Night Visitor


Helen Adams  


A soft click.  A high-pitched squeak.  The low creak of some slight weight depressing a floorboard. A faint thud followed by another click.  The shuffle of bare feet padding across the floor.

Ben Cartwright smiled to himself in the darkness.  He had awakened at that first click of the door handle, years of parental instinct alerting him to the slightest of unusual noises in the night.   That particular series of sounds was a familiar one, but still one he had learned to subconsciously listen for.   He did not have long to wait before he felt his bedcovers lift up on one side and a puff of chilly air hit his chest.   Reaching out with his arm, Ben assisted the small boy squirming up the side of his tall bed and pulled him inside the warm blankets.

“Hi, Pa!” The child’s shrill whisper was loud in the darkness, and Ben could easily imagine the sunny smile that would be accompanying it.  “I come to sleep with you.”

“Joseph,” he said softly.  “What did I tell you about staying in your own bed at night?”

“That I’m s’posed to,” the child replied glibly, snuggling happily down into his father’s feather mattress, and curling up against him.  “But I like it better here.”

Struggling to keep the smile on his lips out of his voice, Ben asked, “And why is that?”

“You’re lots warmer than Adam and you don’t snore like Hoss,” Joe confided easily, punctuating this bit of childish logic with a deep yawn.  He wrapped one small hand around the forearm his father had instinctively tucked around his body and cuddled back against the warmth of Ben’s chest.  

Ben gasped softly as two small icy feet suddenly planted themselves against his legs.  He could feel the coldness right through his woolen nightshirt.  Better understanding Little Joe’s quest for company, he asked, “Is it too cold to sleep in your room?”

He could feel the tickle of soft hair against the bottom of his chin as the child nodded sleepily.  “Fireplace gone dark,” he mumbled.  “I gots all shivery.”

“I understand,” he said, and he did.  Ben had personally tended the fire in Joe’s room the evening before, making sure the room was nice and toasty before putting his son to bed, but the night had grown much colder since then and obviously his precautions had not been enough.  The air in his own room was frigid, making him very reluctant to leave the comforts of blankets and quilt to go stoke up Joe’s fireplace and put him back in his own bed.  He knew he should, getting the boy to stay the night in his own room had been a struggle ever since his mother had passed away six months earlier and letting him stay where he was would make the battle that much harder the next time, but Ben really didn’t want to move.

While he was still debating the matter, Little Joe began to squirm around, twisting his body until he turned all the way over.  With a contented sigh he nestled his head against his father’s shoulder and drifted off to sleep with a mumble that sounded vaguely like ‘good night’. 

Wrapping his arms more securely around his son’s body, Ben planted a kiss in his soft curls.  Who was he fooling?  He didn’t really want to send the boy away any more than Joe wanted to go.  Smiling again, he shook his head slightly at his own folly and whispered, “Good night, son,” then settled back down to sleep. 


The End

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Helen Adams

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