A Good Night’s Rest


Written by:

Lori H fccw@attbi.com
Katja katja@zpinazie.com
Lynne C. Lynne@ponderosa63.fsnet.co.uk
Robin Profrobinw@aol.com
Debbie B. DLB1248@aol.com
Debbie D. sisterponderosa@yahoo.com
Josefina  Bonanzaluv81@msn.com
Puchi Ann puchiann@hotmail.com
Joan S. jsattler@bigpond.com
Jennie A. ryjennie@comcast.net


Ben dismounted slowly, his body ached from head to toe, his mind was weary and his head was throbbing. Ben ambled towards the house as he gently
rubbed his temples. Just as he was about to open the door, two young girls came screaming toward him followed by his youngest son and his best
friend, Mitch Devlin.

Ben was all but knocked to his feet as the girls each grabbed him about his arms, spinning him around and around in a circle, their shrill screaming
buzzing in his ears.

"OH! NO!" screamed the blond.

"YEK! LITTLE JOE, DON" YOU DARE!" bellowed the brunette loudly.

Joe and Mitch were chasing the girls as they danced around his father. "JOSEPH!" bellowed Ben in his deep voice.

Instantly the screaming hushed, the running ceased and all four young people stood frozen to the spots in which they stood.

"Do you have to make so much racket? Can’t you please stop torturing these girls?" asked Ben with a bit of sarcasm in his voice and a look on his
face that told Joe he had better come up with the right answer.

Joe had a sheepish grin on his face as he hid the bullfrog he held in his left hand, behind his back. "Umm…sorry Pa, we was just having a little fun,"
he smiled.

"That’s nice Joseph, but please, have fun somewhere else. I am worn to a frazzle and I need to get some sleep. Now go play elsewhere. Good night
ladies, Mitch." Ben nodded his head at the kids and entered the house, anxious to find his bed.

"Night Mr. Cartwright, good night sir," called the children as Ben shut the door.

Ben quickly removed his gun belt and hat and placed them on the credenza making his way to the stairs. Adam sat comfortably in his chair, the new
guitar he had ordered from New York held securely in his hands.

"Hi Pa, hey listen to this," he said and started to strum the strings and sing in his deep baritone voice.

"A way out here we have a name, for rain and fire and wind…

The rain is Tess, the fire is Joe and they call the wind…Mariah…Mariah!"

Ben held up his hand to silence his son. "That’s nice Adam, real nice, but I am about to drop in my tracks, please do you mind if I hear your new song
later? Much, much later? I need to get some shut-eye."

Adam gave his father a curious look but smiled, "Sure Pa, whatever you say. You look like you’ve been up for about two days. Get some sleep, I’ll
see you in the morning."

"Thanks son, good night." Ben slowly climbed the steps, reaching his room at last. Once he could sit on the bed, he yanked his boots off his feet,
tossed his vest in a near by chair and fell backward onto his bed, not bothering to remove the rest of his clothing.

Ben quickly dropped off into a sound sleep but sleep was only short-lived. From across the hall it sounded as if a roaring wind was heading right at
the house. Ben kicked back the blankets and hurried into the hall. The sound was coming from Hoss’ room and quickly Ben pushed opened the door.

Hoss way lying on his back, his mouth slightly open. The sound that Ben had referred to as a roaring wind had been Hoss’ loud snoring. The windows
rattled, the low burning flame in the lamp flickered, and a fly buzzed over Hoss’ head and was nearly sucked into his mouth by the down draft created
when his middle son inhaled. Ben swatted away the fly and gently shook his son’s shoulder.

"Hoss, turn over son," pleaded Ben, jabbing at Hoss. "Hoss, turn over!" ordered Ben.

Hoss answered only by chomping together his jaws and chewing at the non-existent substance he had in his mouth.

Sighing heavily, Ben placed both hands under Hoss’ left shoulder and pushing hard, forced the big man onto his right side. The loud snoring subsided.

Once back in bed, Ben covered his head with the warm blankets, waiting for the sleep that seemed determined to elude him.

Down in the yard, the high pitched squeals of the two girls, plus the roaring laugher and ear piercing giggles of his youngest son and his friends, woke
Ben with a start.

"What the?" he muttered to himself as he crawled from his bed and to the window.

Down below, Joe and Mitch were chasing the pretty girls around the yard. Joe held the giant bullfrog in his hand, Mitch a garden snake and it was a
toss up as to who was making the most racket.

Ben pulled the curtains back and stuck his head out of the window, "JOSEPH!"

Instantly silence washed over the yard, "Sorry Pa, but Fred was just trying to get a little kiss," called up Joe.

"Fred? Who the blazes is Fred?" shouted Ben angrily.

"He’s an ugly old bullfrog, Mr. Cartwright, that Little Joe said was really a handsome prince and that we should kiss him so that Fred could come out
of that green slimy body," supplied the petite blond.

"Joseph, must you son?"

"Sorry, Pa. It was just all in fun, we’ll be quiet, you go back to bed," Joe said meekly and then put his finger to his lips, "Shh…my Pa’s trying to
sleep," he told the others.

Ben closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head, "Boys, bullfrogs…why couldn’t I have had girls?" he mumbled to himself as he sauntered
back to his bed and crawled in, pulling the covers up to his chin. Sleep began to ease its way in when suddenly…



"ADAM!" yelled Ben from the top of the stairs.

Adam turned his head to peer around the top of his chair, "Yeah Pa? Something wrong?"

"Please son…I’m trying to sleep."

Ben didn’t see his son’s brow raise to their highest level or the ‘oops’ that was silently muttered. "Sorry Pa, I’ll just read for awhile."

"Thank you, now, if you don’t mind…" Once again Ben headed for his room and once situated comfortably, pulled the blanket over his head to mute
any sounds that might again reach his ears.

Sleep refused to claim him this time. Ben lowered the blanket until just his eyes were peeking over the edge. What was wrong now, he wondered?
Where had everyone gone, why was it so deafeningly quiet? Ben pushed the cover further down and raised his head so that he might be better able to
hear, nothing, absolutely nothing.

"Dadburnit," he fussed, using one of Hoss’ favorite words. Ben jerked the cover back over his head.

"SAFE!" came the screech from down below as the front door banged opened and then slammed shut noisily.

"Hey!" Ben heard Adam yell as he buried his head under his pillows and tried to drown out the noise, "Pa told you kids to be quiet, he’s trying to get
some sleep!"

"We was just playing tag, and why are you yelling at us if’n Pa is trying to sleep?" shouted Joe, irritated at his brother for interrupting their game.

"Because I’m the oldest," shouted Adam and then turned when it appeared that all hell had broken loose in the kitchen.

Pans banged and clanged, Hop Sing was shouting at the top of his voice, things in his own language that Adam knew to be obscenities.

"What was that? Joe, what have you done now?" shouted Adam, forgetting that his father was trying to sleep.

"Me?" shouted Joe as he followed Adam into the kitchen, "Why do you blame everything on me?"

"Cause you are usually to blame, that’s why," answered Adam, ducking just in time to miss a pan that flew past his head.

Hop Sing was still yelling; pots and pans were flying in all directions and Adam had to dodge them.

"Hop Sing, please calm down," called Adam as he and Joe eased into the kitchen, followed by Mitch and the two girls.

Hop Sing was dancing around on his toes, his ranting was getting louder and Adam cringed when he looked up and saw his father standing on the
back stairs with a look of total irritability on his face.

Everyone must have followed Adam’s gaze for there was sudden silence in the kitchen.

"Need I ask what is going on NOW?" yelled Ben, looking directly at his youngest son.

"I didn’t do nuthin’ Pa, honest," squeaked Little Joe, his hazel eyes wide in wonder. "It was Hop Sing, not me," he added, hoping to take the
pressure off of him self.

"I didn’t do anything," corrected Adam.

Joe shot Adam a dark look, "You were doing all the shouting, that is until Hop Sing started slinging pots and pan, I didn’t do nuthin’," Joe snapped.

Ben rolled his eyes upward. "Would someone please just tell me what in the world is going on?"

Everyone started to talk at once; Adam said something about the front door. Joe yelled a little louder about tagging someone. And Hop Sing went off
on a string of Chinese that no one could understand but when he held out his hand and there sat Fred the Frog, the two girls started screaming, Mitch
pulled his snake from his pocket and was chasing them around Hop Sing’s work table. Adam tried to grab the snake, bumped into Hop Sing, Fred
leaped to the safety of the floor and made his getaway, Joe dropped to his hands and knees crawling after Fred and Ben sighed deeply and turned
and slowly made his way back to his room.

The weary monarch paused at his bedroom door, the big wind had blown up again across the hall and Ben rolled his eyes heavenward. "Why me,
Lord? Why me?" he prayed softly as he grabbed his boots and pushed his feet into them.

From his bureau he pulled his satchel and began stuffing needed items into it. A clean shirt and pair of pants for in the morning, socks, long johns, his
razor and mixing cup, and Bay Rum aftershave. Ben stopped to think, which was next to impossible with all of the ruckus going on in the house. The
comb, he thought and looked at his mussed hair and day old whiskers. Ben leaned into the mirror and pulled his eyelids open, they were red and puffy
from lack of sleep. It looked to him as if he were suffering from a hangover rather than lack of sleep. He hoped the sheriff wouldn’t see him; Ben
laughed, he’d sure hate to end up spending the night in jail…hmm...maybe that wouldn’t be too bad after all.

Ben slipped unnoticed out the front door, no use bothering to tell anyone that he was going into town, they wouldn’t miss him for several hours, not
with all the squealing, shouting, yelling, stomping, pan banging, and howling going on in the kitchen.


Part 2 Written by Lynne


Poor Buck was not very pleased at being led out of his cosy stall and saddled up, so soon after coming home. He had hardly managed to finish his

"Sorry, boy," said Ben. "We’re going back to town and then you can rest, I promise, and so, hopefully, can I."

They were soon on the road to Virginia City and Ben found himself struggling to keep his eyes open. He had been working very hard on an important
contract and days and nights had merged together as he’d tried to arrive at a decent price, which would be acceptable to all parties. This had finally
been achieved but Ben feared that he had left it too long since he’d had a full night’s sleep and it was now going to be difficult to achieve that, even
though he desperately needed it. Existing on cat naps had become a habit, which was going to be hard to break.

As soon as he arrived in town, Ben took Buck to the livery stable and handed him over to Jake.

"Give him some extra oats, please Jake, he’s not that pleased with me." And Ben explained why he was back in town again.

"Will do, Mr Cartwright, see you in the morning, and I hope you manage to get some rest," said Jake. "You look like you could use it."

Ben walked across to the hotel and went straight to the front desk.

"Good evening, I need a room for tonight, please," he said. The clerk was new and Ben had not met him before.

"Certainly sir, please sign the register," he said and turned the book round on the turntable for Ben to do so.

"It will be room number 4 sir, and if you require any assistance, please don’t hesitate to call for me, my name is Mr Potts."

"Thank you," said Ben, taking his key from the clerk. "Hopefully, I will sleep like a log and shan’t need a thing. I’m just going to the bar for a night
cap and then I will be turning in."

Ben walked through to the bar and ordered himself a brandy. He stayed at the bar to drink it and chatted to the barman. As he did so, a very drunk
man made his way across the room and ended up standing next to Ben, in fact he was leaning against him.

"Whisky," the man said to the bartender, but Frank refused to serve him.

"No more mister, I think you’ve had enough tonight. Why don’t you go to your room and sleep it off?"

"Not yet, I wanna have a drink with my good friend here," said the drunk, patting Ben on the back. "Sorry John, didn’t recognise you straight off.
Fancy meeting you here. Haven’t seen you in a coon’s age. Whisky for me and John, my old friend from way back when."

Ben took another sip of his brandy and said, "I’m sorry sir, but you are mistaken. My name isn’t John and as far as I am aware, we’ve never met. I
think you would be well advised to do as Frank says and go and get some sleep." Ben turned away to finish his drink.

The man hit him on the back, spilling Ben’s drink and said, "Don’t turn your back on me John. I know your game. I was ready to let bygones be
bygones and forget that you eloped with my gal, but, obviously you don’t wanna be friends. Come on, don’t be mad, shake on it old pal, it was a long
time ago. If anyone should be mad, it’s me. I ended up marrying Millie Tucker on the rebound from Sarah, and I’ve regretted it ever since. The
woman is a shrew, well you know that John, you knew her. She’s made my life a living hell and do you know what she’s done now? She’s run off with
a travelling salesman and taken all my savings with her. Not bothered about getting her back, he’s welcome to her, but I want my money and so I’m
on their trail. Just missed ‘em again and so I decided to have a few drinks and drown my sorrows. Now I’ve got my old friend John, to drink with me.
Come on pal, what’re ya having?"

Ben was trying to remain civil but was finding it hard to do so, with this drunken man hanging onto his arm like a leech, and breathing his whisky
sodden breath into Ben’s face.

"Please let go of my arm mister," said Ben. "I am not John and I have never met you before. I am sorry to hear of your troubles, but I am very tired
and I am going to bed, and so please excuse me," and Ben tried to move away.

To his consternation, the man began to cry and he flung his arms round Ben’s neck.

"I don’t blame ya old friend, for denying that you know me. Look at the state of me, I don’t look much like the fine upstanding citizen I used to be, do
I? It’s just that this has got me so riled up and I can’t think straight. Is Sarah with you? Go fetch her and we’ll relive old times, I’d like that, might
cheer me up a bit."

Ben removed the man’s arms from his neck, but held onto him.

"Now please listen to me, as I am very tired and rather short on patience," said Ben. "My name is Ben Cartwright, not John. I have never met you
before and I am not married to Sarah. I came in here to have a night cap and then get a decent night’s sleep. I do not have any good times to relive
with you, as I don’t know you, and so will you please leave me alone?"

At this, the man, who was called Will, stopped crying and turned rather nasty.

"Oh, I suppose you think that just because you got Sarah and I didn’t, that makes you too good to mix with me anymore. Well, let me tell you
something, Mr High and Mighty, she wasn’t as innocent as she made out she was, if you get my drift. Did ya know you had bought second hand

"I’ve had enough of this," said Ben, and went to walk out of the room. Will followed him and made a rather feeble attempt at punching Ben. When
the first punch didn’t connect, he tried again and managed to hit Ben on the jaw. Ben was already on a short fuse, being so tired, and this was the final
straw. He punched the man and knocked him out. He picked Will up, hoisted him over his shoulder and made his way to the desk in the foyer.

