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"Mr. Craven was at Raiford Park this weekend," Sara said, her face mantled with the high color of
excitement. "It's a
complicated story, but the long and the short of it is ... I love him, and he proposed to me, and I said
Katie's mouth dropped. She sat in a chair, fanning her hands over the center of her chest as if to calm her
"Your Mr. Craven proposed," she repeated numbly.
"He's the most wonderful man in the world. You and Papa are going to love him as much as I do."
"Sara ... isn't this terribly sudden? Think of all the years you've known Perry "
"Mr. Craven makes me a thousand times happier than Perry ever could. Don't look worried, Mama.
Haven't you always
known me to be sensible?" She smiled confidently. "I've made the right choice. You'll see." As Katie
began to ask something
else, Sara motioned for her to be quiet, while portions of the men's conversation filtered from the other
room. Carefully Sara pressed her ear to the door.
"... you're a little too late in asking, Mr. Craven. Sara already has a fiance. Young Kingswood."
Sara couldn't stop herself from interrupting. She opened the door enough to stick her head through the
space. "He's not
my fiance anymore, Papa. Perry and I became unengaged before I left this weekend."
Isaac looked perplexed. "You did? Why?"
"I'll explain later." She gave Derek an encouraging look and retreated behind the door.
Katie watched her daughter with wry amusement. "There's no need to pop back and forth like a turtle in
its shell. I have
a feeling your Mr. Craven is quite capable of talking to Papa without any help from you."
Sara rested her ear against the panels again. "Shhh."
"... I can't say I approve of my daughter marrying a gambler," came Isaac's voice.
"I don't gamble, sir. I own a club where others gamble."
"Splitting hairs, my boy. I don't approve of the whole business. On the other hand ... I don't approve of
men drinking too much,
and I suppose I don't hold it against our local tavern owner. Tell me more about this social club. You
have fancy women
working there, do you? Has Sara met any of these poor fallen creatures?"
"I can't keep her away from them," Derek said dryly.
"My Sara has a kind heart. Drawn to unfortunates. The city is a dangerous place for a girl like her."
Sara opened the door again. "I've never come to any harm there, Papa!"
Derek spoke before Isaac could reply. "Is there any bread to go with the tea, Sara?"
"Yes," she answered, slightly perplexed. "Would you like some toast?"
"Lots of it. Very thin slices." Derek held up his thumb and forefinger to demonstrate.
She frowned at him, realizing he intended to keep her too busy to interrupt again. "Very well," she said
grudgingly, and went
back into the kitchen.
Isaac regarded the man sitting across from him in a new way, a smile creasing his leathery face. "You're
patient with her,"
he said approvingly. "I'm glad of that. She was always a wilful child. She has her own ideas about things."
Derek was tempted
to make a sardonic remark, but he kept silent and watched the old man sitting there in his comfortable
chair, gnarled hands
resting on the knitted blanket over his knees. A fond look came over Isaac's face, and he continued as if
to himself, "She was
a miracle for Katie and me, born to us long after the time for childbearing had passed. We thank God
every day for giving her
to us. I could never entrust her to someone who might cause her harm. Young Kingswood is a
self-indulgent man ... but at least he's a gentle sort." The blue eyes met Derek's in a direct, guileless stare.
"Mr. Craven, I've brought up my daughter to think for herself. If I were twenty years younger, I wouldn't
have allowed her such freedom. But her mother and I are elderly, and as nature takes its course, there
will come a time when we won't be here to protect her. I thought it was best to teach Sara to
trust her own judgment. If Sara wants to marry you, she will, whether I approve or not."
Derek met his eyes without blinking. "Your approval may not be necessary, sir, but I still would like to
have it."
A faint smile came to Isaac's face. "All I want is your assurance that you'll treat my daughter with
Derek had never talked to another man so earnestly; no maneuvering or shrewdness, nothing but humble
honesty. "I want to
be more than kind to Sara. I want to keep her safe, and happy, and provide whatever will please her. I
don't pretend to deserve her. I'm not educated or wellborn, and even the devil wouldn't have my
reputation. My one saving grace is that I'm not a fool.
I would never interfere with her writing, or any of the projects she chooses for herself. I would never try
to separate Sara
from her family. I respect her too much for that. I don't want to change her."
Isaac seemed to find the words reassuring, but there was lingering doubt in his expression. "I believe you
are sincere. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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