It broke her heart to see the desperation on his face.

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Chapter 22

Peter made good on his promise to make sure Hattie Morgenstern recovered completely from her twisted ankle. It hadn’t swelled much, and once she knew it wasn’t broken seemed to forget about it. He took her back to the boarding house and called on her the next day.

She assured him no doctor was required. “Would you like some refreshment, Peter. It’s the least I can do.”

“No thank you, Hattie. I must be on my way. I hope you won’t hesitate to call if it takes a turn for the worst.” He tipped his hat and started to back out of the doorway.

“Wait,” she said. “What about our meeting, today? Did you get the appointment?”

He reached out and touched her hand. “Yes, yes, I most definitely did. I will come by for you at 2:00 pm. Right now, I need to go and talk to the Squires.”

“You mean you haven’t heard from them? They don’t know?”

“No, nothing, nor have I caught them home. I can’t imagine what is going on. The smart thing to do would be to camp out on their porch until I catch them, but I have a milk route to run.” He started toward the front porch. “See you at 2:00 Hattie.”

A pang of sympathy stabbed his heart as he watched her wave from the porch. She was a nice girl, after all. Since her parents’ deaths, she had to fend for herself. There were no suitable husband prospects in her hometown, and she did the only thing she knew to do. He hoped the plan they hatched together in the garden last night worked for them both. Nothing is going to work if I can’t find Ruth. Where in the devil have they gone?

The Squire’s auto was parked at the front curb, and Peter’s heart soared. They are home, at last! He bounded up the front steps and pounded the brass knocker. The sound reverberated up and down the street. He waited…no one came to the door. Again, he knocked. He checked the doorjamb and saw the paper he left the night before was gone. They must have read the note. Why don’t they answer?

Not a sound came from the house. There was no movement at all. Finally, he could wait no longer. He climbed the perch on his milk wagon. The milk route could not be neglected. Duty called.

***

Priscilla watched Peter through the parlor window. It broke her heart to watch the desperation on his face. Sarah found the note and waited for a private moment to give it her. The note was sealed, and Priscilla felt confident Sarah hadn’t read it. The right thing to do was show her husband…and Ruth, but she didn’t. Jaw set, she lowered the curtain, and left the room. This is the only way to make it right for my daughter. It was wrong to arrange a marriage of any kind for her. School is where she belongs. I will pay for this in the end, but I will have saved my daughter from a premature marriage. She will study and grow…meet new friends, and experience a completely new world.                                                                                                    

The house settled into its evening rhythm. The chime of the grandfather clock, the whispers of old boards settling, the wind kissing the curtains through the seams of the windows…the life of a home.

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

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