Summary: A day in the lives of Ben and Hoss Cartwright. Ben decides that his wife, Kate, and his daughter-in-law, Gabrielle, should have a day out away from the children.
Rating: K WC: 5184
Ben Brown Series:
The traditional nursery rhyme “Fishy, Fishy, In The Brook” has been adapted for this piece.
Ladies Day Out
Ben stood on the porch holding his one year-old son, Samuel, and his tearful grandson, Matthias. The eldest Cartwright nodded his goodbyes as Hoss drove the large carriage carrying Kate and Gabrielle, the mothers of the boys, toward the road. They were departing early on this lovely, crisp, fall morning for the ladies to enjoy an unencumbered shopping trip to Carson City. The city was booming and offered several new options that Gabrielle and Kate hoped to check out. The ladies had hoped to include Cecille in their outing, but she had accompanied Adam on a business trip to San Francisco.
Ben smiled hearing the ladies’ laughter as the rig pulled away. Both mothers had been tentative about leaving the small boys with him, but they finally accepted Ben’s persuasive words. He noted that three Cartwright boys had survived to manhood under his watchful eye to which his big middle son had replied, “well, jest barely!”
Hoss’ comment elicited a round of somewhat nervous laughter knowing there were many stories that could be told. Still, Hoss was anxious to get on the road. There would be time for stories during the ride. By his estimation, Hoss would enough time while the ladies were shopping to head a few miles east of the city and fish in the Carson river. With some luck he would bring home a mess of trout for Hop Sing to fry up for dinner. Kate and Gabrielle were not the only ones looking forward to the day out. The past several months had been very busy getting things set up at his new homestead and with the arrival of Matthias, there had been little time for personal leisure.
Mary and Hannah, Ben and Kate’s adopted daughters, waved uncertainly to their mother and aunt and uncle. They were not happy to be left behind. Five year-old Mary had the distinct feeling that her father would soon be enlisting both her and her sister to help with entertaining the little boys. She watched as her father jostled Matthias and blew raspberries on the fair-haired, six-month old’s cheek. The distraction did little to slow the baby’s tears. Samuel, however, grabbed his father’s face and leaned in for a sloppy attempt at mimicking his pa. Ben chuckled despite the fact that with his hands full he could do nothing to wipe away the evidence of his son’s copycat behavior. Mary pulled a face having been the recipient of many slobbery kisses from her little brother.
“Not to worry, Matty, my boy! We’ve got this under control, don’t we girls?” Ben forced a big grin for Mary and Hannah’s sake. The girls stood staring at him blankly. “Yes, well, let’s get inside. Now, will one of you please get the door for me?”
Hannah ran ahead to open the door. Once inside, Ben set Samuel on his feet near the settee and placed Matthias on a quilt by the blue chair. However the baby began to wail in earnest; so his grandfather quickly scooped him back up. Samuel took off toddling toward the dining room table where he attempted to pull himself up onto one of the chairs.
“Oh no you don’t young man! We just finished breakfast not long ago.” Samuel looked back and gave his father an impish grin. “Mary. Hannah. Take Samuel by the hand. I think we had better move upstairs to a more confined space.”
The girls dutifully herded the red-headed toddler over to him so that Ben could pick him up. Mary and Hannah scurried up the stairs with their father following behind with the little boys. However, it was only a matter of minutes until Ben heard Hop Sing calling for him to come downstairs. Ben left Samuel with the girls and headed for the stairs. Candy was standing by the desk with his hat in his hands when Ben, with Matthias in his arms, greeted his foreman from the stairs. Matthias got a bouncy ride with his grandfather down the steps.
“Mornin’.” Candy pulled gently on the baby’s chubby jowl. “Gosh, he looks more like Hoss everyday.”
“That he does. What can I do for you?” Ben patted the baby’s belly in confirmation.
“You said something yesterday about a map that needs to be delivered up to the lumber camp. I’m headed that direction if you want to send it with me.”
“Ah, yes.” Ben frowned as he scanned the pile of documents and ledgers on his desk. “It was right here yesterday, but must have gotten buried.” He tried moving some things around, but the baby soon grabbed some papers and crumpled them. Ben did manage to salvage them and then looked awkwardly at Candy. “Would you mind holding Mr. Grabby Hands for a minute?”
