A SEPARATE DREAM

Book One – A Fresh Beginning

by

Sharon Kay Bottoms


CHAPTER ONE

Starting Out

 

 

            With each turn of the yellow wheels, the people clustered in front of the stage office to see Adam Cartwright off on his great adventure shrank in size, but the young man continued to hang out the window, waving, until Carson City itself was only a cluster of tiny houses in the distance.  Then he drew back into the egg-shaped body of the coach and settled into the rear-facing seat with a sheepish grin at his fellow passengers.  The coach supposedly had room for nine inside, but since only four others rode with Adam today, no one had to use the jump seat in the middle.  Adam hoped it would stay that way, since, as the youngest, he’d probably be expected to take that uncomfortable place with nothing but a broad leather belt to brace his back and a strap dangling from the ceiling to hold onto for balance.  Logic said they’d probably pick up passengers along the way, at least in Salt Lake City, but maybe they’d drop some here and there, too, and keep the number to six or less.

“Going far, young man?” asked the plump woman in deep purple seated across from him.

            “Yes, ma’am.”  The dark-haired youth flashed a smile bright with the prospects before him.  “All the way to the east coast.”

            “Oh, my,” she said, short fingers flapping under her chin in a vain attempt to fan up a breeze, “and I thought I had a long trip ahead!”  She ran an appraising eye over his lean frame, well-muscled, but still obviously that of a boy, not a fully developed man.  “Kind of young to travel so far alone, aren’t you?” she inquired with a matronly air.  “Going to visit family back East?”

            The eighteen-year-old took a bit of umbrage at the reference to his youth, but since he had been taught to respect his elders, he merely ignored the first question and answered the second.  “No, ma’am; I’m hoping to attend college—at Yale.”  The woman looked impressed, but still concerned, so he added, “I am meeting family friends in St. Joseph and hope to continue my journey with one of them.”  He didn’t bother mentioning that the friend he’d be traveling with was a scant four months older than he.

            She smiled then, seeming pleased to learn that the young man would only be roving halfway across the continent alone.  “I’m bound for Denver with my nephew here,” she offered, aiming her double chin toward the man at her side, who appeared to be about thirty or so.  “He’s going to try his luck in the mines near there, and, of course, I couldn’t let him go alone.  Why, he’d likely starve to death without his Aunt Tildy’s cooking!”

            Trying to keep from laughing, Adam greeted the man politely.  Since he lived near the silver-mining community of Virginia City, he’d seen his fair share of miners, and this pencil-thin man with an equally thin mustache looked more like a traveling drummer to Adam.  The man wedged in between Adam and another, thankfully slim, fellow was a burly man who did look like a miner, one who hadn’t bothered to brush the dust from his last prospect hole off his britches.  Well, at least, sitting backward like this, the dust wasn’t likely to get much thicker, the way it might if he were sitting with Aunt Tildy and her would-be-miner nephew.  That pair had the most comfortable seats in the coach, but also the ones most exposed to wind and weather.

            After the brief exchange of personal information, the passengers all settled temporarily into their own thoughts.  For Adam, it was practically the first chance in days for quiet reflection.  Rush, rush, rush—that described his life ever since, in a fit of temper, he had blurted out his secret dream, a dream set aside with the death of his stepmother Marie.  Until that moment no one, least of all his grief-fogged father, had realized Adam’s ambition to attend Yale College this year.  Adam himself had tried not to think about it.  What was the point, when Marie’s death had stolen his right to that dream, saddling him with responsibilities that had to take precedence?  But the minute Pa heard, he’d insisted that Adam pick up that dream again, had even told him he was fired from all those responsibilities he’d thought were barriers.

            Adam smiled pensively at that memory, but if truth were told, he still felt uneasy, still felt the weight of responsibility.  No matter what Pa said, Adam knew that he was needed, maybe not as much as he’d prided himself, but needed nonetheless.  Pa did finally seem to be getting on with his life after the tragic loss of his third wife, but Adam, who had been through it all before, knew that dealing with grief took time.  And in the meantime there was the ranch to run and his two little brothers to care for.  Yes, despite what he’d said, Pa needed his help.  Pa had won the argument, though, so after a few frenzied days of arranging details, here Adam was, rolling east as fast as four wheels and six horses could carry him and trying to outrun the guilt of leaving.

            The guilt had surfaced afresh back in Carson City when he’d said his final farewells.  Adam had held himself together well until his baby brother, only four years old, had clung to him, sobbing as if his little heart were breaking.  Poor Little Joe.  Hoss would miss him, too, of course, as he would miss that chubby boy’s sunny smile.  And Pa—oh how he’d miss Pa!  But it was Little Joe’s open sorrow that tore at his heart.  Such a short time since the baby had lost his mother.  How could he bear to lose his brother, too?  No different for Hoss, Adam supposed, but at least he was old enough to understand . . . well, some, anyway.  How could a four-year-old, though, possibly feel anything but abandoned by the big brother who had tried to be everything—father, mother and brother—to him after that fatal accident?  His own heart torn by the baby’s tears, a poignant representation of the grief Adam himself felt that he could not afford to express, he had wanted to pull his bag right off the stage.  Again Pa had intervened, insisting that he get aboard.  “There’s a dream waiting out there,” Pa had said, “and high time you headed toward it.”  Maybe so.  Maybe it was time to look ahead, instead of behind, but it was hard, especially hard when he pictured that baby’s tears.

            One final farewell awaited Adam at Dayton, where the stagecoach stopped to pick up passengers, but it wasn’t destined to be a sad one.  As he was swallowing a dipperful of brackish water from the station’s well, Adam felt a tap on his shoulder and swung around to the sight of a grinning face beneath a dusty thatch of copper hair.

            “Fancy meeting you here,” chuckled the man dressed in the traditional red shirt and blue trousers of a Pony rider.

            Adam clapped his longtime friend on the shoulder.  “I was hoping I would, though I wasn’t sure where; I wanted a chance to say goodbye.”

            Billy Thomas threw a long arm around Adam.  “Pa sent word by one of the other Pony riders that you’d be comin’, so bein’s I had a couple days off, I figured to meet you and then head on home for some of Ma’s good cookin’.”  His characteristic grin faded.  “Sure was sorry to hear ‘bout you headin’ back East, Adam.  I thought once we got you back from that Sacramento academy, you’d stick in the territory, and I was sure hopin’ for some more good times together.”

            “Like that afternoon we trailed Sam Brown?” Adam tossed back with a wicked lift of one side of his mouth.  When Billy scowled at the reminder of that hare-brained escapade, Adam snaked his arm about his friend’s shoulders.  “I’ll miss you, too, buddy.  Look after the folks for me?”

            Billy laughed.  “Yours or mine?”

            “One and the same, ‘cousin,’” Adam snickered, using the family title in jest.  While he had called Billy’s parents aunt and uncle from his youth, Billy had always been simply his best friend and his oldest, except for Jamie Edwards.  He was going toward Jamie, though, and away from Billy, as well as from Ross Marquette, a newer friend, but one to whom he felt almost as close as the two he’d known for years.

            The boys had time for only a few more words.  All too soon the driver yelled for Adam to get aboard.  He did, promptly, for he could not afford to miss a single connection with the time constraints under which he was traveling.  As he leaned out the window for a final glimpse of his friend, however, he saw a pretty girl, barefoot and dressed in faded calico, come out of the station building to circle Billy’s waist.  Adam grinned at the typical image, a good one to keep in his head as he left his friend behind.  That Billy—if there was one pretty gal in a hundred miles, he could be trusted to find her!  Knowing the irrepressible redhead, he probably had one waiting in Carson City, too, like a sailor with a girl in every port.  That image made Adam think of his father, though Pa’s tales of life at sea had never included descriptions of any pretty girls he might have met while sailing around the world.

            Swallowing down the surge of homesickness, he gazed out the window until Reed’s Station came into view.  Everyone aboard felt frustrated when two soldiers from nearby Ft. Churchill met the stage and demanded that each person state his or her name and destination.  Most escaped the interview quickly and gratefully hurried inside the station for their meal, but the soldiers detained Adam for further questioning when he said that he was riding to the end of the line.

            “And from there?” one asked.

            Adam couldn’t for the life of him fathom the fellow’s interest, so he kept his answer as brief as possible.  After all, what business was it of the United States Army?  “Taking the ferry over to St. Joe,” he said.

            St. Joseph, eh?” the soldier said, exchanging a significant look with his uniformed assistant.  “Got ties there?”

            “A friend,” Adam replied cautiously, adding with a shrug, “I used to live there.”

            The soldier’s gaze narrowed.  “Border state, Missouri.  A man might easily slip south from there.”

            Adam blinked.  “What?”  Then what the man was suggesting hit him.  “Oh, no.  Good gracious, no!  My final destination is New Haven, well north of the Mason-Dixon line.”

            “Got friends there, too?” sneered the second soldier in clear skepticism.

            “No,” Adam said tersely.  “I plan to enroll at Yale.”

            Looking Adam up and down, the man gave a snort of disbelief.  Whatever his idea of what a college-bound student looked like, Adam obviously didn’t fit the bill.  “Got any proof of that, sonny?”

            Adam’s mind raced.  Was there any way to prove his intent?  He’d told his fellow passengers, of course, but that wasn’t real proof.  He did have letters of recommendation in his luggage, though, and since one of them was from the well-known Bill Stewart, it might carry some weight.  No, maybe not.  Stewart had a southern wife and there was some talk in the territory that she might be unduly influencing him toward—

            “He’s all right, Cramer,” a voice called out.

            Adam looked up and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of a third man in blue uniform striding toward them.

            “You know this man?” Cramer asked.

            Mark Wentworth smiled.  “Yes, and you should, too.  He fought beside us at Pinnacle Mount, though I guess you couldn’t know every man who joined that expedition.  This is Adam Cartwright, and he’s as loyal as they come.”

            “Says he’s goin’ to college back East,” grunted the other soldier.

            “Then you can stake your life on it,” Mark said firmly.  “I knew about it; in fact, that’s why I’m here now, to bid farewell to a good friend.”

            “Well, if Private Wentworth vouches for you, that’s good enough for me,” Cramer said.  “Sorry to have kept you, son.”

            “Not a problem,” Adam assured him.  Nothing was a problem now that he’d been cleared to continue on to New Haven.  He felt Mark take his arm and let himself be led away from the others.  “What was that about?” he asked when they were out of earshot.  “I was afraid they weren’t going to let me go on if I couldn’t prove where I was bound.”

            “Orders,” Mark said crisply.  “We’re under orders to prevent anyone from heading south to join the Confederate Army.”

            Adam shook his head.  “Strange times.”

            “Dangerous times,” Mark agreed soberly.  “With the territory split nearly down the middle, a man’s loyalty is easily questioned.  Glad I was here to smooth your way.”

            “Me, too,” Adam said earnestly, “and I’m glad for the chance to see you one last time.  I wasn’t sure I’d have the pleasure.  In fact, I figured I wouldn’t, that you wouldn’t have any way of knowing about my sudden plans and that I wouldn’t have time to look you up.”

            Mark chuckled.  “Billy Thomas sent word by the soldier on duty when he came through.  I’m proud for you, Adam, and wish you the best success.  If anyone can do Nevada proud back East, it’s you.”

            Adam glowed under the heartfelt praise.  “Thank you, Mark.  A man can use all the encouragement he can get when he’s heading into a big challenge.”

            “Don’t I know it,” Mark murmured.  “May be heading into one of those myself soon.”  In response to the quizzical cock of Adam’s head, he explained, “We haven’t been called up yet, but word is we’ll be heading back East, too, once volunteers have been recruited to replace us here.”

            Adam gasped.  “Oh, Mark.  Get word to me when . . . if . . . it happens.  I’ll want to keep track of . . . of . . .”

            “The casualty lists?” Mark suggested with a grim smile.  “I don’t expect I’ll be fighting, Adam, since I’m working under the surgeon here, but battlefield surgery isn’t quite the type of medicine I’d hoped to practice.”

            “I guess it’s good experience,” Adam said weakly.

            Mark uttered a hoarse laugh.  “Yeah, I guess the average Nevada bullet wound won’t hold many terrors after a baptism of fire like that.”

            “Sorry.  I wasn’t makin’ light,” Adam said, “just tryin’ to—”

            “Be encouraging,” Mark supplied.  “I know, and I appreciate it.  Hey, looks like the stage is boarding again, so I’d better let you get back.”  He shook Adam’s hand.  “Again, best wishes.  I’d like to look forward to seeing you back East, but I’d rather you’d stayed away from battlefields.”

            “Don’t worry; I will!”  Adam ran back to the stage and clambered aboard as the driver gathered up the reins.  Within seconds the stagecoach was on its way again.  It couldn’t go fast enough for Adam.  He had a deadline to meet, with no time to spare.  He had to be in New Haven by September 10th to sit for the entrance exam to Yale, and here it was already August 21st in this year of 1861.  Less than three weeks to cross the entire continent!  Even with the speed of stagecoach travel, it was just barely possible.

            As the coach, now pulled by mules, rambled on, Adam took out the packages of sandwiches and cookies that had been piled on him back in Carson City and shared them around with his fellow passengers.  The taciturn miner grew almost sociable after that, but Adam didn’t really need company on this stretch of road, so packed with memories.  They crossed the Carson River, its sandy, cottonwood-lined banks glittering with black mica, and suddenly Adam could picture himself and Pa arriving here at Ragtown, now a swing station, where the stage line changed mules.  Here they had rested after a grisly night crossing of the desert, and here Pa seemed, finally, to rise from his deep grief over the death of his second wife and fix his sights once more on the dream ahead of them.

            Odd how history repeats itself, Adam thought.  Three wives . . . three sons . . . three deaths . . . and after each that terrible fog.  The first, the one after the death of Adam’s own mother, had probably lasted the longest, for he could remember times as a little boy when Pa’s mind just seemed to drift off to some sad place known only to him.  It had been the same after that Indian arrow took Inger’s life, Pa just stumbling along beside the wagon, putting one foot in front of the other because it was either that or die.  And most recently, with Marie’s fatal fall from her horse, the fog had once again descended, seeming deeper this time, maybe because there was nothing Pa absolutely had to do to keep himself and his sons alive.  It seemed to have lifted again, just as it had here on the banks of the Carson eleven years earlier, but Adam couldn’t help wondering how much was a mere show of strength, how much a sign of heart-deep healing.   Once again the questions surfaced.  Was Pa really through the darkest days?  What if the grief-fog descended again?  Would Hoss and Joe be all right?  Should he have stayed to make sure?

            Silencing the tormenting questions, he poked his head out the window and forced himself to look ahead.  He was heading the opposite direction from the one he and his father had aimed the first time they saw this river, heading toward a different dream, one that would separate him from the one he had shared with his father and from those dear little brothers for four years.  But he’d come back better for the separation, he promised himself, and he’d make life better for all of them with what he learned.  Anything less would make the leaving pointless.

            The river kept dwindling down until it spread into a shallow sheet of water, one hundred miles around.  The stage skirted the south side of Carson Sink and headed into desert country, the roadside littered with the bleached bones of oxen, mules and horses, cracked axles and splintered wagon wheels—the rotting wrecks of other people’s dreams.  Adam’s memories of this stretch of road didn’t invite contemplation, so he decided to make better use of the time by preparing for Yale’s entrance exam.  He found it hard to concentrate on the Latin text, though, when the stagecoach bounced him this way and then that, his right shoulder striking the side of the coach, his left almost as frequently bumping the miner beside him.

            “You’ll strain your eyes, young man,” the woman he knew only as Aunt Tildy warned.

            “Yes, ma’am,” Adam agreed politely, but he continued to read.  Latin was, without doubt, his weakest subject, and he was particularly nervous about that part of the exam.  Well, if truth be told, the only part he wasn’t nervous about was the mathematics section.  His teachers at the academy had told him that he had an aptitude for mathematics, and he’d easily understood its principles.  Latin and Greek had always required more effort, but being a diligent student, he’d received high marks, even in those.  Sometimes he wondered, though, how the standards of a frontier academy compared with the preparatory schools most boys back East attended before seeking admission to college.  Was it even possible for a fellow from a place as backward and isolated as Nevada Territory to qualify for a prestigious institution of learning like Yale?  Was his dream, too, destined to become a rotting hulk by the roadside?  No!  Pa had pressed on, past wrecks like these, to make his dream a reality, and his son would do no less.

            Though reading in a moving coach was hard, at least it staved off the boredom of just jostling back and forth with a load full of people who really had little to say to each other.  A broad-shouldered and full-bearded man got on at Mountain Well, and Adam’s self-designated mother-in-transit snared his elbow just before reboarding the stage.  “You move over with Mortimer and me, boy.  Let those miners sit together.”

            Adam doubted that the new passenger was a miner, and he certainly didn’t figure the other passenger for one, judging by his dapper, though now dusty, apparel; however, he was only too happy to comply with the lady’s request.  The fact that she was a lady was reason enough.  A lady had a right to choose which man shared a seat with her, and considering this particular lady’s size, only Adam or the stick-thin dapper dresser would have been an appropriate choice.  Certainly not the new passenger, who took up more space than the two men sharing his seat, put together.

            “Now, put that away,” the lady scolded when Adam again opened his Latin text.  “The light’s fading, and you really will strain your eyes if you insist on reading in the dark!”

            Adam smiled weakly.  “I suppose you’re right,” he conceded, adding in a rare moment of self-revelation, “I’m just concerned about the entrance exam.  Don’t want to go all this way, only to turn around and come straight back.”  Later, Adam wondered why he had unburdened himself to a virtual stranger, but decided her being a stranger was probably the reason.  A stranger wasn’t likely to send tales home.

            Aunt Tildy patted his knee.  “There now, my boy; I’m sure you’ll do fine, but no more reading tonight.  Tell me what you’re planning to study.”

            Mindful of the bored stares from across the coach, Adam didn’t expand on that topic as he might otherwise have, but while dusk began to deepen, he described, to the best of his understanding, the course of study he would follow at Yale.

Night cloaked the moving stagecoach, and one by one the passengers shut their eyes and sought the solitude of their dreams.  Tired as he was, though, Adam found it hard to drift off.  Despite having the better choice of seatmates, they were packed pretty tight, and each time the coach lurched his direction, Adam was crushed up against the side wall.  Still, he figured he was better off here than beside that new passenger.  Even from across the carriage the smell of that man’s greasy buckskin was pungent with the odor of past campfires.  Adam had no desire to get closer.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam had never felt happier to light down from a stagecoach than he did when it arrived at Cold Springs, also known as East Gate, the next morning.  The last few miles had been even rougher than crossing the alkali plain that preceded it and had jostled him awake from the poorest night’s sleep he could ever remember.  He was glad of the chance to work out a few of the kinks in his back and glad that he’d have a bit longer stop here than usual, this being a home station.  Eating took longer than just changing mules, but even so, Adam knew he’d have to climb right back into that jouncing egg crate far sooner than he liked.  And all he had to look forward to for the next couple of weeks was more of the same.

            While he was stretching, he took a look at the station.  About all that could be said for it was that it was an improvement over the smoky hovel of their last stop at Middlegate.  It was a large building, at least, and those three-foot thick walls of native stone and adobe should be both cool in summer and warm in winter.  Right now, however, he was more concerned about getting a meal.  He didn’t have much hope that it would be a good one, and thanks to his generosity the day before, his food from home had dwindled down to a few cookies.

As suspected, breakfast wasn’t anything to brag about, and Adam wondered wryly if he wouldn’t miss Hop Sing most of all his family.  He had to eat standing up, as there weren’t enough chairs for everyone, but that was no inconvenience to a young man.  He’d been sitting enough to last him a month and figured his feet were about the best-rested part of his entire aching body.  The steak was not as good as Ponderosa beef, but tolerable, especially when hunger added spice to the meal.

            Adam finished quickly and took advantage of the extra time to trot over to the cold stream from which the station took its name and dash the dust from his face.  He spent the remaining few minutes stretching his legs, dreading the moment he’d have to mount that step into the coach again.  He shook his head in dismay.  If he was this stiff after one day’s travel, one night’s poor sleep, how would he feel by the time he reached St. Joseph?  Like an old man, most likely, much too old to enroll with a bunch of college-bound whippersnappers.

The picture of himself tottering to class with a cane made Adam grin, though somewhat ruefully.  He had trusted in his invulnerable youth, but now he was starting to question his sanity.  He’d already been worried about passing that entrance exam, and now he realized he’d be taking it completely exhausted.  What chance did he have?  None at all if he didn’t get there, so he had no choice but to travel night and day and then pray he could still keep his eyes open when the testing time came.  No, he could do more than pray; he could study.  No matter what Aunt Tildy or anyone else said, Adam was determined to focus on his Latin text.  If he pounded in facts thickly enough, surely they would come seeping out on their own, even if he were too tired to direct them clearly.

            When he saw the driver exit the station, Adam hustled toward the coach and quickly climbed aboard, settling in next to Aunt Tildy again.  He defiantly pulled out his textbook, determined to concentrate no matter how much the print bounced before his eyes.  It was rough, though, as the stage ascended one rugged canyon, topped the summit and began winding down another.

At least, study should come easier after he reached St. Joseph and switched to a smoother conveyance.  Jamie had written with excitement about the completion of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, which would take them across the state in twelve hours.  Better than two hundred miles in half a day!  That was a thrill to anticipate, since Adam’s train travel to this point in his life had been restricted to the twenty-two-mile jaunt from Folsom to Sacramento a couple of times a year.  And the train wouldn’t jar him like this increasingly unattractive stagecoach.  He could read; he would be ready.  Maybe he and Jamie could even quiz each other as added preparation.

            By determined effort Adam focused on his Latin lessons throughout the morning, stopping only to get down and stretch his legs every time the mules were changed at a swing station.  “You’re being very foolish, boy,” Aunt Tildy insisted each time he again opened the book.  Adam agreed graciously and kept on reading.

            Noon brought them to Smith’s Creek, a pleasing change from the grubby way stations preceding it.  Nestled in a deep valley, the house was not only clean, but offered a decent meal, both to the hungry travelers and to a couple of lean-ribbed Paiutes who wandered by to trade pine nuts for white man’s grub.  Adam could have cheerfully lingered over this well-set table, but as before, no one sat down before the driver and when he rose to leave, so did they, whether they’d had enough to eat or not.  Fearing he wouldn’t find such fluffy ones again, Adam snared an extra biscuit to nibble on the road.

            His fears were unjustified this time, for both excellent light bread and cornbread shortened with butter were on the table at Simpson’s Park, along with the ever-present salt sowbelly and eggs.  Coyotes howled nearby, but that didn’t deter most of the passengers from laying over for the night.  Adam lost the companionship of everyone except, unfortunately, the man in greasy and odoriferous buckskin.  Since there were only two of them now, each took a bench to himself, and Adam followed the other man’s example by stretching out full length.  He’d put in enough study time that day to merit the rest, he assured himself, and the light was growing dim.  Darkness fell as they forded the river, and again it was time to sleep—or try to.

 

* * * * *

 

            Friday morning Adam awoke to a bleak landscape, where even the sagebrush seemed stunted for lack of water.  As the stage pulled into the home station at Robert’s Creek for breakfast, he noticed a few Indians hanging about the door and assumed they were there for a handout.  The bronze men wore cast-off white man’s clothing, covered with a blanket of rabbit fur, and that might have led him to believe they were Paiute, but for their frontal pigtail of black hair and faces streaked with red paint.

            As Adam edged warily past them into the station, the stationmaster met him with a hearty laugh.  “They ain’t warlike, boy,” he offered in assurance, as he no doubt had frequent occasion to do with other travelers.  “They’s White Knife Shoshone, and they ain’t never stained them knives with the blood of white men.”

            Adam grinned his relief and, as soon as the driver sat down, took his seat in hopes of a filling meal.  His traveling companion in buckskin spat on the dirt floor.  “Oughtn’t to let trash like that hang about the place.”

            The stationmaster set platters of biscuits and bacon on the table with a clunk.  “They ain’t hangin’ about,” he grunted.  “They drift by now and again, hopin’ to trade a mite of chorin’ for a bite of food.  I don’t cotton to beggars, but them what’s willin’ to work for a meal can find one here, be they white, black, red or polka-dotted.”

            Adam liked the man’s attitude, but if pressed, he would have been forced to confess that the food wasn’t worth working for, and it sure wasn’t worth the four bits he’d laid out for the meal.  The White Knife tribe must be mighty hungry, in Adam’s opinion, to drift by here in hopes of filling their bellies.

            Shortly after leaving, Adam noticed the last telegraph pole.  This was as far as the telegraph had come, then—going east, that is.  The line was being built from the opposite direction, too, and when it met, his friend Billy Thomas would be out of a job.  Billy and the Pony Express had been an ideal match, and Adam wasn’t sure what else would suit his footloose friend as well.  Knowing Billy, though, he’d land on his feet.  He was that kind of man.

            Adam studied throughout the morning and into the afternoon, for the scenery was too monotonous to provide much distraction.  He found it easier on his eyes to read a short passage, then close his eyes and think about the material, and in spite of the dry and dreary landscape, it also helped to take a peek out the window every now and then.  The scenery perked up as the coach rolled across a long ridge dappled with the contrasting colors of light mountain mahogany and black cedar.

            A lake with water fowl fluttering above it came into view, and Adam’s stomach rumbled in welcome.  Dinner was late in coming today, but home stations occurred at the convenience of the stage line, not the need of its passengers.  The previous station at Diamond Springs had been only a swing stop for change of mules, and seeing his young passenger’s disappointment, the driver had told him not to look so down in the mouth.  “You’ll be glad we waited,” he promised.  “Keep your eyes out for a little lake, boy, and then it’s only two miles to a better meal than you’d’ve had here, I can tell you for sure.  Best you’ve had yet, in fact.”  Adam hoped that promise would prove true, for a lot of hours had passed since he’d choked down what he could of that sorry breakfast.

            Adam jumped down from the stage as soon as it came to a halt at Ruby Valley and stepped briskly toward the stone hut.  A man with a genial smile met him and the other passenger at the door.  After greeting the driver by name, the stationmaster urged, “Come on in, gents.  Dinner’s on the table, and I’m guessin’ you’re ready for it.”

            “More than ready,” the other passenger growled.

            Adam could feel saliva saturating his mouth as he gazed at the table spread with more food than he’d seen at any station so far.  The roast duck obviously came from the lake nearby, and it was complemented by the produce the man, who introduced himself as Uncle Billy Rogers, grew.  Adam loaded his plate with boiled potatoes, well-seasoned green beans and pickled beets, and he hoped the driver would take his time at this stop, so he had a chance to delve into the dried apple pie, too.

            “Uncle Billy, huh?”  The buckskin-clad passenger ran his tongue over his front teeth to dislodge a chunk of potato.  “You the one the injuns call Big-hearted Father?”

            Rogers smiled and nodded.  “Some do.  Do my best by them.”  He turned toward Adam.  “I’m assistant Indian agent and run a model farm for the government, tryin’ to teach our red brothers how to make a better livin’ for themselves.  Those vegetables you’re eatin’ show how they’re doin’.”

            The other man aimed tobacco spittle at an unoccupied corner.  “Be better if you’d make good injuns out of ‘em.”

            Adam hadn’t much liked this passenger when he first got on the stage, and this reference to the adage that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” only heightened his distaste for the man’s company.

            Uncle Billy let the remark slide by without comment and, most likely to change the subject, asked, “How far you bound, gents?”

            Buckskin forked up a pickled beet.  Salt Lake, another nest of injun lovers,” he muttered just before poking the beet into his mouth.

            Rogers refused to be baited.  “Only about three hundred miles to go, then, this bein’ the halfway house ‘tween there and Carson Valley.  And you, son?”

            Adam swallowed and replied, “All the way to St. Joe, sir, and then on to Connecticut.”

            Uncle Billy whistled.  “You don’t say!  A youngun like you, travelin’ that far alone.  Got kin there, boy?”

            Adam shook his head at what seemed to be a common misconception and again explained his educational ambitions and even amplified enough to admit that he had to travel straight through in order to reach New Haven in time for the entrance exam.  The stationmaster seemed impressed, but Buckskin clearly didn’t share the opinion.  “Keeps his nose buried in a book, ‘cept when he’s moonin’ out the winder.  Ain’t a lick sociable,” he grumbled, giving Adam a hard look.

            Though he felt like asking who would want to be sociable with such a man, Adam kept his mouth shut.  Pa would expect him to be respectful of his elders, no matter how little they seemed to merit his respect.  As he served himself a slice of pie, he caught Uncle Billy winking at him and grinned back.  Not a bit hard to be sociable with someone who invites sociability, he thought.

            The driver took his time, evidently wanting to savor the meal as much as his passengers did, so Adam even had time for a second piece of apple pie.  Just as he was boarding the stage again, however, Uncle Billy came hustling out with a wooly bundle in his arms.  “Here, take this, boy,” he urged.  “If you’re travelin’ by night, like you said, you can use this buffalo robe.  Nights get cold in the mountains.”

            Adam accepted the offer gladly.  “I can see why they call you Big-hearted Father,” he said.  “Thanks!”

            “Pshaw, ain’t nothin’,” Rogers insisted.  “Just leave it with the stage when you’re done with it; it’ll make its way back to me.  And if it don’t, that don’t matter, neither.”

            “I will,” Adam promised, “but I still owe you my thanks, Uncle Billy.  I’ll sleep warm tonight!”

            “Good luck on them tests,” the stationmaster called as the stage pulled out.

            Frankly, Adam was tired of studying and but for the remarks of the buckskin boor, he would probably have left his Latin book unopened that afternoon.  Still disgruntled by being called unsociable, he did just as he’d been accused, buried his nose in the book until late that afternoon, when Buckskin finally deigned to favor him with a word.  “Better put it away, boy.  Home station comin’ up,” he said curtly, “or maybe you’d rather read than eat.”

            “No, supper sounds good,” Adam replied, closing the book.  He looked out the window and saw nothing but a steep, rocky canyon, not a likely place for a station.  Feeling tricked, he cast a hard glance at his companion.

            Nipcut Canyon,” Buckskin said.  “You won’t see the station ‘til you’re right up on it, boy.  Just beyond that knoll up ahead.”

            Adam looked out again, scanning the area around the hundred-foot-high knoll, but still saw nothing until the stage turned right, just past that landmark, and there it was, two hundred yards to the south.  The station was nestled in a pretty little valley about a half-mile across.  The supper table wasn’t nearly as pretty a sight as the valley, but Adam didn’t mind much, since he still felt full from the good dinner at Uncle Billy’s place.

            Buckskin decided to lay over for the night, and though he still considered Adam an unsociable sort, he offered a word of advice as the young man again mounted the stage.  “Keep your gun close to hand through this next section, boy.  Partial as you seem to be toward injuns, I reckon you’re a mite more partial to your hair.”

            “Don’t go scarin’ the boy,” the driver warned, climbing up to his high seat.

            “There’s need,” Buckskin insisted.  “Them Goshutes has been stirred up lately, I heard.”

            “You heard right,” the stationmaster agreed.  “Keep a sharp eye out, boys, and your guns handy.”

            “Always do,” the driver snorted and took off at a run.

            Adam pulled his gun from his holster and checked his ammunition, just in case, but he saw no Indians before twilight faded to deeper dusk.  He managed to stay awake until the stage reached the swing station at Mountain Springs.  The clear water there was refreshing, but the wind off the mountains cold enough to make Adam grateful for the loan of the buffalo robe.  He huddled up inside it as soon as he reentered the coach.

A few miles to the east he spotted the City of Rocks, dim in the moonlight, and smiled as he recalled how Pa had taken him and Billy, with a few others in tow, over to frolic among the rocks.  His smile widened at the memory of Billy shutting him up in the “jail” for the crime of reading too much.  Good thing Buckskin isn’t still around or he’d likely be tempted to do the same, Adam thought with a chuckle.

            Back-trailing along with the stagecoach, he’d reached the part of his original journey west where the memories were all good ones.  They’d all still been together here at City of Rocks, with no thought except being together always, and as a gray eagle swooped over the “city,” Adam felt warm with the memory of those happy-hearted days.  With the warmth of memory, though, came a dreaminess that lulled the exhausted boy to sleep, oblivious to the cries of coyotes in the distance or the possible threat of Indian attack.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam was awakened by the sudden stop of the stagecoach.  Rubbing his eyes, he stepped down to see the surrounding hills barely splashed with the first light of dawn.  “Where we at?” he asked the driver.

            “Eight-Mile Creek, last stop in Nevada,” the driver replied, adding with a grin, “and just that far to breakfast, son.”

            Adam yawned as he stretched his arms wide.  “Any chance it’ll be a good one?”

            The driver chuckled.  “Fair to middlin’.  Mormon folks that run Deep Creek grow some decent potatoes.”

            “Sounds good,” Adam said.  How good, he observed inwardly, depended on the skill of the cook.  He was reminded of the time his new stepmother Marie had tried to fry potatoes.  She hadn’t been used to cooking over an open fire and had made one sorry mess of her first meal.  The memory brought a pang of regret, for Adam had been less, far less, than generous that night toward the woman he later came to consider a friend and, belatedly, as much his mother as Inger and the woman who had given him birth.

            The change of mules was swiftly made at the swing station and the coach soon crossed a valley and entered a rugged ravine of serrated rocks.  Despite rumors of Indian unrest, Adam felt no concern here, for the canyon was only five hundred yards long, scarcely large enough to hide many hostiles.  On this morning there were none as the stage burst through a portal of tall rock into the dry valley beyond.

            Two miles past that portal the home station came into view, and at first glance Adam was impressed.  Surrounded by fenced fields stood a large building of adobe, with more adobe stacked nearby to suggest that expansion was being planned.  One step inside destroyed that favorable impression, however.  Hungry as he was, Adam could barely force himself to sit at station keeper Harrison Sevier’s table, for though the fried potatoes, bacon and biscuits were tolerable, the meal could scarcely be appetizing when thousands of flies covered the walls like a living, crawling blanket.  He ate as quickly as he could and hurried from the filthy hovel to a more pleasing prospect.  The deep creek for which the station was named sank here to form a marsh, as so many waterways in the Great Basin did.  After the succession of barren mountains and alkali flats, this was an oasis of pastureland.

            So he was outside Nevada now, Adam mused as he stretched his legs, and it had taken almost no time at all to get here, at least by comparison with how long it had taken to cross the same ground in a covered wagon.  They were coming into populated parts again, although only a handful of homes were visible in the distance.  Seeing the driver exit the log cabin, Adam hustled to get back to the stage, thankful that he’d had even this much time to refresh himself.  He didn’t remember being this sore, ever, when he’d traveled west over this same dry ground.  He’d been a kid then, of course, but since he was still only eighteen, he could scarcely chalk the aches up to old age, and the fading of memory over time probably wasn’t at fault, either.  No, the difference was the pace, no two ways about it.  Walking was easier on the bones than jostling around inside a stagecoach, but the length of the journey was immeasurably longer, and he had no time now for a leisurely walk.  Speed and leisure each had its place, Adam supposed, but now was definitely the time for speed.

            For about seven miles the stage rolled through the valley bisected by Deep Creek.  Cultivated fields extended a mile on either side, with grassy plains beyond.  Then they entered a dangerous, nine-mile stretch through a gorge nature-built for ambush, but again no Indians were sighted.  Between the ridges lay long miles of alkali desert, seemingly drier and more desolate as the afternoon wore on.  Adam’s nose began to bleed from the endless assault of the irritating dust stirred up by the wheels of the coach.  The desert was hard on the wheels, too, and the pace slowed, almost down to the two miles per hour that the oxen pulling the Cartwrights’ wagon had achieved back in 1850.

            Adam thought the day would never end; nor did dinner show any signs of appearing.  Not until four that afternoon did the stage reach the next home station, set in another oasis of hay fields, green from abundant water.  The air above them was thick with water fowl, crows and black swamp birds with yellow throats.  The driver called the place Willow Springs, but as soon as Adam jumped down from the stage the local station keeper called brightly, “Welcome to Callao!”  When asked, he explained that Willow Springs was the old name.  “Nowadays, ‘most ever’body, ‘cept stubborn cusses like Wilt there”—he threw his chin toward the driver—“calls it Callao.  Old Spanish prospector named it after a mining camp in Peru.”

            “Still say Willow Springs suits it better,” Wilt said with a grin as he stabbed another piece of salt beef.  “This ain’t Peru, Hank.”

            Adam did his best to choke down the salt beef and biscuits, all which graced the table in another fly-ridden hovel.  A meager meal to serve as both dinner and supper, but there’d been no place fit to stop for food before—if this could be called a place fit to stop.  The six passengers who boarded the stage here seemed glad to leave, and Adam couldn’t fault them.  He wasn’t particularly happy to have that much traveling company, though.  He was tired of studying and welcomed a little conversation, but with seven in the coach now, he inherited that jump seat he’d avoided so long.  Night was coming on, too, and Adam didn’t look forward to sleeping in the cramped stagecoach.

            When the stage rattled into the next swing station, he concluded there just might have been worse places to take a meal than Willow Springs, where at least the water had been good.  Boyd’s Station, judging by external appearance, would have offered less, for it was no more than a partial dugout with bunks carved into the walls and no furniture at all, except boxes and benches.

            After passing Boyd’s, the coach circled the north end of the Fish Springs range and came upon a succession of light green pools.   Adam heard the call of marsh birds, and peering into the fading twilight, he saw hawks and raptors circling above.  Night came on, and all the passengers settled in to get what sleep they could.  Not thinking the middle seat conducive to secure rest, Adam just wrapped up in his borrowed buffalo robe and sprawled out on the floor of the coach amid the shuffling feet of his drowsing companions.

            Drowsing was about as much as any of them did that night, each kept awake by the near-constant sting of mosquitoes.  Lowering the leather curtains might have helped, but would also have sealed the odor of seven sweat-stinking bodies inside the coach.  Every one of them opted for mosquitoes and fresh air, and Adam drifted off to the rhythm of hands slapping against flesh, waking frequently to join the percussion chorus.

 

* * * * *

 

            By the time the stagecoach made its last long hard climb up a sandy grade before reaching the next home station, Adam was starving.  Mid-morning before the stage line saw fit to stop for breakfast!  His first glimpse of the station explained the delay, for with its station house and outbuildings of solid stone, Simpson’s Springs provided the most substantial-looking stopover he’d seen thus far.  It was one of the most dependable watering spots in the desert, the new driver said, and Adam eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to wash the alkali dust from his face, though he didn’t really have time to do an adequate job, not unless he wanted to starve until reaching the next home station.

            At least, he wasn’t immediately bombarded with another attack of the abrading dust that had even gotten under his eyelids, for the stage next moved into the mountains, climbing to almost a mile high.  At that elevation, only stunted junipers, no more than ten feet high, provided sparse covering for the stony slopes, but even this was a refreshing contrast to the sagebrush flatlands between each range of mountains.  The valleys were scored with waterways, but in August they were all dry.

            The road crossed Skull Valley and after another steep climb the stage rolled into the next swing station about one o’clock that afternoon.  Stepping down from the coach, Adam noticed a wooden marker, which stated that Carson City was 533 miles behind them.  Grow up, Adam admonished himself sternly as another wave of homesickness washed over him.  “Nice view of the desert,” he commented to the driver as the team was being changed.  “Easy to see why they call this Point Lookout.”

            The driver cackled.  “What I hear the Pony riders say is that it stands for ‘Look out for injuns!’”  He laughed at the grimace on the station keeper’s face.  Jackson here don’t like to be reminded that he lives right on the edge of Paiute Hell.”

            “Better on the edge than in the middle of it,” Adam suggested and was rewarded with a grin from the station keeper.  “Do they really call it that?”

            “They do, boy,” Jackson said, “with good reason, but it gets better from here east.”

            Adam sincerely hoped that would prove true and not only because of the ever-present threat of Indian attack.  Behind him lay the harshest desert in North America, a country of bare, rocky mountains and endless miles of burning sand.  As the stage descended into Rush Valley that didn’t change much.  The terrain became pancake-flat, but was still dry and barren, without a tree in sight.

            Dinner at Rush Valley Station didn’t do much to take the edge off Adam’s appetite, either, for the meal was not nearly as solid as the two-story stone structure that housed the next station.  When told that the proprietors were German, Adam had anticipated the type of hearty fare he’d eaten many times at Mama Zuebner’s Café in Placerville, but the meal was meager by that standard.

            The station keeper, Henry J. Faust, however, was an interesting character.  He had come to the United States about twenty years ago and had attended medical school.  Though he had dropped out to join the California gold rush, he was still the closest thing to a medical man in the area and was affectionately known as Doc.  He had a fine corral of horses, for he raised them for the Pony Express and the Army, but Adam didn’t have time to give them more than a fleeting glance before the driver signaled that it was time to leave.

            The stage crossed the dusty, windswept flat of Rush Valley, stopping only long enough to change mules at another swing station.  Adam never missed a chance to get out and stretch his legs, since it was the only rest he was destined to get on this frantic Sabbath.  All too soon he was back aboard the stage, charging up another western slope of yet another range of mountains, studded here and there with stubby cedar, to Five-Mile Pass.  The sameness was becoming as wearisome as the jolting of the stage itself.  Over and over again a sagebrush valley, five to fifteen miles wide, sloped almost unnoticeably toward the center, where some watercourse, most often dry, ran through it.  Then the trail would lead inexorably over the creek or river bed and up a rocky trail on the other side to another range of mountains, thinly scattered with timber, just like the last.

            Adam’s stomach began to rumble long before the stage reached the final home station of the day about seven that night.  Here at the former Camp Floyd, however, supper took a backseat to all there was to see.  Four hundred abandoned buildings had once housed as many as 3,500 troops, sent here to quell the so-called Mormon rebellion.  Adam could remember those times, when Carson Valley had lost most of its population to Brigham Young’s call for reinforcements.  He—and Pa, too, he was sure—thought then that the loss could never be made up, but they hadn’t counted on the discovery of silver at Sun Mountain.  That had changed everything, and the new Territory of Nevada showed promise of real growth now.

            The troops once stationed here had been sent back East, to fight in the conflict between North and South.  Adam had promised his father that he would stay out of that strife, a promise easily made, for the young man wanted to focus on his studies.  He was certain the promise would be easily kept, as well, for the battle at Pinnacle Mount against the Paiutes had squelched whatever boyish notions of the glory of warfare he had once entertained.

            The stage station was located near the fort in a two-story adobe hotel.  Stagecoach Inn looked inviting to all the passengers, and all but one elected to stay the night.  The thought of a soft, unmoving bed pulled at Adam, too, exhausted as he was from traveling more than five hundred miles in the last five days.  For him there was no choice, however, so after a satisfying supper he climbed dutifully aboard the stagecoach, grateful, at least, to have it to himself.  Since it was already dark, Adam just stretched out on the back bench and covered himself with the warm buffalo robe loaned to him by Uncle Billy Rogers.

            The stage jolted to an abrupt halt, and Adam was awakened when he tumbled to the floor.  Yawning, he clambered up and got out.  The sky was still pitch black outside, though in the dim light of a moon slightly more than half-phase, he could make out a station near a small spring.  “Where we at?” he asked the driver groggily.

            “Porter Rockwell’s place,” the driver supplied.  “Runs his own brewery, so you might want to snare yourself a bottle to knock off the chill.  I aim to.”

            Adam nodded and followed the man inside.  At one dollar a bottle, the price was steep, especially for Valley Tan, which had no reputation as good liquor.  Since the night wind was downright icy, Adam decided to splurge for a bottle, anyway.  He took it on the stage with him, and after a few draws of the burning liquor, he grew drowsy and drifted off to sleep again, more soundly than before.  He didn’t even wake when the coach stopped to change mules at the next swing station.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

Although Bonanza only refers to Adam’s college as being “back East,” most writers have elected to send him to Harvard and have written admirable stories in that setting.  I originally chose Yale for purely pragmatic reasons: I had better sources for that college in the 19th century than for the other (chiefly Four Years at Yale by Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg) and felt that I could, therefore, write a more detailed story.  I later learned some facts that perhaps made Yale a likely choice for a boy like Adam.  While Harvard drew most of its students from western Massachusetts, Yale’s students came from everywhere, even as far away as Hawaii, according to catalogs of the years of Adam’s tenure.  Yale also was more active in founding new colleges, being, for instance, one of the earliest to offer courses in engineering and the first to award anyone a Ph.D, in 1861.  That might appeal to a young man with an enterprising mind.  Also, while William Stewart, featured in two episodes of Bonanza, did not graduate, he was an alumnus of Yale and might have influenced a young man from Nevada Territory to make a similar choice.

 

As indicated here, after the Civil War began all travelers headed east were questioned at Fort Churchill to see whether they were going south to join the Confederacy.

 

To the best of my research abilities, all stage stations at which Adam stops were existent at the time of his journey, and descriptions of them are drawn from historic records.  When specific station keepers are mentioned, they are the actual people who manned those stations, although it is not always possible to determine the precise dates of their residence.

 

Camp Floyd had once been the largest military post in the United States.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, the garrison was ordered east, and by September, 1861, shortly after Adam’s trip through there, a mere eighteen families remained in the area.


CHAPTER TWO

Race Across the Continent

 

 

            A rough hand jostled Adam’s shoulder.  “Wake up, boy,” the driver urged.  “Breakfast stop—and a good one.”

            Adam threw back the buffalo robe.  Yawning, he stepped down from the coach and blinked at the number of buildings visible, even in the pale light of early dawn.  Salt Lake City?” he queried, for he could imagine no other town of this size between him and the Mississippi River.

            “Yup,” offered the driver.  “If you’ve a mind to sample Mormon cooking, come along with me.”

            With a grin, for he’d been sampling Mormon cooking—some good, some bad—here and there all along the route, Adam followed the driver onto a verandah between two painted pillars.  By the look of the two-story Salt Lake House, as a sign swinging on a tall flagstaff outside declared its name, this was going to be one of the good ones.  Looks could be deceiving, as Adam had learned at Deep Creek Station, but he had a feeling that this time what he saw was what he’d get.  Besides, he had the driver’s word that the food was good here, and so far none of the men holding the reins had steered him wrong.

            Looks were deceiving, but only in the sense that the meal was even better than the external neatness of the Salt Lake House had led him to hope.  Adam feasted on a hearty breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, fried potatoes and flapjacks, topped with a compote of peaches and strawberries, both grown locally.

When the driver, a speedy eater, polished off his plate and stood to leave, Adam automatically, though reluctantly, did, as well.  “No, no, boy,” the man laughed.  “Stage don’t leave for an hour, so take your time.  I’m off for home.  Now, don’t fret yourself none; I’ll tell the next driver not to leave without you.  Heard you say how important it was for you to ride straight through.”

            “Thanks,” Adam said and sat down again.  He didn’t dally over the meal, though, choosing, instead, to spend the extra time stretching his legs and getting a look at the city.  He and Pa hadn’t come this way on their journey west, and while he’d heard a lot about the Mormon headquarters, he’d never seen it.

            He didn’t see much of it this morning, either, as he feared getting too far from the depot.  Still, what he did see of the quiet, early morning streets left a favorable impression.  Most of the houses were small, though some stretched two or even three stories into the sky, and most were constructed of white, sun-dried bricks, red sandstone or granite.  The doorposts and sills were either of red sandstone or wood, painted a vivid green, and green creepers cascaded over the walls.  The streets were uniform and laid out at right angles, with an irrigation stream running down each side.  Every sidewalk was shaded with willow, cottonwood and locust, and here and there Adam saw the peach trees that had most likely provided part of his breakfast.

            Early as it was, one of the businesses across from the Salt Lake House was open.  Probably just for travelers like me, Adam decided.  He entered in hopes of picking up something to nibble on the road, in the likely event that the next home station was one of the poorer quality.  Inside, he found crackers and cheese and, to his delight, fresh peaches. He gulped at the high price, twenty-five cents a dozen, but gave in to his body’s craving for something fresh.  Then, well stocked against any eventuality, he hustled back across the street and still had a couple of minutes to spare before the new driver appeared.

            “Wanna ride up top a spell, son?” the driver suggested, giving Adam’s back a kindly slap as he passed the boy while heading for the front of the stage.  “Give you a good view of Salt Lake.”

            “Sure,” Adam agreed readily, knowing that the offer was an honor, given at the driver’s discretion to whomever he chose.  Riding up top would provide a welcome break from the increasingly dreary routine, as well as affording a better view of the lake and the other majestic scenery of this part of the country.  He hadn’t counted on getting a view of Brigham Young’s home, too, but the driver pointed it out as they rumbled past.  A good thing he was sitting high, Adam concluded as he peered over the eight-foot stone wall at the complex of buildings that covered an entire square.  He wouldn’t have seen any of it from street level.  Of course, at the rate the stage whizzed past, he didn’t see much anyway, he admitted with a grin.

            Leaving town, the road ran parallel to the Jordan River, although some distance from it.  “That line of trees must mark the river,” Adam commented to the driver.  “Too far away to see what kind, though.”

            “Mostly cottonwood, acacia and poplar,” the driver reported, “with some fruit trees the Mormons have planted.”

            “I bought some of their peaches at the store back there,” Adam said.  “Welcome to share them if you like.”

            The driver laughed.  “Did a mite of my own stockin’ up back there at Salt Lake City, son.  Always do before I head out.  They make mighty good eating.”

            “Sure do,” Adam agreed.  He pointed past the line of trees to a dark silhouette, still kissed by the fading lavender and magenta of the rising sun.  “Something moving on that island over there.  Cattle?”

            “Yeah.  Mormons use those islands for pasture.”  After guiding the horses around a curve, the driver continued, “River’s only three, maybe four, feet deep between there and the main shore—shallow enough to let ‘em herd the cattle back and forth, deep enough to discourage the cattle from roamin’ off on their own.”

            “Sounds like a plan,” Adam laughed.  “Wish we had a setup like that back on our ranch near Virginia City; then I wouldn’t have to spend so much time rounding up strays.”

            “Not a job I’d favor,” the driver chuckled back.  “Any strays I get in this business, I leave to round themselves up.”

            “Or just leave ‘em behind, huh?” Adam teased.

            “Man ain’t a dumb beast,” the driver argued.  “Ought to have sense enough to get hisself where he needs to be, when he needs to be.”

            “True enough,” Adam agreed.  He settled back, propping his elbows on the body of the carriage behind him, and enjoyed the magnificent panorama from his high perch.  The stage ran through the deep, narrow and rugged valley and up into the Wasatch spur of the Rocky Mountains.  Reaching the summit of Big Mountain Pass, he turned back for one last look at the shimmering turquoise of Great Salt Lake.

Throughout the morning he calculated that they crossed some creek—the driver called it Bauchmann’s—at least a dozen times as they zigzagged down from the summit.  They finally burst through the mouth of the awe-inspiring Echo Canyon and came to the next home station, almost in the shadow of its red bluffs.  Nearby, Adam saw fields planted with wheat, barley and corn, although the latter looked scraggly, barely able to hold itself upright.  Lack of water, probably, he concluded and determined, as well, that fresh roasting ears weren’t likely to appear on the dinner table.  The food was good at Weber, though, even if it did feature the same bacon and fried eggs served at most home stations.  Fried potatoes and onions, a product of careful cultivation in a harsh land, supplemented the meal.  There was no denying that the settlers of this territory had made the desert blossom like the rose, as the Bible put it.

            At the driver’s invitation Adam again mounted the seat beside him and watched the road gradually narrow until it snaked through a mere gorge with high bluffs rising on either side.  Dwarf oak and wild roses covered the lower slopes, but the vegetation grew thinner toward the heights.  Beside a recently felled tree he spotted a beaver, and a whole flock of black-and-white magpies flew overhead.

            Approaching the next station, the cliffs became almost vertical, and high on top was a set of stone embattlements.  “Indian trouble?” Adam queried, pointing them out.

            The driver chuckled.  “Nope.  Mormon trouble—or trouble for the Mormons, depending on how you see it.  Maybe you recollect Johnson’s War against the Mormon folk?”

            Adam’s mouth skewed to one side.  “Wasn’t much of a war.”

            The driver laughed aloud this time.  “Sure wasn’t, son, but the Mormons thought it might be, and can’t say as I blame ‘em, with word of the United States Army comin’ agin ‘em.  Built them fortresses to defend the canyon, but never had much need to use ‘em.”

            “I remember,” Adam said.  “We lost a lot of folks from our valley about that time.”

            As they left Hanging Rock Station, the scenery improved steadily.  Willows and other trees lined the banks of the Weber River, winding through the canyon, and springs abounded all along the road, as well as bushes of gooseberries and currants that made Adam want to hop off and gather fresh fruit.  The sight made him so hungry, in fact, that he dug a peach out of his bag and bit into it, using the back of his hand to wipe away the juice that dribbled down his chin.  Prairie chickens and sage hens, scurrying through the brush, lifted his hopes for a succulent supper at the next home station, and his mouth began to water with the mere memory of Aunt Nelly’s roast chicken and dressing.

            The swing station at Echo Canyon was no more than a rough structure of slabs, sturdy enough to keep the wolves out, but not much more.  From there the trail ran northwest up a grassy draw.  The driver pointed out a hollow in the gray sandstone rock to one side.  Cache Cave.  Quite a history behind it.”

            Adam knew an offer when he heard one.  “Like to hear it.”

            The driver grinned.  “Figured as much, you bein’ interested in learning, like ole Sam told me back in Salt Lake.  Well, to start with, it’s got other names.  Rock Cave ain’t much of one, to my mind, but Swallow Cave suits it, ‘cause lots of swallows nest inside.  Seen martins around plenty of times, too.  The cave’s been used by injuns, mountain men, fur traders and explorers—whole bunch of ‘em.  I hear there’s upwards of a hundred and fifty names carved in there, some goin’ back far as 1820.”

            “Like the names on Independence Rock,” Adam commented.  “Mine’s there, along with my pa’s and my uncle’s.”

            “Do say!”  The driver seemed impressed.  “I come around the Horn myself.  Not much way to carve your name on a wave.”  He slapped his knee and laughed hard.

            Adam laughed, too.  “My pa was a sailor in his younger days,” he offered.

            “Bet he’s got some tales to tell then.  Anyway, that cave was another headquarters for the Mormon military during that sort-of war.”  He frowned slightly.  “I always keep a good lookout, goin’ through here, ‘cause I’ve heard rumors that some genuine bad men hole up in it from time to time.  Reckon you know about bad men, though, from what I’ve heard of Virginia City.”

            “She’s got her share,” Adam agreed.  “Sam Brown was about as bad as they come.  I was there when he was gunned down.”  It wasn’t a memory he cherished, but he felt that he owed the driver some return for the information being shared with him.

            The driver also recognized an offer when he heard it, and with a wide grin he answered just as Adam had earlier.  “Like to hear about it.”

            As Adam shared the story, to the loud guffaws of the driver, the stage left the grassy draw and crossed another sagebrush flat.  He broke off when he sighted a pair of massive, sharp-tipped rocks thrusting toward the clear blue sky.

            “Needle Rocks,” the driver said.  “Station up ahead takes its name from them.  You climb back up here, soon as we make the change of mules, boy; that Sam Brown story’s gettin’ right exciting, and I want to hear how it ends.”

            “Sure,” Adam agreed readily.  He hopped down as soon as the horses stopped and hustled to the front door of the swing station.  Sitting beside it on a rough plank bench was a bucket of water.  Adam quickly consumed a ladleful, although it was too lukewarm to be very refreshing.  A couple of minutes to stretch his legs, and he was again perched beside the driver, telling of Sam Brown’s final moments of life while the stagecoach swerved from side to side of a canyon, ascending and then descending the steep banks covered with yellow berry, chokecherry, service berry and a variety of other shrubs.

They left the spectacular scenery of Echo Canyon behind and crossed the border of the Territory of Utah into Wyoming, rolling through a grassy valley partially enclosed by perpendicular stone buttes.  A brook teeming with trout ran through its midst, and Adam felt a yearning to sit beneath the shade of the willows at the base of those buttes and dangle a pole, while the scent of wild geraniums perfumed the quiet afternoon.  No quiet afternoons for him, though, not in the foreseeable future.  Nothing but the rattle of wheels over rocky roads and the bite of the wind in his face.

            The stage plunged through the swift waters of rocky-bottomed Bear River and charged into the next home station, where the bounty Adam had seen along the road graced the table.  The pretty wife of station keeper Myers served a heaping platter of fried trout with pan-fried potatoes and an overflowing bowl of stewed greens.  While her only comment throughout the meal was the announcement of berry pie for dessert, her accent revealed that she, like her more loquacious husband, was a native of England.  Learning that Adam was college-bound, Myers produced a copy of Volney’s Ruins of Rome and declared his interest in politics, both ancient and current.  Adam would have enjoyed continuing the conversation, but the stage left within half an hour of its arrival.

            Adding miles to a journey already overlong to Adam’s aching bones, the road northeast of Bear Creek Station zigzagged this way and then that, due to the irregular lay of the land.  It was, at least, scenic country, especially compared to the deserts of Nevada and Utah.  At the foot of a mountain, the stage forded a muddy stream and continued along a road whose sides teemed with vegetation: stunted oak, blackjack, and box elder, along with bushes of wild cherry and maroon service berry.  The long climb of Quaking Asp Hill, to a height of almost eight thousand feet, followed, and here the surrounding land was a mix: some parts lush with life, others totally bare.  The ridge bore a thick growth of fir and pine, contrasting with the lighter trunks of the quaking aspen in the ravines below.  Even the bare places held a unique attraction, for eerily shaped hills and bluffs of red earth were topped with white clay that made them appear frosted with a fresh fall of snow.  Much as he was enjoying the scenery, however, Adam was tired, so at the next swing station he climbed inside the coach, rolled up in his buffalo robe and slept the night through.

