Family Rows part 1 by Lyn Robinson


Adam was up early the day after his return from Sacramento, he was expecting his father over once Ben knew that he was home but for now Adam concentrated on his children. He knew that his family would do their best to protect the children however they felt about him but inevitably he was going to see less of them over the coming weeks, so he made the most of them while he could.


Ben had heard of his son’s return and hoped that Adam had got over his spate of bad temper; they didn’t normally last very long. He decided to leave his visit until after lunch, give husband and wife a chance to settle whatever was troubling them. In fact Adam had decided that he needed to continue building up his image and mid-morning he rode out and over to the main house. Ben was working on the accounts and Adam went straight over to pour himself a brandy, barely acknowledging his father.


Ben put his pen down and considered his son. Adam was showing signs of his hard trip, but they could equally have been signs of a hangover. Normally Ben would have enquired just where he’d been and why but it was written all over his son that questions would not be appreciated.


Adam picked up some of the papers on the desk, a couple of legal queries and a contract to be drawn, “I’ll deal with these.” He said brusquely and settled down by the fire to work, ignoring his father.


It was rather harder when Hop Sing came in, glad to see one of his favourite people and discounting all the rumours which were flying around. Hop Sing wanted to know if Adam was staying for lunch and Adam found it even more difficult to be curt with him than with Ben. Adam frowned, collecting his papers, “No I don’t want lunch or coffee or anything, just some peace and quiet.” Adam ignored the hurt look on the old man’s face and retreated to the bedroom, which had always been his. He locked the door and determined not to leave an impossible job for his family. He spent two hours working hard, clearing the routine legal work but he had no intention of passing it back yet, it wasn’t urgent and his current image demanded a delay in the work.


If Adam had got through a lot of work the same was certainly not true of his father. Ben had tried to settle but all he could see was his son’s face, withdrawn and tense. Eventually Ben gave up all attempts to work and put his pen down. He stood staring out at the Sierra Nevada, the view that he knew Adam loved and came to the conclusion that he had to talk to his son, the tension between them was becoming unbearable. He could only wait until Adam came back downstairs, invading his chosen sanctuary would only make matters worse. It seemed a very long time before he heard Adam moving about and Ben went over to wait at the bottom of the stairs.


Adam saw his father waiting and knew he wasn’t going to get away without questions. He found it hard to see the compassion and worry in his father’s eyes and knew that he could only make matters worse but it had to be done. Adam took a moment to get control of himself, cut himself off from his father, scared Ben would sense his feelings. Then he went on down Ben said, “We need to talk Adam.”


“There’s nothing to talk about Pa.


“I think there is.”


“Leave it to me.”


“I’ve been doing that son but you don’t seem to be sorting it out on your own, I think it might help to talk.”


Adam couldn’t just turn and walk out although he knew it was probably the sensible thing to do but the hurt and compassion in his father’s gaze got to him. He went closer to his father and gripped Ben’s shoulder. “Pa I’m full grown, a wife and family of my own. I admit I’m restless but please trust me, leave it to Carole and me to sort it out.”


For a minute Ben saw Adam back to his normal self and he relaxed but then Adam seemed to withdraw again, “It may take a while Pa, but don’t worry we’ll find our own solution.”


Then Adam pulled away and it was no act when he went over to pour himself a brandy, for once he really needed the drink, shaken by how close he had come to telling his father everything. He had to become harder if he was to pull it off.


When Adam turned back having drained the brandy Ben was all too aware that his son had withdrawn from him again and it was no surprise when Adam announced that he was going to town. Adam was glad to get away and he rode slowly into town, needing time to get control of himself. He had committed himself to a course of action and for the safety of those he loved he had to carry it through. By the time he got to town he was firmly in control and he went first to the Palace and then the Bucket O’Blood. He ordered several drinks but with judicious spilling only drank a fraction. He got into a poker game, a sufficiently expert player to end up a considerable winner. He promised to give his opponents a chance of revenge but for now he had to get home and he made it fairly obvious that he resented his wife’s demands. Then he headed home, finally arriving about 3.30 a.m. He had been thinking hard on the way home, it was becoming increasingly obvious that he would need somewhere to work once the information he required started arriving. He couldn’t spend too much time at Jess’ it would focus attention on his friend, which was the last thing that Adam needed. Eventually tired out Adam shelved it to think about in the morning when he was more awake.


Adam rumpled up the spare bed with every intention of moving into it later in the morning but for now he needed the comfort of his wife’s arms. Carole had been asleep but she was on the alert for him and woke up as he came in the room. She felt the tension as Adam slipped in next to her and for a moment she just held him close, letting her presence calm him. Adam

Buried his face in her hair and eventually he said “I nearly told Pa, the hurt and compassion were so obvious.”


“He could act Adam, just as well as you.”


“No, we agreed just us. Hoss and Joe have to be convincing. I know how hard it is to act and hurt family. I can’t make Pa do that too, it’s easier for him to be hurt now, just for a few weeks.”


Carole knew that Adam was right and that her husband would keep the burden, carry it alone rather than let his father be hurt, Slowly Adam relaxed and he slept for nearly two hours before slipping out and into the spare room,, leaving Carole asleep.


Adam dozed for an hour before the twins were up and as though with a homing instinct found Daddy. They were a little puzzled at finding him in a strange room but as Adam started tickling them they combined to attack him and quickly forgot as they enjoyed playing with him. Adam felt better for their company, more refreshed than by a full night’s sleep and he made up his mind about the next move.


Over breakfast he told Carole that he was going to make a tour of the ranch. It needed doing and would save his father a job but by judicious planning he could make two high profile visits to town and get the hands talking. Carole knew all too well that sleep wasn’t going to be part of this programme but she wouldn’t try to stop him. The only way she could help was to give him her unstinting support. Adam left straight after breakfast and went to see his father. He collected wage packets and a note of the relevant information both to hand out and what needed to be collected. Ben thought that his son seemed calmer and he hoped that the ride round the ranch would settle his son, remind him of the land they loved and hopefully clear him of this restlessness.


Adam was on edge, he knew that he had to convince his old friends Jack and José in particular and they knew him nearly as well as his brothers. He went down to the crew planting hay on the bottom lands of the Carson valley for the winter feed. They were mainly relative strangers and though a trifle brusque Adam was his efficient self. He finished up just after lunch and rode up to see the timber crew working on some small timber low on he hillside. Once he’d checked everything and paid them he rode onto the sawmill.


Jack was busy but as usual he was well organized. He had heard all too many rumours and was glad to see his old friend fit and well. Even word of Adam’s excessive drinking and trouble at home had reached Jack but he wouldn’t interfere, the old Indian knew better. He studied Adam carefully and recognized the tension in him but made no comment Adam stuck to work but carefully made a couple of minor slips and waited for Jack to correct him. They weren’t important but were mistakes Adam would never normally make. He accepted the corrections but made it clear that he was annoyed with Jack for doing it. Jack expected him to camp at the mill and head up to see José at daybreak but Adam just had coffee and refused food, He didn’t attempt to hide the fact that he was going back to town, or the reason, claiming that having won a considerable sum of money the previous night it was only fair to give his opponents the chance of revenge. Indians were supposed to be inscrutable but Adam could see very clearly the disapproval on his friend’s face. It was the reaction that he wanted but even so it came hard, he wasn’t used to disapproval of his actions. Adam headed into town and rejoined the poker game. He might not be popular on some fronts but it seemed he couldn’t lose and although he only played for a couple of hours he won more than two thousand dollars. His opponents were furious but two of them were professionals and knowing what a rich pigeon they had they were prepared to try again, sure his luck must run out. Adam promised to come back the following night and then headed out. It was already very late and Adam rode slowly up to the high pasture to see José.


Of all the people on the ranch José Bettencourt knew Adam best and he was quick and intuitive, other than his brothers Adam feared him most. However he had to face José sometime and it would be good practice for facing his brothers. Adam managed to cover the easy trail in the dark and as the sun rose he cut up towards the high pasture. José wasn’t surprised to see him early, assuming that he had come from the sawmill. José settled the details and collected the wages before turning to Adam, determination written all over him.

“Let’s go sit over there have some coffee I need to talk.”


 Adam knew that he wasn’t going to get away without talking and followed José over to some rocks to sit down and sip his coffee. José couldn’t settle, “Adam what the hell is going on? I keep hearing rumours and they don’t sound very much like you.”


“It’s happened before José, just ignore it.”

“Is anything wrong?”


“Not really just a mite restless.”


“Adam we’ve been friends a long time and I don’t usually interfere but for once just hear me out.” José saw the withdrawal on Adam’s face but he felt he had to talk, “You have more than most men can dream of and I don’t just mean material things. Make sure you don’t throw them away for some will o’ wisp.”


Adam got to his feet, anger clear on his face but José risked a detaining hand on his arm, “Just one more thing Adam and I’ll shut up. No matter what or why if you ever need my help it’s yours.”


Adam was touched by the offer especially as José obviously didn’t approve of what he was doing and he relaxed a little trying to laugh it off, “Thanks José, but just remember the rumours get a bit out of proportion. Don’t believe all that you hear. I must get on got an appointment in town. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.” José watched his friend leave still very worried and when the man sent to collect stores in town reported that Adam’s ‘appointment’ appeared to have been with a poker game, he couldn’t help fearing that the rumours were all too true.


Hoss had been pushing as hard as he could and with an excellent team he managed to finish his work on the Sunday. He left his men to tidy up and return to the ranch while he headed for the west shore knowing that his little brother had got the really tough job. Hoss asked Chub for that little extra wanting to get to Joe’s camp before dusk and after several easy days his horse responded willingly.


Joe had been working all hours but even so he was getting further and further behind his schedule even with all the help he was getting. He was totally convinced that something was wrong but all the reports on the telegraph denied problems and he couldn’t talk it over with anyone. He could only wait until he could get home and see for himself but it was a vicious circle, the more he worried the less sleep he got and the longer things took delaying his return and worrying him more. Joe could feel himself getting more and more short tempered and irritable but he fought hard against taking it out on his men, they were doing their best to help.


By Sunday Joe was tired out and had a severe headache but he was still trying to sort out the paperwork and finding his attention wandering once again to his family. At first as Hoss came into the tent Joe didn’t believe what he was seeing and as he sat back and looked up in surprise, Hoss could see how necessary his trip had been.. Hoss moved over and gripped his brother’s shoulder, “Looks as though you’ve been busy Joe.”


Joe relaxed so pleased to see his brother, “Just a mite. What the heck are you doing here, trouble?”


Hoss swiftly reassured him, “No trouble Joe. I had the easier job, got finished up early and thought you might need a hand, not so easy over here.”


Joe pulled away, “I can cope, you’ve done your share.”


“Between us we can finish up easy, you might even get some sleep little brother, looks like you need it.”

Joe sighed heavily but then meeting his brother’s eyes he said, “It’s not the work. Oh I admit I’ve been busy and I would be glad of some help but more importantly I need to talk.” He pushed his papers away, “These can wait, let’s get some grub and go sit by the lake.”


Hoss was puzzled by his brother’s reaction, he hadn’t heard of any trouble and with the telegraph giving daily news he hadn’t been worrying, too busy on his own job to think about home. He knew Joe too well to push him until they had got food and moved right away from the other men. Hoss was hungry and ate while Joe pushed his food around not really interested in food. Hoss left his little brother to talk when he was ready but it wasn’t until Joe had collected coffee that he was ready to start.


“There’s something wrong Hoss. The reports say no, not a hint of trouble but I’m sure there is. Have you felt anything?”


Hoss shook his head, “Not a hint. What do you think is wrong?”


Joe got to his feet and stared out over the Lake. “I only wish I knew. I think Pa’s worried and upset but it’s Adam.”


“If he was hurt we’d know.”


Joe couldn’t even face his brother as he struggled to put into words what he felt. “All my life Adam’s been there, I wasn’t always conscious of it before he went to Europe but even then he was reachable. Since he came back over the years it’s become clearer. Most of the time I’m not even aware of using it but I know I can. I can reach out and he’s there, for reassurance maybe. Oh I know it’s clearer, more definite, when there’s trouble but always in the background, a thread, something. Do you know what I mean?”


Hoss bit his lip, “In a way Joe. I can’t do it, oh I feel you, Adam and Pa on occasion and I know you can all reach me, but it’s only on special things, trouble joy. I guess I’ve always known you and Adam are closer ....”


Joe turned at that and went to Hoss forcing his brother to look at him, “That’s just not true Hoss. Once Adam said you could never choose between those you love, just pray that you never have to. You’ll never know how much I’ve relied on your strength and your patience, and I know Adam does too. Just as we all rely on Pa. It’s just that Adam sort of brought me up and even more than Pa he knows me inside out. God it used to annoy me.... Maybe our thoughts are more in tune sometimes I don’t know.”


Joe turned back towards the lake, “I just know that he’s always been there, until now.”


“What do you mean Joe?”


“I can’t reach him. The telegraph says he’s fine. I even got desperate enough to ask, but when I reach out I can’t get anything. Can you?”


“I’ve never been able to call it up deliberately like you and Adam can. He’s not hurt I’d know that.”


“I know but it’s as though he’s cut himself off. He didn’t do that even when he ran away to Europe.”


“Maybe it’s just ‘cos you’re overtired Joe. Get a good night’s sleep and it could look different in the morning.”


Joe didn’t look at all convinced and Hoss put his arm round his brother’s shoulders, feeling the tension in him. “Look if he’s physically okay and the telegraph confirms that, I mean Pa would tell us if ..... What else could be wrong? He’s got Carole and the kids now he won’t leave again.”


“That’s what has kept me up nights. It don’t make any sense and Adam don’t do things that don’t make sense.”


“You’re not making a hell of a lot of sense yourself little brother. Let’s both have an early night and then over the next couple of days we can finish up here and be free to go see for



Joe nodded but he still looked very worried and Hoss suggested, “If you’re that worried, ride on home now. I can finish up here.”


Joe vehemently refused that, he would accept his brother’s help despite feeling Hoss had done his share, but he would not and could not hand over to Hoss. Hoss accepted that, not having really expected any other reaction but he did insist on an early night. Having at least partially talked it out, Joe relaxed sufficiently for nature to have its way and desperately tired he was soon asleep. Hoss for once found it difficult to sleep, knowing that Joe’s fears were very real to him and wondering just what they did mean. His brothers were very close and both meant a great deal to him. Eventually Hoss slept determined to finish up and get home as soon as possible when they could find out the facts.


