Series: Adam In The Outback (8 of 16)
Summary: This is the eighth story in my “Adam in the Outback” series. Adam must deal with the fact that his little girls are becoming young women.
Adam In The Outback Series:
My True Love Hath My Heart – Part 1
My True Love Hath My Heart – Part 2
My True Love Hath My Heart – Part 3
Cartwright is the Name
A Son and Heir
The Country of the Heart
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 1
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 2
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 1
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 2
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 3
The Joys of Parents
Grow Old Along with Me
The Best is Yet to Be
Not part of the Adam in the Outback Series, but set in the same realm:
First, I must thank Vickie Batzka and Larkspur1 for reading over this manuscript and for their invaluable suggestions on how to improve the story. As always, I want to thank Joan Sattler for patiently answering my questions about all things Australian. A glossary of Australian and Welsh words and phrases is provided at the end of the story. Finally, I want to thank Lissa Brown for generously allowing me to use pansies and rosemary, the combination of flowers she used in Odyssey, in my story.
I am once again using some characters introduced in the Bonanza sequels since that’s where I got my idea of Adam settling in Australia: Bronc Evans, Buckshot, Jacob, Annabelle, Benj, Sarah, and of course, A.C.
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 1
It was a blistering hot Sunday in January in Cloncurry, Queensland, and the two male members of the Cartwright family waited impatiently for their womenfolk to finish dressing so they could walk to church together. Adam Cartwright Senior leaned against the doorframe, arms folded across his chest with his hands tucked high under his arms while Adam Junior (better known as A.C.) did his very best to imitate his daddy.
“Wanna go, Daddy,” A.C. whined. His features were an interesting combination of his father’s and mother’s: His eyes were the dark chocolate brown of his grandfather, Ben, but their size and shape were like his mother’s. He had Adam’s mouth and his high cheekbones. His forehead was high and broad like both parents’ but his firm chin with its cleft was a replica of his father’s. His thick black hair was wavy; a sort of compromise between Bronwen’s straight hair and Adam’s curls.
At age fifty-four, Adam was definitely bald although the hair that remained was as thick and curly as ever. His beard was mostly gray and he was now far-sighted so he needed glasses for reading. Apart from these changes, he had altered little during the seventeen years he’d lived in Australia.
It was his task to dress A.C. for church while Bronwen was in charge of the girls. He had brushed all the tangles from A.C.’s shoulder-length hair. (Bronwen refused to allow him to cut A.C.’s hair short until he was out of skirts, which they agreed would be when he turned three and that was a month away.) He had dressed A.C. in a tunic of white cambric, a pleated skirt of indigo tarlatan, black cotton stockings and black shoes that laced up. Now they were waiting as they did every Sunday for Bronwen and the girls.
“We just have to be patient, Jackeroo,” Adam now said firmly but with a smile. “It always takes Mama and your sisters longer to get ready,” and he hunkered down and gave A.C.’s neck an affectionate squeeze.
“That I don’t know,” Adam answered with a wry grin. “Ladies,” he called upstairs, “A.C. and I are leaving in five minutes with you or without you. The new minister will be preaching this Sunday and I don’t intend to be late.”
“We’ll be down in just a moment, Cariad,” Bronwen called down.
Adam smiled proudly as what his youngest brother teasingly referred to as his “harem” descended the stairs dressed in their Sunday best. First came nine-year-old Penny, who had slept with rags in her hair so it would be curly. She was a tiny, delicate little girl with her mother’s huge violet eyes and triangular face. Although Adam tried not to play favorites, Penny was special to him because of her resemblance to her mother, which was not limited to her physical appearance, for she had also inherited Bronwen’s uninhibited and impulsive nature.
Behind Penny was twelve-year-old Gwyneth, who at five feet six and a half inches towered over her mother and sisters. She was a thin girl and at this stage seemed to be all arms and legs. Adam smiled inwardly for his third daughter reminded him strongly of himself at her age. Gwyneth had her father’s naturally curly black hair and it refused to be tamed into ringlets. The riotous mass of curls flowed down her back just past her waist. She had inherited her father’s large, deep-set hazel eyes-hers so light they were almost golden-fringed by long thick black lashes. However, their beauty was somewhat obscured by her spectacles, for she had inherited her mother’s nearsightedness.
Bronwen and Miranda came down the stairs together. At fifteen Miranda stood five foot in her stocking-feet just like her mother and they had the same slender, fine-boned figures. There the resemblance ended, for Miranda was the image of her paternal grandmother. When she looked at the daguerreotype of Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright, it was like looking in a mirror. She was wearing a dress of pale blue crêpe de chine with fashionable leg-of-mutton sleeves that had been a recent birthday gift from her Aunt Matilda, who loved to sew for her four nieces and was delighted that Miranda had graduated from little girl frocks to adult fashions.
While Adam could no longer span Bronwen’s waist with his hands, a stranger would have found it nearly impossible to believe she had born five children. (She’d had to work harder after A.C.’s birth to get her figure back going for such long walks Adam was afraid she would exhaust herself.) Her black hair was beginning to show strands that were snow-white but at forty-four her face was still fresh and unlined.
Bringing up the rear was Beth, who would turn sixteen in three days. She was two and three-quarters of an inch taller than her mother and Miranda and while slender, her figure was more curvaceous. She was an exquisitely beautiful girl who had inherited the most attractive features of each parent. She was wearing a gown of grey and mauve silk moiré with large leg-of-mutton sleeves that emphasized her fashionable hourglass figure. She wore her raven tresses dressed back from her forehead over pads to give a bouffant style. She looked older than sixteen and Adam was torn. He was proud of her beauty, but at the same time he missed the little girl who used to run to him for hugs and kisses. Always at the back of his mind was the knowledge that in the not too distant future his little girl would be lost to him forever when she became a wife.
“Sorry we kept you waiting, Cariad,” Bronwen said with a slight smile while Adam shook his head.
“Why should this Sunday be any different,” he said dryly while A.C. said loudly, “Wanna go.”
“All right, A.C. bach,” Bronwen said with a warm smile as she reached down to take his hand and then he reached up to put his other hand in Adam’s.
They stepped through the doorway first, but Gwyneth and Penny saw their Uncle Rhys, Aunt Matilda and cousin, Llywelyn, waiting at edge of their front yard and they ran to walk with Llywelyn. Now that they were young ladies wearing their hair up and their skirts down, Beth and Miranda walked together with their parents.
“G’day,” Rhys said when they approached. Like his brother-in-law and business partner he was dressed in a suit and waistcoat made of broadcloth. He wore dark gray while Adam wore black.
“G’day, Unca Whys,” A.C. said with a grin.
“Don’t you look nice,” Matilda said smiling at him. Over the years she had become plump and her brown hair was liberally streaked with gray so she usually hid it under bonnets lavishly trimmed with lace, ribbons and feathers.
“What do you say to Aunt Matilda?” Adam prodded.
“Thank you, Aunt Tilda,” A.C. said dimpling.
“You’re very welcome,” Matilda answered with a smile. Then she turned to Miranda. “I just knew that color would suit you. Do you like the dress?”
“Yes, thank you, Aunt Matilda. It’s lovely. I’m still getting used to having such a long skirt and,” she glanced at her father and uncle and blushed prettily, “other things.”
Matilda then said to Beth, “You did an excellent job with those sleeves. I wasn’t sure if I’d like them, but now that I see them, I think they are very fetching.”
“It’s not the dress that’s fetching,” Rhys said. “It’s the young lady wearing it.”
“Thank you, Uncle Rhys,” Beth replied with a smile while Bronwen said tartly, “You are going to make her conceited. Remember, Beth, that ‘beauty is vain’.”
“Yes, Mama,” Beth replied in a longsuffering tone.
A.C. began tugging impatiently on his parents’ hands so they all began walking and soon they joined many of the other citizens of the town who were also on their way to church or Sunday school. The Cartwrights and the Davies sat in their accustomed pews toward the front of the church. Gwyneth and Llywelyn were considered too old for Sunday school now and A.C. was too young so Penny was the only child in the two families that didn’t attend church. Bronwen and Adam always kept A.C. between them and the three girls sat in their birth order with Gwyneth next to Bronwen and Beth at the end of the pew.
All the eyes in the congregation were on the new minister when he entered. He’s young, Bronwen thought, probably not more than twenty-four or twenty-five. Not handsome, but not unattractive either, Matilda noted. Beth and Miranda noticed he was of average height and average build with fine straight brown hair and large brown eyes. He’s Welsh, Adam observed, for he spoke with the same lilting accent as Dr. and Mrs. Davies.
After the service, Bronwen and Adam, who was holding A.C., joined the crowd wanting to meet Reverend Jones.
“Bore da,” Bronwen said with a smile, extending her hand to Reverend Jones when it was her turn to speak with him.
He responded with a beaming smile. “Bore da. Sut wyt ti?”
“Orgore,” she replied then added, “My husband doesn’t speak Welsh, so I’d better switch to English. I’m Mrs. Adam Cartwright, Reverend.”
“I am very happy to meet you, Mrs. Cartwright. And Mr. Cartwright, I presume?” the reverend added, extending his hand to Adam.
“Pleased to meet you,” Adam replied switching A.C. to his left arm so he could shake hands.
“I don’t want to seem rude, Mr. Cartwright, but your accent is unfamiliar to me.”
“That’s because I’m not Australian,” Adam replied with a slight smile. “I grew up in the state of Nevada in the United States.”
“Ah,” Reverend Jones said with a smile, “that explains it then. I’ve never met anyone from the States.” He smiled at A.C. “And who is this young man?”
“This is our son, A.C.,” Adam answered.
“His real name is Adam Junior but his sisters decided to call him A.C.,” Bronwen interjected. “Can you say g’day to Reverend Jones, A.C.?”
“G’day,” A.C. said dimpling and Reverend Jones smiled at him warmly. “Good day to you, too, young man.”
“I’d introduce our daughters but they seem to have disappeared,” Adam said. Then he caught sight of Beth. “Ah, I see our eldest. Beth,” he called, “come meet Reverend Jones.”
As Beth approached, Adam was gazing at the Reverend and he saw the expression on his face change from affable conviviality to guileless admiration. “Reverend Jones, allow me to present our oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Beth, Reverend Jones.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Reverend,” Beth said, offering her hand.
“No, the pleasure is all mine, Miss Cartwright,” Reverend Jones said warmly. He seemed to collect himself and Adam and Bronwen shared a smile at his faint blush.
“We’d love to have you dine with us today, Reverend, if you’re free,” Bronwen said.
“I’ve already accepted an invitation from the Reynolds,” he replied never taking his eyes from Beth’s and Bronwen and Adam shared another smile at his obvious regret.
“What about high tea?” Adam suggested his lips quirked up in a faint smile.
“I would love to join you then,” he replied enthusiastically.
They gave him directions to their house and moved on so other members of the congregation could speak with him. As soon as they moved away, they were immediately approached by Alf Hampton, the owner of one of the largest cattle stations in the area. Hampton was a stocky man in his mid to late thirties. He and the Cartwrights were mere acquaintances and because of the distance between his station and the town, both Adam and Bronwen were surprised to see him on a Sunday when the stores would be closed. He approached and asked to speak with Adam privately.
“Certainly,” Adam replied, his curiosity piqued. He gestured toward the back of the church, which was now deserted, and then he sat A.C. down saying to Bronwen, “You may as well start home. I shouldn’t be too long.” Bronwen nodded so he and Hampton walked away.
Once they were safely out of earshot, Hampton said quietly, “The matter I wish to discuss concerns your daughter, Elizabeth.” Adam arched an eyebrow but made no comment, so Hampton continued. “I’m asking for your permission to court her, and then, if she is agreeable, to marry her.”
Adam’s expression became a frozen mask and he said in a very quiet voice, “Are you aware that Elizabeth will be turning sixteen in a few days?”
“Yes,” Hampton replied. “That’s why I’ve waited until today to speak with you. I’ve had my eye on her for over a year now. I am a patient man, Mr. Cartwright, and I promise I will be a good husband to Elizabeth. She’ll want for nothing, I assure you.”
“And how old are you, Mr. Hampton?” Adam asked in the quiet voice everyone in his family would have recognized with trepidation.
Hampton hesitated a moment and then said stiffly, “Thirty-six.”
“In other words, you are more than twice her age. Old enough to be her father, in fact,” Adam said frigidly. “I am sorry, Mr. Hampton, but I withhold my consent. I wouldn’t consider allowing any of my daughters to marry until they reach eighteen.”
“I would be willing to wait,” Hampton said in a desperate tone.
“I am afraid time is not going to solve my chief objection, which is the disparity in your ages. Good day, sir,” and Adam walked away without looking back.
When he caught up to the family, he noticed Beth was missing. “Where’s Beth?” he barked irritably.
Bronwen raised her eyebrows at his brusque tone but answered calmly, “Bertie Haversham asked if he could walk her home. I said yes.”
Adam’s features twisted in a ferocious scowl, but then they relaxed. Bertie was only eighteen; it was highly unlikely that he was looking for a wife. Besides, what could happen on the walk home from church?
“What did Mr. Hampton want to talk about?” Bronwen asked curiously.
“I’ll tell you later,” he replied. “Did you tell Rhys and Matilda that Reverend Jones is joining us for high tea?” he asked, changing the subject.
After Sunday dinner, Beth baked two lemon meringue pies for that evening’s dessert while Miranda and Gwyneth washed and dried the dishes. Since Sunday was Nell’s and Mary’s day off, Bronwen and Penny dusted and polished the furniture in the dining and drawing rooms and the library. When all that was done, they rested briefly on the verandah until it was time to begin preparing high tea. Since it was such a hot day, Bronwen planned on serving salad with plenty of bread-and-butter and cucumber sandwiches. Miranda, Gwyneth, and Penny picked lettuce, carrots, radishes and cucumbers from their garden while Bronwen and Beth sliced bread and trimmed the crusts. Bronwen prepared the salad while Beth, Miranda and Gwyneth made the sandwiches and Penny set the table using the best lace tablecloth.
While the Cartwright women were working, Adam and A.C. were in the backyard playing. Sunday was their day to spend time together since Adam usually didn’t return from the mine until it was nearly A.C.’s bedtime the other six days of the week. First they played catch with A.C.’s cloth ball. When they tired of that, A.C. wanted to swing in the swing Adam had put in one of the gum trees when Beth was his age. Then they took a nap together in the hammock Adam had strung up in the backyard.
A.C. was not pleased when he learned he had to change clothes because they were having company. “Sorry, Jackeroo, but Mama is making me change as well,” Adam told him as he dressed him in a tunic of champagne-colored pongee and a skirt of chocolate-brown linen.
“I watch,” A.C. declared to which Adam replied, “Sure, if you want to. Then we’ll go downstairs and let Mama change clothes.”
A.C. watched his daddy change out of his cotton shirt and waist overalls into a shirt of crisp white linen and a pair of fawn pants made out of duck. Then the child said firmly, “Want pants.”
“You just have to be patient for a few more weeks, Jackeroo. As soon as you turn three, Daddy’s going to get you your first pair of knickerbockers. I promise.”
“What’s knickabockahs?” A.C. asked, scrunching his face up.
“They’re pants that big boys wear,” Adam replied with a grin, ruffling A.C.’s hair. Just then Bronwen entered.
“Oh good, you’re both changed. You can keep Reverend Jones company if the girls and I are a little late.”
Adam rolled his eyes but held out his hand to A.C. “Come on. Daddy’ll tell you a story while we wait for our guests.”
“‘Bout when you was jackewoo,” A.C. demanded.
Bronwen smiled as she watched them leave, hand in hand. She changed quickly into a dress of pale blue lawn. She frowned a little as she stood in front of the full-length mirror. The dress was rather old-fashioned. She’d been so busy lately sewing for the girls that she hadn’t made anything for herself since she couldn’t remember when. She certainly didn’t want to look dowdy, so tomorrow she’d go to the dry goods store and buy some material to make herself a new dress. She’d even make one with those leg-of-mutton sleeves, although not as large as the ones on Beth’s new dress.
The two younger girls were already in the drawing room, seated on the green and white striped settee with Adam and A.C. when she went downstairs. Penny’s curls were gone but she’d brushed her hair smooth. Gwyneth had braided her unruly curls into a single thick plait that hung down her back to her waist. She and Penny had both changed into short-sleeved frocks that were smocked at the waist and neck. Bronwen sighed as she looked at Gwyneth. She’d grown again because the dress barely came below her knees. If it were any shorter, her garters would be visible. Adam had also noticed the shortness of Gwyneth’s dress and even though she would only be thirteen this April, he was wishing that she could wear her skirts down so they did not display her long slim legs with their slender but shapely calves.
As Bronwen walked through the doorway, she heard a knock at the front door so she answered it and invited the Davies in. Like Adam, Rhys and Llywelyn were not wearing neckties, much to Matilda’s chagrin. She was dressed to the nines in a fashionable gown of deep blue satin trimmed with black velvet bands. Bronwen smiled inwardly for the temperature was at least 95 degrees and the dark-colored satin would be unbearably hot. They had been chatting for a few minutes when Miranda joined them, wearing another of her new outfits. Almost the exact moment she entered the drawing room, there was another knock at the door so Bronwen answered it
“Noswaith dda,” Reverend Jones said smiling warmly.
“Noswaith dda,” Bronwen replied with an answering smile. “My brother and his family will also be having supper with us,” she explained as she escorted him to the drawing room. “Mr. Davies,” the reverend said. “I should have seen the family resemblance.”
“There’s not much of one,” Rhys chuckled. “I take after our tad and Bronwen our mam.”
“Miss Cartwright won’t be joining us?” Reverend Jones asked in what he hoped was a detached tone as he sat in the vacant green brocade armchair. The other four adults exchanged knowing looks. Beth had made another conquest it would seem.
“She’s just late,” Gwyneth said and Penny added, “She’s always late.”
“That is an exaggeration, Penny,” Beth said from the doorway. She had changed to a gown of pale pink lawn trimmed with white lace and looked ravishing. The three men and Llywelyn immediately rose and A.C. scrambled off the settee when he saw his daddy stand up. Beth sat in the only empty chair, which happened to be the green and white striped side chair by Reverend Jones, who was having difficulty taking his eyes off her, to the amusement of her mother, aunt and uncle. Her father wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about the reverend’s obvious attraction to his firstborn.
They asked the reverend his first impressions of Cloncurry and then Bronwen suggested they adjourn to the dining room to continue the conversation. Reverend Jones had managed to take his eyes off Beth long enough to be impressed with the beauty of his surroundings. He appreciated the simplicity of the rooms’ design and decoration. So many homes he had visited in Britain had small windows and were cluttered with bric-à-brac so they felt dark and close. These rooms were light and airy, and because they weren’t crammed full of furniture and knickknacks seemed larger than they probably were.
“You’ve arrived in the middle of Cloncurry’s summer,” Adam commented as he tied a bib around his son’s neck while the others helped themselves to the food that had been set out on the buffet. “It’s something all of us have had to grow accustomed to except the children. Beth is the only one of them not born here in Cloncurry.”
The reverend looked at her inquiringly and she said with a smile, “I was born in Sydney, but I was only a few months old when I moved here.”
“My husband adjusted to the heat more quickly than the rest of us,” Bronwen added.
“That’s because we have deserts in Nevada that are almost as hot as the outback. However, our climate is semiarid and I’ve had problems acclimating to the amount of rain we get from November to March.”
“Oh? I’ve only been here three days but it hasn’t rained a drop,” Reverend Jones said.
“That’s normal,” Rhys replied. “But it might rain tomorrow and every day for a week. March to November, our fall and winter, we get very little rain and the temperature is comfortable.”
“There are a lot of poisonous snakes here that you have to watch out for especially if you’re going bush,” Llywelyn said earnestly.
Reverend Jones wore a totally baffled expression and Adam grinned. “Don’t worry, Reverend, you do eventually learn the local expressions. It’s taken years, but I understand most of them now. I even use them occasionally. Going bush means traveling in the outback, and Llywelyn is right about the snakes. There are black snakes, brown snakes and death adders. They all produce lethal venom. One the reasons our families have our dogs is that they are excellent at killing snakes. Our Lady had pups a fortnight ago. When they’re weaned, we’d be happy to give you one.”
“Diolch yn fawr. Thanks very much,” Reverend Jones said with a warm smile. “I’d like to have a dog.”
“You can have the pick of the litter,” Bronwen said.
They continued to eat and converse until Bronwen brought out the dessert and cut everyone a slice of pie.
“This pie is delicious,” Reverend Jones stated, a look of delight on his face. “I don’t believe I’ve ever had this kind before.”
“It’s lemon meringue. I made it using lemons from our own lemon tree,” Beth said in a pleased voice. “I’m glad you like it.”
“You made it, Miss Cartwright?”
“Yes, Beth inherited her mother’s skill with baked goods,” Adam said with a proud smile at his eldest.
“We usually sing after supper, Reverend, and we’d love for you to join us,” Bronwen interjected with a smile.
“Of course. After all, to be born Welsh is to be born with music in your blood and poetry in your soul. Next time I visit, I’ll bring my lap harp.”
“That would be wonderful,” Rhys said. “Our mother plays the Welsh harp, but none of us learned and I miss it.”
“Today we’ll make do with Gwyneth’s and my guitars for accompaniment,” Adam said with a smile as they walked down the hall to the library with its paneled walls and built-in bookshelves full of books. “If you don’t mind singing the English version, Reverend, why don’t we start with Men of Harlech?”
Reverend Jones had a light tenor voice that blended beautifully with Adam’s creamy baritone, Rhys’ dark bass and Llywelyn’s sweet soprano.
“Oh, that was lovely,” Gwyneth said with shining eyes.
“Yes, it was,” Bronwen agreed. “What shall we sing next?”
“Sosban Fach!” A.C. shouted.
“One of my favorites,” Reverend Jones said with a smile for the little boy.
“A.C. has learned the refrain,” Bronwen said proudly and Adam added with a half smile, “I’ve managed to learn it with him. I’m afraid that’s the only Welsh I’ve been able to master.”
“Yes, we let A.C. and Daddy sing the refrain on their own,” Gwyneth said and Reverend Jones grinned.
They sang several songs and then Adam said, “Gwyneth, why don’t you sing The Ash Grove for Reverend Jones?”
Gwyneth blushed a little and started to shake her head so Beth spoke up. “Come on, Gwyneth. You sing beautifully and you should let Reverend Jones have a chance to hear you.”
“Yes, come on, Gwyneth,” Miranda said.
Nervously, Gwyneth stood up and began to sing. As she sang, she forgot to be nervous, forgot about her audience and simply concentrated on singing.
“Child,” Reverend Jones said quietly, “Your voice is a gift from God, and he means for you to share it. I hope I can expect to hear you singing solos often.”
“I’d rather sing with my sisters,” Gwyneth answered honestly.
“Girls, why don’t you sing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau for Reverend Jones?” Bronwen suggested.
“I would love to hear them sing it,” he said enthusiastically.
The four girls stood-the two sopranos, Gwyneth and Beth, in back with Penny and Miranda, the two contraltos, in front-and sang, their voices blending harmoniously:
Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad,
Tros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.
Gwlad! Gwlad! pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i’r heniaith barhau.
The land of my fathers, the land of my choice,
The land in which poets and minstrels rejoice;
The land whose stern warriors were true to the core
While bleeding for freedom of yore.
Wales! Wales! fav’rite land of Wales!
While sea her wall, may naught befall
To mar the old language of Wales.
“You sing like the angels above,” Reverend Jones exclaimed, wiping tears from his eyes.
“We sing The Star Spangled Banner, too, ‘cause that’s Daddy’s national anthem,” Penny said gravely. “We’re half Welsh and half American.”
“We’ve been to the States, but never to Wales,” Gwyneth added.
“Rhys and I still have aunts, uncles and cousins living in Llanelli,” Bronwen said. “Our parents immigrated to New South Wales shortly after they married so neither our older brother, Bryn, Rhys nor I have been to Wales. Adam says maybe some day after he and Rhys have turned the mine over to Llywelyn, we can travel there.”
Reverend Jones nodded and then Rhys spoke up. “You were born in Wales, weren’t you, Reverend?”
“That’s right. But while your family comes from South Wales, mine is from the North. I was born in Dyffryn Nantile and my father and grandfather worked in the slate quarry. My parents wanted a better life for me and managed to save up enough money to send me to university and while I was attending, I felt a call to enter the ministry. I emigrated only a few months ago. If you don’t mind my asking, how long have you lived here, Mr. Cartwright?”
“Not at all. I’ve lived here in Cloncurry almost sixteen years (and Reverend Jones understood with regret that the beautiful Miss Cartwright couldn’t be more than sixteen then) but I lived in Sydney for about a year before that.” He stopped and smiled sweetly at Bronwen. “Australia’s been good to me. It’s given me my beloved wife, four lovely daughters and a son, who has been up past his bedtime.” He ruffled A.C.’s hair. “It’s time for you to be in bed, Jackeroo.”
“No,” A.C. said sticking his lower lip out in a pout.
“Are you and I going to have to have a necessary talk, young man?” Adam said in the voice all his children recognized.
“Don’t wanna go bed!” A.C. retorted loudly.
“I’m sorry, Reverend, but you’ll have to excuse us,” Adam said calmly, standing and reaching for his son.
“No. Please, Mama,” A.C. sobbed, looking at Bronwen with tear-filled hazel eyes and a wobbly chin.
“Cariad, couldn’t he-”
“No,” Adam replied firmly, picking A.C. up off Bronwen’s lap.
“Mama,” A.C. wailed piteously over Adam’s shoulder.
“I think I should be going,” Reverend Jones said. starting to stand up, but Bronwen said quickly, “Oh, please stay, Reverend. I’m sorry. It’s just that A.C. has become very willful lately, but he’s a good boy, really.”
“When he wants to be,” Penny muttered and Bronwen said sharply, “Penny, do you have something to say?”
“No, Mama,” she replied quietly.
“I had a thought,” Reverend Jones said brightly. “Would it be possible for me to see the puppies?”
“Oh, of course,” Bronwen said with a smile. “Gwyneth, why don’t you show Reverend Jones the puppies?” She saw the disappointed look on the reverend’s face and added, “In fact, why don’t all you girls and Llywelyn show him. And then I think we should sit on the verandah where it’s cooler.”
“Don’t wanna go bed!” A.C. wailed loudly as Adam carried him up the backstairs. “Not sleepy!” He began kicking and squirming, which only resulted in his father holding him in a firmer grip as he carried him to his room.
A.C.’s room, which was next to Beth and Miranda’s, was painted beige and his curtains were made of green, brown and blue striped chintz. His hooked rug and his quilt had the same colors. He had a low-post bed that was identical to his father’s bed at the Ponderosa. (Adam had made some drawings to show a local cabinetmaker what he wanted and then had the bed made of Queensland maple along with the chest of drawers and the wardrobe.) The room also contained a child-sized rocking chair that Adam had made for A.C. as well as one his parents used.
As soon as Adam and the screaming A.C. entered the room, Adam sat down on the bed with A.C. over his knees and administered two firm swats to his behind.
“Now, when Daddy and Mama tell you to do something, you do not talk back. Do you understand?” Adam asked, picking A.C. up and turning him so they were face-to-face.
A.C. nodded, tears falling down his cheeks. “I sowry, Daddy,” he said tremulously. “You love me?”
“Of course I do,” Adam replied gently and hugged his little boy. “Do you need any help getting undressed?” he asked A.C. quietly after the hug ended.
“Just my shoes,” A.C. replied so Adam helped him get his shoes off and then he got a nightshirt out of A.C.’s chest of drawers and handed it to him. “You go ahead and change and then Mama and I will come kiss you goodnight and I’ll tell you a story. All right?”
He went downstairs and discovered everyone was sitting on the verandah enjoying the breeze. “Reverend Jones didn’t leave, did he?”
“No. The girls and Llywelyn are showing him the puppies,” Bronwen replied.
“I told A.C. we’d come up to tell him goodnight and then I’d tell him a bedtime story,” Adam said quietly to Bronwen.
“We’ll make your excuses to Reverend Jones,” Matilda assured them while Rhys added in a teasing voice, “He’s not going to miss the two of you as long as Beth is here.”
“Rhys!” Matilda said in a scolding tone while Adam frowned. Bronwen rolled her eyes at her brother and, grabbing hold of her husband’s hand, she dragged him toward the stairs.
“You didn’t really hurt him?” she asked anxiously as they walked up the stairs.
He looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “Have I ever really hurt any of our children? I gave him two swats on his bottom that hurt just enough to let him know he is not to repeat that behavior.”
“You are so strict with A.C.”
“And you spoil him,” Adam replied evenly. “He is not even three years old and he cannot be allowed to decide his own bedtime, nor can he be allowed to defy his parents. He received exactly the same treatment his sisters did when they behaved in a similar fashion.”
Bronwen sighed. “I suppose you’re right, but he’s my baby,” she added as though that explained everything and he shook his head, his expression bemused.
A.C. had taken off his clothes and hung them on the pegs on the wall, and was carefully buttoning his nightshirt when they came in.
“Look, Mama. Look, Daddy!” he exclaimed proudly.
“You buttoned like a big boy,” Bronwen said, bending down to kiss his cheek and receive his kiss. Then the little boy knelt by his bed, and his parents knelt down on either side of him and listened as he recited his prayer. He climbed into bed and then Bronwen said, “Goodnight, A.C. bach. Mama will see you in the morning,” kissing him one last time before heading toward the doorway. She lingered just long enough to watch Adam sit in the rocking chair and begin the bedtime story.
That night while she and Adam were getting ready for bed, she asked what Mr. Hampton had wanted to talk to him about.
“That man had the nerve to ask for my permission to court Beth! He’s more than twice her age,” Adam replied, his brows drawing together in a scowl as he remembered the conversation. “Said he’d had his eye on Beth for more than a year just waiting for her to turn sixteen so he could approach me.” Bronwen shuddered at those words so he came and put his arm around her. “Are you all right?”
“I think someone just walked over my grave,” she answered with a faint smile. “But the idea of him watching Beth and waiting for her to turn sixteen disturbs me.”
“It disturbs me as well, but I made it clear that I would never consider her marrying a man twenty years her senior.”
“Now, ten years older is the perfect age,” she said with a smile and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him.
When they ended the kiss, he winked at her. “I don’t feel sleepy yet. How about you?” he asked as he began unbuttoning her nightgown.
“No, I actually feel quite stimulated,” she replied, caressing his back with her fingertips and reveling in the feel of hard muscle. He grinned as he lifted her nightgown over her head and tossed it on the nearby chair and drank in the sight of her body, as white and translucent as alabaster except for the rosy nipples on her small breasts and the dark curls at the juncture of her slender thighs. Then he slowly removed her hairpins and watched her silky ebony hair tumble down past her hips. He looked at her face and saw the violet irises were nearly swallowed up by the black pupils as they traveled slowly over his body. His waist had thickened but otherwise he had changed little over the years. “You are as beautiful today as the day we married,” she said breathlessly.
He dimpled. “And you keep stealing my line. Of course, it’s pretty obvious that I find you desirable,” he added with another wink, and she grinned smugly before he lifted her in his arms and carried her to their bed.
“G’day, Mrs. Cartwright,” Mrs. Broome said when Bronwen entered the dry goods store the next morning. “Here to do some shopping for the girls?”
“G’day, Mrs. Broome,” Bronwen replied. “No, actually I’m here to buy some cloth to make myself a new dress. I’m afraid I’m starting to look a bit dowdy.”
“I have some new taffetas and silks that just came in yesterday,” Mrs. Broome said displaying three bolts: one of bright magenta, another of electric blue and the third of vivid yellow. “These are produced with the new aniline dyes.”
“Oh yes,” Bronwen said, “my sister-in-law in the States has written me that they are all the rage.” She examined all three bolts and then decided on the bolt of magenta silk. She was dismayed to learn it put her over her budget, but she told herself it wasn’t too much over and Adam wouldn’t want her to look unfashionable. However, she decided not to bring the matter up until they were alone that night.
“I bought some cloth to make myself a new dress,” she said holding up the material and draping it so he could envision how it would look on her. “It put me a few pounds over my budget but I didn’t think you’d begrudge me a new dress.”
“Take it back,” he snapped, frowning at her darkly.
“Adam!” she said surprised at his tone. “I’m only fifteen pounds over my budget. I know we can afford that. Besides, I can’t take the cloth back.”
“Then see if Matilda would like it. The cloth is hideous and it doesn’t suit you at all.”
“Oh, but Annabelle has written that the new aniline dyes are all the fashion and I thought this magenta is lovely.”
“It’s hideous,” he repeated. “I don’t care if it’s in fashion or not. I’ll go to the mine a little late tomorrow and we can pick out some cloth together.” She frowned at him and he quirked his lips in a little half smile. “I’m sorry, Sweetheart, but I have a better eye for what suits you. Besides, you want to please me, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she answered slowly but any further comments she might have made were cut off when he placed his mouth over hers and began to kiss her thoroughly. As they kissed, his fingers were busy unfastening her dress so it slithered to the floor, pooling at her feet. Her petticoat was the next to go. He broke off the kiss then and looked at her in her lace trimmed white corset with the newfangled elastic suspenders supporting her stockings.
“I’m not against all modern fashions,” he added in a husky voice.
The next morning they walked into the dry goods store together and Mrs. Broome’s face registered surprise.
“I’ve come to buy some cloth,” Bronwen said, her cheeks pink with embarrassment. “Mr. Cartwright didn’t care for what I bought yesterday.”
