A Stranger from the Past
Lyn Robinson

Adam was sleeping very peacefully after a difficult day wrestling with legal problems, both for the California and the Ponderosa. He was beginning to miss his rides round the ranch. With Carole heavily pregnant he expected and wanted to be with her most of the time, but for the last ten days he hadn’t been out of the house, not even over to the main house. For four days he hadn’t seen anyone, with his father in town and his brothers out working on the range.

Carole had gone up with Adam, only to lie awake next to him, soon after she settled down she had felt the first twinge of pain. It faded quickly only to return ten minutes later. The baby wasn’t due for another fortnight and for a while she tried to settle, unsure this was anything more than a false alarm. She left Adam to sleep knowing he was tired out and that he would want to instantly send for Doc. Carole was prepared for another long labour. Doc had warned her that even this second child would probably take its time arriving, though it would be nowhere near as long as the twins. Eventually when the pains had strengthened and settled down to about three minute intervals, she decided it was time to wake her husband. In fact it was easier said than done, at first as she tried to wake him the exhausted man just grunted and ignored her. In desperation Carole gave him a hard shake “Adam the baby is coming.”

Adam sat up with a start but as he lit the lamp she smiled at him, “I’m fine but she’s going to be early.”

Adam kissed her and quickly pulled on some clothes “I’ll go and get Kam Su to go over to the main house, see who is there and get someone to go for Doc. I won’t be a minute.”

“There’s no rush darling, it’ll be hours yet, maybe all day if she’s as slow as your sons.”

Adam kissed her gently, trying to hide the fear, which had blazed up in him and desperately hoping that some of his family would be on hand. He ran downstairs and while Kam Su got dressed Adam saddled up a quiet chestnut mare for him. He told Kam Su to take it easy, there was no frantic rush, just to get someone to go and tell Doc and if his father or brothers were there to tell them.

As Kam Su left Adam headed back up to Carole and busied himself stripping the bed and getting on old sheets to protect the bed. All the time he could keep busy he could keep the panic at bay. Although he had never admitted it to anyone he had had a recurrent nightmare over the last months, where this new baby was deformed like the daughter he had buried up by the lake. Now the time had come, he was more scared of the effect on Carole if the nightmare was a true portent of the future than he was about her physical health. Paul had done a good job and Adam was reasonably confidant that she would survive and have an easier time than she’d had two years earlier. He badly needed the moral support of his family but he was almost sure that his father was in town and he didn’t know where either of his brothers were.

In fact both Hoss and Joe had arrived home the previous evening and with Hop Sing’s reassurance that everything was fine had left going over to see Adam until the morning, When Kam Su came in and called both brothers hurried out of their bedrooms. Joe was very pale, he couldn’t help remembering Kam Su calling him out a year ago and it was left to Hoss to ask what was happening. Kam Su said “The baby she comes. Mr Adam he want you to send someone for the Doc and to come.”
Joe bit his lip “It’s too early.”

Hoss put his arm round his brother, “Easy Joe, only a few days, no problem. She was early with the twins too. Do you wanna go get Doc? Have to tell Pa too.”

“No Jess is in the bunkhouse, he’ll go. I’ll come to Adam’s with you.” With that Joe pulled on his dressing gown and ran down to the bunkhouse. It didn’t take long to shake Jess awake and explain what was needed. Joe outlined the most likely places to find his father, but the first thing had to be finding Doc and setting him out for the Ponderosa. Kirk was already saddling up and Joe hurried in to get some clothes on. Hoss was already dressed, but seeing his brother’s face, he spared time to pour out a drink “Come on Joe have a brandy. The way you look you’ll scare them both.”

“Suppose it’s ....”

“We’ll know probably today. Long odds it’s fine, if not we help as we can, no point panicking now. Don’t say anything to Adam.”

“What do you take me for?”

“Well get a grip on yerself or he’ll have it outta you. He knows you too well little brother.”

Joe acknowledged the justice of that and downed the brandy gratefully before going to get dressed.

Less than a quarter of an hour after Adam woke Kam Su his brothers were walking into his house. They went upstairs and Hoss called for Adam. He came out of his bedroom, rather pale but calm and very pleased to see them both. “Thank God. I knew Pa was in town but I was hoping one of you was at home.”

“What can we do Adam?”

“I’m not sure Hoss, get some water boiled, make some coffee. Doc?”

“Jess had gone to town. Once Doc knows he’ll find Pa.”

“Later the twins will be up, I’m scared the baby will come before Doc gets here.”

Joe gripped his arm “It took a long time last time Adam.”

“I know but she let it go on quite a while before she woke me. I must get back to her,”

Hoss patted his back “Just take it easy, we’ll bring you up some coffee.”

Adam nodded and went back in to Carole. Hoss grinned at his little brother “Adam’s okay for the minute. You get coffee I’ll rustle up some grub, we don’t want a repetition of last time.”

Ten minutes later the brothers went back up stairs with trays of food and coffee, Carole seemed pleased to see them, knowing they would be able to help her husband and so they stayed. With both his brothers bullying him and not wanting to worry his wife, Adam forced down some food and then gratefully drank the coffee. The food seemed to settle in a solid lump on his chest but he did his best to ignore it.

Gradually the pains got worse and Hoss began to wonder whether Carole would rather they left. Adam just seemed to take their presence for granted and although calm he was slowly losing colour, As a pain eased again Adam got to his feet “I must just check everything’s ready for Doc. I won’t be a minute.”

“I’m fine darling.”

“Sure you are my love.”

Little Joe was about to speak when Hoss caught his eye and firmly shook his head, knowing that Joe was about to offer to do it. So Joe contented himself with saying, “I’ll give you a hand.” And he followed Adam out. Adam ignored Joe and went straight through to the study where he poured himself a large brandy and drank it down swiftly. Joe moved over to him and gripped his arm “Are you alright?”

Adam nodded “I just needed a drink. I’ll be glad when Paul gets here.”

“Pour yourself another. I’ll make sure Kam Su has everything ready but I don’t mind betting Hop Sing is here too and between them everything will be organised.”

Adam nodded and sipped a brandy while he got firm control of himself. Upstairs Hoss had taken the opportunity while he was alone to ask Carole if she wanted him and Joe to leave. Carole knew both brothers loved her and she had helped nurse them and in their turn they had helped Adam nurse her. She was a long way past being embarrassed with them anymore than she was with Adam. They both knew where babies came from and until Doc arrived her husband needed help. Both physical if the baby should arrive and moral support because in this he was vulnerable. Carole knew how scared Adam was, how much he hated watching her pain unable to help and there was noway to explain to him that she didn’t care, that with a baby to hold soon any pain was incidental. Carole held Hoss’ hand but before she could answer the next pain caught her. The big man seemed to know instinctively where the pain was catching her and his strong hand supported her back massaging the pain gently away. A surer touch even than Adam who was too scared of hurting and she slowly relaxed against him. Carole smiled “Thanks Hoss, Please stay at least until Doc gets here. Adam needs you. If its too hard on Joe then make him go, but you stay with Adam.”

“You sure?”

“I’m glad you’re here too Hoss, both of you. If the baby should come before Doc....”

The pain caught her again and Hoss moved to help “If it does we’ll manage. I’ve delivered a baby before and both my brothers know more about it now. You should have seen them that day, bullets were flying but all they were scared of was dealing with that baby, Old Mother Nature does the work we just have to tidy up after her. Anyway Doc will be here soon. Don’t you worry about anything I’ll keep an eye on Adam for you.” He kissed her forehead and then wiped the sweat from her face “Try and relax.”
When Adam and Joe came back up, Adam was calmer, Joe hadn’t got him to talk but the brandy had helped and his elder brother had a little colour back. Adam took over from his brother and Hoss said, “Come on Joe let’s plait some towels for her.” He led Joe over to the window and in a low voice queried “Adam?”

“He wanted a drink, he’s scared Doc won’t get here. It’s over an hour and a half since Jess left so probably Doc won’t be long. He wouldn’t talk.”

“I don’t think the baby will be very long, couple of hours maybe. Look Joe, I asked Carole if she wanted us to stay. Thought she might feel sorta awkward.”


“I think she really does least ‘till Doc gets here. But it don’t need both of us. I can manage if you wanna cut out?”


“Well with Marie and all that.”

“That was over two years ago. I know it hurt when the twins came but its longer now, I can manage and I'd rather stay.”

"Fair enough little brother."

Little Joe smiled at his brother, a woman in labour did bring back too many memories but he had more immediate worries and he could push them to the back of his mind. Like his brother he was scared Doc wouldn’t arrive in time and he was also scared that the baby might not be perfect.

In town Jess had found Doc was already out on a case, a man at one of the mines who’d broken his leg in a fall. Jess went to find Doc, who was busily working. He promised Jess that he would head out to Adam’s as soon as he’d finished, he’d only be half an hour. Jess knew Doc would be as quick as he could and left him to get on while he tracked down his boss. Little Joe had been right about the hotel his father would use, even the exact room, a small back room, which if not quiet was rather more so than most. Jess got the room number from a rather begrudging night clerk and headed up there. Ben had been late getting to bed and he was in a deep sleep. He had locked the door and it took quite a while for Jess’ pounding on the door and calling “Mr Cartwright” to wake him. Eventually it penetrated and Ben stumbled over to the door, rubbing his eyes, his hair tousled, trying to wake up, he had his gun in one hand, not sure what was going on, and at first he only opened the door a slit. Then as he recognised Jess he opened it wider, alarm flaring, as he wondered what was wrong.

Jess grinned, “It’s okay Mr Cartwright. Adam sent word to fetch Doc; the baby is coming a bit early. Joe asked me to get Doc and tell you. He and Hoss were going straight over to do what they could to help out.”


“I’ve told him. He’s up at the Kentuck but he’ll be finished soon and go straight out.”
“Thanks Jess. Go and get Buck from the livery stable for me please, while I get dressed. I’ll meet you out front in ten minutes.”

“Sure thing Boss.”

Ben dressed quickly, packing up his few things in a hurry to get home; knowing how anxious his eldest son was bound to be. By the time he was mounted Doc’s buggy appeared and Ben reined over next to him. Doc laughed “You’re almost as bad as Adam. Cheer up Ben, Carole’s fit and strong and the baby is kicking hard, no reason to expect any trouble.”

“I just wish we were there.”

“I’ll bet Adam does too, born worrier that boy of yours. Still judging by last time the baby will take its time. Won’t be as long as the twins but not a five minutes job. I should think we’ll be in plenty of time.”

Doc would probably have been right if Carole hadn’t delayed as long in telling Adam that her labour had started, a delay she was now regretting as the pains grew almost continuous and she knew that the baby would start coming soon as the urge to push grew.

Hoss had taken up a seat on the opposite side of the bed from Adam and he was massaging her back as the pains came leaving Adam to wipe her face and talk reassuringly to her. Adam wasn’t making much sense but Carole wasn’t even aware of that just relying on his soft vice and firm hand, everything would be fine as long as Adam was there.

Adam was as white as a sheet, scared that the baby would come before Doc did and petrified that his dream might prove true and this child would just be a larger version of the pathetic deformed child he’d buried just over a year ago. He was oblivious of everyone except Carole and he prayed for her, for the baby and for Doc’s arrival. His brothers watched him anxiously unable to help, Then suddenly Carole screamed as the waters broke and she moved into the second stage of labour.

Adam looked up in near panic, “Where the hell’s Doc?”

Hoss took control “He’ll be here any minute. Joe get me those towels, that’s it.” he laid towels to absorb the fluid and ordered his youngest brother to go and get the brandy quickly.

Joe hurried out needing a drink himself and knowing Adam did. Hoss grinned at Carole as she regained control “Looks like you may have to trust in us after all. Impatient baby, I’ll bet you’re right and it’s a girl. Now don’t you worry we know what we’re doing.”

Adam bit on his lip, staring at Hoss the anguish in his eyes very clear. Hoss smiled reassuringly “Now don’t worry. I’ve delivered babies before and you and Joe know a little bout it, Everything will be fine.”

Adam was barely aware of what his brother was saying, he just knew that something was wrong, the waters were tinged green. In animals that always meant trouble, often a dead baby and now his own child was in danger without even a Doctor there. Hoss knew what it meant as well as anyone but one of them had to stay calm. As Joe returned he told his little brother to pour out a drink and at Hoss’ order Adam drank it, not bothering to argue. Then Hoss felt Carole begin to push and he organised his brothers, leaving Joe to wipe her face while he and Adam supported her legs as the baby began to come. As though in a dream Adam did what he could to reassure Carole but it was Hoss’ calm encouragement which really helped the other three, He seemed so confident, sure of what he was doing, as the baby’s head began to crown Hoss moved ready to support it. Then Adam saw what he had feared, the cord was looped tight round the baby’s neck and as the baby was expelled from Carole’s body so the cord was being pulled tighter, getting compressed. He had seen foals and calves dead from exactly that although not a human child and close to panic he just sat staring. Hoss had seen at exactly the same time but keeping his voice calm with an effort, he smiled at Carole “Don’t want her coming too fast, hurting you. Pant Carole like a dog. That’s it harder now, don’t push just pant.”

