A Busy Summer

Lyn Robinson



In the two months after Meg’s arrival Adam worked far into the night six days a week and then rode home to spend Sunday with Carole and the twins. He got into the habit of riding in late on Saturday evening and he would leave again in the early hours of Monday, so that he was back on site by dawn. The work gangs Ben had hired had mainly worked on the railroad for Crocker and a lot of them had been carpenters back home in China.  They worked hard and only needed showing what to do once.  Both Adam and Joe were well pleased with the way the flumes were progressing. Both of them had several miles built, snaking up into the hills and most of the rest was ready, posts in position marking the towers up to the high terminus. Ben tried to get out to see them when he could but he was very busy and had to rely on Adam’s weekly visits to exchange news. Hoss was ahead of schedule on the lumber contracts and the mill was working smoothly, the extra saw they’d put in easing that bottleneck. José had the cattle side under control and Ben had gangs working on experimental plantings and drainage according to the plan he had drawn up with Adam earlier in the year.

Ben thought that his eldest son looked very tired, but as he had a day to relax with his family, he didn’t worry too much. Adam had one piece of news, which delighted his father. Over the last three weeks, Little Joe had taken to cajoling his big brother into taking control of both the gangs after lunch on Saturday. He paid his men early and then left everything to Adam while he rode into Virginia City for the weekly dance, the first time since Marie died. Adam had seen the slight tension that first week as Joe had to make an effort to go but his little brother had obviously enjoyed himself because he’d been very eager to go the next week.

Adam, like his father, was pleased to see his brother picking up the pieces and learning to enjoy himself again, but that didn’t stop him moaning and making Joe work hard for his co-operation. The gangs were several miles apart now over none too easy terrain and it was hard work for Adam. It was one reason he was so tired, it was catching up on him as he relaxed with his father in the study waiting for Sunday lunch. Meg had brought them coffee and on going back to Carole, she commented on Adam’s obvious exhaustion, his father not much better. It seemed odd that these men, who were so wealthy, seemed to work harder than anyone she’d ever known.

Carole was used to it and just accepted Adam’s company when she could, after all as she explained to Meg they had played all winter, one long holiday. Adam had gradually given up worrying about her, she was almost fully fit and with Meg there not brooding, if occasionally a little melancholy. In fact Adam was so busy, with so many things to think about, he didn’t have time to worry.

Hoss came by after lunch to Adam’s delight; he hadn’t seen his big brother for more than six weeks. Hoss usually popped in when he could, to see Carole and the twins and he was on very easy terms with their houseguest to Adam’s amused surprise. After chatting and catching up on the news for an hour, Hoss took Meg off for a ride. Adam watched them go and then turned to his wife, eyebrows raised quizzically “How long has that been going on?”

“I don’t know what you mean Adam. Nothing is going on. Hoss has shown her around a bit, took her into town one day when he had to go in anyway and they’ve got quite friendly but that’s all it is. It’s only five months since she lost her husband.”

Adam stared after them “I wonder.” He could see Hoss was quite smitten, see the affection in Hoss’ eyes as he looked at Meg but he was unsure it was anything more and he just didn’t know |Meg well enough to judge. Carole, who did, hadn’t even considered anything more and he trusted her judgement. Adam was lost in thought for a moment not wanting his big brother to get hurt but as the twins both launched themselves at him, he soon forgot about Hoss. The following Sunday was the twin’s first birthday and although they wouldn’t care one way or the other, Carole was determined to celebrate it. Adam promised that he would be home as usual and as she already had Ben and Hoss lined up Adam promised to speak to Little Joe. Carole had already bought presents and Adam relaxed he hadn’t been able to work out how to fit in a trip to town.

That week for once things went very badly for Adam, one problem after another tools breaking, a timber cracking on one of the main pillars, petty squabbles and the most difficult section to build on the two flumes. Adam couldn’t spare the time to go over and see Joe until Thursday. Joe was moving on rapidly and he was more than two thirds finished and very pleased with himself. He willingly promised to come for the twins’ party and laughingly persuaded Adam that he would have to go to town on Saturday to get them a present. Adam agreed without argument and Joe looked more closely at him “You look tired Adam. You sure you’re gonna be able to cope?”

Adam smiled at his little brother’s genuine concern, “Sure Joe it’s just one of those weeks, a lot of petty hold-ups. I think I’ll get back for some sleep, see you on Sunday.”

On Saturday the list of jobs needing doing was even longer than usual and Adam couldn’t just leave them.  He asked one of his men to go to town via the house and sent a note to Carole. He promised faithfully to be there early on Sunday morning but he couldn’t make it on Saturday evening. In fact he had to work through until nearly 2 a.m. before he had things straight in both camps. He stopped for a bite to eat and two large cups of coffee and then saddled Sport and began to make his way home. He knew the way very well and with strong moonlight he wasn’t too worried by the rough ground. He didn’t push too hard and was still four miles from the house when it began to get light. In the deceptive early light Adam wasn’t sure, maybe overtired he dozed or at least didn’t pay enough attention and Sport put his foot in a hole. Adam was thrown heavily as the horse fell, catching the saddlehorn in his ribs and trapping his left leg under Sport. Adam managed to pull his leg free but he was more concerned about Sport than himself. He had heard the snap of a bone breaking and sure enough Adam could see the Sport’s front offside leg showed splinters of bone breaking through the skin. Sport lay still as Adam put his hand on the horse’s head, looking up trustingly at his master. Adam knew that there was only one thing to do. Sport was relying on him for help as the horse had helped him so many times in the past years. The only help Adam could give was the oblivion of death and drawing his gun and taking careful aim he shot Sport. Adam had trained Sport himself when he was a feisty two-year-old and Sport had been his main mount, the horse he trusted and rode whenever he could for the past ten years. In that time the horse had taken his master home when he was unaware of what was happening, pulled him up cliffs when Adam had relied on his trained horse to obey orders without any control. Sport had been the receiver of confidences, things Adam hadn’t been able to say to his family but had spoken to the horse sometimes shedding tears against the warm strength of the horse. Adam lifted Sport’s head, his eyes now glazed in death, blaming his own inattention for the accident. He sat by Sport for quite a while just stunned by the suddenness of it and mourning an old friend. He had hated having to pull that trigger although he knew there was no choice. Slowly his own aches and pains penetrated his mind and he began to consider his own position. He had hoped to be home by now with the twins just waking up in this their first birthday, but he had been delayed longer than he had expected. Now he was on foot and still four miles from home. Adam began to check his own injuries, he knew he had cracked at least one rib from the stabbing pain as he breathed. His whole side was showing an angry bruise and feeling as gently as he could Adam decided two ribs were cracked, but the bones were still aligned and while painful it wasn’t that serious. He’d get them strapped up when he got home and knew that he would have a week or ten days of discomfort but he could put up with that. The really worrying part was his left leg. His trousers were torn and his leg was grazed and bloody but once Adam had cleaned it up it didn’t look too bad, very bruised but more worryingly badly swollen. Adam knew that he had either broken or badly sprained his left ankle, but he didn’t dare take his boot off to investigate, sure that he wouldn’t be able to get it back on again. Eventually Adam pulled himself to his feet, but his left leg wouldn’t really take his weight. As he tried stabbing pains made him feel dizzy but he had no real choice, so picking up his canteen and using his rifle to steady himself he limped over to the trees, where he managed to cut himself a stout stick. Using that to support his left leg, Adam began to limp home, hoping Carole wouldn’t get too worried, knowing it was going to take him several hours to cover the four miles. With one last backward glance at Sport he concentrated on getting home.

Little Joe had been up very late, going on to the Palace after the dance finished and he had got a room for what was left of the night. The main reason for staying up so late was a blistering editorial from Joe Goodman, in reply to Sharon’s announcement of his candidature for the Senate seat. Sharon had been in San Francisco with the good news of the vast ore deposit in the Belcher and had gained Ralston’s support but he certainly hadn’t expected the hornet’s nest his announcement had created. His reaction and John P Jones’ chances were the subject of discussion all over town and Joe had set himself the task of finding out the general feeling. Jones had been delighted when Goodman approached him and very willing to stand, especially with the promise of considerable support. Joe had thoroughly enjoyed himself as he moved round town, seeing as many to his friends as he could, but he’d drunk quite a lot and it was nearly nine before he awoke with a slight hangover. He dressed rapidly and had a quick breakfast before heading out to the ranch, savouring the prospect of his family’s reaction to the editorial.

Ben and Hoss were over early straight after breakfast but Carole wouldn’t let the twins have anything until Adam arrived. They were surprised not to see Adam but Carole had explained that she had had a message from him, and he’d be arriving soon. Ben was slightly surprised and worried, knowing that his son wouldn’t have delayed coming home unless it was totally unavoidable and must be having problems. Still Adam was very capable and probably had everything sorted out by now and anyway he would soon have the chance to talk to his son.

Carole wasn’t giving the twins anything until Adam was there to enjoy it, but the twins seemed to sense the extra attention and were very vociferous. The four adults played with them and sat around chatting trying not to look for Adam too often. They were assuming that Joe was with his eldest brother and weren’t really worried about them. Ben was a little on edge knowing the disasters that might have kept them, sure that Adam wouldn’t miss his sons’ birthday lightly. Carole was beginning to get rather cross, she had understood Adam staying over but she had expected him soon after breakfast. The day was passing and the twins had already been up a long time, they wouldn’t stay awake forever.

Hoss had tentatively suggested that he go and look for his brothers but Ben vetoed it. They weren’t sure which camp the boys would be leaving from and there were many different routes they could have taken. He was sure they would either appear soon or if something had happened Adam would send word. He wouldn’t leave Carole to worry.

Eventually Carole took the twins up for a nap before lunch. It was nearly eleven and she couldn’t help feeling anxious it wasn’t like Adam. Ben tried to cheer her up “I don’t suppose its anything serious, all manner of things could have delayed them.”

She nodded and then hearing a horse ran out into the yard to see Joe coming but he was on his own and coming from the direction of town. The others had all come out and Joe took in the frowns “Sorry I’m late but I come bearing gifts.” He grinned at them but his grin faded as he got no reaction “Cheer up its a birthday party, not a wake! I’m not that late.”

Ben sighed, “It’s not you Joseph. You haven’t seen Adam have you?”

“Not since Thursday, isn’t he here? I thought he was coming home yesterday.” Joe dismounted looking worried.”

Carole bit her lip “He sent word he’d been delayed but promised to be here early this morning.”

Ben asked if anything in particular was wrong but Joe shook his head “Not as far as I know. A few odd things going wrong, broken tools, one pillar cracked but nothing very big. Adam just said it was being one of those weeks.”

Ben frowned wondering what to do for the best, he had been taking it for granted that his sons were together, but seeing that Carole looked very worried he put his arm round her. “Cheer up any number of things could have held him up. Maybe Sport has gone lame.”

Joe nodded “It happens and if you’re a long way out it can take hours to walk home. If that’s what’s happened I’ll bet he’s cursing. Come on Hoss saddle up and let’s go find him.”

Hoss looked at his father and this time Ben nodded “Okay but agree exactly who is going where, we don’t want to lose anyone else.”

Joe and Hoss had a quick word as Hoss saddled up. Joe was sure Adam would have finished up at his own camp, there had been nothing on Joe’s flume to hold his brother up. Joe thought Adam would come home by one of two routes, both well known to the brothers. In fact Joe was pretty sure his brother would have taken the northern of the two routes and proposed to go that way himself, leaving the other route to Hoss. Hoss could only agree that they were by far the most likely and the brothers agreed to get word to each other as quickly as possible once they found Adam.

Joe kissed Carole “He’s alright I’m sure, Don’t worry we’ll find the errant father.” With that he and Hoss headed out. The first part of the trail was the same whichever way Adam was coming and it wasn’t until they were ten minutes from the house that the brothers separated. It was only another ten minutes before Joe, keeping Cochise at a steady lope saw Adam limping along leaning heavily on a stick. Joe frowned as he realised that Sport was not in sight and then taking in the expression on his brother’s face as Adam looked up, Joe pulled Cochise to a halt and quickly dismounted “What’s happened, where’s Sport?”

Adam stopped, leaning heavily on the stick but he couldn’t look at Joe “Sport put his foot in a hole, broke his leg. I took a fall.”

Joe knew that his brother was very upset but for the moment he was more concerned about his physical condition. “Easy Adam come and sit down for a minute. I’ve got some brandy.”

Adam sipped it gratefully and buried his face in his hands “I had to shoot him.”

“I know. Look rest for a few minutes and then I’ll get you home. How bad is your ankle? Is there any other damage?” Joe knew how Adam must be feeling but he didn’t comment, just gripping his brother’s shoulder in mute sympathy.

Adam sighed, “I’m not sure Joe didn’t dare take my boot of. I don’t think it’s broken. It hurts but it’ll just about take my weight.”

“Anything else?”

“I think I’ve cracked a rib or two, caught the saddle horn in my side.”

Joe took a quick look at the ugly bruise. “Hoss is over on the southern path, in case you’d come that way. You rest here for a few minutes and I can cut through and catch him. I’ll get him to go back to the bunkhouse, send someone for Doc. Where did it happen?”

“About three miles back.”

“Okay get someone to fetch your saddle and things and see to Sport, I shouldn’t be more than ten minutes or so and then I’ll get you home.”

Adam nodded “Tell Hoss but no need to tell anyone else at least until the twins are in bed. As far as Carole is concerned I took a tumble and sprained my ankle and Sport is lame.”

“If that’s the way you want it we won’t say anything, but you’d better try and relax or she’ll guess anyway.”

Adam nodded “Go find Hoss. All the time you’re talking he’s getting further away.”

Joe accepted the sense of that but it was hard to leave his brother looking so drawn, ill and upset. Adam was just glad to sit down and let his aches subside a bit, grateful for the brandy.

Joe cut through to the southern trail and then fired the single shot followed by two close together, which he had agree on with Hoss as a signal that Adam had been found, he headed on along the track a little way and then saw Hoss cantering back towards him. Hoss pulled up alongside Cochise “Where is he?”

