Baptism by Fire (by Storm)

Chapter 11:

Joe quietly approached his father as he sat in his chair. Joe had something on his mind that was troubling him and he had to get it said. “Pa you’d love Adam no matter what right?”

Ben set aside the paper he’d been reading and glanced quizzically at his youngest son. “Of course Joseph, why?”

“Even if he…well he…”

Ben couldn’t imagine what Adam could have possibly done that would make Joe think he’d no longer love him but it had him worried. “Joseph please just tell me what is wrong with your brother.”

Joe took a deep breathe and swallowed the lump in his throat and began to speak. “Well the other day when Hop-Sing asked me to fetch the butter churn…”

That got Ben’s thoughts on another track, one that might explain things better. What better way to redirect your father’s attention then to find a way to aim it towards someone else. “Are you speaking of the one he asked you to bring in the night before so he could get an early start?”

“Yeah but I forgot and by the time I remembered it was dark and I was tired.”

This was Joe’s typical excuse. “Joseph you are going to be eighteen soon. I think it’s about time you learned that in order for you to be able to do what may be required of you the next day you need to get to bed at a decent time.”

Joe inwardly rolled his eyes. He’d never do it outwardly because to let his father see it would lead to an even more painful ‘discussion’. Joe didn’t yet realize his days of painful discussions were a thing of the past just as he didn’t realize there would be times he would prefer them. “I know pa.”

“And yet you still insist on staying up and reading those dime novels.” Ben had seen a light shining under Joe’s door at all hours. Those times he had caught him where quite a few so he could only image the number of times he had been too exhausted to wake up and catch him.

“You don’t seem to mind so much when it’s one about Kit. Those times I don’t have to try and sneak to read. I bet if I was reading the books like Adam does you wouldn’t mind at all.”

“The ones about Kit I treat differently because we know the man and can verify the truth of them but if you like I can start to treat them all the same.”

“No besides you got more to worry about with Adam.”

“No I do not. As you have already stated his choice of reading material is one I do approve of and he does not follow blind wherever a lady with a pretty face may lead.”

“Can I help it if the lady needed my help? Was I suppose to tell her I couldn’t help her just so I’d be on time for dinner? Besides Adam may just prefer a handsome face.”

“Excuse me?”

His father looked baffled. “That’s what I was tryin to tell you before you started lecturing me about bed!”

Even as confused as he was Ben could hear something close to disrespect in his son’s voice and it was something he wouldn’t stand for. “You watch that attitude young man.”

“Sorry pa.” Joe knew better then to push this any further.

“Now what is this about your brother?”

“Well I was getting the churn when I heard Adam and his friend Ross talking.”

“So you decided to eavesdrop on the conversation instead of finishing the chore you had been sent to do. As I recall Hoss brought that churn into Hop-Sing.”

Joe was getting tired of the interruptions besides he was beginning to think his father wouldn’t believe him anyway. “Pa you want to keep lecturing me or hear how your oldest son don’t like girls no more.”

“What was that?”

“What I heard was Adam telling Ross how he was gonna ask you if didn’t mind he was gonna stay in town tonight. He told Ross that he was gonna meet up with someone named Simon and that they was gonna have some real fun.” Joe knew his father knew that he knew exactly what kind of fun Adam was referring to. Come to think of it now it was because of Adam that Joe knew so much about this kind of fun.

“Surely you heard wrong.”

“No pa I was listenin’ real close. Maybe you could just tell Adam that you need him here and that he can’t stay in town when he asks.”

“Joseph your brother knows as well, if not better then I, what needs to be done around here. Besides I know his asking my permission is done as a courtesy to me because your brother is not a child.”

“But pa if you tell him he can’t go he’d listen.”

“Perhaps Joe.” But Ben wasn’t too sure. “Joseph don’t you worry about this I will speak to your brother.”

This made Joe feel at ease. He knew his pa would take care of everything.

********

Ben remained in his seat waiting for Adam. He was waiting for what felt like hours and it gave him too much time to think. He thought that maybe things back east had changed and that maybe being there and college had changed his son more then he thought possible. He knew that before he had gone east his eldest son had liked girls, maybe a bit too much, and even since his return he had appeared to still like girls. An even greater problem was the fact that the girls had definitely liked his son a great deal.

When Adam came in his father was so deep in thought that he didn’t even turn to see who had come in. “Pa, hey pa.” When his father looked his way he still seemed to be lost somewhere in his thoughts. Adam thought maybe this was a good thing. “Pa I was thinking that since tomorrow is Saturday and all the chores are done I would stay in town tonight and tomorrow and then on Sunday I’d ride home with you after church.”

