Summary: Will love ring true for Adam’s secret admirer?
Rating: K (8,550 words)
“Well, hello little lady.” Hoss Cartwright greeted as a young girl rode into the courtyard of the Ponderosa ranch house. “Where did you come from?”
“I came from over there.” The girl pointed. “My mother and father and I just moved into the Spencer place. We came all the way from Boston!”
“Boston huh? My brother Adam’ll be happy to meet you.”
“Aw…he was born back East is all. Went to school there too.”
Hoss had just finished shoeing his horse. He set down his tools and wiped his hands on his pants and walked up to the girl to chat.
“That’s a mighty pretty pony you’re ridin’,” he said.
“Her name’s New England Lady, but I just call her Lacey.”
“Well, she’s the nicest dapple gray I think I ever did see – sure enough,” Hoss complimented as he gently stroked the mare’s neck. “What kin I do for ya?”
“My mother sent me to invite you and you’re family for dinner tomorrow night. She said it was a kind of a get acquainted sort of thing, seeing as we’re neighbors now and everything.”
“Well, that was awful nice of your ma. But my Pa and brothers are in Carson City and won’t be back ‘til Friday. But, I’ll tell you what.”
“On Saturday we’re havin’ a big party for my little brother’s birthday. You tell you’re Ma and Pa they are welcome to come. We can all get acquainted then. We can have supper at your place some other time.”
“Can I come to the party too?”
“Well sure you can. What’s you’re name anyhow?”
“Emily Lawsden. And you’re Hoss Cartwright,” The girl smiled impishly.
“How’d you know that?”
“I heard my mother asking about the Ponderosa in town. Mrs. Jason at the mercantile said there was four men out here. A father and his three sons.”
“Oh yeah? What else did she say?” Hoss asked inquisitively as he continued to rub Lacey’s velvety nose.
“She said Ben Cartwright is the Pa and he’s a big man with gray hair and that he is really, really contemptuous but nice.” The girl spewed innocently.
“Contemptuous… that means uppity,” she replied precociously.
“Uppity huh?” Hoss chortled. “Go on.”
“She said the oldest son is Adam and he’s very smart and that he’s contemptuous too.
“She also said he’s a tall glass of water but I’m not sure what she meant by that.”
“The youngest one is Little Joe and he’s a scamp. At least that’s what Mrs. Jason at the mercantile said.”
“My, my. She thinks she’s got it all figured, don’t she. What’d she say about me?”
“She just said you were a big fella. Like a bear. But a gentle bear,” Emily added with a smirk.
“Well, I guess that’s as good a description as any.”
“I guess so.”
“How old are you Emily?”
“I just turned thirteen last Tuesday.”
“Thirteen! You’re a grown up lady then huh?”
“I think I smell some cookies baking,” Hoss said as he sniffed the air like a hound. “Do you want to go into the kitchen and steal some from old Hop Sing?”
“Sure. But, what’s a Hop Sing?”
“Well he’s not a what. He’s a who. Hop Sing’s our cook. And he’s an ornery one, so’s we got to be quiet alright?”
Emily dismounted and Hoss took her hand as they tiptoed toward the house. She was tiny for thirteen – all freckles and pigtails. Her eyes were much like Hoss’. They were clear and bright – as blue as the waters of Lake Tahoe. When she grinned, dimples dented her cheeks and her giggle was as sweet as maple syrup.
The twosome cracked the door open and Hoss peered in to make sure Hop Sing was nowhere in sight. The coast was clear and he waved Emily into the house. The cookies had just been taken from the oven and the aroma they emitted was heavenly. But, as soon as Hoss swiped several from the sheet, Hop Sing appeared like a cougar out of nowhere and Hoss dropped them on the floor.
“Dad burn it!” He cussed.
“Mr. Hoss! You no take cookie. Dohs are for aftah dinnah,” he raged. “You go outside and stay out of Hop Sing’s kitchen!”
“Okay… okay Hop Sing. I was just braggin’ to little Emily here about what a good baker you are,” Hoss stuttered, fearful the Chinaman might hit him.
Hop Sing then noticed the child, who’d taken cover behind Hoss’ giant frame. He took several cookies from the pan and handed them to her.
“Here you go, little missy.”
“Thank you,” she said politely.
“Hey!” Hoss protested. “How come she can have some and I c’ain’t?”
“Cause you big boy and she little girl. Big boys don’t get cookie until aftah dinnah!”
“Awe heck,” Hoss pouted. “Come on Emily, I’ll ride home with you and invite you’re Ma and Pa to Joe’s party myself. I don’t want to be left alone with him anyhow. What do you say?”
“That sounds just fine to me,” She agreed and then took a bite of cookie, flaunting the fact that she had some and Hoss didn’t.
Hop Sing finished chasing Hoss out of his kitchen, which made Emily laugh heartily. She mounted Lacey and waited for Hoss to get Chubb. Then the pair rode off to the Lawsdens.
“What is that stench?” Adam queried as he poked his head into Little Joe’s bedroom.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it smells like a dead animal in here. What is that stuff?”
“I bought this hair tonic when we were in Carson City and it cost me a whole day’s pay. It’s from Paris, France!”
“Paris, France huh?”
“Well, wash it off. We want our guests to stay for the party not run for the hills.”
“Aw, cut it out Adam. It’s not that bad.”
“Take my word for it, Joe.” Adam crinkled his nose and waved his hand in front of his face. “It’s bad.”
“Well, I like it.”
“There’s an awful lot of pretty girls coming tonight, and I’m telling you, you’re gonna to scare them off smelling like that.”
“Not possible brother,” Joe said as he finished his grooming regiment. “Not possible.”
