Chapter 22. Common Sense
"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things."— Leonardo da Vinci
Sophie was really put out as she rushed about the house looking for her nurse. Coming to the kitchen she saw Grace busy preparing the evening meal. Dannie was with her.
"Have either of you seen Carolina?" She asked.
Grace turned to face Sophie. "I believe she is on the front porch, workin' on your dress for the dance."
"Thanks." Sophie flashed a smile of gratitude and ran off. True to Grace's words, Carolina was busy at work on the front porch. She paused at the sound of Sophie's footsteps and a smile spread across her face when she saw her pet. The smile quickly turned to a look of concern when she noticed Sophie was very upset.
"Ah, mi amor, what is the matter? Why is there a cloud over your face?"
"It's Dannie," Sophie burst out. "She's all down because of the way Jake took off. It's been two days since the whole circus act and she's still a perfect picture of misery. But that's not the worst part, now she's tellin' me she don't want to go to the dance!"
"No, she must go, you make her go, she needs to get out and meet other people. Jake is not the only man on the planet."
"That is what I've been tryin' to get her to understand. It's the perfect opportunity for her to get happy again, but that little British Miss is being so stubborn. Said she won't go and that is final. I lost my temper with her and told her if she wants to be so miserable she can just go to the garden and eat worms, but instead she went to Grace to help with dinner. What are we going to do, Carolina? What about the surprise dress we've been makin' for her? I don't want all that work and material to go to waste!"
"It is not going to go to waste. Here is what we will do. I will lay the dress out in the parlor after dinner and you get Dannie and we'll present our surprise. Just wait and see, Sophia, she will be the first to climb into the wagon tomorrow.
"I told you I don't want to go," Dannie protested as Sophie led her blindfolded to the parlor, Roy trotting after them.
"And I told you that I didn't care."
"And I don't care that you don't care. I'm not going and that's that, now take this silly scarf off my eyes."
"Not yet, I don't want you to see the surprise before it's time," Sophie said, opening the door and pulling Dannie inside. "Alright, on the count of three, one, two, three...SURPRISE!" Sophie untied the scarf and Dannie found herself looking at a beautiful dress spread out the sofa
"Oh!" She gasped in an awed voice. The dress was pure white with blue bows on the slightly puffed sleeves and a blue satin sash. Delicate blue lace lined the collar and the sleeves. Carolina stood by the dress, beaming with pride and satisfaction.
"Where did you get that?" Dannie sputtered in surprise.
"We made it," Sophie grinned, her face a reflection of Carolina's.
"You made it?"
"Carolina did most of the work," Sophie confessed. "I just helped with the lace and the bows and the sash. There, now you must go the dance or all our hard work will be in vain."
"Dannie, we made you this dress especially for the dance," Carolina put in. "Why, I went all the way to town with Sophia to get you the material and we spent many evenings sewing and sewing. You will look so beautiful in it, everyone will want to dance with you."
"Who was the mastermind in this plot against me?" Dannie frowned at Carolina and Sophia.
"It's not against you, Dannie dear," Sophie argued. "It's for your own good. You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Self-pity never did anyone any good. Come on, you own fairy godmother and her little elf made you a dress, now be a good girl and go to the ball."
"Actually, my godmother died eight years ago."
"Your new fairy godmother!" Sophie rolled her eyes, "your Arizona fairy godmother."
"Sophia is right, Dannie, you must not lie around feeling sorry for yourself. You've been stuck on the ranch for a long time. You haven't been to town even once during the whole summer. You need to get out, meet other people and socialize with them. We are all going to the dance, and you will go with us."
Dannie gazed at the dress, which was really very pretty and she did want to wear it. She battled with herself, self-pity at war with common sense. Of course staying behind and wallowing in misery was not the better option, but it was so much more inviting.
Roy decided it was time for him to help out. Of course, being a dog, he didn't understand what the womenfolk were talking about, but they kept pointing to the dress on the sofa, and his instincts told him it had to do with his mistress and that dress. Trotting up to Dannie, he tugged at her skirt, pulling her close to the dress.
"There, see, even Roy wants you to come," Sophie pointed out. "He knows his mistress will look pretty in the new dress. That's a smart dog if I ever saw one."
Everyone, Dannie included, laughed at this.
"Ah, very well," Dannie gave in, "I suppose I can't let all your hard work go to waste. And you might have a point about the dance being good for me."
"There, I knew you would see it our way." Carolina beamed. Sophie jumped up and down like a child experiencing Christmas for the first time. Roy caught on the excitement and jumped around with her. Sophie laughed and caught the dog by the front paws, standing him up on his hind legs.
"The dance is just two days away," she bubbled with excitement. "And we are leavin' tomorrow. I'm so glad Daddy agreed to let us go early this time, usually we get there at the last minute because Daddy hates staying over with Mrs. Clington." Sophie let Roy go and he ran up to Dannie, who was sitting on the sofa.
