I love You, Adam Cartwright (by Barbara)

Summary: When Adam is badly injured, someone from his past is summoned to care for him.
Category: Bonanza
Genre: Western
Rated: PG
Word Count: 8,715


“It’s bad, Ben.”

“Bad? How bad?” The elder Cartwright asked with deep trepidation.

“Well, he’s going to need surgery on that leg if he’s going to keep it.”

“Keep it? What are you saying?”

“His leg had been snapped in two. The bone has been exposed. Infection is inevitable and I just don’t have the skill to put it back together.” Doc Martin explained. “I’m just a simple, country doctor.”

Hoss stood at the basin beside Adam’s bed. He was washing his hands after assisting in the gruesome operation of attempting to set Adam’s mangled leg. Hoss knew how bad it was. If Adam was a horse, they would have to shoot him.

Ben faced the doctor awaiting more details. He was speechless.

“I’m going to wire San Francisco tomorrow and request a surgeon. Hopefully, one isn’t too far away. It may cost a pretty penny, but it’s Adam’s only hope. He can’t be moved, and he has to keep that leg as still as possible.”

“Money is no object.” Ben replied stoically. “Whatever it takes. I’ll pay all travel expenses and his fee, of course.”

“Good. I’ve done what I can for him. The best I can. He’s heavily sedated and he must stay that way. But I have to make you aware that, this too, can cause problems. Morphine is very powerful. Men have come back from the war hopelessly addicted and that can sometimes be worse that the ailment itself. But we have no choice to take that chance.”

“I understand.” Ben said. His affirmations were short and staid.

“Adam is going to need constant care.” The doctor continued.

“We’ll take care of him.” Hoss piped up. “You can count on that doc.”

“I know you will Hoss, but he needs professional help. Care only a trained nurse can give. There is plenty to fight here. Dehydration and infection. So, I’m going to ask Emily Seaver to come and stay with him until the surgeon arrives and Adam is on his way to a full recovery.”

“Emily Seaver?” Ben commented with slight alarm. “You do know that she and Adam had… how shall I put this… issues.”

“Well, Adam’s romantic past is not my concern, Ben. His well-being is. He needs care and she can give it. Emily is the only qualified nurse in the Comstock.”

“Well… I guess, if she’s the only one… I suppose…” Ben stumbled.

“I sense you have concerns.”

I do, but if we have no other choice.”

“I’m afraid we don’t. So, you’ll prepare a room for Emily then, Ben? It could be for several weeks.”

“Yes, yes. Of course. Of course, I will.”

“I’ll see that she’s here first thing tomorrow morning. In the meantime, make sure Adam gets plenty of water, keep up the sedation, I’ll show you how… and lots of prayer wouldn’t hurt.”

“We’ll take good care of him until Emily gets here.” Ben assured. “Thank you for everything, Paul.”

“You’re welcome. As soon as I know when the surgeon can get here, I’ll let you know.”


That morning, Adam and his brothers were working a final small stand of timber. It had taken them several weeks to fill an order for the railroad. They usually hired a crew to help but there were simply no men available. The mines had them all employed for much more money than the Cartwrights could pay for felling a few trees.

So, it was just the three brothers working side-by-side as they had done so many times before. Whether it was driving cattle, mending fences, or bailing hay the boys worked well together. There was always that common goal of making their businesses prosperous and successful.

And, like any other day, it started early and ended late. They had gotten a lot accomplished as several dozen cut trees scattered the forest floor. The sun, still brilliant, was beginning its descent and the shadows of deep orange and purple started to creep across the landscape.

Adam, Hoss, and Joe were on the other side of tired and mightily hungry and were just about ready to pack up when Adam decided to work one last tree.

“Be my guest, older brother.” Hoss bowed as he gestured with his arm outstretched. “Age before beauty.”

Joe just stepped back and took a swig of water from his canteen and snickered at Hoss’ jab.

“You two stand back and I’ll show you how it’s done.” Adam boasted.

With a smirk, Adam started to take a few hacks at the final tree. Hoss and Joe watched while shouting out tips on Adam’s lumberjacking skills. Adam ignored the harassment and continued his relentless swings. But then Hoss noticed that Adam’s footing was getting awfully close to several downed trunks and tried to alert Adam to watch his step.

“Hey Adam – ADAM! Watch it. LOOK OUT!”

Before he could heed Hoss’ warning, Adam stepped back too far and lost his balance. His foot became wedged between two logs and he fell backward. The snap of his shin bone echoed through the air so loudly, it spooked a flock of crows out of the treetops. Then came the agonizing yelp of pain. The axe flew out of Adam’s hands and through the air coming very close to snipping off Joe’s left ear.

It was just a freak accident. It could have happened to anyone. Like falling off a horse, these things were somehow inevitable working on a ranch the size of the Ponderosa. Most of the time the injuries were minor, but in this case, it turned out to be much more severe.

mmediately, Hoss and Joe jumped to release Adam’s leg from the timber. More yowls of agony filled the air. They could see then and there that this was no simple broken leg. Once they gave first aid as best they could on the spot, Joe threw himself onto Cochise and galloped toward town to get the doctor. It was left to Hoss to get Adam home as gingerly as possible.

And now, here Adam lay. At home. In his bed. Fighting for his life.


Once they got Adam settled and a room prepared for Emily, it was lunchtime. Ben, Joe and Hoss wearily took their usual seats around the table. They had not slept all night and probably wouldn’t for some time yet.

Hop Sing placed a platter of sandwiches in the center of the table along with a pot of coffee and a blueberry pie. Simultaneously, the three men reached for the food and began to eat in absolute silence.

“I take soup up to Mr. Adam.” Hop Sing announced.

“Thank you.” Ben said quietly. “Try not to disturb him too much.”

“I be very, very careful.”

The atmosphere in the house was pessimistic. But even more daunting was the very large elephant in the room that no one seemed to want to talk about. The men ate their food with their heads down, only occasionally looking up to see if anyone was looking back. It took several moments before Hoss was brave enough to speak up.

“So, hmmm, Emily Seaver?” He said cautiously. “Do you think that’s a good idea, Pa?”

“Okay. Okay. I know. I know.” Ben interjected. “Emily is not exactly the best candidate to care for Adam, I know, but…”

“Best candidate.” Joe protested. “She shouldn’t be within 2000 miles of Adam, if you ask me.”

“That’s right, Pa.” Hoss added. “Don’t you remember what she did to Adam? She made his life a living… well, you know what she did. And she didn’t make our lives none too fun neither.”

“Yes Hoss. I am fully aware of that miserable episode of Adam’s life.” Ben said. “All we can do is hope she is over him. That she will treat this situation like a professional just like the doctor said.”

