Candle in the Wind (by mumu74)

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Summary:  Joe tells about his adventures.. He wants to prove to his father that he is a man and that he can be responsible…. Saving someone and being a hero will be enough ?

Rated: K+  WC 10,200

Candle in the Wind

I am 19 years old and my name is Joseph Francis Cartwright and I go by the name of Little Joe. That makes me angry. I have had it up to here, always being the youngest. I can’t do anything, I have a right to prove that I’m able to do a lot… I know it. We’re living in a very dangerous place; so often the diligence is attacked by bandits; there are steep gullies, that are true traps; but I’m a man; I’m ready to run my own life and to accept the risks I would take. Every day I have a fight with my father, the last one took place two days ago; he refuses to let me go have an adventure with the pony express. You know my father, when he says no, there’s no need to continue arguing….

Adam has had a lot of arguments with our Pa, but he has always failed when arguing with him.
But me, I am even more obstinate than Adam, and I have not had my last word yet. What happened this morning, I lost my temper and I spun out the door to get involved in the mine. From this point on I am ready to head into any new challenges,to prove to my father that I am full grown and that I am not a kid any more. Now I am wondering where I am going to live.

The foreman at the mine winces at me and then he decides to forget my name, Cartwright, and gives me a chance. He gives me a chisel and says to me, where I have to work… The other miners begin to snicker.

It’s true, I really don’t have the body type for this job, but the guys don’t manage to discourage me… I’m digging in the rock as if my life depends on it. My muscles are very tired and sore, but I don’t listen to the voices of my body.

Fifteen days later the miners don’t laugh at me anymore. I spend my nights with them in the camp. I’m sure Pa knows where I am, but he doesn’t come.

On saturday evening we have permission to go out, so I ride into town, I want to have fun in the saloon. Maybe I will play a game of poker and have a good time. Then I can forget my sore body. I get to the saloon and ask for a beer. Sally comes near me.

“Hello Little Joe. Does your daddy know you’re here?”

“Stop hassling me Sally. Go bother somebody else.”

“Hey little boy, get off your high horse,” Sally said laughingly and mocking Little Joe.

I see her start to walk away and I know I’ve offended her. I can’t stand these comments about my age anymore. Everybody sees me as just a kid and I’ve had enough. I empty my beer and ask the barkeep for another.

For sure Sally has the art of frustrating me. Now she’s taking it out on a poor young girl, maybe a new girl. I overhear Sally with that shrieking voice she has, that it is the girl’s job to keep the men happy and spending money on drinks or whatever they may want.

The poor young girl stares at the floor, she doesn’t dare move. She takes the lecture without protesting. I don’t know why I decide to step up but I do.

Sally shoves the girl away from her and tells her to get busy or or get out.

“Sally, give me a room, I’ll go with her.”

“She’s not an experienced girl, you’ll waste your time.”

“Let me decide what’s good for me. Now give me a room,” said Joe.

“Ok ok, take room number 4.”

I don’t take time to thank her. I take the girl’s arm and we head up the stairs. She is so pale, white as a sculpture, and doesn’t say a word. I close the door and show her a chair. She sits down and puts her hands on her thighs. she’s wearing a very enticing dress, but I can see, how embarassed she feels by showing her breasts and her arms.

“Don’t be affraid. I’ve no intention of being disrespectful. It was the only way to get Sally off your back. I did it to protect you.

“You did? You don’t want…”

The young girl is having a very hard time. I know this is torture for her. At the moment, I have only one thing in mind. I have to take her to the Ponderosa. Pa has so often offered a room and a meal to someone in pain. Sometimes they were like a little tiger, but I’m sure Pa won’t be mad if I bring her home with me.

I make her stand up and say her, “Look at me.” I lay my hands on her shoulders. I gently move a stray hair and lean in to kiss her on the forehead and she begins to cry.

“I’m sorry,” she wispered. “I’m so thankful for what you’re doing for me.”

“Pa! Pa I’m back,” I holler like I always do as I come through the front door of the house. Pa is always telling me to enter the house calmly and without shouting. After all I’m 19 now. It’s a waste of effort on his part. In the first place, I’ve got a voice and I want to use it. And in the second place, I’m just the same as my father. You know him, and you know his deep voice. Nuts don’t fall far from the tree and I’m my father’s son. In this family you either be quiet or shout. Ok, then there’s Adam. Adam is the guy, who’s always singing and that’s his thing.

“Hey son, you’re home,” welcomed Ben.

“Yeah Pa and it’s good being home,” Joe replied.

“Have you got problems with your new job son?”

“Oh no,” Joe smiled,”No problem. I’m just very happy to be back home.”

“So, I’m very happy hearing that son.”

“Hmm, Hey, where’s Hop Sing? Why isn’t he here to greet me,” laughed Joe.

“Hop Sing isn’t here.”

“What do you mean Hop Sing’s isn’t here?”

“I’m serious son, Hop Sing quit, he’s gone,” Ben replied sadly.

“What do you mean quit. That’s impossible. He can’t do that,” Joe stated rather loudly.

“Oh yes he can and he did. Your brother Hoss has been mad at me for the last five days. He says I didn’t try hard enough to get him to stay.” Then Ben continued, “And we have had a visitor, a bit of a tiger she is.”

“Oh, Margarita’s back?” Joe laughed.

“No, her name is Sam, Samantha actually. She was delivered here as a package a few days before Hop Sing up and quit.

“A package, what do you mean, a package?”

“Well son, someone put a tag on her and sent her to us like you would receive a package by mail. I finally figured out she is the daughter of my cousin Marta. She’s six years old and there’s nothing that seems to please this child. She is the reason Hop Sing left us. She drove him crazy and he said he wasn’t here to raise any more children.

