Monday mornings were awful. Joe hated to crawl out of his warm bed on any day he had to go to school, but today was going to be pure hell. His father was taking him to school this morning for two reasons. The first reason was simply because he couldnít ride after the tanning from his papa the night before but the biggest reason was that he had to apologize to Miss Jones for lying to her on Wednesday. He had let Jeremy talk him into a stupid bet, but he had won it. At what cost? Joe was thinking. His papa had always believed him when he spoke but just last night, after the tanning, his papa told him he needed to earn that trust back. Joe figured it wouldnít be too hard since his papa always use to believe him. (He was about to find out how wrong he was.)
"Little Joe! Time to get up son!" He heard his papa holler from downstairs. He carefully rolled out of bed and got dressed. He wasnít sure how he was going to sit in his chair all day with how sore his backside was but he also knew his papa wasnít going to let him not go to school because of it. Maybe if he told his papa he didnít feel good. It wouldnít be a lie, because his stomach did hurt thinking about what was going to happen in school today.
Joe walked slowly downstairs and slid carefully into his chair. He smiled sheepishly at his papa and said, "Morniní".
"Good morning son. Eat your breakfast so we can get going."
"Papa. My tummy hurts."
Ben looked at his young son and caught his eyes. Yes, Joeís Ďtummyí probably did hurt. "It just nerves Little Joe. Your stomach will settle down after you apologize to Miss Jones. I expect you to tell Bobby youíre sorry also."
Joe looked down at his plate. "Yes sir." Joe paused and then looked at his papa. "Papa?"
"Why we leaviní so early?"
"I figured you would like to make your apology in private and not in front of the entire class."
That sounded wonderful to Joe. He was more nervous about what the other kids would say than whether Miss Jones would forgive him. He knew she would. Joe smiled at his papa and said, "Thanks."
"Your welcome. Now eat your breakfast so we can go."
"Yes sir." Joe began to eat but only ate a small amount due to the fact his stomach still hurt thinking about school. Itís going to be a long day.
The ride to school was long and silent. Joe stood behind the seat the whole time while his papa drove. As they reached the schoolyard, Ben noticed Joe start to fidget.
"Everything will work out fine. I just want you to remember to behave this week. After you apologize, we start with a clean slate. Itís a brand new week and I want you to make use of it."
"Yes sir. Iíll try my best."
"And no more fights." The buckboard came to a stop. Ben helped Joe down and they walked into the classroom together.
Miss Jones was sitting at her desk when she saw Ben and Joe Cartwright walk in. Joe looked at his feet and Ben smiled at her.
"Mr. Cartwright. Joseph. What can I do for you this early? Joseph never gets here early."
Joe looked at Miss Jones and saw her smile, which made him smile. Maybe this wasnít going to be that hard after all.
"Miss Jones. Joseph has something he wants to tell you."
Joe looked at his papa and then to Miss Jones. When he looked at his father again, his papa nodded and smiled his encouragement. Joe took a deep breath and looked at his teacher.
"Iím sorry about last week Miss Jones. I lied to you about the fight with Bobby. I did start it." Joe looked at his toes.
"Well. Can you tell me why you thought you had to lie about it Joseph."
He looked up again. "One of the other boys bet me that my papa wouldnít believe me if you thought I was lying."
"Really?" She looked at Ben with confusion. "This was all a game to find out if you believed your son over me Mr. Cartwright?"
"Iím afraid so." Ben replied.
Miss Jones looked at Joe again, who had his head down. "Joseph?" Joe looked up. "Who was this other boy?"
Joe looked stricken. He didnít want to tell on Jeremy because it would only cause another fight and he wasnít about to start his new week off with a fight with Jeremy. He looked to his papa for some support. Ben nodded for Joe to tell.
"Papa. If I tell, heíll start a fight with me. You told me no more fights."
Ben knelt down to Joeís level. "Son. Miss Jones has a right to know who it was and she needs to hear it from you. If he starts something with you, you can come get Miss Jones."
"Joseph." Ben said sternly.
Joe was fighting with tears. His papa just didnít understand how things worked. He didnít want to tell on Jeremy; he didnít want to fight; and he certainly wasnít going to run to the teacher for help. It just wasnít done.
"Please papa. I canít."
"Joseph, I expect you to obey me." Ben said with his hands on his hips.
"I donít want to disobey you papa but I canít tattle." Joe sobbed.
"Even if it means another tanning?" Ben asked.
Joe just nodded. His tears were falling freely and he didnít trust his voice. Ben knelt down next to Joe and heard a soft, ĎI donít want a tanningí in between the sobs.