“Well, I’ll believe it when I see it.” Joe continued as he took another bite of his sandwich. “And, what about Adam? He certainly wouldn’t want her here. And he’s in no position to object. We must do that for him. I don’t want to be around when he finds out that the woman who tried to destroy him is now nursing him back to health. I just don’t think it’s right, Pa. I just don’t. The last thing Adam needs is to owe his life to Emily Seaver. If we let her treat him, he will never forgive us. He can’t speak for himself right now. So, I’m going to do it for him, and I say we don’t let her even set one foot in this house. Right Hoss?”

“I hafta agree with Joe, Pa. Adam sure wouldn’t want Emily anywhere near him. He’s defenceless up there. It ain’t fair to put him in that position without him even knowin’ what’s happenin’.”

“You’re right, boys. I know you’re right. But what am I to do?” Ben replied with sincere concern. “Adam needs someone to properly care for him or he could die. He could die, Joe.”

The conversation’s intensity was suddenly stifled by a knock at the front door. All three men stopped eating abruptly and stared toward it.

“Well, we may have just had our decision made for us.” Ben sighed.

“Pa.” Hoss warned. “You have to turn her away. You have to. That’s what Adam would want.”

Ben rose from his chair and took a deep breath before approaching the front door and opening it. There she stood. Emily Seaver. She looked so sweet. Her copper-coloured hair swept up into a perfect bun. A pale blue coat was draped over her immaculate white, nursing smock. She carried a satchel that looked quite heavy.

“Emily. Huh… hello. You’re here faster than we expected.” Ben said as he subliminally blocked her from entering the house.

“Well, Dr. Martin said it was urgent. That Adam suffered a terrible broken leg and needed care. So, I packed as soon as I heard and rushed over. May I come in?”

Joe and Hoss had gathered behind their father to see if he would ward her off.

“Well… yes, yes…. come in Emily. It’s… good to see you. Thank you for coming.” Ben stumbled over his words.

He couldn’t help but be a gentleman. It was just his nature.

“Hello Hoss. Hello Little Joe.” Emily said congenially.

“Hi.” They both said curtly.

The two boys turned to retake their seats at the table. They were disappointed that Ben would not stand up to her. He felt his son’s frustration without even looking at them. She and Ben stood face-to-face by the hall sideboard, she waiting for him to take her bag and him trying to find a way to ask her to leave. It was a standoff.

“We really appreciate your help Emily, but we think it’s best that we all take care of Adam ourselves.”

“Don’t be silly.” She insisted. “I’m a trained nurse. You men don’t know how to take care of an injury like this. Doc Martin says he could lose his leg. That he’s sent for a surgeon and I’m to care for him until he arrives. You do want the best for Adam, don’t you Mr. Cartwright?”

“Well, of course I do. We are just a little worried you may still have feelings for Adam. It was just last year that you and he had… how shall I say this… issues. Big issues.”

Both Joe and Hoss listened intently. Both looking at each other wondering if they should intervene.

“Well, yes.” Emily admitted. “We did have issues, but my feelings never interfere with my work. My sole purpose here is to give 24-hour care to a man who needs it. In this case, the man just happens to be Adam. What happened between us is water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned.”

Ben, his hands in his pockets, glanced over his shoulder at his boys. He wanted their approval. He hated being put in this position, but at this point, he simply had no choice. Neither Joe nor Hoss gave their father any sense of support. It was up to Ben.

“If you’re sure, Emily. If you’re sure you can put your past with Adam behind you and care for him in a professional way.” Ben stated directly.

“I am sure.” Emily said firmly. “You have nothing to worry about Mr. Cartwright. I will give Adam the best care I can give, and I promise you he will keep his leg. There will be no amputation on my watch.”

Ben cringed at the thought. He resigned himself to the fact that Emily was his only hope and that she would indeed, get Adam through this crisis.

“Well, come in then. We have a room ready for you.”

“I’d really like to see Adam first and make sure he is comfortable. I am sure he’s due for his medication. Once I assess the situation, I can better understand what I need to do. Then, I’ll settle into my room.”

“Boys. Please take Emily’s bag and coat and put it in her room. I’ll take her up to see Adam.”

Ben raised his arm and directed Emily toward the stairs. She removed her coat and dropped her luggage like a sack of flour. She promptly made her way up the to the second floor with Ben in tow. He sheepishly looked down into the dining room at Hoss and Joe who glared right back at their father. The atmosphere just got heavier.


Hop Sing was just leaving Adam’s room with most of the soup remaining. He looked up to see Emily walking toward him down the hall and he gave her a mistrusting look. He knew what she had put Adam through, and Ben couldn’t help but notice Hop Sing’s reaction.

When Emily and Ben entered Adam’s room, they found him sleeping comfortably. His breathing was steady and calm, but he was veiled in a glistening coating of sweat. She approached him and felt his forehead.

“He’s very warm.” Emily announced. “Please have Hop Sing bring up some fresh, cold water. I need to cool him down.”

Then she pulled back the blanket to reveal the injury and didn’t seem taken aback at all when she saw the nasty wound and the awkward angle of the bone. Without Morphine, Adam would not be able to bear the pain.

“This looks red and inflamed. I’m going to clean the wound and change the dressing and hopefully I can stop any more infection. Do you know when he was last given his medication?”

“Just before lunch.” Ben responded.

“No Mr. Cartwright. I need a time. An exact time.” She insisted.

“Oh. I will ask Hoss then.”

“Please do.”

Ben found Emily’s demeanor condescending, but he drew it up to her just being proficient. He left her to tend to Adam and went downstairs to join his sons.

“You didn’t leave her alone with him, did you Pa?”

“Just to ask you when you last gave him his medication.”

“Before lunch.” Hoss offered.

“No. I need a time. She says she needs an exact time.”

“11:30 or so.”

“Okay. I’ll go tell her.”

“Pa.” Joe said as he slowly approached his father. He stood next to him at the bottom of the staircase. “She shouldn’t be here. I just hope you’ve made the right decision.”

“I hope so too, son. I hope so too, son.”



Adam met Emily when he was on business in San Francisco. He was attending a Cattlemen’s Association Conference. He and Ben usually attended the annual event every year together but Ben had other business to attend to, so Adam was on his own. And he intended to enjoy every minute of his time away from the ranch. Besides the boring meetings, lunches, and dinners, they did have their festive closing event. It was a formal dance at the most elegant hotel in Town. Adam looked forward to it. It was always the highlight of the three-day convention.

It was at the dance that Adam and Emily met. That was the night Adam’s nightmare began. It was she who approached Adam for an introductory conversation. He was open to conversing with any young lady, but he was most impressed with her at first. Besides being attractive, tiny and bright, he was interested in her career as a nurse.

But Emily was not the only lady who vied for Adam’s attention that evening. He was drawn away by several women to have a twirl around the dance floor with him. After all, he was one of the most eligible bachelors in the Territory. Women seemed to line up to enjoy his company.

But, somehow, Emily managed to hoard Adam for most of the evening. She simply would not allow anyone else get close to him. She dragged him onto the dance floor yet again where she continued her interrogation.

