Grace Bradley avoided Daniel Boone as much as possible. She knew he was just waiting for the chance to question her to death, and she also knew it would only stir up trouble. She had gone into the fort because the blade of their plow and broken and Matt had asked her if she could take it to the blacksmiths. Standing beside the blacksmith, was Daniel Boone. She spun around quickly hoping he hadn't seen her, but it was too late.
"Grace!" He called out.
"He . . .hello, Daniel." She said. "I am so sorry I'm in a bit of a rush to . . ."
"Your blade is broke. John will set it right. He took the blade from her and handed it over to the blacksmith. "That shouldn't take more than an hour." He smiled at her. "I was hoping to speak to you."
"Rebecca already told you everything. There's no need to dig it all up again." Grace said.
"Rebecca has never once in her entire life told me everything, and you know it." He glared at her. "Grace Bradley, you start talking."
"You'll just get angry. And there's no point. It is over and done. She survived and everyone feels pretty foolish I'm sure."
"Grace." He warned. "I promise to stay calm."
"No, you won't. If it were talk of you, you wouldn't care a whit, but they were talking about Becky, and there's no way on God's green earth, you will stay calm. I would bet my life that if I told you everything, Boonesborough might just have a few less citizens living in it." She winced realizing she had said too much.
"What do you mean?" He asked already angry.
"You two are impossible, you know that!" She sighed. "They said she was unfaithful. They said the baby was probably Mingo's. They said terrible things about her. They took a vote to send her out and to take the children away - for their own safety." She glanced over and saw that his face had gone completely white. "They came to your cabin, in the middle of the night with torches, and told her to repent or she would never be welcome in the fort again."
"They . . . what?" He was speechless, and Grace realized that things would be bad very soon. She turned to the blacksmith who was working about twenty feet away from them.
"John, go get Matt and Tom. Tell them to come quick. Hurry." She turned back to Daniel.
"We saw them pass by with torches, and Matt, Cincinnatus and Tom, calmed folks down and told them to mind their own business and let God deal with things. I wasn't sure that things would calm down, but then Katie came out onto the porch." She swallowed hard, trying to slow the story down long enough, so that her husband could come lend a hand.
"Katie?" He asked still stunned.
"She told them all to stay away from her Ma. She had a rifle in her hands. She's a fireball, Daniel. She's got Becky's temper, that's for sure! She told them they didn't know anything 'cept what was bumping around in their empty heads, and that if they were going to send her Ma away, they would have to shoot her first. Becky tried to calm her down, and stop her, but that girls a force to be reckoned with, and then Israel came out too. And the two of them pointed out that there wasn't anyone in all of Boonesborough more loving than the two of you, so to accuse Becky of being unfaithful was ridiculous and to go home and mind their own business. And they did." She waited for his rage, and was relieved to see Matt running to her.
"What is it?" He asked reaching for her hand.
"They tried to burn her out?" Daniel said slowly and Matt understood. Tom had run up just behind him.
"They didn't though." Tom said.
"Go on home, Grace." Matt said squeezing her arm, and she nodded, but pausing she said, "Daniel, I'm sorry. I didn't know how to tell you. You are right, Becky never would. It is over and done with - that's what she says."
"She expects folks to let her down and hurt her." He said to Grace. "It's what her Pa did." Grace nodded, and turned to go.
"Grace!" He called out to her and she stopped. He walked over to her. "I'm sorry for putting you in the middle. It isn't fair. Thank you, for looking after her when I couldn't." He took hold of her arm, and she smiled up at him.
"Well, the one thing you and I both know is true, she's so easy to love." And smiling she turned away.
He stood in the middle of the fort watching her go, conflicted with his feelings of thankfulness for the friends who had stood by their side and all encompassing rage at the ones who had betrayed her.
"Dan?" Matt asked him.
"I dunno, Matt. I can't think straight just now." Daniel said. "Did Mingo know about it?"