Ben could tell the strain was starting to get to Joe and that he wasnít going to tell even if he was tanned. He sighed and stood to face Miss Jones. "He told me it was Jeremy. The fight between him and Bobby was contrived to prove the bet."
"Sounds like I need to have a talk with young Jeremyís pa also." She looked down at Joe who was scrubbing angrily at the tears in his eyes. "I forgive you Joseph. Iíll give you two a few minutes alone. I need to check the school yard anyway."
Ben smiled. "Thank you Miss Jones. Iím sure Joe will be better behaved this week."
"I will Mr. Cartwright." Miss Jones left and Ben gathered Joe into his arms in a hug.
"Iím proud of you Joseph. You faced the truth like a man."
Joe wiped his tears and looked up at his papa. "Your not mad that I didnít tell on Jeremy?"
"No Joe. I know how things work in a schoolroom. You didnít want Jeremy to find out you told and you, like most kids, feel tattling to the teacher isnít an option either. Did I get it right?"
Joe smiled. Papa does understand how things work. "Yes sir."
"Joe I hope you also know that no matter what happens, you can always come to me for help. I may not always be happy with something you have done or gotten involved with, but I will always love and support you."
"I love you too papa." After one more, big hug, Ben helped wipe away Joeís tears and get ready to start school.
They both walked out onto the schoolyard and Joe smiled when several of his friends came over and asked him to play. Joe looked to his papa and Ben smiled. "Go ahead Joe, but remember what I told you about a new week. Iíll pick you up after school. Make sure you set everything straight with Bobby also."
"I will papa." Joe ran off with his friends feeling better than when he woke up this morning.
Ben and Miss Jones watched for a few minutes and then said their good-byes.
Joe found Bobby on the playground, apologized and explained why he started the fight. Bobby was more upset with Jeremy, because they were suppose to be friends. Not anymore. Bobby decided he like Little Joe and knew that Joe wouldnít lie again after what happened over the weekend.
Bobby and Little Joe talked and played tag until the bell rang. Neither child noticed Jeremy standing near the classroom door waiting to cause trouble. Jeremy knew Little Joe had a quick temper, and could easily be pushed into a fight, which would get Little Joe in trouble with his pa. What Jeremy didnít know was that Miss Jones was watching all three boys for any kind of trouble. She was very pleased to see Joe and Bobby become friends through this whole Ďbetí.
As Joe and Bobby walked toward the door, Joe noticed Jeremy. He groaned slightly which made Bobby look toward what Joe was looking at. What happened next surprise everyone, including Miss Jones and the class.
Bobby stood between Little Joe and Jeremy and snarled at his former friend. This surprised Jeremy enough to back up a step. "This has gone far enough Jeremy. Little Joe won that stupid bet of yours so you can leave him alone now."
Having a new ally gave Joe some extra courage and he stepped next to Bobby. "Yeah. Hand it over. I won fair and square."
Jeremy looked between the people in front of him; one an enemy and one a former friend. He decided quickly, that this battle wasnít going to be won so he dug into his pocket a handed Joe a two-bit piece. "Here take your stupid bet," and stormed into the classroom.
Joe walked into the class with his head held high and eased himself into his seat. Iíll have to remember how sore my backside is the next time I think of fighting. Joe smiled to no one in particular.
It was a long morning in Joe Cartwrightís book. He was already half way out of his seat when Miss Jones announced it was time for lunch. He was stopped though, before he made it to the door by Miss Jones.
"Yes Maíam?" Miss Jones had told him to stop fidgeting in his seat several times this morning but he just couldnít get comfortable.
"I expect you to settle down after lunch young man if you donít want a note sent home."
"Maíam?" Joe looked confused. "Iíve been good. Iím really trying."
"Joseph. You havenít been still at all this morning. Iíll have no more of that wiggling in your seat."
"Maíam?" Joe started to cry. He didnít want a note home but his backside hurt so much that it was impossible to sit still very long.
"Whatís wrong Little Joe?" Miss Jones was confused. Normally Joe just agreed to try harder, not cry.
"I canít sit still very long Ďcause my backside is sore." Joe whispered the last part so that Miss Jones had to strain to hear him. Suddenly the entire morning became clear. Joe was wiggling because of the tanning his father had given him.
"That tanning shouldnít still hurt from Wednesday."
Joe looked sheepishly at her and tried to smile but it came out lopsided. "Not Wednesday Maíam, last night."
"Last night?" She smiled. "It must have been a long weekend Joseph."
"The longest." Joe answered as he swiped at his eyes.
