Disclaimer: I do not own Little Men in any way.
A/N: Ages based on "Philanthropy" and "Stepping Out" and there are also references to several of the other episodes in Little Men's run.
By: Josephine Rayne
Chapter One: The Curtain Rises
The Setting: June of 1875
Eighteen year old Dan blinked back sleep as his bare feet fell to the floor. He looked around curiously as each bed were neatly, but crudely made, the view from the window remained the same, but still the scene that surrounded him was not as it should. There were no playful shoves, no lost shoes, or uncombed hair; the room stayed quiet, an oddity for the wee mornings of Plumfield.
Unbalanced, Dan managed to get dressed as quickly as he could, franticly searching for a clock. Satisfied at his hastily put together appearance the young man bounced down the stairs.
"I was wondering when you would decide to come down." Asia replied laughing to herself as she cleaned up the numerous dishes that lined the table. "Ms. Jo said not to wake you, a graduate should be able to get himself up." she laughed longer. "Breakfast was over an hour ago. Everyone is already assembled in the classroom."
Dan sighed, thanked Asia and grabbed a piece of bread as he hurried toward the door. Though Jo sent Dan a nasty look as he slid into his seat, it wasn't until after class had ended that the lecture began.
"Even though you are graduating next week doesn't mean that you can come to class anytime you wish, I thought learning was important to you Dan?" Josephine Riley questioned the tall dark haired man.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Jo, I just overslept is all." Dan replied wishing she would hurry so he could go to work. For the past few months, he had been earning a few extra dollars at the Gillian homestead, where he helped the other men build the homestead.
Jo nodded, "Alright. You can go."
Nick and Jo had finally married two years earlier, and a daughter, Samantha, followed a year later, adding to the numerous changes that had occurred in Plumfield over the past few years. Meg's twins, Daisy and Demi had arrived at Plumfield to start their schooling, and long since married, Franz and Isabelle were returning for the summer with their children Johann and Lily. With them, brought the end of the school year and Emil and Dan would be leaving Plumfield as graduates.
"Thank you, Mrs. Jo." Dan replied rushing past her and into the main house. Arriving in the boy's common bedroom, he found the rest of his friends heavy in conversation.
"Where are you going to go, Dan?" sixteen year old Nat asked watching Dan search for his work supplies. Truthfully, Nathaniel Blake was glad that he had two more years before his own graduation. Hoping to go to Harvard like Franz had done, Nat still could not decide whether music or writing was his passion. Not to mention finishing his schooling here meant leaving Plumfield, the only home and family he had ever known.
"Are you going to head out West like you've always wanted?" Fifteen year old Tommy questioned.
"Not sure what my plans are." Dan replied lying slightly, they all would find out soon enough what he planned to do.
"But, what are you going to be?" said eighteen year old Emil the only other graduating student. "How are you going to support yourself?"
"Maybe I'll become a sheriff some place. Besides I have money saved up. Which is why I have to go to work now." he replied heading towards the door.
"What about you Emil?" Nat asked.
"Join my uncle." Emil stated. "Then I'll-"
"-May we please stop talking about this?" newly turned seventeen year old Bess interrupted as she and sixteen year old Nan joined in the conversation.
Bess was afraid. Afraid of the future and afraid that her mother would be right. Dan would leave Plumfield, travel the world, find someone else or some grand adventure and never return. "These things happen." her mother had said when she learned of their courting two years before. "You are both too young to decide on anything. There are many men you might meet and fancy." She sighed as the talk switched to summer fun and Dan slipped out the door.
Dan Madison smiled happily to himself, though exhausted from the back breaking labor of building the homestead, as he held tightly to the hard earned paper money in his hand.
"Finally saved enough, lad?" the store keeper replied as he reached from behind the counter and brought out a small square package. "I'm sure your sweetheart will be pleased."
With the package and the train ticket placed securely in his breast pocket, Dan approached the gates of Plumfield.
"Oh you are back. Aunt Jo wants you to help Tommy set the table." Bess replied as she saw Dan enter the house.
Dan stopped, placing his hand on the wall, struggling to focus on his vision and breath. "Not hungry."
"Are you alright?" Bess question brushing the hair out of Dan's eyes. "I'll get Aunt Jo."
"No, Bess I'm fine. Just dizzy is all. " Bess stared at Dan and then turned to help with dinner.
"Wait, I want to show ya something. Come on the porch," Dan said his vision and breathing returning to normal, but his nervousness was now beginning to swell within him. "I have never been much good with these kind of things. But there is something I've been meaning to ask ya," the young man stated pulling Bess over to the swinging chair. "Bess Laurence, would you do me the pleasure of being your husband?" he pulled out the small box that lay in his pocket and inside a brilliant engagement ring glistened. "We wouldn't get married now of course, in a couple of years. I have a ticket to California in my pocket , but I want you to know that I'm gonna come back for ya…. I love ya, Bess."
Bess smiled her fears had been unfounded after all. "Yes, I'll be your wife." She replied happily as she reached up and kissed her fiancée.
"You're what!" Amy Laurence shouted as she turned to her husband. "Laurie, she's only seventeen years old!"
"Now Amy, they did say they would wait two years. " Laurie replied trying to calm down his wife as Jo sat comfortably on the chair.
"You are right. That's plenty of time for things to change." said Mrs. Laurence giving her husband a dirty look in response. "You are a very nice boy, Dan. But, there are things that you will never be able to give our daughter. Right now you are enjoying each other's company, but soon you will realize that you are just not compatible with each other." Amy was telling the truth, throughout the years she had watched Dan grow into a brave, charming, sweet and a bit rebellious, young man, and thus she had grown to like Dan. However, that certainty did not mean that she had wanted her daughter to court Dan, nevertheless marry him! He was an orphan with no financial stability to call his own. Amy wanted her daughter to live in the same lifestyle Bess had been accustomed to all her life. She did not want to see Bess living hand to mouth like Amy and her sisters had growing up, especially when Father was away in the war. Bess deserved all that high society could offer her: riches, parties, travel-not the life that a cowboy sheriff could offer her.
"Amy!" Jo replied nearly jumping up from her seat. "This is a joyous occasion we should be celebrating." Jo was as uncertain about this engagement as her younger sister seemed to be, they were both so young and so inexperienced, but Jo also knew how short life was. Fritz and Beth had been taken from her so suddenly that Jo believed if Bess and Dan really cared for each other why not let them see what the next two years had in store for them?
"No Mrs. Jo, she's right. I'm not rich or fancy , I can't give Bess, what you want for her, Paris, London, a fancy house. But, I hope to give her more than that." Dan replied getting angry.
Bess held a tighter grip on Dan's hand. "Mother, Dan and I will be married." stated Bess as she walked over to her father and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I will see you tomorrow, Father."