labor. Now he attacked me which should only prove that the punishments he got before were justified.”

“Let me see now. I heard you say you was going to give him a beating, and then you threatened to break his neck. Around here, mister, that’s grounds for someone to draw a knife to defend himself especially when the man attacking him is more than twice his size. Now you’re going over to the jail. Don’t give me no trouble cause like as not I could add a few more charges onto what you’re already facing.”

“Charges? For what? I’m the one who got hurt here.”

“Oh, attempted murder, assault, disturbing the peace, and about anything else I can think of. Now what do you think the judge is gonna say when I’m the main witness against you?”

“But, but …”

“Best you not say anything more. Roy, you’re gonna need to come over to the office. I want you and the boy to make statements too. The judge will want to read em.”

After Adam retrieved his package, he walked with Roy to the sheriff’s office.

“How did you know I needed help?”

“The wife of the owner of the store heard what was going on and ran to find me. I was already walking back and talking with the sheriff here. We got to the alley just as he went for you the first time. Boy you really handled yourself well there. There’s many a man wouldn’t a been able to handle that so well.”

Standing a little taller with Roy’s praise, Adam did have to admit something. “Sheriff Coffee, I was really scared.”

“That’s normal boy. I would a been scared too if someone was threatening to beat me and then said he was gonna snap my neck. Being scared isn’t the issue at all. It’s how you handle fear that makes the difference. Some people freeze up, some scream and holler, and some use their heads and try to do the best they can. You’re one of those. You done real well, Adam, real well.”

After Adam and Roy gave their statements, the sheriff invited them to stay at his house for the night. He said he had plenty of room if the boys would share a bed. The next morning, the Roy got their carriage and the four of them headed home. The town was quiet when they got back so Roy took Mary and the boys to the house before he headed to the office. He was home only an hour later.

“It seems Christmas has brought out the best in folks. No trouble today, and no complaints by anyone either. We’ll be able to decorate the house and help you get ready for the holiday.”

“What about Hop Sing and the men on our ranch?”

“Well, if you’re worried we can take a ride out there now. Hoss is sleeping so this is a good time to go. We’ll be back before dinner.”

After Adam got the packets of spices he had purchased for Hop Sing, Roy and Adam headed out to the ranch. When they got there, everything seemed to be in order. Hop Sing was thrilled to have company and had all sorts of baked goods to send with them. He was also very happy to receive a gift from Adam.

“Most humble servant thanks number one son. Make me very happy.”

“Oh, Hop Sing, you’re not a servant. You’re part of the family.”

Adam’s heartfelt comment was more meaningful to Hop Sing than the small gifts he had received. He wrapped is arms around Adam and the two hugged. Adam asked if he could get a few things before they left and filled a small valise with items. Then it was time for Adam and Roy to return to town. Hop Sing had tears in his eyes as he watched them go. He had not felt so loved in so long, and that meant that the emotional impact was very strong.

On Christmas morning, Hoss was up before Adam who had been up late the night before reading. The little boy rushed back into the room.

“Adam, Adam, there’s presents. Adam, Adam, wake up. Presents. I can smell my stocking. It smells real good. Hey, Adam, wake up.”

“Hoss, why are you up so early. I don’t have to go to school today. Sheriff Coffee doesn’t have to go to work today.”

“Cause you said we get presents. Adam, c’mon. Presents!”

Slowly Adam slid from under the covers, dressed, and then straightened the bed as Hoss waited impatiently by the door. By the time they were downstairs, they were breakfast smells from the kitchen. Hoss ran to his sock hanging by the fireplace.

“Smell it, Adam. Smell. It smells good.”

Knowing that it was the candy that he had purchased that Hoss could smell, Adam could only smile at him. Then he looked by the tree and saw there were presents there too. He sat on a chair and took Hoss on his lap. He read the Christmas story that Ben had read every Christmas no matter where they were after Inger had given him the book. On the tree were the ornaments that Ben had received from his wives. Mary had helped Adam put them on the tree the night before. Adam had done all he could to make Christmas seem normal, but he still missed his father terribly and knew he would be gone two to three months more. After breakfast, Roy pulled out a letter from Ben which he had written and asked Roy to save until Christmas morning. There were gifts of clothing for the boys as well. Then it was time for Adam to hand out the gifts he had purchased. Roy and Mary were touched that he would buy them gifts, and of course it was so like Adam to get something practical although Mary loved her lace trimmed handkerchief and said that would be the one she would use when she dressed up for church services. The most fun reactions though came from Hoss when he discovered the bag of candy in his stocking. He decided he liked Christmas very much. Mary let him have one candy, and said he could have another with his lunch. Hoss was elated, and soon, very sticky too.

That night the mild weather ended and several heavy snowstorms blanketed the area with several feet of snow. School was cancelled until the weather improved, and Adam made quite a bit of money helping to remove snow that often was blown back in by the next day. For the next few months, there was nothing much that changed. There also were no letters from Ben which upset Adam even though Roy said there was no reason to worry. With the heavy snows and bad weather mail delivery was sporadic. Roy told him that a letter could be sitting in any one of a number of towns and that he shouldn’t worry about his father. But he did worry. A very short letter did come in the last week of February that mostly said that Ben was on his way home. Then just a week later, after a knock on the door of the Coffee house, Adam opened the door to find his father standing there. He froze not knowing what to do.

“Aren’t you going to welcome your old father home?”

“Yes, yes, welcome home, Pa.”

Ben detected a reticence there that he had not heard before. He went to hug Adam and got a hug in return but not the hug he expected. Hoss on the other hand was overjoyed and came running full tilt at his father who grabbed him and swung him up for a big hug. Hoss kept saying ‘Papa’ over and over again smiling with delight. Ben had dinner with the Coffees and his sons, and then borrowed Roy’s carriage to go home. As they drove, Adam finally asked the question he most wanted to ask.

“I heard you were looking for a woman to marry. Did you find one?”

Surprised by the question, Ben thought a moment and realized what must have happened. “You must have heard something from Roy. Yes, I did. Her name is Linda, and she is very beautiful. I wasn’t going to talk about it right away, but as long as you brought it up, I don’t want to keep any secrets from you. I’m going back in July to marry her and bring her here. I would like you to come with me to New Orleans.”

“If you want me to. What about Hoss?”

“It’s too difficult a journey for someone so young. There will be hours and hours riding stagecoaches. Hoss could never sit still for that long.”

With a little smile, Adam had to agree. Then he remembered what his father had said about getting married and wasn’t smiling any more. Ben noticed and sighed. It was what he expected but had hoped wouldn’t happen. Linda had said she thought Adam would be jealous of a woman coming into their family after so many years without a mother. Ben was thinking that she was correct. When Ben told Roy, he was very happy for his friend. Hop Sing was worried at first that he would lose his job, but Ben told him that Linda did not like to cook and clean which relieved him at first, but then he got to wondering about what kind of woman this was that his boss was going to marry. Adam and Hop Sing talked about that more or less one day in the kitchen.

“You go with father to see him marry?”

“I don’t want to go, Hop Sing. I would rather just stay here.”

“You go, you decide she right for father, you tell him.”

“Hop Sing, he doesn’t listen to me. I’m just a boy. I don’t know anything about marriage.”

“You know people. You look at her and she look at you, and you know. Tell father.”

“Well, I will if I can, but I still don’t think he’ll listen to me at all. He’s got his mind made up. What could I say that would make a difference?”

“You know if she like Mister Ben had sons. You tell by looking. Listen. Look in eyes. Then tell father. He listen. Just wait for lightning and thunder be done first. Then he think. He know.”

“Hop Sing, you are a very smart man. Thank you.”

Most of that conversation had taken place in Chinese. Even if Ben had been listening, he would only have understood that his name was mentioned and nothing else. Adam and Hop Sing continued their conversation in English after that part. Hop Sing’s English was getting better. He spoke in Chinese like he did in English to simplify it for Adam. As a result of that conversation, Adam didn’t grumble any more about the trip. He had a mission now that Hop Sing had set for him. Like any job he had, he would do his best too.

*****

Chapter 6

As Ben and Adam rode into New Orleans, Adam decided rather quickly that he didn’t like the city. It was loud and smelled bad. He didn’t know what all the odors were but the combination of those smells with the heat and the humidity, and he was ready to leave. Once they were on foot, they were jostled by crowds of people and harangued by street vendors selling just about anything. Ben was hoping that Adam was so overwhelmed by it all that he wouldn’t notice some of the more unsavory things for sale. Ben got them a room at a moderately priced hotel, and then Ben took Adam out to find a restaurant for lunch. The plan was that Ben would then go to see Linda while Adam waited in the room reading and resting from the trip.

Traveling had not been overly arduous, but ordinary travel by stagecoach was wearing. There was the jarring ride that never seemed to get any easier. Then there were the meals served at way stations that were usually beans and biscuits which might taste all right for one meal but as a constant diet made one long for anything with a crunch or sweetness. Hop Sing had packed some beef jerky for them but it had only lasted for about three fourths of the trip. They were ready for a real meal. The food was tasty and not at all what Adam was used to eating. It seemed there were more fried items and spicy items. He ate a lot though because it was all better than beans and biscuits.

Ben smiled as he watched Adam eat. For most of the trip, Adam had been relatively quiet, reading when he could and watching the landscape intently as when it wasn’t blowing dust everywhere or pouring ran down making mud so that the horses were splattering them and the coach with mud even as rain blew in the canvas covered windows. Adam didn’t complain, but Ben could tell he was relieved that the journey was over at least for the time being. The last two days the travel had been much easier and the two of them had talked a lot although it was more Adam asking questions and Ben answering. For a moment, Ben was back on that wagon seat with his young son at his side asking why the sky was blue. Then eventually asking why his Ma had to die when she had never hurt anyone in her life. That had been a difficult question because how do you explain the unexplainable to a child and still have them keep their faith in God. Luckily they had Hoss because that was the part of Inger they had left with them, and that happy child had helped both he and Adam to recover from Inger’s loss. Adam had suffered nightmares for a long time after seeing his mother die, but eventually those had stopped too. Now Ben was ready to embark on the next step of their life together and hoped that Adam could accept another new mother.

That night Ben returned to the hotel very late. Adam had dressed for bed hours before expecting his father to be back. Then when he had gotten so sleepy he had to go to bed, he turned the lamp down and waited. He couldn’t sleep deeply although he nodded off several times. He was worried that perhaps something had happened, and his father wasn’t coming back. He was afraid because he knew no one here and wouldn’t even know who to ask for help. When Ben leaned down to see if Adam was sleeping, Adam could smell both alcohol and women’s perfume on his father. He feigned sleep not sure what he should say in a situation like this. The next morning Adam awoke early. After dressing, he got a book and read quietly by the window relaxing in the cool breeze that came in. He wished he could sit on the balcony but didn’t have permission to do that and wouldn’t wake his father for so selfish an idea. Eventually Adam saw his father stir and sit up.

“Good morning, Pa. You had a late night last night so I was real quiet this morning.”

“Thank you, Adam, but perhaps you should have made some noise. We’re to meet Linda for lunch, and you haven’t even had any breakfast yet.”

“That’s all right, Pa. I had a lot to eat at lunch yesterday.”

Suddenly it dawned on Ben that he had been so intent on seeing Linda for dinner, he had neglected to make sure his son had something to eat. He was embarrassed about that and feeling a bit guilty so he hurried to clean up and dress. Then he took Adam down to the restaurant and got him some breakfast. It was too close to lunch at ten in the morning, but he wasn’t going to make Adam wait two more hours to eat. After breakfast, they browsed through some shops. Adam was most interested in the bookstore, and Ben let him buy two books there. With only limited books available at home, Adam had read most of his books five or six times already. Adam was all smiles as they returned to the hotel. He had his father’s undivided attention for two hours and he had two new books too. Then they came down to the lobby, and Adam was introduced to his father’s fiancée.

“Well, it is a pleasure to meet you, young man. Your father just gushes with praise about you. What do you think of our fine city here?”

“How do you do, ma’am. I’m sorry, but I don’t like the city very much.”

“Well, perhaps living in the wilderness and denied the chance to go to school, you don’t yet know how to appreciate the finer things a city has to offer.”

“No, ma’am.”

Linda was a little taken aback by that. She didn’t know whether he had just agreed with her or disagreed. Well, she had already been talking to Ben about sending the little pest off to school in the east. He had a grandfather in Boston after all who could take care of him. Now all she had to do was convince Ben to live in a fine city like this. It didn’t have to be New Orleans. New York or even Philadelphia would be acceptable to her. She gave an appraising look at the boy who stood in front of her smiling at her, but she could see the smile didn’t reach his eyes which were boring into her so intently it made her uncomfortable. They walked outside and hailed a carriage to take them to a friend’s estate for dinner. She had the boy sit by the driver so she could snuggle up to Ben. She almost had him in her bed last night, and would have if he hadn’t suddenly started feeling guilty about leaving his son alone for so long and bid her a hasty good night. A little sleeping powder in the boy’s tea at dinner, and he would be sound asleep by the time they were back at the hotel.

Everything worked as Linda planned it. She had Ben carry Adam up to their room and tuck him in before the two of them took a romantic drive around the city. By the time they were in her neighborhood, she literally had Ben in the palm of her hand. He hurriedly paid the driver and escorted her into her home. Hours later he awakened in her bed and did that guilt thing again which she was finding ever so tiresome. He insisted he had to return to the hotel. She allowed it, but told him to make other arrangements for the next night. She told him she had something special planned and he wouldn’t want his young son there. She smiled as she shut the door after he left. Wearing a gown that left little to the imagination, she had given him one last look to make him suffer for leaving her this night. She assumed that by the next night, she would have him doing whatever she asked. This was far better than going to England with Lord Chadwick. He was so tiresome with all the rules and such he expected her to follow. He was fabulously wealthy but Linda had other ways to acquire money if Ben didn’t have enough for them to live in the style to which she had become accustomed. The next morning, she was the subject of a discussion between father and son.

“Pa, you still want to marry Linda?”

“Yes, of course I do. Why would you ask me that?”

“Pa, she doesn’t like me. She doesn’t want me around.”

“Oh, Adam, she’s just concerned that you are not getting the education you deserve. She pointed out that your grandfather hasn’t seen you since you were an infant.”

“Pa, she doesn’t want me around at all. She doesn’t want the ranch either. She wants to live in a city.”

“Well, would that be so awful. We could sell the ranch for a lot of money now. I could start up my own business. Linda knows a lot of people who would help me.”

“But Pa, that wasn’t our dream. That’s Linda’s dream.”

“What is it about her that you don’t like that you have all these negative thoughts about her?”

“Pa, she doesn’t have kind eyes. Every lady I ever knew had kind eyes. None of them were ever as kind as Ma, but even Mrs. Chambers who said I took her pie was real sorry when she found out she was wrong. Even she had kind eyes. Mrs. Martin had kind eyes. Mrs. Coffee has real kind eyes, almost as good as Ma’s.”

“Adam, your Ma is gone. You can’t try to replace her. You have to give up these silly ideas and give Linda a chance.”

“If a woman is going to take Ma’s place, why can’t I want her to be kind like Ma was, and nice like Ma was?”

“Because every person is different and you have to accept them for who they are.”

“But Linda doesn’t accept you for who you are. She wants somebody different than what you are.”

“Adam, I will not be discussing my decisions with a child. Now find that book you want to read and be quiet.”

Dropping his eyes to the floor, Adam got his book and sat by the window to read. His father was going to see Linda again. Adam thought he better follow Hop Sing’s advice now and wait to see what his father would do. This time, Ben arranged for a lunch and a dinner to be delivered to the room. Adam had books to read, paper to use for drawing, and he would have plenty for food and beverages. Ben left feeling a bit guilty though as he thought about what Linda had said about Adam and why he shouldn’t accompany them on their picnic. In light of what Adam had said, Ben was looking at her ideas and comments differently than he had the day before. He had some questions he wanted to ask her.

By late afternoon, Ben was back with Adam. He told Adam they were going to have dinner and then spend some time walking. Adam could see how upset his father was so he waited quietly for his father to talk. He knew he didn’t like it when people pressed him to talk when he wasn’t ready. When the two of them went to dinner, Ben looked at Adam and smiled. His son had just saved him from making a huge mistake. He didn’t want Adam to think that it was always acceptable to get involved in another person’s love life even of those you loved dearly, but in this situation, he had acted with his father’s best interest at heart even if he also didn’t want Linda in his life.

That afternoon had been enlightening as well as devastating for Ben. He had asked Linda point blank if she wanted to live in Nevada with him, and she had laughed in response. At first the laughter had been teasing and then it turned to derision as she realized Ben was serious. She laid out her plans for them at that point and Adam, Hoss, and Nevada weren’t part of them. She planned on a boarding school for Adam, a nanny for Hoss, and a beautiful home in a city for the two of them. She had no consideration for what Ben wanted or dreamed of doing. She had ended their discussion by telling him that she was accepting Lord Chadwick’s offer of marriage, and ending her betrothal to him. He had been shattered. The woman whom he had loved so completely spurned him and had a second waiting to take his place if he would not kowtow to her wishes.

“Pa, is Linda going to join us for dinner?”

“Adam, Miss Lawrence will not be joining us. I will not be marrying her. I would like to spend a few more days in the city. I had made arrangements to visit with others whom I met last winter when I was here. You will come with me to everything I have planned. No more sitting in the hotel room by yourself. Anyone who wants to see me has to want to see my son too or they won’t be seeing me.”

Smiling Adam ate his dinner with more enthusiasm than he had had for days. His father was back to sounding like his father again. Adam had decided that he wouldn’t mind much if his father found a woman to marry. He was hoping though that she would be someone with kind eyes. The two of them visited with a number of people in New Orleans and were invited to parties and one picnic.

Somewhere in all of that gaiety, Ben met another woman who caught his eye. It was too soon after the debacle of Linda Lawrence for Ben to fall in love, but he was certainly interested. At the second meeting with her at another soiree, Adam could tell that his father liked this woman very much. He paid attention to her and how she acted and did not get the negative impression he had of Linda at their first meeting. Then he remembered Hop Sing’s advice and looked at her face and especially her eyes. Nothing was said about Marie DeMarigny until Ben and Adam were leaving on their trip home. Then Ben was lost in thought for a time until he turned to Adam with a question.

“What did you think of Mrs. DeMarigny when you met her?”

“She’s all right.”

“Just all right? Doesn’t she have ‘kind’ eyes?” Ben was smiling a little at his son’s belief that he could tell if a person was good or bad by looking in their eyes. He was amazed however at the answer he got.

“She’s got kind eyes, but there’s more there too. She seems very sad, and there was something else. It was like she was scared all the time. She looked like a rabbit does when you’re hunting, and they know you’re there, but they don’t know where you are. They kinda twitch and look all about but don’t do anything. I don’t know if that makes sense. Do you know what I mean, Pa?”

“Yes, I think I do. And you’re right too I think. She did seem very sad and very worried about something. She is also very nice, and seemed very natural. There did not seem to be an effort to be something she wasn’t.”

“What is she, Pa? What does she do?”

“Ah, well, she’s a hostess at a gentlemen’s establishment.”

Sensing a bit of unease in his father with that statement wasn’t enough to stop Adam’s questions. “Pa, what’s a gentlemen’s establishment?”

“It is a place where men go to enjoy activities men enjoy. Because you are still a boy, that is enough answer for you. You will need to be a man before we discuss that any more.”

That answer in that tone of voice let Adam know there wasn’t going to be any more discussion of that topic, but his curiosity was certainly piqued. He wondered if Hop Sing knew what a gentlemen’s establishment was and whether he would explain if he knew. If not, Adam thought that one of the hands might tell him. They told him all sorts of things when his father wasn’t around. Apparently they thought his surprised look each time was very amusing. Sitting back with a rather smug look, Adam was sure that plan would work.

Ben noticed that look of Adam’s and wondered what he was thinking but didn’t dare ask him because it could lead to more questions about Marie and gentlemen’s establishments that Ben wanted to avoid. By doing so, he unknowingly had set in motion a series of events which would cause rumors to fly through their community and opinions to be formed of Marie before she ever became his intended and then his wife. Adam would ask the hands about a gentlemen’s establishment and when they asked why, he explained that Marie DeMarigny, whom he and his father had met in New Orleans, worked at one. Considering his age, the hands had been reasonably vague about what went on at a gentlemen’s establishment, but among themselves, they talked about how Ben had met her and what she did for a living.

As for Ben, he couldn’t get Marie out of his thoughts. He had felt a strong physical attraction to her that he had never felt with Linda. She was in his thoughts and in his dreams at night. He also wanted to help her because like Adam he had sensed a deep sadness within her as well as fear. He wanted to take care of her, and get her away from a life that would sooner or later ruin her. He determined that when winter arrived, he was heading back to New Orleans “on business” and his sons would remain at home. If all went well, he was thinking there would soon be a woman on his ranch to be his wife and a mother for his children. With that thought, he fell asleep each night.

As the summer wore on, Ben was thinking about something else. People had asked him what the name of his ranch was. He hadn’t thought that was very important until so many had asked. He opened the discussion with Adam one day as they worked on putting in some fencing. Ben was thinking of something like Circle C or Three Cs but Adam had a different thought.

“We should name it something special because it is something special. It should be a name that when people hear it, they think about how beautiful our ranch is.”

Ben suggested the Sierra Ranch, the Bonanza Ranch, and a number of others including some Bible references and others from classical literature. Adam was thinking more of what he saw right in front of them.

“Pa, how about what we have right here. Why don’t we call it after one of those. We have Foxtail, Bristlecone, Knobcone, Lodgepole, and Ponderosa trees here.”

Which one of those trees do you think is the most beautiful?”

“I like the Ponderosa Pines the best and we have a lot of those. I like the Foxtail too but we don’t have many of those.”

“Then the Ponderosa Pine Ranch it is. What do you think of that?”

“It’s kinda long. It seems most ranches have a shorter name than that.”

“The Ponderosa sound better to you? I like it.”

“I like it too Pa. It even matches the brand you use on the cattle. The three lines make it look just like a pine tree.”

“It certainly does although I did mean for the three lines to represent us, but a pine tree is good too. All right then, another decision made. Do you think you could carve out that name on some soft wood?”

“Sure, Pa, I’d like to do that.”

Soon there was a signpost pointing to the ranch, and proudly carved in it was just the word ‘Ponderosa’, and soon that was how people referred to the growing Cartwright ranch on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

*****

Chapter 7

“Pa, Pa, Mr. Andrews said he can teach me to play a guitar. He said he has one but I need my own if I really want to learn. Pa, there’s a guitar in the general store. It’s been there for ages. It only costs fifteen dollars.” Adam was rushing over to talk with his father after talking with the new schoolteacher outside of the church.

“Adam, that’s a lot of money for a toy. I don’t think we can afford that right now. There are a lot of expenses with winter coming up and no money coming in during those months.”

“Pa, I have some money. I could buy it myself.”

Before Ben could say any more, Adam was running up the stairs. “No running in the house!”

“Yes, Pa. Sorry, Pa.” Adam turned at the top of the stairs and headed to his room. He came back with a box and a small package. “Pa, I forgot. I bought this for you last Christmas, and I saved it for you, but I forgot I saved it. Here it is, Pa. Merry Christmas a little late.”

Opening the small package, Ben was happy to see it was a blue handkerchief. His practical son got him something he could use, but every time Ben pulled this one from a pocket, he would remember his son too. “Thank you, Adam. That is a very nice present. It will make me think of you often.”

“We got it when the Coffees took us to Carson City and that Mr. Chesky, ah, oh, I wasn’t supposed to talk about that.”

“About what? And what did that Chesky have to do with it? And who said you didn’t have to tell me about it?”

On the spot, Adam had to tell the truth so he related the story of the trip to Carson City, the shopping, and then the encounter with his former schoolteacher. Adam could see how upset his father was. “It’s all right, Pa. Sheriff Coffee said he went to prison where he can’t hurt anybody.”

“Adam, never ever keep anything that serious from me no matter who tells you not to tell me. That is too important for a father not to know. Someday you’ll understand that better when you have children. Now the next question is how did you get money? You didn’t take money from the Coffees for helping out, did you?”

“No, sir. I did everything Mrs. Coffee asked me to do. I really like her, Pa. I’m so sorry she’s sick so much. She’s really nice.”

“Yes, yes, enough of trying to change the subject. Where did you get the money?”

“We had a lot of snow, Pa, and I shoveled for people and they gave me money especially as I came back after every storm to help out.”

“Did everyone pay you?”

“No, sir, Sheriff Coffee said some people couldn’t afford to pay so that was just being neighborly. But Mr. Cass at the store paid me a dime every time. I worked with his son and we shoveled the walk in front of the store, and the door to the storeroom in back where people drop stuff off like eggs and pick up orders too. Mr. Chinders over at the bank never paid me though. I wondered at that because a bank has lots of money, but I did it every time just the same.”

“What about school?”

“Oh, I helped shovel at school too. No one gets paid to shovel at school though.”

“No, no, I mean you didn’t miss any school to do that shoveling, did you?”

“Pa, they called off school with every big storm, and there were lots of storms. I think maybe some of the ladies didn’t like teaching so much and didn’t mind calling off school.”

“That’s probably true, son. It takes a special person to be able to teach and to maintain proper discipline at the same time. Now how much did you earn?”

“Well, I added it all up on a sheet like you do with the books. I have sixteen dollars and eighty seven cents.”

“Who gave you pennies?”

“Mrs. Mays at the boarding house. I told her she didn’t have to give me anything, but she said she had to pay something so she would give me a penny every time. Pa, it’s pretty hard for her with all those kids and no husband, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and we’re bringing some beef to town to give out to the poorer families at Thanksgiving, and I think I know of one family that really needs it.”

“Could I come with you too, Pa? I could use some of those pennies and add some candy to give to them too.”

“That’s a wonderful idea. And I suppose once the wagon is empty, there would be time and room enough to go see about buying you that guitar.”

Thinking back to just over a week earlier, Ben had to smile. Roy Coffee had told them that the new schoolteacher had arrived and was looking forward to school opening. He was at the Mays’ boardinghouse, and he knew Adam would be excited to tell him he would be able to buy that guitar. The first meeting of the two had happened on the Ponderosa. As president of the school board and as the man who had done the hiring, Ben invited the new teacher to the house for dinner on the previous Sunday. Adam was respectful but very quiet. He responded as little as possible to questions.

“Well, Adam, it is so good to meet you. Sheriff Coffee has told me a lot about you. Now how old are you?”

“Ten, sir.”

“You’re quite tall for a ten year old.”

“I’m almost eleven sir.”

“And this must be your little brother, Hoss. How old is he?”

“He’s five, sir, almost six.”

“You’re an extremely polite young man, but I wish we could talk a bit more. Now, Sheriff Coffee told me what happened a year ago. Then he warned me that I better not do anything like that or I would be looking down the barrel of his pistol. He was quite emphatic about that too.”

“He told you?”

“Yes, he told me everything. I am so sorry you had an experience like that. Now I must tell you I expect proper behavior in school, but I do not use the belt on any student. I do have a paddle and might use it if I was forced to do that, but I prefer sending notes to parents and having them do that part of the discipline. Does that seem fair to you?”

“Yes, sir.” But Adam now wondered if he would rather have that paddle at school instead of facing his father if he ever had to bring one of those notes home.

“I was in the general store looking over some books to buy, and the proprietor said that you buy more books than the rest of the town all together. I would like to see your library sometime if I could. Perhaps you would be willing to loan me some books. Then after I read them, we could discuss them?”

“Oh, I would like that. I have most of my books in Pa’s office right over here. He reads most of them too. I have the last two I bought up in my room. I’ll go get them.” Adam hurried to the stairs without running but just barely.

“Thank you, John. Adam was very fearful of you because the only schoolteacher he ever knew was a scoundrel. I think he’ll be fine going to school now.”

“That’s quite all right. After what Sheriff Coffee told me, I could certainly understand his reluctance to try school again. I will do my best to teach him, but I would guess that in many subjects he may be nearly equal to my knowledge. I hope he is the kind of boy who wouldn’t mind helping with the younger students. My experience has been that sometimes teaching brings about the best kind of learning.”

“I’m sure he would be willing to help. The boy has a thirst for knowledge that I have never seen in anyone before, but he has a kind heart and generous soul too.”

So Adam and Mr. Andrews had discussed books and school until it was time for the teacher to leave. He told Adam he was looking forward to their next chance to discuss books, and Adam had a huge grin with that. Now Mr. Andrews was getting him interested in music. Both Elizabeth and Inger had been musical, and Ben missed that. Perhaps his son could be the musician in the family and bring singing back into the household.

School went well that fall. Ben did his first cattle drive to California. It was a small herd for sale but they got a good price, and promises that they would buy more in the spring if he had extra to sell. Small communities were developing all over the valley and the demand for beef was exceeding the supply. Ben was able to put a nice sum in the bank, and pay his men a bonus. It was a pattern that continued on the Ponderosa as the men were rewarded for the success of the ranch. Ben didn’t have trouble hiring the men he needed. With good pay, bonus pay, and Hop Sing’s cooking, the hands were happy to stay on the Ponderosa. As expected, Adam was not happy to find out his father was planning to be gone again that winter.

“It won’t be as long, Adam. I’ll leave just after Christmas and I’ll plan to be back at the end of February if at all possible. I’m not taking the stage this time. I’ll ride there to be able to go faster. I have ‘business’ to attend to in New Orleans.”

“Can’t you write letters and do your business that way?”

“No, son, this particular matter requires that I be there in person.”

“Do we have to stay with the Coffees again?”

“No, Hop Sing has assured me that he can take care of the two of you. Roy will check in with you when the weather permits, and I’ve arranged again for some of the hands to stay on over the winter. They’ll be here if you need help with anything. Hoss is getting older now, and he can understand a lot more. I want you to start reading to him in the evenings. He likes to look at the pictures in some of the books I have too. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Pa, I’ll take care of Hoss.”

So after Christmas, Ben left his two young sons in the capable hands of his cook and traveled to New Orleans. He was determined to find a wife, and if Marie DeMarigny did not accept his suit, then he would seek out another. He needed and wanted a wife, and his sons needed a mother.

On the Ponderosa, the most frequently asked question was by Hoss. “Where’s Papa?”

And Adam’s answer was always the same. “He went to New Orleans.” Then Adam would describe the city and how badly it smelled, and the crowds of people who pushed and hollered. So then Hoss would want to know why his Papa had gone there, and Adam would answer that he had business to do. But more and more, Adam wondered if the business wasn’t primarily of a personal nature because his father had said nothing of what he actually was going to do there. Then a letter came and it was not at all when Adam had expected to hear. His father was going to be delayed getting home because he was traveling by ship to Panama, overland there, and then by ship to San Francisco, and would be arriving home sometime in late March if all went well. Something had changed his father’s plans, and Adam worried about what had happened. He hoped that his father was not injured. So each night then, Adam showed a map to Hoss locating New Orleans, Panama, and San Francisco to explain to the little boy where their Papa was.

Every day, Adam was practicing the guitar. It had cost him another dollar to get some sheet music, and with the lessons from Mr. Andrews, he was learning the songs on the sheet music. Hoss was entertained by even the early versions of the songs Adam was able to strum and pluck more or less. Hoss would have been happy even if there wasn’t a song. He liked the guitar, and when Adam learned one simple melody reasonably well, he requested that Adam play it over and over again. The practice was good for Adam as his fingers gradually developed the callus necessary to play more comfortably. He hoped to have at least one nice song that he could play for his father when he returned. The trip however sounded harrowing and as February ended and March began, Adam started to have trouble sleeping. A number of times he woke Hoss up with his screams from nightmares. Hop Sing started having him drink a soothing tea before he went to bed each night but sometimes the nightmares still came.

Adam’s nightmares were similar to the ones he had after the attack on the wagon train when Inger was killed. There was blood, lots of blood in his nightmares. He looked into Inger’s eyes as she gasped in pain. He held Hoss as tightly as he could because he had told his Ma and his Pa that he would. Then his father was there, crying, and leading him and carrying Hoss as they ran to escape the attack. That was the point at which the nightmare always got worse because suddenly everyone had a lance in their side and were crying out for help but none came. Adam wanted to help but he never could, and all of his family died before his eyes as he looked on helplessly. That was the point at which he screamed each time.

Then Adam would sit up and hear his little brother crying. He would go soothe Hoss but there was no one there to soothe him. Hop Sing would sometimes bring more tea, but sleep would elude him for hours until exhausted, he would fall into a dreamless sleep. In the morning, he would be sluggish when he got up, but he had chores to do before Hoss was up so he pushed himself to do what he had to do. Then in the afternoon when Hoss was napping, he would chop firewood and kindling. The snow was melting so he was going to be going back to school soon. He had been doing his schoolwork on his own and was anxious to get some feedback. However he also was worried for Hoss. He wondered how he would do with only Hop Sing there because Hop Sing had work to do and didn’t always have time to play with Hoss.

“You go school. Mister Ben tell Hop Sing that Adam go to school. Now you go.”

“But Hop Sing, what about Hoss. He’s crying, and he wants me to stay with him.”

“Hoss big boy now. He be better when you go. Now go so Hoss can stop crying.”

Not at all sure he should leave, Adam mounted up on his pony and headed to school. He had a decent day at school, but Mr. Andrews noticed how quiet he was so he asked him what was wrong. When Adam told him, Mr. Andrews asked if Hoss could come to school too.

“Adam, he’s old enough. There are a couple of students younger than Hoss. They’re here because their families can’t send the older children and leave the younger ones unattended. Bring Hoss with you tomorrow if you can, and we’ll see how he does at school.”

When Adam told Hop sing what the teacher had said, Hop Sing agreed it was a good solution for now. But there was one adjustment that had to be made.

“You ride Mister Ben’s horse to school then. Your pony not carry two and lunches for two. Mister Ben’ horse need someone to ride him. You do it and then no one else has to do it.”

“Pa said I couldn’t ride a full sized horse until I was twelve.”

“You eleven. You close enough. You need to do it. I tell you do it.”

So the next day, Adam rode his father’s horse to school with Hoss hanging on to him as tightly as he could. At school, the teacher gave Hoss some chalk and a slate to use. Adam wrote Hoss on the slate and then it was Hoss’ job to copy that as often as he could. Adam smiled when Hoss showed him his work later. Hoss had tried to copy the other students and had bent over his slate much like Adam did. He had written Hoss about six times. He reversed the s in his name so Adam showed him how to make an s. He praised the other letters Hoss had written and then set him back at the task again. After lunch, Hoss was tired but there was no place to nap in school. Adam had to deal with a very tired Hoss on the ride home. However that night, Hoss went to bed much earlier, and the next day was able to stay awake without a problem. For several weeks then, that was the routine except Hoss did not go with Adam when the weather looked like there might be rain.

On one of those days when rain had been threatening and the skies opened up with a deluge in the late afternoon, Hoss was home and when Adam rode into the yard, there was a carriage standing empty near the house. In the stable, there were two strange horses. Adam wondered who had come to their home with a carriage and wondered why they were staying. He took care of his horse first though drying him, feeding and watering him, and then drying and oiling the saddle and tack. Once everything was done, he headed for the house lugging a large satchel with a couple of books in it.

When Adam opened the front door, he was shocked to see Marie DeMarigny sitting in front of the fireplace holding Hoss who seemed fascinated with her. Adam took off his hat and coat, and set his satchel next to the front door. Not knowing what to do or say, he waited for her to say something, but the person he heard next was his father who was coming down the stairs smiling broadly.

“Adam, I have a wonderful surprise for you. Missus DeMarigny agreed to be my wife. You have a new mother. Hoss is very happy. Come on over and welcome her to our home.”

Turning, Adam grabbed his wet hat and coat, and left slamming the front door in his wake. Ben went to follow him, but Marie said perhaps he should wait for Adam had just received a big shock and needed time to adjust. Ben threatened to go adjust him, but he did wait for fifteen minutes before he followed his son. He assumed he would be in the stable and that’s where he found him.

“Adam, that was very rude. I want you to apologize to your mother right now.”

“My mothers are dead. That woman in there is not my mother.”

“You better watch what you say. I’ve been gone for quite a while, but I am still your father, and you will not speak to me that way. You will apologize for your behavior, and you will watch your tone with me. Is that understood?”

Standing silent and sullen, Adam said nothing.

“My patience is wearing very thin right now. Is that understood? I expect an answer.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now go in the house and apologize to your mother.”

With a stiff gait, Adam stalked to the house ahead of his father. When they got in the house, they both hung up their coats. Adam walked to stand in front of Marie who was still holding Hoss.

“Missus DeMarigny, I am sorry if my behavior offended you.”

“Adam, this is your mother now. You will address her properly or you can go to your room.”

Without another word, Adam walked to the stairs and went up to his room. He lay back on his bed and wondered how things could go so wrong so quickly. When he heard a knock on his door, he knew what to expect and wasn’t surprised. His father was there and very angry. But Adam was not going to call her ma or mother no matter how many times he was punished. He was absolutely certain of that. Apparently Ben and Marie talked about it because the next morning when he greeted Marie as Missus DeMarigny, she greeted him with a smile. He saw his father’s glower but nothing more was said about how he addressed his new stepmother.

Hoss didn’t understand why Adam didn’t like Marie. Hoss called her Mama right from the start as his father instructed. He liked having a mother now just like all the other children he knew. But each day he saw how angry Adam was when he called Marie that. Hoss loved his older brother more than anything else in the world, and didn’t want to upset him either. As Adam worked in the stable on Saturday morning, Hoss went out to talk with him.

“Adam, why don’t you like Mama?”

“She’s not Mama. Your mother was Mama. She loved us and no one can take her place.”

“But she’s real nice, Adam. She sounds real pretty too. I like her voice and she laughs real nice too. Maybe if you would let her read to you or sing you a song, you might like her better.”

“I don’t need anyone to read to me, and I don’t want her to sing to me either.”

“You’re mad all the time now, Adam. Is it just because of Mama, or are you mad at me too cause I don’t like it when you’re mad at me, Adam.”

Sitting down on a hay bale then, Adam pulled Hoss into a hug. “Hoss, I could never be mad at you. You could yell at me or even hit me, and I could never be mad at you. The day is brighter because of you, and the night time is nicer because of you.”

“Thanks, Adam. Maybe someday you’ll like our new mama like I do. Could you please try?”

“For you, Hoss, I’ll try. I promise.”

“Thanks, Adam, cause I know you never break a promise.”

So as he had promised Hoss, Adam was polite to Marie and called her that when she asked him to use that form of address instead of Missus DeMarigny. He answered any question she asked, but never initiated any conversation with her. He had decided that tolerating her for his father’s benefit and for Hoss was what he had to do.

*****

Chapter 8

The first time that Marie went to town with Hop Sing to buy supplies, it was clear she had been crying when she returned. She had been in town with Ben numerous times. They had gone to church services with the boys. Ben had taken her to meet his friends and introduce at the bank. Most people were polite although Adam noticed that Marie got them some odd looks, but nothing was said until Marie was in town without Ben. Then the comments were made by some women just loud enough for Marie to hear without being loud enough to draw a reaction from others.

Holding her head high and refusing to be beaten down, Marie was being stabbed repeatedly in the heart. She had tried so hard to survive after her husband’s death on a ranch in the west. She had taken the only job she could find that was at all respectable. Her husband had left her with more debts than property making her destitute as soon as he stopped sending money. She barely had time to grieve before the creditors were at her door demanding satisfaction of all the debts. Marie had actually been forced to consider a more sordid way of surviving when Ben Cartwright showed up. He was her knight in shining armor. She had explained everything to him because she did not want a marriage based on less than the truth. He had said that was her past, and that he would judge her only on her future actions.

But in town, somehow people had found out the darker side of Marie’s past and were using it to attack her. She had sent men up to women, and she had dealt at the gaming tables and served alcohol. And occasionally if a man got too friendly and his hands roamed too much, she had been forced to tolerate at least some of it because she needed the income from that job. The proprietor never let it go too far, but he couldn’t afford to alienate his customers either. So many nights, Marie had cried herself to sleep, and in the mornings, she often went for rides at breakneck speed just to release all the tension in her life.

Marie had thought coming to Nevada with Ben would alleviate her stress and so far, it had been wonderful. Adam was still reticent, but Marie was sure he could win him over in time. She had wished that Ben had not insisted that Adam call her mother or mama because she felt that at his age, it only made him more stubborn and determined to do it his way. Hoss followed her around as she did her daily work, chattering away with her, and asking all sorts of questions. It was clear that Hoss had very little idea of what a mother was and often compared Marie to Mary Coffee who was the only other woman he remembered who had ever taken care of him.

As Marie drove the carriage into the yard, Hoss came running to help. Hop Sing got out and took his packages into the kitchen. Marie took the bolts of fabric into the house. She was planning to make curtains and draperies for all the bare windows in the house for she had found that apparently an all male household didn’t think window coverings were necessary. Hoss followed her into the house carrying the package of thread and other items she needed to start sewing. The Marie grabbed two baskets to do the tasks she had forgotten to do that morning.

“Mama, are you sad? You look sad.”

“I am just tired, my little one.”

“Oh, Mama, I’m not little. Everybody always says how big I am. I’m going to school with Adam next year, so I’m not little any more.”

“Yes, Hoss, you are a big boy, and you are such a great help to me. Thank you so much. You brighten my days.”

“Hey, Adam told me that too.” Hoss stood even a little taller then, and Marie smiled at him. She knew that he would grow to be a good, tender hearted man, but that thought made her remember again all the mean spirited people in town. She frowned, and Hoss was worried again. “Mama, did I do something wrong?”

“No, no, my sweet darling boy, you are everything that is right with my world. Now let’s get these eggs in to Hop Sing so he doesn’t threaten to go back to China again.”

Laughing at that, Hoss picked up the basket with the newly dug potatoes, and Marie took the egg basket as they walked hand in hand back to the house. When they got in the house, Hoss saw his father working at the desk and rushed over to him.

“Mama and me picked the eggs and dug up some taters. Mama looks sad but she says she isn’t. She says I brighten up her day. That really nice, ain’t it, Pa. Adam done told me the same thing.”

“Yes, that is very nice. Now where is your Mama?”

“She went in the kitchen with the eggs. Oh, scuse me, Pa, I forgot I gotta bring these taters to Hop Sing so he don’t go back to China.” Hoss hurried off to the kitchen nearly colliding with Marie who was coming out of that door.

“Sorry, Mama. I almost forgot to give Hop Sing the taters.”

As Marie walked to Ben’s desk, she saw him gathering up a set of papers. Ben said he had to get some letters in the mail and would be gone a few hours. Marie had hoped to tell him what had happened and gather a little sympathy, but she knew that the ranch business had to come first in this situation. She wished her husband well, and pushed her hurt feelings deep down inside. Ben rode out shortly after, and Marie got busy cutting fabric for curtains.

As Ben rode into town to drop the letters off for delivery, he was met by Roy Coffee and the two of them walked into the general store together where Ben made arrangements for the letters to go on the next freight wagon to California.

“Now, Ben, I heard what happened in town earlier with Marie, and I hope you ain’t too upset.”

Looking at Roy with a questioning look, Ben could only ask. “What happened?”

“I woulda thought Marie woulda told ya. Some ladies made some unkind remarks while she was here. Mary heard about it and come told me.”

Worried as to what the comments might have been, Ben had his worst fears realized in answer to his next question. “What was said?”

“Well seems some people heard that Marie worked at a gentlemen’s establishment in New Orleans, and people done jumped to some conclusions. Now I know Marie is a fine woman, and lots a people out here got things they would rather not have people know, but I thought you ought to know I told everyone I could that Marie is a fine upstanding woman and they got not right besmirching her like that.”

“Marie has done nothing to bring shame on herself. Anyone who says that she has can say it to my face and deal with the consequences.”

The loudness of Ben’s statement and the vehemence with which he uttered it would go a long way toward making most people think twice before voicing any other criticisms of Marie. Roy had suspected it would be so, and thought that a public response to this was just what was needed. Ben said he had to get going then because he was quite sure Marie might need to be consoled and wondered why she had not told him earlier. Then he remembered how focused he had been on his business affairs and that he really had not taken a good look at her before giving her a light kiss goodbye. As he rode, he also had a very good idea as to the source of the rumors because of the use of the term gentlemen’s establishment. He planned to have a long, and for Adam, a painful discussion with the boy in the stable.

When Ben got home and walked in the house, a close look at Marie showed that she had been crying. Ben’s anger at the busybodies in town and at his oldest son intensified.

“Why didn’t you tell me? Roy told me. I love you, and I would have stayed here with you. I should have been here with you.”

Collapsing in tears, Marie sobbed against Ben’s chest. He held her until he felt her relax a bit and start to breathe more normally than the choking shudders he had felt. He leaned back enough to retrieve his handkerchief and too late realized it was the one Adam had given him. He was forced to hand it to Marie so she could dry her eyes and wipe her cheeks. His shirt was damp from her tears.

“Why don’t you lie down for a while? I can have Hop Sing brew up some tea for you.”

“Thank you, that would be nice, but I think I’ll just sit here for a time. Having something to do helps keep my mind off the terrible things that were said.”

Giving Marie one more hug, Ben went to tell Hop Sing that Marie was upset and could use some tea to calm her. Hop Sing immediately got busy. Hoss was in the kitchen having a light snack and Ben asked him to be sure to give Marie a hug as soon as he was done. Hoss smiled and nodded for he liked instructions like that. As Ben exited the kitchen, he heard a horse in the yard and assumed it was Adam arriving home from school. Then Ben stalked out to the stable to have a word with his older son. As soon as he walked in the stable, he bellowed Adam’s name. Adam didn’t turn at all and kept his face turned toward his horse as he finished unsaddling her.

“Yes, Pa.”

“Turn around when I’m talking with you.”

As Adam turned, Ben was ready to lay into him for what he had caused, but the sight of Adam’s face stopped him. “My Lord, what happened to you? Have you been fighting?”

“Only in self defense.”

“What happened?”

“Some boys said some things at school today, and I told them they were liars. Mr. Andrews heard, and he came outside and told all of us to come inside and sit for the rest of the break. Then he gave us all notes to take home to our parents about our yelling at each other in the school yard.”

“Well, if there was no fight at school, how did you get so hurt?” Ben wished now that he had another handkerchief for his son’s nose was bleeding and the handkerchief he was using was soaked with blood already.”

“They waited for me. There were three of them, and they made me get off Beauty. When I did, they started hitting me until I fell down, and then they kicked me. They said it was my fault for getting them in trouble. I tried to fight back, Pa, but there were too many of them. I kept my elbows in like you taught me and kept my left up to protect myself, but it just didn’t work against three of them. I’m sorry I’m getting home late, Pa, but I couldn’t ride very fast.”

“What did the boys say that started all this?”

“I can’t say, Pa. Please don’t make me say it.”

Ben had always wondered what it felt like to have a revelation and found out at that moment. “They were saying things about Marie, weren’t they?”

