Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Rightful Owner


Angus Keefe was determined to retrieve his family's silver chalice. After receiving information from the conductor on the train from New York City to his home in St. Louis, he was returning to the small town of Camden Corners where the conductor believed the ruffian had jumped from the train with Angus' satchel and chalice still in his grubby little hand.
The passenger car was empty and since there was no one around to be bothered by the music Angus took out his clarinet and started playing. Angus was a music teacher. He loved music and could play any instrument but his favorite was the clarinet. He had dreamed of performing on stage in all the great music halls in the world. The truth was, he just wasn't good enough but he loved music and it soothed him.
He had just turned 27 that spring. He would like to settle down and marry his sweetheart, Abigail Wentworth but she told him she couldn't marry him until he got over his obsession with the Mount Keefe silver chalice. For as long as he could remember, his father and grandfather spoke of the chalice as though it were a living, breathing thing. On his deathbed, his father made Angus promise he would make the journey to Ireland, find the chalice and return it to the Keefe family where it belonged. Angus was fulfilling that promise until he foolishly sipped a bit too much port and allowed that urchin to steal the heirloom right from under his nose.
Emma and Lily were busy making plans for their double wedding ceremony and hadn't thought too much about the silver chalice Emma stumbled over in the sand. Emma ran into Sheriff Mendenhall on her way to Tempting Treats Bakery to pick up some confections to serve with tea at the antique shop and mentioned her find to him.
“I haven't had the time to do the research on the cup, but I do believe it may be very old and valuable to someone.” she told the sheriff.
“Couldn't be too important to anyone if it was just dumped in the sand but I'll nose around to see if I can locate it's owner.”
The sheriff had heard about the upcoming marriages of the Crowley boys. He knew old Oscar would be beaming. Those boys were his pride and joy and it was obvious to everyone in town that they had found their perfect mates.
“Goin' to be a lot of celebrating in the next couple of weeks.” The sheriff winked at Emma.
She knew he was a tough old bird but he did have a soft spot for romance.
The Sheriff noticed a stranger over by the train station.
“Can I help you find your way mister?” He asked a nervous looking Angus. Angus noticed the gentleman walking toward him and was almost blinded by the bright shiny sheriff's badge he wore on his chest.
“No thank you sir. I'm headed to the boarding house down the road, but thank you just the same”.
The sheriff noted the stranger's odd behavior and made a mental note to check on the fellow while he was in town.
After Angus checked into the boarding house, he clutched his clarinet and began a walk around town to see what he could find. It was a quiet and comfortable town. He could picture himself sitting under that big old maple tree with its colors beginning to turn with Abigail at his side. He was beginning to wonder if he had done the right thing by taking the chalice from Father O'Connor's hands in the middle of communion. Maybe the guilt was what made him drink too much port on the train. He wasn't a violent man and wasn't even much of a drinker. He had to be honest with himself, having that chalice didn't give him the satisfaction he thought it would. In fact, he was wishing he had never gone to Ireland and never taken the chalice in the first place. All he wanted was to go back to St. Louis and marry Abigail. He knew what he had to do. He had to find the chalice and return it to the church where it was meant to be. Angus always thought best when he was playing one of his beloved instruments and began playing his clarinet.
Billy and Butch were going from shop to shop in Camden Corners. Kate and Will were outfitting each boy in their very own clothes. It was the first time either boy had ever had shirts and pants that didn't belong to someone else first. Their last stop was Floyd's Barber Shop where Butch went first.
“What handsome boys they are” Kate whispered to Will who was thinking the same thing.
When Butch was done he asked Kate if he could go out and walk around the park.
“Don't go too far dear, we don't want to lose you.”
Butch's heart skipped a beat. Nobody had ever cared where he went or whether they would ever see him again before.
Butch walked across the street to the park and heard the most wonderful sound. He had heard music before, there was always some kind of music coming out of the taverns on the streets of New York but this was different. He walked over to the man playing. It was quite some time before Angus noticed he had an audience.
“Hello, young man” he said “Do you play the clarinet”.
“No, Sir” replied Butch “I don't know how but I sure do like to hear you play. How do you know how to do that.”
“It takes a lot of practice but here, you try it.”