“Back away Sport broke a leg and Adam had to shoot him. He took a bad fall, a couple of cracked ribs and either broken or badly sprained ankle.”

“Is he okay?”

“Very upset. I know how I’d feel if it was Cooch, he’s had Sport more than ten years. He’s only about a mile and a half from the house, Sport about three miles further back. He doesn’t want Carole or Pa to know, not until the kids are in bed anyway.”

“They’ll see.”

“That’s what I said, but he’s only admitting to a sprained ankle. You go home, get two or three of the hands to collect his saddle and bury Sport. Send someone to fetch Doc. I don’t know how bad he is but I think Doc ought to have a look, no great rush I suppose. I’ll go back to him. Cooch can carry us double for that short distance.” Joe sighed heavily “If only I hadn’t gone to town, at least I could have done it for him.”

Hoss shook his head “He wouldn’t have let you little brother. Sport was his horse. You’d have saved him a walk but you couldn’t have helped otherwise. Tell him I’ll have Sport buried and then get him home.”

Adam was leaning against a tree his eyes closed when Joe came back. He didn’t want to talk but let his brother help him up onto Cochise. It pulled on his damaged side and he couldn’t help either the sudden loss of colour or the sharp indrawn breath. Joe was worried about his brother but Adam insisted he was fine so Joe swung up behind him. He set Cochise off home keeping to a walk, not wanting to strain either his brother or his horse. Adam’s ankle throbbed as the horse moved but it was definitely easier than walking and the brandy helped a little. Determined not to ruin Carole’s plans for the twins first birthday, he forced his aches and pains and all thoughts of Sport to the back of his mind and by a sheer effort of will managed to relax, regaining his colour as he did so. Joe felt some of the tension leave his brother’s body but he couldn’t help worry and then as they came into the yard Ben, Carole and Meg rushed out to meet them.

Adam grinned at them “I apologise for being so late but it really wasn’t my fault. I am footsore and starving and very glad to see my little brother for once.”

Joe got down and forestalled his father in helping Adam down. He felt Adam wince but nothing showed on his brother’s face as Adam smiled at Carole “One fall, two lame, not a successful morning!”

Leaning heavily on his little brother Adam limped inside while Carole anxiously asked, “How bad is it?”

“Just a sprain, could be a lot worse. Hoss went to get someone to go to town and disturb Doc again so I’ll leave it until Paul gets here. I am so sorry I’m late I wouldn’t have had it happen today for the world. Where are my birthday boys? One year old it doesn’t seem possible.”

Adam seemed so light-hearted and excited that even Joe found it difficult to believe anything was really wrong and certainly he fooled his father and his wife. By the time he had been provided with coffee the twins were awake and Carole brought them down. Adam gave them both a cuddle and then put them on the floor to see what they made of their presents. Hoss had rejoined them and Ben saw the anxious looks he was giving his older brother. Puzzled by Hoss’ and Joe’s reactions he watched Adam closely but his eldest son just seemed to be enjoying his sons.

Adam turned to his father ruefully “I don’t know why we got them presents. David is only interested in the boxes and Mark in tearing the paper into shreds.”

“Nonsense Adam.” Said Ben with a grin “They’re enjoying fighting over that ribbon.”

Carole insisted that everyone leave the mess and come to table before dinner was spoilt. As a special treat the twins were going to join them in the high chairs that Adam had made for them. Joe moved over to help his brother but Hoss was there first. Adam low voiced said “Cheer up Hoss. Don’t spoil anything. I’m okay”

Hoss helped him over to his chair and as Adam insisted that he couldn’t carve sitting down, Hoss got on with that job, trying very hard to do as his brother asked. Ben hadn’t missed the by-play but went along with the party mood, as Adam obviously wanted. Adam had the twins either side of him; for once Carole was going to eat in peace. He fed the boys, both their own food and titbits from his own plate. He hadn’t taken much and managed to feed quite a lot of that to the twins and to the dog who sat at his feet, but he still couldn’t clear his plate and signalled Joe to take it away. Carole hadn’t missed how little he ate and decided that her husband was far more shaken than he was admitting but as Paul was coming she tried not to worry. As Adam played with his sons, they giggled. Meg hadn’t realised anything was wrong and Adam was very grateful for her spontaneous laughter, which slowly brought the others to join in.

Adam had another brandy with his coffee and that kept the worst of the pain at bay and with his foot up on a footstool he had a cast-iron excuse to fend off the twins and leave his brothers to play with them. However when it got to bath time he decided to help, despite the glares from his brothers. He did need Hoss’ help to get upstairs and determined he was not going to overdo it all six adults ended up round the bath to the twins delight. The three brothers were all fairly wet when Joe heard a horse and looking out saw Paul getting down from his buggy. He told the others and Adam asked for a hand over to a spare room so that he could see Paul while the twins finished their bath.

Carole looked up anxiously but Adam just grinned, “Finish them love. Joe will get anything Doc needs. It’s just a case of a bandage for support really.”

Hoss came over to help his brother “Go let Doc in Joe.”

Joe nodded and ran downstairs. Paul considered Joe recognising the concern on his expressive face “Alright what has your brother done this time?”

Joe explained what had happened and Adam’s insistence on not worrying his wife and then took him up to the spare room where Hoss was having to cut Adam’s boot away from his badly swollen ankle. He was as gentle as he could be but he was hurting Adam badly and Adam had lost all trace of colour and was tight-lipped against the pain.

Paul considered it and said “I’ll take over Hoss, go and fetch two bowls of water. One hot one cold. Adam you just lie back and we’ll see what the damage is. I’m sorry about Sport he was a good horse.”

Adam wasn’t sorry to lie back against the pillows Joe had placed to support him and closed his eyes, especially when Doc began prodding his injured ankle and moving his foot. Joe and Hoss stood waiting anxiously and Paul smiled “Easy you two, a bad sprain, torn the tendons but no break.” he helped Adam sit up and eased his foot into the hot water. “We’ll let it soak for a while and I’ll get these grazes cleaned up and then we’ll get it bandaged.” Paul began cleaning the cuts and grazes down Adam’s shin and calf as he talked “It’s going to hurt to walk on but you’ll have to try, needs exercise but always use a stick, Be fine in ten days or so. Now what’s the rest of the damage?”

Adam felt his right side “I caught the saddle horn.” Paul helped him to get his shirt off and frowned at the heavy bruising. He felt very carefully and then grinned, “Bad blow, good job it wasn’t any lower. Blow like that on your kidneys and you’d really have been in trouble. Three cracked all lying neatly in line no rough edges. You’re in luck, be stiff and sore for a couple of weeks.” He shook his head in mock disgust “I don’t know why I bother. You know exactly what cracked ribs mean. Joe get out the wide bandage from my bag. Hoss help your brother sit up.” With Joe’s help the Doc got a bandage round the damaged ribs and then turned his attention to Adam’s ankle which he’d been soaking in hot and cold alternately, The swelling had increased considerably now the restraining boot was removed and it was hot and tender to the touch. “Sorry Adam, this will hurt but it needs to be tight to give you support.”

Adam nodded “Go ahead” but he had to grit his teeth as the Doc tied it up. Doc sat back eventually “All done. You’ll be fine in a couple of weeks. I’m sure you have a stick around somewhere, if not make one and use it for the next week. Exercise your ankle but no standing around and don’t overdo it. Now do I get a look at the birthday boys for a minute and maybe Hoss has left some cake.”

“Hoss grinned “Sure have Doc and another piece sounds like a right good idea.” Adam was about to speak but Doc grinned at him “I know don’t worry the others."

Adam watched Hoss and Paul go down, needing a few minutes to recover. Joe offered to get him a drink but Adam shook his head he had already had more than enough. Joe stood by watching as his brother got a grip on himself and after five minutes Adam’s colour was much better and he pulled himself to his feet. “Doc said exercise it. You’ll do as a stick Joe until I can find one. Give me a hand down.”

Joe did as he was asked and he was amazed again at his brother’s capacity of hiding his feelings. Adam hobbled over to Carole and kissed her “Just a sprain and Doc says to walk on it. Right Paul?”

Paul nodded “But I also said use a stick for a few days to ease your weight of it, that’s a bad sprain.”

Adam laughed “Bullied on all sides but he wasn’t sorry to sit down and rest his aching leg. Half an hour later Doc left warning Adam to take it easy for a few days, As he left Carole and Meg took the twins up to bed. Adam kissed them both but made no attempt to go upstairs with them,

Ben waited until he heard the door shut upstairs and then came over and sat down by his eldest son “Right will one of you tell me what’s going on, what else is wrong? It’s a good act but not quite good enough.” He looked at Adam first and then over at Hoss and Joe,

Adam bit his lip but he couldn’t find the words and as Joe looked questioningly at him he nodded “Go on Joe.”

Joe came over to stand behind his brother and gripped Adam’s shoulder “We aren’t hiding much Pa. Adam took a bad fall, cracked a couple of ribs as well as damaging his ankle but nothing serious. Unfortunately Sport broke his leg and Adam had to shoot him.”

Adam couldn’t look at his family, staring down, as his father said “Oh no. I’m so sorry Adam.” He gripped his son’s arm feeling the tension in him, but didn’t say anything more, understanding how his son felt and knowing there were no words to help.

Carole and Meg came down and Carole half ran to her husband quickly recognising the tension in the room. “What’s wrong darling? The twins are in bed now, it’s been a lovely day but something is wrong.”

Adam pulled her close burying is head on her breast “You know me too well. I’m alright just bruised but Sport isn’t, he broke a leg and I had to shoot him.” Carole held him tighter against her, kissing his forehead, but making no comment knowing just how hard he must have found it and Adam was grateful to her for that.

Meg was puzzled and went over to Hoss “I don’t understand, it’s just a horse.”

She kept her voice very low and Hoss led her over to the window and then tried to explain just how much their mounts meant to them, the long training and the times that they had to rely on that training, the close relationship between man and horse. Sport had been practically a one-man horse, just Joe occasionally exercising him if Adam wasn’t able to. Meg still found it hard to understand but she could see that Adam was upset. Now that everyone knew he found it far harder to hide his feelings and all the others seemed to understand and take his distress for granted.

Adam was deep in thought and it was obvious to all of them that his thoughts weren’t pleasant, Carole had sat down close to him and he had put an arm round her but he wasn’t really even aware of her. He had put on an act all day but he couldn’t keep it up any longer. The other three men looked at each other, wondering how to help, wanting to do so but not knowing how. Then Joe remembered what had delayed him in town and he went to get the newspaper from his saddlebag.

Joe came back in and grinned at his father “I brought something else from town apart from presents for the twins. Here Adam read this.”

Adam looked up surprised but he caught the newspaper as Joe threw it at him. Joe grinned broadly "I think you might appreciate the editorial.”

Adam glanced at the headlines and then as he took in the sense of then he sat up and began reading in earnest. Ben puzzled looked at Joe and his youngest son explained “One reason I was late Pa. Sharon and Jones both announced they’re standing for the Senate, Goodman wrote quite an editorial and I was getting the reaction round town.”

Adam whistled as he read the editorial and to his family’s delight he laughed out loud and it was obviously not forced. Ben said “Let us in on the joke Adam.”

Adam said, “Sharon has announced officially that he’s out for the Senate and John P Jones has come out against him.”

Hoss grunted “Joe just told us that and it’s no big surprise, so what’s so amusing?”

Adam grinned, “Listen to this Hoss Goodman must have enjoyed himself. Addressed to Sharon quote ‘You are probably aware that you have returned to a community where you are feared, hated and despised. Your career In Nevada for the last nine years has been one of merciless rapacity. You fostered yourself upon the vitals of the state like a hyena and woe to him who disputed with you a single coveted morsel of your prey.  You cast honour, honesty and the commonest civilities aside.’ Sharon will blow his top over this. He might even sue but I’ll bet Goodman would be pleased if he did, Can’t you imagine it in court proving every word in detail.” Adam laughed again and shook his head in near disbelief.

Ben was amused too but even more pleased to see Adam back in control. He spoke quietly to Joe “That was a brainwave, one of the few things to make him forget Sport.”

Adam looked over at Joe “What was the reaction in town little brother?”

“I spent hours collecting it. Most people were as amused as you are, The word everyone has latched onto was hyena, it summed Sharon up so well. He’s the laughing stock round town.”

Ben poured out coffee and then with some help from Adam and Hoss began to get all the details of the reaction round town that Joe could remember. Carole lost track after a while and seeing that Meg was utterly bemused took her of into the study to explain such of the background as she could. When they came back over an hour later the four men were still dissecting the probable results of the editorial, of the election, what it would mean to them, the mines and Nevada in general. Deep in their argument they were oblivious of Carole and Meg returning until Carole brought fresh coffee over.

Carole was relieved to see how much better Adam looked with a new interest. Joe sipped his coffee, he’d been talking so much his throat was dry, then he looked up “Dan had one other piece of news. The Belcher is in bonanza and a big one. That was the news that Sharon took to Frisco to get Ralston’s backing for the Senate. You still got that stock Adam?”

 Adam grinned broadly “Of course, and I duly paid up my assessment. Sharon will have to notify me of the bonanza, somehow I don’t think he’ll enjoy doing that!”

Ben had to laugh “I like it, get the money from Sharon’s own mine to buy out one of his other mines!”

Then as it was getting late Ben turned to his eldest son “You ought to go and get some sleep, you look exhausted.”

Adam nodded “Guess so I need an early start in the morning.”

Ben shook his head “Oh no. You aren’t going anywhere tomorrow. You’ll rest that ankle for a few days.”

Adam looked up in rising anger, “Joe can’t manage on his own, the flumes are miles apart and they can’t be trusted without supervision.”

“You are not fit for that rough ground, clambering around the flume.”

“I’ll manage.” Adam glared at his father but Ben just grinned, “Calm down Adam. There are two contracts need drawing up and Jim Fair wanted to talk over some things with you. For the next few days you’ll be more useful working here. I’ll take over at the flume myself.”