“Uh — sure.” Though he liked children, Candy was not as comfortable with babies. Still, he reached out and took the boy from his boss. “Hey, there, Matty boy. You’re startin’ to catch up to your pa in more ways than just looks!”
Ben continued moving stacks of papers around. “You can say that again. Hopefully he walks early or his father will be the only one able carry him around.”
Candy laughed and tickled Matthias’ side. The baby responded with a string of giggles.
“Here it is. On the bottom of the pile, of course. Let me give you a little explanation just in case the foreman at the camp has any questions.”
While Candy moved in closer to the desk, Matthias leaned into him to get hold of his bright blue neckerchief and began chewing the ends. By the time Ben had finished his explanation and looked up, Candy’s scarf was in far less than pristine condition.
Ben chuckled and held out his hands. “Looks like you are going to want to do a quick change before you leave. Sorry you were on the receiving end of a Matty attack.”
Ben gently pried the scarf from the baby’s grasp. Candy grimaced when the slobbery ends of his neckerchief fell against his chest as Ben took the boy from him. The ranch foreman made quick work of removing the soiled scarf.
“Thanks Matty. Good thing I’ve got a clean one in my room.” Candy picked up the map. “I’ll pass this information along at the camp. Are you on your own with him and the other little ones? I just saw Hoss leaving with the ladies and I saw Joe’s backside as he was riding out early this morning.”
“Yes, I’m on my own. Joe wanted no part of it. To his credit, he does have a full plate right now with that Army contract. And of course, Jamie’s at school until this afternoon. This was my idea. Thought the others had earned a well deserved day off.”
“You are one brave man! Good luck!” Candy waved his soggy neckerchief as his went out the door.
Ben took Matthias’ arm and waved goodbye to Candy. “Now let’s go see how your cousins are getting along.”
Ben sat his grandson on the banister and slid him along as they went up the steps. Entering Mary and Hannah’s room, there was an unmistakable aroma in the air.
“Good, you’re back.” Mary scowled at her father. “Sam is stinky and you need to clean him up!” Feeling much relieved, the red-headed boy grinned up at his father.
“Samuel, my boy, you look quite pleased with yourself, but that won’t last for long. Let’s go get you fixed up.” Ben plopped Matthias down on the rug and picked up his son. However, Matthias did not want to be put down and began to bawl. “Do the best you can with him. Try your toy pony Mary. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Ben moved quickly to Adam’s old room that had since been converted into a nursery for Samuel.
“But Pa!” Mary groaned and looked at Hannah helplessly.
“Here Matty, you want to play with the blocks?”, Hannah asked the baby sweetly.
Matthias did not even look at his cousin, determined to follow his grandfather out the door. Mary jumped up and grabbed the creeping baby and brought him back to the rug. Her rescue attempt was met with loud protests from her cousin.
Hannah covered her ears and Mary yelled, “Matty hush! You’re hurting my ears! Pa!”
Her father’s muffled voice could barely be heard over the cries of the child. “Be there in a minute girls.”
Hannah switched and put her thumbs in her ears. Wiggling her fingers, she stuck out her tongue and made a silly face at her cousin, desperate to get him to quiet down. Matthias was having none of it and cried all the louder.
After a few minutes, Ben bustled through the door to the girls’ room. “We’re back, we’re back. Matty, Matty, what’s all this commotion?” Ben put Samuel on the rocking horse in order to pick up his grandson and then sat down with a thud on the girls’ bed. “Not sure I should have sent your mama and papa off to town, little man.” Ben muttered under his breath. Wondering how much longer it was until Matthias needed a to eat, Ben pulled his watch from pocket. “Well, now, seems like I remember your mama saying that you were supposed get a bottle about now and go down for a nap. Girls are you ok with Samuel up here or do all of you want to come downstairs with me?”
“Downstairs.” Mary replied. “Hop Sing has cookies.”
Hannah’s eyes lit up. “Cookies!”
“Coo, coo,” Samuel chimed in.
“Thank you, Miss Mary!” Ben scolded. “You will ruin everyone’s lunch. Mary just shrugged at his reprimand, but then Ben’s stern face softened in defeat when he realized that this was going to be a day where he was going to have to carefully pick his battles. “Oh, all right! Let’s go!”
“Yea!” The girls clapped and cheered. They raced down the stairs leaving their father to fend for himself.