Carole didn’t understand but trusting in Hoss she did as he said and while she was panting she couldn’t push. All the time Hoss kept on at her reminding her to pant but nearly all of his attention was on the baby. He slowly loosened the cord, pulling it out enough to ease the pressure and then telling Carole to push when she was ready. He waited until the head was clear to unloop the cord completely. As he pulled it clear the baby’s colour seemed to improve almost instantly and Adam who had been watching hardly breathing took a deep breath. Joe couldn’t see what was happening but he knew his brothers well enough to know something was wrong. He watched tensely unable to help, continuing to do what he could for Carole and at last he sensed that the immediate emergency was over.

Carole found this birth so different from the twins, even without Doc there she trusted Hoss and not exhausted by long hours of pain she could push hard as the urge hit her. She felt as though she was splitting in two and couldn’t help crying out but she didn’t care. Hoss eased the baby slightly backwards and first one shoulder and then the other emerged and then with a great slippery rush, the baby was there and she relaxed, recognising the unmistakable sound of birth.
Adam couldn’t look he was so scared it would be deformed and he stared unseeingly at Carole, telling himself at least his wife was alright. Joe was little better, he could see the panic in Adam’s eyes and was scared it meant his fears had been justified, he bit his lip and waited. It was left to Hoss to pick up the newborn child and swiftly examined it before cutting the cord and then grinning broadly he said “You were right Carole, you have a perfect little girl.” The child acknowledged that with a strong cry but Adam still looked at his big brother, the question clear in his eyes and Hoss repeated “Perfect. She's going to be a beauty like her Mum. She’s already got dark eyes and long eyelashes.” At that Adam held out his arms and took his daughter, “She’s lovely.” He said, his voice breaking. Then not wanting to upset Carole he busied himself cleaning up the baby.

Joe went over to the window as he heard horses, close to breaking down with relief himself. “It’s Pa and Doc.”

Hoss hadn’t missed the state his brothers were in and he suggested “Why don’t you two go down tell Pa he’s got a granddaughter and break it to Doc that he’s had a wasted journey. He can come and do the tidying up.”

Adam badly needed a few minutes to get control and he handed the baby to Hoss and then lent over Carole “Will you be alright for a few minutes my clever girl?”

She nodded tiredly “Fine. Hoss will look after me. Go tell Pa.”
Adam wasn’t sure, he didn’t like to leave her, but Joe took his arm and he let himself be led out, needing the support of his brother’s arm as reaction set in. Ben saw them coming downstairs and for a moment his heart felt as though it stopped, both his sons looked so drawn that he feared disaster had struck. Then Adam forced a grin, a travesty of one, but the best he could manage, “Sorry to drag you out here for nothing Paul. She’s just had a baby girl, less than five minutes ago. They’re fine Hoss is with them.”

“I’ll go help him tidy up. Taking over my job now, delivering babies.”

Doc hurried up the stairs but Ben hesitated, “Everything is alright Adam?”

Adam nodded “Yeah Pa. Fine healthy girl, Carole’s just a bit tired. I’m sorry Pa I need a drink,” Adam couldn’t fight free of the nightmare of the last hour and Ben caught his youngest son’s gaze. “Go on Joseph, you both look as though you need one.” Joe helped Adam over to the study and the brothers both sank down on the hearthrug with large brandies.

As Ben went in Hoss came over to him, leaving Doc to finish getting rid of the afterbirth. Hoss was still holding the tiny girl and Ben gently pulled the blanket back to look at the first baby girl in his family for a long time, She seemed to know that someone was there and looked up wide eyed. They knew she couldn’t focus yet but she seemed to be looking straight at them and then to both men’s amusement she flapped her eyelashes. Ben grinned widely, “She’s going to break some hearts when she’s grown.”

Then lowering his voice he led Hoss to the window, “What’s wrong with your brothers. At first I thought something disastrous had happened, they both looked on the verge of collapse.”

“I know that’s why I sent them down. Partly ‘cos we had to cope without Doc. Reaction once she was born and partly cos I think both of them have been scared still the baby might be deformed like last year.”

“What!” said Ben in horror “How long has this been going on?”

“I ain’t sure Pa, Adam never said anything but when the baby was born he just couldn’t look at her, not until I told him she was perfect. Joe told me he was worried, while we were marking up. It was just a year ago and he remembered that mare, kept throwing deformed foals.”

“Doc told them it was the fever then. He half expected it.”

“I know Pa, it’s not logical, I told Joe that but once he’d mentioned I couldn’t forget. I had nightmares, don’t know what it would have done to both of them.”

“Alright Hoss, you’ve more than done your share. You help Doc and I’ll go and calm them down.”

Hoss put his hand on his father’s arm “Pa one more thing. Joe didn’t see but Adam did. It was a bit awkward for a minute the cord was caught round the baby’s neck getting squeezed, hit him hard.”

Ben nodded and went on down to see his sons after congratulating Carole. She was quite content to lie back and let Doc and Hoss clean her up, just asking for some coffee.”

Ben found both his sons deep in thought and he gripped their shoulders, “Easy you two. Do you want some coffee?”

Joe got to his feet “I’ll get it.” Ben nodded “Come on Adam, up you get.” He helped his son into a chair and Adam buried his face in his hands, his head throbbing so hard he couldn’t see straight. “I’m okay Pa.”

“You’re a liar. The important thing is Carole and the baby are fine.”

“I know Pa. I just can’t seem to take it in. Thank god Hoss was here he was marvellous.” Adam fell quiet for a minute and then, as though a dam had burst, he began to talk almost to himself. Joe brought coffee but Ben just waved him to the other chair and let Adam talk. Adam told his father of the fear he’d felt seeing the water colour and his panic at seeing the cord tight round the baby’s neck. Hs voice was almost a monotone as he told his father how Hoss had managed the crisis and then, even quieter, he admitted his fear that the baby might be malformed and the eternity until Hoss told him that the baby was perfect.

Ben gripped his shoulder as Adam fell quiet “You know Doc said it was the fever last year.”
“I know. I didn’t say it was logical but babies are born imperfect for all sorts of reasons and if this one had done so I don’t know what Carole would have done. It was just so close. I couldn’t help being scared, Carole says I’m a born worrier, I guess she’s right. It was just the early hours I couldn’t always sleep.”

Ben looked over at Joe and smiled at both his sons, “What a pair! Well for once you were both wrong. Thank God.”

Adam looked over at Joe questioningly and Joe shrugged “I’ve never claimed to be logical. I was scared of the same thing.”

“I’m glad I didn’t know.” Adam sighed, “I must get back to Carole.”

“In a minute Son, you need to relax for a few minutes or you’ll be scaring her. Hoss will look after her.”

“He’s been doing that all night, I couldn’t seem to think straight.”

Joe nodded “He did a real good job Pa, even better than I realised. I knew something was wrong but not what.”

Adam had sunk back into thought and Ben had a job to make him drink some coffee. Then Adam tiredly pulled himself to his feet. Ben wouldn’t stop him even though Adam looked exhausted, but as his son climbed the stairs he had sufficient control to hide his exhaustion. By the time he reached Carole, Adam was able to show his honest delight at his beautiful daughter. Carole was tired but very content; she had washed and moved to a clean bed. Now that she had had some coffee she was ready to settle down to sleep. She had held her daughter for a while but now she knew Adam could take care of their child. Adam kissed her and then left her to sleep and carried his daughter downstairs.

Ben had let Adam go and concentrated on Joe, slowly persuading him to talk, Joe felt much better once he had talked it over, especially as his fears had proved groundless. Now all he was concerned about was his eldest brother. Hoss and Doc had come down leaving husband and wife alone with their newborn child. Only then did Doc hear of the trouble as Ben outlined what Hoss had said, scared there might be some lasting effect. Paul whistled softly, he had lost babies himself when that happened and he congratulated Hoss, he’d done a good job. Little Joe asked the question that had been puzzling him “How did you know to ask her to pant?”

Hoss shrugged “I didn’t. Guessed. It was the only thing I could think of. She was sorta gulping in air to push and I figured if she didn’t do that and concentrated on panting, maybe the baby would hold still long enough fer me to pull the cord off. I had to do something Adam looked, as though he was gonna collapse. Anyways it worked.”

Doc grinned, “Amazing. It’s the only thing to do Hoss and you hit on it by guesswork! Really trying to do me out of a job. She’s a lovely little girl and perfectly healthy.”
Hoss shrugged “Maybe I’d heard it somewhere without remembering or maybe God sorta helped out. Anyway Mother Nature does the real work in childbirth.”

Ben gripped his big son’s shoulder “You gave her a good helping hand Son, well done.”

Hoss was warmed by his father’s praise and relaxing yawned widely demanding some breakfast.”

By the time food arrived Adam was back down with his daughter, Carole was asleep. Adam couldn’t face food but he took some coffee and went over to the window staring out trying to sort out his thoughts; still holding this precious new life for whom he’d been so frightened. Ben went over “May I hold her Adam?”

Adam pass over the child smiling tenderly down at her, “She’s beautiful.”

Ben smiled, “She is that. Have you thought of names?”

“Not yet. I didn’t dare, seemed to be tempting fate.”

Ben could understand how his son had felt “I’ll look after her and the twins Son. Carole will sleep for a while, why don’t you go and get some rest? You look exhausted.”

“I couldn’t not yet I’m too tense to settle. If you can cope I think I’d like to go for a ride.”

Ben frowned; his son looked on the verge of collapse. He needed to rest, still he knew where Adam would go and it wasn’t far.

Adam recognised the concern in his father’s eyes “I’m okay Pa, just need to relax. Maybe Joe would come with me.”

Little Joe looked up at that “You know I will.”
Adam smiled “You don’t even know where I want to go.”

“Yes I do, the Lake.”

“Suppose I said it was somewhere else?”

“I wouldn’t believe you. I’ll go saddle up.” Adam nodded and his father, relieved to see him back enough in control to tease Joe, relaxed. Adam roused himself enough to thank Paul for coming even though it was virtually a wasted journey but Doc laughed “I’ve checked and they are both fine. You’ll still get my bill and I don’t mind being paid while Hoss does all the work. I must try and find a way to do that more often!”

Adam moved over to his big brother and gripped his arm, not knowing how to say thank you, owing his brother so much. Hoss had all the thanks he wanted from the expression in Adam’s eyes and he just pressed his brother’s hand “She’s a lovely baby.”

“Hoss, I....”

“No need Adam, I know. It’s alright, just you try and relax.”

Adam nodded slowly, knowing that words weren’t necessary and then as Joe appeared he went to get his coat and gun. They rode slowly up to the lake, not talking. Adam dismounted and leaving Joe to tie up the horses he went to kneel by the barely visible grave they’d dug just over a year ago. He remembered very clearly the tiny baby they had buried and now he had another perfect girl, not to replace but in some strange way to allow this one to rest more peacefully. Adam said a prayer of thanksgiving at last he could begin to forget. Then as his fears and the panic he’d felt as Doc didn’t arrive caught up with him and he swayed. Joe standing just behind his brother steadied him. Adam looked up “Help me up Joe.” Joe did as he was asked and Adam slipped an arm round his brother’s shoulders, leaning on him physically, as he had lent on his brothers all night. Together they walked slowly up to the point and there Adam slipped down into his usual spot. It was a beautiful morning and very clear, the Lake so very blue. For a few minutes he was quiet and then he looked at Joe, “You thought the baby might be deformed too?”

“I’ve been scared. I told Hoss but he said I was just being a pessimist. I kept remembering that palomino mare with her three foals.”

“Funny so did I. It was just so soon.”

“I know, Hoss just said that the twins had been fine only the fever damaged that one and there was no reason this one shouldn’t be as healthy as the twins. He was right.”

“Hoss has been right all along. He saved my daughter this morning. I couldn’t think, move, not that I knew what to do.”

“No matter as long as one of us did.”