Adam didn’t know as he toured the ranch that his brothers were worried but he wouldn’t have been surprised, He had schooled himself carefully not to reach out to them, if he could sense them then equally they might learn things he didn’t want them to know. He had heard over the telegraph that Hoss had joined Joe and that they hoped to be finished on Wednesday and return the following day. On the Tuesday night after he left José Adam played poker all night, making a veiled comment that he’d been touring the ranch so noone would be hanging around waiting for him. Despite all their efforts Adam was not to be caught, he knew when the odds were against him and didn’t bet heavily, with the odds in his favour he did bet and won more than he lost so that he was winning steadily. His reputation had prevented the two professional sharks playing together; they had just   given each other a slight assist but faced with another evening showing a heavy loss they decided enough was enough. Adam had been drinking heavily, even if only half of the amount he had apparently taken and the first time one of the men dealt from the bottom he wasn’t entirely sure. Alert for it on the second occasion he was positive and with nothing in his own hand he threw in and sat back sipping his brandy, trying to work out how to react. He could ignore it which might add to the idea of his fallibility but only if others knew and he couldn’t see this pair boasting. He could break up the game, it was gone 4 a.m. excuse enough in all conscience or he could call them on cheating cause a drunken brawl.


It seemed too good an opportunity to miss and he decided on the third option as the most public. He waited until the next deal which was even more blatant and the called the men cheats, flipping over the cards to prove his point. Those men in the saloon got back quickly fearing gunplay and Don McBride hauled out his scatter gun and came out to try and prevent trouble, puzzled by Adam’s attitude. Usually he could rely on Adam to squash trouble, not start it.

Adam didn’t want it turning into a shooting match and he deliberately fumbled his draw as though very drunk and dropped his gun before launching himself across the table, taking both the gamblers to the floor with him. Then the three men fought and scrambled breaking chairs and tables but without doing any great damage until Don came over and pulled them apart with some help from Roy who had been woken as soon as it started.


Roy wasn’t at all pleased to be disturbed at that hour of the morning and hauled the two gamblers down to the jail until the morning when he was going to order them out of town. He told Adam in no uncertain terms to come too. Once the two men were locked up Roy shut the door to the cells and poured two coffees passing one of them to Adam. Adam perched on the desk, not nearly as drunk as he was pretending but still having had rather more than he would have liked. Many people underestimated the genial sheriff of Storey County but Adam knew Roy far too well to make that mistake. Adam went to push the coffee away but Roy wasn’t having it, “Drink it Adam you’re more drunk than I’ve seen you in years, need it.”


“What the hell business is it of yours?”


“You start breaking up saloons, that makes it my business. What’s the matter with you Adam?”




“I’ll have my say and then you’d better go and sleep it off. I’ve known you a good many years and there’s no man in this state that I have more respect for but this last couple of weeks you have been making a fool of yourself. I don’t know why or what’s wrong, I just know it’s not like you.”


“There’s nothing wrong Roy. So I’ve had a drink, a game of poker, aren’t I entitled?”


“More than one drink Adam. Point is you’re not entitled to start fights, cause trouble and if you do, friend or not I’ll treat you like any other troublemaker. I hope I never have to, I owe you a lot and I know how Ben would feel, but I will if I have to. Noone is above the law in Virginia City.”


Adam put the coffee down barely touched and said with more than a touch of insolence, “Lecture over sheriff?”


Roy glared at him confused and angered by his attitude, “Go home Adam and sort yourself out.”


Adam was glad to get out of the jail, he had been working hard to engender that contempt but it still hurt to see it in the eyes of his friend. Needing to talk and not wanting to upset Carole he decided to stop by Jess’ ranch and see if he had any news. It was still early enough to reach the ranch before anyone was stirring and he knew that his friend wouldn’t mind being woken early.


The covered way at Jess’ was proving its worth for a very different reason than Adam had had in mind when he suggested it. Once again he was able to leave his horse in the barn and slip inside unseen. Blackie was still not fully fit so he was riding a non-descript bay mare which wouldn’t attract any attention.

Adam made coffee and Jess hearing him moving around, slipped out guessing who was there. Adam had settled down at the table while he waited for the coffee to heat and Jess perched on it, considering his friend, “Rough Adam?”


“A little. I’m just tired and rather drunk.”


“Heard you’d been drinking rather a lot, not the most popular man at the moment.”


“That’s the general idea. An impression of restlessness and disgruntled and maybe they’ll buy it when I take a mistress.”


Jess poured black coffee and passed it over, “How is Carole doing?”


“Tough for her I have to stay away from her but she is fully behind me. What choice do we have? Risk someone getting killed.”


Adam sipped the coffee and slowly relaxed back in the chair. “I just wish I could find a way to spill more of the drinks!”


Jess grinned briefly but then very serious he looked at Adam, tracing the strain which was already apparent. “You gonna cope Adam? It’s gonna be a long haul before this comes to trial and it’ll get worse when Joe and Hoss get back.”


“I know Jess and I can’t say that I like it. Pa’s upset, José and Jack disapproving and tonight Roy was more than a little disgusted.”


“Tell your family; send the girls and the kids away for the duration. You have friends who’ll help protect you. Don’t punish yourself this way.” Jess had gripped his friend’s shoulder, really worried.


 Adam smiled, feeling better just because Jess cared. “I know you mean well Jess but as long as I can come here and blow off steam from time to time, I can cope I have to.”


“Why Adam? Your brothers and father will help but they can’t if they don’t know.”


“True but the main fight is legal, my job and I need time when the opposition isn’t on the defensive to find the best way. Anyway with Huntingdon involved I’m not sure that anywhere is safe. Don’t you think I’ve considered every possible way?”


“You’re hurting now and it’s gonna get worse.”


“I’m tough.”


“No you ain’t Adam, strong sure but not tough. You know as well as I do your family matter to you and their bad opinions will hurt.”


Adam couldn’t deny it but neither could he change this mind and for a minute he sipped his coffee in silence before changing the subject totally. “I’ve been thinking I’ll need somewhere to work once the information starts coming in. I can’t come here too often and I won’t be able to work at home, any suggestions?"


Jess thought hard for a minute or two before tentatively suggesting one of the line shacks. It was the only thing that Adam had been able to come up with but it wasn’t really very suitable, he’d have to hide everything each time or risk discovery. Jess poured them both fresh coffee and then inspiration dawned. “Of course that kid Adam.”


Adam looked totally blank not knowing what Jess was on about. Jess grinned and explained “Dick Langton has got himself set up at Jesse’s stable. When you rebuilt the stables you designed living quarters round the back.”


“I remember.” It was one of the many odd jobs Adam had done after the fire, he hadn’t spent long on it and Hoss had been in charge of the building.


Jess went on, “I’m not sure if it was part of the original plan but there’s an extra room tacked on, just a spare bedroom really and Jesse uses it for his help. It does have its own entrance from the alley and Dick’s living there.”


It was in town and as unobtrusive as anywhere. Adam knew that it would suit his needs admirably and the youngster with aspirations to the law could store some law books as his own without it being suspicious. Jess was hopeful that the kid might go rather further and help Adam out, at least with looking up references, make notes and neat copies. Over the last few years working closely with Adam Jess had come to understand how much laborious effort was involved in even the simplest law case.


Adam was eager to get back to town and make arrangements with Dick but before he went Jess had a couple of pieces of news. Steve Fallon had sent a telegram warning ‘his old friend Jess’ that he would be dropping by in a few days but he was taking the long way round via Santa Fé. Adam was surprised and touched he had wondered whether he ought to get the records at Santa Fé checked out. It was one of the oldest established towns in the west but it was a long shot and with noone obvious to send he had decided to let it go. Now he was sure Steve was doing the checks of his own volition, using more of his vacation on his friend’s problems. Steve had been a lawman long enough to know what was important in law and Adam was very grateful.


The other news that Jess had was local, when Lisa was in shopping she had had lunch with Marcy, Michelle and Margaret and they had passed on two things. The second candidate foe Adam’s attention Lady Dinah Marchbrooke was due in town at the weekend and secondly Margaret had stated her determination to get Adam a copy of the grant under which the claim would be made. Jess wasn’t at all surprised when Adam was thoroughly alarmed at the prospect; he had had the same reaction.


Adam got to his feet, pacing around restlessly, “No it’s far too risky. If they catch her....”


Jess said, “I know said much the same myself. Liza did try to dissuade her, warned her it might just alert them that you’d been warned. All Lisa got was a promise to wait for a couple of weeks unless there was a cast iron opportunity.”


“It’s not safe; they could kill her if they knew.”


“Margaret insisted she could do it without anyone knowing, says she’s part of the furniture, she’s worked for Hearst for a long time.”


“I’d better go and see her, stop her.”


Jess gripped his friend’s arm. “Easy Adam you can’t do that. If you’re seen with her that will put her in more danger than anything else.”

Adam knew his friend was talking sense but he felt so helpless, so many people spending time and taking risks for him, while all he did was get drunk.


Jess promised to speak to Margaret himself, she was coming out on Sunday for another sewing bee, and with that Adam had to be content. Adam changed his mind about going back to town and decided he’d better show his face at home. He rode into his own house but only took time to change before going over to the main house to work. All the children were up and he spared them five minutes but with the kids underfoot he couldn’t talk to Carole, Having spent a while with Jess, he’d relaxed a little and was able to hide the hurt which had been so obvious when he first arrived at Jess’. Carole wasn’t entirely taken in but things were no worse than they had both expected and she let him go, reasonably content, confident that her husband was coping.


Nita had been going over to see Carole when she saw Adam ride in. Knowing how little time he was spending at home, she changed her plans and went over to Sue’s instead leaving husband and wife alone. Both of them saw Adam leave again a bare twenty minutes later and Nita couldn’t restrain herself, “What is the matter with Adam? He’s never home and yet from the amount Pa’s doing he’s hardly working. He’s not even been by to see the baby like he usually does and Carole’s not talking.”


Sue had seen exactly the same and was equally worried but she couldn’t believe anything bad of her brother-in-law. “Maybe he’s still not fully fit after that accident and doesn’t want Carole to know.”


Nita showed her disbelief clearly but her only comment was, “Thank God Joe and Hoss will be home tomorrow. Maybe they can sort him out.”


Adam was glad to find his father out and spent the next hour writing down what information he had gathered round the ranch. There was still a contract query to deal with and a rather more complicated counter claim on the California. Adam dealt with the contract quickly and then turned to the mining query. There were two ways to deal with it, both of which would, he was confident, give them the verdict. The first was the orthodox long route but Adam could see a much neater and quicker way to reach the same conclusion. Adam went and poured himself coffee, it was a twist of mining law that he’d used with great effect once before. Joe had helped him then and Adam had great confidence in his little brother’s legal ability and was sure that Joe would pick up the quick way of doing it. To keep in his current character Adam ignored it and began the long laborious preparations needed for the more orthodox reply. He hadn’t got very far when he heard his father ride in and swiftly poured himself a brandy and took a sip. He had already lowered the level by the equivalent of three large drinks and poured that down the sink along with the dregs of his coffee.


Ben had been in town to the bank and as he often did he had stopped by the jail to see his old friend and scrounge some coffee, By the time Roy had finished Ben was wishing he hadn’t, though he was honest enough to admit to himself that he did need to know. Roy had told Ben about the trouble at the saloon but he admitted that it worried him far less than Adam’s attitude. In anyone else he would have called it insolence and it was so unlike Adam. Roy had asked Ben to talk to his eldest son and Ben rode home with plenty to think about, admitting to himself, albeit to noone else, that on current form he didn’t think he’d have much effect on Adam.


Ben’s already rather precarious hold on his temper wasn’t improved on finding Adam swilling brandy at eleven-thirty in the morning. Ben managed to bite back the angry words and he turned to take off his hat, coat and gun, giving himself a minute to get control.

Adam had seen his father’s anger and had no real choice but to use it to keep Ben off balance, afraid that otherwise his father, who knew him so well, would see through his act. He lent back in his chair putting his feet up on the desk, which always annoyed his father and sipped his brandy.


When Ben turned round and saw that, together with the expression of withdrawal on Adam’s face, all his good intentions vanished, “What the hell do you think you’re doing Adam? You’re a bit old for me to be getting complaints from the sheriff that you’re breaking up saloons.”


“You’re right I am too old. Far too old for you to interfere, it’s none of your business.”


“When an old friend like Roy has to ....”


Adam broke in, “Roy had no right to talk to you.”


“From what he said it’ll be all over the paper.”


“So what? It’s not the first time and it’s still no one’s business but mine. I’m sick to death of this family, never there when they could be useful, wanting carried on finance, law, planning, even fighting but always ready to stick their noses in when it’s none of their business.” Adam threw the brandy glass into the fireplace where it shattered, “I’ve had it, I’m going to town.” He grabbed his gun and hat, not even waiting to put them on, and went out to his horse.


Ben was stunned by his son’s words and his hurt look haunted Adam all the way to town. It was what he had worked for and in time Ben would understand why but that didn’t really ease the guilt Adam felt just now. He remembered very vividly Joe coming north to join him after a bitter quarrel with his father and perhaps for the first time Adam really knew how Joe had felt. He had always understood but with his head, not his heart, now he felt the pain himself. Adam had no real plan of action in town, he just wanted to be seen, give the French girl a chance to make an approach.


Ben sat staring into the unlit fire, not even seeing the broken glass, just his son’s cold withdrawn face. He was very worried just how much of what Adam had said, his son really felt. Ben freely admitted that in many ways over the last few years, ever since Adam returned from Europe, the whole family had come to depend on him. Ben had made a deliberate decision to release some of his control wanting to keep his son on the ranch and he had thought that Adam revelled in it. After all his son had the best brain and undoubted expertise in many areas, certainly in the fields of law and finance, he replied heavily on his eldest son and normally any suggestion of bringing in extra help was firmly refuse by Adam. He sometime felt that Adam did more than his share but any attempt to say so to Adam had until now got very firmly refuted by his son. It was the statement about his family not being there when needed that really worried Ben. He wondered just how deep the effects of Adam’s ordeal really went. It had very obviously been a long painful time when his son had been forced to look after his own injuries but until now he hadn’t thought Adam blamed anyone but himself for their inability to find him.


Hop Sing offered lunch but Ben wasn’t hungry and very worried about his son he couldn’t settle to work and rode up to the lake, needing time to think.