            He woke before dawn to even better scenery, the bare spots fewer and further apart the closer the stage drew to Fort Bridger.  Adam was eager to see it, for it was a place the wagon train had missed on its way west.  Being pressed for time if they were to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains before snow fell, the Larrimore train had elected to take the Sublette Cutoff, instead.  The stage wouldn’t be stopping long, though, just long enough to pick up the mail.  Time, Adam reflected, always seems to be in short supply.  Then it was a matter of life or death, while now—he grinned—still a matter of life or death—academically, that is!

            Fort Bridger was a pleasant place, almost as lovely as the Ponderosa.  If that’s possible.  Adam fought down another treacherous wave of homesickness.  No, no place could rival that pristine beauty, but these green meadows nestled in forest-crested mountains were stiff competition.  The waters of Black’s Fork of the Green River flowed past the fort, dividing into a dozen or more branches, each bridged, and all of them recombining after passing through the settlement.  A lot of the houses were empty, abandoned like Camp Floyd and for the same reason, the war back East.

            “Breakfast soon?” Adam queried as he climbed up beside the driver after the brief stop.

            “Next station—Millersville,” the driver reported, adding with a grin, “and I’m as ready for it as you, boy.”

            Daylight was full and Adam starving when they reached the home station.  He smiled at the corral formed from broken yoke-bows, no doubt the remnant of numerous emigrant or freight wagons abandoned over the years.  In fact, a long line of them stood nearby, hulking skeletons stripped of usable wood.  Inside, the chair backs were constructed from the same material.  The station keeper, a Mr. Holmes, barely spoke—taciturn by nature, Adam supposed.  His wife, another pretty young Englishwoman, made certain everyone’s mouth was too full for conversation anyway.  Adam feasted on another breakfast of fried fish, trout and suckerfish this time.  The ubiquitous fried potatoes appeared again, too, but these were accompanied by fresh strawberries and cream.

            A number of passengers got on at Millersville, including one lady, who automatically inherited the seat beside the driver that Adam had enjoyed so long.  It came as no surprise that the driver preferred the company of a lady to that of a lanky schoolboy—or any other man.  In this case, Adam couldn’t blame the driver at all.  The lady was definitely easy on the eyes.

            The road led through Black’s Fork, so clear its rocky bottom could be seen as the stage forded it three times.  At one of the swing stations, Adam walked along the water course, idly picking up a few smooth pebbles from those scattered along the shore.  Soon he had a collection of granite, obsidian and flint, as well as quartz stones of white, yellow and smoky gray.  Walking back to the stage, he rolled them around in his hand, enjoying the cool smoothness.  He had intended to toss them aside when he boarded, but with a nostalgic smile he slipped them into his pocket, instead.  Hoss and Little Joe would enjoy a memento like this of his journey.  At the next stop he made a beeline for the water’s edge, determined to find one of each kind for each brother.  He was still looking when the driver hollered, and he ran to catch the stage.

            The next home station afforded the best chance to complete the collection, for it was located at the junction of Ham’s Fork and Black’s Fork, both streams large enough to power a mill.  When the stage arrived, however, Adam was more interested in a meal than a search for pebbles.  His hopes for a good one plummeted at first sight of the hovel of dry stone, fitted together without benefit of mortar.  The stones were piled against a low cliff, which served as the hut’s back wall, and the floor was dirt.  That, in itself, didn’t make Adam think less of the place.  After all, most of the stations were floored with dirt, and he could remember living under similar circumstances himself that first year in Carson Valley.  Nelly Thomas had always kept the cabin clean, though; even the dirt floor had been neatly swept, but this station was filthy.

            The station keeper, Scottish Mormon David Lewis, seemed intelligent and courteous, but not ambitious enough, in Adam’s view, to provide a fit home for his family, which included two Irish wives and a handful of rowdy kids.  They were all dressed in tatters—filthy tatters, at that—and looked as if they had never dipped in the nearby streams.  With their pug noses splashed with freckles, the women could have passed for sisters—and might well have been, since Mormon men sometimes married siblings.  Beneath the frayed hems of their faded calico frocks peeked matching sets of bare and decidedly dirty feet.

            The sight of the table, again swarming with flies, effectively tempered Adam’s appetite, but couldn’t kill it completely.  He was too hungry for that, and there was no guarantee that the next station wouldn’t offer a table equally repugnant.  He swept the flies aside, choked down what he could and hurried outside to check the streambed for more smooth pebbles his little brothers might like.  Finally, he spotted a bright yellow glint, and shivering as the icy water rippled over his hands, he washed away the soft silt to reveal the final piece of quartz he needed to give each brother a set identical except for size.  He’d try to balance them out, even in that, but he could probably count on sharp-eyed Little Joe to notice if any of his stones were smaller than any of Hoss’s.  Better warn Pa that he may need to act as peacemaker, Adam chuckled to himself as he pocketed the yellow quartz and ambled back toward the stagecoach.

            A good thing I completed that collection when I did, he decided as the river was left behind.  The chances of finding quartz on the dry divide the road next crossed shrank to nothing.  The stop at Michael Martin’s swing station was brief, of course, so all Adam had time to do was take a brief look around the owner’s general store and grocery.  He was amazed to see how well stocked it was in a part of the country he still considered the middle of nowhere.  Champagne and other liquors lined the shelves, a little surprising since Mormons didn’t drink much.  Fancy dry goods like linen drapery and ribbons, as well as brandied fruits, jams and jellies were on offer, too, along with the more expected buckskin and moccasins and potted provisions.  Since he still had fresh fruit from Salt Lake City, Adam purchased nothing and hurried back to catch the stage.

            The road rose up a mile-wide river valley, and although this wasn’t exactly the trail the Cartwrights had followed west, the scenery recalled what Adam had seen in 1850.  The dainty leaves of the pale-barked quaking asp danced in the slight breeze, alongside willows and wild cherry trees with their large, purple-red fruit.  Scattered among the trees were buffalo berry bushes.  Adam could remember rubbing their tongue-shaped, silvery green leaves between his fingers and taking delight in the feel of their fuzzy undersides.  Inger had made jelly from the red berries, now ripe enough to stir his memory of the sweet fruit.  Wonder if Michael Martin had some of that in stock, he pondered.  Would’ve liked to taste it again—and wild cherry jam.  Inger made that, too.  He didn’t admit, even to himself, that it was memories of his mother he yearned to rekindle.  Before this trip it had been a long time since he’d thought about her, but the sights along the trail reawakened the sound of her gentle laughter.  It had been different from Marie’s tinkling, bell-like laugh—deeper, warmer—but for a moment he could hear them both, laughing together, and somehow it comforted him to think that they were together now, sharing memories of him and Pa and his little brothers.

            Dinner came late, as the stagecoach had to make it all the way to Green River, a headquarters station for the Overland Stage and quite a little settlement, with a grocery and several other stores clustered close by.  The meal served by the English wife of the man Adam learned would be his new driver more than made up for the delay, however.  Salmon trout was fried crispy and flaked at the touch of his fork.  He slathered the fluffy biscuits with buffalo berry jelly, pleased that his wish of that afternoon had been so quickly gratified.  It wasn’t as good as he remembered Inger’s being, but nothing had ever quite lived up to the memory of her cooking, not even Hop Sing’s.  Adam washed down the meal with a tall glass of fresh buttermilk, a welcome alternative to all the bad coffee he’d drunk between here and Carson City.  When he finished, he excused himself to catch a breath of fresh air.

            He strolled around the yard, noting the well-kept corrals, which held mules for the stage line and horses for the Pony Express, and the pasture beyond, where a few cattle and sheep grazed.  A solid station, and the new eastbound driver, a Scot named McCarthy, seemed like a solid man, too.  Seeing the man exchange a kiss with his wife at the door, Adam scurried back to the stage.  “I would nae leave without ye, lad,” McCarthy said, flashing a grin.

            “Thank you for that,” Adam replied.

            “Care to ride up top or be ye of a mood to sleep, like the lassies?”

            Adam was tired and had intended to go straight to sleep, but he didn’t wish to turn down a gracious offer.  “I’ll ride with you to the next station,” he said.  “Then I’d best get some sleep.”

            “Up with ye, then,” McCarthy urged, looking pleased to have company.  “We’ve road to cover.”  As soon as Adam was aboard, he snapped the lines, and the mules took off toward Green River.

            “We ferried across this when my family and I emigrated west,” Adam commented as the coach rolled down the bank to the river.

            “Still do, some times of the year,” McCarthy told him.  “Not in August, though.  Shallow enough to ford now.”

            Adam nodded.  Fording was always preferable to ferrying, in terms of both time and expense, he recalled.  Not that we could ever convince Mrs. Larrimore of that.  How that woman hated rivers!  Though he enjoyed the Scottish driver’s company, the country on the other side of the river wasn’t much to see.  The rolling terrain barely sustained any grass, though sagebrush abounded—sagebrush and alkali dust that cracked his lips and prickled his nose.  By the time they reached the next swing station, Adam decided he’d had enough, and expressing a need for sleep, he climbed back inside the coach.  Once there, however, he found that his weariness wasn’t feigned, for he soon drifted off.

 

* * * * *

 

            Fording Big Sandy Creek early the next morning was a more daunting challenge, for the banks were high and stiff and the water in the clear stream swift.  McCarthy’s skill brought them safely through—with apparent ease, even.  He’d be parting company with the passengers here, turning them over to a new driver, while he himself headed back the way they’d come.  “Dry drive ahead,” he said as he helped the two female passengers down from the coach.  “Best fill your canteens before leaving Big Sandy, folks, or ye’ll be sorry ye dinnae take me advice.”

            Adam took the counsel to heart.  The very words “dry drive” sent shivers down his spine, as they brought memories of Sublette’s Cutoff and the Forty-Mile Desert surging to his brain.  After breakfast he squatted on a bank dotted with blue lupine, golden sunflowers, bell-shaped blossoms of white mountain heather and some pink flower he couldn’t identify while he filled his canteen with cold water from the rushing stream.  A green-headed horsefly landed on his neck.  Adam swatted it and sent it to an early grave, but the damage was done.  The sting, painful as that of any wasp, raised a welt that itched maddeningly throughout the day.

            Eight miles further the stage forded another stream, but as the Little Sandy was completely dry at this season, it presented no problem whatsoever—except to the mind, perhaps.  The sight of that dry creek bed made Adam so thirsty that he opened his canteen to take a drink.  Before capping it again he dabbed a little cold water on his burning neck.  It helped for a while, but as the sun rose higher and he began to sweat, the burning and itching intensified.

            After several more easy fords the stage began to climb up toward the Continental Divide.  Two miles short of that landmark, the driver reined in the mules at Pacific Springs.  The station itself was some distance away from where he stopped, however, and Adam soon saw why.  The land around the log hut was an absolute bog; in fact, the only way to the building was a narrow board laid across the soggy turf.  Not a challenge for Adam, with his fine sense of balance, but when he tried to help a full-skirted female passenger, her wobbly footsteps almost toppled both of them into the muck.

            Thankfully, he was able to catch the lady around the waist and rock back on his heels without plopping down into the quagmire.  “Oh, dear,” the lady tittered once she stood safely on semi-solid ground, “I do hope the meal merits the effort we’ve made to get here!”

            “I hope so, too, ma’am,” Adam returned with a grin.  The porcelain doorknob gave promise of refinement inside, but refinement was only door-deep, he soon concluded.  The furnishings were far from ostentatious, for the only chairs were narrow planks, about as comfortable as perching on a corral rail back home.  The food was a perfect match for the chairs in quality, consisting of potato cubes floating in beef broth.  If there had ever been any actual beef in this stew, it never made it into Adam’s bowl.  The meal was hot and somewhat filling; nevertheless, as he left, Adam saw a chicken hawk circling overhead and silently willed it on to better pickings.  Slapping away the cloud of mosquitoes that descended upon him, he made his way to the plank over the marsh and hurried to the stage after watching, with amusement, as another passenger helped the lady across this time.

            In no time at all the stage topped the hill to the east and rolled across the divide.  Though Adam knew he still had a long journey ahead, he felt that he was really on his way now, as he, like the waters on this side of the pass, raced toward the Mississippi River.  South Pass was another old friend from the trail, awakening more memories of his trip west with Pa and Inger and his baby brother.  Hard to think of Hoss as a baby, but he had been then.  Now he was a fine, strapping boy and another little fellow carried the title of baby brother, Adam mused wistfully.  Then he set his mouth in a hard line.  Will you stop it? he scolded himself.  You’ll be blubbering like a baby yourself if you keep this up!

            Winding roads charged up and plunged down, and the stage forded another succession of creeks—some dry, some not.  Even those that weren’t had, on average, only two feet of water, so they caused no delay and no concern for the skilled driver.  Strawberry Creek was particularly attractive with its stream banks lined with red and white willows and poplars and bright red strawberries, peeking temptingly from beneath jagged-edged leaves.  The stage continued on without stopping, except for periodic changes of team, until it finally rolled into Rock Creek for supper.  Though Adam wouldn’t have believed it possible, the food in this filthy place was worse than that at Pacific Springs.  He choked down what he could and hoped for better things on the morrow.

 

* * * * *

 

            Yawning widely, Adam stretched his arms back in a miserably futile attempt to work out the kinks from another night aboard the stagecoach.  “Breakfast here?” he inquired, covering another yawn.

            “Next station,” the driver replied.  “Got a lady in the house there, and she’s a right fine cook.”

            Adam’s eyes finally opened wide enough to look around the swing station, and he grinned as he recognized the location.  Ice Spring Slough, too, carried some fond memories.  He could almost see Hoss, squalling up a storm after he’d given the baby a piece of ice, dug from below ground, to suck on.  Inger had scolded him soundly for that, and he’d felt terrible when he heard that he might have caused his baby brother to choke.  The ice had just tasted so good after all the hot days of trudging beside the wagon that he’d been sure Hoss would enjoy it, too.  No time to dig ice this morning, but it wasn’t as tempting, anyway, in the chilly morning air.  He was more hungry than thirsty now and was glad to climb aboard as soon as the team was changed.  Drivers generally didn’t lead him astray when it came to meals, so he was looking forward to this one.  Even if it turned out to be greasy gravy and rock-hard biscuits, though, his gnawing belly was insisting that he stuff his face full.

            The stage descended into the valley of the Sweetwater River.  On both sides walls of white granite, flecked with black mica, rose three to four hundred feet.  The path of the river was so serpentine that the stage was forced to ford it twice before rolling in to the home station located at the first of three more fording places clustered close together.  Three Crossings.  Poor Mrs. Larrimore had practically been in hysterics at the thought of fording a river three times in succession.  Adam had never understood how his mother could put up with the irritating woman, but that was just Inger.  She’d been patient with everyone, whether it was a foolishly fearful woman or a little boy who had harvested a crop of sharp burrs when he strayed too far from the wagon.

            There had been nothing here then, but Adam was glad to see the log station.  He hustled beneath the skull of a full-grown bighorn sheep, which hung over the doorway.   Inside, he noted with approval that the floor was swept clean and the walls even papered.  The table was spread with a clean cloth, and the food looked great.  No greasy gravy here!  Instead of the usual bacon, the meat was antelope steak, and Adam’s mouth watered at the sight, for this was a dish he had not eaten in years, not since the early days in Carson Valley.  Antelope still roamed the valleys near the Ponderosa, but Pa, refusing to take the Indians’ meat supply, wouldn’t let them shoot one anymore.  Adam agreed with that policy, but tasting antelope again would be a treat—especially when it came accompanied with fluffy biscuits like these.  The coffee and cream were both of excellent quality, too, as was the cheese.  After finishing off a slice of gooseberry pie, Adam bought a little extra cheese to take on the stage.  Didn’t hurt to be prepared, especially since the next stop was unlikely to provide as satisfying a meal as this had been.

            The road through the next section offered a visual feast to match the one his stomach had just enjoyed.  The Sweetwater Valley was draped in a verdant fabric of grass, embroidered with flowers and bordered with willow thickets from which fat grouse skittered in and out.  Fringing the fabric were two parallel ranges of mountains, running east and west.   The bare, sandy sides of the Sweetwater Range, to the south, contrasted with the exuberant life of the northern Rattlesnake Range. There, trees of all varieties abounded.  Long rows of aspen, beech and cottonwood lined the river, while pine, cedar, cypress and other evergreens climbed the slopes, and bushes of ripe red strawberries, currants and gooseberries peeked out beneath the green canopy.  Though Adam caught little sign of them from the stagecoach, he knew the Rattlesnake Range harbored large and sometimes dangerous animals, as well: bighorn sheep, cougars, grizzly bears and wolves.

            Despite having such resources close to hand, Monsieur Planté and his family of French-Canadians, managers of the next home station, set one of the poorest tables Adam had seen anywhere.  The milk had obviously been watered down to make it stretch, so much, in fact, that there looked to be more water than milk in the pitcher he saw on the table as he entered.  He could tell at a glance that the sliced bread was only half-baked, and the butter smelled rancid at a distance.  For this questionable fare, the standard seventy-five cents was charged without the slightest qualm.  Adam turned and walked out.  No sense wasting Pa’s money on grub like that!  He’d make out on the cheese he’d bought at Three Crossings.

            Coming in to Devil’s Gate, the next swing station, the stage again forded the Sweetwater, but the water came only to the axle.  Even Mrs. Larrimore wouldn’t have blinked an eye at this, Adam mused with a grin.  The stage splashed through easily and rattled down the road, another mile bringing them to that grand register of the plains, Independence Rock.  Adam remembered reading about it in Pa’s guide book of the trail and stretching his eyes to see the giant granite boulder and other landmarks for days before they came into sight.  Now, the speedy stage rushed past them in mere hours.

            Saleratus Lake, where he and Billy Thomas had filled pails with the prairie’s natural leavening agent, flashed past, and then about every three miles the stage rumbled through some creek whose name Adam was sure he once knew, but could no longer recall.  Finally, they stopped at Willow Springs for another poor supper.  The water from the springs was pure and ice-cold, sheltered from the sun as it was by eight-foot banks, covered with willows.  At least, that’s the way Adam remembered it.  Now, after the passage of a decade’s worth of emigrants west, the willows were nothing but stumps.  The water was still as icy as he remembered, though, so Adam filled his canteen, hoping the mountain air would help the water retain its coolness for when he’d actually need it the next day.

            Far in the distance he caught sight of a lone buffalo and recalled the excitement of that first one his father had killed and brought back to share with the rest of the wagon train.  Descending darkness shut out the nostalgic scene, and if there were any others, they were passed unnoticed in the night.  Adam’s dreams that night, though, were sweet with remembrances of his gentle Swedish mother as they walked together beside their ox-drawn wagon.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam smiled at the bevy of bronze-skinned children playing about the door of Deer Creek Station.  A number of other buildings surrounded the station, including a post office, but Adam didn’t have time to post a letter.  What news did he have to relate, anyway?  Dear Pa, I’m exhausted, battered and bruised from riding in this stagecoach night and day?  Or, Dear Hoss, don’t travel this way; the food’s terrible?  No, his family could do without news like that, at least until he had some good news to put with it, like his acceptance into Yale College.  At breakfast he met Major Twiss, the Indian agent who lived here, and Monsieur Bissonette, whose accent strongly reminded him of Marie.  The latter invited all the stage passengers to follow him to his combination store and saloon.   Adam tagged along and bought a bit of pemmican and some crackers against culinary emergencies.

            Though he still felt a need to study for his entrance exam, the scenery was so magnificent throughout the day that Adam found it hard to keep his eyes on his book.  The Black Hills were dark with deep green pines, and the land rich in water and wildlife, but the stations put that wealth to the sorriest use conceivable.  Of course, he realized that station keepers had little time to hunt, with stages and Pony riders coming through so regularly, but the meager meals gave him a renewed appreciation for Inger’s talents over a cook fire and Pa’s taking time to bring in fresh meat along the trail.  They’d paid for their slow pace by getting to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains so late in the season that Pa had decided not to risk the crossing, but that had turned out for the best.  Though their original destination had been California, now Adam couldn’t think of any place but Nevada as home.

            If majestic scenery and nostalgic memories hadn’t served to distract him from his studies, the conversation of his fellow passengers that Friday morning surely did.  Not long after leaving Deer Creek, a man seated across from Adam casually remarked, “Next home station is Horseshoe Creek.  Anybody not know what that means?”

            The man next to Adam grinned broadly beneath his black handlebar mustache.  “That the biscuits is tougher than horseshoes?” he suggested.

            The first man guffawed, slapping his knee.  “That’s a good one!”  He sobered quickly.  “Ain’t a laughing matter, though.  If any of these folks have never ridden this way before, they might need a word of warning.”

            “I haven’t,” Adam admitted freely.  “Not by stage, that is.  I passed through in ’50 with my folks, but there wasn’t anything here then.  Well, except . . .”

            “Indians?” a lady sharing Adam’s seat asked in a shaky voice.  “Is it trouble with them you’re warning us of, Mr. . .?”

            “Renfro,” the man supplied with a tip of his flat-crowned, brown felt hat.  “No, ma’am.  They can be a mite pesky hereabouts, but redskins ain’t nothing to compare with”—he dropped his voice and whispered ominously—“Jack Slade.”

            The man beside Adam shook his head, a strand of his shoulder-length black hair hitting Adam in the mouth.  “Jack Slade,” he chuckled.  “I know him well.  Division head for this section of the Overland Stage, and a more gracious gentleman you couldn’t hope to meet.”

            “Unless,” Renfro said with a cock of his head.

            “Well, yes . . . unless,” the other man admitted.

            “Unless . . . what?” the lady asked, fingers fidgeting with the cameo at her neck.  She leaned forward, face intent, as did the passengers sharing Renfro’s seat.

            “Unless he’s been drinking, ma’am.”  Renfro smiled at her.  “You got nothing to worry about, of course.  Slade’s always genteel with the ladies, but the rest of us best watch our step . . . and even if the biscuits are hard as horseshoes, don’t dare to complain, not if you value your life.  Slade don’t take kindly to anyone insulting his sweet Molly.”

            Convinced the man was making sport of them, Adam smiled wryly.  “Has he ever actually killed anyone?”

            “You bet he has, son!” Renfro sputtered, clearly put off by a mere boy daring to question his word.  “Killed his first man when he was just thirteen, and then there’s what he did to Jules Reni some time back.”

            “Had cause for that,” the man who claimed to know Slade alleged.  “Reni near killed him when the Overland sent him to clean up Reni’s gang of thugs at Julesburg.”

            Renfro shrugged.  “True enough.  Can’t fault him for going after a man that emptied a pistol in him and then fired two barrels of buckshot at him, for good measure.”

            “He lived through that?”  Adam’s mouth gaped open.

            “He did, son.  Reni thought he’d left Slade for dead, but Slade promised to live long enough to wear Reni’s ears on his watch chain, and he made good on that promise.”

            Adam glanced to his seat mate for confirmation, and the mustached man nodded.  “That’s what I heard.  Tied Reni to a corral and used him for target practice ‘til Reni begged him to get it over with.  Slade did, and then he cut off Reni’s ears, just like he’d said he would.”

            The lady shivered.  “That’s a dreadful story, and I don’t think I believe a word of it.”

            Adam wasn’t sure he did, either.  It was the kind of story men might tell to scare a youngster, as they surely considered him to be, but it was hard to believe they’d want to frighten the lady.  Most men had better manners.  He’d seen some men in Virginia City tough enough to do just what Slade was accused of, too.

            “Didn’t mean to worry you none, ma’am,” the man with the mustache said.  “As I said, Slade’s been a perfect gentleman every time I’ve come this way.  Don’t fret yourself a minute.”

            The lady smiled stiffly, but the wrinkles in her forehead indicated that she was still worried about meeting the notorious Slade.  As the stage pulled into Horseshoe Station and Adam helped her down from the coach, she pulled him aside and whispered in his ear, “Watch yourself in there, boy.  You seem a mannerly sort, but it doesn’t pay to be careless with a man like that.”

            “Yes, ma’am, I’ll mind my manners,” Adam promised, though not from fear of Jack Slade.  He still only half believed the wild tale.  When he walked into the dog trot cabin and saw Slade for himself, Adam was certain the other gents had been pulling his leg.   Not only did Slade seem mild-mannered and completely cordial, he was a skinny little fellow, not even as tall and heavy as his wife.  In fact, Slade wasn’t much taller than Hoss, Adam noted with a smile, and not nearly as stocky as his eleven-year-old brother.

            Virginia Slade, better known as Molly, set a decent table, at least by home station standards.  Nothing to brag about, but not much to raise complaint over, either.  Just a meal.  Adam had kept his tongue under far worse provocation, so he found it easy to politely thank Miss Molly for the meal when the driver rose from his seat to signal that it was time to reboard the stage.

            As the passengers all stood, Renfro asked the station keeper if he had the time.  Obligingly, Slade pulled out his pocket watch, and Adam could almost feel his eyes widening at the sight of the watch fob that ornamented the chain.  Dried flesh, without a doubt, and unless his imagination was working overtime, exactly the shape of a withered ear.  Adam gulped and blessed Pa for teaching him good manners.

Renfro chuckled as everyone settled into their seats on the stage once more.  “Well, boy, still think I was gilding the lily?”

            “Guess not,” Adam conceded.

            “Don’t bother thanking me,” Renfro cackled.  “For the warning, I mean.”

            Adam took him at his word and didn’t.

            The road ran along the course of the North Platte, but since it was closer to the hills than the water, the path was rocky and uneven.  Adam eagerly took advantage of the swing stations at Cottonwood Springs and Star Ranch to light down and rest, if only for the time it took to change teams.  Ft. Laramie, coming up, was a place he would gladly have stayed longer, for he had enjoyed his first visit to the fort.  Then it had been a leisurely stop for the wagon train, a time to make repairs and replenish supplies.  Now there wasn’t even enough time to run over to the post bakery for a loaf of good bread.  Renfro did manage to pick up a copy of the New York Times at the sutler’s store and sociably read the latest news to his fellow passengers.

            The newspaper was a week old, but even so, it contained fresher news than Adam was used to getting in his part of the country.  Everyone was most interested in the progress of the war, of course, and the front page was full of reports and rumors: General Banks had withdrawn from Sandy Hook; the rebels had reoccupied Harper’s Ferry; a Confederate steamboat had been captured on the Mississippi.  Adam was most concerned, however, about the report of a recent battle in Missouri, where 1,235 were said to be dead, wounded or missing at Wilson’s Creek. That was more than two hundred miles south of St. Joseph, where his friends, the Edwards, were living, but still too close for comfort.  Adam listened with rapt attention, barely aware of the next bumpy stretch of nine miles.

            When the stage stopped at Bordeaux’s Ranch, which one of the other passengers called Laramie City, Renfro automatically stopped reading—in mid-sentence, no less.  “Time for dinner,” he announced cheerily as he folded his paper and sprang up to open the door.

            “Guess he’s hungry,” chuckled the man with the mustache.

            “Aren’t we all?” Adam responded with a cheeky grin.

            “Manners, boy, manners,” the other man laughed back.  “Not that Bordeaux is anything like Slade.”

            To Adam, there wasn’t much difference between Jack Slade and the French-Canadian James Bordeaux, the station keeper here, except for reputation.  Both treated him well enough and served up a meal that was about equal in quality.  Bordeaux ran a small store here, too, though, and while most of the goods were designed to catch the Indian eye, Adam saw one item he just had to have.  The pipe was simple in construction, but its sandstone bowl was polished until it shone like marble.  Perfect for Pa, a memento of the trip for him, just as the river pebbles would be for Hoss and Little Joe.  Adam bargained a little, to get the price down, and carried it back onto the stagecoach.

            “I do hope a boy of your age hasn’t taken up the vice of smoking,” the lady who had been so solicitous of his manners back at Slade’s place chided.

            “No, ma’am.  It’s not for me; it’s a gift for my father.”  Adam was more than a little tired of having every female who boarded the stage telling him how he ought to behave, but he kept his reply polite.  ‘Cause I do know how to behave, he told her silently.

            Renfro remained behind at Bordeaux’s.  No loss, except he kept the newspaper with him.  Oh, well, Adam thought.  Maybe I’m just as well off not hearing more war news.  As long as Jamie and his father are safe, it doesn’t concern me, anyway.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam took another swig of water from his canteen, but no matter how much he drank, he couldn’t seem to wash the grease from his mouth.  Breakfast at Spring Ranch that morning had been plentiful, but the bacon, antelope, biscuits and doughnuts had all been fried in the same pan.  The flavors had mixed together, with grease saturating everything.  Probably nothing short of washing his mouth out with lye soap would get the taste of that grease out.  Between that and the swarms of mosquitoes that were still attacking after feasting on him and his fellow passengers all night, this had been one miserable morning.

            The stage ascended a long slope, the earth fissured randomly by wide cracks and canyons, and after a twelve-mile incline, headed down again.  Recognizing the name of the next station, Adam all but hung out the window to catch a first glimpse of an old trail friend.  Finally, a blue mound appeared on the horizon, growing in size and lightening in shade until the eight-hundred-foot mass of Scott’s Bluff loomed before him, giving promise of more familiar landmarks soon to appear.

            The noon meal at the home station here offered the usual bacon and biscuits, but Adam couldn’t tolerate the thought of more grease.  Since there was also cheese available, he filled several biscuits with that and took them outside to eat.  He looked ahead, craning his eyes for the next major landmark, much as he had when a small boy, traveling the opposite direction.  How he’d pestered Pa about seeing Chimney Rock!  Looked forward to it for days—maybe even weeks—then feared he’d never see it when cholera struck their wagon train and took so many lives.  Billy Thomas’s baby brother Bobby, big Frederick Zuebner and Adam’s gentle young friend, Johnny Payne, as well as others he’d come to care about over the weeks they’d traveled together, had been left behind along this stretch of road.  Wish there was time to stop and visit their graves.  Doubt if I could even find them, though.

Adam knew his wish would go ungranted.  No time for searching, anywhere along the route.  Even the home stations were but brief stopovers, while at the swing stations, like Fickin’s Springs and Chimney Rock just ahead, they’d stay long enough to change teams and not a minute longer.  Not even time to walk over and touch that special place again, as he had when Pa’s strong arms carried him to the pinnacle back then, after the sickness finally released its iron grip.  Just being able to touch it, after fearing it was the clouds of heaven he’d touch next, had breathed hope into Adam’s young heart, and he’d known in that very moment that they’d make it all the way to California, all the way to Pa’s dream.  If I touched it now, would I feel that same faith, that same assurance that I’ll make it all the way to Yale, all the way to my dream?  A childish notion, he supposed, but somehow he wished he could reach out to the magic of Chimney Rock once more.

            He did have time to fill his canteen at the nearby spring and to gaze up at the clay spire, rising five hundred feet into the air.  He had expected it to seem smaller to his more adult eyes, the way other things had, but he still felt the same awe he had as a child.  He suddenly wished Hoss could be here to view it with him, for his younger brother had been born in the shadow of Chimney Rock.  That birth, after so much death, had brought renewed life to everyone on the Larrimore train and given them the courage to forge ahead—through mountains and deserts; through rain, wind and snow; through everything a hard land could throw at them.  They’d persevered and they’d conquered.  No, Adam decided, it wasn’t magic he needed, just a fresh reminder that courage could conquer whatever challenges lay ahead.

            The next swing station was Courthouse Rock, another old friend, and then the road passed over a couple of small streams.  When one of the other passengers called one of them the Little Punkin, Adam had to laugh.  He’d miss that “little punkin” back home and the older boy who had given the infant Joseph that nickname.  His heart welled up with homesickness once more, but this time he didn’t treat it as an enemy to his manhood; rather, he embraced the memories and drew strength from them.

            The sky had been overcast and gray all day, but now the clouds turned dark and foreboding, with pouches hanging down heavy with water.  If those let loose, Adam thought, Mud Springs will really live up to its name.

            The man sitting next to him peered around him.  “Looks like we’re in for a blow.  Better roll down those curtains, boy.”

            Adam obliged the man by releasing the leather curtains, and all around the coach other passengers did the same.  One remarked, “Don’t much like the look of those clouds.”

            “Yeah, we’re like to get wet, hoofin’ it to the home station,” the man by Adam replied.

            “Hope that’s all,” the first man returned in ominous tones.  “Don’t like the look of those clouds,” he said again

            Curiosity piqued, Adam peered out the edge of the curtain.  The clouds did seem darker, almost black now, low-hanging and shaggy, but still just rain clouds, to his eye.  He was about to ask the other man what was concerning him when he heard a yell from outside and his head thumped back against the seat.  “Moving faster,” he observed.

            “Tryin’ to outrun the storm, I reckon,” his seatmate theorized.

            Once more Adam lifted the edge of the curtain and watched, fascinated, as a brilliant dagger of light struck the earth, followed by a loud crack of thunder.  Again he heard the driver yell, and again the stagecoach lurched forward as the mules were whipped to a faster pace.  For a mile they ran as though hounds were nipping their heels and then the stage pulled to an abrupt stop.  Almost immediately the driver jerked opened the door.  “Twister!” he hollered above the roaring wind.  “Everybody inside—fast!”  He ran back to the front of the coach to unhitch the mules.

            No one needed a second warning.  Hearts leaping into their throats, the men jumped down without using the step.  The one who had been sitting beside Adam shoved him on, while remaining behind long enough to help the only female passenger down.  Along with the other men, Adam dashed toward the scant shelter of the sod station.  When everyone was inside, they all huddled at the doorway, watching in horror as a funnel-shaped tail dipped down from the wall of glowering clouds and headed straight for them.  The spinning tail whipped this way and that, flinging dust into the air.  As the cyclone spun closer, Adam could feel the wind blast his face.

            The woman screamed and fell to her knees behind him.  “Oh, dear God, save us!” she cried.

            “Get back from that door!” yelled the station keeper.

            Adam hauled the woman to her feet and pulled her over to the solid earthen wall at the side.  “Safest place,” he explained hurriedly.  “Just like being inside a cave.”  The woman seemed reassured, and Adam could only hope he was right in his analogy.  He’d never seen a tornado before, but in the back of his mind he seemed to remember hearing that folks generally went underground, if they could, when one threatened.  A sod house was close to being underground, wasn’t it?

            With the door shut, the place was plunged into darkness, except for the flickering light from the fireplace.  Outside the roar grew louder and a single shingle of the roof blew off.  Then, just as suddenly as it had risen, the wind dwindled.  “It’s moving away from us,” someone whispered, as if fearful a loud voice would call it back.

            “Thank God,” the woman sighed.

            “Just hope the coach is all right,” the driver muttered, “or we’ll be stayin’ with you a spell, Jim.”

            “You better hope,” the station keeper grunted, “‘cause I ain’t got no extra beds.”

            Outside, the wind died down still more, and they could hear the soft patter of rain on the cedar roof.  “I gotta check,” the driver said, heading toward the door.

            Adam was right behind him.  If anything had happened to that coach, if anything delayed them, even one day, he’d miss the entrance exam.  He had to know.  Holding his breath, he burst through the door and exhaled in mighty relief.  The stagecoach was still there, still standing.  He cut a quick glance at the corral.  The mules were there, looking skittish, but unharmed.  The only damage he saw, in fact, was to the open shed just beyond the pole corral.  Whatever roof it had one time had was gone.

            “Get back inside and get yourself some grub, boy,” the driver scolded.  “We got time to make up, and I won’t wait for no dilly-daddlin’ youngster who just has to stand around and gawk.

            “Need help with the team?” Adam offered.

            “Send McArdle out for that; it’s his job.  Now, git!”

            Adam trotted back inside, delivered the message to the station keeper and sat down at the table.

            “Is the stage all right?” the woman asked anxiously.

            “Just fine, ma’am,” Adam said.

            She sighed with relief.  “Oh, good.  I didn’t want to miss my connection to Denver.”

            Half a dozen brown-speckled blackbirds skittered in through the open door, and the passengers laughed out their relief as they fed biscuit crumbs to the birds hopping around their feet.  No one had the heart to shoo the little creatures out into the rain.  There were no complaints about the food here, either; though it was no better than that served at other home stations, everyone was just glad to be alive and in one piece and able to get on the road again.

            East of Mud Springs the road evened out.  Instead of steep ascents and descents every few miles, the ups and downs were more moderate now, and the thoroughbrace turned the stagecoach into a giant swinging cradle. Soon the smooth rocking lulled Adam and his fellow passengers to sleep.

 

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

 

Mark Twain describes station keeper Jack Slade in Roughing It.

 

The news Renfro read to his fellow passengers is taken from the New York Times of August 23, 1861.


CHAPTER THREE

Rush to the Missouri

 

 

            There was supposed to be an hour’s layover at Julesburg.  The stage was so late coming in that morning after the twister, however, that the division headquarters would be treated like any other home station.  Grab a bite of breakfast and make it quick, since the new driver was already fretting over being behind schedule.  Adam considered himself lucky to get breakfast at all, though.  The connecting stage to Denver had awaited their arrival, but its driver wanted to leave immediately.  No breakfast at all for those heading there.

            Adam wished that he might be among them.  To be so close to his Uncle John and Cousin Will without seeing them was frustrating.  A side trip to Denver, however, would require an extra day, just in travel time, even if they didn’t visit at all, and Adam didn’t have a day to spare.  It was already the first of September, and he had only nine days to reach New Haven.  He could scarcely remember Will, anyway, but his memories of Will’s pa were fresher, since Uncle John had visited them in St. Joseph and twice on the Ponderosa.

            Wanting to catch more than a glimpse of Julesburg, Adam ate hurriedly and left the long, single-story station of rough-hewn cedar logs.  On lighting down from the stage, he’d been surprised by the size of the town, a dozen buildings or more.  In addition to the station and a stable of similar construction, Julesburg boasted a telegraph office, blacksmith shop, store, warehouse and billiard saloon.  Curiosity drew him toward the latter, where he treated himself to a drink to ward off the morning chill and watched a game with fascination, trying to predict where the balls would land from the angle of their bounce off the padded sides.  He kept close to the door, looking out every minute or so, to make sure the stage wouldn’t leave him.  When he saw the driver exit the station, he pushed through the batwing doors of the saloon and made a dash for the stage.

            The road passed through heavy sand for the next several miles; in fact, for a brief stretch, the passengers had to get out and walk to spare the mules the extra weight.  Then the path ran along the Platte River, its banks glistening white with alkali salt.  Dinner was taken at Diamond Springs, but Adam was convinced the mosquitoes were eating better than any of the passengers.  The sultry heat kept everyone from wanting to lower the curtains, even though there wasn’t much to see.  Adam took advantage of the afternoon to give more diligent attention to his textbook again.  He’d been neglecting that the last few days, for it had been harder to concentrate with the steep ups and downs of the mountainous country.  The road was more level now and reading easier on his eyes.

            At the relay station near O’Fallon’s Bluffs, the passengers took a brief look around a store stocking everything from needles to champagne.  Since Adam needed neither nor much in between, he was more interested in the signboard giving distances to points ahead.  A hundred and twenty miles to Ft. Kearney, but more importantly, still four hundred before he reached St. Joseph.  Would he make it on time or would Indians, weather or just plain bad luck delay him?  This remote station, he was told, was the best place between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains for an Indian attack, but the area seemed peaceful today.  The closer they got to “civilization,” the less likely that threat would be, but weather and bad luck could strike anywhere.  Though he couldn’t entirely escape the niggling concern, Adam shrugged it off.  So far, his luck had been good, and if it changed, he’d deal with it as best he could.  But, please, don’t let it change, his heart pleaded, for Pa’s sake, if not for mine.  Don’t let all he’s sacrificed be a waste.

            As the stage left behind the alkali flats, the roadside started to green up and look more like the prairie Adam remembered when first starting west.  The grass was ornamented by pink and blue lupine, milkweed with its small white blossoms and the pretty blue flowers of wild flax.  He spotted useful greens, too, although from the stage he couldn’t discern the distinctive shape of their leaves well enough to identify them.  He remembered, though, especially the lamb’s quarter and chamomile that had given such refreshment to their bleak diet of salt pork and cornbread.  Dwarf cedars edged the banks of the Platte and long River Island in the distance.

            Riding in to the home station at Fremont Springs, Adam noticed a deer drinking from the spring at the end of slough, but it fled from the commotion of an incoming stage.  He stepped down from the coach and smiled at a few chickens skittering around the yard.  Could it be possible that there would be fried chicken on the supper table?  Not surprisingly, there wasn’t.  Should have known better, Adam chided himself.  Didn’t see enough to make a flock.  Probably not enough to share with travelers, but looks like the lady of the house is working toward that, at least.  Maybe by the time I come home again.  Unless, of course, I fail that exam and end up back here within a month.  He gave himself an outright scolding, albeit a silent one, for that negative thought.  Failure wasn’t an option; therefore, he wouldn’t fail.

            The man running the station must have trapped some pigeons, for that was what graced the supper table.  Floured and fried in a pan with onions, they were quite tasty and a welcome change from bacon and biscuits.  Lamb’s quarter provided the greens he’d been yearning for since seeing them crop up alongside the trail, and freshly baked wheat bread, crusty outside but light and fluffy within, rounded out the meal.  Adam could have dallied in delight over such a meal.  The driver was ready to leave before he was, though, and the driver’s word was law.  Adam dutifully climbed aboard and settled himself in for the night.

 

* * * * *

 

            When Adam woke and looked out the window to his right the next morning, he saw a line of cone-shaped buttes of red, sandy clay.  Partially detached from the rock wall behind them, their smooth faces sloped toward the Platte River opposite at a forty-five-degree angle.  Soon he came to a decrepit excuse for a station, with worse to offer by way of breakfast.  Squeezing into the single-room log hut, he managed to choke down a plate full of near-rancid bacon and greasy pancakes that tasted as if the flour had been mixed with dirt.  The taste was improved slightly by the thick molasses in which he drowned his stack of three. 

            The one thing Cottonwood Springs did have going for it was the water.  Being advised that it was the only good source along the route ahead, he hurried over to the clear stream flowing through a grove of tall cottonwood trees and filled his canteen with cool, clean water.

            The countryside past the home station continued to be carpeted with a rainbow of flowers, purple aster mixing with flowers of red, blue, white and yellow.  Some of the land was too swampy for flowers to grow and, unfortunately, the roadside was also strewn with the sun-bleached skulls and bones of wantonly killed buffalo.  Sometime that morning he spotted a few of the great, shaggy beasts in the distance and smiled at the memories they evoked.

            Against all hope, buffalo appeared on the table at the noon stop at Plum Creek.  The driver groused that this was the worst time of year for buffalo.  “Tough enough to break a tooth and stringy enough to stick between what’s left.”

            Grateful as he was for the diversity, Adam had to admit that this steak didn’t taste the way he remembered.  Whether this was really inferior or whether memory had simply made the original impossible to live up to, he couldn’t have said.  As the passengers again boarded the stage, the driver leaned in to whisper, “Better food at the next stop, folks.”  Everyone looked grateful for that, although Adam thought that even tough, stringy buffalo was an improvement over breakfast.

            They passed through Ft. Kearney, but since it was only a swing stop, Adam saw little of it.  Another hour and a half brought them to the home station run by a man named Hooks, which a couple of the passengers called Dogtown and another Valley City.  Adam thought the latter the most appropriate, for it was as pleasing to the ear as the setting was to the eye.  Situated on the river, its banks partially fringed with willows and young cottonwoods and in sight of the river islands, where elk and deer roamed, Valley City was a lovely spot.  And the food was good, too, the main course being blue catfish from the river.  Full to satisfaction, Adam found it easy to fall asleep as the stagecoach traveled between a narrow line of cottonwood, red willow and cedar on the north and rolling hills of red clay and sand to the south.

 

* * * * *

 

            The driver opened the stage door and assisted the female passengers from the coach.  “Count your blessings, ladies, that Thirty-Two-Mile Creek is a breakfast stop for us.  If we got here any later, we might have to fight off them pesky blue coats from Ft. Kearney.”

            Adam shook his head at what he figured to be a bad joke.  No one would ride all the way from Ft. Kearney for a meal, especially not to a one-story log cabin with nothing to set it apart from all the others along the route.  As soon as he tasted the breakfast, however, he was ready to take the driver’s tale in complete faith.  A thick slice of ham adorned each plate of fried eggs, as did a mound of potatoes fried with onion.  Biscuits were served with bottom gravy, rich and brown from the drippings of the pan in which the ham had cooked.  Pie baked from preserved peaches, juicy and sliced thick, provided a worthy finale to the fine meal.

            “Raise some good cooks in Vermont, don’t they, son?” the driver commented when Adam paid his compliments to the lady serving the meal.  “And she sets an even better table at dinner.  That’s why them soldiers from Kearney flock around when they get a day off.”

            “So, will we have another fine cook from Vermont at the next home station?” Adam asked with a smile at his hostess.

            The driver laughed.  “Not quite as good, son, ‘cause it don’t get better than this, but it ain’t bad.  You won’t starve in Little Blue country.”

            When they left, the road began a gradual slope downward over the broken tableland between the Platte River and the Little Blue.  The land here was barren, except for grass sprouting up after the recent rain, but the same moist ground that gave new life to the grass also attracted a host of mosquitoes to make the journey miserable.  Finally, a beautiful little stream, fifty yards wide, came into sight.  Oak, cottonwood and willows, their leaves already beginning to change from green to orange and yellow, lined the banks of the Little Blue, while plovers, jays, bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds flitted and twittered along the shore.

            The home station, Liberty Farm, sat on the north bank of the river, and dinner consisted of a feast of products from the Little Blue.  The meal began with a soup of soft-shelled turtle, followed by a platter of crispy, fried catfish, along with fried potatoes and green beans, preserved from the summer harvest, but still tasting garden-fresh.  The driver obviously hadn’t exaggerated when he’d said the eating was good in Little Blue country.

            Following the Little Blue, the road ran southeast from Liberty Farm.  The valley was hemmed in on both sides by low, rolling bluffs, which broke off near the river.  This late in the year the landscape was barren, except near the river, where wild sunflowers, some as high as six feet, dipped their thirsty heads.  On the slight breeze a strong odor of wild onions wafted toward the coach, pungent, but not unpleasant.

            Supper at Big Sandy didn’t compare with the previous two meals of the day, in either quantity or quality.  Mutton, sliced off a carcass hanging from the ceiling and fried in bacon fat, and lamb’s quarter, wilted in the same grease, was served with bread and coffee to make a moderately filling meal.  As he climbed back aboard the stage, Adam had to laugh at his sudden realization that food had become as great a concern for him as it normally was for his younger brother Hoss.  Well, he excused, there’s not much else to think about between one station and the next, and a fellow can’t conjugate Latin verbs all day long!  Meals marked the passage of time; they were something to look forward to, whether they were good or bad, and each one brought him closer to his journey’s end.

 

* * * * *

 

            Hollenberg’s, where the stage stopped for breakfast Wednesday morning, had the look of a place that might provide another good meal.  The home station was housed in a substantial two-story building, and nearby, stalks in a fenced cornfield were still bearing ears.  Adam entered in expectation and took a seat at the table next to the off-going driver.  The new man was just coming down from upstairs, where stage employees slept during layovers.  The former driver introduced all the passengers to the new man, but then conversation ceased as everyone dug into their ham and eggs.

A platter of hot roasting ears was brought out, and Adam quickly snared one.  “How much further to St. Joseph?” he inquired as he slathered it with creamy butter.

“One hundred twenty-three miles, we have been told,” Gerat Hollenberg replied in a thick German accent that reminded Adam of Frederick Zuebner.  “That where you are headed or beyond?”

            “Beyond,” Adam said.  “All the way to Connecticut—the East Coast,” he amended quickly, concerned that the immigrant might not know the names of all the states.  Connecticut, after all, was one of the smaller ones.

            “Train connection in St. Joseph,” the station keeper advised.

            “Yes, I know,” Adam assured him.  “Nice place you have here, Mr. Hollenberg.”

            Hollenberg smiled broadly, with evident pride.  “We build to stay, not like stations you saw west of here, eh?  Six solid rooms downstairs—post office, tavern, home for my family.  Only one room upstairs, but big to hold many men.”

            Adam chuckled.  “You don’t get more than one driver at a time, do you?”

            With a roaring laugh Hollenberg slapped his leg.  “No, sonny, but takes more than driver to run a stage.  That room is only full when Pony riders stay here, too, though.”

            “Can’t wait for that telegraph to join up and put them out of business,” the new stage driver quipped.  “Sleep better without the smell of horse sweat in the next bed, and considerin’ what we get elsewhere along the line, we ain’t about to complain about spacious accommodations.”  He scrubbed at his chin.  “Fact is, I’m so reluctant to leave ‘em that I might be persuaded to stay on and let Pete here take my run.”  He grinned at the driver going off duty.

            “Now, why might that be?” Pete jibed back.  “Could it be ‘cause you’re just plain lazy or is Miss Sophie promisin’ apple strudel for dinner?”

            Sophie Hollenberg, as plump and rosy-cheeked as the Cartwright’s old friend Ludmilla Zuebner, blushed.  “I promise it,” she admitted.

            “Then there ain’t no temptin’ me to leave,” Pete cackled.  “You’ll just have to do your own drivin’, Sam.”

            “Well, you’re certainly tempting me to stay over,” voiced a male passenger rubbing his aching neck.  “Gettin’ all-fired tired of that stage, anyway.”  He elbowed Adam.  “How about you, son?  You been ridin’ it longer than me.  Not sure what strudel is, but if these drivers are fightin’ over it, must be worth a taste.”

            “I know what it is.  In fact, it’s a favorite of mine, so I am tempted,” Adam admitted.  “Miss Sophie, if your strudel is as fine as what a German lady I know back home makes, it would be well worth a day’s layover, but I can’t spare the time this trip.”

            “You come back soon, then,” Miss Sophie urged with a matronly smile.  “Stay with us and I make for you.  Is promise.”

            Adam smiled and nodded.  Of course, he hoped it would be four years before he passed this way again.  No telling if the Hollenbergs would still be running the station then, and Miss Sophie would be unlikely to remember a promise to a stranger that long.  If he ended up back here sooner, though, at least he’d have something sweet to ease his disappointment.  As he boarded the stage again, Adam scoffed at the notion.  No piece of pastry would comfort him if he failed.  He couldn’t fail!

            The stage passed through Marysville, a town that hadn’t even existed when he, Pa and Inger had started west.  Odd that I never thought how different it would be back here, Adam thought.  Virginia City had changed every time I came back from Sacramento and I took that in stride.  Seemed right for a new town to grow, I guess.  These places, especially the prairie, have been locked in my memory, forever changeless, but they’re growing, too.  Wonder if I’ll even recognize St. Joe!

            A rope ferry was in place at Marysville, but since the Big Blue River was only about two feet deep this late in the year, the stage forded it, instead.  The soil, though sandy, gave a solid track for the wheels, but the banks were steep.  The two female passengers looked nervous, and Adam was sure his own face showed concern, too.  He was getting close to his goal now and didn’t want one of those luckless accidents that often happened at fording places to keep him from getting to St. Joe tomorrow on schedule.  Holding his breath, Adam leaned out the window and watched the wheels roll down the precipitous bank, splash through the water and come out safely on the other side of the river.  He exhaled in relief and pulled his head back in.

            Diligent perusal of his Latin text consumed the morning until Adam closed it with a look of satisfaction.  He’d been over the contents from cover to cover during the long, monotonous days aboard the stage.  He’d just rest his eyes tomorrow and start fresh with his Greek text when he took the train out of St. Joe.  He gazed out the window, so no one aboard would see his sheepish smile as he admitted that he was more likely to spend that trip across the state chattering away with Jamie.  To think that by tomorrow he’d at long last be able to talk face-to-face with his old friend, instead of just by letter.

            About half an hour later the stage stopped at a cluster of frame houses on the near side of the well-wooded Vermillion River.  The stationmaster here was a young Alsatian, George Guittard, who lived with his mother, sister and son in a large and clean two-story house surrounded by neat fences.  Though the lady said she didn’t often spare a chicken for travelers, a fine roasted one graced the table this noon.  It came with savory stuffing and all the fixings, superb hot rolls and fresh, hot coffee to drink with the best apple pie Adam had tasted since the last one Hop Sing had baked.  The only deterrent to this meal was having only thirty minutes to enjoy it.

            After the meal the stage forded the Vermillion, choosing a path between granite boulders.  Adam really held his breath at this one, for the Vermillion was where he’d first learned that rivers could be dangerous.  One of the wagons in the Larrimore train had overturned in mid-stream and cost them most of a day’s progress, but the stage had no problem crossing over the red sandstone bottom.

Adam settled back and closed his eyes.  He napped most of the afternoon, only waking when the stagecoach stopped at Ash Point for a change of team.  Even the relay stations were looking more prosperous as he headed east.  This one boasted several homes, a general store, a post office and a small hotel nearby, more than most home stations offered further west.  He fell asleep again as soon as the coach started rocking on its thoroughbraces and didn’t rouse until it arrived at Seneca, another small, but burgeoning town.  Only a few buildings with false fronts, but a lawyer’s shingle hung outside one of them.  It took a town of some size, in Adam’s experience, to require the services of a lawyer, but he had a feeling this one would go hungry if he depended on that practice to earn his living.

The Smith Hotel, a white, two-story frame structure, looked prosperous, however, and served as home station for the stage line.  The passengers piled inside, some to stay the night and others, like Adam, simply to share a meal in a kitchen so clean they could have eaten off the floor.  Just the way Hop Sing and Marie kept our kitchen at home, Adam recalled.  Inger, too.  Mrs. Smith, the wife of the New Hampshire stationmaster, was a good cook, as well.  She couldn’t rival Hop Sing or Marie, of course, for when those two had joined forces, simple meals became gourmet feasts.  Mrs. Smith cooked more as Inger had: bountiful helpings of basic foods, well prepared and served hot.

            Only two passengers went on that night, so Adam had a bench to himself and took advantage of it.  He had a hard time falling asleep, though, partly because he’d slept so much that afternoon and partly from sheer excitement.  Tomorrow would bring him to St. Joseph, Missouri, and the beginning of another phase of his journey.  Halfway there, with the hardest part over.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam woke with a feeling of exhilaration.  Today.  Today he would reach St. Joseph.  Today he would be with his first teacher once again—and Jamie.  And tomorrow they would both start for New Haven.  Today was a momentous day, and Adam was more than ready to meet it.

He sat up and looked out the window, surprised to see how frequently a house came into view, where only empty prairie reigned less than a dozen years before.  Now, a farmhouse appeared practically every mile along the well traveled road.

            About an hour after he awoke, the stage pulled up before the Kennekuk Hotel in the Kansas town of the same name.  Only a dozen houses here, including a store and blacksmith shop and, in a particularly prominent building, the Kickapoo Indian Agency.  “Kickapoos got a reservation near here; we passed it comin’ in,” the driver said when he saw Adam looking at the building, “but that’s where the agent—Major Royal Baldwin hisself—lives.”  He grinned, showing a wide gap between his two front teeth.  “Reckon he wants to stay close to the best coffee this side of the Missouri.”

            “That good, huh?” Adam chuckled as he fell into step beside the driver.

            “See for yourself,” the man advised.

            More than willing, Adam followed him into the hotel.  Last home station.  Last time he’d be at the mercy of the stage line for eateries.  He hoped the meal would be a good one, but it didn’t really matter.  It was the last.

            The coffee smelled good, and his first sip from the steaming cup, creamy with fresh milk, verified that it was.  Breakfast was just bacon, eggs and biscuits again, but they were well prepared and served hot.  “Where you gents bound?” asked the station keeper as he ladled gravy over the two split biscuits in his plate.  “Not far, I hope.”

            “I’m stopping at Elwood,” Adam’s companion of the previous night announced.

            “That’s good,” the station keeper said.  “Best to stay this side of the river, the way the Rebs are runnin’ riot over to St. Joe.”

            A shiver ran up Adam’s spine.  “I’m going on to St. Joe,” he said.

            “Oh, you mustn’t,” said Mrs. Perry, the station keeper’s wife.  “Too big a risk.”

            The other passenger eyed Adam suspiciously.  “Unless you’re secesh.  They’re runnin’ the place now, I hear.”

            “No,” Adam said quickly.  “I’m just—well—keeping out of it.”

            His companion snorted.  “Easier said than done, boy.”

            “Hush now,” Mrs. Perry chided, pouring a second cup of coffee for the man.  “He is a boy, and he should stay out of it, for just that reason.”

            “If he can,” Mr. Perry put in solemnly.  “Son, I’d advise you to hold off that trip to St. Joe ‘til things settle down a mite.  Union forces pulled out week or so ago, thinking they’d be more needed elsewhere, and with them gone the Rebs walked right in and took over.  St. Joe’s a hot spot now, and that’s a pure fact.  Stay over here with us if you got no kin or friend in Elwood.”

            “I can’t,” Adam explained.  “I’m just passing through, anyway, on the way to New Haven, Connecticut.”

            Connecticut!” Mrs. Perry cried, hand reaching up to cover her gaping mouth.  She looked at her husband.  “Oh, Tom, you’d best tell him.”

