Cheers! (by VRON)

Summary: Adam is reluctant to go to the local dance.
Raging:  G    Words:  7,875

Brandsters Note:

The Brandsters have included this author in our project: Preserving Their Legacy. To preserve the legacy of the author, we have decided to give their work a home in the Bonanza Brand Fanfiction Library.  The author will always be the owner of this work of fanfiction, and should they wish us to remove their story, we will.



“L’il Joe, if’n you don’t stop pacing and set down, you’re gonna wear a hole in the rug and be so danged tired, you ain’t gonna be fit for any dancin’,” Hoss declared.

Joe stopped in his tracks and swung round to face his brother, his arm gesticulating wildly towards the front door. “So what? If we don’t get going soon, the dancing’ll be over.”

“Now don’t go getting all so fired up. We’ll be there in plenty of time,” Hoss said, trying to placate his younger brother. His eyes twinkled with suppressed merriment. “’Sides, you know tonight ain’t just about the dancin.” At his words, Joe relaxed and flashed him a mischievous smile.

Hop Sing emerged from the kitchen and trotted across to the big man on the sofa. “You no go yet?”

“Happen not, Hop Sing,” Hoss frowned and looked towards the empty staircase. “Seems we’re not all ready yet.”

“I get bath on time. Not my fault he come home late.”

Hoss sighed. “I know that, Hop Sing. Anybody’d think he didn’t wanna go to this dance,” and he glanced sideways at his younger brother.

Joe gave him an even wider, conspiratorial grin and winked, “Can’t think why not.”

“Nope, beats me,” Hoss agreed, feigning bewilderment.

Footsteps on the stairs drew the expectant attention of all three and Hoss half rose, but when only Ben materialised, their mutual disappointment was plain and Hoss sank back down into his seat.

“Well?” Joe demanded, moving to meet his father. “Where is he?”

“Oh, he’s coming,” his father assured him and crossed the room to pour himself a brandy. “Anybody else want one? We might have a little wait.” He turned to survey the others but there were no takers for his offer.

Joe flung up his hands in despair. “Any chance he’ll appear for tonight’s dance or is he getting ready for next month’s?”

“Now, Joe, give your brother some time. It couldn’t be helped that he was held up unexpectedly.” Somehow, the slight smile on Ben’s face and the mocking tone in his voice betrayed the fact that he did not altogether believe the excuse given by his eldest son to explain his tardiness.

“I just knew he’d try to get out of tonight.” Joe threw himself down beside Hoss in disgust.

“Of course you did; we all did,” admitted his father, relaxing into his customary chair and sipping his drink. “I thought we’d got every contingency covered but, to give him credit, he’s certainly come up with some delaying tactics.”

“Well, we figured he’d pull the stunt of getting home late, so it was a good thing me and Hoss did all his chores early on,” Joe explained.

“And when he did turn up, I got Sport groomed and bedded down so’s he could go get his bath,” Hoss continued.

“I keep water hot for when he come. He no say he have to wait because water cold,” Hop Sing added, pleased that he had played his part.

“I’m still wonderin’ what it was he done to get all muddied up like that,” Hoss confessed. “I think he was hopin’ it’d take him so long to get washed that we’d get tired o’ waitin’ and head off without him.”

“Naturally.” Ben’s eyes gleamed at the memory of when his usually tidy son rode slowly into the yard. Anyone with a suspicious mind might think that he had deliberately rolled in the muddiest waterhole he could find. He must have been desperate!

Joe took up the story. “You know, when Hop Sing, Hoss and me suggested …”

“Threatened,” Hoss interrupted.

“Volunteered,” Joe corrected, “to go in there and scrub his back …”

“His hair,” again from Hoss.

“His chest.” This was from Hop Sing.

“ … it was surprising just how quickly he got clean,” Joe finished.

“Well,” Ben added, not to be outdone, “I laid his clothes ready, polished his boots, brushed his hat, and left out one of Paul’s powders in a glass of water.” He saw the puzzled looks spread across the others’ faces. “Just in case he got a headache,” he concluded, his expression serious. There was a pause as his words sunk in and then all four burst into laughter.

“I got Charlie to organise some of the men, Pa,” Hoss was really beginning to enjoy himself now.

“Yep, it was big brother’s turn for stocking up the firewood but he must have accidentally forgotten to do it.” Joe emphasised the ‘accidentally’.

“And Hop Sing couldn’t survive without firewood so Adam’d feel duty bound to stay behind and miss the dance while he chopped some, but Charlie got Will and Seth to help out,” Hoss continued.

“So now I have enough firewood for a week,” Hop Sing beamed.

“Then Adam spotted a hole in the roof of the hen house this morning and we knew he’d be so worried about Hop Sing’s chickens gettin’ caught in the rain – not that we’re expecting any – that he’d offer to stay behind and fix it, so Hoss told Charlie and he got Jake an’ Dan to put it right.”