Adam had gone to town and he made his first stop at the livery stable. The owner Jesse Whelan was an old Ponderosa hand and was always hopeful for the chance of a gossip with anyone from the ranch. This time Adam gave him the opportunity and Jesse gripped it with both hands. He had never had a chance to show Adam the stables and the attached house even though Adam had designed it for him. Adam didn’t need to encourage him in order to be shown round. He was introduced to Dick, who acted well, acknowledging Adam as though he was a complete stranger. It was quickly obvious to Adam that Dick’s room would suit his purposes admirably. He managed to have a private word with the young man before leaving the stable and arranged to meet in his room sometime that evening.


Adam went down to the Bucket O’Blood for a steak before doing anything else, after a sleepless night he was already tired and just wanted a few minutes peace and quiet. He wasn’t to get it as Dan saw him going into the saloon. Dan had heard about the previous evening’s fight and heard Roy’s views on Adam’s behaviour. Now he wanted to get Adam’s side of the story, it really didn’t sound a lot like the man he knew so well. Adam sighed as he saw the tall reporter walk in; he could guess all too easily why Dan was there.  Dan came over and joined him, ordering a beer and took in the large brandy that Adam had alongside his food. Adam had intended getting coffee and spilling the brandy but with Dan sitting there he knew he daren’t risk it and sipped the brandy.


Dan found himself basically ignored as Adam concentrated on his steak. Dan sipped his beer and traced the signs of strain on his friend’s face. Eventually Dan said, “Off the record Adam, I’m here as a friend only, not a reporter.”


Adam didn’t even look up to acknowledge he had spoken. Dan went on, “Come on Adam we’ve been friends a long time. What the hell’s wrong?”


Adam realised he wasn’t going to get rid of Dan without some answer and he sat back, pushing his plate away and picking up his brandy. He forced a smile and sipped his drink,

“Dan it is hardly the first time I have been in a minor fight.”


“You don’t usually start them Adam.” Dan said as mildly as he could


“I am not prepared to sit and be cheated and I never have been.”


“Why on earth were you playing with two professional gamblers like them anyway?”


“I enjoyed it, at least they could give me a game and they didn’t win until they started cheating. I made several thousand dollars.”


“You don’t need the money.”


“Dan it’s only because we are friends that I haven’t given you what you’re asking for. What I do is my business. If I want a game of poker I can have one. It is nothing to do with my family as long as I only use my own money and it is certainly nothing to do with you.” Adam let his anger show, “Now I suggest you get out of here and leave me in peace Dan, before I forget we are friends.”


Dan was very surprised by Adam’s attitude, although he had to admit it was in line with what Roy had said. Since he showed no sign of moving, Adam downed his brandy, threw a dollar down to cover his meal and walked out himself. He had business at the bank and completed that before deciding what to do next. As he came out of the bank he was rather surprised to be approached by a young man, who was a total stranger. The youngster Paul Bowen introduced himself once he had confirmed that he was speaking to Adam Cartwright and said that he was representing John Maynard. Mr Maynard was interested in discussing a possible timber contract with the Ponderosa and had been going to approach the Cartwrights but hearing Adam was in town wondered if he would attend a meeting for preliminary discussions. Adam was about to turn him down, they needed no more contracts at this time of the year. Then he remembered hearing that Maynard, who was a major stockholder in the Belcher mine, was in fact a front man for George Hearst. It had only been a rumour of little interest at the time but if true maybe this was the initial move that he’d come to town to provoke. Deciding that he could always turn Maynard down Adam told Bowen that he would come by the International Hotel about 3 o’clock.


Adam allowed them time to set the scene if that was what they wanted and went down to Marye’s stockbrokers and checked out his own personal holdings. Adam felt he might need some cash at short notice that he didn’t want his family to know about. The easiest way to get it was to sell off some of his minor holdings. Adam knew John Marye well enough to be sure that if he asked John to sell privately and not tell anyone that would be exactly what was done, however much speculation that caused in the stockbroker’s mind. Certainly as he detailed exactly what he wanted done, especially that he wanted the money in the form of an open bank draft, which he would collect personally, rather than as usual having it paid into his account, he could see the speculation growing in Marye’s eyes. At least the stockbroker made no comment about any of the rumours flying around and just accepted his client’s instructions. Adam left him confident that his wishes would be obeyed in all respects, including secrecy.


It was twenty minutes before three and Adam wandered into the Place and ordered a beer, too thirsty to face another brandy, but rather than join acquaintances or chat at the bar, he took it off to a table on his own. His whole attitude made it clear that he didn’t want to be bothered.


Adam sat quietly trying to sort out what he needed Dick to do for him so that he could be clear when he saw the kid later. Then he took five minutes to just relax, try and clear his thoughts before heading over to the hotel, expecting that things would now start in earnest  but realising that he was building an awful lot on a half remembered rumour that might well not have been true anyway.


In fact Adam’s memory served him well and the rumour had been perfectly correct, although very annoying to both Maynard and Hearst. Hearst had set the stage well making use of the manager of the International Hotel. The French girl Suzanne Fauré had been staying at the hotel since her arrival the previous Sunday, now with Adam coming she had left the hotel and in her absence her orders to pack all her belongings as she was vacating her suite were accepted. As she had instructed her bags were brought down to the lobby. She had taken care not to give the orders direct using Grandison as a front man and now with word that Adam was on his way she had gone to complain bitterly at the main desk, denying all knowledge of any instructions to pack her bags. She was relying on the fact that Adam was known to be proficient in French and a gentleman to attract his attention. When she estimated that Adam must be close she switched to her own language. The manager who had been called to the desk was completely bemused as a stream of French hit him and the young lady who had, a moment before, been talking sensibly in English now didn’t seem to understand the language at all.


Adam walked into the lobby to see a very attractive blonde, who was obviously upset saying, “Non, non Je ne comprends pas. Ce n'est pas vrai Je me suis chargé de rester à l'hôtel pendant quatre ou cinq semaines” (Translation at the end)


It was very obvious to Adam that this was set up for his benefit. This had to be Suzanne Fauré and he guessed that the whole scene had been arranged since he accepted the invitation to talk. Adam toyed with the idea of going through to his appointment and making them work for it but he was eager to get started and quickly decided to take the bait. There was nothing on his face to lead to any suspicion that he guessed what was happening as he moved over to the desk, “Mademoiselle. Je parle français peut-être que vous me permettriez d'aider?”


Suzanne easily recognised Adam from the description she had been given and turned to him eagerly, “Monsieur vous êtes très aimable. Quand je suis dans un trempe moi oubliez mon anglais. Le directeur de cet hôtel me dit que que j'ai donné des commandes pour que mes sacs soient emballés et réduits, cela je quitte ma suite, mais je ne prévois pas partir pendant plusieurs semaines encore. Je ne comprends pas pourquoi il fait ceci à moi que je veux retourner à ma suite avec tout mon bagage mais il ne comprend pas ce que je dis. Je ne vous connais pas mais je suis très reconnaissant pour votre aide.”


Adam smiled at her, “Mon plasir Mademoiselle.” Then he turned to the Manager who still looked very puzzled. Over the previous few days the young lady had spoken perfectly adequate, if rather prettily accented, English and he said as much to Adam.


Adam smiled, “I’m sure she will again once she calms down but it’s very difficult to lose your temper in a foreign language! Now can we try and sort this out. The lady claims that she does not want to leave yet and certainly gave no orders for her bags to be packed.”


“We had orders Adam.”


“I’m sure you did but it seems to have been a mistake, whose hardly matters. Is her original suite still free?”


“Well yes it is.”


“Then why not settle this at once, have her things taken back, apologize for the mix-up and let the young lady return to her suite?”


“Well sure Adam, no need for all of this. If only she’d made things clear. Ruddy foreigners!”

Adam nodded and spent a minute calming the manager down before turning back to a still splendidly irate Frenchwoman. “Le directeur présente ses excuses. Il a donné des commandes pour que votre bagage soit retourné à votre suite. Permettez-moi de t'offrir un boisson tandis que vous attendez votre suite à disposer.”


“Vous êtes très généreux Monsieur,  j'acceptez avec plaisir.”


“Je m’appelle Adam Cartwright.” Adam said offering his hand and he wasn’t exactly surprised when she dropped into English and said, “I am Suzanne Fauré and I do speak English, un peu.”


Adam led the way through into the dining room and held a chair for her. He called one of the boys, who acted as messengers, over and sent him up to Maynard’s room to say that he’d been unavoidably detained and then sat back to see what this ‘bait’ was like. She was certainly very lovely although Adam usually preferred brunettes but there was nothing insipid about this blonde and although her dress was discreet, it fitted tightly enough to make her excellent figure very obvious.

Adam relaxed and let her lead the conversation which soon turned to her home town of Paris. She claimed to be in Virginia City on business, her father, before he died, had invested in several of the mines. Now she wished to find out for herself just how sound her investments were. She expressed surprise in finding anyone in this wild town who was not only proficient in her language but had even visited her beloved Paris. Adam didn’t push and neither did she but by the time the manager came to say that her suite was ready for her they had mutually agreed to have dinner together the following night.


Adam escorted her to her suite, kissed her hand and then rather belatedly headed up to John Maynard’s room for his appointment. Maynard was a small nondescript man, who seemed rather overwhelmed at finding the tall cowboy in his room. He almost apologized to Adam because Adam was late. Adam had seen him around town before but never spoken to him and he found it very difficult to believe in Maynard as a major stockholder, even as a front man. Maynard was almost obsequious as he asked about the possibility of the Ponderosa providing timber for the Belcher. Adam explained that as far as this season was concerned all timber requirements for their existing contracts had been planned in and they couldn’t take on any more. This blunt refusal didn’t seem to worry Maynard and he apologized for bothering Adam. Adam accepted a brandy and after a few minutes of general conversation he left. He was surprised by the inept performance Maynard had put on, feeling that even if he hadn’t already known something was going on it would have made him suspicious.

It was still too early to try and see Dick and yet hardly worth going home so Adam headed back to the Bucket O’Blood and got into a poker game. Don looked at him a little askance but brought the bottle of brandy that Adam ordered. This time the game was friendly and with no professional gamblers the stakes were lower. Adam had a lot to think about and wasn’t really concentrating on the game but he was basically a far better player than the opposition and came out ahead, playing on instinct. Adam knew that now Suzanne had made her move he would have to take her up on it fairly quickly or make it obvious that he wasn’t going to do so. He wished he knew whether the English girl would be kept out of the way until they knew whether the French girl had failed or whether  both would come forward together.


Adam couldn’t decide whether it was an advantage or a disadvantage to have a mistress whose first language wasn’t English. It meant she might not pick up on nuances of anything he said in English but equally he would have to be careful what he said in French. It was a long time since he had used French much and he was distinctly rusty. That could be used to explain away any mistakes that he made but on the other had he would have to think about every word he said. Adam was inclined to think that the added complication was more than he needed and although she was very lovely she wasn’t really his type. He decided not to make a decision until after dinner the next evening and if possible to delay until he’d seen the other girl. His first impression was that Suzanne was cunning and streetwise but probably nor clever enough to be a major threat which was a plus for her.


His mind far away from the cards he was playing Adam thoughtlessly drew two cards and was amazed to find he held a Royal Flush. Hoping that was a good omen he bet out the hand, took the sizeable pot and then called it a night.


Don was glad to see him leaving the saloon a lot earlier and a lot less drunk than was his wont of late. It was very obvious from his face just what he thought and Adam cursed deciding he had better return after seeing Dick for a couple of hours in line with his current image. For now he put that out of his mind and slipped away down the back alleys out of sight heading for the livery stable.


Adam managed to get to the stable without being seen and there were at least three other ways that he could think of to get to Dick’s. Dick had left the door to his room open and Adam slipped inside. Dick wasn’t there and Adam pulled the heavy curtains before lighting the lamp and turning it down low. Adam sat down by the fire and relaxed, glad of a few minutes quiet to get his thoughts sorted out.


Dick finished up at the stable and then went to his room, finding the door locked he guessed that Adam had already arrived and went in excitedly. Adam smiled at the enthusiastic boy and murmured “Lock the door Dick”


Adam had heated up coffee and poured out two cups, “Is Jesse home?”


“No he went over to the saloon.”


“Right the first thing I want to check is just how much can be heard through the wall. You go into the stable and I’ll talk normally in here. Wander around next door and outside in the alley to see what you can hear.”


Dick thought this was great and slipped out to wander around. Adam decided the easiest way of talking to himself was to recite and he was halfway through the soliloquy from Hamlet when Dick came back. Adam broke off “Well?”


“Can’t hear anything next door but I could hear a sort of murmur outside the door and the back windows, not enough to make out any words.”


“Could you recognize my voice?”


“I thought I could but then I knew you were in here.”


“We had better pad round the windows and the door just in case and try to keep our voices down. Can you get a copy of the key to this lock so I can get in when I need?”


“Sure Adam.”


“Look I want to use this room as a base to work from. If anyone finds out it could make your position dangerous. I asked for your help as a messenger boy not to stick your head in a noose, so think about it carefully. I can find somewhere else, this isn’t your fight.”


“No.” Dick said vehemently, “Jamie said to help and anyway I want to.”


Adam was touched by the boy’s enthusiasm and offered his hand almost formally. He settled down with his coffee, “You may be more help than you realise and start some legal training into the bargain.” Adam hesitated wanting to tell the kid that he would not be a loser financially and yet realising that it would be almost an insult to Dick who certainly hadn’t given money a thought. In the end Adam left it, he would see to that later.

Over coffee Adam laid out exactly what he needed. He would get Dick some law books which could ostensibly be his own. Dick had already told Jesse of his ultimate aim to study law. Adam needed a large iron box, fireproof and lockable to store the priceless copies and statements he would be collecting over the next weeks. Adam warned Dick that he might be coming to work at all sorts of odd hours and he hoped that Dick could sleep through a light. Adam suggested thicker curtains so that it wasn’t obvious from outside that a light was on and maybe a curtain round Dick’s bed. Excitedly Dick offered his help whatever the time of day or night but Adam grinned, “If you’re anything like my kid brothers at your age it would need an earthquake to wake you.”


