Part Six

     How soon will we be going to the Old House, Mother?"  Sarah asked, her eyes alight with excitement.
     Angelique busied herself fluffing the child's pillow.  "Another day, I would say.  But - I wont be at the Old House, Sarah."
     Neither one saw Barnabas open the door as Sarah asked, "Why not?"
     "Your father and I aren't married," she explained.  "I'll be nearby, and will see you every day."
     "Maybe - if I spoke to Father -"
     "About what?"  Barnabas asked, approaching the bed.
     Sarah's face lit up, and she accepted his hug.  "Hello, Father."
     "You seem to be feeling much better."
     "I am," she told him, then her face became earnest.  "Why can't Mother move into the Old House with us?"
     "Well, perhaps she can," Barnabas said, meeting Angelique's startled gaze across the bed.  "We'll discuss it this evening."
     "I hope so.  It would be so wonderful to have a family.  I always envied the girls at school who had families -"
     "Dr. Hoffman is going to release you tomorrow evening,- " he told her.
     Sarah's face fell.  "That's a whole day."
     "It will pass quickly," Barnabas promised.
     "Tell me about your cousins," she asked.
     Barnabas smiled.  "They are your cousins too, you know.  Let me see.  Who shall we start with?"
     "Why did you tell Sarah - " Angelique began as they drove toward Collinwood later.
     "We'll discuss it after dinner," he told her.
     "But, to raise her hopes like that - you know there is no way -"
     "I said later, Angelique.  Willie is at the Old House. I called him back this morning.  He'll have everything ready by tomorrow."
     "I'm not sure I like the thought of Sarah being around Willie."
     "He's not the same man you remember.  Willie - Willie has mellowed a bit.  He's looking forward to Sarah's advent."
     "Can't we talk now, Barnabas?  I'm - nervous enough about this evening without the thought of one of our 'discussions' hanging over my head.  I'd prefer to get it out of the way now."
     He turned the car into the drive and turned off the engine.  Looking at her for a long moment, he seemed as though he were trying to make up his mind about something.  Then he said, "If you insist.  We'll go to the garden."

     In the stone gazebo, Angelique turned to wait expectantly. "I'm waiting, Barnabas."
     He didn't look at her as he began to speak.  "Sarah needs a family.  Two parents."
     "She HAS two parents -"
     He lifted a hand to silence her.  "Let me finish.  I made an error in judgement in expecting her to part easily from you.  To force that separation at this point might adversely affect her recovery, and I don't want to jeopardize that."
     "What do you suggest?  I certainly can't just move into the Old House-"
     "You could as my wife," he said quietly, his eyes on her.
     She looked at him as if he had taken leave of his senses.  "No.  I won't marry you.  I can't live through that again -"
     Barnabas' expression was openly cynical.  "I can remember a time when you would have done anything to achieve that goal."
     "Things are different now," she told him.
     "The only thing that matters now is Sarah.  I want her to be happy.  Do you?"
     "How can you ask such a question?  Of course I do."
     "Then I'll make the necessary arrangements and we can be married -"
     "I haven't said yes," she told him.
     "Then you were lying when you said you wanted Sarah to be happy."
     "I wasn't.  It's just - I can't be your wife again, Barnabas.  We're too much alike -"
     "Perhaps," he agreed.  "The marriage would be one of convience only, if that is any comfort.  And once Sarah is well, you'll be free to leave if you want to."
     "I'll never leave Sarah," she told him.  But his idea was something to consider.  Being married to Barnabas, even on his terms, was better than life without him.  She'd felt more alive since he had walked into Julia's office than she had in over a year.  Knowing that she was opening herself up to more heartbreak, Angelique turned to face him.  "Make your arrangements.  Are you going to tell Elizabeth this evening?"
     "Most likely.  Will tomorrow afternoon be all right?"
     "I'm sure Sarah will want to be there -"
     "Perhaps Julia will agree to release her early.  I'll speak to her this evening.  Are you ready to go in?"

     Elizabeth's greeting was far warmer than Angelique expected it to be.  "You're looking very well," she said.
     "Thank you, Mrs. Stoddard."
     "Come into the drawing room."  Barnabas followed the women closely.
     Carolyn was more reserved in her welcome, and Angelique turned her attention to Julia.  "How was Sarah when you left?"
     "She was sleeping peacefully."
     "Julia was just telling us about Sarah's illness," Elizabeth explained.
     "Did she also tell you that Sarah will be at the Old House tomorrow?"
     "Yes.  She said that the child seemed quite excited by the prospect."
     Carolyn spoke up.  "I saw Willie over at the Old House this afternoon.  He seemed excited as well."
     "As am I," Barnabas said, smiling.  "Julia, is there any way you could release Sarah tomorrow morning?"
     "I think it could be arranged, why?"
     "I'm sure that she will want to witness her parents' remarriage."
     Julia's eyes narrowed as they searched Barnabas' face, then Angelique's quiet one.  Elizabeth spoke.  "You're remarrying?  When?"
     "Tomorrow afternoon," Barnabas told her.  "I plan to call Judge Harding  later and ask him to perform the ceremony."
     "Why the haste?  Surely -"
     "Actually, Mrs. Stoddard, I prefer to do it as quickly as possible.  Sarah needs both of her parents with her right now."
     "I understand," Elizabeth said, placing a hand on Angelique's arm.  "And I insist on your being married here, at Collinwood."
     "Thank you -" Angelique began, but Barnabas spoke up.
     "I think the Old House would be much better."
     "Nonsense.  You can't be married there.  Let me do this -as a wedding present."
     "It would mean a great deal to Mother, Barnabas," Carolyn pointed out.
     "Very well," he agreed at last.  "For your sake, Elizabeth.  Do you realize that you are one of the few people that I can never say 'no' to?"
     "Good."  She looked up as Mrs. Johnson entered.  "I believe dinner is ready."

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