A Cartwright Christmas Carol (by PSW)

This story was written for the the 2017 Advent Calendar – Day 3

Summary:  The ghosts of Christmas past, present, and yet to come visit the Ponderosa.

Rating:  G    (17,400 words)

This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

 

A Cartwright Christmas Carol
~~by PSW

(With thanks and apologies to Mr. Dickens)

Stave 1

 Grandfather Cartwright’s Ghost

Grandfather Cartwright was dead, to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.*  None of Ben Cartwright’s three sons had been present at the unhappy event, nor had they seen a grave or headstone marking any final resting place.  None of them had even met their grandfather while he still lived—though it must be said that for all except Adam that would have been impossible, as Joseph Cartwright had shuffled off this mortal coil when Ben’s eldest was little more than a babe in arms.  Still, the Cartwright brothers had no doubt that their father’s sire was dead.

For one, Ben had told them so, and there was no reason to suspect that he was lying.  The invention of such a falsehood would indeed have served very little purpose.  Ben’s relationship with his father had not been particularly warm, but it had been cordial and should the elder Joseph have still lived, Ben would have welcomed a chance for his father to meet his sons.

For another, the three boys had seen the old man’s death certificate one lazy summer afternoon while poking around in a storage area they (and their backsides) would have done better to avoid.  It was stored in an old trunk with a copy of the elder Cartwright’s will, several previously unknown (to them) heirloom keepsakes, and a medium-sized portrait of their father’s family in which Ben was no more than eight years of age.  This was confirmation enough of Joseph Cartwright the Elder’s demise—if such confirmation had been needed.  Which it was not.

Grandfather Cartwright was dead.  I don’t wish to belabor the point, but this must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.*

For if he was not dead, it would not have come as quite the shock when each of the boys spotted him in the crowds around Virginia City on the morning of Christmas eve.  Oh, they would have been surprised, certainly.  Amazed.  Confused (for nothing Ben had told them of the man made him out to be the type to take a surprise journey into the western wilds during the peak of winter).  But at least such an event would have been possible, were he still … alive.

Which he was not.

How did they recognize him, you might ask?  Recall, if you will, the portrait found some years back.  Upon Marie Cartwright’s urging, Ben had removed it from the trunk into their (his and Marie’s) bedroom.  He would not display it elsewhere, but in tribute to his late wife he had left it in its place during the years since her death.  Having therefore viewed it with some frequency, the brothers had become familiar with certain of their late grandfather’s more striking characteristics.  A deeply cleft chin, for one—so much so that they might have thought it an accident of the artist if their father had not assured them otherwise.  A sizeable wart to the side of the nose was another trait faithfully recorded by that honest painter, as well as other features which I will not detail here.  Be assured, however, that Ben Cartwright’s boys were familiar enough with their grandfather’s appearance to note well who it was they glimpsed down an alley or across the way that day.

I don’t know what would have happened had they been together when they saw him … but that is not what happened, and I will not digress into such speculation.  The three brothers were, in fact, as far distant from each other as possible in a place the size of Virginia City.  They had come to town for last minute supplies (of which the Ponderosa had no real need) because, quite frankly, their father was entirely finished with the lot of them and had practically thrown them out the front door into the buckboard.  They had been sniping and arguing for days, and it seemed only logical to split up when they arrived in order to accomplish their errands as painlessly as possible.  They would complete their tasks, have a drink (in separate saloons), and meet back at the buckboard to drive back home with plenty of daylight remaining.

Suffice it to say that none of the brothers had been expecting to see his dead grandfather strolling those familiar streets, and none felt any need to mention it to the others when they finally met up again.  Adam was too annoyed and offended by the impossibility to give it any more thought than he felt it deserved.  Hoss had all but persuaded himself he was seeing things, and Little Joe was convinced (rightly so, I’m afraid) that he would be accused by his eldest brother of over-imbibing and be forced to defend his sobriety (he’d had only three—well, maybe four) for the entire ride home.  Therefore none of them brought up the odd occurrence.  It was, however, a strangely silent and pensive group of young men who arrived in the Ponderosa yard just before suppertime.

That silence continued throughout the evening, much to Ben Cartwright’s puzzlement and (sad to say) relief.  A few testy exchanges marred the overall peace, but for the most part his boys seemed content to retreat to opposite corners and spend Christmas Eve not celebrating faith and family.  Eventually, despite a very real trepidation regarding the consequences of such an attempt, Ben tried several times to draw them out.  He joked, he cajoled, he scolded.  He demanded.  He opened his much worn Bible and read the Christmas story aloud, as he had every year since Adam was small—although never before to an audience fairly crackling with entirely soundless tension.  That finished, he set the old book aside, wished his sons a weary good night, and padded up the stairs to his bed.  His disappointment filled the room, yet even that did not serve to draw his boys from their self-imposed exiles.