Dick blushed fiercely, he had trouble waking up even at his normal time and Adam went on, “Just nature’s way of saying that you need your sleep. I’m lucky I’ve never needed much.” Dick promised to get what was required and equip the room with plenty of paper and ink etc. Adam gave him a hundred dollars to cover it and then slipped out promising to come back the following night to collect a key. It was as easy to get away as it had been to get there, no windows overlooking the dark alleys Adam chose as he headed back to the main street, concealed by a raucous gang of miners celebrating the end of shift.


Adam headed over to the Palace for a couple of hours, forcing himself to be sociable and have a drink even though he didn’t want it. He made a couple of veiled references to his dinner the following night and both Dan and Philip Deidersheimer who knew him so well looked more than a little puzzled. When Adam finally stood up to go acting as though he begrudged it and making a snide comment about fussing wives, Philip swiftly drank his beer and went out with his friend.


Adam tried to ignore him knowing exactly how Philip felt but the rather sedate German engineer wasn’t about to be denied, “What is wrong Adam? You are not acting like yourself. A lovely wife and family yet you come, drink, gamble night after night.”


Adam studied him apparently indifferent, “That’s my business Philip.”


“We are friends a long time. If something is wrong I would help, with many others, not the first time.”


“Nothing’s wrong.”


“Then why you make a fool of yourself?”


“Because we are friends I have listened but you go too far. I am not answerable to you or anyone else for my actions.” Adam let anger sound clearly in his voice and with a final


“Goodnight.” He strode out down the street, quickly out distancing the rather short and podgy German.


Adam collected Blackie and let him find his own way home with a lot to think about. He just hoped that when this was all over he could pick up the pieces and make his peace with all the friends he was snubbing now. Carole was still up when he came in and Adam went straight over to her burying his face in her hair and holding her very close. She could feel the tension in him and didn’t attempt to talk until Adam had relaxed. Adam got himself coffee and then led the way up to bed. He lit the lamp in the spare room and rumpled the bed before retreating to bed with Carole.


An hour later coffee forgotten, relaxed with Carole in his arms after making love, Adam had things back in perspective. Quietly he told Carole exactly what he had been doing and that he would be having dinner with a French beauty the following evening. At this stage just a meal but the gossip would start in earnest. Carole held him very close as she tried again to explain that it really wouldn’t hurt her, she knew Adam was hers and outsiders opinions based on a fallacy really didn’t matter. Adam was very grateful for her strength but not entirely sure that she wasn’t fooling herself.

Carole had one piece of news for him, with Hoss helping his brother everything had been finished up much more swiftly and the brothers were heading home in the morning, a day early.  Nita and Sue had spent the afternoon with Carole although she had largely left them to deal with the six children while she cleared some of the paperwork, ordering supplies of equipment which Adam had had to leave for her. Carole was sure that Nita in particular had only managed to refrain from comment on Adam’s behaviour because her husband was coming back the next day and she thought Joe would make a better job of talking to his brother, finding out what was going on.


Adam wasn’t particularly pleased to find that his brothers would be home just as he made the first move to take the bait but they’d been due back on Friday anyway and he would have to face them. Carole was just glad that he didn’t tense up again and slowly they settled to sleep.

Joe had been very glad of his brother’s help, somehow with two of them working together and able to talk things out, insurmountable problems were solved and everything became much easier. Hoss was glad to see his little brother less worried about the work but was all too aware that Joe was still worried about his family. Hoss had tried to sense anything but as he’d told Joe it didn’t just come on demand.


Eventually all the preliminary planning and marking up were complete and Hoss was able to telegraph home that they would return a day early. On Wednesday the brothers worked late completing all the packing and tidying up so that they could get an early start the next day. They were both very eager to get home and see their wives and young sons. They knew from their nephews and nieces just how much babies changed in a short time during the first months of life.


 Even Joe managed to put all worries about his family to the back of his mind and rode home just eager to see Nita and his son. It was a long ride back from the west shore and even with good road now they still weren’t expected until the late afternoon.


Adam had spent the day at the main house completing the legal answer on the mines. The result would win them the case, of that he was sure, but it could have been done by any of the legal hacks in town and certainly didn’t bear the earmarks of hid normal concise penetrating legal brain. Adam was sure that fact wouldn’t escape his father or his little brother and had no doubt it would be picked up by Sharon and other lawyers in town. Word would spread that he wasn’t at his incisive best which was exactly what Hearst and the others wanted.


Ben had left his son very much alone, not wanting another row. He didn’t like this feeling of having to watch every word he said to his eldest son but hoped that Adam would get over whatever was troubling him and that it might be a case of least said soonest mended. Ben could foresee all too easily that if Adam’s mood didn’t improve there were likely to be ructions once his brothers got home. Joe for one would not take the sort of treatment Adam had been meting out, without flaring up.


About 4 p.m. Adam packed his things up and much to Ben’s relief he said “I’d better get home.”


Adam could read his father very clearly and he went on “I need to change; I’ve got an appointment in town.” Ben looked away knowing any questions would only lead to the row he’d been trying to avoid. Adam was equally eager to avoid trouble and he swiftly gathered his things. Ben said, “With Hoss and Joe back today all four of us had better get together tomorrow, check over the plans for the summer.”




“Will you tell your brothers?”


“I need to get to town, they may not be back, use the telegraph.”


Ben bit back his arguments, normally Adam would pop in to see his sisters with his brothers away and he could leave a message but if Adam was avoiding them Ben wasn’t forcing it.


“Okay I’ll tell them, say 8 o’clock here.”


“Make it 9, I may be very late back.” Adam turned and walked out. Ben watched him go seeing the tension that Adam couldn’t hide; wishing that he could work out just what was eating his eldest son.


Adam went straight home, not even acknowledging Sue and Nita who were standing outside Nita’s house with their babies watching for the brothers’ return. They watched Adam ride past without so much as a wave and Nita, furious, said “What is the matter with him?”


“At least he’s home early for once. Maybe spend some time with Carole and the kids.”


“I hope Joe or Hoss can get him to talk, this just isn’t like him. Carole won’t say anything she just clams up.”


“I guess it’s not really our business Nita, they’ll sort it out eventually, mean far too much to each other not to do so.”


Nita shrugged she had believed that too and was sure on Carole’s side at least it was still true but she couldn’t understand Adam, and just wondered if she had read him wrong. She was very eager to see Joe for many reasons, but at least partially because he might be able to sort Adam out, she had grown very fond of both Adam and Carole.


Adam hadn’t missed the girls and it took all his will power not to acknowledge them at all, not to go over and see his nephews. He rode in and loosely tied Blackie before going in. Carole knew exactly what he was planning on doing and had laid out evening clothes for him. She knew he would only be able to stay a few minutes and with everything ready he was able to spend quarter of an hour with his children.


Adam relaxed for a few minutes cuddling Anne and playing with the twins and Marie. The one part of all this play acting which really worried him was the effect it might have on the children. Luckily they were used to him being away and hopefully wouldn’t pick up on the tensions between the adults. He knew he could rely on his family to protect the kids.


Carole went upstairs with him as he eventually pulled away from the children. Adam pulled her close tilting her face up to him, “With this dinner tonight and Joe and Hoss back it will start in earnest.”


“I know my love. It’s still not too late, tell them.”


“We’ve been all through that. The only question is do you want me to?”


“For your sake I do. Its hard now and it will get far worse.” Carole forced a smile for

him. “But how do we live with the death or injury of one of the children or Sue or Nita?”

“Or you my darling.”


Carole kissed him, “We go on as planned.”


Adam nodded “Just a few weeks my love, my one and only love.”


Carole kissed him again, “Get changed darling and go see the French woman.” Adam swiftly shaved and changed and managed to hide his feeling and smile freely, “We’ll cope my sweet, a few precious hours together and we can manage.”


Adam looked very smart as he went downstairs, a black well cut suit with a white lacy fronted shirt and black tie, even his hat was black. He kissed the children good night before heading out.


In the event he timed his departure well and he was just riding out as his brothers rode in. They saw Adam as he turned onto the main road riding away from them but very obviously smarter than usual, all dressed up. Adam had in fact seen them but he didn’t acknowledge it turning away and kicking Blackie into a lope to get away.


Hoss and Joe assumed he hadn’t seen them or he would have stopped for a brief chat having not seen them for several weeks. They knew of no reason for him to be avoiding them. For now the attractions of wives and children far outweighed any curiosity about their brother they could catch up the following day. As they turned the corner and saw Sue and Nita with the babies everything else was forgotten and they galloped over.


Both brothers hugged their wives and took the babies to look at. Almost simultaneously they exclaimed how much Adam and Johnny had changed and then separated to go inside and catch up on the last weeks. Hoss was the first to break away and go to see to Chub, left standing at the rail, seeing Cochise there too he dealt with the pinto for his little brother, before returning to Sue. She was feeding Johnny when Hoss went back in and he stood staring at them for a minute at peace with the world and so proud of his wife and child.

Sue recognized the look and smiled up at the big man before calling to Kam Ling to bring in dinner. At first Hoss was only interested in her and the baby and Sue told him all the new things Johnny could now do. Hoss was content to eat one handed, holding his son with the other arm. At five months Johnny was beginning to experiment with the sounds that he could make and was eager to pick up anything within reach and always put it in his mouth first. Hoss laughed as the little boy picked up a spoon and banged on the table. Once satisfied about the baby Hoss enquired what Sue had been doing.


Joe was doing much the same but he was less interested in food and sat back very content with both Nita and Adam on his lap. The baby was happy playing wit his father’s hair while Nita filled him in on exactly what she’d been doing.


It was much later before Joe, with a sudden twinge of conscience, remembered that he hadn’t seen to Cochise. He hurried out and finding Cochise eating his head off in the barn, he grinned and made a mental note to thank Hoss in the morning. As he went back in, thinking about one brother reminded him of the other and his first question was “Where was Adam going all dressed up?”


Nita hadn’t been ready for that yet and the look of horror on her face brought back all the fears Joe had known over the last weeks. He went over to her and took her hand, “What’s going on? I knew something was wrong.”


“I don’t know darling.”


“But something is?”


“Yes. I was hoping that once you came home you could find out what. Adam isn’t acting like himself at all.”


“In what way?”


“He’s hardly ever home, leaving far too much to your father and Carole. He’s drinking a lot and he’s irritable.”


“What!” Joe exclaimed in disbelief.


“I said he was acting out of character. We think there’s something wrong between him and Carole.”


“I can’t believe that, they’re so ideally suited.”


“Well maybe you can come up with some other explanation. Carole has pulled back into her shell, she isn’t saying anything.”


“Who are we?”


“Sue and I. We haven’t talked to Pa but he’s looking worried.”


“How long has this been going on?”


“Started just after you left, last two weeks he’s been rolling home drunk at 2 or 3 in the morning. Been to town most nights and when he does work its over at the main house as though he doesn’t want to be at home.”


Joe got up and went to get a brandy, whatever he’d imagined had been nothing close to this.

Nita went over to join him at the window and put her arms round him, “You said you knew something was wrong, how?”


Joe stared out at the mountains, “All my life Adam’s been there, I can reach out feel his presence. I think unconsciously I’ve always done it for reassurance that nothing is wrong in my world. This last couple of weeks I reach out and there’s nothing there. Does that make any sense?”


Nita held him tighter; she had learnt over the past years just how close her husband was to his brothers and family. “It makes sense my love.”


“Maybe I should go and see Pa.


“You won’t sleep until you do and on current form Adam won’t be home until the early hours, if then.” Joe pulled her very close, he had been looking forward to seeing his wife and child but he knew she was right, unless he could sort this out or at the very least find out what was going on he’d never sleep. “I’ll go and get Hoss and we’ll both go. I won’t be very long.”

When Joe walked in he could see from the shock on Hoss’ face that Sue had been filling him in too. Joe forced a smile for Sue, “Sorry to interrupt. I’m going to have a quick word with Pa, wondered if Hoss wanted to come along.”


Hoss looked over at his redhead and Sue smiled, “That sounds a good idea Joe, talk it out between you and maybe you’ll both get some sleep.”


“Sorry to take him away so soon but we won’t be long.”


Sue passed Hoss his coat, hat and gun, “Go on darling go with Joe and I’ll settle Johnny down.”


Hoss walked out and needing time to talk, get their thoughts in order, the brothers opted to walk over to the main house. At first they walked in silence and then Hoss said, “It don’t make sense, Sue says he’s drinking and bad tempered, not doing his share. That sure don’t sound like Adam.”


“Nita was suggesting trouble between him and Carole.”


“So did Sue, I don’t believe it.”


Maybe Pa knows what’s going on.” With the house in sight the brothers quickened their pace and hurried over. Ben was working at the desk but stood up as he heard the door. He wasn’t particularly surprised to see his sons and the expressions on their faces made their errand abundantly clear. Ben called to Hop Sing to bring coffee and got the decanter and three glasses. “Come and sit down you two.”


Hoss and Joe settled staring into the fire. Ben poured brandy and the Hop Sing hurried in with coffee, he was pleased to see the brothers and they both roused themselves to chat with the old cook, too fond of him to hurt his feelings however they felt. It was ten minutes before he bustled back to the kitchen and Joe turned to his father, “Pa do you know what’s wrong with Adam?”


“No but he’s being curt and irritable even with Hop Sing.”


Hoss frowned “Sue says he’s drinking too much?”


“Far too much and playing poker with professional gamblers, starting fights.” Ben sighed,


Roy has been complaining.”


“Pa that’s nonsense!” Joe protested.


“I wish it was Joe. It started soon after you two left. First off he was working over here, complaining that Carole couldn’t keep the kids quiet. Then he disappeared for three or four days. I tried to talk to him and to Carole but she just clams up and Adam loses his temper. He’s been in town virtually every night, drinking heavily and playing poker. He’s snubbed Dan and Philip as well as Roy and God knows who else.”


The brothers stared into the fire trying to make sense of what Ben was saying. Hoss drained his brandy and poured another, “Pa, Adam don’t do things that don’t make sense. There’s gotta be a reason.”

Joe added, “He’s always loved having the kids around, he can work under any circumstances any amount of noise.”


“I thought that too Joe. He said he’d forgotten what it was like to have some peace and quiet until he was injured.”


“No I don’t believe it.”


Ben got to his feet and went over to the window, his back to his sons, “He said that he was sick to death of this family, never there when they could be useful and always wanting carried, legally financially and in fighting.”


Hoss looked totally stunned but Joe was on his feet and forced his father to face him, “Adam said that?”


“Yes Joseph, I don’t know just how deeply that ordeal went. Those long days badly injured and having to look after himself.”


