Summary: The first Chrismas after Marie died was going to be a sad one. Can Adam and Hoss make the season bright after all?
Rated: K+ (2,240 words)
The Christmas Surprise
Christmas was always a special holiday at the Ponderosa. But that first Christmas after Marie died was going to be the hardest Christmas of all. Adam Cartwright stood on the porch of the ranch house and looked out towards the setting sun. Tomorrow was Christmas. He lowered his eyes and discreetly wiped them on the back of his hand. It would never do to let the family see the tears that stung his eyes. The Cartwrights had agreed not to have a Christmas this year. It just would not seem right without Marie. There were too many traditions that they had with her. There was not even a tree in the house and all the invitations that they had received had been refused. Of course, there would be no party at the Ponderosa. If Marie was not there to do it right there would be none at all. Which is too sad, Adam thought, the Ponderosa parties were the best in the territory.
Adam was startled out of his thoughts by his younger brother Hoss who left the shelter of the front door to stand next to him. Adam was glad that he had wiped away those tears. “Ah shore am goin’ miss the tree and the presents.” Hoss started. “Christmas always was such a happy time.”
Adam agreed with him. But their father had not wanted Christmas so he said, “Yes, but lots of sad memories.”
“Adam, ah think its too bad that the baby’s first Christmas after the loss of his mother has to be like this.”
Adam had to agree. Little Joe should be celebrating Christmas like all the other children. There should be a tree in the house with presents under it in the morning. Adam turned when he heard the front door slam and his little brother came out and looked up at him.
“Adam,” the young boy asked, “With out a tree will we have presents tomorrow?”
Adam was unsure how to answer his brother. Little Joe stood there looking up at him with trusting eyes. He could not say no. Even if Pa felt bad about Christmas that was no reason to refuse a Christmas to the baby of the family. No Little Joe deserved Christmas. That was when Adam decided that even if Pa did not want a Christmas he would make sure that there was one. “Who knows, Joe?” he answered with a smile. “Maybe a tree will come with the presents. Now why don’t you go inside? It’s cold out here.”
“Yes, Adam.” Joe skipped inside the house.
Hoss watched Little Joe leave before he turned to his older brother. “Adam, why’d ya say that?” he demanded. “Ya know we ain’t goin’ have a Christmas this year.”
“Pa doesn’t want a Christmas.” Adam answered. “But I do and so does Joe and I think you do too. So we will plan the Christmas party. Pa need never know until after it is over.”
“Ya’ll git into huge trouble.” Hoss warned.
“Pa’ll love it once he settles down. He’s just pretty upset, Hoss.” Adam answered. “He’ll be glad to see that we can still continue living without Marie.”
“But what about the traditions?” Hoss asked.
Adam placed a hand gently on his brother’s shoulder. “Hoss,” he said tenderly. “Marie is never coming back. It’s time we start making new traditions.”
The first person Adam had to see was Hop Sing. Adam knew that Hop Sing, not being Christian, did not celebrate Christmas. He did hope, though, that the little Chinese cook would help them make it the greatest Christmas ever.
Hop Sing was glad to help. “Christmas happy day.” He smiled a big smile when Adam asked if he could have cookies for tomorrow morning and a big Christmas dinner. “Hop Sing was hoping Mista Ben would come to senses and celebrate. Hop Sing already make Christmas cookies. Now only have to kill chicken. We can pretend its turkey.”
Adam smiled. “Take one of the hams from the smokehouse.” He suggested. “Christmas is for ham, Hop Sing.”
“Yesa.” Hop Sing clapped his hands in joy. “So much fun. But wait,” he said as a thought struck him, “what about tree and gifts?”
“You worry about the dinner.” Adam answered. “Hoss and I will take care of everything else.”
Ben Cartwright was still in bed as Adam and Hoss silently left the house and hitched their horses up to the sled. Chubb and Beauty were used to carrying their masters not pulling the boys behind them. But Adam and Hoss clucked gently to the two beautiful animals and the horses tossed their heads as if to say “What ever.” Then they were off.
Should we get the tree furst?” Hoss asked . “Or are ya getting’ presints?”
“Presents.” Adam answered his eyes on the dark road in front of him.
“It’s pretty late, Adam.” Hoss pointed out. “Who’s goin’ be open for us?”
“No one I guess.”
“Then how are ya goin’ get presents?”
“I’m going to ask someone to open up for us.” Adam answered.
“Do ya think they will?”
“I don’t know, Hoss. And I won’t know for sure until I get there. OK?”
Hoss nodded. “OK, Adam.” Then he lapsed into silence.
It was when the boys were nearing Virginia City that Hoss finally asked another question. “What ya goin’ buy?” Hoss asked.
“I’m not sure yet.” Adam answered. “Let’s see what Mark Fletcher has in the general store, huh?”
Hoss nodded and bounced slightly on the seat. “I caint wait.” Hoss laughed. “This is fun.”
Adam stopped the wagon in front of the Fletcher General Store. It was closed, of course, but when he rang the bell Jim Fletcher was still in the store. He opened the door and his big genial face smiled at the sight of the Cartwright brothers. “Hello, boys!” he called. “What can I do for you?”
Adam smiled. “We’re planning a surprise Christmas, Mr. Fletcher.” He answered. “How about letting us in to buy some gifts? Are you still open?”
Jim Fletcher nodded. “For you boys I shore am. ‘Sides I heard about your problem at home with Christmas and I said to myself that it was a sad situation. I’m so glad you’re about to buy something for the family. What can I help you with?”
Adam and Hoss followed the friendly storekeeper into his large general store. It smelled of cinnamon and spices. Hoss took a deep breathe and sighed. Adam looked around the store for a few minutes and then pointed to a puzzle game in the corner shelf.. “Can I have that for Little Joe?” he asked.