“We’d like to look at some other fabric with softer colors,” Adam interjected.
“Of course,” Mrs. Broome said and she was obviously flustered. She laid out a bolt of light water green moiré, one of a rich reddish brown satin, one rose-colored silk and finally one of an antique blue taffeta. Adam draped the green, the rose and the blue over Bronwen’s shoulders, ignoring the brown. Both the women waited and after some consideration he said firmly, “We’ll take the rose and the green. Now I need to talk with Mr. Broome.”
Seeing the startled look on Bronwen’s face he said in a voice pitched only for her ears, “They’re my gift to you. They don’t come out of your budget.”
“What did you talk to Mr. Broome about?” she asked curiously as they walked home together.
“It’s a surprise,” he replied and she saw the twinkle in his eyes but knew it would be useless to try and worm the secret out of him. Adam could be as mysterious as the sphinx when it suited him.
“Don’t forget we’re eating at Rhys and Matilda’s tonight. She’s a dear to invite us so Nell, Mary and I can concentrate on getting ready for Beth’s birthday party tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t rain because she has her heart set on stringing Chinese lanterns in the front yard so they can dance.”
“I know. She’s so excited. Gwyneth and I have been practicing with Rob Anderson and I think we sound pretty good. Too bad we don’t have a fiddler for the dance though.”
Beth’s sixteenth birthday was clear, sunny and scorching. “I’m not worried,” she announced at breakfast. “It always cools off in the evening. Daddy, couldn’t we have one waltz tonight?” she asked pleadingly.
“You can have all the waltzes your heart desires on your eighteenth birthday, but this year only polkas and quadrilles.”
“I can’t believe you’re not going to school any more,” Miranda commented.
“I’ve learned everything I need to know from school,” Beth said firmly. “Dorothy and Mavis stopped going when they turned sixteen and Phyllis says her parents will let her stop then, too.” She looked tentatively at her father. “I promised Daddy I would read a book every week. School isn’t the only place to learn. With all the mathematics and Latin Daddy’s taught you, you probably know more than Mr. Clarke.”
“And that’s why we are thinking of sending Miranda to the Girls Latin School in Boston this fall instead of next,” Adam said thoughtfully.
“Fair dinkum, Daddy?” Miranda exclaimed and her enthusiasm was obvious.
“It’s an important decision, Miranda fach and you and I and Daddy need to think about it. I know you liked Mr. and Mrs. Alden and Charlotte, and Daddy was impressed with the school, but you wouldn’t see us for probably two years. It might be even longer than that before we could visit.”
“You will be homesick, Angel,” Adam warned, “but you’ll have to tough it out. Unless you are so miserable that you simply can’t stand it. Even then, you’d have to wait until I could come get you to take you home. It’s not a decision we can make lightly.”
“I know I’ll miss all of you, but it will be worth it. That’s how you felt about Harvard, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he replied slowly. “But it was hard on your uncles. Joe was too young to understand why I was gone and your brother will be even younger when you go.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Miranda said slowly. “You mean, A.C. might forget me?” and he nodded. She had never considered that she would become a stranger to A.C. and that thought was very depressing, but she’d be too old to attend college if she waited another six or seven years until he was old enough that he would remember her while she was gone. “I’ll be able to spend the summers with Grandpa and Uncle Joe and Aunt Annabelle. And I can get to know Benj and Sarah,” she said but her parents knew she was saying that to convince herself as much as them.
“We’ll think about it, and if we do decide then we’ll get in touch with the Aldens right away. It will also mean that we’d all be paying a visit to the Ponderosa this July or August.
“Hurrah!” Gwyneth shouted, earning a frown from both parents. “Sorry. But I really want to see Grandpa and Uncle Joe. And the station. I mean ranch. This time I’ll be old enough to ride a horse and not just a pony.”
“It’s not decided yet,” Bronwen reminded her.
Adam had arranged with Rhys to be a little late that morning so he strung Chinese lanterns from tree to tree and tree to verandah in their backyard with Beth and Mary’s assistance (and of course A.C.’s) while Bronwen began baking the birthday cake. Later in the day she and Nell would begin preparing the platters of bread-and-butter sandwiches while Mary and Beth made lemonade. Bronwen decided not to have A.C. take a nap in hopes that he would go to bed more willingly. (Since Gwyneth was going to be playing her guitar and helping to provide the music, Penny and A.C. had begged to attend the party as well. Adam and Bronwen had talked it over and decided they could watch from the verandah until it was time for bed, which for A.C. meant he could watch for half an hour. They told Penny she was responsible for her brother for that time, and then Bronwen would put him to bed.)
That evening the entire family hurried to change into their party clothes. The family had Beth’s birthday supper before the dance and then she opened her gifts. Matilda had promised ahead of time to make her a new dress for the dance and so Beth opened that gift first. “Oh, thank you, Aunt Matilda!” she exclaimed as she held up the lovely dress of white surah silk with leg-of-mutton sleeves, decorated with lace and. bands of pale blue silk ribbons on the high-neck bodice.
“Why don’t you open our gift next,” Adam suggested. “It’s from Grandpa as well.” Beth ripped the paper off the box and found a beautiful string of pearls.
“Oh Daddy, Mama,” she whispered and ran to hug and kiss them. “They’re so beautiful.”
“They were your grandmother’s and were intended for my oldest daughter,” Adam said in a voice that was a little unsteady, blinking back the tears that threatened to overflow. “Grandpa has been holding them in trust until you were sixteen.”
“Now you should open the gift from Tad-cu, Mam-gu, Uncle Bryn and Aunt Victoria,” Bronwen added as she dabbed at her eyes. She was beginning to understand how Adam felt. Suddenly it really hit her that her firstborn would be leaving them all too soon to start her own family.
Beth gasped in pleasure when she saw a pair of pearl earrings.
“I told them about your grandmother’s pearl necklace so they decided they would give you earrings to match,” Bronwen said smiling at her daughter.
“I’ll open Uncle Joe and Aunt Annabelle’s gift next,” Beth decided, and she discovered hair pins set with pearls.
“The last gift is from Gwyneth, Penny, Llywelyn and me,” Miranda said. “It’s not as nice as your other gifts, but I hope you like it.”
“My first silk stockings! Oh thank you!” Beth exclaimed beaming at her sisters and cousin.
“What I give Bethy?” A.C. asked in a tremulous voice, for he was feeling left out.
“I know just the gift I want from you,” Beth said smiling at him. “You come here and give Bethy a kiss, okay?”
“‘Kay,” A.C. said happily and ran to throw his arms around Beth’s neck and place a smacking kiss on her cheek.
“Do I have time to change?” she asked her mother. “I’d like to wear my new dress to the party.”
“If your aunt and I help, I think you can make it,” Bronwen replied with a smile. “Adam, could you ask Nell to put the sandwiches and the lemonade out in the dining room? And Miranda, you’re in charge of A.C.”
Adam nodded and then said to Gwyneth, “We’d better tune our guitars.”
“You look very pretty tonight, Punkin,” he said with a smile as they tuned their guitars. Since Matilda loved to sew, she had made the two younger girls new party dresses. Gwyneth’s dress of sprigged muslin had short puffed sleeves, and it was smocked at the waist and neck. Her black curls tumbled down her back to her hips and Adam realized he would be glad when she could pin them up because they looked wanton the way they flowed down her back.
Gwyneth smiled happily at her daddy’s words and he felt a little guilty that he didn’t praise her more often. She was his quiet girl who never put herself forward. She was sweet and thoughtful but those weren’t virtues that made her stand out from her sisters. Beth’s beauty immediately made her the center of attention while Miranda’s intellect set her apart. Penny was so extroverted and so appealing that everyone noticed her. Gwyneth, however, tended to fade into the background. She did have one outstanding gift: her music. Her voice was absolutely glorious and she was a talented guitarist as well. But she was so shy that it was really only her family that knew how gifted she was. Suddenly he had an idea how he could demonstrate to others how talented she was.
Once the guitars were tuned, he went to knock on the door of Beth’s room. “It’s Daddy, Princess. May I come in?”
“Just give us five minutes, Cariad,” Bronwen called.
“I just wanted to tell Beth that I am claiming her first dance.”
“But you’re playing your guitar,” Beth called back anxiously.
“Gwyneth can play with Mr. Anderson on her own for that dance. And I’ll want to dance with your mother at least once so Gwyneth can handle the accompaniment then as well.”
Bronwen stepped out into the hallway then. “Have you told Gwyneth?”
“No, because if I tell her, she’ll try and talk me out of it. This way she won’t have time to brood over it. She’s very talented and she needs to overcome her shyness.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Bronwen said slowly. “And Rob will be playing his banjo so she won’t be entirely on her own.”
“Of course, my motives aren’t entirely selfless,” he said with a slow grin. “I really do want to dance at least one dance with you. If I didn’t mention it earlier, I think you look particularly lovely tonight,” he added and bent down to kiss her. They hadn’t broken apart when A.C. ran up and said loudly, “I want kiss, Mama.”
With a mental sigh, Adam ended the kiss and Bronwen bent down to kiss A.C.’s cheek. “Beth’s guests are going to be arriving any minute,” Adam said. “I hope she’s ready.”
“I’ll tell her she needs to come downstairs now,” Bronwen promised.
“Come on, Jackeroo,” he said to A.C. holding out his hand, “let’s go downstairs.”
All the young people Beth and Miranda’s age had been invited plus a few who were a few years older. Adam thought the girls all looked lovely in their lacy, beribboned dresses in soft pastels or white. The young men, on the other hand, looked uncomfortable in their frock coats, starched shirts and black neckties. He smiled sardonically for he knew that he had been even more callow at the first party he attended in San Francisco back when he was seventeen.
Once all the guests had arrived, Adam walked over to where Gwyneth and Rob Anderson were seated. “I think it’s time to begin the music. Let’s start with a polka. Gwyneth, I’m going to dance with Beth, so it’ll just be you and Rob this first piece.” He saw her stricken expression and said calmly, “She’ll be apples, Punkin.”
Rob added kindly, “That’s right, Gwyneth. You’re as good a guitar player as your dad.”
“I think she’s better,” Adam added with a wink at his daughter.
He enjoyed twirling Beth about in a lively polka. She was as graceful as she was beautiful and as soon as their dance finished, she was surrounded by young men. When he sat down and picked up his guitar, Llywelyn approached. He had been reluctantly persuaded to attend the dance and at fourteen he was the youngest boy there. “Would you be my partner in the next dance, Gwyneth? It’s all right, isn’t it, Uncle Adam?”
“It’s fine with me. How about it, Punkin? Will you dance with Llywelyn?”
“Please, Gwyneth. I know I can dance with you. All those other girls are older and they don’t want to dance with me.”
“All right,” she said tugging at her earlobe in an unconscious imitation of her father when he was anxious. She and Llywelyn had learned to dance together a couple of months earlier and she knew she wouldn’t step on his feet and he wouldn’t step on hers.
Adam and Rob shared a grin for Gwyneth was a good three or four inches taller than her cousin. However, they danced very well together and Adam was pleased to see Gwyneth smiling and enjoying herself. Penny spotted them from her vantage point on the verandah.
“Look, A.C.! Gwyneth and Llywelyn are dancing.”
“Wanna see. Wanna see!” A.C. exclaimed.
“I guess you’re too short.”
“Up,” A.C. commanded holding up his arms.
“You’re too big for me to hold.”
“Sit,” he said reaching up toward the railing.
“No. You could fall and hurt yourself.”
A.C. began a full-fledged temper tantrum but Penny didn’t give in. She remembered the story of how Gwyneth had fallen from the verandah when she was little and had to have stitches. Bronwen was standing near enough to hear her baby’s screams and rushed up the steps.
“What’s going on here, Penny? A.C. bach, Mama is here. Don’t cry,” she said scooping him up in her arms. “Is he hurt, Penny?”
“No. He wanted me to lift him up so he could sit on the railing and watch Gwyneth dance, but I knew it was dangerous. He’s just having a temper tantrum is all,” Penny replied a little defensively.
“Penny’s mean,” A.C. sobbed, throwing his arms around Bronwen’s neck.
“I wasn’t, Mama. I just knew he shouldn’t sit up on the railing ‘cause he might fall off and get hurt like Gwyneth did when she was little,” Penny said earnestly.
“Penny was right, A.C. You aren’t to sit on the railing.”
“Can’t see, Mama! Want see Gwyneth dance. And Bethy and Manda,” he said plaintively.
“I guess you can’t see from here,” Bronwen said talking to herself. “I tell you what. You can come stand with Mama and that way you can see everybody dancing,” and he clapped his hands in delight. When Penny started to follow them, Bronwen turned and said, “You’re to stay on the verandah. Remember?”
“But A.C. gets to go stand in the yard,” Penny pouted.
“That’s only because he’s too short to be able to see from the verandah but you can. Don’t pout, Penny, or I will send you to bed right now.”
“It’s not fair,” Penny said after her mother was out of earshot. She was still sulking when there was a break in the dancing and Adam came up to see how she and A.C. were doing.
“Hi, Kitten. Are you having fun? Where’s your brother?”
“Mama came and got him. He’s in the yard with her, but she made me stay here. I don’t think that’s fair, Daddy. Can’t I go stand in the yard with you and Gwyneth?”
“No, I’m sorry, Kitten. Mama and I said you could watch from the verandah.”
“I’ll find Mama and talk with her about it. Did you see Gwyneth dancing with Llywelyn?”
Penny nodded. “They danced as good as some of Beth’s friends.” She sighed. “I wish I could dance.”
“How would you like to dance with me right here on the verandah?”
“Fair dinkum?” and in answer he reached down and put his hands around her waist and simply lifted her up so her feet were off the floor and whirled her about to soft giggles as he hummed a polka. When their dance ended, he sat her down and dropped a kiss on her head.
“I’ve got to go, Kitten, but I’ll try and come back for another dance before you have to go to bed.”
Since Gwyneth and Rob were still taking a break, he looked for Bronwen and spotted her with A.C. She saw him frowning as he approached.
“I watch Bethy and Manda dance, Daddy,” A.C. exclaimed with a grin and ran to Adam with outstretched arms. He picked him up and tossed him in the air before saying with smile that was a bit too bright, “So you are. But you were supposed to be watching with Penny.” Then he sat him down, making sure that he had hold of one of his hands.
“He was too short to see anything clearly,” Bronwen said defensively.
“I understand. What I don’t understand is why you made Penny stay on the verandah. That wasn’t really fair, was it?”
She dropped her eyes and said with a sigh, “I suppose not. I’ll go tell her she can come down, too.”
“No. She’s fine where she is. This is Beth’s party and it’s for her and her friends. It’s time for A.C. to be in bed anyway so I’ll take him up.”
“I’ll do it.”
“No, I will. Just tell Gwyneth and Rob that they’ll have to play the next couple of pieces without me.” He reached down and picked A.C. up. “Come on, Jackeroo. It’s time for you to be in bed.”
“No!” A.C. wailed and began squirming to get down so Adam swatted his behind and he began to sob.
“Adam!” Bronwen said reaching to take her baby but Adam snapped, “I said I’ll put him to bed,” and strode off with long strides she couldn’t hope to match. The guests standing close by had turned at the sound of A.C.’s cries but when they saw Adam carrying him off they ignored him. Matilda had been one of those nearby and came over to Bronwen because she could see she was upset.
“He’s so strict with A.C. He wasn’t like that with the girls,” Bronwen said bitterly.
“I don’t think that’s surprising,” Matilda said soothingly. “After all, you told me Adam grew up without a mother or sister. I think it’s perfectly natural that he spoils the girls a bit just as it’s natural that you spoil A.C. a little after waiting so long to have a boy. I was the same way with Llywelyn. Still am, I suppose, although I try to be firm with him for his own good. I think Adam is stricter with A.C. just because he’s a boy.”
Rhys had come up just in time to hear his wife’s last comment. “You know, Bronwen fach, it always seemed to Bryn and me that Tad was easier on you. I think it’s just natural for fathers to be tougher on boys just as it’s natural for mothers and older sisters to spoil them.”
Bronwen sighed loudly. “I suppose you’re right. I know Adam loves A.C. and A.C. adores his daddy.” She saw Gwyneth and Rob getting ready to sit down and looking around for Adam. “Excuse me. I have to let Rob and Gwyneth know they’re on their own for a while.”
Once Adam returned, Rhys walked over. “Gwyneth, would you honor me with a dance?” he asked with a bow. She looked at Adam, who winked at her, and Rob grinned. Rhys was exactly the same height as Gwyneth and he danced with an assurance that his son did not possess yet.
“You dance very well, Gwyneth fach, and in only three years, I’ll be dancing at your sixteenth birthday party,” he said as he twirled her about the yard.
“I hadn’t thought about that,” she replied artlessly. “But I won’t have boys wanting to dance with me the way Beth does. Sometimes I wish I could be beautiful like her.”
“You’re a very pretty and talented girl. You don’t need to be like anyone else. Besides, tell Uncle Rhys the truth. Would you really want all those boys hanging around you the way they do around Beth?”
She had to giggle at that. “No, I guess I wouldn’t. Miranda doesn’t have as many boys hanging around her and she doesn’t mind. She’s only interested in the smart boys who like school anyway. I don’t care if the boys are smart; I just want them to be nice. Like Daddy and you and Llywelyn.”
“I know you’ll find one. Don’t worry,” Rhys said gently as he escorted her back to her father.
A little later Adam turned to Rob. “I hate to desert you again, but I promised Mrs. Cartwright that I’d dance with her.”
“We’ll do just fine, won’t we, Gwyneth?” Rob said with a wink. “Go on and dance with Mrs. Cartwright.”
Adam wasn’t entirely sure of his reception as he approached Bronwen, who was talking with Matilda. “Mrs. Cartwright, might I have the pleasure of the next dance? Please?” She raised her eyebrows but took his hand. “A.C. fell asleep almost as soon as I tucked him in,” he said quietly as they danced.
“He probably was overtired,” she replied forcing herself to look into his eyes. “Matilda and Rhys both told me that it’s normal for you to be stricter with A.C. than with the girls.”
He started to retort that he wasn’t, but stopped himself. He thought about it his relationship with his daughters and with his son and realized perhaps he was more firm with A.C. He wanted him to grow up to be a self-disciplined man and not a self-indulgent one. Still, even though he’d been less strict with the girls, they didn’t show signs of being spoilt and self-absorbed so perhaps he should ease up a bit on A.C. He wasn’t even quite three after all.
“I think maybe I have been too hard on him,” he said slowly and felt a warm glow of true joy when he saw her face light up at his words.
“And I admit I was unfair to Penny tonight but I’ll make it up to her. At least the party is going well and Beth is certainly the belle of the ball.”
“I never doubted that,” he chuckled. “I think she’s danced with a different boy each dance. I’ve already been approached by several boys who either want to take her on buggy rides or walk her to and from church.”
“Miranda has her share of admirers as well,” Bronwen said with a grin. “Unfortunately, they just can’t compete with the Girls Latin School and the Harvard Annex,” and he laughed with her.
“No, it will take a very special man to win the heart of our Athena,” Adam agreed with a grin.
Meanwhile the birthday girl was in her element-talking, laughing, flirting and dancing with every male at the party. Ted Stephenson and Sandy McDonald both asked her to come on a buggy ride the next Sunday afternoon, and she informed them they would have to get her father’s permission. Tony Williams asked if he could walk her to church next Sunday so he was also directed to Adam. Tom Phillips read her a sonnet he’d written to her beauty. (It certainly didn’t compare with Shakespeare’s, but she enjoyed it nonetheless.) A couple of boys tried to steal a kiss, but she didn’t like either of them in that special way (and she knew how her father would react!) so she managed to turn them down without hurting their feelings. Her mother had extended an invitation to Reverend Jones, but Beth was surprised when she saw him talking with Rhys. During one of the breaks, he approached her.
“Happy birthday, Miss Cartwright,” he said with a warm smile that lit up his dark brown eyes. They were so dark they reminded Beth of her grandpa while his lilting accent reminded her of her tad-cu “I’m certain your dance card is all filled up.”
“Yes, I’m sorry, Reverend,” she said and she meant it. She didn’t know why since he was so much older and not truly handsome, but she liked the idea of dancing with him. Her father and mother had been standing nearby drinking lemonade and overhearing Adam said, “I am signed up for Beth’s last dance just as I was the first, but I’ll let you have it, Reverend.”
“Would that be all right, Miss Cartwright?” Reverend Jones asked and she smiled her assent. As the evening drew to a close and Reverend Jones came to claim his dance, Beth was surprised to discover he was an excellent dancer. He was also a nice height. He didn’t tower over her the way her father and some of the young men did, but he was tall enough that she still felt dainty and very feminine.
After all the guests were gone, Adam turned to his firstborn and asked with a smile, “Did you enjoy your party, Princess?”
“Too right!” she replied with a big smile.
“Well, I gave Tony Williams permission to walk you to church on Sunday and Bertie Haversham has permission to walk you home. I told Ted Stephenson and Sandy McDonald that I thought you were still a bit young to be going on buggy rides, but that they were welcome to call on us any Sunday afternoon.”
“Daddy! You didn’t really?”
“Yes, he did,” Bronwen said with a slight smile. “And I agree. Seventeen is early enough to be going on buggy rides alone with a young man.”
“The first girl I ever courted I had to visit with her family in the room with us.”
“But that’s so old-fashioned-” Beth began.
“There’s nothing wrong with being old-fashioned,” Adam said firmly. “Perhaps after I’ve gotten to know the young men better I might consider allowing them to take you for a walk-but no buggy rides.” He frowned a little. “By the way, Sam Jordan and Peter Jackson will not be welcome to call. I saw them trying to lure you away to steal a kiss and I won’t tolerate that behavior,” he said sternly.
“How do you know they were going to try and kiss me?” Beth asked, pouting ever so slightly. It would have melted the heart of any of the young men at the party, but her father was made of harder metal.
“Because I was once a young man their age,” he replied. Beth’s face had a speculative look for a moment, but then she shook to her head to clear away any visions of her father sneaking kisses from young women. She was aware that her father was very handsome; she was proud of the fact he was handsomer than any of her friends’ fathers, but she was not comfortable thinking of him kissing anyone other than Mama.
The next day was hot and sunny, so Beth asked if she could go visit her friend, Susan, after she’d finished her household chores.
“I don’t see why not,” Bronwen replied with a smile. “But don’t stay more than an hour.”
Beth decided to wear the new front-laced boots that she’d bought the week before and hadn’t yet worn. As a finishing touch, she put on her straw hat with its silk roses and a pair of white kid gloves. She checked her appearance in her full-length mirror and decided she looked quite fetching. She hoped she wasn’t vain, but she knew she was lovely. Ever since she’d been allowed to wear her hair up and women’s dresses, she’d noticed the way boys and men regarded her and couldn’t help being pleased.
Her new boots with their high heels weren’t really designed for walking she decided. She was trying to ignore the way they pinched her feet and was taken by surprise when a man approached her.
“G’day, Miss Cartwright,” he said tipping his hat.
“G’day, Mr. ¼” Oh, what was his name? She knew she didn’t know him very well but she should remember. Hampton. That was it. He owned a large cattle station in the area. “Hampton.” She smiled at him, showing her pearly white teeth.
“It certainly is a beautiful afternoon,” Hampton said in a friendly tone.
“Yes, it’s a ripper,” she replied.
“Going to pay a call?” he inquired. She was surprised at his question but smiled and nodded. “Would you mind if I walk with you?”
“If you like,” she answered, a bit puzzled by his attention. After all, he was so much older and an important man.
They walked along in silence then he spoke up. “I don’t suppose your father told you of our conversation a few days back.”
“No,” she replied, totally bewildered. “Daddy doesn’t talk business with me.”
“Oh, it wasn’t business. I asked him if I could court you.”
“Court me?” she echoed, her eyes widening.
“You must know that you are the most beautiful young woman in the area. I’ve just been waiting for you to grow up enough to be courted.”
“And my daddy gave his permission?” she asked, both feathery eyebrows arching up in surprise.
He smiled, but Beth didn’t think it was a nice smile. She realized that she didn’t like the way he was looking at her. He looked ¼ hungry. “Not exactly.”
“Well, if he didn’t give his permission, then I shouldn’t be walking with you.” She started to move away but he grabbed her arm.
“Oh no, my beautiful Elizabeth. I’ve waited for over a year to court you, wed you and bed you. Your father is not going to stand in my way. All I have to do is take you to my station and keep you there overnight. Then your father will have no choice but to accept my offer for your hand.”
“I don’t want to marry you,” Beth said, and her voice sounded shrill in her own ears. She was beginning to feel real fear. This man was insane!
“That’s only because you are young and innocent but you were made to pleasure a man,” and his eyes raked over her in a way that made her skin crawl. She tried to break away but he was holding onto her arm in an iron grip and the street, which was in a quiet, residential neighborhood, was deserted. He looked around and noticed the house they were passing by had a large gum tree in its front yard. He dragged her behind the tree and fastened his mouth on hers savagely.
Beth was terrified by the violence of his kiss and revolted when he thrust his tongue in her mouth. For a moment she was filled with blind panic as she struggled to free herself. Then with a sudden clarity she heard her daddy’s voice telling her that if she were ever assaulted by a man, she should go for his most vulnerable spot. She managed to twist herself just enough to give her the proper leverage, and then she drove her knee into his groin as hard as she could. He let go of her and dropped to the ground and she took off as fast as she could, heedless of the direction, stumbling, and almost falling in her treacherous shoes, but a pair of strong arms caught her and she looked up into the concerned eyes of Reverend Jones.
“Miss Cartwright? Are you all right?”
She couldn’t answer. She could only cling to him and sob. He patted her back, trying to ignore the sensations caused by holding her in his arms. When she finally regained a measure of self control, he said gently, “I’m going to take you to your home.”
She looked at him, her eyes red and swollen and her nose running, and nodded mutely.
“Here, I think you need this,” and he proffered his handkerchief, which she took and blew her nose. She smiled at him tremulously and he noticed that her lower lip had been bitten and there were bruises forming on her neck.
“Miss Cartwright, did someone attack you?” he asked gently.
Her beautiful eyes began to fill with tears again and in a choked voice she said, “I got away. I remembered where Daddy said I should hurt a man if he tried to force his attentions on me. It was awful, Reverend Jones,” and she began sobbing again.
“You’re safe now,” he said gently. “I promise. My buggy is at the parsonage and I’ll take you home to your mother. Come.” He walked with her to parsonage and then she stood in the stable silently and watched him harness the horse to the buggy. They were silent on the ride to her house. He carefully helped her down, took her arm, and walked with her up the path to the verandah where A.C. was playing with his Noah’s Ark (the same one that had belonged to his father) under his mother’s watchful eye.
“Reverend Jones,” Bronwen said in surprise and then she caught sight of Beth’s tear streaked face. “Beth fach?”
“Oh Mama,” Beth sobbed and ran to her mother’s arms.
“I’ll get Mr. Cartwright if there’s someone who can show me the way to the mine,” Reverend Jones stated.
Just then Gwyneth and Llywelyn rode up. “Llywelyn,” Bronwen called. “Reverend Jones needs you to show him the way to the mine.”
“I’ll take care of Blaze,” Gwyneth told him so Reverend Davies and Llywelyn got in his buggy and headed for the mine.
“Why you cwy, Bethy?” A.C. asked, close to tears himself and Beth only cried harder.
“Gwyneth,” Bronwen called, “let A.C. go with you while you take care of the horses.”
“Come on, A.C.,” Gwyneth called. The little boy turned fearful eyes at his mother and oldest sister but then he ran down the path.
“Why Bethy cwy, Gwyneth?” he asked, tears starting to pool in his eyes.
“I don’t know, A.C. but I think she needs to be alone with Mama. Mama will take care of her, and Daddy will be here soon. Llywelyn and Reverend Jones went to get him. Daddy will make everything okay. Now, would you like to sit in front of me and ride Artemis?”
“Too wight!” he said excitedly. He liked Artemis, Gwyneth’s spirited golden dun Waler mare, almost as much as he liked Zephyr, his father’s mount.
While Gwyneth occupied A.C., Bronwen took Beth to the library where they could be private. This room with its paneled walls, bookshelves and buttery-soft leather armchairs was where they had spent so many happy evenings as a family while they played games, listened as Adam read aloud, or sang together. Bronwen hoped the setting would comfort Beth now. “Beth fach,” she said gently, sitting on the arm of Beth’s chair rubbing circles on Beth’s back as she used to do when Beth was a baby, “tell me what happened.”
Beth took a deep shuddering breath. “I was walking to Susan’s house and a man, Mr. Hampton, walked up and said g’day and asked if he could walk with me. I knew he was important and that you and Daddy knew him, so I said he could. He told me that he’d asked Daddy if he could court me but Daddy said no. He-he said he’d been waiting for me to grow up so he could wed me and b-bed me. He said Daddy couldn’t s-stop him. He was going to take me to his station and keep me there so Daddy would have to let him m-marry me. Then he kissed me, and he put his tongue in my mouth and bit my lip. I-I was so scared but I remembered what Daddy told me to do, and it worked. He let me go and I ran away. Reverend Jones found me and brought me home.”
“Oh Beth,” Bronwen said and hugged her tightly. “He only kissed you?” and Beth nodded.
“He-he wanted to do what you said husbands and wives do, didn’t he?” Beth asked in a frightened little girl voice.
“What husbands and wives do is done out of love, Beth. It’s the way your father and I express our love for each other by becoming one flesh just as it says in the Bible. What we do, we do to please each other. Your father has never forced me to do anything I don’t feel comfortable doing. Nor has he ever done anything to me that I didn’t enjoy. What Mr. Hampton tried to do to you is called rape and love has nothing to do with it. He tried to get by force what should be given in love. Someday you will fall in love and you will want to express your love through kisses and caresses and through joining your body with your husband’s. But no man has the right to use your body against your will.”
Beth nodded and Bronwen just held her comfortingly as she’d done when she was little. Eventually they heard A.C. calling for them. “We’re in the library, A.C.,” Bronwen called.
A.C. ran in the room followed by Gwyneth and Penny, who’d returned from visiting her friend, Kate. “You okay, Bethy?” he asked anxiously and Beth nodded.
“A.C., why don’t you and your sisters wait for Daddy on the verandah? Then when he gets here, you can tell him that Beth and I are in the library. Okay?”
“‘Kay,” A.C. said and allowed his sisters to lead him away.
Adam and Rhys both looked up in surprise when Reverend Jones and Llywelyn entered their office.
“Reverend Jones? How may we help you?” Rhys asked, his expression puzzled.
“Llywelyn,” the reverend said, “would you mind waiting outside while I talk with your uncle and father?” Llywelyn shrugged and went out, and Reverend Jones closed the door behind him.
“Mr. Cartwright, you need to come home.”
“Has something happened to Bronwen or one of the children?” Adam asked, getting to his feet and walking toward the door.
“A man attacked Miss Cartwright,” Reverend Jones began, and stopped at the look on the older man’s face. Then he said quickly, “She’s all right. She remembered what you told her to do. However, she is much shaken and I think she needs both her parents with her.”
“Who is the man?” Adam asked in a cold voice.
“I didn’t feel it was my place to press her right then. She’s with her mother now. She may have confided in her.”
“I think I have a good idea who it was,” Adam stated in that same harsh tone. “He won’t bother her again. I’ll see to that.”
“We both will,” Rhys said, and Adam turned and looked at him before nodding curtly.
Both his and Rhys’s horses were lathered when they galloped up to the Cartwright house. “Daddy! Unca Whys!” A.C. screamed, running toward them.
“Hi there, Jackeroo,” Adam said with a forced smile and ruffled his son’s hair. Then he called, “Gwyneth! Miranda! Please take care of Zephyr and Gwalchmai for us. We’ve ridden them hard so make sure you take extra good care of them.” Then he and Rhys ran up the walk while the two girls hurried to care for the two horses.
“Mama said to tell you she and Beth are in the library,” Penny said quietly as Adam and Rhys walked up and Adam nodded without smiling.
“Princess,” Adam said softly as he entered the library and saw Beth looking so young and vulnerable. It tore at his heart to see her look of fear, but then she ran to him and threw her arms about his neck, sobbing, “Oh Daddy.”
“It’s all right, Princess. Daddy will take care of you,” he murmured softly as he held her in his arms.
“It was so horrible, Daddy. He was like an animal,” she sobbed.
“Reverend Jones said you got away before . . . Before he had his way with you,” Adam said slowly.
“I used my knee where you told me,” she replied, and her expression hardened for a moment. “But he bit my lip and he left bruises on my neck,” she said tearfully. “And he stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
For a moment Adam saw everything through a red haze. That brute had dared to treat his little girl like a cheap whore! He forced himself to breathe slowly and say in an even voice, “He was an animal, but not all men are like that, Princess. I promise.”
“I know,” she replied in a shaky voice. “You’re not and Uncle Rhys is not or Uncle Joe or Tad-cu or Grandpa. Reverend Jones is not.” She paused and said in a low voice, “I thought it was nice that men think I’m pretty but if ¼” and her voice ended in a sob.
“He is a sick man,” Adam said in a harsh voice. “If I’d known how sick he is, I’d have protected you better. But I don’t want you to be afraid of every man you meet, Princess. Most men are good and decent, and they’d never treat a woman that way. I promise you.” She nodded hesitantly, and then he said as gently as he could, “Who was the man, Princess? Was it Mr. Hampton?” She nodded slowly. “He will never bother you again, Princess. I promise you that.”
“Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Davies are here to see you, sir,” Hampton’s housekeeper said expressionlessly, and Hampton felt himself break out in a cold sweat while his guts began to knot in fear. Before he could say anything, the two men pushed past his housekeeper and into the room. He saw with mounting fear that Cartwright was wearing a gunbelt, but what was truly terrifying was the ease with which he wore it.
“Hampton, I have come to offer you some advice. I suggest you sell this station and leave Queensland because if you ever come within ten miles of my daughter, I will kill you,” Adam stated in a cold, implacable voice.
“Once we tell the fathers of other young girls in Cloncurry about you, I don’t think you’ll find this a pleasant place to live,” Rhys added in a granite hard voice.
“It will take time to sell my property,” Hampton began, but Adam cut him off.
“Sell it through an agent. But I want you out of here by tomorrow. Do you understand?”
“Y-yes,” Hampton stuttered. Adam nodded, and then without warning he delivered a near-lethal roundhouse punch to Hampton’s jaw so that he collapsed. “This is for my daughter,” Adam said coldly and kicked Hampton in the groin as hard as he could before turning and walking out of the room.
“Why don’t you get Sarah settled, and then we’ll read Adam’s letter,” Ben suggested to Joe and Annabelle one frigidly cold evening in February after they had finished supper.
They nodded and Ben said, “Give Grandpa a goodnight kiss, Sugar,” so Sarah, who was turning four, ran over and kissed his cheek. He hugged her and kissed her, remembering the kisses and hugs he’d given her father and uncles when they had been her age. Even Adam had enjoyed goodnight kisses and hugs at age four. It hadn’t been until Inger died that he’d begun to resist them, Ben remembered, and the pain and sadness he felt was as fresh as though her death had been yesterday rather than forty-nine years in the past.
After kissing Sarah goodnight, Joe came downstairs and sat in the middle of the red-and-white striped settee by six-year-old Benj. He started to put his boots on the coffee table, looked at his father, and sighed. With a sour grin he thought Adam was the only one of us who could get away with putting his boots on the furniture. Benj smiled at his father and then turned back to his copy of Mother Goose Tales. Joe gave his son’s neck an affectionate squeeze and gazed at the blond head bent over the pages of the book. Sometimes I feel as though Benj should be Adam’s son. He grinned as he thought, It would be funny if Adam sometimes feels that A.C. is more like me.
Annabelle came down only a few moments after Joe and sat on his other side. He put his arm around her shoulders, and she smiled at him as Ben took Adam’s letter out of the envelope and began to read.
January 16, 1891
Dear Pa and Joe,
If you are reading this letter aloud to the family, you need to stop. I don’t mind if Annabelle hears it, but Benj shouldn’t.
Ben put the letter down. “Benj,” he said quietly, “why don’t you take your book and go upstairs for awhile.”
“Just for a little bit, Pardner,” Joe added. “Then maybe we could play a game of checkers before you go to bed. All right?”
“Okay, Daddy,” Benj said. Ben waited until he knew Benj was out of earshot before continuing.
I debated whether or not I should write you about this, but I decided you should know. A few days ago, my precious Beth was attacked by a man as she was walking to a friend’s house.
“Oh dear God!” Annabelle exclaimed in horror. She looked at the two men and saw the implacable hatred and rage on their faces. His voice shaking, Ben continued.
Thank God, she remembered what I taught her about how to deal with a man in that situation so she was able to get away before he did more than force his kisses on her. When she was running away, she encountered our minister. Reverend Jones brought her home and then came and told Rhys and me what had happened. When I saw the bruises on Beth’s neck where that beast had marked her and where he’d bitten her lip, I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. However, I realized that if I wanted to show Beth that not all men are brutes, then I needed to act in a civilized manner. I knew a man like that is a physical coward, so I strapped on my revolver, and Rhys and I paid him a visit. His cattle station is now up for sale, and he has left the area. (I was not civilized enough to leave him unmarked, but Beth and Bronwen never need to know that.)
Beth is all right with me and her uncle and Reverend Jones, and of course A.C. and Llywelyn, who are still boys. It breaks my heart to see how nervous and apprehensive she now is with any other men. She refuses to leave the house alone; in fact, she will only leave if her uncle or I accompany her. Her friends come to visit her but they are puzzled why she won’t visit them or accompany them shopping as she used to do. We told Matilda what happened, but we’ve all agreed to keep it to ourselves for Beth’s sake. She may have confided in Miranda, but I’m sure she hasn’t said anything to her younger sisters. Bronwen and I pray earnestly that she will once again be our confident, loving daughter, but we know it will take time for her to put the experience behind her.
I pray the next time I write I will have better news to share.
“I would have killed him,” Joe said in a flat, dead voice. “It’s no more than he deserved.”
“No, Darling. It would have shamed and frightened Beth even more to know her father killed a man,” Annabelle replied, shocked at her husband’s vehemence
“Adam’s had to kill men before and so have I,” Joe replied. “We didn’t enjoy it but sometimes you don’t have a choice.”
“But if he had been caught and sent to prison for manslaughter think how that horrible that would be for Bronwen and the children,” Annabelle said earnestly. This was a side of her husband she had never seen and it frightened her.
“I’m sure Beth doesn’t know that Adam has had to kill, and I have to agree with Annabelle that it would frighten her, and perhaps make her think all men are nothing more than animals. If Adam and Rhys terrified the man into moving, that should make Beth feel safe,” Ben said slowly. “I do thank God that Adam taught her how to defend herself and that she remembered the advice and acted on it.”
“I don’t understand that,” Annabelle said slowly. “What was she able to do to get away from the man?”
“If you don’t know, Honey, then I’m going to teach you right now,” Joe said sternly. “And when Sarah’s older, I’ll teach her.”
The morning of A.C.’s third birthday, Adam announced at breakfast, “I’m going to the mine this afternoon. This morning A.C. and I are going to spend together. We have some business to take care of in town, just the two of us.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Bronwen asked apprehensively.
“Nope,” he replied firmly. “We have men’s business to take care of. It’ll be just you and me, Jackeroo,” he said to A.C.
“Just you ‘n’ me,” A.C. repeated with a grin that showed he’d inherited his father’s dimple.
Bronwen watched a little anxiously as the men in her life walked out the door hand in hand. This was the last time she’d see her baby wearing a tunic and skirt; she knew Adam was going to buy him knickerbockers and take him for his first haircut. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. She blinked them back. You are only getting your just desserts, Bronwen Davies Cartwright. You teased poor Adam about his little girls growing up, and now the shoe is on the other foot.
“A.C., I think the first thing we’re going to do is get you a haircut,” Adam said as they walked toward the town’s business district.
“Yes, so your hair will be short like Daddy’s, Uncle Rhys’ and Llywelyn’s. So you’ll look like a little boy and not a baby.”
“Not baby!” A.C. said indignantly.
“I know. That’s why Daddy’s taking you to get your hair cut. And since you’re a big boy, you’re not going to cry or fuss, are you?”
“No!” A.C. replied emphatically.
However, when they got to the barbershop and he saw the barber’s sharp scissors, he looked up at Adam fearfully.
“Daddy won’t let Mr. Puzo hurt you, Jackeroo. I promise,” and he smiled gently so A.C. returned the smile and nodded. “Now, you just sit on Daddy’s lap and Mr. Puzo will cut your hair so it will look like Llywelyn’s.” He sat in the chair and settled A.C. on his lap so they could maintain eye contact, saying quietly to the barber, “I’d like one lock I can give to his mother as a keepsake.”
A.C. was determined to act like a big boy as he’d promised his daddy but his head felt funny after Mr. Puzo finished. Mr. Puzo held up a mirror in front of him. “See young man. Now you have short hair like your papa.” A.C. blinked in surprise at his reflection, but he decided he liked his hair short like Daddy’s.
“Now, Jackeroo, we’re going to get you some new clothes,” Adam stated after he paid for the haircut. Taking A.C.’s hand they headed for the dry goods store.
“Knickabockahs?” A.C. asked hopefully.
“That’s right. Your first knickerbockers,” Adam said with a big grin.
“G’day, Mr. Cartwright, A.C.,” Mr. Broome said as they entered the store. “I imagine that you’re here for your order.”
“That’s right, Mr. Broome.”
“Well, it’s all here: two knickerbocker suits, plus two other pairs of knickerbockers, five shirts and a new pair of elastic sided boots.”
“Today my buthday,” A.C. interjected happily.
“It is?” Mr. Broome said with a smile. “Well now, birthday boys always get a free piece of candy. What kind would you like?”
“Toffee please,” A.C. answered without hesitation and Adam ruffled his hair with a grin.
“What do you say to Mr. Broome?”
“Thank you,” A.C. said dimpling.
Adam paid for his purchase and then said, “”Now we’re going to Uncle Rhys and Aunt Matilda’s house so you can change into your new clothes and surprise Mama.”
When Daisy, the Davies’ Aboriginal maid, answered Adam’s knock, her face registered her surprise at A.C.’s shorn locks.
“Morning, Daisy,” Adam said, grinning at her surprise. “Mr. Davies said I could bring A.C. over and let him change into his new clothes in Llywelyn’s bedroom.”
“Yes, Mr. Cartwright. He told me to expect you,” Daisy replied.
“We know the way,” Adam said, and they went into Llywelyn’s room where Adam helped A.C. into his new clothes. A.C. liked the knickerbockers much better than his skirts. “I’m big boy,” he crowed and Adam smiled at him.
“You sure are, Jackeroo. Now, let’s go show Mama your new clothes.”
A.C. ran up the verandah steps shouting, “Mama! Mama! Look at me!”
Bronwen walked onto the verandah. “Oh, my baby,” she said tearfully when she saw him.
“Not baby, Mama,” he said indignantly, “I’m big boy.”
“I know, A.C. bach. Mama just misses her baby,” she replied tearfully, which made no sense to A.C. His daddy put his arm around his mama. “I’m sorry I ever teased you about the girls growing up,” she said softly, and he gave her a quick hug.
Beth had been helping to fix dinner but she thought she heard A.C.’s voice, so she walked down the hallway to the front door.
“A.C., look at you,” she said with a big smile. It had been a month since Hampton’s attack, and Beth was slowly recovering her self-assurance. She would go shopping with her sisters or a friend, but she still refused to go anywhere alone and many young men in town were disappointed that she turned down their offers to walk her to and from church. Adam intimidated them so much that none of them had mustered up enough courage yet to come calling on the Cartwrights. Since Beth felt comfortable in Reverend Jones’ presence, Adam and Bronwen frequently invited him to dinner on Sunday. He would bring his lap harp and join in their singing after dinner.
“I’m big boy now, Bethy!” A.C. said excitedly. “See my knickabockahs! And my hair showt!”
“So I see,” she replied with a big smile. “You sure are a big boy. Are you too big to give Bethy a hug?” she asked, kneeling and holding out her arms. He threw himself at her, almost knocking her off balance.
“Careful, Jackeroo,” Adam said with one of his little half smiles. “Big boys have to be gentle with the ladies,” and A.C. grinned at his daddy.
“Lunch will be ready as soon as you wash up,” Bronwen said. “It’s just sandwiches since we’re having the birthday dinner tonight. And you need to take your nap right after dinner, A.C., so Mama can make your birthday cake.”
“With candles?” A.C. asked excitedly.
“That’s right,” Bronwen answered with a fond smile, and Adam said, “Come on, Jackeroo. Let’s get washed up for lunch.”
A.C. waited impatiently for his sisters and Llywelyn to return home from school so he could show off his new clothes.
“You are a big boy now,” Llywelyn said, smiling at his little cousin.
“You and Gwyneth take me fishing?”
“If it’s all right with Uncle Adam and Aunt Bronwen, sure you can come with us the next time we go fishing,” replied Llywelyn.
“And go widing with you!” A.C. said excitedly.
“I don’t know, A.C.,” Miranda interjected. “None of us got to ride until we were four, not three”
Gwyneth saw her little brother’s pout and said, “You can ask Daddy, A.C. Maybe he will let you ride Honey.” A.C.’s countenance brightened immediately at the thought of riding Miranda’s old pony.
“Play catch, Llywelyn?” he asked eagerly.
“Sorry, A.C., but I’ve got lots of schoolwork to do so I can come to your party tonight. See you,” he said to his cousins as he headed next door.
A.C. looked expectantly at his sisters but Miranda and Gwyneth shook their heads. “We’ve got schoolwork, too. Sorry,” Miranda said. She and Gwyneth both looked at Penny.
“I can play, but how about we play Jackstraws instead?” Penny suggested. A.C. nodded happily and ran to get the game.
“Why did you tell him that Daddy might let him ride Honey?” Miranda asked Gwyneth.
“Well, he might let him ride around the paddock on a leading rein,” Gwyneth said defensively.
“Maybe,” Miranda said skeptically.
As soon as Adam walked through the door that evening, A.C. ran to him saying excitedly, “Daddy, I wide Honey?”
“I think you’d better wait a bit for that,” Adam said ruffling his hair.
“But I’m big boy. Wanna wide Honey,” A.C. whined. Gwyneth had been listening for her father’s return and she had hurried downstairs in time to overhear the conversation.
“I thought maybe he could ride around the paddock on a leading rein,” she said quietly.
Adam looked thoughtful. Bronwen wouldn’t approve, but she did tend to baby A.C. If he really wanted to ride, there was no danger in putting him on the pony if it was on a leading rein. Adam justified his plan by telling himself that Bronwen need never know and therefore she wouldn’t worry. “If we do it, you have to promise not to tell Mama. Understand?” A.C. grinned hugely as he nodded. “There’s no time today, but we’ll do it tomorrow as long as it doesn’t rain.” A.C. clapped his hands for joy, and just then Bronwen and Beth came out of the kitchen and down the hall.
Adam kissed Bronwen and then she said, “We all have to change clothes for the party now. Come on, A.C.,” she said, reaching for his hand.
“No. Want Daddy,” A.C. announced, grabbing one of Adam’s hands. Bronwen tried to hide her hurt, but since her every emotion showed on her face, she wasn’t very successful.
Adam helped A.C. to dress in one of his new knickerbocker suits and then he and A.C. knocked on the master bedroom door. “It’s me, Mama!” A.C. shouted.
Bronwen opened the door with a smile. “Oh, don’t you look nice,” she said to A.C. with a smile. “Cariad, could you finish buttoning me, please?”
“Daddy help you dwess?” A.C. asked in surprise.
“Sometimes,” Adam said with a smile. “And sometimes Mama helps me. There, all done,” he said to Bronwen. She turned around, and he let his eyes travel over her. “This is one of your new dresses, isn’t it?” he asked, recognizing the water green moiré. “Your Mama sure looks beautiful tonight,” he said warmly, and she blushed slightly.
“Shall we go downstairs?” she asked A.C., but he shook his head. “You want to watch Daddy change?” and he nodded.
A.C. grinned when he saw his mama tie his daddy’s tie for him and help him fasten his cufflinks, and then the three of them went down the stairs together. Miranda and Gwyneth were already sitting in the drawing room, each absorbed in a book, which made their parents exchange a smile. They were still waiting for Penny and Beth when the Davies arrived.
“Where’s my nephew, A.C.?” Rhys asked, pretending to search the room. “I came here for his birthday.”
“It’s me, Unca Whys. I’m A.C.!” the little boy shouted excitedly.
“But you can’t be A.C. You’re a big boy,” Rhys said with a grin. “And your hair is short.”
“I got haircut. Now my hair like yours and Daddy’s and Llywelyn’s.”
“I think you’ve got more hair than your daddy does,” Rhys said with a wink.
“Oh, you’re funny,” Adam said, rolling his eyes.
“Daddy has lots of hair; it’s just not on his head,” Gwyneth commented and couldn’t understand why Mama and Uncle Rhys laughed while Aunt Matilda blushed and Daddy frowned at her.
“Gwyneth, it’s not polite to make personal comments like that in company,” Adam said sternly. She looked so embarrassed that he smiled at her and said gently, “It wasn’t so bad to say it when it’s just our family, but you must be careful not to make those kinds of remarks around strangers. Okay?” He put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her gently, and she smiled at him.
A.C. suddenly noticed the package in his uncle’s hand. “Mine?” he inquired hopefully, reaching out his hands, but Adam said, “You open your gifts after supper, A.C. Miranda, could you see what’s keeping your sisters?”
“We’re here, Daddy,” Beth said from the doorway. “We’re sorry we’re late, but Penny was having problems with her buttons.”
“Now that we’re all here, let’s have supper,” Bronwen suggested.
A.C. was so excited he could hardly eat a thing and the others took pity on him and ate as quickly as they could. Bronwen lit the candles on his birthday cake and (with some assistance from his daddy) he blew out all three candles. He refused any help in opening his packages. (“Just like his daddy,” Bronwen whispered in Adam’s ear, and he rolled his eyes.) They all enjoyed his delight as he opened his gifts and uncovered a jumping jack wearing a red paper jacket, striped paper trousers and a tall cap from his sisters, a popgun from Uncle Joe and Aunt Annabelle, a tin whistle from the Davies, a yo-yo from Tad-cu and Mam-gu, a Jacob’s Ladder from Grandpa, two tops (a handspun top and a whipping top) from Uncle Bryn and Aunt Victoria, and a hoop and stick from his Mama and daddy. A.C. was so excited he didn’t know which toy to play with first, but decided on the popgun. When he tired of that, Llywelyn showed him how to play with the handspun top, and then Beth showed him how to play with the jumping jack. Adam let him play with it for a few minutes before saying, “It’s time for bed, Jackeroo.”
A.C. stuck out his lip and shook his head so Adam said quietly, “Daddy doesn’t want to have a necessary talk on your birthday, but he will unless you come to bed right now.” He stood up and held out his hand. A.C.’s eyes filled with tears and his chin wobbled, but he put his hand in Adam’s.
“Now, what do you say to everyone for your gifts and for coming to your birthday party?” Adam prodded. A.C. sniffed loudly and said, “Thank you.” Then he allowed Adam to lead him away, still clutching his jumping jack.
“I suppose we’d better be going,” Rhys said then. Bronwen said, “Oh, don’t go yet. It’s past A.C.’s bedtime, but it’s not really late. Why don’t we play a game?”
“You had a nice birthday, didn’t you?” Adam asked as he and A.C. walked upstairs. A.C. only nodded, his expression sulky, so Adam continued. “You got lots of nice presents to play with and tomorrow afternoon if it’s not raining, you can ride Honey.” A.C. looked up at him then and smiled. “How about I tell you a story about my first pony? Would you like that?”
“Too wight!” A.C. said, nodding vigorously.
Adam helped A.C. with all the buttons on his new clothes, and then watched as his son struggled into his nightshirt alone. Once A.C. was ready, he knelt by his bed with Adam, who listened as A.C. recited the simple prayer Bronwen had taught him. Then he climbed into the bed, and Adam settled himself in the rocking chair and began the story.
“I was seven years old when I got my first pony-twice as old as you are now. Your Grandpa, Uncle Hoss and I had been living near the Sacramento River in California. Grandpa had worked for a man named Sutter, but we were going back over the mountains to settle near a beautiful lake the Indians called Tahoe. One of Mr. Sutter’s neighbors was a man named Mendoza and he raised horses. Grandpa knew he was going to need a horse so he went to see Señor Mendoza and he took me with him.”
“What ’bout Unca Hoss?” A.C. asked.
Adam smiled. “He was still just a baby so we left him with a friend of ours, Mrs. Simon, and she took care of him for us. When we got to the station, I saw that Señor Mendoza not only had horses, he had mustang ponies. And one of them was the prettiest pony I’d ever seen. Her coat was the color of fresh cream, and her mane and tail were pure white. She had beautiful blue eyes just like Uncle Hoss and your Grandma Inger. I loved that pony from the moment I saw her.”
“Señor Mendoza saw the way I looked at the pony and he asked me if I’d like to ride her. I was afraid your grandpa would forbid me because the only horse I’d ever been on was our old draft horse, Molly, and that was because Grandpa knew she wouldn’t hurt me. Señor Mendoza must have seen that Grandpa was going to say no because he said, ‘Su hijo (that’s how you say ‘your son’ in Spanish) needs to learn to ride, Señor, and this little pony would be a good first mount, for she is very gentle.'”
“‘Please, Pa,’ I begged, but Grandpa said, ‘He’s too young. I’ll buy him a pony when he’s older.'”
“Señor Mendoza said to Grandpa, ‘Oh no Señor! He is old to be learning to ride. I was barely five when my father put me on my first pony and I did the same with mis hijos. If you like, I will even give su hijo his first riding lesson. What is your name, niño?’ he asked me.”
“‘Adam,’ I answered. ‘I’m named after the very first man.'”
“‘Ah,” he told me with a smile, “in Spanish your name is Adán.'”
“‘Adán,’ I repeated as carefully as I could. ‘Did you hear, Pa? My name in Spanish is Adán.'”
“What’s my name in S’anish, Daddy?” A.C. asked with an enormous yawn.
“You’re named for me so your name is also Adán. Your tad-cu once told me that Adam is Adda in Welsh. But let’s get back to the story. Señor Mendoza convinced Grandpa that I needed a mount, and so he bought me the beautiful pony. I named her Moonlight because that’s what she reminded me of. Señor Mendoza showed me how to mount Moonlight and how to use my legs to let her know what I wanted her to do. I was pretty sore after my first lesson, but Grandpa let me ride Moonlight part of the way home and then I would ride her every day.” He stopped then and saw A.C.’s eyes were closed. He kissed his son’s soft cheek and smoothed his hair back. He turned around to find Bronwen watching him from the doorway, a dreamy smile on her face. She knew Adam loved his son, but as A.C. grew older, he seldom showed that love in hugs and kisses as he had with the girls at that age.
“I was just coming to make sure everything was all right,” she said softly. “We’re playing charades if you care to join us,” and he nodded with the little half smile she loved.
Before Adam left for the mine the next morning, he took A.C. to one side and said very seriously, “Jackeroo, remember not to say anything to Mama about riding Honey because she’ll say no. It’s our secret: yours and mine and Gwyneth’s. Okay?”
“‘Kay,” A.C. repeated solemnly.
“You’ve got lots of new toys to play with. Why don’t you ask Beth to show you how to play with your hoop? I know she’d be happy to show you.”
“‘Kay,” he said happily and toddled off in search of his big sister. At the same time Miranda, Gwyneth and Penny came through the front door on their way to school. “Bye, Daddy,” they said.
“Wait a minute, Punkin,” Adam said. “I need to talk with you.” She stopped with a puzzled expression on her face. “I need you to get A.C. down to the paddock just before I get home without making your mother suspicious.”
“She’ll be apples,” Gwyneth said confidently.
He grinned at her and said, “How about you go ahead and you show A.C. how to saddle Honey before I get there. I know he’s too small to do it himself, but you could still show him how it’s done,” and she nodded her acceptance. “I’ll see you at the paddock tonight.”
Adam actually expected that A.C. would forget and tell his mother about riding Honey. To his surprise, when he rode to the barn to put Zephyr away, A.C. and Gwyneth were waiting at the paddock, and Gwyneth had Honey saddled.
“Gwyneth, could you take care of Zephyr for me? I just don’t think your brother can wait another moment,” he said with a grin, watching his son literally jumping for joy. Gwyneth returned his grin and took Zephyr’s reins and headed for the barn.
“First, Jackeroo, you have got to calm down, or you’re going to scare Honey,” Adam said quietly. “No jumping.” He smiled at the little boy and rubbed his back to help soothe him. “Now, you watched Gwyneth saddle Honey, right?” and A.C. nodded. “When you’re bigger and you have your own pony, you’ll saddle and unsaddle your own. You always want to mount a horse or pony from this side,” Adam explained as they walked to Honey’s left side. “Now, since you’re too short to reach the stirrup, I’m going to be your mounting block. I want you to put this foot,” and he tapped A.C.’s left foot, “on my hands. When you do that, I’m going to lift you up and I want you to grab this part of the saddle,” and he put his hand on the horn. Then he locked the fingers of his hands together and bent over. “Put your foot right here, Jackeroo.” A.C. stepped into his father’s interlinked fingers and Adam lifted him high enough that he could reach the horn. “Now, swing your other leg over,” Adam instructed, and he was pleased with A.C.’s first attempt at mounting. He shortened the stirrups and made sure A.C.’s feet were in them
He picked up Honey’s reins and A.C. said excitedly, “Make Honey go fast, Daddy!”
“You learn to ride at a walk first. No galloping,” Adam replied firmly. He made a clicking sound and the little golden dun pony obediently began to walk in a circle within the paddock. Gwyneth had finished currying Zephyr and turned him out in the paddock where he could graze on the tufts of grass growing there.
“You’re a fair dinkum jackeroo, A.C.,” she called as she watched her baby brother ride around the paddock. None of them noticed Bronwen approaching from the house. For a moment, fear and anger competed for dominance when she saw her baby sitting alone on the pony’s back, but anger won out. She maintained enough self-control to walk up to the paddock quietly so as not to startle Honey or A.C. However, as Adam approached where she stood, he saw the fire in her eyes and knew she was furious with him. He admitted guiltily that she had a right to be. He was in the wrong, not a place he liked to be.
“Look, Mama! I’m fair dinkum jackewoo!” A.C. called excitedly. Then he frowned when Adam brought the pony to a halt. “No, wanna ride more!”
“No more riding,” Bronwen said firmly as she lifted him off Honey’s back. He immediately began to yell and kick, so she swatted his bottom and he began to cry loudly. She turned to Adam. “We’ll talk later.”
He tugged on his earlobe and sighed. Then he unsaddled Honey and carried her tack into the barn before heading back to the house with Gwyneth.
“Mama’s mad at you, isn’t she?” Gwyneth said, casting a worried glance at her father’s face.
Adam heard the worry in her tone and saw it in her expression. “We’ll work it out, Punkin,” he replied, putting his arm around her shoulders. I just hope I don’t have to sleep in the library tonight.
Supper, which was usually a happy time when the children shared their day, was quiet and the atmosphere was strained. When Miranda had seen her mother carrying a sobbing A.C. back from the paddock, she knew what must have happened. All Beth and Penny knew was that Mama was obviously angry with Daddy. The tension between their parents made all the girls miserable, and A.C. was sullen. The girls cleared the table silently and then disappeared in the library to work on their schoolwork or in Beth’s case to read. Bronwen put the sulky A.C. to bed, and then Adam came up to say goodnight
“Do you want to talk now?” he asked quietly as she closed the door to A.C’s. room. She nodded and walked into their bedroom. He followed, and closed the door behind him.
“How dare you!” she burst out the minute the door was closed. “How dare you put our son’s life at risk!”
“I don’t think his life was at risk,” he replied quietly. “I had Honey on a leading rein so I was controlling her, not A.C.” He saw her eyes were still flashing amethyst fire so he added, “You can’t believe I would ever do anything to endanger A.C.”
“I wouldn’t except that I saw it with my own eyes,” she retorted. “He’s only three years old! That’s too young to be riding on his own. We agreed the girls could ride when they were four. You know I would have preferred waiting until they were five, but I deferred to your wishes. But you! You sneak around behind my back, knowing that I’d never agree!”
“I’m sorry; I was in the wrong. I admit it,” he said, his tone soothing. “I know I should have talked with you about it and not been so high-handed. But I believe he is ready for riding lessons now as long as I keep him on a leading rein.”
“Absolutely not! He can wait until he is four just as his sisters did.”
“Sweetheart, I think you’re being unreasonable,” he said in the same voice he used on the children when they were hysterical.
“Whereas you are always the voice of reason! I’m just the emotional, overwrought female!”
“Sometimes, right now for example, you are.”
“Well, this emotional, overwrought female is going to sleep in the library tonight!” She started to leave the room, but he put his hand on her arm.
“No, please,” he said quietly. “I don’t want us to go to bed angry. I admit I was in the wrong. If you don’t want him to have riding lessons until he’s four, then he won’t. And I won’t make any more decisions about the children without discussing it with you first. But please, forgive me.”
“All right,” she agreed slowly. “I don’t want to go to bed angry either. But I am holding you to your promise. If you ever do anything like this again, one of us will be sleeping in the library for some time. Let’s join the girls. We’ve upset them so I want to show them that everything is all right between us. Would you like to play some cribbage?”
The girls, especially Gwyneth who felt responsible for the strain between her parents, were enormously relieved when they saw them playing cribbage. However, when Adam and Bronwen got into bed and he began kissing her, thinking they would make up in the same fashion they always did, she was unresponsive, so he pulled back with a frown.
“I just don’t feel in the mood tonight,” she said, rolling on her side so her back was to him.
“You’re still angry with me,” he said dejectedly.
“I’m trying not to be, but I just don’t feel like making love with you tonight. I agreed to share a bed with you, and you’re just going to have to be content with that for now.”
He sighed and rolled on his side, careful not to touch her. I have no one to blame but myself, he thought dolefully. If our positions were reversed, I know I’d feel the same. Sleep did not come easily to him that night, although he refrained from tossing and turning so he wouldn’t disturb her.
She woke first the next morning and discovered they were curled together like two spoons just as they were most mornings. She turned quietly so she could see his face. Oh, Adam. I suppose I can be too emotional at times just as you can be too detached. Mam says we compliment each other and most of the time I agree. I really can’t stay angry with you, and I want you to know that.
Afterward she lay astride him, their bodies still joined, while he stroked her long silky hair as it flowed down her back and covered them like a cloak. He said softly, “I love you so much. I can’t bear it when you’re angry with me.”
“I love you, too. I can’t even imagine my life without you.” She paused and winked at him. “Even if you are exasperating at times,” and he chuckled before capturing her mouth in a long passionate kiss.
That evening she was sitting on the verandah and saw Adam ride by. She headed to the barn so they could walk to the house together. As she approached the barn, she heard Adam’s voice and stopped.
“I’m glad you’re here, Punkin, because I wanted to talk with you about yesterday,” she heard him say, and she held off making her presence known. “What I did, letting A.C. ride Honey knowing that your mama wouldn’t approve, was wrong. It was the same as if you had done something behind my back after I’d told you not to do it. Mama had every right to be angry with me.”
“You punish me when I do something wrong,” Gwyneth remarked speculatively.
“Having Mama angry with me was punishment enough,” Adam replied quietly.
“But she’s not still angry?” Gwyneth asked anxiously, and Bronwen could barely hear Adam’s reply.
“No, she’s forgiven me. I just wanted to make sure you understood that what I did yesterday was wrong and why it was wrong.”
“I do understand, Daddy. I guess I knew it was wrong when we had to keep it a secret from Mama. That didn’t feel right.”
“That was your conscience talking. My conscience told me it was wrong too, but I ignored it. You should always listen to your conscience even when you don’t want to hear what it’s telling you.”
Bronwen’s conscience was telling her that it was wrong to eavesdrop, so she decided to make her presence known. “Supper is ready so I thought I’d see what was keeping you two,” she said with a smile as she walked into the barn.
“We’re finished here,” Adam replied, putting up the currycomb. He turned to Gwyneth. “Why don’t you run ahead, Punkin. I’d like to talk with Mama.” Gwyneth nodded and sprinted up to the house, and Adam leaned over and kissed Bronwen.
“I overheard your conversation,” Bronwen said when the kiss ended. “Thank you for admitting to Gwyneth that you were in the wrong. I know that wasn’t easy. In fact, I think that you deserve a reward for such a virtuous act.” He arched his eyebrow, and she winked at him before putting her arm around his waist. He grinned and put his around her shoulders as they walked up the path to their waiting children.
“I’d really like to attend the Girls’ Latin School this spring-I mean fall,” Miranda said one evening in mid-April. “Beth was right; Mr. Clarke doesn’t have any more to teach me. I’m learning more studying trigonometry and Latin with you, Daddy.”
“You’re really sure?” Bronwen asked, and Miranda nodded.
“I know that I’ll miss all of you terribly, but I do want this so much.”
“All right,” Adam said. “I’ll write to the school and the Aldens tonight. And I’ll write your Grandpa and tell him we’ll be coming for a visit in August. Do the rest of you girls want to come to Boston, or stay at the Ponderosa?”
“I think I’d rather stay at the Ponderosa,” Beth replied. “I saw Boston the last time we visited.” Adam and Bronwen exchanged glances. Beth was now almost completely recovered from Hampton’s attack. Although she still refused to go anywhere alone, she walked to and from church every Sunday with a young man-most often Tony Williams and Sandy McDonald, who were her age. None of the young men interested in courting her, however, had summoned the courage to call on her (and her entire family) yet. Adam and Bronwen realized that visiting a large city such as Boston might still be too much for her, which was why they offered the alternative of staying at the ranch.
“What about you, Punkin?” Adam asked.
“I think I’d rather stay at the ranch,” she decided. Her parents knew that she also would prefer the ranch to a busy city full of strangers.
“I want to go to Boston,” Penny announced, “and see Bunker Hill and the Old North Church and the Girls Latin School and Harvard.”
“All right. Beth and Gwyneth will stay at the ranch while the rest of us go to Boston,” Adam agreed.
“Maybe A.C. would rather stay at the ranch,” Penny suggested hopefully, but Bronwen frowned at her.
“A.C. needs to be with Daddy and me.”
“Besides, I want to spend as much time with A.C. as I can since I won’t see him again for so long,” Miranda added.
