Shepherd pressed his lips tight.
“You said some things,” Daniel said. “Amarok was one thing.”
“Perhaps what I will say now will end our friendship or at least distance it,” Shepherd said.
“You have thought long about this?’ Daniel said.
“Yes,” Shepherd said.
“Friends can overcome many adversities,” Daniel said.
“It is Nan,” Shepherd said.
Daniel stiffened his jaw and raised his chin. He appeared suspicious.
“You and her mother know her best,” Shepherd said. “When you see her look at me does she see a brother, an uncle, or another man?”
“You have learned to set your words like traps,” Daniel said. “They are well placed.”
“It is a delicate thing in a strange land,” Shepherd said. “I’m not used to your ways.”
“Her mother and I have spent many hours taking about her future,” Daniel said. “We have talked to her about what kind of man she should settle with. She has never shown any interest in the men around here. All of her friends are married and have children. Many boys come around. Her mother tells her calves are easy to find. The bulls are deep among the trees.”
Shepherd paused to reflect; quickly as if calculating a stock transaction.
“Your question seems to indicate there is something else that troubles you,” Daniel said.
“I am thirty and she is twenty,” Shepherd said. “And you are forty. We are friends.”
“The only ones it should matter is you and Nan,” Daniel said.
Shepherd drew a slow deep breath.
“Can you be happy here?” Daniel said.
“Nan or not this is now my home,” Shepherd said.
“Nan or not you and I will always be friends,” Daniel said.
“I will give some time and thought,” Shepherd said. “I wanted to be certain where I stood.”
“If you are asking for permission,” Daniel said, “you have it.”
“I will do nothing to hurt her,” Shepherd said.
“I believe you are an honorable man,” Daniel said. “Think long and hard, my friend. You come from two different worlds.”
“I am aware and not blind to it,” Shepherd said, “That is why I wanted to speak with you first and I will never hurry Nan. And if she does not feel the same way that will be the end of the matter.”
“Her mother tells me she says much about you. It is Nan that will have to be slowed down.” Daniel said.
Daniel stood. He walked to a kitchen cabinet. He returned to the dinning room table with two glass and a bottle of Crown Royal.
After a drink Shepherd traveled back to the cabin so lost in thought he drove past the place in the stream bed where he usually turned to emerge into the meadow.