"He did. We talked long and hard about what to say to you. But in the end . . . you couldn't come home to her. It would've been awful to hear of it, and know you couldn't go to her, so we just left it out."
"I'm going home." He said. "I'm not sure about this place. I don't care right now, though. Becky's all that matters."
"Dan, if you decide something . . ." Tom told him. "Well, Anna and me, we would trust you if you said there was some better place to be. We built a life in the wilderness with you once before. We could do it again." Matt nodded in agreement.
"Thank you. I know I sound angry just now. It isn't at you fellas. I understand why you kept silent and I would've done the same. I just can't believe they would think such evil thoughts towards her? Me, I could understand. I'm flawed, but Becky? You know anyone sweeter than that girl? You seen anyone work harder or pray more?" They shook their heads.
"People are faithless." He turned and strode out of the walls he had helped build.
"Pa, Ma wants to know if you are going to spend the whole night pacing on the porch?" Israel said.
"Israel, go get your sister." He said.
"Yes, sir." He disappeared inside the cabin and came back with Katie.
"What is it Pa?" She asked.
"You weren't gonna tell me about it? Did your Ma tell you not to?" He said to her. She studied him, understanding immediately what he meant. She chewed the inside of her lip and then sighing spoke softly.
"No, Pa. I just knew he would make you angry, and well, it was kind of scary. I don't like thinking about it too much." Israel reached over and took her hand, and Daniel smiled in spite of his growing rage. Israel was so protective of Katie-Grace.
"What about your Ma?" He asked them.
"She talked about it with us. She was afraid we didn't understand, but we did. She explained that people act foolish sometimes when they don't understand things. They couldn't understand about the baby with you being dead, so they had to think of a reason, so they did. But it was a bad one." Israel explained.
"Did she cry about it?" He asked his voice, flat and harsh. They stood silent and Israel glanced at Katie, but she let go his hand and crossed over to her Pa. She climbed up on a bench so that could look him in the eye. He turned towards her, surprised.
"You can't always protect people. Ma's no ordinary girl, Pa. She's twice as strong as you. You know that. Sometimes folks hurt her and make her cry. And she did cry, we all did. Being angry won't change any of that. We all felt the hurt. If you were to go after everyone who stood out there in the dust, it still wouldn't change how much she hurt. Ma, always says, love is the best choice, and I think she's right, Pa. Love is the best choice."
He pulled her close to him and burying his face in her shoulder he said, "Katie-Grace, what would we do without you." He looked at her then - his green eyes meeting hers in a locked embrace. "You have always been our daughter, Katie. We were just waiting for you to come to us, just like we are waiting for this new little one." He smiled and kissed her, and reaching for Israel he pulled him close. "I'm proud of both of you, for standing up for her like you did. Now go on to bed," He told them. "Your Ma's standing right behind us, listening in, and I think I'm going to have to wrap my arms around her for a bit." They turned and saw her, standing in the doorway, tears glistening on her face.
They ran to her and hugged her and then disappeared inside the cabin.
"Who told you?" She asked him.
"Oh, I cornered poor Grace." He said with a sigh. "Would you have ever told me?" He asked her.
She shook her head.
"I thought, by now, you'd learned you could trust me?" He studied her perplexed.
"Don't be ridiculous. I trust you! How could you even say that? It isn't that at all. I knew you'd be so hurt by it. You've given so much, and to have them betray you like that. How could I have a hand in you getting your heart broken?"
"Oh, they don't . . ." He said shrugging his shoulders.
"You poured your heart and soul into it! Don't act like you didn't. You can't lie to me, Daniel Boone." She sighed and wrapped her arms around him. "I can forgive it. They were foolish and quick to judge. We all make mistakes. And from their point of view - Daniel you were dead. It did look bad."
"But how could they think . . . without even asking you! They didn't did they, ask you about it?" She shook her head. "You are the sweetest, most faithful . . ." His voice grew angry.