“So where do you call home, Adam?” She asked sweetly into his ear so she could be heard above the band.

“My father, brothers and I have a ranch outside Virginia City.”

“That is quite a ways.”

“It’s not too far. There are people here who come all the way from the Mississippi.”

“I can’t really picture you as a rancher, Adam.”

“Well, this is the Cattlemen’s Association Dance.” He smiled. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a rancher.”

“I know.” She replied with a bashful giggle. “I just mean, you look so handsome in your white tie and tails. You look very dashing, not like a rancher at all.”

“Well, thank you. But I assure you, I’m just a regular, everyday cowboy. I would stand out like a sore thumb in this ballroom wearing my dusty, old gear.”

The music ended and Adam bowed slightly to his partner. He wanted to get away from her. He had other friends to see and more ladies to dance with. He didn’t like the fact that she was trying to hold him hostage.

“Thank you for the dance, Emily. It’s been a pleasure.”

“Been?” She said with great disappointment.

“Yes. I’m afraid I have a very early stage to catch tomorrow morning, so I’ll have to call it a night. It’s getting quite late.”

“Oh no. Stay.” She begged.

“Sorry. I have a few people I need to say good-bye to. And, then I plan to retire.”

He began to walk away but Emily stopped him and grasped his forearm firmly.

“Please stay for one more dance, Adam.”

“I’m really sorry. I have to go. It was nice meeting you.” He answered in the most gentlemanly way he could.

He smiled at her warmly then crossed the room to a circle of men who welcomed Adam into their conversation with vigorous handshakes and loud greetings. He had been coming to this event for years and knew just about everybody there and they all knew him.

By now, most people at the gala were slightly intoxicated and having lots of fun. Emily watched the group from afar. Their little party went on for almost an hour. Her ire started to flare, and she made her way closer to the gathering until she was standing right behind Adam without him noticing.

“I thought you said you had to leave, Adam.” She interrupted loudly.

Adam turned to see who it was and was taken aback by Emily’s boldness.

“Oh yes… I, I, I guess the time just got away from me.” He sounded somewhat embarrassed.

“I thought you said you had to get up early to catch the stage. That’s what you said.”

“Well, huh, yes… you’re right.” Adam said trying to remain cordial.

“Who’s this, Adam?” One of his friends asked. “This your wife? I never got an invitation to the wedding.” He joshed. “I’m hurt, Adam. I’m terribly, terribly hurt.”

The group of young men burst into laughter at Adam’s expense. All Adam could do was stand there and take the abuse from both Emily and his friends.

“I guess that is my cue, then.” He chuckled with awkwardness. “I’ll bid all of you good night. See you next year.”

“Sure thing, Adam. Don’t forget to pay mind to your old lady, now. Don’t want you getting into trouble.” His friends teased as they watched him leave the ballroom.


The stagecoach stood ready to go but awaited its final passenger. The horses pawed the ground in anticipation of their journey. Adam, bag in hand, ran toward the carriage knowing he was late.

“Thanks for waiting.” He said slightly out of breath to the driver. “I overslept.”

“We still got time.” The driver said passively.

Adam threw his bag on top of the stage and was just about to board when he heard his name being called.

It was Emily. She rushed toward him and into his arms. He was shocked by her overly dramatic display of affection. He pushed her back and held her at arm’s length.

“Good morning.” He said with mild irritation.

He thought he had made a clean escape.

“I just wanted to say goodbye.” She said. “And to give you this hamper. It’s a long trip and I didn’t want you to get hungry.”

“Oh. Well. Thank you very much.”

He turned to put the hamper in the seat of stage. When he turned to say a final farewell, she planted a passionate kiss right on the lips. Again, he was stunned, and he pushed her back.

“Okay. Well, thank you for the food.” He said. “Goodbye Emily.”

She did not respond as she watched him scramble into the stage and slam the door behind him. He couldn’t get away from her fast enough. The driver snapped the reins and the horses bolted. A cloud of dust engulfed Emily and Adam did not look back.


When Adam got home, life got back to normal. His everyday routine of ranch work was always comforting to him. He loved his life. But it only took a single week before a relentless stream of letters started to arrive. The address on the envelopes read “Adam Cartwright, Virginia City, Nevada.” That was the only information she had. That was all that was necessary. The letters were from Emily.

Ben couldn’t help but notice this sudden wave of correspondence, but never questioned Adam about it. He knew that if Adam wanted to share, he would in his own time. But one evening, after Joe and Hoss had gone to bed, Adam sat in his favourite spot to reflect – sitting on the coffee table squarely in front of the fireplace. Ben tried to concentrate on the book he was reading but it was time to talk.

“Anything on your mind, son?” He inquired tentatively.

“I guess you’ve noticed that I’ve been getting more mail than usual.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, yes I have.”

“The letters are from someone I met in San Francisco at the Convention a few months ago.”

“Oh yes. I see.”

“I met this girl there.” Adam explained. “Or, should I say, she met me.”

“And, I assume, because I’ve not heard you speak of her, you are not interested.”

“Not at all.” Adam confessed. “I’ve racked my brain trying to think of anything I said or did to make her think I was. But she has glommed on to me like tick on to a dog.”

“Sometimes women just decide who they want. You have little say in it.” Ben chuckled. “It happens to men too. Remember Little Joe and Emma Patterson? I thought he would never get over her. But he did… eventually.”

“I suppose.” Adam replied with little confidence.

“Don’t worry, Adam.” Ben assured. “These things tend to fade away over time. You’ll see that the letters will become less and less.”

“I hope so. Her letters are so, how should I put this, personal.” Adam squirmed. “I only spent an hour or so with her. I really don’t understand.”

“There is nothing to understand. It just happens sometimes. You’ll see. It will all work out.”


The letters continued with regular occurrence. For several months, they just kept coming and coming. Adam stopped reading them and he never responded. The fact that she was so persistence gnawed at him. He threw himself into work to keep busy and his mind off the woman who hounded him.

One morning, after breakfast, he and his brothers went into town. Hoss and Joe took the wagon and Adam followed on Sport. They had supplies to pick up and some banking to do. Adam needed a haircut; Joe wanted a beer and Hoss had a hankering for liquorice.

After they had all gotten shaved, boozed, and candied, the boys gathered at the mercantile to purchase Hop Sing’s shopping list as well as some feed. Just as they were finishing loading up the wagon, Adam heard that voice. It was Emily. Was he imagining it? No. She stood across the street from him, calling his name. He stopped in his tracks and stared in disbelief at his worst nightmare.

“Who’s that, Adam?” Hoss asked as he tossed the final bag of grain.

“It’s Emily.” He said fearfully.

“Adam! Adam!” She called as she stepped into the street and began to approach him.

“Who’s that?” Little Joe inquired as he exited the mercantile chomping on a cracker.

“It’s that girl that’s been pestering Adam with all them letters.”

“Emily?” Joe replied with shock.


“Oh boy.” Joe scoffed.

