No Question About It


    "What do you think?" Ben Cartwright said to the small boy perched on the wagon seat next to him, "Is this a good place to camp?"
Not-quite-five-year-old Adam scrunched his small face as he considered the question thoughtfully. He looked up at his father. "I think it's a good place, Pa. There's grass for the horse, and trees and water."

Ben smiled as he climbed down from the wagon. "I think you're right, son. Well done. We'll camp here tonight."

Adam beamed. He was always pleased when his father praised him. Ben Cartwright was the centre of his small son's universe. For as long as he could remember, there had been him and Pa and they were going west. Adam wasn't entirely sure what going west was, only that it would take them a long time and it was something his father wanted to do. It was his dream, Pa said. It was something his mother wanted too, but his mother wasn't with them. He didn't quite understand about that, either. She was in Heaven, Pa said, but Pa always got sad when Adam asked about her, so Adam had learned not to ask. Pa had a picture of her, though. It was in Pa's special treasures box, with his mother's music box and some papers and some other stuff and Pa's journal. Pa wrote in that sometimes at night, and that made him sad too. Adam wasn't allowed to touch Pa's special treasures box. He had once, and Pa had got really angry and spanked him. Pa got cross with him sometimes, but he hardly ever spanked him. He had to be really bad to get a spanking. He didn't like it when Pa was angry with him, so he tried as hard as he could to be good. He climbed down from the wagon too.

"I could go and get some water, Pa," he said, his small fingers tugging at the knot as he tried to untie the pail from the side of the wagon.

"Not yet, Adam, I have to make sure it’s safe for you first. Why don't you see if you can collect some firewood while I do this?"
Adam nodded and began looking for firewood. He'd had lots of practice at that. He knew just what to look for. He was careful to stay where he could see the wagon, though. He didn't want to get lost.

    Ben finished rubbing down the horse and went towards the small lake. The bank was shallow, and safe enough for Adam, he thought. Adam joined him, carrying the pail. Ben ruffled his hair, then looked at his sticky fingers. "Your hair could do with a wash,” he said. "We'll take the water back to the wagon and then I think we'll both have a bath. Then we'll be nice and clean for church tomorrow," he said cheerfully.

Adam pulled a face, but he was careful not to let Pa see. He liked getting clean, but Pa always got soap in his eyes when he washed his hair, and it stung. A lot. And the water was going to be really cold. He had a sudden thought. "Pa, how do you know tomorrow's Sunday?" he asked.

Ben smiled. "Today's Saturday. You know the names of the days of the week, don't you?"

Adam nodded. Of course he did. Pa had taught him those ages ago. "Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday," he chanted.

"There you are then," Ben said. "Sunday comes after Saturday."

"Yes but Pa, " Adam persisted, "How do you know today's Saturday?"

Ben looked at the little boy. Adam was a very bright child, there was no doubt about that. "I know it's Saturday because it's six days since last Sunday, and I've kept count, and even if I hadn't we'd hear the church bell tomorrow." He waited to see if that would satisfy Adam. It didn't.
Adam frowned. "But how do they know?" he asked.

"Oh," said Ben, realising what Adam was trying to ask, "Don't be silly, boy. How could everybody forget? Even if they did, there are people who study the stars and they could work it out and tell us. Let's go get the things for our bath."

Adam wasn't quite satisfied, but he could tell by his tone that Pa had had enough of that conversation. Adam was right. Ben had had enough of Adam's questions. Adam never stopped asking questions, it seemed to Ben, and although he was glad the child was interested and curious about things, it did sometimes get a little wearing.

Adam changed the subject. "Pa, can we sleep out of the wagon tonight?" he asked hopefully. The wagon was stuffy and cramped with both of them in it. Sometimes Ben slept on the ground and left the wagon for Adam, but only if the weather wasn't too cold. When the weather was really warm, he let Adam sleep out too.

"Not tonight, son. It’s still too cold. We got you through winter with only one cold. I don't want you getting sick. Besides, I think this might be a good opportunity to wash your clothes as well as you!"

Adam screwed his small nose up with distaste. That meant he'd have to stay in the wagon with his nightshirt on while Pa had his bath. Adam's only other change of clothes was his Sunday best. He grew too quickly to have any more, Pa said. Pa had other clothes though. Grownups didn't grow anymore, so Pa didn't have to keep replacing his things except when they wore out.

Ben saw his face. "Never mind. You can practice writing while I wash, and you can sit with me once you're warm again."

    Ben scrubbed Adam thoroughly and he did get soap in Adam's eyes, but Adam tried not to complain. He didn't want to worry Pa by complaining. Ben carried the wet little boy back to the wagon wrapped in a towel. After he was rubbed dry, Ben put him in his nightshirt and then wrapped a blanket round him. That water was cold and the nightshirt wasn't thick enough to keep him really warm.

Adam pulled his slate and pencil out of his treasures box. "Pa, will you write my name?" he asked, holding out the slate. Pa had said he could try writing on paper when he could do it really well.

"Please," Ben said.
Please," Adam responded dutifully.

Ben carefully printed Adam's name, and left him practicing while he went to wash himself and their clothes. That would give them all Sunday to dry, he thought, as he hung the clothes up. Sunday was a day for their Sunday best. Ben was always happy when he was close enough to a town to go to church on Sunday. It gave him a feeling of peace.

Adam held his slate out to Ben as his father returned. "Look Pa. I'm getting much better, aren't I?"

Ben smiled. Adam was so desperate to learn to read and write. "Yes you are. It won't be long now. How do you feel about bacon and potatoes for supper?"
It wouldn't really have mattered what was on the menu. They were too poor to be picky about what they ate, and Ben had never seen Adam turn his nose up at anything he was offered. If it was food, Adam ate it, whether he liked it or not. The next meal might be something he liked even less. It was just as well, really. No one could have said Ben was a great cook, and he would have been the first to agree. After supper, the two sat by the fire with Adam on Ben's lap.

"Tell me about the west, Pa," Adam asked sleepily. Ben dropped a kiss on the small dark head resting on his chest and told him all about the great open spaces, and the rivers and the mountains, where they were going to have their own land and they would build a strong future for themselves and be happy ever after. This was Adam's favorite bedtime story. It sounded just as mythical and far away as the place where Jack met the giant, but Pa said this was real. If Pa said it, it must be so, but it was such a long way away, Adam thought. He snuggled into Ben's chest and fell asleep with his father's strong arms holding him securely. Ben sat there quietly for a little while with his son on his lap, cuddling Adam and staring into the fire, thinking about their journey. He didn’t really know if the stories he told Adam about the west were true or not; he was only telling Adam what he’d heard from other sailors. He wondered if he was doing the right thing by Adam. Maybe he shouldn’t have left Boston. It was a hard life he was giving his little son. Perhaps he ought to find somewhere to settle. Adam was going to need an education, and he deserved more of a home than just this poor wagon. Adam stirred on his lap, and Ben looked down at the sleeping child.