“You can’t” Adam said horrified.

Ben raised an eyebrow quizzically “Oh no? You drew up the plans, they are usually fairly clear. What makes you think I can’t understand your plans when your little brother can?”

“I know you can Pa but it’s...”

Ben laughed “I know its had work and you don’t think I can do it, trying to put me out to grass again Adam.”

Adam had the grace to look sheepish. Ben went on “I helped with the main flume and I’ve lived out rough since before you were born. I’m a lot fitter than you are for the next few days, just be sensible for once.”

Adam looked round but all of them agreed with Ben and he sighed, “Okay just for two or three days while I clear the contracts.”

Glad to get that much Ben left it at that and went home with Joe and Hoss. As they rode they talked; wondering what Adam wanted to do to replace Sport. The young palomino he had been training had strained a tendon and although they were keeping it for breeding it wouldn’t make a workhorse. Joe wanted to get his brother a replacement but Ben vetoed it for the moment at least. “Let Adam have time to think about it, when he’s got used to the idea that Sport is gone.”

Adam was exhausted after being up all the previous night and let Carole help him up to bed. She was worried by the bandaging round his ribs but Adam insisted it was nothing just cracked, be fine in a week or so. She had to accept it and apart from a few bruises there was nothing else that she didn’t know about. Adam lay down, his side hurt and his ankle throbbed but it was memories, which stopped him sleeping. Sport had only been a horse, but he had meant more to Adam than all but a handful of human beings, and yet the only way Adam had been able to help him was to shoot him. Carole lay next to him, very aware of the tension in her husband. She asked if he wanted to talk but Adam insisted that he was alright and she should get some sleep, the twins would be awake early. Carole did doze uneasily, aware that each time she stirred Adam was still awake. It was nearly four o’clock before Adam finally slept and Carole slipped out of bed the next morning without disturbing him.

Ben brought over the various papers on the two contracts he wanted Adam to draw up, both for the army, one for horses and the other for cattle and he also brought the account books. He wasn’t surprised to hear that Adam had taken a long time to settle and was glad he was sleeping in. Ben wouldn’t hear of disturbing his son, the notes were self-explanatory and Adam needed to have his sleep out. He asked Carole to try and persuade her obstinate husband to take a full week at home, even then his ankle wouldn’t really be up to scrambling around on the flume, but Ben knew he would be lucky to get that much of a concession. Carole promised to try and then Ben left to help Joe who had ridden up several hours earlier to get both gangs started.

It was nearly lunchtime before Adam woke up, he was stiff and sore, his ankle throbbing, but more in control of his feelings again. He reread the ‘Territorial Enterprise’ as he waited for lunch, before settling to work, but he was decidedly uneasy. The editorial still amused him but Sharon was a dangerous man to antagonise. Word was that his behaviour on the Comstock was revenge for the fortune he’d lost when the shares collapsed some nine years earlier, just before his arrival in Nevada. Sharon could never have been humiliated as this editorial was humiliating him now and he would be looking for ways to get his revenge. Although they weren’t closely connected, the Cartwrights were supporting Jones and that, to be effective, couldn’t be secret and they would come in for their share of Sharon’s hatred. That was nothing new and Adam couldn’t see any way that they personally were vulnerable. He had taken great care to keep the Ponderosa, and those mines he was directly involved in, well clear of the Bank, avoiding debt financing and using their profits for reinvestment. However many mines and individuals were vulnerable and if Sharon hit back at the Comstock there could be repercussions throughout the State. Adam shook himself, he didn’t like Sharon but the man was an exceedingly competent businessman, he wouldn’t cause chaos in a fit of pique, or so Adam tried to convince himself. The trouble was that irritating nagging doubt that the egotistical little dandy might do exactly that.

After three days at home Adam had finished the outstanding work and with rest his leg felt much better. He was proposing to go out and take over from his father but Carole reminded him that Ben had said Jim Fair wanted to talk to him. She suggested that he take her and Meg into town and leave Ben to cope for one more day. Adam knew that he hadn’t spent much time with her recently and he agreed willingly, knowing his father wouldn’t mind.

Leaving the twins with a delighted Kam Su who would spoil them all day, Adam harnessed two horses to the buckboard and helped Carole and Meg up, His ankle was still painful and reacting against use so he wasn’t sorry to avoid riding. He put his stick in and then pulled himself up and set out for town. There were a fair number of jobs to do as ever, stores to order, money to collect and routine papers to collect and maybe sign at the bank and their stockbrokers.

Adam planned his moves as he drove in; wondering what Jim Fair wanted this time. He shuddered as he remembered the narrow tunnel at 1500 foot; at least with his ankle he had a cast iron excuse if he didn’t want to go down the mine. Lost in his thoughts as the girls chatted Adam didn’t notice the rider following them until the horse came right alongside. Hoss grinned down at him “Wake up Adam or you’ll be taking the whole lot into the ditch.”

Adam grinned, delighted to see his big brother, “Going to town?”

“Yeah I need some oddments. Johnny has everything under control so I awarded myself a day off to collect them.”

“You’ve earnt it.”

“How’s your ankle and those ribs?”

“Mending fine. I’ll take over from Pa tomorrow, he has to go to Sacramento, due there Monday.” Hoss nodded, Adam looked much better and his brother would cope. He rode alongside them laughing and joking and Adam watched Meg’s reactions. She was obviously fond of his big brother but that seemed all. Adam shook himself, just because he was married and enjoying it, he couldn’t start pairing off his brothers every time they laughed with a girl.

Hoss was growing fond of Carole’s cousin and he enjoyed her company but he hadn’t even considered anything more. Half a dozen times in his life Hoss had fallen deeply in love and considered marriage, but it had never worked out. He’d come to believe that he was a lousy judge of women, but as he was uncertain whether he wanted to be married he didn’t worry too much about it. He enjoyed his nephews and was glad his brother was happy but he missed the tight family circle that he’d grown up with and was unsure that he wanted to change.

In town they split up arranging to meet for lunch and while Carole took Meg off to the store and the dressmakers, Adam went to the bank. While he completed his business he collected the latest news from the manager who was an old friend. Sharon was furious as expected but so far he had made no move although the ground swell of support for Jones was growing so rapidly that even the Nevada State legislators were beginning to notice and worry. The Comstock was too important to ignore and the Comstock was making it very clear it wouldn’t have Sharon at any price.

Adam went along to the mine and was in luck Jim, was in the office. This time he wanted Adam as a lawyer, there were some legal formalities that the Federal Government required, which Fair didn’t understand. Adam glanced over the papers and frowned, “Okay I can sort this out but it will take a while. I’ll come back this afternoon.” There was a tight deadline on the papers and as so often Fair had put off doing anything until the last minute. Adam wanted to get the job done that day but he knew it was going to take him quite a long time.

Adam joined the other three for lunch but he was very quiet. Eventually over coffee he asked Hoss to take the buckboard and see Carole and Meg home for him, as he would be tied up until late. Much to Adam’s surprise, Hoss hesitated and rather crossly Adam went on “I don’t have any choice Hoss. Fair has left it to the last minute and it will take me at least seven or eight hours to complete the forms, maybe more. I’m sorry to be a nuisance but it’s not far out of your way and I’d rather the girls weren’t alone.”

Hoss grinned, “Don’t be daft brother, as if I mind the trip. I was just wondering how you were getting back?”

“I’ll hire a horse at the livery, no problem.”

“Is your ankle up to riding? You were limping pretty heavily when you came in.”

“Don’t fuss Hoss I’m okay.” Hoss shook his head but he knew that expression it was a waste of time arguing and he did as Adam asked. In fact it took Adam even longer than he had expected. He had to go and visit an old friend and borrow some law books to check one or two points and it all took time.

Fair had left him the office to work in and it was nearly 2 a.m. before Adam finally packed up his papers and stretched, very stiff after sitting still so long. Even though it was late he was determined to get home and went to hire a horse. Despite all he could do to favour his left leg, his ankle was badly swollen when he got home, the tight support bandage cutting into the puffy flesh. Adam sank down on the chair in the study and began undoing it. He’d barely started when Carole came in “Let me do that.”

“You should be asleep.”

“I heard you ride in. Have you eaten?”

“Yes Jim Fair had a meal brought in. It took longer than I expected.”

“No matter darling. I suppose it’s no use telling you that you’ll be a fool if you go up to the flume tomorrow, really later today?”

Adam kissed her “I’ll be careful but it’s just at the trickiest bit and I ought to be there.”

“Alright but don’t you try and come back on Sunday. I know how tiring it is to fit that in. Meg and I will bring the twins up for a picnic.”

Adam shook his head “No it’s too rough and anyway suppose it’s raining?”

“It won’t and if you let Joe into town on Saturday, he can escort us up.”

“Well maybe we could meet somewhere. It’s too far for you to come right up to the flumes.”

“Just the lower terminus. I know where that it.” Carole cajoled him and Adam pulled her close “Alright if my little brother agrees.” Carole said confidently “He won’t mind” Adam had to laugh but he accepted what she said and with his ankle feeling more comfortable went upto bed.

Adam didn’t get a very early start and it was nearly eleven before he joined his father. Everything was running reasonably smoothly and Ben was pleased to see Adam looking so much better. Once they had brought each other up to date Ben handed over just warning Adam to take it easy. Then he went over to check with Joe before heading home for a couple of days. He was going to be in Sacramento for at least a fortnight and had to agree to Adam’s suggestion that a messenger bring up the mail and any other messages to the flume once a day. It was the only way but Adam was going to be pushed for the next couple of weeks. They had rather overextended themselves and Ben began to wish they had built the flumes one at a time. It was too late now they had the labour forces and contracts depended on the flumes being finished, Still Joe’s shorter one would be soon and it wasn’t the first time they’d been pushed. Adam laughed at his father, he’d manage, the men were used to the work now and very reliable.

Ben had a word with his youngest son and got Joe’s promise to keep an eye on Adam and help out as and when he could. Then Ben rode on home, reasonably satisfied and determined to leave everything as straight as he could for his son.

On Sunday Joe brought Carole, Meg and the twins up and for the first time Meg saw the flumes she’d heard so much about. She was amazed at the sight close up. The main fume was impressive seen from a distance but over the years it had merged into the background as the timber aged and mellowed, so that it didn’t stand out nearly as much as when it was new. These freshly built and enormous took her breath away. She knew that Adam had designed them and looked with complete incomprehension at the plans he had drawn up, amazed at the way the brothers turned them into the structures she could see. Carole was very proud of her husband and she basked in Meg’s admiration even if Adam began to feel embarrassed. Still with the twins around no subject could dominate for long and soon all of them were relaxed and enjoying their picnic. Adam’s ankle was no worse from all the hard work, although it wasn’t having very much chance to recover. All four enjoyed themselves and when Joe suggested doing the same thing the following week and getting word to Hoss to join them, everyone concurred. Joe insisted that he escort them back to the house and Adam told him to stay over night, he could get both gangs started and it would save having to send a messenger up the next day. It was obviously sensible and Joe agreed so Adam didn’t feel too guilty as he watched Joe ride off. With nothing urgent to do he rode the length of the flume and stood for a long time at the high terminus, leaning against a rock to ease his leg and considering the view, the heavily wooded slopes they would now be able to use. The demands for lumber was increasing, the Consolidate Virginia wanted to double its contact and if they got the California mine that would be their contract too. For the moment they could fulfil all the contracts but after the first couple of years of heavy cutting, these slopes like the lower ones would only take limited cutting if the resource were to be maintained. Adam looked over at the dimly seen far side of Lake Tahoe, just visible from where he was and he got the glimmerings of an idea. There were a lot of things to find out before he’d know if it was practical but he decided to try and find out when he had some spare time, if he ever did!

The week went by quickly and with considerable success. Joe reckoned another ten days should see his flume itself finished and just the top terminus to build, while Adam with the longer and technically more difficult job, hoped to be in the same position in another three weeks. Joe had got word to Hoss and promised to bring Carole, Meg and the twins out again. When he arrived on Sunday morning Adam was preoccupied at first with the twins and Carole but then he frowned puzzled by his brother's mood. Hoss had been there sometime and the brothers went to help Joe unpack but after a minute Adam left it to Hoss and pigeonholed Joe. Joe looked worried and excited at the same time and Adam demanded to know the reason. Joe shrugged “I’ll fill you in later, just more news from town."

After their picnic as the twins napped and the adults had coffee Joe was persuaded to elaborate. He pulled a sheaf of papers and the newspaper out of his saddlebag. “I brought these out for you Adam. Seems Sharon has decided to cause trouble. Jones has been getting ever increasing support all rather vocal and Dan reckoned Sharon had been getting furious. Anyway on Wednesday he started selling stock in a big way. Made no attempt to hide it. So far shares have dropped quite a bit but are still firm. With the weekend break everyone was getting jittery. I asked around, general opinion is that if Sharon throws more stock on the market on Monday, and he’s only sold about a third of his holding so far, then the bottom could fall out. If the Bank does pull out of the Comstock..” Joe bit his lip and shrugged, studying his eldest brother’s face to find out how much trouble they were in. They all knew just how important the Bank was to the Comstock, and indeed to Nevada, but he wasn’t sure what Sharon was up to; just supremely confident in Adam’s ability to second guess him.

Adam made no comment just taking the papers and studying the statements of daily dealings, the paper and the other things Joe had brought, His brother had done very well collecting together nearly all the relevant details. Hoss looked on anxiously, not sure how it affected them but Carole after studying Adam’s face turned her attention to David who had just woken up, She wasn’t sure why but Adam was excited rather than worried. Meg asked quietly “How will it affect you?

Carole shook her head “Not much as far as I know. We own all our shares outright. They lose paper value but that doesn’t matter much.”

Joe nodded “Its the poor devils who have borrowed against the paper value and will suddenly have to find new collateral or pay back the loan or those who have bought on margin, who are in trouble.”

