The Coffee Pot
By Vicki Christian
Ben Cartwright put down his pen and leaned back in his leather chair. He stretched to remove some
of the kinks that bending over his ledgers had given him, then rose to his feet and peered out of the window.
No sign of anyone. He guessed that the hands must be working down at the corral by now, and he hoped
that his three sons were there too and in a better frame of mind than they had been at breakfast.
He wandered into the kitchen and helped himself to coffee from the pot that Hop Sing always had on the stove.
Sometimes the coffee could be bitter and black from too much heating; those were the bad times. But
sometimes it could be freshly made and delicious. This morning he was out of luck. He
swallowed a mouthful of the bitter liquid and made a face at Hop Sing.
“I make more when coffee all drunk,” Hop Sing said firmly.
“Then I guess I’ll let someone else drink it,” Ben grinned. “Those boys of mine have given
me enough bellyache in the last few days. I don’t need bitter coffee to sweeten my disposition.”
“Always do,” Hop Sing observed. “Too much foolishment.”
“I don’t suppose you know what’s caused the problem this time, do you?”
Hop Sing shook his head, “It over soon.”
“I wish I had your confidence, Hop Sing,” he set down the half finished cup of coffee and headed back to
his ledgers. Maybe later he’d ride over to the corral and see if the boys had worked off their bad
tempers and settled their differences.
After the boss left the kitchen, Hop Sing checked the pot and decided that it did need refreshing before lunch.
In springtime, breaks from work had to be short and lunch was always something simple that could be eaten quickly.
Hop Sing had set the table with cold roast beef and fresh bread and cheese with a selection of his best pickles.
The coffee pot was taken from the hob and placed on the table. Usually, Hop Sing didn’t see
the family at this meal. They would be gone back to work before he cleared the table, but today as he moved
to the kitchen with the coffee pot and dirty cups on a tray, he found Little Joe waiting for him.
“What you do? Why you not at work?” the little cook yelled and slapped
at Joe’s hand as it picked at the left over bread.
Hop Sing. Pa’ll hear you.” Joe muttered around the bread in his mouth.
“I ain’t anxious to go back to listening to older brother giving orders, so I thought I’d have another
cup of coffee.”
Hop Sing frowned but obliged with a fresh cup of coffee from the
“You know, Hop Sing, I sometimes wish I was the only son,” Joe complained.
“You haf to do more work if only one,” Hop Sing replied, as he stacked the dirty dishes
into the sink and poured hot water from the pot on the stove on top of them.
ignored Hop Sing’s comment and continued as if talking to himself. “You know what Adam’s gonna do?”
then he answered himself, “He’s gonna ask Patience to the spring dance. He knows I’m
plannin’ on asking her.”
Hop Sing listened with half an ear.
He had heard these arguments a thousand times since Little Joe hit fifteen. Seven years of fighting
over girls. He wished one of them would get married and end the squabbles. Hoss and
Adam had never had these disagreements, but then Hoss rarely had a girl to take to the dances. “Patience
good name for girl,” he said with a sly smile.
Joe set down the empty coffee cup and reached
for the pot.
Hop Sing got there first and snatched it away. “No moh,
fatha not like if you in Hop Sing’s kitchen, Hop Sing not like.”
shrugged. “I’m going. I’ll show Adam, I’ll ask her first.
After she talks to me she won’t have any time for big brother. Oh, and Hop Sing, I won’t
be here for supper,” were his parting words.
Sing hummed his way through his work. All was peaceful this afternoon. He prepared the
pork for supper, cleaned and peeled vegetables and then baked a dried apple pie. All Mr. Hoss’ favorites,
he thought; now why had he done that? Maybe, because Mr Hoss was the peacemaker. He
kept his warring brothers apart when a woman threatened to come between them.
had finished everything and was taking a well earned rest with a cup of coffee when Adam put his head around the door.
“Any chance of hot water for a bath, Hop Sing?” he asked.
Sing sighed and got up from his chair.
“No, it’s okay.
You stay put I’ll set it on the stove and then have a cup of coffee with you while I wait for it to heat.”
Hop Sing sank back into his chair and nodded. He waited until Adam had drawn the water and set
it on the stove before he poured coffee for them both. “Why you need bath? It
not Fliday,” Hop Sing pushed a cup of coffee across the table.
going to see a young lady about Friday, the Spring Dance to be precise,” Adam replied, taking a sip of the fresh coffee.
“And I want to be there early.”
“Fatha no like, you not do work.”
“Oh, come on, Hop Sing, you know I was out there an hour before my brothers and have probably done twice as
much as Little Joe today,” Adam protested. “Sides I want to get to town before he can.
You see, he thinks Patience is going to the Spring Dance with him, but I have other plans. Once
I ask her, she will forget all about little brother.”
Hop Sing shook his head,
“Not good you fight over woman.”
“It’s no contest, little brother
just doesn’t have what it takes.”
Hop Sing nodded at the water bubbling on
the stove. “You take bath now.”
Adam lifted down the heavy
pots of water and headed for the washhouse, “I won’t be here for supper,” he called over his shoulder.
Hop Sing peered at the roast pork. It was a large leg, but he knew Mr. Hoss would do it justice.
The smell of his favorite meal brought Hoss to the kitchen just before
supper. “Hey, Hop Sing, you got roast pork and sweet taters there?”
Sing nodded and brushed Hoss aside to get to his oven. “Not leady yet, you go wait.”
Hoss didn’t move, “I’ll just set a spell and have some coffee. The smell of
that pork sure is good.” Hoss poured himself coffee and watched the little cook bustling around the
kitchen. “Where’d those brothers of mine get too, Hop Sing? I ain’t
seen neither of ‘em since three, left me all the work as usual.”
go Virginia City, ask Miss Patience to dance on Fliday,” Hop Sing offered. “You no go too?”
“What and miss me a dinner of roast pork. Whadda I wanna do that for? Anyways
they might as soon stayed home and had a good meal. I already asked Miss Patience and she said yes.”
Hoss grinned at the little Chinese cook and nabbing a cookie from the plate on the side table to go with his coffee,
he went into the big room laughing.
At that moment Ben Cartwright came in from
the yard and with a wave of his hand, he asked, “Nice to know someone is happy. What’s Hoss find so funny?”
“Mr Hoss ask Miss Patience to dance and she say, yes,” Hop Sing moved the coffee pot back on to the hob.
Ben looked from the doorway, through which Hoss had just passed, to the Chinese Cook. “I’m
pleased he has someone to escort. I expect Adam and Joseph have their dates arranged, so it will be a nice
evening for all of us. Now if you can tell me what those two have been at odds with each other about, I
can enjoy my supper.”
“Mr Adam and Mr Little Joe go into town, not here
for suppa. They ask Miss Patience to dance…” Hop Sing explained.
Ben’s eyes narrowed, “You mean all three plan to ask the same girl?”
“And she’s already said yes to Hoss?”
Again the little cook nodded.
“Mr Adam and Mr Little Joe, not know.
They fight over girl,” Hop Sing explained.
“How do you know all this,” he said pouring himself a cup of coffee and setting the pot back on the hob.
Hop Sing pointed to the coffee pot, “Me have good friend. I find out evellythin’ when
coffee pot full.”
Ben shook his head, “Oh, well I suppose we shall have another
rough time at breakfast. And I don’t want to think what the dance will be like.”
“Dance be fine, you enjoy with Widow Bates.”
Ben swung around
but Hop Sing had his back to his employer. Ben could have sworn the little cook was laughing.