Adam cleared his throat to change the subject and dug into his pocket producing a small, plain box. “Here,” he murmured shyly as he passed it to his brother.
“It’s your birthday present.” Adam crossed his arms. “What do you think it is?”
“Oh.” Joe sounded leery. “I hope it’s better then that horse brush you got me last year.” He jabbed expecting yet another humble offering.
Joe took the box that was wrapped with a simple blue ribbon. He slid it off and pried open the lid. His eyes widened when he saw what was inside. “Adam… I…”
“I had it made for you. Do you like it?”
“Yes. Yes… I do.” Joe stuttered taken aback by his brother’s generosity. “It’s…too much Adam.”
“Well it is your twenty-first birthday. You’re officially a man now. At least this is something that WILL impress the ladies.”
“It sure will. Can I wear it?”
“Well of course you can. That’s what it’s for isn’t it?” Adam chuckled as he playfully patted his brother on the shoulder.
Joe pulled his new silver belt buckle out of its box. Emblazoned on it were the letters “JC” in gold. The tooling that graced the oval face was deep and intricate and sparkled in the lamplight. A band of gold roping encircled it. It was a thing of beauty and very dear.
“I love it Adam. Thank you so much.”
“You are so welcome,” Adam answered pleasantly – pleased that Joe was happy with his choice. “Now, get a move on and get downstairs. Pa and Hoss are waiting and we want to be ready when the guests arrive.”
“I’ll be right down.”
“Good,” Adam said as he turned to leave. He stopped at the door and looked back at Joe who gazed at his new treasure in disbelief. “So, you’re not going to reconsider removing the cologne?”
“Is it really that bad?” Joe asked, his face scrunched.
“Well, all right then Adam. If you think I should.”
“I do,” he confirmed. “Next time you’re thinking about spending a day’s pay on tonic, do us all a favor and don’t.”
Adam made his way down into the living room where his father and brother waited patiently. Ben and Hoss were always the first to be ready for such things. Adam usually took special care when primping for dances and dos. Tonight he wanted to look his best for Jane Fitzgerald who he’d had his eye on lately. Joe was always the last to arrive. He took the most time to make sure everything was just right. He appeared several moments later.
“Well,” Ben grinned. “You finally decided to grace us with your company, eh son.”
“Did you see what Adam got me?” Joe gushed as he showed off the buckle.
“Why, no.” His father said surprised his youngest son would want to bring attention to anything Adam might buy him. “Well, it’s very handsome. It suits you, Little Joe. Your brother is overly generous this year, isn’t he?” Ben looked over at Adam and got a modest shrug in return.
“Yeah, it looks real nice,” Hoss agreed scowling at Adam because Hoss had bought Joe something a little less extravagant – a new bedroll. “Here ya go little brother. Happy birthday.”
“Thanks Hoss. I sure do need a new one of these. My other one got eaten by moths.”
“Yeah, I know. You’ve been using mine ever since.”
Hoss’ comment made his family laugh. The foursome gathered around the center table and Ben poured each of his boys a glass of his best brandy. He raised his glass.
“Son,” Ben stated like he was at a preacher’s pulpit. “This is your twenty-first birthday. Welcome to manhood.”
The boys all clinked glasses and sipped their drinks. Then Ben handed Little Joe a package that was handsomely wrapped and it was accepted with enthusiasm.
Little Joe sat on the settee and tore the paper in every direction. Adam and Hoss looked on with interest. Joe broke open the box and he found a new rifle inside.
“Is this the rifle I saw in the catalogue, Pa?”
“That’s the one. It has a left-handed grip, too.”
“Thank you. I’ll treasure it.” Joe rose to embrace his father. “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had!”
“I think I hear our first guests arriving. Let’s greet them, shall we,” Ben announced as he guided his boys out the front door.
The outside of the house was decorated with Chinese lanterns and streamers. Hoss made a banner that read “Happy Birthday Little Joe” and hung it across the front of the house. The cool twilight gave the ranch a mystical aura. It looked like a fantasyland under a canopy of a billion stars. A side of beef had been roasting since the early morning and its aroma was salivating. The band Ben hired tuned their instruments making the courtyard sound like a theater house.
The first to arrive were the Sterns. They were the Cartwright’s oldest neighbors. Then Sheriff Coffee and a myriad of friends after that until the courtyard was filled with people laughing and dancing. The Lawsdens arrived without being noticed. When they’d settled their carriage Emily ran up to Hoss with her parents several steps behind her.
“Hello Hoss!” She said boisterously.
“Well hello my little gal,” he said and stuck his hand out to greet her parents. “Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Lawsden. How are you tonight?”
“Just fine Hoss,” Rachel Lawsden answered with a gleaming smile.
“Thank you for having us this evening,” Paul Lawsden said. “It’ll be nice to meet everyone.”
“Well, let’s start with my Pa and brothers,” Hoss announced as he scoured the party for his family. “I don’t see Adam but there’s Pa and Joe. Let’s go on over and say hello.”
Hoss led them across the courtyard with Emily skipping her way. She was beautifully attired in a robin’s egg blue dress and bright white pinafore. The ribbons in her hair were of silk and bounced when she moved. Rachel and Paul Lawsden were formally dressed – she in a dark purple dress with matching hat and white gloves, and he in a deep blue tail coat and satin vest with ascot. They looked every inch from the east.
“Pa. This is Mr. and Mrs. Lawsden.”
“Well, it’s very nice to meet you. Hoss has told me all about you. Thank you for coming.”
“Our pleasure Mr. Cartwright.”
“Call me Ben.”
“And this is the man of the hour, my brother Joseph,” Hoss introduced.
“How are ya,” Joe said casually shaking Paul’s hand and kissing Rachel’s.
