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The golden man

When he was young the golden man- high born, athletic, gifted and sociable- met a girl also high born. The girl lived with her family in a big house in a lonely part of the country. Her father held to standards that he had inherited from his father, but not the money that maintained them. The golden man was brought to the big house to meet the girl’s father, whom he was keen to impress, because he needed to ask permission to marry his daughter. However, the girl’s father was also keen to impress the young man with his sternness and his standards. The girl had a younger sister, a singer, just fifteen years old who was sat next to the young man at the first dinner he attended. Dinner was a formal affair where standards were on view, and  the singer was not exactly afraid of her father but his anger seemed to fall on her more than she was due. 

The father was content with the standards that he was presenting to the young man until he noticed that the singer, his younger daughter, had not collected her napkin from the sideboard.

‘Where is your napkin child?’ he called down the table: and the singer prepared to drift in the shame of this exposure but before she could, she felt a hand on her arm below the table. ‘It’s here father’ she said happily – presenting the napkin that the young man had passed her.

Many years later, the golden man lay dying. His family was gathered round , but he did not acknowledge them and they fell glum and silent. He was no longer married to the singer’s sister, but she loved him still, so she travelled to his bedside. His second wife was the only other person in the room when the singer started to talk to him. It was as if she was chatting with someone seated next to her at table. No-one waiting outside heard what she said but when the golden man’s wife came out of the room, she was smiling for the first time in many days.

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