"Which room is this man staying in?" said Ben, to Mr Potts. "I think it might be best if I put him to bed."

Mr. Potts collected the key and led Ben up the stairs to Will’s room. He unlocked the door and Ben went in, depositing Will on his bed. He removed
the man’s boots and covered him up.

Mr Potts stood by the door with a disapproving look on his face. Being new to the area, he didn’t know Ben and was not impressed by what he had
witnessed. ‘There’s no smoke without fire’, he thought. ‘Maybe this Ben Cartwright is not who he says he is, and that man is telling the truth.’

Ben gave the key to Mr Potts and headed off to his room.

"Goodnight, Mr Potts," he said and went inside.

He took off his boots and vest and collapsed on the bed. It felt so good, no noise and a nice comfortable spot to rest his weary bones. He was just
drifting off, when he was brought back to full consciousness by a terrible sound filling the air.





Ben flew off the bed like he had been shot from a cannon, his blood surging with adrenaline.

He frantically glanced around the unfamiliar hotel room searching for the source of the disturbance. Unsure if it was coming from inside the hotel or
outside, Ben first opened the door of his room to check the hallway. Down the hall and around the corner to his right he could hear what sounded like
a struggle of some sort.

"C’mon honey, be nice and give ole Jeb a little kiss, now will ya?" Another voice added with a drunken laugh, "A purdy little thang like you shouldn’t
be so fickle with yur fem-in-ine charms."

"Yeah, Harley…you tell her now, ya hear?" agreed Jeb.

Again the same high-pitched shriek Ben heard earlier echoed down the empty hallway. He quickly reached inside his room and slipped his gun from
the holster. Shaking any remnants of sleep from his groggy mind, Ben hurriedly padded down the hall, searching for the source of the struggle.

Just as he rounded the corner at the end of the hallway, Ben saw two drunken cowboys tormenting an attractive woman with auburn hair. The men
had her trapped in a corner, pawing her well-tailored blue velvet dress while making lewd suggestions.

Fast becoming more angry than afraid, the lady shouted, "Stop it...take your hands off of me.... or else!"

"Or else what.....darlin’?" mocked the cowboy called Jeb as he deliberately ripped the sleeve off her waist length jacket.

Thinking the woman was making an idle threat, Jeb turned his head to look at Harley and let loose a boisterous laugh, his breath strong enough to
crack a mirror. Suddenly, without a warning, the woman drove the pointed heel of her black leather boot into Jeb’s instep. The unfortunate man’s
eyes widened in shock as he grabbed his injured foot and fell to the floor, howling in pain. The second man, who Ben presumed to be Harley, just
stood there slack-jawed and speechless.

A smile crept across Ben’s weary face as he cringed, thinking how much that must have hurt. Intrigued to see what the lady would do next, Ben
continued to watch the show.

Taking advantage of the distraction, the woman drew her arm back then spun around and whacked Harley upside the head with her purse, dropping
him like a lead weight. The beaded purse made a solid THUNKING sound when it connected with Harley’s skull. Harley grabbed his head with both
hands and let loose a string of cuss words that would sizzle bacon. Again Ben winced as he wondered what in the world the she had in her purse to
cause a man to drop like that.

With a triumphant stomp of her foot and a toss of her pretty head, the woman whirled around in a flurry of blue velvet then marched down the hall
toward Ben, seemingly oblivious of his presence.

Ben watched with admiration as the woman approached. She came to an abrupt halt when she realized another man was blocking her way. One
shoulder propped negligently against the frame of a door, arms folded across his chest, Ben grinned and lowered his gun. In the lady’s haste to
distance herself from the drunken vermin, she failed to notice Ben standing at the other end of the hallway.

Perturbed to find another man, whom she assumed was in partnership with the other two, blocking her escape route, the spunky woman drew her arm
back in preparation of letting Ben have it with her purse.

"Whoa, hold on there…just simmer down," said Ben, trying to hold back his laughter. "I’m not going to hurt you."

The woman eyed Ben suspiciously. "You’re not in cahoots with those other two?" she asked warily.

"Oh no....," laughed Ben, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "It was my intention to help you."

"Well, why didn’t you?" replied the annoyed and exasperated female, folding her arms across her chest.

Ben smiled and studied the woman with a look of interest. "It looked like you were doing just fine all by yourself."

A grin slowly replaced the irritated expression on the woman’s face. She knew absolutely nothing about the handsome polite stranger that stood
before her, but one thing she knew for certain, she liked him.

Suddenly remembering his manners, Ben released the hammer on his gun and said, "I apologize for not introducing myself earlier…my name is Ben

The woman rewarded Ben with a friendly smile then offered him one slim gloved hand.

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Cartwright. My name is Kathleen Hendrickson."

His exhaustion momentarily forgotten, Ben took her hand and replied, "Oh no ma’am, I assure you the pleasure is all mine."

Ben glanced over Kathleen’s shoulder, nervously studying the two men moaning and writhing on the floor. He caught a glimpse of a gun concealed in
a holster beneath the jacket of the one called Jeb. Both men looked as sullen as a sore-headed dog. Ben had a feeling if they didn’t vacate the
hallway fast, the situation would quickly escalate into a gun battle.

Without taking his eyes off the two cowboys, Ben slipped Kathleen’s hand through his arm. "I think it would be best of we continued our conversation
in the hotel lobby while we wait for the sheriff."

Both of the drunken cowboys shot Ben a scathing look as he and Kathleen disappeared around the corner.

Ben and Kathleen had no sooner reached the bottom of the stairs when Harley and his partner Jeb came staggering and falling down the stairs. Both
drunken men pointed an accusing finger at Ben while hurling preposterous accusations.

"Stop him...stop that man!" cried Jeb, whose pride hurt a heck of a lot more than his foot.

His words slurred by too much alcohol, Harley shouted, "That no good thievin’ varmint stole our woman!"

Startled by all the commotion, Mr. Potts looked up from the front desk where he had been reviewing some accounts. Several hotel guests stopped
what they were doing to watch the melodrama unfolding right before their eyes.

As if matters couldn’t get any worse, Will, the drunk who had mistaken Ben for a friend of his named John who eloped with his gal, came staggering
down the stairs, behind Jeb and Harley. Will paused when he heard Harley accuse Ben of stealing his woman. He screwed up his face and made a
loud snorting sound as he wiped his red nose on his sleeve.

Still riled at Ben/John for stealing his gal, Will shouted, "Hey, he stole my gal too! Don’t let him get away with it!"

All eyes turned and fixed on the disheveled drunk that swayed precariously as he made his way across the lobby to the bar.

"Now wait just a darn minute," thundered Ben, glancing around the room at the sea of angry unfamiliar faces. "I did no such thing!"

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Ben saw Jeb lunge at him, looking as mad as a peeled rattler. He deftly maneuvered Kathleen to the side, out
of harm’s way, then grabbed Jeb by the shoulder. Before driving his clenched fist into the man’s impertinent mouth, Ben asked the hapless cowboy,
"Didn’t your mamma ever teach you any manners?" Again, Jeb fell to the floor howling in pain.

Mr. Potts rolled his eyes and threw up his hands in disgust.

"I knew that man was trouble the minute I laid eyes on him! Thinks he’s some kind of Casanova! Can’t be content stealing one man’s woman....has
to go and steal another man’s woman as well!"

Weary with exhaustion, Ben wobbled slightly then caught his balance. As he glanced around the crowded room searching for Kathleen, Harley
jumped the Lord of the Ponderosa from behind, wrapping his arms around Ben’s neck, propelling him face down onto the floor.

Through all the shouting and confusion, Ben thought he heard someone yelling, "Hey everyone, git in here quick! Two drunks are beatin’ up some

Little Joe and Mitch had just finished escorting the young ladies home for the evening when they heard someone shouting about a fight at the
International Hotel. Little Joe jerked the bay mare’s head around, making a sharp dangerous turn that lifted the wheels on one side of the surrey.

Joe brought the mare to a sudden halt in front of the hotel, raising a cloud of dust. The two young men flashed one another a wicked smile; each
knowing exactly what the other was thinking. Neither could resist a good fight. Not bothering to tether the horse to the hitch post, Mitch and Joe
leaped from the surrey and elbowed their way into the hotel.

Part 4 written by Katja


As soon as they’d made their way into the hotel lobby, pushing aside a few bystanders, stepping on some toes, but without any real trouble, they saw
two guys on top of another guy who was lying face down on the floor. They couldn’t really make out who it was, but they sure didn’t like the odds.

Another thing they didn’t like was the fact that all those people were just standing there, watching the fight. Like they were watching a good show.
That bothered the two boys immensely.

Now Little Joe knew he ought to leave it to the law to handle this, but he had never been able to stand by watching someone get beat up on, no matter
what Pa told him. He and Mitch exchanged one look and that was enough. They felt the same way.

Little Joe moved to the right and Mitch advanced the fighting men from the left. Little Joe grabbed the one who was holding on to the victim’s neck
by the collar, pulled him up and landed his fist smack in the middle of the man’s jaw. The man started to stagger and tried to fight back, but it was
clear he wasn’t very co-ordinated and the younger boy was much too fast for him. Before he knew it he was thrown right into the audience.

Mitch in the mean while was taking on the other drunk. This one obviously didn’t have enough of fighting yet and Mitch was having a hard time at it.
As soon as Little Joe had thrown his opponent to the floor, he ran over to Mitch to try and help out. He was holding the guy from the back, giving
Mitch the opportunity to get in some punches himself, resulting in the man falling to his knees and then face forward at Mitch’s feet.

Mitch and Little Joe were just about to help the victim who was still face down on the floor get up, when suddenly someone yelled: "Watch out!" He
looked around and saw that the first man had scrambled to his feet and was now approaching him with an empty wine bottle in his hand. Little Joe
didn’t know where it came from, but he sure didn’t want that thing to land on his head.

Just as he was getting ready to defend himself, they heard a yell that made the hair on the back of their neck stand out.

"Aaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh" And with a bang the drunk fell to the floor, unconscious. A lady was standing there still waving her purse
threateningly with thundering eyes.


People started to applaud and Little Joe looked a little embarrassed. It wasn’t very masculine being rescued by a woman and he was sure he could
have managed the guy all by himself. Now why did she have to but in like that? The crowd loved it though and she was congratulated by a lot of
people, as if she was the hero in this one. Well, if that was the way they wanted it. Heck, no one even bothered to check up on that poor man lying on
the floor.

"Joe, psss, Joe!"

"Yeah, what?" Joe turned around to face Mitch and looked straight into the all too familiar and very angry face of his father. His look and the way
he was standing with his hands on his hips, legs slightly apart, didn’t promise anything good. He swallowed audibly.

"Oh….uh….hi, Pa." An attempt to smile froze on his lips as he saw that frown deepen even more.

"And what do you think you’re doing here?" Ben barked.

As soon as his attackers were off his back he had slowly managed to get up and when he saw his youngest son, who was supposed to be on the ranch
in bed, fist fighting those drunks, his blood had started to boil. There was only so much a man could handle on one night.

"Um, helping out, Pa?" Well, he could try, couldn’t he? Okay, maybe that wasn’t the smartest answer he could have given, but it was all he could
come up with.

"Helping out? If it weren’t for Miss Hendrickson here, you would be lying on the floor instead of that drunk. And you are supposed to be at home in
bed, not fighting in a hotel lobby."

"Well, ya see, Pa, we was just, um, well the girls needed to get home and we asked Hoss and he said okay, so we just brought them home, Pa, honest,
that’s it."

Alarm bells went off in Ben’s head, adding to his by now pounding headache. "You mean to tell me Hoss agreed with you bringing the girls home
alone at almost midnight? Are you really telling me that?" His voice got louder and the rest of the room went quiet.

Well, that wasn’t exactly how it had happened. In fact it had taken them quite some persuasion and tricks, but he wasn’t lying, Hoss had finally
relented, telling them it was their own hides if they got caught. Well, it seemed they were and Little Joe was trying hard to save that hide.

"Well, actually, he kinda did, sir."

Ben rubbed his temples for a few seconds. He needed sleep, badly, he had a headache, he was tired and now he had to deal with his 15-year-old son
running around the countryside at night. Fighting!

"Kinda! Well, Virginia City is no place at night for a boy not even out of school. And you know perfectly well you’re not allowed here alone. Not even
during the day. So you march yourself over to your horse and wait for me. I’ll check out and then you and I are going home to have a nice, long
discussion about obedience. Now move it. Mitch too! And for the rest of you all: the show is over. Maybe we can finally get some peace and quiet
around here."

To the bystanders that was obvious, no more fighting, no more yelling. Yes, the fun was over and most of them returned to their rooms or went home.

Little Joe left too, but he wasn’t happy about it. Darn. Why did Pa have to be there? He could have had so much fun. Pa was supposed to be fast
asleep in his own bedroom on the Ponderosa. It wasn’t fair. If he snuck out like that, Pa would throw a hissy. But there was no point in arguing. That
would only lead to more trouble.

Yes, Little Joe had every intention to do as he was told and so did Mitch, but just as they’d gone outside, something happened that made them want
to stay around for a while. Things could get interesting.

Ben had just checked out at the desk when a man carrying a large suitcase entered.

"Missa Cartwlight." Ben looked up in the face of Hop Sing. "Things at ranch crazy. Ten women yell for Ben Cartwlight. Missa Hoss and Missa
Adam fight. Hop Sing packed bags. Leave with stage tomollow. Go back China."

Ben grunted as he faintly heard a distinctive giggle in the background.


A Good Night’s Rest, Part 5

By Puchi Ann


Under his father’s angry glare Little Joe tried to stifle his giggle…and failed miserably.

"Ten women yelling for Pa? Ten?"

The high-pitched giggle erupted once more, drawing the attention of everyone still in the lobby, many of whom pushed toward the entrance to get an
earful of the latest gossip.