With Matthias in one arm, Ben pulled Samuel from the rocking horse and situated him on his hip. Samuel leaned toward his cousin and grabbed the baby’s head, pulling on him to give him a hug. Matthias yelped and complained.
Ben pulled the two boys apart. “Sam, Matty doesn’t want a hug right now. Hug Pa.” Samuel smiled showing two rows of tiny teeth. Ben lifted the boy so he could throw his arms around his father’s neck. “Goodness that’s powerful hug for one so young. You are going to rival your Uncle Hoss at this rate.”
Ben kissed both the boys and moved into a somewhat subdued gallop down the hallway toward the stairs. The girls were already seated at the table by the time Ben arrived with the boys; so he called Hop Sing to bring out some milk and cookies and to heat a bottle for Matthias. In a matter of minutes there were cookie crumbs everywhere as the children ate with abandon. In the highchair, Samuel was all smiles, but was soon covered head to toe in sticky crumbs. Ben looked at his son and frowned while struggling with the baby who seemed hungry but fighting with his bottle.
“Matty, I believe you are a Mama’s boy. Guess you aren’t hungry enough yet to take this bottle. Looks like you’re gonna hold out a while, hopefully not all the way until your Mama comes home. That could be a might unpleasant!” Ben tried again to put the nipple of the bottle into the baby’s mouth, but Matthias turned his head away and fussed.
Hearing Matty’s complaints, Hop Sing arrived with the honey pot and small bowl. He spooned out a little of the golden honey into the bowl and held out his hand for the baby’s bottle. “This might get little Mistah Hoss to drink.” Hop Sing dipped the nipple of the bottle into the honey and handed it back to Ben.
“Ahhh. Good thinking Hop Sing. Here you go young man. We wouldn’t want to deprive you of some sweets, too.”
Matthias sucked on the bottle briefly and then spit it out and turned his head away. Ben dipped it into the honey again, but Matty reacted the same way.
Hop Sing shook his head in dissatisfaction. “Baby need milk to grow big like Mistah Hoss. Try again.”
Ben gave it another try, but Matthias was on to the game and squirmed in Ben’s lap. “We’ll try again later. Matty won’t starve to death in an hour or two”, responding to Hop Sing’s glare.
The cook huffed as he took the bottle, honey pot and bowl back to the kitchen.
Mary’s intuition told her it was a good time to be in Hop Sing’s good graces and piped, “Thank you for the yummy cookies!”
“You welcome, Little Miss”, Hop Sing called over his shoulder.
Though Ben sensed that Mary’s gratitude was not entirely genuine and had more to do with the possibility of receiving cookies in the future, there was nothing he could say. She was setting a good example for Hannah and Samuel who followed suit in their own childlike way.
Since it now appeared that he would be holding Matthias for most of the day, Ben contemplated what to do next. “Hannah, please go ask Hop Sing for a wet cloth so I can clean up Sam and then we will read some stories. Maybe Matty will fall asleep for a little bit while I read”, he added hoping that it was not just wishful thinking.
The next moments were like a three-ring circus as the five Cartwrights got themselves settled on the settee. Hannah sat in the middle holding the book with Mary on her right holding Samuel and Ben and Matthias on her left. As Ben started reading, Samuel tried to crawl out of Mary’s lap. She pulled him back up, but the toddler squirmed free from her grasp.
“Sam! Pa!!” Mary’s hand dropped into her lap.
The words were no more out of her mouth than Samuel was trying to pull up into his father’s lap. Ben reached down and brought boy up beside his cousin whose drooping eyelids popped back open and his mouth puckered.
“Sam!! Thunder –” Mary and Hannah’s eyes were suddenly locked onto their father. “-ation.” Ben muttered under his breath. Samuel was leaning on his cousin taking up the majority of his father’s lap. Ben pulled his son away from the baby.
Mary’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Pa – what’s thunder — ation?”
“It’s Pa getting frustrated with Sam. That’s what is!”
“Mama never says ‘thunderation’. She just says ‘goodness Sam!’”
“Yes, I’m sure. Well, maybe now isn’t the best time to try to read.”
Hannah huffed and closed the book. Normally an easy child, she was growing weary of the chaos. “Can we go outside? I wanna see Lucky.”
“Not right now. Let’s go back upstairs. You two can go play with your dolls in your room and I’ll take the boys to Sam’s room. How does that sound?”
Mary frowned. “Not fun. Sometimes little brothers and cousins are no fun!”
