Summary: Emancipation for Women and the Vote become a big issue when Peggy Dayton visits the Ponderosa. The result of her visit has long lasting repercussions in Virgina City and the Cartwright families. Sixth in the series Home is the Sailor…..
Rating: T WC: 219,977
The year is 1879. Spring is on its way now and the snow has melted so at last revealing the green grass that is so restful to the eyes. Buds form on the trees and the birds are singing with the joy of knowing there was food in abundance again and there were busy times ahead with nesting and fledging. On the tops of the mountains the snow remains, looking like the shaggy white hair adorning many a stately old one’s head.
In a busy township called Warsop, not too many miles from Genoa, a woman removes a newspaper from a drawer in her desk. It was several months old now but she enjoys reading the journalists account of the trial of a certain Joseph Cartwright from the Ponderosa ranch. She smoothed out several pages to remove the creases in the paper and begins to read, although, of course, she knows each word by heart now.
It was not just curiosity prompting her reading for she had actually sat in the court room, among others in Boulder’s Creek, to listen to the proceedings herself. She had admired the lawyers, and the witnesses but particularly the Cartwrights. When Adam Cartwright had declared that he had actually discovered a woman, Lilian Goldbaum, dead from hanging in Blakesville, she, herself, had shuddered to the core of her very being.
She read it through again, and then folded it away and slipped it into the drawer where she thought no one would see it. For a moment she sat there in reflection, her hands restless in the lap of her skirt, fingers entwining and intertwining. Eventually she rose to her feet and walked to the window to look over at the main street. She stood there deep in thought for some minutes, pondering over the strange fact that such evil, as had been touched upon in the trial, could actually have occurred, unthought of, unnoticed, by the majority of the townspeople.
It amazed her to think that she in her very own town she could be walking among murderers, thieves and extortioners without being aware of them. Who was to know? How were they to ever find out? All those ordinary people, just like herself, mingling, mixing, as they made their way down streets, into one’s home. It had made her feel uncomfortable and unsettled for a while although her family seem happily unaware of any change. But then they had shown no interest in the trial, their lives were far too busy. But then they existed in a bubble of their own creation within which no one else mattered. That included her also, of course. She was the interloper….an unwanted one at that, they made that obvious enough.
She looked at the people passing by, without really seeing them. Her mind was dwelling on the Cartwrights … and the woman who had travelled to be with her husband, Mary Ann Cartwright. She remembered how the woman had not wept a tear until the verdict had been given out..and the love that had suffused her features, such a pretty face, but how it had shown such love and joy as her husband had bounded down to her and wrapped her arms around her. She herself had known that kind of passionate love for only a very brief time and even then, they had been stolen pleasures. Now she had bitter sweet memories, she had lost the man she loved and the child she had borne belonged to another.
Life was cruel. When she looked back over the years she felt that she had been handed a series of bitter blows, and that, just perhaps, now was the time to do something about it, something that would change the course of her life, something that would give it true meaning and purpose. Perhaps, one day, she could even dream of being happy once again.
In a ranch house nestled among the trees Marcy Dent watched her children as they played together in the corner of the room that Luke had designated theirs by creating a little fence that ‘corralled them in’ and kept them safe. Marcy smiled and shook her head as Philip crawled over to the barrier and pulled himself up onto his feet, only to land heavily on his bottom. His little sister, Anna, watched him and turned her head away as though in disdain at his futile attempt to get over the boundary that separated them from their mother.
They were such fun to watch and Marcy loved to do just that…to watch her children at play. Being twins they had one another as a constant companion and Marcy found herself standing, or sitting, watching them far longer than she should for it detracted her from her work and there had been numerous meals ruined as a result.
They were already 8 months old. So hard to believe that the time had passed by so quickly. Of course it had been hard and tiring work, and during the winter it had been an ordeal to keep things clean and dry, and to keep them warm and protected from the cold and the wind and rain. But the house was weather proof, and snug, Luke had made sure of that, and that there was always a good supply of wood to keep the fire and stove alight.
There was no doubting the fact that the children had flourished and if she had been a little clumsy at times, or a little forgetful at others, well, they didn’t seem to mind, and Luke was happy and proud of her, and of them.
She smoothed the sheet she was holding over her arm and draped it over the back of a chair. One of the cats jumped onto the little wooden fence and over balanced, so that with a meow that sounded more like a squawk it landed in Anna’s lap. The little girl gave a yelp of surprise then grabbed for the little fluffy creature which wriggled out of her reach and escaped as quickly as it possibly could through the bars.
It left Anna looking confused and forlorn, her bottom lip quivered and tears formed in her eyes and she began to bawl. Of course, Marcy was there immediately to pick her up, cradle her in her arms and kiss her plump little cheeks. Luke would have shaken his head and said “Any excuse…” but what did it matter…babies grew up too quickly but grew up all the better for kisses and cuddles.
James Colby poured out coffee for himself and stood cradling the cup in his hands for a few moments. He was tired, drained emotionally, his nerves didn’t know whether to let him cry or laugh or just collapse. He could have settled down into a chair and wept, many men had done so in the past and many men would do so in the future.
Paul Martin came and stood beside him, his hand upon his shoulder “Well, James…how does it feel?”
“I don’t know. I can’t believe it has actually happened.” he set the coffee down upon its saucer and then looked at Paul and smiled ruefully “I suppose most men would open a bottle of wine – champagne – to celebrate, but – you know…”
Paul nodded and smiled, squeezed the shoulder upon which his hand had rested and then took the coffee that James offered him, “I know, I understand…believe me, James, there are many men hereabouts who could not afford a bottle of champagne to wet their newborns heads but, congratulations on having such a fine son. He’s a good healthy strong boy.”
“I’m glad it was a short labour and delivery for Alyssia. She isn’t very strong.” James said quietly and thought back to the few hours where he had held her hand, rubbed her back, made soothing comments while Paul had got on with the job of delivering their infant, “Thank you, Paul.”
Paul nodded and smiled. He really was proud of this young man, who had arrived the previous year with so much misery weighing him down. He knew the battles the man had fought to beat his alcholism, although as James would say, no one ever does, but also to win back his wife. Poor miserable Alyssia, so convinced she was unloved, so unhappy and bitter, tainting every effort of friendship as a result. No wonder James had turned to drink…Paul admonished himself, no, there was never any excuse to turn to drink to avoid problems, one only gained more of them.
“I should think Alyssia will sleep well now, for a few hours anyway. “ Paul said quietly and after finishing his drink he turned to leave the room, “Get your head down too, a few hours sleep would do you good too, my boy. Bridie will be over later this evening to make sure Alyssia has everything she needs.”
James followed the older man out of the room and watched by the front door as Paul left for his own home. It was such a happy time in his life that he felt – totally unable to handle it but after closing the door, he tiptoed quietly up the stairs to their room, then sat beside his wife’s bedside, and gazed alternatively at her sleeping features and those of his slumbering son.
There were just no words that could describe how he felt at that moment in time.
On the Ponderosa a new generation of Cartwright’s were busy in their own worlds. Reuben and Sofia were helping Adam whitewash the walls of the storehouse, although Livvy was doubtful as to where most of the paint was going when she had peeped in to see how they were getting on.
“Everything’s fine,” her husband assured her with a smile and merry wave of the paint brush.
The sight of her children looking rather ’white washed’ themselves forced her to say nothing but to grab at Nathaniel before he joined the fray, and quickly close the door behind her.
Nathaniel protested as usual and as expected. If his siblings were having fun with daddy, then why couldn’t he? He was now over two years old, and an intelligent little boy, but also a human magnet for chaos.
At the main house Ben was reading through some letters that were overdue for replies. Hoss had work to do repairing the bars of a stall in the stable, as he put it ‘that thar dang woodworm has had a feast, must think that we provide wood just to keep ’em busy.’
Hannah and Hope were helping Hester with some sewing…well, Hannah was, and she was a neat little worker too, but Hope found it hard to sit still and to sew two edges of material together to look smooth and ’nice’. She sighed a lot and moped a bit after all she was nearly three and she wanted to run around in the yard and go and help Pa. Little Erik was 18 months old and a contented child. He sat close to his mother’s skirts playing with a wooden horse and cart …in his world everything was perfect.
Daniel Cartwright was four now, and he was following his Pa around the stables, a shadow who imitated every move Joe made. But Joe loved it, he loved his little boy trailing around with him and handing him tools, often the wrong ones, when he asked for them. Soon they would go in and have a meal together, and even as he thought it he heard Daniel’s stomach rumble. Just like his Uncle Hoss, Joe thought to himself as he turned to Daniel and said “Hungry, son?”
“My tummy is, “ Daniel replied looking earnestly at his father with big hazel eyes.
“Best we get in for something to eat then” Joe replied and scooped the boy up into his arms, and up onto his shoulders so that he could gallop his way from the stables to the house.
Mary Ann had finally agreed to have help although she insisted she could cope, she was quite able to do everything that was required …and of course she could, after all, she was a woman. But that hadn’t stopped Hop Sing from introducing her to his No 5 nephew Wang Lee Sing. There really had been nothing Mary Ann could do about it. Lee Sing had arrived with his carpet bag and a valise full of herbs and spices and that was him settled. He had arrived not long after the trial and been there ever since.
As Mary Ann had told her husband “Constance dotes on him. How can I possibly send him away? It would break her little heart.”
But Constance, all of a year old, couldn’t really have cared less, Lee Sing was just one of the many who adored her for she was beautiful.
The man wielding the axe and splitting the logs of wood paused to watch as a one horse buggy could be seen making it’s way along the track to the house. He set the axe down and wiped his hands on the back of his pants before pulling out a handkerchief to wipe his face. He then walked slowly across the yard in order to reach the house by the time the buggy and occupant finally arrived there.
Another man stepped out onto the porch, older and greyer, his hands on his hips and his eyes wary as he watched the vehicle approach. He barely glanced at the younger man who upon reaching his side muttered the obvious, “Looks like we have a visitor.”
“Hmmph” was the reply as he made his way from the porch to stand in the yard ready for the buggy to come to a halt.
A woman stopped the horse and the buggy rocked back and forth for a second or two. She sat there very calmly looking from one to the other of them before addressing the older one by name “Mr. Greigson?”
“Who wants to know?” came the immediate response and the man so addressed stepped up closer “Who might you be?”
“Are you Mr. Walter Greigson?”
Her voice was clear and pleasantly modulated, her face calm and her brown eyes direct. She was young, although some would have considered being in her mid-twenties old enough to be married with a brood of children around her skirts. Both men walked closer up to her, closing ranks in a manner of speaking, but she seemed unbothered by such an action and merely took the time to loop the reins out of the way.
“I am Walter Greigson and this is my son, Abel.” Walter jerked a thumb at the other man who nodded and smiled in an attempt to appear friendly. “But we still don’t know who you are?”
She nodded and smiled “I’m Margaret Dayton. “
The two men looked at one another, Walter shrugged and Abel grimaced while he passed a hand over the back of his neck.
“Margaret Dayton? Doesn’t mean anything to us. Should it?” Walter now demanded while his brow furrowed into so many criss crosses right up into his hairline
She sighed and although the expression on her face didn’t change Abel got the idea that she was slightly disappointed at their reaction. He watched as she gazed around the area, her eyes lingering on the barns, stables and then on the house itself. For some reason he was glad that they had kept the place in good condition, the house had been painted only that previous summer and still looked good despite the winter storms.
She turned her head now and looked back to a clump of trees that stood opposite the house. For a moment a slight smile touched her lips and then she looked again at them “There used to be a swing there.”
“Before our time.” Walter said brusquely “You know the place?”
“It was my home – my father was Frank Dayton. He owned the land and built the house….I was born here.” she smiled again, and gave a funny little shrug of the shoulders “I asked in town about who owned it now and was told you had purchased it some six years ago?”
“That’s right,” Walter said and ran his fingers through his hair, “So? What is this? Just a stroll down memory lane?”
“I suppose so.” she replied and looked at Abel, before turning again to the spokesman, Walter. “I just wanted to see how it looked after all this time”
Walter stepped up to the buggy “Well, we ain’t got no woman here to cook stuff to offer you, but you’re welcome to come in and have a coffee should you so wish?”
She looked pleased at that idea and a little flush of pink travelled up her neck and blushed her cheeks “Thank you, I would like that very much…”
It was Abel who extended his hand to help her down from the buggy although she was well able to get down herself and would have told him so had she not been so pleased at the thought of visiting her old home. She had treasured the memories of the house so often in her mind. She could still see the bookcase in the corner, the furniture arranged just so…the old clock of course and the stairs that led from the sitting room to their bedrooms.
Walter walked ahead of them and then pushed the door open, and with a smile she stepped inside and then she stopped when just a few paces into the room. She looked about her, and felt disappointment well up inside her and memories tumble down around her ears. She took another step or two into the room, shook her head and told herself she had been silly, very silly to have thought everything would be just the same as when she saw it last. Hadn’t she been telling herself all the way from town that nothing would be the same? Hadn’t she reminded herself how things would be different, it would be different? That was how things were, the natural order of things, things change over time, even houses. Yet despite all that, she had stepped through the door expecting everything to be just the same…how foolish could she have been?
“You must have been quite young when you were here, Miss – er – Dayton” Abel said and indicated a chair for her to sit upon.
“I was …yes.” she nodded and sat down, her eyes travelling here and there, noticing things, remembering other things. “it has changed.”
“Well, things do over the years” he said and sat down, mindless of wood shavings and splinters that adhered to his clothes and dropped onto the chair covering.
“I kept telling myself it would be different, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but now I can’t understand why I am.” she smiled at him, feeling and looking embarrassed at having her feelings so evidently on display to this stranger.
He leaned back, relaxed, at ease and glad to have had such a pleasant distraction to work. It didn’t happen often. He wondered if she had been happy here, a child born to the man who had built the house and owned the land which was his inheritance now.
He watched as she looked at the room, the furniture, trying not to look too obviously curious, a small smile playing at her lips.
If he had asked her if she had been happy she would not have known how to reply., after all there were good and bad memories, and there was the time when love had entered and for a brief while everything had been wonderful.
Walter came bearing a tray with the coffee and cups that rattled as he walked. He set it down on the table and smiled over at her “We don’t get many visitors here. Not since my wife died, and my daughter married and moved away.”
“Do you employ many men to handle the cattle?” she asked as she accepted a cup of what looked like very dark coffee.
“Enough to get by.” Walter replied, “We have a good herd and most got through the winter well enough.”
“We’ll have to go into town sometime soon and hire more men.” Abel muttered more as a reminder to his father and himself than for any other reason.
She sipped the coffee, it was as she had expected, strong and bitter. She swallowed and gave an inward shudder before setting the cup back down on the saucer.
“My mother sold the property to a Mr. and Mrs. Hertz, they had several children if I recall rightly.”
“We bought it from them in ‘69. Run it down badly they did, had no idea of business nor how to run a cattle ranch.” Walter muttered and gulped down his coffee so fast she wondered how he didn’t burn himself “Well, I’ll leave you to young Abel, he’ll show you around, that is, if you want to stop and see the place?”
“I would like that…thank you.” she didn’t reach out for the cup but stood up, and looked at Abel, “But only if it is convenient, I have to visit relatives around here so don’t really have very much time. I just wanted to steal memories while I had the chance.”
He nodded and rose to his feet, gulped down more coffee and then followed her out of the house. They paused at the door and she looked around her, frowned slightly and sighed “I do have good memories, you know. My father died …”
“Of course,” Abel nodded, understanding flickered in his eyes, “Frank Dayton. I recall seeing the head stone. 1861 he died, and my Ma’s buried only a few paces away from him. I recall someone saying then how it was a real co-incidence that they were buried so close seeing how they had both lived here …they said he had died when his horse toppled on him, he was jumping a fence wasn’t he?”
She nodded and her gaze went immediately into the direction of where that fateful fence had been, then returned to the trees where she had sat on that swing , counting, counting.. ‘When I reach a hundred Daddy will come home, he always comes home.”
She wondered what else people had said about Frank Dayton, about his drinking, his womanising. She looked at him and smiled “Perhaps it is time I should leave…”
“I’m sorry, if I said anything that may have offended you, I may be should not have said anything about your Pa-”
“No, not at all. Thank you for your time, but I shouldn’t take you from your work.” she held out her hand, gloved in soft kid leather, and he shook it politely “Perhaps I shall see you again while I am here.”
“I’d like that, Miss Dayton.”
He assisted her back onto the buggy and nodded at her, smiled and raised his hand in farewell. He watched as she turned the vehicle in the yard and then drove away, not once turning her head nor acknowledging his wave. But he stood there a long time, his hands on his hips, watching until she was out of sight and the dust fell back upon the roadway.
Little Peggy Dayton … after so long away from Nevada was now back home, although for how long, she was not sure. She had been sure enough of a welcome on the Ponderosa so had not booked into a hotel but had her luggage loaded onto the buggy’s trunk with the promise of returning the vehicle and horse the following day.