“That’s very considerate thinking,” Ben praised, struggling to keep a straight face, “and just in case Adam got any other ideas, I hid the new books he picked up in town yesterday. It was a good suggestion of yours to take the buggy, Hoss. That way, no horse could suddenly get spooked on the way to town and head off in another direction. Have you hitched the team?” The boys nodded. “ Then I think we have all done a magnificent job in making sure that there is nothing outstanding that might prevent your brother from attending this dance with us.”

“Short of him sticking his fingers down his throat,” Joe muttered.

“Now don’t be giving him ideas,” Hoss warned.

Someone coughed nervously and heads turned to watch Adam slowly descending the stairs. In a black frock coat, crisp white shirt, black ribbon tie, freshly shaved and with hair still damp, he cut a dashing figure.

“Well, Hoss, lookee here at who’s scrubbed up all clean and handsome,” Joe whistled, sidling up to Adam’s right and taking his arm.

“He smells good too, don’t he, Joe?” and Hoss moved to get a strong hold on his left arm. Escape was now impossible as they escorted him forcibly towards the door.

“I think he’s out to impress the ladies.”

“Only one, Joe; only one.”

Adam tried unsuccessfully to dig his heels in and halt his progress. “Pa …” he turned to look beseechingly at his father and Ben felt a prick of conscience at his part in the proceedings as he saw the irrational terror in his son’s eyes.

“Jest think, Joe.” They were nearly at the door. “She’s come all this way on a visit to have a dance with our brother.”

“Yeah, who’d have thought it.” The door was open. “Miss Abigail Jones is back in town.”

“Yep and she’s only a buggy ride away!” and the pair guffawed as they dragged their hapless brother out into the night.

Ben shook his head and then donned his hat; this was going to be a night to remember. Trouble was, he had no idea just how memorable and for what reasons!


Much later, Hop Sing dozed comfortably in the warmth of the kitchen – his territory – and wondered sleepily how the evening was unfolding at the dance in Virginia City. He started a little at the remorse which stung him for having played his part in the family’s conspiracy against Number One son.

The fun had begun three days earlier when Hoss had returned from town with supplies, the mail and the news that Abigail Jones was back in the area for a brief visit. Widowed the year before, she had allowed what she considered to be a suitable time to elapse in accordance with propriety before commencing her travels and deciding that her first main stopover would be to see friends back in Virginia City where she had once taught.

The word was soon on the street that she was husband hunting again and that top of her list was one of the most eligible bachelors in the area -Adam Cartwright. She had had more than a passing fondness for him once before, although it had never been mutual, and apparently she was having no problem rekindling that old interest. She made it known that she would be attending the forthcoming dance in order to renew relations with the aforementioned Mr Cartwright.

This had been repeated by Hoss over dinner that night, much to the amusement of all except Adam, who was deeply mortified. Hop Sing could not help overhearing much of the conversation whilst collecting empty plates and returning with the dessert, a strawberry rhubarb pie. Usually much favoured by the eldest son, it was totally ignored on this occasion as he threw his napkin onto the table beside his untouched pie, pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.

“Well I have no intention of being the side entertainment for the residents of Virginia City. As of now, I’m not going to the dance and whilst that … that …” he struggled for a suitable word that would not offend his father yet would vent his anger, “ that Harpy is anywhere around, I’m not leaving the Ponderosa.” With that, he stormed to the front door and yanked it open. “And you can’t make me,” he added in almost childlike petulance. Adam disappeared out into the night air and the door slammed shut behind him.

“I wouldn’t bet on that, brother,” grinned Joe, never one to dismiss a challenge.

Hoss scratched his head. “I never knew Miss Jones played an instrument.”

Ben frowned, “No, son, not a harpist, a harpy. It’s a ….never mind. Get your brother to explain when he’s cooled off a little.” He turned his attention to his youngest son who sat, eyes gleaming with suppressed mirth. Ben recognised the signs. “And just what little plot are you hatching, Joseph?”

Joe laughed. “It’s a good one, Pa, but a tough one and we’re all going to have to work together on it because big brother sure isn’t going to make it easy,” and he let his eyes rest on the other three men. Hop Sing leaned forward eagerly at being included.

So that was where and when the great conspiracy began. Ben’s first task was integral to the whole plan; it was his job to change Adam’s mind about attending the dance.

“I’ve spent his entire life trying to get him to change his mind on things. What makes you think I can do it now?” he had objected as Joe outlined his scheme.

“You stand more chance of succeeding than Hoss and me; he trusts you,” Joe pointed out, handing his father a very large brandy.

“Exactly, he trusts me and a father should never undermine his son’s trust,” Ben declared before taking a mouthful of the brandy. He looked at the glass intently. “Nor am I open to bribery, Joseph.”

