The Spat (by Fozrulz)

Summary:  Ellie and Joe get into an argument – how are they going to solve it and will they get it resolved before Pa steps in.  

Rated: K+ (4,760 words)

 

                                                    The Spat

Pa could hear the shouting while he was still out in the yard. He couldn’t imagine what all the fuss was about. He opened the front door to find Ellie stamping her foot and Joe standing there with his hands on his hips.

“I did not!” Ellie yelled stamping her foot.

“You did, too!” Joe yelled.

“I did not!” Ellie yelled louder.

“You did too, you little liar!” Joe shouted.

“ENOUGH!!” hollered Pa.

Ellie and Joe were so intent, that they didn’t even hear Pa walk in. Pa strode purposefully over to Ellie and swatted her backside. He then faced Joe, turned him around and swatted him. The two children stopped in mid shout and stared at their father. ‘Now, what’s this all about?” he said angrily.

“Nothin’” spat Joe as he took off for the front door, slamming it as he went out.

Ellie just glared at the back of the door. Her eyes were just brimming with indignation. She took one look at her father and took off up the stairs crying.

Pa just shook his head, good Lord, what was that all about, he wondered. Well, best to let tempers cool. Those two youngest of his had the hottest heads, they had tempers to try a saint. Ah, well, they were just like their mother, beautiful, but with a feisty temper.

As Joe ran out of the house, he headed toward the barn. He was going for a ride. He ran right into his middle brother.

Hoss grabbed him by the arm, “Heh watch were ya going Little Joe, what you so all fired up about?”

“Nuthin.” Joe said sullenly as he headed for the barn.

“You all upset about somethin’” Hoss remarked.

“Leave it be Hoss.”

“Where you off to?”

“Ride”

“Now Joe, you know you ought not to be ridin’ out this late.”

“For Pete’s sake Hoss, I’m 13, I can go for a ride if I want.” Joe said angrily, shrugging his brother’s hand off his arm.

Hoss shook his head. That boy had a temper on him, like no body’s business. He wondered what was going on. Pa’s going to be mighty upset that Joe’s riding out right before dark. He shook his head again, he sure didn’t want to be Joe, when Pa got hold of him.

When Hoss walked in the house, Pa was sitting in his chair with his head in his hands, a sure sign that something was not right. “Uh, Pa, you ok?” asked Hoss tentatively.

“Oh, your brother and sister were having a shouting match when I came in. Joe stormed out and Ellie is in her room crying.”

“What happened? Joe ran smack into me on his way out.”

“I have no idea son, when I asked, they ran off in different directions.”

Hoss hesitated. He knew he needed to tell his Pa that Joe had ridden off in a huff. “Pa, Joe took Blackie for a ride.”

“What?” Pa almost shouted. “He knows not to ride off this close to dark.”

“I know Pa, but he was pretty upset. You know, he’s probably just up at Mama’s grave.”

Pa relaxed a little. Marie’s grave was Joe’s safe haven and thinking spot. “Well son, if he isn’t back in a little while…..”

Adam came in, “If who isn’t back..”

“Aww, Adam, Joe and Ellie was havin’ a spat and Joe took off on Blackie.”

“This late, that fool kid.” huffed Adam. “Do you want me to go after him?

“No, son, let him cool off.”

Hop Sing came in. “Why all this noise? All this screaming! Too noisy! Go back to China and work for quiet family. Deener in 15 minutes. All you go wash, no dirty at dinner.” Hop Sing turned and went back to the kitchen muttering in Chinese.

Pa looked weary, “Will one of you go get Ellie for supper?”

Adam volunteered, “I’ll go.” He headed up the stairs. He knocked on Ellie’s door.

“Go away.”

“Ellie it’s time for supper.”

“Not hungry!”

Adam sighed. How many times had he been through this with his baby sister, or his baby brother for that matter? He wasn’t sure who was the most obstinate, Ellie or Joe. “Ellie you know Pa is going to make you come down and sit at the table, whether you eat or not. So you may as well come now.”