“You will get those things, son, an education and a home-that I promise,” he whispered almost fiercely. But not in Boston. He told people when he left Boston that he was going west because it stopped them asking questions, but the truth was that he simply didn’t want to stay in Boston. He couldn’t bear to be there without his Elizabeth. “Oh Elizabeth, my love," he sighed, "You should be here too. I wish so much that you were." He put Adam carefully into bed in the wagon, and got out his journal. He wanted to talk to Elizabeth.

    Ben finished shaving and turned to see if Adam had finished dressing. He had, everything except his boots. He was having a battle with them this morning. He knelt down in front of Adam to help him.

"They're a bit tight, aren't they? I think we'll have to get you some new ones soon." Ben said. "Do they hurt when you walk?"

Adam shook his head. "No Pa, they're just a bit tight. I can manage." He didn't want Pa to have to spend money on new shoes. Shoes cost a lot.

Ben looked at him a bit suspiciously. Adam was as careful with his Pa's money as his Pa was! It would be just like Adam to suffer with sore feet because he didn't want to worry him. "You make sure you tell me if it does hurt to walk," he ordered. "I don't want you to have sore feet. At least it’s getting warm enough for you not to need shoes during the week. You ready to go?"

Adam nodded. The walk into the little town of Willoughby was not too long, but Adam was walking very slowly. He normally walks much faster than that, Ben thought. It was clear that Adam's shoes were pinching him. Ben picked him up and gave him a piggy back. "Looks like I'm going to have to get some work soon, son. You're growing so quickly. You're outgrowing everything you've got and getting really heavy too!" he laughed, as he swung the child up onto his shoulder.

    The Reverend Micah Winterton looked over the congregation. There was a strange young man seated in the back pew. It wasn't often that they had visitors to his church, and even less often were those visitors young men with small boys in tow. They had come in quietly, and sat down without making a fuss or drawing attention to themselves. He watched them surreptitiously throughout the service. The little boy was very well behaved. He'd started to wriggle once, and the man had quietened him with a gentle touch on the boy's leg. The child had immediately settled down.

 Adam sat next to Pa quietly in the church. He tried not to wriggle. Church was boring, except for the singing, but Pa liked it, and he knew he had to sit still. It was disrespectful to God, otherwise, Pa had told him, and Adam knew that Pa didn't approve of his being disrespectful. That was another thing that made Pa cross. He looked around the church. It was obvious that the church also doubled as a schoolroom during the week. There was a big chart up on the wall. Adam amused himself by trying to work out some of the words. He was only just beginning to learn to read, but he knew all his letters. He wanted to go to school one day. He was thinking so hard about the words on the chart that he didn't notice that the service had finished.

 Pa shook his shoulder gently. "Adam," Ben said. He knew Adam hadn't been paying attention, but at least he'd sat quietly. It was probably a bit much to expect a four-year-old to pay attention to the service.

Adam glanced up at his father to see if Pa was cross with him for not paying attention, but Pa was smiling at him, so that was all right. They stopped at the door to speak to the minister.

"Thank you, Reverend, I enjoyed your sermon very much," Ben said politely. The minister smiled. He held out his hand. "My name is Micah Winterton," he said. "We have a tradition in this town of inviting visitors home for Sunday dinner. We don't get many! I would be honoured if you would join my wife and myself today."

Ben stiffened, but offered his hand also. "Ben Cartwright, and this is my son Adam. Thank you for your invitation," he said politely, "but we wouldn't want to impose." Reverend Winterton was an astute judge of men. He glanced down at Adam who was hiding shyly behind his father. The two before him were clean but a bit threadbare. The little boy was outgrowing his clothes and the young man was far too proud to accept the charity he thought he was being offered.

He smiled again and said, "Oh, no, you wouldn't be imposing. Since our children left home, Mrs Winterton finds Sunday dinner rather lonely. It would be kind of you to allow us to have a child at our table again. And we're having apple pie for dessert."

"Mmm, yummy," said Adam, a bit louder than he'd intended. He hadn't had apple pie very often, but he'd loved it when he had.

Ben raised an eyebrow at him. Adam bit his lip. He wasn't supposed to interrupt when grownups were talking. He hoped Pa wouldn't be too mad with him. Ben wasn't really cross with him. He would have to speak to the boy about his manners later, he thought to himself, but he had to admit, the thought of a homecooked meal, instead of his own adequate but unexciting cooking was tempting, very tempting. He succumbed to temptation.

"Thank you, we would be delighted to accept," Ben said.

He and Adam moved off to the side to wait for the Reverend to finish speaking to the rest of the parishioners. Ben looked down at Adam, hands on hips. "What happened to your manners, young man?" he said severely.

Adam gulped. "I'm sorry, Pa. I forgot." He looked up at his Pa anxiously.

"Well, don't forget. I expect better of you. You know better than to interrupt adult conversations, don't you?"

The little boy nodded, relieved that Pa wasn't too cross.

"I'll be watching you over dinner," Ben told him. "I only want your very best behaviour. You just sit quietly and remember that you only speak at the table when you're spoken to. Understand? Don't let me down."

"Yes sir," Adam said. Pa didn't expect him to be quiet over meals, but that was different. There was just the two of them then. He would remember his company manners, though. Pa was trusting him to be good. He didn't want to let Pa down.

    Mrs Winterton was delighted at having guests for Sunday dinner and her pleasure was so obvious that it allayed Ben's suspicions that it had just been an act of charity. He might be poor, but he didn't need anyone's charity. It wasn't always easy, but he could provide for himself and his son.

"Emily, my dear," Reverend Winterton said, "I'd like you to meet Mr Ben Cartwright, and his son Adam. They've accepted my invitation to join us for dinner today."

Mrs Winterton smiled. "I'm so pleased to meet you both," she said. "I do so enjoy having guests, but we don't get many visitors in Willoughby. I'm delighted that you are joining us today! Come in, do! Perhaps you'd like to freshen up a bit before I serve the meal? I'll just show you where everything is..."
Micah Winterton laughed. "Emily, dear, let them get a word in! I'll look after that. You go attend to the table."

