SUMMARY: What is kindness? Kindness can get you into a relationship that is toxic not only to you but to others. There can be serious consequences to being kind.
Rating = T Word count = 3556
Because Hoss had been so sincere in his question, Adam felt he had to be open in his answer. “Being nice is easy. You plaster on a smile and hold a door open to let someone walk ahead of you. Now being kind is a lot harder especially when it’s to someone who works so hard at being nasty. You have to do things to help someone who may have hurt you or others. They may not be grateful and may even think you owe them the favor you’re doing.”
“I don’t rightly see a big difference. I mean, both ways ya do things to help folks and make ’em smile.”
“With being nice, that’s true. Being kind sometimes means you do something that someone may not like. I mean, what if someone smells awful. Being nice means you smile and ignore it and try to get as far away from them as soon as you can, but being kind means you tell them they need a bath.”
“Aw, they shur wouldn’t like that.” Pausing as he thought about that and the consequences, Hoss had another question. “Don’t you ever get tired of it? I mean, don’t it ever wear ya down? I know with me, sometimes, it makes me sick ta ma heart the way I get treated by folks I been kind to.”
“You know it does to me too, but if we stop being kind, then they win. If we let them do that, then evil takes over the world because cruelty rules the day.”
“So, you care for the other people not the one you’re being kind to?”
“No, you have to care for all of them and be kind to all of them even those who wrong you and wrong others.”
“I don’t know. Was it kind for you to see that Bill Enders went to prison?”
“It was even if he didn’t think so. Sometimes the greatest kindness is to see that a person faces the punishment they deserve and stop them from doing any more harm. It wouldn’t have been good for Bill to keep going doing the things he was doing.”
“So sometimes kindness can hurt people in a way but help them in the way they need it the most? I think I get that now.”
Leaning back against the log, Hoss stared into the fire and thought about their earlier conversation. He had wondered how Adam could give up a friendship of so many years, but thought he understood it after this exchange. As he watched Adam tidy up the camp and place his bedroll, he decided he needed more time to mull over what had been said before he discussed this any further. In the morning, he was ready with his next question.
“So, when he told them lies ’bout you and Barbara, you figured that’s reason enough to end the friendship ’cause he needs to be taught a lesson. Is that it?”
“I guess that’s some of it, but I got to the end of my rope too. I’ve taken a lot of abuse, and this is the end of it. This last time was the worst time, and I had to decide whether to let this go on or end it. He meant to hurt me, but he hurt Barbara too. He doesn’t even know her other than who she is.”
“Yeah, and no matter what gets said now, people are always gonna wonder if there was some truth in what he said.”
“Yes, her reputation has been damaged. I can take what happened to me, but what he did to her is unforgivable.”
“He apologized in front of a bunch of people.”
“There’s always been an apology afterwards when he crosses the line, but you have to decide at some point that an apology isn’t enough.
“Yeah, apologies work best when ya don’t mean to do no harm, but seems like this has been deliberate each and every time, meant to hurt you as much as anything. Hard to believe any apology is from the heart after some things like that. Gotta give ya credit for accepting any of ’em before too.”
“It wasn’t so hard when it was only me. People seem to want to believe bad things about us anyway. What’s unforgivable is that he went after Barbara. To sink that low was despicable. I don’t know what to do about that.”
“You and Pa talked to the school board though so she can keep her job.”
“We did, but they didn’t like it. Any hint of scandal has them ready to look for a new teacher, and they’re not too happy with me right now either. She knows now that the first thing she does that they don’t like, she probably will be looking for a new job.”
“That’s not fair.”
“No, it’s not, but that’s the way it is.”
Dropping his head down into his hands as he sat down heavily on a log, Adam showed his thoughts. Hoss had a good idea why his older brother was upset.
“Ya cain’t blame yourself.”
“Why not? By being kind to him, I set this situation up. Kindness is that double-edged sword that cuts both ways. If I had been harsh with him the first time and got him run out of town for what he did, he wouldn’t have been around to do this to Barbara.”
