Summary: Is Adam really facing the prospect of an arranged marriage?
Rating: K+ (5,270 words)
Cartwright Identity Crisis
Adam sank down on the porch steps, his legs having given way beneath him at his father’s words. “What did you just say?” he asked hoarsely.
Ben looked at his son who was staring wide-eyed as though he’d just been handed a death sentence. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. “It’s not as bad as all that, Adam. Don’t be so melodramatic.”
“Melodramatic? Are you kidding me? I’m not doing it, Pa. I mean it. I’m not two years old, and you can’t make me.”
“No, you’re not two years old, Adam. That’s precisely the problem. You’re not getting any younger.”
“Isn’t that the truth. I just aged twenty years in the last five minutes!”
“Look, it’s all arranged. You’ll just have to accept it.”
Adam’s face darkened as his mood changed from shock to anger. “Why does it have to be me? Why can’t it be Joe? This is right up his alley. He’d be happy to do it.”
Joe’s eyes grew wide at his older brother’s words. “Oh no you don’t, Adam. Don’t even think of pawning this off on me. If you can’t face the thought of it, give it to Hoss.”
“Huh?” Hoss started in surprise. “Nope. Pa says it’s up to Adam, and anyway, he’s the one Mr Baker specifically asked for. He’s the one with the college education.”
Ben ignored the comments of his two youngest boys, his attention still on his eldest. “Adam. I have given you thirty-four years to do this on your own. You have failed to manage it. Therefore, as your father, I’ve decided to take this into my own hands.”
Adam tried a different tack. “Don’t you want me to be happy, Pa?”
“Yes. Of course, I do. Every father wants their child to be happy. And I can tell you from personal experience, that nothing brings a man greater happiness than a wife and children.”
Adam dropped his head into his hands. An arranged marriage with the daughter of a new acquaintance of his father’s. The horror was just too much to take in.
“Adam,” Ben laid a hand gently on his son’s shoulder. “She’s a delightful girl. Bright, intelligent, educated. You’ll make a lovely couple. Besides, she’s the only daughter of a very wealthy businessman. Financially, this will give you a nice start in life.”
“Why do I need money? We already have the Ponderosa!” One of Adam’s jobs was balancing the monthly accounts, and he knew their cattle ranch to be solidly profitable.
“Yes, but you boys don’t inherit that until I die.”
“That contingency may come sooner than you think,” Adam riposted nastily.
Ben’s eyes narrowed. “You need to learn to be more restrained in your comments, Boy.”
“I am being restrained!” Adam snapped. “You ought to hear what I’m thinking!” Suddenly a new notion struck him, and he looked up at his father in suspicion. “You say you met Mr Baker last time you went to Sacramento? You two came up with this plan two months ago, and you never said a word to me in all that time?”
Ben snorted. “Of course not. If I had told you as soon as I got home, you would have had two months to flee the Territory. I wasn’t about to take that chance. Now, Jason Baker and his daughter will be arriving on the stage this afternoon. Go hitch up the buggy and get cleaned up. Then head into town to pick them up.” He looked once more at his eldest son, noting the pallor beneath the deep summer tan. “Hoss, I want you and Little Joe to accompany your brother to town. Make sure he gets there. I don’t want him taking any sudden detours to Europe.” With that, he turned and walked into the house, leaving his three stunned children in his wake.
Joe and Hoss sank down on either side of their stricken brother.
“We’re awful sorry ’bout this, Adam,” Hoss offered.
“Look, maybe she won’t like you…” Joe put forth helpfully. “Maybe she’ll think you’re a grouch.”
Adam shot his brother a sideways glare. “Thanks a lot.”
“Well, it’s just that you…” Joe broke off at the look on his brother’s face. He cleared his throat. “Come on, Hoss, let’s go hitch up the buggy.”
