• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 04
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The Proposal

Although the sky was blue, the clouds hung heavy as lead, and the air was close and oppressive. Gus felt as though his collar was glued to his neck, and could scarcely breath, but composed and cool, Marina and Mr Allen seemed not to notice the heat. Marina stood slightly behind her father, and Gus smiled at her, assuming a bravery he did not feel. Marina stared back at him, her expression unreadable. Saul Allen waited silently: his spine, like the pitchfork in his hand, erect and rigid.
          Gus swallowed convulsively, his mouth dry with mounting fear. Finally he summoned up the courage to speak.
        'I mean no disrespect, Mr Allen, sir,' he said, his voice sounding strange in his ears. ‘I…I love your daughter: I believe she loves me. I’d like to marry her. I've come to ask your permission, and, I hope, receive your blessing.'
      For a long moment Mr Allen gave no sign that he had even heard what Gus had said. When he spoke, his voice was as dry as dust swirling over barren land.
    ‘Love…love…you come here and talk to me of love? My daughter is a respectable girl: d’you think for one minute I would hand her over to a no good hill-billy like you?’
      Ignoring the strangled sob from behind him, Saul Allen’s hand tightened into a fist around the pitchfork. He shook it in Gus’s face. ‘Dare to set foot on my land again, and you’ll answer to this,’ he snarled.