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The Man

1. Stephen
Stephen Norman of Normanstand had remained a bachelor until close on middle age,
when the fact took hold of him that there was no immediate heir to his great estate.
Whereupon, with his wonted decision, he set about looking for a wife.
He had been a close friend of his next neighbour, Squire Rowly, ever since their college
days. They had, of course, been often in each other's houses, and Rowly's young sister--
almost a generation younger than himself, and the sole fruit of his father's second
marriage--had been like a little sister to him too. She had, in the twenty years which had
elapsed, grown to be a sweet and beautiful young woman. In all the past years, with the
constant opportunity which friendship gave of close companionship, the feeling never
altered. Squire Norman would have been surprised had he been asked to describe
Margaret Rowly and found himself compelled to present the picture of a woman, not a
child.
Now, however, when his thoughts went womanward and wifeward, he awoke to the fact
that Margaret came within the category of those he sought. His usual decision ran its
course. Semi-brotherly feeling gave place to a stronger and perhaps more selfish feeling.
Before he even knew it, he was head over ears in love with his pretty neighbour.
Norman was a fine man, stalwart and handsome; his forty years sat so lightly on him that
his age never seemed to come into question in a woman's mind. Margaret had always
liked him and trusted him; he was the big brother who had no duty in the way of scolding
to do. His presence had always been a gladness; and the sex of the girl, first
unconsciously then consciously, answered to the man's overtures, and her consent was
soon obtained.
When in the fulness of time it was known that an heir was expected, Squire Norman took
for granted that the child would be a boy, and held the idea so tenaciously that his wife,
who loved him deeply, gave up warning and remonstrance after she had once tried to
caution him against too fond a hope. She saw how bitterly he would be disappointed in
case it should prove to be a girl. He was, however, so fixed on the point that she
determined to say no more. After all, it might be a boy; the chances were equal. The
Squire would not listen to any one else at all; so as the time went on his idea was more
firmly fixed than ever. His arrangements were made on the base that he would have a
son. The name was of course decided. Stephen had been the name of all the Squires of
Normanstand for ages--as far back as the records went; and Stephen the new heir of
course would be.
Like all middle-aged men with young wives he was supremely anxious as the time drew
near. In his anxiety for his wife his belief in the son became passive rather than active.
Indeed, the idea of a son was so deeply fixed in his mind that it was not disturbed even by
his anxiety for the young wife he idolised.
 
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