Angus gave the boy some basic instructions. He had never seen anyone pick up on it so quickly and he'd taught many students.
“I think you are a natural son. Would your parents mind if I bought you a clarinet of your own?” I saw one in the window over there in that antique shop that I think would be good for you to practice on.”
Strangers never frightened Butch because he had lived on the streets for as long as he could remember and everyone was a stranger. He followed Angus to the antique shop.
Lily thought it was odd that this man was buying young Butch an instrument, but Butch seemed to be comfortable with him. She had seen the family enter the barber shop a little while ago and thought it best if she went to find Will and make sure it was alright with him. Emma was standing close by and had the same fear as her friend. Emma knew what Lily was thinking and said
“Lily dear, let me take over this sale, you don't want to be late for your appointment with Floyd”. Lily rushed out the door. Angus was paying for the clarinet when he happened to glance up on the shelf above Emma's head and saw the chalice. He knew in an instant that it was the Mount Keefe Chalice. He said in a much harsher manner than he intended
“Where did you get that chalice?”
Emma with a bit of fear in her voice said she had found it in the sand on the beach.
“It isn't for sale sir, until we do some searching for it's rightful owner.”
“I'm it's rightful owner” Angus said excitedly “It was stolen from me while I was sleeping on the train to St. Louis. The thief was just a young kid who was chased off the train in Camden Corners”
Butch's eyes were as big as saucers as he realized who this man was and that he was thief he was talking about. He bolted from the shop and ran smack into Will who still had the barber's towel wrapped around his neck.
“Who are you and what do you want with my son” Will shouted.
Butch was crying as Kate came around Will to hold him tightly. Between sobs, Butch told them he had taken the man's satchel. He thought maybe he had food in there but it was just a dumb old cup. He would have given it back but the conductor came after them and he forgot to let go of the satchel until he jumped off the train. He said he was sorry and he would go back to New York but please keep Billy with them. He's not a bad boy like I am.
Kate, Emma and Lily were all in tears as they heard Butch's plea for his friend.
Will said “Butch, stealing is never the right thing to do but we are your family now and families stick together.”
“But you haven't adopted me yet and you don't have to” he whimpered.
“Son, adoption is only a matter of signing some papers our hearts have already adopted you and Billy. We love you and you will be our son forever.”
Angus could not imagine what transpired over just the last few days to make this little ragamuffin a part of such a loving family. He would like to know the story but first he had to make it clear that he meant Butch no harm. He could tell Will was a reasonable man but he was protecting his child from a stranger whose intentions he wasn't sure of.
Angus explained that he was a music teacher and he suspected Butch had a natural musical talent that should be tapped. He had noticed the clarinet in the window earlier and thought it would be a good place to start. He then called Butch over because he wanted to clear the air with him regarding the chalice. He told the story of his promise to his father on his deathbed, his obsession with getting the chalice and the wrong he had done in stealing it. He realized the obsession that was passed down from generation to generation would have to stop with him. He thanked Butch for making him see what a real family is and he was going to sail back to Ireland to return the chalice to the church.
Will realized Angus was a good and decent man who never intended to hurt Butch. He and Kate invited him to supper that evening.
After the meal, they all gathered in the parlor. Kate played the piano, Will strummed his guitar, Angus helped the quick learning Butch with his clarinet and Billy sang his heart out even though it was just a little off key. Alma looked on through the kitchen doorway. Her heart burst with joy at the sight of this little family before her.
Angus wrote often to Butch and he and his wife, Abigail visited Camden Corners once a year after they were married. Each year they brought another little Keefe with them until they had 8 children in all. Angus returned the chalice to Father O'Connor and St. Patrick's Church. Father refused to press charges against Angus. He thought putting an end to the chalice obsession was the best solution. He also thought the chalice should be on display rather than being used for communion. Besides, the Bishop made sure he had a more modern chalice to use and it was much lighter and easier to handle than the old one. Angus and Abigail visited St. Patrick's on their 25th wedding anniversary and there in the vestibule was the chalice on its pedestal with the inscription:

Donated by: Liam Shamus Keefe 1590
Donated by: Angus Liam Keefe 1896

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