But Ben had done his bit, appealing to Adam’s sense of pride. With Miss Jones’ pursuit of him being common knowledge, his failure to put in an appearance would suggest to the gossipmongers that he was frightened of a mere woman and that would be highly detrimental to his reputation, especially as a businessman.

“I am frightened of her,” Adam’s mind screamed, but he gave in to his father’s persuasion, appreciating the reasoning. “You don’t know what she’s like, Pa,” he had tried one last time, his argument weakening. “She’s like a dog that sinks its teeth in and won’t let go.”

“Adam, you’re exaggerating,” his father said patiently. “I’ve never known you back away from an awkward situation. Just keep calm, and tell her politely but firmly at the start of the evening that you are not interested.”

Adam had remained unconvinced but, not wanting to disappoint his father, had appeared to comply with his wishes about going to the dance, although in the intervening days he had begun to think of ways he could get out of attending. His family, meanwhile, were equally unconvinced about his acceptance of events and so there had commenced a battle of wits, one which, ultimately, Adam seemingly had lost.

Now, the sound of the door opening and loud voices in the great room brought Hop Sing fully awake and, curious as to what had transpired, he went out to greet the family. His jaw dropped and he stopped dead in his tracks at the sight before him.

“Take him straight up to bed, boys, and get him undressed. I’ll be up shortly,” Ben ordered, removing his hat and jacket.

Joe giggled uncontrollably as he headed up the stairs carrying Adam’s coat, hat and string tie. Hoss followed, the limp form of his older brother slung easily over his left shoulder.

“What happen?” Hop Sing found his voice at last, his eyes wide in amazement.

Joe suddenly stopped and Hoss cannoned into him. The big man cursed softly and adjusted his hold on his unresponsive burden.

“Hop Sing, it was priceless. It went better than our wildest dreams,” and Joe began to laugh again.

“Get going, will ya, Joe, big brother here’s getting a mite heavy,” Hoss scolded and the two headed up the stairs and out of sight, their father watching them go.

“Coffee still hot in kitchen,” Hop Sing offered. “You come, have coffee and tell Hop Sing what happen.”

Ben followed him out into the kitchen. Sinking tiredly onto a chair and nodding his thanks as a steaming cup was placed in front of him, he sighed.

“We thought we’d outwitted him, Hop Sing, getting him to that dance but it seems my eldest son was not to be outdone and had one more card to play. I have to confess I had not realised just how much he was dreading tonight, nor how formidable a woman Miss Jones can be. It appears that a desperate situation called for desperate measures. Poor Adam,” and he sighed again, just before his features broke into a wry grin at the memory of an eventful evening.


Ben was sitting alone at the breakfast table and savouring a second cup of coffee when a low groan came from the stairs. The patriarch of the Ponderosa stifled a knowing smile and rearranged his features into an expression that was more sympathetic.

He watched as Adam very slowly descended, his knuckles clearly white as he clutched at the banisters, carefully manoeuvring down each step and his posture oddly stiff. He moved at a snail’s pace across the room to join his father and gingerly lowered himself into a chair, his eyes little more than narrow slits. Usually well groomed, even at the start of a day’s ranching, he was now nothing short of a disaster area. He had nicked himself twice when shaving and had made a poor attempt at brushing his hair; two rebellious curls stood out at an odd angle from behind his right ear. His shirt was untucked at the front and wrongly buttoned so that the left side of the collar stood up nearly to his jawbone.

“Good morning, son.” Ben’s voice was hardly loud but his greeting elicited an immediate wince from Adam. He lowered his tone. “How are you feeling?”

The head did not turn but an eye opened a little wider. The voice was a harsh whisper. “Is that a joke?”

“It wasn’t meant to be one.”

At that, Hop Sing emerged from the kitchen to begin clearing away. His eyes settled on the late riser and he flashed Ben a wicked grin. Straightening up, he folded his arms in feigned annoyance and launched into a loud scolding.

“Ah, now you come down. Hop Sing done all the cooking for the morning. Have other jobs but now you here. You want food. Hop Sing have to start again with eggs, ham, potatoes, grits …”

No!” Adam gasped, interrupting the cook’s flow. “Just coffee and plenty of it.”

Ben saw him blanch at the mention of food and, pouring the remains of the strong, dark liquid into a cup, he pushed it towards Adam before handing the pot to the cook for refilling. He watched as Adam warily sipped at the beverage. “Why don’t you take your coffee and go back to bed?”

“And lie down?” Adam shook his head and instantly regretted it as the slight movement induced an explosion of pain. He swallowed hard. “No thanks, vertical’s good. Where are Hoss and Joe?” The last things he needed now were their noise and their taunting.

“They’re taking care of things.” Ben did not add that he had given them strict instructions to complete their brother’s chores as well. Joe had been the first to complain.