Meg looked puzzled “What’s margin?”

Joe grinned, brought up in Virginia City where everyone gambled on mining stock, he had known the answer to that since his early teens and Carole was well used to her husband's business dealings. He began to explain “Say a share costs a dollar, you buy it for ten cents or at least buy the option on it for ten cents. As long as it’s worth a dollar, the share in your name covers the other ninety cents. When it rises in value to say $1.25 you sell it pay off the ninety cents and make a clear profit of 25 cents. By buying on margin you can get ten shares for your dollar rather than one and ten lots of 25 cents profit.”

Meg shook her head “It sounds too good to be true.”

Joe shrugged, “A lot of people have made large fortunes that way. It works fine as long as the stock is rising; the money you owe is covered by the value of the stock. The problem comes when the stock begins to fall. If it falls to say 80 cents then your 90-cent loan isn’t covered and you make up the difference or your broker sells out the stock for what he can get. If the stock falls rapidly then there's an awful lot of money to find to hold onto something, which is losing value anyway. If you can’t cover the loan then you lose all your initial investment.”

“Then why do people do it?”

“To make money fast, all sure that they will sell out at the top of the market and some other poor sucker will lose out. We buy outright, the profits aren’t as high but it’s a whole lot safer.”

Adam had been listening to his little brother’s explanation amused and Hoss seeing him sit back asked anxiously “How will it affect us Adam?”

Adam grinned “Relax Hoss, you should have listened to Little Joe. We’re safe, our holdings won’t look so pretty, maybe you’re only worth five million rather than ten, but I don’t think you’ll notice. It’s only the funny money. In fact it will help, especially if the California drops with all the rest. It’s already down 20. Flood and O’Brien will be working hard, you can rely on that."

Hoss relaxed a bit but Joe frowned, “It won’t be so funny if the Bank does pull out.”

Adam smiled reassuringly “That I very much doubt. The Belcher, Crown Point and the Virginia are all in bonanza, even the Hale and Norcross is in profit again and many of the others. Ralston won’t pull out while there’s money to be made. Sharon is only playing with his own shares, not the Banks and it’s noticeable that he’s not selling Belcher shares.”

Hoss was surprised at that “Surely he hasn’t enough shares to really drop the market?”

Adam grinned at his big brother “No Hoss he hasn’t, but if he causes enough panic people will sell to save what they can, others will be scared to buy and it escalates. We could do the same anytime we wanted. Sharon is known, people watch him and react to what he’s doing, even when it doesn’t make sense. You’ve seen it happen before, not much common-sense in the stock market and people in a mob rarely act sensibly.” Adam was already talking almost without thinking as he studied the figures again and for the next half an hour he was oblivious of the others, as he weighed the pros and cons of his plan.

Then he got to his feet and went and poured more coffee calling his brothers over. Carole looked up from where she was playing with the twins and seeing Adam’s eyes dancing with excitement, she asked “Do you want Meg and I to take the twins for a walk?”

“Of course not darling. You’re part of the family and you have a say in any plans we make and I know we can trust Meg not to pass on anything she hears to outsiders.”

Meg nodded “Of course but if you want to talk it will be easier without the twins. I’ll take them for a walk.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know that, but I’d rather.” Carole insisted on going too and the three brothers were left alone. Joe and Hoss looked at each other and Hoss shook his head, whistling softly “If that was you Little Joe, I’d turn and walk away right now. He looks just like you do when you’ve had a bright idea. I sure hope they ain’t catching, I couldn’t survive both of you ganging up on me!”

Adam grinned “If you’ve quite finished you big moose, perhaps you’ll listen. Pa’s not here and we can’t contact him in time but if we three agree you know he’ll go along.”

Joe frowned “Just what are you plotting?”

“You’re the one who like a gamble Joe.” Adam parried “I’ve been studying what Sharon has been up to and unless I’m badly wrong he’s going to force a selling wave next week and shares are going to rock bottom. Sharon will buy back then of course, but I don’t see why he should be the only one to make on the deal. If you can keep things ticking over here I want to go to Salt Lake City, get a two month loan against the ranch, use these flumes as an excuse, and then buy in at the bottom of the market. In two months I think the market will be up again and I’ll sell enough to pay the loan and the interest and with any luck we’ll show a hefty profit.”

Hoss and Joe looked at each other and for a moment they didn’t answer, it was a gamble and they weren’t at all sure how their father would react. Hoss said “Suppose it don’t rise. We’ll be stuck with stock we can’t give away and money owed on the ranch.”

Adam nodded “I know that but this is almost the first year we haven’t borrowed anything against the ranch to cover the summer. Make that main lumber contract and the ranch would be out of debt, so I’m not risking the ranch.”

Joe considered his brother “How much are you thinking of borrowing Adam?”

Adam smiled, with a glint of laughter in his eyes, “One million seems a nice round figure Joe.”

Joe whistled softly “I wish Pa was here.”

Adam gave a deep chuckle, “I thought you liked a gamble little brother. Look I could borrow against our shares but at the moment that’s a doubtful asset, even the Virginia. We know the position there but the bank won’t. I’d have to pay much more interest. The mines are solid at the minute, more so than they’ve been in years or I wouldn’t suggest it. If Dan’s right about the value of the Belcher I’ll clear half a million from that and I can raise the rest in time, so if I fall flat on my face I’ll stand the loss.”

Hoss and Joe both flared up at that, if they shared the profits they shared the losses too. Hoss said, “I can see we might make a profit but do we want to get more involved with the mines, we’re already backing the California?”

Adam hadn’t intended to tell his brothers his ideas yet until he had seen how practical it was but now he felt he owed them an explanation. “This is purely a business proposition Hoss. I want some of the profit someone is going to make on this. Maybe keep a few shares to strengthen our hold on a couple of mines but mainly I shall sell out. I was up in the high country last week. In time we’re going to have to limit cutting there too, but the mines are going to need ever more timber as they get deeper.”

Hoss nodded “Sure I know that but I don’t see what we can do about it or what that has to do with this?”

Adam stared into the distance “There’s plenty of timber on the Californian slopes. I haven’t thought it out in detail yet but sometime someone is going to have to.”

Joe asked “How would we get it to town?”

“If we leased or bought the land, we’d have to float it across Lake Tahoe and then use the flume but it will need money to set up and quite a lot of it. This might provide the capital.”

The extent of their brother’s vision silenced both Joe and Hoss and for nearly a quarter of an hour they sat in silence staring into the fire, both seeing the same thing but worrying about various problems and assessing the possible gain with the evident risk. Eventually Joe moved to get more coffee “Alright Adam I’ll go along and put the second signature you’ll need for that proposal form.”

Adam grinned “Thanks Joe but I won’t go if Hoss doesn’t agree. I’m not trying to pressure you Hoss. We can still build without this. It is a gamble I admit. We can still extend it’ll just take a little longer.”

Hoss got to his feet and paced around restlessly, uncertain, more conservative than his brothers, unsure they ought to expand and not really a gambler. He preferred things he could see and hold but on the other hand he had seen the ore in the Virginia and the pure metal would cover any loss. “Just one question Adam, suppose we had to pay that million from the ranch, if the worst happened, how would that leave us to face next year?”

“With these flumes completed and the long term contracts we have already, provided there was no disaster like losing the main herd on the drive, I believe we could get through next year without borrowing. Even if we used all the money from the lumber to pay of the loan and got nothing from any of the mines. The main account is very healthy.”

Hoss nodded “Okay Adam you’re the financial expert. I’ll go along but you can explain it all to Pa. You’ve got a derned persuasive tongue.”

Adam sat back and considered his brothers “Look if either of you want to change your minds I won’t take exception. I didn’t mean to overpersuade you.”

Hoss came over to him and put his arm round his brother “You always do Adam for one very good reason. When you’re sure enough to be that persuasive you’re nearly always right, I won’t change my mind and I won’t worry either.”

Adam relaxed “Thanks Hoss. Joe how about you, can you cope it’ll take me maybe three days to get the money and arrange to buy in, if things have gone as I expect.”

“I’ll cope Adam. If you’re right it could be the most profitable few days work I’ll ever do.” Adam had to laugh at his brother and then as the girls returned, he told Carole what he was planning to do. She had guessed part of it and if surprised by the extent he was intending to plunge, she took it very calmly, confident her husband knew what he was doing. Adam was delighted with her reaction and kissed her. He wrote out a proposal form for the loan and got Joe to sign it and then grinned “The sooner I go the better.”

Hoss laughed “I’ll see Carole and Meg home. You start getting yourself organised little brother.”

Joe accepted that, he was going to be very pushed but he went over to his eldest brother who was saddling up, “Adam don’t take any risks, I can manage for an extra day or so if necessary. You’re still not fully fit, never given that ankle a chance to recover.”

“I’ll try not to kill another horse.” Adam said bitterly.

Joe put his hand on Adam’s arm “You know I didn’t mean that Adam. It wasn’t your fault, a foot down a hole. Unfortunately it happens.”

“I was tired Joe not paying attention.”

“So! We often do, leave the horses to find their own way home. We trust them that’s why they mean so much. You can’t blame yourself, that’s senseless.”

“Okay Joe. Just drop it.”

“Alright. Have a good trip Adam and buy us some nice cheap stock.”

Adam kissed Carole and then mounted up, eager to get out of the high country while there was still light. He had a long ride to pick up the train at the nearest point where he could have it stopped. He was riding a strong roan, not trained or fast but with great stamina and it had had two easy days. That was pure luck but Adam intended to take advantage of it. He pushed on hard through the night, not stopping except to water the horse and he was in position as the train pulled up at the flag stop, very early the next morning. It wasn’t used often but provided the previous station had been alerted by telegraph the train would stop and pick up passengers or drop off freight. There was a small general store and livery stable and Adam left the roan there swinging aboard the train, which quickly gained speed again.

Having ridden all night he was tired and dozed restlessly, unable to really settle scared he would miss his stop at Salt Lake City. He reached Salt Lake City about 2 p.m. and headed straight to the bank and made an appointment to see the manager at four. It at least gave him time to wash and clean up. Then he grabbed a quick meal and a beer before heading back to the Bank. Adam had dealt with the manager Cameron on several occasions and after five minutes on the amenities Adam put his proposal forward. He was after three months credit and accepted the proposed interest rate, although it was slightly higher than he was used to. Banking circles in the west were on edge with the mining stocks crashing, so it was no real surprise. Adam was careful not to mention the mines and the loan was made against the solid worth of the ranch. Within an hour the formalities were complete and Adam walked out with a banker’s draft for $900 000 in his pocket and a deposit in the bank for the remaining $100 000, which he had warned them he would be withdrawing within the hour.

Adam didn’t want anyone to know what he was up to and wasn’t prepared to catch the train in Salt Lake. He went down to the livery stable and bought a strong looking chestnut gelding. He would head out and ride to the first small train stop some forty miles on the way home and stop the train there to go back to where he had got on. He filled up his canteen and bought a spare and some food and then went down to the telegraph office, which doubled as the stock market for Salt Lake City. He checked the position and found that the stocks had fallen heavily during the day, but Adam wasn’t buying in yet. He expected the stock to fall even further over the next day or so, today’s events should fuel the panic and possibly by tomorrow evening it would begin to hit bottom.

Adam took cash for the $100 000, knowing that his brothers would hit the roof if they knew but he intended heading to Reno next and there he would need cash. Then if all went well he would use the rest of the money on Wednesday. He had another meal and then went to collect his money, reassuring the manager that he would take it straight to the hotel’s safe but he had it in his moneybelt. Although he went over to the hotel it was just to fill his flask and then he came straight out and mounted up heading home.

Adam needed to push fairly hard to reach the brief stop where the train took on water and would pick up any passengers. He had to be there by early the following morning to pick up the westbound which would pass through Salt Lake City at five a.m. The horse was strong and quite fast, but it had a very uneven gait, and Adam found it very uncomfortable to ride especially with his weak ankle. He was very glad to reach the train stop and handed the horse over to the livery willingly selling him, even though he took a loss on the deal. He sluiced some water over his head to wake up and then limping heavily and, for the first time in years, suffering from saddle sores on his thigh, he was glad to sit down and await the train. He slipped aboard unnoticed and waited none too patiently to arrive in Reno.

The stock exchange was working hard when Adam got there but for a while he didn’t make a move, just considering the position. As he had expected shares were way down, with everyone wanting to sell. After about an hour Adam made his move, very quietly buying small packets of shares in mines that he was sure of. Few people recognised him and it only took him just over ninety minutes to dispose of the $100 000 cash that he had with him. He had a nice packet of California shares very cheaply and had strengthened his position in several mines where he already had an interest. He had all the transfer documents but had no intention of registering them until he had laid out the rest of his cash. He had judged it to a nicety and people were just beginning to get curious when he had finished and he withdrew before anyone added one and one together and realised what he was up to.

Adam was very tired but he wanted to be in Virginia City at the start of business, to make the banking arrangements that he needed before he could start buying. He knew if he stopped he would soon stiffen up and decided to head out straight away. At least in Virginia City he could rely on finding someone to wake him up. He went down to the livery stable and bought an attractive bay mare. He left his saddle with her and went for a meal before heading for Virginia City. He barely had enough cash for a meal despite the huge sums he was handling, buying horses had proved expensive and he had lost rather more on the chestnut than he liked. Out in the middle of nowhere, none of the brothers had been carrying much cash and although they had pooled it, along with contributions from Carole and Meg, that was just about gone, not that Adam cared he was heading home. Too tired to really be hungry he forced down a meal and then collected the mare and headed for Virginia City. He found it uncomfortable to ride despite the mare’s very easy gait. The journey seemed to take longer than ever before he reached town. He was desperately tired, but knew how he would feel in the morning if he didn’t get a bath before he fell into bed. He went down to the gaol and to his relief Roy was there although it was well past midnight. Adam refused a chair just leaning against the wall “Roy can you look after something for me for a while?”

“What’s wrong Adam, you look terrible?”