“We brought you a small gift, Joseph.”
“Oh… well, thank you but it wasn’t necessary.”
“We insist. I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“Hey!” Emily protested. “What about me?”
“Sorry little lady,” Hoss apologized “Pa, Little Joe… this is Emily Lawsden.”
“Well, hello there, Emily. Aren’t you a lovely young lady,” Ben complimented.
“Prettiest girl at the party,” Joe gushed with a quick wink.
“Thank you,” she said as she curtsied primly. “It’s nice to meet you too. You don’t look very contemptuous to me.”
“EMILY!” Her father scolded, embarrassed at his daughter’s comment.
But it made the Cartwrights laugh.
“That’s all right Mr. Lawsden. Hoss informed me of Mrs. Jason’s descriptions.”
After her parents eventually saw the humor in Emily’s remark, they joined in on the chuckle then fell uncomfortably silent waiting for more small talk.
“Hey. Where’s Adam?” Hoss asked as he looked over the crowd for his older brother. “I’m sure he’d like to meet the Lawsdens too.”
“Well, Jane arrived and I haven’t seen him since,” Ben scowled.
“When he does show up, I’ll make sure you meet him,” Hoss insisted.
“Yes. It’ll be nice to see another Easterner. We’re a little intimidated by the west right now.”
“Oh. No reason to. People are people no matter where they live,” Ben assured.
“You’re right of course,” Paul agreed.
“Hoss tells me you have a nice dapple gray,” Joe mentioned to Emily. “Says it’s the best one he’s ever seen.”
“That’s right. Her name is New England Lady but I just call her Lacey.”
“Well, I’m pretty proud of my pony too,” Joe boasted. “Would you like to meet him?”
“Sure,” Emily answered enthusiastically.
Joe took the girls hand and led her to the barn to visit his horse. Ben and Hoss escorted the Lawsdens into the throng and began introducing them to everyone.
“This is Cochise,” Joe said while feeding his horse a cube of sugar. “He’s a good old boy.”
“He’s very nice. I like his colors,” Emily complimented then looked around the barn. “He’s a nice one.” She pointed. “Whose horse is that?”
“That’s brother Adam’s horse – Sport.”
“I love chestnuts. I’m going to have a chestnut some day.”
“Yep, he’s nice. Fast too. He’s part Thoroughbred.”
Joe was getting bored now and wanting to get back to the party and all the “grown-up” girls he was missing out on. He was convinced Emily was taken with him though. He was sure every girl was.
“Come on. Let’s get back to the party and I’ll get you a nice sarsaparilla.”
When they exited the barn Joe noticed Adam and Jane in a dark corner off to the side of it. The couple were in an embrace and quite oblivious of being sighted. Joe tried to distract Emily from the blatant display of affection between them. He ushered her away from them hoping she hadn’t noticed.
“Wow! Who’s that?”
“Who’s who?” Joe asked still focused on steering Emily away from Adam and his lady. “That’s Jane Fitzgerald.”
“NO, not her… him?”
“Oh… ah… that’s my brother Adam.”
“He IS a tall glass of water,” Emily stated starry eyed.
“WHAT?” Little Joe responded, surprised such a young girl would say such a thing.
“Mrs. Jason at the mercantile said he was a tall glass of water and I didn’t know what she meant but I know what she means now!”
“A tall glass of water?” Joe said still in shock.
“Can I meet him?”
“He’s a little busy right now Emily,” Joe dismissed awkwardly, “besides he’s old.”
“Old? What do you mean old?”
“He’s almost thirty! He’s like my second Pa.”
“So! What do you mean so?”
“So. I want to meet him… NOW!” She yelled loud enough to take Adam’s attention away from Jane momentarily, which didn’t exactly please him.
“She wants to meet him now, she can meet him now,” Joe mumbled to himself as he followed Emily over to Adam and Jane.
When they got there, Adam gave Joe a scowl wondering why he’d been interrupted. Joe knew better, but it seems he had no choice.
“Adam… Jane… this is Emily Lawsden.”
The twosome straightened up and courteously said hello to the youngster.
“Hello Adam,” she said accompanied by a perfect curtsy and infatuated grin.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Emily. Won’t you say hello to my friend Jane,” Adam introduced.
“Hi,” she said simply if only to please him.
“Well… maybe we’ll get a chance to talk later in the evening,” Adam said curtly as he nodded to Joe to get her away from him so he could continue with his previous activity.
“Come on Emily. Let’s leave the older folks alone.”
“Aw. Do I have to?”
“Yes, yes … you have to.” Adam demanded turning her gently towards Joe. “I’ll see you later alright Emily.”
“Well, alright.” She sounded disappointed. “You are a little contemptuous aren’t you?”
“What?” Adam said – his face crinkled with puzzlement.
“It’s okay… I like that in my men.”
“Let’s go Emily,” Joe encouraged, knowing full well Adam would have his hide if the conversation went on any longer. “Look, I think they’re getting my cake ready.”
“I’m coming,” She finally agreed. “See you later Adam.”
“Good-bye for now.”
When she and Joe melted back into the fete, Adam pulled Jane around to the side of the barn where no one would bother them. They picked up where they left off. They would join in eventually, but at this point cake was the last thing on their minds.
“Did you boys have a good time last night?” Ben asked as he took his place at the head of the breakfast table.
“Sure did Pa,” Joe beamed as he chewed noisily on a piece of toast. “Thank you for everything.”
“Oh. You’re quite welcome, son.”
“It was a nice party,” Hoss granted. “What about you Adam? We didn’t see much of you all night.” He winked at Joe who smiled impishly back at him.
“I was around” Adam answered with a smirk.