“It should have been me, I didn’t panic when David was ill but childbirth always scares me and I couldn’t....”
Joe squeezed his shoulder, “Come on Adam, take it easy. It doesn’t matter. It was tough with Doc not coming, scared for the baby.” Joe broke off knowing that his brother wasn’t hearing a word and he moved closer and held Adam close to him, rubbing his back as Adam had so often done for him as a child. “Easy Adam easy, everything is fine,” Slowly he felt his brother relax against him and eventually Adam sat up “Thanks Joe. I’m fine now. I don’t know why I get myself in such a state, I’m so very lucky.”

“You just worry because Carole means so much to you. Come on lets get you home before you fall asleep here.”

Adam yawned, “I think I will sleep now, how about you?”

“I guess I’ll grab a couple of hours, Somebody has to look after the baby tonight,”

“I can.” Adam protested “I’m not ill this time.”

“Tomorrow, but not tonight, Hoss had done his bit, let me have a chance.” Joe grinned but Adam could see that he meant it. “Okay Joe and thanks but you’ve already helped, I feel so much better now.”

“Oh, that’s the Lake.”

“Only partly.” Adam rode back and after a word with his father he went to bed and was asleep instantly. He was awake well before Carole and now he’d calmed down he was delighted with his little daughter. When Carole woke up he took the baby into show her while Ben collected some food. Carole was thrilled with her tiny daughter, in fact she was smaller than either of the twins. Shorter but tubbier with beautiful slender hands and neat nails, rather daintier than her brothers, dark curly hair and big dark eyes already fringed with long lashes, a pink and white complexion, not at all new born looking. Adam sat cuddling the child while Carole ate and Ben left them to see to the twins, who were full of questions ever since their father had shown them their sister. Hoss and Joe were both asleep or had been last time he looked.

When Ben had gone out Adam grinned, “We must name this child. They are all complaining at calling her, it or her! Have you any ideas?”

Carole lent back with her coffee “I’d thought a lot about it, how about you?”

“Well Carole’s my favourite name but that’s already taken.”

“Be sensible Adam.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what you want. I’ll speak up quick enough if I don’t approve.”

“Alright I like two names, one is your Mother’s, Elizabeth and the other is Marie. I’d like to call her Marie Elizabeth but I didn’t know how you’d feel or Little Joe.” Carole bit her lip uncertainly.

Adam tried it “Marie Elizabeth Cartwright. Long name for a little one but it sounds right. I like it.”
“Elizabeth Marie is nice too but I tried it on the twins and both firmly said Lizzie. I’m scared if they once start that we’ll all pick it up and I don’t like the short forms. The only thing is.” She hesitated, “I don’t want to upset Joe.”

“Great, my daughter and she chooses a name to please my little brother!”

Carole just smiled, knowing how seriously to take that complaint “I loved Marie, I’d always wanted a sister and I’d like to name my daughter for her but not if Joe doesn’t want it. Maybe in time he’ll have children and want to use it himself or maybe it will be too much of a reminder. I want him to be free to choose, do you mind?”

Adam held her close and kissed her “I love you darling and that’s one reason. I’ll talk to Joe but I doubt that he’ll want to name a child by a second wife after his first. I think he may well be delighted, either way I’ll be able to tell.”

“I know that, so you sound him out and then we’ll name our daughter.”

Adam nodded and then amused her with the twins’ reaction to their sister. She suckled her daughter for a couple of minutes and then mother and child went back to sleep and Adam went on down. He found his brothers having a meal and laughed at them. “What is this lunch or dinner?”

Hoss grunted “You teach your offspring to arrive at a respectable hour and then you can start complaining. So far they’ve caused the maximum disruption.”

“Not under my control Hoss.”

Hoss waved at the twins, who were bullying their grandfather; “Matters don’t improve any.”

Adam laughed “Pa can cope. He survived you two.”

“Not both together.”

Adam grinned and then as Hoss reached for another piece of pie, he looked at Joe. “You’re very quiet Joe, finished?”

Joe nodded and poured himself some coffee, “Only half awake.”

“Spare me five minutes I want a word.”

Joe was puzzled but he said “Sure” and followed Adam into the study, even more surprised as Adam firmly closed the door, shutting the others out. “What’s up now?”

“Nothing Joe. Just something I wanted to talk over with you.” Adam poured himself a drink,

“The baby’s name.”

Joe frowned “Why not Pa and Hoss?”
“Because it doesn’t affect them.” Adam passed Joe a drink “Carole would like to call the baby Marie Elizabeth, the order of the names is up to you.”

“She’s your daughter.”

“Marie was your wife. Carole wants to name her daughter after her sister, she’d always wanted one and for a short while she found one. She loved Marie and misses her, but we’ll keep it as a second name if you don’t want to be reminded, or if you want to use the name yourself one day,”

“I couldn’t do that.”

“I didn’t think you’d want to but the choice is still yours Joe.”

“Do you like the name?”

“I sounds right the third generation of Marie Cartwrights but then so does Elizabeth.” Adam kept his voice deliberately non-committal and Joe hesitated. He was very touched by the idea, he didn’t want to forget Marie and the idea that Carole still cared enough to want to name her child after his Marie pleased him enormously, but knowing his brother’s occasional odd superstitions he wondered if the use of the name worried Adam. Both Marie Cartwrights buried up by the Lake had died very young. Joe sipped his brandy, considering his brother but Adam’s face told him nothing. He had to be sure how Adam felt before he could answer; after all it was his daughter. “What do you want Adam? Elizabeth was your mother’s name and the name Marie Cartwright hasn’t been exactly lucky. They both died so young.”

“Lucky? I don’t know Joe, from that point of view there’s nothing to choose. My mother was even younger than yours was. In some way all three were very lucky, they were all very much loved, too many people never have that.”

“You haven’t answered me. Which way round would you like it? If I wasn’t here.”

“Well the twins can say Marie. Elizabeth comes out as Lizzie but they’ll soon grow out of that.”
Joe smiled, he had his answer Adam was determined to leave it open for his brother but he would really prefer his daughter to be Marie, Joe tossed of the brandy and said “I think its a wonderful idea and I know that Marie would be thrilled. I believe she still will be. When Carole wakes up I’ll thank her, meanwhile lets go and tell Pa and Hoss.”

Adam studied his brother’s face but he could see the delight in Joe’s eyes, “Good Little Joe. It sounds so right. It was Carole’s idea.”

“We were all very lucky when you married her. After a shaky start she and Marie did become very close.”

“She came to mean an awful lot to all of us in a very short time. If my daughter grows up to be as kind and loving as her namesake I’ll be more than delighted.”

Joe smiled at his brother and linking arms with him went out to tell the others. Ben and Hoss had both been puzzled when Adam firmly led Joe off and shut the door, seeing a slight tension in him that they didn’t understand. They needed no long explanation as Adam came out and said “We have been discussing names, you were complaining about calling the baby it. She is now named Marie Elizabeth Cartwright.”

Ben and Hoss caught each other’s eye, both knowing why Adam had wanted to talk to Joe. Ben smiled “Very nice. Whose choice?”


Ben poured out four drinks and handed them round and then with an arm round his youngest son’s shoulders he proposed a toast, “To Marie Elizabeth Cartwright, may she grow up to be as beautiful and loving as her three namesakes.”

Hoss grinned “Hear, hear.” And the four men solemnly toasted the baby. Joe had a distinct lump in his throat, but it didn’t last as Mark pulled at his trousers, “Want drink please.”

Joe lifted him up “Not this young man, I don’t think you’d like it. Your new sister is going to be called Marie, you say it.”

Mark frowned “Marie. When will she walk?”

“Not for a while yet.”

“I want to see her gain,” Mark considered his Uncle and added enticingly, “Please.”

David not to be ignored had conned his way onto Hoss’ lap and he added his plea.

Adam laughed as his brothers tried to avoid saying ‘No’. “Maybe if two boys show how big they are by eating their tea without any fuss, once they are ready for bed, I’ll take them to see Mummy and Marie just for a few minutes.”

Both clambered down and ran to their father, promising ‘We will’ and Adam lifted one up in each arm and bore them off to the kitchen looking for food. Ben smiled at his eldest son, Adam had always been meant to be a family man even though it had taken him a long time to find it.

Joe grinned, “Nice little family older brother has got now.”

Ben had seen how pleased Joe was that his brother and sister-in-law wanted to name the baby after his dead wife and he said as much “Lovely idea of Carole’s.”

“With them all here we all share in Adam’s good fortune,”

“Maybe in time you’ll find it again Joe.”

“I know Pa but for now let’s just be glad for all we have got.”

For the next two days all the Cartwrights relaxed, enjoying the new baby. Adam with a lovely daughter, was happier and more exuberant than his family could ever remember. He had regained the serenity that fear for this child had caused him to lose for awhile but this was a much more positive joy. Each of his family reacted in their own way and it was a couple of days none of them were ever to forget, but the work of the ranch had to go on. Two days later Joe and Hoss had to go and start setting up the two lumber gangs; one at the head of the main fume and the other between the two new ones. Ben had to go and check with José and the cattle operation before going up to the mine, Adam had plenty to do organising the various work gangs, but he could work from home and stay with Carole and his children, so he wasn’t worried. Ben told his eldest son not to overdo it, this was always the busiest time of the year and Adam was already planning to move onto the west shore of the Lake in a couple of months to check out his provisional plans. Still Adam was so content that Ben wasn’t really worried about him.

It seemed quiet once the other three had left but with plenty to do, Adam didn’t feel guilty and enjoyed every minute that Marie was awake and played with his sons; even if he worked late into the night once they were in bed. They didn’t stay babies long and all too often he had to be away.
Doc came out to check mother and child and after pronouncing himself delighted with their progress, he passed onto Adam a message from Fair and Mckay. They were anxious to talk to him in town. The man he had as first choice for the detailed survey had been sufficiently interested to come to Virginia City and was in town. Adam hesitated, he wanted to see the man but Marie was only a few days old and although Carole was up and around it was bound to be tiring with the twins as well. Carole grinned at him, able to read her husband like a book in this at least, “Doc will you tell Jim Fair that Adam will be in early tomorrow.”

“Hold on a minute Darling, I can’t just drop everything.”

“I’m fine.”

“Sure but the twins are a handful and its only a few days, you don’t want to overdo things. Does she Doc?”

Doc could understand why Adam was anxious, but not wanting to get caught in the middle, he just shrugged. Carole said “Ask Hop Sing to come over for the day. Between him and Kam Su I might just be allowed to feed Marie, That pair dote on the children even more than your family, if that’s possible.”

Adam had to acknowledge the justice of that and seeing how stubborn his wife looked he sat down and put his arm round her “Alright Paul, you’d better give Jim that message.”

In town Harvey Schussler was trying to find out more about the Cartwrights, Adam in particular, He was intrigued by this new project, even bigger and considerably more difficult than the one on which he’d made his name. He’d built the Spring Valley water works to supply San Francisco and earned a reputation as the West’s top water engineer. This could augment it but on such a massive project much could go wrong. He had seen the final outline Adam had arrived at and on those figures the job could be done. It would be difficult and expensive but it was possible. What Schussler didn't know was the accuracy of the figures or the technical capacity of the man who had produced them. It had been made very clear that this unknown quantity would have the final veto, overriding power on the project, because of his ownership of the land and all rights of access to the water. Schussler could understand why the owners would want it that way but he was every unsure about getting involved. His initial doubts had magnified, when on asking around in San Francisco, he was told about a clever lawyer and wily negotiator, who had put one over on the bank of California on more than one occasion. There were a few comments that he had been involved in shoring for the mines, and something to do with flumes, but nothing clear. It was only his given word that had brought Schussler to Virginia City and he was determined to be very careful, at the moment inclined to say no.

Fair and Mackay had spoken very highly of Adam’s technical expertise, but then they had a vested interest, and had to admit the Adam would have the final say. Neither of them were really able to help about his technical abilities, as they were primarily miners and that wasn’t really Adam’s forte. They could only say that they personally had learnt to trust his technical expertise and he had always proved to be correct. Jim just shrugged off Schussler’s questions but John Mckay recognised his very real doubts and he suggested introducing Schussler to Philip Deiderscheimer. Philip had worked closely with Adam on several occasions and he was an engineer. Schussler accepted that offer; he knew Deidersheimer’s reputation as an engineer and would value his opinion. As they walked over to the Ophir where John expected to find Philip he said, “I’m not trying to hide anything. Eventually you’ll have to judge Adam for yourself and he will judge you. He has the final say on who we hire. I’m sure that Philip will be straight with you, but he and Adam are very friendly so you may think that his opinion is biased.”

“Fair enough. You’ve warned me. I’ll judge for myself.” John nodded and introduced the two men, quickly outlining the problem and then left them together. Philip poured coffee and offered a drink “I hope John McKay made it clear that Adam is my friend.”

