Summary: This is the third and final part of the Visit series. In this story, the focus is on Ben who has had suspicions of what has been happening and those are confirmed and a revelation is made that explains why he knew. Joe and Candy are also part of this story.
Rating: G WC: 1,986
One of the things that Ben Cartwright missed most about his eldest son besides their partnership running the ranch was the easy companionship the two could share. A glass of brandy, a game of checkers, and especially a challenging chess match could have the two of them sharing time without talking. It was the simple enjoyment of the two men spending some time together doing something both liked to do. Ben had not found anything as relaxing as those interludes in all the years since Adam had left and now he would never be back. All of those activities could be shared with others, but everyone seemed inclined to talk, and Joe most of all had to fill every quiet moment with chatter. Ben couldn’t fault him for that because his third son was a social man. However he did miss those quiet times.
Then he discovered that although the ranch foreman, Candy Canaday, could hold his own with Joe in loquacious endeavors much as Adam and Hoss did when they had been there, he could also savor silence. When Ben found that Candy enjoyed chess, it was a most delightful discovery. The two began regular chess matches. It was even more enjoyable in that Candy wasn’t nearly the chess player that Adam had been so Ben was the victor in almost every match. That is, he was until Candy began to show an uncanny ability to spring gambits on the patriarch of the Ponderosa that left him unable to counter successfully.
“I thought you were going for the Scotch gambit, but then you let me take that pawn, and I wondered what your strategy was and you had me in check before I knew what you were doing. What gambit were you using? I didn’t recognize it.”
“I only let you take that pawn because it was in the way.”
“In the way?” Suddenly transported back years, Ben recalled Adam saying those same words when he used the Scotch gambit defeating his father in much the same way Candy had done, confusing him and defeating him before he knew what had happened.
“Yeah, I saw an opening, and the darn thing was in the way.”
“You saw an opening ten moves ahead and only if I took that pawn out of the way?”
“Yeah, that was pretty smart of me, I guess.”
“Yes, it was. Uncanny. Have you been taking lessons?”
“No, only playing chess with you. You’re the only teacher I need.”
It was again the same thing Adam had said but even further back in time.
“You all right, Mister Cartwright? You’re looking a little sickly there.”
“No, I’m fine. Maybe a little tired. I guess I should think about heading to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Watching his boss head up the stairs, Candy was concerned. Several times now, he had seen that look on Ben Cartwright’s face as if he had seen a ghost. Candy didn’t know what he was doing to cause it, but he suspected there was something going on in his behavior that was the reason for it. That night his sleep was restless even though he dreamed of Hoss and even heard the big man tell him not to worry. It didn’t help though. At breakfast, he was still concerned especially when it happened again.
“Candy, you don’t look like you got enough sleep last night.”
“Joe, I got plenty of sleep.”
“Really? I thought maybe Pa beat you again at chess and you went to bed in a bad mood.”
“I’ll have you know I won our match last night, short-shanks.”
While Joe didn’t react at all, Ben nearly dropped his fork and stared at Candy who had used one of Hoss’ favorite lines for his younger brother. Candy looked over at Ben and shrugged. He thought he better come up with some explanation as to why he had so unexpectedly blurted that out.
“I guess being around Hoss so long, saying that kind of popped in my head when he started giving me a hard time.”
“Yes, I suppose that could be true.” Ben wasn’t at all convinced though even if he apparently accepted the explanation.
After breakfast, Candy carried the same kind of worried look that Ben sported quite often. Joe noticed as the two were working together. Finally he stopped and addressed his friend hoping to get him to relax about the situation.
“Candy, Pa is missing Adam and Hoss. Anything that reminds him of them is going to make him feel sad. You don’t have to feel bad about that. It’s going to take time for him to adjust to both of them being gone.”
“It’s not that, Joe. It’s more like I don’t know what it even is. Like last night when we played chess. All of a sudden he had that look. Now I couldn’t have said anything like Adam. I never even met the man.”
“Yes, but Pa and Adam played chess fairly often. I know Pa sometimes suggested checkers because he got so tired of losing chess matches. It’s probably chess itself that triggered the memories for him.”
“Maybe.” Thinking for a time, Candy wondered if something else could be true. “But maybe it was because I won. I don’t usually, but last night, I just thought of a way to win. It was after that your father had that look.”
“You just thought of a way to win?”
“Yeah. Your father is a lot better at chess than I am, but I got this idea all of a sudden, and it worked.”
Looking up at the sky with a bit of a frown, Joe let his displeasure be seen but not by Candy. “Yes, I guess that could be it.”
For the time, Candy was satisfied with the answer, and the two got back to work. However, the next day, they had a load of lumber to deliver, and on the way, Joe was going to change the route. Candy disagreed, and the two halted to discuss the issue.
