Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 8. Breaking Boxes.

Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder, to the faults of those around me--Edgar A. Guest

Chapter 8.

Breaking Boxes.

   The evening of the second day found Dannie and Jake setting up camp once more.

   "If you can't drink this coffee, then just think of me yesterday," Dannie stated, handing Jake a cup.

   "That's not at very comfortin'," Jake retorted, lifting the cup to his lips. "It's passable," he stated after tasting the coffee. "You need a lot more practice, but I guess it will do for a first time."

   "Yes, well, Rome wasn't built in a day," Dannie stated, sitting down at the other side of the fire.

   "What?"

   "It's just a saying, meaning everything takes time."

   "Makes sense. So," Jake leaned back on the large rock that was behind him, "you've read a lot of books have you?"

   "It's something Papa and myself had in common, we could spend all day in his library pouring over books. Father taught me to read and write in Latin and Greek."

   "So apart from French and Italian, you still know Latin and Greek, I'm wonderin', Miss Preston, how does it all stay in your head? My brain would have long exploded from all that knowledge being stuck in there."

   Dannie giggled. "I've just got a talent for languages, Papa said so. Mamma kept getting upset at him for keeping me in his study all day, saying that the last thing men like was a woman who was smarter than them. Papa kept saying that those silly country boys had no business marrying me anyway, and that my husband should be with a mind to match my own," Dannie bit her lip here as Paul came rushing through her memory again. 

   "And was you fiancé smart?" Jake hoped he wasn't prying too far, but ever since he found out Dannie had a broken engagement, his curiosity had been bursting at the seams wanting to know why the promise had been broken.

   "Paul was very smart, he was studying to be a lawyer when I met him. I liked talking to him, he was full of the subjects that interested me and it was so easy to carry on a conversation with him. We could talk about books and discuss philosophy and science. He often told me I was the only girl he could carry on a decent conversation with. I was sure Paul was the one, even Papa always said that we were made of each other. When he proposed to me no one was surprised, except for me, perhaps. I couldn't believe that someone would consider marrying me?"

   Surprise registered on Jake's face. Sure, he could easily believe the fact that no one would want to marry such a stubborn and rude girl who seemed to have a very high opinion of herself, but the fact that she herself was admitting that she was surprised that someone would want to marry her, well, that sort of didn't fit in with the box he had originally placed her in.

   "Why couldn't you believe that someone wanted to marry you?"

   "There is no need to mock me," Dannie's voice was quiet but hurt, "I'm sure you could come up with plenty of reasons why no one would want to marry me."

   Jake felt his face turning hot, "Yeah, well, that's me, you know I have a low opinion of any woman. What surprises me is that you couldn't believe it."

   At this Dannie let out a bitter laugh. "Really, Mr. Wade...Jake I mean, I should think it painfully obvious. In my whole life I never got much male attention, mainly because there are two things that men look for in a woman. The first is money, even a hideous girl will become attractive if she has several thousand pounds to her name, but if she hasn't any money, then they will look for an attractive face, which unfortunately, I haven't got."

   "Oh come now, Miss Preston, even I wouldn't say that you are ugly."

   "Not ugly, just plain, very, very plain. I have no outstanding features, there is nothing striking about me, I am about as ordinary as they get, which means that in a crowd of girls, I am the first one to be overlooked. It works like this. There are the beautiful girls and the hideous ones and they are the ones you notice because they have features, be they pretty or ugly, that make them stand out. And then there are the plain girls the ones that are so ordinary, so commonplace they are virtually transparent. You see right through them and forget about them within the first five minutes. I happen to fall into that category of women. Papa always told me not to worry, that there were plenty of men out there who didn't care for beauty and that even if I thought myself plain, that I had a beautiful mind and the right man would easily fall for it. When Paul came around, I thought Papa had been right, I thought that Paul was different from all the rest of the men, that even though maybe I wasn't as pretty as a lot of other girls, I had something more, something inside of me that he would love...but...but I proved to be wrong," Dannie wiped a tear that escaped out of her eye. "Paul was just like the rest of them. Smart wasn't so bad, but beauty and money come before all and a pretty face with ten thousand pounds is more desirable than a bright mind."

   "You mean he ended your engagement?"

   "He came up to me the very day I buried my parents and told me he was put our engagement to an end. He didn't want to tell me the reason but I pulled it out of him. It was because he wished to marry another young lady."