“He did, but you’re an engineer. You ought to be able to tell me, is he any good technically? He’s prepared a preliminary survey and a best line for the pipe, how much reliance would you put on it?”

Philip smiled “You really don’t know anything about him. If Adam says it’s so, you can bet your life on it. The figures will be accurate and you can be 100% certain that it will be the best line. He knows the Ponderosa better than I know my wife’s face and I’m very happily married! Every stick and rock on that place, Adam knows it all. He’s lived here for nearly thirty years, well before Virginia City even existed.”

“You sound very sure, is he that good? I thought he was a lawyer.”

“He is and a good one but that’s recent, just the last four or five years. He studied engineering and architecture back east fifteen years ago. You know the square set shoring?”

“Of course, your design.”

“Strictly our design, I had the initial idea made a few sketches of possible systems but Adam did more of the detailed calculations than I did and had an equal say in the final specification and he built the first one, made the necessary changes on the spot. He would never accept any credit but it was his design as much as it was mine.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Most people did at the time but Adam ignored it and gradually his part got forgotten but not by me.” Philip filled in a few details of how he had been trapped in a cave in with Adam and come out determined to find a safer method. Then he went over to a cupboard and rummaged in the back coming out with a set of plans. “Have a look at these.”
Schussler studied them in silence for five minutes. “Impressive” he said eventually “I take it this is the flume I have heard about.”

Philip nodded “Adam did the survey and drew up the plans, these are copies of his originals. He went to Europe then but I know from the guy who built it that nothing was changed. Couple of years back two high sections were dynamited in a fight. Adam was badly hurt, flat on his back. His brother gave me these plans and I rebuilt the flume. Its beautifully designed. I had a complete volunteer work force, all friends of his. It was our wedding present to him, freedom to go off on honeymoon without worrying. A lot of people wanted to help that’s the sort of guy he is.”

Schussler nodded “I’m impressed. How about water engineering?”

“I’ve not worked on any but I know he has installed several pipes on the ranch down from the same Lake. Smaller scale of course, but he knows what he is talking about.”

“How about the terms, he’s big boss with final veto on everything. Would you work for him under those conditions?”

“It’s the only way that the Cartwrights will have it on the Ponderosa, they love that land. Maybe when you see it you’ll understand why. Its rather different from the rest of hills round here. Adam will be fair. Technically you’ll have an equal say and if he overrides you he’ll have sound reasons and knowing Adam he’ll probably be right. I think you’ll find him easy to work with, most people do. Granted he doesn’t suffer fools patiently but you wouldn’t be here if you were one. He’ll have run checks on you, I wouldn’t mind betting he’s had a look at the Spring Valley works.”

“Not easy.”

“Cartwrights carry a deal of clout even in San Francisco. I don’t know if I’ve helped but I should give it a chance, big project.”

“That’s why I’m here.” Schussler went back to the hotel with a great deal to think about. He was up early, eager to meet this man of whom he had heard so many reports and with whom he would have to work closely if he took on this project.

Adam was halfway to town when he heard a yell and turned to see his little brother coming up fast behind him. Adam waited for Joe; slightly anxious, but even from that distance he was fairly sure that nothing was seriously wrong. Joe pulled up alongside “Carole said if I hurried I’d catch you. I’m going to town to get some cash. Slight argument with the lumber crews they won’t take script, want cash.”

“I thought we’d stamped that one out.”

“That was last year or was it the year before? Couple of trouble makers. Pa was there, he thought it was easier to put up with the inconvenience than let trouble escalate. Maybe in a few weeks they’ll calm down.”

“How much are you drawing?”
“If you can ride escort back, I’ll get five or six weeks wages. Pa didn’t want me carrying too much cash on my own.”

“I’ve got to see this Schussler but after that I’ll ride guard, get you home safe. Can you add up that far to know how much to draw?”

Joe lazily threatened his brother and then asked after his niece. She had been sleeping when he called and Carole wouldn’t let him disturb her. Chatting the time went past swiftly and the brothers rode into town arranging to meet at the Palace for a drink before lunch. Adam rode up to the California to meet Jim Fair and Schussler, not giving any thought to trouble. Joe was a grown man and he knew Virginia City well. He wouldn’t actually collect the cash until his brother was with him, just make the arrangements and then enjoy himself for a while; he’d earned a break.
Adam was more concerned with Schussler. He had talked to several people whose opinion he valued while he was in San Francisco and all had spoken highly of the man’s ability. Adam had spared a couple of hours and gone to look at the Spring Valley works personally. If it wasn’t quite the way he would have handled the job, the engineering was impressive. The buildings stark and utilitarian offended Adam’s artistic sense but he wasn’t hiring an architect, anything required in that way he could handle personally. Adam had been warned that Schussler was a self-opinionated abrasive man but Adam didn’t mind that, provided he knew what he was talking about. In fact he thought his brothers would positively welcome it, he knew they had no great faith in his ability to delegate the work.

As he went into the office Schussler got to his feet and came forward and the two men frankly considered each other. They were very different, Adam tall strong, his gun casually on his hip taken for granted, a true westerner. Schussler not much taller than Carole, tubby, unarmed dressed more like a drummer than a cowboy, balding, a small bowler hat next to his chair. Adam noted and discounted these things, far more interested in the keen blue eyes, which were studying him as intently as he was studying them. Adam smiled and in almost a drawl he thanked Schussler for coming to Virginia City to discuss the project. He pulled out a chair and sat down, not wanting to tower over the other man. “Jim can you raise some coffee.”

“Sure and then if you don’t need me I ought to get down the mine.”

Adam was relieved, it would be a lot easier without Jim, but he hid it and just said that he was sure they could manage. He chatted casually asking Schussler’s opinion of Virginia City until coffee came and Jim had gone. Then Adam got down to business “You’ve seen the plans. I presume you are interested or you wouldn’t be here. As I understand it Flood outlined salary and the terms we are offering, you won’t find us ungenerous. Do you think you can do it?”

“If that survey is accurate, it is possible.”

“We both have to learn the other’s capabilities. I’ve seen the Spring Valley works so I have a head start.” Adam grinned, “It’s accurate but for now you will have to take my word for it.”

“Mr Cartwright I like the project, it is a challenge, but I’m not so sure of the terms.”

“You don’t like me having the final say.”

“Would you if the situation was reversed?”
Adam smiled, “Probably not. However we will have to live with the final result on our land long after you have moved on and I am not giving up my veto. I won’t use it unnecessarily and I’ll listen to any arguments you have against it but only time will show that. We don’t know each other but again only time will help. I don’t want a yes man or someone who is going to push the detailed decisions my way, I have a lot of other things to do this summer, planned in before this idea came up. Contracts to meet. I won’t be looking over you shoulder all the time.”

“You have a lot at stake in this, a lot of money?”

“Some but I won’t stand for any corners cut and I shall insist on high quality and good sound engineering. I don’t think we’re likely to differ there. I do have the whip hand in this as I have the water rights to the Lake apart from ownership of the land. That will only be signed over to the new water company if things are done my way.”

Schussler frowned “I understood it was jointly owned.”

“It is, but my father and brothers will back me, you need have no doubts on that score. I am speaking for all the Cartwrights. This pipe won’t be popular in certain quarters but it is necessary.”

“And you’ll make a big profit.” Schussler said almost bitterly.

Adam frowned, “Let’s get one thing straight. The mines need water and so does the town. We are deeply involved in this mine and a couple of others so building the pipeline isn’t exactly a philanthropic project, but on the other hand we will provide water free to any individual who needs it. Not the mines or businesses but free for the people and apart from carrying part of the cost the Ponderosa is donating the right of way and the use of water free to the company.”

Schussler stood up at that, “I didn’t realise.”

“No reason why you should. We can afford it and as I said our mines need the water too but we are not in this for profit. Neither do I want any personal prestige out of it. This is your project, all I want is to determine the direction it takes, the detailed problems are all yours.”

Schussler studied Adam intently for a moment, the tall cowboy wasn’t at all what he had expected, but Adam struck him as immensely capable and he found himself taking a liking to the man. Adam had been quick to deny philanthropy but there was a strong element of it. He felt that he could work with this man and after a couple of minutes he said “Alright Mr Cartwright, if you want me I’m in.”

Adam smiled delightedly and offered his hand “You’re in and the name is Adam, otherwise it gets confusing with my father around.”

“Okay Adam it is. I am pleased to know you.”

“Mutual. Would you like to take a ride out with me and see the line of the pipe on the ground? I’ll leave Jim word where we’ve gone. Sign the contract once you have had a chance to see for yourself.”

“I shan’t back out.”

“I wasn’t suggesting that you would, but any immediate questions I can deal with. I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to get into town, things get a bit hectic at this time of year.”

“Okay I’d like that.”

On the way up to the Lake Adam was able to show the exact line as he’d marked it out and he made his reasons for choosing that particular line very clear. Occasionally Schussler queried something or spotted a different line but Adam always had cogent reasons for his choice. By the time they reached the Lake Schussler decided his first opinion was accurate the survey would be correct and this was a good practical engineer. Schussler didn’t get on first name terms with many people and, although he had accepted the use of Adam’s given name as practical, he hadn’t intended to reciprocate. As Adam exerted himself to draw the other man out and show him the land Schussler found himself relaxing and he said that his friends called him Harv. Adam was able to point out the main flume and although he had shut off discussion of the square set shoring, he was willing to take credit and praise for his flume and later for his house as that came into view. Life would be simpler if Schussler accepted that he was an equal in engineering skill and worth listening to.

Schussler stared down at the house very impressed. “Fair said that you had studied architecture. It is very impressive. I can find my own way back to town, why don’t you go on home?”

“No thanks. I have arranged to meet my brother in town and anyway we have a contract to sign. My wife isn’t expecting me until late and I don’t want to disturb the kids.”


“Three. Twin boys of nearly two and a baby girl, who only arrived last week, We have a Chinese houseman and Hop Sing, who is my father’s houseman, is helping out. I think they would both be very disappointed if I came back early,”

Harv was surprised “You care what they think?”

“Why not?” Adam laughed wryly, knowing he was unusual, “Hop Sing has been part of my life since I was a child and he’s part of the family, means a lot to all of us. Even Kam Su has been with me for more than two years, my boys have always known him.”

“You’re lucky I have no family.”

“You could say that. Maybe we had better get back to town or the youngest and most vocal of mine will be telling me off. The adult’s that is. When we have signed the contract I’ll introduce you to Joe. If I’m busy he’ll probably be dropping by to see how things are going. He helped on the survey.”

“Another boss?”

Adam grinned, seeing the sudden withdrawal “No Little Joe is not stupid and he’s helped with our pipes but he wouldn’t set himself up as an engineer. He’s reasonable at figures but will still claim he can make two plus two make five.”

“Little Joe, odd name.”

“Habit. We don’t use it as much now but it’s difficult to break entirely, he’s the baby of the family, in his mid twenties now but he’s smaller than me and our other brother is much bigger about 300 pounds. Joe got the nickname as a kid and it stuck. Even in town you’ll hear it occasionally from people we have known a long time, though not so much now. He got married and lost his wife in childbirth, matured a lot and somehow it didn’t fit any longer. Now two years since she’s died he’s laughing again and the old nickname comes out.”

As it was lunchtime when they reached town and late at that Adam invited Harv to join him and his brother for lunch. They could settle the contract afterwards but he expected Joe to be waiting and starving. Harv accepted, intrigued by this man very different from what he had expected or was used to and he wanted to meet another member of the family.

Adam led the way over to the Palace and looking around was surprised not to see his brother. He knew he was late and wondered if Joe had given up on him and gone to get some lunch and, thinking that if so Joe would have left word, Adam headed over to Dan in his usual spot. Dan was deep in conversation with Roy Coffee, not a particularly surprising sight as they were old friends. Adam didn’t have any suspicion of trouble as he went over to join them That didn’t last as he sat down and asked, “Dan have you seen Joe, he was supposed to ....?”

Dan and Roy both stared at him in horror and Adam’s voice tailed off as he tried to make sense of their expressions. Roy was the first to recover “Adam! Jim Fair said that you’d ridden home.”
Adam frowned “I went out to the Lake to show Mr Schussler the lie of the land but I was meeting Joe here. What’s happened? Is he hurt? He was collecting a lot of money; that’s why I was meeting him.”

There was no answer and Adam looked from Roy to Dan “Where is he? For God’s sake tell me.”

Roy put a restraining hand on Adam’s arm “Joe will be fine. He’s down at Doc’s but it’s only a crease, noting serious.”