"Pa, you got a harem you never told us about?" Joe squealed, cradling his quivering ribs.

Will, still inebriated, staggered belligerently through the hotel’s open doorway and onto the boardwalk.

"A harem! That’s what he’s got, and my Sarah among ‘em. Give ‘er back, you …you…."

He lurched forward, hugging Joe’s shoulder to break his fall. "What you call a man with a harem, sonny?" he asked, his whisky-laced breath almost
overpowering the youngster.

"A sultan, I think," Joe said, turning his head aside in search of fresh air.

Will released the boy and stumbled the opposite direction, snaring the lapel of Ben’s vest between grimy fingers. "Give ‘er back, you sultan you," he
demanded loudly.

Mr. Potts appeared in the doorway, clucking in disapproval at what he was becoming more convinced by the minute was the woman-chasing champion
of Nevada Territory, if not, indeed, of the entire western United States.

Ben forcibly removed Will’s fingers from his apparel and bellowed, eyes fixed on Mr. Potts, "I am not a sultan, and I certainly don’t have a harem!"

Hearing the signature giggle again, he rounded on his son. "Joseph! That will be quite enough out of you." Then Ben glared at Hop Sing. "As for
you, how dare you come into town with that wild story of ten women at the Ponderosa? You know there are NO women at the Ponderosa!" He turned
and practically yelled the final statement in Mr. Potts’ face.

The diminutive cook, face enflamed, stood toe-to-toe with the mighty rancher. "You call Hop Sing liar?" he accused, jaw jutting forward. "Hop Sing
no tell lies. He say ten women yell for Mr. Ben, then ten women yell for Mr. Ben. All over house they yell! Mr. Adam, Mr. Hoss, too. ‘Where Mr.
Ben?’ they yell. You gone; no one can find. Then ten women yell for food; ten women holler for hot baths. Hop Sing no sign on to cook for harem; he
go back China!" He spun on his heel.

Ben reached out and clenched the smaller man’s shoulder. "You’re not going anywhere but home, you celestial spinner of tall tales! You say there
are ten women at the Ponderosa? Fine! You show them to me, and then you’re free to go wherever you like."

Hop Sing twisted free of his employer’s grip and drew himself indignantly erect. "Hop Sing show! You come home now and see for self."

"Fine!" Ben snorted. He pointed his finger at Little Joe. "You! Into that surrey and head for home. I’ll deal with you there."

Mitch, who had been planning to spend the night at the Ponderosa, suddenly gulped and croaked out, "Seein’ as how you got so much company
already, maybe I ought to head on home."

Ben fired his finger at the surrey once more. "You’re my responsibility ‘til tomorrow. Get in there now!"

"Y-yes, sir," both boys stammered, stumbling over each other in their eagerness to get into the surrey. Hop Sing threw his carpetbag at the boys,
tied the horse he had ridden into town to the back of the vehicle and climbed into the back seat. Ben stormed toward the livery stable to fetch poor,
abused Buck and ride home to settle whatever mayhem his sons had created there.

Mr. Potts watched them leave. Then, deciding that the local authorities should be informed about ten women, probably being held against their will in
this sultan’s harem, he ran toward the sheriff’s office, with Will staggering after him. Kathleen Hendrickson, left alone at the entrance of the hotel,
touched a finger to her cheek in thought. Ten women, the little Chinaman had said. Could it possibly be…? Convinced that it could, she began to walk
down the street in search of a livery stable, where she might rent a rig and ask directions to this Ponderosa.

* * * * *

Ben caught up with the surrey shortly after descending Mt. Davidson to Washoe Valley and administered a severe tongue-lashing to his youngest
son regarding the speed at which he was driving the carriage horses. Then he took the lead position, to hold Joseph to an appropriate pace, and was,
thus, the first to enter the Ponderosa yard. To his complete amazement, a sideshow-styled wagon stood, or rather sprawled, there at an acute angle.
On the side of the crimson wagon with garish yellow trim was a legend emblazoned in elaborately scrolled gold letters: "Terpsichorean Troupe

"You see? Hop Sing not lie!" the Cantonese cook declared as he jumped from the back seat of the surrey and waved wildly at the wagon.

"Hey, is this how the harem got here?" Mitch asked, springing out right after Hop Sing.

"There is no harem!" Ben shouted.

"Is harem," Hop Sing insisted, pointing toward the house. "In there."

Little Joe leaped from the surrey and took off toward the house at a run. "I’ll check for you, Pa!"

"Joseph!" Ben yelled, giving chase.

If, by some strange phenomenon, there actually was a harem of women within the hallowed halls of the Ponderosa, his fifteen-year-old son was the
last person he wanted to check it out!

He was too late, however, for Joseph was already inside, green eyes wide with wonder at the scene that opened before him. Ensconced in the great
room were—Joe did a quick enumeration on his fingers—ten lovely ladies, all dressed in blue velvet. All of them, and Hoss and Adam, as well, stood
up when first Joe, then Mitch, Hop Sing and finally Ben burst in.

"Don’t be alarmed, ladies," Adam offered smoothly. "It’s only our long lost father, finally come home."

"Where you been, Pa?" Hoss asked. "We looked all over."

"Look all over, yell all over," Hop Sing declared with a curt nod, as if to say, "I told you so."

About a half dozen of the girls sidled over to the young men who had just come in, a couple batting their eyes at Mitch and the other four gazing coyly
at Little Joe.

"Ooh, you didn’t tell us anything this cute was lost," said one as she ran her fingers through Little Joe’s chestnut curls. "Hi there, sweetie. My name
is Debbie Dee from Saint Lou-ee, but I think you’re a tad too young for me."

The poetical Debbie Dee laughed as she patted the youngster on the cheek and headed back to her perch on Adam’s lap.

"He’s not too young for me!" announced another lady in blue, now twining her fingers through the irresistable curls.

"Or me! Get your hands off him, Katja!" yet another blue-dressed girl demanded.

"I saw him first, Joan!" the fair-haired Katja retorted.

"Ladies, ladies, there’s plenty to go around," Joe said, putting an arm around each of them.

"There’s not any to go around," Ben snorted, grasping his youngest son by the collar and dragging him out of harm’s way.

"Pa, I’m just bein’ friendly," Joe insisted.

Ben started to administer a second—or was it a third—tongue-lashing of the evening when Joe’s words caught him up short. However these ladies
got here, they were guests in his home, and he wasn’t being very friendly toward them. Releasing his son, he turned to the bevy of blue-clad beauties
and bowed.

"Ladies, I apologize for my poor manners, but might I ask what brings you to the Ponderosa at this hour of the night?"

One lady, clearly the leader of the list, stepped forward.

"My name is Jennie, Mr. Cartwright, and I apologize for the intrusion at this late hour, but we had little choice. We were trying to make our way to
Virginia City, where we are scheduled to appear at Piper’s Opera House. We lost our way in the hills, and then our wagon wheel started coming
loose. We saw a light and managed to make it here before the wheel completely broke. Your sons graciously welcomed us on your behalf, but when
they went to inform you of our arrival, you had gone missing. We joined in the search, but no one could find you. We looked and looked!"

"And yelled and yelled!" Hop Sing sputtered, storming through the dining room, spouting irate Chinese as he went. "Hop Sing go back China, but
first he go sleep!" he tossed over his shoulder as he disappeared into the kitchen.

"Excitable, isn’t he?" Jennie declared matter-of-factly. She turned back around to Ben. "Now that you’ve been found, we can properly introduce
ourselves. We are, as I’m sure you read on our wagon, the Terpsichorean Troupe International."

"Terpsichorean?" Little Joe asked, scrunching his nose in puzzlement.

"Don’t you know nothin’, Little Joe?" Hoss smiled the smile of one in the know, though he’d only known the word a matter of hours now. "They’s
dancers," he announced.

"International dancers?" Ben asked with an arch of his eyebrow.

Jennie laughed. "Well, to some extent. Most of us are Americans, I admit, but we do have enough from overseas to keep the name honest. Step
forward, girls, and introduce yourselves."

Little blonde Katja stepped forward first, her eyes still shining in Little Joe’s direction. "I know Katja is Russian," she said, "but I’m actually from
Holland." She linked arms with Jennie and stood to one side.

Joan, who had been playing tug-of-war with Katja over Little Joe, introduced herself next, and she was followed by a slender, dark-haired woman with
violet eyes.

"Bonjour," she said. "I am Lori Marie from old Par-ee." She pointed a finger at the youngest Cartwright. "And I think that you are the one for me!"
She was also, obviously, an erstwhile poet.

"That’s enough, Lori," Jennie admonished. "Get into line, please." With a flounce of her skirts, Lori did as instructed.

In quick order three more girls introduced themselves as Robin, Susan and Marian, each eyeing Ben’s youngest with entirely too much attention,
especially in the opinion of the next lady in line.

"I am Lynne," she said in a crisp British accent as she curtseyed respectfully to the head of the household.

"And I, señor, am Josephina," said a dark-eyed, ebony-haired woman with golden skin.

Finally, the last girl linked arms with the others and recited, as if on cue, "I, again, am Debbie Dee. I hail, as you know, from Saint Lou-ee, and I like
to kick my heels with glee."

Suddenly, all the girls kicked their black, pointed-heeled boots up in unison and began to execute intricately choreographed steps. Little Joe and
Mitch stared, gawk-eyed and gape-mouthed, as the blue skirts came up to show trim ankles and shapely knees. Hoss positively salivated at the
sight, and even sophisticated Adam stared in amazement at the performance.

A loud banging at the door halted the dance, and Ben, still not knowing what to make of these guests, went to the door. To his surprise, yet another
lady in an identical blue costume stood outside, but this one was no stranger, either to him or, as it turned out, to his other visitors. "

Kathy E!" squealed Marian, running to embrace the woman at the door. "We thought we would never find you!"

"And in the end, it is I who must find you," the newcomer laughed. "You were supposed to meet me in Virginia City, girls."

"Kathy E?" Ben inquired. "But I thought . . ."

"Kathleen Elaine," Miss Hendrickson explained with a smile, "but affectionately known to my girls as Kathy E. I do try to keep them in line, Mr.
Cartwright, but as you can see, it’s quite a challenge."

Ben laughed. "Oh, I’m well aware of the challenges of keeping young people in line, Miss Hendrickson, and I only have three to deal with!"

To make up for previous deficiencies, Ben welcomed one and all to the Ponderosa and assigned Adam and Hoss to find rooms for each lady. Since
Hop Sing had already gone to bed and no one dared disturb the sleeping dragon, Mitch and Little Joe, with the help of Susan, Lynne, Marian and
Joan, made sandwiches for everyone.

After much enjoyable conversation, everyone turned in for what remained of the night.

"Sleep as late as you like," Ben urged, hoping he could do so himself.

Alas, his hopes were destined for defeat. Only an hour or two after everyone had retired, loud groans were heard up and down the upstairs hall.
Drawing on his maroon velvet robe, Ben left his room, only to find the hallway thronged with four nightshirt-clad boys and eleven ladies in blue
flannel wrappers, all holding their stomachs and looking decidedly green around the gills.

"As green as if we came from Mars," Robin groaned.

Sick as he was, Adam’s interest was instantly piqued. "Could you possibly be referring to William Whervell’s theory that the green seas and red land
of the angry planet may indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life?" He was amazed that a mere dancer would even have heard of astronomical

The light of a kindred spirit shone in Robin’s eyes. There was more to this backwoods man than just a handsome face, it seemed.

"Indeed! I lectured on the theory, but that was the end of my career. The male members of the faculty were looking for any excuse to dismiss
Professor Sheets and her barbed wit." Though she longed to continue the educational conversation, Robin suddenly turned a sicklier shade of
Martian green, clapped her hand to her mouth and rushed back into her room.

"Oh, señorita Kathy," Josephina lamented. "Que lastima! Creo que—I think we have been poisoned!"

Just then there was a loud banging on the front door, and Ben peered around the corner just in time to see Hop Sing open it and admit Roy Coffee
into the house. Behind the sheriff, much to Ben’s consternation, stood Will and Mr. Potts.



Robin Profrobin@AOL.com

"Howdy Ben," Roy drawled turning shifting his weight from foot to foot nervously. "Sorry to come by at this hour but this ain't a social call."

Will looked far more sober than he did the last time Ben Cartwright saw him. He was carrying a black leather case and looking serious and calm.

"Roy! What brings you out here so late at night!" Ben asked. "More harem complaints? Potts made again? Will making more accusations?" Ben
shuddered to think what else might interrupt his sleeping that night.

"We are searching for a wanted man and only Mr. Potts and Will here know what the fellow looks like. We need your boys to help hunt for him
before he gets away. No one is a better tracker in these parts than Hoss. Clem has some men searching down by Devlin’s and my other deputy is
down by the Truckee with some men from town. " Sheriff Coffee explained to his tired friend.

"Who is it that you are hunting for?" Ben could barely keep his eyes open. He wearily leaned against the wall.

"The fella is Bernie Breen, a real miserable skunk if I ever heard of one. Not only does he steal from innocent folks, his son is a cattle rustler and
his daughter is a pick pocket... his wife runs some sort of sleazy scam in San Francisco. They even poison folks. He has it in for one of those dancing
girls you have here."

"Which one?"

"Miss Debbie. Debbie Dee... Real nice sweet girl. He is out to get her." Roy explained as he walked in followed by the other two men. "She got the
evidence on them but good. She used to work for him but took off when she found out what he does."

"Bernie Breen poisons people," Potts explained. Will nodded in sad agreement.

"Poisons people? " Ben gasped.

"Yeah he puts some sort of poison in folks wells and then while they are under the weather he robs them or steals their cattle. Will here is an
scientist fellow…"

" Toxicologist... " Will corrected politely.

"What ever.. and he can fix up the victims right quick," Roy said. "He can cook up an antidote. Doc Martin said it was ok, Ben."

Pots and Will looked around the room. Spying all the sick women Potts says "Looks like Bernie Breen might have been here already!"

"Bernie Breen should be shot in the spleen for what he did to these poor sweet gals!" Will said. "My sister was caught in his web and she is gone
now, dead and gone."

Ben shook his head. "How awful."

