Aftermath by Lyn Robinson

After one day relaxing when the brothers, Carole and the twins returned home form Europe, the Cartwrights had to get back to work. Adam started organising things at the mill to cut the lumber that he would require to build the flumes. He needed to hire some more men to help in the actual construction of the flumes and needed to get into town in order to do so. Ben sent Joe out to check the cow gather, knowing that his youngest son was eager to ride round the Ponderosa and then Hoss was going out to mark up the timber with Adam joining him. Hoss could delay going out for a couple of days and willingly joined Joe at the roundup. He had missed both his brothers, and would be spending the next ten days or so with Adam, so a couple of days catching up with Joe was just what he wanted. Ben himself planned to ride into Virginia City with Adam the following day. Like Hoss he had missed the brothers and he wanted a chance to talk to his eldest son, see just how he was taking this new pregnancy and learn a little more about their trip to Europe.
Adam went over to collect his father after an early breakfast, warning Carole that it would probably be late before he got back. She had plenty to do as she sorted out the things they had bought and got her house back just the way she liked it. Kam Su had kept it clean but Carole had to find out just what food they had and sort out the twins clothes, many now too small had to be put away, others washed and ironed, to say nothing of finding homes for all their new possessions. She had given Adam a long list of supplies to collect and so Adam took the buckboard into town.
Ben joined his son on the wagon and the two men chatted as they drove into town. Adam commented that he wanted to drop by and see Doc, in order to get him to go out and check on Carole.
Ben frowned, “Are you worried about her? I don’t think that there’s any real need. Second babies are always much easier on their mother’s.”
Adam smiled, “I’m not going to get into a state this time Pa. You once said that disaster can strike when its least expected, I was a lot closer to losing her on that ship than when the twins were born. A pleasure trip and then suddenly...” He broke off and Ben gripped his arm “Little Joe told us all about it Son, you did very well to pull them through.”
“I couldn’t have done it without Joe’s help and an old lady Mrs Lewis who looked after Mark. I’ve never been more grateful to have my little brother around, especially in those long dark hours in the early morning. He wouldn’t leave me at night, got what sleep he could during the day, I know he was exhausted but I was so glad he was there.”
“Joe told us. Don’t underestimate what you did Adam, I hear the Queen’s paediatrician hadn’t heard of such a young child surviving.”
“I was so very lucky. I don’t know why but I don’t trust other doctors in the way I do Paul. I had a man with an excellent reputation check Carole. He had all sorts of qualifications and said that she was recovering well but for my own peace of mind I’d rather have Paul’s opinion, especially as she’s pregnant.”
“Its not really surprising Adam. Paul has saved your life more than once.”
Adam changed the subject, discussing the priorities for work for the next month. Ben went along, Adam might be a little anxious but he was reasonably calm and it would do no harm for Doc to give Carole a routine check. Adam wanted to go to the Bank to check various investments and that reminded Ben of an offer he’d been made. Adam had left his father with a power of attorney but Ben didn’t disturb his son’s investments unnecessarily. Ben said, “I had an offer for your Belcher shares.”
Adam frowned and then shrugged “I’d forgotten I had any. It’s only about two percent.”
“The quoted price is at a dollar a share but whoever wanted yours was very eager. Offered fifty a share.”
Adam whistled softly “Who?”
“I’m not sure. A young lawyer approached me. I don’t know him, Hinted he’d go higher but I made it clear that I wasn’t doing anything and he’d have to wait until you came back.”
“Someone has decided Belcher is likely to have the same bonanza as Crown Pont. Next door after all.”
“That much is obvious but whoever it is has handled the stock very cleverly, no hint on the market.”
Adam thought for a minute “Jones and Hayward maybe. They bought Crown Point out from under the Bank and with the money they’ve made from that....”
Ben shook his head “I doubt it, Sharon likes them about as much as he likes us. They rubbed it in setting up their own mill for Crown Point ore. Whatever you say about him Sharon knows what is happening on the Comstock, he’d have forced the price of control, like he did with the Consolidated Virginia.”
“No announcement of new control?”
“None, not even a new board of nominees yet and there aren’t any rumours just this strange offer. Out of interest I tried to buy some stock but there’s none on the market.”
Adam grinned “You know who could do it easily?”
“Sharon himself. Yes I thought of that, but if so why the secrecy?”
“Just possibly because some stock is in my name. Sharon hates my guts and if he could prevent me sharing in a good thing he would. Either way I think I’ll hang on to my stock, it’s only a small stake and it cost me virtually nothing.”
Ben wasn’t surprised at Adam’s reaction and only time would prove what was really going on. He turned to a subject, which had been worrying him slightly. “Another of your investments has caused quite a lot of talk.”
Adam hadn’t any idea what Ben meant and looked quizzically at his father. Ben went on “Why didn’t you tell me you’d invested in Sutro’s tunnel?”
Adam nodded slowly “I see. What happened?”
“Word was out that you’d invested heavily, it wasn’t too popular. Neither was the attempt to get other people to invest because you’d backed it.”
Adam was angry at that “They had no right to do that. I gave them some money not the right to use my name.”
“I made that very clear and I don’t think that anyone fell for it, at least not heavily. But why didn’t you tell me. I mean crazy Sutro!”
“Maybe he’s not so crazy Pa. I didn’t mean not to tell you, at least not consciously, Maybe I just avoided it, not exactly ashamed a little shamefaced, I’ve heard a lot of crazy Sutro over the years too. I just forgot to mention it with all the other things.”
“Fair enough Adam.”
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you Pa, especially when I wasn’t here.”
“It takes more than that to worry me Adam, your investments are your own business. I was just rather surprised. Thinking about it I realised I had no idea what you thought of the tunnel, funny I don’t think we’ve ever discussed it.”
“Well I was in Europe when he started and it’s always been a long term project, we had more immediate problems.”
“How heavily did you invest?”
“Only $25 000.”
“Less than my share in the Consolidated Virginia cost and I’m clearing that every three months from the mine alone. Sutro caught me at the right moment I guess. A couple of days after I’d been down the mine, You know what it was like in the thousand-foot drift. I had a great deal of sympathy with the miners and I was feeling rich. There’s no doubt that if he pulls it off it will improve conditions down the mines immeasurably. As a purely business proposition its not bad either. It would cut costs a lot and at a royalty of $2 a ton, it’ll make Sutro rich.”
“If it ever gets built.”
“He has a lot of faith in it, maybe its contagious, Anyway he wasn’t quite what I expected, he’s had a German geologist survey for it. A top man, I know his reputation. Sutro gave me a copy of the survey report to read. I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy but from the report its possible. Nothing I know contradicts the report, though I’m no expert.”
Ben snorted “No need for mock humility with me, you know the Comstock as well as anyone.”
“Not quite Pa, but well enough. He needed money to sink an air shaft before he could get much further, the air was bad. I agreed to put the money up for it, just a long-term gamble. I don’t think that the ground will defeat him but the financing might. There’s no way I can carry it on my own even if I wanted to, he needs a government loan and that the bank will fight. Ralston has blacked the tunnel, you know that as well as I do.”
“If we all went in?”
“Still too big and I’m not that sure. I wouldn’t fight the Bank for it and risk losing everything, we aren’t big enough to swing it.”
“Have you got any idea why Ralston** is blacking it. He has experts too and originally he was all for it?” Ben queried.
Adam shrugged “Well Sutro claims that Ralston is running scared. Thinks that once its done it will make Sutro himself too powerful and he might be right. I have no better suggestion.”
“Will you get in any deeper?”
“I just don’t know Pa, depends on circumstances. I won’t involve the Ponderosa and I’ll talk it over with you first. Call that contribution conscience money. I’m not that committed.”
Ben left it at that, glad to know where his son stood and let Adam concentrate on edging through the traffic to the store. They had varying errands to do and separated arranging to meet for lunch at the Washoe club. After his father’s warning Adam wasn’t too surprised when a young man came up to him and introduced himself as Neil Roberts, a lawyer, Roberts said that he had a client who was interested in acquiring Adam’s stock in the Belcher mine. Adam had not intention of selling it but he was intrigued to find out how high the man would go. He was astonished when Roberts finally went up to $500 a share. Then to Roberts horror Adam laughed, “Let me give you a hint. When it comes to negotiating it never works to show how badly you want something, On the market Belcher shares are quoted at a dollar each, yet you’ll pay me five hundred times as much. There must be a reason. I don’t need the money so I think I’ll hang on and find out just why they are so valuable.”
Roberts looked horrified “But you can’t.”
“Noone can force me to sell if I don’t want to,”
“Mr Sharon wants them.”
Adam grinned broadly, “Well thank you very much, that was exactly what I wanted to know.”
Roberts looked scared, knowing that he had done the wrong thing and Adam said kindly “Don’t worry. I had a pretty good idea anyway, you only confirmed it. You might warn Sharon that if he tries to push too high an assessment on my few shares I’ll ensure that the Bank’s assessment is in line. He knows that I can do it and I will. I don’t even have to pay legal fees. If you want to save face, make it your own advice. You don’t have to bring me into it at all.”
With that Adam sauntered away, leaving one very worried young man. Recently out of law school, he had drastically underestimated the tall man in cowboy clothes, dusty after the ride to town.
At the Washoe club, Jim Fair had cornered Ben. He had been intending to send out to the Ponderosa anyway and he wanted Ben and Adam to come down the Consolidated Virginia. Ben was stalling unsure what Adam had planned but Adam joined them and agreed willingly enough, although he insisted on lunch first, despite Jim’s anxiety to move at once. Ben finally persuaded Jim to go away and let then have lunch in peace, promising to come up to the house immediately afterwards. Adam filled Ben in on Sharon’s offer and how Roberts had let the cat out of the bag. Ben was amused but slightly worried, it wouldn’t make Sharon like Adam any better, still at least Sharon stayed within the law, albeit only just.
Adam had Doc’s promise to come out that evening and he had relaxed, glad to be home, seeing some of his old friends. He enjoyed his lunch and after a large brandy was even ready to go down the mine. Jim Fair was waiting for them and Ben and Adam got changed. Ben recognised the slight tension in his son as they walked over to the lift shaft but Adam grinned at him and he made no comment. Adam had always hated going down the mines but it was no worse than it ever had been and he would manage. It seemed a very long way down to the 1400-foot level and both Adam and Ben tensed as the spring held the cage as it finally came to a halt. Jim Fair grinned at them “After all this time you two ought to be used to the cage!”
Ben glared at him, “We are but we don’t have to like it. It’s just the thought of all that rock above us.” Realising that he wasn’t helping his eldest son with such comments and that Adam was even more tense, Ben asked “Just why have you brought is down here?”
Fair smiled “You’re going even deeper and this time you’ll have to do it the hard way, You’ll wish that the cage was going deeper.”
Adam frowned, “How deep?”
“We’ve opened up a 1500 foot level, just exploring, no cage station there yet.”
“Why? You’ve barely started work here on the 1400 foot level and there’s plenty of work to be done on the higher levels.”
“I’ll explain our reasons later, maybe we should have had board approval but we didn’t think that you’d object.”
Ben sensed the edge to Jim’s voice and not wanting him to lose his temper said, “I’m sure you had a good reason Jim, Adam’s just curious. Can we get on, we have other things to get done today.”
Jim led the way along the tunnel but Adam wasn’t going to be hurried now he was down the mine. He had seen the monthly reports but there was no substitute for checking himself, He took a few samples of the ore marking them and putting them in a bag, Fair waited impatiently but as the Cartwrights were the majority share holders he could hardly protest. Eventually as Adam put down the borer Fair said, “If you’re in a hurry perhaps we could get on.”
Adam met his father’s eye and had a job to keep a straight face but he was used to Jim Fair and meekly followed along, Jim was right about one thing the exploration had been on a shoestring.
Only half a dozen trusted men, apart from Fair and Mackay had worked down at the new level. One effect was that the tunnel was very narrow, The tunnel disappeared down almost vertically, hand and foot holds cut in the side. It was barely big enough for a big man like Adam and he came to an abrupt halt by it, staring at the narrow hole and then at his father. For once he forgot his claustrophobia, worried about his father. Ben was no longer young and it was a steep climb. He knew his father was fit and strong but ... Ben took Adam’s arm “We don’t have to go down.”
“I’m okay Pa but it’s a steep climb, maybe you should wait here Pa.”
“I’m not senile yet.” Ben said with an edge of anger and Adam knew his father was too stubborn to be dissuaded. He headed down into the hole, telling his father to follow him. It was very narrow and Adam’s broad shoulders touched both sides of the shaft as he felt his way down into the darkness. He had a miner’s helmet on with a light and Jim Fair had a big lantern to bring down but for the moment it was pitch black below him. Once Adam hesitated as he met a slightly narrower section and for a moment the whole thing seemed to close in on him, Adam broke out in a cold sweat and bit his lip to prevent himself screaming. Ben following closely behind realised that he had stopped and asked, “You okay Adam?”
There was no answer for a moment and Ben worriedly repeated “Adam?”
Adam got a grip on himself “Okay Pa.” He began edging on down. He had told himself he could cope as always and even if this was rather more than he had expected he wouldn’t give Jim Fair the satisfaction of crying craven. He moved on down and eventually reached the bottom. Fair had said that the passage was to his right and Adam moved into it, having to bend nearly double. Then he waited, within a couple of minutes Ben joined him, and keeping his voice low asked, “Are you alright Adam? I’m sorry, I had no idea Jim meant anything like this.”
“I’m okay Pa, how about you? You’re getting a bit old for crawling around in tunnels.”
Ben put his hand on Adam’s arm, “You and your brothers have been trying to put me out to grass for a long time but I’m not ready for it yet.”
“I don’t mean that Pa but its going to be a stiff climb out.”
“I’m okay and here comes Jim.”
The big lantern Jim brought down lit their immediate area but the tunnel was even smaller than Adam had at first realised, less than three feet high with minimum shoring and he bit his lip unsure whether he could go in it. It was even worse now that he could see better, the darkness ahead was like a brick wall. Fair well familiar with the tunnel and completely at home underground didn’t even recognise the tension in the other two men. “I’ll lead, we’ll have to crawl aways but we’ve a room hollowed out further on. Keep close and don’t get into the offcut to the left, it’s a dead end.”
Ben sensed the rising panic in his son but Adam followed Fair without a word and he could do no less. It didn’t take long to reach the small chamber where Fair could stand up but Adam and Ben still had to stoop. Even so it had seemed forever to Adam. The air wasn’t particularly good and it was almost unbearably hot but it was the feeling of being buried alive, which was driving him to near screaming point. Pride was all he had to keep himself under control; he would not let Fair see how he felt. As he stood up Fair gave him the lantern “See for yourself.”
For a minute Adam could only stand trying to catch his breath, his heart beating so hard it felt as though it would break, but as Ben edged his way in Adam helped his father up. Ben studied his son and worried put a reassuring hand on his arm, but Adam shrugged it off and went over to examine the walls of the chamber. He looked round but the room appeared to be cut out of pure ore. Adam picked up a borer and took half a dozen samples. What he found at least dispelled all thoughts of claustrophobia, hardly even aware of the heat he examined the ore close to the light passing samples to his father. Neither of them spoke as they looked at the ore, specks of pure gold were clearly visible throughout it and the dark glint of pyrargyrite that they knew meant rich silver ore. Adam knew that he’d never seen such rich ore, not even dreamt of it but his voice was almost disinterested as he said, “We’ve seen. Let’s get back up top.”
Fair asked impatiently “What do you think?”
“Up top. I want to see it in daylight before I answer that.”
“Come on man, it’s obvious.” Fair tried pushing again but Adam ignored him and moved back to the tunnel. “Will you lead or shall I?”
Fair would have carried on but Ben interjected “Its too hot to talk here. Come on Jim, we’re not as used to this heat as you are.”
Fair sighed but knew them too well to keep on and led the way back to the shaft. Ben wanted to go after Adam, feeling that his son might be reassured with someone below him, knowing that Adam wasn’t far from panic. However Adam was determined that if Ben should slip he would be in a position to help the older man and eventually Ben submitted and led the way up rather slowly. Adam was right it was a very stiff climb particularly in the heat of the mine. Adam followed closely and with a sigh if relief pulled himself out onto the main passage at the 1400 foot level, Fair immediately demanded “Now will you talk?”
Adam shook his head “Not until we’ve showered and changed. You seem to forget that my father is not as young as you are Jim. I won’t take any chances. You’ve waited weeks to tell us, you can wait another half hour.”
With that he followed his father along to the cage and a couple of minutes later they stepped out into the open air with a sigh of relief. They went straight to the shower and as they towelled dry Adam said, “I’m glad I didn’t know where Jim was taking us when we went down. I don’t think I’d have got in that cage.”
“Are you okay Adam?”
“Fine now we’re back on top, just a touch of panic. I know you realised even if Jim didn’t.”
“You hid it well.”
“That’s all I can do Pa. I learnt long ago that I couldn’t avoid it.”
“You carry on as needed despite it, that’s the important thing. That’s true bravery Adam, going on despite the fear.”
Embarrassed Adam changed the subject “Let’s have a look at that ore in daylight.” They had the changing room to themselves as Fair had stopped to talk to one of the foremen. Adam pulled out two samples, one from the 1400 foot level and the other from the small chamber at 1500 foot.