Adam frowned confused, “Why didn’t he wait for me! Was he robbed?”

“No, he hasn’t collected the money yet, it’s still at the Bank. I was going to ride home with him.”

“Roy, Dan, one of you just tell me what happened.” Adam demanded.

Dan sighed, “Take it easy Adam. Joe’s fine, He got forced into a gunfight, young kid wanting a quick reputation. Joe tried to avoid it but he couldn’t. He was lucky just caught a crease on his ribs.”

Adam frowned trying to work it out, it didn’t make sense and he said so and then asked, “The kid?”
“He’s fast. Faster than Joe anyway, or maybe Joe just didn’t take him seriously enough, he walked away untouched.”

“But why Joe? Five years ago, even three it would have been easy to push him into a fight but not now, he’s grown up. It must have been hard work.”

Dan nodded “It was. I heard most of it, Joe didn’t have a choice.”

“Joe doesn’t have a reputation not as a fast gun. Sure he’s good with a gun but he wouldn’t count if you were looking for a top reputation.” Adam stopped and intercepted the look between Roy and Dan. Then almost to himself he said, “He thought Joe was me, I do have a reputation as a fast gun. He just found a Cartwright. That’s it isn’t it?”

Roy shrugged “Either way its done now. Come on Adam, collect Joe and get out of town before there’s more trouble.”

Adam studied the sheriff carefully “Why should there be more trouble?”

“If he finds out that he was wrong.” Dan murmured but Adam just shook his head “There’s more to it than you’re saying. Oh maybe once I had a big reputation but that was years ago, I haven’t had to fight face to face in a very long time. Thank God.”

“Mainly because of your reputation.”

“Maybe Roy but these days I hope my name means something more than a fast gun.”

“Are you still as fast Adam?” Dan asked very seriously and for the first time Adam realised his friends were really worried that he too would be forced into a gunfight. He smiled reassuringly “I think so. I’m not exactly old yet.”

Roy forced a smile “Adam do me a favour, ride out now and go home. I’ll bring Joe and the money as I was planning, we thought you were safe out on the Ponderosa. You’ve got a family, a brand new baby, to consider and you sure don’t have anything to prove.”

“I don’t go without Joe.”

Roy tried to persuade him “It’s what Joe wanted. He was only concerned with getting you out of it, I couldn’t get him down to Doc’s until I ‘d promised to find you and make you go home.”

Adam shook his head “I’ve never learnt to run and I’m not starting now, For a start I am waiting for someone to tell me all the truth.” He appropriated Dan’s beer and lent back in his chair and waited. Roy and Dan looked at each other but both knew him well enough to know exactly what that obstinate look meant. Roy sighed, “Go on Dan you were here.”

Dan gave in and explained to Adam, while Harv listened hardly believing his ears. This was more like a book than real life and he couldn’t understand how Adam could listen so calmly, just sipping the beer. Joe had finished his business at the Bank arranging to pick up the money belt later and then wandered down for a chat with Dan and any other friends, who might be around. He said that he was waiting for Adam and had been there about half an hour when a young man came in. The man who was about twenty had his gun tied down low and all the signs of a gunfighter. He was obviously looking for trouble but Joe hadn’t paid much notice, there was no reason why he should be singled out. The man went over to the bar and asked a question and, to Dan and Joe’s surprise, the bartender, a relief man they barely knew, pointed over towards them. Joe didn’t want trouble but he eased his gun in the holster, just to be on the safe side. Joe ignored the man as he came over, sipping his beer, until the leg of his chair was kicked hard, then he looked up “Well?”

“You Cartwright?”

“That’s my name.”

“You’re smaller and younger than I expected. No matter, I want you Adam Cartwright.”

Dan would have spoken up but one glare from Joe held him quiet and Joe said mildly “Why? I don’t know you.”

“You killed my brother. Murdered him, blackened his name, called him a thief. Just because you wanted his wife. It’s taken me a long time to find you, to get here, but now you’ll pay.”

“I haven’t been hiding. I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I have been right here if you wanted me.”

“I want you. I want you dead. I’m Tony Enders, you killed my brother Bill.” Enders nodded as he saw recognition slip into Joe’s eyes. “You remember now. It’s past time you paid.”

“Bill Enders was a thief and a murderer. He tried to kill again and paid the penalty.”

“You killed him, hounded him and then killed him. You’re not leaving this saloon without facing me for it.”

Dan would have spoken but Joe shook his head. He tried to see a way out, but it was obvious that the young man meant every word of it. One thing was certain Joe wasn’t going to involve his eldest brother if he could possible help it. Adam had too many people dependent on him and if it came down to it, he hadn’t killed Bill Enders either. Their father had in fact fired the fatal shot but it had taken Bill two days to die. Adam had been completing his epic ride to prove Enders could have made it from Goat Springs to Virginia City in an hour and a half. There seemed little point in trying to talk to this youngster, who was obviously keyed up and ready to kill. Joe was scared that Adam would walk in on them and he flexed his hand and arm, wondering how fast he was. He had done very little practising since his injury the pervious year and for a long time hadn’t even worn his gun as it hurt his tender side. Joe didn’t know how fast the kid was, but he certainly appeared very confident.

Dan tried once more telling Joe not to do it but Joe just smiled and stood up, clearing his gun ready to draw. Joe did try once more “It was all a long time ago.”

“Too long, time you paid.” Joe wasn’t even listening, watching the man’s eyes, ready for the first move. Whether he hesitated because he didn’t want to kill or whether he’d really slowed, he couldn’t be sure but before his gun was level he felt the bullet hit his ribs. He had thrown himself sideways as he drew, not wanting to be killed, but before either man could fire again Roy was there with his shotgun. “That’s enough. Just what’s going on here?”

Joe pulled himself to his feet, anxious that Roy shouldn’t give the game away, calling him by his own name. “Nothing for you to get into Roy. Private business and a fair fight.”

“Well its finished now, no more fighting in my town.”

Tony Enders shook his head “Its not finished.”

Dan interrupted “It was a fair fight and you’re walking away. I should be grateful for that.”

Roy nodded his agreement “Get out and don’t cause no more trouble or next time you’ll finish in jail.”

Enders almost swaggered out and only then did Joe reholster his gun and lean weakly against the wall. Roy moved to support him “Right Joe what was that all about? How bad are you hit?”

“Just a crease. I’m getting slow, Roy you must find Adam get him out of town.”

“Let’s get you down to Doc’s.”

Joe shook his head stubbornly “I’m okay. Find Adam. That kid is Tony Enders, he wants Adam for his brother’s death. Do you remember Bill Enders?”

Roy whistled softly “That was a long time ago. Alright Joe I’ll go and look for Adam, if you’ll let Dan help you over to Doc’s. Where is he likely to be?”

“The California or on his way here. Get him out of town.”

Roy nodded, although he could see it was likely to be easier said than done. Only then did Joe let Dan help him over to Doc’s. He sat only vaguely aware of the pain as Doc cleaned, disinfected and bandaged his side, thinking round in circles. So far he had maybe bought a little time but two things were obvious, one he needed some practise on his draw and secondly this wasn’t finished. Joe hadn’t needed Enders to tell him that. He couldn’t be sure how fast Adam was now and the kid was very good. Joe hadn’t seen his brother practising in a long time. He knew that even at his best he’d never been as fast as his eldest brother, but even so he wasn’t sure that Adam was fast enough. If Roy could just get Adam safely out of town, maybe they would have time to think of a way out, without anyone being killed.

Between them Roy and Dan told Adam the whole story. Dan tried to reassure him, Joe only had a crease across the ribs, no bones broken, Adam sat not saying a word, pale at the thought of his little brother facing up to a gunfight in his stead. Eventually he asked “How fast is the kid Dan?”

“Very. I didn’t think Joe was at his best but even if he had been I don’t know that it would have made much difference. At your best maybe you’d edge him, but are you still that good?”

“Maybe I’ll have to find out.”
“Ride out Adam, now. I’ll get Joe home with the money. Let things settle.” Roy urged but Adam shook his head. “Do you really think they will Roy? It must be eight or nine years since Bill Enders died, the kid has had a long time to get his version fixed in his mind. I’m not riding out and leaving trouble to hit later. Maybe finding my little brother back shot. Do you think I could live with it if anything happened to Joe because this kid thinks he’s me.”

“Adam you didn’t even shoot Enders.” Roy protested.

Adam finished his beer and pushed the glass away “Oh Yeah that’s a great idea! First my kid brother now you want me to push the fight over to my father. If you’re doubtful I can take him, what chance would Pa have?”

“It could have been me Adam. I’ve still got the scar from Enders bullet; otherwise I wouldn’t have missed. You weren’t even in town. Tell him it was me, I’m the law.”

“He won’t believe it Roy and it isn’t true. You’re a good sheriff, but you’re no match for a fast gun.”

Roy sighed exasperated “Just what are you gonna do Son?”

“Whatever I have to, but I’m not leaving town, hiding behind Joe or anyone else. I’ll do all I can to avoid a killing but that’s all I can promise.”

Dan tried, “Adam you have to think of Carole, the twins, your new baby. Be sensible.”

“I know Dan but I also have to think about Joe. I don’t want him brought in draped over his horse, back shot, and I won’t take a risk on it. This is my fight.”

Harv had been listening in silence, but now puzzled he asked, “If your father killed this guy, how come it’s not your brother’s fight as much as yours?”

Adam looked at him for a moment as though he’d never seen him before and then he said, “Bill Enders was a friend for more than six years. I hardly believed it when he held up a stage way station and killed the old man who ran it. I was the only witness and noone else believed me. Even my family found it hard. Enders was in town here an hour and a half after the robbery twenty-five miles away and the Pony Express rider couldn’t make the ride in that time so Roy had to let Enders go. I knew he was guilty and he tried to use his wife Mary to seduce me into giving up, which confirmed it. My brother and I found a short cut and a dead horse and I tried the ride myself. This time Mary knew that he was going to try and have me ambushed on the way and she couldn’t live with that, so she told the sheriff that he was guilty, just before I got back to town. He tried to run for it, shot Roy and my father shot him. He died two days later swearing hatred of me for ruining a perfect scheme, freely admitting his guilt.” Adam sighed heavily “I didn’t even know that he had a brother, but you can see it was my fight not Pa’s. My family backed me, but it was my fight,”

Harv didn’t know what to say, it was all so different from what he was used to, Roy said “Bill Enders asked for all he got, we have to make the kid see.”

“Be realistic Roy. If he’s as young as you say he can’t have known Bill at all, just idolised an older brother and he’s had years to settle on his own version of events. He won’t believe us.”

“Then you’ll have to kill him.” Dan said quietly.

Adam forced a grin, “Not if I can help it, Bill Enders wasn’t worth it. Either way Roy, its my problem, and I’ll stay within the law.”

“I know that Adam. How about Joe?”

“I’ll go and see him in a minute.” Before Adam could go anywhere, there was a disturbance.
Word had spread quickly about the earlier shooting and the saloon was crowded as Tony Enders came back, He had soon found out who he had actually shot and the word was brought to him in the Bucket o’ Blood that his original target was now in the Palace. Even if Adam had wanted to go home, to run away, it was doubtful that he would have made it.
Enders pushed his way through and stared at Adam for a minute, then he glanced at the sheriff

“That how you keep your job, protecting Cartwrights?”

Adam laid a restraining hand on Roy’s arm, “He’ll stay out of it. You were looking for me, I’m Adam Cartwright.”

“You’re more what I expected. You used to have a reputation as a fast gun, is it still valid?”

“You’re the one who wants to know.”

“It won’t be enough. Why did the other guy keep quiet?”

“He’s my brother, he tried to protect me. You of all people should understand that. I wonder if Bill would have done. He asked for what he got, he was a thief and a murderer. I was sorry he turned out that way, we had been friends, but he sure wasn’t worth losing your life over.”

“You’re a liar.”

Adam shook his head. “No I’m not, but I understand that you find that hard to accept. I don’t want to have to kill you too.”

“Face me, or are you too big a coward, you wouldn’t face Bill.”

“I had my reasons. There’s no need for this.”

“Your brother faced me, maybe next time he’ll have to do it again and this time I won’t miss. This has needed doing for too long.”

“Not in here, too many people.”

“So I go out the front and you run out the back.”

“I don’t run. If you insist on a fight, I’ll accommodate you.”
Tony Enders nodded and turned to walk out, the crowd opening before him. As Adam got to his feet Roy gripped his arm, “Let me arrest him, Adam, don’t fight.”