“No!”

Adam was losing patience. He pushed her door open and started toward her. “Ellie, you either come downstairs and have your supper sitting down or standing up, which is it going to be?”

“Leave me alone Adam, you can’t just barge in here!”

Adam sighed again, obstinate and sassy, great, a wonderful combination. Adam walked over to his sister and grabbed her chin in his hand, he forced her eyes up to his. “You will not talk back to me little girl. You are going to wash your hands and your face and get down supper. And I mean right now!”

Ellie glared at Adam. She knew that voice. She and Joe called that the “God” voice. The voice that you didn’t dare disobey. She thought for a minute and looked at Adam’s dark eyes and the scowl on his face. She extricated herself from Adam’s grip and went to the wash bowl to wash up. Adam stood there with his back against her door and waited for her to finish. When she was done, he escorted her down to the supper table.

Ellie was sullen during supper. She didn’t speak to anyone, she just looked down at her plate and pushed her food around.

“Eleanor Grace, quit playing with your food and eat your supper.” Pa admonished her.

“I’m not hungry, may I be excused?” she scowled.

“Watch you tone, young lady.” Pa cautioned.

Ellie slumped in her chair.

“Eleanor, eat your supper and for Heaven’s sake, sit up straight. Now!” said Pa, his voice rising.

Ellie looked at her papa. He was getting angry. She could see his temper start to rise. Wisely, she decided she better eat her supper. After she ate enough to satisfy her Papa, she asked to be excused. He nodded his head and she ran back up the stairs to her room.

Pa sighed, “I don’t know what’s got into her and Joe today.”

“Must have been a doozy Pa, I can’t ever remember Joe and Ellie fighting over anything that didn’t last a minute or two. You know she worships Joe, she wouldn’t of done nothin to make him that mad.” Hoss commented.

Joe took off on Blackie, he headed straight for his mama’s grave. He went to her grave anytime he felt restless or upset. Ellie had really set him off. He just knew he had taken that stuffed bear his mama had given him so many years ago. No one knew he still had that bear. He kept it hidden in his box of treasures underneath his bed. He was too old to be attached to a teddy bear. But, it was the last thing that he remembered his mama had given him. He couldn’t believe she’d had that bear on her bed yesterday. How did she ever find it? She shouldn’t even be in his room. He had grabbed the bear from her and put it back in the box, and now this afternoon it was gone again. He was furious. He poured his heart out to his mama about the injustice of it all and how he was so sorry he didn’t have her last gift anymore. He sat for awhile and suddenly realized it was getting dark. Oh no, he thought, Pa’s gonna be real mad if I don’t get home before dark. He jumped on Blackie and headed for home.

The front door opened and Joe walked in.

“A might late for you to be out son.” Pa said.

“Yeah, Pa I know. I just had to get away and think. I went to see Mama.” Joe said. “I’m sorry if I worried you.”

Pa raised his eyebrows at the “yeah” from his youngest son.

Joe hastily amended, “I meant Yes, sir.” knowing his Pa wasn’t too happy with him riding out the way he did.

Pa didn’t know what to think, Joe had disobeyed a basic rule about riding after dark, but he hadn’t gone far and was safe and sound. Pa thought of a lecture, but thought better of it. “You supper is in the warmer, son, best eat and get on up to bed.”

“Yes sir,” Joe muttered as he headed for the kitchen.

The next morning found Joe and Ellie in the same mood. Both of them were slouching and sulking at the breakfast table. They were shooting each other dark glances across the table. Pa had had just about enough of this nonsense. He could feel the hairs rising on the back of his neck. He was going to put an end to this ridiculous behavior.

“Joseph, Eleanor.”

Neither one of the children looked up, which made him even more angry.

“Both of you look right here!” he said pointing at his eyes.

Ellie and Joe tore their eyes of their plates and forced themselves to look into their father’s eyes.