Father and son bent over them heads close together and for a moment turned the ore samples over in silence. Then Ben said “You’re the expert Adam but I think that first one is rich, better than we’ve been seeing and I’ve never seen anything like this second one.”
Adam shrugged, “Without tests I could only make the wildest of guesses. I’ll run some tests tonight but I’m sure Jim has the figures. It’s rich Pa. So rich it frightens me, I think we’re going to have to mix waste rock with it for the mills to cope.”
“Make a guess Adam.”
“Not much point Pa. I have seen nothing to compare it with. Funny the ore on the 1300 foot level seemed so rich last autumn what ten times richer than the norm on the Comstock and yet this is probably a factor ten again richer, maybe more.”
“Can we take the mine down to 1500 feet?”
“I don’t see why not. The strata is clean all looks solid enough, maybe heavier timbering for the increased pressure but there’s a fair safety margin built in anyway, We have considerable unused power on the pumps and that chamber was dry.”
“Might have been specially cleared for us.”
“No not without leaving traces. I looked.”
Ben considered his son in surprise, he hadn’t even considered the problems until now and he knew how close Adam had been to panic and yet his son had still been thinking clearly enough to look for water traces.
Just then Jim came in and Adam put the ore away and straightened up “Right Jim we’re ready to talk.”
Jim took less than five minutes to shower and change and led the way to his office where John Mackay was waiting. He poured coffee and offered brandy which both men willingly accepted. Then he seemed to wait for Adam to start. Adam said, “You’ll have done the assays, I can only guess, so fill us in.”
“I’d like your guess Adam.” Jim said softly. Adam grinned knowing that Jim was trying to catch him out, he always doubted everyone else’s knowledge of the mines especially someone who disliked them as much as Adam. Still Adam had to work with the older man so he went along “Well the ore on 1300 is holding steady at near enough $400 a tone last I heard.”
John nodded in confirmation and Adam went on, turning the sample from the 1400 foot level over and over in his hand “This looks to me to be about twice as rich, I’d guess $750 to $800 a ton.”
John laughed “Spot on Adam, averaging about $780. You should stop trying to catch him out Jim.”
Jim shrugged, “That was the easy one. How about the 1500 foot level?”
Adam sipped his brandy “It can only be a guess Jim. You know I haven’t seen anything comparable. I doubt if many people have, I’d also doubt that it’s very consistent. I’d expect a much wider variation than usual, There are pockets of pure metal, tiny but obvious and that’s going to vary from ton to ton.”
Jim almost gloatingly said, “You’re avoiding the question Adam.”
Adam met his eye “Okay Jim I’ll stick my neck out if you insist.” He looked at Jim for a long moment twirling the liquid in his glass “It’s a guess as you know. Shall we say around $6500 a ton.”
Jim looked from Adam to John and then back to Adam. He got to his feet and poured another drink and when he finally spoke he addressed Ben “Your son really does know what he’s talking about.” It was the nearest Fair would come to an outright compliment. Adam recognised it as such and grinned, “How about filling in the actual figures.”
John passed over a file of papers “We made a copy for you. You’re right Adam it’s highly variable. As you can imagine we haven’t brought out much ore yet. It has varied from just over $5000 to nearly $9000 a ton, averaging just over $7000. We haven’t explored too far but it seems extensive as far as we can drill in each direction.”
Adam took the papers but he didn’t open the file. He was still puzzled, he could understand the excitement of this rich ore find, but there was something else behind it. He knew Fair and Mackay well enough to be sure of that. Ben met Adam’s eye and saw the same question in his son’s eyes as there was in his own mind, what did they actually want?
Eventually as the silence lasted Ben broke it “Fine we’ve found even richer ore. What else?”
Fair said “I told you there was an untouched mother lode in the mountains. We’ve just begun to tap it.”
Ben was almost brusque “We believed you, we’ve backed you, put up the money. You’ve pulled it out, made us a lot of money, but we knew that anyway. Now there is going to be even more money but that’s not the only reason you called us in here. I repeat what else?”
Jim looked over at his partner and John moved forward “Of course there’s more Ben, we always keep moving. I have a proposition for you.”
Ben sat back and Adam laughed “Come on John, Jim you’re not usually this bashful, lets hear it.”
John sat down opposite then and lent forward “We’ve all made money out of this and you can see we will make even more. We want you to invest some of that back in the mines.”
Jim muttered “If you haven’t wasted it all on Crazy Sutro.”
Adam frowned, “Where I make investments is my business Jim. If you have a business proposition let’s hear it. Then we can decide on its merits.”
Jim recognised he had gone too far and settled back letting John talk, In fact it was a very simple proposition. They believed the mother lode was there in the mountain. Here at the Consolidated Virginia they were tapping it but both men believed they could also tap it in another mine and the one they had chosen was a larger mine, the California. That mine was being worked but only at a low level. They wanted the Cartwrights in on the same terms, a quarter share. Flood and O’Brien had prepared a rough estimate of the cost of taking over control and then for buying up all the outstanding stock. For their part Jim and John had prepared a plan for taking the mine down to the sort of levels they were working at the Virginia, including stronger pumps. If the Cartwrights took up a full quarter share, it would commit them to about half a million dollars initially and at least another quarter of a million on assessment to deepen the mine. As John came to a stop Ben and Adam looked at each other, not really surprised. John passed over all the papers but Adam didn’t even open the files.
Jim impatiently said, “Well.”
Ben grinned, “You can’t really imagine we can give you an answer to something that big, straight away.”
“You could give us some idea how you feel.”
“We need to discuss it with Joe and Hoss before we can even do that.”
Fair snorted “They’ll do as you two say.”
Adam got to his feet “That isn’t the way the Cartwrights work. Don’t underestimate my brothers. They have an equal say. We need time to consider this.”
“How long?”
Ben told him, “Depends on when we can get together, It’s a busy time of the year. At least a fortnight I’d think.”
Fair had to accept Ben’s terms although there was no real hurry, he wanted their reaction to the proposition; they needed the Cartwrights to swing it. At least Ben and Adam hadn’t turned it down out of hand.
The sheer enormity of the suggestion was enough to dispel all memories of the dark tunnel from Adam’s mind and he was much calmer than Ben had expected as they let the mine. John had added one further piece of news for them to weigh in the balance. Subject to board approval, he was proposing to raise the monthly dividends from the Consolidated Virginia to $324000, which still left more than double the previously agreed allowance for further exploration after expenses. Neither Ben nor Adam mentioned the proposition as they collected the stores and loaded the buckboard.
Adam got one more surprise that day, as they got up on the buckboard, the editor of the Territorial Enterprise, Joe Goodman cam over. Dan de Quille, the chief reporter for the paper, was an old friend, although he hadn’t been around that day but the editor was another matter. Adam had, of course, known him for many years, but he would have hesitated at even claiming an acquaintanceship with the man. Goodman lived in the office, rarely emerging onto the streets, although well aware of what was happening around town. For months at a time Adam would forget his very existence until he broke silence with some blistering editorial. Now Goodman was deliberately seeking them out and as he looked at his father, Adam realised that Ben wasn’t surprised, he knew what it was about. Goodman greeted them both and Adam said hello, slightly surprised, normally Goodman barely acknowledged his existence. Goodman looked at Ben “Will you change your mind and stand? There’s a lot of support. I can give you the figures.”
Ben shook his head “I’ve already told you my decision.”
Goodman addressed Adam “Try and persuade your father will you. He could do a good job. If not maybe you’d consider it, that would be as effective. I could line up the same support for you.”
Adam hadn’t a clue what he was talking about but he had no intention of letting Goodman realise that and he just smiled, evading any real answer, just promising to think about it. Ben was quick to grab the chance to get away as a gap appeared in the stream of traffic and barely saying goodbye he started home.
After a couple of minutes Adam took the reins back from his father “Just what was all that about?”
Ben wouldn’t look at him, almost embarrassed, and said very quietly, “Goodman has picked up a rumour that Sharon intends to be the next Nevada Senator in Washington.”
Adam frowned at that, then cynically said, “That should be easy enough for him. The Bank has bought and got elected most of the Nevada legislature.”
“True but Goodman hates his guts and has no intention of giving it to him without a fight. He wants a figurehead to oppose Sharon.”
Adam grinned broadly “Ben Cartwright of course. Who has a better right to represent this state? You’ve been here since the beginning, helped to make it. Or at a pinch I’d do, the same name and well known. I can see his point Pa.”
Ben stared at his son, surprised by Adam’s reaction, but Adam was concentrating on edging through the traffic. Eventually as it thinned out somewhat Ben said, “I won’t do it Adam. I hate making speeches. Its bad enough here in Virginia City where I know everyone but I’d never dare open my mouth in the Senate. Anyway I couldn’t live in Washington.”
Adam laughed “You don’t have to explain Pa, but it’s still quite a compliment to be asked. I can remember a time you thought of standing for Governor.”
“I was younger, maybe too proud then but at least that wouldn’t have meant leaving home. Goodman’s right Adam you could do it.” Ben hated the idea of his son moving to Washington but Adam would be an effective senator, the local people would trust him and he was a good speaker, excellent in debate. Still he was relieved when Adam said very definitely “No, not under any circumstances. I couldn’t live in Washington. I’d stifle. They’ll have to find someone other than a Cartwright but I agree with one thing, we don’t want Sharon. Stewart may not be much of a senator but at least he does little harm. I wouldn’t trust Sharon where I can’t see him. We must give it some thought.”
“That’s not the only thing we need to think about Son.” That brought out into the open the subject on both their minds. Despite Adam’s protests both of them knew that Joe and Hoss would go along with whatever they decided, if they were sure. Adam asked, “What do you think Pa?”
“I’m just not sure. I want to study these figures but Jim and John won’t have tried to hide anything they know us too well. It’s just so big that it frightens me rather.”
Adam nodded, he had felt the same “If it was half the size I wouldn’t hesitate but despite Jim, it is still a gamble. Even if he’d wait six months, get some more capital back of us.”
“They won’t wait, though maybe if we’re not in, the four of them won’t be able to swing it.”
Adam knew his father was right but he reminded his father “We’re already committed to two flumes and you know how much that will cost.”
“Yes Son but we had a good year last year, we’re still in credit. The Ponderosa account will cover the flumes and running expenses, still with well over half a million for contingencies. That’s without considering borrowing. We’ve got that big lumber contract you got in Sacramento as well as the mine contracts. They’ll be profitable.”
“Let’s leave the ranch out of it for the moment Pa. Can we manage it if we want to?”
“Don’t forget we’ll be clearing $61 000 a month profit between us.”
“We’d be gambling more than a year’s dividend Pa. Sure we can get the credit if we need it and between us we could probably manage without borrowing too much and certainly without touching the Ponderosa. The question is do we want to get that involved with the mines?”
Bern shrugged “I suggest we sleep on it, study the figures and then talk it over with Joe and Hoss. I just don’t know.”
Adam was as uncertain and let his father change the subject. He was intending to ride up into the back country with Hoss the next morning to make up the trees for cutting and he promised to look over the papers that evening and drop them by for his father next day when he collected Hoss.
Adam was in his study making notes to take with him so he could fill Hoss in on the suggestion. He had told Carole about it over dinner but she had sensed his uncertainty and been very non-committal. The Doc came out as he had promised and Adam came out to greet him. Doc checked Carole and the two babies while he was there, casually getting details from Adam about the diphtheria attack. Once the babies were settled again he sat down by the fire and gratefully accepted a brandy. “All perfectly healthy Adam.”
Adam was puzzled he knew Paul very well and he could see something in his face, some hesitation “Are you sure Paul?”
“Absolutely. If Carol’s got her dates right I think you’ll have to be content with one this time. She’s much smaller than last time but then with only one baby she should be. I’ll see her again in a month.” As Carole came down the stairs Paul said “If you’re in town you could drop by, save me a journey out here, even if it does lose me a chance to sample this excellent brandy of Adam’s.” At that he held up his empty glass and Adam grinning got up to fetch the bottle and give him a refill “Okay Paul even I can take a hint if you make it broad enough.”
While he was getting it Doc warned Carole to try and take it as easy as she could, although he knew with the twins getting into everything that was difficult. The boys were very active, crawling around and pulling themselves to their feet. When he’d finished his brandy Doc said goodnight and went out to his buggy, He hesitated for a moment wondering whether to go and see Ben, but then he headed for town. If he decided to warn Ben he would do it nearer the time but he was in a sombre mood as he drove home. He didn’t want any more tragedies to hit his old friends but he was all too aware that a high fever early in pregnancy could often lead to a deformed baby or even a still born child. If he was right they would know all too soon and he saw no point in worrying then when there was nothing anyone could do but wait for the child to be born.
Adam settled Carole in bed but he worked late into the night until he was sure he had a note of all the relevant facts on which to base his decision. It was nearly 2 a.m. before he slipped in next to his wife; Carole stirred without really waking and snuggled up close to him. Adam was tired but not really sleepy, very content to be home and looking forward to his ride into the back country, lonely and magnificent it would finally blow away all the cobwebs after a winter hemmed in by other people, albeit by his own choice.
After being away for so long, Carole had a million things to do and saw Adam off cheerfully, giving him her word not to overdo things. She had Kam Su there and Adam knew his father would keep an eye on her, so he wasn’t worried as he rode over to the main house to collect Hoss.
Hoss wasn’t quite ready and Adam got some coffee and passed over the papers. Ben asked, “What did Doc have to say?”
“All fit and healthy. He’ll keep an eye on Carole like last time but she’s fine.”
“I’ll pop over every day.”
“Thanks Pa. Actually I think she’s glad to get rid of me. She has ganged up with Kam Su and they are spring-cleaning, I’m just in the way. She’s given me her word not to overdo it so I’m sure she’ll be alright.”
Hoss came down with his bedroll and once Adam had collected the food from Hop Sing the brothers mounted up and headed out for the farthest reaches of their ranch. It was hard work as they sorted out trails and marked timber for cutting and it reminded Hoss very forcibly of the previous year, doing the same job with Joe in the weeks after Marie’s death. They were a few days earlier heading out and had been working for several days when March 30th arrived. Both of them were wondering how their little brother felt on this, the first anniversary of his wife’s death. They worked all morning without putting it into words but neither of them were really hungry at lunchtime. Adam toyed with his food for a few minutes and then put it down and poured coffee. “It doesn’t feel like a year. I can remember her as though it was yesterday, so excited over that house.”
“I remember her bullying Joe into taking her along that morning. I wonder how Joe is?”
“He’ll be okay Hoss. Its bound to be a bad day for him, but he’s strong.”
“I’m glad you took him to England Adam, he’s much more his old self since he came back.”
“Time would probably have had the same effect. I’m glad I took him, Carole and David might not have lived if he hadn’t been along.”
Hoss grunted “Let’s get on with it shall we.”
Adam willingly agreed and the brothers worked late into the evening, not wanting too much time for memories, remembering all too clearly the hours in which they’d lost a sister and seen their brother sink into hell.
Ben was also thinking of his youngest son, he expected Joe back anytime from his tour of the ranch and wondered if Joe was up by the lake. Ben knew it was bound to be hard on Joe today, too many memories. He wouldn’t go to the Lake, if Joe wanted his help his son knew where he was. In the end unable to settle to work, he went over to spend the evening with Carole, knowing that she would have memories too.
Little Joe was up by the lake; he’d been there since mid-afternoon. He was far back in the past; lost in his memories but despite his family’s fears he wasn’t really upset. Slightly sad, thinking of what might have been and missing Marie but she was still there with him and he knew now she always would be. Having accepted the inevitability of her death, he was grateful for what he’d had, a love so much more important than he had ever dreamt and for a few short months so much happiness. He stayed up by the lake in the moonlight until nearly midnight and then tired out he knelt by her grave and said a quiet prayer before riding home.
Ben had been back some time, Carole had looked tired and he’d sent her to bed. He was sitting by the fire sipping brandy when Little Joe came in. Joe took off his coat and gun, pouring himself a coffee and a brandy before coming over to the fire, “It’s still very chilly, snow up on the high land. I hope Adam and Hoss took spare blankets.”
Ben didn’t need to ask where Joe had been but his son was much more at peace with himself than Ben had expected and he smiled at Joe. “You can fill me in tomorrow. I assume nothing’s wrong?”
“Everything’s fine Pa. A day for memories.”
“I’ve been thinking of Marie and you, I’m sure your brothers have too.”
“I’m fine Pa, so many memories, thanks to Adam, and most of them good. I’m tired I think I’ll sleep tonight, see you in the morning.”
Ben nodded but long after Joe went up, he stayed staring into the fire. He knew his son too well for it have been an act and he was glad to see Joe so calm. He was sure now that in time his youngest son would find someone else, just as he had after Elizabeth’s death.