Adam pulled on Ben's sleeve. "Pa, I need to go,” he whispered.

Ben turned to the Reverend. "Adam certainly needs to freshen up. If you could just show me where, I'll take care of him."

Mrs Winterton bustled back into the dining with an arm load of cushions. "I thought it wold be easier for Adam if we put him on a cushion," she smiled. "Ben-I may call you Ben?-you lift him up and he can be comfortable too. Then you can sit opposite him." Ben found himself left a bit breathless by her enthusiasm. They bowed their heads as the Reverend said grace and then Mrs Winterton served them a delicious meal. Ben was partial to roast chicken, and he enjoyed it thoroughly. Adam decided he liked roast chicken too, but he liked the apple pie even more. He had two helpings, and would have happily had a third if Ben hadn't shaken his head at him. "I think two's enough ma'am,” Ben said to his hostess. "He's had more than enough to eat." Adam looked disappointed, but he knew better than to argue.
Mrs Winterton smiled. It was nice to see such a young man take such good care of a little boy. "Perhaps Adam would like to go out into the yard and play while we have our coffee," she suggested. "Our conversation can't be too interesting for him."

Ben agreed. "You be a good boy, Adam. Stay in the yard." Ben had no doubts that Adam would stay in the yard. Adam had learned early that he had to stay where Pa said, although learning that lesson had been rather painful for both of them.

It had been nearly two years ago now that Mrs Callahan had left them. Adam had been told, firmly, that he was to stay in the wagon and wasn't allowed to get out. Ben had only left him for a little while but he had had no choice. He had to work or they didn't eat, and he couldn't take Adam with him. Ben had returned to the wagon to find three-year-old Adam nowhere in sight. He had spent nearly half an hour searching for him, so terrified that something had happened to his precious son. He had found the tiny boy happily playing by a creek. "Hi Pa," the little boy had said looking up innocently from his play. "I'm makin' a castle, see?" Ben had swooped on him with such relief, wanting so much simply to cuddle his little wanderer, but he had to steel himself to punish his son instead. Adam hadn't enjoyed the spanking he'd got anymore than his father enjoyed having to give it. Adam had only wandered once more after that, and the spanking he'd got for that had had a lasting impression. So had his father's anger. Ben had yelled long and loud on that occasion, and little Adam had made up his mind never to make his Pa that angry again.

"Yes sir," said Adam, following Mrs Winterton through the house to the yard. She left him there to entertain himself. Adam was good at entertaining himself. There was a swing in an old apple tree, so he played on that. He was careful not to get dirty. Sunday clothes weren't really for playing in.

Mrs Winterton came back to find the men continuing the conversation they'd started over dinner. "I'm heading out towards the west," Ben explained. "It’s taken rather longer than I expected, but I have to stop to earn money to feed and clothe us."

"It must be very difficult to travel with such a young child. Couldn't you have left him with someone?" Mrs Winterton said. "Or it could have been better to wait until Adam was older." It wasn't unusual for a young man in Ben's situation to leave a small child with female relations to raise until the child was big enough to be independent. No one would have thought badly of Ben if he had accepted one of the numerous offers from Elizabeth's cousins or his own sisters. But he couldn't have done that. Even if he had considered leaving Adam, he wouldn't have done it. Elizabeth would never have forgiven him if he'd left their precious baby for someone else to raise.

Pain flicked across Ben's face. "I couldn't stay in Boston. Everywhere I went reminded me of my Elizabeth. And I couldn't leave Adam. He's all I have left of her. It hasn't always been easy, but Adam is a good boy." Ben had high expectations of appropriate behaviour for his son, but while he was a strict father he was not harsh. A sharp word usually brought Adam into line. It was only very rarely indeed that the boy earned himself a spanking. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had to spank him.
    Reverend Winterton was considering the young man. He'd liked what he'd seen and heard and had come to a decision. "You said you needed work. I might have an idea for you, but you'd have to stay for a while- a couple of weeks at least. One of my parishioners, Jim Jackson, has been laid up by an accident, and needs a strong young man to do the farmwork till he's back on his feet. He's willing to pay very well, but it has to be someone reliable that he can trust. I think he'd find you're what he's looking for. I think he said he'd pay eight dollars a week plus board. I'm sure they wouldn't mind a child too. I could take you out there tomorrow if you're interested."

Ben stared at him in surprise. He did need work; Adam definitely needed new shoes. Eight dollars was a lot of money. He thought about it. If he gave up a couple of weeks now, while it was still cold-it was only early March, after all, then they could get a long way without having to stop once the weather was warmer. It was much cheaper to travel in summer, since they didn't have to pay for boarding houses and he could sometimes catch something for their dinner. It seemed almost too good to be true.

"I'd like to meet Mr Jackson, but I must tell you I don't know much about farming. I was a sailor before I got married."

"That doesn't matter. Jim wants someone who can do what he tells him, not someone to run the place. You were a sailor. I'm guessing you know how to take orders, and to work hard,” the Reverend said.

Ben nodded. "Indeed I do. Thank you, Reverend. Now we'd better be on our way. Thank you for a most delicious meal." He rose and shook hands with his host and hostess.

"I'll see you at seven o'clock tomorrow, and take you out to the Jackson's. Good afternoon, Ben."

Ben told Adam all about it as they walked back to their wagon. Adam had taken his shoes off, and was frisking about him like a little puppy. Those shoes must really have hurt him, Ben thought. He hoped he'd get this job. It would be a really good one. He asked Adam's opinion anyway. Sometimes Adam said surprising things.

"What do you think, Adam? Should we keep moving or take this job if it’s offered?" Ben asked him. Adam loved being asked his opinion. He knew Pa would do what he thought best, but he never laughed at his ideas. Ben knew Adam would have been mortally offended if he'd laughed at him, so even when Adam's four-year-old ideas were funny, he restrained himself.

"I think you should take it,” he announced after considerable thought.

Ben smiled at him. "Why?" he asked.

"You can earn lots of money now, and we can travel further when it’s warmer, without having to stop lots," Adam told him. Adam liked being on the trail better than when Ben worked. He had his father all to himself then, and Pa had time to help him with his reading and writing. They talked a lot too, then, and Pa told Adam all sorts of things. Adam didn't always understand what Pa was talking about and Pa sometimes got cross when he asked too many questions, but that didn't matter. Pa was there. He looked up at his father to see what his father thought about his answer and saw Pa had a big smile on his face. Ben ruffled his hair. Adam wasn't sure why Pa was smiling at his answer, but he didn't really care. Pa being pleased with him was all that was important.