Will took off his hat politely. "Mr. Cartwright, want me to help out? I have to avenge my sister. My wife left me because I wouldn’t give up on this. I
am really sorry for how I acted before... once I get to drinking I get… "

"Obnoxious?" Ben prompted, "Rude, violent, obnoxious and assaultive?" Ben desperately wanted to get to bed and now he had more people in his
house including a man who had been attacking him only a few hours earlier. When would all this end? Murderers…dancing girls…frogs. When would
he finally get a good night's sleep?

"Never knew you was so glib with an insult, Ben," Roy drawled rubbing his moustache with his thumb.

He also noticed Ben had on a pretty sissy looking bath robe but he wasn’t going to mention that in front of all these people. He made a mental note
that he should get Ben a more macho looking robe for his birthday on the twenty third of the month.

"I get that way when people don't let me sleep!" Ben shouted. "Violent, obnoxious, assaultive..cranky too."

"And here, all these years I thought Adam learned all them fancy sarcastic words back east in college." Roy observed.

As if on cue, shirtless Adam stumbled down the stairs helping lovely Debbie B. and beautiful Debbie Dee. All three looking green and ghastly.

"Pa, Hoss is doing mighty poorly upstairs." Adam groaned as he leaned his sweaty brow against the cool glass door of the rifle case.

Both Debbies leaned their cheeks on Adam's bare back and dizzily held on to his belt. As thrilled as the two women were to be snuggling up to the
handsome cowboy, they were all far to nauseous to appreciate the delicious experience.

Suddenly Ben noticed, Will was stone cold sober. "Weren’t you drunk as a skunk the last time I saw you?"

Will nodded. "I suppose I was, Mr. Cartwright. I'm not now. I am bright eyed and bushy tailed and very regretful of my ill mannered display back in
Virginia City. You know how it gets when your heart is broken. Lost my sister and my wife left me too."

"Will here is an inventor and took one of his own cleansing potions. It sobered him up in a flash. Never saw such a thing." Roy shook his head. "Sure
can use that stuff on a Saturday night when the miners and the cowhands get to raising a rumpus…"

"Me too," added Potts. "I am so sorry for all your difficulties Mr. Cartwright back at the hotel. The management would like to offer you a free stay
for any two nights of your choice."

"You are sorry! All I want is a good night's sleep!" Ben felt like falling down on the floor and crying like an over tired child.

"Pa!" Little Joe groaned pitifully and staggered down the stairs "Hoss is hurting mighty bad! He is sorta moaning and groaning and rolling on the
floor and retching real bad. Rolling back and forth, back and forth...You never seen such a sight. Do you realize how ugly fried chicken and cherry
dumplings and creamed corn and pea soup looks when it comes back up?"

Ben shuddered imagining his huge son heaving upstairs. "Joseph! Enough!"

"And chocolate cake..and some green beans too." Little Joe added for good measure. "And something orange, maybe carrots or squash."

"JOSEPH!! Enough!" Ben roared. "I get the picture!"

"But Pa, you always said we boys should watch out for each other and tell you when we have problems...that no trouble was too nasty to tell you. No
problem to big for Pa to know and to help his boys out...Pea soup and corn and cherry dumplings and spewing like a fountain…a volcano erupting.
Ker fluooy!" Joe swung his hands up in the air. Potts paled.
"That was far more information than I needed to know, Joseph," Ben felt his own stomach twirling at the disgusting picture Little Joe was creating. It
was far worse than it had felt when he was the cabin boy on Abel Stoddard's clipper ship and he faced his first Atlantic hurricane.

Roy Coffee winced. "Guess Hoss has been poisoned too. Adam and Little Joe too."

"That process is called reverse peristalsis," Miss Robin commented weakly from under the settee.

She was small enough to fit there and had the emptied fruit bowl cradled in her limp arms...just in case. Her face was a pasty chartreuse in the fire
light. "The digestive system tries to rid the body from toxins."

"With your permission I would be more than glad to administer the antidote to the poison. I have it right here in my case. All I need is a kettle of
boiling hot water and cups, and some spoons and I will brew it up for you! You all will feel better within a half hour of taking the medicine and will just
need to sleep a bit to regain your strength... But I promise you, everyone will be fine in the morning."

Will set his black case on the dining room table and started measuring out powders into a flask. Hop Sing ran out of the kitchen with a tray holding
the other items.

"Paaaaaaaaaaaa!" Ben heard Hoss groaning upstairs. He bellowed like Jigger Thurman’s bull.

"There he goes again! Don't it sound sooooo pitiful?" a tear trickled down Little Joe's flushed cheek.

Miss Lynne pulled a perfumed hanky from her bosom and wiped the boy’s eyes gently and brushed his damp curls from his forehead. He smiled at
Lynne gratefully.

"Want me to brew up a big batch of the antidote?" Will said grinding some yellow powder with a mortar and pestle.

"Yes do it !" Ben roared. "A very big batch! Very big!" He slammed his fist on the table behind the settee nearly knocking over the bronzed horse
statue. "A BIG BATCH!"

"Yes Mistah Caht right!" Hop Sing nodded and scurried back for more boiling water. He regretted not taking his vacation that week or sending
himself one of his famous "Sick Relative" telegrams.

Robin groaned under the settee, looking up from where she lay. All she could see was Ben Cartwright's feet and the hem of his pink satin lapelled
maroon velour robe.

"I wonder why Mr. Cartwright wears shiny black boots with a woman's robe? " she muttered as she fainted with her head in the fruit bowl.

Within the next half hour the antidote had been administered to all the Cartwrights and the Terpsichorean Troupe and Potts and Hop Sing had
cleaned up the mess, everyone, including Roy Coffee, Will and Potts had found a place to sleep. Exhausted people filled every bed, chair and corner
of the Ponderosa. Robin was glad she had laid claim to the floor under the settee until Roy Coffee was snoring on the "top bunk" above her head.
Eventually she fell back to sleep by stuffing some grapes into her ears to block out the awful noise.

"And don't anyone bother me!" Ben slammed the door on his room and sagged into his nice cozy bed. He pulled the quilt over his head. "That
Debbie B. is mighty pretty," Ben thought and fell sound asleep.

It had been a long, restless night. Finally everyone went to sleep and slept far into the next morning; except for Ben Cartwright and Roy Coffee.
They rode out early to join the posse and hunt for Bernie.

Hoss Cartwright awoke up from his bed. Little Joe's elbow or knee was poking him in his kidneys. Joe was still dreaming and muttering in his sleep.

"Oh Miss Lynne take that last train from Clarksville and I will meet you in the morning…don‘t let my Pa know." Joe reached his arms out for his
dream girl and made loud smacking kissy noises with his lips. "Oh Miss Marion and Miss Kathy don’t push… there is plenty of Joe Cartwright for
all of you! You too girls..." He grabbed a fist full of Hoss's checkered nightshirt but the larger man wrenched free.

Hoss rolled to the other side of the bed narrowly missing a wet kiss. "Quit it, Little Joe! I ain’t your dream gal, Short Shanks!"

Hoss heard Adam snoring musically from where he was rolled in blankets on the floor.

The night before, Pa had insisted on the three brothers bedding down in Hoss’s room. With all those women in the house, they had run out of space.

Pa was no way giving up his own soft bed and peaceful privacy. Weary Ben Cartwright had growled at his sons.

"You boys offered the ladies a place to stay! Now deal with it! I’m going to sleep!"

He also felt sure that by forcing Adam, Hoss and Little Joe to share one room, they would keep track of each other and there would be no hanky
panky or sneaking around with a pretty gal in the middle of the night. No shenanigans from his boys might allow the rancher to sleep a few hours
before he had to ride out with Roy and the posse.

Scratching his rear end through his checked flannel nightshirt, Hoss carefully walked around Adam's length stepping gingerly. Hoss pushed aside the
curtains to look out at the sky. It was morning and the boys promised Roy Coffee to help in his hunt for Bernie Breen and his outlaw band.

Suddenly a saucer flew past the window...a flying saucer.

"What the..." Hoss exclaimed scratching his head and blinking his blue eyes.

Another saucer flew past...then another silhouetted against the bright blue sky.

"What the what?" Adam woke up with a start.

He sat up suddenly and forgetting that he was sleeping on the floor he banged his head against the bureau with such force that the shaving stand
jarred the hair tonic and Inger's picture fell over with a crash.

"What the what the what?" Joe woke up and rolled onto the floor with a thud. He too had forgotten he was sleeping in his brother's bed.

"A flying saucer!" Hoss exclaimed. He looked down in the yard and there was Debbie B. and Dee, Lynne and Jennie twirling and tossing the china
up in the air and juggling it at the same time they played harmonicas. The rest of the pretty dancing girls sat in a row on the corral fence.

"A flying saucer?" Joe rushed over to the window in his thin cotton night-shirt.

"And cups!" Adam added. "And bowls."

"And the best big serving platter!" Hoss added. "And the tea pot too!"

The red transfer ware plates and bowls spun high above the pretty girls and they caught them with experienced grace and speed and tossed the
shining dishes back and forth. They were jugglers as well as dancers.

"Look at those girls go!" Little Joe squeezed between his two larger older brothers to get a better view. "That purty one sure plays a nice tune!"

"Bet all that harmonica playing keeps their lips nice and limber," Adam thought out loud rubbing the bump on top of his head. "And look how pretty
that Debbie Dee is!"

He suddenly decided to volunteer to stay behind and guard the women while his father and brothers went out on the posse.

"Look how pretty all of them are!" Joe's eyes lit up as he leaned further out of the window to get a better view.

He climbed up on the window sill and leaned forward. Adam grabbed the back of his nightshirt and yanked the boy back inside before he flipped
forward and rolled down the porch roof.

"Joe, don't you have a lick of sense? You could fall on your fool head!" Hoss cautioned as Little Joe fell backwards on the floor.

"But they are so pretty!" Little Joe said irrationally climbing back up. "I just wanted to get a closer look."

"It doesn't mean you have to get killed!" Adam said as he pulled on his pants and rushed out of the room with his unbuttoned shirt flapping behind
him. "Come on boys, we are burning day light!"

"Sure Adam!" Hoss said walking away from the window and grabbing his trousers from the chair. He started to get dressed. He wanted to help catch
Bernie Breen.

Not quite ready to get dressed, Little Joe leaned forward again to watch Miss Lynne and Miss Josephina do her famous Monkey dance while
juggling fire batons. This time, without Adam and Hoss by his side to snag him, Joe tumbled head first out of the window. The boy somersaulted down
the porch roof with his nightshirt billowing over his head.

"Aaaaaaa!" Joe shrieked as he plummeted toward the yard.

"Heck Pa always told Joe to wear under drawers under that night shirt!" Hoss observed.

"Since when did our little brother ever listen to Pa?" Adam shook his head as the two brothers watched Little Joe roll over the edge of the roof.

"AHhhhhhhhh!" sighed the crowd of dancing girls admiringly looking up at Little Joe.

"JOSEPH!!!" Ben Cartwright bellowed as he rode into the yard with the posse.

"Ahhhhh!" sighed the girls getting a full view of Little Joe Cartwright as his night shirt snagged on the edge of the roof.

"YIPES!" exclaimed the boy as he plummeted to the ground sans night shirt.

"Didn't know Joe had a birth mark there!" Roy Coffee observed shaking his head.

Ben put his hands over his eyes and shook his head wearily. "Yes, Roy...it is the famous Cartwright birthmark. We all have it."

"Its in the shape of a pine tree!" gasped Miss Jennie who had once studied botany with John Muir. She rushed over to the naked unconscious lad
rolled him onto his back and began administering mouth to mouth resuscitation. Laurie Marie and Joan lined up behind her for their turns.

"Careful girls! No pushing or shoving!" Kathy directed.

"That where I got the idea for the Ponderosa brand," Ben said softly wishing he was back in bed. It was only ten AM and he felt like he was done in
already. "M’am...Miss Jennie...Miss? Don't worry about Joe. He has a very hard skull..he'll be fine."

Hoss and Adam rushed out of the door to see what happened to Joe.

Four of the other girls grabbed the red Indian blanket from the banister and fashioned a stretcher. They carried the boy inside. "Not to worry! We
will tend to him, Mr. Cartwright!"

Ben nodded and waved his hand weakly and sighed. He couldn't take much more of this. At least the posse had caught Bernie Breen.

They both realized that the posse had a prisoner. Clem Foster was driving a buckboard with a skeevy looking dude bound in the back. He was about
forty with a misshapen goatee and dirty brown hair. He had a nasty crazed look in his diarrhea brown eyes.

"Feller sure looks like that Charnel House Dude you shot last winter," Hoss said to his brother. Adam nodded.

"STRING HIM UP!!!" Lynne shouted before she headed inside to tend to Little Joe.

Adam ached to shoot Bernie right on the spot for what he had done to his beautiful darling Debbie. In the few moments of conversation they had had
the night before between bouts of nausea and wrestling matches in the hay loft she had explained how Breen had stolen her father's ranch, poisoned
her cattle, and set fire to her out house. She had been the book keeper for his mining company and she had discovered how he stole money from the
stockholders as well as the miner's widows and orphans fund. He even cheated on his wife with stiff blonde from Stockton and expected Debbie to
cover for him. When she complained, Bernie laughed and threatened to kill her puppy, Fluffy. Adam Cartwright drew his gun and was ready to fire
when Hoss grabbed his brother's wrist. The gun fired harmlessly in the air.


"Let the law handle it son, I am sure he will be hung...but lets do this legally," Ben instructed.

"Why would the Cartwrights even try to save such a lout???" said one of the girls.

"Heck the Cartwrights can even bring the rope and be four of the 12 guys on the jury..." observed Miss Robin.

"And Hop Sing can make the refreshments!" Miss Josephina added.

Adam glared at the cad and Bernie shivered and peed into his expensive kangaroo hide boots. "If I could only take it all back...please please..."he
pleaded like the cowardly churl he was.

"ITS TOO LATE!" Debbie hollered "TOO TOO TOO too late!!!"

"DIE BERNIE DIE!!!" Adam growled menacingly.

"Take me away! Please!" Bernie pleaded.

Roy Coffee slapped heavy rusty painful manacles on Bernie and hauled his sorry ass off to jail where rats would nibble his toes and roaches would
poop in his dinner…but Justice would triumph, as always.