Adam had to stop himself from running away. But, felt somewhat confident with his brother’s there to back him up. They knew all about the letters. Emily sidled right up to Adam and embraced him. He did not reciprocate.

“What are you doing here?” He asked aghast.

“I live here now.”


“That’s right.” She continued. “This town needed a nurse so here I am. I arrived several days ago. Are you surprised?”

“Yes. Yes.” Adam said. “I am surprised.”

“Well? Aren’t you happy to see me?”

Adam didn’t know what to say. He turned to his brothers for help and Joe did step forward to break the ice.

“Hi Emily. I’m Adam’s brother Joe.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“That’s our other brother Hoss.” Joe gestured with his thumb.

Hoss tipped his hat. But she paid them little mind and returned her attention to Adam.

“Let’s go have lunch.” She suggested. “Then we can catch up. I’ll tell you all about my new career here in Virginia City. I’ll be midwifing and assisting Doctor Martin. It’s all so exciting. And, now I’ve met you again. Isn’t it wonderful!”

“Well, hmmm, yes… I guess it is for you, but we aaah, we have to get back to the ranch. We have a lot of work to do. Right Joe?” Adam fumbled for any excuse.

“That’s right ma’am. We’re very busy out there on the ranch.” Joe affirmed.

Adam smiled at his brother for his cooperation.

“Maybe another time, Emily.” Adam offered.

“Oh. Come on. I insist.”

She gave no time for Adam to refuse as she literally grabbed his arm and began dragging him down the street toward the Palace Hotel. All Hoss and Joe could do was watch. They felt helpless.

“He’ll be alright.” Hoss muttered. “Won’t he?”

Joe just shrugged and popped the rest of his cracker into his mouth.

“Should we wait for him?” Hoss asked.

“Nah. Looks like he might be awhile.”

“Well, don’t you think we should rescue’em?” Hoss asked with slight concern.

“I don’t think there’s much chance of that.” Joe replied. “I’m afraid he’s on his own. He can take care of himself. Let’s go home.”


Adam was truly irritated now. Emily made a spectacle of the encounter on the street and the people of Virginia City noticed. Adam felt humiliated. When he and Emily entered the hotel dining room, she asked the waiter to seat them. Reluctantly, he sat. But, decided then and there to read Emily the riot act. Enough was enough. The waiter handed them menus, but Adam placed it on his plate. He rested his hands on the edge of the table and interlocked his fingers. He took a deep breath before he began his speech. This was not going to be pleasant.

“Emily.” He said firmly.

“Yes, Adam?”

I don’t want to be rude, but I think, you think that we have some sort of relationship going here.”

“Well, yes, of course. That’s the other reason I moved here. Not just to be a nurse but so we could be together.”


“Yes. Don’t you know?”

“Know what?”

“I love you, Adam Cartwright.”

“Emily.” Adam said astonished. “We spent an hour together at a dance three months ago. How could you possibly love me? You don’t even know me.”

“I knew the first time I set eyes on you that you were the one for me. I just knew it.”

“Listen.” Adam retorted with serious intent. “And I want you to hear me. You are a lovely, smart, talented woman. And I don’t want to hurt you but, you are NOT the one for me. I don’t like having to say this to you. But I have to be truthful. I just don’t have the same feelings for you that you have for me. I’m sorry but this all ends right here and now. No more letters and no more surprises. Is that understood?”

Adam looked at Emily intensely and awaited her reaction. She stared back at him in solemn disbelief. She seemed stunned. It made Adam feel terrible and he had to look away.

“Well. Don’t I look foolish.” She replied as a tear flooded her eye.

“No. Not at all.” Adam said gently. “I’m very flattered.”

She did not engage in conversation any further and did not protest.

“We can be friends, though.” Adam offered. “Can’t we just be friends?”

Emily could do nothing but frown. She placed her menu on the table and slowly stood. Then without another word she left the restaurant in tears leaving Adam sitting there alone with the other patrons staring at him. Once again, Emily managed to make him feel embarrassed and ashamed. The whole episode made him feel sick. He too, silently rose and left the restaurant. He gathered up Sport and rode home.


“What was I supposed to do, Pa?” Adam ranted. “Marry her because she moved here because SHE loves me? The whole thing is ridiculous.”

“It isn’t to her, son.” Ben replied. “She’ll get over it. You’ll see. Just give her some time to digest it all. Stay close to home for a while and time will eventually heal her pain. Virginia City has plenty of young, single men. Maybe she’ll meet someone else.”

“I hope so.” Adam confessed. “I feel just awful. I really didn’t want to hurt her.”

“I know.” Ben empathized. “It’s not an easy thing to tell someone you don’t care for them but you’re right, she didn’t give you much choice.”

The four Cartwrights sat in the living room of the ranch house and watched Adam pace the floor. It was where they always gathered to discuss any issue that effected the family. Hoss and Joe didn’t say a word. They were happy to let their father spew advice.

Adam stopped his pacing and stood in front of the hearth. He placed his hands on his hips and bowed his head. He sighed heavily. His father and brothers felt his torment. Adam thought for a moment before announcing a decision.

“Well…” Adam declared. “I’m going to bed.”

“Yes. Get a good night’s rest. Things will look brighter in the morning.” Ben said.

His family watched Adam wearily climb the staircase and when he was out of earshot continued the conversation.

“Do you really think it’s over, Pa?”

“I’m afraid not, Little Joe. I’m afraid not.”


Over the next few weeks, Adam spotted Emily several times. He would be mending a fence in the middle of nowhere and there she would be off in the distance watching him. On several occasions, packages would arrive at the front door. They were delivered by some random kid or drifter. One hamper held a dozen moldy biscuits laced with flies. Another box was filled with rotten fish and then another an expensive bottle of cologne. It was bizarre. There was no rhyme or reason to it all. Sometimes malicious and other times delightful.

Of course, all the gifts were unmarked. Adam knew they were all from Emily but there was way of proving it. But, who else could it be?

One morning Adam entered the barn to start his day like any other. He found his saddle and bridle hacked to pieces with an axe. He immediately checked to make sure his horse was unharmed and thankfully he was.

But the last straw was after a week-long cattle drive. Ben and his boys arrived home exhausted and filthy. All they wanted to do was bathe and go to bed. All four of them dragged themselves upstairs when they were hit with a pungent stench. Adam opened the door to his room and found his bed covered in horse manure. His clothing was ripped to shreds and strewn across the floor. At that moment he experienced a mixture of rage, sadness, and fear. He was so tired and at his wits end. Who and what was he dealing with? That was it.

The next morning, he and Ben rode into town to talk to Sherriff Coffee.


Ben and Adam stepped up to the Sherriff’s office but when they tried to open the door, they almost collided with Roy who was exiting as they were trying to enter. All three men ran into each other.

“Well, this is something?” Roy stated.

“What’s that?” Ben asked.

“I was just on my way out to the Ponderosa to see Adam.”