“Nothing Roy. I’ve just been very busy. I’ve got some important papers and I want a bath. I’ll only be half an hour.” Adam forced a grin but Roy shook his head “I don’t know what you’ve been up to Adam but you look all in.” He sighed “Alright if you won’t explain you won’t. Hand them over, they’ll be here when you want. I’ll be here all night.”

“You wouldn’t like to arrest me would you? I could do with a bed and a shake at seven.”

“What’s the matter Adam, the Ponderosa lost everything in the stock collapse? Can’t afford a bed.”

Adam grinned “Well now you mention it, I have precisely 40 cents on me. I guess I could get credit but can you lend me a dollar for the bath?”

Roy stared at him for a minute and then almost in disbelief said, “You’re serious.”

Adam nodded and took the dollar Roy gave him and Roy said, “If it’ll help there’s a cot free back in the office.”

“I’d be grateful Roy. I’ll be back in half hour.” Adam was in luck the baths were fairly empty and he soaked for a while, easing the sting in his sore thigh and his various aches. His ankle was well swollen again and he was limping heavily when he got back to the office. Roy didn’t comment just asking if there was anything that Adam wanted. Adam yawned “A call at seven please. It’s important.”

Roy nodded “You got it.”

Adam got nearly five hours sleep, he had gone out like a light the moment he laid down, but even so Roy had a job to wake him. Adam sat drinking coffee and very slowly waking up. Roy grinned, “I’m going to bed.”

“Trying to make me jealous now!”

Roy laughed “Take it easy Adam. I’ll be seeing you.” He offered to give Adam his papers but Adam decided they were safest where they were just now. Then Roy, knowing Adam wouldn’t tell him what was going on, headed home to bed.

Adam headed for a shave and made a deliberate effort to hide his near exhaustion not wanting to cause comment. As he waited for his turn he read the latest news and watched the huge stock market indicator dial. All the stocks were very low, the Belcher and the Consolidated Virginia were holding up best with no stock on the market but even they had dropped more than twenty percent. Adam had had plenty of time to plan what he wanted to do and the market was even lower than he had expected. Ben had always used the Marye brokerage house and Adam had followed his father and put much of his custom through them. He didn’t want to start trouble and yet he didn’t want rumours starting prematurely. In the end he had decided to let them handle half the money and the rest he decided to give to Joe’s friend Roy Naylor. He was at the bank soon after it opened and drew some cash for the ranch, standard routine business to put inquisitive minds at rest, Then as though as an afterthought he asked if the manager could spare him a minute. When they were settled with coffee the manager Harris regarded him quizzically. He knew them all very well and had often proved a good friend. Now he was wondering what the Cartwrights were up to, partly because Adam was a shade too casual and partly because he had information Adam didn’t. Adam grinned and pulled out the bank draft “I have this to pay in but I wanted to warn you that I will be drawing most, if not all of it, during the day. Can you handle it?”

Adam wasn’t really worried, but the manager whistled as he read the amount, “Oh we can handle it, but just what are you up to? Bolstering the market?”

“I wouldn’t want rumours to get out to that effect. Not for a while anyway. I’m afraid that I won’t be very popular with your bosses but that’s not unusual."

“To be honest Adam I wouldn’t even be sure of that. A lot of people in Frisco are being ruined by this. For you only you understand.” As Adam nodded, Harris went on “Ralston is furious. Sharon has moved all on his own, seems to be trying to bankrupt Jones out of the race.”

“Not easy when Jones has the resources of the Crown Point behind him.”

“True and he’s ruined all too many others in the process. Word is his name stinks in Frisco. Hayward is backing his partner. Its cost them near enough three million to cover their position but they are safe, What about you, you don’t buy short?”

“No we’re in the clear but with a false panic, it seems to me a good time to buy.”

Harris sighed heavily “I’ve been trying to persuade all my customers that, but panic is infectious, they are all selling.”

Adam smiled “I’ll leak the news once I’ve finished my business. It might help to steady the market.”

“With the Cartwright luck recently it could do a lot. By the way was that the reason for the large cheque yesterday?”

Adam looked puzzled “Sorry I’m not with you.”

“Well maybe you had better know before you go too far. We had a cheque for $100 000 on the main Ponderosa account, just at the close of business. In from Sacramento.”

“My father?”


Adam grinned broadly “Canny. I can’t say I’m surprised and it’s certainly the same I should think. I haven’t seen him since this slide started. Put this draft through my account.” He stared at it for a moment wondering whether to allow for his father’s efforts but although an extra hundred thousand would leave them very tight, it was still covered without risk to the ranch. He was sure it meant that his father had read the situation the same way he had, which was comforting. He had a great deal of faith in his father’s judgement.

“I must get on thanks for your help.”

“I’ll handle it myself Adam. No word will get out until you want it to.”

Adam smiled and offered his hand “I know I can rely on that.” Adam wandered out to stand in the huge crowd round the stock indicator. As he watched both the Hale and Norcross and the California clicked further down. As far as he could estimate the average price of the stock was less than one third of what it had been just last week and that average was kept up by mines like the Belcher with few if any shares on the open market. Two or three acquaintances tried to enquire the Cartwrights opinion of events, but Adam avoided the questions with practised ease. He lost himself in the crowd and found his way up the back stairs to the private office of John Marye. On knocking a very harassed broker told him to come in. Marye considered Adam with a jaundiced eye and then turned back to the window where the Yellow Jacket was clicking down “I thought you had more sense.”

Adam grinned, “Nice friendly greeting I must say!”

“It’s just a false panic, the mines are basically sound. Its senseless to sell now especially when you own the stock clear.”

“I know.”

Marye sighed and then as the sense penetrated he turned “If you know what the hell are you doing here?”

Adam perched on the desk “I know it must have been a very wearing few days, with mob panic ruling, but you seem to have forgotten brokers buy as well as sell.”

Marye sighed heavily “I’ve been telling everyone until I’m blue in the face, that the market must be near the bottom. With the dividends being paid the stock has to rise back up again, but noone is listening.”

Adam laughed “I am.”

Marye looked at him, hardly daring to believe his ears, “You want to buy?”

“Lots of bargains from where I’m sitting. I’ll buy and I’m not too fussy.” Adam passed over a list of mines “Any of these at current prices or up to 10% over. Concentrate on the Hale and Norcross, the Ophir and the California if possible. Keep my name out of it until I tell you. We’ll leak it when it might help.”

“How much Adam?”

Adam grinned “Up to $500 000 and I expect you to use all that today.”

Marye stared at him; it was ten times the sum he had expected. “In your name or the Ponderosa?”

“Mine. Nothing to do with the ranch, Get busy but discreetly.” With that Adam sauntered out, leaving a very bemused but pleased broker. Hs commission wouldn’t be inconsiderable and that much backed by the Cartwright name was enough to change the climate of opinion, which was all that was required to stop this panic.

Adam stretched his stride rapidly as he went along the street to the much smaller one man business run by Roy. He had made a good living over the last few years but working alone he looked even more drawn than Marye. When Adam came in he sighed “Don’t tell me Joe wants to sell too.”

Adam was amused at the resigned tone “Not as far as I know Roy, in fact I very much doubt it. I want you to buy for me.”


“Don’t look so astounded, people do buy stock.”

“Not my illustrious clients! My customers have one idea sell and salvage what they can.”

“Its only Sharon playing games for his own satisfaction, the mines have never been healthier.”

“I know that and you know that but try telling that mob out there. They just think you’re trying to keep the price up a bit while you unload. I have a sheaf of sell orders and who the hell is buying?” Roy shook his head tiredly.

Adam grinned “I’m buying remember.”

Roy held out a sheaf of papers “Take your pick, any of these at current prices.” To his surprise Adam took him at his word and leafed through putting over half in one pile. “These will do for a start. Get busy here’s a list. Any of these mines up to 10% above the current price without contacting me. Concentrate on the Hale and Norcross, the Ophir and the California. Up to $400 000 and I want it spent today.”

Roy got to his feet excited “That will buy one hell of a lot of shares at the minute.”

“Its intended to. All for registering in my name but not until I tell you and until them keep my name out of it.”

“Where will you be?”

“Up at the Consolidated Virginia until lunch. I’ll eat at the Washoe club and then I’ll be at the Palace.”

Roy could hardly wait to get started but Adam was pleased to see the almost despairing figure that emerged from the office. Roy knew his business and he’d buy cheap.

Adam gave him a few minutes and wondered just what his father had been up to, before heading up to the mine to a very irritable Jim Fair. Even with this close partner Adam had no intention of letting on just what he was up to. He made a routine check of books and dealt with some minor legal quibbles on contracts, one actually with the Ponderosa.

Ben had been getting on with his own business in Sacramento when the news broke of the slide in Comstock shares. Telegraph wires were going mad. Sacramento didn’t have the large dial indicator of shares that operated in Frisco and Virginia City tied by the telegraph but it collected the same figures. When stock was moving fast five men kept a large board up to date, chalking in the prices as they moved. Ben watched for two days and then sent a single word telegram to Dan de Quille. That word was 'Why' and he got an equally short answer 'Sharon'. Ben knew Sharon, perhaps better than anyone and he knew the position in the senatorial race. It wasn’t difficult to put two and two together, There was no way to get in touch with his sons, who were all working out on the ranch and although they had a telegraphic code, it wasn’t secure enough for this sort of problem. By Sunday Ben was able to catch up with all the latest newspapers from Virginia City and he read Dan’s report and Goodman’s scathing editorial of the latest panic, talking about the sheep following Sharon in a wave of senseless selling. That crystallised Ben’s determination. If they could cash in on this then Adam wouldn’t have to carry the rest of the family on the California project. He didn’t really like taking a major gamble with money from the joint Ponderosa account without discussing it with his sons but virtually all his own cash was already committed. He slept on it but on Monday morning his decision was unchanged and he drew $100 000. The cheque was cleared readily but as Ben watched the shares continued to drop and he only bought a few California shares. It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that he really committed himself and by nightfall had spent all his money to the best possible effect. The shares continued to fall although not nearly as steeply until Wednesday afternoon when they began to steady. At least the mines that Ben was interested in did. He had no way of knowing that the effect was due to the money put in by his own son. On Thursday the first tentative movements upwards began but Ben left Sacramento that evening before the rumour broke that the Cartwrights were heavily invested, Then people started talking about Ben’s deals and gradually word spread confirming the rumour and edging the shares on up as others followed their lead.

Adam had his lunch in peace at the Washoe club and he’d just finished when a young clerk came over with a message from John Marye. He had completed his side of the transaction and had the figures ready to show Adam when he was ready. Adam had no intention of moving until he had heard from Roy and just sent word that he’d be over later. He went down to the Palace and ordered a brandy, lack of sleep catching up on him, only the excitement was keeping him going. Dan called to him and Adam limped over to join him.

Dan frowned “Doc told me about your fall but that was two and a half weeks ago, isn’t it any better?”

“I’ve been overdoing it a bit, just slightly swollen.”

Dan stared at him “You’re not kidding you’ve been overdoing it with a vengeance. You look exhausted.”

“Missed some sleep.” Adam admitted.

“What do you think of our phoney panic?”

“Can’t last and maybe Sharon will find he’s pushed his luck too far. Hitting Frisco hard from what I hear, Ralston won’t be pleased.”

Dan studied Adam intently “Why are you in town?”

“Routine business at the mine, cash for the hand. Pa’s in Sacramento.”

Dan frowned but realised that he wouldn’t get anymore out of Adam and reverted to the stock market. “Looks as though it’s levelling off. Rumour says someone is buying.”

“Lot of bargains.” Adam commented noncommittally. After a few more minutes casual chat Adam asked “Shouldn’t you be working Dan. Press day for the weekly supplement tomorrow.”

Dan grinned “Now maybe I miss my guess but I think I am working right now. The Cartwrights are news Adam.”

Adam knew that his friend had guessed what he was up to, even if not the extent, but as he had every intention of breaking the news as soon as Roy came, he wasn’t too worried. “We’ve never been able to stop you trying to make us news.”

The lack of a denial confirmed Dan’s suspicions, but he knew Adam too well to try and make him talk until he was ready. It was some twenty minutes later that Adam saw Roy at the door and Roy did a thumbs up to show that he had completed his deals. Adam grinned at Dan and slowly stretched and got to his feet. “Come on then and earn your pay. You can tag along but no questions.”

Dan nodded and followed Adam out across the street, first to Roy's office where Adam signed the various transfer forms and made out a cheque to Roy for the shares plus his commission. He wouldn’t tell Dan how much it was for but the vast sheaf of transfer forms made it obvious that it was a substantial sum. Then thanking Roy, who had done even better than Adam expected, they went out. Dan said “Where now, the registry offices?”

“No questions Dan.”

To Dan’s surprise Adam led the way across to the jail. Roy Coffee was there and the sheriff undid his safe and handed Adam the packet he had been looking after, Adam undid it and added another sizeable pile of share transfer forms to those he was holding. Roy followed him and Dan as they went out. Even at present values it was a sizeable amount of money Adam was carrying and until registered all too negotiable. Roy doubted anyone would try anything in front of the reporter but better safe than sorry. The transfer forms were very recognisable and as rumour spread Adam found almost a procession following him as he limped back to Marye’s. Dan helped his friend up the steep stairs to the main office, no skulking round the back ways now. John Marye was astounded and rather annoyed as Dan followed Adam in but Adam just grinned. “News is already breaking. I’ll trust Dan to be accurate and just now the more publicity the better.”

John passed over the list of shares he had bought and the price and Adam made out the cheque. “Excellent. I’ll take the transfer forms now.”

“You’ve already got a lot.”

“Oh I was busy in Reno before I came here and you know John I have always spread my business around.”

“I’m not objecting but you must have spent...”

