”Papa, it was so scary, Have you seen Abigail? She left with me but that stagecoach driver took her Papa. I thought I would die, the grass they dumped me was so itchy” Mary whined as she sat in her mother’s lap, her father sat across her, petting her hair

“Sorry, my darling. Do not worry about Abigail, she was in cohort with the driver, they have both been caught and are in the town Jail. You lie down here and worry about nothing, I will have the doctor bring the cream I imported from Italy last fall, it would soothe your skin” he turned to a maid, standing nearby

”Are you deaf? did you not hear my command, do you want me to say it one more time?” Nicholas Sanders thundered angrily. The maid scurried away in fear

“Papa, keep your voice low, my head hurts” Mary croaked

Mrs. Sanders cast a hot glance at her husband, for which he waved apologetically, saying in a soft voice

”Sorry, my princess.“

Pointing at another maid,” Massage her feet” Mrs. sanders commanded, the maid immediately got to work on her knees, placing one of Mary’s legs on a stool and the other on her own thigh, applying several perfumes ointments on Mary’s spotless skin.

She called another maid surrounding the room ” Carry her to the bed, she needs complete rest and she is not to lift a finger” Mrs. Sanders commanded, one could see the subtle smirk on the maid’s face

As if Mary ever did any work, not even to bathe herself.

Soon Mary was tucked into bed, with roses and a thousand kisses, her father sat with her on the bed and her mother by his side

“The soldiers have brought the report that Abigail has been found alongside that scoundrel Jeffrey, he would be hanged for sure. I will make sure of that. it will serve as a proper lesson for all the servants who think they can betray me” Nicholas declared

Mary said softly, letting her smooth hand rest on her Father’s rough ones “No papa, they wanted the carriage, tis made of gold after all and it would fetch him good money. I would be extra baggage and it would slow them down, if it were not for Commander Mike who came to my rescue, I would have been left for dead Papa” Mary shuddered just thinking about it, fresh goose pimples rose on her perfect skin

“Tis enough, talk no more, it is not good for your health, you should rest, I will take you to the doctor on the morrow so your mind will be rid of these horrid thoughts, I do not want anything affecting your mental health love” Mrs. Sanders babied, collecting a wet cloth from a maid and wiping the imaginary sweat from Mary’s forehead

“Commander Mike, you say? How come he mentioned it not? When I was called to come to get you?” Nicholas questioned, his interest piqued

“You met him, Papa?” Mary sat up eagerly, ignoring her mother’s frown at her behavior a blush on her cheeks, giving off the glow of a young lady in love

“Yes, I did, “he answered absentmindedly, his shrewd mind fast-tracking a distant thought that would help safeguard his business, this current situation could help him in the long run especially when the Stone family is concerned, he had been trying to connect the Sanders to that family for quite a long time for reasons best known to him.

“I have no recollection of what happened at all, I only knew he was the one that saved me from that dreadful man, that man claimed I shun all the men of the society and  walk proudly but Mama I did naught wrong, I am the daughter of Nicholas Sanders, the richest man in Western Creek and beyond am I to mingle with common men?, I did naught wrong right Mama?” she asked sweetly, expecting words of praise

“No my love, you can never do anything wrong, “ her mother soothed her hair “It is wrong of that man to seek vengeance for what is the rightful course of the society, I am only glad you are safe dear,” Mrs sanders smiled, glancing at her husband

“Why are you quiet?” she asked curiously

“I hope tis not what I fear, “ Nicholas Sanders muttered to himself

“What is it you fear? “ Mrs. Sanders asked alarmed, she grabbed her husband’s arm only to drop it so as not to panic her daughter who was watching them intently

“Mary, you said the rogues force your cloth off you?”He asked thoughtfully

“Yes Papa” Mary answered shamefaced, her face red with embarrassment. She looked up timidly, eyes downcast” Why do you ask Papa, I do not wish any to know of it, especially not the maids, I do not want to be the boot of their gossip, it was so unpleasant papa, I thought I would die.” She cried as fat juicy tears fell off her face in torrents

“Why do you have to make her cry? You know she is going to be upset, must you torment our poor daughter so?” Mrs. Sanders shouted at her husband as she stood up to pacify the crying Mary who had dropped her tears into a whimper every now and then

“I did not mean to upset you Mary, but I need to know if Commander Mike saw you with no clothes on?”

Mary stopped crying immediately, her eyes swollen red from the momentarily cry, she answered gently” I think so Papa, I woke up in his clothes and he was the one that had shaken that monster of me”

“Then I ought to call him out” Nicholas smirked roughly, as he stood on his feet

“What are you saying Papa, Commander Mike had done naught wrong, he even saved me, we should thank him for that”

“Yes, we will, my dear, we will. In the grandest way possible”

Excited, she asked,”and what way would that be Papa?” She had always been an admirer of the Commander but when he had gotten married to his childhood friend the soft-eyed Evangeline, she tried to stop her affection for him but it had been difficult for her maids brought news of his heroic deeds day after day. Western Creek was safe now because of his help, there was rarely any case of stealing or kidnapping, they would be found and rescued as was done with her. It was why her father had finally allowed her to ride the golden carriage in the first place.

She wondered what reward her father would give him.

“I would wed him to you” her father declared

Mary and her mother gasped with excietement,

“But would he agree to take a second wife?” Mrs. Sanders asked

“I will leave him no choice but to do what I ask; he is the only man worthy to have you. You are the most beautiful woman in this town, and he is the first man to have the honor of seeing my daughter naked, then he ought to do right by you. You are a very alluring one my dear, he must have done something to you while you were passed out, tis the way of men” Nicholas said

“But papa? It is said that Commander Mike really loves his wife, will he agree to marry me?” Mary asked sadly

“Then I will leave him with no other choice but to accept my proposal.” Nicholas Sanders  smiled, he hailed a male servant standing coming into the room with a fresh bowl of neatly peeled tangerines for Mary

“ Get the carriage, Boy, I have a few old friends to visit and prepare sixteen golden and silver made carriages from the shops”

“Thank you papa” Mary smiled, blushing into her pillow, the scented cushion welcomed her soft smile, leaning into her happiness

“Are you happy?” her mother questioned

“Yes I am mother, Commander Mike is a very fine man and I am glad to be his wife”

“Let us be hopeful he agrees, you know your father, he might go about this the wrong way, he is always so hasty and power-filled, He is no doubt looking for a way to gain more power, as it would look good on him to have a Commander as an in-law, I do not want him to push you into a marriage you do not want, I am very content with living with my gorgeous daughter” Mrs. Sanders signed, she knew the husband she married, there seems to be an old connection between the Stone and Sanders which he hoped to rekindle with the present generation, she was only afraid, he would go about it in the most erroneous way possible, as was his manner.

“Yes, Mother, I do like him a lot, and I believe he likes me too, he would not have saved me after all, if he did not like me, he could have left me to die,” Mary said dreamily, thinking of mesmerizing blue eyes that smiled at her, and the strong arms that had swept her into his warmth.

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