“Well, maybe after lunch we can go out, if the boys take a nap.”
Mary crossed her arms over her chest. “Ugh! I wish Mama was here.”
Following her sister’s lead, Hannah crossed her arms, too.
Ben’s brows shot up at his daughters’ impertinence. “Girls, let’s not have any of this.” He sighed heavily when their heads dropped and a twinge of guilt pricked his conscious for thinking the same thing. “We will get by. It’s only one day.”
Mary jumped off the settee and marched toward the stairs.“Come on, Hannah.”
The younger girl trooped along after her sister, her gait more sulky than defiant, which bothered Ben more because of her usual good nature. Arms loaded once more with little boys, Ben climbed the stairs and headed to the nursery where he hoped to be better able to keep Samuel from getting into trouble.
Mid morning, another group of Cartwrights arrived in Carson City. The town was bustling with people and conveyances. Hoss pulled up in front of a millinery shop that had a freshly painted sign.
“How’s this? Hoss set the brake and secured the reins.
Kate took a deep breath and looked at her daughter-in-law. “Looks like a good place to start.”
Gabrielle’s eyes sparkled with delight. “This is going to be so much fun.”
Hoss came around to help the ladies down from the carriage. “Now I know this rig is pretty good sized, but you ladies need ta show a little restraint. I didn’t empty my bank account yesterday.” He gave them a toothy grin when his wife smacked him gently on the arm. “You two have a good time. I’ll meet ya back here around three. That should get us home just in time for Hop Sing ta fry up all the fish I’m gonna catch. Wish me luck!” Hoss placed a kiss on his wife’s rosy cheek.
The ladies gave him the best wishes and entered the hat shop.
Less than an hour later, Hoss was standing on the edge of the Carson River casting a fly out onto the water. His stomach was growling for the sandwiches Gabrielle had packed for him, but he was determined to get a fish or two in his basket before indulging. He pulled his hat lower over his eyes as the bright sun glared on the sparkling water. He wondered how his father and nieces were getting along with the little boys. Soon any concern that he might have had went right out of his mind when there was a tug on his line.
In Carson City, Gabrielle and Kate were accumulating parcels at a rapid pace and were presently enjoying a lunch of delicate finger sandwiches and tea. Though Hop Sing was an excellent cook, it was a definite departure from his normal lunchtime fare and they found the food and atmosphere most pleasing.
“I can’t help but feel a bit guilty.” Gabrielle dabbed her mouth with her napkin.
“Now, I thought we had a pact not to talk about the children unless it was something really important.” Kate’s eyebrows rose in question. “Ben offered and we accepted. Whatever happens in the meantime, he will deal with it. It’s not like he is totally without help. No cooking. No cleaning. Not that I can say much, but look at you. You’ve been doing it all. Given the life you came from. You should be commended, my dear lady.”
“That’s very kind of you. Hoss has been really patient and fortunately Matty is a good baby. I just worry because he’s not been away from me. You’re not worried about Sam?”
“I’m sure Ben can handle things. Sam is used to following the girls around. With his Pa and sisters there, he’ll hardly know I’m gone. Now, how about some dessert to fortify us for the rest of our shopping!” Kate and Gabrielle giggled like co-conspirators both happy that they would not have to share their sweets with little ones or husbands.
At the Ponderosa, Ben was seated at the dining room table with the children. The girls were finishing up their ham sandwiches while Ben offered Matthias tiny spoons of mashed potatoes which he was gobbling up. It was one of the few bright spots of the day thus far. Though the baby slept about fifteen minutes in his grandfather’s arms, he had refused to take a bottle. Samuel, on the other hand, was content to feed himself tiny bits and ham, bread, and cooked carrots. Every now and then, Ben would shovel a much larger spoonful of potatoes into his mouth. With a toddler in the highchair and a baby in his arms, Ben’s plate with a sandwich still on it sat toward the middle of the table so that Matty did not get his little hands on it. For the moment, Ben Cartwright was exceedingly glad that he had never had twins.
