The Marriage of True Minds Part 2 (by Deborah)

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Series: Adam in the Outback (12 of 16)

Summary: This is the twelfth story in my “Adam in the Outback” series. Part 2 takes place during 1896 through 1898.

Rating: T  WC  47,000

Adam In The Outback Series:

My True Love Hath My Heart – Part 1
My True Love Hath My Heart – Part 2
My True Love Hath My Heart – Part 3
Family Reunion
Cartwright is the Name
A Son and Heir
The Country of the Heart
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 1
To Bloom in Another Man’s Garden – Part 2
In Memoriam
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 1
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 2
The Marriage of True Minds – Part 3
The Joys of Parents
Grow Old Along with Me
The Best is Yet to Be

Not part of the Adam in the Outback Series, but set in the same realm:

The Adventure of the Gooseberry Pie Eating Bear
O’Tannenbaum

 

As always, I want to thank Larkspur1 and Vickie Batzka for reading draft copies of this story. Their help is invaluable. I must also thank Lissa Brown for generously allowing me to reference events in her WHN: Vengeance.

In this series of stories beginning with My True-Love Hath My Heart, I have used the events set forth in the Bonanza sequels, The Return and Under Attack as my foundation. (If Adam ended up in Australia, there had to be a reason, and if he had a son, A.C., then he must have had a wife and he might have had daughters.) In this story I am about to deviate from the sequels in one important respect. In The Return Sarah tells her cousin that Joe died in the Spanish American War. I’m sorry, but in my opinion for Joe, who was in his fifties, to leave the Ponderosa to go fight a war in Cuba was out of character. I think he would have been astute enough to recognize how the American public was being pushed into an imperialistic war by the yellow journalism of William R. Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. Therefore, in this story, Joe is alive and well and living on the Ponderosa in 1898.

Note:
I realize in at least one episode it is stated that Joe was born in the ranch house; however, in The Philip Deidesheimer Story it is stated that Adam designed the ranch house. As I wrote in my stories, A Gentleman and a Scholar and Veritas, in the face of contradiction, I choose to believe Adam designed the ranch house when he returned from college and Joe was born in the Cartwrights’ original home on the Ponderosa.

 

The Marriage of True Minds – #2

Chapter 1
“That’s a beautiful moon,” Adam Cartwright said to his wife, Bronwen, as they walked back to their stateroom after saying goodnight to their ten-year-old son and tucking him in bed. Adam was over a foot taller than Bronwen so as they walked together, he had an arm about her shoulders while she put an arm around his waist, and he consciously shortened his stride to match hers. “Do you want to go to bed now, or would you like to take a stroll in the moonlight?”

“I think I’d like to take a stroll in the moonlight if a certain handsome gentleman would care to accompany me,” she replied with a smile.

“He’d be a fool to turn down an invitation from such a lovely lady,” he said, returning her smile. They walked along in silence until he said thoughtfully, “You’re awfully quiet.”

“I was just thinking how wonderful it will be to see Pa and Joe again and imagining the look on Pa’s face when he sees his great-grandchildren,” she replied.

“I am so thankful Dafydd offered to let Beth and the children come with us,” he added. “It will mean so much to Pa to see Elen and Huw.”

“We are fortunate to have such a kind, generous son-in-law,” she said with a smile.

“I don’t think I could have been that generous,” he replied thoughtfully. “Six months is a long time to be separated. Those six to eight week long roundtrips between Sydney and Cloncurry were hard enough to bear.”

“They were hard on me as well,” she said softly, and he squeezed her shoulders affectionately. “But Beth hasn’t seen her sister for five years.”

“Not to mention she didn’t want to miss the chance to be her Matron of Honor,” he added. “We’ll just have to keep her so busy she doesn’t have much time to miss Dafydd.”

She smiled at that and shook her head. “Beth will manage. At least her husband isn’t going off to war and she doesn’t have to worry about never seeing him again.”

“I am appalled that there is a good chance McKinley will declare war on Spain, using the sinking of the Maine as a pretext,” he said somberly. “There is no proof the Spanish government was involved. It could have been the work of Cuban insurgents. The most likely situation is that the ship blew up because of an internal explosion.”

“If the United States does go to war, surely bringing independence to Cuba is a good cause,” she said tentatively.

“Oh yes, very noble except I think what’s behind this war is a desire to acquire colonies for an American empire,” he said cynically. “But I don’t want to waste such a beautiful night talking about war and politics. I’d rather think how wonderful it will be when our family is reunited in Boston.”

“Yes,” she replied, hugging him. “It will be marvelous when we’re all together as a family even if only for a few weeks. And I’m looking forward to meeting our prospective son-in-law. I fancy one who’s a professor at a prestigious college.”

“Bit of a snob, are you?” he said teasingly and she grinned. “From everything Miranda has written as well as Pa and even Joe, I’m sure we’ll both like him. And I think he’s going to make Miranda as happy as Dafydd has made Beth.”

