The Country of the Heart (by Deborah)

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Series: Adam in the Outback (7 of 16)

Summary: This is the seventh story in my Adam in the Outback series. The year 1889 is one of many reunions among family and friends of the Cartwrights when Adam and Bronwen bring their five children to visit the Ponderosa

Rated: K+  WC  67,500

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
Family Reunion
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
In Memoriam
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 Adventure of the Gooseberry Pie Eating Bear
O’Tannenbaum

The Country of the Heart

“I see Grandpa!” fourteen-year-old Beth Cartwright said excitedly as she peered out of the window of the Pullman Palace car her family had traveled in from San Francisco to Carson City.

“Where?” her younger sister Gwyneth demanded, peering out the window as the train slowed. She was only eleven, but already nearly as tall as her older sisters.

“Oh, I see him!” thirteen-year-old Miranda exclaimed.

“I can’t see anything,” eight-year-old Penny pouted as she tried to push her older, much taller sisters out of the way.

“Here, Kitten,” Adam Cartwright said, scooping up his youngest daughter in his arms so she could see over the older girls’ heads. “There,” he said, pointing. “There’s your grandpa. Do you see him, Punkin?” he asked his third born.

“No-oh, yes, I do! And he’s waving to us,” Gwyneth exclaimed excitedly as she waved back. “And there’s Uncle Joe!”

“Penny, let your daddy hold A.C. so Grandpa can see him,” Bronwen commanded, and reluctantly Penny allowed her daddy to put her down and take her sixteen-month-old baby brother and hold him in his arms instead. Her mama put her hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You’ll be able to see Grandpa in a moment.”

“I wish I was tall like Gwyneth,” the eight-year-old said with a pout.

“I used to wish I was tall, too,” Bronwen said to the daughter who resembled her so strongly that Adam always said the only thing Penny had inherited from him were her long, slender hands and feet. Just then, the porter opened the door to their car and Penny immediately rushed forward.

“Penny, wait,” Adam said firmly, and she halted with obvious reluctance. “Here, take my other hand,” he said with a wink. “You and I and A.C. will go together.”

“Right, Daddy,” she said with a happy grin, reaching up and putting her hand in his. When she got to the steps, her Uncle Joe, whom she recognized from his photograph, was there to greet her with a warm smile and sparkling green eyes.

“Hello, Penny,” he said, “let me help you down.” He put his hands around her waist and swung her effortlessly onto the platform by her grandpa.

“Can you give Grandpa a hug, Pretty Penny?” Ben asked, bending over, his deep chocolate-brown eyes twinkling at his granddaughter.

“Too right!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him and hugging him tightly.

Then Adam stepped beside Penny, and Ben straightened up and said with an enormous smile, “Now, this must be my newest grandson. Hello, A.C.” A.C. grinned and when Ben held out his arms, the toddler let Adam hand him to Ben without any reluctance. “My, you are a big boy,” Ben said, “and I see you have your daddy’s dimples.”

“And your eyes,” Adam added with a proud smile, for of all his children, only his youngest had Ben’s dark brown eyes.

Meanwhile, Joe had been helping the other members of Adam’s family onto the platform. First, he assisted tall, gangly Gwyneth, whose unruly curls were tamed by being braided in pigtails. Then he assisted the petite Miranda, whose softer curls were brushed back from her face and held in place by a big bow. Joe’s eyes widened at the sight of his oldest niece; the last photograph Adam had sent had been taken almost a year ago and the transformation from lovely girl to breathtakingly beautiful young woman was almost complete. She might still be wearing her hair so it flowed down her back to her waist and the shorter skirts of young girls, but somehow that only emphasized her femininity. Joe had always thought he would never see a woman whose beauty could match his Annabelle’s, but now he was beginning to reconsider. He had planned to swing her off the platform just as he had his younger nieces, but instead he offered her his arm.

“Thank you, Uncle Joe,” she said with a coquettish smile, and then he turned to his sister-in-law.

“Hello, Bronwen,” he said with a warm smile. “My goodness, you look much too young and lovely to be the mother of all these children.”

“Still the flatterer I see, Joe,” she replied with an answering smile as he took her arm and assisted her off the train and onto the platform.

A.C. saw her and shouted, “Mama!” and began squirming to get down.

“Here I am, A.C. bach,” she said, hurrying over and taking him from Ben, who bent down and kissed her cheek. “It’s so good to see you, Pa,” she said, returning his kiss. “Well, what do you think of your grandchildren?”

“I think they are four of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen, and this is one of the handsomest young men,” and Ben pinched A.C.’s chubby cheek lightly. A.C. giggled delightedly and his grandfather grinned, remembering another chubby toddler with sandy blond hair and sky blue eyes who’d had that same sunny disposition.

“I suppose Annabelle, Benj and Sarah are at the ranch,” Bronwen then said to Joe, who nodded.

“Jacob drove the buckboard into town,” he added, gesturing to the tall ranch hand who’d been born a slave but had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation while still a child. “He’ll get your luggage and bring it to the ranch.”

“I’ll just go give him the baggage tickets,” Adam stated and immediately Penny asked eagerly, “May I come with you, Daddy?”

“I’m not going very far, but you may come, too,” he replied with a grin for his Kitten, and they set off hand in hand.

“We’ll escort the rest of you ladies to the surrey,” Ben said, offering his arm to Bronwen. Joe offered his to Beth, who smiled at him, while her younger sisters rolled their eyes. They didn’t have long to wait before they spied Adam and Penny, who was skipping along to match her daddy’s long stride. Ben and Joe exchanged grins when Adam loosened his tie, stuffed it in the pocket of his frock coat and then took the coat off and slung it over the front seat of the surrey.

As the family headed for the ranch, the four adults exchanged smiles, listening to all the girls but Gwyneth chattering away. After hearing about their journey through the outback to Townsville and then their voyage across the Pacific to San Francisco and the train ride from San Francisco to Carson City, Ben commented, “So Beth and Miranda, I understand you are going to be paying a visit to Boston with your daddy and your Aunt Annabelle.”

“Too right!” Miranda exclaimed enthusiastically. “We’re going to meet Aunt Annabelle’s brother and his family because if I get to attend the Girls’ Latin School, then I will live with them. And Daddy said he’ll take us to visit the Harvard Yard so we can see where he went to college.”

“And he’ll take us to see a play at the Boston Museum. Isn’t it odd that they call a theater a museum?” Beth added.

“Actually, Princess, I’d say it’s pretty typical of Bostonians,” Adam commented dryly.

“What do you mean?” Bronwen asked curiously.

“Boston was originally settled by Puritans, and they viewed theaters as sinful. Calling a theater a museum makes it sound less immoral. My friend, Thomas Collingsworth, wrote me about attending Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore at the Boston Museum, the first production staged in this country. I’m hoping to take the girls to see one of their operas.”

“And we’re going to stay at the Parker House,” Beth interjected. “Daddy said we can eat at the restaurant and order Parker House Rolls and Boston Cream Pie!”

“Thomas mentioned them when he recommended the Parker House,” Adam said, a tiny grin quirking up the corner of his mouth at his daughter’s enthusiasm. “I remembered that Edwin Booth wrote me that he always stayed at the Parker House when he appeared in Boston.”

“I want to go to Boston, too,” Penny said with a pout, and Ben turned around to face her.

“But I was looking forward to spending time with you and Gwyneth and A.C.,” he said with a smile. “You don’t want to disappoint Grandpa, do you?”

“No,” Penny said slowly, obviously torn by her desire to go to Boston with her daddy and big sisters, and wanting to spend time with her grandpa.

“I have a Shetland pony for you to ride while you’re here like the one your cousin Benj rides,” Joe added with his most engaging grin.

“Oh, I want to see the pony,” Penny said excitedly. “I have the sweetest little pony at home. Her name is Muffin ‘cause she’s brown like the muffins Nell bakes us.”

Adam sighed in relief. He hated disappointing his Kitten, but he and Bronwen had decided it was a good idea for him to spend some time alone with Beth and Miranda.

Joe grinned then saying, “Well, this little pony is brown as well with a mane that’s golden.”

“Oh, I just know I’m going to love her,” Penny said excitedly. “May I go for a ride when we get to the ranch house? Please, Daddy? Please, Mama?”

“I’d like to go for a ride, too,” Gwyneth said. “May we, please?”

“If your Uncle Joe would be willing to take you, then it’s fine with Mama and me,” Adam replied, as Bronwen nodded her agreement. “What about it, Uncle Joe?”

“Sure, I expected they’d want to go for a ride,” Joe replied with a grin. “What about Beth and Miranda?” and they both said they’d like to go as well.

“But aren’t you and Mama coming?” Penny asked anxiously.

“No. A.C. needs to take a nap and Mama and I would also like to rest,” and Adam turned his head so he and Bronwen could share a smile.

“Oh, Uncle Joe,” Beth said, “You know Miranda and I don’t ride ponies any more? We have Welsh cobs.”

“Yes, I remember you each wrote us that you got a cob for your thirteenth birthday,” Joe replied with a grin. “And I knew from what your daddy wrote that Gwyneth is too tall to ride the Shetland pony that she rode the last time you visited. I picked out a mustang pony for her and a couple of Quarter Horse geldings for you and Miranda to choose from. One is dappled gray and one is grullo.” His expression grew more serious as he said to his brother, “I knew you’d want to choose your own mount.”

Adam nodded and then added somberly, “It will seem strange not to see Sport. Of all my mounts, he was my favorite.”

“Not Zephyr?” Gwyneth asked in surprise, for she knew her daddy’s deep attachment to his blood bay Waler.

“Zephyr is my second favorite,” Adam answered, turning round to smile at his serious third born.

“We still have Rosebud,” Joe said to Bronwen. “Annabelle rides her occasionally, but we always think of her as your horse.”

The conversation turned to horses then, with the girls all wanting to tell their grandpa and uncle about theirs. A.C. fell asleep and Bronwen cautioned the girls to be quiet when they arrived at the ranch so they didn’t wake him up.

“He has the room across the hall from ours?” Adam asked Ben quietly, and Ben nodded.

When they pulled into the yard, Adam and Joe helped the girls down. Then Bronwen carefully handed the sleeping A.C. to his daddy before Joe helped her down. The girls ran straight for the corral, not even noticing their aunt and cousin sitting on the porch, which caused their mama to sigh and their daddy to grin.

“I’ll get him settled,” Adam said softly to Bronwen. “That will give you a chance to say hello to Annabelle.” He smiled at his sister-in-law and the blond-haired little boy sitting next to her but continued into the house. Bronwen was right behind him and said, ‘Oh, Annabelle, it is so good to see you again! And I think this must be Benj,” as she seated herself by her beautiful sister-in-law. She had forgotten just how beautiful Annabelle was and found herself feeling very small and thin. Annabelle, however, saw with envy that Bronwen still had her petite and delicate figure even after giving birth to her fifth child. She had never managed to lose all the weight she had gained when she was pregnant with her daughter, Sarah. Joe told her that he preferred the more voluptuous figure she had now, but Annabelle felt fat next to her diminutive sister-in-law.

“Benj, can you say hello to your Aunt Bronwen?” she asked. Benj looked at Bronwen with big, round blue eyes and moved closer to his mother.

“He’s a little shy,” Annabelle said and Bronwen smiled at her nephew.

“He can’t be any shyer than Gwyneth,” she said. “I expect Sarah is taking a nap just like A.C.,” and Annabelle nodded.

Just then Ben and Joe shepherded the girls over. Annabelle remembered thinking that Beth had been an extraordinarily beautiful child six years ago, and now she was an exquisitely beautiful young woman. Of course, Miranda and Gwyneth were also very pretty girls and Penny was adorable-so dainty and vivacious.

“Hello, Aunt Annabelle,” Penny said with a radiant smile, bobbing a curtsey. “I’m very happy to see you.”

“And I’m happy to see you. My, you have certainly grown up.” Penny beamed at her aunt’s words.

“Hello, Aunt Annabelle,” the three older girls chorused and curtseyed.

“Benj, these are your cousins,” Annabelle said but the little boy only stared at the strangers timidly.

“There’s more room inside,” Ben suggested so they all moved to the great room. Joe, Bronwen and the girls sat on the settee while Ben sat in his favorite chair and Annabelle sat in the blue velvet chair, holding Benj on her lap. Adam came down the stairs just as they were sitting down and perched on the arm of the settee by Gwyneth.

“I’m glad that boy of ours is such a sound sleeper. I laid him in the crib and he never woke up,” he announced with a big grin. “Sorry I didn’t stop and say hello, Annabelle, but I wanted to put him down for his nap.”

“I understood,” she said with a smile.

“Now this young man must be my nephew, Benj,” Adam said with a friendly smile but the four-and-a-half-year-old only stared at him.

“I’m afraid he’s a little overwhelmed at meeting all of you,” Annabelle said quickly.

“We’ve shown him photographs,” Joe interjected, “but I guess it’s different, seeing you all here in person.”

“Gwyneth was just as shy when she was that age, weren’t you, Punkin?” Adam asked, giving one of her pigtails a teasing tug.

“Oh Daddy!” she said, her cheeks turning very pink.

“Gwyneth’s still shy,” Penny said cheekily.

“Whereas Penny doesn’t know the meaning of the word,” Adam said with a grin.

“Can we go for our ride now?” Penny asked then. “Please?”

“Sure,’ Joe replied, “but now remember, girls, a short ride this time since you haven’t ridden a horse for quite a while.” He picked up the carpet bag that Bronwen had given him at the train station and that he’d carried inside. “I imagine your riding clothes are packed in here.”

“Right,” Bronwen replied.

“Here, girls, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Annabelle said, setting Benj on his feet and then standing up. “Benj, why don’t you go sit with Daddy?”

“C’mon Pardner,” Joe said to Benj. “You wanna go for a ride with me and your cousins?” The child thought for a moment and nodded, before climbing up beside his daddy.

“Now girls, be very quiet so you don’t wake up your brother,” Adam said firmly as they all prepared to go upstairs.

“And no running,” Bronwen added, causing Ben and Joe to share a smile.

“Older Brother is going to have his hands full in another year or two,” Joe said to Ben with a wink. “Beth is certainly a beauty.”

“Yes, and I’m happy to see she’s not at all vain. Adam and Bronwen have done a good job there,” Ben said.

“Yes, they have, but now that she’s becoming a woman, boys and men are going to be paying her plenty of compliments and it will be harder for her not to have her head turned,” Joe said in a more serious vein.

“That is true,” Ben said slowly, “but I think that young lady has a level head on those lovely shoulders,” and after a moment’s reflection, Joe nodded.

“Can we go for our ride, Daddy?” Benj asked then, tugging on his daddy’s arm.

“Just as soon as your cousins are ready, Pardner,” Joe answered, tousling his son’s golden hair, which he wore longer than Ben approved of. But, Ben reminded himself, Benj is Joe and Annabelle’s son and I have no say in the length of his hair.

Penny came skipping down the stairs a few minutes later, her straight black hair in a long braid that hung down her back, wearing a pair of knickerbockers that were hand-me-downs from her cousin, Llywelyn, and a sailor blouse. “Look! Aunt Annabelle braided my hair,” she said as she pirouetted for her grandpa and uncle. “She said it’s a French braid.”

“Very fetching,” Ben said with a smile.

Then Annabelle and Gwyneth came down the stairs, Gwyneth dressed in an outfit similar to her sister’s, except that her pigtails were stuffed under a cap just like the ones Llywelyn wore.

Oh my goodness, Joe thought, she certainly has inherited Adam’s long legs!

With a smile Ben said, “Gwyneth, you look just like your daddy did when he was eleven,” and Penny put a hand over her mouth to smother her giggles.

“May we go saddle our ponies, Uncle Joe?” Gwyneth asked, grinning at the idea that Daddy had once looked like her.

“Well, why don’t I come with you,” Joe said, standing up. “Our saddles are much bigger and heavier than what you’re used to. Let’s go, Pardner,” he said, holding out his hand to Benj.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing girls wearing knickerbockers,” Annabelle said quietly to her father-in-law, “but I have a feeling that Joe is going to want to teach Sarah to ride astride.”

“I think it really is safer, my dear,” Ben said gently. He smiled inwardly for even after five years here on the Ponderosa, Annabelle still dressed as she had in Boston and was now attired in a fashionable silk dress, her honey-blonde hair carefully swept up in a knot on the top of her head with small, curled tendrils on her forehead to soften the effect. “Little Penny looks as cute as a button,” he added with a fond smile, “and Gwyneth reminds me so much of her daddy at the same age it’s uncanny.”

“I only had a quick glimpse of A.C., but I don’t think he looks that much like Adam,” Annabelle commented.

“No,” Ben agreed. “I can see a little of both his parents though. He has Adam’s chin and his mama’s eyes, even if the color is dark brown.”

Miranda and Beth came down the stairs then, each with her hair braided into a single plait that hung down her back like Penny’s, and wearing outfits identical to the younger girls.

“The others are saddling up,” Ben said with a smile. Beth was undoubtedly the most beautiful of his granddaughters, but Miranda’s resemblance to her grandmother, Elizabeth, only increased as she grew older. Ben saw with a pang that she was only a little younger than his first love when they’d met: a bashful eighteen-year-old who was third officer on her father’s ship and a lovely and spirited girl of fifteen. He watched the two girls hurry out to the corral with a wistful expression. Annabelle had seen the photographs of her father-in-law’s late wives, and said gently, “Miranda certainly favors her grandmother.”

“Yes, she does,” he replied. “Seeing her brings back so many happy memories. I wish Liz and I could have had more time, but then I’d never have known Inger or Marie.” He shook his head. “And now I’m becoming maudlin. Shall we wave goodbye?”

Bronwen looked in on her baby and saw he was sleeping peacefully so she joined her husband across the hall. The moment she entered the room, he clicked the lock into place. He’d already removed his starched white shirt, baring his muscular chest covered with black curls, and now he deftly unbuttoned her bolero jacket and frilly silk blouse and helped her tug them off. Her skirt and petticoat were the next to go and then she unbuttoned his trousers. He shucked them quickly, along with his cotton drawers, then swept her up in his arms.

Afterward they both drifted off to sleep, totally satisfied, but almost immediately they heard A.C. crying, “Mama! Mama!”

Adam sighed as he watched his wife slide out of bed. “At least he waited until we were finished,” he commented with a wry smile.

“Where did you put my spectacles?” she asked as she slipped on her lace-trimmed cotton drawers.

He chuckled and handed them to her before putting on his discarded drawers.

“Mama will be there in just a minute, A.C. bach,” she called as she put on her skirt and blouse as quickly as she could, not bothering with her corset or shoes and stockings.

Adam grinned as he buttoned his trousers, unlocked the door and walked across the hall barefoot and shirtless. He saw A.C. standing in the crib, crying hysterically.

“It’s all right, Jackeroo,” he said soothingly as he picked up the screaming child. “I’ll take you to Mama.”

Safe in his daddy’s arms, A.C’s screams quieted to hiccupping sobs but he practically jumped from his daddy’s arms to his mama’s, and then hung on with a stranglehold.

“A.C. bach, not so tight or Mama can’t breathe,” Bronwen said gently, patting her little boy’s back comfortingly.

“I hope Jacob gets here soon with our trunk,” Adam said as he put his shirt back on. “I’d like to put on some more comfortable clothes, but I know that there’s no point trying to put on any of my old clothes.” He sighed. “I’m getting fat.”

“You are not fat, Cariad,” she said firmly while he snorted, causing the baby to giggle through his tears. “Now, you may be a few pounds heavier, but you are not fat. You are a fine figure of a man. The handsomest man I know.”

“It’s not fair, you know,” he said with a grin. “The only reason I’ve gotten heavier is because you’re such a good cook, but you’re still so slim I can almost span your waist with my hands.” He grinned at his son then and said, “You know, A.C., your mama sure doesn’t look like she’s had five babies,” and A.C. grinned back while Bronwen’s cheeks turned pink. “How about that, Jackeroo, after all these years I can still make your mama blush,” he added with a wink.

“Oh, Adam,” she said with a mock frown, but she glowed inside. Maybe she wasn’t as beautiful as Annabelle, but she was loved, and that’s what really mattered.

“Daddy needs to hold you so Mama can finish getting dressed,” Adam said then, holding out his arms, and reluctantly A.C. allowed himself to be separated from his mama.

As they walked out the door, A.C. between his parents holding onto their hands, Adam noticed the two trunks sitting at the top of the stairs. “I guess Joe must have told Jacob not to disturb us,” he said with a little grin. “I don’t know about you, but I would like to change before I go down.’

“Yes, I would, too,’ she said.

“Wet,” the toddler announced then and Adam rolled his eyes.

“I guess we’ll all change clothes,” he said with a sigh. “You go ahead and I’ll change A.C. first.”

Ben and Annabelle smiled as they saw A.C. walk down the stairs between his parents, who each held one of his hands to steady him. Adam was now dressed in a new pair of waist overalls that he’d purchased at Levi Strauss & Co in San Francisco and a black cotton shirt, while Bronwen was attired in a plain white cotton shirtwaist blouse and gray delaine skirt, her hairstyle similar to her sister-in-law’s. A.C. was the most colorful because he wore a tunic of red cotton and a red and blue plaid pleated skirt.

“Hello, A.C.,” Ben said quietly. “Do you remember Grandpa?”

“Pa-pa,” A.C. said, but when Adam suggested that he go sit with his grandpa, the toddler moved closer to his mama and clutched her hand tightly.

“He was really frightened waking up alone in a strange room,” Adam explained.

“We could hear him crying for Bronwen; I would have gone up,” Annabelle said, “but I thought that would only upset him more.”

“It probably would have,” Bronwen agreed. “Adam and I have kept him with us while we traveled, but of course he sleeps alone in the nursery at home.” Then she turned to her little niece, who was sitting at her mama’s feet playing with wooden blocks. There is no doubt she is Joe’s daughter, Bronwen thought, noting the little girl’s large greenish hazel eyes and soft mouth. “You must be Sarah,” she said with a smile and the child nodded and grinned. “I’m your Aunt Bronwen and this is your Uncle Adam and your cousin, A.C.”

“Hello, Sarah,” Adam said as he sat on the settee. Bronwen seated herself by him and helped A.C. climb up on her lap. “Would you come sit with me, Sarah?” he asked his niece, smiling at her. The little girl hesitated and then she got up and walked over to her uncle and held up her arms. He picked her up and sat her on his lap. “Do you like to play horsy?” he asked and she nodded vigorously. A.C. watched for a few minutes with a frown before he wriggled off Bronwen’s lap and toddled over to Adam and said loudly, “Me!” Then he reached over and pushed at Sarah.

“A.C., you must wait your turn,” Bronwen said firmly as she pulled her little boy back to her.

“No!” he said and stuck his lip out in a ferocious pout while Adam continued to play with Sarah.

“He’s just not used to sharing his daddy,” Ben said quietly.

Bronwen nodded and said to the squirming child, “Let’s go outside and wait for your sisters to get back from their ride,” but he was screaming “No!” as she carried him out onto the porch.

Adam shook his head as he continued to bounce Sarah on his knee. “We went through this all the time with Beth and Miranda when they were this age,” he commented over Sarah’s giggles. “It wasn’t nearly as bad with Gwyneth and Penny.”

A.C.’s screams subsided as Bronwen succeeded in diverting his attention, and just when Adam had decided his leg was worn out, they heard the sound of horses in the yard, and A.C.’s shrieks of “Bethy! Manda! Gweth! Penny!”

“Well, Sarah, I think your daddy and your brother and cousins are back from their ride. Shall we go see?”

“See Daddy!” Sarah said excitedly, so he set her on his shoulders and walked onto the front porch, carrying her piggyback, while Ben and Annabelle followed. Adam saw Bronwen had a firm hold on A.C.’s hand so he couldn’t run off the porch.

“Daddy!” Sarah squealed excitedly and Joe waved to his baby girl, tickled to see her on her uncle’s shoulders.

Once the horses had stopped, Adam walked off the porch with Sarah followed by A.C. and Bronwen. “Did you have a nice ride, girls?” he asked.

“We had a race and I beat Beth and Miranda,” Gwyneth said, patting her mustang’s neck affectionately.

“I tried to talk them out of it,” Joe said with a wry grin as he dismounted. Then he reached up and took Sarah from Adam, as the little girl squealed at the sight of her favorite person in the whole world.

.

“We told Uncle Joe that you let us race at home,” Beth added, gracefully swinging out of the saddle.

“I’d say it’s more a matter of bowing to the inevitable,” Adam said with a grin similar to his brother’s. “Did you race, Kitten?”

“I wanted to race Benj but Uncle Joe said we couldn’t,” Penny replied as she dismounted. “And my pony’s legs are too short to run as fast as their horses. But she’s a sweet pony, almost as sweet as Muffin,” and she rubbed the pony’s soft nose.

“You’ve been riding a lot longer than Benj has, so it wouldn’t have been a fair race,” Adam said, tugging her long braid.

“You wanna pet my pony, A.C.?” she asked her little brother, who grinned and nodded his head. Penny started to lift him up, which made her daddy chuckle.

“Here, better let me, Kitten,” and he scooped up his little boy and held him so he could pet the little brown pony.

“I’m strong enough, Daddy,” Penny said, looking a little hurt.

“Your daddy never thinks I’m very strong either,” Bronwen whispered to Penny, and they shared a smile.

After letting A.C. pat the pony, Adam handed him to Bronwen. “Here, Jackeroo, you stay with Mama while Daddy helps your sisters unsaddle their horses.”

“I’ll have one of the hands take care of their horses,” Joe said.

“We know how to take care of our horses, Uncle Joe,” Gwyneth said indignantly, startling her uncle, aunt and grandpa since she had been so quiet. Her parents exchanged grins, knowing how passionate their reserved third born was when it came to horses and riding.

“Uncle Joe and I will help you and your sisters with your saddles, but you can do the grooming yourselves,” Adam said, keeping a straight face.

“And I’ll help Pretty Penny with hers,” Ben added with a smile for his next-to-youngest granddaughter, who grinned back.

“I wanna help take care of my pony,” Benj said, tugging on his daddy’s hand.

“Sure, Pardner,” Joe said with a smile. “I guess if your cousins groom their ponies, you should be learning how to do the same.” He was rewarded by a happy smile, and seeing it, his mother did not voice her objection.

“It’s such a lovely day,” Annabelle said to Bronwen as the others went into the barn. “Why don’t we sit on the porch with our babies?” And Bronwen nodded.

“I just can’t get over how petite you are, even after five babies,” Annabelle said enviously as they watched A.C. and Sarah roll her cloth ball back and forth on the porch.

“I must admit I thought for a while I’d never get my figure back,” Bronwen said. “Adam would scold me about all my walks, and he doesn’t even know about the walks I took during the day with A.C. in his carriage.” Annabelle smiled faintly. She remembered Bronwen telling her before that she had regained her figure after each pregnancy by going for long walks. She’d tried to follow the advice, but she didn’t enjoy walking very much so she’d soon lost interest. “It’s not that I believe Adam would love me less if I became plump,” Bronwen continued, “but I want to look my best for him. If I were taller, then a few extra pounds wouldn’t show, but on me, they do.” She chuckled. “Actually, between helping Nell and Mary with the cleaning and keeping an eye on A.C. and his sisters, I suppose there’s not much chance of me getting fat.” She glanced over at her little boy just in time to see him start to toddle off the porch while Sarah was playing with her rag doll.

“A.C. bach!” she called and when the toddler ignored her, she jumped up and caught him. “Now you sit here with Mama,” she told the squirming child.

“He has a mind of his own, doesn’t he?” Annabelle commented. “So does Sarah, but Benj is much more obedient. Although he can be obstinate at times.”

“Adam and I thought that Miranda was the most stubborn of our children, but now we’re beginning to think that honor may have to go to A.C.,” Bronwen said with a slight grin as A.C. continued to wriggle and squirm.

“Would you play pat-a-cake with me, A.C.?” Annabelle asked, and he grinned and nodded. After a few games, A.C. said, “Down,” so Bronwen set him down. The two women watched him toddle over to the ball and throw it as far as he could and then laugh and chase it. Sarah ignored him and continued to play with her doll.

As they watched their children playing, Annabelle said carefully, “Penny had been the baby for so long. Do you ever have any problems with her?”

“A few,” Bronwen admitted candidly, “but we had more with Beth when Miranda came along. Penny likes to help dress him; sometimes I think she views him as another doll to play with.” Annabelle giggled at that and Bronwen added, “Beth and Miranda are both good about helping to watch him or change his nappies and they all like to play with him.” She sighed a little then and said, “Adam claims that between me and his sisters, he’s being spoiled.”

“No one could blame you if you spoil him a little,” Annabelle said, watching her nephew giggle as he threw the ball and chased it. “You waited a long time to have a son.”

“Yes,” Bronwen said softly. Then with an infectious grin she added, “My nephew, Llywelyn, was so glad to finally have a boy cousin.”

“I imagine he was,” Annabelle replied with a smile. She sobered quickly as she added, “It is so sad that your sister-in-law was unable to have any other children.”

“Yes, she and Rhys wanted a big family like ours and I know Matilda wanted a little girl desperately. It was so tragic when she gave birth to a daughter who was stillborn, strangled by her umbilical cord,” and Bronwen’s voice ended in a sob. She took a deep breath and then said, “She was extremely distraught but now she’s become a second mother to my girls. Beth and Penny are especially close to her. She’s taught Beth how to sew and now she’s teaching Penny.” Her eyes twinkled behind her spectacles as she added, “Miranda and Gwyneth don’t like it any more than I do.”

Annabelle smiled faintly as she commented, “I never learned. My mama’s couturière made all my clothes when I was a girl, and when I was married to my first husband, I chose one of my own. Now I have one in San Francisco, and she also does Sarah’s clothes.”

Bronwen thought to herself, The rich certainly are different. Aloud she said, “Well, luckily for us, Matilda loves to sew and she helps me with the girls’ dresses and Beth sews her own now. Matilda has magazines sent from Sydney so we’re not too far behind the fashion. She sewed my new suit for me so I wouldn’t look dowdy when we arrived at San Francisco.”

“But I chose the cloth she used,” Adam inserted with a wink as he walked onto the porch.

“He persists in his belief that I am incapable of choosing colors that suit me,” Bronwen said to Annabelle, although she couldn’t stop her lips from quirking up in a tiny grin.

“Sweetheart, I love you more than life itself, but you just have no fashion sense,” he replied, sitting on the porch rail behind her and placing his hands on her shoulders and giving them a gentle squeeze. Annabelle was quiet, for this sort of teasing always made her a little uncomfortable.

“Well at least you trusted me to buy a new hat all on my own,” Bronwen said.

“And very fetching it is,” he replied, gently caressing her nape.

A.C. noticed his daddy and immediately ran to him. At the same time, Penny came skipping over, followed by Ben.

“Grandpa said I did a good job of currying my pony. Didn’t you, Grandpa?” she asked with a happy grin.

“That’s right,” Ben said, smiling at her, as he eased himself slowly onto the vacant chair while Adam set A.C. on his shoulders. “You did a fine job.”

“Would you play Old Bachelor with me, Grandpa?” Penny asked then.

“I haven’t played it since the last time you and your sisters visited, but I’d be happy to play with you, Pretty Penny,” he replied.

“I’ll play, too,” Bronwen said, “but after supper. Right now you and your sisters need to wash up and change clothes.”

“Will you play, Daddy?” Penny asked then, but Adam shook his head. “Not this time, Kitten. If Sarah doesn’t mind, your brother and I will play with her blocks.” Seeing her disappointed look, he said, “Why don’t you see if Uncle Joe and Benj would like to play? Benj is about the same age you and Gwyneth were when you learned to play.”

“Right,” Penny said with a smile and then headed inside so she could get ready for supper.

“Well, Jackeroo, would you like a piggyback ride?” Adam asked his little boy, who shouted excitedly, “Wide!” Adam jogged over to the barn, carefully holding his little boy’s legs, as A.C. screamed in delight.

Ben watched Adam and A.C. with a great sense of fulfillment and happiness. As much as I love our granddaughters, Liz, I enjoy watching our boy with his son. He is such a good father and husband; I am so thankful that he found Bronwen because he has known true happiness with her and their children.

Bronwen sent the older girls to change clothes and Annabelle went to help Benj get cleaned up while Joe went to change. (Annabelle would have preferred that they dress for dinner, but she did insist Joe at least wear clean work clothes when they dined.) While he was waiting for the rest of the family to get ready for supper, Adam discovered the swing Joe had put up for Benj and went to sit on it with A.C. Bronwen and Ben watched them from the porch for a few minutes before she said quietly, “He’s dreading the meal. Even though he didn’t say much to me, I know he took it very hard when he received the news of Hop Sing’s death.”

“I’m not surprised,” Ben said sadly. “Hop Sing was a part of our family. He helped me to raise all three boys.” He shook his head a little as he added, “Adam accepted him as a part of our family much more readily than he did Joe’s mother. After Marie died and Adam went to Harvard, I don’t think I could have coped if it hadn’t been for Hop Sing.” He saw the question in her eyes and said quickly, “Adam offered to wait a year after Marie’s death before going to Harvard, but Marie had wanted him to go and I wanted to carry out her wish. At least that was part of the reason I urged him not to change his plans. I also wanted Captain Stoddard to have a chance to spend time with his grandson and I knew that even a one year delay might be too late.” He smiled faintly and added, “I won’t deny that it was difficult for us, but we managed all right.”

Bronwen listened attentively as her father-in-law continued to reminisce. “When Adam returned from college, he brought with him plans for a new house with a kitchen for Hop Sing that would have a stove he could use for cooking and baking instead of having to use the fireplace as he did in our old cabin. I remember him talking with Hop Sing about what the kitchen should look like: how many shelves and drawers it should have. He was so proud when Hop Sing saw the finished kitchen and he could see from his expression how pleased he was. Hop Sing called him ‘Mr. Adam’ from that day forward.”

Just then Penny came skipping onto the porch, wearing a green print dress with a white pinafore, followed by Gwyneth in an identical outfit except the color was red.

“Don’t you girls look pretty,” Ben said with a warm smile.

“Let’s find Mr. Buckshot and you can offer to set the table,” Bronwen said, standing up.

“I’ll introduce you to him,” Ben said, also rising, although more slowly.

As they walked around the corner into the large kitchen, they saw the wall-eyed cook placing pieces of fried chicken on an enormous platter while a large bowl of coleslaw sat on the kitchen table. At the sound of someone entering his kitchen, he looked up in annoyance but when he saw the identity of the intruders, he smiled. “Yes, Mr. Cartwright?” he asked.

Ben turned to Bronwen then and said, “Bronwen, this is our cook, Buckshot.” With a proud smile, he said to the cook, “Buckshot, I would like you to meet my daughter-in-law, Bronwen Cartwright, and my granddaughters, Gwyneth and Penny.”

“I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Buckshot,” Bronwen said with a smile, holding out her hand while the girls curtseyed.

The cook wiped his hands on his apron before shaking Bronwen’s outstretched hand. “Pleased to know you, Mrs. Cartwright,” he said in his gravelly voice. “And you, young ladies,” he added with a smile for the girls. Gwyneth returned it shyly while Penny grinned at him, fascinated by the cook’s one eye that looked towards the window while the other looked at her.

“Girls,” Bronwen prompted and Penny said, “We’ll set the table for you, Mr. Buckshot.”

“You don’t have to do that, little miss,” the cook said.

“She’s apples,” Penny replied with a wink, and Buckshot looked utterly bewildered.

“What Penny means is that she and Gwyneth always set the table at home,” Bronwen explained while Ben chuckled.

Adam and A.C. came inside as Gwyneth and Penny were finishing and Buckshot and Bronwen were bringing in the bowls and platters of food. A.C. noticed Ben sitting in his leather chair and shouted, “Pa-pa!”

“Hello, A.C.,” Ben said, rising to his feet. Turing to his eldest, Ben made the introduction. “Adam, I’d like to introduce you to our cook, Buckshot. Buckshot, this is my oldest son, Adam.”

“Pleasure,” Buckshot said, putting down the platter of fried chicken and extending his hand.

Adam’s expression was strained, but he shook the other man’s hand with a firm grip. Just then Joe and Annabelle came down the stairs with their children, followed by Beth and Miranda.

“What a ripper!” Miranda exclaimed, seeing the platter of fried chicken, while her American relatives exchanged bemused expressions.

Ten Cartwrights gathered round the dining room table, plus the two youngest members in their highchairs. (Joe had asked Todd and Virginia McKaren if they could borrow their old highchair for A.C. and they were happy to oblige.)

“Adam, would you say the blessing?” Ben asked quietly. Adam nodded and they all bowed their heads; even little A.C. mimicked his elders, just as he did at home. When Adam finished, the younger children concentrated on the delicious food, letting their elders talk.

“Say, Adam, I don’t suppose you heard about the land rush in Oklahoma this April?” Joe queried between bites of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fried okra and coleslaw.

“No. I thought Oklahoma was Indian land,” Adam replied with a frown.

“Indian land is only Indian land until white men decide they want it,” Joe replied with a cynical smile.

“Yes, I’m afraid the plight of the American Indian has only worsened over the years,” Ben said. “The Dawes Act that Congress passed two years ago took away most tribes’ legal standing as nations, and the government has decided to force them to adapt to our way of life.” Then, wanting a more cheerful topic, he asked, “What is the news in your part of the world, son?”

“Well, let’s see,” Adam said slowly. “Rhys and I have invested in another copper mine about 75 miles west of Cloncurry and both mines are doing pretty well as is Peter Dawson’s stud farm.” Annabelle’s cheeks flushed pink at the word “stud” even after all the years of less than proper dinner conversation at the Cartwright table.

Adam noticed his sister-in-law’s blush with sardonic amusement but made no comment and continued. “Our cattle ranch is proving to be as good an investment as the two copper mines.” He paused and then added, “The Australian Labor Federation was established this May. Rhys and I have always done our best to treat our workers fairly and pay an honest wage. We’ve never had any problem with the miners’ trade union and I think that will be true of the Labor Federation as well. Oh, I bought some stock in the Colonial Sugar Refinery and it’s doing very well.”

Then Bronwen added, “A politician in New South Wales named Sir Henry Parkes is championing the cause of uniting all the separate colonies on the continent under one federal government.”

“Rather like what happened here after the constitution was adopted,” Adam said, and Ben and Joe nodded their understanding.

“Oh, and just as you have here, we have a women’s suffrage movement,” Bronwen added with an impish grin.

“I just don’t understand these suffragettes,” Annabelle said with a moue of distaste. “They are so unfeminine.”

“What’s unfeminine about wanting the right to vote?” Miranda asked then. “Women are citizens so they should have a say in how the government is run.”

“Miranda, you owe your aunt an apology for your rudeness,” Bronwen said in a sharp tone.

“I apologize, Aunt Annabelle,” Miranda said, but her expression gave the lie to her words.

“It sounds like we have a young suffragette in our family,” Ben said with a smile.

“I happen to agree with my daughter,” Adam stated firmly. “To deny a citizen the right to vote on the basis of her gender is just as unjust as to deny the right to vote based on race.”

“Yes, but most women don’t care about having the vote. They’re too busy raising their children and managing their households to bother about politics,” Joe retorted.

Miranda wanted to say more, but she saw her mama shake her head so reluctantly she concentrated on her meal.

“Well, younger brother, it looks like we’re just going to have to agree to disagree,” Adam said then. “It won’t be the first time,” he added with a wry grin.

“No,” Joe replied with a matching grin, “it sure won’t.”

“I was thinking that tomorrow afternoon we could make ice cream,” Ben inserted quickly. “Would you girls like that?”

“What’s ice cream, Grandpa?” Penny asked.

“Oh, you’ll like it, Penny fach,” Bronwen said. “It’s delicious. We used to make it when I was a little girl.”

“It’s so hot in Cloncurry that we’ve no way to store ice so the girls have never tasted ice cream,” Adam explained to the others.

“Oh, then we are definitely making some tomorrow afternoon,” Joe said. “So the girls and A.C. can taste it.”

“Oh, Bronwen, before I forget, Rev. Jordan wanted me to ask if your family could sing this Sunday at the service,” Ben said.

“We anticipated that request,” Bronwen replied with a grin, “so we practiced a hymn on the voyage here.”

“Well that’s fine,” Ben said with a warm smile. “I know we’re playing Old Bachelor, but I thought we might have time to sing one or two songs before Penny and Gwyneth have to go to bed.”

“Beauty, Grandpa! I love to sing!” Penny exclaimed, and her daddy, uncle and grandpa exchanged little grins at her enthusiasm.

Once the meal was finished, Bronwen and the girls offered to help Buckshot with the dishes, but he declined their offer.

“I thank you ma’am, but you and the young ladies need to go spend time with Mr. Ben and Joe,” he replied firmly.

Beth decided she would join the card game while Miranda and Gwyneth curled up on the settee with the books they’d brought with them and Annabelle sat in the blue velvet chair and read the latest issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book. Sarah decided to join A.C. in knocking down the blocks as fast as Adam could pile them up.

Joe held Benj on his lap and helped him play his cards and the little boy giggled when Beth got stuck with the Old Bachelor card. Penny was equally gleeful but her happy grin changed to a sulky pout when she ended up with the Old Bachelor in the next game.

“You need to be a good loser like Beth, Kitten,” Adam said as he came down the stairs from putting A.C. to bed and saw his youngest daughter’s expression.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” Penny said, hanging her head, for she didn’t like disappointing her daddy. But she was cheerful by nature so after a minute she smiled and said to her grandpa, “May we sing now?”

“Oh, let’s play one more game while Uncle Joe puts Benj to bed,” Ben replied.