   "Wait, he broke the engagement on the day of your parents' funeral?"

   Dannie nodded her head.

   "What kind of man does that?" A disgusted feeling kicked Jake in the gut. To come up to a girl who is grieving at the loss of both her parents and to break with her so suddenly, could you even call such a person a man? Despite himself, Jake found himself filling with even more pity for Dannie. She really was alone in the world, and it had all happened so suddenly.

   "A man like Paul, obviously," Dannie wryly responded. "I don't blame him. I have no money to my name and with my parents dead I would have been very dependent on Paul. I only wish he hadn't broken it to me so suddenly, at least waited a day or two." Dannie shook her head. "But there is no changing that, what is done is done and that is the end of it."

   Jake nodded his head and it grew quiet. Dannie retired for the night, but Jake sat, staring at the flames. When he first met Dannie he would have never thought her to be in the middle of so much heartbreak, she was rather good at covering it up. After about an hour of gazing at into nowhere, Jake was sure Dannie was asleep and quietly crept over to where she had placed her bag. Fishing out her Bible, he returned to his comfy rock and began flipping through the pages. Ever since this morning he had been wondering about the two verses mentioned in the note from Dannie's father. At last he found the book of Isaiah and went to chapter 41. The darkness made it hard to read, and Jake brought the book closer to the fire. His eyes scanned over the words till he found verse 13: For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, fear not; I will help thee.

   "Good verse," Jake couldn't help from thinking. He then sought out the other verses: When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys, I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

   Jake shut the Bible and returned it to Dannie's bag.

   "I wonder what it was that kept Mr. Martin from communicating with his family in England, they seem to have been pretty decent people to me," Jake couldn't help wondering as he settled down for the night. He made a mental note to ask Dannie about it tomorrow.

***

   The next morning dawned without much incident. Jake and Dannie had breakfast and then packing up the wagon set out for the last stretch of their journey.

   "You seem very tight today," Jake said, looking at how Dannie was nervously playing with the fabric of her dress.

   "I can't help it, by tonight I should be at the Circle 4, I have no idea what sort of man Mr. Martin is and that makes me nervous."

   "What will you do if he doesn't want to take you?"

   Dannie became thoughtful. "I'm not really sure. I do have another relative, he's my mother's second cousin or something like that, living in Australia. Perhaps I'll go and search him out."

   "Sheesh, you've got relatives all over the world or something? Let me guess, this fellow owns a ranch in Australia?"

   "I don't know. I'm not sure what he does."

   "Oh, what is he doing in Australia?"

   "He was sent there as a convict."

   "Now hold yer horses, lady," Jake couldn't believe what she was telling him, "there is no way you are going half way around the world to search out some convict living in some God forsake place."

   "Number one, it is not God forsaken, number two, who knows, perhaps he has changed his ways."

   "I don't know and there is no way you are going to find out. No, if for some reason Mr. Martin doesn't want to help you, I'll find you a place. I'm sure there are plenty of jobs you could find. Maybe you could go back East and be a governess, or maybe you could find a place as a school teacher, they never have enough of those. Heck, if bad comes to worse you could be a mail order bride."

   "A mail order bride?" Dannie was confused. "I've heard someone say that before. What is a mail order bride exactly?"

   "I should think the name says everything. It's a bride someone orders through the mail."

   "WHAT?"

   "Oh come, don't tell me you've never heard of such a thing? There are ads in the newspaper of men looking for wives, back East, girls answer to these ads. Letters pass between the two of them and then the girls come over by train and marry the men."

   Dannie couldn't believe her ears, "People actually do that?"

   "Yeah, it's actually pretty popular out here."

   "Unbelievable! I cannot believe it! No I cannot! Men have the audacity to 'order' a women by mail as though she were something out of a catalog. And what is more, women actually go for it. What sort of a place is this?"

   "It's the west, Miss Preston," Jake's answer was as frank as the expression on his face. "Women can be rather scarce, but a man does get lonely, so more often than not, a mail order bride is the only option he has."

   "I wonder, Jake, have you ever considered ordering a bride for yourself?"

   "Hell no, I'll never marry in that way," Jake vehemently shook his head. "If you didn't notice, I'm not the marryin' sort. I've always said lightin' would have to strike me from heaven before I could be induced to marry."

  "Oh, that's right," Dani remembered, "you have a very low opinion of women."