“Your behavior is unacceptable. I don’t know what happened between the two of you. But, whatever it is I want it resolved by supper tonight. If you don’t, I will have a “private” talk with both of you before bedtime. Do I make myself clear?” he commanded.

Joe and Ellie just sat there.

“Do I need to repeat myself?” Pa asked his eyes brimming with anger.

Joe and Ellie looked at their father. They knew that he was really angry. They both realized they better respond and quickly before the “Private” talk came a lot earlier than bedtime. The both sighed looking at their father and said, “No, sir.”

“Fine. You two are excused. Since there is no school today, I expect your chores to be done and then go talk to Adam because I’m sure he can find more chores to keep you busy.”

Adam sighed. He sure wasn’t interested in mother henning those two all day.

Pa caught that sigh and gave him a murderous glance, “Problem, Adam?”

Adam was not ready to get on the bad side of his father today. “Oh, no sir, not at all.” Adam said giving Pa a thin-lipped smile.

“Hoss, weren’t you headed to the fence on the south pasture?” Pa asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“You know, on second thought take Joe with you. That ought to keep him out of trouble today.”

“Yes, sir. Come on lil brother, times awastin’.” Hoss was ready to get out of the house and on with his day.

Joe started to say that he didn’t want to go mend fences, he stole a look at his father. Pa noticed the looked and narrowed his eyes. “Joseph, did you want to say something?”

Joe thought for a minute, he realized how mad Pa was getting and decided that spending the day away from Pa and Adam’s orders wasn’t a bad thing at all. “No, Sir.” he mumbled.

“Good, then I suggest you and Hoss get along.”

“Yes, sir.” With that, Hoss and Joe headed out the door to the buckboard and headed for the south pasture.

Adam looked at Ellie. Oh, boy, she was going to be a trial today. She was just fuming. Well, maybe a few chores would let her work off a little steam. “Ellie, why don’t you get started on the barn chores.”

“Adam, you know I can’t do them all myself.” she grumped.

Oh that mood she is in. He counted to 10. “I know,” he said patiently. “Just go out and get started and I’ll be out to help you in a little while.”

Ellie turned on her heel and headed for the door. Ellie headed for the barn trying to think of a way to placate Joe. Pa said if they didn’t solve the problem by supper, both of them were having a “private” talk with him, which meant getting spankings. She didn’t want a spanking, especially because she didn’t do anything to begin with. She starting fuming. As she walked out to the barn, she saw her puppy, Shadow was sleeping in the hay. She knelt down to pet Shadow and her mood greatly improved. How could it not, she loved that puppy more than anything. She just couldn’t stay in a sour mood when she had Shadow.

“Come on Shadow, come on boy, we’ve got a mountain of chores to do.” Ellie headed into the barn. She had watered and fed the horses, cleaned and straightened the tack, she still needed to muck out the stalls, stack the hay and sweep the floor. She figured that she needed Adam to help with the mucking out, but she could stack the hay. She wasn’t sure, she wasn’t allowed to use the pitch fork. But, she was allowed to use the broom to sweep, she figured there wasn’t much difference between the broom and the pitch fork. After all she was eight. She picked up the pitch fork as Adam walked in.

“Eleanor Grace, put down that pitch fork, you know you aren’t allowed to use that.” Adam grabbed the pitch fork out of her hands.

“Oh Adam, you worry too much, I can use the pitch fork, it’s no different than the broom.” she turned to sass her brother.

“It’s Pa’s rule and it’s for your own safety.” Adam stated flatly with his hands on his hips.

Ellie just rolled her eyes. That did it! Adam had had enough. Before, she knew it Adam grabbed her arm and delivered two very hard swats on her bottom. “Now, that’s enough little girl. I’ve had enough sass and bad mood from you. What’s wrong?” Adam demanded.

Ellie’s eyes started to tear. “Sorry, Adam.”