“I’ll take his place,” Adam said, grinning at his brother and his sleepy nephew as they headed up the stairs.

Ben got the Old Bachelor card and managed to hold onto it so that none of his granddaughters would lose, and was rewarded by their teasing grins when they saw he had it. Joe returned just in time to see Ben lose, and he exchanged winks with his older brother.

“It’s a beautiful night; why don’t we sit on the porch and sing,” Bronwen suggested and they all agreed.

Ben and his daughters-in-law sat in the chairs while Penny and Gwyneth sat on the step, one on each side of Joe and the others sat on the edge of the porch. When they were all settled, Ben said with a smile, “Pretty Penny, why don’t you choose our first song?”

“I like Yankee Doodle!” Penny replied and Adam said, “Then Yankee Doodle it shall be.”

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
There we see the men and boys,
As thick as hasty pudding.

Yankee doodle, keep it up,
Yankee doodle, dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

And there we see a swamping gun,
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father’s cattle.

Yankee doodle, keep it up,
Yankee doodle, dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder;
It makes a noise like father’s gun,
Only a nation louder.

Yankee doodle, keep it up,
Yankee doodle, dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

“Do you know what the song is about, Pretty Penny?” Ben asked when they’d finished.

“Daddy said it’s what the Americans sang when they were fighting the Redcoats for their independence,” Penny replied, her expression now serious.

“We don’t study much about the American Revolution in school, but what we do learn is a bit different from what Daddy teaches us,” Miranda said then. “But Daddy says that’s natural since he was taught the American point of view, and we’re being taught the British. He says it’s not that one is wrong and the other right; it’s just two different points of view. Right, Daddy?”

“That’s right, Angel,” Adam replied, reaching over and giving her braid a tweak.

“But our teacher doesn’t want us talking in class about what Daddy teaches us,” Gwyneth said.

“Some people don’t want to have their beliefs challenged,” Ben said then. “It’s too bad but I’m glad your daddy is teaching you the American point of view.”

“Well, some of our friends have asked us about what Daddy taught us,” Beth commented.

“Llywelyn says he believes what Daddy says,” Gwyneth added. “He likes to hear Daddy’s stories as much as we do.”

“Yes, and you like Uncle Rhys’ stories about Rhodri Mawr, Llywelyn Fawr and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd,” Bronwen said with a smile, and Gwyneth nodded.

“I like hearing Uncle Rhys’ stories as well because I was never taught anything about Welsh history,” Adam added.

“Grandpa, did you know King Arthur wasn’t really an English king? He was Welsh and the English stole him from us,” Gwyneth said.

Joe interjected with a broad grin, “Say, girls, did your daddy ever tell you about the time he was knighted by King Arthur?’

“Knighted by King Arthur,” Miranda said, giggling. “What do you mean, Uncle Joe?”

“Oh, it’s a very funny story,” Ben said, his eyes twinkling as he grinned at his first-born.

“I tell you what, girls; I will tell you about my adventures with King Arthur tomorrow while we make ice cream,” Adam said, his lips quirking up slightly. “Now, let’s sing a few more songs before Gwyneth and Penny have to go to bed.”

They sang a number of old favorites-Wait for the Wagon, Green Grow the Lilacs, and Sweet Betsy from Pike-and then Ben said, “Bronwen, I remember on your first visit to the Ponderosa, you sang a lovely Australian song. Do you remember?”

“Oh you must mean Botany Bay,” she said with a smile. “The girls know that one, too. How about it, girls? Will you sing Botany Bay with me?”

“Too right!” they chorused, and at a nod from their mama, they began to sing:

Farewell to old England the beautiful!
Farewell to my old pals as well!
Farewell to the famous Old Baily
Where I used to cut such a swell.

My Too-ral li Roo-lal li Laity
Too-ral li Roo-lal li Lay
Too-ral li Roo-lal li Laity
Too-ral li Roo-lal li Lay!

Now all you young viscounts and duchesses
Take warning by what I do say,
And mind it’s all yours what you touches-es
Or you’ll land down in Botany Bay.

When they finished, Ben said softly, “You all have such lovely voices and they blend together so beautifully.”

“Thank you, Grandpa,” they chorused as their daddy smiled proudly.

“Now, it’s time for Gwyneth and Penny to go to bed,” Bronwen said.

“Oh Mama, can’t we stay up a little longer?” Penny asked and Gwyneth added, “I’m not at all sleepy. Please, Mama.”

“Girls, you heard your mama,” Adam said firmly. “Now, you go on upstairs and get ready for bed and I’ll be up to read the next chapter in our book.”

“Okay, Daddy,” Penny said, her expression brightening at the mention of her daddy reading to her. Gwyneth, however, said sullenly, “I don’t see why I have to go to bed when Penny does. I’m three years older.”

“Gwyneth Marie,” Adam said sharply, “I don’t want to hear any more whining. Mama and I told you that when you are twelve you can stay up as late as Beth and Miranda. Now, you get on upstairs and get ready for bed.”

Gwyneth obeyed, but she was still pouting when she headed inside. As soon as the girls were out of earshot, Ben said with a chuckle, “Son, she reminds me so much of you at the same age when I would make you do something that you didn’t want to do.”

Bronwen grinned then as she said, “I always suspected as much,” and her husband shook his head and rolled his eyes while their two older girls began to giggle at the picture of their daddy as a sulky little boy. Joe shared a smile with Ben, but when he looked at his wife, he could see her disapproval of their frivolity and sighed.

Ben also noticed Annabelle’s censure and, hoping to change the topic of conversation, said, “Adam, do you mind if I come with you when you read to Gwyneth and Penny?”

“Of course not,” Adam replied with a warm smile. “We’ll give them a few a few more minutes to change and say their prayers, and then we’ll go up.”

Annabelle turned to her nieces then and commented, “I’m sure you girls must be excited about your trip to Boston.”

“Oh yes,” Miranda said. “I’m looking forward to meeting Mr. and Mrs. Alden and their daughter.”

“They are looking forward to meeting all of you too,” Annabelle replied with a smile while thinking, At least Paula and Charlotte are. If Adam wasn’t a Harvard alumnus, then I never could have persuaded Robert to consider letting Miranda live with them.

“I thought I would take the girls to visit their grandmother’s grave,” Adam said quietly to Ben while the girls were talking to Annabelle, and Ben smiled at him.

“Would you buy a bouquet of pink carnations and put them on her grave for me?” he asked his son, who nodded, knowing those flowers meant that his father had never forgotten his mother.

“Tomorrow after breakfast I thought we’d drive up to the lake to visit Hoss, Belle-mère and Hop Sing,” he said quietly. Then he said with a hint of a smile, “I expect the girls are waiting for us so we’d better head upstairs.”

Ben smiled when he saw his granddaughters in their white cotton nightgowns decorated with pretty ribbons and ruffles.

“Did you say your prayers?” Adam asked.

“Yes, Daddy,” Penny answered and Gwyneth nodded. “Are you going to listen to our story, Grandpa?” Penny asked.

“Yes, I thought I would,” Ben replied, reaching down to gently tug her long braid.

Adam sat on the side of the bed while Ben settled in the chair. They both smiled at the girls then Adam opened the book and began to read:

Chapter 4

It was during the voyage that Cedric’s mother told him that his home was not to be hers; and when he first understood it, his grief was so great that Mr. Havisham saw that the Earl had been wise in making the arrangements that his mother should be quite near him, and see him often; for it was very plain he could not have borne the separation otherwise. But his mother managed the little fellow so sweetly and lovingly, and made him feel that she would be so near him, that, after a while, he ceased to be oppressed by the fear of any real parting.

“My house is not far from the Castle, Ceddie,” she repeated each time the subject was referred to — “a very little way from yours, and you can always run in and see me every day, and you will have so many things to tell me! and we shall be so happy together! It is a beautiful place. Your papa has often told me about it. He loved it very much; and you will love it too.”

“I should love it better if you were there,” his small lordship said, with a heavy little sigh. . . .

“Oh, I think Ceddie’s grandfather is mean,” Penny interrupted.

“I’m glad you like our mama,” Gwyneth said very earnestly to Ben.

“Indeed I do, for she makes your daddy happy and I know he loves her very much.”

“And you’re not angry with her that daddy doesn’t live here with you, are you?” Penny asked.

Ben felt the moisture fill his eyes, for after all these years, he still grieved that Adam chose to live so far away, but he didn’t want his son or his granddaughters to know. Blinking his eyes and clearing his throat, he stated firmly, “Of course I’m not angry with your mama. I wish you all lived nearby so I could see you often, but I know your mama’s parents wish the same thing. None of us get to see enough of you all. But you’re happy in Cloncurry so we’re happy for you. Now, I want to know what happens next in the story.”

Ben noted that Adam kept an eye on his girls as he read and when he saw Penny’s eyes drift shut, he quietly closed the book, leaned over and kissed his little girl’s forehead. He stood carefully, walked around the bed and said softly, “Goodnight, Punkin.”

“Goodnight, Daddy,’ Gwyneth said, putting her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek. Ben felt a warm glow of happiness as he watched the natural and easy affection between father and daughter. He dropped his own kiss on Penny’s forehead and then did the same to Gwyneth, bidding her a soft goodnight.

“Goodnight, Grandpa,” she whispered and delighted him by kissing his cheek.

When the two men returned to the porch, they discovered Annabelle and her nieces engrossed in a discussion while Bronwen and Joe had their heads together.

“Well, girls,” Adam said, “it’s your bedtime now.”

Both girls looked as though they’d like to protest, but they only said goodnight and went into the house. After he watched them go inside, Adam turned to the others and said, “Actually, I think I’m ready to turn in myself. How about you, Sweetheart?”

“Yes, I feel stuffed,” Bronwen replied, causing Annabelle, Joe and Ben to exchange baffled looks while Adam grinned at them. He and Bronwen said their goodnights, and as they walked inside, he put his arm around her shoulders and she leaned against him.

“You really are tired, aren’t you, Sweetheart?” he asked, giving her shoulder a squeeze, and she nodded. When they got to their room, he removed his clothes quickly then got between the sheets, leaned against the headboard, and watched her undress. He smiled when she slipped on a nightgown very like the ones their daughters wore, minus the ruffles, and then unpinned her hair so it fell in a long braid down her back just like theirs.

“Now you look like Gwyneth and Penny’s sister instead of their mama,” he said with a wink as she got into the bed beside him.

“Hah,” she said with a little snort.

As they lay curled together like two spoons, she said quietly, “It’s good to be back on the Ponderosa.”

“Yeah,” he said slowly, “it is. I told Pa we would take the surrey and visit Hoss, Belle-mère and Hop Sing after breakfast.”

“That will be nice,” she replied. “I always feel so close to Hoss there.”

“I- I wish he could have known all his nieces and nephews,” Adam said gently, unconsciously holding her closer to him.

“And lived to marry and have children of his own,” she said softly. “He would have been such a good father.”

“A good father and a good husband,” he replied sadly. “I remember how happy he was in his last letter when he wrote me that he’d found the woman of his dreams, who loved him as much as he loved her.”

She was silent, knowing there were no words to comfort him, but reached for his hand and entwined their fingers, and gradually they both fell asleep.

Beth was awakened by her sister shaking her shoulders. “C’mon, Beth. Time to get up,” Miranda said firmly. Beth muttered something and turned over, but Miranda was used to this behavior and yanked the bedclothes off her sister. “C’mon. We’ve got to make our bed and then feed and water our horses,” she said firmly, hands on her hips.

“All right, all right. I’m awake,’ Beth said crossly, for she was never at her best first thing in the morning.

They dressed in the blouses and knickerbockers they’d worn the previous day and were making their bed when Bronwen, holding A.C., stuck her head in the room.

“Beauty,” she said with a smile. “Daddy went to make sure your sisters are up.”

“Bethy! Manda!” the little boy said with a big grin, and began squirming to get down.

“Morning, A.C.,” they both said, smiling at their baby brother.

“No, A.C., you can’t get down because your sisters are busy now,” Bronwen said. “Let’s go downstairs and play with Sarah’s blocks.” She turned to her daughters and said, “Please take the backstairs and go out the back door so he won’t see you.”

“Right,” Beth said with a grin as their mother left with their baby brother who was yelling their names.

They hadn’t been working long when their daddy and younger sisters joined them. They were all mucking out stalls when Joe and a couple of the hands entered the barn.

“Well, Jacob and Tex, I guess you won’t be taking care of my nieces’ mounts,” Joe said to the hands. “I see you still get up before dawn, Older Brother,” he added with a lopsided smile, “and you’ve trained your girls to do the same.”

“No point staying in bed when there’s work to be done, Younger Brother,” Adam replied, letting his lips quirk up just enough to hint at a smile. “Actually, Miranda and I are the only ones who like getting up early, right, Angel?”

“Right, Daddy,” she said with a wink.

“Daddy and Miranda make the rest of us get up,” Penny said.

“He used to do it to me when I was about your age,” Joe replied, with a big grin.

“Closer to Gwyneth’s. I was at Harvard when you were Penny’s age,” Adam corrected automatically. He saw the girls had finished and said, “You all had better hurry since you’ve got to wash up and change for breakfast.”

Joe watched them run out the barn to the house and smiled. “You and Bronwen have sure done a good job. I hope Benj and Sarah will be as well-behaved when they’re that age.”

“I’m sure they will be. I’m a little worried about Bronwen spoiling A.C.”

“And I bet she’s worried about you spoiling Penny,” Joe said with a grin, but his older brother did not return it. Instead he raised one eyebrow (exactly the same way their pa did) and said stiffly, “I don’t spoil Penny.”

“Sure,” Joe said quickly, while thinking, He doesn’t even see it. Never thought Older Brother could so blind. I guess he is only human. “Well, I’d better hustle or I’ll be late for breakfast,” he added.

“You better not be,” Adam said then with a quick grin. “My girls may look delicate but they all have healthy appetites,” and Joe chuckled.

Ben had already told Jacob to have the team hitched to the surrey so Adam and his family were on their way as soon as they finished breakfast. Just as they had on their visit six years earlier, they stopped to pick wildflowers to place on the graves-yellow and orange Sierra tiger lilies, purple larkspur and monk’s hood, pink, yellow and white harlequin lupine, and white mountain misery. (Adam took A.C. for a piggyback ride then to ensure he didn’t pick a flower or leaf and eat it since some of them were poisonous.)

As they approached the gravesite, Bronwen was struck once again by the beauty of the setting. The sunlight glittered on the clear blue waters of the lake and the magnificent ponderosa pines rose to such a height that they seemed to touch the cerulean vault of the heavens. Each girl carefully divided up the flowers she’d picked and put a third on her uncle’s grave, a third on her grandmother’s and a third on Hop Sing’s. Bronwen gave A.C. three flowers and helped him place one on each grave.

“Did Uncle Hoss really call Beth and me his Sweet Peas?” Miranda asked quietly then.

“He sure did. He loved you both very much,” Adam replied with a smile.

“I wish he’d called me his Sweet Pea,” Penny said sadly.

“He never even knew you and me and A.C.,” Gwyneth said softly, but her mama reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze.

“No, Gwyneth fach, Uncle Hoss knows you and Penny and A.C. very well,” she said gently. “He looks down from heaven and loves all his nieces and nephews.”

“That’s right,” Adam said quietly. “I’m sure he’s tickled to know that Beth doesn’t like school any more than he did, just as I know he’s proud of Miranda for being the best student in the school.” He smiled at Gwyneth and added, “Uncle Hoss was always a little shy, just like you, Punkin, and he was the middle child too, just like you, so I know you’re special to him.”

“What about me, Daddy? What does Uncle Hoss think about me?” Penny asked eagerly.

“Uncle Hoss loves the way you smile and laugh,” Adam replied, putting his hand on her shoulder and giving it a squeeze. Then he added, “And I’m sure he loves watching all of you playing with your little brother.”

“I bet he likes watching A.C. knock the blocks down after you build them up,” Penny said with a grin.

Her daddy chuckled then-a warm, rich sound that made his children and wife smile. “Oh, I know he does. When Uncle Hoss was no older than A.C., he loved to have me build a tower out of my old blocks so he could knock them down. He’d smile and giggle just the way A.C. does.”

“I remember Hop Sing,” Beth said quietly. “He made us ginger cookies.”

“They were good, too,” Gwyneth said. “Even better than Mama’s.” She quickly glanced up at her mama through her lashes but saw her mama was smiling.

“Yes, Hop Sing’s ginger cookies were better than mine. He taught me how to make fried chicken and he gave me the recipe for my cough syrup. He was a fine man,” Bronwen said.

“Yes, he was,” Adam said quietly. “A very fine man.”

“Daddy,” Gwyneth said quietly, “why don’t we sing our hymn now so Uncle Hoss, Grandma Marie and Hop Sing can hear it?”

“I think that is a wonderful idea, Gwyneth fach,” Bronwen said, smiling warmly at her middle child and Adam said, “Yes, I think they’d like that very much.”

With A.C. seated on the grass at his mama’s feet, the others formed a semicircle about the graves, joined hands, and sweetly sang the old hymn in four-part harmony: Adam singing bass, Bronwen tenor, Miranda and Penny alto, and Beth and Gwyneth singing soprano.

When they finished, Bronwen said, “Why don’t we go for a walk on the lakeshore and give your daddy a chance to be alone?” The girls hurried on down the path to the shore while Adam handed Bronwen their little boy.

“Thanks,” he whispered as he bent to kiss her. He watched his family until they were out of sight, and then he turned to the three gravestones. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? The last time we visited Gwyneth was a little girl and Penny just a baby. Now, Gwyneth is almost as tall as her older sisters and will soon surpass them and my Kitten has lost her baby teeth. Beth and Miranda are beginning that transformation from girl to woman.”

He smiled ruefully then as he said, ‘Ah, Belle-mère, how you must have smiled when you saw I nearly cried when Bronwen told me first Beth and then Miranda had begun their monthly cycles. I suppose I was being foolish but it is so hard accepting that they really are not my little girls any longer. All too soon I’ll be having young men asking me if they can court my girls. That is going to be hard.”

He placed a hand on his stepmother’s well worn granite marker and lightly caressed it before turning to the newer gravestone. “Oh, Buddy, I still miss you so much. It was so hard coming home, knowing that you wouldn’t be there to greet me. Hop Sing either. Maybe he’s baking you pies and cakes up there in heaven, huh?” He smiled faintly and said, “You can see how much you mean to my girls and how they wish they’d had a chance to know you. Someday, God willing, I’ll have grandchildren and I’ll make sure they know about Uncle Hoss. You won’t be forgotten, Buddy. Joe and I will see to that.”

Then he turned to the newest gravestone. “Hop Sing. The Ponderosa just isn’t the same without you. I don’t think I ever really thanked you for all you did for me, for our family. You were so caring to two motherless little boys, and yet you knew to be firm as well. And you were kind to me even when I was being so difficult those first days after Pa brought Belle-mère back to the Ponderosa. I think you were the only who really understood how I felt.” His lips turned up just slightly. “Pa sure didn’t. But you understood.”

He looked up at the sky, gauging the position of the sun. “Well, if we’re going to be back in time for dinner, then I’d better round up my family and head back to the ranch house. But we’ll have other chances to talk before we return to Cloncurry.”

After dinner, Adam took his family for a short ride and then while Adam put AC. down for his nap, Bronwen helped Buckshot make the custard for the ice cream. At the same time, Ben and Joe, who’d decided to take the afternoon off, let the girls help them pound a block of ice from the icehouse with wooden mallets. Penny and Gwyneth both wanted a chance to turn the crank on the ice cream freezer and Ben declared Penny could go first, knowing how much more difficult the crank would be to turn later on.

While the little ones were all upstairs taking their afternoon nap, the rest of the family gathered on the back porch to enjoy the cool shade and watch the ice cream being made. As Penny began to turn the crank on the ice cream freezer, Beth said, “Daddy, you promised you’d tell us about how you were knighted by King Arthur while we made the ice cream.”

“Right! I want to hear that story!” Penny exclaimed excitedly.

“And I would like to hear it as well,” Bronwen said with a big grin.

Adam sat down on the back porch step with Gwyneth and Miranda on either side and Beth sat on the porch railing. “Well, I was traveling back to Virginia City after closing a big timber contract,” he began.

“And we’d planned a party to celebrate,” Joe interjected. “I remember Hop Sing had made a chocolate cake and your Uncle Hoss was really looking forward to eating a piece of that cake.”

“I love chocolate cake,” Penny said with a big grin. Adam raised one eyebrow and cleared his throat and the others hushed.

“I was the only passenger on the stage and it was really boring bouncing along the road with no one to talk to so I’d dozed off. I remember I woke up when I realized the stagecoach wasn’t moving. I was afraid there was a problem, but the driver told me he always stopped there to rest the horses and suggested I stretch my legs. Almost as soon as I jumped down, a group of bandits rode up.” He smiled as he saw his younger daughters’ eyes open very wide. “They were very polite bandits and apologized for inconveniencing me. Of course, they didn’t seem too concerned about the poor driver, whom they had knocked unconscious. They took my gun and used it to shoot the lock off the strongbox the stage was carrying. Almost as soon as they shot off the lock, a knight in armor, riding a white horse, rode up.”

“That’s a bit of a Furphy, Daddy!” Miranda said, rolling her eyes while Beth and Gwyneth tried to smother their giggles in their hands and Penny laughed merrily as she turned the crank. Ben, Joe and Annabelle just looked perplexed.

“Now, you see,” Adam said, assuming a hurt expression. “I knew that would be everyone’s reaction if I said that I had seen a knight in armor.”

“What happened next, Daddy?” Gwyneth asked, managing to control her giggles.

“The bandits were frightened and they rode off,” Adam declaimed with a sweeping gesture. Then he paused, and shaking his head slightly, he said in an exasperated tone, “but the knight fell off his horse.” That set the girls off again, and Adam winked at his brother and pa before resuming his narrative. “I walked over to the fallen knight, who looked like a giant beetle who’d been turned on his back, struggling to turn himself over, and asked him what was going on. He said I must be a stranger or I would know he was King Arthur.”

“He really said he was King Arthur?” Miranda asked and her skepticism was obvious, as her sisters laughed at the word picture their daddy had painted of the man trying to turn over.

“That’s what he said all right. I decided to pretend that I believed him so I could get him to come with me to tell the sheriff what had happened. I knew the sheriff was never gonna believe me if I said a knight in armor scared off the bandits.”

“Too right,” Miranda interjected while Ben and Joe exchanged grins.

“And did he go with you?” Penny asked.

“Oh no. He mounted up and rode off. As soon as he was out of sight, a deputy from the nearest town, Morris Flats, rode up and thought I had been trying to rob the stagecoach.”

“Fair dinkum?” Beth asked. At the same time Joe had noted that Penny was having problems turning the crank so he suggested Gwyneth take a turn. Penny reluctantly relinquished her place to Gwyneth, but then smiled and ran to sit beside her daddy, who resumed his story.

“I knew I had to convince the sheriff of Morris Flats that I hadn’t robbed the stagecoach, and I had to do it without mentioning King Arthur. I tried to persuade him it was the deputy riding up that scared the bandits off, but I could tell he wasn’t buying it. Then I had an inspiration: I showed him the timber contracts and the check I was going to deposit in our bank in Virginia City to convince him I wouldn’t have robbed the stagecoach.”

“And did it?” Bronwen asked.

“Nope,” Adam replied.

“Oh, poor Daddy,” Penny said. He winked at her and tweaked her long braid before saying, “I told the sheriff that our sheriff, Roy Coffee, would vouch for me so he agreed to send a wire to Sheriff Coffee, but told me I’d have to spend the night in his jail. He even made a joke about it, saying he was saving me the cost of a hotel room.”

Joe said then, “Your grandpa, Uncle Hoss and I rode to Virginia City to meet your daddy’s stage, but Sheriff Coffee told us your daddy wouldn’t be on it. He explained about the telegram he’d gotten from the sheriff of Morris Flats.” He stopped and grinned before adding, “I remember how tickled your Uncle Hoss was at the idea your daddy had gotten into some dumb trouble.” He and Ben exchanged warm smiles at the memory.

“But why was Uncle Hoss glad Daddy was in trouble?” Beth asked, a look of confusion on her lovely face.

“Yes. I don’t understand that,” Annabelle remarked.

“Oh, if I’d been in real trouble, that would have been different,” Adam explained. “But I’m afraid your Uncle Hoss often found himself in what he called ‘dumb trouble’, and your Uncle Joe was often behind it.” He winked at Joe, who grinned sheepishly.

“Your daddy,” Ben added, “loved to tease your uncles about the predicaments they often seemed to find themselves in, so I think Uncle Hoss was just looking forward to teasing your daddy instead.”

“That I can certainly understand,” Bronwen said, directing a saucy grin at her husband.

Adam winked at her before continuing. “Well, the sheriff in Morris Flats got Sheriff Coffee’s telegram and let me go. I figured that it was all behind me and I’d be home in Virginia City that evening. But can you believe it? The same thing happened all over again! The same bandits knocked out the driver, used my gun to shoot off the lock and then King Arthur rode up and they fled. I’m afraid King Arthur didn’t really know how to use his lance because he stuck it in the stagecoach, frightening the horses so they bolted, taking him and the stage along with them until the stage smashed into a tree.”

“Oh, was King Arthur hurt?” Penny exclaimed.

“No, he was all right,” and Adam squeezed her shoulder affectionately. Then he looked at his third born struggling to turn the crank on the ice cream freezer and said, “Joe, I think you’d better take over from Gwyneth.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Joe replied. “C’mon, Gwyneth, let Uncle Joe do some of the turning.”

Gwyneth sat beside Penny on the step and Miranda asked impatiently, “What happened next?”

“I tried again to persuade King Arthur to return with me to Morris Flats. You see, the bandit leader was braver than the others and he had fired his gun at Arthur. Arthur was just lucky that the bandit missed because armor is no protection from bullets. But Arthur wouldn’t listen to me and rode off. I started carrying the strongbox back to the driver, but he’d regained consciousness and pulled his gun on me.” Penny gave a little gasp and he smiled at her. “We had to walk back to Morris Flats. I was tired and hot and dusty by the time we got to the sheriff’s office, where the driver turned me in.”

“Did you tell them about King Arthur then?” Beth demanded.

“I sure tried not to, but the sheriff told me that he didn’t believe a word I’d said. He told me that he wanted to help me, but I needed to tell him the truth.”

“And?” Gwyneth asked.

“I told them. They both thought I was crazy,” Adam replied with an exaggerated sigh and his daughters giggled. Even Bronwen snorted in a most un-ladylike fashion.

“Yeah,” Joe said. “The sheriff sent a telegram to Sheriff Coffee telling him that Adam was seeing knights in armor and asking him to send some of Adam’s kin to come fetch him.” And he couldn’t stop himself from chuckling. “When Uncle Hoss and I came back here to the ranch without your daddy, Grandpa wanted to know why he wasn’t with us.”

“And when they told me what the sheriff had said in his telegram, I got mad,” Ben interjected. “I knew that your daddy was not seeing things. Your Uncle Hoss and your Uncle Joe, yes, that I could believe. But not your daddy.”

“Why me?” Joe said, and Adam threw back his head and began to laugh.

“Do you really want us to tell you, Little Brother?” he managed to get out and his girls began to giggle just because their daddy’s laughter was so infectious.

“No,” Joe said and joined the laughter along with Bronwen and Ben. Annabelle, however, looked uncomfortable and faintly censorious.

Ben took up the tale. “When we arrived at Morris Flats, we discovered your daddy wasn’t in the jail. He’d disappeared, but the cell door was still locked.”

“How’d you do that?” Miranda asked, both eyebrows shooting up in surprise.

“Oh, that’s a secret,” Adam replied, assuming a solemn expression, but his eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Please, tell us, Daddy. Please,” Penny begged.

“He just teasing us,” Miranda said. “Aren’t you, Daddy?”

“Now, would I tease my girls?” he asked reproachfully, but his hazel eyes still twinkled.

“Yes!” all four girls answered emphatically, causing their mama, grandpa and uncle to chuckle.

“‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child’,” Adam declaimed sorrowfully. Miranda grinned at the quotation from King Lear, which she recognized, and then said, “C’mon, Daddy. Tell us how you did it.”

Adam grinned and said, “All right, Cordelia, this is how I did it: King Arthur decided to rescue me. The sheriff and the deputy both left the jail, and the king snuck in and unlocked my cell door. He wanted me to come with him and help capture the bandits.”

“And did you?” Gwyneth said excitedly and Penny echoed, “Did you, Daddy?”

Adam let his lips quirk up just slightly at his youngest girls’ enthusiasm. “I told him to go away and just let them hang me, or whatever it was they wanted to do with me.”

“Daddy!” they chorused, their eyes big and round, and he grinned at them. “King Arthur was very persuasive so I decided to join him. Before we left, he locked my cell door.”

“And when we showed up in Morris Flats,” Joe broke in, “and they told us your daddy had apparently floated through the cell bars, we thought the sheriff and his deputy were crazy!” He and Ben both began chuckling at the memory. And then Ben took up the tale.

“The three of us, plus the sheriff, started off to search for your daddy, and Sheriff Coffee met up with us. We didn’t find Adam, but we found the stage from Morris Flats, and it had been robbed. There were several passengers, but they were uninjured and we asked them to look after the driver before riding after the bandits, who might be able to explain where your daddy was.”

Joe broke in enthusiastically. “We hadn’t gone very far when we saw something that was hard to believe: A knight in armor!”

“Yes, it was a knight in armor, all right,” Ben said, with a big smile for his granddaughters, “and with him was your daddy and the five bandits that they’d captured.”

“You captured five bandits!” Gwyneth exclaimed, jumping to her feet. “Fair dinkum?”

Adam grinned and nodded. “We captured the lookout while the rest of the bandits were robbing the stage. He was so frightened of King Arthur that was easy. Then I came up with a plan. When the rest of the bandits returned, we were ready for them. After they rode into the canyon that served as a hideout, Arthur used a lever to drop some boulders that sealed one entrance to the bandits’ hideout and I was at the other one with the rifle I’d taken from the lookout. They didn’t have any choice but to throw down their weapons and be captured.”

“Beauty, Daddy!” Beth exclaimed with a big dimpled smile and was echoed by Penny.

“But who was King Arthur really?” Miranda asked.

Adam grinned at his always logical second born. “His name was really Leo and he used to work as a bank teller. His niece, who was a passenger on the stagecoach that was robbed, told your grandpa and me that her uncle had always wanted to have an adventure. After his wife died, he bought the armor and decided to go off and have one.”

“His niece was really worried about him and so he promised not to play King Arthur again,” Ben added, “but before he left, he wanted to repay your daddy for being so understanding of his desire to experience an adventure. And so he knighted him.”

“That was a wonderful story,” Gwyneth said with shining eyes.

“I wish I could’ve seen you and King Arthur,” Penny said, smiling at her daddy.

“The ice cream is ready,” Joe announced. “We’ll just pack it in salt and ice until the little ones are up from their naps.”

“Can’t we eat it now? Please?” Gwyneth and Penny both begged.

“No, it’s better if it ripens,” their daddy replied, giving Penny’s long braid a playful tug.

“How about a game of hopscotch, girls?” Bronwen suggested.

“Will you play with us, Mama?” Penny asked.

“I’m not sure how well I can play in this skirt,” Bronwen said, but seeing the disappointment on Penny’s face she said, “All right, I’ll give it a burl.” The three American Cartwrights look mystified at this comment but Penny smiled at her mother so they deduced Bronwen would be playing hopscotch.

“How about you, Honey?” Joe asked Annabelle.

“No, thank you,” Annabelle replied, looking shocked at the suggestion.

“Here,” Miranda said. “We can use this stick to draw the hopscotch board in the dirt.”

“I’m going to check on Sarah and Benj,” Annabelle said then, standing up.

“Oh, would you mind checking on A.C., please?” Bronwen asked. “He usually sleeps longer than this, but I’d appreciate it if you could check on him.”

“Of course,” Annabelle replied.

The two younger children were still sound asleep when she checked but Benj stirred and woke when she entered the room, so she took him back downstairs with her. She shook her head at the sight of her sister-in-law, holding her skirt up so her ankles were visible, as she played hopscotch with her daughters. What a strange family I have married into, she thought. Yet, Adam and Bronwen seem happy and very much in love even though they’ve been married for nearly fifteen years. I know Joe still loves me, and I love him, but oh, I hate my life here. I have no friends as I did in Boston, and I can’t discuss books or poetry with Joe, nor does he share my interest in the theater or opera. Sometimes I’m so lonely I don’t see how I can bear it.

She noticed that her husband and brother-in-law were nowhere in sight. Ben answered her question before she could ask it. “Joe and Adam decide to play a game of horseshoes.” Just then the two brothers came in sight and Benj’s face lit up and he shouted, “Daddy!”

‘Hey, Pardner,” Joe called with a smile. “You wanna play horseshoes with me and Uncle Adam?”

“Yes!” the little boy shouted while his father and uncle exchanged grins.

After the hopscotch game ended, Bronwen and Annabelle went to check on A.C. and Sarah while the girls sat on the porch to watch the horseshoe game, smiling at the sight of their uncle helping their little cousin throw his horseshoe. After a few minutes, the women returned with the youngest members of the family.

“Now we can eat the ice cream!” Penny squealed and ran over to Adam and Joe.

“Well, younger brother,” Adam said with a wink, “should we eat ice cream, or finish our game?”

“Whatta ya say, Pardner?” Joe asked his little boy.

“Eat ice cream!” the four-year-old said emphatically and his cousin clapped her hands.

Buckshot had been keeping an eye on the proceedings and came out on the porch carrying a tray with bowls and spoons, including a long-handled wooden one for dipping the ice cream.”

“Since Beth, Miranda, Gwyneth, Penny and A.C. have never had ice cream, they get the first bowls. I’ll start with A.C. and end with Beth,” Ben announced. “Now, girls, don’t eat too fast or you’ll get a terrible headache,” he added in warning.

“That’s right,” Bronwen said. She put a napkin around her baby’s neck for a bib and sat him on the porch before his grandpa set the bowl of ice cream in front of him. Bronwen gave him a little spoonful, and at first he just looked surprised, but then he grinned and took the spoon from her.

Penny wasn’t paying any attention to her baby brother. She smiled at Ben when he handed her a bowl of ice cream and took a spoon from the tray. She was already to dig in when she heard her daddy’s deep voice admonish, “Penelope Jane!” She pouted just a little but waited until her sisters had their ice cream.

After her first swallow, her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “What a ripper!”

“Too right!” Gwyneth agreed with a big dimpled grin.

“Are you sure we can’t make this at home, Daddy?” Beth asked.

“Sorry, Princess, but we don’t have any way to store the ice,” he replied with a grin.

“Will they have ice cream in Boston?” Miranda wondered.

“Oh yes,” Adam replied. “When I was attending Harvard, there were several ice cream parlors,” and he smiled at the memories his daughter’s question invoked.

“May we go to one, Daddy? Please?” Beth begged.

“Certainly,” he replied with a smile for his girls.

“And we’ll make ice cream while they’re away in Boston,” Ben said to his younger granddaughters.

“Beauty, Grandpa!” Penny said enthusiastically. “May I have some more, please?”

“After supper,” her mother replied.

“But won’t it melt?” Gwyneth queried.

“No. We’ll pack it in more salt and ice and it’ll keep until after supper,” Joe assured her.

Since it was Saturday evening, after finishing the ice cream, the children took turns taking baths, starting with the youngest. While Bronwen and Annabelle gave A.C. and Sarah their baths, Ben played chess with Miranda, and Adam and Joe played Old Bachelor with the rest of the children. Just as he had the previous evening, Ben joined his son and granddaughters for their bedtime story.

The next morning Ben smiled when he saw Adam’s girls come down the stairs for breakfast. They each wore a high-waisted dress with a white ribbon sash: Beth was dressed in rose moiré, Miranda in pale green, Gwyneth in pale yellow and Penny in lilac. Beth and Penny had slept with their hair in rags so it was arranged in ringlets like Miranda’s, while Gwyneth’s thick curls tumbled down her back.

“You girls look like a rainbow,” Joe said with a big grin.

“A beautiful rainbow,” Ben added. Annabelle and Sarah, who was wearing a smock frock of pink taffeta, came down the stairs then, and Ben added, “My granddaughters will be the prettiest girls at church this morning and my grandsons the handsomest boys.”

Adam came down a few minutes later and said apologetically, “A.C. is being fractious so Bronwen suggested we not wait breakfast for them.”

They had finished saying grace and were passing around the platters of food when Bronwen and a sulky A.C. came down the stairs.

“We have your favorite, Jackeroo,” Adam said as he put his little boy in his highchair. “Flapjacks.”

Instantly the sullen expression was replaced by an enormous grin. “Jacks!” he shouted gleefully. Adam shook his head slightly and grinned as he tied a towel around his son’s neck while Bronwen poured honey on the flapjack Adam had already cut into tiny pieces.

They ate breakfast quickly and got themselves settled in the surrey. Joe, who was driving, sat in the front seat with his family, Ben shared a seat with Penny and Gwyneth while Miranda and Beth sat behind them. Adam, Bronwen and A.C. shared the last seat with his guitar. To keep the older children from getting bored on the long drive to church, they played “I love my love with an A” and “Similes” while Annabelle and Bronwen amused the little ones with “Pat a Cake” and other finger games.

When they got on the main road to Carson City, they saw their neighbors’ buggies and surreys. Todd McKaren drew his rig alongside and called “Good to see you again, Adam.” Then he tipped his hat and added with a smile, “Ladies.”

“Good to see you, too, Todd,” Adam called back as the McKaren’s surrey passed theirs.

Johnny and Ann Lightly waved as the Cartwrights’ rig passed theirs, as did several other neighbors. The Cartwrights arrived at the church a few minutes after the McKarens. Adam and Ben helped the ladies down from the surrey, and then Adam took Bronwen’s arm and walked over to greet his old friends and neighbors.

“So this is Adam, Jr.,” Todd said with a grin as he held out his hand to Adam.

“He’s a beautiful baby, Mrs. Cartwright,” Virginia said with a smile.

“Bronwen, please,” she replied with a warm smile.

“Then you must call me Virginia,” the attractive blonde woman said returning Bronwen’s smile. “May I hold him?” and Bronwen nodded. A.C. made no protest but grinned at Virginia, showing that he’d already cut several teeth. Meanwhile, the girls joined their parents.

“Todd and Virginia, let me present our daughters,” Adam said with a proud smile. As he named each girl, she bobbed a curtsey. “Girls, let me introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. McKaren. Mr. McKaren and his parents were our very first neighbors when we settled here on the Ponderosa.”

“Now, Adam and Bronwen, let me introduce our brood,” Todd said with a grin.

“I remember Dave,” Adam said, holding out his hand to the handsome blonde man in his early twenties. “Nice to see you again.”

The younger man smiled and said, ‘I’m surprised you remember me, sir.” Then he added, “It’s a pleasure to meet you ladies,” and they all smiled at him.

“And you must be Andy,” Adam then said to the dark-haired younger boy, who looked to be about sixteen, and was gazing at Beth with open admiration.

“Uh, yes, sir,” the boy replied, turning a fiery red as his voice veered between soprano and tenor.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Bronwen said and the girls all smiled at him.

“This is our oldest daughter, Susan,” Todd said, and a pretty blonde girl who looked to be about the same age as Beth and Miranda curtseyed and said, “I’m pleased to meet you all.” Then Todd said, “This is our Cindy,” and a short, chubby blonde girl bobbed a curtsey. “If I remember right, she and Gwyneth are the same age, but you’d never guess it by looking at them.”

“Todd,” Virginia scolded, for she saw Gwyneth’s cheeks flame.

“Gwyneth is going to be tall like our daddy,” Penny said then. “I wish I was tall,” and she smiled at her sister. “And I wish my hair was curly like hers; she never has to wrap her hair around rags.”

“Yes, Gwyneth you do have beautiful curls,” Virginia said with a smile and her daughters eyed Gwyneth’s curls enviously.

“Ginny and I were you hoping you could all come for supper one evening,” Todd said then.

“Beth, Miranda and I are leaving for Boston the day after tomorrow,” Adam replied.

“Well, how about tomorrow evening?” Todd asked then.

“I think it would be lovely,” Bronwen replied, and Adam said, “Tomorrow evening would be fine. We’ll be looking forward to it.”

Ben walked over then and after exchanging greetings with the McKarens, suggested it was time to enter the church. Adam and his family sat with Ben in their customary pew toward the front of the church, while Joe and his family sat behind them. When Rev. Jordan walked to the pulpit, he said with a warm smile, “I am very happy to welcome our visitors. Adam Cartwright and his family are visiting us all the way from Queensland on the continent of Australia. Those of you who remember the family’s last visit a few years back will be happy to know that they will provide special music for our service today.”

At Rev. Jordan’s nod, Bronwen handed A.C. to Ben and then the family walked to the front of the church and stood in a semi-circle with Penny at Bronwen’s side and Gwyneth at Adam’s and the older girls in the middle. Several in the congregation smiled at the strong resemblance between Adam and Gwyneth and between Bronwen and Penny.

Adam played an introduction on his guitar and then they began to sing:

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

As the family sang in four-part harmony, their voices blending effortlessly, several of the women were seen to dab at their eyes. After the service, they approached Ben and said, “Oh, your granddaughters sing like angels.”

“I have to agree,” Ben said with a proud smile. “I can’t claim any of the credit. They inherited their musical gifts from their parents.”

“Yes, Adam and his wife both have lovely voices. They are blessed to have four such lovely daughters.”

