Dear Friends and Christmas Gifts (by BettyHT)

Summary:   The last story in this series starts with some informative letters between Adam’s wife and Joe’s wife but progresses into a Christmas visit in which important changes occur for all the brothers.
Rating: WC:  18,845

Brenda/Heat Wave series:
Heat Wave (by BettyHT)
Second Chances (by BettyHT)
Everybody Makes Mistakes (by BettyHT)
The Lord Is My Judge (by BettyHT)
Dear Friends and Christmas Gifts (by BettyHT)

Dear Friends and Christmas Gifts

 

Chapter 1

August 4

Dear Amelia

How I miss you. I haven’t had a woman in my family since my mother died, and that was so many years ago that I find I have trouble remembering how she sounded or even what she looked like. I have to pull out the one small portrait I have of her and my father to remember her better. Now that I have you, I wish that we lived closer so that we could talk more often. Now that the spur line has gone through to Virginia City though, these letters should only take about a week to get there or yours to here. Adam told me that and seemed quite proud that we are investors in that railroad too. I swear my husband knows how to pick the right investments. We make far more money from his investing than we do from the ranch or from the share we get from the Ponderosa. I am glad though that these railroads are expanding and making travel and communication so much easier. As far along as I will be by December, it will be so much better to be able to make most of the trip by train than by carriage. It’s a longer route but shorter in time. We’ll go north and come across so that we can use the spur line from Reno. I look forward to that time. By then, of course, both of us will look like we’ve doubled in size no matter how skillful we are with our wrap dresses. I do look forward so much to being with you again.

That time together on the Ponderosa is precious to me. I have Saunders here, but she’s been prickly as a swarm of bees. Now I’m calling her Saunders too. Adam does that, and now he has me doing it too. I really should probably call her by her first name, but she’s older than me and has worked here since her husband died. I was still in my teens then and she seemed so old to me then. In fact, she’s only about Hoss’ age. So she’s older than me but younger than Adam. Anyway, we should be able to talk, but it’s not the same. She tends to take on that older woman role with me and wants to tell me what to do. I get my back up when anyone tries to do that, and well, you know, I’m not good with anyone telling me what to do. I forgot for a bit where I was going with this, but I simply cannot call her by her first name. It seems disrespectful somehow. Well, at least this time, I have you to talk with about carrying this child. The last time, I only had Adam, and he was very sweet, but I like having a woman to share these feelings and thoughts with too.

Celebrate the changes in your body. Don’t hide them away from your husband. I know that you were feeling a bit embarrassed at how your body was changing, and I saw how you were already trying to hide those changes from everyone. I do that too. It’s no one’s business and I keep them from seeing as much as I can, but I can tell you that your husband will likely be insatiably curious to see how your body is changing. He won’t be at all upset by the changes. I know. I felt the way you’re feeling now, and I was amazed at how Adam reacted. He wanted to see me and touch me as much or even more than before I was carrying his child. It’s the same way this time. It’s as if he’s so proud of what he’s done as if he didn’t do it so many times before he knew me and hope it didn’t have this result. He’s very gentle but I can tell that he wants to know every detail. He watches me like a hawk looking for prey though as he worries that I will be sick or show some signs of trouble. He’s not quite as bad this time as he was when I was carrying Abel, but it’s a little like saying a tornado isn’t as bad as a typhoon. You don’t want either one. I wish he could relax about that, but I know his history, and I suppose it’s so much a part of him that he can’t stop himself. He waits anxiously whenever we see the doctor, and when the doctor says everything is fine, he audibly sighs with relief. I can’t help myself. I want to slap him when he does that. Am I awful? Don’t answer that.

Now about that being gentle. Even that gets to be annoying. I’m not a china doll needing to be protected from every nick and bit of dust. I want my lusty husband to treat me like a woman, and I know you know what I mean. I may have to take matters into my own hands soon if he doesn’t break out of it on his own. I mean, it has to be killing him to hold back the way he has been. Perhaps by the next letter I write, I can tell you more. Of course, I can’t be too specific so how about if I tell you something like the kindling caught fire in our bedroom, and I had to put out the fire. Then you’ll know exactly what happened, won’t you? But it will be our little secret. Now, I’ve chatted enough about me.

Abel is doing very well, and he loves those wooden animals that Hoss carved for him. Adam has been taking him on rides around the ranch putting him on a small pillow in front of him on the horse. He loves horses so much that Adam says he takes after me, and I said he rides well already because I’ve seen how he moves with the horse and with Adam as they ride. He’s going to be a natural when he gets old enough to ride on his own.

I do so look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Brenda

 

Chapter 2

August 16

Dear Brenda:

I am so pleased that you wrote as you promised to write. Like you, I have no female companionship, and unlike you, there is no woman at all in the house here. It was a bit sad to wake up the morning after you left and realize I was once more the only woman in the house. The men here are fine men, but it would be nice to have a woman to talk with more often than on Sunday or on that occasional trip to town for supplies. Some of the married men could live on the Ponderosa if there were quarters for their wives. I’ve been pushing the idea, but you do know how our father-in-law resists the idea of changing anything. You get those big old eyebrows lowered and that silky voice of his telling you that they’ve done things this way for over twenty-five years and haven’t had a problem. Joe of course at that point should have stood up for me but he looked the other way and tried to avoid getting in the middle of it. You can bet he heard about that later. The next time I bring it up, he better be front and center helping me out. Hoss just kind of grinned and looked down at his plate. I think he had a good idea of what Joe was going to face later.

Speaking of Hoss, he has been a grouchy old bear ever since you and Adam left. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this. He doesn’t talk nearly as much as I’m used to hearing him talk. He doesn’t tell his funny stories. I asked Joe what was wrong, and he said that the gal that Hoss was interested in has decided to move on to another man so Hoss never got the chance to ask her or something like that. I couldn’t get a straight answer out of him about that. It was like he didn’t want to talk about it at all. Something else is strange. Ben asked Hoss to swing over to your ranch on the fall drive with the cattle that will be held there for the winter and he said he didn’t want to go near your ranch. He wants Joe to do it instead and he’ll take the rest of the cattle to the stockyards. Ben doesn’t like that because Joe is a better negotiator and will likely get a better price there. Now, did Adam and Hoss have a falling out of some kind? I bet Ben is going to be asking Adam about that because he wants to know what is going on, and Hoss isn’t talking.

On a happier note, I got your letter a few days ago, and yes, I was embarrassed about the changes in my appearance. I had been hiding including using darkness at night to hide from Joe. I shouldn’t have. You were right. My husband was as inquisitive as you said he would be. He looked. He touched. He wasn’t gentle. I guess he doesn’t have that same background as Adam so he felt no reluctance. We had quite a good time, and the kindling was on fire twice. I put it out both times. Thank you so much for your advice. I’m a much happier woman today because of it. Now if we could find a way to help out poor Hoss, that would be a good thing too.

Meanwhile, yes Joe is proud as a peacock too about what he’s done. Candy told me that the last two Saturday nights in town, he’s bought a round at the saloon to celebrate. He came home early both nights though. He doesn’t want to leave me alone too long. He has been very attentive and wonderful. However he can be a bit overprotective. He doesn’t want me to walk down the stairs by myself. Isn’t that silly? He’s afraid I could fall. I never fell before so I don’t know why he thinks I would now. He brings me a wrap as soon as there’s a breeze. My goodness, it is August. I don’t need a wrap. Most of the time, I would rather have a cool bath instead. It is nice that he cares so much, but this overprotectiveness could get to be too much though. I told him to go on the fall drive when he said that maybe he shouldn’t be gone that long. It’s quite a few months yet before the baby will be here so I told him in no uncertain terms that he would be going on the drive. He can’t expect his father to go. It will be nice to have some quiet time to get things ready for the nursery while the men and commotion are gone. I’ll have time then to get the curtains and the bed linens ready. The room is freshly painted and Ben is working on refinishing the old cradle that Joe had as a baby. It’s going to be wonderful.

One wonderful thing happened while I was talking with Ben about that cradle. He told me quite a bit about Marie, and then he shared what Marie told him about the boys. She must have been a very observant woman. She said that my Joe was a small boy but a bundle of energy. Now I know that’s the truth. Ben was proud to say too that she said he has much of his father in him. Unfortunately, he has some of her family too, and she warned that he would be a challenge to all who know him because of that. She said he would fight every fence, boundary, and obstacle ever put in his way because he would see each one as a challenge and none as legitimate. He would need constant reminders that life has rules and they must be followed for the benefit of all, but his saving grace would always be his good humor, his smile, and his love for his family which would never know any bounds. Now doesn’t that sound just like my Joe?

Her description of Hoss was perfect too. She was one very smart woman. She said that Hoss cannot do anything but step in to help because caring is the biggest part of him. When she first saw him those cherub cheeks, she didn’t see the goodness within reflected in those clear blue eyes and that smile of an angel. He truly is the most innocent of all. He sees good in everyone and everything. She knew that would cause him heartache, but it would also mean that he is a godsend to many, and he is the glue that holds this family together. He is the heart of the Ponderosa, and that’s why it’s especially sad that he is hurting so much now. I certainly hope that we can help him somehow.

Now, I’ll get Joe or Hoss to post this tomorrow and I look forward to reading your next letter too.

Yours sincerely,

Amelia

 

Chapter 3

August 30

Dearest Amelia:

You speak of Joe as overprotective, and I must admit, that made me smile. I simply cannot picture that devilish boy as an overprotective husband. Perhaps it is that impish smile he has or that giggle that drives his brother to roll his eyes, but I have this image of him that seems so at odds with how you describe him. When you speak of overprotective though, do you remember whom I married? My lord, the man can’t seem to stop himself sometimes. It seems he needs constant reminders that I am a grown woman and that I am in good health. If I do feel a twinge or some such, I have to smile and act like nothing is wrong because of how he acts if I have the slightest complaint. It is so magnified when I am with child. I thought I would not go through this again as I had thought Abel might be our only child but with this coming so soon after him, I now wonder just how many children we might have. Adam had never fathered any children before so I thought perhaps we wouldn’t have so many, but perhaps he wasn’t only lucky, perhaps he was quite careful. I cannot imagine that he was inexperienced. Then again I also thought that he would relax a bit because we had been through this once already, but I was wrong on that score. The further we go into this term, he seems even more worried as if the second one means an even more dire circumstance may befall me as if I used up my luck the first time.