That night Adam lay sleepless, his body curled around Bronwen’s. He forced himself to lay motionless so he wouldn’t disturb her, but his thoughts were not so easily subdued. In only a few short months his second born would be leaving, not to return for several years. Perhaps never. He knew Miranda, and she would be much happier in a cultural center like Boston than a frontier town like Cloncurry. She needed a husband who would be her intellectual equal, a man who would encourage her academic pursuits. Adam could think of no man here that would value Miranda’s intelligence. There were plenty of decent, hardworking men living in or near Cloncurry, but what they wanted in a wife was someone to bear their children and manage their household. They would have no patience with a wife who was interested in higher mathematics. Oh Pa, now I begin to understand how difficult it was for you to let me go to Harvard. Yet I know to keep Miranda here would be selfish. I taught her to be independent and think for herself. Now I have to grant her the freedom to practice that independence-no matter how painful it is to me.
“I’ve got the mail here, boss,” Bronc Evans announced as he entered the great room of the Ponderosa ranch house. “You got a letter from Queensland,” he added with a smile because he knew how much letters from his first-born meant to Ben Cartwright.
Ben’s face lit up at the mention of Queensland, and he smiled warmly at his foreman. “Good. You make sure Joe gets home on time tonight. Tell him if he’s late, I’ll read Adam’s letter without him.”
“I think that’ll get him home on time,” Bronc said with a small grin. He’d come to the Ponderosa after the eldest son had left, but he’d seen how close Joe and Hoss had been and some older hands had let him know that it was the same with the oldest brother. “Sometimes Adam and Joe’d butt heads, but it didn’t mean nothin’. Don’t think I ever seen brothers as close as those three.”
Joe came through the front door calling, “I’m home!” and Benj and Sarah, who’d been playing while they waited for their daddy, ran to him, yelling “Hi Daddy!”
“Benj! Sarah! It’s not necessary to be so rambunctious,” Annabelle scolded.
“They’re just showin’ their daddy how much they missed him,” Joe said with a grin, which faded when he saw his wife’s little frown. He sighed and then picked Sarah up and kissed her and ruffled Benj’s hair. “You been a good boy today, Pardner?”
Benj nodded enthusiastically, his blue eyes shining. “I didn’t miss any of my arithmetic problems or my spelling words.” Since the distance from the ranch house to either Virginia City or Carson City was so great, Joe and Annabelle had agreed she would tutor Benj at home until he was nine. Then one of the hands would ride with him to school in Carson City since it was closer to the ranch house. Annabelle hoped that by the time Benj was fourteen, she could persuade Joe to let him attend Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, where her father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather had all attended.
“I was good, too, Daddy,” Sarah piped up, and he smiled at her.
“Let me get cleaned up for supper. Bronc tells me that we got a letter from your Uncle Adam, and I’m anxious to hear what he has to say.”
“Supper’s ready,” Buckshot, the Cartwrights’ wall-eyed cook, announced then. “Ya better hurry or it’ll get cold, and then it won’t be fit to eat.”
They ate a little more quickly than usual, and then gathered in the great room. Joe and Annabelle sat on the red-and-white striped settee with Benj between them, and Sarah on Joe’s lap. Ben sat in his favorite leather armchair, got out his reading glasses, and unfolded the letter.
April 18, 1891
We’ll be sailing for San Francisco in late July and should be arriving at the Ponderosa the first week in August. Miranda has decided to begin attending the Girls’ Latin School this September. I’ve already written the Aldens to ask if that would be all right with them and they said they’d be happy to have her. (Luckily she and Charlotte became friends when we visited two years ago and they’ve been corresponding intermittently ever since then.)
It’s been a difficult decision for Bronwen and me. We’re going to miss Miranda so much, but she’s outgrown the school in Cloncurry. I’ve been teaching her trigonometry and Latin at home, but Latin was always my weakest subject and she’ll need a better teacher to pass the entrance examination for the Harvard Annex. (I’m very pleased that she decided that is where she wants to attend.)
We’ll all stay with you for two weeks and then everyone but Beth and Gwyneth will be taking the train to Boston. We want to give Miranda plenty of time to get settled with the Aldens before school begins and she will need to have some new clothes suitable for a Boston winter. I remember I had a difficult time getting used to Boston’s cold, damp weather and it will be worse for Miranda. She is excited about seeing snow for the first time, but I have a feeling the excitement will quickly wear off once she has to walk to school or to church in it.
Beth and Gwyneth are both looking forward to spending time with all of you at the ranch. Bronwen and I were hoping that Beth would come to Boston. She’s doing much better and she has most of the boys her age walking her to and from church each Sunday, but I guess she doesn’t feel she’s ready to deal with the crowds of strangers in a big city like Boston. Gwyneth has always felt that way so we weren’t surprised when she said she’d rather stay at the ranch. I promised her that she could ride a horse this visit. She’s a real equestrienne and she’s been riding her own Waler mare ever since she turned eleven and outgrew her pony. Like her daddy, she prefers a horse with some spirit so we’ll need to find her a mount that’s not a slug. Not too small either. The last time I measured her she had grown a half an inch and was five foot seven inches.
Joe whistled at that. “She’s taller than you by almost two inches, Honey.”
“I hope for her sake that’s she done growing,” Annabelle remarked. “Men seem to prefer shorter women.”
“Is Cousin Gwyneth as tall as you, Daddy?” Benj inquired.
“Not yet, Pardner,” Joe said with a wink. “She takes after your Uncle Adam and he’s taller than me by almost four inches.”
“But I didn’t think girls were supposed to be tall as boys,” Benj said in puzzlement.
“It depends on the girl. There was a girl that used to live around these parts named Bessie Sue Hightower. Now she was taller than your Uncle Adam, but not quite as tall as your Uncle Hoss. I think Uncle Hoss was sweet on her for a while. Your Uncle Adam and I were afraid he’d marry her.”
“Why were you afraid?” Benj asked and Sarah echoed, “Why, Daddy?”
“I was teasing you,” Joe said with a grin. “Uncle Adam and I weren’t really afraid; we just weren’t sure we wanted Bessie Sue for a sister.”
“But how could she be your sister?” Benj persisted, for he was a very curious boy.
“The same way your Aunt Bronwen is my sister because she married Uncle Adam. And Mama is Uncle Adam’s sister because she married me. Understand?”
“I think so,” Benj said slowly.
“Good. Then let’s get back to the letter.”
Penny is excited to see where I was born, where I went to school and where her sister will be. A.C. is excited because his sisters are. He doesn’t understand yet that Miranda is going to be gone for a long time. She and I have talked and she understands that A.C. may forget her, but Bronwen and I have promised we’ll do our best not to let that happen. I can remember you writing me how hard it was for Joe when I went to Harvard and he was a couple of years older than A.C. I’m afraid it’s going to be harder for A.C. to understand why his sister is gone.
“Poor A.C.,” Joe said thoughtfully. “I can still remember how much I missed Adam at first, but the longer he was gone, the more my memories of him faded. If it weren’t for the letters he wrote us, he would have been a complete stranger when he came home.”
“I can remember those days,” Ben said slowly. “It was hard on all of us. Neither you nor Hoss really understood Adam’s desire to attend Harvard. Hoss knew it was important to Adam so he never let him know just how much he missed him. You were too young to even try to understand. I always thought you were frightened that Adam was going away and not coming back, the same way your mother was gone forever.”
“That’s exactly how I felt,” Joe replied softly. “And I can remember being angry when he’d write about how much he was enjoying school and enjoying being with his grandfather. I think I was afraid he loved his grandfather more than he loved us.”
“But you and Adam became close after he returned,” Annabelle said, “and I’m sure the same will happen with Miranda and A.C.”
“I hope so,” Joe replied, not totally convinced, and Ben continued reading.
Of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing everyone. I know I’m going to be as amazed by how much Benj and Sarah have grown as you will be by how much the girls and A.C. have.
“You know,” Ben said thoughtfully, “we should have a party to introduce Adam’s girls to the young folks here. Maybe even some dancing for the older ones.”
“Oh, but, Pa,” Annabelle said seriously, “Beth and Miranda aren’t old enough to be out yet.”
“Out of what, Mama?” Benj asked.
“Out in society. Girls make their debut when they’re seventeen or eighteen. Beth is only sixteen and Miranda fifteen.”
“We’re not so formal here, Honey,” Joe said. “And it doesn’t sound like they are in Cloncurry either because I remember Adam writing that they had dancing at Beth’s sixteenth birthday party.”
“And this is just an informal dance, dear,” Ben added. “It’s not a ball.”
“Can I dance, Grandpa?” Sarah asked hopefully.
“I’m afraid you’re a bit too young, Sugar,” he replied, smiling at his granddaughter. “You’ll have plenty of chances to dance when you’re older.”
Joe saw the disappointment in his daughter’s hazel eyes so he added, “Besides, Penny isn’t old enough to dance either. That part of the party will just be for Beth and Miranda, and maybe Gwyneth, ‘cause they’re almost grown up.” His mobile face lighted up. “Say, maybe we could have another party for the younger children. We could have cake and ice cream and the children could play games.”
“That sounds like more fun to me than dancing,” Benj said.
“We’ll have a party in the afternoon for the younger children and in the evening we’ll invite the young people for a dance,” Ben said and Sarah clapped her hands for joy.
“I see Grandpa!” Gwyneth yelled, waving her arm wildly from the train station in Carson City.
“Where? I can’t see him,” Penny complained, standing on tiptoe.
“That’s ’cause you’re too short,” Gwyneth replied. “Now I see Uncle Joe, and I guess that must be Benj with him.”
“I see them,” Adam added. “Look, A.C.,” he said, picking up the three-year-old so he could see over the crowd. “There they are,” and he pointed.
As Ben hurried toward his family, he could not believe how much his grandchildren had changed in only two years. Beth was no longer a lovely young girl; she was now a stunningly beautiful young woman. Ben had to remind himself that she wasn’t yet seventeen, for she looked nineteen or twenty. He saw with a small smile that Gwyneth had grown even taller and he guessed she was now only about an inch shorter than Joe. The glasses were new, but she and Adam had both written that she’d started wearing them the previous year. Penny looked as delicate as a piece of porcelain standing next to her much taller sister. A.C., Ben saw, was now very much the little boy with short hair (shorter than Benj’s), dressed in a knickerbocker suit. Then Ben saw Miranda and for a moment he felt as though he had stepped back in time fifty-eight years to the day he first met Elizabeth Stoddard. She smiled at him-her grandmother’s smile-and he had to blink back the tears that suddenly filled his eyes.
“Pa,” he heard in his firstborn’s velvet baritone so he turned to hug him. “It’s so good to see you son,” he said in a choked voice. “All of you.”
“It’s wonderful to see you looking so well, Pa,” Bronwen said and she hugged him.
“You look very well, too, dear,” Ben replied with a smile.
“Hey, don’t I get a hug,” Joe said with a big grin.
“Too right you do,” Bronwen replied with a matching gri, and hugged him hard for a moment. Then the two brothers hugged briefly.
“Do you remember your Uncle Adam and Aunt Bronwen, Pardner?” Joe asked Benj.
“Kinda,” Benj said noncommittally.
A.C. felt he had been ignored long enough. “Are you my grandpa?” he asked Ben, tugging on his pants.
“That’s right, young man,” Ben replied with a smile. “I’m your grandpa. This is your Uncle Joe and this is your cousin, Benj.” A.C. smiled, but he was suddenly shy and grabbed his daddy’s hand for reassurance.
“Benj, these are your cousins Beth, Miranda, Gwyneth and Penny,” Joe said gesturing to each girl in turn. “And this is your cousin, A.C.” and he smiled at his nephew. Then he turned to Adam and Bronwen. “I guess we’d better be on our way. Pa drove the surrey-we have a four-seater now so it should hold all of you. I drove the buckboard so I could take your trunks, and Benj and I will ride in that.”
Adam gave Joe the tickets for their trunks, and then he picked A.C. up in one arm and offered the other to Bronwen. Ben offered his to Beth, and she accepted with a smile. “I wanna walk, Daddy,” A.C. whined.
“No, Jackeroo. Carson City is a busier place than home so you have to stay with me.”
“I want down!” A.C. demanded.
“A.C., we will have a necessary talk right here and now if you aren’t quiet,” Adam said in a firm, no-nonsense voice. A.C. pouted, but he was quiet. Adam saw his father’s grin and rolled his eyes while Bronwen had to choke her laugh into her hankie.
Ben noticed with a smile that the first thing Adam did when they reached the surrey was to take off his tie and put it in the pocket of his frock coat and then he took the coat off and draped it over the back of the seat. That done he helped Bronwen into the surrey and handed her A.C. while Ben assisted Beth and Miranda. Adam lifted Penny up and put her in the back while Ben helped Gwyneth.
The journey to the Ponderosa was a pleasant one. Ben conversed easily with his granddaughters about their trip from Cloncurry. They told him how they’d rented a wagon to haul their trunks to Townsville and horses for the four of them to ride. He learned that Miranda and Gwyneth were good sailors while Beth and Penny were not. By this time A.C. had gotten over his sulks, and facing the back, he began to chatter like a magpie, hardly giving his sisters a chance to speak.
Penny finally said, “A.C., you’re not the only one who wants to talk with Grandpa,” in an irritated tone.
“Penny,” Bronwen started to reprimand her but Adam broke in saying, “Penny’s right. A.C., you need to let your sisters have a chance to talk to Grandpa.” A.C. lapsed back into a pout but it didn’t last long and then he fell asleep on Bronwen’s lap.
“You shouldn’t be so harsh with him, Cariad,” Bronwen said softly so Ben and the girls couldn’t hear.
“I don’t think I was,” Adam replied in an equally quiet voice. “He wasn’t allowing anyone else to talk and he must learn that isn’t acceptable behavior.”
“He’s just overexcited,” she said defensively.
“It’s in the past now. Let’s just not talk about it, all right?” and she noted there was an edge to his voice so she simply sighed and agreed.
They drove up to the ranch house with Joe and the buckboard right behind them. Annabelle and Sarah were waiting on the front porch. Joe told Adam he’d take care of all the horses, and he and one of the hands would bring Miranda’s trunk into her room and take the other upstairs.
“Hi Grandpa!” four-year-old Sarah called as she ran to him while everyone was getting out of the surrey.
A.C. said truculently, “He’s my grandpa.”
Adam gave A.C.’s neck an affectionate squeeze, saying, “Yes, but he’s Sarah’s grandpa, too.”
A.C. looked up at Ben for confirmation and Ben smiled at him. “That’s right, A.C. Your daddy and Sarah’s daddy are both my sons.”
Annabelle walked up then and Beth said with a smile, “G’day, Aunt Annabelle.”
“G’day,” Miranda, Gwyneth and Penny echoed their sister.
“How come you all talk funny?” Benj asked and Annabelle scolded, “Benjamin! Apologize at once.”
“Why?” he said belligerently. “They do talk funny.”
“It’s all a matter of your point of view,” Miranda said kindly. “From our point of view all of you talk strangely. Or it would seem that way except that we’re used to the way our daddy talks. Everyone in Australia talks like us.”
“That’s right, Benj,” Adam said. “Australia is thousands of miles away across the Pacific Ocean. The people there developed their own way of speaking English, just like the English people who came across the ocean to settle in this country.”
“You see, Benj,” Ben said, “people in different parts of the United States talk differently. Your mama grew up in Boston and she doesn’t sound exactly like your daddy, does she?”
Benj frowned a little in concentration and then he smiled. “That’s right.”
“Now that we’ve settled that problem, I am sure you all want a chance to freshen up,” Annabelle said brightly, gesturing for the Australian Cartwrights to follow her, while Ben stayed on the porch with Benj and Sarah. “Miranda, we’re putting you in the downstairs bedroom,” Annabelle said, indicating the door as they entered the great room. “Penny and Gwyneth, I hope you don’t mind sharing a bed?” she asked as they headed up the stairs.
Both girls shrugged and Penny said quickly, “She’s apples.”
Adam gave a snort of laughter as he saw the look on Annabelle’s face. “That means it’s fine, Annabelle,” he said.
“Oh,” Annabelle replied, still looking bemused. “I put A.C. in the room across from yours where he was on your last visit,” she told Adam and Bronwen, who nodded. “Now, Beth, you’ll have the room across from Grandpa’s and Gwyneth and Penny will be next-door.”
“Thank you, Annabelle,” Bronwen said. “We’ll be down in a bit.” As Annabelle disappeared down the stairs and the girls headed to their rooms, Bronwen said to A.C., “It’s time for your nap.”
“Not sleepy,” A.C. said.
“He did sleep on the trip here,” Adam said quietly. “Why don’t we let him stay up?” and Bronwen nodded her agreement. Just then Joe and one of the hands brought their trunk upstairs. The girls came into their parents’ room to get their clothes.
“Don’t unpack now, girls,” Adam said. “Let’s just change into some more comfortable clothes, and then go downstairs and join the others. We can unpack this evening”
He was happy to shed his formal attire and change into one of his old black cotton shirts and his waist overalls. (He’d bought a couple of new pairs while they were in San Francisco and, as a surprise, he bought a couple of pairs for Gwyneth, who spent a good deal of time on horseback. He hadn’t had a chance to give them to her yet though.) Bronwen helped A.C. change into a pair of black serge knickerbockers and a black cotton shirt that was a miniature version of his father’s. Then she took him downstairs and asked Ben to watch him while she and Adam changed. Ben had to chuckle at the sight of A.C. dressed in black just like his daddy.
Adam was tucking in his shirt when she entered their room and asked him to unbutton her dress for her. As she stepped out of it she said with a sigh of relief, “Thank goodness. Now I can loosen this corset. Could you help me?”
“Why you women torture yourselves with these contraptions is beyond me,” Adam stated as he deftly loosened the corset.
“Because men like women to have figures like an hourglass, which I will never have no matter how tightly I lace my corset. I wish I had a figure like Beth’s.”
“Your figure looks just fine to me,” he replied with a glint in his eye as he took in her small breasts, trim waist, and deliciously rounded buttocks.
“Adam, your family is waiting for us downstairs,” she replied in a scolding tone, but he could see the answering gleam in her eye.
“I know A.C.’s not sleepy, but I was certainly looking forward to a ‘nap’ when we got here. After all, it’s been eight long weeks since we left Cloncurry,” Adam said cheekily, as his hands cupped Bronwen’s bottom and he bent to nuzzle her neck.
“Cariad, there isn’t time,” she began but he interrupted.
“It can be quick. We can just think of it as an apéritif and tonight will be the main course.”
She hesitated, for it had been a long eight weeks, and then she deftly unbuckled his belt and unfastened his waist overalls as he chuckled.
“I wonder what’s keeping Mama and Daddy,” Penny said impatiently.
“Oh, I imagine they’ll be down soon,” Joe replied with a wink and then he grinned naughtily as he saw his wife’s cheeks turn pink.
A short time later Adam and Bronwen descended the stairs and found everyone was waiting for them. The girls had changed into shirtwaist blouses and the loose fitting knickerbockers designed for women because they were hoping they could go riding. A.C. and Sarah were both sitting on Ben’s lap in his favorite leather chair. Adam sat in the blue velvet chair that had always been his favorite and Bronwen perched on the arm.
“The girls would like to go riding,” Joe said. “Do you two want to come along with us?”
“Not today,” Adam said and Bronwen nodded her agreement. “I think we’d like a chance to visit with Pa.”
“I wanna ride,” A.C. said loudly but Adam replied, “Not today, Jackeroo. Daddy will take you for a ride tomorrow. Okay?” and A.C. nodded reluctantly.
“I have my own pony,” Sarah said proudly and A.C.’s eyebrows, which were just like Adam’s, began to draw together in a frown.
“When A.C. is four like you are, then he’ll have a pony of his own,” Adam added quickly. “Right now he just rides with me or his mama or Beth. Right, A.C.?” and the little boy nodded, his face brightening at the promise of his own pony when he was four.
“Uncle Joe says he has just the horse for me,” Gwyneth exclaimed happily, her whole face lighting up.
Adam looked at his younger brother with one eyebrow arched. “I chose a Morgan mare. I got her to breed with Sultan, our Quarter Horse stallion. She’s fifteen hands, and I thought she’d be perfect for Gwyneth.
“I’d like to see the mounts Uncle Joe has picked for you,” Adam said and Bronwen added, “Yes, I would, too.”
A.C., Benj and Sarah stayed with Ben and Annabelle while everyone else walked out to the corral. “I picked out this little perlino mustang pony for Penny. She’s only a little over thirteen hands, so I figured that was a good size.”
Adam smiled. “She looks a lot like my first pony, Moonlight.”
“Fair dinkum?” Penny asked. Adam nodded while Joe just shook his head in bewilderment.
“We still have the mounts Beth and Miranda rode last time you all visited,” Joe said pointing to a pair of Quarter Horse geldings, one dappled gray and the other grullo. “Here’s the mount I chose for Gwyneth.” Gwyneth fell in love with the beautiful bay mare with her large liquid eyes and gracefully curved neck.
“Is that Rosebud?” Bronwen asked excitedly and Joe nodded.
“Annabelle rides her sometimes,” he added with a smile “but we think of her as yours.” He turned to Adam. “I knew you’d want to pick your own mount but I selected the most likely candidates. That black, or the palomino or the Appaloosa.”
“Appaloosa? The horses the Nez Perce bred?” Adam asked, and Joe nodded.
“When Chief Joseph surrendered, the cavalry confiscated their horses. I had heard a lot of good things about them, so I went to Montana and got a pair of stallions and several mares so we could breed some here.”
Adam looked thoughtful, and then he turned to Bronwen. “Would you mind if I took the Appaloosa for a short ride now?”
Bronwen grinned. “Why don’t we all go? I’m sure Pa won’t mind watching A.C. Just give me a minute to change out of this skirt.”
“Fine. That’ll give us a chance to get acquainted with our mounts,” Adam replied. “You’d better go in the backdoor so A.C. doesn’t see you because I predict a major temper tantrum if he knows we’re all going without him.”
“I’ll go tell Annabelle so she and Pa know why you’re gone so long,” Joe replied with a grin, his green eyes dancing at the thought of his older brother dealing with a three-year-old’s temper tantrum.
Bronwen changed quickly into her knickerbockers, boots and Stetson and came down the back stairs so A.C. wouldn’t see her and fuss. The others already had their mounts saddled and Adam was saddling Rosebud for her.
“If you don’t mind where we go, I’d like to check on the barbed wire fence we’re putting in north pasture,” Joe said as they rode away from the yard.
“The Ponderosa is using devil wire?” Adam asked in surprise.
“Yeah, I’m afraid the days of free range are gone, Adam. We started putting up barbed wire about a year ago, and most of the other ranches around here have had it for two or three years. The fences sure make it easier at roundup though, so I guess it’s progress. And speaking of progress, I traded my Colt Navy for a Peacemaker.”
“I’d like to take a look at it. I bought a Smith & Wesson Schofield while we were in San Francisco this trip to replace my old Colt Dragoon. But I imagine the ladies would prefer a change of topic,” Adam said grinning at his wife and daughters.
“Well, while our womenfolk are talking fashion, you and me and Pa can talk about sidearms,” Joe replied with a matching grin.
“The Ponderosa is even more beautiful than I remembered,” Gwyneth said, gazing all round her. “I love the pine trees and the mountains.”
“I think the lake is what I like best,” Beth said.
“Yes, that’s my favorite,” Penny agreed.
“Your grandpa used to compare the Ponderosa to Heaven,” Adam replied, smiling at the memory. “I’ve seen a lot of places, but none more beautiful than this ranch.”
“Why did you leave then?” Beth asked, and Joe wondered what Adam would reply.
“As much as I love the Ponderosa, I wanted to see more of the world,” Adam replied slowly. “I’d traveled from Massachusetts to Nevada when I was a boy, but I wanted to see some of the other places I’d only read about. I saw the pyramids rising out of the desert sands in Egypt.” He sighed slightly. “That is a sight I will never forget. It is truly awe inspiring.” He smiled lost in memory as he added, “I visited the Acropolis in Athens and viewed the ruins of the Parthenon. It was probably the most beautiful building ever created. I wanted to weep when I saw its ruin. In Italy I saw the paved roads and aqueducts the ancient Roman engineers built centuries ago and I was amazed at how well they have endured. I saw St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome and the Sistine Chapel, where I viewed Michelangelo’s incredible frescos.”
He seemed to come back to himself, and said with a little half grin, “I’d planned to travel to China, but I met your mama and I decided I’d rather be with her than traveling around the world. The continent of Australia is her home and I didn’t want to ask her to leave it, so I went into business with Uncle Rhys and we all moved to Cloncurry.” He smiled at his daughters. “The outback has a wild beauty of its own, and it’s a special place. There’s no where else on earth you’ll see a mob of kangaroos hopping along. You won’t find emus, koalas or kookaburras anywhere but Australia.” The girls all nodded their agreement.
That seemed to break the mood and Gwyneth asked, “Can we gallop? I’d like to see how fast this mare is.”
“I’d like to go for a gallop, too,” Beth said, patting the neck of her dapple-grey gelding.
“And I’d like to test this boy’s speed,” Adam agreed.
“You three go ahead,” Joe said. “We’ll catch up.” He smiled as he watched the three riders gallop off, Adam and Gwyneth neck in neck and Beth not far behind. “I have a feeling that Beth and Gwyneth are going to be doing a lot of riding while they’re here,” he commented.
“They’re the best riders in the family,” Miranda said. “Penny and I like to ride, but not as much as Beth and Gwyneth.”
“Do you ladies feel up to a canter?” Joe asked, and they all nodded. They soon caught up with the others, who had slowed their horses so as not to tire them. It wasn’t long before they came upon some of the hands digging holes for fence posts.
“Afternoon, Bronc,” Joe said. “Brought my brother and his family to see the new fence we’re building.”
“Ladies,” Bronc said, tipping his hat, as the Cartwrights dismounted. A couple of the younger hands stopped working and gawked at all the females dressed in knickerbockers.
“You’re fencing in the entire north pasture?” Adam asked, looking around. “Quite a job.”
“It shore is. We did the south pasture last year,” Bronc replied. “We got a good crew, and we’ll git finished before it’s time to drive the steers to market.” He’d raised his voice on the last sentence, and the hands got the message.
“I wish I could go on a cattle drive,” Gwyneth said wistfully.
“No, you don’t,” Joe said. “They’re dirty and you end up sore and smelling like a steer by the end of the drive.”
“Amen to that,” Adam added with a laugh, and Bronc smiled slightly. “It’s different than going on a ride, Punkin. You’re in the saddle ten to twelve hours or more a day. I may miss the Ponderosa, but I sure don’t miss cattle drives.”
They ground tied their mounts and Joe and Adam walked over to look at the work being done while Bronwen and the girls stayed by Bronc.
“I hope we can take a hot bath when we get back. I forgot I hadn’t ridden for a month while we were on the ship and train,” Miranda said, resisting the urge to rub her behind.
“I feel stuffed,” Bronwen added with a wan smile.
“I’d forgotten how different their saddles are,” Beth commented.
“Yeah, they’re so much bigger and heavier,” Gwyneth agreed.
“What kind of saddles are you ladies used to?” Bronc inquired.
“We use English saddles,” Beth replied. “Daddy’s saddle is like these, but when he taught us to ride, it was with English saddles. It was hard for me to lift this one, and Uncle Joe had to saddle Penny’s pony for her.”
“I’m sure one of the hands would be happy to saddle your horses for you,” Bronc said with a smile, thinking they’d shore be happy to saddle yours, and do anything else you’d like, I reckon.
One of the younger hands-a tall, well-built young man in his twenties, who’d only signed on a couple of weeks earlier-asked the older hand digging near him, “Who’s she?”
“Which she?” the older man asked, knowing full well which woman the younger man meant.
“The one wearing the tan Stetson. She’s the best-lookin’ gal I ever seen. Like a chance to get to know her better,” he added with a suggestive leer.
“That ain’t too likely, son.”
“Whataya mean? I ain’t never had no problems gettin’ to know any gal caught my eye,” the younger hand replied with a smirk.
“That gal is Mr. Cartwright’s granddaughter, and the others are her sisters. The woman is their mother, and that tall bearded feller with Joe is his older brother, Adam. If’n I was you, I’d keep away from that gal, or you’ll liable to find yerself changed from a bull to a steer.”
“Uh, sure. I didn’t mean nothin’ by what I said. I didn’t know Mr. Cartwright had any granddaughters ‘cept the little girl. Or that Joe had a brother.”
“Adam settled in Queensland. It’s such a fur piece to travel that he and his family don’t git back here very often.”
Back at the ranch house, Ben and Annabelle were playing Tiddly Winks with the children. A.C. became restive as realized his mama and daddy had been gone a long time. “Where’s Mama? Where’s Daddy?” he asked worriedly, squirming to get down from Ben’s lap.
“I think they decided to go for a ride after all,” Annabelle said calmly. “But they’ll be back soon, I’m sure.”
“I want Mama,” A.C. said in a quavering voice, his lower lip sticking out and his chin beginning to quiver.
“How would you like to come for a ride with Grandpa?” Ben asked, hoping to divert his thoughts from Bronwen.
“Can we ride with you?” Benj asked.
“Sure. You can ride your ponies and A.C. will ride with me on Buck.” (This was the latest buckskin Ben owned. He always named his mount Buck, to the amusement of his sons.) “I think we’ll head toward the north pasture.”
“You wanna come too, Mama?” Sarah asked.
“Not this time, Sweetie. I’ll just walk with you to the corral and hand A.C. up to Grandpa once he’s mounted.”
As they rode along, A.C. looked in amazement at a landscape so different from his home. Ben noticed his wonder and said quietly, “This is where your daddy grew up, A.C., when he was a little boy.”
“Well, actually, he was more Benj’s age when we first settled here. When your daddy was your age, he and I were traveling in a covered wagon from Boston. I think we’d made it as far as western Pennsylvania. We stayed with a real nice family-can’t remember their name-but they had children for your daddy to play with. There was a nice lady staying at the boardinghouse who sewed your daddy his first pairs of pants and his first shirts. He was so happy to get out of skirts.”
“Daddy wore skirts?” A.C. said in surprise, and Ben smiled when he lifted one eyebrow in the familiar gesture.
“He sure did. He had lovely hair-black and curly like his mama’s-and it had never been cut so it came to his shoulders. One of the other children said your daddy looked like a girl, and, oh my, he was mad. The little girl’s mama cut your daddy’s hair and he’s worn it short ever since then.” Ben grinned. “Of course, now he doesn’t have too much left. He takes after his Grandpa Stoddard that way, and not me.”
“Uncle Adam’s mama is the dark-haired lady in the picture?” Benj asked.
“That’s right,” Ben said.
“Cousin Miranda sure looks like her,” Benj said, and Sarah nodded.
“I want see lady in picture like Manda,” A.C. said, and Ben smiled. “I’ll show you when we get back to the ranch house. The lady in the picture is your grandma, your daddy’s mama.”
“See Grandma?” A.C. asked hopefully.
“No, she’s in heaven with Sarah’s and my grandma,” Benj interjected. “Right, Grandpa?”
“That’s right. Your grandmas are in heaven,” Ben said, his tone wistful.
“With Jesus,” A.C. said, remembering what his mama had taught him.
“Yes, A.C,” Ben said with a smile. “They’re in heaven with Jesus.”
“Look,” Sarah said, pointing at a dust cloud in the distance.
“Think that’s them, Grandpa?” Benj asked.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Ben replied.
Soon they were close enough to recognize the riders and A.C. said excitedly, “Go fast, Grandpa! Go fast!”. With a smile, Ben urged Buck into a canter. The others pulled up their horses and waited for them. As soon as A.C. was close enough, he tried to jump off Buck onto Rosebud and Ben barely caught him. “Whoa, there, son. Let me hand you to your mother so you don’t get hurt,” he said firmly. He lifted his grandson and put him in his daughter-in-law’s outstretched hands while Rosebud calmly grazed
“Mama!” A.C. said and threw his arms around her neck in a stranglehold.
“A.C., Mama can’t breathe,” Bronwen managed to get out as she loosened his grip.
“You went away, Mama,” he said reproachfully.
“I’m sorry, bachgennyn. Mama and Daddy decided they wanted to go for a ride after all.”
“And it looks like you got to go for a ride with Grandpa,” Adam added, a slight smile hovering on his lips. “Do you want to ride back with Grandpa?”
A.C. looked at the horse his daddy was riding. “I wanna ride with you, Daddy,” he replied dimpling.
“Up you go,” Adam said reaching down one arm and taking him from Bronwen as the Appaloosa snorted restively and tossed his head. “Now, we’d better head home so we aren’t late for supper.”
Since there were so many of them, Penny, Benj, Sarah and A.C. ate in the kitchen while the rest of the family gathered at the dining room table. “We’ve planned a party on Saturday,” Ben said with a smile.
“I told you,” Adam said, winking at his daughters.
“Actually,” Annabelle stated, “we’re having two parties. We’re having one in the afternoon for A.C., Sarah, Benj, and Penny with ice cream, cake, and games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Blindman’s Bluff, and we’re inviting all the children their age from the area. Then in the evening, we’re having a party for Beth, Miranda, and Gwyneth with some dancing. We’re inviting young people their age, and their parents of course.”
“Oh thank you, Grandpa, Aunt Annabelle and Uncle Joe,” Beth said enthusiastically. She was glad she had packed the lovely dress Aunt Matilda had made for her birthday. Adam and Bronwen shared a smile at her eager reaction, for this was evidence that Beth had overcome her aversion to strangers.
“Yes, thanks, it sounds like fun,” Miranda added smiling.
“Thank you,” Gwyneth added in a more subdued tone, for she wasn’t looking forward to meeting a lot of strangers.
“You already know some of the guests,” Ben added quickly. “Susan, Cindy and Andy McCarran will be here, and you met them two years ago.