“But, Pa, we made sure we did them all yesterday and some, just so’s he could go to the dance.”

“Yes and because of that, you made sure he wasn’t up to doing them today.”

“Now, Pa, you know it weren’t our fault big brother couldn’t hold his drink,” Hoss intervened.

“Betcha don’t give him grief,” Joe muttered. Whenever he returned home a little the worse for wear, his father was very short on pity and full of admonishment.

Ben frowned. “Oh you certainly had a hand in it somehow.” So did I, Ben admitted to himself as he now glanced towards the miserable figure to his right.

“Pa, last night … I didn’t …..I mean, I wasn’t … other folks … did I …?” Adam was not sure how to proceed. He desperately needed to know but was afraid of what he might hear.

“Did you do or say anything last night for which you ought to be ashamed this morning?” Ben phrased the question for him and there was the slightest nod in response. There was just a moment‘s temptation to spin the suspense out a little longer but then he studied his son. The boy looked dreadful as he sat slumped at the table, his breathing shallow and rapid, a greenish cast to his normally tanned face. “You did not disgrace yourself, Adam. Far from it. You were a gentleman throughout.” Unlike me, Ben added silently.


“I’m sure. Just how much do you remember of last night?”

Adam was far from being an abstainer, but he always managed to exercise that cool, self control, even when inebriated – much to the annoyance of his brothers – and Ben was having trouble thinking of a time when Adam had ever got himself into such a state that he could not recollect events. Generally, everything that Adam did or thought was carefully measured, even down to getting drunk.

And he had certainly been drunk this time! Ben felt a growing conviction that it had been a calculated move on his son’s part.

Adam pinched the bridge of his nose as he struggled to organise the vague memories of the previous evening.. At length, he turned troubled eyes on his father. “Everything up to where she hit me; after that it’s all blank.” His expression changed to one of horror. “She didn’t knock me out, did she?” Oh the humiliation!

Ben laughed, “Of course she didn’t; she only slapped your face. You were still capable of walking out the building after that.”

In fact, he had looked highly capable as he headed out into the night. Admittedly his departure had been at a sedate rate but he had held his head high and not wavered from a straight path. It was only when Hoss had followed him and found him in the buggy, unconscious, that the family realised just how much he must have downed during the evening.

“So, is this morning’s hangover by accident or design?” Ben probed, curious to learn whether his supposition was correct.

Adam allowed himself a wan smile. “A bit of both, I guess. I needed all the courage I could get!”

Ben nodded his understanding. He had witnessed the arrival of Abigail Jones; an arrival that was late and loud and guaranteed to get her noticed. Her eyes had swept the room in a very unsubtle manner until she picked out the figure for whom she was looking. Ben saw the flicker of panic in Adam’s eyes and he had the impulsive urge to protect his son at all costs, especially when he suddenly had the bizarre image of Adam as a sort of sacrificial lamb. The cause of his son’s fear was bearing down on him like a ship in full sail.

“My dear Mr Cartwright,” she had cooed, thrusting an outstretched hand under his nose, “ I am delighted to see you again after all this time.”

Ben was impressed. Aware that the eyes of the whole room, and not just his family, were on him for his reaction, Adam drew himself up to his full height, took the proffered hand and dipped his head in polite greeting.

“Mrs Meyers, what a surprise! I trust I am not too late to offer my condolences at the passing of your husband.”

“Good one, son,” Ben had thought to himself. “You’ve not encouraged her by saying it’s nice to see her and you’ve reminded her in your opening gambit that she’s widowed. Now just make sure you let her down gently.”

If only things were going to be as simple as that! As the hours passed, it was evident that Miss Jones was on a mission and, with a sinking heart, Adam could almost see the matrimonial chains she carried with her – just for him.


Gradually, father and son began to piece together the happenings at the Virginia City dance, a task complicated by Adam’s alcohol-addled brain and Ben’s repeatedly pressing more coffee on him.

It appeared that the contents of the punch bowl were the sole responsibility of one Josiah Clements, who was notorious for his secret recipe with its undeniably alcoholic kick. Even with that knowledge, Adam had added brandy from the small hipflask he carried in his inside-breast pocket. Hoss and Joe plied him with refills and he had continued adding that something extra but it was only when Hoss caught him topping up his fourth glass that the confession came.

“Dadburnit it, Adam, you’d better watch yourself. Joe an’ I have been puttin’ in a dash o’ somethin’ each time we’ve gotten you a drink.” The rot had begun!

At that point, Miss Abigail Jones had made her grand entrance and set course straight for Adam. Impervious to his chilly greeting, she had endeavoured to monopolise his attention, much to the amusement of all who watched. Earlier, Adam had expressed a desire not to provide the gathering with supplementary entertainment but that could no longer be avoided. Folks were sympathetic to a degree regarding his position but there was too much mileage to be had in seeing how the cool, aloof Cartwright would deal with this increasingly overbearing woman.

