Would their daughter be better off to marry a milkman or a banker? An Unlikely Arrangement.
June 10, 2013
A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement
Chapter 9 – 4
“You cannot possibly consider marrying our beautiful daughter to horrible Mr. Horton, Priscilla. It is vulgar and unconscionable. She did nothing to deserve such a fate.” Robert Squire faced his wife for the first time, in a long while. Content to let her run the show, he lost touch, and now, found the household out of control.
“Don’t you think I know what it will do to her? Robert, what choice do we have? Horton boxed us into a corner. We will lose everything. He threatened us. If I let my mind wander, I can imagine him in the middle of The Purple Gang or worse. He is that corrupt! We might need to fear for our safety and Ruth’s, also.”
“If only you told me what was happening.” He threw his hat on the four-poster bed. “Heaven forbid no, it must be your way every time and look at the mess you created.”
Priscilla whirled to face him, arms akimbo, eyes bulging. “My way? You blame this on me? You…who sits in his office all evening, writing his pathetic stories, while I juggle the household finances, figure out how to keep food on the table, and clothes on our backs. Do you think the house runs itself? Never once did you ask about anything to do with this house. You take no interest in this family except to spoil Ruth. And now you want to judge me?” Tears coursed down her cheeks.
Robert sat down hard on the bed, bowed his head. After a moment, the tears tore at his heart, and he rose, crossed the room, and wiped them away. “My dear, I do not mean to judge you, but sensed for a long time you find me inadequate. We grew apart and no longer talk to one another. I suppose my withdrawal put more of a burden on you, but in recent years, the light-hearted girl I married disappeared. You are so severe and cold.” He walked to the window and stared at the grounds below. “I wonder, at times, if you wish you married Alexander, instead of me. Maybe you made a hasty decision under the circumstances. Things are very wrong with us, Priscilla. Ruth deserves loving parents, and we are not anymore.”
The room was quiet as a church, the only sound, the ticking of the wooden clock on the night table.
Priscilla shuffled her feet, moved forward, and touched his hand. “Robert, I…I did not know you felt this way. Maybe I turned a bit sour over the years. But, Alexander? Marry him?” She shook her head. “How could you entertain such an idea? He could not hold a candle to you. It was you who stole my heart with your passionate rhetoric on the problems of the day—your ability to articulate precisely a point that needed to be made. You wooed my heart with your words, your kindness, your acceptance of the unsavory situation. Alexander was a rake and a scoundrel. Alexander, indeed.” She walked toward the bed.
He followed her. “Never mind all that now, its water under the bridge. A much bigger problem looms before us. What shall we do about this situation?”
She reached out and squeezed his hand. “We have no choice, Robert. We need to call off the marriage between Peter and Ruth, and get her betrothed to Eric Horton, or we will lose everything.”
“No! I accept no part in marrying our only child off to the likes of him. These problems are of our making. She should not suffer for them.”
She took the other hand. “Robert, please…be sensible. Eric has more money. Besides, Peter has his mother and two brothers still to care for—what of them? How well off will Ruth be married to him with all his responsibility? I didn’t want to mention it before, but Peter’s last name is Kirby. Is he connected to the Kirby gang in the city? I know he came from the old country, but do we really know? With Eric, she will live in a grand house, own plenty of clothes, and secure a place in society. Surely, you can see the sense of this. Yes, we made mistakes, but would Ruth be better off married to the milkman? Really? The corruption in the city worries me. If Eric is connected to unsavory people, Ruth might be safer married to him.”
Robert felt confused, defeated. “I don’t know any more, Priscilla. It is beyond my ability to sort it out. I will go with whatever you decide.” He walked to the door, put his hand on the knob, and turned back to his wife. “I will not be party to breaking this news to her. I cannot bear to see her cry.” He slammed the door as he left, and the noise echoed down the hall.
Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.
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