“And they must be so happy to finally have a son.”

“Yes, we were all happy when Adam, Jr. was born,” Ben said. He glanced over at Adam and Bronwen, who were talking with Johnny and Ann Lightly and their family. Just then, Paul Martin approached.

“Afternoon, ladies,” he said, tipping his hat. “I’m ready whenever you are, Ben.”

“I’m afraid you must excuse us, ladies,” Ben said. “I need to round up my family.” Once they were out of earshot he said to his old friend, “Thanks for coming to my rescue, Paul.”

Paul chuckled. “You did seem to be under siege.” He added, “I’m thinking I should hitch up my buggy and drive out to the Ponderosa.”

“No, no,” Ben said firmly. “Plenty of room in the back seat with Adam and Bronwen. We’ll just move Adam’s guitar up with Miranda and Beth.”

Johnny Lightly saw Ben and Dr. Martin approach so he said with a grin, “I think your pa is coming to tell you it’s time to head back to the ranch.”

Adam returned the grin and said, “I think you’re right.”

Bronwen turned to Ann then and said, “So you and Carrie and Polly will come for a visit on Wednesday?” and Ann nodded while her two younger daughters smiled shyly at the younger Cartwright girls. Just then Ben and Paul approached and as Adam and Bronwen shepherded their girls toward their surrey, fifteen-year-old Jess Lightly, who hadn’t been able to take his eyes off Beth, called, “Goodbye, Beth.” Beth turned her head and smiled back at him. Her daddy and grandpa exchanged a look over her head, and her daddy rolled his eyes.

Joe and his family were already waiting at the surrey. After they were all settled, Paul said to Bronwen, “My dear, it’s fortunate that you are such a tiny thing, or we’d never all fit,” and Adam chuckled as his wife’s cheeks turned pink.

Paul joined in the children’s games and proved the best at “Similes”. The littlest ones fell asleep on the long ride home. By the time the surrey pulled into the yard, however, the children were all hungry and cranky. (The adults, too, if the truth be told.) One of the hands took care of the team and the family, plus Paul, washed up hurriedly as Buckshot brought out the standing rib roast he’d prepared along with a huge bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, green beans, glazed carrots and a basket of rolls. Everyone was so hungry that at first they concentrated on filling their stomachs. After their hunger had been somewhat satisfied, Paul said, “It’s wonderful to see you and your family, Adam. I guess I hadn’t realized just how long it had been since your last visit until I saw that Beth and Miranda are now young ladies.” Both girls smiled at this, and Paul turned to the younger girls. “Of course, Gwyneth and Penny have grown so much I hardly recognized them,” and he grinned before adding, “except for the fact they look just like their mama and daddy.”

“Yes, there’s no question whose children they are,” Ben added with a chuckle.

“And we were all so pleased to learn of this young man’s arrival,” Paul said, with a wide grin as he gazed at A.C., who was smearing mashed potatoes all over his face.

“A.C.!” Bronwen scolded as she noticed what her baby was up to, and his sisters all snickered.

“You know, Miranda,” Joe commented, “the first time you visited you were about the same age as A.C., and I remember you doing the same thing with your food.”

Her siblings and Benj all giggled at this revelation while Miranda looked discomfited. Ben took pity on her and said with a smile, “I remember your daddy and uncles doing the same thing when they were that age. All part of growing up.”

“Yes. You can clean him up after we’ve finished dinner, Sweetheart. Don’t worry about it,” Adam added.

Paul then said to Adam, “I understand you and Beth and Miranda are going to be traveling to Boston?”

“Yes, along with Annabelle, Benj and Sarah,” Adam replied.

Paul turned to Annabelle and said, “You must be looking forward to the visit.”

“Yes, I am, very much,” she replied. “It seems ages since I’ve seen my brother and his family, and my friends back in Boston. And my mother is anxious to see Benj and Sarah. I was hoping that Joe would be coming with us-“

Joe cut her off. “Honey, I explained I can’t leave in the middle of harvesting the hay and oats.” Adam and Bronwen exchanged a quick glance at his sharp tone.

“Well, Gwyneth, Penny, A.C. and I are looking forward to spending time here on the Ponderosa, aren’t we?’ Bronwen asked, hoping to ease the tension.

“Too right,” Gwyneth said, nodding emphatically while Penny’s nod was less certain.

Because of the long journey back to town, Paul couldn’t stay long after dinner, but Penny cajoled him into playing a game of Old Bachelor with her. Beth, Bronwen and Annabelle also decided to play, along with Benj, who had some assistance from his grandpa. While they were getting settled around the dining room table, Joe quietly asked Adam if he’d like to go for a walk, and he agreed, sensing his younger brother wanted to talk with him in private.

Adam let Joe control the conversation. At first, they spoke of ranch business and Adam offered his opinion when Joe asked for it, but otherwise said little. When they reached the little stream that ran through the spring house, Joe stopped walking and drew a deep breath before facing his brother.

“I guess it was obvious that Annabelle wants me to come with you,” he stated baldly.

“Yes,” Adam replied reluctantly. “We should have sailed earlier so we could have visited Boston when you wouldn’t have been so busy here.”

“Then I would have had to come up with another excuse,” Joe said and Adam was taken aback by the bitterness of his tone. Joe read his surprise in the slight lifting of one eyebrow and added, “I have no desire to meet Annabelle’s family.” He said in the same bitter tone, “You don’t know how lucky you are in your in-laws, Older Brother. Particularly your brother-in-law. My first brother-in-law cost me the lives of my wife and unborn child, and now this one tries to turn his sister against me. After she receives a letter from him, she mopes around for days, pining for her old life in Boston. She complains she doesn’t have any friends, but she rebuffs any friendly overtures from our neighbors. They aren’t cultured enough for her taste.”

“Joe, I . . .” and Adam stopped, uncertain what he could say.

“Sorry, Adam. I guess I shouldn’t be talking to you about this,” Joe said, aware of his reserved brother’s discomfort. “It’s not that bad most of the time. I take her to San Francisco as often as I can, and she and Pa get along famously. I’m probably overreacting. She hasn’t seen her family in five years so it’s natural that she’d be looking forward to this visit.”

“That’s right,” Adam replied. “We’re sailing back to Sydney to visit Tad and Mam and I know Bronwen is excited about that. And it’s not just seeing them. She has friends back in Sydney and, well, Carson City is a Mecca of civilization compared to Cloncurry.”

“I guess we’d better get back or they’ll start to wonder what’s become of us,” Joe said with his familiar grin, but Adam thought it seemed a little forced.

Chapter 2

After a pleasant day spent exploring some of the Ponderosa on horseback, playing different games and a picnic lunch on the lakeshore, the Cloncurry Cartwrights began to dress for their supper with the McKarens.

“Those McKaren brothers are fine looking fellows,” Beth commented as she and Miranda changed into colorful smock frocks.

“I suppose,” Miranda replied, adding, “Don’t you ever think of anything besides boys?”

“Don’t you ever think of anything besides books?” her sister retorted and Miranda sighed.

“Here, if you’ll do my buttons, then I’ll do yours,” she offered. That accomplished, the two young girls concentrated on their hair.

“I wish Daddy would let me pin my hair up,” Beth said.

“Well, he won’t,” Miranda answered matter-of-factly as she combed her curls.

“I don’t see why I have to wait six whole months before I can pin my hair up and wear long skirts,” Beth complained.

“Daddy and Mama always said we would have to wait until we’re fifteen. Besides, all of our friends dress this way,” Miranda replied, adding, “Your hair looks fine. We need to hurry so we aren’t late.”

“I wish my hair was curly like yours and Gwyneth’s,” Beth said with a sigh as she tied a wide ribbon that held back her waist-length hair. Then she dimpled and said, “Well, maybe not like Gwyneth’s.” The sisters shared a smile at that.

Just then Penny stuck her head in the door. “Could you please tie my hair ribbon, Beth?” At Beth’s nod, she came in the room, trailing her ribbon and wearing a smock frock similar to her older sisters’.

“Why didn’t you ask Gwyneth?” Miranda wondered as Beth deftly tied the ribbon.

“Oh, she’s braiding her hair in pigtails,” Penny replied.

“I’d better go see if she needs some help,” Miranda said.

Beth made one last adjustment and then said, “All right. Let’s see if Mama and Daddy are ready.”

As soon as they walked into the hall, they saw their daddy, who’d changed from his black cotton shirt and waist overalls to a crisp white linen shirt and black trousers, with their little brother.

“I’m glad to see you girls are ready,” Adam said. “I need you to watch your brother while I hitch up the team to the surrey. Are your sisters ready?”

“Miranda is,” Beth replied. “She went to help Gwyneth braid her hair,” and Adam smiled, knowing the struggles his third born had with her recalcitrant curls. “Isn’t Mama ready?”

“I think she’s applying the finishing touches to her hair,” he replied. “Jackeroo, I want you to go downstairs with your sisters. Okay?”

“‘Kay,” the little boy said with a grin.

As they all came down the stairs, Ben looked up from the newspaper he was reading and smiled at them and Benj glanced up from the toy soldiers he had spread over the low table in front of the fireplace.

“The rest of the family still getting dressed?” Ben asked and Adam nodded before heading to the barn.

“Pa-pa!” A.C. said and toddled over as fast as his chubby legs would take him. Ben picked him up and sat him on his lap, while Beth and Penny sat on the settee. Beth commented, “Daddy told us that Mr. McKaren and his parents were your first neighbors.”

“That’s right,” Ben replied. “You see, when your daddy, Uncle Hoss and I first lived here, our neighbors were Indians. The only other Americans we saw were the immigrants traveling by wagon over the Sierra Nevada to Oregon or California. After our first year, your daddy and I were able to grow more vegetables than we needed so we sold some to the immigrants. The next year, we planted an even bigger garden and sold more vegetables to more immigrants along with some extra flour, molasses and cornmeal I’d bought in California. After our third summer, I’d saved enough money to buy a bull calf and ten cows the next spring. That fourth summer, your daddy and I had to cut more hay because now during the long cold winter we had to feed our cattle in addition to my horse, your daddy’s mustang, our mule and our milk cow.”

“What’s a mule?” Penny asked then.

“A mule’s daddy is a donkey and his mama is a horse. We used our mule for plowing because mules are very strong.” He added, as a little smile played about his lips, “Your daddy used to call your Uncle Hoss a Missouri mule because he was so strong.” He was pleased at the interested expressions on his granddaughters’ faces and continued his narrative.

“It was our fifth summer here on the Ponderosa that one of the immigrant families-Andy and Jessie McKaren and their son, Todd-decided they would rather settle here than go on over the mountains. Your daddy was almost eleven then so he helped Mr. McKaren and me build their cabin and a shelter for their stock. Your daddy and I helped the McKarens plant a late summer garden so they would have some vegetables to eat, and we all worked together to harvest hay for our animals. I hired a vaquero, José Mendoza, that summer and bought ten more heifers, plus each of the first ten cows had calved bringing our herd to thirty-one head.”

“But you have lots more cattle now!” Penny exclaimed. “This morning we saw hundreds, thousands maybe!”

“That’s right, Pretty Penny, but we started out with just one bull calf and those ten cows,” he replied with a wink. “Mr. McKaren decided he’d raise cattle, too. Neither of us really knew that much about cattle then, but José did, and Mr. McKaren and I learned from him.”

“What’s a vaquero?” Beth asked.

“Oh, it’s what we called cowboys back in those days. It’s a Spanish word and most vaqueros then were Mexican or Californios.”

“Daddy was a cowboy then, wasn’t he, Grandpa?” Penny asked.

“He sure wanted to be,” Ben replied with a broad grin. “I remember how he begged me to let him come on the cattle drives even though I’d told him that he had to wait until he was fourteen. I explained to him that drives weren’t any fun, but he didn’t believe me until he went on his first one.”

Beth wanted to return to her original subject and asked, “Will we meet the Mr. and Mrs. McKaren who were your neighbors then?”

Miranda, Gwyneth and Bronwen came down the stairs in time to hear Beth’s question and Ben waited for them to be seated on the settee before answering. But first, he complimented Bronwen on her simple dress of green silk poplin and her straw hat decorated with three feathers, dyed green to match her dress. Then he returned to Beth’s question.

“No,” he said sadly. “Jessie, Mrs. McKaren, passed away a few years after they settled here. She and your Grandma Marie had become good friends and your grandma missed her terribly. Mr. McKaren died just a couple of months before young Andy was born. Andy is named after him. No man could have asked for a better neighbor than Andy McKaren.”

Buckshot walked into the dining room then and said, “Mr. Adam has the surrey out front.”

“We need to shoot through,” Bronwen said as she quickly stood up. “You know your daddy doesn’t like to keep the horses standing.”

“Goodbye, Grandpa,” the girls called as they hurried out the door.

“Bye-bye, Pa-pa,” A.C. said as he walked out the door holding his mama’s hand.

Buckshot had come outside and helped first Bronwen and A.C., and then the girls into the surrey.

“Wait!” they heard Ben call, and saw him walking toward them, carrying A.C.’s highchair, trailed by Benj. “You’ll need this.” He sat it on the back seat of the surrey, and then he and Benj waved goodbye and they drove off.

“Grandpa said when you were a boy, you wanted to go on a cattle drive, but then you found out he was right, and they weren’t any fun,” Beth commented as they sat off for the McKaren’s ranch.

“That’s right,” Adam said. “I remember trying to wheedle him into letting me go every summer but with no success. My friends, Todd and Ross, were the same with their fathers. The summer before your Uncle Joe was born, the three of us-Ross had just turned thirteen and my thirteenth birthday was a couple of months away and Todd was twelve-anyway, we were so mad about not being allowed to go on the drive that instead of doing our chores, we snuck off and went fishing. Oh, Grandma Marie was angry with me. Hop Sing, too. As a punishment, in addition to my regular chores of chopping wood, slopping the pigs and milking the cow, I had to dig a new hole for the outhouse, do the laundry, kill and pluck a couple of chickens for Hop Sing, clean and whitewash the henhouse and write that I wouldn’t leave home without permission a hundred times.”

“Stone the crows! They sure were mad at you,” Gwyneth said. “Did your friends get punished, too?’

“Sure they did. And Ross had a necessary talk with his father besides the extra chores his mother had given him. Your grandpa told me that since I’d already been punished, we wouldn’t have a necessary talk, but if I ever did anything like that again, we would, and I wouldn’t be able to sit down afterward.”

“Grandpa sounds mean,” Penny said worriedly, and Adam glanced over his shoulder quickly and saw her confused expression so he smiled at her. “No, your grandpa wasn’t mean. Fathers just have to punish their sons a little differently than they do their daughters. And I must admit I deserved all the necessary talks I ever got. But don’t tell your grandpa I said so,” he added with a wink.

“Tell us about your first cattle drive, Daddy. Please,” Gwyneth asked, and so on the way Adam told them how when he rode drag, he’d had to eat so much dust he could have planted a garden in his mouth and how as horse wrangler, he was responsible for feeding and watering around seventy horses. He described taking turns standing watch during the night, eating beans at just about every meal and drinking coffee so strong the spoon could stand up in it.

When Adam brought the surrey to a halt in front of the McKaren’s modest, two-story frame house, they saw Todd and his sons sitting on the front porch. Andy leaped to his feet and ran over to the surrey while his father and older brother followed at a more sedate pace. Andy ran right over to Beth and said breathlessly, “May I help you down, Beth?”

“Thank you, Andy,” she replied with a smile while Adam and Todd exchanged grins.

Bronwen handed A.C. to Beth, after she had alighted with Andy’s careful help, and then allowed Todd to help her while Dave assisted Miranda. Gwyneth had jumped out on her own and Adam put his hands around Penny’s waist and swung her down.

“Dinner’s ready and I know you’ll want to wash up first,” Todd said. He spied the highchair on the back seat of the surrey and said with a grin, “Glad you remembered this. I’ll take it inside for you.”

As the Cartwrights washed up, Virginia and her daughters were setting the platters and bowls of food on the long dining room table while Todd set the highchair down. After Todd said grace and the food had been passed around, Bronwen said to Virginia, “Everything is delicious.”

Virginia smiled and thanked her. “Susan prepared the turnips and the string beans,” she added proudly.

“You did a wonderful job, Susan,” Adam said. “Beth is a good cook, too. Her scones and biscuits are as delicious as her mother’s.”

“I like her lemon meringue pie,” Penny said enthusiastically.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever had lemon meringue pie,” Virginia said.

“My mother said it’s similar to the vinegar pies she made back in Wales. We have a lemon tree in our back yard so it’s easy for us to have fresh lemonade and lemon meringue pie,” Bronwen explained.

“And we have an orange tree,” Penny interjected, earning a little frown from her mama.

“You grow your own oranges?” Cindy exclaimed in wonder. “We only get an orange at Christmas.”

“Our climate is different,” Adam explained. “Our winters aren’t cold, but our summers are very hot.”

“How hot?” Dave asked curiously.

“Most days the temperature is 100 or above,” Adam replied with his little half grin.

“100 or above,” Virginia repeated while Andy whistled.

“Yes, I’d say that’s really hot,” Todd said with a little grimace.

“How do you stand it?” Susan asked. “I’d just die!”

“We go swimming a lot at the river,” Miranda replied.

“You go swimming?” Susan and Cindy said at the same time, astonishment written all over their faces.

“Too right!” Penny said, nodding emphatically.

“We bring a tent so the girls and I can change into our bathing costumes,” Bronwen explained and Adam added, “I just wear mine under my clothes.”

“A bathing costume?’ Susan repeated. “Oh, like the ones in Godey’s Lady’s Book?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Bronwen replied.

“Mine is of red flannel trimmed with black braid with a black ribbon sash,” Beth said. “I think it’s very pretty.”

Poor Andy looked glassy-eyed at the thought of Beth in a bathing costume. “I- I guess you’d be swimming if you were home,” he said, sounding a little breathless.

“Oh no,” Miranda answered. “Back home it’s winter.”

“Winter?” Cindy repeated. “How can it be winter when it’s July?”

“The seasons in the southern hemisphere where we live are the reverse of what they are here in the northern hemisphere,” Adam explained.

“Oh, you mean it’s hot at Christmas?” Susan asked, sounding as if she found that impossible to believe.

“Exactly,” Bronwen replied. “Christmas comes in our summer so it’s usually between 105 and 110 degrees outside.”

The three youngest McKarens looked dumbfounded at this information and Todd said to Adam with a smile, “I’ll bet that’s taken some getting used to.”

“It sure has,” Adam replied with a slow grin. “But I’ve lived in Queensland more than fourteen years so I guess I’ve adjusted.”

“Todd said you told him that you, Beth and Miranda are leaving for Boston tomorrow,” Virginia said then.

“That’s right,” Adam replied. “Bronwen and I are considering allowing Miranda to attend the Girls’ Latin School to prepare her for one of the women’s colleges here in the United States. She’d be staying with Annabelle’s brother and his family, so we wanted a chance to meet them before we make our decision.”

“Ah,” Todd said with a smile, “just like when you stayed in San Francisco to be tutored so you could pass the entrance examination for college.”

Adam nodded but then said, “Well, not exactly. My family visited me while I stayed with the Townsends in San Francisco. We wouldn’t be able to see Miranda until she graduated, which would be in two or three years.”

“Oh, I don’t think I could let Susan or Cindy go live in anther country and not see her for three years!” Virginia exclaimed.

“I couldn’t either, if I didn’t know how much it means to Miranda,” Bronwen said quietly.

“Why do you want to go to school so far away from your family?” Susan asked curiously.

“There are no colleges for women in Queensland or any of the other colonies. The United States does have colleges for women, and if I attend one, then I could spend my vacations at the Ponderosa. Our school in Cloncurry doesn’t teach me all the things I’ll need to know to pass the college entrance examination, but the Girls’ Latin School will,” Miranda replied very earnestly.

“But why do you want to go to college? I don’t understand,” Susan said. “You don’t need a college education to keep house and raise your children.”

“I want to do more than just keep house and take care of my children,” Miranda replied. “In fact, I’m not sure I want to marry.” The McKaren women looked shocked at her words.

“Miranda is the best student in our school,” Beth said loyally and Gwyneth spoke up for the first time that evening.

“Too right. She’s smarter than any of the boys.”

Todd grinned at Adam and said, “I can see Miranda is a chip off the old block.” Then he said to Miranda, “I could never understand why your pa wanted to go to college either.”

“What do you all plan on doing when you visit Boston?” Virginia asked, changing the direction of the conversation.

“We’re going to see a play,” Beth said enthusiastically.

“I thought I’d take them to see some of the historical sites like the State House, the Old North Church, and Old South Meeting House. And I thought we’d visit the Corner Bookstore and buy some books we could take back to Cloncurry.” Todd and Virginia exchanged little grins when they saw Beth and Penny turn up their noses at the mention of buying books while Miranda and Gwyneth looked very pleased.

“I take it the rest of the family will be staying at the Ponderosa?” Todd asked then.

“Yes. A.C. is too young to be a good traveler,” Adam replied. “We managed the journey from Cloncurry to Townsville and the voyage here and the train trip from San Francisco to Carson City. However, we decided not to press our luck with another journey across the United States.”

“Undoubtedly a wise decision,” Virginia said to Bronwen with a little smile of understanding.

“May I go to Boston? Please, Daddy? Please?” Penny begged, gazing at him beseechingly with her beautiful violet eyes.

Adam hesitated. He and Bronwen had agreed that only the older girls should go, but if it meant that much to his Kitten, then there really wasn’t any reason why she shouldn’t come as well. Just as he was about to agree, Bronwen said, “Adam, may I speak with you on the porch, please? Right now,” she added sharply. Then she said to Virginia, “Would you excuse us, please?”

“Certainly,” Virginia said.

Adam had raised an eyebrow at Bronwen’s tone, but he only stood, and then pulled back her chair and followed her to the porch. As soon as he closed the front door behind them, she said, “You were going to tell Penny she could go with you to Boston, weren’t you?”

“I don’t see the harm,” he began.

“You don’t see the harm,” she repeated. “Adam, we decided that the trip to Boston would be a special time for you and Beth and Miranda; we told all the girls that.”

“But I’m sure they won’t mind,” he began.

“And I’m sure they will,” she snapped and he frowned at her. “Adam bach,” she said in a more conciliatory tone, “can’t you see that you are spoiling Penny? You’ll have her thinking all she has to do to get whatever she wants is to flutter those big eyes and look coy. Is that what you want?”

“Of course not,” he said irritably, “but you’re blowing it all out of proportion.”

“If this was the first time you’d ever given into Penny, I’d agree. But it’s not and you know it.” He started to snap back that he didn’t know any such thing, but then he began to think. She continued in a softer tone. “I know you don’t have favorites, but I’m afraid if you asked Beth or Miranda or Gwyneth if you do, that you wouldn’t like the answer.”

He was quiet, considering her words but then he sighed and said, “All right. We will stay with our original plans.”

When they walked into the dining room, Penny gazed at her daddy with a hopeful smile. He hated to disappoint her, but as he seated Bronwen he said quietly, “We had already decided who was going to Boston and who would be staying at the Ponderosa to visit with Grandpa and Uncle Joe, Penny.”

“And your grandpa will be so pleased to have you,” Virginia said quickly, noting Penny’s eyes were beginning to fill with tears. “He is always so happy whenever he receives a letter from you girls.”

“He sure is,” Todd added. “Whenever we see him at church, he tells us all about what his granddaughters have been doing.”

Penny managed a watery smile at that and the McKarens got a quick glimpse of Gwyneth’s dimples.

“You know, Mrs. Cartwright,” Adam said softly that night as he deftly freed Bronwen’s hair from its braid so it flowed around her, “this is going to be a very long three weeks.”

“I quite agree, Mr. Cartwright,” she said with a saucy grin as she let her fingers play with the curls on his chest and stomach.

“So I think we should make this a night to remember,” he added, reaching over and placing his hands about her waist and setting her astride him. She lifted her nightgown over her head and tossed it to the foot of the bed before leaning down to capture his mouth with hers.

Beth didn’t have to be awakened the next morning. She was so excited at the prospect of the trip to Boston with her daddy and sister that she’d hardly slept. In fact, she shook Miranda awake when she spied the first faint light in the east.

Miranda yawned and opened her eyes. “I’m up. I can’t believe you are.”

The girls made their bed quickly and then hurried to take care of their horses. Once they finished, they went upstairs and dressed in their pleated skirts and sailor blouses. Since no one else was up except Buckshot, they went ahead and set the table. As they were setting out the plates, Gwyneth and Penny came down the stairs, dressed for their barn chores, followed by Uncle Joe.

“I see you ladies are up bright and early,” Joe commented with a wide grin.

“Beth woke me this morning,” Miranda announced and the younger girls snickered as they headed out the door to the barn. Joe’s grin broadened as he followed.

Beth and Miranda were just finishing when their daddy and grandpa came down the stairs.

“Good morning,” Ben said, smiling at his oldest grandchildren. “I see you’re a couple of early birds.”

“Good morning, Grandpa,” they both answered with happy smiles. “Good morning, Daddy.”

“Good morning to you. Oh, your mama told me to remind you to bring your nightgowns to her so she can pack them in the carpetbag we’ll carry on board with us,” Adam said.

“Right,” Beth replied.

The girls quickly finished their task and then hurried up the stairs. They saw their Aunt Annabelle was coming down the hallway with Benj and Sarah. Their aunt was dressed in a suit of dove-gray delaine with a Norfolk jacket and a high-necked silk blouse. Benj was dressed in a black velvet Fauntleroy suit with a white lace collar and Sarah in a smock frock of apricot taffeta. They exchanged greetings and then the girls hurried to their room to get their nightgowns.

“Aunt Annabelle is so beautiful,” Beth commented. “And she dresses so elegantly,” she added in an admiring tone.

Miranda nodded but then giggled.

“What are you laughing about?” Beth demanded.

“I was just picturing Mama dressed the way Aunt Annabelle does while she helped Nell and Mary clean the house, do the laundry and cooking.”

Beth couldn’t help but giggle at that mental picture so they were both giggling as they walked down the hall. When they brought their neatly folded nightgowns to their parents’ room, it was empty so they placed the nightgowns on the bed and went across the hall to their baby brother’s room.

Their mama, in her nightgown and robe, was walking the room with A.C., who was whimpering fretfully and drooling a great deal.

“Good morning, Mama,” Beth said. “We put our nightgowns on your bed.”

“Thank you,” Bronwen said. “Could you hold A.C. while I go get dressed?”

“Right,” Beth replied, holding out her arms.

At first, A.C. clung to Bronwen’s neck so Beth said coaxingly, “Won’t you let Bethy hold you A.C.?” After a moment’s hesitation, he loosened his grip on his mama and let his sister take him.

“He’s a little feverish,” Bronwen said. “I think he must be cutting another tooth. I changed his nappy. Could you see if you could dress him for me?”

“No worries,” Beth replied.

The two girls dressed their brother in a tunic and skirt but his whimpering changed to loud crying. They gave him his teething ring to chew on, which quieted him, but tears continued to roll down his chubby cheeks despite their efforts to distract him.

Bronwen could hear her baby crying and dressed hurriedly, choosing a simple print dress, and then quickly pinned her hair in a bun on top of her head. She was so distracted that she didn’t even notice Gwyneth and Penny running up the stairs and down the hall to wash up and change clothes. She remembered to pack the girls’ nightgowns in the valise and then she went across the hall. A.C. saw her and began to wail until she took him from Beth, then he quieted to hiccupping sobs. Adam poked his head in the door to see if A.C. was all right.

“He’s teething, Cariad,” Bronwen said. “I don’t think we’d better go to the train station to see you off. We’ll have to say our goodbyes here,” and he nodded his understanding.

“I’ll go check on Gwyneth and Penny; everyone else is already downstairs waiting,” he said.

In a few minutes, the entire Cartwright family was gathered about the dining room table. They had to eat hurriedly because they needed to leave early to make sure they wouldn’t miss the train to Boston. Ben decided that since Bronwen and A.C. weren’t going to make the trip into Carson City, he would stay home as well and keep them company. Joe had arranged for Jacob to drive the buckboard into town with the two trunks-one for Annabelle, Benj and Sarah, and the other for Adam, Beth and Miranda-and he would make sure they were loaded on the train.

Ben said his goodbyes first to Annabelle, Benj and Sarah. Then while they headed to the surrey along with Gwyneth and Penny, Adam and the older girls said goodbye to Bronwen and Ben.

“Goodbye, Grandpa,” the girls said, each kissing his cheek. “We’ll write you a letter while we’re in Boston,” Miranda promised.

“We’ll write to you, too, Mama,” Beth added. “I’m going to miss you so much,” she whispered as she and her mama hugged and kissed.

“I’ll miss you, too,” Bronwen said, straightening the collar of Beth’s blouse.

“Goodbye, Mama,” Miranda said before hugging Bronwen tightly.

“Goodbye, Miranda fach,” she replied, kissing her second born’s cheek. “Now, I know you’ll be good girls and mind your manners.”

“Right,” they both responded with a smile. They started to join the others outside but Adam, who’d been holding a fretful A.C., said, “Wait girls.” They turned toward him and he said, “Let me say goodbye to your brother, and then I’d like you to take him outside with you so I can say goodbye to your grandpa and your mama.”

The girls nodded and Adam kissed his little boy’s cheek. “Jackeroo, Daddy is going on a trip with Beth and Miranda. We’ll be gone for a few days, and Daddy’s gonna miss his Jackeroo. While Daddy’s gone, you have fun with Grandpa and Uncle Joe. Okay?”

The little boy nodded uncertainly and Bronwen said softly, “She’ll be apples, Cariad.”

“I hope so,” Adam replied quietly. He kissed A.C. once more and then set him down.

“C’mon, A.C., let’s go see the horsies,” Beth said, getting a smile from the toddler. Beth and Miranda each took one of his hands and walked with him onto the porch.

Adam hugged Ben and then said quietly, “You know I wish I could spend our whole visit here with you and Joe.”

Ben nodded then added, “I’m glad you are able to escort Annabelle to Boston. She has missed her family and it’s good that she has a chance to visit them. Now, I’m really looking forward to spending time with my grandchildren. And my daughter-in-law,” he added, winking at Bronwen. He left Adam and Bronwen alone then.

Adam drew her into his arms and held her, resting his chin on her head. “I know I’m going to miss you terribly,” she said softly. “This will be the first time we’ve been apart since we moved to Cloncurry.”

He put his hand on her chin and tilted her face up, then gazing into her eyes, asked quietly, “Remember those lines from Donne?”

She nodded and softly recited:

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
-Whose soul is sense-cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

“I fear I am a dull sublunary lover because I will miss your eyes, lips and hands,” he said tenderly, and then bent down and kissed her.

“Daddy! We’re going to be late,” they heard Miranda shout so they broke apart, sharing a rueful smile before walking outside.

Penny immediately ran up to him. “Daddy, I wanna ride by you,” she begged

“But I want to ride with him,” Gwyneth said with a pout.

“That problem is easily solved,” Adam said, quirking his lips up slightly in an amused smile. “You may sit on my right, Gwyneth, and, Penny, you may sit on my left.”

“Goodbye, A.C.,” Miranda said, bending down to drop a kiss on her baby brother’s cheek. “I’ll see you in three weeks.”

“Bye, A.C.,” Beth said, also giving him a kiss. “I’ll miss you while I’m gone.”

As Ben and Joe helped the two older girls into the surrey, Bronwen picked up A.C. and Adam leaned over and dropped a kiss on his little boy’s forehead before exchanging a quick kiss with her. Then he scooped Penny up and put her in the surrey before getting in himself. Once he was seated, Ben helped Gwyneth up, and then Joe slapped the reins and said, “Giddap.” Ben and Bronwen waved to them and A.C. called, “Bye-bye!”

Adam chatted with his girls on the journey and played “Similes” with them. The girls coaxed Annabelle and Joe into playing as well; however, Adam noted with sadness the strain between his brother and sister-in-law. He hoped it wasn’t apparent to the children. When they got to the train station, Jacob was waiting with the tickets for their trunks, and gave them to Adam. There wasn’t much time so Adam hugged and kissed Gwyneth and Penny and then the sisters hugged and kissed goodbye. They didn’t notice how when Joe tried to take Annabelle in his arms to kiss her goodbye, she pulled away, saying, “Joe, not in public,” and only allowed him to kiss her cheek. He kissed his baby girl and Benj threw his arms around his daddy’s neck and kissed him goodbye. Joe helped Annabelle into the Pullman Palace car he and Adam had hired for Annabelle and the children. (Adam would sleep in the sleeper car.) Next, he picked up Benj and Sarah and placed them in the car followed by a picnic hamper and the two carpet bags. Then he and Adam helped the two older girls to board. The brothers clasped arms and Joe said with a grin, “I’ll take care of your family for you, Older Brother.”

Adam returned the smile and said, “And I’ll take care of yours, Younger Brother.”

When he boarded the train, he discovered his girls were already at the windows with their little cousins, waving to Joe, Gwyneth and Penny. They waved until the station was out of sight.

“Mr. Buckshot packed a lunch for us to eat on the train,” Adam said then, indicating the hamper Joe had set in the car by their carpet bags. “Would you like to eat something now?”

“Right,” Miranda said and Benj added, “I’m hungry.”

Buckshot had packed cold chicken, with drumsticks for Benj and Sarah, johnnycakes, pickles and sugar cookies. He had also packed a jug of water so they had something to drink with their meal. Not very long after they’d finished eating, Benj whispered something to his mother.

“Ask your Uncle Adam,” Annabelle replied and timidly the little boy approached his tall uncle, who bent down so he could whisper his request.

“I’ll show you where to go,” Adam said with a little smile. “C’mon, Benj,” he added holding out his hand and the little boy took it and smiled shyly at his uncle.

Right after they left the car, Miranda said quietly, “I’m going to the ladies’ lavatory.”

“I’ll come with you,” Beth said and Sarah said excitedly, “I wanna come.”

“Would you mind taking her?” Annabelle asked.

“She’ll be apples,” Beth replied. “Here, take my hand, Sarah.”

They spent the day pleasantly. When they tired of watching the scenery go by, Adam and Annabelle played parlor games with Miranda and Benj while Beth played with Sarah and her rag doll. While the younger children napped, Beth asked Annabelle what it had been like growing up in Boston.

“It was wonderful,” she replied with a smile. “My best friends and I all lived on Chestnut Street and we attended the same girls’ school and later we attended the same finishing school. We loved to go for walks in the Public Garden and the Common, and we’d feed the ducks and geese. In the winter, we would ice skate on the Frog Pond.” Seeing the puzzled looks on the girls’ faces, she shared a smile with her brother-in-law. “I forgot the weather isn’t cold enough in Cloncurry for you to ice skate. But I’m sure you’ll learn how when you’re living in Boston, Miranda. It’s great fun.”

“What else did you do?” Beth asked.

“Well, sometimes my family would go to see a performance at the Adelphi Theatre. They didn’t have plays, only variety acts. But usually we’d see a play at the Boston Museum or the Globe Theater. In the summer when it was too hot in the city, we’d stay at our cottage in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. We’d play croquet and tennis and go riding on the beach. Sometimes we would drive to Cottage City and ride the carousel. That was great fun.” She saw the mixture of excitement and longing in the young girls’ eyes and added, “Perhaps we’ll have a chance to visit Martha’s Vineyard; it will be hot in Boston this time of year.”

“I spent a summer vacation on the island when I was at Harvard,” Adam commented. “I stayed with the family of one of my friends. The Collingsworths.”

“Oh, you know the Collingsworths?” Annabelle said. “I remember my mother telling me that one of her closest friends was a Collingsworth. She married very well-a Lowell-but then a few years after she was widowed, she simply disappeared. It was a great mystery. I don’t believe she was ever found.”

“I think that may have been my friend Thomas’s older sister, Dorothea. She was a lovely woman and she stayed with her family most of the time I was there. Thomas told me of her disappearance. A terrible tragedy for the family.” He paused and frowned, saying, “I knew Dorothea was older than Thomas and I, but it’s hard to believe that she could have been your mother’s friend.” He saw his daughters were looking at him with big round eyes and said quickly, “I’m sure the girls will enjoy the island very much if we have a chance to visit it. That reminds me. I wrote to Thomas, and he and his wife have invited Beth, Miranda and me to dine with them our second evening in Boston.” He smiled fondly at his daughters. “I’ve written Thomas about my family and he’s anxious to meet Beth and Miranda.”

“I wonder what Gwyneth and Penny are doing now,” Beth remarked then.

“Your uncle told me that he planned on taking them to dinner at the St. Charles Hotel,” Annabelle said. “It’s said to be the finest hotel in Carson City,” she added, but her expression and tone showed that she was not impressed.

“It’s not as luxurious as the Palace where we stay in San Francisco,” Adam said, “or even as grand as the International House was in Virginia City during the heyday of the Comstock Lode, but it’s a fine hotel and the restaurant serves excellent meals. However, I imagine what your sisters will enjoy most is having dinner with your uncle. I’m very glad they will get to spend time with him, just as I will be able to spend time with Benj and Sarah.” He smiled at Annabelle then. “And we each will have a chance to get to know our sister-in-law a little better.”

Annabelle returned his smile, adding, “Yes, we will all have a chance to get to know each other better.”

“Daddy, when we get to Boston, will we be able to see the house where you were born?” Miranda asked.

“I keep forgetting you were born in Boston,” Annabelle commented and then excused herself since she needed to visit ladies’ lavatory.

Beth and Miranda looked at their father expectantly after their aunt left, so he continued. “Yes, I’ll show you where I was born. It’s a little house on Unity Street in the North End. I wasn’t even three when we began our journey west, so my memories of Boston are all from the time I attended Harvard.” Then he said, “Now, I can take you to the house and we can look at the exterior, but we can’t disturb the people who live there now.” Both girls look disappointed but he said with a wry smile, “It’s just an ordinary house; there’s nothing to distinguish it from the others in the neighborhood. What makes it special to me is my memories of your great-grandfather. That, and knowing that your grandpa and grandma lived there the brief time they had together.”

“How long were Grandpa and Grandma married?” Beth asked curiously.

“They were married in October 1835 and your grandma died on November 14, 1836, so they were married thirteen months,” Adam answered in a somber tone.

“November 14 is our birthday,” Miranda said in surprise. “You mean Grandma died the day you were born?”

Adam nodded slowly. His daughters all knew that their grandmother had died when their daddy was a baby. He and Bronwen just hadn’t provided any details. “Your grandma died in childbirth,” he said somberly. “Your grandpa never wanted to talk about it and I understood that. I always felt guilty that my birth came at the cost of her life. I wanted to understand how but I knew I couldn’t ask Pa. When I was at Harvard, I met a very close friend of your grandma’s and I got up all my courage and asked her. She told me that my mother lost too much blood giving birth to me.” His lips twisted into a wry smile then and he added, “She also told me that my mother wouldn’t want me to feel guilty. She had been so happy while she was carrying me and just knew I would be a boy. I asked your great-grandfather and he told me that she had lived long enough to see me. She said I looked like the cherubs on her music box.”

Beth reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze, as tears glazed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”

“Thank you, Princess,” he said quietly, placing his hand over his daughter’s.

Benj and Sarah awoke from their nap soon after that. Adam played horsy first with Sarah and then with Benj since they were both tired of being cooped up on the train. The older girls amused themselves by watching the scenery and talking with their aunt. They ate supper in the dining car and afterward Annabelle kept Sarah occupied with a picture book while Beth, Miranda, Benj and Adam played Twenty Questions. Adam noted that his little nephew was a very bright boy. His temperament was definitely more like his mother’s. He wasn’t the exuberant bundle of energy that Adam remembered Joe had been at the same age.

When it was time for the two little ones to go to bed, Adam summoned the porter and asked him to make up their beds. After visits to the lavatories, Annabelle helped Sarah into her nightgown while Benj struggled with the tiny buttons on his Fauntleroy suit.

“Would you like some help, Benj?” Adam asked and the little boy nodded gratefully. He pulled on his nightshirt while his uncle carefully folded the velvet suit and the silk shirt with its large lace collar. I hope Bronwen doesn’t get any ideas about dressing A.C. in one of these. There’s no way my son is wearing his hair almost to his shoulders and dressing in lace and velvet.

Annabelle heard her children’s prayers and tucked them in while Adam and his girls talked quietly at the other end of the car. It was only a few minutes after she joined the others when Sarah began to wail, ‘I want Daddy.”

Annabelle hurried to her little girl’s side. “You’ll see Daddy soon, Sweetie, but now we’re going to Boston to see your grandmamma and your Uncle Robert, Aunt Paula and cousin Charlotte,” she said in a soothing tone, sitting by Sarah. Sarah was not comforted, even when Annabelle picked her up and held her, and continued to cry loudly.

Adam got up and walked over to his niece and nephew. As he drew closer, he saw that tears were rolling down Benj’s cheeks and his chin was wobbling although he was trying very hard not to cry. He smiled at the child and sat down beside him.

“When your daddy was a little boy, I used to tell him stories,” he said quietly. “Would you like to hear your daddy’s favorite story?”

Benj hiccupped back a sob and nodded, his eyes never leaving his uncle’s face, so Adam began.

“Once upon a time, there were three brothers who were the sons of a poor miller. The oldest brother was named Adam, the middle brother was named Hoss, and the youngest was Joseph. When the poor miller died, all he had to leave his sons were his mill, his donkey and his cat.

‘I will take the mill,’ Adam said, ‘since I’m the oldest.’

‘And I’ll take the donkey,’ Hoss said then.

‘That leaves you with the cat, little brother,’ Adam said and poor Joseph felt very sorry for himself, having nothing but a cat for his inheritance. . .