“Oh yes, I remember Cindy,” Gwyneth said with something less than enthusiasm, for truthfully she and the youngest McCarran hadn’t really bonded since Cindy hated reading and hadn’t much interest in horseback riding. Then she had a thought. “What about Carrie Lightly?” she asked. “Will she be coming?” Carrie was a year older than Gwyneth but she was a bookworm and when they’d met two years ago they’d had fun talking about the books they’d read.
“Yes, Carrie and her sister Emma are coming. And their brother, Jesse,” Annabelle answered.
“It’s very nice of you to go to all this work, Annabelle,” Bronwen said with a warm smile.
“How often do I get a chance to do something for my lovely nieces,” Annabelle answered with a smile of her own. Then she made a sudden change of subject. “I have discovered a wonderful poet; she’s dead now, but the first volume of her poetry was published last year.”
“Emily Dickinson?” Bronwen asked and Annabelle said, “Have you read her work?”
“Yes, Adam bought me the first published volume of her poetry for my birthday, and we both love it.”
“Hers is a unique voice,” Adam agreed. “I understand that another volume of poems is going to be published later this year.”
“Yes, my brother is going to purchase a copy for me and send it here. Oh, I’m sure he could do the same for you.”
“That would be wonderful,” Bronwen said. “We’ll ask him about it when we are in Boston. Have you read any of the novels by Henry James? He’s an American author who lives in Europe. Adam and I both enjoyed his Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady.”
“No, I’m not familiar with his work,” Annabelle said. “I’ve been reading Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.”
“Yes, it’s excellent,” Bronwen agreed.
“I enjoy Jane Austen’s novels,” Miranda interjected. “I finished Persuasion while we were sailing here.”
“I understand that you are also a reader, Gwyneth,” Annabelle said with a smile.
“Yes,” Gwyneth replied with a shy smile. “Right now I’m reading Sara Crewe: or What Happened at Miss Minchin’s. It’s a story about an English girl who was born in India but her mother dies and her father puts her in a boarding school in London. After three years her father dies penniless, and the headmistress of the school is very cruel to her. It’s written by the author of Little Lord Fauntleroy. I like this book better.”
Beth, who was seated by Joe, said in an undertone, “Now they’ll probably want to talk about books all night.”
Joe smiled. “I’m afraid you’re right. Your aunt doesn’t get that many chances to talk about books or poetry, and she has been looking forward to your parents’ visit. Do you like to play checkers or cribbage?”
Beth nodded, and replied, “I like cribbage best. Will you play with me after dinner?”
“Sure,” Joe replied with a grin. It would be a pleasure sitting across from his beautiful niece.
The morning of the parties, Bronwen offered to bake the cake and Buckshot agreed, with obvious reluctance. He helped Annabelle and the girls clean the house while Adam, Joe and one of the hands, a tall black man named Jacob, strung Japanese lanterns in the front yard for the dance. Ben, with lots of “help” from Benj, Sarah and A.C., made the ice cream. At two o’clock, the great room of the ranch house began to fill up with children from the neighboring ranches, their ages ranging from three to ten. The Cartwright men had made their escape right after dinner, leaving the women and the older girls in charge of the party.
The great room rang with excited shrieks and squeals as the children played Blindman’s Bluff and Pin the Tail on the Donkey. A.C. was thrilled when he managed to pin on the donkey’s tail. Then while the older children played I Have a Basket and Taboo, the younger ones played jackstraws and Deerstalker. Finally, it was time for the cake and ice cream. All the children were happy and full when their parents came to pick them up. Annabelle and Bronwen were feeling frazzled so Beth and Miranda offered to watch their little brother and cousins so they could rest.
The men returned home just in time for supper. The two youngest Cartwrights immediately ran to their daddies and began chattering away about the party and all the fun they had.
“Did you thank Mama and Aunt Annabelle?” Adam asked A.C. and Penny.
“I did,” Penny said self-righteously, and Adam raised his eyebrow at her before turning his attention to his son. “How about you, Jackeroo?”
A.C. ran to Annabelle and Bronwen, who were standing together on the porch. “Thank you, Mama. Thank you, Aunt Annabelle,” he said with a big dimpled smile.
“You’re most welcome, A.C.,” Annabelle said with a smile, and Bronwen added, “Yes, you are very welcome, A.C. bach.”
“How about you two?” Joe asked Sarah and Benj. “Did you thank Mama and Aunt Bronwen?”
“Thank you, Mama. Thank you, Aunt Bronwen,” they chorused and the two women smiled at them saying, “You’re welcome.”
“Beth, Miranda and Gwyneth were a big help,” Bronwen said tartly, “unlike certain other members of the family.” Adam and Joe both grinned unrepentantly.
After a light supper Sarah and A.C. were sent to bed; A.C. was so tired that he actually went without complaint. (Penny was allowed to remain up another hour, reading in her room.) Once the two youngest Cartwrights were in bed, the others began dressing for the evening. Gwyneth was the first one finished; Bronwen had let down the hem on her sprigged muslin party dress, but it was still a bit short. The thirteen-year-old was beginning to fear that she would never stop growing. She was already as tall as some of the older boys in school, not to mention being the second tallest member of her family after her daddy.
When Ben came downstairs dressed in his black suit, he found Gwyneth sitting on the bottom step, absorbed in a book. “Now, don’t you look pretty,” he said with a warm smile. “Would you do me the honor of dancing the first dance with me?”
“Too right,” she replied, and her smile transformed her normally grave expression-her golden-brown eyes sparkled and her deep dimple was revealed. Ben had to smile at how much she reminded him of her father at the same age. “Daddy wants to dance the first dance with Mama, but he said he’d dance the second with me.”
“And I claim the third,” Joe said from the landing, grinning broadly at his niece. He was amused by how much she resembled Adam.
Adam was right behind his younger brother, and said with a gleam in his eye, “Sounds like your dance card is filling up quickly, Punkin! I think I’d better reserve my second dance right now.”
“Oh, Daddy!” the young girl replied, as she rolled her eyes in a dead-on impression of her father. All three Cartwright men laughed aloud at this, and then turned their attentions to a discussion about Cartwright Enterprises. Gwyneth, moving to her father’s favorite blue chair, returned to Sara Crewe. A few minutes before the guests were due to arrive, the other ladies descended the stairs. Annabelle and Bronwen both wore gowns with décolletage-Annabelle’s of red satin decorated with ivory lace and Bronwen’s of deep violet silk with an overskirt of pale lilac chiffon. Beth and Miranda wore high-necked dresses with leg of mutton sleeves. Beth’s was of white surah silk while Miranda’s was of pale green crêpe de chine dotted with spangles.
“Older brother, you sure have a harem of beauties,” Joe said with an appreciative smile. “Something tells me that you won’t be keeping them much longer,” and he grinned as Adam glared at him.
“Joe’s right, son,” Ben added with a twinkle in his eye. “Of course in a few years, Joe will be facing the same problem with Sarah.” This time it was Adam’s turn to grin at Joe’s discomfiture.
At the party, the younger boys were shy about approaching the Cartwright girls, but the older, more confident young men were soon clustered about Beth and Miranda, to the displeasure of many of the local girls. Beth, in particular, mesmerized the young men, who were falling all over themselves to claim dances or bring her a glass of lemonade, and she flirted with them all impartially.
“Goodness, but your sister is beautiful,” Carrie Lightly said to Gwyneth before the dancing started. “My sister Emma is positively pea-green. She’s been trying to get Jack Scott to notice her for weeks, and now he’s totally ignoring her in favor of your sister. And look at my brother, laughing and smiling at everything she says.”
“Oh, your sister shouldn’t worry. We’re only going to be here a few weeks,” Gwyneth replied.
“I wonder if anyone will ask us to dance,” Carrie said nervously. “I’ve never been to party with dancing before.”
“I don’t know,” Gwyneth replied. “My grandpa, Uncle Joe and Daddy have all asked me to dance, but I don’t know if anyone else will.”
With a little encouragement from their mothers, the younger boys were soon approaching the younger girls to ask them for a dance. However, Gwyneth was so tall that they didn’t ask her. Beth saw her sister standing on the sidelines, looking lonely and decided to do something about it.
“Andy,” she said to her partner, Andy McCarran, “would you do me a favor?”
“Sure,” he replied with a grin as he whirled her around in a lively polka.
“When this dance is over, would you dance with my sister, Gwyneth?”
“Gosh, she’s awful young, isn’t she?” he answered, not really wanting to dance with a girl as young as his baby sister, Cindy.
“Yes, but the boys her age aren’t asking her to dance with them, probably because she’s taller than they are. Now you are so tall that I thought you wouldn’t mind dancing with her,” Beth said, looking up at him from under her long eyelashes, and his reluctance melted away.
“Okay, I’ll dance with Gwyneth,” he said, “if you’ll dance with me again.”
“Of course I will,” she replied with a radiant smile that made his heart race.
Adam was on his way over to ask Gwyneth for another dance, but he stopped short when he saw Andy approaching her. He glanced at his eldest, who winked at him, and he grinned back at her.
Gwyneth was surprised (and a bit nervous) when eighteen-year-old Andy McCarran asked her for a dance, but he was so friendly that he soon put her at ease and they both enjoyed their polka. Beth persuaded several other tall young men to dance with Gwyneth and she actually began to enjoy herself.
After the last guest left, Beth ran to Annabelle and hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Oh thank you, Aunt Annabelle. It was a wonderful party.”
“You’re welcome, Beth,” Annabelle replied with a smile.
“Yes, thanks, Aunt Annabelle. I had a lovely time,” Miranda said, dimpling, and Gwyneth smiled shyly and added, “Me, too.”
“Andy McCarran asked if he could come calling on Sunday afternoon,” Adam interjected, his lips just quirking up in the hint of a smile. “And so did Tom Fuller.” The grandson of Ben’s old friend and rival, Barney Fuller, was planning to attend Harvard in the fall, and he had danced several dances with Miranda.
“I see they are braver than any of the young men in Cloncurry,” Bronwen commented with a grin.
“Braver?” Joe asked.
“There are plenty of young men in Cloncurry who’d like to court Beth, but Adam has them thoroughly intimidated.”
“Mama!” Beth said, rolling her eyes.
“It’s true,” Miranda said with a grin, and Joe cackled loudly.
“Joe, please,” Annabelle said reprovingly.
“I’m sorry,” Joe said, wiping his eyes. “I just have this picture of all these nervous boys terrified of my older brother. I am really looking forward to Sunday afternoon.”
The Cartwrights had just finished Sunday dinner and were gathering in the great room when there was a knock at the door. “I wonder if it’s Andy or Tom.” Joe asked with a huge grin as Buckshot went to answer the door.
“Penny, Benj, Sarah, A.C., how would you like to play hide ‘n’ seek outside?” Annabelle asked.
“Sure, Mama,” Benj said. Sarah clapped her hands and A.C. nodded vigorously.
“Okay,” Penny said reluctantly since she wanted to see the boys come calling.
“Thank you, Annabelle,” Bronwen said quietly. Annabelle smiled and shepherded the younger children out the backdoor as Tom Fuller walked in.
“Come in and have a seat, Tom,” Ben said, gesturing to one of the walnut side chairs that had been placed by Ben’s leather armchair and across from Adam’s blue velvet one. Bronwen and the three girls sat demurely on the settee while Joe had moved the other leather armchair by Adam’s, the better to watch the fun.
“So, Tom, Miranda tells me you are planning on attending Harvard this fall?” Adam began, his expression forbidding.
“Uh, that’s right, Mr. Cartwright,” Tom said, clearing this throat nervously. “I want to study law and then I’d like to open a practice in Carson City. Miranda told me that she’s going to be attending the Girls’ Latin School in Boston, so I thought maybe we could attend some plays or concerts together while we’re both in school.”
“Well, Miranda is going to be staying with my sister-in-law’s family, and I’m sure they’d be happy to include you sometimes when they attend a concert or the theater.”
“Uh, well, I was thinking that I could escort Miranda ¼” and his voice trailed off at the menacing frown on the older man’s face.
“The social order in Boston is more straitlaced than it is here, and it would be most improper for Miranda to attend any function with a young man until she is out in society,” Adam said sternly. “If it is agreeable with the Aldens, I have no problem with you calling on Miranda in their home, but I’m afraid there is no question of you escorting her anywhere.”
Joe had to hide his grin behind his hand as poor Tom flushed scarlet.
Adam seemed to realize he had been awfully hard on the boy so he relaxed a little and spoke in a kinder tone. “When are you leaving for Cambridge? We’re leaving next Monday for Boston.”
“Th-that’s the same day I’m leaving,” Tom stammered.
“Are you traveling alone?” Bronwen asked, and when he nodded, she added, “Then you must be sure and spend some time with us. Mustn’t he, Cariad?” she added, looking at Adam meaningfully.
“Yes, of course,” Adam said with just a hint of a smile. “Which dormitory are you going to be staying at?”
“Holworthy Hall,” Tom replied, and he looked a little more relaxed. “Miranda tells me that you are a Harvard alumnus, sir?”
“That’s correct,” Adam replied. “Class of ’58. I attended the Lawrence Scientific School.”
“Daddy graduated summa cum laude,” Miranda stated proudly.
Just then there was another knock at the door, and this time it was Andy McCarran. “Come in, Andy, come in. Have a seat by Tom,” Ben said smiling warmly, for he was enjoying himself almost as much as Joe was.
Andy glared at Tom, who grinned at him. “It’s nice to see you, Andy,” Ben said. “You don’t get over this way very often.”
“Uh, well, I just thought it would be neighborly to come for a visit. And I, uh, I wanted to hear more about Queensland. Gwyneth was telling me at the party about all the strange animals that live there.”
“Yes, Australia has many unusual marsupials,” Tom said, smiling at Miranda, while Andy’s expression was a mixture of puzzlement and irritation. “Have you had a chance to see any of them?”
“Too right,” Gwyneth answered before her older sisters could open their mouths. “Cloncurry, where we live, is in the outback so we’ve seen lots of roos and joeys. Not to mention dingos, koalas, emus and kookaburras.”
Seeing the young men’s baffled faces (as well as her grandpa’s and Uncle Joe’s) Beth smiled before explaining. “Roo is short for kangaroo and a Joey is a baby kangaroo.”
“Emus, Kookaburras and dingos are not marsupials,” Miranda said, frowning a little at Gwyneth.
“Koalas are,” Gwyneth retorted.
“I’ve read about koalas,” Tom said. “And aren’t emus large birds with long legs that don’t fly?”
“That’s right,” Bronwen answered with a smile. “And dingos are wild dogs that live in the outback; they’ll attack both sheep and cattle.”
“Do people raise cattle in Australia?” Andy said curiously.
“Oh yes,” Beth answered. “There are a number of cattle stations near Cloncurry. My father and uncle own one.” Seeing Andy looking a little confused, she added, “A station is the same as a ranch.”
“Are you planning on being a rancher, Andy?” Adam queried.
“Yessir. Dave will inherit our ranch, but Pa said he’d help me buy a place of my own once I turn twenty-one.”
“So you work on your family’s ranch now?”
“Ever since I turned sixteen and finished school.” He paused, and then said cautiously, “I came over in our buggy, Mr. Cartwright, and I was wonderin’ if I could take Beth on a buggy ride this afternoon?”
“I’m sorry, Andy,” Adam replied, “but Mrs. Cartwright and I think Beth is still a bit young to be going on buggy rides with a young man.” The boy looked so disappointed that Adam felt sorry for him. “I tell you what. It is a beautiful afternoon and my family has a surrey with four seats, so why don’t you and Beth, Tom and Miranda and Mrs. Cartwright and I go for a drive up to Sand Cove?”
Andy’s countenance brightened. It wasn’t as good as being alone with Beth, but at least he could spend some time with her. He turned his head and saw that Tom was smiling at Miranda and felt relief that they weren’t competing for the same girl. “That would be swell, Mr. Cartwright.”
“Yes, thanks for inviting me,” Tom added hastily.
“May Penny and I come?” Gwyneth asked.
“Certainly,” Adam said with a grin, “I’ll drive and you and Penny can take the seat behind us.”
Bronwen added, “Let me ask Annabelle if she could listen for A.C. after I put him down for his nap, and then we can go.”
Joe and Adam went to hitch up the team leaving Ben (and Gwyneth) to chaperone the young people. “Gol dang, Adam,” Joe said with a laugh, “I can see why those boys in Cloncurry are scared of you. It’s just a buggy ride.”
“Think about the buggy rides you used to take with girls when you were their age, little brother,” Adam said with a glint in his eyes. “Will you want Sarah going for a buggy ride with a boy like you when she’s only sixteen?” He had the pleasure of seeing Joe’s cheeks redden.
“No, I guess I wouldn’t,” Joe mumbled.
Monday was coming much too quickly for Ben, who had been reveling in the time spent with Adam and his family. It had been good to be able to discuss several proposed projects with Adam in person. The length of time it took letters to travel back and forth between the Ponderosa and Cloncurry meant it wasn’t practical to obtain Adam’s opinion in most cases, and Ben valued his firstborn’s judgment in business matters. Even more, he treasured the opportunity to simply spend time with his son and his grandchildren.
Joe also enjoyed the chance to spend time with Adam, to reminisce about the years when there had been just the four Cartwrights living on the Ponderosa. The twelve year age difference was no longer an issue, and Joe felt more at ease with his older brother than at any other time in his adult life. He showed Adam the improvements that had been made to the ranch and took him up to see the sawmill and logging operation. He observed with a little envy the easy rapport between Adam and Bronwen. They were so comfortable together; he wanted that kind of bond with Annabelle but didn’t know how to achieve it. He just couldn’t work up any interest in the books she loved to read. He enjoyed taking her to Piper’s Opera House, where a variety of different acts performed, but dreaded the visits to the actual opera in San Francisco, which he knew she adored. He saw with a hint of despair how animated Annabelle was discussing novels and poetry with Bronwen and Adam and realized how much she missed that intellectual stimulation. He loved her and knew that she loved him, but they were beginning to realize just how little they had in common.
That last Sunday afternoon they had a picnic at Sand Cove, and while Ben and Joe played horseshoes and the women and children decided to go wading, Adam slipped away.
He sank to his knees by his brother’s headstone, feeling his eyes fill with tears. “I’ve missed you so much, buddy. It’s hard for me to put it in words, but I know you understand. You always understood me. I’ve told the girls and A.C. about you, and they all wish they could have known you. I’m so glad you got to see Beth and Miranda. My little girls are almost young women now and you would have loved them all so much.”
He paused to regain his composure as he remembered the tender way his “little” brother had held his two tiny nieces. When he felt he was once again in control, he continued. “Everyone says how much Gwyneth is like me, but you know what? She’s got some of you in her, too. She’s quiet and a little shy just like you were, and sometimes people overlook her or undervalue her uniqueness just the way they often did yours. There’s another way she’s like you: she loves animals, too. Luckily I already had experience nursing birds with broken wings growing up with you,” and he smiled through his tears.
“I’ve never said this to Pa and Joe, but the Ponderosa just doesn’t feel like home to me without you. Yet my memories of you are inextricably bound to this place. I remember our first years here when it was just me and you and Pa. I loved teaching you to play catch with my old cloth ball, how to ride your first pony, how to fish. I remember those evenings around the fireplace when Pa would sit you on his lap and put his arm around my shoulders as I sat next to him, and tell us stories about his adventures on the Wanderer with my grandfather. Those were such wonderful times.”
“And then you came to be part of our family, Belle-mère,” he added, putting one hand on the more weathered granite slab by Hoss’s marker. “Hoss welcomed you into his heart almost at first sight; it took a lot longer for me to accept your love, but those years we had together as a family were some of the happiest of my life I never knew that special joy again until I met Bronwen and we started our own family.
“Now I’m going to be leaving one of my little girls here in this country, and I won’t be able to see her for years. I haven’t even been able to tell Bronwen how much that hurts. I know it’s the right decision, for Miranda has that same thirst for knowledge that I had and she deserves a chance to expand her horizons. But her mother and I are going to miss her so much.” He smiled a watery smile saying quietly, “I know, Belle-mère, letting go is part of being a parent; it’s just a lot harder than I ever imagined.”
He glanced up at the sky and said regretfully, “I’ve got to be rejoining the others, but I’ll come visit you again before we sail back home.”
The three oldest Cartwright girls had separated from the others so they could say their goodbyes.
“Do you both promise to write me?” Miranda asked, and Beth said, “Too right we will.”
Gwyneth couldn’t stop her tears as she nodded and said, “I’m going to miss you so much, Miranda.”
They hugged each other and cried until Beth said, “You have to promise to write us and tell us all about Boston and the boys you meet.”
Miranda laughed through her tears at that. “I’m going to Boston to learn, not to meet boys.”
Her sisters both smiled, then Gwyneth looked at the sun and said, “We’d better head back or they’ll start looking for us.”
That night when Adam came to tell Penny and Gwyneth goodnight, he had a package in his hand. “Since you’re not coming to Boston and I know you’re going to be spending a lot of time riding, Punkin, I bought you these in San Francisco,” he said, handing Gwyneth the brown paper package.
“What is it?” she asked while Penny looked on curiously.
“Open it up and see,” Adam replied with a big grin.
“Waist overalls like yours!” Gwyneth exclaimed in delight. “Oh thank you, Daddy!” and she flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. This reaction from his normally reserved daughter touched him deeply.
“Did you buy me anything?” Penny asked.
“I’ll buy you something in Boston,” he said with a smile, and kissed her cheek.
The Cartwrights arrived in Carson City the next morning with just enough time for Adam to supervise loading their luggage into the baggage car. Bronwen hugged Beth and Gwyneth and kissed their cheeks. “I’ll miss you both, but we’ll be back in a few weeks.”
The enormity of the moment caught each of the older girls unprepared. Beth tearfully embraced Miranda. “I’m going to miss you so much,” she said in a shaky voice, and then quickly kissed Miranda’s cheek.
“And I’ll miss you. Promise to write me often,” Miranda replied in an equally unsteady voice as she returned her sister’s hug and quickly kissed her cheek. Then she turned to Gwyneth and looked up at the younger sister who towered over her. “Bye, little sister. I’ll write you all about my school, so you must write me about everything happening at yours. I’m counting on you to look after Rhiannon for me,” she added, referring to her mount back in Cloncurry.
“I will, I promise,” Gwyneth replied, blinking very fast to hold back her tears, and then she bent over slightly and hugged Miranda quickly, for like her father she disliked public displays of affection.
As their three oldest children said their goodbyes, Bronwen reached for her handkerchief while Adam mentally photographed the scene before him, taking in not only his three older daughters but Penny and A.C. as well. This may well be the last time we are together-just the seven of us he thought, and swallowed the unexpectedly large lump in his throat as he contemplated the not too distant future, when his babies would be married, with babies of their own.
“I love you both so much.” Miranda said to both sisters, and then turned to her grandfather, who had accompanied the family to the depot and would be driving Beth and Gwyneth back to the ranch.
“Goodbye, Grandpa. I can’t wait ’til summer when I can come visit you and everyone else at the ranch.”
“Godspeed, child. I love you and hold you in my heart, always,” Ben said. Adam looked at his father recognizing the same wishes he had heard so many years before when he had stepped aboard a clipper ship in San Francisco’s harbor to realize his own destiny almost a full continent away.
Ben caught his son’s eye and held out his hand. “Don’t worry about your other two baby chicks, son. I’ll make sure they are kept safe while you’re gone.” Adam, in a gesture that imparted what his voice could not, covered his father’s right hand with both of his and said. “Thanks, Pa.”
Adam and Bronwen hugged each of their “baby chicks” briefly before Adam said with a grin, “Your grandpa will be giving us a full report when we return so both of you be on your best behavior.”
“Oh, Daddy,” Gwyneth said, but they both grinned at him.
Barney Fuller, his son, daughter-in-law and younger grandchildren were also there to see Tom off. Adam approached Tom and said, “We have a Pullman Palace, Tom, and we’d be happy to have to you join us whenever you like.”
“A Pullman Palace, huh,” Barney said with a slow grin. “Rather extravagant.”
“Trust me, it’s better for the other passengers on the train if my son is confined to one car,” Adam replied, ruffling A.C.’s hair, and all the adults laughed. The conductor gave the final call for passengers to board, and soon, they were on their way.
Tom decided to join the Cartwrights shortly after the train left Carson City, and he whistled in admiration when he entered their car and saw the carpeted floor, seats upholstered in leather, overstuffed sofa, table lamps with silk shades, and the newfangled electric lighting.
“This really is luxury,” he said with his grandfather’s slow smile as Adam gestured for him to sit in one of the comfortable leather chairs.
“The dining cars are just as impressive,” Miranda replied with a smile of her own. “They are just like expensive restaurants with chandeliers, fine linen, crystal, china and silver. Not that we have restaurants like that in Cloncurry,” she added with a grin.
Just then A.C. walked up to Tom. “I’m A.C.”
Tom grinned at him and said, “Hello, A.C. I’m Tom.”
“Are you comin’ with us to Boston?”
“Yes, I’m going to Boston.”
“Manda’s going to school there.”
“I know. So am I, but not to the same school.”
“Is this your first visit to Boston?” Adam asked, picking A.C. up and sitting him on his lap.
“Yes, sir. I’ve never been further east than Kansas City.” He stopped and then said hesitantly, “Could you tell me what it was like when you were at Harvard?”
Adam smiled. “Boston and Cambridge were a whole different world. It was the first time I was totally independent of my father or any other adult. My roommate, Aaron, and I had worked very hard to convince our fathers to allow us to attend college. Mine didn’t see what need a rancher had of a college degree and Aaron’s didn’t see why a farmer needed one. We weren’t going to do anything to jeopardize our being at Harvard, so we never did anything more outrageous than drink more than we could hold a few times, and ” he glanced quickly at his wife and daughters and hurried on, “and participate in a couple of foolish pranks. However, some of the other students were really wild and wasted the money their parents had spent sending them to college.”
“From what I understand, many things at Harvard have improved over the years and much of the credit goes to President Eliot. The recitations my friends and I all hated have pretty much disappeared. I strongly recommend that while you attend Harvard you be involved in some extracurricular activities and sports. Aaron and I joined the Speakers Club our freshman year, and it was a marvelous way to get to know the other freshmen and make new friends. We were both invited to join the Hasty Pudding when we were upperclassmen. There wasn’t an official baseball team when I was a student, but some of my friends and I formed an unofficial team. Later I rowed crew. Now there are official baseball and football teams, track sports, tennis and fencing. If I were attending Harvard now, I would definitely try to be involved in at least one of those sports.”
Tom nodded. “I like baseball so I think that’s the sport I’d choose. Thanks for the advice, sir.”
A.C. had been fidgeting the entire time and now he said, “I wanna play.”
“We brought your jumping jack, your yo-yo and your tops. Which do you want to play with?” Adam asked.
“Jumping jack,” A.C. declared. Bronwen got the small satchel she’d brought on board with A.C.’s toys and picture books as well as books for the rest of the family.
A.C. sat on the floor and played with his toy while Adam talked more about his time at Harvard.
“Have you kept in touch with any of the friends you made?” Tom asked a little hesitantly.
“I still correspond with one of my close friends, Thomas Collingsworth. He lives in Boston and we’re going to dine with him while we’re there.” Adam paused and they all saw the sadness in his eyes. “Several of my friends were killed in the war; Aaron was killed at Gettysburg.”
They were all silent then until A.C. said, “I’m hungry, Mama.”
Bronwen looked at her watch and said, “It is dinnertime. Won’t you join us in the dining car, Tom?”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Tom said gratefully. He saw that Miranda had not exaggerated when she compared the dining car to a fine restaurant. The surroundings were elegant and the food was excellent. He didn’t want to intrude on the Cartwrights too much so he excused himself after dinner with the promise he would join them for supper.
Miranda and Penny spent the afternoon reading while Adam and Bronwen had a chance to converse quietly while A.C. napped.
“Now why do I get the feeling you did more than just drink too much and play a few pranks?” she asked softly with a teasing gleam in her eyes. He looked so uncomfortable that she giggled softly. “It must have something to do with a girl or girls.”
He said quietly, “It was a long time ago.”
“I’m sorry, Cariad. I just couldn’t resist teasing you a little,” she said gently. Then she continued in a more serious tone. “I’m certainly aware that there were women in your life before you met me, but don’t worry, I don’t want to know any details.”
“I’m glad because I have no intention of providing any,” he replied with one of his crooked smiles.
That evening the porter made up their beds. The sofa was made into a bed for A.C. while Miranda and Penny slept in the upper berths and Adam and Bronwen took the lower. As Adam lay in the narrow berth in the darkened car, he knew the rest of his family was asleep, but sleep eluded him. For the first time in decades, he found himself thinking of Dorothea. It was the summer of his sophomore year and Thomas’s family had invited him to spend the summer with them at their cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. ¼
~ ~ ~
“It’s good of your parents to invite me to spend the summer vacation with all of you,” Adam said to Thomas as they rode in his family’s carriage from the Harvard Yard to Boston.
“Aaron’s family had the pleasure of your company last summer, so now it’s our turn. Of course, I imagine you are sad to be denied the company of your little sweetheart,” Thomas replied with a teasing grin.
“Aaron told you about Docia?”
“He said it was rather sweet. His little sister had shown nothing but scorn for boys until she met you, and you just swept her off her fee,” Thomas said grinning hugely.
“Ha-ha,” Adam replied, looking uncharacteristically self-conscious. “You just wait until a ten-year-old girl falls in love with you.” Thomas laughed aloud at the embarrassed look on his friend’s countenance.
Like the Quincys, the Collingsworths lived in an ornate townhouse on Beacon Hill. When the butler ushered Thomas and Adam into the drawing room, Adam’s eyes quickly took in the imposing dimensions of the room, the enormous bay window with the maroon velvet drapes pooling onto the floor, the Aubusson carpet and the Chippendale furniture. Seated in the midst of this opulence was a middle-aged couple. Adam noticed immediately the strong family resemblance between the woman and his friend, as Thomas bent to kiss the woman’s cheek-the same silvery-blonde hair and aristocratic features.
“Mother and Father, I would like to introduce my friend, Adam Cartwright,” Thomas said with a broad smile as his father rose and shook Adam’s hand. Adam bowed slightly to Mrs. Collingsworth, who smiled at him. Thomas then turned toward a figure Adam hadn’t noticed-a woman dressed in the unrelieved black of heavy mourning. She was seated in a Queen Anne chair in the corner quietly embroidering.
The two young men walked toward her. Just as he had with his mother, Thomas greeted this woman with a kiss on the cheek. He said quietly, “Dorothea, it’s so good to see you. May I present my friend, Adam Cartwright. Adam, this is my oldest sister, Dorothea Collingsworth Lowell.”
Adam noted Dorothea had skin as translucent as fine porcelain, and her soft mouth with its full lips seemed made for kissing.
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Cartwright,” she said in a polite, well-modulated voice.
“We all are,” Mrs. Collingsworth added. “Thomas has talked of you often. He says your family lives on a ranch in Western Utah,” she added incredulously, as though she couldn’t believe anyone would choose to live in such a place.
“That is correct; however, I was born here in Boston and my grandfather, Captain Abel Stoddard, still lives here. He owns a chandlery on Commercial Street. Originally he and my father were partners, but my father sold his share to the Captain when he decided to move west.”
“So you see, Adam is something of a Prodigal Son,” Thomas joked.
“Not a very apt allusion, little brother,” Mrs. Lowell said. “I think it would be more accurate to refer to Mr. Cartwright as the lost sheep.” She smiled slightly at Adam then, and he found himself smiling back.
“I don’t consider myself lost,” he replied in a gently teasing manner, “just temporarily misplaced. Seriously, though, I love my home, and when I graduate, I have every intention of returning to the Ponderosa.”
“Ponderosa. Is that the name of your ranch?” she asked. “It’s very pretty.”
“We named the ranch for the ponderosa pines that grow in the high Sierras,” he replied.
“I’ll tell you one benefit of growing up on a ranch,” Thomas interjected. “Adam is the best equestrian I’ve ever seen. He’s a regular centaur. I’ve promised him he can have free use of our stables while he is our guest.”
“Naturally,” Mr. Collingsworth said. “We have both Morgans and Saddlebreds in our stable.” He turned to his son. “Just a reminder, Thomas. We leave for Martha’s Vineyard promptly at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“We’ll be ready, Father, never fear,” Thomas replied.
Later when they were alone, Adam asked Thomas, “Your sister is a widow?”
“Yes,” Thomas said, and Adam noted his tone was subdued. “Her husband died four years ago. She took it very hard. Well, you can see she is still in mourning. My mother and father and my other two sisters have tried to persuade her to wear colors again, but she is adamant. I know she must be lonely. She and Richard never had children, so she doesn’t even have that consolation. I wish she could find another husband.”
“She may,” Adam said consolingly. “After my first stepmother died, I don’t think my father planned to remarry, but after several years he did and they were very happy. The same thing may happen to your sister.”
Adam enjoyed his visit with the Collingsworths. Their cottage on Martha’s Vineyard was spacious and comfortable, and he was able to ride every day-an activity he had sorely missed during the school year. Sometimes Thomas joined him and often Mrs. Lowell did as well. Adam was a little uncomfortable with the attraction he felt toward her. He kept reminding himself that she was his friend’s sister, but that didn’t stop him from noticing what a fine figure she had or how her golden-brown hair looked as though it would be as soft as silk if he dared touch it. He was embarrassed when he began having erotic dreams about her, but he couldn’t control his dreams.
One morning when he arrived at the stable right after a light breakfast, he found her waiting for him.