“What charge, breach of the peace? It won’t solve anything Roy. You can’t hold him for more than a few hours. I’d rather face it now before anyone else gets hurt. Joe’s already taken a bullet for me.”

Roy could only let Adam go and with Dan and Harv moved out behind him into the street. Word had spread and the sidewalks were crowded but the road itself was being hurriedly cleared, horses and wagons pulled back out of the way of a stray bullet. Enders stood waiting in the middle of the road.

Word had even reached Doc’s house and Joe pulling on his jacket had hurried out, with Doc right behind. Joe spotted his brother and headed over to stand in front of him. Adam could see the fear and worry, and traces of pain but at least Joe was on his feet and didn’t look too bad.

“Take it easy little brother.”

“Don’t do it Adam. You’ve got nothing to prove. Think of Carole and the kids.”

“There doesn’t seem to be much choice Joe. Thanks for trying to stand in for me, guess we’re just too well known.”

“He’s fast. When did you last practise?”

“Quite a while but they say you never forget. Dan look after Joe for me.”

“Please Adam, “ Joe begged. But his brother just smiled gently “Easy little Joe, you know what to say if....” Adam broke off not able to put his feelings into words with all the interested parties but knowing that Joe could read them in his eyes, He gave his brother a swift hug regardless of bystanders and then stepped out into the road, settling his belt easily.

For now Adam was oblivious of everyone and everything except what had to be done. He was very cool, although it was a long time since he had drawn a gun in anger, one to one, he was confident that his hand would move instinctively as it always had. He stood deceptively casual “Alright Enders whenever you’re ready.”

Enders was tense but he was confident, he had already beaten one Cartwright and he could take this older man. As the challenger it was his first move and suddenly he went for his gun. In the complete silence everyone seemed to have stopped breathing as his hand moved. Unlike his brother Adam didn’t move as he saw Enders make his move. His own gun came up smoothly, so fast it was almost impossible to see and there was one shot which took Enders’ gun from his hand before he had it level. Enders looked down at his empty hand, numb from the blow, disbelievingly, this couldn’t be happening he knew he was fast.

The onlookers were almost equally stunned, most of them knew about Adam’s reputation but few had ever seen him in action and even those were convinced that he was faster than ever.

Adam walked over to the young man and picked up the gun. “I don’t want to kill you. Take your gun and put it away. I can take you any time, anywhere, and next time I won’t aim for the gun. Bill Enders tried to have me shot in the back just before he was killed. You won’t believe that because you don’t believe what Bill was like. If you shoot me in the back now you will just be proving what the Enders family is like. I don’t believe you are, I was wrong about Bill, I hope I’m not wrong about you. Its finished,” With that Adam put the gun back in Enders’ holster and turned his back walking over to Joe.

Joe had stood, hardly daring to watch as Adam walked into the road. He held his breath as they waited for the men to draw and then, as Adam’s hand moved too fast to see and Enders’ gun went flying, he gasped and swayed. He was glad of Dan’s support to keep him on his feet. He had never seen his brother draw so fast. Well aware of Adam’s speed even so he was surprised. He saw the scene as though through a haze and his brother’s voice seemed to boom as Adam spoke to Enders. Joe was oblivious of the outbreak of comment all round him as Adam came over to him. Joe was trembling and Adam put his arm round Joe and helped him into the saloon.

“Dan get us a couple of brandies please.”

Adam helped Joe into a chair and pulled another chair up close. His brother was as white as a sheet and looked as though he might collapse any moment. Adam was too worried about Joe for reaction to the fight to affect him for the moment and seeing Doc he beckoned him over and asked anxiously “How bad is he?”

“Just a crease, bones not touched. He lost a bit of blood, badly shaken and then you go and terrify him.”

Relieved that there was no need to worry about Joe’s physical condition, Adam managed a grin “Joe should have more faith in his older brother.” He took the brandy Dan passed him and held it to Joe’s mouth “Come on Little Joe, everything is alright, easy now.” Adam slowly fed his brother the brandy; glad to see a little colour return to his lips, Eventually Joe pulled away from his brother “I’m alright.” Adam could see he wasn’t but with so many interested bystanders he accepted Joe’s unwillingness to talk and as his brother had better colour and was sitting up straight, Adam gratefully drank his own brandy.

Roy came over to join the brothers. He had followed Enders once Adam left him, worried about what might develop. He sat down heavily and Adam, who’d guessed where he’d gone, asked,
“Where is he?”

“Down at the Bucket O’Blood, drinking and staring at his hand as though he doesn’t quite believe it. I didn’t know you were that fast Adam.”

Adam grinned, “Don’t let it get around, it might spoil my image, but I didn’t either! Just one of those days when everything goes right.” His grin faded as he thought what it might mean and he frowned at Dan, who was sitting next to Roy.

Dan could see what he was thinking, “I can’t help it Adam. Its news I have to print it.”

Adam sighed heavily "I know and it wouldn’t make any difference if you didn’t. Too many people around, word will spread and inevitably get exaggerated.”
“Doesn’t need much exaggeration. I’ve never seen faster “ Roy commented.

Adam shook his head “I should have kept my big mouth shut shouldn’t I? Something more than a fast gun!” he sighed “Oh God!”

Joe put his hand on Adam’s arm, worried about his brother and Adam forced himself to relax

“Don’t worry Joe. It’ll soon die down and I won’t be around to tempt anyone to try their luck this summer. Too damned busy out at the ranch.”

None of the others were too sure about that, all knowing just how impressive a performance it had been and how word was going to spread. Adam got up. “Dan will you keep an eye on Joe for me please. I’ll go and collect the cash and our horses. Time we got you home little brother, you look all in.”

Joe couldn’t object, but as Adam went out he looked over at Roy, “Is it over or will Enders try again?”

Neither of the others could give him a firm answer, they didn’t know Tony Enders and his brother’s performance didn’t engender confidence. Even if Enders kept out of it, when word spread someone might well try and use Adam to gain a reputation, and word would spread nothing was more certain.

Adam was equally aware of the results of this days work but he still didn’t see that he had had any choice and there was nothing that he could do about it now so he endeavoured to put it to the back of his mind. For safety’s sake he would put in some practice on his draw, but so far noone had been killed, things could be a lot worse. In sombre mood, the expression on his face was sufficient to deter anyone from commenting to him direct, although the whole town was still buzzing. Adam went into the bank to complete his business and collect the money belt. Jim Fair found him there and asked if he would spare time to settle the contract. Adam wanted to get his brother home and was in no mood to haggle over terms. He told Jim to give Schussler what he asked for, if it was more than they’d expected the Ponderosa would bear the difference. As Jim had the contract with him, with the terms awaiting filling in, Adam, broke with his usual habit and signed it, leaving Jim to arrange the details, Even Fair didn’t push for once, recognising that Adam had withdrawn into himself and wasn’t willing to talk.

In all Adam was in the bank for twenty minutes, plenty of time for two men who had their own ideas about the day’s events. The men Hank Munro and Jim Trent had tangled with the Cartwright brothers before. They had been with Pardoe’s gang two years earlier when both brothers had been badly hurt. After Hoss beat Bull Pardoe and Bull was killed the two men had faded into the background and the Cartwrights hadn’t cared enough to bother with them. In a strange way that had rankled and without Bull’s reputation they had become nonentities in Virginia City. Now they saw the chance of getting a stake and a reputation in one go. Trent had been close enough to hear Roy offer to escort Joe and the money to the Ponderosa, seeing Adam go into the bank he was confident that the Cartwrights would be carrying a substantial sum. The two men went into the Bucket O’Blood and joined the youngster, still sitting staring morosely at his hand, unable to believe what had happened. Enders had been drinking but in his current mood it didn’t seem to be having any effect, lost in his own thoughts. The two men joined him and they were very sympathetic. They spoke of their friend who had died because of Adam although not going into any details and soon had Enders convinced that what had happened was just a fluke. They persuaded Enders that he could take Cartwright if he could just face him away from the sheriff and all the rest of the town folks. Almost before he knew what was happening Tony Enders found himself riding out of town with them, determined to face Adam again on his way home and finally settle for his brother.

When Adam got back to the Palace with the horses, Joe had calmed down a little and assured his brother brusquely that he was alright as he went out to Cochise. Everything had already been said and Adam just said good bye to his friends, knowing that they would do what they could to stamp out the wilder versions of the day’s events. Roy warned him to watch his back, but Adam wasn’t expecting any further trouble in the near future and just nodded, going out to join Joe. He pulled Blackie in close to Cochise but Joe wasn’t seriously hurt and now he had got over the shock of the second gunfight, he was back in control. The brothers rode close together but not talking as they made their way out of town. Once they had turned onto the road to the Ponderosa and the traffic had eased Joe asked, “What are you going to do?”

“Nothing I can do little brother. Watch my back as Roy said, maybe put in some practise.”

“I’ll have to, I know I’m not at my best but I hadn’t realised I’d slowed so much.”

“Maybe you haven’t, he’s fast. I’ve never had everything go so smoothly before. Lucky but I can’t rely on it happening again. You’d better come and stay for a couple of days. Pa’s not home and I don’t want you on your own. You’ve got some blood to make up, let it start healing.”

“I’m okay Hop Sing can get anything I need.”

“Don’t be daft Joe. Carole can keep an eye on you while I go up to the lumber camp and you can make sure that she doesn’t overdo things.”

“What are you going to tell her? She’s only just had a baby.”

“I know. I’ll just have to tell her what happened. I haven’t any choice she knows me too well. Another reason for you coming, help stop her worrying.”

“I’m alright I can manage at the camp.”

Adam shook his head, “No! Not for a few days you’ve been badly shaken, you can’t deny it.”
While the brothers were wrangling they drew close to the wooded section of the trail where two years earlier Pardoe had ambushed them. His men hadn’t forgotten and were waiting with Enders. Enders wasn’t quite clear what they intended, but they promised him his chance at Adam. They would just force him to stop and keep the other guy out of it.

Adam had been sure that Enders was too stunned by his complete subjugation to get himself together for a while and the last thing he expected was more trouble that day. Maybe in a couple of days there would be trouble but not yet. The delay in town hadn’t been long enough for the kid to get well liquored up, which might be the only way he would face Adam again. The shot from the trees took Adam totally by surprise, it just grazed his ribs but before he could react three men appeared and two of them had guns levelled on the brothers. Joe was dragged roughly from Cochise and one of the men searched him roughly for the money, starting his side bleeding again but Joe was more worried about his brother and was barely aware of the warm blood or the pain. Adam tried to go to his brother but he was shoved roughly to the ground and took a kick in the stomach. The other man then yanked his shirt and jacket back and gave a grunt of satisfaction as he saw the well-filled money belt. The belt had taken the main force of the bullet and it had been driven into Adam’s side, as it was torn from his body it took a chunk of skin with it and the blood began pouring down his side. Adam choked back the cry of pain, biting his lip, worrying about Joe. Enders just watched not really understanding what was happening and Adam, fighting for control of his breathing, looked up at him and said bitterly “I was wrong about you too. Just like your brother, a thief. Are you a murderer like him?”

“I don’t want your money.” Enders said. He’d started almost convulsively, only really taking in what was happening as Adam spoke. Before Adam could say any more he got a boot in the side, which just about took all his breath away. Munroe concentrated on calming Enders down “You’ll get your chance at him. This just a perk for me and my mate.”

Joe glared at him “Some perk more than thirty thousand dollars.” His only answer was a punch in the side right on his wound and he sunk to his knees hugging himself as the pain slashed through him. Enders licked his lips, out of his depth but refusing to admit it even to himself. “Let him alone, I’ve no argument with him.”

Adam pulled himself to his feet, drawn and still short of breath, desperately worried about Joe and the situation they’d got themselves into. He vaguely recognised the two older men and the bloodlust in their eyes was all too obvious. Their only chance might lie with the kid if his first opinion of Enders hadn’t been too far wrong. He forced Enders to meet his eye “You have no argument with me either. Your brother broke the law just as you are doing. He paid the penalty, back out now or you’ll do the same.”

Enders looked from Adam to his brother and then at the two men who were backing him, one still holding the bloody money-belt. For a second he couldn’t avoid the thought that he was on the wrong side but he pushed it from him, sustained by years of hatred and dreams of revenge. He wouldn’t meet Adam’s eye as he said, “You’ll get your chance, face me just as in town only alone. No sheriff to back you up here.”

Adam was puzzled, “Its only hours since you tried that. I can take you, in town, here, anywhere. You’re not as fast.”