“It still ain’t yer fault. Nasty folks take advantage of kind folks. That don’t mean we shouldn’t be kind.” Hoss almost smiled realizing he was turning Adam’s argument back on him.
“I wonder what Barbara would say if I asked her.” Looking up, Adam saw Hoss’ raised eyebrows. “Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t bother her more in order that she can ease my guilty conscience. She has enough worries already. Yeah, I’m a man. I’ll deal with it.”
“What you gonna do?”
A shrug was all Hoss got in response, but he wasn’t so sure Adam hadn’t made up his mind already. He knew that his older brother liked to plan things, and in this situation, he worried about what that plan might be.
“Ya don’t know what you’re gonna do or ya don’t want ta tell me?” Adam’s silence was all the answer he needed, but it was an ominous one. “He’s faster than you with a gun.”
“He needs to leave town. Maybe he’ll go without a fight now that he doesn’t have a job or a place to stay.”
“More likely that’s only made him madder than a coyote whose lunch got snatched away. He may leave but not before he gets even with you. We both know he won’t blame himself for the mess he created, so he’s gonna blame you like as not, and he’ll probably get a big mad on and make it all bigger in his head too. We know he ain’t right in the head when he’s mad.”
“Might throw off his aim.”
Hoss shook his head. “So, you do expect a fight from him. Dadburnit, why dontcha let me toss him over a saddle and haul him outta town like the low down dirty pile a horse manure he is. He wouldn’t dare show his face again ifn I did that.”
Smiling at the strange metaphor, Adam had to appreciate Hoss’ support. “I agree. Of course, then I’d have to worry about a bullet in the back someday when I least expect it. He’ll get his revenge for this one way or another.”
“But you didn’t do nothing wrong ‘cept stand up for yourself.”
“Doesn’t matter to someone like him. I challenged him by doing it so he’s got to do something to show he’s better.”
“I think he’s jealous.”
“Doesn’t matter why he’s doing it. What matters is that he will. By the time roundup’s done, he’ll probably have worked himself up into a real crazy kind of mad. When we go to town on Saturday night, I’m counting on you to watch my back. I’m sorry if that means you can’t have as much fun, but if you drink too much, you could be minus a brother come Sunday morning.”
“You think he’ll call you out at night?”
“He’ll call me out but somewhere where’s it’s all to his advantage. I don’t know where that’s going to be, but he won’t play it fair, and he’ll have over a week to plan it.”
“Adam, you got friends too. Some of them will help.”
“Hoss, after the stories he told about me, some of them will have some doubts. The problem is, I don’t know which ones are wondering about me and which ones don’t believe the stories he’s telling. In a situation like this, I can’t afford to take the chance. Any hesitation could be deadly. I need someone who doesn’t doubt me. I need you.”
“I’ll be there for ya, brother. Ya know I will.” Then pursing his lips as he thought about all that had been said, Hoss had a couple of questions. “You gonna tell Pa?” All he got from Adam was that crooked little smile that said he didn’t plan on that. “You gonna tell Joe? He could help watch your back too.”
“As you know all too well, he’d probably step in front of me to take a bullet. No, I don’t want anyone else getting hurt. He’s faster than me, and Joe knows it. The other thing I don’t want is our little brother coming up with some plan to have him take my place in a fight. I’m more accurate. That ought to count for something. It has in the past.”
“You’re taking an awful big gamble.”
“It started the day I decided to help him out. Looking back, I should have walked away then. I guess I didn’t see all the warning signs I should have seen. There were good reasons he didn’t have friends. There were reasons people avoided him. I made a mistake, and I’ll pay the price if I have to. I don’t want anyone else to pay it for me.”
Thinking that enough had been said, Hoss put a hand on Adam’s shoulder and squeezed. Pausing, Adam stood there to let his brother reassure him because he honestly needed that knowing the situation he was likely to face on Saturday night. The only comforting thought was that Hoss would be there to back him up so that nothing underhanded could be tried or at least he hoped that was the case.