In no time, the boys found themselves on the road to Virginia City, Joe driving the four-seater buggy, Adam sitting beside him and Hoss riding alongside. The three were silent, each lost in his own thoughts. When they arrived outside the stagecoach office, Adam pulled himself slowly from the buggy, his tread heavy, his mood black. He was just savoring a mental picture of his father at the church altar reciting “I do” with Widow Hawkins at his side, when the sound of the coming stage diverted his attention. Instinctively, he tried to make a quick bolt for the saloon on the other side of the street, but Hoss grabbed him by the collar and stopped him.
“I’m real sorry ’bout this, Adam, but I cain’t face Pa if’n I let you escape. So you’re just gonna hafta stay put and confront th’ inevitable.”
Adam’s shoulders sagged, and he waited, along with his younger brothers, off to the side, as the door to the stagecoach opened. A well-dressed gentleman with gray hair alighted and looked about himself with satisfaction. He caught sight of the three boys and gave them an assessing glance before turning back to help a young lady out of the stage. She was about twenty-two, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was perfectly ordinary looking, except, perhaps, for rather more nose than was conventional for a head her size.
Adam took a deep breath, shuddered involuntarily, and stepped forward. “Mr Jason Baker, I presume?” He turned to the lady. “Miss Madeline? I’m…” He broke off as he caught sight of the look of pity on Little Joe’s face, and suddenly remembered his near-marriage to Abigail Jones, all due to his younger brother’s incessant interference in other people’s lives. Sudden inspiration struck and he smiled broadly. “I’m Joe Cartwright. This is my brother, Hoss. But, of course, it’s not the two of us you’ve come to see.” He gestured towards Little Joe. “May I present Adam Cartwright?”
“What?” Joe and Hoss yelped in unison.
Adam smiled again at the Bakers. “Will you excuse us a moment, please? I forgot to mention some slight item of business to my brothers. Just take a moment. Then we can gather your belongings and return to the ranch to get you settled in. Do forgive us.” He took each of his brothers by the arm and dragged them out of the Bakers’ earshot.
“Adam,” Joe began, angrily. “What you think you’re doin’?”
Adam looked affronted. “Well, I thought I was doing you a favor. I saw the way you were looking at her with those big puppy-dog eyes. I could tell you were interested in her, so I thought I’d do the gentlemanly thing and step aside and give you a chance.”
“That ain’t it, and you know it! You just don’t wanna marry up with her. So you’re stickin’ me with the task of spending time with her, and talking to her, and I’ll end up marryin’ her. Well, I ain’t doin’ it! Besides, ain’t no way in a million years I’d pretend to be you! I’d die first!”
“You will so, do it. Or I’ll tell Pa what I caught you doing at the saloon Saturday night.”
Joe let out a squeak of terror at the thought, and lapsed into silence.
Hoss looked from one brother to another, curiously. “Just what did Little Joe do this time?”
“Let’s just say perhaps we should have named him Little Josephine.”
Hoss’ eyes widened as he stared askance at his little brother. “Joe?” he asked hesitantly.
Joe flushed. “I didn’t have no money for a beer, and I just figured if I was a gal, maybe someone or other would treat me…” he said in a sullen, subdued tone. He broke off at the look of astonishment on his brother’s face.
Hoss managed to tear his mind away from the peculiar way his little brother spent his Saturday nights, and quickly took up where Joe had left off, protecting his little brother from his impending and unwelcome wedding. “Adam, you best not to be tryin’ this. Pa’ll be right sore when I tell him what you done.”
“You’re not going to tell him.”
“Oh, yes I am, too. You cain’t do this to Little Joe!”
“Hoss. You remember last Sunday when Hop Sing spent all those hours making that apple pie and all those powdered doughnuts for the church picnic? And remember how, when you were carrying them out to the buckboard, one of his pigs got out of the pen and ran into you, knocking everything out of your hands and into the dirt where they were all ruined?”
