A/N I'm updating this story to add more and to edit it better. (Sept. 2012)
Characters; Ethan 35, Claire 14, Joseph 12, Ben 9, George 8
(Based on the TV series Paradise)
Background:Ethan Cord is an ex gunfighter living in Paradise, Colorado in the late 1800's. Paradise is a mining town. Ethan became the guardian of his sister's four children in August of 1897, after she died of tuberculosis. Ethan's sister, Lucy Cord Carroll was living with her children in St. Louis, Missouri and working as a singer in the theater. Ethan has purchased a small ranch. He is determined to raise the children as young ladies and gentlemen as his sister would want them to be. Although he tries to stop using his gun as a way to make a living, he is called on to help out the local sheriff at times. In June of 1898, Ethan legally adopted his niece and nephews.
April 1899 Spring Vacation
Stopping the wagon in front of the mercantile, Claire felt the sudden warm breeze blow through her long blonde hair. Her best friend, Emily Anderson waved to her from the steps of the mercantile. "Claire! I was hoping you'd come to town today. We haven't seen each other in so long. What have you been doing during the first week of spring vacation?"
"What I always do, Emily. Clean house, cook, wash clothes, keep track of the boys, try to keep Joseph and Uncle Ethan from fussing with each other. Joseph has been so unreasonable lately. He seems bound and determined to get himself in trouble with Uncle Ethan every day! He's housebound for three days right now so, I'm here to do the Saturday shopping by myself."
"Well, I'm glad you could come by yourself. What did Joseph do this time? He's as good as my brothers at getting into trouble. Come to think of it, they're in trouble now too. Did they get Joseph in trouble?"
"No, Joseph got himself in trouble, but he was with Jeff and Jason. Uncle Ethan told him he could go fishing with the twins after he finished all of his chores. Joseph went off fishing before he ever did the barn chores. He was supposed to muck out the stalls, put some clean hay in the stalls and bring in fresh water for the horses. Not only that but he didn't get home until after dark."
"Uncle Ethan has a firm rule, 'children must be home by the time it gets dark.' Uncle Ethan was fuming! I really thought Joseph was in for a whipping this time. He didn't get a whipping, but he's housebound for three days. He can't go out of the house except for chores."
"Claire, let's forget about brothers and go do our shopping. I heard that there are new yard goods in. I want to look for material for a new dress! You ought to get some too; you could use a new dress."
"Emily, my dress is just fine! Besides we don't have the money for any new clothes right now. Maybe I can get one after Uncle Ethan gets paid for the latest job."
"What's his new job? Something for the sheriff?"
"Lean close and I'll tell you." Claire whispers "He's been hired as a bounty hunter."
"Who is he…?" Emily starts to ask.
"I don't know." "He won't tell us the name or what the person did. Uncle Ethan gets angry if we ask about this. He almost walloped Ben when he pestered him about it. Uncle Ethan's been in a bad mood lately. I think it's the job that has him upset. I don't ask though! He's being unreasonable lately too!"
Later that afternoon
Claire, carrying the box of groceries out the front door bumps into someone. "Oh! Excuse me." Looking up over the box, she sees a young man with light brown hair and green eyes. His eyes are sparkling as he says "Not a problem, Miss. If I had to be run into today, I would want it to be someone as pretty as you. Here, let me carry that box for you."
As he lifts the box out of her hands, Claire answers "Thank you, it was getting very heavy. I'm Claire by the way. That's our wagon over there."
"Nice to meet you Claire. My name's Robert Jordan. Everybody calls me Rob, though. Why are you carrying such a big box by yourself? Don't you have a boyfriend around to do the heavy lifting for you?" he asks as he puts the box in the wagon.
Blushing, Claire answers "No, I don't have a boyfriend just some brothers."
"Where are these brothers and how old are they? They won't come beat me up for talking to their sister will they?"
"Of course not! They're not even in town and they're younger than me." At Rob's questioning look, she adds " George is seven, Ben is eight, and Joseph is twelve. George and Ben's birthdays are coming up so they're almost eight and nine."