Joe turned away thoroughly confused and Hoss shook his head, “Pa it’s hardly the first time Adam’s been hurt, even away from home. Sure it was hellish but Adam he’d put it behind him.”


“I thought that too son but something is eating him. Just once he came down to normal told me not to worry, that it was between him and Carole and that I should trust them to work it out. Maybe we have to do just that.”


Neither of his sons could give up that easily but other than more details of exactly how their brother’s behaviour was strange, Ben really couldn’t help and eventually they fell quiet. Ben poured fresh coffee and then mildly suggested that they stop worrying about Adam who had proved very capable over the years of working things out for himself. Ben forced a smile and suggested his younger sons went home to their wives who had been missing them.


Hoss and Joe accepted that and set off home, basically in silence, both trying to do the impossible and tie up the facts they had been given with the brother they knew so well. It was impossible to disbelieve their father, maybe the girls were exaggerating but Ben wouldn’t. Both brothers were eager to talk to Adam himself but in his absence they could only go home to their wives and try to put worry about their brother to the back of their minds.


In town Adam had left Blackie in the stable and then headed down to the Washoe Club for a drink and a chance to wash and brush up. With most of the dust of the journey removed Adam went over to the International Hotel. He had bought an orchid for Suzanne and before going up to her room Adam arranged for a meal to be served in one of the four booths of the main dining room. The booths were not as private as the separate dining rooms but with the facility to curtain off the booth they offered some privacy. Adam knew very well that as soon as he’d booked the booth, news that he was dining with a woman would very quickly spread around town. It was what he wanted and he had no intention of drawing the curtains, he didn’t need privacy yet. Adam decided to order in advance and with the International famous for its French cuisine he ordered a meal designed to impress a Parisienné.

Adam headed up to her suite at exactly seven and was rather surprised to see Suzanne ready and waiting for him. She was wearing a very French low cut evening gown and Adam smiled appreciatively. He bowed over her hand and kissed it before presenting the light lilac orchid which luckily went well with the pale green gown. Adam pinned the orchid in place for her and then escorted her downstairs for dinner. Hearst wasn’t taking any chances and had arranged for Dan to come over for an interview with Maynard about new developments at the Belcher. Dan was in the foyer waiting for Maynard to come down and he was taken aback as Adam walked down with an elegant stranger on his arm. Adam didn’t want to talk to Dan and did his best to ignore him but Dan came over and without being down right rude Adam couldn’t do anything but stop. Adam introduced Dan to Suzanne Fauré and he claimed that they had a mutual love of Paris so the least he could do was show her a little of Virginia City. Dan was puzzled he had assumed that Adam knew the lady or at least had mutual friends, it was most unlike Adam to entertain a lady without Carole present. Suzanne said very little but Dan had summed her up anyway and as he excused himself hoping they enjoyed their meal, he couldn’t help wondering just what Adam saw in a high class French whore.


Adam led her into the dining room where the Maitre d’Hotel hurried over to escort them to their table. The wine was ready chilled for them and the hors d’oeuvre in place. Adam was glad that she seemed prepared to stick with English as a medium of conversation, just occasionally dropping into French when she couldn’t remember a word. Her accent and the odd French phrase were attractive and Adam relaxed and tried to enjoy himself. Their conversation was mainly light, memories of Paris and France in general, a little of music and plays but Adam was rapidly coming to the conclusion that while she had been well taught she wasn’t actually very intelligent.


The curtains of the booth remained open as the waiters brought the steady stream of dishes that Adam had ordered. The food was good, the wine superb but Adam was all too aware of just how much notice he was causing amongst the other diners in the hotel. Noone looking at him would have guessed how aware he was of the comment he was causing, he was apparently totally relaxed, enjoying a lovely lady’s company. Suzanne felt she had all his attention and neither of them hurried over the meal. It was gone ten before they sat back with coffee. Suzanne had tried dropping hints about a desire to see some of the surrounding country but so far Adam hadn’t taken her up on it and she didn’t like to push. She had been warned just how clever this man was and even if she hadn’t been, her business was men and although Adam was interested he was a long way from being hooked.


Eventually Adam suggested it was time to let the waiters clear and he escorted her back up to her room. Suzanne invited him in for a nightcap and Adam accepted. He sipped an excellent brandy and continued to chat and although Suzanne had settled on the sofa next to him, he made no real attempt to touch her and she edged a little closer. Adam knew exactly what that meant but he wasn’t prepared to make that sort of move yet and he glanced at his watch. “I suppose I must make a move soon, head home. My wife will be waiting.”


She laughed, a little trilling laugh, “I can’t see you as a hen-pecked husband.”


“Not really but she has a slight tendency to fuss if I’m very late, leave her with four young kids.”


“She doesn’t understand you?”


“I didn’t say that, in many ways she understands me all too well!” Adam stood up firmly,


“It’s been a very pleasant evening Suzanne. Thank you for your company. We must do it again.” He went to kiss her hand but she took the initiative and momentarily she pressed her body against him and kissed his lips, “Au revoir Adam, I’m glad Virginia City has such a man.”

Adam smiled at her, “I’ll be seeing you Suzanne.” He had spent over an hour in her room and reckoning that was enough for the gossips for one day he collected Blackie and headed home. He had plenty to think about but after one evening spent in Suzanne’s company he had almost made up his mind to go with the Englishwoman. He couldn’t believe that anyone would accept that he was totally enamoured by the rather empty headed Frenchwoman. He didn’t want to close any doors until he’d met the other one and in many ways Suzanne’s lack of empathy would be a help. For now Adam tried to relax wanting to get some sleep before he had to face his brothers. He cut up over the back trail instead of passing his brothers’ houses and perhaps get caught for a long talk. Making it home just after midnight he saw to Blackie before going in.


Carole was waiting for him and she smiled at the expression on his face, “Well you smell of French perfume but you look as though it was hard work!”


“Good job I’m not really trying to deceive you.” Adam said lightly before pulling her close. He took her up to bed, checked on the children and went in to join her filling her in on the events of the evening. Carole felt him slowly relax and as he cuddled her, his even breathing testified that he was asleep. Carole barely liked to admit even to herself that she was relieved just how little Adam was attracted by the expensive French whore. Adam was more tired than he liked to think and when Carole awoke the next morning he was still sound asleep.


Carole slipped out, ruffled up the spare bed and quickly collected all the children and got them downstairs before they disturbed Daddy.


In fact it was nearly 8 a.m. before Adam finally awoke and he was feeling very heavy headed much worse than if he’d been short of sleep. Still he consoled himself he would feel the benefit later and at least it would give the impression he wanted for his brothers, if he looked the way he felt. Carole got him coffee as he came down, an all too obvious headache, and she stopped the children worrying him.


Ben had told his sons about the arrangements for the morning and both Joe and Hoss were over early, soon after eight. After a night to think about it both brothers had further questions, neither had slept much despite having their wives next to them. Joe just beat his brother over and was sitting over coffee when Hoss joined them. Despite their questions there was nothing useful that Ben could add and he could only hope that Adam wasn’t in the mood to hand out the sort of treatment he had been doing. If not Ben could foresee real trouble developing before lunch and he wasn’t looking forward to it. Ben tried reminding his younger sons that the meeting was to plan the rest of the summer’s work and they should not start cross-questioning their brother, that would only lead to rows. Both of them promised to let Adam alone at least initially and the three men were sitting round the table with all the relevant documents and coffee when Adam finally appeared at quarter past nine.


Adam was all too aware that both his brothers would have been told about his erratic behaviour by their wives and he had deliberately allowed them time to confirm the facts with Ben. He was on edge, not enjoying the prospect of facing them and with a severe headache, the tension all too obvious as he walked in. Adam barely acknowledged his brothers return as he took off his coat, hat and gun. Ben sighed inwardly as Adam poured himself a brandy and downed it before refilling his glass and then coming over to take up his position at the table. Adam met his father’s eye almost defiantly before settling to read Ben’s preliminary plan. Adam found it hard to concentrate, knowing just how many things were going to disrupt the summer and all too aware how intently both his brothers were studying him.

Ben tried to ease the tension, sending Joe to fetch fresh coffee and passing some papers to Hoss. Then he very firmly turned the discussion to work. For the next two hours the four made their plans for the summer deciding who would handle what and where the main priorities were. Adam left most of it to his family and only occasionally entered the discussion at all. It was unusual enough for his family to be conscious of his seeming remoteness, but Ben kept the lid on, glaring at Joe when he ventured a comment. Adam wasn’t even aware of Joe’s comment as he weighed up the probable reaction if he ducked one of the jobs Ben had allocated to him, that of extending flume on the west shore. Adam knew it was his job but he equally knew that he wasn’t going to have time to do it, at least not until late in the summer. Eventually he straightened his shoulders and downed his brandy, for once wanting it, “Pa, that flume. We don’t need it for this year’s contracts.”


“No but we’re not that pushed and we will need it if we take on comparable contracts next year.”


“I think we should leave it.”


“Why?” asked Joe quickly, “You aren’t that pushed with what Pa’s allocated you, even with the flume.”


“That’s a matter of opinion, you aren’t allowing for the multitude of problems that come from the mines or the Bank.”


“You’ve been much busier often in the past.”


“Maybe that’s the trouble Joe, whatever needs doing good old Adam will do it. Hell he barely needs any sleep, let alone the odd hour to himself.” Adam got up at that and went to pour another brandy as the bitterness in his voice hung in the air. Joe was about to speak up but Hoss put his hand on Joe’s arm to stop him and Ben said very quietly, “Easy Joe let’s keep this within the realms of discussion.”


Adam sipped his brandy and ignoring his brothers he spoke direct to his father, “At least plan it in for the end of July, not so early. I need some time just now.”


“Why?” asked Joe, “If something is wrong why won’t you tell us, let us help. Talk it out like always.”


Adam ignored him, “Please Pa.


Ben shrugged, “I suppose we could if it would really help.”


Adam didn’t say anything but Ben could see how much it meant to his son and he began making the appropriate changes. Joe couldn’t contain himself any longer, “For God’s sake Adam what is wrong? I’ve never known you drink so much this early in the day, complaining about work like this. Why do you need time?”


Adam got to his feet, anger clear on his face, “That’s the problem Joe. I can’t move without the family wanting to know the ins and outs. I have a right to my own private life too, nothing to do with you. I do my share and more round here.”


Hoss spoke up for the first time, “Noone denies that brother just that if something is worrying you we would like to help.”


Adam didn’t deign to answer him, “Pa is there anything else urgent?”


“No, not really.”


“I’ll be off then; I have a meeting in town.” Adam suited the action to the word and collecting his things headed out, leaving his brothers more than a little shaken. It was one thing to hear about Adam’s strange behaviour from their wives or even their father but it was much harder to see for themselves.


Ben wordlessly poured them both a drink, “Take it easy boys, he’ll come down to normal.”


“But why Pa? What’s wrong?” Joe asked almost desperately, however his father could only shake his head, he had no more idea than his sons. Joe couldn’t settle and he stood up, “If you don’t need me for a while I’m going to see Carole.”


Ben didn’t think his son would get anything out of Carole but he could understand Joe’s need to try. “Come back for lunch and we’ll sort out some of the details.”


Joe walked Cochise to Adam’s house, needing time to think but he couldn’t make any sense of it or think how to approach Carole and anyway as he let himself in the twins and Marie launched themselves at him. It took fully quarter of an hour before he could placate the children and then Carole offered coffee. Joe accepted and asked her to join him in the study. Carole had known as soon as Joe arrived exactly what her brother-in-law wanted but she knew that he was far too persistent to go away without having his say. She led the way in and stood staring at the painting of the lake which meant so much to both her and Adam.

Joe put his arm round her shoulders, “Carole what is wrong with Adam, you must know?”


Carole pulled away “Why do you think there’s anything wrong?”


“He’s drinking far too much seems almost bitter, just not himself. You must know that. I want to help but I can’t unless I know why.”


“You can’t help Joe. This is something we have to work out for ourselves. If you do want to help then just leave Adam alone.” Carole turned and gripped Joe’s hands, “Please Joe just let us be.”


Joe wasn’t proof against her plea and he slowly nodded, “I’ll try Carole but if I can do anything for you, or Adam, please ask.”


“I promise. Try not to worry, we will sort it out.”


Joe could only accept her request and he kissed her before returning to the main house. It was very obvious to both Ben and Hoss that Joe hadn’t got anywhere. He confirmed it, “At first she said there was nothing wrong, then admitted it but said she and Adam would work it out and all we could do to help was to leave him alone.”


Ben put his arm round his son’s shoulders, the despondency so obvious, “Easy Joseph. They will work it out; they love each other too much not to.”


“Pa I can’t settle to detailed planning, would you mind if I went into town.”


“If your brother finds out you’ve been checking up on him he’ll become even more unbearable.” Ben warned.


“I know that, I’ll be careful but I do want to have a word with Dan and Roy. See what has been going on for myself.”


“You won’t like what you hear.”


“Maybe but don’t you see Pa I have to hear for myself.” Joe stared intently at his father and Ben nodded slowly, “Alright Joseph but keep a tight rein on yourself, we must try not to make matters worse.”


“I’ll be careful Pa.


Hoss got to his feet. “I’m going too Pa. Joe’s right we have to know what’s being said. Adam’s our brother.” Ben could only accept his sons’ need and hope that they would keep control.


The brothers headed straight for town with all too much to think about. If possible they wanted to avoid Adam and from what Ben had said he was more likely to be down at the Bucket O’Blood so they left their horses in the stable and headed for the Palace. Joe checked quietly but there was no sign of Adam so they went in to join Dan at his usual place. Dan was pleased to see them but a little wary, guessing why they were there. He didn’t want to be the one to tell them that their brother was dining out with another woman.


At first the talk was general as Dan filled them in on the news around town since their last visit but after a while he was obviously forcing the conversation and Joe smiled gently,


“Alright Dan, unless you have some news on the local rabbits giving birth, its time to get down to basics. What do you know about Adam and what’s being said?”


Dan hesitated and Joe lent forward, “Look we know some of what’s going on but we’ve been over on the west shore. We need to know and you’re our friend Dan, please help.”

Dan went and got three more beers to give himself a chance to think but he knew the brothers too well to believe that he could get away without talking. Over the beer Dan did as he was asked and told them just how much time Adam had spent in town recently and the change in his habits, both where he did his drinking and the amount. He told them of the fight after the long running poker game and then he broke off. It was very obvious to both Hoss and Joe that there was something more and Hoss pressed, “Come on Dan lets have the rest.”


