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Coming Home

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Bess never said a word, but watched and waited for her chance. One winter, she caught a cold, and it was simple enough to play up her symptoms to her watchful parents, who still thought her a delicate flower. A trip to the south west, to rest and recover, was hinted at and achieved. No mention was made of the tribe of Indians amongst which Dan had made his home.

Ted joined them on the trip, much to Bess' delight. Her cousin worshiped Dan still, and a hint to him while the rest of the party was busy napping, was enough. Soon the two of them were riding through the desert to Dan's home.

It was, perhaps, rougher than she had expected, but she didn't mind. Her eyes lit up at the brightly painted pottery and the woven blankets, for color was dear to her, and she itched to inquire about methods of dyeing and firing. This too, her parents would have forbidden her, had they known. It was not art in their eyes.

She did not speak of her heart to Dan, nor let show that she knew his. Not this first visit. Instead, she listened eagerly as he showed her and Ted the home he had made and the people he had grown to love.

It was Ted who issued the invitation to visit them at their hotel, not she. She knew she must wait until the time was right.

Visits did follow, back and forth. Bess still maintained her silence, but she was relieved to see her elegant, aristocratic parents did find some value here. They would not understand her desire to stay, but if she presented it in the right manner, they might be persuaded.

It did not end in the fashion she would have chosen, but what does? A band of outlaws rode into the town where the Laurences were staying, and Dan and Ted joined in the defense. And when the bandits dared to attack the ranch, Bess shocked both her parents and herself by picking up a shotgun and standing her ground, even wounding one of the attackers in the fray. But what was more important was that Dan reaffirmed his worth in her parents' eyes when he saved her from their leader.]

In the aftermath, she simply played the romantic heroine, swept off her feet by her savior. She reacted to her parents' attempts to get her to be sensible with a sweet, dreamy smile and wide-eyed innocence and to Dan's aloofness with adoration. To her great surprise, Ted became her best ally, making it very clear that he would love to see his cousin marry his hero.

She never tried to be herself. There was not one among them who would see her as a woman who would find hard work and a rough life appealing. They had spent too many years protecting her from the harsher parts of life. But slowly, as she watched and waited, her parents softened to the idea, and Dan's eyes grew brighter as he began to believe it could be true.

Bess was working at her wheel, the day it happened. That elaborate pretense wherein everybody found some feeble excuse to leave her alone with Dan, while he knelt and proposed, pretending all the while that he had not just settled the details with her father. Her mother tried to encourage them to move back east, but not with any real hope. Dan's life was here, and they accepted it.

The theory was that they would find rooms in a respectable boarding house until Dan could build a house that suited her parents' ideas of where she should live, but once she had put them on the train back home, she informed Dan that a boarding house was a needless expense. They could live in his house, and fix it up as he earned the money. He was dubious, but hired one of the Indian women to come in and do the heavy work and allowed her to have her whim.

Never had she found such joy in life before. She persuaded the women of the tribe to teach her their arts. From grinding corn to weaving and she loved the freedom she found in the new ways of doing things. Her art would never grace the great museums, but she was happy to trade it for the space to experiment and explore.

It was not an easy life, and her hands grew a little rougher and her face a little more careworn, but, in the end, Dan loved her for it, as he would not have loved the girl he had put up on that pedestal like one of her own statues. She became his helpmate and his confidant as they built a family and a life together, doing what they loved.