Adam sat down on a bale of hay and motioned Ellie to sit down next to him. “Ok, Ellie, something is up with Joe. What happened? If you don’t figure out how to fix it by supper, those two swats you just got is going to be nothing compared to what Pa’s going to give you.”

“I know,” she said looking up at Adam. Her eyes were filled with tears just spilling out and running down her face.

Adam’s heart twisted, he hated seeing her cry. “Ellie, baby, tell big brother. I know I can help.” he said as he gathered her in his arms.

“I don’t know, Adam. Joe is so mad at me. He’s never been really mad at me before. He called me a liar and I didn’t do anything. Honest, Adam, I promise I didn’t do anything. Joe just don’t believe me.” Ellie said, all the words spilled out at once.

Adam still had no idea what she was talking about. He was going to have to redirect her, piece by piece to make any sense of this. “Ellie, what doesn’t Joe believe?”

“That I didn’t take his teddy bear.”

“What?” asked Adam incredulously, “This is over a teddy bear?” Adam ran his hand through his hair and thought, this is unbelievable.

Ellie nodded miserably.

“Ellie, baby, back up a little, I don’t understand, Joe doesn’t have a teddy bear anymore, he hasn’t had one since he was about your age.”

“Does so,” she said petulantly.

“Ellie?” Adam warned.

Ellie took a deep breath, Adam knew this was going to be one of those long sentence one breath explanations of hers.

“He has his old teddy bear that he said Mama gave him right before she died. He has it in a box under his bed. Well, Shadow got in his room and got Joe’s teddy bear and chewed on it some. And I found Shadow with it and it was missing an eye and I took it to my room to try and sew the eye back on and Joe saw it sitting on my bed. He got really mad and told me to stay out of his room and his stuff and said I had no business with his stuff and it was private and then he took it back to his room and put it back in the box and I got mad and tried to explain it all and…..

“My Lord, Ellie take a breath,” said Adam.

She took a breath, “And today it was missing and he said I took it. But Adam, I didn’t, honest I didn’t. I don’t know how to make Joe believe me, I’ve never lied to him before.” she looked down at her feet. “And now he hates me.”

Adam hugged Ellie, “Baby, he doesn’t hate you, he’s just embarrassed and upset right now.” Adam was amazed. He hadn’t seen that bear in years. He had no idea that Joe had hung on to that bear. He knew Joe was desperate to hang on to a piece of Marie.

“Why? It’s just a dumb old bear.” she said crossly.

“Ellie, Joe doesn’t have much from mama. Sometime it just makes him feel better to have something that mama gave him, so he can remember her. He’s probably embarrassed for anyone to know he still holds on to a toy he had as a little boy.”

“Well, I didn’t take it from the box. Honest Adam, I didn’t touch it.”

Adam said, “I believe you, but something happened to it.” Adam sat for a minute and then it dawned him what had probably happened. ‘Ellie, how did the bear get out of the box in the first place?”

“Not sure” she shrugged her shoulders, “I just found Shadow chewing on it.”

“Where was Shadow when you found him chewing on the bear?”

Uh, oh, Ellie thought. Here is the part where she was going to get in trouble. Shadow wasn’t allowed in the house. He sure wasn’t allowed in her room or in her bed. She had been sneaking Shadow into her room late at night and during the day when Papa was out of the house. She hesitated. She starting swinging her foot and looked at the floor.

Adam suspected that the dog had been in the house. “Ellie, I asked you a question.”

“Umm, he was in my room.” she said looking at her feet. “Adam, please don’t tell Papa.”

“Ellie, how did he get in? You know he isn’t allowed in the house.”

Ellie looked at the floor, looked at the ceiling, looked anywhere but Adam’s face. She started playing with the pocket on her dress.

“Ellie,” Adam repeated more sternly, “how did Shadow get in the house?”

“I let him into my room to sleep with me.” she said nervously.

“What? How could you do that without anyone knowing?” Adam asked, even though he had a pretty good idea.