“Pa, how did you know? Why would they say those things, Pa? Marie isn’t a bad person.”

“No, she is a wonderful person. Adam, did you tell anyone about Marie working at a gentlemen’s establishment?”

Looking guilty, Adam nodded.

“Who did you tell?”

“Well, I didn’t set out to tell anyone. I asked the hands if they knew what a gentlemen’s establishment was, and they made some jokes about it that they all laughed at especially when they asked if I was looking for one. I was real embarrassed, Pa. Then they asked me why I was asking if it wasn’t for me, and I said it was because my Pa met someone who worked at one, and I was wondering what it was. Pa, they said the same thing you said and didn’t explain it at all.”

Understanding what had happened and knowing that it was only Adam’s curiosity and his own failure to tell Adam that it was a secret that had led to this. He would explain to Marie after he explained a bit more to Adam about what his innocent query had caused. By the time he was done, Adam was in tears.

“I never meant for Marie to get hurt. How can I help, Pa?”

“I think if you go tell Marie just what you told me that would help a lot. It’s best that we not keep any secrets around here. Now let’s get Beauty taken care of so we can take care of you. Then we’ll take care of Mama.”

That night after a lot of talking, some tender loving care, and a wonderful dinner, Adam went up to his room. He came down the stairs carrying his guitar and sheet music. He walked to the chair where Marie was sitting and handed her the music. “I’ve been practicing that song a lot. Pa said you might know how to sing it. He says you sing very well. If I play it, would you sing along with me, Ma?”

Marie burst into tears, and Ben rushed to her side and wrapped an arm around her. Hoss came up and pushed Adam away from her.

“Pa, I didn’t mean to make her cry. I really didn’t.”

“I know, son. Hoss, it’s all right. Adam didn’t do anything wrong. Your Mama is just very emotional today. She’ll be fine. You don’t have to worry.”

Marie collected herself enough to reach out for Adam’s hand. “My lovely son, I was just so touched by you saying that. I’m sorry I cried. It’s just the way I am lately. All tears. Come let us sing, and the family shall be as one tonight. Come, Hoss, you sit with me, and Adam will play, and we will sing together.”

That night when Ben knocked on Adam’s door, he got a muffled answer. When he entered, it was clear that Adam had been crying although he stood with his chin stuck out daring anyone to say that he had been. Wisely, Ben made no mention of it.

“Adam, I want to tell you how proud I am of you. You did something wonderful tonight. You put someone else’s needs above your own, and that was a very grown up thing to do, and I want to thank you.”

“I wanted to make up for hurting her. I never meant to hurt her.”

“Now, about those boys who hurt you, I want to come with you in the morning and talk with Sheriff Coffee.”

“Pa, I don’t want them to go to jail.”

“They won’t go to jail, but Roy can go talk to them and give them a good scare. If it had been a fair fight, we would be having a different conversation. Now, who was it?”

“Pa, I don’t want to be a snitch.”

“Adam, they committed a crime. Three people beating on one is bad enough, but to kick you when you’re on the ground is inexcusable. Now you do need to give Roy those names.”

“All right, if the Sheriff asks me, I’ll have to tell. You have to tell the Sheriff what you know if he asks, right Pa?”

“That’s right. No one is going to criticize you for cooperating in an investigation. We’ll go see Roy, and you can tell him what happened.”

“Pa, do we have to go see Sheriff Coffee? Couldn’t he come to see me?”

Understanding that Adam needed a way to save face, although his face was battered at the moment, Ben told him another way it could be done. In the morning, he would take him to see Doctor Martin. Then Doctor Martin could tell the sheriff who could go to the school to investigate. By the time Ben was done explaining how that could work, Adam was smiling again. He had been worried about getting a reputation as a snitch, and his father’s solution neatly took care of that.

“Thanks, Pa. You’re a great Pa.” Adam gave Ben one of those rare hugs, and as Ben turned to leave, Marie was by the door. Adam quickly slid under the covers for he didn’t want Marie to see him in his nightshirt.

“Good night, Adam.”

“Good night, Ma.”

“Good night, Adam. Do you feel all right, son? Any problems breathing or anything like that?”

Not wanting to alarm his father, Adam didn’t mention that his urine had looked more like tea when he went to the necessary. “No, Pa, I’m fine. Just some bruises.”

The next morning, Ben took Adam to see Doctor Martin who found that he had some kidney damage. He told Ben to take him home and keep him there until his urine was a normal color again. Based on that, Sheriff Coffee headed to the schoolhouse, and after talking with the teacher, he stood in front of the classroom to ask a question.

“Now somebody beat up Adam Cartwright yesterday after school. He had to see the doc who’s keeping him out of school because of his injuries. Now I need someone here to tell me who done it.”

Almost all eyes in the classroom turned to John Miller and his two friends. The teacher then said those were the three who had been in a shouting match with Adam the day before. Roy called them to come to the front of the schoolroom and hold out their hands to show him their knuckles.

“We had a lot of work to do after school yesterday, Sheriff, and we skinned up our hands pretty good.”

“Now what kind of work were you doing that caused all three of ya to have skinned knuckles?”

Not having thought that far ahead, John and his friends had no answer.

“Just what I thought. Now, Mr. Andrews, I’ll be taking these three with me. They won’t be back this week, I’m thinking.”

“You’re not taking us to jail, are ya, Sheriff?”

“Well, for now, I’ll be taking you to your parents, but if Adam Cartwright doesn’t survive, then it would be murder charges and you’ll be in jail. Don’t worry too much though. They don’t hang twelve-year-old boys. You’d probably just get twenty years or so in prison. Maybe less if they thought you was sorry about what ya done.”

The three boys were pale and silent then as the sheriff ushered them from the school. He had a stern message for each set of parents as he delivered the three boys to their home. When he finished, he rode to the Ponderosa to check in on the boy he thought of like a son. When he got there, Adam was resting in a chair and reading.

“You’re not looking too bad for a boy who might die.”

“What?”

“Well, that’s what I told that John Miller and his friends. Told them they would go to prison if you didn’t recover. Doctor told me you probably won’t be able to go to school or ride a horse for at least a week, so we can just let them worry about it until then. Their parents might be thinking on that too. That’s what they deserve for not doing a better job of raising those boys.”

Smiling, Adam invited the sheriff to have a seat and have some of the cookies Hop Sing had put out for him to eat. Roy sat down, and later was joined by Marie and Hoss who all enjoyed the cookies especially after Hop Sing brought out more when he saw they had company.

*****

Chapter 9

“Is there some urgent business you need to take care of?” Adam saw his father at his desk.

“Yes, I was advised to get these Spanish deeds translated and notarized, and filed with the land office here. Seems that a lot of people are thinking that we’re going to be annexed in the near future, and we don’t want the trouble some people had in Oregon when President Polk got that signed over. Some of the deeds were in Spanish or even Russian, and the courts are not accepting them as legitimate especially if there is a conflicting claim with a deed that is in English.”

“I could translate the Spanish for you if you wish.”

“That’s right, with all the studying you’ve been doing for your college exams, I forgot that you were studying French and Spanish in addition to the Latin and Greek. How you keep it all straight, I will never know. Now if you want to come to town with me, we can talk with our lawyer about how he wants to handle this.”

There was a lot of chatter from upstairs where Joe and Hoss were planning some project. Little Joe always had some project he wanted to do. Just a week before Adam had to help him with a tree fort. Now the two younger boys were upstairs talking about their next idea. Ben noticed Adam listening to his younger brothers.

“Now don’t you let them rope you into doing another project like that tree house. You have enough to do to get ready for college and all the work around the ranch. In less than a year, you’ll be going and I want you prepared. Mr. Andrews has been kind enough to prepare a syllabus of things you need to study and do, and I expect that should be what you’re working on, not some crazy idea from that six year old up there.”

Thinking back to more than six years earlier, Adam had to smile. He wasn’t as naïve as he had been when Inger had birthed Hoss. He had seen the changes in Marie and correctly surmised that she was with child long before his father told him. Ben had noticed the lack of surprise when he informed Adam that he would be getting a younger brother or sister. Hoss was as amazed as Adam had been at Hoss’ birth, except Hoss asked Adam where Little Joe came from so his father hadn’t had to be so embarrassed. Of course, Hoss asked less questions and it was only recently that he had he learned the rest of it. Adam had been willing to share all of his new found knowledge too as he had dated several girls and done a bit of experimenting with kissing and touching. He was looking forward to doing a lot more of that.

“We’ll leave when Marie gets back from her ride. Now what’s that little grin about?”

“I think it’s funny that Little Joe is the one doing the thinking and the planning and Hoss is twice as old, but he gets that smile every time Little Joe comes up with an idea. Then the two of them are so excited until it all goes bad, and then they start pointing fingers. In a few years, Hoss should get over that and not get drawn into Little Joe’s schemes.”

“Well at least Little Joe doesn’t get into a lot of trouble, at least not on purpose.”

“Oh, but then he gives you that puppy dog look and that quivering lip. That boy can cry better than anyone I know.”

“Oh, and at seventeen, you know so much of the world, huh. You may find when you get to college that there is a great deal you don’t know, although you have learned about tobacco and alcohol and a few other things and at a lot younger age than I expected.”

“Pa, I was working with the hands all the time. They taught me a lot of stuff. Besides, you got in trouble over that cigar just as much as I did.”

Both thought back to that time. Adam liked to watch Ben smoke and blow smoke rings. He wanted to do it too, but his father thought that at thirteen, he was much too young to try tobacco. He forbid Adam to go take any of this tobacco products telling him he needed to be a man before he could share that particular habit with his father. Well Ben had not forbidden Adam from smoking tobacco only that he could not have any of his father’s so Adam bought a cigar from one of the hands. His father caught him with it just as Adam decided he was going to throw it away as smoking was disgusting. Ben made him smoke the rest of that cigar which caused Adam to retch everything in his stomach up and then dry heave a number of times after that.

Marie asked Adam at dinner why he didn’t want to eat. When he said he couldn’t, she asked why and he told her. Ben had been sitting with a smug look at that point thinking how well he had handled that situation but his wife did not share his good opinion of this actions.

“You made our son smoke a cigar until he was ill? How could you do such a wretched thing? He said he was going to throw that cigar away. Don’t you think he learned enough from that?”

“Yes, that may have been enough to teach him a lesson about smoking, but I wanted to teach him not to steal. He was told to leave my tobacco products alone.”

“But, Pa, I didn’t steal your cigar. I bought that from one of the hands.”

Hop Sing brought a platter of food to the table at that point making Adam hurriedly leave the table so he never heard the rest of that conversation. He heard later that Marie had let Ben have it for using his son’s health as a punishment and how inappropriate she thought that was. Marie had become Adam’s champion a number of times. Ben’s temper got the best of him sometimes, and it was always Marie who calmed him down. Adam began to find it amusing as he matured that his fiery stepmother was the one who could remain calm when he misbehaved and his logical, strong father was the one who sometimes lost control of his emotions. Just a year earlier, Marie had intervened in what might have been a life altering event for father and son.

At the annual Harvest Dance, Adam had been caught in a compromising position with a girl. The girl’s father had gone looking for her when he did not see her dancing or anywhere in the vicinity of the dance floor. He had found her with Adam, and the boy’s pants were open and her hand was inside. He had hit Adam and would have done a lot more except Ben and other men were there soon after to pull him away. He had demanded that Ben give his son a whipping for what he had done. Embarrassed, Ben had gotten Marie from inside and driven home. Once they were at home, he told Adam to meet him in the stable. He unhitched the horse to calm down and then walked with the horse to the stable. Adam had stood shamefaced waiting for his father. Grabbing the buggy whip, Ben had Adam strip off his shirt.

“Please, Pa, don’t. Pa, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t enough. You humiliated me and your mother by your actions. How can we ever hold our heads up in town again? Susan’s father is going to be telling everyone what you did. Turn around. I want everyone to know that my son doesn’t get away with acting that way.”

“Stop it this instant, Benjamin. You would scar your son for life because we were embarrassed tonight. Have you talked with him? Have you asked him what happened?” Seeing Ben’s unwillingness to answer was answer enough for Marie. “I thought not. Adam, did you touch that girl inappropriately?”

Adam dropped his head and nodded.

“Above the waist or below?”

With that question, Adam’s head jerked up. He stammered out an answer. “Above. I swear. She asked me to.”

“Did you want to?”

Adam’s head dropped again and he nodded.

“Whose idea was it for her to touch you?”

“It was her idea. She said, um, she said, oh Ma, I can’t say it.”

“But you let her, and you wanted her to?”

That led to another head drop and a nod.

“Adam, put on your shirt and go to your room. Your father and I will discuss the proper punishment for your actions.”

“Now just a darned minute, Marie!”

“Adam, go to your room. This conversation is not for your ears.”

For the next six months, Adam had plenty of time to study. He only went to town to get supplies or go to church. He wrote a formal apology to Susan and to her father, and had to sit through a number of talks with his mother and with his father on the proper treatment of a lady. When word reached the ranch that Susan had run away from home and was working as a saloon girl in Carson City, Ben and Marie relaxed. It had become common knowledge that Susan had been with a number of boys and men in town and done far more than what she had done with Adam. Ben realized his son had been naïve and easily manipulated by a woman so he had spent time talking with Adam about how some women used sexual behavior to try to control a man. He told him that he should behave properly with a woman, and not let himself get carried away by desire until he was in love with a woman. Of course Ben emphasized that he had to be married at that time, and Marie would tease him at night asking if he had always stuck by that rule. Ben couldn’t answer and usually changed the subject which was answer enough.

Adam’s experience with alcohol was mostly an accident. Ben had decided that he would hold an annual party to celebrate spring and the end of the long winter. He planned to have the party coincide with the Easter celebration each year if he could. That way there would be all sorts of activities to keep the children happy too. Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe helped Hop Sing color dozens of eggs and before the party, they hid them all around the outside of the ranch house. Then Adam and the hands had set up tables for food and refreshment. There were two tables for punch. One was the men’s punch that was liberally spiked with alcohol, and was supposed to be only for the men although there were a number of ladies who didn’t mind the menfolk bringing them a cup or two. The other punch was not spiked and was for the ladies and children. Unfortunately, no one thought to mention to all of the teenage boys that they should not be drinking the men’s punch. After watching over the Easter egg hunt, Adam and his friends went to get some punch. They were quite thirsty and each had several cups. The thick fruit juice effectively hid the taste of the alcohol. Then the boys were helpful again in organizing games for the children such as the three-legged race and egg toss. Then they hurried back to the table for more punch that they had found invigorating. With dinner, they had more. By the time the musicians started playing, there were several drunk teenage boys and Adam was one of them.

“Adam, were you drinking?”

“No, Pa. I know you said I had to wait until I was eighteen. Pa, I feel funny, and the buildings keep moving.”

“Adam, you have been drinking. Don’t lie to me, or you’ll just make things worse.”

“Pa, I swear, I haven’t been shrinking. Honest.”

“Adam where did you get the alcohol?”

“Pa, I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Turning, Adam nearly made it to the corner of the barn before he threw up. The red color was a pretty good clue. Hop Sing had added lots of color to the punch to make it more festive. Once Adam stopped retching, Ben admonished him.

“Adam, you boys were not supposed to be drinking the men’s punch.”

“What’s men spunch, Pa?”

Suddenly it had dawned on Ben that the boys had been busy with the Easter egg hunt when the punch was brought out. It was the first party they had ever had here with the spiked and the unspiked punch. The boys hadn’t known. Ben took his son by the arm, and Marie took the other arm so they could help Adam into the house.

“Pa, what’s wrong with Adam? Is he gonna die, Pa?”

“No, Little Joe, he’s not going to die, although he might wish he had by morning. No, your brother just had too much partying. He needs to go to bed now.”

“Pa, Little Joe and I been partying a lot too. We’re not gonna get sick and have to go to bed now, are we?”

“No, Hoss, you’ll be fine. Now you two go back to playing, and your Mama and I will take care of Adam.”

The next morning, it was nearly eight and Adam wasn’t out of bed. Hoss and Little Joe went into his room to see why.

“Don’t you two ever knock?”

“Adam, Hop Sing made flapjacks for breakfast, and bacon, and ham, and some of those scrambly eggs you like.” Hoss was hoping to entice Adam out of bed so they could all eat.

Groaning, Adam rolled over in the bed. “Get out, just get out.”

“Adam, Hoss is really hungry, and I want some flapjacks too with butter and maple syrup on them. Maybe some honey too.” Little Joe was getting hungry thinking about that.

Groaning even more loudly, Adam got out of bed and walked to his dresser and retched into the washbasin there. With grimaces and shivers, Hoss and Little Joe quickly retreated, and rushed downstairs to tell their parents that Adam was still sick from the party. Ben told everyone to go ahead and say grace and eat. He walked up to talk with his son. When he got to Adam’s room, he noticed the sour smell first. He opened the window wide, and then looked at his pale son with the red eyes.

“I’m sorry you found out about drinking the hard way.”

“Pa, what happened?”

“You boys weren’t supposed to be drinking the spiked punch, and it’s my fault as much as anyone. I should have made sure you knew the difference between the two. Then if you drank some, I would have said you deserved how you feel. Now, you stay in bed. Hop Sing will bring you some tea to drink. Try to drink that and some water. Hopefully you’ll start feeling better as the day goes on.”

“Pa, that’s what alcohol does to a person? How do you stand it?”

“Well, I try not to drink too much, and that’s what happened to you. You will find that a little alcohol is refreshing, relaxing, and tastes good. Right now you probably don’t believe it, but we’ll have to start teaching you about drinking within your limits.”

“Pa, I don’t ever want to drink again. I don’t ever want to feel this way ever.”

“Good. Now you know the price you pay for drinking too much. You’ll learn your limits as you get older. Now, go back to bed. I’ll have Hop Sing come help you clean up and bring you that tea.”

As Ben finished with his memories, Adam asked him why he was smiling. He told him it was a little trip down memory lane.

“Must have been good memories then.”

“Yes, yes, overall, they were good memories of my son growing into a man. Now let’s go wait for Marie to get back, and we’ll head to town.”

Over the next several weeks, Ben had all of the deeds translated, notarized, copied, and filed with the land office, with a copy at his lawyer’s, and a copy at home in his safe. Then at the lawyer’s insistence, he drew up a will naming his sons and wife as heirs, and Adam as executor with Marie as his guardian should anything happen to Ben. Ben asked Hop Sing to make a special dinner on the day that all the papers were finally filed away and everything was on solid legal ground. He had the boys clean up, and they were all waiting for Marie to get home so that they could have a celebratory dinner. Adam went to the yard to take care of her horse when she got back. He saw her coming and her horse seemed to be out of control. He yelled for his father, but it was already too late. The horse tried to stop seeing the familiar yard and Adam standing there but he stumbled and Marie went flying. She was a small woman and strong for her size but her neck couldn’t withstand the impact of her head on the ground and the snap was audible. Adam ran to her side as Ben exited the house.

“Oh, my God, what happened?”

“She came in riding too fast and Blaze stumbled. Pa, is she going to be all right.”

Knowing it was futile, Ben reached down to place a hand on Marie’s chest. She was warm but there was no longer a heart beating to keep her that way.

“Go inside, Adam. Keep Joe and Hoss away from here. Go quickly now. Go!”

And Adam had run inside and slammed the door looking a little wild eyed to his younger brothers.

“Adam, what’s wrong. We heard ya yelling. Where’s Mama?”

“You can’t go outside. Mama’s been hurt. No, Little Joe, Pa says you’re to stay in here with me. Now don’t fight me on this.”

Of course Little Joe did fight him, but Adam was nearly twelve years older and was able to hold him securely as he kicked and screamed. Hoss stood watching Adam.

“Adam, did something happen to Mama? Adam, you gotta tell us.”

“Yes, Hoss, she’s hurt. She’s hurt really bad.”

“I wanna see Mama. Adam, let me go. Let me go!”

With a well placed kick to Adam’s groin area, Little Joe got free. Adam fell to the floor in a fetal position in obvious pain. Hoss grabbed Little Joe before he could run outside.

“No, Little Joe. Adam said ya gotta stay here, and you’re staying.”

Later when Ben came inside, he sat next to them in front of the fireplace and took Joe on his lap. He told them what Adam already knew had to be true. Marie had died in that fall. Little Joe said it wasn’t true and ran to his room. Of course he knew it was true, but had never faced any adversity in his life and had no idea how to handle truly bad news. Ben sat at the fireplace not saying a word. Adam took Hoss by the arm and tugged a little to get him to go with him. They went to Joe’s room and found him sobbing. Adam sat on the side of the bed and rubbed his back. Almost immediately Little Joe scrambled and threw himself into Adam’s arms. Adam held him as he cried and then put an arm around Hoss as he sat next to Adam on the bed with tears flowing too. Both boys asked Adam if it was true, and he nodded which started both of them crying again. After an hour or so, Little Joe was exhausted, and Adam helped him pull off his clothes and pull on a nightshirt. Then he wanted Adam to stay with him so he lay down beside Little Joe until he fell into a fitful sleep. Then Adam did the same for Hoss tucking him in and sitting with him until he fell asleep nearly an hour later. They talked some but mostly Hoss cried, and Adam comforted him.

Once Adam had both boys sleeping, he walked down the stairs to find his father had not moved. Adam went outside, and the hands were asking what they should or could do. Adam told them that the next day would be a normal workday but the day after they would hold a service for Marie at graveside. He asked if two of the men could dig a grave near the lakeshore. They wanted to know where and Adam told them he would pick a spot the next day. Once everything was squared away outside, Adam went inside and sat next to his father who still wasn’t moving.

“Pa, you need to go up to bed. I’ll help you.”

After getting Hoss to sleep, Adam had gone into his father’s bedroom and put as much of Marie’s clothing and other things out of sight as he could. He knew how difficult it was going to be for his father who had suffered in silence with Inger’s death. Losing his third wife had seemed to unhinge Ben a little, and Adam was worried. For the next several months, Adam held the family and the ranch together. His father seemed to be nearly immobilized by the tragedy. Finally as the following spring arrived, Ben began to come back to the family and himself. One day as Adam prepared to go outside and give the men their jobs for the day, Ben told him that was not his job, and he went outside to discuss with the foreman what had to be done. He told Adam he needed to get back to his preparations for college, and they moved forward.

*****

(sixteen years later)

Chapter 10

“Jiuming a! Mogui! Bu! Bu! Bu!” were words that Hop Sing heard as he was running and dodging seeking to escape, Hop Sing heard the cries but could do nothing to help. “Help! Devil! No! No! No!” echoed through the streets of Chinatown. Hop Sing had no weapon and was one small man facing dozens of armed men on horseback riding into Chinatown with their torches and guns. He had come to town to celebrate with his family the birth of another cousin. There were so few births because very few women came from China to live in the United States.

Until this night, Hop Sing’s cousin had been a merchant albeit on a small scale and had come with his wife and children to pursue a dream. Now that dream was dead as his home was burning and the bodies inside were being immolated. They would have no graves and no children would ever come to honor their ancestors. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he realized the acrid smoke burning his eyes and stinging his throat smelled not only of wood and cloth but hair and flesh. It was a horrific smell, and he did not think this memory could ever be buried deep enough not to haunt his dreams.

Using the cover of darkness and the smoke, Hop Sing ran and then hid when he thought he was far enough from the mob to escape detection. In the morning, he emerged from his hiding spot and saw other survivors staggering around devastated by their losses and by the terror of the night before. Actually few had died, but many had been injured and all were traumatized.

Wondering where his friend, Sheriff Roy Coffee, was, Hop Sing walked tentatively into Virginia City proper. Few people were up and about and those who were turned away not only because of his race but because of their embarrassment over what other whites had done the night before while others stood by refusing to help. Most whites would never help a Chinese against a white in a dispute no matter how badly the Chinese person was being treated. There was no one at the Sheriff’s office. Returning briefly to the Chinatown area, Hop Sing learned from other Chinese that both Roy and his deputy Clem had been injured the previous night trying to stop the mob that had been determined to commit mayhem.

Tension had been building for weeks between the white miners and the Chinese. The price of silver had plummeted which resulted in the closures of a number of mines. Others stayed open but let the white miners go but kept the Chinese miners working. To the mineowners, the economic strategy was obvious. They paid the Chinese miners less than half of what they paid the white miners, and Chinese miners rarely complained about long hours in difficult working conditions. There also was usually no wife and no children to compensate when a Chinese miner was killed. At the rock bottom price of silver, hiring Chinese miners was the only way to turn a profit. White miners didn’t see any of that. To them, hundreds of whites had lost their jobs and had no way to support their families while Chinese miners who sent much of their money to China were still working. With the omnipresent racism of the time, it only took some alcohol and some demagoguery by politicians and other leaders to spark a race riot.

For the previous week, Sheriff Roy Coffee had been warning the people of Chinatown especially their leaders to take precautions. He was trying to keep a lid on the tensions but there were hundreds of men out of work and he had been afraid he wouldn’t be able to keep the situation calm nor did he think he would be able to stop a mob action once it had started. Unfortunately Roy had been sure it would happen. The miners weren’t like the ranchers and cowboys who lived here and might create some trouble on occasion. Miners moved from strike to strike, seldom purchased property, and tended to be far more racist than the usual settler in the west. With no commitment to the community and its well being, they tended to be far more difficult to keep in line. The riot the night before had exploded suddenly and before Roy could do anything much as those who led the uprising had hoped.

Now in the early morning hours, smoke hung over the city that was eerily quiet. Slowly more and more people emerged. The Chinese men who walked the streets of the devastated Chinatown were sorrowful as well as angry. They had had so little, and now most of them had even less. They suffered the effects of prejudice and discrimination daily with taunts, rough treatment, and low wages for long hours. Prejudice and discrimination had never before cost lives and the loss of property though.

By nine, Adam and Hoss Cartwright were in town. Word had reached them about what had happened, and the family was very concerned about their friend and Ponderosa cook, Hop Sing. Apprehensive as they saw the devastation of the Chinese community, both men were relieved when some of the Chinese recognized them and told them that they had seen Hop Sing that morning and that he was all right at least physically. Adam and Hoss headed to the livery stable thinking that Hop Sing would likely have gone there to get the carriage to return home. They did find him there, but Hop Sing was in a state neither of them had seen before.

“Hop Sing, can you hear me? Hop Sing?”

Silent and still, Hop Sing slowly looked up to see Adam’s concerned face hovering just above his own. He reached out and grabbed Adam’s arms, and then stood and wrapped his arms around his friend. Adam was surprised and looked at Hoss as if to ask what he should do.

“Don’t look at me, brother. I ain’t got no better idea than you on what to do. I feel so bad. So many done lost so much.”

“Again. I have to hope that someday we can all get past this barbarism. All this happens because some cannot see the person because of the color. It is obscene.”

As Hop Sing released him, Adam guided him to the carriage. Hoss got their carriage horse from the stable and hitched him up. Adam stayed next to Hop Sing to be there if he wanted to talk. The ride back to the Ponderosa was very quiet. Once there, Adam told Hop Sing to go to his room to rest.

“I make lunch.”

“We can get by with a cold lunch. You need to get some sleep.”

“What I need, you not have. I make lunch.”

So Hop Sing made lunch and nothing more was said that day about the race riot. Over the next week, most of the young men left to sign on with the Central Pacific Railroad in California. The railroad company was paying double what the mines paid even though the Chinese workers again were paid less than the white workers. However, as more and more were hired, conditions had been improving and wages had increased. By the end of the month, the only Chinese left in Virginia City were the domestic servants like Hop Sing who lived in white homes, the laundrymen, and a few day laborers who did things like dig graves.

As the weeks had passed, Hop Sing had been much quieter and much grouchier than usual and the situation grew worse instead of better with time.

“Adam ya gotta talk with Hop Sing.”

“Hoss, why do I have to talk with Hop Sing? What about you, or Pa, or even Joe?”

“Adam, you know if I talk with him, he’ll think it’s just because I want him to bake more pies or make more pork roast. If Joe talks with him, he’ll be wondering if it’s some joke or prank he’s cooking up.”

“Pa has been his friend longer than anyone. Pa’s the one who first hired him.”

“Adam, those two don’t really talk though. One hollers, and the other one tries to find out what they really want in order to get the yelling to stop. You’re the one Hop Sing talks with the most. He’ll trust you and won’t be thinking you’re up to something. Besides he always brings up that you were the first one to ever say he was part of our family. That’s real important to him, and you know it.”

So it was agreed. The next morning after breakfast, Ben, Hoss, and Joe rode out to complete assigned tasks. Adam stayed in the ranch house and waited for Hop Sing to finish cleaning up after breakfast. Then he took the coffee he had been nursing and headed to the kitchen. He sat on a chair by the worktable and waited. Hop Sing finally let his curiosity get to him.

“Why you here? Why no work for you today?

“My job today is find out why you are so unhappy.”

“I happy like always. I do my job. I make meals. I do laundry even one new clean shirt for number one son every day. I no complain.”

“That’s just it. You should complain. I’m sure there are times we do things we shouldn’t, and you have always told us about them. Now you act like that’s not important.”

“Not important. I do job. Then I die. Then it over.”

As Adam finished his coffee, he was thinking furiously although his demeanor remained calm. What were the hidden meanings behind those words? “You miss all the cousins who left to go work on the railroad. You only have us now and it’s not enough.”

“It enough and not enough.”

“What do you want then? What can we do to make your life more worth living?”

“You cannot do it. Only I can do it, and I cannot do it.”

That last part had Adam very puzzled. He looked down at the floor trying to decipher those statements. Hop Sing noticed how hard he was trying to understand and walked to his room returning with a letter that he handed to Adam. Adam opened the letter to find it was all in Chinese characters and that caused him to look up helplessly at Hop Sing.

“I understand a little Chinese that you have taught me, but I cannot read any of it.”

“Family arrange marriage Hop Sing. Family want next generation of sons. Hop Sing love Cartwright sons but it not same.”

“Well why don’t you go ahead with the arranged marriage then?”

“Woman in China. Hop Sing must go China to marry. But Hop Sing cannot bring wife into country. Only merchants can bring wife into country. It is law. Only merchants can bring children into country. It is law. Hop Sing only poor servant. Not allowed for Hop Sing.”

“That is a problem. Hop Sing, I understand. I long for a wife and children too. If there is a way to do this, I will do it. I promise you I will do anything I can for you. You are part of our family and you are our greatest friend. Let me think about this for a while and check into some things. If I can come up with a way to do this, I will let you know as soon as I think of something.”

“Hop Sing very happy now. I cook best dinner ever for Mister Adam.”

“Do me a favor and cook the best dinner ever for Mister Hoss. Life is going to be a lot more pleasant for everyone around here if my big brother gets a pork roast and pie for dinner.”

Out by the branding corrals, Hoss suddenly stopped and looked to the ranch house.

“Dadburnit, that Adam did it again. I can smell pork roast and apple pie. He done got Hop Sing back to being the Hop Sing we remember.”

Dinner was more pleasant than it had been for a month. Hop Sing actually smiled when he saw the plates were empty. Everyone praised the dinner and thanked him for his hard work. Hop Sing complained a little that Mister Hoss ate all roast pork so none was left for sandwiches the next day, but it was the usual banter they expected. Later that night and for the first time in a month, Hop Sing slept through the night and dreamed of China and a beautiful woman instead of screams and smoke.

A few weeks later, Adam stood before his father’s desk: “Pa, I need to go to California.”

“Oh, you ‘need’ to go to California. Listen, Adam, I know being cooped up here for the winter is difficult for you, and I know that you miss your friends and all the theatre and such in California, but this just isn’t a good time for you to go traipsing off.”

Controlling his temper because he could not afford to irritate his father at this point, Adam explained. “I am not ‘traipsing off’. I’ve been checking into ways to get Hop Sing married, and I think I’ve found a way, but I need to go to California and consult confidentially with some people there to see if I can do it. It’s not something that I can do in a telegram, and letters will take too long.”

“Well, what is this plan of yours that needs all this consultation right when we’re in the middle of spring roundup and branding? And you know we’re only weeks away from the spring drive too! Is helping Hop Sing enough reason to dump all the extra work and responsibilities on your brothers?”

“In order for Hop Sing to bring a wife into the country, he has to be a merchant. Now if I can set up a company in California, and make him the owner, then he could go to China, marry, and return, and it would all be within the law.”

“Adam, that may sound all wonderful in theory, but you would be sending Hop Sing into vast uncharted waters as far as the law here and in China is concerned. He is not an educated man, and working his way through the legal intricacies of all of this could be far too much for him. You know what they’ll do to him in China if it’s found out that he is not who he claims to be?”

“I know. He and I have talked of the beheadings that occur simply if a man does not have his queue any longer. They do seem a bit paranoid about any supposed threat of disloyalty, but I will do everything I can to make sure that he is ready for the challenge. Unlike many Chinese here, he can read and write and that would have been the greatest obstacle.”

Thinking that he did not want to divulge the rest of his plan at this point, Adam waited to see if he had made any progress in convincing his father of his need to go now. He could see by his father’s glower that was not likely. This was going to get a lot uglier than he had expected. Every time he talked of leaving the Ponderosa in the last couple of years, his father got morose as well as angry. He didn’t want to leave his father in that state but was beginning to believe it was the only way he would ever be able to leave. He had every intention of going with Hop Sing to China, but he was still working out the best way to tell his family that. He was sure that blurting it out while arguing with his father was not the way, but lately his father had a way of jabbing him with barbs that might just make him say it that way.

“Adam, can you get back in a week? We really do need your help. The lumber mill and the timber camps are just getting organized. I need you to work out the map for marking trees and then take care of that.”

Recognizing the huge concession his father had just made, Adam readily agreed to one week even though he knew it probably wasn’t enough time. He nodded his agreement.

“Thanks, Pa. I’ll get to that map tonight. Tomorrow I can go up and mark enough trees for them to work for several weeks at least. I’ll leave in two days then if that’s all right with you?”

Listening from the kitchen, Hop Sing was relieved. He and Adam had talked, and Hop Sing knew how important this trip to California was. Adam had a plan designed to accomplish what they wanted, but he needed legal advice as well as business advice to put the plan into motion. Because their plan hinged on fooling the authorities not only in China but in the United States as well, Adam did not want to commit any part of the plan to paper. He had friends he could trust to help him in something like this and none of them would accept a paper record of why they were doing what they were doing.

There was a lot of work to do that day. Joe was preparing to go out with a crew to round up some mustangs. Hoss and Adam were working with the hands to complete the spring roundup. Ben headed to town to meet with some potential buyers and work out deals at their lawyer’s office. Dinner was lively with conversation over everything that had happened that day, and then Ben brought up Adam’s request to go to California for a week.

“Now older brother, I know ya want ta help Hop Sing, but we got too much work to do right now. You need to stay here a might longer. It’s gonna take a long time to do what you want ta do so how could a few weeks make much of a difference?”

“Hoss, I need to get the paperwork started. Chartering a company does take some time, but if I delay that means that Hop Sing has to wait that much longer. It wouldn’t be fair to him to have raised his hopes and then dash them down like that.”

“Dontcha think it’s pretty much a fool’s errand anyway. You’re gonna convince two governments that Hop Sing went from being our cook to being a merchant in just a few months?”

“That’s why I started putting Hop Sing’s name on some of the stock I own. He has shares now in a number of enterprises here and in California. It won’t be as implausible for him to sell those shares to start up a company.”

“Son, that is a huge risk you are taking. You could lose all of that. Are you prepared to do that?”

“Pa, it’s what I would do for any of you, and Hop Sing is family too. I have no worry about what I’m doing. It’s the right thing to do.”

“So you insist on doing this? I have to wonder if you’ll listen to your friends if they tell you that you’re chasing windmills again.”

Now that definitely got Adam’s ire rising. “I am not chasing windmills. I am helping a friend chase his dream. Have you forgotten about dreams, Pa? Seems to me you’ve told us a lot of people thought you were chasing a dream when you came out here with nothing and thought to build a great future. Well what would have happened if you had listened to all the discouraging words and criticism?” Adam stood, slammed down his napkin, and walked outside. More and more he wanted to tell them that he was leaving too. It would make the whole effort more realistic and the chance of success more plausible, but he still worried at their reactions that he expected to be negative. He needed to wait to tell them, but he was having trouble sleeping with the burden of all that he planned to do.

Following Adam outside, Hoss tried to make peace. “Adam, it ain’t that I don’t want Hop Sing to get his wife and have the family he dreams about. It’s just that I’m scared for him. He’ll be gone at least a year based on what you said about the travel, and I know I’ve heard you and Pa talking about people being beheaded there cause they made the wrong person angry. I can’t bear the thought of that happening to Hop Sing. Adam, ifn he goes and doesn’t come back, we’ll never know what happened to him.”

“What if I went with him? Then he would have help, and I could write and let you know what’s happening.”

“Now don’t even go joshing about something like that. You know it would break Pa’s heart. And that little brother of ours would be beside himself with thinking that somehow the arguments that you two have had somehow made ya leave. Nah, that just isn’t a good idea neither.”

Leaning on the corral fence rail, Adam looked up to the stars as he thought about how his task had just gotten so much more difficult. The one family member he had thought he could look to for emotional support wasn’t thinking that way at all. He nodded only to accept that Hoss had his opinions, but Hoss took it to mean that Adam agreed with him. There would be some anger and disappointment when he found out that was not true.

*****

Chapter 11

Over the next week, there was a lot of progress with the roundup and branding. Adam got his trees marked and traveled to California to get the paperwork started for his plan. And by the end of the week, Joe brought home a large herd of mustangs that were split up into corrals with their regular horses to settle them down. When Adam arrived home the following week, about all Joe could talk about was the big roan stallion he had captured.

Anxious to impress Adam with his work, Joe insisted the first morning that Adam was back that he had to come watch Joe break the roan. So after breakfast, Adam rode with Joe to the breaking corrals. Hoss and Ben decided that they wanted to see it too so they followed after them. At the corrals, the roan stood out. Tossing his head and moving restlessly among the other horses in the corral, he was hard to miss. Taller than most of their horses with a regal bearing and beautiful coat, he also had strong legs and powerful musculature. Up close, what Adam noted most were his crazy eyes. The horse was highly agitated at being locked in a corral, and the presence of the other horses had done nothing to calm him. If he had room, he probably would have made a run at jumping that fence. He still might was what Adam was thinking.

“Joe, you sure you want to try riding that roan? He’s got that crazy look. He could be dangerous to ride.”

“Well, older brother, you want to give him a try?”

“No, I’ll leave the breaking to you. But I think this one could use a little more time to settle down before you try breaking him. He’s a dangerous horse, Joe.”

“I’ll ride him to a standstill, you’ll see, even if it takes a couple of tries.”

It took the men over half an hour to get the roan in the chute. Even confined in there, he was agitated and wouldn’t settle down. More and more, Adam was thinking that this horse was too dangerous to ride. Joe would not be dissuaded though, and settled on his back against all advice. The roan took off out of that chute as soon as it was opened. He bucked and jerked trying to dislodge Joe with everything he had. There was no standstill and there wasn’t even a slowing down. Ben finally yelled for Joe to dismount. The men who were helping rode to the roan’s side to help Joe get off. As Joe walked to the fence, all of the men there yelled a warning as the roan was charging him. Luckily Joe was fit and limber. He took a running start and vaulted the corral fence just as the roan got there with his nostrils snorting and front hooves pounding relentlessly into the dirt. For several minutes, the roan made it clear just how disappointed it was in not killing the human who had been on his back. The men in the corral got two lariats on the roan and forced him back into the holding corral.

“Tomorrow, I’m gonna break that roan if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Try to fight him to a standstill and it just might be the last thing you ever do.”

“You’re just getting too old to ride them until they quit. You’re scared of that roan, aren’t you?”

Irritated at the comments, Adam still tried to dissuade Joe from riding the roan. To Adam, that horse was not acclimating at all to being part of the herd of horses they had on the Ponderosa. They had him in a corral with a number of their best cow ponies, and he still had that crazy eyed look any time a person came near him. Tired of Adam’s discouraging words, Joe stalked out of earshot. Ben walked over to try to calm his youngest.

“Older brother, you’re just making him want to ride him more by telling him how it’s impossible. He wants to prove you wrong.”

“Well, I can hardly encourage him to ride him. He’d rush out there and do it right now. And now you tell me I can’t tell him not to ride because it makes him want to do it more. Why don’t you handle it? I’ll keep out of it.”

Hoss raised his hands in mock surrender. “Must be one of those cunning drum things you talk about.”

Perplexed at first by Hoss’ statement, Adam smiled. Yes, it is one of those conundrums.”

The next morning, Adam was coming back from doing the count in the southeast pastures and decided to ride to the breaking corrals. He was apprehensive but wanted to see what Joe had decided to do. As he neared the corrals, he heard a lot of noise and yelling which made him suspect that Joe was going to try to ride the roan again. When he got to the corrals, he saw Joe by the chute but unable to get on the roan who was clearly too agitated to be ridden. Adam rode over to the chute to see if he could help. Unfortunately Joe saw it as a challenge fully expecting some remark from Adam, and he settled on the roan’s back.

The three men helping in the chute told Joe not to ride the roan. Adam was frozen knowing that anything he said would be wrong. Joe told them to open the chute, and with one last objection, the man hesitated and swung the gate of the chute wide open. The roan shot out of the chute and it was clear he meant harm to the human on his back. Hoss and Ben rode up as Joe was being bucked hard as the roan slammed into the corral fence several times trying to unseat Joe. The next time the roan hit the fence, Joe flew from his back and into the fence and then over. Joe had tried to jump free but it had been too late for that. As men rushed into the corral to subdue the roan, the Cartwrights ran to Joe.

“See, Adam, see. I’m not afraid of any horse. I showed you, Adam, I showed you.”

Cradling Joe’s bleeding head in his lap, Ben looked at Adam. “What happened here?”

Hoss reinforced Adam’s guilty feeling with his own emotional statement. “Ya didn’t goad him into it, did ya?”

Adam felt the weight of guilt pressing down on him. He was thinking that if he had stayed away from the breaking corrals, Joe wouldn’t have tried to ride the roan.

Lifting Joe carefully, Hoss carried him to Buck and handed him up to his father who pulled him close to his chest and rode slowly toward the house. Hoss followed after telling one of the hands to go to town to summon the doctor once more. Walking over to stand by Adam, the men who had been working the chute weren’t sure what to say. Finally the man who had opened the chute under protest spoke.

“Weren’t your fault. Durn fool kid was all fired up about taming that horse. Said he was gonna prove he could break horses better than you.”

Nodding in appreciation, Adam gathered up the reins of Cochise and mounted up on Sport to lead Joe’s horse back. When he got to the yard, Buck and Chubb were standing at the hitching rail. Adam went to get them too. He unsaddled, groomed, fed, and watered the four horses and rubbed down the tack before going inside. By then Doctor Martin’s carriage was there, and Ben and Hoss were sitting by the fireplace. Neither acknowledged Adam’s entrance so he walked to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Hop Sing said nothing so he could imagine what he had been told.

Sitting at the dining table, Adam sipped his coffee, but his stomach had turned sour. He wanted to explain to ease the tension, but he truly had a conundrum. He had done nothing wrong, but in trying to explain, he would reinforce the feeling of guilt. For if he had to explain, it would mean there was something to explain. It hurt that his father and his beloved brother would think that he would have willingly put his youngest brother in danger. It hurt even more being shut out of caring for him. He was thinking more than ever that leaving was a good option for him. A frantic knocking at the door grabbed everyone’s attention. Adam went to the door.

“Some young Paiutes just attacked the Fuller lumber operation. Bunch of men were hurt, and one may die. We only got word a short time ago. Sheriff Coffee sent me out here to warn you.”

“Someone needs to inform the hands and then ride to our lumber mill and then up to the timber camps to warn them. We need to make sure everyone is on guard.” But the last thing that Ben wanted to do was to leave his youngest son’s side. He looked at Hoss and then at Adam.

“I’ll go.” Adam grabbed his hat, coat, and holster and noted the silence that had greeted his statement. He walked out with the messenger and headed to the stable to saddle a horse. Soon after he found a number of the hands and informed them of what needed to be done because of the threat. Once he was confident that they would spread the word and keep rifles handy, he headed out to the lumber mill. He planned to ride up to the timber camps after that.

Adam had no trouble and made sure the men took adequate precautions. Then he turned to ride home. Preoccupied with worry about his youngest brother, he didn’t notice the flitting movements in the trees above him. As Adam rode into a small clearing, he felt a blow to his side. Looking down he saw a feathered painted shaft protruding from his side before darkness overtook him, and he fell to the ground.

Up close, the Paiute young men recognized him and decided not to kill him and scalp him. One of them put his foot on Adam’s hip and pulled his arrow free. Then they stripped him of his coat, hat, and holster. They pulled the saddle from his horse. They rifled through his saddlebags and found ammunition and a knife. One grabbed his rifle, and then the young men rode off cheering and yelling. They planned to ride to the nearest ranch, the Ponderosa, expecting to catch more men by surprise and get more booty.

At the Ponderosa ranch house, Doctor Paul Martin was finishing patching up Joe who awoke with the attention and the jostling of the doctor’s work. He looked disoriented for a moment but then grimaced in pain and asked for his father. Paul stepped to the door and called for Ben. Hoss followed his father up the stairs, and both of them smiled to see that Joe was alert even if he still had quite a bit of pain.

“I showed Adam, didn’t I, Pa? I showed him I wasn’t afraid of any horse. He might be afraid to ride a horse like that roan, but I’m not.”

“Joe, it wasn’t right for Adam to push you into riding that horse.”

“He didn’t tell me to ride it, he told me not to. But all the hands were always bragging up Adam and the really tough horses he could break and how he doesn’t do it much any more but he could. I wanted to prove to them and to Adam that I was just as tough and an even better horse breaker. You heard him, yourself. He said he wouldn’t ride the roan cause it was too dangerous. He was afraid of that horse, but I wasn’t. Where is he anyhow?”

“Ah, some young Paiute are out raiding, and he rode to the lumber mill and the timber camps to warn them and have them be on guard.”

“Darn, no matter what I do, he’s got to go do something else I ain’t done. How many men did he take with him?”

“Ah, he went by himself.”

“Well, that wasn’t so smart now, was it? Be sure to tell him that cause you sure would let me know if I did something like that. Course Sport can outrun any of them Paiute ponies any day.”

“He’s not riding Sport. He had him out all morning doing counts to get ready for the drive, and he took another pony.”

“Is he coming back today?”

There was no chance to answer that question as gunfire erupted outside. Dropping low and drawing their pistols, Ben and Hoss edged to the window telling Joe to lie down. Doctor Martin huddled next to the bed. Peering over the windowsill, they could see the hands engaged in a firefight with Paiutes. It was over rather quickly. The Paiute had been thinking to catch more men unprepared and thought they would scatter the hands with the surprise of their attack. Instead the hands had been prepared with their rifles within reach.