As Adam’s version of Puss in Boots unfolded, the children quieted and first Sarah then Benj drifted to sleep. Adam and Annabelle very quietly joined Beth and Miranda, both of whom had listened to their daddy with smiles on their faces.

“I remember when you used to tell us Puss in Boots,” Beth said with a grin, “but you didn’t name the brothers.”

Adam smiled broadly and Annabelle said, “That was clever, giving the three brothers your names.”

“Joe always liked it,” Adam said with a wink. “If you ladies don’t mind, I think I’ll read the newspaper.”

Since they didn’t want to risk waking the children, they all decided to read until the porter came to turn the other armchairs and the sofa into beds: Beth read Rose in Bloom while Miranda read her daddy’s copy of A Study in Scarlet and Annabelle reread Pride and Prejudice. The girls were struggling to keep their eyes open when the porter arrived, and when he finished, Adam said, “I’ll head for the sleeper car now. Girls, go ahead and get your nightgowns and what you need for tomorrow out of our carpet bag because I’ll be taking it with me.” After they finished, he picked up the bag and turned to his sister-in-law. “Goodnight, Annabelle.”

“Goodnight, Adam,” she said with a slight smile, and Adam turned to his girls.

“Goodnight, Princess,” he said, bending down to kiss his first-born’s cheek.

“Goodnight, Daddy,” she said, and then kissed his cheek, threw her arms around him and hugged him. He turned to Miranda and they repeated the ritual.

I’m used to sleeping curled around Bronwen; it’s going to be very strange sleeping by myself after all these years, he thought as he made his way to the sleeper car. He had made sure that he’d been assigned a lower berth, and after changing into the striped silk pyjamas Bronwen had given him as a birthday present in the gentlemen’s closet and visiting the lavatory, he entered the already darkened sleeping car. The occupant of the top berth had already retired so Adam parted the floor-length curtain enough that he could slip inside. He lay on his side, but sleep wouldn’t come. I wonder what you’re doing now, Sweetheart. I imagine you aren’t finding it any easier to sleep alone than I am. In the morning, you’ll have to brush your own hair. I’ll miss doing that. Your hair is as soft as silk and I love the way it flows down, long enough for you to sit on. I like it best when it’s the only thing covering you. As he felt his body’s response to that image, he turned his thoughts to meeting old friends that he hadn’t seen since he’d graduated from Harvard thirty-one years earlier-a lifetime ago. So many of my friends are gone. Aaron and Charles both killed at Gettysburg, one dying for the Union and the other for the Confederacy. Rob died at Andersonville prison. They had always teased Rob about the fact he enjoyed good food and was a bit stout. Adam squeezed his eyes against the tears that threatened to spill at the thought of his friend dying of starvation while a prisoner of war. So many atrocities committed on both sides. And the bitterness between the North and South was still there.

Adam Cartwright, if you are going to get any sleep, then you need to think of pleasant things, he scolded himself. He pictured himself reading bedtime stories to Gwyneth and Penny, watching Beth rolling out pie dough, with smudges of flour on her cheeks, Miranda sitting at his desk, working on a geometry problem, her tongue peeping out the corner of her mouth as she concentrated, just as it had when she was Penny’s age, and Bronwen playing This Little Piggy with A.C., who giggled at her. Sleep claimed him easily then.

The long train journey was hardest on Benj and Sarah. The second day, Adam was trying to think of a way they could get some exercise and he had an inspiration.

“Benj and Sarah, how would you like to play London Bridge?” he asked with a big grin.

Sarah stared back at him, puzzlement written all over her expressive features, and Benj asked, “What’s London Bridge, Uncle Adam?”

Before Adam could open his mouth, Beth exclaimed, “It’s a game, Benj! I used to love to play it when I was little.”

“Yes, it’s lots of fun,” Miranda added enthusiastically, for they both understood why their daddy had suggested it. “We’ll show you and Sarah how to play. It’s easy.”

“Annabelle, you and I will be the gatekeepers,” Adam said, with a wink.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Annabelle began but stopped when Benj said plaintively, “Please play with us, Mama.”

“I haven’t played since I was a little girl,” she said hesitantly and Adam replied with a grin, “It’ll come back to you. Benj and Sarah, you just follow Beth and Miranda and do what they do. Beth, why don’t you start the song?”

He and Annabelle stood in the open area toward the end of the car and put their hands up and formed an arch after deciding who would be gold and who would be silver. Once they were in position, Beth and Miranda began singing as they ducked under the arch:

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady.

Miranda was under the arch when the song finished, so Adam and Annabelle put their hands down and “captured” her. They gently rocked her back and forth as Beth sang:

Take the key and lock her up.
Lock her up, lock her up.
Take the key and lock her up.
My fair lady.

Benj and Sarah watched and giggled and when Beth finished, Adam asked, “Do you want to pay with silver or gold?”

“Silver,” Miranda answered and Adam winked and said, “Then stand behind me.”

“Here we go,” Beth said and sang:

Build it up with iron bars,

Iron bars, iron bars.

Build it up with iron bars,

My fair Lady.

Benj tried to run through on “Lady” but the gatekeepers caught him. Sarah giggled even more loudly when her brother was rocked back and forth. He chose to pay with gold and stood behind his mama. Sarah was caught next and finally Beth. The “silver” team let the “gold” team win the tug-of-war.

“May we play again? Please, Mama? Please, Uncle Adam?” Benj begged with shining eyes while his sister excitedly shouted, “More!”

Even with the games of London Bridge and horsy and the stories Adam told about Joe as a young boy, all six Cartwrights were happy to see the train station in Boston. As Adam helped the others to disembark, a blonde man in his mid to late thirties strode toward them purposefully. As he drew closer, Adam could see the family resemblance between him and Annabelle.

“Robert,” Annabelle said with a happy smile, walking toward him. They embraced quickly and he kissed her cheek. Adam felt Benj’s hand slide into his, so he gave it a little squeeze and smiled reassuringly at the little boy.

“Adam, I’d like you to meet my brother, Robert Alden,” Annabelle said with a smile. “Robert, this is my brother-in-law, Adam Cartwright.” The two men shook hands and Annabelle introduced the girls who curtseyed and Robert bowed slightly. Then Annabelle said with a proud smile, “Robert, these are my children.” She stepped over by Sarah and took one of her hands and then put her other hand on Benj’s shoulder, saying, “This is Benjamin and this is Sarah. This is your Uncle Robert, children.”

Alden smiled at his niece and nephew; Sarah smiled back but Benj only moved closer to Adam and held his hand more tightly. “Benj is a little shy,” Adam said quickly. “I think we’d better see about having our trunk delivered to the Parker House. Nice to have met you, Alden.”

“My wife and I are hoping you and your daughters will dine with us tonight,” Alden said then and Adam nodded. “En famille at seven,” he added. “Our address is 101 Chestnut Street.”

“We’ll see you at seven,” Adam replied and then turned to his nephew and ruffled his hair with his free hand. “I’ll see you and Sarah tonight, Benj. Annabelle” he added with a smile and a tip of his hat as he gently disengaged his hand from Benj’s. When he and the girls started to walk away Sarah yelled, “Beth! Manda!” and started to trot after them.

Beth stopped and turned around. “I’ll see you tonight, Sarah. Promise.” She waved at her little cousin, but tears welled up in the three-year-old’s eyes as she watched her cousins walk away with her uncle.

“Poor Sarah,” Beth said quietly but Adam said gently, “Sarah will be fine. I remember Benj was shy with all of us when we first arrived at the Ponderosa. By the time we see them tonight, I’m sure they’ll be having a wonderful time with your aunt’s family.”

They took a hackney cab to the hotel and the girls were fascinated by Boston’s narrow, winding streets. (“They say that the streets were once cow paths,” Adam told them with a wink.) They were charmed by the lobby of the Parker House with its dark oak paneling, crystal chandeliers, plush carpets and elegant furnishings, and they were delighted with their room. Adam smiled at their enthusiasm and then said, “I don’t know about you girls, but I want a bath before I do anything else. The concierge said there is a room for bathing at the end of the floor. I’ll let you girls bathe first, if you like.”

“Yes, please,” Beth said. “Oh, but our trunk isn’t here yet, and I want to change clothes.”

“Yes, so do I,” Miranda said.

“All right. You girls wait in your room and I’ll take my bath. Maybe the trunk will be delivered while I’m bathing. I told the concierge to have it delivered to my room as soon as it arrives.”

“After we’ve taken our baths, may we have lunch?” Beth asked hopefully.

“I don’t see why not,” Adam replied with a wink and both girls smiled.

Their trunk arrived not long after Adam finished his bath; however, both girls decided they needed to wash their hair, so by the time it was dry enough for them to appear in public an hour and a half had passed. They’d made good use of their time though, unpacking clothes and writing letters to their mama and grandpa. Adam also used the time to write letters. He was just finishing the letter to his younger girls when he heard a knock on the door and Beth’s voice saying, “We’re ready now, Daddy.”

“Come in,” he called. “I just need to put the stamps on my letters so I can drop them off at the front desk.”

“We brought ours,” Miranda said, as they entered.

“Here are some stamps,” he said so they each put a stamp on their letters.

As he looked at them, dressed in the same high-waisted dresses they’d worn to church in Carson City with their hair clean and still slightly damp, he felt a rush of pride. “I am certainly a fortunate man, dining with two such lovely ladies,” he said with a smile and a wink.

“Oh, Daddy,” they said, rolling their eyes, but Beth had noticed the admiring glances people gave them. If only Daddy would let me pin up my hair and wear a woman’s dress instead of a little girl’s frock.

They both felt very grown up when their daddy held out their chairs and seated them. They studied the menu carefully and then Miranda said, “What are you going to have, Daddy?”

“Oh, I think I’ll order clam chowder, scrod and salad,” he replied.

“What’s scrod?” Beth asked, crinkling her nose in puzzlement.

“It’s young cod,” Adam answered. “Just as we call the meat of a calf veal, the meat of a young cod is called scrod.” He grinned at them. “I used to love scrod when I lived here. Scrod and crab cakes.”

“I think I’ll have the crab cakes,” Beth said slowly, “and coleslaw.” After a short deliberation, she added, “Oh, and I’ll try the clam chowder.”

“What about you, Angel?” Adam asked.

“I’ll have what you’re having,” Miranda replied. “But I want some Boston Cream Pie.”

“Right. So do I,” Beth said emphatically.

“We’ll all have a slice of Boston Cream Pie,” Adam said then with a wink. “I’m anxious to try it myself.”

The waiter brought their food with a basket of Parker House rolls and the girls enjoyed their meal very much, especially the dessert.

“But it’s not really a pie,” Miranda commented. “It’s cream cake like Mama makes except it has chocolate on the top.”

“It’s delicious and we can make this at home so everyone else can have some,” Beth said.

“But you don’t know how to make the chocolate icing,” Miranda protested.

“I’m sure Mama and I can come up with a chocolate icing that will be just as good,” Beth said firmly.

“I’d be willing to bet on it,” Adam said. “You and your mama are both excellent bakers.” He motioned for the waiter and after he’d paid for their meal, he asked, “What would you like to do now, girls?”

“Could we go to that garden that Aunt Annabelle told us about?” Beth asked and her sister added, “Yes, I’d like to see the garden.”

“I think that’s a splendid idea,” he replied. “And it’s not far from here. All we have to do is stay on School Street until it turns into Beacon Street. Then we take Beacon Street to Park Street and there is the entrance to the Boston Common. I think we should walk through the Common to the entrance to the Public Garden on Charles Street.”

“Oh, could we feed the ducks?” Beth said excitedly. “I’d like to do that.”

“There are two rolls left in our basket,” Adam said. “Each of you take one and you can break it into pieces and feed the ducks.”

He smiled when he saw his girls’ eyes widen as the Common came in view and, in their excitement, they stopped trying to act like grownup young ladies.

“It’s so green!” Miranda exclaimed.

“It looks like a green carpet,” Beth said, with a huge smile. “Is it really grass, Daddy?”

“Yes, it’s really grass,” he answered with a big grin.

“Oh, I wish I could walk barefoot on it,” Miranda said, looking hopefully at her daddy.

“If I let you pull off your stockings here in public, your mama would skin me alive,” he said and they both giggled at the thought of their diminutive mother chastising their tall, strong father. “I tell you what: You can take off your shoes and just feel the grass through your stockings.”

“Beauty, Daddy,” Miranda said and they both smiled at him.

“It’s so soft,” Beth said in wonder as she took a few steps in her stocking feet.

“It’s like walking on velvet,” Miranda added.

“You need to put your shoes back on before you ruin your stockings,” Adam said after they’d walked a few steps and, with a sigh, they complied.

As they walked through the Common, they saw little children wading in the Frog Pond while others sailed toy sailboats. They fed the ducks and geese they saw waddling around the large fountain. When they reached the Public Garden, they admired the blue water of the lagoon as they walked across the pedestrian bridge.

“This garden has been added since I was at Harvard,” Adam remarked. “The bridge we’re walking on is said to be the smallest suspension bridge in the world.”

“What’s a suspension bridge?” Miranda asked curiously while Beth looked at the surrounding vista and ignored the other two.

“Do you see the cables that are hung from towers?” Adam asked his second born and she nodded. “Well, the deck of the bridge is suspended on the cables, and that’s why it’s called a suspension bridge.”

Just then Beth exclaimed, “What a ripper!” as she gazed at the flower garden.

Both girls were delighted with the vivid colors of the summer flowers. They were enjoying the beauty all around them so much that they were disappointed when their daddy said they needed to head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner with the Aldens.

Adam put on a clean shirt but the girls decided to change into the brand-new smock frocks Beth and Matilda had sewn for their trip-Beth in white muslin with sprigs of pink flowers and green leaves while Miranda’s frock was of pale yellow calico with sprigs of blue flowers. They brushed their long black hair until it shone and then tied their hair ribbons to hold it back.

“Beacon Hill is within walking distance,” Adam told the girls as they left the Parker House. “It’s where the wealthiest people in Boston live.”

The girls didn’t say much as they took in their surroundings: “What kind of trees are these,” Beth asked, gazing up at the leafy branches.

“Elms,” Adam answered. “Many of them are more than 100 years old.”

The two girls were equally fascinated with the tall brick row houses and noted that their doors were all painted different colors. They stopped in front of a four-story brick row house with an elaborate wrought-iron gate and a door painted dark blue.

“This is 101 Chestnut Street,” Adam said.

“Stone the crows! Aunt Annabelle’s family must be really rich,” Miranda said, with an unladylike whistle.

“It would certainly appear so,” Adam said, deciding to ignore the whistle. “Let’s go knock on the door.”

Their knock was answered by a tall, thin man with saturnine features. “Mr. Cartwright?” he inquired, and at Adam’s nod, he said, “I’ll take your hat, sir, and then if you and the young ladies would please follow me.”

Adam handed the man his black Stetson, and then the three Cartwrights followed the man down a carpeted hallway and up a curving staircase. The girls only had time to glance at the marble floor of the entry, the silk wallpaper and paintings on the wall. The tall man stopped in the doorway of a large room painted a dark maroon with white moldings. It had a large bay window and the hardwood floor gleamed. They saw Annabelle, Benj and Sarah seated on a sofa. Mr. Alden, a thin, dark-haired woman and a girl about the same age as Beth and Miranda, with light brown hair and blue eyes who must be Annabelle’s niece, Charlotte, sat on a matching sofa facing the other. A stout, gray-haired woman sat in an arm chair.

As soon as she spied her cousins in the doorway, Sarah jumped down and ran over shouting, “Beth! Manda! Sit by me.”

“Sarah,” Annabelle scolded, “come sit down this instant.” Sarah looked sulky but she obeyed, and Annabelle turned to the gray-haired woman. “Mama and Paula, I would like to present my brother-in-law, Adam Cartwright. Adam, my mother, Mrs. Henry Alden, and my sister-in-law, Mrs. Robert Alden.”

“It’s lovely to see you again, Mr. Cartwright,” Mrs. Alden said, and Adam’s eyebrow arched up. “Oh, I didn’t expect you would remember me,” she said with a tiny smile, “but when Annabelle told me that you’d been the guest of the Collingsworths the summer my friend Dorothea disappeared, I remembered you. One doesn’t forget such a handsome young man. Pity you’ve lost those beautiful curls, but it appears that one of your daughters has inherited them.” And she smiled at Miranda.

“My sister Gwyneth’s hair is curlier than mine,” Miranda said with a little grin.

Mrs. Alden nodded and then said to Adam, “You met Robert and Annabelle as well, but since Robert was only five and Annabelle was an infant, it’s not surprising that none of you recall it.”

“Joe will be so surprised to learn I met you first,” Annabelle said to Adam with a teasing smile.

“He certainly will,” Adam replied.

Annabelle finished the introductions then Beth sat by Sarah while Adam and Miranda sat in wing chairs. Paula said to Miranda, “Your aunt tells us that you wish to attend the Girls Latin School here in Boston.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Miranda answered. “It will prepare me to attend the Harvard Annex.”

“Following in your father’s footsteps, eh,” Alden teased and was taken aback when the young girl replied earnestly, “Yes, sir.” Adam let his lips quirk up slightly at the other man’s expression of astonishment.

“Miranda actually likes school,” Beth interjected.

“Really?” Charlotte said, her eyebrows arching in surprise. “It’s all right, but once I graduate, I’m finished with school. I can hardly wait until I’ll be able to come out and go to balls and cotillions and have a beau. My friend, Emily, is like Miranda and she also wants to attend the Annex.”

Sarah was bored with all the grownup talk and tugged on Beth’s sleeve. “I got a new dolly. Wanna see?”

“You can show Beth your doll another time, Sarah,” Annabelle said quickly.

“Annabelle,” Alden said, “why don’t you ring for Mary to take Benjamin and Sarah to the playroom for their supper.”

Adam saw that Annabelle looked as though she wanted to say something, but instead she walked to the bell pull. When the young parlor maid appeared in the doorway, Alden said, “Mary, take Benjamin and Sarah to the playroom for their supper.”

“No! I wanna stay with Beth and Manda!” Sarah said loudly. Beth started to say something, but saw her daddy shake his head slightly so she remained quiet. Benj looked dejected, but he walked over to join the maid. Annabelle said quietly to her little girl, “You can see Beth and Miranda again soon. Right now you need to go with Mary and have your supper. I’ll come tuck you in later.”

Sarah’s big greenish hazel eyes began to fill with tears and Adam said quietly, “Your cousins and I will come tell you and Benj goodbye before we leave, Sarah. I promise.” Reassured, the little girl walked over to join her brother.

“Have you been showing your daughters the sights?” Alden asked Adam after the children had left.

“Yes,” he replied. “We visited the Common and the Public Garden.”

“We fed the ducks and geese just like you said you did, Aunt Annabelle,” Beth added. “But we only had one roll each so we didn’t get to feed many.”

“No,” Annabelle said with a smile, “that wouldn’t go very far.”

“We are planning to go to our cottage on Martha’s Vineyard the day after tomorrow,” Alden said then. “We would be happy to have the three of you spend the day with us.”

“Thank you very much,” Adam said and Beth and Miranda both echoed, “Oh yes, thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Alden.”

“I’m afraid that we don’t have room in our cottage, but I’ll get you rooms at Edgartown Inn. At my expense, of course.”

“That’s not necessary,” Adam said quietly.

Alden said, “No, I insist. You are our guests. We plan on leaving at nine o’clock so we can get the train to Falmouth, where we’ll take the ferry.”

Adam said, “Then we’ll be here a little before nine.”

“Let’s continue our conversation over dinner,” Paula suggested then.

“What do you think of Boston?” Mrs. Alden asked Beth and Miranda as they ate.

“It’s beaut,” Beth replied. “The grass in the Common and the Public Garden is so thick and green.”

“The grass around Cloncurry grows in clumps so the girls haven’t had many opportunities to see the kind of green, grassy lawns you have here,” Adam explained, seeing the puzzled looks on the Aldens’ faces. “If we do decide to allow Miranda to attend the Girls Latin School, she will have a great many adjustments. The climate here in Boston is very different and she’ll have to accustom herself to winters much colder than she’s known so far. Then there is the fact that the seasons are reversed. And last, but most certainly not least, is language.”

“But we all speak English,” Paula protested.

“But not the same English,” Adam replied. “Annabelle understands what I mean.”

“Yes, I do,” Annabelle replied quietly. “Mr. Cartwright, Joe and I all noticed that Bronwen-Adam’s wife-and the children use expressions that are certainly foreign to us.’

“My wife and children are at least a little used to American idioms because of me, but Miranda will have to learn to speak like an American or her teachers and classmates may have trouble understanding her.” He winked at his second born, who looked a little apprehensive since she’d never thought about having to learn to speak American English. “However, she is a very bright girl and I know she’ll manage.”

“The only thing I won’t like about going to school here is missing my family and friends back home,” Miranda said quietly.

“Yes, that will be difficult for you,” Paula said, “but we’ll do our best to make you feel part of our family.”

“I like your in-laws, Annabelle,” Paula said after the Cartwrights had departed and Charlotte had followed her younger cousins to bed. “I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but the girls are very well-mannered and your brother-in-law is certainly an attractive man.”

“He was as handsome as a Greek god when I first met him,” Mrs. Alden said with a smile. “I’m not surprised he’s fathered two such lovely daughters. I suppose his wife must be a beauty.”

“Bronwen is pretty but I wouldn’t say she’s beautiful,” Annabelle said carefully. “She does have a vivacity that is very appealing.”

“Well, it’s a good thing it’s not the oldest girl who may be living here with you,” Mrs. Alden said then.

“What do you mean?” Paula asked, puzzlement in her tone.

“I mean that all the young men would be swarming about her, and Charlotte would be ignored.”

“Charlotte is a very pretty girl,” Paula said indignantly.

“Yes, but Elizabeth Cartwright is exquisite,” Alden said. “I’m afraid Mama is quite correct.” The man turned to move out of the room after having said this, and did not see the shocked look on his wife’s face.

The next morning after breakfast, Adam said, “Well, girls, I thought today we’d see Harvard, the house where I was born, and some of the famous sites. The first place we’ll visit is the Park Street Church and the graveyard next to it. That’s where your grandma and your great-grandfather and great-grandmother Stoddard are buried. I told the concierge to have a florist deliver a bouquet of pink carnations this morning because Grandpa asked me to put them on your grandma’s grave.”

The bouquet was waiting for them at the front desk, so they walked down School Street until it met Tremont and then headed south toward the Common. They saw the tall white spire of the red brick church before they approached the colossal Egyptian Revival-style gates of the graveyard.

“It’s been a long time,” Adam said quietly as they entered the graveyard. “Let me get my bearings.” It took longer than he’d thought, but he found the three graves: his grandfather and grandmother buried side by side and his mother buried by his grandmother. He placed the carnations on his mother’s grave and the three of them stood silent.

“She was so young,” Beth said, breaking the stillness. “I- I didn’t realize that.”

“Only six years older than I am,” Miranda said sadly.

“All your grandmothers died young, but she was the youngest,” Adam said softly.

They stood there in silence another minute or two and then he indicated it was time to go. They walked to the corner of Tremont and Park and looked at the large church. “Your grandpa and grandma were married here, and it’s where I was christened. Now, we need to head north, so we’ll retrace our steps and go back up to Tremont and School so we can look at King’s Chapel. The interior is said to be the finest example of Georgian church architecture in America. Of course, the Puritans weren’t happy about having an Anglican church built in Boston.”

“Because they’d left England believing that the Church of England needed to be purified,” Miranda stated and was rewarded by her daddy’s proud smile.

“That’s right, Angel,” he said, putting an arm about her shoulders. Then he saw Beth looked left out, so he smiled and put his other arm around her shoulders.

“How magnificent,” Beth exclaimed, upon seeing the massive columns that made up the chapel’s colonnade. “But there’s no steeple,” she added, perplexed

“As I understand it, the architect planned one; it was just never built,” Adam replied. “This church is made of New England granite.” He chuckled and the girls looked at him. “Sorry. I just remembered how Uncle Joe sometimes used to call me a Yankee granite-head,” and they smiled. “It’s not an Anglican church any longer. I believe it’s Unitarian.”

“Where did you go to church when you were at Harvard?” Miranda asked.

“I went to church with your great-grandfather and he attended the Park Street Church.” He stopped and looked up at the sky. “It’s getting close to noon. The Corner Bookstore isn’t far from the Parker House. Let’s go there next and we can take the books we buy back to our rooms and have dinner. Then after dinner, we’ll go see where I was born and then take a hackney cab to the Harvard Yard. How does that sound?”

“Beauty!” Miranda exclaimed, while her sister agreed less enthusiastically.

Adam bought several books he knew Bronwen would enjoy: Daniel Deronda, The Law and the Lady, The Bostonians and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. He let Beth and Miranda choose a book each. Then he asked Miranda to select one for Gwyneth and Beth to pick one for Penny. Miranda chose The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood for Gwyneth and Beth selected Nights with Uncle Remus for Penny because she thought her little sister would like the stories about Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit. They easily persuaded their daddy to buy the current issue of St. Nicholas magazine for their younger siblings. For herself, Beth chose Jo’s Boys while Miranda chose The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

“Now, you’ll have to let Mama and me borrow that one when you’re finished,” Adam said with a wink as they left the bookstore with their purchases.

“Gwyneth will want to borrow mine,” Beth said, and they all smiled, knowing how pleased Gwyneth would be to read more about the March girls and their families. “Oh, I’m hungry,” Beth said then. “I think I will have the scrod today. And more clam chowder. I liked it. Oh, and more Boston Cream Pie.”

“Let’s not have dessert at the restaurant today. Let’s look for an ice cream parlor as we walk,” Adam suggested and the girls agreed readily.

As they walked toward Unity Street, Adam pointed out the old red brick State House with its distinctive cupola and Faneuil Hall, a large and imposing brick building. “It was at Faneuil Hall that the Sons of Liberty first planned the Boston Tea Party,” he informed his daughters. They were less impressed with the old house of weathered cedar shingles that was their daddy’s birthplace.

“I warned you it wasn’t anything special,” he said, with just a hint of a wry grin. “It’s just a typical New England house. What made it special were the people who lived in it. How I wish you could see my girls, Grandfather, especially Miranda. Adam smiled as his second born met his glance. Pa says how much she reminds him of Mother. “Now, let’s find a hackney cab and take a look at the Harvard Yard,” he said, adopting a brisk tone. “I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with it.”

After Adam paid the cabby and they entered the Harvard Yard, he gestured toward a large brick building with many tall narrow windows and a cupola. “That’s Harvard Hall,” he announced, then pointed to another tall red brick building of four or five stories, with the same tall narrow windows. “This is Massachusetts Hall. I lived here my freshman year.”

“Oh, can we see where you lived?” Beth asked eagerly.

“I’m afraid not, Princess,” he replied with a grin. “Females aren’t allowed in the dormitories.” Both girls looked disappointed so he quickly diverted their attention by pointing at a bronze statue.

“Who is that?” Beth wondered.

“The statue wasn’t here when I attended Harvard, but Thomas wrote me about it. It’s of John Harvard, the young minister who left his library and half his estate to the college.”

“Oh, that’s why it’s called Harvard,” Miranda said.

Adam nodded. “Thomas also wrote me that it’s called ‘The Statue of Three Lies’,” he added with a little grin.

“Why do they call it that?” Beth asked, wrinkling her nose in puzzlement.

“Because of the inscription on the base of the statue. Let’s go look at it.”

“‘John Harvard, Founder, 1638′,” Miranda read aloud. “I still don’t see why they call it ‘The Stature of Three Lies’.”

“Well, there are no portraits of John Harvard, who lived in the seventeenth century. Thomas wrote me that the sculptor used a student as a model.”

‘Oh, I see,” Miranda said. “What’s the second lie?”

“John Harvard didn’t actually found Harvard. The third lie,” he added, “is the date the college was founded. Harvard was founded in 1636, not 1638.”

“How funny,” Beth said. “I guess ‘The Statue of Three Lies’ is a good name for it.”

As they continued their tour of the Yard, he named other buildings and explained their function. When they came to a large building that resembled a cathedral, he said quietly, “I think this must be Memorial Hall. Thomas wrote me about this building. It commemorates Harvard men who died in our Civil War. Those of us who survived donated money for the stained glass windows.”

“Did you donate money,” Miranda asked softly, and he nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

Beth and Miranda sensed his mood had changed, and so they walked beside him quietly. It was a beautiful day, too beautiful to remain sad so as they left the Yard, he said with a hint of a smile, “Let’s ask the cabby to take us to the best ice cream parlor he knows,” and he got a big grin from each girl.

The ice cream parlor was full but Adam noticed one glass topped table in a back corner was unoccupied and guided his girls to it. “I’ll go get our ice cream,” he said and walked over to the marble counter.

“What would you like, sir?” the young man behind the counter asked politely.

“Two dishes of ice cream. Oh, and I think I’d like a soda.”

“Sure. What kind would you like?”

‘What do you recommend?” Adam asked.

“We just started carrying a soda called Dr Pepper. It’s good,” the young man replied.

“Fine. I’ll take a Dr Pepper,” Adam said.

“I’ll bring it to your table,” the young man offered and Adam thanked him.

When he got back to his table, he discovered a couple of young men hanging around, talking to his daughters.

“I guess we’re going to have to go to Queensland if all the girls are as pretty as you,” he heard one say, and saw Beth look at him through her lashes and smile. The other said, “Now, since you’re new to Boston, we’d be happy to show you the sights.”

“That won’t be necessary, gentlemen,” Adam said, and they whirled around and looked up at him.

“J-just trying to be friendly, sir,” the older one stammered while the younger man’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed nervously. Adam continued to stare down at them and they slunk away.

“You know you are not to speak to strange men,” he said sternly as he sat down.

“They were just talking to us, Daddy. That’s all,” Beth said defensively while Miranda looked anxiously at her daddy’s stern expression and then dropped her eyes to the tabletop.

The tension among them was eased by the arrival of their order. The smiling young man sat a dish of ice cream in front of each girl, saying, “Here you are, ladies.” Then he sat a tall glass of a fizzy brown liquid in front of Adam. “And here’s your Dr Pepper, sir. And your straw,” he added, handing it to Adam with a flourish.

“Dr Pepper?” Miranda repeated.

“What is it?” Beth asked curiously, her sulkiness vanished.

“It’s a soda,” Adam replied. “I asked him to recommend one and he mentioned Dr Pepper.”

“It’s a funny name,” Miranda commented.

“What does it taste like?” Beth asked.

“Let’s see,” he replied. He took a sip from the straw and said, “Pretty good. Would you like to taste it?” and both girls nodded.

“I like it,” Beth said but Miranda said she preferred root beer.

When they finished, he asked if they’d like to take a cab back to the hotel or walk.

“I’d rather walk,” Beth said, “so I can see the sights,” and her sister agreed.

“We need to stop by the Boston Museum and get tickets,” he remembered. “We were going tomorrow evening, but we’ll have to postpone it a day since we’re going to Martha’s Vineyard tomorrow.”

It took a little longer to walk to the theater than Adam had thought, so they took a hackney cab back to the hotel and then had to hurry and dress for their dinner with the Collingsworths. Since the distance was short, they walked to the Collingsworths’ home at 56 Mt. Vernon Street. While most of the houses were imposing brick structures of three or four stories, 56 Mt. Vernon was one of three one-story houses.

Adam saw the girls’ surprise and said with a grin, “These three buildings were built as stables for three houses on Chestnut Street where the Aldens live, but they’ve been converted to houses. I remember Thomas writing me that he and his wife wanted to live on Beacon Hill, but didn’t want a large row house and then one of these little houses came on the market so they immediately made an offer for it.”

The parlor maid answered the door and, after taking Adam’s hat, showed them to a small drawing room painted cornflower blue with white Adamesque moldings. A man and a woman sat on a blue and white striped sofa. Adam recognized his old college friend immediately, even though Thomas’s slivery blonde hair was now flecked with white and his waist had thickened a bit just as Adam’s had.

Thomas stood and said with a broad smile, “Adam Cartwright! I was expecting to find your curls had turned gray, not disappeared all together.” Adam grinned ruefully and then the two old friends shook hands. “Looks as though you’ve made up for the hair you lost on top,” and he indicated Adam’s beard with another big grin. Then he turned to the pretty woman sitting on the sofa. “Rebecca, you remember my old friend, Adam Cartwright.”

“Yes, indeed,” she said, holding out her hand to Adam. “It has been a very long time, Adam.” She smiled at Beth and Miranda, who stood self-consciously near the doorway. “And these are your daughters?”

“Yes, this is Beth,” he said and Beth curtseyed gracefully. Adam smiled at his second daughter and said, “This is Miranda,” and Miranda bobbed a curtsy.

“Sit by me, girls” Rebecca said, patting the sofa, and the two men sat in wing chairs.

“Mrs. Alden talked about Daddy’s curls last night,” Beth said to Thomas, shaking her head slightly, “but I just can’t imagine it.”

“Can’t you?” Thomas said, winking at Adam.

“I was already losing my hair when I married,” Adam said with a little sigh.

“Wait!” Thomas exclaimed, jumping up and running out of the room. “I’ll be right back,” he called over his shoulder as he hurried through the doorway.

“What are your plans for tomorrow?” Rebecca asked the girls.

“The Aldens invited us to spend the day with them at Martha’s Vineyard,” Beth replied with a happy smile.

“And then the next evening we’re going to see The Mikado,” Miranda added. Just then Thomas came back into the room, holding a framed object in his hand.

“I’d almost forgotten about this,” he said, directing a wicked smile at his friend. “When we were at Harvard, we decided to have a daguerreotype made of our baseball team. Now, girls, can you spot your father in the picture?”

The girls held the daguerreotype between them and frowned at the images of the young men who posed for the camera. Beth’s eyes suddenly grew very wide and she jumped up and ran to her daddy with the daguerreotype.

“Stone the crows! Is this you, Daddy?” she asked, pointing at one of the figures.

“Oh, I haven’t seen this in years,” Adam said, looking at the daguerreotype with great interest. “Yes, that’s me. I was only nineteen that spring. We all were.”

“Oh, show me,” Miranda said, jumping up and running to join her sister and daddy while Thomas and Rebecca exchanged grins. “Oh, your curls are just like Gwyneth’s!” she exclaimed. “And this is Mr. Collingsworth?”

“That’s right,” Adam said. “He hasn’t changed all that much,” he commented, winking at his friend. He pointed to another young man and said, “This is my roommate, Aaron Wharton. And that’s Fred Tompkins and that’s Rob Fisher.” His expression sobered as he said, “We all look so young and carefree.”

“We were,” Thomas replied quietly. Then he smiled at the girls, who’d sat back down by Rebecca. “So, are you both enjoying your visit to Boston?”

“Yes, sir,” they chorused, causing the adults to smile.

“What have you enjoyed most, Beth?” Thomas asked.

She thought for a moment and then replied, “I think the Common and the garden next to it. It’s so lovely and so different from home.”

“And what about you, Miranda?”

“It’s hard to choose. I did like the Common but I really enjoyed visiting the Harvard Yard and the Corner Bookstore. We don’t have a bookstore in Cloncurry. Tad-cu sends us books from Sydney and Grandpa sends Gwyneth and me books for our birthdays.”

“Tad-cu?” Thomas repeated.

“It’s Welsh for grandpa,” Adam explained. “My wife’s parents are from South Wales and they settled in New South Wales after they married.”

“We’re really sorry not to have a chance to meet your wife,” Rebecca said then, “and of course your younger children.”

“If Miranda does attend the Girls Latin School in a few years, then we’ll all come to Boston,” Adam promised.

The parlor maid appeared in the doorway and Rebecca said, “Well, dinner is ready so let’s continue our conversation in the dining room.”

Before the Cartwrights returned to the hotel that evening, Thomas drew Adam aside. “Well, old friend, when you wrote your daughters were lovely, you certainly weren’t exaggerating. I don’t envy you when all the young men and boys come to court Beth.”

Adam nodded grimly. “I left the two of them alone in an ice cream parlor just long enough to place our order and when I returned to our table, there was already a pair of young men flirting with Beth, offering to show her the sights. I was tempted to grab those Lotharios by the scruff of their necks and toss them out into the street. She isn’t even fifteen yet!”

“Beauty like hers is a magnet, Adam, and growing up in a small town she probably doesn’t understand that not all men can be trusted.”

Adam sighed. “No, she doesn’t. I hope she never does. I’m glad we’ll be heading back to the Ponderosa in a couple of days.”

Chapter 3

Joe stood on the platform with his two nieces, waving until the train was out of sight. He observed that even Penny’s natural exuberance had wilted while Gwyneth looked dejected. With forced cheerfulness he said, “I’m hungry. How about you girls?”

“I guess,” Penny said listlessly while Gwyneth only shrugged.

“I thought we could have dinner at the St. Charles Hotel,” he said enthusiastically. “All the other men will be jealous of me since I’ll be dining with two of the prettiest girls in Nevada,” he added with a wink, and was rewarded by Penny’s giggle and Gwyneth’s tiny grin.

Joe smiled at the girls’ delight when he held out their chairs and seated them. He allowed them to make their own selections from the menu and was tickled at the careful way Gwyneth studied the menu in contrast to Penny, who took one quick look and made her selection.

“Did Daddy ever eat here?” Gwyneth asked as she ate her roast beef.

“Oh sure. Whenever we have business in Carson City, we eat here,” Joe replied. “Here or at Muller’s Hotel, which is right next to this one. The St. Charles is where members of our State legislature usually stay so it’s a little fancier. The Muller is less expensive, but when it opened, the husband and wife who ran it were French, and the food was excellent.” An idea suddenly struck him. “Say, I remember your daddy saying that he would take Beth and Miranda to an ice cream parlor in Boston. Now, there is an ice cream parlor here in Carson City; how would you girls like to share an ice cream soda? My treat.”

“What’s an ice cream soda?” Penny asked her eyes alight with curiosity.

“Finish up your lamb chop and you’ll find out,” Joe replied with a grin.

The girls were entranced with the ice cream parlor. Joe led them past the fancy metal chairs and glass-topped tables straight to the marble-topped soda fountain. Gwyneth sat on one of the tall stools and Penny gave a little squeal as Joe picked her up and sat her on another.

“May I help you ladies?” the young man behind the counter asked with a friendly smile.

Both girls looked at their uncle and he answered with a smile. “They’d like to share an ice cream soda.”

“What flavor would you like?” the young man asked Gwyneth.

She blushed and said, “I don’t know.”

“We’ve never had an ice cream soda before,” Penny confided.

The young man’s eyebrows shot up at the girls’ accents but he said, “Why don’t you try a vanilla soda? That’s our most popular flavor.”

“Right,” Penny said and Gwyneth nodded.

“And what about you, sir?” he asked Joe. “Would you like an ice cream soda?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Joe said. “Maybe just a soda.”

“How about a Coca-Cola?” the young man asked.

“Coca-Cola?” Joe repeated.

“It’s a new type of soda,” the young man explained. “We just started serving it a couple of weeks ago. It’s good.”

“All right, I’ll take a glass,” Joe said, sitting on the stool beside Penny.

The two girls smiled when the young man sat a tall, fluted glass topped with a creamy froth in front of them. Joe grinned as he helped Penny get up on her knees so she could sip the soda through her straw, and then paid for the sodas.

“What a ripper!” Penny exclaimed after her first couple of sips.

“Too right!” Gwyneth replied with enthusiasm. The young man looked at Joe with raised eyebrows but Joe only shrugged as he sipped his drink.

“You ladies aren’t from around here, are you?” the young man asked.

Penny stopped sipping long enough to say with a big grin, “No, we’re from Queensland. In Australia.”

“Where kangaroos come from?” he asked in surprise, and she nodded since she was too busy sipping her soda.

“We’re just visiting,” Gwyneth added before picking up the long-handled spoon and beginning to eat the vanilla ice cream at the bottom of the glass.

“Better hurry, girls. We need to head on back to the Ponderosa soon. Your mama and grandpa are gonna wonder what’s become of us.”

There was a loud slurping sound from two straws and then Penny said, “Ready, Uncle Joe,” and Gwyneth hopped off her stool.

“Thank you, Uncle Joe,” Gwyneth said as they exited the ice cream parlor.

“Yes, thank you,” Penny said with a big smile. “Did you like your drink?”

“I did,” Joe replied. “I’m glad you girls enjoyed your ice cream soda.”

As they headed back to the Ponderosa, the girls grew quiet again, so as soon as they reached the outskirts of Carson City, Joe suggested, “Why don’t we sing to pass the time on the way home?”

“Okay,” Penny said and Gwyneth nodded.

“I know you girls sing better than I do, so why don’t you start us off?” he suggested.

“What do you want to sing?” Penny asked.

“Do you know Pop Goes the Weasel?” he asked.

“Too right!” Penny said with a grin. “Daddy told us that when he and Uncle Hoss were boys, it was Uncle Hoss’s favorite song.”

They sang several songs and Joe was pleased to see his nieces looked much happier. When they tired of singing, Penny informed Joe that Mrs. Lightly and her two youngest daughters were coming for a visit the next day.

“Oh that’s right. The Lightlys have a couple of girls about your age, don’t they?”

“Yes, Polly is eight like me and Carrie is twelve,” Penny answered.

“Carrie likes to read, too,” Gwyneth said, “and we have the same favorite book: Little Women. It’s about four sisters, just like us, and one of them is even named Beth. Except she’s the third sister like me so that’s different from us. Oh, and Beth dies. I always cry when I read that.” Joe smiled because this was the most Gwyneth had said to him since she’d arrived.

