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.“I thought it was understood,” he said.“Your father gave his blessing for me to court you.As soon as I’m in a position to marry, I intend to ask you to marry me.”In a position to marry? He was nearly thirty, the only son of a wealthy father.She kept a smile pinned to her face and said nothing to encourage him.If he waited a bit, she hoped to be able to summon more enthusiasm for a life shared with him.Though their future needed to be settled soon.Her parents were counting on her.Still, perhaps he was feeling as much indecision as she.The thought did little to comfort her.If he wasn’t totally enamored with her, and she had conflicted emotions too, what hope was there for a relationship? This indecision was so unlike her.All her life she’d been groomed to make a wise choice of husband.Bart would be the perfect spouse.When she didn’t answer, he rushed on.“I’ll be in a position soon.I don’t want to be dependent on my father when I take a wife.I intend to strike out on my own and start my own company.”His ambition encouraged her.“Doing what? Open another sawmill?”He scowled.“Not in a million years.I hate the noise, the dirt.I want to open a Macy’s.”She’d love to be part of that kind of enterprise.“Wouldn’t that take an exorbitant sum?”His earnest blue eyes sought her face.“I have some backers.It’s figuring out how to tell my father I’m not following in his shoes— that’ll be the tough part.”“I’m sure you’ll explain it so he understands.”He pressed her hand.“You’re so easy to talk to, Katie.When I’m with you, I think I can do anything.”She smiled and clung to his fingers.“I know you can do whatever you set your mind to, Bart.” If only the touch of his hand moved her the way being with Will did.She was so confused.Addie’s words had haunted her lately.God had a plan for her and she would feel peace when she found it.She longed for that peace but it seemed so nebulous and unattainable.She saw a figure standing on the sidewalk, walking away from them down a side street.The men on the benches watched the woman saunter past, and Katie heard a low whistle.Even before the sun pierced the shadows under the woman’s hat, she knew it was Florence.She must have clutched Bart’s hand because he studied her face.“Is something wrong?” he asked.“N–not at all,” she said.She asked him a question about the potential Macy’s store to distract him, and he immediately launched into his plans, warming to the subject.Katie had to find some way to get Florence out of town.Katie had no idea where she could find the kind of money the woman demanded.Not unless some of the papers she’d found in her father’s safe were worth something.She should have examined them more closely.“Would you mind if we stopped by my father’s shop a moment? I need to get into the safe,” she asked.“As you wish.” Bart leaned forward and gave the driver directions.Minutes later the carriage stopped in front of Russell’s Haberdashery.Bart exited the carriage and helped her alight.“Please, just wait here,” she said when he acted like he was going to accompany her.“It won’t take me but a moment.” She smiled and brushed past him to the door, which she unlocked before stepping inside.The shop was closed for the day.She stepped through to the back room, where she rotated through the safe’s combination and unlocked it.The papers were on the bottom.She lifted them out and retrieved her glasses from her pocket.A brief scan showed her hope was in vain.These were all old contracts and nothing that showed any money due.She replaced them and spun the lock, and her heart was leaden as she retraced her steps.Blinking in the bright sunlight outside the shop, she locked the door.Bart was chatting with two gentlemen, not looking her way, and the bank was just at the end of the block.She walked quickly to the bank and approached the teller.“Good afternoon, Miss Russell,” the young male teller said.His mustache twitched as he spoke.“You’re quite brave to be out and about with the epidemic still raging.”Katie had been so preoccupied, she hadn’t stopped to think about why the bank was practically deserted.“I’d best not stay out long.I wondered if you could give me the balance in all of my father’s accounts?”“I’ve heard of his condition.Me and the missus have been praying he’ll awaken soon.It will just be a moment while I consult the ledger.” The teller vanished down the hallway.Katie clutched her gloved hands together.Though she knew it was a futile hope, she prayed there was more money than she’d been told.Perhaps Papa had another account where he’d saved money for their future.She turned and glanced through the plate glass window into the street.There were few passersby.She hadn’t heard of any new smallpox outbreaks, but people still feared stepping outside their homes.The teller returned and slid a piece of paper across the counter to her.“Here you are, Miss Russell.”“Thank you.” She glanced at the slip of paper as she turned toward the door.When she saw the total, she stopped and glanced back.“You’re sure this is all his accounts?”“Yes, miss.I know it’s not much.” His brown eyes were apologetic.Not much was an understatement.One account held only a thousand dollars and the other held two thousand.Perhaps her father would know more.She retraced her steps to the buggy and asked Bart to take her to the hospital.“I can’t allow you to go there, Katie,” he said.“Not while it houses people with the pox.Surely you’ve been telephoning to check on your father’s condition.”“Of course I have,” she said.“I thought a visit from me might bring him around to a more lucid frame of mind.”“The nurse will tell you when you’re allowed entry,” Bart said.“I should like to see my mother.I could speak to her through the window.”“The road to your house is blocked, and I’m quite unwilling to see you endanger yourself.I’ll take you back to the lighthouse.”There was no arguing with him.Katie would have to come back by herself.She sat staring silently out the window until Bart’s carriage drew up outside the lighthouse.“I do hope you will think about moving to our house for the remainder of this smallpox outbreak,” Bart said, helping her alight from the buggy.“I shall take it under consideration,” she said [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]