    Early the next morning the Cartwrights were back at the Reverend's house. Ben had loaded up the wagon because he had decided that if this job wasn't offered he would keep going to the next town. He felt just a bit ashamed about having accepted the Winterton's hospitality, in case it had been charity. He was afraid that if the job wasn't his they would pity him. Ben didn't want anyone's pity.

 "Morning, Ben, Adam," Reverend Winterton said. "Would you like to join us for breakfast?"

"No thank you, sir," Ben said, "Adam and I have already eaten." Adam was a bit disappointed. He would have liked some more apple pie, but you didn't have apple pie for breakfast anyway, Pa told him, with a mock growl. Adam giggled. Pa was happy this morning. He only got a bit silly when he was happy and that didn't happen very often. The Jackson's farmhouse was a neat white painted house set by a creek with an orchard behind it, about five miles on the other side of the town. It had been founded by Mr Jackson's grandfather, and was very well established. The wagon drove into the yard, and a lady of about forty came out.

"Why Reverend," she said, "What brings you out here so early? And who's this?"

The men climbed down and Reverend Winterton introduced Ben. "This is Ben Cartwright, Mary. I think he may be suitable to help you out while Jim's laid up. Ben Cartwright, Mary Jackson."

Ben raised his hat. "Ma'am," he said politely.

She looked him over. A strong young man, she thought. In his late twenties, with a big build, and a weather-beaten face. He clearly looked like he knew what work was. If the Reverend was vouching for him then it looked like he was the answer to their prayers. A movement caught her eye and she glanced over at the wagon. No dogs. She had enough to worry about without strange dogs. Her eyes widened. It wasn't a dog; it was a little boy.

Ben saw her looking toward the wagon. "My son, Adam, ma'am. He isn't any trouble, but I'll understand if you don't want to take me on."
She shook her head. "I'm sure the Reverend has told you our situation, Mr Cartwright. Come inside and meet Mr Jackson. I'm sure he'll be satisfied since the Reverend is bringing you to us. May I meet your son?"

"Of course," Ben said. "Adam, come over here please." he called. Adam came. "This is my son, Adam, ma'am," Ben said. "Adam, this is Mrs Jackson."

Adam smiled and held out his small hand. "I'm pleased to meet you, ma'am," he said, remembering his manners.

Mrs Jackson liked children. It had always been a source of great sorrow to her that the only child she'd ever had was stillborn. She would have made a wonderful mother but it was not to be. She smiled down at the little boy. What an attractive child he was. The combination of dark hair and sparkling dark eyes, framed by long sooty lashes was irresistible. Add to that a delightful smile with the hint of a dimple and her heart was lost to him on the spot. "What a polite young man. How old is he?" she asked.

"He's four, ma'am, " Ben said.

"He's well grown for four..." Mrs Jackson began.

"I'm almost five," Adam broke in.

Ben rounded on him. "Adam! I told you just yesterday about interrupting adults, didn't I? Apologise to Mrs Jackson at once!" he said, angry.
Adam blushed. He hadn't meant to interrupt and now Pa was mad with him. He swallowed, hard, and tried not to let the tears that came to his eyes spill over. "I'm sorry ma'am. I didn't mean to be rude," he whispered.

Ben frowned at him. "You'd better take yourself back to the wagon where you can't get yourself into more trouble," Ben told him.

Adam went back to the wagon. He went round the other side where no one could see him and cried. About the only thing that would make Adam cry was his Pa being mad with him. He wouldn't cry if he was cold or scared or hungry, but if his Pa shouted at him, he was devastated.

"I apologise, ma'am," Ben said, uncomfortable. "He really does know better."

Mrs Jackson smiled kindly at the embarrassed young man. "He is very young. I'm sure he didn't mean it." A very strict father. She thought he had over reacted a bit, but perhaps there was a reason. "May I ask where his mother is, Mr Cartwright?"

"My wife is no longer with us," he said sadly.

"So you've been raising your son alone?" she asked. She was relieved, a little. A single father would be strict.  
"Yes ma'am," Ben said.

She nodded. She liked this young man. "A very difficult job for a young man," she remarked. "I've a room that would do for the two of you while you are working for us, and the pay, as I'm sure Reverend Winterton has told you, is eight dollars a week plus board. You and Adam will eat with Jim and myself."

She had originally intended that any hired help they took on would live in the small cabin about one hundred yards away,  behind the barn, but Ben's having that dear little boy with him had made her change her mind. It would be much better for Adam to sleep in their spare room. The cabin was fine for a single man, but not, she thought, for a child. It was usual for the hired hand to eat with the family, too, so she didn't feel any difficulty with feeding one extra, very small, mouth!
Ben took a deep breath. "Perhaps it would be fairer if you reduced the pay, since you will be feeding Adam too, in that case," Ben said. He didn't want anyone to think he was taking something for nothing.

"No, no, I'm sure we can find Adam some little chores to pay for his keep." He was a proud man, this Ben Cartwright. She liked him all the better for wanting to be fair. "I think I need an egg collector. I'm sure I'd like some company, too." She smiled. "And anyway, how much can a four year old eat?"

Ben thought about it. Adam could be a good little worker, within his capacity. It would give him something to do, too, while he was working. He knew how boring it was for Adam, sometimes, but that just couldn't be helped. "Very well, then we accept, thank you, ma'am."

Jim Jackson hobbled out onto the porch of the house. A pleasant man, with a wealth of knowledge about farming, he had broken his leg in a buggy accident, but needed the spring ploughing and planting done. It hadn't mattered during winter but now spring had come it was imperative that the farm work got done. He greeted the Reverend as the old friend he was.

"Jim, I've brought Ben Cartwright to help you out till you're back on your feet," the Reverend told him. Jim looked him over. He too liked what he saw.

"Know much about farming, Ben?" he asked.

Ben shook his head. "No, sir. I was a sailor before I married. I've worked here and there on farms on our way out west, but I don't know much about farming at all."

Jim was pleased. Not because Ben knew nothing about farming, but because he was honest enough to admit it. That augured well. If he'd been a sailor then he knew how to work too. That was good. A thought occurred to him. "You said, 'our way'? Is your wife with you?"

"No sir, my little son, Adam. My wife no longer with us."