“Mama said she’d ask Mr. Buckshot to let us make bread and butter and cucumber sandwiches just like we do at home for tea,” Penny said happily.

Joe wasn’t too sure if the crusty old cook would agree, but figured Bronwen and her girls could talk him into it if anyone could.

“Sounds like you have a big day planned all right,” he said, smiling at his nieces. “Well, we don’t have much further to go. How about we play a game?”

When they pulled into the yard, they saw their mama and grandpa sitting on the porch talking while A.C. sat on Grandpa’s lap and chewed on his teething ring. Gwyneth jumped down as soon as Joe stopped but Penny waited for her grandpa to help her down while A.C. squealed, “Gweth! Penny!” and tried to wriggle away from his mama.

“Uncle Joe took us to dinner at a hotel and then he bought us an ice-cream soda!” Penny exclaimed excitedly.

“I hope you both remembered to thank him,” Bronwen said, directing a smile at Joe as he drove the surrey into the barn.

“Course we did,” Gwyneth said. “You would’ve liked the ice cream soda, A.C.”

“Grandpa, would you play Old Bachelor with us?” Penny asked then. “Uncle Joe said he would play a game when we got back.”

“I’d be happy to play a game with you, Pretty Penny,” Ben said with a smile

“You’ll have time for one game before you need to set the table for supper,” Bronwen added and the girls nodded.

Ben had removed the extra leaf from the dining room table since it was only the five of them and A.C. in his highchair; however, it was when they gathered round the table for supper that A.C. realized some of his family was missing. At home, it was usually his daddy who put him in his highchair so when Joe started to put him in the chair he began to squirm and yell, “Daddy! Daddy!”

“Aw, your daddy’s on a trip, little buddy, but he’ll be back,” Joe said soothingly as he held his nephew comfortingly and patted his back. “Will you let Uncle Joe put you in your chair?”

Tears continued to roll down A.C.’s cheeks, but he allowed Joe to put him in his chair.

“Daddy’s just goin’ to Boston with Beth and Miranda,” Penny said. “He’ll be back, A.C.”

“Yes, he’ll be back. He’s riding on the train now just like we did from San Francisco,” Gwyneth added.

“And Mr. Buckshot fixed mashed potatoes and cream gravy. You like those,” Bronwen said encouragingly. “And Mama will mash up some peas for you and you can have a biscuit.”

A.C. sniffed and his tears stopped. Bronwen didn’t say a word when he got mashed potatoes and gravy in his hair, happy to see him grinning as he ate messily.

“Do you think they’re eating supper now?” Gwyneth asked quietly.

“I’m not sure when they serve supper on the train,” her grandpa said, “but I imagine so.”

“And in about an hour or so it will be Benj and Sarah’s bedtime. It’s going to seem very strange not to hear their prayers and kiss them goodnight,” Joe said wistfully. Then he noted his youngest niece’s stricken expression and realized it was going to be equally strange to her not to have her daddy read her a bedtime story and kiss her goodnight. “Say, Penny,” he said in a cheerful voice, “since I can’t kiss my little girl goodnight and tuck her in, could I kiss you goodnight instead?”

“Okay,” Penny replied, managing a little smile.

“I bet your daddy tells Benj and Sarah a bedtime story since he can’t tell one to you and Gwyneth,” Ben said. “Now, I was hoping I could take your daddy’s place and we could read from Little Lord Fauntleroy every night. Then when he returns, we can tell him what he missed. Would you like that?”

“Too right,” Penny and Gwyneth said at the same time, causing the adults to smile.

“I think I’d like to hear the story,” Joe said. “What about you, Bronwen?” and she nodded.

“What shall we do after supper?” Penny asked. “Could we play Blindman’s Bluff?”

“I haven’t played that since I was a kid,” Joe said. “Sounds like fun.”

“A.C. likes to play,” Gwyneth said. “He can’t be It, but he likes to play.”

“Well, he has to have his hair washed first,” Bronwen said, “but then we can join the game.”

“I’ll be It first,” Joe volunteered.

They all had fun playing the game and the physical activity wore A.C. out so Bronwen had no problems putting him to bed. When she came downstairs, she found the other four playing another game of Old Bachelor.

“As soon as you finish the game, it will be time to go upstairs and get ready for bed,” Bronwen said in a firm but quiet tone.

It wasn’t much later before the five of them gathered in the girls’ room. Ben took the chair while Bronwen sat on the bed by Gwyneth and Joe by Penny. Ben barely finished a page before Penny drifted off. Joe dropped a kiss on her forehead and then walked around and kissed Gwyneth’s cheek and whispered a goodnight. Ben and Bronwen followed suit and they all went quietly down the stairs, as Gwyneth quickly dropped off to sleep next to her little sister.

“The girls were telling me all about Ann Lightly and her girls coming for a visit tomorrow. They’re pretty excited about it,” Joe said, sitting on the settee by Bronwen.

“Yes. I’m glad there are some girls their age who live fairly close. Penny never has any problems making friends, but I’m pleased to see that Gwyneth and the older Lightly daughter seemed to like each other. I gather from what Mrs. Lightly said they are both bookworms. I managed to persuade Mr. Buckshot to allow me to fix tea like we have at home-bread and butter and cucumber sandwiches and I thought maybe even some petits fours.”

“Petits fours?” Joe repeated.

“They’re just a sponge cake cut into smaller cakes. You slice the cake in half first and spread jam over the halves. You put them back together and cut the cake into little cakes. Then you glaze the little cakes with a fondant.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” Joe remarked.

“The girls and I enjoy it,” Bronwen said with a smile. “I’ll make the sponge cake right after breakfast and after dinner they can help me cut the little cakes and glaze them. Once the petits fours are done, then we’ll make the sandwiches.” She then added with a wink, “If I keep them busy, they’ll have less time to miss their sisters and their daddy.”

“You are a wise woman, Bronwen Cartwright,” Ben said with a smile.

“That’s what my husband tells me,” she replied with a grin.

“I have an idea for the day after tomorrow,” Ben said. “I thought I would take the girls to pick berries. There are raspberry and gooseberry patches that Adam and Hoss discovered when they were boys. We can take the wagon in the morning, and Buckshot can make us a gooseberry pie for supper.”

“I love gooseberry pie,” Joe said with a grin. Then he added, “I remember how Hop Sing used to make raspberry jam. It was sure good, and Adam loved it.”

“Well, if you bring back enough berries, I’ll make some jam. Oh, I’ll need to check and see if you have jam jars,” Bronwen said.

“I’m sure Hop Sing’s jam jars are still in the kitchen somewhere. If you don’t find them, I’ll send one of the hands into town to buy some new ones,” Ben replied. “I’d like some raspberry jam myself.”

Then Bronwen said, “Would you mind watching A.C. tomorrow, Pa, while the girls and I are busy in the kitchen?”

“Not at all,” Ben replied. “We had great fun this afternoon playing with Benj’s blocks.” He winked at his daughter-in-law as he added, “Of course, if his diaper needs changing, I’ll leave that to you.”

They conversed until they all decided to go to bed. Bronwen looked in on A.C. first and found him fast asleep, so she walked down the hall to check on her girls and smiled to see they too were sleeping peacefully. She changed quickly into her cotton nightgown and then unpinned her hair so that it tumbled down her shoulders just past her hips, long enough to sit on. With the ease of long practice, she divided it into three sections and braided it. Then she turned back the covers on the bed.

It had seemed narrow when she shared it with Adam and she’d joked it was lucky for them that they liked to sleep curled up together. Now, it seemed enormous. Well, Bronwen, you might as well take advantage of the situation and sleep in the middle, she thought. You have all the room to roll over that you want. She lay in the middle of the bed on her side just as she always did. Then she tried lying on her back. That didn’t help so she tried lying on her other side. Finally, she sat up.

This is not working. Maybe if I try sleeping on my side of the bed. However, sleep still eluded her so she moved over to Adam’s side. As she laid her head on his pillow, she caught the faintest trace of his unique scent. She found her thoughts turning to him, remembering the warmth of his body next to hers and the sensation of his hairy chest against her back. She drifted to sleep, thinking of him.

After breakfast the next morning, Bronwen baked the sponge cake while Joe and the girls went for a ride and Ben played with his youngest grandchild. A.C. was feeling fretful about his absent family members so Ben took him outside and showed him the baby piglets and the little chicks. The little boy wanted to play with them but Ben knew the old sow wouldn’t take kindly to anyone touching her piglets, and the little baby chicks were too delicate for A.C., who was starting to fuss. Then Ben had an inspiration.

“A.C., we have some cats in the barn; would you like to see them?” Ben smiled when he thought that all their barn cats, which kept the rodents out of their grain, were descended from Susan, the black kitten he bought for the outrageous sum of fifty cents and the little tom that Andy McKaren had bought. One of the best investments he ever made though. The cats held the little boy’s attention for a time, but then he started missing his mama so they headed for the kitchen where Bronwen was just putting the cake in the oven. Ben had to catch the toddler before he ran over to the oven and he began to scream his frustration at being kept from his mama. As soon as she’d closed the oven door, Bronwen hurried over and took the screaming child from Ben, making soothing sounds and kissing his cheek.

“Now, A.C. bach, Mama has to clean up so you sit with Grandpa and you can watch me. Okay?” she said gently.

“No,” he said, holding onto her more tightly.

“A.C., be a good boy and sit with Grandpa,” Bronwen said more firmly as she gently loosened his hold. “If you are good and sit with Grandpa, you can lick the spoon,” and she reached down and held up the wooden spoon that had some batter sticking to it.

“Poon!” the child said, starting to reach for it.

“You may have it if you sit with Grandpa,” she repeated, holding the spoon out of reach as Ben walked over and held out his arms. A.C. allowed himself to be transferred and once he and his grandpa were sitting by the big kitchen table, Bronwen handed her baby the spoon.

“I feel guilty letting you do all the work,” Ben said, as he watched his daughter-in-law clean up after herself. At that moment, she reminded him strongly of Adam’s mother. Odd that without ever knowing Liz, Adam should fall in love with a woman that reminds me of her in several ways, Ben thought. Not only the dark hair and petite figure, but the same strength of character, the same lack of pretense. Inger, too, was always straightforward in her dealings. Only Marie used the proverbial feminine wiles. His musings were interrupted by Bronwen’s voice.

“There’s no need to feel guilty,” she replied to his statement with a smile. “You’re helping by watching A.C.” She rolled her eyes a little as she saw the sticky batter all over her little one’s face. “I hope he doesn’t get cake batter on you as well.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Ben said with a chuckle. Then his expression became more serious. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me, and to Joe, to have you and Adam and the children visit.” He shook his head a little. “Children. Beth and Miranda are already becoming young ladies. It won’t be long at all before the boys start coming round to court Beth.”

“Yes,” Bronwen said with a smile that was a combination of wistfulness and pleasure. “Poor Adam is dreading that. We’ve already decided that there will be no courting until she is sixteen. When she turns fifteen this coming January, we’ve told her she can pin her hair up and wear long skirts. I’m sure as soon as that happens, the boys and young men will want to come calling.”

“It doesn’t seem as though nearly fifteen years have passed since I held her in my arms that first time. Such a beautiful baby. And I’ll never forget Adam’s expression as he held his daughter.”

“Nor will I,” Bronwen said softly. Then she smiled tenderly and added, “I can remember his face each time he held his daughters, and his son, for the first time.”

“It’s a special time for a father. Now, I remember how I felt the first time I saw Hoss and Joe in their mother’s arms.” He saw the unspoken question on her expressive face and said sadly, “I’ve never told Adam, and I don’t want him to know, but I- I didn’t really notice him at first. All my attention was focused on Liz, lying there with her face as white as the bed sheets. Except the sheets weren’t white; they were stained crimson with her blood.”

Bronwen saw the look of pain on his face and said gently, “Pa, you don’t have to say anything-” but he interrupted.

“I- I think I need to talk about it, if you don’t mind. I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened that day and how I felt.” He gently caressed the silky dark hair of the child on his lap-Liz’s grandson.

“Of course I don’t mind,” she said quickly, stopping what she was doing to sit at the table by him.

“Liz and I were so young and so much in love; we had such great plans for our future together. We were going to head west and raise our family-we both wanted lots of children. There was some problem with her pregnancy and the doctor made her spend the last couple of weeks in bed. But when you are young, you don’t really believe that bad things are going to happen to you. I never really thought there would be a problem with her childbirth. I waited impatiently in the parlor with her father until I heard that thin bleating cry that is peculiar newborns. I remember dashing up the stairs, wanting to see if we had a son or a daughter. I was not prepared for what I saw.”

Bronwen saw the tears pooling in his eyes and read the old pain and sorrow. She squeezed his hand comfortingly, and after a moment, he continued.

“I’d never seen so much blood. The sheets and the mattress were soaked.” He closed his eyes and he could see the scene as vividly as though it had happened yesterday, instead of more than fifty years in the past. Bronwen waited, taking his gnarled old hand between both of hers. After a moment, he continued in a voice that was only a little shaky. “She was so weak but she opened her eyes when I said her name. I could barely make out her words, even kneeling down by her.” He paused for a moment and then, looking into his daughter-in-law’s beautiful eyes and seeing her love and compassion, he took a deep breath and continued. “She- she asked me if I saw our Adam, and then she said his face was as sweet as the cherubs on the music box I’d given her. She made me promise that I’d take him and follow my dream. Her life slipped quietly away as I played the music box for her.” He blinked back the tears and said, “Captain Stoddard reminded me that a part of Liz lived on in our son and he told me I must hold him the way she would have. When I held that tiny being and felt him suck on my finger, I knew I could never blame him for my loss because his was as great as mine, greater even.” He gently dropped a kiss on his grandson’s hair and then looked up at his daughter-in-law, his expression so sad it broke her heart.

“The greatest regret of my life is that Adam, and Hoss, had no memories of their mothers. Such wonderful women and I tried to share my memories with their sons, but it wasn’t the same. Joseph doesn’t have many memories of Marie, but at least he has some.”

There was nothing Bronwen could say, but she leaned over to kiss his cheek, and was nearly smacked in the eye by the wooden spoon her son began waving about.

That changed the mood and Ben said, “Well, young man, let’s take you to your room and get you cleaned up. At least you didn’t get the cake batter in your hair,” and he smiled at Bronwen

Joe brought the girls back just as Ben was bringing A.C. downstairs, and then he rode out to help with harvesting the hay. Bronwen had finished washing up and was slicing a cucumber into very thin slices so the girls took A.C. out back and played Ring Around the Rosy with him while Ben sat on the porch and watched, remembering Adam and Hoss playing with Joe when he’d been A.C.’s age. When A.C. tired of the game, they went inside and Gwyneth built towers of blocks for her baby brother to knock down while Penny helped her mama tidy the dining room, great room and study. Ben smiled to see the mother and daughter work together. Penny used her feather duster carefully while Bronwen polished the furniture with beeswax until it gleamed.

While they’d been playing and cleaning, Buckshot had prepared dinner. After they’d eaten, Bronwen put A.C. down for his nap. The girls helped Buckshot by drying the dishes, and Ben decided to join them to make the work go faster. Once A.C. was asleep, Bronwen came down and found Ben and Penny playing checkers while Gwyneth had her nose buried in a book.

“I think you’ll need to finish the game later,” Bronwen said to Penny, “because we still have lots to do before the Lightlys arrive.”

“Would you ladies mind if I watch?” Ben asked. “I’ll just sit in the corner and keep out of the way.”

“Of course we don’t mind,” Bronwen replied and the girls smiled at him. He watched Bronwen supervising the girls as they measured the ingredients for the fondant. Then as Gwyneth stirred the fondant, Bronwen cut the sponge cake in half and Penny helped her spread the store-bought strawberry jam over the halves. Bronwen deftly reunited the two halves of the cake and then carefully cut several small cakes-some rectangular and some square.

“All right, girls, you cover the cakes with the fondant,” Bronwen said, “and I’ll mix the filling for the cucumber sandwiches.”

Ben’s heart swelled with love as he watched the three work together in harmony with an occasional, “Oh, you missed that spot, Pen,” or “I want to do that one!” Adam, you’ve been greatly blessed. I know you realize it and are truly thankful.

Once the petits fours were glazed, Bronwen had the girls butter several slices of bread and then put them together to make sandwiches. When they finished, she sent them upstairs to change into clean dresses and she quickly trimmed the crusts from the bread and cut the sandwiches into little triangles and carefully arranged them on a plate. The fondant hadn’t hardened yet, so she went upstairs to change into her green poplin before the Lightlys arrived. She had just finished arranging the petits fours on a plate when she heard Penny squeal, “They’re here!”

Ben had been playing horsy with his grandson and now said, “Well, young man, it’s time for us to go outside and play while the ladies entertain their guests.”

Penny ran to open the door for the Lightlys, saying, “G’day!” with a big smile. Ben, holding A.C.’s hand, walked over to greet his neighbors.

“Hello, Ann,” he said with a smile. “Hello, Polly and Carrie.”

“Hello, Mr. Cartwright,” the girls said and their mother added, “You’re looking well, Ben. I can see you’re enjoying your grandchildren’s visit.”

“I certainly am,” he replied with a broad smile. “Now, A.C. and I are going outside to play,” and they walked out onto the porch, hand in hand, Ben slightly stooped over to be able to grasp the up stretched hand of the toddler.

“I’m so glad you and your daughters were able to come,” Bronwen said then. “Let’s all sit down,” and she gestured toward the great room.

“We were happy to be invited,” Ann said as she sat in the blue wing chair and her daughters sat on the settee along with Penny and Gwyneth. “I remember the last time we met Polly and Penny weren’t much older than your little boy.”

“We wish we could visit the Ponderosa more often but it’s such a long journey,” Bronwen said, sitting in Ben’s leather armchair.

“We’re on the ship for weeks and weeks, and there’s nothing but water everywhere you look,” Penny interjected, and then she looked at her mama nervously, knowing she shouldn’t have spoken without being spoken to first.

“That sounds exciting,” Ann said, smiling at the little girl, and Penny relaxed as her mother nodded.

“And we get to miss school,” she said then with an impish grin, adding, “Mama and Daddy teach us instead, and their lessons are more fun.” The she asked Polly, “Do you like to play jacks?”

“Oh yes,” Polly said, nodding.

“Mama, could Polly and I play with my jacks on the front porch?” Penny asked.

“If it’s all right with Mrs. Lightly,” Bronwen replied and Ann nodded her assent.

“C’mon,” Penny said. “The jacks are up in our room.” The two little girls ran up the stairs while their mamas sighed.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told Penny not to run in the house,” Bronwen apologized.

“Polly is no different,” Ann said.

“At least she can’t slide down this banister,” Bronwen added, causing Gwyneth and Carrie to grin.

There was a slight pause and Gwyneth saw her mama looking at her. She said to Carrie “Do- do you like to play checkers?”

“I like chess better,” Carrie said, looking at Ben’s chess set on the game table.

“My daddy is teaching me to play,” Gwyneth said, “but I’m not very good yet.”

“Neither am I,” Carrie said, “but I still like to play.”

The two of them moved over to the game table so Bronwen and Ann came and sat together on the settee. “The girls seem to be getting along very well,’ Ann said quietly. A few moments later, the younger girls came running down the stairs, only slowing when they saw their mamas’ disapproving frowns.

The girls played their games and the two women chatted. When the grandfather clock chimed four o’clock, Bronwen said, “Would you excuse me just for a few minutes, Ann?”

“Certainly,” Ann said.

In a short while, Buckshot came into the great room carrying a tray with Annabelle’s silver tea service (she’d insisted Bronwen should use it when she learned Bronwen planned on serving tea to Ann Lightly). Bronwen followed him, carrying the plate of sandwiches in one hand and the plate of petits fours in the other. They set everything on the low table in front of the fireplace and then Bronwen sat down by Ann.

“Adam says you don’t have the custom of afternoon tea here in the States, but we always have it at home,” she said with a smile. “Of course, the girls just drink milk,” and she nodded to Buckshot, who left and returned carrying a tray with four glasses of milk. “Gwyneth, would you please tell your sister and Polly to come inside now?”

“This is lovely,” Ann said as the younger girls came back inside.

“Gwyneth and me made the bread and butter sandwiches,” Penny said proudly.

“Gwyneth and I,” Bronwen corrected. “Yes, and they helped me with the petits fours,” she added, directing a proud smile at her daughters. “All my girls are becoming good cooks.” She put her hand to her mouth to smother a giggle and then added, “Except Miranda.”

“She made scones so awful even our dog wouldn’t eat ‘em,” Penny snickered and Gwyneth joined in.

“They must have been really bad because I know our dog will eat just about anything,” Carrie said with a big grin. “What kind of dog do you have?” she asked Gwyneth.

“She’s a little terrier,” Gwyneth said. “About this high and this long,” she indicated with gestures.

“Lady’s really good at killing snakes,” Penny added.

“Snakes? Your dog kills snakes?” Polly said dubiously.

“These terriers have been bred to kill snakes. Unfortunately, there are many poisonous snakes in the Bush,” Bronwen said. Seeing the confusion on the Lightlys’ faces she said, “Oh, I mean the countryside.”

“Like rattlesnakes?” Polly asked.

“We don’t have rattlesnakes,” Gwyneth answered. “We have death adders and black snakes and brown snakes.”

“Death adders,” Carrie repeated. “Oh my, they sound dreadful.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a very descriptive name,” Bronwen said quietly. “Everyone in Cloncurry learns to be careful. At least we don’t have cougars or grizzlies.”

“I suppose there are dangers wherever one lives,” Ann remarked.

“I like these little sandwiches,” Carrie said, reaching for another. “What kind are they?”

“They’re cucumber sandwiches,” Gwyneth replied before her younger sister had a chance. “They’re my favorite.”

“They are delicious,” Ann said. “Everything is.” Just about then, they heard A.C. crying, “Mama!” and Ben entered the room, holding onto his grandson’s hand and preventing him from running pell-mell to Bronwen.

“I’m sorry,” he said to his daughter-in-law, “but he wanted to be with you.”

“She’ll be apples,” Bronwen replied, causing Ann’s eyebrows to arch. “Would you like some tea, Pa?”

“Yes, I would, thank you,” he replied.

“I’ll pour,” Ann said with a grin as Bronwen lifted A.C. on her lap and away from the food.

“Want a sandwich, A.C.?” Penny asked, holding up a bread and butter one. He nodded and reached out his hands.

“What do you say to Penny?” Bronwen asked, putting a hand on his and stopping him from taking the sandwich.

He scowled for a moment and then he grinned and said, “T’ank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Penny replied with a grin as A.C. pulled the buttered slices of bread apart and bit into one.

“Your little brother is sweet,” Polly said. “I wish I could have a little brother or sister.”

“I’m afraid you will just have to resign yourself to being the youngest in our family,” her mama replied firmly.

“I want a baby sister,” Penny remarked then, “but Daddy says four girls in a family are enough.” Ann managed to turn her giggle into a cough; however, Ben chuckled and Bronwen joined him. The girls all looked at each other with expressions that clearly conveyed their bewilderment at the incomprehensible actions of adults.

“I’m sorry,” Ben said when he managed to stop laughing, “but I remember how Joe likes to refer to Adam’s harem.” That started both the women giggling again.

“What’s a harem, Grandpa?” Penny asked curiously.

“Never mind, Penny fach,” her mama said, struggling to keep a straight face. She picked up the plate of petits fours and asked the Lightlys and Ben if they’d care for one.

“Just one, A.C. bach,” she said firmly, preventing him from grabbing a cake in each chubby fist.

“Oh, I wish I could have these every day,” Polly exclaimed with a beatific smile. “May I please have another?”

“I think one is sufficient,” her mama replied.

“I’d be happy to give you my recipe,” Bronwen said. “I could bring it to church on Sunday.”

“Thank you,” the other woman said with a smile.

It wasn’t long after that Ann said they needed to be on their way home. All the Lightlys thanked Bronwen and she accepted Ann’s invitation to visit them the following Wednesday.

As the Lightlys drove home in their buggy, Polly said, “I like Penny’s mama lots better than the other Mrs. Cartwright. She’s nice.”

“Polly, remember that comparisons are odious,” Ann said. “And if you can’t say anything nice about Mrs. Cartwright, then you shouldn’t say anything at all.”

Carrie leaned over and whispered in her sister’s ear, “I like this Mrs. Cartwright better, too.”

When Joe rode into the yard that evening at sunset, he discovered his pa, sister-in-law and nieces playing catch with his nephew.

“Unca Joe!” the toddler squealed and started to run right over to Joe and his mount, but Gwyneth caught in time and held him tightly until Joe brought the horse to a stop.

Joe dismounted quickly and walked over to Gwyneth and A.C. “Hey, A.C.,” he said, taking the toddler from his sister and swinging him up over his head to the accompaniment of giggles and squeals. “Have you been a good boy?”

“We saved you a petits four, Uncle Joe,” Penny called as she ran over, “but we ate all the cucumber sandwiches. Polly and Carrie really liked them. Grandpa ate the bread and butter sandwiches that me and Gwyneth made.”

“The best I ever ate,” Ben added as he and Bronwen joined the others.

“So your tea party was a success then?” Joe asked with a grin.

“Oh yes,” Penny said emphatically. “Me and Polly- I mean, Polly and I-played jacks. She won two games and I won one, but it was fun.”

Joe looked at Gwyneth and she said, “Carrie and I played chess. She’s only been playing a little longer than I have. She won the first game but we didn’t have a chance to finish the second. We’re going to visit them next Wednesday so Carrie told me to draw a diagram of where all our pieces are and then we can finish the game at her house.”

“Let me take care of my horse,” Joe said with a smile, “and then you can tell me all about the Lightlys’ visit.”

They all sat on the porch and talked until Buckshot said it was time for supper. When Joe tried to put A.C. in his highchair, he began to cry for his daddy just as he had the previous evening. This time, Joe couldn’t calm him down, so Bronwen took him upstairs, telling the others to go ahead and eat.

They sat down and Ben said grace, but the happy atmosphere was gone.

“I miss Daddy,” Penny said dejectedly, pushing her food around the plate. “And Beth and Miranda.” She turned her big violet eyes on her grandpa then. “Do you think they miss us?”

“I’m sure they do, but I hope when they get to Boston they’ll have a wonderful time. Don’t you?” Both girls nodded slightly and shrugged so Ben said cheerfully, “I told your mama that tomorrow I want to take you girls to pick gooseberries and raspberries.”

“Gooseberries?” Penny repeated in a mystified tone.

“They’re delicious in a pie, but too sour to eat when you pick them,” Joe interjected. “Now, raspberries you can eat right off the bush. A little tart but very tasty. Your mama said if you girls pick enough raspberries, she’ll make raspberry jam, and your daddy loves raspberry jam.”

“He does?” Penny asked, her expression brightening a little.

“Oh, he sure does,” Ben said with a big grin. “He just loves raspberries. I remember the first time he ever had any. It was the summer before his fifth birthday and we were traveling West in our wagon. I got a job working for a farmer, helping out with the haying. You see, nowadays farmers and ranchers use a reaper and the machine does most of the work so it gets done a lot faster. Back in those days, we had to do all the cutting by hand. You’d spend the day cutting the hay with a scythe, or following behind the men doing the mowing and spreading the hay to dry with a big rake. Either way, you’d be sore and stiff and exhausted at the end of the day.”

“Yeah, but if you got the job of trampling down the hay in the hay rack, that was fun,” Joe said with a big grin.

“We always gave that job to the youngest boys,” Ben explained to the girls.

“But what about Daddy and raspberries,” Gwyneth asked since the story had gotten off track.

“Oh yes. Well, the first day we were there, the farmer’s wife fixed us raspberry cobbler for dessert. Oh my, your daddy just loved it,” Ben replied, and his face lit up at the memory. “At suppertime, she had fixed something else for dessert and she offered us a choice of the new dessert or leftover raspberry cobbler, and your daddy picked the cobbler without even hesitating.”

“And I remember the story you told me about how when you were traveling West, Adam found a raspberry patch and wandered off,” Joe interjected. “You told me that you were scared to death that he was lost but luckily, a nice farmer found him,”

“Yes, that was very lucky,” Ben said, smiling reassuringly at his granddaughters. “The farmer sent someone to find me and Grandma Inger because he knew how worried we must be. When we got to the farmhouse, your daddy was there-a very frightened little boy with a tummy ache.” He remembered the joy he and Inger had felt seeing him, joy as great as the terror they’d felt earlier when they feared they’d never find him and he might die of starvation and exposure. Ben added, “That cured your daddy from wandering off while we traveled.”

“However,” he continued, “the day he and your Uncle Hoss found the raspberry patch here on the Ponderosa, they’d snuck off very early in the morning without asking permission. Your Grandma Marie was very worried about them and very cross with your daddy. She knew your Uncle Hoss would never have snuck off all on his own. Well, he was only six at the time. No, she knew it was your daddy’s idea and Uncle Hoss just went along with him. I fully intended to punish them both when they got back, but then your daddy explained that they’d only snuck off so the pie Hop Sing would make from the gooseberries would be a surprise for me because they knew how much I loved gooseberry pie. I just couldn’t punish them for wanting to surprise me. And then they distracted me by telling me that Uncle Hoss had found a raspberry patch.”

“Sounds like your daddy was pretty good at talking his way out of a necessary talk,” Joe remarked with a big grin.

“Sometimes,” Ben said and only the light in his eyes betrayed his amusement.

“And Daddy will like the jam Mama makes out of the berries we pick?” Penny asked eagerly.

“He sure will,” Ben said with a big smile. Then he assumed a more serious tone. “Now, girls, Buckshot’s feelings are going to be hurt if he sees all that food on your plates, and you don’t want that, do you?”

“No, sir,” Gwyneth replied. Penny nodded her agreement and they both began to eat.

They were just finishing when Bronwen came down the stairs, looking tired.

“Where’s A.C.?” Gwyneth asked.

“He cried himself to sleep,” Bronwen replied as Buckshot brought out the plate he’d been keeping warm for her. She smiled her thanks and then Joe held out her chair and seated her. “I think he’ll be all right since he did eat a couple of the bread and butter sandwiches.”

“I was telling the girls that we’re going berrying tomorrow,” Ben said quickly, hoping to forestall any talk of missing Adam.

“Grandpa is gonna show us the raspberry patch Daddy and Uncle Hoss found when they were little,” Penny said with a happy smile.

“Right, and we’re gonna pick berries so you can make jam for Daddy,” Gwyneth added.

“Yes, it will be a nice surprise for Daddy,” Bronwen agreed with a little smile.

“Daddy likes Mama’s orange marmalade,” Penny said then.

“Yes, he says nobody make better orange marmalade than Mama,” Gwyneth stated, nodding her head for emphasis.

“Well, it helps that I can use oranges from our own orange tree so they’re fresh,” Bronwen said with a grin. “Would you girls like to play a game when I finish my supper?”

“Could we play Twenty Questions?” Gwyneth asked.

“But I want to play Cupid’s Coming,” Penny said with a little pout.

“Well, we’ll play Twenty Questions tonight and tomorrow night we’ll play your game. All right?” Ben asked and, with a loud sigh, Penny agreed.

The girls were awakened during the night by an earsplitting clap of thunder and flashes of lightening that lit up the sky outside their bedroom, and then they heard the sound of hailstones battering their window.

“I’m s-scared,” Penny whimpered, clutching her sister.

“It’s just a storm, Pen; that’s all,” the older girl replied, hugging her sister comfortingly. “We have storms at home.”

“But it’s loud and maybe the window is gonna break,” Penny said anxiously, unconsciously tightening her hold on her sister. Just then there was another clap of thunder and she was sure she felt the house shake. Above the din of the hailstones striking the window and the roof, she heard her baby brother begin to scream down the hall. “I want Mama,” the eight-year-old cried with a sob. She jumped out of the bed and ran down the hall barefoot in her thin cotton gown, trailed by her big sister.

Their mama was in their brother’s room, holding him and trying to stop his crying. She was not surprised to see them because she knew her littlest girl was afraid of storms.

“I’m scared, M-mama,” Penny sobbed as she hugged her mama’s waist and Bronwen balanced the screaming A.C. on one hip so she could put an arm around Penny’s shoulders.

“I told her it was just a storm,” Gwyneth said, “but it sure is a loud one,” and Bronwen detected the anxiety in her third born’s eyes. Just then Ben, clad in his robe and slippers, appeared in the doorway. Joe appeared a moment later, barefoot and in his nightshirt.

“Is everything all right?” Ben asked Bronwen.

“Penny doesn’t like storms,” she replied quietly. “At home we let her sleep with us, but the bed here is too small. I think A.C. and I will go spend the night in the girls’ room.”

“That bed’s not big enough for four. Now, my bed is,” Ben stated, “so I’ll sleep in your room and you and the children can sleep in mine.” Bronwen nodded her agreement.

“I want my daddy,” Penny sobbed, as A.C.’s screams increased in volume. Joe picked her up, allowing Bronwen to concentrate on comforting her baby.

“It’s all right, Penny,” he said softly as he gently rubbed circles on her back. “I promised your daddy I’d take care of you and Gwyneth and A.C. for him.” Ben put an arm around Gwyneth’s shoulders, and she smiled at him. They led the way down the hallway to Ben’s room.

“My room is just down the hall,” Joe said to Penny. “Grandpa and I will take care of you and Gwyneth and A.C. and your mama. Okay?” The little girl nodded so Joe set her on her feet. Bronwen followed her girls inside but at the doorway, she stopped and said a quiet, “Thank you,” to her father- and brother-in-law.

“I wanna sleep by you, Mama,” Penny said, still sounding anxious.

“All right, I will get in the middle of the bed and A..C. can sleep on one side of me and you can sleep on the other. Gwyneth, you can sleep by your brother or your sister.”

“I’ll sleep by Penny ‘cause I know she won’t wet the bed,” Gwyneth said, exchanging a grin with her sister.

“Oh, I’m glad you reminded me,” Bronwen said then. She opened the door and called, “Joe!”

“Yes?” he asked, stepping to the doorway.

“Could you go get me two or three nappies from A.C.’s room that I can put under him?”

“Nappies? Oh yeah, diapers. Sure,” he replied and returned a few minutes later with several.

“Thanks,” Bronwen said. “Gwyneth, could you take them and spread them on the bed for me.”

Once Gwyneth arranged the diapers, Bronwen said to A.C., whose cries had subsided, “Mama is going to sit you on the bed while she takes off her robe, and then we’ll all get into bed.”

Ben’s bed was large, so they weren’t really crowded, but almost as soon as they were settled, there was another deafening clap of thunder, followed almost immediately by a bright bolt of lightening. The baby began to cry and Penny grabbed hold of her mama and held on tight. I can see I won’t be getting much sleep tonight Bronwen thought.

When Joe went out to the barn the next morning, he was surprised not to find Gwyneth and Penny caring for their mounts. He took care of Gwyneth’s mustang and Jacob offered to take care of Penny’s pony along with Benj’s. When Joe went back in the house for breakfast, he noticed Buckshot was setting the table.

“I think the ladies are sleeping late,” Buckshot remarked with a grin.

“Yeah. Penny and A.C. didn’t like the thunderstorm so I don’t think they got much sleep last night,” Joe replied. Just then Ben came down the stairs.

“I peeked and they’re all asleep,” he said quietly. “The girls won’t be able to pick berries until this afternoon so I think we should let them sleep as late as they want.”

Buckshot had the breakfast dishes washed and dried and put away when the rest of the family came down the stairs.

“I’m sorry we overslept,” Bronwen said hurriedly.

“Don’t give it another thought, my dear,” Ben said and Buckshot, who’d heard them come downstairs, stuck his head in the dining room just long enough to say, “I’ll have some flapjacks for you all in just a few minutes. Oh, and toast for you, Mrs. Cartwright. And I’ll put the kettle on for your tea.”

“Flapjacks! Beauty, Mr. Buckshot!” Penny exclaimed delightedly while A.C. clapped his hands and crowed, “Jacks!”

“Girls, set our places at the table,” Bronwen directed.

“We’ll still get to pick berries, won’t we, Grandpa?” Gwyneth asked anxiously as she put the plates and glasses on the table.

“We’ll go this afternoon; it’s too wet and muddy right now,” he replied.

“And since you’re going to be here this morning and the sun is shining, you can both help me do the washing,” Bronwen said in the no-nonsense voice that her daughters recognized. “Oh, Pa, I hope you won’t mind watching A.C.?”

“Not at all,” he replied with a smile.

A.C. was so happy when he saw Buckshot bring in a big plate of flapjacks that he didn’t fuss very much when Ben picked him up and put him in his highchair. The morning went by quickly and by dinnertime, the clothesline was full of A.C.’s diapers, tunics and skirts, the females’ combinations (drawers and chemises combined into one garment), petticoats, skirts and bodices, and the shirts and drawers Adam had left behind. Since the girls had only brought their newest dresses with them, Ben suggested they change into their knickerbockers and sailor blouses to pick berries. While Bronwen was putting A.C. down for his afternoon nap, Ben and the girls set off in the wagon with their father’s and uncles’ tin pails and in the back, a basket for them to fill with raspberries for jam.

“How did Daddy and Uncle Hoss find the berry patch?” Penny asked as they rode along.

“Well, it was when Hop Sing first came to stay with us. He wanted to look for herbs and elderberries-” Ben began.

“What’s elderberries?” Penny asked.

“You’re not supposed to interrupt people,” Gwyneth scolded.

Ben smiled a little and said, “Gwyneth’s right, Pretty Penny, but to answer your question, Hop Sing told me once that the elderberry tree could be used for many kinds of medicines. The leaves and the flowers are used in ointments to heal burns, cuts and scrapes. The juice of the berries is used to cure colds. Your daddy and Uncle Hoss didn’t catch a lot of colds but they got plenty of cuts and scrapes so that’s why Hop Sing was looking for elderberries.”

“He didn’t want to leave the boys by themselves so they went along to help. Now, when your daddy, Grandma Inger and I lived in Illinois before we headed west, she’d taken him to pick gooseberries so he recognized them. He liked gooseberry pie and remembered that I did, too,” Ben said with a reminiscent smile. “Hop Sing’s English wasn’t very good then so your daddy didn’t know how to tell him that he’d like him to bake a pie, and I don’t know if Hop Sing would have known how to bake a gooseberry pie even if your daddy could’ve told him. But your daddy was sure that Mrs. McKaren would know how to bake one so he persuaded Hop Sing to go the McKaren’s cabin with the gooseberries he’d picked. Mrs. McKaren was delighted to see the gooseberries and she had Hop Sing watch while she baked two gooseberry pies-one for her family and one for us. A couple of days later, Hop Sing and the boys and Mrs. McKaren and her son all went to pick more gooseberries and that night Hop Sing made his very first gooseberry pie, and it was delicious.”

“There’s sure lots of birds!” Penny exclaimed as Ben said, “Whoa,” and brought the wagon to a halt.

“Birds like berries as much as we do,” Ben said. “One of the reasons you’re wearing those straw hats is so the birds can’t peck your head.”

“Peck my head?” Penny said with a giggle.

“They think the berries belong to them, and they don’t want us stealing them,” Ben replied.

Sure enough, a couple of blue jays dived at Gwyneth’s head while they were picking, but Ben shooed them away. The three of them talked and sang as they picked the berries and the girls only scratched themselves a few times on the brambles. Both girls seemed to have inherited their father’s love of raspberries and Ben had to keep cautioning them not eat all the berries or there wouldn’t be enough for their mama to make jam. The sun was low on the horizon when the basket was full of raspberries and they had two pails full of gooseberries.

“I sure hope supper’s ready ‘cause I’m hungry,” Penny said as Ben drove the wagon into the yard.

“Me, too,” Gwyneth added. Then she turned to Ben and said, “Thanks for taking us, Grandpa. It was lots of fun.”

“Too right!” Penny said with a big grin. “I bet we’re having just as much fun as Beth and Miranda are in Boston.”
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Chapters 4 and 5 by Deborah

Chapter 4

“Girls,” Adam called, rapping on their door. “If we’re going to be at the Aldens’ house by nine o’clock, then we need to go down to breakfast.”

“We’re almost ready,” Beth called. “Just one more minute,” and their daddy sighed impatiently. Luckily, the girls did emerge in a few minutes.

As the three Cartwrights hurriedly ate their breakfast, Beth said, “I wonder what Mama and Gwyneth and Penny and A.C. are doing now? I suppose they’ve already finished breakfast.”

“Around an hour ago,” Adam replied with a wink. Then his mood changed and he added, “I hope your brother isn’t missing us too much. He’s not old enough to understand that we’ll be gone for three weeks and then we’ll be back.”

“Poor A.C.,” Beth said thoughtfully. “I imagine he is missing us.” Her expression brightened. “We should bring him and Gwyneth and Penny something from Boston.”

“We got Gwyneth and Penny their books,” Miranda said.

“Yes, but we should get them something that we couldn’t get anyplace else but Boston,” Beth replied and the others nodded.

“We’ll have to be on the lookout for ideas,” Adam said. “If we go to the beach today, then perhaps you could get them some pretty shells.”

“Beauty, Daddy! Gwyneth and Penny will love those! And Mama, too,” Beth said enthusiastically. “But I’m not sure about A.C.,” she added uncertainly.

“Yes, your brother would just put the shell in his mouth,” Adam replied, his lips quirking up slightly. “Of course, we could show it to him and then put it away until he’s older.”

“Let’s do that,” Miranda said with a grin.

They arrived a few minutes before nine but Mr. Alden was punctual, Adam noted, and they all left precisely at nine o’clock. When they got to the ferry, they encountered some of the Aldens’ neighbors, and were introduced.