Wanting desperately to know what had happened when the gunfire ceased, Joe called out and Hoss answered. “Those Paiute raiders ain’t gonna be causing anybody else any more trouble anywhere.” Electing to let the hands handle it, Ben and Hoss were very surprised when Hop Sing suddenly appeared at the door to Joe’s bedroom.

“Men say go outside. It important.”

Wondering what could be so important to take him from his injured son’s side, and leaving Doctor Martin to sit with Joe, Ben went to see why he was wanted and Hoss went with him. Outside they were summoned to the side of the stable.

“We don’t need to see the bodies.”

“Mr. Cartwright, this time I think you do.”

Walking past the man who had been speaking to look at the bodies, Ben’s knees went weak, and Hoss had to grab him to stop him from falling. One of the Paiute was wearing Adam’s hat festooned with feathers and now splattered with blood. Another had Adam’s coat that had been painted with signs. A hand walked up and handed Adam’s holster with pistol and his rifle to Ben. The only thoughts now were to wonder where Adam was and whether he was still alive.

Up on the mountain not far from the second timber camp, Adam slowly regained consciousness. He felt leaden and severe pain was radiating from his left side. He rolled slowly to his right side and crawled slowly to a tree edging up until he could lean back against the trunk. He laboriously removed his boots and then his socks. Using only his right hand, he still had to stop often and do his best to hang onto consciousness because he was being stabbed repeatedly by sharp pains in his left side. He knew he was bleeding too much to survive, and unless he could slow the bleeding, he had no chance. He pulled his boots back on after he removed his socks. Folding each sock over three times, he made two thick pads. He then worked to remove his shirt which he folded until he had a long black bandage. He worked his improvised bandage over his shoulders and down his back. Then he placed one of his pads on the exit wound and pulled the ends of the shirt until it held that pad in place. Almost losing consciousness with that action because he had to use his left hand, he had to smile for it had all seemed so simple when he had thought about what he had to do. He took the second pad and placed it over the entrance wound before tying the shirt to hold both in place. Using his left hand to help tie the bandage was the last thing he could do. He fell back against the trunk. He still had two major problems. He was cold and there was a chance of predators. He could do nothing about either for his life was in God’s hands now. He said a prayer and then blood loss and shock robbed him of consciousness again.

It was dusk before the Paiute were secured to the backs of horses to be returned to their tribe. Some hands took them into Virginia City to allow the authorities to do that. They would be able to see the road in the moonlight so it wasn’t a difficult task. Finding Adam was far more of a challenge. He had likely gone to the lumber mill first. Ben was leading a group that would follow the road and search for him. Hoss was taking another group overland to the timber camps. They would not have a road to follow but at least had moonlight or they would have had to travel at a snail’s pace. Ben had explained to Hop Sing what had happened, and he had supplies ready for them by the time they were leaving.

As the groups rode out, they could hear the howl of wolves in the distance. They sounded like they were on the hunt and closing in on their prey. All the men said a quick silent prayer that Adam was not the object of the hunt.

Awakening to the sound of wolves howling, Adam was disoriented. It took him several minutes to remember what had happened and where he was. Then his mind cleared even more as the adrenalin of fear gripped him. He had no weapons and wasn’t even sure he could stand. If the wolves came at him like this, his midsection would be torn open in seconds. He looked above him and saw branches where he could be safe but had no idea how he could climb up there. He did see some massive boulders near him. Struggling to his feet with the aid of a stout branch that had been near him, he moved to the boulders at an extremely slow pace but he could not afford to fall at this point. Step by slow step, he made his way to the boulders and found a crevice between two especially large ones. There was a rock wall behind them. He worked his way into the crevice and kept the stout branch in his right hand. He evaluated his position. He had a relatively puny weapon and was growing weaker rapidly as the bleeding had started again. For what seemed like an hour, he heard the wolves and lots of other noise he could not understand. He prepared to fight, but the face and eyes he saw next were his brother’s. Then he saw nothing more as blackness took him.

Two days later, Doctor Martin was again at the ranch house to check on Adam. He was a bit dismayed that Adam had not yet awakened fully. Joe said he could wake him.

“Adam, hey Adam, wake up, will ya? Sheesh, you always have to do me one better. You even have to get hurt worse than me.”

Even with a pounding headache, that high pitched voice penetrated Adam’s consciousness. He had heard his father’s deep tones and Hoss’ gentle voice earlier many times. Each time those voices had soothed him and let him rest peacefully. Now this irritating whine was pulling him to the surface where his head pounded, his side ached, and his stomach roiled. He wanted the voice to stop, but the only way to do it apparently was to come to full consciousness with all its attendant discomfort.

“See, Pa, see. I told you I could get him to wake up. C’mon, Adam, talk to me.”

“Shut up!” Though his voice was hoarse and weak, Adam’s words were still clear.

“Hey, I’m the one who got you to wake up. Doc said you needed to wake up. You could be nicer to me.”

“Shut up, please!” The emphasis on the please was apparent too.

Standing at the foot of the bed, Ben and Hoss smiled. That sounded just the way they expected a hurt Adam to sound: perturbed to be in pain and in bed, and irritated by Joe. Doctor Martin shooed Joe away then and took his spot on a chair next to Adam.

“I’m sorry I had to subject you to that, Adam, but it’s been two days and you did need to wake up. I want you to drink something now. Do you think you can do that?”

With Adam’s slight nod, Paul signaled that he needed help. Ben sat on Adam’s right side and slid an arm behind him to help shift him into a more upright position. As he did so, Hoss slid some pillows behind his brother. Adam grimaced with the movement but remained conscious. Paul was relieved by that. He tipped a cup of water to Adam’s lips letting him take sips until the cup was empty.

“We’ve been able to get you to swallow a spoonful of water now and then, but that wasn’t enough with the blood loss. You need to get as much fluid in you as you can tolerate. We should also clean you up and change the linens. I put clean bandages on you before Joe woke you. I can give you something for the discomfort while we do this?”

Getting a negative reaction from Adam as expected, the men worked together to bathe him as he kept his eyes shut tight. They all knew how terribly embarrassed he was every time he was so hurt or so sick he couldn’t take care of his basic needs himself. Working as fast as they could, they next rolled Adam onto his right side, rolled up the soiled linens beneath him, and placed a clean sheet. Then they rolled him onto his back, pulled the soiled linens away to his right before pulling the clean sheet that way and tucking it in. As soon as they placed a clean sheet and a blanket over Adam, he relaxed for to him, the worst was over. With a weak voice, he made a request.

“Now can someone tell me what happened? I don’t seem to remember much.”

Taking the chair next to the bed, Ben told the story from the attempts to break the roan to the Paiute raid on the ranch and the subsequent search for Adam. When he finished, Adam was pensive.

“Why did those boys do it? Things have been quiet lately.”

“It seems some of the older warriors were taunting the youth that they were not men because they had never made war on their enemies. With that smallpox outbreak they had when hunting parties were out last fall, there were also not enough women for them to marry. It all just blew up when they got hold of some whiskey from an itinerant trader and started this rampage. It’s all settled down now, and more Paiute families have to mourn their dead.”

“Yes, the Paiute lose again. I guess it is the impossibility of warriors maintaining peace. It is a sad dilemma for them.”

All of the men were quiet thinking about that.

“What about the roan?”

“Hoss took it up to the open lands well north of here and released it. You were right. That horse would never settle down to life on a ranch. Sometimes there is no good solution to a situation, and you do the best you can do.”

“Another cunning drum.”

“What?”

“Hoss calls it a cunning drum when doing one thing is wrong and so is the other option.”

Smiling, Ben looked at Hoss who was beaming in pride at Adam who had a half smile. Joe nodded as well and decided he needed to make peace with Adam as well.

“I know what you mean too. I thought that roan would be a great stud for our herd. He’s a great horse. But I saw how much he relaxed as soon as he was out of that corral. He trotted along behind Chubb like he knew where he was going. You were right about the roan, and I’m sorry I said all those things to you. I guess being brave doesn’t mean taking stupid chances with a dangerous horse. I guess I knew that already but I wanted you to be proud of me. Losing that roan is a loss to our breeding program, but maybe in a few years, we’ll get some of his offspring when we round up mustangs.”

“That blow to the head must have had a greater impact than we thought. You seem to be a different person. What have you done with Joe?”

Grabbing a pillow to throw, Joe was stopped by three men who yelled at him. Acknowledging their fierce looks, Joe dropped the pillow. Adam was grinning though. This was the brother he knew and loved. He started to chuckle but stopped abruptly with a sharp pain in his side.

“I think my patient needs some quiet time. Now let’s all get out of here and let him rest. Adam, rest or read: those are your choices.” But Adam had already closed his eyes and never saw Paul’s stern look or heard any further instructions.

It was a difficult recovery for Adam with bouts of fever and nausea over the next week, and then some lingering problems with nausea for the next month. Adam missed the spring drive for the first time since he had returned from college. He wasn’t able to ride for two months, and when he did, he was exhausted after only a short time in the saddle. On that first day riding, Hoss saw him turn toward home and followed him there as soon as he could. He found Adam in the stable standing with his hand hanging onto the pommel and his head was resting against Sport. He was pale and sweating.

“Brother, you done tried to do too much too soon. Here, I’ll take care of Sport. You just go set on that hay bale over there.”

“Maybe I’m a good actor and just did that to get out of my chores.”

“Ain’t nobody can act that good. Now you jest rest easy there. Pa sees you like that and he’s gonna have you back in that bed.”

For the next few weeks, Hoss and Joe covered for Adam so that their father never knew how difficult returning to work was for him. He took a lot of breaks while working, sitting in the shade and fighting the weakness and nausea that plagued him whenever he tried to do anything difficult. Gradually his strength began to return, and he made plans to travel to California to continue his plan for Hop Sing. He was gone to California on one of those trips when Hoss went to the breaking corrals to watch Joe working with the last of the mustangs. He was riding a chestnut stallion that afternoon. He had ridden him to a standstill weeks before, and wanted to finish with him. He had already taught the horse some of the basic moves a cow pony needed to know and was impressed with him.

“Wow, that sure is a pretty horse, Joe.”

“He is handsome. He learns faster than any of the others. He’s strong, smart, and fast. He’s also cantankerous, bossy, and hates to be told what to do. You gotta push hard to get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. He’ll try to nip you any chance he gets. Still, he’s probably the best horse that I’ve broken since I started doing this.”

“What you gonna do with him?”

“I think I’ll give him to Adam.”

Hoss started to chuckle then. “What’s his name?”

“Cunning Drum.”

Hoss’ booming laugh could be heard at the ranch house, and Ben turned to look toward the breaking corrals wondering what was so funny.

*****

Chapter 12

“Adam, ya ain’t listened to none of what we got to say. I don’t want Hop Sing gone for a year and into danger. He might never come back. He’s gonna be so far away, we won’t be able to help him ifn he needs us. Heck we won’t even know if he needs us.”

“Hoss, I have listened, but I don’t agree with you. Hop Sing wants to do this, and he feels he needs to do this. Don’t you remember how unhappy he was when he thought he couldn’t go to fulfill his family’s wishes? It is very important to him to have a son. He needs to get married, and the only wife for him is in China.”

“Aw, Adam, he woulda got over it. It’s just gonna be even harder if he doesn’t go now that you filled his head with all them ideas.”

Not yet ready to tell Hoss that Hop Sing would not be traveling alone, Adam could only repeat much of what had already been said. It would have probably ended there except their father came outside when he heard the loud voices.

“I think what Hoss is saying is that we have raised legitimate concerns, and nothing seems to be able to sway your thinking at all. You haven’t asked us for any advice or help.”

“Perhaps that’s because the only advice I get is not to do it. Well I am going to do it.”

“What if I forbid you from using any Ponderosa funds? Then what will you do? What if I tell Hop Sing he can’t go? Then what?”

“I wasn’t planning on using any Ponderosa funds. I’ve already liquidated most of my investments. That’s what I’m using. I won’t borrow against my interest in the Ponderosa either so you have no fear that what I do will jeopardize your holdings. What if I fail? Will I be welcome here when I get back?”

“Well, of course you will be welcomed back. You’re only going to California. You go there all the time and we welcome you back. You’re my son. This is your home.” Suddenly Ben got a sinking feeling and saw that Adam realized he had said too much. “You’re planning to go with him, aren’t you?”

Dropping his head and tugging at this ear gave the answer before he said it. “Yes, I’ll be going with him. He can’t handle all the intricacies of business negotiations. He will be the president of the company and I will be the person designated to handle all the business. In China, Hop Sing will do the talking and the writing as needed. The rest of the time, I’ll be in charge.”

“You planned all of this without telling us. When were you planning on telling us? When you were packing your bags and getting ready to leave?”

“I wanted to tell you many times, but every time this subject comes up, there are complaints about not having a cook for a year, or it being so far away, or any number of other things. We can’t seem to discuss this in a rational way.”

“Maybe that’s because you made up your mind long ago, and nothing we say matters. Well do what you will, we’ll manage without you.” Ben walked back into the house. He had to hope that Adam would not leave, but in his breaking heart, realistically, he knew he would.

Hoss was more direct. “You don’t seem to care what this is gonna do to Pa. You could tell just by what he said and how he looked, that his heart is breaking just thinking on you leaving. When you was hurt and lying in that bed when we didn’t know ifn you would ever wake up, Pa was sick with worry for you. He sat there and prayed and never slept nor nothing. Now you want to be gone for a year or more, and you don’t even seem to care what that is gonna do to Pa.”

“Hoss, I do care. That’s why I hadn’t said anything. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him and see the hurt. That was the hardest part. The next hardest part was telling you. When I was away at college, you were the one I missed most. You were always there for me. I loved you from the moment you were born. You’re my best friend, and I need you to tell me that you understand. Somehow I have to be able to explain it to you so you understand.”

“Adam, I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. I don’t know that there’s anything you can say that will make this any easier for me. Just seems so selfish to me.”

“Hoss, you know how I get sometimes. I want new challenges. I want to see new things. I want to see new lands.”

“See, there ya go. You’re only considering what you want.”

“Hoss, I have a yearning to go. If I never get the chance, I will become more and more unhappy here. I love my family and I love the Ponderosa, but sometimes it feels like I have a weight holding me here. It feels more like a cage than a paradise. I know you don’t feel it, but I do. Maybe if I get to work out a little of this wanderlust, I can be happier living here. I’ll have seen exotic places and met exotic people.”

“Seems to me that you did a lot of that when you was gone them four years for college.”

“That was something I needed too, but I was a boy, and now I’m a man who has needs and yearnings that I have to satisfy. I’m sorry you don’t understand, but it’s the way I am.”

Turning abruptly, Hoss also went to the house. Adam knew that his emotions were ready to boil over and he needed to leave before he said something he shouldn’t or let the tears fall. He wouldn’t be comfortable with either at this time so he had to go. Adam stood quietly wishing that he had handled the whole situation better, but he also knew there probably wasn’t a way that would have caused any less hurt. As he stood there, Joe came up behind him startling him for a moment.

“You can let me have it too. I’m assuming you heard?”

“I heard, but I agree that you have to go.”

Taken by surprise by that, Adam looked to Joe as if to ask why. Joe had to smile then even though his heart was heavy too. It wasn’t often that anyone surprised Adam, and he was always proud of himself when he was able to do and do it so effectively if Adam’s wide-eyed look was any indication.

“I’m not that six-year-old boy who was mad because you went to college, and then resentful four years later when you came home. I understand what you’re saying. I think you’re a lot like Pa. You need to have a dream. It inspires you and challenges you. Hoss likes being in charge of the cattle and taking care of the land. I enjoy the horses, and I get plenty of challenges with all of that. You’ve always needed more. You’re the one who always volunteers to hunt down a puma or a stray wolf that’s bothering our herds. You’re the one who wants to work out business deals with people we’ve never met in states where we’ve never been.”

“And you point is what?”

“Well, I thought it would be clear to you. All of those things you like to do help all of us. The Ponderosa wouldn’t be what it is without all the changes you pushed all of us into. Heck, Pa fights you tooth and nail every time, but even Pa has to admit that those windmills and the lumber mill have been great for us. Running my mustangs with the Ponderosa horses for a few weeks until they calm down has helped me with the horse breaking even though I thought it was a waste of time when you told me to try it.”

“So you think this trip will be good for all of us?”

“Heck, yeah. You need to travel and get some of that out of your system. And Hop Sing needs to go see if he can follow his family’s wishes. And I would give anybody odds that you’re gonna bring back something that is gonna make the Ponderosa and this family better off.”

“Thank you, Joe. What you said really helped.”

“Hey, Adam, I heard that some of those islands you’re gonna stop at have dancing girls who don’t wear nothing above the waist except some flowers maybe. If you were to bring your sketchbook and sketch a few of those for me, I wouldn’t mind at all. Even better, you could bring one of those dancing girls home with ya, and I’d let her dance for me every night.”

“Joe, would just the sketches be alright though?”

“Well I would be a might disappointed, but I’d get over it.”

Laughing, the two brothers walked to the stable to get some work done. Later when they went in the house for dinner, Hoss and Ben acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened although both were quieter than usual, and there was little banter at the dinner table. Adam thought it best if he waited a day to tell them that he was leaving for California in a week to make arrangements for purchasing a ship for the company he had created. Then he would need to hire a ship’s captain and together they could hire on a crew. He was hoping that within a month, they could leave. Storms tended to be worse in the fall that was rapidly approaching. If they could sail out by August, they could hopefully be in the Sandwich Islands for the first leg of the journey by September. Then if the winds were favorable, they would head to China.

In just over a week, Adam was to meet with the attorneys in San Francisco to complete the chartering of his new company. Hop Sing was listed on the documents as the president, but Adam was the owner because under California law, Hop Sing could not own property. So the warehouse that they needed was already in Adam’s name as were the stacks of goods already being delivered there to fill their ship when they had one. Even chartering a corporation would have been impossible except that Adam was the majority owner. After today, he had an idea who the third owner would be. He already had signed up Roy Coffee as an investor. Under California law, there had to be at least three shareholders for the corporation to be chartered and one of them had to be a resident of the state. There had to be three officers of the corporation as well. Hop Sing and Adam would be two but a third was needed. Adam had purchased a very small home in San Francisco to establish a residency there. He needed to be living in that house by the day the charter was to be issued. Now Joe was looking like the best bet for that third investor as well as the third officer whom he needed. Adam decided he would ask Joe the next day after church services. He would make the same offer to his father and Hoss but didn’t expect a positive response.

The next morning, the four Cartwrights attended church services together. Adam realized it would be the last time he was here in this church for probably at least another year. He said a prayer then for his father and then one for each of this brothers for God to keep them safe until his return. He had never considered before that he could return in a year to find a family member gone. They lived in a place where danger lurked in many places and in many guises. There were many possibilities for accidents in ranch work and on drives. There were threats from too from diseases, storms, wild animals, and sometimes people who acted like animals. Life could be so unpredictable. A neighbor had recently died from a toothache. He had ignored it for a long time until the pain was so severe he went to see Doctor Martin. Unfortunately there was an infection and it spread to his brain and killed him. Nothing could be done for him, and he had left a wife and four children. There was a very good foreman on that ranch so it was likely the family would do all right, but the suddenness and unpredictability of life out here was driven home by that unexpected death.

After church services, as the Cartwrights rode home, Adam said he was going to take a ride to the lake. Joe correctly surmised why and asked to ride with him. Adam was relieved because not only would he get the serenity of the lake, he would get a chance to talk with Joe about the corporation. When the lake came into view, Adam pulled his horse to a halt. He had first seen this view as a small boy. It had taken his breath away, and even though his father intended to travel to California, Adam had asked him why after they had seen this. They had settled here temporarily then but it had become permanent. It was where his father’s dream had taken root and grown. Adam wondered where his dream would take root and grow, or whether he would return here with a dream that had withered and died. Joe was quiet beside him for as long as Joe could be quiet anywhere.

“You’re gonna miss this, and you’re gonna miss us. But you need to remember that you are part of this land forever, and part of us too. You’ll be back.”

“Joe, I wish I could be as sure of things as you are. I worry. Sometimes I worry too much, but I know what Pa and Hoss are saying about this, and they’re right too. It is far away, and lots can happen. None of you will be able to help because none of you will even know we’re in trouble. You might never hear from us again, and you might never know what’s happened or what’s become of us.”

Sobered by those thoughts, Joe stood and watched as the sun made the lake glow. “Adam, it’s a lot like this lake. We see it one way when the sun is like this, and then it’s like it changes color when the sun is at a different angle, but it’s still the same lake. Wherever you are and whatever you do, it will still be you in our hearts cause you’ll be our brother no matter what happens.”

“Thanks, Joe. You’ve been a big help to me in the last two days.”

“Well, if you’ll ride with me, I got one more thing I’d like to do before you go.”

“All right, and I have a couple of favors to ask of you.”

The two brothers mounted up and rode slowly as Adam explained what he needed. Joe was agreeable until Adam got to the next part.

“It would mean you have to be in San Francisco a week from Monday. I have to be there before that point to establish my residency. You would only need to be there to sign the papers.”

“Pa’s gonna be upset with you leaving. I was thinking he would need Hoss and me to bolster him a bit. I just don’t know about leaving him at that time.”

“That’s all right. I can find someone else when I get to San Francisco.”

“Whoa, I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it. I just want to find a way to take care of Pa too. Say, maybe he could join us there to see what you’ve done. Maybe it would make him feel better to help you buy a ship or something like that.”

“Joe, I would like that very much, but Pa is dead set against me doing this, and tries to talk me out of it at every opportunity. It seems like a fool’s errand to try to get him to change his mind.”

“Aw, it ain’t so much that he’s against it. It’s just that he can’t bear the thought of you going. I’ve seen how he is when you’re gone away just on a business trip. He stays up later at night, and he’s always at the house like he’s waiting for news. When you were lost in the desert that time, he didn’t hardly sleep at all. He worries about you, but he can’t show it so he does what he can. Maybe you should ask Pa and Hoss to be officers of your corporation too.”

At Adam’s surprised look, Joe shrugged. “Can’t hurt to ask.” But of course, it could and did.

“You want me to sign on to your fool’s errand? You must have finally lost the rest of your common sense. I never thought to see you get involved in a crazy scheme. Joe, I could believe. I could believe Hoss could get roped into one too. I never thought my well-educated sensible son could be so headstrong in pursuit of such a ridiculous goal. You have to admit there must be a better way to accomplish what you want to do.”

“Tell me a better way, Pa. Come up with a plan that does not involve traveling to China and does not make a merchant out of Hop Sing. With the way the laws are now especially in California, how could we do this?”

“His wife-to-be could have gone to Mexico. They could have been married there and entered the country through Arizona which has no such restrictions.”

“Just one problem with that. Unmarried Chinese women do not travel unescorted. Who in China would escort a woman so that she could travel to a foreign country and marry the domestic servant on a ranch? Don’t you think I thought through all the scenarios I could imagine? Nothing else works except Hop Sing going to China and marrying this woman there.”

“Well I won’t give my blessing to this idea of yours. I can’t.”

Adam grabbed his hat and walked outside. Knowing that he wouldn’t be riding out because he didn’t take his gunbelt, Joe followed after a few comments.

“He’s got a dream, Pa. You had a dream once. How did you feel about the people who tried to stomp that dream into the dust? Wait, your family gave you their blessing and prayers that you would find your dream. Why can’t you do that for Adam? You knew as well as any of us that he would leave someday. This way, he says he’s coming back. If you force him to stay this time, he’ll still leave sometime, and then maybe he won’t come back at least for a very long time.”

In the stable, Joe found Adam standing beside the stallion he had gifted to him that afternoon. Adam had said it was too much and he would be gone anyway, but Joe had insisted. Adam had chuckled at the horse’s name, and said he would call him Drum. He was rubbing the horses neck, and caressing its cheek. Already the two seemed to have a bond. Sport snorted a few times letting his displeasure at being ignored be known.

“I’ll get to you, boy. I have to let our newest stable mate get comfortable here first.”

“He really likes you.”

“I like him, Joe. He’s a lot like me and a lot like Sport. I guess you already knew that though. Will you take care of these guys for me while I’m gone?”

“I was wondering if you and I could ride the two of them to San Francisco. It would take longer to get there probably, but it would be a good ride. I could bring them both back here after we get that paperwork taken care of.”

With teary eyes, Adam pulled Joe into a hug. It was so unexpected, that Joe actually resisted a bit at first until he realized what was happening. Then he hugged his brother.

“Joe, thank you. But I don’t think we can take that ride. Hop Sing is nervous enough. I don’t want him to have to take the trip on the train by himself. Besides with the tensions the way they are, I’m not sure he would be safe traveling alone. And you know how uncomfortable he would be riding that many days on horseback so he can’t do that either.”

“You can ride him for the next few days until we leave then. What day are we leaving?”

“Friday. I’ll make the arrangements. Do you want a hotel room in San Francisco or do you want to stay at my house?”

“You have a house?”

“I had to do that to establish residency to charter the corporation. It’s small but it has two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a parlor. It’s all I need. You’ll be welcome to use it anytime you’re in San Francisco. It’s on Russian hill, so it’s a pretty nice neighborhood.”

“It’s really gonna happen, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, Joe, it really is.”

On Monday, Adam went to town to get some tickets for the trip, and to finalize all arrangements with the bank. As he was walking back to get his horse which was tied near the train station, he saw several men accosting a couple. The man was being pushed around and the woman was being held by one of the men. Adam hurried his pace to go help.

“Hey, let her go!” Adam made it clear from his stance that he would draw if necessary.

“Oh yeah, Cartwright, what you gonna do about it? There’s four of us and there’s one of you. You think you can shoot all of us?”

“No, but I can be sure to shoot you. How many others will be skill and luck. You want to try it to see how that works out for you?”

“You damn Cartwrights always messing in other people’s business, and always taking the coloreds’ side like this trash against good white folk. I’ll pay you back someday for this, you’ll see, I’ll pay you back!”

The ruffians withdrew then shoving the man to the dirt and the woman as well. Adam went to assist the couple. As he helped the woman to her feet and then the man, he introduced himself.

“I am sorry to meet under such circumstances. I’m Adam Cartwright. There’s been too much of that kind of thing around here.”

“Thank you, Mr. Cartwright. My name is Hannibal Jefferson and this is my wife Mabel.”

“I’m just Adam. Now what did those men mean by calling you colored?”

Wrapping an arm around his wife, Hannibal turned to Adam. He expected to see the look of disdain that he so often saw when people learned his background. He and his wife had almost secured employment here at a restaurant until those former Confederate soldiers had walked in and identified him. Now he expected that they would have to move on to try to find a community where they could live without harassment. But this tall man in black clothing had rescued them and deserved the truth. Adam waited patiently thinking the shock of their treatment had made the man unable to answer immediately.

“I am a black man according to my birth certificate. My wife is white. Miscegenation laws in Louisiana forbid our marriage, but we went north until we reached Wisconsin where we were legally married. Those men did not like that.”

“Black? You’re no darker than I am. You might even be a bit lighter.”

“I was born in Louisiana which goes by the one drop rule. I am one eighth black therefore I am black, and all my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be black.”

“Well that’s ridiculous. And it was that that made those men harass you?”

“Yes, and it’s all right if you don’t want to be seen with us now. We’re used to it.”

“You don’t know me, but I have to tell you if anyone who knew me said that, I would be very angry. It isn’t color that makes any person. Now, is there anything else I can do to be of service?”

“Adam, my husband and I were looking for work. We are almost down to our last penny, but no one will hire us because of our mixed marriage. I’m going to have our first baby soon, and we have no money and no home. If you know of someplace that needs a cook or two, that would help us so much.”

“Cooks! You’re cooks?”

“Yes, does that mean you know of an opportunity for us?”

“Ma’am, I have a great opportunity for you. Do you have transportation like a wagon?”

“Yes, we do, but we can’t pay the livery bill so he won’t release our horse to us.”

“I’ll take care of that. You just have to cook a meal tonight, and if it’s good enough, you’ll have employment for the next year. What’s your best dish?”

“Jambalaya, but I don’t think that I could find the ingredients here. Next best would be pork fillets in wine sauce with roasted potatoes and green beans with hot spiced applesauce on the side.”

“That’s perfect! Now let’s go to the stable and get your horse. We’re all heading out to the Ponderosa.”

“What’s this Ponderosa?”

“The biggest ranch in Nevada, and it just so happens that they are in desperate need of a cook, and one of the men in the family loves roast pork! You will audition for the job this evening.”

So Adam got the Jeffersons to the ranch and introduced them to Hop Sing. He told Hop Sing to take the night off and go visit relatives if he wanted. Hop Sing wanted to stay to see how well the couple did with the cooking, so he and Adam cooked up a little surprise for the family. Hop Sing served the dinner later, and as Hoss and Ben told him what a wonderful job he had done, he looked to Adam to intercede.

“Hop Sing didn’t cook tonight. Hannibal, come on out here with your wife.” As the couple came into the dining room, Adam introduced them. “They need a job. You can tell how well they cook. I told them this was an audition, and that if you approved, then you could hire them. It’s up to you now.”

Ben was taken aback by the idea, but Hoss and Joe immediately seconded the idea so their father agreed. “Well, Hannibal, it appears you are hired. There’s a room off the kitchen for you but our present cook is still using it. You can use the guest bedroom right here until he leaves. As of today, you’re on the payroll.”

“Sir, can I ask how much we will be paid?”

“A dollar per day, and room and board.”

“Pa, they have a horse and wagon.”

“And we will stable your horse and feed it.”

“Thank you, sir, that is most generous.”

“It’s the standard pay around here. Now there will be bonuses for additional work, and we’ll work out the details of that later.”

On Friday, Adam with Joe and Hop Sing left for San Francisco. Ben and Hoss wished them well, but the underlying sentiments were all too obvious from their body language and expressions. Adam had hoped that his leave taking would have softened their opposition enough to truly wish him well but it wasn’t to be. He waved and turned quickly back into the railroad car so his father and brother would not see the tears in his eyes. Joe and Hop Sing did but refrained from saying anything. They knew that Adam was hurting far worse than his father or Hoss knew, but Adam would never let anything like that stop him from doing what he believed he had to do.

In Reno, the group made the transfer to the train to California, and from that point on began to discuss what they would do in San Francisco and all three were looking forward to Monday and the momentous occasion of signing the documents that would make them the owners of a corporation. Immediately after that was done, Adam planned to look over some ships that were for sale, and he asked Joe if he wished to help him with that. Joe agreed he could spend a day or two doing that before he headed home. He did want to extend this time with his brother. It had been perhaps one of the best weeks with his oldest brother that he had ever had, and he was reluctant to see it end.

On Monday, the paperwork was processed expeditiously despite Adam’s fears that Hop Sing being there and an officer of the corporation would be a problem. Apparently among wealthier investors, partnering with a wealthy Chinese man was fairly common and aroused no suspicion. Then the three of them began a search for a vessel to buy. Joe was amazed at Adam’s knowledge of ships.

“Four years living with Grandpa Stoddard and working with him in the summers taught me a lot. Design is something I have always loved too so I have been reading about the newest ship designs for years. This is the first chance I’ve had to put that knowledge to any real use though.”

By late Tuesday, Adam put in an offer on a ship. They had looked at twenty vessels and gone back to the first one they had seen because they had found none as good as that. It needed some minor repairs but was otherwise in good order. Hop Sing was staying with relatives and would not be part of the hiring process so he told Adam he would be ready to leave whenever the ship was ready. Adam reminded Hop Sing that he was to go to a tailor and have clothing made that was suitable for a prosperous Chinese merchant. He was not to even bring any of his old clothing on the ship.

That night, Joe and Adam went to a nice club and had a few drinks afterwards as they reminisced about their lives together. In the morning, Joe planned to leave. Adam told him that he wished he could be there on the dock when their ship sailed, and Joe said he would if he could get their Pa and Hoss to come too. Not expecting that to happen, Adam gave a heartfelt goodbye hug to his youngest brother the next morning, and then headed out to find a ship’s captain with whom he could begin to hire a crew. His first interview was with a captain who had been recommended to him by a friend.

“And why should I sign on with a new company and a ship with which I am unfamiliar and owners who have no knowledge of the sea or of trading?”

“Because you will become a part owner after the first voyage if you make it successful, and you will teach me and the president of the company all that you know about the sea and the China trade. We have enough resources to hire the crew you want, and we already have a shipload of goods in our warehouse destined for the Sandwich Islands where we can pick up cargo for China, and then do the same on the return. We will have four ports of call on one voyage in which to make profit that you will share in if you take the job.”

Impressed with Adam’s ability to lay out his case succinctly with all the major points emphasized. He thought briefly and then nodded. Adam smiled. His friend had said that this was a man who liked to explore and had a curiosity about that things that would match Adam’s. The two men shook hands. Adam pulled a standard contract form from inside his coat and laid it on the table. There were two addendums transferring a ten percent ownership of the ship to the captain after a successful first voyage as measured by standards that were specified and with a ten percent share of gross profits from each port of call named in the ship’s manifest. The corporation’s lawyer had reviewed the terms Adam wanted and drawn the contract up to those specifications.

“What if there are no gross profits?”

“I hardly think that likely, but in that case, there is no payment to you nor will there be a transfer of ownership by the terms of the contract. I think you are a man who will make sure that the conditions of both addendums are met.”

“When do we leave?”

“As soon as we can get a crew and get the ship properly outfitted and loaded. I would like to be in the Sandwich Islands in September.”

“Well, then we better head down to the docks to find the men we need. I have a couple in mind, and for the rest we shall have to look to see who is available. With the wages you’re paying, we should be able to have a full crew in a couple of days.”

The captain was correct. The ship was fully crewed by the end of the week. The repairs were made and provisions were stored away. Dock workers were hired to haul the trade goods from the warehouse to the ship where they were stowed away by the crew who knew how to balance the load. The plan then was to set sail on Monday. Adam contacted Hop Sing to tell him to have his luggage and be ready to board the ship on Monday morning as the sun rose. They would ride the high tide.

Joe had convinced Ben to travel to San Francisco to send off his eldest son and his long time friend. Unfortunately they were delayed by bad weather and arrived in San Francisco on Monday morning. There were some problems that Adam had to take care of that morning but nothing serious enough to delay the ship’s departure by more than a couple of hours. The ship sailed away from the docks just as Ben and Joe arrived there. Ben’s heart sank because he did want his son to know he wished him godspeed and would pray for his safe return. As the ship turned toward the Pacific, a tall figure standing at the bow of the ship took off his hat and raised it in salute before waving it three times over his head. Adam had seen his father and knew the significance of his presence. Each man stood with a small smile even as tears rolled down their cheeks.

“May God grant them calm waters and a wind at their backs.”

“Pa, they’ll be fine.”

“Joe, those storms that delayed us blew in off the ocean. There are storms out there, and I fear for their safety.”

Looking out at the gray clouds building to the west over the ocean, Joe had the same concern. But he knew that Adam had gotten the best ship, ship’s captain, and crew that he could. He had to hope that it was enough. Joe could tell by his father’s demeanor though that he would worry regardless because more than anyone, he was familiar with what the sea could take.

*****

Chapter 13

In less than a day, Adam and Hop Sing were worried about their ship. As soon as they had left San Francisco Bay, the waters had turned rough. Each hour they seemed worse. For three days, they slogged through towering waves. Hop Sing was sick most of the time and stayed in his stateroom where he was miserable. Adam offered to help on deck and found that all the men were lashed to something solid. He helped the helmsman hold the wheel trying to keep the ship on the headings the captain called out. There was little sleep until the fourth day when the wind calmed a little. Hot meals were made for the first time since leaving port. Men who could be spared were sent to their bunks to sleep eight hours and then were expected back on deck to relieve the others so they could sleep.

“Mr. Cartwright, you bought us a fine ship. She handled those waves as well as any could, but if we get any worse weather, we may need to stay in the Sandwich Islands for a time so that I can check for any damages and have the caulking checked. We risk typhoons west of the Islands, and even though we can head north to escape the worst of them, the ship needs to be in top-notch shape.”

“Captain, we will do what you advise. If that is what needs to be done, we will do it.”

“Sir, you do not seem the merchant type. I have sailed merchant ships my whole career, and the owners invariably skimp on repair time in order to maximize profits.”

“There will be no profit if this ship sinks, and I am more concerned with reaching our destination and returning home than I am in maximizing profits. There will always be another voyage to take, but I only have this one life.”

“Very good, sir. We are in agreement. You should probably sleep as I think we may face another of these storms before we reach the Islands as it seems a pattern has developed. Good day to you, sir.”

The captain’s words were prophetic. There were three times as many stormy days as calm ones in the voyage from San Francisco to the Sandwich Islands. They were blown well off course a number of times and had to sail south to reach the Islands. Once they could see land, the whole crew was relieved. It had been hard work. Adam felt like he had worked a six week cattle drive in two weeks. Hop Sing remained in his cabin most of the time fighting the nausea that plagued him. Grateful to be alive and to have his ship relatively undamaged, Adam consulted with the captain as they neared the harbor.

“The men have worked hard and done all that you asked. What would be the proper reward for that and when should it be given?”

“As we work on repairs, it would be customary in the evenings to provide some liquid refreshment for the men. Not too much as they must work the next day.”

“Will you see to that, please? I wish to see some of the Island while we are here. Once the cargo has been offloaded and sold, what would be the best way to see the Island?”

“The best way would be to hire a guide. There are a number of natives suitable for that job. I would ask the priests who work with the people here. Don’t ask any of the businessmen with whom you negotiate. Too many of them are ruthless men and have questionable ethics. They might put you into dire circumstances in order to gain your cargo at little expense to themselves.”

“I will keep that in mind, Captain. Now could you direct me to where I need to go to begin selling our cargo here?”

The captain was more than willing to do that. Adam had impressed him so far with his willingness to work and his effort to be fair, but the captain wondered just how good he was at negotiating. The captain need not have feared. With his work for his grandfather and then the experience working with his father and then on his own gave Adam a good background for bargaining. By the end of the first day, he had sold most of their cargo and purchased more for the trip to China. What they didn’t sell here, they would take with them to sell there. As Adam was counting the money he had made with the transactions, the captain knocked on his open cabin door.

“Come on in, Captain. You have some money coming to you.”

“It is customary to pay the captain when the trip is complete.”

“I am not so enamored of tradition that I let it make decisions for me. I have said you would have a ten per cent share of gross profits, and you shall have it. There is your money, and there is a second stack of money there to pay the crew for this part of the trip with extra for celebrations in the evening. I have made arrangements for provisions to be loaded on board when we are ready to set sail. Is there anything else I need to do?”

“No, Mr. Cartwright, you’re doing just fine.” With a smart salute, the captain left Adam’s cabin and went to pay the men knowing that they would also be in a good mood for the rest of the trip by being treated so well. Taking care of the men like this made the captain’s job quite a bit easier.

In the cabin, Hop Sing and Adam talked. They were nearly halfway to China now, and the reality of what they were doing was hitting home. Hop Sing was recovering from his sea sickness and wished only to get to China as quickly as possible. There were some minor repairs needed for the ship, and then they would set sail when the winds were favorable and the skies clear.

The next morning, Adam went ashore to see about finding a guide. It didn’t take long. The man said it would be easier for them to walk the first day, but that if Adam wanted to see more of the island, they would need to rent horses or a carriage the next day. Adam was happy to walk the first day. They saw the palace of the monarch, the beaches where beautiful colorful fish swam in the shallow waters. The guide told Adam of the volcanoes on the islands, and the black beaches of the big island. Adam was determined to go see those things, but was happy that first day to see the people and how they lived. He did have somewhat of a problem each time they came upon women at the beach for they wore nothing above the waist when they were in the water. For a man who liked to be able to be in control at all times especially of what he showed of himself to others, Adam found it disconcerting that his body could so easily betray him and show what he was thinking. His guide was kind enough not to say anything, but he had heard snickers behind his back on several occasions.

At the end of the day, his guide suggested that they stay on the beach and share in a meal that was being prepared. Adam didn’t see a meal being prepared anywhere but agreed as he was intrigued by the idea. He was amazed that as torches were set out and mats laid on the sand, a group of people started digging in the sand and uncovered a large pig that had apparently been roasted. As they removed the sand, they next removed several layers of large leaves which had kept the sand from the meat. As the leaves were removed, the delicious scent of roast pork wafted along the gentle night breezes. Adam was suddenly missing Hoss and wondered if he had forgiven him yet for leaving. Then he felt a hand take his and looked down to see a beautiful young woman who wished to guide him to a seat. He smiled and walked with her.

“Not everyone here speaks English well. Your guide thought that perhaps I could explain some of what is happening and make your stay here more pleasant.”

“You have already done that. My name is Adam Cartwright.”

“I am Alamea Kailani.”

“That is beautiful. Everything here is so beautiful, I wish I did not have to leave. Everyone here is smiling. Is there a reason they are so happy tonight?”

“Yes, they are smiling because of you.” At Adam’s furrowed brow, Alamea explained more. “Many of the white people here would never come to the beach to sit with us like this and share our meal. They find us primitive for enjoying things like this. The priests will join us on occasion and there are a few others, but you immediately accepted the invitation. That showed great respect for our people, and that is why they smile.”

Looking around, Adam smiled back at those near him and nodded in acceptance of their greetings although he didn’t understand most of it. Alamea was liking him more and more. She began to explain what was being said to him so he could respond. Then she would translate his words and that brought even more smiles. As food was served, Adam realized how hungry he was. He hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, and this food was delicious. As he ate the pork and grease dripped from the juicy meat, he asked about Alamea and found out very little at first. She asked him about his background and what he was doing, and he told her as much as he could in one evening. He did mention that he would like to go see the big island with its volcanoes and black sand beaches, and Alamea said she could get some of the men to take him the next day in an outrigger. He didn’t know what that meant but was willing to give it a try. Again his answer brought a smile.

When the meal was completed, Adam looked around for his guide. Alamea asked what he was looking for.

“I’m lost without my guide, and I don’t see him. I’m fairly certain I would never find my way back to the ship without help.”

“He is with his family. He will guide you back if that is what you wish, or you could stay in my home for the night and then the men will give you a ride to see the big island in the morning.”

Looking into those dark eyes shining in the moonlight, Adam knew exactly what he wanted to do at that moment, and it wasn’t either of the two choices she had given him. He understood so well how Joe could fall in love so quickly and had done it himself several times, but he didn’t fall out of love so quickly which made him hesitant at this point to make his feelings known. Alamea seemed to sense his unease, and quickly worked to soothe that.

“I have three sleeping rooms in my home. My parents and my brother are no longer there. You are welcome to use one of the extra sleeping rooms. There is a small pool near the house where you may bathe in the morning.”

“Thank you. I would be most honored to be your guest.”

Reaching out a hand, Adam took Alamea’s small hand in his rough and calloused hand. It was the first she had touched him since leading him to dinner. She had been so nervous the first time that she had not realized that his hands were not soft and smooth like most merchants but hardened and roughened by real work. Somehow that made him even more manly in her thoughts. She knew she would have a difficult time sleeping this night with him in a room next to hers. She was thinking that perhaps he was the one who would be willing to let her have his child. She began to hope that might be true. When they reached her home, she guided him to a sleeping room and showed him where everything was before she walked quietly through the darkness into her room next to his.

Using the candle Alamea had left with him, Adam explored the room he was to use for sleeping. It was small but very clean and had wide windows which brought in nice cooling breezes. He stripped off his shirt and boots and laid down on the mat where he was soon sleeping soundly and better than he had in a couple of months. In the morning, Alamea softly called his name when it was light and showed him to the pool where he could bathe. When she saw that bare chest, she had wanted very much to touch the hair there. She wondered if it would be soft or bristly. She saw the beard he had grown in just a day and went to get a shaving kit from one of her neighbors with whom she sometimes gave shaves and haircuts to men from the ships in the harbor. When she returned and walked to the pool to give Adam the shaving implements, he was just rising from the pool to get out. She saw him in all of his nakedness, and her desire for him rose but again she said nor did anything except to offer to shave him. He settled back into the water although she had seen the desire for her rise in him. She dropped her clothing and stepped into the pool. As she neared Adam, he watched her intensely but said nothing. She reached out then and put her hand over his eyes.

“You must close your eyes while I shave you. I cannot do this with your eyes burning me like they do.”

As Alamea pulled her hand away, she saw his eyes were closed and beautiful long lashes lay along his high cheekbones. She could see too that he was not some pasty white man as she had seen before but had a darker tone to his skin. She rubbed a small amount of lather gently into his beard and felt his body tense next to her. She could not tell if it was fear or desire. As she began to shave him, she could sense he was relaxing with the sensation. She was very careful and took her time for she did not do anything like this often. When she finished, she washed the razor and carefully set it aside. Then she took water in her hands and bathed his face.

“Now you are done. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“I would like to kiss you, but I don’t think I could stop with a kiss.”

“Then we should get out of the bathing pool and dress. The men await us on the beach. Do you wish me to travel with you to the big island?”

“Oh yes, very much.”

“You will not need your boots. Sandals will be provided when you need them.”

Once Adam and Alamea reached the beach, there was a large outrigger in the shallow water. They splashed out to it and climbed aboard. One of the men handed an oar to Adam and Alamea explained what he should do. It took some time to get into the rhythm of the men, but once he did, his powerful shoulders helped them go faster. The men began to chant a song, and Adam smiled. This was the kind of experience he had dreamed of having when he left his home. If only there was some way to share this with his family so that they would understand. They spent most of the day on the water.

It took some time but the outrigger was pulled up and they were finally on the beach of the big island. Adam was amazed at the black sand they showed him, but once he had it in his fingers, he knew the origin and composition of it. He asked if there was some way he could bring some back with him and was assured they would take care of that for him. Then they began the trek to the volcano. There was an active eruption going on as lava poured into the sea so they could not get very close, but Adam saw the glowing lava, saw it devouring trees, and then saw it dropping into the ocean creating clouds of steam. At one point, Alamea called to him to come back and quickly. Not knowing why she said it but trusting her, he retreated. She pointed to his woven mat sandals that he then realized were smoking. He had gotten too close to hot lava. He smiled in embarrassment but Alamea said it was not uncommon for people to do that so one must pay attention to one’s feet.

By the time Adam and Alamea returned to the beach, the men were roasting fish over an open fire. There was fruit and water in coconut shells. Adam settled into the shade and ate heartily. Alamea sat next to him, and Adam was thinking that life couldn’t get much better than this. Once again he asked Alamea about her past and her family, and once again she sidestepped the questions and talked of other things. Adam’s curiosity was shifting into high gear with her evasiveness. He wanted to know more about her and wondered what it would take for her to open up to him. The sun was going down then, and sleeping mats were pulled out, and torches were set for light. With the sound of waves lapping at the beach, Adam fell asleep.

The trip back to the island of Oahu and to his ship was without problems but they halted and let Adam marvel at the whales breaching and blowing. They kept a healthy distance away from the whales because they had spotted calves with them and had no desire to anger any of the mothers who could crush their outrigger quite easily even though it was very large. Once they reached the beach, Adam and Alamea headed back to her home where Adam donned his boots and straightened his rumpled clothing to ready himself for returning to the ship. He looked at Alamea, and she looked so sad.