"When are their birthdays?" Rob asks
"Ben will be nine on Monday and George turns eight next Thursday. Uncle Ethan is planning to have a party for both of them tomorrow." Seeing the wistful look on Rob's face, Claire asks "Would you like to come?"
Rob looks thoughtful as he asks "What about your parents? Would they want some stranger coming around?"
"Well, my parents are dead. My brothers and I live outside of town on a ranch with our Uncle. He's our Mother's brother. He adopted us last year so he is our parent as well as our Uncle. I don't think he'd mind much. He lets us have friends come over."
"All right, I'd love to come. I haven't ever been to a birthday party before.
How do you get to the ranch?"
"The party starts at noon tomorrow, take the first left wagon trail after you pass the pond, it's about five minutes from the pond. I'll see you tomorrow." Claire answers with a smile.
" Claire, what's on your mind tonight? You're so quiet." Ethan asks. Seeing Claire jump guiltily he adds "Is there something going on I should know about?"
"Well, Uncle Ethan, I asked someone to the party without asking you first. I walked into this boy at the store and he was so nice about it. We got to talking and he acted like coming to the party was something he really wanted to do so I asked him. Are you mad?"
"Of course I'm not mad, I just need you to be cautious when you speak to strangers. I trust your judgment and if you feel he's a nice person then I will look forward to meeting him. What's the boy's name and how old is he?"
"His name is Rob Jordan and he seems to be about my age. Uncle Ethan, you don't ask a young man his age when you just met him!"
She hears George and Ben start to make kissing noises. Before she can say anything, Ethan says sternly " Boys! You are not to tease your sister about her new friend. Leave her alone." Seeing the mischief still shining in Ben's eyes he adds "I mean what I say! Do you hear me, Ben?"
"Yes Sir." Ben answers.
"Good, now we have an exciting day tomorrow so I want all of you to go to bed early tonight." Seeing the stubborn look on Joseph's face he says "Joseph, that includes you. I'll need your help with the party tomorrow so you need to be rested."
Ethan is surprised when the boy doesn't argue and just walks to his bedroom.
"Good night, son." Ethan calls.
He doesn't receive an answer except for the sound of a door being shut forcefully. Ethan just shakes his head thinking "I need to have a talk with him about his attitude lately. This behavior of his is not acceptable. We'll talk about it after the boy's party."
The Birthday Party
The next afternoon, Claire was busy frosting the birthday cakes while Joseph tried to keep track of the party guests and his brothers. Ben and George each had three friends come to the party. As the eight little boys chased each other around the house Joseph sat on the steps complaining to himself.
"Why do I have to babysit? Uncle Ethan should be watching them. He's the one who let all these screaming kids come. I shouldn't even be here. He's being so unreasonable about my being late the other night, making me stay inside just because I was a little late. He's so irritable lately, I can't do anything without being scolded or punished." Just then he notices a horse and rider coming into the yard.
When the young man tied the horse to the corral fence, Joseph walked over to greet him. "Hello, I'm Joseph. Are you here to see my Uncle about something?"
"Hi, Joseph, I'm Rob. No, actually your sister Claire invited me today. She and I met yesterday at the mercantile. She mentioned her young brother's birthday party was today and invited me." Seeing the frown on Joseph's face Rob asks "Am I still invited? If not I can just ride back the way I came."
Before Joseph can answer, the barn door opens. Joseph watches as his Uncle comes across to the corral fence. Joseph thinks "I hope he sends this boy back where he came from. We don't need him around here."
"Hello, you must be Rob, Claire's friend. I'm her Uncle, Ethan Cord. I see you've met Joseph."
"Yes sir, we've met." Rob answers glancing at Joseph. "I was just asking Joseph if it was all right for me to be here today." Joseph glared at him behind his Uncle's back.
"What did Joseph tell you?" Ethan asks feeling the tension between the two boys.
"Well Rob, you are more than welcome to come today. I'm sorry you've been subjected to Joseph's bad manners. He will be using his best manners from now on. Isn't that right Joseph?"
Joseph recognizing the warning in the steely tone of his uncle's voice answers quickly.
"Yes Sir!" Then turning to Rob he says "Claire will be coming out soon. She's inside finishing up the boy's birthday cakes."