“And you’ve made me,” she said softly. He leaned down to kiss her then-a long, intimate kiss. When it ended and he straightened, he said with a wink, “I should have married a taller woman.” They both laughed softly but then he sobered and added, “Gwyneth is going to have to decide soon if our third son-in-law will be an engineer or a newspaperman.”

~~~~~

Gwyneth’s eighteenth birthday was only a week away so Adam wasn’t surprised when Douglas Campbell turned up at the office of Cartwright & Davies Mining Company one afternoon. It was not an encounter to which he’d been looking forward, however.

“I need to talk with Chynoweth,” Rhys said tactfully as he headed out the door, for he was also sure of the purpose of Douglas’ visit.

“Mr. Cartwright,” the young man began very earnestly, “I know you’re aware of my feelings for Gwyneth and since she will be eighteen in a few days, I wanted to ask your permission to propose to her.”

Adam sighed just a little. “You have my permission, Douglas, but if you don’t mind some advice, I’d wait a while before proposing.”

“I’ve waited almost two years,” the young man replied. “I won’t wait any longer.” He looked at the older man searchingly. “You don’t think she’ll have me, do you?” he asked slowly.

“I think she hasn’t made up her mind between you and Mark,” Adam answered quietly.

“That’s because she saw him again,” the younger man said bitterly. “If you hadn’t allowed her to go to Sydney . . . .” He saw the older man’s raised eyebrow and his voice trailed off.

“Mark will be returning to Cloncurry eventually and if he is the one Gwyneth truly loves, she needs to decide that before she marries you, not after.”

“If she were married to me, she’d forget all about Mark Pentreath,” the young man insisted stubbornly and Adam could only shake his head.

“We’re having a birthday supper just for the family,” he said gently. “If you want to see her, I’d come by after 8:30 that evening.”

The night, as he brushed Bronwen’s hair before they retired, he said quietly, “Douglas came to see me today.”

“Oh dear, I suppose he came to get your permission to ask Gwyneth to marry him?”

He nodded as he faced his wife in the mirror. “I tried to suggest he wait but he would have none of it. It was so different when Dafydd asked for Beth’s hand because I knew she loved him.”

“I wish Douglas would take your advice. He must know how torn she is between the two of them.”

“Beth is the one I would have expected to be in this situation, not my quiet girl,” Adam said gravely.

“I wish there was something we could do to help her,” Bronwen said sadly as they slipped between the sheets.

“But there’s not,” he replied, adding with a wry grin, “I’m glad that it will be years before A.C. will be interested in the opposite sex.”

“Too right!” Bronwen replied emphatically.

“I, on the other hand,” he said as he put his arms around her and drew her close, “am very interested in a certain member of the opposite sex,” which he proceeded to demonstrate to their mutual satisfaction.

Gwyneth’s birthday dinner was very pleasant and seventeen-month-old Elen insisted on helping “Genth” blow out her candles, much to her uncle’s amusement.

“You couldn’t even blow out the one candle on your cake, Elen,” he said smugly.

“She did just as well as you did with your first birthday cake,” his oldest sister retorted, and Gwyneth added, “She’s right, A.C. You would have stuck your fingers right in the flame if Mama hadn’t stopped you.”

Adam, who was holding his granddaughter on his lap, said, “Elen seems to have the idea now. Don’t you, Precious?” and the little girl nodded solemnly.

“Come here, Elen, and help Auntie Gwyneth blow out her candles,” Gwyneth said, holding out her hand to her niece, who wriggled off her grandpa’s lap. Together they blew out all the candles.

Dafydd and Beth left early to put Elen to bed, but the rest of the family was playing charades in the library when Mary came to tell them Mr. Douglas was here to see Miss Gwyneth.

“I suppose he bought me a gift even though I told him he shouldn’t,” she said with a sigh. “Is it all right if he joins us?”

“I think you need to talk with him in private,” Adam said quietly. They all saw the stricken expression on her face and only A.C. was clueless as to why she suddenly looked so apprehensive.

“There’s no point in putting off the inevitable,” Bronwen advised. Gwyneth nodded almost imperceptibly and left the room.

“I think it’s time we headed home,” Matilda said and Rhys concurred so they exited through the backdoor.

“It’s time you were getting ready for bed,” Bronwen told A.C.

“Will you read me a chapter of Robin Hood, Daddy?”

“I’m going to wait and talk with your sister, so Mama will read tonight, all right?”

“I guess,” the boy replied but he was obviously disappointed.

Gwyneth found Douglas waiting for her in the drawing room. “Happy birthday, darling,” he said walking toward her. “This is for you,” and he held out a small box, which she took reluctantly, for she was afraid she knew what it contained. She undid the wrappings and discovered a gold ring set with a beautiful semi-black opal.

“It’s beautiful, Douglas, but I can’t accept it.” She tried to give it back, but he captured her left hand and slid the ring on her finger before going down on one knee.

“It’s more than a birthday gift; it’s an engagement ring. Oh, Gwyneth, you are more precious to me than any jewel. I want to spend the rest of our lives showing you how much I love you. Would you do me the great honor of becoming my wife?”

“I’m sorry, Douglas, but I can’t marry you,” she said and her eyes filled with tears.

“Don’t tell me you love Mark Pentreath. You love me; I know you do.” He rose to his feet and took her in his arms and kissed her. At first she resisted, but gradually she began to return his kiss. When they broke apart, he said triumphantly, “Don’t tell me that you don’t love me.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t love you; I said I couldn’t marry you.” She stepped away and tugged the ring off her finger and put it in his large, callused hand before running from the room down the hall, leaving him alone and desolate. The despondent young man quietly left the drawing room and slipped unnoticed from the house, the box that had held the symbol of his ideal future clutched tightly in the palm of his hand.

Adam was pacing the length of the library when he heard the sound of running footsteps and strode quickly to the doorway. Gwyneth saw him, and sobbing, “Oh Daddy!” ran straight to the strong arms that had always been a refuge and comfort throughout her childhood.

He just held her at first and rubbed her back soothingly. When she cried herself out, he put an arm around her shoulders and led her to one of the comfortable brown leather chairs. He sat down and held her on his lap just as he used to do when she was very young.

“Oh, Daddy! I’m so confused,” she replied as her tears began to fall again. She laid her head against her father’s shoulder, and Adam kissed her forehead tenderly. “I know I love Mark-until I’m with Douglas. I care for them both and I don’t want to hurt either of them. How do I know which is the right man?”

He sighed. “I wish I could give you the answer, Punkin, but I’m no wiser in affairs of the heart than you are. I was around the same age you are now the first time I fell in love, and when she rejected my proposal, I was devastated. I met her years later and realized her rejection was the best thing that ever happened to me. There were one or two other times I thought I was in love, but something always prevented me from marrying the woman. A few years before I met your mama, I became involved with a young widow, who had a little daughter. Your grandpa tried to warn me that I might be more in love with the idea of being a husband and father than I was with her, but at first I refused to listen. We’d set a date and I was building a house for her and her little girl, but she fell in love with someone else and the engagement was broken. Even though I realized by then that the love I felt for her was more friendship than romantic, it still hurt. Then I met your mama and thanked God I was still unmarried.”

“So you knew Mama was the one as soon as you met her?” Gwyneth asked very seriously as she sat up and gazed into his eyes intently.

He sighed. “Not exactly. I liked her immediately and I was certainly attracted to her, but for a long time I told myself all I felt was friendship. After our first kiss, it became harder and harder to convince myself of that. Then there was the fact I knew your mama was falling in love with me almost from the moment we met.”

“You can always tell what Mama is thinking and feeling,” Gwyneth agreed with a little half smile, so like her father’s.

He dimpled and hugged his daughter briefly before saying very seriously, “The only advice I can give you, Punkin, is not to make a decision until you are certain which man you want to spend your life with. And I’m afraid you must accept the fact one of them will be hurt. But no one really dies of a broken heart. ‘Men have died and worms have eaten them, but not for love,'” he quoted.

She nodded and then said slowly, “Melanie has some friends in Brisbane who own a bookshop and they’ve invited her to come work at the shop with them. She enjoys teaching too much to give it up, but she’s offered to recommend me so I would have a chance to be away from both Douglas and Mark.”

He was silent for a moment and then said thoughtfully, “We’d miss you very much, but I think it might help you make your decision. Let’s talk to Mama about it.” He smiled his little half smile and added, “If she agrees, then we’ll ask Melanie to write her friends and see what they say. If they’re agreeable, you and I will travel to Brisbane.” His smile broadened as he added, “Maybe Mama and A.C. should come as well so we can all see you settled in your new home.”

She kissed his cheek and said softly, “Thank you, Daddy, for being so understanding.”

A few weeks later Melanie came to the Cartwrights’ house one evening with a letter from her friends, the Overtons. The two young women sat on the swing on the Cartwrights’ verandah and Melanie thought again how lucky her friend was to have such a lovely home. “Mabel and Fred write they’d be pleased to have you work for them, and they enclosed a letter to you,” she said, handing it to Gwyneth, who took it eagerly.

April 26, 1896

Dear Miss Cartwright,

We would be delighted to have you work at our bookshop. Melanie has written about you and your whole family so often that we feel we already know you all.

While our shop is on Elizabeth Street in Brisbane’s business district, we live in a flat across the Brisbane River in the suburb of New Farm and take the ferry to work. The flats are very modern. There are a couple of lovely ones very near ours and we were going to recommend them to Melanie and will now recommend them to you.

We know Cloncurry is back of Bourke so we won’t expect you until around the end of May.

Sincerely,
Mabel Overton

“I know you’ll like Mabel and Fred,” Melanie said encouragingly to her friend..

“Part of me is terrified at the idea of living in Brisbane,” Gwyneth confessed, “but another part is excited. I’ve never been on my own before, not like you or Miranda.”

“I think it will be a good experience for you,” Melanie replied. Her feelings about Gwyneth’s departure were mixed. She would miss her friend; there were no other young women in Cloncurry who shared her love of books. However, she couldn’t help hoping that if Gwyneth were absent, Douglas Campbell might seek her out since she was Gwyneth’s friend. Perhaps if they spent more time together, he would begin to see her as more than just Gwyneth’s friend.

Gwyneth sighed. “I’m not looking forward to telling Douglas, but it wouldn’t be fair if I just disappear without a word. He doesn’t deserve that.”

“No,” Melanie said slowly, “but it would be easier for you if you wrote him a letter instead of telling him face to face.”

“That’s a wonderful idea, Melanie,” Gwyneth replied and her relief was palpable.

After A.C. had gone to bed, Gwyneth talked with her parents about Melanie’s suggestion. “I could leave the letter with Uncle Rhys and Aunt Matilda and ask them to give it to Douglas the day after we leave.”

“I think it would be better if you spoke with him,” Bronwen began, but seeing the stricken look on her daughter’s face she sighed and said, “I suppose leaving him a letter is all right, and I know your aunt will be glad to help.”

“We’ll go on upstairs so you can have some privacy,” Adam said, and as he and Bronwen headed up the stairs he commented anxiously, “I hope we aren’t making a mistake, letting her move so far from home.”

“She’ll be apples, cariad,” Bronwen said soothingly.

As soon as her parents left, Gwyneth sat at her father’s desk and began to write.

Dear Douglas,

By the time you receive this letter, I will be on my way to Brisbane. I will be working in a bookshop owned by friends of Melanie. I realized that I need time alone to sort out my feelings about you and Mark. I’m hoping that if I am apart from both of you, then I will be able to determine which of you is the man with whom I want to spend my life.

You may write to me; if you give your letters to my parents, they will see that I get them. I don’t want you to try and see me, Douglas. I know you are an honorable man and that you’ll respect my wishes. I will write to both you and Mark to tell you about my life in Brisbane.

I am truly sorry if I am hurting you, Douglas, but I have to be certain I make the right choice.

Sincerely,
Gwyneth

When she finished, she selected another piece of stationary and started writing.

Dearest Mark,

This is a very difficult letter to write, but I care for you too much not to be totally honest with you. Today Douglas proposed to me. I did not accept his proposal but it made me realize how confused my feelings are. When I’m with you, Mark, I know without a doubt that I love you, but when I’m with Douglas, I realize that I care for him very much. I talked with my parents and we all agreed that I need some time apart from both of you to sort out my feelings.

Some friends of Melanie who own a bookshop in Brisbane have offered me a job and I have accepted it. When I am settled, I will write and give you my address. I have decided you and Douglas may both write to me. I am sorry if I am hurting you by confessing that I do have feelings for Douglas, but I feel I owe you the truth.

Gwyneth

Adam drew Mercury up just outside the cemetery and slowly dismounted. He patted the chestnut gelding’s neck affectionately before ground tying him. The horse whickered and he said quietly, “I won’t be too long, boy.” He carefully removed the two large leather bottles that hung on either side of his saddle. He carried them unerringly to a well-tended grave and uncorked each bottle in turn, watering a rosebush growing on the grave. That done, he knelt and carefully removed any weeds growing there and checked the leaves of the bush for any sign of disease or pests. Satisfied with his handiwork, he dusted off his hands and stood up-perhaps a bit more stiffly than he had a year earlier when he’d planted the rosebush-and sat on the bench that had been placed by the gravestone.

He let his fingers trace the chiseled letters that spelled ‘Penelope Jane Cartwright, beloved daughter’ as he spoke. “I won’t be able to visit you for a few weeks, Kitten, but Uncle Rhys has promised to water your rosebush. Mama, A.C. and I are going to be taking Gwyneth to Brisbane and she’s going to be living there for a while.” He paused and then said slowly, “It’s hard on Mama and me now that all our girls are gone. We can’t help looking back on those happy years when four little girls filled our house with laughter. I think it’s going to be hard on your brother as well. I don’t believe he really understands that it will just be the three of us now.” He smiled and added, “Of course, I’m forgetting Elen. The best thing about being a grandpa, Kitten, is that I’m not the one who has to give the necessary talks. That’s Dafydd’s job. Sometimes I think back on those times and I hope you understood how much it hurt me to have to punish any of my girls.”

“Tomorrow I’m going to ride here with Gwyneth so she can say goodbye to you. We don’t know how long she is going to be living in Brisbane, but she needs time to sort out her feelings about Mark and Douglas. While I admit at first I had my reservations about Douglas, I’ve seen how loving Gwyneth has brought out the best in him. His parents are pleased that he’s settled down and no longer spends his time drinking and brawling with his mates. I only hope that if Gwyneth chooses Mark, Douglas doesn’t fall back into his old ways. It would break his parents’ hearts and we both know how guilty your sister would feel, even though it wouldn’t be her fault.”

He realized the sky was turning orange and apricot so he stood and said softly, “Goodbye, Kitten. I’ll visit when I return. Always remember Daddy loves you.”

The four Cartwrights arrived in Brisbane on a cool, rainy day in late May. They checked into the small hotel recommended by the Overtons and then went in search of the bookshop. As they passed the large buildings, and the people walking hurriedly in the rain, Gwyneth began to wonder if she’d made the right decision. Suddenly, the thought of living alone in a city became terrifying. Her parents knew her very well and Bronwen reached for her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze while Adam smiled and said with a wink, “She’ll be apples, Punkin.” A.C., on the other hand, was entranced with the tall buildings and kept asking what they were.

“I don’t know, Jackeroo. We’ll have to ask the Overtons,” Adam replied with a little grin.

They eventually found the bookshop and hurried inside, thankful to escape the rain, which was falling in sheets. There were only a few customers inside and a thin woman they guessed must be Mrs. Overton walked toward them smiling.

“G’day. I’m Mabel Overton and I believe you must be the Cartwrights?”

“Yes, I’m Adam Cartwright,” he replied, bowing slightly. “This is my wife, Bronwen, and our daughter, Gwyneth,” and Gwyneth smiled shyly. He then put his hand on A.C.’s shoulder saying, “This is our son, Adam.”

“But you can call me A.C.,” the little boy said with an engaging grin after bowing with a flourish.

“Ah, the lad who nearly burned down the schoolhouse,” Mabel said with a mischievous grin of her own.

“How did you know about that?” the child asked in amazement.

“Oh, Miss Andrews writes about all the interesting things her students get up to. Starting a fire with a magnifying glass was definitely one of the most interesting.”

A.C. looked nervously at his daddy and unconsciously rubbed his posterior, remembering how it had stung after that particular “necessary talk”. Mabel smiled at the child and then his parents. “She wrote that you are one of her brightest students.” At those words the boy dimpled and his daddy added dryly, “Yes, he’s a very bright boy who needs to learn to think things through and not be so impulsive.”

“And his daddy needs to remember he is only eight years old,” Bronwen replied tartly, as she and her husband exchanged silent, but telling, looks over their youngest’s dark head.

“Here we are talking and I imagine Gwyneth is anxious to see where she’ll be living. Since the rain has made business so slow, my husband can mind the shop on his own. I’ll come with you and show you where we live and arrange for you to take a look at the two empty flats in our building. The building is very modern and each flat has running water and a water closet.”

“What a ripper!” A.C. exclaimed. “I used a water closet when we went to Boston.”

“A.C.!” his mother said with flaming cheeks.

“Well, I did,” he replied indignantly.

“Mama means it’s not polite to discuss water closets,” Adam said, trying not to smile at his son’s candor.

“But it was beaut. And it didn’t stink like a dunny.”

“Young man, that will be quite enough from you, or we’ll be having a necessary talk,” Adam said sternly, his amusement vanishing with his son’s rude remark, while Bronwen and Gwyneth blushed. Mabel had to bite her cheek to keep from laughing at the boy’s honesty.

Gwyneth fell in love with the flats in the Overtons’ building on sight. Not only did they have running water and a water closet, but they also had built-in closets for hanging clothes and storage, and each room had large windows that provided cross-ventilation. There was only one difficulty: The flats were unfurnished.

“There are some furnished flats closer to the river, but to be frank, they aren’t as nice and I don’t think the neighborhood is suitable for a young woman on her own,” Mabel stated.

“Looks like our next stop is to buy you some furniture, Punkin,” Adam said.

“There’s a better selection in Brisbane,” Mabel suggested.

“I don’t wanna look at furniture,” A.C. whined earning a frown from his daddy.

“The rain has let up and I could take A.C. to visit the Botanic Gardens,” Mabel offered. “They’re not far from the bookshop and I love to visit there so it’s not an imposition.”

“Please, Daddy,” A.C. begged.

“I’d better not hear from Mrs. Overton that you misbehaved,” Adam stated and a grinning A.C. replied, “Oh, I won’t. I promise.”

As they rode the ferry back across the Brisbane River, Mabel gave the others suggestions on where to shop. Gwyneth and her father were both very particular but finally, after visiting several establishments, the furniture was selected: an overstuffed sofa upholstered with a jacquard blue and gold floral print on a creamy white background, a secretary desk and bookcase of red cedar and a small end table also made of red cedar, a low-post bed and chest of drawers made of silky oak, a small oval dining room table and four chairs made of red cedar and a kitchen dresser of Bunya pine.

Bronwen, whose enthusiasm had flagged while her fastidious husband and daughter discussed the merits of various pieces of furniture, stated, “Now we have to buy you some pots and pans, china, silver and linens, but I think that can wait until tomorrow.”

“That’s right, we need to rescue Mrs. Overton,” her husband said with a smirk. Gwyneth grinned, but Bronwen let her husband know that, like Queen Victoria, she was not amused.

When they arrived at the bookshop, they were surprised to learn Mrs. Overton and A.C. weren’t back yet. However, all three were soon browsing among the shelves. They hadn’t long to wait before an excited A.C. and Mrs. Overton returned. Not wanting to disturb the customers, she ushered the Cartwrights to the back room.

“It was beaut!” A.C. exclaimed enthusiastically as soon as he’d greeted his parents and sister. “There were all kinds of plants and trees. There were even trees that cry.”

Seeing the confusion on the other faces, Mabel said, “A.C. is referring to the grove of Weeping figs.”

“Weeping means crying, doesn’t it?” A.C. asked.

“Yes, it does,” Adam replied and, not for the first time, was impressed at his son’s intelligence.

“Then we watched a cricket game and when it was over, Mrs. Overton showed me Parliament House.”

“I hope you thanked Mrs. Overton,” Bronwen inserted gently and Mabel said with a smile, “Yes, he did. He was very well behaved.”

The boy then turned to his father. “Mrs. Overton says they play cricket at the gardens every day. Could we go tomorrow, Daddy? Please?”

Before Adam could open his mouth, Bronwen said, “I know you aren’t interested in shopping for pots and pans and such, so why not go with A.C.? After Gwyneth and I finish, we could join you. I would like to see the garden and it would be nice to watch a cricket match.”

“Okay, Jackeroo, we’ll go watch some cricket tomorrow. But before we do that, we need to visit a bank and open an account for your sister.”

“Do we have to, Daddy?” A.C. whined because it sounded very dull.

While Adam frowned, Bronwen quickly suggested, “You and I can do some sightseeing while Gwyneth and Daddy do their business at the bank.” Her son’s face brightened and her husband nodded his acceptance of her idea.

The Cartwrights took the Overtons to supper that evening, which gave them a chance to talk with Gwyneth about her duties. They agreed she could have tomorrow and the next day to get settled in her flat and spend time with her family and then she would begin work. After A.C. went to bed that night, Adam sat down with Gwyneth in their suite and helped her plan her budget.

“Now, I am going to arrange to have the interest from your trust fund transferred to your bank account here quarterly,” Adam explained to his daughter, who listened intently. “But you should live on the wages the Overtons pay you and view the money from your trust fund as something to use in case of an emergency.”

“I understand,” Gwyneth said solemnly.

“You’ll be responsible for paying your own bills and you’ll have to use the arithmetic you hate so much,” he added with a wink, “to make sure you aren’t overdrawn. But if you follow this budget, you should be fine.”

“I’ll be careful,” she promised earnestly.

“I know you will be.” He grinned at his wife, who’d been listening and offering an occasional suggestion as they’d devised the budget, adding, “Luckily, you take after me when it comes to spending habits and not your mama.”

“You’re up yourself, Adam Cartwright,” Bronwen replied with a wink. “Fortunately, our daughter has inherited my modest, unassuming nature.” Gwyneth simply shook her head while her parents shared a laugh.

“Seriously, Gwyneth fach, your daddy is right about the importance of making a budget and sticking to it,” Bronwen said, her expression now deadly serious.

“Don’t worry,” Gwyneth assured her parents.

“We know you’ll be just fine and the Overtons are just one floor below you if you ever need them,” Adam said, as much to reassure himself and Bronwen as their daughter.

In addition to watching cricket matches and waiting for Gwyneth’s furniture to be delivered, the four Cartwrights managed to do some sightseeing the following two days. Adam in particular admired some of the buildings in Brisbane’s business district. The Queensland National Bank, which was built in the Italian Renaissance style, was one of his favorites. It had a massive leaded glass dome and Corinthian columns on the facades. He also admired Parliament House, which was built in the French Renaissance style, with high mansard roofs. The Botanic Garden was the favorite of the rest of the family, who did not share his interest in architecture.

The night before Adam, Bronwen and A.C. were to return to Cloncurry, Gwyneth cooked supper for them in her flat.

“What a ripper!” A.C. commented as he saw his sister’s flat with her new furniture for the first time. He burst into giggles when he sat on the new sofa and immediately sank down in the overstuffed cushions. “It feels like it’s trying to swallow me,” he got out between giggles.

“It was your sister’s choice,” Adam said dryly. “I think I’ll just sit on one of the dining room chairs.”

“I’ll sit with you, A.C.,” Bronwen said although she would have preferred to sit on a dining room chair as well.

“Can I have a flat when I’m grown up like Gwyneth?” A.C. asked hopefully.

“Let’s talk about that when you’re Gwyneth’s age,” his mama replied. “Do you need any help, Gwyneth?” she called.

“No, Mama,” Gwyneth called back from her kitchen. “Supper is nearly ready.”

“It smells delicious,” Adam commented.

“The main course is Yankee pot roast because I know it’s your favorite,” Gwyneth said, sticking her head into the living room and smiling at her daddy.

“Mine, too,” A.C. added enthusiastically.

“I’ve prepared artichokes in butter sauce as a side dish because I know it’s one of Mama’s favorites. For dessert we’re having bread pudding with a vanilla sauce.” She smiled at her little brother. “Would you set the table for me, A.C.?”

“Right,” the boy said cheerfully because it was one of his tasks at home. He got Gwyneth’s new Haviland china, with its design of pink roses on a white background, from her kitchen dresser and placed the dinner plates on the dining room table, which Gwyneth had already covered with a lace tablecloth. Then he got the pink-tinted glasses and her new silverware and put them on the table with the neatly folded damask napkins.

“The table is set,” he said walking into the tiny kitchen, which contained a small stove, a sink and an icebox. “Stone the crows, your kitchen sure is small.”

“This is a flat, not a house,” Gwyneth reminded him, adding with a smile, “Thanks for helping. Could you tell Mama and Daddy that supper is ready while I put the food on the table?” He grinned and left calling, “Mama! Daddy! Gwyneth says supper’s ready!”

“A.C!” his mother scolded as she rose to come to the table. “You mustn’t yell like you do at home. We’re only in the next room and you must remember there are other people who live in the building, too.”

“Sorry, Mama. I didn’t mean to yell,” he said contritely. Bronwen smiled and replied, “No harm done. What a nice job you did setting the table! Don’t Gwyenth’s new things look well together?”

As the four of them gathered round the table, Gwyneth asked hesitantly, “Could we sing grace?” We haven’t in years and I miss it.”

“You’re right. I don’t think we’ve sung grace since Miranda went to Boston,” Adam said reflectively.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” Bronwen said, putting her arm around her tall daughter’s waist and hugging her.

“Sing grace?” A.C. said in puzzlement but his daddy squeezed his shoulder and said, “We used to do it when you were very small. Maybe it will come back to you. If not, you can just listen.”

They held hands and Adam, Bronwen and Gwyneth sang an Elizabethan grace in canon. As they passed the food around the table, A.C. announced, “I wanna learn to sing grace.”

“Daddy and I will teach you on the ride home,” his mama promised.

The food was delicious and Bronwen insisted on helping her daughter clean up.

“A.C. and I will dry the dishes if you ladies wash them,” Adam suggested, earning a pout from his son. The pout was replaced by a grin when Adam added, “When I was your age, your grandpa washed the dishes and Uncle Hoss and I always dried them and put them away.”

They sat in the tiny living room and talked until they could see the sun begin to sink below the horizon. “I suppose we need to be leaving so we can catch the last ferry,” Adam said regretfully.

“Yes, but before we leave, I have a request for Gwyneth,” Bronwen said quietly. “I don’t know when we’ll get to hear you sing again, so I would like you to sing a song for us now.”

“Of course, Mama,” Gwyneth replied with just a slight catch in her voice. “What would you like me to sing?”

Sweet Hour of Prayer,” her mother answered gently and Gwyneth nodded saying, “I want you all to sing the second verse with me.” As she began to sing quietly in her sweet, melodious voice, her parents felt their eyes fill with tears.

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Bronwen’s creamy mezzo-soprano and Adam’s velvet baritone harmonized while A.C.’s slightly flat alto joined Gwyneth on the melody of the second verse.

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Then Gwyneth’s rich, clear voice sang alone:

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

“When you are lonely or sad, I want you to think of the words to that hymn,” Bronwen said gently as she placed her arm around Gwyneth’s waist and hugged her.

“I will, Mama. I promise,” Gwyneth said shakily, as she bent down to kiss her mother’s cheek.

“You’ll be in our prayers and our thoughts, Punkin,” Adam said as he hugged her tightly to him, thinking of the first time he had held her in his arms.

“I’m gonna miss you, Gwyneth,” A.C. said, blinking very fast to hold back the tears that threatened after he’d hugged his sister.

With a cheery wave and a brave smile, Gwyneth slowly closed the door behind her family. As she stood at the window and watched as their figures disappeared from sight, she made no effort to check the tears that rolled down her face.

Chapter 2
“Mornin’, Mr. Ben,” the Ponderosa’s walleyed cook said as he brought Ben his first cup of coffee. “Gonna be a fine day.”

“Thank you, Buckshot,” Ben replied as he took the steaming mug. “I think you’re right. It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

“Now, I made ya a good breakfast-scrambled eggs, toast and ham. Ya need to keep your strength up fer the ride into town,” the cook stated gruffly.

“I’ll do it justice; I promise,” Ben replied with a hint of a smile.

“I planned a big dinner fer tonight,” the cook added in his gravelly voice. “I remember Benj likes roast pork, so I’m fixin’ that. Miss Sarah likes coleslaw so we’re having that along with sweet taters.”

“You haven’t forgotten that Miranda asked you to bake a cherry pie?” Ben asked a bit anxiously.

“No, Boss. Funny though. I don’t recollect her bein’ especially fond of cherry pie.”

“I imagine her friend Mr. Gordon is partial to it,” Ben replied, very anxious to meet this young man.

He did do justice to Buckshot’s breakfast as promised and then he waited impatiently for his foreman, Bronc Evans, to tell him the surrey was hitched up and ready to go. The minutes seemed to crawl before the craggy-featured foreman came through the front door.

“Horses are hitched to the surrey, Boss,” the tall foreman said with a grin. “We got us a nice day fer a drive into Carson City. It shore will be nice to see Benj, Miss Sarah and Miss Miranda again.”

“It surely will,” Ben repeated. “Let’s be off. We don’t want to get there after the train’s pulled into the station.”

They arrived at the train station with time to spare (just as Bronc had known they would). Bronc watered the horses while Ben waited with mounting anticipation. Finally the train roared into the station and Joe descended the step, turning to assist a little girl with golden-brown curls, dressed in a white sailor blouse with navy trim and a pleated navy skirt. Sarah has grown so much Ben thought with a pang of regret for the two years they’d been separated.

Sarah was followed immediately by a skinny boy with straw-colored hair, who was wearing an Eton suit. He was doing his best to appear blasé. Ben thought, not for the first time, how much Benj resembled his mother-not only in appearance but in temperament. The next to disembark was a stranger to Ben-a slim, bespectacled man with a long face dominated by his aquiline nose. He was dressed in an expensive suit of fine black broadcloth that revealed his broad shoulders tapering to a slim waist. Ben was surprised to see the young man sported a neatly trimmed beard, for most men were clean-shaven these days. The young man turned to assist a dark-haired young woman, and Ben was struck anew by his granddaughter’s resemblance to his first love. He realized the bearded man must be her Mr. Gordon.

He walked toward them slowly, conscious of Bronc at his side since he’d refused to bring the cane both Dr. Pascoe and Paul Martin had recommended.

Sarah was the first to spot him. “Look, there’s Grandpa!” she shouted excitedly and started to run toward him, but her daddy caught her arm.

“Let’s let Grandpa come to us,” he said gently. “And don’t hug him too hard, okay?”

“Okay,” the little girl said, obviously a bit confused.

“Oh, he looks so much frailer now,” Miranda whispered to William.

“Remember, you said he is eighty-three, love,” he whispered back. “I think he looks remarkably fit for a man of his years.”

Benj said nothing, but like his cousin he was alarmed at how much his grandpa had aged since he’d last seen him.

“Oh Grandpa,” Sarah said when Ben walked toward her and held out his arms for a hug. Remembering her daddy’s words, she hugged him gingerly. Ben smiled at her, his eyes crinkling at the corners just as she remembered, and said, “I won’t break, Sugar,” so she hugged him harder. “Oh my, you are so grown up,” he commented wistfully.

“I’m nine now,” she replied proudly and he smiled warmly before turning to his grandson, who held out his hand formally. With a sigh, Ben resisted the urge to pull the boy into his arms and settled for a handshake. “I’m so glad to see you, Grandpa,” he said stiffly, but Ben could see the happiness in his pale blue eyes.