It would have been easier, and would perhaps have made more sense, for the brothers to have sought their own beds as well.  They were certainly drawing no satisfaction from each other’s presence.  However, some half-felt urging kept them in their places that Christmas Eve, and as the night reached its peak and the old grandfather clock stroked out midnight, a heavy knock sounded upon the door.

For the first time in hours, the Cartwright brothers exchanged glances.

They had not been expecting anyone.  The Ponderosa was a good distance from town, and even if it were not, the hour of midnight is a late one to come calling.  As it was, there was no telling what outlaw or indigent or errand boy might be standing upon their porch.  It was therefore with understandable caution that the brothers approached the entrance.  Adam picked up his gun belt from the credenza and drew his pistol forth before nodding to Joe, who had stationed himself with one hand upon the knob.  Joe ducked his head close to the thick wood and called, “Who’s there?”

They could not have been prepared for what next occurred.  Instead of an answering voice, the figure of a man came through the door.

It was, in fact, the figure they had earlier seen in the streets of Virginia City—their Grandfather Cartwright—before them now in such a way that none could pretend to the others he did not see.  And none of the brothers did pretend, although being thought ridiculous or slightly mad was no longer the first concern upon their minds.  The impossibility of seeing their dead grandfather had been replaced in priority by the impossibility of a man walking directly through the heavy outer door.

“Who are you?”

Adam, as the eldest and the only one brandishing any sort of weapon, took charge.  He did not miss the black look cast him by his youngest brother, who as the one at the door handle felt that it should really be he who addressed the intruder, but he had little time for the boy’s petty (as he saw them) complaints.  Their visitor cast a disinterested gaze upon all three.

“You know me.”

“Yeah, but that ain’t possible.”  Hoss, hovering somewhere between Adam and Little Joe, sent up the expected protest, although he was fully aware they had left behind the realm of the expected some time past.  The figure of their dead grandfather seemed wholly unconcerned.

“Who can say what is possible on Christmas Eve?  Who can say how many others have known similar experiences on this hallowed night, or when such first took place?  But whether you believe or not, I am he who was Joseph Cartwright in life.”

To that, there really seemed nothing more to say.  For a moment the four stood in silent tableau, the brothers staring at their grandfather’s ghost and the ghost gazing at nothing in particular.  Finally, Little Joe asked the question he had been preparing from the start (it seemed strange to him that hyper-logical Adam had chosen to begin the exchange with a query whose answer was so obvious).  “What are you doing here?”

“I bring a warning.”

This seemed an ominous purpose, and the brothers again exchanged glances.  Adam, having decided his pistol would do little good against a man already dead, replaced it on the credenza and motioned into the great room.  “Will you … can you, even … have a seat?”

The question was awkward, but the ghost seemed not to notice.  In fact, he preceded them across the floor and sat lightly upon his own son’s chair.  The boys noted that they could yet see the red leather through their grandfather’s form, and it was with a sense of awe and foreboding that they followed him into the sitting area.  As they approached they saw how Joseph Cartwright continually shifted in his chair, as if restless and uncomfortable.  It was Hoss who first noted the reason.

“What’s that you’re wearin’, sir?”

His brothers, too, noted the garment then, which lay under the ghost’s shirt and trousers, peeking out from cuffs and collar and around shoes.  It was an odd type of clothing, certainly, for it seemed woven of nettles and thorns, a tight fit against wrists and neck and ankles.  It was, they supposed, that garment which made the spirit of their grandfather move so constantly, as if in attempt to escape the discomfort that such underclothing should certainly produce.

Grandfather Cartwright’s eyes roved the room, stopping upon none of them but settling finally upon the flames still cracking cheerfully upon the hearth.

“This is the garment I spun for myself in life, piece by piece.  Each offense taken unnecessarily, each grudge held was an additional thorn added to its weave.  Each refusal to consider the well-being of others over my own further extended it.  Each opportunity lost, in my own self-righteousness, to appreciate the motivations and feelings of my fellows tightened it upon me.”  Ben Cartwright’s sons, upon hearing these difficult tidings, shuffled their feet and looked away, each thinking back upon his own behavior—toward his brothers, his father, certain others—of the past weeks.  The ghost had not, however, finished.  “The longer I wore it, the more sensitive I became, so that even the smallest slight affected me beyond all proportion.  No longer did I have the choice of such things, for the constant rubbing of my own pride and selfish desire kept such irritations stirred within my breast, and it was no easy thing to look or think beyond them.”