            “Go find that copy of the Elwood Free Press,” Tom Perry ordered.  “Boy needs to see for himself what he’s up against.”  As his wife bustled out of the room, he turned to Adam.  “Son, I’m sorry, but if you’re aimin’ to take the train out of St. Joe, you’re in trouble.”

            Coffee sloshed from Adam’s cup onto the tablecloth as he set it on the saucer, but he didn’t even notice.  “I have to take the train,” he said urgently.  “I’ve got a deadline to meet, and that’s the only way—”

            “Then you ain’t gonna make it,” Perry said bluntly.  “The rail line’s out of service.  Bushwhackers burned a bridge east of St. Joseph two days ago.  More than a dozen people died when the train went into the river.”  His wife hurried in and handed him the newspaper.  Perry passed it across to Adam.  “See for yourself, son.”

            Adam grabbed the paper, his eyes flying down the columns reporting the disaster.  The words described a scene of horror.  At 11:15 on the moonless night of September 3rd, the westbound train from Hannibal, Missouri, had approached the bridge over the Little Platte River.  Everything had looked normal in the light from the locomotive’s white calcium headlamp, but looks had been deceiving.  Unaware that the timbers supporting the bridge had been partially burned through to set a deadly trap, the conductor ran his train onto the bridge; halfway across the timbers crumpled beneath its weight.   The locomotive flipped upside down, plunging into the river thirty feet below, and the freight cars fell onto its upturned wheels; the baggage car followed, then the mail car and two passenger cars carrying a hundred men, women and children.  Seats ripped out of the floor and hurtled to the front, along with the people who had moments before been sleeping in them; sparks ignited the wooden cars.  Some were able to climb out and worked feverishly to put out the fire; others, trapped beneath a pile of debris, screamed inside a personal hell.  Most, though injured, were rescued, but the article estimated that seventeen to twenty people had perished that night.  Many who survived would be maimed for life.

            Aghast, Adam set the paper down.  He was appalled at the loss of life, of course, but though he rebuked himself for the selfishness of the thought, only one question rose to his mind.  “The line’s out of service, you said?  Not running at all?”

            Tom Perry scratched his head.  “Well, might be, t’other side of the bridge.  Yeah, might be . . . if you could get there.  Might be hard.”

            Hard, I can handle, Adam assured himself.  Just so it’s not impossible.  “How far from St. Joe is that bridge?”

            Perry shrugged.  “Not sure.  East of there, that’s all I know.  They took the injured to hotels in St. Joe, so maybe not too far, but I don’t know Missouri geography well enough to be of more help.  Sorry, son.”

            Mrs. Perry placed a matronly hand on Adam’s arm.  “Please stay over with us.  We’ll give you a good rate.  To go on without knowing you can get where you’re headed is foolhardy, my boy.”

            Adam smiled, weakly, at her.  “You’re very kind, ma’am, and I appreciate your concern, but even if I can’t get through, I’d have to go.  My best friend in all the world lives in St. Joseph.  If things there are as difficult for Union sympathizers as you all say, I must see for myself that he’s all right.”  He picked up his fork again, but suddenly the food on his plate looked as nauseating as cold mush.  He stood abruptly.  “Excuse me; I think I need some air.”

            Mr. and Mrs. Perry exchanged a glance.  Shaking his head, Perry returned to his own breakfast.

            “Kids,” the other passenger grunted.  “Never seen one yet what would listen to good sense.”

            Adam lurched outside, frantically grabbing a porch post for support.  This couldn’t be happening, not after everything he’d endured to get here.  It just couldn’t be happening!  There had to be a way across that river; there just had to be!  He’d walk every step, ford it on foot if he had to.  Anything to get there.  He leaned his head against the post in defeated realization.  Yes, he could walk; he could walk every step to New Haven if he had to, but he’d never make it in time for the entrance exam.   That train had to be running, and he had to catch it.  Let either of those fail and he was doomed.  Where was that blasted Little Platte River, anyway?  We must have crossed it when we first came to St. Joe.  Why can’t I remember?  Adam laughed harshly.  Because you were six, you idiot.  How could you hope to store in your head every river you crossed by the time you were six?

His stomach started to cramp, as if attacked by dysentery.  He stumbled away from the station, another worry hounding his steps.  Was Jamie trapped in St. Joe now, too, trapped there because he’d waited for his friend?  Bad enough to miss his own chance, but if he’d ruined Jamie’s, too, Adam didn’t think he would ever forgive himself.

            The driver and other passenger finally emerged from the hotel.  Heart racing, Adam ran for the stage and jumped aboard.  Go fast, he implored.  Burn the road like a Pony Express rider.  Get me to Elwood and over the river.  Get me to the Edwards.  Then I’ll know.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

The Platte River Bridge was burned by Confederates on September 3, 1861.  Details were obtained from the New York Times of September 7, 1861 and from The Half Not Told: The Civil War in a Frontier Town by Preston Filbert, which describes the effect of the Civil War on St. Joseph, Missouri.


CHAPTER FOUR

St. Joe

 

 

            Heart pounding harder than his feet, Adam ran down the wooden planking of the dock.   With a strangled cry he watched the ferry pull away.  “How long ‘til the next boat?” he frantically asked a man stacking recently off-loaded crates.

            The man scratched his grizzled chin whiskers and spat tobacco juice contemptuously into the murky water of the Missouri River.  “Runs ever’ fifteen minutes . . . if it keeps runnin’.”

            “What do you mean ‘if’?” Adam demanded.  “It has to run!  I have to get across!”

            Another man snarled between his copper mustache and chest-length beard.  “Why, boy?  You aimin’ to join up with them bloody bushwhackers?”

            Adam planted his palms on his hips and glared at the man.  “Do I sound like I’m from the South?”

            The first man again spit another dark stream toward the water.  The spittle missed, staining the edge of the dock a hickory brown.  “Not ‘specially, but I can’t ‘xactly place your accent, young fellow.”

            Nevada!” Adam snapped hotly, eyes darting from one face to the other.  “I’m from Nevada, way out west, all right?  I have friends in St. Joe—and, yes, they’re of the Union persuasion, if you must know.  You have a quarrel with that?”  It was not the safe, nonpartisan answer his father probably would have preferred, but anxiety rode roughshod over caution in Adam’s young heart.  As it turned out, his answer was the safest he could have given, at least on this side of the river.  Kansas was firmly in the Union camp and determined to stay that way.

            The red-headed man laughed.  “If your friends be Union, sonny, you’d best look for ‘em here in Elwood.  Cowardly poltroons in St. Joe all took tail and run for cover.”

            “Can’t blame ‘em for that,” snorted the other man.  “Ain’t nothin’ cowardly ‘bout jumpin’ out of a nest of rattlers.”

Adam frowned in thought.  Was that possible?  Josiah Edwards was no coward, but might he and Jamie have come across the river, for safety’s sake?  Adam shook his head.  No, if anything, they would have headed east, to get Jamie to New Haven.  It was what his own father would have done, and he remembered Mr. Edwards being cut from the same cloth.  “No, sir,” he said.  “They aren’t the kind to turn tail; I’d best cross and look over there.”

            “Confounded ferry needs to be shut down,” a third man hollered in a loud voice.  “Rebs havin’ their way in St. Joe, and we can’t risk leavin’ ‘em a way to get here.”

            “He’s right, boy,” the redhead said with a kindly clap on Adam’s shoulder.  “No Federal protection there now, and if the ferry does shut down, like it ought, you’ll have no way back.”

            Since Adam had no intention of coming back, that argument held no weight.  He paced the dock frantically, trying to shut out the talk humming around him of forcing the ferry to tie up permanently on the west side of the river.  “Just once more,” he pleaded of Heaven.  “Let it run once more; that’s all I ask.”

            Those fifteen minutes seemed to Adam the longest of his life, but at last his searching eyes were rewarded with the sight of the incoming boat.  He helped a lady to debark and then leaped aboard.  “Heading straight back?” he asked the ferryman.

            “Long as there’s payin’ customers,” the boatman said with a grin.

            Adam dug into his pocket and handed over the fee with alacrity.  Within a few minutes, over the loud protests of many on the dock, the ferry pulled away from shore, carrying him and a couple of others east.  As he clung to the rail with white knuckles, Adam sent unuttered questions flying across the water.  Would he find the Edwards at home or had they fled?  If they had, it would be a difficulty, a disappointment, but nothing to compare with the direr possibility that his friends had gotten caught up in the struggle between North and South and come to harm.  Oh, God, let them be safe, whether I find them or not.  Just let them be safe.

 

* * * * *

 

            St. Joseph lay ravaged, in ruins.  From the riverfront, empty but for the steamboat Omaha tied up at the dock, Adam passed block after block of businesses with broken windows, boarded over.  Not that that stopped determined looters.  He saw three men pulling boards from a local mercantile, in hopes of finding something left by previous pilferers, something the original owner hadn’t had time to ferry over to Elwood.  It grated on Adam’s honest soul to walk past such displays of lawlessness, but as he’d been told on the west side of the Missouri, there was no law in St. Joseph.  He could scarcely supply it single-handed.  What was needed was the Federal Army, but it had deserted the place.

            The town had grown in the years he’d been away, at least judging by the number of buildings.  Jamie had written him last year that the population was 10,000, but Adam doubted that half that many were here now.  Even that was a generous estimate, for the streets were virtually empty.  Of course, with the sun nearly down, peace-loving citizens were probably huddled snug in their homes.  The streets of St. Joe were no place to be after dark, and the waning light made Adam eager to reach his destination.  Wisely, he kept to the side streets, to avoid trouble.

            Making his way east from the ferry, he finally reached Tenth Street and stopped, uncertain which way to turn.  Jamie had written that the house he and his father had moved to after the Cartwrights left was on Edmond, just past Tenth Street, but was Edmond to the right or the left?  Adam strained his brain to remember the layout of St. Joseph, but the effort was useless.  Too many years had passed, too many houses been built, and he hadn’t dared to ask directions of the type of people he’d seen on the streets earlier.  Had Edmond even existed in 1850?  It didn’t sound familiar, but street names had long since left his memory, except those he’d frequented daily.  With a shrug he turned to the right, hoping for the best, and grinned widely when after three blocks he struck Edmond and spotted the schoolhouse.  It was the first positive thing that had happened all day, for according to the directions he’d been given, the Edwards lived two houses past that.  Now, if only Jamie and his father were still there.

            Adam set his carpetbag on the wooden porch of the small frame house and knocked with some trepidation.  As far as he could tell, no lamps were lighted inside, but it would have been hard to tell with all the windows shuttered.  Time seemed to stand still, but eventually the door creaked open a crack and the barrel of a revolver slipped through.  Shocked to silence, Adam stepped back.  Slowly, the door opened wider, and then he smiled in relief as he recognized the auburn goatee of his old teacher.  “Mr. Edwards!” he cried.  “You are still here!”

            The door flew open then.  Josiah Edwards seized the dirty-faced stranger in an eager bear hug.  “Adam?  You’re Adam, aren’t you?”  His hearty clap on the back raised alkali dust from the young man’s blue shirt.  “I scarcely knew you, lad; you were only so high the last time I saw you.”  He held his hand at about the height of a seven-year-old boy and beamed proudly.  I should have recognized him straight off, the teacher chided himself.  He’s taller, but still has those same strong features.  And that look of determination in those dark eyes . . . who else but Adam?  “Come in, my boy, come in where it’s safe,” he urged.

            Grateful that he had, at least, found shelter for the night, Adam picked up his bag and followed Mr. Edwards inside.

            Mr. Edwards apologized for the gun as he laid it on a table beside the door.  “I was expecting you, of course, though your telegram didn’t specify when, and—well, these days one never knows what a knock on the door might mean.”

            Normally, Adam’s manners were impeccable, in tribute to his father’s teaching, but now, he felt, was no time for small talk.  There was an urgent question to be answered.  “Sir, forgive me, but I’ve heard reports . . . the bridge . . . is it really out?”

            Edwards’ expression grew grave.  “It is, son—a terrible tragedy . . . all those innocent lives lost.”  He shook his head sadly.

            Adam collapsed in the nearest chair.  “Then it’s over,” he groaned, burying his weary face in his hands.  “There’s no way I can make it to New Haven, and I’ve ruined Jamie’s chances, too.”

            “No, no, not at all,” Edwards assured him.  He gave the young man’s shoulder a consoling pat.  “Jamie is already gone; I sent him almost a week ago, before the bridge catastrophe, and we’re going to get you there, too, Adam.  Never fear.”

            Adam looked up, scarcely daring to hope.  “But how?”

            Edwards patted his shoulder again.  “Later, my boy, later.  It won’t be easy, but I have it all worked out.”  He smiled at the dusty face below him.  “But first a bath, I think, and then a bite of supper.  I’ll explain everything while we eat.”

            Adam stood, still feeling somewhat shaky, though some of that might be blamed on his state of near exhaustion.  “It’s really all right?”

            “Difficult, but doable,” his former teacher reiterated.  “Now, come along and I’ll draw you a nice hot bath.”

            Adam heaved a huge sigh of relief as he followed Mr. Edwards down the narrow hallway.  Just knowing he still had a chance to reach New Haven in time went a long way toward relaxing his taut muscles, but he couldn’t deny that the hot bath sounded like exactly what he needed.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam wrapped a towel around his lean and now thoroughly clean body and stepped into the hall.  “Mr. Edwards?” he called, not sure which way to turn.

            Josiah Edwards’ head popped out a doorway.  “Here, Adam.”

            Adam smiled and padded down the worn hall runner on bare feet.  He entered, taking note of a shelf of volumes he well recognized.  “This is Jamie’s room?” he inquired.

            “Yes.”  Mr. Edwards looked up and saw where Adam’s eyes were directed.  He smiled.  “He’s kept every journal you sent him, Adam; they’re his treasures.”

            “As are his to me,” Adam returned.  “Mr. Edwards . . .”

            “Josiah,” the older man said.  “You’re not one of my grammar-school pupils any longer, Adam.  We’re simply friends now, and I’d be pleased if you called me by my first name.”

            Adam frowned slightly.  “It doesn’t seem respectful, sir, you being so much my elder.”

            “It’s respectful if I offer,” Josiah insisted, adding with a chuckle, “though I don’t mind your throwing in an occasional ‘sir.’  Even Jamie does that, as the situation warrants.”

            Adam laughed, too, then.  “I’m truly glad he went on without me, but I do wish I could see him—now, this very minute.”

            “Perhaps I can oblige, after a fashion.”  Josiah left the room and returned shortly.  He held out a framed portrait to Adam.  “That’s your friend, as he looked at Christmas, when he had this made as a gift for me.”

            Adam eagerly reached for the frame and gazed at the daguerreotype of a slender young man with pale hair.  The features he remembered had changed somewhat with maturity, but it was still obviously Jamie, the boy with whom he’d first shared the adventure of learning.

            “Changed much?” Josiah asked softly.

            Adam nodded.  “Quite a bit, but I recognize the eyes . . . those gentle, kind eyes.”

            “Yes.”  Josiah’s voice dropped even lower.  “Gentle, kind . . . and still somewhat frail, I fear.”

            Adam looked up sharply.  “He hasn’t been ill again?”

            “No, he’s fine.  I’m just being a fretful father,” Josiah said, brightening again, “but he’s not as sturdy a boy as you, Adam.  That’s the chief reason I sent him on, though he argued vigorously that he should wait for you.  I didn’t feel he could handle the strenuous trip that’s been forced on you and still have sufficient energy to do well on his exams.”

            “You were very wise, sir,” Adam said firmly.  “I wouldn’t wish to jeopardize his chances for anything.”

            “I wish you could have a few days’ rest before your exams, too, but I think having Jamie go ahead will benefit you, as well.”  Josiah sat on the bed, and Adam followed his example.  “He’ll make arrangements for the two of you to lodge together, so you’ll have a place to go immediately on arrival, and you can get as much rest as possible before facing the big challenge.  And you see that you do, my boy.  No sitting up all night talking with your old chum or packing in one last bit of knowledge.”

            “No, sir, we’ll resist the temptation,” Adam said with a grin.  It faded perceptibly.  “I—I hope it’s not all for nothing.  I mean . . .”

            Josiah put an arm around the young man’s bare shoulder and drew him close.  “I know what you mean, and I’m sure you have nothing to fear.  You’re well prepared.  You wouldn’t be Adam if you weren’t.”

            Adam gave his head a slight, dubious shake.  “I don’t know.  My schooling’s been the best the West could offer—Pa saw to that—but it’s not like a preparatory school back East.”

            Josiah squeezed him firmly.  “Nor has Jamie been to one of those fancy eastern preparatory schools, but I have confidence in both my boys—I think of you almost as a second son, Adam—and I’m sure you’ll both succeed.”  He released Adam and stood up.  “Now, as your second father, I shall issue a firm order.”  He slapped Adam’s still-damp back.  “Get some clothes on, young man, and get yourself down the hall to supper.”  With his chin he indicated the clothes draped over a chair, which he’d taken from the washroom after Adam removed them.  “I brushed your traveling clothes while you were in the tub.  Sorry there isn’t time to clean them properly, but you can take care of that once you’re in New Haven.  Jamie can advise you where to take your laundry—another advantage to having him there early.  As for tonight, I’ve laid out one of my nightshirts, so you can keep yours fresh, and I’ve no objection to your wearing it to the supper table.  I’d best check on that soup now, before it boils over!”

            He disappeared so quickly that Adam had no time to either argue or say thanks.  He just grinned and did exactly as he was told.  The nightshirt was a little large—not long enough to trip over, but he did turn back the cuffs, so the long sleeves wouldn’t interfere with eating.

            “Have a seat, my boy,” Mr. Edwards urged.  “I’m just dishing up the soup now.  Sorry I haven’t more to offer.  I’d have done better had I known exactly when you’d arrive.  Actually, I was beginning to fear you’d run into trouble.”

“Is there enough . . . for both of us?” Adam asked.  “I don’t wish to put you out, Mr. . . . Josiah.”

“Of course there’s enough, son, more than enough.  Nothing but soup, but plenty of it.  I had hoped to take you to the Patee House for a better meal than I can cook, but it’s simply not safe to be out after dark.”

            “The soup is quite sufficient, sir.”  Adam chuckled.  “In fact, compared to most stage station fodder, it’s a feast.”

            Josiah’s blue eyes twinkled in appreciation of the humor.  “I’m sure it’s been quite an experience.”

            Adam shrugged as he ladled up another spoonful of soup.  “It got old fast, but today’s been the real experience.  Ever since I heard about the bridge disaster this morning . . .”

            Josiah looked sympathetic.  “You’ve been worrying all day.”

            Adam admitted it with a nod.  “I tried not to, but I’ve come so far and the thought of failing now . . .”

            “You won’t fail.  Let me tell you what I’ve worked out.”  Josiah pushed his own bowl aside, while motioning for Adam to continue eating.  “The train is running, but not over the entire line, obviously.”

            “How far away is the Little Platte?”  Adam asked.

            “About ten miles,” Josiah responded, “but we’ll have to go well beyond that to reach a functioning depot.”  Seeing Adam’s quizzical look, he explained, “Another bridge, about fifteen miles further east, was also burned the same night, after the train had passed.  We’ll have to get to Osborn before you can catch the train—about twenty-eight miles from here.”

            “Can we rent horses at the livery?”

            Josiah shook his head.  “Confederates confiscated every horse in town before they pulled out.”

            Adam’s face scrunched with dismay.  “If I’m walking twenty-eight miles, I’d better start right after supper.”

            “You’re only walking a couple of miles,” Josiah chuckled.  “I’ve made arrangements with a man to borrow two mounts.  He lives outside town and managed to hide them when the Rebel troops started confiscating everything in sight.  We will have to be careful we’re not seen.  With that and the distance we have to cover, we’ll be getting up before the sun—quite a bit before.”

            “That’s no problem.”

            “Not for a country boy like you, I’m sure!”

            Adam smiled slightly, but he still looked far from reassured.  “This man?  Can he be trusted?  I mean . . . over in Elwood, they were saying that the Union men had all left St. Joe.  Well, you’re still here, of course, but . . .”

            Josiah reached across the table to stroke Adam’s arm.  “Don’t worry, son.  It’s all taken care of.  This man is the father of a former student, and I know him well, which is why I dared approach him.  He was a little reluctant to trust his horses out of his sight, but after I explained the circumstances, he agreed to lend them.  He is a Southern sympathizer, but he’s totally opposed to what’s been going on around here lately, especially the ruthless destruction of private property.  He was appalled by the rail disaster, an attack upon helpless civilians, and he’s willing to help a young man stranded by the rebels’ actions, even though he hopes the South will eventually win.”  He noticed that Adam had finished his soup.  “Like some more?  There’s plenty . . . or I have some apples, if you prefer.”

            “An apple, please.”  Josiah brought a bowl of crisp red fruit from the sideboard and set it on the table.  Adam reached for an apple, rolled it from hand to hand and then set it down.  “Sir . . . Josiah . . . did you stay behind just to meet me?  St. Joseph doesn’t seem like a safe place for a Union man these days, and I’d hate to think you risked yourself for me.”

            “St. Joe hasn’t been a safe place for a Union man for years,” Josiah said soberly as he, too, took an apple and began to peel it.  “As for why I’m still here, it’s my home.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll stay, though.  I don’t know if Jamie wrote you this, but the schools have been closed since the end of May, so for now I’m out of work.”

            “He didn’t tell me.”

            Josiah shrugged.  “No need, really.  The rent’s paid until the end of the month, so I’ll stay that long, hope things settle down and the school reopens.  If it doesn’t, I’ll seek a position elsewhere”—he smiled—“perhaps closer to my boys.”

            “That would be wonderful,” Adam said enthusiastically.  “I’d feel better, knowing you were safe, and I’m sure Jamie would.”

            “Yes, he would; he’s said so.”  Josiah cut off a thin slice of apple.  “I suppose it would be best, for the duration.  It’s just hard to leave a place when you’ve invested so much of your life into it.”  He slid the slice into his mouth.

            “Isn’t it Jamie you’ve invested your life in?” Adam suggested shyly, feeling somewhat uncomfortable with advising an elder.

            Josiah laughed.  “What a wise young man you are!  He is, indeed, my primary investment, although I like to think of students like you as an investment, too.”  His countenance changed abruptly.  “Many of them, I fear, will be lost in this conflict—one gone already.”  He looked across the table with piercing eyes.  “Do you have a gun?”

            “In my bag.”  Adam smiled wryly.  “I thought I might need it further west, in case of Indian trouble, but never spotted a single hostile.  Now I’m beginning to wonder if the East isn’t more dangerous territory.”

            “The border states, mostly.  You should be all right once you head north.”  Josiah leaned forward on his elbows.  “Keep it in your bag, but keep the bag close while you’re on the train.  Middle of last month a train was fired on near Palmyra, a few soldiers killed, and a week ago a fifteen-year-old passenger was killed by snipers near Caldwell Station.”

            “Maybe I should just wear it.”

            Josiah shook his head vigorously.  “No, you mustn’t, Adam.  John Frémont declared martial law throughout the state last weekend, and if you wear a pistol openly, you can be stopped, subjected to court martial and executed.”

            “Court martial!  I’m a civilian!”

            “I know, Adam, but so are many of the troublemakers hereabouts.”  Josiah stood and took their empty soup bowls to the sink.  “Frémont means well, I’m sure, but in my opinion he’s gone too far.  He’s even emancipated the slaves of those accused, and much as I support that cause, doing it so abruptly, without the support of the Federal government, can only heighten tensions.”

            Adam gathered the rest of the utensils from the table.  “I do wish you’d come east with me, sir.  After all you’ve told me, I’m genuinely concerned for your safety.”

            “Not necessarily safer where you’re headed, young man.”  Seeing Adam’s shocked look, he winced.  “I shouldn’t say that.  I’ve just been concerned about reports from Connecticut.”

            “I hadn’t heard of any fighting in Connecticut,” Adam said as he pumped water into the sink.  “Just in Virginia . . . and, well, around here, I guess.”

            Josiah lathered up suds from a bar of soft soap.  “The real fighting, yes, but not two weeks ago there was an incident north of Bridgeport, Connecticut—at a peace rally, no less!”  He turned toward Adam.  “Northerners opposed to the war have been holding rallies—quite a number of them in Connecticut, where you’re headed.  Naturally, those in favor of the war take issue, and at that one some fire was exchanged.  No harm done, as far as I know, but don’t let your guard down, just because you think you’re in safe territory, son.  In this war there really is no safe territory.”

            “Pa would say Nevada was safe territory, that this war isn’t our fight,” Adam chuckled as he took a tea towel and began to dry the dishes after Josiah washed them, “but I’ve seen scuffles even way out there, so I guess I agree with you.  I will watch myself, sir, and I’ll watch out for Jamie, as well.”

            Josiah smiled as he passed a cup over to Adam.  “I knew I could count on you, Adam.  Please do keep an eye on him for me.  I’m not worried about his involvement in the strife; if he can keep out of it here, he can manage that anywhere.  I do worry, though, about his overtaxing his strength through too much study, not enough care for his health.”

            “I’ll watch over that, too,” Adam promised.

 

* * * * *

 

            With the need to rise early on the morrow, Josiah and Adam both turned in shortly after supper.  Adam found it difficult to sleep, however.  Too many thoughts, too many questions swirled through his mind.  He took one of his old journals from the shelf and read for a while, trying to settle himself for sleep.  For a few minutes worries over the war, exams and his family back home faded while he relived the journey west, as he had recorded it for his friend back in 1850.  Finally, he gazed intently at Jamie’s portrait, which Josiah had left in the room.  Once he was sure he’d memorized the features well enough to recognize his friend at the train depot in New Haven, he set it on the table and turned down out the light.  “I’ll see you soon, chum,” he promised.


CHAPTER FIVE

Into the Land of the Red, White and Blue

 

 

The sky was still black when Josiah and Adam slipped from the Edwards home and made their way south through the silent streets of St. Joseph.  As they approached the outskirts of town, Josiah pointed toward a four-story brick structure a couple of blocks east of them.  “Patee House,” he whispered, “headquarters for the Pony Express.”  He gestured the opposite direction.  “That’s where you would have caught the train.  Well, you can’t see the depot from here, but it’s not far down that way.”

            “Can’t see much,” Adam whispered back with a trace of humor.

            Josiah chuckled softly.  “No, I guess not, but I know my way through St. Joe, son, even in the dark.  Just sorry the walk has to take so much longer than it would have if the train still connected here.”

            Houses became fewer and further apart, until finally they reached the open countryside, fragrant with the scent of dew-dappled meadows.  “How is your father getting along?” Josiah asked, speaking in a more normal volume now that they were out of town.  “Your letter to Jamie indicated that he was taking his wife’s death very hard.”

            “He was,” Adam admitted.  “I think he’s better now,” he added hesitantly.

            “But you’re not sure?”

            Adam frowned in thought.  “He’s better than he was, and he says he can handle things—the ranch, the boys.  I’m just not sure . . . maybe I shouldn’t be leaving . . . at least, not so soon.”

            “Adam, Adam,” Josiah chided.  “You’re too young to carry all this weight on your shoulders.”

            “There wasn’t anyone else,” Adam said gruffly.

            “No, I suppose not,” the older man admitted with a compassionate gaze, “but if your father says he’s all right, then he probably is.  And, frankly, having responsibilities is the best medicine for what ails him.  I found that to be true when I lost Jamie’s mother.”

            Adam stopped abruptly.  “You think I did him harm by carrying those responsibilities for him?”

            Josiah placed his hand against the young man’s back and gently pushed him forward.  “No,” he replied as they continued walking.  “He probably needed your help in that first rush of grief, but if you’d stayed, given up your dreams to continue carrying responsibilities rightfully his . . .”

            “I might have crippled him?”  At Josiah’s nod Adam pursed his lips in consideration.  If only it could be true that he wasn’t just being selfish in leaving home to pursue his dream, that he might actually be helping Pa by . . . well, by not helping him, by letting him stand alone.  It was a new idea and one that merited further thought.  Now, however, was neither the time for contemplation or further conversation, for a farmhouse appeared atop a low rise to their left.  Josiah turned up the path leading to it.

            Adam remained in the yard while Josiah mounted the steps to the two-story frame farmhouse and rapped on the door.  A portly man, hitching suspenders over his bare chest, answered the door.  “Figured it might be you, Edwards.  So, today’s the day, is it?”  The farmer stepped out onto the porch and stared down at Adam.  “That the college boy?”

            “That’s him,” Josiah said.  “Adam, may I present Ezra Whitcomb?  Ezra, Adam Cartwright.”

            Whitcomb came down the steps and took the young man’s hand.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance, young fellow, brief as it’s like to be.”

            Adam pumped the farmer’s hand.  “Yes, sir.  I can’t thank you enough for your help, sir.”

            Whitcomb shrugged off the thanks and moved toward the barn.  “You sure he’s a college boy?” he asked over his shoulder.  “Got the grip of a working man.”

            Josiah laughed.  “He knows the value of work—and books, as well.  That, my friend, makes for a well rounded man.”

            “Reckon.”  Whitcomb opened the barn door and pointed to a black gelding in the first stall.  “Think you can slap a saddle on that one, boy?”

            “Don’t blink,” Adam teased.

            Whitcomb cackled.  “I’ll saddle the teacher’s, then.”  He winked at Adam.  “Not that he can’t; he’s just none too quick about it.”

            “He’s quick at other things,” Adam returned, and Josiah smiled at his display of loyalty and smooth repartee.

            Soon both horses were saddled.  “Take good care of ‘em,” the farmer said, resting an affectionate hand on each muzzle.

            “You have my word,” Josiah promised.  Whitcomb also had his solemn promise to make good the loss if anything did happen to either horse, but he kept that to himself.  Adam was young, and he already had worries enough without applying his all-too-active conscience to that, as well.

            The two travelers mounted and with a farewell wave to Mr. Whitcomb headed east.  Wanting to avoid the main road, they cut across wooded country.  “Good thing it’s Friday,” Josiah observed.  “Tomorrow, even this early, we’d likely run into farmers on their way to market.  Probably wouldn’t have met anyone on the main road today, but it’s best to stick to the shelter of the trees.  Anyone we did meet would be likely to take undue interest in these horses.  Besides, we’re saving a mile this way.”

            “All to the good,” Adam agreed.

            Intent on their purpose, they spoke little after that, and fortune favored them with an uneventful ride to the Little Platte.  “We’re crossing north of where the bridge did,” Josiah explained.  “I think the banks aren’t as steep here.”

            “Should be easier fording, then,” Adam said.

            True to expectation, the river was easy to ford at the point Josiah had chosen, its banks sloping gently down to the water.  Adam was glad he hadn’t changed to better clothes for the train journey, for his pant legs were wet from the knee down by the time he reached the eastern side of the Little Platte.  The two companions continued due east until they were just north of Stewartsville and then dipped slightly southeast.  As they forded another stream, Josiah said, “Smith’s Branch, where the other bridge was burned.  Not far now, son.”

Glad of that news, Adam nodded.  Soon they rode into the small town of Osborn and stabled the horses in the first livery they came to.

            “Will they be safe here?” Adam whispered as he took his traveling bag from the saddle.

            “Safe as anywhere,” Josiah said.  He motioned for the boy to be silent and follow him outside; he paused only long enough to pay the stable keeper.  Once they were alone on the street, he added, “I haven’t heard of any raids on Osborn, and I’ll trust that our luck will hold out long enough to get you on that train.”

            “You don’t have to wait with me, sir,” Adam insisted.  “If it would be safer for you to return now . . .”

            “Probably safer to wait, son.  I may well wait for the cover of darkness.”

            Adam shook his head.  “I’m taking your whole day.”

            Josiah shrugged.  “I’m out of work, remember?  I can spare a day to see the sights of another town.”

            Adam grinned then, for there were obviously few sights to see in Osborn.  The only one he cared to see, however, was the train depot, and it soon came into view.  Agilely leaping onto the planked sidewalk outside the small red frame building, Adam at once headed inside.

Before he could approach the ticket window, however, Josiah snared his elbow and pulled him to a bench in the waiting area.  “Plenty of time,” the older man said.  “I want to go over the transfers with you.  There will be several, and you don’t want to miss a connection.”

            “No, I don’t,” Adam agreed earnestly.  Josiah drew a sheet of paper from his vest pocket, and leaning forward, Adam studied it and listened intently as his former teacher instructed him on which trains to take to reach his ultimate destination.

            “First, be sure you get off this train at Palmyra,” Josiah directed.  “It goes all the way to Hannibal, but you’ll miss your connection to Chicago if you ride to the end of the line.  You should have about an hour between trains there, so get yourself some supper and stretch your limbs.”  He patted Adam’s knee in sympathy for the stiffness it was set to endure.  “Just a short hop on the next line,” he continued.  “The Quincy and Palmyra will take you to the Mississippi River.  You’ll ferry over to Quincy, where you’ll catch the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and for the love of mercy and your hope of doing well on your exams, take a berth in the sleeping car for the night.  It’s worth every penny, and I’m sure your father would consider that money well spent.”

            Adam nodded.  “Yes, sir, he would, and I will definitely follow that advice.”

            “In Chicago you’ll transfer to the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago line, which will connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad and take you into Philadelphia.”

            “Another overnight trip?” Adam queried.

            Josiah nodded.  “Get a berth,” he reiterated.

            Adam grinned.  “Oh, yeah.  I’m going to take advantage of every chance I get to sleep, believe me, sir.”

            Josiah rubbed the young man’s shoulders.  “You should, and don’t skimp on food, either.  It’s hard to grab a decent meal with trains taking only twenty minutes for meal stops, but snatch what you can.”  He put his hand in his pocket and drew out a half eagle.

            “Oh, no, sir,” Adam remonstrated, gesturing his rejection of the offer.  “I have enough.”

            Josiah smiled.  “Give this to Jamie, please, my boy.  Tell him I said to treat both of you to a good, nourishing supper the night before your exams, and he can keep what’s left over for sundry expenses.  I’m sure there’ll be plenty of those!”

            Adam accepted the five-dollar gold piece then.  “Thank you, sir; I’ll see he gets it.  I suppose there’s another change in Philadelphia?”

            “I’m afraid so,” Josiah chuckled.  “I know it’s a lot to remember, so I’ll leave you this list as a reminder.  You’ll be getting into Philadelphia quite late, and the train on the New Jersey Railroad doesn’t leave until the next morning, so take a hotel room for the night—you do have enough?”

            “Plenty,” Adam assured him.  “Pa was generous.”

            “Fine.  Then stay in West Philadelphia, if you can; that will put you close to the depot.  Then it’s about three and a half hours to Jersey City, where you can connect with the New York and New Haven Railroad.”

            Adam almost beamed.  “That’s the name I’ve been waiting to hear!”

            Josiah laughed outright.  “And you’ll be even more thrilled when the conductor announces its arrival in New Haven a few hours later.  You understand all the changes you need to make?”  At Adam’s nod he folded the paper, handed it to the young man and stood up.  “Let’s get your ticket then.”

            When that transaction was complete, a little time still remained until the hour of departure.  As they sat on the platform outside, Josiah shook his head with regret.  “I had hoped you could spend your vacations here with Jamie and me, since you won’t have time to return home.  Now, I don’t know if I can make that offer.  Not sure I want either of you coming back to this hotbed of contention, and with no means for my own support, I’d have little to share.”

            “Please don’t concern yourself, sir,” Adam said.  “Perhaps it will be you coming to us, instead.”

            “If I do relocate, of course, I might still have a home to offer you and Jamie between terms.”  He nodded pensively.  “It’s something to think about.”

            “Yes, sir, do think about it,” Adam urged.  “If I can’t go home to Nevada—and I can’t—I’d cherish spending time with you.”

            “Well, we’ll see,” Josiah replied ambivalently.  “Now, then, my boy, let’s discuss the matter of time difference in the various stops you’ll make.”  Teacher and student once more, two heads bent together for the transfer of vital information.

            About eight that morning a whistle sounded down the track, and soon the train pulled into the depot.  After a final hearty embrace Josiah handed Adam a package wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine.  “Just some sandwiches to stave off starvation.”  He drew a shiny red orb from his pocket.  “And here’s an apple.  Sorry it isn’t more, but food’s been in somewhat short supply in St. Joe of late.”

            Adam pushed both offerings away.  “Then I shouldn’t take it, sir.”

            Josiah again pressed the food on him.  “Nonsense.  I know the appetite of a growing boy.  You need this more than I, and this situation is bound to ease up soon.  If it doesn’t, I’ll either cross over into Kansas or head east, toward you and Jamie.”

            “Make it east,” Adam pleaded as he accepted the lunch.  “They were talking of closing down the ferry when I crossed over, and if you go to Kansas we may not see you for the duration.”

            “East it is,” Josiah promised.  He looked down for a moment and then raised his head to gaze into Adam’s eyes.  “Look after my boy,” he requested again, as he had the previous night.  “Don’t let him overdo—and both of you stay out of political discussions, as much as you’re able.  Hopefully, the strife won’t reach the hallowed halls of Yale, but take care, nonetheless.”

            “I will—of myself and of Jamie,” Adam vowed.

            Josiah clapped him on the back.  “Better get aboard.  Don’t want them leaving without you!”

            One final clasp of hands and Adam ran for the passenger car.  He settled quickly into a window seat, though most of the few passengers boarding here avoided them.  Fear of stray bullets from bushwhackers, Adam supposed, but he preferred to keep a close lookout for danger.  A bullet didn’t have much further to travel to an aisle seat, anyway, and this way he’d have a better chance of seeing suspicious riders coming and time to get his own handgun out.

            He had intended to study on the train, and the monotony of the prairie terrain invited attention to his books, but he felt more secure watching out the window.  Although he’d traveled by train before, the jaunt from Folsom to Sacramento was too short to give a true feel for how the rails could eat up miles.  He’d had some of that sensation on the stagecoach, but it was intensified here, as town after town slipped past the window—Cameron with its two linking railroads south; Kidder; Hamilton, where a stage line connected; Breckenridge—all unknown to Adam when he lived in St. Joseph, all owing either their birth or their burgeoning population to the coming of the railroad.  Wonder if the railroad will ever reach Nevada, he mused as he recalled talk of linking the two coasts by rail.  Sure would make it easier to get home, if they hurry it along, but would home look like home with all those folks pouring in?  He smiled at his foolishness.  Even if the dream of a transcontinental railroad ever did come to pass, most folks except miners would probably bypass dry Nevada for the sunnier climes of California.  Still, it was home to him, and it pleased him to think of it as changeless.

            Passing through Greggs, the train pulled into Utica, a town Adam did have vague memories of.  Like most of the hamlets along the track, it wasn’t large, but just outside town was an encampment of Union soldiers, assigned to protect the rail line.  Their presence was comforting, as was the occasional glimpse of cavalry he spotted as the train rolled on.  About three miles beyond that station, the train crossed the Grand River, and the next town, Chillicothe, was a larger one.  Adam definitely remembered it.  He, Pa and Inger had stopped here to repair a cracked axle, and he’d had a grand time chasing the pigs and chickens that ran loose down the dirt streets until Pa made him stop.  He stood up to stretch his legs and stepped out onto the platform to take a gander.  More soldiers than pigs in the streets this time, though he did spot a few porkers and grinned in fond remembrance of his boyhood romp.  From the platform he could see a couple of dry goods stores, a drug store, a hotel and a restaurant, the latter making him hungry enough on his return to nibble on the apple Josiah had given him.

            Rattling through Botts, the train crossed a creek a local resident called Locust over yet another trestle bridge.  Plenty of targets for the rebels on this line, Adam mused. No wonder the army patrols it so regularly.  Can’t be everywhere, though.  He couldn’t help wondering how many bridges lay between him and the end of the line and whether they’d all be intact.  One more lost might well put reaching his destination in time beyond hope.  Don’t imagine the worst, he chided himself.  He and Pa would never have started west, never have found the dream waiting there, if they’d counted up all the things that could go wrong.  Dreams were strong things; if need be, they could conquer challenges.  All I need is determination, he concluded, and determination I have.

Passing Laclede, where another stage line connected, the train arrived in Brookfield, division headquarters, with a round house and machine shops for maintenance of the engines.  Now a little more than halfway to Palmyra, Adam took out his package of sandwiches and ate as the train rumbled through another series of small towns, crossing two branches of the Chariton River on the way—trestles thankfully solid.  He finally became relaxed enough by the presence of soldiers all along the line that he did pull out his Greek textbook to while away the remaining hours of the afternoon in study.  Whether from residual nerves or a desire to see the passing scenery, however, he frequently looked up from the book to peer out the window.

            Though brilliant yellow flowers dotted the tall, waving grasses, the passing scenery was somewhat monotonous.   Prairie stretched flat on both sides of the cars, broken only by a line of timber less than a mile away in either direction.  On one of his glances up from his book, Adam noticed a group of riders back near the trees.  Though he couldn’t see them clearly enough to spot their blue uniforms, he assumed they were more soldiers on patrol and lowered his eyes again.  His head immediately jerked up as the speed and direction of those riders belatedly registered.  They were coming straight at the train—at a gallop.  No soldier would do that unless there were trouble.

            At that same moment another male passenger, equally vigilant and more attuned to the dangers of this area, yelled sharply, “Raiders comin’!  Everybody down!”

            Amid the screams of women, Adam dropped to the floor between the rows of seats, grabbed his carpetbag and unlatched it quickly.  Grasping the walnut grip of his Colt Army revolver, he rose cautiously.  A quick glance to either side revealed a trio of other men positioned at windows all along that side of the car.  Martial law or no martial law, the men of Missouri were evidently prepared to defend their persons and their property.

            At the window directly to Adam’s left, a tow-headed lad of eight or nine bobbed up to peek out the window at the bad men.  “Get down,” Adam hissed.  The boy ignored him, continuing to stare, wide-eyed with excitement, at the oncoming raiders.  When the first shot pinged against the outside of the car, Adam reached under the seat, grabbed the kid by the ankles and yanked him down.  “Now stay there!” he hollered over the kid’s wail of protest.

            Coming up again, Adam pointed his gun out the window and fired repeatedly, as did defenders all up and down the train.  He saw one of the assailants grasp his shoulder and thought it was his shot that had winged the man, but couldn’t be sure.  The exchange of gunfire was brisk, but brief, as the raiders responded to the armed resistance by hightailing it back to the trees.  As he watched them retreat, Adam saw a line of bluecoats cut across the prairie from the east to intercept them, and again the air was struck with the staccato of gunfire.  Up and down the train shouts of triumph joined the martial percussion.

            Drained, Adam sank down in his seat and exhaled gustily.  As he became aware of someone standing next to him, he looked up and saw a middle-aged woman tightly gripping that reckless little towhead by the elbow.  “Tell the man thank you, Beau, for savin’ your disobedient hide.”

            “I just wanted to see,” Beau whined.  “Weren’t no real danger.”  A still tighter squeeze on his elbow made him wince.  “Thank you, mister,” he gasped.

            “You’re welcome,” Adam said, “but the next time you’re told to get down, you get down and stay down, hear?”

            Rubbing his freed elbow, Beau mumbled a monotone “Yes, sir,” but as he skittered down the aisle, he paused to turn back and stick his tongue out at Adam.

            Adam grinned, for a moment seeing a certain little brother in that boy’s behavior.  “That one keeps you hopping, I bet,” he said to the boy’s mother.

            She smiled.  “Now, you’re too young to have experience handlin’ wild younguns, but you guessed right.  He’s a handful.”

            “No guesswork involved,” Adam chuckled.  In response to her quizzically cocked head, he explained, “Little brothers . . . one of whom is every bit as wild as your boy at half his age.”

            “Oh, I see!  Yes, that would explain your quick response to Beau’s peril.”  She offered Adam her hand.  “Again, sir, and with more sincerity than he showed, I offer you my thanks.”

            Adam shook her hand.  “It was nothing, ma’am, but you’re entirely welcome.”

            The stop at Shelbina, the next station, lasted longer than usual, as the conductor reported the incident between there and Clarence.  The report, in fact, took longer than the incident itself, and Adam chafed at the delay.  He had connections to make!  Within minutes, however, the train was again rolling east, through Lakenan and a couple of miles further across the Salt River.  Hunnewell and Monroe flew past, and then the train curved northeast, toward Ely and Caldwell and finally into Palmyra itself, shortly after four o’clock that afternoon.

            Hungry as he was, Adam was tempted to forego supper, since he now had less than an hour until the departure of the Quincy and Palmyra short line.  He spotted a lunch counter attached to the depot, however, and purchased a couple of ham sandwiches and a hard-boiled egg to take with him.  He wolfed down one sandwich and the egg while waiting for the train and resolved to eat the other more leisurely once he was aboard, rolling toward the great Father of Waters.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam leaned heavily on the rail at the stern of the Emma, watching the sinking sun tint the western horizon a brilliant burnt orange.  The miles, the stress of making connections, the fear of missing or failing his exams in New Haven were catching up with him.  So far, though, everything was going according to plan.  The minor setbacks—if disasters like the burning of bridges or armed marauders attacking the train could be called minor—had not defeated his purpose, and the journey should be easier from this point on.  Besides, he was young, young enough that the peaceful golden-amber reflection on the water was enough to refresh his flagging spirits.  The Mississippi was wide, but he’d soon be across it and then he could really rest.

            The steamboat docked on the eastern shore, and Adam huffed as he climbed a hundred and twenty-five feet up a limestone bluff to reach the town of Quincy.  He dropped his carpetbag at the top and bent over, clasping his knees, as he gasped for breath.  Then, still fearful of missing a connection, he snatched up the bag and bounded past sawmills, flour mills and pork-packing plants on the edge of town and hurried through the brick business district to the depot of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy.   Inside, he purchased his ticket, including the extra twenty-five cents for an upper berth, and boarded promptly when the conductor called, “All aboard.”  Thankfully, the berths had already been prepared, and without bothering to remove his clothing, Adam climbed into the top of three berths, putting his belongings into the green storage net and pulling the green curtains closed.

            The cane-bottomed planks were miserably hard, even with the bedding provided by the railroad.  That and the snores of a score of men all through the car made it difficult for Adam to get to sleep.  Once he did, however, the exhausted young man slept like a baby.  He woke only once, when a loud thud, followed by louder curses, told him that some unfortunate fellow passenger had fallen out of bed.  Sparing a hope that the man had not fallen from the top tier, a groggy Adam rolled over and went back to sleep.

            He woke around 5:30 the next morning, quite ready to vacate the plank bed and its thin mattress.  After splashing his face with water from a large stone jar at the end of the sleeping car, he took a seat in the day car just as the train pulled into a large station.

The conductor called out, “Aurora,” as he made his way down the aisle, and when he passed by, Adam inquired, “How long to Chicago, sir?”

            “Hour and a half, son,” the conductor responded cordially.

            Adam thanked him and turned to look out the window.  Aurora was a large town, with a buff limestone roundhouse and all the shops needed to keep a railroad moving.  While it probably could also provide an eating station as good as any, he elected to delay his breakfast until he reached Chicago.  According to the timetable he’d picked up at the depot in Quincy, he would have an hour between trains, enough time for a more leisurely meal.

            No sooner had the train pulled out of Aurora, though, than Adam’s stomach began protesting its emptiness.  To silence it and to get his mind off the challenge of making the upcoming connection, he took out his Greek text and pored over it to the rattling accompaniment of wheels rotating on iron tracks.

            “You might want to put that away,” his seatmate, a well-groomed man in his mid-forties, suggested some time later.  “Not far to Chicago now, and since that’s your destination, you’ll want to get your things together.”

            Adam closed the book and thanked the man.  Chicago isn’t my final destination, though.  I’m going straight on to the east coast.”

            “Oh, too bad,” the man said pleasantly.  Chicago’s quite a place to see, better’n 112,000 folks here, according to the last census, where thirty years ago there weren’t more than a hundred.”

            “Is Chicago your home, sir?” Adam inquired politely.

            The man beamed with pride.  “Shows, does it?  Yes, son, it’s my home, and you won’t find a place more on the grow than Chicago.  Got its problems, like any booming city, but the know-how to solve ‘em, too.  Like the street level, for instance.  Town was first built on swampy ground just a few feet above lake level.  That made for all kinds of problems, so a fellow named George Pullman and some others figured out a way to jack the buildings up some four to seven feet and build new foundations under ‘em, without even asking the occupants to move out.  Quite an engineering feat, that.”

            “Sounds like it.”  Adam’s interest was evident, so while he put his book into his carpetbag and fastened the latch, the man amplified on the subject a little.  There was no time for much discussion, however, for the train pulled into the grand terminal at Chicago, and all the passengers gathered their belongings and crowded into the aisles.

            Adam stepped off the train and abruptly stopped to gape, open-mouthed at the huge, multi-tracked station.

            “Get out of the way, boy!” a man behind him demanded.

            Adam apologized and moved aside a few steps.  He continued to stare up and down the tracks, wondering which would hold the train for the next leg of his journey.

            “You need somethin’, suh?” a thick voice drawled.

            Adam turned and saw a black porter.  “I don’t know where to go,” he admitted.  “I mean, the ticket office first, I guess, but . . . so many tracks . . . I . . .”

            White teeth gleamed in the coal-black face as the porter pointed toward the head of the train.  “Just follow dem other passengers, suh.  Dat be the way to de ticket office.  Dey tell you der which track t’ go to.”

            Adam smiled.  “Of course.  Thank you.”  He hesitated, unsure of whether a tip was appropriate, and then dug into his pocket.

            “No, suh, no need,” the porter, who recognized signs of financial need when he saw them, said.  “Not for dat little mite of advice.  Just follow ‘long with dem others and you be fixed fine right soon.”

            The noise was deafening as another train pulled in on the track next to the one housing the train from Quincy, so Adam merely nodded his thanks again and headed in the direction the porter had indicated.  He took his place in line and fretted at how long it took him to reach its head and purchase his ticket.

            “Do you have baggage to check?” the clerk behind the wooden grill asked perfunctorily.

            “Just this bag,” Adam said.  “I’ve been keeping it with me.”  He did not, of course, tell the clerk that he’d wanted to keep his gun handy, even when he boarded at Quincy.  In that town, directly across the river from the seceded state of Mississippi, he’d just felt more comfortable having it with him.  Now that he was further north, he supposed, there was no real need for that type of precaution.

            “Your choice, sir,” the clerk said, somewhat impatiently.  “If you wish to be spared the inconvenience, I can check it for you.”

            “I’ll keep it,” Adam decided.  The inconvenience had been slight, and this way he had his books with him, whenever he wanted them.

            He verified the track number and exact time of departure with the clerk and, pulling out his pocket watch, noted that its time did not match that of any of the large clocks hanging over the arched entrance to the terminal.  Not surprising, since each town or city determined its own time in accordance with the sun, as Josiah had taught him that morning.  He didn’t want to miss his train, so he set his watch to Pittsburgh time, the point of origin for the train he wanted to catch.  According to the clocks, that was thirty-one minutes later than Chicago time, but his own watch was further off than that.  He’d last coordinated it in Quincy, so he had to move the hands forward better than forty minutes.

            Stepping outside the station, a sense of release surged through him.  At first, he couldn’t identify its origin; then he smiled as his eyes swept the street both ways.  Building after building either displayed the Stars and Stripes or was draped in red, white and blue bunting.  That was something he hadn’t seen in Missouri, where even those loyal to the Federal Government had seemed afraid to declare their allegiance.  Here there were no divided loyalties, and people walked the streets without fear.  For the first time since crossing the Missouri River, Adam felt truly safe, and with a new spring in his step, he continued down the street in search of something to eat.

            He now had only half an hour until departure time, so he ate at the first eatery he came across, only a block from the station.  He found the food acceptable, if not sumptuous, and forced himself to eat slowly.  Of necessity, he’d rushed through virtually every meal for two and a half weeks now, and the habit was hard to break.  He arrived back at the terminal with a few minutes to spare, so he bought a copy of the Chicago Tribune at the newsstand inside the depot and sat down in the waiting room.

            As he scanned the front page, the most important news appeared to be the reported death of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.  Evidently, he had been seriously ill, and flags in the Confederacy were now flying at half mast after his passing.  Though he couldn’t rejoice in any man’s death, Adam exhaled with relief at the news.  Perhaps it presaged a quicker end to the war.  Having seen the ravages of the struggle in St. Joseph and the terror assaulting ordinary citizens on the train, he could only hope that without Davis to guide them, the Confederacy would quickly return to the Union.  Maybe that was wishful thinking, but the editorial he read seemed to express similar hope.

            Before he could finish the front page, however, the call to board resounded through the waiting room, and Adam, along with scores of others, rose and hurried to the designated track for the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad.  He found an open window seat and hurried to occupy it, news of the day temporarily forgotten.  The scenery, as the train skirted the south shore of Lake Michigan, was beautiful, almost ocean-like in its aspect.  Mounded sand hills lined the shore, and waves rolled repeatedly into them, not as wild and majestic as on the Pacific Coast, but striking nonetheless.  As far as eye could see, steamboats and sailing ships skimmed the waters, bustling passengers and cargo across the Great Lake.  Lake Michigan was grand, indeed, and Adam exulted in the opportunity to see it.  To him, however, nothing could compare with the pristine and pine-bordered sapphire jewel that graced the Ponderosa.

            The train crossed a bridge over the south branch of the Chicago River, and Adam noticed that the water ran away from the lake, not toward it.  Like the Truckee River back home, flowing away from Lake Tahoe.  Adam grinned.  The scenery here was nothing like home, but he couldn’t seem to get his mind away from there.  Wonder what they’re doing?  Roundup time, so I guess that’s what Pa’s doing.  Hoss has school, of course, and Little Joe . . . Pa must have left him with the Thomases.  Boy, that’ll be hard on the little fellow so soon after . . .

            Uncomfortable with the knot swelling up in his throat, Adam grabbed the newspaper and began reading again.  The President had declared another day for fasting and prayer.  Adam supposed he’d be doing plenty of praying if he entered Yale—chapel every morning, he’d been told—but he couldn’t face the thought of fasting right now.  After all the hurried meals he’d endured, all he wanted was one to just sit and linger over.  Time enough to consider a prayerful fast once that need had been met!

He scanned the news from Missouri next and shook his head at what he considered the stupidity of the law of the land—the Fugitive Slave Law, to be specific.  A correspondent from St. Louis reported that three runaway slaves were being held there and would be turned over to their owners as soon as the latter had provided proof of their loyalty to the Union.  Being a staunch Union supporter didn’t turn a wrong into a right, did it?  Bet it doesn’t much matter to those slaves which side their so-called master comes down on.  The burning of the bridges on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad was still news, but the only information he hadn’t read earlier was a list of names of the victims.  Since he no longer knew anyone in Missouri except Josiah Edwards, he barely scanned that.

            Gazing out the window, Adam marveled again at the speed with which towns passed, though he had to admit that it would be greater still if the train didn’t stop at so many of them.  When he spotted the brickyards just west of Hobart, for instance, the train had traveled only a single mile since its last stop at Liverpool.  Stations that close together were rare, thank goodness; most of them were four or five miles apart, a few even more.  Adam welcomed the longer jaunts through fertile countryside, not only for the serenity of the scene, but also for the sense of moving faster toward his goal.

            It was well past noon, and the train still hadn’t pulled into Fort Wayne, the refreshment stop, so Adam bought an apple and a small bag of walnuts from the boy working the aisles.  “Want somethin’ to read, mister?” the boy, who appeared to be about ten, suggested as he pocketed the coins Adam had handed him.  “I got the latest papers out of Philadelphia, Chicago and New York and the Police Gazette and Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s, too.  And the best dime novels, if you be a literary gent.  Words to suit all tastes, just like me fruits and candies!”  He whipped out an orange paperback.  “Here’s the latest from Beadle’s, sir: King Barnaby; or, The Maidens of the Forest. A Romance of the Mickmacks,” he read from the cover.  With a scowl he added, “Now, I know romance may not sound like a fittin’ subject for a gent, but this un’s about Indians and such, up in Canada, and bein’ a Beadle’s, it’s chock full o’ action.”

            Adam chuckled, amused by the youngster’s earnest face.  “You’re a real connoisseur, I see.”  Seeing the boy’s bewilderment, he amended his word choice.  “Read them all, do you?”

“Oh, yes, sir!” the boy replied enthusiastically.  “Beadle’s is prime.  Can’t go wrong with this un, sir, at only ten cents.”  He held the latest issue temptingly beneath Adam’s nose.

Smiling, Adam shook his head.  “You’re quite the salesman, but I’ll just have fruit and nuts this time.”

            The boy grinned.  “Well, I’ll be back down the aisle in about an hour, if you change your mind.  Nothin’ like a good book to pass away the miles, you know.”

            “Ah, but I have one,” Adam said, lifting his Greek text.

            One look at the title was enough to make the little lad scrunch up his nose, shake his head at the peculiar taste of some folks and hustle down the aisle toward a likelier prospect for his wares.

            A couple of stations ahead of Fort Wayne, the conductor moved through the train, taking a count of those who wished to eat there.  “Specialty of the house is beefsteak,” the conductor announced.  “How many in this car?”

            Several hands were raised, Adam’s among them.  With the conductor telegraphing ahead to the depot restaurant the number to expect, the food would be ready when they arrived, so the mere twenty minutes afforded for a meal would be sufficient.  At least, that’s the way it was supposed to work.  When Adam, along with other passengers, rushed into the restaurant, however, the plates weren’t ready, and seven minutes were wasted, just sitting at the counter.  When his dinner was plunked in front of him, he went to work at once, sawing through the steak, a challenge considering its toughness.  Somehow, Adam choked down most of the steak, potatoes and a dish of custard in the thirteen minutes remaining before he had to board the train once more.