The town had not changed much to her way of thinking because when they had left Virginia City it had not grown to its full capacity, and not that it was slowly dwindling it had returned more or less to the size she remembered it to be. Even during that brief few weeks when she had visited before going to Finishing School in Switzerland she had not seen any changes but then life had been so complicated what with Adam being at sea, Joe being in a wheelchair and possibly paralysed and that emotional see-saw between Barbara Scott and Andrew Pearson and – in absentia – Adam.
She hadn’t bothered writing to find out how everything had worked out, or if in deed, anything had worked out. Letters were so long in delivery, and also, at the time, had been incredibly boring to write. She had so much to do when she had gone to that school, and, of course, there was always mother keeping her up to date with news.
Peggy had chosen not to be known as Cartwright. Of course Laura had been more offended than Will had been and had defended her, laughing at his wife, and saying that Peggy was doing what was right by Frank, by claiming her own birthright in retaining her own name. But Laura had seen it as something more personal than that, because with Laura, everything was personal.
Peggy had done well at school and then later at college. She had majored in a mainly male dominated field…archaeology. Will had been immensely proud of her on achieving her qualifications but Laura had shaken her head and declared it was not the career for a young woman. Peggy there and then decided to prove her mother wrong.
Quite recently she had been asked by a dear friend of hers to return to Nevada.
Professor Maurice Stevens had met Peggy in college and they had formed an attachment that could have led to something more permanent if either of them had allowed their feelings for the other to develop beyond the interest they had for their profession. His involvement with the long dead Conquistadors of Virginia City had led to further discoveries that he had shared with her and wanted her to now disclose to those who had found those sleeping giants.
She had revelled in the fact that these brave men had been sleeping their eternal sleep for so long under the baleful eye of Sun Mountain. And she had further enjoyed reading that a Cartwright had been involved in discovering them. Why Maurice had asked her to be the one to look further into the matter she did not know, but, well, here she was, and eager now to pick up threads of her relationship with the Cartwrights of the Ponderosa.
It did cross her mind that, just perhaps, she would be as disappointed there as she had been when going ‘home’. what if she didn’t like Adam’s wife? That would be a bit negative, after all, Adam had meant the sun, moon and stars to her at one time. And Joe, would he still be suffering from that near fatal injury…she imagined him dragging himself around with crutches and a limp, and of course, a doting wife who would fetch and carry for him, something she herself would refuse to do for any man. As for Hoss, she hoped he was happy…would he have married by now? Her mother had never mentioned anything about Hoss and she thought over and over to make sure she had her facts right there…but no, on the subject of Hoss Cartwright, Laura had been very quiet.
So now here she was, jogging along the track that pointed to the Ponderosa…she tried to imagine the looks on their faces, the surprise, the pleasure…she smiled to herself, they would be pleased to see her, she just knew that they would ..especially Adam.
Cheng Ho Lee had prepared the meal and Olivia had gathered up her sewing into the basket and put down the lid securely to prevent little hands exploring among the needles, silks and scissors. She called out to her husband and children and smiled at the sounds of them downing tools to gather for the meal. Chatter and laughter …she felt contentment steal over her, it always seemed that there was more light heartedness in the house when Adam was home. It rather amused her that thought, considering what a serious minded man her husband happened to be.
Released from his mother’s vigilant eyes Nathaniel scurried to the doorway and as Adam, Reuben and Sofia entered the room in a somewhat noisy huddle he saw his chance to slip past them and hurry off to the storehouse to explore. There were some places he had never been allowed to go, and in his child’s mind, he had no clear understanding as to why he was not permitted them. The dangers to him, the mess he could create, all such perceptions were well beyond his comprehension.
He had to take the steps down very carefully to the storehouse. It was under the main house and the steps were steep so he had to cling to the wall as he made his way. At the bottom he stopped to look around him, big eyes staring at the mass of things gathered neatly in a pile and under a sheet in the centre of the room. Shelves had been removed from alongside the walls and washed clean and like the bottles, jars and jugs that were piled in the centre and would be replaced upon them they had been grouped together, out of way of the walls, the whitewash and those who were employed in the task of refreshing the whitewash.
And there, in all its splendour, were the buckets of whitewash, the paint brushes…he blinked, and approached the treasure trove with resolve.
On the whole there had not been too much mess caused by the amateur attempts of a little girl and boy who had helped their Pa in this particular task. Perhaps some puddles of paint where Sofia had dropped her brush at times, or had slopped some rather carelessly before realising not to load the brush so much. Nathaniel explored those puddles with some curiosity, he jumped into them and then stamped his foot on the floor and relished the sight of a foot print, so he jumped in some more and ran in circles around the spaces between the walls and the piled items.
It was great fun to look behind him and see the foot prints chasing about there. He giggled, and decided that there just wasn’t enough paint left now in the puddles. There needed to be more. He picked up a brush and as it was quite cumbersome and heavy promptly dropped it, not before it had splattered a streak of paint down his dungaree’s,
“Oh dear dear…” he said to himself and cast the paint brush down and attempted to wipe the paint away, finding now that the paint remained on his clothing but also transferred it self to his hands. He looked at them and decided some hand prints may look impressive on the walls.
He ran up to the walls and slapped both hands down upon the wet walls. Instead of the paint on his hands going onto the walls he now found he had more paint on himself than ever and decided to wipe them down his pants. Then his nose itched and he wiped a hand across his face leaving a smear of paint there as well.
He could hear his mother calling him, and turned quickly to find a place where he could hide. As he did so he tripped against one of the buckets of whitewash, it sloshed up and over his feet, his dungarees and dismayed at just how much there was he stepped back quickly to avoid more of what was trickling like a stream over the floor, only to slip over and land on his bottom knocking over another bucket of whitewash as he did so.
The whitewash streamed around him as he now sat in its midst, wherever he looked there was whitewash… and that included himself. He looked at his hands, covered! His feet, pure white. He wiggled his toes, that made him giggle.
“Nathaniel.” Olivia’s voice floated down from the top stair “Are you down there?”
“Me not.” he said with a chuckle in his voice “Nath’flannel not here. “
He could hear her coming down the stairs now and tried to stand up, but the floor was slippery so that his feet slid from under him and down he went again. His head hit another bucket upon which a paint brush had been balanced very carefully, but this now seemed to spring to life, turned a cartwheel and landed on Nathaniel’s head which quite scared the little chap who gave a roar of misery “Oh Oh …”
Olivia stood on the bottom step and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry She clasped her hands together as though in prayer and raised her eyes ceiling wards
Nathaniel began to bawl. He knew he was headed for trouble now and as his mother’s voice increased in volume “Adam”, so did his wails.
The young woman in the buggy was heedless of events happening in the first house she passed although she gave it a quick glance before continuing along to the main house. That was the Ponderosa she knew and associated with Ben, Adam and the boys. As she drove along her thoughts lingered on memories of those by gone days when, as a little girl of 8, she had first seen Adam Cartwright. How she had hated him. No, she corrected herself, she didn’t know what hate was, only that emptiness and resentment of a man who had come along and tried to fill that gap her father had left her. Such intense feelings…but then children felt with such intensity, she thought, and she remembered looking at him and the way she had spoken to him that first time “Get out of that chair. That’s my daddy’s chair. Don’t you ever sit in that chair again. Not ever.”
She could feel emotion welling up into her throat just remembering it. And then when he had brought that pony, just about the cutest thing one could ever see, and what had she said “Are you trying to be my friend?”
Of course he was, and of course he had succeeded in being her very best friend. He had been the one who had helped her face the truth, and the one who had shown her that love never fails, not when offered sincerely, generously. She knew that was true, because she had loved him too, unreservedly.
She set her memories to one side as the Ponderosa ranch house now loomed ahead of her. She turned the horse into the track that led here behind the stables, and then sweeping wide into the yard. She sat there for a moment to catch her breath, adjust her bonnet, and look around her. It was just the same…. Almost…there was something different about it, however, and she sat for a whole moment trying to work out what it was before she heard someone clear his throat, very loudly.
She turned in the direction of the stables and saw Hoss standing there, a tin of polish in one hand and a quizzical look on his face. Just the same, dear old Hoss. He hadn’t changed, oh perhaps he had, a little bigger, broader, but that grin was the same, the blue eyes twinkled as much as ever before.
“Hoss!” she dropped the reins in her hands and clasped them together, “Hoss Cartwright?”
“Yep,” he grinned wider than ever and walked towards her, “And what can I do fer you, little lady?”
The smile on her face widened, it was wonderful to see him, a bubble of excitement welled up inside her “You don’t recognise me, do you?”
“Should I?” he frowned now, and paused in mid-stride “Shucks, Miss, ‘fraid I don’t.”
“Shall I give you a clue?” she laughed and wanted to giggle, just like a little girl again.
“Guess you might have to.” he replied and then turned his head as the door opened, and Ben Cartwright stepped out onto the porch. “Pa, we got a visitor, wants to play guessing games with us.”
Ben’s stern face broke into a smile, bemused, curious. His dark brown eyes lingered over the girl, and the smile faltered a little in his attempt to recognise her, he nodded, still none the wiser as to who she could be, “It’s always good to have visitors, Miss…er… “ his eyes noticed the luggage and his eyebrows, dark as ever, were raised, “I see you intend to stay?”
“If you’ll have me, Mr Cartwright.” she said and clambered down, then straightened her skirts and walked the rest of the distance towards him, stopped just in front of him and then threw her arms around him “Oh, Mr Cartwright, you can’t imagine how wonderful it is to see you after all this time.”
Ben glanced anxiously over to his son, who stepped forward, craned his head towards her and narrowed his eyes before looking at his father “Pa?”
She spun round and then hurried over to hug him “Oh Hoss, Hoss. …”
It was then that Hester stepped out of the door t see what was keeping here men folk and she halted in mid-step at the sight of her husband being hugged by a very pretty, and young lady.
Hop Sing couldn’t be bothered to hang around, he came to the door and stared out at the yard as the young woman, who was indeed quite an attractive young thing, stepped away from Hoss, laughing as she did so. He nodded and then shook his head,
“Missy Peggy…welcome back to Ponderosa…you stay long this time?”
“Peggy?” Ben exclaimed, and looked questioningly over at his cook, who nodded, sloe black eyes twinkling in his olive skin, then he turned to the girl “Peggy ?”
She nodded and laughed “Yes, it’s me…Peggy.”
Hoss threw his head back and laughed loudly, “Shucks, Peggy, I didn’t recognise you…”
Ben shook his head and then swept her into his arms and hugged her tightly during which time Hester had crossed the yard and stood beside her husband, waiting for some explanation for such hilarity, although she kept a smile on her face and having seen Ben’s demonstration of affection for the girl had realised there was no wrong intent towards Hoss.
“Hester, honey, this is little Peggy Dayton Cartwright.” Hoss explained with a sweep of the hand towards Peggy, who released Ben and turned to them, a smile on her face as she looked at Hester, “Peggy, this is my wife, Hester.”
So he was married after all, she thought as she looked at the other woman, why hadn’t mother told her? “Hello, Hester. I’m Laura Dayton’s daughter. “
“Cousin Will’s step daughter.” Hoss hastened to explain as Hester stepped towards Peggy and with a smile kissed her on the cheek.
“I just call my self Peggy Dayton nowadays.” she said a trifle self consciously, “Uncle Will doesn’t mind.”
“Nor do we.” Ben said with a wide generous smile on his face and his eyes twinkling at her, “what’s in a name, after all? “
“Yeah, we kinda always think of you as Peggy Dayton anyhow.”
Hop Sing clapped his hands “You yak yak talk all day in yard? Dinner all dry up you say put here.”
They all laughed, Peggy slipped her arm through that of Ben’s “Oh he hasn’t changed at all, has he?”
“I don’t think we would want him to, after all this time,” Ben replied with a laugh.
Hester smiled, caught the younger womans eyes and nodded, Peggy sighed , a release of breath, relief and pleasure and joy. It was going to be alright, she liked Hester and from the smile she had received, Hester liked her too.
As they walked towards the house, Hester was thinking “So this is Laura Dayton’s daughter, all grown up, and very pretty too. Time doesn’t stand still and children grow up … I wonder why she has come back.”
Hannah and Hope stopped running around the room in their game of tag, while Erik sat carefully turning his toy horse over and over between his fingers. They turned their eyes in the direction of the door expecting to see their Pa and Ma and Granpa, smiles ready on their faces. But their eyes widened in curiosity when Peggy came in, her arm linked through that of Ben’s.
Peggy stood still to observe them and smiled, then left Ben to approach the girls, and shake their hands telling them that she was an old friend of their Pa’s and Granpa. She tweaked Erik’s cheek gently and turned to Hester “I cant believe it, he is just like my brother Benjamin.”
Hester felt a surge of delight which caused her heart to flutter and she smiled before she turned to look at Hoss who was nodding as though there could be no doubt about that, Cartwright cousins should look like ..Cartwright cousins.
“It’s so good to be here again,” Peggy stepped back and did a little twirl as though that was the best way to see the whole room and everything and everyone in it “But it’s different..”
“We had a fire.” Ben said, “Had to do some rebuilding.”
“Yeah, and Adam designed a proper kind of tub room so we don’t have to use the out house no more.” Hoss grinned and stooped to pick up Hannah who was rather curious but doubtful of this other person.
Hop Sing was busy setting another place at the table, they could hear the clutter of cutlery, the chink of glass and chinaware.
“And your old red leather chair …and the blue chair …” Peggy sighed and shook her head, “In my memories they were pretty permanent features.”
Hester frowned slightly not sure whether or not she was being criticised for her choice of furniture, but she picked up Erik to hide her confusion, Hope clutched at her skirt, a thumb in her mouth and big eyes staring up at the stranger.
“I think it looks perfectly perfect now,” Peggy continued with a smile that appeared genuine enough, “Just how I would have liked it. I will have to throw out my old memories now.”
Her laugh was light and pleasant, she removed her bonnet and placed it on the bureau, along with her outer coat. Hop Sing came and announced the food was ready for eating and Ben took her elbow to escort her to the table. Erik had a little tantrum, he didn’t want to sit in his chair, he wanted to sit on mother’s lap and eat from there. Hope and Hannah had settled into their places and were now chattering among themselves, casting covert glances over at Peggy and every so often catching her looking at them, stealing smiles each time.
Halfway through the meal Peggy declared that Hop Sings’ cooking had not changed at all, it was as perfectly delicious as she always remembered it to be at which compliment Hop Sing bowed and told her she was like a rose blooming in a far off place, and now they were happy that she once again graced their table.
“It’s odd, I thought Adam would always be at sea. I was quite surprised when Maurice told me that he was back home.” Peggy pushed away the empty plate of her dessert, and picked up her wine glass.
“Maurice?” Ben queried.
“Yes, Maurice Stevens. He was here recently.” she sipped some wine
“You know Maurice Stevens?” Hester asked now, “Goodness me, what a small world.”
“Maurice and I are old friends.” Peggy said quickly “But we share the same enthusiasm for ancient things. I mastered in archaeology, much to mother’s annoyance, but Will was very proud of me.” she twirled the stem of the wine glass round and round between her fingers, “I went to London for a few years and met him there.”
“He was a very popular figure here .” Hoss said, “And pleasant enough. He was quite amazed at the discovery.”
“We all were…” Ben laughed and Hoss guffawed loudly and proceeded to tell Peggy all about the discovery and how Reuben and his friends had accidently come across it.
“To think I lived here and never knew …” Peggy lamented and laughed along with them, “But it must have been such a wonderful sight. Can you imagine it? Those boys must have had the fright of their lives! I really quite envy them. I wish the Conquistadors had been discovered when I was here.,”
Ben sat back with his wine glass in one hand and toyed with a napkin with the other as he observed their visitor. She had changed so much. It wasn’t just her appearance which of course would have altered from the young adolescent she was on her previous visit, but now, here she was, a mature young woman. Her face and bearing, even her colouring, was different and sometimes it was hard to find the little girl that she had been in the woman she had become. He wondered what had happened since she had left those years ago, when her mother had arranged for her to go to finishing school in Switzerland. He had got the impression during that visit that relations between Laura and Peggy had not cemented into the loving close bond either had wished for.
“How is your mother? And Will?” he asked as though following through on his thoughts and Peggy paused, sipped more wine and smiled over at him,
“They are well. Mother had a daughter after Benjamin was born. Her life is full of the things she always wanted, you know, tea parties and social events. They have a grand house on the east coast now, and she is quite content. Both the boys are at college and doing well. John wants to become a lawyer, and I think Benjamin has an aptitude for the sciences. Clarissa, my half sister, is growing up and will, no doubt, give my mother much pleasure by behaving herself and doing just as she is told…” she flashed a smile at Hester “I’m afraid I seldom did, as Mr Cartwright and Hoss can testify.”
Hoss laughed then and regaled them all with the story of how Peggy had wanted to adopt a wolf cub and kicked up a fuss when Adam had explained that she could not…
Hannah thought that was interesting and ventured to say that she would like to have a wolf cub of her own too, which made Peggy laugh and say that was something her parents would probably have to discuss with her later.