“And I’m happy to see you, Benj. I’m looking forward to going fishing with you.”

“I’d like that,” the boy said with a grin, his reserve beginning to melt, and his grandpa squeezed his shoulder affectionately. Then Ben smiled at his older granddaughter.

“You look lovelier each time I see you, Miranda,” he said after hugging her and she dimpled.

“Grandpa, allow me to present my friend, William Gordon. William, my grandfather, Ben Cartwright.”

“I am honored to meet you, sir,” William said, taking Ben’s hand in a firm grip, which pleased the older man. “I imagine your granddaughter has told you I’m an historian and I’m hoping we can talk about your experiences as one of the first settlers in western Nevada.”

“I’d like to hear more about those days, too,” Miranda added, taking her grandpa’s hand and linking their fingers.”

“All right. But you let me know if I start boring you.”

“I don’t think there’s any chance of that,” William stated with a warm smile that lit up his face. Ben’s dark eyes twinkled as he returned the smile, thinking to himself that he liked this respectful young man. He turned towards Miranda and gave her a wink of approval. She squeezed his hand happily, and Ben’s heart was warmed by the memory of his beloved Elizabeth reflected in their granddaughter’s eyes.

Sarah sat by her grandpa in the surrey and talked almost nonstop on the ride home. Miranda and William sat in the backseat and she pointed out various landmarks; no one could see they were holding hands. Joe and Benj sat side by side in the front seat in a rather strained silence. Benj wanted to see his grandpa and the Ponderosa; he wanted to spend more time with his dad. However, he felt disloyal leaving his mama all alone in Boston.

As they approached the ranch house, William said admiringly, “Your father designed the house?”

“That’s right,” Miranda said proudly. “He spent his last two summers at Harvard working for an architectural firm in Boston. He said it was an apprenticeship of sorts. No American colleges taught architecture then and he couldn’t afford to study in Europe so it was the only way he could learn the fundamentals.”

“He certainly had, or I suppose I should say has, talent,” William remarked and was rewarded by a dazzling smile.

As soon as Joe drove the surrey into the yard, Sarah started to jump down, but Ben caught her arm. “Wait until your daddy can help you down, Sugar.” He saw her lip come out in a pout and added, “Your cousin is waiting for Mr. Gordon to help her.” He frowned slightly as William put his hands around Miranda’s waist and lifted her off the seat, and then he twirled her around before setting her, giggling, on her feet.

“Twirl me around, too, Daddy,” Sarah exclaimed and both William and Miranda’s cheeks reddened.

“Sure thing, baby girl,” Joe replied winking at the young couple. He twirled Sarah around twice while she squealed her delight. As soon as he set her on her feet, she heard the sound of horses neighing and spotted her beloved golden dun pony in the corral.

“Applesauce! Oh, Applesauce, I’ve missed you so,” she exclaimed running toward the corral. Miranda recognized her grullo Quarter Horse, Guerrero, and taking William’s hand walked with him to the corral. Benj didn’t see his pony and looked at his father questioningly.

“You’re twelve now, Pardner, so I think it’s time you trade your pony in for a horse.” The look of pleasure on his son’s face caused Joe to blink back the sudden moisture in his eyes. “I selected several mounts for you and William,” and he smiled at the young man, “to choose from.”

Ben had to admit he was tired so he went inside to take a nap. Sarah and Miranda talked to their mounts and patted them while Benj and William selected theirs. Benj selected a chestnut gelding that was part Quarter Horse and part Morgan while William chose a Palomino Morgan mare.

“Can we go for a ride now, Daddy?” Sarah asked eagerly.

“It’s awfully close to dinnertime, but I guess we can go for a short ride.”

“Aw, Daddy,’ Sarah begged, but Joe replied, “If you haven’t ridden lately, a short ride is what you need. You’ll be very sore the first week or so.”

“That’s right, Sarah,” Miranda agreed. “I’m always sore the first week I’m here. If we’re going to ride, we need to hurry and change.”

Just then Jacob pulled into the yard with the buckboard. He and another hand carried Sarah and Benj’s trunk upstairs while Joe and William carried Miranda’s and Benj carried William’s valise. William gazed admiringly at his room’s proportions and the clean, simple lines of the furniture before hunting in his valise for something to wear. After seeing what the ranch hands wore, he knew he didn’t have anything really suitable.

As usual, the men finished changing first. Joe couldn’t help grinning at the sight of William in his woolen pants and crisp white shirt. At least he isn’t wearing a tie, Joe thought. William saw the grin and said ruefully, “It appears I’ll need to make another trip into Carson City to buy more appropriate clothes.”

“I’ll see if Buckshot is going into town tomorrow. Or maybe Jacob could take you,” Joe replied grinning more broadly. He appreciated the young man’s adaptability and his lack of affectation. Just then Sarah and Miranda descended the stairs. William’s eyes widened at the sight of Miranda in her knickerbockers with her hair in a long braid hanging down her back, carrying a black Stetson in one hand.

“I always ride astride here,” she said with an impish grin Ben would have recognized as identical to her grandmother’s. Seeing William’s stunned look she added, “I never rode sidesaddle until I came to Boston. Daddy taught me and my sisters to ride and he says riding astride is safer.”

“I’m sure he is correct,” William said quickly. “I was just surprised.”

“Come on,” Sarah said impatiently.

William was chagrinned to discover Miranda was a better rider than he was and when he complimented her on her ability, she said with a smile, “I’ve been riding since I was four.”

“Since you were four?” William repeated, his eyebrows shooting up.

“Mama would have preferred waiting until we were five, but Daddy talked her into letting each of us learn when we were four. I’m not as accomplished as Beth and Gwyneth, and A.C. is a born horseman as well.”

His face wore a bemused expression as he began to realize he didn’t know his beloved quite as well as he’d thought he did.

“That meal was delicious,” William said to Buckshot as he began to clear away the dinner plates.

“I hope you saved room for dessert,” Miranda commented, a mischievous grin playing at the corners of her mouth, and Ben thought she’d never looked more like Liz.

“It’s cherry pie,” Buckshot announced, his bushy eyebrows shooting up when Miranda and William both began to chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Sarah demanded.

“I’m sorry,” Miranda said, struggling to control her giggles. “I don’t think I can really explain. It’s just a joke between us.”

Sarah didn’t look satisfied but her daddy diverted her attention while Ben looked speculatively at the two young people. “Why don’t we have our coffee in the great room,” he suggested and Miranda asked, “Would you tell us what it was like when you first moved here with Daddy and Uncle Hoss?”

“If you like,” he replied with a smile.

Joe, Sarah and Benj sat on the settee, Miranda chose her father’s favorite blue velvet chair and William moved one of the side chairs so he could sit by Miranda as Ben sat in his worn, but still comfortable, leather chair.

“I think the one word that best describes our life when we first moved here is lonely,” he stated slowly. “I had started out from Independence, Missouri, in the spring of 1842 with my six-year-old son, Adam, and my second wife, Inger, who unknown to me, was already with child. Our son Eric, or Hoss as we called him, was born on the prairie that July and he wasn’t quite two months old when Inger was killed in an Indian attack.”

Although it had been over fifty years since her death, Ben swallowed hard before he continued his story. “I was devastated, but I had two young sons who needed me so I forced myself to continue our journey. Before our wagon train crossed the Sierra Nevadas, we discovered the most beautiful lake I’d ever seen, surrounded by mountains covered with tall pines that seemed to touch the sky. Adam wanted to settle right there, but I needed help with Hoss and we didn’t have the supplies to winter in the high country. So I took my boys across the mountains and settled near the Sacramento River, working for a man named John Sutter.”

He saw the recognition on the scholar’s face at the mention of that name and the obvious interest in his tale and Miranda looked just as engrossed. “While I worked for Sutter,” he continued, “I found a kind woman to look after my boys. Hoss was happy and thriving, but Adam grew more quiet and withdrawn every day. I knew he missed his mama, but so did I. I worried about him and I couldn’t put that lake, the mountains and pines out of my mind. I seemed to hear Adam’s mother’s voice in my mind talking to me about living surrounded by tall trees and Inger’s voice describing a house with windows facing the east and the west, so that spring I bought supplies, loaded up the wagon and headed east with my two boys.”

“And how old was your younger son?” William queried, his expression intent.

“Let me see,” Ben said thoughtfully. “I guess he was about ten months old. He was weaned and I knew I could trust Adam to look after him.”

“But Miranda’s father was only, what, seven? That seems awfully young to be looking after a child less than a year old.”

“Yes, it is, but Adam was always old for his age, and I didn’t leave Hoss solely in his charge any more than I had to. That first year was very hard. It was difficult breaking sod, especially for a man who had never done it before. We lost some of our vegetables to deer and other animals and I hadn’t harvested enough hay. By the next spring, the stock and I were more than half-starved. That wasn’t the worst though. That winter both boys developed putrid sore throats. I had never felt more alone than I did then with no one to offer advice or spell me and two very sick little boys with raging fevers. Having no where else to turn, I prayed to the Great Physician and gradually their fevers lessened.” He smiled, lost in memory, as he saw those two little boys-one so dark and one so fair-both so precious to him, and relived the joy he’d felt when he knew they’d recover.

“But what about Daddy?” Sarah asked.

“Oh, your daddy wasn’t born yet,” Ben said with a smile. “By the time your daddy was born, we weren’t so alone. Our closest neighbors were the McKarens; they had a son about the same age as your Uncle Adam.”

“Mr. McKaren,” Benj said.

“That’s right. Of course, it was his father who was “Mr.” McKaren then. The Marquettes didn’t live too far away and they had a son, Ross, who was your Uncle Adam’s age and a daughter, Betsy, who was about the same age as your Uncle Hoss.” Ben’s face clouded for a moment as he added somberly, “Betsy was bitten by a mad dog when she was still just a little girl and died. A terrible tragedy.”

Seeing the horror on Sarah’s face, William said quickly, “But a man in France named Louis Pasteur has discovered a treatment for rabies so now people need not die from it.” Sarah’s expression brightened at his words.

“I’m sorry if I scared you, Sugar,” Ben said gently. “Life was harder back in those days but it wasn’t all bad. Your daddy and your uncles had lots of fun swimming and fishing in the summer, having snowball fights and building snowmen in the winter.”

“Daddy told us how he and Uncle Hoss loved to go berrying,” Miranda added.

“That’s right. Adam would always come home with a full bucket, but Hoss would have eaten three-fourths of his by the time they got home,” Ben said with a wide grin. “Your daddy, Sarah,” he said nodding at Joe, “usually made it back with about half his bucket.”

“Those berries were so delicious,” Joe said with a big grin of his own. “Adam ate his share while we picked ‘em but on the way home I guess he just had stronger will power than Hoss and me.” He chuckled. “He also didn’t get bellyaches like we did.”

“I think that’s enough talk about the old days for tonight. It’s been such a long time since we’ve all been together that I’d like to celebrate by singing,” Ben said and Sarah immediately said, “Oh yes, let’s!”

“We’re in luck,” Miranda said with a smile, “because William can play Daddy’s guitar. I’ll go get it,” and she ran lightly up the stairs to fetch it from her bedroom.

“So you’re musical, Mr. Gordon?” Ben asked.

“Please call me William, Mr. Cartwright,” the young man replied. “I don’t know how musical I am, but my mother insisted I take violin lessons and while I was an undergraduate I taught myself to play the guitar. Miranda’s told me that she and all of her sisters sing and that her father and Gwyneth also play the guitar while Beth and her husband play the lap harp.” He smiled just a little then adding, “She tells me her little brother is the only one in their family who isn’t musical.”

“Gwyneth sings the best,” Sarah commented and William replied, “I’m sure she can’t have a lovelier voice than Miranda.”

“She does, I assure you,” Miranda said from the stairs. “And it’s not false modesty.”

“No,” Ben agreed. “Gwyneth’s voice is extraordinary.” He smiled at his assembled family and then added, “We may not have Gwyneth’s talent, but we enjoy singing together.”

William nodded his understanding and began to tune the guitar. Soon the six of them were enjoying themselves singing all their favorites. When William requested they sing Billy Boy, Ben and Joe saw the smile the two young people shared and understood the private joke about cherry pie. The only sad moment came when Sarah asked to sing Cindy. Ben and William saw the pain in Miranda’s eyes and as they sang she broke down, alarming the others. After a moment she regained control and said in a voice that was unsteady, “I’m sorry. That was Penny’s favorite song. We even changed the words from Cindy to Penny. It just reminded me so much of her.”

“We didn’t know,” William said gently, taking her hand and holding it in both of his, which caused Ben to frown. “We’re sorry we caused you pain.”

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Sarah said as her eyes began to fill with tears. “I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

“No. That song only brings back happy memories,” Miranda said earnestly.

“But even happy memories can make you sad,” Joe said quietly. “It was the same for me when I remembered Hoss,” and Miranda knew he understood. “Now,” he continued, “I can remember all the happy times without tears,” and his niece smiled gratefully.

“Why don’t you sing us that song about the tramp who stole the sheep,” William suggested, giving her hand a squeeze. “I’ll bet your family would enjoy it.”

In deference to Ben, they all turned in early. As they were heading upstairs, Miranda said casually, “I always get up at dawn to feed and water Guerrero. That’s when we’d all take care of our mounts at home.”

“Do I have to get up that early, Dad?” Benj inquired.

“No, Pardner. Six o’clock is plenty early. Your cousin’s just an early bird like her daddy.”

William understood what Miranda was telling him and managed to drag himself out of bed before dawn. He found Miranda already up and bringing Guerrero a bucket of water, but when she saw him, she set the bucket down and ran into his arms.

In between kisses he managed to get out, “I thought I would go insane not being able to kiss you for so long.”

“I know,” she replied, “and we’ll be well chaperoned, but no one else gets up this early.” A few minutes later they heard the sound of approaching footsteps but when Jacob entered the barn, he only saw the two of them busily caring for their mounts. His sharp eyes also spotted William’s mussed hair and the slightly reddened skin around Miranda’s mouth and he had a pretty good idea of the cause. However, he trusted Miss Miranda and was actually pleased she’d found a young man. Book learning was all very well, but a pretty young woman like her needed to be thinking of finding a husband and giving Mr. Ben some more great-grandchildren-ones that lived right here in the U.S. that he could spend time with.

Ben was startled awake by the sound of the front door slamming and Sarah’s excited voice.

“Grandpa! We got a letter from Uncle Adam and one from A.C.!”

“Sarah,” Joe scolded, “how many times have I told you not to slam the door?”

“At least a hundred,” her brother smirked. “And you woke up Grandpa.”

“I was just resting my eyes,” Ben said winking at his granddaughter. “Besides, if we have letters from Queensland, I want to read them.”

“Miranda got one too,” Sarah commented, looking around for her cousin. “I guess she and William have gone riding?”

“With Jacob as chaperone,” Joe added with a grin.

“That’s right,” Ben agreed. “The three of them have gone for a ride to the lake.” Ben’s eyes twinkled as he added, “Isn’t it fortunate that William enjoys talking to Jacob about his life as a cowboy?”

“Yeah, isn’t it,” Joe replied, for he had his suspicions that Jacob knew when to make himself scarce and give the young couple a little time alone. However, Joe trusted William, who was clearly in love with Miranda and just as clearly an honorable young man. It had taken Ben longer to warm up to him, but Joe suspected that his pa would have had a little trouble accepting any young man who sought to win the heart of the granddaughter who so strongly resembled his first love.

“Do we have to wait for Miranda and William?” Sarah asked, her big greenish-hazel eyes looking pleadingly at her daddy and grandpa.

“Oh, I expect Miranda will understand if we don’t wait. Let’s read your cousin’s letter first. Maybe they’ll return in time to hear your uncle’s.

Joe and the children settled on the settee and then Joe opened A.C.’s letter.

July 5, 1896

Dear Grandpa Uncle Joe Benj and Sarah,

I wish I culd come visit the Ponderosa its lonely now cause Gwyneth went walkabout.

“What’s he mean?” Sarah interrupted to ask.

“Perhaps we should have waited for your cousin so she could translate,” Ben commented.

“Maybe if I keep reading we’ll be able to figure out what he means,” Joe suggested and at his pa’s nod he continued reading.

She moved to Brisbane and she works in a bookshop with friends of my teacher Miss Andrews.

This time Joe interrupted his reading. “I can’t believe Adam would allow Gwyneth to move away and live on her own.”

“We’ll have to see what your brother has to say in his letter,” Ben replied. “Let’s finish A.C.’s first though.

I didnt want her to go but she said she needed to get away so she could think about Mark and Douglas I used to like them but not now cause they made Gwyneth go walkabout. Mama and Daddy miss her to. Daddy let me ride Artmis once but he said it was our secret I think thats cause Mama thinks Im to little but Im not. Artmis is lots bigger than Sport and I think his feelings were hurt when I rode her so I only did once. Daddy said in three more years when Im 11 I can have a horse of my own cause Gwyneth got one when she was 11. I asked Daddy when would she come home and he said he didnt know and maybe when she comes back she will get married and live with her husband like Beth. I don’t see why she would rather live with Mark or Douglas than with us Daddy said in a couple of years he wuld explain I asked him to explain now but he says Im to little I said I was not and then we had a necssary talk.

“I’m never going to leave home,” Sarah declared, interrupting her father. “I don’t see why Gwyneth would.”

“That’s because you’re too little, just like A.C.,” her brother replied condescendingly. “Gwyneth wants to marry Mark or Douglas and have babies.”

“Benj,” his father said in a warning tone but Sarah asked, “Can’t I have babies without having to get married?”

“Then you’d be wicked and go to hell,” Benj replied smugly, but his grandpa said sternly, “That will be enough, Benjamin!”

“Sorry, Grandpa” Benj mumbled, his face reddening as he felt his grandfather’s eyes bore into him.

“I don’t want to be wicked and go to hell,” Sarah said as her eyes filled with tears and her daddy picked her up and held her on his lap.

“You won’t, baby girl,” he said kissing her cheek. “When you grow up, you’ll meet a wonderful man like Cousin Beth’s husband Dafydd or like William and you’ll fall in love and get married.”

“And have babies?” Joe actually felt his cheeks grow warm as he replied, “I expect so. Most husbands and wives have babies.”

“Was that the end of A.C.’s letter?” Ben asked then, hoping to divert the children’s attention from the delicate subject.

“No, there’s a little more,” Joe answered and, reaching around the precious bundle on his lap, picked up the letter and continued reading.

This year for the fourth of July Daddy let me set off some firecrackers myself but he was there to watch me. Mama said I was to little but Daddy and I got her to say yes. Daddy read the decoration of indupendunce and we talked about why Americans decided they didn’t want a king anymore. I got Daddy to tell me stories about when Grandpa and him and Uncle Hoss first lived on the Ponderosa. I wanna see the log cabin you built Grandpa when I come to the Ponderosa again.

Love,
A.C.

“I wanna see the cabin, too,” Sarah said excitedly. “Did you live there, Daddy?”

“Sure. We didn’t build this house until Uncle Adam came back from college. He designed it just like he designed their house in Queensland. But I’m not sure if there’s much left of our old cabin.”

“Could we go check it out, Dad? I’d like to see it,” Benj said with a quiet intensity.

“I imagine Miranda would like to see it as well,” Ben added. “If William drives me in the buggy, we could all go. I still remember how hard I worked getting that cabin done before winter set in. Your Uncle Adam wanted to help and we had to have a necessary talk before I made him see it was his job to look after his little brother. He was younger than A.C. and there was no way he could help lift those heavy logs and he might have gotten hurt very badly.”

“Yeah, I can just see older brother being that stubborn even at age seven,” Joe said with a grin. “I imagine Miranda and William would like to come since William’s so interested in hearing stories about the days when you first settled here.”

“Like to come where?” Miranda asked from the doorway, standing beside William, who was dressed in waist overalls and a cotton shirt like the ranch hands.

“To see the cabin where Grandpa, Daddy, Uncle Hoss and Uncle Adam lived when they first came to the Ponderosa,” Sarah exclaimed. “We got letters from Uncle Adam and A.C., and you got a letter, too.”

“We went ahead and read your brother’s letter,” Ben said quietly, “but you can read it on your own later. We were just getting ready to read your father’s letter. We were hoping you and William could join us.”

“Oh yes,” Miranda said, taking William’s hand and leading him to the blue velvet chair across from her grandpa’s. She sat in the chair and he perched on the arm as Joe opened Adam’s letter.

“Now, before I begin,” Joe said, “I should tell you A.C. wrote us that Gwyneth is living at a place called . . . ” and he looked at his nephew’s letter, “Brisbane.”

“Fair dinkum?” Miranda exclaimed and then corrected herself. “I mean, are you sure? I can’t imagine Daddy allowing it.”

“A.C. wrote us that she went ‘walkabout’ and then he wrote that she moved to Brisbane to help her decide between Mark and Douglas,” Ben replied.

“I want to hear what Daddy has to say about all this,” Miranda stated anxiously and William reached for her hand and held it comfortingly. Ben narrowed his eyes but said nothing, and Joe began to read.

July 1, 1896

Dear Pa and Joe,

I’m sure you’re reading this aloud so I think I should begin by saying hello to Miranda, Benj and Sarah, and to Miranda’s friend, William, who I understand is going to be visiting the Ponderosa for at least part of the summer vacation.

I imagine that you read A.C.’s letter first and you are probably finding it difficult to believe that Bronwen and I allowed Gwyneth to live on her own in a city hundreds of miles away. It was a difficult decision, but Gwyneth felt she needed time away from both Douglas and Mark to determine her feelings about each. (Her decision to leave Cloncurry was precipitated by Douglas’ request for her hand on her eighteenth birthday.) Melanie Andrews, A.C.’s teacher and Gwyneth’s friend, proposed a solution to Gwyneth’s dilemma. She has friends who own a bookin Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and they had asked her to come work for them. Melanie wasn’t interested but thought it would be ideal for Gwyneth. We all like Melanie very much and knew her friends must be fine people so we asked her to write to them, to see if they would be willing to hire Gwyneth instead of Melanie. They wrote back offering Gwyneth the position. The four of us traveled to Brisbane, which thankfully is much closer than Sydney although still a trek from Cloncurry-Bronwen is reading over my shoulder and reminds me everything is a trek from Cloncurry since we are at the back of beyond-and we met Melanie’s friends, the Overtons. With their assistance, we also rented Gwyneth a flat in their building. She loves her place and I confess Bronwen and I are a bit envious because in addition to running water, she has a water closet. The flat was unfurnished so Gwyneth now has some furniture, china, silver and linens of her own.

It was so hard to leave her there. I had thought it hard when I gave Beth to Dafydd, but this was worse because at least I knew Dafydd would take care of Beth and she was also nearby while Gwyneth is on her own in a distant city. Bronwen says the experience will be good for her; it will make her more independent. (Of course, I know she is just as worried as I am.) Our house seems very empty with just the three of us and Mary. Nell, who as you know has been with us since we married, has gone to live with her sister in Darlinghurst, a suburb of Sydney. (Her sister was recently widowed and asked Nell to come live with her. I know a part of Nell hated to go but her sister is all alone now. Plus, now that A.C. is the only child at home, Bronwen and Mary can take care of the house on their own. Mary has a young niece who comes once a week to help with the laundry, but otherwise Bronwen and Mary are managing just fine.)

Still, Nell was a part of our family for twenty-two years and we all miss her very much. (Even Lady mopes about the house.) I think it’s hardest on A.C. He’s lost so many members of his family. He’s been spending a lot of time visiting Beth and Elen since we’ve been back. Elen loves to play catch with the cloth ball he got her for Christmas. He says she’s good, especially for a girl, and even if I am prejudiced, I have to agree. In another year, Bronwen and I are planning on giving Elen Penny’s Graces game. To return to A.C., Lady will be having another litter in about three weeks and we’ve told A.C. that he can pick one of the puppies to keep. He and Lady are inseparable but she’s already nine and we thought it would be best to have her successor picked out.

Bronwen reminds me that I haven’t yet mentioned that she sends her love to all of you. I hope you have a wonderful summer. I imagine you’ll be hearing from Gwyneth soon and she’ll tell you all about life in Brisbane.

Affectionately yours,
Adam

“I still can’t believe Gwyneth is living on her own in Brisbane,” Miranda said as Joe finished. “She was always so shy. And she hates cities; she says they’re too loud and too crowded.”

“I’m sure her employers will introduce her to their circle of friends. Your father obviously likes them and I’m sure they’ll make certain Gwyneth isn’t too lonely,” William said comfortingly.

“I think your mama is right and it will be a good experience for Gwyneth,” Joe added.

“I suppose,” Miranda replied hesitantly. “I hope I don’t have to wait long to hear from Gwyneth herself,” she added.

“Can we go see the cabin tomorrow?” Benj asked. Joe and William were grateful for the change in topic.

“If it’s a nice day, I don’t see why not,” Joe stated. Pa?”

“Yes, as long as it doesn’t rain, I don’t see why we shouldn’t go tomorrow,” Ben agreed. “I was hoping you could drive me in the buggy, William.”

“Certainly,” the young man replied with an enthusiastic smile. “I’d love to see the cabin you built with your own hands.”

“I had some help from Miranda’s father. Even though he was too young to help raise the logs to build the walls, he did help carry stones for the foundation. He also helped fill in the chinks between the logs and pile up stones to build the fireplace. He was so proud of being able to help build his new home,” Ben said with a fond smile. “The first real one since we’d left Boston and he was too young to remember our home there.”

Buckshot had been heard in the background putting dishes and platters on the table and now he announced, “Supper’s ready. Come and get it.”

“Tomorrow morning after breakfast, we’ll visit the cabin,” Joe stated as they all headed for the table. “Oh, I almost forgot,” he said to Miranda. “Here’s your letter. Looks like it’s from Beth,” he added as he handed it to her.

“Will you read it to us?” Sarah asked.

“Sorry, Sarah, but sometimes Beth writes things that she doesn’t want me to share with anyone else.” Miranda saw the disappointment on her little cousin’s face and added. “I’ll share anything she writes that isn’t private. I promise.”

After supper, Miranda went up to her room to read and returned a few minutes later, her face glowing with happiness. “Elen is going to have a little brother or sister next February!” she exclaimed. “Beth hadn’t told Daddy and Mama before she wrote and she told me to share the news with all of you. I’m so happy for her and Dafydd.”

“That’s wonderful news,” Ben said. “I’ll have to write and congratulate her and Dafydd.”

“If I know my little brother, he’s sure going to be hoping for a nephew this time,” Miranda said with a happy grin, which faded as she said, “I haven’t even had a chance to see Elen and now Beth is having another baby.”

“Your father has sent you photographs,” William said consolingly, but she said sadly, “It’s not the same.”

“No, it’s not,” her grandfather echoed softly.

“I’m sorry, Grandpa. I know you must wish you could see your great-grandchildren,” she said, coming to sit on the arm of his chair and taking his hand.

“I do,” he replied wistfully, “but the photographs your father sends allow me to watch Elen grow older. It was the same with the photographs he sent of you and your sisters and they helped me feel closer to all of you.”

“You have pictures of Miranda when she was a little girl?” Sarah asked.

“I have pictures of Miranda and all her sisters,” Ben replied. “Would you like to see them?”

“I would,” William said immediately and Miranda blushed slightly.

“I know where the albums are,” Joe added, “so I’ll go get them.”

He returned a few minutes later with two fat albums. “Why don’t we sit at the table so we can lay the albums flat,” he suggested. Putting his words into action, he sat at the dining room table and set the albums in front of him. Then he carefully opened the oldest album. “This is the first photograph your daddy sent us,” he said as they all gathered around the table and saw a photograph of Bronwen seated in a wicker chair under a palm tree holding six-month-old Penny on her lap while six-year-old Beth and five-year-old Miranda stood on either side and three-year-old Gwyneth stood in front of Beth.

“Gosh, you’re all so little,” Sarah said wonderingly. “That’s Penny when she was a baby, isn’t it?”

“That’s right,” Miranda said sadly and Joe turned the page. As they looked at the neatly mounted photographs, Miranda realized she hadn’t known how many her daddy had sent her grandpa over the years. There were even a few of him taken by Uncle Rhys, or Beth when she was older. The ones most precious to Miranda were those of Penny, especially the one taken on her seventh birthday holding Victoria, her gift from Grandpa, Uncle Joe and Aunt Annabelle.

“That’s my favorite photograph of Penny,” Ben said quietly. “She looks so happy with the doll we gave her.”

“She loved Victoria,” Miranda said reaching for her grandpa’s hand and squeezing it. “Beth wrote me that A.C. said Penny would want to play with her dolls in heaven so they buried her with Victoria and Alexandra.”

“We didn’t know that,” Joe said, blinking back the tears in his eyes as he hugged his own little girl close, thinking how carefully Annabelle had looked until she’d found what she said was the perfect doll for her little niece. When I take Benj and Sarah back to Boston, I must tell her just how much the doll meant to Penny.

“I wish Penny hadn’t gone to heaven,” Sarah said sadly.

“So do I,” Miranda said softly. “I still miss her so much.” She managed to smile at her cousin. “But Penny wouldn’t want us to be sad.”

“That’s right,” Ben said. “She wouldn’t. And I think it’s time for you to head up to bed, young lady. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“Well, William,” Ben said conversationally as they drove to the old cabin, which was located southwest of the ranch house and closer to the shore of Lake Tahoe, “I can see you are very fond of my granddaughter.”

“I’m more than fond, sir. I love Miranda and she loves me. However, I know how important it is to her to graduate from Radcliffe, and I need to earn my doctorate and have a position on the faculty of a college before I ask her to marry me.” Seeing the older man turn to look at him as if waiting for him to continue, William suddenly became aware of what he was hoping he would say. “After I ask her father’s permission, of course” he added hastily. “Miranda’s family will be coming for her graduation and I intend to ask her father’s blessing then.”

Ben smiled his approval but then his expression grew serious. “I have to tell you that I don’t think you and Miranda should be living in the same boardinghouse. You don’t want to put too much temptation in your way.”

“If you could meet Mrs. Gerry, who owns our boardinghouse, I don’t think you’d have that worry,” the young man replied glibly. Seeing the frown on the elderly man’s face he said soberly, “If you really think it best, sir, then I could find another boardinghouse. I have a friend working on his doctorate and I could ask him to inquire about vacancies.”

“I think that would be best,” Ben said gently. “And I know Miranda’s parents would agree.”

To Joe and Ben’s amazement, the cabin was still in fairly good shape. There was rotting wood around the bottom and the glass windows were cracked and broken, but the walls and roof were still intact.

“Gosh, it’s awfully small,” Sarah commented comparing it to the ranch house and her mother’s row house on Beacon Hill. Miranda could only agree.

“It seemed the right size to the three of us,” Ben said with a smile. “It was just large enough to be snug and warm in the winter. For the first four years it just had the one room and then I added a lean-to for my bedroom and built a loft for the boys.” He smiled then at Sarah. “Your grandma had the same reaction. She never said so in words but I could see it in her face. After she grew accustomed to it, she came to love this cabin. Although I know she would have loved the ranch house even more, and been so proud of your Uncle Adam for designing it.”

“Can we go inside?” Benj asked.

“Sure,” Joe replied.

Joe, Miranda and Sarah looked at what was left of the crude furniture Ben had made while William, Ben and Benj examined closely the structure of the cabin. Sarah wanted to go up and see the loft where her daddy had slept, but Joe wasn’t sure it was safe and forbade anyone climbing the rickety ladder.

“I can tell you what you’d find,” he explained. “A clothespress and a big bed where all three of us slept.”

“All three of you in one bed?” Sarah exclaimed incredulously and Miranda’s expression also registered disbelief.