I haven’t been this shocked since my brother Hoss attached wings and tried to fly and ended up crashing a few feet down a cliff. I am trying to get it through my mind that Hop Sing is gone. A young child is living here and is quite a tiger not a teddy bear. And Hoss is hard to be around with his favorite cook Hop Sing gone. And here I was worring about the way I left home so quickly. Stop, I told myself. That’s enough thinking for now. They haven’t even had time to worry about my leaving with all this chaos going on.

“So that’s it Joe,” said his father.

“And Hoss, where is he?”

“He headed up to his room to get some rest. Sam had deciced she wanted to go to San Francisco and it took everything Hoss had in him to try to keep her here on the Ponderosa.

I sat down on the sofa and rested my feet up on the table. I grabbed and apple from the bowl and began to eat it. The apple is so sweet, so delicious. A red apple, red like desire, like a girl. . .oh no! I’d been so distracted I just remembered there is a girl in the barn waiting for me in the straw. I hope no one will find her. I suddenly think about Adam. I know my brother. A girl in the barn, laying in the straw. He may not be able to maintain control.

I stood up from the sofa and set my unfinished apple on the table. I head out the front door.

“Hey Joe, what’s the problem?” Ben asked.

I’m in such a hurry I don’t hear the end of the question. I head across the yard and into the barn. I see nobody has come in while I was talking to Pa. I feel very lucky. The girl hasn’t moved a foot. She is in the same place where I left her.

I get down on one knee and look into her eyes. “I’m sorry. It took more time than I thought it would. I had to talk to my father and prepare him for you.” I took her hand and pulled her up out of the straw. “We can go now. You come with me.”

I held her hand and walked towards the house with my young protege. I hope pa will feel warmly with her. Everything will be alright. She is a nice, kind girl and she’s older than Sam and not hysterical.

Holding the girl’s hand firmly, I walk up to my pa with my most charming smile and as determined as ever. “Hi Pa,” and I stop there. I realize I don’t know her name. In my eagerness to save her I did not ask. I turn to her and ask slowly, “What is your name?”

“Candle, Candle Nice” she replied.

She speaks very quietly, I can barely hear her. The poor girl is mortified. She pulls anxiously on her woolen shawl trying hard to cover her bare shoulders and her throat. Needless to say, my father can’t take his eyes off of her.

“Pa, if you’ll let me give her a place at the table, I will explain it all later.”

“For now,” Ben thought, “I will just have to be content with her name. I’ll have to wait. . .”

Thai Lee and Sam both arrive with smiles on their faces. “Mistle Caltwhight, Sam helped me with the meal and she was very nice about it.”

“Oh this is true?” asked Ben. “You will have to let me know you secret of how you did this with no yelling and no spanking. I am very impressed!”

Sam looked up at Candle and said, “You’re a very lovely lady and you have a very pretty dress.”

Joe thought to himself, “Sam is very impressed with Candle. To see things through children’s eyes, everything is so simple. Ah, if only my father would do the same. I pray that he won’t judge her and will just accept her. But I know my Pa and it’s the same as trying to hold the moon.”

We had started our eating our meal when we hear a noise at the door. My brother Adam is just returning. He hangs his hat on the peg and removes his gunbelt and lays it on the sideboard. He looks at us and says, “”I’m not sure if I’m even on the Ponderosa,” stated Adam. “Is this some kind of a game? Hop sing has been replaced by a girl,” and as he waves his hand towards the other side of the table, “There sits a girl in a very indecent dress…” and as he looks each one of his family members in the eye, “Oh Pa, you’re here and so is Hoss and you Joe. Ok, I’m on the Ponderosa…May I have an explanation?”

“I’m sorry Adam,” said Ben, “but sit down and we will all explain after we finish our meal.”

“I can tell you her name Adam. Her name is Candle Nice,” Joe piped up.

“Well little brother she sure lights up the room in that dress!”

“I can’t wait to hear the explainations,” shrugged Adam.

“My brother makes me so mad when he’s telling such Jokes,” quipped Joe.

We are all sitting at the table and we are eating the chinese food that Thai Lee has made. Pa keeps looking at me and I am quite sure what he is thinking. ‘You will give me an explanation Joseph and it better be a good one.’ Oh yes, I know I have to do that, Pa will demand it.

On my right is Candle and she’s not eating. I know she feels embarassed and I feel sorry for her. Sam is eating quietly. Sometimes she looks up at us, takes a drink of her milk and starts eating again. If only this meal would never end. I don’t want to face Pa. I don’t know why I am so afraid. I shouldn’t feel that way.

I will stand up and explain everything to him. Just how I saved this girl. I have committed no crime here. I don’t want any medals or congratulations. I will just explain to him that I followed his example. He has done that so often that maybe he won’t be angry with me.

I just couldn’t let Sally get her hands on her. She treats the girls that work for her in the saloon so badly. She pushes them to be with the miners. I can’t let her go back to the saloon. Somehow I have to persuade Pa that she needs to stay here with us.

At this point, I turn to look at her. I see her blonde hair and the jewelery in her ears. She is a pretty girl. This is just a difficult time in her life and she is knows no happiness. I am about to help her. I am going to have to break the law and Pa will have to know about it.

Thai Lee has just cleared the table and will bring us dessert. Is it possible that something could happen to stop this meal from ending and prevent pa from asking me about Candle? It’s impossible. The minutes are ticking away. I am trying not to think about the passing of time. I will not savor this dessert.

Thai Lee comes out of the kitchen and gives each of us a plate. There is a little white mound with coconut powder on it.

“This taditional desselt of china,” said Thai Lee, “Soy milk with rice and sugar, is vely delicious.”