“And Will, how is he?” Ben persisted in wanting to know, he had always had a soft spot for Will, and in some ways had wished that he had stayed in the area, despite Laura’s insistence that a better life could be found elsewhere.
“Oh Will is really well. He is so clever, and his business has grown and grown. He’s become very popular in the social circles back there too…” she smiled mischievously “He looks handsomer than ever, you know, and mother gets angry because she says she spends too much time at these events, as she calls them, batting off the women .”
Ben nodded and frowned slightly, although she hadn’t said so much, it seemed to him that Will was not so happy in his marriage as they had hoped. He wanted to ask her if she thought her step-father in reality, was happy, but realised it was the wrong thing to say, the wrong time too.
Peggy had become a grave, serious young woman, but she still had the sparkle of fun in her and it took little time for the girls to realise that this new friend enjoyed sitting on the floor playing with the doll house and pretending that the prettiest princess lived there and needed to be rescued from the ugly prince.
When Hester took the children to bed it was Hannah who begged for Peggy to go and tell them a story, to which she promised she would as soon as their mother said they were ready. Erik was all rosy cheeked and nodding like a drowsy infant would as he was carried in his mother’s arms up the stairs.
Peggy sat down opposite Ben and watched him fill his pipe, then she jumped up and said “Oh let me…” and grabbed for a taper to light from the fire and put to the tobacco , “Remember how I used to do that for you when I stayed here that time Adam was …” she paused and a soft sigh passed her lips “when he was hurt.”
“I remember,” Ben said with a smile and looked at her thoughtfully “That was a long time ago, Peggy.”
“I know. Another life time…” she replied and returned to her seat, “Mother tells me some news, but it seems no one communicates much or very often so there isn’t much she can tell me about you all. I thought that Adam would be living here with his wife and family, so was surprised – pleasantly so,” she flashed a smile at Hoss, “when I realised Hoss and Hester were here. Does Adam live so far away?”
“Not at all, you would have passed his house to reach here.” Ben replied and sent up a little smoke circle in to the air “Joe lives about a mile further along the track. You can’t see his house because of the hill.” he sent up another smoke ring “Adam designed both houses.”
“And does he still go to sea?”
“No, nor ever will again I hope.” Ben replied sternly,.
“I thought…well, mother always thought that Adam would become an architect, she said he had the same drive and determination as Uncle Will to succeed in whatever he set his hand to.”
Hoss chuckled “Yeah, that sums up brother Adam all right.”
Peggy nodded, and looked at Hoss with a sweet tenderness on her face, then she smiled over at Ben “Mother wanted him to leave here, you know. She told me once that had she married him, she would have made sure he left the Ponderosa. She hated cattle ranching … perhaps because of Daddy, or just because… “ she shrugged, “Not everyone likes cows.”
Ben watched her face fall into more solemn lines now and leaned forward “Do you feel like calling on Adam and Olivia, or Joe and Mary Ann? They don’t live so far away, just say the word and we’ll get you there.” he smiled then, his face broke into the generous warm features she had treasured in her memory for so long and so she assured him that she was just fine, too tired to go visiting perhaps tomorrow she would go and make more social calls.
“You’ll no doubt see Joe and Adam in the morning -” Hoss said as he stretched out his legs so that his feet could be nearer the fire “They usually get here just at breakfast time.”
“In that case there won’t be any need for them to have an announcement of my arrival,” she laughed and looked towards the fire where the flames gently nibbled at the logs and threw a rosy glow out into the room.
It was at this point that Hester came down and smiled “The girls are getting impatient for their new aunty to read them a story.”
Peggy got up immediately, a light laugh and away she hurried, fllitting up the stairs like a young girl again. Ben sighed and pursed his lips, in some ways, he wished that young girl were back again, he wasn’t sure what to make of this more serious young lady that had taken her place. ……..
Nathaniel had thought that getting clunked on the head by a paint brush and covered by whitewash was quite punishment enough so he was completely taken aback, as only a very little boy could be, when his father had picked him up and held him at arms length while he was carried to the bath. Without a word Adam stripped the boy naked and then washed him clean, all the while Nathaniel was rubbing his head, crying that it was sore, it hurt, not good!
Once wrapped in a clean warm towel Nathaniel was perched on Adams knee and after clearing his throat, Adam explained very gently that he had been a naughty boy, that he had made a lot of mess in a room they had worked hard on making nice and tidy for mommy, but now they had extra work as a result of such a naughty boy going in and touching things he should have left alone.
Nathaniel blinked back tears. He didn’t understand where he had been naughty, nor why he should have left things alone when they were just there, waiting for him to touch and play and enjoy. He bowed his head and sighed, rubbed his eyes and cried, leaned against Adam who held him away and said “No, not for naughty boys.”
That really hurt Nathaniel, he howled and Adam inwardly groaned and longed to hug his little boy and tell him he was loved. Instead he set him down and told him to go and say sorry to Mommy. Trailing the towel behind him Nathaniel left the room, paused at the door and glanced back at Daddy who turned his head away, so that the little scamp sobbed all the way to where Olivia was setting out the table for their meal.
By the time he had reached the table the towel had come adrift somewhere on the way from the bath room, and the little naked body stood before her looking very woebegone. “Mommy, norty Nat’enual come..” he lifted up his arms to her, perhaps she would be more merciful than Poppa, “Sorry, mommy.”
Olivia stooped down to pick him up and hold him close. She hugged him and kissed him and told him she loved him. Sofia ran up with the towel in her hands and that was carefully wrapped around the little boy who clung to his mother so tightly that Olivia could hardly breathe.
For a while Nathaniel kept his distance from his father, and Adam smiled and teased him until in the end the child was giggling and happy once more. Of course Adam knew, and Nathaniel would have realised had he been older, that were he to chance upon the same situation again, he would be just as tempted to go in and play, and dance about in the puddles of whitewash on the floor.
But now the three children were in bed, sleeping soundly, and the two adults were free to enjoy their time in the evening together. The fire glowed warmly and the lamps were shedding a calming light over the room. Cheng Ho Lee had made his way to his own room an hour previously.
Olivia glanced over at her husband as he sat opposite her reading a newspaper. His brow was knit and his face looked shut off, preoccupied with other thoughts than family. She put down her sewing and allowed her thoughts to trickle back to the past months, of a winter that had not been so very bad in that it had not brought about the worst rigours they endured so often during that season. Memories of the time when they had returned from Boulder’s Creek slipped into her mind now and she shook her head, thinking herself unobserved, as she remembered how much relief they had all felt at the return of the men to their homes. But Mary Ann had been shaken by the trial, and by the perfidy of those involved, and had been a quieter person ever since.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she was surprised when he came and sat by her side, put an arm around her shoulders while with his free hand he began to stroke her arm, gently and softly, while his face wore that soft tender look that she loved to see.
“You looked far away, and worried.” he said almost in a whisper. “Did you think I was too hard on Nathaniel?”
“No, of course not.” she smiled at him and leaned her head against his chest.
She could hear the beat of his heart, good and solid and regular. She felt his arm around her shoulders drawing her closer and felt his lips upon her brow. For a moment they sat in silence, enjoying the time together anticipating what would come later.
“Mmm?” he sighed as though he wished she had not spoken although that was not so, he was happy just being there with her whether she spoke or not.
“Are you happy?”
She could sense his smile, his lips parted and in doing so brushed aside the curls of her hair “Happy? That’s a strange thing to ask a man who’s married to the most beautiful woman in the world.” his voice held a laugh in them, and she wondered if he really meant the words or said them because he had said them so often before.
She moved away from him then and looked at him, still in the embrace of his arm around her but just that little distance between them. “I just wanted to know, to be sure.”
“You can be sure …” he frowned then, a row of track lines across his brow that obscured the scars that he had gained over the years. “Why are you asking me, Olivia? Don‘t you know by now that you’re my life, my whole reason for being…?”
She wanted to relax then, sink back into his arms and hug him close, but the voice in her head was determined, and she heard herself say “I worry that sometimes you aren’t.”
“Then don’t worry,” he raised his eyebrows, his brown eyes darkened and his lips thinned, “There’s nothing to worry about.”
“It’s just that -” oh that voice, why wouldn’t it keep quiet and go away, but relentlessly she looked into those brown eyes, resisted the temptation to kiss those lips, “you seem so restless lately.”
“Restless?” he repeated the word as though never having heard it before, and then shook his head and removed his arm from around her.
Her green eyes became paler, as they did when she was worried or disturbed about something, and knowing that they would betray her she turned her head away, only for him to hook a finger beneath her chin and turn her to face him, “What exactly is going through your sweet pretty head, my dear?”
She sighed and shrugged “ I don’t know … am I being silly?”
“Certainly.” he nodded but his face looked stern, serious.
She looked now at the flames in the fire, and tried to find the words she wanted to use, sometimes they just didn’t seem to be there when she wanted them to be, and just at this moment in time she wanted to assure him of her love for him. She sighed,
“I love you, you know that don’t you?”
He smiled then, a slight whimsical smile and nodded, so she nestled back closer to him and reached for his hand “I just want you to know, that if you were worried about anything at all, and I do mean, anything…” she moved her head to look up into his face before returning to look at the fire “you must tell me, otherwise I won’t be able to help.”
“I don’t have any worries, Livvy, none that I Haven’t shared with you anyway. “ he raised his eyebrows as though puzzled.
“But you are restless…you got up this morning early and didn’t come back to bed…and it worries me when that happens.” she frowned then, a little criss cross patch of faint lines across her brows, “Are you having bad dreams? Are you …alright?”
“I guess it’s a hard habit to break, after all I used to get up at 2 a.m every morning when I first went to sea, those were the hours of my “trick” and I somehow never got out of the habit of getting up at that time. It became my routine as an officer to walk about the ship at that time of morning and speak to the men on duty. I guess I’ve not yet managed to break myself from the habit. Does it disturb you? Do I wake you up? I’m sorry if I do…”
She shook her head and allowed a small smile to flit across her face “No, and you don’t do it very often, besides I’ve been awake at odd hours myself with Nathaniel. It’s not often I notice the bed is empty, just that when it is…”
He frowned and looked thoughtfully at her, unsure of what to say or do next. She was watching him with a thoughtful expression on her face, not the look of a woman who desired her man to love her, not just at that moment. He cleared his throat,
“I suppose I am restless at times, but isn‘t everyone?” he said and she felt her heart miss a beat, and the voice in her head wanted to know why but before she spoke he stood up and walked to the bureau where he selected a bottle of wine and brought it over to the table with two glasses.
She watched as he poured wine out and handed her a glass, before pouring some for himself. “Livvy, have you noticed how much is going on in the world nowadays. I used to talk to Pa about progress, and he used to be irritated …” he paused and stared at the wine in the glass, then looked at her “But there is so much happening now, and so fast. Did you know that San Francisco is going to be the first city in America to have electricity? Imagine that? Light at a flick of a switch.”
“I remember hearing about it when I was at the Frobishers…” she murmured and recalled to mind that he had been at sea then – was it his trip to Cuba?
He leaned back and stretched out an arm to encompass her in its embrace, only too gratefully she sunk back against his chest, her head on his shoulder, “Times have changed so much, when you think about it, there are trains going in all directions now, and it makes me recall those long days in the wagon with Pa, travelling through Indian Territory… and now one has to ask…where are the Indians we were so terrified off back then? The Cheyenne, the Souix, the Pauite? Life is changing so fast that …” he drew in a deep breath and shook his head, “I wonder sometimes what the future will be like when the children are grown. When they look back to their childhood will they think it primitive, dull, routine?”
“Is that how you think it is, Adam? Do you feel life is dull and routine?”
His eyebrows rose and for a moment she saw a glimpse of irritation beneath of the surface of the look he gave her, then he shrugged and asked her if that was how she felt about her life?
“No, I don’t.” and she looked at him almost challengingly, “But when you say things like that I wonder – if perhaps you wish you were back at sea?”
“No.” he said quickly, perhaps too quickly for then he frowned and shook his head,
leaned in and took hold of her hand in his, locked his fingers over hers and squeezed them gently “But that isn’t to say that there are times, when I do miss it. Surely that is only natural?It was a big part of my life for some years and I made good friends, bad enemies…and sailed beautiful ships. Life at sea was a mix of dull routine and boredom, of excitement and sometimes sheer terror, but it was my life for quite some time. “
“You’ve never said that you missed it before…” her voice trailed off, wistful, a little forlorn.
He sighed and gulped down some of the wine, he looked at the ceiling beams as though they would give him inspiration and help him dig himself out of the hole he had just shovelled himself into
“Sweetheart, why should I mention it? It doesn’t change anything. I wouldn’t go back to sea anyway, not because I promised you I wouldn’t but because -” he shrugged “no matter how much I may miss it, doesn’t mean I want to go back to it. No, those times are past, but there are times when I’ve been chasing a herd of cows around and smelling their – well – having to put up with their stench, the heat, the everything there is about cattle ranching I get to think of fresh salt sea breezes and the snap of a ships sails overhead.” he laughed then, a light hearted laugh, “I’m grateful for the fact that I have those memories, it helps .”
For a moment they were silent then he said quietly “It’s a good life, Livvy, really, but I am glad I escaped it for a while. More glad than I can say that I found you and can come home to you… “
She relaxed a little now, that obstinate voice slipped away and she smiled and leaned in towards him. “I’m sorry. I was just worried.”
“As I said, there is nothing for you to worry over. “ he emptied his glass and set it down, and then looked at her with a smile that brought dimples to his cheeks, “I love you, Olivia Cartwright, come to bed with me and let me show you how much.”
She set down her empty glass and smiled, then stretched out her hand which he took to help her to her feet. “And do you love me?”
“More than life.”
And as he swung her into his arms Adam Cartwright meant every word he said, each and every one.
In the guest room of the Ponderosa, Peggy Dayton had slept well and comfortably. She could remember sleeping in the very same room when she stayed at the ranch with her mother during those long days when Adam had been injured from falling during some building work.
As a child she had never really understood exactly how that happened nor why. Laura had determinedly steered conversations away from the subject whenever Peggy had ventured near it. But now as she began to come out of her sleep and rubbed her eyes she allowed her mind to wander back to that time …
What a confused muddle of a time it was, it seemed that Laura was more intense and irritable than ever, and Peggy, knowing her mother so well in all her moods, knew that beneath the veneer of smiles and patient care of the invalid, Laura was finding it hard to handle. She remembered Hoss and Joe being fun, always trying to take her away from the environment, playing games and making up amusements for her. And there had been Will, riding in and – yes, she smiled – she had liked Will from the start, seeing no threat to her, he was open and honest. But then hadn’t Adam been too, and hadn’t he just arrived in her life at the most crucial time of her life, when she had lost the very first man she had ever loved – her Daddy.
She could hear sounds from downstairs and recognised them as familiar too, Hop Sing was already up and preparing for the morning meal, if the rooms were cold he would be lighting the fires and making sure everything was perfect for his family to start the day. All so familiar, it brought back such happy, muddled and confused memories.
Sofia rubbed her face and scrunched up into a little ball in the middle of her bed. Clarabelle and Saggy Sue flopped on top of her but she didn’t mind them, she just wanted to stay there and not have to go to school.
Reuben pushed open the door and peeked inside “C’mon, lazy, or you’ll be late.”
“Go ‘way” she mumbled.
He humphhed and ran downstairs, she could hear the thud thud of his feet on the steps and pulled the sheet over her head. Saggy Sue fell off the end of the bed and Clarabelle landed all droopy over the side.
More footsteps and she sighed and scrunched up her eyes as tightly as she wanted to scrunch up her body. The door opened and footsteps approached her bed. Strong arms pulled away the sheet and without a word scooped her up from the comfortable mattress and covers. “No, daddy, no….”
“Yes, Sofee, yes.” Adam replied and there was a chuckle in his voice as he bore her away to the door. She reached out a hand to grab at the door frame but he moved too fast so she missed
“Oh daddy, please let me stay home. Please.”
More footsteps padding their way towards them and she opened one eye and saw Nathaniel approaching. He stopped to watch them and then raised his arms but Adam ignored him and continued on down the stairs with his precious burden. Nathaniel hurried as fast as he could behind them.
“Someone doesn’t want to go to school today.” Adam announced to his wife as he sat Sofia down on the chair.
Olivia frowned and looked at her daughter “Why this time?”
“Because -” Sofia replied and hung her head so that her long hair flopped over her face.
“Because of what?” Olivia asked and came from behind her to pull the blonde hair away and tidy it behind the child’s back. “Or is it because of who?”
“Who who…too whit too woo…” Reuben crowed and laughed until he got a stern look from Adam.
“Whit whit wooooo” chanted Nathaniel and flapped his arms about for good measure.
“That’s enough now.” Adam said tapping Nathaniel on the nose, “Eat your breakfast.”
Sofia sniffed and looked down at the food on her plate, her stomach rumbled and so she picked up her spoon and began to eat. she looked over at Reuben, a dark glare that didn’t get missed by her father who asked to know what the problem was now.