As if that isn’t enough, Saunders is trying to dictate my every move. Every day, she tells me what to eat, what to eat, and tries to tell me what to do nearly every minute of the day. It makes me wonder sometimes if she has forgotten who is the employer here and who is the employee. She likes to take me to task for every thing that isn’t up to her standards or expectations. It really is becoming quite irritating. I don’t know what changed with her. Chambers may be the only one who still acts like a normal person around me. Saunders is like my drill sergeant during the day, and a right sourpuss one at that, and Adam is my male nanny if there is such a thing at night. At least he is unless I can set that kindling on fire. Then he needs to tend to the fire and all those other silly thoughts get driven from his mind right quick. Those nights are much more pleasant for me, but sometimes I must admit I’m too tired to light the fire. Then I must put up with the endless pampering. I know that must sound so petty and ungrateful, but it simply isn’t the kind of person I am, nor is that the kind of relationship we have except when I am with child. I wish so much that I could live and act normally well until that last month of course. Then when I can’t see my feet any longer and every task is an effort, I wouldn’t mind being helped and pampered a bit then. I know sometimes I get upset with him when I feel like he is smothering me but then I feel guilty afterwards because he is only trying to do his best for me. He always tries to do his best for those he loves. I know that.

Now, I do have an important question for you. Is Hoss coming to the ranch with the cattle for overwintering? I ask because I need to know whether to get the linens out for the extra large bed that he likes to use when he’s here. I want to air out the spread and get the sheets washed and have everything fresh and ready for him if he’s coming. I do like it when he comes, and Saunders normally likes it too because he appreciates her cooking. They seem to get along too so I thought perhaps they were friends perhaps. Although this time I’m not sure she can be friendly to anyone. Please find out and let me know. If Hoss is still in that unhappy mood, you can bet he’ll talk to Adam about it so it would be good to get the two of them together, don’t you think? Adam would really like to help his brother. I told him what you said about Hoss being so grouchy, and I could tell that upset him. If Hoss comes here, Adam will help him. I know he will. Well, anyway, Ben has to be the one to give the orders so I hope he makes the right decision. And there will be an added benefit for me because if Adam is busy helping Hoss, then he won’t have all that time to pester me with all his concerns for my well being. I do care for Hoss too and I want him to be happy.

Now I loved reading about what Marie said about Joe and Hoss, but what did she say about Adam? I must know if Ben told you that. Please tell me. Adam has told me stories about Joe. I can share. When he was little, he liked to do everything for himself just like his brothers did including putting on his own boots. Well apparently he often put them on the wrong feet after getting them broken in. They of course didn’t fit properly as he had gotten them to adjust to his right and left, and then wore them the opposite way. Too stubborn to admit they could be wrong, he would often wear them that way. When he was old enough for school, the first day, he did that. Adam tried to tell him he shouldn’t go to school that way, but he insisted his boots were fine. When he got to school apparently the other boys made fun of him for how his boots looked. He came home and told his father he needed new boots because his old boots looked funny and none of the other boys at school had funny looking boots like his. But of course he said nothing about having worn them on the wrong feet. Of course there are stories about him bringing frogs into school, putting one on his tongue to scare the girls, and of him trying to keep spiders and mice as pets. You can imagine how his father must have reacted to that last one. You should ask Ben to tell you about these things. I’m sure he would love to tell you stories, and while Joe is away on the drive would be the perfect time too.

From here, I’ve got nothing new to tell you this time. If Hoss comes here on the drive, perhaps in one of my next letters, I’ll have something to say about what’s been bothering him so much. I hope so. I hope he comes here and that he talks to Adam about it.

I hope to hear from you soon,

Brenda

 

Chapter 4

September 16

Dear Brenda:

By now, Hoss should be about a week away from your ranch by the timetable they discussed when they set out on the drive. We’re expecting to get a telegram from them any day now telling us that they’re on the other side of the mountains. Ben was quite insistent that Hoss had to be the one to take the cattle to your ranch, but he was quite sour about it. He hardly was speaking to his father by the time the men left on the drive. Ben said it was the best thing for the Ponderosa to have Joe do the negotiating, and unless he could come up with a sound reason why it should be done the other way, then that’s the way it was going to be. I think he wanted Hoss to explain why he was acting the way he’s been acting or at least say something, but Hoss just scowled and said he’d do it then. Ben said something about him being too darn much like his brother. I assumed he meant Adam because we both know Joe never hesitates to say what’s on his mind.

Before Hoss left, he gave me a lecture about taking care of myself so Joe wouldn’t have to worry while he was on the drive. It was so out of character for Hoss, I think you can picture me with my mouth dropping open. I had not an idea at all of what to say and said nothing. Later as I thought about it, I wondered why he would do that, but I guess he’s in one of those moods where he’s unpredictable. I told Joe what he did, and Joe talked to him and asked him why. He said he wanted me to know that I should value what I have because not everyone is lucky enough to have what I have. I guess that lady that he wanted to ask to marry him really hurt him quite badly and he hasn’t recovered yet. That must be why he’s acting the way he is.

Joe is worried about being gone, and he’s given me a list of things he doesn’t want me to do while he’s gone. If he had his way, I think I would be locked in our room until he gets back. There is no way that I plan to follow that list but it was sweet of him in a way to think about protecting me even when he’s gone. He told his father about the list too. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem though. Ben had that look that says he understands as Joe was explaining the whole thing to him, but then he looked at me, smiled, and winked. It was all an act to reassure Joe so he wouldn’t worry while he was gone. I’m sure that Ben and Hop Sing will make sure to look out for me, but they both are more realistic and know that with three months left, I can still do a lot of things.

I do need to go see Doctor Martin this week. He said he wanted to keep a close watch on me. He told me but not Joe. I have a feeling that he knows how overprotective our husbands can be and didn’t want to make Joe worry too much. I do think that the doctor is a little bit worried though. He told me last time that he thought there was a chance that my baby might come a little earlier than expected. I only hope it’s not too early. He told me not to do any riding or do anything like lifting anything too heavy. I’ve been careful that way and haven’t even had to think about it with the men around here catering to my every need or at least it feels that way. While Joe’s away, I may find time to talk to our father-in-law and confide in him what the doctor has said. I still don’t want Joe to know because I’m afraid of how he will react, but I trust Ben’s judgment so he’ll be someone I can trust to advise me on this. It does seem rather strange to have to talk to men about such things, but I really have no choice in the matter, now do I?

In my last letter, I should have thought to tell you what Ben said Marie’s observations of Adam were, but my mind got so focused on Hoss and his troubles, I have to admit that it slipped my mind. Now I’m sure you’ll agree that she had Adam pegged right. She told Ben that Adam’s more of a free spirit than he is. To Adam, the world is a marvelous place, and he needed the chance to explore it, to try new things, to test himself, and to see what he has never seen before. He loves his family without reserve, and he will never let go of that. He loves as passionately as anyone she had ever known no matter how much he may tries to hide those feelings within himself. She told Ben to let him fly free because she said then he would always come back home when his flight was over because the Ponderosa is his home. When he said those things, it seemed to match everything that I know about Adam.

You were so right about Ben wanting to talk about his sons. We were in stitches as he told stories about Joe especially and laughed. I could hardly talk most of the time because I was quite overcome with hilarity to hear these tales. Ben seemed so appreciative to have an audience for these stories that he can’t seem to wait each day to tell me more. I must say that my Joe was quite the little scamp when he was young. Some of these stories make me wonder about him, and I hope he doesn’t tell some of these stories to our children and have them try to follow their father’s path. You’ll have an easier time of it in that regard. The stories that I have heard of Adam are of a much more serious youngster except for that first encounter with alcohol. Perhaps you need to ask your husband to tell that tale. From Ben’s perspective, it was quite hilarious, but I would guess perhaps even time may not have made it quite that funny from the other side.

Now, please write to me as soon as you have news about Hoss or if you have any more advice on dealing with my condition. I do so look forward to your letters.

Yours sincerely,

Amelia

 

Chapter 5

September 30

Dear Amelia

There is so much news, and so much that has gone wrong, that I am not sure at all where to begin the story. Never fear that anything has gone wrong with me and the baby I carry. No, the story and the mess concern Hoss and Saunders. I never would have guessed how crazy and silly things have gotten and all over a misunderstanding that has become quite a mess. Now, I really shouldn’t call her Saunders. I have taken to calling her Katherine, which is her given name. It is a very pretty name actually and we should use that name for her. I am trying to get Adam to use that name too. It is so much more polite than his bellowing Saunders when he wants something.

Now you do know that both Hoss and Katherine started to act very unhappy at about the same time. None of us realized it was because they had words. Apparently Katherine told Hoss that she never wanted to speak to him again and never wanted to see him again. She turned her back on him and walked away. Poor Hoss had no idea what he had done wrong. He was devastated. It was only after Hoss told Adam all of this and left that we were able to piece all of it together and make sense of it. Remember when Hoss said he had a lady that he was thinking of asking to marry him? Well, the only answer we can come up with is that lady must have been Katherine. Now what Adam thinks, and it makes sense to me too, is that Katherine was very interested in Hoss and when he said he had a lady he was going to ask to marry him, she felt rejected. She thought he meant someone else so she decided to reject his friendship before he could reject her. So when he saw her the next day, she was all ready with her fiery speech and let him have it and then retreated to lick her wounds never giving him a chance to say anything. You know how Hoss is. He probably stood there not having any idea of what to say. It probably took all he had in him just to go to face her to try to ask her to marry him, because that is what Adam thinks he did. He thinks that Hoss had to get up the courage to go ask her because we were about to leave and he wouldn’t have another chance to even see her for a long time and then only briefly. But when he finally steeled himself to do it and then to get hit with that must have been a terrible shock. Now we have two people who cared about each other and each one hurt the other deeply even though they didn’t mean to do that. What a terrible mess this is.