Enders didn’t answer but he told the other two to stay out of it, just keep Joe back. Trent pulled Joe back towards the trees and Munroe grinned “Sure he’s all yours kid.” Neither Munroe nor Trent had any intention of letting Adam or Joe leave the spot alive. There was even more money than they had hoped and an ideal scapegoat in Enders, but for it to work they had to kill both the Cartwrights and once well clear take care of the kid too. Adam didn’t need the plan laid out and he tried once more “Don’t be a fool Enders. They are using you, all they want is our money and then they’ll kill you too.”

His only answer was a vicious blow from Munroe’s gun barrel across the biceps on his right arm. As the gun sight bit deep into his muscle Adam couldn’t help the cry of pain and he went down on one knee nursing his maimed arm. He remembered the previous occasion when he’d had a similar blow and he finally placed Munroe. He had seen that same face gloating then too, Adam’s right arm was on fire, numb below the injury and useless and he could only see through a red haze. He shook his head trying to clear it as he heard Munroe say, “He’s all yours kid. I reckon you’ve got a fair chance now,”

Adam had been vaguely aware of his brother crying out and he looked over at Joe. Little Joe had seen what Munroe was doing a split second before the blow landed and cried out “Adam.” He had tried to go to his brother, but another blow on his ribs had sent him to the ground. He was lying holding his side, white and in obvious pain, but still more concerned about his brother,
Adam took a minute to get control of himself, the only chance they had was his gun, he was still armed although Joe’s gun had been taken. If he could just get his gun out he was a reasonable shot left-handed. Three to one the chances were remote but he didn’t know what else to do, maybe he could at least buy Joe a chance to live.

Enders stood facing him ready to draw as Adam slowly got to his feet, still nursing his useless right arm. Enders didn’t really approve of what Munroe had done but he didn’t understand the effects of the blow and his hatred enabled him to cut out the meaning of the white drawn face, as the man he hated came to his feet. Very slowly Adam straightened his right arm but he couldn’t work his fingers and there was no way he could hold his gun. For a moment he stood still breathing deeply trying to get control. Then he said “I’m not drawing, just turning the butt.”
Enders didn’t understand but Joe did and regardless of the pain and the gun on him, he came to his feet. “No Adam you can’t.”

Adam slowly turned his gun with his left hand until the butt was ready to draw left handed. He eased it slightly in the holster, hoping it wouldn’t catch in this unusual position. Joe was off to his left and Adam tried to smile reassuringly at his brother. Joe couldn’t stand straight, holding his ribs but his only thoughts were for his brother “Adam don’t. It will be murder just plain murder.” The anguish in his voice penetrated the shell Enders had built round himself and he glanced over at Joe and for the first time took in his condition. He swallowed hard but his hatred of so many years was proof against it and he faced Adam. Joe tried again “Think of Carole, the children. Marie’s only a week old, they need you. Please Adam you can’t draw left handed.”
Adam looked over then and for a moment he ignored the other three “Easy little brother. I don’t have a lot of choice. You look after them if....”

Little Joe couldn’t help a sob and Adam would have given a lot to go to his brother but he couldn’t and he pushed all thought of Joe and his family from his mind as he faced Enders. If he could just get his gun out maybe he could do something, if he didn’t draw they would be killed anyway. Enders might not murder them in cold blood but the others would and enjoy it. Enders stood facing Adam, his mind in turmoil, sensing the love between the brothers, obvious in their tones. The sort of affection he’d always dreamt of, the reason he hated Adam, for taking his brother away. Yet in his heart he knew that Bill had never had any time for him. He’d always thought that when he was older Bill would notice him but he’d never had the chance to find out. He looked from one brother to the other and then at the two men waiting for him to draw, enjoying the prospect of him gunning down the injured man one still holding the bloody money-belt. Suddenly Enders knew that he couldn’t do it, Adam had claimed his brother was a murderer and thief and if he did this he would be exactly that, whatever Bill had been. He found himself remembering the streak of cruelty Bill had had when he was at home and comparing him to Adam. Adam had had every right to kill him in town, after all he had already shot one Cartwright, and yet Adam had just shot the gun from his hand. The thoughts raced through his mind as he stood hesitating and then Munroe said “Get on with it kid we don’t have all day.”
Joe involuntarily said “No” and got a blow which made him fall again and that settled Enders mind and he went for his gun. As he did so Adam went for his but he was so desperately slow, the gun at the wrong angle and his left hand not acting instinctively. Almost before he had his hand on the gun Enders had his out. Adam sank to one knee as he pulled his gun vaguely aware of Enders saying” Munroe” but it didn’t penetrate for a second. Then he heard the shot but the bullet didn’t come anywhere near him Finally he had his gun out and he saw Munroe fall, instinct took over and as Trent levelled his gun at Adam, Adam twisted and fired twice. He felt the wind of Trent’s bullet as it just caught his shirt but the other man fell. Before he could readjust his aim on to Enders he would be dead and he just prayed that Joe could get Trent’s gun and save his own life. Adam braced himself for the bullet not really understanding what was happening. Enders had his gun aimed at Adam but he couldn’t shoot and slowly he let it fall to point at the ground. Joe had been watching from the ground unable to do anything to help and for a moment none of the three men could move. Adam was the first to gain control and he got to his feet and took the gun from Enders’ loose grip. As though he had broken a spell Joe moved too, taking Trent’s gun and reclaiming his own. Then he checked Trent was dead and took the money-belt back. He checked Munroe and then walked over to Adam who was still standing looking down at Enders, who had sunk to his knees, buried his face in his hands and was sobbing bitterly.

Joe just gripped Adam’s left arm for a moment neither of them able to speak and then Adam said

“God we were lucky. How bad is your side Joe?”

“Sore. I thought he’d kill you.”

“I don’t understand either, just thank God. Sit down Joe let me rebandage that side.”

Joe giggled, almost hysterical with relief, “How, one handed? What about your side?”

Adam put his good arm round his brother’s shoulders, feeling the tension in him “Easy Joe, it’s alright. God still on our side.”

Very slowly Joe relaxed against his brother, weak and in pain but against all the odds they had survived. Enders finally looked up and saw the brothers close together, both white and in pain, the affection between them so very obvious. Neither were paying him any attention as Adam, clumsy left–handed, tried with what help Joe could give him to tighten the bandage round his ribs and stop the bleeding. Adam had put his right hand in his jacket for some support and was trying to ignore the throbbing agony in it. Enders got to his feet and went over, wanting to attract Adam’s attention he just touched his right arm, not at all aware of the damage Munroe had done. Adam couldn’t help the cry of pain at the touch and Enders flinched back as though he’d been stung. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Adam swallowed hard “Alright. Just don’t touch my arm.”

“Will you let me help?”

“Sure, can you pull it tight. Got to stop the bleeding so I can get him home.”

Joe gritted his teeth against the pain, but as it eased, he looked up at Enders “Why didn’t you shoot Adam?”

“I couldn’t.”

“Is it finished?” asked Joe,

Enders laughed bitterly “For the next twenty years I won’t have much choice. Maybe I should have shot while I had the chance.”

Adam said “I took a chance there was something in you. Bill wasn’t all bad, he was my friend once. You’ve proved me right but you haven’t answered my brother’s question. Is it finished?”

Slowly Enders nodded “I can’t outdraw you and I won’t murder you and maybe....” he broke off, he couldn’t admit yet that Adam had been justified in killing his brother, he had hated Adam for too long, in the abstract.

Joe said, “Your horse is over there, ride out. We won’t try and stop you. You helped us and if its finished for you then it is for us too.”

“But I helped rob you.”

Adam smiled “We have our money and the two men who took it are dead. They were using you; they would have killed you once we were dead. As Joe said you helped us.”

Enders stood there hesitant and Adam asked, “Are you going back to Virginia City?”

“I don’t know. I thought you would have me arrested.”

“No its over. Just that if you were you could ask Doc to come out to my house, Joe’s undone all his hard work and it needs stitching again.”

“And you?”

“Just a graze and a bruised arm. I’m fine. If you aren’t it doesn’t matter. I’ll get one of the hands to go once I’ve got Joe home.” Both brothers looked on the verge of collapse to Enders and almost without thinking he said “I’ll go but let me see you home first, don’t neither of you look too good.”

Adam accepted knowing if Joe should collapse before they got home, one handed he’d be able to do little to help his brother. Enders helped Joe onto Cochise while Adam slowly mounted and then he looked at the two dead men “How about them?”

“I’ll get someone to take them into Roy, the sheriff, just at the minute I don’t much care.”

Enders felt very awkward as he pulled his horse in the other side of Cochise, but soon he was too busy to have time to worry. Little Joe had lost quite a lot of blood, although the wound wasn’t particularly serious and the day had been one alarm after another. With the pain of his wound and the terror he had felt for his brother, he was close to collapse, now he was no longer held up by the tension and he had a job to hold onto his senses. Adam tried to steady him but the pain from his arm threatened to engulf his whole body and he was very glad when Enders moved to lead Cochise. As the house came into view Adam straightened up “Will you look after Joe for a couple of minutes Tony. I want to warn my wife. It’s only a week since she had a baby and I don’t want to scare her too much.”

Enders looked at him in amazement “You’d trust me?”

Adam smiled, slightly ruefully, “If you’d wanted to murder us we’d be dead. You could have just stood back and let that pair kill us, they’d have enjoyed it. Instead you helped us. Why shouldn’t I trust you?”

“I shot him. I wanted to kill you, that’s why I came.”

“You said it’s finished, I believe you, we start again, you’ve more than squared anything you did. Anyway Joe said it was a fair fight.”

“I’ll look after him” Tony promised very earnestly and Adam smiled, “I won’t be long.”

Adam hurried into the house leaving the others to follow more slowly. He dismounted and took a moment to get control of himself before walking in, but although he hid most signs of pain he was still very pale and his arm was supported in his jacket. Carole came to her feet as soon as she saw him but Adam smiled and hurried over to her. “Easy my love. Everything is alright.”

“You’re hurt. That’s blood.”

“Just a scratch and I’ve bruised my arm. There was some trouble but its over. No need to worry.”

She scanned his face but what she saw in his eyes reassured her and she sank back down “Are you sure?”

“Positive. Joe is hurt, just a crease but he’s lost too much blood, needs to go to bed, He’ll be here in a minute. Don’t worry alright?”

“Have you left Joe alone?” Carole asked in disbelief.

“Of course not. A friend is with him, Tony Enders. They’ll be here in a minute. I just wanted to warn you first. There’s nothing to worry about, Joe will be fine in a few days.”

“I’m alright darling. I’ll go and heat a bed for Joe. Hop Sing is out with Kam Su ask him to get some water on"

Adam kissed her “Easy my love. I’m sorry to spring it on you.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m not an invalid. Sounds as though they are here.”

Adam moved out as Enders pulled up by the hitchrail and between them they helped Joe into the house. Weakened Adam couldn’t do much, but under his directions Enders got Joe upstairs into the spare room, and there Adam and Carole helped him out of his coat and shirt.
Enders went back downstairs not knowing quite what to do. As he waited a man came in and he stared at Enders, demanding to know who he was. Enders gave his name and immediately found himself covered by a gun and the man called “Adam are you there, Joe?” The alarm in his voice was very obvious and Adam left Carole and Hop Sing to cope and hurried downstairs. As he took in the tableau he smiled, “It’s alright Jess, put your gun away, he’s a friend.”

Jess hesitated, seeing that Adam was hurt, but slowly he holstered his gun. “From what I heard in town, that don’t seem too likely! What’s going on Adam? There are two bodies on the roadside.”

“I know. I presume you’ve met Tony Enders. Tony this is Jess, he works for us, good friend of mine. Tony saved my life too Jess.”

Jess frowned “He was trying to kill you in town, everyone was talking about that gunfight.”
Carole had come to investigate “What gunfight?”

Adam sighed “I’ll explain later. We need to fetch Doc first and do something about those bodies.”

Jess said “I sent Red back to town to tell Roy about the bodies. How bad are you hurt Adam?”

“It’s not me, it’s Joe. Just a gash on his side but it needs stitching. If Roy knows there’s been trouble maybe safer if you stayed here Tony until I can straighten things out. Jess will you go and get Doc please?”

“Are you sure it’s alright?” Jess asked suspiciously, but Adam just grinned. “Do you think I’d take any chances with Carole and the kids here? Of course it is. I’ll explain later, get Doc. Calm Roy down. Tell him that two men tried to rob Joe and I and that I’ll come in and give him a full report later; be in for the inquest. You can tell him that it’s all finished, no more trouble.” Adam clapped his arm round his friend’s shoulder; “You should stop believing everything you hear Jess.”