After lunch, the group headed back upstairs so that Ben could put Sam down for his nap. Matthias was once again in the girls’ room hollering in protest since his grandfather had to leave him for a few minutes with the girls to get Sam settled in the nursery. With one less boy to tote around, the girls begged their father to go outside for a while. Ben positioned himself in the rocker on the porch while Mary and Hannah ran and chased with their dog, Lucky. Matthias was content to watch them to for a time. When the rocker no longer served to pacify the baby, Ben called through the kitchen window for Hop Sing to bring a bottle. The baby continued to be frustrated with the taste and feel of the bottle and began crying again forcing Ben to give up once more. He abandoned the rocker and paced around the yard. The exhausted little boy was nearly asleep when the squealing girls and Lucky came tearing by him. Matthias jerked and burst into tears.
“G… irls.” Ben stifled his growl as he realized that it would only make matters worse by making Matthias more unsettled. Though exceedingly frustrated with his daughters, he knew that Mary and Hannah were not doing anything wrong but merely acting like little girls that had been cooped up all day. The girls took no notice of their father and cousin, in part because they were having fun and also because Matty had been crying off and on all day from the time that Hoss and Gabrielle had left for Carson City.
Back at the river, Hoss’ string of fish floated in the clear, rippling water as the big man was enjoying a snooze in the shade. He loved his wife and his baby boy, but it had been a long time since he had had this kind of time to himself. After a while, he roused and pulled his watch from his pocket. Hoss was thankful to see that he had half an hour before he needed to head back town. Though tempted to sit and relax a little bit longer, he gathered his gear and pulled the fish from the river and walked toward the carriage. A cold beer was sounding really good despite the refreshing drinks Hoss had enjoyed from the river; so he hitched up Rosie and headed for Carson City. After his beer, he met Gabrielle and Kate back in front of the hat shop where he had left them in the morning. The owner of the shop had allowed the ladies to store the parcels that they had accumulated throughout their shopping. It took several minutes of loading before this group of Cartwrights was ready to depart Carson City for the trip back to the Ponderosa.
Jamie returned from school around four and found his frazzled father struggling with a crying Matthias. The older boy offered to keep watch over Samuel and his sisters for a time before doing his chores. Round two of cookies and milk was agreed upon by his father since supper would be later than usual this evening with the late return of the shoppers. Following their snack, Jamie went to the barn and hitched up Patches, Mary’s small paint pony, to a tiny cart. Under Jamie’s watchful eye, Mary was allowed to drive the pony and cart around the yard with her sister seated beside her. It was a happy time for the girls in what had been a disjointed and irregular day. Even Samuel, who watched from Jamie’s arms, had fun watching his sisters ride around the yard.
Sitting at the kitchen table, Ben balanced Matthias on his leg with one arm and drank some coffee with the other. He was getting a brief reprieve from dealing with both little boys for soon Jamie would need to bring Samuel back inside and attend to his chores.
The baby held a spoon in his hands which he alternated between sucking the bowl end and banging the utensil on the table. The latter drew the occasional glare from Hop Sing who was busy with dinner preparations.
Without waiting to be asked, Hop Sing refilled Ben’s cup. “Need more than one cup. Long time til dinner!” The cook huffed as he shuffled back to the stove with the coffee pot.
Ben rolled his eyes. He was keenly aware of how slowly the time was passing today. His wife, son, and daughter-in-law could not return soon enough, though he would have never admitted it to them or anyone else.
Just as the sun was beginning to set, Kate and Gabrielle rushed through the front door with several of their parcels in hand having heard Matthias wailing.
“Boy, are we glad to see you!” Mary shouted over the din.
Seeing Ben’s distressed look, Gabrielle called out, “Oh my goodness, Ben. I hope he hasn’t been like this all day! Here Matty, Mama is as ready for you to eat as you must be hungry!” She quickly took her son from Ben and went upstairs to nurse him.
Samuel toddled over and now clung to his mother’s skirts. Kate picked him up as the room grew quiet with the exit of Matthias.
She kissed Sam’s cheek. “And how are my boys?” Kate gave her husband a sheepish grin. “So how did your day go?” Brushing back some silver hair that was hanging down on Ben’s forehead, she gave him a light kiss.
“Not so good!” Hannah complained. “Matty fussed a lot!”
Ben sighed, “Well, he didn’t cry the entire time.”
“But most of the time!” Mary added with a huff. “Next time I want to go to town!”
“Me too!”, Hannah shouted.
Ben shrugged. “How was your day?”
“Delightful! And I believe Gabrielle truly enjoyed herself as well. Girls, I brought you something for being Pa’s helpers today.”
“What about me?” Ben asked, pretending to be disappointed.