Ellie took a big breath. She knew this part was going to get her in more trouble than letting Shadow in the house. “I waited until everyone went to sleep and then I came out to the barn and got Shadow and brought him in.”

Adam whistled. “Oh my, little girl, if Pa finds out that you’ve been sneaking out to the barn by yourself after dark, you may never sit down again.”

“Adam, please please please don’t tell Papa. I promise I won’t do it anymore. Please!!” she begged, her big green eyes were filling with tears.

“Ellie, if we can get this taken care of with Joe and you and Joe start acting right, there won’t be any need to tell Pa.” Adam said seriously.

“But Adam, I didn’t take the bear, I don’t know how to make Joe believe me.” she said sadly kicking the dirt with her foot.

“Well, I have an idea.” said Adam.

“Really?” she looked at him hopefully.

“Yeah, so Shadow got the bear out of the box to start with, right?”

“Um hmm.”

“So, it makes sense that Shadow got the bear again and hid it somewhere.”

“Oh,” said Ellie, “we just have to figure out where Shadow hid it.”

“That’s right,” Adam smiled at her.

“Well, he usually hides the pinecones we play with in the hay in here. I don’t know why, you’d think it’d make his bed lumpy.” Ellie said walking over to Shadow’s bed in an empty stall. She started digging around in the hay. She found a bunch of pine cones. She had moved all the hay, but she didn’t find the bear. Then she noticed a brown piece of fluff sticking out from under the blanket on the floor in the corner of the stall. “Adam, Adam, I think I found it.” She ran over and dragged the raggedy old bear out by its arm. It was kind of slimy from being chewed on, but it was still in one piece.

She ran to Adam with the bear in her hand. “Here it is!” she exclaimed. “Thank you, thank you, Adam! I can give it back to Joe and he won’t be mad no more!” She flung her arms around his waist and gave him a big hug.

Adam smiled, he was glad to help her. “Ellie, you best clean that thing a bit.”

Ellie took off for the house, her chores forgotten. Adam started in on the rest of the barn chores. It was a small price to pay to bring peace to the house.

Joe and Hoss headed for the south pasture for the never ending job of fence mending. Hoss looked at his sullen little brother sitting next to him. This was going to be a very long morning he thought. If anyone could get him out of this mood it was Hoss. Hoss’ calm nature and gentle prodding could usually get Joe to open up.

“Heh, Joe, I think if we work hard, we could get this done by lunch and then maybe you and me could do a little fishing. What’d ya think?”

Joe perked up. He loved fishing, especially with Hoss. “Really Hoss, that sounds great.” Joe said excitedly. The he frowned, “Hoss, Pa said I had to ask Adam for extra chores.”

“Oh, you know little brother, I can fix things with Adam.”

“Really,” said Joe hopefully.

“Yep, just as soon as you straighten out whatever’s between you and Ellie.”

Joe scowled.

“Boy, you know you better square things with her or Pa’s gonna set that backside of your’s aching.”

“I know. But Hoss, she took something of mine and won’t give it back.”

“What’d she take?”

Joe looked at Hoss. He wasn’t about to tell him. “Just somethin’ important mama gave me.”

“What’d Ellie say?”

“She tried to tell me that Shadow took it, but I found her with it in her room. And besides Shadow ain’t even allowed in the house, so how would he get it. She’s just lying.” Joe spat out the words.

“Whoa, whoa little brother. Has Ellie ever lied to you?”

“No.” Joe admitted.

“So, why’d she start now.” asked Hoss

“I don’t know Hoss. Her story don’t make sense.” Joe challenged.

“Joe, Ellie’s been letting Shadow in at night to sleep with her.”

“What?” Joe exclaimed, “How come Pa hadn’t made a fuss about Shadow being in the house?”

“Maybe he don’t know. But I thought I heard something the other night and I went and checked on Ellie and Shadow was sleeping with her in her bed. I found him there a couple of times.”