From what Adam said, he’s never seen Hoss quite so devastated. He’s been in love before, but I guess he was thinking this might be his last chance at happiness and it’s lost. Or he thinks it’s lost. Adam has told me that I can’t get involved in this. He says it’s up to Hoss and Katherine to work things out if they’re going to work things out. He says that we did and you and Joe did and so Hoss and Katherine will if it’s meant to be. I wanted Adam to write a letter to Hoss to explain things, but he won’t because he says it’s all supposition anyway. He won’t write a letter unless he knows facts. I said I could talk to Katherine and find out the facts at least from her perspective, but he said then I would be being a busybody, and he doesn’t want me doing that, interfering in other people’s lives, and I understand that. So, what I was thinking is that we have to find a way to get Hoss and Katherine together somehow to give them a chance to work things out for themselves, but I don’t know how we can do that with her here and Hoss there.

We need to come up with a plan of some sort. I’m going to have to give that some thought. You should think about that too. We have less than two months until we travel to the Ponderosa. We’re going to be there in early December. Adam wants us to go early because if the weather takes a turn for the worse, we’ll head back here early. He wants me home for the arrival of our baby.

Now on a lighter note, we have to talk about some names for the baby. It was fairly easy with the first one because Adam knew my feelings about using his name. I don’t know if you know this. We never spoke of it, but I had a child before I married Adam. I named him Adam because I already had met Adam, and he was the best and strongest man I had ever known. The father of that little boy never deserved to be remembered. Sadly, my little boy died and is buried next to my parents here on the ranch. I can’t bear to give that name to another child. So we talked of fathers and grandfathers and settled on Abel Joseph for the first boy. A girl was going to be Anna Elizabeth. If it’s a girl this time, it will be easy because we can use that name, but now we have to come up with a second boy name, and we aren’t agreeing on what it should be. Adam wants to use Benjamin but I would like to use Marcus or Samuel from my side of the family. He already got to use Abel from his side so it only seems fair. If I may be so bold, what names have you and Joe discussed?

Thank you for that note about Marie’s observations about Adam. Yes, she certainly did have him pegged just right. Now that you wrote that, I think Ben told me something similar to that at one time, but I don’t think he mentioned Marie as the source. He said that when Adam went away to college and then again later, he kept that thought in his mind to reassure himself. Now, I am hoping to hear from you soon, and hoping too that you have some ideas for helping Hoss and Katherine.

Yours sincerely,

Brenda

 

Chapter 6

October 15

Dearest Brenda:

Oh my, dear friend and sister, you won’t believe how sad Hoss is now. He returned to the ranch in even worse shape than when he left. I can see how worried his father is and so am I. He mopes around and he’s not eating like he should. You know that’s a terrible sign with Hoss when he’s lost his appetite. Now we had so hoped that Adam could have talked to him and gotten somewhere with him, but those men have made no progress. It’s up to us to get this worked out. One thought I had was that as much as Katherine cares for you and as worried as Adam gets about you, if you started to complain about some twinges, wouldn’t that make both of them want Katherine to come with you when you come here for the holidays? In fact, perhaps you could come even earlier? I’m truly sorry to put the burden on you, but at this point, I can’t see any other alternative. I’m waiting for Joe to arrive home, which should be any day now. He wired that he got an excellent price for the part of the herd that they took directly to the stockyards so Ben is quite happy with his decision to send Joe to do that job. Now though it seems that none of us can come up with a solution or a way to help Hoss. He trudges around here like we’re nonexistent. Perhaps if Abel was here, then Hoss would lighten up at least a little. Now there is another possibility. Talk to Adam about that cure for Hoss’ melancholia. He and Abel get on so well together. Perhaps Adam would be willing to come early so that Abel might help Hoss. I know that Adam would do anything he could to help his brother, and that seems like something he could do without violating that strict code he likes to adhere to all the time.

 

October 17

Dearest Brenda:

I am so sorry to have interrupted my own letter to you, but as I was writing, Joe arrived home. I’m sure you’re well aware of what it’s like when your husband comes home after being gone for so many weeks. He’s sleeping now. We’ve been burning the kindling, and then yesterday, he wanted to go on a picnic, and we had quite a campfire, let me tell you. My dear Joe said that he knew that we wouldn’t have this opportunity again for quite some time and perhaps years so he wanted to take advantage of the moment. He is quite the romantic.

While we were on the picnic, we did have time to talk too. I told Joe everything because he doesn’t mind knowing all those things. You would not have believed the shocked expression on his face when I told him who the lady was that Hoss had been planning to ask to marry him. Like others, he had assumed that Katherine was much older. I guess her way of talking and acting makes her seem older. She does seem a lot like your mother in how she treats you so we kind of got used to thinking of her that way and assumed her age to fit that role. When I told him how the confusion occurred, he understood too how Hoss would have been unable to step up and explain it to her. It probably took all of his courage to approach her, and he didn’t have any left to try to go after her after she flattened him like that.

Now, Joe told me my plan will never work. He told me that you can’t act ill of your husband will never let you leave the house. I had forgotten about how extremely Adam can overreact to you having any kind of illness or even the hint of one when you are with child. Joe thinks he has a plan though that can work. He says that you need to get Katherine in on a conspiracy. You tell her that you’re feeling twinges and other things that women who are with child feel when things aren’t going well. I mean, I don’t know what those things are, but maybe you could ask the doctor for what the bad things are to watch out for. Anyway, you tell her that you’re feeling some of these things but you’re afraid to tell Adam or he’ll cancel the whole trip to the Ponderosa and seeing the family. Tell her that you’re worried that Adam might even insist on bed rest for you until the baby is due, and that would just kill you. She knows you, and she would know how such enforced isolation and inactivity would prey on your mind. So once you have confided all of this in her, you ask her to please, please travel with you to the Ponderosa and help you. She can hardly say no. You need her. Now, I told Joe that I didn’t know if you could lie like that to a friend, but he said such a lie is really only play-acting and not really lying. It’s times like this when I realize that Marie pegged him exactly right. But, I do think the Lord might forgive us this one little instance of premeditated prevarication because it is to help two people who need it so much. Once we get the two of them together in this house, I think we can work out the rest of the trouble between them. At least, Joe is confident that we can. Or I should say he’s confident that Adam can work it out once we get them here and set Adam up to oversee the mess. He’s probably the only one capable of straightening out such a tangled web.

So what do you say? If you say no, then I must say the whole thing falls into your lap because I have no other idea.

There is one other small problem I am having. Joe has some very unusual ideas about naming our child. If it is a girl, he wants to call her Orleans. I detest the thought of such a name for my daughter. For a boy, he thinks Sword would be quite a good name. I’ve tried to talk to him about these names but he can get quite touchy about some things and apparently this is one of those things. Please help me. I saw Ben’s eyebrows nearly rise to his hairline when he heard Joe say those names, but he will not interfere in his son’s marriage. Normally I like that but this is one circumstance in which I wouldn’t mind a bit of interference. Do you suppose I could ask him to talk to his son and try to reason with him? I guess I know the answer to that. I shall do it. We shall work together to give Ben’s grandchildren names of which they can be proud and not embarrassed. On this, I hope to have better news in the future.

I do look forward to hearing from you and pray that your answer is yes or that you have come up with a brilliant plan to bring those two heartbroken souls together.

Yours sincerely,

Amelia

 

Chapter 7

November 7

Dear Amelia:

There is no need to answer this letter. We will be on the Ponderosa before an answer could likely reach me. I must say that I feel terrible in that I was planning on deceiving both my husband and my friend. It would have worked of course exactly as you and Joe expected it would. I couldn’t do it though. I confided in Katherine that I was feeling some unusual twinges and some slight aches and pains that I didn’t feel last time until a few weeks before Abel was born. She of course was immediately worried and wanted me to see the doctor. I said that I had, and that he said everything was fine, but that I was still quite worried. I told her that of course I couldn’t tell Adam. I told her that I was so afraid that he would order me to our room and literally lock me in there if I refused to stay put. She knows he would too. With the doctor thinking everything is fine and me unable to confide in my husband, of course I came to her. It was the most natural thing in the world so she accepted it as we all knew she would even if it’s all a lie. The hard part was asking a huge favor of her, and I could see the pain it caused her to even consider the possibility. Acting as if I didn’t know why she would even consider saying no, I pleaded my case for her to travel with us again to the Ponderosa to help me saying of course that there was no one else I could turn to for the help I needed for that trip. She knows that is true too. I couldn’t keep going though. My heart and my soul are not in subterfuge and deceit. I admitted right then and there that it was all a story to get her to go with me. She asked me why I was trying so hard to get her to travel with me, and while I was overcome with tears she supplied an answer that I could agree to. She asked me if I was worried about the child I carry and I could honestly say that I am. She said she understood and would come with me. I was so relieved not to have to lie to her although I did not say I also wanted to get her to the Ponderosa so that she could be with Hoss, but that is certainly a beneficial side effect of her volunteering to be with me to help me. Perhaps it was still a lie of omission but that I can accept.