Hoss looked at his brother warily. “Yeah…”
“How do you suppose Hop Sing would react if I mentioned to him how that never actually happened, and how, in point of fact, I saw you eat all that pie and all those doughnuts yourself? You think he’d quit? Or just make sure to burn every meal for the next month?”
Hoss winced as he thought of the diminutive cook raging in one of his famous tempers. He glared at his brother. “That’s blackmail.”
Adam smiled sweetly. “Yes. Isn’t it? Now, let’s go get the Bakers, and head back to the ranch.”
The three boys returned to the stage, Adam in front, Little Joe and Hoss slowly bringing up the rear. Adam smiled at the Bakers.
“I understand my father met you in Sacramento and was quite impressed. And, of course, he hasn’t stopped extolling the virtues of your lovely daughter since his return. I see he didn’t come close to doing her justice.” Adam beamed gallantly at Madeline before continuing. “And, of course, Adam’s been counting the days until you arrived. We’ve barely been able to keep him still.”
Joe produced a faint, sick smile and remained silent.
Mr Baker turned to Joe and held out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, young man. I must say, you’re younger than I expected. Your father mentioned that you’d returned from college several years ago, so I was expecting someone older.”
“Oh yes,” Adam replied, as Joe remained speechless. “Well, Pa doesn’t like to brag, of course, but Adam here finished college at a remarkably young age. Around these parts the name ‘Adam Cartwright’ is synonymous with absolute brilliance. And integrity and good character, too, of course,” he added cheerfully.
“I’m pleased indeed to hear it, Mr Cartwright. Aren’t you, my dear?” he asked his daughter. “Madeline attended finishing school in Paris, you know, and is used to the company of only the finest sorts of people,” he told Adam. He turned back to Joe. “Your father mentioned that you’re fluent in French. That will be so nice. I never know what she’s saying when she starts jabbering away. The two of you seem so well-matched.”
“Yes,” Joe replied faintly. “Yes, isn’t that wonderful.”
The boys retrieved the Bakers’ bags and got them settled into the buggy, Joe driving with Madeline at his side, her father and Adam taking up the backseat, and Hoss again riding alongside. Mr Baker and Adam chatted amiably throughout the trip, and Adam took great pains to point out items of interest on the ranch as they drove to the house. Mr Baker was greatly pleased at the wealth of the family his daughter would be marrying into, and Madeline, herself, seemed overjoyed at the magnificent beauty of the Ponderosa. Yes, she thought to herself, she could be happy here. Of the four in the buggy, only Joe remained silent.
When at last they pulled into the yard, Ben strode out to meet the guests. He attempted to have Adam accompany Madeline into the house, but he and his brothers insisted on seeing to the luggage first. After their father had returned to the house, visitors in tow, Joe and Hoss turned on Adam.
“So now what, Genius? Now what’re we gonna do when Pa calls me Joe, and you Adam? We just gonna pretend be each other all night?”
“Adam, this ain’t gonna work. You can see that. And Joe don’t wanna marry up with that gal nohow.”
Joe agreed strongly with this. “That’s right, I don’t!”
“Why not, Joe? I can see the way you’ve been looking at her. Could hardly keep your eyes off her all the way home!”
“It wasn’t her I was looking at. It was her nose.”
Adam shook his head disapproving. “That’s a very shallow view, Joe.”
“It ain’t just the nose, is it Joe?” Hoss added. “Remember what Pa said? He said she writes poetry!”
Joe blanched at that. He simply couldn’t live with a wife who wrote and then recited poetry. He had already had twenty-two years of that from Adam. And while throwing dirt clods at Adam to shut him up was frequently successful, he didn’t suppose he could do that to a woman. Just wouldn’t be right.
“Look,” Adam said. “I’ll think of something. Just go along with it for now. When someone says ‘Adam’ just answer.”
Joe glowered. “Don’t either of you ever tell nobody I answered to ‘Adam’,” he told them. “I have a reputation to maintain.” He ducked Adam’s attempt to smack him, and, grabbing a couple bags, entered the house.