“Most of the time it was just two of us,” Joe admitted with an enormous grin. “Right before your Uncle Adam went away to school, I slept in a trundle bed that fit under the big bed where your uncles slept. When Uncle Adam was away at school, I wanted to sleep in the big bed with your Uncle Hoss. We only all three slept in the bed when Uncle Adam was home from college while the ranch house was being built. It got pretty crowded and a couple of times I ended up on the floor since I had to sleep on the outside so I could get up and use the chamber pot without crawling over my big brothers. I remember I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a new house and one of the ways Uncle Adam convinced me I would like the new house was by telling me I’d have a room all to myself.”

Sarah thought back to the time she had been in Cloncurry for her cousin Beth’s wedding and the nights she had shared Penny and Gwyneth’s bedroom, and all the fun the three of them had had whispering in the dark after their parents had come to kiss them goodnight and turn out the lamp. It was one of her happiest memories-the entire visit with Uncle Adam, Aunt Bronwen and her cousins was one of the best times of her short life. She wished that she could have sisters of her own, but she was beginning to think that wouldn’t happen.

“I think you must have used some type of hoist to raise these logs yourself,” William said to Ben as they examined the cabin’s sturdy walls.

“That’s right. When the McKarens settled nearby, Andy and I used it to build their cabin and then we used it to help the Marquettes build theirs. I built this cabin to last and I’m pleased to see that it has.” He smiled wistfully as he added, “I love the ranch house my eldest designed, but this place will always be special to me. It’s where my two oldest boys grew up and where I lived with Joe’s mother. Those were good days even if the work was long and backbreaking.”

He was too lost in memories to observe the rapt expression on the young historian’s face as he continued to reminisce. “When we first lived here, I put the boys’ bed close to the fireplace where it was warmest and my bed was against that wall where the first morning light would wake me. The winters were long and cold just as they are now and I can remember so many evenings with the three of us sitting on this wooden settee,” and he placed his hands on the back, feeling the knotty pine that the seven-year-old Adam had worked so diligently to smooth. “I’d tell the boys stories about my years at sea or Adam would read from one of the books his grandfather had managed to send him. I can see them so vividly-Adam’s dark head at my right, not quite touching me, while Hoss would be sitting on my lap, rubbing his eyes to keep awake like his ‘bruver’.” Ben stopped then looking a bit embarrassed. “I’m sorry for rambling on. I just find myself thinking more often about my sons when they were young, particularly Hoss and Adam since they are no longer with me as Joe is.”

“I enjoy hearing you talk about those days. It really evokes that time and place,” William replied earnestly.

“Life was less complicated back then. As I mentioned, we were very isolated. Now I understand one can actually talk to another person miles away on those new-fangled telephones. We used candles or oil lamps but I’ve read that back east you can light your house using electricity. I’ve even heard they have built a horseless carriage just as my middle son always believed they would.”

“That’s correct, sir. The Duryea brothers in Springfield, Massachusetts, have started the Duryea Motor Wagon Company where they manufacture vehicles with an internal combustion engine.” William grinned sheepishly as he added, “I sure wish I could afford to buy one.”

Ben shook his head before adding, “This is an amazing era but sometimes I confess I long for simpler times. So many things have been lost in the name of progress: the huge herds of bison that roamed the plains, beautiful forests stripped to provide timber for the mines, wildlife wantonly slaughtered. I’ve no liking for wolves-no rancher does-but I’ve no desire to see any of God’s creatures eradicated from the face of the earth. Then there is our shameful treatment of the Indians. We stole their land and herded them onto reservations. We send their children to schools where they are punished for speaking their native language and we try to make them forget their heritage.”

“You don’t see it as the white man’s burden to bring civilization to native peoples?” William asked in a carefully neutral voice.

“No, I do not!” Ben replied emphatically. “What arrogance the white race has to think only its culture is ‘civilized’. The Chinese culture is far older than ours, and the Indians lived in harmony with the land for centuries before Europeans arrive.”

“You’re not alone in your beliefs, sir,” William said quietly, “but I fear we are in the minority-at least for the present. I think, in time, our beliefs will prevail.”

Miranda walked over then saying with a smile, “You two look so serious.” She turned to Ben. “I think it is amazing that you built this by yourself, Grandpa.”

“We all did in those days, dear,” Ben replied putting an arm around her shoulders and hugging her.

“I don’t see a stove. How did you cook?” Miranda asked.

“Over the fireplace,” Ben replied. “I think what Hop Sing liked best about moving to the ranch house was that he could cook on a stove and have an oven for baking.”

Just then Sarah came running up. “Did Daddy, Uncle Adam and Uncle Hoss really all sleep in one bed?” she asked.

“Just for a little while,’ Ben answered with a grin. “Your uncles were so big they didn’t leave your daddy much room. All the same, it took him a while to get used to sleeping alone and it was the same for your Uncle Hoss.”

“What about Uncle Adam?” Sarah queried.

“Oh, he liked having a room of his own where he could keep his things. His bedroom was sacrosanct.”

“Huh?” Sarah said wrinkling her forehead in puzzlement.

“What Grandpa means is that no one was allowed in Uncle Adam’s room without his permission, especially his youngest brother,” Joe stated putting an arm around his daughter’s shoulders affectionately. “Of course, that only made me more determined to sneak in,” he added with a huge grin. “I was disappointed to find a lot of shelves filled with books, rolled up papers covered with odd drawings by his draftsman’s table and his guitar setting in a corner. I knew the music box on his bedside table belonged to his mother so I didn’t touch it, but I couldn’t resist his ship in a bottle.”

“And you didn’t realize you hadn’t put it back exactly as you’d found it so your brother knew you’d been in his room without his permission, touching his things.”

“You went into Uncle Adam’s room when you weren’t supposed to?” Sarah said looking at her daddy with a speculative expression.

“And was punished for it,” her grandpa added.

“Gwyneth always made a fuss if Penny or A.C. touched her things,” Miranda said with a slight smile.

“That apple didn’t fall far from the tree,’ Joe said with a wink.

Benj walked over to join the others. “I’m hungry. Can we eat the picnic lunch Buckshot made us?”

“Sure, Pardner,” Joe replied starting to reach out and tousle his son’s hair but the boy moved out of reach.

“Can we sit and eat at the table you made, Grandpa?” Sarah asked eagerly.

“I think it’s too dirty to eat in here, Sugar,” Ben answered gently. “We could go to the spot where your grandma, daddy, uncles and I used to picnic in the summertime.”

Sarah’s expression brightened and Benj said, “That’d be wonderful, Grandpa.”

When they returned to the ranch house, Buckshot was waiting for them. “Andy McKaren stopped by,” he announced in his gravelly voice. “He’d gone into town and Miss Tompkins told him Miss Miranda had a letter from Queensland so he brought it over.”

Miranda snatched up the letter, recognizing her younger sister’s sprawling handwriting. “It’s from Gwyneth!” she said excitedly, tearing it open. She read the first sentence quickly and then said, “She wrote it for me to share with everyone.”

“Let’s all sit down then and you can read it to us,” Ben said with a wide smile. He was tired but not so tired he would consider waiting to hear what his granddaughter had written.

It only took a few minutes for them to assemble in the great room, and then they all looked expectantly at Miranda as she began to read.

July 10, 1896

Dear Miranda,

By now everyone at the Ponderosa has undoubtedly heard that I am living in Brisbane where I have a job in a bookshop, so this letter is really for you to share. I am sitting here at my own secretary desk and bookcase that I purchased with money from my trust fund. (I had a hard time convincing Daddy to let me use my own money to buy my furniture; Mama understood though, and she helped me convince him.) I invited my employers, the Overtons, to have supper with me tonight and I’ve finished cleaning up so I have time to write before I go to bed. The Overtons and I have supper together often. Sometimes I’m their guest and other times, like tonight, they are mine. A few times I have been included in an invitation to supper by one of their friends and on occasion I eat by myself. (The Overtons are readers so they understand that sometimes I just want to curl up with a good book.)

I like working at the bookshop. I wait on customers and keep the books in order on the shelves. At first I was nervous about having to be around so many new people, but it’s not as bad as I thought. The Overtons tease me that more blokes are shopping at the bookshop since I’ve started working there. There have been a few that I suppose tried to flirt with me, but I don’t have any interest in that. (Now, Beth would have loved it, or at least she would have before she married Dafydd.)

I haven’t changed my opinion of cities, but Brisbane is a bit quieter than Sydney, Boston or San Francisco. I like New Farm, the suburb where I live. It’s larger than Cloncurry but it’s quieter and friendlier than Brisbane. My flat is beaut. It’s just perfect for one or two people. It was great fun shopping for my furniture and getting to choose what I wanted. Daddy tried very hard to talk me out of the sofa I chose but I remained firm. (Obstinate as a mule was how he put it!) I took Mama’s advice when I chose my pots and pans but I selected my own china and glasses. Mama mentioned that she and Daddy chose theirs together, but I know neither Mark nor Douglas has any interest in looking at china patterns and will be happy with what I chose.

I guess you can tell that I still haven’t worked out my feelings about them. I think it’s Mark I truly love, but I do care for Douglas and I can’t deny that I am attracted to him. I haven’t met that many men who can make me feel delicate and petite, but Douglas does. I suppose I can’t help being influenced by the knowledge that he loves me, but I know that Mark has loved me longer. Daddy reminded me that no one really dies of a broken heart, but I just hate to think that I must cause one of them pain. There are times when I wish I could have stayed a little girl. I could go to Daddy and Mama with my problems and they’d always help me find the solution. This problem I have to settle on my own and the only advice they can give me is to be very sure about my decision. Sometimes I think the solution is to stay here in Brisbane and not marry anyone. But I miss my family too much for that, and it wouldn’t be fair to either Mark or Douglas, or to me, for that matter.

Most of the time I’m fine. I have my job and I’ve joined the church choir (Mr. Havers, the choirmaster, is trying to convince me to sing a solo) and I’ve made some new friends. Still there are times when I miss my family so much I can’t hold back my tears and then I remember Mama’s advice and I pray about it.

It’s getting late so I really should close. I was so glad to hear that Benj and Sarah are visiting the Ponderosa this summer and I want to tell them hello. I understand that your friend William is also visiting so I want to say hello to him as well. I look forward to meeting him in two years when you graduate. Finally, I send my love to you and to Grandpa and Uncle Joe.

Your sister,
Gwyneth

“I think it would be fun to have place all my own,” Benj said. “Then I could do whatever I wanted.”

“I think it’s too bad Gwyneth can’t marry Mark and Douglas,” Sarah opined and William said with a grin, “Oh, I don’t think either Mark or Douglas would agree to that.”

“Why not?” Sarah persisted.

“I’m afraid it’s something you won’t understand until you’re old enough to fall in love, baby girl,” Joe replied, giving her a hug.

“And maybe you’ll be lucky and know without a doubt the man you want to marry,” Miranda said as she gazed into William’s brilliant blue eyes.

Chapter 3
It was a scorching summer day in late February and the first sunny one in over a week so Bronwen had been happy to give her bored and restless nine-year-old permission to play with his friend Robbie. Beth, whose second child was due any day, had walked from the parsonage along with two-year-old Elen. While Mary and her niece, Rose, took advantage of the clear sky and hung the laundry to dry in the sunshine instead of beneath the house, Bronwen and Beth used some freshly picked lemons to make lemon meringue pies for their families. Elen sat on the freshly scrubbed kitchen floor where her mama could keep an eye on her as she played contentedly with her uncle’s Noah’s Ark. Bronwen and Beth were enjoying their visit when they heard the frantic barking of Lady and her pup, Duchess, followed by the piercing sound of Robbie’s voice screaming, “Mrs. Cartwright! Mrs. Cartwright!”

Bronwen rushed out the backdoor just as Robbie ran up the steps. “Mrs. Cartwright, A.C. fell outta the gum tree and he won’t wake up!”

She saw her son’s still form beneath the large tree with Lady and Duchess frantically licking his face and barking. She ran down the steps to the tree all the while praying ceaselessly, Please, Lord, please don’t take another one of my babies. I couldn’t bear it!

Just as she knelt beside her little boy, she saw the long black lashes flutter. She sent a silent prayer of thanks heavenward as A.C. slowly opened his eyes, showing pupils of different sizes. He tried to lift up his head but instead turned to the side as he became violently ill. Beth had followed her mother at her slower, waddling pace trailed by Elen and, upon hearing the retching sound from her brother, called anxiously, “Is he all right?” Her mother’s demeanor provided the answer to her question. As she came closer to stand over her sibling, he opened his eyes and she could see his pupils, so she asked apprehensively, “What’s wrong with his eyes?”

“I think he has a concussion,” Bronwen replied, trying to keep the panic from her voice so as not to cause any undue anxiety in the expectant mother or the injured child. Then she said softly to her son, “A.C., do you remember what happened?” and he looked at her blankly without answering. “Do you remember what day it is?” she asked, hoping to ascertain the extent of his injury by his response.

“No,” he replied and closed his eyes to stop the world from spinning wildly about him.

Mary and Rose had heard the commotion and came running over. Each of them stooped down to attempt to pick up the child and move him into the house. Bronwen stopped them immediately because she remembered something her father had told her about the times when he had had to treat an injured person. “Don’t move them unless you absolutely have to because it can do more harm than good.” Glancing up at the ample shade provided by the gum tree, she instructed Mary to fetch the doctor, while directing Rose to get a pillow and a light coverlet from A.C.’s bed to make him as comfortable as possible while awaiting the doctor.

Beth looked at her brother carefully and noted his right arm was at an unnatural angle. “I think his arm is broken,” she said quietly. “I’ll go get a basin and washrag to bathe his face while we wait for the doctor.” Following her mother’s lead, she offered her hand to A.C.’s little playmate, and said soothingly, “Don’t worry, Robbie. A.C. will be right once the doctor arrives. Why don’t you come with me and you can have some lemonade before you go home.” She then turned to her little girl, who was hanging on her skirt with one hand and sucking on the thumb of the other while she looked at her uncle’s limp form with enormous eyes. “Come on, Elen fach, we’ll get some water and rags to clean up Uncle A.C.”

“Unca A.C. crook,” Elen said and her mother replied quietly, “That’s right. But Dr. Brooke will take care of him and he’ll be right.” She took the child’s hand and the three of them walked as quickly as they could back to the house, leaving an internally distraught but outwardly calm Bronwen to comfort her baby.

When Adam returned that evening, he was surprised not to be greeted by A.C.; instead it was Mary who hurried to meet him at the stable as soon as he rode up.

“Where’s A.C.? I hope he’s not confined to his room as a punishment,” he commented dryly as he swung the saddle off Mercury.

“No, sir, he’s in his room but not because he was bad,” she replied carefully. “He and Master Robbie were climbing the gum tree in the backyard and he fell.”

“He’s all right?” Adam asked quickly, feeling a cold knot of fear twisting his gut.

“His arm is broken and he hurt his head. Dr. Brooke says he needs to stay in bed for at least a week, and maybe two” she said quietly.

“I’ll be right there,” he replied, moving to care for Mercury as quickly as he could before sprinting to the house.

He found A.C. lying in bed with his right arm in a splint and his eyes closed while Bronwen sat in the rocking chair reading to him. “Look, A.C. bach, Dad’s home,” she said with exaggerated cheerfulness as he stepped into the room.

A.C. opened his eyes and Adam saw the left pupil was much larger than the right. “G’day, Daddy,” he said listlessly.

Upon hearing the name for him that A.C. had stopped using the day he turned nine, Adam knew the answer to his question before he asked it. “How do you feel, Jackeroo?” he queried, sitting carefully on the edge of the bed.

“My head hurts and I see too many of everything.”

“What happened to you?” Adam asked, curious to find out how much his little son recalled of the accident.

“I don’t remember,” the child replied. “Dr. Brooke said I have a con, con (”

“Concussion,” Adam finished for him, thankful that it wasn’t more serious than that. “You know, I once had a concussion and a broken arm just like you.” He smiled warmly before adding, “It was even the same arm.”

“Fair dinkum?” the boy asked in the same listless tone. Bronwen, thinking that the story probably took place when Adam was a little boy, added, “I’d like to hear how that happened, wouldn’t you?” A.C. started to nod but stopped himself, saying instead, “Tell us, Daddy.”

“It started when a really bad man named Red Twilight tried to kill your Uncle Hoss by shooting him in the back with a buffalo gun.”

Bronwen’s eyes grew large as she realized her error, but A.C. was already enthralled with the story. “Fortunately, his aim wasn’t that good and Uncle Joe and I weren’t far away. Uncle Joe went to get the doctor and I stayed with Uncle Hoss until we could take him back to the house. When Red Twilight learned that Uncle Hoss was still alive, he decided to come to the Ponderosa and kill him in his bed.”

He heard Bronwen gasp and saw the child’s eyes widen. “Uncle Joe and I were trailing him and we got to the ranch a few minutes after he did. Uncle Joe decided he’d sneak in through the window in Uncle Hoss’s bedroom and I decided to go in the front door. I tried to be quiet but I guess I wasn’t quiet enough because when I stepped inside, Red Twilight was waiting on the stairs, his gun out and the hammer cocked.”

He paused and A.C. said impatiently, “What happened?”

“He really was a poor shot. I’m sure he meant to shoot me right between the eyes, but instead the bullet grazed the side of my head right here,” he said indicating a spot just above his ear. “When I came to, I thought I was fine and so did everyone else, but I wasn’t. I still can’t remember what happened then but your Uncle Joe found me lying in a creek so I guess I must have fallen down the creek bank. That’s how I broke my arm and it didn’t help my head any.” He saw his son smile faintly at those words and gave his left hand a squeeze. “I had to stay in bed for a long time and Uncle Joe and Grandpa would read to me. Would you like me to read to you?”

“I’d rather hear a story. Was that the only time you got shot?”

“No, there were a few others,” Adam admitted somewhat reluctantly. “The worst was when I was shot here,” and he pointed to his abdomen, “by a group of Apaches led by Cochise.”

“I think I’ll leave the two of you alone,” Bronwen interjected, “since I don’t like stories where Dad gets hurt.” She shuddered involuntarily, knowing that the story explained the scar on her husband’s abdomen, for she’d asked him about it during the early days of their marriage along with the scar on one of his arms from an arrow and another from a bullet wound. He also bore scars on one of his shoulders and one of his legs from bullet wounds. She hated thinking about them and the suffering Adam must have endured as a result of the wounds, but that scar on his abdomen made her physically sick when she thought about how close she had come to never knowing him.

For the first couple of days when the slightest movement caused the room to spin and his stomach to revolt, it was easy keeping A.C. confined to his bed. However, by the third day his vision was normal and the headache and nausea were gone so he began to try and wheedle his parents into letting him get up. He didn’t really expect the tactic to work on his dad, but he could usually wear his mama’s resistance down. Not this time. When charm didn’t work, he tried pouting with even less success. Dad told him firmly if he wasn’t careful, as soon as he was well enough to get out of bed, they’d be having a necessary talk. The boy knew his dad didn’t make idle threats so he reluctantly resigned himself to several days of boredom. (He conveniently discounted the hours his parents spent reading to him or playing parlor games or all the stories he persuaded his dad to tell him about the times he or Uncle Joe or Uncle Hoss got shot. A.C.’s favorite was the one where Uncle Hoss was shot in the leg and then the bad men ended up having to carry him home on a stretcher. “I think they all wished they’d shot Uncle Joe or even me instead of Uncle Hoss,” his dad told him with a chuckle.)

The fifth morning after A.C.’s fall, he was surprised when Mary brought him his breakfast tray. “Where’s my mama?” he asked curiously.

“Reverend Jones came last night while you were asleep. Miss Beth’s baby is ready to be born,” Mary replied with a wide grin.

‘Fair dinkum?” the boy asked excitedly, starting to get out of bed.

“You’re not going anywhere, Master A.C.,” Mary said, gently but firmly pushing him back down. “Miss Beth and your mama don’t need your help. Having babies is women’s work, not men’s.”

“Dr. Brooke is a man,” the boy retorted jutting his chin out.

“Yes, and he knows how to help Miss Beth,” Mary replied. “You don’t and it’s not proper for boys to be there when a baby is born.”

“I was there when Lady had her puppies,” he asserted stubbornly.

“You saw them after they were born when Lady was ready for you to see them,” Mary answered calmly. “That dog’s got more sense than to want a boy about when she’s whelping.” She smiled to take any sting from her words. “Now eat your breakfast. Your dad said he’d come tell us when the baby is born and that I was to make sure you stayed in bed.”

A.C. sulked but he obeyed. When he finished breakfast, he asked Mary to bring him his toy soldiers and he staged a battle on his quilt. Just when he was tiring of the soldiers, he heard Lady’s and Duchess’s welcoming barks through his open windows.

“Is that Dad?” he called excitedly and Mary shouted up the stairs, “Yes, it’s your dad.”

A.C. fretted impatiently while he knew his dad must be putting up the team but after what seemed like forever, he heard footsteps on the stairs and then his dad’s smiling face was in the doorway.

“Is it a boy?” A.C. asked eagerly.

“That’s right, Jackeroo, you have a nephew,” and the boy gave a whoop of delight. Adam smiled at his son adding, “He’s going to be named Huw for his Grandfather Jones and Adda, which is Adam in Welsh, for me.”

“And me!” A.C. exclaimed.

“That’s right,” Adam agreed with a huge grin. “He’s named Adda for both of us. Dafydd said they’re going to call him Huw since there are already enough Adams in the family.”

“I wanna go see him,” the proud uncle said enthusiastically.

“Whoa, Jackeroo,” Adam said firmly. “You aren’t going anywhere until Dr. Brooke gives his okay.” Seeing his son’s ferocious scowl he added, “Besides you and I are having company for dinner this afternoon.”

“Fair dinkum?”

“Too right. Dafydd and Elen are going to eat with us and since you can’t come downstairs to the dining room, we’re all going to eat up here in your room.”

“I still wish I could see Huw,” A.C. said with just a little pout.

“You’ll be able to see him in a few days, Jackeroo,” Adam said softly. “Right now he looks red and squished just like Elen did. Of course,” he added speculatively, “we could see right away that Elen was going to look like Dafydd. I don’t think Huw is going to favor either parent. I think he’s going to be a combination of Beth and Dafydd the same way you and Beth,” he smiled at his son, “are a combination of Mama and me. Now,” he said, his tone growing businesslike, “I want to write your sisters and Grandpa and Uncle Joe about Huw.”

“I wanna write them, too,” the boy declared.

“I’m sure they’d like to hear from you,” Adam said with a warm smile. “I’ll go get Mama’s lap desk and you can use it and I’ll sit at your desk.”

*~*~

It was a brisk and windy day in early April and Ben was sitting in his favorite chair rereading Melville’s Moby Dick. He looked up when he heard the front door open and saw his youngest son enter with an enormous grin lighting up his handsome features.

“We hit the jackpot, Pa. We’ve got letters from Sarah, Adam, Gwyneth, Miranda and A.C.”

Ben returned his grin and said, “Let’s start with Sarah’s,” but Joe said firmly, “No, let’s start with Adam’s since he’ll be writing about Beth’s baby. We can read Sarah’s next.” He sat down in the blue velvet chair across from his father’s and hastily tore open the envelope.

March 2, 1897

Dear Pa and Joe,

My grandson arrived about 9:30 this morning. . . .

Joe looked up at his pa and they exchanged joyful smiles. “I’ll bet A.C.’s thrilled to have a nephew,” Joe commented with a chuckle before resuming his reading.

Beth is tired but happy and proud of her son. Dafydd is positively beaming. They are naming him Huw Adda after his grandfathers and, of course, his Uncle A.C. (If you didn’t know, Adda is Adam in Welsh.) Huw is a fine healthy boy; I think he’s a bit bigger than Elen was. I was telling A.C. I don’t think Huw is going to particularly favor either parent. Bronwen and I took Elen in to see her mama and her baby brother, and she pretty much ignored the baby and wanted to climb all over her mama. She is definitely a mama’s girl so I hope she doesn’t have too much of a problem adjusting to sharing her with her baby brother. I can still vividly recall some of the problems we had with Beth after Miranda was born, and even more the problems with Miranda when Gwyneth came along. Gwyneth adjusted pretty easily to Penny and although Penny occasionally resented the attention A.C. got as the baby for the most part we didn’t have any problems with her. (I suppose she and Gwyneth were used to sharing their mama and daddy.) It’s difficult for the first-born. I don’t really remember being jealous of Hoss though, only delighted to have a baby brother.

Joe stopped reading and looked at his father questioningly. “That’s mostly true,” Ben said quietly. “When Inger was alive, there were occasions right after Hoss was born that Adam displayed jealousy over the time and attention she gave the baby. She was a very wise woman though and she let Adam think she needed his help to take care of Hoss. That solved the problem because he no longer felt excluded. Of course Elen is too young for Beth to use that approach.” Joe nodded, remembering some of the struggles he and Annabelle had had with Benj right after Sarah was born, and returned to Adam’s letter.

You can imagine how delighted A.C. is to have another boy in the family! However, right now he is fretting because he can’t go see his nephew. Five days ago he fell out of the big gum tree in the backyard. He broke his right arm and gave himself a concussion. (Bronwen says he took 10 years off her life when she saw him lying there so still while our two dogs were barking and licking his face to rouse him.) He’s recovering but it was a pretty severe concussion and Dr. Brooke wants him confined to bed for at least a week. Bronwen and I have been taking turns keeping him company. I told him about the time I broke my arm and had a concussion. That story had him begging for more about me or his uncles getting shot or injured. (Never thought I’d be thankful for all Joe’s misadventures!) His bloodthirstiness is alarming his mama even though I’ve tried to reassure her that it’s perfectly normal for a boy his age. He’s begun hinting that he’d like a gun but I’ve told him firmly that I was twelve before I got my first rifle and he has at least three years to wait before I’d even consider getting him one. (He may have to wait longer than that if I can’t convince Bronwen, who is vehemently opposed to the idea of him using any kind of firearm.)

When I finish this letter, I’ll be writing to the girls to inform them of their nephew’s birth. I am so proud of Miranda for having the courage and determination to follow her dream of obtaining a higher education even though it meant leaving her family to live in a strange place where the climate (and to an extent the customs and the language) were very different. Then there is my quiet girl. Always a bit shy and uncertain around strangers and yet she’s made a life far from home and is earning her own living, managing her own finances and making her own decisions. I am so proud of her as well. At the same time, I long for the days when all my girls were just that: My little girls who looked up to their daddy and relied on him to take care of them and supply their needs. We want our children to grow up to be independent and self-sufficient, and when they do, it hurts.

I know that pain well, son, Ben thought as he listened to Joe read. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and neither would you.

At least A.C. will be living at home for nine more years. I’ll be seventy when it’s time for him to attend college, which is difficult for me to believe. I’m aware my body is aging, but inside I’m the same. I know you both understand what I’m trying to put into words. Still, Bronwen and I are finding Robert Browning is correct-the last of life is in many ways the best. I am so blessed to have been able to share these past twenty-three years with her, and God willing, we’ll share another twenty-three.

I’ll close now. As soon as I can, I’ll send a photograph of Huw.

Affectionately yours,
Adam

“Poor A.C.,” Joe said as he folded the letter. “Being stuck in bed for a week.”

“Poor Bronwen and Adam having to keep him there,” Ben corrected. “I’m sure they’re having just as much fun as Hop Sing and I used have keeping you-or your brothers for that matter-in bed,” and Joe grinned. “Now, let’s hear what Sarah has to say.”

March 24, 1897

Dear Daddy and Grandpa,

I miss you so much and I can hardly wait until summer vacation and I can come visit. I finally got Mama to let me have a pet. I wanted a dog but she told me I could have a Budgerigar. Miranda told me Budgies come from Australia just like her. She said when she was still living in Cloncurry she’d see flocks of wild ones. They are darling little birds that you can teach to sit on your finger or your shoulder, and they talk just like parrots. In fact, another name for them is parakeet. I picked a pretty blue one and named him Billy Boy after William. That made Miranda laugh and William turn red. I like William very much. He is nice and he and Miranda visit me every Saturday. We go for walks in the Common or we visit famous places in American history and William tells me about them. He makes them more interesting than my teacher does. We’ve walked to the top of the Bunker Hill monument just like Benj, A.C. and Uncle Adam. When it gets warmer, William promised to take Miranda and me for boat rides on the Charles. He even said he’d teach me to play tennis. I asked him if he was going to marry Miranda so he could be my cousin, too. Miranda turned red but William smiled and said yes he wanted to marry Miranda after she’s finished school. He kissed her then. They kissed like I saw Uncle Adam kiss Aunt Bronwen when we stayed in Cloncurry.

Joe looked up then and saw Ben’s frown. “Oh c’mon, Pa. Don’t tell me you never kissed Adam’s mother, or Hoss’s or mine before you got married!” Ben harrumphed but Joe grinned broadly and resumed reading.

Billy Boy can say ‘Pretty Bird’. William said I can teach him more words if I am patient and work at it, so I’m trying to teach him to say, ‘G’day. (Miranda says that’s how people in Australia say hello.)

Mama says I have to hurry and finish so my letter can go in today’s mail.

Love,
Sarah

Joe sighed gustily. “I can hardly wait until summer vacation, too. Sure wish there’d been a letter from Benj.” He saw the sadness on his pa’s face and forcing a smile he said brightly, “Whose letter shall we read next? Miranda’s, Gwyneth’s or A.C.’s?”

“Gwyneth’s,” Ben replied with a wistful smile.

March 4, 1897

Dear Grandpa and Uncle Joe,

It’s autumn now and the temperature is much cooler than it is back home but it’s also much more humid. I’ve been in Brisbane for ten months now and I think I’m becoming acclimated. At least it’s not as different from Cloncurry as Boston and Cambridge. I’m surprised to discover that even though I miss Mama and Daddy and the rest of my family very much, I like having my own flat. I enjoy keeping it clean and neat and I like cooking for myself. I still dine with the Overtons at least once a week and I invite them to dine with me as well. Occasionally the three of us will attend a concert or a cricket match. I have choir practice and I attend church regularly. All that plus my job keeps me pretty busy. However, I don’t mind spending some time alone; in fact, if I’m reading a particularly good novel, I only want to be left alone. When I wrote that to Mama and Daddy, Mama wrote back that I should enjoy this time because once I marry and have children, I won’t have any time to myself until my children grow up.

It was a little lonely coming home to an empty flat though so Mabel suggested that I get a kitten, and I did. She is a grey tabby with a white chin; it is such fun to watch her play with a piece of yarn. She loves to climb up and sit on my chest so her face is nearly touching mine. I think she thinks I’m another cat because if my arms are bare, she tried to wash them with her sandpapery little tongue. If she wants to be petted, she pushes at my hand with her head, and she won’t take no for an answer. (Mama says sounds like she’s a true Cartwright.) I see I’ve forgotten to mention her name. I’ve decided to name her Cath, which is Welsh for cat. Not very original, but she seems to like it.