“Candy, if we go by the lower trail, we can save hours.”
“Why do we need to save hours?”
“So we can go to town. I can see Dee, and you can see your gal. I bought a ring. I’m ready to ask the question. Those are two great reasons, don’t you think?”
Ignoring what Joe had said, Candy continued as if Joe had not spoken. “You had a plan, and it didn’t include the lower trail. You must have had a reason for that so think about it. Why did you plan on us using the upper road when you planned this delivery?”
As Joe was thinking, Candy was looking back in the direction from which they had traveled and saw some clouds building behind the mountains. He knew the answer then as he and Joe had talked about it when loading the wagon a day earlier. Waiting for the answer, he smirked a bit which irritated Joe.
“You don’t have to smirk like that. I remember. Just get up there and head up to the upper road. We don’t want to get caught in a flash flood or find that bridge washed out and have to backtrack to here so we can use the upper road.”
Holding back a grin, Candy headed the team on the way with Joe sighing deeply before looking up once more but with a bit of a grudging smile. He knew what had happened. A couple of extra loud rolls of thunder let him know who was behind it as if he didn’t already know. That was a middle brother thump to the back to remind him to be appreciative. By that evening, Candy had more time to think about it, and speaking softly so Joe wouldn’t overhear, he recounted to Ben what had happened.
“It’s not like me to go against Joe so easily or so quickly.”
“I’m glad you did. Sometimes he needs somebody to remind him to be smart about things when he’s about to act impulsively.”
“Yes, he had a good plan. He needed to follow it. It was a good plan too. A good plan is a thing of beauty.”
Startled again, Ben stared at his foreman. Candy was intent on his next move and didn’t notice that one. His next statement though made Ben even more curious.
“I have to watch out for my little buddy.”
Sitting on the settee by the fireplace, Joe heard that and winced. Flicking a glance upwards again, he rolled his eyes too wondering if his brothers could see. A sudden flare in the fire let him know they probably did. Ben noticed the sparks.
“Joe, perhaps it’s time to bank the fire. We’re going to bed soon, and I wouldn’t want any sparks to get out.”
Turning back to the game, Ben found that although Candy had been working a good strategy on him, he had floundered and was in trouble. Ben had him in check in a few moves. Victorious, Ben was gracious and agreed they ought to play again as soon as they had a chance. Disappointed, but happy that he had been able to extend the match as long as he had, Candy went to bed reasonably contented. When Ben went to his room, he wasn’t surprised to smell bay rum tonic.
“You’ve been a bit heavy-handed, don’t you think?”
“You’re not at all shocked that I’m here?”
Smiling, Ben decided to let him in on a family secret. “Apparently your mother failed to mention her visits to me those many years ago. It did take some time for me to figure it out but the similarity to those earlier visits helped. She was worried about what I might do. I assume you and your brother are equally worried about Joe after some of the things he did.”
“He’ll be all right now. I don’t think you have to worry so much.”
“He almost took that wagon along the lower trail.”
Nodding, Ben wanted to be reassuring. “I know, but Candy stopped him.”
“Yes, he did.”
It was then that Ben got the whole picture and nodded in understanding. “So that’s what you’re doing. I still think you could back off some. I think you’re upsetting my foreman.”
“We thought we were being subtle.”
“About as well as Jigger Thurman’s bull.”
“Please, don’t remind me.” There was only a short pause. “We’ll back off.”
“But not too far. If it is very dangerous, please do what you have to do.”
“We’ll stay away. We’re not supposed to interfere, but we can guide. Maybe we can set an alarm.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
Both chuckled at what they wanted to say next. Then he was gone as Joe knocked at the door.
“Pa, you all right? I thought I heard you talking in there.”
“Talking to myself, Joe, or you could say, thinking out loud. Everything is fine.” Ben glanced over at the picture of Elizabeth on his bureau. Softly he whispered to her. “Yes, you did a fine job with him, my dear.”
In the hall, Joe smiled as he walked to his room. He waited for the slap on the shoulder, but there wasn’t one. In his room, he took off his shirt and was going to hang it up. Instead, he raised an eyebrow and tossed his shirt on the floor. And there it was: the hearty slap on the shoulder reminding him who was there. Grinning, he picked up the shirt hanging it where it belonged and readied himself for bed knowing he would never be alone. He hoped his wife wouldn’t mind because he was ready to propose to his gal, and he guessed she was going to say yes. Indeed, as his father had said, everything was fine. He looked up and gave a wink.
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright, Candy Canaday, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
Other Stories by this Author
- Another Visit (by BettyHT)
- Candy’s Opinions (by BettyHT)
- A Visit (by BettyHT)
- Being Hopeful (by BettyHT)
- Nevermore (by BettyHT)