With my best friend willing to come with me and that part successfully completed, I had to concoct an elaborate argument for my husband too to get us to travel to the Ponderosa soon. He is so good at detecting any kind of falsehood though that I had to find an explanation that was plausible even to me. What I came up with was based on the truth and was that if I started to feel that my time was getting too close, that perhaps we could return here for Christmas so the baby could be born here as we planned. He of course asked if I was having any pains or problems, and then at least I could honestly answer that no, I was not. What I did tell him was that it is terribly difficult to know with precision when exactly I was with child and that perhaps I was wrong about the month. I did point out to him how large I already am. He had already noted to me that he thought this child might be bigger than Abel because I seem to be larger in my seventh month than I was with our little boy. That gave me the opening I needed for that persuasion. He’s on board now too. However what I told him was the truth after all. I am large and the baby may come earlier than I anticipated. It does give me worry, and it was why I was able to persuade Katherine to come with me even after I admitted to her that I was not feeling badly but that I was worried. The only subterfuge is not telling Adam that I am as worried as I am for I am not sure that he would let me travel if he knew my concerns. However we leave soon and then only the Lord will know what the future may bring us.

Hence, my caution not to send a letter in that we will be on the Ponderosa before a reply would likely reach me as you will not receive this before the fifteenth at the earliest most likely and perhaps as late as the seventeenth or later the way the mail has been running with the rainy weather and such lately. A reply would not possibly get here before we have left because we plan to leave here on the twentieth to arrive on the Ponderosa before the end of the month even with a short stop in Sacramento where Adam has some business meetings. Please do tell Ben and the others that we will be arriving then so that he can have the rooms ready.

Our Christmas gifts for the family are being shipped so you can expect a crate to be delivered at some point too. Nothing inside is breakable. Adam said that the crate should be placed in the storeroom until he arrives. He has a couple of small mysterious packages that he won’t talk about. He has them wrapped in brown paper and locked away in his office. I am insatiably curious as to what is in those small packages, but he is tightlipped about them as he is about any secret.

We have at last settled on some names. As I said, we will call a little girl, Anna Elizabeth, but a boy will be Samuel Benjamin. We’re going to use names from both sides of the family again. I hope Joe has given up on that Orleans name and settled on something more suitable. We’ll chat about that when I arrive, but Joseph is such a good name, I must wonder why he isn’t considering using that for his firstborn son. Could it be that he worries that his son could be called Little Joe too? I know he doesn’t like that at all. But there are so many other strong names to use that would be so respectable why would he want one that sounds like it belongs in a dime novel? Never mind because I think I answered my own question right there. Yes, do talk to Ben about it. I’m sure that Joe will listen to his advice on that.

Now I must get busy. I have to make a list of all the things we need to pack, and then I have to get busy preparing for the trip. Abel takes a lot of my time, so these tasks that sound so simple take much longer than you might think. You’ll find out about that in a few months. I’m so looking forward to seeing you again.

Yours sincerely,

Brenda

 

Chapter 8

December 7 on the Ponderosa

Nearly the whole Cartwright clan waited at the train station for the arrival of Adam and his family who were set to arrive that morning. Ben had received a telegram from Reno to tell them of the expected arrival time and how much luggage they were carrying. Because of the number of people and that fact that the anticipated crate had also arrived, they had brought the carriage, the surrey, and a buckboard. Hoss had not wanted to come but they needed three drivers so he had to come with them. He stood to the side in his usual unhappy slouch of late and waited silently for the arrival while Ben, Joe, and Amelia chatted. By this time, they all knew of his unfortunate encounter with Katherine and wondered what would happen although none of them had been able to find a way to talk to him about it. All of them hoped Adam would be the one to broach that topic. When the train was spotted in the distance, Ben felt the usual increase in his heart rate. He was never going to get used to any of his sons being gone from the Ponderosa even if it wasn’t that far away and having him arrive back home was exhilarating each time as much as having Hoss and Joe arrive back home safely after a cattle drive or even at the end of a day of work. But this was magnified by the length of time Adam had been gone. Of course now he also waited to be reunited with his only grandchild. As the train pulled in, Ben stepped up as close as he could and waited. Joe nudged Amelia in the side and pointed at his father. Both smiled seeing his look as he waited. When Adam appeared at the top of the step with Abel, Ben’s smile could not have been bigger except when Abel ran to him with arms wide open. Of course he ran like a drunken sailor because he was still a toddler so he fell and Ben had to pick him up and soothe him but that’s what grandfathers are for or so he told everyone who cared to listen. Adam was busy helping Brenda who was quite large surprising Amelia who hadn’t expected her to be quite so big already as Amelia hadn’t quite gotten to that stage yet and had thought they were at about the same time.

“Welcome home, son.”

Smiling at the greeting, Adam asked where everyone was going to ride because he said that Brenda wasn’t feeling well and hoped to get going quickly.

“Well, if Brenda isn’t feeling well, you should sit with her in the back of the carriage. I’ll drive and Abel can sit with me. Perhaps Joe and Amelia can take the surrey with your luggage and Hoss can take the crate and any extra baggage in the buckboard. Katherine, would you like to ride with Hoss?”

Ben got a frosty negative answer to that as Katherine asked to please ride with Amelia and Joe in the surrey. Turning to Adam with a plaintive look, Ben decided to go all out in trying to get things healed between Hoss and Katherine, and he knew Adam was probably the key to thawing the two. “Adam, perhaps if Brenda is feeling that unwell, Katherine might be the one best suited to be with her now. You could ride with Hoss and keep him company. I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about, don’t you?” Ben could not have been more direct except by stating it explicitly. Brenda, Joe, and Amelia all gave Adam the same look that Ben was giving him. He threw up his hands.

“Fine. I’ll ride with Hoss.”

“Ya don’t need to do me no favors. I kin ride by myself.”

“Believe me, this is no favor to you. Now let’s get all this luggage loaded so we can get to the ranch. I’m thinking I’m going to need a big brandy by the time we get there.”

Soon they had everything stowed away for the trip home. Ben and Brenda shared a conspiratorial wink as they climbed into the carriage. Ben thought that his daughter-in-law looked quite rosy cheeked and contented for someone who wasn’t feeling well. As she and Katherine sat in the back, they talked quietly for a time and then Brenda did fall asleep. Abel didn’t though pointing at every new thing he saw on the way and waiting for his grandfather to talk about it. Ben enjoyed the ride to his home more than he had in years.

Adam however didn’t enjoy the ride much at all. At first, Hoss refused to say anything at all so Adam began talking about general things and then decided to take the plunge. “I know something about what happened between you and Katherine that you don’t know.”

“Nothing happened between us cause there ain’t no us.”

“That is where you are very wrong. When you were at dinner and thinking you were letting her know in advance that you were going to pop the question to her even though you hadn’t even kissed the woman yet, she thought that you meant someone else. She thought that all her hopes and dreams were dashed like eggs smashed on a rock with no hope of ever being put back together again. When she told you she never wanted to talk to you again, it was because of that. It wasn’t what she actually wanted.”

“It sure sounded like it. She said it, and I been taking her at her word. It’s the same as any woman. They look at me and they see a big, ugly stupid man, and they don’t ever want to see me or talk to me again.”

“Listen, you have to get off this train of thought. It’s leading you right into a wreck that you won’t ever be able to fix. You are not ugly and you are not stupid. Because some ignorant children called you that when you were young, and because some ignorant people may say that now because they know it riles you up is not a reason for you to think it. You are a smart man. You should think for yourself. You have done marvelous and wonderful things. A stupid man could not have done the things you have done. I wouldn’t be alive if you were a stupid man. The Ponderosa wouldn’t be what it is if you were a stupid man. As for being ugly, I have to say that you are not cute like little Joe and you won’t turn the ladies’ heads when you walk down the street.”

“Well thanks a lot. I sure needed to hear that.”

“Hoss, listen to me. How many men fit that category? How many men walk down the street in town and not a single lady turns her head in appreciation? Almost every person in the world is ordinary in most ways. Some are short, some are tall, and some are average height. The same is true of looks, weight, hair color, and all sorts of other things. Every one has talents and skills and things about them that are wonderful. You have to get to know each person to know those special things. You are one of those people who may be somewhat ordinary in looks but you have a treasure of special things about you. Your heart is bigger than most. Your skills are greater than most, and your senses are the best of anyone I have ever known. Don’t you think that someone like Katherine would have learned that and come to appreciate that in you? She’s a smart woman. Give her some credit too.”

“Well, she’s the one told me to go away. She wants to see me, she knows where I am, and she ain’t made no effort to see me, so I guess you’re wrong about that.”

“If I wasn’t so afraid of what your fists could do to me, I’d stop this buckboard right now and punch you in the nose. Damn, you are a stubborn Missouri mule!”

“Guess that’s one of those special things about me that you was talking about then, ain’t it?”

The two brothers passed the rest of the ride in uncomfortable silence. Adam was frustrated in not knowing what else to say, and Hoss was thinking about what Adam had said and unwilling to accept it as truth. He was fairly sure that Adam was mistaken in what he believed to be assumptions. When they arrived at the house, Adam shook his head at his father and the others who were disappointed. As they moved luggage inside and got everyone settled, Hoss and Katherine did their best to avoid one another making it very obvious to all of the others that nothing had changed. The only thing that Amelia had said to him was that she was glad he was home so that he could help straighten things out around there and that she wished he hadn’t taken his family so far away. It was a clear complaint about him living in California and he resisted the urge to answer it. The only thing Hoss had said to Adam was that the house was sure crowded with all the people he had brought along. It wasn’t the warm welcome he had hoped to get.

At dinner, it was the same. Conversation was limited until Brenda brought up baby names. Ben was pleased to hear the names they had chosen. However when Joe brought up the names he liked, Sword and Orleans, Adam’s mouth dropped open because he had thought that by now Joe would have changed his mind. His baby was due in just over a month yet he still had those odd names in mind. He seemed so proud and the dinner table conversation was already so limited that Adam said nothing and shut his mouth. Ben saw him do it and nodded ever so slightly in acknowledgement. He had the same opinion of those names and had hoped that Amelia would have been able to persuade Joe to choose something more conventional for the child’s sake. Just the week before, Amelia had asked Ben to talk to Joe about it. Ben was resisting but knew that he might have to interfere for the child’s sake if this went on much longer. He had mentioned to Adam that Amelia had made that request and Adam wondered why she didn’t make an issue of it with Joe. But Ben had hoped that after the way Adam had reacted, Adam might say something and perhaps that might get Joe to reconsider. Joe waited for someone to say something about the names he liked so much. When no one did, he was obviously unhappy about it pouting as he sat there and dinner conversation lagged again. Hoss wouldn’t talk because Katherine might respond, and Katherine wouldn’t talk because of the possibility that Hoss might respond to something she might say. It made everything very uncomfortable.