“Jane’s a lovely girl.” Ben knew exactly what his sons were clumsily hinting at. “You should bring her by for supper some night.”
“Ah… I don’t think so Pa.”
“She’s not exactly happy with me at the moment.” Adam sounded irritated. “As a matter of fact I’ll have to ride over there tonight and apologize.”
“In the doghouse huh, Adam?” Joe queried. “You’re not-so-secret admirer behind all that?”
“Admirer? And whom might that be Joseph?” Ben asked as he scooped several pieces of bacon onto his plate.
“Little Emily Lawsden.”
“Ain’t she something’? Cute as a bug’s ear… ain’t she a caution Adam?” Hoss taunted.
Adam stopped eating and looked up from under his brow. Emily had followed him around the entire evening and ended up being his dance partner for most of it. Jane got fed up and left early in a huff. The last thing Adam wanted to talk about was Emily Lawsden.
“Seems she’s interested in an older man,” Hoss jabbed.
“Oh?” Ben’s curiosity was tweaked.
“Yeah,” Joe chuckled at his brother’s misfortune. “Seems Adam here is a tall glass of water.”
“A what?” Ben explained. “What kind of talk is that?”
“You should have seen her, Pa. She just about yanked my shoulder out of its socket to meet him last night even though he was busy.”
“Busy? What do you mean busy?” Ben asked innocently.
“Nothing Pa,” Adam interrupted. “Nothing.”
“You call that nothing? I’d call THAT something,” Joe teased.
“So, that’s what she was going on about all night?” Hoss said. “She went on and on about how her new boyfriend was contemptuous and that she really liked that in her man.”
“All right,” Adam sniffed impatiently, “that’s enough.”
“Oh I don’t think so, Adam. We ain’t even started in on you yet,” Hoss chortled.
“Now, leave him alone boys,” Ben announced putting a stop to his son’s playfully ribbing. “Emily obviously has a crush on Adam. It’s perfectly normal. It’ll pass as soon as she meets some children of her own age.”
“I don’t know Pa. Adam’s a pretty hard act to follow don’t you think?”
“Are you two just about finished?” Adam asked tersely.
“No one could replace our older brother here …not where Emily is concerned,” Joe added.
“Okay, okay,” Ben hushed. “Let’s eat up now. We’ve got to get into town for supplies and I want to be back in time to repair those loft floorboards. I might even give you boys a hand.”
“Thanks Pa,” Joe chewed. “You know what they say?”
“What’s that, son?”
“Many hands… aren’t enough for Adam Cartwright.”
Ben, Joe and Hoss found the comment quite funny. Adam, on the other hand, just sneered.
Eventually the laughter died down and the foursome finished their breakfasts. They routinely went to the front door where they all put on their holsters and hats and went to work. When they got half way across the courtyard, they saw Emily exit the barn and walk towards them.
“Oh no,” Adam whimpered then turned to run back to the house. Joe and Hoss grabbed him by the arms and forced him to stay.
“Well good morning Emily,” Ben remarked putting his hands on his hips. “My, my, you are an early bird aren’t you?”
“Good morning Adam,” She said, ignoring Ben’s greeting.
“Ah… good morning,” Adam replied reluctantly as his brothers snickered under their breaths.
“I have a surprise for you,” She announced.
“Oh no… please no surprises. I don’t like surprises.”
“Awe, come on Adam. Let’s see what Emily has for you,” Joe joshed, giving him a patronizing slap on the back.
“You wait right here and I’ll go get it!” she gushed, excited to be in his presence.
“Kill me now,” Adam sighed with Joe and Hoss still holding him captive.
Emily ran back to the barn and took a few moments to get the “surprise” ready to reveal. The men waited apprehensively. When she exited the barn, Adam gasped and his father and brothers did everything in their power to stifle their laughter.
Sport had been tampered with. His mane, forelock and tail were braided to perfection and finished with pink and purple ribbons. His hooves shone like paten leather and his saddle had been embellished with bows. Bright yellow streamers hung from the stirrups. He looked like he’d been prepared for the Easter parade.
“Well, what do you think?” she queried, anxious for Adam’s approval.
“WHAT… have you done to my horse?” he said horrified.
“I groomed Sport for you. And… and I mucked out his stall and everything.”
Adam slowly approached his steed and circled him. He stared at Sport aghast – his mouth agape.
“I… I … you, I…” He searched for words trying desperately to restrain his temper.
He wasn’t exactly sure what he was feeling. It was a combination of rage and disbelief. He couldn’t remember ever feeling that way before.
“Now, Adam,” Ben said as he hurried toward his disturbed son, put his arm around his shoulder and guided him away from Emily. “Take it easy.”
“But… I… she…”
“Emily was just trying to help. She just wants to make you happy.”
“HAPPY!” Adam shouted.
“Shhh. You’re going to hurt her feelings,” Ben continued to walk Adam back to the house. “Now go inside and calm down. Take deep breaths son. She hasn’t done anything that can’t be undone. I’ll take care of this.”
“She… I… but.”
“Everything will be all right,” Ben reassured.
“I think Adam should ride into town like that Pa. After all, Emily put so much effort into getting Sport all gussied up,” Hoss announced with a devious snicker.
His comment made Adam clench his fist and purse his lips. He tried to escape his father’s grasp to get at Hoss and take out his frustration on him but Ben blocked his attempt. His ire only made his younger siblings delight in the situation. Poor Emily stood by Sport still holding his reins wondering why Ben had just guided Adam back through the front door of the house, closing it tightly. He walked back to confront little Emily.
“Boys. Get on into town.”
“But Pa… we…”
“GET into town please. Take the buck board and get what we need and get back here as soon as possible,” Ben ordered.