I watch as Hoss cautiously take his first bite and I see how much he likes it. If I were the dessert I would worry because Hoss is about to devour it. Pa has eaten quickly too. He touches his lips with his napkin after one last drink. I was afraid this moment would come. This is it. The end of dinner and the beginning of me getting into big trouble.

“Thai Lee, could you bring us some coffee please ?”

“Yes sir,” she replied with a slight bow.

Pa stands up and gives me a look, you know, that special look that makes Ben Cartwright so impressive. I know what I have to do. I must choose my words wisely, I can’t make any mistakes. I look at Adam thinking maybe he could be of help. “Hey Adam. What are you going to do?”

“I’m heading for my room to see if I can make it through a few pages of my new book Buddy.”

Alright, no help from him. Maybe Hoss, he won’t let me down, “and you Hoss?”

“No plans really. Just thought I would spend some time with Sam and tell her a story.”

“Hey! I ain’t no baby. Stories are for babies!”

I wonder what kind of little girl she is. Pa didn’t say anything about her tone of voice. He usually reacts when he hears someone in his house talk like that but not today.

“I know you’re not a baby,” explains Hoss, “but why are you talking to me like that and using that tone? Would you rather play a game of chess with me?”

“Kidstuff,” she said.

“Ok Sam, you don’t want a story and you don’t want to play chess so I hope you hava a good time sitting in the corner by yourself doing nothing.”

Hoss leaves the room and heads up the stairs the same as Adam did before. The room is emptying quickly as Thai Lee hands Sam a rag and asks her to help her in the kitchen. Sam doesn’t say anything, but stands up and follows Thai Lee into the kitchen. This only leaves the three of us.

Pa sits down in his chair and points to the settee expecting Candle and me to sit there. “Ok Joseph, the room is empty. Now there is only you, Miss Nice and me. I am listening and contrary to Sam I want to hear every detail so start explaining.”

I swallow the lump in my throat and am about to speak when I hear noises in the kitchen. Someone is breaking dishes. “Did you hear that Pa?”

“Yes I heard it Joseph. We will not be interupted by a broken glass that Thai Lee probably dropped. It will take more than one or two broken glasses for me to go into the kitchen. Since Margaritta was here, it takes a lot more before I step in.”

Sometimes I hate my Pa’s since of humor. He is quite good at scolding someone. “Ok Pa, this is what happened. Candle is just a young girl and I met her in this saloon and her boss, Sally, was trying to make her go with this drunken miner and so I asked for a room and took her up there with me. It seemed to be the only way to save her at the time and then we climbed out her window and and we came here because I knew you wouldn’t have wanted me to leave her there and not help.” I had to take a big breath after my quick uninterupted speech.

I take a quick look at my father. He says nothing. He’s sitting in his big leather chair and has put his arms on the armrests. He looks like an emperor. He seems to be collecting his thoughts. He is a handsome man and right now a little bit icy. I’m nervous. That special looks makes me duck my head. My father is a very impressive man. His lips are tightly closed and that means nothing good for me. He is trying to maintain control, but I know he is burning up inside. I know my father well. It is not the first time he has looked that way. It has become a tradition between him and me. He hasn’t reacted yet to what I have said. He should be alright with what I’ve told him. But I know this is only a temperary silence. He has taken in all I have said and he will reply eventually. The first round will fall on me. I will get raked over the coals and it will start off with my complete birthname. Then the infamous sentence will be spoken, ‘What in the world were you thinking?’ I hope it will end at that and I don’t find myself taking a trip to the barn for a necessary talking to. That’s where my Pa expresses his anger, but most of the time it’s not only my ears that are effected.

“Joseph Francis Cartwright!”

Well, I knew that was coming and I’m certainly not surprised. I am usually right in knowing what his reaction will be. “I know I should have asked Pa before I brought Candle home with me, but there wasn’t time. I have told him eveything now and he isn’t happy with me.”

I know I’m in big trouble now and Pa isn’t going to make life easy for me. I’m really down in the dumps.

“Mr. Cartwright, let me try to explain to you..”

“You will speak later Miss. Right now I am talking to my son.”

“Pardon me Mr. Cartwright. I will not bother you. I will go back to the saloon,” said Candle trying to get Joe’s father to let up on him.

Pa is surprised at her statement and he began to stand up. He looked at both of us and I turned to look back at Candle.

“There is no question about it Candle, you have to stay here.”

“Pa, I won’t let her go back to the saloon just to have Sally force her to go with those drunken miners,” Joe insisted. “You can give me a tanning or whatever you see fit, but I am not letting her go back there. She needs to stay here for now.”

I stopped to think of what I just said and knew I had just dug my own grave.

“Joseph, I see you will stop at nothing to save this girl,” said Ben, a bit calmer now.

“Yes sir. I’ve heard you all my life telling us that everyone has a right to respect and dignity, haven’t I Pa?”

I realize my words touched him. My father is not one to give up easily. I can’t believe it until Pa looks at me and starts to smile.

“You have some nerve young man. I never thought you were listening to what I had to say to you, you little scamp.”

I let down my guard. Pa seems to have cooled off now. Maybe I will avoid another lecture. I answer with a shrug. It means alot. Maybe he has decided to treat me like a man instead of a boy. It would be the first time. Maybe the fact that I left the house made him understand that I am a mature man even if my leaving was a bit childish…

Candle seems to feel better when she sees my father has calmed down. It’s the first time I’ve seen her laughing since I brought her here. I must say, she is a very pretty girl with a very pretty smile. I’ve never seen such a beautiful smile on a girls face before. You know, when a girl is free from worries she recovers her charm and she is very charming.

“Can I ask you something Candle? Did you sign a contract with Sally?”

“Yes,” she bowed her head and answered, “She made me sign it.”

“Hmmm…that’s not good Joe,” said Ben, “Not good for you. Not good for Candle.”