Adam interrupted “That is one thing that is my business. Shall we just say heavily.”  With an armful of papers Adam made heavy weather of the stairs but he refused to let Dan carry any. He was well aware of the effect on all the people in the street, seeing the physical evidence of his confidence in the mines. With many of them it would far outweigh any figures or comment in the paper later. He grinned at Dan “Now we go to the registry. This is going to be the tedious part.” He made his way down the street, seemingly oblivious of all the comment and the people pressing forward to see him, even the saloons emptying. In fact he didn’t miss a thing and he had a job to keep a straight face. He was right about the registration being tedious and even with two clerks, it took him over two and a half-hours to complete the formalities and he was complaining of writer’s cramp. The Bank stayed open specially and Adam lodged the certificates with all his others and then with a sigh of relief he came out to find a huge crowd still watching him. From the back one man called out “What you upto Adam?” the cry was taken up by many of the others until Adam put up his hand for silence. He grinned at them “You all saw what I was doing registering shares. The mines are sound we all know it, paying good dividends. I don’t know why everyone wants to sell but I do know a bargain when I see one, I’ve been doing what my family has always done, investing in Virginia City. Now I’m going for a drink because I've got writer’s cramp.”

There was a cheer from some of the miners at the back and Adam laughed before going for that drink, leaving hundreds of small arguing groups. Dan accompanied his friend “Sit down Adam I’ll get you a brandy.”

Adam sipped it gratefully and Dan considered him “Quite a story. Flamboyant, not your usual style.”

“No but this time maybe good business, I only have a limited amount to shore up the market. I wanted it to have the maximum effect.”

“Already steadied. Are you going home?”

“In a minute. I’ve been away too long, Joe is trying to do both our jobs.”

“You’ve been doing a fair old job yourself.”

“I hope so.” Adam yawned “Tiring anyway,”

“Do you want me to send word how the market is doing?”

Adam shook his head “Thanks but no. There won’t be anyone at the house for the next couple of weeks. We’re busy up in the high country. Anyway it will go up in the long run, only question is when.” He pulled himself to his feet and limped down to the livery stable and collected his mare. As he swung up and faced the long ride home, he missed Sport more than he could have told anyone. If it was Sport he could have relaxed maybe dozed and let the horse find his own way home but this mare had never been to the ranch. Still he consoled himself he was carrying a fair amount of cash for the hands and would have to stay alert anyway.

He left town at a steady lope only wanting to get home to his own bed, so stiff and sore and aching in every bone and muscle. It seemed to take forever and even the knowledge of a successful day didn’t ease his bone weariness. Carole had surprised Meg by her insistence on having hot water ready. She was sure that Adam would be home that night. Meg knew enough geography from her trip west to know just how far it was to Salt Lake City and the long ride to pick up the train over very rough terrain. She thought her cousin was mad it wasn’t possible for Adam to be back yet, and even then he would be tied up in town for days. Carole wouldn’t listen. She knew her obstinate husband and he wouldn’t bother with minor details like sleep, not having left his little brother with an almost impossible job. When Adam rode in shortly after ten she called Kam Su to fill the bath and went out to greet him, seeing the tiredness but also that he’d been successful, She kissed him and then asked if he’d eaten. Adam frowned, trying to remember, “I had a good lunch and I’m not really hungry. How about an omelette, I’m whacked.”

“Bath ready and waiting.”

“You’re a marvel! Come and scrub my back ands tell me the news.”

“Of course but you’re the one with news.” Adam nodded and a few minutes later relaxing in the bath he was bemoaning his fate, saddle sores at his age. “You’d have thought if I was going to get then it would have been when I went to Fallon to see Hoss, I hadn’t been on horseback for ages then, but just now when I’m living on horseback and unfortunately have to carry on doing so.” He shook his head in disgust. “That blasted chestnut, very strong, nice looking but so uneven gaited. I have never sat on a more uncomfortable horse.” As he relaxed Adam filled in the details of how successful he had been. He was very pleased with himself and it showed through his tiredness, but while he was getting dry he decided he was just too tired for food and just asked for some coffee in bed. By the time Carole brought it up Adam was fast asleep, not that she was surprised, knowing how little sleep he must have had. After briefly filling Meg in Carole slipped in next to Adam. Despite his exhaustion Adam was awake early, feeling much better for seven hours sleep and he pulled Carole close to him, he had seen all too little of her in the past months. Then the twins woke up. Adam swiftly got dressed and played with his sons while Carole got him some breakfast. He ate rapidly and promised to be back on Sunday but for now he had to get up to the high country and help Joe. He went by the main house and collected the accumulated mail and messages. He didn’t wait to read them but set out for the flumes. He was riding the mare again and she was surefooted and obeyed his slightest touch. Pleased with the mare he trusted her sure footedness over the first easy part of the trail and read the various messages. He had had a quick word with Jess at the house. Jess was keeping an eye on the messages seeing anything urgent was notified to them and dealing with routine. He willingly agreed to let Adam know as soon as his father reached home. Adam was hoping to see his father and tell Ben what they’d been up to before he learnt from outsiders. With all the rumours inevitably around he knew that he would be lucky to do so and if Ben came home via Virginia City he had no chance. Either way he would have to explain quickly. There was nothing particularly urgent and Adam put the letters away and made the best time he could to rejoin Joe.

Little Joe hadn’t had very much more sleep than his eldest brother, albeit rather more evenly spaced. He had been busier than he ever had in his life, but despite his best efforts progress had slowed. Both gangs of workers were reliable and hardworking but on this strange job they lacked initiative and if anything went wrong awaited orders. Joe just couldn’t be in two places at the same time and spent all too much time riding the miles between the flumes. All paperwork had to wait until the evening and with a days work for two gangs to plan he was working all hours. He hadn’t had to go to Salt Lake City but he the way he was feeling as he rode back to the longer flume for the second time that morning he was beginning to feel as if he’d travelled as far. As he pulled up by the flume he saw the very welcome sight of his eldest brother walking over to join him. Adam was still limping badly and despite a night’s sleep he looked tired but Joe relaxed as Adam was grinning broadly and he swung down and hugged his brother. For a moment they stood looking at each other, each seeing signs of strain and then Joe demanded to know what had happened. Adam limped over to the fire and poured two coffees and then rapidly gave his brother a broad outline of what he had achieved. Joe whistled as Adam showed him the list of stock they now owned. For a few minutes they just relaxed, Adam making his brother laugh as he described the chestnut and its effect, and the general reaction in town.

Then Adam got Joe to outline the main problems and the current position. Joe apologised for letting things slip but Adam punched his brother’s shoulder and told him not to be daft, he’d done remarkably well with a virtually impossible job. They separated to get on, arranging to meet that evening for a more detailed chat.

Joe relaxed with Adam back and the day went smoothly, he was eager to get more details from Adam and make sure that his brother wasn’t overdoing it, he had noticed just how badly Adam was limping. Somehow the ride to the other flume didn’t seem nearly as far that night. Adam was sitting down leaning against a rock drinking coffee and Joe joined him. After going into more details about affairs in town Adam sat back and sipped his coffee and Joe commented “Just one problem. We still have to tell Pa.”

“Or explain if he comes home through town. Jess has promised to come out and let me know as soon as Pa gets back. I’d rather break it to him myself if I can.”

“We all agreed.” Joe said rather sombrely, unsure of his father’s reaction Adam grinned, “Cheer up I think he’ll support us and any way he’s been up to something too.”

“What do you mean?”

“Unless I miss my guess he’s been doing the same thing in Sacramento, buying in at the bottom of the market.”

“How do you know?”

“I can’t be sure Joe but I do know he’s drawn $100 000 out of the main Ponderosa account, so whatever he’s been up to, he has some explaining to do too.”

“Well I’m dammed, the cheeky old’’ “Joe laughed “And here was I worrying about his reaction.”

“Well we have plunged ten times as deeply.”

“Yeah but there were three of us, a majority decision.”

Adam sipped his coffee contemplatively “I shall still be glad to have talked it over with him.”

“There’s nothing wrong is there Adam, I mean with an extra $100 000 tied up?” Joe shook his head still not used to thinking in such large sums; it was still more common for him to wonder if he had enough cash for a beer after a poker game in town.

“No nothing wrong, we might get a little tight for cash but I don’t really expect it. Don’t forget some of the money we put aside for the California won’t be needed. I’ve bought a sizeable chunk cheaply. Pa will have got some I expect, and you can bet Flood and O’Brien haven’t been running scared either. Jim Fair was complaining bitterly at people’s lack of faith and even more his lack of cash on hand to take advantage of it.”

Joe was quiet for a minute “Last newspaper was talking about suicides, several in Frisco and old Bill Kent in town.”

“Always happens when the market collapses, damn Sharon and his games.”

“You reckon you got it stabilised now?”

“No guarantees but it was looking that way.”

“We’ve taken advantage of Sharon’s games, maybe if we’d moved earlier people wouldn’t have been so badly hurt.” Joe looked sideways at his brother, obviously worried and slightly guilty and almost embarrassed at showing it.”

Adam shook his head “No need to feel guilty Joe. Apart from the fact that we moved as soon as we heard, we don’t have the money to shore up the market at the beginning of a fall like that. It was the volume of shares that I bought that have helped to stabilise it and hopefully by carrying them around in full view of the town persuaded people that we were confident in the mines and they could be too. I couldn’t do that until the market was near bottom. I moved as soon as I could and I think as early as possible to be effective. We didn’t engineer the fall and, although we’ll make a big profit, I hope it may bring things back faster and maybe a few more people can hang on.”

Joe grinned, “Thanks for not laughing at me I feel easier, after all nobody told them to buy on margin. It’s just that we’ll do well and they ...”

“That’s the worst of funny money, start believing in it and you end up in trouble. We’re cashing this in and turning it into something solid.”

Ben was on his way home but he went via the high pasture to check with José that the cattle were alright. Thus it was late Saturday afternoon when he got home. Jess came out and took his horse, Ben asked if there had been any trouble. Since Jess had rescued Adam from the cliff the previous year he had come out of his shell and enjoyed the extra responsibility that came his way. Better educated than most and with all the Cartwrights out on the range, he had been keeping track at the house. Jess assured him that there was no trouble all three of his sons had been getting on well.

Ben accepted that and went in to yell for Hop Sing, wanting a bath and a meal. Jess saddled up and headed out to the flumes. Adam had persuaded Joe to go into town for the dance, claiming that he wanted to know the current position and Sharon’s reaction. It made sense and everything had gone fairly smoothly since Adam’s return so Joe agreed. He arranged to see Adam at his own house the following day to report and ride back with him. Adam was beginning to tidy up the odds and ends having paid both gangs off, when Jess rode into camp. Adam waved him over and poured out two coffees “Pa is home?”

“Late this afternoon. He’d been up to see José so I don’t think he’s been near town. No questions anyway.”

“Thanks Jess. Give me ten minutes to finish up and I’ll ride back with you.” The two men had become good friends over the last years and chatted easily as they rode. Jess had invested his savings three days ago having heard what Adam had done and from what he had heard the market was on its way back up. Adam was glad to hear that but as they got close to the house he fell quiet. He wasn’t really worried, but uneasy, as he wondered how his father would take his high handed action. Jess offered to look after his horse and Adam nodded “Thanks.”

Adam went in to the house still limping after a heavy day’s work. Ben was by the fire with coffee, considering the accounts but he looked up as he heard the door open, he was rather surprised to see Adam and frowned anxiously “Isn’t your ankle better yet? Come and sit down.”

“I’m okay Pa, good to see you.”

Ben watched Adam as he got himself some coffee and brandy and came to sit down, stretching his sore leg out. Adam grinned at his father “Its getting better Pa, just taking its time. Only bothers me at the end of the day. We’ve been rather busy.”

“You knew I was home?”

“Expected you about now and I saw Jess.”

Ben nodded but he felt slightly uneasy, sensing something odd in his son’s attitude. Adam asked “Good trip?”

“Successful I’ll fill you in later. How are the flumes?”

“About on schedule. Another fortnight should see Joe done and I’ll be maybe ten days longer.”

Ben broke in abruptly “I wish your brothers were here.”

“Both in town as far as I know. I’m sure Joe is and Hoss was planning to last time I saw him. They will be coming to lunch with me tomorrow,”

“I’d rather not wait even if it means going over everything twice. You’ve heard the news from town, the market collapse?”

Adam grinned amused and rather touched at his father’s obvious uneasiness at investing their money without consultation. When his father said the Ponderosa was owned equally between them he meant every word of it, unlike most parents. With what he had to confess it didn’t seem right or sensible to leave his father on edge. “We heard Pa. That’s the main reason I came by as soon as you got back. We took certain steps and from what I heard you did the same.”

Ben couldn’t imagine how Adam had heard about his investment and asked, “What did you hear?”

“At the Bank, Mr Harris told me you’d drawn a cheque for $100 000 on the main account. Just a warning in case it affected what I wanted to do. I assumed you’d been buying in at the bottom of the market?”

Ben laughed “And I’ve been worrying about telling you and your brothers. You know I don’t normally make such large investments from the joint account without discussing it but it was too good an opportunity to miss. I got quite a bit of California stock too.”

Adam grinned, but he was tense and it showed, “We realised there wasn’t time to contact us Pa. We had the same problem.”

Ben lent back and considered his son “Just why were you in town during the week?”

“I’ve been all over Pa.” Adam poured out two more brandies. “Joe and Hoss agreed with me but I maybe over persuaded them.”

Ben sipped his brandy “I’m listening.” Adam was quiet for a moment and then he started talking, telling how Joe brought out the news, his determination to cash in and his reasons for wanting the money and then detailed exactly what he had done, the terms agreed and the events in Virginia City. Ben didn’t interrupt once, just raising his eyebrows at the extent of Adam’s operations. Adam finished with Jess’ news that the markets were moving up but Joe would be bringing detailed news the following day. Then Adam lent back and waited for some comment. It seemed to take a long time but he wasn’t worried any more, he could see the amusement in his father’s eyes. Finally Ben said “Typical, here was I worried about a paltry $100 000! I’m surprised you didn’t frighten Hoss off with such a large scheme.”