Jim Jackson nodded and extended his hand. A common enough story, he thought. "I'm sure you'll be just what we need. Why don't you get yourself and the horse settled, and then you can start work. There's no time like the present, I say."

    Ben went over to the wagon. Adam was sitting on the ground behind it, very miserable. He scrambled to his feet, respectfully, as his father approached. He didn't want to get into any more trouble. He stared down at his feet. Ben turned his face up. The woebegone little face was tear streaked and it tore at Ben's heart. He had to be firm, to maintain discipline, though. As they moved west, life became more and more dangerous. Adam's safety or even his life might depend on his obedience, one day. He couldn't allow any disobedience, even on such a minor matter.

"I told you to mind your manners, didn't I?" he demanded.

Adam sniffed and nodded, fighting back more tears. "I'm sorry, Pa. I won't do it again," he sniffled.

"See that you don't," Ben said, firmly. "It had better not happen again, or you and I will have to have a necessary little talk."

Adam gulped and blinked hard. He didn't want a spanking.

"All right, then." Ben said in a gentler tone. "You can help me unpack the wagon, and then I'll go to work, and you can stay with Mrs Jackson. Remember, your absolutely best behaviour. I expect you  to do exactly what Mrs Jackson says, and if she gives you chores to do, you do them as well as you can."

Adam nodded solemnly, as he dried his eyes on his shirt sleeve.

"Don't use your sleeve," Ben said, pulling out his handkerchief and giving it to Adam. "Blow," he said. Adam blew, and gave Ben a watery smile.

    Ben had liked Mrs Jackson. She reminded him of his mother. They quickly unpacked, but the sorting out would be left till after the day was over. Daylight on a farm already behind in its preparation for spring planting was too precious to waste on household chores. Ben went to discuss what needed to be done with Mr Jackson. He liked Mr Jackson too. The first task was ploughing. Ben had done this at other farms, so he had some idea, but he had a feeling the furrows might not be quite as straight as they ought. Jim Jackson had laughed at this. "It doesn't matter, Ben. The grain doesn't care if the furrows are straight and nor do I. Just do the best you can."

Ben got to work. The first few furrows were a bit wobbly but as Ben got into the swing of things they gradually improved. Ben Cartwright believed firmly in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, and most of the people who had ever employed him felt that he more than gave value for money. By the time Mrs Jackson rang the dinner bell, he had ploughed two and a half fields. He cared for the horse first before he went into dinner. Adam was standing by the kitchen door watching for his father. Mrs Jackson had helped him wash his hands and face and he looked a lot happier than he had when Ben had left him. Ben smiled at him.

"What have you been up to, son?" he asked, ruffling his son's hair. Adam smiled up at him, relieved. Pa didn't call him 'son' like that when he was mad with him.

"I collected the eggs, Pa," he said proudly. "Mrs Jackson said I was really good at it," he said as they sat down at the table. Mr Jackson said grace and they began eating. Mrs Jackson was a good cook, Ben thought. He could happily eat this cooking for a bit. Adam sat there in silence, just eating what was put in front of him.
The only thing he said was please and thank you. It was good that he was trying so hard to mind his manners, Ben thought. He didn't like having to scold the child. Ben told Mr Jackson what he'd done. Jim Jackson was impressed and said so. At that rate they would be able to get to the planting only a week late instead of a month. Ben looked a little embarrassed. He wasn't really used to getting compliments. He just believed in doing what had to be done.

    That evening, Ben and Adam settled into their room. It was a nice room, with two beds in it, and pretty curtains at the window. There was room for all their things; not that they had much. Before they finished the last thing Ben did was get out Elizabeth's picture and the music box and put them together on a shelf. Ben always did that if they were going to be in the same place for a while. He'd told Adam once that he liked to share what they were doing with his mother. That was why he wrote in the journal too. The only trouble with the journal was that Pa seemed to spend a lot of time with it. Adam wanted Pa to himself. He didn't want to share him with anyone, specially not a journal. After Adam was asleep that evening, Ben wrote in his journal. He told Elizabeth all about the job he'd found, and how good it was. He told her some other things too, things so private that the only person he could share them with was his wife. He sat at the little desk and held her picture in his hand. Sometimes he missed her so much the pain was like a knife cutting through him. He loved Adam dearly. Adam was the only link he had to his precious Elizabeth. Ben closed his eyes, but he couldn't stop the tears that slipped down his cheeks. "Elizabeth, Elizabeth, my love," he mourned, quietly. They had told him that time would ease the pain, but some days it was just as sharp as the day she had died. He went to bed that night heavy hearted.

    It was hard to be sad in the face of such boundless enthusiasm, Ben thought to himself, watching as Adam bounced out of bed eagerly, ready to face the new day. He was going to help Mrs Jackson bake cookies today, he informed his father proudly. Ben stretched his stiff back. He was going to plough more land today, he told Adam, with a grin.

"We could swap jobs, if you like," he teased his son. "I'm sure I'd be much better at licking the spoon." Adam couldn't remember making cookies before. He'd eaten them sometimes, but he'd never made them. He frowned for a moment, then he saw Ben's grin and realised Pa was teasing him.

"No, Mrs Jackson's expecting me, not you. An' I'm not big enough to plough, yet," he said, oh-so-seriously.

"Then we'll just have to stick with what we can do. Let's go have breakfast. Just remember, be good." Ben grinned at him.

Ben was off at the ploughing the whole week. He worked very hard. He worried a little about leaving Adam in Mrs Jackson's care; not because he didn't trust her, but because he felt he was imposing. He raised this with her one evening, and she vehemently denied it.

"Imposing?" she said. "Nonsense. I'm really enjoying having Adam's company. He's a bright little thing, and a real help. He's better at collecting the eggs than I am, and he gets such pleasure out of doing little household tasks and helping in the kitchen." She grinned for a moment. "And he's really good at taste-testing cookies for me..." She paused. "Seriously, Ben, he's just having fun doing things he doesn't normally do. And when I tell him to go amuse himself, he does, and stays right out of my hair. He really is a good boy. Don't worry about him." Ben wasn't really in any position to argue, so had to be satisfied with that. He had to admit, too, that Adam was happy.

As it happened, Mary Jackson was finding Adam a delight to have about. He was such a dear little boy. He had free run of her kitchen and she went out of her way to make little treats for him and to let him help with her tasks. Adam had never done anything like this before. He was her chief egg collector, chicken feeder and chief assistant in the doing all the household tasks that small children would normally help with. The highlight of his week was the day she found some old paper and a pencil and let him try to write his name on paper.