“Why?” Joe asked.

“Because you kidnapped her. You broke the law. Sally could file a complaint against you.”

“She has no right!” yelled Joe.

“Oh yes she does Joseph. You’re the one that broke the law,” Ben said in the same tone of voice as his son.

“But that’s not fair Pa.”

“It may not be fair, but it’s the law. You rushed into that situation wanting to be the hero and now you are going to find yourself in deep trouble with Sally. This won’t be easy son.”

“I need help Pa. Will you help us…please,” begged Joe, “Have you ever met Sally? Maybe you. . .”

“What do you mean have I ever met Sally? Why do you think I would know Sally,” yelled Ben.

“No Pa, I didn’t mean anything. I’m just saying you have the know-how to get through to people. Maybe you could convince her to…she would listen to you Pa,” Joe said flashing a devilish grin at his father.

“Joseph,” Ben said in a calmer voice, “It’s a saloon. Girls are needed. Candle signed a contract and I feel sure Sally’s not about to let her go.”

“And I won’t let Candle go back there Pa.”

“Joe, you are acting very childish. If the girl signed a contract there is nothing you can do about it.”

Candle reached for Joe’s arm trying to calm him. “Joe, you’re father’s right. I signed a contract and I have to go back.”

“No! I won’t let you do that.”

“I have to Joe. I have no choice.”

“I will find a solution,” he said quietly.

“Joseph look at me. Take this as a warning. I don’t want you doing anything against the law. Do you understand me son?”

We are all startled and our discussion ended by a loud crashing sound coming from the kitchen. A glass has been broken and then we hear Thai Lee’s voice..

“HEY SAM WHAT’S GOING ON? YOU HAVE TO STOP NOW! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” shouted Thai Lee.

I want to ask my Pa ‘Do you wait until all the set is broken, or you step in now’.. But I won’t ask that…

He has already left the room and is heading for the kitchen so I follow right behind him.

My father sees something incredible. Thai Lee looks at Sam and has covered her mouth with her hands. She has tried to stop the little girl but Sam is about to break another plate.

“I’ve had enough..enough. I will break everything here,” shouts Sam.
She holds a plate above her head and lets it drop. It explodes into a million pieces when it hits the floor.

Thai Lee knows this has to stop now. Sam had dropped a glass and that was an accident but now she is having a tantrum and is about to drop another plate. This is not acceptable behaviour from this child.

Sam has raised another plate above her head and is about to throw it on the floor with so much anger and spite. I step in and take the plate from her. Yes I did it. I’ve save the plate, but Sam slammed into me and the plate falls to the floor with pieces scattering everywhere. It was a lovely plate, full of delicious food. What a pity..God bless it.

I take Sam’s arm and she struggles trying to escape but I have the stronger grip I guess. I’ve broken wild mustangs. I think I can manage a little kid. But I am wrong. The little pest kicks me in the shin and runs. Pa reaches out to grab her but she disappears under the table. She picks up and cup and throws it at my father. He dodges the cup and practically lands on top of Candle. I quickly shout, “Look out Candle!”

“Sam! Stop that NOW and come here!” Ben roared.

“No! I won’t. Go away.”

“Sam! I said enough! Come here NOW!” he repeated.

Pa is using a tone he often used with me when I was a little kid. I don’t think he has ever seen such bad behavior. I know I tested Pa but I never went this far. If I ever tried something like this I surely would have gotten a thrashing. Pa was good at that. Here tonight, this little girl is testing the water of four grownup people. Not the best idea.

We haven’t seen it all yet. Thai Lee takes the bowl of dirty dish water and throws it in Sam’s face.

“Mr. Cartlite you talk too much. Little gil has fire in head. No need talk now. Punish tomorrow. Little gil need bed.”

My father is surpised at Thai Lee’s words and says nothing. Maybe she is right. He is so angry now that Sam would have a very sore bottom and my father has never struck any of us in anger. Just wait and see. A good spanking is waiting for her. Thai Lee leaves the room and takes Sam upstairs to bed.

Pa turns and looks back at me with questioning eyes but I only shrug my shoulders. I would like to say ‘just give up, don’t try to understand’. I mean this because of what has happened with Thai Lee and with Candle. It’s amazing. Candle just stays put, and now I see her yawning.

“Would you give me a blanket please and I will sleep in the barn,” she said.

My father frowns like he always does when he is perplexed or surprised.

“In the barn! That’s a joke. I would die right now living with the thought that I left a young girl to sleep in the barn. Ok Candle, I don’t support your way of life working in a saloon and I am not happy that my son kidnapped you from that saloon. Maybe I am wrong but I have decided to give you a chance. You will take a room upstairs and you can sleep in one of Joe’s shirts tonight

“But I don’t want to cause you any trouble Mr. Cartwright.”

“Listen young lady. I won’t have you arguing with me.”

She starts to open the door. “I thank you, but I can’t accept your offer. I’m in the habit of doing certain things my way.”

“Maybe so young lady but I am not in the habit of being argued with.”

I know my father is losing patience with the whole situation. After the tantrum with Sam, Pa has just about had it tonight. But Candle hasn’t changed her mind and heads out the front door. She is upset. She stumbles and runs into the wall and ends up in a heap on the ground. I run quickly to her and I see that she’s ok but she holds out her arm.

“I’m here Candle, let me help you,” Joe said calmly.

“I think I hurt my arm Joe. It really hurts.”

Tears come to her eyes and I can tell she is in great pain. I take her in my arms and bring her into the house.

“Well young lady, you are so mule headed. You wouldn’t do as I asked would you? If you had stayed here like I asked you to, you wouldn’t be in this situation. Now you are going to pay for your behaviour with a broken bone.

I don’t know why but I can’t keep myself from intervening once again.

