Summary: The second Margarita story has her and Adam with their hands full with two children. Ben reminds his son that his situation isn’t so different than what Ben faced when Adam was a curious child.
Word Count: 4677
Chapter 1 -in Modesto
Returning to the main room of the house, Hoss called out to his older brother. “Hey, Adam, is it all right for Aaron to get a piece of broken glass from your trash? I told him not to do it, but I know how your two young’uns are.”
“Why would he want a piece of broken glass?”
“He said Lucia told him how he could make a magnifying glass from that and water. That’s crazy, ain’t it?”
Without explanation, Adam rushed from the house. A short time later, he was back with his two children who were flushed and looking worried. He made them sit at the dining table and told them to read.
“What should we read, Papa?”
“I don’t care. Just sit there and don’t get into trouble for at least an hour.”
Returning to the seating area by the fireplace in his home, Adam sat and stared into space for a time. His father guessed that he might have been the source or at least the inspiration of the latest problem.
“Was the story I told them of Albert Michaelson and the telescope the reason why they wanted to create a magnifying glass all of a sudden?”
The curt answer was enough to let them know Adam was displeased. Hoss though was confused.
“How could a piece of glass and water make a magnifying glass?”
Taking a deep breath, Adam decided to explain. “I have no idea how she knows things like this, but if you take a rounded piece of glass from a bottle and fill it with water, it acts as a magnifier. Who knows what they planned to do with it though.”
“Really? I gotta try that sometime.”
“I’ll show you, Uncle Hoss.”
Lucia couldn’t keep the excitement from her voice. Adam however wasn’t pleased at all. He turned and stared at his daughter until she dropped her head and returned her attention to her book. Or at least she made every effort to look like she was reading. She knew better than to challenge her father when he had that look. Satisfied that he had made his point however temporarily that was, Adam turned back to his father and brothers.
“Thank goodness the school doesn’t let the girls and boys sit together or even play together. At least they can’t hatch any schemes at school. So far that’s been going reasonably well. The teacher has been teaching them and then having them teach the others.”
“Hey, isn’t that what they older students usually do?”
“Yes, Joe, it is.”
While Joe and Hoss looked confused, their father decided to explain having had some experience with that kind of situation when Adam was a youngster. “It’s not always by age. Sometimes some students simply learn faster than others. If they have a gift with language too, it is easier to have them teach the others.” Before he got into a situation in which he made Adam uncomfortable, he brought up Albert again. “You remember how Albert took over teaching his friends. He had both of those qualities too and taught others his age and even older than him.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember him teaching us too when we tried to help him. He explained about how sound traveled and such. I never did quite understand it all, but he sure had a pretty way of saying it. Those things he did to try to prove his ideas was real fun to do. He called ’em experiments, right, Adam?”
“Papa, may we do experiments?”
Coming out of the kitchen with a tray, Margarita smiled. “He speaks so well, no?”
“He speaks so well, yes. And what have you got there?”
“I picked up a few supplies in town and when I dropped them in the kitchen, our lovely cook had these little cookies all ready for us. I thought we could share them with your family too. If you don’t mind, she would like to give some to the children.”
“She heard you barking out here and didn’t know if it was safe.”
“I do not bark!”
“What is it you would call it then, husband?”
As Adam and Margarita stared at each other not willing to have one of their discussions in front of his family, Ben intervened.
“There was some mention of cookies, no?”
His copying of Margarita’s style of speaking had the desired effect of getting first Adam and then Margarita to smile. Cookies were served and discussion returned to the original topic before Hoss had come back into the house with his news of the children’s activities. The three men had been on a business trip to San Francisco and had made a side trip to Modesto before going back to the Ponderosa. All three, and sometimes including Jamie too, did that as often as they could so they could see Adam and his family. The ranch in Modesto and Adam’s business interests in San Francisco kept him in California for almost the whole year. He brought the family to the Ponderosa at Christmas when weather conditions permitted travel, and he did his best to get there in warmer weather but often failed at that. Ben had a proposition though.
“The children are old enough now to be away from you and Margarita for a short time. I would like to offer the hospitality of the Ponderosa for them this summer for as long as you would allow them to stay.”