Kate momentarily flashed sultry eyes his direction. “You’ll get your present later.”
Ben gave her a knowing smile. “I’ll be looking forward to it.”
Kate was greeted with wide grins from the girls as she handed them some new hair ribbons and a few pieces of penny candy.
Shortly, Gabrielle returned to the living room with Matthias who was now all smiles.
“Goodness that didn’t take long. He’s definitely got his father’s appetite!” Ben reached out to take his grandson and lift him high. “I think you gained another pound there, boy!”
“Careful please. Remember he did just eat. Otherwise you might find yourself in need of a bath.” Gabrielle cautioned.
“Right.” Ben noted, a bit embarrassed to have required the reminder.
The door opened and Hoss entered dropping the basket of fish by the credenza. “There’s my boy!” Hoss held out his arms to Matthias. The chubby baby boy bounced in Ben’s arms and reached out to his father. “I missed ya, little buddy!” Hoss grasped his son in his large hands and then tossed him toward the ceiling.
There was a collective gasp as Matthias flew toward the rafters. Big hands caught the baby and somehow his meal managed to stay put in his stomach. Hoss did not notice anyone’s concern and dropped down on one knee by the basket balancing his son on the other. Hoss lifted the lid on the basket and pointed to the shiny trout.
“See the fishies, Matty? Won’t be long an’ you’ll be helpin’ me catcha bunch jest like this.” Hoss took his son’s hands and clapped as he recited:
Fishy, fishy in the brook,
Papa caught ‘em on the hook,
Hop Sing fried ‘em in the pan,
Matty ate ‘em like man!
On the final word, Hoss threw Matthias’ hands up over the baby’s head. Matty giggled and bounced on his father’s knee, in essence begging to do it all again. Hoss repeated the rhyme a few more times, much to the baby’s delight. Ben eyed his big son with jealousy. A full belly and his pa’s attentions had turned Matthias into a happy child after a long day filled with lots of tears.
“Matty’s too little to go fishing, but you can take me.” Mary looked at Hoss with a hopeful expression.
Hoss gave the dark-haired girl a toothy grin. “That I kin, Lil Sis. I’ll see what I kin work out here b’fore long.”
“Hannah do you wanna come, too?” Mary looked at her sister.
“Yep, me, too! Me, too!” The little blond shouted.
“All right, then. I think I kin manage the both of ya.”
Hearing the commotion, Hop Sing came from the kitchen to collect the fish for supper.
“Rest of food ready. Need fish now or you eat fish for breakfast!” Though doing his best to seem angry, Hoss could see the glint of humor in the cook’s eyes.
“All right, Hop Sing. Sorry we’re holdin’ things up. Jest wanted ta show Matty the fish b’fore ya fried ‘em up all crispy like. Mmm, mmm, mmmmm!”
A couple of hours later, after the Cartwrights had eaten their fill, Hoss pointed his buggy horse toward what had become a well-worn trail between the main house and his own. Rosie plodded along under a moonlit sky. Gabrielle and Matthias were snuggled in under a blanket as the temperature had dropped rapidly once the sun was down. The baby’s eyes closed almost before the buggy left the yard. In many ways, it had been the type of day Hoss had always dreamed of: his beautiful wife tucked into his side on a cool evening, his son asleep content in her arms, his belly full of Hop Sing’s good cooking, and time spent with his larger family. Taking a deep breath, the big man placed a kiss atop his wife’s head and then looked up at the shining moon grateful for his many blessings.
After saying their goodbyes to Hoss’ family, Kate prodded the girls to make the rounds and get their hugs and kisses from Joe, Jamie, and their father. Ben was thankful to sit in peace and quiet watching his two younger sons play checkers. He lit his pipe and puffed gently in thought. Despite the earlier chaos with the children, the time spent talking and laughing around the dinner table had warmed his heart. This was the life he had been longing for before unexpectedly meeting Kate. She was the key piece of the puzzle that had been missing. At fifty-seven, Ben’s house was filled to the brim. There had been a time when he had worried about living out his days alone in this big house. Those thoughts were long gone.
A little while later, after receiving his “gift”, Ben placed a kiss on his sleepy wife’s brow. Exhausted, but content, he smiled as he drifted off to sleep thankful that tomorrow his wife would be in charge of childcare and he could go back to the easy task of running the Ponderosa.