“Oh? What for?” Ben asked suspiciously.

“Come on inside and take a seat.”

Roy stepped aside to allow the Cartwright men to enter. They did just as Roy asked and sat in the two chairs opposite Roy’s desk. The fact that the Sherriff was on his way to see him made Adam’s stomach churn. He just knew it would have something to do with Emily. He braced himself for what Roy was about to tell him.

“Well, I’ll get right to the point.” Roy began. “I hate to say this but there has been a complaint against Adam. And I can’t hardly believe it.”

“Let me guess.” Adam said. “The complaint is from Emily Seaver.”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“I know because she been stalking me for months. She has destroyed my property and made my life miserable. What is it now?”

“Why haven’t you told me about this before?” Roy inquired.

“We came into town today to do just that.” Adam replied with frustration. “So, just what is the complaint against me?”

“Okay. I’ll just come out with it. She claims you forced yourself on her. That you were less than a gentleman. She wants you arrested for assaulting her.”

Both Ben and Adam felt like they had just been punched in the gut. It took Adam several moments to recover from the insult.

“Roy.” Adam said. “How long have you known me?”

“Almost all your life.”

“And, in all that time, have I ever been accused of any such thing or even close to it? You know me. You know that I would never do such a thing.”

“That’s right, Roy.” Ben stated firmly.

“I’m just doing my job, Ben.”

“And just when and where did this so-called assault occur?” Adam inquired.

“At her home outside town.”

“I’ve never BEEN to her home. I don’t even know where she lives!” Adam raged. “I haven’t even been in town for weeks to avoid her! I swear to you Roy, I did NOT assault Emily Seaver! It’s quite the opposite, in fact.”

“Well, you say she has been harassing you. Do you have any proof?”

“I have witnesses. My father and brothers saw all the vandalism. She destroyed my tack. My father gave me that saddle on my 21st birthday. Roy, she broke into our house and filled my bed with HORSE MANURE!!”

“Why has it taken you so long to report this?”

“Because I honestly thought it would stop. But it’s just getting worse. I have hundreds of letters from her. I’ve received packages with spoiled food. She’s sick. She needs help. I guess I just didn’t want her to get into trouble. She says she loves me. I don’t know why. I met her once, months ago in San Francisco for only an hour. I can’t explain it. I’ve been living day-to-day just waiting for the next thing to happen. I’m afraid that someone might get hurt. And now this accusation? I can’t believe it!”

Adam stood and began pacing the room in an attempt to quell his temper. He had to expel his angry energy somehow.

“I have no choice in the matter.” Roy announced. “I have to hold you until the matter is settled.”

“Let me talk to her.” Adam asked.

“I can’t allow that.”

“Come with me Roy.” Adam pleaded.

“You have to give Adam the benefit of the doubt, Roy.” Ben said. “He has a right to defend himself. This is outrageous and you know it.”

Roy took a deep breath and pondered. Adam stopped in his tracks and made eye contact with Roy awaiting his decision.

“Okay. I’ll give you that. Let’s pay Emily a visit.”

“Let’s go.” Adam replied as he put on his hat and turned toward the door.

“Wait a minute.” Ben interjected. “You better stay right here.”

“Oh no. I want to have a little chat with that woman.”

“You are in no state to be anywhere near her. Now do as I ask and let me talk to her.”

“I agree with Ben, Adam. Wait for us right here. Understood?”

Adam knew they were right. The way he was feeling just might result in an assault if he came face-to-face with Emily. He removed his hat, threw it on the desk and let out an exasperated sigh. He retook his seat in a huff.

Roy and Ben left to confront Emily.


Roy and Ben rode over to Emily’s little, white cottage just on the outskirts of Virginia City. It was a pretty place adorned with flowerpots and a bright, red front door. They walked up the path and knocked.

They saw Emily peak through the drapes to see who it was then a moment later she opened the door. She seemed oblivious as to why she was being paid a visit.

“Well, hello Sherriff.” She said sweetly. “What can I do for you?”

“Good afternoon, Miss Emily. This is Ben Cartwright.” Roy introduced.

“Oh. It’s nice to meet you.” She said somewhat taken aback.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Emily. May we come in?” Ben said as he removed his hat. “I’d like to talk to you about Adam.”

“Well, I’m just in the middle of something, can it wait?”

“No. I’m afraid it can’t.”

“Oh. Alright then. Come in.”

Emily reluctantly opened the door fully. She straightened her hair and removed her apron.

“Would you like some coffee?”

“No. Thank you.” Ben replied. This visit was strictly business.

“Please have a seat.” She offered.

Both Ben and Roy sat on the petite settee and Emily sat directly across from them. She displayed discomfort and shifted in her chair.

“What is it you want to talk about Mr. Cartwright?”

“Well, Roy tells me you have accused Adam of assaulting you.”

“Yes. That’s right.” She replied defiantly.

“What exactly happened?”

“One evening he followed me home. He broke in and forced himself on me. I was terrified.”


“The day before last.”

“What time?” Ben continued the interrogation with directness.

Roy remained silent choosing to let Ben take the lead.

“I’m not sure.” Emily replied.

“Well, was it dark?”


“So, would you say after 7 then? Approximately.”

“Yes. I would say so.”

“Adam was at home with me and his brothers the night before last at 7. He was there all night.”

“Well, I could be mistaken about the time. But he broke in and attacked me.”

“Emily.” Ben said frankly. “Adam was never here. Was he?”


“Isn’t it true that you are just upset with Adam because he has no interest in having a relationship with you?”


“Haven’t you sent him hundreds of letters. Wasn’t it you who sent him all those packages and destroyed his saddle. Wasn’t it you who broke into our house?

“No. I did not. Yes, I wrote him letters. But he never replied. If he had just acknowledged me…”

“If he had acknowledged you, what…”

“Mr. Cartwright. I love your son. I would never do anything to hurt him.”

“Adam tells me you and he met at the Cattlemen’s Association dance a few months ago. He said that you spent less than an hour together.”

“Yes. That’s true.”

“It’s really been you who has been terrorizing him. Hasn’t it?”

“I just told you that I love him. How can anyone terrorize someone they love?”

“You tell me.”

“You have no proof of me doing those things you said. I didn’t send him any packages or cut up his clothes.”

“I never mentioned anything about his clothes. But yes. They were ripped to shreds too.”

Emily was caught. She started to cry. Ben rose and slowly made his way over to comfort her. His parental empathy overwhelmed him. He knelt beside her and placed his hand gently on her shoulder.

“Emily. When I was a young man. I loved a girl. She didn’t even know I existed. It was so painful. I did everything I could to get her to pay attention to me, but she never did. It took a long time for me to realize that she just wasn’t the person I was meant to be with. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t mean to be cruel. She didn’t know she was hurting me. That’s just life. It takes time to find the person you will marry, but it is not going to be Adam.” Ben said softly. “Now, if you really love Adam the way you say you do, then you will let him get on with his life without having to look over his shoulder. He will find his wife eventually too, just as you will find the love of your life.”