“Pa, that’s a very nice offer, but they need supervision and you have a ranch to run.”
“The new lower grades schoolteacher has no place to stay for the summer, and I have offered her a room on the Ponderosa. She has accepted. I told her she might have two youngsters to supervise, and she had no objection.”
“I take it you didn’t tell her much detail about my two children?”
“Adam, your children are delightful. They are well spoken. They are quite polite and always take good care of their clothing and their rooms. I’ve seen their rooms.”
“Yeah, older brother, they sure take after you in that.”
“I bet they put on clean clothes every day too.” Joe snickered, but Adam simply raised an eyebrow in response to him.
“Pa, what about the flood they created in the washroom upstairs?”
“Adam, I’m sure they had no idea that would happen. Using a lamp and releasing water from the water tank on the roof to try to make a rainbow was rather ingenious though even if it didn’t work.”
“And almost setting the house on fire?”
“It seems to me that I heard that you were the one who told them about smoke signals and they were practicing with little fires outside the back door but got too close to the house with them?”
“You’re not trying to make that my fault?”
“No, but with curious children, I do know you have to be exceptionally careful in what you tell them.”
“Yes, like you were in telling me the facts of life.”
That made Ben get a bit red in the face which of course meant that Hoss and Joe were insatiably curious.
“Yeah, Pa, Lordy, it musta been a good one. You’re red as a beet.”
“Should I tell them or do you wish to do the deed?”
“Go ahead and tell them. You already started, but do you want to do that with Aaron and Lucia listening?”
With a cheeky grin, Adam had a response for that. “Pa, they already know the story. I started with that before I told them the rest.”
“You know, Adam, sometimes, I think you deserved those two children and the things they do.”
At least Adam shrugged and smiled in response to that before turning to his brothers. “When Hoss was born, or before that when Inger was getting quite large, I wanted to know why. People simply didn’t talk about such things, but she was too big to hide it under even the largest wrap dress. Everyone knew. Well, probably everyone except me. I pestered Pa until he had to explain.”
Ben snorted. “You have not seen pestering until you knew him when he was six.”
Joe was pleased at that. “So I wasn’t the worst at begging for things?”
Adam smirked. “Not begging; pestering. I wanted answers to questions.. In this case, what was happening to Inger. So Pa told me that she had a baby in there. You know what the next questions were. Finally, he sat me down and explained it all.”
“He was so quiet, I thought it was too much. I thought in my frustration with his pestering that I had overdone it and shocked the poor little thing. Humph. Turns out, he remembered every word I said.”
“Yes, I was quiet because I was absorbing the information. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Then I went to my friends on the wagon train who had the same questions I did about Inger, and I told them everything Pa said not missing a single detail.”
“Yes, they nearly kicked us off the wagon train for that. They thought I had some deranged son to be talking like that at his age. I had to keep him away from the other children for a week until people calmed down and were able to see the humor of the situation. The fathers came around faster than the mothers.”
“Yes, I remembered well how that lesson was drilled home to me so when I answered questions for Aaron and Lucia, I made sure to emphasize that they must not talk to anyone about it and what would happen to them if they did. I’m sure they will find a way around my orders, but it may take them quite some time, and they will still be worried about the consequences if I find out.”
Even from where they were seated, everyone could see the two squirming in their chairs thinking about their bottoms if their father got too upset with them to use words and chores for punishment. Neither wanted to test him temperament, but sometimes they forgot to think about that or their mother’s temper for that matter. She could equal their father when it came time to dole out punishment for not following her rules too although she was more prone to falling for their charm act than their father was. It was risky business to cross the lines though, and both knew it.
“Adam, I’m sure your children don’t mean harm when they break your rules. After all they’re only five and six years old. How devious can someone be at that age?” Thinking only briefly, Ben grinned. “Although, you would know best about that, wouldn’t you?”
“We won’t go there.”
Joe wanted to go there though, and Hoss chimed in that he wanted to hear those stories too.
