Tracie Peterson & Judith Miller - [Lights of Lowell 01]

Tracie Peterson & Judith Miller - [Lights of Lowell 01] by A Tapestry of Hope

Book: Tracie Peterson & Judith Miller - [Lights of Lowell 01] by A Tapestry of Hope Read Free Book Online
Authors: A Tapestry of Hope
‘‘I fear your mother’s insistence upon sheltering you at home all these years has left you naïve concerning matters of marriage.’’ What did she mean? Was it something more than merely the thought that her father might marry her off to a man Jasmine didn’t and couldn’t love?
    ‘‘Oh, I’m so frightened,’’ she whispered to the darkened room.
    Jasmine thought momentarily of praying, but she had never been very good at such things. She always pictured God as a distant king upon His throne, a solemn-faced judge who tried each case with stoic indifference. Grandmother had other ideas, however. She spoke of God’s tender compassion—His mercies.
    ‘‘I pray you take mercy on me, dear God,’’ Jasmine murmured, pulling her covers tight against her neck. ‘‘I pray you intercede on my behalf and remove this notion of marriage between me and Bradley Houston from my father’s mind.’’
    Bradley rested his back against a large elm and watched the unfolding scene. His plan for a quiet picnic with Jasmine had turned into an afternoon of frivolity attended by a myriad of people—some of whom he didn’t even know. Bradley wasn’t certain who had given Violet Cheever free rein to invite guests, but he suspected Jasmine may have had a hand in the situation.
    She’d been avoiding him since their arrival, and now that his brother had arrived with Henry and Fanny Longfellow, she was involved in an animated discussion about some literary nonsense.
    He motioned her to join him and grew increasingly irritated when she chose to ignore him. Unwilling to tolerate her behavior any longer, he stood and walked to her side.
    He leaned down until his lips nearly touched her ear. ‘‘Please join me,’’ he whispered forcefully.
    His words were a command, not a request, yet she smiled demurely and said, ‘‘I prefer to remain here, thank you.’’
    He grasped her elbow and squeezed more tightly than he’d intended. ‘‘I expect you to join me—now,’’ he hissed.
    ‘‘Please release my arm. You’re hurting me,’’ she said when they were a short distance away from the crowd.
    ‘‘Perhaps you should have come when I motioned to you,’’ he replied. ‘‘I invited you because I want the privilege of enjoying your company.’’
    Jasmine sat down beside him. ‘‘You could come and join the rest of us. Perhaps I would take more pleasure in being with you if you would discuss something other than the textile mills.’’
    ‘‘Ah, so you find me rather boring and would prefer to delve into the works of Shakespeare or Keats—perhaps Scott? You may be surprised to learn that I far outranked my brother while studying the classics in college. Merely because I do not stand around professing literary knowledge does not mean I have none. However, some of us have moved beyond such puffery, realizing what is truly important in life. And just look at Henry in his flowered waistcoat and yellow kid gloves. Wherever does he find those clothes?’’
    ‘‘There is more to life than work, and it appears there are many who find Mr. Longfellow—and his attire—quite interesting.’’
    ‘‘I’m surprised Fanny isn’t embarrassed to be seen with him in public. After all, her people are of some quality in Boston.’’
    ‘‘She appears quite devoted to him,’’ Jasmine replied, glancing toward the couple sitting side by side on a patchwork quilt. ‘‘I believe them to be very much in love—something I very much value.’’
    ‘‘Well, I think he enjoys making a spectacle of himself. It’s much easier than working for a living.’’
    ‘‘You judge him rather harshly, Mr. Houston.’’
    ‘‘When Longfellow married Fanny Appleton, Nathan gifted him with over one hundred thousand dollars worth of stock in the mills. Nathan’s generosity has permitted Henry to enjoy the life of a wealthy man while he earns nothing more than a professor’s salary at Harvard. For all intents and purposes, he lives off

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