Hoss, moved easily to pity, asked, “Ain’t there anything can be done about it?”

For the first time, the ghost of a smile flitted across the spirit’s face, though it was gone in an instant.  “What can be done shall be, and is being done as we speak.  Long shall I walk upon the Earth wearing this garment, but not eternally.  He Whose mercy covers us all has ordained it.”  The elder Joseph Cartwright turned his face toward them then, though still his eyes did not fasten upon any of the three.  “My own sad tale is not, however, my purpose for coming to you tonight.”

This time, even Little Joe was content to let Adam speak for the three.  Ben Cartwright’s eldest raised a sardonic brow toward his siblings, then braced his feet and faced the spirit. “Tell us.”

Grandfather Cartwright rose, and they saw that his feet did not quite rest upon the floor.  “Would you care to hear, my grandsons, the length and thickness of your own such garments?”

Perhaps no query could have so distressed the brothers as this, having heard in detail of the weaving of their grandfather’s own thorny attire.  The Cartwright sons were, on a whole, good and generous men.  In the busy stress and overwork of the season, however—of the past several months, in truth—each had drawn into himself, to the exclusion of his fellows and their own particular struggles.  Such a warning, issued by such an emissary, could not help but strike a painful chord in each listener’s heart.

Little Joe cast a quick glance at Adam, his primary adversary of these past times, then fixed his eyes upon the floor and mumbled, “I guess we could be tryin’ a little harder.”

“Yeah,” Hoss muttered, shamefaced, considering his own extra-familial tensions.

Adam did not speak, but offered a brief nod to each of his brothers.

The spirit drifted nearer.  “A boon has been granted, to myself and to others who would seek to enhance your success in such efforts.  On this night above all the veil that separates our poor world from the divine may be lifted for a time, and therefore a light may shine in recesses that would otherwise remain hidden from our sight.”

Confused, the brothers glanced from one to another.  Then Adam spoke again to the spirit of he who had been their grandfather.  “What, uh … boon is this?”

“Three ghosts will visit you this night.”

That news, as might be expected, was not particularly welcomed by the three, no matter the positive intention of such visitations.  One ghostly caller had been quite enough—three more throughout the night surely amounted to something of an excess.  Joseph Cartwright the Younger edged closer to Adam, who wondered with a vague sort of desperation how his little brother possibly expected his protection from the promised manner of guest.  Hoss wrinkled his nose and then blurted what they were all, in one form or another, thinking.

“Do we have to?”

The ghost of their Grandfather Cartwright might not have even heard.  “The first spirit will arrive upon the stroke of one.”  Green, blue, and amber eyes darted toward the face upon the clock near the entrance.  The spirit’s words did not gain in volume, but took on a resounding tone, as if echoing from within a large, hollow place.  The brothers looked back to find that their grandfather’s form had become dimmer, no longer boasting even its previous questionable solidity.  “The second spirit will arrive upon the stroke of two, and the third spirit upon the stroke of three.”

“Wait!”  Adam stepped forward, thinking as he did so that the attempt was surely futile (and even ridiculous—Ben Cartwright’s eldest, being the pragmatist he was, could not yet be completely convinced the experience was not all some insane, vivid dream).  “Surely you can tell us something more.  What kind of—”

“Wait for them.”

The spirit’s voice was a dissolving whisper, and the ghost himself faded from view.  For a long moment the three brothers stood in stunned silence, staring upon the spot which he who had been their grandfather had so recently occupied.

Then the grandfather clock struck one, and the fire flared bright within its grate.

Stave 2

 The First of the Three Spirits

“Joyeux Noël, mes fils!”

The voice sounded from behind, a light, fresh breeze in the heavy night and so beloved that recognition stirred their hearts on the instant even after so many years.  They turned as one toward the stairs, and beheld Marie Cartwright descend in shimmering beauty.  Her countenance had not been changed in their time apart—she was yet young and lovely, all soft blonde hair and graceful movements and sparkling red dress to celebrate the joy of the holy season.  As her feet reached the final step some paralysis broke from them, and the brothers rushed to her, her name tumbling from their lips.

“Ma!”

“Mama!”

“Marie …”

She laughed, and her eyes danced with joy as she drank in each of them, but Marie held up one hand as they approached.