“Nearly did, even Little Joe thought long and hard but |Hoss said when I’m that persuasive I’m usually right. I just hope I am this time.”

“It must have been your effort that started the rise on Thursday. I agree with Dan, flamboyant but effective.”

“I’d have been happier if I could ahve discussed it Pa but there just wasn’t time and I was damned if Sharon should get all the profit. Dan was reckoning the shares lost 50 million in book value and in two months I reckon they’ll be back up.”

“I agree son. Its bigger than I would have thought of but I think you’ve done very well, You must have made Salt Lake City in record time.”

Adam told him a little of the trip and the slug he had ridden part of the time. Then delighted with his father’s reaction he got out the list of shares he had registered in his name but for all of them. Ben passed over the list of those he had bought. Neither man was surprised to find the mines covered were identical. Ben doodled some figures for a minute and then went and got himself another drink. “Have you worked out how much we stand to make if the shares go back to their original levels?”


“Leaving aside the California and what we’ll save by buying cheap, I make it near enough four million dollars clear and often the shares bounce higher after something like this.”

Adam shrugged “We’ll have to unload carefully or we’ll depress the prices ourselves.”

“True but do you agree about the likely profit?”

“Near enough. I reckon it will cost me over a million to lease land on the far side and get timber moving across the lake, but I’d like to try.”

Adam was pleased with his father’s reaction but he hesitated, “Pa I know I was rather high handed, borrowing against the ranch. You really don’t mind?”

Ben came over and gripped his son’s shoulder “Majority decision Adam we’ve always said it was equal shares. I’m delighted and impressed, especially because you all want to reinvest the money into the ranch. Go on home to Carole. I’ll join you for lunch if Carole can feed us all.”

“She’ll be pleased.”

“I know you are very lucky in your wife.”

“Not only in my wife.” Adam smiled affectionately at his father “Its good to have you home Pa.”

Joe had good news from town, the market was moving up even faster than it had come down and the whole family relaxed for a very pleasant day before getting back to work.

Two weeks later Joe had finished his flume and he took over from Adam for the day while Adam went to town with his father. The stock market was standing higher than it had been before the fall and the demand for stock was very high. Adam spent most of the day selling carefully selected packets of stock ensuring that the price wasn’t affected too much, getting rid of stock in mines he didn’t care about or didn’t have enough knowledge of. He cleared enough to pay off the loan, interest and all brokerage charges without any difficulty. It took another hour at the bank to clear the formalities so that Harris could repay the bank in Salt Lake City and save Adam another trip. Then with the ranch in the clear Adam felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders although he hadn’t consciously been worrying about the loan. Ben was on his way to the Palace and seeing his son he hurried over to join him. Adam grinned, “Lets go celebrate the ranch is clear again.”

“Double celebration. With the stock we picked up Flood and O’Brien have three quarters of the California stock, comfortable control. Jim Fair is moving in as the new superintendent tomorrow leaving John at the Virginia.”

Adam was delighted and they went onto the Palace for a drink, everything was going their way. Dan saw them and came over, sensing a story. He had already heard rumours about the California and Ben filled him in but requested Dan check with Jim Fair before he published anything. Dan complained “You might have waited until I was short of news.”

Adam sipped his beer “What do you mean Dan?”

“You haven’t heard?”

Adam shook his head in mock disgust “Obviously or I wouldn’t be asking. I’ve spent all day either at Marye’s to the Bank. I’m fed up with paperwork, hardly lifted my head all day so kindly elucidate.”

Dan grinned, “Okay Adam sorry. Its Sharon again but this time he really has gone too far. I should leave you to read it in the paper tomorrow, hate to lose a sale.”

“We’ll guarantee to get a copy “ Ben promised “Go on Dan, what’s he’s done this time?”

“Do you remember Isaac Hubbell?”

Adam shook his head, the name didn’t mean anything to him but Ben frowned trying to place it “Oh yes, he was underground foreman at the Crown Point several years back, Got married and left the mines after the fire.”

Dan nodded “That’s right. You were in Europe I think Adam.”

“So what has he got to do with Sharon?” Adam enquired.

“Sharon has been in Frisco for ten days and he tracked Hubbell down, he’s been working down south somewhere. Anyway seems Sharon made him an interesting offer, or so Hubbell thought, enough for him to travel up to Frisco. Hubbell hadn’t been doing too well and Sharon knew it but he misjudged Hubbell.” Dan stopped to sip his beer.

Ben and Adam grinned at each other and Ben said, “He certainly knows how to spin out a story.”

“What was Hubbell like Pa?”

“I barely remember him, rather quiet, big strong man, Hoss knew hi better than I did.”

Dan sat back “Do you want to hear the rest?”

“We’re waiting with bated breath “Adam assured him

“When Hubbell got to Frisco Sharon said that he might be able to get him a job if Hubbell could do him a favour. He would pay $5000 for a signature. Sharon wants that Senate seat. Such a simple statement, just to say the John P Jones deliberately set the fire in the Crown Point on the night of that disaster. Hubbell was night foreman then.”

Ben and Adam sat silenced by the sheer effrontery. Eventually Adam said “He’s quite mad, he knows business and the mines but he doesn’t know anything about people. You both know I haven’t a particularly high opinion of Jones, mutual dislike, but there’s just no way this could be possible. Nobody is going to believe it, nor would they if Hubbell had signed and disappeared, I assume he talked.”

“Very loudly to everyone and anyone.”

Ben sighed “I see what you mean, really gone too far.”

“Joe Goodman agrees with you, it’s worth the price of a paper tomorrow to read his editorial.”

“He has to be stopped.” Adam insisted

“Easily said Adam but he’s very rich and very powerful. After all that money was lost on the market, he’s not popular in Frisco and my sources say Ralston might act, but we’ll have to wait and see. Certainly noone else will move in Frisco without Ralston’s backing.”

“Well at least it will ensure Jones gets the seat, even the Bank can’t buy it for Sharon now, so I suppose we have something to be grateful for.” Adam frowned “I think I want a brandy, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.”

Dan changed the subject “Have you been out to see Sutro’s tunnel?”

Adam shook his head, “Why is something happening?”

“Sutro wanted to talk to you. You invested in the autumn.”

“I heard that was spread around town. I’m not getting involved Dan I have my own problems, quite enough to keep me busy.”

Dan put his hand up in a peace sign “Up to you Adam I’m just passing on the message.”

Ten minutes later Adam pushed his empty glass away “Damn you Dan, you’ve made me curious. I shall have to go out to the tunnel. Pa?”

“I’ll ride along. I’m staying in town overnight anyway. I wouldn’t mind some fresh air, See you later Dan.”

They rode out, round Mount Davidson to the entrance to the tunnel. Slowly dismounting Adam asked one of the men where Sutro was and learnt he was at the face. However he was dynamiting and as most of the men were out already they were expecting Sutro to emerge any minute.

Ben and Adam waited and within five minutes Sutro emerged, clad only in a breech-clout and boots. Seeing Adam he came over and offered his hand and Adam shook and introduced his father. Sutro acknowledged the introduction “Thank you for coming out.”

“I was interested to see how you were getting on.”

“You know that I got a two million loan from Congress?”

Adam nodded “I heard. Congratulations.”

“Trouble is it’s all tied up with red tape. I have a lawyer working on that. Thanks to your investment we cut an air shaft last year and we have been making faster progress since.”

Adam frowned, “What do you want me to do?”

Sutro smiled “You go straight to the point.”

“It’s our busy time of the year and I have to get home.”

Sutro said “I hesitate to ask but you’re the only outsider who has cared enough to invest. Mr Calmont’s Bank had carried me since Congress gave us support but with that market collapse they can’t give me anymore cash for two months, a liquidity problem. Sharon won’t touch it and I haven’t time to go hunting credit, I heard you did well on the market and so...”

Adam looked at his father and Sutro went on “If you could make me a personal loan for two months, you don’t have to invest in the tunnel.”

Adam asked, “how much do you need?”

“I could manage on $10 000, put off the new airshaft.”

“Including that?”

“$35 00” Sutro said flatly.

Ben moved forward “Give us a minute.” Sutro turned to his men and got them started back into the tunnel while the Cartwrights talked.

Ben was impressed by what he had seen of Sutro and remembered what Adam had said. When Sutro turned back to them Ben had a proposition for him. Ben offered to match his son’s investment taking $30 000 while Adam took the odd $500 to equalise their totals, The one condition that Ben insisted on was that this time their involvement was not publicised. Sutro was delighted especially as the cheques were forthcoming there and then, Ben relying on him to send the stock later. As they left the tunnel, having refused the opportunity to go in, Adam grinned at his father “Conscience money?”

Ben just laughed “You could put it that way, we can afford it.” Adam agreed and arranging to see his father on Sunday, he rode on home. Over a late supper he filled Carole in. She sensed both his relief at safely paying off the loan on the ranch and his anger at Sharon. Later in bed she tried to calm him down in the best way she knew, but even so long after she was asleep Adam lay awake. Very grateful that his beloved ranch was independent of all bankers and with the hard cash he would be accumulating over the next months, as Marye slowly disposed of over half the remaining stock, they would be able to keep it that way.

On Sunday Ben and Joe rode over early but Hoss had hit problems and had to go to Carson City for the replacement that he required. Adam was sorry not to see his big brother but soon forgot it as Ben said, “You’ll see him next Saturday. It struck me in town it’s a very long time since we had a party. We had the usual Boxing Day one but you three weren’t here and anyway that was ages ago, so I’ve arranged for one next Saturday at the main house.”

Adam laughed “Birthday party at your age Pa?”

“Of course not, just a convenient date.”

Joe grinned “Sixty years is quite a while, worth celebrating a few days early.”

Carole frowned as she tried to remember but Ben rose to his son’s baiting “More than a few days! And I’m still young enough to use my belt on you young man!”

Adam raised his hand “No fighting in here. It sets a bad example for the twins.”

Ben turned to his eldest son “Ever the peacemaker. Pour me a drink, sixty indeed!”

Adam did as he was asked “Well it will only be three years Pa and you will be.”

“Your sons will be four then and you think you have problems now!”

“That’s quite a thought I can remember Joe as a four year old, always under our feet, as we built the house.”

Joe interrupted, “That’s enough of that. Adam have you seen the paper?”

“No. I meant to ask.”

Joe pulled it out “Listen to this. Goodman’s editorial, he’s gone to town. ‘In this act, malice has reached the very acme of baseness and cowardice. Malevolence had never suggested a means of vengeance more monstrous’. H e doesn’t mince words does he?”

“I agree with him but Sharon won’t care about words.”

“Goodman has done more than that he’s got Sharon facing a grand jury charged with conspiracy.”

Adam whistled softly but Carole went over to him “Why so worried?”

Adam took a minute to get his thoughts together. “Suppose he’s indicted, he pulls out of the senatorial race. Well there’s noway he can take it anyway. Maybe Ralston gives him a wrap across the knuckles but that will be the end of it. Plenty of bad publicity. Why should the Bank care, it has a virtual monopoly and Sharon won’t. He’s taking a fortune out of the Belcher and if we made on the stock collapse, what do you think he did? After all he planned the whole thing. He must be one of the wealthiest men in this state or in California. So far Ralston has kept control of him but Ralston is putting more and more money into that Palace Hotel of his. Everything has to be Californian made and its costing him a fortune, setting up new industries to supply what he needs. Will wrote couple of weeks back. The rumour is the Bank got scared and they made him personally responsible for all debts to those firms and Mills sold all his bank stock to Ralston and got out.” Seeing the others were puzzled Adam stood up and poured a drink and then turned back to them “The point is up until now Sharon has needed Ralston and so there has been someone to stop him going too far. I don’t like or trust Ralston but he wouldn’t indulge Sharon’s grudges beyond a certain point, not where it was bad for the Bank. I admit it could still be bad for the Comstock but at least there was a stop. Now it’s getting to the stage where Ralston needs Sharon rather than the other way round. Sharon isn’t wasting his cash on Hotel’s or dude ranches like the Belmont with hundreds of guests. Cash is what Ralston is running short of and he’ll give Sharon a free hand to get his help. Sharon holds a grudge, we all know that. This time he’s been forced to give up something he really wanted and he’ll be out for revenge, God knows what and we know Sharon can take his time but sometime he’ll make his move and then watch out.”

There was silence for a minute, they all knew Adam was right, although they hadn’t considered it. Ben sighed, “All we can do is keep the Ponderosa clear and keep a reasonable amount of cash on hand.”

Adam frowned, “ We should be safe and I don’t think there will be any move for a while but we have lots of friends who could be hit hard. Some were this summer.”

“There’s nothing more we can do but I must say I’m very grateful I didn’t get involved in that Senate race.”

Carole decided everyone was getting much too sombre and she called them to table.

As far as the Cartwrights were concerned the party would celebrate the completion of the second flume. With Joe’s gang as well as his own, Adam thought he should finish on Wednesday or Thursday. He had already marked up and planned out the first months logging, to start on Monday, mainly in the evenings with Joe’s help not wanting to have to spend another week away from home. On Wednesday the job was done apart from dismantling the camps and Adam stood with Joe on the high terminus seeing the longer flume going down in front of them and the terminus and a part of the second flume visible a couple of miles away. Well-satisfied Adam put his arm round his brother’s shoulders “I think we’ve done very well.”

“You have you mean.”

“No, I mean we. You helped survey for then and you’ve built more than half of it. Looks pretty good from here and we’re going to need them now we have the California contract. Jim Fair is coming out on Friday to finalise that.”

“You sure you don’t want me to see to the camps?”

“I thought you promised Pa to cut up and check with José?”

“It could wait. He’ll be at the party on Saturday. If you want to get home.”

“No thanks. I’ll be clear by lunchtime tomorrow. We don’t want to bother with business on Saturday. One thing you could do for me, check the horses when you come back. Pa has them over in the west canyon. You know that black stallion, didn’t breed true?"

“Sure I do.”

“Bring him back to the ranch for me, will you?”