Adam gazed longingly at Debbie and wrapped his muscular arms around her protectively.

"Darling...how about a nice picnic?"

"Oh YES!!!" They kissed and kissed again. Debbie loved picnics almost as much as she loved Adam Cartwright.

The door swung open and Little Joe rushed out draped in the red Indian blanket


"Lets go on our picnic!" Adam gazed longingly at Miss Debbie.

"Or some other outing? " Joe grinned hoping he would be included. That boy bounced back fast. "We can go on a hay ride or some frog hunting!!!"

Hoss pulled Joe away by one arm and said, "Little Joe, can't you tell that Older brother wants to be alone with Miss Debbie?"

"Alone? What the heck for?" Joe asked foolishly.

"I want to show you the best view on the Ponderosa," Adam growled suggestively.

"Yes! YES!!!" Debbie sighed. She knew what she considered to be the best view on the Ponderosa.

"Hmm the best view on the Ponderosa! What could it be?" Miss Lynne asked the other Debbie.

Miss Joan elbowed Miss Kathy and they giggled. Miss Kathy rolled out a huge map of the Ponderosa on the porch table. It was an original artifact
that Miss Kathy had obtained at great personal expense from the Nevada Boundary Charting (NBC) of the Spanish Land Office.

Adam and Debbie continue kissing as the map of the Ponderosa caught fire from the flames of their passion.

"Oh my goodness!" one of the girls shrieked as she tossed a bucket of water on the flaming map.

"JOSEPH!!!!" Ben roared. "Leave your brother alone. Go get dressed and Hoss go with Roy and beat the crap out of Bernie if he tries to give the
sheriff a hard time!"

All Ben could think of was once he got rid of all these people he could climb into his nice cozy bed and sleep for the rest of the week or at least until
Sunday night at nine.

Adam lifted Debbie onto Sport and leaped up behind her and galloped over the prairie.

"Wait !!! " Hop Sing shrieked waving the jug of lemonade at them as the rode away.

"Don't worry! " Adam grinned "I have martinis in my saddle bag!!!!"

"Martoonis?" Hop Sing repeated.


Part 7 written by Josefina Marzo



With all the others away, there was only Hop Sing for the girls to entertain now. Josefina and Miss Lynne marched right over and scooped the little
man off his feet, placing him firmly on the sofa.

"Señor poquito, we are going to wow you with our show."

"Be careful girls, we wouldn’t want to ruin the kind Mr. Cartwright’s home." warned Kathy E.

"Hows about we take Hoppie here outside, and have our show out ther?" suggested Miss Jennie, using what she called her ‘western talk’.

All the girls hurried to gather their equipment and take it, as well as a protesting Hop Sing, outdoors.

"Hop Sing not want ow-sigh; Hop Sing want to go back to China and get away from hair-um!"

"Señor Hop Sing, please do not go back to China; de girls and I yust want to give you a demonstration."

"That’s right Jo. We can’t do our dancing show in town without Debbie Dee and Lord knows Adam might forget to bring her into town if we ain’t here
to remind ‘im when they gets back. What else do you pre-pose we do with our time?" questioned the pretty Mrs. Marian.

Just then a handsome young man stumbled out of the main house looking dishevelled and a bit disoriented. His open shirt, wrinkled pants and
mussed blond hair gave testament to a good nights sleep. His deep blue eyes squinted into the sun and recognizing the troupe from last night, he
broke into a beautiful smile that revealed his perfectly white teeth.

"Magnifique!" Lori breathed.

"I thought Monsieur Joe was the one for you-ou-ou?" laughed Miss Robin.

Mitch smiled at the reference to his friend. "Where is everybody, anyway?"

As Kathy began the explanations, Josefina realized that she had not seen Mitch at night when they’d all woke up poisoned.

¿Donde estabas anoche? Josefina asked the perplexed young man.

"She means, where were you last night?" Susan interpreted.

"Oui, oui?!" added Lori.

"Why I was sleepin’ soundly in the coat room. Those fancy coats made a humdinger of a bed! I guess the sun couldn’t wake me in there."

Katja pointed out that everyone, even Joe, got sick last night; how was it that he escaped the episode? Everyone questioned this and wondered at the
small miracle.

Jennie joked, "We could use him in our act as an iron stomach."

Kathy finished the narrative and instructed Mitch to join Hop Sing on the bale of hay that stood out side the barn.

"Let’s begin girls!" directed Kathy.

All the girls lined up and began their newest routine prepared especially for this evening in Virginia City. The preview, Jennie explained, was to
repay Hop Sing for any trouble they might have caused him. The monkey climbed up where the men were sitting and began to clap as hard as he
could, all the while laughing and chattering away.

"Bravo!" rejoined Mitch.

"We are very glad you like it Señor Mitch." Josefina said batting her eyelashes and giving Mitch a broad smile.

Blushing, Mitch suddenly rose and proclaimed that he must get home before anyone at home got real worried about him. He graciously kissed each
hand and bid them farewell stopping to kiss the olive hand last, and looking deep into its owner’s eyes, vowed to see her again soon. Waving goodbye
to the beautiful ladies he galloped away.


Bernie was safely in jail and it was clear that Pa didn’t want Joe back at the house.

But all those perty ladies are there… thought Little Joe.

"Come on Little Joe; let’s go watch the men play chess at the hotel." prodded Hoss.

"But Hoss, all those pretty ladies back home have nobody to keep them company."

"Joe, Pa has been in an awful mood and I don’t wanna stir up any more of his dadburned temper! Now you come on into the hotel with me right now."

Little Joe followed Hoss grudgingly pausing to read the bulletins posted on the board just outside the hotel door.

"Why lookie here Hoss! There’s a dance here in two days. If’n we can persuade the Terpsichorean Troupe International to stay with us fer a couple
more days we could have a real humdinger of a dance! Wadya say Hoss? Huh?"

Hoss was torn. If he let Joe go home to ‘persuade’ the ladies to stay, he might catch it from Pa. He was sure the elder Cartwright was still to speak
his mind about Hoss’ part in the affairs of last night. What was he thinking, letting him go all alone to town with the girls?

"Hello there, Hoss! Are ya in there?" Joe interrupted his train of thought.

"I’m athinkin’ Joe; just gimme a minute."

"Thinkin’? Now big brother you know what happens when you start thinking…" Then inspiration hit Little Joe. "You know that clingy girl, Martha,
who always asks you to take her dancin’?"

Hoss groaned, "Yeah, what about her Joe?"

"I hear tell that she’s aplanning to ask you to this here dance!"

Completely forgetting that Little Joe had just learned of the dance, Hoss began to sweat at the thought of going to the dance with the loud and
annoying Martha.

"Awww, what do I do Joe?" Hoss fairly cried.

"Leave it to me big brother, I’ll get you outta this one. You’ll just tell her that we have some unexpected guests and that it would be rude not to dance
with them. Isn’t that clever? But first we have to get the girls to stay!"

"Alright Joe, you win! I just shiver when I think of Martha steppin’ all over my feet and trying to kiss me."

"Well if I’da known you felt that way about her Hoss, I wouldn’t have come up with my wonderful plan to get rid of her." Little Joe laughed.

"Dadburn you Little Joe." Hoss hollered as he lit out after Little Joe and the buggy.


Ben Cartwright awoke with a start. What time was it and how long had he been sleeping? He could see that twilight had fallen and wondered why
everything was so quiet. He put on his feminine robe and wandered downstairs. There was a note on the coffee table, signed in Adam's neat hand:
We've all gone to see the show tonight. Hope you don't mind that we didn’t wake you; we all agreed that you need the rest.

So that was the reason the grand house was so silent. A great rumbling reminded Ben that he hadn’t eaten since last night. He crept into Hop Sing’s
lair and expected to find it empty. To Ben’s surprise, Hop Sing was seated on a bench and reading a book in Chinese. Obviously in a far better mood
then yesterday, he stood up and bowed quickly.

"I hav your dinna hea Missa Cartwlright. Hop Sing know Missa Cartwlright have verdy lodge appitite when he wake up. Hop Sing guess good?"

"Why yes Hop Sing, your guess was certainly on the mark. I’m so hungry I could eat all the steak in Virginia City!" Ben chuckled. His humour was
returning after the long rest. "I guess you know the boys are out on the town tonight. I wonder how long we will have the privilege of hosting these
fine dancing women?"

"Missa Adam, Missa Hoss, and Missa Joe promise Hop Sing a vacation to see relatives if he cook sometime for the beautiful vwomen. Dey promise
too that dey all stay out da kitchen!"

Ben wondered at the possibility of having these ladies stay in town indefinitely. Miss Kathy sure would be nice to have around. Ben’s eyes twinkled
at the thought. "I could take her to the dance on Friday." He said aloud.

"Who you take to da dance, Missa Cartwlright?" questioned the curious cook.

"Oh never mind, I was just thinking aloud." The patriarch followed his comment with a large mouthful of mashed potatoes. "This dinner is wonderful
Hop Sing!"



"Oh Adam, it was very nice of you to get us an invite back to the stage. Your prompt for an encore made the manager very happy; he invited us to
finished the week here."

"Well Debbie, dancing like that deserved an encore and you all are so talented. But I wanted to ask you something."

Debbie Dee lowered her eyelashes and then looked up questioningly.

"I wondered if you would accompany me to the dance at the hotel on Friday?"

"Oh Adam," she sighed, "I’d be honoured!" With this she gave Adam her best smile. He kissed her hand and helped her into the waiting buggy.

Over in another corner of the Opera house portico, there stood another happy couple.

"Muchas gracias, Mitch. I am delighted you ask me to join you at the dance." Josefina said smiling.

As he leaned forward, she kissed two fingers and placed them on his lips. "Adiós mi amor; hasta viernes."



Chain Story – A Good night’s Rest.

Part 8



Hoss’ tongue appeared from between his teeth and his eyes nearly crossed as he stared intently at his reflection in the mirror and concentrated on
doing his tie up for the umpteenth time. Behind him, his little brother jumped up to try a get a look at his own reflection over the top of the big man,
but to no avail.

"Hurry up!" said Little Joe impatiently. "Ain’t ya done with that tie yet?"

Hoss glanced over his shoulder impatiently. "Quit ya griping little brother," he said. "I wanna make sure its jest right!"

"What for?" asked Little Joe with a twinkle in his eye. "All them gals are gonna be looking at me not you… so what’s it matter what ya look like

Hoss turned around and swatted Joe on the side of the head. "You’d better not wear a hat tonight," he said gruffly as he moved away from the
mirror. "It wouldn’t fit no how with a head as big as yourn!"

"Boys that’s enough," said Ben Cartwright gruffly from the doorway where he was standing resplendent in a dark suit with the silver brocade vest
that he always got out for special occasions.

He thought he looked rather spiffy in it and it held cherished memories for him as he had worn it to his three weddings. His eyes misted over as he
thought of his three long-dead wives and what they might say about his plans for the night if they were here. He sighed as his thoughts lingered on the
delectable Kathy E. for a moment. Somehow tonight he would make sure that she was his in every sense of the word! The woman had style and grace
and he was half-thinking of how she would shape up as the fourth Mrs Cartwright. He looked down at his vest smugly. After all, it seemed a shame to
have this thing stuck in a trunk most of the time…it was about time they had a wedding on The Ponderosa and who better to oblige than himself?

Adam was far too caught up in himself to ever tie the marital knot. He ran a mile anytime a woman came close to snaring him and Ben felt sure that it
would take a mighty determined woman to catch that eldest son of his. Laura Dayton had tried, but she just didn’t have what it took to match up to
Adam’s sharp intellect. Ben had tried to warn his son of her (to put it politely) limited brain power, but it had taken cousin Will to finally show him just
how desperate the woman was when she had switched her affections to him so quickly. Adam had always maintained that it was cousin Will’s
moustache that had captured her heart, but Ben knew differently. After all, Adam had an excess of hair himself and could easily have grown a full
beard in a matter of hours if he’d wanted to. No, his eldest son should have counted his blessings the day that one rode out of his life.

That Quaker woman … the one that he always had trouble remembering her name …she had been hard to take as well. Ben couldn’t for the life of
him see what Adam had seen in her. She and that other one Rebecca… it seemed that Adam had gone through a religious phase in those days and
had linked himself up with anyone he could find who had strong beliefs in any direction. Ben shook his head. That other one… Ruth was that her
name? Yes… the self-styled Buffalo Woman… she’d been a real doosey! He could just imagine introducing her as his new daughter-in-law in her
buckskins and moccasins. He cringed at the thought of it. No… it was far better for his eldest son to remain single as Ben had great doubts as to his
choices in women.

His thoughts turned to Hoss and he smiled. There was no danger of that one going down the altar in a hurry that was for sure! It doubted that Hoss
would even know what to do with a wife really… his middle son was what he would term ‘an innocent’ in the ways of women and Ben had grave fears
that someday he would be caught up in the wily feminine charms of some gold-digger who was trying to get her hands on the Cartwright fortune and
saw him as easy prey. Hoss was simply not up to the challenge that such a woman would provide and he resolved to protect him at all times.

Mind you, Ben knew that unless the woman in question could cook, there’d be no point in her trying to snare his son. Hoss thought with his stomach
not his head. Ben supposed it came from his mother’s side of the family. That Inger had been a big woman … with a big appetite to match. He could
remember at their wedding that she’d eaten a whole side of deer in one sitting. She’d assured her new husband that it was a Swedish tradition to
leave nothing over at the end of a meal and Ben had judged in the year that he’d known her that she was sure an expert at keeping up traditions. Her
son took after her very well in that respect!

His thoughts then turned to his youngest son and he scratched his head as he watched the boy flattening down his curls and smirking into the mirror.
That one was sure a Cartwright to watch! If the women of Virginia City had had their way, his youngest son would have been well and truly snared
already. Ben frowned. He wondered if the boy had already been come to think of it. That notorious Julia Bulette had had a real smirk on her face the
other day when they had passed in the street and he had caught Joe a number of times hanging around D Street when he shouldn’t have been
anywhere near the place.