Joe was organising a series of wagers amongst the men based on whether or not Adam would ultimately lose his temper and be blatantly rude to Miss Jones, or how long it would be before he escaped her clutches by some other more honourable means. For Joe, it was a lucrative evening and he quietly let slip that information to Hoss as they returned home.

Ben was furious when he overheard the conversation but his attention was on Adam, who had slid sideways away from his father and was in imminent danger of being ejected as the buggy travelled over some particularly rough ground. Removing Adam’s tie and loosening his collar, Ben drew him closer until the dark head rested against his shoulder.

“Take it easy, son,” Ben warned. “We want to get home in one piece.” Hoss immediately slowed the buggy, pulling lightly on the reins.

“Yeah, you go jiggling us around much more’n Pa’ll have big brother throwing up in his lap.”

“This is no joke, Joseph. You and I will discuss the matter of the wagers later.” There was an edge to Ben’s voice that indicated he was not about to let the matter rest.

“I wouldn’t like to be in your boots when Adam hears of those wagers, Joe. Reckon he’s had about the worst evenin’ ever tonight. He knows everyone‘s had a right good laugh at his expense an’ that’ll sit none too well with him,” Hoss mused.

“You’ve changed your tune,” Joe fired at him. “You played your part in all this.”

“I know, Joe, an’ right now I feel mighty bad about it.”

“Not as bad as big brother’s gonna feel when he eventually wakes up,” Joe quipped.

There had been no reaction from Adam when Ben recounted the conversation as they sat at the breakfast table. Now Ben knew, without a doubt, that his eldest was feeling very ill; too ill, even, for a sardonic raising of an eyebrow.

Once the social niceties had been observed at the dance, Abigail Jones had asked Adam to fetch her a punch. He had, but as she took it from him, the musicians started to play.

“Oh a waltz, Adam. My favourite dance,” she hinted heavily, flashing him a demure smile. He tried to explain that the first waltz was promised to another.

“I’m sure the young lady won’t mind on this occasion, Adam.” She slipped her arm through his and almost pulled him onto the dance floor. “I might only be here in Virginia City for a short while unless …” and she let her comment trail off unfinished as she fluttered her eyelashes in his direction and bobbed in a curtsey. Adam’s stomach lurched as they began to dance. Try as he might to maintain the maximum distance between them, Abigail moved in towards him, her hold tightening.

Various dances followed and she managed to keep him on the floor. Adam knew that the more he danced with her, the more people would misunderstand and he had seen the scowls directed his way from several disappointed young ladies. He suggested that they take a break.

“Oh no, Adam, we can’t stop now. I am enjoying this so much. My late husband disliked dancing and tried, for my sake, but he was not as talented as you on the dance floor. It became something of an embarrassment so I did not press him any more. You, on the other hand, have such grace and style, it is such a pleasure. Just one more,” she pleaded, loudly enough for a nearby couple to hear.

“C’mon, Cartwright, you can’t disappoint this lovely lady,” Taylor, the ageing banker, insisted as he danced past with his wife. So there was one more, and one after that, and the one after that as Abigail repeated her doleful requests within earshot of other dancers. Conveniently, they all expressed sympathy at her simple desire. How could Adam deny her wish for another turn around the dance floor?

Sighing heavily, he gritted his teeth and shot her a weak smile each time as he extended a hand to take hers. On the last circuit, he could see Joe and Hoss standing to one side and watching him closely, chatting animatedly and obviously enjoying his discomfort. Fleetingly, his eyes met those of his father and he tried to communicate a silent cry for help but Ben merely responded with a powerless shrug and raised brow.

“Enough, Mrs Meyers,” Adam said eventually. “If you don’t need to sit down, take pity on a poor rancher who’s been up since five and out on the range all day.”

Her disappointment was plain but she clung to his arm as he led her from the floor. “Abigail, please. We’ve known each other long enough for you not to be so formal and Hank, God rest his soul, has been gone a year now. He would want us to be enjoying each other’s company once more. In fact, I’m sure he would encourage it,” she purred.

“I’ll get us some drinks,” Adam said hastily and headed for the table where Ben was refilling his own glass.

He handed one to Adam who downed it in one, his hand visibly shaking. Before he could respond, Amy Walcott marched up and scolded him for missing the first waltz with her.

“Now, dear, I think you ought to be spending time with the boys nearer your own age and leaving the adults to enjoy themselves,” Abigail intervened, squeezing herself in between Amy and Adam.

The torture continued. When she was overcome with heat from further dancing, she begged him to take her outside. As a gentleman, he could hardly refuse and was painfully aware of her leaning against him as he escorted her out through the dancers into the cool night air.

“So what happened while you were outside?” Ben pressed as Adam faltered in his narrative.