Ben cleared the tears from Emily’s eyes and lifted her chin gently. She stared at him sincerely.

“Will you love Adam and withdraw your charges against him?”

All Emily did was nod slowly and apologized. Roy was satisfied and he and Ben left her house. They rode back to the Sherriff’s office to give Adam the good news. Then father and son rode home.



Little Joe entered Adam’s room. It was his turn to sit with him. The accident happened three days ago. He, Ben, and Hoss helped Emily with whatever it took to keep Adam comfortable, clean and hydrated. His condition didn’t improve or worsen. They just hoped the surgeon would arrive soon.

Joe looked down at his brother fondly. Adam’s face was illuminated by the lamp light. It was very late, but Emily sat dutifully in the corner. She rocked back and forth while knitting a scarf. To Little Joe, she looked sinister. Occasionally, she would glance at Adam to make sure he was alright.

“I guess you know by now, that we will never let you be alone with him.” Joe said just above a whisper.

“Yes. And I understand.” She replied without taking her eyes off her wool.

“You shouldn’t be here, but I have to do what my Pa thinks is right.”

“I know.”

Little Joe sat as well. He seemed uneasy being in the same room with Emily. Silence fell over the room. Joe picked up a book to occupy his time but couldn’t concentrate. Several moments passed.

“Aren’t you going to sleep?” Joe asked. “You haven’t had much rest the last few days.”

“No. He needs his morphine every 4 hours so I’ll stay up with him. But that’s okay. That’s my job. I’ll catch up on my sleep once Adam is better.”

Joe seemed satisfied with that and made himself more comfortable then leaned over to wipe Adam’s brow.

“I will get Adam through this.” Emily stated. “You can count on it.”

Joe smiled at her weakly but was still very leery of her. He was very protective of Adam but especially in this circumstance. Adam was helpless. But, as it got later and later, Joe became more and more sleepy. The past few days had been taxing on the whole family. It was exhausting. He simply couldn’t stay awake any longer and eventually fell asleep.


The morning broke brightly. Sunshine flooded Adam’s room and washed over Little Joe who was still asleep in chair from the night before. He was awakened by his father who stood over him shaking him gently.

“Joe.” Ben said. “Joe, wake up.”

He opened his eyes and squinted the sun away. At first, he looked over at Adam and then up at Ben.

“We just got word.” Ben announced. “There is a surgeon in Carson City. He’s on his way. He should be here this afternoon. Come on, son. Get up.”

“Where’s Emily?” Joe asked.

“She’s downstairs. She’s getting everything ready. Come on. We need to get ready too.”


The doctor did arrive later that day and he and Emily did the surgery on Adam. It took several hours, and his father and brothers waited apprehensively in the living room. It seemed like the longest hours of their lives. But eventually the doctor descended the stairs to give the Cartwrights the verdict.

“He’s going to be fine.” He said.

“Oh. Thank God.” Ben sighed.

“I must tell you, if that young lady hadn’t been here to care for him, I’m afraid this would not have ended well. That was a very nasty break. She saved his life.”

“We know doctor. We were doubtful at first, but we know now that she has been a God send.”

“Now, you will have to wean him off the morphine.” The doctor instructed. “That will take several weeks. It may be the most difficult phase of his recovery.”

“His brothers and I will make sure he gets through the rest of this journey.”

“I must go first thing tomorrow morning, but I will leave Adam in Emily’s capable hands.”

“We just can’t thank you enough, doctor.”

“Not at all. I’m just glad I could get here in time.”


The next day, the Cartwrights bid farewell to the surgeon. He was off to his next patient in Placerville. He was in much demand and spent his life roaming the Territory whenever he was needed. As father and sons stood in the courtyard to wave goodbye, Doc Martin was driving his carriage in and stopped right in front them. The two doctors acknowledged each other as they passed.

“Good morning, Paul.” Ben greeted. “What brings you out so early this morning.”

“I’ve come to get Emily.” He said. “She is needed by three ladies in town ready to have their babies.”

“Yes. I suppose we have taken enough of her time. The surgeon just left. He says Adam is going to be okay. We can take it from here. He told us how to reduce his morphine safely.”

“Good. I’ll look in on him before I go.”

“You know…” Ben continued. “Adam wouldn’t have made it without her. We are so grateful.”

“She is a very good nurse.” Doc Martin reiterated.

“Indeed, she is. I should have never doubted her.”


Ben, Hoss and Little Joe were diligent in reducing Adam’s morphine and keeping his leg clean and stable. Within a few days, Adam was up and around using crutches. Within the week, he was feeling well enough to come downstairs and enjoy a meal with his family.

He had no idea that Emily was the one that got him through it. She had departed before he regained consciousness. Ben fully intended to tell Adam but was biding his time. He knew that Adam would be very upset, not only because Emily was in the house also because he was kept in the dark about it. When the moment presented itself, Ben would seize the opportunity. It just hadn’t happened yet.

“Well. It certainly is wonderful to have all my boys at the table again.”

“Sure is, Pa.” Hoss admitted.

“It was a close call, older brother…” Little Joe stated. “Couldn’t have done it without Emily.”

Ben scowled at Joe as Joe’s face soured. He scrunched his face when he realized he had let the cat out of the bag and peered over at Adam for his reaction to this revelation.

“What?” Adam said in disbelief. He swallowed his mashed potatoes hard and dropped his fork. “Emily? She was here? What’s he talking about, Pa?”

“I was going to tell you, Adam. I was just waiting for the right time.”

“Right time!” Adam raged as he struggled to stand. “Don’t you remember what she did? How could you put me in such a precarious situation! Who knows what she could have done. I was incapacitated. I was defenceless. How could you do that to me?”

“Now wait one moment!” Ben retorted strongly. “I had to make a very difficult decision when you got hurt. Doctor Martin told me that you would probably lose your leg. He said you might even die. He recommended that Emily care for you and she certainly did. You’re right. At first, I was worried, but I was wrong. The fact is son, you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. Isn’t that right boys?”

“Pa’s right, Adam. Hoss and I were not happy when he brought her here. But it’s true. She did a fine job.” Joe admitted.

“Adam.” Hoss said as he stood and approached his brother. He wrapped his arm around his shoulder to try and calm him. “It took all of us and Hop Sing too, to save that leg of yours. But she saved you. She was the one. In the end, Pa made the right decision.”

Adam let out a resolute sigh. His heart still pounded with fury, but he had to heed his family’s summation.

“I assure you son, Emily was nothing but professional.” Ben added. “She put what happened last year behind her and focused on making you well. She stayed by your side for days.”

“That’s right, Adam.” Joe said.

Adam exhaled deeply and then smiled with gratitude.

“I’m sorry.” He resigned. “I guess I have all of you to thank.”

“We’re a family, son. It was nothing more or less than you would have done for us.” Ben said. “Now, let’s finish our breakfast.”