“Pa, I think you are being too hard on Candle. She’s really in pain.”

“I don’t doubt it Joe. Do you think you can take your young lady to town to see Doc Martin. Will you be able to protect her?”

“It’s not a good idea Pa. Sally has men everywhere trying to get Candle back.”

“Ah yes, you’re right,” said Ben with a long sigh. “Ok, I’m going to make her a bandage to get her through the night, and we will see tomorrow. In the meantime everybody just go to bed.”

I know that my father is exhausted. This has been a difficult evening. We all head upstairs and it is my father who tries to help Candle change her clothes. He tells us both good night and heads to his room.

I wake up in the morning and get myself dressed. I’m about to go downstairs but I see Candle’s door is open. I knock on the door as I look in and I ask if I can come in but nobody answers. So I walk into her room. I hear crying. Candle is sitting in front of the mirror and is sobbing. I can’t see her face but I can see her shoulders shaking. She is so sad and I feel so sorry for her. I would like to do something for her. I bend down and kiss to top of her head.

Candle looked up at Joe. “I’m totally lost. I don’t know what to do. I made a terrible mistake signing that contract. I have
brought you so many problems to you and your family.”

“Stop now my lovely Candle,”I say. “Calm down now. There are always ways to save a lost situation and I will help you any way I can.”

“I would like to believe you, she said, “but I am so tired.”

“Ok, I understand but please don’t go back to bed. I want you to come downstairs and have a decent breakfast and then we will go into Virginia City. You need to see the doctor so let’s go.”

I take hold of her arm but she won’t come with me.

“Wait a minute Joe, I’m not dressed.”

“Oh…sorry.”

I didn’t even notice that she was still wearing the nightsirt we gave her last night.

“I can’t wear the dress that…”
And by saying this, she indicated the dress she’d been wearing yesterday. The dress frightens her apparently or it makes her ashamed. Everyone will know what she is if she wears that dress in town and it reminds her of the contract she signed.

“Stay right where you are. I’ll be right back.”

I head back to my room and get my brown robe that Hoss says makes me look like a monk. At least she will be decently dressed with this over the shirt that she slept in last night. It will keep her warm. I’m sure Pa has started a fire but the house always grows cold overnight.

I watch Candle bending over with only one good hand trying desperately to fasten the hooks on her shoes. I kneel down on the floor in front of her and smile up at her as I push her hand away. I am happy to do that for her.

Candle stands up and my robe looks much nicer on on a girl with her figure than on me. Somehow it takes on a particular brightness.

“I think you look delightful.”

“Stop making fun Joe. I look like a bugbear.”

My father is walking slowing, he is waiting for me; and then he hugs me. He knows and I know; that we will have a painfull time, right now. It won’t be easy…. But I’m  happy, because I know, we have the same feelings… It was so difficult to talk with him in the last weeks, there was war between us. So I’m accepting this hand on my shoulders, and I ‘m very touched inside. I know, he ‘s not making it against his willing, he can be so tender… He is strict, he has values and principes; but he can be indulgent. Indulgence means true love… My father is indulgent, not a laxist one. And it’s allright… I prefer to receive a good lecture n because I know, he is concerned about what I ‘m doing. Relationship between him and me are made of tensions, and disagreement. Because I allways want to have right, and because he doesn’t want to let me live my own life.  He’s afraid, I could  burn my wings and crash….. But it’s my decision, and I’m under the impression, he’s accepting that…  He is prooving to me; that he’ll always be there and that he’s ready to help me… And I know, it ‘s very hard for ihm to help a saloon girl, even if she has had no time beeing so… But she’s home with a very schoking dress.
I don’t say a word but I accept the hand of my father. I don’t want to fight wih him anymore, he has said, what I want to hear… And he is keeping promesses. Fatefull moment  : Pa takes all the things away to access to the trunk. He opens it : there are three dresses inside : the first is a white one. It’s the dress my mother has wore when she married pa… And then theres a lila dress, an evening  taffeta dress. And the third is lila too, but it’s a dress for the day, more simple….

« maybe we can lay her that dress.

The voice of my father is full with emotion…

-I remember, she loved that dress…

-She always said, it was her mama -dress, so different from those she was wearing before.. You can take it for mira.

-thanks pa.

-Theres no need to thank me… Joe; this trunk belongs to us… There are inside remember of my wife and of your mother… You have the right to use it….

-Pa, I swear, mira is a good girl. She did a mistake, but she didn’t sell her body… You have to believe me… She was so affraid, when I met her; and she wasn’t disposed to let anybody touch her.

-I can believe you, Joe….

I give to my father a thanksfull look and runs toward the ranch… I look at Mira and say :

-come with me.

-but Joe.

-no questions, please. Come with me.

We’re going upstairs and I give her the dress… I won’t tell about the speach we had… She doesn’t want to wear it;  I insist, I tell her, that my father gave it to her too… And after long minutes she accepts. I would like to help her; but it’s not a good idea… I had a big trouble when I helped her with her shoes. It would be too hard for me doing that…  Thai Lee will help her; So we’re ready to  go… Mira is very embarassed when she sees my father. But he gives her a tender look .
-misses Candle, I realy hope, this adventure will be soon only a bad remember… I would like to  say to you, you’ll be wellcome here… Just give me the assurance that this contract doesn’t exist anymore…
Thanks a lot , mister Cartwright.

A vaulted silhouette is coming in the street; she’s walking slowly; she’s holding her hand towards someone, but she has not seen us… Minutes after minutes she’s about to fell down; she’s wearing a simple dress and a shawl and she has put her hand on her stomach… I run towards her and take her hand…
« Just lay on me, missis

-Help me, please; the baby

It’s stunning, I can’t speak…. I need only two seconds to realise that she will have her baby, here, maybe in the street, if we don’t moove…. Mira arrives and put her hand tenderly on her shoulders. With a soft voice she’s trying to confort her…

-be calm, please; I’m here… I will help you and it will be allright… We are in front of the doctors house, I was with him…. Come with me….

