'Where is your little girl'? I asked.' my sister has two children, both boys, and when they were younger, it seemed they were always underfoot-and highly audible'.

Sara laughed. 'Oh, Laurie is no shrinking violet. how could she be with such noisy parents? She's at a birthday party this afternoon. One of the neighbors will bring her home before dinner.

She was quite torn between going to the party and being here when Uncle Matthew arrived she dotes on him'.

Uncle Matthew, I thought. It sounded so strange. 'How old is Laurie'?

'She's six'. Sara grinned at the look of surprise I couldn't quite hide. 'I know what you're thinking how come two old like Andrew and I produced a child on the fringes of middle-age'.

I murmured a feeble protest but had to admit to myself that Sara was right. Andrew had to be forty, and Sara was not much younger.

'We waited a long time for Laurie, Sara' explained, suddenly Sober. She gave me a cautious look. 'It's none of my business, but I hope you and Matthew have better luck. He'd make a wonderful father'.

'Yes, he would', I agreed automatically. Then it came to me with a little shock that Sara was right. Matthew would be a fine father.

'Beth never wanted children, you know', Sara went on. 'Perhaps Matthew didn't either. I wouldn't know'. She smiled. 'He keeps his feelings pretty much to himself, as you've no doubt discovered. At any rate', she went on, 'he was just getting started in his political career, so it may have been a mutual

Agreement'. She paused, as if not sure of her ground. 'She was very beautiful, you know', she said slowly at last. 'Beth. Rather fragile, if you understand what I mean'.

'I've seen her picture', I said. The conversation was making me vaguely uneasy as if we were talking behind Matthew's back. 'I agree. She was quite lovely. I know Matthew loved her very much'.

'Too much, I sometimes thought,' Sara said, her voice tinged with bitterness. 'Beth liked to create an air of mystery about her. She was an elusive creature'. She stared directly at me now. 'And totally selfish'.

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. 'Sara ...' I began, wanting to put an end to the conversation, but afraid of hurting the other woman's feelings.

'Oh, I know', Sara broke in. shouldn't Speak ill of the dead. I just want you to know that I'm delighted Matthew married again, and to someone so different from Beth. You're obviously a Giving person, warm and loving, just what he needed to break Beth's hold on him once and for all. If he fell in love with you, that tells me her spell must be finally exorcised'. She smiled warmly.

Andrew and Matthew appeared just then, back from their ride, and a few minutes later Laurie returned home from her party. Caught up in the ensuing commotion, I was relieved that my conversation with Sara was cut off, but during the rest of our stay, I found myself returning to it again and again.

'Of course, Sara had no way of knowing that Matthew was not in love with me, and was actually still quite firmly held by the spell of his dead wife. Was it a spell? I wondered. Could it be broken?

Seeing Matthew with his family showed me an entirely new side of him. The iron reserve I had become so accustomed to seem to crack and gradually disappear. Andrew and Sara, both so outgoing, brought out a light-hearted aspect of Matthews's nature that I had not known existed.

Over coffee that first evening after dinner, Andrew suggested that I might like to go down to the stable to see the horses. I frowned 'I don't know. I've never been around horses'. I looked at Matthew. I'm a city girl, remember'? The truth was, I was afraid of the great beasts but didn't like to say so.

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