One morning several days after he found out about Emily, Adam was left alone as his family went out to do some chores. He was getting bored. He had read all the books in their rather generous library and needed to get out. He needed some fresh air and decided to go out and pay his horse Sport a visit. Maybe he was recovered enough to give him a brushing.

With some difficulty, he grabbed his crutches and limped across the living room, and out into the courtyard to the barn. It left him quite out of breath, but he had to start somewhere. When Adam opened the barndoor he was stunned to see a brand-new saddle sitting outside Sport’s stall. It was a beautiful thing with deep, intricate tooling and embellished with silver conchos.

Adam approached it to admire it. Was it for him? A small card was stuck into the skirt. He pulled it out and could do nothing but smile with thanks and forgiveness. It read. “I love you, Adam Cartwright. I’m sorry and goodbye.”

***The End***

Summary:  Adam and Joe have a heart-to-heart about Marie.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  2633

Little Joe Cartwright lounged on his bedroll. He’d propped his saddle against a rock and used it as a cushion. He sopped up what was left of his stew with his last bite of cornbread and popped it into his mouth. He sighed with satisfaction. Tossing his tin plate to the side, he stretched and placed his hands behind his head as he exhaled a long, indulgent sigh.

“Older brother, you sure know how to make a great rabbit stew,” he complimented.

“Well, thank you.” Adam replied as he sucked on a toothpick. “Cooking isn’t exactly my forté, but I do my best.”

Joseph was 20 years old. He and his brother Adam, 16 years his senior, were traveling back to their ranch from buying breeding cattle in Yuma, Arizona. Usually, it was the middle brother Hoss, who accompanied either brother but just before the trip he separated his shoulder breaking an extremely cantankerous bronc. So, Adam stepped in to make the trek instead.

Hoss and Joe were a better match. They had a great deal in common and were closer in age. The youngest sons of Ben Cartwright shared great camaraderie and a wonderful sense of fun. They often found trouble and were notoriously rambunctious. Their devotion to one another was blatantly obvious.

Joe and Adam, however, rarely traveled together. Yes, they loved each other dearly but they didn’t necessarily like each other. If they hadn’t been half-brothers, they probably wouldn’t have been friends. To Adam, Joe was just an impetuous kid who needed constant discipline. Adam felt he was incurably immature – incorrigible. To Joe, his eldest brother was simply another parent. Adam was overly serious and authoritative and Joe always felt intimidated by Adam’s intellect. The pair were like chalk and cheese.

But, the auction in Yuma could not go unattended so Adam and Joe were it. Of course, they made the best of it and enjoyed each other’s company. They were usually congenial until they inevitably butted heads. Either Joe’s sensitivity or Adam’s stubbornness could ignite the smallest spark leaving the pair upset. The easiness that was always present in Hoss’ company was missing. Both men felt it. They always had. Their personality conflict was so old it now seemed normal. They were comfortable with being uncomfortable with one another.

“Did you have enough to eat, Joe?” Adam asked, as he too, sprawled on his ground sheet fighting fatigue.

“Yes. Thanks,” Joe answered as he glanced across the campfire at his brother.

Adam’s face was illuminated by the flames, making his complexion look like butter. His eyes were lazily half-open.

“Tired?” Little Joe asked, after he’d yawned himself.

“Very.” Adam smirked. “I’ll be glad to spend some time sitting in a chair than in a saddle. My saddle sores have saddle sores.”

Adam’s painful comment made Joe chuckle as only Little Joe could – like a chipmunk. But, he couldn’t agree more with Adam’s assessment. He shifted slightly to place his derriere in just the right position to avoid said tender spots.

The men settled into contented silence. Twilight had melted into night over the dry flatlands of lower Nevada. The soft mauve of dusk was now a deep indigo and the sky looked like blue velvet. Its texture was irresistible. Stars that an hour earlier were as faint as dapples on a pony had blossomed into a bouquet of what looked like a million diamonds.

“Hey, Adam?” Joe murmured over the cry of crickets and the haunting howl of distant coyotes.


“Where’d you learn to cook a stew like that, anyway?” Joe asked from beneath the brim of his tipped hat. He put his hand on his abdomen with gratification

Adam sat with his right knee bent up against his chest. He leaned his forearm casually over it, his empty coffee cup dangling loosely from the end of his forefinger. He pulled the toothpick from his lips and let his head bob forward as if it were too heavy to hold up any longer. He chuckled softly and shook his head.

“What?” Joe inquired quizzically, wondering what Adam found so amusing.

“Your mother taught me how to cook that stew, Joe.”

“She did?”

“Yes. She did.” Adam confirmed warmly.

Joe’s curiosity was piqued and he sat up and turned to face his brother. He crossed his legs and picked up a twig to play with.



“How come you never talk about her?”


“My mother.”

“What do you mean? We talk about her all the time.”

“Well, Pa talks about her; you never do. How come?”

“Oh, I don’t know Joe. I guess I’m… well, I guess I find it hard to.”


“Because I….”

“Because why?” Joe probed vehemently.

“Joe.” Adam said firmly, trying to halt the conversation before it accelerated into an argument. He rarely let his guard down with regard to his innermost thoughts and he wasn’t about to start.

“Ah, com on Adam. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you tell a story or mention any time with her.” Little Joe paused. “You didn’t like her, did you?”

“Now, what kind of talk is that?” Adam sounded annoyed.

“That’s why, isn’t it Adam? You didn’t like her because she was from the South. You never liked her because of her past.”

“That’s not true!” Adam blasted. “I never felt anything of the kind. Why do you insist on turning everything into a drama, Joe? Not everything is a drama. Some things are private, that’s all. You don’t have to know everything.” Adam expounded with ire.

“Tell me, Adam.” Joe insisted. “You hated her, didn’t you?” His tone was razor sharp.

“Now, that’s enough!”

“Why do you refuse to talk about my mother?” Little Joe pressed, breaking the twig into pieces.

“I have my reasons.”

“Well, what are they? I deserve to know!”

“You don’t DESERVE anything.”

“You did hate her. Why Adam? Why?”

Adam slowly sat up and placed his coffee cup on his plate. He could feel Joe’s glare burning like a branding iron into his skin. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Adam leaned back onto his side and faced his brother.

“Look Joe. And listen to me very carefully,” Adam said evenly, “I loved your mother. I loved her very much and I don’t appreciate being accused of hatred… toward anyone, especially Pa’s wife.”

Little Joe’s posture sagged. He sheepishly continued to play with twigs, kneading them humbly. He stared down at them, ashamed to make eye contact.

“I’m… I’m sorry, Adam.” Joe sniffed.

“Apology accepted. Now let’s get some sleep, shall we?”