"Why?" Dannie asked as she stroked the dog.
"Oh, she's just the town busy body and always full of the latest gossip. Remember last year? Gossip was all she could talk about and poor Daddy can only take so much. But what can he do? We can't choose our relatives can we? Mrs. Clington happens to be Momma's aunt and she'll get offended if we don't stay with her. I remember how once Ed slept outside in an attempt to get away from her endless ramble." The painful memory of her older brother caused Sophie to fall silent for a moment, but she quickly shook herself free of it and put on a brave smile. "Come, I'll show you the dress I'll be wearin' and then we can get to packing' We are leavin' tomorrow at dawn for the town. Bill and Carolina and the Rellwars will be coming with us as well. I think a few of the cowboys are planning on showing up too. Oh and of course we'll have to go shoppin'!"
Carolina shook her head. "Sophia you are addicted to shopping?"
"I am not. It is just I hardly ever get into town, so I want to make the best of it."
Dannie laughed. "Of course we'll go shopping, I'm actually anxious to see if they have any new books in the shop."
"And there is always Cal Jennson!" Sophie teased in a sly tone.
Dannie scowled for a moment. It wasn't much fun thinking of Cal when Jake was still so fresh in her memory. She had to admit, however, that Cal was a very nice young man. He was charming and kind. The two of them had a lot in common and never had a problem conversing. "I suppose there is Cal Jennson," she stated at last, more to herself than to Sophie and Carolina.
Her words caused Sophie to grin. "Oh Dannie, I think we shall lots of fun this year at the annual harvest square dance."
"You want to tell me what's eatin' you?" Sam walked up to Jake, who was whittling away at a piece of wood.
"Nothin's eating me," Jake snapped at him.
"Come on, Jake, I can see plain as day you are not yourself. The past two days you've been as restless as a skittish horse. Come on; spit it out, what's makin' you all angry?"
"Sam, lay off. I'm fine."
"You're behavin' like a teenager," Sam's patience was beginning to wear thin. "I'm fine, I'm fine, look at me, I'm miserable as hell an' angry all the time; I scowl at everythin' an' am always in a bad mood, but no, I'm fine and I can handle everythin' myself."
Jake glared at him. "Oooh, Daddy came by to give me life advice?"
"I'm barely pushin' forty three," Sam argued. "So even though it is perhaps possible for me to be your daddy, I'd have to stretch my imagination a little farther than I'm comfortable with. Let's just say concerned friend. Come on, what's up between an' the Miz Preston?"
"An' you expect me to believe that? It was more than obvious the two of you fought."
"Maybe we did, but I have no idea why you should care anythin' about it." Jake was annoyed with the way Sam kept pestering him about something he didn't want to talk about.
"Alright mister, you can quit being fresh with me." Sam grew serious. "Didn't your parents teach to respect your elders? It's not just you I am worried about, but Dannie Preston as well. What could the two of you possibly fight about? You were best friends it would seem, an' the way you nearly killed Slim when he compared Dannie to Miz Martin, I'd think you were more than friends. Heck, the way you kept draggin' out leavin' the Circle 4 I could swear you were in love with her."
"Yeah, well maybe I am," Jake challenged.
"An' this comin' from the world's greatest women hater."
"I never once said I hate women," Jake defended himself. "I just don't trust most of them."
"I know, I know, you don't trust them because of their fickleness. So what made little Miz Preston an exception?"
"Dannie is...Dannie is different. She ain't fickle, she's true...too true."
"Oh my God, there is just no pleasin' this man! One woman isn't true enough, the other is too true. It's no wonder you have no luck with women, I've never met someone so picky. Too true? What the hell does that mean?"
Jake threw away the remains of the stick he had been chipping with his knife. "Before she came to America she was engaged to this lawyer named Paul, but he broke the engagement and married someone else. When I was bringin' her to the Circle 4, she kept calling me his name, and I felt like she was usin' me to be with him. Ever since my accident I thought she was finally over him, she never brought him up and I was really beginnin' to think I had a chance with her. But then, right on the day I'm supposed to leave, she gets a letter from him and it turns out they've been in correspondence. If she's trying to play a double game then she's picked the wrong person! I didn't want to make a scene in front of the whole house so I just left."
Sam was silent for a few seconds as he pondered the situation. He walked over to where Jake was sitting and took a seat next to him.
"Does she know you have feelin's for her?"
"You never told her?"
"Then for cryin' out loud what are you waitin' for?"
"As long as Paul is in the picture, I don't want to talk to her about my feelin's. It's like I'm fightin' a rival that doesn't exist!"
"You call this fightin' a rival?" Sam burst out laughing. "Young people! Why, back in my day when we fought rivals we got in there with both fists. You always knew who was fightin' over a girl by the shiners on the eyes an' the cracked ribs. But you, Mr. Wade, are usin' every opportunity to run an' give you rival an easy victory. Jake, you're fightin' someone who isn't even here, someone who abandoned the girl. If anyone has the upper hand, it's you. An' what to you do? You just run off instead of tryin' to get to the bottom of it. For God's sake, stop being a chicken an' be a man. Haven't you ever heard the sayin' faint hearts never won fair ladies? Don't you remember how Abner fought for his girl?"