“Certainly.” Jim took the puzzle off the shelf and handed it to Adam.
The young man let his eyes rove around the store some more. “Hoss, how about that new knife set for Hop Sing?”
Hoss looked up at the shiny knife set on the counter top. “He’d like that.” Hoss agreed.
Jim set it next to the puzzle. “What else, boys?”
There was a black leather wallet on the shelf next to a black men’s hat and shoes. “The wallet for Pa, please.” Adam answered.
Jim smiled. “Your Pa will love this wallet.”
Adam looked around the room again and lowered his voice. “The dice and marbles, please.” He said quietly. “For Hoss.”
Jim laughed and set it on the counter. “What else?”
Adam smiled. “Nothing.” He replied.
“What about you?” Jim demanded.
“Just some journal books.” Adam replied. “I have some more writing to do.”
Jim smiled and started to pack everything into some boxes.
“How much is it?” Adam asked.
“Twenty dollars.” Jim replied. “Do you want me to charge it to your account?”
Adam shook his head. “I have the money here.” He handed the money to the storekeeper and smiled. “Thank you so much for everything.”
Jim nodded. “There’s some paper in there, too, Adam. You can wrap the gifts at home.”
Adam nodded. “Thank you so much.” Then he turned to his brother. “Come on, Hoss. Let’s go.”
Adam wanted to drop the gifts off at home first. “It’ll be easier to get the tree that way.” He said.
Hoss agreed. “Where should we put the gifts?”
“Let’s hide them with Hop Sing.” Adam replied. “He can keep them in the kitchen when we go to get the tree.”
Hoss nodded. When the boys stopped in front of the ranch house Hoss grabbed the box of gifts and walked quietly inside and into the kitchen. It smelt like ginger and spices. Hop Sing was busy making his pumpkin pie. “Chicken all killed.” He announced. “Ham smoking over fire. What you got there?”
“Christmas presents.” Hoss answered. “Adam and ah are goin’ to get the tree. Can you hide these?”
“Sure.” Hop Sing smiled.
“No peekin’.” Hoss warned heading towards the door.
“No worries.” Hop Sing smiled a large smile as Hoss left the house.
Adam was waiting for him in the wagon. “I got some saws while you were in the house.” He whispered. “It’ll have to be a little tree, Hoss, since we don’t have much time to cut and trim it.”
“That’s all right.” Hoss assured his older brother. “As long as we have a tree.”
The tree was small compared to ones in years past. But as Adam and Hoss chopped it down and loaded it into the wagon they both agreed that it was the best tree they had ever seen. Now to sneak it into the house without waking Pa.
That was the hardest part. Adam bumped his shin on the tree as they carried it into the living room. Hoss cut his hand on the bark as they set it up. Hoss went into the kitchen to get Hop Sing to put a bandage on the cut while Adam surveyed the tree. Now if he could only remember where Marie had put the ornaments.
He need not have worried. When Hoss reentered the great room he carried a box. In the box were all the ornaments. Hop Sing peeked his head out from the kitchen and smiled. Adam saw him and nodded his thanks. “Come and help us, Hop Sing.” He whispered.
The tree men worked hard to trim the tree. It was an hour before they finished and Adam sensed how badly the tree needed a woman’s touch. Still they had one more thing to place and that was the star at the top of the tree. “The star of Bethlehem.” Adam murmured as Hoss hung the star. “Oh, Marie, I wish you were here to see this.”
And then the presents were laid under the tree and Hoss looked at the grandfather clock. It was almost three o’ clock in the morning. But it had been a profitable evening. Joe would be so excited. Now Pa, Adam shook his head, Pa might not be too thrilled.
“Pa! Pa! Wake up!” Little Joe bounced on his father’s bed. “Pa a tree came last night and presents, too!”
Ben Cartwright sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What are you talking about, Joe?” he asked his youngest son.
“I just went downstairs.” Joe answered. “A tree is down there and presents too. Come on down, Pa. I want to open the presents.” Little Joe hopped off the bed and ran towards the door. “Oh, and Pa,” he stopped and turned. “Merry Christmas”
Ben watched the door slam behind his son. Then he shook his head and lay back down. There could not be a tree or presents. He would know if there was. And he had decided that Christmas would not be celebrated that year.
Ben sat up in surprise. Could Adam have disobeyed him and decided to have Christmas after all? The conversation he had with his son the week before came back:
“But, Pa, we really should have Christmas. Little Joe does not understand why you have decided no Christmas. He is just a child, Pa. Don’t take away his Christmas.”
“Adam, if I decide we are not going to have Christmas then we will not have Christmas.”
“Pa, I think you’re making a mistake.”
“I’ll thank you not to tell me what to do, young man.”
“All right, Pa. But if you think Little Joe is not suffering over his mother’s death, then you are wrong. I’ve heard him crying at night. I think Christmas presents will help him to forget his troubles.”
Ben shook his head and stood up. Yes, Adam would disobey his orders. He loved his little brother and he was stubborn, stubborn as, well as Ben himself was. Ben slipped on his clothes and headed towards the stairs.
He saw his sons there standing around the tree. Ben made no sound as he watched his boys from the top of the stairs. Little Joe was thrilled and his smile made Ben’s heart melt at Adam’s act. His son had acted in Little Joe’s best interest after all. And as he walked down the stairs to join his sons beside the tree he smiled at Adam and Hoss and took his two eldest sons hands in his. “Thank you.” he said simply. “And Merry Christmas to all of you. Now how about opening some presents.”
Other Stories by this Author
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