The next day Joe filled in all the details for his father and then rode into town to go to the bank and to collect some supplies. Ben waited until that evening after dinner to tell Joe the news from the Consolidated Virginia and the proposed new venture. Joe whistled as he heard Jim’s idea but he was much more mature than he had been when they went into the Consolidated Virginia. Although his eyes sparkled at the idea of another gamble, cutting out Ralston’s ring and Sharon again, he asked several questions and then began studying the papers, without a word about which way he thought they should move. Ben smiled as he watched his youngest son, concentrating hard, oblivious of everything else. A lot of Adam had rubbed off on his youngest brother over the years and as Joe matured they were getting more alike. Ben doubted that Joe would ever be quite as far seeing as his brother, he knew he himself wasn’t, but like his father Joe had learnt to curb his impetuosity and he was a man to trust.
Eventually Joe put the papers down “What does Adam think Pa?"
Ben shrugged “I don’t know.”
“And you?”
“Tempted and frightened at the same time, it’s big.”
Joe sighed, “That about sums it up doesn’t it. I think I’m more tempted than scared but I’d like to sleep on it before I make my mind up.”
“Nothing we can do until your brothers are home and Carole should have her say too.”
“Sure she’s part of the family. I’ll wander over and see her and the twins tomorrow if that’s okay Pa?"
“Of course I want you to go up to the mine and pay them but no great rush.”
“Fine I’ll stop over there first for an hour after breakfast.” Joe yawned widely “I’m for bed. I swear Virginia City gets further away every time I go there!” Ben laughed but followed his son on up, he was tired too.
Carole had been restless all day, missing Adam and feeling slightly under the weather. She had done her best to laugh herself out of it but she felt increasingly unwell. She had gone to bed early, hoping a good night’s sleep would make her feel better, even though she had done very little during the day. In the event she couldn’t really settle, dozing uneasily before waking in the early hours with cramping pains in her stomach and back. It was almost like labour pains but for a while she tried to tell herself it was nothing, just one of the odd symptoms of pregnancy. She had had many more aches and pains this time than with the twins, although she had successfully hidden them from Adam. She made a conscious effort to relax but after an hour she felt warm blood on her legs and terrified she screamed for Adam, forgetting he was miles away. Downstairs Kam Su heard her scream. He had quickly become very fond of his family and had thanked Hop Sing many times for finding him the job. Now hearing his mistress scream and recognising the terror in her voice, he ran upstairs, holding a gun in front of him, even if he wasn’t sure how to fire it.
Carole was alone and still screaming and for a moment Kam Su hesitated, then he went over to the bed “Missee Carole, what’s wrong?”
Carole moaned in obvious pain and he saw the blood on her hands and, not knowing what to do for her, he said “I get help, rest. I bring help.”
Not sparing a minute to dress he ran out to the barn in his nightshirt and got a halter on one of the horses before pulling himself on bareback to bounce along the trail to the main house. He only stayed on by holding onto the mane and as soon as he arrived he fell off, but he was quickly on his feet. Pounding furiously on the door before he realised it was unlocked. He yelled for Mr Cartwright and Hop Sing. Ben and Joe appeared on the stairs at the same time as Hop Sing came out of his room. All three recognised Kam Su and knew from his attire that something was terribly wrong. Ben was the first to find his voice and said “What is it Kam Su?”
“Missee Carole, she sick, bleeding.”
Ben wasn’t surprised he’d known it was Carole or the twins. He turned to Joe “Go and wake José and send him for Doc. Get Kirk to saddle Buck, Cochise and Betsy. Hop Sing get dressed with the twins as well we are going to need help.” Then Ben hurried back to his room to get dressed. As soon as Joe had José and Kirk awake, he ran back up to his room to put some clothes on. Ben was almost ready and he met his son on the stairs. “I’ll go on ahead, come as soon as you can.”
Joe nodded and went into his room, scared for Carole and his brother.
Ben was with Carole less than a quarter of an hour after Kam Su had gone into her. She was moaning and crying for Adam, and Ben couldn’t get any sense out of her, but as he pulled back the bedclothes, the problem was all too clear. She was lying in a pool of blood and he could only assume that she was having a miscarriage. Unsure what to do and unable to stop the flow of blood, he could only try and make her more comfortable, calm her down and pray, while he waited for José to fetch Doc. Ben was very glad that his trustworthy foreman was at the ranch, it was freak at this time of year, José had just ridden in to collect some money. Still he knew that he could trust José to fetch Doc as fast as was humanly possible.
Ben was just putting some thick towels under Carole to soak up the blood as Joe came in to join him. Joe lost all trace of colour as he took in the scene, but he went to Carole and held her shoulders still and kissed her forehead. “Easy Carole try and lie still, we’ll look after you everything is going to be alright, easy now.”
She was still moaning “Adam, Adam.” over and over but she did lie still and Joe looked up at his father. “José has gone for Doc.”
Ben nodded and bit his lip as he sighed deeply “We have to get Adam back as fast as we can.”
Joe agreed but knowing how far away his brother was, he couldn't help being scared that Adam would be too late to see his wife alive. Ben went on “I hate to ask you Joseph, but you’ll make better time than I can and I don’t think we dare wait for Doc’s arrival.”
“Of course Pa.” Joe hesitated, looking down at Carole. She was barely conscious and didn’t seem to realise what was happening. “What do I tell him?”
Ben took his arm and led his youngest son over to the window, then low voiced, so that Carole couldn’t hear, he said, “You tell him that his wife has a chance, she’s a fighter and Paul and I will do all we can. I won’t leave her side. You tell him she’s almost certainly lost the baby but that his sons are fine. And you tell him that we are all praying for God’s help. I don’t know how you tell him Little Joe but you have to. Hoss will be there too and if anything can help Adam it will be his brothers.”
Little Joe nodded seeing the agony on his father’s face. “I’ll tell him and we’ll bring him home.”
He went back over to Carole and holding her hand tight, he kissed her forehead. “I’m going to get Adam, hold on my sister. Pa’s here, hold on.” He kissed her again and picked up his hat. Ben said “Joseph”
Joe turned and Ben went on “Be careful, it’s very rough in the dark and it won’t help anyone if you have an accident, Try and make Adam understand that too.”
Joe nodded and then ran downstairs to Cochise. Ben watched him leave the yard at a steady lope, knowing just how hard a task he had set his youngest son. To go and tell his brother that Carole was desperately ill and the baby almost certainly dying, with no real idea of her chances of survival, but she needed her husband by her side as fast as possible. He went back to her and held her still. For the first time Carole seemed aware who was there and Ben held her hand, “Try and rest Carole I won’t leave you.”
“Pa Joe said he’d get Adam?”
“He’s on his way. He’ll bring Adam, as soon as he can.” Carole seemed to rest more easily at that but she drifted into unconsciousness, though pain still wracked her body and she couldn’t lie still. Desperately worried Ben could only hold her as still as possible and pray as he waited for Doc. Hop Sing brought him some coffee and told him that the noise had woken the twins but with Kam Su he would look after the little boys,
He had plenty of water boiled and if there was anything Ben needed he only had to call. Ben nodded but the only one who could really help was God, scared for Carole, whom he loved in her own right and for his eldest son, knowing what his wife meant to Adam, Ben sat and prayed. Time seemed to go past so slowly as he waited for Doc.
José was lucky; the Doc was at home and as soon as José explained why he was there, the Doc knew his worst fears were being fulfilled. The fever had probably damaged the foetus and nature was acting by aborting the baby. He quickly dressed and collected his bag while José harnessed up his horse, Doc let José drive and they made excellent time out to Adam’s house. José wasn’t sure where Adam was, just that he wasn’t at home, but Ben was with his daughter-in-law.
Doc went straight up to the bedroom when he got there and began washing his hands as he questioned Ben on what had happened. Ben couldn't tell him much and Doc carefully examined his patient, worried by all the blood she had lost. Carole was in a coma and Doc said “We’ve got to help her get rid of the baby. You’ll have to hold her.”
Ben moved to do as Doc said and very carefully Doc aborted the tiny foetus. He wrapped it up in a dish for the moment, not commenting, although Ben looked puzzled at what he’d seen. Then he tried to repair the damage and stop the bleeding. He succeeded to a large extent but the damage had already been done and she was desperately weak. As he straightened up Ben asked, “What are her chances?”
Doc didn’t give a straight answer, “How long before Adam gets here? I assume you have sent for him.”
“Joe went to get him two hours ago, but Adam is right up in the high country. I doubt Joe can get him back within twenty four hours.”
“Pity. She needs him; I know how close they are. She’d stand more chance if he was here.”
“You haven’t answered my question Paul.”
“Ben I don’t know. She’s one very ill lady. I’m not God and he’s the only one who can help her now. She’s a fighter and she has a chance. I’ll stay and do what I can, but it won’t be much.”
Ben read just how slim a chance Doc thought it was on his friend’s face and Doc realised that and poured Ben a brandy. “Here Ben we’ll do all we can. She’s basically strong, very much better equipped for a fight than Marie was. If we can hang onto her until Adam gets here, maybe he can tip the balance.” Ben nodded but he didn’t dare trust his voice and made no answer. For a few minutes he just sat staring down at Carole and then he got to his feet and lifted the cloth over the foetus. “Doc I don’t know much about how babies develop but this looks very odd.”
“It is Ben. Deformed. It could never have lived. It was a girl by the way Carole was right there. I was worried anyway, I’d have warned you but I was waiting until she was near term. Nobody knows why but its something that often happens when there is a high fever early in pregnancy. This is all an after effect of that diphtheria she caught. I was praying she wouldn’t be affected but as you can see she was. This miscarriage is nature’s way of correcting a mistake.”
“If Adam had been home?”
Paul patted Ben’s arm “It wouldn’t have made any difference. It was the massive haemorrhage in the first few minutes, which is causing all the trouble. He couldn’t have done anything to stop it. It would help now if she knew he was here, but at least you are.”
Ben nodded and settled down by Carole, using cold compresses on her forehead as her fever rose, and praying for her survival. He had learnt a few details of his sons’ fight on board ship and it seemed so unfair, if having won then, delayed effects should rob Adam of his wife so soon after. The time went by so very slowly and he knew that Joe couldn’t even have reached his brother yet.
Adam had been restless all evening, not seriously worried, just uneasy. He wasn’t even sure what was worrying him but he couldn’t settle. He put it down to unease over Little Joe, knowing that his little brother must have so many memories of a year ago and might well be rather unhappy at the moment. Hoss realised that Adam was in an odd mood and asked if anything was wrong but Adam denied it and tried to settle. He had told Hoss about the proposition from Fair and Mckay, but Hoss wasn’t at all sure. It was a great deal of money and he had put of discussion until they could all four get together. Hoss settled to sleep but although Adam curled up in his blankets he couldn’t sleep. After a while he got up and made coffee. It was too cold to sit still and Adam went for a stroll, It was a beautiful night and the land was wild and very lovely in the moonlight but to his own surprise, Adam found no peace. He couldn’t understand his own unease and tried to talk himself out of it. Eventually tired out after a long day he did settle and managed to sleep for a couple of hours, but he was still up early, making breakfast before Hoss awoke. Hoss recognized his brother was still in a strange mood and ate his breakfast quietly. As they mounted up to get started on the day’s work Hoss asked, “Is anything wrong Adam? Do you wanna talk?”
Adam forced a grin. “Just me Hoss. I’ve got this feeling that something is wrong and I can’t throw it off. Overactive imagination I guess.”
“What do you think is wrong?”
“I don’t even know that. Probably just remembering Marie, don’t take any notice of me Hoss, let’s get on. Another two days should about clear it and I want to get home, the twins change so rapidly.” Hoss went along and they rode out to get on, working mainly in silence.
Joe had made good time, even during the hours of darkness. He knew the ranch, noone better and, although he didn’t push Cochise too much knowing that he had a long way to go, he took every possible short cut. Normally he would have expected to take sixteen or seventeen hours to reach the high country where his brothers were working, but needing to get Adam home, Joe was hoping to reach them in a little over twelve hours. He ate in the saddle, stopping only to water Cochise. It was about quarter past three when he left Adam’s house and by three in the afternoon he was up in the high country, wondering just where his brothers would be working. He knew he would be able to find them within the next hour or so. As he got closer to Adam, he faced the problem of how he was going to tell his brother that Carole was ill and, although she’d been alive when he left, that was more than twelve hours ago. Very worried and tired, Joe went more slowly through the trees, seeing signs of where his brothers had been working but for the moment there was no sign of them. He found their camp but it was only quarter past four and they would probably work until the light went. He debated wondering which way they had gone and then, seeing the notes Adam had been keeping, he glanced down them and saw Adam had marked off the previous day’s work and jotted down what he hoped to do today. Knowing now where to find them Joe remounted Cochise and bit his lip. All the way out he had been trying to think out the words to tell his brother, but he was no nearer now than he had been when he left the house.
He had to reach Adam and he kicked Cochise into a canter and headed out to find his brother, trusting to find the words when he got there. It was going to hit Adam very hard anyway and he doubted it would make much difference how he said it.
Joe saw Hoss first and went over to him. Hoss knew something was wrong as soon as he saw Cochise coming through the trees. He stopped work and went over towards Joe only conscious of the thought that Adam had been right, there was something wrong. As he came up to Joe he could see that something was terribly wrong “What’s happened Joe? Pa?”
“Pa’s fine. Where’s Adam?”
Hoss indicated the trees behind him “He’s marking up those we measured earlier. What is it?”
“Carole, a miscarriage.”
“Is she alright?”
“I don’t know Hoss. We have to tell him.” Hoss nodded but realised why Joe looked so drawn. Hoss mounted and led the way through the trees to where he’d left Adam working.
Adam was busy wanting to get finished and home, he heard someone coming but assumed Hoss had finished and didn’t look up until he’d finished marking the tree he was doing. Then he turned round and looked up. He saw Joe standing by Hoss and he knew that the unease he’d felt all day had a solid foundation. He took one step forward, losing colour as he saw the worry on Joe’s face, “Carole, Pa?”
Little Joe moved forward and gripped his brother’s arm “It’s Carole Adam. I think she’s lost the baby. Pa is with her and we had sent for Doc before I left.”
Adam swallowed hard, after a virtually sleepless night, the shock hit him hard and for a moment he swayed, Hoss moved swiftly to put a supporting arm round his waist. Adam seemed oblivious of Hoss and stared at his little brother, “Tell me Joe.”
Joe gripped both Adam’s arms as he faced his brother, knowing Hoss was there if Adam needed him. “Kam Su came to fetch us in the early hours, about half past two. Carole was ill. We sent José for the Doc at once, luckily he was in the bunkhouse. We were with her within ten minutes. She wasn’t very coherent, she was in labour and she had lost a lot of blood. She was asking for you. Pa stayed to look after her and I came straight out here. I didn’t wait to see Doc.”
Adam studied Joe’s face for a moment and then asked “How bad?”
Joe couldn’t meet his brother’s gaze and he studied the ground but he had to tell Adam. “She’s almost certainly lost the baby Adam and she was weak and ill. I’m no Doctor. She’d lost a lot of blood and there wasn’t much we could do until Doc arrived. I don’t know but she’s strong and a fighter. Pa will do all he can and he’ll be praying for her.”
Adam could read just how serious it was on Joe’s face and for a moment he couldn’t bear to face his brothers. He pulled away from them and, stumbling slightly, moved over to Sport. Hoss stopped Joe going after him and told him to help collect their equipment. Then he too mounted and moved over next to Adam “Let’s get back to camp.”
Adam rode back silently between his brothers. He felt desperately cold, hardly able to take in what Joe had told him. Carole had seemed so well and Doc had said that she was fine. He knew that it was more than twelve hours since Joe left her and he’d read the fear in his brother’s eyes that she was dead by now. Somehow he was sure she was still alive, he’d known something was wrong and he still felt it but if Carole was dead, he would know. Oblivious of where he was going, lost in thought, Hoss had to grip his reins to stop Sport as they came into camp. Almost angrily, Adam looked up “I must go to Carole.”
Hoss nodded “Sure Adam but we’ll make better time if we feed and water the horses first. They’ve been on the go all day.”
Adam hated wasting time but he recognized the sense and slowly dismounted. Hoss took the horses and Joe found Adam’s hip flask and poured out a stiff drink. He gripped Adam’s shoulders, “Sit down for a moment and drink this.”
Adam couldn’t seem to think and so he did as he was told, it was slowly dawning on him that it would be dark soon and it would take him at least twelve hours to get to Carole. He closed his eyes and began to tremble as the sense of Joe’s news hit him. He couldn’t stop and Joe knelt by him holding his brother close and feeding him the brandy. Hoss came to stand over them, wanting to help but not sure how. Joe looked up “It’ll be ten minutes at least before the horses are ready. Heat up some coffee Hoss. We have to eat, it’s a long way home.”
Hoss was glad of something to do. Adam was unaware of anything except the need to get to his wife and he buried his face in his hands, not wanting even his brothers to see the naked pain, still shaking despite his efforts to stop. Joe stood by his brother, desperately worried, scared that Adam was going to collapse, but not knowing how to help. Hoss brought coffee over and the two brothers stood over Adam, their eyes meeting wondering what to do. Eventually Hoss knelt down and put his arm round Adam’s shoulders “Have some coffee, it’ll warm you up.”
Adam looked up, he didn’t feel as though anything would warm him but seeing his brothers’ anxious faces, he took the coffee, a faint smile passed across his face at their concern. “Pack up Hoss I guess you’ll come back too.”