            When the conductor came down the aisle to take numbers for supper, Adam decided to pass.  The hour was late, and he didn’t want to try to sleep with something as heavy as that greasy beefsteak roiling in his stomach.  Most refreshment stops also had a counter where he could buy a sandwich, and if Crestline did not, he’d just make out on whatever the diligent train boy had to offer on his hourly rounds.

            At Crestline, the midway point between Chicago and Pittsburgh, he found the usual ham sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and crisp sugar cookies—plenty to make a meal on.  After purchasing what he desired, Adam used the remaining time to look at the city, at least what he could see of it from the depot platform.  Crestline, lying in a flat, almost swampy terrain with large woods close by, was a division terminal, so although the depot itself was only frame, there was a full-circle brick roundhouse to maintain the trains, along with car shops, a tin shop and boiler shop, as well as machine and blacksmith shops.

            Adam yawned.  Crestline might be an interesting place to explore, if he had the time . . . or the energy.  Right now, nothing sounded quite as interesting as getting back on the train, eating his light supper and heading for a berth as soon as it was ready.  When he crawled into bed for the night, once again exhaustion made a feather mattress of the hard slab on which he slept.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

Soldiers of the 2nd Kansas were attacked at Shelbina the night before Adam’s passage through there on the train.

 

The steamboat Emma actually plied the waters of the Mississippi between Quincy and West Quincy around the time of Adam’s trip.

 

The reports of Jefferson Davis’s death, though confirmed, were, of course, false.  He lived to guide the Confederacy throughout the Civil War.

 

An account of the Platte River Bridge disaster, as well as the other news items Adam read in Chicago can be found in online copies of the New York Times for September 7, 1861.  That the Chicago paper covered the same news is conjecture.


CHAPTER SIX

New Haven, at Last!

 

 

Adam was up early Sunday morning, so his face was washed and he was ready to bolt from the train as soon as it pulled into the depot at Pittsburgh shortly before seven o’clock.  He had virtually no time to spare as he hurried to transfer to the Pennsylvania Railroad for the next leg of his journey.  From what little he did see, the city seemed almost as large as Chicago, and its location, where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers joined to form the Ohio, appeared conducive to growth.  That thought didn’t occur to him until he was settled aboard the next train, however, and nibbling on the single boiled egg he’d taken time to purchase.  An apple, provided by the train boy, rounded out his breakfast.

            The train departed immediately.  Leaving the station on Grant Street, the track curved to the right, passing through beautiful countryside, dotted here and there with elegant houses.  Then, for the next forty miles, the train moved through a less picturesque setting, with a number of open bituminous coal mines visible through the window.  The coal region gave way to a fertile valley, and the train crossed the Loyal Hanna on a substantial stone bridge.  Passing through a gap in Chestnut Ridge, on a narrow ledge cut out of rock, the road ran above the Conemaugh River and canal, some one hundred sixty feet below, to Johnstown at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains.  Greek text laid aside, Adam pressed his face to the cool window glass and drank in the hardwood-covered mountainsides.  Some twenty-five miles later the train passed through a tunnel that was three-quarters of a mile long and emerged to even grander mountain scenery, distinct peaks blending with fruitful valleys.

            About four and a half hours after leaving Pittsburgh, Adam finally had a chance to grab a meal at Altoona.  Eastbound and westbound trains met here, and long tables were set up to accommodate everyone in the dining hall.  Adam was starving and gulped down as much as he could in the twenty minutes allowed.  That relaxing meal with Jamie at the end of his journey, which Josiah had recommended and paid to provide, was beginning to look more and more attractive.  And no matter what Jamie did, Adam intended to dawdle a full hour over his food—maybe two.

            No time for dawdling now, though.  Back on the train and keep those wheels rolling!  They rolled through the center of the Tuckahoe Valley, lying between the main range of the Alleghenies and Brush Mountain.  To the south rich limestone land stretched for a mile and a half, while an equal swath of clay soil lay to the north of the track.  After fifteen miles the landscape changed, as the train entered the deep gorge of the Little Juniata and followed its course into Petersburg.  The name of the town brought a nostalgic smile to Adam’s lips, as he recalled his first memories of Inger in an Ohio town bearing the same name.

            Charming mountain scenes accompanied him throughout the afternoon.  Anxious as he was about his entrance exam, he couldn’t resist the pull of such beauty.  He viewed it almost as a last glimpse of home, although the scene seemed tame, compared to the ponderosa forests populating the Cartwright’s ranch.

            It was nearly 8:30 that night when the train pulled to a stop at the depot in West Philadelphia.  Adam collected his baggage and asked the porter to recommend a clean, inexpensive hotel nearby.  Taking the man’s advice, he walked to the corner of 41st and Elm, entered the brick building and inquired if there were any vacancies at the Elm Hotel.  There were, and though the room was small, the bed narrow and the mattress not as plump as the one back home, to Adam it looked like paradise.  After eighteen straight days of travel, any bed that didn’t move was heaven on earth to the weary young man, and he sank gratefully onto the mattress, pulled the covers up to his ears and was asleep within minutes after his head hit the pillow.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam woke early, but refreshed and ready, for once, to face yet another day’s travel, for this one would bring him to the end of his journey—and Jamie!  He had risen early enough to give careful attention to his grooming; his only regret was that he didn’t have time for a long, relaxing soak in a tub.  He’d stripped down and washed before going to bed, though, so he felt clean, and he indulged in a clean shirt from his baggage, as well.  After a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs in the hotel dining room, he walked to the depot of the New Jersey Railroad and purchased his ticket.

            Having twenty minutes to spare before his train departed, he purchased a copy of the New York Times and scanned the headlines, which began with THE GREAT REBELLION.  Probably the same headline every day, Adam mused.  War reports had been front-page news in the Territorial Enterprise, too, but there the conflict had seemed distant; here, it crouched close, ready to spring and disrupt a young man’s dreams.  Well, he wouldn’t let it.  He’d promised Pa, and what’s more, he’d promised himself.  Still, he couldn’t deny his interest in the war’s progress, so like every Easterner, he started with the first column, relating the support of Alexander of Russia for the Union, and read every line.

            He hadn’t finished the first page when the conductor called “All aboard.”  Hastily folding the newspaper, Adam sprinted for the train and took his seat for a short jaunt of three and a half hours.  For the first twenty to twenty-five miles, adjoining tracks were busy with passing trains, probably locals; Adam didn’t see a single car after that until he came equally close to the end of his journey.  He passed through Trenton and ten miles beyond a fellow passenger pointed out Princeton College, on a ridge above them.  The school was more than two miles away, though, so he couldn’t see it well, and he fared no better when the train passed Rutgers an hour or so later.  He rather wished for a closer view, just so he could get an idea of what a college campus was like, but he’d get his chance later that evening, when he reached New Haven.  At least, he hoped there’d be time to get his first glimpse of Yale before darkness fell.

Within an hour after passing New Brunswick, the stop for Rutgers, commuter trains again began to clog the rails, and Adam surmised that he must be getting near New York City.  The train passed through Newark and not long after the conductor called out, “Next stop Jersey City, end of the line.”  Adam closed his Greek text and gathered his belongings, in case he had to make a quick sprint to the ferry dock.  As it turned out, the track went directly to the dock on the Hudson River, and since the ferry over it ran every ten minutes, he lost only four minutes making that connection.

            The ferry deposited him at the foot of Cortlandt Street on the isle of Manhattan, and at first all Adam could do was gape at the towering buildings.  He thought he’d seen big cities before—San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia last night—but the view from the dock was overwhelming.  Buildings—eight, nine stories tall—surrounded him, one beyond another, as far as he could see.  Shaking off his awe, he focused on the daunting challenge now facing him.  He had to get to the nearest depot of that final train, but he didn’t know where it was.  Not far, he hoped.  “Please, sir, where might I find the depot for the New York and New Haven Railroad?” he asked the first passerby whose attention he could catch.

            “City Hall,” the bespectacled man tossed aside as he breezed down the street.

            “But where?”  Adam might as well have asked the wind, which was blowing smartly off the river.  Assuming his destination had to lie inland, he started walking east on Cortlandt and asked the next person he saw where City Hall was located.

            “Broadway and Chambers,” the man replied.  Then he, too, was gone with the briskness of the wind.

            “I hope one of those intersects Cortlandt,” Adam muttered grimly.  He saw another man headed his direction and, determined not to let this one get away from him, moved to block his path.

            “Here now, what’s this?” the burly man demanded.  “Get out the way, lad.”  He started to push the annoying youth aside, but Adam raised an imploring hand.

            “Please, sir.  I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m unacquainted with your city and I need directions,” he pleaded.  “The depot for the New York and New Haven Railroad—it’s at City Hall, I was told, but how do I get there?”

            “At the park,” the man replied.  Then, seeing Adam’s bewilderment, he chuckled.  “Which means nothing to you, does it, lad?”

            Adam grimaced.  “I’m afraid not, sir.  Please.  It’s important that I get there in time to catch my train.”

            “Aye, aye, I understand,” the man said.  “Now, the depot’s not at City Hall, lad, but you can take a streetcar there to the terminal at 27th Street and 4th Avenue.  Young lad like you might as well hoof it, first to Broadway; it’s not far—couple blocks that way.”  He pointed the direction Adam had been walking.  “Head north to Chambers.”

“It intersects?”

“Aye, aye, that’s right.  You’ll see the post office at one end of the park, City Hall at the Chambers end.  Streetcars in front of that.  Simple enough?”

            Adam smiled in earnest relief.  “Yes, sir.  I believe I can get there now.  Thanks!”

            “Off with you then.  Don’t know when that train leaves, but it’s about a half hour on the horse cars to the depot, so no dawdling, eh?”

            Adam took time to extend a grateful hand.  “No, sir, no dawdling.  Thank you again.”  With a wave he took off, covering the two blocks to Broadway with long, now confident, strides.  Though his heart was racing, youthful dignity wouldn’t permit his legs to follow suit.  Besides, since he didn’t know what time the train left—he hadn’t had time for inquiries before transferring to the ferry—he didn’t know whether he needed to hurry or had time to kill.  He couldn’t risk assuming the latter, however, so he quickened his pace.  Dignity be hanged.

            The brisk walk felt good after all the days of sitting, first on the stage and then on one train after another, and his strong muscles didn’t let him down.  In fact, he had energy left for a final sprint across the triangular green swath of the park when he saw a streetcar approaching what had to be City Hall, a grand building with tall pillars of white marble.  He swung aboard the car and paid his five-cent fare just before it pulled away.  “Do you know the schedule for the New York and New Haven Railroad, sir?” he asked the conductor.

            “Thirty minutes from now,” came the answer.  Seeing the young man’s anxious look, he added kindly, “You’ll make it in time to buy your ticket, son.”

            Adam smiled his thanks.  “Will you tell me where to get off, please?”

            27th Street and 4th Avenue stop; I’ll call it out,” the conductor assured him.

            There were seats available toward the back, but Adam elected to stand, holding onto a hanging strap, so that he could remain close to the front.  Probably the conductor would shout out the stops all along the line, but he had to be absolutely certain he heard the right one and that he got off quickly and made a beeline for the depot office.  He didn’t doubt the conductor’s word that he’d have time to purchase his ticket, but at this late stage in his journey, he was unwilling to take the slightest chance of a mishap.

            The conductor’s estimate proved reliable, and half an hour after boarding Adam bounded off the streetcar and headed inside the depot.  The line at the ticket office was relatively short, but he breathed a sigh of relief once he had the all-important ticket to New Haven in hand.

            Soon he boarded, with an intense sense of relief.   Nothing left to fear.  Short of a train wreck, nothing now could prevent his arrival in time for the entrance exams, so Adam settled back to enjoy the scenery, sights that would no doubt be as familiar as the pines of home by the time he returned.  As the train reached each stop along the line, his anticipation mounted: Forty-second Street, Harlem, Williams Bridge, the stately residences of Mount Vernon and the beautiful villas surrounding New Rochelle.  Finally, he passed through Greenwich, whose fine view of Long Island Sound sent ripples of excitement surging up his spine.  A globe in the dean’s office of the Sacramento Academy had taught him that this body of water was within view of New Haven.  Not long now!

            But still more stops before he reached his destination: Cos Cob, the quiet homes of Stamford and the rural peace of Norwalk.  He caught his breath when the train passed through Bridgeport, for he recalled Josiah’s telling him of the sectional strife in that town.  He was soon past it, though, rolling through towns lined with stately elms at a speed that almost kept pace with his desire to reach the end of the line.  At last he heard the conductor call out, “West Haven,” and knew that only a few short miles along the seashore would conclude his journey.

            Only three miles, in fact, brought him into New Haven, just as twilight was falling.  “No seeing Yale tonight, I suppose,” Adam muttered, shaking his head at the fading light and his own failure to calculate the length of the journey.

            A hand tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and he spun around, expecting to see Jamie, but this dark-haired youth, sporting a top hat and cane, looked nothing like the picture he’d seen in St. Joseph.

            “I say, chap, did you say ‘Yale’?”  The young man inquired as his eyes traveled, with some disdain, up and down Adam’s unfashionable and travel-wrinkled attire.  “Planning to enroll there, by any chance?”  The slightly hesitant tone carried an air of barely disguised disbelief.

            “Well, yes, as a matter of fact,” Adam said.

            Before he could say more, the other fellow brightened.  “Ah, then!  Let me be the first to welcome you to New Haven and our illustrious school.  Pledged a freshman society yet?”

            “Freshman society?”  Completely befuddled, Adam stared at him.

            “No?  I thought not.”  The man clapped a hand to Adam’s shoulder.  “Take the advice of a sophomore with only your best interest at heart, then, youngster.  Delta Kap is the best society there is.”  He fingered the crescent-shaped, black enamel pin attached to his coat lapel.  “And you’re in luck, as we just happen to have a single place left.  Give the word, and I’ll secure it for you.”

            Dazed by the spiel of, to him, unintelligible babbling, Adam could only gape at the stranger.

            “Adam?”  The voice was soft, slightly tentative.

            Adam looked to his right and saw a fair-haired young man, whose kindly expression exactly matched both his memory and the portrait he’d studied in St. Joseph.  “Jamie,” he murmured and moved instinctively toward his old friend.

            Their reunion was shortchanged, however, by the earnest sophomore, who quickly placed himself at Jamie’s side.  “Edwards, isn’t it?  And this must be the friend you were expecting from the West?”

            “Yes,” Jamie said.  “Adam Cartwright.”  He flushed.  “I’m sorry; I can’t quite recall . . .”

            “Quite all right,” the sophomore assured him.  “So many new names and faces, eh?  And you freshmen have your heads too crammed with last-minute preparations for the exams to remember them all, I’m sure.  I’m George Pomphrey.  Have you decided on the Delta Kaps, then, Edwards?  Must decide soon, you know.”

            “I thought you said there was only one place left,” Adam said, though he still had no idea what that “one place” referred to.

            “Oh, we can stretch our number to include two such strong candidates, I’m sure,” Pomphrey returned glibly.  “Now—Cartwright, is it?—just take a look at this prize list, my boy, and you’ll immediately see the benefits of pledging Delta Kap.”  Pomphrey flapped a piece of paper under Adam’s nose.  “You can readily see we’ve had the most Spoon men, and—well, the list says it all, doesn’t it?  Would President Woolsey authorize it if it weren’t so?  Most certainly not!”

            Adam turned a bewildered gaze upon Jamie.

            Jamie took Adam’s elbow, saying quickly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Pomphrey, but we really can’t make a decision tonight.  My friend has just arrived, so we haven’t had an opportunity to discuss the benefits of joining any society.”

            “Oh, you must.  Everyone does,” Pomphrey gushed.  “And the Delta Kaps are the place for you, I assure—”

            “Yes, perhaps so”—Jamie drew Adam toward him—“but we must discuss our options.  I’m sure we can give you an answer soon, but now we must get Adam settled before the exams tomorrow.”

            “Oh, quite,” Pomphrey said, though he sounded disappointed.  “Do, at least, promise me you won’t go with the Gamma Nu grinds, now won’t you?”

            “Yes, yes,” Jamie said, hastily backing away.  “I think we can promise that much, but we must go and get situated now.”

            Adam followed Jamie’s lead, backing step by step away from George Pomphrey and his mysterious list.  When they were half a block down the street, both boys turned to walk forward.  “What was that all about?” Adam asked.

            Jamie laughed.  “Society man, looking for new pledges.  The sophomores wage a vigorous competition for the honor of their former freshman societies.  You were lucky to have come in so late, Adam; when I arrived, the station was packed with men from all three societies.  In fact, several accosted me before I got off the train!  One of the Sigma Eps bundled me into a hack before I knew what was happening and brought me to a good, cheap lodging house.  I was grateful for that, but he chattered at me the whole way about the virtues of his society and the faults of the others until my head was spinning.  He even bought my dinner, to influence me, although I told him, as I have everyone else, that I could not make a decision until I’d spoken with you.”

            Adam grinned.  “I still don’t know what a society is, but maybe we should have listened to that fellow longer, if it meant free transportation and food.  In my present financial condition, such benefits are not to be scoffed at.”

            Jamie smiled back.  “Nor in mine.  Oh, Adam, I’m so thrilled you were able to come East after all.  I’ve a thousand things to tell you and ask you, but”—he clapped his palm to his head.  “Your luggage!  I was in such haste to get away from Pomphrey that I completely forgot.”

            Adam hefted his bag.  “This is all I have.  I traveled light.”

            Jamie chuckled.  “Smart move, though going back would give us another chance to wangle that free meal.”  

            “I’d prefer a quiet meal alone with you,” Adam said, “and we’re being treated to supper, anyway.  Your father sent money with me for that precise purpose.”

            Jamie’s blue eyes misted.  “Dear Father, he sacrifices so much for me.  Did—did he tell you that his school has closed, possibly for the duration of the war?”

            “Yes, and I know you’re concerned, but as fine a teacher as your father will find a position somewhere.  I urged him to come East, to be near us, and he said he’d consider it.”

            “Wouldn’t that be perfect?”  Jamie’s face reddened.  “I’m sorry, Adam; I’m being thoughtless.”

            “You?  Never,” Adam disagreed firmly.

            “I mean, you’re so much further from home than I and must miss your family terribly, and here I prate on about life being perfect if only my father were here,” Jamie stammered.

            “And so it would be—for me, as well, since he’s very special to me,” Adam responded.  He shifted his bag to his other hand.  “Is it far to our lodging?  That is where we’re headed, isn’t it?”

            “It is, though I almost took the wrong turn, chattering away.” They had come to a point where five streets met, and Jamie gestured toward the one ahead and to the left.  “I do hope I’m not this scatter-brained during exams tomorrow!”

            Adam laughed as he turned into George Street.  “I just hope I’m awake!”

            “You must be exhausted,” Jamie sympathized.  “Just at the end of this block.  We’ll drop off your bag and then find a hot meal close by.”

            “Sounds great.  I haven’t eaten since breakfast.  Too anxious to make connections, you know.”

            Jamie nodded his understanding just before he stopped in front of a two-story house, whose narrow clapboards were covered with peeling green paint.  A chimney stood at each end of the house.  “It’s old,” Jamie said apologetically, “but clean and well kept.”

            Adam touched his friend’s shoulder in gentle reassurance.  “I trust your judgment implicitly.  Neither of us can afford a palace, so clean and well kept is the best we could have hoped for.”

            “Well, we could have tried for the Athenaeum,” Jamie said, though his countenance reflected distaste.  “That’s on campus, and some of the poorer freshmen do manage to get a room there.  I’ve heard, though, that there aren’t many available.  Upper classes have first choice of rooms, you know.”

            “And the Athenaeum is the dregs left at the bottom of the cup?”  Adam smiled wryly.

            Jamie gave a low chuckle.  “Something like that.  Father refused to let me consider it, though I was willing, considering our circumstances.  It would have been cheaper.  Anything on campus is.”

            “I think we can trust your father’s wisdom.”  For himself, Adam wouldn’t have minded “the dregs,” but he well remembered how susceptible to respiratory problems his friend was.  No doubt that was the reason Josiah had insisted on better accommodations, and Adam was happy he could contribute to the warmth and comfort Jamie needed.  He caught his friend by the scruff of the neck.  “Now, when are you going to show me what this place has to offer?”

            Three steps led to a central door, bordered by two decorative columns.  Jamie opened it and preceded Adam into a central hall.  “We’re on the second floor,” he explained as he led the way to the stairs.  They climbed up and then walked down a hall to the last door on the left.  “Here’s our shebang,” Jamie announced as he flung the door open wide.

            Adam arched an eyebrow as he followed Jamie inside.  “Shebang?”

            Jamie laughed.  “Just a bit of college slang I’ve managed to pick up in the time I’ve been here.  The silk hat Pomphrey was wearing, for instance, is a plug, and the cane’s called a banger.  We can’t sport those until we’re sophomores.  I don’t know much more than that yet, but it seems we have more than just Latin and Greek to learn here.”

            “So it would seem,” Adam chuckled, “but we’re good students; we can handle another language.”

            Jamie smiled broadly.  “That we can!”

            Adam set his bag down and took a closer look at their shebang.  Two oak tables with ladder-back chairs sat on either side of the six-over-six paned window that overlooked the side yard, while a large double bed with four short posters took up most of the space on the opposite wall.  An identical window, with identical drapes of heavy burgundy graced the center of the back wall.  Centered before it was a single washstand with pitcher and basin.  To the right of the door stood a tall walnut wardrobe cabinet and to the left a pot-bellied stove faced the foot of the bed.

            “Does it suit you?” Jamie asked with a hint of concern.  “I didn’t know if you’d want to sleep double, but it was cheaper and—”

            “Say no more.  It suits me perfectly.”  Adam grinned.  “As for the bed, I’ve slept with my little brothers before, and it’s not too bad, once they get past the wet-diaper stage.  It’s you who’ll be experiencing a shared bed for the first time, oh pampered only child.”

            Amusement flickered in Jamie’s blue eyes.  “I assure you I’m past the wet-diaper stage, and frankly, I’m looking forward to learning what it feels like to have a brother.”

            Adam’s dark eyes twinkled.  “So, what will this shebang set us back?”

            “A dollar fifty a week for the room, which doesn’t include board,” Jamie said, his brow wrinkling as he reported a sum he wished were smaller.  “Then we have to buy our own coal for the fire, but the college supplies that at cost to students.”

            “That’s good.  Anything else?”

            “Oil for our lamps, and Mrs. Wiggins, who runs the house, will do our laundry, but that’s an extra charge—sixty cents a dozen.”

            Adam nodded.  “Probably less than we’d pay to have it done elsewhere.  At least, that’s how it was at my boardinghouse in Sacramento.”

            “Yes, I’d say so, and I don’t doubt she’ll do a more careful job, judging by her impeccable housekeeping,” Jamie advised.  “If you’re through looking around, we should probably get to a restaurant.  I’m fair starved, and I know you must be.”

            As they left the room and headed for the stairs, a disturbing suspicion arose in Adam’s mind.  “Jamie, you haven’t been stinting on meals to save money, have you?”

            Jamie didn’t answer at first, but the flush on his face gave him away.  Realizing that, he said, “Well, I really do want to join a society, Adam, and that takes money. Skipping a meal here and there seemed the easiest way to save for that.”

            “You mustn’t,” Adam chided, descending the stairs slowly.  “We’ll cut corners where we can, but not on food and shelter.  You can’t house a sound mind in an unsound body.”

            Jamie smiled back over his shoulder.  “Your father or mine?”

            Adam shook his head.  “Neither, though I’m sure they’d both agree.  I learned that for myself during my early days at the academy in Sacramento.”

            They left the house and Jamie led the way down the darkened street.  “It’ll be better once we’re actually enrolled.  I hear they have eating clubs on campus.  Costs six to seven dollars a week, but that’s still cheaper than eating in restaurants, as you’re about to discover.”

            Adam laughed.  “After this trip I can quote you chapter and verse on the high cost of eateries.  You wouldn’t believe what I’ve paid for bacon and biscuits!”

            “We’ll do better than that tonight, I promise.  Here’s the place.”

            The restaurant into which Jamie led Adam was small and cozy, its décor simple and its fare hearty.  Both boys soon were dipping their spoons into bowls of steaming oyster stew.  “They grow the oysters in the riverbeds near here,” Jamie informed his friend.  “It’s quite an industry in New Haven.”

            “Best we support it, then,” Adam said, patting his stomach, “especially since it’s supporting us quite well.”

            They followed the stew with plates of Welsh rarebit and ended with dishes of creamy custard.  Between bites they talked of many things, from old memories to strategies for whittling expenses.  “Joining a freshman society will be expensive,” Jamie shared, “but I do think we should consider it, Adam.  They develop speaking abilities, and that can help us in our class recitations and, especially, in prize debates and competitions.  Some of those even bring cash awards.  If we could just win one . . .”

            Adam swirled a morsel of toast in the melted cheese on his plate.  “So it might actually be an investment to join a society?”

            “I think Father would say so.  No guarantee it would pay off, of course.”

            “How much would this investment cost us?”  Adam put the toast in his mouth, chewing and swallowing while Jamie answered.

            “Taxes are ten to fifteen dollars, and with the additional expenses it can come to thirty-five or forty for the year.”

            Adam whistled.  “And the prize money?”

            “As much as a hundred dollars for some,” Jamie said, “as little as five for others, but there are scholarships, as well.  Most of them go to society men, but I suppose that’s because most students do join one.”

            Adam mulled that over.  “Well worth the investment, I’d say.  I mean, even if we never won an award, the experience itself would be valuable, especially for you.  As a preacher, you’ll need to be comfortable with public speaking, so the more opportunities to try your wings, the better.”

            Jamie leaned forward earnestly.  “Oh, but I wouldn’t join without you, Adam.  I couldn’t!”

            “Then we join together,” Adam said with determination.  “I’m not sure I’ll be doing much public speaking back in Nevada, but I’d like to feel confident, if the need arose.”  He chuckled.  “At least, I should be able to use whatever powers of persuasion I develop on a certain pair of little brothers.”

            “Oh, tell me about them,” Jamie urged, his eyes brightening.  “I’m always amused by their latest antics.”

            Adam smiled.  “Another time.  Let’s decide about a freshman society first.  You’ve talked to all of them.  Which do you recommend?

            “Not the Delta Kaps, despite Mr. Pomphrey’s eagerness to give us the ‘last spots,’” Jamie said, a smile lifting one corner of his mouth.  “They’re much more interested in partying than academic pursuits.  The Gamma Nus are noted as the best scholars, and I won’t object if you want to go with them.  They do charge less.”

            “Because they offer less?  Let’s try to forget how empty our pockets are for now,” Adam recommended.  “Choosing the cheapest might be false economy.  What we want is the one that’s the best match for our goals.  You said there were three societies, I believe?”

            Jamie nodded.  “The Sigma Eps impressed me most—and not just because of the free meal and extra help they gave me.  They have a reputation for literary excellence, but also for having fun without the endless partying of the Delta Kaps.”

            Adam reached for his custard and sat thoughtfully drawing figure eights through it with his spoon.  “A balance between study and fun might be more profitable in the long run,” he mused.  “All work and no play, you know.”

            “Yes, that’s just what I was thinking.”

            Adam gazed warmly at his friend.  “We always did think alike.  I’m glad to see that hasn’t changed.  Sigma Ep it is, then.  Now, let’s tuck into this custard!”

            And so they did, with the gusto that only decisions made and a settled mind can give a man.  Before facing the chill of the New England night again, they elected to fortify themselves with a final cup of hot chocolate.  Jamie had actually suggested coffee, but Adam pointed out that the chocolate would be more conducive to a good night’s rest, which both of them needed, and Jamie readily concurred.

            As they sipped the hot drink, Jamie seemed to grow more somber.  Finally, after drinking about half, he looked tentatively across at Adam.  “I should have asked before: how are your father, your brothers . . . you . . . doing after . . .”

            “Marie’s passing?”  Adam’s eyes veiled as somber scenes flashed past his eyes:  Marie’s fall, his little brothers’ anguish, Pa’s devastation.

            “Yes, I . . . oh, I don’t know how to put this, Adam, but you seemed so downhearted in that letter you sent, when you said you couldn’t come to Yale with me, and I’ve been concerned . . . for all of you.”

            Adam nodded.  “I was downhearted then, as low as I’ve ever been in my life; I’m sorry it showed, but I guess I could hardly have disguised it from you.  Those were very rough days, mostly because Pa wasn’t coping at all with the loss.  I was trying to, for the boys’ sake, but between guilt and plain ordinary exhaustion . . .”—he couldn’t finish.

            Jamie cocked his head quizzically.  “Guilt?  What had you to feel guilty over, Adam?  It was an accident, you said.”

            “Not over her death,” Adam explained quietly, “but over the pain I’d given her in life.  I didn’t accept her at first, as you know; I did my best to make her life a living hell.”

            Jamie reached across the table to lay his slim hand atop Adam’s sturdier one.  “I think you exaggerate.  I remember your journal from that time, how you struggled with the surprise your father brought home, your confessions of your own bad behavior.  I know you must have caused her grief, but ‘hell’ is excessive, I believe, and all that changed, in time.  You loved her, Adam.”

            “But never told her,” Adam sighed.

            “She knew.”  Jamie’s voice was stronger than it had been all evening.  “I know she knew, Adam, and anything she didn’t know then, she knows now.”

            Adam’s lips curved slightly.  “Practicing your preaching skills already, I see.”

            Jamie blushed and ducked his head, but looked up again quickly.  “I’m only saying what I believe.  If that’s preaching, so be it.”

            Adam turned his hand over to clasp the one that still rested on it.  “Preach away, my boy; I’m sure I’m in need of it.”

            “Not more guilt, surely?” Jamie hinted with a smile.

            Adam chuckled as he slid his hand back and lifted his cup again.  “Sometimes I think I’m a bottomless well of that.  I’m so excited to be here at last; yet I can’t help thinking that I’m abandoning Pa when he needs me most.”

            “I understand,” Jamie said sympathetically.  “I feel the same at times, spending Father’s good money when he has no promise of more, but I truly believe God has a plan for each of our lives, Adam, and His plan, for both you and me just now, is to be here together, working toward a common goal and finding His will for our lives.”  His face reddened as he mumbled into his cup, “Sorry.  Preaching again.”

            Adam shook his head slowly.  “I don’t know, Jamie.  A plan . . . it’s a comforting thought, but . . . well . . . three wives, three deaths . . . so much sorrow for one man . . . does that speak of a plan?  Pure chance couldn’t have dealt us a much harder hand.”

            Jamie looked up again.  “Three fine sons, too.  Don’t forget that.  I have questions, too, Adam, and I don’t have all the answers.  Why did my mother have to die?  Why did God take Inger, who was like a second mother to me?  Could Heaven possibly have needed another angel more than we needed her here?  But if He hadn’t taken her, there would never have been a Marie . . . or a Little Joe.”

            Adam suppressed a snicker.  “That’s your idea of a blessing?  That little . . . well, yes,” he conceded, a nostalgic smile playing on his lips.  “I can’t imagine life without him.”  He sighed.  “I don’t know, Jamie.  I guess it comes down to faith, and mine just isn’t as strong as yours.  I believe in God, but a plan?”  He shook his head again.  “Like you, I have questions; that’s all I’m saying.”

            Jamie’s face beamed bright as an angel’s.  “And that’s all right.  God doesn’t mind our having questions, I’m sure.  That’s how we learn anything, isn’t it, by asking questions and seeking answers?  Isn’t that exactly what we’ll do in our classes here at Yale?”

            “Not if we don’t pass the entrance exam!”  Adam drained his cup and stood up.  “With that end in mind, we should get back to our room and turn in.  And no chatting away under the covers—your father’s orders.”

            “Which I shall obey—almost gladly.”  Jamie quickly finished his chocolate and stood, as well.  “I could cheerfully talk all night, but Father’s right.  We should be rested for tomorrow.”

            Adam threw an arm around his friend’s shoulders as they walked out into the nippy air.  “Once we pass, we’ll celebrate with the longest chat on record.”

            “That’s a bargain,” Jamie agreed.  “And a prize like that is sure to inspire our success!”


CHAPTER SEVEN

Entrance Exams

 

 

Adam splashed his face with cold water from the basin beneath the window.  He’d washed earlier, before dressing, but his face felt hot and he hoped the jolt of cold water would cool him down.  Nerves, nothing but nerves, he chided himself, the same reason he’d had a hard time getting to sleep last night.  All he’d been able to think about as he lay beneath the covers listening to Jamie’s soft snores, was the exam the next morning and the consequences if he failed.  Disappointment in himself loomed large at the top of the list, followed by the waning of his father’s pride, a short-changed reunion with Jamie and the death of his hopes for further education, for he’d never find the courage—or the funds—to try again if he failed now.  Finally, exhaustion had won out, and he had gotten some much needed rest.  Now he was too keyed up and too downright queasy to even think about how tired he was.

            “You look like I feel,” Jamie said with a woeful shake of his head as he sat on the side of their bed.

            Adam dried his face and then tested the warmth of his cheeks with the back of his hand.  The water hadn’t helped much, if any.  “I feel like putting anything on my stomach is a major risk,” he moaned.

            Jamie smiled wryly.  “Some wise man once told me that you couldn’t house a sound mind in an unsound body.”

            Adam winced as he recognized his own words from the night before.  “My mind’s still sound enough to know that fellow was right, but my body’s screaming that he was just an inexperienced dolt!  We’ll eat, but let’s keep it light, for mercy’s sake.  I don’t want to begin my career at Yale by depositing my breakfast on the examiner’s shoes.”

            “My unsettled stomach is in complete agreement.”  Jamie rose and put a narrow-brimmed bowler hat on his head.  “You have your characters?”

            Adam drew a set of envelopes from his coat pocket.  “All three of them.”

            Jamie’s pocket crackled as he patted it.  “Just two for me.”

            “I’m from further west,” Adam muttered.  “It might take more to convince them that I’m fit material for Yale.”

            Jamie clapped a hand to his friend’s shoulder.  “Your test scores will do that.  Ready?”

            “For breakfast?  Just barely.  For the exams?  Questionable.”  Shaking his head, Adam put on his flat-crowned black hat with a determined hand.  “Lead me to the lions’ den, kindly pastor.”

            Jamie groaned.  “No pastorate for me until I pass these exams, and suddenly I feel as likely to end up some lion’s breakfast.”

            “So pray God shuts the lions’ mouths,” Adam jibed.

            “And opens ours when we’re called on to recite,” Jamie joked back.

            Laughing, both boys left the room, made their way down to the street and headed back to the restaurant they’d patronized the night before for a light breakfast.

 

* * * * *

 

            The sky was overcast with threatening clouds of gray as the two young men walked northeast on Temple St.  I hope that’s not an omen, Adam thought morosely.  To further dampen his melancholy state of mind, the oatmeal he’d hoped would soothe his stomach was settling like a lead weight to its pit.

            “Not far now,” Jamie said.  He pointed straight ahead.  “That’s the Green.”

            Adam looked up and saw, on the right side of the street ahead, an attractive swath of lawn enclosed by an iron fence.  On its left side stood three churches and beyond them a stately building with impressive white columns.  Beneath the maple and buttonwood trees, some of whose leaves were just beginning to turn, a number of young men were frolicking about.  “Part of the college?” he inquired, for the players seemed about the same age as he and Jamie.

            Jamie shook his head.  “No, that’s town property, but those might be some of our future classmates, working off nervous energy until Alumni Hall opens.”

            “We’re still ahead of time, aren’t we?”  Adam couldn’t keep a note of anxiousness from his voice.  How ironic if he’d traveled day and night to reach New Haven, only to miss the exam because they’d dawdled too long over breakfast!

            “Still early.”  Jamie grinned.  “If you’re that nervous, maybe you should go for a romp with those other fellows.  It might help, Adam.”

            A touch of crimson crept over Adam’s countenance.  “I’d rather stay with you, my sedate and calming friend.”

            Jamie released a sputtering laugh.  “Sedate and calming!  If only you could see the butterflies cavorting riotously through my stomach!”

            Adam took a playful poke at his friend’s ribs.  “If you can come up with a description like that at a time like this, sir, you have nothing to worry about regarding these exams.”

            “It’s not the literary portions I’m worried about,” Jamie said with a shudder.  “I’m good with words . . . but the math!”

            “The only part I’m not worried about,” Adam chuckled.

            “This is Chapel Street,” Jamie said as they turned left and walked past one of the churches on the Green.  At the end of the block he paused and pointed across the street.  “There!  That’s Yale.”

            Weary as they were from lack of sleep, Adam’s eyes drank in his first sight of the row of brick buildings facing New Haven Green.  Stately, symmetrical, with a classic beauty he’d only seen in wood engravings within the covers of a book.  “Oh, it’s grand,” he murmured.  “All I dreamed and more.”  For a moment he forgot the uneasiness of his stomach and the persistent ache in his sleep-deprived head.

            “Isn’t it?” Jamie agreed with starry eyes.  “And it’s ours, Adam.  Four years from now every building will seem like home.”

            The nausea came surging back with a vengeance.  “If,” Adam croaked.  Having seen the goal made failure seem both more possible and more unthinkable.  “Which one is Alumni Hall?” he inquired as they turned onto a lane Jamie said was called College Street and began to walk northeast beneath the leafy canopy of elms that arched over the path from both sides.

            “None of these,” Jamie replied.  “It’s on the back side of the college yard.”  He pointed to the second building in the row.  “That’s the Athenaeum.”

            Adam whistled.  “Pretty fancy ‘dregs.’  Different from the other dorms.”  Impressive as those buildings were, architecturally they were rather plain, just long rectangles with four banks of windows, one above the other.

            “Because it wasn’t one, to start with,” Jamie laughed.  “It was the old chapel.  The steeple was where that tower is now.  There’s a telescope up there I hope to get a look at.”

            “First things first,” Adam advised.  “Let’s find Alumni Hall.”

            “Northwest corner of the yard,” Jamie said, pointing.  “We can cut through this way.”

            They moved between two of the brick buildings, one obviously another dormitory, and walked diagonally across the broad lawn behind the first row.  A crowd was gathered before the red sandstone building in the northwest corner.  “It’s a castle,” Adam gasped as he caught sight of the parapets at the top of the building and the twin, turreted towers flanking the arched entrance.

            A merry laugh greeted his description.  Turning toward its source, Adam saw a set of twinkling blue eyes beneath an unruly crop of golden brown curls.

            “It does rather look it, doesn’t it?” the other boy chuckled.  “Now, if they’d just lower the drawbridge and let us in!”

            As if on command, the massive doors opened, and every young man in the yard instinctively moved toward them.  Adam, Jamie and the boy who had had no opportunity to introduce himself were far back in the pack.  As they drew near the door, the other boy bowed and gestured toward the door.  “After you, gentlemen,” he quipped.  “I’m in no particular hurry to be thrown in the dungeon.”

            Adam suddenly felt a similar reluctance to walk through those imposing doors, and the sensation felt odd after rushing so frantically across the country for that very purpose.  He saw Jamie take a deep breath before entering, and he did the same—out of sympathy, he tried to convince himself.

            Just inside he found himself facing a long table, behind which sat three official-looking men in black frock coats.  Their august presence made him painfully aware of just how provincial he appeared in his worn and, compared with theirs, shapeless suit.

            “Your characters,” Jamie whispered.

            Adam flushed and drew the envelopes from his jacket.  As he waited in line behind his friend, he glanced at the interior of the building.  The hall was a vast open rectangle with exposed beams above, and between tall windows its walls were adorned with portraits of men who must have had some connection with the college. The room itself was bare, but for row after row of small octagonal pedestal tables, each with its own straight-backed chair.  Must be a hundred or more, Adam mused, wondering if only a set number of candidates would be accepted and, if so, whether he had a chance of achieving the upper ranks.

            “Your character, young man?”

            The voice startled Adam, and as he hastily handed his envelopes to the man behind the table, one fell to the floor.  Adam dived for it and came up so quickly that he his hat hit the edge of the table and toppled off.  He scrambled to pick it up, started to put it back on his head and then remembered that he was indoors now and held it awkwardly to one side.  The college official smiled kindly, though he looked somewhat surprised when handed the final envelope.  “Three?” he asked.

            “Y-yes, sir,” Adam stammered.  “I wasn’t sure what was customary, so I brought one from my minister, one from the head of my academy in Sacramento and one from a former Yale student, now a lawyer in Nevada.”

            “Indeed!  An alumnus?  And his name?”

            “Bill—uh, that is, William Stewart, sir.”

            “Ah, yes!  I knew Stewart.  An excellent student, one we were loath to lose.  I would be interested, at another time, to learn how he is prospering,” the official said, “but we must attend to more important matters now.”  He laid the three envelopes aside and motioned toward another figure in a long black frock coat.  This one appeared younger, young enough, in fact, to be a student himself, though a few years older than those assembled for the entrance exams.  “Escort this young man to his table please, Mr. Perkins,” the official requested.

            As Mr. Perkins nodded, he stared at Adam’s western-style hat as if it were as exotic and out of place as a Turk’s fez.  Then, seeing Adam’s attempt to hide it behind his back, Perkins remembered both his manners and his duty.  “Follow me, please.”  He turned and Adam fell into step behind him as they walked toward the rows of octagonal tables.  At about half of them nervous young men already sat, writing on a piece of paper.  Adam spotted Jamie nine rows back from the front of the room, but his escort didn’t stop until he’d reached the third row beyond that.  The desks were lined up four across, and Adam found himself sitting in the second from the end.

            Perkins pointed to a blank form, which was lying on the desk.  “Please fill this out completely and then wait for the examiner.  Be sure to give the full name wherever asked.  Is there anything you don’t understand?”

            “No, it seems clear,” Adam murmured.  He picked up the provided pen and dipped it into the inkwell.  On each line he filled in the requested information: name and residence, date and place of birth, name and address of father or guardian, place of preparatory study, chief preparatory instructor and the class he wished to enter.  Then, laying the pen down, he folded his hands and waited.  Someone came by to pick up the completed form, but no examiner appeared to begin his exam.  He saw men, probably professors, going to other desks, but he remained alone so long that he began to worry that he’d already been rejected, just on the basis of his residence and preparatory school.  How impressive could Nevada and Sacramento possibly sound, compared to Boston or Philadelphia?  Still, he saw an examiner stop at Jamie’s table, and St. Joseph and St. Louis, the location of Jamie’s preparatory school, weren’t much more illustrious, were they?  Surely, they’d at least give him a chance, even if he did hail from the wilds of the West.  Just when he was about to despair of that chance, an examiner appeared before him and asked his name.

            “Adam Morgan Cartwright,” he responded somewhat shakily.

            The examiner nodded and copied the name into a pocket-sized book.  Then he handed Adam a textbook and, after pointing to a passage, walked away.  Not quite sure what was expected of him, Adam read the designated selection from the orations of Cicero in the original Latin.  Then he read it again.  And again.  At the sound of a throat being cleared, he looked up and responded to the examiner’s invitation to translate the passage.  Twice he stumbled over a word, using the wrong tense in one instance and the definite, instead of the indefinite article in the other.  Though he corrected himself before proceeding, he saw the examiner making marks in the score book—not positive ones, he feared.  When he’d finished, the examiner thanked him and left, his face so studiously inexpressive that Adam couldn’t tell what the man thought of his performance.

            Adam himself was thoroughly disgusted with it.  He knew every word of that passage, knew it cold!  He’d studied it in Sacramento, reviewed it on the stagecoach and then he’d made two utterly ridiculous errors, out of sheer nerves.  He expected better of himself and vowed it wouldn’t happen again.  The trouble with that vow, even he realized, was that his poor opening recitation had only added to his nervousness—and more nerves were likely to lead to more mistakes, not fewer.

            The seemingly interminable wait for his next opportunity increased his tension, too.  Twenty minutes passed before a different examiner appeared at his table and handed him a paper with problems in mathematics for him to solve.  Adam felt himself relax, for mathematics had always been one of his best subjects.  He studied the problems carefully, however, determined not to let cockiness rob him of a single point.  When the examiner returned, he took a deep breath, to make sure nerves wouldn’t be a factor this time, and began to give each solution and explain his procedure.  When he’d finished, he exhaled with satisfaction; his recitation had been flawless and he knew it.

            By the time the third examiner appeared, Adam was comfortable with the process, and since the subject this time was geography, his confidence continued to build.  He’d seen first hand much of his own country’s geography and had always felt a keen interest in foreign lands, so he found each question posed to him quite simple.  Only one caused him any hesitation, and he thought, though he wasn’t sure, that he’d answered that one correctly, as well.

            And so it went throughout the morning.  The hardest part was the tedious wait between the appearances of examiners.  When Adam was working, he could stay alert, but sitting still and waiting sent waves of exhaustion surging through him.  Once his head even fell forward as his eyes closed, but he woke with a jolt and grasped the octagonal table tightly with both hands as he fought off the grogginess.  He didn’t fare particularly well with the recitation that followed that episode, but thought he’d performed acceptably with the next one.  Homer’s Iliad was a particular favorite of his, so translating it was more like visiting an old friend than being put to the test.

            Not long after the Greek examiner left him, at about 1 p.m., an intermission of one hour was announced.  Eager for a breath of fresh air, Adam hurried outside and searched the surrounding grounds for Jamie.  Jamie was looking for him, as well, and waved when their eyes met.  The two friends quickly compared notes, both agreeing that the interminable waiting was worse than the actual exams; then Jamie suggested that they should get something to eat in the brief hour allotted to them.

            Adam groaned.  “My stomach feels like it’s asleep.  Don’t see how it could properly digest a meal.  Besides, we don’t have time.  I won’t risk getting back late.”

            “A little food will settle your stomach,” Jamie insisted.  “You’re right about the time, though.  Let’s just find an apple vender or something like that.  Look!  There’s a fellow over there.”

            “An apple?”  Adam nodded soberly.  “Yeah, maybe I could handle that much.  Let’s try him.”

            As they approached the vender, who had set up a small table beneath a towering elm, Adam noticed the black man’s clouded eyes and realized with a shock that he was blind.  Yet the disability didn’t seem to hinder the man’s ability to pitch his wares or count out the proper change for each customer.  “We’d like two apples, please,” he asked when the previous customer had been served.

            The black man flashed a bright smile as he picked up a deep red McIntosh and polished it against his tweed vest.  “One for you, suh”—he gave the same attention to a second apple and held it out—“and one for yo’ mate.  Two bits, please, suh.”

            Adam fished a quarter from his pocket and placed it in the wrinkled palm stretched toward him.

            “I got de best confections on de campus, too,” the vender suggested.  “Dey don’t call me Candy Sam fo’ nuffin.”

            “I don’t think something sweet would set well just now,” Adam replied, “but thank you for the offer.”

            “Maybe ‘nother time,” the effervescent black man said.  “I goes to all de dorms ev’ry day, stops by each and ev’ry room.”

            “We’re not in a dorm, sir,” Jamie told him.  “We’re lodging in town.”

            The salesman seemed completely unperturbed.  “Well, den, young massas, Candy Sam be on de lookout fo’ you on campus.”

            Adam couldn’t help wondering how a blind man could possibly spot them on such a large campus, but he had a feeling this enterprising fellow would find a way.  “If we make it in, we’ll look you up, Sam.”

            “Oh, you will, suh, you will,” the vender assured him.  “Candy Sam got de nose fo’ sniffin’ out de good ones”—he tapped his nose—“and you got dat smell.”

            Jamie laughed.  “Faith like that must be rewarded, Adam.  I’ll take a small bag of your candies, Sam, for a celebration after we pass our exams.”

            White teeth gleamed as Sam’s smile broadened.  “Dat de spirit, young massa, dat de spirit!”  He placed several pieces of fluffy divinity in a small paper bag, collected the coin Jamie offered him, felt its size and rendered the correct change.  Both boys thanked Candy Sam and made their way to an accommodating shade tree, for the sun had finally come out and was shining brightly.  They threw themselves down on the grass and savored the sweet-sour taste of their apples as they shared in more detail the questions put to them in each subject.  They quickly discerned that the questions had been different, even when the subject was the same.

            The hour passed all too quickly, and promptly at two the boys returned to Alumni Hall, taking the same seats as before.  As Adam settled into his, he decided that Jamie had been right.  He did feel better with something on his stomach.  Hope Candy Sam is right about how we’ll fare here, he thought when he saw his first examiner approaching.  Though he knew the vender actually knew nothing about what type of student he was, somehow it helped to have someone, even a stranger, express such strong confidence.

            For Adam, the first subject of the afternoon was English grammar, followed by a quiz on the metric system of weights and measures and then a page of algebra equations to solve.  Then more Latin, more Greek, more of everything until his head began to throb.  He was mightily tempted to lay it on the desk between recitations, especially when one of his waits was almost an hour in length.  For mercy’s sake, he thought, there has to be a better way of determining a young man’s fitness for academic life.  This is the most inefficient . . . he had no time to complete the thought, for just then another examiner appeared.

            Around five o’clock that afternoon, he saw a few fortunate scholars depart, with either a blue or white certificate in hand.  From a conversation overheard during the break, he knew what they meant.  The white was the most desirable, for it meant admission on probation to the freshman class; the blue meant the candidate had passed certain parts of the exams and would be admitted on condition of passing the others at a subsequent exam.  Oh, God, at least let me get a blue, Adam prayed.  Surely, surely he had done that well.  He had mistranslated a word here and there, missed some questions due to weariness, simply not known other answers, but he couldn’t possibly have performed below average on enough subjects to be rejected, could he?

            At 6:30 he saw Jamie leave, empty-handed, and his heart sank.  It didn’t mean failure, of course.  Very few young men had received one of the prized certificates today; most would simply continue the process on the second day of exams.  Surely that was the case with Jamie.  If not, if his friend, whom Adam considered the better scholar, had been rejected so readily, what chance did he himself have?

            Fifteen minutes later Mr. Perkins approached Adam’s desk with no sign of a certificate in his hand.  “Mr. Cartwright?”

            Somehow Adam managed to say, though weakly, “Yes, sir?”

            “We’ll see you tomorrow at eight o’clock,” Perkins advised.

            Adam exhaled in relief.  He’d be back; hope wasn’t lost; he had another chance.  “Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”  As Perkins walked away, to deliver a similar message to another candidate, Adam rose stiffly and moved toward the door.

            Jamie was waiting for him just below the short flight of steps descending from Alumni Hall.  “How do you think you did?” he asked earnestly.

            “No certificate,” Adam replied with a tinge of disappointment, “but at least they didn’t send me home.  I must have made at least a somewhat favorable impression.”

            Jamie threw an arm around him.  “Oh, Adam, you are such a worrywart; of course you did!”

            Adam eyed him with disbelief.  “Aren’t you the least perturbed that you didn’t make it through today?”

            Dropping his arm, Jamie laughed.  “How could I be?  I wasn’t even tested on algebra today, so I knew I’d have to come back for that, at the very least.  I think I did rather well on everything except geometry.”

            Adam massaged his temple as he walked across the yard beside his friend.  “I haven’t had any geometry yet, and I just this minute realized it.  My head must be muddled to overlook that!”

            “It’s probably too consumed with thoughts of starvation,” Jamie suggested lightheartedly.  “Let’s tuck something substantial into our tummies tonight and silence their screaming.”

            Adam laughed, his mood suddenly lightened.  “Ah, that must be what was shouting so loud my brain couldn’t concentrate on Latin tenses.  By all means let’s silence that bellowing belly.  Maybe a piece of Sam’s divinity would soothe it until we reach the restaurant,” he hinted.

            With a grin Jamie obligingly offered Adam a piece of candy.  “I’ve already had one, while I was waiting for you,” he confessed, “and I can attest to its soothing powers.”

            Adam let the meringue melt in his mouth for a minute.  “As good as advertised,” he attested.  “Candy Sam definitely gets as much of my business as my pocketbook can afford.”

            Jamie threw an arm around his friend’s shoulder.  “And now let’s have the best supper our pocketbooks—or, rather, Father’s—can afford.”

 

* * * * *

 

            Promptly at eight o’clock the next morning Adam and Jamie were again escorted to desks in Alumni Hall, and the testing process began again, with different questions and sometimes different subjects.  Adam was relieved that no more Latin texts were thrust under his nose, though during his waits between recitations he found time to worry whether that meant he’d only receive a blue certificate and have to retest in that area.  He was examined more fully on Greek, and even though he’d never read Xenophon’s Anabasis before, he felt comfortable with his translation.  Only one word had been completely unfamiliar.  Euclid’s geometry finally appeared, but Adam breezed through that and could only hope that Jamie would do as well with the dreaded algebra.  He’d spent some time the previous night helping his friend with that subject, and while he wasn’t sure the extra tutoring had calmed Jamie’s nerves, thinking about someone other than himself had definitely helped him forget his own.

            A final recitation in English grammar rounded out Adam’s morning, and he was thrilled to be handed a white certificate at its close.  Admitted!  On probation, of course, but that was true for everyone.  He’d have to continue proving himself, but having passed the first hurdle, his confidence again became buoyant.  He finished first this time and had to wait outside for Jamie.  He had no doubt that his friend had fared as well as he, and his faith was confirmed when Jamie came flying down the steps, waving his white certificate.

            “We made it!” the fair-haired boy cried.

            “Of course, we did, worrywart,” Adam teased, welcoming the opportunity to toss back at Jamie the epithet his friend had thrown at him the previous evening.  “Let’s find Candy Sam and splurge on some celebration divinity.”

            “Since we ate all we bought for that purpose yesterday!” Jamie snickered.

            Over a meal of corned beef, potato croquettes and green peas the two boys discussed their agenda for the afternoon.  “I have to see a tailor,” Adam declared, “as well as find a hat that won’t have everyone on campus gawking at me.”

            Jamie smiled at the flat-brimmed black felt Adam had placed in the empty chair at their table.  “It does make you stand out, Adam.  Are you sure that’s a bad thing?”

            “I want to stand out for my school work, not my chapeau, thank you kindly,” Adam snorted.  “And my suit shouts my western origins.”

            “You’re not ashamed of that, I trust?” Jamie asked with a cock of his head.  “My wardrobe probably speaks a bit loudly, too.”

            “Not as much as mine,” Adam assured him.  “No, I’m not ashamed of where I come from, but the suit’s old, anyway.  Pa expected me to have another made once I arrived and provided the funds for it.”

            “Let’s stop by our rooming house and ask Mrs. Wiggins if she can recommend a good, reasonably priced tailor,” Jamie suggested.  “Then while you’re being fitted for your suit, I’ll drop by the Treasurer’s office and order our coal.  Quarter ton, you think?  We’re allotted limited space in the basement to store it, but that’s the smallest amount they sell.”

            “Definitely not more,” Adam concurred.  “We need oil for our lamps, too, don’t we?  I could pick that up while I’m in town, and we’ll settle up this evening.  You’ve already laid out some money for the room, and I want to be sure I’ve paid my share.”

            Jamie nodded.  “Down the middle on everything.”  He picked up the certificate of admission that lay to the side of his plate.  “Here’s the bill I dread paying.”

            Adam lifted his own certificate and sighed at the form attached to it.  “Two hundred dollars bond.  Steeper than I’d expected, but I can just manage it.”

            “Of course, we get it back at the end of our senior year, provided we’ve paid all our bills,” Jamie said, “but it’s a lot to lay out at one time.”

            “Do you have enough?” Adam asked with a frown of worry.  There was little he could do to help, since his own finances were tight, though not, he suspected, as tight as his friend’s.

            “Father set that aside long ago,” Jamie assured him.  “Let’s just say I hope we don’t run into any sudden emergencies.”

            Adam gave a short chuckle.  “Same hope here, pal.  Anything else we need?”

            “Nothing that won’t wait.”  Jamie looked fondly at his certificate of admission.  “I can’t spare the funds yet for a proper memorabilia book, but we’ll each want one eventually, to save mementos like this.  All the students have one, I’m told.”

            Adam’s fingers brushed his own certificate.  “It’s a keepsake, all right, but we won’t need a book until this one has others to keep it company.”

            Jamie laughed.  “Oh, it will have plenty of company before you know it!”  He rested his chin dreamily on the back of his gracefully curled fingers.  “I must write Father tonight to let him know I passed, even though he said he had no doubt I would.  I wish I could wire him the good news, but that constitutes a luxury I can’t afford, I fear.”

            “Telegrams are costly,” Adam agreed.  “I’m tempted to send one, though.  Mail takes so long to reach Nevada, and I’m not sure my father was as confident as yours that I’d make it.”

            “I think you should, if you can spare the funds,” Jamie urged.  “He shouldn’t have to wait a month to learn he’s lost a son . . . for four years, that is.”  His blue eyes twinkled as he winked at Adam.

            “Yeah, I think I will, and then I’ll write tonight—to Hoss, maybe.”  Adam smiled in fond remembrance of his younger brother.  “He’ll like getting the first letter.”

            “And tonight you are going to tell me what he and Little Joe have been up to lately, aren’t you?” Jamie asked pointedly.

            “That won’t take long,” Adam laughed.  “I haven’t seen them for almost a month, but I guarantee Little Joe’s been up to mischief and probably managed to drag Hoss into it with him!”