“She’s annoyed because -”
“No, don’t say it.” Sofia protested and looked as though she were about to burst into tears. She put down her spoon and sniffed again, blinked fast and clamped her teeth together.
“I Haven’t said anything – yet!” her brother continued and shrugged “She’s annoyed because…”
“Stop it. Stop it.” Sofia bawled and began to weep, her head bowed and shoulders shaking.
“Sofia, that’s quite enough now. “ Olivia said sternly and looked over at Reuben who gave a very masculine shrug of the shoulders and lift of the eyebrows. She frowned at him, and thought he was beginning to get too much like his father..
“Its not fair “ Sofia said wiping her eyes dry and sniffing some more, “They wont let me in their gang. They said I was too little and a girl.”
“Well, it’s true.” Reuben protested, “You are too little, and you are a girl.” he looked at his father “She is, isn’t she, Pa?”
Adam sighed and nodded, “Sofia, you are younger than the boys, and sadly, you are a girl. You will have to form a girl’s gang.”
“Girls are silly.” Sofia replied and sighed as though the end of the world had just been announced.
“Boys can be equally as silly,” Adam replied and frowned “Now eat your food. Reuben, what is it you and your gang are planning that has upset your sister so much?”
“Nothing, Pa.” Reuben replied very quickly and remembering a certain incident that involved frogs and so forth, he cleared his throat “She’s just annoyed because Tommy Conway and Jimmy Carstairs said they were going to fight a duel because they both -” he rolled his eyes “ love her. Imagine that…?” and he stared at Sofia who bristled, went red in the face and glared at him so fiercely that Adam almost burst out laughing.
“Well, she’ll appreciate it more when she’s older, “ Adam muttered and handed Nathaniel some bread.
Olivia glanced at the clock “Look at the time, and Sofia, you’re not dressed or washed yet. Hurry up and get yourself ready.”
“Please let me stay home.” she pleaded, and looked from one parent to the other.
“Upstairs – now -” Adam ordered “And don’t forget to collect your McGuffey, you left it on the table yesterday.”
Sofia was firmly extricated from her chair by her mother and hauled upstairs. She was a stubborn little thing and dragged her feet as much as she could to make it as hard as possible for her mother to get her back up to her room where, with many protests, Olivia took to ‘sorting her out’,
Reuben shrugged “I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” he said to anyone who wanted to listen. Nathaniel didn’t he was engrossed in rolling bits of bread into balls and dropping them onto the floor. Adam was half listening remembering times when Joe had been equally reluctant to get to school. He sighed and looked at his son,
“What did you say?”
“ I said I didn’t know what the fuss is about, Pa. She’s just a girl after all!” and with a shrug of the shoulders he set to finishing his meal.
Adam smiled, and picked up his cup of coffee. No worries about the birds and bees talk yet awhile then. He felt sorry for the Carstairs and Conways though.
Peggy was always bright and fresh when she got up in the mornings. She smiled at everyone and felt flattered when Hannah asked to come and sit with her at the breakfast table. Erik was rosy cheeked and banged on his dish with his spoon, he was boy after his father’s own heart, enjoying his food and always hungry. Hoss grinned at their guest and asked if she had slept alright.
“I did. I have fond memories of that bed, it was always so comfortable. Hop Sing, I could smell bacon …”
Hop Sing nodded and placed the food on the table for them to ‘dig in’ and enjoy. Coffee was poured into the adult’s cups and milk for the little girls and Erik.
“Will Joe and Adam be here soon?” Peggy asked as she placed the food upon her plate, “Do they come here first thing to see what work they have to do ? Will you be going with them today, Hoss? Mr Cartwright?”
“Joe should be here soon.” Ben glanced over at the clock “Adam any moment – he’s usually the most punctual of the two.”
Peggy laughed “That doesn’t surprise me one bit, he always was…well, most times.”
She smiled to herself at the memory of him tossing his hat into the house to make sure he was still welcome because he had been late, she couldn’t remember the occasion, just that mother had been really angry. She remembered sitting on Adam’s lap while they ‘chatted’ and inside the house Laura seethed. It occurred to her then, even as a child, that Laura never hesitated to let Adam know when she was annoyed or irritated by anything he did or said, yet with Daddy she would never say a word., just cringe back and look – well, was it scared? She could remember hearing Frank Dayton saying to no one in particular, because she had been the only one in the room at the time, that ‘your mother’s scared of her own shadow.’
She hadn’t understood what that meant then, but if it had been true of Laura during her marriage to Daddy, she had certainly left the shadows behind when she had fallen ‘in love’ with Adam. It was the first time Peggy had realised how different people had such strong but opposing reactions to others. At the age of 8 she had learned a lot!
She was musing about such things when the door was opened and she heard footsteps, and she turned her head to watch as Adam stepped into the dining area of the room.
She was surprised and not sure whether pleasantly so or not at this first sight of him. He was still tall, broad shouldered, not reed thin but not carrying any surplus weight. His hair was greyer at the sides but still dark, and his eyes were still that honey brown she could remember, but his features were blurred somehow and she realised that it was the same with Will, the firmness of youth was gone, and the craggier look of a middle aged man was now in place.
He smiled and the smile was still the same and lit up his eyes, brought out the dimples. He was still – Adam.
He greeted them all and then looked at her, narrowed those brown eyes of his and smiled again “Well now, who have we here…?” and he laughed as he approached the table, Peggy stood up and looked at him, and as he wrapped his arms around her to give her a welcome hug he was still chuckling, then held her at arm’s length “Well, little Peggy. Where have those freckles gone?”
She remembered those hugs from long ago, different to the one he gave her now, they were different people, after all and as they all knew she was no longer little Peggy with freckles and wobbly teeth and a squeaky voice.
He smiled at her and watched as she sat down to resume her meal. Ben had poured him a cup of coffee which he accepted and balanced in his hands “You’ve grown up, Peggy.”
“It’s Aunty Peggy” Hannah said in her squeaky voice “And she told us stories and she said she was a little girl like us and lived here too”
“So she did too,” Hoss guffawed, with his mouth full of food which earned him a disapproving look from both his father and wife!
Hester turned from her husband to smile over at her brother in law and asked how everyone was at home, to which enquiry he nodded, smiled “Had a problem getting Sofia to school, apparently two boys in Reuben’s gang are going to fight a duel over her today.”
“She’ll change her mind about that in a few years,” Ben chuckled, “Peggy, would you like more bacon?”
There was the slam of a door shutting and within minutes Joe was in the room and pause to observe the guest. He glanced at Adam as though his brother would give him a clue as to who she was, and approached the table, helped himself to a slice of bacon and began to nibble at it while he nodded his head as though telling himself he knew exactly who she was….
“Well, good morning, Joseph.” Ben said tersely, “You’re late.”
“I’m on time, Pa. It’s Adam who is early.” he smiled at Peggy, “Well Peggy Dayton, back again huh?”
“I didn’t think you would recognise her” Hoss muttered and frowned.
“Oh, I have fond memories of Peggy from a few years ago. She hasn’t changed so very much “ and he leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.
“You haven’t changed much either,” Peggy laughed “But it is good to see you again, and you, too, Adam.”
“A lots changed since your last visit, Peg o’ my heart. No wheelchair in sight …” Joe chuckled.
“I’m glad. That means Hop Sing is relieved of all those ladies that were constantly calling and needing lemonade and cookies…” she turned to Hester “the yard used to be full of buggies, you know. He was like some kind of Potentate with all the ladies in town coming to give him presents and make sure he was well.”
“That’s because I wasn’t well..” Joe protested.
Hester sighed and raised her eyebrows “Before my time.”
She turned her attention to feeding Erik who was being a little irksome over his food, it seemed to her that there was going to be a lot of ’catching up’ on past visits for a while, not only of Peggy’s previous time at the Ponderosa but obviously even to the time before that…
Adam listened to the chatter with a half smile on his face while he observed Peggy and wondered why she was at the Ponderosa now. She was laughing at something Joe was saying, a good hearty laugh that he somehow expected from the woman who had once been such a lively bright little girl.
“Are you trying to be my friend?” She had asked him once as she happily accepted his gift.
He could see that she had stronger features than Laura and that she had the look of Frank about her, which gave personality to her attractive features. He was pleased about that for in hindsight he recognised Laura’s prettiness as very fragile, and that she had not the strength of character her daughter displayed.
Adam set down his cup upon its saucer and placed them on the table and realised as he raised his eyes that Hester was watching him. They smiled at one another and he knew from the twinkle in her eyes that she was finding their reactions to Peggy’s presence amusing. Perhaps she, like himself, wondered why Miss Dayton was here once more.
He turned to her and his eyes took on a mischievous twinkle of their own, ” What are you doing here? Just visiting family and friends? If so, for how long do we have the pleasure of your company?”
She looked at him and then frowned slightly as though the matter needed serious consideration before she smiled and replied that it was because she wanted to see them all again and then she looked at Ben, “I guess how long I stay really depends on Mr. Cartwright and Hester.”
Joe laughed “Well, soon as you get tired of Hoss’ snoring you can come stay with us, there’s plenty of room.”
Adam grinned and clapped a hand on Joe’s shoulder “And as soon as you get tired of Joe jawing you to death, you can come stay with us. Olivia would love having your company.”
Peggy clasped her hands together and laughed as she looked at them all before her eyes returned to Adam “I’d love that…”
Ben got to his feet and pushed himself away from the table as he dropped the napkin beside his plate “well, we have things to do, can’t stand around gossiping all morning.”
“Hey, Pa, you can’t call catching up in news with Peggy as gossip, ” Joe instantly protested.
“Fair enough,” Ben agreed, “but time waits for no man, and Peggy can tell you her news when you see her later. Hoss, finish up now and let’s get this day stArted.”
“I thought it already had…” Hoss lamented and reached out for the last slice of bacon.
“See you later then, Peggy.” Joe nodded, smiled and turned to follow Ben almost tripping over his father’s feet as he did so.
“We’ll have to catch up sometime ” Adam said as he smiled at Peggy, ruffled Eric’s curls and nodded goodbye to Hester.
He was closely followed from the room by Hoss who had to kiss his wife and daughters before leaving, nibbling at the bacon as he did so.
Sofia couldn’t muster up a smile during the trip to school. Rose sat quietly beside her in sympathy although secretly she didn’t know what the fuss was all about and would have been only too happy if two boys were going to fight over her. Reuben gave up even trying to get her to talk and as they approached the building he muttered to her that she was a grouch and both boys needed their heads examined to be bothered about her.
She couldn’t even pretend she was a Princess sweeping up the grand stairway as she usually did. Pretence and fairy tales paled into insignificance compared with reality. If someone had told her those very same stories involved boys and girls, albeit more grown up, being in love and having to fight for the sake of true love she would have wept.
Miss Hayward became concerned about the listless little girl, so different from the bright and sparky child she had known. She asked her if she were feeling ill but Sofia only shook her head and blinked her eyes sadly.
When recess arrived she did approach Mr Evans who had taken the last lesson , and asked if just perhaps she could stay in as she felt unwell. Mr Evans had heard the whisper among the boys when he had taken an earlier lesson with them,
“That’s a shame, Sofia. It means Reuben will only have David Riley to keep him company … and Rose has been waiting for you as well. Are you sure you don’t want to go down. The fresh air will put those roses back in your cheeks.”
She sighed and shook her head, whereupon Mr Evans stood up and sighed ” You must be suffering the same sickness as Tommy Conway and Jimmy Carstairs then. Neither of them came to school today either.”
Sofia looked up and her eyes went large as he looked at him ” Are they sick then?”
“According to their mothers, very much so.” Edward nodded.
“So will they be better tomorrow?” she asked hopefully.
“I get the impression they will not be back until Monday.” he smiled as she slid out from behind her desk “Are you feeling better all ready, Sofia.
“I think so,” she said trying to remember how a recovering sick person should act.
He watched as she almost ran out of the room, collecting her lunch along the way . Rosie was sitting patiently at the bottom of the stairs and stood up to meet her, a wide smile on her face as her friend came almost skipping down to meet her.
Davy Riley was annoyed by the whole business. In the the spirit of entrepreneurship he had promised some fine entertainment during recess and some of the older boys were demanding to know what the hold up was … He was not happy!
A welcome break came for Ben and his sons, Candy and some ranch hands. The day was turning warmer and it was good to dismount and sprawl under a large tree in order to refresh themselves.
It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to Peggy’s visit.
“Did you know she was coming, Pa?” Joe asked as nonchalantly as possible as he bit into a piece of chicken.
Ben shook his head “I didn’t even recognise her.” Ben replied, he shrugged “It’s been some years since we last saw her.”
“she’s more serious that I expected,” Hoss frowned and pondered over the fact, as though he was rather disappointed
“yes, I thought so too.” Joe sighed and tossed the chicken bone over his shoulder, “She was full of life when she came before…which was a good thing considering how ill I was at the time.”
“She was only 17 wasn’t she? A very young trusting 17′, if I recall rightly.” Ben leaned back against the tree and glanced over at Adam ” You weren’t here at the time …”
“No, I met her briefly before she left for Switzerland” Adam stared out to the far distance, “It was after Barbara married Pearson. I’d been in Alaska.”
The three others fell silent … a lot had happened in their own lives back then. The murmur of the other Cowboys voices trickled around them. Ben stretched out his legs,
“She said she knew Professor Stevens. They met when she had gone to England. They share the same interests.”
Hoss licked his fingers before wiping them down his pants “Yeah, fancy that little gal getting interested in old bones.” he shook his head as though he still couldn’t get over the shock.
“You mean she’s an archaeologist too.” Adam asked as he reached for his hat and began to clamber to his feet.
“If that’s what they’re called, then I guess so.” his brother replied as he also got from under tree.
Adam made no reply that, but now that there was work to do the four men put their thoughts regarding Peggy to one side. Ben settled his hat to share his eyes, mounted his horse and followed by his sons, Candy and their men, led the way back to their work.
Peggy had never been a person content to a life of domesticity so it was not long before Hester’s bustling about being busy and the girl’s demands on her time began to become irritating. She waited until Hester had settled for a mid-morning respite, where she could sit down and drink some coffee, and talk to her visitor. By that time Peggy had run out of the desire to do the same and requested very politely if it would be alright if she could have one of the horses.
“Of course you can,” Hester smiled, and called out to Hannah to be a little quieter while she was talking to Peggy. “Ben would want you to enjoy your time here. Where do you intend to go?”
“Maurice gave me the directions to the caves, where the Spanish Consquistadors were found. I would like to go and take a look at them.” Peggy stood up and smoothed down her skirts, “I suppose I should take that buggy back to town..”
“Oh don’t worry about that, Ezra took it in this morning. But if you prefer a buggy, we have a single seater, and Mistral is a good little horse, she’ll take you anywhere you wish.”
“Mmm, is she saddle broke?”
“Oh yes, of course.” Hester sighed and picked Erik up from wandering near her sewing basket. She balanced him on her knee for a moment and then looked at Peggy who was rummaging about in one of the cases she had brought with her, “It’s quite rugged country round about there, Peggy. You will be careful, won’t you? Would you rather have one of the men go with you?”
Peggy flashed her a quick smile and shook her head “No, it’s quite alright, I’ve been riding since I was little.”
She pulled a folder from the case and flicked through the pages, then waved it in Hesters’ direction “Maurice left me all the information I need here.”
Erik began to bawl, he was hungry, tired and wanted to go to sleep but not sure which of the two he wanted most. Hester jiggled him up and down on her lap for a moment and then looked over at Peggy who was pulling on her jacket, then before she could say another word the younger woman was gone. The door closed and Hannah looked over at Hester as though she were to blame for their new play mate leaving them. She grabbed Hope by the hand and hauled her over to the dolls house while Hester attended to Erik’s needs and worried about Peggy getting lost.
Peggy had no intention of getting lost. She saddled up a good looking sturdy horse by the name of Sam and was soon trotting out of the yard. Of course she could have visited Mary Ann or Olivia but she had had enough of home life and preferred to escape it for as long as she could. Naturally she was curious as to the choices Joe and Adam had made with regard to the kind of woman they chose for their wives, but for now a ride in the warm fresh air and a little exploration was far more preferable.
She had a good wrist and controlled Sam well, guiding him the way she read the directions on Maurice’s report It was good to be unencumbered of the house now, and able to embrace the sky and vast terrain around her. Birds sang, for it was spring time after all, and the burnish of green was shimmering on the trees as the leaves unfurled. She sometimes laughed at herself for loving life when she enjoyed the mysteries of the dead equally as much. Why she had chosen this career in her life she could not tell, perhaps it was a form of rebellion against her mother’s way of life, or just fascination with the past.
Sam trotted along at a comfortable pace and she was able to distinguish the landmarks on Maurices’ hand drawn map quite easily enough. It was surprising to her how close to town the site was and for a moment she looked up and scanned the rock face with a look of wonder and amusement on her face. How strange the way things became revealed, all those years they would have ridden past this sprawl of hills and never realised the story of the horrors that lay concealed so near by to them.