Joe was a little surprised but promised to do as he was asked and he didn’t enquire too closely. Adam had made no attempt to replace Sport, he rode the mare he’d bought in Reno more frequently than any other, but as far as Joe knew he hadn’t even named her. Maybe Adam had finally made up his mind but if so it was a surprising choice. The stallion was a five year old, broken to the saddle but untrained, Beautiful lines and strong he had failed to pass it on to any of the foals they had bred from him. Joe shrugged time would tell, maybe Adam had arranged to sell the stallion although if so Joe would have expected to be consulted the bloodstock was their joint venture

When Adam rode back to the camp, he was very surprised to see Carole sitting by the fire. He came in at a gallop alarm flaring as he wondered what on earth could be wrong and he dismounted almost before his horse had come to a stop. Carole got to her feet and smiled at him and Adam relaxed. He took her in his arms, his heart still pounding. Carole kissed him “I’m sorry darling. I didn’t mean to worry you. I persuaded Jess to escort me up here. I knew they’d be finished and I wanted to see just what has kept you away this summer.”

 She smiled as she spoke and Jess said, “I didn’t have any choice Adam. She was coming with or without me, so I thought you’d rather she had an escort.”

“That’s okay Jess I know just how obstinate she is. Thanks for taking care of her.” Adam put his arm round Carole, “Come on then let’s show you now that you’re here.” He was rather surprised at her arrival, Carole had been up for picnics and seen enough to know what he was doing and it wasn’t like her to interrupt his work. Once they were on their own he asked “You’re sure there’s nothing wrong?”

Carole cuddled closer, “Not wrong exactly but I did want to talk to you and that was the best excuse I could think of for Jess and Meg.”

Adam led the way to a flat stone “Right we’ll sit here and admire my flume and you can talk all you want.”

For a minute she sat looking and then leant back against him. “It’s very impressive my darling so new.”

“Not as complicated as the main flume and you’ve seen that often enough. Now what’s happened?”

“It’s Meg. We were in town about three and a half weeks back having lunch at the hotel and Dan introduced a lawyer John Mills from San Francisco. He’s a distant cousin of DO Mills of the Bank.”

“Can’t say I know him.”

“You will. He’s coming to the party on Saturday. He seems very nice, certainly Meg thinks so.”

“You’ve seen him since?”

“Quite often I think he’s hanging his business out and he’s been out to see Meg, take her riding, picnics. The thing is Adam she was hinting they would have an announcement to make on Saturday.”


“They are both very involved. It seems mutual and Meg looks years younger, like I remember her before she was married. I know she doesn’t want to go back east, it was hard for her there and like me she likes the excitement here but I don’t think she’s clutching at straws. I think she really loves him.”

“Well that’s all that matters. I don’t know Mills of the bank personally but he's powerful and with that sort of contact a lawyer should do well. Sounds like a good marriage for her.”

“I hope so. I’m fond of Meg but I’m fond of Hoss too, I don’t want him hurt.”

“I haven’t seen much of my big brother this summer. Do you think he will be?”

“I don’t know Adam. Oh I’m sure he likes Meg and I’m equally sure he doesn’t love her the way you love me, or Joe loved Marie, but that still leaves an awfully large range of possible feelings.”

Adam had been the first to suspect Hoss was getting involved but he hadn’t seen them together all that often and like Carole he wasn’t sure how Hoss felt. “However Hoss feels she obviously doesn’t feel that way about him so it could never work.”

“I know that love and as I say I like John and I think he will be good for her. It was just that I didn’t want Hoss to get a shock, in public, on Saturday. Maybe show more than he’d want.”

“I hadn’t thought of that darling, of course you’re right. He must know what to expect, find a reason for being away if that’s what he wants.”

Carole snuggled closer “That’s why I came up. I love Hoss, but Meg is my cousin and he’s never said anything. I couldn’t talk to him, not even to Pa, and so I came to warn you.”

Adam hugged her tight “Bless you my sweet. I’ll warn him although I’m going to have to tread carefully, he’s never exactly liked interference.”

“Sorry to bother you.”

“Who else? I’m your husband. Anyway thank you for worrying about the big moose. I don’t think he’s that involved but not the sort of shock to get in public. If anything definite was between them, Meg would have warned Hoss but even on the borderline your pride can take a knock and at the time it feels more.”

While she was there Adam showed off his flume and then got her and Jess to take two pack horses with equipment back with them. Then after a hasty snack he rode up to the lumber camp where Hoss had been working all summer. Hoss was just finishing up there preparatory to moving into the high country at the top of the new flumes for a couple of months of very heavy cutting. He was in his tent trying to double-check the paperwork when Adam arrived. Hoss was taken aback by his brother’s arrival and at first he thought it augured bad news but Adam was quick to reassure him. “Nothing wrong. Just Joe and I have finished the flumes so I thought I’d stop by, see how you were planning to move over, if you need any help.”

Hoss poured out two ups of coffee “Come on let’s take a stroll. I want to stretch my legs, been tied up in here since lunch.” Adam willingly agreed and as Hoss outlined what he intended doing Adam promised to arrange for the wagons and extra horses his brother would need and outlined the camp site he’d set up. Hoss was still puzzled it could have waited until the weekend, saved Adam a long ride.

Adam didn’t know how to do it casually, Hoss knew him too well but he did his best. Even if Hoss guessed why he was doing it, his brother would be able to pass it off if he wanted to.  Adam brought the conversation round to their father’s birthday next week and then to the party, “Even if Pa won’t admit to his birthday and make a birthday party of it, it seems we may have a family celebration. Carole tells me Meg has been seeing a lot of a lawyer from Frisco. He has to go back soon and Meg has been hinting that they may have an announcement, so maybe I’m losing my house guest.”

Hoss was quiet for a long moment and then clearing his throat said, “”I see. What’s his name?”

“John Mills, distant cousin of D.O. Mills. Carole says she like him. Seems Dan introduced them in town a month or so back and he’s been haunting our house since.”

Hoss swallowed hard “I hope Meg will be happy, she’s had it rough.”

Adam nodded “I know, that was one reason Carole asked her out.” He drained his coffee and considering the empty cup commented, “I think I’ll go get some more coffee.” Adam turned and went back to camp, at least Hoss knew and Carole was right from the way Hoss had taken it here alone with just his brother, it would have been a very nasty shock in public.

Hoss sat still, glad that Adam had gone for now. He was well aware that he now knew the reason for Adam’s unexpected visit but he was grateful for the advanced warning and his brother’s deceptively casual approach. He tried to think it through, he’d been fond of Meg but he had made no attempt to make even a mild flirtation and she certainly owed him nothing. He probably would have gone a little further if she hadn’t been Carole’s cousin but he’d felt it was either casual friendship or marriage and he hadn’t wanted to risk the latter. That wasn’t to say he might not have decided to try when he got to know her better, but someone else had got in first. Hoss was fond of her and a little piqued that she had found someone else. She was pretty, not as beautiful as Carole, but pretty and very gentle. After quarter of an hour Hoss got up. He was glad that he knew; now he’d be able to offer his congratulations properly and maybe another time he wouldn’t hang back so far. He admitted to himself that he didn’t like the idea of her getting married but on the other hand he wasn’t prepared to take the plunge and he guessed, as his father had said once before, it was his pride that was hurt. Hoss went back to join Adam who was in the tent considering how far up on schedule they were.

Adam could see the hurt in his brother’s eyes but Hoss was calm enough and Adam came to the conclusion that his brother hadn’t been deeply involved but given time might have been Hoss said “I’ll walk you to your horse.”

As they went Hoss linked arms with Adam, “Thanks for coming brother, I’ve seen quite a bit of Meg, have to get her a nice engagement present.”

“We’ll need new saws. Do you want me to get Jess to go down to Carson for them or will you go?” Adam obliquely offered Hoss an excuse to avoid the party. Hoss recognised it and smiled at his brother “Get Jess to go, I don’t want to miss the party or another Sunday lunch.”

Adam nodded and mounted, but as he was about to leave Hoss put a hand on the reins. “Thanks for coming Adam. I’m okay and I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“Sure you big moose don’t work too hard.” Adam gripped his brother’s hand for a moment and then headed back to finish up clearing the camps and get home to Carole. Hoss stood looking after Adam, long after he was out of sight, very grateful for his brother’s tact and understanding. Marriage hadn’t drawn Adam, that far away from him, maybe it wasn’t such a terrifying thing.

The party went off very well and if Hoss was a little quiet only Adam and his father noticed. Meg was almost beautiful in her excitement and John Mills seemed a nice chap, if a little wary. He had heard too much about the Cartwrights, who had bested the Bank more than once and as much of his work was for the Bank, he couldn’t help feeling he was on the other side of the fence to them. Still as none of them seemed to care, John gradually relaxed. It was late when everyone left and as Adam and Carole were staying over with the twins until after lunch the next day they all collapsed round the fire. Ben had invited John to stay but he had business to complete and he had to head home on Thursday so he had to go back to town.

Adam asked “Are you going to Frisco on Thursday too Meg?”

She looked at Carole “I don’t know. John wants me to.”

“We’d like nothing better than to arrange the wedding here but John didn’t think he’d be able to get away again soon.” Carole responded “What do you want?”

“John wants us to get married next month in San Francisco.”

Adam smiled at her “I’m sure my cousin and his wife would be delighted to put you up until then if you want to go with him.”

Meg shook her head “Oh I couldn’t impose.”

“Nonsense Will and Laura have twin girls of two and a half and Laura can always use some help. I can guarantee their spare room is very comfortable I’ve stayed there often.”

Meg looked round and saw agreement on all the faces but hesitated “I don’t know.”

“Let me telegraph Will and arrange it I can ride into town in the morning.” Adam pressed.

Meg looked over at Ben who nodded “They would be very pleased to have you.”

Carole added, “You’ll like Laura she’s a dear, and if you’re living in Frisco she can help you find your way around.”

Adam frowned, “I have to settle that lumber contract for next year, maybe I could bring it forward a couple of weeks. Pa?”

“No reason why not. Joseph you can handle the lumber camp for a week can’t you?”

Joe nodded and Hoss said, “I’ll take the drive as usual.” Ben smiled at Carole “Beth would take the twins for a week and thoroughly enjoy it.”

Carole nodded “Why not as long as we can get the steamer from Sacramento, I can’t face stage all the way.”

“Easy “ Adam agreed.

Meg looked totally bemused and Hoss laughed but took pity on her “You’re still not used to my family. You’ll go to Frisco with John on Thursday. Stay with Will and Laura for four weeks and then get married. Adam will give you away and Carole is a beautiful matron of honour. Adam will settle all the details in the morning.

Meg looked round bemused and then settled on Carole “But..”

Carole laughed, “No buts Meg, they don’t work in this family. Its all been settled, come on I’ll show you to your room and explain.”

Meg tried to say thank you but the men just laughed at her. Hoss decided to take a ride, he needed some fresh air and left his father and brothers round the fire. Joe looked quizzically at his eldest brother “You were very eager to get her off to Frisco. Why?” He kept his voice low but he was obviously puzzled.

Ben answered him “Hoss.”

“But he didn’t turn a hair when they announced it, I know he showed her around but he was working closer to the house than us.”

Ben nodded “I was surprised at that Joe. I don’t know how involved he was but I had wondered if we’d gain another of Carole’s family in ours. Her announcement shocked me and I didn’t know Hoss was that good an actor.”

Adam smiled “He knew. I told him a couple of days ago. Carole came out and gave me advanced warning so I could. She didn’t want Hoss getting a shock in public and maybe showing more than he would want.”

Ben smiled “You did us proud when you married Carole, she’s quite a girl.”

“She’s fond of Hoss. He took it fairly calmly. I think it’s mainly his pride hurt but either way I didn’t think it would do any harm to get her to Frisco. It’s obviously what she wants and Joe won’t be nearly as pressed as last year.”

“Oh I’ll manage you go gallivanting off.”

Adam laughed lazily punching his brother and headed for bed “I will little brother I will.”

A month later Meg might have missed her family but with Adam and Carole, Will and Laura, she wasn’t lonely. She had soon grown fond of both Will and Laura and John had rented a house near them.

Adam didn’t waste his time in San Francisco, he had a very good contract for the following year all signed and sealed. With the flumes available it was easy to undercut the opposition and still make a good profit. Adam had taken it for granted that he would get the contract, Ben had done the spadework in Sacramento earlier in the year.

That completed Adam spent hours, whenever he could get free, checking out the exact state line and the ownership and legal status of all the land that he was interested in. He was careful not to let anyone know what he was doing, not giving his name whenever he could avoid it and apparently looking at a wide range of things. He was delighted to find that all the land that he wanted was free and clear, available to him. Adam spent a long time checking the differences between Nevada and California law and the requirements he would have to meet. He took a variety of forms and pamphlets back with him so that he could double-check at home and had the necessary survey requirements noted. Now he was eager to get home and get out to see for himself on the ground. Still he was determined that Carole enjoyed this wedding they had come a long way for her to be with her cousin.

The wedding went off well and Meg was overwhelmed by the generous gifts from all the Cartwrights. After the ceremony she had a quiet cry on Carole’s shoulder as she tried to thank her for the invitation out west which had changed her life. Carole shushed her; she had enjoyed Meg’s company with Adam away so much. Still with winter approaching she’d see more of her husband and fully fit the loss of her baby no longer upset her. If she would never forget she could at least put it behind her and she was very happy for her cousin. Will had arranged everything, sparing no expense at Adam’s instruction and his cousin had wired him plenty of money. Adam was well pleased with Laura’s help it had been beautifully done. They all enjoyed the wedding breakfast and once the bride and groom left, Adam and Carole settled down for a pleasant weekend with Will and Laura before catching the steamer to Sacramento on Monday afternoon.

Carole had enjoyed her break but like her husband she wanted to get home, back to their sons and to the beautiful home he had built them on the Ponderosa. They took their leave of Will and Laura thanking them for all their efforts and then headed home, a busy summer nearly over.