Hoss shook his head as he looked at his older brother. “Hope you know what yer doin’ Adam, ’cause Pa don’t like bein’ crossed.”
He gathered the rest of the luggage and entered the house, leaving Adam to see to the horses and buggy. When Adam entered the house, he found his fathers and brother in the great room. The Bakers, he discovered, were in their rooms freshening up for supper. Ben smiled at his oldest son.
“So, Adam. Not such a bad deal after all, is it? I know the two of you will be very happy.” He patted his son on the back, distinctly pleased with himself.
“Yes Pa,” Adam replied dutifully. He continued to mull over the plan that had begun to form in his mind.
The Bakers joined the Cartwrights and they all sat down at the table. Defying convention, Adam sat next to his intended, Madeline, and across from Hoss and Joe where he could keep a close eye on them. Jason Baker sat opposite Ben.
They started with wine, and Ben made a toast. “To the successfully blending of families,” he said, cheerfully. “To the young couple.”
Jason, Ben, and Hoss all raised their glasses and drank. Madeline, Adam, and Joe did not. Ben noticed that Joe neglected to join in the toast. He turned to him.
“Don’t you wish your brother and his fiancée the best of happiness, Joseph?”
“Yes, Pa,” Adam and Joe chorused, each raising their glass to one another.
Ben shot Adam a puzzled glance but ignored his son’s odd behavior, and they began to eat.
“So, Jason, have you given any thought to when we should have the wedding? I don’t see any reason to wait, now that it’s settled. You know, there’s a piece of land that Adam’s always been particularly partial to. If Adam and Madeline drew up some plans for a house, we could have it built while they’re on their honeymoon. What do you think of that, my dear?” he asked Madeline.
Madeline smiled at Joe. “That sounds wonderful. Perhaps Adam could take me out and show me the land where we’ll be living.”
“Of course, he will. Won’t you, Adam?”
“Yessir,” Joe replied.
Ben frowned. “Really son. Your brother can speak for himself.”
Adam and Joe exchanged a look. They both nodded silently at their father.
Jason changed the subject, eager to learn more about his future son-in-law. He looked at Joe. “So tell me, young man. What were your marks like in school? I understand you did amazingly well.”
Ben snorted with laughter at the thought. “Well, the less said on that subject, the better,” he replied. “And let’s not even go into his deportment.”
Jason frowned. “I understood Adam to be a brilliant scholar.”
Ben nodded proudly. “Oh, he is. Always was the brightest student in the class. Every one of his teachers was astonished. Perfect marks every time. Even at Harvard he was at the top of his class.”
Jason gave Ben a bemused look. “But his behavior was improper?”
Ben looked horrified. He knew Adam was strongly opposed to the whole arranged-marriage idea and had no desire to see it occur. What might he have said on the ride home? Had the boy mentioned the episode where he’d broken into the schoolhouse on the weekend, and nailed all the furniture to the ceiling? Good Lord.
“Adam never received even one poor mark in deportment,” Ben replied carefully. After all, they’d never proven it was Adam who had done it. Even Ben and his leather belt had never been able to get his son to confess.
Jason looked at Ben in confusion. “But I thought you just told me…”
Adam interrupted. “Uh, Madeline. I understand that you’ve just returned from finishing school. I’m sure we’d all love to hear what you most enjoyed studying.”
Madeline turned to Adam, eager to make a good impression on her future brother-in-law. “Well, aside from Poetry, primarily the Romantics,” she flashed Joe a winning smile, “Mathematics and Philosophy, I suppose.” She turned to Joe. “Are you fond of René Descartes?”
Joe blinked at her for a moment. “Um…I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her…”
Adam choked into his glass. “More wine!” he called out cheerfully, once he was able to speak. He refilled everyone’s glass, kindly pouring Joe a particularly large portion, which he downed at once.