“It’s good to see you again, Annabelle,” her friend Amy Collins said as she sat beside her in a deck chair. Amy was an attractive woman dressed impeccably in the latest fashion. She and Annabelle had been friends since childhood but there was always a touch of rivalry in their friendship, at least on Amy’s side. “I was beginning to think you’d be immured in the wilds of Nevada forever,” she added in a voice with just a hint of superciliousness.

“I didn’t want to make the journey alone, but it’s difficult for my husband to get away,” Annabelle said, and she heard the defensiveness in her own tone.

“So he sent you with his brother?” Amy asked, arching one eyebrow.

“My brother-in-law was planning to bring his two older girls to Boston, so I suggested that Benjamin and Sarah and I could travel with them,” Annabelle replied frostily.

Amy glanced at Adam, who was talking with some of the other men, and said with a sly smile, “I could never understand how you could bear living on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, but, if your husband is as handsome as his brother, I begin to appreciate your reasons.”

“Joe is more handsome,” Annabelle replied, but then colored a little and added, “I suppose my sister-in-law wouldn’t agree. They’re both very handsome even though they don’t resemble each other. Joe is not as dark as Adam and he’s not as tall. And he isn’t bald,” she added with a little grin.

“Being bald certainly doesn’t make your brother-in-law any less attractive,” Amy responded, casting another sideways glance at Adam. Then she said, “Of course, even if I were married to Adonis, I couldn’t bear to live anywhere but Boston. Whatever do you do with yourself in the wilderness?”

Stung, Annabelle replied coldly, “Nevada is civilized, Amy. The state capital, Carson City, is nearby and they have decent restaurants. Virginia City isn’t the boomtown it once was, but when Joe and I were first married, we could watch Shakespeare at the opera house there. We go on short trips to San Francisco, which is a beautiful city.”

Amy assumed a bland expression and then asked, “Do your in-laws live there on the ranch with you?”

“No. They’re just visiting. They live in a little mining town in Queensland.”

“Queensland?” Amy repeated, obviously without an idea of where the place was

“On the continent of Australia,” Annabelle added.

“Ah, that explains the girls’ odd accent,” Amy remarked in a patronizing tone.

“My sister-in-law and the three younger children are staying at the ranch to visit with my father-in-law. I think they’ll be sailing to Sydney a day or two after we return,” Annabelle stated then.

Just then another of Annabelle’s old friends came and joined Annabelle and Amy. “Annabelle, I just heard that you were here. Oh, it’s wonderful to see you again after all this time,” Clara Pruitt said with a warm smile. She bent down and kissed Annabelle’s cheek before sitting in the deck chair beside her. Clara, Annabelle noted, had become very plump and though her clothing was as expensive and stylish as Amy’s, the overall effect was not as pleasing to the eye. Annabelle remembered that her friend was as nearsighted as her sister-in-law, but had always refused to wear spectacles.

“I was hoping to meet your husband,” Clara added, peering around. “Emma has written me that he is very handsome.”

“Uh, Joe wasn’t able to get away; it’s a very busy time at the ranch,” Annabelle said quickly. “Benjamin and Sarah and I traveled here with my brother-in-law and his two older daughters.” She glanced about and said, “See the two dark-haired girls with Robert’s daughter Charlotte?” Clara squinted and then nodded. “Those are my nieces, Elizabeth and Miranda. Benjamin and Sarah are with them.”

“Her nieces are very pretty,” Amy added, knowing that Clara couldn’t really see the two girls. “The taller one is absolutely exquisite.”

As they watched, a boy who looked to be fifteen or sixteen walked over and began to talk with Beth, Miranda and Charlotte, and almost immediately two others joined them.

“I wondered how long it would take them to get up their courage and approach your nieces,” Amy said with a laugh. “I predict they’ll be swarming around them like bees around blossoms.” The three women smiled at the young people. “Have you seen Georgiana Philips since you’ve been back?” Amy asked then and Annabelle shook her head. “Well, she’s changed considerably since you’ve been gone, and not for the better. I’ve heard that she . . . .”

“Uh, hello,” Simon Cummings said to the three girls, who smiled at him. (Benj and Sarah ignored him, watching the disappearing shoreline.) “Do you have any plans when you get to your cottage?” he asked Charlotte, then shifted his gaze to Beth.

“We want to play croquet,” Charlotte replied quickly, “but we need a fourth player. Would you like to play with us?”

“Sure,” Simon answered, never taking his eyes from Beth. “Maybe we could play doubles. I’d be happy to be your partner, Beth,”

“Well, I guess that means that you and I are partners,” Miranda said to Charlotte. Charlotte was disappointed because she liked Simon and usually if they played doubles, he partnered with her. Just then two other boys, Jeff Aldrich and Tom Fletcher, walked over.

“Do you all have any plans for the day?” Tom asked after they exchanged greetings.

“I’m playing croquet with the girls,” Simon said smugly. “Beth and I are partners.”

“You and Jeff could play the winners of our game,” Miranda suggested and rather reluctantly the boys agreed.

“Is your cottage near a beach?” Beth asked Charlotte then. “You see, we were hoping to find some pretty shells we could take back to our younger sisters and our baby brother since they didn’t get to come to Boston.”

“Yes, we have a beach behind our cottage,” Charlotte said.

“I’d be happy to help you gather shells,” Jeff said quickly. “My family’s cottage is next to Charlotte’s so you can look on our beach as well.”

“Thank you,” Beth said, dimpling. “That’s sweet of you.”

Benj had been listening and now said, “I wanna help look,” and Sarah said, “Me, too!”

“I say that after we finish playing croquet, we all look for shells,” Jeff suggested.

“Yes, that should be fun,” Charlotte said brightly.

“Well, Cartwright, I see our sons seem quite taken with your daughters,” Mr. Fletcher commented as the men observed the young people.

“Yes, so it would appear,” Adam replied. He wasn’t sure how he felt about the situation. On the one hand, he couldn’t help being pleased that the boys noticed his daughters’ beauty, but he also felt a little wistful, for the scene before him reminded him that in a few years he would be giving his daughters away to the young men who had won their hearts.

“Can’t say as I blame them. Your oldest is quite a beauty,” Mr. Cummings said.

“My sister tells me that you are involved in mining,” Alden said, wanting to change the topic of conversation.

“That’s correct,” Adam said. “My brother-in-law and I went into business and we are currently operating two small copper mines in Queensland. We also own a cattle ranch in the area.”

“Ranching and mining?” Aldrich said, lifting one eyebrow.

“Yes,” Adam replied. “We wanted to diversify our assets. If the bottom should fall out of the copper market, we’d still have the income from the ranch. And I have an interest in my family’s ranch in Nevada.”

“I believe in diversification,” Cummings said then. “Just out of curiosity, how long have you been living abroad?”

“Well, I’ve lived in Queensland fourteen years now. My wife and I lived in New South Wales the first year of our marriage, and I was traveling for three years before that,” Adam replied.

“So you’ve lived abroad almost twenty years?” Cummings asked, and Adam nodded.

“Have you become a citizen of the British Empire then?” Aldrich asked, and Adam heard the hostility in his voice.

“No,” he answered in a neutral tone. “I’ll always remain a citizen of the United States, and therefore my children are also citizens even if they were born in Queensland. I must admit that there are times I wish I could vote on local issues, but one can’t have everything.”

When they arrived at the Aldens’ cottage, which was much larger than Beth and Miranda expected, there was a light luncheon. (The girls particularly enjoyed the lobster salad.) Afterward, Benj and Sarah were sent to take their afternoon naps and Simon, Tom and Jeff (along with their parents) came to call, or in the case of the young people, to play croquet.

Beth and Miranda had been playing croquet for several years, and were skilled players who could easily perform stop shots, roll shots, cannons and peels. In addition, Miranda was a skilled tactician who usually defeated her friends at home. (Her cousin Llywelyn’s tactical skills were steadily improving and he sometimes won against her.) Even though Charlotte wasn’t a very good player, thanks to Miranda’s expertise, they managed to defeat Simon and Beth. However, Charlotte didn’t want to play against Jeff and Tom. She’d seen that Simon hadn’t liked losing to a pair of girls and she knew Jeff and Tom wouldn’t like it either.

“Well, if you don’t want to play, then I’ll be Miranda’s partner,” Beth suggested.

“No, I have a better idea,” Jeff said. “You and I could be partners and Tom could be Miranda’s partner.”

Tom frowned at his friend but Beth shook her head. “No, I think it would be more fun to play girls against boys.” Then she smiled sweetly at Jeff and Tom and they agreed.

Since Jeff and Tom wanted to impress Beth, they both decided to go easy on the girls. They quickly discovered the Cartwright sisters were more than a match for them.

Adam had been trapped into listening to the other men pontificate about the evils of Free Trade, labor unions, and the recent influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. However, once the men saw the Cartwright girls were playing against Tom and Jeff, they concentrated on watching the game.

“Don’t worry; our boys won’t beat them too badly,” Aldrich said with a smirk. Adam said nothing, only allowed himself the slightest hint of a smile.

As the game progressed, the boys’ fathers grew increasingly tense and angry. Aldrich grew red-faced and shouted verbal abuse at his son each time he made a mistake.

“Jeff’s father sounds really angry,” Beth said quietly to her sister.

“I know,” Miranda said. “Tom and Jeff look angry, too. I think they were sure they were going to beat us.” And the sisters shared a smile.

Beth and Miranda won, much to the embarrassment of the two boys. Simon, on the other hand, was happy not to be the only one defeated by a team of girls. Aldrich was tight-lipped but Fletcher was philosophical.

“Your daughters are excellent players,” he said to Adam with a wry grin. “Particularly the younger.”

“We got a croquet set when they were about seven and eight and my wife and I taught them to play,” Adam replied, allowing himself a very small, but proud, grin. “Then their friends began to gather at our house to play. The boys are more likely to play cricket now, but the girls in our neighborhood still like to play croquet.”

“Cricket? Thought that was an English game.”

“It’s very popular in Queensland,” Adam replied. “I’m trying to learn about it since my son will be playing it, although not for a few years yet. Actually, my third daughter used to practice bowling and hitting with her cousin. Now that he’s older, the other boys tease him about practicing with a girl. I think part of the reason the other boys did the teasing is that Gwyneth is a better bowler and batsman than any of them.”

Just then Benj came running onto the porch. “Uncle Adam!” he shouted. “Time to get the seashells?”

Adam ruffled his nephew’s hair and said with a smile, “Don’t you think we should wait for Sarah to wake up?”

“I’ll wake her,” the child said and turned to run back inside, but his uncle said, “Whoa, boy. Your mama won’t be happy with you if you wake Sarah up. Don’t worry. She’ll be up soon.”

Beth and Miranda ran up to Adam then. “Will you hunt for seashells with us, Daddy? The boys were coming along, but they said they forgot they had something else to do.”

Adam happened to catch Fletcher’s eye then and the man shrugged expressively.

“You girls played a good game,” Fletcher said then. “Tell me, Miss,” he asked Miranda, “do you play chess?”

“Yes, sir,” she replied.

“And you’re good at it, aren’t you?”

“I think so,” she answered candidly.

“I’m sure you are,” he said. “I can see you understand tactics and strategy.” He turned to Adam then and held out his hand, saying, “A pleasure meeting you, sir, and your lovely daughters.”

The other two fathers’ goodbye was curt almost to the point of rudeness, which surprised Beth and Miranda. Before they had time to ponder it, Annabelle came onto the porch with Sarah and the girls put the incident out of their minds.

“I don’t know if Benj and Sarah should be walking on the beach,” Annabelle said uncertainly.

“Please, Mama,” Benj begged. “I wanna get a shell for Daddy.”

“I’m going with them, Annabelle, and I’ll keep Sarah and Benj with me,” Adam said quickly. Seeing her indecision, he added, “We’ll only be on the beach about an hour. That should give them time to find plenty of shells.”

“All right,” Annabelle agreed slowly. She knew Adam would look after her children and if they were on the beach, she could have more time to visit with her friends. When she rejoined Amy, Clara and Paula on the large front porch, she explained that Adam was taking all the children to hunt for seashells.

“I like your brother-in-law,” Paula remarked. “It’s nice to see a father take such an interest in his daughters.”

“Yes, I wish John would show as much interest in our girls,” Clara said. “He’ll spend time teaching the boys to play baseball or how to row, but he doesn’t have much interest in our girls.”

“Robert is so busy with the different boards that he sits on, that he just doesn’t have much time to spend with Charlotte,” Paula said quietly.

“Well, our two boys are at school,” Amy said. “They’re happy there with their friends.” She turned to Annabelle then and said, “I’m surprised you didn’t bring your nursemaid with you so you wouldn’t have to be putting your children down for their naps.”

“I don’t have a nursemaid,” Annabelle replied. “I prefer to care for Benjamin and Sarah myself.”

“How very maternal of you,” Amy remarked in a condescending tone. Annabelle gazed at her steadily until Amy dropped her eyes. Then she remarked nastily, “As lovely as your nieces are, someone needs to tell them to let the boys win. No male wants to be defeated by a female, no matter how lovely she is.”

“That’s true,” Paula commented then added with a tiny grin, “But I couldn’t help enjoying their victory. Those boys were so smug. It was really comical to see their disbelief as the girls trounced them.”

“It was, wasn’t it?” Clara said, giggling, and the other women joined in, even Amy.

Since the boys had all left, Charlotte reluctantly agreed to hunt for shells with the Cartwrights. To her surprise, she had a marvelous time. In fact, all the children had so much fun picking up shells that at first they resisted when Adam announced it was time to head back.

“You have to decide which shells you’re going to keep and then you’re going to have to wash them,” he said patiently. “If you don’t wash them, they’ll stink. I’ll help Sarah and Benj wash theirs, okay?” he asked, tweaking his niece’s nose and causing her to giggle.

The three older girls examined their shells carefully. They’d found Sea Scallops, False Angel Wings, Egg Cockles, and lots of clam and slipper shells. At last Beth and Miranda chose which ones they would give to their absent family members, including their grandpa, and then all three girls decided to keep a couple of shells for themselves. Benj and Sarah wanted to keep all their shells but Adam was able to gently guide them into picking one for Joe, one for Annabelle, one for Ben and two a piece to keep for themselves. Then Sarah surprised and touched Adam.

“For you, Unca Adam,” she said, smiling up at him and holding out a pretty Kitten’s Paw.

“Thank you, Sarah,” he said, hunkering down so they were at eyelevel. “This is beautiful.” Then he smiled warmly at her and she smiled back, reminding Adam so strongly of her daddy at the same age. “Well now,” he said, standing up, “since your cousins are still deciding which shells to keep, we’ll go ahead and get started on cleaning ours.”

“I’ve never hunted for shells before,” Charlotte said with a smile as she looked up from her pile, “but this was fun.” She added with a giggle, “Mama and Grandmamma would die if they knew I was walking barefoot in the sand.”

“Better than getting sand in your shoes,” Adam said with a wink. “Now, all we have the do is get the sand off our feet before we put our shoes and socks back on.”

The Cartwrights ate supper with the Aldens and then Alden offered to have their chauffer drive them to the Edgartown Inn on North Water Street.

“Thank you for inviting us to visit you here,” Beth said to Paula as they were ready to leave. “I had a wonderful time.”

“Yes, thank you,” Miranda said. “It was so much fun looking for seashells and walking on the beach.”

“I can only echo my daughters,” Adam said then.

“We enjoyed having you,” Paula replied with a smile.

“I hope you do come live with us,” Charlotte said to Miranda. “I know we’ll have lots of fun together.” Then she added, “When you get home to Queensland, will you and Beth write me?”

“Of course,” the sisters replied.

“We’ll meet up with you at the train station in two days,” Adam said to Annabelle as the girls said goodbye to their little cousins. Then he hunkered down and said to his little niece and nephew, “Goodbye, Benj and Sarah. Your cousins and I are going back to Boston, but we’ll see you both in a couple of days when we take the train back to the Ponderosa.”

“Bye, Unca Adam,” Sarah said, and her chin wobbled a bit. Adam smiled at her and kissed her cheek.

“Goodbye, Uncle Adam,” Benj said, and Adam ruffled his hair.

As the Aldens’ carriage drew up in front of the Edgartown Inn, Beth took one look and exclaimed, “It looks even older than the house where you were born, Daddy!”

The chauffeur turned to look back at his passengers with a smile. “This inn was originally the home of a whaling captain and it was built back in the 1790s, Miss. The famous author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, stayed here for a time.” Hearing this, both girls looked with interest at the large three story house of weathered shingles with gleaming white trim.

After Adam had registered and their carpetbag had been taken to his room, Miranda asked quietly, “Could we go for a walk, Daddy? It’s not dark yet.”

“Certainly,” he said with a smile. “We’ll just head west and we can look at the old houses. If I remember correctly, most of houses on this street were built by whaling captains.”

As the three of them walked along North Water Street, Adam pointed out interesting architectural features, such as the widow’s walks that were on virtually every house.

“Why do they call them widow’s walks?” Miranda asked as she gazed at the rooftop platforms with their railings

“The captains’ wives would stand out on the platform and look for their husbands to return,” Adam replied. “Whaling is a dangerous occupation and sometimes a husband would not return, so that’s why the platform is called a widow’s walk.”

“Oh, that’s sad,” Beth said.

They continued to walk down North Water until it crossed Main and became South Water. They hadn’t walked far when they spied a large tree.

“Stone the crows! It’s as wide as it is tall!” Miranda exclaimed as they drew nearer. “Do you know what kind of tree it is, Daddy?”

“No,” he replied, studying the tree, noting the branches were smooth and olive green. “Perhaps someone at the inn can tell us what kind of tree it is. The sun is almost down, so we’d better head back.”

As they walked briskly back to the inn, Beth said quietly, “I’m having a wonderful time, but I’m glad we’ll be going back to the Ponderosa soon. I miss Mama and Gwyneth and Penny and A.C.”

“What about you, Angel?” Adam asked, interested in her answer.

“I do miss them,” Miranda said slowly, “but I think this is practice for when I go to school in Boston. I’ll miss all of you even more then, but I’m sure I’ll be able to bear it.” Then she added, “I think Charlotte and I will be friends.”

Adam smiled and then winked at her and said, “If you’re going to be living with the Aldens, Angel, I think you’re going to have to let the boys win the croquet games.”

“Fair dinkum?” Miranda said, her brows arched in surprise and her daddy nodded.

“Mama,” Sarah said in a quavering voice as Annabelle tucked her in the trundle bed that had been placed in her bedroom for Sarah and Benj. “I wanna go home. Please.”

“We’ll go home in two days, sweetie,” Annabelle said, smoothing back her little girl’s hair. “You’re having fun with cousin Charlotte aren’t you?”

“Y-yes,” the little girl said, “but I miss Daddy and Grandpa.”

“I know, but your Grandmamma and Uncle Robert want to have a chance to spend time with you,” Annabelle said gently.

“I don’t like Unca Robert; I like Unca Adam,” the little girl stated firmly.

Annabelle pressed her lips together. Robert isn’t good with children, she admitted. He pays as much attention to Charlotte as Papa did to me-almost none. He’s paid a little attention to Benj but he’s ignored Sarah. No wonder she prefers Adam. Joe and Adam are different from Papa and Robert; they like children. I suppose that’s because of Pa. I know from what he told me that he had to be a mother as well as a father to Adam and Hoss when they were very young so he set an example of a father who was involved in his children’s lives.

“l wanna go home, too,” Benj added. “I miss Daddy and Grandpa and Smokey.” Annabelle smiled a little at the inclusion of his pony.

“I miss Daddy and Grandpa,” she said, thinking, I never guessed how much I would miss Joe and miss making love with him. Then she smiled at her children. “I promise that in two days we’ll be on the train back to the Ponderosa.”

“With Unca Adam and Beth and Manda?” Sarah asked.

“That’s right,” Annabelle said. “Would you like me to read you a story?”

“Tell us the story of Joseph and his cat!” Benj demanded eagerly.

“Uh, well, I’ll try but I don’t know if I can tell it as well as your Uncle Adam,” she said with a little smile.

Adam and the girls did a little more sightseeing before taking the ferry back to Falmouth the next morning. They paid another visit to the pagoda tree. The proprietor of the inn told them that it had been brought back from China as a seedling back in the 1830s, and as far as he knew, it was the only one in the country. They also visited the Old Whaling Church. Adam was interested since it was a fine example of Greek Revival architecture, but the two girls were more impressed with the ninety-two foot clock tower, which the innkeeper had informed them could be seen far out at sea. The girls knew of their daddy’s fascination with buildings so they curbed their impatience as he observed the red brick courthouse that had been built for Dukes County his senior year at Harvard.

They arrived back in Boston with time to bathe and dress before dinner and the theater. The girls were enthralled with The Mikado and on the cab ride home they were humming “Three little maids from school are we” and talking about the opera. Adam was content to listen to their happy chatter and think about his plans for their last day in Massachusetts.

The girls were surprised when Adam knocked on their door to wake them an hour earlier than he had every other morning, but they dressed hurriedly, curious to see what his plans were. As they waited for the food they’d ordered to be served, Adam said quietly, “We’re going on a little excursion today, girls.”

“Where are we going, Daddy?” Beth asked curiously.

“We’re going to a little town in western Massachusetts called Shelburne Falls.”

“Why?” Miranda, ever practical, asked.

“Because I want to visit the widow of a dear friend of mind and I want to introduce you girls to her,” Adam replied, and both girls noted his tone was serious and a little sad. They were curious but knew it would be best to hold off asking their daddy any more questions.

After a moment he added softly, “We’re going to visit Mrs. Aaron Wharton. Aaron was my roommate when I was at Harvard and we became very good friends. You saw him in the daguerreotype that Mr. Collingsworth showed you of our baseball team.” Both girls nodded, remembering their daddy pointing his friend out in the daguerreotype. He paused for a moment before continuing. “When our Civil War broke out, Aaron joined the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, as did many of our classmates. He was killed during Pickett’s charge at the battle of Gettysburg. He was only twenty-six years old.” Beth and Miranda looked melancholy at their daddy’s words-more for his sorrow than for the death of a young man they’d never known.

Adam continued in the same sad voice. “Aaron and Elsie had courted the four years Aaron and I attended Harvard and they married not long after we graduated in 1858; his younger brother, David, was the best man at their wedding but I was a groomsman. When Aaron joined up, they had a daughter, Emily, who was a year old. He wrote me that about a month later Elsie had learned she was carrying their second child-their daughter, Pearl.”

The girls listened with interest because although their daddy had told them many stories about when he and Uncle Hoss and Uncle Joe were boys, he’d never talked about this time in his life. Adam’s expression was very grave as he continued. “Aaron and Elsie had been living at the Wharton family farm since their marriage. David enlisted at the same time as his brother so the Whartons were glad to have Elsie and Emily stay with them. Elsie’s family never approved of her marriage to a farmer; they were Boston Brahmins, just like the Aldens and the Collingsworths, and they had expected their daughter to marry someone in their social class. Aaron’s parents, on the other hand, treated Elsie like a daughter, so when her parents invited her to stay with them in Boston while Aaron was in the army, she politely refused. She raised her two daughters on the farm rather than Boston society.”

The girls waited expectantly when their daddy stopped, and after a moment he continued, his voice flat and emotionless. “Aaron’s brother, David, survived the war but he lost an arm at the Battle of the Wilderness. After he was invalided out of the army, he returned to the family farm. He had been engaged but his fiancée ended the engagement and married someone else.” He saw both girls frown at this and was pleased with their reaction. “Elsie wrote me that he was very bitter at first, but eventually he accepted his loss. He never made any attempt to court another woman, but he was devoted to his little nieces and became a surrogate father to them.”

His expression lightened a little as he added, “After Aaron’s death, Elsie and I began exchanging cards and letters at Christmas and she’d tell me how she and the girls were doing. Emily and Pearl are married now with children of their own. Pearl’s husband is a farmer and he and David run the Wharton farm together. They and their four children live at the farmhouse with Elsie, David and David’s mother. When I knew I was going to be in Boston, I asked Elsie if I could come visit her and introduce her to my two oldest daughters; she said she’d be delighted and she was sure that Emily and Pearl would like to meet us as well.”

Beth and Miranda exchanged a speaking glance; spending the day with a woman their father’s age and young women old enough to be wives and mothers sounded awfully boring.

Adam got off the train first and then helped his girls, who looked all about them, taking in the beautiful trees-maple, beech and chestnut-and the Berkshire mountains in the background.

“What a ripper!” Beth exclaimed.

“Too right!” Miranda agreed. “It’s different from home and from the Ponderosa, but it’s just as beautiful.”

Adam spied a tall, thin woman with flaming red hair beginning to gray, and taking the girls by the hand, he walked toward her.

The woman saw him and hurried over to them, her rather plain face lit up by her warm smile. “Adam Cartwright,” she said, her smile growing even broader, “it is so good to see you again. Although I can’t say that you haven’t changed,” she added, her smile growing impish.

“And it’s good to see you, Elsie,” he said, dropping the girls’ hands so he could hug her. “I may have changed over the years, but you haven’t.”

“Oh you,’ she said in a scolding tone that was belied by her smile.

He then put his arms around his daughters’ shoulders. “Elsie, these are my daughters, Elizabeth and Miranda. Girls, this is Mrs. Wharton.”

The girls curtseyed and Elsie said with a warm smile, “I might have known you would have beautiful daughters, Adam.”

“Oh, I think their mother should take the credit for that,” he said with a wink.

“I’m disappointed not to have a chance to meet your wife,” Elsie said then as she guided them toward her surrey.

“Bronwen is disappointed as well,” he replied, “but traveling from Cloncurry to the Ponderosa with a sixteen-month-old has been difficult enough,” and she nodded her understanding.

“When you wrote me about the birth of your little boy, I could imagine Aaron’s laughter when he learned that you’d become a daddy again at age 51,” she said with a big grin.

“Everyone on the ship automatically assumed that I was A.C.’s grandfather,” Adam said, shaking his head slightly while his daughters tried to stifle their giggles.

Beth and Miranda observed the countryside on the ride to the Wharton’s farm while Adam and Elsie chatted about his visit with Thomas and Rebecca Collingsworth.

“Thomas and Rebecca and I send each other Christmas cards, too,” Elsie informed Adam. “And when I visit my family in Boston, I always try to visit them as well.” She smiled a little nervously and then said, “I hope you and your girls don’t feel overwhelmed but I think I should warn you that in addition to Emily and Pearl, Docia has decided to drop by, and of course Mother Wharton is anxious to see all of you.”

“It will be nice seeing Mrs. Wharton and Docia again after all these years,” Adam said with a smile.

“Docia has a son and daughter about the same age as your girls and Docia was thinking they could go riding with Beth and Miranda and show them around the area. We thought that would be more fun for them than hearing us reminisce.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you girls?” he asked, turning his head around to face them.

“Too right,” Beth said and Miranda nodded. “I love to ride,” Beth said then, “but we haven’t been able to do any riding since we left the Ponderosa.”

“You still have Saddlebreds, don’t you?” Adam asked, and Elsie nodded. “Oh, there’s just one thing,” he added. “I, uh, taught the girls to ride astride. They’ve never ridden sidesaddle.”

“And we didn’t bring our knickerbockers,” Miranda said regretfully.

“Mae rides astride, too,” Elsie said. “They’ll just be riding on the farm so no one will see them.”

Elsie drew up the surrey in front of one of the oddest buildings Beth and Miranda had ever seen. It was made of the same weathered gray shingles as the Aldens’ cottage and the Edgartown Inn, but there the resemblance ended. This house had two stories in the front but the girls could see the roof had a very steep slope and there was only one story in the back.

Adam saw their surprised expressions and said with a little smile, “It’s called a saltbox house, girls. They’re very popular in New England. You see, adding a lean-to onto the back of a two-story farmhouse was the most convenient way for a farmer to gain more space. Usually the lean-to became a kitchen and pantry. I think I remember Aaron telling me that this house was built in 1743, almost 100 years before we were born. I spent my first summer away from home here with Aaron and his family.”

Just then, three women came out the front door. One of them balanced a baby a few months younger than A.C. on one hip while another had a child somewhere between Sarah and A.C. in age holding onto her skirt. The girls thought that the third woman appeared to be about the same age as their mama. As they drew closer, Elsie said, “Adam, I would like for you to meet my daughters. This is Emily,” and the young women with the child hanging on her skirts, who had Elsie’s flaming red hair and Aaron’s aquiline nose, smiled and held out her hand.

“It’s wonderful to finally get to meet you, Mr. Cartwright,” she said as Adam shook her hand.

“And this is Pearl,” Elsie said, nodding at the tall young woman with Aaron’s brown hair and large amber eyes, who was holding the baby.

“I agree with my sister,” Peal said with a smile as they shook hands. “It is so good to have a chance to meet you face to face. We’ve always enjoyed your letters and Christmas cards.”

“You don’t need to introduce me to Docia,” Adam said with a warm smile, which the woman returned.

“I’m surprised you recognized me. I’ve changed quite a bit from the fourteen-year-old that you saw at Elsie and Aaron’s wedding,” she said, her brown eyes twinkling merrily. “Of course,” she added with a mischievous grin, “you’ve changed a bit as well. I really miss your curls.”

Beth and Miranda exchanged a look, thinking, Daddy’s curls certainly made an impression on all these ladies. Of course, he was awfully handsome in that daguerreotype, but he didn’t look like Daddy somehow with no beard and all that curly hair.

“Ladies,” Adam said then, “allow me to present my two oldest daughters: Beth and Miranda,” and the girls curtseyed.

“Oh my! Sam is going to be so glad he agreed to take you girls riding,” Docia said with a big grin.

“He sure will,” Pearl agreed with a little giggle.

“Sam and my daughter, Mae, will be along shortly,” Docia added. “Yes, Sam is going to thank his mama for talking him into taking you girls riding. That summer your daddy came to stay with us, I thought he was the handsomest boy I’d ever seen. Sam is going to take a look at you two and think you’re the prettiest girls he’s ever seen.”

“Thank you,” Beth said with a smile, while Miranda’s cheeks grew pink.

“This is my youngest, Abner,” Emily said then, pulling forward a red-haired, freckle-faced youngster. “Say hello, Abner.”

“Hello,” the little boy said, then ducked behind his mama again.

“And this is Deborah, but we call her Debby,” Pearl said, turning the baby so the Cartwrights could see her.

“She’s sweet,” Beth said, and added in a cooing voice, “G’day, Debby.” Debby smiled, showing her pink gums.

“Well, let’s all go inside and sit down,” Elsie suggested then.

The girls noticed the parlor was well lit by the two large sash windows that faced the front yard. It wasn’t an elegant room, but it was a comfortable one furnished with a large chair-back settee and several side chairs, a tea table and a couple of tilt-top candlestands. The wooden floor was partially covered by a large red-and-brown braided rug that complemented the dark red upholstery on the settee. A white-haired lady who looked to be about the same age as their grandpa sat in a rocking chair by one of the windows, and her face lit up in a smile when they entered the room.

“Adam Cartwright,” she said holding out her hands to him. Adam took her hands, now crippled with arthritis, and then bent down and kissed her cheek.

“It’s wonderful to see you again, Mrs. Wharton,” he said with a warm smile. “I’d like for you to meet my daughters. This is my oldest, Elizabeth, and this is my second daughter, Miranda.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Wharton,” they said and curtseyed.

“My, aren’t you pretty girls,” she said with a smile, and both girls blushed slightly.

“Since I couldn’t bring my whole family to meet you, I did the next best thing,” Adam said then. He reached into the pocket of his frockcoat and pulled out a photograph in a simple brass frame. “My brother-in-law took this photograph of our family about a week before we left Cloncurry.” He handed Mrs. Wharton the photograph and she accepted it with a smile.

“Goodness, your wife is a tiny thing, and I see your youngest girl is her image,” she commented with a smile. “Now, this girl,” and she pointed at Gwyneth, “takes after her daddy.”

“That’s what everyone says,” he replied with a grin.

“I imagine all his big sisters spoil the baby,” Mrs. Wharton said then with a smile for Beth and Miranda, who grinned.

“May I see the photograph?” Elsie asked and Adam sat beside her on the settee and then handed it to her. Emily and Pearl sat down beside Adam so Miranda and Beth sat in side chairs. After Elsie had looked at the photograph, she said, “It’s such a hot day; would you all like some ice tea?”

“Ice tea?” the girls said in surprise.

“Oh, maybe you don’t have ice tea in Queensland,” Elsie said. “We love to drink it in the summer when it’s hot, and it’s very easy to make. You just fix a pot of black tea and strain the grounds. Then you store it in the ice box. When you’re ready to serve it, put two cubes of sugar in a glass, add broken ice until the glass is half full, and then fill the glass with cold tea. My recipe in Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cookbook says to add a slice of lemon, but lemons aren’t easy to come by here in Shelburne Falls.”

“It sounds delicious,” Miranda said.

“Yes, I would love to try some,” Beth added.

“And so would I,” Adam said. “I’ve grown accustomed to drinking tea.”

“Are you girls enjoying your visit to the United States?” Mrs. Wharton asked as Elsie went to prepare the ice tea.

“Yes, ma’am,” Beth said.

“We’d never been to Boston before,” Miranda added. “The trip by train was very interesting since we could watch the scenery change as we headed east. Massachusetts is very different from Nevada, and they are both different from Queensland.”

When Elsie returned, the girls were telling Mrs. Wharton, Docia, Emily and Pearl all about their adventures in Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. Elsie had brought her three older granddaughters with her. These girls, who ranged in age from Gwyneth to a little younger than Penny, had been taking eggnog to the men and boys harvesting the hay. After they’d been introduced they were allowed to go outside and play. Through the open windows, the others could faintly hear their voices as they chanted while jumping rope:

Down in the valley where the green grass grows,
There sat Becky as pretty as a rose
Up came Jack and kissed her on the cheek,
How many kisses did she get this week?

1, 2. 3 . . .

Elsie passed around the glasses and Beth’s and Miranda’s faces lit up as they sipped their ice tea.

“Beauty,” Miranda exclaimed, her enjoyment evident. “Oh, I mean it’s delicious, Mrs. Wharton,” she said quickly, seeing the bewilderment on the other faces.

“It’s very refreshing,” Adam agreed.

“When we get back to the Ponderosa, I’m going to see if I can make some ice tea,” Beth said. “I’m sure Mama would like it as much as we do.”

“Yes, I’m sure she would,” Adam said with a smile.

“Did you show your daughters the potholes?” Pearl asked as Debby laughed and smiled at Adam.

“Would you like to sit with me, Debby?” he asked, holding out his arms and she launched herself at him, causing the others to laugh. As he jiggled the baby on one knee he turned to Pearl. “No, I forgot all about them. Maybe we’ll have time to show the girls before we take the train back to Boston.”

“Potholes?” Miranda repeated, utterly mystified as to why anyone thought she and Beth would want to see potholes.

Pearl grinned. “These potholes were formed by glaciers. Some are very small but one is enormous. Uncle David said that he and our pa used to go swimming there.”

Docia grinned mischievously at Adam. “Oh, Aaron took Adam swimming there at least once.”

“Yes, and Little Miss Tag-along almost got more than she bargained for,” Adam replied with a wink, and Docia’s cheeks grew very pink. “I wish I’d had a chance to meet David again,” he added.

“I know but this is such a busy time for us,” Pearl said. “My husband, Paul, talked Uncle David into buying a reaper and it’s helped a lot, but haying still takes time.”

Just then, there was a knock at the open door and a boy and girl who must be Sam and Mae appeared in the doorway. Sam looked to be about fifteen-all gangly arms and legs. His eyes widened and he swallowed convulsively at the sight of the Cartwright sisters, and Adam found himself remembering when he’d met the Cooper sisters at the Townsends all those years ago. Mae reminded him very strongly of her mother because she had the same dark brown hair in pigtails and the same sparkling brown eyes.

After the introductions, Sam said, “I- I got the horses saddled and they’re outside. The black and the bay are for Beth and Miranda.”

“Well, Debby,” Adam said, “Shall we see them off?” and the baby gurgled and cooed as Adam stood up and followed the young people outside.

“I’ll help you mount, Beth,” Sam said as she walked toward the beautiful black gelding. Miranda walked over to stroke the nose of the bay mare. These horses were about 16 hands, while the girls’ Welsh cobs were only 14 hands, so they would need some assistance mounting.

“Debby, I’m going to have to give you back to your mama,” Adam said. He turned to go back inside and discovered Elsie had followed him. She held out her arms for the baby.

Sam cupped his hands to form a sort of mounting block and boosted Beth up enough that she could mount the black, and Adam did the same for Miranda. Mae was a few inches taller than the Cartwright girls and mounted on her own. All three girls were wearing dresses that slid up to expose their calves. Adam was relieved to see that at least Beth and Miranda’s garters weren’t visible.

“Remember,” Elsie called after the four riders, “the girls must be back in an hour so they can catch the train back to Boston.”

“Well, I’d best be getting home so I can start preparing dinner,” Docia said then. “I’ll have a crew of hungry men to feed.” She turned to Adam with a smile. ‘It was wonderful to see you again, Adam, and to meet your daughters.” Then she grinned impishly, looking like the ten-year-old he remembered from his summer with the Whartons. “The boys and young men will be swarming around Beth and Miranda like birds in a berry patch. Should make your life very interesting.” She giggled as she headed for her buggy, Sam having hitched the horse to it before he left.

Emily and Abner walked outside then. “I’m afraid I must be going as well,” she said. “I am so glad to finally have the opportunity to meet you, and your lovely daughters.” She turned to the little boy and said, “Say goodbye to Granny and Mr. Cartwright, Abner.”

“G’bye, Gwanny. G’bye, Mistah Cartwight,” Abner said, very seriously, but then he grinned at them before following his mama to their buggy. (Sam had hitched the team to it before leaving as well.)

“Shall we go back inside?” Elsie suggested, and Adam nodded. Pearl and Mrs. Wharton were not in the parlor, but Elsie answered Adam’s query by saying they were probably fixing supper.

They sat down on the settee and Adam said slowly, “You seem happy, Elsie.”

She turned to look at him, smiling warmly. “I still miss Aaron but, like St. Paul, I can say that ‘I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.'” He took her hand then and squeezed it gently. “I wish Aaron and I could have had more time together, that he could have seen his daughters grow to womanhood, held his grandchildren on his knee; but, it was not to be,” she said quietly. “I am grateful for the time we did have and the two beautiful daughters he gave me, for he lives on in them.”

Adam said haltingly, “My father always said that each of his wives lived on in the son she left behind.”

“It’s true.” She smiled faintly. “I used to worry about you, you know. Afraid you’d never find a woman to share your life with, but it was clear from the first time you wrote about Bronwen, that you and she were meant to be together-just as Aaron and I were.”

He smiled ruefully. “I’m afraid if I hadn’t decided on a whim to visit Australia, I’d be a crusty old bachelor now.” He grew more somber and added, “I love Bronwen so much. If I lost her- I don’t see how you went on after losing Aaron, how my pa went on after losing three women that he loved.”

“I had Emily and Pearl and your pa had you and your brothers. At first, it is your children that keep you going. Gradually, it gets easier. It may be a cliché, but it is still true that time does heal all wounds.” She stopped, and gazing into his eyes intently, she said, “If something happened to Bronwen, you would go on for your children’s sake.” He sighed gently and then nodded.

She smiled and said, “Tell me about your younger children.”

When the four young people returned from their ride, they discovered Adam hitching the team to Elsie’s surrey and they only had time for a quick goodbye. As Elsie set the horses at a trot, Beth commented, “I’m so glad we had a chance to visit Massachusetts, but now I’m ready to go home.”

“Yes, it will be nice to sleep in my own bed in my own bedroom,” Miranda added.

“Amen to that!” Adam said with such conviction that Elsie couldn’t hold back her giggles.

Chapter 5

“There,” Gwyneth said as she marked a big X through the date on the calendar Ben had made and put in the girls’ room. “Everyone will be back in three days.”

“Three more days,” Penny commented sadly.

“Three days will go by before you know it, Penny fach,” Bronwen said cheerfully. “Maybe tomorrow we can have a picnic at the lake. That will be fun.”

“But it would be more fun if Daddy and Beth and Miranda were here, too,” Penny replied, her expression woebegone.

“Right now, let’s listen to your grandpa read. I want to see what happens to Ceddie now that some other little boy is claiming to be Lord Fauntleroy,” Joe said, hoping to divert Penny’s mind from her missing family members.

“Oh yes,” Gwyneth said. “I think Mr. Hobbs and Dick are going to help Ceddie somehow.”

“Too right!” Penny exclaimed. “It isn’t fair if Ceddie isn’t Lord Fauntleroy, is it, Mama?” and all three adults shared a smile at Joe’s successful tactic.

“Let’s let Grandpa read, and we’ll find out what happens,” Bronwen replied with a grin, and Penny and Gwyneth got into bed.

After breakfast the next morning, Bronwen and the girls decided to go riding. (It was difficult at this time of the year to spare a hand to accompany them and Ben was busy with paperwork, but Bronwen assured Ben and Joe that as long as they stayed within a ten mile radius of the ranch house, she knew her way. Ben reluctantly agreed the three of them could ride on their own, knowing Bronwen was a sensible woman and a reasonably experienced equestrienne.) This morning, they decided to ride along the road Adam had designed to connect the ranch with Carson City.

It was a lovely summer day. The cerulean sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds and compared to summer in Cloncurry, the temperature seemed quite mild. They were almost ready to ride back to the ranch house when Penny spotted a cloud of dust a ways up the road.