After dinner, Brenda took Abel up and tucked him in for the night. When she returned to the great room, she found silence. Apparently the topics of conversation all tended to run toward things that made at least one person in the room unhappy so there wasn’t much to say. Finally Hoss did say something after small talk broke the quiet only a few times over the next hour.

“Adam, I guess you being here sure put a damper on things. Ain’t been this quiet in the house since I was home alone.”

That was about all the pressure that Adam could take. He stood. “What kind of lunatic asylum is this?” Looking at Hoss first, Adam stuck out his arm and pointed his finger at his middle brother and began advancing on him making Hoss stand and back up because of the ferocious look Adam had. “You have been acting like a bear doing your best to make everyone else miserable when this whole mess is your fault not ours. It’s entirely your fault that she didn’t know it was her you were talking about when you said you had a gal you were thinking about asking to marry you. If you had the backbone of a bear instead of the demeanor of one, she would know you meant her, and when you knew she didn’t, you would have gone after her, grabbed her, and made damn sure she knew.” Turning toward Katherine, it was clear that Adam wasn’t finished. “And you! You have added to all the worry that I’ve had. It’s quite enough that Brenda is with child again and that’s about all that I can think about most of the time when I’m not thinking about Abel. I have them to worry about and then you get some silly ideas and don’t bother to talk to anyone about them but retreat to your kitchen like some medieval sorceress cooking up foul moods to bedevil everyone within reach of your sour disposition. Now, you too had every right to ask Hoss what he meant, but you took the self-righteous and cowardly way to run off and lick your imaginary or self-inflicted wounds knowing how much it probably hurt him and not caring a bit about that or anyone else except yourself. Now you two had better fix things or forget all about it and move on. You will not ruin this holiday season for the rest of us.” Turning toward Joe, Adam wasn’t done. “And you want to give your child a circus name and you have your wife so upset at a time when she should be excited and joyful and preparing for the greatest moment of her life and your life too. Get your head out of dime novel names and think about your child’s future.” Still fuming, Adam wasn’t done. He looked at Amelia. “Stop scheming and talk to your husband. That’s what it means to be a wife. You’re part of a pair now. Start working on it.” He put out his hand for Brenda who took it not quite knowing what he was going to do. “Let’s go to bed. If they don’t act more decently toward me tomorrow, we may pack up and go home. I already have one child to take care of and one more on the way. I don’t have the energy to take care of four more who ought to be able to take care of themselves.”

With a quick goodnight to everyone, Ben followed Adam and Brenda up the stairs. He reached them before their bedroom door closed. “Son, I don’t know that all that you said made sense literally, but the gist of it certainly was powerful. You do have a way of commanding attention in a room when you want to do that. If anything will get through to them, that little sermon may have done it. I’m going to bed too now, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep.”

“I think I may sleep better now than I would have otherwise. I had to get it out although I have some apologies to make tomorrow.”

“I’m glad that you did and perhaps no apologies will be needed. Goodnight, and I hope it works.”

With that, Adam closed his bedroom door and Ben proceeded to his bedroom. He saw that Joe and Amelia had reached the upstairs landing too. That meant that Hoss and Katherine were alone downstairs. Ben waited until they were closer so that he could whisper a question.

“Does it look like Adam’s explosion did any good with Hoss and Katherine?”

“I don’t know, Pa. We left and they were standing there staring at each other. I’m not sure either one knows what to say, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. I only hope what Adam said was enough to get them to talk.”

“How about you two?”

“It was kind of a rude kick in the teeth to hear it that way, but I guess I had it coming. Amelia and I are going to go talk about some other names now.” Joe smiled and led his wife down the hall as Ben smiled even more.

Amelia nodded. “He was right. He sounded a lot like a father when he yelled at me, but I guess I needed that. Joe and I do need to talk more.”

Downstairs, Hoss and Katherine were still silent until Hoss broke the quiet. “Was what Adam said right? You thought it was some other gal I was going to ask?”

“So he was right and you were planning to ask me?”

“I guess we need to talk.”

“I guess we do.”

 

Chapter 9

In their bedroom, Joe turned to Amelia and asked if she agreed with what Adam had said about the names. She nodded. He asked if she thought the rest of the family agreed with Adam, which brought another nod. Joe slumped down on the bed because he had gotten the same impression. Amelia sat beside him.

“Joe, there are lots of good names for children. Why can’t we use regular names?”

“I don’t want a name that can be shortened into a nickname or have little attached to it.”

“But Joe, there are lots of names that we can use that are difficult to shorten into a nickname or that would sound silly with little added to them.”

“Oh yeah, name one.”

“I can name a number of them. Gabrielle, Michelle, Corinne, and Nadine for example.”

Joe had to smile but became serious. “That’s fine for girls, but you know I’m concerned about a son of mine who could be shorter than the other boys and smaller.”

“Well, there’s Isaiah, Isaac, Jacob, and Gabriel for starters.”

“You’re really good at this.”

“Joe, if you had been honest with me about what you wanted, we could have had this worked out a long time ago. I didn’t know why you were so set against the names I liked. Now I know, and I can understand. I do like Jacob or Gabriel for a boy. They sound like boys names but they also sound like man’s names so a boy can grow with the name don’t you think, and if there’s a nickname, it’s a manly one like Jake or Gabe.”

“I actually like Gabriel.”

“It’s a good too. How about Gabriel Joseph for a boy and Gabrielle Ann for a girl?”

“Wow, that was easy. I like that. I guess we’re all set. I have to thank Adam tomorrow for giving me a kick in the pants that I needed.”

“That was rather entertaining. I like having Adam here. He’s good for at least one big dramatic moment and that was the best one yet. That was so funny when he threw up his arms and asked what kind of lunatic asylum this was and then started in on Hoss. I never saw Hoss back away from anyone before.”

“I’ve only ever seen Hoss back away from two men: Pa and Adam when he’s angry. He sure was angry tonight.”

Joe started giggling then and Amelia joined in. The two released a lot of tension at that point with a bout of giggling that went on for quite a while. In the next room, Adam and Brenda heard the giggling and wondered about it for a bit until they were busy with other concerns. Brenda had decided that Adam needed to release some tension another way and the doctor had told them that abstinence was only a couple of weeks away. She decided that she needed to take advantage of his need and her desire coinciding. Later as Adam lay spooning with her, he had a question for her.

“Do I need to apologize for my behavior this evening?”

“I don’t think so. They all had it coming. If someone comes down for breakfast with a big old sourpuss, then I suppose you could, but perhaps you can let it just be forgotten. It either worked or it didn’t.”

“I said some rude things.”

“No you said some honest things although your wording was a bit rude in places.”

“A bit rude?”

It was Brenda’s turn to giggle. “Oh how I wished I could say things like that, but when I get angry, I can’t think of what to say sometimes, and I certainly wouldn’t have a speech to make. You’re quite good at that, you know.”

“I hope that Hoss and Katherine are finally talking to each other. They not only make themselves miserable but everyone else.”

“As long as we’re talking so honestly, I would like to know about your first experience with alcohol. Apparently your father told Amelia the story and she thought it was quite funny. I’ve never heard it. Why is that?”

“I didn’t ever think it was funny.”

“Will you tell me anyway?”

“I suppose as long as my father already told Amelia it doesn’t matter any more. It’s not a secret. I had my first alcohol when I was only about twelve. We were fur trapping then to get enough money to support ourselves and pay for all the supplies we needed and the things we needed to build up the ranch. Sometimes we traveled quite a distance north into the mountains to run trap lines or hunt. We were as far north as Shoshoni lands and ended up in a small rendezvous. The men there spiked my coffee with alcohol. I thought the coffee tasted odd, but they said it was the Shoshoni version and not to worry. The more I drank, the more I liked it so they kept giving me more of it. I got very drunk. Pa came back from making a deal for our furs and found me staggering around. He asked me if I had been drinking, and I told him no that all I had was coffee. He was furious with me and accused me of lying. I turned to the men who all started laughing and even in my drunken state I knew. I looked back at Pa and could see that he knew too. They had made a fool of me. I walked over to the two men who had been pouring the coffee for me and I was going to let them have it but walking over there really made things spin out of control quite a bit. By the time I got there, my stomach was in full rebellion. I opened my mouth to tell them exactly what I thought of them and spewed out my stomach contents all over them instead. I was horribly embarrassed, but the other men roared with laughter even as those two were furious and set out to get even. Pa grabbed me and shoved me behind his back saying that those two had set it all in motion so they could hardly complain too much for such an accident happening. I slept all night and into the next morning and woke up with the most horrible headache. The only good news was that the Shoshoni gave me a name, Wehuittsi. I thought it was quite an honor to have my own Shoshoni name, and I introduced myself to others with that name as we continued our fur trapping expedition until I found out what it meant.”

“What does it mean?”

Grimacing a little to have to admit it, Adam paused before he told her and even then with a caution first. “Please don’t tell this story to others. It’s bad enough that my father tells this tale. It means to vomit violently. I guess it wasn’t so much a name as a description of what I had done. No wonder every Shoshoni we met smiled when I introduced myself. They must have heard the story by then and got to meet the boy who had done it.”

Brenda started to giggle then and it grew in intensity even as Adam asked her why she was giggling so much. She took a breath to control it for a bit. “Oh, Adam, picture it: two men standing there covered in coffee colored vomit and your father standing up against them with his sick, drunk son cowering behind him hoping only to find a place to crawl under a rock and go to sleep. Then the next morning, he gets a name that commemorates the whole event and tells it to everyone he meets as if he’s bragging about the spewing of his stomach contents all over two men. Now, that is funny. Even you have to admit that.” She couldn’t help it and started giggling again, and Adam had to join in.