“Will I see you in church on Sunday? Will you have a lot to atone for?”

“Excuse me pa?” If Adam didn’t know better he’d swear his father knew where he was going and what he was planning on doing, but he knew he’d only told Ross about his plans and he wouldn’t have told his father.

“Nothing son, nothing.”

“Okay then I’m going to go pack up some things and head on out.”

“Before dinner?” Ben had hoped to continue this conversation a little later when he had gathered his wits about him.

Adam could hear something akin to panic in his father’s voice and he could only think of one reason. For some reason even his father was afraid of Hop-Sing. “I’ll eat in town and don’t worry I already told Hop-Sing.”

“Adam you know I love you, right son?”

“Yes pa and I love you.” If Adam didn’t know better he’d swear his father had been drinking but ever since Marie’s death and the circumstances following it Ben Cartwright would very rarely drink anything stronger then a beer or two this early in the day. With a shake of his head Adam turned to the stairs.

“I mean no matter what you did or how you lived I’d love you.”

This had Adam turning back to face his father. “Okay pa, thanks.”

“Of course I was hoping you’d be in need of that old cradle some day.”

Adam had barely heard what his father had just mumbled. “What?”

“Nothing son, have fun.” But not too much Ben thought.

Don’t worry Adam thought I’ll be having a lot of fun.

********

“Pa Adams sure been spending a lot of time in town this past week or so.”

“He got a new boyfriend Hoss.”

“What? Pa what’s Joe talkin’ ‘bout?”

“Nothing Hoss.” For once Ben was glad for an interruption during dinner. He got up to answer the door.

“Hello are you Mr. Cartwright?”

“Yes I am.”

“Well I’ve come to ask for a job.”

“Okay who are you?”

“I’m Simon Caspen.”

Instantly Joe and Hoss were beside their father.

“Well you can’t have one!”

“JOSEPH.”

“You stay away from our brother!”

“HOSS.” Ben figured since he had gotten up from the table Joe had used the time to briefly fill Hoss in on the situation. Ben wondered why he hadn’t done it sooner.

Simon looked confused. “Your brother? I don’t even know your brother.”

“Then maybe he don’t like you as much as you think if he didn’t give you his real name.”

“JOSEPH! Mr. Caspen why don’t you come back later when we can talk without so many interruptions.”

“Okay Mr. Cartwright.” As the door closed Simon walked slowly away.

“Don’t let him come back pa!”

“Joseph if that is the person your brother has chosen to share his life with I will not allow you to push him away.”

“But pa.”

“Joseph wasn’t it you who asked me if I’d love Adam no matter what? Well I ask you the same question.”

“Of course I’d love him no matter what. I just wish he liked girls like he use to.”

“I won’t lie Joseph, so do I.”

********

As Adam rode up to the house he saw someone riding towards him. “Hello.”

“Hi. Hey are you the brother they was talkin’ bout?”

“I guess that would depend on what they were saying.”

“From what I can gather from what they were saying they seem to think there is some kind of a relationship between us.”

“Do they now.”

“Not that I’d mind it.”

“Well Mr.…?”

“Caspen, Simon Caspen.”

“Well Mr. Caspen I assure that I…wait your name is Simon?”

“Yes.”

“I think I know what’s going on. Tell me Mr. Caspen why did you stop by?”

“I’m looking for a job.”

“You got one…but just the job.”

********

Adam quickly hid his grin and opened the door. “Hey pa, Hoss, Joe.”

Ben turned away from his two youngest sons to face his eldest. “Hello son.”

“I met someone as I was riding up. He was looking for a job. I told him he had one.”

“Of course son I was going to tell him the same thing when he came back later.” Oh son I only hope this isn’t the reason for his interest in you. As Ben thought this he realized how strange it sounded to him.

“Good. Now if you’ll excuse me I have something I need to do. Pa can you please tell Hop-Sing we’ll be having a guest for dinner?”

Adam turned and walked out the door not even trying to hide his smile now that no one could see it.

“Pa Adam ain’t gonna bring him for dinner is he?”

“If he does Joseph you will treat him with respect is that clear?”

“But paaa.”

“Come on Joe I think pa’s got enough to think over.” All Hoss knew was he hoped his appetite would be back by dinner time because right now he wasn’t hungry at all and that was a strange feeling for him.

********

When the door opened Ben was quickly on his feet. As he watched the person who preceded Adam in entering the house he stood in shocked silence.

To Adam the look on his father’s face was worth all the trouble he been through these past few hours. “Pa allow me to introduce Simone Amare.”