When Ben came back for supper that night Adam proudly showed him. "Look Pa!" he said, holding out the piece of paper. "Look what Mrs Jackson let me do today. Now I can really write!"

He was so proud of himself, Ben thought. He wouldn't have squashed Adam's obvious joy for the world, as he took the piece of paper with the very wobbly writing on it.

Ben smiled and patted his head. "That's really good son," he said to Adam. "Do you mind if I keep it?" Ben wanted to put it away in his treasures box.  He told Elizabeth all about their clever little son, later. At the same time he was still a bit concerned about Adam taking up so much of Mrs Jackson's time, but when he tried to raise this a second time, Jim Jackson told him much the same thing as his wife had done.

Jim and Adam were playing checkers. "He's no trouble, Ben," Jim said, patting Adam on the head. Adam didn't like anyone doing that but Pa, but he knew not to say anything. Jim continued, with a chuckle, "He hasn't beaten me yet, but I think he's not far off! It’s nice to have a child about the place. Especially one as bright and well behaved as this one. You can be really proud of him."

Ben was proud, but he was worried too. The Jacksons were very kind, but he didn't want Adam to be spoilt. Adam was a good boy but he was only small. If he got used to all these treats he was getting it might be much harder on them both when they were back on the trail. Ben told Adam very firmly that he was not to accept treats from the Jacksons without his permission, but he couldn't really tell Mrs Jackson not to let him help her. There didn't seem to be much he could say. Adam was happy and his employers were happy. What could he do?

    The time flew by. Ben worked very hard and succeeded in getting most of the farm work caught up to where it should be. Jim Jackson was extremely pleased. So was Micah Winterton. It was nice to see his judgement vindicated. Each Sunday the Cartwrights came along with the Jacksons to church. Ben clearly found the service beneficial to him, although Adam was just as bored each week as he had been the first one. They didn't sit in the back pew anymore. They sat with the Jacksons, just as though they belonged there. Adam liked the change anyway. He could see that chart much better, and was making progress in deciphering it. He couldn't tell Pa that though. Pa would be cross. He was wrong about that. Ben was quite well aware that Adam didn't pay attention in church, and the only thing that could have caught his attention was that chart. He had decided not to say anything. If he did he would have to scold Adam for not paying attention in church. There would be time enough to insist he paid attention when he was old enough to understand what was going on. In the meantime he'd just let Adam practice his reading.

    Adam sat in church, reading his chart and thinking about the Jacksons. He liked the Jacksons but he would be happy when they were on their way west again. But there were two good things about being at the Jacksons. One was the food-especially cookies. Adam decided he liked cookies almost as much as he liked apple pie. Adam found out about the other the first Saturday night they were there when it was bath time.

"Adam!" called Ben. Adam was playing in the barn with a litter of kittens he'd found. He came out of the barn cuddling a cute little tabby.

"Look, Pa. I've got a kitten. Isn't it cute?"

Ben smiled at the little boy. "Yes it is cute, but you take it back to its mother. It’s time for your bath."

"Aw, can't I play with it for just a bit longer, Pa? It likes me. See?" He held the kitten up by the neck. The kitten didn't like that. It mewed and scratched him.

"Ow!" Adam yelled, dropping the kitten in surprise. His lower lip trembled just a bit but he didn't cry. The kitten scampered back to its mother.
Ben went to him. "Show me the scratch," he ordered. Adam held out his arm. It wasn't a deep scratch, but cat-scratches hurt and sometimes got infected.
Ben looked at it. "If you'd come when I told you it wouldn't have happened, would it? You do as I tell you," he scolded, but Adam could tell he wasn't really cross.

"Come on, I'll put something on it after your bath."

"Do I hafta have a bath, Pa?" Adam asked.

Ben took his hand and grinned down at him. "I thought you liked hot baths,” he said.

Adam's face lit up. He loved hot baths. Even the soap didn't seem to sting so much if the bath was warm. Ben smiled to himself. The boy was really so easy to please. He didn't ask much out of life at all. Adam thoroughly enjoyed his bath, but what made it even better was that Pa had a bit of time to read with him when Adam was all clean and tucked up in bed in his nightshirt. The rest of the time Pa didn't have enough energy to do reading with him, or writing. He only got a quick bedtime story too, if he got one at all. Pa worked so hard and he was just too tired at the end of the day. He understood Pa was very busy. He did have time to write to his mother in that journal though, Adam grumbled to himself.

 Towards the end of the second week Mrs Jackson looked up at the breakfast table and smiled at Ben.

"Ben, have you noticed that Adam is rather in need of some new clothes?" she asked.

Ben had noticed. He smiled. "Adam's put on a bit of weight since we've been here. It’s all your good cooking, ma'am. And everything grows in spring, especially small boys. I'll have to get some for him in town," he said.

"I was thinking, I've got some time. I could make him some new clothes. They'd be much better quality than anything you could buy." Mrs Jackson was a bit nervous about making her suggestion. She had learned in the last week just how touchy Ben Cartwright could be if he thought you were trying to patronize him.

Ben chewed his lip a moment. It would be ill-mannered to refuse, Ben thought, especially since Adam was in need of new clothes, and this made things easier for him.
 "I'll accept your kind offer, ma'am, as long as you let me pay for the material," he decided.

"Of course. I'll ask Jim to deduct it from your pay." Jim nodded, without saying anything. He wasn't the talkative type.

Mrs Jackson was relieved. That had been easier than she expected. Ben's next words startled her, though.

"I think I ought to pay you for your time, too." he said. "It doesn't seem right that you should..."

She interrupted him. "Nonsense, Ben" she said firmly. "If I didn't want to do it I wouldn't have offered. I wouldn't expect you to pay me for that any more than I expect you to pay for me doing your bit of washing while I'm doing my own."

Ben had been reluctant to let Mrs Jackson do his washing, but she had insisted. It was much better that he spent his time doing farm work rather than women's work, and it was entirely to her benefit in the long run. She had one of those new mangle things, and Adam just loved turning the handle to squeeze the clothes out. Two extra shirts wasn't really overburdening her. It was funny, Adam thought, that grownups were allowed to interrupt but he wasn't. Pa yelled at him when he interrupted. Just another mysterious thing about being a grownup, he decided. He was excited about getting new clothes. That was something that didn't happen very often. The last time had been when Santa had brought him new mittens at Christmas time.