She let the horse find its own way through the rocks and over the scree laden ground until she could easily see the seams of the trenches where Maurice had had his workmen sifting out the artefacts. She imagined him quite enjoying himself in these surroundings, certainly vastly different from some other regions he, and she, had worked in.
She thought of him now, and wondered what he would be doing Now the thought crossed her mind about the Law of Happenstance as she named it, the fact that Maurice was a cousin to Laurence and he a friend of Adam Cartrwight. She stopped Sam now and slipped from the saddle, keeping a grasp on the reins as she meandered over the ground with her eyes alert for any missed opportunity of a discovery.
It had been another Happenstance that Rachel Willoughby, Laurence’s wife, loved archaeology. The two women had shared many hours talking over various historical sites, strange findings in strange places, their fascination with the history of the dead, and of course, the Captain. Peggy had loved the story of Rachel’s infatuation with Adam, Laurence’s patient love for Rachel, which had finally been rewarded while she had been en route to declare her love to Adam – come what may – only it never did, because why chase a dream when the real thing was right there in her arms.
Happy times, Peggy mused as she wandered upwards to where the gash in the rock face could now be clearly seen. Her mind now wandered to Hester and she sighed, well, it took all sorts to make a world, as Will often reminded his wife when she was lamenting the fact that Peggy didn’t have a bone of domesticity in her body. But it was true, she just wasn;t interested in settling down like so many women, keeping house – shudder the thought – and cooking for a man who would grumble about the meat being burned or fuss over the newspaper being crumpled. No, she didn’t want that, nor did she want children.
She paused at the wide entrance to the cavern now and stooped down to peer into the darkness beyond. This was not the entrance that Reuben and The Gang had discovered, but the one that the Spanish soldiers had attempted to block up to prevent the Indians from getting into them, but leading it to become, quite quickly, their grave.
Maurice had told her how excited he had been when he had seen the discovery. What a wonder that the Smithsonian had chosen to send him to look it over and make an inventory. How she envied him being here …and she straightened her back and looked around her, taking in the wide skies with the clouds drifting by and here and there a bird lazily winging it’s way across the surface of the blue blue yonder.
She closed her eyes and inhaled the warm air, relaxed and exhaled.
“Are you lost?”
The voice came from below, a man’s voice and with a scowl she looked down and saw a horseman, his hand shading his eyes, peering up at her.
“No, I’m not lost, thank you.”
The cheek of it. How could a person be lost half way up a mountain unless they actually wanted to be?
“Do you need any help?”
She shook her head and when he turned his horse’s head with the obvious intention of riding up to ’assist her’ she waved him away, “I’m alright, thank you. I know what I’m doing. I don’t need any help.”
He paused and looked puzzled and then smiled, she could see the smile spreading over his face “Oh, it’s you, Miss Dayton. Well, good day to you then…you know where you can find me if you should need any help.”
She watched him turn the horse away and then lope off down the track. Well, she thought, whoever you are, thank you for ruining my day.
She stroked the horse’s nose and turned away from the rock face. She would come again, better prepared next time. Maurice had asked her to do some background research so she would do that, which meant going into town and seeing what the library had to offer. With a cautious glance up the road to make sure the horseman had actually disappeared from sight, she mounted Sam and loped casually into Virginia City.
Although she had dressed in a modest riding outfit suitable for young ladies she still received several looks of disapproval from some of the local women who were more used to seeing the female gender sitting in wagons, or buggies or coaches. But she ignored such recalling the time when it was quite customary to ride into Virginia City on horseback, sometimes even with bare legs and skirts tucked up to the thigh. Obviously Virginia City had grown prudish with her wealth and prosperity.
Amanda Ridley was talking to Mrs Carstairs when Peggy rode by and gave an appraising look of approval, although Mrs Carstairs did not. Mrs Garston snorted down her nose with disgust and Lucy, her daughter, opened her eyes wide in admiration. Peggy’s appearance was about to set alight a trail of gossip that would delight every woman in town, whether they approved or not of her mode of entry.
She dismounted outside the library and strode over to push the door open, having to elbow her way through a cluster of men who had gathered to give her a ‘warmer than she would want welcome’.
“Well, now, that’s a pretty little lady, if ever I saw one.” a lanky young man swaggered up to her, obviously with the intention of creating an impression on his male friends than on her, he reached out to put a hand on her shoulder “Let me introduce myself, Miss…”
“Don’t bother yourself,” Peggy replied curtly and dashed the offending hand to one side.
“Ain’t very friendly is she?” he quipped and looked over his shoulder at the men there who were laughing and nudging one another.
She pushed him to one side and had her hand on the door when another man came and put his hand over hers, smiled down at her and raised his eyebrows “You don’t want to go filling your head with things in there, Miss. We can think of lots of different things you could be doing with your time….”
“Yeah, and -” but the lanky youth got no further than that when a hand grabbed his shoulder and yanked him away so fast that he spun on his booted heels on the sidewalk
“Weren’t meaning no harm, sheriff.” he bleated and the other man dropped his hand away from Peggy, stepped aside as he did so.
Nate Carney nodded and jerked his head to indicate that they had better disappear, and fast, the rifle nestled in the crook of his arm clearly made the point that he was not messing. Peggy watched them go and then turned to him,
“Thank you, but I could have managed.”
“I’m sure you could have done.,” Nate replied rather taken aback at such a casual attitude towards his rescue, “But not without having to put up with more of their hassling.”
“Perhaps.” she frowned then, “Isn’t Roy Coffee sheriff here now?”
“Roy retired a while back. Nathaniel Carney at your service.” he touched the brim of his hat and smiled, waited a moment for her to supply her name, which she did after some hesitation.
Nate had no recollection of the Daytons and the history of Laura, Will and Adam meant nothing to him so he gave her the benefit of his smile and wished her a pleasant day.
“Thank you for your help just now,” Peggy said as though her rather abrupt comments could have been considered rude and ill mannered, and let her hand drop from his, before turning back to the library.
“Glad to have been of service,.” he touched the brim of his hat before walking away to continue with his rounds aware that she was watching him as he did so.
She watched him walk away before she pushed open the door and entered the library. It greeted her with the overwhelming smell of paper and ink, leather and damp. She sighed, libraries really did smell all the same wherever one went in the world she decided.
A thin nervous looking woman , middle aged but looking older, looked at her and raised her eyebrows “Are you applying for the vacancy …?”
“What vacancy?” Peggy replied and shrugged “No, I’ve come to look at some books, I want to do some research on the history of this territory going back to …oh well, back to when it belonged to the Indians here.”
Miss Tyndale sighed and shook her head, then pointed to some shelves further along where there was little light to be seen “Anything of that nature can be found there. But I have to warn you it is very limited. We had -” she lowered her voice realising it had reached a higher pitch than was acceptable in a librarian, rules had to be obeyed even if the library in question was well away from the beaten track so to speak. “We had quite some excitement a while back, I think it quite rewrites the history of this territory as we know it. But if you want to go back that far I’m afraid you won’t get anything, not unless Mr Stevens has written something already.”
Peggy leaned forward so that her face was much closer to Miss Tyndales “He hasn’t written anything yet. That’s why I’m here…”
“Oh!” Miss Tyndale blushed a little, this was news, and quite exciting news at that, “You know Mr Stevens?”
“Professor Stevens is a friend of mine, he wanted me to check on some facts and to write down anything I could find to add to what has been discovered that is new as a result of the discovery you had here.” she extended her hand, after pulling off a glove “I’m Margaret Dayton.”
The two women shook hands cordially and then Peggy made her way to the area indicated and looked at all the reference books there, she took some down, glanced through them and returned them. One or two she decided merited further consideration and with them in hand she returned to the librarian, “I’ll take these.”
Miss Tyndale nodded, stamped them and handed them back “I was thinking, some time back there was quite a bit of research done about this territory and quite a scandal resulted from it…” she leaned forward “Quite a discovery of a cover up, and a massacre. Ended up by a well respected figure in town being disgraced, and the last surviving man of a tribe of Indians being killed. Terrible it was…but then one can never be sure what’s going to happen when a Cartwright gets his finger in some pie or another.”
“Cartwright? “ Peggy frowned, then smiled, no, Miss Tyndale was right there, no one ever knew for sure what could happen when a Cartwright was involved in anything.
“Adam Cartwright. He stood in for the school teacher …” Miss Tyndale paused, then realised she could quite easily slip into the dangerous territory of gossip, not something the rules of Librarians were permitted
Peggy nodded and Miss Tyndale cleared her throat – officiously this time -”I know he did a lot of research so may be more able to help you .”
Peggy nodded, thanked the little woman for her help and hugging the books under her arm strolled out of the building.
Of course she could remember the story now. Barbara Scott had told her all about it by way of explanation as to how she had got to know Adam Cartwright so well, and what had happened to Major Scott whom Peggy had always been told by her father was an ‘honourable man’. She sighed, and shook her head while her eyes strayed across to where she had stayed with Miss Scott all those years ago. Except it wasn’ really so very long ago, it just seemed like it. Time passed by so quickly, too quickly.
Sam was nodding over the rail when she reached him and she slipped the books into her saddle bag and mounted easily into the saddle. No helping hand to hoist her up into the saddle now, and with a sharp tug at the reins she turned the horse round and made her way down the main street and out of town.
Adam kissed his wife on the cheek and then stooped a little to pick up Nathaniel, who hugged his father tightly around the neck.
“Bin good boy, daddy.” he assured his father and looked over at his mother for her to confirm just how good.
Sofia ran into the room and looked bright and happy. Adam narrowed his eyes, and looked at her thoughtfully, “So how did your day go at school, young lady?”
“It was alright, I got my math right and Miss Hayward said I was – what was that word, mommy?”
“Meticulous” Olivia said and took Nathaniel from her husband’s arms and set him down on the ground so that he could scamper off to play.
“So that’s what I am, mette lichous.” she frowned, it didn’t sound quite right, but what did it matter. She turned to her mother only to have her father ask her what or who won the duel. She shook her head “They wasn’t there, they was ill.”
“They were ill.” he corrected with the lift of one eyebrow.
“Yes, they was.”
Olivia and Adam looked at one another, so much for being meticulous. Sofia ran off and was happy to play with her little brother in the other room where Reuben was concentrating on his school work., applying much more meticulous attention to it than Sofia would even consider.
Once he knew that he had his wife alone, Adam took her hand and drew her closer to him, “I’ve got a problem!”
“Really? Why? What’s happened?”
He shrugged slightly and then rubbed the back of his neck, Olivia turned to him and waited, her eyes scanned his face, “Is it very serious?”
“Well, Laura -”
“Laura Dayton – ?”
“Her daughter, Peggy, arrived at the Ponderosa yesterday. It means that I may have to cancel the weekend. I had hoped to take Reuben on a hunting trip, just us two together. I wanted to make up for the time I was away – “ he frowned, “But with Peggy being here -.”
“How long is she here for?”
He shrugged and then slipped his arms around waist and drew her closer to him so that their bodies were leaning into each other, “I don’t know. There wasn’t much conversation at breakfast and Pa was in a rush to get started. They didn’t’ say much as to why she was here except that it had something to do with Professor Stevens.”
She looked blank, the name didn’t register and she was about to ask who it was exactly he meant when Reuben exclaimed “Professor Stevens – is that my friend who dug up the things where I found the conquistadors., Pa?”
He had come into the room to welcome his Pa home and overheard the reference to Maurice Stevens, a man whom he had, child like, put upon a pedestal. Adam let go of his wife’s hand and turned to Reuben, it was obvious the boy was brimming with curiosity.
“I do believe it is, son.” Adam flashed him a smile, and could see the excitement in the boys eyes at the mention of the man, perhaps a hunting trip would be considered boring in comparison after all?
“Wow, is he here, Pa?”
“No, but a friend of his is and -”
“Wait till the gang hear about this, they’ll want to see him…”
“Her?” Reuben frowned and looked at his mother and then at his father, “A ‘her?”
Is that allowed?”
Adam laughed and released Olivia in order to ruffle his son’s hair “And why not? Peggy’s very clever, she knows all about such things.”
“Are you sure, Pa?” Reuben sounded sceptical, “I mean – does she really know all about things like Maurice did?”
“Professor or Mr Stevens to you, young man.” Olivia said sternly, “And why shouldn’t Peggy know all about such things? Don’t talk such rubbish, she is quite as capable of digging up some bones as Mr Stevens -”
“Or the town drunk’s dog.” Adam slipped in with a chuckle which gained him a slap on the shoulder from his wife.
Reuben nodded and his face became serious “Well, in that case, she’ll want to know all about how we found them, and where they were…do you think she’ll want us to take her to see the cave?”
“I’m sure she will.” Adam nodded and grinned as he watched his son hurry out of the room, then he looked at his wife and raised his eyebrows. Olivia laughed and kissed him quickly,
“Well, that settles the problem for you, doesn’t it? “
“I guess so, good thing I hadn’t mentioned it to him already.” Adam replied and watched his wife as she returned to her duties “I best get cleaned up. Pa’s expecting us there tonight.”
Olivia nodded but her mind was already dwelling on the thought of meeting Peggy Dayton, daughter of Laura.
The table settings were just perfect, cutlery gleamed and the wine glasses caught the light and sparkled. Hester had placed a bowl of early spring flowers in the centre of the table, and was standing back to admire their effect when Peggy entered the room.
“Oh Peggy, just in time…” she turned with a smile and tried to ignore the look of dismay on Peggy’s face, “We have the family coming for the evening meal. It’s the usual, just a round up of Cartwrights…”
Peggy pulled off her hat and glanced at the table, it seemed to her that it was a rather extravagant round up, and one she had not anticipated although, perhaps, she should have done.
“I’ll go and tidy up.” she muttered and hurried to the stairs, her hat clasped in her hands along with the books she had claimed from the library.
Hester sighed with relief, and then glanced anxiously over at the clock which at times like this was always the enemy. There were, at times, a remorselessness about the hands of a clock, the way nothing stopped time ticking away their lives. When under pressure to get everything right it always seemed that the ticking went that much faster.
Cheng Ho Lee and Hop Sing combined forces now for these meals. There were adults as well as children to be taken into consideration and then a guest as well. Gone were the days when just four men sat to ‘break bread together’ at the table, now when the family gathered it was seven adults and eight children, all of whom gave the appearance of having deliberately starved themselves for a week in order to eat as much as they could on these occasions, even the babies …
Neither man minded, they chatted amongst themselves as they prepared and cooked the meal, and Hester arranged the table to perfection. The same took place when it was Olivia’s turn to be hostess or Mary Ann. They had not yet considered Wang Lee sufficiently qualified to take on any significant role, he had been assigned duties to peeling vegetables and told to observe and learn. He was, however, kept too busy with his more menial tasks to observe anything, and only learned that the sooner he rose in the pecking order the better.
Joe and Mary Ann arrived first with Daniel and Constance, and in her room Peggy listened to the sounds of greetings and laughter. She heard the shrill sounds of children chattering and wondered where Hester had concealed her three while she prepared this feast. Hoss’ voice boomed suddenly through the floor boards followed by Ben’s, their tones drifting upwards into the room where Peggy was brushing knots out of her hair and wondering what the evening would be like…certainly if smells were anything to go by, the food was going to be delicious.
She was coming down the stairs when Adam and Olivia entered the house, and for a moment she paused on the half landing to watch them. For some reason she had expected Adam to be married to a woman similar in looks to Barbara Scott so was surprised to see a woman so pale in contrast. Olivia removed her shawl and glanced up, perhaps aware of being under scrutiny, and when her eyes met those of the younger woman it was Peggy who blushed and felt uneasy.
Olivia had not been looking forward to meeting Margaret Dayton., Peggy as all the Cartwrights called her. She was not envious or jealous of the past affections that Adam had felt for Laura, she was quite confident and secure in the love her husband had for her, but for Peggy … she was more than aware of how much affection Adam had always had for this woman, after all, had things been different Peggy would have been in the same position that Sofia enjoyed, being Adam’s step daughter.
She had been quiet throughout the short trip to the Ponderosa ranch as she had thought over the odd twists in their lives, the way people would meet and drift apart, only to meet again in different circumstances. The people themselves were harmless enough, but it was the emotional bonds that were involved, that could be picked up and resumed, they were the threats to the present status quo. If Adam had noticed her silence he had not mentioned it, for Reuben kept up a constant chatter while Nathaniel had wanted to know why he hadn’t been able to bring his trailer to Granpa’s.
Sofia had sat in silence, mainly because her head itched from her braids having been plaited so tightly. Sadly she had been the victim of Olivia’s attack of nerves, and had had to endure a lot of tugging and pulling while her hair had been ‘tidied up’ and rearranged. She sat in the back of the buggy wondering how she could loosen the braids so that she could feel that much more comfortable.
The children ran together, chattering and laughing, pushing and tugging while their parents removed outer garments, greeted each other with a lot of noise before it fell silent as Peggy came down the last of the stairs and turned towards them.