In the next room, Joe and Amelia wondered at the late night giggles that awakened them soon after they had fallen asleep. “All right, he didn’t have to apologize for what he said, but he better learn that we need our sleep around here of he’s going to have to apologize for that.” Joe snuggled up next to his wife and fell asleep and never heard Hoss come up the stairs and go in his room.

However Adam and Brenda weren’t quite ready to go to sleep yet. Adam had some things that had been bothering him a little and decided that he had cleared the air with everyone else so it was probably time to do so with his wife. “Brenda, is there anything that you want to tell me or should?” Brenda was quiet, but Adam felt the tension in her body increase. “I want honesty from you, and I feel that perhaps that hasn’t been entirely true lately.”

Turning in Adam’s arms to face him was difficult but Brenda knew it was important too even if it was dark and he couldn’t see her well. She did it, and then had to admit what made her feel so guilty. “I didn’t want you to worry. I have to admit that your constant fussing irritated me. I know it’s because you care and love me, but I’m not a patient woman. I was wrong not to tell you this, but as you have already noted, I’m bigger than I was with Abel at this point, and I’m afraid I may have miscalculated when I became with child.” Adam was silent but Brenda felt his arms tense too. “I was wrong not to tell you. I can promise you this. I won’t do that again. I know I was wrong to do it this time, and it’s made me feel guilty. I think you knew that too.”

For a minute, Adam didn’t respond, and Brenda worried that he was angry. He was but not terribly so. “Marriage is a growing process. I will accept that you will not do this again. If you do, you must know that I will be very upset and angry. I have a right to worry about you as much as I have a right to worry about Abel. You are my family. I am responsible for you. Don’t take that as anything more than that I love you and want to protect you. Tomorrow, we’ll go to town and you’ll see Doctor Martin. All right?”

“Thank you. Now, I am very tired. The long trip with all the delays especially was very hard on me. I think I may sleep in tomorrow morning if you don’t mind. I haven’t been very hungry in the mornings so I won’t mind missing breakfast. I’ll have a biscuit and tea later before we go to town.” Then she snuggled into Adam’s arms, and the two settled into a good night’s sleep.

For the first time in a few months, Hoss slept well too. He and Katherine had not only talked, but they had shared their first kiss. Finally they had shared their feelings for each other and admitted that they had made a mess of things by not talking with each other. They agreed to apologize to everyone the next day, but more importantly, they agreed that they were a couple and were going to see how things were going to progress over the next few weeks. If things worked out as they hoped, what Hoss had originally intended was likely going to come true. They weren’t going to share all of that with the family the next morning so it took them a while to decide how much to tell the family. Once that was decided, they spent some time getting to know each other a little better, and then decided they better get some sleep as they had plans for the next day.

At the dining table in the morning, Ben waited to see who would arrive first. It was Adam who came down the stairs rather sheepishly looking to see if there were any other family members around. He made his way to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat before he greeted his father.

“Good morning. I guess I get to have a last meal before the fireworks.”

“Oh, I don’t think there are going to be any. I heard Hoss snoring away last night, all night. I don’t think he’s slept that soundly in months so something must have put his mind at ease and let him sleep. As for Joe, he looked as if he was ready to talk to Amelia about names, and although he said you were rather rude in how you put things, he accepted what you said. It’s possible that we’re going to get some good news from him this morning as well.” Pausing for a moment, Ben looked up the stairs and seeing no one else, had to ask. “Is Brenda joining us? I didn’t hear Abel yet.”

“She said she was tired and wanted to sleep a little longer. With the travel, I guess she’s still tired.”

Adam looked worried so Ben had to ask more. “Do you think that’s all it is?”

“I don’t know. The unexpected delays because of business in Sacramento were hard on her because of having to try to keep Abel corralled in a hotel room, and then we got hit by bad weather as we traveled and the tracks had to be repaired so we had another layover as we waited for them to do that. All in all, it was a taxing trip for her, but she seems more tired than I expected. With Abel, she wasn’t like this until a couple of weeks before she delivered. We’re nearly a month-and-a-half away yet this time, but she’s concerned too about how she is feeling.”

“Well, son, each time can be different. Perhaps this time, she needs more rest. If that’s the only issue, then count yourself very lucky once more.”

“I do, Pa, I do. I’ve been very lucky, but I am concerned.”

Upstairs, Brenda wasn’t feeling very lucky though. The night before with Adam had been more uncomfortable than she had expected. Now this morning, she had feelings of pressure that she hadn’t experienced with Abel until a couple of weeks before he arrived. She didn’t sleep as she was too worried to fall asleep, but she did get some rest.

Next to arrive downstairs were Joe and Amelia who announced their name choices and brought a big smile to Ben’s face. Joe turned to Adam and put out his hand. Adam took it. They shook hands and knew that all was good between them. Amelia leaned down and gave Adam a kiss on the cheek sending the same message. Hoss arrived next with a smile. He slapped Adam on the shoulder a bit forcefully but in good humor.

“Boy, you talk to me that way again, and we may have to go outside and settle things, but last night, I had it coming so we’re good. It worked out too, so thank you.”

“I’m sorry that I was so blunt last night. I was tired from the trip and much too edgy.”

After everyone told Adam that he was forgiven for being rude because what he had said were some things that needed to be said, they apologized for treating him rather poorly on his arrival. With all of that out of the way, Joe and Amelia were quick to congratulate Hoss who was all smiles and who stood to greet Katherine when she came out of the guest room. Hoss pulled out the chair next to him, making it clear that the two were now on very good terms. Ben looked around the table and nodded. Things were definitely looking up again. All he needed was the whole family together again. He told Hop Sing to start serving breakfast as Brenda and Abel were still sleeping and needed to catch up on their rest after the long journey. Hop Sing agreed to keep breakfast warm for them. Later when Brenda got downstairs with Abel, Hop Sing began to get worried about her. She didn’t want breakfast and only had tea and a biscuit. He knew it wasn’t his place to say anything, but he was going to start paying close attention to Mister Adam’s lady because something wasn’t quite right. However Mister Adam didn’t seem too worried. That surprised Hop Sing until Adam came into the kitchen and explained to him. Hop Sing was pleased to be told and said he would be happy to have a light breakfast for Missy Brenda every morning and would make up some wonderful teas to help her stomach too.

 

Chapter 10

After Brenda had her breakfast, Adam explained to the family that because Brenda wouldn’t be seeing her regular doctor until after Christmas, he had told her that he wanted her to see Doctor Martin to be sure that all was well. He said that she was feeling a bit uncomfortable about her situation and had agreed without too much protesting. That made everyone smile because they knew how independent Brenda was. Adam said nothing about their suspicions that the baby might be arriving earlier than expected because he wanted to wait to hear what Doctor Martin would say about that first before he said anything to the family. That morning, they had had a brief conversation while Adam dressed and Brenda lounged in bed.

“Have you been feeling anything more than what you have told me?”

“Last night, it was far more uncomfortable than I expected, and this morning, I don’t feel well at all.” Immediately, Adam began to frown and the worry lines were there. “Now don’t get that look. I’m not in distress. It’s that I’m feeling very tired as if I didn’t get enough sleep and I did, and I don’t feel at all like eating this morning. I don’t want anything at this point but I will have to have something before we take the ride to town or I will be sick. Hopefully if I get a bit more rest, I’ll feel better later and have more of an appetite.”

“You didn’t get like that until just before Abel was born.”

“Yes, but I did get like that so it’s nothing new. I’m older now and perhaps it’s happening sooner. That’s all, but yes, I do like the idea of being able to talk to the doctor about it. That’s why I agreed to your idea so easily. It’s not that I’m scared, but I must admit some concern. I know you are too. It’s only natural, but it’s nothing to be too worried about yet. Let’s hear what Paul has to say first. All right?”

Agreeing to that, Adam was also helped that after Brenda was up and had that light breakfast, Joe and Amelia decided to go along with them when they heard their plans. It was a welcome distraction to have some conversation for the trip so the two couples headed to Virginia City for the same reason. By the early afternoon, they sat in the restaurant with the same surprised looks having gotten similar news from the doctor albeit for different reasons. Much as she suspected, Brenda had miscalculated when she had become pregnant and was due within weeks instead of within a month and a half as she had thought. Doctor Martin had told her that he thought travel was inadvisable unless she wanted to risk having her child on the train or in a carriage.

“I’m that close?”

“Not right now, but if you were to travel like that, anything could happen. That baby is getting ready to arrive, and you should be thinking about slowing down and relaxing a bit to give the baby all the time to make that arrival as natural as God intended.”

“We wanted to have the baby at our home.”

Doctor Martin had shrugged as if that wasn’t much of a concern to him. The health of the mother and baby took precedence with him, and he assumed it would with Adam too. From the look that Adam had, it would too. Next he went to see Amelia and she and Joe got somewhat more unsettling news.

“Your baby wants to come early. You’re about a month and a half away from when the baby should arrive but at this point, I doubt that you will make it to that. However I want you to get as close to that as possible. I cannot stress to you how important the next three weeks are. Babies who come this early have a very difficult time surviving. Babies who come three weeks early may be small but we can deal with that. Be prepared to keep a very warm bedroom and have lots of warm cuddling robes and blankets. You will have to feed your baby more often because each feeding will be less, but your baby will grow quickly. For the next three weeks, I suggest you do nothing other than take care of yourself. Anything else can be done by someone in the house and I know there are lots of helping hands there now. No more trips to town either. I’ll come out to see you in a week and make regular visits after that. Joe, you don’t have to look so scared. This has happened to many women. Bed rest or near bed rest is the usual prescription and it usually works. Nothing is critical yet and shouldn’t be if you follow my instructions.”