“No, mes chers.  This moment we are permitted, but not to touch.  Only the one.”  Her eyes landed significantly upon Little Joe, but her gaze broadened quickly to once again include all three.  “Indeed, I think even if the attempt were made, you would not be able.  Be content, though—no, rejoice!—that this moment of greeting has been granted us.”

Silence hung between them for the space of several heartbeats.  No longer was it the heavy silence of discord, however, but the amazed wonder of children.  Finally, Hoss spoke.

“We’ve missed you, Mama.  Merry Christmas.”

Her tender smile fell upon him.  “And I have missed you so, mon cœur.  I have watched each of you grow in both body and spirit … but would that I had been a part of that.”

“You have, Marie.”  Adam’s voice was soft, but firm.  “You … we still feel you with us, even now sometimes.  It’s not the same, of course, but we …”  Ben Cartwright’s eldest trailed off, and his eyes fell to the floor.  Such admissions did not come easily to such a man as he, but he was determined that the moment would not pass unseized.  Her glowing glance fell upon him.

“Dearest Adam.”

“Mama …”  Little Joe said nothing more, but tears shone in his eyes as he gazed upon her.  Marie turned toward him, and her eyes softened as she beheld this son of her body.  Her skirts rustled as she approached, and Joe stared in surprise as his mother held out one slender hand.

“It is for you that my message comes, mon petit.”  Joe’s brows puckered as he beheld her outstretched palm, and amusement touched her countenance.  “Only the one,” Marie whispered, and shook her extended hand gently.  “Come, Joseph.  Take my hand.”

With a gulp and a glance toward his brothers—but also with confidence that his mother would surely do him no harm—Little Joe complied.

In an instant, as though a curtain had fallen, the great room of the Ponderosa was no more.  Instead Joe found himself with his mother in the corner of a tiny, bare room.  He had seen many such rooms in his travels—single bed, single table with pitcher and basin.  It was a hotel room, or perhaps that of a boarding house.  Poor it was, but scrubbed clean.  For a moment Joe thought the room empty, but then a small form stirred in the shadow beneath the window.  He watched as the lone occupant’s tiny chin tucked over the low windowsill to gaze upon the darkening night, and wondered what scene this was that lay before him.

“Mama?” he murmured.  Marie’s light laugh filled his ears.

“You need not whisper, mon fils.  We are but shadows here, who cannot be seen or heard.”

Joe nodded his understanding—or rather, his acceptance, as understanding of this experience was quite beyond him—and looked back to the child.  “Where are we, Mama?  Who’s the boy?”

“We are in a time years past.  As for the boy …”  Her golden brows rose, as Marie’s own gaze fell tenderly upon the child.  His nose was pressed against the window now, breath fogging the cold glass.  “Do you truly not know him?”

“Should I?”  Surprised, Joe studied the boy.  There was something about him—in the slant of the nose, perhaps, and the curve of the jaw, but he could not …

“Papa,” the boy breathed, straightening.  Marie drifted closer, tugging Joe along behind, and they beheld through the window the hunched form of a man trudging toward the house through the lightly falling snow.  His coat was thin for the weather, and his trousers threadbare.  A single bundle he clutched tight to his chest.  As the man drew near the dark head raised, eyes searching out the window.  The child waved, though the man below could not have seen.  Joe gasped, darting forward.

His mother’s grip tightened, though she made no attempt to restrain his movement.  “You must keep hold of my hand, mon fils.  Once our connection is broken, this will be finished.  You shall return to your own time and place, and I must return to mine.”

Joe nodded, his eyes still riveted upon the man below.  “Pa,” he breathed.  “Mama, that’s …”  A thought occurred to him then, and he looked sharply upon the boy.  “Is that …”  Joe’s eyes met his mother’s, widening, and he saw the truth there before he spoke.  “Is that Adam?

“He was a precious child, was he not?”

Ben Cartwright’s youngest, who had never thought to see his elder brother so, surveyed the child with a new interest.  “He was kinda cute, wasn’t he?  Who’da thought it?”  Joe’s lips curved into an affectionate grin despite their discord of recent days.  He watched as young Adam scampered across the room to the trundle pulled near to the low-burning hearth and burrowed beneath its coverings.  Shortly thereafter came the sound of a heavy boot outside the door, and Ben Cartwright himself entered, slumped shoulders and bowed head entirely absent from his countenance.

“Papa!” Adam crowed, scrambling to meet him.

Only after setting aside his bundle did Ben lift his small son, his voice warm and cheery.  “Adam!”