“C’ain’t we just…”
“AS SOON as possible… understood?”
Still giggling under their collective breaths, Hoss and Little Joe went into the barn.
“Didn’t Adam like my gift Mr. Cartwright?” Emily asked deflated.
“Emily. Let me tell you a few things about my oldest boy,” Ben began as he took Sport’s reins and the girl’s hand. He led them over to the corral fence to have a heart to heart with her.
“You see. Adam is set in his ways. He’s very… particular about certain things,” Ben outlined gingerly. “He loves routine. You know, a place for everything and everything in its place.”
“I’m not sure what you mean Mr. Cartwright.”
“What I’m trying to say Emily is, that Adam doesn’t like his things tampered with. He’s very… fastidious. Especially when it comes to things that are important to him. Do you understand?” he said gently.
“What does fastidious mean?”
“Well, it means fussy… very exacting.”
“I know you’ve gone to a lot of trouble. And it’s not that Adam doesn’t appreciate it. It’s just that, well… he’s a man and men don’t like their horses looking as pretty as you’ve made Sport look. They just like them to look, well, I don’t know… well like a horse!”
“Oh,” Emily repeated sheepishly.
“You run along now and I’ll go talk to Adam and everything will be all right. But Emily…”
“Next time you want to get Adam’s attention, maybe some flowers might be a better choice.”
“All right then.”
“NOT on Sport though,” Ben quickly redefined. “Keep away from Adam’s horse okay?”
“Of course Mr. Cartwright,” Emily replied matter-of-factly. “Sport would look silly with flowers all over him.”
Satisfied with Ben’s explanation of things, Emily turned toward Lacey. She mounted up and rode home leaving Sport in Ben’s trusty hands.
“Come on boy. I’ll get you … undressed.” Ben led the colorful steed back into the barn and began untying the ribbons and bows and streamers. Eventually, he was back to normal and Ben went back to the house to see if Adam’s blood pressure had lowered.
“Still upset?” Ben asked as he threw his hat on the side table by the door. He was not happy with the way his son handled Emily’s “surprise”.
“I don’t believe it Pa! Why me?” Adam ranted – his adrenaline still surging. He sat on the solid coffee table with his feet up on the fireplace threshold. His face was red. He was steaming.
“Now, now. Calm down. She just wanted to get your attention.”
“She got my attention all right.”
“Listen,” Ben said as he crossed the living room floor and leaned against the stone to face Adam. “I think you’re over reacting just a little bit, don’t you?”
“It wasn’t your horse that was turned into piñata.”
“No. No it wasn’t. And watch you’re tone with me.”
“It’s just that last night was a nightmare. I couldn’t get away from her. Jane was livid. I haven’t had anytime to spend with her… we’ve been so busy you know. And, well, last night I was really enjoying myself until Emily came along and ruined everything,” Adam vented then sighed feeling better he’d gotten it all off his chest. “She’s a good kid but…she’s a kid! Why doesn’t she pick on Little Joe?”
“Are you finished?” Ben asked after listening intently.
“Yes,” Adam admitted. “I’m finished.”
“Good. Can we go out to the barn and get the hay out of the loft so we can replace those floor boards while the boys are picking up the supplies?”
“Is she gone?” Adam inquired cautiously.
“Yes. She’s gone. I had a talk with her.”
“Wonderful.” He sounded relieved.
“Oh and I got all of the ribbons out of Sports mane and tail as well.”
Adam smiled and sniffed; now realizing the scenario was quite humorous after all. “Thanks Pa. I owe you one.”
“Don’t mention it, son. Tomorrow you can groom Buck and we’ll be even.”
“Pa. We’ll never be even,” Adam quipped. “You’re just too good to me.”
“Yes I am, my boy. Yes I am.”
Alright! Enough is enough!” Adam said with irritation as he descended the stairs into the living room.
Ben, Hoss and Little Joe looked up from the supper table to see what their brother was ranting about now. All they wanted to do was eat and couldn’t because they were waiting for him to join them.
“Is there a problem son?” Ben asked innocently.
“Well. What is it?”
“Which one of you thinks he’s funny?” Adam hissed.
“What are you talking about?”
“My room…” Adam exhaled, “is filled with flowers!”
“Oh no.” Ben whispered under his breath realizing he’d put an idea in Emily’s head that he hadn’t intended.
Hoss and Little Joe began to howl.
“What’s the matter Adam? They making you sneeze or something?” Hoss asked sarcastically.
“Ha, ha,” Adam was not amused. “Just tell me it was one of you two… please.”
“Nope. Wasn’t me,” Hoss denied.
“Not me either brother,” Joe added. “Haven’t had time to pick any flowers. Well, not for you anyway.”
“Do you mean to tell me that she…got into my bedroom,” Adam’s blood pressure was rising again as his family watched, “and filled it with a field of flowers… with out anyone knowing? HOP SING!!” Adam roared.
“Oh, Adam,” Ben said annoyed at his son’s volume. “You know Hop Sing would have told us if he’d seen anything… now simmer down.”
“HOP SING!” Adam bellowed again, ignoring his father’s irritation.
The Chinese scurried from the kitchen grumbling something about dinner getting cold, then glanced up the steps where Adam leered down at him.
“Yes, mista Adam? Why you yell?”
“Did you see Emily Lawsden in this house today?”
“No. Not today,” Hop Sing affirmed.
“Well, my bedroom is filled with flowers, oh no, let me be a little more specific… it’s filled with WEEDS!”
“I not see anything. I cooking all day.”
“Do you mean to tell me,” Adam panted, “that someone can just waltz in here, through the living room and up the stairs and into my bedroom with hundreds of flowers… ah weeds, without you noticing?”
