His One Woman

His One Woman by Paula Marshall

Book: His One Woman by Paula Marshall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paula Marshall
Senator and my brother are looking so serious about. But what of you, Marietta? Will you stay here?’
    â€˜Of course,’ she said simply. ‘It is my duty to be with my father and he would not think of leaving while the North is in danger.’
    They fell silent for a moment. Moved by a sudden impulse, Jack took Marietta by the hand which lay loosely in her lap with the idea of comforting and supporting her. It was the first time that they had ever touched—apart from lightly in the dance—and the effect on them both was remarkable.
    Marietta had never experienced anything like it before. Her whole body began to vibrate, her eyes opened wide and she stared at Jack as though she had just seen him for the first time. She knew at once what her strange interior trembling meant. She both loved and desired him—a man she had only known for a few weeks but who, in some mysterious way, she had known for ever.
    Jack was equally transported. He had known many women and made love to some of them, but never before had he felt so overwhelmed by the merestcontact with one. The feeling was so strong and sudden that it was like a thunderclap in a clear blue sky. The words his father had used once ran through his mind. ‘You will know the one woman when you meet her, Jack, and once you do you will be lost. Claim her, for you will never forgive yourself if you lose her.’
    â€˜Marietta,’ he said hoarsely, gazing into her dazzled eyes and wishing that they were alone, so that he might…might what? He hardly knew what to say or do.
    â€˜Marietta,’ he said again, ‘I would like, of all things, to drive you to the Potomac one afternoon—as soon as it can be arranged. I am told that the views there are splendid. If it is not proper for us to go alone, then we must take Aunt Percival with us—although, if I am honest, I would prefer your sole company.’
    Such a stilted thing for him to come out with when what he really wished to do was to tell her how much he loved and desired her.
    Marietta was silent for a moment, scarcely capable of answering him sensibly: no man had ever looked at her as Jack was doing. At last she said, ‘Of course I will go with you, but we must follow the forms, Jack, and take Aunt Percival with us.’
    â€˜Then that is settled,’ he said softly. ‘Though we might have to revise our plans if war is declared.’
    Marietta shook her head. ‘I think not. Father says that once it begins life will become more hectic, not less. There will not be less balls and gaiety, but more.In the face of death and destruction, he says, we always celebrate life by enjoying it come what may. A strange thought, is it not?’
    â€˜What I find strange,’ Jack said, ‘is that, so far as I can tell, one of the main causes of the war is the South’s wish to retain slavery. It seems barbaric that they should insist on it so strongly.’
    The Senator had overheard him, and said, sighing, ‘There is more between North and South than that, but it is the question of slavery which divides us completely. Our family possessed slaves once, but they were all freed long ago. I fear that when the North wins the war—as I am sure it will—the hatred generated by it will create divisions in our country which may not disappear for generations. Man is a sinful creature; I will not say more than that.’
    Aunt Percival spoke, her kind face troubled. ‘Perhaps we can all pray that war will not come. God could not be so unkind as to allow such a dreadful thing to happen.’
    In the silence which followed this heartfelt speech, noise could be heard in the distance. Shouts, pistol shots and cheering were followed by the sound of a tolling bell. The Senator, who was nearest to the window, drew back the curtains and looked out.
    There was the noise of running feet as men fled by, howling indistinctly. The Senator threw open the window, all

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