“What?” Adam looked at his father, eyes glazing at the memory.

“You okay, son?” Ben was concerned; the last vestiges of colour that Adam had drained away.

“No,” he groaned as he shut his eyes and grimaced.

“If you feel as bad as that, son, I really think you ought to go to bed,” Ben encouraged.

“No,” he moaned again, swallowing repeatedly. Suddenly, his eyes flew open. “Pa, I ….” and he said no more. Instead he ran, his chair toppling over in his haste and the front door left wide open in his wake.

Ben sighed and bent to set the chair upright. It was going to be a little while before Adam would be able to tell him what had transpired in the evening air with Miss Jones.


Adam was dreaming. Bizarrely, he was aware of the fact or, at least, he hoped that was what was happening because his very existence was fast adopting nightmarish proportions from which he could not readily awaken. He was working with wood. Admittedly he knew enough about carpentry to construct most necessary things, but his real skill lay in the vision and recreating that on paper. He preferred to leave the finer points to others and would be the first to admit that Hoss’s carving ability far exceeded his own. Now here he was, frantically trying to assemble something and, for a while, its purpose evaded him.

His attempts were frustratingly hampered by the heavy chain around his left ankle, fastening him to a metal ring set securely into the ground. He paused in his work to pull repeatedly on his restraint but there was no freeing himself; he was trapped. His breathing quickened in irrational panic as the chain took on a life of its own. The links were splitting, breeding almost, as the chain extended and snaked up his leg, wrapping itself around his calf, his knee, his thigh, his groin, up around his waist, his chest. It was constricting, squeezing the life out of him; its weight bearing him down so that he struggled to maintain his footing. He felt like a man drowning.

Even as he gave up hammering two pieces of wood together, he was aware of a terrible noise, growing in intensity. He was not sure when he could discern the distressed, high-pitched wailing of first one infant, then another, and another … His head thumped mercilessly and his stomach churned at the relentless cacophony. Why wouldn’t the babies stop and leave him alone?

Babies? What babies? He succeeded in turning a little on the spot, the chain tightening around his shoulders and pinning his arms. There was definitely no escape now and he felt a tide of exhaustion wash over him as he succumbed to a sickening inevitability.

The two pieces of wood lying at his feet had metamorphosed into a plain box on rockers – a simple cradle. Then he noticed that he was surrounded by many cradles, all occupied and all simultaneously bursting into a frenzied rocking that was not guaranteed to quieten the infants. He steeled himself to peer into the closest one but even his wildest imaginings could not have prepared him for the sight. The baby – a girl -was only a few months old in size but she bore an adult’s face, an unmistakable visage caricatured to a hideous extreme. The long neck, angular nose, finely chiselled bone structure and blond tresses were easily recognisable, as was the voice when the baby abruptly ceased crying and spoke, fixing him with a hard, accusatory glare. The order was clear and direct: the babies needed feeding, winding, bathing, changing, cuddling, entertaining whilst he stood inept, neglecting them, wasting time.

He looked desperately at the child in the next cradle and recoiled in horror. The child was a boy, smaller than the first, weaker and emitting a pitiful whimper. It was an exact version of himself and, as his eyes swept the cradles, he realised that the babies were all copies of him and Abigail Jones and now the cradles covered the floor as far as the eye could see; hundreds of them, the children wailing in a maniacal waltz tempo and demanding his attention.

The chain holding him fast became a pair of arms, clutching him tightly as their owner suddenly materialised at his side. Abigail smiled at him seductively and demanded that he dance with her. He opened his mouth to protest but he could make no sound and so she chattered on uninterrupted, blithely ignoring his silent objections.

Her incessant talking and the screaming of the infants built to a deafening crescendo and he lashed out desperately to free himself.

“Easy, Adam. It’s all right, son. You’re dreaming. Wake up now.”

He continued to struggle against the hands that held him, but his efforts weakened as the familiar voice permeated his confusion. “Pa?” He could speak again.

“Yes, I’m here. It’s okay, son. You were tangled in your sheets.”

Adam was conscious of a figure leaning over him and slowly opened his eyes, half expecting to find that woman looming near but he was met by the reassuring smile of his father and he visibly relaxed.

“Well, until that little nightmare, you’d had a good sleep,” Ben commented, straightening the sheets and tucking them in loosely.

Adam looked in the direction of the window and realised, by the change in the light, that much of the day had gone. “How long?”

“Over five hours,” Ben pulled up a chair and sat by the bed.

Adam sighed. “All those jobs I had planned for today …”

“Don’t worry,” Ben interrupted. “Your brothers have taken care of anything important. The rest can wait until tomorrow. How do you feel now?”

Adam lay still and thought carefully before answering but his roiling insides and throbbing head had abated with his lengthy sleep. “Much better.” He shot his father a wry grin. “Don’t ever let me do that again, Pa.”