CHAPTER EIGHT

First Day

 

 

The breeze off Long Island Sound was balmy, the air pleasantly cool, but tingling with excitement, or so it seemed to Adam and Jamie as they passed the Green, headed for their first chapel service.  Although Temple was slightly closer, they had traveled up Church Street this time, so that Adam could deposit his letter to Hoss at the Post Office.  “We should mark this day with stars on our calendar,” Jamie said, referring to the one hanging above their bed at the boardinghouse, which touted the reliability of one William Whitney, local apothecary.

            “Oh, and which one of us gets that page for his memorabilia book—when we can afford one?”  Adam laughed.

            “That’s a harder question than any on our entrance exams,” Jamie teased back.  “When we can afford one, I mean.”

            Adam groaned appreciatively.  “We have got to find a cheaper way to eat, chum.”

            “I might be able to help you with that.”

            Adam turned and smiled as he recognized the brown-haired wit from the first day of exams.  “We never properly met,” he said as he extended his hand.  “Adam Cartwright.”

            “Lucas Cameron,” the other boy said with a hearty pump of Adam’s hand, “and I really might be able to help with your mealtime expenses—if you’re interested in an eating club.”

            “Oh, we are!” Jamie exclaimed enthusiastically.  “I’ve heard”—he halted abruptly as the prayer bell began to ring from the chapel steeple.

            “You’ve heard the chapel bell, you say?” Lucas jibed.  “That’s just the five-minute bell, though . . . I think.”

            “Are you sure?” Jamie asked, for Lucas seemed hesitant.

            Lucas chuckled.  “Well, if another rings in two minutes, then that was the five-minute bell.  If not . . . well, we’re doomed.”

            “I don’t think we should chance being late to the first chapel,” Jamie insisted, his gaze on Adam, who nodded his agreement.  First impressions were important, and he didn’t intend Yale’s first impression of him to be one of tardiness.

            “You’re probably right,” Lucas conceded agreeably.  “Meet me here directly after, and I’ll tell you about the Vultures.”

            “We’ll be here,” Adam assured him.  Then all three incoming freshmen dashed for the chapel door.

            A boy sporting plug and banger pushed Lucas, who was in the lead, aside.  “Mind your place, Freshie,” he taunted, “and let your betters in before you.”

            “Mind your mouth, Sophie,” a red-faced Lucas demanded, drawing back his fist.

            “No, please!” Jamie cried, putting himself between the two.  He turned to the sophomore.  “After you, sir, by all means,” he said.  When the other boy, with superior smirk, passed through the door, Jamie whispered to Lucas, “I think it’s tradition.”

            “It is,” said another fresh-faced lad coming up to them, “and we sit in the rear of the house or the galleries—at least this time.  That’s tradition, too.”

            “The galleries, I say,” Adam suggested.  “A better view, perhaps?”

            “Suits me,” Jamie agreed.  “Will you join us, Lucas, and you, too, sir?”

            “Don’t call me ‘sir,’” the other boy chuckled.  “I’m a lowly freshman, just like the rest of you.  Introductions can wait.  Let’s get inside!”  That need was emphasized by the ringing of the final chapel bell.  The freshmen hurried through the door and up the stairs to the gallery, where they found an empty wooden pew on the left side, just the right size for four.

            The chapel, although austerely furnished, seemed elegant to Adam and Jamie, who were accustomed to the frugality of frontier meetinghouses.  The pews were plain, wooden benches, but the smooth pillars supporting the gallery gave the room a classic sophistication.  A pulpit, which contained a sofa, stood at center front, flanked by double boxes.  Before it was a small parlor table with hair-covered chairs on each side that might just as readily have fit beneath a dining room table.  Two older men, dressed in black greatcoats and black ties, entered the pulpit and sat on the sofa.

            Soon one of them, a man of medium height and slender, but wiry build rose and gazed upon the student body with steadfast, discerning eyes.  “Good morning, young gentlemen,” he said warmly.  “It is my privilege and pleasure, as President of Yale College, to welcome you to the beginning of a new term—and for some of you, the beginning of your time at Yale.   Beginnings are always moments of great importance, and whether you are beginning your college education or simply beginning another year of its continuation, you will want to make that beginning an auspicious one.  I can think of no better way to insure that than to heed the instruction of Holy Scripture, which tells us in Proverbs 1:7, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.’”

            Adam glanced to his left and smiled as he saw Jamie, elbows propped on the balustrade, eyes fixed on the speaker, totally enrapt.  A well-spoken sermon would appeal to the would-be preacher, of course, but the words held Adam’s interest, as well.  Having been brought up in traditional New England fear of the Lord, he figured he had already made the beginning of which President Woolsey spoke; now he was ready to build on the solid foundation that Ben Cartwright had laid.  And knowing what a challenge lay before him, to succeed at such a prestigious school, Adam figured it wouldn’t hurt to invoke a little divine aid each morning.

            With a twinkle in his eye, President Woolsey leaned forward, the stance emphasizing the slight stoop of his shoulders.  “There are some, I regret to tell you, even among the select scholars of Yale, who think that a few minutes extra sleep of a morning will profit them more than spending those brief moments inviting the presence of God into their daily studies.  Those students might do well to remember the second half of our text, ‘but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’  They might also do well to remember that each absence from chapel prayers will earn them two demerits and that tardiness results in the same penalty.  Incurring too many too quickly would, indeed, be the mark of a fool.”

            He straightened, and his eyes moved across the back of the auditorium and up into the galleries with a kindly affection.  “I am certain, however, that the fresh faces I see before me today are not those of fools, but of wise young men, who will remember where true knowledge begins and who will apply themselves to its cultivation throughout the day.  And now let us hear an appropriate anthem from the choir, ‘Nearer My God To Thee.’”

            The choir, seated in front of the tall pipe organ in the center back gallery, rose.  As they began to sing, now it was Adam who leaned forward, engrossed in the most beautiful four-part harmony he had ever heard.  Surely the angels in heaven would bend down to hear such music!  Attendance at morning chapel would be no hardship with music like this to lift the soul.  The song was new to Adam, and he felt a sudden yearning for his guitar, that he might pick out the simple tune and enjoy it in private.  Pa had promised to send the instrument, and maybe in the meantime he could find sheet music for the song.  He shook his head in sudden frustration.  Unless Pa sent along some extra funds with the guitar—and why should he, after all he’d already donated to the cause?—the luxury of sheet music must give way to the necessity of eating—and books!

            “Adam?” Jamie whispered.

            Adam turned and, seeing the concern in his friend’s eyes, smiled reassuringly.  “I’m fine,” he whispered back, “just caught up in the music.”

            Jamie nodded and relaxed into his own enjoyment of the song.

            President Woolsey offered a short benediction at the end of the service, which had lasted about fifteen minutes.  Then, beginning with the seniors, he announced when and where each class should meet.  The freshmen were to return to the chapel at 11:30.  That left them with several hours of free time, so the four who had banded together earlier moved out onto the lawn, where the last to join their ranks introduced himself as Marcus Whitmore.  Slight of build, with hair even lighter than Jamie’s, Marcus—or Marc, as he insisted they call him—was the son of an Ohio farmer and, like Jamie and Adam, the first in his family to attend college.

            “Let me tell you about the Vultures,” Lucas offered after introductions had been made.  “The food is good and the price reasonable, much cheaper than the Knights of the Knife and Fork.  That’s the only other club I’ve heard about that’s still looking for new members.  They’re a snooty bunch, too.  What they want is gourmet cuisine.”  Lucas thumbed up his nose as he uttered the final two words with an affected hoity-toity accent.

            Adam, Jamie and Marcus all laughed.  “Definitely not what we’re looking for,” Adam declared.

            “Of course not!”  Lucas’s chin dipped decisively.  “What you want is good hearty food—and plenty of it—at a decent price, and that’s what you’ll get from the Vultures.”

            “Count us in, then,” Adam said.

            “Well, it’s not as easy as all that,” Lucas admitted.  “You’ve got to be approved by the other members.”  Seeing expressions of dismay cross the faces of his new friends, he added quickly, “I’m sure that won’t be a problem.  They just want to make sure we’ll all get along—and that you’re not the type to skip out on the bill.  That’s very important, since we don’t collect ‘til the end of term.”

            “Would—would there be room for me, too, possibly?” Marcus asked shyly.  “I tried to join the Fowl Fiends, but they said they were full up, and the others I’ve looked at charge more than I can afford.”

            “How much will the Vultures charge?” Jamie asked.

            “Six-fifty a week is what they charged last year,” Lucas told them.

            “You were here last year?” Adam queried, looking puzzled.

            Lucas hooted.  “No, it’s my first year, same as you, but I had a brother here—graduated last year—and he was a Vulture.  That’s how I got in with them straight off, and it’s how I know there’s room for all of you.  Several of the Vultures graduated with my brother, so they’re in need of fresh blood.”

            Adam chuckled.  “Having seen vultures in action back home, I’m not sure I want to be fresh blood for a pack of them.”

            Lucas laughed in appreciation of the jest.  “You’ll be safe enough, so long as the table stays well supplied—and it will.  Dinner’s served at 1 p.m.  You all come along with me then and try the food and the company.  I’m sure both will suit you.”

            “And we, them, I hope,” Jamie said.  “Well, we’ve some time to kill before the meeting.  Any thoughts?”

            Adam pondered only a moment.  “I think I’ll go back to our room and at least start a letter to—”

            “Little Joe?” Jamie suggested saucily.

            “Pa first, I think,” Adam replied with a grin.  “There’s so much I want to tell him, but if I have time, I’ll put in a short note to Joe, as well.”  His lips puckered in thought.  “No, on second thought, I’d better wait and give him one all to himself.”

            “Can’t have the little fellow feeling slighted,” Jamie said with a knowing smile.

            “Oh, no,” Adam chuckled, “because if he does, he’ll let everyone know about it—and just who’s to blame!”

 

* * * * *

 

            At 11:30 the incoming freshmen met with three faculty members and were assigned their permanent seats in chapel, which were located across the back rows of all three sections of the room.  Adam and Jamie were disappointed at being separated, but the seating was done alphabetically, and “C” and “E” were too far apart to hope for continued togetherness.  Adam was seated next to Lucas, however, causing young Cameron to observe that their meeting the day of entrance exams was not only fortuitous, but a matter of destiny.  “Perhaps so,” Adam chuckled in response, “especially if we turn out to be tablemates, as well.”

            “Destiny, my boy,” Lucas declared.  “Our meeting was divinely ordained—an auspicious beginning, as President Woolsey might say.”

            The boy in the seat on the other side of Lucas jabbed an elbow in his ribs.  “If so, it was ordained to keep you on the straight and narrow, Cameron.”  He leaned forward to look around Lucas at Adam.  “And God has ordained you, sir, for the challenge of your life.”

            Adam laughed softly, not wanting to attract the attention of the faculty, who were still seating freshmen with names appearing late in the alphabet.  “You speak as one who knows.”

            “To my unending regret,” the other said with exaggerated, and therefore comical gravity.

            Butler and I went to the same prep school,” Lucas explained, “but don’t be telling old tales out of school, Henry.  I’m a changed man, I tell you!”

            “Oh, no doubt.”  Butler favored his old schoolmate with a dubious grin.  “Remember, sir, you’ve been forewarned,” he added to Adam before settling back into his place on the hard wooden bench.

            Cocking his head, Adam gave Lucas a quizzical look, but no confessions were forthcoming.  From his expression Lucas might have been a cherub interrupted at his bedtime prayers, and Adam almost laughed out loud, for the expression reminded him so strongly of his baby brother.

            Following the placement of the final student, the freshmen were divided into four sections, again according to the alphabet.  The first section extended through “E,” so Jamie was delighted to find that he and Adam would at least attend classes together.  Their new friend Lucas was in the same section, of course.

            A middle-aged man, using a cane to assist his halting walk, approached them and introduced himself as James Hadley, Professor of Greek.  “You’ll be studying Homer’s Odyssey with me,” he said, “and your first recitation will be at five this evening.  The room is on the first floor of the Athenaeum, and I would advise you to know the material thoroughly, young gentlemen.  I will require exactness in your translations and understanding of the grammatical relationship of each phrase.”

            With that the students were dismissed.  “Old Had himself!” Lucas said and issued a long, drawn-out whistle.

            “Who else would teach us Greek but the Professor of Greek?” Adam laughed.

            “My boy, you show your ignorance,” Lucas snorted.  “We’re lowly freshmen; it takes a miracle of Biblical proportions for us to sit under anything but a tutor.  But Hadley—he’s tiptop, best in his field—or so I’ve heard.”  Mere academics could obviously not hold his attention for long, however, for he rubbed his hands together jubilantly and announced, “Now for lunch!”

            “We need to find Whitmore first,” Jamie reminded him as they filed down the aisle in no particular order.

            “Bound to be on the far side, with the last section,” Lucas announced.  “With a name like that, he could scarcely be anywhere else.”

            “True,” Jamie said.  “It’s sad we’ll never share a class with him.”

            “I’m sure we’ll share many other things,” Adam consoled his friend.

            “Like every meal!” Lucas laughed, and the others joined in.

            Marc was looking for them, as well, so finding him was an easy task.  “What’s your first recitation, Whitmore?” Lucas asked.

            With a shudder Marc replied, “Geometry—and how I dread it.”

            “Tutor or professor?” Lucas inquired loftily.

            “Tutor—George Nolen.”

            “I rest my case,” Lucas said with a bow to Adam.

            Adam returned the gesture.  “I bow to your superior familiarity—and, further, I bow to your familiarity with where dinner is to be found.”

            “Ah, you have, indeed, come to the right source for that.  Follow me, boys.”

            The foursome headed for a house about a block north of the Green, where the Vultures had contracted with a woman for their board.  With the others behind him, Lucas walked into a dining room, where several other young men were already seated around a large oval oak table, and boldly announced, “Here I am, boys, with the answer to your prayers.”

            “You’re short two of the answer to all our prayers, Cameron, my lad,” said a tall fellow with black hair, black eyes and a poised manner.  “Still, I’m pleased to see that you’ve taken to heart our need for more Vultures.”  From the head of the table, he nodded to the newcomers.  “Welcome, gentlemen.  I’m Alexander White, the steward of our eating club.  Do take a seat, and we’ll get to know you over the fine meal our cook, Mrs. Swanson, has prepared.”

            “Thank you for having us,” Adam replied.  “We are most appreciative of the opportunity of dining with you and hope that you will find us the sort of companions with whom you might wish to share future meals, to our mutual advantage.”

            “Here, here,” said a lanky youth with a genial smile, who was sitting at the foot of the table.  “A fine speech, sir, and worthy of a tasty reward.”  He gestured toward the empty chair nearest him and Adam took it.  Lucas, Marc and Jamie found empty seats elsewhere at the table and sat down.

            “Introductions are in order,” Alexander said, “but since we also want to hear a bit about each of you, let’s begin the meal and have them over dinner.”

            “Hunky,” declared the young man sitting beside Jamie, to the complete mystification of three of the four freshmen.  Only Lucas sported a knowing grin.

            “Mrs. Swanson,” the steward called, “we’re ready to begin.”

            A middle-aged woman with a full, rosy face emerged from the neighboring kitchen with a large tureen.  “Start with this, then, Mr. White,” she said cheerily, “while I dish up the remainder of the meal.”  Pushing a stray brown curl back beneath her white, ruffled mobcap, she bustled back into the kitchen.  Just that brief glimpse of the cook enhanced Adam’s expectation of good things, for Mrs. Swanson was apparently an enthusiastic connoisseur of her own culinary art, being almost as wide as she was tall.

            Alexander White ladled creamy soup into bowls and passed them to the man on each side of him until all had been served.  “Dig in, boys,” he urged.  “You won’t regret it.”

            “Clam chowder!” Adam cried.  “Now, there’s a rare treat.”

            “Not rare in this part of the country,” laughed the man at the foot of the table.

            “You can tell from his accent he’s not from hereabouts,” declared a younger man, sounding somewhat scornful.

            “True enough,” Alexander said, “and so long as you’ve become the subject of conversation, lad, we might as well begin introductions with you.”

            “I didn’t mean to horn in,” Adam apologized, “but as we must start with one of us, I don’t mind going first.  My name is Adam Cartwright, and if my accent seems unfamiliar to you, I suppose that’s because I’m from Nevada.”

            “Well, that explains why clam chowder is rare where you come from,” the man beside him chuckled.  “Is there a single shellfish in the whole territory?”

            “Oh, yes,” Adam returned with a smile.  “We grow them in cans.”  As laughter circled the table, he added, “I have occasionally eaten clam chowder in California, where I had my preparatory schooling, but other than that, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a bowl since we found freshwater clams along the trail west and my stepmother prepared them to perfection, though she’d never heard of clam chowder before that day.”

            “You weren’t coming from New England, I take it,” observed the scornful one.

            “Actually, I was born in New England,” Adam said, “but my stepmother was not from here, so the dish was new to her.”

            “She was Swedish and the dearest lady I ever met,” Jamie put in, a wistful look in his eyes.

            “You’re from Nevada, too?” asked a haughty voice.

            “No, Missouri,” Jamie said.  “That’s where Adam and I met.  Then he went on west.  We’ve kept in touch for years and attending college together is a long-held dream.”

            “And your name, lad?” asked Alexander.

            “Oh, sorry.  I’m Jamie Edwards.”

            “Jamie?  That’s a boy’s name, not a man’s,” chuckled a young man sitting to Alexander’s right.  In coloring he reminded Adam of Billy Thomas with his red hair and blue eyes, but the resemblance ended there.  Where Billy was thin and wiry, this fellow tended toward plumpness and didn’t look as though he had a spark of mischief in his makeup.

            Jamie smiled good naturedly.  “I suppose it is, but I’ve always been Jamie, and frankly, I wouldn’t know how to answer to James.”

            “A good thing,” the other laughed, “since that’s my name, and two of us might be confusing.  James Goodman at your service, my boy.”  He leaned forward in semblance of a bow.

            “You might as well tell our prospective members a bit about yourself, James,” Alexander suggested.

            “Oh.  Well, like Mr. Cartwright here, I didn’t mean to ‘horn in,’ but I’m from Rhode Island, third generation at Yale.  My father’s a lawyer in Providence.”

            “And what about the background of these newcomers?” inquired the man beside Jamie.

            “My father’s a teacher,” Jamie said.

            “At what level?”

            “Grammar school,” Jamie admitted.  He wasn’t blind to the look of disdain that crossed the other man’s face.  He’d seen that look on the faces of boys in his St. Louis academy, some of whom had expressed the opinion that no man with any ambition would remain a teacher of grammar school children.  “He considers it a calling,” Jamie added.

            “And the way he performs it, it is,” Adam added loyally, for he, too, had sensed the negative reaction of Jamie’s interrogator.  “Mr. Josiah Edwards is due much credit for the fact that I’m at Yale today.”

            “He gave you a good beginning, as our President so profoundly advised this morning,” Alexander said so kindly that any disparagement others might have felt immediately vaporized.  “What does your family do in Nevada, Mr. Cartwright?” he inquired.

            “What else is there to do?” jibed the man beside Jamie.  “Nothing but miners there—or so I hear.”

            Adam bristled.  He’d had about enough of this man’s arrogant attitude.  “Then you haven’t heard enough, sir,” he suggested with forced constraint.  He faced the steward.  “My father owns a cattle ranch, the Ponderosa, and we have some timber interests, as well, which do keep us in association with the mines.”

            “Most interesting,” Alexander said with a stern look at the man who had so frequently challenged these newcomers.  “Though we have not yet finished our introductions, perhaps this would be a good time for me to explain a fundamental principle by which the Vultures have always functioned.  You may have wondered why we have members from all four undergraduate classes.”

            Adam grinned.  “Actually, sir, this is all so new to us that we wouldn’t have known what to expect.”

            Alexander laughed aloud at Adam’s forthrightness.  “Well, I assure you, Mr. Cartwright, it is not the norm.  Most clubs are made up of members from a single class.  The Vultures chose otherwise, from its beginning four years ago.  That makes it one of the most long-lived clubs about campus, incidentally.  Outside the academic life we will meet and mingle with people of different backgrounds and certainly of different ages.  If our college years are to be a preparation for that future, would it be wise to isolate ourselves for four years and socialize only with those exactly like ourselves?  Our founding feathers—if you will permit me a slight witticism—deliberately chose diversity when others elected uniformity.  We believe they chose wisely, and I further believe that we would be continuing that tradition of wisdom by inviting you gentlemen to join our ranks.”

            “Here, here!” declared James Goodman.  Others around the table murmured their approval.

            Only one voice rose in opposition.  “We don’t even know this one’s name!” the man beside Jamie protested with a brush of his hand toward Marc.

            Alexander sighed.  “Warington, you seem determined to be disagreeable today, but you do have a point.  Would you please tell us your name, lad, and where you’re from, something about your family?”

            Marc flushed and stammered out his name.  “I’m from Ohio, and my family—well, we’re just farmers.”

            “Nothing wrong with that.  Farmers are the backbone of America,” proclaimed the tall, lanky man seated at the foot of the table.

            “So they are,” Alexander declared in staunch support, “along with those who pioneer new lands.”  His sweeping gaze took in both Adam and Jamie and defied anyone to contradict him.  “Now, all in favor of admitting these young gentlemen into our company, please raise your hands.”

            All hands eventually went up, although that of Warington and one other man rose more slowly than the others.  “Excellent!” exclaimed Alexander.  “Now, on that note let us have the main course served, and while we eat, the rest of us will make ourselves known to you.”

            Over plates filled with pork and stewed apples, buttery squash and peas seasoned with mint, the newcomers gradually became acquainted with the other Vultures.  There were two from each level of upperclassmen.  The seniors, Alexander White and Robert Raines, were seated at the head and the foot of the table.  White was the son of a hardware merchant in Hartford, while Raines came from a banking family in New York City.  He could have afforded to dine in the best restaurants, but preferred the camaraderie of a club.  James Goodman was a junior, as was Milton Bradford, who complained good-naturedly about being named for John Milton.

            “We have something in common, then,” Adam observed.  “I was named for the character in Milton’s Paradise Lost, of which my mother was especially fond.”

            “But at least you got a good, solid first name out of it, my dear boy,” Bradford said, “nothing quite so thoroughly archaic as Milton.”

            “And you have a good, solid family name,” Adam suggested.  “Any relation to William Bradford?”

            “Yes, although I’m not a direct descendent of our venerated Pilgrim,” Bradford replied.  “Just a side branch of the family.”  His pride in the family name was, nonetheless, apparent.

            The two sophomores were Edgar Warington, who had already made himself odious to the freshmen and George Miller, whose only comment thus far had been an expression of his hope that something other than freshmen would be sought to fill the final two places among the Vultures.  “If we’re to maintain our touted diversity,” he added pointedly.

            “Agreed,” Alexander said.  “We do have rules, which we’ll go over with you at supper, gentlemen.  Nothing overly stringent, never fear.  Now, I know that you’ll all want to prepare for the first recitation of the year, so we’ll go our separate ways and meet again promptly at six.”

            “We need to purchase our textbooks,” Jamie reminded Adam as they met at the door.  “Do you suppose we could share them, to save money?”

            “Let’s try it,” Adam agreed.  “If we find later that we each need our own, maybe we’ll have pinched enough pennies elsewhere to manage it.”  His face scrunched in thought.  “Any idea where we find them?”

            “I can answer that,” Lucas stated proudly.  “Thirty-four South Middle.  Know the building?”

            “Yes,” Jamie said, “but don’t you need to buy yours, as well?”

            Lucas shook his head.  “I inherited my brother’s texts.”

            “Oh, well, we’ll see you at recitation then.”

            Lucas tipped his bowler and took off, whistling, in the opposite direction.

            “Now, where do you suppose he’s going?” Jamie asked Adam.

            Adam shrugged.  “I don’t know, though I have a feeling he won’t be going near his brother’s textbook.”

            “Perhaps he’s already prepared the first lesson, since he had the book,” Jamie suggested.

            Adam laughed.  “That’s my saintly pastor, never willing to think ill of any man.  I’m afraid my suspicions about our new friend are less generous.”  He looked toward the shy freshman still with them.  “What about you, Marc?  Will you be going with us to South Middle?”

            “Yes, if I may,” Marcus said softly.  “I’m in need of a text—well, several, in fact.”

            Adam hooked an arm through each friend’s elbow, and, a modern portrait of the Three Musketeers, they sallied off to the College Bookstore.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam, Jamie, Marc and Lucas met outside the Athenaeum and walked in together.  “My recitation room is on the second floor,” Marc told them, and the others wished him well as he headed for the stairs.

            The remaining three loitered in the hall, along with about thirty other young scholars.  Finally, Professor Hadley entered the building, and the ranks parted to let him limp past.  “Come in, gentlemen,” he said.  “Take any seat for now, but I will be seating you alphabetically, so if you’ll approximate your chapel positions, with the first man taking the back corner, you will assist in accomplishing that without waste of time.”

            “Here, you take the book,” Adam said, pressing their shared Greek text on Jamie.

            “But what if you’re called on to recite?” Jamie whispered back anxiously.  “He may do that alphabetically, too.”

            “Cartwright can share mine,” Lucas offered.  “Come on, boy,” he added with a slap of Adam’s shoulder.  “It’s up to the top riser for us.”

            As he had indicated, three rows of benches rose, one above the other.  Followed by Adam, Lucas made his way to the top and sat next to his old schoolmate, Henry Butler, while Jamie made his way to the front row.  As Professor Hadley called the roll and verified that everyone was in the correct place, Adam looked around the room.  Blackboards and maps covered the whitewashed walls, with rows of hat hooks lining the one nearest the door.  The only heat came from a cylindrical coal stove behind the professor, and Adam wondered if the heat would reach the back row during the cold days of winter yet to come.

            “You will retain these seats throughout the term,” the professor advised them.  “And now, without further delay, let us begin our study of Homer’s great epic.  How many of you have read it in its entirety before?”

            Only three or four students raised their hands.  Adam had at first felt embarrassed that he could not raise his until he saw how few of those, even with the advantage of an eastern preparatory education, could either.  Perhaps he and Jamie would be able to hold their own, after all.  They’d both studied the assignment diligently that afternoon, but each had felt a little nervous about his first recitation.  This was, after all, Yale!

            Professor Hadley made a few opening remarks about the author and his work.  “You will find that nothing conveys the power and beauty of a work like reading it in its original language,” he stated.  “Hidden shades of meaning will reveal themselves to those who studiously seek them.”

            “He should know,” Lucas whispered to Adam.  “Old Had is fluent in about every language there is—even Sanskrit, for the love of mercy.”

            Hadley let his learned hand rest upon a small box at his lectern.  “All your names are contained herein.  In order to be completely impartial in the order of recitation, I will draw a name, and that man will read the designated passage.  Then the man whose name I draw next will translate.”

            “Heaven preserve me,” Lucas murmured.  “Not the first day.”

            Adam rolled his eyes.  What had his friend thought would happen the first day?  Just an introduction?  To be honest, Adam had also thought that might be the case.  Some of his instructors in Sacramento hadn’t done much the first session, but others had hit the ground running, so he hadn’t been so foolish as to come unprepared.  If he, like Lucas, had had the advantage of an older brother to query about how things were done, he certainly wouldn’t have left anything to mere presumption.  A smile played at his lips as he wondered whether either of his little brothers would ever come to him for advice about how to prepare for his first college recitation.  He really couldn’t picture Hoss sitting on one of these benches, but Joe—well, he couldn’t picture Little Joe sitting still anywhere, but time would tell.

            He jerked his attention back to the recitation of the first student.  The fellow read reasonably well, though Adam thought he caught a misplaced accent on one word.  Hadley didn’t mention it, though; he merely said, “Satisfactory,” and drew the next name.  After several rounds of reading and translation, Lucas groaned upon hearing his name called.  He stood and stammered through a few lines, slaughtering more than one word along the way.

            Hadley frowned throughout the reading, and when Lucas had finished, he made several corrections.  “I would suggest you review that material before proceeding to the next passage, Mr. Cameron,” the professor said soberly.  He drew another name, and that man successfully translated the passage.

            Adam gulped as he stood after hearing his own name read from the slip of paper drawn from the box.  Borrowing Lucas’s text, he read the passage, as directed, and then looked hopefully at the professor.

            “Your elocution reveals understanding of what you read, Mr. Cartwright,” Hadley said with evident approval.  “Well done.”  He paused.  “I noticed that you borrowed Mr. Cameron’s book for the reading.  Did you leave yours in your room, sir?”

            Adam flushed.  “N-no, sir, I didn’t forget it.  I had hoped to share a text with Mr. Edwards, with whom I room, but we hadn’t realized we’d be separated during recitations.”  A titter of laughter started, but was almost instantly quelled by the professor’s dour look at the culprits.  “Mr. Cameron was good enough to loan me his book when you called on me,” Adam finished quickly.

            “I see,” Professor Hadley said, and while neither words nor expression conveyed his opinion, Adam thought he caught a sympathetic gleam in the man’s eye.  The professor drew the next name.  “James Brand,” he announced.

            Mr. Brand, who looked to be considerably older than the other students, stood and translated the passage Adam had read.  He made a couple of mistakes, which the professor corrected before declaring, “Satisfactory.”  Then, consulting his pocket watch, Hadley said, “Our hour is almost concluded, young scholars.  Those of you who did not recite today will do so tomorrow.”  He gave the next assignment and dismissed the class.

            Bursting with energy after their hour-long confinement, the young scholars erupted from the classroom.  On his way to the door, Adam heard his name called.

            “Mr. Cartwright?  A word with you, please.”

            With some trepidation Adam approached the Professor of Greek.  “Yes, sir?”

            “Your attempt to share texts with another student, is that a matter of pecuniary necessity?” Professor Hadley inquired gently.

            Adam cast an embarrassed glance back at Jamie, who waited for him by the door.  “Well, we—uh—we thought we might conserve expenses, sir, by sharing, but if that isn’t feasible . . .”

            “You should each have your own,” the professor said with a smile.  “Some of your other instructors may insist upon it.”

            Adam held himself straight.  “We’ll—we’ll manage then, sir.”

            Hadley smiled more broadly.  “To that end, might I offer you the use of an old copy of my own—on loan until you’ve more fully analyzed your assets?”

            Adam made a concerted effort to keep his jaw from dropping.  “That’s—that’s very kind of you, sir.  I—I don’t know what to say.”

            The professor chuckled.  “I believe ‘thank you’ is the standard response, Mr. Cartwright.”

            “Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir!”

            “I’ll bring it to recitation tomorrow.  Until then you’ll have to manage sharing—with this young man?”  Hadley nodded toward Jamie.

            “Yes, sir—and thank you again, sir.”

            “Not at all, my boy,” the professor said with a kindly twinkle in his eye.  “A promising student—and your reading today proclaimed you as such—should not be deprived of so simple an asset as his own textbook.  You might even find mine somewhat beneficial.  I seem to recall scribbling some notes in the margins.  Now, off with you.  Surely, supper awaits you somewhere, and you can scarcely give due attention to your studies if your stomachs are rumbling.”  He looked across the room at Jamie.  “I’ll be looking forward to your recitation tomorrow, young man, if your grasp of Greek is anything to match your friend’s.”

            “His is better,” Adam declared loyally.

            “Ah!  Then I’ve something to look forward to,” Hadley chuckled.  He clapped his hands smartly.  “Supper, boys, supper!  Run along now.”

            “Oh, Adam, how could you?” Jamie chided as soon as they were outside the Athenaeum.  “How could you give me such a reputation to live up to?”

            “I only spoke the truth,” Adam insisted as he circled his friend’s slim shoulders with his strong arm.  “And you’ll prove the truth of my words tomorrow, you know you will.”

            “If I don’t faint dead away first!” Jamie moaned.

            “That’s hunger talking,” Adam laughed, “and my stomach is answering right back.  To the Vultures, my boy, before Lucas—or more likely, those voracious sophomores—gobble it all up!”

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

Henry Butler and James Brand were actual students at Yale during the time of Adam’s fictional sojourn.  All other students are the author’s creation.

 

Thomas Woolsey was President of Yale College from 1846 to 1871.

 

The Vultures, Knights of the Knife and Fork and Fowl Fiends were all actual eating clubs at Yale, though not necessarily all in 1861.

 

George Nolen was actually a tutor in mathematics at Yale during Adam’s tenure there.

 

James Hadley, affectionately called Old Had, taught Greek at Yale from 1845 to 1872, beginning as a Tutor and later becoming Professor.  He was crippled in an accident at age nine and earlier in his life had walked with crutches.  That he had advanced to the use of a cane by 1861 in the author’s surmise.


CHAPTER NINE

An Unwelcome Visitation

 

 

“Lucas!” Adam called the following night as he exited the house where the Vultures had met for supper.  “Where are you going?  Alumni Hall is this way.”

            “The Statement of Facts?” Lucas asked with a deprecatory shake of his head.  “Not for me!”  With that he turned and walked briskly away.

            Marcus frowned in puzzlement as he came up to Adam and Jamie.  “I thought everyone had to join one of the open societies.”

            “They’ll sign him up for one or the other, whether he’s there or not,” Jamie said.  “At least, that’s what I heard.”

            “Maybe he’s already pledged one,” Marcus suggested.  “I heard you can do that, but I didn’t know which one to pick.”

            A light breeze rustled the elm leaves overhead as Adam led the way back toward the college.  “That’s what the Statement of Facts is about, I suppose.  I, for one, prefer to hear what each side has to say and then make my own choice, but I suppose Lucas is probably joining whichever one his brother was in.”

            “Pity he didn’t share that with us,” Jamie offered, his shorter legs working hard to keep up with Adam.

            Marcus nodded his agreement.  “If he had, I might have pledged early and skipped this.  I could really use the study time!”

            “Couldn’t we all?” Adam commiserated.  The day had been packed full, and because the routine was new to the freshmen, they hadn’t moved from one scheduled activity to the next with the same fluid ease as the upperclassmen.  Adam and Jamie had risen and dressed in time to reach the Vultures club for breakfast at 6:30.  Then it was straight to chapel and after that to the first recitation of the day, Latin with Tutor Smith.

            By nine o’clock they were back in their rooms, working on their Latin assignment and trying to anticipate what might be required in their mathematics class.  That recitation took place at 11:30 and fortunately turned out to be a review of material both Adam and Jamie had already covered in preparatory school.  As soon as it was over, they went by the post office, so Adam could mail his letter to Pa, and then hustled to make it to lunch at 1 p.m.

            Then the friends had three hours to complete their assignment in Euclid’s Geometry and to brush up the next section of The Odyssey, which they had studied the night before.  Arriving early for class, Adam picked up the textbook the Greek professor had offered him, and while he was glad to have a book of his own, he was still more grateful that he had no Greek recitation the next day.  He wasn’t sure when he would have crammed in time to prepare for it on this busy night.  Supper had been directly afterwards and now, still toting the textbook, he and his two friends were heading back to Alumni Hall for a special meeting.  Obviously, his planned letter to Little Joe wasn’t going to get written tonight, but tomorrow was Saturday, and the schedule would be lighter.  He’d make a point of writing something to his youngest brother then.

            As they approached Alumni Hall, Adam noticed a group of young men ranging out from the turrets of the red sandstone building, but none of them looked familiar.  “Any of those fellows in your division, Marc?” he asked.

            “No,” Marcus said.  “I—uh—don’t think they’re in our class, Adam.”

            “Plugs and bangers,” Jamie hissed.  “They’re sophomores!”

            If the silk hats and canes didn’t reveal the young men as sophomores, their behavior soon did.  As the freshmen mounted the first step to the hall, hands reached out to shove them from side to side.  “Watch your step, Freshie,” someone called loudly when Marcus fell to one knee.

            Adam reached down and pulled his friend to his feet, managing to elbow the offending sophomore as he did.  “Watch your own,” he warned.

            “Off with your chapeau, boy,” taunted another sophomore, using his banger to knock off Adam’s hat.  “Don’t they teach you farm boys any manners?”

            Adam snatched his new bowler from the step.  “They teach us the difference between a farm and a ranch,” he snorted.

            “Adam, let’s get inside,” Jamie pleaded.  He doffed his own hat and dipped his head in acknowledgement of the flourishing bow with which the sophomores ushered him up the three steps into Alumni Hall.

            With a gusty exhale Adam, still holding Marcus by the elbow, followed him in.  “Jamie, I know the Good Book says ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ but I have just about had enough of those sophomores.”

            “So quickly,” Jamie chuckled as they filed into a row of seats.  “They haven’t done anything that bad, Adam.  You’re still put out because they wouldn’t let you join in the songfest at the fence last night.”

            When the two roommates had passed the campus after supper the night before, they’d seen students perched on the fence surrounding the yard and heard them singing heartily.  Pausing at the corner of College and Chapel streets, Adam had started to vocalize in harmony with the unfamiliar melody.  The response from the sophomores extending down College Street had been immediate and vociferous.  They’d all shrieked and howled in protest and threatened to come down from the fence and teach “Freshie” his place if he didn’t stop.  “No freshmen allowed,” explained a junior perched on Chapel, close to the corner, “but keep practicing that harmony, youngster.  Your day will come.”

            Adam had been close to yanking the nearest sophomore off his exalted rail throne, but the junior’s straightforward words had a calming effect.  Rules were rules and tradition had its place, he supposed, although he personally thought that any rule that excluded any man from the liberating delight of song was ridiculous.

            “You’re right,” he conceded, taking a seat.  “They haven’t done anything that bad, but it is beginning to add up.”

            “Good thing Lucas isn’t here,” Marcus whispered.  “He’d probably take a poke at those silly sophomores.”

            Adam arched an eyebrow.  “I just might join him.”

            “Really?” Jamie asked with a beguiling smile.  “I thought you wanted to be here for four years, not just four recitations.”  More seriously, he tapped his friend’s arm.  “They aren’t worth it, Adam.  Let them have their silly fun.  We’ll outlast them, and next year we’ll show them how mature sophomores behave.”

            “That we will,” Adam agreed, and for him it was a vow.  If he had anything to do with it, next year no newcomer to campus would suffer indignity or harassment just because he was a year younger.

            The juvenile harassment continued even after the meeting began.  Six orators, three from each side, presented arguments in favor of either Linonia or Brothers in Unity, the two societies open to all students.  A speaker from Brothers in Unity had just finished listing illustrious Brothers of earlier years—people like Joel Barlow, called the father of American poetry; Noah Webster of dictionary fame; and President Woolsey himself—when Adam felt something strike his neck.  Then he saw Marcus rubbing his ear and, hearing something plunk at his feet, he bent over to pick it up.  “Beans,” he hissed to Jamie.  “You’d think they were grammar school students, not men with a year of college under their belts.”

            “Sophomores,” Jamie said with a shake of his head, as if that explained everything.  For both Adam and Marcus, it did.

            Everyone in the audience put up with the pellets striking right and left, for only the speakers themselves seemed off limits to the sophomores’ bombardment.  Somehow, between the beans and the hoots of laughter accompanying them, the trio of freshmen managed to pick up a few remarks of the orators, each touting the virtues of his own society and decrying the failings of the other.

            “I don’t see much difference between the two,” Adam admitted as they left the hall, “especially since anyone can attend the meetings of either one.  As long as we join the same one, I’ll be satisfied.”

            “Shall we toss a coin?” Marcus suggested.

            Adam shrugged.  “Better than tossing beans.  Jamie?”

            Jamie smiled a bit wistfully.  “I suppose you’ll think me foolish, but I rather like the idea of having brothers.”

            Adam chuckled.  “I wouldn’t say foolish; you’re just displaying the inexperience of an only child.”

            “Adam, you know you wouldn’t take the whole Comstock Lode for those little brothers of yours,” Jamie chided.

            “No, I wouldn’t,” Adam admitted, “and you and I have always been brothers at heart, Jamie, but if you want it made official, we can join Brothers in Unity.”  He added, as he turned toward Marcus, “If you don’t mind, that is.”

            “I don’t mind,” the other freshman said agreeably.  “Their hall is on this side, I believe.”  He pointed toward a staircase.

            The trio mounted the steps, without any sophomore blocking their path this time.  Even those certified nuisances, after all, were anxious to have as many freshmen as possible join their society, for the sheer honor of besting Linonia in the membership campaign.  The room the new candidates entered was about fifty feet long and half that wide.  It was elegantly accoutered with frescoed walls and blue hangings, to match the blue upholstery of the sofas and chairs.  A large painting of some august personage hung behind the desk at one end of the room, and a bronze classical figure of a woman with her finger uplifted to heaven sat upon it.

            One by one, to the rousing cheers of the established members, those freshmen who had elected to join Brothers in Unity signed their name to the society’s constitution and promised to be “true to its interests and faithful to its secrets.”

            “Whatever those may be,” Adam said to Jamie as they walked home.  “It all seemed like ‘much ado about nothing’ to me.”

            “And then to lose to Linonia.” Jamie clucked his tongue, amused by the way even he and Adam had gotten caught up in the general moaning that had met that announcement.  “Let’s hope the regular meetings will be better.”

            Adam laughed.  “They could scarcely be worse!  It appears to me that Lucas was the only wise one among us tonight.”

            “If he spent the evening in preparation for his recitations, I’ll agree.”

            Adam clucked his tongue.  “Surely you jest, my new brother.”

            Jamie laughed.  “Indeed, brother, I do!”

            Adam had the last word—or so he intended.  “You’re definitely adopting the role with ease; your teasing may be a bit more sophisticated, but this is exactly what I remember little brothers being like!”

            “Ah, but you forget.  I’m the elder brother—by a good four months,” Jamie declared, “and that’s a relationship you’ve never had to deal with before.  Perhaps this will give you a chance to experience life from the other side, little brother.”

            Adam’s eyebrows knit together, an expression which, coupled with his wry smile proved quite inscrutable.

 

* * * * *

 

            Rarely had Adam been so grateful to see a weekend arrive.  Of course, he had to be up just as early on Saturday as any other day of the school week, but at least there were only two recitations.  The third would also be omitted on Wednesdays, he learned, but what mattered today was that after lunch he was free to spend the afternoon and evening any way he chose.  He chose to spend the first couple of hours taking a much-needed nap.  The weeks of non-stop travel, the strain of taking his entrance exams and then plunging immediately into classes had taken its toll, and Adam wasn’t ashamed to admit that he was tired.  While he rested, Jamie worked quietly at his desk, studying and writing to his father.

            Adam rose refreshed, and even before he started his own studies, he wrote a short letter to Little Joe.  He tried to think of details of his trip and his first week at Yale that a four-year-old might find interesting, and he admitted that he’d been tired enough that day to take a nap, just like the ones his baby brother so often protested.  He thought Little Joe would laugh when that was read to him, and he wished he could be there to hear that welcome sound.

            Supper with the Vultures was somewhat later on Saturdays, to give its members a longer afternoon of free time, and it was nearly eight o’clock when Adam and Jamie arrived back at their lodgings.  They sat down at their adjoining desks, which they had moved to meet in front of the side window, so that they might more easily consult on their studies.  Almost immediately, Jamie asked if Adam would help him with a geometry problem.  “I’m afraid I’ll never be as conversant with numbers as I am with words,” he sighed.

            “Just think of it as another language,” Adam suggested, “and you’ll soon be chattering away.”

            They had worked together for about fifteen minutes when their study session was interrupted by a strong pounding on the door.  “Open that door, Freshie!” came a demanding shout.

            “Sophomores,” Jamie groaned.  “How did they track us down here?”

            Adam scowled at the closed door.  “I doubt it was that hard, especially since it was a sophomore who first led you to these lodgings.  Ignore them.  Now, as to Euclid’s second proposition . . .”  The two freshmen tried to concentrate on lines and angles, but it became impossible when the hubbub in the hall intensified and the door shook on its hinges.

            Jamie cast an anxious glance over his shoulder at the door.  “They’ll break it down, Adam.”

            “And we can’t afford to replace it,” Adam muttered through gritted teeth.  “I suppose we’ll have to let them in, but be on your guard.”  Jerking his chair back, he strode to the door and opened it.  “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “we weren’t expecting callers at this hour.”

            “What’s the matter, Freshie?” one asked snidely.  “Past your bedtime?”  He shouldered Adam aside and stepped boldly in.  He was followed by seven others, whose heads were all haloed with rings of cigar smoke.  They stood looking around, and the leader finally nodded in Adam’s direction.  “Decent shebang, youngster.”

            “Thanks,” Adam said tartly.

            Jamie, ever the peacekeeper, said, “It was one of your class, gentlemen, who directed us here, and we are well content with it.”

            The leader smiled, a bit too loftily for Adam’s taste.  “Ah, it’s good to find a grateful freshie—such a rare breed.”

            The other sophomores snickered their agreement of that appraisal.  One of them spoke up, addressing Jamie.  “And you’ll have still more reason for gratitude after our visit tonight, youngster.  We’re only here to help you.”  Peals of laughter met this statement, but the sophomore insisted, “No, it’s true.  We remember what those first recitations were like, and we’ve come to offer our assistance.”

            “We can manage on our own,” Adam muttered tersely.

            “Tsk, tsk,” scolded one of the sophomores.  “This one doesn’t exhibit the proper gratitude at all, does he now?”

            “Indeed not!” said the one who had offered help with their studies.  He took a step toward Adam.

            Seeing that and fearing the reaction of his more volatile friend, Jamie said quickly, “Oh, but I do!  Please, sir, do give me the benefit of your experience.”

            The sophomore eyed the stubborn set of Adam’s jaw, hesitated a moment and then laughed.  “Now, how could I refuse a plea so prettily phrased?”  He moved over to the desk and picked up the open book.  “Ah, Euclid,” he said, examining its cover.  “Offer us your recitation, Freshie, and we’ll see if you can pass the grade.”

            The other sophomores, as a group, surged toward Jamie, who backed up a step.

            “Now, Freshie, don’t be shy,” his instructor ordered, sweeping everything off the desk.  “Mount up and recite for us.”

            “You don’t have to!” Adam shouted.

            The eight sophomores turned on Adam, but Jamie quickly mounted the chair and then stepped onto the desk.  “It’s all right, Adam.  I don’t mind reciting; it’ll be good practice for me.”

            The sophomores’ attention swerved back to him.  “Good choice, Freshie!” they cheered.  “Good choice!”  The self-appointed instructor began demanding definitions, propositions and postulates.  Jamie fared well for the first few questions, but one followed another so quickly that he had no time to think, and he started to stammer hesitant responses.  The hoots of derision that met each mistake only intensified his insecurity and led to more.

            “Not good enough, by half,” the instructor said with a sad shake of his head.

            “Smoke him out!” demanded another.  “That’ll clear his foggy brains.”

            One man grabbed the blanket off the bed and dragged it over to the desk.

            “What do you think you’re doing?” Adam demanded, snagging the man by the shoulder.

            Another sophomore pulled him off.  “Stay out of it, Freshie,” he ordered, “unless you wish to join your feeble-minded friend.”

            “Feeble-minded!” Adam snorted.  “He’s twice the student any of you are likely to be.”

            More howls of laughter met his defense of Jamie.  “Can’t even recite Euclid and he’s twice our worth?  Doubtful, Freshie.”

            Two men pulled Jamie down to sit on the desk and threw the blanket over his head.  As the sophomores started puffing vigorously on their cigars, Adam suddenly saw what they intended.  “You can’t,” he protested.  “He has weak lungs.  You’ll make him ill!”

            “Want to take his place, Freshie?” the instructor challenged.  “There’s obviously nothing wrong with your lungs.”

            Adam’s assessment of the situation took only a moment.  By himself, even at odds of eight to one, he’d have fought.  He’d have taken a beating, of course, but he would have taken one or two of his tormentors down with him.  If he’d been in this situation with Lucas, fighting might have been an option, but frontier boy that he was, Jamie was no fighter, and he was the one most likely to get hurt if a brawl ensued.  Adam wasn’t willing to take the risk.  After only a brief hesitation he declared boldly, “Yes, I’ll take his place.”

            Surprise flickered across the faces of the sophomores and was quickly replaced with mild nods of admiration.  “Down you come, youngster,” the instructor said, offering a hand to Jamie.

            Jamie seemed rooted in place, staring in shock at his friend.  Then he said stalwartly, although with a quaver in his voice, “I can’t let you do that, Adam.  I’ll be all right; don’t worry about me.”

            “Don’t be ridiculous,” Adam said gruffly.  “Get down from there.”

            The sophomores gave neither freshman a choice in the matter.  Jamie was pulled down from his perch and Adam shoved toward the desk chair.  As he stepped onto it, one of the tormentors declared, “For one so regal as this high-born freshman, we must have a throne!”  He hoisted the other desk chair to the top of the desk and patted its seat.  “And here it is, your majesty,” he sneered.

            Head held as high as if he were truly a king, Adam took the seat, reached down and with an arrogant sneer placed the blanket over his own head.  From beneath the wool he heard laughter from the sophomores and pleas from Jamie, but he ignored both and set his mind to endure without sound or movement what was about to transpire.  He felt the blanket lifted on all sides, and soon the aroma of cigar smoke wafted toward his nostrils.

            At first it reminded him of the fragrance of Pa’s pipe back home, but this odor was stronger and nostalgia was not sufficient to distract him from the lurching of his stomach as the fumes strengthened.  His head reeled and bile rose into his throat, but he made no sound, not wanting to give the sophomores the satisfaction of breaking him.  Eventually, however, he could not resist the urge to cough.

            “Had enough, your majesty?” someone taunted, from the sound of his voice the one who had offered Adam his “throne.”

            Stubbornly, Adam refused to respond.  He wanted more than anything to ride out the abuse, to spoil those sour sophomores’ fun.  More smoke blew his way, and his resolve grew harder to carry out.  He felt like vomiting and dreaded to think what sport the sophomores would make of that.

            Suddenly there was a hubbub in the room, and Adam felt the blanket go slack.  No one was holding it any longer; no one was blowing smoke beneath it.  He didn’t assume that his punishment was over, but fearing that the commotion meant the sophomores had turned their attention back to Jamie, he raised the blanket and peered out.

            Indeed, the sophomores’ attention was fixed on Jamie, but this time in a more benevolent fashion.  The man posing as instructor had dragged the freshman over to the other window and opened it.  When he noticed Adam, he called, “Open that window behind you, Freshie.  Your chum here’s in trouble.”

            Seeing a blue-faced Jamie doubled over in a coughing fit, Adam reacted instantly, though clumsily since his own senses were still dazed.  He turned and flung open the window; then he leaped from the desk top and rushed across the room.  The sophomore was thumping Jamie on the back, encouraging him, “Come on, Freshie.  Deep breaths.  You’ll make it.”  The other sophomores were just standing around, looking awkward.  “Time to clear out,” their leader suggested.  “There’s other fresh fish to fry.”

            The room cleared quickly—of sophomores, if not of smoke—until only the one thumping Jamie on the back remained.  “You were serious when you said he had lung problems, were you?” he said, looking apologetic.  “We wouldn’t have carried it so far if we’d known—thought you were just trying to squirm out, you know?”

            Adam thrust himself between Jamie and the sophomore.  “As you can see, I told the truth.”

            “Well, yes . . . as I said, sorry.”  The sophomore leaned around Adam.  “Better now, Freshie?”

            “Y-yes,” Jamie stammered.  “Th-thank y-”—another paroxysm of coughing cut off his final words.

            The sophomore stepped toward him, but Adam intervened.  “I’ll take care of him,” he growled.  “Just leave!”

            “Yeah, okay,” the sophomore said awkwardly.  Then, as if to recover his eroded dignity, he added, “Just remember to show proper respect for your elders, youngsters.  See you around.”  With a weak wave of his hand, he backed toward the door and disappeared, closing it behind him.

            “Are you all right?” Adam asked Jamie anxiously.  “Is there anything more I can do for you?”

            “More?” Jamie stared into his friend’s face.  “Oh, Adam!  How—how could you do more?”  Another coughing spell silenced him, but then he sucked in a deep draught of the cool night air and said, “How can I possibly thank you for what you did tonight?”

            “It was nothing,” Adam said, thinking that the words were almost literally true, since his grand sacrifice hadn’t spared Jamie, after all.

            Jamie shook his head, the only way he could express his disagreement, for he was still too winded to argue with his friend.

            Again a loud knock sounded on the door.  Adam and Jamie exchanged a concerned look.  Sophomores again?  They’d seemed contrite enough that neither freshman had expected to see them again that night.  Still, it could be another set, who weren’t aware of the problems their classmates had caused.  Motioning to Jamie to stay by the window, Adam approached the door.  “Who’s there?” he called.

            “Open this door at once!” called an irate female voice.

            Recognizing the voice of their landlady, Adam exhaled with relief.  “Of course, Mrs. Wiggins.  Come in,” he said politely as he opened the door.

            Mrs. Wiggins tromped in.  “What sort of wild goings on have you two been up to in here?” she demanded.  “It sounded like a barn full of draft horses, breaking down their stalls.”  She waved her hand through the haze hanging in the air.  “I told you young gentlemen when you moved in that I keep a quiet house!  And didn’t I say that there was to be no smoking?”

            “We haven’t been smoking,” Adam said.  “That was some uninvited guests who just left.”  He explained what had happened.  Jamie tried to confirm his account, but every time he said more than three words together, he started coughing.

            “A hazing,” Mrs. Wiggins snuffled with disgust.  “I should have recognized the signs, though it’s been three years since any of my boarders were bothered with such nonsense.”  As Jamie coughed again, a look of motherly concern crossed her face.  “You poor lad,” she cooed.  “What you need’s a hot bowl of steam vapors to breathe in.  I’ll fetch one.”  She headed toward the door, but glanced back over her shoulder and spoke to Adam.  “Strip off those sheets and toss that smoky blanket into the hallway.  I’ll see you have fresh bedding, and as it wasn’t your fault these were sullied, there’ll be no charge for the extra laundry.”

            “You’re most kind,” Adam said, “and we thank you.”

            Her normally cheerful attitude completely restored, Mrs. Wiggins beamed broadly.  “Such polite young gentlemen.  I knew it was no mistake to rent these rooms to you.”

            As soon as she was gone, Adam went to work removing the bed linens.  “Still think sophomores haven’t done anything that bad?” he asked gruffly.

            “It was bad,” Jamie admitted hoarsely, “even if it was just mischief.”  He cleared his throat.  “It must have been much worse for you, under that blanket.  I’m sorry if I encouraged them, Adam.”

            “Don’t be foolish,” Adam chided.  “They did what they came here to do; it had nothing to do with you.”

            Jamie leaned disconsolately against the window jamb.  “I can’t help thinking that I’m a liability to you.”

            There had been a moment when Adam had entertained that traitorous thought himself, but hearing it voiced, he knew that it didn’t represent his true feelings.  He came across the room to lay a companionable hand on Jamie’s slim shoulder.  “You are my oldest and dearest friend,” he said.  “And don’t think I didn’t notice how you drew their attention off me and onto yourself.  I could never call someone that brave a liability.”

            Jamie shook his head.  “I’m not brave, Adam, not as men generally define bravery.”

            Adam disagreed sharply.  “There’s more than one type of bravery, Jamie, and I won’t hear you denigrate yours because it doesn’t involve fisticuffs.”

            “You’d have fought, though, if it weren’t for me, wouldn’t you?”

            Knowing that Jamie would see through a lie, Adam acknowledged the assessment with a nod.  “And probably have been the worse for it,” he added wryly.

            Jamie had to smile.  “You were outnumbered rather badly.”  He sighed then.  “I don’t feel much like it, but I suppose we should try to study.”

            “Pointless,” Adam said firmly.  “Neither of us could concentrate.  Let’s just turn in and get a good night’s rest.  Chapel isn’t until 10:30 tomorrow, so we can put in some study time in the morning.”

            “On the Sabbath?”

            Adam threw bedding and blanket into the hall and turned to face his friend.  “I always thought reading was an appropriate activity for the day of rest,” he said.   “Sometimes, back on the Ponderosa, that was the only time I could get!”

            Jamie nodded his agreement.  “I don’t suppose God would mind, especially since we’ll be in chapel twice tomorrow.  After all, He did say the Sabbath was meant for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

            “As always, pastor,” Adam said with a chuckle, “you rightly divide the word of truth.”

            Mrs. Wiggins returned with a bundle of sheets under one arm and a bowl of steaming water in both hands.  She set the bowl on a desk and ordered Jamie to sit over it and breathe deeply.  Then she and Adam worked together to make the bed afresh.  The treatment did seem to help Jamie breathe more easily, but the night’s experiences had drained both him and Adam, and both fell asleep shortly after crawling between the crisp, clean sheets.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

The painting of the “august figure” in the Brothers of Unity Hall is that of David Humphreys, one of four founders of the society.  He later served as a colonel in the Revolutionary Army and aide-de-camp and secretary to George Washington.  The bronze figure on the desk is most likely a replica of the Forefather’s Monument in Plymouth.   While not actually erected until 1889, plans were developed as early as 1850, and the Brothers in Unity had contributed largely to the project.


CHAPTER TEN

Disturbing News from the Western Front

 

 

As he descended the chapel steps, Jamie raised a beatific countenance to the face of the friend beside him.  “Inspiring, wasn’t it?”

            “Umm,” Adam murmured noncommittally.  The sermon by the college pastor had been both longer and more traditional than the chapel services conducted daily by the president of Yale, and in Adam’s opinion, its being the second one in the space of four hours added nothing to its capacity to inspire.  He wouldn’t have put a damper on Jamie’s enthusiasm for anything, however, especially since his own lack of response might properly be credited, at least in part, to residual fatigue.  Sometimes he thought he’d never catch up on the rest he’d lost.

            “Adam, you’ve turned the wrong way,” Jamie chided with a chuckle.

