She read the old love letters and would never forgive her mother. An Unlikely Arrangement.

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Chapter 12 – 2

The driver shook his head. “I’ll tell you what, mister. I am glad to get this woman away from me. To hear her tell it, it is a matter of life and death. The flat—I drove too fast. It just blew. Take her and be done with it. I can change a tire. Thanks anyway.” The man reached into the back of the cab, withdrew a jack, turned his back on the couple, and set to work.

Relieved, turned to Sarah. “Get in, you can tell me what happened on the way to town.” He opened the passenger door and helped her inside. Settled behind the wheel, Peter engaged the engine. “Start at the beginning, Sarah. Tell me everything.”

As the car sped along, Sarah told Peter about the dark, sinister situation with Eric Horton.

When she finished the story, Peter remained silent.

Eric Horton. I was in his bank yesterday and listened to the greasy man speak of marriage. To picture him with my Ruth is beyond comprehension.

His foot pressed hard on the pedal, once more.

“You must park down the block, Mr. Kirby. You cannot let them see you. It would not do for them to find you,” Sarah cautioned.

Peter nodded. “Yes, you’re right. Where is she in the house? Can you show me?”

“Yes, follow me, and we will go through the back way. Be very quiet.

They huddled together and walked down the block while Sarah explained the secret room. To think, only a week ago, he was content to drive the milk route, and tend to Mother and his two brothers, without a care in the world. Now…

Sarah turned the key in the backdoor lock and held a finger to her lips.

He acknowledged the sign with a nod.

A back stairway, once used by servants, led upstairs to the bedrooms and came out near Robert Kirby’s bedroom. If careful, they could make it past the door without detection.

“I need to find out where Mrs. Squire is, Peter. If she is in her room, we will have to wait until morning. Let me go and see what I can find. You wait here, in the old stairway, until I come back.” She pushed him into a dark corner and left to find Ruth’s mother.

Peter was uncomfortable standing like a thief, hiding. Yes, Sarah let him in, but she was only the maid, not the owners of the domain.

They might consider it breaking and entering if I am caught.

He shuffled from one foot to the other, impatient for her return. After an eternity, soft footsteps echoed in the hall.

“Mrs. Squire is in the parlor, crying. We can go up these stairs, undetected, but you must be careful, the steps are treacherous.” Sarah lit a candle and led the way.

Peter followed, cautious, testing each step before he put his weight on the board.

They came to the last step without mishap, but when Sarah tried the door, it would not budge. “She locked it. Wait here, I’ll go down and fetch the key.” Her small frame wedged past him.

Peter waited, palms damp, skin crawling, trapped in the dark like an animal. Forever passed before she returned, key in hand.

Once the door was unlocked, Sarah poked her head out to survey the hallway. She grabbed Peter’s hand and pulled him down the hall. They stopped in front of Mrs. Squire’s bedroom door.

“We have to go through the closet to get to the secret room. Be very quiet, Peter.”

They tiptoed into the room, and Sarah opened the closet door.

Peter pulled back a bit. “It is pitch black in here. What have you gotten me in to, there’s no one here.”

Sarah tugged his hand. “Please, Peter, we have to get to the back of the closet. Come.”

He drew in his breath, set his jaw, and prepared for the worst. If this was a trap, he wanted to be ready to fight.

The closet ended, but Sarah moved forward again and disappeared behind a corner.

Peter followed. All of a sudden, he saw a light ahead of him. The closet was full of fancy gowns, shoes, and jewelry, the likes of which he’d never seen before. He stayed close behind the maid.

She came to the door and looked back at him. “She’s in there.”

The door opened, and he saw Ruth perched on the white vanity, open letters in her lap. Tears streamed down her cheeks. He forgot the need to speak softly and blurted, “Ruth, are you all right?”

She gasped, stumbled into his arms, and sobbed, “Oh, Peter, I thought I would never see you again.”

“It’s all right now, I’m here. We are going to sort this all out.” His arms tightened around her.

Ruth clung to him.

Sarah cleared her throat and whispered, “Did you read the letters, my child? See the pictures?”

Ruth pulled away from Peter. “Yes, it’s unbelievable. Mother was a spoiled brat and never really loved Father. I will never forgive her…never!

 

 

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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