“I love Carole, Adam.”
Adam nodded and pulled himself to his feet and walked over to the horses. He sipped the coffee but when Joe asked him if he wanted anything to eat, he shook his head decisively. Hoss heated some beans and bacon and the two brothers ate rapidly, while they packed up, They talked very low, Joe telling Hoss just how bad Carole had seemed, details he couldn’t bring himself to tell Adam. Adam watered the horses, cursing every seconds delay but knowing it was necessary, unable to face his brothers’ sympathy.
Hoss kicked the fire out and in less than a quarter of an hour after reaching the camp the three brothers were ready to leave.
Adam had fought and won control of himself. He was aware that his brothers thought it at least likely that Carole was dead but he hung onto his certainty that if the worst had happened then he would know. He led out at a steady pace, both he and Hoss had been riding most of the day and Cochise had already come a very long way. The ground was very rough and it was impossible to push hard in the already fading light, much as Adam wanted to.
Whenever possible Hoss and Joe came alongside Adam, riding close recognising the near despair on his face and trying by their closeness to help in the only way they knew how. Adam was largely oblivious of them, a very small part of his attention was on picking the way, knowing the ranch so well it needed no more and he could trust Sport. He was praying for his wife, that somehow she would hold on until he could reach her and then use his strength to recover. If he couldn’t be there, he found some solace in the thought that his father was with her. The one outside thing that did reach him through those long hours was his brothers’ presence, it calmed him slightly, knowing that they loved Carole too. Time seemed to go by so very slowly and it was still such a long way from home.
As midnight approached Joe pulled up next to Hoss “We’ll have to let the horses rest for a while.”
“I know Joe.” Hoss moved closer to Adam. “Adam we’ve got to let the horses rest for a while.”
Adam didn’t even realise that his brother was speaking to him and rode on lost in his own thoughts. Joe moved Cochise up and grabbed Sport’s reins “Hold up Adam. The horses aren’t gonna make it unless we rest them for a bit.”
Adam looked up at that and his instinct was to argue but as he took in the three horses all obviously tiring, he nodded and swung down “Okay we’ll walk them.” He led sport on for nearly a mile until they came to a lightning struck tree. Then Hoss put his hand on Adam’s arm “We’ll stop for coffee. It will be quicker in the long run, let them graze and water just for a little while and then we can ride again.”
Adam looked from Hoss to Joe, seeing the agreement on Joe’s face and taking in almost for the first time just how tired and drawn his brothers looked and he accepted the sense of Hoss’ suggestion. Hoss made a fire and started some coffee and Joe almost apologetically got out some jerky and began to chew. He was tired and hungry after riding all day. He went over to Adam who was standing staring into the distance and put his arm round his brother’s shoulders, feeling just how cold Adam was “You ought to have something to eat Adam.”
Adam shook his head, he had a lump in his throat and it was hard enough to even swallow coffee. Joe didn’t push it he could understand how Adam was feeling and when they got home he could pass the problem on to their father. Still as Hoss brought coffee over Joe did add a hefty slug of brandy to Adam’s, it might help a little.
Adam sat down on a tree trunk and sipped the coffee, warming his hands on the mug. He looked up at his brothers hovering anxiously and the ghost of a smile flickered across his face. “Don’t look so worried you two. I’m not going to collapse and I won’t do anything stupid.”
Hoss sat down by him and put his arm round his brother “Of course not Adam but you’ve had one hell of a shock.”
Adam lent against Hoss, grateful for his warm strength and for a moment he closed his eyes. Then he said “Not that big a shock Hoss, I’ve known all night that something was wrong, don’t ask me how, but I knew. Joe thinks Carole is dead.”
Joe made a convulsive movement, wanting to deny it but knowing he’d never been able to lie successfully to his brother. Adam put his hand out and gripped Joe’s arm “Don’t bother Joe I know you too well, but it’s not true. Carole couldn’t be dead without me knowing, she’s part of me now. She’ll hold on until I get there and then between us we’ll pull her through.”
Joe couldn’t answer Adam and for a moment wasn’t even aware of the tears on his cheeks until Adam begged “Please Joe, I can’t take that.”
Joe brushed his hand across his eyes and then turned away “I’ll water the horses."
Hoss didn’t speak, just gripping Adam’s shoulder, feeling the tension in his brother. Adam finished the coffee and brandy and Hoss felt him relax fractionally. Then Adam pulled away “You eat Hoss, we’ll move on in ten minutes.”
Adam went over to a nearby tree and lent his arms on a convenient branch. Joe got control of himself, praying that his brother was right and she was still alive and then went back to Adam “Sorry brother.”
Adam smiled and put his arm round Joe “It’s alright Little Joe you love her too but she’s so close to me, I just know she’s alive.” For once physical contact seemed to help and unusually for Adam he was seeking it and his brothers were very glad to be able to do that little to help. Joe lent into Adam “Hold onto that thought big brother, we’ll be home soon after dawn.”
Adam tried hard over the next hours to hold on to his certainty but in the early hours of the morning it slipped away and he couldn’t be sure that Carole hadn’t done the same. Both Hoss and Joe were aware of the change in him, his shoulders sagged and even in the dim moonlight they could see the despair and anguish etched on his face. Occasionally they exchanged a few words, confirming each other’s realisation that Adam had lost all hope, at least for the moment, but there was no way to help him. All they could do was to carry on home as fast as possible.
At the house Ben and Paul had sat by Carole’s bedside throughout that long day. Ben knew that the earliest Adam could possibly reach them would be dawn the next day and it seemed very unlikely that Carole could hold on so long. By late afternoon the Doc got up and stretched “She’s a fighter, at least the bleeding has stopped.”
“What are her chances?”
“I thought she would be dead by now Ben. She’s hanging on for Adam, you said she knew that Joe had gone for him?”
“And then?”
“I don’t know. She’ll either use his strength to recover or having done what she wanted and stayed alive until he got here, she’ll die fairly quickly, Always supposing she hangs on that long.”
“Surely if she’s not losing anymore blood the longer she holds on the better her chances?”
“Maybe Ben but this fever is sapping her strength all the time.” Paul couldn’t help himself, he was very pessimistic, he had been ever since he had seen just how severe a haemorrhage had occurred. There was little point in building up false hopes.
By four am Cochise was visibly slowing and Chub with by far the heaviest load was little better. Both brothers knew they ought to rest the horses again but before they could summon up the courage to speak, Adam pulled up. He made no attempt to dismount but smiled at his brothers. “Your horses need to rest but Sport will carry me, I’m going on I can be home in an hour. You follow when your horses are rested.”
Joe protested “It’s still dark Adam and real rough under foot.”
“I’ve known this land since before you were born Joe. I won’t take any careless risks but I’m going to Carole. I’ve needed you two all night but now I can reach her faster alone.”
Neither of his brothers could deny that and Hoss said, “We won’t be far behind you Adam and we’ll be praying for her. You go real careful.”
Adam nodded and Joe said “God be with you” as his brother rode out. Now Adam pushed Sport, taking risks but not being stupid and knowing the land almost down to the last rabbit hole. Sport responded magnificently and Adam talked to him urging him on, promising a rest and a good feed as soon as they were home. The morning sky was only just beginning to lighten with the false promise of dawn when Adam dismounted and not even bothering to tie Sport up, he ran inside and up to his bedroom.
Ben had heard the horse and if he was surprised to see his eldest son alone, he didn’t have time to think about it as he went to open the door.
Adam hardly took in his father’s presence as he went straight to the bed to take hold of Carole’s hand. It was ice cold but her forehead was burning as he kissed it, He put a fresh compress on and then began talking quietly to her, telling her that he was home and everything would be fine. At first it didn’t seem to penetrate her coma but then she murmured Adam and he felt her grip tighten on his hand.
Only then did he look up at his father and Doc on the other side of the bed. The long ride through the night in fear and uncertainty had left its mark very clearly on Adam’s face but none of it sounded in his voice as he strove to reassure his wife. Now seeing the worry and compassion on their faces Adam said very quietly “I won’t let her die. I need her too much and so do the twins.” He didn’t even ask their opinion of Carole’s chances; he didn’t dare to, knowing them both so well he could read it on their faces. Adam concentrated on Carole changing the cold compress, forcing a little broth into her and all the time talking to her, not always making much sense. At least she was lying quietly as she held tight to his hand. Ben went down to fetch some more coffee and Paul went with him. “There’s nothing more that I can do Ben. There will be people in town waiting for me. If anything is going to hold onto her it will be that boy of yours. First Joe and now Adam, you should be very proud of them. I’ll be praying the outcome is happier, please send me word as soon as you know.”
“Sure Paul and thank you for all your help.”
“I’ve done all I know how, it’s up to God, maybe with Adam’s help.”
Ben took coffee and brandy back up to his eldest son and Adam accepted it gratefully, he was still very cold. Ben said, “Paul has had to go there’s no more he can do. We have to break this fever.”
“I know. The baby?"
“She lost it. I have had it put in a coffin that Kirk made, so very tiny. We’ll bury it later.” Ben considered his son “Where are your brothers Adam? They didn’t let you come home alone surely.”
“No. They are about an hour out, their horses were tiring but Sport was strong enough so I kept going. He deserves a real good feed.”
“All being seen to.”
“The twins?”
“Hop Sing and Kam Su have been looking after them, they are fine.”
Adam nodded and turned back to Carole, calmer now that there was something he could do. Ben stayed by his son but he knew that Adam was barely aware of his presence, every fibre of his body was concentrated on the woman who lay so still, breathing fast, her pulse weak and irregular but holding onto his hand as though it was the one thing holding her to life. Ben was by no means sure that it wasn’t. It wasn’t very long after Paul left that Ben heard horses coming in and went down to check on his younger sons. In some strange way they looked almost more upset than Adam did. Ben was quick to reassure them that Carole was still alive and knew that her husband was with her. Joe shut his eyes, desperately tired and so very worried about both Carole and his brother, he was close to breaking down and it was left to Hoss to put the crucial question into words. “Is she gonna make it Pa?
Ben stood still, looking at his sons, the same anxiety and intense feeling showing in both pairs of eyes. He knew how close all his sons were and that the brothers loved Carole but it brought the family closeness out so clearly now. For a moment he didn’t know how to answer them but they had to know the truth. “Paul has gone back to town, there’s nothing more he could do. It’s up to your brother and God now, she’s fighting hard but she’s desperately weak and still burning up. Paul was surprised that she had lasted this long.”
Joe demanded “Has she any chance Pa?”
“As long as she’s alive there’s a chance Joseph. We’ve all just about given up on Adam before now and yet he has survived, maybe it has rubbed off on Carole.”
Kirk came over and took the horse. He had known the brothers most of their lives and commented “I’ll see to these two, hard ridden they deserve a good feed, by the looks of you so do their riders.”
Ben put an arm round each of his sons “Kirk is right. Hop Sing is with Kam Su in the kitchen go and eat and then try and get some rest.”
Joe protested “I can’t.”
Ben stopped and turned his son to face him “I know how you feel Little Joe but whatever happens in the next few hours, Adam is going to need some help. There are the twins to consider as well and it won't do any of them any good if you are on the verge of collapse. You can't help Adam or Carole just now. He is only aware of her; I don’t think he even noticed when I left the room and, until it’s settled one way or the other, that is going to be how it is. Only then can we help and some of us need to be rested enough to do so.”
Joe knew his father was talking sense and he nodded “Okay Pa but you look pretty tired too.”
“I’ll join you for some breakfast and once you’ve had a sleep you can spell me and I’ll try.”
Throughout the day the three of them took it in turns to sit in with Adam and Carole, occasionally persuading Adam to have some coffee and fetching fresh water, broth or dry linen as he requested. Apart from occasional requests Adam seemed oblivious of them although he spent most of the time talking quietly to Carole. After dinner all three joined him, too anxious to stay away, the twins were asleep and there was nothing else to be done. Ben considered his three sons, of them all Adam was by far the calmest and despite no food or sleep he was less drawn than his brothers were. Ben hadn’t been particularly surprised when Hoss told him how restless Adam had been the night before Joe came out and Adam’s certainty that his wife was alive. He remembered Carole’s faith in similar circumstances sixteen months earlier. She had been proved right then and yet surely Adam had been even closer to death. By midnight Ben was no longer sure, he could see Carole’s breathing getting erratic and last time he had checked her pulse he’d fond it alarmingly erratic and weak. He could see that both Joe and Hoss were just about convinced she was dying. Little Joe with memories of his own wife seemed to have slipped back into the agony of the hours after her death and he could see the anguish in Adam’s eyes.
Adam had been barely aware of who was with him; just sure that there was someone ready to collect anything he wanted. However over the last hour he had seen the growing conviction on their faces that she was dying. He wanted to scream at them to go away as he fought against admitting the conviction into his own heart Then he remember when David had been so ill and only close contact with his father had seemed to help him. It had worked once maybe it could help Carole. He got up from where he had been sitting for so long, terribly stiff and he stretched for a moment, while his family watched puzzled. Then Adam sat down on the bed and lifted Carole up of the pillows and cradled her in his arms, Ben went to protest but Joe stopped him “Let him be Pa.” Like Adam he remembered the hours on the boat, cradling David so closely, and the alarming deterioration when the baby was separated from his father. Adam kissed her gently “Hold on my darling. Please fight it. I need you so much and so do David and Mark, I love you Carole you can’t leave me.” He carried on talking to her and holding her very close, breathing deliberately slowly as though to regulate her breathing by his own. Slowly she seemed to rest a little easier. For nearly three hours Adam held her close, just occasionally stretching out for a fresh cold compress while the others just waited, each in their own way praying. Then about four in the morning Adam suddenly buried his face in her hair. It was the first time he had moved or been quiet in over an hour and Ben went over to him. Ben saw the cold sweat beading Carole’s face and felt her forehead, but it was cool and her pulse was much steadier. He looked up at his younger sons with almost awe on his face “It’s broken. Joe go and get some warm water. Hoss we need dry clothes and blankets, she’s going to be alright.”
Adam heard his father organizing things but he couldn’t move, not even to lift his head as he thanked God for his mercy. Ben left him until Joe and Hoss returned, both his sons showing signs of tears on their faces as relief hit them but smiling now. Then Ben gripped Adam’s shoulder “Let’s make her more comfortable Adam.”
With an effort Adam laid her down and as though in a dream he sponged her down gently with warm water and dried her before getting her into a soft dry night-dress. With his father’s help he wrapped her in a thick blanket and sat down with her in a chair, while his brothers stripped and remade the bed. For the first time he sobbed, just once, as he saw the blood stains on the mattress but for now Hoss just covered them with thick towels before remaking the bed. They could get a new mattress and burn it later but for now she needed to be tucked up as soon as possible. Once Carole was lying back in bed and sleeping quietly, Ben turned to his eldest son “You must rest Adam, when she wakes up she’ll need you but I can stay with her for now.”
To his surprise Adam didn’t argue but straightening up he demanded, “I want to see the child.” Ben was horrified although later looking back he knew he should have expected it, “No Adam.”
“Where is she Pa? I know she wouldn’t have been born for nearly five months but she was alive, part of me. I know what the church says but this is my child, she’s died but I want to see her.”
Ben didn’t know what to say how to stop his son or to prepare him. He hadn’t even told his other sons about the deformity and its cause. Although he had known that one day he would have to tell Adam, he didn't want to do it now while Adam was so drawn and exhausted. Joe couldn't understand, he didn’t recognise the expression on his father’s face, but he did know his brother’s need. "Pa, Adam’s not going to settle until he’s seen for himself.”
Ben knew his youngest son was telling the truth and he reached out gripping both Adam’s hands “You’re right Adam it was a little girl but she was badly deformed. Doc said is sometimes happens when there is a high fever in early pregnancy. This miscarriage was nature’s reaction, because the child couldn’t have lived. Let us bury her Adam don’t torment yourself.”
Hoss and Joe looked at each other in horror but Ben was only aware of his eldest son. Adam nodded slowly “I see Pa. Please just show me.”
Ben gave way and led Adam across to one of the spare rooms where a tiny coffin shaped box was resting on the bed. Joe and Hoss followed them desperate to do anything to help their brother. Adam opened the lid and stood staring down at the tiny misshapen foetus, which had so nearly cost Carole her life; the diphtheria had claimed one victim. Eventually he straightened his shoulders fitting the lid back on “I’m going to bury her up by the lake. Pa will you stay with Carole?” Ben nodded and watched Adam pick up the tiny coffin, not knowing the look on his son’s face.
Ben looked at his younger sons “He shouldn’t be alone.”
Joe smiled with an effort ”He won’t be.” Hoss was already on the way down to the stables where he saddled up their three horses. Adam walked out and saw him busy and then turned to see Joe in the doorway. Uncertain even what he wanted, he hesitated and Joe said “She would have been our niece, let us help you bury her.”
Adam nodded and mounted up stiffly, leaving Hoss to bring the spade. The three brothers rode slowly up to the lake and then Adam dismounted and walked slowly up to the point carrying the tiny coffin. He had only known for a few short days that this child was on the way and by then she had been irreparably damaged. He knew that it was a mercy that she had died and Carole had lived, but he still felt sorrow for this life that was never to be.