“Well, I’ll try, but you didn’t make things easy, you know. You weren’t obviously drinking throughout the evening.”

Adam allowed himself a light laugh. “Oh I was, at every opportunity.”

“So it seemed, and was it worth it?”

“It was effective. She didn’t take too kindly to the smell on my breath and the fact I seemed to lose my grace on the dance floor when I stood on her toes a little too often. I’d put up with anything to deter her, even feeling so foul and the weird dreams. You were right, I was having a nightmare just now, and she was very much a part of it.” He laughed softly again. “D’you know, Pa, I even dreamed that she came out here this morning after breakfast.”

Ben’s smile faded and there was an awkward pause. “She was here, son. It wasn’t a dream. Don’t you remember?” He watched the conflicting emotions in Adam’s eyes as his memories resurfaced.

His expression changed to one of horror. “Oh no, she was here? This morning? When …? Pa, I’m so ashamed. I didn’t see her drive up in the buggy. I was desperate to get to the outhouse and she just got in the way.”

“It’s okay, son. Don’t upset yourself. It couldn’t be helped,” Ben patted his arm in comfort.

“Couldn’t be helped? But I ….. What did she say?” Adam’s voice was low, agonised, as if he could not believe what had transpired.

Ben was sympathetic to his embarrassment but the incident had been funny because it was so incongruous. He might have expected it to have happened to Joe and, to a much lesser extent, Hoss but never to Adam.

He took a deep breath. “You mean after we brought her into the house, cleaned up her shoes and the hem of her skirt, and Hop Sing had plied her with tea? Oh she had plenty to say, I assure you. It was just as well that you were holed up in the outhouse but before you start beating yourself up too much, wait until you hear what she was doing out here in the first place …”

“Go on then,” Adam urged, not altogether sure that he wanted to hear the answer.

“Uh-uh,” Ben shook his head. “Not so fast, young man,” and Ben began piling up the pillows behind Adam as he eased himself into a sitting position. “I’m still waiting to hear what happened when you went outside with that particular lady? You had begun to tell me but then you left in … er …. a bit of a hurry!”

Adam sighed at the reminder. “I figured she was up to something, trying to get me outside, and I wasn’t wrong. Oh it started off okay; she was ‘recovering’ from the heat but then she began to talk about music and books. The conversation was going fine until she steered it around to the fact that I still wasn’t married and it had to be because the young ladies of Virginia City didn’t interest me. According to her, they were not my equal and just empty-headed. Hadn’t I noticed how she and I still had so much in common?”

Adam’s account was interrupted by the arrival of Hop Sing bearing a tray with a pitcher of water and glass, a cup of herbal tea and a plate of dry, toasted bread. He proceeded to pour the water and handed the glass to Adam.

“You drink; need fluids. Tea to settle stomach. Eat. It stay put, you get up for light dinner Hop Sing make specially for you. Now I get hot water. You wash and shave; make you look more like Number One son again instead of mess.” The instructions delivered, Hop Sing turned on his heels and left.

“Thanks, Hop Sing,” Adam muttered to the closed door and glanced back at his father. “Do I really look that bad?”

Ben thought carefully before responding. “Do you want the truth or encouragement?”

“Okay, I get the picture,” Adam groaned.

“You do look considerably better than when Hop Sing and I got you back into bed.”

“Ah, I was wondering how I ended up here.”

“Well, it did take us a long time to persuade you to leave the outhouse what with one thing and another….”

“Don’t remind me,” Adam warned, sipping tentatively at the water.

Ben lowered his head trying to hide his smile as he thought of that morning’s events. After Miss Jones had been placated and seen off in her buggy, he and the little cook had spent ages worriedly hammering on the locked door of the outhouse, desperate for any response from Adam. Each time they feared that he had passed out, the painful retching would commence again, reassuring them that he was, at that moment, still alive – even if he wished otherwise! Eventually, the door had opened and he had leaned unsteadily against the frame, his face grey and sweating. It was a slow, laborious process supporting him back to the house and up to his room, his legs threatening to buckle at every step but finally, he was undressed, in bed and sound asleep. As Ben watched him take a bite of the bread now, he was definitely looking better; his cheeks had a faint flush of colour that was neither grey nor green.

“Did you try to put Miss Jones straight when she was dropping her subtle hints?” Ben turned the topic back to the previous evening.

“Her ‘not-so-subtle’ hints you mean,” Adam corrected. “Of course I did, Pa. I said I wasn’t looking for anyone right now. She just gave this horrible, simpering giggle, grabbed my arm and accused me of being a tease. She reckoned I had to be looking for someone. After all, you weren’t getting any younger …”

“I’m not ..!” Ben interrupted, spluttering with indignation. “How come I get drawn into this?”