            Adam shook his head.  “No, I haven’t.  My direction is completely intentional, I assure you.”

            Jamie caught up to his side.  “Where are you going?”

            “Haven’t a clue,” Adam said, thrusting his hands in his pockets and stepping out briskly.  “Anywhere but back to our room.  I can’t face an open book just now.”

            “We have put in a goodly amount of study already,” Jamie conceded.  As agreed upon the night before, they had dutifully spent an hour with their books between breakfast and the morning service and had put in another session in the early afternoon.

            They walked north on College Street, past Wall and continued on another block.  Adam stopped at the corner and looked to the west, where stretched a large swath of lawn covered with shady trees.  “Let’s go there,” he suggested.

            “The cemetery?” Jamie queried.

            Adam laughed.  “You’re not superstitious, are you?  Not becoming in a future pastor, you know.”

            Jamie responded with good-natured laughter of his own.  “No, not at all.  It would be a pleasant and cool place for a stroll, and it would do us good to be out in nature, I suppose.”

            “I more than suppose it,” Adam said firmly as he turned to walk toward the massive gate set in a brown, ivy-covered wall and swung it open.  “You can’t house a sound mind in an unsound body, remember?”

            Jamie bit his lip.  “I wish you wouldn’t say that, Adam.”

            Adam stopped abruptly.  “Why?  Do you disagree?”

            Jamie shook his head as he walked through the gate.  “I wish I did.”

            Adam closed the gate behind him and hurried to Jamie’s side.  “Why?” he asked again, with concern this time.

            Jamie sighed.  “Because I don’t have a very sound body, Adam.  I rather obviously demonstrated that last night.”

            “I had problems with the smoke, too.”

            As they walked beneath the sheltering elms and evergreens, Jamie gave his friend a look of rebuke.  “Not to the same degree and you know it, Adam.”

            Adam put a supportive arm about Jamie’s slim shoulders.  “I do know it,” he admitted, “but I don’t know that it has to remain that way.  Look, why don’t we make a point of taking some exercise out in God’s good fresh air like this every week?  We’ll have you strong and sturdy in no time!”

            As Adam flexed his biceps to demonstrate the new strength his friend would soon possess, Jamie laughed.  “The medicine’s enjoyable enough,” he said as they stopped to rest on a bench beneath the trees, “but I’m not as confident as you that it will affect a cure.”

            “I can’t promise a cure,” Adam admitted, “but I do know that I always felt healthier at home on the Ponderosa than at school in Sacramento, where I kept my nose too much in my books.”  He leaned back into the trunk of the tree behind them, his hand idly rubbing the moss that was obscuring the inscription on a nearby tombstone.  “I wish I could capture the fragrance of the pines and give you three doses a day, but I do think a weekly dose of sunshine, fresh air and exercise can’t possibly hurt.”

            “I’ll place myself in your hands, then, Dr. Cartwright,” Jamie said as he, too, leaned back and gazed at the fluttering leaves above them.  Inhaling, he tried to imagine himself taking deep draughts of the healing fragrance of Ponderosa pine.

 

* * * * *

 

            Dr. Cartwright and his premier patient spent two hours walking about the shady paths, talking over old times and new experiences and, whenever Jamie seemed to weary, resting on some convenient bench or “unoccupied” plot of grass.  “I declare, I do feel as though I were breathing more freely,” Jamie announced as they left the Grove Street Cemetery behind and headed toward Wall Street, where supper with the Vultures awaited.

            Adam adopted his best imitation of Dr. Martin back home.  “That will not release you from your next dose of medicine, young man.  In fact, I believe a longer walk would be in order, perhaps to some more scenic destination.”

            “I’m all for it,” Jamie said enthusiastically.  “Perhaps on Saturday?  We’d have a longer afternoon then.”

            “Just what I was thinking,” Adam replied as they turned into Wall Street.  “I wonder what’s on the menu tonight.”

            “Something thoroughly tasty, I’m sure,” Jamie said.  “Mrs. Swanson is a genius in the kitchen.”

            Adam laughed.  “I wouldn’t go quite that far.  She’s good—very good, in fact—but I believe Hop Sing could outmatch her.”

            Jamie clapped a hand to Adam’s shoulder.  “My dear Dr. Cartwright,” he intoned soberly, “I do believe you’ve taken too much of your own medicine, and this excess has brought on a case of intense homesickness.”

            Adam paused just outside Mrs. Swanson’s door.  “And do you have a cure for that, my friend?” he inquired with a wry smile.

            “Alas, no,” Jamie declared with a dramatic sigh.  “I fear I suffer from the same complaint.”

            But the drama soon became all too real, and the case of homesickness more definitely incurable.  No sooner had the plates of fried oysters and Saratoga potatoes been passed than George Miller, seated across from Jamie, asked, “Aren’t you from Missouri, Edwards?”

            “Yes,” Jamie answered cautiously.  None of the Vultures had ever made any comments about his western origins since that first meal, and all had been courteous at table, as the rules demanded.  But Miller was, after all, a sophomore, and, therefore, a creature that merited watching.

            “What part of the state?”

            St. Joseph.”

            Such a thick pool of silence met the simple statement that Adam laid down his fork and asked sharply, “And what’s wrong with St. Joseph?”

            “Oh, I say, I am sorry,” Miller muttered, diving desperately into his oysters.

            Jamie and Adam exchanged a swift glance of concern.  Something was wrong, and everyone seemed to know it but them. 

            “You might, at least, have waited until the lad had his supper, Miller,” the steward, Andrew White, chided.  He turned kind eyes toward Jamie.  “You haven’t seen a newspaper today?”

            It was Adam who answered.  “No, we haven’t.  What is it?  The war?”

            “Brace yourself, lad,” White said to Jamie.  “The news out of St. Joseph is quite bad.”

            Jamie straightened in his chair, literally squaring his shoulders as if in obedience to the steward’s direction.  “Tell me.”

            “The rebels are in full possession of the town,” White explained, “and they have it completely blockaded.  No mail or passengers allowed in or out, and they’ve seized the steamer Omaha to halt river traffic.”

            Jamie’s complexion, pale to begin with, blanched nearly white.  Beneath the table Adam reached for his hand.  He’d seen for himself the tension in St. Joseph, even under partial occupation, but this report sounded as if conditions had worsened.

            “Do you still have family there, my boy?” asked Robert Raines, the other senior Vulture.

            “My father,” Jamie whispered.

            Union or Secesh?” asked Edgar Warington with barely contained aggression.

            Union!” Adam declared staunchly.

            “No politics at table, Warington,” White warned.  “What matters is that one of our Vultures has a parent at risk.”

            “Perhaps not,” Raines inserted.  “The paper did say that most Union men had crossed over into Kansas, taking the ferry with them.  Unless you hear otherwise, young Edwards, I suggest you believe that your father is among them.”

            “How is he supposed to hear if the mails have been stopped?” Warington snorted.

            “Be civil, sir, or I will ask you to leave the table,” White said sternly.

            “My apologies, sir,” Warington said stiffly to Jamie, “though the question seems reasonable.”

            “I’m afraid he’s right,” Jamie sighed.  He pushed back from the table.  “Would you excuse me, gentlemen?  I’m afraid I’ve lost my appetite.”  When Adam stood to leave with him, Jamie protested, “Please don’t miss your supper on my account, Adam.  I’m going straight home, and I’ll be fine.”

            “Wait long enough for Mrs. Swanson to package up your share of the food,” White suggested.  He gave Jamie an encouraging smile.  “You may feel more like eating once the initial shock has worn off.”

            Jamie had considerable doubt about that, but mostly for Adam’s sake he accepted the gracious offer.

            “I’ll tell her,” Miller said, hurrying out to the kitchen, as if intent on making amends for his premature mention of a painful topic.

            Adam moved from the table to offer his friend a supportive arm.  White followed and drew them to one side.  “Now, you mustn’t despair, lad,” he said warmly.  “It’s an old and perhaps trite saying, but sometimes no news really is good news.”

            “Yes,” Jamie said, “and I will hold to that until I know otherwise, as you and Mr. Raines so wisely advise.  Thank you, sir.”  He nodded, as well, at Robert Raines, who had left his place at the table to join them.

            “You can be confident that Union forces will retake the town as soon as possible,” Raines said with an encouraging smile.  “Keeping the mails running is vital to maintaining the loyalty of the western states and territories, and St. Joseph is a key link in that chain.”

            “He’s right,” Adam said, giving Jamie’s arm a bolstering squeeze.

            Miller jogged over with a paper-wrapped package.  “Here you go, boys,” he said, thrusting it out, “and—and I really am sorry, Edwards, to have caused you such concern.”

            Jamie put out his hand, which Miller clasped.  “You’ve done me a service, Mr. Miller.  I was bound to learn, sooner or later.”

            Miller smiled with relief.  “Don’t let the oysters and chips get too cold before you indulge,” he advised.  “You’ll enjoy them more.”

            “Thank you,” Adam said for both of them.

            Other members of the Vultures called out farewells as they left, which each boy acknowledged with a wave of the hand.  As they walked quietly down Temple Street, Jamie paused in front of the North Church and gazed up at its steeple as a focus for his faith.  “I know Father’s in God’s hands,” he said, “but it is hard not to worry, not to know whether he made it safely over the river to Elwood.”

            “He’s not in Elwood,” Adam said, quickly adding, “When I came through St. Joe, I urged him to come this way . . . to us . . . if he decided to leave, and he promised he would.  I believe that’s what he’s doing, Jamie.”

            “Yes, I remember now!” Jamie cried.  “You told me the first night you arrived.  Oh, Adam!  Do pray with me that he will come through safely and that we’ll soon see him.”

            “With all my heart,” Adam vowed fervently.  He smiled ruefully.  “And, perhaps, you should pray for me, as well.  Remember that letter I mailed yesterday to a certain demanding little someone?  It’s not going to get through, at least not anytime soon, and I will be in trouble with the little prince of the Ponderosa.”

            Jamie laughed, for a moment forgetting his own problems, as Adam had intended.  “Indeed!  Your troubles may be graver than mine, little brother.”

 

* * * * *

 

            It was well that both Adam and Jamie had put in more than adequate study time before hearing the news from Missouri, for practical concerns were a distraction from classical ones in the Monday morning recitation.  Jamie even earned a sharp rebuke from the Latin tutor for his lack of attention, an event unheard of in his entire previous academic career.  That embarrassment, however, proved itself a blessing in disguise, for it shocked the young freshman back to reality and reminded him of his father’s sacrifices to send him to Yale and that failure here would only add to his parent’s sufferings.

            Just in time, thought Adam, as Jamie flawlessly worked one of Euclid’s propositions at the blackboard.  Mathematics being his friend’s weakest area, he couldn’t have afforded an unfocused mind here.

            After that noon recitation, the two friends joined Marc and Lucas for the short walk to the Vultures’ dining hall.  As usual, their path seemed lined with sophomores, snickering out taunting catcalls.  “What a pretty freshman!” called one, pointing to Marc.

            “Oh, see his pretty necktie,” rejoined another.

            Marc’s fingers automatically reached for his cravat, but the freshmen otherwise ignored their tormentors until one shouted the typical, “Oh, Freshie!”

            Lucas had taken all he intended.  He turned on his heel and yelled back, “Oh, Sophie!”

            Adam took him by the shoulders and spun him back around.  “You’re asking for trouble, boy,” he chided, “and neither Jamie nor I feel up to a row with sophomores this morning.”

            “Sorry,” Lucas said contritely, for he did not wish to add to the burden his friends carried, “but sooner or later I think a row is owed those imps from—”

            “Lucas,” Jamie cautioned.

            “Oh, all right, preacher boy.”  Lucas stuffed his hands in his pockets and moved out ahead of the other three.  When he swiveled back to face them, his face had resumed its normal lively countenance.  “Race you to dinner!” he challenged and took off, with the others in hot pursuit.

 

* * * * *

 

            Tuesday morning the trees on campus appeared to have sprouted new foliage, for each was bedecked with a poster of either blue or red.  On closer inspection Adam and Jamie noticed the red ones all announced the first meeting of Linonia, while the blue ones listed the program to be presented the next evening by the Brothers in Unity.  “Well, shall we remain true blue to our colors,” Adam quipped, “or sample the scarlet letters of Linonia?”

            “Attendance isn’t required,” Jamie pointed out.

            “Oh, yes, it is,” Adam insisted.  “For now, at least.  You need all the distraction college life affords right now, my friend.”

            Jamie offered a wan smile.  “It is hard to think of anything but Father, but I know only time will settle that issue.  You’re right, Adam, as you so often are; it is better to spend that time in some useful pursuit, rather than just fretting away the hours.  However, if the debate proves as boring as the Statement of Facts, I may revise my opinion of its usefulness.”

            “Let’s stick with our own society this time,” Adam suggested.  “The topic for debate on those blue posters seems a bit more interesting than Linonia’s.”

            The ringing of the chapel bell forestalled further discussion as it heralded the beginning of another full day of recitations and study.

 

* * * * *

 

            On Wednesday Adam and Jamie woke to a beautiful, sunny day, with scarcely a whiff of wind, and the balmy weather was a portent of bright hope to come.  As they took their places in Latin class that morning, Lucas slipped a folded copy of the New Haven Morning News to Adam.  “Show this to Edwards whenever you think it prudent,” he whispered.  “I think it’s good news.”

            Behind his textbook Adam surreptitiously peeked at the headlines and smiled broadly when he read, “ARRIVAL OF THREE UNITED STATES REGIMENTS AT ST. JOSEPH.”  Latin was forgotten as he scanned the article and learned that the rebels had been expelled from Jamie’s home town.  He was just into the third paragraph when he felt a hard elbow ram his side.  “Translate,” Lucas hissed under his breath.  “Line 44.”

            Adam jumped to his feet, the Morning News dropping to his feet as he held up his text and began translating the passage.  Rattled, he made two mistakes, but corrected them before going on.

            “Less exemplary than heretofore, Mr. Cartwright,” Tutor Wilder Smith pronounced.  “Can we have so quickly reached the limit of your western school’s tutelage?”

            Adam flushed, more with anger at the insult to his Sacramento academy than embarrassment.  “No, sir,” he declared firmly.  “My attention wavered momentarily.  I apologize, sir.”

            There had been nothing apologetic in his tone, and nothing but token acceptance in the tutor’s reply.  “Please review today’s assignment conscientiously before beginning your preparation for the next.”

            “Yes, sir,” Adam said tersely and took his seat.

            “What is the matter with you?” Jamie asked as they left the Athenaeum at the close of the session.  “I know you’re as concerned about Father as I am, but—”

            “No, I’m not,” Adam said.  He’d planned to save the news until they reached their room, but couldn’t contain his give-away grin.

            “What is it?” Jamie asked breathlessly.  “You know something!”

            Adam nodded.  “St. Joe’s been relieved,” he said.  “Rebels out, Union men back in, as of Friday.”

            “Father’s safe!  I know he is!” cried Jamie.

            “I believe so, too,” Adam said as they turned from College St. onto Chapel.  “Where is now the question:  Elwood, St. Joe or somewhere between here and there?”

            “You said he promised to come east,” Jamie said, almost dancing as they turned onto Temple St.

            Adam nodded, but looked far from convinced.  “But he might have gone the other way temporarily, for safety’s sake . . . or the other Union men may have demanded that he go with them or be termed a Rebel himself.”

            Jamie sobered.  “I suppose anything’s possible in such a volatile situation.”

            “Now, you’re not going to start worrying again, are you?” Adam chided.  “It is good news.”

            Jamie smiled again then.  “It is, and I’ve learned a lesson through this, Adam.  We first heard about Father’s danger on Sunday, and the situation had been resolved two days before that.  How often we worry about problems when the answer has already come or is, at least, underway in God’s perfect timing.  I won’t do it again . . . well, if I can help it.”

            Adam threw an arm around his friend’s shoulders.  “That’s what I love about you, pastor: you see a lesson in everything, but are wise enough to realize they may take time to learn.”

            They had reached the boardinghouse and as they climbed the front steps Jamie said, “I’m wise enough to know I have to prepare for our next recitation—Father would expect no less—but I’d much rather spend the time writing an urgent plea to him to come to us without delay.”

            They entered and took the stairs to the second story.  “We’ll do our duty by our studies first,” Adam agreed.  “Pa would expect no less, either, but we’re free after the noon recitation today, so we’ll have ample time to write this afternoon and still make our first Brothers in Unity meeting.”

            “But where do we send the letters?”  Jamie again asked the all-important question as he opened the door to their room.

            Adam dropped his Latin text onto his desk.  “Send yours to St. Joe.  That’s where I think he is, but to give us a double chance of reaching him, I’ll write to Elwood, general delivery, and tell him that there’s a letter from you waiting in St. Joe.  And if he’s already left there, it won’t matter if the letters miss him, because he’ll already be doing what we’re urging him to!”  He pulled out his mate’s desk chair and gestured toward it authoritatively.  “And now, sir, buckle down and do your duty by Euclid.”

            Jamie bowed gracefully and took the proffered seat.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

Wilder Smith is listed as tutor of Latin in the Yale catalog for 1861-62, available online.

 

The Confederate occupation of St. Joseph and the resulting blockage of the mails is detailed in the New York Times of September 15, 1861.


CHAPTER ELEVEN

A Changing of the Guard

 

 

The student seated to Adam’s right in geometry recitation nudged his arm with a discreet elbow and, while the tutor was engaged in helping a student at the blackboard, slipped a folded piece of paper into his hand.  Keeping one eye on Mr. Nolen, Adam glanced down and saw “Read and pass on” scrawled on the paper.  He opened it cautiously and read the inside message: “Rush on Library St. tonight at 7 p.m.  He looked quizzically at the man who had passed the note to him, but just then the tutor turned back to face the class and, like all the other students, Adam feigned instant attention.  Lowering his hand, he tapped Lucas on the knee and passed the note on to him.

            “‘Rush on Library Street?’” he asked Lucas as soon as they were dismissed from class.  “What is that supposed to mean?”  Thanks to having had an older brother at Yale, Lucas was often a good source of information about college matters.

            Before Lucas could respond, however, another classmate laughed.  “A chance to show those vile sophomores who’s the better class,” he said, “and every man must be there to defend the freshmen’s honor!”

            “We’ll be there, never fear,” Lucas promised.  The other freshman saluted him and walked over to another circle of students, no doubt discussing the same vital topic.

            “Maybe you will,” Adam snorted, “but I want to know more about this rush business before I commit myself.”

            “As do I,” Jamie said, coming up to them.  Since he sat on the front row in recitation, he had received the note early, but had been as mystified as Adam by its cryptic message.

            “You will be there!” Lucas declared stoutly.  “You won’t be able to show your faces on campus tomorrow if you don’t—and—and I’ll wash my hands of the both of you!”

            “Sounds serious, doesn’t he?” Adam said with a wink at Jamie.

            “It is serious,” Lucas insisted.  “Ah, good.  Here’s Marc, so I’ll only have to explain this once.”

            “Do it as we walk to dinner, please,” Jamie suggested.  “A bout with Euclid tends to leave me famished.”

            “And Latin has the same effect on me,” Marcus, who was in a different section from the other three, said with a grin.

            “It’s a bout I’m trying to tell you about,” a clearly perturbed Lucas sputtered, “a bout with the sophomores.”

            “Do you mean a fight?” Jamie asked.  “If you do, count me out.”

            “Nothing so gruesome as that,” Lucas scoffed.  “More like a simple shoving match.  Both classes line up opposite each other—on Library Street this time—and we rush at the fool sophomores and sweep them from the street.”

            “A shoving match!” Adam exclaimed.  “In Virginia City we call that a free-for-all!”

            “Well . . . yes,” Lucas admitted, “but it’s all in good, clean fun, Adam, I assure you.  It’s a substitute for the freshman-sophomore football game, which the faculty, in its infinite lack of wisdom, saw fit to abolish four years ago.”

            “They approve of this, instead?” Adam asked incredulously.

            Lucas grinned a bit sheepishly.  “Well . . . not exactly.”  He chuckled.  “If you see a teacher, yell a warning—then run for your life!”

            “Perhaps we shouldn’t participate, then, if the faculty disapproves,” Jamie suggested tentatively, and Marcus, biting his lower lip, nodded.

            “That, sir, is not done,” Lucas snapped.  “Every man must support the honor of the class.”  He cast pleading eyes on each of his friends.  “Don’t you see?  It’s the only way to get back at those blasted sophomores.”

            Jamie and Marcus looked to Adam for advice.  “They do need taking down a peg,” Adam agreed.

            “Of course, they do.  I knew I could count on you!”  Lucas beamed with triumph.  “Now, keep quiet at dinner.  I’m sure that Warington and Miller will try to bait us, but we ignore them.  Let them show themselves for the empty bags of air they are.  We’ll show what we’re made of tonight!”

 

* * * * *

 

            The night air was chilly, and even in his wool jacket, Jamie shivered as he and Adam made their way toward Library Street.  “I know Lucas is right: the other freshmen will see it as a betrayal if we don’t participate, but if this turns into an out-and-out brawl, I can’t helping thinking I’ll be more liability than asset.”

            “If you’re not comfortable with participating, don’t,” Adam said plainly.  “No one whose opinion matters will think any the less of you.”

            Jamie laughed sharply.  “Meaning you, of course.  Somehow, I think Lucas and even Marc might well think less of me.  But I’m not going against my will, Adam.  I do think those sophomores deserve a dose of their own medicine.  I just hope it is all in good, clean fun, as Lucas says.  I’d hate to see even a sophomore injured.”

            Grinning almost as impishly as Lucas himself might have, Adam gave Jamie’s back a light clap.  “And that, my charitable friend, is what makes you a better man than I.  I could quite cheerfully knock a few sophomore heads together.”

            “Oh, you’re not serious,” Jamie chuckled.

            “Oh, but I am!”  Adam declared, though he laughed as he said it.

            “Adam!  Over here!” a sturdy voice called, and Lucas waved his arm wildly to attract the attention of Adam and his companion.

            Adam and Jamie hurried over to join Lucas and Marcus.

            Lucas pumped both their hands.  “I knew I could count on you.”  He eyed both Jamie and Marcus soberly.  “Look, you two lightweights had better keep behind me and Adam.”

            Marc’s nostrils flared with evident offense. “Lightweight or not, we’re here to do our part.”

            “And so you shall, my boy; so you shall,” Lucas assured him.  “Just not in the front line.  The sophs will put their biggest men up front, so we can’t do less.”

            “Adam’s not that big,” Marc argued.

            Lucas grabbed Adam’s arm and pounded his biceps.  “But he’s rock hard.  No doubt due to punching cattle.  Those sophomores won’t know what hit them.”

            The quartet of friends laughed, and Jamie and Marcus agreeably took their places behind the other two to await the signal for the rush to begin.

            Puffs of fog escaping his lips each time he exhaled, Adam took deep draughts of air in preparation for the rigorous work to come, and he could feel his heart rate rising in expectation.  Then a loud voice shouted out, “Look alive, Sixty-five!”

            In response, another voice hollered to his freshman classmates, “Break ‘em like sticks, Sixty-six!”

With a mighty roar the class of ’66 rushed forward, and with a bellow of outraged superiority, the sophomores charged back at them.  Adam felt his left shoulder crash into one equally solid.  For a moment he and his opponent grappled; then the momentum of the men rushing behind pushed them past one another.  No one made a fist or struck a blow at a fellow student, but many a cap was snatched from a freshman’s head and many a sophomore lost his silk plug in the scuffle.  Adam managed to keep his hat, but felt a sudden breeziness about the shoulder when a sophomore grabbed his coat sleeve as he pushed past.

            Eventually, everyone made their way through the opposing line and immediately turned to line up again and make another rush at the other class.  The results were largely the same.  Neither side had emerged the clear victor, so a third rush was called for, and yet another wild melee of flying arms and legs met in the middle of Library Street.  Suddenly, someone on the outskirts of the tangle screamed, “Faculty!  Faculty!” and everyone broke for the side streets and alleys.

            Adam searched frantically for Jamie; then, spotting him, he rushed over, snared his friend by the arm and dragged him into the nearest alley, where they crouched behind a pile of wooden crates.

            “Fancy meeting you here,” a low voice chuckled, and the two roommates turned to see Lucas’s smiling face.

            “You look the worse for wear,” Adam said, cocking his head to examine Lucas’s bruised cheekbone.

            Lucas reached out to finger the rip in Adam’s coat sleeve.  “Not looking so nobby yourself, chum.”

            Glancing down, Adam shook his head in disgust.  “Pa would chew me up one side and down the other—with good cause,” he muttered.  “I just hope it can be mended.  I can’t spare the money for another coat.”

            Jamie assessed the damage carefully.  “I think it just pulled apart at the seam, Adam.  A tailor would do a better job, but I can sew it for you.”

            Lucas meanwhile had peered over the crates.  “Looks like it’s all quiet now,” he said, still keeping his voice low.  “Safe to make a try for our rooms, I think.”  He stood up, and the others slowly joined him.

            “This was idiocy,” Adam grunted, rubbing his sore left shoulder.

            Lucas doubled his fist and punched the other boy in the arm.  “Yes, but it’s jolly fun idiocy.”

            Adam laughed.  “You’re incorrigible—and a decidedly poor influence.”

            “You loved every minute of it, admit it,” Lucas challenged.

            Giving his shoulder another rub, Adam grinned, “Well, not quite every minute.”

            “But most,” Lucas pressed.

            Adam chuckled.  “Most.  Now, how do we get home without being spotted by the faculty?”

            “Follow me,” Lucas advised.  “I know all the back streets to your place.”

            “I’ll just bet you do!”

            Whether due to Lucas’s familiarity with back streets or just plain luck, Adam and Jamie made it to their lodgings without being spotted.  A few freshmen and a couple of sophomores were not so fortunate.  Nabbed by the faculty, each received heavy demerits for participating in the fracas, and when he heard that news whispered in chapel the next morning, Adam offered up sincere thanks that he had not been caught and would not have anything of that nature to report to Pa in his next letter.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam and Jamie were seated at their adjoining desks, comparing solutions to a proposition from Euclid, when a rap sounded on the door to their shared room.  Instantly their eyes communicated the same concern.  Sophomores again, up to their usual harassment, perhaps in payback for injuries inflicted in the recent rush?  With set lips Adam crossed the room and opened the door, while Jamie turned in his seat to watch him.  The silk hat and cane did immediately identify their visitor as a sophomore, but this time the man only inquired politely, “Mr. Cartwright?”

When Adam nodded, the man bowed and extended a black-edged envelope.  Adam took it, managing to get past his surprise in time to mumble “Thank you” before the visitor turned and left.

“What is it?” Jamie asked.

            Adam gave him a crooked grin.  “I’m about to find out,” he said, carefully opening the envelope at its seal.  From it he took a black-edged card with an emblem that resembled a Greek cross with five bars between each point of a star.  In its center was a shield of black with the letters KSE and “Yale” printed on it.  He read out the text on the card:

 

Mr. Cartwright:

 

You will be waited upon at your room this evening and be presented for initiation into the dark and awful mysteries of Kappa Sigma Epsilon.  Surrender yourself only to the person bearing the matching half of this card.  Per order.

 

            Jamie jumped up from his chair.  “Oh, Adam!  You’ve been accepted into Sigma Ep!”

            “So it seems,” Adam said, quietly setting aside the notched card.

            “Aren’t you excited?” his friend asked.

            Adam pulled out his desk chair and sat down.  “Not yet.”

            Jamie came to stand behind him.  “You mean because I don’t have one?”  He rested his hands on Adam’s broad shoulders.  “That doesn’t matter.”

            “It does to me,” Adam said gruffly.  “I will not join without you.”

            “That is ridiculous,” Jamie sputtered.  “I will not hear of you giving up such an honor.  Think what it can mean for your college career.”

            “To join any society foolish enough to reject you would be genuinely ridiculous,” Adam snorted.  “Now, can we please get back to Euclid?”

            “Adam!” Jamie protested, but his friend silently buried his nose in the geometry text.

             About an hour later a second knock sounded at the door.  Adam looked up, his countenance clearing.  “Maybe we’re arguing over nothing,” he suggested.  “You open the door this time.”

            Jamie did and soon turned around, smiling and waving an identical black-edged envelope.  “Apparently, Sigma Ep is not a ridiculous society, after all.”

            “It must be the wisest of all societies,” Adam exulted, “even if it is initiating a couple of idiots tonight.”  Jamie threw his arm around his friend and joined in his self-deprecating laughter.

 

* * * * *

 

            Having been advised to forego supper, the two roommates spent extra time grooming themselves scrupulously and, while waiting for their conductors to arrive, drilled each other on their latest Latin assignment.  About 7:30 the blast of tin horns assaulted the occupants of Mrs. Wiggins’ boardinghouse, the more elderly of which loudly expressed their low opinion of college shenanigans.  Within minutes two young men appeared at Adam and Jamie’s door and asked them to present the cards they had received that afternoon.  Each was notched differently, so that it perfectly matched the cutout on the card of the designated conductor.   The mate to Adam’s was held in the hand of the sophomore who had taken charge and stopped the smoking out when he saw that Jamie was in real physical distress.

            As the four young men exited the boardinghouse, they separated.  Jamie and his conductor went one direction, while Adam and his went the other.  “I’m Percival Demmings,” the man at Adam’s side said as they walked toward the docks.

            “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Demmings,” Adam replied.  “Am I allowed to ask about the activities of the evening or do I simply accept them as they unfold?”

            Demmings laughed.  “Mostly, the latter, Freshie, but it’s only fair to tell you that you are expected to treat your conductor to a light repast first.  Oysters sound good to me, if you’re willing.”

            “I’m willing . . . indeed, happy to treat you,” Adam returned pleasantly.  He deliberately put off until a more appropriate time calculations of what he might have to give up later to provide his conductor with the expected meal.

            Near the harbor they turned into a small oyster house, where the prices were quite reasonable, Adam was glad to note.  Over bowls of succulent stew and cups of hot coffee, they had an agreeable conversation about the benefits of the society to which Adam was now pledged.  Pushing aside his empty bowl, Demmings asked soberly, “Does your little friend have a weak heart, as well as weak lungs?”

            Adam’s brows knit together with concern.  “Not that I’m aware,” he said slowly and then asked, “Just how bad is this likely to get?”

            Demmings wagged his finger beneath Adam’s nose.  “Can’t tell you, Freshie.”  Then, seeing Adam’s concern and guessing that it wasn’t for himself, he relented.  “You needn’t worry about your chum, though; I warned everyone to take it easy.”

            “I’m grateful for that,” Adam said earnestly.

            Demmings grinned impishly.  “Ah, but I didn’t say it would go easy for you, now, did I?”

            Adam grinned back, just as broadly.  “I can take it, as long as I know Jamie’s all right.”

            Demmings smiled with warm admiration.  “You’re a true friend, Freshie.”

            Adam’s initiation began the instant they left the oyster house.  A black scarf was tied around his eyes, and in the sudden blackness the toot of a tin horn sounded directly in his face.  “Follow the sound,” Demming ordered.

            A horrible feeling of vulnerability washed over Adam, but he balked for only a moment.  He could see nothing as he stepped forward.  The horn sounded again, and again he walked forward, each step a small act of courage.  He was trusting his life, or at least his limbs, to this barely known sophomore, and one never knew what sort of bedevilment a sophomore might be capable of.  Walking him into a wall or off a pier might merely amuse a creature capricious as that!  He had no idea where he was headed or even which direction they were going.  His only clue during a journey that seemed everlasting was the whistle of a train, which told him they were close to the depot.  Not long after that the horn stopped sounding and he was pushed through a doorway.  Though his blindfold was removed, he still couldn’t see anything, for the room was pitch black.  Hearing voices whispering all around him, he surmised that this was a holding area for the new society inductees.  “Jamie!” he called.  “Are you here?”

            “Adam?” came a voice from across the room.  “Is that you?”

            “Yes.  Keep talking, and I’ll come toward you.”  Calling back and forth to one another, the two friends finally bumped into each other and each clasped the other’s arm in the darkness. 

             “What do you think they’ll do to us?” Jamie asked, a hint of anxiety in his voice.

            “Nothing you need to worry about,” Adam assured him, taking Demmings at his word.  “They may try to scare us, but I don’t think it’ll get too bad.”

            “I hope it’s not another smoking out,” Jamie said with a shudder.  “I’ll fail for certain.”

            “You’ll be fine,” Adam said firmly, patting his friend’s shoulder.  “Don’t let your imagination get the best of you.”

            “No, I won’t,” Jamie said with solid resolve.

            Adam felt his own resolve weaken when a door creaked open and a supernatural voice that seemed to echo from far away called out his name.  When he hesitated, again its ghostly tones summoned, “Adam Cartwright . . . present yourself.”

            Adam gulped.  “Yes . . . I’m . . . here.”  As he walked toward the light, two figures appeared in the doorway.  Neither was likely to alleviate his apprehensions.  One was dressed in a red devil suit, complete with horns and forked tail; the other was all in black, except for the skeletal bones painted on with eerily glowing phosphorus.

            “Are you ready to enter into the august and ancient mysteries of Kappa Sigma Epsilon?” demanded the skeleton.

            “I’m ready,” Adam declared staunchly.

            The devil uttered a fiendish cackle.  “He thinks he’s ready; the overconfident fool thinks he’s ready.”

As the skeleton joined in the mocking laughter, he presented Adam with another blindfold.

            Adam accepted it and began to wrap it around his eyes.  Someone—he couldn’t tell who at this point—evidently didn’t trust him and took the trailing ends from his hands and pulled them tight.  “None but the brave can enter into the august and ancient mysteries of Kappa Sigma Epsilon,” said a voice he recognized as that of the devil.

            Expecting the horn in his face again, Adam was surprised when, instead, his arms were grabbed on each side and the devil urged, “Hurry, Freshie, hurry.”  Then he was practically raced across the room and up a flight of stairs he could not see.  After stumbling his way to the landing above, he felt himself propelled down what he presumed was a hall.  “Run, Freshie, run!” his guides demanded.

            Without warning, they released him.  Adam tried to stop himself, but he lurched forward and suddenly there was nothing beneath him but air.  Arms flailing, he tumbled into blackness, too surprised to do anything but gasp as the air whistled past his ears.  He landed on some yielding surface and was immediately thrust upward again.  Not far, for he soon bounced back into something soft, but solid.  His hand brushed against scratchy fabric, and he smiled in relief.  A blanket—he was being tossed in a wool blanket, that’s all.

            “Do you remember Sweet Betsy from Pike?” an unknown voice asked soberly.

            “What?” Adam asked, his head turning toward the sound.  “You mean the song?”  Up he went again in the blanket.

            “No, foolish Freshie, the girl.”

            “No, no, the song,” another voice rang out.  “Sing us the song, Freshie.”

            “Uh—okay,” Adam panted.  He struggled to remember the words, but found it hard to think when every few seconds he again found himself airborne.  “Do you . . . remember . . . sweet Betsy . . . from Pike?” he quavered in a voice far less steady than his usual strong baritone.  “Who crossed the”—for the life of him he couldn’t remember the next phrase, although he’d known the trail favorite from the time he and Pa had started west.

            Hoots of laughter met his frustrated ears.  “For shame, Freshie . . . and you a westerner, too!”

            “Try another test,” called one of his tormentors.

            “Yes, another!” echoed around him as the blanket continued to bounce Adam up and down.

            “Which is sillier, a freshman or a goose?” demanded one inquisitor.

            “A—a goose!” Adam shouted.

            Resounding laughter met this response.  “Wrong again, Freshie!”

            “Shake him up; his wits are addled,” someone demanded.

            The blanket tossed him higher this time.  Adam spun in the air and landed on his stomach.  It’s only a blanket toss, he reminded himself, but that didn’t ease his mounting nausea.  Just when he thought he could no longer keep down his oyster stew, the blanket grew taut and then was slowly lowered to the ground.

            “Oh, poor Freshie,” someone said, and then two sets of arms lifted him by the elbows and set him on his feet.  “There.  Better now?”

            “Yes—yes, thank you,” Adam said with shakiness he tried to conceal.

            “Well done, Freshie, well done, but you must be tired.  Here, have a seat.”

            Adam, still blindfolded, was guided to a chair, but as he gratefully sank into it, his bottom fell through the open frame into a bucket below and he winced as his buttocks hit something cold and wet.

            “Oh, I don’t think he wants a rest, after all,” someone taunted.

            “Perhaps he’d rather lie down,” another suggested.

            “Yes, yes!  Lay him down!”

            Adam was jerked up from his uncomfortable perch; then hands were all over him—arms, legs, torso, head—bearing him away, he knew not where, but he had a feeling he wouldn’t find it any more restful than the chair had been.  He was laid on some flat surface with his neck cradled in something hard and curved, but before he could guess what it was, his blindfold was whipped off and he screamed as he saw a sharp, silvery blade rushing down toward his bare throat.  It jerked to a stop a foot above him.  “Rest in peace, Freshie,” the skeleton said in spectral tones.

            “Rest in peace,” the others all repeated ghoulishly.  Again and again they echoed the words as his body was lifted from the guillotine and placed solemnly in a nearby coffin.  The lid was put on, and there was a sound of hammering on the lid.  Inside, Adam chuckled, loud and long.  Did they honestly think they could fool a country boy, well acquainted with the sound of nails going into wood?  There were no nails here, just bare hands pounding on the coffin.  Like the guillotine, it was a sham, and compared to that, this was nothing.

            “He’s laughing!” someone cried, and within moments Adam was resurrected from his mock burial and being patted on the back for his exemplary display of courage.

            Percival Demmings, his face painted like an Indian on the warpath, stepped up to shake his hand.  “Well done, Freshie.  You were as good as your word; you pass the initiation.  Now, wear your coat inside out the rest of the evening.”

            “Is this what happens to everyone?” Adam asked him softly as he removed his coat and turned it inside out.

            “Relax,” Demmings whispered back.  “I promised, didn’t I?  Stand back and watch the fun now; you’re entitled.”

            One by one, the other initiates were dropped through the trapdoor in the ceiling into the blanket below, while sophomores in a variety of bizarre or grotesque disguises asked ridiculous questions or made impossible demands.  Each inevitable failure earned the freshman another bounce toward the ceiling.  What happened after the obligatory blanket tossing, however, varied from man to man.  Only a few underwent as thorough an initiation as Adam, and he began to wonder if his rough treatment had been part of the bargain for letting Jamie off easily.  Lucas Cameron, however, suffered even harsher treatment, for in addition to everything Adam had endured, he was also placed in a pillory and reviled with every insult an inventive sophomore could conceive.  He didn’t even scream when the guillotine blade descended, though, and that won the sophomore’s respect.  He wasn’t placed in the coffin, but simply congratulated and welcomed into the society.

            Instead of the guillotine, Marcus was presented with a noose around his neck, but though he paled as one end was tossed over a rafter, he didn’t flinch, and the noose was never tightened.  After the typical burial and resurrection, he turned his coat outside in and joined Adam and Lucas.

            The next freshman fared well enough until he was placed in the coffin, but then he completely lost control.  Screaming maniacally, he pounded on the coffin and begged to be let out.  Though the sophomores released him almost instantly, the boy was pale and shaken and could barely stand on his own two feet.  He was weeping in shame as he was escorted outside, but after a couple more freshmen had been initiated, he was brought back in, smiling and wearing his coat inside out.  His acceptance into the society significantly raised Adam’s opinion of sophomores, who apparently were not creatures completely without mercy, after all.

            Adam immediately recognized the high-pitched yell when Jamie fell through the trapdoor into the blanket, and he leaned forward, intensely interested to see what his friend would experience and ready to intervene if it got out of hand.  His friend’s blanket-tossing was short-lived, and Jamie was next escorted to the pillory.  He didn’t suffer the scorn Lucas had endured, however, but only the sort of silly questioning that Adam had received while being tossed in the blanket.

            Demmings led the examination.  “We all remember, Freshie, how you failed at reciting Euclid for us, so we won’t bother with that.  I’ve heard, however, that you’re quite the Latin scholar.  True?”

            “I—I try to be,” Jamie replied, a most modest answer, since he was acknowledged by everyone who’d ever heard him recite to be the best in the class.

            “Then you won’t mind translating a few phrases for us?”

            “No,” Jamie said, but he sounded cautious.

            “Give us the Latin for ‘I am ridiculous,’” Demmings demanded.

            Ego sum ridiculum,” Jamie replied with a slight smile, for at that moment, with his head and hands in a pillory, he thought the statement quite accurate.

            Demmings nodded acceptance of the phrasing.  “Translate this: Meus mens est quoque plumbeus pro Euclid.”

            “My mind is too dull for Euclid,” Jamie said.

            “He admits it!” cried another sophomore.

            “What else do you admit, Freshie?” called yet another.

            Demmings waved his hand to silence the other inquisitor.  “Another translation, please,” he suggested.  Meus mens est ut pallens ut meus latuseris.”

            Adam stiffened.  How could they ask his friend to say that?  They were only words, of course, but still . . .

            Jamie, on the other hand, hesitated but a moment before translating, “My mind is as weak as my lungs.”  He looked up earnestly.  “Though I hope it’s not.”

            “I hope not, as well,” Demmings said gravely, though there was a twinkle in his eye.  “Now, be a polite little Freshie and  say, ‘Please toss me in a blanket again.’”

            Commodo operor non,” Jamie said softly.

            Adam couldn’t restrain his proud grin, for his friend had not complied this time.  He had, instead, said, “Please don’t.”  Would the sophomores accept that response as an indication of courage and character, or would they treat it as defiance deserving of punishment?

            “Oh, all right, Freshie, we’ll let that pass, since you ask so politely,” Demmings chuckled, “but only if you can successfully translate one more phrase: ‘Sophomores rule over all.”

            Jamie favored his inquisitor with a beguiling smile.  Sophomores septrum super totus, utique, hic quod iam,” he said.

            Demmings laughed out loud.  “What?  Not forever . . .  only here and now?  You’ve got a lot of cheek, Freshie.  And do you know what that means?”

            Jamie tried to shake his head, but the pillory inhibited his movement.

            Demmings laughed again at the futile attempt.  “It means, you self-proclaimed ridiculous Freshie, that you are now a member of Kappa Sigma Epsilon!”  He released Jamie from the pillory and helped him turn his coat inside out and put it back on again.  “Join your friends and watch the fun,” he said.

            There wasn’t much fun left to watch, though, for only a couple of freshmen had not yet been initiated.  Once they were, the evening became more ceremonial.  The new members pledged to observe the secrets of the society and several, Jamie included, were ordered to make speeches, which were exuberantly, if somewhat mockingly, applauded.  Then everyone was ordered to assemble at Brewster Hall the following evening for their first meeting.

            “I wonder why they didn’t ask you for a speech,” Jamie said as he and Adam walked home.

            Adam had a secret opinion about that, but he didn’t share his suspicion that the speech was another part of the bargain for an easy initiation.  “They were probably impressed with your quick thinking during that Latin quiz,” he suggested.

            Jamie’s face brightened.  “You think so?”

            Adam threw an arm around his friend’s shoulder.  “I know I was impressed.”

            “I’m sure you were equally impressive,” Jamie said with a pat to his friend’s back.   “I wish I could have seen your initiation.”

            Adam felt a shiver ripple up his spine as he recalled his first sight of that guillotine blade rushing toward him.  If you only knew, my friend, he thought.  If you only knew.

 

* * * * *

 

            “We’ve certainly had a full week,” Jamie observed as he walked beside Adam along the quiet paths of Grove Street Cemetery.  Though they had intended their next outing to take them somewhere further and, perhaps, more scenic, the activities of the preceding night and those anticipated for this evening had made a shorter jaunt more appealing.

            “That we have,” Adam agreed.  “Unfortunately, most of it isn’t the sort of thing I can write home about!”

            Jamie laughed.  “Why not?  I intend to tell Father all about the initiation—in person, I hope, but by letter, if not.”

            Adam smiled quizzically, thinking that if his initiation had been like Jamie’s, he might be writing home the details, too.  But he didn’t dare share his experience.  He could just imagine how quickly Pa would order him home if he heard about that business with the guillotine!  Avoiding that subject, he arched an eyebrow and asked, “And the rush?  Do you intend to tell your father that you were involved in a faculty-frowned-upon brawl?”

            Jamie winced.  “Well, perhaps not,” he conceded.  “All that and studies, too—we have been a busy pair, haven’t we?”

            Adam dropped down to the browning turf beneath a towering elm.  “I do think we’re developing a routine, though.”

            “With rather a lot of deviations,” Jamie chuckled.

            “Like tonight’s meeting, you mean?”  Keeping his legs straight, Adam stretched forward to touch his toes.  “That’ll soon be a part of the weekly routine, as well.”

            “It had better be!” Jamie exclaimed.  “You and I, my friend, cannot afford the fine for missing a meeting.”

            “No, we can’t.”  Adam bounced to his feet and reached for Jamie’s hand to pull him up.  “And as much as I’m enjoying this, we can’t afford to stay longer, either.  We have assignments to complete before our first Sigma Ep meeting.”

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam carefully pinned Jamie’s society badge to the left side of his vest, near his shirt collar.  Actually, the badge wasn’t Jamie’s, any more than the one affixed to Adam’s vest belonged to him.  Though they both had paid their society fees and purchased pins that afternoon, those were not engraved yet.  Each of their conductors, however, had kindly loaned them his own pin until theirs were ready.  In fact, all the freshmen would be wearing borrowed insignias tonight.

            “They’re beauties, aren’t they?” Jamie observed, eyes aglow.

            “Definitely a symbol to wear with pride,” Adam returned.  He stepped back to admire Jamie’s pin.  On a surface of gold, about one inch in diameter, was a black enamel shield like that which had adorned their invitations to the initiation.  On the five bars, between the points of the star were a fasces, a caduceus, an anchor, a torch and an olive branch.  “We’d better get going, though,” he suggested, “or we’ll be feeling something other than pride.”

            Jamie nodded, taking his coat from the bedpost.  “I agree.”

            The sky was clear and the temperature cool, with only a slight breeze to add a bit of chill to the air as they walked the five blocks to the southeast corner of State and Chapel.  Entering the Brewster Building, they found the sophomore members stretched out on the carpet in an aspect of complete relaxation.  Curls of smoke enwrapped their heads as they laughed and chattered companionably in the center of a circle of freshmen, seated on the floor.  Adam pointed out a spot on the far side that seemed to be furthest from the heavy smoke, and he and Jamie claimed a place there among their peers.  Marcus and Lucas came in later and made their way to the others.

            “So, what happens tonight?” Adam asked Lucas in an undertone.

            Lucas shook his head.  “My brother never would tell me anything about the society.  All those secrets we’re never supposed to reveal, I suppose.”

            “I suppose,” Adam chuckled.  “Just as long as it doesn’t involve a second initiation.”

            Lucas grinned back.  “No, I don’t think so.  We’re in now and, therefore, brothers.”

            “With sophomores?” Marcus teased.  “Now, there’s a thought!”

            Lucas shuddered.  “ Remarkable notion, isn’t it?”

            “Ah, but you forget, Lucas, that we are all brothers under God,” Jamie intoned solemnly with a sidewise wink at Adam.

            “No preaching tonight, parson,” Lucas ordered, wagging his finger beneath Jamie’s nose.

            While there was no preaching, the meeting did begin, like many church services, with singing.  The sophomores were, of course, familiar with the songs of Sigma Ep, but they handed around songbooks for the freshmen, who sang out lustily as they caught on to the tunes.  Adam picked the songs up more quickly than most, and those nearest him, freshmen and sophomores alike, leaned to their neighbors to whisper admiring comments about his rich, melodious tones.  After several choruses a sophomore stood in the very center of the circle and introduced himself as the president of the society.

            “For a few more minutes!” called one of his laughing classmates.

            “Indeed,” the young man said.  “Tonight—not without trepidation, I might add—we deliver our eminent society into the inexperienced hands of mere striplings.”  He waved down the hoots of outrage from the outer circle.  “It was gratifying to hear that some of you, at least, can carry a tune.  It gives us hope.”  For a moment his eyes rested on Adam, and then he continued.  “Our first order of business tonight will be the reading of our constitution by the outgoing secretary.  Mr. Osgood, if you please?”

            A lanky youth stood and read a typical club constitution.  Much applause greeted its completion and the president invited each new member to affix his name to the document.  Once each freshman had signed the constitution, a short comedic play was presented by the sophomores, and then the president led the new members through an election for his successor.  Adam was unacquainted with the man who won, but he seemed to be a popular fellow.

            “Our work now is done,” the retiring president announced, “and so we bid you good evening, gentlemen.  The other sophomores rose as one and formed a line.  Then with many a friendly wave, they marched out singing, to the tune of Yankee Doodle, “Oh, Kappa Sigma Epsilon; oh, Kappa Sigma Ep.”

            The freshmen stayed only long enough to elect their remaining officers before adjourning.  They all seemed to have come from the same New England preparatory school and had, undoubtedly, been acquainted long before they reached Yale.  “It’s a shame we’ve met so few of our classmates yet,” Jamie said.  “You’d make a wonderful president, Adam.”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” Adam said modestly, but as he lay in bed that night, he wondered if he might ever win such an honor from his classmates.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

While modern students retain membership in the same fraternity for life, the men of Yale in the nineteenth century joined different societies each year, and these were composed only of men of their own class.  They did, however, preserve warm feelings and ties with those they left behind as they progressed through college, particularly their freshman societies.


CHAPTER TWELVE

Extracurricular Activities

 

 

            “Get a move on, chum,” Adam urged on Thursday morning, “or we’ll be late for breakfast.”

            Jamie looked up from his morning Bible reading.  “I’m not going.”

            “Why?” Adam asked.  “Aren’t you feeling well?”

            Jamie smiled and shook his head.  “The national day of fasting, remember?”

            “Oh.”  Adam looked nonplussed.  He’d read, of course, of the President’s request that all Americans join him in fasting and prayer on this day, but he hadn’t really planned to participate.

 “You needn’t join me,” his friend said, easily reading Adam’s thoughts, “but especially since we still haven’t heard from Father, I’d like to spend extra time in prayer today.”

            “He’s barely had time to receive our letters,” Adam said, sitting on the bed beside his friend, “so it’s too soon to worry.”

            “And I’m not,” Jamie assured him, “but I do want to pray that God keeps him safe on his journey to us—and for our soldiers, too, of course.”

            Adam nodded soberly.  “Well, I’ll stay with you, then.”

            “You shouldn’t, if it isn’t your own conviction,” Jamie said.  “It’s hard enough to go hungry when you do feel strongly about it, Adam.”

            Adam gave him a wry smile.  “I feel strongly enough to miss one meal, at least.  After that, the strength of my convictions may depend on how belligerently my stomach makes its demands known.”

            “You want to pray here or in chapel?” Jamie asked.  “It’s open early today.”

            “I prefer here, in private,” Adam said, “unless you’d rather . . .”

            “God’s everywhere, Adam,” Jamie said with a chuckle as he closed his Bible and slipped to his knees.

            Adam started to join him, but since he’d never felt especially comfortable in that religious posture, he walked to the window and perched on the ledge, instead.  Closing his eyes, he thought first of Josiah and made a simple request that he’d be kept safe as he traveled through the contentious country between here and Missouri.  Having come that way himself not long ago, Adam had a clear idea of the dangers the man might meet, and he had to admit that he felt better after committing his friend’s father into the care of Almighty God.

            He had a harder time praying, though, once his thoughts turned to the Union soldiers in the field.  They weren’t people he knew personally, and his father had so strongly urged him to stay out of the sectional divisiveness that he found it hard to ask God to intervene on one side or the other.  Then, as his mind drifted back to the battle he’d fought against the Paiutes back home, he decided he didn’t have to pick sides.  There’d been good men and bad on both sides of that conflict, and the same was probably true of this one here in the East.  Keep the good men alive and only let the bad ones die—too simplistic a prayer, of course, but that was what was in Adam’s heart as he gazed through the frosty windowpane.  Good men sometimes went bad, and bad ones sometimes reformed, and only God knew how a man’s life would end, for good or ill.  Do what You think is right for each of them seemed like a weak prayer, too, but it was the only way he could pray that morning.

 

* * * * *

 

            Just as the Latin tutor approached the lectern, Lucas slid onto the bench beside Adam in the recitation room.  “Why weren’t you at breakfast?” he hissed.

            Adam responded with a cautioning elbow to his friend’s side.  Tutor Smith had a reputation for passing out demerits with a free hand, and although it was only two weeks into the term, Lucas had already managed to pick up a couple.  By missing chapel he had added two more to his tally, placing him a quarter of the way to the sixteen that would put him on report to the faculty, who would then send notice to his parents.  So far, Adam, like Jamie, had a clean slate and planned to keep it that way.  His father had sacrificed too much to give him this opportunity, and Adam never wanted Pa to feel that he’d made a mistake.  He’d probably pick up a few demerits along the way—everyone seemed to think that was inevitable—but since a clean slate required only class attendance, punctuality and reasonable behavior during recitation, he fully expected to stay well below sixteen . . . and certainly below the fatal forty-eight that would lead to suspension for six weeks or an entire term.

            As soon as class ended, Lucas snared Adam by the elbow and propelled him down the steps.  “So, why’d you skip breakfast?” he demanded.

            “They don’t give demerits for that,” Adam countered.  “Why’d you skip chapel?”

            “Your fault,” Lucas alleged as he tossed his books to the ground and dropped beneath the elm where the four friends generally met after recitations.

            Adam joined him.  “My fault?  How on earth do you figure that?”

            “Easy,” Lucas said.  “I couldn’t bear to see good food go to waste, so I was delayed, polishing off your share and Edwards’, and that made me late for chapel.  Now, you know as well as I, my good fellow, that tardiness racks up just as many demerits as absence, so I decided I might as well use the time to bone up for my Latin recitation.”

            Adam laughed.  “Well, it did seem to help.  You were more coherent than usual.”

            “That’s poppycock,” Marcus snorted, he and Jamie having come up in time to hear Lucas’s explanation.  “You were late to breakfast; that’s why you were late leaving the table.”

            Lucas chuckled.  “Well, there’s that, too.”

            “Adam,” Jamie said, “Marc wants some help with his Latin, so we’re going over to the library.”

            “Don’t be late for geometry,” Lucas cautioned with an impish grin.

            Adam gave him a playful shove.  “Follow your own advice, sir.  Jamie has probably never been late to class once in his life.”

            “Not once,” Jamie admitted with an almost embarrassed smile.  “My father was a teacher, remember?  He trained me in punctuality from my first day in grammar school.”  As he and Marcus headed toward the library, he called over his shoulder, “See you at eleven-thirty.”

            Adam waved back in acknowledgement.  “I probably should put in some extra study time myself, but I’m not in the mood.”

            “Weak from hunger, no doubt,” Lucas teased.  “You never did explain your absence from the table.”

            “Fasting,” Adam said.  “The President’s request, remember?”

            “Glory be!” Lucas exclaimed.  “I like the little preacher boy, honestly I do, but I think he’s having a bad influence on you, mate.”

            “He wanted to pray for his father’s safety,” Adam said, “and I hated to see him carry that burden alone.  You’re right about hunger, though.  The only Latin I wanted to concentrate on this morning was cibus!”

            Lucas laughed.  “Ah, yes . . . food . . . my favorite Latin word.  You’ll present yourself for dinner then, I presume?”

            “I think I’d better,” Adam agreed with a shrug.

            “Jamie?”

            “Still fasting, I’m sure.  More disciplined than the lot of us, you know.”

            Lucas shook his head.  “The boy has no sense.”  He stood up, brushing the back of his pants.  “Much as it pains me, I suppose I should pay some attention to our upcoming session with Euclid.”

            “Need help?” Adam asked.  “We could join the others in the library.”

            “I think I’m beyond help in that department,” Lucas confessed, “but as you’re a bona fide genius in math, maybe it’s worth a try.”

            “Let’s do it, then.”

            They started to walk toward the library, when suddenly Lucas snapped his fingers.  “I almost forgot the most important news of the day.  We’re forming a baseball club Saturday afternoon.  With those finely muscled arms of yours, you’d be a natural.”

            Stopping, Adam gave his friend a blank look.  “Baseball?”

            Lucas gawked back at him.  Then he grinned.  “Hasn’t made its way west yet, I presume.”

            Adam chuckled.  “I guess not.  Some sort of game?”

            “The grandest game ever, Adam!” Lucas declared enthusiastically.  “If you’ve never seen it before, you might have to start in the muffin nine, but you’d rise through the ranks rapidly.  Do come watch the exhibition match.”

            “You’re playing?”

            “Of course!”

            Adam nodded.  “Jamie and I were planning to walk up to West Rock after recitation on Saturday, but I’ll see if he’s willing to watch the game, instead.  It sounds interesting.  Now, interested or not, you are going to plug away at Euclid for the next hour.  Come on!”

 

* * * * *

 

            On Saturday afternoon Adam led the way to the middle rank of benches at the side of the playing field.  “We should have a good view from here,” he suggested.

            “Yes, I’d say so,” Jamie agreed.  He looked up at the almost clear sky, the vast expanse of blue dotted here and there with puffy white clouds.  “A beautiful day for a game.  It’s a shame Marc already had other plans.”

            “We did, too.  You’re not too disappointed at putting off our trip to West Rock, are you?” Adam queried.  “It’s beautiful weather for that, as well.”

            Jamie laughed.  “Now, why would I be disappointed at trading an afternoon of Dr. Cartwright’s rigorous exercise regime for one of sitting quietly and watching others labor for my enjoyment?”