Hoss and Joe watched him for a moment and then Joe suggested they get started on a deep pit just next to his beloved wife’s grave. Hoss was just finishing the pit and Joe went up to join Adam “It’s ready Adam.”
Adam nodded and moved back to Hoss kneeling down by the grave, he laid the tiny coffin in it. The words of the funeral service hardly seemed fitting and as he slowly put a few handfuls of dirt over the coffin he said “You have called her back to you God before her life started, keep her safe. For your son said ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.’ For a moment he knelt in prayer but then feeling utterly exhausted he swayed slightly and Hoss swiftly moved to him and helped him up. Adam lent on his big brother and stood staring over the lake as dawn broke. Joe swiftly filled in the tiny grave, barely even a mound marking the spot When he’d finished Joe moved over to his wife’s grave and said a prayer of thanks that Carole wasn’t going to join her sister so soon and then went to join his brothers. Adam barely seemed aware of them and he never remembered anything about the journey home. When they got back Hoss helped him inside and would have taken him to a bedroom, but Adam pulled away and went into his study.
Adam was drained of strength and feeling and he just stood staring at the painting of the lake. Hoss and Joe stood in the door, very worried about him, Hoss frowned “Should I get Pa? He’s got to rest or he’s gonna collapse. I ain’t never seen Adam like this before.”
“Pa’s been worried enough. I think he need to breakdown, get rid of some of the tension, and I don’t think he’ll sleep until he does. Like I was after Marie died. You go and get Hop Sing to heat up some broth, I’ll talk to him.”
Hoss looked very dubious but went along “Well okay little brother but I don’t reckin he’s hearing too well at the moment.”
Little Joe went through to join Adam and put an arm round his brother but he had to admit Hoss was right Adam seemed oblivious of him. Joe tried “Please Adam come and sit down. Will you listen to me.” There was no reaction and Joe let an edge of anger sound in his voice as he repeated “Sit down Adam before you fall down. For once in your life do as you’re told.” There was still no obvious reaction but when Joe gripped his brother’s arm Adam did allow himself to be led over to a chair and he sat down. Joe poured a large brandy and sat on the arm of the chair “Come on big brother, you need a drink you’re frozen.”
Adam sipped a little but he gagged on the raw spirit and pushed the glass away. For the first time since they had left the Lake he spoke “I’ll be alright Joe just leave me alone.”
Joe moved round in front of his brother and kneeling down he took both Adam’s hands in his, rubbing them slowly trying to warm them up. He looked up at his brother’s drawn face. “Adam please listen to me, I know how you feel. I know what you’ve been through these last hours. I’ve been there. You’re in the same state I was after Marie died, call it shock, exhaustion I don’t know, but the same. You can’t move, even think and you can’t relax. But there’s one big difference brother, in a few hours Carole is going to need you, Noone needed me so it didn’t matter but you can’t go on like this.” Joe sensed that his brother was paying attention to him for the first time and he went on. “You, Pa and Hoss all came up to the lake, but you were all too gentle with me in my grief. You left me alone because I thought that was what I wanted. Carole didn’t. She knew what I needed. She came and talked about Marie and said bluntly that she had cried for her sister and it was past time I did too. She forced me to breakdown quite deliberately and she was right, it was what I needed. I owe Carole for that, maybe now I can repay her.”
Adam stared at his young brother as Joe spoke, hearing his words as though from a great distance, seeing the deep sympathy and love in his brother’s eyes. It took a long time for Joe’s words to penetrate but when they did they made sense. Then to his brother’s surprise Adam pulled himself to his feet and went over to a row of law books, Hoss had been listening from the doorway. He had a tray but he hadn’t wanted to disturb the spell Joe was weaving, very proud of his little brother. Joe got up and saw Hoss looking equally puzzled; he went over to join his big brother “Well done Joe.”
Joe shrugged, Adam was back on his feet, seemingly more in control of himself but he didn’t understand his brother’s reaction “I don’t know what he’s up to.” Neither did Hoss but without discussing it the two brothers moved over to Adam. Adam’s hands were shaking with exhaustion and he found it hard to focus but he had finally found what he was looking for, just a footnote in one of his law books. As his brothers came over he began to read it aloud. It defined the legal position of a foetus prior to six month. The church had ruled that the foetus only gained a soul sometime after conception and did not recognise the rights of a foetus prior to this time. It had no soul and therefore no right of burial in consecrated ground, so there was no legal objection to the tissue being used for experimentation as other waste tissue was. ***
Adam’s voice shook as he finished, even wrapped in the legal form, its meaning was clear. Hoss felt slightly sick as he realised what it meant, “That can’t be right Adam.”
Adam put the book down “No Hoss it isn’t right but its what the law and our compassionate church say. That’s why we went up to the lake, just the three of us. I don’t know when a baby becomes human but I don’t believe you can put a date on it, I know she could never have lived but she was my daughter.”
Hoss was so very sorry for his brother and for that tiny maimed baby and he didn’t know how to say it, not realising that Adam could read exactly how he felt on his face. Hoss put his arm round his brother’s shoulders and Adam seemed to sag at the touch and nearly collapsed. Hoss helped him back to a chair and Adam buried his face in his hands. Joe said “Carole once told me to cry for Marie, it’s time you cried for your daughter,”
That was the final straw and Adam broke down much to his brothers’ relief. Joe sat by him gently resting his hand on Adam’s shoulder and smiled up at Hoss. “Cheer up Hoss he’ll feel better for this, maybe even be able to get some rest.”
Five minutes later Adam wiped his face and lent back closing his eyes. He did feel better and he wasn’t even self-conscious with just his brothers there. Hoss asked “Will you eat something Adam, you haven’t eaten in days,”
Adam shook his head “I’m not hungry just so very tired.”
Joe suggested “Go on up to bed we’ll give you a hand.” But Adam pulled himself to his feet and went over to the window “In a minute.” He was still tense although he had relaxed a little; very grateful that Carole was going to be alright, but not knowing how she would react to the loss of her baby. He stared out unseeingly trying to think, to come to terms with what had happened. Finally exhaustion caught up with him and he swayed and would have fallen if Hoss hadn’t been there. Joe ignored Adam and told his big brother to take Adam straight up to bed. Hoss picked Adam up and did as he was told, Adam protested weakly that he could walk and he wanted to see Carole but his brothers ignored him. Hoss laid him down on one of the spare beds and pulled his boots off while Joe loosened his belt and collar. Then Joe pulled a cover over him “We’ll look after Carole and the twins, you get some sleep.”
Adam’s felt as though they were on fire and he couldn’t keep them open but he was still fighting against giving in. Joe gently brushed his hair back off his forehead “Go to sleep big brother I promise we’ll call you the minute she stirs.” Adam was content at that promise and he was asleep before his brothers left the room.
Joe was still too tense to rest, too many memories but he persuaded Hoss to go and get a meal and then some rest, one of them had to be fit. Then he went in to join his father by Carole’s bed. She was sleeping peacefully, her pulse almost normal again and Ben was no longer worried about her but, abhorring a vacuum, he had been sitting very worried about his eldest son. He had heard people moving around and was relieved when Joe came in. “Easy pa, Adam’s asleep.”
Ben gave a sigh of relief but he could see the tiredness and the tension in his youngest son. Joe came over to the bed and saw for himself that Carole was recovering and then pulled up a chair next to his father. He told Ben briefly what had happened including the quote from the law book and his brother’s reaction and how Adam had finally broken down and they’d got him to bed. Ben realised he was getting a very edited version but even so he was proud of his son. He had said that the only ones who might help Adam were his brothers and they had done it. He put his arm round Joe “You’ve done very well Joseph. You look whacked too why don’t you go and get some sleep.”
“I shan’t settle for a while Pa. Too many memories. I’m okay but I’d rather sit with Carole for a while. You go and get some sleep, you’ve had no more than the rest of us.”
Ben hesitated, he was tired and he knew that Adam could still need help but Joe was calm enough and he let his son do as he wanted. “Alright Joseph, call me in three hours.”
Ben went down to get some food and joined Hoss at the table. From Hoss he got rather more details, especially how Joe had broken through Adam’s control. Ben listened in silence but he felt a warm surge of pride for his youngest son. Hoss finished “Is Joe alright Pa?”
“Just tired and as he said too many memories to settle yet. It’s not surprising. Still he’s calm and when I’ve had a few hours sleep I’ll make sure he gets some.”
Hoss yawned, “Thank God Carole is going to be okay. Adam is just too damned stubborn to let her die.” Then he and Ben headed for some sleep knowing that Hop Sing and Kam Su would look after the twins. Little Joe had heard his brother’s final comment and as he sat by Carole’s bedside, just occasionally moving to tuck her up more warmly, all his thoughts were with Marie. Maybe if he had been as stubborn as his brother he would have saved her somehow. Deep in his own thoughts he wasn’t even aware of the passage of time and forgot to call his father. Carole didn’t stir and Adam was the first to wake up late in the afternoon and he hurriedly went to his wife. He saw Joe sitting by her bed and for a moment his heart seemed to stop, his young brother looked so drawn and upset. Joe looked up as Adam came in and force a grin “She’s fine, hasn’t stirred. She’ll be much better when she does wake up.”
Adam frowned but checking his wife he found Joe was telling the truth. That didn’t explain why Joe was so obviously upset, Adam could see that his brother was desperately tired and guessed Joe had had little or no sleep in the last three days, but he knew this was more than just lack of sleep. Adam felt very much better for breaking down and for some sleep, he had his little brother to thank for that and now it looked as though Joe needed his help. Adam sat down next to Joe “Right little brother, what is the matter? I know you’re whacked but there’s something else.
Joe licked his lips “It hasn’t been a very pleasant few days.”
“Joe you’re prevaricating, You helped me this morning, let me do my share.”
Joe couldn’t meet his brother’s gaze, unsure even if he wanted to talk, and not knowing how to put it into words Adam put his arm round his brother “Easy Joe. You’re not going to sleep until you talk it over. What is it Marie?”
Adam remembered every word Joe had said that morning even though he hadn’t appeared to be paying attention, and knew it must have reminded his brother very vividly of her death. He was close enough for Joe to shudder and knowing that Adam was right and he needed to talk. Joe stared down at Carole and began talking almost to himself. “That’s twice you’ve nursed Carole through illness and David too. We all thought she’d die this time and noone thought you had a chance with David, Hoss said you were too stubborn to let them die." He fell quiet and Adam realised what Joe was thinking, even though Joe wouldn’t put it into words. For a moment he could hardly believe it but it was the only thing he could think of to explain the agony in Joe’s eyes.
Adam tentatively said “I was very lucky, they are both basically very strong and healthy.”
Joe didn’t answer and Adam gripped his brother’s shoulders and forced Joe to face him “Little Joe you aren’t thinking that there was any more that you could have done for Marie are you?”
The answer was etched on Joe’s face but he couldn’t put it into words. Adam read it anyway and hugged his brother close to him, his voice almost breaking “Oh Joe you idiot. You did more than anyone else could have done. Doc said it at the time, you’d almost persuaded even him that everything was going to be alright even when you knew the odds. He told Pa he should be very proud of you, that if anything could hold onto her it would be you. You were fighting a lifetime of neglect, poor food and hard work. If you had had any chance you’d have pulled her thorough but there just wasn’t. Don’t ever wonder if you could have done more because I can tell you the answer now, you couldn’t. You did far more for her than I managed when Carole had the twins, don’t ever underestimate how much. People differ Joe, we’ve both survived when most would have died. Carole’s the same, she’s always been loved and looked after and so she’s strong. Marie only ever had that attention in the last months of her life, from you. It cost her life and you know how much we all mourned her, but you loved her as much as I love Carole and you fought as hard for her, noone could have done more.”
All the time Adam was speaking he held Joe close and as he finished Joe sobbed convulsively. After a long tiring worrying few days he couldn’t help himself. He accepted what Adam said, his big brother was always right and anyway he knew in his heart that there hadn’t been anything more he could have dome to help Marie. Adam was close to joining him and buried his face in his brother’s curly hair as Joe cried quietly against his shoulder. Neither of them had noticed that their father had come into the room. Ben had woken hearing Adam go past and had been cross that Joe hadn’t woken him. After washing his face he had gone to send his youngest son to get some sleep. He had just come in as Adam had forced his brother to look at him and stood horrified as he realised what Joe had been thinking. Adam seemed to be helping his brother and so Ben had left it to his eldest son, Ben left them for a couple of minutes and went down to collect the brandy and then poured two large ones. He went back in and over to them “Easy now Joseph, Adam. Come on you two both look as though you need a drink.”
Adam raised his head, not really surprised to see his father, and as he did so Joe pulled away and went over to the window. Ben handed Adam one glass and then went over to Joe. “Drink this Son and then its way past time you got some rest.”
Joe wouldn’t look at his father but he took the brandy and drained it in one. He wiped his hand across his eyes, his head pounding and forced himself to turn “You’re right I think I’ll sleep now.”
As he passed his brother Joe squeezed Adam’s shoulder and Adam needed no more thanks, he could see his brother was calmer and once Joe had some sleep he’d be fine. As the door closed behind Joe, Adam sipped his brandy and then looked up at his father. “Guess we’re all overtired and over emotional,”
“I heard Adam, just about all of it. Didn’t intrude you were handling it well.”
“Thanks Pa. Poor old Joe.”
“He’ll be fine. You're the one who said he wouldn’t lose his peace again.”
Adam nodded and finished his drink “As you’re up Pa would you mind getting Kam Su to get me some food, I think I’m hungry.”
“About time! You’ve missed a lot of meals one way and another.” Ben wandered down and asked for two trays and then looked in on his grandsons, Hop Sing was giving them some tea and both yelled in delight as they spotted Grandpa. Ben played with them while he waited for the trays and determined to send Adam down to his sons once he had eaten it was the medicine Adam needed to counteract that tiny deformed body.
He was pleased to see Adam make a good meal and then said “Why don’t you go and see the twins Adam. I’ll watch Carole; it’s nearly their bedtime.
Adam looked down at Carole but she wasn’t stirring and he nodded “Call me if she wakes.”
“Of course.”
Adam went down to David and Mark who were gratifyingly glad to see him. Mark could manage a few tentative steps but David got to him faster crawling. Adam knelt down and tickled them and for the first time in days really relaxed. Hoss had got up and hearing the noise as he came down he went in to investigate. He was delighted to see how much better his brother looked and wandered over grinning broadly “Another couple of years and they’re gonna beat you Adam.”
Adam laughed “I like going to! What do you think they are doing now, just too many hands and feet. Still now Uncle Hoss is here he can help me get them to bed.”
“Sure if Hop Sing will get me some food.”
Hop Sing nodded and the two brothers hoisted one boy each onto their shoulders and headed up to the nursery. Neither baby was much trouble and a quarter of an hour later were settled in their cots. Hoss went down to eat, Adam having reassured him that Carole was getting on fine. Adam went back in to join his father and Ben could see how much calmer Adam was. Adam smiled “I’m fine now Pa, really.”
“I can see that Adam.”
Adam took Carole’s hand “I’m so lucky Pa, the twins Carole and my family, I don’t know how I’d have got throughout the last few days without you. I’m just sorry it cost Joe so dear.”
“You helped him in your turn, he’ll be fine just over tired and worried.”
Adam nodded but then as Carole stirred his whole attention was on her. Ben went to get some broth and Adam kissed his wife “Easy my love everything is fine. You must rest, I won’t leave you.”
Carole held his hand and stared at her husband, he was calm and his eyes were clear. She knew him so well that she was content, he couldn’t act that well, so everything must be alright. For the moment she didn’t even realise what had happened or why she was ill, she just knew that she would recover and that was enough. Ben brought up the broth and Adam lifted Carole against his shoulder and slowly fed her. Ben wandered over by the window, there in case Adam wanted anything but not intruding on husband and wife.
Carole finished the broth and lay quietly against Adam for a few minutes, but then a nagging pain in her back and stomach brought back memories and with then the terror she had felt on finding blood on her legs. She tensed up and Adam saw the flare of terror in her eyes and held her close kissing her forehead. Carole’s hand went to her stomach but she already knew “My baby?”
Adam had hoped that she would get some more rest before she realised but it was not to be. He felt a pain in his chest at the anguish in her eyes, “We lost the baby sweetheart, but you’re going to be alright.”
Carole pulled away from him “You said everything was fine, you don’t care.”
Adam tried to hold her but she fought him, so he just held one hand “Of course I care my darling.”
“No no I killed her. I worked too hard.”
Adam could hear the note of hysteria in her voice and deliberately kept his own voice quiet and calm, “No my love there was nothing you did or could have done, she never had a chance.”
“A girl I was right, you didn’t want a girl, let the Cartwrights down, big men, only have sons. You’re glad she’s dead. You left me alone so I would lose her.” Carole pulled her hand away from him, hating him for a moment. She had been so sure everything was alright just the way he looked, he couldn’t have cared about her baby. In her own pain she just wanted to lash out, completely hysterical, she screamed at him “You’re glad she’s dead, you’re glad, glad.”
