a question of strength
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A Question of Strength Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #05, Episode #6

A group of outlaws launches an assault on the stagecoach transporting Hoss Cartwright and two nuns, the elderly Mother Veronica (played by Ilka Windish) and the young Sister Mary Kathleen (played by Judy Carne). When Sister Mary Kathleen nervously relinquishes the funds collected for a new convent hospital, Mother Veronica chastises her, questioning her suitability for the sisterhood. Determined to prove herself to both Mother Veronica and to herself, Sister Mary Kathleen embarks on a mission to retrieve the stolen money, with Hoss accompanying her to ensure her safety. Written by Frank Cleaver, A Question of Strength made its debut on October 27, 1963.

For further details on the plot, including intriguing trivia, or to view the entire episode, please check below.

Table of Contents

Watch the Full Episode of A Question of Strength

Watch the Full Episode of A Question of Strength:

Main Cast

In the sixth episode of Bonanza’s fifth season, titled “A Question of Strength,” several recurring and supporting cast members appeared. Notable members of the cast include:

  • Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright
  • Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright
  • Dan Blocker as Eric ‘Hoss’ Cartwright
  • Michael Landon as Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright
  • Ilka Windish as Mother Veronica
  • Judy Carne as Sister Mary Kathleen
  • John Kellogg as Stager
  • Raymond Guth as Toby
  • James Jeter as Wilson
  • I. Stanford Jolley as Sam Hostler

Full Story Line for A Question of Strength

Hoss boards the stagecoach bound for Denver to pursue business matters for Ben. Accompanying him are two nuns sharing the coach. However, their journey takes a dangerous turn when bandits ambush the stage, resulting in a tragic overturn that claims the life of the driver. Stranded and vulnerable, Hoss and the nuns fall prey to the bandits’ loot. Forced to continue on foot to the nearest way station, they endure the arduous trek.

Upon arrival, they are startled to encounter one of the wounded robbers. Despite his condition, the nuns display remarkable resilience, surprising Hoss with their composed demeanor even when facing the perpetrator.

Full Script and Dialogue of A Question of Strength


So you clowns made it just time.
- Yep.

Now, remember, Hoss, as soon as
you set that deal with Turner you wire us

and we'll wire you the
bank draft right away.

Pa, we've been
through this three times.

Well, our statistics show that it takes
an average of four reminders for you.


When you get a look
at those big city women,

you're liable to
forget everything.

Little brother, you're a wee
mite jealous, ain't you, heh?

Whoa, whoa!

Hi, Toby.

I heard you was riding with me
this trip, Hoss. How far you going?

- All the way to Denver.
- Keep an eye on him for us, Toby.

Denver's a big city.

Yeah, especially around
the womenfolk there, heh.

Oh, speaking of ladies, maybe I
better check my women passengers,

see if they want
to stretch their legs.

Hey, you got some
ladies on this trip, Toby?

Yeah. All the way
from San Francisco.

You, uh, ladies like to
stretch your legs a mite?

Thank you, driver. It's
a little cramped in there.

- You'll enjoy a little walk.
- Fine.

Son, ahem, you're going to
have to watch your language.

- Yeah, I wi... Oh, Pa.
- Heh.

- All right, Pa, I'll see you.
- Have a good trip son.

- Yes, sir. Take it easy, Joe, Adam.
- Take care of yourself, brother.

All right, ladies. Time to roll.

Come along, sister.





- How far are you ladies going?
- All the way to Denver.

It so happens I am too. Uh,
my name's Hoss Cartwright.

- Horse?
- No ma'am not horse. Hoss.

- H-O-S-S.
- What a lovely name it is.

I'm Sister Mary Kathleen
and this is Mother Veronica,

my mother superior.

- Howdy, ma'am.
- We're a nursing order.

Mother Veronica has just
come all the way from Europe,

the order's headquarters,
on an inspection trip.

We came around the horn to
visit the San Francisco House.

And now we're going to Denver.

Please, Sister Mary
Kathleen, must you ramble so?

I'm sorry, Mother Veronica.