“Merry Christmas, Papa!”

Startled, Joe cast another gaze around the lodgings.  Only then did he notice the two well-worn socks, one large and one small, hanging by the fireplace at such a height it was obvious the shorter of the room’s residents had undertaken the task.  It was the sole indicator of the season, and Joe watched in disbelief as his father produced an orange and a peppermint stick, passing them to the child.

“Merry Christmas, son.”

There was that in Ben’s voice which Joe recognized as weariness and disappointment, but Adam seemed not to notice.  He sent up a ruckus over the presents, bouncing eagerly back to the warmth of his trundle.  “Thanks, Papa!”

Adam’s younger brother looked toward his mother.  “That’s … this is Christmas for them?”

Marie’s eyes were solemn.  “Christmas is not about number or type of presents, mon fils.  It may be celebrated as easily in a—”

“I know!”  For a moment, Joe’s tone was sharp with offense—he did not think himself quite so spoiled or self-centered as that.  Quickly remembering, however, his grandfather’s recent tale, he offered an apologetic glance as his eyes returned once more to the scene.  “I know, but …”

Adam set aside the peppermint stick carefully, and dug eagerly through the orange peel.  Ben laughed, holding up one hand.  “Wait, wait, son.  Dinner first, then treats.”  He produced a bowl of thick soup and a spoon, padding the bottom carefully with the bed covering before handing the utensil to his son.  “Mrs. Brockhaus’s lentil soup.  Nice and warm and filling.”

The boy hesitated, eyeing the soup and then his father.  “Ain’t you gonna eat too, Papa?”

Ben straightened, striding across the room to remove his coat.  “I had a bite on the way home, son.  This is all for you.”

Joe knew that evasive tone from his father as well, and with a rush of something like horror realized the truth.  “He doesn’t have anything?” he whispered to Marie, and felt her hand tighten upon his.

“Times were not easy, and your father put always the welfare of his son before his own.  This Christmas Eve, the matter of some small gift also weighed heavily upon his heart.”

The knowledge that not only were these few small treats the sum of their Christmas, but that Ben had gone hungry to provide them was sobering and, indeed, upsetting.  Little Joe had always known his father had toiled hard and long across the vast expanses between Boston and what would eventually become his own land.  Joe had never truly realized, however, the straights in which those he loved had at times lived.  It was difficult to see them so.

The child who was his brother had, it seemed, already learned to recognize that tone from their father as well.  The dark eyes watched as Ben hung the coat and returned to him, large in a face that Joe suddenly noted was thin and oh so solemn.

Had Adam truly never been anything but serious?

“You’re gonna share my orange with me though, right?”

It was obvious to Joe what his brother was about—offering the only thing Adam knew his father would accept—but the older man seemed unaware of the ploy.  Or if not unaware, merely accepting.  Ben smiled gently and ruffled Adam’s hair.  “If that’s what you want, boy.”

Adam nodded, satisfied, and dug into the soup.

Marie squeezed Little Joe’s hand.  “Come.  We must go.”

“Wait!”  As distressing as was the scene before him, Joe was strangely reluctant to leave it.  Marie tugged gently upon his hand, however, and the little room began to fade from view.

“There is more yet to see, and only a short time in which to do so.”

Little Joe twisted back for a last glance of the two sitting upon the trundle bed, but even as he did so the light brightened, and he found himself in the middle of a silent, pristine wood on a crisp winter day.  A thin crust covered the unspoiled snow which crunched underfoot, though Joe soon noted it was neither he nor his mother making the noise, but two young boys trudging along through the trees.  They were well bundled against the cold, and their breath fogged the air.

“Where’re we goin’, Adam?” the younger of the two asked, and the elder sighed, obviously much aggrieved by the query.

“I told you, Hoss, it’s a surprise.”

Hoss?” Joe whispered, and flashed a sudden wide grin.  He bolted around the two children, dragging his mother behind him, and stopped short when their faces came into view.  The sight of the younger boy’s round, apple-red cheeks, the wispy blond curls escaping from the tight-tied hood, and the stubby legs produced peals of delighted laughter from the child’s younger sibling.  Unable to clap his hands together, Joe clasped Marie’s hand tight between his own and gave in to his merriment, eyeing the little boy with a joyful mirth that had been wholly lacking from their last visit.  “Look at him!  I didn’t think Hoss was ever this small!”

Marie’s smile was wry.  “He is not particularly small, mon petit, for a child of three.”

