Summary: After an unusually hectic day, there is only one wish requested on Christmas Eve.
Written in response to Rider’s Christmas Challenge. The challenge was to take a Christmas song or the premise and use it as the basis for a Cartwright story.
Rating: K (2,610 words)
The final page contains comments/reviews left on the old BonanzaBrand Library.
“But Papa, will Santa still come?” asked four-year-old Joseph Francis Cartwright, who had let go of his father’s hand to run across the floor to look out the window that stood behind the dining table. The dark and curly haired little boy’s eyes lit with the wonder of watching the large snowflakes lazily fall from the sky.
“Yes, I’m sure that Santa Claus will manage to come tonight. He wouldn’t want to disappoint the children of the world,” Ben was able to explain and look all serious at the same time.
“Do you think he got my letter?” Little Joe asked as he half-turned and looked up to his father.
“I’m sure he received the letters that you and your brothers sent,” Ben replied as he walked to stand behind his youngest.
“Oh… Does he bring us everything we ask for?” Little Joe inquired, a bright smile illuminated his face.
“Joseph, mon petit babe, come from the window. It’s too cold for you to be standing there,” Marie Cartwright stated as she sat on the settee across from the hearth; the fire was warming the room.
“Benjamin, please… Would you close the shutters and pull the curtains closed to help keep the dining room warm for breakfast.”
“But Momma… It’s snowin’” Joe appealed, using every expression of hope he could bear on his face.
“Joseph, why don’t you go to your mother,” Ben suggested.
With eyes expressing his desire to stand in front of the window, Joe waited.
“You know, son, when little boys are bad, Santa brings them lumps of coal instead of their heart’s desires.”
Little Joe’s eyes widened, reflecting that he had forgotten that fact. Joe hurried across the room and crawled into his father’s leather chair.
“Papa, me be good so Santa bring me all my toys, right?”
“Petit Joseph, Santa can’t possibly bring you everything that you wrote on your list,” Marie answered.
“But why? I been good…” protested Little Joe with a cute little pout.
“If he brought you everything, he wouldn’t have room for all the gifts for other deserving boys and girls,” answered Marie.
“Does he have to give gifts to girls?” Joe bore a disgusted look upon his face and he tried to conjure up a method to get all his toys.
“Do you not wish for your mother to receive any presents from Santa?” Ben asked as he picked the boy up from his chair, sat down, and placed his youngest on his lap.
“Momma not a girl,” declared Joe.
“Not now, son, but when she was your age, she was a girl,” Ben smiled as he explained.
“Oh,” mouthed Little Joe as he thought on that idea.
“Brrrrrr,” Hoss proclaimed as Adam held the door open and the two oldest Cartwright sons entered the room.
“Are the horses all taken care of, boys?” Ben inquired as he tamped down the tobacco in his pipe.
“Yes sir, Pa,” answered Adam as he helped remove the scarf from around Hoss’ face so the boy could speak.
“I gave ‘em their oats and they ate like pigs,” laughed Hoss. “Adam cleaned their stalls and put in fresh straw, and I also gave ‘em their hay and filled their water buckets.”
“Boys, come stand in front of the fire,” called Marie as she had turned on the settee to address her step-sons. “Hop Sing should have breakfast ready shortly.
The two proceeded around the furniture and readily stood in front of the fireplace and basked in its warmth.
“Papa said Santa comes tonight,” declared Joe.
“Only for good little boys,” teased Adam.
“I been good!”
“Says who?” taunted Adam. “You broke two of Hop Sings eggs yesterday.”
“Momma said it were an aky-dent,” declared Joe.
“Was an accident, mon petit,” corrected Marie.
“See!” Joe called out, followed by sticking out his tongue towards his oldest brother.
“You keep doing that, Little Joe, and Santa won’t bring you anything but a lump of coal,” answered Adam.
Little Joe’s bottom lip began quivering at the thought that he might not receive any gifts.
Unable to see his youngest upset in such a manner, Ben looked to his oldest and gave him a knowing glance, then said, “I think he’ll overlook that slight transgression, Joseph, but let’s not do it again.”
“Yes, Papa,” Joe quietly answered as he turned to cuddle into his father’s shoulder in an effort to hide his tears, having been warned twice in a matter of minutes that he could get coal instead of gifts for Christmas.
Setting his pipe down, Ben proceeded to comfort his youngest, who they all knew tried so hard to be good. The loving father rubbed circles across his son’s back and spoke soothing words that just wouldn’t cheer the boy.
“I’m sorry, Little Joe,” Adam stated as he left the warmth of the fire and knelt by his father’s chair. “It’s just that I don’t want you to get in trouble with Santa; I want you to wake up in the morning to find gifts with your name under the tree.”
Joe hiccupped as he cried.
“Tell you what, little brother. After lunch,” Adam looked to Marie, “why don’t you and I get all bundled up and go outside and play in the snow.”
Marie nodded her approval.
“Yeah, Little Joe,” Hoss chimed in, “We can build a snowman or a snow fort and have a snowball fight.” The middle brother came to stand beside his father in an effort to help comfort his youngest sibling.
Joe shook his head.
“Momma said it were okay,” Hoss encouraged.
“Can’t fight…” Sniff. “Fighting is bad…” Sniffle. “Don’t want no lump of coal.”
“Joe, snowball fights are different than other kinds of fighting,” explained Adam. “Why, Santa would be mighty upset if we didn’t have a snowball fight.”