"Don't even bring up Abner. It's thanks to Abner that I'm in this great mess to start with."
"I can bring up whoever I darn well please. Abner refused to take no for an answer. Even when Mr. Grincher refused to let his granddaughter marry him, even when that old donkey tried to pair the poor girl up with someone else, even when all the odds were against him, Abner plowed on an' in the end he got the girl, plus a farm to go with it. Not all girls come easy, Jake, sometimes you've got to fight other men for them. Get Dannie while she's still your neighbor; don't wait till she's on a ship back to England to go chasin' after her."
"But why would she be writin' him"
"I don't know. Why didn't you ask? That was the first thing you should have done. Actually, if you would have confessed earlier maybe there wouldn't have been any correspondence to start with. Maybe the girl is tired of waiting; maybe she's confused by your long silence."
Jake didn't quite know how to answer. He didn't appreciate Sam coming here and lecturing him, but he had to admit Sam had a point. He hadn't actually confessed anything to Dannie, and she had never made any promises, so it wasn't like she was cheating on him. But still, why had she done it? Why write someone who abandoned you? Did he write his former lovers? No. Did he communicate with Amy? No. The only reason he could come up with was that maybe Paul was trying to get her back, and if she was writing him maybe that meant she wanted to go back. After all, Dannie had confessed that she'd didn't feel all at home here in Arizona. Jake picked up another stick and started cutting off slices with his knife. The anger he had felt when he'd found out about the correspondence had subsided a bit over the past two days and it was easier for him to think about the whole situation with a clear head. He didn't want Dannie to go back to England. He wanted Dannie to stay right here, so that he could see her whenever he wanted to and listen to her talk about her parents and her life in England, about music, and all the books she had read. He never thought such subjects could ever interest him, but somehow it didn't matter what Dannie said, just as long as she was talking. What was more, Dannie didn't just talk, she listened. She wanted to know about Jake, about his work on the Cora Belle, about the horses he trained, and the cattle he drove. Dannie had always been genuinely interested in Jake's lifestyle, about his past, about his plans for the future. The more Jake thought about it, the more he realized he would die before he let Dannie go anywhere, especially back to some stupid lawyer in England. But how was he to keep her here? If Paul were here he'd just chuck him down, sadly that wasn't an option.
Sam seemed to be thinking along the same line, because he didn't say anything for a long time. Suddenly he burst out with a loud, "Jake, I figured how to solve your problem."
"Much obliged," Jake retorted.
"No, I'm serious," Sam persisted. "You are comin' with us to the harvest dance."
Jake rolled his eyes. "No can do! You know I hate dancin' and I hate socializin' with women, and those are the two very things I'm gonna have to do there."
"Dim wit, don't you realize Dannie Preston is probably going to be at the dance?"
"Oh." Jake tossed the remains of the stick away. "You think she might be?"
"If I know Sophie Martin, which I do, Dannie is gonna to be there for sure. You'll go the dance, meet her there an' get to the bottom of everythin'. You've got to make her fall for you, an' when she does she'll forget all about that English fellow. That's the best way to make a woman forget an old lover, just give her a new one, a better one. Come on, the dance is in two days an' we've still got to get your dressed up."
"What's wrong with my old clothes?"
"How do you plan to impress the young lady with those old tattered things? Besides, you'll ruin Slim's good image if you show up in these rages."
"Slim's good image?" Jake smirked. "Talk about dim wit. I don't know why Clay agreed to take that fool. Life on the ranch has become a nightmare with him around"
"Because Clay believes that every man deserves a second chance, an' when you can't get one yourself the next best thing to do is give one to someone else." Sam's blue eyes grew dim and for a minute he looked off into the distance, but he quickly snapped back to reality. "An' he's actually a pretty good dancer, a lot better than you."
"Whatever, I'm only going there to see Dannie, otherwise wild horses couldn't drag me."
"Of course, of course. I'll tell Clay of our plans an' we'll leave tomorrow."
"To git you some proper clothes, duh. Unless you've got somethin' fancy stashed away, which I highly doubt, the only place to git you somethin' suitable is from the mercantile at Hopewing."
"I don't want to waste money on fancy clothin'!"
"Everyone gets dressed up for a dance, Jake, an' you are no exception."
"No buts, just be glad you are spendin' money on yourself. Trust me, in a couple of days you'll be wastin' dollars on a heap of useless stuff, an' none of it will be for you."
"And you know this because?"
"Because I'm twice your age!!"
"So just because you're old means you know how I'll be spendin' my money in the future?"
"Now listen, smarty pants, I know what I'm talkin' about. Let's go make Dani forget about everyone in this world but you."