You mentioned in your last letter that you’d like to know more about where I live. While I find Brisbane too loud and crowded, I like New Farm. It’s located at a bend in the Brisbane River; East Brisbane and Norman Park are across the river to the south and across the river to the west is the suburb of Kangaroo Point and to the north are the suburbs of Fortitude Valley and Newstead while Hawthorne lies to the east. Amity, the street where I live, is quiet and my flat is within easy walking distance of church and the shops. I’ve learned a little bit of local history. New Farm was originally a farming area. (I guess that is pretty obvious from its name!) It was only around thirty years ago that it really began to develop as a suburb of Brisbane. Now many of the residents work at the Colonial Sugar Refinery. I don’t know if you were aware of it, but while northwestern Queensland’s economy is based on mining and cattle, along the east coast sugarcane is the mainstay of the economy. (Daddy has reminded me I shouldn’t spend all my time reading novels so I’ve been studying our history and economy.) Although New Farm is located a number of miles inland, one time this summer the Overtons and I rented a buggy and we drove to Nudgee Beach and spent the afternoon there. (It doesn’t compare with Bondi Beach though.)

It’s ironic that I left Cloncurry to help me decide between Mark and Douglas yet a couple of men I’ve met at church have asked me to dinner or a concert. Needless to say I’ve refused them. I don’t need another man in my life! Mark and Douglas both write me regularly, telling me how much they love me. I admit that a part of me hoped that if I were gone, Douglas might fall in love with Melanie. (She’s never told me that she loves him, but I’ve seen the way she looks at him and the way she sounds when she talks about him.) I thought that old saying of Daddy’s about out of sight, out of mind might be true, but unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way (for either of us).

After a moment Joe said slowly, “I guess older brother forgot to mention that other old saying: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“Gwyneth is as tenderhearted as Hoss and she doesn’t want to hurt this Douglas,” Ben remarked somberly.

“Maybe someone should tell her that it would be kinder to tell him now rather than prolonging his hopes,’ Joe said pensively.

“That’s your brother’s job, not ours. I’m sure he has discussed it with Gwyneth, but ultimately it is her decision. Is that all she wrote?”

“No, there’s a little more.

I’ll close by saying I am anxiously awaiting news about Beth. Like A.C., I’m hoping for a nephew his time. Beth has written that this baby seems more active and she can hardly wait for him or her to be born.

Love,
Gwyneth

“Why don’t you read Miranda’s next and save A.C.’s for last,” Ben suggested as Joe folded Gwyneth’s letter and put it back in its envelope. He knew Pa would add it to the other letters his grandchildren had sent him over the years, which he kept to read over again and again.

March 23, 1897

Dear Grandpa and Uncle Joe,

It’s hard for me to believe, but my junior year at Radcliffe is nearly finished-only one more year before I will have earned my degree. It is going to seem so odd not to be attending lectures or writing papers. I realize my education won’t end; it will just take a different form. Instead of learning analytic geometry or ancient history, I’ll be learning how to plan menus and create a household budget. William has already warned me that faculty members and their wives are expected to do a certain amount of entertaining such as afternoon teas for the students, like Mrs. Agassiz holds here at Radcliffe, and we’d also be expected to attend dinners hosted by the department head or the dean or president of the college. I told William that we’d need a cook. I don’t think he believed me, but he will the first time I try to cook a meal! Since you were kind enough to invite him to visit the ranch again this summer, I was thinking that maybe Buckshot should let me fix a picnic lunch for the two of us.

Both men laughed as Joe read that. “Good thing William’s totally smitten with her or he might think twice about marrying a wife who can’t cook,” Joe said with a chuckle.

“I wonder if she’s really that bad,” Ben said musingly. “Her grandmother was an excellent cook.”

“Miranda may look like Adam’s mother, but if Bronwen banned her from the kitchen, she must be pretty bad. And I remember some of the stories Beth wrote us about Miranda’s cooking like the time she made a batch of biscuits and left out the baking powder and put in way too much salt so even their dog wouldn’t eat them,” Joe replied with an enormous grin before resuming his reading.

William and I have been visiting Sarah every Saturday. (Benj is boarding at Deerfield Academy so we can’t visit him.) Seeing William with Sarah has given me a good idea of the kind of father he’ll be to our children. He won’t be cold and remote like Mr. Alden; he’ll be warm and loving just like Daddy and the two of you.

This spring William will receive his doctorate. He’s already contacted several colleges here in the East, and he’s received requests for interviews from three: Trinity College in North Carolina, Antioch College in Ohio and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He says he is leaning toward Dartmouth since he’d prefer to remain in New England. Part of me wishes he’d choose Trinity just because it’s a warmer climate, but I don’t think there’s much chance of that. I know I’ll be happy wherever William is. I am going to miss him so much next year, but we were separated before and it only strengthened our affection.

Like both of you I’m eagerly awaiting a letter telling me if Beth had a boy or a girl. I guess we’re all hoping for a boy this time although Daddy is right and the important thing is the baby is healthy and Beth doesn’t have any complications.

I’ll close by saying how much William and I are looking forward to our stay at the Ponderosa this summer.

Love,
Miranda

“And now for A.C.’s letter,” Joe said enthusiastically.

Dear Grandpa and Uncle Joe,

How are you? I have a nefew. His name is Huw Adda Jones. I asked Dad how to spell it. I cant go see him cause I have to stay in bed cause I have a kunshun kunkunshun concussion. I asked Dad how to spell that to. I fell out of our gum tree and I broke my rite arm. Dad said its lucky Im left handed like Uncle Joe or I couldnt write this letter. I dont like having to stay in bed but Dad told me lots of stories about when him and Uncle Joe and Uncle Hoss got shot. I want to learn to shoot a gun but Dad says I have to wait until Im 12. Thats a long time. May be Grandpa could tell Dad I should learn now. I mean when I dont have to stay in bed. Mama and Dad told me next March we will be sailing to the States. We will sail to San Francisco and visit you and then ride the train to Boston to see Miranda graduate. It will be nice when Miranda comes back home. I miss her and Gwyneth and I miss Llywelyn. I don’t know why they all went walkabout.

I miss both of you to. I wish you could come live with us.

Yours truely
A.C.

Joe looked up and saw a wistful look on his pa’s face. “Everything okay, Pa?” he asked and Ben heard the tinge of anxiety in his tone.

“Everything’s fine. I was just agreeing with A.C. and wishing we were all together.”

“We will be next spring,” Joe said bracingly and his pa smiled. “I’m looking forward to seeing A.C. again. He sounds a lot like you at the same age.” Joe laughed at that and then Ben added, “Would you please bring me that photo Adam sent us the last time he wrote.”

“Sure thing, Pa,” Joe replied, walking over to the desk and picking up the framed photograph Rhys had taken of the Cartwrights and the Joneses. “That A.C. is really tall,” he commented as he handed it to his pa. “He’s what-nine?-and already almost as tall as Bronwen.”

“Yes, I think your brother is right and he may be almost as tall as Hoss was when he’s fully grown.”

“He sure doesn’t have Hoss’s build though,” Joe commented with a chuckle.

“No, he’ll be a long drink of water just like his father,” Ben replied with an answering smile. “He’s a fine-looking boy; he’s inherited the best features of each parent just like his oldest sister.” Ben smiled a little and added, “I’m anxious to see a photograph of Huw, aren’t you?”

Joe sighed and added pensively, “Makes me sound old having a grandnephew and grandniece.”

Ben said quietly, “You’ll always be young to me, Joseph.”

Chapter 4
It was a chilly morning in mid-August and a cold drizzling rain was falling; that was unusual since August was one of the driest months of the year and sometimes no rain fell the entire month, leaving the tufts of Mitchell grasses brown and sere. Adam and Rhys had already left for the mine and A.C. for school; Bronwen was just finishing the breakfast dishes and getting ready to dust. (Mary’s sister had fallen ill and she was tending her so Bronwen was doing all the housework and cooking.) After she’d finished dusting, she was planning on going next door to check on Matilda at Rhys’ request. He’d mentioned Matilda wasn’t feeling well; he thought she was feverish and she complained of aching all over.

Bronwen had just begun dusting the drawing room when she heard footsteps on the verandah. She opened the door at the first knock and saw Dr. Brooke. “G’day, Mrs. Cartwright,” he said briskly. “I’ve just come from the parsonage. Reverend Jones has come down with influenza-my second case this week.” At Bronwen’s look of concern he added quickly, “Oh, he’s not in any danger; he’s a strong young man. Influenza is usually only a danger to the very old and the very young.”

“Huw and Elen,” Bronwen said instantly, the anxiety evident in her voice.

“They are both fine,” he reassured her with a nod. “However, your daughter is going to care for her husband and she asks that you bring the children here where they won’t be exposed to the disease.”

“Of course,” Bronwen replied. Then she said worriedly, “Oh, Beth is still nursing Huw.”

“Huw is almost six months old, isn’t he?” Dr. Brooke asked and Bronwen nodded, “Well, that is young to be weaning him, but the risk of his coming down with influenza is just too great to leave him with his mother to nurse.”

Bronwen nodded and then added, “Oh, I think you’d better check on my sister-in-law. My brother said she’s feverish.”

“I’ll stop there next,” the doctor promised.

Meanwhile Beth had already packed their valise with the children’s clothes, favorite toys and plenty of clean nappies for Huw. “You’re going to stay with Me-ma and Pa-pa and Uncle A.C. for a few days. Won’t that be fun?” she said to Elen who nodded with a happy smile, for she loved visiting her grandparents. “I want you to be a good girl for Me-ma and mind her.”

“Play with Lady ‘n’ Duchess?”

“Yes, I’m sure you can play with Lady and Duchess,” Beth replied smoothing her little girl’s soft, caramel-colored hair while she balanced her son on one hip.

“Nani come?” Elen asked, referring to their little terrier, another descendent of Lady.

“No, I think Nani will stay here to keep Tada and me company,” Beth replied. Just then she spied her mother driving up in the surrey (with its isinglass curtains rolled down) and, picking up the valise with her free hand, she walked out the front door onto the verandah, her small daughter following close behind her. Bronwen pulled up in front of the parsonage, moved quickly from the surrey and, opening a large umbrella, she walked briskly toward the house.

“G’day, Me-ma,” Elen said happily as soon as Bronwen stepped onto the verandah.

“G’day, Elen fach,” Bronwen replied returning her smile. “You and Huw are going to come and stay with Pa-pa and me. Won’t that be nice?” She turned to her daughter then and asked. “How is Dafydd? Not too ill I hope?”

“He’s feeling pretty miserable, but Dr. Brooke says as long as he stays in bed and rests he shouldn’t be in any real danger. But Elen and especially Huw . . . ” and her voice trailed off, as she bit her lip and hugged her baby close to her side.

Bronwen immediately reassured the anxious young mother. “They’ll be right, and we’ll enjoy having them. Huw has outgrown the cradle so he can sleep with Daddy and me. Elen can either sleep in your old bed or with us. She’s never spent the night away from home before and I expect to have some trouble the first night and maybe the second.” Elen was tugging on her hand so she said, “I’m coming, Precious.”

Bronwen did her best to hold the umbrella over everyone as they walked quickly to the surrey. Beth handed the baby to her mother and lifted her daughter up into the surrey. “Bye-bye, Elen, fach. Mama will see you soon,” she said kissing her little daughter’s soft, chubby cheek as the drizzle dampened her hair and dress.

Elen had thought her mama was coming with them and now her lower lip came out and she said, “Stay wiv Mama,” and started to try and jump out of the surrey.

“No, Elen, you must go with Me-ma. Be a big girl for Mama now and don’t cry.” She kissed her little girl one more time and then ran up the path to the house as her own tears began to fall.

Bronwen saw her little granddaughter’s chin begin to wobble and she sniffed loudly as she tried to obey her mama and not cry. Huw seemed to sense his sister’s unhappiness for his toothless grin began to change to a pout. “Now, little ones,” Bronwen said softly, “you’re going to have fun staying with Me-ma and Pa-pa and Uncle A.C. And Elen fach, you can play with Lady and Duchess. Won’t that be fun?” Elen nodded a bit uncertainly so Bronwen added quickly, “And Pa-pa will play horsy with you.” That won her a watery smile for Elen loved to sit on Pa-pa’s knee and pretend she was riding a horse. Bronwen grasped the reins tightly and turned the horse around to start the slow walk back to her house.

When Adam rode up to the barn that evening, he was met by his sullen son and tearful granddaughter. “What’s wrong, Precious?” he asked as he swung out of the saddle.

“Want mama,” Elen sobbed and Adam picked her up to comfort her, looking over her head at his son, who rolled his eyes expressively before saying, “Dafydd’s crook so Elen and Huw are staying with us. They’ve been crying forever and Mama says I have to help take care of them and I can’t play with Robbie.”

“I had better not hear that you haven’t been helping,” Adam said with a frown.

“I have, Dad,” A.C. said hastily. “I played catch with Elen and I even played with my Noah’s Ark with her, but then she started crying for Beth, and Mama and I couldn’t get her to stop.” He grimaced as he added, “Huw is screaming because Mama is trying to get him to drink milk and he doesn’t like it.”

Adam sighed and then said, “I think your mama could use some help. Could you take care of Mercury for me?”

“Too right,” A.C. replied enthusiastically because he liked the spirited chestnut gelding and he was trying to convince his parents he should exchange his little Welsh Mountain pony for a horse. A.C. didn’t know it, but his dad was also trying to persuade his mama that he’d outgrown his pony.

“Sweetheart, he’s already as tall as Beth and Miranda were when we got them their Welsh cobs. We can get him a cob for his tenth birthday and by the time he’s fifteen or sixteen, he’ll be ready for a Waler.”

“He may be tall, but he’s just a little boy!”

“Bronwen, the boy is a natural horseman and he’s outgrown his pony. Trust me, please.”

“I’ll think about it,” was all she would say.

Adam could hear his grandson’s screams of frustration and hunger before he even reached the verandah. “Your grandma needs to be rescued,” he said to Elen, who was still quietly sobbing on his shoulder. Indeed, as he stepped onto the verandah he saw poor Bronwen was totally frazzled.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re home,” she said with a weary smile as Huw continued to scream.

“A.C. told me Dafydd is ill.”

“Dr. Brooke said it’s influenza. Dafydd isn’t in any real danger, but Elen and especially Huw are so they’re staying with us. Huw is too young to be weaned, but we don’t have any choice. He won’t drink the milk I’ve tried to give him,” she added, tears of frustration filling her eyes.

He reached out to hug her with his free arm. “When he gets hungry enough, he’ll drink it. Why don’t you leave the children with me and take Olwen and go for a ride. I think you could use some time alone.”

“That would be heaven,” she agreed with such feeling he had to suppress a grin.

“Elen and I will sit down on the swing and then you can hand Huw to me.” He sat down and then started to lift Elen down to sit beside him and felt her arms tighten around his neck. “Now, Precious, you’re a big girl and you can sit up all by yourself, but Huw is just a baby and he can’t sit up straight very long unless Pa-pa holds onto him. Please, be a good girl for Pa-pa.”

Elen sniffed loudly, but let Adam sit her beside him on the swing. Huw had a stranglehold on Bronwen and it was only with great difficulty that he was transferred to his grandpa. Bronwen kissed Adam quickly and hurried to the barn to saddle up her Welsh cob.

“All right, Mate,” Adam said to Huw, who was screaming even more loudly now, having traded his grandmother’s soft bosom for his grandfather’s still strong and muscular chest, “let’s see if we can get you to stop crying for a few minutes. How about if Pa-pa sings to you?”

“Susannah,” Elen said, her tears stopping for the moment as she smiled at her grandpa.

“Susannah it is,” Adam replied with a big grin. “Now you sing with Pa-pa,” and she nodded her head emphatically.

Huw continued to scream through the first verse and chorus, but by the time the song was finished his cries had subsided to hiccupping sobs.

“Now let’s sing Clementine,” said A.C., who had joined them on the verandah.

“Cementime,” Elen agreed happily so the three of them sang while Huw sat quietly on his grandpa’s knee, gnawing on his fist to assuage the growing hunger in his tummy.

When they finished, Adam said cheerfully, “I’d like a big glass of milk. How about you, Jackeroo?” he asked, winking broadly at his son.

“Right,” A.C. replied, returning his dad’s wink. “Do you want some milk, Elen?” he asked and she nodded her head.

They all trooped into the kitchen and A.C. helped Elen to sit on a chair and then Adam gave Huw to A.C. to hold while he poured three glasses of milk. He gave Elen hers first and smiled as she picked it up carefully in both hands. He sat the other two glasses on the kitchen table and took Huw from A.C.

“Mm-mm, this milk sure is delicious,” A.C. said, smacking his lips, which caused Elen to giggle and smack hers while Adam rolled his eyes at his son’s histrionics. He took a big sip from his glass and then asked, “Would you like to try some, Mate?” Huw looked a little uncertain, but Adam held the glass to his mouth carefully and let him have a sip. Huw wrinkled his face up, but he didn’t spit it out. Adam took another sip and then offered the glass to Huw.

“He’s drinking it,” A.C. said excitedly, but his dad frowned a little and A.C. knew that meant he needed to keep his voice down.

“Huw drink,” Elen said watching her baby brother with interest.

“That’s right,” her grandpa replied. “Now, you be sure and finish your glass, Precious,” and she nodded. As soon as she finished, she asked hopefully, “Play horsy?”

Adam decided Huw had had enough milk for now so he replied, “Right. We’ll let Uncle A.C. hold Huw and we’ll play horsy.”

When Bronwen returned from her ride, she found her son holding his sleeping nephew (both with milk mustaches) while her husband jiggled their giggling granddaughter on his knee.

The five of them had a pleasant evening until it was time to put Huw to bed. He’d fallen asleep again after consuming a more ample amount of milk, so Bronwen carried him upstairs and carefully laid him in the center of their bed. The moment she laid him down, however, he woke up and began crying. She checked to see if he was wet, but his nappy was clean and dry so she sat in their old rocking chair and rocked him back to sleep, just as she had done so many times with her own fussy babes. Unfortunately, as soon as she laid him in the bed, he again began to cry lustily. This time Adam, Elen and A.C. came upstairs and Adam asked, “Do you need some help?”

“I think I’m going to have to go to bed with him,” she replied. She smiled faintly adding, “I’m so tired I’m ready for bed now anyway.”

“Wanna sleep wiv Me-ma,” Elen piped up and Adam sighed, realizing he and Bronwen would be sharing their bed with the grandchildren until his son-in-law was recovered.

“We may as well all get ready for bed now,” he said, to which his son protested, “It’s too early!”

“All right, but I expect you to go to bed at your regular bedtime. Understand?”

“Right, Dad,” A.C. assured him breezily. Then his expression changed from lightheartedness to consternation. “Stone the crows! I forgot I have schoolwork. Could you help me with my spelling, Dad?”

“If you could hold Huw for just a few minutes,” Bronwen interjected, “I could get ready for bed, and then you could help A.C.”

Adam nodded his agreement with the plan as he took his squalling grandson and said patiently, “You and Elen wait in your room, A.C and I’ll be along in a few minutes.”

Elen nodded off while Adam was helping A.C. with his spelling words so he kissed A.C. goodnight when they finished and prepared to put Elen to bed. “Don’t forget to say your prayers before you go to sleep,” he said, tousling his son’s hair with his free hand.

“I won’t. I-I guess Mama won’t come to kiss me goodnight,” he said wistfully.

Adam smiled slightly. A.C. was at the age where he hated his mama to fuss over him or display affection in public, so she’d be happy to know he still looked forward to her goodnight kiss.

“Probably not tonight since Huw would wake up and start crying if she got out of bed. Maybe things will be a bit more settled tomorrow night.” He smiled warmly at his son adding, “I’m glad you helped Mama today, even if you’d rather have been playing with Robbie.”

“I remembered that you helped take care of Uncle Hoss and Uncle Joe and I expect sometimes you’d rather have been playing with your mates,” A.C. said, dimpling.

“Sometimes,” Adam admitted with another small smile. “See you in the morning, Jackeroo.” As Adam walked down the hall he smiled ruefully thinking, You aren’t the only one who won’t get a goodnight kiss from your mama tonight.

When he entered the master bedroom carrying his sleeping granddaughter, he found his wife and grandson sound asleep, with the baby tucked lovingly in the crook of his grandmother’s arm. He felt a lump form in his throat as he looked at the two of them and then at the child in his arms. Lord, I have been so blessed. Forgive me for all the times I have failed to appreciate what you’ve given me or felt resentment and anger because I forgot all these gifts truly belong to You, not me.

He saw that Bronwen had laid out Elen’s nightgown, but she was so deeply asleep that he decided he would just remove her shoes and stockings and let her sleep in her frock. He laid her carefully near her sleeping brother and eased off her shoes, thankful they fastened with a strap instead of the tiny buttons his daughters’ shoes had always had. He slowly pulled off her cotton stockings before going into the dressing room to change into his pyjamas, putting on both top and bottom for one of the few times in his life. He sat in the rocking chair and read for awhile before putting out the lamp and slipping into bed beside Elen.

Bronwen woke feeling an unpleasant dampness all around her while her nose was assaulted by the unmistakable odor of urine. “Well, this day has certainly gotten off to a great start, she thought as she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, I can’t believe I forgot to put any nappies under Huw. Her movement wakened Huw, who began to cry loudly. His cries woke the bed’s other two occupants. Elen was frightened at waking up in a strange bed and began crying for her mama. Oh wonderful, Adam thought as his grandchildren’s cries began a throbbing right behind his eyes and he pinched the bridge of his nose in a futile attempt to relieve the pressure.

“We’re all going to have to have baths,” Bronwen said over the children’s loud cries and her husband nodded.

“Not only that, but I’m going to have to haul this mattress outside and scrub it and then let it air,” he added. “It’s lucky the rain stopped.” Just then they heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” he called loudly to be heard over the din.

“They woke me up,” A.C. said rubbing his eyes and yawning as he stood in the doorway of his parents’ room.

“Do us a favor, Jackeroo,” Adam said. “Go down to the bathhouse and start heating some water for baths.”

“Okay,” A.C. said with a yawn and headed downstairs.

Bronwen removed Huw’s soiled nightshirt and nappy and tried to comfort both children while Adam efficiently stripped the bed. Then he gathered clean clothes (and a clean nappy for Huw). Taking Huw from Bronwen and holding Elen’s hand in his free one, he headed down the backstairs, followed by Bronwen who carried the clean clothing.

“I think the water’s warm enough,” A.C. said. “I gotta go to the outhouse.”

“Me, too,” Elen said.

Noting the way the little girl was clutching a certain part of her anatomy, Bronwen said quickly, “I’ll take Elen to the outhouse and you can give Huw his bath.” Seeing her son start to protest she added quickly, “You can wait; Elen can’t,” before taking Elen’s hand and hurrying out the backdoor.

Adam put some hot water in one of the wooden wash tubs and had A.C. add water until he felt the temperature was right. He knelt down by the tub and said to Huw, “All right, Mate, let’s get you cleaned up.” He put Huw in the water whereupon his screams increased in volume. A.C. put his fingers in his ears and scrunched up his face.

“He sure is loud,” he shouted.

Adam washed Huw efficiently and as he washed, he replied, “He’s no louder than you were at the same age.”

“Fair dinkum?’ A.C. asked, his disbelief obvious.

“Beth, Gwyneth and Penny all loved bath time. You and Miranda always acted as though you thought Mama and I were going to drown you.”

His son grinned at that, but just then Bronwen and Elen returned so he made a dash out the door to the outhouse.

While Adam dried Huw and put a clean nappy and clothes on him, Bronwen emptied the tub and fixed a bath for Elen who insisted she could bathe herself. She protested mightily when her grandma washed the places she missed even though Bronwen was gentle. When Bronwen washed her hair, Adam thought she sounded like she was being murdered even though Bronwen was careful not to get any soap in her eyes.

“Do you want me to stay home and help?” he asked rather loudly as Bronwen dried the sobbing Elen.

“No, I can manage,” she snapped. “I’m sorry,” she said instantly. “I guess I’ve gotten out of practice caring for children this young. She’ll be apples, cariad.”

A.C. returned then and asked anxiously, “I don’t have to take a bath, do I? I just took one on Saturday.”

“No, you’re fine,” Adam replied. “You can help me start breakfast. As soon as Mama finishes dressing Elen, bring her into the kitchen so Mama can take her bath. I’ll take mine after breakfast.”

He put Huw in their old highchair and carried the chair and child into the kitchen. Huw had cried himself out, but he looked so unhappy it broke his grandpa’s heart. He poured some milk in a glass, which reminded him that poor Buttercup was waiting to be milked. A.C. walked in with Elen just then so he said, “Jackeroo, I need you to go milk Buttercup and then take care of the animals, Think you can handle that on your own?”

“No worries, Dad,” A.C. said confidently. He’d much rather deal with livestock than act as a nursemaid, so he ran happily to the barn.

Huw didn’t resist when his grandpa held the glass to his mouth and hungrily drank the milk. Elen had calmed down after being dressed and she now said loudly, “Want milk.”

“All right, Elen. As soon as Huw finishes, Pa-pa will get you a glass.”

“No! Want milk now!” she said loudly.

“Elen Penelope Jones! You will not speak to Pa-pa in that tone of voice. Do you understand?” he said sternly while frowning at her. She stuck her lip out and repeated even more loudly, “Want milk!”

Adam put Huw’s milk down and then applied a firm swat to his granddaughter’s bottom, whereupon she began to cry loudly. “Elen, when you are bad, you must be punished,” he said, picking the little girl up, but she stiffened in his arms. With a sigh, he sat her on a chair, and finished giving Huw his milk.

When Bronwen entered the kitchen, feeling much better after her bath, she found her granddaughter drinking a glass of milk, her grandson smacking the tray of his highchair with his hand and laughing, while her usually dignified husband, now wearing one of her own gingham aprons, was fixing some gruel for the baby.

Trying unsuccessfully to hide her amusement at the sight, she asked in a teasing tone, “Should I be out tending to the animals, cariad, seeing as you have taken over the household duties?”

Adam gave her one of his familiar looks, complete with an arched black eyebrow, though his eyes were merry. “Very funny, Grandma. Now if you will excuse me, I’ll retrieve my biscuits before they burn. Could you stir the gruel while I take them out of the oven?”

She nodded and asked, “We’re eating in the kitchen?”

“I thought it might be easier,” he replied as he removed the biscuits, which were a lovely golden brown. Bronwen nodded her approval of his efforts as he smiled smugly in her direction.

“Oh, what about the animals,” Bronwen said, realizing that they probably did need tending.

“A.C. is taking care of them,” he replied. Just then Lady and Duchess appeared at the backdoor and began to bark.

“A.C. is taking care of them,” he replied. Just then Lady and Duchess appeared at the backdoor and began to bark.

“I think he forgot someone,” she said with a little grin. “Why don’t you feed them, and I’ll fry some bacon?” Adam nodded, bending over to give her a quick kiss, as he quickly removed the apron and tied it deftly around his wife’s waist.

“Me help Pa-pa feed Lady ‘n’ Duchess,” Elen said excitedly.

“All right, you can help Pa-pa,” he said lifting her up over his head and onto his shoulders, while she squealed happily and the two dogs yapped loudly reminding everyone again that they were hungry.

Adam came home early that afternoon, knowing how tired Bronwen was likely to be. Elen and Huw were both taking naps in their mother’s old bedroom and Bronwen, who was headed to the bathhouse with Huw’s dirty nappies and their soiled sheets, looked like she could use one, so he told her to go rest and he would take care of the laundry.

“A.C., would you sweep the kitchen, the library and the front hallway for me?” Bronwen asked as she headed up the backstairs.

“Do I hafta, Mama?” the nine-year-old whined.

“No, I could do the sweeping and you could do the laundry,” Adam said sharply before Bronwen could say anything, and with a sigh A.C. said, “I’ll sweep.”

Bronwen headed up the stairs and then stopped. “I have some beef stock simmering; could you chop up some vegetables for the soup?” she asked Adam.

“I think I can handle that,” he replied with a little smile quirking the corners of his mouth. “Oh, Jackeroo,” he said, “before you start sweeping, you and I need to haul that mattress back upstairs.”

“Okay,” A.C. replied with a longsuffering sigh.

As Adam was hanging the sheets to dry in the backyard, he heard a buggy drive up. Leaving the basket of wet nappies under the clothesline, he hurried to the front yard and saw Dr. Brooke getting out of his buggy.

“G’day, Mr. Cartwright,” the doctor said as Adam approached.

“Good day, Dr. Brooke. Have you news about my son-in-law?”

“He’s doing fine, but I’m afraid Beth has come down with influenza as well and they need someone to nurse them. We’ve several cases in town so we’re short of nurses. I was hoping Mrs. Cartwright could do the nursing and your maid could look after the children.”

“Mary is away right now, but A.C. and I will look after the children so my wife can look after Beth and Dafydd.”

Dr. Brooke looked skeptical, but made no comment. He only replied, “I’ll go let Beth know her mother is coming to take care of them,” and then got back in his buggy.

Adam forgot all about the laundry and took the steps to the veranda two at a time. When he entered the house, A.C. was nowhere in sight so he figured that he was still sweeping, and hurried up the front stairs to the master bedroom. As soon as he opened the door, he spied Bronwen napping on the chaise lounge (she’d made their bed up and obviously didn’t want it rumpled). He walked over and shook her shoulder gently.

She opened her eyes and immediately reached for her spectacles. With a little smile he handed them to her before saying quietly, “We have a little problem.” He saw her questioning look and added, “Let’s talk about it downstairs so we don’t wake the little ones.”

As they came down the stairs, A.C. came running up. “I finished sweeping. May I go play with Robbie?”

“No,” Adam replied sharply and A.C.’s expression changed from hopeful to sullen. “Something has come up that affects all of us,” Adam added in a clipped tone.

“What is it?” Bronwen asked.

Adam replied, “Dr. Brooke just stopped by to tell us that Beth has come down with influenza and he asked if you could go nurse her and Dafydd.”

“Fair dinkum,” she said and started up the stairs to pack a valise, but then she stopped. “Oh, what about Elen and Huw? Matilda has influenza so I can’t ask her to look after them.”

“A.C. and I will take care of Elen and Huw,” Adam said firmly. “You just concentrate on nursing Beth and Dafydd. And don’t you get sick,” he added quietly. She smiled at him and he moved closer so they could kiss.

A.C. rolled his eyes, although he actually liked seeing his parents display affection. “I’ll even stay home from school so I can help Dad,” he offered magnanimously when their kiss ended.

‘Oh, I don’t think you’ll need to make that sacrifice, Jackeroo,” Adam said with one of his little half smiles. “I think I can manage all right while you’re in school.”

“He’s more likely to be exposed to influenza if he goes to school,” Bronwen said thoughtfully. “I think it would be best if he stayed home. And you’ll need the help, cariad, trust me.”

“You’re right about the risk of exposure being greater at school,” Adam said slowly. “Beauty!” A.C. exclaimed, but his father frowned and added, “After Huw and Elen go to bed, we’ll go over your schoolwork so you won’t fall behind.”

“That’s not fair,” A.C. grumbled under his breath, but his parents chose to ignore it.

“Don’t forget to chop the vegetables for the soup,” Bronwen reminded her husband as she headed up the stairs. “Oh, and I was going to boil a yam and mash it up with a little milk and then strain it through some cheesecloth for Huw. You know, like I used to fix for A.C. and the girls.” He nodded and she added, “You’ll have to go to the butcher’s shop, but we’ve plenty of canned vegetables and carrots and potatoes.”

“She’ll be apples,” Adam assured her. “Go pack.”

“Come with me because you’ll need to make a list of all things that need to be done,” she said, and shaking his head slightly he headed up the stairs after her. After two steps, he stopped and said, “Jackeroo, I need you to finish hanging Huw’s nappies. I left the basket in the backyard by the clothesline.”

As he saw his parents go up the stairs, a sullen A.C. headed out back, grumbling under his breath. “Dad is so mean. Won’t let me play with my mates. No, I have to hang Huw’s nappies. He must think I’m a jillaroo!”

When he got to the backyard, he found Lady and Duchess had knocked over the wicker laundry basket and scattered the nappies all over the yard except for the one they were playing tug-of-war with.

“Bloody oath!” he shouted, and then looked around nervously. About two weeks earlier he used the expression where Mama could hear him. She’d sent him to his room and then, when Dad came home, he’d washed his mouth out with soap. That was not an experience A.C. wanted to repeat. He was just finishing hanging up the slightly grimy nappies when his mama came to tell him goodbye.

“I know it’s not going to be much fun for you, A.C. bach, but your dad is really going to need your help taking care of Elen and Huw, fixing the meals and keeping the house clean. I wish Gwyneth was here and not in Brisbane,” Bronwen added with a sigh.