-I can’t walk anymore, arggggggggggggggggghhhh  It’s hurt….

I hold her in my arms; even if she’s pregnant, she’s very light… For shure her worries are the most heavier in her body…. She truste me, as if she were an injuried animal…
Mira is runing towards the house; and I follow her with the young girl in my arms…. I’m very touched by the way she’s putting her hand on her stomach. Is that they call the maternal instinct ???? It’s so beautiful.

-Joe, quick, you have to bring her inside… .

-Doc, please, you have to help this young girl ….

-yes, yes, I’m here, I’m coming..

Paul come in the room, he has a piece of broad in the right hand and a piece of beef in the other hand…. He swallows what he has in the mouth.

-Sorry, I was starting to eat… I want to wash my hands and I come… Can you lay her on the sofa…

-We’ll do that; Paul….

-Joe, are you ready to assist me ????

-Me ???? Oh no, I won’t be able to help you ????

-I can,

Mira has opened the mouth…. We’re watching her, our look is full of surprise..

-Yes, if you want , I’m ready to help you.

-I will never refuse a helping hand… Are you shure, you can do that ???

– Yes; my mother has been midwife and I have helped her before…

-very good, can you please take her dress away… Joe; bring me some hot water…

I’m going to the little kitchen and I start to pump some water. I’m quite nervous and I spill some water on me.. My  pants are soaked and my matches too…. Damned… It’s not possible to light a match; I’m breaking three, before it works. And then the paper I used refuse to burn.. A piece of wood fells out the stove… I was about to burn on myself… I close the little door of the stove with my foot; and I hope, the flame won’t die….They need some hot water…. I decide, I willl be better here.  And I will wait until they call for help. I prefer not to see what is happening in the other room…. I’m not feeling very well and I’m shure Paul and Mira will do a perfect job… I seat down and have a look on a newspaper on the table. I hear the young girl yelling, and I try to read some articles : I take an appel and start to eat it. What has happened days before ??? a man has been killed by a tree, while he was cutting it in the wood; the bank of Pike City has been robed by two men, disguised in Indians; and the great diva Dorothee Watson has interrupted her recital; because she were coughing too much…  And they organised a charity bazaar for the orphans; that brought 700 dollars… From time to time I turn myself towards the pot; it seems that the fire is burning…. My pants will be dry and I won’t have to take my pants away….. It would be terrible, if Mira would see me without my pants….  Mira, oh yes, she’s is my thoughts… I remember the way she has proposed her help, no hesitation, no fear…. And I have no idea, if her arm is allright or no… She didn’t have time to say it… But I’ve not seen her arm in a sling; it means; her arm isn’t broken.

Oh, silence is coming; no noises… ah, yes, I’m listening, there’s some agitation in the other room…. A new life is beginning; and then I hear the voice of the doctor…

-Joe, water please…

That’s me, I’m coming on the stage… I put the water in a bucket and bring it to the doc… I give it to Mira, since she is coming out the room…. She takes the bucket and disappears in the room, but she says ;
Joe, that’s fantastic, wahoo…. The baby is fine and the mother too…. We will give a bath to this new little girl….

Mira is so excited, she’s full of happiness, because of this new life, which is starting…. Oh yes, she can be happy, and she has to be proud of herself…. Mira unwanted, unloved, humiliated, has taken care of someone lost… I’m thinking to Sally and to her abjects words…. Mira, I make you a promess : I will bring you the contract and I will tell about what you just have done;.. Everybody will be thanksfull towards you….

An hour later, I see Candle coming back. She looks radiant. She is drying her hands with a towel. She looks at me with a mischievous smile. “I came out here to tidy things up a bit. The doctor stayed with the young mother because she had started bleeding some. But she seems to be ok now so no need to fear. I would hve been so sad if she had died.”

“I understand Candle but now we have to go. My father doesn’t like anyone being late for dinner. And I don’t like to see him angry. He has certain rules that have to be obeyed. He can be very strict.”

“I don’t think so Joe. I have to admit that your father is a great man, strict but fair. I would like to find a man such as him when I have children of my own. Someday I will find someone just like your father; with humanity, sensibility and tolerance. It’s so important for children being raised by someone who loves them. You’re very lucky Joe.”

And then she falls silent and I can see sadness in her eyes. Suddenly her soul is consumed with melancoly.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. I liked what you said and I needed to hear it. Sometimes I get tired of my Pa and his rules. But you describe him much differently and now I have another opinion. I have no right to complain. There are people who have real problems in their lives. I’ve got a family and they love me and I thank you because you just reminded me of that. So I have an idea. We will go to the saloon and we will get the contract back.”

“You are right Joe. I will come with you.”

I look up to see Paul coming out of the bedroom rolling down his sleeves and buttoning up his vest.

“Both new mother and her baby are sleeping and there seems to be no problems at all. I couldn’t have done it without you Candle. How can I ever thank you?”

I’ve got an idea Paul, how you can help her.” I give Candle a look. I want to know if I can tell Paul her story. She says yes with her eyes.

“Paul, I want to tell you Candle signed a contract to quickly at the saloon.

“I was lost, I needed money badly so I signed Sally’s contract, but I don’t want to work for her. Now she refuses to let me out of it.”

“How old are you Candle?” Paul asked.

“I will be 18.”

“When?”

“Next week.”

“OK! Very Good! That means Sally doesn’t have a binding contract. You are too young to sign a contract. I’m coming with you.”

“Thanks doc.”

