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In this story, the horse dealer's daughter is a young woman named Mabel, who has recently discovered that her family has lost all its money, her brothers can go off and make their own way in the world, but Mabel has nowhere to go. There are a few options open to her -- going to live with a sister, becoming a servant -- but she has run her family's household ever since her mother's death and none of these options are acceptable to her.
Her third option is introduce, while Mabel is cutting the grass around her mother?s grave. This option is what brings the soap form dry and boring, to a matter of ?life and death?, going to her mother literally, through death, rather than just figuratively through a sense of unity with the departed one. This is also the part when the man, who is Dr. Jack Fergusson, comes in and sweeps her off of her feet. Now logic would tell us that the reason Jack felt free to undress Mabel was that he is a doctor. Doctors do not look at naked women in the same way as, for example, a lover would, there is absolutely no reason to believe that he has ever looked at Mabel lustfully, or even lovingly, before. But Lawrence seems to argue that by plucking the doomed Mabel out of the water, by bringing her back into the world, Jack has assumed responsibility for her. The most traditional way for a young unmarried man to assume responsibility for a young unmarried woman is to marry her. Consequently Mabel assumes that Jack must love her, since he has brought her back to the world of the living and purports to take care of her. The fact that he has removed her clothes (as a husband would) only seals their compact.
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Now Jack has never, for one moment, felt an iota of love for Mabel, in fact, aside from the fact that she is his friend Fred's sister, he's never even looked at her twice. But suddenly he recognizes his obligation toward her. He loves her as one loves a helpless bird one has rescued from a fallen nest, yet he hates her for putting himself in this position. This is the part of the soap opera that always comes, but no ever knows when it will show up. This is the part where the love birds have to choose in between friendship or love.
Suddenly looking into his face, she recognizes with horror that he does not love her at all, "I'm so awful, I'm so awful! You can't want to love me, I'm horrible." On the one hand, she would seem to be giving him an opportunity to extricate himself from this mess, but honor will not allow him to do it, as Lawrence points out, in kissing her in her nakedness "he had crossed over the gulf to her, and all that he had left behind had become void." Jack tells her "I want you, I want to marry you, we're going to be married, quickly, quickly -- tomorrow if I can." Jack, the country doctor whose life up to this moment has been full of sunlight and promise, has to quickly marry the horse-dealer's daughter so he will not have time for common sense to change his mind.
At the end of all the twist and turns we are left with one of the most often seen things in a soap, ?No, I want you, I want you, was all he answered, blindly, with that terrible intonation which frightened her almost more than her horror lest he should not want her?. This scene is the final twist that leaves you guessing until the next show, or season. Will he choose to be with her or will her terrible intonation be real and he does not want her?