“Alamea, may I come visit you again tomorrow?”

Alamea’s whole countenance and demeanor transformed with that question, and Adam knew the answer before she said it. “You would be most welcome to visit me, Adam. I look forward to it.”

Thinking perhaps he could kiss her, Adam refrained not wanting to take a chance on ruining this nascent relationship. Instead, Adam smiled, waved, and began his walk back. As he neared the ship, some of the crew noticed him and grinned. As he climbed the gangplank to his ship, the captain came out to greet him.

“So, you went native, did you?”

“Went native?”

“Bedded one of the local women?”

“No, not at all, but I would certainly like to do that. I was at a luau, slept on a grass mat, bathed in a pool, rode in an outrigger to the big island, saw volcanoes, lava, and black sand, then had a picnic on the beach, and am just now getting back. This is a beautiful place and the people here are wonderful.”

“Well, be careful. It took me a long time to find a decent, fair man to work for, and I’d hate to lose him now.”

“I’ll be careful, but there are always risks if you want to try new experiences. Now I need some clean clothing and a quiet restful night.”

Adam went to the galley and asked the cook if there was an empty bottle he could use. Once he got that, he used a funnel and poured his coconut shell of black sand into the bottle. He took that to his cabin and stashed that and the shards of lava he had gotten into a trunk he was using for souvenirs. Then instead of dressing in clean clothing, Adam slid into his cool sheets with nary a stitch of clothing on. It was so comfortable to sleep that way so he had been doing it for years. He had clean clothing set out for the next day, but his sleep was anything but restful as visions of a beautiful woman were in his dreams and in his thoughts each time he awakened. In the morning, he was in need of coffee, and the captain noticed that he did not look rested.

“She got under your skin, didn’t she?”

“Who?”

“Whoever it was who didn’t let you rest easy last night.”

At the captain’s grin, Adam relaxed.

“It’s all right with me. Not that many chances at love in this life, you gotta grab the ones you can. Just be careful out there. Not all the men here are willing to accept a white man moving in on one of their own.”

“None of the men seem at all concerned, and were quite happy to transport us to the big island yesterday. They’re all very friendly to me.”

“Is it Alamea?”

Surprised and a little leery as to how the captain had discerned that, Adam nodded.

“She has approached other men who have made port here. None have been to her liking ultimately. She’s related to the royal family, except her father was one of the sailors who came through here and forced her mother. You must have noticed she’s a bit lighter than the others. The people will do as she asks because of her royal blood, and with her background, they’re probably happy she has chosen you instead of pursuing one of them. Her native father died of leprosy, and her mother and brother were sent to Molokai.”

“What’s on Molokai?”

“The only thing on Molokai is a leper colony. The priests here help out, and it’s said that one of them may be sent there permanently. The government here made a law to send everyone with leprosy to Molokai. There’s no port as such, so they throw them and their provisions off the ship sometimes. No one is allowed to visit there except the priests, and no one is allowed to leave.”

“But Alamea is well. She has no signs of disease.”

“For now, but she’s still very young. She’s also half white so maybe she won’t get it. None of the men here want to marry her though for they think she will have leprosy and give it to them too. If not for her family connection through her mother, she would probably be on Molokai already.”

“Do I need to worry?”

“Probably not. I don’t know of any white man here who has leprosy. I suppose it could happen if you were around it a lot, but it seems white men are just not so prone to it.”

Sobered by what he had learned, Adam walked slowly back to Alamea’s home. When he got there, she could see he was bothered and thought she probably knew why.

“You don’t have to be with me. Have you heard my sad tale?”

“Yes, the ship’s captain has sailed these waters extensively. He knew your story.”

“That is why I did not wish to lay with you. I wanted you to know before we reached that question. I would have taken you to me the first night otherwise. I could see that you wanted to do that. But I wanted you to know me and to know my story. You can leave in good conscience. I know that men do not wish to be too close to me.”

“But I do. I want to be with you. You’re half white. Maybe that means you won’t get it.”

“I do want to be with you too, but you have to be sure it is the right decision. I want to have a child, and the man I am with has to know that. Would you want to make a child within me, Adam Cartwright? I will not lay with a man who cannot make a commitment to me. Can you do that, Adam? Can you say that you love me and only me?”

Reaching for Alamea, Adam pulled her into an embrace and gently pressed his lips to hers. He felt her tremble in his grasp, but she did not pull away. He let his tongue caress her lips and then gently nudged them apart as his tongue slid into her mouth. He moved his tongue to the roof of her mouth and the touched the tip of her tongue again before withdrawing. Her tongue tentatively followed his, and they kissed that way for quite a while with their bodies pressed together. Adam’s hands caressed her back and held her close to him. After a while, she placed her small hands on his chest to push him away from her a little. She took his hand and turned to walk to her sleeping room. Adam grinned and willingly followed her. In that room, he began to undress her. He had seen her before without clothing but this was so different. In the bathing pool, he had worked to control himself and fought his reaction to her. Now he touched, caressed, and kissed every part of her smooth body as it was revealed to him. As they joined together, Alamea gasped with pain, and Adam paused.

“No, please, I will be fine. You are the first man for me, and I was told it would hurt and then be gone.”

After their lovemaking, Adam held Alamea close to him and said the words he had so seldom ever spoken. “I love you, Alamea Kailani. I wish to marry you and take you with me.”

“Adam, I do love you. I had searched for love for so long, and thought that it was something that took many months, but with you, it was like a volcano erupting. The heat of you burns within me. I see you in my dreams, and think of you when you are not here.”

“Will you come with me then?”

“The men will not like it. Sailors believe a woman on board is bad luck. You are coming back this way. I could wait for you here, and then go with you to your country or wherever you are going.”

“If that is your wish, then that is my command. Until then, I want to be with you as much as I can. We sail in a week if all goes well. I should be back here in less than six months after that. Can we marry before I go?”

A cloud passed over Alamea’s features then. Adam knew something was wrong. “What is it? Why do you look so sad now?”

“We cannot marry here. My people and your people would not approve.”

“Well I can get the ship’s captain to marry us.”

“That will only be recognized if we are at sea. Adam, we must wait. When you return, and I leave with you, we can marry. I am so sorry that it is that way.”

“It seems no matter where I go, the color of a person matters more than the heart, mind, and soul of that person. It makes me sad, but it is too much for me to change by myself.”

Rolling on his side and resting on his elbow, Adam took Alamea’s hand in his. “Do you, before God, Alamea Kailani take me Adam Cartwright to be your husband to love always and only and to have and to hold in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live?”

Alamea smiled but realized that Adam was serious so she answered. “I do. And do you, before God, Adam Cartwright take me Alamea Kailani to be your wife to love always and forever as long as we both shall live?”

“I do. And now we are married as much as any two people who love each other can be. We will get to know one another, and we shall make plans for our life together. It may seem that we only have a week right now, but we have a lifetime. I love you, and I want to learn all there is to know about you. Please tell me your story now.”

*****

Chapter 14

On O’ahu, Adam was saying goodbye to Alamea. He had spent almost a month with her, but the winds had shifted, the skies had cleared, and ships coming in from the west reported that the typhoons had ended. He kissed her and said he would be back as soon as he could. They had made love that morning very gently and softly. She kissed him knowing that she was probably carrying his child, but not willing to tell him that yet. As she watched him walk away, she prayed for enough time to have this baby, but her fingertips and toes were already numb and she often had to suppress a cough. She feared she would not live long enough to give life to this child. As Adam’s ship cleared the harbor and headed for the open sea, he had a sense of foreboding that would not go away. He was thinking it was his anxiety about the weather, but in truth, he worried about Alamea. She had not seemed well that morning, and he could only hope it wasn’t anything serious.

The miles of ocean between the Sandwich Islands and China had seemed daunting but with favorable winds and no storms, Adam’s ship pulled into Hong Kong harbor well ahead of their schedule. Then he needed to get Hop Sing out of his cabin out on the docks where they could conduct business. It took a few days, but Hop Sing finally mastered the art of looking like he was in charge and when Adam looked to him as if for directions, he would simply nod his head, and Adam would return to the business he was conducting as if he had just received permission to do so. Contact was made with Hop Sing’s relatives and the woman he was to marry was on her way to the port. Gifts were sent to the emperor, but Adam and Hop Sing never ventured much further than the docks. The ship’s captain had warned them that the government could be paranoid about possible treason with foreigners traveling within the country especially after all of their difficulties with the British. As long as business was conducted in Hong Kong, they were not likely to have problems.

Food was purchased from junks that filled the harbor each day hawking just about everything imaginable including women for sale. Adam was surprised that the trade in human beings was so openly pursued when it was illegal. The ship’s captain said a lot was accomplished here with bribery, and that they should be prepared for such a request because it was unlikely they would leave port without at least one attempt to get more money from them whether by soliciting bribes or by outright extortion. When it happened, it was the latter.

“You pay. Woman is delivered. You no pay. Woman is sold.”

“How much?”

“One million American dollars.”

Almost laughing at the absurdity of it, Adam had a counteroffer. “Ten American dollars.”

The man who stood on the dock looked quite angry at that. “You cannot make fun or the woman will be sold.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were joking with what you said. Surely you can see that with all we own, we do not have even a small fraction of one million dollars. You have believed the stories of Gold Mountain, but I must tell you that if it was true as people claim, why would we work like this and take such risks to make only a few dollars? We can pay one hundred dollars and no more.”

“One thousand or the woman will be sold to another.”

Looking back to the captain and to Hop Sing, Adam waited to see their reaction. He didn’t know how serious the other side was about what they said they would do, and did not know how much he could offer to keep these negotiations going until they reached a satisfactory conclusion. The captain surreptitiously held five fingers against his pant leg. Adam nodded.

“We can offer two hundred fifty and no more. We still need some money to buy provisions.”

“Five hundred and that is last offer.”

Turning again as if to receive instructions, Adam got a nod from Hop Sing who had seen the exchange between the captain and Adam. “Five hundred it is then. We will need some time to get that money. We have not yet sold all of our cargo. Will evening today be suitable?”

“Of course. Be here with the money, and the woman will be delivered.”

Amazingly to Adam and Hop Sing, the transfer of the money for the bride went smoothly. The captain was not surprised. “If they didn’t deal honorably with you after you made an agreement, it would be that much harder to get deals from other merchants and captains. So they do the best they can, and of course pocket money for which they have done no work. They are pleased with themselves, and you get what you wanted the most.”

“We have that much money to pay them and could have paid more. Thank you for letting me know how much to pay. I don’t want to pay exorbitantly and be targeted by every extortionist in the port.”

“You’re welcome. Now let’s start selling and buying up cargo looking like we’re trying to get that money together.”

Taking their cue from the captain, Adam and Hop Sing began the final buying and selling that would get them the profit and the cargo they needed to head home. Late in the afternoon, a closed rickshaw approached the ship. The same man walked to the gangplank and Adam went down to meet him. He handed over the cash and then walked with the man to the vehicle. Hop Sing stood at the ship’s rail waiting for a look at his bride. She was older than he expected, and three young men followed her to the ship. Adam wondered at that, but waited for them all to get on board before asking what was going on.

“My husband was beheaded by the government. They took all of our property. I need a husband and a father for my sons. Hop Sing’s family said that he had property but needed a wife and sons. They arranged for us to be married. I and my sons are willing to travel to America to live with Hop Sing although my sons hope to seek their own fortunes there.”

“You speak quite well.”

“I was educated as was my family. We were important, but now we have been dishonored. There is no future here for any of us.”

Looking to the captain for advice, Adam received none when the captain shrugged his shoulders. This was out of the realm of his experiences in China, but he thought she sounded genuine, and the story did make sense. Adam had the same feeling, and welcomed the family aboard and then introduced Hop Sing. The woman began speaking in Chinese and soon all five of them were chatting amiably and had apparently already come to some understanding. Adam looked at the captain.

“Pull up the gangplank when you’re ready, Captain. Our business here is concluded.”

The next morning the ship pulled out. As they sailed away, the captain performed a shipboard wedding and the proper papers were signed. The captain recommended a few stops further south to get more valuable items, and there was time and good weather to do it. After three more weeks, the ship was full of valuable cargo and began the return voyage. That’s when trouble struck again. The heavily laden ship was not as maneuverable as it had been. When the weather started to get rougher, the captain suggested they head for Guam to ride out the bad weather, but it was too late and they were caught in a typhoon. The ship creaked and rocked and took on water. Adam lay in his cabin one evening worried that he would never see Alamea again. He didn’t know how prophetic those thoughts were. After three days of fighting wind and waves, the weather took a slightly better turn. The captain estimated that they were hundreds of miles off course and badly in need of repairs.

“Well, Captain, where to?”

“By my calculations, our best bet are the Gilbert Islands. We can rest there, get provisions, and repair the ship. It will take longer because we’ll have to work the timbers ourselves to get the right fits, and sew up the canvas that’s torn instead of replacing it, but it can be done.”

“Well that will give Hop Sing time with Ah Cy and her sons to prepare them for the immigration officials.”

“If they’re married, how can immigration officials object?” “California has gotten very paranoid about Chinese people entering. They will grill them to see how much they know about each other. They need to agree on answers to everything and then study until each of them gives the same or similar answers to every question that could be posed.”

“How picky can they get?”

“People have even been asked how many steps there are in their father’s home. Hop Sing is very familiar with my family’s home and his. In addition, I drew some sketches of the interior and exterior of the house and property. There will also be questions about the community, but those are usually much more general.”

“If you liked the Sandwich Islands, then you’ll love the Gilberts. I’ve only been here once before but it was a little paradise. It doesn’t have the land that the Islands do so the merchants and planters haven’t descended here like they have on O’ahu. This is still an unspoiled paradise.”

Sailing to the Gilberts took a few more days especially because of the weakened condition of the ship. Once they got to the Kirabati Archipelago, the ship dropped anchor in a lagoon. Most of those on board had never been there and were almost speechless with the beauty they saw before them. The water looked shallow because it was so clear, and Adam was anxious to get in the water to swim and see all the fish and sea life on display. The captain sent some men ashore to scout for trees large enough to be felled and trimmed to what they needed. Then bargaining started with the natives for the wood as well as for food and fresh water.

Once the work crews were busy, Adam asked the Captain to provide a boat to take him and Hop Sing with his new family ashore. Once there, the group split up. Adam looked for a secluded place to swim which he soon found, and spent the afternoon in peaceful solitude. He dreamed of a life with Alamea and wondered if she would be happier living someplace like this rather than in a cold dry Nevada. He thought they would have a long time to learn about each other and make those decisions. The next day he went to the same location with his sketchbook. He did some swimming and some drawing and sketching. The fish were amazing. There were brilliant yellow and blue tangs, striped triggerfish, and angelfish as well as many more fish with bright stripes and colors. For a short time he was entertained but all the beauty around him. He loved to swim over the atolls and watch the dramas play out as triggerfish would become aggressive and yellow damselfish, and pale blue damselfish as well as larger striped damselfish would scurry to find holes in the coral in which to hide. The speed of the flight to safety was amazing to him. He loved the colorful patterns of the triggerfish the most and the graceful swimming of the angelfish. The larger fish of these coral atolls also provided many meals as well as considerable entertainment for the crew and passengers of Adam’s ship.

The Captain’s estimate of two weeks turned into a month before the ship was ready and the weather was favorable. By then, even though they would miss this paradise, the group was ready to sail on. Adam especially was getting antsy with the long delay, and no one was happier than he when the ship was ready to go except maybe the Captain who had to endure more than anyone the complaints of his owner at the long delay. For Adam, swimming and fishing lost their appeal long before the ship was ready. He had another book of sketches and had started to use watercolors for the fish that were so colorful that the pen and ink or charcoal drawings just were not sufficient to record them. Adam also had quite a collection of pearls by this time and in many colors. He had some loose and some that were already strung. He packed those treasures away with all the other things he had been collecting and would bring home with him or gift to his wife for he considered Alamea his wife after the vows they had spoken to each other. He carefully packed the shark tooth sword he planned to gift to Joe and the shark tooth trident for fishing that he was planning as a gift for Hoss.

There were no more delays and the sailing to Hawaii was direct and on schedule. Hop Sing and his wife Ah Cy were becoming comfortable with each other. Both had been able to talk of their lives and come to an understanding of what the future would be for them. The sons were another matter entirely. Adam had asked the Captain what he thought of the young men, and he said they were hard to read. The three brothers were relatively quiet and Adam began to wonder about them. They certainly did not resemble their mother in any way. He finally mentioned that to Hop Sing.

“Hop Sing, have you wondered at your step-sons? They resemble each other about as much as my brothers and I resemble each other, but they all had the same mother and the same father supposedly. Any idea why they look so different from one another?”

“Mister Adam, two paper sons and one son of mother.”

“What is the relation of the paper sons?”

“Nephews. One from each sister. They loyal to their family and wish to make money to help take care of family. Must go America.”

“You accept that?”

“Yes, it necessary for family. I do.”

“Well, as long as you are good with it. Once we are in San Francisco though, I have a few ideas about the son who is actually Ah Cy’s son and now yours.”

“Yes, Mister Adam. I will listen to your ideas. Now I must go and help teach my sons and wife. There is still much to learn about the Ponderosa.”

“You have about another month. I hope it’s enough time.”

A week later under powder blue skies, Adam’s ship sailed into harbor near Honolulu. Diamond Head showed clearly in the distance. There were some items that they could sell there, and then take on products there to sell in San Francisco with the rest of their cargo. Adam handled those transactions as rapidly as he could and that was helped because now he was known here and already had a good reputation as a fair trader. As soon as he was able to get away, he headed to Alamea’s home. When he got there, the home was obviously deserted and already falling into some disrepair. Adam stood in the main room looking around and could see no evidence of what had happened and where she had gone. His heart and mind felt numb.

Walking around her house, Adam could see that there was no sign of violence. There was no damage and no disarray, but there were no signs that anyone had been there lately. All of her personal possessions were gone. He walked outside and found the same. There was nothing left of her there, no evidence of any struggle, and no signs that anyone had been anywhere near the house recently. For months and months, he had dreamed of her every night. He took out his sketches of her often and pictured her walking beside him, laughing as she ran on the beach, or sleeping peacefully at his side. Now he wondered if it had all been an elaborate fantasy that could not be real. She had said she loved him and wanted to have his child. He worried then that there had been a problem. Wondering where he could go to find information, he turned to leave and was startled by a tall man in a white frock standing behind him.

“She said you would come back. She was so sure of it. I had my doubts because so many men make those kinds of promises and never return, but she said your love was genuine and that you had pledged yourself to her in God’s name.”

“Where is she? Where is Alamea? How is she?”

“The news I have is not all bad, but there is much that is awful that I must tell you. Sit, and I will tell you the story.” Once Adam sat down on one of the stools just outside her home where they had often sat and talked or sang, the priest began the story. “Alamea suspected that she was infected with leprosy even before she met you. She was desperate to have a child so that her family would not perish from this earth. She said though that you were more than that. She said that she fell in love with you, and that you loved her. Seeing you now, I believe that.”

“But where is she? She cannot be that sick. It was only eight months ago when I left, and she was not ill.”

“Leprosy is a disease which we do not at all understand. I have been exposed to it repeatedly in my work, and I have not contracted the disease. Some get it in a mild form and some get it and then are cured but we have no idea how that happens. Others get it and it progresses rapidly and once it affects the lungs, it seems the patient is near the end. Alamea has a cough. Once she was with child, that became much worse and the disease progressed extremely rapidly. We have seen that before too. Women who do not even know they have the disease become extremely ill when they are with child and even after the child is born, they continue to deteriorate rapidly.”

“You’re still not telling me where she is.”

“She is where the law requires her to be. She is with her mother and brother in Kalaupapa on Molokai, but where they have had the disease for years, and will likely live for many more. Alamea is near death.”

“I want to see her. Please, please take me to her. She is my wife, before God, she is my wife.”

“She does not wish to see you. It would put you at great risk for no one can legally visit Molokai except for the priests and healers. No one can leave Molokai except for the priests who visit there to give sacraments to the sick and dying.”

“I’ll get there somehow.”

“I have told you that she does not wish to see you. She is disfigured and in great pain. She finds talking difficult because it makes her cough. Her time on this earth is short.”

“You said she was with child. She is having my child. What of our child?”

“Your child was born already. He is quite small, but amazingly does not show signs of the disease. When I heard of your return, I came to see you to see what you wish in regards to your son.”

“Where is he? I want to see my son. I can see my son, can’t I?”

“He has been smuggled out of Molokai. The Kaiwi Channel is treacherous, but she had good friends here who wanted to help, and apparently you impressed them too when you were here. I have placed him with a wet nurse here. He is too small and fragile to travel at this point, but the wet nurse assures me that he is growing bigger and stronger every day. Perhaps because he is three-fourths white, he will not get the disease. Alamea saw her son but never nursed him nor held him once he was born. He has not been held by anyone infected. She did what she could to keep him safe. It is her wish that you take your son with you to your home and away from here so that he may continue to be safe. Now if you do not wish to do that, your son carries royal blood and the royal family will see to his care.”

Almost in a whisper because his mind and body had lost all their strength and energy with the emotional blows he had received, Adam made one request. “Please, I want to see my son.”

“Will you take him with you to your home?”

“I don’t know if I can answer that now. There is so much, so much that you have told me. I don’t know what I will do.”

“I understand, but I do want to be able to tell Alamea what you will do before she passes, and it could be days that she has left. Come with me now, and I will take you to your son.”

The two men walked a short distance to where a carriage waited. The priest told Adam to get inside, and then he climbed in behind him. He kept the curtains closed so that Adam would not be able to retrace this route. After about an hour, the carriage stopped. Adam had not spoken for the entire trip. He was emotionally drained. Once he stepped out of the carriage, he realized they were on the other side of O’ahu by the position of the sun. There was a small white cottage, and the priest began walking in that direction. He called out a name as he neared the cottage, and a woman stepped outside of the cottage. She smiled to see them and silently led them inside. There in a cradle lay a dark haired baby. Adam looked at him and then at the priest who nodded.

“May I hold my son?”

The woman carefully lifted the baby and placed him in Adam’s arms. The baby began to cry, and the wet nurse showed Adam how to cradle the baby into the warmth of his chest where the infant could feel his heart beat. As he held his son and whispered softly to him, the baby quieted and looked wide-eyed at Adam.

“He is afraid, but he feels your warmth and heartbeat and is soothed.”

“What is his name?”

“Keilani Adam Cartwright. It is the name that Alamea chose for him. Keilani is a traditional name in her family. She wanted her son to have it and his father’s name.”

“When can he travel?” That question brought smiles to the wet nurse and the priest. Adam had accepted his son and would take him to his home.

The last sight Hop Sing had of the Sandwich Islands was seeing Adam Cartwright standing on the dock holding his son and waving as the ship pulled away. Adam was going to stay until his son was strong enough to travel. He had taken only a minimum of his possessions from the ship and asked that the rest be shipped to his home. The Captain and Hop Sing were to handle the sale of the cargo in San Francisco with the help of Hop Sing’s new son, Chou. Hop Sing carried a long letter to Ben Cartwright from his eldest son but was told not to deliver it unless Adam did not return in five months as he planned.

The trip to San Francisco was uneventful, and amazingly the officials did little to impede the admission into the country of Hop Sing, his wife, and sons. Apparently the successful completion of the voyage and the sale of the cargo had convinced the authorities that the entry was legal. Chou stayed in San Francisco to assist the Captain in purchasing the list of cargo that Adam had suggested. The two paper sons headed to the Central Pacific Railroad to sign on as laborers so that they could begin sending money home to their families.

Once the cargo was purchased and on board, Hop Sing and Ah Cy bought tickets to ride by train to Virginia City. Hop Sing was anxious to get home, and hoped the Cartwrights would be accepting of his wife.

Adam’s ship had a new name. It was the Kailani after Alamea’s family name, and Adam had negotiated contracts for trade between the Sandwich Islands and San Francisco. The Captain got his ten per cent ownership and approved of the route. The risks were much less than the trip they had recently completed, and the profits would be realized far more often even if they were less than what a voyage to China could bring. The crew agreed to stay because for most of them, this was the best job on a ship that they had ever had. Chou would be a merchant in training, and if he did well, he would become an agent for Adam.

*****

Chapter 15

On the Ponderosa, Hannibal and his wife had settled in well. They were able to do the laundry as well with two of them working. Mabel discovered that the curtains in the house were the same age approximately as Joe, and decided that she could do something about that. She bought fabric samples from Aaron Kaufman when he came by in his peddler’s wagon. The following week she had the choices that Ben, Hoss, and Joe had made for their rooms. Adam’s room was more difficult because no one was sure what he might like and even if he would be back. She got to work on the other rooms though and spent her evenings relaxing in a rocking chair in the kitchen as her husband baked bread and other goods for the next day.

Meals were wonderful although the style of cooking had definitely changed. There were more fried dishes like fried fish and chicken fried steak as well as more varieties of biscuits and breads. Some things that the family had enjoyed the most were still part of the menu as pies and preserves were often served. Hoss gave his stamp of approval to the hire. With the fall drive coming up, the decision was that Hannibal would go with the drive to cook, and Mabel would stay on the ranch to cook for the smaller number left behind.

On a Friday night, Hoss broached a subject that he had talked over with his father and brother.

“Why don’t you folks ever go to town? There’s dances and church services and shopping to do for the ranch yet you don’t do none of that.”

“Hoss, did Adam explain our background before he left?”

“Well, he said you was married in Wisconsin and that you was originally from Louisiana. Is there anything else important to know? You two ain’t bank robbers on the run now are ya?” Hoss chuckled but at the serious expressions he was getting, he stopped. “There is something important you ought to tell us, ain’t there?”

“Yes, Hoss, you see, we left Louisiana because it was illegal for me to marry Mabel there. People in Wisconsin are a bit more liberal on things like that and that’s why we moved to there to get married, but we still couldn’t find acceptance. Hoss, I’m a black man.”

“Oh, now, you’re just joshing me. Heck my brother Adam is darker than you and he’s white. So that’s just silly.”

“No, Hoss, in Louisiana, there is the one drop rule. One drop of black blood in you and you’re black. Any parent who is black and you are black. One of my great-grandmothers was black. It didn’t seem to matter much back then, but now people are getting more and more concerned about things like that. My birth certificate says I’m black. Laws in Louisiana say that a black cannot marry a white. That’s why we left. The miscegenation laws would have had Mabel in prison and I could have been executed.”

During the conversation, Joe had walked in. “That can’t be right. I saw a lot of people in New Orleans who were part black and they married whites.”

“Or did you see people who looked white like me because we’re mostly white but legally we’re still black?”

Joe had no answer for that.

“We almost had a job in Virginia City but some people from Louisiana are here and one of the men recognized me. He told all the others that a black man had married a white woman. They were roughing us up some when your brother Adam stopped them. He brought us out here. We have had more peace in the weeks we’ve been here than we have ever had, but do you understand now why we don’t want to go to town?”

“I understand it, but it just ain’t right. Now Joe and I are going to town tonight, and I’d like you to come with us. We’ll have dinner together and do a little shopping. Then you can head back here if you want, or you can stay and come to the dance with us. What d’ya say to that?”

“Well, Mabel if gonna have that baby. I don’t want to put her in any danger.”

“Hannibal, don’t use me as an excuse. We should go to town with these two gentlemen and have a nice night. Once that baby comes, we won’t get many opportunities to do anything for quite a while.”

“All right, then, Hoss, we’ll go. Thank you, sir, thank you.”

“Now don’t be calling me sir or I might just have to take that invitation back. You’re my friend, and friends don’t call one another ‘sir’ now do they?”

“Thank you, Hoss. We would be honored to have dinner with you.”

So Hoss and Joe treated Hannibal and Mabel to lunch in town. Ben joined them and the five of them had a good dinner with good conversation. Doctor Martin and Roy Coffee stopped by to be introduced as did the minister and his wife who invited the couple to church services. Hannibal thought he needed to be honest with the minister.

“No need to explain, Mr. Jefferson. I have heard the stories. In my church, believing in God is the only thing that matters. You come to church services, and if anyone has a problem with that, then they do not belong in a Christian church. I hope to see you on Sunday. Goodnight now, we need to get home to be sure our three boys have left the house standing after the time we’ve been gone.” Tipping his hat, the minister took his leave. His wife smiled at the couple before leaving and said goodnight to everyone by name.

The minister’s statement had been said loud enough to be heard by everyone in the restaurant. There might be some grumbling, but no one would now dare say a word to contradict the minister. Ben smiled at how clever their young minister was. He would go far with his skill, and Ben expected there would likely be a sermon on Sunday with many Bible references to reinforce the lesson he had just taught here tonight.

Continuing to smile, Ben thought it was time to announce his surprise for the couple. “We’re building an extra room onto our bunkhouse. Candy is going to be moving in there. That leaves his room empty and we thought the two of you would like it. It has room for a larger bed, a table, and storage. Once that baby arrives, you’re going to need more room. So what do you think?”

“Mr. Cartwright, that’s real nice and all but it seems to be a big expense for us cause we’re only hired on until your regular cook gets back.”

Hoss interceded then. “Well, see, we got another question for ya. Once Hop Sing gets back, will ya stay on? We still need a cook on drives, and Hop Sing can’t ever keep up with the laundry. Heck Hop Sing likes a day off now and then, and you could still do the baking in the evening. He never done that. Plus Missus Mabel here done sews real well, and heck, we thought maybe you could stay on.”

Looking at Hannibal, Mabel had tears in her eyes. “Oh, Hannibal, it could be a home. It would be the first real home the two of us have ever had. We would have a place for our child to grow up with people who won’t judge him by his ancestors. Oh, Hannibal, please say yes.”

When Hannibal agreed, Ben thought that he would take them to the mercantile to purchase some items for their room. Once that was done, he headed home in the carriage with the Jeffersons because Mabel was feeling tired by then.

“We can always attend a dance, but this is our only child coming along, so we’d just as soon go home now ifn you don’t mind none.”

The next morning, there were flapjacks and eggs and ham for breakfast. Hoss was loving it. Then he and his father talked about cattle contracts they needed to get.

“Hoss, I know you’ve never done this before because Adam always made first contact with new buyers, but we have a ranch in Texas that wants some of our stock for crossbreeding. It’s a big ranch, and the price they’re offering is very attractive. Would you be willing to go down there and try to get us that contract?”

With a deep sigh and then blowing the air out with puffed cheeks, Hoss nodded. “I’ll do it, Pa, but don’t go getting your hopes up too high. It was Adam who done all them deals like this. Ain’t none of the rest of it done it for years. I’ll do my best though. Wish Adam was still here to do these things. Wonder why we ain’t heard nothing from him yet. Makes a body worry.”

“I’m sure he’s fine, Hoss. It’s difficult to get letters across the Pacific. I expect we’ll be hearing something from him any day now.”

“I sure hope so, Pa, I sure hope so.”

Earlier, Joe and Candy had gone to town to get supplies to finish building the new room on the bunkhouse. As they returned, Joe jumped from the wagon before it stopped rolling and ran into the house slamming the front door in his haste. Ben was going to admonish his youngest son but never got the chance.

“Pa, pa, it’s a letter from Adam. Pa, there’s a crate too. Read the letter, Pa, read it, and then we can go get the crate and open it. C’mon, Pa, read it.”

Starting to read silently, Ben was immediately harangued by both of his sons to read aloud. He laughed and then read of the storms the ship had encountered but that they had sustained only light damage. He read how Hop Sing spends much of his time in his cabin, and that they were going to stay in the Sandwich Islands only about a week or so but the ship’s captain was worried about typhoons. No ships from China had sailed into the Islands in weeks and apparently that is a very bad sign. Many ships were waiting in the large harbor to see what the weather would bring. He has seen volcanoes, black sand beaches, whales breaching, and had pork from a pig that was roasted under the sand. He read where Adam said the cargo they sold in Honolulu brought them a nice profit, but they were hoping that in China and then back in California, there would be a lot more.

Once Ben finished reading the letter, Hoss and Joe rushed outside for the crate. Ben had to smile for his adult sons were like small boys sometimes. Hoss carried the crate in and set it on the coffee table in front of the fireplace. Once they got it open, they found the jar of black sand and Adam’s note about the black sand beaches and how they were formed. He had enclosed the shards of lava he had broken off. There were bolts of Hawaiian cloth that he explained were really wraps for men and women who were to be married. There was a sketch book and when they opened it, they found drawings of volcanoes, a hill Adam called Diamond Head, whales breaching, people at what he called a luau in the note at the bottom, and then several pages of a beautiful woman posed several ways with traditional wraps about her that did little to disguise a shapely woman.

“Oh, boy, Adam’s found a woman. Ain’t she pretty, Pa? Ain’t she a beauty, Hoss?”

“Joseph, we don’t know that Adam has a relationship with this woman. He drew pictures of whales, volcanoes, and other people as well.”

“Yeah, but, Pa, there’s a bunch of drawings of her and only one each for the others.”

“Well, Adam said nothing in his letter. I’m sure if he gets serious about a woman, he’ll tell us.”

“Maybe, but you know how he likes to keep things to himself till he has it all worked out. Hey, Hoss, maybe we should start decorating his room with this stuff. Hey, Pa, is there anything else in there. Seems like there should be more with the size of that crate.”

Digging deeper, Ben found three carved boxes on the bottom of the chest. Inside of each was a note designating each box for one of them. Once they got the three boxes sorted out, they admired the intricate carving of each one. Joe especially liked his with the carving of women dancing on the beach covered in wraps and flowers. Nothing immodest could be seen, but Joe’s imagination was at work. Hoss’ had carvings of whales with calves, and Ben’s was of a volcano erupting. They were all hand rubbed to smoothness and a dark sheen. Ben knew they must be expensive and let his sons know that. Soon he expected, Adam might be sending them some things to put inside their boxes.

Hoss was unnaturally quiet, and when Ben asked, he said his mind was on the trip to Texas and what he had to do there. Then he excused himself to go get some work done. Joe just looked at Ben wondering if he had any idea why Hoss was acting so unusually. Ben shrugged. He had noticed it too, but had no idea what Hoss was thinking or feeling that was making him so much more quiet than usual. Joe followed him outside thinking he would try to find out. He walked in the stable and found Hoss talking with Sport.

“I wish I could tell him. I took too long to accept him leaving and he doesn’t know I understand why he had to go, and I just want him to know how much I want him to come back home here.”

“He knows.”

“Joe, it ain’t polite to eavesdrop.”

“Well, I wasn’t thinking it was too much of a problem cause you’re talking to Sport. But Hoss what I wanted to say was that Adam understands. We talked a lot that last night I was in San Francisco. Yeah, he wanted you and Pa to give him your blessing before he left so you could all talk about it, but he knew you’d come around. He said as much.”

“Really. What’d he say?”

“He said he knew you two were thinking about his safety and his happiness, and you would understand that if he got to go, he would be happier and he’d be back. Hoss, Adam does really plan to come back here just like he said. You can tell how excited he is about all that stuff he’s already seen.”

“But is he gonna stay when he comes back?”

“Well, mostly, yeah.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“He said that if he didn’t find himself a wife pretty soon, he wanted to take some time to travel to Europe too. But he’ll always come back. That’s the key. He’s got a wanderlust that we don’t have, but he also wants a wife and a family. He feels time is passing him by in that regard.”

“How come he told you so much? He don’t talk much ever about all that kind of stuff.”

“Well, I insisted on buying a few rounds and you know he talks more if he gets a few drinks to loosen his tongue. I think that’s why he don’t drink much. He doesn’t like that he loosens up when he drinks.”

“Yeah, he can get pretty funny too when he drinks. I kinda like him better some times when he’s drinking. Boy, though, never make him mad when he’s been drinking. He can get pretty mean too and say some nasty things.”

“Maybe that’s the real reason he don’t drink much. Hey what did you think of those pictures of that woman?”

“Joe, I had the same idea you did. He didn’t just draw that many pictures of just any woman. She means a lot to him, and you might be right. He might have found a woman to love. I’d be happy for him if it’s true.”

“Me too. But I told him to bring one of those women home for me, and it looks like he’s bringing one home for himself instead.” Chuckling, Joe turned to leave.

“Hey, Joe. Thanks. I’m leaving for Texas tomorrow. You take good care of Pa while I’m gone now.”

Joe nodded and walked out. Hoss leaned back against the side of the stall and thought about what he had to do. He wasn’t experienced in negotiating contracts but had been there frequently when Adam did it. He tried to remember details then about how Adam had accomplished those successful deals and tried to remember the advice his older brother had given him in the discussions they had had while on cattle drives and buying trips. He would have to work it out for himself, but it helped him to think about these things as he prepared himself for his trip and the task his father had set for him.

The next morning, Hoss and Joe rode to town. Hoss was taking the stage and Joe would bring Chubb back to the ranch after Hoss was on his way. Joe could tell that Hoss was nervous so he did his best to tell him he would do fine and that whatever contract he brought home would be a good one. Hoss thanked Joe before climbing aboard the stage with his butterflies intact but at least not as active as they had been. Joe gathered up Chubb’s reins and headed for home.

For Hoss the trip seemed to take forever. When he finally climbed out of the stage in Texas, and knew he wouldn’t have to climb back in one for a week, he was greatly relieved. He checked in at his hotel, got a bath, and settled in at the only restaurant in town for a decent dinner. Those beans and flatbread meals from the stage line had lost their appeal within a short time. He ordered a steak. He wasn’t done eating when he saw a tall man enter the restaurant flanked by two beautiful women. Hoss remembered that Adam had said the first thing they try to do is to distract you. Well they were doing a mighty fine job of that without really trying for by the description he had been given, this was the man with whom he was to negotiate.

“Mr. Hoss Cartwright, I presume. I’m Charles Niven. These are my daughters, Ivy and Desert Rose. We don’t get into town that often so I took the liberty of bringing my daughters with me so that we could enjoy a fine meal together, but I see you have already been served.”

“Aw, this is just a snack. I been starved for five days. I’m ready for a big meal.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, then, may we join you? We’ll order up some of the specialties of the house, and we can talk and get to know one another tonight.”

By the end of the evening, Hoss was invited to spend the week with the Nivens at their ranch. He knew Joe would be so jealous when he told him about the lovely ladies here, but for now, he had them all to himself. They gave him a ride in their carriage after he picked up his valise at the hotel. He slept in a big bed with a feather mattress that night and dreamed of beautiful women with dark hair. When he awoke in the morning and recalled his dreams, he recalled too the pictures that Adam had drawn of a dark haired woman in the Sandwich Islands. He sensed somehow that Adam was in love but had an eerie foreboding too which he attempted to throw off, but it would nag at him for the next year until he saw his brother again.

The next morning, Hoss woke up refreshed and ready to go. He shaved and dressed and headed down the stairs finding that no one seemed to be awake, he decided to walk around outside to get to know the place. A dog ran up to him as soon as he was outside and rubbed his head against Hoss’ leg so Hoss scratched the dog’s head. The two of them started walking. They got to the corral next to the stable and several horses came over. Hoss rubbed their cheeks and they snorted at him and then lowered their heads so he could do it more. Hoss was feeling very relaxed until he heard an ominous sound.

“Just stand real still. Back up slowly one step at a time.”

Hoss did as he was told because Ivy stood there with a rifle in hand and it looked like she knew what she was doing. The dog growled at her which caused her to frown. Then the dog walked over and rubbed his head against Hoss’ leg once more so Hoss obliged him once again. Ivy lowered the rifle as her mouth dropped open.

“Oh my God. I have never seen anything like it. Brutus should have torn you limb from limb. It’s what he’s been trained to do. Oh, I’m sorry about how that sounded. It’s not like I wanted him to do that. Of course I think you just ruined the best watch dog we ever had.”

“Well, ma’am, I didn’t do nothing except to pet him and scratch his head when he come running up to me.”

“C’mon, you must have fed him some steak or something to get him to calm down.”

“No, ma’am, I just scratched his head and such.”

By that time, Ivy had walked up next to Hoss. “I’m sorry if I scared you some. I just thought that Brutus would hurt you. I had no idea he meant you no harm. Would you like to come to the house for some breakfast? Our cook is not an early riser but doesn’t mind me in her kitchen.”

“Ma’am, I’d like that very much.” Hoss offered his arm to Ivy, and she took it. He was thinking they must make an odd looking couple with her carrying the rifle as he towered a foot taller than her.

In the house, Charles was thinking the same thing as he gazed out his bedroom window. He had raised his girls on his own ever since his wife had given birth to Desert Rose and couldn’t bear what she thought was her shame. Nothing he had ever said or done had lessened his wife’s pain until she gave up and took her own life. Somehow, his girls had developed these amazingly high standards about what kind of men they would like to marry someday and again he had not been able to shake their resolve. As a result neither of them had been courted for they had rejected any man who offered. Now this man from Nevada had already made a friend of Ivy. He seemed to be a very nice man. Charles began to hope that at least one of his girls might let a man into her heart. He had to hope though that this man was not doing this to help his negotiations because Charles would in fact give him a great deal if he was truly able to win his daughter’s heart.

In the kitchen, Ivy and Hoss were talking. Ivy had ham, eggs, and bacon out and was chopping up some peppers and onions. Hoss wondered at what she was making, but it already smelled very good. He was amazed when everything went into the same large cast iron pan. The smells from it were making him salivate very quickly so he got over his surprise as his appetite told him he was going to like it very much.

“Now your Pa is very light haired, but both of you ladies have dark hair. Was your ma dark haired?”

“No, my Ma was blond and even lighter than Pa. No I use stuff to make my hair dark. Otherwise it would be blond.”

“Now why would you do that?”

“Cause around here, the Comanche used to like raiding a lot, and blond haired women seemed to be favored. Pa colored my hair ever since I was little.”

“What happened to your ma?”

“It’s too hard to say. What about your family?”

“Well, my Pa is on the ranch in Nevada with my younger brother Joe. My older brother Adam is traipsing off to China and I won’t see him for a year. He woulda been the one doing this except he’s gone so I had to. Mind you, I’m finding I like this job a whole lot better than I thought I would.”

“Do your brothers look like you?”

“Nah, they’re both real handsome men. Adam is dark kinda like Desert Rose. He’s got black hair and when he’s in the sun a lot, he looks like a Paiute except he has to shave, and sometimes that’s twice a day. Now my little brother is just that. He’s average height where Adam is tall and I’m real tall. Joe’s got so much hair on top of his head with them curls of his though sometimes I think of him as taller. He’s got brown hair and he’s lighter than Adam but darker than me.”

“Seems like a lot of variety in your family. How about your pa?”

“Well now he’s a bit shorter than Adam but the two of them look more alike than the rest of us do. Pa’s broader in the beam like me but not quite so big. His hair was dark like Adam’s before it went gray.”

“Well you must resemble your mother and the other two must take after your pa.”

“That could be, but we also each have a different mother. Adam’s ma died the day he was born. My Ma lived longer but I was just a little shaver when she was killed by Indians. Joe had his Ma the longest. She died falling from a horse when he was about five.”

“Now that is a sad story. Your father lost three wives and none of you had a mother while you were growing up.”

“We did all right. Adam was always there for me. He’s six years older than me. He did the same for Joe after his Ma died. We got a cook too who’s like part of our family. Hop Sing was always there for us when we needed him. Still is.”

Impressed that Hoss could talk about a nonwhite with so much affection, Ivy decided to share more of her family’s history so she could judge his reaction. “My mother was taken by the Comanche soon after I was born. She hid me and they never found me. She was with them for months before Pa could get her back. She was with child again when she got back here. Desert Rose is half Comanche. Ma never could forgive herself for what happened. She felt she betrayed my father. He did everything he could to show her that he loved her. I remember some of it. But one day when Pa took me and Rose out riding on our ponies, we came back and Ma was dead. She had killed herself out by our family plot. I was six and Rose was five. We never can forget that day.”

Seeing how difficult those memories were for Ivy, Hoss had to do something so he stood and walked to her wrapping his arms around her to soothe her. He had met this woman the day before but yet it seemed so natural to hold her and give her comfort. Hoss was amazed because he was usually so nervous around women especially when he first met them, but Ivy was different. A loud cough from the doorway made him step aside.

“Oh, I’m sorry if I overstepped my bounds, Mr. Niven, but Ivy was upset and I thought I could help.”

“I heard. Now you know our family history. Does that change anything between us?”

Confused, Hoss looked at Mr. Niven and then back at Ivy. “Why would that change anything? I guess I don’t rightly understand what you mean.”

“That right there told me what I needed to know. Ivy, you about ready to serve that up? Your sister’s going to be here soon too so why don’t you get out four plates and we’ll take our breakfast out on the porch.”

Breakfast was followed by a ride around some of the Niven ranch. It was vast but the pasturage was mostly brown. Hoss couldn’t see how they raised so many cattle in these drier lands. For a few days, he rode and picnicked with the sisters. Rose got the picture and on the fourth day begged off the ride to let Ivy and Hoss ride together. As she stood on the porch with her father, they both expressed that they thought the two were falling in love, and that they would lose Ivy as she undoubtedly would move to Nevada if they were correct in their assumptions. Each day, Charles and Hoss talked through the various points of a contract and by the end of the week had a signed deal. They shook hands, and Hoss was ready to take his leave but had one more thing he wanted to discuss with Charles.

“Hoss, is there something else? I can’t think of anything we haven’t worked out in that contract.”

“Well, sir, there is one thing but it ain’t about the cattle. Ah, well, sir, I, uh, well I just gotta say it. Mr. Nivens, I would like your permission to start courting your daughter Ivy ifn that was all right with you.”

“I think you already have been. My daughter seems thoroughly smitten with you already. You better not ever hurt her, Hoss. I don’t care how big you are. I’ll beat you into the dirt if you ever harm my daughter. Oh, and yes, I give my permission for you to formally court my daughter. Does she know? Oh of course she knows because I can hear her and her sister out there snickering away. Come on in here, girls. We got something else to celebrate.”

*****

Chapter 16

Later on the Ponderosa, Hoss was organizing a drive of selected cattle to Texas. Ivy and Desert Rose had traveled to Nevada where they selected cattle for the breeding program their father hoped to implement. Every time Hoss thought about the day the two sisters had arrived, he had to laugh a little. Ivy had her hair blonde again. Hoss had told her he would like that if she wanted to do that and she had. Well Hoss had told his family that he was courting a Texas gal and that she was coming up to help pick out the cattle for her father’s breeding program. He guessed that with him being so big and all, and her being from Texas and working cattle on her father’s ranch, well his Pa and Joe had some preconceived notions about what she would look like. The way their eyes bugged out when they first met her was funny on so many levels Hoss would never forget it. The two ladies had ridden into the yard of the Ponderosa when Ben was sitting on the porch reading over contracts. Hoss was in the stable and heard riders but wasn’t expecting the sisters for another day or two. Joe had walked out of the house when he heard them arrive. Ben greeted the sisters first.

“Good afternoon, ladies, can I help you?”