All Irish are afflicted with
the running of the tongue, heh.

It's my greatest affliction.

I pray about it all the time.

Yes. And now I think
it is time for meditation.

- Perhaps it will help your affliction.
- Yes, Mother.


If you ladies would pardon me,

I think I'll go up and
meditate with old Toby a while.

Mother in heaven! I
thought for sure he would fall.

He's a giant of a man.

My Uncle Mordecai was like that.

Your Uncle Mordecai.

This preoccupation with
the exploits and deeds

of this worldly uncle of yours

is a weakness with you,
Sister, among others.

You may do well to use
the time to think on them.

Aye, but for sure he
was a legend in Boston.



Boy, I'll tell you, that Toby's the
hardest that I ever tried to meditate with.

Ladies, I'll just put your
luggage back there in your room

unless you want to keep
your purses here with you.

Ha, purses! Those
are our medical bags.

We're a nursing order,
don't you remember?

- Uh, put everything in there, please.
- Yes, ma'am.

At the rate you talk, Sister,

it's hard for anyone to
remember anything you have said.

Ladies, I'll round up old Sam,
get us some grub put together.

Be back in just a minute.

- Grub? What is this grub?
- It means food.

It's a Western
expression, I learned.

You learn many
things rapidly, Sister.

Too bad they're not
always the right things.

I have a, uh, question about
this, uh, grub, Mr. Hostler.

Sam's the name,
miss. Just call me Sam.

Oh, uh, Mr. Sam, what kind
of condiments did you use?

- Uh, condiment?
- Uh, seasonings, like salt.

Oh. oh, yes, salt, pepper,
onion, things like that.

- And thyme? Did you use thyme?
- Shucks, no.

- I whipped this up in a half hour.
- No, Sam. That ain't what she meant.

- Well, I did.
- Yeah, no.

But thyme is a
seasoning, like salt.

- Oh, some of that stuff.
- Yeah.

This dish is like the, uh,
peasant food in Europe.

Well, uh, I'm sorry
you didn't like it.

Oh, I didn't say that.

My parents were peasant farmers.

I was brought up
on food like this.

It's made me nostalgic.

The dishes will
be taken care of.

I'm sure you have
other chores to perform.

Oh, you don't have to
worry about that, ma'am.

It is woman's work. Now,
don't concern yourself.

I sure wish we had more
women travelers like you, Sister.

Come on, Toby. Help
me feed the stock.



But, ma'am.

Ain't you gonna help her?

The Sister is perfectly
able of doing them herself.

- Oh, no, thank you, Hoss.
- But, ma'am I wanna help you.

- No, please. I prefer to do it alone.
- But, ma'am...


Whatever you say, ma'am.

There's a certain violent beauty about
this country of yours, Mr. Cartwright.

Something bothering you
about us, Mr. Cartwright?

Yes, ma'am, there is. That little
Sister Mary Kathleen in there.

What about Sister Mary Kathleen?

Well, she's such a little slip of a gal
to be in there doing all that work alone

like she was some sort
of a servant or something.

But she is. A servant of God.

And, as such, she has to
learn humility and acceptance.

- It is my duty to teach her that.
- Why?

Because she is a
postulant in our order.

Do you know what that
means, Mr. Cartwright?

- Some sort of a beginner?
- Sister Mary Kathleen is a beginner.

And, as a beginner, she will have
time to judge herself, and to be judged,

whether she's worthy
of taking the final vows

of poverty, chastity,
obedience and becoming a nun.

Well, in that time, what if she
decides she wants to go back to...

The worldly life?

Oh, but of course.

If she has any doubt in her
mind, we would want her to do that.

And if she decides to stay?

Then she will serve her
novitiate at the Denver mission

if the order judges her worthy.

Who in that order
makes that decision?

Several people,
Mr. Cartwright, including myself.


I hope she gets what she wants.

And I, Mr. Cartwright, hope
she gets what she's worthy of.

- Good night, Mr. Cartwright.
- Good night, ma'am.

Goodbye. SAM: Goodbye.

