The marriage was arranged. The groom wasn’t interested. An Unlikely Arrangement. Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

Peter took his time on the way home from the Squire’s to digest the day’s events. Earlier this morning, he was surprised when he eased open the back door of the small cottage and tiptoed into the tidy kitchen, a mixed bouquet of flowers sequestered safely behind his back. Seldom could he afford a surprise for his mother, and he knew she would scold him for such an extravagance, but he could not suppress a bit of a smile. He had picked up three more clients on his milk run, the horses were strong and healthy, and he had clinched top driver of the month. Times are good, and Mother deserved something bright in her life. After all, raising his two younger brothers alone took every ounce of energy she could muster. He heard her soft voice in the parlor. Careful not to frighten her, he hesitated outside the wide archway. What he heard would turn his world upside down.

“Yes, Mrs. Squire, I am ready to seal the agreement. Don’t worry about my son. I will convince him. The marriage can take place as you wish. Ruth is a lovely girl and a perfect match for my son.”

The beautiful bouquet landed in a tattered heap on the floor. “Mother?”

Elizabeth Kirby turned. “Why Peter, you’re home early. I have the most wonderful news.” She returned the telephone to the cradle and hurried to embrace him.

He escaped her out-stretched arms. “What do you mean about an arrangement of marriage?”

“Son, you know I want the best for you. I have discussed this at length with the Squires, and I believe this girl is perfect for you.”

He paused and took a ragged breath. “I am not interested in marriage. I’m not ready. The business is only beginning, and I have you and the boys to care for. I am not equipped to take on a wife.”

“On the contrary, you need a wife. The boys are a handful for me now papa is gone. It is my wish to see you happily married and stable. Think of the help she would be to all of us. You are to meet her this evening, dear. If perchance you do not fancy her, we will reconsider. My intuition is right on this, please trust me.” She laid a hand on Peter’s arm. “Give it a chance. That is all I ask.”

He paced the length of the room, fists flexing, open, closed, and open. “All right, if I don’t like her, you will not hold me to it?”

“Certainly not. I do want your happiness, Peter. I will have your good suit ready when you get home. You’re to call on her at six.”

But, he did like her. Much more than he thought he would.

He continued the drive home in silence, the clop of the horse’s hooves on the cobblestone soothed his jangled nerves. “She didn’t like me and must think I am a buffoon. Her mother did not give her beauty justice…she is exquisite. Of course, why would she want the likes of me? How could I be so stupid? What a terrible idea.”

The clear night and bright stars did nothing to lift his heavy heart. Unusual hardship followed the family since they moved to this country. To the exclusion of his own welfare, his mother and brothers became his primary concern. Father died penniless, in debt, and Peter worked hard to pay off the extra bills. The mourning period stretched endless for Mother. Wife to John Kirby for 40 years, she knew nothing else. Lost, lonely, with no means of income, she sank into despair.

College plans to study business disappeared in the wake of his father’s death. His two young brothers presented added problems for his mother. His hopes of a higher education dashed, he took a bold step and moved the clan to the United States. The decision proved the right one.  Mother’s cheeks showed new color, and the boys blossomed.

Unfortunately, for him, Mother took on a new project, a wife for her oldest son. His loneliness never came to the surface until Mother mentioned it. “What should I tell her, now? How can I tell her the young woman did not like me? She will be upset and try to find another one. Ruth is a beautiful woman, creamy white skin, shiny black hair. Mother is excited about the meeting tomorrow, although I have reservations.”

The horses, Patch and Bunny, nickered as if to join the one-sided conversation. “Ruth looked very upset. Mrs. Squire convinced me her daughter knew about the arrangement, but the visit surprised her, I know. I acted too eager. I should have stood up instead of rush over there. I have so little experience with women. Maybe I don’t need a wife, anyway. There is my milk business to run, people who depend on me. I have no time for marriage. Say, get up, Patch, what are you doing? Oh, sorry old boy—we’re home already.” He could see the shadow of his mother in the window of their small cottage home. “She is eager to hear all about it, isn’t she Bunny?” The second horse threw her head up and down as if in agreement.

Mother met him at the door. “Well, is she simply beautiful? She is attractive isn’t she, Peter? Goodness knows you deserve the most beautiful woman in Detroit. So tell me what happened?”

“Mother calm down, I will answer all your questions. Let me in the door first. Is supper ready? Where are the boys?”

“Of course, let me take your coat. Here, sit down, and I will put supper on the table. I fed your brothers earlier so we could talk in private. You know how they are, curious little knuckleheads, full of questions.”

“Not like you, right Mother?” He took a big bite of roast beef, chewed slowly, and watched her in amusement.                                                                                                  “Peter, please, don’t tease me. If she isn’t the right woman, we will find another.”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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