Shaken a bit, Joe and Amelia had gone quietly out to see Adam and Brenda and all four sat at lunch and quietly shared their news. Adam had asked for a table in the back corner rather than their usual window table. It was quieter in the back and further from all the other diners who might eavesdrop otherwise. Adam and Brenda had to decide if they wanted to take the risk of returning home immediately or probably spending several months on the Ponderosa. They talked at lunch and continued to discuss the idea on the way back to the ranch. On their return, Ben noted how serious everyone was when they came in the house. He waited for Adam and Joe to come in after taking care of the carriage and the horses before he asked what had happened. Joe was the first to explain. Katherine and Hoss were quick to step to say they would be happy to fill in to take care of anything that needed to be done. Then it was Adam’s turn. Joe and Amelia weren’t certain what he was going to say after hearing all the discourse and whispering that he and Brenda had done.

“Pa, would you mind if Brenda, Abel, and I stayed on here after Christmas?”

“Of course not, Adam. I would be pleased. How much longer were you planning to stay?”

“Oh, probably about three months or so, until the baby is strong enough and the weather is suitable for travel again.”

To his credit, Ben did a good job of acting. He didn’t jump for joy or anything like that. “Son, that is the best set of Christmas gifts you could give me. To spend time with you, Abel, and Brenda, and to get to be with my new grandchild for the first three months will be a wonderful time for me. Yes, of course that would be very good. I look forward to it. But why have you decided to do that? I thought you wanted the baby born on your ranch.”

“We did, but it seems our calculations were a bit off. The baby will be arriving on or near Christmas and not three weeks after it. We don’t have time for the travel unless we left now, and even then there’s no guarantee we would be home before the baby arrives according to Paul.”

“Well, your baby knows best perhaps. All right, we’ll lay in extra supplies and make sure we have enough room for everyone. I guess we’ll need another cradle. Oh, and another nursery.”

Joe was quick to disagree with that. “Pa, there’s no reason we can’t share the nursery. Both babies can use it. According to Paul, we’re going to have to keep our baby with us probably for the first few weeks anyway. He said to plan on keeping the baby close in a very warm bedroom.”

“We’ll still have to find a place for Abel to sleep. He’s been sleeping in that room.”

It was Hoss’ turn to disagree. “I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem either, Pa.”

Everyone turned to Hoss wondering what he was going to say. None expected the answer that was forthcoming.

“And why don’t you think that’s going to be a problem?”

“Cause Katherine and I been talking an awful lot and we decided we was gonna get married and we wanted to get married when Adam and Brenda was still here so we wanted to get married on Christmas Eve.” With his face looking a bit embarrassed, Hoss expressed the next part a bit more softly. “We’ll be sharing a bedroom so there’ll be another one for Abel to use. So you see, it ain’t gonna be a problem.”

The suddenness of the announcement took everyone by surprise so that there was a momentary silence before the place erupted in congratulations, good wishes, and not a few tears from the ladies. Of course, Hop Sing was soon there with beverages and cookies for a celebration. Abel didn’t know what the celebration was about but he did enjoy the cookies as he sat on his father’s lap very happy to participate in a family event even if the conversation was a mystery to him. His parents kept trying to explain things to him, but he was much too young to understand any of it. All he truly understood was that all the people he cared about in the world were in that room and they were very happy.

There was quite a lot to get done over the next several weeks, and everyone made sure that Amelia did nothing. Often she found herself resting on the settee and watching everyone work around her. Brenda noted that often Abel would go to sit with her and talk with her even though Amelia understood very little of what her son said in his toddler talk, but it was his effort that was appreciated. Amelia was good at drawing small scenes and she would do that to entertain Abel, which was a big help to Adam and Brenda and kept her occupied too.

Katherine began to pitch in with the decorating and the planning for the moves that were going to take place. Abel was going to use Hoss’ bedroom so he could be closer to his parents while Hoss and Katherine were going to move into the downstairs guest room at least temporarily. Adam suggested that they ought to clear out the storage room that was quite large back behind the stairs and under the second floor to create another bedroom and perhaps with a sitting room attached for one of the couples to use. It was a project they could do in the winter months and it would make the housing situation a lot easier on everyone. There was some discussion as to who would get the new bedroom, but Adam had an idea there too that caused both Hoss and Joe to agree was a fair and reasonable solution. With that settled, they worked on Christmas decorations and decorating the house for a wedding. It wasn’t too difficult because Hoss and Katherine decided that they wanted greenery and candles to be their main wedding decorations so that fit into the Christmas decorations quite well.

The only sadness anyone felt was when there were reminders that Amelia might deliver that baby much too soon. When the sons and Katherine went out to cut down a tree to use for their Christmas tree, Amelia could not go along. Uncomfortable with her size, Brenda voluntarily stayed behind to keep her company, but it was at that kind of moment that everyone remembered that they were fighting the clock on keeping that baby from coming too early. The other reminder was the frequent visits by Doctor Martin who was coming more and more often as Christmas neared and he suspected that Amelia was getting very close to having that baby. He told her to stay in bed or stay on the settee and do nothing else on his last visit only a few days before Christmas. After he examined her, he had a very serious demeanor and she knew what it meant.

“My baby is going to come soon?”

“Yes, I’m afraid that may happen. Now, you did get those three weeks that I told you were so important. That baby is larger now, and even if the baby comes now, we have a very good chance of keeping that baby healthy and strong. Have you gotten everything ready as I told you?”

“Yes, the room is sealed up nice and tight with no drafts. Adam helped Joe with that, and it’s well stocked with kindling and wood. We have some soft, cuddly blankets and lots of warm quilts. We’ll be ready to keep our baby warm and comfortable.”

“And the kettle to keep steam in the room?”

“Yes, Hop Sing already has it up there, and you know he’ll make sure we always have plenty of water too.”

“Good, then you keep resting and calm. No excitement and get lots of rest. If you feel at all like anything is happening, stay in bed. Don’t get out of bed for anything and have Joe send for me.”

There was nothing more to do but wait. That they had managed to get through those three weeks relieved some of the pressure on the young couple, but they knew they still had some worries ahead of them. The family was there to help though, and that meant a lot.

Finally it was Christmas Eve, and they could smile and prepare to watch Hoss and Katherine get married. Joe helped Amelia down the stairs and to the settee. It might have been a bit unorthodox, but she sat on the settee with her feet up and she leaned back on pillows. Next to the settee, Brenda sat in the red leather chair trying to feel comfortable but her back ached. All the other guests for the wedding stood behind them and up the stairs. There wasn’t room for all of them on the main floor because of the Christmas tree. Hoss and Katherine stood before the Christmas tree with the minister. Every guest was given a candle and once all of them were lit, Hop Sing turned down all the lamps that were still lit. The room was lit only by the candles held by guests and by the dozen candles on the Christmas tree. The minister led Hoss and Katherine through the wedding vows and then introduced them to the guests as husband and wife. Hoss shushed the crowd and asked them to join in his favorite song to celebrate his wedding. Adam strummed Silent Night on the guitar and led the guests in singing the hymn through the first verse, and then he sang several more verses of the song before asking the guests to sing the first verse one more time. They did, and that was the wedding ceremony. Hop Sing, Ben, and Joe went around and turned up the lamps again so the guests could extinguish their small candles. Many of the ladies present had tears on their cheeks at the beauty of the ceremony.

From that point on, it was a short party with a large buffet, some singing, and lots of talking and congratulating of the newlyweds. Finally it was time for the guests to head home. Ben had ranch hands with lanterns on poles to lead the caravan of carriages and wagons out so that everyone would have a safe ride. Even that was a sight to see with the lanterns bobbing along in the night along the road. As the guests were leaving, Brenda whispered to Ben who whispered to Paul that he ought to stay. Then Brenda tugged on Adam’s arm and whispered in his ear. His eyes got big and he looked to his father.

“It’s all right. Paul is still here in the kitchen with Hop Sing. They’re getting things ready. You should help your wife upstairs. You’ve been through this before so I assume you know what to do.”

 

Chapter 11

With Abel in Ben’s care, Adam helped Brenda into a gown and then into their bed. Soon Hop Sing was there with Doctor Martin. Katherine came in to help too.

“Oh, Katherine, you shouldn’t spend your wedding night with me. You should spend this time with your husband.”

“He’s the one who told me to come up here. He said we got lots of time, but you only got tonight to have this baby. Now, Hop Sing, you can head on downstairs and take care of all that mess. Adam, you can go help your father with Abel. He’s worried about why you and his mother left him down there instead of tucking him in for the night. When he hears his mother holler, he’s going to be scared, and I know she’s going to holler. I heard her when Abel was born.”

Rather relieved to turn his wife’s care over to Katherine, Adam kissed Brenda once and then left as instructed. Abel nearly leaped from Ben’s arms as he saw his father descending the stairs. He clung to Adam and made it very clear that Katherine’s advice had been excellent. Hop Sing began directing the other men as to what to do to straighten up and clean up after the wedding. That didn’t take long, and then as expected, there was a scream from upstairs that startled Abel and made him cry. Adam tried his best to calm him and explain that his mother was having a baby and it was going to be all right. Someone must have given Brenda something to bite down on, because her screams or hollers as Katherine called them were muffled after that. Downstairs they didn’t know that Brenda had demanded a towel to bite on knowing how much her scream would have scared her son and yet needing so much to release her feelings of pain and frustration at the labor pains. However as with Abel, her labor was relatively short.

“There he is, Brenda. You have a wonderful little boy. Meet your second son.” Seeing her look, Paul was surprised. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s a boy. I think Adam wanted a girl to name after his mother.”

“Adam will be happy to see both you and your baby healthy and doing well. He will be thrilled.” When Brenda started to cry, Paul knew he had to do something quickly. He told Katherine to get Adam there right away so she summoned him.

It seemed Adam must have leaped the stairs in a single bound because he was there so fast. Entering the room, he had a scared look and it got worse when he saw Brenda crying. “Oh no, did something happen to the baby?”