“Me, too!” the boy stated emphatically and his mother put an arm around his shoulders and hugged him tightly before kissing his cheek. He hesitated for a moment and then encircled her in his arms and kissed her cheek. “I’m gonna miss you, Mama,” he said sadly, for the realization suddenly hit him that he wouldn’t see his mama for a few days, and he’d never been separated from her overnight before.

She hugged him one more time before turning to her husband, who had followed her, carrying her valise. They kissed and their son watched curiously. There must be something to this kissing that he was missing. Dad and Mama liked doing it and so did Beth and Dafydd. He’d spied on Gwyneth and Douglas and they’d seemed to really enjoy it. He’d wanted to ask why Douglas liked to squeeze Gwyneth’s bum when he kissed her since he’d never seen Dad or Dafydd do it to Mama or Beth, but knew he’d get in trouble for spying on his sister. Besides, he reasoned, maybe Dad and Dafydd did do it when they were alone with Mama and Beth, although he still didn’t know why they’d want to, or why they all liked to kiss each other on the mouth.

The two Cartwright men walked Bronwen to the front gate and then stood watching until she disappeared from view. “I’d better go check on the little ones,” Adam said and then added, “You’ve time to go for a ride before supper,” quirking his lips in a slight grin.

“Thanks, Dad,” A.C. replied with a huge, dimpled smile before running toward the stable. Adam watched for a moment and then hurried inside to see if the grandchildren were awake. When he entered the bedroom, Huw opened his eyes and began to cry. Adam checked and the reason for his tears was all too apparent. His crying had, of course, awakened his sister, who began to cry for her mama. Adam thought his best strategy would be to distract her from missing her mama.

“Huw needs to have his nappy changed. Would you like to help Pa-pa?”

“I want Mama,” his granddaughter sobbed so Adam decided he’d have to solve one problem at a time. Judging from the odor, Huw’s nappy would have to take precedence. Luckily, Bronwen had put some extra nappies beneath him so at least the bedding was clean. As soon as Adam unfastened the nappy, Elen, still sobbing, quickly scooted off the bed.

“Oh Mate,” Adam said, his nose wrinkling, “I’d forgotten such a small boy could produce such a mess. I think you’re going to need another bath.” He wished now he hadn’t given A.C. permission to go for a ride since he could have watched Elen. Now he’d have to watch her and clean up the baby.

Adam was just putting clean clothes on Huw after his second bath of the day while Elen was still crying for her mama when A.C. returned.

“I’m hungry,” the boy announced. “Is supper ready?”

That was when Adam remembered the vegetables he was to chop for the soup and the yam he was supposed to prepare for Huw. “No, I’m afraid it won’t be ready for about another hour,” he replied, trying to sound calm. “Could you see if you can get Elen to play with you so she’ll stop crying?”

A.C. started to complain, but something in his father’s expression told him that he’d better just do as he was told. “C’mon, Elen. Let’s go play fetch with Lady and Duchess.” Still sobbing, the little girl let her uncle lead her outside. Adam put a blanket down in one corner of the kitchen and lay Huw on it with his rattle, and then he began chopping vegetables as quickly as he could.

Everyone was hungry and cranky by the time supper was ready, but at least Elen had stopped crying for Beth. There were just enough slices of bread left for Adam, A.C. and Elen to each have one. Bronwen had warned Adam he’d need to make more. “Or maybe you should just eat biscuits while I’m gone. You make excellent biscuits,” she’d said.

“I’m sure I can manage to bake some bread,” he’d assured her confidently, ignoring her skepticism.

Everyone enjoyed the soup and Huw really seemed to like his mashed yam.

“Can I, I mean, may I feed him?” A.C. asked.

“Finish your soup, and then you can,” Adam agreed, so A.C. gulped down the rest of his dinner. Adam knew Bronwen wouldn’t approve, but he decided to let it pass.

“No, that’s too much,” he said when he saw his son scoop up a generous bite of mashed yam. “You’ll make him choke.” A.C. looked belligerent, but Adam merely said calmly, “Give him about half that much.”

A.C. seemed to be doing fine so Adam decided to concentrate on his own supper, but he’d only swallowed a few spoonfuls when he heard Huw making choking sounds. He snatched the baby out of the high chair and patted his back gently but firmly until he’d coughed up the yam he was choking on, all over his grandpa’s back.

“I told you not to feed him too much,” Adam snapped at A.C., who sat hunched over in misery and unable to meet his dad’s eyes. Elen looked on with saucer-like eyes, for she’d never heard her grandpa speak in that tone of voice. Huw started to wail so Adam began to pace the kitchen, gently patting his back until he calmed down, saying to A.C., “Since you’ve finished, please clear the table. We’ll wash up after I’ve put the little ones to bed.”

A.C. jumped up and began gathering up the dishes. Adam was so occupied with soothing the baby that he didn’t notice how many dishes his son was attempting to carry at once. He jumped at the sound of breaking crockery and Huw’s cries suddenly increased in volume. Forcing himself to count to ten before turning around, Adam saw his son picking up the shattered pieces of the dishes they’d just used.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” A.C. said nervously and, taking a deep breath, Adam replied evenly, “Be careful when you pick up the pieces and don’t cut yourself. I don’t think your mama will be too upset since it was just our stoneware and not our good china. However, the cost of replacing it will come out of your allowance.”

A.C. scowled. “That’s not fair!”

“Since you broke the dishes, how can it possibly be unfair to expect you to pay for replacing them? You’ll receive half your allowance each week until the dishes are paid for, and I don’t want to hear any more about it. Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” the boy replied sullenly. He saw this father stare at him ominously and said quickly, “Yes, sir.”

Huw’s crying had quieted so Adam said softly, “Why don’t we go sit on the verandah, Mate? And I’ll sing to you.”

Elen piped up. “I wanna sing.”

“I’d love to have you sing with me,” Adam replied with a smile, the look on his granddaughter’s face making him forget the sticky substance and the pervasive smell emanating from the back of his shirt. “And Uncle A.C. can join us when he finishes cleaning up.” He smiled at his son, but he was still angry about losing part of his allowance and refused to return the smile.

It was a pleasant evening-not too warm and not too cool. When A.C. joined the other three, he’d gotten over his sulks. Adam had propped little Huw in the corner of the swing while he had quickly removed his shirt, placing it over the porch railing, downwind from the group. He sat bare-chested on the porch swing, cuddling the baby against him. They all had a wonderful time singing, even Huw, who grinned and gurgled in his grandpa’s arms. After they finished, Adam let A.C. hold Huw so he could play horsy with Elen.

“More, Pa-pa! More!” she demanded, but he said with a smile, “I’m afraid you’ve worn this horsy out.” He turned to A.C. “Would you rather watch Elen and Huw, or bed down the stock?”

“Bed down the stock,” A.C. replied instantly and his dad chuckled.

“I help,” Elen announced to which A.C. retorted, “You’re too little!”

Seeing his granddaughter’s lip come out in a pout and his son’s scowl, Adam intervened. “A.C.’s right, Elen. You are too little, but you and I and Huw can watch Uncle A.C. do the barn chores and you can pet Mercury, and Sport and Artemis. How about that?”

“‘kay,” Elen said, smiling at her grandpa.

By the time A.C. had finished, Huw was sound asleep and Elen was rubbing her eyes to keep them open. Adam noticed with a half grin that his son looked almost as sleepy as his grandchildren. A.C. had worked hard that day, not only grooming the five horses and feeding and watering them, but also milking the cow, feeding and watering her. Plus he’d mucked out the stalls, fed the chickens and gathered the eggs.

As they were walking back to the house, Adam noticed the nappies were still hanging on the line. “Damn,” he muttered under his breath and A.C.’s eyebrows shot up, for his dad almost never swore. “You hold Huw,” he said to his son, adding, “and I’ll take the laundry down. It’ll just take a minute.”

He snatched the laundry off the clothesline and stuffed it in the wicker laundry basket, not bothering to fold it. When he finished, he barked, “I’ll take Huw and you carry the laundry.”

The four of them trooped up the backstairs and as soon as they reached the master bedroom, A.C. plunked down the laundry basket and started to head to his own room, but his dad’s voice stopped him.

“Would you mind helping Elen change into her gown, while I put on a fresh shirt?”

“I help myself,” Elen interjected and Adam said quietly, but with a slight edge, “All right, but Uncle A.C. will help if you need it.” A.C. rolled his eyes but made no comment. Adam, meanwhile, had noticed Huw’s nappy was becoming damp so he laid him on the extra nappies spread on the bed for protection, hurriedly put on a clean shirt, and got ready to change the half-asleep infant. The next thing he knew, Huw had wet right down the front of his shirt and his son was laughing hysterically. He took one look at his dad’s thunderous expression and immediately smothered his giggles. Adam finished putting on Huw’s nappy and then took off his shirt and threw it in the pail along with Huw’s nappy while thinking, Wonderful! Now I have to do more laundry tomorrow!” That was also when he remembered he’d left his yam-spattered shirt down on the verandah, but he decided it could just wait until morning.

Elen managed to unbuckle her shoes and remove her stockings but she baulked when her uncle tried to lift her smocked frock over her head until her grandpa snapped, “Elen, let your uncle take off your frock!” She pouted, but obeyed, remembering her spanking earlier that day.

Adam put a clean nightshirt on the baby, and prepared to rock him back to sleep. A.C. struggled to get Elen’s nightgown on her and as soon as he did, she announced, “I gotta go.”

Why didn’t she mention it while we were outside? Adam thought irritably. “All right, Elen,” he said, hoping his tone did not convey his irritation. “Pa-pa will take you to the outhouse. Jackeroo, can you rock Huw for me?”

A.C. sighed loudly, but nodded. Stone the crows! Ankle biters sure are a lot of trouble. When I grow up, I’m not having any! he thought grumpily.

As soon as they reached the backdoor and Elen saw it was dark outside, she baulked.

“No, Pa-pa,” she said, her eyes huge and her lip quivering.

“I thought you needed to use the outhouse,” Adam said, trying to keep the exasperation from his tone.

“I scared,” she replied in a quavering voice, tightening her grip on his hand.

He sighed, remembering that when Hoss was a little boy, he’d been afraid to go to the outhouse after dark, and it had been the same with Miranda and Penny. “Do you want to use the chamber pot?” he asked gently and she nodded her head emphatically.

By the time Adam and Elen returned, A.C. had rocked the baby back to sleep. Adam helped Elen use the chamber pot. Next he carefully placed some nappies down to protect the sheets and then took Huw and gently laid him in the bed, only to have a repeat of the previous night. Trying to speak in a low, soothing voice he said, “I guess I’m going to bed now. Don’t stay up too late, Jackeroo, because you’ll need to do the barn chores tomorrow while I fix breakfast.”

“Right, Dad,” A.C. replied with a big yawn. As soon as he started to leave, Elen said in a quivery voice, “Wanna sleep wiv Unca A.C.”

“Okay,” A.C. replied and took her hand. But when he started to walk through the door, Elen said, “No!” and stuck her lip out in a big pout.

“I think she wants you to sleep here with us,” Adam said, trying to hide the grin at his son’s astonished look. “I imagine it’ll just be for a few nights until they get used to being here.”

“I gotta get my pyjamas and then I’ll be right back,” A.C. said to Elen.

“I come wiv you,” Elen pronounced and her uncle shrugged his shoulders.

As Adam lay in the large four-poster bed, Huw and Elen sandwiched in the middle with A.C. and him on the outside, he thought, Sweetheart, as soon as you get home, I’m going to tell you that I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the job you’ve done raising our children and running our household. I thought I knew what it was like, but I’m finding out that I had no idea. Guess I should write Pa and tell him, too. It must have been so hard taking care of Hoss and me with no help. At least not until we got Hop Sing. What a godsend he was to you, Pa. To all of us.

*~*~

It was a beautiful Indian summer afternoon in late September. The grandchildren were all back in Massachusetts and Joe had returned to the ranch the week before. He was rounding up horses for a contract with the U.S. Cavalry, but Ben expected him back that evening. He and Paul Martin were playing chess on the front porch, enjoying the warm sunshine that helped to dull the ache in their arthritic joints. They had just started their second game when Buckshot returned from a trip to Carson City for supplies.

“Afternoon, Doc, Boss,” he said with a friendly smile as he walked toward them. “I got the mail, and there’s a letter from Adam,” he said, handing it to Ben, who took it eagerly.

“Glad I’m staying for dinner,” Paul said. “It’s always good to hear from Adam.”

“If Joe gets back early enough, we can read it before we eat,” Ben replied and Buckshot said quickly, “Dinner’ll keep, Boss. You go on and read Adam’s letter first.”

“All right. We will,” Ben said with a smile and then he and Paul returned to their game.

Joe returned just before sundown, tired and dusty. As soon as he approached the porch, he saw the envelope in his pa’s hand. “So who’d we get a letter from?” he asked as he sat down in the empty chair next to his pa.

“Adam,” Ben answered. “Buckshot said we have time to read it before supper,” and he handed the envelope to Joe.

August 27, 1897

Dear Pa and Joe,

I have just spent the most exhausting two weeks of my life, and I’ve learned a new respect for you, Pa. But first, let me explain what led up to this. Dafydd and Beth both came down with influenza so Bronwen went to nurse them and A.C. and I were in charge of Elen and Huw. (Please don’t worry, both of them are now fine and no one else in the family was afflicted, fortunately.) Now, I know I helped you with Hoss when he was a baby and I helped Bronwen with our children, but helping is a far cry from being responsible for the care of an infant plus a very young child. I never truly appreciated what it must have been like for you, Pa, traveling west, all the while totally responsible for a young child. I have a much clearer picture now, and I marvel at how you did it. A.C. was a good helper, but he’s only nine and a very energetic and impulsive nine-year-old at that, which doesn’t make him the ideal nursemaid.

First off, I was astonished at the amount of time I spent just washing Huw’s dirty diapers, or nappies as we call them, and clothes. No wonder Bronwen and Matilda always made so many little gowns for the children! I had no idea how many times a day I would need to put a clean outfit on him (or a clean shirt on me!).

Elen wore me out in a different way. I swear that child is incapable of sitting still for more than two minutes. She reminds me so much of Joe at that age – cute as a bug’s ear, but with enough energy for two children. A.C. was a big help there because he has as much excess energy as Elen. The only problem was that he’d rather be playing cricket with his friends or riding Sport than watching his little niece. Bronwen and I decided to keep him home from school so he wouldn’t catch influenza and that meant he couldn’t play with his friends either, but I did allow him to go for a ride every afternoon while the little ones( and sometimes their grandpa) took a nap. Even though he likes his teacher, he still complains about having to attend school so it was comical to see how happy he was to go back.

I see I almost forgot to mention Lady and Duchess. They were as big a help with Elen as A.C. She loves them and happily chased them all over the backyard until they were all three exhausted.

Keeping the house clean wasn’t too bad, although getting down on my knees to scrub the kitchen floor wasn’t much fun. Fixing the meals was another story. After my first attempt at baking bread ended in disaster, I decided to take Bronwen’s advice and stick to biscuits. I think I would have done better if I hadn’t needed to keep one eye on Elen at all times. I burnt more pans than I care to mention while tracking down one small girl. My rump roast was so tough Elen couldn’t chew it and A.C. and I ended up with aching jaws. I decided to stick with stews and soups, but somehow mine never tasted as good as Bronwen’s.

Of course, it wasn’t a bad experience. I have a closer bond with my grandchildren now. I know Elen has definitely inherited the Cartwright stubborn streak while Huw is much more easygoing. He had a hard time of it at first since he had to be weaned abruptly and at a younger age than would normally have been the case. I know he missed his mama and daddy very much, just as his sister did. The only way I could get them to sleep at night was by the four of us sharing a bed. (A.C. was reluctant at first, but when Elen asked him, he gave in.)

Except for the laundry, Huw was no trouble at all. I’d put him on a quilt in the corner of the room while I worked, and he’d just lay there and play with his rattle and watch me, perfectly content. Elen insisted on “helping” so A.C. showed her how to put the silverware on the table for meals. (She demanded that she help him with the plates and glasses and I’m afraid we had to have a necessary talk about that. See what I mean about the Cartwright stubbornness?) I did give her a feather duster and let her dust in the library and I could tell she felt very grown-up. Bronwen and I were planning on giving her Penny’s Graces game for her birthday, but having run out of suitable toys for a child her age, I got it out of the attic and we played with it often. Brought back a lot of memories, but they were good ones.

Beth and Dafydd are fully recovered now with no ill effects and Elen and Huw are ecstatic to be back with their mama and daddy. Bronwen is home and to quote Browning: ‘all’s right with the world.’

I was glad to hear that Annabelle once again allowed Benj and Sarah to spend the summer at the Ponderosa. Bronwen and I had a good laugh over hearing how Miranda convinced William if (or I suppose it would be more accurate to say when) they marry, he’ll need to hire a cook. We can remember her culinary disasters vividly, and it’s now obvious she inherited her father’s lack of acumen in the kitchen! It is good to know that the two of you like William and believe he’ll be a good husband for Miranda. She is definitely the most level-headed of our girls, but it’s clear from her letters that she truly loves him, and perhaps even more important, she likes him. The fact that he has accepted the position at Dartmouth and they’ll be separated for nearly a year will be the final test of their feelings. However, I fully expect Dr. Gordon will be asking me for her hand in marriage when we finally meet this spring (if not before). Happy as I am to know she’s found a man that you both approve of, it is still difficult for me to accept that I’ll lose another of my little girls. Knowing that she’ll be settling in the U.S. doesn’t help. (I guess it’s poetic justice; now I really know how you felt when I decided to settle in Queensland and how Tad and Mam must have felt when we moved to Cloncurry.)

Before I become more maudlin, I think I’ll close.

Affectionately yours,
Adam

“At least he had his girls with him until they were grown,” Joe commented wistfully, and then, remembering the loss of his niece, he felt a twinge of remorse. Noting his father’s thoughtful nod of agreement, Joe’s natural ebullience then asserted itself as he added with a grin, “Sure like to have seen ol’ Adam down on his knees scrubbing the floor or chasing little Elen around.”

“Or washing dirty diapers,” Paul chuckled and the other two men joined in.

Chapter 5
“Wanna go riding?” Robbie asked his mate, A.C., as they exited the schoolhouse.

“Right,” A.C. replied, “but my mama asked me to get the mail on the way home. Wanna come with me?”

“Okay,” Robbie replied. “Think there’ll be a letter from one of your sisters?”

“I hope so,” A.C. replied with a big grin. “We got one last week from Gwyneth, but we haven’t had one from Miranda for a while.”

Mr. Michaelson, who managed Cloncurry’s post office, smiled when he saw them. “I’ve got a letter for your dad, A.C. It’s from the States, but not from Nevada or Massachusetts. This one’s from New Hampshire and it’s from a Mr. W. Gordon.”

“Mr. W. Gordon?” A.C. repeated scrunching his face in puzzlement. “Is there one from Miranda or my Grandpa?”

“Sorry, mate. Just this one from Mr. Gordon,” Mr. Michaelson replied and A.C. took it with a sigh.

“I’m home, Mama!” he called as he ran inside, letting the front door slam behind him and Bronwen came out of the kitchen.

“Please don’t slam the front door,” she said, wondering how many times she’d made that request of her five children. Probably at least a million. “Was there any mail?”

“Dad got a letter from a Mr. W. Gordon in . . . ” he looked at the envelope. “In Hanover, New Hampshire. Who does Dad know in New Hampshire?”

Bronwen looked puzzled for a moment and then her face lit up. “Oh, I think I know who it must be. Miranda’s William.”

“Why’d he write to Dad?” the boy asked and his mama smiled mysteriously. “You’ll just have to wait until your dad reads it.”

A.C. looked disappointed but then he breathed deeply. “Somethin’ sure smells good.”

Bronwen smiled at her son. “I’m making bara brith.”

“Can, I mean may, Robbie and I have some?” he asked excitedly, for he loved the speckled bread chock full of chopped fruit.

“It’s still in the oven now, but you can both have a slice in about an hour.”

“Beauty, Mama! Oh, can I go riding with Robbie? He’s askin’ his mama.”

“As long as Mrs. Naylor says it’s all right,” Bronwen replied with a fond smile as she watched him dash off.

When Adam rode up to the barn that evening, he found his son sitting on the paddock, waiting for him.

“Dad! You got a letter from Miranda’s William!” he said excitedly as he jumped off the railing.

“I did. Well, that’s interesting,” Adam replied as he swung the saddle off Mercury. A.C. followed him into the barn and began helping him groom the gelding.

“What do you think he wrote?” A.C. asked as he used the currycomb on Mercury.

“Oh I could hazard a guess, but I won’t know for sure until I read the letter.”

“What do you guess?” A.C. persisted.

“I would guess that he’s probably writing to ask me if he can propose to your sister.”

“Why would he ask you? Wouldn’t he just ask Miranda?”

“It’s the custom to ask the young lady’s father for his permission first,” Adam answered. “Something for you to remember when you find the girl you want to marry,” he added, reaching around the gelding and tugging A.C.’s cap down over his eyes.

“I’m never getting married!” the nine-year-old remonstrated.

“Never say never, Jackeroo,” Adam replied with a little grin.

After dinner the three of them gathered in the library: A.C. at Adam’s desk working on his lessons, Bronwen sitting in one of the comfortable leather chairs darning Adam’s socks and A.C.’s stockings, and Adam sitting across from her reading William’s letter.

September 2, 1897

Dear Mr. Cartwright,

You may be surprised to receive a letter from me. Or, if you are as astute as your daughter describes you, you may not be surprised at all. I had planned on asking you this question face to face when we met in Cambridge this spring. However, on further consideration, I realized I really can’t wait that long. I know it is difficult for Miranda’s family to travel from Queensland to the United States, and therefore I am writing now to ask you for your permission to propose to Miranda. I love your daughter with all my heart. I value her erudition and her pragmatism; rare traits to find in a female (although she would castigate me for saying so). She is so lovely and so unaffected; there is no other human being-male or female-whose company I enjoy more than hers. And I know my feelings are reciprocated.

I cannot promise her wealth-history professors are not paid exorbitant sums-but I know I can provide a comfortable home for her and any children with which we may be blessed. I promise you, sir, that I will love and cherish your daughter all the days of my life and I will do my utmost to make her happy.

If you are willing, then I intend to propose to her on her birthday. (Since it falls on a Sunday, I can take the train from Hanover to Cambridge and back again before my first lecture late Monday afternoon.)

I await your answer with great eagerness.

Sincerely,
William H. Gordon

“Well?” Bronwen said, setting down her darning, as her husband neatly refolded the letter.

Adam’s voice was matter-of-fact as he replied, “He wrote to ask my permission to propose to Miranda. Said if I agree, he planned on proposing to her on her birthday.”

“That means we’ll have a wedding this summer to plan for,” Bronwen said excitedly. “Oh, I wonder if they’ll marry in Cambridge or in Wilmington?”

“I imagine Miranda will be planning her own wedding,” Adam said with one of his little half grins. “You’d better write Tad and Mam. They were considering coming with us for her graduation, but if she’s getting married, then I know they’ll want to be there.”

“They certainly will!” Bronwen said, her face lit up with happiness. Then suddenly her expression lost a little of its radiance. “Oh, I wish Beth could be there to see her sister marry.”

“Dafydd can’t be away from his congregation for months,” Adam said regretfully. “It is a shame though.”

A..C. spoke up then. “Isn’t Miranda coming home after she graduates?”

“I’m sorry, Jackeroo,” Adam said quietly, “but, no, I think your sister will marry William and they’ll live in the States.

“I thought she was just going to school there, that she’d be back when she was done,” he said, and his parents could see his disappointment.

“Daddy and I will miss her, too, but we want her to be happy, and I believe that means being with William.”

“But why would she be happier with William than with us?” he asked, looking at his parents with pleading eyes.

Adam looked at Bronwen, knowing she could explain better. She smiled at both the men in her life and said quietly, “Come here and sit by me, A.C. bach.” He came over and perched on the arm of her chair and she took his closest hand and squeezed it gently. “I was very happy living with Tad-cu and Mam-gu. I loved them very much and they loved me. Then I met your dad, and although I still loved Tad-cu and Mam-gu as much as ever, I just knew that Dad was the person I wanted to spend my life with. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes, knowing that meant I wouldn’t be living with my parents anymore, but with your dad, wherever he thought we should live. So we got married and began to raise a family of our own here in Cloncurry. And now our children are growing up and they are falling in love, just as we did, and they’ll raise their families, just as we did, wherever they decide is the best place to be together. That’s just the way it’s meant to be.” She smiled at him tenderly, adding, “But Dad and I are both glad that you won’t be grown up for a long time.”

“We miss your sisters, too,” Adam said quietly, “but we love Elen and Huw and we will love the grandchildren Miranda gives us.”

“So if Miranda marries William, then I could have another nephew?” A.C. asked speculatively.

“That’s right,” Adam replied with just a little grin.

“Or another niece,” his mama added, smiling more broadly.

“I guess I understand,” A.C. said slowly. “But I’m never gonna want to marry a girl,” he added resolutely and was irritated to see his parents share a smile.

“I need to get my reply off in tomorrow’s mail since it’s already October 4, and he wants to propose on her birthday,” Adam said, sitting on the other side of his partner’s desk. “Would you please hand me a couple of sheets of stationary, Jackeroo? It’s in the second drawer.”

They sat together quietly, Adam writing his letter to William, A.C. working on his lessons and Bronwen darning. Adam finished and went to put the letter on the small table beside the front stairs, but before he left the room he kissed Bronwen, a lingering kiss that promised they would be celebrating their second born’s upcoming nuptials when they were alone that night.

They had shared a bed for nearly twenty-four years, so there was no longer any mystery; however, for them, familiarity had not bred contempt. If their passion no longer burned as brightly as it had the first years of their marriage, it had deepened with time. Each knew the other’s body as well as his or her own, knew what brought the other the most pleasure, and they were unselfish lovers. Over the years, she had taught him there was pleasure to be found in simply cuddling together, enjoying the other’s closeness. It had been a difficult lesson for Adam, who had initially kissed or caressed her only as a prelude to lovemaking since expressing his emotions was difficult for him. Gradually, her openness and spontaneity broke through his reserve so that when they made love, they were truly one-emotionally as well as physically-and that night was no exception.

*~*~

Mrs. Gerry and her boarders were all gathered round the dining room table eating supper when there was a loud knocking at the front door. Biddy, Mrs. Gerry’s maid of all work, entered the kitchen a few minutes later.

“It’s a telegram for Miss Cartwright,” she said nervously, for everyone knew telegrams only contained bad news. She handed it to Miranda as though it was scorching her fingers.

Sylvia and Samantha watched their friend’s face anxiously but when they saw her dimple, Samantha said with a chuckle, “I can tell it’s not bad news.”

“No. No, it’s wonderful news!” Miranda exclaimed. “William is coming to visit me next weekend.”

“For your birthday,” Sylvia commented. “Hmm, I wonder if he has a special gift in mind?”

“Yes, I wonder,” Samantha teased. “Maybe a ring for the third finger of her left hand?”

“Oh you two,” Miranda said, blushing.

That Saturday morning Miranda took special care with her toilette. She chose a brand-new walking dress of tobacco-brown tweed with the new tight fitting sleeves, trimmed with gold braid. To complete her ensemble, she wore a shirtwaist blouse with a high collar and a red silk cravat. She wished she still had Maureen to dress her hair because it never looked as nice when she did her own. Samantha’s hair always looked stylish so she asked for her help, which Samantha was glad to give.

‘There. Do you like it?” Samantha asked, handing Miranda a mirror. She had brushed Miranda’s hair over pads to give it a stylish bouffant look, and twisted it into a knot pinned at the top. Then she had artfully arranged tendrils along Miranda’s nape and forehead.

“Oh yes,” Miranda said happily. “It’s very à la page.”

“You’d better hurry and finish dressing,” Sylvia interjected, for she had been watching and offering advice. “William said he would be here at 10 o’clock, and I remember he is always punctual.”

“I just need my hat and gloves,” Miranda said and Samantha added quickly, “Let me fix your hat so you don’t undo my work. Did you get a new one to go with your new outfit?”

“Naturally,” Miranda said with a smile and Samantha soon had the wide-brimmed hat, with its green feathers and spotted veil, pinned atop Miranda’s hair at a jaunty angle. Miranda was just putting on her brown kid gloves when Biddy came running in the room.

“Mr. Gordon is here, Miss Cartwright,” she declared breathlessly. “He’s waiting for you in the parlor.”

William had been pacing the room but hearing approaching footsteps, immediately turned toward the doorway. He thought she had never looked lovelier, and he could see his own joy mirrored on her countenance.

“I’ve missed you so, dearest,” she said softly before he took her in his arms.

“I thought we could go for a walk,” he suggested when they broke apart. “It would give us a chance to talk. I’m afraid it looks like it might rain though.”

“I’m not afraid of a little rain; we’ll just take our umbrellas,” she replied with a smile, and he thought again how adorable her dimple was.

As they walked along, holding hands, she said, “It almost always rains on my birthday. Back home, it’s the rainy season and it may rain for several days without stopping. Of course, it’s about fifty degrees warmer than it is here in Cambridge,” she added with a wry grin.

“Someday I’d like to visit Cloncurry,” he said thoughtfully. “Just to see a place so opposite from what I’ve known.”

“The stars are different,” she said quietly. “Daddy used to show us the constellations; he said they looked different from his home. When I was little, I thought he was just teasing, but when I took astronomy, I discovered he’d been telling the truth. It was unsettling, looking at the night sky and seeing different stars.”

“I suppose you miss Cloncurry,” he commented hesitantly and she smiled warmly at him.

“I miss my family and my friend, Emma, but, no, I don’t think I miss Cloncurry.” She squeezed his hand. “Now,” she continued, “if I did decide to return to Queensland, I think I would follow Gwyneth’s example and rent a flat in a suburb. I think that would be ideal. I could still have easy access to the advantages of city life without the disadvantages.” She paused and then said teasingly, “I could even get a kitten to keep me company.”

“I am very fond of cats,” he answered with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes.

They shared a smile and she directed their conversation toward his teaching experiences and life as a bachelor professor.

That evening he took her to dinner at a fine restaurant in Boston and then to the symphony. In their cab on the way back to her boardinghouse, they exchanged kisses that grew increasingly heated.

“I think it’s a good thing that ride didn’t last any longer,” he said with a little smile as he walked her to her front door. “I’ll attend church with you tomorrow and Mrs. Gerry has agreed I can come to dinner. Then I thought we could go to the Common. I certainly hope the weather agrees to cooperate,” he added with a worried frown. He escorted her to her door, and then drove back to his hotel.

She ran up the stairs to her room, humming Billy Boy. She was just unpinning her hair when she heard a knock at the door.

“Come in,” she called, and Sylvia and Samantha entered in their nightgowns and robes, their faces showing their curiosity.

“Did he propose?” Samantha asked eagerly.

“No, but we had a wonderful day,” Miranda replied, her expression dreamy, as her friends exchanged knowing looks.

“I think he’ll ask tomorrow on her birthday,” Sylvia announced. “That would be more romantic.”

“I don’t think he’ll propose. I told him Daddy is old-fashioned and he’d expect him to ask his permission first. William said that he would talk with my father when my family sails here for my graduation. ”

“But you’ll want to marry when your family is here, and that wouldn’t give you much time to plan the wedding,” Sylvia objected.

“Oh, we don’t want a big wedding.” Miranda paused. “Or at least I don’t. I don’t really know what William wants.”

“You said his mother is from a Main Line family. She’ll want a big wedding where she can invite all of Wilmington’s high society,” Samantha said and Sylvia nodded her agreement