"If you'll excuse me boys, I have some more work to do." Ethan says walking off.
"Cakes ?" asks Rob "They get more than one cake?"
Joseph giving him a strange look answers "Yes, they each get to pick out what kind of cake they want. George picked white cake with colored sugar frosting. Ben likes butter yellow cake with chocolate frosting."
"Claire makes each of them a cake because their birthdays are not on the same day. Sometimes we have a small party on each of their birthdays, but this year we didn't. They wanted to have friends come so Uncle Ethan decided to have one big party."
"Your Uncle is very nice to give the little boys a party like this. My Pop never even had a cake for my birthdays. Most of the time he wasn't even home or if he was he never remembered my birthday."
"Does he now?" Joseph asks.
"I'm staying with my Uncle Vernon now so I don't know if my Pop remembers birthdays or not. It seems like I've been with Uncle Vernon more than my Pop since I was little."
"Do you get along with your Uncle Vernon, is he nice to you?"
"Yeah, we get along and he's usually nice. Sometimes he gets too bossy and tries to tell me what I can and can't do. Then we end up arguing."
"I know what that's like. Uncle Ethan is forever on me about manners and chores and schoolwork and everything else. I can't seem to go more than a couple of days without him fussing at me or punishing me for something. I came in late the other day from fishing and he was so mad I thought he was going to whip me! I'm too old to get a whipping!"
Rob smiled at that. "Well Joseph, I'm not so sure about that, I'm fifteen and I still get a whipping if I mess up to badly. Although I haven't had one since I first turned fifteen back around Thanksgiving."
"What did you do to get a whipping?"
"My uncle caught me in the barn smoking his pipe. When he got through with me the pipe wasn't the only thing on fire. He really set fire to me with that razor strap! I couldn't sit down for a week without hurting."
Joseph realizes how quiet everything is all of a sudden. He hasn't seen or heard the boys in a while.
"Come on Rob, I've got to find the boys before they get into trouble. If they get into something Uncle Ethan will set fire to my backside for not watching them."
Walking around the back of the barn they see the nine year olds all looking closely at a gun. "BEN! What do you think you're doing?" Joseph whispers angrily. Grabbing the gun with one hand, his brother with the other he pulls him away from the other boys.
"We're just looking at it Joseph. You don't have to get so mad and be so rough."
"You think I'm mad? What do you think Uncle Ethan is going to be when he finds out?" Ben just looks at the ground knowing exactly what his Uncle would say and do.
"I'll tell you since you don't seem to know. He'll be furious with you for touching that gun when you know the guns are forbidden and with me for not watching you better. You're about to get your first whipping with the razor strap!"
Rob speaks up "Joseph, I know you're right about the boys not touching the gun. Since its Ben's birthday and all, can't you just pretend you never saw anything if they all promise to stay away from guns? Do you really want to tell your Uncle and spoil everyone's good time?"
"No, I don't, but if Uncle Ethan ever found out about this and that I didn't tell him, Ben wouldn't be the only one getting the strap. He'd whip me too!"
Rob walks back over to where Ben's friends are all nervously waiting. "Boys? How many of you would be in for a whipping if your fathers found out you were playing with a gun?"
All three of them raise their hands. Rob smiles at this. "We're not in school, boys. Well then I think we'd all better make a vow of silence here. Don't you?"
One boy asks "What's a vow of silence?"
"It's a promise and if you break it you wind up very sorry. Now Ben, do you and your friends want to make this vow?" The boys all nod their heads. "All right then say this after me I solemnly swear…."
Ben looks horrified. "I can't swear, I'd be in for a whipping for sure!'
Rob grins. "Ok, then say: I solemnly promise not to tell anyone what happened behind the barn today." The boys all repeat " I solemnly promise not to tell anyone what happened behind the barn today."
"Very good, now let's go see if Claire is ready with those cakes."
The boys all run to the house with Joseph and Rob walking behind them. "Thanks Rob, for helping me out. I didn't know what to do."
"Let's keep that vow of silence Joseph. We don't want to answer any questions."
"Right! Let's get in there before all the cake is gone."