Joe neared his brother and his guest in a daze. “Pa she’s a girl.”

Simone looked to who she knew must be Adam’s youngest brother then glanced at the rest of the family. My but they were all handsome in their own way. “Yes I am and very much so.” Simone took Ben’s offered hand. “Hello Mr. Cartwright. May I say it is a great honor to meet a man who has raised such a man as Adam. I must admit it is an honor I did not think I’d have.”

“Why do you say that Miss. Amare?”

“Please call me Simone. Let’s just say from what I have heard I am not the kind of woman you are use to receiving as a guest in your home Mr. Cartwright.”

“It’s Ben and I do believe my son now sees I am not quite as judgmental as he once believed me to be. Now if you’ll allow me to escort you to the table I do believe it is time to eat.”

Ben offered her his arm and Simone placed her hand upon it and allowed him to lead her to the table. Hoss quickly followed suddenly very hungry again. Adam hung back and as Joe went to follow the others he called him back.

“Joe.”

Joe slowly turned back to his brother. He knew Adam suspected something and he knew he suspected he was the reason for that something. Guess that was only right since he usually was the reason for things. “Yeah Adam?”

“I think we need to have a long talk.”

“I know.” There were times Joe feared Adam’s talks more then his father’s. “I’m sorry Adam I don’t know how I could think you didn’t like girls no more.”

“Not about that Joe.”

“Then what?”

“Listening in on conversations that don’t concern you.”

“Oh, pa’s already talked to me about that.”

“Well I’m going to talk to you again.”

“Great.” This was not a conversation Joe was looking forward to. Maybe tonight he’d get to bed early and by tomorrow Adam would have forgotten about this conversation. If he hadn’t at least he’d have calmed down some because no matter how calm Adam looked Joe could tell he was anything but.

Ben looked to Adam and Joe. So alike and yet so different. “Come on you two the food is getting cold and I have an appetite like I haven’t had for days.”

********

Ben had to admit the night went well. It was quite late when Adam had left to see Simone back to town. Joe and Hoss had gone to bed not too soon after they had left. For once Joe seemed rather anxious to get sleep. Ben sat in his chair smiling about the events of the past few weeks.

“I thought I might find you still awake pa.”

“So how’d you know?”

“I didn’t at first. I mean I know you’ve been treating me strange these past few weeks but I thought maybe someone told you about Simone. Then when I met Simon and he asked why it seemed as if my family thought there was a relationship between us I put it together. I remembered seeing Joe skulking away when I first told Ross about Simone’s visit and I am well aware of his penchant for listening in on conversations and also his penchant for getting things wrong. I put that together with your little talk about supporting me no matter what and mentioning cradles and I thought I had it pretty well figured out.”

“Adam I would support you no matter what and I don’t want you to ever feel as if you can’t bring a young lady to dinner.”

“Pa Simone is no lady and she likes it that way. I had to do some pretty hard convincing to get her to come. She doesn’t like to meet the family of her distractions.” Adam could see the disapproval in his father’s eyes. “They are her words pa not mine. We met back east and the relationship was no different. When she was planning this trip she wrote and said that if I was interested in having a little fun like we use to I should meet her in town the night after she arrived because she was sure she would need at least one night to rest up. She said she would get word to me when she arrived in town.”

“I don’t know about you son but I’m tired.”

“Pa would you really have accepted it? I mean if Joe were right.”

“It son, I don’t know but I will always accept you.”

“Good because Simon did say he wouldn’t be adverse to a relationship.”

“Really?”

“Pa you don’t mind that I hired him do you?”

“As I see it Adam it is not my place to judge anyone besides it takes all kinds of people to make this world a place worth living in.”

“You know pa if you really want to put that old cradle to some use I’m sure I can find a lady willing to help me oblige you.”

“Good night son.” If Ben thought Adam was serious he would stay and have a very lengthy conversation with his son but Ben knew it was a joke even if there were some truth in it.

As Adam reached the first landing on the stairs he paused and turned to face his father. “You know pa you really are an amazing man.”

Ben saw the sincerity in his son’s eyes just before he turned and disappeared upstairs. Ben felt his heart swell with pride and he knew he would sleep very soundly tonight with the knowledge that he had three amazing sons sleeping under the same roof. He smiled and just before he made his way to his room he noticed a light burning under his youngest son’s door. “Joseph get to sleep!”

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Author: storm

1 thought on “Baptism by Fire (by Storm)

  1. Excellent story with characterizations of Adam, Ben, and Marie that help understand not only their behavior but their relationships too.

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