“Well, but still …”  Joe caught his breath, shaking his head once more before turning a curious gaze upon the elder of the two.  Adam had grown in height since their last visit, of course, and had filled out somewhat, though his eldest brother still wore a skinny, hollow-cheeked visage that obviously had little to do with his food intake.  Both boys seemed well and healthy, if not quite overfed.  Even through the coat—not as padded as Hoss’s, and without a hood, but nothing like the threadbare samples Joe had seen previously—Adam walked with the easy lope of a boy fit and used to hard work.  His gloved hand gripped the little mitten firmly, his stride clearly shortened for the sake of his smaller companion.

“But when are we gonna get there?”

Hoss’s voice bordered on a whine.  Rather than gripe, however, as was his usual response to whining (at least in Joe’s experience), Adam pulled them both to a halt and grinned.

“Now.  We’re here.”

Hoss peered around for a wide-eyed moment, then turned a suspicious gaze upon his brother.  “Where?  What’s the surprise?”

Joe had to agree with his bigger—bigger-smaller, he supposed—brother.  Nothing in front of them seemed any different from the rest of its surroundings, or particularly worthy of a trek through the cold and snow to view it.  Adam, however, released the boy and gestured patiently to a small, well-formed pine directly before them.

“It’s going to be our Christmas tree.”

Hoss’s little nose wrinkled, a mannerism startlingly similar to that of his adult counterpart.  “What’s this tree got ta do with Christmas?”

Adam knelt beside the pine, digging beneath its branches to produce a small wooden box and a burlap sack.  “We’re gonna decorate it.”

Still the child frowned.  “We got pretties up at home.  Why do we gotta come out in the woods and dec’rate a tree?”

The apparent lack of a Christmas tree in the Cartwright home was a puzzle to Little Joe, who had from infancy been fascinated by the sparkling, shimmering vision which appeared to grace the great room every Christmastide.  Adam’s next words, however, explained a great deal.

“Because Mama Inger said every house had ta have a tree at Christmas.  She made Pa get us one the year we had her with us for Christmas—well, you weren’t born yet, but me and Pa—and it was so beautiful.  All bright and good-smellin’.”

The child perked up.  “My … mama?”  The concept of his own mama seemed a somewhat nebulous one for little Hoss (filling Little Joe with dismay and pity), yet suddenly the smaller boy betrayed an eagerness for the task which he had previously lacked.  Adam nodded.

“Mama Inger.  Remember, I told ya she’s in heaven?”  Hoss nodded, his small countenance reflecting the solemnity warranted by such a statement.  “That makes Pa sad, and he doesn’t want us to have a tree anymore, but Mama would want you to know about ‘em.  I thought we could put up some pretties on this one, and I could tell you some stories about Mama.”

“Yeah!”

Now Hoss reached eagerly for the bits of bright yarn and low-burned candle stubs and stale popcorn produced by his brother from the box and bag.  Adam himself stood back, letting Hoss strew the makeshift decorations about the lower branches of the tree, and began a string of short holiday anecdotes involving Ben’s late wife.  He told of their tree, of endless baking with few supplies, of her visits to families less fortunate than the Cartwrights.  He told of a day named after Saint Lucy on which Mama Inger had appeared with a wreath of lit candles crowning her head.  He had thought it beautiful, but Pa had been mad.  At least, Pa had soundedangry.  Mama told him later Pa was really just afraid that something (Mama’s hair, probably) would catch on fire.  She had laughed and told Pa that many women of her country wore such a wreath on this day, but Pa didn’t seem satisfied and she finally took it off.  Pa had been much happier with the special bread she served for breakfast.  Adam told of Swedish songs and abundant laughter and a day spent snuggled by the fire, and somehow in that telling Hoss’s little tree with its poor decorations became beautiful.

Finally finished, Hoss seemed content to simply stand and gaze upon their Christmas tree as Adam spun his tales, blue eyes shining with wonder.  Adam’s voice was soft, his own eyes lost in memory, and none of Ben Cartwright’s sons (Little Joe included) noted the passage of time that snowy afternoon.

*Part of the line is taken from Mr. Dickens’ work.

~To be continued on Day 4


 

Link to the 2017 Advent Calendar – Day 4 – A Cartwright Christmas Carol – Part 2

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Author: PSW

Hi! I started watching Bonanza on a whim in March 2017, and was instantly sucked in. So much fun! I have rarely watched a show where I really like all the main characters equally -- very refreshing. :-) I do so love stories about Hoss, though ... I love to read, and was excited to find this wonderful library. Definitely been spending some time there ... ;-)

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