“At the time they happened, I had no idea either of things that occurred. It was only a few years ago on the night when Aaron was born, in fact, that I learned quite a bit of what Adam did as a boy. It has made him far more worried about his responsibilities as a father knowing the kinds of things he got away with as a boy, and rightfully so.”
“Lordy, Adam, what did you do?”
With a little head shake toward the table, Hoss nodded and smirked. “Well, we’ll be here until tomorrow. Maybe tonight, we could have a good brothers’ talk. We ain’t had one of those in a long time.”
“Maybe, and maybe not. Some things are best not known.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Well, you remember when Saul Garnett wouldn’t let you see his daughter; let you even talk to her at church?”
“Yeah, I remember that. I wondered about that because I never did nothing wrong to make him say what he said about me and accusing me of sniffing around her like that.” Then Hoss got a suspicious look. “You were sniffing around her?”
“No, but her older sister and I were, shall we say, very close one day when her parents were supposed to be gone all day. Except the weather turned bad, and they came home early. We didn’t notice the weather being otherwise occupied, and her father was, shall we say, rather upset. I made a deal with him that I wouldn’t see her again and never would anyone in the community ever hear a word about it if he didn’t tell Pa.”
“He agreed to that?”
“He had his eye on the banker’s son as her prospective husband. A scandal would have doomed that.”
“But she married Boo Richardson, and the two of them have a passel of children out on his ranch.”
“Yeah, funny how things work out, isn’t it? She really did want to be with a cowboy on a ranch. As promised, I never did talk to her, but I guess she refused to marry the banker’s son.”
Before that conversation could proceed any further and before Adam’s brothers could pry any more, Margarita had a question. “While I was in the kitchen, I heard what I thought was an invitation. You want Lucia and Aaron to visit the Ponderosa this summer?”
“Margarita, that would be asking too much of my father to look after those two.”
“Adam, I heard him say he has someone to help. And there are four men there too. Surely that is enough of a force to guard our two children.” Running her fingers lightly through the curls of his hair at the back of his head, she did her best to let him know there was an ulterior motive for her desire to see the children gone for a few weeks.
“It is true that that haven’t been able to see much of the Ponderosa or get to know their grandfather or uncles when the visits are always so short.”
“Then you will agree?”
“Pa, if you’re sure.”
“Adam, I’m sure. We’re all looking forward to having them on the ranch.”
A few weeks later, Hoss was there with Jamie to take the two youngsters on their grand adventure. School had finished and the May weather was superb. The plan was to have them on the ranch and settled in before the hard work on the ranch began in earnest.
“By the time we get back, Pa and Joe will have the schoolteacher all settled in and the rooms ready for these two. And we’re going to see you two in about three weeks?”
“Yes, as soon as we take care of everything that needs to be done here, we’ll be there.”
As soon as the sounds of the carriage carrying Hoss, Jamie, and the children faded away, Adam picked up Margarita to carry her to the bedroom. She laughed and told him to put her down.
“For the first time, no one else is here. The cook and housekeeper have been given two days leave and everyone else has the day off today or tomorrow or has a job assigned for the opposite day. We can do whatever we want in any room we want.”
The couple enjoyed the next few weeks as a second honeymoon but never traveled anywhere. Everything they needed for romance was in their home as long as there were no prying eyes or sensitive ears to make them extra careful. After a two week long period of spending time with each other without worrying about what their children might be doing, they began worrying about what their children might be doing on the Ponderosa. Almost reluctantly, they packed their belongings and headed to Nevada, anxious to see the children they loved and missed and worried about what they might find.
Chapter 2 -on the Ponderosa
Arriving in Virginia City, Adam had some time to appreciate the changes in the city. Earthquake and fire had led to rebuilding, but the drop in silver prices had caused the population to drop too. The city didn’t hardly resemble the bustling community of fifteen years earlier. When Hoss hailed them and drove up to them with a carriage, both were relieved to see him smiling and without damage. Margarita though needed some reassurance that her children were all right.
“Lucia and Aaron aren’t with you? Are they in good health? They are not hurt? Not sick?”