            Adam clucked his tongue.  “You are a rebellious and lazy patient, but you will take some exercise after second service tomorrow, young man.”

            Jamie grinned.  “Yes, doctor, and gladly.  I’m looking forward to this, though, especially as it’s so important to Lucas.”

            “Oh, yes, he’s quite enthusiastic,” Adam agreed.  He gazed out over the playing field.  “I’d never heard of baseball, but this looks familiar.”

            Jamie nodded.  “Yes, a little.  You remember town ball?  We used to watch the bigger boys play that in St. Joseph.”

            “That’s it,” Adam said, snapping his fingers.  “That’s what’s been niggling at my brain.  The field’s shaped differently, though.”

            A team in white shirts ran onto the diamond-shaped field and began firing the soft round sphere from man to man.  “What strong arms they have!” cried Jamie.  “But where is Lucas?”

            “He must be on the opposing team,” Adam said.  The muscles in his arms tightened as he imagined himself out on the field, throwing fast balls to other teammates.  Much as he loved books and study, he sometimes missed opportunities to be outdoors and use his muscles.  This baseball club could provide him with that longed-for exercise . . . if only. . . .

            “There’s Lucas!” Jamie shouted, pointing to their friend as boys in blue shirts took the field to warm up for the game.

            The blue team’s ball flew around the field until their allotted time was up.  Lucas caught sight of his friends and waved as he trotted to the side and took his place beside his teammates.  The first striker for the blue team took his position, bat in hand.  He swung wildly at the first ball, but connected with the second and ran successfully to first base.  The second striker hit the ball on the first pitch, but a man in the far right field ably caught it.  “Wait a minute,” Adam said as he saw Lucas approach the striker’s point.  “Isn’t that an out?  Shouldn’t the teams switch places now?”

            “They did in town ball,” Jamie recalled, “but perhaps the rules for this are different.”

            “Apparently so,” Adam conceded, leaning forward to watch more intently.

            Lucas swung strongly, but missed the first ball and the second.  When he swung the third time, however, the air cracked with the force of his strike.  The ball flew like a bullet toward the far end of the diamond and beyond.  Spectators leaped to their feet.  “An ace!” one yelled.  “Go it, Cameron!”

            Adam and Jamie were on their feet, too.  “Run, Luke, run!” Adam screamed, and Jamie echoed the prevailing encouragement as Lucas rounded base after base and returned to the striking point.

            The next two men struck out under the concentrated pitching of the white team, and then the two teams switched sides.  “Three outs per side in baseball, I surmise,” Adam said, turning to Jamie.

            Jamie nodded.  “I like that better.”

            As the game proceeded, it became obvious that Lucas was one of the better players.  “Not that I’m surprised,” Adam told him when he and Jamie congratulated their friend after the match ended.  “You have the look of a true sportsman.”

            “I love the game,” Lucas admitted and then laughed.  “Far more than Euclid, to be sure.”

            “Who doesn’t?” Adam chuckled.

            “Even I,” Jamie said with a smile, “although I probably succeed better with Euclid than sports.”

            Lucas’s patronizing pat on the shoulder said that he agreed, but he politely didn’t voice his doubts about the other boy’s athletic abilities.  “What about you, Adam?” he asked eagerly.  “If you think you’d be interested in joining, I’ll be happy to put in a good word for you with the organizers.”

            Adam glanced down swiftly, to hide the wistful look in his eyes.  “Perhaps later, Luke.  College life is still so new to me that I think I should concentrate on basic studies for the time being.”

            “Oh, Adam!” Lucas chided.  “All work and no play is . . . well, practically un-American . . . not to mention un-Yalensian.”

            Adam gave him a shove.  “And all play and no work definitely is!”  He sobered.  “Seriously, Luke, let me get grounded with what I’ve already taken on before I add more.  If I feel I can manage it, I guarantee you I’ll join up.”

            “Oh, all right,” Lucas said.  His nose wrinkled.  “Whew!  Get a whiff of me!  I’d better get back to my rooms and scrub off some of this sweat.”

            Adam’s mouth twitched.  “Please do.  I don’t fancy sitting at table with you in this condition.”

            Lucas returned the shove he’d received moments before and after shaking both Adam’s hand and Jamie’s took off for his lodgings.

            As Adam and Jamie made their way back to their own room, Jamie asked soberly, “Is it because of me?”

            Adam turned toward him.  “Is what because of you?”

            Jamie flicked a nervous glance in his friend’s direction.  “The reason you won’t join the team.  Is it what you said or are you holding yourself back because you know it’s something I can’t participate in with any degree of success?”

            “Neither one, to be honest,” Adam admitted.

            “Because you needn’t,” Jamie continued as if he hadn’t heard Adam’s response.  “Much as I enjoy your company and all the time we spend together, Adam, I know you have other interests that I don’t share.  So, if you want this, don’t let me be a hindrance.  I’ll gladly cheer for you each Saturday, as well as for Lucas.”

            Adam took his friend by the shoulders and turned him until they were face to face.  “Jamie, it isn’t you,” he said bluntly.  “It’s money, pure and simple.  There are dues for this club, like any other, and apparently a uniform to buy and probably other expenses.  I hated to tell Luke that, but you know my situation.”

            “Indeed . . . and share it,” Jamie sighed.  “I’m sorry, Adam.”

            Adam shrugged.  “Well, maybe someday I’ll be able to swing it.  For now, it probably is best that I concentrate on my studies.”

            “And we’d better get to that right away,” Jamie agreed.  “With our first Sigma Ep meeting tonight, we haven’t much time left to study.”

            “That being the case . . . race you back to George Street,” Adam challenged and started out at a slow trot to give Jamie a chance to get his shorter legs pumping.

 

* * * * *

 

            It was ten of eight that evening when Adam and Jamie entered the society hall in the upper story of the Brewster Building.  “Look!  There’s Marc,” Jamie said, pointing, “but I don’t see Lucas.”

            Adam grinned.  “Our friend Lucas is scarcely the punctual type.  He’ll probably come skidding in at the last minute.”

            “Probably,” Jamie admitted.  He waved at Marcus, who was signaling that there were seats available beside him.  They crossed the room, and Jamie took the seat next to Marcus.

            “Hi, Marc,” Adam said, leaning around Jamie to greet their friend.  “Looking forward to the program?”

            “I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like,” Marcus admitted, “but I’m eager to find out.”

            “As are we,” Jamie assured him.

            They hadn’t long to wait.  Promptly at eight o’clock (with still no sign of Lucas) the program began with a debate between two other freshmen, comparing the literary genius of William Cowper with that of William Wordsworth.

            Adam smiled.  He enjoyed the works of both authors, but Cowper recalled pleasant memories of the days when he and Ross Marquette had first gotten acquainted while cutting timber for the new schoolhouse.  He’d quoted a bit of Cowper to the other boy that first day and later had loaned him a book of Cowper’s poems.  They’d discussed them on other occasions and in letters to and from Sacramento.  I haven’t written Ross a word since I got here, Adam chided himself, or Billy, either.  I need to work that in sometime tomorrow, if I can, now that I know the mail will go through.

            Polite applause interrupted Adam’s train of thought, and he realized with a start that the debate had ended.

            “Well done, well done,” said the president of the society.  “It’s never easy to go first in any new undertaking, and I commend both of you for taking on the challenge and fulfilling it commendably.  Now, there will be critique from the members at our next meeting, but I’m sure the response will be favorable.  Next, our oration of the evening will be presented by Mr. Baker.”

            Baker made his way to the front, swallowed hard and announced his topic, The Importance of Geography to the Development of Nations.  Adam listened intently this time and joined in the applause with sincerity.  Baker had, in his opinion, done a fine job of proving his points.

            The president again faced the group.  “This, as I understand procedure, is when we would normally critique the debate and oration of the previous week, but as this is our first meeting, I suppose we must logically forego that pleasure—or pain—tonight.”  After the laughter that met these words died down, he continued, “We will, instead, proceed to the announcement of next week’s appointments.”

            Adam barely paid attention as the topic of debate and the two men taking opposing sides were announced, but he abruptly sat upright as he heard his own name mentioned next.  “We appoint Mr. Adam Cartwright to give our next oration,” the president announced.  “Since Mr. Cartwright comes from a new territory, unknown to the majority of us, we ask him to give us a thorough description of Nevada, tracing its development from early settlement to the present.”

            As had the newly assigned debaters before him, Adam rose to his feet and said, “I am pleased to accept, sir, and thank you for the honor.”

            “It really is an honor, Adam,” Jamie enthused as they walked back to their lodging house.  “To be selected so early in the year, when there are so many better known to the majority . . . why, I never expected it.”

            “Nor did I,” Adam replied.  “I suspect the novelty of someone from the far West influenced the decision, that and the allure of a mountain of silver.  They’re probably hoping to hear stories of wild shooting sprees and lavish riches.”

            “Both of which you can supply,” Jamie pointed out.

            “I suppose,” Adam agreed with a shrug, “but I don’t want to leave our new friends with the impression that that’s all there is to Nevada.  We have more solid citizens than ruffians and more men of moderate means than millionaires.”

            “And you’re just the man to show them the real Nevada,” Jamie declared.  “I can’t wait to hear you next week!”

 

* * * * *

 

            Late that night, after Jamie was soundly asleep, Adam slipped out of bed and walked across the room to the open window.  As he perched on the windowsill, the air was chilly on his bare legs, but the crispness kept him alert and helped him think.  Though Jamie seemed to have complete confidence in him, Adam himself wondered how he’d fare next Saturday night.  He’d given little talks in his Sacramento classes, of course, but his classmates there had been no better educated than he.  Their acceptance had been easy to earn.  Here he’d be speaking before men who’d been trained in classical rhetoric in the great preparatory schools of the East—and they’d be offering critiques on his work, too!  He’d never experienced that before, and he definitely wanted to make a good first impression.  Survive the first assignment, and he would, of necessity, find the next less daunting.  Fail it and—no!  He wouldn’t let himself think of failure.  When a fellow did that, he charted a path all too easy to follow.

            What would he speak about?  Should he give them the wild and woolly antics sure to hold their attention—the time he and Billy Thomas had trailed Sam Brown on his last shooting spree, for instance—or should he hold up to their eyes a truer picture of home?  Was there a way to blend the two?  To ease the tension in his neck, Adam rolled his head back on his shoulders.  Why, oh why, had he ever thought that he’d drawn a simple topic for his first oration?  He had a feeling he’d be spending every night this week on this windowsill, pondering what to say.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

Baseball, in the form we know, developed around 1840 and became a national craze after the Civil War.


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Anxiety and Relief

 

 

            Adam was leaning against what he and his college comrades had come to call the Elm of Assembly on Monday morning when Lucas, who had been talking to another of his many friends, ran over to him.  As he dropped his books, a few leaves, just turning amber, fluttered to the ground.  “Where’s the preacher boy and Marc?” he asked casually.  “You’ll never convince me one of them is being kept after class.”

            “Not a chance,” Adam chuckled, “but they won’t be meeting us here, either.  They’re off to the library—and I think it’s going to be a daily arrangement.”

            Lucas gave a mock shiver.  “Ghastly.  They’ll probably stand first and second in the class, those two.”

            Adam arched an eyebrow.  “Really?  Thanks for your high opinion of me, Master Cameron!”

            Lucas laughed.  “Ambitious, are you?  Well, you’ve the wit for it, I grant you that—more than Marcus, I’ll wager—so it’ll be you and Jamie vying for top honors, then.”

            “Nothing would make me happier,” Adam said, feeling he’d even be content with second place, so long as it was Jamie ahead of him.  “As for you, sir, a bit more time with the books would not be out of place.”  He gave Lucas’s shoulder a rough shake, for his friend had given another deplorable recitation in the Latin class they’d just completed.

            Lucas shrugged nonchalantly.  “I’ll get by; I always do.”  He bent to pick up his books.  “I’m headed over to the gymnasium.  Care to join me?”

            Adam’s eyes lighted with interest.  “Well, I had planned to write a friend back home . . . but I guess that could wait.  I would like to see what the gymnasium is like.”

            “Oh, it’s grand, Adam!” Lucas enthused.  “Just the thing to clear your head of all those vile Romans.”

            “I’d rather they stayed in there, thank you,” Adam laughed, “after working so hard to stuff them in!  I do, however, think a little physical activity can stimulate clear thinking, and that’s all to the good when tackling Euclid.”

            “That’s the spirit!” Lucas cried.  “Still say you should go out for baseball, but if you just won’t, you should, at least, dust off the cobwebs at the gym.”

            Adam bent to pick up his own text.  “I agree.  Show me around?”

            “My pleasure!”

            They had to leave the college yard proper to get to the gymnasium, but it was located just beyond those bounds, on Library Street, near the corner of High Street.  The plain brick building was one hundred feet long and only half that wide, but by comparison with other college buildings, this one looked new.  “Just opened last year,” Lucas replied when Adam stated that observation, “and the equipment inside is up-to-date, too.”

            They entered the large main room, already occupied by a good number of students, many of them recognizable to Adam as members of his own class.  Some were swinging Indian clubs to strengthen their arms, while others jumped from springboards onto a wooden horse, where they performed intricate maneuvers.  Still others climbed ropes or moved hand-over-hand across horizontal ladders, while a couple were vaulting over bars around the periphery of the room.  One was walking on his hands down a set of parallel bars as agilely as if he’d been strolling down the street.

            “Amazing,” Adam murmured enviously.

            Lucas pointed up to a gallery at the southern end.  “Dressing rooms up there, if you wish to change,” he said.

            “I didn’t come prepared,” Adam pointed out.

            “No, but just so you’ll know.”

            Adam nodded.  “So, what sort of exercise do you fancy today?”

            Lucas grinned.  “You’ve got to see downstairs first, and then we’ll decide.”

            “All right,” Adam said agreeably.

            As they went down into the basement, Lucas said, “There’s about a dozen bathing rooms down here, but you have to pay to use those.” Reaching the foot of the stairs, he swept an arm across the room.  “That’s what I wanted you to see, though.”

            Only two of the six lanes set up for bowling were in use.  Adam applauded as fellow freshman James Brand rolled a ball down one, knocking over seven pins.  Brand turned and grinned in acknowledgement as Henry Butler took his turn with the ball.

            “My favorite activity,” Lucas said.  “I always prefer an actual game to just plain exercising.”

            Adam hooted.  “Proving you’re as lazy an athlete as you are a student!”

            Lucas gave him a playful shove.  “All work and no play make Adam a dull boy,” he said, echoing a charge he had made more than once.

            “And all play and no work make Luke one with a very short career at Yale,” Adam teased, returning the shove.

            “Truce,” Lucas declared, throwing up his hands.  “Care for a game?”

            “I’ve never played,” Adam admitted.  “You’d have to teach me.”

            “Ah!  A chance to pay you back for your instruction in geometry last week!” Lucas exulted.  “And I assure you, I shall be every bit as hard a taskmaster as you were.”

            “Fair enough,” Adam agreed.  “Show me how it’s done.”

 

* * * * *

 

 

            Adam couldn’t believe how fast the week had gone.  Here at Yale every day was packed with studies, society meetings and extracurricular activities.  He hadn’t indulged in any of those this week, however, with the single exception of a trip to the gymnasium with Lucas between first and second recitation each day.  He’d come to relish that break from academic pursuits, when he could send a ball barreling down a bowling lane, swing an Indian club or climb a rope and feel his muscles work.  He always felt invigorated and sharper in his wits afterwards.

            He’d skipped Wednesday’s meeting of the Brothers in Unity.  Attendance there was voluntary, so it was an easy choice to omit when he needed extra time.  He had definitely needed extra time this week, to prepare his oration on the development of Nevada.  He’d urged Jamie to attend, though, insisting that he needed to be alone in their room so that he could hammer out some idea of what he wanted to say.  The solitude had helped, too.  An approach had begun to solidify during those few hours to himself, and he now knew what he’d be saying at tonight’s Sigma Ep meeting . . . if only he could silence the cacophonous beating of butterfly wings in his stomach, to borrow a description from his best friend.

            Sprawled on their shared bed, Jamie glanced up from the latest copy of the New York Times, slipped to him at dinner by one of the senior Vultures, and noticed Adam’s distant stare out the window.  “Do you want me to clear out, so you can rehearse your oration again?” he offered.  “Or would you like to speak it to me, for practice?”

            “No to both,” Adam laughed.  “I’m afraid I’ll lose all freshness in my presentation if I go over it another time!  Just give me something else to think about.  Anything of interest in the paper?”

            Jamie winced ruefully.  “I can’t seem to tear my eyes off the map of Missouri on the front page.”

            Adam sobered immediately.  “Does it show what territory the rebels still hold?”

            “The accompanying article gives the boundaries.”  Jamie rolled to a sitting position, making room for Adam beside him, and turned worried eyes to his friend as he sat down.  “Half the state, Adam, and the unrest is hindering repairs on the burned bridges, too.”  He smiled bravely.  “At least, the northern half is still Union-held, and this other article reports that a Mr. Olmstead made it through to Quincy from St. Joe and on to Chicago.  That’s the way Father would be coming.”

            “But . . . ?”  Adam drew out the word.

            “Hmm?”

            “You seem troubled,” Adam said plainly.

            Jamie nodded.  “It also says that the rebels confiscated everything of value in St. Joe and that Mr. Olmstead was virtually destitute when he reached Chicago.”

            Adam sighed and placed an arm about his friend’s shoulders.  “What soldiers value and what your father values aren’t necessarily the same things, of course, but even if he gets here with only the shirt on his back . . . well, his safety is what matters.”

            “Yes, of course,” Jamie quickly agreed.  Then his stalwart façade crumpled.  “Oh, Adam, we should have heard something by now.”

            “I would have thought so,” Adam admitted.  “I can certainly understand your concern.  I know I’d be frantic if it were Pa.

            “Or Hoss or Little Joe,” Jamie added.

            Adam stroked his smooth chin.  “Hoss, yes, but if the rebels capture Little Joe . . . well, heaven help the rebels!”

            Despite his concern Jamie couldn’t help laughing.  “You’re incorrigible.”

            “No, he is,” Adam chuckled.

            Jamie gave his friend a quick, one-armed embrace.  “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Adam, to bolster my spirits in anxious times like these.”

            Adam stood and motioned toward their desks.  “Why don’t we have a pull at The Odyssey?” he suggested.  “A good subject to keep both our minds off our worries.”

            Jamie smiled as he, too, moved to his desk.  “Redeem the time, as the Scripture advises?” he asked.  “Yes, I’m sure Old Had would approve—and Father, too.”  Before opening his book, though, he unwrapped the single piece of divinity that Adam had presented to him that morning.  “Sure you won’t share this?” he asked.

            “It’s too small a gift as it is,” Adam snorted.  “I wish I could have given you a better birthday gift, Jamie, but you know how it is.”

            “You’re likely to get even less on yours,” Jamie predicted as he took a small bite, letting it slowly melt in his mouth.  “It’s the thought that counts, after all.”

            “In that case you hold in your hand—er, mouth—a fortune beyond that of the greatest silver baron on the Comstock Lode,” Adam chuckled.

 

* * * * *

 

            “Would you help me with this cravat?” Adam asked later that evening.  “I’m all thumbs.”

            Jamie walked across the room and began to expertly loop the maroon silk around his friend’s neck.  “I don’t know why you’re so nervous,” he said.  “I haven’t the slightest doubt that you’ll receive a standing ovation for your august oration.”

            Adam groaned.  “This is scarcely the time for bad poetry, my dear chum.”

            Jamie grinned.  “It got your mind off the nerves, didn’t it?”

            Adam uttered a short, sharp laugh.  “For about three seconds, yes.”

            “Then I guess I’ll have to come up with more bad poetry,” Jamie announced.  “Let’s see . . . thirty minutes until the meeting starts . . . at three seconds per poem . . . I’ll need to compose about—”

            Adam put up a restraining hand.  “Spare me any obtuse algebraic equations . . . please.”

            Three knocks sounded on the door.  “I’ll get it,” a laughing Jamie offered.  He walked to the door and opened it.

            Adam was checking his cravat in the mirror when he heard his roommate cry out.  Concerned lest they were being paid another call by the pesky sophomores—tonight of all nights!—he spun around quickly, and his face instantly brightened.  “Mr. Edwards!  You made it through!”

            “We’ve been so concerned, Father,” Jamie murmured as he fell into his father’s embrace.

            “There, there, boy, I know,” Josiah said, stroking his son’s smooth, honey-hued hair.  “A risky business, traveling through Missouri these days, but I made it through at the best possible time.  Happy birthday, son!”

            “The happiest ever,” Jamie murmured, face buried in his father’s vest.  Then he asked,       “Did you get our letters, Father?”

            “I received yours,” Josiah said, “and found it most persuasive.”  He looked questioningly at Adam.

            “Mine went to Elwood, just in case you were forced that way,” Adam explained.  “I always knew there was a chance—quite a strong one, I thought—that you’d never see it.”

            “Ah . . . no,” Josiah admitted, “but I assume it was of much the same tenor as Jamie’s.”  As Adam nodded, he took an appraising look at his former student.  “My, aren’t you spruced up for a Saturday evening!  Some fair maiden expecting you, Adam?”

            Adam laughed.  “Don’t I wish!  I haven’t had opportunity to meet a single one since I’ve been back East.”

            “Adam’s giving an oration for our freshman society tonight, Father,” Jamie explained.

            “I wish I weren’t obligated to that, sir,” Adam said earnestly.  “I would rather stay here with you and Jamie and hear all your news.”

            “What’s this?” Josiah asked.  “Stay here with Jamie?  Son, surely you intended to be there to hear your friend speak.”

            “I did, of course,” Jamie said, “but—oh, Father, I have a hundred questions!”

            Josiah chuckled.  “And I have a hundred more for you and Adam, but they’ll keep.  Your friend needs your support, son, and I wouldn’t dream of changing your plans.”

            “Perhaps you could come, too,” Adam suggested.

            Jamie looked doubtful.  “I think it’s members only, Adam.”

            “Much as I’d like to hear Adam speak,” Josiah said quickly, “I’m rather tired from the trip.  I fear I might punctuate his fine oratory with yawns and snores!”

            “I know just what you mean,” Adam said with a reminiscent grin.  “Have you arranged lodgings?”

            Josiah shook his head.  “Not exactly.  I came straight here, but I did prevail upon your Mrs. Wiggins—for a mere pittance—to let me stay the night here with you . . . if you don’t object.”

            “We’d be delighted,” Adam assured him.  “You take the bed.”

            Josiah chuckled again.  “I may for a while, but Mrs. Wiggins is rounding me up a cot.  How long do you boys think you’ll be?”

            “Two or three hours,” Jamie moaned.  “We won’t get to talk at all tonight, Father.”

            Josiah again pulled the boy into his arms.  “It doesn’t matter, son.  We have tomorrow—a whole host of tomorrows.”

            Too overcome with emotion to speak, Jamie pressed his cheek against his father’s vest again, while Adam discreetly averted his eyes.

 

* * * * *

 

            “Thanks for being here with me,” Adam said to Jamie as the meeting of Sigma Ep began.  “I know what a sacrifice it is for you, but it does help to have one friendly face in the audience.

            “Two,” Marcus, who was seated next to Jamie, declared.

            “Three, at least,” Lucas added decidedly, “and once you start speaking, it’ll be a roomful, Adam.”

            Adam smiled his appreciation for the encouragement of his friends.  “All of you will have to take notes on the debate for me.  I doubt a word of it will sink in, when I know I’m next up.”

            “That’s a job for this fellow,” Lucas said, reaching around Adam to clap Jamie on the back.  “Best note taker in the class.  Make a copy for me, too, preacher boy, ‘cause you know how much of any speech-making sinks in with me.”

            “Take your own notes,” Jamie chuckled.  “Goodness knows, you need the practice.”

            Lucas clucked his tongue.  “I do believe our star speaker has been telling tales out of school.”

            “Shh,” Adam warned.  “The debate’s beginning now.”

            Adam sincerely tried to pay attention to the debate, but found it difficult when lines from his own oration kept winding through his head.  To his chagrin, by the time the two opposing speakers sat down, he’d completely lost track of what their topic had been.  So long as I don’t lose track of my own! he thought as he made his way to the front when his name was announced.

            He planted his feet comfortably apart and took a deep breath before beginning, a device for calming nerves that he had developed at school in Sacramento.  “Last week Mr. Baker, in his excellent oration on the subject of the Importance of Geography to the Development of Nations, admirably laid the groundwork for what I will share with you this evening.  If ever the development of a land was influenced by geography, that land would be Nevada.  Geography—and the human choices dictated by geography—tell the story of its settlement.”

            Feeling his voice start to quaver, he paused and glanced toward the row where his friends were sitting.  Jamie’s bright smile of support encouraged him, and his voice grew stronger as he continued.  “Geography first led to the territory being bypassed as unworthy of settlement.  As one enters Nevada, he encounters a succession of mountain ranges, running north and south.  Between them lie valleys, but the majority of the terrain is so dry as to discourage agriculture.  Indeed, it played no part in the culture of the Paiute and Washo Indians, who preceded the white man in settling there.  They became hunters and gatherers of Nature’s resources: rabbit, antelope, fish from the lakes near which they lived, marsh bird eggs, pine nuts, grass seeds and berries, tule shoots for those with a sweet tooth, a condition not unique to freshmen at Yale.”

            The chuckles from the audience heartened him still more.  Adam warmed to his subject as he began to add his personal experience to the lecture.  “My family, like most others, saw Nevada, then known as western Utah, merely as barren land to be crossed in order to reach the golden promise of California.  Circumstances having delayed our journey, however, we faced the geographical barrier of the Sierra Nevada Mountains late enough in the year for snow to present a danger.  For that reason—and since we had adequate supplies—we, along with one other family, chose not to cross the mountains, but to winter on their eastern side.”

            Pleasant memories of that winter spent with the Thomases spurred him on.  “We constructed a shared cabin along the Carson River, geography again influencing our choice of location.  Our intention was to remain until spring and then continue on to California, but those months in what would become Nevada made us realize that everything we needed for the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be found right where we were.  The land was fertile, needing only the river’s water to grow garden produce in abundance.  This we would sell to the emigrant trains passing through to California and to the few miners who searched for gold in the nearby hills.  In time, other emigrants made the same choice, and they, too, were influenced by geography as they built their homes along the few waterways that traverse the territory.

            “My own family eventually relocated, but again we were influenced by geography, as well as by human emotion.  We fell in love with the immense lake the Indians call Tahoe and the white men Lake Bigler.” His heart filled with warm memories of Inger, as if even now she were surrounding him with her love.  “It reminded us of the way my Swedish stepmother, who had died along the journey, had described her homeland, so although others discouraged us from moving to so isolated an area, we kept faith with her and built a new home in the foothills near the lake.”

            Now feeling bold enough to make eye contact with the unfamiliar faces in the audience, Adam continued.  “In time, others settled nearer to us, along Franktown Creek and Washoe Lake.  However, permanent settlers remained few until another science—geology—became the next influence on the development of Nevada.  All of you have heard of the discovery of the great Comstock Lode, I imagine, but I was there.  I saw what a profound influence—both for good and for ill—the discovery of silver had.  Overnight, a slow-moving, simple agrarian society exploded into a rough-and-tumble boomtown community.

            “The new residents of the future Nevada did not share the understanding of the land that the earlier settlers, both white and Indian, had possessed,” he declared earnestly.  “Perhaps that was because geology, rather than geography, had influenced their decision; perhaps it was because they never intended to stay and build a society, but merely to reap a rich harvest from the bowels of the earth and then abandon it to the elements they never came to respect.”  His pace quickened and his voice grew stronger still as he used its intensity to convey the seriousness of what he was saying.  “Still, even temporary residents must eat, so they killed the antelope; even temporary residents must keep warm, so they cut down the piñon trees, destroying with them a staple of the Indians’ diet.  The Indians, too, still needed to eat, to keep warm, and because many now competed for what nature and geography only meant to sustain a few, tragedy loomed on the horizon.”

            Adam paused for dramatic emphasis and was pleased to see many of his fellow students leaning forward, hanging on his every word.  “There had been isolated incidents of conflict before, but when two young Paiute girls were taken captive by a set of white men, the Indians not only rescued them and burned that station, but retaliated against settlers who had nothing to do with the misconduct.  In retaliation for that retaliation, men from the new Virginia City led an assault against a well coordinated Paiute defense and were slaughtered.  I was at school in California at that time, but concerned for my family, I returned and participated in the next battle.  This time the United States Army led the assault, with predictable results.  The Indians were defeated and a wary peace restored, though at tremendous cost.”

            Adopting a more conversational tone, Adam smiled at his listeners.  “By comparison with the states most of you come from, Nevada is an infant, just beginning to take her first tottering steps toward her place in this Union.  She has her rowdy, juvenile element, men such as the Virginia City chiefs, who want their ‘man for breakfast,’ but she also boasts such stalwart men as William Stewart, once a student at this very institution, who work to bring civilization to a populace eager to embrace it.  My father, among many others in Nevada, is such a man, and it is my earnest hope that what I gain here at Yale will enable me to further his dream, which is also my own: to help build a society in Nevada of which the United States may be justly proud.”

            Thunderous applause broke out, so loud that Adam’s attempt to again thank the society for the honor of addressing them was drowned out.  With a bow to the president of Sigma Ep, he walked back to his seat and collapsed into it.  “Was it all right?” he whispered to Jamie.

            “All right?” crowed Lucas, who had overheard the question.  “Listen to that applause, you idiot!”

            “It was wonderful, Adam,” Jamie whispered, for the president was trying to quiet the room, so the meeting could proceed.  “If only Father could have heard it!”

            Adam nodded.  He, too, would have relished having his first teacher witness this night’s triumph, but he couldn’t help wishing even more that his own father could have been there.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam and Jamie entered their room at Mrs. Wiggins’ as quietly as possible, intending to undress in the dark and slip into bed without disturbing Josiah.  Despite their best efforts, however, he roused with their first step into the room and greeted them.  “I’m sorry we woke you, sir,” Adam said, turning the low-burning lamp slightly higher.

            There was a definite tsk-tsk in Josiah’s tone when he said, “Adam, Adam.  You should know that a father never fully rests until his son is safely home.”

            Jamie came to perch at his father’s side on the bed he normally shared with Adam.  “Is your father as big a mother hen as mine, Adam?” he asked with humorous acceptance and obvious appreciation of the “mothering.”

            Keeping his voice low in respect of other roomers at this late hour, Adam chuckled, settling himself on the cot that Mrs. Wiggins had provided.  “Jamie, I do believe we’ve got ourselves a matched pair.”

            Josiah wagged a playful finger at Adam.  “Yes, I’m sure Ben and I are in harness together when it comes to keeping a couple of young colts like you two in line.  Now, tell me all about the oration, and then this mother hen prescribes bedtime for all, with more conversation on the morrow.”

            “Adam was wonderful, Father!” Jamie declared.  “If only you could have heard him—and the applause!”

            “You may read my oration tomorrow, if you like, sir,” Adam offered, flushing under the proud gaze of his former teacher.  “There is no one whose opinion I would value more.”

            “I’ll be pleased to read it,” Josiah said.  “Now . . . to bed, one and all.”

            “Oh, but, Father, we haven’t heard a word about your journey and how you managed to avoid the rebels and—”

            Josiah silenced his son’s protest with a squeeze about the shoulders.  “Tomorrow, my boy, tomorrow.  It’s a lengthy story.”  He started to rise from the bed.

            “Oh, no, sir,” Adam protested at once.  “You sleep with Jamie tonight; I’ll take the cot.”

            Josiah scratched his head.  “Your Mrs. Wiggins must be a paragon of silence.  I never heard her come in to set up that cot.”

            Adam grinned.  “Or, more likely, you were so exhausted that nothing short of a black powder explosion would have stirred you.”

            “Except a son’s lightest step into the room,” Jamie teased.  “Don’t forget that.”

            Laughing, Adam nodded.  “Oh, yes, a true mother hen never gets too tired to hear that.”

            Josiah shook his head and admitted himself bested.  “I see that college has at least sharpened your wit, if nothing else.”

            “Oh, so much else, Father!” Jamie protested intensely, looking as if he were about to launch into a full discourse on the topic.

            His father ruffled the young man’s honey-wheat hair.  “Tomorrow, Jamie, tomorrow!  So help me, if you don’t stop chattering and Adam doesn’t relinquish that cot immediately, I’m likely to fall over and sleep the clock around.”

            “Take the bed,” Adam insisted.

            “That cot can’t possibly be as comfortable as this,” Josiah argued.

            “No,” Adam agreed, “but I’m more convinced than ever that you have greater need of a comfortable bed tonight than I, and I do speak from experience, as you well know.”

            Josiah’s blue eyes twinkled in recognition of their mutual travel miseries and gratefully accepted the offer.  After the lamp was lowered, only a few whispers fluttered through the darkness and soon no sound at all except an occasional soft snore.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam woke early the next morning, for even to his young bones the thin mattress of the cot afforded little better rest than a bedroll on the ground.  All the more reason to have insisted that Josiah take the more comfortable bed, he concluded as he sat up, yawning and stretching.

            “Morning, Adam,” Jamie whispered.

            “Good morning,” Adam whispered back.  “Looks like we’re both up early.”

            “Hard to sleep when I’m so excited,” Jamie said, eyes bright with joy.  “Think there’s any chance I can slide out of this bed without waking Father?”

            “No,” came the good-natured reply from beyond Jamie in the bed.  Josiah raised himself up on one elbow and grinned at the apologetic faces that met his gaze.  “I’m excited, too,” he offered in conciliatory explanation.

            Jamie laughed as he sat up in bed, hugging his knees.  “Just as well.  We have so much to talk about that an early start is just what’s needed.”

            Josiah tousled his son’s hair.  “A one-track mind, that’s what this one has.  I’m in favor of breakfast first.  Do you take that here?”

            Adam answered.  “No, this is just a rooming house, no board included.  We take our meals with the Vultures.”  He laughed at the quizzical cock of Josiah’s head.  “That’s our eating club.  If we’re going to eat together, we’ll need to find some restaurant that’s open on the Sabbath.”

            Josiah shook his head.  “No, I think it would be best if you and Jamie maintained your usual routine.  I’ll find something . . . somewhere.”

            Jamie reached out to stroke his father’s auburn goatee.  “Are you terribly short of funds, Father?” he asked, concern clouding his hazel eyes.

            “Terribly,” Josiah chuckled, “but don’t worry, my boy.  God’s kept His hand on me so far; I doubt He’ll let me starve.  Don’t you boys have other obligations today, as well?”

            “Just chapel,” Adam said.  “Twice, though.”

            “But you can attend with us,” Jamie urged.

            Josiah rubbed his son’s neck.  “I will, son; I will.”

 

* * * * *

 

            “I feel terrible,” Jamie sighed as they walked along George Street, “going off cheerily to breakfast, while Father does without.”

            “You’re not that cheery,” Adam scoffed, but then he sobered.  “I know.  I feel the same, but what could we do?  Insist on a restaurant, instead of eating food we’re already obliged to pay for, whether we eat it or not?  That isn’t even good common sense, especially for people on a budget as tight as ours.”

            Jamie nodded glumly.  “I agree, but I fear Father’s budget is tighter than ours, Adam.  You saw that single carpetbag—is that all he managed to get out of St. Joseph?  And you know the Confederates robbed the bank at Lexington.  Would they treat St. Joe more kindly?”

            “Not from what I saw,” Adam grunted, remembering the broken windows of store fronts when he’d passed through.  “Did your father keep his money in the bank or would he have had sense to take it out as he saw danger approaching?”

            “Oh, I hope so,” Jamie murmured.  “I don’t see how I could remain here at Yale if Father were . . . destitute.”

            “Oh, ye of little faith,” Adam chided in an attempt to lighten his friend’s mood.  “Your father has faith in God’s provision; where’s yours?”

            Jamie laughed suddenly.  “Now who’s the pastor?”

            Adam gave a mock shudder.  “Not I—never!  But you must start to fulfill your own obligations or I fear the role shall be thrust upon me.”

            “Oh, well, if that’s the way to recruit more ministers of the gospel . . .”  Ducking away from Adam’s insinuated cuff of his head, Jamie took off at a run.  With a grin, Adam gave chase.

 

* * * * *

 

            “Father!” Jamie called when he spotted the man standing before the State House on the Green, where they had agreed to meet.  With Adam at his heels, he loped across the lawn and beamed as he held out a napkin-wrapped offering.  “There were biscuits left after we’d eaten our fill,” he declared.  “The others said I was welcome to take them.”

            Josiah laughed as he accepted them.  “They might make us a snack later on, my boy, but I, too, have eaten my fill this morning.”

            “You found a restaurant open?” Adam asked.

            “I didn’t look,” Josiah responded with a chuckle.  “When I asked Mrs. Wiggins to recommend one, she offered me breakfast at her table, free of charge.  She said that if ever there were a time to show Christian charity, it must surely be on the Sabbath.”  With a mischievous grin, he added, “I think her charity was somewhat influenced by the opportunity to hear a first-hand report from the battle zone.”

            “The Vultures were more open about their curiosity,” Adam put in.  “They’ve invited you to dine with us in return for sharing your personal acquaintance with the situations filling the newspapers.”

            “Wonderful!” Josiah declared.  “I’ll relish seeing the type of fare my boy is enjoying.”  He clapped his son on the shoulder.  “Didn’t I tell you God would provide?”

            Smiling happily, Jamie nodded.  “A lesson I seem to be repeating often of late.”

            “Well, if you just wouldn’t fizzle on your recitations . . .” Adam teased, employing college idiom for a partial failure.  They all laughed, knowing that Jamie had never “fizzled” a recitation in his entire life.

            “Do we have time before chapel for you to show me around campus?” Josiah requested.

            “Definitely,” Adam replied.  “Chapel isn’t until 10:30.”

            Linking arms, with Josiah in the middle, the three marched across College St. toward the Yale campus.

 

* * * * *

 

            “Normally we abstain from politics at the table,” Alexander White stated as soon as the tureen of split-pea soup had made its way around the Vultures’ table, “but it is a rare occasion for us to welcome a guest who can give us first-hand information about the state of things in the West.”

            “Why, we had Cartwright here all along,” Lucas jibed.  “You can’t get a report from much further west than he hails!”

            “Honestly, Cameron,” James Goodman scolded.  “Have you no manners whatsoever?”

            “What do you expect?  He is a freshman, after all,” Edgar Warington observed loftily.

            “That’s quite enough, Warington,” White said sternly.  “Do you wish our guest to feel that his son’s college companions are barbarians incapable of courteous conversation?”  He turned toward Josiah, who was seated between Jamie and Adam.  “I apologize, sir.”

            “No apology necessary,” Josiah assured the young steward.  “I am, after all, a guest in your home, so to speak, so I certainly do not wish you to stand on form.  Please, all of you, be yourselves, and simply treat me as you would your own fathers.”

            Warington’s cheeks flushed, as he apparently considered how his own father might respond to his deportment.  “We look forward to your report on the situation in Missouri, sir,” he said in an awkward attempt to adjust his attitude.

            “Rather than a report,” Josiah offered, “may I suggest that you all simply ask me whatever questions you may have?  Perhaps you would like to start, young man.”

            The crimson cast of Warington’s countenance deepened, with pleasure this time, as he was once again the focus of all eyes in the room.  “Thank you, sir.  I—uh—well, not meaning to be impertinent, but why is Missouri still in the Union?  It is a slave state, after all.”

            “No honest question is ever impertinent,” Josiah, ever the teacher, assured him, “and your question—Mr. Warington, is it?—is one that has been much debated in our state.  In the end, Missouri chose to remain in the Union precisely because she wished to keep her slaves.”

            “I don’t follow that, sir,” Goodman, seated across the table from the Missouri teacher, said.

            Josiah smiled at him.  “Consider the geography of the region, young man.  Missouri is surrounded on three sides by Union states.  The members of the convention called to consider secession eventually decided that if they joined the Confederacy, their slaves would be more likely to escape to one of those states, and recovering them from a ‘foreign’ country would prove impossible.”

            “Purely economic motives, then,” Robert Raines observed from the foot of the table.

            “Frankly, yes,” Josiah agreed, “although there are many, even in Missouri, who decry the institution of slavery.”

            “And your personal feelings, sir?” Milton Bradford asked, adding hesitantly, “if it isn’t impertinent to ask.”

            “See here now, Vultures,” White remonstrated.  “We’re not allowing our guest to enjoy this fine soup.”

            “Oh, I’m managing a spoonful now and then,” Josiah chuckled.  In demonstration, he dipped into the hearty green broth and smiled his appreciation to Mrs. Swanson, who was hovering in the doorway to the kitchen, both to listen and to determine when the main course should be served.  “My own feelings about slavery, sir?  I abhor it!”

            “A difficult position in a slave state, is it not, sir?” White asked soberly.  “Have you suffered any reprisals?”

            “Oh, some,” Josiah said with a casual shrug of his shoulder.  After taking another mouthful of soup, he said, “My feelings were known by many, but I avoided public statements until after the schools were shut down in May.  As teacher to all the town’s students—Northern and Southern sympathizers alike—I considered their welfare my first duty, and contributing to the turmoil of divided loyalties was not, I felt, in their best interest.”

            “Commendable, I suppose, given your position,” sniffed George Miller, “but to stand by while others suffer the indignity of bondage—”

            “Father didn’t just ‘stand by,’” Jamie declared with more vehemence than any of the Vultures had ever seen the mild-mannered freshman exhibit before.  “He’s done more to combat slavery than anyone here!”

            Josiah patted his son’s arm.  “Jamie, Jamie,” he said.  “No need to speak of that, no need at all.”

            “There is!” his son insisted.

            “I’d like to know,” Adam put in.

            “And I,” added Marcus shyly, and the words were echoed around the table.

            Josiah shrugged.  “Not much to tell, really.  On two occasions the opportunity to help slaves trying to escape into Kansas fell into my lap.  I did no more than provide a place to hide until safe transport could be provided.”

            “Scarcely a small thing, sir, considering the possible consequences had your assistance become known,” Raines stated, admiration in his eyes.

            Uncomfortable with the hero worship so evident around the table, Josiah shrugged again.  “There was little chance of its becoming known.”  He nodded at Miller.  “That, young man, is the benefit of keeping one’s private opinions private; it keeps one’s options open.”

            “Yes . . . I see,” the subdued sophomore responded.

            “There’s also a time and place for voicing them,” Josiah added.  “Wisdom lies in knowing which is which.”  He chuckled.  “I don’t claim to always exhibit that wisdom, but I try—and I try to learn from my mistakes.”

            “All any man can do,” Adam put in.

            Josiah cupped the young man’s neck affectionately.

            “You must have been wildly pleased when Frémont issued his emancipation proclamation,” Lucas declared.

            Josiah shook his head.  “Not really.”  He took another quick dip into his soup bowl.

            “But if you are so opposed to slavery . . .”

            “Frémont overstepped his authority, in my opinion,” Josiah stated, “and helped destabilize an already unstable situation.  When, where and how to free the slaves are decisions best left to the President and Congress, not a single general.”

            “I’m interested in the current situation,” Milton Bradford declared.  “The papers are full of stories of the rebel depredations—burning bridges, looting, etc.  Is it as severe as we’ve heard?”

            Josiah glanced to his left.  “Adam hasn’t told you?  He was almost prevented from reaching Yale by those circumstances.”

            “Never said a word,” Bradford replied with a chiding look at Adam.

            “You never asked,” Adam returned with a grin.

            “See?  I told you!” Lucas declared.  “We already had a resident expert on the western front.”

            Adam laughed.  “Scarcely that.  I can tell you that the town looked ravaged when I passed through.  Did things get worse later, Mr. Edwards?  When we heard that the Confederate Army had fully occupied St. Joe, Jamie and I were both deeply concerned.”

            Josiah nodded soberly as he pushed aside his empty soup bowl.  “Things got worse.  But you mustn’t lay all the blame at the Confederates’ doorstep, gentlemen.  Our own Union soldiers were no better when they retook St. Joseph.  They called it foraging, but it was the same looting we’d seen far too much of already.”

            “I can’t believe that of Union men!” remonstrated the fiercely patriotic Bradford.

            “There was a report in yesterday’s paper,” Raines confirmed, “accusing Illinois troops of plundering St. Joseph and the surrounding area to a shameful extent.”

            “There are generally both honorable and dishonorable men on either side of any question,” Josiah observed.  “Most of my personal loss came at the hands of Union soldiers, I’m sorry to say, while I owe my safety during the Confederate occupation to an honorable man of the Southern persuasion.  He provided shelter for me and what few possessions I could safely transport to his place without attracting undue attention.”

            “Mr. Whitcomb?” Adam guessed.

            Josiah nodded.

            “I certainly found what you’re saying to be true in the conflict with the Paiutes back in Nevada,” Adam commented.  “Brave men and reckless ones on both sides.”

            “A valid point,” White stated, motioning for Mrs. Swanson to serve the main course.  As she brought forward a platter of roast beef surrounded by quartered potatoes and carrots, he smiled.  “I had no idea our young Mr. Cartwright had been concealing so many interesting experiences.  Another time perhaps he’ll condescend to share them with us, but let’s keep the focus on Missouri today—after we’ve given Mr. Edwards a chance to eat, that is.”

            The young men restrained themselves for a few minutes, but soon the questions began to fly again, many of them centering on whether General Frémont actually would attack the Confederate forces before President Lincoln stripped him of his command.

            Finally, nothing edible remained on the table, and Alexander White, on behalf of all the Vultures, thanked Mr. Edwards for his informative contributions to the conversation.  “Please join us for supper this evening, as a true guest this time,” he urged, adding with a smile, “and we promise not to pepper you with questions, but simply to allow you to enjoy the meal.”

            “Innumerable questions couldn’t impede that!” Josiah assured him.  “The food has been excellent, and I would be pleased to enjoy your company again this evening.”

            “Would you care to join us for a short walk?” Adam asked his friend’s father as they left the building.

            “You needn’t change your regular routine for me,” Josiah said.

            “That is our regular routine,” Adam laughed.  “You asked me to look after Jamie’s health, remember?  Regular exercise is what I have prescribed.”

            “Oh, Father, you didn’t,” Jamie protested.  “I am quite capable of looking after myself.”

            Josiah wrapped an arm around his son’s shoulder.  “Now, now, my boy; we all need looking after from time to time.”  He turned toward Adam.  “I would certainly welcome the opportunity to stretch my legs.”

            “Too many cramped train seats in your recent past?” Adam teasingly inquired.

            “Precisely, my boy, precisely!”

            “We stayed longer at table than usual,” Adam observed, “so I suppose we’ll have to settle for the cemetery again.”

            “I think that’s best,” Jamie agreed, “since we have to be back for chapel at 2:30.”

            They kept a fast pace along the streets, but slowed down once they reached the quiet, shaded pathways of the cemetery.  “A most pleasant place,” Josiah commented.  “Very relaxing.”

            “Perhaps too relaxing,” Adam chuckled.  “We keep planning an excursion to West Rock, but something always seems to interfere to keep us closer to home.”

            “Sorry to be this week’s interference,” Josiah said with a smile that said he wasn’t at all sorry to be exactly where he was.

            Grinning, Adam shook his head.  “No, we wouldn’t go further on a Sunday afternoon, anyway.  Some Saturday, though, we do hope to see the sights.”

            “Perhaps you’ll accompany us this Saturday, Father,” Jamie suggested.

            “Perhaps,” Josiah said, though his tone was noncommittal.  “Best see what the week holds first.”

            “What are your plans, sir?” Adam asked.

            “To move out of your room, first thing tomorrow,” Josiah said.

            “We don’t mind,” Jamie assured him.

            “I mind!” Josiah declared.  “And as kind as your Mrs. Wiggins has been, I dare say she would, too.  Besides, Jamie, I think it’s important for you to enjoy your college experience free from the attentions of a hovering mother hen.”

            “Will you be leaving New Haven then?” Adam asked.

            “Not yet,” Josiah explained.  “I need to find work—any kind of work—and build up my resources for locating elsewhere.”

            Jamie’s lips were trembling as he asked, “Are you destitute, Father?”

            Josiah took his son in his arms.  “You are not to worry,” he said gently.  “Yes, I suffered considerable loss from the looters, but I have some funds, and thanks to Mr. Whitcomb, I was able to save some valued articles, as well—your mother’s picture, for instance.  I brought that with me, as well as Adam’s journals for you.”

            “Oh, Father!” Jamie cried.  Adam, too, was overcome that those scribblings of his were among the few possessions Mr. Edwards had brought out of St. Joseph.

            “The rest will stay in Mr. Whitcomb’s cellar until I tell him where to ship them,” Josiah continued.  “At the moment I can’t say where I’ll be locating.  I have some old friends inquiring about teaching positions for me, but I expect that to take some time.”

            “Perhaps if I—” Jamie started.

            His father squeezed his shoulders before he could finish the thought.  “No, you will not consider leaving school, young man.  I know you; that’s exactly what you were about to suggest, and I won’t have it.  It wouldn’t help in any case.  Those expenses are already paid.”

            “I could probably get the bond back,” Jamie insisted.  “Think what two hundred dollars could mean, Father!”

            Josiah set the boy squarely before him.  “Now, you are not to concern yourself with my welfare—either of you,” he added with a glance toward Adam, who looked almost as anxious as Jamie himself.  “In wartime there are jobs to be had, and I am well able to support myself by my hands, as well as my brains.  My personal needs are few: a bed, bread and something to be read.”

            “I see that Jamie comes by his propensity for bad poetry honestly,” Adam teased, and shared laughter lightened all their hearts as they continued their walk through the cemetery.

 

* * * * *

 

            Between afternoon chapel and the evening meal Adam wrote to his father.  He reported exultantly that Josiah Edwards had arrived safely and would be seeking employment in the East.  He could not refrain from expressing his concern for his former teacher’s financial condition, however:

 

He says he’ll manage, Pa, but jobs may not be as easy to find as he hopes, and Jamie and I are both deeply concerned.  I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for him, and though it would be like tearing my heart out, I would give up my place here to help him.  I owe him that much.  Jamie’s already offered and been turned down, though, so I know I would be, too—even quicker, since I’m not kin.  With luck—or Providence, Jamie would say—by the next time I write, I’ll be able to report that he has found, at least, temporary work, and has prospects of a teaching position.  I’d thought about asking if you could make him a loan, but it would take so long for that help to get here that it would either come too late or be unneeded—hopefully, the latter.

 

            For the boys’ benefit, he added a few paragraphs, describing the gymnasium and how much he was enjoying the physical activity between classes.  Then, signing and sealing the letter, he addressed it and placed it with his books so he would remember to post it on the way to class the next day.


CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Prospects and Provision

 

 

            “I see the trees are sprouting fresh foliage again,” Adam observed as he and Jamie came onto campus on Wednesday morning.

            “Bright new leaves every week,” Jamie tittered back.  His steps halted.  “I know what the red and blue sheets are, but there are white ones today, too.  Surely, there isn’t a third open society we haven’t heard of yet.”

            “One way to find out,” chuckled Adam as he trotted over to a tree covered with posters.  “It’s a table of contents,” he called back, “for something called Yale Literary Magazine.”

            “Oh, the Lit.!” Jamie cried.  “I’ve heard it’s wonderful.”

            “The titles sound informative,” Adam said.  “One’s about the prize system here at Yale, and another is called ‘College Favor—Rules for Winning It.’  There’s an article about Halleck’s poems, too.”

            “The whole magazine is student-written,” Jamie told him enthusiastically.  “I had hoped”—he bit his lip to silence his desire.

            “To write for it?” Adam guessed.

            Jamie smiled.  “Someday, perhaps.  For now, I’d be satisfied just to read it.”  He sighed.  “I can’t, though.”

            “Money worries?”

            Jamie nodded.  “Sounds ridiculous, I know, since it’s only two bits per issue, from what I’ve heard . . . but with Father’s finances so unstable . . .”

            “I understand,” Adam said sympathetically.  “I really can’t afford the price, either, after paying my bond.”  He laughed.  “Now, if we just hadn’t indulged in Candy Sam’s divinity that first day, we could, at least, have shared a copy.”

            “No more of that indulgence, either, I fear,” Jamie agreed with a playful pout, “at least not until Father finds employment.  In that event, I think we must squander our bankrolls in a wild celebration—one piece each for the three of us.”

            Adam laughed.  “At least, we face our pecuniary deficiencies with good humor.  Uh-oh, there’s the first chapel bell.  Hoof it, chum!”  Both boys took off at a run.

 

* * * * *

 

            Despite their mutual pecuniary deficiencies, the two Edwards and Adam indulged in a cup of coffee together late Thursday evening.  The Brothers in Unity, in their meeting the previous night, had been urged to attend tonight’s gathering in town to support the work of the Sanitary Commission.  Knowing of his interest in the war effort, Adam and Jamie had invited Josiah to accompany them; at the very least, it would be something for him to do besides spend the evening alone in his shabby room near the wharves.  Now, over coffee, the young men bemoaned their inability to provide the comforts for the soldiers that had been requested.  Jamie shook his head as he again perused the list of items needed.  “I don’t see what I can possibly donate,” he said.  “I only brought the things I’d actually need when I came East.”

            “Same here,” Adam commiserated.  “Mrs. Wiggins owns every stitch of bedding I use; I certainly can’t provide any delicacies for the sick and wounded, and the only books I have with me are my texts.”

            “Boys, boys,” Josiah chided.  “There’s always something to be shared with those in need.  We just need to put on our thinking caps and be inventive.”

            “Not you, Father,” Jamie protested.  “You, especially, haven’t anything to spare.”

            Josiah shrugged.  “Well, I have to admit all I can think of at the moment is my copy of Don Quixote.  Having just reread it on the train, I’m willing to pass it on to one of our brave soldiers.  It’s old, but I’ve kept it in good condition, and the story is timeless.”

            Propping his elbows on the table, Jamie cupped his chin in his hands.  “I guess I could spare a pair of woolen stockings,” he sighed, “but it doesn’t seem like much.”

            “To a man whose have worn out with marching, it will,” Josiah said, smiling proudly at his son.

            “And I’ll donate a second pair,” Adam said, grinning as he added, “though I may regret it, come winter.”

            “Hopefully, by that time I’ll have found work and be able to replenish your toe warmers,” Josiah chuckled.

            “Any prospects?” Adam asked, although he, of course, had no intention of allowing Jamie’s father to absorb the cost of his donation to the Sanitary Commission.

            Josiah shook his head.  “Nothing definite, but I heard today that the arms factory might be hiring, so I’ll check that out tomorrow.”

            For a few minutes the trio concentrated on finishing their coffee, for the boys had to rise early for chapel the next morning and Josiah wanted to get to the New Haven Arms Company as early as possible, too.  Just as he drained his last sip of brew, Adam brightened.  “I have it!” he cried.

            “What?” asked Jamie.

            “The perfect donation for the Sanitary Commission,” Adam announced.  “The Lit.!”  Seeing Josiah’s look of confusion, he amplified, “Yale Literary Magazine, a collection of essays by Yale students on various topics.”

            “Oh, Adam, make sense,” Jamie scolded.  “We can’t afford a copy for ourselves, so how can we buy one for the soldiers?”

            “We can’t,” Adam said, “but I doubt that any magazine ever sells every copy of an issue it prints.  Perhaps the editors would be willing to donate a few of their leftover copies, if we ask.”

            “Brilliant!” Josiah declared.  “Do you think scholarly essays are the sort of material a soldier would enjoy, though?  Some of them may be barely literate.”

            “Then they’d have equal difficulty with Cervantes,” Adam observed, and Josiah conceded the point with a nod.  “People would probably say the same about the miners in Virginia City,” Adam continued, “but they read anything they can get their hands on.  Those who can’t read themselves can listen to those who can, and the Lit. will certainly be better for them than some of the pap they’ll likely be sent—like those ghastly dime novels they sell on the trains.”

            Josiah laughed.  “Are you sure you’re not training for a schoolmaster, young man?”

            “Definitely not,” Adam insisted with a wry grin.  “Why, by the time I got home, Little Joe would be of school age, and that’s all the incentive I need to choose another profession!”

 

* * * * *

 

            When Adam and Jamie came out of the Vultures’ dining hall after lunch on Saturday, Josiah was waiting for them.  They’d made arrangements to meet here the night before when the two boys had returned from supper to find Jamie’s father perched on their doorstep, beaming from ear to ear.  They’d scarcely needed his vibrant “I start Monday” to tell them that he had found work at the arms factory, as he’d hoped.  To celebrate, particularly since this might be Josiah’s last opportunity, they’d decided to spend the afternoon together and make the long-planned excursion to East Rock.

            “We come bearing gifts,” Jamie announced, holding up a parcel wrapped in brown paper.

            “From the Vultures,” Adam explained.  “Bread and cheese left from lunch.”

            “Ah!  My heartiest thanks to the Vultures,” Josiah said.  “I have a feeling we’ll welcome some refreshment after this little hike you’ve set for us.”

            Adam laughed.  “You sound like a city man, and I know better.  It’s not as far as we walked to Mr. Whitcomb’s that morning.  A mile or so, Robert Raines said.”

            “Ah, but there’s a hill to climb at the end of that mile,” Josiah reminded him with an admonishing wag of his finger.

            “I’m concerned about that,” Jamie admitted.

            “It’s part of your health regime,” Adam said firmly, “and you will climb it.”

