Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A New Home for Cassandra

Dahlia and Hyacinth are happy to welcome Lucinda McCoy and her adorable daughter, Cassandra to Camden Corners. The sisters, once again thinking identical thoughts, insist the two come to their home for a cup of cocoa and some freshly baked cookies. The twins ask Cassandra if she would like to visit the Quilt shop downstairs while her mother and Mr. Howard and Mr. Harold discuss business. Cassandra has never seen so many soft warm blankets as she looks around the Quilt Shop. Dahlia and Hyacinth ask her to pick one out that she would like to keep for her very own and to pick one she thinks her mother would like. Cassandra has a very difficult time deciding but she chooses a pink one with bunnies on it for herself and a lavender one with white roses for her mother. Meanwhile, Howard and Harold reassure Lucinda that she is doing the right thing by accepting Uncle Shane's money. Lucinda insists that she will keep track of the money that they give her and pay back every penny if it takes until she is 93 years old. It is decided that they will visit the Crowley brothers in the morning to set up a trust fund.
Cassandra bounces into the room with her new quilt wrapped around her. Lucinda tries to tell the sisters that they can't accept these beautiful quilts but to no avail. She loves the quilts and hugs her new friends. Dahlia can feel her ribs when she hugs back and insists they take cookies with them to Mrs. Watson's.
Mrs. Watson welcomes the McCoys with open arms. She has the perfect room for this lovely young woman and her darling little girl. Cassandra's eyes are as big as saucers when she sees two canopy beds covered with fluffy down comforters and soft pillows. She puts her new quilt on one of the beds before her mother has a chance to even enter the room. Harold deposits their little traveling bag on the bench by the window and bids them farewell for the evening. Mrs. Watson says she will let them get settled and be back to see what they may need in a little while. Howard tells Mrs. Watson what he knows of their situation and the way they were living.
Cassandra happily splashes in the bathtub next to their room, brushes her teeth, puts her thin little nightgown on and climbs into the big bed holding her doll and pulling her new quilt up to her chin.
“Mommy, I like Camden Corners. I hope we can stay here forever.” with that her little eyes close and she falls sound to sleep.
There is a soft knock on the door as Mrs. Watson arrives carrying a tea pot and two cups. She thought Cassandra might be asleep and wanted to get to know Lucinda better. They talk as they sipped their tea. Lucinda tells her she doesn't know how she is going to repay the kindnesses. Mrs. Watson assures her that she would find a way to help someone else out some day and that she had already befriended old Shane Howard and was being paid back for her own kindness.
The Hightowers walked back home still unable to believe all that had happened in just a couple of days. They worried that Lucinda McCoy's pride would get in the way of her finding a life in Camden Corners.
“We will just have to make sure that doesn't happen.” said Harold.
“We'll have the girls check around to see if anyone needs help in their shops. She is so good with Cassandra it's too bad we don't have any children for her to look after while Dahlia and Hyacinth are tending the shop.”
“It will be nice to be home again brother. Do you realize this is the longest we have been away from our wives since the day we said I do.”
They arrived home to big hugs and kisses for what they were doing for their new friend and her daughter.
“We have something we would like to discuss with you.” said Hyacinth.
“We have decided that since we do everything together, we should tell you our news together”
In unison, the sisters excitedly announced “We are going to have a baby.”
Lucinda slept through the night without the sounds of the city disturbing the quiet. She dreamed of a lovely meadow and Cassandra running through the grass chasing butterflies. She woke up well rested and really hungry. It must have been the smell of bacon wafting through the house. She would have to get dressed quickly to help Mrs. Watson with the cooking. She had to start paying her way. Cassandra was busy showing her doll all the lovely things in the room.
“Don't you just love it here Dolly”. She then put her little fingers on Dolly's forehead making the doll nod in agreement.
“See Mama, Dolly likes it here too.”
“Let's get you dressed and we will go downstairs to help Mrs. Watson in anything we can. Cassandra, I know you like it here. I hope we will be able to stay too.”
Harold was ecstatic with the news that he would be a father soon. He was unable to sleep all night and woke to the sound of the door knocker. He didn't want anyone else to be disturbed and rushed to the door to find a special delivery letter secured to the door. The letter was from the law firm of Brown, Hammer, Brown and Pike.
This letter is to inform you that we have discovered new information concerning your deceased uncle Mr. Shane Howard.
Your uncle secured the services of a private detective to investigate his deceased son and any possible descendents he may have had. There is a record of your uncle marrying a Miss Maria May Alcott on December 13th, 1832 at St. Cecelia's Cathedral in Baron's Point, New York. Maria died giving birth to Roland P. Howard the following year. According to Mr. Shane's journals, found under a loose floorboard in his apartment, Shane fell into a deep depression when his wife died and would not acknowledge his young son. The boy grew up in the care of servants who did their best to care and love the lad. Roland was given every financial advantage but never the love of his father which was the only thing he really wanted. The private detective completed his investigation after your uncle's death. He delivered his report to our office. You will find the complete report in a separate envelope accompanying this letter.