“Yes, mista Adam… that is what I saying,” Hop Sing exclaimed then turned back into the kitchen mumbling about dinner being ruined.
“Boy oh boy, she’s really got it bad for you Adam,” Joe shook his head. “Can we eat now? I’m hungry.”
“Me too, little brother.”
”You’re always hungry.”
“Well, at least I’m consistent,” Hoss said drolly.
“You’re consistent all right. Consistently…”
“DO YOU mind?” Adam interrupted his sibling’s banter. “There are more important issues around here than food.”
“There is?” Hoss asked puzzled.
Adam did not take his seat at the table but rather threw himself onto the sofa like a spoiled child and rested his chin on his fist. It pushed his cheek upwards, almost closing his right eye. If he’d stuck his lower lip out any farther, he could have balanced a whiskey glass on it. He was exasperated.
“What am I going to do?” Adam muttered. “First the dance, then the horse…now the flowers… weeds.”
“Ahhh, I’m sorry, son,” Ben announced sheepishly. “I think I might have given Emily the wrong idea.”
“I mentioned something about flowers this morning to her, but I didn’t think she’d…” Ben spouted and then sighed giving in to his guilt. “I’ll ride over to the Lawsdens tonight and have another talk with her.”
“OH NO!” Adam put his hand in the air to reject his father’s offer. “No. I’ll take care of this myself – thank you very much.”
“Well, all right. But, I thought you were going over to apologize to Jane this evening.”
“Know what your problem is older brother?” Joe pondered aloud.
“THIS, I’ve got to hear,” Adam scoffed.
“You’ve got to date one woman at a time. Taking out more than one girl at once is well, it’s just plain dangerous.” Joe winked at Hoss who was enjoying every moment of Adam’s torment.
“I’M NOT DATING HER?”
“Oh,” Joe exclaimed. “Well, she sure thinks so.”
“Mighty contemptuous, ain’t he, Joe?”
“Emily loves that in her men.”
Again, the Cartwright’s yuked it up at Adam’s expense.
“Oh… well, you two are a big help, aren’t you. I can always depend on my two fine brothers to beat a fella when he’s down.”
“I’ll ride over there tomorrow morning and talk to her,” Adam resigned.
“Be gentle, son.”
“Pa, give me more credit than that will you? I know how to handle women.”
“I beg to differ, Adam. Contempt and woman do not mix.”
“I AM NOT… contemptuous.”
“If you say so, son. If you say so.”
Jane took Adam’s apology with grace. She was a graceful girl after all. They’d had coffee and cake and finished the evening with a stroll under the stars and a few kisses to boot. His impromptu date put Adam in a much better frame of mind.
When he finally arrived home, everyone was asleep and he entered the house as quietly as he could. So far so good. Everything looked in order. He entered his bedroom apprehensively though, but the coast was clear there too. Hop Sing must have cleaned all the foliage out for him. It was appreciated and Adam allowed himself an indulgent chuckle over the previous day’s events. He wearily pulled off his boots and tossed them aside. After putting on his nightshirt, he slipped into bed and with minutes he was fast asleep.
He’d had a restful night and awoke refreshed. He ate breakfast with his father and brothers like he did everyday and announced that he was off to see Emily. Another round of taunting ensued but Adam just shrugged it off. He felt confident and was much happier knowing Jane had forgiven him.
There were two ways to get to the Lawsden place. The first was by taking the town road but it would take twice as long. The second was much quicker but a smidge treacherous. There was a rocky pass to go through and some pretty high cliffs as well. It was a scenic route but hard on old Sport. Adam chose the ladder despite the risk.
As he weaved his way around the large boulders, Adam recited to himself what he was going to say to Emily. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was necessary nonetheless. He wanted to be firm with her but he didn’t want to hurt her either. Feelings were tender at her age and the last thing he wanted to do was say the wrong thing.
He’d made it most of the way through the pass and when he reached the edge of it, he could see the Lawsden’s home. It was quite a setting – like a painting. The cream-colored house had a porch that encircled the entire frame and beside it stood a very large, red barn. The buildings were nestled in the center of a vibrant green pasture with a spotting of trees perfectly placed by a higher being. The rising sun gave the homestead an orange halo. It was an idyllic setting – Eden like. The crisp fall air and morning mist combined to make the scene somewhat surreal. The colors were like none Adam had ever seen before. He stopped for a moment to take in its beauty. Then, he took a deep breath, asked Sport to walk on and continued his mission.
In the distance he could see a rider. It was Emily out giving Lacey her day’s exercise. He’d catch up to her and then they’d have a talk. After gingerly getting down out of the pass and onto stable footing, Adam galloped after Emily. She pulled up to see who was following her and was delighted to see Adam canter up beside her.
“Good morning Adam.” She greeted brightly. “Did you get my little gift yesterday?”
“Why yes, yes I did Emily… and thank you,” he said politely, slightly tipping his hat. “But, I need to talk to you about… well about us.”
“Us?” she squealed with delight – anticipating some sort of proposal.
“I mean you and me,” Adam tried to correct himself awkwardly.
“You and me?” Emily shrieked again.
“Look… ah listen… Emily…”
“Can we go somewhere and talk. How about that pond over there?”
“No?” Adam said a little taken aback. “What do you mean no? Why not?”
“We can talk right here. What do you want to talk about?”
“Well, if you insist.” Adam paused momentarily to try and organize the right words in his head before he spoke them. He didn’t have much luck. “It’s, well it’s about your – how shall I put this – it’s about the affections you’ve lavished on me lately. I’m… well, I’m just too old for you Emily.”
The young girl’s disposition immediately sank and she scowled.