- Sam, take it easy.
- Safe journey.

- Toby, go on.
- Hyah!

Looks like it's gonna
be another hot one.

Aye, I suppose so, Hoss.

Hyah! Hyah!

- What is it?
- Look like bandits, ma'am.

- Bandits?
- Yes, ma'am, bandits.

You two ladies get down
on the floor and stay there.

- But where are you going?
- I'm going up to help Toby.

Hyah! Hyah!

That's far enough.

What's with him?

- He's dead.
- That's too bad.

But he shouldn't
have tried to run.

- Where are the women?
- There was women on the stage?

Women. Maybe we ain't
gonna come out so dry after all.

This stage carrying
anything valuable?

I don't know. I'm
just a passenger.

Come on, Wilson, let's look
through the rest of the stuff.

- What's happened?
- Well, the stage hit a chughole.

Oh, my medical bag, please.

Uh, would you get
my veil, please?

- Huh?
- My vei... My headdress.


Thank you.

It's a nasty cut. I hope
there's no concussion.

Where you people live?

I'm from near Virginia City.

- And you, Sister?
- Oh, I'm from Boston.

And the other one,
where's she from?

Wait a minute.

Why all the questions?
What do you want, anyhow?

Well, now, we, uh, we was hoping

we'd find something
worthwhile on the stage,

but they ain't carrying
nothing we can use.

We figured that maybe
you'd be carrying something,

like, uh, money, huh?

I got a couple of
hundred dollars, that's all.

That's better than nothing.

And you, Sister,
how much you got?

They don't have
nothing to do with money.

It seems to me it takes money
to come all the way from Boston.

How'd you pay for the tickets
and such to come way out here?

Mother Veronica
handled all the...

So she handled the money, huh?

- Move away from her.
- Don't you touch her.

We don't want to hurt you,
so don't give us the choice.

Move away.

You ain't got no choice.

I said, we don't
want to hurt nobody.

- Now, move away.
- Wait.

I'll get it. But you
look away now.



I'll always remember
you. And the, uh, other one.

Let's go.

The money. You
gave them the money?

- How much was in there?
- I don't know.

But it's hardly important.

Mother Veronica is.

Hoss. I think she's
coming out of it.

Mother Veronica, there
was an accident to the stage.

You had a nasty blow on
your head. You take it easy.

Where's the driver?

He, uh, ahem. He was
killed in the accident.

Poor man.

May God accept his soul.

And those men that
were following us?

They've gone.

What did they want?

They were bandits. They took
what money we had and left.

- My money belt. Where is it?
- Well, they took it.

They took it? But
how could they?

How would they even know?

Well, I'm sorry, Mother
Veronica, but I gave it to them.

Mother Veronica,
it wasn't her fault.

They would have
taken the money anyway

and perhaps even have
harmed you doing it.

And how did they know I had it?

- Well, they tricked me.
- They tricked you?

Do you know what
that money was for?

It was money for a hospital,
for our mission in Denver.

Mother Veronica, how
much money was in that belt?

Ten thousand dollars.

And now it's gone.

The hospital gone.

- My mission a failure.
- I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

You're sorry, Sister, for what?

The suffering and death that
will occur because of no hospital?

- Mother, please.
- Oh, spare me, Sister.

It reveals your
lack of strength.

I would have died rather
than give up that money.

The hospital. Died.

Well, we should be
reaching another way station

by sometime tomorrow
anyhow, ma'am.

Thank you,
Mr. Cartwright. Good night.

Good night, ma'am.

Hey, uh, how about
some more rabbit?

No, I shouldn't.

Why, sure, you should. You
had a long hard day today.

- Do you really think so?
- Sure, you should. Here.

You know anything will taste
good when you're hungry enough.

I know. Except for the last few
years, I think I've always been hungry.

How is that?

Well, I came over from Ireland
with my parents to escape the famine.

So many other Irish
did the same thing

that jobs and food
were scarce in Boston.

Reckon you must have had
a pretty rough life. I'm sorry.

Oh, it was hard for thousands.

