Meg Strong decides to agree to her father's extraordinary bargain to travel to Iowa and marry an old school friend to pay off his debt, deciding that anything would be better than moving with him to her brother's farm, where she'd be used and abused by her family.
However, she soon discovers Iowa has its own problems. Luckily, most of the people of Manchester are good people -- people who want to help someone left virtually stranded in a strange place. She also learns that no matter how many good people are around, there are evil ones too. And when she suspects the worst of someone from her past, she places her new friends, as well as herself, in danger.
Will she be able to protect the innocent, while obtaining justice for the guilty?
"I asked for you stop speaking so. If you really want me to talk to you now, at least sit down and look at me."
Dropping her bag down again on the table, she perched, begrudgingly, on the edge of a chair. She wrung her gloves, as she eyed him and waited.
He frowned back at her for several moments, but finally began to speak, "As you wish. You remember Charles Hendriksen, don't you?"
"Yes, of course I do. We were at school together. Why?"
"Because, before he went west to Iowa with his brother, he advanced me a sum of money. And, now, the note is due, and I find myself unable to pay him."
"And, what has that to do with me?"
"Because," he said, his voice softening, "he has agreed to consider the debt paid if you go to Iowa and marry him."
"I beg your pardon?" she asked, as she pressed herself back into the chair. She told herself that if she made an exerted effort to keep her spine against the back splat, she would keep from either screaming at her father, running from the room, or passing out.
"Well, I knew you wouldn't want to come with me to Samuel's. And, Charles was always a pleasant young man. He's worked hard to get his land cleared and his farm well-started. Now, he feels he's ready for a wife and family. And, he agreed very quickly to the idea of you marrying him--"
"Wait! Are you saying you suggested that I go west to marry him?"
"To pay off your debt?"
"Yes, but I thought you would prefer that to moving to Oxford."
Meg lifted from the chair, picked up her bag, and headed towards the door. There, she stopped, turned and said, "If you want the roast less rare, put it back into the oven for half an hour or so. There are cut up carrots and potatoes in that bowl of water. If you put them around the roast, they should be done at about the same time."
She turned to leave, but her father said, "Margaret, I forbid you to leave this room. We need to speak about this. Plans must be made."
"You may do what you like, as will I do. But, for now, I am going to my room. I do not wish to be disturbed. I will speak to you tomorrow morning. I hope you have a pleasant afternoon."
"Margaret," her father said in a rather sharp tone.
Meg merely swung back and faced him with a stony expression for a very long minute.
"I said I wished to speak to you," her father said in the solemn voice he usually reserved for his most stern sermons.
"And I told you, Father. I'm going to my room. I need some time to think about what you've told me before I will be able to 'make plans'." As she headed for the door, she turned to face him again and added, "Oh, and remember to drain those vegetables before you put them around the roast."
She left her father in the kitchen, beside the stove -- once again, with his mouth open -- and stomped up the stairs to the sanctuary of her room.