“Good morning, Mr. Cartwright,” she said with a smile. “My brother is driving my mother into town so it will just be the two of us this morning.”
Adam felt a frisson of excitement at the thought of being alone with her, but immediately chided himself. “We could wait for Thomas to return if you’d prefer.”
“No, I prefer to go riding with you. Would you help me mount?”
“Oh yes, of course,” he replied hurriedly, and felt his cheeks grow warm. He put his hands about her tiny waist, spanning it easily. Thomas had always helped her mount, so this was the closest Adam had been to her. He could smell her perfume and found it intoxicating. He was a little slow in removing his hands and, as she looked at him with raised eyebrows, he dropped them immediately and felt his face flame.
They galloped along the Collingsworths’ private stretch of beach until the house was out of sight. Suddenly the wind whipped off her hat and took some hairpins with it as well. Her hair came totally unbound then, and streamed behind her in the wind. When they pulled the horses to a walk, she was laughing, saying, “I must look like a wanton woman.”
“No, more like Artemis, the Huntress,” he replied without stopping to think, blushing a little at his boldness.
“Don’t worry, I won’t turn you into a stag,” she said with a smile. “Besides, I don’t feel like a virgin goddess-I feel like Aphrodite.” Adam looked at her beneath his lashes then, unsure how to take that remark. “Please help me down, Mr. Cartwright.”
“You could call me Adam,” he said shyly, and then dismounted with a feline grace. As he lifted her down, she placed her arms around his neck, and when he stood her on her feet, she pulled his mouth to hers. He was startled, and even more so when he felt her tongue slide into his mouth and begin to caress his. He pulled her closer, and of their own volition, his fingers began to unbutton first her jacket and then her blouse. He was aware she was doing the same to his coat and shirt, and he could feel her fingers caressing his chest. He moved his mouth to her neck and shoulders, marveling at the softness of her skin. When he felt her unfastening his trousers, he came to himself and pushed away.
“No, I can’t do this. It’s wrong,” he managed to get out.
“Adam, please. I am not a virginal girl. I’ve been so lonely since my husband died, and I never thought I could feel desire for another man. Then I met you. We won’t hurt anyone, and I want you so much. No one else need ever know. Please, Adam. Make love to me.”
He looked away from her eyes then, saying very softly so that she had to strain to hear, “I’ve never been with a woman.”
“I would be honored to be your first.” She closed the distance between them and gently stroked his cheek. “Must I beg you, Adam? I want you and I know you want me.” She slipped off her jacket and blouse and let them fall to the sand. Next she unfastened her skirt and slithered out of it and her petticoats so she was standing in front of the increasingly aroused young man in only her corset and pantalets. She moved closer and tugged off his jacket and shirt, and then she took hold of his hand and pulled him down beside her on the sand. She began to drop kisses on his neck and shoulders and then she trailed kisses down his chest and stomach. He could no longer resist her, so he raised his hips and pulled off his trousers and drawers. He saw her smile as she let her eyes travel slowly and appreciatively over his nude body, and then she said in a husky voice, “Help me unfasten my corset.” She turned her back to him and he unlaced the garment with fumbling fingers. As she tugged it away, he slid his arms around her so he could feel her breasts filling his hands, and finally turned her to face him, as his lips found hers.
They made love twice on the beach. Adam thought it was the most magnificent, the most overwhelming experience of his life. He couldn’t believe he’d lived nineteen years without ever feeling anything so incredible. He was so absorbed in his own bliss that he didn’t really notice that she cried out a man’s name the second time. As soon as he rolled off her, she sat up saying, “Adam, we’ve got to dress quickly before Thomas comes looking for us. You’ll have to help me lace up my corset.” Her voice was so matter-of-fact it astonished him. Hadn’t it been as marvelous for her? She saw something in his eyes and said softly, “Adam, it was wonderful and you were wonderful, but we have to be practical and we have to hurry.”
As he helped her mount, she said with a saucy grin, “Your room is across from Thomas’s, correct?” He nodded and she said, “I will come visit you tonight.”
Their idyll lasted a fortnight. Then one night after she’d come to his room and they’d made love, he noted she seemed sad, and instead of cuddling as they usually did, she began dressing immediately.
“What’s wrong, Dorothea? Didn’t I please you?” he whispered anxiously.
“You should know that you did,” she answered with a slight smile. She came and sat on the bed beside him, and stroked his curls off his forehead. “I am just feeling guilty.”
“But why? We aren’t hurting anyone just as you said.”
“I think we are hurting each other, Adam.”
“I don’t understand,” and he frowned at her.
“Adam, you should be spending time flirting with young girls your own age.”
“But I can’t make love to them, and that is much more enjoyable than flirting.”
“Maybe I am feeling guilty because I have corrupted you,” she said with a twisted smile.
He chuckled softly, but she said, “I am serious, Adam. You were an innocent when I met you. I knew you were attracted to me, and I took advantage of that to seduce you. It was wrong of me-very wrong.”
“I don’t think you corrupted me. You introduced me to something wonderful.”
“It is wonderful when it happens between two people who love each other. You and I are not making love; we are merely satisfying an appetite. It is different, Adam, believe me. I won’t deny that I’ve enjoyed being intimate with you but it doesn’t compare with the love I shared with my husband. You’ll fall in love and marry, and then you’ll see that I am telling you the truth.” She saw she had made him think so she added quietly, “I won’t come to you again.”
“Dorothea,” he said desperately.
“It’s for the best,” she replied softly. She kissed his forehead quickly and left the room. He jumped out of bed to stop her and realized that he was naked. By the time he had slipped on his robe and run into the hallway, she was nowhere in sight.
~ ~ ~
He smiled to himself in the dark. Dorothea had told him the truth. The first time he’d made love to Bronwen, he’d realized just how meaningless and unsatisfying his previous encounters had been. His physical appetite had been satisfied, but his soul still yearned for completion. Then he’d met this slender little woman with her beautiful, expressive eyes who shared his love of music, poetry and literature and whose warm, impulsive nature complemented his detached, more analytical one, and his soul knew that it had found its perfect mate.
By the time the train reached Boston, Adam was beginning to wish he could have left A.C. back at the ranch. Traveling long distances that required confining a child as energetic as his son was a nightmare. He arranged for their luggage to be taken to the Parker House hotel on School Street and for Miranda’s trunk to be taken to the Aldens’ townhouse on Chestnut Street. Then the family took a cab to the hotel, where Adam had booked a suite. Once they had checked in, Adam asked who would like to explore the city.
“I would, Daddy,” Penny said eagerly, and A.C. said excitedly, “Me, too! Me, too!”
“I know you wired the Aldens that we would arrive today, so shouldn’t we visit them?” Bronwen asked.
“We’re not far from Chestnut Street,” Adam replied. “We’ll just do our exploring that direction.”
“Let’s freshen up first,” Bronwen suggested and Adam agreed.
Within an hour, the five Cartwrights were strolling down the streets of Boston. Adam wanted to take Penny and A.C. through Boston Common so they turned onto Tremont Street. At the corner of Tremont and Park Streets, stood a large red brick church with an imposing white steeple. “This is the Park Street Church. Your grandpa and your grandma were married here, and this is where I was christened.”
“It’s big,” A.C. said, craning his neck to look up at the steeple.
“Charlotte wrote me that her family attends church here,” Miranda commented, “but I didn’t know this was where Grandpa and Grandma were married.”
“I just can’t picture you as baby, Daddy,” Penny said with a giggle.
“I’m sure your daddy was a beautiful baby,” Bronwen stated with a teasing smile at her husband.
“He probably looked just like Gwyneth,” Miranda said with a grin.
“I probably did,”” Adam replied with a grin of his own.
As they continued on Tremont Street, close by the church was a cemetery. “This is where your grandma and great-grandfather Stoddard are buried. Before we leave Boston, I want to place some flowers on their graves.”
“I’d like to come with you. If that’s all right,” Miranda said quietly and he smiled at her.
They soon reached the Common and, looking all about her, Penny exclaimed, “What a ripper! Look at all these beautiful trees. And the grass is so thick and green. It’s so different from home.”
“I brought A.C.’s ball,” Adam said, pulling it out of his pocket. “Anyone want to play catch?”
“Me, Daddy! Me!” A.C. squealed, jumping up and down.
“How about you, Kitten?” he asked Penny and she replied, “Sure.”
The three of them played catch while Bronwen and Miranda strolled under the trees, laughing at the antics of the squirrels. When Adam decided A.C. had expended enough energy, he guided them across the Common to Beacon Street. “There’s the State House,” he commented, pointing to the impressive red brick building with its glistening dome.
“The dome looks like it’s made of gold,” Penny said excitedly.
Adam smiled at her and said, “It was gilded with gold leaf seventeen years ago. My friend Thomas wrote me all about it. When I was attending Harvard, it was just covered with copper. It’s a very impressive building even without the gold leaf.”
They soon arrived at the Alden’s townhouse, and Adam knocked on the door. A pretty parlor maid with dark auburn hair and bright blue eyes answered his knock.
“We’re the Cartwrights,” Adam said. “I believe Mrs. Alden is expecting us.”
“Oh yes, sir. I’ll take your hat.” Smiling at A.C. and Penny, she added, “If you’ll just follow me.”
Penny and A.C. were a bit intimidated by their surroundings: the black-and-white marble floor in the entry, the gracefully curved staircase made of polished cherry wood, and the thick Aubusson carpet runners in the hallway. The room the maid led them to had a large bay window with blood-red velvet drapes. There was a large sofa upholstered in the same blood-red velvet as the drapes, and a pair of red brocade armchairs. The room also contained several elaborately carved side chairs, a large antique cupboard and some end tables covered with bric-à-brac and photographs.
Two women were seated on the sofa. One was very thin with dark hair swept up in a twist very similar to the way Beth wore her hair. She was dressed in a gown of vivid magenta velvet trimmed with bands of lemon yellow satin, and Adam involuntarily winced at the combination. This was their hostess, Mrs. Alden. The other lady was a few years older and quite stout with golden hair that was obviously dyed; she was dressed in a gown of plum velvet with enormous leg-of-mutton sleeves. There was something vaguely familiar about her, and Adam wondered if he could have known her when he attended Harvard. Mrs. Alden smiled warmly in greeting.
“Mr. Cartwright and Miranda, it’s so nice to see you again,” she said. “And I am so pleased to meet you, Mrs. Cartwright,” she said to Bronwen. Then she smiled at the younger children. “I think you must be Penny and A.C.” Penny curtseyed, but A.C. only looked at Mrs. Alden with big brown eyes and moved closer to his mama.
Mrs. Alden then turned to the older woman at her side and smiled before saying, “Please allow me to introduce an old friend, Mrs. Stephan Randall. Julia, this is Mr. and Mrs. Adam Cartwright, their daughters, Miranda and Penny, and their son, A.C.”
“Mr. Cartwright and I are old acquaintances,” Mrs. Randall said with a smile. “You haven’t changed very much over the past-what’s it been?-thirty years,”
As soon as he heard her voice, Adam recognized his old flame, Julia Quincy, and said gallantly, “Neither have you, Julia.”
“Perhaps I spoke too soon because you didn’t use to be a flatterer,” she replied with a smile tinged with bitterness and self-deprecation.
“Please, have a seat,” Mrs. Alden said, curiosity written all over her face. Adam and Bronwen each sat in an armchair and Adam held A.C. on his lap, leaving the girls to find seating on the massive side chairs. Poor Penny’s feet didn’t touch the floor, even as she moved to the very edge of the seat. “I take it you two met when Mr. Cartwright attended Harvard?” Mrs. Alden inquired, and Bronwen watched her husband’s face carefully for any signs of nervous behavior that only she would recognize.
“Yes,” he answered, absently tugging his earlobe. “We both attended the Park Street church and sang in the choir.” Bronwen smiled a little, for she suspected Adam and Mrs. Randall had been closer than he was letting on especially given that seemingly innocent, yet oh so telling, pull at his ear.
“You are being so discreet, Adam,” Julia said with her old teasing smile. “Your husband was my very first beau, Mrs. Cartwright.” She saw the two girls’ eyes widen and said with a brittle laugh, “Oh, we were very young then. Your father was such a beautiful young man, and the fact that he lived on the frontier added a certain glamour. Most of my friends were quite taken with him, and very jealous of me.” She saw the girls trying to take in the concept of their father as a beautiful young man, and added with an arch smile, “I know he had his photograph taken at least once while he was at Harvard. You should look at it and then see if you don’t agree with me.”
Bronwen sensed Adam’s almost palpable discomfort, so she sought to change the subject. “Our daughter, Miranda, is hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps by attending the Harvard Annex. The Aldens have been gracious enough to allow her to stay with them while she attends the Girls’ Latin School here in Boston.”
“Mrs. Cartwright, your accent is so unusual,” Julia commented. “Do you mind if I ask where you are from?”
“Not at all,” Bronwen replied. “I was born in a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. However, shortly after Adam and I married, we moved to a little town in what we call the outback. Adam and my brother own a copper mine there.”
“And I thought you were going to spend the rest of your life on your family’s ranch,” Julia said, staring at Adam intently.
“I thought so too, but then I decided to travel and I met my wife. It’s all worked out for the best I think,” he replied very gravely, as he remembered voicing his sincere intentions, so many years before, of remaining on the Ponderosa forever.
“You certainly have lovely children,” Julia said, eyeing Bronwen’s petite figure enviously.
“Oh, we have two more,” Adam said with a smile, for he knew exactly what Julia was thinking, and her eyebrows arched. “Our oldest daughter, Elizabeth, and our third daughter, Gwyneth, are staying on the Ponderosa with my family.”
“Elizabeth came with them two years ago when we first met. She is an extraordinarily beautiful girl, Julia. Not that you aren’t lovely, Miranda dear,” Mrs. Alden hastened to add, and Miranda shrugged. She knew Beth was more beautiful, but she was more intelligent so it all evened out in her opinion. “It’s a shame she didn’t come with you this time,” Mrs. Alden said to Adam and Bronwen.
Penny forgot her manners and blurted out, “Gwyneth looks like Daddy, and she’s really tall.” Adam frowned at her so she quickly closed her mouth.
“Do you have any children, Mrs. Randall?” Bronwen asked politely.
“Two boys,” Julia replied. “The younger is a student at Harvard now; this is his junior year.” She turned to Mrs. Alden. “I really must be going, Paula. It’s been a pleasure seeing you again, Adam, and meeting your family.”
Adam stood as she did, continuing to hold A.C., who was half asleep in his father’s arms. “It was good to see you also, Julia,” he responded, hoping that the relief on his face wasn’t obvious to anyone. He caught Bronwen’s eye after she too, voiced her farewell to the departing matron. The sparkle he saw there told him that he had been “caught out” by at least one female in the room.
“I hope you planned on dining with us tonight,” Mrs. Alden said as Adam sat back down. “We’re dining en famille.”
“Yes, we’d love to join you,” Bronwen replied.
“Why don’t I show you Miranda’s room?” Mrs. Alden suggested, and they all followed her to the second floor, with Adam bringing up the rear, carrying the sleeping A.C. in his arms.
Miranda was happy to see her bedroom had a large window that overlooked the Common. There was a thick Aubusson carpet on the floor and her furniture-a highboy, wardrobe, vanity and low post bed-was all crafted of cherry wood. “It’s a lovely room,” she said dimpling.
“Yes, it’s beautiful,” Bronwen agreed.
“Charlotte’s maid, Maureen, will also be attending you,” Mrs. Alden said. “She’s already unpacked your clothes and she’s pressing your gowns right now. There were some personal items in the trunk so she left those for you to deal with.”
“Miranda will need some clothes she can wear this winter,” Adam interjected. “It never gets very cold at our home so I thought it would be best if we purchased those for her here. Can you recommend a store?”
“Yes, Bloomingdale’s,” Mrs. Alden said decisively. “It’s on Boylston Street.”
“We’ll go to Bloomingdale’s tomorrow then,” Adam said and Mrs. Alden led them back to the drawing room. Charlotte returned home while they were conversing. She was a pretty girl with light brown hair and blue eyes and she greeted Miranda and the rest of the family with a friendly smile. The two girls went to Charlotte’s room so she could tell Miranda about the school and the other girls in their class. A.C. woke up and became increasingly restive so Adam suggested they take him to the Common to play and then the family would return for dinner.
Dinner was a pleasant meal. Mr. Alden and Adam discussed the economy and politics while Bronwen and Mrs. Alden talked about what winter clothing Miranda would need. Miranda and Charlotte listened and offered their opinions when asked, while Penny and A.C. listened to the adults talk. After dinner Adam, Bronwen, Penny and A.C. went to the Parker House, leaving Miranda at her new home.
“Where’s Manda?” A.C. asked worriedly.
“Miranda is going to be staying with the Aldens,” Bronwen said calmly, although it felt just as wrong to her as it did to A.C. to leave her daughter with relative strangers, however kind and friendly.
“No, I want Manda!”
“I’m sorry, Jackeroo, but Miranda is staying with Aldens. We’ll see her tomorrow,” Adam said gently.
“I want Manda,” A.C. sobbed so Adam picked him up and rubbed his back comfortingly. He was asleep by the time they reached the hotel and Bronwen was able to get him out of his knickerbocker suit and into his nightshirt without hid waking all the way. She tucked him into the bed he would share with Penny, and then rejoined the others in their parlor.
“It will be your bedtime in another hour,” she said to Penny.
“Can’t I stay up longer?” Penny asked her daddy, knowing he was more likely to grant her request.
“You heard your mother,” he replied firmly, after glancing quickly at Bronwen. “Besides, we want to get an early start on our sightseeing tomorrow. I thought we could walk to Unity Street, and I could show you the house where I was born. And then we could go by the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house.”
“But I wanted to go to Bloomingdale’s,” Penny said, looking up at her daddy hopefully with her beautiful violet eyes.
“You and I and A.C. will go after we’re done sightseeing. We’ll still have plenty of time to shop. Maybe we’ll find something for you and A.C.,” Adam said with a grin, and Penny’s expression brightened.
“I brought our Old Bachelor game,” she said. “Could we play before I go to bed?”
“Fine by me,” Adam replied, and they looked at Bronwen who smiled at them. After a few hands it was time for Penny to go to bed, and Adam suggested that he and Bronwen turn in early as well.
“So you were Mrs. Randall’s first beau,” Bronwen said with a teasing smile as they got into bed.
“She was much thinner then,” he replied.
“Adam, how ungallant!”
“I didn’t mean it that way,” he said quietly. “I was just surprised at how much she had changed. Not that I haven’t as well since I’ve lost my hair but ¼”
“Oh, you haven’t changed much. She said you were a beautiful young man, and now you’re a beautiful middle-aged man,” Bronwen said with a smile, and snuggled closer.
“I’m feeling pretty young right now,” he said with a wink, as he lifted her on top of him and tugged her nightgown over her head.
The next morning it was raining, but they had packed their macintosh raincoats and thick-soled boots so Adam, Penny and A.C. set off after breakfast. Bronwen had begged off the sightseeing. She had asked Mrs. Alden what time Bloomingdale’s opened, so shortly before then she would take a cab to the Aldens’ house, and then she and Miranda would take the cab to the department store.
As the father and his two young charges moved through the somewhat deserted streets, A.C. insisted on jumping in every puddle with Penny squealing each time he splashed water on her. They’d only gone a few blocks before Adam’s temper was frayed.
“Adam Stoddard Cartwright, Junior, if you jump in one more puddle, Daddy is going to take you back to the hotel and have a necessary talk with you. And the same goes for you, Penelope Jane, if you don’t stop that screaming at once. Do you understand?” The children recognized the seriousness of their situation, as their father rarely used their full given names. They complied with his command, albeit sullenly. However, there were too many new things to see for them to sulk very long. Adam pointed out sites that he remembered and finally they stood in front of a two-story house of weather-beaten cedar shingles, very similar to the other houses on the street.
“This is the house where I was born,” he said pointing, pleased to see that the current resident had the same pride of ownership as his late grandfather had had.
“Can we go inside?” Penny asked eagerly and A.C.’s face also lit up at the idea.
“No, I’m sorry, Kitten, but it’s someone else’s home now and we can’t disturb them.” He saw their crestfallen expressions and said with a smile. “I can show you which room I was born in from here. Look, see that window?” and he pointed. “That’s the window of your grandma’s bedroom and that’s where I was born. The people who live there now have probably changed it, but I can tell you what it looked like then if you like.” They both nodded vigorously so he described the wallpaper, curtains and furniture as he remembered them from thirty years earlier. “Your great-grandfather Stoddard showed me the little trundle bed I slept in when I was a little boy before Grandpa and I headed west.”
“What’s trundle bed?” A.C. asked, his face scrunched in puzzlement.
“It’s a very low bed on wheels that fits under a larger bed. When Daddy was a baby, Grandpa put him in a trundle bed so he could sleep in the same room with him.” A.C. nodded to show he was satisfied with the answer.
“And you were the same age as A.C. when you and Grandpa went west?” Penny asked.
“Grandpa always told me that I wasn’t quite three yet, so I was a bit younger than A.C.,” Adam replied, squeezing her neck affectionately.
“Were you scared?” she asked.
“I don’t really remember, Kitten. Grandpa told me that the first few nights I cried for my grandfather-your great-grandfather Stoddard-so I must have missed him. I probably wasn’t scared as long as I was with Grandpa. Are we ready to go see the Old North Church?”
“Big!” A.C. exclaimed. “Hold me up, Daddy,” so Adam picked him up and sat him on his shoulder. Penny craned her head back looking at the tall white spire on the redbrick church.
“On April 18, 1775, the sexton of this church used two lanterns to warn the colonists of how the British troops were moving against them,” Adam said.
“And Paul Revere rode his horse to tell them that the British were coming,” Penny said excitedly.
“That’s right, Kitten,” Adam said with a smile. “This is the oldest church in Boston; it was built in 1723.”
“1723. That’s before you were born,” Penny said wonderingly.
“Yes, it’s more than one hundred years before I was born,” Adam replied dryly with one of his half smiles.
“That’s really old,” Penny said, her eyes widening and Adam grinned.
“Now, I think we’ve walked enough in this rain. I’ll get us a cab so we can ride to Bloomingdale’s.”
When they arrived at the store, both children’s eyes were round in wonder. “Everything in Boston is big!” Penny exclaimed. “This is the biggest store I’ve ever seen.”
“It is big,” Adam agreed. “I’ve heard of department stores, but this is the first one I’ve been to. Your mama and sister are going to meet us at noon here outside the store so we can all go to dinner together. Right now, we can do some shopping for the two of you. Let’s take off our macintoshes and I’ll carry them. Then I want you both to hold onto my hands so you don’t get lost. Understand?” They nodded wordlessly and clasped his hands tightly. Naturally as the first sight of the toys in the children’s department, A.C. let go and started to run toward them but Adam caught him by the jacket of his knickerbocker suit. “Whoa there, Jackeroo! What did Daddy tell you about holding onto his hand?”
“I sorry, Daddy,” A.C. said. “Come see toys!” and he grabbed Adam’s hand tugged on it. There was a Christmas Goose board game, brightly painted Bilbo Catchers, marbles, a Nine Men’s Morris game and several different wind-up toys. Adam was most interested in the Battledore and Shuttlecock game that the entire family could enjoy just as they did croquet and Penny liked it as well. As far as A.C. was concerned, the pièce de résistance was the most elaborate Noah’s Ark Adam had ever seen. The ark was made after the pattern in Genesis and it included not only Noah and his wife but his sons and their wives. What entranced A.C. was that among the various brightly painted animals there were two kangaroos.
“Look, Daddy! Roos!” he said excitedly.
This Noah’s Ark was a work of art Adam had to admit and he decided to purchase it as a Christmas gift for A.C. He also decided on the Battledore and Shuttlecock game. He checked his watch and saw it was time for them to meet Bronwen and Miranda so after making his purchases and arranging to have them delivered to the hotel, he and the two children went outside to find the rain had stopped and the others waiting for them.
For the next several days the five Cartwrights explored Boston. They walked down Washington Street and Adam pointed out the Old South Meeting House where Samuel Adams had given the signal to begin the Boston Tea Party, and the old State House, with its lion and unicorn-symbols of Great Britain-and its distinctive cupola. “This was the tallest building in Boston, which was a way of reminding the citizens that there was no higher authority than the king. It was just outside these doors that the Boston Massacre occurred and five men were killed,” Adam explained. “John Adams, who would later be our first vice president and second president, defended the British soldiers and his belief that every accused person is entitled to counsel. It was a very brave thing for Adams to do because it made him very unpopular in Boston for a time. However, the right to counsel is now guaranteed to every American in our constitution.”
At the corner of School and Washington the Corner Bookstore still stood. “I used to love to come here when I was a student. I couldn’t afford to buy many books but I saw famous authors like Thoreau, Emerson, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. Shall we do a little browsing? A.C., you hold onto my hand and do not let go. Understand?”
Penny, like Beth, was not that much of a reader but she knew how much her parents and Miranda loved books so she so sighed and went inside the bookstore with the rest of the family. She found a section of children’s books and began reading one titled Kathie’s Three Wishes. She was so absorbed in it that when her parents told her it was time to go, she asked if she could buy it. Delighted that she had found a book she enjoyed Adam bought it for her along with a picture book for A.C. titled Marmaduke Multiply, and for Gwyneth he bought Five Little Peppers Midway.
One day Mrs. Alden offered to watch Penny and A.C. so Adam and Bronwen could enroll Miranda at the Girls’ Latin School. “A.C. bach, Mama and Daddy are going to take Miranda to her new school and you and Penny are going to stay with Mrs. Alden at her house. I want you to mind Mrs. Alden and be a good boy. Will you do that for Mama?” Bronwen asked him very seriously.
“I come with you, Mama,” A.C. said, his chin beginning to wobble slightly.
“We’ll be back before dinnertime, I promise, Jackeroo,” Adam said. “But Mama and I want you to stay with Mrs. Alden and be a good boy.”
“I need you to keep me company, A.C., so I won’t be lonely,” Penny added
A.C. was quiet for a moment, frowning, but then he smiled at Penny. “I stay with you.” Adam and Bronwen both smiled gratefully at Penny.
They were both relieved when Mrs. Alden assured them A.C. had been a perfect angel while they were gone. “He missed you, but Penny got him playing with his jumping jack and that distracted him.”
The fifth evening of their stay in Boston they were invited to dine with Thomas Collingsworth and his wife. Thomas’s older brother had inherited the family townhouse but Thomas had purchased a charmingly unpretentious row house on Mt. Vernon Street.
The inevitable Irish parlor maid took Adam’s Stetson and ushered them into the small drawing room whose walls were painted cornflower blue with white molding and the lighter colors made the room seem larger. Thomas stood when they entered and clasped Adam’s hand warmly before offering it to Bronwen.
“It’s so good to see you, Adam. And to finally meet you, Bronwen, if I may be allowed the liberty?” he said as he waved them to the blue and white striped sofa.
“Of course, Thomas,” she replied with a warm smile that he returned.
“Allow me to present my wife, Rebecca,” and Bronwen held out her hand to the pretty and rather plump woman seated in a blue velvet Queen Anne chair. Bronwen noticed that Rebecca Collingsworth was about the same age as Adam and Thomas and her brown hair was beginning to be streaked with gray. Thomas, meanwhile said, “Dear, you remember Adam and his daughter, Miranda?”
“Of course. It’s good to see you both again,” she said with a smile. “Now, I think this must be Penny,” she added with a smile. “Your father has written that you look just like your mama.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Penny answered with a curtsey.
“And you must be A.C.,” Thomas said with a grin and A.C. nodded shyly, holding onto his daddy’s hand tightly.
“Beth and Gwyneth didn’t come to Boston?” Thomas then asked.
“No, they decided to stay at the ranch with their grandfather.”
“So are you enjoying your visit to Boston, Penny?” Thomas asked.
“Too right!” Penny exclaimed, her expressive face showing her excitement. “All the buildings are so much bigger than ours, and your grass is greener; it’s like a green carpet,” she replied enthusiastically.
Rebecca raised her eyebrows and Adam explained. “The grass in Cloncurry grows in tufts; we don’t have green lawns like you have on the Common. We get good deal of rain from November to March, but then very little from March to November so it’s the wrong climate for lush green lawns.”
“Tell them about the house, Thomas,” Rebecca interjected quietly.
“I was just getting to that, dear,” Thomas replied. He turned to Adam and Bronwen. “We have a small house in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard and we wanted to invite the five of you to stay there for a few days before you have to leave Boston. It would give you a chance to spend some time together as a family.”
“Thank you, Thomas. That’s very generous of you,” Adam replied smiling warmly at his friend.
“Oh yes. It will be so nice to have some time by ourselves,” Bronwen added.
“Wonderful,” Thomas said. “It’s nothing fancy. The house has three bedrooms, a small kitchen and dining room, and a tiny parlor. We do have a small private beach, which is why we bought the property.”
“We got to meet an old friend of Adam’s at the Aldens home the other day,” Bronwen said with a teasing glint in her eyes. “A Mrs. Randall.” Thomas and Rebecca exchanged amused glances. “She quickly informed me that Adam was her first beau.”
“That’s right,” Thomas said. “Our freshman year at Harvard Adam courted Julia-Mrs. Randall-and his roommate, Aaron, courted Elsie Wilder.” His tone sobered at the mention of Aaron.
“Who did you court?” Penny asked earning a frown from her daddy.
“Oh, I didn’t pay court to any special girl then. I didn’t meet Mrs. Collingsworth until my senior year. That’s when I began to court her.”
“Did Daddy court any other girls?” Penny inquired her curiosity insatiable.
“I think you should ask your daddy that question, Penny,” Thomas replied, enjoying his friend’s discomfiture.
“And I think Penny needs to learn to mind her manners,” Adam said frowning at his daughter, who only grinned unrepentantly and he saw her mother was grinning in the same fashion. He sighed and said with obvious reluctance, “No, I did not seriously court any other girls while I was at Harvard. I attended cotillions and balls and an occasional picnic or clambake with friends, but that’s all.”
“That reminds me,” Thomas said. “We finally learned what became of my sister, Dorothea.” He turned to Bronwen then saying, “The summer after our sophomore year, Adam stayed at our family’s cottage on Martha’s Vineyard-a much grander place than ours-and my widowed older sister was there that summer as well so Adam met her. The strange thing was that fall after we’d returned to college, my sister and her maid just disappeared. Her late husband had left her comfortably off and she withdrew most of her money from the bank, packed up her belongings, and left without telling anyone where she was going. My father hired men to look for her, but she just seemed to vanish.
“About a month ago the family received a letter. It was to be sent to us after her death. Apparently she,” and he glanced quickly at Miranda and Penny before saying, “she, uh, found herself in an interesting condition and decided to go someplace where she wasn’t known. She did tell us that she had a daughter, but asked us not to try and contact her since she is ignorant of her parentage and is happily married with children of her own.”
Adam kept his countenance impassive but he was rocked by Thomas’ news. He had been too innocent then to know about French letters and if Dorothea had left mysteriously because she was pregnant, it was his child. The timing was right. It was very unsettling to think he had a daughter somewhere he’d never been aware of-and grandchildren. He forced himself to listen as Thomas continued not realizing that Bronwen had been able to penetrate his inscrutable façade.
“The only thing Dorothea wrote was that her daughter was named Joanna and she is the image of her father, whoever he is. The family decided to respect her wishes so we aren’t going to try and locate Joanna.”
That night at the hotel, as Adam and Bronwen cuddled together after making love, she asked softly, “You’re Joanna’s father, aren’t you?”
He was quiet for several minutes before saying earnestly, “I never knew she was with child. She was the first woman I’d ever been with and I never even thought about the possibility of her becoming pregnant. I don’t think it occurred to her because she’d been married several years and was childless. I would have done the honorable thing if I’d known.”
Bronwen’s expression was very grave as she said, “I know you would have, but if she’d married you-a college student several years her junior-and the baby was born seven or eight months later, everyone would have known why she’d married you and she still would have been disgraced. Not fair, but that’s how society works.” She paused for a moment and cuddled closer before saying softly, “I’m selfish and I can’t be sorry that she made the choice she did.”
“I can’t be sorry either. You’re the woman I love, the woman I want to grow old with,” he replied and kissed her tenderly. Then he added, “It is very strange learning that I have a daughter and grandchildren somewhere, but I’m glad that Joanna is happily married and never had to endure the stigma of illegitimacy. Dorothea’s choice was probably the best one for all of us and I will also respect her wishes and make no effort to contact Joanna.”
The Cartwrights had a wonderful time on Martha’s Vineyard. The beach near the cottage reminded Bronwen of Bondi Beach where she’d spent some of the happiest times of her childhood although the water was much colder. They all waded in the frigid North Atlantic water and built elaborate sandcastles. Penny and A.C. went up and down the beach collecting seashells and pebbles of every size. Their last afternoon, Adam showed them how to dig for clams and they had a clambake that evening.
He built a fire of driftwood on the beach and they sang songs until A.C. fell asleep. They were quiet then watching the sun set over the ocean-brilliant streaks of orange in a turquoise sky above the deeper blue of the ocean.
“I’m going to miss you,” Penny said tearfully to her sister. She threw her arms around Miranda, who hugged her back fiercely.
“I’ll write and tell you all about school and living with the Aldens,” Miranda promised. “Will you write me?’
Penny nodded and sniffed loudly so Adam handed her his handkerchief and she blew her nose.
“We’ll all write, Angel. Mama and I will even help A.C. write you,” Adam said, blinking back tears of his own.