I don't know what we would have
done except for the church and the nuns.

They fed you?

Oh, they did more than
that, they fed our souls too.

They made us feel that
God had not forgotten us.

I think that was when I
decided I wanted to be a nun.

Long ago, when I was a child.

What's them three things

that Mother Veronica said
you was gonna have to live by?

Oh, poverty, chastity
and obedience.

Poverty I know, chastity I have.

It's obedience that I
can't seem to conquer.

Yeah. I know what you mean.

You know, my pa never thought me
and my brothers were gonna ever learn it.

Oh, you have a big family?

Well, I got my pa and two
brothers, Adam and Little Joe.

You saw them when we
got there at the stagecoach.

- Heh, your family is all men?
- Yes, ma'am, all men.

Oh, you poor souls.

Who cooks for you
and takes care of you?

Well, we got Hop Sing.

We got a good life.
Ranch is big and peaceful.

We got food and comfort.

And on top of all that,
we got each other.

Oh, that sounds like heaven.

Food and space to breathe
and a... And a family.

Mother Veronica is right. My
thoughts are worldly and I enjoy them.

She is right, though.
I am stupid and weak.

I don't think you are.

Thank you, Hoss.

But you won't be judging
me. Mother Veronica will.

- Mother Veronica.
- Yes, Mr. Cartwright?

Ma'am, I'd like to talk to
you for a minute if I could.

What about, Mr. Cartwright?

Oh, first of all, ma'am,
my name's just plain Hoss.

You know, I...

I feel like I used to when my
little brother would get into trouble

and I'd have to go
to my pa for him.

To plead for understanding?

Like you come to me
now for Mary Kathleen?

Yes, ma'am.

And what do you plead
for her, Mr. Cartwright?

Well, ma'am...

she's so young.

But she's old enough to
have strength and weakness.


You know, sometimes a
body wants something so bad

that, well, they make a lot of
mistakes just trying too hard.

Wanting something very much

does not always make it
the thing you should have.

That is the purpose of the
novitiate, Mr. Cartwright,

to separate those who truly want to be
called from those who are truly called.

If I seem harsh with her,
I'm only trying to help.

Mr. Cartwright.

It is not a disgrace to leave
the order or be refused by it.

Many have faced it,

and many have done
more good for the world

by becoming good wives and mothers
than they ever would have as nuns.

Hey, anybody home?


That's funny. Only one horse.

They should have a bunch of relay
horses out here for the next stage.

Maybe they abandoned
this particular station.

No, they wouldn't have done that.
It's too far between stations like it is.

Come on, let's check.

Hmm, what do you
know about that?

The hostler took the
horses to Owl's Point

to report a stage
that didn't arrive.

- That's us.
- When will he return?

Says here he'll be back the day before
the next stage arrives on Saturday.

- That's three days.
- What shall we do?

Well, we're gonna stay here.

There's fresh water, at least,
here, and maybe some grub.

Let's go in and check.

Hey, we're in luck.

There's some dried
beans and jerky in there.

- Jerky? Now, what is this?
- Oh, jerky is a kind of a dried beef.

It's awful tough, but
it's tasty and nourishing.

Surely have strange
names for food out here.

Grub and jerky.

- What was that?
- Sounded like a moan.

Sounded like it
came from this room.

Who is it? The hostler?

No, ma'am, it ain't.

Do you know him? Who is it?

He's the man who robbed us.

Where's the money?

He's out from the wound.

Looks like he and
that partner of his

must have gotten in an
argument over the money.

- And he lost.
- Get some water.

- I'll get the medical bags.
- Do as I say. Get some water.

Wait a minute. I saw some
in the other room. I'll get it.

No, please.

Search him for the money.

There ain't nothing here
except that empty gun belt.

Looks like that partner of
his took everything he had.

Well, then he must
know where the money is.

I imagine that partner
of his is long gone with it.

- But we won't know until he tells us.
- That's right.

Very well.

Where is the money?

Wilson. Don't shoot.

You can have the money.

Don't shoot.