But Joe was ready and willing to jump in. “And if you ladies need any help, I would be glad to provide it.”

“We’re looking for Hoss Cartwright. He lives here, doesn’t he?”

“He surely does.” Walking up behind Ivy, Hoss was overjoyed to see her whirl and smile for him. She dismounted and rushed into his arms. He kissed her lightly and then turned to introduce her to his father and brother. That’s when he saw their eyes had gotten so big, and Joe’s mouth was hanging open. They had never expected him to be courting such a beautiful woman. Ben recovered first.

“I am delighted to meet Hoss’ intended. He has talked about you every day as often as he can work it into the conversation, but I must say he never impressed us with how beautiful you are.”

“Pa, this is Desert Rose. She’s Ivy’s younger sister.”

“I am very pleased to meet you as well.”

By this time, Joe had recovered his composure and was at Rose’s side. He offered to help her from her horse but was rebuffed. “I’ve been riding since I was a toddler. I think I can dismount without assistance.”

“Sorry, I don’t know you well enough to know what you can and can’t do. I was just trying to be nice.”

“Oh, Joe, I am sorry. It’s just that men have a tendency to try to help us like we’re helpless, and I get touchy about things like that. Now Hoss, didn’t you say you had another brother?” Rose had been intrigued by Hoss’ description of Adam and had thought she might like him for they seemed to have a lot in common.

“Yes’m, but he’s still in the Sandwich Islands. He’ll be here in about two months, about the time I get back here from driving that herd to Texas. Your Pa wants them to arrive in good condition so it’s gonna take longer.” Both Ivy and Rose noticed that Ben seemed to have an upset look when Hoss explained that Adam wasn’t there.

“Oh, I was looking forward to meeting him. I guess it will have to wait.”

“Rose, I would be more than happy to show you around the ranch. I’ve been here while Adam’s been gone so I’m more familiar with our stock right now anyway.”

Rose liked the attention from Joe who did not seem at all concerned by her darker skin. When the sisters met Hop Sing and Ah Cy, and later learned Hannibal Jefferson’s story, they realized that this was the right family for Ivy. Her sister was accepted by them, and the two families could visit back and forth. The distance from Nevada to Texas would be their only obstacle, and once the railroad was complete, that would be easier too. Hoss told the two ladies to take their bags and he would show them to guest rooms. Both of the sisters were pleased with the comfortable house and the casual style that suited them as well.

As soon as the sisters were settled in, Hoss wanted to ride to the herd to show the ladies the stock he thought they might like. Joe invited himself along. Hoss didn’t mind because he was looking forward to getting Ivy away from everyone for at least a little while to properly welcome her to the Ponderosa. Joe was of a like mind so Hoss didn’t have to wait long. He rode to a small copse of trees in the pasture and dismounted. Ivy jumped down from her horse and hugged him as he embraced her. The two kissed for a while until Hoss said they had to stop.

“Why? I thought we were doing quite well there. I liked it.”

“Well now, darling, the problem is just that. Ifn we don’t stop, there’s gonna be a lot more going on than is proper before we get married.”

“We’re getting married?”

“Well I’m courting ya. I thought that was why a body courts a gal.”

“Hoss, I’m teasing you. When do you want to get married?”

“I’d like my brother Adam to be here for my wedding. He’s supposed to be home in two months. Would that be all right with you?”

“That will be wonderful. I’d like to get married here too if you don’t mind. It’s so beautiful here, and this is where we’ll be making our home.”

Pulling Ivy into another deep kiss, Hoss let her know he liked her ideas. They might have kept going then but the sound of horses riding up made them let go of each other. Rose was smiling when she got there.

“Pa said I needed to chaperone you. Looks like I got here just in time.”

The four rode for another hour and then returned to the ranch for dinner. Both ladies were impressed by the delicious meal they were served. Their cook in Texas was a good basic cook but the use of wine in cooking and some of the other things Hop Sing and Ah Cy did with the dishes they served were delightfully surprising.

“Ivy, when you get married, I may be visiting here a lot. It’s so pretty here and the food is the best I’ve ever had.”

In the kitchen, Hop Sing and Ah Cy heard the compliments and decided they liked these two young ladies. They prepared to serve the dessert and aperitifs.

“Now, Rose, I’m hurt that you wouldn’t want to come back here to see me. I did my best today to show you that I can be a charming companion.” Joe did his puppy dog smile for her, but she didn’t melt like he had hoped.

“I’m sorry, Joe. I would be delighted to visit with you when I come to see my sister. I’m sure though that there are many women clamoring for your attention.”

“Ya got that right. Little brother has to beat em off with a stick sometimes. There’s a dance tomorrow night. Would the two of you like to go with us?”

“Hoss, we traveled light. We didn’t bring any dresses with us.”

That was a disappointment to all until Ben suggested that some of Marie’s dresses might fit the ladies, or they could go to town and purchase dresses to wear for the dress shop would be more than willing to help them out.

“We’ll consider that. But tonight, we’re very tired, and I think we would like to get some sleep so if you don’t mind, I think we would like to turn in early.”

“Forgive us, Ivy. We were so happy to have you as guests, we were not considerate of how tired you might be. Of course, you need some rest. We will see you in the morning, and we can continue our conversation then.”

After breakfast the next morning, Hoss went riding with Ivy and Joe went with Rose. They made plans to meet for lunch by the lake.

“Your father seemed upset yesterday when you said Adam wasn’t going to be home for a couple of months. Is he mad at him or something?” Ivy had noted Ben’s frown and the tension that reached him at the mention of Adam.

“Nah, Pa worries that the longer it takes, the less likely Adam will be coming home. I told him that Adam don’t lie. If he said he was coming home, well then, he’ll be home.”

“You worry about him too, don’t you?”

“Cain’t help but worry. He’s not home and Hop Sing won’t tell us why. Says its Adam’s place to explain why he was delayed. But just the way he says it, and you know it was something bad. I hope he’s home in two months. I miss him something fierce.”

“Rose wanted to meet him too. She said he sounded interesting.”

“Interesting? Oh yeah, he can be interesting. He can be stubborn, moody, and downright mean with some of them comments he makes, but he’ll stand with his family through anything, he likes a good joke anytime, and he can be the gentlest, kindest man you ever met to children and to anyone who needs him.”

“Well, that could describe Rose too. Maybe that’s why she wanted to meet him.”

“I thought she liked Joe?”

“Oh, I think she likes him, but there’s no spark there. I see how Joe looks at her, but she doesn’t look at him that way, and not the way I look at you and the look I see in your eye.”

“I hope she lets him down easy. Course Joe’s been let down by so many gals now and he’s let down so many himself, he ought to be used to the feeling.”

Nodding, Hoss leaned over to take her hand as their horses stood on the crest of the ridge above the lake. When he released her hand, she smiled and the two of them rode slowly down to the lake where they could see Rose and Joe already walking. Skipping stones, walking, and finally climbing to some massive boulders sitting high above the lake, the four picnickers wiled away the afternoon. When the afternoon was nearly over, they rode back to the ranch to see if any of Marie’s dresses would be suitable for the dance.

At the dance, Hoss let everyone know he was courting Ivy so that the other men would not be pestering her. Rose was pestered quite a lot to Joe’s consternation. He had hoped to monopolize her evening, but she danced with a variety of men and spent quite a bit of time on the dance floor with Candy. Joe didn’t like that at all. By the end of the evening, Joe’s jealousy was all too apparent, and although he had no idea at all, that jealousy doomed whatever chance he had with Rose for she abhorred men treating women like they owned them with not enough regard for the woman as a person. The rest of the week, Rose was still quite pleasant with Joe but Ivy noticed the change in how she regarded him.

By the end of the week, the cattle to be driven to Texas had been selected and cut from the herds. Gathered in the lower southeast pasture, they only had to open a fence line to start the drive. Because the number was relatively small, they decided to go without a chuck wagon and use pack animals instead. Hoss and a few hands were going, and of course the two sisters would be there. Hoss was looking forward to a drive like he had not since his first couple of drives when they had seemed more like adventures than work. He remembered those drives fondly as Adam spent a lot of time with him teaching him what to do. Now on this drive, he would be traveling with his future wife.

The night before the drive was scheduled to leave and after all the preparations were completed, Hoss asked Ivy to walk in the garden with him. Everyone knew that was a euphemism for the couple to have their private time to kiss, hug, and talk. On this night, Hoss had one other thing in mind though. As they reached the garden bench in the back where they had kissed every night of Ivy’s stay, Hoss remained standing and then knelt on one knee before her. Taking her small hand in his, Hoss looked at her face and had to smile. He could hardly believe he was doing this.

“Ivy Niven, I know we done talked about this a lot, but I gotta make it official before we leave. Will you marry me and spend the rest of your life with me?”

Leaning forward, Ivy wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly, and Hoss found that was all he wanted to do at that point too. Once they had to stop to catch their breath, Hoss had to ask.

“That does mean yes, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, yes, Hoss, yes, yes, yes. Can we tell everyone now?”

“Well I had Hop Sing put some champagne on ice for us, so I guess it would be a good time to tell em.”

Walking arm in arm and unable to stop grinning, Hoss led Ivy to the house. Once they were inside, Hoss almost didn’t have to say anything. Rose, Joe, and Ben all rose with smiles when they saw the happy couple assuming that only one thing could have caused grins that big.

“Son, did you?”

“Yes, Pa, I asked her, and she said yes. Pa, we’re getting married!”

“I am so happy to finally be able to congratulate one of my sons on getting married. When will you marry? Where is the wedding going to be?”

“Well, we gotta talk to Ivy’s Pa first, but we would both like the wedding to be here. It’s greener than west Texas, and Ivy and me will be living here after the wedding. I want to wait for Adam to be home before we get married. I really want him at our wedding, so we were thinking that it would be after the cattle drive. We’ll head back here, and Mr. Niven can come with us. Then we can make all the final plans and have a wedding.”

“That sounds wonderful, son, just wonderful. Now if we only had some champagne chilled, we could celebrate this moment with style.”

At that point, Hop Sing walked out with a tray of glasses and a bottle of champagne. Ben told him to ask Ah Cy to join them too and asked Joe to tell Candy as well as Hannibal and Mabel to join them. Once Hop Sing returned with his wife and the others came in with Joe, Ben served champagne to everyone and made a toast.

“Dear family and friends, we are celebrating the betrothal of Hoss and Ivy as they have promised to embark together on life’s great voyage. May the happiness I’ve known as a parent be multiplied a hundredfold in your home. May you come to know the heavenly joy of holding your babies, my grandchildren. May your house know the peace that comes with true love. Please raise your glasses with me in a toast to Hoss and Ivy.”

When everyone had drunk their champagne, Hop Sing went to the kitchen and brought out a cake. It was decorated with Chinese symbols for good luck and frosted with red frosting. He had anticipated the announcement after Hoss told him to get the champagne cooling, so he and Ah Cy had baked and decorated this cake. Hoss was thrilled, and he and Ivy cut and served the cake to everyone. Ah Cy had been extremely skeptical when Hop Sing had said he worked for the Cartwrights but was treated like part of the family. Nothing like this would ever have happened in China. This was a strange and sometimes incomprehensible country to Ah Cy, but every day she liked it more and more, and gradually she felt herself falling in love with her husband which was something else she had not expected.

The next day, Hoss and the sisters left on the drive for Texas. It was going to be a difficult time for Hoss and Ivy. They would be so close and yet would have to maintain some distance. Rose teased her sister unmercifully on the drive with the close proximity of Hoss when they slept at night, and that Rose’s duties as chaperone meant that she always placed her sleeping mat between her sister and Hoss. Rose thought there was no need for anything to happen on the drive for it would happen soon enough. Hoss and Ivy were able to sneak away for kisses and hugs but the work schedule and Rose’s presence did keep them from doing any more although day by day that was more and more difficult to do. As Rose saw how much in love her sister and Hoss were, it made her somewhat wistful. She doubted any man who ever wanted her physically would want her in marriage once they learned her background.

In about seven weeks, the drive reached the Niven ranch in Texas. They had stopped often enough to water the cattle and let them graze, that they were full weight when they arrived. In comparison to the Niven cattle when they were side by side, and it was clear why Charles wanted the Ponderosa cattle. The Niven cattle were tough, but in the process of adapting to the environment, they had lost the ability to carry weight.

“They look downright skinny now that I see them next to each other. But they’re taller than our cattle too. You’re gonna have some right fine looking beeves for market once the two start mixing those traits.” Hoss put his stamp of approval on the plan.

Not willing to wait a moment longer, Ivy told her father that Hoss had proposed.

“Now, Ivy, isn’t the gentleman supposed to ask the father’s permission for your hand first?”

Starting to get a little worried at that question, Hoss was relieved actually when both sisters laughed uproariously at it. Charles looked at Hoss and smiled.

“I hope you know what you’re getting into with my daughter. I’m afraid I didn’t know too much about raising girls and apparently failed to instill the ladylike qualities that society might expect of them.”

“Don’t you worry none, Mr. Niven. Your daughter is all the lady I will ever want. She dances right purty too.” At Charles’ surprised look, Hoss added more. “Yessiree, we had a barn dance in Virginia City and your daughters were the center of attention.”

Looking at Rose, Charles had an even more surprised look. “Rose, you went dancing?”

“Yes, I did, Pa. Had a good time too.”

“Well, Hoss, you have had a most welcome effect on both my girls then. When are the two of you planning to marry?”

“Well, my brother Adam is due home any day now. We’d like it if you would come back to the Ponderosa with us, and we could have the wedding up there.”

“Hoss, I’m going to need some time to work out what to do with these cattle you’ve brought me. What if I can follow you in a week or so? Would that be all right with the two of you?”

“Oh, Pa, that’s not a problem. It’s gonna take us a bit to plan everything and get ready anyway. I need a dress and I’ll have it made there. Pa, you’re gonna like it there. There’s so much green and water everywhere. That Lake up there is like a giant jewel.”

“I think that you need to spend some time here packing up your things too. You can use our big freight wagon. If you haul your stuff back with you, I can take the wagon back here after your wedding. There’re some things of your mother’s I would like you to have. You and Rose can look through them and decide what each of you wants. It’s all in that big locked trunk in my room. I’ll give you the key now.”

As Ivy and Rose went up to look through the trunk after they had their meal, Charles invited Hoss to have a drink with him.

“Hoss, I had hoped my daughter would marry someone closer to home, but I have to say I am very happy for the two of you. She is my heir though, and I hope you have children to whom to pass on the legacy. You’ll have to decide, when the time comes, if you wish to move here and take over this ranch, or sell it and use the money to expand the ranch you and Ivy will have.”

“Well, I’m sure that won’t be for a very long time, Mr. Nivens. But won’t it be possible that Rose could marry someone here and take over the ranch?”

“Rose is not my daughter. She is my daughter’s sister. She knows that. I have raised her and done the best I can by her, but she is not a daughter of mine though I say that she is to people to avoid having to explain the whole thing. Now you’re part of the family and you know the background, so there’s no need to hide anything from you. I cannot have a Comanche inherit my legacy. Not here in Texas especially.”

Shocked at what he had heard, Hoss was silent for a time. He didn’t know how much he could say and didn’t want to jeopardize his plan to marry Ivy. “Mr. Niven, I think you’re dead wrong. Rose is as much a daughter to you as Ivy. I heard the way them ladies talked about you. Your daughters both love you. I’m so sorry to think that you don’t love both of them.”

Rose had been coming down the stairs and heard her father and Hoss talking. She had known that her father, as she had always thought of him, favored her sister, but Rose had never known that her father thought of her as Comanche and not at all as his daughter. She turned around and headed to her room. She packed the items she had selected from her mother’s chest. Then she looked through her belongings to decide what to take with her. She knew at that moment that she was never coming back here. She knew her mother had relatives in Laramie, Wyoming. She thought she would go visit them after Ivy’s wedding. She supposed at some point, she would cry but at the moment all she felt was numb. She planned to ride her horse to the Ponderosa. Her sister and Hoss could drive the wagon. She had no money and wondered how she could get enough to get started on her own. That was settled the next morning when Charles gave money to both Ivy and Rose to buy what they needed to dress for the wedding. There was far more money than they would need so Rose now had a stake for the future. She planned to tell Ivy of her decision once they were well away from the Niven ranch.

The next morning as they were loading Ivy’s belongings onto the wagon, Ivy teased Rose about how much she was taking with her. “Rose, you’re not getting married. You can leave some of your stuff here.” Ivy chuckled but Rose did not respond.

Suddenly Hoss suspected he might know why for if Rose had overheard any of the conversation he and Charles had had the night before, he wouldn’t blame her at all if she was leaving. “Hey, Ivy, maybe she wants to stay with us on the Ponderosa. I know I got a little brother who might like that a lot.”

Looking at Hoss and his sympathetic look, Rose wondered how much he knew and then realized he probably knew everything. That would make it easier to explain things to Ivy at least. Charles came out to bid them goodbye. He kissed Ivy on the cheek and hugged her. Rose mounted up, waved, and rode out.

“I wonder what that’s all about.”

Hoss looked directly at Charles and in a low tone replied. “I think you know exactly what it’s about. You weren’t careful when you were talking to me, and I guess your prejudice wasn’t as clear to Rose as you thought, but it is now. We’ll see you on the Ponderosa for the wedding in three weeks if all goes well. We’ll send a telegram if there’s a delay.”

Snapping the reins then, Hoss sent the team at a good pace following Rose. His horse and Ivy’s were tied to the back of the wagon. They planned to travel from town to town and sleep in hotels and take their main meals in restaurants for the return trip. Ivy looked up at Hoss and waited for him to explain what to her were some inexplicable behavior and commentary. By the time Hoss finished telling her what he knew and what he had guessed, she asked him to stop so she could get her horse. Then she rode ahead to catch up with Rose. By that evening, the two sisters had talked it all out, and Ivy was probably more angry than Rose.

“How dare he think he can treat my sister that way? He’ll have to do better than an apology too when he gets to the Ponderosa. I won’t accept what he said to you, and if he persists, well I’ve got my own future now.”

The three were in agreement that Charles was wrong. Rose felt better knowing that her sister supported her completely and without reservation and was surprised that Hoss did too. She knew their family was very tolerant, but another race in your family was a lot more threatening to most people than another race in your house. Apparently the Cartwrights didn’t share any of the ideas supporting the virulent racism sweeping the country and causing race riots and untold bloodshed and harm. Charles Niven’s words supporting political and military leaders who advocated extermination of Native Americans now took on a much darker tone. He did not support those men despite those beliefs but possibly because of them and that made the sisters question many of the things he had told them over the years about their mother. It was a depressing thought but both wondered if their mother’s depression and death had more to do with their father’s attitude than their mother’s feelings.

*****

Chapter 17

The Ponderosa seemed very quiet when Adam drove a rented carriage into the yard. It was a Saturday, but he had still expected more activity than this. He noted the changes to the place including a new room built onto the end of the bunkhouse and what appeared to be an extension at the back of the kitchen too extending both the washroom and Hop Sing’s room. He climbed down from the carriage and tied the horse to the rail. Just as he was about to pick up Keilani from the back seat where he was sleeping, the front door opened and people poured out of the house, but two were women that Adam didn’t recognize.

Noting the tall dark black-haired man wearing the black shirt and black pants, Rose assumed this had to be Adam. Hoss has said he could get in some dark moods, and she had to assume this was one of them because he looked angry and intimidating as well as ready to challenge anyone. Now she also understood why Hoss and Joe said that people could be frightened by one look from Adam. He certainly was managing to do that now. Rose noted how Ivy moved closer to Hoss. She felt it too. Ben walked out last, and rushed to his son who turned away from him to pick something up from the back of the carriage. It looked like he was holding a baby. Rose wondered what was going on and realized everyone else had that same look.

“Son, I am so glad to have you back home. What is it you have there?”

“My son. His name is Keilani. His mother died on Molokai, and I’m all he’s got left.” The baby started to fuss a little, and Rose saw a transformation. Adam’s face turned warm and gentle as he kissed his baby and used his fingers to caress his cheeks. Within a minute the child was soothed and Adam put him against his chest holding him securely. The dark look was back again too.

“Adam, can you tell us what happened? Hop Sing wouldn’t say a word. He said it was your story to tell.”

“I’ll tell the family, but not in front of outsiders.”

“Adam, that ain’t no way to talk to the ladies. This here’s Ivy and we’re getting married. This other lady is her sister Rose, and they ain’t outsiders. They’re family now.”

“They’re strangers to me. If you don’t mind, I want to put Keilani down for a nap. He’s overtired. Is my old room still available?”

“Yes, son, of course it is. We put the crates you sent up there, but there’s still plenty of room for you and your son. Do you need a cradle?”

“No, I have the one I’ve been using for him for the last six months. He’s used to it and it helps him with all the moves we’ve been making to have something he recognizes as home. If someone could get that from the boot, I’ll just grab his bag of clothing and head upstairs.”

“We’ll get your stuff for you, Adam. You just take care of your son. And welcome home, oldest brother.”

“Thanks, Joe, for everything.” Ignoring Ivy and Rose, Adam walked into the house and up the stairs.

“Ivy, I’m real sorry my brother was so rude. There’s no excuse for how he acted.”

“Hoss, you won’t know that until he talks with you. Rose and I can stay out here so you and your family can talk.”

“You’re part of the family now.”

“We’re not part of Adam’s family yet. Go talk to him, Hoss. It’ll be fine.”

When Hoss got inside, he found Joe and Ben standing by the fireplace and wondering what had happened. Adam seemed angry and bitter. He was thin and looked like he hadn’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in a long time. All they could do at this point was to wait and see what he would tell them. It took only about ten minutes to have Adam walking down the stairs. Ben offered him a drink.

“I don’t drink any more. I’ll tell you the story, and I would appreciate it if there weren’t a bunch of questions. I met a woman in the islands. I drew sketches of her and those were in the first crate I sent home. She was beautiful, smart, and loving. We married before God. By the time I left the Islands, she was with child. I expected to sail to China to get Hop Sing’s wife and then come back for her. The trip back was interrupted by a typhoon that blew us well off our course and caused damage to the ship. We ended up in the Gilbert Islands where it took a month to complete the repairs with the tools we had and the wood that was available.” Adam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Anyone who knew him knew that the next part of the story was something he found it very difficult to express.

“By the time I got back to O’ahu, I could not find Alamea. A priest came to me to tell me that she had joined her mother and brother on the leper colony of Molokai. You don’t have to worry. If I was infected, it should be showing by now. For some reason, being with child accelerated the disease. After Keilani was born a month early, Alamea quickly deteriorated. I had to make a choice between my wife and my son, between caring for her or caring for him.” Adam’s voice was breaking at this point so he hurried to finish the story. “There was a wet nurse caring for my son. She continued to do that until he was old enough to be weaned and travel. I booked passage as soon as I could, and here we are.”

“Could your son have the disease?” Ben asked softly knowing that this must have scared his son immensely.

“Apparently not. He’s three fourths white, and it seems to have given him some protection. Babies born of mothers who have leprosy have the disease at birth or shortly after. He’s still healthy and growing. Here in Nevada he won’t be exposed to the disease and should be fine.”

“If your wife was from the Islands, how is he three fourths white?” The math wasn’t adding up for Hoss.

“Alamea was half white. Keilani is a bit darker than me, but not by that much. It will be enough for people to notice though especially as he gets older.”

“Son, that won’t matter to us. What matters to me is that I have a grandson. Now when can we meet him?”

For the first time in months, Adam relaxed his vigilance. He had rehearsed what he would say to his family and worried about their reaction. He shouldn’t have. They accepted his actions, and they accepted his son. “He’s exhausted by all the travel, and frankly so am I.”

“Why don’t you go upstairs then and rest with your son. We’ll call you for dinner if that’s all right?”

“That’ll be fine, Pa. Thank you. All of you. I was worried about what you would think. I guess I was being foolish, but it’s been a tough six months, and I hope you can forgive me.”

“There’s nothing to forgive, son. I’m so grateful that you’re home, and that you have a son. I’m so sorry to learn of your wife. Is there anything we can do for you?”

“I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do for me. I’ll have to live with my decisions and the consequences of them. I’ll see you all later.” Adam walked up the stairs then, and everyone could see how defeated he looked. He was correct about that though. He would have to come to an understanding on his own and settle it all in his heart and mind. More than anyone, Ben understood how difficult that was going to be.

It was nearing the dinner hour when Adam walked down the stairs carrying his son. Ben wanted to hold him, but Adam said he had been through so many changes, he thought it best if he held him until he acclimated to the house and the people there. Adam held Keilani through dinner feeding him in between grabbing bites of his dinner. Very quiet throughout the meal, Adam did listen to stories and conversation and nodded or smiled appropriately, but he was hardly the conversationalist that Ivy and Rose had been led to believe by Joe and Hoss. After dinner, Adam sat in the blue chair and made faces with his son and let him grab his fingers and pull. Keilani wanted to put Adam’s fingers in his mouth, and Ben announced he must be teething.

“For a little jasper, he sure has a lot of hair, and now he’s gonna have teeth too. He’s coming along real well, Adam. Do you remember when Joe was teething? Dang that boy could bite with only those four teeth he had.”

“Hoss, now cut that out. It’s not fair to embarrass me with baby stories in front of the ladies, when I can’t retaliate. Of course, I could tell some of those stories about where you two went when you told Pa you were going hunting.”

“Now, Joe, don’t go making up stories. You know that Adam and I went to the high country when we took those trips. We always come back with something too.”

“No, I mean where else did you go?”

“Joseph, perhaps the ladies would enjoy a different topic of conversation.” Joe always knew what his father meant when he said Joseph. The rest of the sentence really didn’t matter. It was time to stop what he was doing.

“Hey, Adam, can you tell us what you saw on your trip that you never saw before?”

“No.”

“Aw, c’mon, you must have all sorts of stories to tell.” Joe couldn’t understand why Adam wouldn’t talk more.

“Yes, I would love to hear of the exotic lands you visited.” Rose had a wanderlust all her own, and these trips to Nevada had fueled her desire to see more or at least learn about them.

“It’s bad enough to have my little brother nagging me, I don’t need some stranger pushing me too.” Adam’s short temper was on display as well as his biting tongue, but Rose was a match for most who played that game.

“The Ponderosa certainly was a much more pleasant place to be until a cruel wind blew you in. Do you dislike people in general, or only the ones closest to you?”

“I don’t dislike people. I dislike people who find my life more interesting than theirs. I’m not here to entertain people whose lives are boring.”

“My life is not boring, but it certainly was nicer until I met you.”

Keilani started to fuss, and began to cry when Ben thundered. “Stop it. I will not have that type of talk at my table!”

Standing with his crying son, Adam almost sneered at Rose. All that he had been through in the fourteen months he had been gone had made him feel that no one understood him and what he had suffered. Rose thought she knew too how much hurt a person could carry.

“You think that you have a monopoly on tragedy. You don’t, and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll be able to heal. You need to let the past rest and look at the future.”

“So is your last name Socrates by chance? Or perhaps you helped write the Gospels? Just shower me with your wisdom. It’s done so much good already.”

“Adam, stop it. You should not be talking to our guests that way.”

“Fine, I’ll take my son upstairs and leave you to a more pleasant and peaceful evening I’m sure.” With that parting comment, Adam walked to the stairs and up to his room with no more comments.

Once Adam turned the corner at the top of the stairs, Ben turned to Rose. “I’m sorry. He’s hurting quite badly, and Adam has never been able to accept comfort when he’s hurting. He needs to come to terms with it himself, and right now I’m afraid the wounds are too fresh.”

Upstairs, Adam sat in the rocking chair in his room. He knew that his father had sat in that chair innumerable times when he was hurt or sick waiting to see if he would survive or not and in what condition. He wished that somehow the situation would be like that. That his father could sit at his side and soothe him with that calm voice of his. At this moment, it wasn’t the pain of Alamea’s loss that hurt so much. It was that Adam found Rose Niven to be extremely attractive, and his guilt over feeling that way made him want to strike out at her which was another reason for him to feel badly. Alamea had died about six months earlier and Adam believed he should honor her memory by denying himself companionship. He had not been with a woman in any way for all of that time. Now he wanted Rose and the desire for her was strong. He didn’t understand why, but he felt an emotional pull to her, and the way her eyes bore right into him made him feel as if she was seeing his soul.

As Keilani settled down, Adam rocked slower and slower until his eyes slowly closed. Then he was still and held his son on his chest knowing how much Keilani seemed to crave that reassurance. He had not been with Adam for the first month of his life, and although he seemed to delight in his father’s company, taking him away from his wet nurse a month earlier had been traumatic. He had cried and cried that first day and could not be soothed. He wasn’t ever hungry for Adam made sure of that, but he missed the soothing comfort of nursing. Adam knew now that he should have done it more gradually, but he needed so badly to get home.

Now that Adam was here with his family though, he didn’t know how to reach out for the help he so desperately needed. He felt his son relax into a deep sleep and placed him in his cradle which was the one constant the child had. He had been in that cradle since his first day on earth. Adam wondered how he could possibly enlarge it for it would soon be too small, and how would his son react to losing that as well. He stripped off his clothing then and slid between the sheets. He had a robe on the bed for he knew he would likely have to get up during the night to care for his son. He would likely be wet and need a change of diaper and a dry gown. That would make him wake enough to know that he was hungry. Adam would have to get him something to eat at that point, and realized he had forgotten to say anything about that to Hop Sing.

Tormented by guilt and feeling inadequate to the tasks he had, Adam slept fitfully. As expected, Keilani woke in the early hours of the morning. Adam turned up the lamp and pulled out a dry diaper and gown and changed his son. He wrapped him in a warm blanket then before pulling on his robe. Quietly he opened the door to head downstairs and at the top of the stairs realized he should have brought the lamp too. Suddenly the hall was bathed in light as his father came out with a lamp.

“I thought perhaps you could use some help. I’ll walk down the steps first with the lamp. While you feed your son, I think I may have some hot chocolate.”

“Perhaps for a while, we can leave a lamp burning low down here?”

“We can do that. We’ll leave one on the hearth so there won’t be any fire danger.”

As Ben and Adam neared the kitchen, they realized there was already light in there. As they rounded the corner and entered the kitchen, they found Hop Sing mixing up some warm cereal for Keilani.

“Good for baby. Rice flour and milk. He sleep well.”

“Thank you, Hop Sing. How did you know?”

“I take care of baby before. I know need food for little one at night. Too long for small stomach and no food.” Hop Sing poured out two small cups of hot chocolate too. “Now I go bed. Leave dishes on counter. I wash with breakfast dishes. Yes?”

“Thank you, again, and good night.”

“We’re here to help you, Adam, and help your son. I want you to know that.”

“Pa, I know that. I’m sorry for how I acted earlier. I just felt so, I don’t know, just wrong.”

“She got under your skin a little, didn’t she?”

“Pa, I’m not ready to look at another woman.”

“Adam, there’s no timeline for grieving. You knew your wife only a short time. Was there a timeline on falling in love with her? You feel what you feel. It’s life. You take what you can get.”

“I have a son to take care of, and that has to be my priority now.”

“No, you need to be a father to your son, and being a father is taking care of yourself so you can take care of your son. Can’t do one without the other. I know.”

Finishing his hot chocolate, Ben wished him a good night. He went out and left a lamp burning low by the fireplace, and then upstairs made sure that the lamp in Adam’s room was throwing enough light into the hallway. In the kitchen, Adam fed his son. He always ate slowly as if it was difficult for him. The doctors had said it was because of his prematurity, and that in time, he would get better at eating. Adam fed him one small spoonful at a time until the bowl of cereal was gone. At least Keilani ate enough to grow well. He no longer looked so fragile as he had when Adam first saw him, and his color was good. Adam stood then, and Keilani dropped his head to Adam’s shoulder falling asleep almost immediately. Adam knew he would sleep about five more hours now until he was wet and hungry once more.

In the morning, Ben asked Adam if he would go to church with them. He agreed and dressed his son as well as he could. He knew he needed to get some new clothing for his son, but the stores would all be closed until Monday. Ben could tell Adam’s temper was rising even before church services began. There were a lot of comments about his son’s name and then the darker skin tone. Bu the time he came out of church carrying his son, there were a couple of hooligans who yelled out darky and other derogatory names before running away laughing. There was nothing Adam could do about it except sulk, and he was quite good at that. Any progress in improving his mood was lost with the unkind behavior of people more interested in color than morality. If this is what happened at church, Adam had to wonder what could happen in town without a minister and others to keep people under control.

“Adam, you have to keep your temper in check. Ignorant people like that feed off getting good people angry and upset. The more you react, the more they’ll do.”

“So, I’m supposed to accept their taunts and sarcasm. Walk away like it doesn’t matter. How is that showing my son that I love him and will protect him from harm at all cost? What happens when he’s old enough to understand what they’re saying?”

“It’s going to be very hard for him, but it’s going to be a lot easier if he has a strong father standing beside him.”

“Pa, you remember how hard it was for Hoss with all the name calling and taunting he had to take. You standing strong beside him didn’t really help much, did it?”

“So you still prefer your method. The fights and the threats you made to those boys that got you into so much trouble at school and at home. You’re still not remorseful for breaking Johnny Miller’s nose.”

“Pa, getting tanned was nothing compared to what Hoss had to suffer. No, John had it coming, and that crooked nose he has today ought to remind him daily that you don’t get to hurt other people and walk away unscathed.”

“You do know then that his son was one of those who yelled those names and then ran away?”

“I do. Seems he’s teaching his sons to behave like he did. Maybe he needs another lesson.”

“Adam, this has to stop. I know you have a lot of anger in you for what has happened. It wasn’t fair to find a woman to love and have her taken so tragically, but I understand better than anyone that you need to grieve and move on. She’s gone and nothing will bring her back, but she left a part of herself with you in your son. Keilani needs a father who can face the world and live, not one who can’t let go of the past.”

“It seems I am surrounded with philosophers. Keilani and I will do just fine. Now I think I would like to go home.”

Climbing into the carriage, Adam settled into the seat silently and held his son to his chest. There were a number of women at the church who wouldn’t mind at all becoming Adam’s wife and caring for his child even if he wasn’t all white. What they didn’t understand was that their concern for Keilani’s color however benign was still a degree of racism that Adam would never accept because they saw a dark child not a beautiful child who smiled and cooed at his father whom he already loved better than anything. Ben climbed in beside Adam and they headed for home.

After they left, Hoss helped Ivy up into the surrey, and Joe helped Rose climb up behind her before settling in beside the lady. Rose and Ivy had overheard the conversation between Ben and Adam as had Hoss and Joe of course. Now the ladies wanted to know the rest of Adam’s story. They had picked up bits and pieces, but they knew there was something very tragic in his story and wanted to know what it was.

Not sure if Adam would approve of them violating his confidences or not, Hoss and Joe told what they knew of his story. The part where he abandoned his wife on Molokai so that he could care for his son and avoid exposing him to the disease that had claimed his mother’s family had the two sisters nearly in tears. Now they understood the anger and bitterness in him, and realized that much of the anger was directed at himself. He had not accepted yet that it was a terrible choice and the only one he could make. There had been nothing he could do to alter the circumstances but for a man so used to controlling his own fate, it had been devastating. If it had been an act of nature such as a typhoon, he would have railed at God and fate, but he would have understood in time. With what happened, however he blamed himself more than anyone. He did not know that Alamea was already infected before he left, and likely had been infected well before she had met him. There was no way for him ever to know that so the self-loathing was likely to continue.

*****

Chapter 18

Once everyone was back on the ranch, Hoss drove the surrey to the lake so he and Ivy could walk and talk, and maybe steal a kiss or two or three. Joe walked with Rose who was very quiet. Joe did his best to fill in the gap in conversation until she relaxed and the two skipped stones and hiked up the boulders. They talked a lot about the Ponderosa and about their pasts, but Rose wasn’t ready to share her deepest secrets with Joe. She was afraid he would not accept her and would not see how devastating her father’s words had been to her. She wasn’t sure he would understand how the attitudes about race made her feel. She wanted to keep everything upbeat and positive with her sister’s wedding fast approaching. Her sister’s father would be arriving soon. She didn’t know how she was going to react to that. And that was how she thought of Charles Niven now, her sister’s father. Joe noticed her pensive look.

“Are you going to tell me what you’re thinking, or do I have to guess?”

“What would you guess?”

“Oh, that your sister is getting married next Saturday, and you’re wondering what it will be like not to have her around all the time.”

“Joe, you are amazing. You hit it with the first try.”

Seeing Rose smiling then, Joe was quite proud of himself and of course had no idea how easily he had just been manipulated. Rose kept a smile plastered on her face for the rest of the early afternoon until the four of them headed back to the ranch house. Once inside, she went to her room. Ivy was there soon after.

“You and Joe seemed to be getting along fine. He’s quite handsome don’t you think?”

“He’s a very cute boy.”

Ivy shrugged then. “But he’s not for you, is he? I was hoping maybe he would be so you would stay here longer. Oh, Rose, where will you go?”

“I’ll stay for a time. Ma had relatives in Laramie. I thought I would go there and meet them. I want to see what they’re like. After that, I don’t know.”

“Come back here after you visit Laramie. We could talk about your plans. Please?”

“You know I can never say no to you for something like that.”

“And don’t let Adam make you feel uncomfortable. I’m sure he will recover in time and be the man his brothers describe.”

“He’s quite a man just the way he is. Now I would like to change. I assume we will be having dinner soon, and I would rather not wear the same clothing I was hiking in to the dinner table.”

Leaving her sister to change, Ivy had a small smile. So it was Adam who had caught her eye. He would never have been Ivy’s choice although she had to admit he was very handsome and masculine. No his dark mood and biting tongue were not things she could accept. She loved Hoss with his beautiful smile that she could never get see enough, and the sweet disposition. She had no doubt that Hoss could get angry and violent too, but she knew she never had to fear anything from him. It seemed that Adam had a dark side and that scared her a bit. But the more she thought about it, Rose had a bit of a dark side too and was not one to trifle with when she was angry. Ivy was thinking things could get quite interesting and then Hoss spotted her.

“What are you thinking about, darling? You just had the cutest little smile a moment ago like you was up to some mischief.”

“No, Hoss, there may be mischief in the making, but I had nothing to do with it.” And that was all she told him. It would happen or not with Adam and Rose. All there was to do was wait and see at this point.

When it was nearly time for dinner, Adam was holding Keilani but he needed to use the necessary. Unwilling to take Keilani there, Adam asked his father to hold him but Rose volunteered. It would have been unbearably rude to say no to her, and Adam very much needed to hurry so he handed his son to Rose. When Adam came back in the house through the kitchen, he heard his son laughing. He stepped through the door into the dining room to see Rose with Keilani resting in her lap. She would lean down so that he could grab her cheeks and then she would make blustery noises and roll her eyes making Keilani laugh hysterically. As he stopped, she would pull away and then come back down to do it again. Rose had watched Adam do that with Keilani that morning after breakfast and thought it looked like a lot of fun. Keilani loved it.

Walking over to stand next to Adam, Ben put a hand on his shoulder. “Just like last night, we’re all here to help you and Keilani. All you need to do is ask.”

“I know, Pa, it’s just that he’s all I have left of Alamea. I love him so much and I worry about him all the time.”

“That’s being a father. That will never change. But I do think you need to trust the family who love you to help you and help Keilani.”

“Rose isn’t family.”

“With Hoss marrying Ivy, she seems like family. This is her second visit here. She seems to fit in so well although there is a sadness about her that I didn’t see when I first met her.’

“She’s got a pretty sharp tongue when she wants to use it.”

Smiling at the irony of that statement, Ben got his first genuine smile from his son since his return. “Keilani’s a beautiful boy. I am so proud to have him as my first grandchild.”

Seeing Rose suddenly with a look of dismay, Adam headed over to take his son from her. “I’m sorry. I was expecting that all day.”

Looking at the front of her dress now with a large wet spot, Rose sighed deeply. “It looks like I’ll need to put on a new dress for dinner.”

“I could help you with that.”

Rose jerked her head up at that. She wondered if he was flirting with her or if she had misunderstood. His grin confirmed the flirtation. She was speechless for a moment too. For the first time, she realized he had a gorgeous smile and dimples. Then she recovered.

“That is not something a gentleman would say to a lady.”

“Perhaps I am not a gentleman then, for it would be impolite to suggest the other is true.”

“No, you are not a gentleman. You are a boorish cad.” Rose stomped up the stairs to go to her room to change then, but with her back turned, no one saw the impish grin on her face.

Rising to Rose’s defense, Joe was upset with Adam. “Adam, that was rude. You should never have said that to her.”

“Perhaps, but then she called me a boorish cad so it would seem the lady is quite capable of defending herself with that barbed tongue.”

As Adam walked to the stairs to take Keilani up to change him, Joe wasn’t going to let it drop. Ben grabbed his arm. “Let it go, son. The two of them can handle it themselves. Don’t blow a little thing up into anything more.” At that point, Ben was getting worried. He knew that Joe was interested in Rose, but he had seen how Adam had looked at Rose as she held Keilani and played with him. He feared his sons were about to battle over a woman again.

Later Adam carried Keilani down the stairs and Rose followed after just a minute later. There was no repeat of the taunting, and dinner was pleasant except for the occasional scowl Joe threw at Adam who seemed unaffected. Ben decided he would have a large glass of brandy after dinner for he thought he might need it.

Over the next week, Joe invited Rose to ride with him on several occasions and she accepted. She had hoped that Adam might ask her to do something like that but he continued to spend his time with his son and at the house. On Thursday, Adam asked Rose and Ivy if they could care for Keilani while he went to town to purchase clothing for his son and himself.

“Adam, if you buy fabrics you like, we can sew up gowns for Keilani. The pattern for a gown is very simple and it wouldn’t be a burden at all.” Ivy was actually hoping he would say yes because the rapidly approaching nuptials had her getting more and more nervous. Rose noticed.

“Please say yes, Adam. Ivy is like a cat on a hot stove these days. We need something for her to do to keep her mind off of Saturday.”

With the urging of both, Adam said he would do that. He handed Keilani over to Rose and was relieved when the boy smiled at her. It was clear his son favored Rose over Ivy which made Adam wonder if it was because her color so resembled the wet nurse the boy had had for over five months. Adam had a lot to think about as he rode to town and then did his shopping. So much was changing so fast. He had come home expecting to be comforted by the familiar routines but had found instead that so much seemed to be changing. And he had surprised himself with his attraction to Rose that he could no longer deny to himself. Maybe his father was correct and he needed to grieve and move on. Keilani certainly needed a mother, and perhaps Adam ought to be looking for a suitable candidate. He wasn’t sure he could fall in love at this point, but marrying for love hadn’t worked out so well for him anyway. Perhaps marrying someone you liked to provide a mother for your child would work out even better.

As Adam left the mercantile with bolts of cloth, he heard some boys yelling the same things he had heard Sunday. This time he didn’t have his baby on his arm so he advanced toward the boys who suddenly didn’t feel so brave and ran away. His troubles weren’t over that easily however.

“So you’re a might touchy yet, ain’t ya Cartwright?”

Turning slowly, Adam saw John Miller and two of his friends. “Must have been your boy. Ignorance like that is hard to teach. Takes someone with a lot of it to pass it on.”

“You still got that smart mouth. You may have noticed I have two friends.”

“Surprised you could find that many, but there’s no accounting for taste.”

“You talk so smart but you bedded down with a darky and got a darky bastard. You gonna try to act all high and mighty when you been rutting with trash like that?”

It was unlikely that John ever saw the fist coming. In seconds he was down in the street holding his nose as blood streamed down onto his shirt. His friends grabbed Adam and threw him against the wall of the store stunning him. Then they held Adam against the wall as John came up and began battering him with his fists.

“Stop that right now. You’re all a gonna end up in my jail.” Firing his pistol for emphasis, Roy got the three men to back off. Adam sank down on his heels. “Now who’s gonna tell me why you three was beating up on one upstanding citizen here?”

“He started it, Sheriff. We was just helping John defend hisself.”

“Looked to me like you was holding Adam so he couldn’t fight back, and John was pounding him.”

“Well, that mighta been what happened after he attacked John.”

“And I suppose John didn’t say something nasty to get it all started either? Now you each owe twenty dollars for disturbing the peace, or you can spend three days in jail. What’s it gonna be?”

“Sheriff, you know ain’t one of us got any money since the mines started closing.”

“Well then I’m guessing you just chose to spend three days in jail. You head on over there now and don’t make me come looking for ya neither or it’s a gonna double. I’ll be there as soon as I get Adam to the Doc’s office.”

“Don’t he gotta pay too?”

“He will, but he needs some help first. Now git.” Bending down, Roy went to help Adam up, but he pushed Roy’s help away and struggled to his feet. When he attempted to walk to his horse though, he began to fall, and Roy caught him. “Now you gonna let me help you to the Doc’s office?”

Reluctantly Adam nodded. Roy walked slowly with him as he wrapped his arms around his ribs and tried to breathe shallowly.

As expected, Paul determined he had injuries to his ribs requiring a tight wrapping. He cleaned up a few cuts and abrasions too. Paul wanted Adam to stay in town but knew he wouldn’t. “I’m riding out to check on Mabel. She’s had a hard time recovering from having that baby. You can ride in my carriage and I’ll tie your horse behind. Don’t argue with me or I’ll have Roy put you in one of those cells to keep you from riding your horse.” Unfortunately for Adam, he knew Paul meant that literally. He climbed into the carriage with Paul’s help. Paul drove carefully and even slower than his usual pace. He could feel Adam next to him tense up with the pain when they did hit any small bump in the road, and for the entire trip, Adam struggled to breathe shallowly to minimize the severe discomfort. Mercifully, the ranch house finally came into view. As Paul drove into the yard, there was activity that was typical at the end of a workday on a ranch. One of the hands saw that Adam was injured and went to the house to inform the family. Adam was attempting to climb out of the carriage when Ben and Hoss got there to assist him.

“What happened?”

“Ben, Adam got into a tussle with John Miller and his friends. You know how tense everything is in town with the mines being shut down for so long. Lots of miners have left, but some are still around and waiting for work. They’re a sour bunch. Adam’s ribcage is bruised but I don’t think there are any cracked ribs. It will be painful for a few days, but he should feel a lot better by early next week.”

“You don’t have to talk like I’m not here.”

“I know you wouldn’t tell your father, so I’m saving him the trouble of playing a guessing game or waiting until Roy tells him what happened. Now I need to go check on Mabel. Get him in the house and get him to rest, and good luck with that.”

As Paul walked away, Hoss wrapped an arm around Adam to help him to the house. Ben asked one of the hands to take care of his horse. Adam got Hoss to stop and whispered that he wanted the packages in the house. Once that was taken care of, and Adam was seated in a chair, Ben wanted to know more.

“You got in a brawl in town two days before your brother’s wedding. What could have made you do that?”

“John insulted my wife and my son with vile things. I couldn’t let the things he said stand.”

“Adam, I know you’re a proud man, but you have got to get hold of that temper. You cannot fight every man who insults your wife and son.”