Once Jess had gone Adam told Tony to take his coat off and make himself at home. It was the safest place for him until everything had been straightened out. Then, with Carole, Adam went back to his brother. She wasn’t as easy to placate as Jess and Adam had to tell her a suitably edited version of what had happened, with a little help from Joe. Joe felt better with a chance to sit still and Carole could see that neither of them were seriously hurt, but even so she lost colour as she listened to the account of the day’s events. She was glad when Marie cried and she was able to turn her attention to the baby, the sane routine. Joe was struggling to stay awake and Adam told his brother to get some rest, knowing that Hop Sing would call if he was needed.
Adam had spared time to put a pad on his own side but it was only grazed, but his arm was a different matter. It was very sore and he’d fixed a sling for it but the pain from it seemed to go through him every time he moved.

Adam headed down to get a drink, feeling very sorry for himself. However even the pain in his arm didn’t prevent his laughter as he took in the scene downstairs. Tony Enders looked very far removed from the vindictive young gunman he’d faced on the street a few hours ago. He looked very much younger and totally bemused as he tried to cope with the twins. Two excitable youngsters who were used to being spoilt by all visitors to the house and were trying out this new man to see how far they could go. Unused to children Tony didn’t know what to do with the two-year-olds. Adam laughed but taking pity on Tony he moved down “David, Mark come here.”

Seeing their father the twins ran to him and Adam fended them off, “Calm down you two ruffians. Have you had dinner yet?”

They were more interested in the strange sling, but after five minutes Adam was able to hand them over to Kam Su to get tea and he poured out a brandy. “Want one Tony?”

Tony was uneasy but he accepted the drink gratefully and Adam sank down into the chair opposite him. It had been a most peculiar day and that morning felt a very long way away. Both men felt awkward but slowly Adam drew Tony out and learnt a little of his background, the vague stories he’d heard about his brother and his mother’s encouragement of his instinct for revenge. Adam tried to tell him as gently as he could what had actually happened so long ago and, if Tony couldn’t accept it, he no longer refused to listen. In fact he found it hard to disbelieve Adam, the older man’s actions that day spoke very powerfully on his behalf.

Both men were glad when Doc arrived and not particularly surprised to see Roy and Dan with him. All sorts of rumours were running round town and despite Jess’ assurances they had wanted to find out what was happening,

Adam told them exactly what had happened, stressing Tony’s help and that he was no longer looking for revenge. As he finished Tony asked if there would be trouble and Roy looked over at Adam “You’re satisfied I take it?”

“More than satisfied. All in all I think Joe and I are very lucky.”

Roy nodded, “Yeah you may be right.” He looked over at Tony “If Adam isn’t pressing charges there’ll be no problems. An inquest, say day after tomorrow, just a formality.”

“Then we can forget it. Thank God,” said Adam.

“Amen.” Added Dan

Tony decided to ride back to town with Roy and Dan. As he went out to his horse Adam walked out with them “It may sound odd just now Tony, but if I can help anytime, if you need a job or anything you’d be very welcome.”

Tony didn’t know what to say and just muttered “I’ll remember.” Dan moved over to his old friend, “You don’t have to go that far Adam, you’re a soft-hearted fool at times.”

“He’s okay Dan, like Bill but without the cruel streak.”

“He got you both into trouble.”

“Maybe, but he helped pull us out too. I’m not saying I owe him anything but I’ll trust my own judgement, he’s come through once. I think he’d be an asset to the ranch.”

Dan shrugged, he couldn’t say that Adam was wrong, even if he wouldn’t have been so forgiving.

Adam went back in when everyone had gone and sunk down in a chair absolutely exhausted. Doc had cleaned his side and had a look at his arm but he’d been unable to help, just fashioning a rather better sling. Joe stitched up again and rebandaged was fast asleep. And Carole was putting the children to bed.

Adam shut his eyes and tried to get the day’s events into perspective. At least he had nothing to fear from Enders now and hopefully the furore over his fast draw would soon fade. At the moment he couldn’t hold a gun even if he wanted to. His head was throbbing in sympathy with his arm and for the moment he didn’t have to hide his pain and near exhaustion as Carole was upstairs. Adam wasn’t even aware of the door opening, and the first he knew was his father’s horrified comment “Oh my God.”

Adam opened his eyes and to his surprise saw not only his father but his brother and José. He sat up and tried to grin, it didn’t work and he said, “I know news gets round this ranch but not that fast! How... what are you doing here?”

Hoss asked anxiously “Are you alright Adam? And Joe ?”

“He’s upstairs asleep, nothing serious, we’re both okay.”

Ben raised his eyebrows as he looked at the sling but made no comment. “I don’t understand, I was told you shot his gun out of his hand and walked away untouched.”

“How did you hear Pa?”

“I was over with Hoss and one of the lumber crew came back. He’d been in town for supplies. José heard too and we met him just up the road. I thought we ought to talk if someone is after your hide. Especially as I shot Enders, not you.”

“Lot happened, since then Pa. Its all over, I’ll get some coffee and fill you in.”

Hoss gently pushed his brother back in the chair. “You stay put, you look exhausted. I’ll get coffee.”

“Thanks.” Adam was glad of a minute or two to regain control and slowly he managed to hide his pain. Ben had seen it too clearly when he first arrived to be fooled but as Carole joined them she was able to confirm that Doc had been out and neither of his sons had taken any serious harm. Once he had coffee and Hop Sing had joined Kam Su to get food, Adam told his father and brother exactly what had happened since he went to look for Joe at lunchtime. He relaxed as he talked but he couldn’t face food.

Ben was worried about the long-term effects but thankful that his sons had got off relatively lightly. By the time he’d finished Adam was fighting to keep his eyes open and Ben told Hoss to help his brother to bed. Adam was too tired to argue and accepted Hoss’ help to get undressed. His arm was very swollen and Hoss commented “You had an injury like this once before.”
“Yeah. I recognised one of them. He was with Pardoe so I know where he got the idea. It’s not as bad, just a single blow this time, but it aches a bit.”

“A bit!” Hoss sighed, “It’ll be out of action for two weeks at least. Come on into bed with you.”

“You going back in the morning?”

“Yeah, getting a bit late now.”

“I’ll ride up with you.”

Hoss stared at him in disbelief “You ain’t going anywhere.”

“Taking over from Joe for a few days. He’s not fit enough and you can’t cope alone.”

Hoss knew his usual success rate in changing his older brother’s mind and he just shook his head “Get some sleep. We’ll argue it out in the morning, but if you don’t look a lot better, Pa certainly won’t allow it.”

“I’m okay.”

“Sore and near exhausted. You’ve done a real good job today now get some sleep.” Adam grunted and was almost asleep before Hoss had left the room. Hoss went over and looked in on his little brother, Joe was still asleep and although a little pale he wasn’t feverish so Hoss wasn’t too worried. He could understand why Joe had tried to stand in for their brother but he was very surprised by the great difference in the outcome of the two gunfights. Adam had always had the slight edge on Joe, but it had been minor, and Hoss wondered how badly the accident last autumn was still affecting Joe.

Carole slipped in next to Adam, rather surprised at how calm she felt, but as neither of them were seriously hurt and everything was settled, she found it reasonably easy to push to the back of her mind. She was glad that Enders had accepted the truth knowing that she would be a lot more worried if he was still out for revenge. She had seen how upset and confused Enders still was. but there had been no hatred when he looked at Adam.

Ben and Hoss had gone home but were back over early, Ben had to go to the mines and then had business in Carson City which would take a couple of days. He hadn’t been surprised when Hoss told him that Adam was intending taking over from Joe and rather to his big son’s surprise he hadn’t vetoed it out of hand. However he certainly wasn’t letting Adam go until he had seen how he was after a night’s sleep.

Adam had slept like a log, not even hearing Carole getting up to Marie, until the twins bounced in on them. He felt and looked much better although his arm was still useless and throbbing. Very inefficient with his left hand he enlisted Carole’s help to get his shirt on and do up the buttons. She settled his arm in a sling and then Adam heard Joe moving around and went in to see how his brother was. Joe was stiff and pale, feeling rather weak although he wouldn’t admit it, but he grinned at his brother “How’s your arm?”

“Useless, but it’ll be okay in a few days. How do you feel?”
“Hungry. I think I missed too many meals yesterday.”

Over breakfast Adam warned his brother of their father’s probable arrival, amusing him with complaints about just how quickly word spread around the Ponderosa. Both brothers were used to it but even so this time it was remarkably fast. They were both hungry and made a good meal, even though Adam needed his cut up for him. They were sipping coffee and fending off the twins when Ben and Hoss rode in. The twins ran to the newcomers and Adam got some more cups. Carole came down with Marie and Adam sat back amused until his family had all finished exclaiming over the little girl and how much she had grown in a few days.

The relaxed expression on his eldest son’s face went a long way to reconciling his father to Adam’s plan and Ben just listened as Adam insisted that he would take over from Joe for a week. Joe could handle the paperwork and stay with Carole and they could look after each other. Joe protested he was fine, but even to him his protests seemed to lack something, and Ben just ignored him. Ben tentatively suggested Adam go to Carson City instead of him but Adam just grinned and held his right arm, gently massaging it. “Pa you know we need detailed notes of that meeting. My memory is pretty good but I wouldn’t trust it that far. I can’t write, there’s no point in me going. Equally Joe can cope here easier than me.”

“There’s paperwork at the lumber cap too.” Ben pointed out.

Adam laughed, “Mainly for my own information, I can scribble left handed as long as noone else has to read it and I can do it at my own rate.”

Ben frowned and drank his coffee, watching Adam carefully. He could see his son was in some pain from his arm but otherwise he looked very much better and Ben knew that stubborn look too well. Probably Adam was talking sense and it was the easiest way, certainly Joe couldn’t do it, he looked very drawn and weak. Ben looked over at Carole “What do you think?”

Carole smiled, “Joe can look after us. When Adam gets that look, none of us are going to budge him so we might as well give in gracefully.”

Ben could only laugh “Alright Adam have it your own way. Take over at least until the weekend. How about the inquest?”

“Joe can handle that, he was there. Roy said that it would just be a formality. He’s already heard my story.” Satisfied that he had got his own way, Adam went to collect what he needed and Hoss went with him determined his brother wasn’t going to strain his arm. Once they were ready to go Adam went to say goodbye to his family while Hoss saddled Blackie. Joe and Ben went out with him and Joe bit his lip feeling very guilty, dragging his brother away from his newborn daughter so soon. He really didn’t feel well enough to go out to the camp and cope there and the others had noticed his lack of protest and knew he was feeling worse than he would admit. Hoss promised to get over to the other camp at least once a day to make sure that Adam wasn’t overdoing things and to help out if necessary. Ben didn’t really need that reassurance and turned to Adam as he came out. Hoss clapped his arm round Joe’s shoulders Stop worrying. You got hurt helping him and Adam knows you’ll take good care of his family so he won’t fret.”

Joe grinned his big brother knew him so well “Sure you just keep an eye on him.”
Ben gave his eldest son a hand into the saddle and warned him to take it easy, even if the schedule slipped slightly. Adam smiled “I’ll be fine Pa. See you at the weekend.”

Adam moved Blackie close to Chub and the brothers set off. Adam tried to relax and ignore the jolting pain in his arm and shoulder; at least Blackie’s gait was smooth. Hoss saw his brother gradually lose colour but for a while he didn’t comment. Eventually as he saw Adam bite his lip against the pain he couldn’t keep quiet. “Adam you sure you’re gonna be alright? I could get Johnny to handle one camp for a few days.”

“Stop fussing.”

“I’m not, that arm’s playing you up, I can see you’re in pain.”

“Okay so it’s painful. Whatever I do isn’t going to alter that and the busier I am the more I can ignore it. It’s only bruised Hoss.”

Hoss knew better than to push it when Adam spoke in that tone of voice and for a long while they travelled in silence. Then Hoss asked his brother for more details about the previous day’s events. He was worried about the effects of the gunfight, but although equally worried Adam laughed it off. He wasn’t going to be forced into a gunfight by any gunhappy kid and it would soon die down. As they separated Hoss promised to come over that evening and dared his brother to overdo it.

Adam found the next five days very hard. At times he had no choice but to use his right arm even if it did protest. He had dispensed with the sling despite his arm swelling each time he used it but on occasion he thrust it into his jacket for support, when the throbbing got too bad. Still he had managed to keep things on schedule and he was very relieved when Sunday came and Hoss came by to pick him up to ride on home.

Once Adam had made a fuss of the twins and cuddled his new daughter and wife, he spared time to look at his younger brother. Joe looked one hundred percent better and was ready to take over so Adam could relax and enjoy his family and the superb dinner Carole had prepared.