He's delirious, ma'am, from that
wound. That bullet's still in there.

If I can get the fever
down he'll be coherent.

Ma'am, that bullet
can still kill him.

I'll get my bag.

He's not going to die.

And he will tell me
where the money is.

- How is he?
- Oh, he seems to be breathing easier.

Cleaning the wound probably helped
stop the infection and reduce the fever.

- He's not conscious yet, though, huh?
- No, not yet.

How's Mother Veronica?

She finally dropped off to
sleep out there in that big chair.

Oh, she needs the rest.

She was in here most
of the night, you know.

Hey, I got a pot of
coffee going out there.

Why don't you go
out and get a cup?

- I'll stay here and keep an eye on him.
- Thanks. I will.

Do you make good coffee, Hoss?

Ma'am that's one thing a
bachelor learns to do right.

I bet you drink too
much of it, then.

You should get yourself
a good wife who can cook.

I aim to do just that
one of these days.

Ma'am, wait a minute.

How do you feel?



- Where am I?
- You are at a way station.

I remember. I didn't
think I'd make it.

Did you take the bullet out?



That's right.

We're the folks you robbed.

- I told you to call me.
- I was just about to call you.

I said immediately, not
one minute, three minutes

after he regained consciousness.

- Obedience, Sister, obedience.
- I'm sorry, Mother Veronica.

You are better.

Now, where is the money?

I ain't got the money.

I find it difficult to
believe a man like you.


I had a fight with my partner.

He shot me, took
the money and left.

How do we know you
are telling the truth?

Did you find the
money on me, Sister?

Ma'am, I think
he's telling the truth.

He's lying.

Come with me, Sister.

I'm afraid you're
in a heap of trouble.

You mean you're gonna
turn me over to law?

If you live long enough.

What do you mean by that?

You still got that bullet in
you, and if we don't get it out

you're gonna die. And that
pretty much depends on them.

The nuns?

What they got to do with it?

Well, they're also nurses.

They got medical bags with
the right kind of instruments

to get that bullet out with.

Then get them in here.

You forget. You robbed them.

Then you do it, mister.


I wouldn't know how
even if I had the right tools.

I could even kill you trying.

Your only chance is with them.

Then you make them do it,
mister, no matter what I done.

I'll try.

What are you going to
do about him, ma'am?

I have already done something
about him, Mr. Cartwright.

That bullet, it's gotta
come out of there, ma'am.

He might die otherwise.

Indeed, he might.

And he might die
if I try to take it out.

He's got a better
chance with it out.

I have done
everything I can for him.

All right.

But I still say it's
mighty risky business.

I wouldn't risk his
life, Mr. Cartwright,

despite what he is,
what he has done.

But I think it is better to wait
for a doctor and proper facilities.

I think his condition is
much better than he pretends

and he's lying about how he feels,
just as he is lying about the money.

I'm not.

I swear it.

You've gotta help me. Please.

Easy, easy.

Oh, he's opened his wound.

Would you get my
medical bag please?

What are you going to do?

I think Hoss is right, the
bullet has to come out.

You trust his opinion
rather than mine?

Years ago, my Uncle Mordecai
came home from a fight.

Well, I took a
bullet out of him.

Your Uncle Mordecai.

I told you, I think this
man is pretending.

But if I think I can
remove the bullet...

Then you would disobey me?

You've told me I must be strong.

Well, I'm trying to be. I
think I can help this man.

- Is there anything I can do to help?
- You'll have to hold him.

We've nothing to
give him for the pain.

You know, Sister, Mother
Veronica could be right.

Maybe he could make it till
we could get him to a doctor.

And maybe he couldn't.

Thank you, Hoss.

But I must do what I have to do.

First, let's get
the bandage off.

The bullet's deeper
than I thought.

He's passed out now.

It should be easier.

Move over,
Sister. I'll take over.

It's all right, child.

Will you be able to help me?

Oh, yes, of course.

Then let's get to work.

And let's hope he has a little
of your Uncle Mordecai in him.

- How is he?
- His fever's down.

