"He's here!" Lizzie yelled, jumping away from the window. Then seeing her grandpa's frown at her yelling in the house, she said a little more quietly, "He's here." She peered around the corner at her grandpa who was sitting at the desk doing paperwork. She ducked her head, keeping her eyes down, trying to gauge if she was in trouble.
Ben smiled and stood up. "I believe you are right. Let's go meet him." Ben reached out his hand and took his granddaughter's small one in his and they walked to the door. Lizzie looked up and smiled a relieved smile: she wasn't in trouble.
They walked outside just as Joshua Brown swung down from his saddle. "Ben," the gray haired man in the brown suit and tattered hat said. "How are you old friend?" He extended his hand to Ben grabbing it in a firm handshake. They shook and smiled at each other, nodding.
"Mr. Brown, I'm Adam Cartwright, Ben's oldest son." Adam said as he walked over from the barn, extending his hand.
"And this is my granddaughter, Lizzie." Ben pushed Lizzie forward a little. "You'll meet my two other sons, Hoss and Joe later this evening. Come inside. Where are your daughter and granddaughter? I thought they would be coming with you?" Ben inquired.
"They will be coming on the stage tomorrow. Women tend to need more things than one horse can carry." Joshua laughed. Ben and Adam joined him in the laughter.
Ben clapped Joshua on the shoulder and led him to the house.
Adam took the reins of the horse that Joshua had ridden in on in one hand and took Lizzie's in the other. "Come on, let's take care of the horse."
Lizzie smiled, horses, all horses, were her favorite thing. She was always glad to be able to help with a new horse. She looked longingly at the Palomino in the corral out front. She had been firmly warned to stay away from that horse until her Papa was sure of its temperament. She just knew he was gentle and would be a fine horse, but her Papa wasn't sure and that meant the corral was off limits. Lizzie was not happy about that at all.
Upon coming into the house after caring for the horse, Joshua and Ben looked up. Adam took a seat on chair near the fireplace and Lizzie promptly climbed up into his lap.
"My granddaughter, Sally, is just about your age, Lizzie. I think you and she will have a good time together." He smiled at the little girl sitting in her father's, Adam's, lap.
"I hope so." Lizzie said politely.
"You go play." Adam said and he put her on her feet. "Stay within calling distance and come in for dinner."
"Whose call?" She asked, smiling. "Yours or Grandpa's?" She ran out the door laughing, dodging away from Adam's grabbing hands.
"She's adorable, Adam. Where is her mother?"
"Sarah died from scarlet fever four years ago. Lizzie was only four at the time. I am not sure what I would have done if it hadn't been that for that little girl." Adam said with just a little sadness as he glanced at the door Lizzie had just gone through.
"What did she mean asking about whose call she should hear?" Joshua said, changing the subject.
"She was teasing about Pa's…" Adam glanced up at his father "ah, tendency to, at times…uh….speak rather forcefully." Adam shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Still a bellower, huh, Ben?" Joshua asked with a grin spreading across his face.
"I do not bellow!" Ben growled, but he too had a smile upon his face.
"Uh, yes, Pa, you do." Adam teased with a smile on his face.
"No, thank you," said Lizzie.
They had all gathered around the dinner table that night and Adam had put two Brussels sprouts on Lizzie's plate."
"Yes," Adam said.
"But I don't want or like Brussels sprouts." Lizzie said with a slight whine in her voice.
"I want you to eat them anyway. You are going to have many times in your life when you are going to have to do things you don't want to do, so you might as well learn how to do that now. Eat them first and get it over with; there are only two." Adam said.
Lizzie screwed up her face in a look of contempt and sighed. Joshua found himself tensing for the temper tantrum that he was sure was coming. His own granddaughter would be beside herself, if she were made to eat something she didn't want. Well, if he was totally honest with himself, she would throw a fit about being made to do anything she didn't want to do.
"Yes, eat them first. Don't do what your father did and save them until the end of the meal and then try to sneak them off your plate." Ben said, raising his eyebrows and looking pointedly at Adam.
"You did that?" Lizzie looked at her father with wide eyes. She had a hard time imaging him as a little boy and trying to get away with something. He always seemed to do the right thing.
"I tried, but I didn't get away with it." Adam said with embarrassment. He glanced around the table and tried not to respond to Joe's huge grin.
"The same thing that will happen to you if you don't eat everything: no dessert. Now eat." Adam said forcefully pointing at her plate.
Lizzie knew there were five sets of eyes on her now and trying to sneak them off her plate would be impossible, so she cut one in half and put it in her mouth, closing her eyes and chewing on one side, trying to get it down as quickly as possible. Joshua found that he had a death grip on his fork and slowly relaxed his hand when the expected tantrum didn't come. He found himself wishing his own granddaughter was as easy to deal with over things she didn't want to do.
"I don't like Brussels sprouts!" She said after swallowing.
"Noted." Adam said turning back to his own meal.
"You know, Lizzie," said Ben. "I can remember spending time with the Indians eating things like bear fat and deer liver. I was never so glad that my parents had made me eat everything put before me than I was at that time." He grinned and glanced around the table. "It would have been disrespectful to refuse. Let me tell you, bear fat is horrible, far worse than Brussels sprouts."
Lizzie didn't say it as she chewed, but she wasn't so sure that anything was worse than what she had in her mouth.
Soon the conversation turned back to happenings at the ranch and Joshua told them stories of the adventures he and Ben had had together. Lizzie managed to eat both of the Brussels sprouts and found that eating the rest of the meal took the horrible taste away. She was allowed her chocolate cake and was just a little proud of herself for having earned it by eating those horrible green things. The cake tasted especially good that night.
After the meal, the men moved off to find seats near the fire leaving Lizzie to one of her chores: clearing the table. She usually didn't mind it since everybody usually went off to do their own chores, but tonight, since company was coming, everybody else had managed to get their chores done before dinner. Since clearing the table couldn't be done until after dinner she felt a little resentful. Not only that, but there were more dishes than usual: there was an extra person and Hop Sing had made more than was normal. A scowl was forming on her face and her temper was about to get the best of her when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"I'll help you clear tonight." Her Uncle Joe said.
"Thanks, Uncle Joe." She looked up at him with the scowl still on her face.
"Happy to do it," he whispered. "It's not really fair that you have to work while everybody else is taking it easy." He nudged her with his hip and smiled at her.
Lizzie loved her Uncle Joe and she realized that he had probably seen the storm brewing on her face. Her temper calmed as they quickly cleared the table and she realized that her Uncle Joe had kept her from getting in trouble with her Papa.
After the table was cleared, Lizzie whispered to her Uncle, "Thanks, Uncle Joe." And they both knew it was for keeping her out of trouble as much as it was for helping clear the table.
Joe nudged her again with his hip, "Anytime." He smiled down at her.
Lizzie and Joe joined the group near the fireplace with Joe sitting on the arm of the couch and Lizzie worming her way into Adam's lap. She sat on his knee and settled her head against his chest, listening to his heart beat and slow breathing.
The warm fire and the quiet conversation soon had Lizzie nodding off.
"Bedtime." Adam said quietly, standing up with Lizzie in his arms.
"It's too early." Lizzie mumbled.
"You are falling asleep right here in my lap. I'll tell you what, I'll read you a longer story tonight since you are going to bed earlier."
"Okay," Lizzie knew better than to argue. Her Papa didn't like her to argue about things like bedtimes and when she did, it never ended well for her.
Joe and Hoss both got up too and mentioned heading to town, leaving Joshua and Ben alone each staring at the fire.
"You have fine sons, Ben, and you granddaughter is charming."
"Thank you, I am very proud of them all."