Then the greetings towards her were loud and welcoming, Mary Ann was introduced by Joe who had Constance on his arm, and Daniel no where to be seen because he was chasing after Nathaniel. Peggy and Mary Ann smiled and nodded at one another, and then Adam came forward to introduce Olivia.
The expressive green eyes lingered over Peggy and darkened, a smile lingered there,, warm and welcoming, and she responded in turn, taking Olivia’s hand in her own and laughing when Adam announced blithely that he had told his wife everything about her. Well, perhaps not everything he admitted as he chuckled and brought Sofia forward to be introduced.
Then Reuben bounced forward and wanted to know if she really knew Maurice Stevens, his friend. With a degree of relief Peggy turned to him, and the handsome lad proceeded to tell her all about the way he and his gang had fallen down a hole and found the Spanish soldiers.
“They’re called conquistadors, you know?” he told her solemnly and then before she could catch her breath produced a note book that he had kept hidden from his parents and now thrust under her nose “I brung all my notes for you to look see, and you can tell Maurice I did what he said, I kept it all written down about how we found them.”
Adam put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, “Leave it for later, son, Aunt Hester wants us to the table now.”
“Aw, but Pa…” Reuben sighed, his shoulders slumped and he trailed behind his father knowing from experience that once adults started to talk together there was little chance of a child being heard.
But Peggy was not like other adults for she found the boy’s interest in the subject she loved herself, quite endearing. She made a point of sitting next to Reuben so that she could lean across to talk to him while the rest of the conversation between the families drifted over her head.
When she was not talking to Reuben she took time to observe the Cartwrights young and old, and occasionally she would catch their eye and there would be an exchange of nods and smiles. But she always fell back onto Reuben and assured him that she would be most interested in reading through the notes he had made during the excavations.
“Have you been on any of Maurice’s field trips, Peggy?” Ben asked while the plates were being whisked away to be replaced by dishes for the dessert.
“Quite a few.” she smiled, and nodded.
“And you know Laurence and Rachel I understand?” Adam now asked and she looked over at him and smiled, “You must have been pleased to have had Rachel to talk to, about your mutual interests in archaeology.”
“Rachel still doesn’t like Egypt. She’s busy now, distracted by children.”
“Ah yes ..” Adam smiled and looked over at Olivia and winked at her, “But I don’t think she was so ardent about such things as yourself, or her sister.”
Peggy nodded “No she isn’t, sadly not enough women are … yet.”
Olivia leaned forward now “It must have been quite a challenge to you , it being such a male dominated field of expertise, college could not have been easy.”
Peggy sighed and nodded, then gave a slight smile “It wasn’t easy at all, if it hadn’t been for President James Calder* I doubt if there would be any women in college even now. But Rebecca Ewing* graduated from Pennsylvania State College in ‘71 and that opened the way for others to attend. I guess it will be a lot easier for Sofia and Hannah, Hope and Constance thanks to her. “
Mary Ann nodded “They were true pioneers.”
Peggy looked at her and smiled, nodded in agreement. Obviously Mary Ann had an appreciation for female emancipation, and Peggy felt more drawn to her as a result.
Sofia sighed and swung her feet back and forth under the table, “I want to stay home, when I stop going to school. I want to stay home with mommy and daddy…and granpa and I’m not going any place else.”
“Not me too.” Hannah protested and nodded her head vehemently.
“You may change you mind when you get older,” Olivia said, but Sofia shook her head and scowled darkly. As far as she was concerned school was bad enough. Why
would anyone want to prolong the misery?
“Peggy, what plans do you have while you’re here? Do you want to go any particular place? What about your home – the Dayton ranch?” Hoss asked, deciding that there needed to be a change of topic.
“I’ve already been .” Peggy said quietly, “I met the new owners, Mr and Mr Greigson, father and son.”
Hoss and Joe exchanged glances and then looked back at her “HOw’d you find them? Were they – reasonable?” Hoss asked, wishing that he had kept his mouth shut now.
“Yes, very polite. They invited me inside and gave me something to drink.” she sighed and shrugged her shoulders, a slight shadow of misery passed over her face before she continued to speak “It was strange, seeing the changes, and yet – the similarities too. They were – kind of – sitting side by side if you can imagine what I mean. But mostly it was just so different. I had kept the picture of what it was like in my head so much over the years that it surprised me to find it so different.” she glanced at Joe, “I guess I should have gone there last time I was here, but my time was so taken up with you and Miss Scott.”
“I guess I should have taken you there myself,” Joe muttered, “It never occurred to me to do so.”
“I never asked so how would you have known, you had so much going on at the time.” Peggy replied and flashed him a warm smile of affection at the recollection of those days.
Dessert arrived amid exclamations of praise and delight and for a while conversation paused while dishes and bowls were filled and the wine glasses had more poured into them. “What did you make of the Greigson’s, apart from their being polite to you?” Joe now asked, “Old Mr Greigson can be a bit touchy at times…”
“He was alright,” she smiled and then her eyebrows rose in an arch and she said ‘Oh! I think I met his son this afternoon when I was at the dig, and I think I was rather rude to him.”
Reuben’s face dropped “Oh you went to the dig already? But I wanted to take you there myself.”
“I am sorry, Reuben, I just didn’t realise you were going to be such an authority on it, otherwise I would have waited for you to take me. But I only went there and looked at where it was, I didn’t go inside. You will still take me, won’t you?”
Reuben sighed, he looked at Adam and raised his eyebrows, then looked back at her, “Yeah, sure, but you should have waited for me to help you.”
“I am sorry.” she replied contritely although there was a twinkle in her eyes as she spoke and when she looked up she saw Adam smiling at her and smiled back. “We can go on Saturday, if your Ma and Pa don’t have any plans for you.”
Peace reigned and Reuben nodded contentedly. He would tell the gang in the morning and whoever wanted to come could, but secretly he would have preferred it if he could just have her all to himself.
While the younger children played for the little time they had before bed, the adults sat in a semi circle around the fire to relax with a drink and to talk among themselves. Reuben was a little isolated on these occasions being older and was permitted to sit on the floor leaning against his father’s legs and on the proviso that he ‘listened and learned and said nothing’.
For a while talk was quite general, and the men led the conversation to the subjects that were mainly to deal with work on the ranch and the tasks that were necessary to be undertaken the following week. But gradually it trickled towards other subjects and the women, who had been conversing among themselves in quiet tones, began to steer the conversation to the subject of Peggy’s college experiences. Mary Ann was, of course, particularly interested in listening to what Peggy had to say as she was a keen advocate of women having more voice in matters that seemed so male dominated and sat engrossed as the young woman talked about the difficulties of being a young woman, well, barely a woman, at a college that had been dominated by the male gender.
“It must have been a constant battle,” Mary Ann said with that familiar little frown that indicated she was giving the matter serious thought.
“It was, every day, every evening. “ Peggy nodded and smiled at Ben as he offered her a glass of wine, and after she had thanked him she continued to tell them just what a battle it had been, “Teachers and students alike were patronising and at times quite insulting. They sneered at us, as though we lacked any intelligence, they pretended to show surprise whenever we attended the lectures – so we made sure that we were always there first, however few in number we were – we had to show solidarity.”
“I suppose they felt threatened…” Mary Ann murmured but Peggy laughed at that, rather a harsh laugh and Olivia caught Adam’s eye, for he had looked surprised as though he has not expected to hear Peggy laugh in such a manner.
“They didn’t show any evidence of feeling threatened. The teachers taught us under sufferance and the students were constantly harassing us…”
“What do you mean by that?” Hester asked, looking anxiously at Hannah as though she were already envisaging the difficulties her little girl would have to face in the future, as though they were problems to be confronted tomorrow.
“Oh, they never took us seriously, constantly expecting us to drop out during the three or four years the course may take…and of course, always talking to us as though the only reason we were there was in order to get a husband. “ she shrugged “As though that was important, the last thing any of us wanted was a husband.”
No one answered that, Ben cleared his throat and opened his mouth to start another subject, Hester and Olivia looked at one another and raised their eyebrows while Mary Ann looked thoughtful. Joe slipped his hand into hers as though to remind her she did have a husband and seemed quite happy about the fact. Reuben looked up at his father and wondered what Peggy was actually talking about, so far as he knew the girls and boys at school got on pretty well.
Peggy sighed and gave a slight shrug of the shoulders “We just wanted to get on with our studies, and although some of the girls did get involved with the boys – romantically I mean – not everyone did. In the main none of us really wanted to settle down, get married and have babies. We wanted careers and to earn our own way.”
Adam sighed and glanced over to his wife, who was looking away from them into the fire, while Hester was looking curious and Ben was obviously uncomfortable. Adam turned to look at the younger woman now, as though trying to find the little Peggy he had cared for so much in the past. Joe was doing the same, this new woman was quite different from the changeling child she had been when he had last seen her about ten years previously.
“Don’t you want to get married then?” Mary Ann finally asked.
“Maybe. Perhaps.” Peggy smiled and her eyes twinkled, she sipped her wine, “But not when I was at college, and not just now. I have a good career, and I have worked hard and been places and -” she sighed “and yet we still lag behind.”
“What do you mean by that?” Adam asked now, twisting his wine glass round and round between his fingers, and aware of his wife turning her attention to him and the conversation now.
“Well, take for example a woman who has a career in – say – the teaching profession.” Peggy began and Mary Ann immediately said “I was a school teacher for some years.”
Peggy nodded “But you aren’t now, are you?”
“Of course not, once I got married I had to leave, after all -”
“After all you had a husband, a home and children to care for….but if you had been a man,” Peggy leaned forward and her eyes widened, fixed upon Mary Ann’s face, “If you had been a man, being married would have been a bonus, you would be regarded as a positive influence to society, and you would still be teaching.”
Everyone’s face registered different emotions to that conclusion, Olivia and Hester looked at one another again, and saw in the others expression the same feeling, Mary Ann looked even more thoughtful and was nodding slowly as though she could understand exactly what Peggy was saying. All the men looked uncomfortable, Ben was obviously irritated and wishing someone would change the subject, Joe was worried about what his wife was going to say when he got home, Hoss was wondering what exactly was wrong with a woman being married and raising a family without having to ‘work’, and Adam was wondering where his little Peggy had disappeared to….
Olivia leaned forward to catch Peggy’s attention “Are you saying that a woman who marries and raises a family has less value than a woman who pursues a career in a male dominated arena?”
Peggy glanced over at Adam who had pursed his lips and now had a twinkle in his eyes, she shook her head “Every woman I speak to who is in that situation reacts in the same way, Olivia.”
“In what way is that?” Hester now said, willing to give Olivia her support.
“Defensive.” Peggy sighed, “But I’m not attacking any woman who stays home to raise a family, I’m well aware of all the hard work that entails, and the responsibilities.” she frowned, and again looked over at Adam, “But not every woman wants to pursue that life, they want to be independent and have a career, and if they do choose to do so, then why shouldn’t they have the same wage and same respect as a man?”
“Why not indeed,” Mary Ann murmured and leaned back into the cushions with a slight frown on her face.
“It’s just so unfair, after all…” Peggy looked at Adam now as though only he and she were having the conversation “women have the brains and the strengths and -”
“Different strengths.” Joe now muttered, and squeezed Mary Ann’s hand as though wanting her to support him, rather than follow along Peggy’s route.
Adam sighed and nodded “Well, a woman is as capable as a man in many ways, I’ll grant you that, and I know many women who have proven that many times over. There’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘Behind every man there is a woman,’ but -”
“But so long as the little woman stays behind the seat of power…” Peggy exclaimed which was enough to make Ben choke when he swallowed his whiskey.
“I didn’t say that, I was acknowledging the fact that when a man marries his wife often proves to be the power that steers the ship….it’s just that on board a ship there can’t be two captains.” and he gave Peggy a stern look, not exactly a reprimand but a reminder that she was a guest in his father’s house and good manners required that she moderated her comments.
Hester stood up and gave a slight rather wobbly smile, “I have to get these children to bed, it’s later than I thought.” she muttered a swift ‘Excuse me…” and gathered up her little ones and hastened them to the stairs where they called out Good night and waved little hands to their various aunts and uncles.
Adam nodded “Best we got home too, Reuben get your things together now, Sofia…? Say goodnight to everyone…”
Joe sighed and smiled over at Peggy “Well, Peg o’my heart, you’ve certainly changed since I last saw you….”
Peggy sighed, “I’m sorry, Joe, but is has been some years since, and I’ve experienced things during those years that have, perhaps, given me a different direction to life.”
Mary Ann stood up and smoothed down her skirts, then she turned to the younger woman and took her hand in hers, “I like you, Peggy, and I agree with a lot of what you say, I have always believed in some things but I think women have a long way to go yet before they have real equality with men.”
Peggy sighed “I guess so, but to be honest, that isn’t the first time I’ve heard that either.”
Olivia was quiet on the journey home, as was Adam although Reuben was talkative enough for it not to be noticed. Sofia was excited too, interrupting her brother at times as she kept reminding him that Peggy had said that she could go to the caves as well.
“But, Sofia, you can’t. It’s just for me and the gang….” Reuben protested.
“Peggy said I could go, she said that it was alright and that I can go.”
“No, you can’t. Anyway, girls aren’t allowed.” Reuben scowled and looked over at Adam who was choosing to ignore the battle of words going on in the back seat of the buggy. Olivia was uncomfortable it seemed the conversation with Peggy was continuing right to her own home with her children and she wanted to give them both a scolding and tell them to be quiet. ‘Like good children’. But even thinking that made her wonder what exactly that meant.
Nathaniel was the only sensible one of them all, he was sound asleep and snoring.
Joe and Mary Ann were quiet on the way home as well. Joe was used to Mary Ann discussing subject relative to emancipation of women, he had seen the books she read, and listened patiently to what she had to say about them. One of her favourites had been “Are Women a Class?” by Lillie Blake * written in 1870, and “Endorsing Women’s Enfranchisement” by Adelle Hazlett * in 1871 but her favourite of all had been “On Woman’s right to Suffrage” by Susan Anthony* in 1872. All three of them were gracing the book shelves and regularly taken down and re-read.
“She does talk a lot of sense,” Mary Ann finally said as she carried Constance to wards the house, followed by Joe who had Daniel in his arms.
“I guess so, and I’m not against what she is saying, just the way she says it.” Joe muttered.
“I suppose she’s found that that is the only way she can say it, because otherwise people won’t take any notice of her.” Mary Ann replied and looked at her husband thoughtfully, “Joe, you do know that I don’t regret giving up my career, don’t you?”
“I -” he gulped, after all he hadn’t really thought about it, not in the way she meant, not in the way of it being a sacrifice of her independence. “I know.”
She nodded, so long as he understood, she thought, little realising that Joe was a long way of understanding all the subtleties behind what she said.
“Dang it, Hester, what was Peggy going on about so much?” Hoss asked as he pulled back the sheets in order to slip into bed, and waited for her to braid her hair and join him.
Hester sighed and sat on the edge of the bed and stared out of the window, then shook her head “Something that has been talked about and discussed for generations, darling, and no closer to being solved now than it was in the Garden of Eden.”
“Oh!” Hoss nodded and settled his head against the pillow, he frowned “You know, Hester, if Adam hadn’t been such a chump and taken that dang fruit from Eve we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today.”
Hester said nothing but gave her husband a long look before slipping in beside him, she took hold of his hand and sighed “Darling, you are so right. Eve had all that power in her hands….didn’t she?”
“Yeah…well…a piece of fruit anyway…” Hoss yawned and entirely missed the point, but it gave Hester something to think about for a few minutes at least.
Peggy paused at the bottom of the stairs to look over at her host who was knocking out the last of the tobacco from the bowl of his pipe into the fire. “Mr Cartwright?”
He smiled are her, generous and kindly, while his dark eyes held back the questions that he may have wished to have asked.
“I hope I didn’t offend you this evening. That really wasn’t my intention.”
His smile broadened, he gave a slight shrug of the shoulders and then put the pipe on its stand. He then turned to her “It’s understandable that you have strong views on a subject that seems very important to you…”
“Yes, it is, but at the same time I didn‘t – I shouldn’t have – spoken quite so freely as I did this evening. I do apologise.”
He approached her and stood close to her, looking into her dark e yes and trying to find the little girl he had once played games with in the yard, or chatted too during the day, all those years ago when Adam was suffering …he sighed and put a hand on her arm, “You have obviously had to put up a fight for what you believe in, Peggy. I don’t blame you for speaking out.” he looked back into the room and nodded thoughtfully, slowly, “This room has been host to many strong opinions in the past, my dear, and no doubt will hear many more…you arn’t the first, nor will be the last.”
She nodded, wondering if she were being dismissed, if what she believed in what being giving merely the nod of the head to and forgotten, “It was hard, has been hard, to be recognised as an archaeologist first and a woman second.”
“I can imagine it has been, but you aren’t unhappy with your choice, are you?”
She shook her head “No, not at all.”
He smiled, hesitated about kissing her on the cheek to bid her goodnight as he would once have done, but stepped back for her to make her way up the stairs. Peggy turned and didn’t look back, somehow she missed that kiss, she hadn’t realised just how much it had meant to her.