Adam knew she was too weak for the hysterical outburst and much though he hated doing it, he slapped her face, just once and then, as she began to sob more naturally, he took her back into his arms and softly tried to tell her how much he loved her.
Ben had been standing over by the window, seeing the pity and anguish on his son’s face and unable to help. Now he slipped out leaving Adam alone with his wife. Joe and Hoss were standing on the landing, they had both heard every word of Carole’s tirade and were white faced and shocked. Ben put one arm round each of them and led the way downstairs. He poured out three brandies “She’s hysterical, she doesn’t mean it.”
Joe stared into his glass “Of course not, but Adam, how much can he take?”
“Your brother loves her very much."
“Sure but that just turns the knife a bit deeper. Its so unfair he cared so much.”
“She’s had a shock Joe, just not rational.”
“I can understand that Pa, its just Adam.” Joe sighed heavily and Hoss nodded in complete agreement with his brother. He had seen just how much it had hurt Adam to be accused of not caring by his own wife, knew it was tearing him apart. Ben was too worried himself to be able to reassure them.
Meanwhile Adam held Carole as she cried until she had calmed down and then he tried to explain, once he thought she could understand him “You must rest my sweetheart. You’re not strong enough. I’m so sorry I had to hit you, but you were hysterical.” He kissed her face where he’d had to hit it and she lay looking up at him. She was no longer pulling away from him but she was still withdrawn wondering just what she had done wrong, why had she lost the baby? Adam said, “You accused me of being glad the baby is dead and I am.”
Carole had said it and for a moment she had meant it but now she had control of herself, it didn’t seem possible. She stared at Adam puzzled and said “No.” shaking her head.
Adam felt a surge of relief she had calmed down and come right back to normal, her love for him was back in her eyes. She wasn’t going to blame him, not now she was thinking rationally and he didn’t care what she’d said in a moment of shock and hysteria. He could still feel the pain of it but he would soon forget. Adam held her closer “Our daughter never had a chance my darling, She was a victim of your diphtheria. A high temperature early in pregnancy can harm the baby. It did harm her she was badly deformed. Your miscarriage was nature’s way of correcting the damage, She could never have lived.” Carole came closer to him, beginning to understand and accepting that it wasn’t her fault, knowing that was why Adam was telling her, “Where is she?”
“I buried her up by the lake next to Marie. Just Joe and Hoss and 1. When you are stronger I’ll take you up there.”
Carole nodded slowly “I should have known. Funny Marie asked me to look after her daughter, now she will have to look after mine. I can’t ask her but I know that she will.” With that she broke down again and cried quietly against Adam and then felt his hot tears on her hand. She looked up and wiped the tears from his cheek “Forgive me Adam?”
“Nothing to forgive my love, just shock. I love you and you must rest.” Carole relaxed in his arms and cried very quietly for her lost child until she had cried herself to sleep. Adam gently wiped her face and laid her back down on the pillows, wrapping the blankets closer round her. She murmured as he let go but didn’t wake. Adam waited for five minutes to make sure she was settled and then got to his feet. He knew his father and brothers must have heard what she had said in hysteria and they were bound to be worried about him. He hated the idea of his family thinking badly of Carole even though they would make allowances for her weakness, but to them he came first. He knew they loved Carole but not as he did, in the nature of things son and brother had to come first. For a moment Adam stood staring down at her, not wanting to have to explain but knowing he had no choice. Not even aware of the tearstains on his cheeks or just how white and drawn he was having had to explain to Carole, Adam walked slowly down. He saw his father and two brothers sitting by the fire and all three came to their feet as he appeared. Adam walked straight past them and into the study to pour himself a drink. Uncertain Ben hesitated but Adam said, “Come on in, all of you.”
He stood in front of the fire grateful for the warmth and the warmth of the brandy, looking from one to another. Then he smiled faintly “You heard.”
Ben nodded and Adam went on “She’s sleeping quietly. I’ll go back to her in a minute. She was just hysterical, shocked, she didn’t mean it.”
“Of course not Son, we can all understand that.”
“I think we’ve all lashed out either physically or verbally, done harm we never intended and hated ourselves for it a few minutes later. Something had to give.”
Joe moved forward “You don’t have to explain Adam. We all understand, nobody blames Carole, we just didn’t want you hurt anymore.”
“She didn’t mean it, she’s already said so, I knew that.” Adam drank his brandy and then sank into a chair. “She said she couldn’t look after Marie’s daughter but now Marie will look after hers.” Adam buried his face in his hands but he didn’t breakdown, Joe turned away, realising now why Adam’s face was tearstained. He couldn’t face his family for the moment and murmuring that he wouldn’t be long, he rode up to the lake to calm down. Adam took five minutes to calm down and then went back to Carole, leaving Ben and Hoss alone. Ben smiled “They’ll both be fine tomorrow.”
Hoss nodded but then said, “I’m restless Pa. I think I’ll go back and finish up. Adam and I had barely a day’s work left, it’ll take me two or three days but it’s gotta be done.”
Ben frowned but then he agreed, seeing that the big man was eager to get off on his own. “No need to rush it Hoss. We’re well ahead of schedule, the weather has been co-operating this year."
“Sure but Adam’s gonna be tied with Carole ill and the twins, best to get on.”
Hoss looked in on his brother before leaving and was glad to find him quite calm again. Adam gripped his brother’s hand and thanked him for his support and then Hoss gently kissed Carole’s forehead “She’ll be fine Adam, just you get some rest too.”
Hoss went by the lake and as he expected found Joe there, but he too had calmed down. Hoss explained where he was going and asked Joe to try and make sure their father got some rest. In some ways he had taken things even worse than Adam and Hoss thought he looked whacked. Joe promised to try and told his big brother to be careful, they really couldn’t face any more trouble just now. He stood watching his big brother ride off, only too aware how upset Hoss had been and sure that his brother was better on his own for a while or he would have gone to help out.
The next morning Joe rode into town again to have a word with the Doc and get him to pop out and check on Carole for his brother’s peace of mind. He needed to order some supplies, as the usual check round the ranch brought lists of things required from the mines, the mill to say nothing of the herds. The Ponderosa was slowly coming to life after the winter, their busy time of the year.
Joe made his first stop at the Doc’s and the surprise, mixed with delight, on Paul’s face as Joe told him Carole was alright, conveyed to Joe more clearly than mere words just what Paul had thought about her chances. Paul promised to go out that afternoon and suggested Joe try and keep his family out of trouble for a while, the horses were beginning to know their own way to the Ponderosa. Joe just laughed at him and headed down town.
It didn’t take Joe very long to complete the rest of his errands and collect the mail and then he went into the saloon for a drink. Dan was at his usual table chatting to Roy, both worried about their friends. As Joe came over Dan and Roy grinned at each other. Dan said, “Don’t have to ask, she’s gonna be okay.”
“Yes thank God, though it was too close for comfort. You heard she lost the baby?”
Dan nodded “Yes, still God willing there can be more children and at least he has the twins. How is my Godson?”
“Walking just and into everything, as is his brother. You can’t put anything down in safety, You should have seen Hoss’ face the other day, he’d hung his gunbelt up and David had a bullet out and was trying to eat it.”
Roy chatted for a few minutes and then left. Dan turned to Joe “My sainted editor gave me a commission if I saw any of you. I think he’s given your father up as a dead loss but he wants to know if Adam will stand?”
Joe frowned puzzled “Stand?”
“Yeah for the Senate, didn’t he tell you?”
Joe looked incredulous for a moment and then said “Adam a US Senator, oh my God we’d never survive! I can just imagine...” at that he lost control and went off into peels of laughter, which sounded throughout the saloon and even down the street. Most people who heard it knew who it was and several commented that they hadn’t heard Joe laugh like that since his wife died. It was good to hear and so infectious that most people smiled as they heard him. Eventually Joe calmed down enough to drink his beer but he was still chortling. Dan said “I’m glad you find it so amusing Little Joe, but I hardly think that Goodman will take that as an answer.”
“Adam hasn’t mentioned it, but then the only time I’ve seen him lately is when I had to tell him Carole was ill sand after that he only had one concern. I shouldn’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of him accepting. He doesn’t like Washington much, or politics if it comes to that. I just hope I’m right, he’d be so damned bumptious..” With that he was off again and Dan gave up all hope of firm news and went to get two more beers.
One person who heard Joe was Jim Fair. He was still on tenterhooks for some idea of how the Cartwrights viewed his proposal; he was determined to talk to Joe. He would infinitely have preferred to deal with Adam or Ben but Joe had proved himself not entirely a fool in the last year arranging the lumber last autumn and anyway he was a party to the Cartwright decisions. Fair had heard a rumour about Carole’s miscarriage but that was just one of those things and he didn’t even consider it having any effect on business matters. He saw Joe over in the corner with Dan, but he could hardly discuss business in the saloon, and just asked Joe to stop by his office before leaving town.
As he left Dan grinned, “You’re coming up in the world Little Joe, Jim Fair never used to acknowledge your existence.”
“Oh that’s unfair, he always had some snide comment about how useless Hoss and I were. I get the distinct impression I’m still only a poor substitute for Pa or Adam.”
“Well... he might be right.....” Dan broke off “Ouch!” Joe grinned, he’d got a left straight into Dan’s ribs. Then finishing his beer Joe went to collect the supplies which were ready before going over to see Fair, not wanting to appear too eager.
Jim Fair was alone in his office when Joe went in and waved him to a seat “I suppose your father or Adam has told you our plan for taking over the California mine?”
“Yes Pa told me, I’ve seen the papers. Is there something new?”
“No, but we are waiting for your decision.”
“I’m sure Pa warned you that it would take a while, we have to get together to discuss it.”
“I realise that but Doc said you were all at Adam’s house so I thought you might have made a decision.”
Joe stared at him in disbelief and rising anger; “If Doc told you we were there, I’m sure he told you why. Carole lost her baby.”
“Most regrettable but these things happen. We really do want to move on this soon.”
Joe got to his feet and mimicking the casual way Fair had dismissed it “Most regrettable! Carole nearly died, Adam fought for hours to save her.”
“Well I’m glad he did but your brother is a businessman....”
“We none of us thought about business of any description. We had more important things to worry about. We’ll discuss your proposition when we can.”
“Maybe I’ll ride out and have a word with your brother, if his wife is still ill I presume he’ll be at home.”
Joe completely lost his temper at that “You bother Adam with anything in the next few days and I’ll guarantee you’ll have no further backing from the Cartwrights. Leave him alone, he’s had enough to contend with.”
Fair was angry too, “I realise you’re anxious about your brother young man, but how dare you threaten me, young whippersnapper.” With an effort he got control although still pale with anger “Not that you could do any harm.”
Joe laughed without mirth, “You always have underestimated Hoss and I. Oh admit for a long while I left financial affairs to Pa or Adam but not any longer. I do my share now and I have an equal say, I can carry Hoss with me. Pa and Adam wouldn’t go against us even if they wanted to. which I doubt.”
“Insolent young fool.”
Joe glared at him “Maybe I am, but aren’t you forgetting you want me to put up nearly $200 000 for your mine? If we come in it will be a straight split between the four of us, That’s not insignificant and it earns me the right to say what I think.” Looking dangerous Joe seemed to loom over Jim Fair as he ordered “Stay away from my brother.”
John Mackay had heard the raised voices and came over. He knew Joe and his partner had never hit it off and he was quick to pour oil on troubled waters. Promising Joe that they wouldn’t bother Adam and weren’t really in that much of a hurry for an answer. Joe calmed down and John made small talk for a few minutes before walking Joe back to his wagon, “Jim’s a bit tactless and doesn’t realise how other people react but he meant no harm.”
“It’s okay John. I honestly have no idea how Adam feels about it, my father is - uncertain.”
“How about you Joe? As you say you have an equal share.”
“Oh I’m a gambler. I’m tempted and I won’t vote no just to spite Jim, though I might have done twenty minutes back.”
“Good for you Joe. It’ll pay off you know. There’s more riches still in that old mountain than we’ve dreamt of yet.” Mackay waved a hand at Mount Davidson, bare and rugged, honeycombed with shafts and Joe shook his head in wonder, he realised that Mackay had almost the same proud proprietal feeling for the mountain that he had for the Ponderosa, but the mines just weren’t real for him.
Over supper that night Joe confessed to his father the row he’d had with Jim Fair. Ben could understand how annoyed Joe had been and as Joe hadn’t said anything too outrageous he just grinned, to his son’s surprise. “I thought you’d be cross with me Pa. He is our partner.”
“Equally Joseph you are his. It won’t do Jim any harm to learn not to underestimate you. I’d guess he learnt quite a lot today and you’re right Adam doesn’t need anything else on his plate at the moment.”
“Have you been over?”
“Yes. Carole seems to be regaining her strength well, but she’s very weepy, not altogether surprising. Doc came while I was there. He reckons she’s marvellous considering everything and should be up and around in a week. He also said that there’s no reason why she shouldn’t have more children. Obviously wait for a while but he’d check her over in six months. Adam said she brightened up a lot at that.”
“How is Adam?”
“Looks tired now that he’s relaxed but he’s fine, putting it all behind him. After all he’s still got Carole and the twins. Those two hellions are enough to make sure he has no time to brood.”
Adam was busy with the accounts to leave his father free to get out and around the ranch. He had no intention of leaving Carole yet, although she was rapidly regaining his strength. He had taken her up to the lake and she had cried over the death of her child. He knew she was still very upset over losing the child and Adam couldn’t help worrying, they had a very busy summer planned. He needed to do his share, especially having played all winter. He knew that his brothers were very capable of building flumes from his plans but it wasn’t fair to leave it to them and anyway they had two large lumber contracts to fulfil as well, apart from the horses and cattle. None of the main centres of work were close to the house and it wasn’t possible to handle things from home. Adam pushed it to the back of his mind; he’d worry later.
Hoss had the lumber gangs starting work and Joe was with the cow gather moving up to the high pasture. Adam wasn’t sure where his father was, he had been going to try and hire some Chinese labour and get the work camps set up to start building the flumes. Ben also had to ensure things were working smoothly at the mill and check on the mine, so he might be anywhere on the vast acres of the ranch. Adam had plenty of paperwork to do and didn’t feel too guilty as yet. Someone had to stay in contact with the ranch at this time of year and he had Kirk redirecting all messages to him so he could keep the work organised.
Late in the evening when he had sent Carole to bed, Adam studied the papers on the California project. He had a vague feeling that he’d used all the luck he was due for a long time with Carole’s survival. Although he was tempted by the new proposition he had no intention of taking any chances. He had a fair idea of what Joe and Hoss had and Ben had never kept his investments a secret from his sons. Adam knew that there were plenty of ways of raising the money to buy in and that Flood and O’Brien would be buying some shares on margin, financing them with credit. That was the way big fortunes were made but as Adam knew many more people lost everything. He had lost friends who killed themselves when all the markets collapsed when margins were called in. Beth’s husband had been one of them. The Cartwrights always owned their stock outright, but this was going to tie up a great deal of money. Adam carefully calculated how much cash he could manage on his own, if he called in a few other investments, keeping only the Consolidated Virginia, the Hale and Norcross and the Belcher mining stocks. He had the dividend from the mines and some considerable poker winnings, which he hadn’t even told Carole about. Adam grinned at the figures, even with financing Joe; he had made a profit on his English trip, Typical when he didn’t need money he didn’t seem able to lose. By the time he had finished Adam was very surprised, he had considerably more cash available than he had expected. Stocks were high at the moment in several mines where he had a minor investment, often bought to help out a friend, none of which he cared about. He tried to do the same for his father’s investments. That wasn’t quite so easy as he wasn’t always sure of the extent of his father’s holdings or which ones he would be prepared to dispose of. Adam had no intention of putting all their eggs in one basket and the plan he finally drew up included only a limited surrender of other investments. He was proposing to borrow a quarter of a million from the Ponderosa mining account. That was well in credit and could be repaid by three months dividend from the Consolidated Virginia. The main account would be untouched and although it would run their personal accounts low, as they would own their shares outright and he had allowed for the assessment that wouldn’t matter much,
Adam felt a growing excitement as he realised that they could manage without taking any silly risks. After checking that the twins and Carole were all sleeping peacefully he went out and saddled up. He needed some fresh air, he had been tied to the house too much and it was a beautiful night. He rode up to the lake, the view bright in the moonlight, the lake itself dark and mysterious, the mountains magnificent and the tall Ponderosa pines rustling in the breeze. Adam stared down for a while at Marie’s grave and the barely discernible mound over his daughter. In a few months when the grass covered it, there would be no sign and he wondered whether or not to put a marker over it, finally deciding to talk it over with Carole. He wasn’t really sad, just very thoughtful and he sat down in his usual spot and slowly relaxed. He hadn’t seen any of the others for several days and was anxious to discuss things. Eventually early in the morning he went home and got a couple of hours sleep.
Carole had sensed his restlessness. She was feeling very much better physically and, with the twins to console her, was able to think more clearly about her lost baby. She felt much better now that she knew she could still have children and although she had times when she couldn’t prevent the tears, she was beginning to be able to hide them from Adam. She knew he had had a long anxious time and she didn’t want to make it worse for him, although still not really aware just how ill she had been. She did know where Adam had been working and the long worrying ride home, and could imagine how he had felt. She also knew the plans that had been made for the summer and was determined not to stop her husband doing his share, knowing that he would fret if he couldn't. She racked her brains trying to think of someway to persuade Adam that she was well enough to be left alone. Eventually she thought of her cousin Meg.