During the last few days of the roundup, Little Joe noticed his older brothers sometimes exchanging looks or walking off to talk away from everyone. He knew they were discussing something serious by the demeanor they had but couldn’t imagine at all what it could be until he heard some of the men discussing going to town Saturday night and wondering if the ‘liar’ would be there. Then he had a fairly good idea what his brothers had been discussing and why they had left him out of it. He guessed too why they held their discussions far away from where their father might overhear any of it. All he knew was that he was sticking close to the two of them on Saturday night.
The saloon was smoky and the noise was deafening with most of the ranches in the area doing roundup in preparation for spring drives. Men were there to get in some last-minute fun before weeks of hard work away from town and any comforts of home. Nursing his beer instead of downing it and asking for a second, Hoss got the bartender’s attention i. Cosmo leaned over and asked if there was anything he could do.
“Only be ready to help out or to call Roy if needed.”
“It’s Adam expecting trouble coming his way, isn’t it?”
There was no need to answer as the way it was phrased and stated, it was more of a conclusion than a question. Hoss nodded in thanks and watched Adam as he sat in on a poker game with his usual group. However, there was one at the table who was unknown to Hoss and that made him a bit nervous. It was unusual for Adam’s friends and acquaintances to have a stranger sit in, so he probably had been vouched for by somebody or had been playing for the past week or so. Something about it struck Hoss as odd though so he watched the man until he saw what was happening. Joe was at his elbow a short time later.
“You seeing what I’m seeing?”
“Shur ‘nough do.”
“He’s making sure Adam wins almost every hand. The others at the table are looking at our brother now and wondering what’s going on.”
“I know, but that’s what’s so durn peculiar.”
“Hoss, he’s going to accuse Adam of cheating.”
Before they could intervene, that was exactly what happened too, except Adam said what Hoss and Joe had thought only of course it sounded ridiculous when Adam said it and he knew it too. It was a spectacular set-up. It would have worked too except one of the other players had seen it and had been as mystified as Adam’s brothers.
“I saw. I wondered what the hell was going on. I didn’t think it was possible that the two of you were working together, but I couldn’t figure out what else it could possibly be. Now I know. You wanted to make us think Adam was cheating when it was you who was doing the cheating.”
When Cosmo had overheard Hoss and Joe talking, he had watched the game as well and saw the same thing. He backed up Adam and his friend. The three others in the game turned then to the stranger challenging him as to why he would do that.
“Listen, no harm done then. I was paid to do it. I didn’t take any money from any of you. In fact, I lost money on this game. I’ll leave now if you don’t mind.”
Grabbing him by the collar though, Adam wasn’t going to let him go that easily. “Who paid you to make me look like a cheater?”
“I think you know. You called him a liar so he wanted to turn the tables on you.”
At that point, Adam’s nemesis walked into the saloon expecting to see Adam at the center of trouble. Instead, he saw the man he had hired in that spot. It didn’t matter that much though because he saw how angry Adam was so he moved on to the next stage of his plan immediately. He taunted.
“Ah, so Mister Perfect gets away with it again. You run off and pout for a week or so, and then you come back here, and now there’s trouble again. Someone really ought to bring you down a notch from that lofty perch you created for yourself. Or are you a coward too? I’m thinking coward is the answer. You’ve been talking bad about me for weeks but you haven’t talked to me about it. How about now? You ready to face me like a man or you going to run off and hide again?” He pulled back his coat and let his hand dangle over his pistol challenging Adam. “You first. I’ll even let you draw first.”
