Julia Gracey has always lived by the rule that women should stand on their own two feet. But whenever there's a problem, Professor Gerard van der Maes always seems to be on hand with the perfect solution! Gerard seems determined to steal Julia's heart--yet she's just as adamant that he won't take over her life. But when Julia is about to lose her home, Gerard offers one final proposition that she finds impossible to resist--marriage!
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February 09, 2009
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Excerpt from An Independent Woman by Betty Neels
The street, like hundreds of other streets in that part of London, was shabby but genteelly so, for the occupants of the small turn-of-the-century houses which lined it had done their best; there were clean net curtains at the windows and the paintwork was pristine, even if badly in need of a fresh coat. Even so, the street was dull under a leaden sky and slippery with the cold sleet.The girl, Ruth, looking out of the window of one of the houses, frowned at the dreary view and said over her shoulder, 'I don't think I can bear to go on living here much longer...''Well, you won't have to--Thomas will get the Senior Registrar's post and you'll marry and be happy ever after.'The speaker who answered, Julia, was kneeling on the shabby carpet, pinning a paper pattern to a length of material. She was a pretty girl, with a quantity of russet hair tied back carelessly with a bootlace, a tip-tilted nose and a wide mouth. Her eyes under thick brows were grey, and as she got to her feet it was apparent that she was a big girl with a splendid figure.She wandered over to the window to join her sister. 'A good thing that Dr Goodman hasn't got a surgery this morning; you've no need to go out.''The evening surgery will be packed to the doors...'They both turned their heads as a door opened and another girl, Monica, came in. A very beautiful girl, almost as beautiful as her elder sister. For while Julia, she of the russet hair, was pretty, the other two were both lovely, with fair hair and blue eyes. Ruth was taller than Monica, and equally slender, but they shared identical good looks.'I'm off. Though heaven knows how many children will turn up in this weather.' Monica smiled. 'But George was going to look in...'George was the parish curate, young and enthusiastic, nice-looking in a rather crumpled way and very much in love with Monica.They chorused goodbyes as she went away again.'I'm going to wash my hair,' said Ruth, and Julia got down onto her knees again and picked up the scissors.The front doorbell rang as she did so, and Ruth said from the door, 'That will be the milkman; I forgot to pay him...I'll go.'Professor Gerard van der Maes stood on the doorstep and looked around him. He had, in an unguarded moment, offered to deliver a package from his registrar Thomas, to that young man's fianc�e--something which, it seemed, it was vital she received as quickly as possible. Since the registrar was on duty, and unlikely to be free for some time, and the Professor was driving himself to a Birmingham hospital and would need to thread his way through the northern parts of London, a slight deviation from his route was of little consequence.Now, glancing around him, he rather regretted his offer. It had taken him longer than he had expected to find the house and he found the dreary street not at all to his taste. From time to time he had listened to Thomas's diffident but glowing remarks about his fianc�e, but no one had told him that she lived in such a run-down part of the city.The girl who answered the door more than made up for the surroundings. If this was Ruth, then Thomas must indeed be a happy man.He held out a hand. 'Van der Maes, a colleague of Thomas. He wanted you to have a parcel and I happened to be going this way.''Professor van der Maes.' Ruth beamed up at him. 'How kind of you.' She added, not quite truthfully, 'I was just going to make coffee...'He followed her into the narrow hall and into the living room and Ruth said, 'Julia...''If it's money you want there's some in my purse...' Julia didn't look up. 'Don't stop me or I'll cut too much off.''It's Professor van der Maes.''Not the old man from across the street?' Julia snipped carefully. 'I knew he'd break a leg one day, going outside in his slippers.'Ruth gave the Professor an apologetic glance. 'We have a visitor, Julia.'Julia turn