    Mrs Jackson took Adam into town one day and let him choose the material for his new shirt at the mercantile. He chose a bright red plaid.

"You'll look very nice in that," Mrs Jackson told him as she held it up against him. It looked nice with his dark hair and eyes. The pants she made were a serviceable dark blue. They wouldn't show the dirt easily, and the material was easily washable. She would have bought him a peppermint stick, too, but Adam knew better than to accept gifts without permission. She bought it anyway. Touchy as Ben was, he surely couldn't refuse his son such a small treat, and it gave her such pleasure to see him smile. Getting that lovely smile from this serious little boy was a task in itself, and she loved to see him smile. It hadn't taken Mary Jackson long to become very fond of this small boy. She was going to miss him when they moved on west. The planting had been done, and Jim's leg was well enough that he could tend to his own farm. Ben told the Jacksons that he was planning to move on at the end of the week. She began to suggest things to her husband that Ben could do to keep him just a bit longer but he shook his head. They couldn't keep Ben here if he didn't want to stay, even if his little son had brought sunshine into their lives.

    Adam proudly put on his new clothes. Pa had said he could wear them for church today, and then tomorrow he could wear them for everyday. Tomorrow they would be leaving. He knew Mrs Jackson was sad they were leaving, because she kept crying and hugging him. She was making a special Sunday dinner to say goodbye, and Reverend Winterton and his wife were coming too. He didn't have new shoes, yet. Pa only got his pay yesterday. There had been a bit of an argument when Pa had realized that Mrs Jackson hadn't taken the money for the material, but she had insisted it was a gift and it wasn't polite to insist on paying for a gift. Ben had given up. He wasn't happy about it but there wasn't anything he could do, short of refusing to accept the clothes, and that would have hurt everyone, especially Adam. He had acquiesced but not with good grace. After all that there hadn't been time for shoes. That didn't matter. They were going in the Jackson's buggy, so he wouldn't have to walk far. Ben came in as Adam was preening himself.

"Look Pa," he said. "Don't my new clothes look good?" He turned himself around trying to see the back.
Ben laughed. "You'll tie yourself in knots doing that! You do look very smart. I wonder how long it will be before you grow out of them? Come on, the Jacksons are ready. We don't want to be late for church."

    Church was followed by a most delicious meal. Mrs Jackson had outdone herself. Ben and Jim Jackson were sitting relaxing on the porch afterwards. Adam was off playing with the kittens. He was going to miss them. They were so cute and cuddly and funny. Jim was watching him.

 "He's a nice little boy, Ben, you've done a fine job with him. Mary and I are going to miss the little scamp."

Ben smiled and looked pleased. "Thank you, I think he'll miss you too," he replied.

Then Jim added, "I've got something I'd like to talk to you about."  

Ben looked enquiringly at him. Jim wasn't a very chatty type so this had to be important.

Jim Jackson rubbed at his chin a moment and said, "Have you ever considered not going out west, Ben? You could stay here. You make a fine farm hand and you are a really good worker. I could teach you what you need to know..." he paused and watched the young man's face."...and maybe help you get a farm of your own nearby." He hoped Ben would accept this idea. It would be good for everyone.

Ben smiled politely, but shook his head. "No sir," he said decidedly. "If I'm going to be a farmer then I'm going out west to be a farmer. It will be a challenge to open up new country, to make a new life for myself."

Jim nodded. "I thought that's what you would say." There was a long pause. Jim was finding it hard to come to the point, although he and Mary had discussed what he was about to offer far into the night for many nights. "Have you thought that it would be easier and faster if you didn't have a young child with you? If it wasn't for Adam you could have been there already."

Ben was puzzled. "That is undoubtedly true, but if it hadn't been for Adam I think I might have gone back to sea."

"Mary and I were thinking, perhaps you could leave Adam here, with us, while you travel and find somewhere to settle," Jim said.

Ben shook his head. "I'd rather he travel with me."

"That wasn't quite what I meant," Jim said. "We want to keep him here."

Ben stared at him, speechless. He wasn't sure he actually understood what this man was saying, but he was sure he didn’t like what it sounded like.

"Have you ever thought that such a small child needs a mother? You've done a fine job with him but he's just a little boy and could use some mothering. And the west is so dangerous. What if something happened to you?" Jim continued.

Ben pulled himself together. "If anything should happen to me then there are instructions in my papers on how to get in touch with Captain Stoddard, Adam's grandfather. He would be his guardian. That's all arranged. But nothing's going to happen to me," he said stiffly. "And yes, it is possible he would be happy with a mother, but his mother is dead." Ben rose to his feet, as if to go.  

"Hear me out, Ben. Mary and I weren't blessed with children. We're well off. We've both really come to love Adam. We'd like to adopt him. We could give him a home and an education and he'd have the farm after we're gone. He'd want for nothing. We can give him everything you can't. He'd have a secure home. It’s not much of a life for him, constantly travelling. He could stay here and you could go out west."

Ben had been puzzled as Jim began this speech, but by the time he got to the end of it Ben was outraged. He turned towards Jim and was about to speak when he heard Adam's voice, quavering.

"Pa?" the little voice said. Ben turned in horror. Adam was standing by the porch steps, his little face white as a sheet, and his eyes huge. He looked terrified. He had come over to ask his Pa if he couldn't perhaps keep the little tabby he liked so much. Pa had said he would get a spanking if he interrupted an adult conversation again, so he had been patiently waiting for the grownups to finish so he could ask. But he'd just had to interrupt. Mr Jackson was talking about keeping him. He knew he was hard for Pa to take care of; lots of people had told Pa how difficult he was. He was scared. He didn't want his Pa to go away and never come back, so he had to know. He looked up at his father. "Pa?" he said again.

There was only one possible answer that would help here, Ben knew. He held out his arms and his little boy ran to him, flinging his arms tightly round his father's neck. Ben picked him up and held the trembling little body tightly.

"I would never leave you, son," Ben said, simply. "You are my pride and joy. I love you more than anything else in this world." He kissed Adam who, clinging tight, buried his face in Ben's shoulder.