Ben cleared his throat as he thought about how like himself the boy was at that age. It was one of the reasons his father had encouraged him to go to
sea. His father had figured that Ben couldn’t get himself into trouble on the middle of the ocean with the nearest woman thousands of miles away. He
had a vision of Joseph in a sailor suit for a split second and then shook his head. The crew would probably tip the boy over after the first week
judging by how annoying he could be. No, better to keep him under his father’s watchful eye where he could be certain of his antics.

All the more reason for taking up with that delectable Kathy E, Ben reasoned. Maybe having a woman in the house full-time would keep his sons
under control. It might just allow him to get the sleep he so desperately craved as well. Lord knows he hadn’t had much in the past few days!

Even as the thought crossed his mind, there came a squeal from downstairs and Ben sighed as he remembered their guests. Kathy E. had promised
to find them accommodation in town, but so far nothing had become available so The Ponderosa was still playing host to the bevy of beauties. There
had never been so much activity in the house since it had been built and Ben craved for the peace and quiet of the past.

"Come on boys," he said as he pulled Joseph away from the mirror by the collar. "Let’s go downstairs and get these women organised."

"Whatever you say Pa!" said Little Joe happily. "I’m just about as gorgeous as I can get." He smirked at his reflection one last time in the mirror as
his father pulled towards the doorway.

"Now you behave yourself at this dance tonight Joseph," said Ben sternly. "I’d hate to have to whoop your hide young man!"

Little Joe put on his most innocent expression. "Me Pa?" he said. "Course I will! Don’t I always?"

Ben lifted one of his eyebrows, a trick that he’d learn many years ago from an old sailor and one that he thought made an impression on his sons.
"I’d rather not answer that Joseph," he said sarcastically. "You have been known not to."

"Yeah but that was before when I was chasing after girls," said Joe as they reached the top of the staircase and looked down on the group in the
living room. "Now I don’t haveta chase anyone. They’re chasing me!"

He gave his father a cheeky grin and descended the staircase straight into the arms of the waiting group who immediately began to fuss over him and
coo over his dark blue suit and curly hair.

"Scuze me Pa," said Hoss as he pushed past his father. "Time’s awasting iffen we’re gonna get ta that dance." He also descended the staircase and
stood straight and tall while a couple of the girls redid his tie for him.

Ben glanced over to see Adam sitting on the sofa with Debbie Dee snuggled up beside him. Josefina was giving them dark looks from her position in
front of the fireplace.

"I thought you were keen on that Mitch," Ben heard Miss Jennie say.

Josefina gave Jenny an exasperated look. "This is true," she said in her husky voice. "Owever it does not ‘urt to have two fish on my hook does it
not?" She swept over to Adam and pulled him to his feet. "You will save me a dance tonight will you not my dark ‘andsome man?"

Adam looked a little embarrassed as Debbie Dee got to her feet and pushed Josefina away roughly.

"You stay away from him," she muttered. "I’m the one he’s been showing the sights of The Ponderosa to, not you!"

"Now now girls," said Adam soothingly with his best New England charm. "There’s plenty of me to go around."

"Hey that’s my line," said Little Joe indignantly. "I’m the one that always get to say that!"

Adam gave his younger brother a dark look to silence him and then took Debbie Dee and Josefina one on each arm. "Ladies," he said. "Our
carriage awaits." He swept them out through the front door.

Hoss gave a smirk and approached Katja who was patting her fair curls down and smoothing her silken blue dress. "Ma’am?" he said politely. "Ya
want me ta take ya to the buggy?"

"Oh thank you kind sir," giggled Katja as she took hold of his arm. "I sure do admire a man with muscles." She stroked his arm seductively. "And
you sure have lots of them Hoss."

Hoss swallowed and ran his finger around the neck of his shirt. "Um… yes’m," he said as he went bright red.

"Now Katja," said Miss Jennie as she stepped forward and took hold of Hoss’ other arm. "We’ll have none of your Russian ways here thank you
very much! Control yourself!"

She bent forward and whispered into Hoss’ ear. "She used to be in a gymnastic troupe in Holland," she said. "Still gets obsessed with muscles now
and then. Just ignore it."

Hoss gave her a half-hearted smile and swallowed again. "Yes’m," he said for want of anything better to say.

"Come on Hoss," said Robin in her best schoolteacher voice. "Follow me please and hurry up. We don’t want to be late!" She led the way outside
and Hoss followed, dragged by Katja and Jennie on either side.

Ben descended the staircase just in time to see the remaining girls cluster around Little Joe. "Hold on girls," said his youngest son. "There’s plenty
of me to go around."

"Your older brother already used that line, remember?" asked Joan. "Can’t you think of anything else to say?"

Little Joe thought for a moment. "Take me?" he suggested.

"Joseph!" thundered Ben.

Little Joe gulped. "Um… sorry Pa," he said. "I forgot you was there."

"So it would seem," said Ben sternly. "Ladies… may I show you to the carriage?"

Marian and Joan immediately elbowed the others out of the way and grabbed hold of Little Joe’s arms.

"We’ll follow," they said as they gave the others smug looks.

Susan looked as if she were about to cry, so Ben quickly took hold of her hand and patted it. "There there," he said. "Won’t I do as an escort?"

"I suppose so," she sighed. "But I was sorta hoping to get something younger. I mean… no offence of anything, but you are kinda grey around the

"Susan!" said Lynne, her upright British character obviously shocked at the girl’s words. "That’s a terrible thing to say. If you’re going to insult the
man the least you could do would be to do it accurately. He’s not grey around the temples, he’s white all over." She gave Little Joe a glance. "And
he has good cause to be, so don’t blame him."

Ben looked embarrassed. "Well actually," he said. "That’s a bit of a myth. In fact I’ve been this way long before that youngster was born." He
indicated Little Joe who was still grinning in the arms of Marian and Joan. "It turned white many years ago when I was still a sailor. I think it was the
sea salt that bleached it."

"Well whatever," said Lynne stiffly. "It’s still impolite to comment on someone’s misfortune."

Ben looked puzzled. "Misfortune?" he said. "I’ve always thought that it makes me look distinguished. And anyway it goes well with my silver vest."
He glanced down at the article of clothing in question. "Doesn’t it?"

"Not really," said Lynne crisply as she took hold of his arm. "Come on Susan dear, we’d better have a talk to him on the way to the dance about his
dress sense. I’m actually surprised that you attracted three wives by wearing that thing… not to mention the maroon dressing gown!"

"What’s wrong with my maroon dressing gown?" asked Ben indignantly as Lynne and Susan ushered him through the doorway.

"Come on darling," said Marian as she snuggled up against Little Joe. "Isn’t it time we went as well?"

Little Joe looked at her. "I guess so," he said. "But… well… don’t you want to change first?"

Marian looked down at her green jacket, tan pants and grey shirt. She hitched up her gun belt and pulled her tan hat down lower on her head.

"What for?" she said. "I’m kinda beginning to like these duds you lent me."

"Well they certainly suit you," acknowledged Little Joe. "But don’t you think they’re kinda… well … unladylike?"

"I agree," said Joan haughtily. "They make you look exactly like Little Joe. Why, you could win a look-alike competition if there was such a thing!"

"I like them!" declared Marian. She put her arm in the air and thrust her nose into the armpit of the jacket. "It’s kinda got a good smell to it as

Lori put her well-formed nose into the air. "Ooh la la!" she said. "Theese is not feminine at all!" She sidled up to Little Joe and thrust herself in
front of him. "And theese one likes the feminine charms, does he not?"

"He does," agreed Little Joe cheekily "Specially French ones."

"Oh?" said Joan testily. "And why is that?"

"My Mama’s family came from France," explained Little Joe. "I sure got a hankering for anything French!" He eyed Lori appreciatively.

Lori thrust Marian aside and clung onto the boy’s arms. "Then let me show you something French," she said. "I can be… how you say it…. veeeery

Little Joe looked as if he had already been veery persuaded as the girl led him through the doorway.

"How did that happen?" asked Joan mournfully. "One minute you and I had him, the next she did. How did she do that?"

"I don’t know," said Marian as she took another sniff of her armpit and caught a delicious whiff of Little Joe’s scent, which had lingered there.

"Well I’m not giving up yet!" declared Joan. "I’m an Aussie and we never say die!"

Marian looked around fearfully. "Don’t say that here!" she said. "Don’t you know by now just how much violence goes on in this house? Don’t invite
any more of it!" The two girls linked arms and headed outside in a determined fashion.




By the time the Cartwright buggy had pulled up in front of the Hotel the dance was well underway. Ben got down and began to help the ladies onto the
sidewalk when Hoss pulled up with the buckboard behind them.

"Where’s your brother Joe?" asked Ben.

"I’m here Pa," said Joe as he rode up on Cochise with Miss Lori seated behind him.

Ben shook his head a couple of times as he saw what appeared to be another Little Joe riding up behind them. "What on earth…" he began.

"It’s only Marian," explained Little Joe as he slid down and helped Lori down as well. "She’s started imitating me in the way she dresses. I think it’s
kinda cute."

"I think it’s kinda strange," said Ben, frowning.

Suddenly Adam appeared beside his father.

"I’ll see you inside," he said. "I’ve promised Josefina the first dance and we’d best get started." He swung the dark-haired beauty in through the
doorway, followed by Debbie Dee who looked decidedly angry.

"Make sure that’s all you get started with!" shouted his father as he straightened his vest and stood up straight. "Do I look all right?" he asked

"As well as can be expected," said Lynne in her clipped accent. "Now remember what I told you. Keep the jacket button to hide that vest at all
costs." Ben nodded as he went into the hotel in search of Kathy E.

"Come on ladies," ordered Robin. "Time to get inside and show our dancing skills."

The girls began to smooth down their blue silk dresses, all except for Marian who hitched her gun belt up and pulled her hat down even lower on her
head. Several of the girls gave her strange looks as they followed her inside.

"Come on darlin," said Little Joe as he linked arms with Lori. "Let’s explore those French charms ya told me bout eh?" He strutted inside with
several of the girls simpering behind him.

Hoss looked slightly awkward as he hitched up the horses. "I’ll see ya in there," he muttered.

"Oh no you don’t!" said Katja. "I don’t intend to be separated from those muscles any more than is necessary." She ran her hand lightly up the
man’s arm and Hoss felt his skin tingling.

"Oh lordy!" he said, blushing deeply as he allowed himself to be dragged inside.

The dance was in full swing before Ben finally found Kathy E. sitting in a corner drinking punch.

"Hello!" she said as she looked up at him and patted the chair next to her for him to sit down. "Fancy seeing you here Mr. Ben Cartwright!"

Ben smiled at her as he sat down. "The Cartwrights never miss an opportunity to socialise around here ma’am," he said politely. "Besides, I thought
it would be good for your girls to get into town and get acquainted with some young men."

"You mean other than your sons?" Kathy said with a smirk. "You would rather they didn’t become too attached to the Cartwright boys?"

Ben tried not to look embarrassed. "Well… I didn’t mean that," he began. "It’s just that…."

Kathy put up a hand. "You don’t have to explain," she said as she sidled closer to him. "I understand fully."

"You do?"

"Of course," said Kathy as she leant closer to him.

Ben caught the distinct whiff of whiskey on her breath and wondered exactly what was in the cup of punch that she was holding.

‘They’re not exactly… well …. up to Cartwright standards if you get my meaning are they? I mean… you must be hoping that your sons end up with
something better than girls forom a dancing troupe?"

Ben relaxed somewhat, glad to see that they were on the same wavelength. "That’s true," he said. "It’s not that they aren’t nice girls… in their own
way," he said as he spied Marian walk past in her Little Joe outfit and Jenny doing cartwheels across the floor as the rest of the girls linked arms
and kicked up their heels behind her. "But… well… you know."

"Yes I do know," said Kathy as she breathed into his ear. "And what about the senior Mr. Cartwright?" she asked. "What is good enough for him?"

Ben’s smile turned into a full grin. "Well funny you should mention that," he said. "My tastes run more into the.. um… more mature woman.
Someone with refined manners and good dress sense."

Kathy sat up straight. "Sounds familiar," she said as she draped her arms around his neck. "Maybe I could fit that description for you?"

"I was hoping you might say that," said Ben. He leant forward and his jacket fell open to reveal his silver brocade vest.

Kathy E’s eyes widened. "What is that?" she asked pointing.

"My silver brocade vest," mumbled Ben as he remembered Lynne’s warning and began to button his jacket again. "It’s nothing really."

"Nothing?" shrieked Kathy. "Why its… its… its magnificent!" She stroked it gently and as a far away look appeared on her face. "It could be worth
a fortune someday!"

"What?" asked Ben.

"I’d give anything to own that vest," said Kathy cagily. "You see I’m a bit of a collector. I buy and sell things."


"You know… memorabilia. Old things that people search around for. I’m even starting up my own company in the San Francisco Bay area."

"Really?" said Ben, impressed.

"Yes," replied Kathy as she continued to finger the vest. "I’m calling it Kathy E-Bay. One day I hope to have it spread worldwide."

"What a wonderful idea," said Ben. It was obvious that the woman had brains as well as beauty.

"What would you sell this for?" asked Kathy, her eyes shining as she studied the vest.

Ben looked shocked. "My vest?" he said. "I couldn’t sell it! Why I wore this vest to my three weddings and on my three honeymoons!"

"People would really bid high for something like this," mused Kathy. "You must have a price on it." She sidled closer to him and began to blow in his
ear. "I’d give an awful lot for a vest like that."

Ben opened his mouth to reply when suddenly there was a loud noise from the middle of the dance floor.







A Good Nights Rest

Chain Story - A Good night's Rest.  

Part 9

Ben looked up to see Mitch had come in and fired his shotgun right up at the ceiling of the hotel. A look of surprise came across his face. He never
would have figured Mitch to do anything like that.

Mitch put his shotgun up against the wall and walked over to where

Adam was dancing with Josefina.

"So! This is where I find you!" sputtered Mitch. "Here I thought you were sweet on me and I find you dancing with Adam."

"Oh, I am ssooo sorry Mitch", started Josefina. "I jes wan some practice for when I dance wid you."

"A likely story." Mitch was still quite upset over seeing his pretty lass in the arms of Adam.

Debbie Dee was on the side giggling to herself. This was pretty amusing.