I think he'll be all right.

Then you think we done right
by taking the bullet out, huh?

Only because Mother Veronica
stepped in when I failed.

Yeah, must have been pretty
hard for her to save the life of a man

that cost her that hospital.

I know. That hospital was
to be the climax of her life.

It was important,
but I don't think

she thought it more
important than him.

Well, as soon as that stage
comes, we'll get him into a sheriff

and get the truth out of him.
She may have that hospital yet.

Oh, I hope so. If only for
Mother Veronica's sake.

- How is she?
- Still asleep out there in a big chair.

Poor Mother Veronica.

She's had so many

First, the money and now me.


What, uh...? What do think
she'll do? About you, I mean.

She'll do what she
has to do. I disobeyed.

It's obedience I can't
seem to conquer.

You know, Mother Veronica told
me that a lot of girls didn't make it

but that didn't keep them
from living useful lives

as wives and mothers.

But I don't know
what else I'd do.

I've always wanted to be a
nun, ever since I can remember.

Yeah. Look, ma'am...
Ma'am, you're pretty tired.

Why don't you lay down over there
on that bed and try to get some sleep?

I'll try.

You did him a favor,
now he can do you one.

You know...

Mary Kathleen,

if you were to decide to go back
home to Boston by San Francisco,

would you come by
ranch and say hello?

Oh, that would be nice.

I'd like to meet your
family and see your ranch.

- What do you call it?
- The Ponderosa.

Oh, that's a lovely
name The Ponderosa.

Wouldn't your father
and your brothers mind

me invading your
bachelor kingdom?

Certainly not. They'd
be proud to have you.

- And if you do leave the order...
- Oh, Hoss.

Pray that that doesn't happen.

I'll pray for whatever
makes you happy, ma'am.

Mr. Cartwright!

Mr. Cartwright!

Stay right where you are.

- I didn't die after all, Sister.
- Then you were lying.

Only a little.

My partner really did shoot
me and take off with the money,

but I got the last shot
and I aimed better.

- Where have you had that money?
- He buried it by the corral.

For this much money,
a man will do anything,

bullet in him or not.

But with the bullet out,
I got a real chance now.

So get out of my
way. Don't, big man.

Last time, you only
got your head cracked

this time, you'll die.

You foolish child.
Where do you hurt?

It's my chest.

The horse's hooves.

- I'll get my bag, Mr. Cartwright.
- Oh, no. No. Hold me, Mother.

Why did you do it?

Why did you do
such a foolish thing?

I had to.

For it was a question
of strength, was it not?

Yes, my child.

And I was strong, wasn't I?

Yes, Sister, you were strong.

I'm sorry I won't get to see your
father and your brothers, Hoss.

- And that peaceful ranch. The...
- The Ponderosa.

Aye. Such a lovely
name. The Ponderosa.

Will you make it a
fine hospital, Mother?

And say a prayer for me?

Here you are, Clem.

I showed the hostler how
to change the bandage.

He should be able to travel by
the time the next coach arrives.

I'll see to it that he's
delivered to the sheriff, ma'am.

These medical bags, I figured you
probably want them down with you

- instead of up on the top.
- Oh, yes. Thank you.

Would you like to keep
Sister Mary Kathleen's?

Thank you, ma'am.


would Sister Mary Kathleen
have been accepted into the order?

No, I don't think she
would have. I'm sorry.

Ma'am, she got the
money back for the hospital.

She had to be strong to do that.

Oh, she did a strong
and magnificent thing.

But, in her case, that was
not only a question of strength.

She could have never rejected
the world she loved so much.

Your world suffered a
greater loss than ours.


May God always
be with you, Hoss.

Thank you, ma'am.

And now we must go on.

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Bonanza provides wholesome entertainment that is ideal for enjoying alone or with loved ones. A Question of Strength marks the 140th episode out of 430 in the series. Produced by NBC, Bonanza graced their network screens from September 1959 to January 1973, spanning 14 seasons.

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How would you like to ride hell-bent for leather into a world full of adventure and heroism?

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