It seemed that Hoss and Joe said it at the same time, but Adam wasn’t going to back down in the mood he was in. He had come to town expecting this anyway. He squared off against the man and prepared to defend himself. He wasn’t going to draw first though so he waited. Cosmo began to move to get his shotgun out to stop the fight altogether. That move triggered the whole thing as the man wasn’t going to allow Cosmo to interfere so he drew first. Moving to his right as soon as he saw the man’s hand move, Adam was hit in his left upper arm but fired back hitting the man too even as he too tried to move out of the line of fire. As the severe pain of the wound registered, Adam dropped his pistol and fell down to one knee, grabbed his wounded arm, and lowered his head. The other man had only a minor wound in his left side and raised his pistol to fire again, but Hoss and Joe drew and warned him not to shoot. He refused to lower his pistol so both of them shot. As the smoke from their pistols was still rising, Roy walked in to a now silent saloon to survey the aftermath. Hoss and Joe rushed to Adam as Roy asked what had happened. Cosmo explained that the man and Adam had shot it out and that the man had started it and drawn first. As Hoss and Joe pulled Adam up between them and took him from the saloon to get medical care, Roy waited to ask more.
“But Hoss and Joe shot him?”
“Adam had dropped his pistol and was wounded with his head down. That liar was going to shoot an unarmed wounded man. They warned him not to do it, but he wouldn’t stop, so they shot him.”
Looking around the room, Roy asked if Cosmo had told the story accurately. Everyone there agreed with the version of events as he had recounted them. The man who had cheated at cards was still standing to the side. Roy pointed at him. “Cosmo, what did he do?”
“He was trying to set Adam up as a cheater. It didn’t work but it got Adam pretty riled up and set up the fight.”
Roy grabbed the man by the arm. “You come with me. I’ll take your statement, and then you’re leaving town, and you ain’t never coming back. Clear?” He agreed, and then Roy asked if there were some men who would take the body to the undertaker for burial.
At the doctor’s office, Doctor Paul Martin was once again patching up a Cartwright. The wound was painful but not life-threatening although the blood loss from the wound and from cleaning the wound was serious. After working on it for about an hour, he was ready to talk. Hoss and Joe were there to listen. “Adam, you’ve been shot in this arm before, but you weren’t hit in the bone. This one nicked the bone and cracked it. You’re going to be in this splint for at least six weeks. I’ll need to check on the wound often to make sure there’s no infection. For now, I want you to lie down here and get some sleep.”
“I want to go home.”
“Not for a couple of days at least. I need to keep a close eye on this one, and I don’t want to have to make that trip to the ranch every day. You aren’t to ride a horse either. That bone is cracked but not displaced – for now. You go riding in the next couple of days, and that could change.”
Pale and with a sheen of sweat on his face and chest, it was clear that Adam had suffered for the past hour with the wound and the surgery to repair it. His brothers knew the doctor was correct. Hoss was the one to talk to Adam about it though.
“Adam, the way you look now, you wouldn’t stay on your horse for the ride anyway, and falling off is sure to cause worse problems than ya got now. Why don’t ya stay here at least through tomorrow? You know Pa’s gonna be in to see you. We kin tell him to bring the carriage, and then you and him and Doc here can argue about it again tomorrow.” After a pause, Hoss smiled. “I’m jest being kind.”
That allowed Adam a graceful way to concede so he did. Tired from all that had happened, he leaned back and closed his eyes. Paul looked at Hoss and smiled gently. He knew that Ben wasn’t going to take Adam home if he was told it was medically unwise. However, this way Adam would sleep peacefully at least until the next day when his father was there. Paul guessed that conversation was going to be entertaining. He was glad though that there weren’t any other patients in the building as they would likely be disturbed by the noise. That was probably going to be a problem once Ben and his eldest squared off, but Ben wouldn’t be too forceful when he saw the condition of his son. Placing a sheet and then a blanket over Adam, Paul assured Hoss and Joe that Adam would be fine and they could go home. He guessed that would be another interesting conversation as they explained to their father what had happened and why Adam wouldn’t be able to boss the drive this spring. He settled in to watch over his patient and get some rest waiting for the next day’s Cartwright entertainment. They certainly kept things interesting.
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
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