“Well how come he ain’t in there when I go get her up in the morning.” Joe questioned.

“I think she must be puttin’ him out early in the morning. Hadn’t she been awake the last few mornings went you went to get her up?”

Joe nodded his head, “Yeah, come to think of it, she has. She must have been awake cuz she got up to put Shadow out.” Joe agreed.

“Joe, you don’t always close your door. So ain’t it possible that Shadow took your, your, well whatever it was that got took, and Ellie is telling the truth?”

The light dawned on Joe. He started to feel just awful for the way he treated Ellie. Joe hung his head. “Hoss, I called her a liar.” Joe said miserably.

“It’s ok, Joe, we all make mistakes. I just think you need to talk to her. You know, Joe, Ellie worships ya, you are her best friend, she wouldn’t do anything to hurt ya. Ya just need talk to her when we get back and everything will be fine.”

Joe nodded. “Well big brother, let’s get on with this fence repair, I’ve got some other fences to be mending at home.”

Hoss slapped on the back and chuckled, “Let’s get to it!”

Joe and Hoss finished the fence repair by lunch time. They jumped in the buckboard and headed back to the house for lunch. When they got home, Hoss offered to put up the buckboard so Joe could go talk to Ellie. Joe headed into the house to find her.

He found her sitting on her bed. Joe tapped on the door, “Sissy? Can I come in?”

“Sure, Joe.”

“Sissy, did Shadow really take my bear?”

“Yep, he did.” and Ellie proceeded to tell Joe the whole story about how Shadow took the bear, she tried to fix it and that’s when Joe found her with the bear.

“But Sissy, that was yesterday. What happened to my bear, it ain’t in my room.”

“Really, Joe, cuz I think you should take another look.” She said mischievously.

Joe gave her a funny look. He turned around and walked toward his room with Ellie following close behind. He knelt on his floor and pulled out his box of treasures from underneath his bed and there he saw his bear.

He looked at her questiongly, “But, how….?”

Ellie launched into a very long explanation of how Shadow had taken it again and hidden it in his bed in the barn and how Adam had figured it out.

Joe winced, “Adam knows about the bear?”

“Sure, why?”

Joe didn’t bother explaining it. He just sighed and returned the box of treasures to the spot under his bed.

“Sissy, I’m sorry I called you a liar. I’m sorry I was so mean. Will you forgive me?”

“Sure, Joe. I just don’t want you to be mad at me no more. You never been mad at me like that. I thought you hated me.” Ellie said looking at her feet.

“Oh, Sissy I really am sorry. I don’t hate you, I could never hate you, you’re my baby sister. It don’t mean I won’t get mad, but I’d never hate you.”

Ellie breathed a sigh of relief, “It’s ok, I love you too.”

The two eldest Cartwright brothers had gone unnoticed standing outside Joe’s door. They smiled to each other and quietly backed down the stairs.

“Heh, you two,” Adam bellowed, “aren’t you coming down for lunch. If you don’t get here quick, Hop Sing says he going back to China and taking those cookies he just made with him.”

Joe and Ellie yelled “Coming” as they ran down the stairs.

“Don’t run on the stairs,” admonished Adam. He smiled, well things were back to normal.

The four Cartwright children were sitting around the table chattering away, when Pa walked in. He could hear the chatter and realized everything was right with his children again. He was relieved. He didn’t even know what the ruckus had been about and decided he didn’t need to know.

Ellie saw him first, ‘Hi Pappa!”

Pa stooped down to give Ellie a kiss on her head, “Well, hi princess, how is everything?”

“Just fine Papa, just fine.” she said happily.

Pa looked over at Joe, who was smiling at his sister. “How about you son,” he looked at Joe.

“Everything is fine Pa.” Joe smiled.

“Pa, can me and Hoss go fishing?” Joe asked his eyes twinkling.

“May Hoss and I go fishing?” Adam corrected.

Yes, everything was back to normal in the Cartwright household.

 

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