“Look!” she exclaimed. “That must be someone coming to visit Grandpa!” Before Bronwen could open her mouth, Penny urged her pony into a gallop.

“Sometimes I really wish your sister knew the meaning of the word ‘stranger’,” Bronwen said with a sigh before urging Rosebud into a gallop and Gwyneth followed.

The buggy slowed when the driver saw Penny and her pony approach. “G’day, mates!” Penny called to the two men as she drew closer. She saw they were very young, boys rather than men. The elder had brown hair and bright blue eyes. The younger, who didn’t look much older than Beth, resembled the other so closely that she was sure they must be brothers.

“Uh, hello,” the older of the two boys said, obviously taken aback by Penny’s accent.

“Are you coming to see Ben Cartwright?” Penny asked. “He’s my grandpa.” Just then Bronwen and Gwyneth caught up to Penny. The boys looked startled at seeing a woman wearing knickerbockers and a Stetson.

“Uh, hello, ma’am,” the older boy said, and both tipped their hats. Then he turned to Penny and said, “Yes, we are coming to see your grandpa. You see, he’s our great-uncle.”

“You’re Cartwrights?” Bronwen asked, surprised.

“Yes. I’m John Cartwright and this is my brother, Michael. Our grandfather was Ben Cartwright’s brother,” he said.

“Our dad told us that he had an uncle and cousins living on a ranch called the Ponderosa in Nevada, near Lake Tahoe. We wanted to visit very much but dad and mama always came up with excuses why we couldn’t,” Michael added, “so John and I decided we’d pay a visit on our own. We asked about the Ponderosa in Carson City and we were told this road would take us there. Do you know how much further it is?”

“You’re on the Ponderosa,” Bronwen said with a little smile. “I’m Bronwen Cartwright and these are my daughters, Gwyneth and Penny.”

“Daughters?” Michael said, his bewilderment obvious.

“Oh, we’re not boys,” Penny said with an infectious giggle as she and Gwyneth removed their caps so their long braids fell down their backs. The astonishment on the boys’ faces made even Gwyneth chuckle.

“We’re very happy to meet all of you,” Michael said with a grin once he’d gotten over his shock. “I hope it’s all right that we’ve dropped by without any warning.”

“Too right! I mean, absolutely,” Bronwen replied. “My father-in-law will be happy to meet you, I’m sure.”

“Good. Our older sister, Peggy, (she’s our half sister really) did say that she remembered when she was very young, Mama almost married one of Dad’s cousins. Adam Cartwright was his name.”

“That’s my daddy!” Penny said in surprise and Gwyneth glanced at her mama apprehensively.

“My husband did tell me that he was briefly engaged to a young widow with a daughter,” Bronwen said evenly. “That must have been your mama.”

“Daddy was going to marry someone else?” Penny asked. Her horrified expression was identical to her older sister’s.

“Yes, but they realized that they didn’t really love each other so they ended the engagement,” Bronwen said soothingly to her daughters. No wonder this cousin made excuses not to come visit the Ponderosa if he married Adam’s fiancée; I think there must be more to this story.

She then said to the two young men, “Why don’t we ride back to the ranch house with you?”

“Thanks,” John said. “Do we have far to go?”

“We’ll be there in about half an hour,” Bronwen replied.

As they rode along, Michael said, “I don’t mean to be rude, Mrs. Cartwright, but you and your daughters don’t sound like you’re from Nevada.”

“We aren’t,” Penny said, earning a frown from her mother for her impertinence.

“We actually live in a little mining town in Queensland on the continent of Australia,” Bronwen answered. “We just happen to be visiting the Ponderosa now. I’m afraid you won’t be able to meet my husband and our two older girls since they are visiting Boston, along with your cousin Joe’s wife and their two children,”

“That’s too bad,” John replied, adding with a smile, “but I’m glad we met you ladies.” Penny beamed at being referred to as a lady while Gwyneth blushed.

“I always thought that Australia would be an interesting place to visit. I suppose you’ve seen kangaroos?” Michael asked.

“Too right!” Penny said. “And dingos, emus and koalas.”

The young men decided the older girl must be very shy and in an effort to draw her out John said to her, “Gwyneth is a pretty name, but a little unusual.”

Penny started to reply but luckily saw her mama shake her head and frown slightly and let her sister answer.

“It’s Welsh,” Gwyneth said quietly. “One of my great-grandmothers was named Gwyneth.”

“What are your older sisters named?” Michael asked her then.

“Beth and Miranda. We have a baby brother. His name is Adam Cartwright, Jr., but we call him A.C.”

“You just have one sister?” Penny asked then.

“No, we have two: an older sister and a younger. Peggy is eight years older than I am,” John replied. “She’s married now and has two children of her own. She has very fond memories of your dad. She said he bought her a pony and she cried when she had to leave the pony behind when she and Mama and Dad left the ranch where she used to live.”

“Our younger sister is named Agnes,” Michael inserted. “She’s twelve and thinks she is all grown-up.”

“Our sister Beth was like that when she was twelve. Wasn’t she, Gwyneth?” Penny said and Gwyneth nodded with a shy smile.

They continued to converse as they rode along. When they got within sight of the ranch house, Gwyneth asked, “May I ride ahead and tell Grandpa that we have visitors?”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Bronwen replied and Penny asked if she could go too, so the two girls tore off at a gallop, causing their mother to shake her head and comment, “They are true Cartwrights.”

When they pulled into the yard at a trot, Gwyneth said, “I’ll walk our horses to cool them off. You go tell Grandpa about John and Michael.”

Penny ran into the ranch house hollering, “Grandpa! Grandpa!”

“I’m right here, Penny,” Ben said, for he was sitting at his desk, reading over a timber contract. “You know your mama doesn’t like you shouting in the house. It isn’t ladylike.”

“I’m sorry, Grandpa,” she said in her best butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth tone, walking over to him with a disarming smile. He had to fight the impulse to grin because she reminded him so much of Joseph at the same age. “We have company coming. Their names are John and Michael and they said you’re their great-uncle, that their grandpa was your brother. And their big sister said that their mama almost married Daddy.”

“Will and Laura’s sons?” Ben said aloud to himself, not quite believing what Penny had just said. “I always wondered what happened to the two of them and little Peggy.” Then he walked to the kitchen.

The wall-eyed cook looked up at his employer and Ben said, “I think we’re going to have company, Buckshot. Best get a couple of bedrooms ready,” and the cook nodded.

When Gwyneth finished walking the horses and brought them to the trough to drink, she saw her grandpa, sister and baby brother sitting on the front porch. Ben helped Gwyneth remove the saddles and carry them to the barn while Penny played catch with A.C. As soon as the toddler saw Ben returning, he called, “Pa-pa!” and started to toddle off the porch.

“Hello, young man,” Ben said with a grin as he bent over and scooped up his grandson. “Would you like to sit with Pa-pa?” and the toddler nodded, dimpling. It was only a few minutes later that the buggy, accompanied by Bronwen, pulled into the yard.

“Mama!” A.C. yelled and began squirming to get down so Gwyneth picked him up and hurried over to her mother. As soon as Bronwen had dismounted, Gwyneth handed her the wriggling A.C., saying, “I’ll water the horses.”

“Penny can take care of Rosebud,” Bronwen said, raising her voice so she knew Penny would hear, and reluctantly the little girl complied. “When you finish, girls,” Bronwen called, “hurry upstairs and change clothes so you can join us.” Penny’s expression brightened at those words while Gwyneth looked apprehensive.

Meanwhile, Ben greeted the young men. He could definitely see his brother in them-the same square jaw, broad brow and rather long nose. “Welcome. Welcome,” he said as they approached. “Penny tells me that you are Will and Laura’s sons,” he said with a beaming smile as he held out his hand and shook theirs. “C’mon inside and we can talk,” he added.

Bronwen walked up then, saying with a smile, “The girls and I will join you as soon as we’ve had a chance to change clothes. Pa, do you mind watching A.C. while I change?”

“Not at all,” he answered taking the little boy. A.C. wasn’t happy at being separated from his mama until Ben said, “A.C., do you want to play horsy with Grandpa?”

“Horsy,” A.C. said with a dimpled grin, and Bronwen hurried inside and up the stairs while Gwyneth unhitched the horses from the buggy and Penny walked Rosebud to cool her down.

The two young men seated themselves on the settee as Ben moved to his old leather chair. “I’ve lost touch with your parents but I always wondered how they were and if they had any children. And of course I’ve wondered about Peggy since she was almost my granddaughter,” he said.

“Peggy is fine,” Michael said. “She’s married; her husband works as a gripman on a cable car, the Geary Street Park & Ocean Railroad that runs from Market to Central in San Francisco. They have a little girl, Hope, who’s three and a baby boy named Frank.”

“That’s good to know,” Ben said. “Are your parents in good health? Do you have any other brothers and sisters?”

“Our parents are both in excellent health and we have a younger sister, Agnes, who’s twelve,” John answered.

“Just a year older than Gwyneth,” Bronwen’s voice said from the stairs.

“Mama,” A.C. exclaimed and Ben set him on his feet so he could toddle over to her as the three men stood while she walked over and sat in the blue velvet chair. “Bocks,” A.C. said.

“All right, A.C. bach, they’re over by Grandpa’s desk,” Bronwen said starting to stand up, but Michael forestalled her.

“I see the box. I’ll get them for him,” the boy said with a friendly grin. He carried the box over to the low table in front of the fireplace, and after removing the bowl of apples, he emptied the blocks onto the table for the little boy.

“I meant to ask you this before,” Bronwen said as Michael sat back down. “You said that you both decided to pay a visit to the Ponderosa on your own, but you did get your parents permission, didn’t you?”

“Well,” John said slowly, looking very uncomfortable, “we did leave a note telling them where we were going.”

“Boys,” Ben said with a deep frown. “Well, it’s too late for anyone to go to Carson City to send a telegram to your parents now, but first thing tomorrow morning I will send someone.”

Both boys look suitably repentant but then Michael said, “We were really impressed with your ranch, sir. Just how big is it?”

“A thousand square miles and, please, call me Uncle Ben.”

Michael pursued his lips and whistled. “A thousand square miles.”

John shook his head and said, “I just don’t understand why Dad and Mama always came up with excuses about why we couldn’t visit.” He reddened and then said nervously, “There’s not a family feud or anything is there?”

“No, of course not,” Ben said. He paused for a moment and then said, “When your grandfather and I were boys together, we were very close. Just like our father and most of our neighbors in Gloucester, we went away to sea while we were still boys. First, John and then a couple of years later, me. We never managed to serve on the same ships so we’d only see each other in the winter when our ships were in port. After a few years, John and I tired of life at sea. He met your grandmother, Agnes, and decided to try farming in the new territory of Ohio. I didn’t see them for several years.”

He paused for a moment and noted that both boys were looking at him with interest, and a quick glance at his daughter-in-law showed him she was just as engrossed, so he continued. “I was traveling west with my son, Adam, after his mother died. I think he was around four then. We stayed a couple of months at your grandfather’s farm, and it was wonderful being able to spend time with my brother. Your grandmother felt sorry for Adam and tried to mother him. He and your dad got along just fine. Your dad was a couple of years older than Adam and tried to teach Adam to play marbles. With somewhat limited success I’m afraid. But I do remember how much fun they both had sliding down the haystack. John wasn’t too pleased to see all his work undone, but it was the happiest I’d ever seen Adam so I talked John out of punishing the boys and I rebuilt the haystack myself.”

He stopped for a moment lost in memory but then continued. “John and Agnes tried hard to persuade me to settle near them. I was tempted, but my dream was to travel further west and so we left. I never saw my brother again. When I learned of his death, I tried to find your dad so I could offer him a home here on the Ponderosa. But he was a typical independent Cartwright and I think he felt he was old enough to take care of himself. It was many years later that I met him again, and for a time, he did live here on the ranch.”

Buckshot came into the dining room then. “Dinner’ll be ready in about 15 minutes,” he announced.

“Come with me, boys, and I’ll show you to the washhouse,” Ben said, rising to his feet. Bronwen and A.C. went to tell the girls to hurry and then come inside and change for dinner.

Everyone else was waiting when Penny and Gwyneth came bouncing down the stairs dressed in short-sleeved smocked dresses with their hair neatly brushed. John and Michael exchanged a quick glance, for now their young cousins very definitely looked like girls.

Buckshot was pleased (and Ben and Bronwen were amused) by the amount of food the boys consumed. After dinner while A.C. took his afternoon nap, the others gathered on the front porch to hear Ben’s stories of growing up in Gloucester, Massachusetts with his brother, John.

In the middle of a story, Penny, who’d happened to glance off in the direction they’d ridden that morning, interrupted. “There’s somebody else coming!” she said excitedly. “See the dust cloud?”

“I wonder who it could be?” Ben mused.

“We’ll find out soon enough,” Bronwen said calmly. “While the rest of you listen to the story, I’m going to check on A.C. It’s about time for him to be getting up from his nap.”

Ben had time to finish his story and the boys went inside to build towers of blocks for A.C. to knock down before a two-seat surrey pulled into the yard. A broad-shouldered man with graying dark brown hair and a mustache was driving and sitting by him was a blonde-haired girl about Gwyneth’s age. A pretty blonde woman who appeared to be about the same age as Bronwen sat on the girl’s other side. Ben took hold of his granddaughters’ hands and walked toward the surrey.

“Will and Laura, it’s so good to see you again after all these years. Your boys arrived safely and they’re inside with my daughter-in-law,” Ben said as the man climbed out of the surrey and helped the woman and the girl down.

“It’s good to see you, Uncle Ben. Laura and I apologize for any inconvenience John and Michael have caused you,” Will said, shaking Ben’s hand. “And who are these young ladies?” he asked with a friendly grin.

“These are my granddaughters, Gwyneth and Penny,” Ben said with a proud smile and the girls curtseyed. “Girls, these are your cousins, Will and Laura, and I think this must be Agnes,” he added with a smile at the girl, who was the image of her mama.

“Yes, sir,” Agnes said with a curtsey.

“Gwyneth, I think I can guess who your daddy is. She looks just like Adam,” Laura said to Ben with a smile.

“Yes, and Penny looks just like her mama,” Ben replied quietly. “They’re Adam’s younger daughters and their little brother is inside with their mama.”

“And Adam?” Laura asked quietly.

“Adam is visiting Boston with his two older daughters and Joe’s wife and their two children,” Ben replied. “But, please, come inside,” he said gesturing toward the house. “I imagine you want to have a few words with your young scamps.”

“I certainly do,” Will said, his handsome features momentarily marred by a stern frown.

“I’ll have someone take care of your horses,” Ben said and Will nodded.

As soon as the six Cartwrights entered the great room, A.C. jumped up and ran toward Ben shouting, “Horsy, Pa-pa!” Ben bent over and picked his grandson up and held him so the others could see him.

“This is Adam, Jr., but we all call him A.C.,” Ben said with a warm smile, kissing the little boy’s chubby cheek.

“Oh, he’s beautiful,” Laura said.

Bronwen had gotten up and walked over to the door, very glad she’d brushed her hair and pinned it in a fashionable knot since the other woman was dressed stylishly in a dress of shot silk and with a straw hat lavishly decorated with pink silk roses perched atop her blonde hair. Bronwen was ashamed of the satisfaction she felt on seeing that the woman’s blonde hair was turning gray and her figure was not as slender as her own. Will and Laura shared a very brief look of surprise as the diminutive, bespectacled woman approached.

“Laura and Will, allow me to present my daughter-in-law, Bronwen,” Ben said proudly. “Bronwen, this is Adam’s cousin, Will, and Will’s wife, Laura.’

“I’m pleased to meet you,” Laura said. “And this is our daughter, Agnes,” she added and Agnes curtseyed.

Will bowed slightly before adding, “Yes, indeed. I am delighted to meet you, Mrs. Cartwright.”

“Oh please, call me Bronwen, and may I call you Will and Laura?” Bronwen asked with a warm smile. Laura’s eyes opened wide when she heard Bronwen’s accent, but Will smiled broadly.

“Of course,” he said. “Bronwen, by your accent I’d venture a guess that you’re from the continent of Australia.”

“Too right,” she replied with a grin. “Have you been there, Will?”

‘No, but I’ve met several sailors from Sydney,” he replied with another warm smile.

“Sydney is my hometown. Well, to be precise, I grew up in a suburb-Darlinghurst,” she said with a tiny grin.

John and Michael had leapt to their feet when their parents entered the room, and now Michael said with a sheepish grin, ‘Hello Mama. Dad. I guess you found our letter.”

“Yes, we did, young man,” Will said sternly. “Your mother was worried sick about you two.”

“Why? We’ve ridden on trains before,” John said in an affronted tone. “All we had to do was buy our tickets. We’re going to get a room at a hotel in Carson City; we’ve saved up enough money.”

“Nobody needs to get a room in Carson City,” Ben said then. “We have plenty of room here. In fact, Will and Laura, I’m hoping you can stay for a few days. The rest of our family will be returning from Boston the day after tomorrow, and I know Adam will want to see you.”

“No, we can’t impose on you, Uncle Ben,” Will said quickly after exchanging a glance with Laura.

“Oh please stay,” Bronwen said then. “Adam will be so disappointed to have missed you.”

“Please, Dad,” John added. “Uncle Ben said they’re going to break some broncos tomorrow and we could watch.”

“Gwyneth and Penny said we could come riding with them,” Michael said. “They’ve been riding since they were only four years old,” he added enviously.

Laura looked surprised and Bronwen said with a smile, “That was Adam’s idea. I wanted to wait until they were at least five, but he managed to sweet talk me into agreeing they could have their first ponies when they were four.”

“Yes, I remember how insistent Adam always is that things be done his way,” Laura replied, causing Bronwen to frown.

“Our daddy taught us how to ride,” Penny said proudly. “I have a darling pony named Muffin, but Beth, Miranda and Gwyneth have horses.”

A.C. had been a little intimidated by all the strangers, but hearing Penny talk about horses reminded of what he wanted to do so he said, “Horsy, Pa-pa.”

“A.C.,” Will said, “would you play horsy with me? I haven’t had a little boy to play horsy with for a long time.”

A.C. thought for a moment, and then held out his arms to Will, and he and Laura joined their sons on the settee. He sat A.C. on his knee and began to jiggle him as the little boy giggled.

Bronwen turned to the three girls and said, “Why don’t you play outside? Penny brought her jacks or you could play hopscotch.”

Agnes started to say something but she saw her mother shake her head so she said, “Yes, ma’am,’ and followed Penny and Gwyneth outside.

“Do you want to play jacks or hopscotch?” Penny asked.

“Neither,” Agnes said with a sniff. “Those are children’s games.”

“I’ll play hopscotch with you, Pen,” Gwyneth said quickly. She really didn’t like the game much, but she knew Penny did and she’d seen the hurt look on Penny’s face at their cousin’s mean remark. They ignored Agnes and began to draw a hopscotch board in the dirt of the yard with their fingers.

After the girls had gone outside, Will, who was still jiggling A.C., said, “I hope I’m not being too inquisitive, Bronwen, but I’d love to hear how you met my cousin.”

“No worries,” Bronwen replied and the others looked a little confused, but she continued. “Adam had been traveling for a couple of years through Europe, the Holy Land and Egypt. He was on his way to the orient but decided to stop in Australia. He docked in Sydney and was going for a walk when he swept me off my feet. Literally,” she added with an infectious grin. “I was walking home from the library and neither of us was watching where we were going so we bumped into each other. He caught me, but my books went flying. He was very sweet and insisted on carrying them for me. As we walked, we talked about our favorite novels and poems. I invited him to stay for a cup of tea and we talked more. I don’t think we let my poor mother say more than two words,” and she blushed slightly, which Will thought was charming.

“We met in January, Adam proposed in March and we married in April,” she added with a happy smile.

“My goodness, that doesn’t sound like Adam,” Laura remarked. “He’s usually so cautious,” she added, remembering how Adam had kept company with her for a year before broaching the subject of marriage, and then he’d dragged his feet about setting a date.

“I did feel guilty,” Bronwen said, glancing at Ben, “since there wasn’t time for Pa, Hoss and Joe to be able to attend our wedding, but neither of us wanted a long engagement.”

“We may have missed the wedding, but the boys and I were there for Beth’s birth,” Ben said then with an enormous grin at the memory.

“Beth is your oldest, I take it,” Laura stated and Bronwen nodded.

“Do you and Adam live in Australia?” Will asked, obviously surprised.

“Yes. At first we rented a house in Paddington. That’s another suburb of Sydney,” Bronwen explained. “But my brother, Rhys, and Adam had formed a mining company and they discovered copper near a little town in the outback named Cloncurry. Rhys and his wife moved to Cloncurry first and then after Beth was three months old, we moved there. It’s a small, isolated mining town, although there are several stations in the surrounding area.”

“Stations are what they call ranches,” Ben interjected.

“This is our third visit to the Ponderosa. We came in 1877 and again in 1883,” Bronwen added. “On our return we’ll sail to Sydney so we can visit my parents.”

“I never thought Adam would leave the Ponderosa,” Laura said thoughtfully.

“Adam was always the most independent of my children,” Ben said quietly. “I’m not really surprised that he decided to strike out on his own, particularly since he can use his talents as an engineer.”

“We both miss our families,” Bronwen added, “and wish the children could spend more time with their grandparents, but we’re happy in Cloncurry.”

“Penny said there are plenty of kangaroos and koalas near their home,” Michael said then. “I’d sure like to see a real kangaroo.”

A.C. grinned then and shouted, “Roos!” and the others all smiled.

“Now, Uncle Ben, you said Adam and his two older daughters are in Boston with Joe’s wife and children,” Will commented.

“Yes. Annabelle is from Boston and she wanted to take her children to visit her family,” Ben replied.

“We may be enrolling our second oldest, Miranda, at Boston’s Girls’ Latin School and she would stay with Annabelle’s brother and his family. This visit gave everyone a chance to meet before any decisions are made,” Bronwen added

“So Adam and Joe are both married,” Laura said. “Is Hoss married as well?”

The pain and grief on Ben’s face gave Laura and Will their first indication of the truth and then Bronwen said softly, “Hoss died eleven years ago. He was trying to help a family crossing the Truckee and he was drowned.”

“I am so sorry, Uncle Ben,” Will said, and his voice shook. “He was a good man and the kindest I’ve ever known.”

“And so gentle,” Laura added.

Ben said quietly, “I tried to notify you but my letters were returned.”

“We were living in Shanghai eleven years ago,” Will said. “I know we should have stayed in touch but . . .” his voice trailed off after a quick glance at Bronwen.

“You’re here now and when the others return, we’ll have a real reunion,” Ben said, managing a smile.

“How long did you live in Shanghai,” Bronwen asked.

“Twelve years,” Will replied. “When we first married, I took the job with my friend’s import business that I spoke to you about, Uncle Ben,” and Ben nodded. “Laura, Peggy and I lived in Shanghai’s International Settlement.”

“International Settlement?” Bronwen queried.

“The British and Americans each had a settlement on the western bank of the Huangpu river, and about twenty years before we moved there, they decided to join the two settlements and form one International Settlement. They invited the French to join, but they preferred to keep their separate settlement.”

“Very few Chinese live in the International Settlement,” Laura interjected. “Our cook and our houseboy were the only Chinese we saw on a daily basis.”

“There are quite a few Europeans and Americans livening in the International Settlement,” Will added. “They call themselves Shanghighlanders.”

“Michael and I were born there,” John said then. “We don’t really remember it though.”

“It wasn’t a bad life,” Will commented, but Laura interrupted.

“You’re forgetting the riot,” she said, and Will frowned slightly.

“A few months before Michael was born, the French decided to make some new roads in their territory, and one of them would run through a Chinese cemetery. The local government told the French that the Chinese regarded the ground as sacred and they would be very upset by the French plan to remove the bodies in order to build the road,” Will explained to Ben and Bronwen. “The French apparently thought the local government was exaggerating the public reaction, but they were very wrong. As word of their plan spread, a riot broke out in the French Settlement, but it did not spread to the International Settlement. French property was damaged and some Chinese were killed in the riot.”

“I knew then that I did not want to raise my children in a foreign land among heathens,” Laura inserted.

“It took time to arrange for my replacement and for an opening in the San Francisco office for me,” Will said quickly, “so we remained in Shanghai another three years.”

“We have a lovely home in San Francisco now,” Laura stated. “On Franklin Street.”

When Joe rode into the yard that night, he saw his nieces playing hopscotch while an unknown blonde girl sat by herself on the porch looking bored.

“Uncle Joe!” Penny called running over as he swung out of the saddle. “We have company.”

“Our cousins,” Gwyneth added quietly.

“Cousins?” Joe repeated as the other hands began dismounting.

“Too right,” Penny said, nodding her head vigorously. “One of ‘em almost married Daddy.”

“Wait a minute,” Joe said, his entire attention now on his nieces. “You don’t mean my cousin Will and Laura are here?”

“In the great room with Grandpa and Mama and A.C.,” Penny replied. “And their sons.”

“That’s their daughter on the porch,” Gwyneth added, nodding at the blonde girl.

“I’ll take care of your horse,” Jacob offered and Joe handed him the reins with a quick, “Thanks.”

As they drew closer to the porch, Joe saw the pretty blonde girl resembled Laura Dayton.

“Uncle Joe, this is our cousin, Agnes,” Gwyneth said quietly.

“I’m please to meet you, Agnes,” he said with a smile. “Why don’t we go inside, ladies?” he added and they all went in with him.

“Joe,” Will said, standing up and holding out his hand. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Sure is,” Joe said, shaking his hand before turning to Laura. “I see you are looking as lovely as ever, Laura,” he said politely. He and Hoss had discussed her sudden change in affection from their older brother to their cousin many times after the couple’s abrupt departure. Hoss had maintained if Adam was willing to forgive the two of them, they should do the same. However, Joe despised disloyalty and as far as he was concerned, Laura had been disloyal in allowing herself to fall in love with one man while engaged to another. His gaze moved quickly to his sister-in-law, but her demeanor was perfectly serene. He was introduced to John and Michael and then he hurried upstairs to wash up for dinner.

Supper was a pleasant meal. Afterward, Gwyneth and Penny were happy to help Buckshot by drying the dishes and putting them away since it gave them a chance to escape from Agnes, who clearly wanted nothing to do with them. John and Michael enjoyed themselves amusing A.C. until Bronwen took him up to bed. Will entertained everyone with stories of life in the International Settlement until Bronwen noticed her girls were nodding off.

As she sent them upstairs, Ben turned to the boys and said, “If you two want to watch the broncos being broken tomorrow, you should turn in now because our working day starts at dawn.”

The boys looked surprised but headed upstairs willingly. Their sullen sister had no choice but to follow. For the time being, the boys were sleeping in the guest bedroom while Agnes had been given the room Beth and Miranda had shared. Will and Laura had been assigned the downstairs bedroom.

The adults didn’t linger after the children went to bed. After saying goodnight to the girls, Bronwen decided to get a book from Ben’s library. Each night Adam was gone, she found it more difficult to sleep. This night in particular, she felt the need of something to take her mind off how much she missed her absent husband. As she walked down the staircase, she saw Ben sitting in his chair with a sifter of brandy, staring into the flames. He looked up and smiled when he saw her.

“I thought I’d come down for a book. I’ve been having trouble falling asleep,” she explained.

“It must have been a shock, meeting Laura,” he commented quietly as she glanced at the titles, and she turned to face him.

“Yes, it was.” She hesitated a moment and then walked over and sat on the settee. “I knew nothing about her until you and Hoss and Joe came to visit us,” she said carefully, not wanting to sound accusing, but she saw Ben nod his understanding. “I wish Adam had told me before Joe mentioned her to my parents. I wasn’t surprised to learn he’d been engaged before, but I won’t deny it hurt to know that he loved another woman enough to ask her to share his life.” She paused for a moment and then said, “I hadn’t realized she would be so different from me.”

“Yes, I guess she is,” Ben said thoughtfully. “I’ve always liked Laura, but I was glad that she and Adam ended their engagement. I never thought they truly loved each other. After her first husband died unexpectedly, Adam befriended her and her little daughter. I honestly don’t know if he was actually courting her, but he would take her and her daughter to church most Sundays, and they’d often go on a picnic afterward. I know he kept an eye on her ranch so he could offer her advice.”

He reached over and patted her hand then, and she smiled at him. “After about a year,” Ben said, picking up the thread of his narrative, “Adam seemed to decide it was time he asked Laura to marry him. I think it would have been a marriage of convenience on both sides. He was gaining a wife and ready-made family while she gained financial security and a father for her daughter. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that kind of marriage, but it’s not what I wanted for any of my sons. I wanted them to know the same kind of love that I knew with each of their mothers. As soon as I saw you and Adam together, I could see that you shared the same love that Liz and I had.”

Bronwen smiled and then got up and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Pa. Well, I think I’ll get my book then go up and check on the girls and A.C. one more time.”

Her little boy was sound asleep when she looked in on him, but the moment she opened their door slightly to check on the girls, Penny whispered, “Mama?”

“Yes, Penny?”

“Can we talk to you?”

“All right,” Bronwen replied quietly. She came in and sat her candle on the bedside table. Then she sat on the side of the bed and waited.

“Did Daddy really love that lady?” Penny asked, her anxiety obvious. Gwyneth’s misery was better concealed, but not from her mother’s eyes.

“I think your daddy cared for Laura and I imagine she cared for him. Her first husband had died and left her with a little girl and a ranch to run. Daddy felt sorry for her and wanted to help her. He told me that spending time with Laura and her little girl made him think about having a family of his own. But he also told me that he was glad they didn’t get married because he never loved Laura the way he loves me. And you girls both know how much Daddy loves you and Beth and Miranda and A.C.”

“I just never thought about Daddy loving someone besides you,” Penny said.

“Well, you have to remember that Daddy is ten years older than I am. When he was old enough to fall in love, I was just a little girl-a little girl who lived far away across the ocean on a different continent.”

“I forgot about that,” Gwyneth said quietly. “Did you ever love someone else besides Daddy?”

“Oh, when I was around Beth’s age or little older, I thought I was in love once or twice, but it didn’t last long so I knew it wasn’t really love. It was different when I met your daddy. I loved him almost from the moment I met him.” She smiled at her daughters. “Now, I think the two of you need to go to sleep.” She kissed their cheeks and left the room with her candle.

“l knew Daddy loves Mama,” Penny whispered to Gwyneth, “and not that lady.”

“Cousin Laura,” Gwyneth corrected. “It’s hard to picture Mama a little girl when Daddy was grownup enough to fall in love,” she added, and Penny giggled.

“Do you think Mama played jacks and hopscotch like me?” she asked then and Gwyneth replied, “Too right. Daddy says Mama must have looked just like you when she was a little girl.”

“And Grandpa says Daddy looked like you,” Penny said with a snicker and Gwyneth joined in. They started laughing so hard at the idea of Daddy looking like Gwyneth that they had to put their hands across their mouths to muffle the sound.

When they finally managed to stop, Gwyneth said earnestly, “I’m sure glad Daddy came to Australia so he could meet Mama.”

“Too right!” Penny responded. “And bumped into her and made her drop her books.”

“I like that story,” Gwyneth said, smiling in the dark.

“Girls,” Ben’s voice said from the doorway, “I know your mama wants you to go to sleep now.”

“Right, Grandpa,” they chorused, and he smiled as he closed the door and walked to his own room.

As Laura braided her hair before joining Will in bed she said, “Adam’s wife is not what I expected. She’s not plain, but, well, I thought his wife would be beautiful.”

“Maybe she’s not beautiful, but she’s very charming,” Will replied, adding carefully, “and she is pretty.”

A little reluctantly, Laura nodded her agreement. “You know,” she said slowly, “I think it’s her spectacles. She would be prettier without her spectacles.”

Will nodded and then added, “But it’s refreshing to meet a woman who isn’t too vain to wear them.” Then he chuckled. “Gwyneth looks so much like Adam and Penny so much like Bronwen.”

“They do, don’t they?” she agreed with a smile as she got into bed beside him. Her expression sobered as she said cautiously, “Are you sure we should stay here until the others return? Won’t it be awkward?”

“No, honey, I don’t think so,” he said firmly.

“I know the boys are delighted to stay for a while and have a chance to meet real cowboys, but I’m afraid Agnes isn’t too happy about being separated from her friends,” Laura said then.

‘Yeah, I know,” Will said, frowning. “She’s making that perfectly plain. I’m beginning to think that we’ve spoiled her a bit. I think not getting her own way this time will be good for her.”

Joe knocked on the boys’ room on his way to do his barn chores the next morning. A little later, Ben checked and found them still in bed.

“Boys, it’s time to get up if you want to watch the bronco busting this morning,’ he said from the doorway.

“All right,” John grunted, sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “Get up, Michael,” he said, reaching over and shaking his brother roughly. Ben smiled, reminded of Hoss and Joe as boys.

When the boys came down the stairs, yawning and bleary-eyes, they discovered their young cousins busy setting the table while Bronwen and A.C. were sitting in the blue velvet arm chair playing “This Little Piggy,” and Ben was reading.

A.C. grinned and waved his arms at them and Bronwen said, “Good morning, boys,” with a smile and was echoed by the others.

“Good morning,” John and Michael replied, and then Michael asked curiously, “Do you always get up this early?”

Bronwen nodded. “At home, each of the girls feeds and waters her horse.” She saw Penny start to open her mouth and added, “Or pony. My husband cares for our milk cow and the older girls take turns milking her. Gwyneth and Penny have the job of feeding our chickens and gathering the eggs.” Then, directing a smile at her baby boy, she added, “My job is to take care of A.C. While we’re doing that, our help is fixing breakfast. By the time we’ve finished eating, it’s time for the girls to go to school and my husband to go to the mine.”

“I wish I had a horse,” Michael said wistfully.

“Dad says we don’t need them,” John stated regretfully. “We walk to school, he walks to work and Mama walks to the shops.”

“Stone the crows,” Penny said then, “I can’t imagine not having any horses.”

“You must remember we don’t live in a city; we live on the outskirts of a small town so we have a pasture for the horses and Blossom to graze in,’ Bronwen replied.

“Yes, Pretty Penny, people who keep horses in the city have to buy hay and grain to feed them, along with a stable to keep them in” Ben added. “It’s pretty expensive.”

“Well, I’m glad that we don’t live in a city,” Gwyneth said emphatically.

“I’m glad that we do live in a town” Bronwen said thoughtfully, “so it’s easy for me to visit Aunt Matilda or Mrs. Newkirk every day.”

“Yes, I can play with Kate every day, not just sometimes like here with Polly,” Penny said with a sigh.

“It is nice having Llywelyn next door,” Gwyneth said slowly. “I wish the Dawsons’ station wasn’t so far away so I could see Annie more often.”

Just then Buckshot came out of the kitchen to announce that breakfast was about ready, so Bronwen gave A.C. to Ben and went to help bring in the platters of food. Almost as soon as she’d left the room, Joe came in from the morning’s chores and went to wash up.

As they were eating the biggest breakfast the boys had ever seen-consisting of hot biscuits, gravy and sausage plus fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and oatmeal for A.C. and his sisters-Joe said, “It’s lucky you are visiting now, boys, because we don’t break wild horses that often these days. We breed our own, mostly from Quarter Horses and Morgans.” Joe smiled at his nieces then. “Your daddy was a good horsebreaker. So was I, if I do say so myself.” And he grinned smugly.

“Was?” John repeated.

“Breaking horses is a young man’s job,” Ben answered before Joe could open his mouth.

“‘To everything there is a season,'” Bronwen quoted with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“I’m not so ancient that I don’t do any roping or cutting cattle,” Joe said firmly, ignoring the grins his pa and sister-in-law exchanged.

“John and Michael are going to watch the broncos being broken, but what do you girls have planned this morning?” Ben asked.

“I want to read,” Gwyneth answered quickly.

“Would you and Mama play Old Bachelor with me?” Penny asked Ben hopefully.

“Gwyneth may read until Agnes has finished her breakfast and then you both can ask her to play with you,” Bronwen told her girls. “She might like to play Old Bachelor or perhaps she’d rather play something else.”

“Yes, Mama,” they both said dutifully but with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm.

“In the meantime, Pretty Penny,” Ben said, “while Gwyneth is reading, how would you like to play a game of checkers with me?”

“Too right!” Penny replied with a happy grin.

When the other Cartwrights came down to breakfast, they found Gwyneth curled up with her book in the blue velvet chair, Ben and Penny engrossed in a game of checkers, while Bronwen and A.C. played finger games.

“We didn’t mean to sleep so late,” Will said but Bronwen smiled at him.

“She’ll be apples,” she replied and the three Americans looked a bit bewildered but she continued. “Buckshot will have some eggs, bacon and toast for you in just a few minutes.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Will said with a smile.

Buckshot walked into the dining room then with the coffee pot. “Thought ya might want some coffee while ya wait.”

“Thank you, Mr. Buckshot,” Laura said with a smile. “I take it John and Michael got up early enough to go with Joe?”

Ben grinned and said, “Reminded me of when Hoss and Joe were growing up. Now, Adam woke up with the chickens naturally,” and he winked at Penny, who grinned.

Gwyneth put her book down and said, “I can hardly wait until Daddy and Beth and Miranda get here tomorrow.”

“Me, too,” Penny said.

“Want Daddy,” A.C. said then, his chin and lower lip beginning to quiver.

“I know, A.C. bach,” Bronwen said soothingly. “We all miss Daddy and Beth and Miranda, but they’ll be home soon.” A.C. began to cry in earnest so Bronwen headed out the door to see if she could find something outside to divert his attention while the others returned to their various pursuits or sat down to eat.

After the others finished breakfast, Gwyneth asked Agnes if she’d like to play Old Bachelor.

“I’ve never heard of it,” Agnes replied in a superior tone.

“It’s a card game,” Ben said quietly. “My granddaughters taught it to me and it’s fun.”

“I’d like to join the game,” Will said quickly, staring at his daughter, who reluctantly agreed to play.

Bronwen and A.C. returned while Ben and Will were playing with the three girls and Laura was thumbing through Annabelle’s Godey’s Lady’s Book. With a smile, Laura invited Bronwen to join her on the settee.

“He certainly is a beautiful baby,” she said, smiling at A.C.

“Yes, and quite a handful,” Bronwen said, “Aren’t you, A.C. bach?” she asked the toddler, who dimpled. “My oldest girl helps take care of him so I’ve really missed her these past three weeks.”

“How old are your older daughters?” Laura asked then.

“Miranda will be fourteen this December and then Beth will turn fifteen in January,” Bronwen replied. “She has been begging us to let her pin up her hair and wear long skirts since she turned thirteen, but we’ve always been firm about waiting until she was fifteen.” She chuckled. “I think Adam would prefer that she wait until she was sixteen, but I’ve told him that won’t do. It’s hard for him to accept that she’s not a little girl anymore. Even though she’s not quite fifteen yet, she looks more of a woman than a girl. Well, you’ll see what I mean tomorrow.”

Laura smiled a little and said, “I think Will and Adam are alike in that regard. Will was proud when the boys began to shave and their voices deepened, but his reaction to Agnes growing up is quite different. Of course, she’s our baby, so perhaps that’s part of it.” She sighed a little and said, “John will graduate next year and he’s still trying to choose a career. Now, that’s hard for me to believe. Almost as hard as the fact my oldest has babies of her own.”

“I know it’s a cliché, but children really do grow up so fast,” Bronwen agreed. “At least we’ll have A.C. with us for some time,” and she kissed his cheek.

“You know,” Laura said, gazing at the card players, “I just cannot get over how much your Gwyneth looks like Adam.”

Bronwen smiled then said. “I think Miranda is more like him in temperament though. She loves mathematics just as he does and she has the same kind of detached, analytical way of looking at a problem. She and Gwyneth are both bookworms, but only Miranda loves learning for its own sake the way Adam does. That’s the only reason he was able to persuade me to consider allowing her to attend school in Boston.”

“I don’t know how you can bear to let her live so far away,” Laura said. “Of course, I remember that Adam usually gets what he wants.”

Bronwen bit back an angry retort. Aloud she said evenly, “We haven’t made any decisions yet. There’s no question of her going until she’s sixteen or seventeen and a lot could happen in that time.”

“She’ll probably fall in love and forget all about school,” Laura pontificated and Bronwen merely smiled.

Joe and the boys came back to the house for dinner and talked excitedly about watching the broncos being broken. As soon they’d finished eating, they went back to the corral and Will decided to join them. Not long after, Bronwen put A.C. down for his nap while Ben and Laura decided to play some parlor games with the girls.

When A.C. came down after his nap, he was dragging Penny’s toy rabbit, which she’d brought with her from home. (Bronwen and Adam had been trying to wean her away from her toy and thought they’d been successful, but when it came time to leave home and her familiar surroundings, she’d decided to bring Bunny with her.)

“A.C., I didn’t say that you could play with Bunny,” Penny exclaimed, starting to grab the toy rabbit from her baby brother’s grasp.

“Penny, let your brother play with Bunny; he’s not going to hurt him,” Bronwen said firmly while A.C. grinned at his sister toothily.

“My goodness,” Agnes said in a superior tone, “toy animals like that are for babies anyway. Surely you don’t play with it.” At Penny’s stricken expression, she laughed and said, “You do. You still play with toy animals. I bet you even sleep with it.” And she laughed even louder.

“Agnes Mabel Cartwright!” Laura said in a shocked tone of voice.

Penny’s eyes filled with tears and she ran up the stairs. Gwyneth jumped up and turned to face her cousin. “You’re mean and hateful!” she exclaimed before running up the stairs after her sister.

“Could you please watch A.C., Pa,” Bronwen said before hurrying after her daughters.