"Alright. Try not to disturb the whole class this afternoon with your wiggling, okay?"
"Iíll try maíam. May I go eat lunch now?"
"Go ahead." Joe left quickly and Miss Jones laughed as she saw Joe gingerly rub his backside as he walked out. Sore indeed, she thought.
By 2:30, Miss Jones was afraid Joe just couldnít stand it any longer when she noticed he was kneeling in his chair, trying not to be noticed. Miss Jones decided to give him and the class a break.
"Class. Since it is such a beautiful day, Iím letting you go early. I expect all homework to be finished when you come back tomorrow since you have some extra time." She glanced at Joe and could read the relief on his face. "Class dismissed."
As Joe slowly walked out, again rubbing his sore backside, Miss Jones smiled and said, "I will see you tomorrow Little Joe. I hope you feel better."
He smiled. "Thank-you maíam. I certainly hope so." Joe ran out the door.
Since Joe didnít have his pony, couldnít ride him anyway, he decided to wait until the other children left and then he would start his homework while waiting for his papa. After standing and writing for about twenty minutes he decided to get a drink. As he was getting water from the pump he was suddenly pushed from behind and fell head first into the water trough. Joe came up sputtering water. He only knew of one person who would do that, Jeremy.
He could hear Jeremy laughing and was about to say something when he heard Miss Jones.
"Jeremy Barnes!" Jeremy stopped laughing. Miss Jones walked up and grabbed Jeremy firmly by the arm.
"He started it Miss Jones." Jeremy lied. He figured no one would believe Joe anymore.
"Young man I saw everything. Joe was minding his own business and didnít even see you push him. Would you like to try another?"
"No maíam." Jeremy put his head down.
Miss Jones looked at Joe as he crawled out of the water trough. "Are you alright Little Joe?"
"Yes maíam. Just wet." Joe was trying to figure out if his papa would be mad about wet clothes. There was nothing he could do about it. "I hope papa wonít be mad."
"I hope you get another thrashing, LITTLE Joe." Jeremy sneered.
"HEíS not the one who will be getting a thrashing!" Both children and Miss Jones turned to see James Barnes and Ben Cartwright approaching. Ben had spoken to Jeremyís father about the fighting and Mr. Barnes was coming to the school to check and see if any of it was true.
"Pa. I Ö Joe started it." Jeremy stammered as he pointed at Joe.
"Donít lie to me young man. I just heard Miss Jones say that you pushed Joe." Mr. Barnes took his sons upper arm as Ben went to help Little Joe.
"Are you okay son?" Joe looked at his papa and Ben could tell he was fighting back tears. He would not let Jeremy see him cry!
"Iím okay papa." He said while trying to shake off some water.
"Jeremy I want you to tell Joe youíre sorry." Mr. Barnes said.
"Iím not sorry." Mr. Barnes planted a firm swat on Jeremyís backside, which made him yelp.
"I said apologize. NOW!"
Reluctantly Jeremy said, "Sorry Joe."
Mr. Barnes turned to Joe and Ben. "Iím sorry Ben. Joe. I didnít realize he was causing such trouble. I promise he will be a different boy by tomorrow. Good day." Mr. Barnes walked away dragging a crying Jeremy.
As soon as Jeremy was a good distance away, Joe let his tears go and cried. Ben bent down and gathered his soaking wet youngster in his arms and hugged him close. "Shhhh. Itís okay son. I highly doubt Jeremy will bother you anymore after today."
Joe stopped his crying and Miss Jones handed him, his schoolbooks. "Iím really sorry, Mr. Cartwright. Iím glad I actually saw Jeremy push Little Joe though."
"I am too. It may have been hard to believe him after last week."
Joe looked at his papa and teacher with a confused look. "Why?" was all he asked.
"Joe do you remember me telling you that you needed to earn my trust after lying?" Joe nodded. "Well, it would be hard to believe you even if you were telling the truth, because of that lie."
"You mean like the boy who cried wolf?"
"Yes Joe. Just like that. When did you hear that story?"
"Adam told me when I told him about the fight and stuff. He said that the boy lied and when the real wolf came he got eaten because nobody believed he was telliní the truth. Iíll earn the trust back papa. I donít want to be eaten by no wolf." Miss Jones and his papa laughed.
"Thatís right Joe and a lie can get as big and angry as any wolf. You must stay away from wolves and lies." Ben gently tickled Joe.
Joe giggled. "I will papa. I love you." Joe snuggled on Benís shoulder. He hugged Joe close and said, "I love you too son, with all my heart."