“But, I’m thirteen… and I love you Adam,” she whimpered with a pout.
“Love me? You don’t even know me.”
“I know you.”
“Oh no… you don’t, you really don’t,” Adam insisted.
“But, I do and I can make you happy.” She retorted. “I know you’re fastidious and contemptuous but I can live with that… I love that. Oh Adam, we could be so happy together you and I,” Emily said dramatically.
“Now, look, Emily,” Adam was loosing patience. “Enough is enough. I don’t want to hurt your feelings but you’re just going to have to forget about me and play with children your own age.”
“Children!” She gasped. “I AM NOT A CHILD!”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“YES, YOU ARE,” Adam blared, fed up with the immature exchange.
“I don’t care what you say. I love you and I will make you love me!”
With her declaration still dangling in the air, Emily gave Lacey a smart snap of the whip and took off in a cloud of dust up towards the rocky pass.
“EMILY!” Adam yelled after her. “EMILY! IT’S TOO DANGEROUS UP THERE.”
It didn’t take much to get Sport back up to speed and he galloped after the girl over the pasture and into the foothills. Emily flew up into the pass throwing gravel and dust in Adam’s face. He continued to call after her to try and get her to stop but she continued on as if Pegasus was her mount.
She took the narrowest path possible – one that edged along a cliff like the lip of a coffee cup. It was no wider than a horse and a half. Adam had to slow up to continue the chase. Sport refused to take the route at first but Adam gave him a swift kick and he reluctantly moved forward. Emily was out of sight now and Sport again gave Adam trouble. The shear drop spooked the horse and he was hard to control. Adam continued to urge his mount on but Sport would have none of it. With a violent kick and a buck, Sport threw Adam sending him down onto the slim path and over the edge. He tried to cling on, grasping at anything that would prevent his fall. But the ground was too loose. He slipped down the side of the cliff trying in vain to stop his descent. He landed on a tiny ledge that stuck out of the rock like a balcony. It probably saved his life.
“Damn it!” he hissed.
He was unhurt, just some scraps and a bruise to his pride. After checking his body for damage, he suddenly realized he was trapped with no way up or down.
“EMILY!” he shouted. “EMILY, I’M DOWN HERE!”
He tried several more times but he was alone. He knew eventually Sport would end up back at the ranch, but that could take hours. He hoped Emily might back track when she realized he wasn’t behind her anymore. Surely, someone would come looking for him… eventually. It looked like he was in for a long wait.
“Great. Just great,” he muttered to himself.
He resigned himself to getting comfortable. Well, as comfortable as one could get on an eight-foot by three-foot ledge. He’d have to be patient and hang on until he was discovered. He was just glad he’d had a big breakfast. It could be a long time before he saw food or water again. With this revelation his stomach fluttered with anxiety.
“EMILY! HELP! EMILY!”
“Where is that brother of yours?” Ben asked Hoss and Little Joe as the threesome sat in the living room. Yet, another meal awaited them.
“I don’t know Pa,” Joe replied. “He left this morning to go to the Lawsden’s and I haven’t seen him since. Sure could have used his help loading hay today.”
“Yeah, ain’t it just like him to disappear when we’re bringin’ in hay.” Hoss agreed. “I know it ain’t the most fun job in the world but his horse eats too, don’t he?”
“Come to think of it,” Ben pondered, “he did mention something about picking up mail. Must have gotten tied up in town.”
“Yeah, or he ended up at Jane’s… again,” Hoss joshed.
“I think Adam’s as smitten with Jane as Emily is with Adam,” Joe added.
“Well, I guess he’ll get here when he gets here,” Ben sighed. “Let’s eat shall we, before Hop Sing throws it all away.”
“Pa! Don’t even say that. Dad burn it – don’t even think it! That’s just plum criminal – throwing away food. Besides, Adam knows when supper is and if he ain’t here, why should we have to suffer?”
“Suffer? Take it easy Hoss. Nobody’s going to throw away supper. Pa was just kidding.”
“Well, it ain’t funny. Ain’t funny at all,” Hoss scoffed as the threesome took their places.
“I’m sorry son,” Ben said as he laid his napkin on his lap. “How could I be so insensitive?”
“I don’t know Pa. I just don’t know.”
By the position of the half moon that hung in the sky like a glowing sickle, Adam figured it was about 3:30 a.m. and it was colder than penguin feet. He hugged himself and rocked back and forth to try and hold in some of his body heat. The wind had picked up and balancing on the rocky bluff was getting more and more difficult. He wanted so desperately to close his eyes just for a moment, but Adam feared he might fall off.
He’d shouted for help for what seemed like hours but to no avail. The only thing he got for his efforts was a sore throat. It just added to his discomfort. But, despite this, he sang to pass the time. The sound of his rich singing voice echoed through the canyon.
“The water is wide… I cannot get over…” he sang, “and neither have I wings to fly. Wings to fly?” He chuckled, “I sure could use a pair of wings right now,” Adam continued to entertain himself with the ballad.
“Sport’s got to be home by now,” he said aloud. “Guess I’ll have to wait until Hoss gets up and finds him. That’s only a couple more hours. I can do it. I can hang on for a few more hours. Come on Cartwright – show a little backbone,” Adam commented to himself with a loud British accent. “It’s not the end of the world old chap… I am getting hungry though. I sure could use some water,” he conversed, trying desperately to stay awake then he broke into song again. “Oh, do you remember Sweet Betsy from Pike. Who crossed the big mountain with her lover Ike. With two yoke of cattle, a large yellow dog, a tall Shanghi rooster and one spotted hog.”
“Adam up yet?” Ben asked his two younger sons who were yet again gathered at the breakfast table.