“You’re absolutely sure you want to do this?” Bronwen asked in a shaky voice and Miranda nodded, too overcome for speech.
“I think we’d better turn in,” Adam said. “We’ll need to leave on the first ferry and take you to the Aldens before catching the afternoon train.” Heavy-hearted they put out the fire and went back to the house and packed their bags. The next morning they were silent on the ferry to the mainland and the carriage ride to Boston except for A.C., who chattered away like a magpie.
They decided to say their final goodbyes in the privacy of Miranda’s bedroom. Seeing his mama and daddy crying upset A.C., who began to realize that something sad was happening. When Miranda picked him up and kissed him and told him goodbye, he began to cry and threw his arms around her neck.
“Say goodbye to Miranda, A.C.,” Bronwen said through her tears. “We have to go now.”
“No, stay with Manda,” he sobbed.
Adam gently disengaged his arms and took him from Miranda. “We’ll write you as soon as we get to the ranch, Angel.” Bronwen and Penny hugged and kissed Miranda one last time before they reluctantly left and A.C. was crying hysterically as Adam carried him down to their waiting cab.
After the rest of their family boarded the train, Beth and Gwyneth rode back to the ranch with Ben. Beth conversed easily but Ben noticed how silent and withdrawn her younger sister was. Just like her father, he thought with a sigh.
In an attempt to draw her out, Ben asked cheerfully, “How are you planning on spending the afternoon, Gwyneth?”
“I thought I’d go for a ride,” she replied quietly.
“I don’t want you girls riding on your own; I have some paperwork that I have to finish so I’ll see if one of the hands is available to ride with you.”
Gwyneth started to protest but the look in her grandpa’s eyes told her she’d be wasting her breath; besides, he did have a point since she and Beth were not that familiar with the Ponderosa.
While she went up to change, Ben found one of the younger hands putting the tack room in order. “Dan, you can finish this tomorrow. Right now I’d like you to go riding with my granddaughter.” Dan’s eyes gleamed at the thought of riding with his employer’s beautiful granddaughter but his happy expression dimmed when Ben continued. “Gwyneth just went to change; she’ll be down in a minute. Could you go ahead and saddle her mare? Our saddles are heavier than what she’s used to using.”
“Shore, Mr. Cartwright. Be happy to,” Dan replied. He’d never paid much attention to the younger girls but going for a ride was better than spending the afternoon mending tack. His eyes widened when he saw the girl in her new waist overalls. He’d never realized just how long her legs were and the waist overalls fit her like a second skin making it apparent that she had a very nicely rounded derrière.
“Yer grandpa asked me to saddle yer mare,” he said, unable to take his eyes off those long legs and provocative buttocks.
“Thanks,” she replied, mounting with an easy grace while he feasted his eyes on her bottom.
He tore his gaze away and looked at her solemn face. “Anywheres special ya wanna ride to?”
“I’d like to ride by the lake,” she replied, wondering why he was staring at her. It made her just a bit uncomfortable.
He tried to talk with her but she gave him no encouragement so they rode in silence until she asked if they could go for a gallop along the shore. He agreed and was a bit put out when he discovered his mount couldn’t keep up. He didn’t look forward to another silent ride so he tried again to make conversation on the ride back to the ranch house and this time Gwyneth was more willing to answer questions about life in the outback,
That evening as the hands gathered in the bunkhouse to play cards or just talk Dan said appreciatively, “Those Cartwright girls shore are lookers.”
“You know it,” another replied. “That Beth is the prettiest gal I think I ever saw.”
“Yeah, she’s real pretty, but I was talkin’ about her sister. I saw her today wearin’ a pair of waist overalls, and let me tell you, she has legs that go on forever and the sweetest little-”
Jacob, who’d been braiding a set of reins, broke in. “I think you need to be reminded that you’re speaking of Mr. Cartwright’s granddaughter. His thirteen-year-old granddaughter,” he said quietly.
“She’s only thirteen? I thought since she was so tall ¼ Anyways, I didn’t mean nuthin by it,” Dan said turning red while the other hands laughed at his embarrassment.
That Sunday Todd McKaren approached Ben after church. “Virginia and I would like to invite the Beth and Gwyneth to have dinner with us today. I promise to return them to you before the sun goes down.”
“All right, Todd. I’m sure the girls would be happy to spend some time with your family. And I know Andy will be happy to spend some time with Beth,” he added with a wink.
“The boys and I rode today, so Virginia is driving the surrey,” Todd said with a grin. “I figured that’s what Adam would prefer.” He chuckled. “I tried to tell Andy that since I won’t allow Susan to go on buggy rides Adam most likely wouldn’t let Beth go either. Can’t blame the boy for tryin’ though. If I was his age, I would’ve done the same.”
“Dave not back from the cattle drive yet?” Ben queried, for the McKaren’s oldest son had been gone the past two Sundays and Ben hadn’t seen him at church.
“He got in late last night and we decided to let him sleep in. He’ll be there for dinner though.
Beth readily accepted the McKarens’ invitation and Gwyneth did so a little reluctantly. Beth and Susan chatted away like old friends while Virginia tried to keep a conversation going between Gwyneth and Cindy, who clearly had few shared interests. She got Gwyneth talking about some of the unusual animals living in the outback, but Cindy soon grew bored with the conversation so Gwyneth withdrew into herself and Virginia vowed to have a talk with her youngest about how to treat company.
Twenty-five-year-old Dave was sitting on the front porch when the surrey drove up. He walked to the surrey before his kid brother could dismount and so it was he that helped Beth down and escorted her to the house leaving his father and brother to help the other females.
“I wish I was as beautiful as your sister,” Cindy sighed and Gwyneth shrugged.
“Come on,” Todd said with a grin. “You three girls are very pretty.”
“But not beautiful like Beth,” Susan said just a shade enviously.
“Nope,” Andy agreed without thinking, gazing jealously at his older brother who’d said something to make Beth laugh.
“Thanks a lot, Andrew McKaren,” Susan said sharply, punching his arm while Todd laughed.
Gwyneth let Beth do most of the talking during dinner but afterward Virginia suggested they sing. “Since I was sitting right in front of you girls I could hear how beautifully you sang. I hope you’ll sing a few songs for us now.”
“We’ll sing for you if we’ll all sing some songs together first,” Beth said with a smile.
They sang several old favorites and then Beth and Gwyneth sang Amazing Grace taking turns singing harmony.
“You girls do have beautiful voices,” Todd said and the others all agreed.
“Gwyneth has the best voice in our family,” Beth said smiling at her younger sister. “Why don’t we sing Fairest Lord Jesus and you sing the descant?”
Gwyneth was a little nervous but she agreed and afterward the McKarens sat in stunned silence.
“Oh Gwyneth,” Virginia said after a moment, “have you ever thought of singing professionally? I’ve just never heard a voice to compare with yours except when I’ve been to the opera in San Francisco.”
Gwyneth blushed a fiery red and shook her head. “I don’t like singing in front of strangers.”
“We’re glad you don’t consider us strangers,” Dave said smiling at her. She might not be as beautiful as her sister, but her voice was incredible.
“Our minister has persuaded her to sing some solos at church, but usually she and Miranda and I sing together.”
Cindy was jealous of the amount of attention being paid Gwyneth so she suggested, “Let’s play a game. How about Twenty Questions?”
They all enjoyed themselves playing parlor games and when Todd suggested it was time to take the Cartwrights home Dave and Andy both eagerly offered to drive them to the Ponderosa.
“Sorry, boys, but I think Mr. Cartwright would prefer if I drive the girls home.” Seeing the disappointment on his sons’ faces, he added with a grin, “However, I don’t think their father would object if Andy came with me.” He saw the anger in his firstborn’s eyes and said quickly, “Dave, come help me hitch up the team.”
As soon as they stepped outside he said firmly, “Dave, Beth Cartwright is only sixteen years old and I know her father would not approve of your interest.”
“She sure looks older than sixteen,” Dave muttered.
“I agree, but I remember that she’s only a couple of months older than Susan. She’s just too young for you. Besides, she’s only going to be here a couple of weeks. Let your brother have some fun flirting with her.”
“Yeah, you’re right, Dad. But she sure is beautiful.”
“That she is,” Todd agreed as they hitched up the team. “And her little sister sings like an angel. Shame she’s so shy.”
Todd suggested Gwyneth sit in front with him and she agreed after grinning at her sister.
“I sure enjoyed your company today,” Andy said nervously as the surrey left the yard. “I mean yours and your sister’s,” he added his cheeks reddening.
“I enjoyed spending time with your family,” Beth said smiling at him. She looked around. “The countryside here is so beautiful.”
“I guess it’s real different from your home, huh?” Andy asked, wishing he had the courage to slip his arm around Beth’s shoulders.
“The mountains are different,” Beth replied with a little smile. “Cloncurry is surrounded by hills. Just as you have silver in your mountains, our hills have copper. That’s what my daddy and uncle mine.”
“Your dad was a cowboy once, right?” She smiled her assent. “Since you said there are cattle ranches in Australia, how come he doesn’t own one? I mean instead of owning a mine.”
“Gwyneth asked him about that once. He told her that he really wasn’t that fond of cattle and mining had always interested him.” She paused and then added, “He does have an interest in a cattle station that’s also a stud farm. Usually during our summer, Gwyneth, our cousin Llywelyn and I go visit the Dawsons for a few weeks. Mr. Dawson lets us work in the stables; he says we’re horse people.”
“Work?” Andy said in surprise. He couldn’t picture this dainty girl ever doing work. It didn’t seem right.
“Too right,” Beth said with a grin. “We muck out stalls, feed, water and groom the horses. Now that I’m older, Mr. Dawson even lets me help with the training just like Kit.”
Andy was appalled at the idea of her mucking out stalls but what came out of his mouth was, “Who’s Kit?”
“Kit Dawson. He’s just a few months older than I am. He has a younger sister, Annie, who is Gwyneth’s age. They’re good friends, but the Dawsons’ station is too far from town for Kit and Annie to attend school or even come to town very often.”
“Is, is this Kit your beau?” Andy asked frightened of the answer.
“I don’t have a beau. There are some boys that walk me to church and back home on Sundays, but they’re not my beaus. Daddy wouldn’t let me have one; he thinks I’m too young.”
Andy cautiously reached for her hand. She didn’t jerk it back so he gently held it in his, marveling at how slender and delicate it was, and so tiny compared to his. “I sure wish you weren’t going back to Australia.”
“The Ponderosa is beautiful,” she replied, trying to ignore the sensations his large calloused hand enfolding hers caused. They weren’t unpleasant but she was still nervous at his touch. “Beautiful as it is, it’s not home.”
Andy felt sad at those words, but told himself he’d never really had a chance to win her heart and he certainly wasn’t moving to Australia.
One night about a week later, Ben was just getting ready for bed when through the open window he heard a guitar playing and a hauntingly beautiful voice singing:
Come all ye fair and tender ladies
Take warning how you court young men
They’re like a bright star on a cloudy morning
They will first appear and then they’re gone.
They’ll tell to you some loving story
To make you think that they love you true
Straightway they’ll go and court some other
Oh that’s the love that they have for you.
I wish I had known before I courted
That love had been so hard to gain
I’d of locked my heart in a box of golden
And fastened it down with a silver chain.
He stood transfixed by the beauty of the voice-bright and clear but with a richness and depth he’d only heard once before when he’d attended a performance by Angela Drake-and when the song ended he went down the stairs quietly and walked through the dark great room and onto the front porch. There was a full moon so he recognized Gwyneth wearing the waist overalls her father had given her and one of her father’s old black shirts that she must have found in his room. With her hair pulled back into a braid and hidden in the shadows, she looked so much like Adam at that age it was eerie. She was strumming Adam’s old guitar softly, just humming. Ben spoke her name quietly but she jumped at the sound of another voice.
“Child, you should be in bed,” he said gently, “although I enjoyed your singing.”
“I’m sorry if I woke you,” she said quietly, refusing to meet his eyes and tugging on one earlobe. He smiled inwardly. She certainly was her father’s daughter.
“You didn’t wake me. But I thought you’d gone to bed hours ago.”
She nodded and then said, “I couldn’t sleep. I miss Mama and Daddy. The song I sang is one of their favorite songs. Daddy told us the first time he sang it to Mama she cried, and Mama explained that was because she thought Daddy was coming back here to the Ponderosa and she’d never see him again. Daddy said that’s when he really knew how much Mama loved him.” She stopped and said with a little sob, “I don’t know how Miranda can bear to be gone for six years. I miss them so much now and it’s only been two weeks.”
“That’s why you went and got one of your daddy’s old shirts and his old guitar?” Ben asked gently and she nodded. “I missed your daddy terribly when he went away to school. I’d thought I knew how much I’d miss him, but I didn’t really until he left. I didn’t know how to play your daddy’s guitar, but I’d hold it and I’d think of him.”
“Do you still miss him?” Gwyneth asked hesitantly.
“Every day, just like I miss your Uncle Hoss and your grandma and your Grandma Inger and your Grandma Marie. But I understand why your daddy chose to live in Australia, and I know that he is happy there with your mama and all of you, happier than he would be living here. That makes it easier to bear, knowing that he is happy.”
“Could you tell me a story about Daddy? About what he was like when he was my age?”
Ben smiled and sat down in the chair next to hers. “Your daddy was about a year younger than you are now when I married your Uncle Joe’s mother.”
“Grandma Marie that I’m named for,” she interjected.
He smiled at her. “That’s right. Your daddy, Uncle Hoss, and I had lived alone for nearly six years and your daddy had helped to raise his little brother. I guess I should say his younger brother,” he corrected himself with a grin, “because your Uncle Hoss was never very little.” His smile dimmed a bit as he thought of that time. “Your Grandma Marie, like your grandma, had grown up in a big city with lots of neighbors and lots of shops where you could buy clothing and food and books-all those sorts of things. She’d also grown up with lots of,” and Ben cleared this throat, “lots of servants who did most of the work. I knew it would be a big adjustment for her coming to live in an isolated cabin in the high country of the Sierras where the closest neighbor was almost 20 miles away and the closest settlement was across the Sierras-Placerville, or Hangtown as it was known then. But I just knew your daddy and Uncle Hoss would welcome her and help her adjust to her new life.”
He paused and Gwyneth looked at him expectantly. “Your Uncle Hoss did welcome her. He’d never known his own mother since he’d only been around a month old when she died and so he thought of Marie as his mother right from the first. Your daddy was a different story. He’d loved your Grandma Inger very much and he resented the idea of anyone trying to take her place. I explained that Marie wasn’t trying to take Inger’s place, but your daddy can be very stubborn. Your Grandma Marie was not a particularly patient woman, but she used every ounce of patience she possessed with your daddy. He was just bound and determined not to accept her as part of the family. I remember when I told your daddy and uncle that your Grandma Marie was going to have a baby, your Uncle Hoss was so excited because now he would be a big brother. He told us all the things he was going to teach his baby brother to do just like Adam had taught him. Your daddy was very quiet and when I asked him what he thought, he broke my heart by saying that he wanted to live with his grandfather in Boston.”
“Did you let him go?” Gwyneth asked her expression anxious and Ben smiled at her.
“No, although he was so miserable that your Grandma Marie and I did consider it. She was trying so hard to find something that she and your daddy had in common, something that would create a bond between them but she didn’t seem to be having any luck until the day her guitar arrived from New Orleans. Your daddy was drawn to that guitar the same way metal is drawn to a magnet. I came home one evening and heard the sound of somebody strumming the guitar but I knew it wasn’t Marie because it sounded awful. Then I heard your daddy’s voice.”
“‘I did it wrong again!'”
“‘You must be patient,’ I heard Marie say. ‘No one learns to play in one lesson. You are doing very well. You should have heard me during my first lesson. All the cats and dogs in hearing distance yowled in protest,’ and I heard her laugh.”
“‘You’re exaggerating,’ I heard your daddy reply and then, miraculously, I heard him laugh. That was the first time I’d heard him laugh since I’d returned from New Orleans. Everything wasn’t perfect after that, but your daddy finally seemed willing to accept your Grandma Marie as part of the family.”
He smiled at Gwyneth. “I’m glad that you love music like your daddy and your mama. I knew that all you girls could sing, but I never realized what a truly beautiful voice you have.”
“Reverend Jones is always trying to get me to sing solos, but I don’t like singing by myself in front of people except my family. Beth, Miranda and I used to sing together-I’m a lyric soprano, Beth’s a mezzo-soprano like Mama and Miranda is a contralto. Penny’s a contralto so maybe now that Miranda’s at school she’ll sing with us.”
“Since I’m a member of your family, would you sing for me?” he asked gently.
She nodded but kept her eyes downcast. “What would you like to hear?”
“You choose the song” he replied with a smile.
She thought for a moment and then began singing in Welsh accompanying herself on the guitar.
“That was lovely. You were singing in Welsh?”
She nodded. “Reverend Jones taught us the song. It’s about a beautiful young woman named Gwenllian who is pining away for her lost love. Reverend Jones visits us on Sunday afternoons and he brings his Celtic lap harp so he and Daddy and I play together. He also plays the Welsh triple harp; he’s invited us to the parsonage twice to repay our hospitality and he played the Welsh harp for us. I think when we get back home I’m going to ask him to teach me to play the Celtic harp. Daddy said he’d be interested in learning and so did Beth.” She smiled a little. “I like Reverend Jones. He’s really nice and he’s not as old as Reverend Darnell. I even like listening to him preach.” She grinned more broadly, showing her deep dimple. “I think Reverend Jones likes Beth and I think Beth likes him a little.”
“Oh, but he’s too old for her,” Ben said frowning slightly.
Gwyneth smiled again and said, “Daddy is ten years older than Mama and Reverend Jones is only eight years older than Beth.”
“And how do you know that?” Ben asked sternly.
“I asked him how old he was and he told me he’s twenty-four.” She saw the expression on her grandpa’s face and said hurriedly, “I didn’t say he loved her, Grandpa. I just said I thought he liked her and that she liked him a little.”
“Well, young lady, right now, I think you need to go upstairs and get some sleep,” Ben said firmly and Gwyneth sighed and headed upstairs.
About a week later a telegram was delivered to the ranch for Ben. He opened it and smiled broadly at his older granddaughters who were playing Tiddly Winks with their young cousins while he worked on the account books and Annabelle sewed a dress for Sarah. “Your daddy says your family should arrive in Carson City tomorrow evening.”
“Hurrah!” shouted Gwyneth, causing Beth to frown at her. “Sorry, but I’m just so glad they’ll be back tomorrow.”
“I’m glad too,” Beth said with a smile. “I know Penny and A.C. will want to tell us all about what they saw and did.”
“Knowing them, it will be a race to see who can out talk the other,” Gwyneth added with a grin and Beth giggled, for Penny and A.C. were a pair of chatterboxes.
Sure enough, the next evening as soon as Penny and A.C. had a chance to hug their siblings and Grandpa at the train station, they both began to talk at once about their adventures. After a minute, Adam said firmly, “Quiet.” They both stopped and looked at him while the older two tried to smother their giggles. “One at a time. A.C., you pick one thing that happened and tell your sisters and then it will be Penny’s turn.”
A.C. grinned and said excitedly, “Daddy and me builded a big sandcastle this high,” and he held up his hand over his head, “and we dug clams and ate ’em. And I found lots o’ pretty rocks.”
Adam nodded to Penny and she said excitedly, “We saw the house where Daddy was born. It was littler than our house or the Ponderosa. And we went shopping at this really big store called Bloomingdale’s and Mama bought me a new pair of shoes and a new dress. Oh, and we saw a building with a golden roof.”
“The State House,” Adam interjected.
“Yes, and we saw a lot of big churches with really tall steeples. Oh, and we stayed in a little house on an island named Martha’s Vineyard. I found lots of pretty rocks and shells there, too, just like A.C. We’re going to put them in viewing jars.”
“It sounds like you had a wonderful time,” Ben said with a smile. “How did you end up on Martha’s Vineyard?”
“Thomas Collingsworth and his wife invited us to stay at their summer home there so we could have some time together,” Adam answered quietly.
A.C. spoke up then, his voice quavering. “Is Manda here?”
“Now, Jackeroo,” Adam said quietly, picking his son up and holding him, “Daddy explained that Miranda is going to live in Boston with the Aldens so she can go to school there.”
“No, I want Manda home,” A.C. said as his face crumpled up and he began to sob.
“Let me have him,” Bronwen said quietly so Adam handed A.C. to her and she held him and gently rubbed his back and kissed his cheek. Ben noticed that Penny was also on the verge of tears, so he suggested that they head back to the ranch.
He questioned Penny on the way home to keep her (and her older sisters’) minds off the missing family member and Adam and Bronwen smiled at him gratefully.
It was late when they reached the ranch house. The rest of the family had already eaten and Benj and Sarah were in bed. Since A.C. was already asleep, Adam carried him upstairs and put him to bed while Buckshot served the food he’d kept warm for the late arrivals. When they finished, they took the coffeepot into the great room and Penny told her aunt and uncle about what she’d seen on her trip. She surprised everyone by suddenly asking, “Grandpa, do you have a photograph of Daddy while he was at Harvard? We met a lady in Boston who said Daddy was beautiful then and I should look at a photograph of him and see if I didn’t agree.”
Adam choked on his coffee and Bronwen handed him a napkin with an evil smile. “Yes, I’d like to see that photograph myself.”
“They’re in one of my desk drawers; it’ll just take me a minute to get them,” Ben replied, smiling at his firstborn’s discomfiture. He retuned shortly with four framed daguerreotypes and sat them in front of Penny on the coffee table. “Here you go, Penny. Your daddy sent us a daguerreotype each year he was at school.”
Penny studied them carefully and Beth came and sat beside her. “Oh, Daddy,” Beth said, “you were so handsome then.”
“And he is still a very handsome man,” Bronwen said winking at her husband.
Joe picked up one of the daguerreotypes and studied it. “I knew you took after your dad, Gwyneth, I guess I just didn’t realize how much.”
“Let me see,” Bronwen commanded so Joe brought the daguerreotypes to her and Gwyneth came and sat on the chair arm to look. “You do look like me, Daddy,” she said in surprise. “I mean, I look like you.”
“That’s why I grew a beard, Punkin, so people could tell us apart,” Adam replied with a grin. Gwyneth rolled her eyes while Beth and Penny burst into giggles. “Penny has told you all about what we did, but what about you girls? What did you do while we were gone?” he asked.
“We had dinner with the McKaren’s one Sunday,” Beth said. “And Grandpa drove me over so I could visit Susan a couple of times and she came here twice.”
“Oddly enough, Andy always accompanied Susan,” Joe added with a teasing wink.
“I went for a ride every day, with Grandpa or Uncle Joe or one of the ranch hands.” Adam’s eyes registered his surprise at the last choice of escort, so Gwyneth hurriedly added, “that Grandpa picked out.” Seeing him relax, she added, “And Uncle Joe took Benj and me fishing one Saturday.”
“You had to bait her hook, didn’t you?” Adam asked his brother as he quirked up his lips in a half smile.
Joe grinned broadly. “Yeah, she caught more fish than we did, but she wouldn’t bait her own hook.”
“I just can’t bear to touch the bait,” Gwyneth said defensively as she wrinkled her nose and shuddered slightly. She pouted a little when the men laughed at her reaction so Adam tugged on one of her curls saying with a grin, “We’re only teasing, Punkin.”
After only a few days, Ben and Joe were bidding Adam, Bronwen and their children goodbye. Ben was seventy-eight years old and realist enough to know that he might never see them again in this life. He was glad he’d had the opportunity to get to know Beth and Gwyneth better. With an inner smile he thought of the difficult years that lay ahead of his firstborn as each of his daughters grew old enough to be courted. Ben thanked God he’d had sons to raise, and that had been difficult enough. Still, Adam had Bronwen to help him cope. Ben was grateful for the chance to see Adam and Bronwen together; they were so comfortable in their love for each other and their children and, for just a moment, Ben envied his son the seventeen years he and Bronwen had shared. Still, sad as Ben was at this parting, he was looking forward to next summer when Miranda would be staying at the Ponderosa. Seeing her made him feel young again and she brought back so many happy memories of Liz and the love they’d shared.
For Joe these goodbyes never grew any easier. It had just seemed so right to see Adam sitting in his favorite blue chair strumming his guitar or with his nose buried in a book. On this visit Joe’d had a chance to really get to know two of his nieces. Like Ben, Joe marveled at how much Gwyneth resembled her father, not the physical resemblance as much as her character, although Joe didn’t remember Adam ever being that shy. Of course, his memories of Adam were almost all of the sophisticated young man who’d returned from Harvard.
Joe was also grateful that Benj and Sarah had been given the opportunity to spend so much time with Beth and Gwyneth, for it was important to him that there be a strong bond between his children and Adam’s. Sarah absolutely adored Beth and looked on her as a big sister while Benj and Gwyneth-two quiet, bookish children-had also bonded. Although Benj had not been happy when his cousin caught more fish that he did, Joe thought with a grin. The family would all be together again when Miranda graduated from the Girls’ Latin School, he thought happily, refusing to consider that his seemingly indestructible father might no longer be with them.
Adam, however, appreciated that this could be the last time he, Pa and Joe might ever be together. He had come and gone so many times from this place, and had never considered a time when Ben would not be there to welcome him home. He still half expected to see Hoss coming in the front door, or sitting at the dinner table. He found it nearly impossible to believe that his younger brother had been gone thirteen years.
After Ben and Joe had wished Adam’s family goodbye, and Adam had helped them all board the train, he turned to shake his father’s and brother’s hands in farewell. Expressing his emotions had never been easy for Adam, and he struggled to think of the words that would convey the depth of his love for both men.
As he had so many times before, Ben, seeing the flickering emotions playing across Adam’s face, came to his child’s rescue.
“Have a safe journey, son. I know I may not have said it often enough, but I am so very proud of you and all that you’ve done with your life. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.”
Adam’s response was evident in his eyes, as he grasped his father to him for a brief hug. With a tenuous hold on his feelings, he gave a bit of a watery smile, and said, “As are you in mine. Goodbye, Pa.”
Joe said in a choked voice, “I’m going to miss you, older brother,” and then he and Adam hugged each other hard for a moment. Joe stepped away, blinking back tears, and saw that Adam was doing the same.
Adam turned to board the train and waved until his father and brother disappeared from sight.
When the Cartwrights arrived at Cloncurry, there was a letter from Miranda waiting for them. They gathered in the library-A.C. on Bronwen’s lap with Beth and Penny perched on the arms of Adam’s chair and Gwyneth sitting cross-legged at his feet petting an ecstatic Lady-and Adam tore open the envelope and began reading.
Dear Mama and Daddy, Beth, Gwyneth, Penny and A.C.,
Today was the first day of school. The Alden’s groom drove Charlotte and me from the Aldens’ house on Chestnut Street in Beacon Hill to West Newton Street in the South End. Even though I will be turning sixteen in November, I am in the same class with Charlotte. (I am only four months older as she has reminded me.) Actually, I am glad we are in the same class so I have one friend. It does mean I will be going to school here for three years instead of two. I’m also very glad that you began teaching me Latin, Daddy, because all the other girls who’ve been attending here two or three years are much more knowledgeable about Latin and Greek than I am. Charlotte has offered to help me with my Latin and Greek in exchange for my helping her with mathematics.
I am beginning to understand how difficult it must have been for you, Daddy, when you first married Mama. You would think that since we all speak English there would be no problems understanding each other, but sometimes I feel as though I were speaking (or hearing) a foreign language. Everybody, including my teachers, wanted to know if I’d seen a kangaroo or an Aborigine. They were very surprised when I told them one of our maids is an Aborigine. (I think they were disappointed when I told them Mary dresses the same as we do and she’s an Anglican, or Episcopalian as they are known here in the States. I know they were hoping she was a savage.)
I told you that the Aldens attend the Park Street Church and the very first Sunday I attended, I met a very sweet old lady named Mrs. Baldwin. It was eerie because the first time she saw me she called me Elizabeth and she started to cry. Then even before Mrs. Alden introduced me, Mrs. Baldwin said, “You must be Adam Cartwright’s daughter. She told me she had been Grandma’s best friend. She has invited me to tea this Saturday afternoon. She promised to tell me stories about Grandma when she was a girl and she wants to hear all about you and our whole family, and Grandpa, too. She did ask me to tell you when I wrote how happy she is to know that you marred and have a large family.
The days are beginning to grow cooler and it’s so damp, which seems so odd since it’s just the opposite of home where it’s growing warmer and drier. I am looking forward to seeing the leaves change color the way you described, Daddy. And I am definitely looking forward to seeing snow. Charlotte finds it difficult to believe that I’ve never seen it.
I do miss you all terribly. At first I would cry myself to sleep because I missed you all so much and Mama and Daddy weren’t here to give me a kiss goodnight. I have the photograph of the seven of us with Nell and Mary on my bedside table so I can see all of you when I go to bed and when I wake up. The one of Grandpa, Uncle Joe, Aunt Annabelle, Benj and Sarah is right beside it. Please give A.C. a kiss for me and tell him not to forget me.
P.S. The Aldens have a little dog named Rex. He is what they call a Boston Terrier. I suppose he’s a nice dog, but he’s not as smart or as sweet as Lady
“Manda comin’ home?” A.C. asked hopefully.
“Not for a long time, bachgennyn,” Bronwen answered, kissing his cheek. “There, that’s a kiss from Miranda.” She saw the tears beginning to form in his eyes, as they were in her own, and hugged her baby gently.
“Why don’t we each write a letter to Miranda,” Adam suggested, wrestling more subtly with his own emotions. “Mama and I will help you with yours, Jackeroo.”
The next morning Gwyneth and Penny headed off to school with the lessons they had worked on while they were gone, for their parents had always instructed the children on the voyages to and from the United States so they wouldn’t fall behind their classmates. Adam rode to the mine with Rhys so the two could discuss business on the way. Bronwen drove the surrey to the general store and the butcher’s shop and Beth came to help with the shopping. They left their letters for Miranda at the post office. That afternoon Matilda came over to catch up with Bronwen and some of Beth’s friends came to visit her.
Life soon settled back into its routine. Everyone was busy during the week: Adam worked long hours at the mine and he was responsible for their carriage horses, milking the cow in the morning and seeing to any repairs needed around the property. Bronwen and Beth were busy cooking, baking, and mending, taking care of the vegetable garden and watching A.C. (Miranda had helped with the last two chores but now it was just the two of them.) Nell and Mary were occupied with scrubbing the floors, beating the rugs, doing the laundry and the ironing and all the heavy cleaning at Bronwen’s direction. Gwyneth and Penny were responsible for feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs and milking the cow in the evening. All the girls were responsible for caring for their mounts and now Gwyneth cared for Miranda’s as well. A. C. was usually already in bed when Adam returned from the mine, but the rest of the family had supper together and then, if the girls had finished their schoolwork, they spent time together singing, playing parlor games or listening to their father read aloud.
Sundays naturally meant church in the morning, and afterward Reverend Jones continued to be a frequent dinner guest. Gwyneth asked him to teach her to play the Celtic harp; Beth and Adam wanted to be included in the lessons so part of most Sunday afternoons was devoted to acquiring that new skill. In addition, Adam always set aside some time to play with A.C. since they had so little time together during the week. Sunday evenings found the Cartwrights and the Davies sharing supper and afterward the two families would sing and play parlor games.
About two weeks after they received their first letter from Miranda, one arrived for Adam and Bronwen from Ben. They always shared his letters with the children so after supper Adam, Bronwen and the three girls gathered in the library and Adam read the letter aloud.
Dear Adam and Bronwen,
I received a letter from Miranda today. She seems to be enjoying school (just like her father). She and Charlotte are becoming good friends and she also mentioned a young woman named Emily Collins. I’m afraid Boston Brahmins are as snobbish as ever, but the fact that she is staying with the Aldens makes her more socially acceptable. She is learning to speak American English or perhaps I should say “Bostonian” English, which as I recall gave her father some problems as well. Since she is used to a hot, dry climate, Boston’s humidity is quite an adjustment, but I seem to remember a young man from what was then known as Western Utah who had similar problems getting acclimated.
Joe can’t get away from the ranch, but Annabelle, the children and I are all planning on visiting Boston the first part of November, so Miranda won’t have to spend her sixteenth birthday without any family. It will have to be a very short visit to avoid any early snows but it will be good to see her again. I think she wrote you that she met Meg Baldwin. (Bronwen, Meg was Liz’s closest friend and when Liz died, she was Adam’s wet nurse.) I can imagine what a shock Miranda must have been to Meg, since the resemblance between your daughter and your mother is truly uncanny, but Miranda wrote that she has been to visit her several times now, which I’m sure has been a treat for Meg. Miranda loves hearing Meg’s stories about her grandmother, and knowing Meg, I imagine she’s told Miranda a few about you when you were a baby as well, son.
“Oh, I wish I could have met Mrs. Baldwin when we were in Boston,” Bronwen interjected.
“I should have thought to look her up,” Adam said. “I visited her often when I was in Cambridge and I would have liked to have seen her again. But let’s get back to Pa’s letter, shall we.”
“Your mother’s pearls went to Beth on her sixteenth birthday since she is the oldest granddaughter. I wanted to give something of Liz’s to Miranda on her special day, also. I have a cameo that belonged to your mother and I am going to give that to Miranda this year as my gift. Annabelle and I plan on taking her to supper and then to the theater to see Macbeth. (Annabelle’s brother wrote her that it will be playing in Boston then and I thought Miranda would enjoy a Shakespearean tragedy, as much as someone else I know.)