Mrs Albierno ‘s Boarding House adjoined the restaurant she ran and in which Adam and Candy had had the unfortunate run in with Mr Crook some months earlier. She was a bustling cheerful woman who had arrived from Sicily some years earlier and her cuisine had rated so highly among the citizens of Virginia City that it rivalled Del Monico’s reputation for clientele.
She had been in the town with her family long enough to have witnessed quite a few of the towns’ adventures, and said farewell to a number of good solid citizens . Sally Byrnes establishment had closed not long after the man called Lassiter had arrived in time to save the Cartwrights from hanging, and the next occupant who called it The Bluebell Café died during the cholera epidemic. But Mrs Albierno had sailed on, regardless and reaped the rewards.
She opened the door to a rather polite tapping on the glass and smiled at the woman standing before her, luggage stacked neatly around her. The woman smiled back and very politely asked if there were rooms available for rent.
“How many rooms exactly?” Mrs Albeirno asked, peering cautiously around and over the woman’s shoulder in case there was a husband and a myriad children hidden behind her.
“How many do you have available?” came the immediate reply, and another pleasant smile, “I would really be delighted if there was a bedroom and a room adjoining it.”
Mrs Albierno’s eyebrows shot up in the air and she had to stop to think for a moment before she nodded “Si, I can do for you this time…..you come on in and we discuss, yes?”
The stranger nodded and entered the house, leaving the luggage on the doorstep for Mr Albierno to trip over and realise he was meant to bring in side. There was a swift conversation between him and his wife with regards to the new boarder who obviously had delusions of grandeur, but he lost, and trailed up the stairs to place the cases in the designated rooms.
In the meantime Mrs Albierno established some facts about the newcomer…a single lady, Elizabeth Godfrey. Originally from a small town in New Hampshire but had travelled west in the hope of marriage only to learn that her fiance had been killed in an Indian raid. Unable to settle in that locality she had decided to try Virginia City for a while, and, should it be suitable, to settle down.
“You are sure that I will not be causing you any inconvenience by having the two rooms, arn’t you?” she insisted as she pulled off her gloves and looked anxiously around the foyer for sight, perhaps, of the other clients.
“It is no trouble, for you, no trouble.” Mrs Albierno assured her and then tackled the matter of discussing costs and so forth, the rules of the establishment, the times for the meals etc. Miss Godfrey listened attentively, nodded and smiled and promptly opened her purse and paid two months rental in advance.
Mr Albierno, having descended the stairs and panting just a little was all smiles when he saw the money passing hands, he nodded and grinned at the young woman when she passed him by, her back straight and her eyes, behind her spectacles, looking straight ahead, the key to her rooms in a hand adorned, he noticed, by several very expensive rings.
Once she was inside the rooms Miss Godfrey paused a moment to take stock of what she had actually purchased for the coming two months. It was adequate, and it was clean. She walked over to the window and pulled back the curtains to allow the morning light to filter through the net curtains. The view was of a small yard with washing blowing in the spring breezes. For a while she just stood there, as though her mind was far, far away and then, with a slight shiver down her back, she turned and made her way to inspect the other, adjoining room.
Before a tall mirror she paused and looked at herself. Tall and slim, dressed in a severe rather prim black suit of jacket and skirt, white blouse, topped with a black hat. She nodded at her reflection as though satisfied with what she had seen, and then slowly removed the hat which she set down upon a bureau alongside her gloves.
She had her hair pulled severely back and pinned into a ‘bun’, her spectacles hid her eyes well enough to satisfy her. Who looked closely into the eyes of anyone wearing spectacles, one of the worlds’ best disguises and she gave a rather vague smile at herself, before turning to open the door to Mrs Albierno’s knocking.
Clean bed linen..towels..soap…everything that denoted a respectable well maintained establishment. Mrs Albierno bustled about chatting about this and that, finding out what her new boarder preferred to eat and drink first thing in the morning, late in the evening. Miss Godfrey watched the woman prepare the bed, put this here and that there….before she asked her if there were any ‘positions’ available in town.
“I haven’t the means to be idle.” she said in her low sultry voice, “And I prefer not to be without work. Is there anything you can suggest suitable to one like myself?”
“Well.” Mrs Albierno frowned, and looked the woman up and down, “The librarian was saying she would like an assistant. She is a little like you, a single lady, but not so young, nor so attractive.”
“A librarian?” Miss Godfrey frowned and looked thoughtful, “Anything else?”
“I cannot think of anything else except a seamstress at Miss Ridley’s ..ah, you do not sew? Well, then, let me think…perhaps secretarial work for Mr Woods, he is a lawyer. I think it could be a demanding job, usually he hires men for the task, but this time, who knows, perhaps he like to have a woman, si?”
Miss Godfrey bowed her head in thought, then nodded “Thank you, Mrs Albierno, I shall keep those in mind.”
“I get you the newspaper, you will find there a list of situations vacant…better you see for yourself I think?”
She bustled out, closed the door behind her and left the younger woman alone in the room. Miss Godfrey walked again to the window and watched as the washing blew in the wind, then after a few moments she went to her luggage and began the task of unpacking.
The woman on horseback walked the animal into the yard of Adam and Olivia’s home, and then stopped to look around her. Adam’s house was quite like the original Ponderosa ranch but with the addition of the extension in which there was the bathroom, and the enclosed area which was a porch. Peggy sat in the saddle for a while to take in the other buildings before she dismounted and approached the man who was applying ample amounts of grease to the axle of a buggy, the wheel of which was propped up against the corral fence. Nathaniel was climbing up and down the rails while his father worked, although he had stopped doing anything as soon as she had entered the yard.
“Good morning, Peggy.” he smiled, and put the pot of grease down with the brush. “You’re up and about early today.”
She smiled as she walked towards him, nodded to the little boy who stopped clambering about in order to stare at her and run over to his father who stooped down to swing him up into his arms. “Hello Adam, I just wondered if you could help me out today.”
“In what way?” he asked, suspicious immediately, and a slight frown furrowed his brow.
“Well, “ she drawled out the word as though suddenly coy, which didn’t really suit her at all, so she smiled, “I want to visit the ranch…”
“The Dayton ranch?”
“Yes. There’s a place there I hold very dear to my memories of father…and I want to go and see if it is still there and as lovely as I remember it. “
“I see,quite understandable. I’m sure the Greigsons’ would be happy to oblige you.” he slightly narrowed his eyes, looking at her in the morning sun light as though seeing her for the first time and realising that she was indeed an attractive young woman, perhaps favouring Frank Dayton more than her mother, Laura.
“I – I feel rather awkward about going there on my own.” she admitted and bowed her head, stared down at the ground and sighed, “I wondered if you would come with me. Perhaps you could talk the owners into letting me ride on their land and – well – you know, just let me indulge my memories for a little while.”
Adam frowned again “I thought you had already been to the ranch, met the new owners?”
“I have, but – that was then, when I had just arrived.” she looked at him, pouted a little, and sighed “I just thought it was such a nice day, and we could talk, about old times and catch up on what we’ve done, I mean, you must remember, Adam, that the last time I came I barely saw you at all. You got home as I was practically leaving for that wretched school in Switzerland.
Adam gave a slight shrug of the shoulders “I’m sorry, Peggy, but I have a lot of work to do today. I just can’t take off at a moment’s notice to take you visiting…”
She looked surprised, then blushed very slightly, “I had hoped you would, there’s so much to talk about and I can’t see what other time there will be…”
“Well, I’ll be with Reuben tomorrow when we take you to the caves …if you haven’t changed your mind about that,” he smiled and hoisted Nathaniel higher in his arms, “Of course, it does depend on how long you intend to be here.”
She nodded and looked around her “Would Olivia come with me…?”
Adam again pursed his lips a little then nodded “You could ask her, I’m sure, if she has the time, she would not object to a trip, but of course, you’ll have to take Spike with you.”
Peggy gave the little boy a quick appraisal and then nodded “Is your wife in the house?”
Adam shook his head and pointed to another building “Over there, in the dairy.”
Peggy turned and said nothing more although she did glance over her shoulder on the way to where he had pointed, and watched as he resumed his task, almost as though she had never come along to disturb him at all. Nathaniel had resumed clambering up and down the corral bars, his voice chattering to his father in the shrill tones of a child.
Olivia was engrossed in stamping the small pats of butter that were lined up in golden mounds upon parchment paper. For a moment Peggy stood there and watched her, noted the scarf Olivia wore to keep her hair from falling into her work, the apron over her skirt and blouse and the intense expression on her face as she concentrated on what she was doing. She appeared to be oblivious to Peggy’s entrance and then, upon, noticing she had to jerk herself from one task to that of accommodating a visitor.
“Oh hello, Peggy, I didn’t see you for a moment. “ she smiled and glanced at the little pats of butter, “I’ve just finished. Is there something I can help you with?”
Peggy stood, awkward, feeling out of place and clumsy, she sighed “Adam said to ask you about a ride out later, I mean, with me in a moment…I wanted to visit my old home, and wondered if you, or he, would like to come with me.”
Olivia sighed and glanced down at her butter, then at the woman standing in the doorway, “I actually have a busy day today, Peggy. I can’t see how I can fit in a trip to your old home. I am sorry. Have you asked Hester?”
“Yes, of course, but she is going into town with Mary Ann, she said something about work at the Refuge.”
“Oh of course, it’s Friday, I forgot…they usually go there on Fridays. I go with Ann on a Tuesday”
Peggy nodded as though she totally understood what the refuge was all about and watched as Olivia turned back to her task of putting the little pats of butter into the paper, but she was feeling self conscious now and after a moment just smiled and wiped her hands on a cloth.
“I suppose I can stop for a moment. Perhaps you would like a cup of coffee, Peggy? Adam has to leave in a moment but I am sure he will have one before going…”
Peggy gave a stiff smile and stepped aside to let Olivia pass by, she heard her call her husband and ask about stopping for coffee, but whatever Adam replied was lost, she could only sigh and slowly turn back into the yard and close the door of the dairy behind her.
Adam had fixed the wheel and was wiping his hands on an old cloth, while the boy was running to Olivia with smile of delight on his face, she stooped to pick him up and together they walked into the house. Peggy followed, a rather reluctant companion.
In all honesty both women were disappointed when Adam chose not to stop for a coffee but kissed his wife goodbye, assured her the buggy was available should she require it and left the house for work. Olivia gave her guest a rather embarrassed smile before suggesting that she take a seat while Cheng Ho Lee made some coffee or perhaps, lemonade?
“It is a shame that you chose today of all days, Peggy. I am sorry to have let you down,” Olivia murmured in her soft voice while her eyes never left the other woman’s face.
“I should have mentioned it yesterday when we were all together, but it just slipped my mind.” Peggy replied and removed her gloves which she tossed beside her, she shrugged “I hadn’t thought about what to do with my time as carefully as I had anticipated, and I guess it was careless of me not to consider that others have plans of their own to occupy their time.”
“We do live a rather full life,” Olivia murmured, “and you’re right, it is a pleasant day for a ride out too.”
She smiled her thanks to Cheng Ho Lee and introduced him to Peggy who nodded and smiled before accepting the coffee. While Olivia settled Nathaniel into his chair and made sure he had his biscuit and drink close by, Peggy took the opportunity to look around the room, noting the differences between it and the main room of the Ponderosa ranch house.
“Is this the house that Adam was building when he was going to marry my mother?” she asked as she looked up at the ceiling and noticed the joists that spanned the expanse.
Olivia went just a little pink around the collar, and cleared her throat, “I believe so. “
“It was all rather strange to me at the time,” Peggy sighed and gazed down at the liquid in her cup, “Everything changed so much so very quickly that I was quite muddled about it for years. There was another man …but I can’t remember his name and mother won’t talk about him, but I can recall that he was very pleasant and he let me keep the wolf cub.! Adam said I had to give the cub back, and the other man said it would be alright, I remember they fought in the yard but I can’t recall now if it was because of that or something else.”
Olivia said nothing, she knew nothing about any of what Peggy was talking about but decided that she would leave the girl to say what she felt needed to be said. Perhaps it was Peggy’s way to find out just what Olivia knew about the past with Laura and this was the best way she could think of that would help.
“I didn’t like Adam when he said I had to take the cub back. Children can be quite cruel, can’t they? You know, the way they can change their affections so quickly from one person to the next? I remember thinking that perhaps that man was the one mother would marry, and not Adam.” she smiled and her brown eyes flicked up to look at Olivia “I was only 8 at the time, and things fade with time, don’t they?”
“Yes, they do. Sometimes they fade and then drift back but arnt’ quite what they really were, as you say, children get muddled very easily.”
“I don’t even know what happened to that man now. As I said, mother never mentions him.”
“I don’t know anything about it, Peggy. Adam doesn’t often talk about those times. There’s been so much happen in his life since then….” Olivia turned to check that Nathaniel was behaving himself and then turned back to Peggy, “So, Peggy, why are you here? “
“Well, I suppose several reasons really.” Peggy replied rather coyly, “As I said yesterday I know Maurice Stevens and he asked me to come, to do some more research and to let everyone know what else we have found out about those men whose bodies your son and his friends found. Isn’t it amazing, Mrs Cartwright, how after all these years Maurice is the one who comes here and then sends me along…it’s almost like…fate.”
“Kismet.” Olivia smiled and leaned forward a little to put down her cup into its saucer, “And please call me Olivia.”
“Of course, sorry, I forgot.”
They lapsed into silence for a moment, Nathaniel began to chatter, wanting his red wagon and the toy horses so Olivia got up to find them and hand them to him. Peggy watched her and was quiet until she had resumed her seat. “Maurice was quite taken by the Ponderosa, and when he mentioned it one evening when we were at Laurence and Rachel’s, he couldn’t believe that I knew you all…well…sort of knew you all. But then there is the added co-incidence of him being related to Laurence, and of all things, Laurence and Rachel knowing Adam.” she leaned back into the cushions and gave a little laugh, “It just seemed that I was meant to come here, so Maurice said that I should …so here I am.”
“I met Laurence and Rachel, they came to our wedding.” Olivia said politely, and smiled as she remembered the young couple, “He is a wonderful artist. I have one of his paintings in our bedroom.”
Peggy nodded and again let her eyes drift over the room, then she sighed “Well, Maurice also wanted me to do some research, to tie up some loose ends regarding this territory. He’s going to write a book about it….” she picked up a glove and began to toy with the leather fingers, a slight frown on her brow “The librarian seemed to think that Adam still had a lot of books and documents relating to a search he made into the territory some time ago. It involved Barbara Scott’s uncle I think….anyway she said that someone got killed and it involved a mystery.” she picked up her cup and sipped more of the coffee, “Do you think Adam would have any books at all that would help me?”
“I couldn’t say, Peggy. But please feel free to look, there are books on the shelves over there,” she pointed to the far end of the main room, and then turned to Adam’s study “And there are books in Adam’s study.”
“Would he mind my looking in there?”
“I doubt it…” Olivia said and got to her feet in order to deal with Nathaniel who was getting rather noisy, protesting about being in his chair and unable to get down.
Peggy sauntered through to the study but kept the door open so that Olivia could see what she was doing. She felt that she was intruding a little upon Adam’s privacy but nevertheless checked the shelves and felt slightly disappointed at finding nothing that would help her in her search. She was rather intrigued at some of the books that graced the shelves but none suited her purpose. She turned to leave when her eye caught sight of a very slim volume on the desk, almost as though it was meant to be found by her. she picked it up and with a slight smile carried it out to the other room in her hand,
“I didn’t expect to find this in Adam’s study,” she said with a grin, and held out a leather bound book entitled “Womens Temperance Movement” the author was Mark Twain, and had been written in 1873.
Olivia nodded and gave a slight shrug “Adam likes to keep up with what is happening in the world beyond the Ponderosa. As it is he and Mark Twain are quite good friends, and every so often he, Mark Twain that is, will send Adam a first edition copy of his latest book.”
“I didn’t know Adam knew Mr Twain….” Peggy said quietly as she opened the book and began to scan through some of the pages
“Oh they had an altercation of sorts when the author was known as Sam Clemens. He and Daniel deQuille were very close friends, it was Daniel who suggested that Sam change his name …” Olivia sighed, and glanced over at the clock, “Peggy, I really have to get back to work. I hope you don’t mind…if you want to look at the other books over there…please feel free to do so.”
Peggy sighed and stood up, she collected her gloves and smiled “No, I’ll come by and look another time but would like to keep this one to take back to read. Would you mind?”
Olivia made no objection, she had no interest in the book herself and was only too happy that Peggy had found something that would amuse her for the next few hours. They walked out of the house together with Nathaniel running ahead of them eager to climb the fences and show off .
They watched him for a few moments and then parted, Olivia to her work in the dairy and Peggy to mount her horse and trot it from the yard.