“I met your brother last night at the International.”


“So?” Joe asked puzzled and Dan went on, “He was escorting a very lovely Frenchwoman to dinner.”


That was totally unexpected by both brothers and for a minute they couldn’t think what to say, eventually Hoss asked “Have you seen them together before?”

He stared into his beer as he asked, not daring to catch Dan’s eye. Dan quickly denied it, “Adam introduced her as a stranger, a visitor to Virginia City with a mutual acquaintance, a love of Paris. Maybe he was just being polite.”


Joe looked up at that, “He’s picked a hell of a time for it and from all accounts if he’s being polite to her, she’s a minority of one.”


Hoss frowned at his little brother and then asked “”You seen much of him Dan?”

“A little, got firmly told to mind my own business or he might forget we are friends.”


Joe forced a grin, “Well at least that sounds like Adam. Don’t judge him too harshly Dan; he’ll sort things out come back to normal.”


“I know that Joe. Adam is still my friend.”


“Thanks Dan,” Hoss said and then the brothers headed down to the jail for a word with Roy. Roy could only confirm with a few more details what they had already been told. Roy also told them how he’d spoken to Adam with no effect and that he’d then spoken to their father. He tried to persuade them to speak to their brother before Adam got into real trouble. Neither of them enjoyed hearing Roy’s criticism even though he phrased it as diplomatically as he could. As they came out of the jail Joe suggested going over to the Bucket O’Blood, at least check and see if Adam was there and if not have a word with Don McBride. Hoss refused, it was one thing letting real friends like Roy and Dan know that they were checking up on their brother but Don hardly came into that category and anyway they had promised their father not to let Adam know they had followed him into town. Joe hadn’t enjoyed the last hour one bit more than Hoss and he gave way, content to return home, needing time to think to try and make sense of this behaviour from the older brother he’d always near idolized.


In fact if they had gone to the saloon they wouldn’t have found Adam. He had collected a basket of fruit, a fine bottle of wine and some flowers and was busy assembling a thank you tribute to be delivered to Suzanne. He had borrowed the small sitting room off the lobby at the hotel knowing that word of his activities would spread. However he didn’t want to give her too much encouragement until he’d met the other candidate and once he had  arranged for its delivery, he collected Blackie and rode down to Carson City.


Word had been passing round the area for the last couple of weeks of a high stake poker game in Carson and it fitted Adam’s plan very well. Tomorrow he should, according to his father’s plan, be going up to their own mine to check the shoring and confirm the direction of work for the next few weeks, planning in all relevant shoring so Jack could be told at the mill. Instead Adam intended joining the high profile poker game, which even though it was in Carson would soon be well known in Virginia City. Then he would use the mine job as an excuse to duck Marie’s birthday party as Carole had suggested. He had collected enough cash from the bank to buy into the game and had no doubts that his reputation would be sufficient passport into the most exclusive game.


Adam was glad of the ride to get his thoughts straight. He hadn’t expected to enjoy his brothers’ reaction but it had come harder than he expected and he knew this was only the start. Over the years he had become used to his brothers’ respect, even hero-worship when they were young. He wasn’t used to this disapproval of his every action and although for now there was concern in their eyes rather than the near contempt he’d seen in Roy’s, he knew that would come. Adam forced himself to relax, he had made his decision with full knowledge of what it would mean over the next weeks and he had no intention of changing his mind. He knew that he had to cut himself off from this contempt, just remember it was aimed at a mirage. Slowly he did relax remembering the total support Carole was giving him and he was determined to enjoy the poker even if his reasons for being there were very serious.


The game was taking place in the Crystal saloon, just opposite the Mint on the main street of Carson. At first Adam was content to sit and watch, sizing up the opposition, trying to find their ‘tells’ and checking just what sort of money was changing hands. However his presence was quickly noted and although he didn’t know many people present, he was well known. Adam passed word to the bartender that he would be interested in sitting in and half an hour later as food was brought to the table, the dealer came over to Adam. The man Vickers invited Adam to join them, firstly in the food and then in the game and Adam moved over to take his seat. As he did so he was aware of the buzz going through the crowd and was sure that word would be back in Virginia City before daylight.


Adam was introduced to the other four players, Bains, North, Nelson and Dawes. For a few minutes the men were more interested in the food and wine but within twenty minutes with brandy or whisky for all who wanted, Vickers was ready to deal. Adam had watched the play very carefully and was already aware that Vickers and Dawes  were by far the strongest players. The other three, while by no means negligible, all had weaknesses. North tended to bluff too often and not very convincingly, always fidgeting with his cards when he did so, Bains overbet, while Nelson was a little timid. However each man was playing his own hand and that suited Adam fine. He settled down to concentrate hard knowing that it was going to need all his skill to remain on even terms with these professionals. At first the luck seemed a little against him but as the night wore on it swayed round and he collected several sizeable pots. By the time they had a break for breakfast Adam was nearly ten thousand dollars to the good. It was a good thing he had intended to carry on playing as the rest made it very clear that they wanted their chance of revenge. Adam sat back with coffee and biscuits, he was thoughtful. He knew that he’d been lucky but that couldn’t last, still he was quite happy to lose all he’d won and more, the money didn’t really matter, so he slowly relaxed, he had nothing to lose.


During the course of the morning he held his own but slowly Vickers seemed to gain the luck and as the afternoon wore on, rather to Adam’s relief Vickers was began to win heavily. By nightfall only Vickers Dawes and Adam were left, the others all withdrawn. Adam was still a marginal winner but Vickers was the big winner. The luck and success swayed one way and then the other with all three men taking large pots and losing others. The size of bets edged up as Adam tried to bring the game to a natural conclusion. It had fulfilled its purpose and now he wanted to get home but in keeping with the character he had been creating he couldn’t just get up and leave.


It was just after eleven when Adam drew one card and filled a Royal Flush. It was very obvious that both the others had good hands too and Adam was guessing Dawes had a full house with Vickers probably a flush. Slowly everyone in the saloon fell quiet as the bets got higher until more than $25 000 was on the table. Dawes dropped out as Adam raised $5000 and Vickers hesitated but he raised another $2000. Adam checked his cards once more, ace. King Queen Jack and ten of spades and then he raised once more. It took just about all the cash he had with him but he was confident that he could cash a cheque if he needed to. He had judged correctly and a flicker of concern or maybe annoyance showed momentarily in Vickers’ eyes before he called. Adam laid down his hand card by card. Well aware that everyone was watching and as he put the third card down he knew he’d won. Noone else was sure as Vickers sat looking at his cards a half smile flickering on his lips. Then with a flourish he put his cards down king to nine of hearts. He rose to his feet, “The Gods are with you this time Adam Cartwright. One day maybe you will give me a chance for revenge.” Adam stood with a half bow and then slowly collected the money, nearly $48000. He pushed about $150 over the bar and ordered drinks for the assembled company. For half an hour he accepted the congratulations of the crowd and the drinks that he was given but eventually he slipped away. Since he was carrying so much cash Adam took a long way round to get home and it was nearly 3 a.m. before he reached it. Even so Carole was awake and waiting for him. Adam pulled her close, “Darling I’m sorry I’m drunk.”


Carole kissed him, “Exhausted more like. Come my love bed, now.”

“What have you planned for Marie tomorrow?”


“Today my sweet. Everyone is invited round for two o’clock for a birthday tea. Joe has been round three times today, looking for you. He’s just about climbing the walls. Sooner or later you’ll have to talk to him.”


“I know but the more cross he is the less clearly he’ll be thinking and the easier I’ll find it to engineer a row.” Adam finished undressing and stood staring out of the window. Very sombrely he commented “Not that it will be difficult after tomorrow.”


Carole put her arms round him and kissed him, “Bed.”


She knew that it would be hard for Adam to leave his young daughter on her birthday. She had known that when she suggested it. Talk couldn’t help and she held him close, calming him in the only way she knew how until he fell asleep in her arms.


Despite his late night Adam was awake soon after seven, on his own as Anne had woken her mother an hour earlier but Marie and the twins were excitedly chattering and Adam took the birthday girl downstairs with him. He had his own present for the little girl, a very pretty doll and more important to Marie, his undivided attention during the morning. With both their parents spending all their time with them the three older children thoroughly enjoyed themselves and  even Anne laughed happily as she crawled around.


Adam was sure that the children would not blame him for leaving, they had had more attention from him than normal but he was equally sure Carole was going to have a very difficult afternoon. Even if noone said anything and he couldn’t imagine Joe for one keeping quiet, she knew them so well she would see the hurt and worry, maybe anger.


On Saturday Joe was very restless wanting to talk to Adam. He had tried three times but only Carole was at home and she was no more inclined to talk than before. Joe couldn’t push her, remembering all too clearly her plea for him to leave them alone but he had to talk to his brother. Nita consoled him that he would see Adam at his daughter’s birthday party the following afternoon. Joe accepted that and slowly relaxed. He had been away for all too long and he owed Nita and their baby more of his attention.


Despite his best intentions Joe found his thoughts going back to his brother when in the early evening word reached the ranch, via two hands who had been collecting stores in Virginia City, that Adam was in a high stakes poker game in Carson City. Joe was curt with the hands but like a tongue probing a sore tooth he couldn’t help going over it with Hoss. Joe was very tempted to go down to Carson and see for himself  but Hoss managed to dissuade him, reminding Joe of their promise to their father not to make things worse. Even so Joe found it very hard not to brood, Adam was supposed to be checking shoring not playing poker.

By Sunday morning word was through that Adam had been a big winner, some of the hands having given into the temptation that Joe resisted. It was also clear that it had been very late when Adam left the saloon Carole had made it very clear that she wasn’t expecting people until two and knowing what a strain she was under Joe managed to resist the temptation to go over earlier and settled to work. From all accounts husband and wife had had all too little time together recently; maybe the child’s birthday would bring them back together.


Adam had been relying on that effect to keep his family away and shortly after 1 p.m., he kissed the children goodbye, hugged Carole wordlessly and then collecting Blackie slipped out of the valley the back way, not passing his brothers’ houses on the way to the mine.

Ben was if anything even more concerned than Joe about his eldest son’s behaviour. He had also been told by Kirk of Adam’s long poker game and large winnings. Ben couldn’t remember a time when his eldest son had accepted a job and then failed to fulfil it for trivial reasons. Admittedly the mine work and shoring wasn’t critical and Monday would do equally well but that would mean postponing other jobs. It was so unlike Adam to avoid work in pursuit of pleasure and Ben kept feeling that there had to be some explanation, but try as he would he couldn’t come up with one. Questioning Adam just seemed to lead to rows and Ben was trying very hard to wait patiently until his son saw fit to confide in him but he had never been the most patient of men and he found it hard.


All three Cartwrights with wives and babies arrived almost on the dot of two. It had taken each of the adults considerable will power to stay away and leave Adam and Carole in peace until then. At first in the chaos as the excited children greeted the newcomers it wasn’t too obvious that Adam wasn’t there. Carole was all too aware that that couldn’t last and seeing Ben go over and tap on the study door she joined him. “Adam’s not here Pa. He left his apologies but he had an urgent job to do, something to do with shoring at the mine which couldn’t be left.”


Ben was so taken aback by her statement that for a minute he couldn’t find any words. Adam could leave the shoring for a poker game but not for his daughter’s birthday! Then seeing the tension in Carole he realised the impossibility of saying anything to her, hurting her any further. This must be hard enough on Carole and Ben loved his daughter-in-law very much. As lightly as he could he said, “That’s a great pity, still Marie is so young she won’t understand.”


Relieved Carole offered to fetch coffee and Ben took the opportunity to call his sons over and tell them where Adam was, warning them not to upset Carole. Both Hoss and Joe were shocked but accepted their father’s advice. They couldn’t make it worse for Carole. Ben read their shock and suggested the brothers go through into the study and have a drink, calm down, before they inadvertently ruined things by letting the kids sense that something was wrong. Carole saw the brothers go through and didn’t need a second guess as to why. Luckily the exuberant children gave her a way to hide, to cover herself and to occupy Nita and Sue. She could see Ben trying to cover up but she knew him too well. Her ploy was working all too well and Ben was finding it very hard to excuse his eldest son in his own thoughts.


In the study Hoss poured two large brandies and the brothers stood side by side staring out of the window, grateful for the spirit. Hoss was the first to speak, “There’s gotta be a reason Joe. Adam wouldn’t leave the job for a game of poker and then go do it rather than come to his own daughter’s birthday. You know what he’s like with his kids, how much they mean to him. Maybe there’s been an accident or something.”


Joe shook his head and drained his glass before he spoke, “We’d know Hoss. There’s a reason alright but it’s nothing to do with the mine. Adam is avoiding us, maybe just you and me, maybe the whole family. I don’t know.” He straightened his shoulders and turned to his brother, “Equally I don’t know why but I intend to find out before I’m much older!”

For now the brothers went out and tried to keep up a party spirit for the children. The masks were sufficient to fool the kids and they made a great fuss of all the children, Marie in particular, but the twins and the three babies all got their share as the six adults tried to make up for Adam’s absence. None of them said anything directly to Carole but she was all too aware of the hurt and confusion bordering on anger that all of them felt in varying degrees at Adam’s behaviour. She was heartily grateful when it got to the children’s bedtime and refusing all offers of help to tidy up she could wish them goodbye.

Once the party broke up Joe wanted to ride up to the mine. Hoss vetoed it and managed to dissuade his brother pointing out that it they tried to force Adam to talk at the mine, the whole ranch and soon the whole area would know of the family dissension. There was enough talk already and he for one didn’t want to make it any worse. Joe accepted the sense of that but he was still determined to corner his brother and force him to talk sometime soon, preferably that night.


Both Sue and Nita were bursting with questions and while Ben went home the other four gathered in Joe’s study. Hoss filled the girls in on the little that they knew and then for more than an hour the four vented their feelings about Adam’s strange behaviour and speculated wildly as to the cause. They couldn’t reach any firm conclusion apart from the necessity of forcing him to talk but at least with it in the open between the four of them and talked out somewhat they were able to relax a little, In Adam’s continued absence there was obviously nothing to be done and about ten Hoss took Sue and Johnny home to bed.


In fact Adam had found rather more to do than he had expected at the mine. He worked

quickly and efficiently and arranged to take some of the paperwork home with him but even so it nearly 2 a.m. before he was finished. He grabbed a couple of hours of sleep but was up at half light not even waiting for coffee. He wanted to slip in and see Jess before too many people were around.