            Jamie popped a sassy salute at his friend.  “Yes, sir, Dr. Cartwright!”

            “I see you’re as good as your word,” Josiah observed as they headed north toward the edge of town.  When he saw Adam’s eyebrow arch quizzically, he added, “Looking after my boy for me, just as you promised.”

            Jamie drew himself upright.  “I’m quite capable of looking after myself, as I told you both before!”

            “We’ll see if you say the same at the summit of East Rock,” Adam offered with a provoking smile.

            They hadn’t gone far beyond the college when they entered the woods and walked for a time beneath the shade of lofty chestnut oaks, flaming with autumn color and interspersed with hemlock and cedar.  Adam breathed in deeply and murmured, “Not quite like the pines of home, but a worthy substitute.”

            “Adam insists that the aroma of pine is a cure-all for every ailment known to man,” Jamie told his father with a teasing smile.

            “I’m certainly feeling better today than I have in some time,” Josiah chuckled, “so perhaps there’s something to his theory.”

            “Either that or the assurance that you will be able to pay your room and board next week,” Adam returned with a grin.

            Josiah winked at Adam.  “I suppose that might have some liberating effect, as well.”

            Coming out of the woods, they crossed a salt marsh, above which rose the red basalt cliffs of East Rock and began their circuitous climb up the steep trail to the summit.  Jamie was huffing before they’d made half the ascent.  “I don’t think I can,” he panted.

            “You can and you will,” Adam insisted.  “The view is supposed to be spectacular, not to be missed.  Now, come on!”  He grabbed his friend by the elbow and began hauling him up the trail.

            Jamie pulled back.  “No, I’ll go up under my own steam or not at all.”

            “Do it, then,” Adam challenged.  Turning his back, he led the way up.

            “Come on, son,” his father encouraged.  “I’m winded, too, but if we persevere, I’m sure we can make it.”

            “Or never hear the last of it,” Jamie moaned.  He waved at Adam, who had stopped a few feet ahead to see if the others were following.  “I’m coming, hard-hearted doctor,” he called, waving.  “I’m coming.”

            Adam grinned and started up again.  He tried to hold his pace to that of his less stalwart companions, but still reached the summit well before either of them.  Then, cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted back down the hill, “It’s grand; you’ve got to see it!”

            That encouragement seemed to give fresh vigor to the two Edwards, and each urging the other on, they finally joined Adam at the top and gazed down on the spires of Yale College and the surrounding town of New Haven.  Beyond that, they saw the blue waters of the Sound bordered in the distance by the lavender hills of Long Island.  “Spectacular,” Josiah said.  “Well worth the climb.”

            Jamie dropped down to dangle his legs over the edge of the cliff.  “I agree.  In fact, I find it so spectacular that I think I’ll just sit and admire the view . . . for some time to come.”

            Adam sat beside his friend.  “You’ve earned it . . . as well as a cheese sandwich for your labors.”

            Jamie laughed.  “I can’t believe it: it isn’t long since dinner, but I’m famished.  I’ll take that sandwich right now.”

            Adam, who had taken the package as soon as they’d started to climb, opened it and passed sandwiches to Jamie and Josiah before taking one himself.

            Josiah took a bite, closed his eyes and sighed with contentment.  “Ah, food for the gods.”

            Adam shook his head in amusement.  “Wherever you’ve been eating lately must be a poor excuse for an eatery if a simple cheese sandwich produces such lavish praise.”

            “Must be the fresh air,” Josiah chuckled.

            “Or the exercise,” Adam suggested with a grin.

            “More than I’ve taken in a while,” Josiah admitted.  He glanced at his son’s wind-reddened cheeks and, tilting his head in Jamie’s direction, smiled meaningfully at Adam.  “Thank you,” he said quietly.

            So as not to embarrass his friend, Adam merely responded with a discreet nod.

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam looked up from his reading as Jamie entered their room at Mrs. Wiggins’.  “Did you have to beg them at length to receive our much-too-humble offerings?” he asked, with a teasing twitch of his mouth.  After their jaunt to East Rock, Josiah and Jamie had offered to deliver their contributions to the Sanitary Commission, which was receiving items at a store on Church Street.

            “Of course not,” Jamie chuckled.  “If you’re referring to how long I’ve been gone, Father and I went back to his room and talked for a bit.  Between work and school, we won’t much opportunity hereafter.”

            “That’s true,” Adam said, “and I’ll miss seeing him . . . almost as much as you will.”

            Jamie nodded.  “He’ll meet us on the Green tomorrow morning and walk to chapel with us.  I suppose Sundays will be our only chance to see much of him.”  He removed his outer coat and hung it in the wardrobe.  “Did you get your letter to your friend—Ross, is it?—written and posted?”

            Adam flapped the sheets in his hand.  “I did, and though virtue is supposed to be its own reward, I found one more tangible waiting for me.”

            “A letter from home?” Jamie guessed, his face beaming with pleasure for his friend.

            “Letters,” Adam said, his voice lilting with cheer.  “One each from Pa, Hoss and Little Joe.”

            “Little Joe?” Jamie asked, surprised.  “You’ve told me he was bright, but I didn’t think he was capable of writing a letter yet.”

            “See for yourself,” Adam suggested, handing over a sheet of paper.

            Jamie laughed aloud when he saw what Little Joe’s “letter” consisted of.  Across the top of the page spread the alphabet in rather tipsy letters, while the remainder of the page was filled with a drawing.  “Do you have any idea what it’s supposed to be?” he asked.

            “Nary a one,” Adam chuckled.  “I doubt that even God could recognize that as one of His creations.”

            Jamie cocked his head and gazed appraisingly at the creature.  “Maybe it’s not,” he suggested.  “Maybe it’s something out of a fairy tale the child has heard.”

            Adam shrugged.  “Maybe, though I’m not sure who has time or inclination to read him fairy tales these days.”  With me gone, he added silently to his own guilty heart.  Then he continued, “Hoss’s letter was interesting, and you’re welcome to read it—all about some loon named Sam Clemens trying to set fire to the Ponderosa.”

            “Oh, Adam!” Jamie cried in instant alarm.

            “No, everything’s all right,” Adam assured him.  “Pa mentioned the incident, too, and the fire wasn’t really on the Ponderosa itself, just near enough to be a threat if our men hadn’t stopped it when they did.”

            Relief evident in his face, Jamie perched on his bed.  “Oh, I’m so glad.  Any more news you care to share?”

            “Pa wrote all the news from home,” Adam said with satisfaction.  “Most of it’s about people you wouldn’t know, but you’ve heard me mention Billy Thomas, I suppose?”

            “Yes, of course.  Your best friend.”

            “Along with you and Ross,” Adam amended.  “Anyway, Billy won’t be riding for the Pony Express much longer, because the telegraph is almost linked together, but Pa isn’t sure what he’ll be doing next.  He said he hoped that Billy would come to work on the Ponderosa, but he hasn’t had a chance to talk with him yet.  I know Billy would prefer working outdoors to helping Uncle Clyde in the smithy, but ranch work may seem mighty tame after riding for the Pony.  Maybe the next letter will tell me what he’s decided.  Knowing Billy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he came up with something totally unexpected!”

            Jamie grinned.  “From what you’ve told me about him, I’m sure of that.”

            Adam lifted a small sheet of paper and waved it back and forth.  “And this, my dear friend, is the most exciting item that arrived today.”

            “Indeed?  It looks like—can it possibly be—a letter of credit?” Jamie asked with rising expectancy.

            “A most astute deduction,” Adam replied enthusiastically.  “Pa sent a draft for $50, in case expenses here had been greater than we estimated.”

            “Wonderful!” Jamie cried.  “And on what shall you spend these sudden riches?”

            Adam stroked his chin in apparent thought, although he knew exactly what to do with the money.  “First, we’ll have to leave early for tonight’s Sigma Ep meeting, so that we have time to find Candy Sam and purchase that divinity we promised ourselves.”

            “Of course,” Jamie agreed readily.  “One piece each and one for Father.”

            “We’re rich now,” Adam stated with the most profligate air he could adopt.  “We’ll have two apiece, and on Monday I will buy my own copy of each textbook.  Next, I think we must treat ourselves to a subscription to the Lit.”

            “I hope you’ll let me read yours,” Jamie hinted.

            “Ours,” Adam corrected.  “You, being the more literary half of the partnership, will have the right and the responsibility to keep the collection.  If I want a copy for myself of some particular issue—anything with an article authored by you, for instance—we’ll pool our funds to buy an extra.”

            “You are more than generous,” Jamie said, “but I insist that you let me repay you for half the subscription cost . . . when I can.”

            Adam extended his hand, which Jamie clasped.  “Agreed—and the rest I’ll bank against future need.”

            “Hasn’t God been good to us this week?” Jamie stated with shining eyes.

            “With Pa and the New Haven Arms Company as His agents,” Adam replied with a smile.

           

* * * * *

 

            At the close of the midday recitation on Wednesday, a representative from the Yale Literary Magazine appeared to outline for the new freshmen the benefits of a subscription.  Adam and Jamie, having already made their decision, promptly entered their subscription in Jamie’s name, and Adam took the opportunity to express his thanks for the copies of the magazine which had been promised to the Sanitary Commission.

            “Ah, you’re the young man who made that beneficent suggestion, then,” the representative said, smiling pleasantly as he shook Adam’s hand.  “Excellent idea, my boy, simply hunky.  No better way for our soldiers to occupy their leisure than with a copy of the Lit., eh?”

            “We thought so,” Adam returned.  “Would you like us to deliver your contribution to the Commission, sir?”

            The young man shook his head.  “Not necessary.  We’ll have to wait until sales close, of course, but I would expect we’ll be able to donate about thirty copies to the cause.”

            “Wonderful,” Jamie chimed in.  “Amazing, isn’t it, Adam?” he asked as they were walking toward the Vultures’ dining hall together with Lucas and Marc.  “We thought we had nothing whatever to share, but we’ve ended up inspiring quite a large contribution.”

            “I thought it was the job of preachers to inspire,” Lucas teased, tweaking Jamie’s hat over his nose, and then had the prudence to take off running.

            “You scoundrel!” Adam yelled, giving chase to defend Jamie’s honor and, by extension, his own.  “I’ll teach you to mock our powers of inspiration!”

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

The articles mentioned by Adam were published in the October, 1861, issue of The Yale Literary Magazine.  It is available online through Google Books.

 

A meeting of the Sanitary Commission took place in New Haven on October 10, 1861.  The Commission, a civilian organization, actively contributed to the needs and comfort of the Union soldiers through donations of food, clothing, reading material and funds raised through fairs.

 

The fire that Samuel Clemens foolishly set near the Ponderosa is described in his book, Roughing It.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Beethoven and Boating

 

 

The wind had been so brisk on Saturday that Adam and Jamie had elected to forego outdoor exercise and spend the afternoon digging into Euclid.  When a rap came at the door, Jamie’s head jerked up and his hazel eyes clouded with concern.

            Adam, who had been leaning over Jamie’s chair to explain a difficult proposition, squeezed his friend’s shoulder as he straightened up.  “Relax,” he chuckled.  “Too light a tap for sophomores.”  He crossed the room and opened the door.  “Oh, Mrs. Wiggins,” he said with a smile.  “Not making too much noise with our studies, I hope.”

            “Now, you know you’re not,” the amiable woman chided.  “You two are both quiet and considerate tenants.  I just came up to tell you, Mr. Cartwright, that there’s two packages come for you, too much for me to fetch up for you.”

            “I wouldn’t dream of your carrying anything for me,” Adam said.  “I’ll come down for it right now.”

            “It might take the two of you,” she warned him.  “One looked heavy, from the way the express men handled it.”

            Jamie stood at once and followed Adam down the stairs.  “Mercy, what can it be?” he asked, mouth gaping at the size of one of the crates.

            “My things from home, of course,” Adam replied.  “Pa wrote that he was sending them.”

            Jamie lifted the smaller crate.  “Oof,” he grunted.

            “That’s the heavy one,” Mrs. Wiggins belatedly informed them.

            “I’ll take that one,” Adam said.

            “I can manage,” Jamie insisted.  “I’m not the weakling you so often make me out, Adam.”

            “Set it down, Jamie,” Adam ordered sharply.

            “Oh, all right,” Jamie muttered, doing as he was told, “if you’re afraid I’ll damage your precious goods.”

            “I’m afraid you’ll damage my precious friend,” Adam said bluntly.  “The larger crate is actually much lighter.  If it’s not too bulky for you to manage alone, take that.  If it is, we’ll carry it up together after I tote this one up.”

            Jamie tested the long crate and declared it light as a feather.

            Adam grinned.  “Just don’t trip over your own two feet.  That one, my boy, is rather fragile—and personally valuable, I might add.”

            “Now he tells me,” Jamie said with a shake of his head toward Mrs. Wiggins.

            The good woman clucked her tongue.  “That’s the closest thing to a quarrel I’ve heard between the two of you, and I’ll have no more of it.”

            “Yes, ma’am; we’ll be peaceable at your command.”  Adam winked at his friend as he hefted the heavier crate and started for the stairs.

            Jamie took a good grip on the long, rectangular crate and mounted cautiously after Adam.

            “Let’s see what’s in them,” Jamie said as soon as he gently set his load down in the middle of the floor of their room.

            Adam laughed.  “I know what’s in them; I laid out everything that I wanted sent if I passed the entrance exam.”

            Jamie pounded a fist into his friend’s shoulder.  “Well, I don’t!  And I’ve earned the satisfaction of my curiosity, sir.”

            “That you have,” Adam chuckled as he pried the lid off the long crate.

            Jamie leaned over eagerly, but at first all he could see was a mass of sawdust and wood shavings.  “To remind you of home?” he asked wryly.

            “I’m not that homesick for the fragrance of pine,” Adam snorted.  “That’s just packing material.”

            “I guessed as much,” Jamie snickered.  “You did say it was fragile.”

            Adam brushed the material aside to reveal an oblong, muslin-encased article.  “Hop Sing must have fashioned this,” he said, loosening the drawstring.  “Good thinking.  I’d hate to see what sawdust would do to the instrument.”  He drew out a guitar and showed it to Jamie.  “Music to soothe the geometry-ravaged soul . . . if Mrs. Wiggins doesn’t object.”

            “Oh, wonderful!” Jamie said enthusiastically.  “I can’t wait to hear you play, Adam.”

            “Not tonight,” Adam said firmly.  “Supper is upon us and then the Sigma Ep meeting.”

            “Tomorrow then,” Jamie insisted, “after chapel.  That’s as long as my geometry-ravaged soul can wait.  What’s in the other crate?”

            “Books,” Adam said.  “Some of my favorites.  Those I really have been homesick for!”

            “Ah, true riches,” his friend sighed.

            “Wealth I’ll gladly share,” Adam offered as he began to unpack the second crate.

 

* * * * *

 

            The October air was cool, but still, as Jamie practically pulled a reluctant Adam down the street.

            “I’m not so sure this is a good idea,” Adam protested weakly, for he’d tried that tack before with no success.

            “Of course it is,” Jamie insisted as they rounded the corner onto Chapel Street.  “How else will Father hear you play without disturbing the Sabbath quiet at Mrs. Wiggins?”

            “How about the Sabbath quiet of those folks?”  Adam asked, pointing to the three churches on the Green.

            Jamie laughed.  “All gone by now.  That was your weakest argument yet, Adam, and if that’s the best you can do, I fear for your success in the Sigma Ep debate, when it comes your turn.  There he is!”  He loosened his grip on Adam’s arm to wave at his father, who was waiting for them beneath an elm in process of shedding its autumn splendor.

            Josiah waved back at them.  “Well, Adam,” he said when the boys came up to greet him, “I’m looking forward to this.”

            Catching sight of men and women strolling across the Green, arm in arm, Adam flushed.  “I wasn’t intending to give a public concert, sir.  Perhaps another time would be better.”

            Josiah laughed.  “Now, Adam, there’s nothing like a sweet song as backdrop for a lover’s stroll.”  He laughed louder as the young man’s face reddened still more.

            Resigning himself to the embarrassment, Adam sat beneath the elm and began to softly strum the guitar.  “What would you like to hear?” he asked.

            Josiah and Jamie settled on the ground before him.  “Why not start with a hymn?” Josiah suggested.

            Adam smiled and relaxed a bit.  Surely no one passing by could object to that.  His fingers sought the opening chord and he began to sing:

 

            I sing the mighty power of God

            That made the mountains rise,

            That spread the flowing seas abroad

            And built the lofty skies.

            I sing the wisdom that ordained

            The sun to rule the day;

            The moon shines full at His command,

            And all the stars obey.

 

            “Why, Adam, what a fine voice you have,” Josiah enthused when Adam had sung three verses.  “Marvelous tone and texture.”

            “Thank you,” Adam said, “but I’d feel more comfortable if you’d both sing along with me.”

            “Gladly,” Jamie replied, “though I haven’t your gift.”

            “It will be a privilege,” Josiah added.

            Time slipped by unnoticed, as the three men sang song after song, first hymns and then soft ballads.  Unnoticed, too, was the gathering audience that gradually drifted over to encircle the singers.  Only when the listeners broke into applause did Adam, intent on the music, look up to find himself the center of attention.

            “Bravo!” called a familiar voice.

            Turning in direction of the sound, Adam recognized several of the Vultures in the crowd.  “You told!” he castigated Jamie.

            “I only told Marc,” Jamie protested.

            “And I only told Lucas,” Marcus insisted.

            Lucas stepped forward with an impish grin.  “And I only told everyone!”  He laughed at Adam’s obvious embarrassment.

            “Let’s have another song, young fellow,” a total stranger suggested.

            Josiah chuckled.  “I think we’d best oblige them, son.”

            Not seeing any polite alternative, Adam began to strum the guitar, and the impromptu concert continued.  After a few more songs he pleaded the imminent start of the second service at the chapel.  As he stood and prepared to leave the Green, Robert Raines came up to him, shook his hand and complimented his musical skill.  “I’ll hope to hear more from you soon,” he said.

            Adam laughed.  “I don’t think I’ll be entertaining on the Green again anytime soon.”

            Raines tipped his silk hat and with an enigmatic smile said, “We’ll see.”

 

* * * * *

 

            When the mathematics tutor dismissed the midday recitation on Wednesday, he requested, “Mr. Cartwright, please see me after class.”

            “Uh-oh,” Lucas intoned, wagging his finger under the nose of the man seated next to him.  “What malfeasance have you committed, my boy?”

            “Malfeasance is your department,” Adam quipped, but he felt some apprehension as he approached the tutor’s lectern.  He couldn’t imagine why the instructor wanted to see him.  His recitation in Euclid, as always, had been flawless, and since Lucas hadn’t been passing notes today, his deportment had been exemplary, too.  “You wanted to see me, Mr. Nolen?” he inquired.

            Sensing the young man’s nervousness, the tutor smiled.  “Only to hand you this message from a fellow instructor, Mr. Cartwright.  Please read it at your earliest convenience.”

            “Yes, sir, of course.”  Adam waited until he was in the hall before breaking the wax seal on the envelope.  His brow furrowed as he read the message, and the frown lines were still prominent as he came down the steps and met his friends at the Elm of Assembly.

            “Trouble, Adam?” Jamie asked with concern.

            “He looks it,” Lucas opined, “though I don’t see how it could be.  He doesn’t approach your sainthood, of course, Preacher Boy, but—”

            “Oh, hush,” Jamie remonstrated.  “What is it, Adam?”

            Adam shrugged.  “I honestly don’t know.  It’s a request to meet with a Mr. Stoeckel at his home this afternoon between the hours of two and four.”

            “Oh, bother!” Lucas exclaimed.  “You’ll miss the regatta.”

            “I suppose,” Adam muttered.  The last thing on his mind right now was some boat race, although he had been looking forward to it.

            “That’s all it says, just to come to his home?” Jamie asked.

            Adam nodded as he handed over the note.  “Except for the address.  I don’t even recognize the name.”

            “Oh, Adam,” Marcus chided.  “How can you not know?”

            “I haven’t met all the professors here,” Adam reminded him.

            Marcus laughed.  “You’ve seen this one every morning.  He leads the music at chapel.”

            “Is that his name?” Adam asked, shaking his head at his own dimwittedness.  “I’ve had so many to absorb that I’d forgotten his.  I can’t imagine what he wants with me, though.”

            Lucas sported a knowing grin.  “Can’t you?”

            “No, I can’t,” Adam spouted irritably, “and if you know, I’d advise you to cough up the information, sir.”

            Lucas waved his hands before his face in protest.  “No, no, I don’t know, but I can guess.”  He paused to give his words greater impact and announced, “He’s obviously heard of your musical prowess.”

            “From whom?” Adam demanded, coming nose-to-nose with his friend.

            Lucas took a step back.  “Well, not from me.  I’m only guessing again, mind you, but Robert Raines is in the chapel choir.  He might be the culprit.”

            Remembering the senior’s cunning expression when he’d said, “We’ll see” on the Green the previous Sunday, Adam knew instantly that Lucas had guessed correctly.  “Let’s get over to the dining hall and ask that meddling Vulture what he’s gotten me into,” he suggested.

            “My stomach heartily seconds that motion,” Lucas declared and led the way down College Street.

            Unfortunately, Adam was not able to satisfy his curiosity at dinner, for Robert Raines was absent on some personal business.  “Perhaps he’s recommended you for the Beethoven Society,” Milton Bradford suggested.  It was the Beethoven Society that provided the music for chapel services.

            “But I’m a freshman,” Adam argued.  “They won’t even let me sing on the fence!”

            “Precisely,” Edgar Warington said dryly.

            “Now, it isn’t unheard of,” Bradford chided, “just . . . rare.”

            “More likely, Stoeckel has heard you have a measure of talent and hopes to supplement his income with private lessons,” Warington scoffed.  “He does give them.”

            It would have irreparably damaged Adam’s reputation with his own class to agree with a scurrilous sophomore, but he secretly thought that Warington had probably hit the nail on the head.  If that were Stoeckel’s aim, he was destined for disappointment, for Adam had no extra funds for private music lessons, much as he would have enjoyed them.

 

* * * * *

 

            After changing into a fresh shirt and crisp cravat, Adam made his way to York Street, one block north of the college yard, and rapped on the door of number 137 at about 2:30 that afternoon.  A woman with flaxen braids encircling her head like a coronet answered the door and, smiling, invited Adam in when he stated that he was here at Professor Stoeckel’s request.  “My husband is in his study,” she said.  She led the way to a room at the back of the house.  “Gustave, a student has come.”

            Gustave Stoeckel bounced up from his seat.  “Ah!  Mr. Cartwright, yes?” he asked, his German accent even thicker than his wife’s.  “Come in; come in!”  He came around the desk to usher Adam in.

            Feeling awkward, Adam stood, turning his hat in his hand.  “You asked to see me, Professor Stoeckel?”

            Bright eyes twinkled at him.  “I’m not a professor yet,” he said.  “Maybe someday, if God wills, someone will endow a chair for music here at Yale.  Until that happy day, you call me just Herr Stoeckel or, in the American way, Mister.”

            “Yes, sir,” Adam said, flushing at his mistake.  “Why did you want to see me, Herr Stoeckel?”

            “You come straight to the point,” Stoeckel said.  “I like that!  I was told that you have a fine singing voice.”

            Adam cast his eyes downward.  “That’s not for me to judge, sir.”

            Stoeckel laughed.  “No, you are right; that is for me to judge.  Will you sing for me, Mr. Cartwright?  Anything you like.”

            Adam raised his head.  He supposed he should tell the music instructor right away that he had no money for private lessons, but he wanted to hear the man’s opinion of his singing.  If the instructor thought his talent merited development, perhaps he could afford them down the road.  He particularly liked the references to nature in the song he had sung on Sunday, so he again began “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”

            Stoeckel stood before him, eyes closed, obviously attentive to the notes.  “Good,” he said when Adam finished.  “Good.  You have some gift for music.”

            “Thank you, sir,” Adam said with relief and satisfaction.

            “Do you read music?”

            Adam shrugged one shoulder.  “I know musical notation and can pick out notes on my guitar,” he said, “but I haven’t learned sight singing.”

            “It can be learned,” Stoeckel said warmly.  “You do well with your other studies?”

            “Yes,” Adam assured him.  He took a breath and said with hurried regret, “I don’t want to waste your time, Herr Stoeckel.  Much as I’d enjoy taking lessons from you, I don’t have sufficient funds for private lessons at this time.”

            Stoeckel threw back his large head, his goatee pointing toward the ceiling, and guffawed loudly.  “That is why you think I asked you here, to offer you lessons for a fee?”

            “Well, yes,” Adam admitted.  “I couldn’t imagine any other reason.”

            Stoeckel clapped a supportive hand to the young man’s shoulder.  “You have seen the choir in chapel?”

            “Yes, of course, every morning,” Adam said with a smile.  “The music is inspiring . . . like nothing I’ve heard before, sir.”

            “Good, good,” Stoeckel said again, clearly pleased.  “Would you like to make such music, then—to join the choir, I mean?”

            Adam’s head reeled at the thought.  “But I’m a freshman, Herr Stoeckel,” he said hesitantly.  “Were you not told?”

            “Yes, yes, I know that,” Stoeckel said.  “There is no restriction against freshmen in the Beethoven Society.  Would you like to join?”

            Adam felt his heart streak toward the ceiling.  To make such music!  Of course, he wanted that!  “Yes, sir, I’d like that very much.”

            “Good,” Stoeckel said.  “You will have to pass an examination, but if you do, we will happily welcome you to the Beethoven Society.”

            “When can I take it?” Adam asked, hoping he didn’t sound too eager.

            Stoeckel laughed again.  “You’ve already started.  Let us continue.”  He took a sheet of music from his desk and handed it to Adam.    He asked a number of questions about note values, key signatures, meter and other technicalities of the score and then directed, “Now, sing it, please.”

            Adam stared at the printed notes.  He’d already told the choir master that he didn’t sight read, so how was he supposed to sing this correctly?

            Stoeckel smiled at the bewildered face before him.  “Follow the melodic line as best you can,” he suggested.  “You won’t recognize the tune, as it is of my own composing.”  He intoned the opening pitch and motioned for Adam to continue.

            Voice shaking, Adam followed the notes up and down the staff and hoped he hadn’t strayed too far from the melody.

            Stoeckel nodded thoughtfully.  “Some errors, but you have potential, if you are willing to work.”

            “I’m willing to work!” Adam declared with enthusiasm.

            “Good.  Can you sing harmony?”

            “I never have,” Adam admitted.  “Mostly, I sing by myself, sir, for my own pleasure—occasionally with my father or with friends, but we all tend to sing the melody.”

            “Come with me,” Stoeckel ordered and breezed past Adam.  He led the way into the parlor, where a small organ sat centered on one wall.  He played a line from “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”  Then with one finger he played a harmony part.  “Sing that,” he said.

            Adam repeated the line, as the instructor sang with him.

            “And now alone,” Stoeckel said.  When Adam did, the teacher said, “Once more.”  When Adam successfully completely the line by himself, Stoeckel said, “Now, you sing that part as I sing the melody above it.”

            Adam took a deep breath and repeated the part he had just learned, smiling broadly when they finished.  The notes had blended into as beautiful a duet as he could imagine.

            “You have a good ear,” Stoeckel said.  “I think I will start you at first bass.  That is a good range for you.  Rehearsals are every Wednesday at five.  You have no other commitments?”

            “No, sir.”  Since the third recitation was always suspended on Wednesdays, he had that hour free.

            “I will see you in the chapel at five, then,” Herr Stoeckel said.  He stroked his short beard.  “After today, if you come half an hour earlier, I will give you some basic instruction—no charge,” he said with a smile.  “A few weeks of extra work will improve your sight-reading skill.”

            “Herr Stoeckel, I would be very grateful,” Adam said eagerly.  “I will see you this afternoon at the chapel.”  He managed to hold his enthusiasm for about a block; then he began to run down York Street, too full of the wondrous news for the restrained response of walking home.  He had to tell Jamie as soon as possible or he’d burst!  As he rounded the corner onto George Street, he laughed aloud.  What was he thinking?  Jamie wasn’t in their shared room; he’d gone down to the harbor with Lucas and Marcus to see the regatta.  So much the better! Adam thought as he raced down the street, wind rushing about his ears.  He would tell them all.  He’d tell the world!  Especially that snooty Warington, who thought no freshman could possibly meet the stringent standards for the choir.  His schedule had seemed full already, but now he felt such a surge of energy that he was ready to take on extra studies, society meetings, baseball, boating, music—just everything!  Oh, life at Yale was all that he’d dreamed—and more!

            Adam came to an abrupt halt as he saw Jamie, holding tightly to his bowler in the brisk wind, making his way up the street.  “Did I miss it all,” he asked, “or did the cold air become too much for you?”  He turned to walk beside his friend.

            “You missed all there was,” Jamie chuckled, “but that wasn’t much.  Everything was cancelled, due to rough water, except the barge race.  The Nixie won; the other two fouled out within a hundred feet of finishing.”

            “That’s a shame,” Adam said.

            “The shells will try again on Saturday,” Jamie told him, “a good thing, since you had to miss today.”  He looked up into his friend’s wind-reddened face.  “What I really want to hear about, of course, is how your interview with Mr. Stoeckel went.”

            Adam’s grin spread ear to ear.  “You’re looking at the latest addition to the Beethoven Society, my friend.”

            “I knew it!”  Jamie stopped to pump his friend’s hand in the middle of the street.  “I knew that nonsense about his looking for a new pupil was . . . well, nonsense.”

            “Typical sophomore sophistry,” Adam alleged with an arch of his eyebrow.

            “Indubitably!” Jamie declared.  “I can’t wait to see Warington’s face when you tell the Vultures tonight.”

            Adam laughed.  “And I can’t wait to get my hands on Robert Raines . . . and thank him heartily.”

 

* * * * *

 

            The weather on Saturday was practically balmy, especially for a day in late October.  The sky above was clear, but for a few fluffy cumulus clouds, and the wind moderate—a perfect day for boating.  The shore in front of the judges’ pavilion was crowded with students and townspeople, among them the quartet of freshmen who so often spent time together.  “Good tide,” Lucas commented, gazing out over the waters of New Haven Harbor.

            “Ideal,” Adam agreed.

            “Done much boating out there in dry Nevada, have you?” Lucas snickered.

            Adam smiled condescendingly.  “You’re forgetting Lake Tahoe.”

            Lucas laughed at himself this time.  “I guess I was!  Ever sailed her?”

            “Mostly rowed,” Adam said.  “Only a two-man rig, home-built.  Nothing like we’ll see today.”  Maybe salt water flowed in his veins, passed down to him from his father and from Grandfather Stoddard, Adam mused, for he could feel excitement rising at the expectation of seeing some finely crafted vessels in the races this morning.

            He wasn’t disappointed as the sleek shells of Spanish cedar and larger barges passed in grand review before the shells took their positions for the race.  Two of Yale’s three boating clubs were racing this afternoon.  The Glyuna drew the inside position, with the Nixie next to her.

            Varuna won’t be racing,” Lucas commented sagely.  “They’re down a man.”

            “A decided disadvantage,” Adam agreed.  He leaned forward when the starting gun was fired and watched with open-faced admiration the rhythmic coordination of the men pulling the oars.  The Nixie and Glyuna were almost side by side for the first half mile, but then Nixie began to pull away.  It was at least a length ahead by the time it turned around the buoy and headed toward the finishing point, and it continued to put more distance between it and Glyuna’s shell until the crew gave a whoop of victory as they finished the 2.9-mile course in just over nineteen minutes.  The Glyuna, one of whose crew had sprained an arm during the race, came in more than a minute later.

            “Oh, that was beautiful,” Adam said with a sigh of contentment.

            “You look as though you’d like to be out there,” Jamie teased.

            “I would,” Adam admitted.  “It would be marvelous exercise and a pure pleasure to skim over the water like that.”

            “I’d better not hear of your going out for the Navy when you wouldn’t make time for baseball,” Lucas grunted.

            “Don’t worry,” Adam chuckled.  “I don’t have time for either.”  Or money, he might have added.

            “Especially not now with your extra duties in the choir,” Marcus said with pride, something they all felt in the accomplishment of their friend.

            “Especially not now,” Adam agreed.  Until he settled in with the choir and caught up on all the new music being thrown at him, it was the unvarnished truth.

            Varuna did participate in and, in fact, won the drill that followed the shell race.  Orders were signaled by color from the Commodore’s boat, which had to be interpreted by the coxswain of each boat and carried out by the crew.  “That’s something you could do,” Adam said to Jamie.  “They seem to want lightweight fellows at that position, and learning the signals would come to you as easily as any other language.”

            “Perhaps someday,” Jamie said with a significant smile, knowing Adam would understand without further explanation.

            Adam nodded discreetly.  Money.  Would there ever be a time they didn’t have to worry about that?  It was a shame in this instance, too, for regular doses of fresh air and sunshine would undoubtedly benefit his slightly built friend.

 

~ ~ Notes ~ ~

 

The lyrics to “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” were written in 1714 by Isaac Watts, the music by G. F. Root in 1856, so it would have been a relatively new song at the time Adam sang it.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Thanksgiving Jubilee

 

 

            Though it was early afternoon, barely past the dinner hour, both Adam and Jamie were bundled into their mutual bed for the sake of warmth.  To conserve on coal, they didn’t bother keeping a fire going during the day, even on Sunday, when they actually spent more time in their room than they did during the week.  Neither of them had any desire for outdoor exercise on this raw, windy November day; they were content to keep their stocking-clad toes beneath the covers while perusing the day’s edition of the New York Times.

            They took turns, one reading an article of interest, while the other snuggled down under the thick quilt; then the reader would hand the paper over to the listener and pull the quilt up under his own chin for a while.  When Jamie’s turn came, he read about the closing of the Pony Express.

            “Seems a shame,” Adam observed from his pillow.  “It was a splendid sight, those boys galloping into Carson with the mail.”

            “Boys?” Jamie laughed.  “Your friend—Billy, isn’t it?—he’s older than you, as I recall.”

            “One year, almost to the day,” Adam admitted with a chuckle, “but he’s always seemed like such a kid at heart that I tend to forget he’s older.”

            “That’s the trouble with you younger brothers,” Jamie teased.  “Always forgetting your place.”

            “I have lived to rue the day I let you take on the role of older brother.”  Adam rose up on his elbows and reached for the paper.  Instead of reading a new article, however, he kept staring at the one about the end of the Pony Express.  “I knew it was coming, of course, the signs were obvious all the way here, and I know Billy will be fine, but I can’t help wondering what he’ll do now,” he mused.  “I should write him and ask . . . though I’m more likely to hear the answer from Pa than Billy.  He’s a terrible hand to write.”

            “Maybe he’d like to join us here,” Jamie suggested, rolling to face Adam with one folded arm beneath his head.

            Adam collapsed with laughter.  “That’d be the last thing he’d do.  Billy Thomas is about the furthest thing from a scholar you’ll ever meet!”

            “I understand,” Jamie said.  “College isn’t for everyone, but I would have enjoyed meeting your friend.  He’s always sounded like such an entertaining person, like those little brothers of yours.  I truly wish I could meet them some time.”

            Adam laughed so hard he had to hold his belly.  “Don’t expect them here!  Little Joe hasn’t even started grammar school, and Hoss’s Latin is definitely below Yale standards!”

            Jamie pulled the pillow from beneath his head and hammered Adam with it.

            A few feathers flew loose as Adam smacked his friend back.  “Seriously, if you want to meet my little brothers and Billy,” he said as they both snuggled under the covers again, “you should come to the Ponderosa for a visit after we graduate.  It would make a fine holiday for you, and I’ll relish showing the place off.”

            “I’d love to see it,” Jamie said, “and Hoss and Little Joe and your father.  Perhaps my father would be free to come then, too.”  He didn’t express his doubts that either he or his father would manage to come out of the next four years with enough extra income for a trip across the country.  He didn’t have to; Adam knew his circumstances better than anyone, but it didn’t hurt to dream.

            “You’d both be welcome,” Adam said, knowing as well as Jamie that they were dreaming of things that might never be.  So much could happen in a span of four years, especially in a nation at war.  He yawned.  “Do we have time for a brief nap before second chapel?”

            “Not really,” Jamie said with a sigh, “though I’d relish one, too.  This sort of weather always makes me drowsy.”  Hearing a branch scrape against the window, he looked out at the gray and gloomy sky.  “It would almost be worth the demerits to skip chapel, just this once.”

            “I am appalled,” Adam declared, glowering with mock horror, for he knew that dutiful Jamie would somehow manage to drag himself out into the cold, even without the added incentive of meeting his father, and that he himself would feel obliged to follow his roommate’s good example.

            After chapel and a cup of coffee in a nearby café with Jamie’s father, the two boys returned to their room.  While Jamie indulged in the longed for nap, Adam wrapped himself in an extra quilt and sat at his desk, penning a letter to Billy.  He shared Jamie’s suggestion about coming to Yale, knowing that his friend back home could take a joke better than anyone he knew.  “Seriously, though,” he wrote, “do write and tell me what your plans are.  It would be so good to hear from you . . . and I promise not to grade your spelling like Miss Eliza used to do.”

            He signed and sealed the letter and then crawled under the covers to snatch a few minutes cozy rest before time to head out into the cold again for supper.  He owed a letter to Ross, too, but his hands were growing so stiff in the chilly room that it would have to wait.  Adam dreamily recalled memories of snatched moments between chores, when he and Ross had shared a bit of poetry or some new lesson from one of his textbooks.  Though Ross really would have relished the opportunity for a little extra learning, he was no more prepared for Yale than Billy.  Too many deficiencies to ever catch up, which seemed a shame, given Ross’s genuine thirst for learning and for bettering himself.  In his letters Adam shared whatever he thought Ross would appreciate of his college experiences, and he promised himself that he’d try to do so more often.  Amid all his varied activities—and they seemed to expand almost daily—it was hard to find time to write to everyone he wanted to keep in touch with.  Hoss was due another letter soon—or was it Little Joe’s turn?  Woe betide him if he got them out of order!  Still trying to figure that one out, he drifted to sleep.

 

* * * * *

 

            The weather remained miserable throughout the next week.  Adam and Jamie invested in a used umbrella, fortunately large enough to cover both of them as they hurried from chapel to recitation rooms to dining hall and back to their lodgings in George Street.  Gone were pleasant afternoon walks through the cemetery or to scenic heights outside town.  Adam did still make an occasional excursion to the gymnasium, but working up a sweat and coming out into the bracing wind was quickly losing its appeal.  They studied in the library between classes because it was warmer than their room, but were nonetheless forced to use more of their precious supply of coal than frugality dictated.  It would be false frugality, Adam pointed out, if they ended up spending their meager savings for doctor visits and medicine, instead of fuel to ward off colds in the first place.

            When Adam had studied his lessons to perfection, he would wander around the library, noting the numerous curiosities collected there; for the building was, in fact, a museum of ancient manuscripts, coins, art and archeological finds.  Among the manuscripts was a petition to the Emperor of China, four feet long, covered in crimson silk and inscribed in gold characters.  Wouldn’t Hop Sing be proud of his heritage, if he saw something like this!  Not that he wasn’t already proud, Adam admitted with a grin; but he made a note to describe this in his next letter to Hoss.  Not only would his brother enjoy reading about something special to Hop Sing, but he could be trusted to pass it on to the cook.  Hoss would like the coin collection, too, especially if he could have actually seen and handled them.  It might even have heightened his interest in geography and history, for some were from colonial America, others from England, Napoleon’s France, Germany, Japan and China.  Some of those were over two thousands years old, another source of interest and pride to send on to Hop Sing.  Adam himself found the coins from the Roman Empire and Greece fascinating because of his current studies in their classic languages.

            He wished that Hoss could be with him to see the archeological finds, as well, although the boy probably wouldn’t have understood their significance any more than did Lucas, who accompanied him on the day he toured those.  In the midst of fascinating objects like a facsimile of the Rosetta Stone, all that caught Luke’s capricious eye were the anklets and bracelets of Egyptian dancing girls!

            Adam could have studied, hour upon hour, the architectural engravings of columns from Rome and of St. Giles church in Wales, of historical interest to the college because Elihu Yale was interred in its churchyard.  There was a view of Yale College itself as it had been in the previous century, along with a manuscript of its history and course of study in 1786.  It included a list of stringent rules for students that he was glad they didn’t have to follow in these more modern times.  “Imagine not being allowed to speak English at all, even in our own rooms,” he later told Jamie.

            “Ah, but think how proficient we’d become in Latin,” his friend pointed out with a smile, to which Adam responded with an audible and visible shiver not at all influenced by the chill in the room.

            No one could work up any enthusiasm for sloshing through the mud to a Brothers in Unity meeting that week.  Extra cups of steaming hot coffee became their new luxury expense, and diligent study of lessons their chief amusement, with an occasional flourish of reading the newspaper.  They did, of course, make their way through the wet streets for the Sigma Ep meeting on Saturday.  That was required, and they would have braved the weather even if it weren’t, because listening to the orations and debates of their classmates was always either entertaining or enlightening–when they were lucky, both.

            Monday was another miserable day, but Adam’s face was as bright as sunshine when his stop by the post office was rewarded with a letter from home.  He and Jamie raced back to their room, where they poked up the fire and wrapped up in quilts.

            “Keep any part to yourself that you please,” Jamie reminded his friend, although he was almost as eager to hear the news from the Ponderosa as Adam.

            “There might be something,” Adam said, assuming his father would have responded to the sober reflections he had written in his last letter home, “but I’ll share everything I can.”  He quickly scanned the contents of the letter and noted that there were some sober words toward the end.  He’d wait to read them privately.  “Well, here’s some information we need to give your father,” he said.  “Pa says they have a post office in Washoe City now, and that’s closer for them, so he asks that all letters be sent there from now on.”

            “Oh, yes, Father will certainly want that change of address.”  As Adam read it to him, Jamie wrote it down and laid it aside to give to his father the next time he saw him, probably the following Sunday at chapel.  “Any news of those little brothers?” he asked.

            “Pa says Hoss really enjoyed his letter from me and that Little Joe is looking forward to his and, especially, the rock collection I promised.”  He shook his head.  “Rot!  Little Joe’s letter was delayed.  I knew I was in trouble when the Rebs took over St. Joseph.”

            “Only briefly,” Jamie reminded him.  “I’m sure Little Joe has his letter and those rocks by now.”

            “They’ll be setting me out as bait for wolves if he hasn’t,” Adam moaned.  He shook off the concern and read all the news, including the impending birth of Enos and Katerina’s first child.  “Here’s the sort of story you like,” he chuckled.  “Pa says that when they got my letter, he told the boys that they’d save it for dessert after supper.  Seems Hoss got real concerned that Pa meant they’d be having the letter, instead of dessert.”

            “A tragedy for any boy,” Jamie agreed with a grin.

            “And then Little Joe chimes in to announce that he wants pie and the letter and Pa adds”—Adam laughed so hard he could barely get the words out—“‘Just thought you’d want to know how you stack up against apple pie, son!’”

            Jamie fell back on the bed, laughing.  “Don’t worry, Adam,” he gasped.  “You’ll always stack up against apple pie for me.”

            “The rest is pretty personal,” Adam said.

            “Would you like me to step out, give you some privacy?” Jamie offered, sensing his friend’s somber mood.

            If the weather had not been so inclement, Adam might have taken him up on the offer, but he could scarcely ask Jamie to leave when he had nowhere—at least, nowhere dry—to go.  “No, that’s all right,” he said.  “Just ignore me for a few minutes.”

            “Consider yourself ignored,” Jamie said, scrambling up off the bed and shuffling over to his desk, where he opened his Greek text to prepare for the next recitation.

            Adam took off his shoes, crawled onto the bed and sat cross-legged, facing the wall.  Closed in as effectively as he could be in a shared room, he unfolded the letter again and read its final paragraphs, his father’s response to his ponderings about the appropriateness of remaining at Yale while the nation was at war.

 

            My dearest boy, never fear that you should withhold from me any thought of your heart.  Though parted by thousands of miles, I am still your father and, as such, am intended to help carry such loads.  My shoulders are broad, Adam, and strong enough to share your concerns.

            I’m sure that you were much affected by what you experienced on the trip, and I can understand that you might feel drawn to the service of your country when you see others answering that call.  However, I believe you are wrong in referring to what you are doing as sitting in a classroom, enjoying yourself.  That is not what you are doing, my boy, just seeking your own pleasure; you are preparing yourself for the future beyond this terrible conflict that separates our country.  Remember, Adam, that your goal is to become a builder, and how greatly our country will need builders when this cruel war is over!  You are doing the right thing, and I hope you will no longer waste precious time second-guessing your decision.  Though it is hard to be parted from you, I know—I absolutely know—that you have made the right decision.

            Let us hear from you often.  As Hoss said, a letter from you rates higher than even an entire apple pie—with all of us.

 

            With a heart filled with love and longing,

            Pa

 

            Adam wiped away the single tear that trickled from one eye.  Pa’s words of support could warm his heart and soothe his troubled thoughts with a power that no one else ever possessed.  That rated above apple pie with him, too—or even an entire plate of Candy Sam’s divinity.

 

* * * * *

 

            The Lit. came out on Wednesday, and since Adam and Jamie picked up their copy after the first recitation, they were able to review its contents during breaks from classes and meals.  Adam found the article on the summer tour of the Yale Glee Club fascinating: they’d visited so many scenic and historic places!  “I wish I could have been part of that,” he confided to his best friend, “but evidently it only involved the Class of ’63.”

            “Does the Beethoven Society tour?” Jamie asked.

            Adam shrugged.  “Not that I’ve heard of.  I think they mostly provide music for chapel, but I don’t suppose I could afford the expense, if they did.”

            “God would provide,” Jamie declared fervently.

            Adam, whose faith was never as undiluted by doubt as his friend’s, merely quirked a half smile.  “Perhaps.”

            “He provided free voice lessons with Professor Stoeckel, didn’t He?” Jamie pointed out.

            “That He did,” Adam admitted, “but I think a tour through New England is probably not on His agenda for me any time soon.”

            “Oh, Adam,” Jamie chided softly.

            “Oh, Jamie,” his friend teased back.  “You don’t expect that for yourself, either, do you?”

            “I can’t sing,” Jamie said.

            Adam gave his friend’s shoulder a playful shove.  “That, sir, is the lamest argument I have ever heard from you.  Pray use better logic in your upcoming society debate.”

            Jamie groaned at the reference to his scheduled appearance before Sigma Ep that Saturday night.  “Don’t remind me.  I’m terrified of speaking before the class.  I wish I had your courage and podium presence, Adam.”

            “God will provide,” Adam said with a wicked wink.

            Jamie exhaled with exasperation, mostly at himself for providing the ammunition for the jest.  “Ooh, you . . . you . . .”

            Adam bounced up and headed for the door.  “Sorry.  I don’t have time to wait for the end of that sentence.  I’m due for those special voice lessons God has provided.”

            “Out, you heathen!” Jamie demanded, though a grin cracked through his reddened countenance.

            “See you at supper,” Adam called as he went through the door.

 

* * * * *

 

            “Good news,” Adam called to Jamie, who was waiting for him just outside the entrance to the Vultures’ dining hall.

            “The Beethoven Society is going to tour New England!” Jamie guessed.

            “Oh, ye of great faith,” Adam chuckled.  “Nothing quite that grand, but we are giving a special Christmas concert.  Visitors can come, so let’s ask your father.”

            “Oh, he’ll come,” Jamie assured his friend.  “He’d skip meals to save enough for that ticket.”

            “What’s this talk of skipping meals?” Lucas demanded as he came up to them.  “Don’t tell me you intend to skip supper?”

            “Not us!” Adam declared.  “Let’s get in out of the cold.”

            They pressed through the narrow doorway and removed their outer garments in the small hall just inside.  “Say, Luke, did you know about the competition for the Yale Literary Medal?  The first I heard about it was when I read who had won in the Lit.”

            “Sure, I knew,” Lucas replied, hanging his woolen scarf on one of the wooden pegs provided.

            “Then, why did you not tell your fondest friends, my boy?” Adam charged.

            Lucas just snorted.  “Freshmen never win.”

            “Maybe because they don’t know about it,” Adam pointed out.

            Lucas laughed then.  “We prep boys know; it’s just you country rubes who don’t.”  He laid a hand on Adam’s shoulder as if he were a gray-haired sage, imparting the wisdom of his years to a young whippersnapper.  “It’s just another way of keeping underclassmen in their place.”

            “Not everyone at Yale is a sophomore,” Jamie said in an undertone, in case any of the Vulture sophomores were already inside.

            “Trouble with them again?” Marcus asked, coming in on the tail end of the conversation.

            “No, we were talking about the Yale Literary Medal,” Adam said.  “Did you know about it?”

            “No,” Marcus admitted.  “I wish I had.  I shall try for it next year, though I doubt I have any chance of winning if Jamie competes, too.  Still it will be good experience for other prizes.”

            “What other prizes?” Adam demanded with a stern look at Lucas, their main fount of information regarding life at Yale.  “Lend us your prep school experience, Lucas lad, so we don’t miss another opportunity to let those upperclassmen know we’ve arrived!”

            “Tell you over supper,” Lucas promised.  “There is quite a list, though not so many open to freshmen.”

            The topic interested everyone at the table, although the two sophomores professed to know everything already.  The seniors undoubtedly did, too, but were happy to point out to the underclassmen just how many opportunities for awards and scholarships were available at Yale.

            “They’re all listed in the college catalog, of course,” George Miller said airily.  “Don’t tell me you country boys have lost yours already.”

            “We country boys never had one to begin with,” Adam retorted sharply.

            “I did,” Jamie admitted reluctantly.  “I guess I didn’t read it closely enough.”

            Miller clucked his tongue.  “Dear, dear, is there no limit to the ignorance of freshmen?”

            “He was probably more concerned about the section detailing what the entrance exam would cover,” Alexander White suggested generously.  “Do check it when you return to your room, Edwards; dates are listed for all the major prize exams.”

            After supper everyone adjourned to their respective open society meetings and made plans for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, so it wasn’t until they were in bed that Adam and Jamie returned to the topic of prizes and scholarships.  “We’ll definitely try for the Brothers’ prize debate,” Adam dictated.

            “You will,” Jamie demurred.  “I don’t see the point in my competing if you’re making the attempt.”

            “You need to take a page from Marc’s book,” Adam insisted.  “Whether you win or not doesn’t matter so much.  The prizes are quite small, after all, but the experience is everything.”

            “I suppose,” said Jamie, who was still so edgy about this Saturday’s debate that even contemplating another almost made him nauseous.  “I do plan to sit for the Woolsey and hope for the Hurlbut.”

            “With your excellence in Latin, it’ll be the Woolsey for you,” Adam said confidently.  “I’ll be the one settling for the Hurlbut,” he added, mentioning the prize given to the student who placed second in the same exam.

            “There’s algebra on it, too,” Jamie pointed out, yawning.  “You’re better at that.”

            “Minimally,” Adam said, stifling a yawn himself.  “And we’ll both try for the Berkeley premium . . . even though you’re bound to take it.  You lead the class in Latin composition.”

            “So long as I don’t have to deliver it orally,” Jamie moaned.

            “Will you quit worrying?” Adam chided.  “You’ll do fine on Saturday . . . but not if we don’t get some sleep between now and then.”

            “Too true.  Good night, Adam.”

            “Good night, Jamie.”  Though the room was too dark for his friend to see it, Adam sent him a mischievous smile.  “Sweet dreams . . . all about persuasive Latin phrases.”

            “And may your dreams be filled with sweet propositions from Euclid,” Jamie countered.

            “Ugh,” Adam grunted.  “Why did you have to remind me?  I’m due to recite tomorrow.  And it’s the Pons Asinorum, no less.”

            “Better you than me,” Jamie observed with a chuckle.  “You, at least, have some hope of passing the Asses’ Bridge,” he translated, using the nickname the students had given to the fifth proposition in their geometry text because so many of them found it difficult to get across.

            “I’d like to get my hands on the ass who wrote that,” Adam grumbled.

            “That would be Euclid,” Jamie pointed out, “and he’s safely out of your reach, my friend.”

            “Well, you’re not!” Adam pounced upon his bedmate with a well-aimed pillow.

 

* * * * *

 

            “He was wonderful,” Adam told Josiah Edwards as he and the Edwards shared an after-chapel cup of coffee on Sunday afternoon.  “His arguments were so cogent that everyone agreed he’d won the debate.”

            “Everyone meaning the three most prejudiced listeners in the room,” Jamie demurred.

            “Not just us,” Adam insisted.  “I overheard several people paying similar compliments.”

            “Really?”  Modest Jamie seemed incredulous.

            “Would I lie on Sunday?” Adam asked with an exaggerated air of innocence.

            “Oh, just every other day?” Josiah chuckled.

            “No, not then, either.”  Adam spread his hands to emphasize the obviousness of his next statement.  “I was raised by Ben Cartwright.”

            “Who always had a healthy respect for the truth.”  Josiah nodded his agreement with the son’s assessment of the father’s character.  “Would you care for another cup of coffee, boys?”

            “I’d like to, but I can’t,” Adam said, standing.  “At the last Brothers meeting Lucas and I got tapped to sell tickets to the Thanksgiving Jubilee next week: that is to say, Lucas volunteered, and he tapped me.  He wants to meet this afternoon to talk sales strategy.  In return, we’ll get free tickets to the program.”  He gestured toward Jamie with his chin.  “Then we’ll split the price for one for Jamie; it’s just a dollar.”

            “Very generous of you, Adam,” said Josiah as he stood and extended his hand in farewell.

            Adam shook the man’s hand, but shrugged off the compliment.  “Share and share alike.  Jamie would do the same for me.”

            “He would,” Josiah agreed, “but the Edwards were definitely blessed the day the Cartwrights rolled into St. Joe, and as this is the season for counting our blessings, let me say that the friendship we’ve shared over the years and that I still see so strong in you boys heads my list.”

            “Here, here!” Jamie cheered, though softly, as they were in a public restaurant.

            “You’ve expressed my sentiments, too,” Adam returned, and as he went out into the frosty air, fresh appreciation for the bonds of friendship warmed him from the inside, top to toe.

 

* * * * *

 

            After the drizzling misery of recent days, the sunny warmth of Indian summer refreshed the students’ spirits.  There was a bounce in Adam’s step as he trotted into the post office after the noon meal on Saturday, and his face beamed when he came out.

            “Who’s it from?” Jamie asked, indicating the envelope in Adam’s hand.

            “Pa,” Adam responded.  With the day so bright and clear, he broke open the seal on his father’s letter and spread it open, starting to read as they headed toward George Street.  But his steps soon slowed and then came to a complete halt.

            “What is it?” Jamie asked urgently, for the sudden darkening of his friend’s countenance disturbed him.  “Bad News?”

            “Not bad, really, just . . . disturbing.”  Adam looked up from the letter, frowning.  “I mean, it didn’t happen, but . . . but just the thought that it could have . . . that anyone for one moment thought . . .”

            “Adam, you’re babbling,” Jamie said, gripping his friend’s arm.  “Now tell me directly: what’s wrong?”

            Adam leaned his head back against the nearest building.  “There’s this rich couple in Virginia City . . . millionaires, actually.”

            “From the mines, I suppose,” Jamie said to draw Adam on, for he seemed to be having trouble getting the story out.

            “Yes . . . from the mines.”  Adam took a deep breath.  “They came to see Pa about . . . about . . .”

            “Yes?”

            “They want . . . they want . . . Little Joe!” Adam cried with the anguish of a man who’d just had a piece of his heart ripped away.  “To adopt him,” he amplified when he got control of his emotions.  “They offered to give him the best of everything, things Pa can’t hope to provide.”

            Jamie stared at him in shock.  “Y-your father—he wouldn’t!”

            “No, he told them no,” Adam replied, “but”—he swallowed hard—“he sounds so . . . sad . . . well, maybe more worried . . . fearful . . . . about whether he really is a fit father; he brings up that rough time right after we lost Marie, not being there for us then.”  He broke off abruptly and grabbed Jamie by the arm.  “I’ve got to write him,” he insisted, “write and post it tonight.”  Though he knew the letter would take close to a month to reach his father, he felt he couldn’t delay sending it by so much as one hour.

            “Of course, you do,” Jamie agreed.  “Fortunately, we’ve got the afternoon free.  Pour out your heart to him, Adam, and we’ll post it on the way to supper.”

 

* * * * *

 

            Adam stared at the empty sheet before him.  The room was silent, except for the light rustle of turning pages as Jamie studied at the adjoining desk.  As quiet and considerate a roommate as Jamie was, Adam still couldn’t release the pent-up emotions driving him with anyone as audience.

            Jamie must have sensed his conflict or, perhaps, just noticed the blank stationery, for he closed his Greek text and stretched his arms overhead.  “That’s enough studying for now.  I think I’ll go out for some fresh air.”

            “You don’t have to,” Adam said as his friend stood.  “This is your room, too.”

            “I was aware of that,” Jamie chuckled.  “No, seriously, I need a break.  The weather’s so fine that I think I’ll walk over to meet Father after he gets off work.  See you at the Vultures.”  He donned his coat and cap and moved for the door.

            “All right . . . thanks!”  Adam knew full well that his friend was doing this for his sake, especially since there’d be so little time between when Josiah got off work and supper was served that Jamie might as well save himself the walk.

            After his friend left, Adam let the quiet settle down over him for a few minutes, and the words finally began to flow:

 

Dear Pa,