Meg had lost her husband three months earlier. The marriage hadn’t worked out well, although everyone had been delighted six years earlier when they announced their engagement. He couldn’t hold a job and drank his way through his inheritance. Meg had never uttered a word against him in public, but she had occasionally had to hide bruises or a black eye. Carole’s mother had been sure that his death had come as a relief to Meg, even if she wouldn’t admit it, but she had been left badly off and was earning a living as a seamstress. Carole decided that maybe a break would do Meg good and she was her best friend amongst the cousins. Meg was one of the few women she could stand living with. Carole decided to telegraph her and try to persuade her to come out for a visit to last through the summer, so that Adam would know she wasn’t alone.
The next day Carole surprised Adam by asking to go to town. She had a lot of errands to do and she was feeling fine. Adam glad to see her so cheerful put away his pen and went to harness up. Carole didn’t want to build up his hopes prematurely and didn’t mention her plan. She sent a very long telegram to Meg, explaining her loss of her baby and her need for company, promising to wire expenses if Meg would come for the summer. Even as a seamstress she’d get much better prices in Virginia City.
In Hillsboro Meg had found the months since her husband’s death very hard. There were no blows to fear, no waiting for the key in the lock, scared as she waited for her husband wondering how drunk he was, but she had still loved him and there were good days. She hated the pity of her family and the general reaction that it was all for the best and she had to fight hard to retain any independence. She was very surprised to get Carole’s telegram but Carole had put a lot of thought into it and she could read the very real need behind the invitation. She was fond of Carole and had liked both Adam and Joe. Meg had never thought of going west, married before Carole stunned everyone by heading off to California, but she had had moments of jealousy at her cousin’s adventures. It would solve so many problems and she sensed she could really help Carole, so feeling very daring she went straight down to the telegraph office and sent a wire “Would love to come, when?”
Carole was still in town and had asked for any answer to be brought to her. She got the telegram as she was lunching with Adam and he looked puzzled as she opened it. Carole couldn’t meet his eye and amused Adam wondered just what she was up to. He asked for coffee and then grinning mischievously at Carole ordered a large brandy “It looks to me as though I may need it. Just what have you been up to?”
Carole blushed, “I was going to tell you.”
“It can’t be that bad and I’m fortified against the shock, Do you know you look just like Little Joe when he’s done something and isn’t sure how we’ll react?”
Carole giggled and then plunged in, “You remember Meg?”
“Of course, she lost her husband didn’t she?”
“Yes I told you about him. Well she’s finding it hard and I thought with you away so much this summer, I’d enjoy some company. You know you’re going to be busy. I always got on well with Meg.”
Adam laughed “So I’m to have a house guest. Do you know how to wire her fare?”
“Ah I understand why I’m being told so soon. Come on my pet I’ll arrange it for you.”
Carole bit her lip “I know I should have discussed it but I didn’t want you to know in case she couldn’t come. She’s the only one I really want.”
Adam laughed “I think its a lovely idea. I liked Meg, it will help both of you and leave me free to be worked into the ground. Just when I thought I had a great excuse.”
Carole put his arm through his “You’re a liar Adam, you know you get restless, wondering how best to do your share of the work and look after us.” Adam oblivious of everyone bent and kissed his wife, not caring about the shocked looks from two elderly ladies.
It didn’t take Adam long to make arrangements and ample funds were sent to Meg along with Adam’s hearty endorsement of his wife’s invitation. She had nothing to hold her in Hillsboro and promised to leave in three days. Adam sent word that she would be met in Reno.
Jim Fair heard that Adam was in town but he had taken Joe’s warning to heart, especially with John Mackay rubbing it in afterwards. Much though he hated the delay he would wait for the Cartwrights to answer in their own time, they wouldn’t delay unreasonably. In fact Adam had made arrangements to sell off his own stock, it was a good time to sell and even if they decided against the California he could find other investments.
As they rode home Adam sang a whole series of familiar ballads, very touched by Carole’s plan. She knew him so very well and he was so relieved that he would be able to do his share of the work. He was more eager than ever to see his family. Carole was delighted to see him so happy but although she had taken no harm from her trip to town she was very tired. Adam sent her to bed early and once she was settled and the twins fast asleep he decided to walk over to the main house, Even if none of his family were there Hop Sing might know when they were expected and he thought he could do with the exercise.
In fact Ben had arrived home late in the afternoon and after a long soak and a meal was going through some notes that had been left by various hands during the day, mainly in Kirk’s almost indecipherable hand, slightly puzzled that his eldest son hadn’t dealt with them. Adam had also left a long letter from Will on his desk and Ben was halfway through it when he heard horses approaching. He went to investigate and saw both his younger sons leading their horses into the stable. Ben frowned not sure if it augured trouble, he hadn’t been expecting them.
Ten minutes later Joe and Hoss came in together, boisterous and starving. Ben relaxed as soon as he saw them, their mood made it obvious it wasn’t trouble. Joe had the cattle up in the high pasture; the calf tally was as high as he’d ever known it and with good weather the grass was growing strongly. He was glad to be home, it was more than three weeks since he had seen any of his family or found out the news. He’d met up with Hoss about an hour out from the house. Hoss had a list of stores that he needed and had come back himself, wondering how Adam and Carole were recovering and wanting to find out the rest of the news. So far everything was going as smoothly as he could hope. They had a large nucleus of men on the lumber gang now who were used to them and their ways. Hoss, much more experienced in handling the work, found it easier now than a few years back even though they were taking on larger contracts. Joe had been by the high pools on the way home and the ice cutting was going well, huge blocks of ice going down to the ever-hungry mines. He thought they would be able to carry on for another fortnight with luck, although the weather had been dry and clear it hadn’t been particularly warm. Ben was pleased, just this use of the flume had proved very lucrative over the last few years and this time it looked like being even more profitable.
Joe and Hoss were just finishing their meal while Ben sat back with coffee when Adam walked into the yard. The three had debated whether to go and visit but were all tired and had decided to leave it until the morning. They looked up in surprise as Adam walked in, not having heard a horse. For a moment all three studied his face, it was some time since any of them had seen him and they weren’t sure how he and Carole were recovering from the miscarriage. What they saw reassured them, Adam looked contented, not too tired and very pleased to see them.
Adam was the first to speak “Well this is a surprise. I wandered over to see when Hop Sing was expecting you.”
Hoss grinned “Good to see you brother. How is Carole?”
“Recovering fast, we went into town today. Tired her and she’s had an early night but taken no harm.”
Ben and Joe both said “Good” at the same moment and Joe went over to the window “No horse! I didn’t think I’d heard one. Do you mean you walked?”
Adam laughed “Its only half a mile Joe. I needed to stretch my legs though I could do with some coffee now.”
The four of them relaxed round the fire with their coffee and Ben grinned at his sons, “It’s been a while since we did this.”
They could only agree, much as they loved Carole and the twins they had drawn Adam away from the tight circle of men that for so long they had all been used to and it was good to recapture it for a few minutes. Adam told them about his houseguest for the summer, bemoaning his fate at losing an ironclad excuse to stay home in comfort. None of them took him seriously and were pleased at Carole’s idea. Joe tried to remember Meg but he had met so many people in a short space of time with plenty of worries on his mind and he couldn’t place her. Adam remembered her more clearly but all the girls had looked fairly alike and he couldn’t think how to distinguish her. In the end he gave up “You’ll know her when you see her Joe. We both liked her, she wasn’t as hidebound as some, just rather quiet. She had her problems, a husband who drank himself to death, died about three months back, I don’t think you met him. I did once and he was well on the way even then. The main thing is Carole likes her and I won’t be so worried knowing she has company.”
Hoss went and poured out a drink “While we’re all here what about that mine you were telling me about Adam? We said we’d discuss it when we could get together.”
Ben had been thinking the same, but he wasn’t sure if Adam wanted Carole to be present. He asked his son “Do you want to wait until Carole is here too?”
Adam shrugged “She’ll leave it to me. I did ask but she says she doesn’t know the mines the way we do.”
“Fair enough. Then perhaps now is as good a time as any. You don’t have to rush back do you?”
Adam shook his head “No Pa. They are all fast asleep and Kam Su knows where I am. Its time we made a decision.”
Joe laughed, remembering his argument with Jim Fair; “You could be right Adam, before Jim bursts a blood vessel. He was trying to get an answer from me, how we felt, some time back.”
Adam smiled but made no answer and Ben started the ball rolling. “Adam, Joe you have both seen all the papers and Hoss I presume Adam told you exactly what is proposed?”
Hoss nodded “I think so Pa, I’d rather have Adam’s summary than get myself confuse with all those figures.”
Ben laughed “You make a lot more sense out of ledgers than you pretend Hoss!”
He waited for a moment, but none of his sons seemed willing to start, so Ben said, “Adam would you like to start, perhaps outline the costs as you see them. How accurate do you reckon, the figures are?”
Adam nodded; he would go that far, although he wanted to have some idea of how his family felt before he put his ideas forward. Adam had been over the plans carefully and although he didn’t have his notes with him, he didn’t really need them. Ben knew his son would be more conservative than Flood and O’Brien but in fact Adam’s estimate didn’t differ very much from theirs. When it came to the plans for taking the mine down to lower levels, he had some disagreements with Fair and Mackay. On the other hand by moving rather more slowly, once they had control, exploration costs could be covered by profits from the California itself, There was no need for extra assessments, he just differed on time scale. Either way if they went in with a quarter share, he’d have a chance to argue for things to be done his way and as their legal expert and an engineer Adam knew he would be listened to. Adam gave them all the details as he saw it and Joe wrote down the main figures as his brother spoke. Both Ben and Joe were slightly puzzled; Adam’s voice was deliberately non-committal. He stayed with the facts giving no idea of his opinion and well as they knew him, neither had any idea which way Adam was going to go.
Hoss frowned as Adam finished. He stared at his brother as Adam poured himself a drink “That’s all very well Adam. From what I remember you saying afore, you agree pretty well with the Irishmen, but what do you think? Should we go in?”
Adam sipped his brandy “It’s a big gamble Hoss, your money as well as mine. What do you think?”
Ben was puzzled as Adam avoided answering but just asked, “Do any of you have a firm opinion one way or the other? We know the facts and we have to come a to a decision.”
Joe looked from Hoss to Adam, but as neither seemed likely to speak, he said, “Well if noone else will jump in, let me start. I’d like to take it up even though I know the risks. But even if I threw in all my cash, I can’t pay my way without borrowing against the Consolidated Virginia shares, so it’s not really up to me. Still for what it’s worth I vote for going in.”
Hoss shrugged “I’m a tentative yes, I think. Like Joe I can’t find that much cash but if we can manage it without risking the Ponderosa I’m for it. I got some cash and the dividend from the Consolidated Virginia and like Joe I guess I could borrow against those shares. If there is any risk to the ranch then I don’t want to do it. You tell me Pa, Adam, what are the risks?”
Ben looked at his eldest son but Adam wouldn’t look up, he was gazing into his glass seemingly oblivious. Ben said “I haven’t thought out exactly how we’d handle it Hoss, waiting until we’d decided in principle but I should think we can handle it without involving the ranch as we did with the Virginia.”
Hoss nodded “Okay so that makes two for it, how about you two, you’d have to take the brunt. Joe and I can pay back later if it pays off but I doubt we can manage more than a third between us now, even with borrowing. What do you think?”
Ben frowned, “Adam we’ve heard from your brothers. You aren’t usually so backward!”
Adam grinned, “After you Pa.”
Ben shrugged, it didn’t really matter but it just wasn’t like Adam. “Alright I’m with Hoss as long as we can keep the ranch out of it, I’ll go along. It’s a lot of money but even if we lose every penny it will be more than covered by the profits from the Virginia. If it does pay of it will do so handsomely. I just want the short term covered carefully, I’d have been happier to discuss it in six months but that can’t be helped.”
Little Joe grinned delightedly, “That’s a majority for going in without you big brother. Now what are you going to throw in to show we’re all wrong?”
Ben seconded his son, “Come on Adam you’ve sat back and listened. That’s not like you. What do you think?”
Adam grinned at them and went over to fetch the brandy and three more glasses. He refilled his own and poured out three more “Okay I propose a toast to the California mine.” As the others hesitated, he laughed “I made up my mind a couple of days ago that’s why I wanted to hear your ideas first. Drink up and then I’ll show you how to do it.”
Ben relaxed, seeing the laughter in his son’s eyes, and picked up his glass “To the California.”
All four drank to that and then Adam had all their attention. Adam had had time to really sort out his ideas and with the money he’d made selling of other stock he had cut down the need to borrow from the mining account to $200 000. He laid out his plan very clearly showing exactly where the money was coming from. It was all available now and any delay in needing it would lessen the need to touch the mining account. Adam believed enough cash would come in from the Consolidated Virginia in the time it would take them to gain control to cover the extra two hundred grand, but if it didn’t they had the cash available without going to outside sources. As Adam wrote out all the figures, he saw his father frowning, “What’s the matter Pa, I know we can get credit easily, but I don’t see much point in paying for the money when we don’t need. I can write it out as an official loan to us personally to make sure the ranch is in the clear.”
Ben shook his head “No it’s not that Adam, I agree we probably won’t need to touch it and it won’t matter if we do. Its the rest.” He stared at the figures “We have 200 grand from the mine account and another 250 from the Virginia which is untouched dividend and jointly owned. That leaves 550 thousand of that you personally are proposing to find 400 thousand. You know I can meet the rest just about without selling anything and with whatever your brothers have to put in, probably reasonably easily, You say you’ve already sold some stock and you have the money."
Adam nodded, “I was surprised myself Pa, but I’ve done well this last year and I got very good prices.”
“With your share in the other sources of money that means you’ll be putting up more than half the cash.”
Adam shrugged “So what?”
“Will you take half the shares?”
“Of course not! We’re in this together equally divided as always.”
Ben sighed “That’s what worries me.” Joe and Hoss nodded their agreement and Adam frowned at them “You’re being foolish all of you.”
“I don’t think so Adam, it’s a business proposition.”
Adam glared at him “Pa! Look if you’re so worried I’ll make a formal loan to Joe and Hoss at nominal interest and they can pay me back if it all works out.”
“And if it doesn’t?” asked Ben
“Then they can buy me a beer next time we go to town!” Adam slammed down his papers, losing his temper and walked over to the window. Ben looked at his other two sons but Joe just shrugged and Hoss looked worried, but made no comment. Ben went over to Adam and put his arm round his shoulders “Adam be practical, you’re a family man with sons of your own.”
Adam turned at that, shrugging his father’s arm off. “Okay Pa I have sons. They will have a fine inheritance, just as I have and Joe and Hoss. For one reason only, you took a chance, came west, and slaved your guts out to build the Ponderosa. That’s their real inheritance, as it is ours. All that land, the trees, the horses, and the cattle, that’s real. Just at the moment I have a lot of money. I have it because I got money from the ranch to invest, play the markets. Some even more straightforward gambling, I won at poker. Play the markets that about sums it up, it’s a game, gamble your knowledge of the mines against everyone else’s. I’m lucky, I’ve been here since the beginning. I’ve walked the tunnels in all too many of them and that education you paid for tells me what I’m looking at. But don’t you see Pa, its funny money, sell here, buy there, and watch it grow. Sure I know the mines need capital and they are a good market for all our products. We invest and the town thrives, we thrive right along with it, but there was a Ponderosa here before ever Virginia City existed and it will be here when all the mines are in borrasca. We won’t lack a market with the railroad in Reno and we’re getting good stock here now, horses and cattle. Do you get the same satisfaction when a dividend cheque appears from the mine as you do when the bank draft comes from the cattle or a lumber contract, because I don’t. It’s funny money I enjoy the game and I’m good at it. I’ll milk it for all its worth, because as least we use the money here in Nevada, whether it goes back into the game or we use some to build lasting things here on the ranch. Too much money is milked off in California or the east. I don’t know how long the mines will last, twice so far they have nearly died. Its boom time now but who knows in ten years time it may be over. Let’s play the game but don’t forget it is a game and does it matter who puts down the counters? They still say Cartwright and eventually that means the Ponderosa, split four ways as always.”
Ben Hoss and Joe sat in silence listening to Adam, more impassioned then they could ever remember him. Adam flushed as he came to a stop and poured another brandy. Joe went over to him “And you’re the same guy who always held me to the last cent of all my debts and bets when I was a kid.”
“You had to learn then Joe. Okay I’m a lousy businessman when it comes to the family but that’s the point, it is the family. All the money came originally from the ranch so its joint.” Adam laughed “Anyway you never really went short Joe, you could always con a few dollars out of me or Hoss, if he had any left after your previous efforts.”
Joe hugged his brother “Okay I’ll accept a loan, interest one beer next time we’re in town.”
“I don’t mind just putting up the cash Joe.”