"I'm also stubborn, hot-tempered, and willful. You've been gone five months, you may have forgotten some things." She smiled at him. "I'm alright. The children are alright, and this baby here, seems strong and healthy. We should focus on the miracles in front of us. We are together. Think on that! We said our good-byes, and yet, here you are!"
"I am grateful." He sighed and rested his head against her shoulder. "I guess you are right; I am broken-hearted. No one should ever . . ."
"Hush, now. That's enough. You and I know the truth, and so did the children. Who cares about the rest?" She smiled up at him.
"Katie is right. You are twice as strong as me. You can forgive them?"
"I can understand them." She said. "I guess, I'm less surprised than you when people fail us."
"I'm sorry." He said.
"Not you, Dan. You've never failed me, not ever."
"Becky, now who's overlooking things." He said. "We could start with James, and the list would grow from there."
"Not ever." She said. "Don't use me as an excuse to blame yourself. James was in the good Lord hands, even at the end. There are things we are not meant to understand -not James, not William, not Elizabeth and not Patrick, but they are a part of us all the same. And now, we can add to the list, when our friends turned against us. But Dan, they regret it. They are sorry."
"I don't think I can forgive them." He said.
"Well, you don't have to do it all in one day." She said with a grin. "Come on inside. You didn't touch your dinner. Aren't you hungry?" She asked him.
"No," He said swallowing back tears that gathered in his bright green eyes. "Leastways, not for any food." He put his hands on the sides of her face. "I don't know anyone better than you. There's no one more loving, more forgiving - no one. Why God saw fit to send a good woman like you to the likes of me?" He smiled at her.
"Me? I'm just a bond-slave from an old shanty town in Ireland; the daughter of a fast-talking, no account debtor! Why most folks won't have nothing to do with me, seeing as I'm nothing but Irish fluff washed up on the shore of this new world." She grinned at him. "But, I can cook."
He laughed. "You can cook!" He agreed. "Your Ma, did such a find job, Becky. I can't think of how proud she must be."
Surprised, tears gathered in her eyes. "Well, I . . ." She fumbled for words.
"Your father's a fool, Becky. I know we forgave him and all, but that doesn't change that he's a fool. He threw you and your sister away, and he still doesn't really understand that he was tossing out diamonds."
"The things you say." She said ducking her head, but he lifted her chin.
"You." He said with a grin.
"That's enough now. I'll get prideful if you keep it up. A sinner, saved by grace. That's all I am." She turned and went into their cabin.
"I'm the one who's saved." He said catching her hand and following her in. "You saved me."
The entire settlement turned out, but there was a nervous edge to it. No one quite understood why the Boone's had organized the dance, and they feared that something dangerous was coming their way.
"We wanted to welcome everyone." Daniel Boone, newly back from the dead, said facing the settlement. "Everyone's here aren't they?"
"Yep! All the ones brave enough!" Esa Green shouted back, and the crowd laughed nervously.
"I suppose you are all waiting for me turn on ya? I won't lie and tell you it crossed my mind, but I was talked out of it." A collective sigh settled over the crowd. "I was talked out of it, by someone you completely and wrongly judged. I'm here today offering this branch of a new beginning because I happen to be married to the most loving and generous woman the world has ever known. She's the one who convinced me that you never really meant to betray us; even though that it is just what you did."
"Daniel." She cautioned quietly.
"I know." He told her. "We can start over today, and hopefully in time, the bonds of trust between us will be strong as ever."
"Stronger." She smiled.
"I just thought it best, if instead of avoiding talk of it. We spoke in the open. I know what happened, what some of you did. I only ask this, in the future, let us be slow to judge, slow to accuse and always willing to accept those around us."
The crowd fell completely silent. He turned to Rebecca.
"That's all we wanted to say. Oh, and to introduce you here, to Edward Boone, but we just been calling him Ned." He held up his tiny son. "Now, lets get to dancing!"
Rebecca smiled up at him. "Well done." She said and she took Edward from his arms, as a line of folks walked towards him, ready to offer their apologies.