*You should have said.'
*I got a stick and whacked him back a couple of months ago. He stopped hitting me after that.'
*But if Daniel hits me, I'm not living with him.'
*I don't think he will, but we can tell him that, if you like.'
Jenny spoke up from the other side of the shed. *Mr Marr doesn't hit John and Henry. I asked them when Dad hit me once.'
Bill had hit a nine-year-old girl too! Maggie felt sick to think of that.
The children began talking about something else.
But she couldn't get the thought of Bill's violence out of her mind.
Daniel turned up at two o'clock driving a small cart and wearing a suit. His face was rosy red, as if he'd scrubbed it. The boys were equally well scrubbed and in their Sunday best, though their shirts needed ironing.
It was a hot day, so they all went to sit in the shade on one side of the house.
As the children fidgeted, Daniel said suddenly, *Why don't you show me round the farm, Peter?'
The boy nodded and stood up.
*Can I show John and Henry my favourite places, Mum?' Jenny asked.
Daniel looked at Maggie. *Do you mind us leaving you for a bit? I want to ask Peter something.'
She shook her head and watched the two walk away. She'd be glad of a few minutes' peace and quiet. Her emotions were in turmoil. He looked good, Daniel, strong and manly, and his sons looked at him with love in their eyes.
Could she? Dare she?
In the shed, Daniel said abruptly, *Would you mind if I married your mother?'
Peter hitched his shoulders up and down.
*It won't work if you're going to hate it.'
*She says it's the only way we can stay here.' The boy gestured around. *I love the farm. I want it to be mine when I grow up. Can we keep it, manage two farms?'
*Maybe. We could try.'
*I won't have you hitting me and Jenny, or Mum, like my father used to.'
*He hit your mother?'
*Once. She threatened to hit him back.'
Daniel chuckled. *I can imagine her doing it.' He laid one hand on Peter's shoulder. *I don't hit people.'
*All right. But you'd better treat Mum properly.'
*I shall. I like her a lot.'
From where she was sitting in the shade Maggie watched them come back. They were gesticulating and talking earnestly, and they stopped once as Peter pointed something out. She felt happiness stir in her at the sight as she stood up. *I'll get the tea ready.'
Daniel moved towards her. *I'll help you.'
In the kitchen, she felt suddenly shy.
*I asked Peter if it was all right for us to marry and he thinks it is.'
*You told Elsie you'd consider it seriously. You haven't changed your mind, have you?'
*No.' Maggie realized she was being a coward, so raised her gaze to meet his. *I'd rather have waited, but there isn't time for that, is there?'
*Not really. Not for either of us.'
*Do you think we could be happy together, Daniel?'
*It won't be my fault if we aren't.'
*I'm a hard worker,' she offered.
He nodded. *I know. Everyone says you are.'
*They say that about you, too.'
*And I'd look after your children, Daniel. They're grand little lads.'
He smiled and she noticed how one side of his mouth curved up more than the other, giving his face a crooked charm. His smile lit up his eyes and warmed something in her heart, too.
He knelt down suddenly, taking her hand. *Maggie Spencer, will you marry me?'
She felt fl.u.s.tered. *I've already said I will.'
*But I didn't think you should be cheated out of a proper proposal. Just as I don't want to be cheated out of a proper answer.' He looked up at her, head on one side, that smile curving his lips again.
Suddenly she knew it was going to be all right. It might not be smooth sailing, life never was, but this man's heart was in the right place. *I'll be honoured to accept your proposal, Daniel Marr.'
Recent t.i.tles by Anna Jacobs from Severn House.
CHANGE OF SEASON.
THE CORRIGAN LEGACY.
A FORBIDDEN EMBRACE.
AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN.
KIRSTY'S VINEYARD LICENCE TO DREAM.
MARRYING MISS MARTHA.
MISTRESS OF MARYMOOR.
REPLENISH THE EARTH.
SEASONS OF LOVE.
THE WISHING WELL.
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