Hoss came over “Of course you don’t Adam, but I’m with Joe. We’ll keep the books straight. Anyhow from what I hear of the 1500 foot level in the Virginia we can pay you back without noticing it and you can support the hospital for a month instead of me.”
Ben hadn’t made any comment so far and Adam looked over at his father “Well Pa?”
“That was quite a speech Adam.”
“I lost my temper.”
“Maybe we should all do it a bit more often, clears the air. If your brothers want to repay you fine. As far as I’m concerned you go right ahead as you’ve planned. Maybe its not a very practical creed for most families, too much jealousy, even hatred, but it works for us, share and share alike, I just hope the next generation get on as well.”
Adam grinned at his father, it was the creed Ben had bred in all of them, never differentiating between his sons, each had all the chances they wanted and each shared in good and bad alike. Ben refilled his glass and Joe’s, Hoss and Adam still had plenty and then he proposed a toast. “To the Cartwrights, with four aces in each hand we can’t lose.”
His sons willingly joined in that and then settled to plan exactly when things should be got moving. Adam was proposing to go into town and see Fair and Mackay, transfer some money and get the legal documents signed. That reminded Joe of the other query he’d had about his brother and he grinned, “Goodman wants to see you.”
Adam sighed, “Oh Lord I’d forgotten about that.”
Hoss looked blank and Joe dramatically introduced the future US senator for Nevada, Senator Adam Cartwright, before collapsing in giggles under a well aimed cushion from Adam.
Hoss was horrified “He ain’t serious, is he Adam?”
Joe said, “Goodman is, he’s waiting for Adam’s promise to stand. I don’t know how we’ll survive, hell be so big headed!”
“You won’t survive long enough to find out if you don’t shut up little brother. Cheer up Hoss, I have no intentions of standing. Anyway its Pa they really want.”
Ben smiled “Leave me out of it. Goodman already knows my decision.”
Adam shook his head “Yeah well when I said I’d think about it, I didn’t even know what he was talking about, I won’t do it but the fact remains we don’t want Sharon.” That sobered Joe up immediately “Sharon?”
Ben nodded “That’s right. Rumour has it that he’s going to stand and that’s why Goodman is so eager to find someone else.”
Joe protested “We can’t trust him.”
“The legislature nominates the Senators Joe and they’re bought and paid for by the Bank. Sharon will have it easily if we don’t make a fight of it.” Adam commented cynically.
“But you won’t stand Adam?” Joe asked anxiously.
“Of course not!”
“Good keep my reputation with Dan I told him that I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell of you doing it.”
“Fine, but why, apart from the impossibility of any Senator surviving with you as a brother?"
“You don’t like Washington or politics, you’ve said so often enough. I told Dan.”
Adam laughed “I guess I shall have to tell his boss but Dan’s probably prepared the way. The question is who else?”
Then at the same moment Ben and Hoss said “How about...” only to break off as they realised. Ben said, “Go on Hoss,”
“I was thinking of Jones. He don’t like the Bank or Sharon and he sure ain’t scared of them.”
Ben laughed “Great minds think alike Hoss, just who I was going to suggest.”
Adam didn’t know the man very well, a tall well built ruddy cheeked and very welsh, Welshman. He was educated in England, an engineer, although Adam had little faith in his ability. He had a reputation for possessing a nose for ore and had proved it in the Crown Point. Having worked for two years as Superintendent under Ralston without success, he’d kept looking on his own time. Having found ore, he’d bought out the mine and made a fortune, He had a certain presence and could talk but Adam wasn’t sure. He personally didn’t like the man much, Jones always pushed his ideas, his superior English education and Adam found his engineering suggestions rather superficial and often down right wrong. They had clashed several times. Ben saw his son’s hesitation “I know you don’t like him Adam but he does have the same aims here as us. If its good for the Crown Point it will be good for our mines too and he won’t let the miners down. He’s very popular and he can hold his own in debate he won’t be overawed by the senate.”
“I don’t really dislike him Pa, just a bit of a big mouth who thinks he knows more than he does. Come to think of it that’s not a bad description of a politician.”
Joe considered it “He could do it Adam, hero twice over to the miners at least and they still count.”
“I heard about the fire. What happened exactly? I was in Europe if you remember."
Adam waited and Joe got restlessly to his feet “I was in town that night, April I think. The day shift had just gone down the mines. I was having my breakfast when the whistles sounded the alarm. I went down to the Yellow Jacket. All three mines were affected the tunnels joined, the Yellow Jacket, the Kentuck and the Crown Point. Smoke already coming out of the shafts. One cage had come up, they were all telling stories, the furnace down below, men falling off the platform asphyxiated. It had gone down again when I got there. You remember the Bechel brothers, they were about our ages.” Joe fell quiet and despite the years that had passed he went very pale as he remembered,
Ben remembered Joe coming home late that night, he’d joined in the rescue attempts and was physically exhausted but he’d been unable to settle. He had been desperately sick on the way home and had still been as white as a sheet and it had taken along time for him to even be able to outline what had happened.
Ben moved over to Joe and put his arm round his son’s shoulders. “Two of them died.”
Joe lent on the back of a chair resting his chin in his hands “We all knew them quite well, Three brothers bit like us, they fought hard but stuck together. They came up in the cage together. Don was on the floor dead. Matt was on his feet and he held Tony’s body but he’d been decapitated. Matt didn’t speak for a week. I don’t think he ever got over it, he left here a month or so later. I guess I’ll never forget his face.” Joe bit his lip; he’d had bad dreams at the time. We tried. I went down once in the Yellow Jacket but only found four bodies. Jones headed that rescue attempt and an earlier one in the Kentuck. He was still fighting the fires when I left. Certainly noone did more to try and rescue the miners and later when we’d given up hope, to find bodies and put out the fires. He earnt his reputation as a hero, earnt it the hard way that day.”
Adam reached up to grip his brother’s hand “Sorry Joe I didn’t know. Didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No matter Adam I always rather liked the Bechel’s but we’ve all seen too many things as bad. I just wanted you to know that there is more to John Jones, even though I agree with you, he’s a lousy engineer.”
“Fair enough. I’ll suggest his name to Goodman, but then its up to him. I can’t approach Jones, he knows what I think him. I will tell Goodman we would be prepared to lend Jones what support we can if he wants to stand.”
Ben yawned, “That’s all we can do for now I think. I’m for bed. Will you go into town tomorrow Adam?”
“I’ll get things moving, provided Carole is alright in the morning, if not I’ll make it the day after.”
“Fine. Thanks for the work you put in on that plan Son, it was well done.”
Adam laughed and watched his father go upstairs. Hoss said, “I’m for bed too. I hope you’re right brother and we make money but I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it.”
Little Joe grinned, “I’ll help you spend it big brother.”
Adam was glad to see Joe had relaxed again and when Joe offered to walk back with him he willingly accepted, Joe took Cochise with him and told Adam he was going up to the Lake, Adam frowned and Joe said “Company would be welcome if you felt like it,”
“I think I will join you Joe, too restless to settle,”
Adam slipped in to make sure that Carole was asleep while Joe saddled up for him, They rode up slowly and dismounted by the graves. Adam sighed “It won’t even show by the autumn. I don’t know whether to put a marker or not.”
Little Joe looked at the other four mounds each with a small stone marker, all matching the one Ben had put up for his beloved Marie over twenty years ago. Neat just names and dates no epitaphs, all of them well loved needed no comment. “When we buried her you said she was your daughter, even if the church doesn’t agree. You won’t ever forget her anyway so why not put up a marker. After all Marie’s baby is on the stone, she only lived such a short time she might as well not have.”
Adam bit is lip but he knew Joe was right, he would never forget “It’s getting too big a graveyard Joe.”
“Just be grateful its no bigger we’ve had plenty of candidates who’ve cheated on it. Cheer up Adam.”
Adam nodded but he turned away from Joe and walked up to the point deep in thought.
Joe went to his usual spot and lay back soaking in the beauty of the mountains and the Lake, not even really thinking, just very much at peace. Adam joined him after a few minutes and Joe reminded him of the night they came up to the Lake together before going to Europe. Adam remembered very clearly and Joe grinned, “I enjoyed myself a lot more than I expected that night. I shall go back one day.”
“So shall I but not for a few years.” Adam stretched “I’m tired and if I’m going to town tomorrow I’d better get some sleep. Don’t want any errors on those contracts. “ Joe said goodnight to his brother but he stayed for a while longer.
Carole had taken no harm and Adam headed for town early. Fair and Mackay were delighted with their decision and as Flood was in town they settled to draw up the contracts at once. As all of them trusted Adam and his legal ability that didn’t take too long, but Adam was busy with his stockbroker and the bank until well into the evening before funds were transferred to San Francisco for Flood and O’Brien to start buying. It wasn’t until his main task was completed that Adam remembered Goodman. It didn’t take long to find the editor who rarely left his office and Adam gave his decision, but he wasted over an hour before Goodman accepted it, Only then could Adam get the editor to consider their alternative suggestion. Goodman wasn’t very enthusiastic but promised to think about it and see what support there would be for such a move.
Adam dropped into the Palace for a drink before going home and seeing Dan, joined his old friend. “An hour with your boss is very exhausting!”
“Joe said that you wouldn’t stand.”
“He was right but it’s taken me more than an hour to convince Goodman. We thought maybe John James might do it.”
“Anyone apart from Sharon. By the way one piece of news broke today. Sharon and Ralston himself have taken over the Belcher, word is they have all the stock. Work has already started.”
“Not all the stock.”
Dan studied Adam, “You’re not surprised and yet there hasn’t been any rumours?”
“I knew Dan,”
“Talking over my job now! How?”
“They may have all the other stock but I hold two percent. Sharon got young Neil Roberts to try and buy it, went up to $500 a share and let out who wanted it into the bargain.”
“You’re hanging onto it?”
“Baiting Sharon, I know. Pa’s already told me he won’t love me anymore for it but I can’t resist. He won’t try anything I know the law too well and he hates us anyway, so I don’t see how it can do any harm.”
Dan could only agree even though he told Adam he was a fool. Adam went home soon after, half dozing as Sport made his own way. It had been a long day but he'd got everything he wanted and he was pleased. The main house was in darkness but Adam slipped in and left the contracts on the table with a short note for his father before heading on home.
Over the next week Adam spent most of each day working with his father and taking papers home to work on as they laid detailed plans for the summer's work. Joe was running both building gangs for the two flumes; the terminuses close together made that possible. Hoss ran the lumber camp but Adam planned to go out and take over one flume from Joe as soon as Meg arrived. José was dealing with the cattle as usual these days. Adam stayed up very late over the next four days, finishing off paperwork so he could spare the time to go and meet Meg. Ben knew Adam was working long hours but with his son away so long in the winter, much detailed planning had had to wait.
Adam decided to ride to Reno and hire a buggy there as it would save time. Even so with all the last minute jobs he didn’t leave any too long to reach Reno. He pushed through without a stop and arrived twenty minutes before the train was due. He just had time to arrange for two rooms at the hotel and a quick beer, but didn’t have time to do more than wash his face and hands. He was waiting on the platform and soon saw Meg as a man helped her of with her trunk and two bags. There weren’t very many leaving the train at Reno. She looked very lost and bemused and Adam hurried over. For a moment she didn’t recognise him, he looked so different from the smart elegant well-dressed man she had met in Hillsboro.
Adam smiled at her “Hello Meg, don’t you recognise me?”
“Oh Adam I’m sorry.”
“Forget it. I’m not exactly dressed for a party. I only got into town a few minutes ago, still got all the dust of the journey on me. I’m very pleased to see you. We have rooms at the hotel for what is left of the night,” Adam signalled one of the kids hanging around to bring the bags and picked up the trunk with one hand and guided her with the other as he enquired about her journey. Meg’s answers were short, as she looked round at her first sight of a western town close up. Adam helped her over the ruts in the road and then saw her to her room, arranging to meet for breakfast. She was much too excited for sleep and was down soon after seven.
Adam joined her for breakfast and tried to answer some of her questions. He made it very clear how welcome she was and Carole’s need for company so he could get on. She sounded disappointed when he said that he’d hire a buggy “Can’t we ride? I’m a good rider.”
Adam hesitated, “It’s quite a way.”
“Carole’s done it and I’m as good a rider as she is. We can manage the luggage can’t we?"
“I’ll have the trunk go to Virginia City by stage, someone is in most days and they can pick it up. Go and get anything out that you will need in the next three days. I’ll go and hire another horse.”
She was delighted and as her eyes sparkled she looked more like her cousin, although not nearly as beautiful, at least in Adam’s eyes. Adam laughed and sent her off to pack. He tied her bags one behind each saddle and then set out, taking it easy, unsure how good a rider she really was. She was entranced by the wild country and by Adam, so different from what she remembered a gun on his hip taken for granted, by him at least. Entranced but rather overawed by the sheer size of it all, she was very quiet. After lunch she became totally silent and Adam asked if she was getting tired, they could stop for a while,
Meg shook her head “No, but how much further is it?”
“Oh by the road, just over ten miles. We’ve done very well this morning, made good time come nearly twenty six miles.”
She nodded “Its changed Adam, it’s so much prettier here. Why are there trees here, there weren’t any this morning?”
“There used to be a few years back but they’ve been cut down, Virginia City uses vast quantities of timber in the mines and the mills.”
“I’m glad these haven’t been cut. Is the Ponderosa as lovely as this?”
Adam grinned, “You’re on the Ponderosa Meg, since lunchtime or at least about ten minutes afterwards. That stream we crossed marks our northern boundary.”
“But you said its ten miles?”
“That’s the house and it’s only about eight miles as the crow flies. The Ponderosa is over a thousand square miles. We cut our trees but control the cutting as long as we own this land it won’t become barren wasteland.”
Meg was astounded, she had heard at the time but the figures meant nothing compared to seeing it. Adam pointed out the boundaries as far as he could from where they were but Meg was quiet and almost scared of this rich powerful man as they made their way on. She was even more overawed when she saw the beautiful house that he’d built for Carole,
Carole wasn’t expecting them until the following day and she was playing with the twins down on the rug when the door opened. She jumped up as she saw them and ran to Meg, while Adam fended off his sons. Carole was so obviously delighted to see her that Meg soon came down to normal, She loved the twins at sight and they quickly accepted her.
Adam spared one day to see she was settled and to take her to the main house to meet his father and then he had to go and help Joe, knowing his little brother had an almost impossible job. He promised to get home whenever he could, but it wouldn’t be very often. Ben had promised to keep an eye on them and Adam was reasonably happy that with her cousin there Carole wouldn’t brood too much. He was in sombre mood as he rode out, unable to forget what had happened the last time he was in the backcountry.
Adam soon forgot about the past when he saw his brother. Like the previous autumn Joe had been trying to do two men’s work and each day, it got more impossible as the gangs moved apart. Adam had expected Joe to be tired, but Joe was grey tinged with exhaustion, although he brightened up, seeing his brother at least a day before he had dared hope. Adam let Joe show him the position at both sites and the said “Pa ought to be filled in. I can cope for a couple of days Joe. Go tell him and catch up on some sleep. I’ll see you day after tomorrow.”
“It’s a two man job Adam.” Protested Little Joe.
“Sure and it has been for the last week. If you can manage for over a week then I’m sure I can manage for two days.”
Joe accepted, he knew he needed a break and after a late lunch he headed home, Knowing that his father wouldn’t be expecting him at any particular time and intrigued by this new visitor, whom he still couldn’t place, he stopped at Carole’s first. Meg was upstairs with the twins and Carole kissed Joe. Seeing his exhaustion, she got him some coffee before asking any questions. She offered to feed him but Joe decided to wait until he got home, he had a lot to report to his father. Meg came down and Joe got to his feet to greet her, recognising her as soon as he saw her.
Carole saw the surprised look on her cousin’s face and knew Meg had seen how tired almost ill Joe looked. “That’s why I needed you here Meg. Joe has been doing his own and Adam’s work for the last week, worked himself into the ground.”
“Be fair Carole, Adam hasn’t exactly been slacking. Even without you he’d have had to work with Pa until the work schedule was complete.” Joe yawned “ Its just this time of the year, everything gets started at once and there are never enough of us to organise everything. It’ll calm down in a few weeks. Then maybe we can show you around.”
Meg smiled “I’d like that but you look as though you ought to go and find a bed to fall into.”
“Good idea. I’ll pop over tomorrow Carole, before I go back to the flumes. Adam will skin me alive if I turn up too early.”
“With reason Little Joe. You’ve earnt a break. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Ben wasn’t surprised to see Joe especially when he saw how tired his son looked. Still Joe had got things well started and with Adam to help the flumes would soon take shape. Even so it was going to be a busy summer.

* Sutro planned and built the Sutro Tunnel. This tunnel made it possible to drain and ventilate the many mines in the Comstock Lode, and to permit the miners to bring out the rich silver ore. Planning started in 1865 and building in 1869 but it wasn’t completed until the late 1870’s when Virginia City was coming to the end of the glory days. It still made Sutro a fortune and he moved to San Francisco where he eventually became Mayor.

**Ralston was the President of the Bank of California and an immense influence throughout the western states

*** This was changed in 1869 by Pope Gregory and was only true for the first 17 weeks but news might well not have reached Nevada if Adam was using old books