“They’re fine, real fine. They’re spending the day with Miss Linda. They sure have taken a liking to her. She’s got them out looking at butterflies and bees and such today learning all about stuff like that. Anyway, they was more interested in doing that than in spending hours riding to town and then back home again.”
Because Adam could see his wife was a bit hurt by that news, he had to say something to ease her heart. “Sweetheart, remember what you were like as a child. Would you have wanted to spend time with your parents when you could have had an exciting adventure outside?”
“But with bugs? Exciting adventures are with horses and riding, not with bugs.”
“It’s a new world, and our children see adventures with everything. At least it has nothing to do with fire or anything harmful. No one is likely to get hurt looking at bugs.” Adam saw Hoss swallow a couple of times and knew there was a story he had to tell. “Out with it. What is it you aren’t telling us?”
“Well, one reason Pa thought it might be good for me to pick you up and give you a ride back is that I ain’t bandaged up or nothing.”
“No, you aren’t. Wait, does that mean Pa is, and Joe too?”
“Uh, and Jamie.”
“Hoss, what happened?”
“Well, you see, it was really three things that happened, and that’s when Miss Linda took over because she said she didn’t want anyone else to get hurt especially me. You see, Miss Linda is a little sweet on me. I’m kinda sweet on her too. Tell the truth, I think the two of us might be getting close to being a couple, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m very happy for you, but now tell me what happened to cause the rest of the family to be bandaged.”
“Well, it ain’t like they meant to do harm. In fact, Pa got hurt when they was doing a good deed. Aaron wanted to help out, so Pa done taught him how to chop kindling. He was doing a right fine job of it too following all the rules Pa set.”
“Pa trusted him to use an axe?”
“Like I said, Pa taught him right and made sure he was following all the rules. It wasn’t the axe that was the problem anyway. You see, Aaron figured out this way of making the kindling kind of roll or fly down toward the kindling boxes on its own rather than him picking it up and having to carry it all over there and stack it.”
“And some of it hit Pa?”
“Oh no, Pa was back in the house by that time.”
“He left him alone with an axe?”
“How many times I got to say he showed him how to use it and how to be safe with it. Listen, nothing bad happened with the axe. It was the kindling flying.”
“But you said Pa was in the house.”
“Yep, and if you let me tell the rest of the story, I’ll let you know how he got hurt. You see, he went to his desk to work, and one of them pieces of kindling, a right big one, mind you, flew right into the window by his desk and through it and Pa got all upset.”
“He was cut by glass?”
“No, well not then he wasn’t. No, he stood up to yell at Aaron and stuck his head up by that window to do that, and that’s when it happened.”
“Stop interrupting and I’d tell you. He slipped on the glass pieces on the floor and cut open the top of his head on a glass shard left in the window. Now ifn he’d just followed his own rules about being careful around broken glass, he never woulda been hurt.”
“So you don’t think it was Aaron’s fault?”
“Well, mostly not. Just like it wasn’t his fault Jamie banged up his leg.” Adam put his head in his hands wondering what this story would be like. “Jamie was bragging to Aaron and Lucia how he could ride so good so they asked him about a lot of things and if he could do them. Finally they asked him to show them.”
“Let me guess: Jamie bit off more than he could chew. He had to show them some things he didn’t really know how to do or to do well enough.”
“Yep, he did a running swing mount that didn’t go so well. That was the start of it, but he didn’t give up trying to hang onto the side of his saddle so he couldn’t be seen from the other side. That’s when he fell. That with the fall when he tried to swing mount on a moving horse, and the boy’s got one very sore leg.”
“He’s lucky he didn’t kill himself.”
“Jamie is still a boy in a lot of ways. Ya gotta give him some leeway in what he does. Now Joe is the one needs a good talking to.”
“I am afraid to ask. What did he do?”
“Just about anything he could to avoid working with the children until he was at the forge and told them they could watch when they asked. Then unfortunately he let them help when they offered. Well, the way he tells it, Aaron was on one side and Lucia on the other, and he was paying too much attention to the two of them. Next thing you know, the forge is tipping over, and Joe is jumping over and flipping in the air to avoid falling in the coals. It was quite a show. The children clapped and cheered. Up on the porch, we held our breath until Joe stood up and said he wasn’t hurt. That’s when Pa yelled at him that his hair was on fire. He musta felt it at about the same time. He ran for the trough and dunked his head. He wears a hat all the time now even inside and at the table for meals. He might even be wearing one to bed. I don’t know.”