“I can try.”

Rose had to stifle a laugh at that point. Ivy noticed and shook her head. Rose would do exactly the same as Adam in such a circumstance. Ben walked away in disgust and sat at his desk finishing the work that had been interrupted by Adam’s arrival home. As Adam caught his breath and got the pain under control, he asked about Keilani, and Ivy answered.

“K.C. is with Hoss in the washroom. He made quite a mess, and needed a bath. Hoss volunteered.”

“Casey?”

“No, K and C, K.C. for Keilani Cartwright. Hannibal refers to him that way cause he has trouble remembering his name. It’s kinda catchy so more of us are using it. We don’t mean to offend you. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, it’s all right. I’ll call him Keilani though. The packages have cloth that you said you could use for Keilani’s gowns. I bought two very nice ones for Saturday so he looks good at the wedding. At the rate he wets or soils them, I could use quite a few. He’s also too big for some of them now too.”

“Adam, we might be able to make those bigger so he can wear them longer. Ivy is very talented doing things like that. I’m better working on making new ones.”

“Thank you, ladies. I am very grateful.”

There was no more trouble before the wedding. On Saturday morning, Adam was up early and had his son playing on the floor by the fireplace as he had breakfast. Ben walked down and had to ask a question.

“Isn’t he hungry in the morning?”

“Yes, Pa, but he already had a bowl of hot rice cereal. I want him tuckered out so he takes a nap early, and then he should be in a good mood for the wedding. I know I find it rather irritating when there’s a fussing baby as people are pledging their troth.”

Ben had to agree to that. Adam was feeling better after just two days. He could breathe normally and hoped to have the wrappings removed today so that he might have at least a dance or two at Hoss’ wedding celebration. Hoss came down stairs next and asked the same question Ben had and got the same explanation. The next three people down the stairs also asked why Keilani was playing on the floor while Adam was eating, but now there were three who could explain so Adam didn’t have to continue repeating himself.

Feeling a bit nauseous, Ivy only picked at her food. Ben told her very kindly that it was his experience that not eating on your wedding morning only made you feel more and more sickly as the day went on. She did force herself to eat a whole flapjack then and drank some milk. Hop Sing brought some hot tea for Ivy to sip and that helped immensely as well. Ivy’s father had yet to arrive, and that was making Ivy the most nervous. She had worried since they left Texas about how the reunion of her father and Rose would be, and the longer she had to worry about that, the more she felt sick to her stomach. And now there was the additional worry that he might not come at all. There had been no word from him.

*****

Chapter 19

As the hour of the wedding approached and everyone dressed for the occasion, Ivy sat in her room with Rose. There was a soft knock on the door, and Rose answered. It was Adam.

“I come bearing a gift. I believe you need something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue. I have the new, but you’ll have to have someone else supply the others.” Adam handed a box to Rose to give to Ivy. Ivy opened it and gasped. It was a triple strand string of pearls. She stood then and went to Adam to kiss him on the cheek.

Ben walked up behind them then. “Is there something I should be telling Hoss?”

“Oh no, Mr. Cartwright, it’s just that Adam gave me this string of pearls and it is so beautiful. But, Adam, it’s too much. Perhaps this could be the borrowed item?”

“I have treasures in that trunk in my room to share with my family. As of today, you are family. They’re yours.”

Ivy kissed Adam once more on the cheek. He smiled and said he needed to get back to his son. Rose shook her head for Adam was certainly full of surprises. She was finding this complex man more intriguing each day. He had a lot of layers and sides to him.

Ben had a small box too. Rose took that to Ivy who opened it to find a small brooch. “That belonged to Hoss’ mother. It is yours now. So it would appear you have something old and something new.”

Rose handed a blue lace handkerchief to her sister. “And now something borrowed and something blue.”

Almost in tears at that point, Ivy thanked them both. “Is my father here yet?”

“I’m sorry, Ivy, he is not. I sent a hand to town to look for him. Hopefully he will be here soon.” Ben’s heart went out to the young lady.

“Mr. Cartwright, who will walk me to Hoss if my father doesn’t come?”

“I’m sure we won’t need to ask anyone, but to make you feel better, Roy Coffee is the closest to another father that my sons could have had. I’m sure he would be willing to do that for you should it be necessary.”

“Thank you. I feel a little bit better already.”

As guests arrived and filled the great room downstairs, Charles still wasn’t there. Ben told Roy that he might be needed, and Roy agreed. Ben delayed the wedding for ten minutes he said because the ladies needed a few more minutes with the dress. Finally, it was time and a commotion outside led to Charles being led inside by Candy who had been waiting and hoping. Ben escorted Charles up the stairs introducing himself on the way. Once he got to Ivy’s bedroom, Ben knocked and Rose opened the door. Her face became a mask, but Ivy rushed into her father’s arms.

“Papa, you made it. You said you would, and you did, but I was so worried. What happened? You were supposed to be here days ago.”

“Storms, broken down stages, missed connections, and just about anything you could imagine. I’m here now though, and I’m ready to walk my daughter to her husband. Are you ready?”

“I’m ready. Rose is going first, and we’ll walk right behind her. Hoss should be standing right in front of the fireplace.”

“He is. No one could miss him even in a crowded room.” Taking his daughter’s arm, Charles led her down the hallway to the stairs and down to her husband-to-be. Joe stood at Hoss’ side, and Ben and Adam stood in the first row of guests. Charles came to stand on the other side of Ben as the two fathers watched their children wed. It was a wonderful moment.

After the ceremony, Hoss kissed the bride to a whistle from Joe that embarrassed the big man. Then Adam and Ben congratulated the couple as did Rose and Charles. Next up, the newlyweds had to make the rounds of the room accepting congratulations from all the guests. Once that was completed, the wedding party moved outside for music, dancing, and food. There were tables lining one side of the yard and those would soon be piled with mountains of food Hoss had requested. There were going to be beef roasts, pork roasts, and ham along with a multitude of side dishes.

The musicians tuned up and started to play. Rose was surprised again when Adam walked outside with a guitar and sat with the musicians and played along. Mabel was watching Keilani as well as her baby so Adam was free for the dance. Rose was asked to dance by a number of men, and then Joe came to claim the dances he said she had promised to him. She didn’t remember making such promises but it did free her from having to dance with so many strangers. After several dances with Joe and fending off his attempts to pull her ever closer to him as they danced, Rose begged off and said she needed to sit down for a bit. She walked to the porch and sat on a chair near the musicians ostensibly to listen to the music and rest, but she did have a curiosity about Adam now that was growing. She was beginning to regret that she had spent so much time with Joe and so little with Adam. She hoped that before she left on Monday, they might have a chance to talk. But it wasn’t going to happen then because Joe brought her a glass of punch and a plate of food. As soon as he got some for himself, he was right back at her side chattering away.

As soon as Rose finished the plate of food, Joe insisted it was time to dance again. After another half dozen dances with the energetic young man, Rose again asked for a break. This time it was Charles who came to talk with her.

“I noticed that your room has been cleaned of all those things I thought you held most dear. Does this mean that you are not returning home?”

“Home? It hasn’t been my home since Mama died.”

“I did the best I could for you. I hope you do think of the Niven ranch as your home.”

“I heard what you said to Hoss. I was coming down the stairs and I heard. You think of me as Comanche. You said you were not my father, and that I knew that. Well I didn’t know, but I do now. I won’t ever be in your home again.”

“After everything I did for you, I think you owed me the courtesy of telling me that instead of running off into the night. I would have provided you with means to support yourself. I would never have turned you out. In fact, I will still do that if you ask. You need to tell me what you want. I can’t read your mind. You are my wife’s daughter, and I have always felt responsible for you.”

“But you never loved me.”

“No, I never loved you as a daughter, but I do love you and want the best life for you that you can find. I will do what I can to help you. Just because you are not my heir does not mean that I don’t feel responsible for you and want to help you.”

During a lull in the music as the musicians went to get food and drink, Adam sat and waited for Rose. He wanted to ask her for a dance. Instead he heard the conversation with her father. He didn’t understand all of it, but he understood enough. Now he was even more intrigued with her than before. Apparently she had a much more difficult background than he had imagined. No wonder she had little sympathy for his plight. She had suffered too, and picked herself up and moved on, and this latest problem seemed like it must have been very recent for her father to be talking the way he was. No he amended his thought. Charles was not her father but she had the same mother as Ivy, and her father thought of her as Comanche which only left one conclusion to draw. Her mother had been taken by the Comanche and had been with child or bore a child before she was rescued. Adam knew there had been a lot of captures in Texas of women and children by the Comanche. Now more and more of Rose made sense to him. It explained why she was so much darker than her sister and only resembled her a little. They did not have the same father, and Rose’s father was a different race. Now that he knew it, he could see the evidence of it. However he had been eavesdropping so how much he could discuss with her was limited unless he admitted his action.

When Charles walked away, and Rose sat forlornly and alone, Adam moved to her side. The musicians had started up again. Adam asked Rose to dance, and she accepted, but there was no light in her eye and no spring in her step any longer. It was a slow dance, and Adam held her as close as was polite with his hand on her back and her hand clasped in his other hand. He moved as gracefully as he could with a partner who had lost her zest for celebrating. At the end of the dance, he stopped near the outside of the dancing area and kept her hand in his.

“Would you like to take a break and walk with me?”

“I really don’t have the energy to do anything.”

“Then we’ll walk to the garden, and we can sit and talk or just enjoy the scenery. You look like you need a break.”

“Thank you, I do. And thank you for being understanding.”

Walking hand-in-hand to the garden, Adam was quiet and let Rose relax. Once they got to the bench, he allowed her to sit first, and then he sat far enough away not to be threatening. He knew she needed time to relax and think so he said nothing.

“You’re good at this.”

“At being quiet?”

“No, at silence that drives me crazy so I have to talk.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. I’ll jabber on about something if you like, but I have to warn you, I’m not nearly as good at that as Joe is.”

“Well tell me about your education then. I heard you went to college.”

So Adam talked about going to school in Boston, living with his grandfather during much of that time, and working with him when he wasn’t in school. He told of how he learned that he could do well on his own, but missed his family and the Ponderosa very much.

“And yet, you left again.”

“Yes, but just like that time, the plan was that I would return. I never intended to leave for good although there were a few times when I thought I wouldn’t make it back.”

“What happened?”

“We got caught in a typhoon after we left China. We weren’t even in the heart of it, and I thought I would die. I couldn’t imagine how a wooden ship could survive the pounding we took. You could hear timbers cracking, and I waited each time for one to give way completely and the ship to go down. I prayed more and more sincerely than I ever did before that time. We got out of the storm to head toward Guam but we were so far off course, we ended up in the Gilbert Islands which are very small islands, coral atolls mostly, I guess. They’re beautiful. I sketched a lot there, and painted the fish I saw on the reefs. I have books and books of sketches. I could show you some time.”

“I would like that very much. I love to travel and hear about distant places too. Now you said a few times. What other time did you think you might not make it back?”

“When I found out my wife had leprosy. I knew then that I had likely been exposed either by being with her or by being with the people who had infected her. Then I spent months with my son. If he had it, then I would have been exposed that way too. I wrote a letter to my family and sent it with Hop Sing. I told him only to give it to my family if I did not return.”

“Because if you did not return, it would mean that you were dying or already dead.”

“Yes, and I had things that I wanted to say to them if I had the time. One never knows when the end will come, but if you know it might be there, then the clarity of what you want to say is amazing. I don’t think I was ever able to express myself as well as I did in that letter. I kept it and put it in my room. Should anything ever happen to me, my last thoughts for my family would be the same.”

“It’s a bit morbid to think that way, but I understand what you’re saying. It would be good to know that your last thoughts were of them and your love for them.”

“Of course, but what if it was all the things about them that irritated me the most?”

Startled at first by that comment, Rose saw the eyes and knew he was kidding her. She punched him in the arm.

“Ow, what was that for?”

“Oh, that didn’t hurt, you big sissy, and you were teasing me so you deserved that.

“I did want to see you smile and it worked. Don’t I get a thank you for that?” Adam leaned toward Rose and she leaned a bit toward him as they were talking. For a few moments, there was no talking and Adam lightly kissed Rose. He leaned back, and waited for her response. He didn’t know her well enough to even guess how she would respond. He hoped that he had not made her angry. He did see that her eyes were closed and she didn’t look angry.

“That was nice. I would like another if you have one to spare.”

Adam moved closer and wrapped an arm around Rose before kissing her again. He continued the light kisses but increased the pressure a bit. When she didn’t move away but wrapped an arm around his neck, he teased her lips with his tongue until he got them to open. He kissed her deeply and sensuously as he felt her mold her body to his. She began to kiss him the same way, and he felt like a jolt of energy had rushed through him. He pulled away, and reached up to caress her cheek.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take advantage of you when you were feeling down. We should get back to the dance.”

Adam was gracious and gentle, but Rose was wondering what the heck had happened. She was enjoying the kissing and the holding when he had suddenly stopped. It was so abrupt she had no idea what had happened. He didn’t seem upset, but something had changed. This moment would be on her mind for a while. It was another enigma with this complicated man. She knew he would be a challenge, but she did enjoy challenges.

When Adam led Rose back to the dance, the musicians were just starting another slow dance. Adam looked at Rose as if to ask her, and she stepped to his side and said a soft yes. Leading her, Adam held her hand as before, but when she felt his hand on her back, she moved closer to him and was rewarded with that grin as she gazed up at him. Hoss and Ivy watched as Adam and Rose danced, and they had seen Joe looking for Rose earlier.

“Oh, oh, I hope Pa’s ready to handle this one.”

“She does look very comfortable dancing with Adam.”

“I ain’t seen him grin like that since before he left for China neither. Joe ain’t gonna like this one bit. Now where’s Pa when ya need him. I know Joe’s gonna try to cut in, and Adam ain’t gonna like it.”

It happened mostly as Hoss predicted, except it was Hoss’ wedding and Adam didn’t want to make a scene. He reluctantly let go of Rose, and Joe stepped in to finish the dance. Rose was gracious and kept her eyes on Joe, but was disappointed too. Just when Adam had softened up and shown a gentler, nicer side, this had happened. Rose had seen that mask drop into place again and doubted that if she went to Adam now, there would be any conversation like they had had earlier. Adam had rejoined the musicians and had that serious look about him as if he was all business. On the inside though his emotions were churning. He was feeling guilty that only five months after his wife’s death, he was interested in another woman, and yet he was jealous too as he watched Rose dance with Joe. She seemed very interested in Joe so he thought that perhaps she had just been being kind to him earlier. He was feeling vulnerable and didn’t like feeling that way. He resolved to keep his distance until she left. He would get out of Joe’s way.

As dusk grew near, Hoss and Ivy prepared to leave for their honeymoon. Hoss had a cabin up in part of the Ponderosa that was untouched by cattle herds and loggers. He and Ivy planned to spend a few days in that pristine meadow. There were toasts made by both fathers and by Joe. The guests cheered as Hoss lifted Ivy into a carriage and drove out of the yard. Hoss was thinking that if they hurried, they would be all settled in the cabin before it was too dark. Hannibal and Hop Sing began to clean up. Food was packed into containers that were to be taken to families the next morning before church. Some of the guests volunteered for those duties to help out. Adam retrieved Keilani from Mabel who said he had been no problem. Joe and the hands cleared away tables and took down the paper lanterns and then went inside to move the furniture back into place.

Returning downstairs after putting Keilani in his cradle, Adam was confronted by Joe. Rose had gone to her room, and Joe had a feeling that something had changed between them.

“I saw you with Rose. Now I’ve been spending a lot of time with her, and I don’t appreciate you cutting in. I don’t want to lose her.”

“Joe, it’s not a contest. There are no winners and no losers. We were talking.”

“I saw you kissing her. When did kissing get to be part of talking?”

“Joe, I don’t know why you’re so angry. I didn’t know that you were serious about Rose. If you are, that’s fine with me, but she’s planning to leave on Monday, isn’t she?”

“Well, I’m going to invite her to come back here. I wanted to ask her tonight, but you interfered with my plans.”

“I had no way of knowing your plans. Do you have any idea how Rose feels about this?”

“That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you need to stay away.”

Raising his hands as if in surrender, Adam walked outside. Through the open door, Ben had heard his sons. He went in to speak with Joe. He was concerned again that Joe was rushing into something.

“Joe, I heard what you said to Adam. Now it wasn’t really eavesdropping when someone speaks that loudly. Are you sure you’re in love with Rose? Because if you aren’t, you could be making some big problems in this family.”

“I’m sure, but Rose has had a hard time of it lately, and I think it may take her some time. But Pa, we’ve been together almost every day since she was here. Then Adam steps in tonight to steal her away from me.”

“Well, like Adam, I had no idea that Rose was anything more than a friend to you. I have seen nothing in her behavior to indicate that she sees you as a romantic interest. Now, you said she was kissing Adam.”

“He was kissing her!”

“Well, however it was, but I think kissing takes two. I don’t mean to be too personal, but have you kissed Rose because I certainly have not seen any indication that your relationship was other than being friends?”

“Well, I wanted to tonight but Adam beat me to it.”

“Joe, is this infatuation or love? She’s an attractive woman, but there’s more to love than attraction. Earlier it sounded like you think this is some contest between you and Adam. This is between you and Rose to sort out how you feel about each other. What do you and Rose have in common? Have you talked of your dreams for the future? And you really do need to find out what Rose wants.”

All of it made so much sense to Joe, but he didn’t want it to. He had to admit that Adam’s earlier comment that it wasn’t a contest had hit home too. Frustrated, he had nothing more to say. Ben walked outside to find Adam. He suspected Adam was far more conflicted than Joe was. He found him leaning up against the corral fence with his head down. It was pretty much what he had expected. Adam heard his father walk up.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stir up any trouble. I didn’t know that Joe wanted Rose for his own, but if I had been paying attention, I guess I should have known.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, I didn’t know either, and from what I heard from Joe, Rose was also not aware of his feelings.”

Adam dropped his head and massaged the back of his neck. Ben put a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s not too soon. It happens when it happens. Alamea sounds like she was a wonderful, loving person. Don’t you think she would want you to be happy?”

“Frankly, I don’t know what to think or feel right about now. There’s so much going on. I have Keilani and he has to be my first concern. And then there’s Joe. We were starting to get along so much better, and now that’s a mess again.”

“I don’t think it’s a mess. I think Joe needs a little time. Just relax and get some sleep. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Father and son walked to the house together and locked up for the night before retiring. Adam of course was up with Keilani several hours later. He looked forward to the day when his son could sleep through the night and not wet or soil himself so often. At breakfast the next morning, Adam was tired and quiet, and Rose hardly spoke either. Adam reached out to grab a flapjack, and Joe went to spear it before he could get it. With a deep sigh, Adam grabbed a biscuit instead, covered it in jelly, and began feeding it to his son and that made Joe feel guilty.

The family went to church services, and the same hooligans who had previously harassed Adam did it again. He couldn’t do anything about it, but he knew it would hurt even more when his son was old enough to understand it. He was quiet for the rest of the day spending time with his son and reading while Keilani slept.

After lunch, Joe asked Rose to go for a ride. She agreed and Joe hitched up the buggy and asked Hop Sing for a picnic basket with wine and a dessert. He put that and a blanket in the boot of the carriage, and helped Rose up into the carriage with his hands holding her waist. Joe was thinking of how he could make a move on Rose to kiss her and perhaps more while Rose was thinking about how she needed to let Joe know she wasn’t interested in any more than friendship with him. It didn’t go well.

“It’s Adam, isn’t it? I knew it when I saw him with you last night.”

“Joe, it isn’t about last night. It’s just that I don’t feel that way about you. You have been very kind, and I’ve enjoyed our time together, but it isn’t meant to be between us. We don’t have enough in common.”

“And I suppose you have more in common with Adam.”

“This isn’t a contest. Maybe we should go back now. I have to pack everything up. I’m leaving tomorrow for Laramie.”

“Rose, I want you to come back.”

“Joe, if I come back, it won’t be to be your gal. That isn’t going to happen. And with as much trouble as I’ve caused, it might be best if I don’t come back.”

“Ivy will miss you terribly. I know I missed Adam an awful lot when he was gone.”

“Maybe that’s what you should be thinking about now. Your brother needs a lot of support and understanding especially with what he faces every time he leaves this ranch. I understand how he feels more than most do.”

“Why is that?”

“Joe, I’m half Comanche. My father is not Charles Niven. My father is a Comanche warrior. And that look on your face right there is all the more reason we won’t be together. You see me differently now.”

“Of course I do, but that doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

“But Joe, it does. When you look at me now, you’re thinking about me being part Comanche.”

“Well, I was thinking that he must have been one handsome warrior to have a daughter like you. I knew your mother had to have been pretty too even back when I thought Charles was your father. Ivy luckily doesn’t look like him either.”

“Joe, I want to be with a man who sees me as Rose, as a woman, not as a part white, part Comanche woman. I want a man who understands what it feels like to hear the name calling and get the nasty looks. I want a man who cares what I want and not only what he wants.”

“I’m not sure there’s a man out there like that.”

“But Joe, there is.”

“I could try to be a man like that?”

“Joe, please be honest: if I told you I preferred Adam to you, would you be angry at him or happy for me?”

“Are you saying you prefer him?”

“Joe, you’re angry, aren’t you?”

“Well, of course, I’m angry.”

“Joe, when you understand why you’re so angry, you’ll be making a big step toward finding the woman you want. But right now, you’re not ready to share your life with a woman. You want to possess a woman. You have to get to the point where you want to be with a woman, and she wants to be with you. That can happen suddenly or develop over time, but getting angry if it doesn’t happen is pointless.”

Riding in silence for a time, Joe started to understand. “When Adam went away, I was happy for him even though I knew I would miss him. I knew it was something he needed to do to be happy, so I told him to do it. You’re saying that when I feel that way about a woman, that’s love.”

“That would certainly be a sign of it.”

“Adam’s an ornery cuss sometimes and he can be mean and spiteful when he wants to, and I hate it when he acts all superior and smart and all. But if you give him a chance, he’s also the most loyal and compassionate person I know. He’ll stand by your side no matter what.”

“I don’t know if Adam is ready to love yet. He’s got a lot of pain inside of him yet.”

“Yeah, and he’s real worried about his son, and how people will treat him when he’s older.”

“So don’t let this come between you.”

Smiling then, Joe drove into the yard of the Ponderosa. Adam was sitting on the porch with Keilani. Seeing Rose and Joe chatting and smiling was a bit disappointing, but he was glad that she had shed that sad look. He was thinking that if Joe made her happy, then that’s the way it had to be. As they came up to the porch, he excused himself saying he had to take Keilani in and change him.

Looking at Rose, Joe only had one more thing to say. “Good luck. It’s not going to be easy.”

The next morning, Rose left for Laramie. There had been only light conversation the night before and polite goodbyes in the morning. Rose had hoped for more of a reaction from Adam, but got none. Joe shrugged his shoulders when Adam said little except goodbye and walked in the house just before Rose left. Joe looked at Rose and made a face. Sometimes it was impossible to know what his oldest brother was thinking. At this point, Joe would have expected him to say something to make Rose want to come back, but he had said little and had that mask on that hid his emotions so effectively. Rose had hoped for more of a response, and began to wonder if Adam felt for her the way she was beginning to feel for him. She wanted him to acknowledge that he would miss her if she was gone, but he acted as if that wasn’t important to him at all. She rode away wondering if she should ever consider coming back.

*****

Chapter 20

On Tuesday, Adam started back into ranch work full time. Hoss and Ivy were expected back that day, and they would be settling in at the house. Mabel was taking care of Keilani during the day. Adam planned to be back for lunch every day to reassure his son that he had not been abandoned. Because there seemed to be a loss of a few cattle from the southeast pasture every few day, Ben wanted a close count of that area to try to determine if the count was off or if there were rustlers stealing regularly and had assigned that as his first task. As Adam rode into the southeast pasture, John Miller and his friends grinned at each other. They could easily overpower one cowboy and that the cowboy was Adam Cartwright made it all the more fun to anticipate. They could pay him back for the three days each of them had spent in jail. They made a plan and then moved out to carry it out.

As Adam rode up a rise to start the count, he heard a rider coming up behind him. The man was not someone he recognized at first, but once he was close, Adam moved to clear his pistol but it was already too late. A rifle shot hit the dirt in front of him and he had to rein in Sport to stop him from rearing.

“Drop the pistol, or you get dropped.”

As another rider emerged from the trees and the rifleman made his presence known by stepping out at another point, Adam complied. He couldn’t hope to overcome all three when they were all in different locations.

“Now get down off your horse and keep your hands up above your head.”

Adam did that as well. When John Miller rode up, Adam thought that perhaps he should have fought it out because John had a look that portended nothing but a nasty result for Adam.

As the third man rode up to them, John dismounted and walked up behind Adam and slammed his rifle butt into his lower back sending him crashing to the ground. He had already pocketed Adam’s pistol and now had incapacitated him. For a moment, Adam had no idea what they intended to do, but he felt them pick up his left foot and tie a lariat around it. When he saw John tie the lariat to the pommel of the saddle on Sport, he knew what they intended.

“So far, all you’ve done is assault and threaten me. If you do this, you’re looking at hanging.”

“Oh, yeah, who they gonna call for witnesses? Your horse?”

The three men laughed, and John pulled a quirt from his saddle. He walked to Sport and slashed him over the rump. Sport only jumped with the first slash but that was enough to jerk Adam a painful few yards. Trembling and nervous, Sport stood warily until John slashed the quirt over the welt he had already made. That made the horse take off running dragging Adam behind it. One of John’s friends grabbed the quirt from John’s hands and mounted up to chase after Sport who was running across the pasture dragging Adam through the grass and occasional small stones and gravel. The man caught up to Sport turning him toward the trees and struck him again making the horse scream its dismay and run faster. The last the three men saw was Sport running into the trees dragging Adam by one leg as he twisted, turned, and bounced along behind the panicked animal.

“They won’t even know he’s missing until late today. Let’s get some of them cows and head outta here.”

“Dontcha wanta go look see what he looks like by now?”

“Nah, as soon as he tires out, his head’ll start bouncing on the ground knocking those brains out on those rocks up that way. Won’t be much to see. I heard that somebody did this once just like we done, and the head got tore clean off when it hit some rocks.”

The men snickered and then rode out to collect some cattle before leaving. They had customers who didn’t mind the brand as long as the cows were fat and healthy. It would take a couple of days to get these cows there, and by then they assumed Adam would be buried and no longer a threat to them. They had not counted on the bond between horse and man though. As Sport reached a rocky streambed and found the going difficult, he stopped. Adam was struggling to remain at least semiconscious at that point but knew enough to call out to Sport.

“Good boy, good boy, Sport. Whoa, boy. Just stay there. Whoa, boy. Help will come, boy, help will come.”

And then exhaustion and shock caused Adam to succumb to unconsciousness. He laid there for hours probably as his horse shifted uneasily feeling the tension of the rope tied to its saddle and the smell of blood, but also knowing by the smell that the man lying there was his friend and master and he had told him to be still. Late in the afternoon Adam awoke to searing pain in his leg and hip. It was raining lightly and Sport was getting nervous and anxious to leave. Adam talked to him softly and the pressure eased.

More aware of his circumstances now than he had been earlier, Adam assessed his situation. He couldn’t move without risking losing consciousness. The small movements he had made told him that. And great effort to move would fail. He also looked around and realized he was lying in a dry streambed and rain was falling on him. For the first time since Sport had started to run through the trees and Adam had twisted and turned to avoid slamming into a tree trunk that was certain death, he was afraid. If the rain continued to fall, there would be a flow of water through the streambed or even a flash flood. For him, it didn’t matter which one it would be because he could survive neither. He prayed fervently not only for himself but for his son. He could not believe that God would take away both of his son’s parents before he was even a year old. Then mercifully he passed out again.

At the ranch house, Ben was very worried. Adam had said he would be back for lunch. He had missed that and a hand sent to the pasture had returned saying that Adam was not there. When Hoss came home early with his bride, he was all smiles and joy until he detected the worry indicated by the furrow in Ben’s brow and heard a crying Keilani whom Mabel could not seem to soothe.

“Pa, what’s wrong? We come home early cause of the rain, but you look like there’s something bothering you something fierce. It ain’t us, so who is it?”

“Adam was supposed to be home hours ago. Keilani is inconsolable. He hasn’t been away from Adam this long in months. Adam knew that before he left. Something must have happened, but no one has seen him.”

“Pa, you know Adam’s word is as good as gold. Something musta happened. I’ll get some men and go look. I won’t come home without him.”

As Hoss was saddling up Chubb, Joe and Candy rode in. Although wet and tired, they agreed with Hoss that they needed to go search. Three other men volunteered to go, and the six of them rode to where Adam was supposed to be. A thorough search of the area by then men turned up nothing. As they rode to where Hoss sat on a rise, they saw him raise a hand. Then he signaled them to ride around him and up.

“What’s up, Hoss? Not even you can track in the rain.”

“Look that way. What do ya see?”

As the men looked where Hoss pointed, there was a clear path of grass matted down. It moved in a haphazard line to the trees.

Hoss asked the only question he had. “What does that look like to you?”

Candy answered immediately. “Looks like something was dragged through there.”

Then Joe and several of them said the same thing almost simultaneously. “Or someone.”

Hoss took the lead. “Stay behind me and to the side of the trail. Ifn I lose it, I want to be able to come back and see the direction of it again.”

Where the growth of trees was dense, they lost the trail. Using the direction they had been traveling, they split up to create a search pattern. The rain was falling more heavily and it made visibility worse. They searched but tried to keep the man on either side in sight so that no area was missed. Hoss was the first to think he saw something. He began to ride faster and then yelled when he knew it was Sport. All the men converged on the area at nearly the same time. Hoss and Joe leaped from their horses to climb down the stream bank. Adam lay unmoving in about six inches of water. Hoss checked his chest first and was relieved to feel a heartbeat and breathing.

“You men get a blanket down here. We’re gonna have to lift him and carry him outta here right quick.”

Busy untying the lariat from Adam’s ankle, Joe almost stopped when Adam cried out. Hoss signaled for him to continue. He could see that Adam had multiple injuries and assumed any movement would hurt even those meant to help. Joe led Sport up the stream to where there was a more gentle incline and led him out. He was angry when he saw the bloody welts on the horse’s rump. There was no doubt what had happened and every likelihood that whoever had done it had meant for Adam to die.

Meanwhile Hoss had been assessing Adam’s condition. He was relieved that there appeared to be no broken ribs and no severe head injuries, but his left leg was twisted and any movement of that leg made Adam cry out in pain. He was bleeding from multiple nasty cuts and abrasions but again none were severe or life-threatening from what Hoss could determine. Both wrists were swollen and his hands were bruised and bloody. Hoss could only surmise that he had pushed himself away from deadly obstacles with his hands and arms and had taken a beating because of it.

Once the men had the blanket down by Adam, Hoss had them fold it in half and lay it next to him. He told them it didn’t matter if it got wet. It was only to carry him out of the stream before the water got any deeper. “All right now, I need each of you to slide your hands under him real careful like. Joe I need you to help me with his left leg. It’s pretty bad. Candy you take his head and his shoulders. All right on the count of three we’re gonna move him to that blanket and don’t stop ifn he hollers cause I’m pretty sure he’s gonna. One, two, three.” As expected Adam reacted with cries of pain and then fell limp when they lowered him to the blanket. Now grab a hold of the blanket real tight. We’re gonna walk to where Joe took Sport out before.”

Once they had Adam up out of the water, Hoss tried to determine what they should do next. One of the men had a tarp on the back of his horse because he had been working in the high pastures for a week. Hoss decided they would erect a basic lean-to over Adam, get the wet clothes off of him, and try to get a dry bed roll over him. They sent one of the men back to the ranch house to get a wagon telling him to bring the one with the canvas cover and to put some mattresses in the back. With so much to do, two men rode back. Candy and the other hand went looking for some stout branches to use for a basic lean-to. Within a half hour, they had a basic frame up over Adam and had stretched the tarp over it to create a shelter. The other hand was sent to town then to get the doctor.

The next job was more difficult. They started to cut his clothing from him and expose his injuries. As expected, the left leg looked bad. It was swollen in a couple of places and bruised severely. They assumed his leg was broken in those two places. They used the pieces of clothing they cut away to bind the worst of his wounds and to splint his leg. He groaned or cried out as they worked but thankfully never achieved full consciousness. The hand who had the tarp had the only dry bed roll, so they used that next to try to warm him up some. They pulled the wet blanket away and replaced it with half of the dry one, and then pulled the other half up and over him. He was cold to the touch, but his heartbeat was still strong and his breathing seemed normal. Hoss pulled the saddle from Sport and used the horse blanket as another layer for Adam. Then he did the same to Chubb. With the extra warm blankets and the shelter, Adam did seem somewhat warmer after a time.

Once the wagon arrived with Ben driving, the men lifted Adam and carried him to the wagon lifting him up high enough that Ben and Hoss could move with him further inside the wagon before they lowered him onto the mattresses. With the canvas in place, the wagon was dry, and with the men inside would soon warm a bit too. If there had been time, Hop Sing would have put bed warmers on the mattresses but that would have to wait until they could get Adam into his bed at home. Driving as fast as he could without jostling the patient, Hoss drove home. He was thinking that Adam couldn’t catch a break recently although he wasn’t as worried about him as he had been when he first found him. At the ranch house, Hoss drove as close to the house as he could. Ivy and Hop Sing were out on the porch almost immediately. They had prepared the downstairs guest room because from what they had heard of Adam’s injuries, it would be a better place to put him.

With groans and cries of pain with every movement and nearly every touch, Ben and the others knew that Adam was in severe pain. They cleaned him up as well as they could, and then placed warmed blankets over him. Hop Sing and Ivy had gotten the room quite warm and soon Adam began to feel warmer to the touch. The warmth however seemed to make him feel more pain for injuries that were partially numbed by the cold now sent stabbing pains through him. When Doctor Martin arrived, he asked everyone to leave the bedroom except for Hop Sing who was then in and out of the room disposing of soiled cloths and dirty water and returning with basins of clean water and clean cloths. After nearly two hours, the doctor came out to let the family know of his evaluation of Adam’s condition.

“Adam has a lot of very painful injuries. Most are not serious by themselves but the number of injuries is worrisome. He will be in great pain, and because he does have a mild concussion, I cannot give him anything for the pain. The worst by far is his left leg with multiple injuries. As you guessed, there are two break areas in that leg. The femur, or thigh bone is broken lengthwise. Now that is an extremely painful break but it should heal well. His lower leg bones are broken just below the knee. You’ve said he was dragged by that leg. That’s what caused the injuries but also kept the leg reasonably straight and prevented the bone from breaking through the tissues. That means there is little likelihood of infection from that. But those breaks are among the worst I have ever seen. With those, and the damage to the muscles in that leg, we’ll have to wait to see if he can walk.”

“Paul, did you mean to say ‘if’ when you explained that?”

“Yes, Ben, I’m sorry, but I can’t see inside his leg to assess the damage. I can tell you that the entire leg is tender to the touch, swollen, bruised, and there are three broken bones there. I’ve never seen a leg in worse shape after an injury. Now when the swelling goes down and the bones begin to mend, I can give you a better idea of what is likely to happen. Now, that’s the best I can do.”

“What can we do for him?”

“Other than what you’re already doing: get some ice if you can to try to control the swelling in that left leg. It would give him some pain relief as well. He can have an ice pack on any of the areas that are swollen. Other than that, keep him as quiet as you can, push him to drink fluids, and keep him warm and dry. And I know none of those things is going to be easy.”

Keilani had been crying on and off since early afternoon and wanted to see his father. Ben carried him in but he wanted to go to Adam and that wasn’t something they could do yet. Ben let him touch his father’s hand and Adam stirred slightly. Ben was afraid he would awaken and cry out in pain scaring his son, so he took him back out to the great room.

“We’ve got another little patient here. He may have trouble sleeping away from Adam.”

“He can sleep in the same room if that helps. Give him a nice bottle of warm milk. It will help him sleep.”

So began the care of Adam in his long recuperation.

*****

Chapter 21

On Saturday, there was a knock on the door, and Joe opened it to find Rose standing there with her bag.

“Am I still welcome here?”

“Of course, you are. But how did you find out so quickly?”

“Find out what? Is Ivy all right? Nothing happened to Ivy, did it?”

Realizing that Rose did not know, Joe tried quickly to calm her fears. “No, no, no, nothing has happened to Ivy. Adam’s been hurt. I thought that’s why you came back.”

“No, I came back because my mother’s relatives in Laramie no longer live there. Apparently they moved to California. No one seemed to know exactly where. How is Adam?”

“He’s in a lot of pain, but nothing life threatening, thank the Lord.”

“What happened to him? He didn’t try to break horses or anything like that, did he?”

“No, someone tied him behind his horse and whipped Sport to drag Adam. We found him lying in a streambed later. It was lucky he didn’t drown. All he does now is lie there in pain. Doc won’t give him anything for the pain because of his head injury.”

Looking up the stairs, Rose felt her eyes tear up. “Can I see him?”

“Sure, he’s right in here.” And Joe led Rose to the guest bedroom where Adam lay. When the door opened, there was whiff of unpleasant smells until the sight of Adam lying pale and fitfully on the bed focused her attention on only him. Ivy had been sitting at his side and jumped up to hug Rose when she saw her. Rose whispered to her.

“He’s sleeping or what passes for sleep. It’s better than when he’s fully awake and groaning in pain.”

“Ivy, it smells terrible in here. Hasn’t anyone thought to change the bedding or his nightshirt?”

“His left leg is so painful, we’re afraid to move it. As for the nightshirt, well, he isn’t wearing one. It would require to much movement to take care of, ah, to, ah, well, you know.”

“We need to find a way then to change the bedding and air out this room. He can’t get well with this smell and this stagnant air.”

“Well you can talk to his father about that. He’s the one who told us not to jostle him for any reason.”

“Where is he? Where is everyone? Joe is the only one I’ve seen.”

“They went out again to see if they could find any sign of who did this. They’ve been missing cattle in the southeast pasture. They think now that it’s rustlers, and that Adam rode right into the middle of what they were doing. Why they were so cruel, no one knows.”

“I think it means he knows who those rustlers are. If they did what you said, then they meant to kill him. Those men obviously do not know the bond that can develop between a man and his horse. Adam and Sport are very close. It must have bothered Sport a great deal to have dragged Adam.”

Unwilling to let Adam continue to suffer like he was, Rose went to talk with Hop Sing. He brewed up a tea to help Adam sleep more deeply. Rose brought it to the bedroom and asked to sit next to Adam where she patiently spooned the liquid into his mouth. He was clearly not asleep for he accepted the liquid and swallowed each time. Rose talked softly to him, and did her best to get him to relax for she knew the movements he was making were probably increasing the pain level and the movement. It was a vicious cycle and she needed to get him to reverse it so he could truly rest. After he finished the tea, Rose pulled the covers down and placed her hand on his chest moving it lightly in a circle massaging his chest. As he focused on her touch, he lost some of the awareness of the pain he was in. That and the tea soon had him sleeping more deeply. When his breathing had settled into a slower rhythm, Rose told Ivy and Joe that they were going to change the linens.

“It’s going to be a very slow process. Now Joe, Ivy has told me that Adam is not wearing anything, so if you would remove the top covers and place a towel over his privates, then we’ll come back in the room to do the rest with you.”

Arriving with clean linens, Hop Sing closed the door, and the two ladies waited. Once the door was open, they entered and both were shocked to see the bruising and abrasions on his body, and the terrible condition of his left leg. It took a moment for both of them to regain their composure. Then Rose explained how they would remove the bottom sheet and in a reverse procedure roll in a clean one. It was similar to how they had done this before on the Ponderosa, but this method did not require rolling the patient on his side for in Adam’s condition, that would have been torture. No, instead they took advantage of the three small pairs of hands they had and slid under his body and lifted part of him very carefully as Joe pulled that section of sheet free and pulled the clean sheet under him. It was an extremely long and laborious process but well worth it for all of them as Adam hardly reacted to each move. Finally, they had the clean sheet in place. Rose thought it best if they waited till later to put clean cases on the pillows. Then she and Ivy placed a clean sheet and a light blanket over Adam covering the injuries once again. When Rose moved to open the window then, Joe objected.

“Pa said we needed to keep it warm in here. It’s kinda cool today so that’s why I shut the window.”

“It still smells in here, Joe. Adam is warm enough. If it gets too cool, we can close it again, but with the slight fever he has, he would probably appreciate some cooler air. I’ll sit with him and make sure he doesn’t get chilled.”

“Are we gonna give him a bath?”

“We should, but we’ve done enough for now. When Hop Sing is ready to change his bandages, we’ll do some bathing then.”

When the others returned later frustrated that they had found nothing, Ben was perturbed to find that his instructions for his son’s care had been ignored. He confronted Rose as she sat by Adam’s side. Even with a whisper, Rose could tell how upset he was. She did her best to calm him by explaining what was done and why, but it was Adam’s voice that stopped his tirade. Very softly, in a hoarse voice, Ben heard his son for the first time in four days.

“No, Pa.”

Quickly moving to Adam’s side, Ben touched his shoulder. “Son, I’m am so glad you’re awake. Is there anything you want?”

“More tea.”

Ben looked at Rose wondering what he meant. “We gave him some tea earlier. It helped him sleep. I think he found it soothing and wants more.”

With an almost imperceptible nod of his head, Adam agreed with her statement. Rose left to ask Hop Sing for more of the tea as Ben continued to sit by his son’s side. As Rose walked back from the kitchen, she saw Hoss and Joe standing with Ivy. “He’s awake. I don’t think he can talk much but saying hello to him might cheer him up some.”

With smiles instead of frowns then, the three headed for the bedroom. Adam’s eyes were open although with the bruising and swelling, it was hard to tell. He tried to say something but couldn’t generate any sound. Rose sat down and leaned close telling him to try again. He did, and she sat up smiling.

“He says he’s very happy to see Ivy and me as well as all your ugly faces.”

“Nah, Rose, he didn’t really say that now did he?” Hoss was skeptical until he saw Adam try to grin. Then he knew he actually did say it. The whole group saw the little grin, and all were relieved. If he could think like that and try to grin, he was going to be fine. No one thought he understood about his leg, but they had not realized that when they were talking in the room sometimes he could hear them even if he couldn’t respond. He understood very well, but he was alive and he would be there for his son. It was that which was most important to him. He was also quite happy to see Rose sitting at his side. He had not expected that. Then he tried to talk once more and Rose leaned close. Her close proximity and the smell of her almost made him forget what he had been going to say, but he did manage to say his son’s name. Rose looked up at the others and asked where Keilani was.

“Miss Mabel’s been taking care of him with her baby. I’ll go get him.” Hoss headed out to get Keilani, and Rose could see Adam visibly relax knowing his son was all right. Hop Sing brought in the tea, and Rose began spooning it to him again. Soon after they could hear Hoss returning with Keilani as they heard him fussing in Hoss’ arms. As soon as he got to his father’s bedside though he threw his arms wide. He wanted to go to his father who couldn’t hold him of course. Rose reached up for him and because it would get him closer to his father, he willingly left Hoss’ arms for Rose’s. Rose held him by his waist and let him touch his father’s chest. Keilani reached up and put a hand on each of Adam’s cheeks and as Rose let him, he kissed his father. Adam bussed his lips lightly and Keilani laughed. Everyone else in the room had tears in their eyes at that.

Pulling Keilani back to her lap, Rose told him that his father had to eat his lunch. He sat then and watched as Rose spooned the rest of the tea. Adam wanted so much to touch his son but found lifting his arm was more than he could manage. Rose and Ben saw the aborted movement of his arm and guessed what he wanted to do. Rose pulled the sheet down and Ben lifted his son’s arm. Rose set Keilani next to Adam and Ben lowered Adam’s arm over his son’s back. Somehow Keilani sensed the gravity of the situation and sat quietly by his father’s side content to be next to him finally. Within minutes, Adam’s eyes drooped, and he fell into a restful slumber, the best since he was injured. Ben reached down to pick up Keilani who didn’t want to leave.

“I’ll sit here with him, Ben. If he starts to move around or disturb Adam, I’ll pick him up. I think he’s good for Adam right where he is for now.”

Reluctant at first to accept that, Ben thought about how well Adam looked compared to how he had looked that morning when Ben and the others had left to go searching. He nodded and walked from the room closing the door softly. Rose rubbed Keilani’s back to keep him calm until she saw his eyes drooping too. She went to pick him up which he protested until he realized she was not leaving but walking to the other side of the bed. Rose lay Keilani down next to his father, and then rubbed his back in slow soft circles until he fell into slumber. She sat next to him on the bed to do that and to make sure he did not fall out of bed. She saw Adam’s eyes open briefly to look at his son and then at her. He smiled a little smile and then his eyes closed again. Rose leaned back on a pillow with her hand on Keilani’s back and thought about everything that had happened in the last month. It was distracting to see Adam’s bare chest with it curly black hair. She remembered how soft those curls were when she had been soothing him earlier. Now she was having other thoughts.

Doctor Martin arrived a short time later and had to smile as he entered the first floor guest bedroom. Adam was sleeping peacefully with his son snuggled up to his side. Rose sat next to Keilani with her hand still on is back. She smiled in response to the doctor. He signaled for her to walk over to the door so she got up from the bed very carefully so as not to jostle the two sleepers. In a whisper, Paul had a few questions for her. She explained what they had done, and Paul nodded. He liked that the room no longer had that sickroom smell, and that Adam was resting quietly for he had not seen that at all before.

“I don’t want to disturb his slumber now. It’s probably what he needs most. If I leave salve and bandages, can you and Hop Sing take care of rewrapping his wounds?”

Rose agreed but had a few questions. “What of the injuries to his back? When we put the sheet under him, I could feel the scrapes and such there and there was a lot of heat coming from them.”

“I’ve been worried about those too. There has not been much bleeding, and rolling him on his side was out of the question, so I thought we would wait to care for those. Are you thinking there’s some infection developing there?”

“I think we need to find out.”

“You’re probably correct. Ben has offered dinner. Why don’t I have dinner, and then you have dinner. By then, Keilani will be ready to eat, and while someone is feeding him, Hop Sing and perhaps Hoss can help us turn Adam so we can take a look at his back.”

Rose readily agreed to that plan so Paul went out to tell the others. Adam was the only one not consulted and didn’t like it at all when they began to move him for the pain was fierce. He gasped and then cried out with the agony from his left leg even though they tried to minimize the impact by having Hoss hold that leg. It wasn’t good enough, and Adam was gasping with pain so much he was having trouble breathing by the time they got him on his side. Paul decided that he could tolerate some painkiller and administered a dose.