I know you both miss her terribly but I am glad that I will have a chance to see more of at least one of your daughters and I find I’m looking forward to seeing Boston again after all these years.
“I wish you would reconsider and come with us,” Annabelle said to Joe as she packed clothes for herself, Benj and Sarah in her trunk. “You’ve never been to Boston and there are so many sites I could show you-
“Honey, I’m sorry but I can’t get a way right now,” Joe said as he finished shaving. “I have to show the horses I selected to the Cavalry buyer and he’s going to arrive in two days. As soon as he leaves, the cattle buyer from Kansas City arrives. We’ll take a trip to Boston another time,” and he tried to place his arm around her but she shrugged him off.
“You’ve been saying that for the past eight years!” she stated angrily. “If Pa wasn’t going to Boston for Miranda’s birthday, I would still be waiting for a chance to visit my family and friends. Sometimes, Joseph Cartwright, I think you are married to this ranch!” She turned away from him then, and with a sarcastic tone, said, “I have to finish packing and I’m certain you have ranch business that can’t wait!”
Joe knew it was useless trying to reason with her in this mood, so with a sigh he put on his shirt and headed down the stairs to breakfast.
November 14, 1891, was a cold, rainy day in Boston. Miranda hadn’t said anything to the Aldens about it being her birthday because she didn’t want them to feel obliged to have a celebration for her. They were being so kind letting her live with them. Besides, it just wasn’t the same without Daddy here so they could celebrate their birthdays together. This had always been their special day. She held the photograph of her family and as she gazed at the beloved faces she could feel tears welling up in her eyes and, in a show of determination reminiscent of her father (on this same day, in this same city so many years before), she dashed them away angrily. She had wanted to attend school here and Daddy had warned her that she would have to learn to deal with homesickness.
With a leaden heart she dressed in one of the new outfits she and Mama had bought at Bloomingdale’s for cold weather. Maureen, the lady’s maid that attended her and Charlotte, came to do her hair. That was something else it was difficult to adjust to, having a servant to do her hair and take care of her things. It actually made her uncomfortable but it was part of the Aldens’ way of life and she’d quickly learned Maureen was affronted if she did her own hair. She still made her own bed every morning; it was an ingrained habit that she had no desire to break.
The Aldens’ groom drove Charlotte and Miranda to school in their coach just as he did every morning. All day long Miranda’s mood was as gloomy as the weather. Even trigonometry failed to lift her spirits. She and Charlotte handed their umbrellas and their Dolman coats to the footman who opened the door for them when they returned. Robertson, the butler, was also there and said with just a hint of a smile on his normally inscrutable countenance, “You have guests in the drawing room, Miss Miranda.”
Miranda couldn’t imagine who would be calling on her but she followed Robertson and when he opened the doors to the drawing room, her eyes widened and her hands flew to her face. “Grandpa! Aunt Annabelle!” She ran to hug them both and then turned to her cousins and hugged them jubilantly as well. “Hello, Benj. Hello, Sarah. How wonderful to see you all,” Miranda exclaimed as tears of happiness sprang to her eyes.
“Happy birthday,” Sarah said with an exuberant smile while her older brother said quietly and a bit self-consciously, “Happy birthday, Miranda.”
“I told Robert and Paula not to tell you we were coming so it would be a surprise,” Annabelle said, noting with contentment the joyous expression on her niece’s face. “We wrote your parents that we were coming so you could spend your birthday with family. Your Uncle Joe is sorry he couldn’t come with us,” she added and Ben noticed the edge in her tone and felt uneasy at the obviously tense inflection. “We’re taking you to supper at the best restaurant in Boston and then to see Macbeth“.
“That will be wonderful. I’m just so happy to see all of you.”
“We knew you’d miss your family today, especially your father. It’s going to be hard on him, too, celebrating his birthday without you,” Ben said quietly. “Robertson brought your mail in here. You have several packages from Australia. I imagine you’d like to open them now.” He indicated the four packages sitting on the ornate walnut sideboard.
She picked up the packages and carried them to the blood-red velvet sofa and then sat down between Ben and Annabelle. The largest package was from her family and she decided to save it for last. Uncle Bryn and Aunt Victoria had sent her several pairs of wool stockings “for the cold Boston winters” and a black velvet muff. Uncle Rhys and Aunt Matilda sent a lovely set of decorated hair combs. Tad-cu and Mam-gu gave her a leather-bound copy of Book 1 of Euclid’s Elements.
“Benj, why don’t you give your cousin our gift,” Annabelle suggested, smiling at her son, who was dressed in a black velvet Fauntleroy suit with a large white lace collar. He didn’t like it but Mama had insisted he wear it.
He got the package that had been hidden behind the plush sofa and handed it to his cousin. Miranda discovered a beautiful full-length coat of scarlet velvet trimmed in Russian sable. “Oh, Aunt Annabelle, it’s beautiful, but you shouldn’t have.”
“Of course we should have. Your father and mother wrote us you were having problems adjusting to the colder weather here in Boston so I asked Paula to buy this coat as our birthday gift,” Annabelle said in a gentle but firm voice.
“I imagine you want to open the gifts from your family last, so I would like to give you my gift,” Ben said quietly. Seeing her here took him back across the decades and he had to remind himself it was not his beloved Liz sitting by him. “This belonged to your grandmother and I wanted you to have it,” he said in an unsteady voice.
Miranda opened the small box and discovered a beautiful old cameo. “It was your grandmother’s favorite piece of jewelry. It had belonged to her mother and she passed it on to Liz and now I pass it on to you.”
“Oh, Grandfather, thank you,” Miranda said, her eyes again filling with tears, and she flung her arms around Ben’s neck and kissed his cheek. When she pulled back, she saw he was crying. “I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
“You don’t, child. It’s just that seeing you is like seeing your grandmother come back to life. These are tears of joy because you bring back such happy memories.” Ben gently returned the kiss as his granddaughter slowly traced the outline of the ivory figure in repose on the broach with her finger.
“Aren’t you going to open your other presents?” Benj asked, for he was curious about the contents. So far his cousin hadn’t received anything that looked very interesting to him, but she was a girl after all.
“Too right,” Miranda replied with a smile. “I mean, yes, of course.” She saw her grandfather’s eyebrow go up-just like Daddy’s, she thought with a pang-and said, “I’m trying to learn to talk like an American so the other girls can understand me.”
“Do they make fun of you?” Ben asked drawing his eyebrows together in a frown.
“One or two, but I just ignore them,” she answered. Ben did not look convinced at her statement so she tried another tack. “Really, Grandpa. Why should I care about the opinions of people like that?”
“You’re your father’s daughter,” Ben replied with a smile. “That was his attitude when he attended Harvard.”
“But Daddy was an American,” she said in surprise.
“I’m not sure all of his classmates agreed. Nevada wasn’t a state then and many Easterners, then as now, have nothing but contempt for those of us living in the West. Adam never wrote much about it, but I learned to read between the lines.”
Annabelle wasn’t comfortable with the direction the conversation was taking. After all, many Westerners had nothing but contempt for Easterners. She said brightly, “I’m dying to see what your family has sent you.”
Miranda opened the package and found three others inside along with six letters. I’ll open the packages now and I’ll save the letters until tonight she decided. The first package she opened was flat and the size of a piece of stationary. She discovered a drawing that she knew must have been made by A.C. There was also a letter in her father’s neat handwriting.
I made you a picture of Lady. I miss you, Miranda. Come home.
It was signed with a very wobbly and almost unreadable A and C.
“It’s not a very good picture,” Benj commented and his mother scolded, “Benjamin!”
“My little brother made it for me,” Miranda replied blinking back tears. “It’s our dog, Lady.”
“Oh, I guess it’s pretty good for a little boy like A.C.,” Benj agreed, hoping to avoid any more reprimands from his mother. “That’s the dog in our picture of your family, isn’t it?’ and Miranda nodded.
“Aren’t you gonna open the rest?” Sarah asked.
“This one is from my sisters,” Miranda said. She found a note written in Beth’s fancy handwriting on top of the gifts and read it first.
We decided we would each get you a gift that would remind you of us.
Much love on your special day!
Beth Gwyneth Penny
She found a dozen fine linen handkerchiefs trimmed with beautiful lace and embroidered with her monogram. She knew immediately this was Beth’s gift. Beneath the handkerchiefs was a roll of paper tied with a red ribbon. When she unrolled the papers, she discovered the sheet music to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and The Star Spangled Banner and she knew this was Gwyneth’s gift. Finally, at the bottom of the box, carefully wrapped in many sheets of heavy paper and cushioned by some old newspapers, she unwrapped a little cut glass bottle. She unsealed the bottle and inhaled the heady scent of rose water-the gift from her baby sister.
Benj shook his head as Miranda held up the gifts. Girls just don’t get any good gifts he decided.
Miranda thought her parents’ gift might be a book because of the shape but when she tore off the wrapping paper she discovered a beautiful photograph album.
“What did Uncle Adam and Aunt Bronwen give you?” Benj asked impatiently.
“A photograph album,” Miranda said with a smile holding it up.
“Can I see?” Sarah said excitedly.
“Too right,” Miranda replied, forgetting to use the American expression. Annabelle held Sarah on her lap and Benj squeezed between Ben and Miranda so they all looked at the photographs. “Beth must have taken this photograph,” Miranda said with a smile as she looked at a photograph of Adam and Gwyneth playing their guitars, their expressions very serious and intense. “And she must have taken this one, too.” She giggled at the photograph of Adam and A.C. taking a nap together in their hammock. “She’s almost as good as Daddy now.”
There were funny pictures of Bronwen kneading bread dough with a smudge of flour on her nose, Beth wrapping Penny’s hair in rags, and A.C. trying to play croquet with a mallet almost as tall as he was. Beth had taken a photograph of Bronwen reading A.C. a story and one of Adam and Rhys playing chess with Llywelyn and Gwyneth looking on. There was a photograph of Beth pinning up her hair and one of Penny standing on a stool while Beth measured the hem on her dress. The album included a photograph of Lady sitting on the porch swing between A.C. and Penny, one of Llywelyn, Gwyneth and A.C. fishing on the banks of the Cloncurry River, another of Penny and Adam playing backgammon, one of Nell and Mary hanging the laundry to dry, and Reverend Jones showing Beth how to play the harp. Remembering what Gwyneth had said about Reverend Jones liking Beth, Ben studied that photograph carefully, trying to see any reciprocal feelings on his eldest granddaughter’s face.
“It’s almost like being at home,” Miranda said her voice unsteady as she gazed at the last photograph. She heard the mantle clock chime and looked at the time. “What time do we go to supper?” she asked and Ben heard a note of concern in her voice.
“Not for another two hours. We wanted to have plenty of time to visit with you.”
“I have something I need to do before we go,” Miranda said gravely. She saw her grandpa raise his eyebrow exactly the same way her daddy did. “I promised Daddy I would place a nosegay of pansies on Grandma’s grave today from both of us.”
“Pansies for thoughts,” Ben said slowly. “I wanted to visit your grandmother today as well. May I come with you?” and Miranda nodded.
After a carriage ride through the silent streets still wet with the recent rain, Ben and Miranda stood together looking at the weathered granite stone. “Grandma was young when she died,” Miranda said softly breaking the silence.
“Yes. Yes, she was,” Ben said sadly. “Not quite twenty. We only had fourteen months together, but they were among the happiest of my life.” He smiled at his granddaughter. “She was my first love, and I know if she’d lived, I’d never have looked at another woman.”
“Mrs. Baldwin has told me stories about her when they were growing up, but how would you describe her, Grandpa?”
“I think what I loved most about your grandmother were her childlike qualities. She always saw the world with the innocent wonder of a child and she was playful with a puckish sense of humor. Of course, she could also be as obstinate as a mule-a trait she passed on to our son,” he added with a smile.
“Daddy said he got a double dose of stubbornness from grandma and from you,” Miranda said, quirking up her lips in a half grin just like her father.
“I think he’s right,” Ben replied with a grin of his own. However his expression quickly sobered. “More than anything I regret that your father never had a chance to know his mother, and yet I can still see some of her qualities in him-his sensitivity, his love of beauty, his cheekiness and even his talent with numbers, which he certainly did not get from me. I know your grandmother would be proud of the man he’s become and she would dearly love her grandchildren.” He looked at the position of the sun and said gently, “We need to get back to the Aldens’ house so we can get ready for tonight.”
Miranda gently set the flowers beside the headstone, and stepped away, allowing her grandfather a few moments to himself as he stood silently with bowed head at his beloved’s final resting place.
Miranda had a wonderful evening and when she came home she carefully removed her new cameo and placed it lovingly in her jewelry box. Her room felt chilly so she quickly put on one of her flannel nightgowns and crawled under the covers, which Maureen had already turned down. She moved her pillows behind her and began opening her letters, starting with A.C.’s, which, as the one with her present, was in her father’s handwriting except for the wobbly A and C.
I miss you. I want you to come home.
I miss you, too, baby brother. I’m glad you haven’t forgotten me. Miranda swallowed hard, knowing she would most likely shed many tears before this evening was through.
The next letter was in her older sister’s flowery handwriting with its flourishes and curlicues.
I hope you aren’t studying too hard. Just remember: “all work and no play ¼” Has Tom been to visit you? Daddy says he may be too busy with his classes and getting settled into his new routine. Since you attend a girls’ school, have you met any boys in Boston?
Speaking of boys, Sandy finally got up enough courage to call last Sunday afternoon. (I’d told him how Andy and Tom called at the Ponderosa and I think he decided if a pair of Yanks could face Daddy, then he certainly could.) Daddy has known Sandy his entire life, so he wasn’t quite as rough on him as he was Andy and Tom. Mama had invited Reverend Jones to dinner and he was giving Gwyneth, Daddy and I our harp lessons when Sandy arrived. He was going to leave then, but Mama asked him to stay. We talked about our visit to the Ponderosa and A.C. and Penny talked about their visit to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. (Those two are such a pair of chatterboxes that no one else can get a word in when they’re around.) After we talked, Sandy asked Daddy if he could take me for a walk since it was such a lovely afternoon. I think Daddy might have said no, but I saw Mama give him one of her looks so he said yes. I let Sandy hold my hand and we talked. Mostly Sandy told me how beautiful I am. I guess it’s nice to be told I’m beautiful, but I’ll admit to you, that sometimes I wonder if any boys would want anything to do with me if I lost my looks. At least Tom was interested in you because you are smart as well as pretty.
You’ll have to write and tell me what autumn is like in Boston. Daddy says it’s breathtaking but I’d like your opinion as well. I can tell that you are really enjoying yourself even if you do feel like a foreigner sometimes. I expect that feeling will go away in time.
I guess I’d better stop so I can include this letter with your birthday present.
Miranda smiled as she thought of Beth with a beau, and smiled even more as she imagined “that look” Mama always gave Daddy when she thought he was being too strict. Poor Daddy!
It sounds like you’re studying awfully hard. I have a new teacher this year, Mr. Rockingham. He’s young and he wears glasses just like mine and Mama’s. He’s teaching us about poetry. We had to find a poem and memorize it. I chose John Donne’s “A Hymne to God the Father” because I like the pun he makes on his name. That’s not the only reason of course. Most of the girls picked love poems. Mama says I’ll like love poems more when I’m older. I don’t know why she and Daddy are so sure that when I’m older I’m suddenly going to like all that silly romantic stuff.
Guess what! Llywelyn’s voice is changing. It’s funny because it slides up and down. Daddy says he thinks Llywelyn is going to be a bass like Uncle Rhys. Llywelyn can hardly wait for his whiskers to start to grow. I thought my body would begin changing by now just like yours and Beth’s did after you turned thirteen, but it hasn’t. Mama says every girl is different and I’m probably just a late bloomer. After what you and Beth told me, I am not in any hurry to change anyway. It’s just strange to be one of the few who hasn’t started changing. At least I haven’t grown any for a couple of months so maybe I won’t get any taller than five feet, nine inches. I hope so.
Poor A.C. really misses you. Mama and Daddy keep telling him that you’ll be gone for years, but I guess he’s too little to understand how long a year is. Rhiannon misses you, too, but Beth and I take turns riding her. Penny wants to ride her but Mama and Daddy both think she’s too small.
Daddy says I need to hurry up and finish so we can get your present in the mail today. I miss you.
Ah, little sister, don’t be in such a hurry to grow up! thought Miranda. Being a woman is not always the most wonderful thing in the world, especially at a certain time each month!
We all miss you very much. I’m glad you’re enjoying your school, but I wish you could come back home. Sandy McDonald came to visit last Sunday. We talked about our visit to see Grandpa, Uncle Joe and Aunt Annabelle, and then A.C. and I got to tell Sandy and Reverend Jones all about our visit to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. We showed them our viewing jars with our rocks and seashells. Sandy didn’t pay much attention because he was too busy looking at Beth, but Reverend Jones said we both had some lovely seashells. Reverend Jones is teaching Gwyneth, Beth and Daddy how to play the Celtic harp but Beth missed this lesson because she went for a walk with Sandy.
Has it snowed in Boston? I wish I could be there to see the snow. I’d like to build a snowman the way Daddy said he and Uncle Hoss used to do when they were little boys. I hope you get to build one. Daddy says I need to stop now.
Miranda laughed as she imagined her father trying to get her baby sister to stop writing in time to get the parcels posted. That little girl is such a chatterbox!
I want to wish you a very happy birthday. It will seem very strange this year to only be having a birthday supper for your daddy. I remember so vividly the day you were born. I had promised Daddy that I would give him a birthday he would never forget and even though I was eight months along with you, I worked with Nell to make him such a special birthday supper. It was our first summer in Cloncurry so I didn’t know then how hard it rains in November. The Dawsons couldn’t drive all the way from their station in the rain so half my guests couldn’t come. Then your poor Daddy was taking a bath when I had to come and tell him that you were on the way. He told me later how he rode to get Dr. Brooke wearing his dress coat and his thin-soled dress boots because that’s what he’d brought downstairs to wear to the supper. Daddy and I were both worried about you coming two weeks early, but you were healthy and perfect. I will never forget Daddy’s grin when he saw you and told me that I certainly had given him a birthday to remember.
I miss you very much, and I’ll always love you, Miranda fach.
Miranda was crying, but smiling as well, as she thought of her daddy riding through the rain to bring back the doctor dressed in his party clothes. The last letter would be the hardest, and with a shaking hand, she broke the wax seal on the envelope and began to read.
This first birthday apart is going to be very difficult for both of us. Mama and I are so happy Grandpa wrote us that he and Aunt Annabelle and your cousins will be there in Boston to celebrate it with you. We miss you so much but we’re glad to hear that you are enjoying school. I remember when I was living in Boston my birthday was almost always cold and rainy; so you’ll have to let me know if that’s what our birthday was like this year.
I imagine Beth has written you that Sandy McDonald finally got enough courage to come calling. Your mother hinted very strongly that I allow Sandy to take Beth for a walk so I reluctantly agreed. I am curious to see if Tony comes calling next Sunday afternoon. If they both come, that will be amusing.
You didn’t mention anything about Tom calling when you wrote. I hope you won’t be too disappointed if he doesn’t. You are still very young and he may prefer to call on girls whom he can escort to the theater or to supper. You need to be concentrating on your studies now, not thinking about young men. There will be plenty of time for that later.
I am glad you are spending some time with Mrs. Baldwin. I’m sure she’ll be able to tell you many stores about your grandmother. She did the same for me when I lived in Boston.
I love you, Angel, and I hope you have a very happy birthday. Don’t forget to buy the nosegay of pansies and place them on Grandma’s grave for me. Until you were born, my birthdays were always tinged with sadness because of Grandma’s death. Your birth removed that grief and made it a joyous day. You will be in my thoughts constantly today and always.
All my love,
November 14, 1891, in Cloncurry was the fifth straight day of heavy monsoonal rains. Adam woke just before dawn and listened to the steady sound of rain beating against the windows. He hoped Pa and the others had reached Boston because he hated to think of Miranda spending her birthday alone. He felt Bronwen stir and she rolled over to she face him. She smiled and said quietly, “Happy birthday. How does it feel to be fifty-five?”
“It feels old,” he said with a sigh.
“Oh, I think I can make you feel young,” she said with a grin, her hands caressing his chest, letting her fingernails catch in his thick curly mat of hair.
“I know you can,” he replied capturing her mouth with his own. After their lovemaking, they were cuddling when suddenly there was a loud knock on their door.
“Happy birthday, Daddy!” A.C. yelled. Adam rolled his eyes at his son’s timing and then got out of bed. He tossed Bronwen her nightgown, which had ended up on the floor, and got his silk pyjamas out of the chest of drawers and put the bottoms on before opening the door.
“Good morning, Jackeroo,” he said, lifting A.C. up and giving him a piggyback ride to the big four-poster bed. “You want to keep Mama company while Daddy does his barn chores?”
“No, I wanna watch you milk the cow,” A.C. declared. “Penny said I could help feed the chickens, too.”
“You’re going to have to go get dressed if you’re coming with me,” Adam said setting A.C. on his feet. “Hurry up so we don’t make Blossom wait,” he said with a gentle swat to his youngest’s bottom.
“Right, Daddy,” A.C. replied with a grin and ran to his room.
Adam and Bronwen dressed quickly and when they came out of their room, Penny and Gwyneth were coming out of theirs.
“Happy birthday, Daddy,” they both said and Penny put her arms around his waist and hugged him tightly.
“Want me to see if Beth is up yet?” Gwyneth asked and Adam nodded.
“I’m going to see if your brother needs any help getting dressed. I’ll see you both in the barn.”
Adam found A.C. struggling to lace up his shoes, a task that was still beyond him. “Let Daddy help,” he said and sat down in the rocking chair with A.C. on his lap. “Your hair still needs to be brushed, but I guess that can wait until after Blossom’s been milked,” Adam said when he finished tying his son’s shoes. “Let’s go.” A.C. put his hand in Adam’s and they headed down the backstairs where their raincoats were hanging by the backdoor. A.C. ran ahead jumping in puddles while Adam grinned and shook his head at his son’s exuberance. Blossom was mooing her impatience when they entered the barn and Adam saw Gwyneth was already busy mucking out the stalls of her Artemis and Miranda’s Rhiannon while Penny was leading the ponies and horses to the water trough.
Adam got his stool and pail and began milking Blossom. “Give me some milk, Daddy,” A.C. begged so Adam squirted a stream into A.C.’s open mouth but he giggled so hard most of it ended up on his shirt.
‘Do you want to help feed the chickens, A.C.?” Penny asked so A.C. went with her.
Adam quickly finished milking and then mucked out Zephyr’s stall, the stalls of their two carriage horses, and Blossom. Then he put down fresh straw for bedding. Beth entered the barn yawning and began mucking out her mount’s stall. The animals were in the paddock grazing in the rain so Adam and the children hurried back to the house, Penny with the egg basket and Adam bringing up the rear with the milk pail. They washed their hands in the bathhouse, left the milk and eggs with Nell, and hurried down the hall to the dining room.
“I wonder if it’s raining in Boston?” Gwyneth asked as she buttered a cream scone filled with currents.
“I imagine so. In the four years I was at Harvard, it rained on my birthday every year but one. One year it was cold enough to sleet,” Adam replied before eating some fried potatoes.
“What’s sleet?” A.C. asked through a mouthful of soft boiled egg.
“Don’t talk with food in your mouth,” Adam replied sternly. “Sleet is a mixture of rain and snow.”
“Lucky Miranda-to get snow on her birthday,” Penny said enviously.
“It’s probably just raining,” Adam replied. “It seldom snows this early. Grandpa wrote that he and Aunt Annabelle are going to take Miranda to supper at a restaurant and then to see a production of Macbeth.”
“‘Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble,'” Gwyneth intoned.
Bronwen then declaimed:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Adam twisted his face into a scowl and said in a harsh voice:
Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield! Lay on, Macduff,
And damn’d be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!”
Penny and A.C. looked at the others in total bewilderment and Beth said with a grin, “They’re not crazy. They’re just reciting parts of the play. I’d rather see Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer’s Night Dream or Twelfth Night. ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea,/My love as deep: the more I give to thee,/The more I have, for both are infinite,'” she proclaimed theatrically.
Adam grinned and said, “We’d all better concentrate on eating breakfast or I’ll be late to the mine and Gwyneth and Penny will be late to school.”
The birthday supper that night was rather subdued, for everyone was missing Miranda. After they all had eaten a piece of birthday cake, they adjourned to the drawing room so Adam could open his gifts.
“Open mine first, Daddy. Please,” A.C. begged and Adam smiled at him as he unwrapped the parcel to reveal a black silk Oxford tie. “Mama helped me pick it,” A.C. said proudly.
“It’s the best tie I’ve ever owned. Thank you, Jackeroo,” Adam said ruffling A.C.’s hair.
He opened his other gifts, saving Miranda’s until last. He discovered a copy of Eliot Lord’s Comstock Mining and Miners and a letter.
“Shall I read it?” he enquired and Rhys replied, “Yes, if you don’t mind sharing we’d love to hear what Miranda has to say.”
“I want to sit on your lap, Daddy,” A.C. begged so Adam picked him up and settled him on his lap. A.C. watched as Adam opened the envelope and unfolded the sheets of paper. “That Manda’s writing?” he asked, pointing to the paper.
“Yes, that’s Miranda’s handwriting. Now, you must be quiet and listen while Daddy reads. Understand?” and A.C. nodded.
You were so right about how beautiful New England is in the fall. My bedroom window overlooks the Common and the trees are ablaze with gold, orange and scarlet. I’ve even seen trees whose leaves are a deep, dark purple. (I pressed a few leaves in the pages of your book so you can show them to the others.) Unfortunately, you were also right about the climate. We’ve already had a couple of nights where the temperature has dropped below 40 degrees. Charlotte assures me that it doesn’t fall below 20 degrees so at least it doesn’t get as cold as it does on the Ponderosa. I’m certainly grateful for the warmer clothes we bought at Bloomingdale’s. Charlotte couldn’t understand how I could find temperatures in the 40s to be cold. I asked her how she would like summer temperatures over 100 degrees. She said she wouldn’t so I told her we usually have several days of temperatures over 100 degrees. I mentioned that two years ago the temperature actually reached 127 degrees one day. She accused me of exaggerating but I assured her it was the truth and I never want to experience another day like that.
“Neither do I!” Bronwen stated emphatically and Rhys said, “Amen to that!” Adam raised his eyebrow and continued reading.
I am enjoying school. The teachers are strict but fair. The only classes I struggle with are Latin and Greek. I’m also taking French and I enjoy it much more than the other two languages. It is interesting studying history from an American point of view. I am glad that you taught all of us so much, Daddy. My history teacher was surprised by how much American history I knew until I explained my father is American and that he taught me and my sisters American history.
I am trying to learn to speak like an American so I will fit in better. Besides Charlotte, I have made two other good friends-Emily Collins and Sophie Bradford. Emily lives on Louisburg Square in Beacon Hill and Sophie lives on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay. Emily’s home is very near the Aldens and so Charlotte, Emily and I spend a lot of time together. Emily also hopes to attend the Harvard Annex and her older sister, Amelia, is a student there so Emily has been able to provide me with a great deal of information. Mrs. Agassiz, the President of the Harvard Annex, holds Wednesday teas for students and visitors and Emily and I were Amelia’s guests last Wednesday. Mrs. Agassiz was very gracious when Amelia introduced me and told her I had come to Boston from Queensland to attend the Girls’ Latin School and then the Annex. She was interested in knowing what had motivated me to come to a foreign country to attend school so I explained that you were a Harvard graduate and that is why I wish to attend the Annex. She very kindly wished me well and said she hoped I was successful in passing the entrance examinations to the Annex when I graduate.
I wrote you in my last letter about the Aldens’ dog, Rex. I have been taking him for a walk every afternoon after school; it’s my daily constitutional. He’s awfully spoiled and he was very fat since Mrs. Alden feeds him too much. Thanks to our walks, he’s not as fat as he was. Charlotte and Emily think me odd for walking Rex. Or they did until I told them my mother goes for long walks every day to keep her figure. Now Emily, who’s a bit plump, comes walking with me with her dog, another Boston Terrier. Sometimes on the weekends we go to the Aldens’ cottage in Chatham on Cape Cod. They have some horses there so I go riding with Charlotte. Mrs. Alden is scandalized that I ride astride in my knickerbockers so their groom, Nicholson, is teaching me to ride sidesaddle. I don’t like it but when in Rome ¼
I must close now. In my mind’s eye, I can see everyone in the drawing room, listening while you read this letter aloud. Please know that you are in my thoughts on our special day, as you are every day. Happy Birthday, Daddy. I miss you terribly.
Your loving daughter,
“I want Manda to come home,” A.C. said with a pout so Adam gave his neck an affectionate squeeze as he swallowed the lump in his throat.
“I know you do, Jackeroo,” he said gently. “Miranda will come home after she’s finished school in Boston. But I promise that we’ll go visit her in Boston again.”
“Tomorrow?” A.C. asked hopefully and his sisters laughed, making him scowl.
“No, not tomorrow. Now, Daddy’s going to put you to bed.” A.C. sulked but he didn’t resist as Adam lifted the child easily and carried him upstairs piggyback, to the calls of “Good night, A.C.,” from the family.
“I wish Miranda could come back home, too,” Penny said wistfully. “It seems like she’s been gone forever.”
“No, only about two months,” said the ever practical Llywelyn. “She has three years at the Girls’ Latin School and four years at the Harvard Annex. That means she’ll be back here in 1898.” He stopped and did some rapid mental calculations. “I’ll be twenty-one, Beth will be twenty-three, Gwyneth will be twenty, Penny will be seventeen and A.C. will be ten.”
“You and I will probably be married, Gwyneth,” Beth said and Gwyneth’s face registered disbelief.
Penny spoke up then. “What if Miranda gets married? Would she live in the States?”
“If she marries an American, then, yes, she would live in the States,” Bronwen answered somberly.
“You mean we’d never see her again?” Penny said aghast.
“No, we would visit her just as we do Grandpa and Uncle Joe.”
“Grandpa told me that he still misses Daddy,” Gwyneth interjected quietly, “but he knows he’s happy living here with us. I guess that’s how it would be for us if Miranda decides to stay in America.”
“That’s right, Gwyneth,” Bronwen replied.
“I never thought about Grandpa missing Daddy,” Penny said thoughtfully.
“We don’t want to get maudlin,” Rhys said. “Children grow up and leave home and that’s the way God intended it. But love is not affected by distance. I know that your tad-cu and mam-gu still love me and Uncle Bryn and your mama even though we are grown and we’ve moved far away. And your grandfather still loves your father even though he lives on another continent. Even though they don’t get to see their grandchildren often, they still love each of you very much.”
“I just wish things didn’t have to change,” Gwyneth said sadly.
Adam returned in time to hear Gwyneth’s comment. “Change is part of life, Punkin,” he said quietly, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Mama and I have watched all of you grow and change from babies to little girls and now we’re watching you change from little girls to young women. Once day you’ll marry and have children of your own and watch them change and grow.”
Bronwen quoted softly, “‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.'”
Next Story in the Adam In The Outback Series:
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 2
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 1
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 2
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 3
The Joys of Parents
Grow Old Along with Me
The Best is Yet to Be
Not part of the Adam in the Outback Series, but set in the same realm:
The title of this story comes from a song, The Pickers Are Comin’, written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell for the musical version of the movie, Shenandoah:
The Pickers Are Comin’
I raised her up from a seedlin’
Into a flowerin’ tree
To bloom in another man’s garden
For another man’s eyes to see.
Raised her up sweet and appealin’
Pretty as a flower can be
And now I’m bothered by the feelin’
That soon she’ll be leavin’ me.
The pickers are comin’
The pickers are comin’
We won’t have to summon a one.
The fruit’s one the vine now
It’s sweeter than wine now
So ripe in the September sun.
The pickers are comin’
With footsteps a’drummin’
They’ll soon be a’runnin’ this way
The meadow is bloomin’
The bloom is perfumin’
The harvest will be any day.
The apple of my eye is ripe
And ready for the takin’
And though I know it’s only right
Still I feel forsaken.
The pickers are comin’
With heartstrings a’strummin’
And the plum that they’re comin’ for
Is my little girl
My little girl-
My little girl
For information about Pullman Palace cars I used the following Web sites:
For general information on clothing and fabrics in the era I used Fashion in Costume: 1200-1980 by Joan Nunn.
I used the version of Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies found at http://website.lineone.net/~cewhitehead4/comeall.htm
(I know this isn’t the version Pernell Roberts sings in his album, but that’s one of the great things about folk songs-there is no one right version.)
For information on Appaloosas I used http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/appa.html
To see whether or not Andy could use the slang expression “swell” in 1891, I checked The Cassell Dictionary of Slang.
Glossary of Welsh and Australian Words and Phrases:
Anwyld – beloved
Bachandfach – adding bach after a man’s name or fach after a woman’s is a form of endearment. Penny fach would translate as Penny dear or Penny dearest
Bachgennyn – little boy
Bore da – hello
Cariad – dear or darling
Diolch yn fawr – thank you very much
Mam – mother
Mam-gu – grandmother
Noswaith dda– good evening
Orgore – all right or okay
Sut wyt ti – how are you?
Tad – father
Tad-cu – grandfather
Fair dinkum – used as a substitute for “Oh really?” or “true”
I feel stuffed – I’m tired
Jackeroo – a cowboy
Ripper – great (Penny’s expression “What a ripper” indicates how impressed she is with the Boston Common)
She’ll be apples – It’ll be all right
Too right – definitely