Ben frowned at Joe. He didn’t want Madeline and her father to think she was about to marry into a family who couldn’t crawl out of the bottle. “Easy there, Little Joe. Sip it, don’t gulp it.”
“Yessir, I’ll remember that,” Adam replied, his eyes on his plate.
Ben turned exasperated eyes on his eldest. “Adam, how many times have I asked you not to run interference for your brothers?”
“I forget, Pa,” Little Joe answered.
“Forget what?” Ben asked, perplexed.
“I forget how many times you ask me not to run interference.”
Ben snorted with humor. “Joseph, I’ve never had a need to tell you that. Adam’s the one with that particular fault, not you.”
Adam stole a quick glance at Jason and winced at the look on his face. This meal wasn’t going quite as well as he’d hoped. He pushed his food nervously around his plate, casting his mind around for a new subject to introduce.
“Perhaps you could recite us some poetry after supper, Madeline?” he tried. He caught the looks of mute fury on the faces of his younger brothers and studiously ignored them.
Jason smiled with obvious pride. “That’s a wonderful idea! Madeline is quite the poetess. Of course, much of her poetry is romantic,” he winked at Joe, “so I suspect she might like to recite it to Adam in private.”
Adam smirked at his brother. “I’m sure Adam would enjoy that,” he said smugly, relishing seeing Joe squirm.
Ben frowned anew. “Adam, why are you speaking about yourself in the third person?”
“Did I say something, Pa?” Joe asked quickly.
“Joseph, I wasn’t talking to you. What is the matter with the two of you tonight?”
“Nothing, Pa,” Adam replied.
Ben shook his head. “Well, if you two are done clowning around, perhaps we could repair to the living room for after-dinner coffee.”
They rose, and gathered before the fire in the great room. All three boys were desperately trying to think of a way to flee.
“I gotta do the barn chores, Pa,” Hoss volunteered, practically careening out the door.
Ben raised a hand to him as he disappeared. He turned to Joe. “Why don’t you go help your brother.”
“Yessir,” Joe answered in delight, and made for the door.
Jason frowned. “Now just a moment, young man. Surely your brothers can manage without you, for one night. Madeline should be your primary concern tonight.”
Adam and Joe exchanged a worried look.
“I’ll go,” Adam tried.
“Absolutely not,” Ben told him firmly. “You’ll stay right here and visit. Joe, go out to the barn.”
Adam turned and headed obediently for the door.
“Adam, get back here,” Ben roared, finally at his wit’s end with his boys.
“But you just said…”
“Yes Pa?” Joe and Adam chorused.
Ben threw up his hands and turned to his guests. “I apologize for my sons’ behavior. It must be the excitement of the impending nuptials that has them acting so oddly.” He turned back to his boys and hissed at them under his breath. “Both of you, go out to the barn, hitch up the buggy and Adam, you take Madeline for a moonlight view of the lake. Joseph, you help Hoss finish the chores.”
“Yessir,” the two chorused once more and headed out the door, leaving their father to smile weakly at their guests.
All the way to the barn the two argued.
“Yeah, this is working really well, Adam. Look, we can’t keep this up. I’m going to go back inside and tell them the truth!”
“You do, and you know what’ll happen,” Adam warned. Joe remembered the saloon incident and shrank back in fear. “Look, Joe, just take Madeline for a ride. I’m working on a plan.”
“I can’t take her for a ride. There’s not room enough in the buggy for me, her, and the nose!”
“JOE! I mean it. You take her out, or you might as well dig your grave right now. You know Pa’ll skin you alive when he finds out what you did!”
Joe sighed and nodded. Then he glared. “This better be a dang good plan, Adam!” he warned, as he left to hitch up the buggy.
Adam returned to the house and stood just inside the door, surveying the three sitting in the great room staring silently at one another, the silence obviously strained. He cleared his throat, then spoke. “It’s a lovely night for a ride. I should think there aren’t two people in the world that would enjoy a ride more than a newly-engaged couple.” He looked at Madeline. “My brother is hitching up the buggy. Would you care for a look at the lake by moonlight?”