All waited then until Adam’s eyes closed. There would still be pain but his conscious mind would be unaware of it. Rose had been correct about his back, and there would have been more intolerable pain, but with the medication, he did not have to endure that as the wounds there were cleaned out and bandaged. Very gently he was lowered again to his back to rest. Those who had helped were exhausted by the ordeal as well. Ben suggested they all go out and have some brandy to which they all readily agreed. Joe agreed to sit by Adam’s side and Mabel readied Keilani for bed. The little boy wanted to go to his father’s room, so Hoss got his cradle from Mabel’s room and put it in there. For the first time since Adam had been hurt, Keilani did not cry himself to sleep.

For the next two weeks, the routine for Adam was about the same every day except he did start feeling better. His father or one of his brothers helped him with his basic needs. Rose and Ivy spent time with him during the day, talking, reading, or helping him visit with his son. His hands were bandaged and his arms hurt, so he needed to be fed. He got more and more ornery as the days passed. He was angry at what he couldn’t do but taking it out on the people who did it for him. Roy came to visit and got his statement. Wanted posters went out for John Miller and his two friends for rustling and attempted murder.

Often Adam heard Rose chatting with Joe and heard the two of them laughing. He heard them talk about riding together. It made him happy for the two of them and sad for himself. He began to wonder if there was ever going to be a woman with whom he could share his life. He saw every day how happy Hoss was and Ivy seemed to glow.

The ladies took turns shaving Adam once he was able to sit up in bed resting against pillows. Ben had done the shaving was Adam was lying down but was happy to turn it over to someone else so he could get back to the work he needed to complete. Joe and Hoss were back to doing their normal jobs, and Hoss and Ivy could finally settle in to their life as newlyweds once the fear for Adam was gone. Rose was the one feeling antsy. Adam was polite to her but showed no warmth in his conversations with her. She could have been talking with Ben or Hop Sing with the neutral nature of their discourse.

Three weeks after the attack, Doctor Martin okayed Adam to try to get out of bed and move around on crutches. He was able to do it but ended up with a lot of sore muscles at the end of that first day. Rose had him lay on the bed and she massaged his right leg muscles, and then the muscles of his neck an shoulders. Adam relaxed under her ministrations and thought about how much he loved the feel of her hands on him.

Over the next week, Adam did more and more for himself until he learned to navigate the stairs and moved back into his room. Then except for a few things, he no longer needed help although he had to rely on others for most of Keilani’s care. Rose had hoped for a sign from him that he wanted her to stay, but he stayed polite, charming, and neutral. She decided to force the issue. They were sitting on the porch and Rose dropped a bombshell on him.

“You don’t need my help any more, and Ivy certainly has things well in hand. I think I’ll leave soon, maybe tomorrow.”

Almost involuntarily, Adam gulped. He wanted her to be around. Even if he couldn’t have her, it would have been most pleasant if she stayed. He worried too about Joe and how he would react.

“What does Joe think about you leaving?”

“I’m sure Joe will want whatever makes me happy. We have become good friends.”

At that point, Adam was very confused. He reran some memories in his mind, and began to wonder about Rose’s feelings. He wasn’t sure he could even bring up a relationship between the two of them. What if he had read everything wrong? He looked at Rose wondering what to say, when she walked over to him, leaned down, and kissed him.

“I love you. You’re the one I want. Now you can say yes or no. What’s it going to be? I’m going for a ride. Could you try to have your answer by the time I get back?”

Preparing to talk with her more, Adam grabbed his crutches and stood only to be shocked when John Miller and his friends walked around the side of the bunkhouse. One raced to Rose and grabbed her.

“Well, lookee here, boys. We get to eliminate the only witness against us, and have a little fun at the same time.”

Inside the house, Ben heard and immediately reacted racing to grab a rifle and head toward the kitchen to warn Hop Sing and Hannibal. He sent Mabel and Ivy upstairs with the babies, handed the rifle to Hannibal, and then went to grab his pistol from the credenza. He walked out the front door with his pistol drawn. John put his pistol up against Adam’s jaw.

“Drop it, old man, or I’ll kill him right now.”

The other two men turned their guns toward Ben also which was what he wanted. It gave Hannibal and Hop Sing time to get an angle on the two who stood by Rose.

“You plan to kill him anyway. What makes you think I want to make it any easier for you?”

“Well, it could just be him and you, or we could take the ladies and kill the darky baby too.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

The three men were startled to find that Hop Sing and Hannibal were behind them then when Hannibal’s deep voice let them know there were two weapons trained on them. The only leverage they had was John’s gun at Adam’s head at that point. Adam kept his eyes squarely on his father then. When he saw an almost imperceptible nod of his father’s head, he suddenly collapsed to the ground. Ben fired hitting John, and the other two men raised their arms in surrender. Hannibal stepped up to take their pistols as Hop Sing kept his shotgun trained on them. John was gasping and reaching for his pistol when Ben kicked it away. Hoss, Joe, and Candy rode into the yard then alerted by a hand who had seen three men approaching the house from the back side. Hoss raced inside to make sure Ivy was all right. Rose ran to Adam’s side.

“Are you all right? You didn’t hurt anything again, did you?”

Without saying a word, Adam reached up to put his hand behind Rose’s neck. He pulled her down to him and kissed her, and she returned that kiss with enthusiasm once she got over the shock. Joe shook his head, and with his father and Candy got rope and tied up the two men who had dropped their weapons. John was bleeding severely from the chest and had already passed out mercifully for him. He would not live long. Hoss came back outside with Ivy to help if they could, and they saw Adam kissing Rose.

“Bout time. Thought he wasn’t ever gonna get around to it.”

Sitting in the dirt of the yard, Rose cradled Adam’s head in her lap.

“You didn’t answer me. Are you hurt?”

“Not at all, but I want to talk with you. Can you help me stand?”

Struggling to get Adam to his feet and back on his crutches, Rose was breathing hard and so was he. She thought they would head into the house, but he pointed at the stable. Once they got to the stable, Rose thought perhaps he wanted to kiss her again, but instead he plopped down on a hay bale and gave a deep sigh.

“Will you sit with me? I’ve got some things to say, and don’t look so worried. I want you to know me so that you can make up your mind about what you want.”

“I already know what I want.”

“Are you sure? You don’t know much about my past. I have been a curse to the women I have loved. They had found unhappiness at best, and lost their lives at worst. Sue Ellen Terry was shot by a man jealous of her relationship with me. He intended to kill me but wasn’t a very good shot to say the least. Ruth perished in a Shoshoni smallpox epidemic. Alamea died only six months ago.”

“You don’t know that those women wouldn’t have perished anyway.”

“No, I don’t, but I do know they perished after they knew me. I feel cursed. Other women have walked away which was probably very lucky for them. You could do the same.”

“No, I can’t. I’m in love with you. I know I am and probably started falling in love with you the moment I met you. Even that sarcasm of yours gets a rise out of me like no other man ever could. I want to spar with you, walk with you, talk with you, and if you ever want to again, kiss you.” Rose placed a hand on each cheek and leaned forward to kiss Adam, but he bussed his lips like he did with his son when they were playing. Surprised at first, Rose started laughing then as Adam wrapped his arms around her.

“I’m sorry. It’s a conditioned reaction. If you want to try that again, I would appreciate it very much.”

Leaning into his embrace then, Rose kissed Adam, and it turned into a long session. Adam’s hand caressed her cheek before he trailed his fingers down her neck and across the open shirtfront dress she wore lightly touching the tender skin there. She shivered in his arms making him ask if he should stop.

“No, because it feels so good, but yes, because we probably should stop before this goes any further today.”

Liking that she had referred to only stopping today, Adam smiled. It was the most relaxed he had been in a very long time. Rose rested her head on his chest, and they talked of some of their hopes and dreams. Finally, it was just silence as they sat with Adam’s arm wrapped around Rose and her arms around his waist. That’s how Ben found them when he came out to tell them it was lunchtime. Hours had passed and yet it seemed as if it had only been a short time. Now they would have a lifetime if they could manage to get through a romance and courtship without too many arguments and misunderstandings between two fiery people.

Ben smiled as he noticed Adam accepted help from Rose to stand and get his crutches in place. Adam didn’t accept help from many people, and that he did without complaint from Rose indicated that they had taken a big step forward in their relationship. The three walked slowly to the house as Rose and Ben matched Adam’s pace. Adam was still facing months of recuperation, but now he had someone with whom he could share his days.

*****

Chapter 22

Telling his family’s history took a number of days to complete, but finally Rose had a complete idea of how the family had come to be in Nevada and with three sons who had different mothers and spanned twelve years among them.

“Who helped you? Everyone had your help, but when did you get to cry?”

“I don’t cry.”

“So you have some amazing power that controls all of your emotions? I don’t believe it. Your childhood was very sad. I always felt sorry for myself because my mother killed herself when I was only five, but you lost three mothers even if you can’t remember the first one. So how can you not cry?”

Sitting on a ridge above the lake, Rose leaned on Adam’s shoulder as she wrapped her arm around his waist. They had been talking for hours, and Adam had explained his childhood to her. Getting him to open up about those years had taken a couple of weeks of cajoling. She knew a lot about his life from college through all the failed romances and the building of the Ponderosa into a large enterprise. She knew about his trip to China to help Hop Sing marry his arranged bride. Adam had told her of his doomed marriage to Alamea. Finally today when he had been able to get rid of the crutch and switch to a cane, he had been in such a better mood, that Rose had suggested a day out touring the Ponderosa to alleviate all the boredom of being confined to the house and yard when he had been limited by being on crutches. Adam had managed to get into the wagon with his injured leg. He had handed the cane up to Rose, and then put his right foot on the step and pulled himself up and used his arms to turn and plop on the seat. It wasn’t graceful, but Hoss had said he didn’t think he could do it.

It had been five weeks earlier that three rustlers had attacked Adam and tied him by one leg to be dragged by his horse. He was lucky in many ways to be alive. His left leg had been broken in three places. He still couldn’t put his full weight on it and leaned heavily on the cane as he walked. He probably should still be using the crutches, and Rose was going to suggest that he should use them outside to give his leg a respite from the pressure. But the good news for Rose was that Adam was in a talking mood and willing to answer her questions. She had learned of Inger and of Marie and of their tragic deaths. Adam told her that the stories were a combination of what he remembered and stories that his father had told him. She had laughed uproariously at some of the stories but none more so than the ill-fated spring picnic and Adam swearing he had not been ‘shrinking’.

For most of the day, Adam had been very pleased that Rose did not judge him when he told her things about him and about his father. He hadn’t meant to tell her so much, but she asked the right questions every time it seemed to get him to elaborate more on his stories. Now though she wanted to delve into his feelings about the loss of Inger and Marie, and Adam never had come to terms with those losses and didn’t like talking about them in the way this conversation had turned. Rose noticed and backed off not pressing Adam any more. She had felt his body tense up with her last questions, and knew that she had learned as much as she was going to learn on this day. In fact she could have written a small book with the stories he had told her so it had been quite a good day. Adam knew her life history, but she had found that her story of her mother kidnapped by Comanches and impregnated, being returned but never accepting what had happened to her, and then her suicide was a tragic but much simpler story to tell than Adam’s. His whole family had a complicated history that she was just beginning to thoroughly understand.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard. It has been so fascinating to learn your family history though. I can see now why you three brothers are so different. You were all raised in the same family, but the circumstances of your childhoods were entirely unique. None of you experienced the same things at an early age.”

“So did you pick the right brother for you?”

“Oh, yes. I found you arrogant, and snide, and irritating as hell, and all I wanted to do was this.” Rose unbuttoned the top two buttons of Adam’s shirt and slipped her hand inside to caress his chest. “I saw that chest hair and I wanted to touch it.”

“Is that all you wanted to do?” Adam pushed Rose to the grass as he rolled up on his right side. He leaned down to kiss her, and she saw the grimace.

“Well I am hoping of course that the grimace had nothing to do with your kissing me. Why don’t you lie back, and I’ll come to you?”

Rolling onto his back in defeat, Adam let Rose lean across his chest and kiss him. “It just isn’t the same, is it?” Rose stood up and grabbed Adam’s cane and handed it to him. “Come with me.” She walked with him to the wagon, and helped him sit up against one of the wheels. He grabbed her hand and pulled her down to him wrapping his arms around her and embracing her. She had her arm around his waist again as she lay against his leg and her other arm wrapped around his neck. Adam leaned down and pulled her tightly into him as he kissed her deeply. When they stopped to catch their breath eventually, Rose grinned up at him. “Yes, that’s more like it!”

“It’s always good to get an endorsement of my kissing.”

“Oh, yes. Well there better not be anyone else doing any endorsing or kissing.”

“Are you jealous?”

“Of course, you big goof. I didn’t come back here and spend five weeks with you so you could go kissing somebody else.”

With his voice hoarse with emotion, Adam pulled Rose close to him and whispered to her. “It has been a glorious five weeks too. I’m sorry if I get ornery sometimes, but it’s just so hard to sit around and do nothing productive. I feel useless. If it wasn’t for you, I would have made everyone’s life miserable. I know I’m like that. I just can’t seem to help myself.”

“Well I’ll let you in on a little secret then. You still made people miserable. They’re probably having a party today because I got you away from there, and they can all relax.”

“Was I really that bad?”

“No, of course not. Not with me around. I was teasing you, you big goof. Can’t you tell when I’m teasing?”

“Ah, actually no, sometimes I can’t. You have the best poker face other than mine that I have ever seen. We should play poker sometime with Joe and Hoss. You’ll drive Joe crazy. Make up a few fake tells. It gets him every time. Oh, do you know how to play poker?”

“A little. I always forget what beats what.”

“Well when I was very young and playing with the hands when Pa wasn’t around, that actually helped me bluff a few times. I didn’t know how good a hand I had, so I just played like it was four of a kind. By the time I learned the order, I was quite good at bluffing.”

“I bet you could bluff anytime you wanted to. You have this mask like look sometimes where I can’t tell if you’re mad, confused, upset, or amused.”

“I think I learned how to do that a long time ago. Now, I think we should head home. Keilani will be wondering where we are. He likes to play with Hoss but eventually will wonder why we’re not around. Besides it may take me a while to get back up in this wagon.”

“Can I drive again?”

“Yes, of course, sweetheart. I found I liked having my hands free while we were riding here.”

“You almost made me run off the road!”

“Nah, I waited until you were on a straight stretch of road.”

“Well, don’t do it again, or you may have a broken arm to go with that broken leg.” Her harsh words were belied by a huge grin.

“I bet you always wanted to say that to someone.”

“Oh, I got a better one. You better remove that arm from my shoulder before I remove it from yours.”

“Where did you learn those things?”

“We had a female cook on the ranch. The guys were always teasing her so she threatened them with bodily injury.”

“Was she attractive?”

“If you think three hundred pounds, six feet tall, crooked beak nose, and muscular is attractive, well, yeah. She did have a fun laugh though and had a heart of pure gold. Everybody loved her and nobody loved her. It was sad really. She was kinda lonely I think. She died of a heart attack a few years ago.”

“You liked her a lot, didn’t you?”

“She was like a member of the family. The same way you think of Hop Sing. You would be very sad if anything happened to him, wouldn’t you? By the way, how’s the marriage going for him?”

“Very well from what he had told me. I had my doubts that she would accept a house servant, but she has a room in the house with us, eats well, and has no fear that anyone will harm her while she is on the Ponderosa. She likes Hop Sing, and he is very happy to have someone to share his days and nights I think.”

“Speaking of sharing days at least, is your father still expecting you to go to Salt Lake City to negotiate those contracts? And if he is, can I go with you?”

“I thought you might want to stay here and plan the wedding.”

“What wedding?”

“Our wedding.”

“We’re getting married?”

“We are if you’ll say yes. Rose, will you marry me even if I may never walk normally and may never be able to ride a horse again?”

Rose looked at him to see if he was serious. There was no mask. The yearning was very apparent. She couldn’t speak so she grabbed Adam’s face and kissed him to let him know that he was all she desired no matter what. When she pulled away a minute later, Adam grinned at her.

“I take it that was a yes? I would like to hear it though.”

“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.”

Reaching into his pocket, Adam pulled out a small velvet box. He opened it and pulled out a diamond and emerald ring. Slipping it on Rose’s finger, he pulled her to him and kissed her softly. “I will be the best husband I know how to be. Now would you like to ride with me to Salt Lake City as my fiancée?”

“I would love to do that. I can be your assistant. Will they let me sit in on the meetings?”

“They will if I say you’re my assistant.” Laughing, Adam stood and used his cane to straighten up. “With this leg, they’ll believe I need an assistant too. I’ll tell Pa we need two tickets and two rooms in each town we stay in.”

“We could stay together in one room if you could control yourself.”

“Lady, there is no possible way I could sleep next to you and control myself. I can barely control myself now. We need to schedule this wedding soon.”

Rose knew exactly what he meant and smiled as she nodded her assent. Meanwhile she couldn’t wait to tell her sister Ivy. How funny life works sometimes. Just a few months ago, she and her sister had wondered if they would ever find men they wanted to marry. Now Ivy was already married to Hoss, and soon she would be married to Adam. So instead of marriage taking her sister away from her, it had brought them closer together in a way. They would spend the rest of their lives together, and she couldn’t have been happier. Then she had a question.

“How did you get that ring if you were stuck on the ranch for five weeks?”

“Ivy got it for me. She used one of your old rings from your jewelry box for the size and I told her what I wanted. She ordered it and then brought it to me this week.”

“What if I said no?”

“I was almost sure you would say yes. If you said no, I would have just given you the ring as a gift. It was made for you and only you.”

“I would never have said no. You were in my thoughts and in my dreams from the day I met you I think even if I couldn’t say anything to anyone about it. I didn’t even tell Ivy.”

“I think she knew. She told me that she knew I had caught your eye right from the start. Hoss told me the two of them were betting on how long it would take me to kiss you. He lost the bet. Ivy won. She must know you better than Hoss knows me. You did kiss me first, before I kissed you.”

“Well I had to do something to get you to make up your mind.”

“I’m glad you did.” By then Adam had maneuvered himself into the wagon again and Rose had checked the wagon and harness to be sure everything was ready. She climbed in and gave Adam a stern look. “I’ll behave myself, really, I will.”

“Well, you don’t have to be a perfect gentleman. Just remember that I’m driving.”

Adam rested his hand on her hip as he slid close to her. “Is this all right.” Adam kept his left leg stretched out and resting as he had on the ride to the lake, but that put his upper body up against Rose.

“Well it is a bit distracting, but I could get used to it.” She laughed then, and the two of them talked about their future as she drove back to the ranch house.

As expected, there was a big celebration at the house that evening. Hop Sing had been warned by Adam so that he could have a big dinner ready, and champagne cooling on ice. Ivy already knew what Adam had planned because he had needed her help to get the ring. Hoss and Joe were surprised that this was the day but not that he asked her. Ben was as proud as could be and made several toasts to the betrothed couple.

“Pa, you better hold off on those.”

“Why, you wouldn’t think of changing your mind, would you. You have the most wonderful woman for you.”

“No, but we plan to marry as soon as it can all be arranged, and you’re going to need a toast at the wedding.”

“Don’t you worry, son, don’t you worry. I got plenty more where those came from. I’ve been waiting a long time, a very long time, for you to finally marry someone so I have a good stock of these ready to go. I’ve been rehearsing for years.”

Noticing a slight frown pass across Adam’s features, Ben realized he shouldn’t have said quite so much about that. Luckily Hop Sing came in with the champagne at that point, and all else was forgotten. After all the dinner and all the celebrating had come to a close, Adam asked Rose to go out on the porch with him. He sat in a chair and sighed deeply.

“Tired? Because if you’re too tired, I could go inside and let you rest.”

Noticing her impish grin, Adam reached for Rose’s hand and pulled her to him until she sat rather ungracefully on his lap. Once she adjusted until she was in her favorite position with her arms around his neck. “You’re not getting away that easily. I have my own way of celebrating our betrothal.” After brushing his lips across hers gently, Adam eased her lips open with his tongue and kissed her deeply to which she responded passionately. A little too passionately perhaps for Adam was getting uncomfortable. “Maybe we ought to get married before we take that trip to Salt Lake City. It could be our honeymoon, or at least part one of our honeymoon.”

“Adam, you’re supposed to leave in just over a week.”

“Yes, and would that be a problem for you?”

“Yes and no. Do you want a fancy church wedding, or can we get married here?”

“I would like to get married here.”

“All right then.”

“All right, what?”

“We’ll get married here next Saturday, and travel together to Salt Lake City.”

That led to another round of kissing until Adam called a halt. It was going to be difficult enough to sleep on this night. “Let’s go inside and tell everyone. We’ve been talking too softly or they would have heard by now. I didn’t hear any cheers or whooping so Joe and Hoss can’t hear anything standing by that window there.”

“I’m surprised Ivy didn’t hear. She’s can hear a pin drop on carpeting from ten yards away.”

“A good thing for me to know. I think we’ll want our wedding night someplace more private than the house here.”

That made Rose blush. She had never been with a man, and now all she would worry about all week was what was going to happen on her wedding night. Of course Ivy who had been married for about six weeks could not help explain all of that to her. Then a frown passed over her face, and Adam was concerned.

“What’s wrong? I can see you’re worried about something. If it’s the wedding night I mentioned, just know I would never hurt you. We’ll take it slow. I’ve waited a long time for the right woman to take to my bed, and I won’t do anything to mar that.”

“Well, that is good to know although I trusted you on that already. No, I was wondering what to do about Charles. If we send a wire tomorrow, he could be here. But I don’t know if I should be so presumptuous.”

“Rose, he loves you even if he’s a horse’s ass about some things. He should be invited even if you don’t see him as your father any more. He has a right to be invited and to be here if he wishes.”

“I suppose you’re right. Can we send a wire first thing tomorrow?”

Inside Ben was a little surprised they wanted to marry so soon but the others weren’t surprised except that it was Adam who was in a hurry. Usually he wanted things all organized and planned out. His brothers could see how important this was to him, and Hoss especially understood for those weeks waiting for his wedding had seemed to take forever. Ben agreed that they could do it as long as the minister had no objections. Adam and Rose planned to go to town early the next morning to check with the minister and then send a telegram before Rose went to the dress shop to find a dress for the wedding. Adam asked if he could sit in on the fittings, and Ben told him to stop teasing his bride.

“Who said I was teasing.”

That got a round of laughs especially from Hoss and Joe who couldn’t stop laughing it seemed. Finally things seemed to be getting back to normal, except the big question was still whether Adam’s leg would ever heal enough for him to ride. It was hard to imagine a world in which Adam did not get up on a horse and race off into the Ponderosa on some task or another, but for now, he was relegated to riding on the buckboard. Even the carriage made it difficult because he couldn’t stretch out his leg as he wanted.

As Adam walked up the stairs with Rose, she wrapped an arm around his waist and thought about how in a weeks time, she would know him intimately and he would know her. It made her shiver a little which Adam felt. As they got to her room, he stopped and pulled her into an embrace. He knew no one in the family would interrupt them. They would know that the two of them would say goodnight with a kiss once they were out of sight of the family.

“I felt you shudder back there. What’s scaring you so much?”

“Adam, I’ve talked smartly with you and acted all sophisticated and such, but Adam, I’ve never been with a man, and you were the first one who ever even put your tongue in my mouth. I had no idea people kissed like that. I’m afraid to disappoint you on our wedding night.”

“First of all, I knew that already. I knew by your reactions when I kissed you and held you that you were just getting used to the idea of that. I’ve told you, I won’t hurt you, but I have to tell you it’s also a little frightening to me too. I don’t want to do anything to hurt you ever, so we’ll just take it as slowly as you need to go. So don’t worry too much. I’m sure Ivy will tell you that Cartwright men have been taught to be considerate of a lady and treat them with all due respect.”

Kissing then, Adam and Rose said good night. Less than a week later, they were in Adam’s bedroom which had become their bedroom packing for their trip. Rose couldn’t stop hugging and kissing her husband whenever they were alone. Her emotions were high energy for the moment. Getting married, having Charles there to see her married, and having the big party the Ponderosa was famous for hosting, she had the best memories she could have imagined and the wedding night had been spectacular as far as she was concerned. Because Adam found it so difficult to travel yet, the family had left the house for a night in town to give the couple some privacy. Hop Sing had left food for a cold breakfast and the family didn’t come back until late afternoon on that Sunday.

Although Rose had been so nervous on her wedding night, she had trouble breathing when she and Adam first entered the bedroom. He had been so patient with her, she still smiled at the thought. He had pulled her onto his lap as he sat on the bed and told her that they would do no more than she was ready to do. He did say though that he very much wanted to see her, all of her, on their wedding night and had begun undoing the buttons on the back of her dress. She had unbuttoned his shirt as he did that. The rest flowed along very naturally until she was resting in his arms over an hour later feeling a bit sore but very relaxed. She had told him she understood now why people wanted to have sex so much. It felt so good while you were doing it, and then you felt good all over afterwards. Adam had laughed then and asked if she was ready to feel so good again, and she laughed too until she realized he was serious. Then she kissed him passionately and after their second bout of lovemaking, she had fallen asleep in his arms only to awaken the next morning to kisses and more loving.

“Is every night going to be like last night, because I’m very tired now? I can’t imagine doing that every night.”

“No, not every night, but when we have the time, yes as often as you wish.”

“Or you wish. Seems to me, you started it each time.”

“You can start it anytime you want as well. There’s no rule that the man has to be the one to initiate it. Either of us can let the other know we want to express our love.”

“That’s a good way to describe what we did. Seems more appropriate than to refer to loving as ‘it’.”

Adam smiled and pulled Rose into an embrace. “Or we can kiss and hug whenever there’s an opportunity.” Then he kissed her, and soon packing was delayed. The next morning, Ben drove the couple to town so that they could catch the stage. Adam had everything he needed to complete the contracts, and Ben wished them well.

“You don’t have to hurry back. Just send a wire when you have the contracts, and we’ll start getting ready to make the deliveries.”

“Thanks, Pa. See you in a couple of weeks then.”

Their stage never even made it to Reno. They were accosted by bandits who made Rose and Adam get out of the stage, and made the driver climb down. They were disarmed, and the silver that was on board was taken. The men loaded their booty onto pack animals, and then hit Adam and the driver dropping them to the ground before they made the horses take off at a dead run pulling the stage with them. The outlaws laughed as they rode away. No one would be looking for them for a very long time.

The driver woke up quickly, but Rose cradled Adam’s head in her lap as he drifted in and our of consciousness for a time. Then she and the driver cringed when a group of Shoshoni rode up to them. They had witnessed the robbery and were coming by to offer assistance. A woman with the group walked to where Rose cradled Adam. She knelt down by Adam and looked at the wound on his head and signaled for the man with her to bring her bag. She began bathing the injury when Adam awoke with the pain. Looking at her, he said only one word and left everyone there in shock.

“Ma?”

*****

Chapter 23

Looking at the woman whose hair was covered, Rose could see she was white even with the deep tanning of years living outdoors. Adam had lapsed back into unconsciousness again, but Rose’s mind was racing and she had to ask.

“Are you Inger?”

With that first shock and then that one, the woman sat back with her hand to her mouth. After all these years, she found it so very difficult to believe what had just happened. The dark haired young man with her knelt by her side and put his hand on her shoulder as he said something to her in a language that Rose did not understand. After she answered, they young man had a strange look too. Adam stirred again and opened his eyes to stare at the woman who had not yet spoken.

Hesitantly and then with more confidence, she spoke. “Adam, my son, you have to be my son. I thought you were dead. I thought all of you were dead.”

“We tried to find you, but it was so dangerous and we thought we were searching only for a body. After you were stabbed with that lance, there was so much blood. We thought you were dead. We had to protect Hoss.”

“With that last sentence, Inger paled and needed the young man’s support. “My baby, my baby is alive?”

Sporting a hint of a smile at that, Adam had an answer she loved to hear. “He’s not such a baby any more. Hoss took after Uncle Gunnar except he’s taller and wider.”

“Bigger than you?”

“In all directions, yes. Hoss just got married about a month and half ago. I got married two days ago. Ma, this is Rose.”

The two women clasped hands. The young man at Inger’s side didn’t move and didn’t say anything but listened intently to everything.

“Why did the two of you wait so long to marry?”

“Hoss had to go to Texas to find a lady that was to his liking.” Inger noticed the slight frown before Adam continued. “My first wife died, but she gave me a son, Keilani. Ma, there’s something else. Pa got married again. We had no idea you could be alive. Ma, Hoss and I have a little brother. He’s six years younger than Hoss. His name is Joe.”

“So your father is married then?”

“No, no, sadly, Marie died a number of years ago. I was seventeen. She fell from her horse as she rode into the yard and broke her neck. Pa has been alone since then.”

“Not so alone. He has three sons there with him.”

“Ma, I’m so sorry that you were alone.”

Sighing and grasping the hand of the young man at her side, Inger turned back to Adam. “Today I have had many shocks and surprises here, and you have had one, but there is more. Adam, this is Benjamin Kukuk, my son and your brother.”

Struggling to sit up then, Adam held a hand to his head as the world was spinning a bit. Both Inger and Rose reached out to help him as he closed his eyes and let the dizziness go.

“I am so sorry, Adam. Perhaps it was too much to say. But he knew who you were as we talked so I thought you should know too.”

“How?”

Smiling, Inger chided Adam a bit. “Surely you are not the naïve little boy who wondered where Hoss had come from, are you? You must know by now.” Getting serious again, Inger explained. “I was with child when the Pawnee took me in exchange for the woman assaulted and killed by that man who joined our train. That Paiute lance cut my side open and I bled a lot, but they saved my life and my baby survived too. We were still with the Pawnee when he was born. When they saw he was white, they decided to sell us.” That statement said a lot about how Inger had been treated by the Pawnee. “The Newe took us in. We lived with them until Bee was growing to be a man. Then we moved to Pocatello. I taught English on the reservation near there, and taught some of the soldiers the Newe language.”

“Why did you come here?”

“Bee was working for the Army as a scout, and some people didn’t like that. His life was threatened. Washakie is white also and was named for a great chief. He also was a scout and was threatened. We thought to move here where there are more Newe and find a place to call our own. We were told at the fort that we qualify under the Homestead Act and can claim one hundred sixty acres for each of us.”

The mix of Indian and white clothing made a lot of sense then. The driver had listened and remained silent as the reunion took place and explanations were shared. But he had a question. “Those jaspers let us out here to die. No help has come so can one of you ride for help?”

“Yes, but the day is drawing to a close. We need to get a campsite set up, food prepared, and shelter made for us. Tomorrow morning if no help comes, Washakie can rider for help. We have food and blankets enough for all. We have much to discuss.”

For five weeks, Adam and Rose had talked to each other about their family histories and about their personal lives. Now Adam and Inger had to talk like that and try to exchange as much as possible in a much shorter time. It seemed the two never stopped conversing as they shared the main points each thought the other should know. Finally as everyone neared exhaustion, Adam had one final question to put to Inger.

“Will you come home with us?”

“But what is home? We will talk more, and Bee and I will talk as well.”

Addressing his newly discovered brother, Adam asked what they should call him because it was apparent that Bee was a term of endearment used by his mother.

For the first time Adam and Rose heard his voice which was eerily reminiscent of Ben’s. “The soldiers called me BK or Bear. Either would be acceptable.”

With that settled, the group lay down to sleep for the night protected by a windbreak constructed by BK and Washakie that blocked the wind and held the warmth to the small campfire. Rose lay snuggled up next to Adam who slept on his back which made him snore. Smiling, Inger asked Rose if she could get him to turn on his side. Rose told Inger that Adam’s injured left leg made that too difficult. Inger went to get a soft pack, and with Rose’s help, they got it behind Adam’s head and shoulders to halt the snoring. Inger told Rose she would take a look at his leg in the morning.

Early that next morning, BK fashioned a stick for Adam to use to replace the cane which had been left on the stage. Using it, Adam was able to take care of his business in the morning. When he walked back into the camp, Inger asked to see his leg and that would have required him to remove his pants. Because of what Inger had learned the night before, she insisted even though Adam was quite reluctant to remove his pants until she reminded him that she had seen all of him before.

“But I was a small boy then.”

“You are still my boy. Slip those pants off under the blanket and let me see your leg. I may be able to help.”

Once Adam complied at Rose’s insistence, Inger pulled back the blanket to examine his leg and observed that the knee and ankle were badly swollen even though Adam had done very little. After heating a kettle of water, she soaked cloths in it and then placed them on Adam’s ankle and knee. As she worked, she asked Adam how his leg had been so badly injured. He told her how and why. Inger shook her head as he talked because it was another example of the hate people had based on ignorance. After about twenty minutes, Adam was amazed at how much better his leg felt.

“The swelling is the problem now. It leads to more swelling when you do something. Hot cloths should be applied or you should take hot baths before you do anything and then cold when you have done something especially at night. Keep doing that until there is no more swelling. Then you will be able to ride horses again.”

Adam looked at Inger in surprise wondering how she had known that.

“You have powerful arms and shoulders. Your legs not so much. White men ride with saddles so they don’t use their legs much as they ride a lot. Newe ride bareback mostly so they have to use their legs to control the horse. Farmers and others who work on their legs have stronger legs too.”

“You’re very observant.”

“As you are. Now tell me how your father will react to this news.”

Thinking for quite a few minutes about that and what he knew about his father, Adam wasn’t sure. “He will be thrilled to know that you are alive. Will he welcome you into his home as his wife? I don’t know. So much has happened since then. I know he loved you deeply. He keeps your photograph on his desk.”

“With the pictures of his other two wives?”

Adam nodded. “Hoss, I am absolutely certain, will want to see you and keep you in his life. He has asked me literally hundreds of times to tell him everything I remembered about you as a mother. He will love you and BK without reservation. And, yes, Pa will want BK to be part of our family. There is no doubt of that at all. He invited Joe’s half brother to live with us even though he was not blood relation to anyone but Joe.”

“You hesitated there. What did you not tell me?”

“He invited my cousin Will to stay with us too.”

“And why does that cause you pain?”

“Will didn’t stay. He left with my fiancée at the time. In the end, it was a good thing for me even though it was painful at the time.”

Yes, it is good you did not marry her. She betrayed you. Now tell me more of yourself and Rose.”

Rose was amazed and pleased by Adam’s answer as well as surprised because he usually kept so much of his personal feelings to himself. She adored his answer. “I love Rose with all my heart. I cannot imagine a life without her in it. Alamea was gone only five months when I first met Rose. I felt that I might be betraying Alamea by being so attracted to Rose so soon. Pa said you can’t control when you fall in love, but that everyone should take what life has to offer and rejoice in it. He said it could happen suddenly or develop over time. He courted my mother a long time, but fell in love with you very quickly as you should know.”

Washakie had gone for help earlier, and they could see a cloud of dust in the distance indicating that help was probably on the way. They still had some time to talk.

“Rose, what can you tell me about Adam?”

That questions surprised both Rose and Adam. To Inger, there was no one who could better describe her son, his strengths and his weaknesses. Rose loved Adam. That was very clear by her actions. She was also a very intelligent woman. Rose talked until the stage and the posse got there. Adam and Rose had to ride the stage to get to Salt Lake City to finish the contracts there.

“Please, Ma, where will you be when we come back this way?”

“We had planned to camp over that way where those hills are dark with trees. Can you meet us there when you are done with your ranch business?”

“And you’ll be there?”

“We will be there until you return.”

Hugging Inger and shaking BK’s hand, Adam and Rose climbed aboard the stage to head toward Salt Lake City. The posse headed out on the trail of the thieves. Inger, BK, and Washakie headed to the low hills to camp, to hunt, and to wait. They would talk over their options, and by the time Adam and Rose returned there, they had decided to go to the Ponderosa with them.

“This must be resolved, and I must see my son, Hoss. The whole family deserves to see BK and he can decide if he wants to stay. For the rest, we shall see.”

Rose stayed on the stagecoach to get home sooner and let them know of the momentous news so that there would be less shock to the family that a sudden appearance by Inger and BK could cause. Both sides would be wary, but they had time to prepare especially as Adam was riding again but lacked the stamina and strength to stay in the saddle for a long day. They proceeded slowly and the three day trip took six days. Finally they crested the last rise before the slope to the Ponderosa ranch house. Adam looked at Inger and reached out a hand to hold hers.

“It’s going to be fine. We’ll work it all out somehow as a family. We’ll all tell the truth until the whole story is known. We’ll see where it takes us.”

Then the four of them rode to the house.

*****

Chapter 24

The reunion was as emotional as the Cartwright men could get. There were tears shed. Ben had been shocked with Rose’s announcement when she had arrived home ahead of the group. Over and over Ben said he had seen her die, but Rose tried to explain that although Inger wound had been extremely painful and bloody, she had been alive and the Pawnee had taken her. She also said that Inger had been with child when she was taken and Ben’s son had been born healthy. Ben was so shocked by the revelations that he had felt dizzy and sick to his stomach. Rose had hoped that Hoss would be a pillar of strength but he was so overcome with emotion he could hardly stand much less help his father. It was Ivy and Hop Sing who helped the most. Neither had known Inger and were happy that members of the family would be reunited.

“I always tried to picture my Ma in my mind using the stories that Adam told me, but the only image I ever saw was that black and white photograph Pa has on his desk. I never could picture her with blond hair and standing tall and strong. Now I’ll get to see her, and it’s like a hole in my life is being filled.”

“Hoss, that is just so interesting. That is a lot like what Adam said. After we left them and headed to Salt Lake City to do those contracts, he said it was like a hole in his heart had been repaired. He felt more complete knowing Inger was alive. She is an amazing woman. She’s strong and capable. She’s a take-charge kind of woman. She and Adam talked and talked for hours. You could see what a strong connection they have. He was hit over the head, dizzy, and half dazed, but when he looked at her the first time, he said ‘Ma’ clear as could be.”

“So she rescued you and waited for you to come back?”

“Yes, Adam is with them now. She even knew how to help his leg. He’s riding back with them, but probably very slowly after this long without riding a horse. He’s got to be saddle sore, but he wanted to be with her and BK.”

“Why do they call him BK?”

“His name is Benjamin Kukuk, so the soldiers called him BK or Bear.”

“Why bear?”

“It’s what Kukuk means. He’s a big man but he looks more like Adam or your father than you. He took after Ben more than Inger although he does have blue eyes, they are blue with brown so they look a lot like Adam’s eyes.”

“What’s he like?”

“Ah, picture Adam but relaxed and not so intense. He’s as calm as Adam appears to be. He takes things very carefully, and speaks very little, but makes his point as clear as it could be. His voice sounds a lot like your father’s, very deep and authoritarian. He’s a gentle kind of man, but I wouldn’t cross him at all. He looks like he could handle just about anyone.”

Sitting and listening to Hoss and Rose talk, Ben gradually came back to the conversation. It had been a huge shock to learn that Inger was alive, but that he had another son whom he had never even known about and never seen was devastating. Ivy sat by his side holding his hand and insisting he drink some of the tea Hop Sing had provided. Hop Sing stood by and watched very pleased to see Ivy taking such good care of his old friend.

Almost as soon as the conversation had started with Rose saying that Adam was fine but that she had some amazing news, Joe had left. The first revelations that Inger was alive and had a son were about all he cared to hear it seemed. He left to go do chores but of course he wanted to escape the conversation more than anything. This had shaken his world almost as much as his father was affected. Rose wanted to go talk to Joe to find out his concerns but Hoss and Ben were here priority at first. She kept thinking about Joe and gradually came to realize what she thought must be his concerns, but then knew Hoss and Adam would have to be the ones to talk to him. This was going to be a very emotional time for all concerned, and for the most emotional one, Joe, it was going to be very difficult as well.

Fir the next several days, most of the talk was about Inger and BK until Rose exhausted what she knew. Then there were repeats of much of what she had already said for it seemed Hoss especially was starved for such information. Rose could easily understand Adam’s statement that Hoss had asked him hundreds of times about his mother. Ben asked less but listened to everything as he thought about all that he had learned. There was guilt too of course for having left Inger behind and not knowing she was alive, and certainly for being ignorant of her being with child.

So when the family heard the arrival in the yard, they knew who it had to be and rushed outside. Ben was frozen in place when he saw Inger. She was of course much older but her natural beauty still shone. Next to her was a young man who was clearly his son. His resemblance to Adam in particular was noticeable and it was clear that the two men had the same father. Rose went to Adam and offered her shoulder to lean on because it was clear he was exhausted. With BK’s help, they got him settled in a chair on the porch and Rose handed Keilani to him who was in tears to finally see his father. He had enjoyed his time playing with Lincoln, and being entertained by Hoss and Mabel, but it was his father that he needed most. He wrapped his arms around Adam’s neck and snuggled into his shoulder.

“Inger, my love, is it really you? I see you, and I can’t believe my eyes. Rose told me and I couldn’t believe my ears. But here you are.” Ben walked to Inger then and offered her his arms. She stepped into his embrace and the two hugged for a long time just so relieved that the other was truly alive after having believed for twenty-eight years that the opposite was true.

“Benjamin, we have another son. This is Benjamin Kukuk Cartwright.”

Stepping to BK’s side, Ben reached out to touch his son’s face, and then offered his arms. BK stepped in to hug his father, but the hug was light, and he stepped back as soon as he could. BK didn’t know enough about these people yet to offer his heart even though he liked Adam and thought he would like having him as a brother.

Next Hoss stepped up. He had been speechless when he saw his mother. Now he stood before her and tears ran down his cheeks.

“Do I measure up to the stories Adam has told you?”

Without saying a word, Hoss wrapped his mother in a hug and didn’t let go. She began sobbing into his chest for seeing that her bright eyed baby had grown into this man was almost too much to believe, but the eyes made it true for no one else had ever had eyes like Hoss.

“Mama, why are you crying? I love you Mama, and I always will.”

BK stepped up to Hoss then for he knew at that moment that he would love this brother too. Anyone who could love his mother like that without reservation deserved his love as well. He could see that Hoss didn’t want to let go of their mother, and understanding that entirely, he wrapped one arm around Hoss and another around his mother. The three stood like that for a long time whispering their love for each other.

Once again Joe walked away. This time he went to put the horses in the stable. With four of them, it would take some time and that’s what he needed. He could have used a shoulder to cry on but none were available at that moment. He talked to Cochise though as he worked.

“What of my mother now? Is she going to be forgotten? And if Pa was married to Inger when he married my mother, then they weren’t really married, and I’m a bastard child. Oh, Cooch, I know you don’t have any answers for me, but it’s just good to have someone who will listen to me.”

“I’ll listen.”

Standing at the door of the stable, Adam leaned against the door. He was exhausted but had seen how upset Joe was. He sent Rose inside to put Keilani down for a nap so he could talk with Joe. He had suspected he knew what some of the problem was and what he had heard confirmed most of what he had been thinking.

“We won’t forget Marie, Joe. She was too big a part of our lives for us to forget her just like I never forgot Inger was my Ma for a time. I loved them both, Joe.”

“You never really loved my mother. You just put up with her. I’ve heard some of what Pa has said about that.”

“Joe, that was when she first arrived. I wasn’t ready to have someone else in the family, and I was that age when I thought I knew everything.”

“Just when do you think you’ll grow out of that?” Joe was able to flash a smile at least.

“Very funny. No, your mother saved my bacon a number of times. Pa tended to be rather tough on me. Sometimes he seemed to think I was a lot older than I was, and I tried to live up to that, but failed to manage it at times.”

“Like what?”

“You know Suzy, the saloon gal?” At Joe’s nod and a smile, Adam continued. “Well, when we were a lot younger, she got me all hot and bothered and then proceeded to take care to that. Well her father caught us, and Pa and Marie were very embarrassed. Suzy’s father told Pa I needed to be whipped.” With his hand on the very pole where Ben had threatened to do it, Adam explained the rest of the story. “So you see, Joe, every time I see my back without any scars across it, I have to remember Marie and how she saved me from that, and Pa too. You have to know how badly he would have felt if he had done it. But Pa didn’t always have control of what he did when he was mad especially when he was younger. He likes to say you got your temper from Mama, but you got it just as much from him.”

“I never knew that story. But Adam, if Pa was still married to Inger when he married my mother, then the marriage wasn’t legitimate, and I’m a bastard.”

“Joe! Don’t you ever say that. Never say that. They loved each other and married in good faith. We’ll see a lawyer to see how we can get all the legal stuff worked out, but you were never that, so don’t you dare say it. It will hurt Pa and Hoss just to hear you say that.”

“All right, but you have to know that’s what I’m thinking.”

“Fair enough, but trust me on this please. We’ll work everything out. We’re a family.”

“All right, I’ll try to believe that. But you gotta know this is really tough, and no one seems to care how I feel about any of this.”

“So I’m nobody?”

“You know what I mean. Everyone’s happy about all of this. Now I got a stepmother I never knew, and another older brother, Hoss’ full brother.”

“Joe, we are all brothers. Now let’s have none of that talk about half and full. We’re family, and we’ll work things out just like we always do. You have to understand how this makes Hoss and Pa feel too. Think about how you would feel if there was some way Marie could come back into our lives. Think about how we all tried to accept Clay and bring him into the family.”

“I guess I never really thought about all of you would feel about that. I was just so happy to have another part of my family, part of my mother here.” Looking a bit sheepishly at Adam then, Joe had a crooked little grin. “Hey, maybe you do still know everything.”

“No, not at all, but I do know you and the rest of my family. Now if you don’t mind, I’m really tired and would like to go inside to see if I can’t get a little rest while the others are getting to know one another. You could sit by and listen. You might learn something.”

“Adam, I never was a good student.”

“No, but your eavesdropping skills are second to none. Think of it that way.”

Joe chucked Adam in the shoulder, and the two brothers laughed. By the time they got back to the yard, everyone had apparently gone into the house. They went to join them. Rose was still upstairs with Keilani so Adam went up to help her get their little boy to take his nap.

“He’s missed us, and especially you. He cried for you when I came home without you. Why don’t you sing to him a little to get him to fall asleep.”

Once Adam had Keilani in his arms, it didn’t take long for the little boy’s eyes to close and he snuggled against Adam’s chest. Very carefully, Adam peeled his son from him and laid him in his bed. Then he took off his shirt and placed it over him instead of a blanket. It was still warm and of course smelled like Adam so Keilani could be soothed more as he slept. Then he laid a light blanket over that.

“That was very clever.”

“We did that with Hoss when he was a baby. We used some things that Inger had used and put them with him when he slept. It soothed him. We learned that from women on the wagon train.”

With Adam standing there with his shirt off, Rose had other ideas rather than soothing anyone to sleep. She ran her fingers through the hair on his chest as she liked to do whenever she got the chance. Without a word, Adam wrapped an arm around her and guided her to their room.

“Now perhaps you could help me get out of the rest of my clothes so I can get some rest.”

“Cowboy, if I help you do that, you won’t be getting any rest.”

“Sweetheart, I was kind of counting on that. I’m sorry it hasn’t been much of a honeymoon, but we can start making that better too.” Pulling Rose into his embrace, Adam kissed her deeply and passionately which she returned. They had been apart for six days and had some time to make up. Both were so relaxed an hour later that they fell asleep in each other’s arms and didn’t wake until they heard their son calling for them. Then Adam dressed quickly and got Keilani while Rose finished dressing. When the three of them walked down the stairs together, there were a few knowing smiles in the group.