   "It is well grounded," Jake reminded. "Not to mention I'm just not the family sort of man. Let's say I value my freedom. But, on the occasion that lightin' did happen to strike me and I got it into my mind to marry, it wouldn't be a mail bride. In my opinion, you don't marry someone you don't know, and you can't get to know a girl over the mail. Heck, she could make up an entire story and write things that aren't true, and then when she really comes over you find out she's not at all what you thought she was."

   "It goes the other way around," Dannie pointed out. "Which is why, Jacob Wade, I can tell you I will never be a mail order bride. I'd sooner travel to Australia."

   "Over my dead body you will," Jake retorted. "There is no way I'd let a naïve, innocent little thing like you travel to a place filled with criminals to search out some convict of a distant relative."

   Dannie's eyes widened and she stared at Jake in confusion. His reaction had caught her completely by surprise.

   "What about the Callaways, didn't they say that if anything' went wrong you could come over and work with them?" Jake hardly even noticed the way Dannie was looking at him.

   "Oh right, there are the Callaways," Dannie smiled, "so don't worry, God will look after me."

   "You really believe in God, don't you?"

   "Yes I do."

   Jake smiled. "Findin' God fearin' people out here might be kinda tough, feel I should warn you about that."

   "I think anything out here is going to be tough, but I didn't come out here for the easy way of life."

   "What did you come out here to find?"

   Dannie sighed. "A new life I suppose. Isn't that what people always wanted to find when they came out here to this land? Starting with the Puritans when they left England long, long ago and leading right up to now. Heading out where no one has gone before all in search of something more than what they had. With my parents dead and Paul breaking with me, I just wanted to get away, I wanted to try something I'd never done before. I knew if I stayed, I would fall prey to a life I did not want to lead.

   "What do you mean?" By now Jake wasn't even trying to hide the fact that he was very, very interested in the life story of his traveling companion.

   "If I stayed in England, there was really only one option open to me, and that was to be a governess to some rich family. I would raise their children to be everything high society demanded of them, make them the models of decorum and fashion. It would be foreign languages, music, art, proper conduct, proper etiquette, all the things that will turn them into the little models society needs them to be. There might have been trips to Europe, and then the balls would have started and they would have all come out and then once they were grown up and married I would move on to the next family and the circle would start again. I don't want that sort of life, I don't want to live something so predictable, I want something new, something I have never done before. That's why I came out here, I wanted to try and start my life all over again. Oh, I know this probably doesn't make sense to you, and it probably never will."

   "No, I think I'm beginning to understand though I still find it hard to believe there are women who will trade comfort and security to travel out into the middle of nowhere with a man they don't know."

   "It's not like we are nowhere, we are somewhere after all, and since I don't know anyone out here so I just have to take my chances." Dannie smiled and stifled a yawn. She tried not to show how tired she was, but this was her third day out on the road and the dust and heat was beginning to wear on her.

   "Is it gonna make ya angry if I ask why you folks never kept communication with Mr. Martin?" Jake didn't seem to notice Dannie's tired state.

   "I don't know why," Dannie softly said. "Papa never talk about him much, we had no idea where he was until a visitor mentioned he owned a ranch in Arizona Territory. That was really all the information I had when I came here. I sort of blindly walked off a cliff and hoped God would give me wings."

   Jake shook his head, trying to make sense of this lady's crazy logic. Dannie in the mean time was trying her best to shrug off the drowsiness that was wrapping around her like a thick blanket. She wouldn't look weak and frail in Jake's eyes. She had to be a strong and independent woman when she was around him.

   Feeling something heavy, Jake looked over and saw Dannie was leaning on his right arm and had her heading resting on his shoulder. He widened his eyes in surprise, Dannie was certainly not the sort of woman who would lean on him. Looking over, he stifled a chuckled, she was asleep. Jake considered his options. He could either wake her up and have her sit up straight again, or he could let her sleep a bit on his shoulder. After a moment of thought, he decided to let her sleep, she weren't that heavy after all and he could bear the weight a little. Turning his eyes back toward the road, he pondered all that had happened to him in the last couple of days. Who would have thought the day he left the Cora Belle he would end up taking an English girl to the Circle 4, and all this for no pay. The men back at the ranch would never believe him when he told them of his adventures. And yet, if they were to see Dannie, they would probably understand. Jake gave another chuckle. This was a one of a kind woman, that was for sure.

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Happy Easter everyone! He has Risen! He has Risen, Indeed!


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