The summary of the report is as follows: Roland met a young girl named Marguerite Blake. Marguerite was the only child of Harrison Blake of Oklahoma. Harrison was the owner of the largest cattle ranch in the state. Although he loved his daughter, it was a crushing blow to him when he discovered she would be his only child. He only came to this conclusion after his 6th marriage and no other children had been born.
Marguerite had been provided with anything her heart desired and she desired Roland P. Howard. Harrison agreed to the marriage only if Roland would legally change his last name to Blake so that any children would bear the proud name of Blake. Roland agreed since the name Howard had never been especially important to him. They were married in the spring and Marguerite gave birth to their son naming him Peter. Two months after Peter's birth, the couple boarded a ship bound for London, England. The ship ran into trouble in the choppy waters and several people jumped overboard hoping to be the first ones to reach the rescue boats. Roland panicked and was one of the first to jump overboard to his death. A distraught Marguerite followed him into the water leaving her sleeping baby on board.
In the confusion that followed, the baby was mistaken for the child of a young peasant girl who suffered a head injury and died without regaining consciousness. The ship returned to the New York dock and all the passengers were transferred to another ship to complete their journey.
The baby was deposited in the closest orphanage. Mr. Blake was informed that his daughter and son-in-law were missing and presumed dead in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Upon hearing the news, Harrison Blake suffered a massive heart attack and died the following morning. The authorities attempted to locate the next of kin of Mr. Roland Blake but to no avail. A couple of the servants wondered about the little baby but it wasn't their place to question the happenings of the household and they never voiced their concerns. The extensive report goes on to say that while in the orphanage, Peter Blake was given the name Paul McCoy.
When he was 7 years old, a girl his age came to live at the home. She was a sad eyed little girl as she had lost her parents and had no one to take her in. Her name was Lucinda and Paul took her under his wing. They were the best of friends until their teen years when they fell in love. On Paul's 18th birthday he left the orphanage vowing to work as hard as he could to save money for the couple to marry. Paul kept to his word. He worked two jobs during the week and was able to find another for the weekend. Three months later when Lucinda reached the age of 18 she joined him and they were married by a Justice of the Peace.
They lived frugally but happily for the next 5 years. Paul loved his wife with all his heart and was beside himself with joy when his beautiful little girl was born. When she was only two years old he was fatally shot on the way home from his job leaving a devastated Lucinda to care for their daughter alone.
The detective believes Mr. Howard had his suspicions about Cassandra being his great granddaughter although he took his reasons to the grave. I leave you gentlemen to do what you will with this information. The firm of Brown, Hammer, Brown and Pike was retained by your Uncle and has no obligation to inform Mrs. McCoy of this discovery.
The brothers were fascinated by this story. They had no idea their Uncle had been involved with a woman let alone married one and had a child. They had been wanted and loved by both their parents and it was hard to believe a brother of their dear mother would be so callous as to abandon his only son through all of his life. They, of course, would give the report to Lucinda. She had a right to know about her daughter's family. Knowing this information might also make it more palatable for her to accept Uncle Shane's money.
Lucinda is astonished and sadden while reading the report. She wonders aloud what made Shane Howard suspect that his grandson was the same man Lucinda had loved and married. Dahlia and Hyacinth looked at each other.
“Are you thinking what I am, sister”.
Dahlia nodded and both women went directly to the cupboard in the hallway and brought out a box they had covered in quilted material and labeled Hightower Family Mementos. The gentlemen had brought the box with them when they moved into the apartment above the quilt shop. Dahlia held up a photo that she remembered seeing when they first went through the contents. The photo was the spitting image of little Cassandra right down to the dimple in her chin. A note on the back read Louisa May Howard – age 5. The question of why Shane Howard began his investigation was answered.
Everyone hugged each other and welcomed Lucinda into the family. Lucinda was thrilled that she and Cassandra would be part of a loving family. Soon Cassandra would have two new cousins to play with.
The brothers had a map of the land left to them. It was decided the whole family would ride to the area and see exactly what they were dealing with. Their new property extended far beyond what they had imagined. There was a small stream running alongside and trees swaying in the breezes at the back. It was a beautiful spot that would be perfect for a vineyard.
Harold had mentioned that possibility to Howard and they both agreed to ask Nick for his advice. At that moment, Nick came riding up on horseback. Dahlia and Hyacinth thought they detected a little sparkle in Nick and Lucinda's eyes as they were introduced. Nick picked Cassandra up so she could pet the horse. She giggled as he whinnied. Nick surveyed the land and checked the soil. He agreed with the brothers that this would be a perfect spot to grow grapes. Everyone agreed that this would be a wonderful use for the land. Nick was hired on the spot to oversee the project. As soon as they were able they would set up a meeting with Richard Crowley and see about getting permits and licenses.
Nick told them winter was the best time to start grape plants and they had a lot of work to do preparing the land before that. Dahlia and Hyacinth were gazing over the land and imagining what their new home would look like. It had been decided earlier that with the babies coming, the apartment would be much too small for all of them. It never occurred to them to build separate houses. The Hightowers and Blooms would always be a package deal.

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