Joe seemed satisfied with that for the moment and lay back onto his saddle. It creaked as he adjusted himself into a comfortable position. He stared into the heavens and couldn’t help thinking about this mother. He could barely remember her. If it wasn’t for the picture of her that sat at his bedside, he’d have to struggle to remember what she even looked like. Of the three boys, Adam knew her best. He had the most vivid memories of Marie. Joe thought a moment longer, debating whether he should force the issue with Adam. Since the subject still lingered in the air like smoke, he decided that now might be his one and only chance to pump Adam for information. He decided to take the opportunity and again sat upright.

“Well, can you tell me SOMETHING about her?” He asked shyly. “Like the stew. Can you at least tell me the story of the rabbit stew?”

“Joe. I’m tired.”


“Tomorrow. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“No.” Joe insisted. “Now! I have to know now.”

Adam had turned over away from the campfire and was just about asleep when Joe jolted him awake with his query. He should have known his little brother wouldn’t let it go without an explanation of some kind. He’d have to expose at least one memory to settle him.

Stretching his neck over his shoulder, he looked at a seemingly desperate Joe. Adam groaned his approval and flipped himself back over like a trout on a hook.

“Boy, oh boy. When you want something, you just won’t take no for an answer, will you.”

Joe didn’t agree or disagree. He just threw an innocent glance at Adam as he anticipated what he was about to hear.

“OK… all right… the stew story.” Adam sighed with resignation. “It was before you were born. Pa and Marie, Hoss and I went on a hunting trip to get acquainted. Pa sent Hop Sing a wire to tell us he was bringing Marie back with him from New Orleans. They arrived several weeks later. So, the four of us packed up and off we went to spend some time together. I think I was around 15. Hoss was 7. Pa was so happy – happier than I had seen him in a long, long time.” Adam grinned with sentiment. “It was on that trip that she taught me how to make her grandmother’s rabbit stew. I caught the rabbit. I’ve never forgotten it.”

“I never heard that story before, not even from Pa.”

“It’s hard for him, you know.”

“You still haven’t; told me why though.” Joe stated boldly, not allowing Adam to divert from the subject.

“Why what?”

“Why you’ve never talked about her before. This is the first time I’ve ever heard you say anything about my mother.”

“Like I said before, I have my reasons.”

“Please tell me more. Don’t make me beg. I barely knew her, Adam. You knew her best. Won’t you even do that for me? Wont’ you even tell me about my own mother?”

“You’re not going to let me sleep, are you?” Adam muttered.

“Nope.” Joe grimed impishly.

“You’re a pain, you know that? A real pain.”


“Oh, all right then,” Adam grunted. “Better make some more coffee then.”

Joe almost leaped at the bag of beans and filled the pot with water from his canteen. He mixed them together and placed the pot over the flames. Adam watched the exercise as he stifled a yawn. He hoped the coffee might keep him awake long enough to satisfy Joe’s curiosity. But, he knew he might be in for a long night. Joe waited patiently for the coffee to brew and as soon as it did he poured his brother a cup and passed it to him.

“There you go.” He said.

“So, what do you want to know?” Adam asked casually.


“Everything? I can’t tell you everything, Joe.”

Joe thought a moment before he began his interview.

“Why is it so hard to talk about her?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Adam began. “I guess it’s because I’ve always felt guilty.”

“Guilty? About what?”

“Well, quite frankly Joe, I didn’t exactly make it easy for your Ma. When Pa brought her home, I wasn’t very nice to her. I never knew my Ma, you know and then when Pa married Inger I kind of thought of her as my mother. I don’t think I truly understood until much later in my life how much her death affected me. I loved her too. I took it hard… her death.” Adam reflected woefully. “Hoss never knew her. Only me. So, when Marie entered my life, I didn’t really welcome her with open arms.”

“What about Hoss?”

“Hoss? Oh, Hoss loved her right away and she him. But, not me.”

“Go on.” Joe said wide-eyed, intrigued by the tale.

“I remember the first time I saw her. She entered the living room of the house with Pa. I was so happy to see him but he didn’t pay much attention to me. Sure, he grabbed both of us up in his arms, but he was so taken with her, it seemed she was all he cared about. That’s’ not true, of course, but to a child who had lost two mothers already and was so dependent on his father like I was, it was hard.” Adam stuck out his lower lip and nodded as if his explanation was a new revelation.

“Can’t really blame you for that, Adam. But, why did you feel guilty?”

“Oh. I was bad. I was mean to her. I tested her and Pa too. And then you came along.”

“How did you feel about that?”

“Not very good, I’m afraid. Not at the time anyway.”

“And now?”

“Do you really need to ask me that, Joe?”

“No. I guess not.”

“So, it took a long time before I finally realized that I was lucky to have her. She loved me from the start, even though I was a terror. Then, just when we became mother and son… she died. It made me very angry. I was devastated. We all were. Pa was crushed. But, he had three young sons to take care of. So, he had no choice but to go on. He had to be strong for all four of us. Then to top it all off, after her funeral, I ran away. I was gone for days. It just added to Pa’s grief.”

“Why did you run away, Adam?”

“Well, like I said, I felt guilty about the way I treated her in the beginning. And, in hindsight, I think I just couldn’t bear to see Pa go through it again. I don’t know, Joe. I was young and confused. It was a trying time for me. It was for all of us.”

“Oh.” Little Joe said simply.

“So that’s it. That’s why I don’t talk about your mother. I don’t talk about Hoss’ Ma either. It’s been a long time but the scars are still there, you know.” Adam took a sip of coffee and paused. He hoped he had receive some sign of absolution from Joe.

“What about me?”

“What about you?”

“Well, it’s like you said. You never really liked me, did you?”

“Joe. I was 16 years old when you were born. The last thing I wanted was a baby around the house. You made a heck of a lot of noise, you know.” Adam jabbed, with a crooked smile and an affectionate wink.

“Ah, come on, Adam.” Joe smirked.

“I guess maybe I’ve always held you responsible for yet another tragedy in my like. I also had to take care of you when Pa was away on business. You tied me down, and you were a handful, to say the least.”


“No need to be, Joe. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. There were good times too.”


“Yes, really. Now, if there are no more issues you would care to discuss, I’d like to go to sleep.”

“You bet.” Joe replied. “You get some sleep, Adam.”

Joe watched Adam throw the dregs of his coffee into the darkness and turn back over, his back now heated by the fire. Joe heard Adam take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Joe had never considered his older brother’s youth and how much turmoil he’d endured. Joe remember all the times Adam took him to school, fishing and teaching him how to ride and rope. All the trouble he’d gotten into that Adam had smoothed over with his Pa. All the birthdays and Christmas’ they celebrated. No wonder Joe had always considered Adam another parent; he truly was. Suddenly, a feeling of warmth surged through his body and he finally leaned back against his saddle in quiet gratitude.


“Hmmm?” Was all Adam could muster.


“For what?”

“For being my brother.”

“You’re welcome.” Adam replied wearily.

“Sleep well.”

“I will as soon as you stop talking.”

***The End***

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2 thoughts on “I love You, Adam Cartwright (by Barbara)

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