Adam needed to collect anything which had arrived for him but more importantly he felt it was time Jess was seen to be making a move. If Jess didn’t try to sound out Joe or Hoss on what was going on they were bound to become suspicious and the last thing he needed was for Jess to attract attention, particularly from his family. Adam pushed hard and arrived at the ranch just as Jess got up. He was riding his own rather conspicuous black stallion and so he left Blackie tied up back in the trees and slipped in on foot. Jess wasn’t particularly surprised to see him but word had spread and Jess teased him about his successful foray into poker. That reminded Adam of something he’d been meaning to do and he passed over $5000 of his winnings to Jess.


Jess protested but Adam overruled him, there were several contingencies where Jess might need money in a hurry to further Adam’s business. This way he had cash on hand if necessary without having to take the risk of contacting Adam personally. Put that way Jess had to give way and then he left Lisa to get Adam coffee and breakfast while he went outside to get the men started on the day’s work. Then there would be time to talk.


Adam was quite glad to relax with coffee and allow Lisa to fuss over him. Although he wouldn’t admit it even to himself he was feeling the strain and not sleeping too well even when he did find time to get to bed. Since Thursday he’d had very few hours sleep and he was tired. Jess knew his friend well enough to see the tiredness and he didn’t hurry over sending the hands out; sure Adam could do with a chance to relax. He did make sure that all the men were working well away from the house, promising to join his foreman later in the morning to check over the new calves. Jess watched the men ride out and then hurried inside to join his friend.


Adam smiled at Jess, lunging back comfortably with coffee in front of the fire. “I could get too used to this Jess. Does Liza spoil you as much as she does me?”


“Oh no, she works me like a slave” Jess said with a grin.


Adam chuckled, “You look fit on it! Anyway to business, do you have anything for me?”

“Several things so relax.” Jess went over to his desk in the corner and unlocking it pulled out three telegrams and a large packet. “I hope a couple of these make more sense to you than they do to me!”


The packet was from Johnny Rey and had arrived the previous day by personal messenger from Monterey. There was a covering letter and Rey made it clear that this was just the first set of papers. He’d done a rapid check of the records in Monterey and sent the most obviously relevant from Adam’s description. He wasn’t sure just how urgent the matter was and had sent the first part on ahead promising the rest in the next couple of weeks. Adam glanced through the papers quickly, sure that the wily old lawyer wouldn’t have missed anything much. Then he put the packet to one side and turned his attention to the telegrams.

The first one was straightforward, it was from Steve Fallon and said that he’d be leaving Santa Fé the next day and would pay a visit to his ‘old friend’ Jess on his way back to take up his duties in Sacramento. Jess understood that one but still wanted to know how Adam wanted to handle it. Steve Fallon was known as Adam’s friend and there was no reason why he shouldn’t meet with Adam and pass on his news personally. In fact it might look odd if they didn’t. Adam concurred with that but equally Steve had to visit Jess after the telegram and Adam wanted Jess to collect any papers Steve had with him. If possible Adam wanted a chance to read over what Steve brought before meeting his friend, then he would know just what to check with Steve. Jess promised to arrange that for Adam and then sat back as Adam read the other telegrams.


The second, which wasn’t signed said, “Sweet is the scene where genial friendship plays the pleasing game of interchanging praise.” It meant nothing to Jess but Adam just smiled as he read it, “Just confirmation.”


 Jess shook his head “Well I’m glad you understand it!”


“It’s a quote from a poem, ‘The After Dinner Poem’ I was there when Oliver’s father wrote it, we’d had an excellent meal and indulged in a mutual admiration society.”




“Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, he’s a justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, very well known lawyer, his father’s a Professor of Medicine and a poet. I got to know the son very well in Boston and John Chance went to Boston for me to get Oliver to have his clerks hunting out precedents for me and to send me all the relevant books and judgements. This is just to confirm that Oliver is on the job.”


Jess whistled softly, “Well I defy anyone to break that code! Here’s the third telegram, and it doesn’t make much more sense to me.” He passed it over to Adam. The telegram was just a list of names but Adam read them with every sign of relief. “Diana, Perez, Romero Diaz, OK”


Jess had puzzled over it for some time and he asked his friend to explain. Adam grinned, “It’s from Jamie, Hunter Diana.”




“Diana is the goddess of the hunt. Jamie Hunter. Get it.”


“You taught him well.”

“Jamie would know I’d get the allusion. I told him to contact a kid we know well Ramon Perez to act as a translator and then to try and contact two men with influence in different ways in Mexico City. This confirms he’s met Ramon and contacted one of the two Romero Diaz. With their help he should have access to any relevant papers in Mexico. Jamie knows just how important it is and he when he needs to be back. I can trust him to get what I need, so everything is in good hands.”


Jess fetched fresh coffee, “Michelle came out for tea on Sunday. The others couldn’t get away.”


“Any news?”


“Some. She reckons that her husband is not too popular, there seems to be a feeling that the French girl hasn’t really come up to scratch, that you aren’t hooked.”


“What does she think they’ll do?”


“While not giving up on her Michelle reckons they will try their luck with the English girl, arrange a meeting in town in the next couple of days. Provided you give them the chance by going to town.”


Adam was delighted with that news; it would be much easier to decide which bait to take once he’d met both contenders. The only other news Michelle had brought was the pleasure with which Adam’s recent behaviour was being greeted in Hearst’s camp. So far there wasn’t a dissenting voice, everyone seemed to accept it as the natural follow-on from his three week escapade with a mistress somewhere. All it was doing was reconfirming their belief that Adam in this mood would not be the effective opponent he might otherwise have been.


Adam was pleased with that but as he sipped his coffee he knew that his old friend wasn’t going to like his next suggestion. “How much have you heard Jess?”


“A fair amount, successful poker games, drinking too much, never home, rows with Carole. About what you planned. Nobody says very much directly to me, I’m too well known as your friend. I don’t like it but it’s what we planned.”


“I know Jess; don’t let it get to you. But I do have a job for you that you’re not going to like.”


Jess looked very puzzled, “What?”


“Go and see my brothers, express concern and try to find out what I’m up to.”


Jess looked shaken, “I’m not that good an actor Adam.”


“I think you are and I think you have to be. If you don’t appear and ask questions how long do you think that it’s going to take Joe at least to get suspicious? Then he’ll be over here and he’ll be asking the questions.”


Jess had to admit the sense of that and agreed that it would be easier if he approached Joe. He promised to do so the following day. Adam relaxed with Jess’ promise and as his old friend still looked very worried he punched him lightly on the shoulder, “Easy Jess it will all be over in just a few weeks.”

Jess looked up very serious, “I don’t like what I’m hearing Adam but I know that it ain’t true, so it don’t really affect me.” He sighed heavily, “I’m not blind and I can see what it’s doing to you already and it’s gonna get far worse.”


Adam smiled, “I’ll survive. Just think of all the help I’ve been given. You and Carole I have always known I can rely on but think of all the others. With so much help how can I lose?”

Adam had been intending to go home but if the other girl was waiting to make her move then he needed to get into town and give her a chance. He took his time on the way to town, he was tired, very short of sleep and he wanted time to sort out his thoughts. He stopped in a small glade off the road some five miles from town and settled down to read the papers Johnny Rey had sent him. The old lawyer had done a very good job and Adam had full details of the two recognised Spanish land grants near Monterey, plus the detailed grounds on which a further four had failed to be accepted by the State of California or the Federal government. Adam read them with interest and then turned to the second letter in which Rey promised to send verbatim copies and detailed physical descriptions of all six grants plus any other relevant information he could find. So far he had checked the main record office at the Praesidio but he was working on a contact at Carmel mission and hoped to check their records in the next week. He had also heard of certain records held down the coast at the Mission of San Luis Obispo and intended riding down there once he had finished at Monterey


Adam was pleased with what he had already and read over the main papers again until he was sure that he had the main facts fixed in his mind. None of the land grants applied to areas away from the coast, let alone across the Sierra Nevada and Adam found it hard to believe that Hearst could substantiate his story. He got to his feet and stretched, whatever logic said he dared not take the threat lightly, all too aware of the far reaching power held by his opponents.


Adam rode on into town and made his first stop at the stable. Noone was around apart from Dick so Adam passed him all the papers to lock away. Dick had done exactly as he was asked and in return passed over not only the key to his room but the key to the trunk where he proposed storing the precious documents.


Adam wandered down to the General Store and as a cover for his presence in town handed in a list of household stores, sure that Carole would be able to make use of them even if they weren’t urgent. He left the list arranging to come back later to collect the items and then headed down to the Washoe club not wanting anyone to believe he was afraid to face them.

He looked morose and was drinking brandy despite the early hour so although he saw several people he knew noone dared to speak to him and he was left to drink in peace.

That suited Adam, he had plenty to think about but after three brandies he decided that word of his presence had had time to spread and he ought to get out and about where the second woman could make her move. She obviously couldn’t do it in the all male enclave of the Washoe Club.


Much to his disgust as he stepped out into the street it was obvious word had spread of his presence but all he’d caught with his bait was Jim Fair. Jim had his own opinion on just about everything and seldom listened to anyone else. No great respecter of either women or marriage he accepted the talk of a marital rift as inevitable and probably the best thing for Adam. However he had learnt years earlier to trust Adam’s ability and no rumours were going to make him change his mind. His problem at the moment was at the California, a cross vein and the threat of an encroachment suit, which could shut down the mine. Fair wanted it dealt with promptly and first and foremost he wanted Adam to come down the mine and see for himself.

Adam cursed him, he never liked going down mines at the best of times and this would inevitably delay his plans. He tried to tell Jim to leave it to the mine lawyers but Jim had long ago made up his mind who was the best lawyer and he wouldn’t settle for less. Adam got no further when he tried to explain that Jim’s description was enough, that he wouldn’t gain anything by seeing for himself, that was swept away too. Jim admitted that most lawyers or even his brothers that would be true but Adam was a good enough engineer and practical miner to know what he was looking at.


Adam knew from all too frequent past experience that when Jim got his mind fixed on some thing, he might as well give in. Arguing could take longer than doing what Jim wanted. He made it very clear that he was only going at Jim’s insistence and even snubbed the older man a couple of times as Jim tried to make conversation on the way to the mine, having got his own way. However Adam had to admit he might as well have saved his breath, it made no impression at all on Jim Fair. Normally Jim was far ruder to everyone than Adam was capable of being and if oblivious of other people’s feelings, his own were ironclad.

The two men walked up to the California and Jim led the way straight into the changing rooms. Adam wasn’t particularly surprised to see John Mackay there, even though his main responsibility was the Consolidated Virginia. Adam had never liked Jim, but despite business arguments over the years he was fond of John. Adam forced himself to be curt and cut off John’s enquiries about the family, demanding they get this over and done with. He turned his back on John and got changed but not before he saw the confused and hurt expression on the older man’s face.


Jim led the way over to the lift and the three men went down to the 1900 foot level. Adam tensed as the lift came to a stop, hating the inevitable give of the spring. For a moment he remembered all too vividly the many occasions when one or other of his brothers would insist on coming with him knowing of his claustrophobia and hatred of the mines.  For a few seconds Adam was totally oblivious of the other men and even of the mine as he prayed that the path he’d chosen to tread wouldn’t lead to any lasting rift with his brothers.


Then the gate was being opened and he came back to the present with a start and stepped out of the lift into the long drift with the series of crosscuts where the miners worked away in the dark and the heat. Despite the heat Adam shivered and as so often wondered how any man could choose to make his living in this close approximation to hell.


Fair immune to such thoughts and with familiarity of years said impatiently, “Come on, if you’re in such a hurry let’s get it over.” He led the way deep into the mine but now Adam was down the mine he wasn’t going to be hurried and exerted his right as a major stock holder to examine the various crosscuts and take samples.


Finally they reached the end chamber and the problem was all too apparent. The main vein the miners in the California had been following was still there, some seven foot thick at that point. However cutting through that vein at a shallow angle, so that for a few feet the two veins were almost parallel was a secondary vein, also silver bearing but of distinctive appearance. Adam took two samples from each vein and compared them with the others he had taken. The secondary vein was obviously nowhere near as rich as the main vein and far smaller.


Adam studied the veins carefully taking measurements and notes, marking their positions relative to each other. Then collecting all his samples he announced that he’d seen enough and wanted to get back. Jim knew from past experience that Adam wouldn’t discuss anything until he had showered and changed so, rather to Adam’s surprise, he led the way back to the lift without argument. Even in the shower Adam was left in peace until he had dressed and then John invited him back to the office to discuss what they needed to do.

Adam agreed but curtly refused all offers of refreshment, “Let’s get this over with I have things to do.”


Jim got out the papers involved and passed them over to Adam, who scanned them rapidly. Then he stood up putting the two samples down side by side with one of the others he’d taken. “You don’t need me to tell you. It’s a nuisance suit, not got a chance in hell. Any halfway decent lawyer can win it, that’s if they have the nerve to push it as far as court, which I doubt. You have Clinton here at the mine or Davis, both of them very competent lawyers. Use them.”


Jim tried again, “Adam we’d feel a lot better if you’d handle it yourself.”


“I’m sure you would but it’s not necessary and I am fed up with being hauled in over every tiny thing. Now if you’ll excuse me I have business in town.” Adam picked up his hat and was about to leave when John hurried over, “Hold up a minute I’ll walk back with you.”

Adam couldn’t stop him but he set a fast pace that the shorter older man had great difficulty in following. Whatever John had intended he didn’t have the chance to carry out as he had little breath for talking and then as they reached ‘C’ street Adam stopped abruptly said goodbye and his business took him into the Bucket O’Blood. John was shaken by his attitude, like many others he had heard rumours but discounted 90% of them knowing Virginia City. This was the first time that he’d seen the effects personally and he didn’t like it.


Adam ordered a brandy and took it over to the corner table on his own. Jim had needed telling for a long time but he wasn’t proud of the way that he’d done it, nor of his treatment of John. Twenty minutes later Adam merged from the saloon and started on a series of errands ranging from the Bank to the Telegraph Office, the Stockbrokers to the Gunsmiths, designed to make him visible and available in a part of town where women could move around.