“Aw, the skin only got a little red, but he’s got a patch of hair missing that makes him bald. Gonna be a while before he’s showing off them curls again. Anyhow, that’s when Miss Linda stepped in and said from now on, she was in full charge of the children and their activities. Ifn we want to spend time with them, she goes along. Nothing happens without her there supervising so to speak and making the final decisions and such.”
“No problems. Adam, that little gal has a stare that makes Pa back down. I swear, I don’t know how she does it, but she’s got a fierce look and a way about her that when her back’s up, nobody is gonna mess with her. She just says to them two that they better do as she says or there will be consequences, and they toe the line. I don’t think they have any idea what consequences mean, but they don’t want to push her over that line.”
“Another woman of fire, Adam. Maybe Hoss will have a woman of fire too. Won’t that be delightful?” She turned to Hoss then. “And I think the children do know what consequences mean. Adam says that to them too. They never do anything wrong when he is with them, but he is too busy. Work here, work there. Never enough time for his family.”
“Hoss, I wish you luck with your woman of fire. I mean that sincerely.”
Margarita poked him in the ribs for that one. “He doesn’t mean it really. You should hear about what we have done for the last two weeks.”
That earned her a hand over her mouth. “No, sweetheart, he shouldn’t.”
Hoss laughed, and because they were almost at the ranch house, the subject was dropped. A chorus of Mama and Papa rang out before they even saw the children because the youngsters had heard the voices and the sound of the carriage approaching. No one came running though, and the reason was apparent as they got closer. Miss Linda was standing with the children who clearly had been told to wait until the carriage stopped. When it did, they glanced up at her to get her nod and then rushed the carriage where their parents quickly got out to embrace them. Ben with his bandaged head, Jamie with a cane, and Joe with his hat on were all there too to greet Adam and Margarita who were introduced to Miss Linda.
All went well at first. The initial disagreement occurred at dinner when Adam allowed his children to have dessert. Miss Linda disagreed but then held her objections when Adam reminded her that he was their father. Later, Adam and Margarita allowed the children to stay up thirty minutes past their bedtime. From her look, Miss Linda disapproved. The children noticed and whispered to their father that they should go to bed. Worried about ‘consequences’ from Miss Linda, the children weren’t at all comfortable and were anxious to go up to bed. Finally Adam and Margarita took the children to their rooms. When Adam returned, he asked to speak to Miss Linda. She spoke first.
“I only do what I do because I care for the children and want what is best for them.”
“I understand that, but you have to remember that they are my children. Never try to come between me and my children.” Adam didn’t have to say there would be consequences if she tried. Everyone in the room heard it anyway. They were shocked because Adam was the first of them who had dared to stand toe-to-toe with Miss Linda and was apparently not at all intimidated by her.
“I’m sorry if I overstepped my bounds.”
“It’s all right. We needed to set the limits. I do appreciate very much all that you have done with the children, and I thank you from my heart.”
“I was happy to help.”
At that point, Hoss took a deep breath not realizing he had been holding his breath for so long. He did it so loudly though that everyone turned to look at him.
“Sorry, but I didn’t know if there was gonna be a fight or not. I’m good at stepping in when there is.”
“No, need, Hoss. I think fire met ice here, and we have an understanding, no?”
“We have an understanding, yes.”
Offering his arm, Hoss took Linda outside for a stroll. Adam and Margarita moved to the settee where they could tell stories and answer questions for their father, Joe, and Jamie. When Hoss and Linda returned, they joined the group.
A week later, Adam took his family home but expected he would be back for a wedding not too far in the future. By following some of Miss Linda’s rules for the children, Margarita found she was able to keep them from creating disasters while still allowing them their creativity and curiosity. She and Adam did chuckle when they speculated on what type of children would come from a union of Hoss and Miss Linda.