Miss Tyndale adjusted her spectacles and patted her hair back into place. She had been busily tidying some books on the far shelves under the ‘Romantic’ section. For some reason young ladies came in and took them down to browse through and then just put them back any old how before they left the premises. It irritated her enormously. She sighed and folded the step ladder carefully back into place and turned to go back to her desk, only to find a tall younger woman standing there, gazing around as though the library really impressed her while at the same time trying not to appear as though she had been waiting for some time.
“I am sorry,” Miss Tyndale said briskly, and brushed her hands together as though to remove any dust that may have adhered to her fingers from the shelves she had been tidying. “I do apologise. You should have rang the bell on the counter….”
“That’s quite all right,” the newcomer smiled, a pleasant smile, “It gave me time to look around and admire the way you have set the library out …that is, I am presuming, that you are Miss Tyndale, the librarian?”
“I am.” Miss Tynedale replied, feeling a little apprehensive, she bustled to her place behind the counter and cleared her throat “Now, what can I do for you, Miss..”
“Miss Godfrey, Elizabeth Godfrey.” the other woman smiled, her eyes, behind her spectacles were very blue and twinkled with a little more merriment in them that Miss Tyndale would have liked, “I have come about this advertisement …” she flourished the newspaper and her eyes became serious again, “for Librarian Assistant. I only arrived in town yesterday but Mrs Albierno showed it to me last night when we were discussing employment here.”
“You are staying at Mrs Albierno’s?” Miss Tyndale’s eyebrows arched above her spectacles and her lips pursed into a slightly more pleasant pout. Anyone staying at Mrs Albierno’s had to be of good character, hardly any need for any further references really.
Miss Godfrey nodded, smiled and waited for Miss Tyndale to speak, “Well, now…” a pause, “Do you have any references? Have you worked in a library before?”
“Never in a library…” Miss Godfrey admitted with great candour, before she dipped her hand into a voluminous purse and pulled out some envelopes “My references…” she sighed “I left my last employment to join my fiance, with a view to marriage you understand, but he was killed …in an Indian raid … I was rather desperate and ….so I came here….perhaps a little reckless of me, seeing that I know no one at all here but…but life is like that, isn’t it? Nothing ever stays as one would wish…” she whisked out a handkerchief, lace trimmed, to dab at her eyes.
Miss Tyndale tut-tutted and patted her on the arm, “I quite understand,” she murmured, and of course she did, after all, her chances of marriage had gone up in smoke years ago when her intended disappeared off the face of the earth…not in an Indian raid but with some other woman in a buggy heading to Placerville.
Miss Godgrey sighed and sniffed and waited for Miss Tyndale to read over the letters that contained her references. She glanced around the library’s interior and thought of how long it had taken her to write the references out, different inks, different hand writing, all quite legitimate companies of course, and the names she had used to sign the letters were all good honest people of which she had no doubt…just that she had never worked for any of them. But she knew her Miss Tyndale’s …and was quite sure that there would be no further checks on the references, of the fiance, well yes, there had been one, once…some years ago…but best not to dwell on that just now.
Hoss wiped a handkerchief around the back of his neck and then shook his head, “Ain’t no good, this here ain’t gonna move so easy as we thought.”
Joe grimaced and shrugged “It has to go, Hoss, otherwise other drift wood and stuff will pile up around it and cause a dam. Next thing is there will be a flood and we’ll have problems in the low pasture.”
Adam nodded “We can move it, just means more time and effort, that’s all.”
Hoss waded out of the stream and dripped onto the grass while he took the canteen that Adam offered out to him, after having a hearty swallow or five, even six, he returned it and wiped his mouth. “Right, let’s get down to business. “
Ropes were unfurled and tied to the branches of the old tree that had fallen across the stream bed. It was a thick trunk, and should not have broken so easily but through the years it had quietly provided shelter for man and beast while inwardly slowly rotting away. When it had fallen during the latest gales it did so majestically, even though no one was there to see it, and when it had landed it had crashed down into the stream that fed the water holes on Jessop’s land and the Ponderosa. Had it been left the Ponderosa would have been flooded during heavy rains, and Jessops land would have gone dry. No one wanted to think of the repercussions that would result from any accusation the Jessops would make, so the matter needed to be dealt with immediately.
The ropes were secured around the trunk and the thickest branches. Adam checked to ensure that they were positioned in the best places to make its removal easiest. Then it was a matter of hauling at the ropes … and hauling. Then Hoss got back into the water to do some pushing as well.
“It’s settled too deep into the silt.” Hoss said wading back out again and dripping once more.
“We’ll use the horses,” Adam suggested, and began to loop his rope over the saddle horn, Joe did likewise, Hoss squelched his way to Chubb II and mounted up and did likewise.
It took a while to get the tree to shift, but once it got moving it did so with a swiftness that nearly unseated Joe. It did take time, and plenty of effort but together they hauled it further up the bank, ensured that there was no danger of it rolling back into the stream and resettling there when they had left it. Hoss decided to secure it to another tree with the rope to make sure.
“It’ll be alright there until I get back to deal with it…” Hoss muttered as he spat into the palms of his hands and rubbed them together, “It’s not going to take too much time to saw up. Between us we should get it done within a few hours.”
“I’ll come up tomorrow, “ Joe agreed, and looked at Adam who was looking thoughtful and said he had a prior arrangement or had they forgotten. His brothers looked at one another, and Hoss was the one to ask him what had taken him so long to join them this morning anyway.
Joe looked at Adam to whom the question had been addressed “Yeah, we were beginning to think you would never get here.”
Adam shrugged “I promised to grease the axle on the buggy, it needed to be done before Olivia used it again. Then we had a visitor. Peggy.”
“Peggy Dayton?” Hoss muttered.
“Do you know any other Peggy’s?” Adam asked sharply as his brown eyes flicked into his brother’s direction with a definite lack of amusement.
“Wal, since you’re asking there’s Peggy O’Malley who works in the Bucket of Blood and there’s ..” Joe’s eyes twinkled as he looked at his brothers, Hoss smirked but Adam wasn’t amused.
“What did she want?” HOss asked, seated now on the grass and pulling on dry socks and his boots
“She wanted me to go to Greigsons with her.”
“You? Why’d she want you fer?” Hoss wrinkled up his nose as though smelling something wasn’t rather unpleasant, and, considering it was his socks he was pulling on, he probably was…
“Aw, I don’t know. I think she forgets that it isn’t right to expect me to go riding around the countryside with her now, she isn’t 8 anymore…”
“Mmm, she sure isn’t…” Hoss sighed “Must be getting old enough to be married herself.”
“And some,” Joe sighed, and slowly gathered in his lasso which he tidied away on his saddle.
“Will you be going to the caves with her tomorrow, Adam?” Hoss asked as he mounted into the saddle.
“I said I would, I want to make sure Sofia will be all right, I can’t trust the boys to look after her and if anyone is going to get lost, fall down a hole or break a leg, it’ll be her.”
Hoss laughed at that, as did Joe “You can say that again….” Joe chortled.
They were still laughing as they made their way homewards, the tree trunk firmly secured against another tree that bent beneath its weight.
At recess Sofia Cartwright and Rose Canaday sat close to The Gang who were excitedly discussing the next day’s adventures in the caves. Rose was downcast at not having been included in the invitation, whereas Sofia was having serious thoughts about the whole thing. As she listened to Reuben, Davy and the other boys discussing the condition of the caverns and tunnels, the dripping water trickling down the rocks, the sounds of echo’s coming from other sources, she realised that, just perhaps, she would prefer to go elsewhere, do something different.
In her imagination she had thought of fairy lights and little grotto’s, a pleasant little stroll through to the large cavern where the dead men had been found. But listening to the boys she was getting an image of a more ghoulish appearance and the thought of trolls and gigantic spiders filled her mind so that the more she listened the rounder her eyes became and the less inclined she was to eat her lunch.
“There aren’t any dead bodies there now, Sofia,” Reuben said quietly when he realised how pale she was looking.
“Are you sure?” she almost whispered and felt a shiver trickle down her back.
“What if there was,” Davy puffed out his chest in bravado, “They’re dead, ain’t nothing they can do to hurt us.”
Tommy Conway, having been lectured long and hard by his mother to get all thoughts of Sofia Cartwright out of his head immediately, looked at her and reached out to pat her on the arm, “We’ll protect you anyway.”
Sofia scowled “My daddy’s coming too, he’ll look after me,” and she withdrew her arm quickly, and looked at Tommy from under her long lashes.
Jimmy sighed, and glanced away. He thought that Tommy was encroaching on his girl, and was annoyed that he hadn’t spoken up first. He sighed again and turned to Reuben “Does that lady really know The Prof?”
“Yeah, she said so last night, didn’t she, Sofia?” Reuben didn’t wait for his sister to say anything but told them that Peggy was an archeologist too, and had gone on other digs like The Prof. She knew everything there was to know about dead bodies and where they came from and how they got to where they had “gotten”.
“I didn’t think girls were allowed in college and learn stuff like that.” Tommy said with a frown, “My mother says girls should know their place, and it isn’t wearing breeches and doing a man’s job.”
Jimmy looked at his ’opposition’ and laughed “Sometimes girls have to wear breeches.”
“Yeah and Peggy isn’t a girl, she’s a lady…she’s clever and she said that girls are just as good as boys any day.” Reuben said with an emphatic nod of the head.
Sofia listened and wondered, she thought of the conversation around the table the previous evening and realised she didn’t understand much of it but did know that Peggy was not the same kind of woman as her mother or Aunt Hester. It wasn’t because of her shape, or colour, she was definitely a woman, but Sofia knew that Peggy wasn’t a woman who would welcome anyone to sit on her knee, or rest her head upon her shoulder. She was – Sofia frowned in concentration – she was all sharp angles and edges, whereas her Ma was soft and curvy, like Aunt Hester. She was still thinking about that when the bell tolled to indicate recess time was over, lessons were awaiting them.
She glanced over at Annie Sales who was polishing her spectacles on the hem of her dress. The little girl noticed Sofia looking over at her and smiled as she placed the glasses back on her nose, and Sofia smiled back. Annie was nice, she was soft, and gentle, Sofia couldn’t imagine Annie becoming all hard angles and edges when she grew up.
Rosie stood up and walked back into the school with Sofia and Annie, she had recovered from her ordeal with Mr Crook, or at least she appeared to have done so. It still intruded upon her dreams at night, but mornings were no longer so terrifying and she didn’t like to talk about it anyway. As she grabbed for Sofia’s hand she whispered “Are you going to morrow with the boys? I wish I could come.”
Sofia nodded, yes, that was typical, she was not surprised at all that Rose Canaday would want to explore the caves. In Sofia’s mind she could see Rose wearing breeches and upsetting Mrs Conway and all the other prim ladies in town. She had to think about this matter, she told herself, after all, she was six years old now, nearly seven. She was growing up.
“Are there ghosts there?” Rose whispered now as they entered the classroom, “I bet there are ghosts. I would like to see a ghost, wouldn’t you?”
Sofia shook her head, she would no more like to see a ghost than she would like to see the witch who kept looking in the mirror to make sure she was the most beautiful of them all. She wondered what Rose would do if she saw a ghost… what if it was Mr Crook.? Sofia gave a little grin to herself, somehow she didn’t think Rose would want to see that particular ghost, no, not at all.
Ben was standing by the book shelves with a thick leather bound book in his hands when Peggy stepped inside the big room. He glanced up and raised his eyebrows in surprise at seeing her there, “Back already?”
“Adam was – busy.” Peggy replied and looked at Ben with a slight smile on her face, “What are you reading?”
“Oh nothing that would interest a young lady like yourself,” Ben replied and closed it with a snap, then replaced it on the shelf. “So, what are you planning to do instead? I could come with you to see the Greigson’s if you would wish, my dear.”
Peggy shook her head, firstly she was annoyed at being dismissed about that book, how could Ben know if she would be interested in it or not? And then again, she only wanted to see the Greigsons to get permission to ride on Dayton land, to visit once again those special places she had gone to with her father, and sometimes, with her mother. She couldn’t – hadn’t – planned it in her mind to visit those places with anyone else than Adam.
“It’s alright, Mr Cartwright, I have a book of my own to read. it’s a pleasant day so I’ll read it outside on the porch.”
“Well, if you’re sure…” Ben murmured and turned to take out the book he had just carefully placed on the shelf. He turned the pages already taking it for granted that she had gone from the room.
The book was about identifying various diseases in livestock before they ran rampant and wiped out a whole herd. True enough it may not have interested Peggy who had already made it clear she had no time for cows, and it would not have occurred to Ben to have asked her if she would have been interested. Why should he? He had never known any woman apart from Gran’ma Hoag, to be interested in that aspect of cattle raising.
Hop Sing bustled out and smiled at Peggy “You want something to drink, Missy Peggy?”
“Thank you, Hop Sing, some lemonade would be very pleasant.”
“I go make now, you like cookie too?” his big grin nearly split his face in half, his dark eyes twinkled in his round beaming face and Peggy felt the odd urge to go and hug him. She wondered what he would do if she were to do so, but before she could put action to the thought he had bustled away.
She took a seat on the porch and stretched out her legs, and opened the book. It was such a slim volume, and she realised as she opened it that it was not exactly a book in itself but the transcript of a speech* that Mark Twain had made upon the subject of emancipation.
It would take no time to read it, she thought, as her eye scanned down the few pages. She wondered why Adam had even bothered to keep it, but it had been signed by the author and addressed to him, which led Peggy to wonder what Adam would have been doing in the year 1873. Hop Sing came and placed a jug of lemonade and a plate of his cookies on the table, she nodded her thanks and turned the page to where Mark Twain began his discourse…
Women’s Temperance Movement*
by Mark Twain
Would you consider the conduct of these crusaders justifiable, I do — thoroughly justifiable. They find themselves voiceless in the making of the laws, and the election of officers to execute them. Born with brains, born in the country, educated, having large interests at stake, they find their tongues tied and their hands fettered, while every ignorant, whisky-drinking, foreign-born savage in the land may hold office, help to make the laws, degrade the dignity of the former, and break the latter at his own sweet will. “
She sighed and leaned back, rhetoric, that was all it was…not every man was ignorant, seeking to degrade the dignity of every woman they met. She frowned and closed her eyes, that was, she thought, how her mother had described her father, Frank Dayton. Wasn’t it? And wouldn’t Laura have said yes, indeed, that was exactly how Frank had made her feel…tongue tied and fettered …
Not for the first time she drifted into pondering about how a marriage with Adam would have benefited Laura. She frowned trying to recall the things she had overheard when she was a child, murmurs of criticism about Adam taking over, not giving her credit to do things and not trusting her to invest her money wisely. Her mind trickled on to the relationship Laura had with Will, again not a man who would or could be classed as
Seeking to degrade his wife in any shape or form. Will knew how to handle Laura, he loved her, he laughed at her and teased her and cajoled her…but knew when to back down, to say ‘Yes, dear’ and follow her lead. Did that make him less of a man, or more of one because he understood how to handle her. Would Adam have acted like that, laughed and teased and cajoled…or would he have just met Laura head on and said ‘No, you do it my way or not at all.”
She picked up the book and read on, before setting it to one side and with a sigh wondered about what Mark Twain had hoped to achieve by making such a speech. Certainly it would have had it’s appeal among the more militant women, and she knew that back in college she and her friends would have dissected every word and chewed it over before spitting it back out. She wondered just how aggressive such a situation would become, could become, if men like Twain were speaking in this way. Did she want to become a woman who thought of all men in the way Twain described them…
She thought carefully over his words “when the women once made up their minds that it was not good to have the all-powerful ‘primaries’ in the hands of loafers, thieves, and pernicious little politicians, they would not sit indolently at home, as their husbands and brothers do now, but would hoist their praying banners, take the field in force, pray the assembled political scum back to the holes and slums where they belong, and set some candidates fit for human beings to vote for. was this really how all women thought of their husbands, fathers, sons?
She sipped more lemonade and her thoughts drifted to Laura…did she and her friends sit around the tea table discussing ways and means to overthrow a Government, in order to gain the vote? Would Olivia Cartwright do so? For a moment Peggy considered Olivia, and decided that the woman was too happy in her marriage to bother even worrying about it. Perhaps though she would encourage her daughter to do so…unless of course Adam were to lay down the law,
A shadow grew over her and looking up she saw Ben standing there blotting out the pale sunlight, he smiled “Well, Peggy, have you learned how to play chess yet?”
“I have, Will says I am quite good at it. I usually beat him two games out of three.” she smiled.
“Well, how about challenging me to a game, huh?” and with a smile he produced the box containing the chess set from behind his back.
A challenge..well, what better word could he have chosen. She smiled and nodded, set the book to one side and watched him set out the board and the pieces, beautifully carved pieces. Even as she watched his fingers set out the rooks, the Queen and all the other pieces, she found her self thinking “what did Adam find so appealing about Olivia”. of all the women who would be throwing themselves at his feet – and she hated the thought that any woman would – why had he married Olivia. She thought of the last line in Twains speech “from the day that Adam ate of the apple and told on Eve, down to the present day, man, in a moral fight, has pretty uniformly shown himself to be an arrant coward.”
Perhaps love makes cowards of us all.