Madeline nodded happily. She thought of her intended’s curly brown hair and big green eyes. Yes, a moonlight ride would just fit the bill. She took Adam’s proffered arm and departed with both Jason and Ben looking happily after them.
Adam led her to the buggy and waved goodbye to a delighted Madeline and a sullen Joe. Then he moved back to the porch and sat at the table. Soon Jason came out of the house, carrying two cups of coffee. Ben had challenged him to a game of chess, but Jason had been nonplussed at the man’s behavior all night and wished to question one of his boys about him. He was delighted to find Adam sitting on the porch, and immediately joined him, offering him one of the cups of coffee, which Adam gladly accepted.
Jason cleared his throat occasionally, as though he wanted to approach some delicate subject, but was unable to figure out how. Finally he spoke.
“Uh, Joseph…your father. I don’t mean to step on any toes here, but his behavior…”
Adam nodded cheerfully. “I know, Mr Baker. He’s really having a good day, today, isn’t he?”
“A good day? But it seemed to me that he kept getting you and your brother mixed up!”
Adam laughed. “Oh that’s nothing. On some days, he gets himself and Hoss mixed up. On his bad days…” Adam broke off and shook his head sadly.
Jason looked appalled. “But why?”
Adam spread his hands beseechingly. “Well, of course, under the circumstances, you have to expect it.”
Jason started. “Circumstances? What circumstances?”
Adam frowned and sipped at his coffee. “Pa didn’t tell you?” Then he looked abashed. “Of course, he wouldn’t. He does so want Adam to marry well. And he doesn’t really understand he has a problem, anyway, which makes it that much harder.”
Jason narrowed his eyes. “Just what’s wrong with him?”
Adam flapped his hand disinterestedly. “He’s insane, of course. Runs in the family. Pa’s onset was rather late, fortunately, so he was able to manage quite a bit of productive work before his mind went. Built the Ponderosa. Much better than poor Augustus Cartwright. ‘Useless Uncle Gussie’ the family called him. Not really fair to name him that, honestly. He had a much more fertile mind than a lot of other family members did. I remember Pa talking about an uncle of his. According to Pa, everyone always called him Mad Monty. Used to think he was a fish, and everyone was always having to rescue him from drowning in the pond.” Adam propped his chin on his hand as he stared reflectively into the night. “Then there was Great-Auntie Bertha.” Adam laughed. “That’s always been a favorite family story. She used to wander around the hills at night in her nightclothes claiming she was General Washington about to cross the Delaware. Then, on one of her evening sojourns she met a man who was convinced he was King George III.” Adam frowned suddenly. “Actually, that didn’t turn out so well…”
Jason was listening to Adam’s recitations with mounting horror. “But…surely not all the Cartwrights are mad.”
Adam shrugged. “Well, I guess maybe not. I mean there are always kooks that don’t turn out like everyone else in every family, aren’t there? But most of us are destined to become barking loons.” Adam brightened then. “My brother Adam is drawing up plans for an insane asylum right here on the Ponderosa. You ought to get him to show you the layout. It’s really wonderful. He’s very talented, you know. He’s going to make sure we each have our own cells with plenty of light and air. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Adam, I probably should mention to you that when you go introducing him to people, he prefers the sobriquet ‘Sir Adam’. I’m sure he won’t expect you to stand on ceremony, you being family and all, but it’s best to remember when introducing him to others. You can understand his feelings, as it was King Arthur himself who knighted Adam a while back.”
