Chapter Four

Sunday morning had come. It was bright and sunny, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Little Joe ran out of his room to breakfast.

"Somethin' sure smells good," he said.

"Hop Sing's flapjacks, " Hoss said. "The best he's ever made."

Little Joe took a seat across from Hoss. "Where's Pa?"

"Mrs. Greene came by yesterday when he was with you. He went to talk to her. Hoss reached over the table for one of Little Joe's flapjacks. Joe quickly pulled his dish away. Hoss tried again, but Joe was too quick. "Dadburnit, Joe, let me have one."

"You ate already," Joe said.

"Well, you ain't gonna eat all of them."

"I am too," Little Joe argued as Hoss reached for his plate again. Adam walked out of the bedroom and passed his arguing brothers. He walked outside and noticed Christine sitting alone. He walked up besides her.

"Christine?" he said. "Is something wrong?"

"No." she wiped her eyes gently. "I was just thinkin'." Adam sat down next to her.

"About what?" he asked.

"Everything. About me. About Georgia. You and your family. Mr. and Mrs. Orowitz." Adam was silent as she spoke. "And now...these rumors, these...lies."

"Christine..."

"Adam, you've done so much for me, I can't let this destroy you." Christine stood and took a few steps forward. "The Orowitz's are losing customers. Mrs. Byron had to start buying her medicine from Jack for three times the price that she would pay at the Trading Post. The only person that comes in anymore is Shelby, and all she buys is salt."

"It's gonna take a little time."

"It's been over a week. Nothing's gonna change." Tears ran down her cheeks. "Nobody wants to do business with a whore!" Christine put her hands up to her face and wiped her eyes. "I've considered going back to work for Jack."

"After all this? After all you've fought for, all you've dreamed? You can't go back there."

"I know," she explained. "I considered it, and figured the same as you. After all this, I can't let him win. And if I go back, that's exactly what I'm doing."

"So what now?"" Adam asked.

There was a long pause. Adam stood and walked towards her. "I sent a wire to San Francisco," she said. "There's a little place out there looking for help. Nobody knows me there. I'd have a new start."

"When do you leave?"

"We take the noon stage tomorrow." Adam slowly nodded. "This is the best thing to do, Adam. It is."

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Ben rode up to the Greene ranch, and seeing Margaret outside, sped his horse up.

"Ben," she said. "I was hoping you'd remember to come by."

"Hoss told me you stopped by yesterday. What's wrong?"

"I was wondering about that young lady who's staying with you. Now, you know I'm not one to gossip, I never have been."

"What are you saying, Maggie?"

"You have heard what's going around town about Adam." Ben shook his head. "Ben, word is that Adam is helping this Christine Brown to support the child. His...child. Now, this isn't true, is it?"

"Of course not!"

That's what I thought," she said. "I couldn't believe it when I heard. The girl did work for Jack Wolf after all. This child could be anyone's."

"As a matter of fact, Margaret. Christine Brown was married to a rancher near Carson City. After her daughter was born, her husband was killed in an Indian raid coming home from Colorado." Margaret was silent. "My second wife was killed in an Indian raid in Colorado. I don't doubt this girl for a minute. Nobody else should either."

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The town hall began to fill with the citizens of Eagle Station. Seats and a podium had been set up for Sunday services. As the Cartwrights entered, Ben walked up ahead with Hoss and Little Joe. Adam stood back from them with Christine and Georgia. All eyes were on them as they took their seats. Ben proceeded to the podium. Since there was no reverend in Eagle Station, Ben Cartwright headed up the services on Sunday.

"For today's reading," he began. "I have chosen Exodus 23." After a short pause, Ben turned in his Bible to the verses andcontinued. "You shall no repeat false report. Do not join the wicked in putting your hand as an unjust witness, upon anyone. You shall not oppress an alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt." Ben closed the Bible and leaned forward on the podium. "This isn't just what you hear on Sundays. This isn't just to be preached. It needs to be practiced. In your homes, in town, wherever you go. You come here each week because you have faith. You have faith in this text, in these teachings. But now. It seems to me that you have all found pleasure in these vicious rumors, in repeating false report. You'd rather turn your backs on friends you've had for years than to do business with someone you consider to be an alien. Not only are you hurting others with these rumors and actions, you're hurting yourselves. And being religious people as you all are, you will recall that these acts are sins against the very faith that you gather here to worship.

"When you were coming out West, most of you in covered wagons, didn't you feel a sense of responsibility? A longing to make a better life for your family? Wouldn't you have done whatever it took to make sure your family wouldn't go hungry?" Be paused a moment, standing erect once again and looking out over the sea of faces, some of which sat with partially dropped jaws, but all of the were silent. "Think about it."

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As the noon stage neared, Ben and his family stood at the hotel with Christine and Georgia.

"Are you sure this is what you want to do?" Adam asked her. Christine nodded. " You know you can always stay on here another week or two." "Thank you, Adam, but no. You've all been so kind to me and my daughter. You gave us a chance when nobody else would. I wish that there was some way I could repay you."

"Be happy," Ben said. "That's all the payment we need." Christine smiled.

"And send us a letter from San Francisco," Adam added, "to let us know how you're doing."

"I will." she said as the stage came to a stop. "I'll always have a place in my heart for all of you." A tear ran down Christine's face as Adam helped her onto the stage.

"I'monna miss you, Hoss." Georgia said as Hoss took the child into his arms.

"Golly, Georgia." Hoss said with a tear in his eye. "I'm gonna miss you too. Maybe your Ma can bring ya to visit some time and I can take ya out with the pony again." The child wrapped her arms around Hoss' neck. He could feel the lump forming in his throat. "You be a good girl now and you mind your Ma, OK?"

"OK." Hoss handed Georgia off to Christine and wiped his eyes.

"You have a safe trip," Ben said as he stepped back for the stage to pull away. Christine waved as it rode off and the Cartwrights stood watching until the stage could no longer be seen.

As they walked back to the wagon, Little Joe turned to Ben. "Pa," he said. "You think she'll ever own a store like Mr. and Mrs. Orowitz? You know, like she dreamed?"

"I know she will, son," Ben said as the climbed up onto the wagon. "You just spent a week with a true lady, boys. And don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise." He glanced over to Adam as he spoke and turned the wagon back towards the Ponderosa.



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