The three of us leave doc’s and head for the saloon. We are going to be late for dinner for sure now. I hope this discussion with Sally won’t be the same as the one I had with her this morning….

I head into the saloon followed by the doc and Candle. There is more of a crowd than earlier this morning when I was here.  I glance around the room and see Sam, the bartender handing out beers and whiskey and notice the gaming tables are empty. I notice Jake, Tyson and Luke, the three men that work for Sally standing across the room. I don’t see Sally which seems strange. I walk up to the bar to ask Sam where she is when I overhear Luke talking to his friends.

“Hello there baby doll.  What are you doing here? You a new girl?”

“You mean you don’t recognize Candle?” Tyson quips.  She’s the one that signed that there contract with Sally and now she refuses to work here. Seems she has something better to do.”

I turn around and give the three of them a black look. Tyson keeps on teasing her and then Jake adds his two cents. I try to keep my temper as I look at the beautiful Candle and the three men acting like asses.

Candle turns to hide behind the doctor.  He is also sickened by their comments and he steps in.  “You all shut your mouths. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You Tyson, you’re a father and this is the way you talk to a young woman?”

“Shut up doc and mind your own business. “ He turns his attentions back to Candle. “What are you wearing that dress for.  It covers you up and I can’t see those breasts that are like delicious fruits. They need to be a bit more visible,” he chuckles to his friend. “And I cain’t quite see them ankles.  Pull up that dress and let us see. Don’t be shy now.”

“That’s enough Tyson. Just shut your mouth.”

He removes his feet from the table and stands up from his chair.  He stairs at me as he sets his beer mug on the table.  “What’s the matter Cartwright?  You tired of livin’?  You may have dressed her different so she could be your little princess, but she is here to give me pleasure. I would like to slip a dollar between her breasts or maybe you’d like to do it for us. What do you thin…?”

His sentence isn’t finished as my left fist plows into his face and his nose explodes. He flies across the room and his head slams against the wall. He lies still on the floor. I don’t have time to ease the pain in my hand before the other two are practically on top of me. I throw my fist into Jake’s  face, once, twice… He swings at me and I duck quickly out of the way. There are some advantages of being small and  I am quick and in shape, but it’s two against one and I and starting to fade.  Tyson has now joined the fracas and I know I can’t hold off all three of them.

Suddenly I hear “STOP NOW!”

It’s Sally. It’s the sound of a crack of a whip. As I always say, this woman is a true general. All she needs is a uniform.

She stands in front of us with her hands on her hips. She looks like a mad mama grizzly. “What’s the meaning of this? Tyson, Luke, Jake! What kind of bouncers are you? Why didn’t you just throw him out?  The three of you were just whooped by a twenty year old kid. You are just a bunch of wimps.  Good enough to sit here and drink all day but can’t even stand up in a fight.  These final words are for Jake who remains on the floor.

“Hey doc, what are you doing here,” she asks. Are you the one that took on these three?”

“No Sally.  You know I have different principles.  I swore to help people not hurt them. Joe did that all by himself. He needs to be congratulated for putting them in their place and giving them the beating they deserved.”

“You want to know who started this?” Paul questioned. “Sally, we just came over here to ask you to tear up Candle’s contract. She doesn’t belong here.  Your guy here couldn’t keep his mouth shut.” Paul glared at the idiots in front of him. “We didn’t come to make trouble but your men are impossible.”

“This little tart and this young whippersnapper are both responsible for this mess.” Sally points at Joe. “He’s the one that helped her escape.”

“AND HE WAS RIGHT!”

Roy Coffee stepped through the swinging doors with his rifle in tow. The look on his face shows everyone he is not a happy man.   “Don’t you think it’s a little early in the day for a brawl? Everyone stay put. That’s enough now.” He looks at Tyson and tells him to give his friends a hand.  “Doc, would you take a look at them?”

“Yes. As I was saying, I’m a doctor and I will treat them even if I do think they got what they deserved.”

Roy steps up and hands Sally a paper. “I want you to read this.”  Sally glances over the contents and appears to be frightened.  “You know with this information, I can close down this saloon.  Ben Cartwright has informed me that you have hired an underage girl.  Is this true?”

“Yes it’s true, but I didn’t force her to sign. That was her decision.  She agreed. She may have you all fooled.  She looks like a frightened little virgin but I don’t believe it for a minute. I think she’s a tiger…”

“Sally please, that’s enough.  Article 1843 means you had intentions of employing a minor.”

“Hey wait a minute.  I didn’t know.  She looked older.  Don’t you believe me sheriff?”

“Give her back the contract then I will believe you.”

Sally leaves to get the contract and returns to hand it to Roy.  Roy then hands it to Candle. “Here you go miss. I know Ben Cartwright is waiting for you,  you will destroy this contract in his presence. ?

“I will gladly do that sheriff.”

Candle closes her eyes and I know what she is thinking.

“Ok, that’s it. Sally, no complaints about the mess?”

“No sheriff, my men will clean up and pay the damages out of their next paycheck.”

“That’s a real good idea.”  Roy turns his attention to Joe, “You ok?”

“Yes sir.”

“I wouldn’t want to be there when Ben sees your face boy.”

“Mmmm”

“Sheriff,” Paul said, “I’m going to head out to the Ponderosa with Joe and Candle. I want to talk to Ben.” He puts his arm around Joe’s shoulder. “Don’t worry boy,” he smiled.

“I’m not worried now doc.  Candle has torn up the contract and that what’s important.  Pa will understand.  I told him I would do what needed to be done to help her.”

Dr. Martin takes his buggy and Candle and I take mine. She has the contract clutched in her hand. She is happy and she is smiling with delight.

“I’m so happy Joe. I feel so liberated and carefree,” smiled Candle.’