A.C. looked at Agnes and frowned at her. “Bad!” he pronounced before heading for the stairs, clutching Bunny by one ear.

“No, A.C.,” Ben said. “Mama wants you to stay with me. Why don’t we go to the barn and you can look at the kittens.”

The little boy looked up the stairs and said, “Penny cwy.”

“I know, but your mama and Gwyneth will make her feel better,” Ben said, holding out his hand to his grandson. The toddler hesitated for a moment before putting his little hand in Ben’s large, gnarled one and they left Laura and Agnes alone in the great room.

“I don’t know why everyone is making such a fuss,” Agnes said defensively.

“Gwyneth is right. That was a mean and hateful thing to say to Penny,” Laura said. “She’s probably only six or seven so there’s nothing unusual in her playing with a toy or sleeping with it at night. Just because you are not happy that we are spending a few days with your father’s family doesn’t give you the right to take your unhappiness out on Penny. You are confined to your room until I say you can come out and when you do, I expect you to apologize to Penny. I am going to talk to your father about your behavior and I’m sure he will have a few things to say to you as well.”

Agnes’ expression was sullen and resentful before she went up the stairs and closed her door, loudly.

Gwyneth opened their bedroom door and discovered Penny lying face down on their bed, her sobs muffled in her pillow.

“Don’t take no notice of her, Pen; she doesn’t care a brass farthing about you,” she said, sitting on the bed beside her little sister.

Penny turned over then-her eyes and nose red and swollen-and said in a trembling voice, “I’m not a baby.”

“Too right!” Gwyneth replied firmly.

“Gwyneth is correct, Penny fach,” Bronwen said from the doorway. “You mustn’t let what Agnes says upset you,” she added, coming into the room. Gwyneth stood up so their mama could sit by Penny. Bronwen held her youngest daughter in her arms and dropped a kiss on her hair before saying calmly, “You know you aren’t a baby, and that’s what really matters.”

“But I don’t want her to call me one,” Penny said forlornly.

“I know, but you can’t control what Agnes does, only what Penny does.” Just then they heard Agnes slam her door. “It sounds like Agnes is being sent to her room as a punishment,” Bronwen commented.

“Good,” Gwyneth said with a smile of satisfaction.

A moment later, Laura appeared in the doorway. “Penny, I am so sorry for the way Agnes behaved. She’s been sent to her room and I told her she must apologize to you when her punishment is over.”

Bronwen knew something that would lift her little girl’s spirits and said, “Girls, why don’t we see if we can persuade Mr. Buckshot to let us make some ice cream. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“Too right!” Penny exclaimed, a happy grin replacing her tears. “I want to be the first to turn the crank.”

“Okay, but I’m second,” Gwyneth said, and the two girls jumped off the bed and ran for the door.

“Girls, ladies don’t run!” Bronwen called. She shook her head and said, “Might as well save my breath to cool my porridge.” Then she said to Laura with a smile, “Would you like to help with the ice cream?”

“Yes, I would, thank you,” Laura replied with a smile.

Meanwhile Penny and Gwyneth entered the kitchen, which was dominated by the enormous gleaming black stove and the large wooden table in the center of the room. Gwyneth was a little shy of the wall-eyed cook but Penny smiled brightly and walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Buckshot, but our mama said to ask you if we could make some ice cream. Could we please?”

Buckshot had heard the commotion in the great room earlier and guessed the ice cream was a special treat to help little Penny forget her hurt feelings.

“Well, Miss Penny, I think ice cream sounds mighty fine,” Buckshot replied with a smile. “Miss Gwyneth, think you could get the freezer out of the pantry?” Gwyneth nodded and just then Bronwen and Laura entered the kitchen.

“Mama, Mr. Buckshot said we can make ice cream!” Penny said excitedly.

“Mrs. Cartwright, I’ll go get some ice from the ice house and crush it if you wanna make the custard,” Buckshot said then and Bronwen nodded.

Just then Gwyneth came out of the pantry carrying the freezer. “Can I help pound the ice, Mr. Buckshot? Please?” she asked. The cook glanced over at Bronwen, who nodded, so he said, “Sure, you can help me.”

“I’ll beat the egg-whites,” Laura offered.

“Right,” Bronwen said. “Penny, we need to get some milk and cream and eggs from the spring house.”

The Ponderosa’s spring house was built where Adam had diverted water from a nearby creek. It was not quite five feet high so Bronwen had to stoop a little to enter. There was a hole close to the ground on each side and a stream of cold water flowed right through the building. In the middle of the stream was a big trough, half full of the cold water. The milk and cream were each in crocks sitting in the trough along with butter in a smaller crock and the eggs were in a wire basket. Penny noticed a pound cake sitting on a shelf.

“May we have ice cream and cake, Mama? Please?”

“Ask Mr. Buckshot,” Bronwen replied. For such a little girl, Penny certainly has a big appetite, her mama thought. She poured the milk and cream into tin containers that Penny could safely carry while she gathered the eggs.

As they walked back to the house, they saw Buckshot and Gwyneth had already dug a block of ice out of the sawdust in the ice house, put it in a grain sack and were hauling it over to the back porch to be pounded with wooden mallets.

“Could I help pound the ice, Mama?” Penny asked hopefully.

Bronwen assumed a hurt expression. “And I thought you wanted to help me make the custard.”

Penny giggled at her mama’s sad look and said, “I do. May I stir the sugar into the milk and the cream?”

“You may,” Bronwen said with a smile.

“Mr. Buckshot,” Penny called then. “May we have cake with the ice cream?”

“Oh, I reckon so,” Buckshot replied. “It sure beats me how such a little thing can put away so much food,” and Penny giggled.

Laura beat the egg whites with a fork on a platter. As Penny stirred the sugar into the milk and cream, she asked, “How do you know when they’re stiff enough, Cousin Laura?”

“If they don’t slip when I tip the platter, then I know they’re ready,” Laura replied with a smile. “See, not quite ready,” she said as she tipped the platter slightly and the eggs whites started to slip down the platter.

It seemed forever to Penny, but finally the custard was ready. Bronwen poured it into the metal canister, added the wooden paddle and then screwed on the top. Buckshot took the canister from her and placed it in the wooden bucket. He packed a layer of the crushed ice around the canister and instructed the girls to pour salt on the ice. They repeated the process until the ice came almost to the top of the canister. Then he put the crank on and asked. “Who wants to go first?”

“I do! I do!” Penny shrieked excitedly. She and Gwyneth took turns turning the crank until the ice cream grew too stiff for them, and then Buckshot took over. While he was turning the crank, Ben and A.C. joined them. A.C.’s mother and sisters played catch with him and Ben sat beside Laura on the porch. He noticed Agnes was nowhere in sight but tactfully made no mention of her. However, Laura said immediately, “I sent Agnes to her room for the afternoon,” and Ben could see she was mortified by her daughter’s behavior. “Will says Agnes is just going through a stage,” she added hurriedly.

“I expect he’s right,” Ben said calmly. “I remember having some problems with both Adam and Joseph when they were about Agnes’ age-no longer a child, but not an adult either.” With a smile he said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t have a chance to see Peggy again, but it’s good to know that she’s married and with children of her own.” His smile broadened. “Even though that’s difficult for me to picture.”

Laura returned his smile. “She and her husband, Donald, seem to be very happy although a gripman isn’t paid that much.” She frowned slightly and then said, “Donald is a good husband and father, and I know that’s what really matters. I just can’t help wishing he had a job that paid more money.”

“That’s understandable,” Ben replied quietly.

“The children are darling,” Laura said then. “They both have blonde hair and blue eyes like Peggy. Little Frank is about the same age as A.C.” She put her hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle. “I’m sorry but it just struck me funny that Peggy and Adam would have children the same age.”

“You’re right,” Ben said with a chuckle. “I hadn’t thought about that.”

When Joe, Will and the boys returned that evening, they discovered Ben teaching Gwyneth and Penny how to play horseshoes while Laura and Bronwen played ring-a-round-a-rosy with A.C. in the grass. While the excited boys described their afternoon and Joe tossed A.C. in the air and caught him, Will quietly asked Laura where Agnes was. In a low voice, she explained what Agnes had done and her punishment.

“I would like you to talk with her, and then she may come down and apologize to Penny,” Laura said and Will nodded.

When a very subdued Agnes appeared again with her father, her eyes were red and swollen. She made her apologies to Penny and then they all sat down to supper and enjoyed the rest of the ice cream and cake. After dinner, the boys played with A.C. and his blocks while the others played different parlor games until it was time for the girls to go to bed.

“Are you gonna read to us tonight, Grandpa?” Penny asked, for the previous night there had been no bedtime story and she had missed the ritual.

“Of course, Pretty Penny,” Ben replied with a warm smile. “You and Gwyneth go up and get ready and say your prayers, and I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

The girls told everyone goodnight and headed up the stairs and then Will turned to Ben. “So Adam and the others return from Boston tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow afternoon,” Ben answered, nodding.

“I’m looking forward to meeting your wife, Joe,” Laura said, “and your children. I know you must have missed them.”

“Yeah, it’s been a long three weeks for all of us,” Joe said. “Tomorrow afternoon won’t come soon enough for me.”

The next morning at breakfast Joe said he would take everyone who’d like to go riding.

“John and I would like to go, but we’ve never ridden before,” Michael said hesitantly.

“We can teach you!” Penny said enthusiastically.

“How about you and Gwyneth help me and Cousin Will,” Joe suggested, keeping his voice and expression very serious, although his green eyes twinkled.

“Right,” Penny said with a happy smile.

“What about you, Agnes? Would you like a riding lesson?” Will asked his daughter.

“I don’t have a riding habit,” she said.

“We don’t wear habits,” Gwyneth said quietly. “We wear knickerbockers and ride astride.”

“No thank you,” Agnes said firmly.

“I’d be happy to take you ladies for a ride in the surrey,” Ben suggested.

“That would be very nice, Uncle Ben,” Agnes said, and Laura and Bronwen said they would love to come.

“I think it would be best if we left before the others,” Bronwen said quietly, “because if A.C. sees the others going riding, he’ll fuss and want to go with them.” The other adults nodded their understanding.

The breakfast dishes were done in no time with Laura and Agnes helping as well. While they were busy with that chore, Joe and Will hitched up the team to the surrey, leaving John and Michael playing catch with A.C. in the yard.

As the surrey drove off, A.C. shouted, ‘Bye-bye!” and waved enthusiastically. Once the surrey was out of sight, Joe and Will had the boys help them carry the saddles to the corral. (Joe had selected two gentle old mares that would be patient with novice riders for John and Michael, but he and Will kept that information to themselves.) While the two boys were watching with interest as their dad and cousin flung the saddles onto the horses’ backs, Gwyneth and Penny came hurrying over.

“We saddle our own horses at home,” Gwyneth told the boys, “but our saddles are much smaller.”

“Adam got them English saddles,” Joe explained to Will, who nodded his understanding.

The boys watched in admiration as the two girls put the bridles on their mounts without any assistance. Then they put the blankets on and waited for the men to add the saddles. Once the saddle was on her mount’s back, each girl tightened the cinch, then waited a minute or two, kneed the horse in the ribs and then tightened the cinch again. Joe saw the boys watching and said, “Horses like to play a trick and hold their breath when you tighten the cinch the first time, so you have to punch them in the ribs to get them to let out the air and tighten the cinch again as fast as you can. If the cinch isn’t tight, you’ll end up in the dirt.” Then he said to his nieces, “Girls, why don’t you show John and Michael how to mount up.”

“You always mount on the horse’s left,” Gwyneth said as she and Penny moved into position.

“Now you just put your left foot in the stirrup,” Penny said, “and then swing your right leg over the horse’s back. See.” She and Gwyneth both mounted with an ease and grace that the boys envied. Joe could read their feelings on their faces and putting an arm around each of their shoulders said, “Remember, boys, Gwyneth and Penny have been riding since they were four.”

Although their movements were in sharp contrast to the supple and graceful ones of the girls, John and Michael did manage to mount up successfully. They were disappointed that their dad and cousin kept them riding at a walk. (The girls were also disappointed but they understood and didn’t beg to canter or gallop.)

Ben and the others returned from their ride first and Laura and Agnes watched a newly bathed A.C. while Bronwen took a bath and washed her hair. She was sitting on the porch combing her clean, damp hair when the riders returned.

“Girls, you need to take a bath and change,” she said as they dismounted.

“We’ll take care of your horses for you,” Will said with a grin and Joe added, “Don’t dawdle, girls, because I want to take a bath before we head to town, too.”

It wasn’t long before Joe, Bronwen, Gwyneth, Penny and A.C.-all freshly bathed and dressed in their Sunday best-were on their way to Carson City. They played games and sang songs to pass the time and all the while each of them grew more and more excited at seeing their loved ones again. They didn’t have to wait long before their train pulled into the station.

“I see Daddy!” Gwyneth shrieked. “C’mon, Pen!” She grabbed her sister’s hand and before Bronwen or Joe could open their mouths, the two girls had darted through the small crowd of people on the platform.

“Daddy!” A.C. began to scream, squirming in Bronwen’s arms as she and Joe hurried after the girls.

Adam had turned to help Annabelle onto the platform when he heard two voices yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!” and whirled around to see his two younger daughters running pell-mell toward him. As soon as she was in reach, he picked Penny up and hugged and kissed her, then set her down and hugged and kissed Gwyneth. Joe and Bronwen reached them then and Sarah squealed, “Daddy!” while Benj shouted, “Hello, Daddy!” Adam took the wriggling A.C. from Bronwen, hugging him and feeling the little arms go around his neck in a stranglehold. Then he leaned over and kissed Bronwen-a short kiss mindful of the others all about them, but a promise of what was to come when they were alone that night. Joe picked Benj up and hugged him before setting him on the platform and then helping Annabelle down. He started to kiss her cheek, but to his surprise, she turned so their lips met. Then, with a happy smile, he took his little girl from her and kissed and hugged her. Meanwhile, Beth and Miranda hopped onto the platform and the four girls began chattering away.

“Pa’s at the ranch?” Adam asked Bronwen as they all moved away from the train, but it was Penny who answered.

“He stayed with Cousin John and Cousin Michael and Cousin Agnes,” she said. “Oh, and Cousin Will and Cousin Laura. Did you really almost marry Cousin Laura, Daddy?”

Bronwen almost laughed aloud at her husband’s expression but Joe had overheard Penny’s last remark and said quickly, “We’ll explain on the way back to the ranch, but Will and Laura and their children are visiting the Ponderosa.”

Just then Jacob approached, saying to Adam, “I’ll be happy to take charge of getting your trunks out to the Ponderosa, sir.” Adam gratefully handed him the baggage tickets, and then they all walked to where Joe had left the surrey.

The seating arrangements were quickly decided: Joe and his family took the front seat. Gwyneth and Penny sat on either side of Adam, who held A.C. on his lap, and they all sat in the second seat. Bronwen was with her older daughters in the third seat. When they were all settled, Adam said firmly, “Before we tell you about our trip, I want to hear about our guests. And, Kitten, I want Uncle Joe to tell me,” he added firmly.

“There’s not that much to tell,” Joe said carefully. “Bronwen and the girls were out for a ride and encountered two young men. They turned out to be Will and Laura’s sons, who’d decided they wanted to visit Pa and so took off on their own from San Francisco, leaving only a note for their parents. Will and Laura and their daughter showed up not long after the boys. Pa invited them to stay until all of you returned so we could have a family reunion.”

“And Mama told us that you and Cousin Laura almost got married, but you really love Mama and so you married her,” Penny inserted.

Adam cleared his throat before saying, “That’s right, Kitten,” smiling reassuringly at his girls. Annabelle looked at Joe in surprise.

“We brought you seashells, Daddy,” Benj said then, unable to contain himself any longer. “And Grandpa.”

“That’s great, Pardner,” Joe said with a wide grin. “So what else did you do while you were in Boston?”

“Well, Uncle Robert bought me a sailboat and Mama and Aunt Paula and Charlotte took me and Sarah to a pond and I got to sail my boat. When we looked for shells, we walked so the ocean came up over our feet. It was cold.” Benj stopped and then said in a piercing whisper, “I like Uncle Adam better than Uncle Robert. He told us stories and played with us.”

“Unca Adam’s nice,” Sarah piped up.

Joe managed not to grin since he didn’t want to hurt Annabelle. To change the subject, Bronwen asked her girls what they’d done while they were away. By the time they’d told about their visits to Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, and Shelburne Falls, they were three-quarters of the way home and the three little ones had fallen asleep. Now it was Gwyneth and Penny’s turn to tell how their uncle had bought them ice cream sodas, about the Livelys’ visit and their reciprocal one the next week plus their adventure picking berries.

“And Mama made lots and lots of raspberry jam for us to take home with us,” Penny added.

“It’s delicious!” Gwyneth said and Penny nodded.

“I can hardly wait to taste your mama’s raspberry jam on hot biscuits,” Adam said, turning and winking at Bronwen.

“I can see the ranch house,” Beth said then. “I’m hungry so I hope Buckshot has supper ready.”

When they pulled into the yard, one of the hands came to take care of the horses and Ben helped his granddaughters down and Adam and Joe helped their wives.

“I’m sure you’re all hungry and Buckshot has supper ready,” Ben said as they walked to the house. “Since there are so many of us, Michael, Agnes, Gwyneth, Penny, and Benj are going to eat in the kitchen.”

“But I wanna eat with Daddy,” Benj said with a pout.

“So do I,” Penny said looking pleadingly at her daddy.

“I’m sorry, Penny,” Bronwen said firmly before Adam could open his mouth, “but there just isn’t room. You and Gwyneth may sit by Daddy at breakfast.”

Penny pouted but knew better than to plead with her mama when she used that tone of voice. Gwyneth smiled and said to her little cousin, “It’ll be fun eating in the kitchen, Benj.”

Benj still looked mulish so Joe said, “If you’ll eat in the kitchen, Pardner, then you and me’ll go for a ride tomorrow. Just the two of us. Okay?” Reluctantly, the little boy nodded.

When they went inside, Ben made the introductions. Joe was amused to see John and Michael’s immediate reaction to Beth. They basically ignored everyone else and hovered around her asking her about her trip and then hanging on her every word. Adam would not have shared his amusement, but his attention was focused elsewhere.

“It’s good to see you again, Laura and Will,” he said with a friendly smile. “I’m glad you were able to stay until we returned from Boston.”

“We’ve enjoyed meeting Bronwen and your children,” Laura replied. “They’re sweet girls and A.C. is a darling.”

“I was surprised to learn you’d settled in Queensland,” Will said, “but the girls have told us all about their home and it sounds like you have a good life.”

“Yes, we’re very happy there,” Adam said, putting his arm around Bronwen’s shoulders. “Joe says that you live in San Francisco now.”

“That’s right. We’ve lived there for the past twelve years,” Will replied. He looked over Adam’s shoulder and said with a grin, “Looks like our boys are quite taken with your oldest daughter. She certainly is a beauty.”

“Indeed she is,” Laura agreed. She turned to Bronwen and said with a little smile, “I do see what you mean.”

Just then Buckshot began setting the platters and bowls on the dining room table, so everyone hurried to wash up.

At first, Michael was angry that he had to eat with the children while John could sit across from the beauteous Beth. However, he was not sullen by nature and decided to pump his younger cousins for information about their beautiful sister.

“Um, how old is Beth?” he asked Gwyneth as he served Benj roast pork, sweet potatoes and string beans, then passed the serving dishes to Agnes.

“She’ll be fifteen this coming January,” Gwyneth replied, and he smiled since he’d turned fifteen a few months earlier.

“Mama and Daddy told her that she can pin up her hair and wear long skirts then,” Penny added.

“I don’t know why she wants to wear long skirts. They just get in the way,” Gwyneth remarked.

“I wish I could wear long skirts and pin up my hair,” Agnes said longingly.

“You sound just like Beth,” Gwyneth said, shaking her head.

“She’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” Michael said with a little sigh that made his sister grin.

“Miranda is beautiful, too,” Gwyneth said loyally.

“Yes, but not as beautiful as Beth,” he replied.

“You like Beth, don’t you?” Agnes taunted.

“Of course I like her,” he replied. “I like all our cousins.”

“You’d like to kiss her,” Agnes said and laughed when his face grew red.

“Shut up, Agnes,” he said angrily, and they all jumped at the sound of Buckshot clearing his throat.

“I think you younguns need to stop jawin’ and eat,” he stated and the five of them concentrated on their food.

Meanwhile in the dining room, John had managed to sit across from Beth so he could gaze at her as he ate. (The seating arrangements had to be altered slightly because both A.C. and Sarah made it clear they wanted to sit by their daddies and not their mamas.) John listened with interest as Beth and Miranda told stories about their visit to Massachusetts, for he found Beth’s voice as pleasing as her face. His eyebrows shot up and his face registered disbelief when she and Miranda described how they’d beaten two boys in a croquet game.

“I guess they were little boys,” he said and was startled when Beth and Miranda both frowned at him.

“They were about the same age as you,” Miranda retorted.

Adam said evenly, “Croquet is a game of brains, rather than brawn, John. That levels the playing field.”

“And we taught the girls to play croquet when they were barely old enough to handle the mallets,” Bronwen added with a smile.

“But ladies usually allow the gentlemen to win,” Annabelle said quietly and Laura nodded.

“But why should I let a boy win?” Miranda asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

Will grinned and said, “I think the answer is that our self-esteem is so fragile that we can’t bear to lose to women. I must admit it’s true of some men, but not all of us. I hope someday when you are older, Miranda, that you meet a man who doesn’t believe that men are inherently superior to women.”

“So do I,” Ben said quietly

“Well, I want to marry a man I can look up to,” Beth said, “but I want him to listen to my opinion. I suppose,” she said thoughtfully, “I want a husband who treats me the way Daddy treats Mama.”

“It sounds like you’ve been giving this serious thought,” Ben said to her.

“I have,” she replied. “I know Miranda says she doesn’t care if she ever gets married, but I want to get married and raise a family.”

“I’d say there’s small chance of you ending up an old maid,” Joe said with a grin.

She smiled at him but then her expression grew more serious. “But I won’t marry unless I find a man I love with all my heart.”

“No, you shouldn’t,” Laura said very emphatically. Annabelle nodded while Bronwen smiled at her first-born.

“I think that’s enough talk about marriage,” Adam said, uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. “I’m interested in hearing more about what it was like living in Shanghai.”

After supper, Adam, Joe, A.C., Benj and Sarah played with the blocks and the others decided to play Charades. The adults were amused by how quickly John and Michael volunteered to be on Beth’s team.

When Bronwen saw A.C. rubbing his eyes to keep awake, she got up and started to take him up to bed, but he ran from her to Adam. “Well, Cariad, it looks like you’re elected to put our son to bed tonight,” she said with a smile. “Can you give Mama a kiss, A.C. bach?” The toddler dimpled and then threw his chubby arms about her neck and loudly smacked her cheek.

‘All right, Jackeroo, let’s head upstairs,” Adam said, setting A.C. on his shoulders.

Annabelle spoke up then and said, “Joe, I imagine Sarah would like you to put her to bed.” (She’d already explained to Joe that for tonight, Sarah was going to sleep with Gwyneth and Penny since Agnes was sleeping in her room.)

“You want Daddy to put you to bed, Sugar?” Joe asked and Sarah’s reply was an emphatic, “Yes!”

The two fathers carried their babies up to bed piggyback. Adam put A.C.’s little nightshirt on and then sat in the rocking chair and gently rocked back and forth as he softly sang:

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing,
Daddy’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turn brass,
Daddy’s gonna buy you a looking glass.

As he saw his little boy’s eyes drift shut, he placed a gentle kiss on the child’s cheek before standing carefully and laying him in his crib. He drew up the bedclothes and then walked from the room very quietly, silently closing the door behind him. He discovered Joe exiting from Sarah’s room and so they rejoined the others together.

Benj had been sitting by his mama, but as soon as he saw his daddy and his uncle, he jumped up and ran over to them. “Can we play Old Bachelor?” he asked hopefully.

“Sure, Pardner,” Joe replied with a grin and tousled his son’s hair.

Penny overheard the exchange and came over to ask if she could play, too.

“Think your team can get along without you?” Adam asked, and she grinned at him. The four of them sat at the dining room table and played two games. By then, Benj and Penny were starting to droop. For a change, Gwyneth made no complaint about going to bed with her younger sister. After giving the girls enough time to change and say their prayers, Adam excused himself and went upstairs.

Gwyneth and Penny had been quiet and Sarah was a deep sleeper just like Joe, so although she stirred when they got into the bed, she didn’t fully awaken. The girls had already filled Adam in on what had happened to Ceddie in the chapters Grandpa had read in his absence, so he pulled the chair up by the bed and quietly read the final chapter. Penny had been fighting to keep awake and as he leaned over to kiss her cheek, she asked quietly, “You won’t go away and leave me again, will you, Daddy?”

“No, Kitten, Daddy won’t leave you again,” he said with a smile. Then he leaned way over so he could kiss Gwyneth, who was lying in the middle of the bed, and she sat up to make it easier for him. (Sarah slept through it all.)

When he got downstairs, he discovered everyone had broken into different groups: the five young people were having a discussion about school and sports in their different countries while the three wives had moved to the dining room, and they told him the men were on the front porch.

“Girls all tucked in?” Ben asked as Adam took the empty chair between him and Will. He nodded and smiled as Will said, “You certainly have four lovely daughters, Adam. And A.C. is a little pistol.”

“Yeah. Sometimes I really wish we’d had him first,” Adam said with a rueful smile. “I had more energy when Beth and Miranda were his age.” Will and Joe both grinned at his admission.

“Did you know Peggy has a little boy almost the same age as A.C.?” Ben asked with a chuckle.

“That’s right,” Will said, joining in the laughter. “I hadn’t thought about that.”

“Seeing the way John and Michael were mooning over Beth reminded me of the first time I fell in love,” Joe said with a big grin after the laughter faded.

“Yeah,” Will said reminiscently. “Charity Phelps. Big brown eyes like a doe’s and soft brown hair. Not nearly as beautiful as Beth though.”

“Most of the young men we encountered had the same reaction as your boys,” Adam said glumly. “A foretaste of what’s to come, I’m afraid. I just know the minute she begins wearing long skirts, I’m going to be besieged with young men wanting to court her, but I absolutely refuse until she turns sixteen.” He sighed then and said, “I wanted to wait until she was at least eighteen but Bronwen told me that would just be asking for trouble. I know she’s right but . . .”

“I feel the same way about Agnes,” Will said. “Little girls grow up much too quickly.”

“So do little boys,” Ben said quietly, and Will slowly nodded his agreement.

That night after Adam and Bronwen made love and lay snuggled together, he said quietly, “So, are you going to torture me?”

She raised her head and asked innocently, “Torture you? Why, whatever do you mean, Cariad?” But he saw the hint of a smile and the glint of mischief in her eyes.

“Oh yes. You definitely plan on torturing me,” he said, and then gently pinched her derrière.

“Who is torturing whom?” she said indignantly before grinning. “All right. I confess that ever since I learned that you’d been engaged to marry another woman, I’ve been a little curious about her.” Her expression grew more sober as she added, “She’s not at all what I expected.”

“And what did you expect?” he asked quietly, brushing back her long, ebony hair.

“Someone more like me,” she answered honestly. “Oh, I don’t mean her appearance, but her character. And she’s made a few comments about you that really irritated me.”

“About me being bossy, I’ll bet,” he said with a wry grin, and she nodded. He sighed and said, “We did sometimes seem to bring out the worst in each other.” He tilted her face up to his and kissed her mouth tenderly. When they broke apart, he said softly, “I am so fortunate that she fell in love with Will, and left me a free man. I cannot even imagine my life without you.” He took her in his arms and kissed her again, but this time with ardor rather than affection.

The next morning after everyone had breakfasted, it was time for Will and Laura and their family to head back to San Francisco. Will and Laura said goodbye to Adam and Bronwen last.

“I’m really glad I had a chance to meet you, Bronwen, and to know my cousin has found a woman he loves as much as I love my wife,” Will said earnestly.

“I always hoped you’d find a woman you truly loved,” Laura said quietly to Adam, “and now I see that you have. I am so happy for you both.”

“Thank you,” Adam and Bronwen said together, causing all of them to smile.

“And good luck with all the young men in Cloncurry,” Will added with an enormous smile as he was getting into the buggy.

After they’d waved goodbye and the surrey was out of sight, Bronwen announced that she, Beth and Miranda were going to do laundry so they would all have clean clothes for the journey back to Australia. Joe took Benj on his promised ride while Adam played with his younger children and Sarah. Ben and Annabelle sat on the porch and watched, except for the game of catch when they joined in. (Even Adam sat out the game of ring-a-round-a-rosy.) That afternoon while the youngest children took their naps and the laundry was hung up to dry in the sun, they all broke into small groups. Ben and Miranda set down to play chess while Gwyneth and Penny watched their daddy and uncle play checkers. Beth, Annabelle and Bronwen sat down with some issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book to decide what Beth would need once she turned fifteen so she and Bronwen could do some shopping in San Francisco and Sydney. After supper that evening, they all sang their favorite songs.

The next day was to be the Cloncurry Cartwrights’ last at the Ponderosa. After breakfast, Penny asked, “Could we go for a ride?”

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Adam said.

“Why don’t we all go?” Annabelle suggested and everyone agreed.

“While you ladies are changing,” Ben said, “I’ll ask Buckshot to fix us some sandwiches to take with us.”

“And Older Brother and I will saddle up the horses,” Joe said.

As the two brothers walked to the barn, Adam remarked, “You seem in very high spirits.”

“I am,” Joe replied with a big grin. “You know I was afraid that Annabelle would come back from the visit more dissatisfied than ever with our life here, but it hasn’t turned out that way at all. Quite the opposite in fact.”

Adam smiled and clapped his brother’s shoulder. “I’m glad, Joe.”

They rode to the lake (with Sarah and A.C. sitting in front of their daddies), and ate alfresco on the sandy shore. Afterward, the children and the men all went to skip stones, leaving Bronwen and Annabelle to enjoy the beautiful setting on their own. As they sat side by side on a blanket, the two Mrs. Cartwrights were a study in contrasts. Annabelle, with her classically beautiful features and hour-glass figure, was dressed at the height of fashion in a habit of maroon and green herringbone patterned cloth with a double-breasted bodice and a skirt that was longer on the right side so it would fit over her right knee when she rode sidesaddle. Her honey blonde hair was nearly covered by the tall black hat with its black veil wrapped around the crown. Bronwen, with her petite figure and enormous eyes, looked waiflike in her old black serge knickerbockers and simple shirtwaist blouse of white cotton. Her raven tresses had been braided into a single plait that hung down her back beneath the black Stetson that matched her husband’s.

“I hope you had a good visit with your family,” Bronwen said, stretching her legs out and leaning back on her elbows. Then she tipped her hat forward to shade her face.

“Yes. It meant a lot to me to visit them,” Annabelle replied quietly. “Charlotte was just a little girl the last time I’d seen her and of course now she’s almost grown up.” She paused and then said hesitantly, “Going back to Boston and seeing some of my old friends made me reevaluate my life here on the Ponderosa. I realize that I have been dwelling on the negative aspects and ignoring all the positive ones.”

Bronwen wasn’t sure what to say. She and Adam had both noticed the tension between Joe and Annabelle and they were concerned about it. Since she couldn’t think of the right words, she remained silent but nodded to show Annabelle she was listening.

“I love my brother,” Annabelle continued, “but while I was back in Boston, living in our old home, I could see that Robert is the same kind of father that our own was-remote and uninvolved in his children’s lives-and that is not the kind of father I want for my children. Joe,” she added with a smile, “is like Pa. He is a wonderful father and he plays with our children and he genuinely cares what they think and feel.”

“Yes. He was wonderful with Gwyneth, Penny and A.C. Especially with A.C., who was missing Adam so much,” Bronwen said softly. “He would play with him the same way Adam does.”

“I couldn’t have managed on the train without Adam,” Annabelle said, smiling at her sister-in-law. “He would tell Benj and Sarah stories, and he played with them, just as Joe does.”

“Pa taught them both how to be good fathers,” Bronwen said with a warm smile.

Annabelle stole a glance at her sister-in-law then and decided to change the topic. “I was surprised to learn Adam had been engaged to Laura,” she commented casually.

“It came as a surprise to me when I first learned about her,” Bronwen said with a little grin. “Not a total surprise though. When a man is as handsome as Adam, you don’t expect him to reach age thirty-eight unattached, so I always knew he must have some romantic tragedy in his past.” She paused and then added thoughtfully, “Although now that I’ve met Laura, I really don’t believe she is that woman.”

Annabelle nodded her agreement. “It was very difficult for me to picture them as a couple. Maybe that’s because you and Adam seem to have the perfect marriage.”

Bronwen laughed at that. “No, Annabelle, I can assure you that it’s not perfect. We don’t argue very often, but when we do . . . Well, let’s just say we’re both stubborn and both convinced we are in the right. Neither of us wants to give in.” She smiled more broadly then, adding, “The only good thing about our arguments is our reconciliation afterward.”

Annabelle blushed slightly at that. She looked up at the sky then and said, “Oh, we need to be getting back to the ranch house. I have a surprise planned for Pa, and it should be here not long after we return if we leave now.”

As they rode back to the ranch house, Penny asked curiously, ‘What’s your surprise, Aunt Annabelle?”

“If she told, then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it, Kitten?” Adam said with a teasing smile.

“Oh, I think it’s all right if I tell now,” Annabelle said. “When I knew that all of you were coming for a visit, I contacted the photographer in Carson City and asked him to come out to the ranch to take a photograph of Pa and his sons and grandsons.”

“What a wonderful idea!” Bronwen exclaimed.

“Beauty, Aunt Annabelle,” Beth said with a big dimpled smile and her sisters all chorused, “Beauty!”

“But what about us granddaughters?” Miranda asked then, frowning just a little.

“Oh, well, I’m sure he’d be happy to take a photograph of Pa and his granddaughters as well,” Annabelle said.

“And my daughters-in-law,” Ben said with a warm smile, “because I think of you both as my daughters.”

When they got home, everyone hurried to change into their best clothes for the photographs. (Since the Cloncurry Cartwrights were leaving the next morning, most of their clothes had already been packed so their best dresses now had to be unpacked.) Bronwen and Annabelle concentrated on dressing their sons first while the men in the family dressed in their good suits, starched white shirts and cravats. Annabelle dressed Benj in his black velvet Fauntleroy suit with its enormous lace collar and silk sash. Bronwen chose a white cotton tunic and black cambric skirt for A.C. so he would match his daddy. He fussed at having his thick black hair combed and since Adam was finished, he offered to take over that chore.

“Jackeroo, you should be thankful your hair isn’t curly like Gwyneth’s,” Adam said as he carefully worked the comb through the tangles.

“Gweth!” the toddler said excitedly, causing his daddy to smile.

“Just as soon as Daddy finishes combing your hair, we’ll go see how your sisters are coming along,” he promised.

They discovered the older girls had already changed and they were helping their younger sisters. Beth was buttoning Penny’s dress while Miranda was tying Gwyneth’s hair ribbon for her.

“You all look lovely,” Adam said with a proud smile as he gazed at his daughters in their high-waisted dresses of different colors.

“And you and A.C. look very handsome,” Beth said with a wink.

“Since we’re all ready, would you girls take your brother downstairs while I go check on your mama?” he asked then.

“Right,” Beth replied. She held out her hand to her baby brother, saying, “C’mon, A.C. Let’s see if Grandpa is downstairs.”

Adam found his wife in her combination and petticoats, fastening her garters. Her black hair had already been brushed and was in a neat bun at the top of her head.

“Oh, I’m glad you’re here,” she said. “I need you to tie my corset for me.”

“I thought you might,” he said, winking at her. “I’ve sent the children downstairs and Beth will make sure A.C. stays clean,” he added as she slipped into her embroidered white satin corset. After he tied it, he sat on the bed and admired the way the corset made her slim waist even tinier. He didn’t actually care for her bustle, but knew fashion demanded one. He saw her little black kid boots half under the bed, and with a grin, handed them to her. After she put them on, she dressed quickly in the suit she’d worn the day they arrived.

“I’m ready,” she announced as she tugged on her black kid gloves and with a smile, he offered her his arm.

They discovered everyone in the great room, except for Annabelle. She appeared a few moments later in a dress of pink silk trimmed with velvet bands of a darker pink and white guipure lace and a ruffle at the hem. She was breathtaking and Adam took Bronwen’s small hand and enfolded it in his own, giving it a comforting squeeze before winking at her. She smiled at him and just then Penny said excitedly, “I hear something!” She jumped up and ran out the open door onto the porch followed by Sarah and A.C. A moment later she ran back in, followed by the younger children, saying excitedly, “He’s here! He’s here!”

The photographer discussed ideas with Adam and Ben about where they should pose and how. Finally, they reached a decision and one of the side chairs from the dining room was placed in the yard for Adam, who held A.C. on his lap. Ben and Joe stood on either side of them while Benj stood in front of his daddy. When the photographer finished with them, he had Ben sit in the chair and then arranged the females around him. Annabelle, who was the tallest stood behind him while Bronwen and Miranda stood on one side with Gwyneth and Beth on the other. Ben held Sarah on his lap and Penny sat at his feet.

After the photographer left, Buckshot announced that supper was ready. In his first-born’s honor, Ben had asked Buckshot to fix a pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions and for dessert-raspberry cobbler. The men removed their frockcoats and loosened their ties, and then they all sat around the long dining table. Just as he had the first night, Ben asked Adam to bless the food. Adam’s children talked of their trip back to Australia and going to see Tad-cu and Mam-gu and the house where their mama had lived. Then they talked of going home and seeing their dog and horses and friends.

Yes, Ben told himself sadly, the Ponderosa is not home to these children; home is Cloncurry. Still, even if we are separated by a vast ocean, we are a family and that is what is important. You have truly blessed me, Lord, with the love of three wonderful women and the sons they gave me. And I am thankful, Lord, for the opportunity to have this new generation of Cartwrights all gathered here, however briefly. And I am especially grateful, Lord, for the chance you’ve given me to spend time with Bronwen, whom I truly love as a daughter, and Adam’s youngest children. Even though I am sad to see them go, I know how happy Llywelyn and Siân will be when they visit them in Sydney. In a few days, I will have the photographs of all of us and I will put them on my desk so I can have my family with me always.

“You’re looking very pensive, Pa,” Bronwen remarked quietly as the meal drew to its end.

“Am I?” Ben said with a smile. “I was just thinking how blessed I am in my sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Even though we will soon be parted, still, the love and affection we feel for one another binds us together.”

“I’d like to propose a toast,” Adam said, lifting his glass of wine. The adults lifted theirs and the children picked up their glasses of water while Bronwen coaxed A.C. into lifting his pewter mug. “To our family. May the ties of love that bind us together never weaken.”

“To our family,” they all chorused, clinking their glasses together.

 

Next Story in the Adam In The Outback Series:

To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 1
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 2
In Memoriam
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:

O’Tannenbaum


 

References

I found Little Lord Fauntleroy at http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/BurLitt.html

I used the web site below for info on Sir Henry Parkes

http://www.australianstamp.com/Coin-web/feature/history/parkes.htm

I found info on Women Suffrage in Queensland at the following web site:

http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr/Act_Centenary/chronol.htm

I used the lyrics for Yankee Doodle found at http://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/usa/yankee.htm

I used the lyrics for Botany Bay found at http://www.contemplator.com/america/

Bronwen quotes from Valediction Forbidding Mourning by John Donne

I used the words to the hymn I need Thee every hour at http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/i/i107.html

For information on hand-cranked freezers-for example, could the Cartwrights have had one in 1889?-I used the following web site:

http://www.foodsci.uoguelph.ca/dairyedu/ichist.html

I also got some information about how people made homemade ice cream from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy.

I used this Wikipedia article about Ice cream sodas to see if they were available in 1889:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream_soda

I haven’t played London Bridge in more years than I care to mention, so I refreshed my memory on how the game is played at http://www.punkyschildcare.com/music/london.html

Dr Pepper was invented in 1885 in Waco, Texas (not too far from where I live) and Coca-Cola in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia. I had some help researching their availability in 1889 and it would appear Coca-Cola was popular all over the United States when my story takes place. I’m not so sure about Dr Pepper, but I just couldn’t resist Adam having one. I also checked to make sure people did drink ice tea in 1889 and found this interesting web site:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/IcedTeaHistory.htm

I couldn’t find the date 50, 56 and 60 Mt. Vernon Street were converted from stables to one-story homes so I just chose to believe that Adam’s friend Thomas Collingsworth could live in one.

For information about Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, I used the following Web sites:

http://www.edgartown-ma.us/

http://www.edgartowninn.com/

http://www.mvgazette.com/travel/towns/history_edgartown.php

For information on New England saltbox houses, I used two web sites:

http://www.fiddlersgreen.net/buildings/new-england/saltbox/hse.htm

and

http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/175_sal1.html

I found information on Shanghai’s International Settlement and the 1874 riot at the following web sites:

http://www.earnshaw.com/shanghai-ed-india/tales/t-riot.htm

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Shanghai#Early_to_Middle_Qing_China

For info on spring houses, I used http://waltonfeed.com/old/springhs.html

I got the lyrics to Hush, Little Baby at http://www.bussongs.com/songs/hush_little_baby.php

(I changed Papa to Daddy since that’s what Adam’s children call him.)

For information on ladies riding habits, I used http://users.tinyworld.co.uk/sidesaddlelady/Side%20Saddle%20Lady%20museum.html

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