Still cuddling him, Ben turned back to Jim. "The answer is "no". Leaving Adam with you is absolutely out of the question. I can't think what could give you the idea that I would even consider it! What kind of father do you think I am? How could you even think I could give my boy away?" His voice got louder with each comment. "There would be no more reason for me to keep living if I didn't have Adam. He's my link with my Elizabeth, and he's the reason I even consider a future. I may not be able to give him everything he wants, but I can assure you, he will always have everything he needs. The thing he needs most in this world is me." Ben thumped his chest in emphasis. "His father. I love him, and he loves me. I would never abandon him like that. Sure a small boy is hard to raise, and it isn't always easy, but no matter how hard it is, I do it because I love him." Ben broke off, blinking hard. The thought of losing Adam brought tears to his eyes.
Jim held his hand up. "I'm sorry, Ben, it was only a suggestion. If he were mine I would feel the same way,” he said sadly. "I'm sorry that Adam heard my offer, though, I wouldn't hurt him for the world."

Ben had pulled himself together by now. "I am pleased you are so fond of my son," he said formally, "but I think it would be better if we packed and were on our way today. Excuse me, sir." He turned to go.

Jim Jackson stopped him. "No, Ben, please don't rush off today. Forget that I said anything. Mary will be so disappointed if you go today." He rose and patted Adam on the back. "I'm sorry you don't want to stay with us, son, but your Pa loves you. Mrs Jackson and I are going to miss you." Adam shook off the man's hand and burrowed even further into his father. He wasn't that man's son; he belonged to Pa. Pa just said so. Normally Ben would have scolded Adam for his rudeness but this time he just hugged Adam a bit tighter. Adam was his son, and he was going to stay that way. Adopt his son, indeed.

"Please," said Jim, "No hard feelings? You can leave tomorrow morning as you planned. Let's just enjoy this last day together. I've enjoyed knowing you, Ben. I would be very unhappy if I felt we were not parting in friendship. Please forgive me?" He held out his hand and after a long moment Ben took it. After all, he had Adam. He didn't need to leave any unpleasantness behind him.

    Ben sat down on his bed with Adam still in his arms. He kissed the top of Adam's head. "Adam, you know that there is nothing and no one in this whole world who could ever take you away from me." Adam sniffled and pressed his face into Ben's shoulder some more. Ben wasn't sure how to convince this frightened child that his Pa wasn't going to leave him behind. He wondered why Adam was so frightened, why he even thought he would. Ben didn’t realise he was the only permanent thing in Adam’s life, and deep down inside somewhere Adam was afraid Pa would go away, just as everything else did.
Ben had a sudden idea. "Adam, look at me," he ordered in a quiet but firm tone.

Adam raised his face and Ben pulled him down onto his lap. "That's better," he said quietly, cuddling the child. "Adam, what's my name?"

Adam looked bewildered but said promptly, "Ben Cartwright."

Ben smiled. "That's right. And what's yours?"

"Adam Cartwrigh,t" Adam said, even more bewildered.

Ben smiled again. "Cartwright. That's right. We're both Cartwrights and Cartwrights look out for each other. I look out for you. You have to stay with me, or who's going to look out for me?" he asked.

He'd found just the right approach. Adam smiled and slipped off his father’s lap. He drew himself up to his full four-year-old height and put one little hand on his father’s shoulder.

"I'll look out for you, Pa,” he said, earnestly.

"That's good," Ben said, very seriously. "I can't think why you would even think I would leave you, boy," he added.

Adam looked up at him. "Cos people are always saying how difficult I am. I heard Mrs Winterton say it," he said.

Ben shook his head. "You're not difficult, Adam. You’re a good boy, mostly. Mrs Winterton meant that raising you by myself is difficult. That's what comes of eavesdropping."

Adam tilted his head to one side. "What's eavesdropping, Pa?"

"Eavesdropping is what you were doing today, listening in to conversations that aren't meant for you. If you hadn't been listening, you wouldn't have known anything about it." Ben said, just a tiny bit scolding.

"I didn't mean to, Pa," Adam hastened to explain. "I just wanted to ask you something, and you and Mr Jackson were talking and I was waiting for you to finish 'cos you don't want me to interrupt." He bit his lip." Are...are you gonna spank me, Pa?" he asked, eyes wide.

Ben almost laughed at the anxious expression on Adam's face. He didn’t need to spank Adam to reinforce that particular lesson. He had a feeling Adam would never forget it.

"I should, shouldn't I?” he said. He cupped Adam’s chin in his hand, and looked into the anxious eyes. “I'll forgive you this time. I might not be so lenient next time,"  he warned. "What was it you wanted to ask me?"

"Can I have a kitten, Pa?" Adam blurted out.

Ben stared at him for a moment and then began to laugh. All this because Adam wanted a kitten! He shook his head, and said, "You can't have one of those kittens, Adam. We can't keep a kitten in the wagon, and they're too young to leave their mother, anyway. You wouldn't want to take the baby kitten away from its mother, would you?"

Adam shook his head decidedly. He got the point. “No sir.”

    Adam perched on the wagon seat next to his father. It was just after breakfast and Mrs Jackson had made all Adam's favorites. He was happy to be going on the road again. He waved. "Goodbye, Mrs Jackson!" he called. Mrs Jackson had cried when they left, and she'd kissed Adam and hugged him really hard. Mr Jackson had given him a hug too. They'd both shaken Ben's hand, and Mrs Jackson had kissed Ben too. Adam had giggled to himself at that. Pa had looked really embarrassed. In Adam's small world, children got kisses, not grownups. Ben felt sorry for the Jacksons, but they couldn't have his son. Once he'd calmed down, he'd actually suggested to Jim that there were plenty of orphans about, if they wanted to adopt a child. One who didn't have a father. Jim had nodded but said nothing.

Ben smiled at his son. "Do you think you're going to miss the Jacksons?" he asked, curious.
Adam nodded. "A bit. I was scared when Mr Jackson wanted to keep me though. I liked doing stuff in the kitchen and Mrs Jackson's cooking was really good, but I like it best when it’s just us."

Ben smiled. "You won't miss Mrs Jackson's cooking for while, at least. She's given us enough food for at least three days. How would you like apple pie for supper?"

"Yummy!" yelled Adam, bouncing on the seat.

Ben grinned at the boy's enthusiasm. He would have to go back to his father's much more mundane cooking soon enough.

"Would you have liked to stay here, Adam?" Ben asked. "The Jacksons would have liked us to stay, you know."

Adam shook his head. He looked up at his father. "We can't stay here. We've gotta go west." He looked uncertain just for a moment. "Don't we, Pa?" he said, appealing to the fount of all wisdom.
Ben smiled and tweaked the small nose. "We certainly do, son. Both of us. It will take us a while longer yet, but the Cartwrights are going west."    

September, 2001