Katja had jumped into Hoss’ arms and clung tightly to his broad chest at the sound of the gun.

"Ohh Hoss! Don’t let him hurt me will ya?" she cried.

"Now don’ ya fret nun ma’am. Ain’t nobody gonna hurt a purty lil thang like you." Hoss did his best to reassure her.

Jennie came flying over to Hoss’ other side. "Oh Hoss what is Mitch gonna do? He isn’t gonna kill none of us is he? We didn’t dance that badly did
we?" she cooed into his ear.

"Well, ma’am", started Hoss. "I don’ reckon so. Mitch just likes to make a big noise when he wants to git attention. He’s more interested in
attracting that dark beauty Josefina."

"All the same, I still feel safe here with you", as she cuddled even closer into his side.

Joe was in the middle of a circle surrounded by Marian, Lori, Joan, Lynne, and Susan.

Ben turned to look at Kathy E to see if she was okay. He rushed over to her, as she lay slumped on the floor. Ben’s eyes had that quizzical look
wondering what happened. As he looked in the opposite direction from Mitch, he saw Debbie B standing there with her smoking shotgun.

‘No! She wouldn’t have done that?’ thought Ben.

Debbie B was standing there with a sly grin on her face. She missed Kathy E. as she had intended. She wasn’t about to let Kathy walk away with the
prime catch of the Ponderosa. She just wanted to throw a little scare into her rival.

"Miss Debbie B!" cried out Ben. "You didn’t kill her did you?"

"If I’d awanted her dead, she would be. I was just trying to protect you afore she took that silver vest offen you and headed back to San Francisco
with it. Fact is I just parted her hair for her. Tain’t my fault she fainted."

"Oh you must be exaggerating", snapped Ben. "She wouldn’t do anything like that."

"Well I don’t know for certain. But I still didn’t like the way she was looking at you and calling her feminine charms into play. Especially after that
nice long walk last night that you and I had under the full moon", explained Debbie B.

Ben could hardly believe his ears. All he wanted was one good night’s rest and now he’s got women fighting over him and all three of his sons. When
will this ever end?


Mitch in the meantime had been talking with Miss Josefina while Debbie Dee walked over to give Adam some moral support.

"You aren’t too upset are you Adam?" asked Miss Debbie Dee. "I’m very sorry that Josefina seems to be a bit of a flirt."

"Well, I suppose I should be used to having my heart being torn in pieces", stated Adam.

"What you need is a woman of your own calibre", replied Debbie Dee. "Why the only reason I turned to dancing was because no one wants to pay a
woman with a college education what she should be paid. And then after that Bernie tried to kill me…."

"What’s that you say?" asked Adam. "You have a college education?"

"That’s right Adam", started Debbie Dee. "I turned to this dance troupe because Bernie ruined my reputation and said I was a lousy employee and
fired me. You don’t have any idea how hard it is for a respectable woman to find a job. The same is true with just about everyone in our troupe. Fine
families or widowed or educated. Just down on their luck is all."

"Well, I never would have figured", said Adam. His eyes lit up brighter than the stars on a clear Nevada night. Wonder if he could convince Miss
Debbie Dee to take over as schoolmistress in town. Then he would be able to see her more often.

While this was going on, Mitch and Miss Josefina had stepped outside to continue their conversation.

"Oh, Mitch!" cooed Josefina. "Will you ever forgive lil ole me? I was just trying to make you jealous. I thought I caught you making eyes at Miss
Jennie and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you to someone else."

Mitch looked deep into her eyes to see if there was any hint of deception but all he saw were the loveliest pools of brown staring back at him.

"Of course, I forgive you darling. Say would you consider staying here in Virginia City? I’m sure I could find a job for you and then we would be able
to spend lots more time together", answered Mitch.

"That is so kind of you darling", replied Josefina. "I think though I would like to talk with the other girls first. We have become such good friends."

Mitch seemed a little dejected and began wondering how he could convince Josefina to stay with him.


Hoss still had Katja and Jennie on either side of him.

"Well, that sure was some excitement I could have done without", started Jennie.

"Me too", replied Katja. "Say what’s with Kathy E? You don’t suppose she’s hurt or anything? Hoss, maybe we should send for a doctor?"

"Don’t you worry none Miss Katja, Miss Jennie", replied Hoss. "Pa will look to Miss Kathy. You can bet your last dollar on that."

"If that’s the case, perhaps you would like to have a picnic tomorrow?" asked Miss Jennie. "I make the best fried chicken and apple pie this side of
the Mississippi."

"Figures you go abraggin’ about your cooking, Jennie", fumed Katja.

"Well I can cook too! I make the best borst and pierogies and veal stew. And my old family recipe of fruit pastries can beat your apple pies any day
of the week."

All this talk about food was making Hoss real hungry. Nothing appealed to him more than a good meal and if these two ladies were any competition
for Hop Sing, well he just might consider asking one or the other to stay around for a little while, especially if Hop Sing meant it about going back to



Joe was having a good time with that bevy of beauties surrounding him and fussing over him like he was the greatest thing since the invention of the

‘A body sure could get used to all this’ thought Joe. ‘Wish they didn’t have to head out of Virginia City to continue their tour.’

"Joe, since all this excitement seems to be over, how’s about a dance with me?" asked Susan.

Lynne popped up. "Now just a minute. Poor Kathy is lying over there with Ben. Now don’t you think we should go over and make sure she’s all

"Ben will look after her and that doc feller just gave her some smelling salts. See she’s coming around", replied Joan.

"Well as long as she’s all right. Hope she hasn’t been dipping into her medicine bottle", said Robin.

"You can say that again, Robin", replied Lori.

"Joe, I thought you promised me the first dance?" Marian was getting a little anxious. She had waited a long time to get this handsome young
cowboy this close to the dance floor.

"He promised me first!" yelled Lori.

"No me!" screamed Lynne.

"Me!" "NO ME!" "I SAID ME!"

The six girls were now arguing at the top of their lungs over who would have the first dance with the youngest Cartwright.

Joe looked from one to the other. He hadn’t bargained on this.

"Ladies! Ladies! There’s plenty of me to go around for everyone. Say I got an idea how’s I can give each of you the first dance."

"Huh" "What?" "How" "You gotta be joking." "There is no way." "Don’t josh me!"

Each of them couldn’t believe their ears.

"We’ll have a line dance and then I can dance with each of you in a line." Joe smiled at his own cleverness to get out of this.

"Line dance?" asked Lori. "You mean like what we do when we kick up our legs like this?" And she gave a quick demonstration, which revealed
part of her delicate undergarments. Quick gasps from the elder ladies of Virginia City could be heard from all corners of the dance floor.

"Not quite what I had in mind Miss Lori."

"Well I think you better explain", said Lynne.

"Yeah Joe, what kind of trick is this?" asked Robin.

"I agree," replied Susan, Marian and Joan in unison.

"It’s kinda a new dance we developed out West here." Joe started.

"Slim! How’s about some line dancing music here."

Slim and the boys started up and Joe took the five ladies and lined them up and showed them how to line dance, Western style.


Kathy E. had come too after Doc Martin pulled out his smelling salts and gave her a good whiff of them.

"Ohhh, my head. Feels like a herd of buffalo tromped on it." As she grasped her head in her hands.

"There, there now Miss Kathy. Everything is gonna be all right", soothed Ben.

"What hit me?" asked Kathy.

"Well, I think it was just the sound of them guns going off. Peers like it shocked you and you tripped and fell", explained Ben. ‘He didn’t want her to
know the real reason.’ Keeping his thoughts to himself.

"Just hold me close Ben, I feel kinda woozy here."

Ben could still smell the whisky on her breath and that mingled with the smelling salts made him quite nauseous.

Debbie B stood there by Ben wondering how to make her next move to edge Miss Kathy out of the picture and ride off to the altar with Ben.



The line dance had finished and the ladies escorted Joe over to a corner to see whom he would single out for the next dance. Susan went to step
outside to use the facilities. On the way back, she heard someone calling her name.

"Psst, Susan, over here", said the unknown voice.

"Who is it?" she cautiously asked. Susan turned towards the sound of the voice.

Out of the alley stepped Bernie Breen.

"Bernie!" she gasped out. "How did you get out of jail?"

"You should know by now Susan that there is no jail that can hold me."

"Bernie, if they catch us together, they will put us in side by side cells."

"You worry too much Susan. Say you look kinda worn out. Here, have a

swig out of my whiskey bottle."

Bernie pulled out a silver flask that gleamed in the moonlight. He handed Susan the flask and she took a good long swig out of it.

"AAhhh, thanks Bernie. I really needed that."

"You’ve been a real help to me in the past Susan. Now I still have one more favor to ask", began Bernie.

"No more poisoning Bernie. That Adam has become awful protective of that Debbie Dee." she hissed out the comment.

"Is that a twinge of jealousy, my dear?" asked Bernie.

"Not over Adam himself", replied Susan. "Just that she is trying to get her hands on part of that Cartwright fortune!"

"Well, that little battle isn’t over yet," said Bernie.

"So?" quizzed Susan. "What’s your plan?"

"We’ll leave Miss Debbie Dee to last. I got special plans to do her in."

All this intrigued Susan. She had helped Bernie quite often in the past unbeknownst to the other girls in the troupe. Matter of fact, it was Bernie’s
idea for her to join so’s he could keep tabs on where Debbie Dee was.

"I need you to slip some damaging evidence into Miss Debbie Dee’s possession. Take this note and make sure you put it in her cloak."

"I can do that as long as you don’t try to have me slip in any more poison like at the Ponderosa", replied Susan.

Bernie handed her an envelope and some slips of paper. Susan then went back into the hotel while Bernie slipped back into the shadows. Evil
thoughts were coursing through his brain. That Susan knew too much for her own good and he couldn’t leave any traces behind.

Susan came back in the hotel room where the dance was. As she made her way around the dancers going towards the cloakroom, the room began
spinning. Her footsteps became unsteady and her face turned whiter than freshly cleaned sheets.

Just as the band hit a crashing crescendo, Susan fell face down onto the floor near the bandstand. The music abruptly stopped and Josh put down his
guitar and called out "Doc!! Doc Martin!!"

Faces began turning in the direction of the musicians to see what all the commotion was about. Doc Martin came barrelling along from where he had
left Ben and Kathy E.

Joe stopped and turned and saw Susan lying on the floor. He raced to her side and turned her over to see her eyes wide open and her face so pale.

The doc joined him and began examining her. Joe looked up at the doctor, tons of questions on his face.

"I’m sorry Joe." Doc Martin began. "But there is nothing I can do. I’m afraid she’s gone."


"Gone?" asked Joe. "How is that possible? What happened?"

"Well, from first glance it looks like she’s been poisoned", answered Doc Martin.

Joe couldn’t believe his ears. How could such a thing have happened right here in the middle of all these people?

Roy Coffee joined Doc Martin and Joe. "What’s that ya say Doc? Did I hear you mention something about poison?"

"That’s what my first prognosis would be Roy", stated Doc Martin. "I wanna round up that Will fellow. The toxicologist, I want his opinion on this."

Several of the fellows came over to take poor Susan out and over to the doctors. Joe stood up not believing his eyes or his ears.

"Roy", Joe started. "Find the man that did this. I want to know who could be so cruel as to kill off a fine girl like Susan."

"Don’t you worry none Joe", replied Roy Coffee. "I’ll get right on it."

Roy began going around asking various questions of everyone there. He had noticed the smell of whisky on her breath and was wondering where she
might have gotten it.

One witness said he noticed her going outside. Roy then went out back to investigate. He found several footprints including those belonging to a man.
He looked from side to side to see if he could determine where those prints might be leading off too. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed some
movement off to the side.

Not wanting to scare off his possible quarry, Roy headed back inside and deputised a few of the men folk then set them about to corner the person he
saw outside.

Roy himself headed out the front with some of the men. One of them he had go out back as if to use the outhouse. A few minutes later after they were
in place, the fellow in the outhouse came out and lit a cigar.

That was the signal for the others to begin closing in. Walter Crimms was the closest to where the suspect was last seen by Roy. From the other side
street, two of the deputies began inching toward the suspect.

Walter began casually walking in the direction of the suspect’s position, puffing away on his cigar as if enjoying the smoke before going inside to
rejoin the dance.

Roy was keeping watch at one end of one alley while Clem covered the other alley to block any escape.

When Walter got just a little too close to where Bernie was hiding, Bernie moved to hide himself deeper in the shadows. Not watching where he was
moving, he stepped on the tail of a cat that had been making its home in that area.

"MEOOOOWWWRRRRRR!!!!! PHHSSSSTTTT! YEOWRRRRRR!" The cat cried out its displeasure of having its tail tromped on.

Bernie turned to see the cat with its back up hissing and howling at him and various expletives escaped from his lips.

At the sound of the cat screaming in the blackness of the night, Roy muttered under his breath and hoped that his suspect wouldn’t escape the
carefully planned trap.

Walter ran over to where the sound was coming from with his gun drawn and cocked. Coming up to the hiding man, Walter yelled out "FREEZE!!!"

The other two deputies came around the other side of Bernie and kept him in the crossfire as Roy and Clem came running up.

"Son Of A…..!" Roy bit off the colorful expression. ‘How in tarnation did Bernie Breen escape his jail?’ thought Roy. ‘I will never live this down."

Bernie threw his hands up in surrender. In a very cocky attitude, "Evening Sheriff", replied Bernie.



Marian had seen all that had happened with her friend Susan biting the dust through a malicious deed. She hitched up her gun belt and took out her
pistol. Woman or not, she wanted to be in on the capture of the low-life that took the life of her friend.

At the sound of the cat screaming, Marian raced headlong out the back door with her gun drawn. From the steps on the back, she saw that Roy and
the posse had captured Bernie Breen.

"That just figures!! Of all the low down miserable rotten snakes to ever crawl the face of the earth!" Marian was seething with anger. Fire seemed to
fly out of her eyeballs.

Adam, Hoss and Joe came out of the hotel to see what was going on.

At the sight of Bernie, Adam lost all his normal self-control.