“Well, it’s our wedding, not hers,” Miranda retorted. “If she had her way, I’m sure none of my relatives would be invited.” She stopped and shook her head. “Will you listen to me! William hasn’t even proposed yet.”

“But he will,” Sylvia declared. “Are you really going to stand up to his mother? From the way you described her, she sounds a perfect gorgon.’

“Just like Lady Bracknell,” Samantha suggested and soon all three girls were giggling at the similarities between William’s mother and Oscar Wilde’s deliciously comic creation.

Sunday was a beautiful day-chilly, but clear and sunny. Miranda again took special care with her appearance and chose a suit of black serge trimmed with black satin and with it wore a blouse of white surah silk and a white velvet toque. She thought William looked especially handsome in his double-breasted black frockcoat that emphasized his broad shoulders and slim waist. They made an attractive couple as they walked to church together.

Mrs. Gerry was pleased to see William again and they had a very pleasant Sunday dinner. Afterward, William found a cab to drive them to the Common, and once there, he guided Miranda to a lovely old chestnut tree in a secluded corner. She recognized it as the tree where her grandpa had proposed to her grandma. She’d showed it to William once and explained its significance. As they approached it, she felt her heart begin to race and her breathing quicken.

They stopped under the spreading branches and William dropped to one knee. “Miranda Cartwright, over the years we’ve known each other, the affection I felt for you has slowly deepened into love. These past two months that we’ve been apart have shown me how much you mean to me. I suppose I could live without you, but I would much rather live with you, my dearest friend. Will you marry me?”

“Oh yes, William,” she said tremulously and he stood and took her in his arms. When their kiss ended, he said softly, “I wrote to your father, asking for your hand, and he sent me a wonderful letter granting his permission and welcoming me to the family. I am looking forward to meeting him. I’m looking forward to meeting your entire family.” He kissed her again before adding, “I always wanted brothers and sisters, and now I’m finally going to get them.”

“I wish you could meet Beth and Dafydd,” she said wistfully. “I would have liked Beth to be my Matron of Honor just as I was her Maid of Honor. And I wish I could see Elen and Huw. But Dafydd can’t be away that long.”

“No, I suppose not,” William agreed, hugging her tight. “But at least your parents, Gwyneth, and A.C. will be here.”

“Yes, and I think Tad-cu and Mam-gu are coming. They’ve never been to this country, so Tad-cu says it will be an adventure for them,” and he was pleased to see her expression brightened as she spoke. Then he saw it become very serious, and the young man unconsciously braced himself for whatever his fiancée was about to broach with him. “William, I want Grandpa to be at my wedding.” William nodded slowly and waited, now knowing where the conversation was headed. “I know it would be impossible for him to travel this far to attend, so . . . ”

“Go on, dearest, finish your thought,” he said with just a hint of mischief in his blue eyes.

Miranda, emboldened by his supportive manner, asked the question that she had been turning over in her mind ever since she had suspected William’s true intentions. “Would you mind if we were married at the Ponderosa?”

“I think that’s a marvelous idea. I wonder . . . ” he said slowly.

“Yes?” she asked after several moments of silence.

“I wonder if your uncle would mind fixing up the old cabin so we could spend our honeymoon there?”

“Oh, that would be wonderful,” she exclaimed with shining eyes. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. We could stay there and eat our meals at the ranch house,” she added.

“My practical little wife-to-be,” he said teasingly before capturing her mouth with his. “Oh, I have something for you,” he said quietly when the kiss ended, pulling a small package from his pocket.

She opened it eagerly, revealing a milk opal set in gold filigree. “The jeweler assured me this opal is from the continent of Australia, so I thought it would be perfect for you,” he said tenderly.

“It’s lovely, dearest,” she whispered as he slipped it on her finger. She shivered slightly and he said solicitously, “You’re cold. I’d better get you back to Mrs. Gerry’s.”

When the cab arrived at the boardinghouse, he walked her to her door and they enjoyed a long, intimate kiss on the doorstep before he took the cab back to Boston so he could catch the next train to Hanover. Mrs. Gerry was red-faced with indignation when Miranda walked inside.

“Miss Cartwright, I will not tolerate lewd and lascivious behavior in my boarders-” she sputtered.

“We’re engaged,” Miranda said quietly, holding up her left hand, and the opal glowed in the lamplight. “He just proposed to me.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Gerry said, her expression softening. “That is a special occasion, but please remember that public displays of affection are in poor taste.”

“I will, ma’am,’ Miranda relied, dimpling.

*~*~

Adam was surprised to find both his wife and his son waiting for him at the paddock when he rode up to the barn that night.

“We got a letter from Miranda, Dad,” A.C. shouted as he jumped off he rail he’d been perched on.

“And you think she has some very important news for us,” he commented, keeping his face perfectly straight.

“Don’t you?” Bronwen asked, not fooled for a moment by his poker face.

“Yes, I do,” he replied with a grin. “Let me take care of Mercury then we can read the letter.”

“We’re here to help,” she said with a matching grin, “because Beth, Dafydd and the children should be here in about fifteen minutes. I also told Matilda so she and Rhys will be joining us soon.”

The Cartwrights and the Davies were sitting on the verandah with Lady and Duchess when the four Joneses approached the house. Huw was walking between his parents holding onto their hands while Elen walked on the other side of Beth holding her hand. A.C. dashed down the path to meet them followed by the two dogs barking excited greetings, while the two older couples followed at a walk. Elen ran through the gate calling, “G’day, Me-ma! G’day, Pa-pa!”

“Hello, Precious,” Adam said, scooping her up and swinging her overhead while she squealed in delight.

“Noswaith dda, Mam. Good evening, Tada” Dafydd said, smiling warmly at his in-laws. “Noswaith dda, Ewyrth Rhys, Modryb Matilda.”

When all the greetings had been exchanged, Bronwen turned to her grandson. Like Elen, Huw’s eyes had changed from blue to the same dark brown as Dafydd’s, but while Elen’s hair was fine and golden-brown, Huw had his mother’s thick, raven-black hair. “Huw bach, don’t tell me you walked all the way from the parsonage?” Bronwen asked and the little boy grinned, showing his two new teeth.

“He would have tried,” Beth answered her mother with a laugh. “He walks all around the house holding onto the furniture. I’m sure he’ll be walking on his own soon.”

“Can you give Me-ma a kiss?” Bronwen asked, hunkering down and she received an enthusiastic kiss on her cheek from her grandson.

“C’mon, let’s read Miranda’s letter,” A.C. said impatiently.

“Yes, let’s,” Beth agreed before Adam could scold his son. “I’m anxious to learn if William did propose.”

“All right, Huw bach, let’s find out if your Auntie Miranda is going to marry her professor,” Dafydd said picking his son up and sitting him on his shoulders.

“Do you think we should eat first?” Bronwen asked as they all walked back to the veranda

“I already fed Elen and Huw their supper so we could read the letter first,” Beth replied.

“I made blanc mange for dessert; they can have some of it while we have supper,” Bronwen suggested as Beth and Dafydd sat on the swing with the children while the other adults sat on wicker chairs and A.C. perched on the railing. Adam pulled his reading glasses out of his pocket and began to read.

November 14, 1897

Dear Family,

This has been the most wonderful birthday of my life. Today, William asked me to be his wife. We haven’t arranged all the details, but I told him I would like to be married at the Ponderosa so Grandpa can be there. He said that was a wonderful idea. (I wish I thought his mother would agree, but she’ll find her match in me. Mama and Daddy, you have always said I was as stubborn as both of you put together, and I will not be intimidated by Mrs. Gordon.)

“I almost feel sorry for William’s mother,” Dafydd said with a slight smile.

“I don’t!” his wife replied firmly. “From everything Miranda has written, she sounds perfectly odious. Besides, the bride and her family choose where the marriage ceremony takes place.”

“And that’s only fair since I’ll be paying for everything,” Adam added with a grin.

“Let’s get back to the letter,” Bronwen suggested and with another smile Adam continued reading.

William’s proposal was so romantic. He proposed to me under the same chestnut tree in the Common where Grandpa proposed to Grandma. (I had pointed it out to him once and told him about it. I can’t believe he remembered!) He bought me a ring with a milk opal from Australia. It’s so lovely.

It’s going to be difficult tomorrow keeping my mind focused on calculus and physics. William is coming back to Boston next weekend so we can choose our china and silver. I’m sure Mama and Beth can send me advice about all the other things I’ll need for our new home. I know I’m the least domestic of us girls, but I am going to be a good wife for William and I’ll make certain the household runs smoothly. He told me he’s found the perfect house for us in Hanover. It’s small and unpretentious with three bedrooms plus a parlour and a dining room. He’s promised to have a water closet and a bathroom installed before we move in. When you get here, we’ll make a brief visit to Hanover so you can see our house.

It‘s getting very late and I still need to write to Gwyneth, Grandpa and Uncle Joe, and Tad-cu and Mam-gu. Oh, forgive me for almost forgetting -Happy Birthday, Daddy-you’ve given me the best gift of all: your permission to marry the man I love.

Love,
Miranda

“What a wonderful idea!” Bronwen said. “The Ponderosa would be the perfect place for a wedding.” Rhys and Matilda nodded their agreement as Beth dropped her head to her chest, absently smoothing the hair on her baby’s head, as she fought back her tears of disappointment at the thought of missing her sister’s wedding.

That evening when Dafydd and Beth were alone in their bedroom, he sat on the bed and watched as she brushed her long black hair, her face intent as she performed this nightly ritual. She’d been very quiet since they returned home, and he knew the reason.

Finishing her task, she put her brushes down on her vanity and turned toward him. “You’d like to be there for Miranda’s wedding, wouldn’t you, cariad?” he asked gently.

“Yes,” she replied quietly. He held out his hand and she took it, letting him pull her on his lap. “I would like to be there, but I understand that you can’t be gone that long. Miranda understands, too,” she continued in the same quiet tone, but he could see the sadness in her eyes.

His fingertips gently brushed her cheek and jaw and he delighted in the silky softness of her flawless skin. “I can’t go, but there’s no reason you and the children shouldn’t travel with your parents and A.C.”

“I wouldn’t want to be apart from you for that long,” she replied, and kissed him gently.

He returned her kiss before saying, ‘It would be hard on both of us, but I think you should be there for the wedding. With Miranda settling permanently in the States, who knows when your family will all be together again?”

She dropped her eyes and said softly, “We won’t all be there.”

He lifted her chin up with his forefinger and saw her beautiful hazel eyes were bright with unshed tears. “Penny will be there in your hearts and your memories,” he said gently and she nodded her understanding. “I would also like your grandparents to have a chance to see their great-grandchildren and for you to have a chance to see them again,” he added.

“Dafydd bach, you are such a wonderful, unselfish man,” she said, hugging him tightly.

“I’m not wonderful. I love you and I love your family and I want you all to have this chance to be together,” he replied. He kissed her then, but suddenly broke it off. “We’re forgetting something,” he said frowning. “I’m afraid the trip will be too expensive, and I don’t want to ask your parents for the money.”

Beth looked so disappointed. Suddenly her face lit up.

“We can use the money from my trust fund!” she exclaimed.

“But we agreed that money was for the children’s education,” he said quietly.

“I know, darling, but remember: Every quarter since I turned eighteen, the interest from the trust fund has been deposited in an account here, and that money has been drawing interest. I’m sure there’s enough there to help pay for our tickets on the train and steamship. Mama and Daddy always have a suite with two bedrooms whenever they stay in San Francisco and Boston so the children and I can share a bedroom with A.C. It won’t cost Mama and Daddy any extra money. Or maybe the children and I could share a room with Gwyneth. We could split the cost, and we could probably afford that. We’ll still have money in the children’s education account.”

“All right,” he agreed with a smile. “Besides, the chance to travel abroad is certainly educational, even if they’re too young to remember it.”

Dw i’n dy garu di, Dafydd,” she said softly before capturing his mouth with her own.

Chapter 6
“A penny for your thoughts,” William said to Miranda as they sat side by side on the train from Boston to Wilmington, where they would spend Christmas with his parents.

“I’m just imagining your mother’s reaction when we tell her our wedding is taking place on the Ponderosa,” Miranda replied with a rueful smile.

He frowned a little as he replied, “I’ve been trying not to think about it. Instead, I’ve been thinking about the letter from your Uncle Joe saying the cabin will be ready for our honeymoon.” He grinned as he added, “Of course, that has me thinking about what we’ll be doing in the cabin.”

“William!” she expostulated, her cheeks turning very pink, and he thought she looked absolutely adorable.

The Gordons’ chauffeur met them at the train station and arranged for their trunks to be delivered to the house. Miranda had wanted to show her prospective mother-in-law that her son was not marrying a country bumpkin so she’d dipped into her trust fund account and bought two new evening gowns: one of sea-green brocaded satin, trimmed lavishly with guipure lace, worn off the shoulder, and the other with a skirt of pale azure silk and a lace bodice decorated by bands of azure ribbons. She’d packed her delaine skirts and her shirtwaist blouses and, to ensure she was prepared for any eventuality, she’d also packed her tweed walking dress and her white silk ball gown with its plunging neckline.

When they arrived at the Gordons’ imposing brick townhouse, the parlor maid took their coats and informed them that Mrs. Gordon was waiting for them in the drawing room after they had freshened up. Miranda followed the maid to her assigned bedroom. She hastily removed her sealskin toque, setting it carefully on the bed since her hatboxes were all packed in her trunk. She patted her hair into place, straightened her bolero jacket, took a deep breath, and went to join William and his mother.

“Good afternoon,” Mrs. Gordon said, not bothering to use her future daughter-in-law’s given name before motioning for Miranda to sit beside her on the settee. “I trust you had a pleasant journey.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Miranda replied, feeling the coolness of her hostess’ reception, which she likened to one of Boston’s freezing northeasters. She paused before adding, “I’ve been looking forward to spending more time with you and Mr. Gordon so we’ll have a chance to get to know each other better before the wedding.” William caught her eye at those words and grinned, but she kept her expression bland.

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Gordon said, her tone and face expressionless. “May I see your ring?” Miranda held her left hand so the pale milk opal gleamed in the sunlight streaming in the bay window. “An opal. What an unusual choice,” Mrs. Gordon sniffed disdainfully. “I thought William told me that your birthday was in November, my dear.”

Miranda answered innocently, “It is in November, the fourteenth to be exact. I was born on my father’s birthday.”

“Well, everyone knows that an opal is considered bad luck unless it happens to be your birthstone. Persons born in October are the only ones who may legitimately wear such stones.”

“I think it’s a beautiful ring,” Miranda replied, her expression and tone unruffled, “and I don’t believe any superstition about a piece of jewelry being bad luck,” she added in a slightly contemptuous tone.

“I chose the stone because it’s from Australia,” William said quietly. The edge to his voice was not lost on his mother, and not wanting to cause a scene, she moved to another topic.

Mrs. Gordon then said to Miranda, “Since your own mother is so far away, I hope you’ll let me advise you on planning the wedding.” Without waiting for any sign of acceptance of her offer, she assumed the role of marriage planner and said, “Now, I think you should be married at our church, but we’ll have the reception here.”

“I want to be married on the Ponderosa,” Miranda said quietly.

“Don’t be absurd,” Mrs. Gordon said dismissively. “We’ll have to start drawing up the guest list. You can invite your family in Nevada.”

Noting that she had just been granted permission to invite her own family to her own wedding, Miranda felt her blood begin to boil. Future mother-in-law or no, she was not bowing to this woman’s whims. “Pardon me, Mrs. Gordon, but the bride and her family decide where the wedding will take place and our wedding will take place on the Ponderosa.”

“I have no intention of traveling to some godforsaken wilderness,” Mrs. Gordon said coldly.

“Then you won’t be attending your son’s wedding,” Miranda answered in a steely voice, her amber eyes as cold as her adversary’s.

“William, please explain to your fiancée why your wedding will be here in Wilmington,” Mrs. Gordon said to her equally furious son in a frigid tone.

“No, Mother, I won’t, because Miranda is correct. Our wedding will be taking place on the Ponderosa. . It is her right to choose the location of our wedding, just as it’s your right, Mother, to decide whether or not you’ll attend the ceremony.”

“And you expect your family and friends to travel from Wilmington to Nevada?” Mrs. Gordon replied in a glacial tone, but Miranda could see a vein in her temple was throbbing.

“We want a very private ceremony,” he said calmly. “We intend to invite our families and close friends, but if they can’t attend, we will certainly understand.” William did not take his eyes from his mother’s face and conveyed more in that one defiant look than any words he could have spoken in support of his future wife’s wishes.

Mrs. Gordon’s expression hardened and for a moment she was silent. Then, leaving the now highly controversial but by no means completed discussion, she said to her son in a cutting tone, “I hope you don’t object to a ball introducing your fiancée to our friends and acquaintances because the invitations have already been sent.”

“Of course not,” he replied, his tone belying his annoyance at his mother’s presumptiveness. “Miranda and I love to dance, don’t we, dearest?”

“Very much,” she replied, smiling at him warmly, and Mrs. Gordon clenched her jaw while the vein throbbed more noticeably.

“I suppose you plan on sewing your own wedding dress,” she commented scornfully.

“No. I am using a couturière recommended to me. Naturally, since it will be a simple ceremony, my dress will also be simple with only a modest train. And we will only have one attendant each.”

“As you say, it is your wedding,” the older woman stated but her disapproval was obvious. “What of your china and silver?’

“We’ve chosen our patterns,” Miranda replied.

“Yes, we had difficulty deciding between Royal Doulton’s Providence and Minton’s Henley,” William interjected, “but we finally chose the Minton.”

“We chose Colonial by Tiffany for our silver,” Miranda added.

“Well, it appears that you two have decided a great many things. If you will excuse me, I will see to the menu for dinner as it will be just the four of us this evening.” With a haughty flourish, she exited the parlor, leaving Miranda and William alone.

“I believe my mother has finally met her match,” William said, his blue eyes dancing as he embraced his intended.

“You don’t think I was disrespectful, do you?” Miranda asked, glad that William was supportive of her plans, but not wishing to be at odds with her mother-in-law forever.

“No, dearest, you were respectful, but firm. My mother has always had every thing her own way since it was just easier to go along and it really didn’t make much difference to Father and me anyway. You had every right to speak your mind and it sets a good precedent for the future. Now, we best get dressed for Act II of this little saga. I believe you’ll find Father to be an ally.” He winked as he took her arm and led her up the stairs to their respective rooms.

Miranda, wearing her new sea-green evening gown, was putting on her elbow-length gloves when she heard a knock on the door. “Who is it?” she called.

“Your future husband,” William’s voice answered. “I’ve come to escort you to dinner. Are you ready?”

“Yes,” she replied with a smile as she opened the door.

William’s eyes traveled over her appreciatively and then returned to her bare shoulders and décolletage. “You look absolutely ravishing, dearest,” he said before taking her in his arms and trailing heated kisses on her bare neck and shoulders.

She melted in his embrace, but after a few moments she pushed away. “Your parents are waiting for us,” she said regretfully and he sighed before offering her his arm.

“My wife tells me you plan on being married in Nevada,” Mr. Gordon commented as they dined.

“Yes, sir. I want my grandfather to be at my wedding, and his age and health won’t permit him to make long journeys.”

“Very proper,” Mr. Gordon said, ignoring his wife’s glare. He liked his prospective daughter-in-law. She was certainly a lovely young woman. He’d noticed how becoming her gown was and how it displayed her beautiful shoulders. One couldn’t fault her for wanting her grandfather to attend her wedding. In one of his infrequent letters, his son had mentioned how fond the young woman was of her grandfather. In fact, it was clear his son was quite taken with Mr. Cartwright. It would be interesting to meet one of the early pioneers who crossed the prairies, deserts and mountains to settle the West and fulfill America’s manifest destiny. And he remembered his brother-in-law saying the Cartwright family was very wealthy.

“Looking forward to meeting your grandfather,” he commented speculatively. “William here says he was one of the first settlers in Nevada, or Western Utah as it was known then.”

“That’s correct,” Miranda replied with a smile, warming to him immediately from his comment about her beloved grandfather. “Actually, you’ll be able to meet both my grandfathers since my mama’s family is sailing here from Sydney. They were coming for my graduation, and now they’ll be able to attend my wedding as well.”

“You’ve not said much about your mother’s family,” Mrs. Gordon commented, her tone implying the Davies must be disreputable. “Why don’t you tell us about them?”

“They’re pioneers as well,” Miranda replied, ignoring her future mother-in-law’s insinuations. “They both grew up in a town in South Wales named Llanelli. Its major industry is tin plate production. My great-grandfather Davies was a foreman at one of the factories and he managed to save enough money to send my grandfather, who was the oldest son, to Cambridge University. Tad-cu-that’s Welsh for grandfather-studied medicine there; my mam-gu, or grandmother, waited for him and they kept in touch by letter. They married after he graduated from medical school. At first he went into practice with an older doctor in Llanelli, but after a few months he decided to travel from South Wales to New South Wales.”

“They settled in Darlinghurst, one of Sydney’s suburbs. He established a practice there and they raised their three children: Uncle Bryn, Uncle Rhys and my mama, who is the youngest. Uncle Bryn wanted to own a sheep station, or ranch, and he moved to Broken Hill in the western part of New South Wales. Uncle Rhys studied engineering at Sydney Technical College and became a mining engineer. He and Daddy decided to go into business together, after my parents married, and they opened a copper mine in Queensland not far from the town of Cloncurry. Broken Hill and Cloncurry are both back of Bourke,” and as she saw the puzzled expressions on the other faces she added quickly, “I mean, they’re very remote locations, so I’ve never actually met Uncle Bryn, Aunt Victoria or my cousins. Uncle Rhys and Aunt Matilda live next door to my family in Cloncurry and their son, Llywelyn, seems more like a brother than a cousin. He’s two years younger than I am and a year older than my sister Gwyneth. The two of them were thick as thieves when we were growing up. They’d go riding on their ponies or fishing and swimming at the river as often as they could.”

“She sounds a hoyden,” Mrs. Gordon said condescendingly and Miranda frowned.

“I can assure you my oldest and youngest sisters loved to play with dolls and games like hopscotch and jacks with other little girls. Gwyneth and I just never shared their interest. We were both bookworms and Gwyneth is a superb equestrienne. She does like to cook and my parents write me that she’s almost as good as our oldest sister, Beth.”

“Exactly how many siblings do you have?” Mr. Gordon inquired, hoping to ease the tension. “I take it you come from a large family?”

“I have one brother, Adam. I had,” and her voice trembled just slightly, “three sisters, but my youngest sister, Penny, died four years ago when she was twelve.”

“I’m sorry, my dear. I didn’t wish to cause you any pain,” Mr. Gordon said, looking very uncomfortable.

“Sometimes it’s just hard for me to remember she’s gone,” she replied, managing a faint smile to ease his distress. “My sisters and I are very close even though we are unable to see each other very often,” she added. “My older sister, Beth, is married to our minister and they have a little daughter and son I’ve never seen. My brother-in-law can’t be absent from his church long enough to make the voyage here, so I won’t be able to see them this spring. Everyone else will be here though. And my Uncle Joe will be traveling here from Nevada for my graduation.”

“I’m sure we look forward to meeting your family,” Mrs. Gordon said mechanically, but her husband smiled at Miranda and nodded his agreement.

*~*~

A.C. opened his eyes to a darkened bedroom and kicked off the sheet lying across his legs. Today’s the day, he thought excitedly. Today I’m ten years old and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a horse for my birthday!

He jumped out of bed and ran across the room to push back his curtains. Only the first pale light of dawn was visible. He dressed as quickly as he could but when he burst out of his room, he nearly ran into his dad.

“Happy birthday, Jackeroo,” Adam said with a grin. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“To the barn. Did-did I get a horse, Dad?”

“Let’s go see,” Adam replied pokerfaced. “And Mama wants to come with us.”

Just then Bronwen emerged from the master bedroom, dressed for riding in her knickerbockers, which told her young son everything about his birthday present that he needed to know. “Happy birthday, A.C. bach,” said his mother as she gave him a hug and a kiss, which he accepted reluctantly. Once his mother let go, he made a beeline for the stairs.

“Don’t run in the house, A.C.,” Bronwen said automatically, and the excited boy made himself walk, but at a pace faster than his mama’s shorter legs could keep up with. She sighed and said, “Oh, you two go ahead but don’t go in the barn until I get there.”

As she neared the barn and saw them-Adam leaning casually against the door while A.C. stood, tense with pent-up excitement-she realized with a mixture of wistfulness and pride that A.C. had grown again. She’d been looking him in the eyes for the past couple of months and soon she’d be looking up at him. Seeing his impatience, she quickened her pace, and as soon as she reached them, A.C. bolted inside, causing his parents to share a grin before they followed him.

Sport neighed a greeting from his stall and for a moment A.C. felt a sick feeling of disappointment, but then he saw a horse in the stall next to Sport’s. The Welsh cob was black as ebony with a white blaze on his face and the bold, prominent eyes of the breed. “Is he mine?” the boy asked with shining eyes. “Oh, Dad, is he mine?”

“He’s yours,” Adam replied with a blinding smile as his son gave heartfelt hugs to his parents. “Go on, saddle him up and the three of us will go for a ride before breakfast. I’ve already milked Blossom and fed and watered the stock.”

As A.C. saddled his new mount, he noticed the gelding had two hind socks. He was a beautiful animal, over fourteen hands. As the three Cartwrights rode out of the yard at a trot, Bronwen said, “What are you going to name him, A.C.?”

“I’m not sure. I’m going to have to think of just the right name,” A.C. replied, and his parents shared a smile.

They hadn’t ridden far when Adam suggested, “How about a gallop?”

Bronwen’s violet eyes took on a look of concern and she said, “Cariad, he’s just getting used to the animal. Do you think it wise for him to race him so soon?” Adam reached over and patted his wife’s hand in reassurance. “I’ll be right there beside him, sweetheart, and I would rather be with him the first time out, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I’ll be careful, Mama, I promise,” A.C. vowed, his father’s dimple evident in his cheek. With a sigh and a nod of her head, Bronwen patted her old brown cob’s neck affectionately before saying, “I think Olwen and I will just go for a canter, but you two can gallop if you’d like.”

A.C.’s cob and Adam’s Waler were soon racing neck and neck across the open field. The years melted away as Adam felt the exhilaration of the wind in his face as he gave his son a run for his money. Their race ended in a draw, with neither side giving less than one hundred percent. “He sure is fast, Dad,” A.C. exclaimed as they slowed their horses to a walk.

“He sure is. Mr. Dawson said he’d be the perfect mount for you.” Adam squinted up at the sun before adding, “We’d better head back home so you aren’t late for school.”

As the three of them headed back home at a walk, A.C. suddenly said, “Wasn’t Alexander the Great’s horse black?”

“That’s right,” Bronwen said, “and he also had a white blaze on his forehead.”

“I’m going to name you Bucephalas,” A.C. said, patting his mount’s neck. “How do you like that?”

“That’s a fine name, son,” Adam said proudly. “Now, I promise I’ll be home in time to set up the Battledore and Shuttlecock game in the backyard for your party,” and A.C. nodded happily.

As they approached the barn, the boy had a sudden thought. “What about Sport?”

“I’ve talked with Dafydd and Beth and they’re going to give Sport to Elen for her birthday in November. They’re going to take him with them tonight and stable him with Star and Caradog. He’ll get plenty of attention from Elen and Huw, don’t worry,” his dad replied with a grin.

“I didn’t want him to think nobody cared for him anymore; he’ll be a good pony for Elen,” A.C. replied with a smile.

While Adam supervised the game of Battledore and Shuttlecock that afternoon, Bronwen and Mary were busy preparing the family birthday supper. The boys went home, happy and full of birthday cake, and A.C. and Adam just had time to wash up before the family arrived. Huw, who was about two weeks short of his first birthday, walked in holding his tada‘s hand, and three-year-old Elen walked beside her little brother holding her mama’s hand as they approached the house.

“Happy Birthday, Unca A.C.!” Elen shouted as soon as she approached the verandah. “We got you present!” she continued, grabbing the gift from her father and putting it into her uncle’s hands. “And I wanna help blow.”

“Do I hafta let her help?” A.C. asked his parents imploringly, as Elen went immediately to her Pa-pa for a kiss and a tickle.

“It would be the nice thing to do,” his mama replied and the boy sighed.

“Right,” he muttered ungraciously, but his expression brightened when he saw his aunt and uncle approaching from their house. He usually got clothes from them, but since he would finally be able to wear long pants, he was looking forward to the gift.

After supper, the three families gathered in the drawing room to watch A.C. open his gifts since the library had once again become a dressmaker’s shop, as a disgruntled Adam put it, just as it had in the weeks before Beth’s wedding.

“Open ours, Unca A.C.,” Elen commanded and he smiled.

“Okay. Which one is from you?” he asked, knowing the answer.

“This one,” she answered, running over to the pile of gifts. She grabbed it and ran back to her uncle and thrust it again into his hands. He opened it and discovered two new shirts that he knew Beth must have sewn. One was blue and white striped cotton and the other was a dress shirt of white linen. “Thank you,” he said and Elen said excitedly, “There’s more!”

A.C. looked puzzled so Dafydd smiled broadly and said, “Look underneath the shirts.” A.C. lifted both shirts out of the box and found a tin full of his favorite ginger biscuits-gingersnaps his dad called them. “Beauty, Beth and Dafydd! Thanks!” he said with a happy grin.

“I helped,” Elen said importantly so he smiled and thanked her.

Gwyneth had sent him a book, but she usually picked interesting ones so that was fine. He was right about his gift from Aunt Matilda and Uncle Rhys. She had made him two pairs of trousers: one pair of fawn linen and one of beige duck. Grandpa and Uncle Joe had sent him a pair of waist overalls. I know the legs are probably too long, but you can roll them up to the proper length Grandpa had written. Tad-cu and Mam-gu had given him a pair of white flannel trousers while Uncle Bryn and Aunt Victoria had sent him a new bag of marbles and a slingshot.

“I’ll keep the slingshot until you and I can have a talk about how you’re allowed to use it,” Adam said, appropriating the gift as his son scowled.

Miranda’s gift he’d saved for last. Huw had fallen asleep in his tada‘s arms while Elen sat on her mama’s lap with drooping eyelids. The adults, on the other hand, were eagerly anticipating the opening of this gift, for Miranda would have included a letter. A.C. tore through the wrapping paper and discovered a black cambric bow tie, a crimson and gray silk necktie, and five linen handkerchiefs embroidered with his monogram. Underneath, he found a letter written on Miranda’s thick, cream-colored engraved stationary.

“Can, I mean may, I read it out loud?” he asked, looking at his parents.

“Of course,” Bronwen replied. “I’m anxious to hear what she has to say.”

January 5, 1898

Dear Family,

First off, I want to wish A.C. a very happy birthday. It’s hard to believe my little brother is ten years old now. And not so little either. Judging from the last photograph Daddy sent me of everyone at Christmas, you must be almost as tall as I am. I hope you and your mates had a wonderful time at your party. Since you are now a young man, I thought you would want to dress as one. You’ll need the bow tie for my wedding and you can wear the necktie to church. (I picked crimson and grey because they’re Harvard’s colours.)