By 3 p.m. he was beginning to think that he was wasting his time and he was running out of ideas of plausible excuses. Ten minutes later as he went back to the store to collect his order, he saw a lovely statuesque brunette approaching and he knew instinctively that this must be the other half of the bait. She was tall about five foot eight and eventually would probably become fat but at the moment she was at her best, curvaceous and proud. Dressed in a dark emerald green tight fitting dress, her hair elaborately piled up and a small green hat, barely more than a few feathers perched on the top, she was a sight to turn every man’s eye. As she walked down the street the outfit worked and virtually every male turned to watch her and Adam had no problem showing the appreciation she expected. She came into the store just as the clerk bustled over to Adam, ‘Your order is ready Mr. Cartwright.”


As though surprised the brunette’s attention was turned to Adam and she studied him with no attempt to hide it. Then with a smile she moved over to him, “You’re Adam Cartwright.”


Adam was rather taken aback by the direct approach he had expected another subtle move but he smiled at her, “Guilty as charged but I am sure that I have never had the pleasure of your acquaintance; that’s something I wouldn’t have forgotten.”


“No, you’re right we’ve never met although a couple of times we were at the same ball and once at the theatre for Hamlet. You were quite famous in London and were pointed out to me, I’m Lady Dinah Marchbrook, we have some mutual acquaintance. I believe you knew my cousin Charles at Cambridge.”


Adam took her proffered hand and kissed it. “Yes indeed but he kept very quiet about his lovely cousin. What brings you so far from civilization?"


She smiled,”A scandal. It didn’t go down too well at court and my family decided a long trip to see America would remove the problem. I’ve enjoyed it so far, just going where my fancy takes me.”


“You must allow me to show you around”


“I’d like that, so far I have seen very little of either the town or the country. This is a very male town seems a woman alone can’t go anywhere.”


Nevada is still a mite rough and we don’t have that many respectable women.”


She smiled up at him and Adam seeing the glint of mischief in her eyes found himself grinning back. The hint at least that she wasn’t respectable was definitely there. Adam found her attractive and decided to take the bait then and there, “Do you have anything urgent planned or maybe you could do me the honour of having tea with me?”


She laughed, “You mean they have civilized things like tea here?”


“Certainly, if you know where to go.”


“Well then I’d be delighted.”


Adam turned to the clerk, “I’ll collect those later or send someone in tomorrow.” Then with the girl on his arm he led her down the street to a very sedate small hotel, ‘The Nevada House’. It wasn’t very large but it did a very good trade in afternoon teas amongst the ladies  of Virginia City. Adam was very aware of the shocked looks he got as he led in a total stranger. He might not see many people that he knew but with the ladies present word of his behaviour would pass round town faster than ever. Adam showed her to a seat carefully pulling out the chair and then easing it in for her before seating himself opposite.


Adam found her very easy to talk to as they explored their mutual acquaintances in England and she outlined her feelings about America so far. She had visited New York and New Orleans before heading west and although she had really enjoyed herself she had some caustic comments about some of the things she’d seen, which Adam found most entertaining.


To his surprise he suddenly realised that the room was almost empty, they had been talking for nearly two hours and he hadn’t realised how fast the time was passing. Almost as he realised Dinah looked round and laughed, “We’ll be thrown out in a minute.”


“I know. I hadn’t realised how fast time had gone.”


“I’m glad Adam because neither had I.”


“Come let me walk you back to your hotel.” Adam stood up leaving enough on the table to cover the cost of their tea with a generous tip and then offered his arm to Dinah. On the way back to the International Hotel Adam made arrangements to take her to dinner the following night. He was almost sure that he would go with Dinah but he promised himself to think it through carefully on the way home. He took her up to her room but didn’t go in; kissing her hand he thanked her for a very pleasant afternoon.


Adam decided to head straight home after collecting the stores. If anyone was surprised that he wasn’t, as he had recently heading for the nearest saloon, then they could put it down to the influence of Lady Dinah and that would suit him fine. It didn’t take long to collect the stores and Adam was relieved to leave town and head home. He didn’t hurry needing time to think


Adam was attracted much more to Lady Dinah  than he was to Suzanne and if he had to spend a lot of time with one of them it would be much easier with Dinah. He appreciated her sense of humour and her obvious intelligence, much greater than Suzanne’s. Equally given that he would eventually have to take one of them to bed he found Dinah physically much more attractive. There were a number of factors in Dinah’s favour; not least the relief of not needing to use a second language but Adam was well aware that there was one very large objection. The intelligence he found so attractive would also be his biggest danger. In the short time he’d known her he had become very aware how quick and intuitive she was. It would be a risk to try and fool her over the coming weeks and he wasn’t entirely sure that it was a risk he dared to take. The other side of the coin was the reaction of family and friends and somehow Adam thought he could make them believe in an infatuation with Lady Dinah but he doubted his capability of doing so if Suzanne Fauré was involved. Adam had just about decided that the risk would have to be taken and was approaching the turn off for his own home when he was suddenly aroused from his reverie.


Joe had been determined to talk to his brother and he had been waiting for the last two hours, prepared to wait until dawn if necessary. H had seen Blackie coming and moved Cochise out next to him as Adam came up to the turn off. Adam was startled and turned in the saddle “What do you want?”


“To talk. Will you come up to the lake with me?”


Adam was tired and just wanted to get home and he allowed his irritation to show, “Can’t it wait or at least let me get home first.”


“Adam please. It can’t wait and I don’t want to talk with any of the girls around.”


“If you want to talk about my personal life then don’t waste both our times.”


“You once said that anytime I wanted to talk you’d find the time. Has that changed?”


Adam remembered saying that to a confused fourteen year old boy, trying so hard to live up to his elder brothers and although he knew it might be kinder to turn Joe down flat he couldn’t do it. He turned Blackie and headed up to the lake, consoling himself that Joe wouldn’t give up until he’d had his say.


The brothers rode up to the lake in silence and without discussion they dismounted, tied up their horses and walked up to the point. Then Adam turned to look at his brother, not bothering to hide his near anger as he waited for Joe to speak, he wasn’t going to help.

Now he had his brother there Joe didn’t know quite how to start, he’d never known Adam so withdrawn and didn’t know how to reach him. Joe bit his lip and then said “Once you said that I could hit you when you’d finished if I wanted but to hear you out first. Now I’m asking the same.”

Adam remembered clearly saying that to Joe when he tried to bring him and Marie back together, now he found it very hard not to respond to his little brother and tensed up, but just said “I’m listening.”


Joe found it hard to talk to that cold withdrawn face so unlike his brother but he had to try.

“Look Adam I know that something is wrong but I don’t know what it is. It can’t have gone that wrong in just the few weeks I’ve been away. I don’t know whether it’s trouble between you and Carole and if it is I know it’s none of my business but I care for you both. Maybe it would help to talk.” Joe stopped invitingly but Adam just stared at him so he pressed on. “Pa’s worried that you still haven’t fully recovered from that tree, the long days when we couldn’t find you. He felt maybe you blamed us for not finding you. I know that isn’t true. I know it was an ordeal, I felt your pain but it’s since then, you’ve cut yourself right off from us.” Joe lent forward the intensity clear in his eyes, “Adam all my life I’ve been able to reach out to you for reassurance. I think you’ve always known, it has to be a two way thing. On the west shore for the first time in my life I couldn’t. That scared me Adam, hurt and I’m sure you feel it too. Whatever’s wrong please let me help. We can sort it out as a family, as we always have.”


Adam could see the love and compassion in his brother’s eyes and it took all his will power not to respond but to say coldly, “Have you quite finished?’


Joe could only nod and Adam went on “You got one thing right, it’s none of your business. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to go home. You all keep moaning at me that I don’t spend enough time there.” Adam suited the actions to the word and not waiting for Joe he went back to Blackie and headed out.


Joe stayed up at the lake for several hours, badly shaken by his total inability to reach his brother, thinking round in circles trying to make sense of the impossible. Eventually tired and hungry he went home and slowly Nita, and in a way even more his young son, lightened his mood.


Adam had arrived home several hours before Joe and he was even more depressed. It had been hard enough to be curt with his father but with his little brother, trying so earnestly to help, Adam had needed every ounce of will power not to give in and explain. He was still sure that he was doing the right thing but he badly needed a few hours peace and quiet with Carole to sort out his thoughts. Carole slowly calmed him down, not needing any detailed explanations once she heard he had been up to the lake with Joe. Even though they were reasonably early to bed it was a long time before Adam could sleep. Despite that he was up early and spent an hour with his children before breakfast.


Adam had just finished eating and was sitting over coffee when Hoss arrived, equally as determined as his younger brother to break through to Adam, find out what was wrong. Adam offered coffee and Hoss accepted but asked to take it through to the study, they needed to talk. There was little Adam wanted less but he knew that he had to let Hoss have his say and led the way through. He moved over to the window, staring out his back to his big brother.


Hoss put his cup down and went over gently resting his hand on Adam’s shoulder only to feel his brother tense against him. Hoss let his hand drop and like Joe he found it hard to start but something had to be said. “Adam I know what your children mean to you, Carole too. I just don’t understand how you could do what you did on Sunday.”


“The shoring needed doing.”

“It wasn’t so urgent that you couldn’t leave it for a poker game. Why suddenly was it so urgent you had to leave your own daughter’s birthday party?”


“Marie’s too young to understand.”


“Carole isn’t. Did you even think how much you were hurting her, or was that what you wanted?’ Hoss asked bitterly.


That broke through Adam’s defences in a way that neither his father nor Joe had managed and he turned round a blaze of anger clear in his eyes. “It’s none of your business, you know nothing about it.”


Hoss put up his hand in a peace sign, “But I care about you both.’


Adam glared at him, “I won’t stand here and be insulted in my own study. Mind your own business and leave me alone.” The anger was still clear in his eyes but to Hoss he at least seemed more himself than the cold withdrawn face he’d worn when Hoss arrived.  Hoss put out his hand to stop his brother as Adam moved away but Adam threw it off angrily and went over to pour himself a brandy, this time he really wanted it.


Hoss couldn’t help himself, “For God’s sake it’s only just gone eight.” He knew even as he spoke that it was the worst thing he could have done but even so he was totally unprepared as Adam erupted in fury. “You are my brother not my keeper. You don’t tell me what to do in my own home. Get out of my study and leave me alone.”


“Adam I….’


Adam wouldn’t let him speak, “Get out and don’t bother coming back until you’re asked. Leave me alone!”


Hoss turned on his heel and went out without a word, badly shaken by the anger he’d rarely seen in Adam and never before focused on him. He was oblivious of Carole and the children as he left the house. A house where he had always been welcome up to now and where he had never imagined things could be any different. He didn’t want to see anyone, not Sue or even Johnny and definitely not his father or Joe. He saddled up and rode up to the lake nursing his hurt, trying to understand and for the first time fearing for his brother’s sanity. The only explanation he could come up with that seemed to make any sense was that Adam was mentally ill. He sat staring at the graves of Ross and Delphine remembering all too vividly how in ten months mental illness had caused Ross to kill his wife and forced Adam to kill his friend. He remembered too that Doc had said then that there weren’t any facilities or ways to really help the mentally ill. Hoss prayed that his brother wasn’t ill, or if he was that somehow the love and help of the whole family could bring him back. The whole idea terrified Hoss and he didn’t find any of the usual peace by the lake, eventually riding hard to check fence but never able to leave his thoughts behind. He couldn’t face discussing his fears even with Sue, if he put it into words somehow that would make it more likely, more real, so Hoss tried to bury his dread in hard work.


As his brother left, Adam sank down in his chair by the fire, feeling totally drained. He had been working towards a row or a series of rows and a public break from his family. He had thought he knew what that would entail and that since his family were angry with a mirage he’d created that it wouldn’t affect him. Now at the first test he had lost control, hurt his brother and he hated himself for it. He would have given a fortune to be able to go after Hoss and explain, to take Hoss in his arms and tell him that of course Hoss was always welcome in his home. He couldn’t do it because the cost wouldn’t be money it might be Sue or Johnny and that pain would never leave his brother. Anymore than the pain of losing the Ponderosa would leave them. Adam straightened his shoulders; he’d gone into this with his eyes open and if it hurt more than he’d expected that was a small price to pay to keep those he loved safe.


When Carole brought him some coffee he had managed to hide the naked pain that had been so clear but Carole knew him so well she could see it lurking in his eyes. She had seen Hoss’ face as he left and knew how it must be tearing at her husband who loved his big gentle kind hearted brother very deeply. Carole knew that there were no words that could help, the decision was made and they had to carry it through so she said nothing. She just put her arms round Adam and calmed him in the only way she knew.

To be continued




“Non, non Je ne comprends pas. Ce n'est pas vrai Je me suis chargé de rester à l'hôtel pendant quatre ou cinq semaines”


“No, no I don’t understand. It isn’t true. I intended staying at the hotel for another five or six weeks”


 “Mademoiselle. Je parle français peut-être que vous me permettriez d'aider?”


“Mademoiselle I speak french, perhaps you will allow me to help?”


“Monsieur vous êtes très aimable. Quand je suis dans un trempe moi oubliez mon anglais. Le directeur de cet hôtel me dit que que j'ai donné des commandes pour que mes sacs soient emballés et réduits, cela je quitte ma suite, mais je ne prévois pas partir pendant plusieurs semaines encore. Je ne comprends pas pourquoi il fait ceci à moi que je veux retourner à ma suite avec tout mon bagage mais il ne comprend pas ce que je dis. Je ne vous connais pas mais je suis très reconnaissant pour votre aide.”


“Sir you are very kind. When I am in a temper I forget my English. The manager of this hotel tells me that I have given orders for my bags to be packed and brought down, that I am leaving my suite, but I do not intend leaving for several weeks yet. I do not understand why he is doing this to me I want to go back to my suite with all my luggage but he does not understand what I say. I do not know you but I am very grateful for your help.”

“Mon plasir Mademoiselle.”


My pleasure Mademoiselle”


“Le directeur présente ses excuses. Il a donné des commandes pour que votre bagage soit retourné à votre suite. Permettez-moi de t'offrir un boisson tandis que vous attendez votre suite à disposer.”


“The manager offers his apologies. He has given orders for your luggage to be rerurned to your suite. Allow me to offer you a drink while you wait for your suite to be ready.”


“Vous êtes très généreux Monsieur,  j'acceptez avec plaisir.”


“You’re very generous Monsieur, I accept with pleasure.”


“Je m’appelle Adam Cartwright.”


“My name is Adam Cartwright.”