"BERNIE!! You Low Life Scum!!!" yelled Adam. Hoss and Joe grabbed Adam by the arms to stop him from jumping over the railing and going after
Bernie. They remembered how Adam almost shot Bernie when he was captured. Adam could not forgive Bernie for the horrible deeds he had done to
Debbie Dee and her family.

At the same time, Marian cocked back the handle of her pistol and headed towards the stairs. Joe looked over to see her just before she began going
down the steps.

"Marian!!" Joe called out. "Don’t do it! Let the law handle Bernie."

She turned to face him and if looks could kill, Joe would have shrivelled up right there. The words seethed out between her clenched teeth in waves of
pure anger.

"Let the LAW handle it Joseph?" came the half question half statement.

"We let the law handle it once before and that skunk escaped and poisoned dear Susan!!" Venom was practically dripping from her voice. "Not this
time Joe! I’m not gonna let him kill or even try to kill any more of my friends!!!"

With that she twirled on her boot heels and began running down the stairs. In her haste to get to Bernie before he was taken off to jail again, she
wasn’t watching where she was going.

Her boot heel caught on a small hole on the third step and she tumbled end over end down the remaining few steps. Her gun went off, ricocheted off a
metal bucket and caught her in the back.

The three Cartwrights stood stunned for a few seconds at seeing Marian killed by her own pistol. Joe was the first to recover and releasing Adam’s
arm raced to Marian.

He sat down on the ground beside her and gathering Marian onto his lap began talking to her.

"Marian, speak to me, please speak to me", pleaded Joe.

"Joe?" The words came out very weakly from Marian.

"Adam!! Hoss!! Quick get the doc! She’s still alive. There’s still a chance!" Joe ordered his older siblings. Adam told Hoss to go get the doc. He was
gonna stay here to make sure that Bernie didn’t get away and more importantly in case his little brother needed him.

"It’s okay Marian. You’re gonna be okay. Please don’t die on me", pleaded Joe. He was trying desperately to hold back the tears that threatened to
come streaming out of his hazel eyes and down his cheeks.

"I’m sorry Joe", Marian whispered. "I should have listened to you."

"Don’t fret darling", replied Joe. "You are gonna be just fine. The doc will be here soon."

"I can’t feel my legs Joe", said Marian.

"Don’t talk like that. Save your strength", responded Joe.

"Just tell me one thing, Joe", asked Marian.

"Anything for you", answered Joe.

"Tell me. cough cough. Tell me", came the words between coughs. "Tell me I was your favorite?"

"Of course you are", replied Joe. "I always did go for ladies who were different and strong willed."

"I knew it. Thanks Joe". Marian gasped out the words and then with a soft sigh passed out from the pain.

Joe looked at her as she laid so still, her face beginning to turn pale. He looked towards his brother Adam with the saddest eyes ever.

Then he turned back to sweet Marian with her green jacket and tan pants. Joe buried his head onto her soft shoulder and began sobbing

Adam walked very slowly towards his brother crying there over Marian.

He bent down and laying his hand on his brother’s shoulder started "Joe, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. But look she’s still breathing. There’s still
some hope."

Hoss had returned with the doctor to this sad sight.

"Adam?" asked Hoss.

Adam looked up with sad eyes at Hoss. The sorrow was etched deep in his hazel eyes. Adam was a man who may not always express his feelings as
openly as his brother Joe, but anyone who could read those eyes knew the depths of feelings inside this man. Adam often kept his feelings inside
since he believed he had to give the impression of being in control for the sake of his brothers.

"Hoss", Adam said softly. "I’m not sure but it’s still possible she can be saved if we get her to the doc’s surgery right away."

Hoss’ lower lip and chin slightly quivered as he looked first from Adam and then to Joe. He put his head down and shoved his hands in his pockets as
if to gain control over the sorrow that was welling up within his sensitive soul. Hoss ambled over to Joe and in a very soft tone addressed his baby
brother. "Joe, I can’t tell ya how sorry I am that Marian got hurt."

The doctor meanwhile had carefully checked Marian and returned the sad gaze of Joe with his own. "Joe, let’s get her over to my office so I can
begin working on her. Don’t give up just yet."

Joe, ever so gently, scooped up Marian into his strong youthful arms and sadly began following the doctor to his office.

Adam and Hoss exchanged glances.

"Adam?" asked Hoss.

"Yes Hoss?"

"Think we should go along?"

"Nope", replied Adam. He straightened himself up to give himself some courage and the strength to not cry over his brother’s grief and the loss of
such a vibrant girl like Marian. "Some things a man’s gotta do by himself. But we’re here if he needs us."



The doctor had Joe place Marian on the operating table and told him to go out in the waiting room. The surgery was very delicate. Her breathing was
very shallow but she must have a strong will to keep hanging on as she was.

Finally after much care and using techniques that would have amazed any of the surgeons back east, the bullet was removed. It had nicked the spinal
column, which explained why she wasn’t able to feel her legs.

Doc Martin did up the final stitches and wrapped the bandages around the wound. After cleaning himself and his equipment, he went over to one of
his file cabinets and pulled out one of the drawers.

From one of the files, he pulled out the name and address of a back surgeon in San Francisco. If Marian had any hope of walking again, that surgeon
would be able to do it. She would have to leave on the next stage for San Francisco. Time was of the essence to get her there as soon as possible.
Someone would have to go with her. Doc Martin hoped that one of her friends from the troupe would go along.

Checking once again on his patient, he noted that her breathing seemed to be coming easier now instead of so labored as when she was first brought
in. He whispered a quick prayer for her recovery before heading out to talk to Joe.

"Joe," started Doc Martin.

Joe bolted up from the chair at the sound of the doctor. "How is she, doc? Tell me the truth now."

"I got the bullet out and she seems to breathing easier now. Fortunately she didn’t lose that much blood since we got to her pretty quick."

"Then she’s got a chance?" asked Joe.

"Yes she does. She seems to have a lot of strength and will and that is a big factor in cases like these. I do recommend that she be taken to San
Francisco on the next stage though."

"What for?" asked Joe. "I thought you said she was gonna be all right?"

"I still hope for a full recovery for her Joe. It’s a little early to tell. The reason for taking her to San Francisco is to see a specialist. You mentioned
that she couldn’t feel her legs, right?"

"That’s what she said before she fainted," stated Joe.

"Then it’s important that she go to that specialist," began Doc Martin. "If she is to have any chance of walking again, that specialist is the fellow to
see. It may take a year or more for her to completely regain all her abilities, but it is the best chance she has."

"In that case, I will make arrangements for her first thing in the morning. Think she will be able to travel?"

"It is a bit risky but the sooner she gets there, the better her chances. Ask some of the ladies from the troupe to accompany her. I will write out the
necessary letters and provide the address and directions. Then tomorrow I will send a wire to let him know we have a special patient coming."

"Thanks Doc," said Joe. "Thanks for everything." With that Joe went in to take a look at Marian and hold her hand. He kept talking to her giving
her as much confidence as he could hope that she could hear.


The posse had seen all of this take place. Silence enveloped the men. Roy decided to take control and ordered the men to haul Bernie back to jail
and post a guard in front of his cell.

Adam had momentarily forgotten his anger towards Bernie after seeing Marian and Joe. For Joe’s sake, he decided to not take vengeance on
Bernie. He just hoped and prayed that Bernie would pay for his crimes. Turning to Hoss and placing his hand on his shoulder, he motioned for them
to head back inside and tell their Pa what just happened.

Adam and Hoss walked into the dance hall and saw their father still with Miss Kathy E.

Just then a creaking noise was heard. Adam and Hoss began looking around the room trying to determine what was causing the creaking.

Ben looked around as well wondering where it was coming from. He stood up and not seeing anything turned back to help Miss Kathy sit down. Just
then, the large chandelier that was hanging from the ceiling crashed down about a foot behind Ben.

Kathy jumped into Ben’s arms and her hands were running up and down the silver vest. As she returned her hands to cover her mouth from the dust
that had kicked up, she began coughing and couldn’t stop.

A very concerned Ben looked at Miss Kathy and then realized.

"Oh no! She has a blue dress on too just like Susan!!!" he exclaimed to himself.

The silver dust that came from the vest had caused Kathy to have an allergic reaction. Doc Martin barely had time to enter after leaving his office
where he left Joe.

Doc Martin rushed over and did his best to try to help Miss Kathy but it was too late.

Poor Miss Kathy perished away in Ben’s arms as tears welled up in his eyes. ‘Not another one’, ran through his thoughts as his body was wracked
with sobs. ‘How much can a man take?’

Adam and Hoss had observed all this and walked over to try to console their father. Blast that blue dress anyhow! How much more tragedy can occur
in one night? After 2 tragic deaths and one near-fatal one, no one felt much like dancing anymore that night.

Ben picked up Miss Kathy very gently and walked out the hotel followed by Adam and Hoss. They made their way over to the doctor’s where Joe
still was mourning Marian and Susan.

Two of the ladies were in the backroom so Doc Martin could finish his examinations and write up the death certificates. Will had confirmed that
Susan was poisoned. The doctor wrote up the cause of death for the sheriff to be used in Bernie Breen’s trial.

The four Cartwrights headed back to the hotel and found that the band had left as well as most of the others. The few remaining citizens were
cleaning up some of the tables and gathering their garments to leave. A very sober tone could still be felt in the air over all the recent tragedies. The
Cartwrights decided to spend the night at the hotel so’s they could ensure proper preparations were made for the ladies with the funeral director.

The rest of the Terpsichorean Troupe International had also retired for the evening except for a few.

Miss Debbie B came over to console Ben. While she wanted to get the king of the Ponderosa, she didn’t mean for Miss Kathy to die.

Katja had been waiting for Hoss. She walked him over to the cushioned settee in the lobby and tried to comfort him.

Robin knew that it would be difficult to try to help Joe but she stayed by Joe’s side to lend whatever help she could.

The events of the day hung heavy in the air until Ben decided it was time to go get some sleep. Bidding the ladies goodnight, the gentleman of the
Ponderosa went up to bed.


The following morning found the Cartwrights dressed up for the funerals of the 2 ladies. They bought fresh clothes at the local mercantile since they
didn’t have any from the Ponderosa.

The 2 black hearses were lined up in the streets with the remaining dance troupe girls dressed in black positioned around the hearses. The
Cartwright men took up positions behind the hearses and waited for the church bells to begin their slow, sad peal to signal the start of the funeral


Jennie A.




The sermon was short and sweet. Adam, Hoss and Little Joe did their best to console the remainder of the girls as they made there way down Corset
Hill to return to town. Back at the International Hotel the large group of mourners gathered around the buffet table that the good people of Virginia
City had provided and began filling their plates. Debbie B. noticed how distraught Ben appeared and offered to escort him up stairs where she
insisted that he needed to rest.

Gently taking him by the arm, Debbie B. led Mr. Ben Cartwright to his room. Seeing that Ben was complying, she quickly turned down the bed,
fluffed his pillow and demanded that he sit. Debbie turned her back to Ben, straddling one leg and tenderly picked up one booted foot. With a yank
she tugged at his soiled boot. As she fought with the tight fitting footwear she felt Ben’s other foot pressed firmly against her rump. With one last
swift pull and a vigorous push by Ben’s foot against her backside, the boot came flying free from the foot. Giggling hysterically she backed up and
repeated the process on the second booted foot.

Ben who was also laughing began to unbutton his shirt and remove it from his upper torso. Debbie B. whose green eyes longed to remain glued to the
unveiling, took it as her cue to exit the room. As her trembling hand reached for the doorknob, she took one last glance at the half-naked Cartwright
and issued her last order.

"Get some sleep and I will return in a few hours to wake you. Goodnight my handsome prince," muttered Debbie B. as she softly closed the door.

Reluctantly Debbie B. joined her best friend Jennie at the buffet table. "Psst, Jennie," whispered Debbie.

"What," yelled Jennie in a whispered shout, drawing attention to their private conservation?

"He’s is so magnificent, just like I told you he would be," giggled Debbie B. unaware that the entire room had moved in closer and had fallen silent,
hanging on every word that was whispered between the two friends.

Debbie B.’s expression suddenly changed and Jennie A. sighed deeply and rolled her eyes. She knew what that expression meant. ‘Here we go
again,’ thought Jennie A. ‘another fabricated tale.


The sun was just making its appearance over the crest of the mountains when Ben awoke with a start. Sweat coated his brow dripping into his eyes,
forcing him to wipe away the dampness with the palms of his hands.

"What the…." He proclaimed as he looked at the scattered sheets of paper that lay about his bed.

Picking up the closest one within reach and holding it up before his sleep laden eyes he scanned the heading that was printed in bold black ink,
"Terpsichorean Troupe International" written by Adam Cartwright.

Ben scratched his head and gathered the papers into a neat pile and placed them on the table next to the bed. Forcing his weary body from the bed he
began to dress. He paused at the mirror and leaned into his reflection noting the dark circles under his eyes. Taking a deep breath and letting it out
slowly in order to clear his thoughts, Ben muttered, "It had to be a dream."


Ben squinted as the bright rays of the morning sun blinded his vision. His attention was quickly drawn to the small crowd who had gathered around a
weathered beaten wagon of sorts. Curiosity getting the better of him, Ben strolled down the wooden boardwalk to see what the ruckus was all about.

His dark chocolate eyes suddenly widened, his lower jaw went slack, causing his mouth to pop open. On the side of the crimson wagon with garish
yellow trim was a legend emblazoned in elaborately scrolled gold letters: "Terpsichorean Troupe International." Disembarking from the wooden
wagon were twelve breathtakingly beautiful young women all dressed in identical blue dresses. Ben turned from the crowd his heart pounding and
raced toward the livery stable in search of Buck. His nightmare had suddenly become reality and he desperately longed to return home to the
security of the Ponderosa.

As Ben burst through the front door and collided with his youngest son clad only in a towel around his waist, both father and son tumbled to the floor,
Joe loosing his grip on the towel that covered his backside. Ben’s tired eyes could not believe what he saw. There upon his youngest son’s firm
buttocks was embossed the Ponderosa insignia.

"JOSEPH," roared Ben and pointed to the familiar brand.

Joe blushed; his face turning a bright shade of red as he stammered, "I backed into the branding iron, that’s all."




November 2002