Peeking out from his father’s arms, Joe looked up and saw his Papa nodding.
“We can all go outside after lunch,” Ben stated and smiled.
The family had bundled up in preparation of a snow-filled afternoon, Ben and Marie cuddled together on the porch deck and watched as Hoss and Joe ganged up on Adam. The boys’ giggles and laughter rang across the yard.
Throughout the afternoon, as the ranch hands made their way in from the range, each one stopped by, bid the Cartwrights a Merry Christmas and handed each one of the boys a brown paper package before they headed to the bunkhouse for the night.
“Joseph?!” Marie pleaded as she again gave chase to the boy who was running and squealing around the great room of the ranch house.
“Can’t catch me!” Joe squealed as he raced towards the staircase.
Adam stopped Marie and said, “Let me.”
“Santa’s coming!” From the top of the stairs, Joe looked back, and through the window behind his father’s desk, he saw the snow falling again. Racing back down the steps, Joe yelled, “It’s snowing again!!!” and eluded Adam’s grasp as he ran towards the front door.
“Hold up there, young man!” Ben’s voice boomed as he closed the door he had just entered through, having seen the frustrated appearance of his wife and witnessed the miniature tornado as his little legs carried him to wherever the boy wanted to go.
“Papa, It’s snowing!” Joe squealed in delight and continued to bypass the door and head towards the dining room window.
Adam finally was able to corral the boy as he raced away from his father, who had approached him from the other side of the table.
“Ugh! Joe, you’re a mess!” Adam stated, having picked up the boy to find his hands and his face all gooey and sticky.
“Down! Me want down!” Joe hollered and began kicking.
“Joseph, stop it or Santa won’t bring you any toys!”
The young boy stopped kicking, but Adam’s warning didn’t do anything to stop his protests at being restrained from the snow.
“Didn’t you put him down for his nap?” Ben inquired. “He’s never this wound up after taking a nap.”
“I did put him down for his nap, chéri.” Marie answered her husband as she approached her oldest step-son to take the squirming bundle from him.
“Marie, I think it would be best if I carried him to the bath house,” offered Adam, hoping to keep the dress his step-mother wore clean.
“Don’t want no bath! Wanta play in the snow!” Joe squirmed.
When their mission of bathing the youngster was accomplished, Adam and Marie looked at each other and had to give a laugh. Both were soaking wet from trying to keep Joe in the bath tub.
“I’ll finish drying him off, Marie. Why don’t you go upstairs and change before supper.”
“Thank you, Adam. Are you sure you’ll be okay with him?”
“I will. Go on.” After watching his step-mother’s departure, Adam turned his attention back to his fidgety, naked brother. Adam scolded, “Just hold still, Joe!” all the while trying to dry the boy’s body.
“No!” protested Joe as he made good his escape from his brother’s grasp and darted out the door Marie had inadvertently left open.
While changing into dry clothes in the master bedroom, Marie complained to her husband, “I just don’t understand. He’s never been this… I don’t understand.”
“I know, sweetheart; he’s usually so much quieter after his nap.” Ben gave a small chuckle.
“And just what do you find so funny?” Marie dared ask as she placed both fisted hands upon her hips.
“Marie, I’m not laughing at you, but the situation. Joseph can fall asleep anywhere, in the blink of an eye, and usually, waking him up is the problem. When he was running around
the great room, he just looked like a tornado spinning around trying to evade you and Adam.”
“PA!” Hoss hollered. “HELP!” He tried to work with his brother to stop Little Joe’s naked rampage through the house.
Marie and Ben stopped at the top of the staircase and watched the scene below with incredulous expressions upon their faces, their youngest child successfully evading his brothers’ efforts in capturing him.
“JOSEPH!!” Ben bellowed, “That will be enough!”
Ben purposefully strode down the steps and approached his son. As angry as he felt at the boy’s antics, he couldn’t be mad at the cherubic face as the boy continued to laugh and giggle.
Picking up his son, he handed him to his wife so that she could see that he was properly dressed for supper.
Supper was a rambunctious affair as Joe couldn’t sit still or keep focused on eating, even with the shutters closed and the drapes drawn, Joe kept chattering about the snow and Santa.
As the others attempted to settle down in the main room as was their routine after supper, Joe was constantly going from one person to the next, inquiring about the presents Santa was to bring later that night. He asked if they needed to leave sugar cubes or grain or hay for the reindeer as well as milk and cookies for Santa.
Hoss was the first to bid his family goodnight and Adam soon followed.
The fire had been banked after the final gifts were placed under the Christmas tree. Ben stood on the mid-landing, his arm wrapped around his wife’s waist, feeling the warmth of love abound within their home and hearts.
“Are they all asleep?” Ben quietly asked.
“I believe Hoss was asleep before his head touched the pillow,” answered Marie as she rested her head to her husband’s shoulder.
“Adam is finishing up one of his studies.”
“And Joe?” Ben dared ask.
“Next year, remind the men to refrain from giving him so many sweets.” Marie sighed. “I’ve never seen a child so exasperatingly, uncontrollable. He ate so much candy; I can’t believe all the candy the men gave him.”
“So he’s asleep?” Ben inquired.
“Two hours after his bedtime, he finally fell asleep on the rug in his room. He just dropped.”
“So maybe we’ll be able to enjoy a Silent Night?” Ben stated as he escorted his wife the rest of the way up the stairs and to their room.
“We can only hope, Mon Amour.”
***** Merry Christmas to All*****