Now finally noticing how much better Adam was walking than just a week and a half earlier, Ben had to ask. Adam explained how Inger had started him on a natural treatment that seemed to be doing wonders for his leg that still hurt but was improving rapidly. If Adam hadn’t pushed so hard on the ride back, he was thinking his leg might be even better. For the first time, he actually did believe that his leg would be almost as good as before.

Shortly after that, they all sat down to dinner. The table was filled to capacity with eight there. Inger sat next to Ben and BK sat on his other side next to Hoss and Ivy. With Adam on the other end holding Keilani and Rose to his side, the only place left for Joe was to sit between Rose and Inger. After grace was said, Inger put her hand on Joe’s arm.

“Now we have been neglecting you. Bee and I know very little of you. Could you tell us your story?”

“Nah, you don’t need to hear about me.”

“You better tell em, Joe, or they’re gonna hear it from Adam and me so you might want to get your version in first. Hey, Adam, should we start off with Joe’s schemes or his chasing after every girl in Nevada?”

“Hey, bigger brother, it wasn’t all the girls.”

“Sure seemed like it, little brother.”

“No, Hoss, our little brother was more discerning than that. He only chased after the pretty girls or the ones who would be real friendly.”

“Adam, the table is no place for talk like that.”

“Sorry, Pa. Where is the place for talk like that?”

Ben’s look got Hoss laughing first, and then Joe joined in with his infectious giggle. Soon the laughter loosened everyone up much as Hoss and Adam had intended. They had done this little game before, and each of them seemed to know when it was needed without ever discussing it first. The two brothers grinned at each other, and Inger smiled at them. It was clear how much these brothers loved each other. She hoped BK could be accepted into the close-knit group. Soon Joe was telling tales of his derring-do as Hoss and Adam told slightly different accounts to which Joe objected of course but all in good humor. As they talked and Joe’s mood improved immensely, Ben realized what they were doing. Inger and his oldest two sons were pulling Joe into the family reunion so that he felt he was part of it.

After dinner, BK and Hoss sat by the fire talking with Joe on one side and Adam on the other. Adam asked what had happened to Washakie. Hoss explained that he had gone to town with Candy and some of the hands. They were going to get him outfitted as a real cowboy and he had agreed to try working on the Ponderosa. Washakie did not remember any of his life before he was taken so had no idea what his name was although he said every time he heard David he turned to the speaker. So he was thinking that might have been his name or his father’s perhaps, and when Candy suggested he might want to use that name, he agreed. On the ranch payroll, he would be Dave Washakie. He also said he thought he would like to get his hair cut, and Candy said he would help him with that. Hoss had given Candy authorization to put everything Dave needed on the Ponderosa account, and said the four of them could have dinner at ranch expense too.

Hoss brought up the next topic. He wondered if they could call BK something other than that for he thought it sounded so impersonal. They decided that Ben would confuse people and that Benji or Bennie sounded too much like a kid. Finally they asked what his middle name was if he had one. He said his mother said his middle name was Jacob. Adam asked if he would like Jake or Jacob, and he smiled and said that would be nice. It would put his captivity behind him. That settled it for everyone as Adam pronounced him Benjamin Jacob Cartwright or Jake.

At the dining table, Ivy and Rose got caught up with what had happened in each other’s absence. They were working on sewing a dress to fit Inger. None of the dresses they owned would fit her as she was taller and broader than either of them. So they were using one of their dresses for a pattern, and using some cloth they had intended to use for shirts for their husbands and were crafting a dress of white and blue. It had a blue skirt and a blue apron, with a white blouse top. If they worked feverishly enough, they thought they might have it ready by the next day.

While the brothers talked and the sisters worked, Ben asked Inger to walk outside with him. Everyone noticed and no one said anything. It would be up to the two of them to decide how to proceed from this point on.

*****

Chapter 25

“It seems our sons will find the reunion easier to work out than you and I will.”

“Yes, it is different being brothers than being husband and wife but not husband and wife. You are my Benjamin and yet you are a stranger too.”

“So what do we do now?”

“I think we need to take some time to get to know one another again before we decide what we will do. Adam has said he thought one thing was to speak with a lawyer to try to sort all of this out.”

“Yes, but I would like some time as a family before all of this is all over town. People will be asking all sorts of questions, and we won’t have answers. I know I want you to stay here. I don’t want you to be anywhere else.”

“That would be nice. The girls are making a dress for me so that when we do go to town so when people see me they will not see an Indian woman, but see me as I am.”

“Our foreman Candy will see to that for Dave. It seems strange to call him that, but apparently he was quite happy to use that and his other name as a last name. He will always have some of both cultures, but I’m glad that he is looking to find his place in this one. He’s a fine horseman according to Adam so I’m sure he will quickly learn what he needs to do here. Once he had a few paychecks, he can decide if he wants to stay or leave, but at least it will finally be his free choice.”

“He may wish to find his family, and I would like to help him, but from what I know, he was traded several times. We may never know his origin.”

“He has a place here then.”

“Thank you. Thank you for welcoming our son and me into your home as well.”

“Did you think it would be anything but that? This is your home too regardless of how things work out.”

“A lot can change in twenty-eight years. You have married and lost another wife, gained another son, and built this huge ranch. Oh, Benjamin, that dream seemed so big when we talked of it, but you have done it.”

“With Adam at my side for a long time. He had to grow up so fast after that Indian attack. He has suffered so many tragedies in his life. I worry about him more than the other two. He had a shell around his heart for so long. Rose broke through or I fear he may have been lost. She is a very feisty woman, as stubborn and fiery as he can be, and I think there may be some terrible arguing between the two at some point, but each has found someone who could reach through all the pain and bring healing.”

“Yes, I got some of that just in the short time we were together. They have great passion, the two of them. They love each other so much I do not fear that there will be anything that will come between them for long.”

“Has he told you though that he did go to college?”

“Yes, we talked a lot. He seems quite proud of what you accomplished together. He also is rightfully proud of helping Hop Sing, and in forming his own shipping company. It is doing quite well apparently.”

Noticing the frown that Ben had at that statement, Inger put her hand on Ben’s arm. “You should not fear him leaving because he has done these things. Doing these things has made it more likely he will stay. I know he talks of distant lands and wondrous things, but he came back, didn’t he? He dreams big dreams too. You should be the one who understands that best.”

“I do understand, and I also have a better understanding of how my family felt when I left. When I was that age, I was so sure of what I wanted to do and never saw how much leaving hurt those I loved.”

“But the Ponderosa is still part of Adam’s dreams so he will be here as long as you give him room to roam too.”

“You should see him in the winter months. Hoss says he’s either a bear who can’t get to sleep or a hungry cougar eyeing up prey. Spring is more joyous around here because of it though. We’re all happy to get him out of the house, and he’s thrilled to be free of the confinement. He’ll head up to the line cabins to make sure they’re ready to use and are fully supplied. He’ll be all alone for weeks and come home as contented as can be.”

“He was always like that. He would hug me so fiercely and then run off to do whatever was next on his agenda.”

“Hoss is just the opposite. He loves being here and nothing better than to be snuggled up with his family. That’s why he would get so angry sometimes with Adam in the winter. Hoss enjoys the quiet company of those he loves.”

“Hoss was just like that as a baby. He was only completely relaxed and smiling when one of us was holding him. Bee is a little like both then. He enjoys action as well as solitude. He roams but always stays close to home if that makes sense to you. He doesn’t like being cooped up anywhere. He spends a lot of time thinking but not too much time talking. He would fight to the death for me, and now I think he will have that same loyalty to the rest of his family.”

“Have you always called him Bee?”

After just a moment, Inger composed herself and answered. “Yes, I couldn’t bear to say Ben. I thought you were dead. So even though I wanted our son to carry on his father’s name, I couldn’t use that name all the time. It would have been too painful.”

“I don’t want to pry, and you don’t have to answer, but did you have a husband with the Shoshoni?”

“No, I already had brought a future warrior into their tribe so they did not insist. They were enough women for the men until the smallpox hit five years ago. Many of the men were away hunting so they were not infected, but the women and children suffered terrible losses. By then I was not with them any longer. Ben you have to know though that the Pawnee were not so kind. They were angry after one of their women had been assaulted and killed. They wanted revenge, and I was there.”

Wrapping an arm around Inger, Ben tried to soothe her, but then it seemed that the grief of twenty-eight years came rushing out. He wrapped his other arm around her and held her close as her body shook with her sobs. She had been so strong for so long because she had to be, and for the first time since she was taken, she could feel safe and protected without the need to hold all her emotions in check. Ben found tears flowing as well, and he kissed the top of Inger’s head a number of times. As the tears gradually diminished and the heart wrenching shuddering stopped, Ben pulled Inger to sit on the bench that was near them. She leaned into his side as he crooned softly to her to soothe her. When she finally was able to sit up and look at him, her eyes were red and puffy, but Ben felt he had never seen her more beautiful. She was vulnerable and sweet under that strong exterior. She had not lost any of the qualities which had made him fall in love with her so many years before.

“Would it be possible for that lawyer to come here to speak with us and give us advice?”

“I’m sure that would be fine. We pay him enough that he should do that. I’ll have one of the boys go to town to make that arrangement tomorrow.”

“This has all been very unsettling to your Joseph. He fears for his place in the family?”

“No, I think he fears for his mother’s place in the family. He’s most worried that if you and I were still married, then my marriage to his mother was not legitimate.”

“And then he would not be legitimate. That is a hard thing for him to have to consider, but maybe this lawyer can come up with something to make that not be so.”

“Yes, I’m sure he can. Now I have one question for you. There is no man in your family to ask so I must ask you. Inger Cartwright, may I court you? May I take you on picnics, and to town for dinner, and out riding so that we can get to know one another again?”

“Oh, Ben, thank you, yes!”

And for the first time in twenty-eight years, Ben and Inger kissed and held each other like lovers do. Inger relaxed into his embrace knowing he would give her time, and that the two of them could nurture their long lost love. As the hour grew late and both were emotionally exhausted, they walked inside to find their four tired sons waiting up for them worried about how long they had been outside. When Ben made the announcement that he was courting Inger, there were four relieved smiles that there would be no hurried resolution to their situation, and that everyone could take time to get used to the changes in their lives.

By late the next afternoon, the family was again gathered in the great room, but this time they were talking with their lawyer. He had some ideas about how to handle everything, and agreed with Joe’s position that there had to be a way to ensure that Marie’s marriage to Ben was legitimate. Hiram was thinking that he could do that. With Inger gone for so long, he could use the concept of desertion as grounds to say the marriage no longer existed even though it had been legitimate. Then Marie’s marriage to Ben was also legitimate. When he learned that Ben had asked to court Inger, he smiled. That having taken place before they consulted with him meant that they had accepted that they were no longer married. Hence, they could remarry which in the eyes of the law would show evidence of good faith that believing the other to be deceased, each had assumed the marriage no longer existed.

“But we were still married when Benjamin Jacob was born?”

“Yes, less than a year of separation even though each thought the other deceased is not enough to invalidate the marriage. The five years that elapsed between the apparent death of Inger Cartwright and the marriage to Marie Cartwright more than satisfies the requirements of the law. Now if you court Inger, and then the two of you remarry, all legal issues should be satisfactorily resolved.”

“Should be?” Ben was concerned that someone could challenge their arrangement.

“The only persons who could bring it into question are the heirs. Any one of these four young men here could dispute this, and it would be a difficult situation for a judge to decide for there is no precedent that I know of that he could use. It would all depend then on how the judge would read the law.”

Adam spoke before any of this brothers could. “Hiram, how could we ensure that could never happen?”

“If all were made equal heirs, or if all would sign an agreement not to dispute the arrangement, then there would be no problem.”

Joe was the first to agree but Hoss and Jake nodded as well. None of them would ever think to do something like that, but each thought it would be good to get it settled once and for all time. Ben could settle it even faster, but he was pleased to see all four sons in agreement already.

“Hiram, draw up a new will making all four sons equal heirs. That should do it, right?”

“We can draw up a temporary agreement right now, and I can have the formal will drawn up within a few days. Then if you come in to sign with two witnesses who are not in the will and unrelated to you, we can file that will and discard the old one. Do you still want Adam as executor?”

“They’re all old enough now so put all four in as executors but Adam will have the deciding vote in any dispute. With four, there could be a logjam if it’s two and two in any voting.”

With all the legal issues resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and Joe’s great relief, it seemed that life was settling down for the family. Jake took the upstairs guest room as his own putting Keilani in his parents’ room for the time being. Inger got the guest room downstairs.

The next morning, Adam went riding with Jake to show him more of the Ponderosa and get him familiar with its operation. Adam introduced him to the hands and explained their situation briefly before they left. As they moved from branding stations to horse breaking corrals and to pastures, the basic operation of the ranch was thoroughly explained. Jake was comfortable with Adam and not just because he was the first brother he met. He appreciated Adam’s spare use of language to say only what needed to be said, and that as they rode, Adam never felt a need to fill silence with words, and Adam appreciated that same trait in Jake.

Meanwhile, Hoss and Joe were riding together that day, and there were plenty of words. Hoss knew that Joe was still uneasy and worked on him to get the full story of what was bothering him. It needed to be out in the open so they could deal with it. Hoss was sure that Joe wouldn’t say anything to their father at all, and because of the close friendship that seemed to be developing between Adam and Jake, he probably wouldn’t voice his concerns to Adam either.

“So, let me see if I have this straight. You’re worried that you’re brother number four now and have another older brother. You’re also thinking that I’ll like Jake better than you cause you said ‘three’s a crowd’ just a minute ago. Now first of all, three’s a crowd is only a problem if you’re with a gal and somebody else is there. You and me and Adam was three brothers for a long time now. No reason to think three or even four of us can get along. You might even like having another brother around when Adam gets on his high horse.”

Joe had to chuckle at that. He could just picture his oldest brother in a dispute with all three lined up against him. “That’s true.”

“Now as to having another older brother, Joe, it ain’t like we’re kids any more. He’s a man. You’re a man. Treat him like one, and he’ll treat you like one. Heck he’s been an only child. He don’t know what it’s like to have brothers either. This has to be just as hard for him and maybe harder.”

“Why would it be harder?”

“Just think about being dropped into some business like the Ponderosa as a man, a full fledged brother responsible for getting everything done around here and having no idea how it’s all done. Now Adam is gonna show him around for a few days, but that ain’t gonna be enough. He’s gonna need some help from the rest of us for quite a spell I’m reckoning.”

“I wasn’t thinking of it that way. I was thinking he might try bossing me around, but he can’t cause he doesn’t know even a little bit of what I know about running the place.”

“That’s right. He ain’t even been to town yet neither, so who’s gonna show him that now?”

“Oh, boy, that could be a lot of fun. I oughta get him to buy some new clothes and stuff too. Maybe we could get him a saddle too, cause it’s hard to do roping and stuff without one.”

“Now you’re talking, Joe. We surely don’t want Adam taking him shopping for clothes.”

“Yeah, he’d come home wearing all black and we wouldn’t be able to tell the two of them apart. Now that could make it pretty tough for Rose.”

Hoss started guffawing then and Joe laughed so hard he almost fell off his horse. The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough except for cleaning out a beaver dam that had slowed the flow of a creek across one of their pastures. When they rode back into the yard that afternoon all muddy and wet from their work, they were still smiling. Ben noticed and smiled as well. When they went into the stable, Ben turned to Inger who was sitting at his side on the porch.

“Hoss is a healer. He worked on Joe today. I was thinking he would. He calms Joe down like no one else can. Things are really starting to look up now.”

Inger smiled as well. Just an hour or so earlier, Adam and Jake had come back, and Jake couldn’t wait to tell his mother what he had seen. Ben had said that they would start taking rides on the Ponderosa as well, but they had only ridden to the lake that day. She had enjoyed that immensely but was tired from all the traveling and wanted to enjoy some time relaxing in the comfort of having her own home and a family again.

That night at dinner, the brothers shared what they had done that day. Joe invited Jake to go with him into town on Saturday to buy some new clothes and a new saddle. When he explained why, Jake agreed. Hoss invited himself along, and then Adam said he ought to go as a chaperone so they didn’t get Jake into too much trouble.

“He says chaperone, but what he means is ‘wet blanket’ cause older brother here never did know how to have any fun.”

“Now Joe that ain’t fair. Adam knows how to have fun. He just don’t like doing it cause he might muss his hair or get his clothes dirty.”

Hoss’ comment got one of Adam’s sneers which got Hoss and Joe laughing. Nevertheless, all four brothers went into town the next afternoon. Hoss drove the buckboard with Jake next to him as Adam and Joe rode. They made their purchases, had some drinks at a few of the saloons as Joe showed Jake his favorite parts of town. Then after dinner at the International House, the four rode home except Adam took Jake’s spot on the wagon because Adam’s leg was sore after working hard the previous day and then the long ride to town followed by a lot of walking. Sport was more rambunctious than usual with an unfamiliar rider. Each time Sport tossed his head though, Jake leaned forward and bit the animal’s ear. After doing that several times, Sport calmed a bit which amazed the other three brothers.

“I’m not sure I would ever do that, but Jake, can you help me break some horses. I got some just as cantankerous as old Sport there. Hey, I gave a horse to Adam. His name is Drum, and he’s just as cantankerous as Sport. Maybe you could calm him some too.”

“Joe, I would be pleased to do so.”

Hoss was reminded that he had a question he had been meaning to ask Jake. “Jake, why do you talk so fancy and all? You ain’t never been to college like our older brother here.”

“Mama taught me English from the time I was little, but I had no one with whom to speak it except her, and she corrected my grammar all the time. By the time I met any others with whom I could speak English, the patterns were well established.”

Over the next few weeks, more questions would be asked and answered. Ben courted Inger, and both of them enjoyed their time as parents and grandparents for Keilani loved his new grandmother. Dinners were fun again as the family gathered each day. The only disappointing thing for Ben was that the situation had spurred Adam to draw up house plans and prepare to start building his own home. He knew the day would come when his sons would leave the house, but it was a melancholy thought. However Inger reminded him that he was only going to be about fifteen minutes away so his great fear that Adam would leave the Ponderosa would not be realized.

*****

Chapter 26

“Ride em, Adam, ride em!” Hoss and Joe were yelling as Adam rode another mustang to a standstill. He slid off and limped over to the corral fence where his brothers were waiting. He had been baited into riding that morning by Joe’s taunts. He knew he was going to pay for this with a sore leg and probably a scolding from Rose if not his father as well. On the other hand, it felt great to be doing something so physical again. Joe and Jake were taking turns as well and they were likely to get a lot more horses ready today than they could have otherwise. Joe was thrilled for he had an Army contract to fulfill, and this would put him ahead of schedule so if something unforeseen happened, it wouldn’t matter so much.

As Joe headed for the chute for the next ride, Hoss put a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “Ya done proved to him that ya ain’t too old for this. Why don’t you just call it a day? I seen ya limping after that last one.”

“If I quit now, he’ll just use that. He’s two rides behind Jake and me now with that one that he had to back off on when he got so riled in the chute. When he rides this one, he’ll still be one behind so he’ll ride again after Jake rides. By then I should be ready for one last one, and it’s pretty late in the afternoon so that’ll be it.”

“You’re tempting fate, brother.”

“A little, maybe, but when haven’t we done that here? Tomorrow I’ll be at the house working because I have a crew coming in to help me plaster all the inside walls. I won’t be riding.”

“Rose would have my hide ifn I didn’t at least try to talk you out of this.”

“Consider your hide saved then. I’ll be sure to tell her you warned me off more than once. She does know how stubborn I can be.”

There was a commotion by the chute then, and both brothers turned to look. Joe was having trouble with the same horse as before. Jake was there telling him the horse was too agitated to ride, and that he should pick another. Even on the opposite side of the corral, Adam and Hoss could hear how heated that exchange had gotten. They walked over to see if they could help. Hoss got there first because Adam was still limping.

“Now, hold on, boys, hold on. All that hollering ain’t helping that horse settle down none.”

“Well, if Jake would just keep his nose out of my business, the horse wouldn’t be so agitated.”

“Now, Joe, that isn’t fair. That horse was too agitated when I got here. That was all I was trying to tell you. Why can’t you wait another day to ride her?”

“Yeah, Shortshanks, what’s wrong with waiting one more day with that particular horse? We got lots that still need breaking.”

By then, Adam had reached the three. “So did you come to stick your nose in it too!”

Adam backed away with his hands in mock surrender to Joe’s comment. He climbed up to sit on the top rail and watch his three younger brothers spar. It didn’t take long. Joe was as frustrated as possible. He had wanted to show off not only for Jake but for Adam and the other men. They were always comparing him to Adam, and when he rode this wild one, he had hoped they might back off on the comments. Now with Adam riding more than he had even though Adam had a bum leg, and Jake riding as well as either of them, he would still be hearing the comparisons. He went to climb up on the horse anyway, and Hoss grabbed his arm.

“I ain’t gonna let you risk your life for no reason just cause you’re madder than a wet hen. You ain’t riding no horses until you get your temper cooled down.”

“So now it’s you too. Well I’ve had it. I’ll see you all later.” Stalking to where Cochise was saddled, Joe mounted up and rode off.”

“I’m sorry for doing that. I didn’t realize how much of a temper he has. I only wanted him to try a different horse.”

Hoss put his arm on Jake’s shoulder. “He’ll cool off. He heats up fast and cools off just about as fast.” Looking up at Adam, Hoss had another question. “Now can you quit for the day.”

“Yes, mother hen, I can quit. How about you, Jake?”

“I think I’ll walk this mare around and see if I can’t soothe her a bit. She’s very upset right now, and she could get the whole bunch of them skittish the way she is now.”

“Sounds good to me, little brother. Adam, do we have time to go take a looksee at your house? I ain’t seen it since you got the windows and doors cut out.”

As Hoss and Adam rode to Adam’s home that was nearly constructed, Joe rode back to the ranch house. He had run Cochise hard, and felt bad about that. He wanted to get his horse home and properly groomed. He promised her a little extra grain for being so understanding and letting him ride off his frustrations. He was still mad at Jake though. He didn’t think it was right for him to interfere especially because he had only arrived on the ranch a short time before.

Jake ended up walking the mustang mare all the way to the main corrals. He put her in a corral with just a few of the Ponderosa ponies thinking she would settle down better that way. He walked to the stable then and put his horse in a stall. As he was walking to the house, he saw Rose walking back from the garden it appeared, and she seemed very unsteady on her feet. He rushed to her, and when he got there, he reached out an arm to steady her.

“Oh, Jake, I’m sorry, I just started feeling faint for some reason. Only now I think I’m going to be sick too.”

Reaching out one hand to a tree to steady herself more, Rose leaned over and retched. Nothing came out because she had already lost her lunch earlier. Jake held her hair back, and then wrapped an arm around her to make sure she didn’t fall.

“Are you sick? Should I get some help?”

“Yes, and no. I know what it is. I just need a little time if you don’t mind. Would you help me to walk to the garden bench in the back of the house? I would like to sit there for a bit.”

Keeping his arm firmly around Rose’s waist and holding her arm with his other arm, Jake walked back to the garden. He helped Rose sit on the bench, and then asked if he should stay or leave.

“If you don’t mind, I would like a little company. And if I need help on the walk back, you’ll be here.”

When Joe rode into the yard and dismounted, he saw Jake holding Rose and then hugging her. Soon the two walked toward the back of the house and out of sight with Jake’s arms wrapped around Rose. He stood for just a moment with his mouth open as if to say something, but then he walked in the stable with Cochise and put her in a stall and groomed her. He was still there when Adam and Hoss came riding in over an hour later talking about Adam’s new house.

“Hey, Shortshanks, you all cooled off about Jake and that horse now?”

“No, I’m not, and I think it would be best if he left here as soon as possible.”

Startled by the vehemence of Joe’s statement, Adam and Hoss stood in shock. “Joe, one argument shouldn’t cause you to talk like that. Jake belongs here as much as Adam and I do.”

Adam issued a warning. “You better not let Pa hear you talk that way. He’s not had a chance to get to know his son, and he deserves that.”

“Well, if you knew what I knew, you wouldn’t be talking like that. You better move to that house of yours as soon as you can, and put some good locks on the doors.” With that, Joe stalked out of the stable heading to the house.

Watching him leave, Adam looked at Hoss. “What was that all about?”

“I don’t know. He seemed more upset than when he was at the breaking corrals. It don’t look like he and Jake had a fight. I’ve kinda been expecting that. It might clear the air a bit. He always seemed to want to take a swing at you when he was mad. Don’t know what he’s chewing on now though.”

In companionable silence as they contemplated their younger brother’s mood, Adam and Hoss groomed their horses and fed them before walking to the house. Hop Sing met Adam at the door of the kitchen with a cup of tea.

“That’s very nice, but I could use a hot bath instead.”

“No, not for you. For Missy Rose. She in garden. Not feel well. You give.” Hop Sing handed the cup of tea to Adam who shrugged and walked back to the garden. When he got there, he found Jake sitting next to Rose on the bench.

“Thank goodness, you’re here. Rose isn’t feeling well, and I had to help her walk here.”

“Jake, I didn’t want you to say anything.”

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t think being ill was something you wouldn’t tell Adam.”

“It’s too late, anyway, Rose. Hop Sing knows. He sent me here with some tea for you. It actually smells pretty good. Thanks, Jake. I think I can handle it from here.”

With a relieved look, Jake got up and left. Adam took his spot on the bench and leaned close to Rose.

“All right, now. Tell me what’s wrong or I’m taking you to Doc Martin right now.”

“I’m not sick.”

“So you’re saying Jake just lied to me?”

“No, I’m sick and I’m not sick.”

Shaking his head in exasperation, Adam wrapped an arm around Rose. “You’re going to have to explain more than that.”

“Well, I think you better hurry up and get that house done. Paint all the rooms including the one you said we would be using for a nursery some day.”

For just a moment, Adam was blank, and then his face lit up in a grin soon to be replaced by a look of concern. “Are you all right? Is being sick part of it?”

“I have limited experience with that. We had a couple of married hands on the Nivens Ranch, and I seem to remember them complaining about this. But there are other signs.”

“Some of those things I mentioned over the last few weeks?”

“Yes, my body is going through some changes, and the moodiness and the tears all the time are probably part of it. Mind you, I’m only going on what those ladies used to talk about when they were with child. It seemed like all the worst things were in the beginning when most people don’t even realize why you’re so different.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It’s a scary thought. I wanted to be sure and get used to the idea too. You were so busy with the house and then you were gone on that drive so I had time to think about it all. I was going to tell you today but you didn’t come back for lunch, and then I went to the garden to pick green beans and the smells of the garden made me sick. Hop Sing really is a wonder. I’m feeling better already.”

“He does seem to brew some magic potions in there.”

“Now tell me why you’re limping so badly. You haven’t limped that badly in several months.”

“Well if I don’t tell you, Hoss will. I was breaking a few horses today.”

“What? How irresponsible is that? You have a wife and a child and a baby on the way, and you risk your life like that?”

“Well, in my defense, I didn’t know there was a baby on the way.”

“Adam, don’t quibble. You shouldn’t have been doing that and you know it.”

“No, I don’t know it. I have to do my share of the work around here, and breaking horses is part of it. It’s no more dangerous than going on a cattle drive and I did that. Besides I didn’t ride any horse that was going to be dangerous.”

“They’re all dangerous.”

“No, not really. Some just need to learn who’s the boss, and then they settle right down. Joe had one that wasn’t that way, and he had words with Jake when Jake tried to tell him not to try riding him. I wouldn’t ride a horse that the men know is too riled up or too dangerous to break. I got into it with Joe over a roan stallion he tried to break. Darn thing wanted to kill anyone who was on his back. Hoss finally took him up to the high pastures and released him.”

“You are an expert on changing the subject just like your father claims you are. We were talking about you taking chances with your life and suddenly we’re talking about Joe. I want to talk about you not breaking horses.”

There is the crux of it though. I will continue to break horses and do anything else expected of me on this ranch. I won’t do any horse breaking I’m not asked to do.”

“So Joe asked you to help?”

With Adam’s grimace at that question, Rose knew she had hit the bullseye. “So how did he get you to do it? Goad you into a contest? Complain that you don’t do any of the hard work? Tell you you’re getting old?” Adam’s shamefaced look at that last one let her know she had struck it exactly right again. “You brothers need to grow up!”

“I’m all grown up in the ways that count. Would you like me to demonstrate?”

“Not here, and not with my mouth tasting the way it does even after this tea, but yes, you can make it up to me by demonstrating your other skills later.”

“I’ll take a cool bath to soak my leg later. Would you like to join me?”

With her mouth dropping open, Rose shook her head negatively. “Not when everyone in the house would know what we were doing.”

“Now, I’m looking forward to us having our own house even more. When we go inside, do you want to tell them the news or keep it as our secret for a while yet?”

“I’d like to keep it just between us for now. Perhaps in the next few days, we could go to town and see Paul to confirm it and let us know how far along I am.”

“You don’t know?”

“I’m pretty new at this. Maybe I could talk to Inger about it. It’s so difficult though. Today I just started crying when I was thinking about it. I’ve never been so emotional.” At Adam’s smirk, Rose had to amend her statement. “Well, I get angry and such, but I don’t cry except now I do.”

“That’s a good idea. We should tell Pa then too because we can’t expect her to keep a secret like that.”

“If we get a chance then, let’s tell them tonight.”

With that settled, Adam helped Rose stand. She didn’t feel dizzy any more, but it had come over her quickly earlier so she told Adam it would be best if she held on to his arm as they walked.

“No more riding for you then. It’s too dangerous.”

“Well what about your riding?”

“I’m not with child, prone to dizziness, and likely to throw up my lunch. Now that’s settled, right?” Adam wanted to make sure he had her promise because he knew she would never break a promise. She hemmed and hawed a bit, and then agreed to promise not to ride until after the baby was born. She had known he was going to be overprotective, but at that moment, it felt very nice.

Once Adam and Rose walked inside, there was little they could do but tell their news. Joe had accused Jake of going after Adam’s wife. That had gotten everyone involved defending one of the three. Ivy said Rose would never do such a thing because she loved Adam with all her heart. Hoss agreed with Ivy, and Joe said of course he would because she had him wrapped around her little finger. Inger said Jake wouldn’t do anything like that, and Ben tried to get everyone to calm down. Then Joe had related what he thought he had seen. Jake said it didn’t happen, and Joe called him a liar. Right about then, Adam opened the door and came in with Rose on his arm. Everyone was standing in the great room, and all the faces looked red and angry.

“What’s going on?”

Trying to keep the peace, Ben stepped forward. “Nothing that we should talk about now. We should wait until everyone calms down, and then we can talk.”

Unwilling to let it ride, Joe blurted out his accusation though. “This is too important to wait. Jake was kissing and hugging Rose. I saw them.”

Bursting into tears, Rose turned and buried her head in Adam’s chest. He wrapped his arms around her, and then they heard Keilani crying. Adam whispered in her ear, and Rose wiped the tears away as best she could and rushed to the stairs and up to their son. Adam turned a glare on Joe. “Don’t you ever accuse my wife of being unfaithful. You won’t like what happens next. We weren’t going to say anything yet, but Rose was not being kissed and hugged by Jake. She was sick and dizzy, and he went to help her. He held her hair away from her face for obvious reasons and then had his arms around her to help her walk. I just did the same as we walked back here.” By this time, Inger had her hands over her mouth squelching the urge to say something, and Ben had the beginnings of a smile as well. “We’re going to have a baby, and I would appreciate it if this family could try to keep things mellow until Rose and I get used to the idea.” Walking to the stairs, Adam had one last comment, and it was for Jake. “Sorry, Jake, this is what being part of a family is like sometimes.” Then Adam walked up the stairs. He would have liked to take them two at a time and fast, but his leg hurt.

Every pair of eyes in the room turned to Joe then. He was about as embarrassed as it was possible to be. He had let jealousy and his competitiveness get in the way of loving his family and now had to apologize. “All right, I was a horse’s ass. I’m very sorry Jake. I guess I wanted to find something bad that you had done to justify my feelings. I was very wrong, and I’m very sorry. I’ll do your chores for the next week.”

“The next month would show that you were genuinely sorry.”

For a moment, Joe was speechless but then saw the grin Hoss had and the smirk on Jake’s face.

“You really are a lot like Adam. But yes, I’ll do them for the next month. I deserve it.”

Looking at Inger, Ben had to chuckle. “You see, my dear, you were gone long enough that you don’t have to worry about punishing our sons for wrongdoing. They now punish themselves.”

The laughter released the last of the tension, and Ben went to tell Hop Sing there was something to celebrate at dinner. Hop Sing’s joy was evident in the comments they heard then. Even the ones in Chinese sounded happy.

That night after dinner, Adam had a long soak in cool water. His leg felt much better afterwards as he walked through the great room to head up to bed. His father had some choice words about him breaking horses but without the vehemence of Rose’s comments earlier. Rose had that self-satisfied smirk then, and Adam had to respond. “All right, all right. I won’t do any horse breaking for the time being. But I’m not over the hill yet. When my leg is better, I plan to do it again.” Then he pulled Rose up, and the two of them headed up the stairs arm in arm. Soon after that, Hoss and Ivy went up the stairs as well.

Joe just had to comment. “Jake, you see what happens when you get married. You have to go to bed earlier. Marriage makes you act older than you are.”

Jake’s comeback left Joe speechless which wasn’t an easy thing to do. “Joe, by now, I would think you would know, they’re not sleeping any more than they used to sleep. They’ve just found other reasons to retire early.” With that, Jake walked outside to take a short walk in the fresh air before he headed to bed. It had become a nightly ritual with him. When Inger and Ben headed off to their bedrooms, Joe decided he would go to bed too.

Later after an especially gentle and sensuous bout of lovemaking, Rose asked Adam if he could please get her a cup of tea to help her sleep. They both knew that Hop Sing would have some tea in the warming oven just for that reason. Adam slid out of bed and pulled on his robed. He bent down to kiss Rose lightly before he headed downstairs. As he neared Inger’s room, his father came out of her room wearing just his robe. Adam smirked and Ben looked exceedingly embarrassed.

“You may as well just spend the night with her. We all know about it anyway.”

Surprised at that comment, Ben had to ask. “How could you all know?”

“Pa, you know that squeaky board in the hallway that you used to hear when we were sneaking in late so you could get up and let us know your opinion of our habits. Pa, it still squeaks.”

*****

Chapter 27

“Our sons are very understanding.”

“Yes, but I think it will only last a short time. We need to do something about this, and I have the perfect idea. Inger, will you marry me again?”

Lifting her head from Ben’s chest, Inger smiled and nodded. “Yes, my love, I think that is a wonderful idea. Perhaps as soon as possible.”

“Well I don’t think we have to worry about that, now do we?”

“Not about having a baby, no. But I worry about the example we are setting for our children and our grandchild. He should know that his grandparents are married if they are sleeping in the same bed.”

“You’re right of course, but I think Keilani is a little young to think anything at all. However, I did preach to my sons that they should be married before they were intimate with a woman, and now I’ve broken my own rule, and many times.”

Smiling and laying her head back on Ben’s chest, Inger went back to stroking his broad chest. “Yes, but we do have a unique situation. Ben, in my mind, we were always married, but your situation was so different. You had boys to raise and no one to help. Now though, we’re together and nothing can keep us apart.”

“So when do you want to have the wedding?”

“I think just a family gathering would be nice. So could the minister come here and marry us in front of our family. I think everyone in town thinks we’re still married anyway. We told Roy and Paul, but other than the minister, the rest of your friends do not know the whole story.”

The next day, Adam and Hoss were going to town to pick up supplies and furniture for Adam’s new home so they were asked to contact the minister about coming out on Saturday to perform a wedding. Jake rode along to pick up some things that had been ordered for him. He was enjoying the interest women were showing in him and that no one was staring any more. There had been enough time for the basics of the story to be told around town. As far as the ladies in town were concerned, there was another eligible bachelor on the Ponderosa. Joe didn’t seem the marrying type at that point, and Adam and Hoss were married, so Jake got a lot of attention. There were extra supplies to get as well to make the celebration special.

While Hoss was in the mercantile picking out the things they wanted and Adam’s orders were being loaded in the wagon, Adam and Jake went to the bank to get some business done there. Ben wanted to make sure that the bankers knew that Jake represented the Ponderosa now, and just like with any transaction, he could co-sign with any of the others. So Jake accompanied whoever was doing business for the Ponderosa. After the mess with Tom Burns assuming Adam’s identity, no funds were released from Ponderosa accounts without two of them requesting it. It was a minor inconvenience and a major safety feature for their accounts. Their next stop was supposed to be the minister’s house but they never got there. As they left the bank, they were accosted by some out-of-work miners who probably liked John Miller better than they liked the Cartwrights.

“Hey, there goes that Cartwright that likes lying with darkies. He got himself a darky baby.”

“Yeah, and the other ain’t no better. Living with them Injuns all that time, he probably had a bunch of em too.”

“Nah, I heard he don’t like women. He ain’t really a man. When he showed his face around here first, he had long hair like a girl.”

“Well Injun lovers are better than darky lovers, dontcha think?”

“Nah, they’re both just spittoon spit. That’s what that bastard kid of his is worth too.”

Holding off as long as he could, Adam finally stopped and stood with that dead stare of his. Jake stopped at his side. If the miners hadn’t been drinking homemade hooch already that day, they might have known to move on, but the one closest to Adam just had to say one more thing.

“Now you got a Comanche bastard bitch. She whelp a litter for ya yet?”

He probably never saw the fist coming that laid him out on the street, but it did cause the other five to charge the two Cartwrights. Soon there was an all out battle in the street. Both Jake and Adam had fighting skills superior to the men who had accosted them, but they were outnumbered, and Hoss was nowhere in sight. At one point, Adam and Jake were back-to-back fighting.

“Pa’s going to blow his top over this.”

“So? What can he do?”

“I think you’re about to get one of Pa’s famous lectures.”

Their conversation was cut short as two of the miners bull rushed them. Soon there were two more miners down so the odds were closer to even with three against two. As the miners stopped to catch their breath and circle around to use their numbers to better advantage, Adam had another comment.

“Rose is going to even angrier than Pa.”

“Ah, you can take that one on by yourself. She’s all yours. I bet she’s got a sharp tongue when she wants to.”

“Oh, yeah!”

At the moment the miners charged them, there was a shot in the air and Roy Coffee’s unmistakable bellow. “What in tarnation is going on here?” Looking at the tangle of five bodies in the street and three others moaning and groaning off to the side, Roy had to ask. “Now, lemme see, who started this?”

The miners all immediately blamed Adam for throwing the first punch.

“So you boys had nothing to do with the two of them taking on the six of you? I do find that hard to believe. Well, Adam what do you got to say for yourself?”

“They insulted my wife, my son, and my brother as well as me. I couldn’t let it stand.”

“Well, now all of ya is coming over to my office. There won’t be damages to pay seeing as how you was smart enough to do your brawling in the street, but there’s fines a plenty for ya to pay.”

“Sheriff, you know the mines are shut down. We can’t pay no fines.”

“Well, ya shoulda thought about that before you started this here trouble. Nobody got serious hurt, so I’ll let it go at one night in jail or twenty dollars each. Anybody got any more complaints? Good then all of ya head for my office. And Adam Cartwright, I’ve a mind to tell you to stay out of town for two weeks until this here bunch calms down. Now you’re a gonna pay that fine and then head out of town, and I don’t want to see you around here for fourteen days. Is that clear?”

“Ah, Roy, there is one little problem with that. We’re supposed to ask the minister to come to the house Saturday to marry Pa and Ma again. Do you suppose you could let me do that before I leave?”

“Well, you just better do that. You wouldn’t want to be in any more trouble with your father than you’re a gonna be when he sees the two of you. Now you give em my best wishes, and I’ll be sure to offer my congratulations on Sunday. Oh, you can come to church as long as you leave town right after.”

As Jake and Adam collected their horses from in front of the general store, Hoss walked out sucking on a peppermint stick. When he saw his brothers, he stopped in his tracks and took the peppermint stick from his mouth.

“So, what you two been up to? Adam, I done told ya if ya was gonna fight in town, you were supposed to let me know. I hate missing a right good tangle. Ain’t had one in quite a while.”

“Some miners insulted Rose, Keilani, me, and Adam. We had to let them know we wouldn’t stand for that.”

“Fine by me, but Pa is another matter entirely. I think I’ll be delivering these things over to your house, Adam while you go tell Pa the good news.”

“You can’t get out of it that easily, Hoss. You’re going to need some help getting some of that stuff up to the second floor.”

“Dagnabit, I forgot about that dang staircase you got in your house. Why’d ya hafta put a second floor in anyway?”

“Rose likes the view. I had a nice one story design but she wanted a view so I added the second story on one side. I’m going to put a crow’s nest up on top of it too.”

“Why would you do that? She like crows or something?”

“No, Hoss, a crow’s nest is the lookout basket up on ship’s mast. When you put one on a house, it looks a little different, but the concept is the same. You can see for miles and miles.”

“Well, I gotta see that when you’re done. Can anybody go up there and look around?”

“The entrance will be just outside our bedroom so yes and no. As long as you ask, and no one is sleeping, yes.”

The three brothers stopped at the minister’s house to invite him to perform the wedding on Saturday. Then three brothers went to Adam’s house and unloaded everything that belonged there. With a little finish work and organizing, it would be ready to move in. Adam thought the following week would likely be when they would move. Rose was already bringing Keilani over here every day to get used to the place so he wouldn’t be frightened by another move. He had quite a few already in his life, and one of the things holding Adam on the Ponderosa was the desire to give his son a stable home for his childhood. Now he had another child on the way and was no longer thinking of traveling the world. He had enough of a world to satisfy him right there on the Ponderosa not that he regretted all of the places he had seen. Hoss and Jake took a look at Adam’s plans for the crow’s nest and where the ladder to it would be.

“Well, brothers, we delayed enough I think. Any more and Pa, Ma, and Rose are gonna start getting worried. Time for you to face the music, or in this case, the thunder.”

Once they got to the main house and Ben got a look at Adam and Jake, there indeed was some thunder. Adam had that long suffering look he adopted now whenever his father tried to lecture him on his behavior, so Ben turned to Jake hoping to have an impact on him.

“You can’t fight every ignorant, bigoted fool in town!”

“We can try.”

Hoss was thinking there were two of them now and could only say one thing. “Oh, lordy.”

Ivy and Joe almost started laughing but a fierce scowl from Ben stopped them in seconds. Rose walked outside with Keilani during the middle of it, and the look on her face did not portend a good result for Adam. He walked inside with her and up the stairs to put Keilani in his bed for a nap. Then she turned to him, and mostly repeated what he had heard from his father. He said he was sorry.

“But you’re not really sorry, are you? The last time something like this happened, they came after you, and you still limp as a result.”

“They came out to rustle cattle. That I ended up there was a coincidence.”

With a loud sound of disgust, Rose left and went downstairs to get back to the sewing she had left when Keilani was fussing earlier. Things were very cool between Adam and Rose for the rest of the day. Everyone noticed at dinner that she was polite to her husband but there were none of those special looks, no touching, and certainly no teasing or praise. They expected him to have a lonely night. That was what Rose intended because she was very angry not just at Adam for fighting in the streets of town but also the ignorant people that they had to deal with all the time. She didn’t want to discuss it because she knew Adam would use her own arguments to justify what he had done, and she wasn’t going to play into that strategy.

After Rose and Adam got Keilani into bed that night, they went to their bedroom in silence. There were no words spoken at all. When Rose climbed into bed, she stayed well to her side not touching Adam at all. Normally they spooned, and she had a difficult time trying to go to sleep without his warmth pressed up against her back. She felt no movement from Adam’s side of the bed but his breathing wasn’t the slow measured breathing she heard when he was sleeping. She felt his hand on her back then, and it was electric the way the warmth penetrated her body.

“Rose, I am sorry for upsetting you. I knew you would be angry, and I fought anyway.”

Adam kept his hand on her back and gently massaged Rose. Finally she rolled over on her back, and Adam’s hand rested on her abdomen.

“Why do men have to be that way? Why can’t you walk away from something like that? There have been women who have talked rudely to me, and I ignore them but make sure they don’t get invited to any parties out here. I don’t want to have any contact with them, and I certainly don’t want to have them enjoying themselves at our family’s expense. But I don’t hit them and fight in the streets.”

“I’m not sure I can explain it that well, but if I had walked away, they would have said more and more. They would have escalated the situation until I was forced to take a stand. They won’t like it that I fought with them, but after a night in jail and getting blasted by their wives, they’re unlikely to try it again. It’s just the way it is especially with men who are out of work and drinking.”

“I’m sorry I was so cold to you. I was mad.” Even in the darkness, Rose knew Adam would be smiling. She felt his hand begin to caress her abdomen and she lay quietly letting him soothe her. He knew how to do it so well. He ran his hands up and down her arms, over her shoulders, and then up and down her legs. By the time he got to her legs, she wasn’t relaxed any more, and he knew that tool. He lay his long body along hers and began kissing her as his hands started to caress her more intimately. Soon they had made up entirely and well satisfied with the makeup loving. Adam had been so sweet and considerate that Rose couldn’t help but respond. By the time they finished, she had nothing left to say and snuggled into him and closed her eyes. Adam stroked her hair and her back and that was the last thing she remembered until the next morning.

The next morning, Ben was also over his anger. He felt for his son who had to endure all the inhumanity of racism and the knowledge that his children would probably face even more painful times. Adam had to suffer knowing his children would suffer so and he could do nothing to stop it. At least for two weeks there would be no incidents because Roy had banished him from town to let tempers cool.

By Saturday, all the tensions were forgotten as the men decorated the house, and Rose and Ivy presented Inger with new curtains and matching linens for Ben’s bedroom that would now be theirs. The sons moved all of Inger’s things to the upstairs bedroom. It was only a formality recognizing the relationship between their mother and father but yet felt so significant when they did it. Inger wore a new dress she had purchased just for this occasion, and all the men dressed in their Sunday suits. Ben had a dark grey suit with a satin vest underneath. The ladies dressed up as well. Keilani was dressed in his best clothing and spent most of the time on Adam’s arm watching all the activities. The wedding dinner was the best that Hop Sing could cook, and Mabel and Hannibal had collaborated on a large and beautiful wedding cake. Hoss ate three pieces and wondered if it would be all right to have more cake for breakfast.

On Sunday morning, everyone dressed up again and headed to church services. The Cartwrights took up two full rows now. After church, Joe and Jake each found a lady who thought a ride to the lake would be fun once the men promised they would bring a picnic lunch from Hop Sing’s kitchen and pick them up in the early afternoon. Ben and Inger stood together watching their family gather to return home with all of them laughing and talking together.

“Darling, was this the dream you had all those years ago of how our life could be?”

“Ben, this is better than any dream I had. This is heaven on earth.”

***The End***

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