The last time I wrote, I told you William’s parents had invited us to spend Christmas with them and how I was nervous about informing them that our wedding will take place on the Ponderosa. Well, I have faced the dragon in her lair, and like St. George, I was victorious! Mrs. Gordon played her trump card and declared she would not attend a wedding in a godforsaken wilderness; however, William and I called her bluff. I’m still addressing the formal invitations but I wanted to let you all know that we will be married the second Saturday in July. Aunt Matilda has already written me that she is helping with Mama’s dress, and that she has Gwyneth’s measurements so she will sew hers, too.

Adam shook his head a little in disapproval of his daughter’s characterization of her future mother-in-law. Bronwen read his mind and said softly, “If Miranda was ever to assert herself with Mrs. Gordon, this would have to be the time. It sounds as if William was in full support of her.” Of course, she thought, in my own case, I never had a mother-in-law, but I’m certain Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright would not as overbearing as Mrs. Gordon seems to be. Meanwhile, A.C. continued to read.

Mr. and Mrs. Gordon will be sending Mama and Daddy an invitation to spend the week after my graduation at their home in Wilmington. I want to warn you that they are very formal and Mama will need to pack one or two evening gowns to wear during her visit and Daddy will need a dinner jacket. William and I will also be spending the week with his parents but everyone else can head back to the Ponderosa. It will be a long week, but I suppose we should all get to know each other better.

“It sounds as though Miranda is concerned we won’t make a good impression on her in-laws,” Adam remarked with a frown.

“No, I don’t agree,” Bronwen replied. “She just wants us to be prepared. After all, we’re very informal; we certainly don’t dress for dinner.” Adam nodded his acknowledgement of her point, and Bronwen continued. “I, for one, appreciate her writing us because now I know I’ll have to buy some evening gowns in San Francisco or Boston. We had Mr. Broome order the silk and taffeta for the dresses we’ll wear at the wedding, but there’s no time to order more material and have the gowns completed before we have to leave. You need to see Mr. Marx tomorrow and let him know that in addition to your new tailcoat and A.C.’s morning coat, he’ll need to make you a dinner jacket. We’ll be leaving in a month so he doesn’t have a lot of time.”

“I would like to hear the rest of Miranda’s letter before we take the little ones home,” Beth interjected so her brother resumed his reading

My wedding gown is being made by Mrs. Alden’s . . .

A.C. stopped. “I can’t read this word. Why don’t you read the rest, Dad?”

All right,” Adam replied with a smile, extending his hand for the letter. They all waited impatiently for him to put on his reading glasses and then find his place.

My wedding gown is being made by Mrs. Alden’s couturière. (Although I try to avoid Mr. Alden, I still visit Charlotte and her mother. Mrs. Alden insisted I let Madame Girouard create my wedding gown. She made some sketches and it is lovely. It will be made of white satin and the lace ribbons that run over the bodice and skirt are the only decorations. It will have a modest train. The tulle veil will be floor length and fastened with a wreath of flowers. I think the simplicity of the design will suit me.

William and I both agree we want a simple wedding with just our families and very close friends. Samantha and Sylvia have assured me they plan to attend and naturally I’m inviting Aunt Annabelle along with Benj and Sarah. (I’m going to invite the Aldens but I doubt they’ll come.) I hope Uncle Joe isn’t upset but I really felt I couldn’t not invite Aunt Annabelle. Once we receive the RSVPs, then we’ll make arrangements with hotels in Carson City. We’ve already booked the largest suite available in Carson City for William’s parents and a single room for him. We’re going to spend our honeymoon at the old cabin Grandpa built. Uncle Joe has promised to have it cleaned and ready for us. It was William’s idea to honeymoon there. I think it will be so romantic to be alone in the cabin surrounded by nature. Of course, I did tell William we would be eating our meals at the ranch house.

Adam stopped reading to say with a chuckle, “That’s my girl!” A.C. looked puzzled while all the adults shared a smile.

I must stop so I can get back to addressing invitations. (Having to address them all myself is another reason for a small wedding!)

Love,
Miranda

“Am I really going to wear a morning coat to Miranda’s wedding?” A.C. inquired as his dad refolded the letter and placed it back in the envelope.

“That’s right, Jackeroo. And you’ll wear your new bow tie,” Adam replied with a grin.

“He’ll need a pair of white kid gloves as well,” Bronwen said, “but I think we can get those in San Francisco or Boston.”

“You’ll be a proper little gentleman,” Rhys stated, winking at his nephew, who rolled his eyes.

“At least you’re not wearing a Fauntleroy suit,” his dad said with a chuckle at his son’s discomfiture.

*~*~

Gwyneth closed her door and hung her mackintosh on the coat rack by her door. She was glad to get out of the driving rain although she wished it brought some relief from the oppressive humidity. She saw the mackintosh was dripping on the wood floor so she went and got a towel to put under it to absorb the moisture and then locked her door. The flat was stifling since she could only open her windows a crack because of the rain, so she went into her bedroom and removed her cotton stockings, shirtwaist blouse, delaine skirt, and her layers of petticoats. That felt much cooler. After carefully hanging up her clothes, she put her thin cotton robe on over her beribboned combination. Then she walked barefoot into her kitchen to fix a salad she could eat while she read her letter from Miranda. Cath was curled up by the ice box, trying to escape the heat.

“Poor Cath,” she said as the grey tabby rubbed against her legs. “How about some milk for supper?” She poured a saucer of milk and then took the lettuce and other vegetables from the ice box and began shredding and chopping. When she finished, she took the vinaigrette dressing from the ice box and poured some over the salad. Cath had finished her milk and told Gwyneth in no uncertain terms that she was still hungry. “All right, I’ll share my shrimp with you, you greedy thing,” Gwyneth said smiling. She got the boiled shrimp from the ice box and tore some into pieces and put them on the saucer before taking the rest and her salad to the dining room table. She took one forkful of salad before opening the letter.

January 20, 1898

Dear Gwyneth,

Just think, in five months we will all be together in Boston! Sometimes it seems so much longer than four years since all of us were all together. Now, I’ll get to see Beth again and I’ll finally get to meet my niece and nephew. I am so anxious for William to meet all of you and for you to meet him. I started to say you’ll all love him just as I do, but of course that isn’t true! But I know you’ll all like him very much.

William and I had decided that we each only want one attendant and since Beth will be here, I know you understand that I want her to be my Matron of Honor. That allows me to ask you to sing at my wedding. Your voice is so beautiful and I so much want to have the pleasure of hearing you at such a special time. I am hoping that you will agree to sing Bach’s “Bist Du bei mir”. It would mean so much to me, Gwyneth.

I’ll be happy to sing at your wedding. I knew you would want Beth to stand up with you, Gwyneth thought with a smile. Mr. Havers will be happy to coach me. He’s always saying I should sing more solos. And I can use Daddy’s guitar and accompany myself. Mr. Havers probably even has a copy of the sheet music I can borrow. She returned to the letter with a tingle of anticipation.

I don’t want to bore you by going on and on about William and the wedding. Here’s a different bit of news for you. Radcliffe is going to form a tennis team, and I intend to try out for it. I enjoy playing tennis very much and I’m good at it. We’ll play some of the other women’s colleges, such as Wellesley.

I am working hard my final term; I don’t think I’ll graduate first in my class but I think I will earn second or third place. I can never thank Daddy and Mama enough for letting me attend the Girls Latin School and then Radcliffe. I can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t come here and met William.

I said I wouldn’t go on about William, but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself. I am looking forward to seeing you again so much, and to hearing you sing at my wedding.

Your loving sister,
Miranda

Gwyneth smiled as she sat the letter down, then jumped as Cath landed on the table beside her plate. “No, Cath! Bad kitty!” she said sternly as she picked her up and put her on the floor. Cath looked at her with her enormous green eyes, and promptly jumped back on the table.

“Cath, sometimes, you are positively wicked,” Gwyneth said in a scolding tone, putting the cat back on the floor and then carrying her dishes to the kitchen. She washed and dried them while Cath sat at her feet and washed herself. As soon as she finished the dishes, she picked Cath up and scratched behind her ears while the cat’s eyes closed and her expression was one of pure bliss. “I’m going to miss you, Cath,” she said softly, “but Mabel will take good care of you and I know you like her.”

Her time in Brisbane had helped Gwyneth understand her feelings and now she knew which man she truly loved. She liked Douglas, and she couldn’t deny that she felt a strong attraction to him, but her feelings for him were not as strong as those for Mark. When she and Mark were apart, she missed him unbearably and thoughts of him seemed to flood her brain. With Douglas, it really had proved to be a case of out of sight, out mind.

Now that she knew it was Mark she loved, there was no reason to continue living in Brisbane after she returned from the States. She had decided to sublet her flat. Since she had nowhere to store her furniture and other belongings, it made sense to leave them at the flat until she needed them. Mark would graduate in December, and then they would be married; that was a certainty. Daddy liked Mark and so did Uncle Rhys and Mark had written that they’d offered him a position at Cartwright & Davies. When she returned to Cloncurry in the fall, she would have to tell Douglas that it was Mark she truly loved. Daddy and Mama were right; it was cruel to give Douglas false hope, but she owed it to him to tell him in person and not in a letter.

*~*~

“I wish they’d build a railroad between Cloncurry and Townsville,” Adam grumbled that night over supper. “Not only would it make it easier to visit Gwyneth or Tad-cu and Mam-gu, but the lack of good transportation is eating into the mine’s profits.”

“I’m sure we’ll be connected by rail eventually,” Bronwen said soothingly, to which her husband gave a snort of disgust.

“I like riding on the train,” A.C. said, his excitement obvious. Then he switched subjects rapidly. “Are you really going to let me drive Prince and Princess?” he asked his dad.

“I said I would,” Adam replied.

“I’m not sure-” Bronwen began anxiously, but Adam cut her off.

“He’s old enough and I’m going to be sitting right beside him. But I don’t think he’ll need any help from me.” He smiled warmly at his son, who almost visibly swelled with pride, while Bronwen still looked anxious.

They ate in silence until A.C. said, “I wish we could take Lady and Duchess with us.”

“I know,” Bronwen replied, “but they’d hate being cooped up on the train and ship.”

“I guess,” the boy sighed. “They’d love the Ponderosa though.”

“I imagine so, but they wouldn’t love Brisbane or Sydney or San Francisco,” Adam replied dryly and Bronwen added gently, “Uncle Rhys and Aunt Matilda will take good care of them while we’re gone.”

Glancing out the window, Adam said quietly, “If we want to get back from the cemetery before dark, we should be leaving shortly,” and the others nodded. There was a knock on the front door and a few minutes later Beth, Dafydd and the children entered the dining room.

“Are you ready?” Beth asked.

“Just let me carry the dishes into the kitchen for Mary,” Bronwen said, “and then we can go.”

As he stood before his little girl’s eternal resting place, Adam’s mind wandered back to the last wedding in the family and what a joyous time it had been for all of them. He was extremely happy that his second daughter had found her true-love, yet the thought of the upcoming nuptials was tinged with sadness for what could no longer be. He slipped his arm about his wife’s shoulders as she leaned against him, knowing her thoughts were also of their lost little girl.

“The roses are so beautiful. I wish we could bring some of them to Miranda for the wedding.” she said sadly as she eyed the perfectly formed flowers that were sprinkled over the carefully tended bush that adorned the grave.

Her husband’s eyes lit up as a thought occurred to him. “Maybe we could. Let’s take the best of them and press them in a book. At least we can take a wedding gift to Miranda from her sister.” Bronwen readily agreed and Adam removed his penknife to carefully cut the flowers at the base of their stems.

That night as Beth and Dafydd cuddled together after making love, she said softly, “I am going to miss you so much, darling. I want to see Miranda again, but it’s going to be hard to be separated from you for six months.”

“I know. I’m going to be doing a lot of walking, swimming and riding during those six months,” he said with a wink and then chuckled as she blushed.

“I think just looking after Elen and Huw will use up my energy, but I’ll still miss making love with you,” she whispered before kissing him. When the kiss ended, she murmured, “Since we’ll have a six month fast, let’s feast tonight.”

“You read my mind, Mrs. Jones,” he replied.

*~*~

Gwyneth was straightening books at the back of the bookshop when she heard the tinkle of the bell and turned toward the door. Her mouth opened to form the phrase, “May I help you?” when the words froze on tongue and instead she ran toward the doorway, calling, “Mama! Daddy!”

She felt her daddy’s strong arms enfold her, then hold her at arm’s length. “You look thinner, Punkin,” he remarked and she could hear the concern in his voice.

“Yes, you do,” her mama agreed with a worried frown before Gwyneth leaned over so they could embrace. Then Gwyneth saw her sister, looking as breathtaking as ever, with two small children at her side.

“It’s so good to see you, Beth. This can’t be Huw!” she exclaimed, smiling at the little boy with his thick black hair and big chocolate brown eyes like his great-grandfather Cartwright’s. She sighed when he ducked behind his mother’s skirts, even though she’d expected just such a reaction. She turned to the little girl with the caramel-colored hair and enormous, soft brown eyes. “Do you remember Auntie Gwyneth, Elen?” The little girl only moved closer to her mama and stared at the tall stranger.

“Well, I remember you,” Beth said with a smile and hugged her sister tightly. Then Gwyneth spied her baby brother, who was hanging back until all the hugging and kissing was over.

“Don’t I get a hug?” Gwyneth asked him and, with a sigh, he complied. She then stepped back and said with a big grin, “Looks like I won’t be the tallest for much longer. How tall are you, little brother?”

“Five feet and a quarter,” her brother announced proudly. “I’m a quarter inch taller than Mama.”

“But why are you thinner?” Bronwen asked and Gwyneth sighed, for she’d been hoping that her parents had forgotten that topic.

“I don’t have your biscuits and pies and puddings to tempt me, and I go for a long walk almost every day. That’s all,” she said earnestly. Then, hoping to change the subject, she asked, “Have you checked into your hotel yet?”

“Yes,” Beth answered, “and I’m anxious to see your flat. When do you get off work?”

“Not for two hours,” Gwyneth replied, “but it’s such a beautiful day, why don’t you all go the Botanic Garden?”

“Maybe we can watch some cricket!” A.C. said excitedly.

“All right,” Adam said. “We’ll go to the Botanic Garden and then we’ll meet you here in two hours and we’ll all go to dinner. My treat.”

“Restaurants and small children just don’t go together,” Adam said quietly to Bronwen as the seven of them walked to the ferry so Beth could see her sister’s flat. Actually, only five of them were walking. The two little ones were tired and cranky; Beth was carrying Huw and Adam was carrying Elen, who was half asleep.

Bronwen giggled. “At least some of Huw’s dinner ended up inside him and most of the rest on his bib.”

“Except for what ended up on the tablecloth,” Adam said with a sigh. “But that wasn’t as bad as Elen’s tantrum because the restaurant couldn’t give her a glass of milk.”

Bronwen’s expression changed to one of chagrin at that memory. “It will probably be best if we just order room service in San Francisco and Boston.” She frowned then adding, “The way some of those people glared at us, I’m sure they don’t have children.”

“Or if they do, the children are regulated to the nursery,” Adam said, smiling as Elen blinked her eyes sleepily. “At least A.C. remembered his manners.”

“Yes, he was a perfect little gentleman,” Bronwen said proudly and Adam nodded his agreement. He’d been impressed when A.C. had held Gwyneth’s chair for her.

“Oh, I love your flat!” Beth said the moment she walked inside.

“Where’s your cat?” A.C. asked, looking all around.

“She’s probably hiding under my bed,” Gwyneth replied. “She doesn’t like strangers.”

“Can I get her out?” A.C. asked hopefully but his sister shook her head.

“That’s not a good idea. You’ll scare her and she’ll scratch or bite you,” she said firmly.

“That’s right,” Adam said. “A frightened animal will attack. You know you won’t hurt her, but the cat doesn’t know that.”

“And she isn’t used to children the way Lady and Duchess are,” Bronwen added. “They don’t know how to pet her and they might accidentally hurt her and then she would hurt them. It’s best if we leave Cath alone.”

A.C. shrugged and then said, “C’mon, Elen. Let’s go sit on Gwyneth’s sofa. It’s really soft like Mama Bear’s chair.” Elen’s eyes lit up at that and she ran into the little parlor with her uncle. Huw wriggled to let his mama know he wanted down and then he toddled after the others on his chubby legs.

When the adults entered the room, they found the two little ones happily bouncing up and down on the sofa while their uncle looked on.

“Elen! Huw! Stop that!” Beth said sharply. “You’re going to break Auntie Gwyneth’s sofa.” Giggling, the children ignored her until they each received a swat, causing them to cry. Loudly.

“A.C. and I will take the children so you ladies can visit,” Adam said, scooping up his howling granddaughter while A.C. picked up Huw. “We’ll just go for a walk until we get the little ones calmed down,” he added, hoping they weren’t disturbing Gwyneth’s neighbors. Apparently little children and flats didn’t go well together either

“I’m sorry,” Beth said hurriedly, but Gwyneth said reassuringly, “No harm done.” (At least she hoped there wasn’t.) “Would you like to see the rest of the flat?”

Beth felt a pang of envy as she looked at all her sister’s beautiful things. Of course, I have beautiful china, she told herself. We just daren’t use it with the children but my stoneware is attractive. I wish I could have a sofa like hers, but then I’d always have to be shooing the children off of it and there is nothing wrong with our horsehair sofa just because it’s old and was left behind by Reverend and Mrs. Darnell.

When Adam and A.C. returned with the subdued children, they found the three women happily discussing the clothes for the wedding and the visit with the Gordons. Adam and his son shared a resigned glance, which was not lost on Bronwen, who steered the conversation to their upcoming trip by train from Brisbane to Sydney and seeing her parents as well as Llywelyn and Mark.

*~*~

Bronwen was almost overcome with nostalgia as she saw her childhood home for the first time in twenty-three years. Adam sensed her emotion and put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her.

“Is this where you grew up, Mama?” A.C. asked curiously.

“Yes,” she replied in a voice that was only a little unsteady. “Oh, look, there’s Tad-cu and Mam-gu!” she exclaimed as their cab drew up in front of the modest but well-cared for house and yard. With a whoop, A.C. bounded out of the cab and ran up the walk to greet his grandparents. Intellectually, Bronwen had known her parents had aged during the past five years, but actually seeing them was still a shock. Her mother was stooped and very thin while her father had grown portly and the lines on his face were etched more deeply. She glanced anxiously at Adam, for she realized if her parents had visibly aged, the same would be true of Pa, who was a decade their senior.

Dr. and Mrs. Davies were undergoing the same shock. They hadn’t seen Bronwen and Adam since Beth’s wedding, hadn’t seen how they’d both aged since Penny’s death. Before they had both looked years younger than their actual ages, but no longer. Now they looked fifty-two and sixty-one. When the second cab pulled up and Gwyneth and Beth alighted with the two little ones, for just a moment, the Davies experienced a crushing wave of grief for their youngest granddaughter, whom they would never see again. Then the joy of seeing their great-grandchildren overwhelmed their sorrow.

There was a lot of hugging and kissing before Mrs. Davies invited them in for freshly baked bara brith and tea. (Elen and Huw ate orange-flavored biscuits since they didn’t like the chopped fruits in bara brith.)

“Beauty, Mam-gu!” A.C. said enthusiastically after swallowing his first mouthful. “Yours is as good as Mama’s.”

“Who do you think taught me to bake bara brith?” Bronwen laughed and all the adults joined in.

They spent the afternoon catching up and then talking about the upcoming wedding. The two little ones were shy, but the Davies knew if they were patient, the shyness would be overcome and they had the entire voyage to get to know their great-grandchildren.

After a bit A.C. began to grow restless and Dr. Davies asked if he and Adam would like to go for a walk. “Too right,” A.C. said and his dad nodded with a little grin. “Me come,” Huw announced when he saw his uncle and grandpa head for the door.

“Don’t you want to stay with Mama, Huw bach?” Beth said.

“No, go Pa-pa,” Huw said firmly, so the four males left, Huw holding tightly to his grandpa’s hand, while their womenfolk went back to discussing the upcoming nuptials (and Miranda’s future mother-in-law).

The other women pretended not to notice how often Gwyneth’s gaze turned to the clock on the mantle, knowing she was wondering when Mark would return. However, Llywelyn and Mark didn’t make an appearance until almost suppertime. Llywelyn entered the house first, grinning from ear to ear when he spied his aunt and uncle and cousins.

“Aunt Bronwen,” he said, walking quickly to where she was seated on the comfortable sofa with her parents and husband, and enfolding her in his arms. “It’s marvelous seeing you again. And you, too, Uncle Adam,” he said, turning and shaking his uncle’s hand. Then he grinned at Huw, who was sitting on Adam’s lap, staring at this stranger with big round eyes. “You must be Huw.”

“You’ve got a mustache!” A.C. exclaimed.

“And you’ve gotten taller,” Llywelyn replied with a slow grin. “Too big to give me a hug?”

A.C. was torn, but after a moment he threw his arms around the cousin that had been more like an older brother, and Llywelyn hugged him back. Then he saw Beth sitting in one of the large armchairs with Elen on her lap. “Stone the crows, Beth, you’re more beautiful each time I see you. And I’ll bet Elen doesn’t remember me.”

“Since she wasn’t even two months old the last time she saw you, I’d say that was a safe bet,” Adam replied dryly.

Before Llywelyn could greet Gwyneth, Mark quietly entered the room. “G’day,” he said a little nervously until he saw Gwyneth’s radiant face.

“Hello, Mark,” Adam said in a neutral tone. “How are you?”

“I’m fine, sir,” Mark answered as he approached Adam with an outstretched hand. “How are you and Mrs. Cartwright? I trust your trip was a pleasant one?”

“It was fine, Mark, and it’s good to see you again,” replied Bronwen as she watched her daughter’s eyes shine as she stood close to her beloved.

Gwyneth said quickly, “Come sit by me, Mark.” From that moment on, the two young people were all but oblivious to the conversation taking place around them.

“Let’s get a couple of chairs from the dining room,” Llywelyn suggested. Mark sat his by Gwyneth’s while Llywelyn sat his by Adam and Huw.

“I wish I could come to Miranda’s wedding,” Llywelyn remarked, smiling at Huw, who returned it shyly, “but I guess Tad-cu and Mam-gu can tell me all about it.”

“I packed my camera,” Adam said, “so I could take some photographs to share with your parents. I’ll send you one as well.”

“So what do we know about her husband-to-be?” Llywelyn asked.

“We know he’s earned his PhD and he teaches history at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. His family has lived in New England for several generations and his mother, according to Miranda, is a terrible snob,” Adam replied. While his attention was on Llywelyn, Mark reached for Gwyneth’s hand and enclosed it within his own. All the other women noticed the way the two gazed into each other’s eyes as though they were alone in the room. However, Adam’s attention was focused on his nephew. “My father and brother speak very highly of him and I was pleased that he wrote to ask my permission before he actually proposed to Miranda.” He turned toward Gwyneth then and saw she and Mark were holding hands. He frowned slightly but Bronwen, who’d followed his gaze, touched his sleeve lightly and shook her head. He sighed, but said nothing to Gwyneth and Mark.

The two young men had questions about their families back in Cloncurry, and Bronwen and Beth noticed Llywelyn’s interest in Miranda’s friend, Emma Lawrence. After supper, Dr. Davies suggested that they all sing, and so the two young lovers had no opportunity to be alone. They were sailing for San Francisco the next morning and Adam took his family back to the hotel early. (They’d missed the train back in Brisbane because it took so long for everyone to get dressed and make certain everything was packed. They’d had to wait in the depot for the next one, and it was not a pleasant experience. Adam wasn’t taking any chances on missing the ship.)

They arrived at the dock in plenty of time. Adam and Dr. Davies took charge of the various steamer trunks while Beth and Bronwen kept a firm hold on Elen and Huw. Llywelyn chatted with his grandmother and A.C., allowing Gwyneth and Mark the opportunity for a quick, but passionate, goodbye. They broke apart quickly at the sound of a throat being cleared.

“It’s time to board the ship,” Adam said evenly, his face absolutely impassive as he offered his daughter his arm.

On the train to Sydney, it had been decided that A.C. would share a stateroom with Huw while Beth, Gwyneth and Elen would share one. After they determined who would have which stateroom, they all decided to go for a stroll on the deck. Beth knew her children were safe with her parents and grandparents and persuaded Gwyneth to walk ahead with her. They hadn’t walked long when two young men approached them.

“G’day, ladies,” one said, tipping his hat. He was tall with a thin moustache and heavy-lidded eyes. His companion was shorter and stockier with a prominent nose. “Since there is no one here to formally introduce us, allow us to introduce ourselves. Herbert Evanston and this is my mate, Frank Downing.”

Gwyneth wanted to make her excuse and walk on, and she was surprised when Beth said, “I’m Elizabeth Jones and this is my sister, Gwyneth.”

“We should have known you two beaut looking sheilas must be related,” Herbert said smoothly. He attempted to hold Beth’s hand, but she kept it out of reach.

“Aren’t you sweet,” she replied. “Isn’t he sweet, Gwyneth?” Gwyneth only frowned but undeterred the young man asked, “Would you ladies care to stroll about the deck?”

“It’s so kind of you to offer,” Beth said looking up at the young man through her long lashes, “but I’m afraid my sister and I already have escorts.” She smiled as she looked in the direction of A.C. and Huw, who were hurrying toward them

“Mama!” Huw shouted running straight for Beth with open arms. She caught him in a hug and lifted him easily before turning to the two young men who were standing with their mouths open. “We’d be happy to have you join the four of us,” she offered sweetly and managed to hold in her laughter until they departed, red-faced.

*~*~

Ben Cartwright lay quietly in his bed, waiting for the sunrise. Today his first-born and his extended family would arrive at the train station in Carson City. Buckshot had been bustling about for weeks cleaning all the bedrooms. Dr. and Mrs. Davies would sleep in Ben’s old room while Benj and Sarah’s old crib had been put in Hoss’s room so Beth could stay there with her children. Ben smiled; Hoss would be so happy to know the niece he’d adored and her children would be sleeping in his room. Gwyneth would be in Sarah’s room and they would share it when everyone returned to the Ponderosa for Miranda’s wedding. A.C. would be sleeping in the spare bedroom across from his parents. Ben had considered having him share Benj’s room, but considering the difference in their ages and temperaments, decided against it.

Joe would be driving the surrey this morning while Jacob followed with the buckboard for the trunks. Ben knew it would be a long morning waiting for them to arrive. It would be so good to see Adam again; he hadn’t been sure when they’d said goodbye four years ago if that would be the final farewell. But now, not only would he have the opportunity to see his son and grandchildren, he would even be blessed enough to see his great-grandchildren.

As he dreamed of the coming meeting, he thought of the first time he’d prepared to greet his son after a four year absence. He’d been anxious then, wondering how his son had changed after his four years attending Harvard, if he’d regret his decision to return. Ben had still carried the picture in his mind of the tall, gangling boy-all arms and legs-who was shy and reserved with strangers. The self-assured young man who’d jumped down from the stage with a feline grace seemed almost a stranger. Then he’d smiled: the smile Ben remembered so well-the tawny hazel eyes alight with laughter, his dimple deepening.

Ben’s musings were interrupted by the tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Moving carefully, he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Joints don’t ache too much today, he thought. Maybe I won’t need to use the cane. With great care he dressed. The arthritis was worse in his hands, so he’d been forced to let Joe shave him, but that always came after his first cup of coffee. As if on cue, he heard a knock on the door, and Buckshot appeared with a cup of steaming coffee, black the way he liked it.

Ben was just finishing his coffee when Joe entered. “Mornin’, Pa,” he said cheerfully. “Ready for your shave?”

Ben finished his last swallow and nodded, so Joe began to lather his pa’s face. “Sure be good to see ol’ Adam again,” Joe said as he carefully applied the razor. “Then in about a month, we’ll all be together, first time since Miranda’s last graduation. That’ll really be somethin’, havin’ all the Cartwrights together under one roof. Plus the Joneses and the Davies,” he added with a grin as he patted his pa’s face dry. Buckshot stuck his head in the doorway then to announce breakfast was ready.

“A.C.,” Adam cautioned as the surrey pulled up into the yard, “no shouting and no running. Understand?”

“Right,” A.C. said just before he jumped out and ran to the porch, causing his father to shake his head in frustration, but the child stopped at the porch and waited for the others.

Adam assisted first Bronwen and then Beth, who was holding the sleeping Huw. Joe helped Gwyneth down and she held out her arms to Elen and swung her out of the carriage. Joe then turned to assist Mrs. Davies while Dr. Davies carefully climbed down. Adam walked inside first while Bronwen put her hand on her son’s shoulder holding him back. He looked up at her and she said softly, “I want Dad and Grandpa to have a chance to be alone for a moment.” A.C. reluctantly shrugged his acceptance.

The moment Adam’s eyes rested on the frail, shrunken figure of his once strong and vital father he realized nothing could have prepared him emotionally for this transformation. Then he saw Ben’s eyes light up and the old, familiar smile was still there. Ben struggled to rise and Adam crossed the room swiftly, offering his father his arm before hugging him gently.

“It’s so good to see you again, Pa,” he got out in a choked voice, making no effort to conceal his joy.

 

Next Story in the Adam In The Outback Series:

The Marriage of True Minds – Part 3
The Joys of Parents
Grow Old Along with Me
The Best is Yet to Be

Not part of the Adam in the Outback Series, but set in the same realm:

O’Tannenbaum

 

References:
For information on the Spanish American War I used The American Pageant: A History of the Republic by Thomas A. Bailey

I learned about Brisbane at http://www.ourbrisbane.com/ and http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/library_learning/history_heritage.shtml. (I actually took an “armchair” tour of the CBD, but that feature is no longer available on the Web site.) I learned about the suburb of New Farm, where Gwyneth lives at http://www.ourbrisbane.com/living/suburbs/new_farm/home/

For information on modern conveniences available in the late 1890s (although not in Cloncurry or on the Ponderosa!), I used the following Web sites:
http://www.affordablephones.net/HistoryTelephone.htm
http://www.ysartglass.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Bulbs/LB06inc1800.htm
http://inventors.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.aaca.org/history/
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blDuryea.htm

For general information on clothing and fabrics in the era I used Fashion in Costume: 1200-1980 by Joan Nunn. I also used http://www.marquise.de/en/1800/index.shtml

Glossary of Welsh and Australian Words and Phrases:
Welsh
Anwyld – beloved
Bach and fach – adding bach after a man’s name or fach after a woman’s is a form of endearment.
Cariad – dear or darling
Dw i’n dy garu di – I love you
Mam – mother
Mam-gu – grandmother
Noswaith dda – good evening
Tad – father
Tada – daddy
Tad-cu – grandfather

Australian
Beauty or Beaut – Translation: That’s great! or Fantastic!
Crook is a synonym for sick
Fair dinkum – used as a substitute for “Oh really?” or “true”
He’ll be right – He’ll be all right or He’ll be okay.
Jackeroo – cowboy
Jillaroo – cowgirl
Right – Okay
Ripper – great (A.C.’s expression “What a ripper” indicates how impressed he is)
She’ll be apples – It’ll be all right
Stone the crows! – I asked Joan for an Australian version of “My gosh!” or “My goodness!”(an expression that Adam’s children could use without having their mouths washed out with soap)
Too right – definitely
“You’re up yourself” – Translation: “You have a high opinion of yourself”

 

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Author: Deborah

I grew up in Independence, Missouri, the starting place of the California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails west. I taught high school English and social studies for five years and since then I’ve had a number of jobs. Currently I live in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, with my two cats. I posted my first piece of Bonanza fanfic back in September 2002 on the old Writer’s Round-Up site. With my third story, I started my Adam in the Outback series. My plan is to cover Adam’s life from the cradle to the grave.

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