“But your father never mentioned any of this…”
“Well, of course, he’s a proud man. Doesn’t like to air the family laundry in public. Add to that the fact that he’s convinced that he’s escaped the family curse, and you can see why this might be a touchy subject for him.” Adam frowned. “Of course, he’s getting worse. I keep telling Adam that we’re going to have to start building that asylum pretty soon. Pa’s taken to having dizzy spells lately. At first he attributed them to that fall from his horse, but now he pretends he never fell at all, and just denies he has any dizzy spells, even when he’s having one.” Adam took a sad sip of coffee. “It’s not easy to see a brilliant mind deteriorate so badly. He used to be nearly as bright as Adam, you know, but now…” Adam sighed, the thought of his father sitting in an asylum slowly losing what remained of his mind clearly affected him. Then he brightened. “Still, we boys have a while to go before…”
Jason stared, horrified. Just then Ben came out of the house and found his eldest son, whom he’d been convinced was still out riding with Madeline, companionably sipping coffee with Jason.
“Where’s Madeline?” Ben asked, perplexed.
“Out riding,” Adam replied nonchalantly.
“Well, why aren’t you with her? She can get lost all alone,” Ben snapped.
“Oh, it’s fine, Ben, your son Adam is with her,” Jason assured the man.
Ben stared at the man. “No he’s not. You can see Adam’s sitting right here in front of you.”
Adam gave Jason a nearly imperceptible wink. Jason nodded his understanding, and changed the subject. “Won’t you sit down with us?”
Ben smiled at him, despite how angry he was at his son for ignoring Madeline. “Thank you.”
Just as he began to sit, Adam pushed Ben’s chair back with his foot, moving his own chair at the same time to cover the noise. Ben attempted to sit, but as there was no longer a chair under him, he fell heavily to the porch.
“Pa!” Adam cried out, jumping up to help up his father. “What happened? Dizzy spell?”
“Certainly not. I must have misjudged the distance. I don’t have dizzy spells.”
“Of course you don’t,” Adam replied soothingly.
Jason looked at Ben worriedly. “Ben, if you have these sorts of spells often, you might want to see a physician. Falls from a horse can be dangerous.”
Ben stared at Jason in confusion. “I haven’t fallen from a horse.”
Jason looked at Adam who was standing behind his father after having hauled him back to his feet. Adam shook his head sadly, and Jason pursed his lips.
“Uh, Ben, I hope you don’t think I’m intruding into a family matter, but as we’re soon to be related, I think it might be acceptable. Doctors are much better at treating the kind of problems that seems to plague your family then they used to be. Perhaps…”
“What problems?” Ben asked in bewilderment.
“Well, I hope you don’t think I was being forward, but Joe filled me in, and…”
“Just what did that scamp tell you? Where is he? When I get my hands on him…”
“Ben he’s right behind you!”
Ben turned, looking behind Adam for his recalcitrant youngest son. “Where?”
“Right there!” Jason exploded.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t see him…”
It was the end. Jason stormed into the house, and up to his room. He packed his and his daughter’s things and began to carry them back down. Adam helpfully offered his services, and just as Joe and Madeline returned from their ride, the Bakers were ready to go. Jason practically threw Joe out of the buggy, and threw the baggage in.
“That’s it!” he shouted at Ben. “There is no way I’m allowing my daughter to marry your son! Get yourself some help if you like, but you and your boys just stay away from us! I’ll leave the buggy in town. Good-bye!”
He slapped the reins, causing the horse to take off at a fast run. The four Cartwrights stood on the porch and watched, openmouthed, as the buggy disappeared behind the barn.
“What on earth was all that?” Ben asked in astonishment.
“You know, Pa, I don’t like to gossip,” Adam began, “but Mr Baker was just telling me. Insanity runs very strongly in his family. Probably just as well I didn’t marry the girl, don’t you think?”
Ben nodded, aghast, reflecting on the near-miss his son had just suffered. “Boys, I promise. From now on, no more matchmaking for me.” He turned and walked back into the house, quietly shutting the door behind him.
Other Stories by this Author
- The Murder of Little Joe Cartwright (by ChristyG)
- Joe’s Dilemma (by ChristyG)
- Life’s Lessons (by ChristyG)