“Oh you weren’t the only one. She got real personal at that point; didn’t suppose Hoss would make a speedy match and Joe was too reckless. That left me with the responsibility of marrying and fathering the Cartwright heir. I was fit to explode right there and then and leaped to my feet.

“Because she was still hanging on, she got pulled up too so it gave me the excuse to get her back inside. I’d kept suggesting we ought to go in but she wanted to ‘take a little more air’. I knew how it would look with folks and I wasn’t wrong there either. You must have seen the smug expressions I got when we went back inside! Forty-five minutes she’d kept me out there! I heard people sniggering and whispering about what a handsome couple we made. She probably heard it too; grinning away like the cat that’s got the cream.”

“That woman has got a nerve!” Ben was still smarting at her comment about him. “But why did she hit you?”

“It wasn’t too long after we went back in the dance hall. The buffet supper was being served and she said she was hungry but as we’d only just found seats, she didn’t want to lose them so she sent me to get the food. She was simpering again, saying I could select what she ate because she could trust me to make a good choice; I’d know what it was that would tempt her. Why should I know? Why should I care?”

Adam’s voice rose in the telling and Ben fleetingly wondered if it was a mounting hysteria.

“I had yet another drink; I’d lost count by then. I don’t know whether it was the drink or because I was so angry, but I wasn’t hungry so I just took some bits back to her. That’s when she started the lecture. She saw I had no food and told me off for not eating; said she knew I’d been drinking and that I needed something to take the edge off. She tried to feed me!”

Ben’s eyebrows were nearly up in his hairline as he pictured the scene. “I can understand that you would not appreciate that,” he said slowly, trying to sound sympathetic and not to roar with laughter at the image.

“Too right. I pushed her hand away and she had the gall to turn nasty. She said I’d been drinking too much; she didn’t appreciate having fumes breathed on her and that was the cause of my stomping on her feet during the last dances. I did not stomp! Twice I stepped on her toes, that’s all; and she makes it out to be a regular occurrence. Earlier she kept on about how I was the most graceful person in the room. She sure did a turn around!

“Then she said she did not want the town to see her escort as a drunk. When did I become her escort? I never took her there! I asked her to keep her voice down but she just got louder. I’d obviously developed a problem while she’d been away. Me with a problem? My only problem was her and when she declared that she did not want to be romantically linked with a man who drank to excess, I’d had it. I told her she presumed too much and that there was no way we were going to be romantically linked, now or ever. That’s when she slapped my face; said I’d been leading her on and that she had witnesses. I had to walk out; I was close to strangling her.”

“Well at least that explains a lot of what she said to me when you’d gone. I think I got the rest of the lecture: something about a man of my standing in the community obviously failing as a father as you’d gotten completely out of control and the whole Cartwright dynasty was destined to disappear down the neck of a bottle. She was relieved that she wasn‘t going to be a part of the family.” Ben took up the tale.

“She said that?” Adam was incredulous.

“Not those exact words but that was the gist of it.”

Both men sat in reflective silence, bewildered by the audacity of the ex-school teacher.

“So why did she come here today?” Adam ventured to ask.

“Well, she said she’d had all night to think about things and forgave me for saying what I said to her. I was obviously much provoked by worry for my son who was evidently crossing the line into alcoholism. She felt that she had acted too hastily, that maybe her help was necessary. The love and influence of a good woman was probably just what you needed to help you get back on the right path and she saw it as her duty to take on that task. She was prepared to give you a second chance.”

Adam’s jaw dropped open in shock and he stared in disbelief at his father. At length, Ben leaned forward and, with a couple of fingers beneath Adam’s chin, pushed gently upwards. “Don’t sit with your mouth open, son. I thought I was good enough as a father to teach you that at least. You needn’t worry; she changed her mind again.”

“Why?” Adam’s voice sounded strangely small and distant, as if it came from someone else.

“Oh, I think your choice timing in throwing up on her probably had a lot to do with it. Now,” and he patted his son on the arm, “you finish that tea and toast, get a little more rest and we’ll see you downstairs for dinner.”

Ben had reached the door before Adam stopped him. “Pa, why did she have to forgive you? What was it you said to her last night?”

Ben frowned as if he were having trouble recollecting. “Oh, something to the effect that I’d sooner shoot you myself before I let you bring her into the family.”

“What!” Adam’s mouth dropped open again. The boy was really developing some bad habits.

“It just slipped out.”

Adam gave his father a sheepish grin. “You wouldn’t though, would you, Pa?”

Ben shrugged and turned again to leave. “Let’s be thankful we never had to find out.”



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Author: Preserving Their Legacy Author

4 thoughts on “Cheers! (by VRON)

  1. An utterly indisposed Adam, wicked good fun! And I love Ben’s line at the end. Cheers to the author. 🙂

  2. This is hysterically funny. All I could is laugh out loud. Thank you for such enjoyable entertainment, 🤣

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