“I guess so, Pa,” Joe yawned without much interest. “He must be around somewhere, his horse is outside all saddled and ready to go… somewhere, I don’t know.”
“Well, did anyone hear him come in last night?”
“Didn’t hear a thing Pa,” Hoss answered.
“How could we hear anything over your snoring,” Joe sneered.
“Didn’t bother me, little brother. Didn’t bother me one bit.”
“Well, it bothered me. It bothers me every night.”
“I guess you’re going to have to sleep with ear plugs then Joseph,” Hoss resolved.
“I guess I’m going to have to sleep with ear plugs,” Little Joe mocked. “I think maybe you should sleep in the barn from now on – how about that!”
“I don’t think it would help,” Hoss snickered, unsympathetic to his younger sibling’s irritation.
“I don’t think it would help he says. Did you hear that, Pa?”
“Must we start every morning bickering? Now eat up and let’s get to work!”
“Get to work,” Joe mumbled under his breath as he shoveled a fork full of eggs into his mouth. “I could work much better if I had a good night’s sleep but I can’t sleep because I live with a …”
Hoss continued to chortle. They ate in silence for several moments until there was a knock at the door. It was ignored until Ben finally rose to answer it. He stormed toward the door irked at his son’s laziness. He opened it with a smile nevertheless.
“Well, good morning Emily. What can I do for you?”
“May I speak to Adam please?”
“I think he’s in the barn.”
“No he isn’t. I just checked there.”
“Well, he must be upstairs.” Ben guided Emily through the front door and into the foyer. “Joseph, check upstairs for your brother, will you?”
They all watched Joe mosey up to the second floor as Ben smiled uncomfortably down at Emily. She did not reciprocate.
“He’s not up here, Pa.”
“Well, he has to be somewhere,” Ben said exasperated throwing his arms up then letting them fall and slap against his sides. “I’m beginning to think the only one who made it back here last night was his horse.”
Ben went out to inspect Sport with Emily close behind him. Little Joe and Hoss followed.
“He looks fine to me.”
“Nope. Look at his rein,” Hoss corrected. “Left side is torn clear off.”
“What do you suppose happened?” Ben queried
“It can happen sometimes when the horse is running loose and steps on it.”
“Emily. Did you see Adam yesterday morning?”
“Well, when was the last time you saw him?”
“When he was chasing me up through the pass.”
“The rocks near your place?”
Without uttering another word, Ben and his boys rushed to the barn to saddle up and set out to find Adam. Emily mounted Lacey and waited for them. She’d lead the way.
He’d watched the sunrise. It was pretty, but Adam was in too much pain to notice. He’d been on his feet for over twenty-four hours and his legs were starting to quake. The muscles had seized and felt like they were in knots. His stomach rumbled so loud he thought it might be heard back at the ranch. He was so parched, it felt like his throat was coated with sand. Where were they he wondered? Why hadn’t they come for him? His thoughts were interrupted by the call of his name in the distance. Or, was he just imagining it?
“ADAM!” Ben shouted.
“PA!” Adam yelled back panicked that his father might ride right past him. “I’M DOWN HERE PA!”
Wrenching his neck as far as he could, Adam looked up the shear rock face to see his father, siblings and Emily staring down at him.
“Are you all right, son?” Ben inquired calmly.
“Yes, I’m fine… now get me off this ledge!”
“Well, how’d you get down there in the first place, older brother?” Joe asked patronizingly, realizing that Adam was not hurt but just cranky from his ordeal.
“JOE! Throw me a rope will you. I’m starving!” Adam did not see the humor in the situation at all.
“Well, I’m sure we can find something better for you to eat than rope older brother,” Hoss laughed.
“IT’S NOT FUNNY!” Adam barked. “Where have you been anyway? Didn’t you even notice that I haven’t been home? Help me… NOW!”
“All right, all right. Don’t get touchy.”
“That’s right Adam,” Hoss added. “If you ain’t nice to us, we might just leave you down there.”
“HOOOOOOOSS!” Adam bellowed, his fists clenched – his patience expired.
“Come on boys. That’s enough.” Ben too, found the scene quite comical but he knew Adam was on the edge… literally. “Let’s get him up.”
“I don’t think we have a rope long enough Pa,” Joe analyzed, “I’m going to have to go back to the barn and get a longer one.”
“I can get one.” Emily volunteered. “I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
Ben, Joe and Hoss all smiled at Emily’s suggestion and watched her mount up and take off down to her.
“Adam?” Ben called down to his cantankerous son. “Hang on. Emily’s gone to get a rope long enough to reach you.”
“My hero.” Adam seethed.
After several hours of engineering, Adam was finally rescued. As it turned out, the path was too narrow to use the horses to haul him up. There was also too much brush and scrub to throw the rope down cleanly. It kept getting caught, frustrating Adam even more. So, the three men lowered Emily down to hand off the lifeline. Then the twosome were raised up the rock by Ben, Joe and Hoss – hand over hand.
When Adam reached the top his ire seemed to vanish. He was just happy to be out of his predicament. He thanked his brothers and father and gave little Emily a delicate peck on the forehead. His affection made her tingle.
Over the next several weeks, Emily’s obsession with Adam waned to mere infatuation. He was much more tolerant of her and actually began to enjoy her company. He would always be her first love. She still dreamed of being with him, but she did eventually realize that he was a man and she was just a girl.
She did make friends at school and her surprise visits to the Ponderosa became less and less. Soon, she was nary seen and Adam missed her constant attention. He’d become used to it and the boost his ego. A year later the Lawsdens moved to San Francisco and Emily became a distant memory. He often wondered if she still loved him. In fact, she did and always would.