“Maybe I should tie you down to the buggy before you fly off,” Joe laughed. “You see Candle I knew all along that you didn’t belong there. A pretty girl like you doesn’t deserve that kind of life. Now you have choices.”

“Without you, I wouldn’t shouldn’t exist any more.”

“Oh don’t say that Candle, I only did what I could.”

“It’s much more that that Joe, very much. It’s because of you that I see this beautiful landscape which would have been ugly to me before.

“You have no more worries now. You are free to do whatever it is you want. Promise me Candle, no more talk of that contract or that saloon.”

“Yes sir Mr. Cartwright.”

“Please Candle, not Mr. Cartwright. That’s my father and I really don’t want to think about him right now.”

“Are you scared of him Joe? He is not a bear you know.”

“You’re right. He’s worse. When he yells at me with that deep powerful voice even the bears run with their tails between their legs. Now you know why there are no bears on the Ponderosa. He’s scared them all away.”

“That’s not true.”

“It’s no joke. My brother and I got rid of any bears that Pa didn’t scare off. Hoss even fought with one.”

“And who won?”

“Guess,” he laughed. “It takes an awful mad creature to measure up to my brother. I think the bear was about a goner and Hoss just gave him a slap against the head and he was down. That’s because my brother has hands the size of shovels.”

“Joe, you are incredible. You always know how to make me laugh.”

“Well, I just hope I can find the words that will make my father laugh. He warned me about getting into trouble in town before you and I left.”

“In some ways you succeeded. You put those three scoundrels in their place and they are the ones that have to pay for the damages, not you. That a good thing right?”

“I’m not sure my father will see it that way. He asked me not to get into that kind of situation and I went ahead and did it anyway. He won’t see it the same way you do.”

We continue talking on the ride back to the ranch. The doc is next to us in his buggy and looks at the two of us from time to time and turns the corners of his mouth into a smile for Candle.

When we finally arrive at the Ponderosa I draw up the brake and jump out of the buggy. I hold out my hands out to help Candle down. She never lets go of that paper. She can’t wait to wave it infront of my father.

“Ah, you’re finally home,” Pa says as he comes out the front door followed by Adam, Hoss and Thai Lee.

Candle lets me know that she wants to be the one to tell everyone.

“Mr. Cartwright. I am so sorry we are late. I is all my doing that we ended up in town all day.”

Paul stepped up and extended his hand to his long time friend. “I can vouch for these two young people.”

Ben reached out to Paul, “I’m glad to see you to Paul but does it have something to do with this young man?”

“It is one of the reasons for my visit and I will fill you in on everything Ben.”

“Well come on in. You all must need a drink and then you can stay for dinner.”

Pa opens a bottle of champagne and I am quite curious. He looks at Paul, “You want to tell us now why you are here?”

“If you don’t mind doctor,” says Candle feeling a little intimidated and holding the paper behind her back. “Mr. Cartwright, I remember what you said to me when I left wearing this dress. I am proud to say that I have the contract and I owe it all to Joe and the doctor.”

She hands the paper over to Pa and he takes a quick look and raises his head. He is happy and deeply relieved.

“Now Mr. Cartwright, I hope that I am worthy in your opinion to wear that dress.”

Pa doesn’t answer immediately but his smile is more than a yes. He takes Candle and pulls her to him and hugs her with all his heart.

“My dear Candle. Not only are you worthy of that dress, but you will carry it magnificently. You are as extraordinary as the one who wore it before you. It is made of silk and that’s what you deserve, a precious cloth, as precious as you. Don’t you believe me?”

I see a tear running down her cheek. It is her answer and in a voice filled with sobs, she answers,”Then Mr. Cartwright I am going to do something that you only dreamt of seeing. I am going to tear up this contract in front of you as the sheriff asked me to.”

“Thank you Candle.”

She starts ripping immediately. She has it torn into sixteen pieces and is throwing them into the hearth. Scraps of paper are burning fast in the FIRE.

“The saloon Candle doesn’t exist any more…”

She can be proud of herself. She moves to stand next to me and her demeanor has completely changed. There is no more sadness in her eyes and her look is more determined.

“Well, can we have that drink now? We have something to celebrate. Hoss and Thai Lee are going to be married.”

“Married! You big brother?”

I jump like a little kid and throw myself on my brother, He holds me like it’s nothing and I grab him in a headlock.

“I can’t believe it Hoss! I am so happy the two of you!”

I pull Thai Lee to me and give her a big hug.

“Thanks little brother, but do you think you can stay out of trouble. That eye don’t look too good Joe,”Hoss chuckled. “The wedding is coming up soon.”

“Are you going to tell us what happened?” said my nosey eldest brother.

That was the question I was waiting for but not from Adam. He always has to play ‘Pa’ in these situations. Pa is sometimes not very understanding but Adam is worse.

“Well you see…I went to Sally’s saloon to get the contract and her henchmen were offending Candle with their snide comments.”

Paul stepped in again, “Joe’s right Ben. He didn’t have a cloice in the matter and had to defend the young ladies honor.”

“Well then younger brother,” Adam started and bowed slightly at his waist to Joe, ” I want to congratulate you.”

“Not necessary. I just did what needed to be done.”

“Well Joseph, you have your brother and his fiancee to thank. I don’t want to spoil just a cheerful moment. When you finish your champagne you can go put your horse away and muck out the barn.”

“Yessir.”

As I head out to the barn I am so relieved that Candle has been saved from the saloon. Hoss has been saved from celibacy and I have been saved from a good tanning. All is for the best under the full moon above the Ponderosa. For me, this is the best place in the world. Paul is probably in the house telling everyone how Candle helped him deliver a baby today. I think Candle has a bright future in front of her starting with happiness and friendship.

End of Part One – Part two has not been translated from French into English.

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