“No, not at all. Your wife thinks you are going to be terribly disappointed to have another son. She thought that you wanted a daughter to name after your mother.”

Stunned a bit by that and then mentally shifting gears, Adam shook his head and asked if he could sit next to Brenda. Paul nodded and smiled. Adam sat by his wife settling in very gently so as not to jostle her at all.

“Sweetheart, I wanted a baby with you, and I wanted you both to be healthy and good afterwards. That was my only hope and it was for that alone that I prayed. I am thrilled to have a son. I would have been thrilled to have a daughter. I have you and two sons. I could not be a happier man at this moment.”

“Really?”

“You know I don’t lie to you.”

Brenda started crying again, and once more apologized for not always being truthful with Adam about how she had felt during this pregnancy.

“It’s all right, sweetheart. We worked that out. I’m very happy. Please stop crying.”

“Maybe this will help.” Katherine had finished cleaning up their new son and swaddling him, and she stepped in and placed the baby in Adam’s arms. He leaned forward until Brenda could hold the baby with him. Neither of them paid attention to anything Paul or Katherine did from that point on as they finished what they had to do and cleaned up. Adam hardly noticed when Paul put a hand on his shoulder.

“When you’re ready, come on out to tell us that you’re ready for Abel to see his new brother and for Ben to see his new grandson.”

Brenda answered. “Paul, when you get downstairs, tell them to give us a few minutes for me to get in a clean gown. Then they can come up. I don’t want Abel to have to wait.” Katherine asked if she should wait and help Brenda into a clean gown. “Please, and thank you.”

A short time later, Ben was there with Abel. Katherine opened the door. “They’re ready for you.”

“Hi, Pa. Abel, here’s your new brother. His name is Samuel Benjamin Cartwright.” Abel looked at the tiny bundle in Adam’s arms. “You can call him Sammy.”

At that, Abel smiled and smiled more seeing his mother smiling and obviously all right. He asked if he could get up on the bed, and Ben helped him get up next to his mother. He got to hug her too. He leaned against Brenda and she wrapped an arm around him. Ben wanted to take him to put him in his bed, but Brenda said to wait for a few minutes and he would be asleep. She was correct, and Ben took him then after offering his congratulations to his son and Brenda on another healthy son.

As Ben walked down the hall with Abel in his arms, he heard some commotion and turned back to see Joe helping Amelia down the hall with Paul and Hop Sing following behind. Joe shrugged and looked to his father.

“As soon as Hoss and Katherine stepped out the door to go to the cabin for the night, Amelia started. Lucky that Paul was having a cup of coffee so he was still here. Looks like you get another grandchild tonight.”

This time Ben sat in the great room with Joe and waited. Amelia didn’t scream as Brenda had but her labor was thankfully just as short. In the hours just before dawn, Hop Sing came down to tell Joe that he could go upstairs. Like Adam, he raced up those steps. Ben had told him earlier to remove his boots though so he wouldn’t wake everyone when that moment came. It was good foresight because Joe had nothing on his mind except his wife and baby at that point. He rushed into their bedroom to find Paul at the bedside talking quietly with Amelia about skin-to-skin contact.

“As expected, Joe, your daughter is quite small, but she seems quite healthy in every other way. You and Amelia did a good job in getting to this point. Now you can tell we’ve already gotten the room very warm, and Hop Sing has the pot steaming there for you too. It has to be like this for the next month probably and perhaps longer. You may have to steam the room for the entire winter. Keeping your daughter lightly clothed but wrapped next to your body is one of the best ways to keep her warm. For the next month, do not take her from this room. She stays here at all times, and keep that door closed as much as possible. She will need to be fed often even if the amount is small. If she cries, she is probably hungry. I’m going to stay here for the next day if you don’t mind. I’ll help you get started with her care unless an emergency calls me away. Hop Sing will be helping too.”

“Thank you, Paul. Amelia and Gabrielle Ann thank you too.”

Paul looked relieved at the name. Apparently he had heard the story about Sword and Orleans. He nodded and headed downstairs to tell Ben he could go up to see his second grandchild born in less than twelve hours. It was a short visit for Ben who was quite tired even if he was very pleased. He headed to his bed falling into a deep sleep as soon as he slid into his bed.

The next morning was not the usual early Christmas morning on the Ponderosa. Slowly the family assembled downstairs except for Joe and Amelia and their baby who stayed in their warm steamy room until Amelia asked for a chance to sleep and sent Joe to join the others. Hoss and Katherine came back from their honeymoon night glowing as one would expect. Lunch was fairly quiet as Hoss and Katherine were astounded to learn there was another baby but Joe explained the seriousness of the situation, but Paul was there to help reassure them that everything should work out as they had the resources to do what needed to be done. Then they gathered by the tree to open gifts. Most of the gifts were what was expected until Adam brought out the three brown paper wrapped boxes he had hidden away and which had so intrigued his wife.

“I was in San Francisco and saw one of these, and decided to get one like it custom made for Brenda. Then I got the idea to have one made for Amelia, and at the time, one made for Hoss to give to his lady whenever he got one. You’ll see why when you open them. I would like you to open them at the same time.”

As Adam handed out the gifts, for the first time, Brenda saw the letters on them: A, H, and J. She waited until the other ladies had theirs and then tore off the wrapping to find a velvet box. Looking up, she saw the other ladies had the same. She opened hers as Katherine opened hers and Joe opened the one for Amelia. All three gasped. Inside was a gold locket on a gold chain. The locket had the map of the Ponderosa etched on it. Brenda’s had a diamond in the lake, Katherine’s had an emerald, and Amelia’s had a sapphire. Each of them seemed to gasp in unison with the others and couldn’t help themselves and opened the locket too. Inside the cover was an etching of Ben and his three sons. There was a foldout for placing small pictures in the locket too. Brenda’s had a picture of Adam and one of Abel in it with an empty place left for the baby. She started crying. Katherine, Hoss, and Joe were openmouthed with surprise and looked to Adam for an explanation.

“I’ve been making a lot of money with the railroad investments, and I wanted to get something for all of you that would be something that would tie us all together and be something that could be passed down to the next generation too.”

His brothers thanked him and his sister-in-law thanked him, and Brenda kissed him in thanking him even if she had to ask him to lean down over the baby to do it. Abel was sitting on the floor playing with his toys but he wanted to kiss his mother too when he saw that so that took a moment longer. That was the last of the presents under the tree, but Adam asked Hoss and Joe to go help him with the crate. Now they were intrigued by what might be in there.

“Well, you know how you both got him those Paiute blankets and said they were going to look so good in his new bedroom or study. Well, this is going to fit that same idea quite well.”

Soon Hoss helped Adam carry a rather awkward bundle into the house as Joe took care of the door. They set their burden down in front of their father and asked him to pull the heavy cloth from it revealing a rocking chair but no ordinary one. Ben was amazed at it and stared for several minutes looking at every inch of it. Hoss was just as appreciative of the workmanship as Brenda explained.

“We have a very good furniture maker near our home in California and a very good leather worker. Adam convinced them to collaborate on this project. By the time they finished, they decided they might make more items like it. Adam may have helped create a new business.”

The chair was wood but had a leather back, seat, and arms. The back was hand tooled leather showing the map of the Ponderosa. The arms were the Ponderosa brand surrounded by cattle and horses. The wooden parts of the chair were Ponderosa pines as well as various forest creatures carved in great detail. The overall effect was stunning.

“I don’t know if I should sit in it or display it as a work of art.” Smiling then, Ben turned and sat in his new chair finding that the seat as well as the back were well padded and comfortable.”

“Thank you, son. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a chair as magnificent as this. I may not hide this away in a bedroom. I may keep this right here for everyone to see. I can see myself rocking by the fire smoking my pipe and watching my grandchildren play and seeing my sons and daughters here. This is wonderful, but the best Christmas gifts of all were a Christmas Eve daughter-in-law, a Christmas Eve grandson, and then a Christmas Day granddaughter. No one could possibly have had a better Christmas than I did.”

Joe said that he had had a pretty good Christmas too and took the locket upstairs to give to Amelia. Hoss said that his Christmas was wonderful, and Adam and Brenda seconded that. Ben said there was only one thing to make his life perfect. Adam and Hoss looked to him wondering what he meant.

“Now I want that bedroom and study. I started to hear those babies crying last night, and I decided that you boys had a great idea. I am looking forward to it.”

Paul smiled and slapped his old friend on the shoulder. “It’s been a good Christmas for me too. I like getting called out here for this kind of call. So much better than the usual for you Cartwrights.”

That brought another round of laughter. The day was filled with more of that, good food, and good cheer. Another year moved closer to a close, and all was good on the Ponderosa with the family all together once again.

The End

 

 

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Author: BettyHT

I watched Bonanza when it first aired. In 2012, I discovered Bonanza fan fiction, and started writing stories as a fun hobby. I have hundreds of stories now. If I am unavailable and anyone needs permission to post one or more of my stories on a site such as Bonanza Brand, AC1830 and/or Mo1427 are authorized to give permission in my absence.

2 thoughts on “Dear Friends and Christmas Gifts (by BettyHT)

  1. What a fun wrap up to the entire series. Brenda and Amelia have formed a tight friendship and now will add an other into their midst. I absolutely loved Adam’s ‘explosion’ to get everyone back on track. I felt like I was sitting in the living room with my mouth open in shock and holding my breath until he finished. Whew! Go Adam, you tell ’em! Ben has to be on top of the world after all the gifts he received. Thanks for an adventurous series. Since it had been a while since I read it the first time, this second time was like it was fresh all over again. Kudos.

    1. Thank you so much for your detailed review. Yes, the plan was to end the series with a story that left the reader feeling good by the time the smoke had cleared. Giving Adam a chance to vent was the best way to get a lot out into the open that needed to be said. I’m glad you enjoyed the series.

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