Thursday, April 5, 2012
Key to the Future
After discovering two locked boxes, Nettie and Ethel looked for a key in the crate but there wasn't one there. They asked Jonas to take a look at the lock to see if he could open it. He did try but was afraid he would scratch or mar the boxes if he tried to force them open. Emma was nearby and wondered what they were doing. She wandered over and recognized one of the boxes. It held her grandmother's wedding dress.
When Emma was a little girl her Grandma Flora had promised she could wear the gown when she grew up and married. Emma felt tears welling in her eyes as she remembered the happy times she spent with Grandma Flora. Her parents had perished in a train accident when she was just a baby. Flora and Amos Patterson were the only parents she had ever known.
She wiped her eyes and suddenly remembered the key that she and the vicar found in the old cash register. She had put it in the drawer of the cash register and hurried to get it out. Jonas gingerly opened the first box. There was Grandma's wedding gown. Just as beautiful as she remembered it. Grandma had carefully folded it and wrapped it and it looked as lovely as it must have the day that Grandma wore it as she walked down the aisle. All the women were tearful at the sight of that dress. Emma thought of her dear Grandmother, Nettie thought of the love she had lost and Ethel remembered the day she became Mrs. Jonas Fulbright. Jonas cleared his throat and had to dab a bit at his eyes too. All in their own reverie, they suddenly remembered the other box. Again, being very careful, Jonas opened the second box. Inside was a stack of papers.
They began to look through the papers and discovered Amos had signed over all of his assets and worldly possessions to his wife Flora on their 50th wedding anniversary with a note saying, “All I am and all I have are because I was a smart enough fellow to marry the most wonderful woman God put on this earth.”
Flora's Last Will and Testament was also in the box. She had bequeathed the general store and all her possessions to Emma.
Jonas called Oscar Crowley immediately. Oscar, never missing an opportunity, thought it best if Robert pay a visit to the antique shop with him. Oscar could detect a sparkle in his son's eye as he was introduced to Emma. The Crowley father and son read through the papers and both concluded that Patterson's General Store and building were not Amos' to sell when he was duped into signing the deed over to Harvey Wilson.
Both men immediately traveled to Greensboro to confront their learned colleague, Mr. Caspar Dewitt. As was expected, Harvey Wilson was furious, ranting and raving and threatening to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
Caspar found his courage and told the old goat to pipe down, face up to the situation and remove himself and his checkerboard from the premises. From that moment on, Caspar was a new man. His law practice began to flourish, he found himself representing the farmers and townspeople that Harvey had been swindling for years.
Harvey was a man without a friend. Even his old checkers pals were backing away. One morning he arrived at his newspaper office only to find four practically new, very expensive fishing poles resting at the front door.
Back in Camden Corners, Emma chose not to pursue any legal action against Harvey. She wanted the matter to be over and done with. Nothing could erase the wonderful memories she had of the General Store and she knew her grandfather would approve when she sold the store to Silas Warren at a very reasonable price.
Seth Greenfield was Silas' trusted assistant in his grocery store in Kendall and traveled six days a week back and forth from Greensboro to Kendall. He asked Seth how he would like to be the manager of the old Patterson's Grocery Store and building. Seth was overjoyed. He and Amy Marsh were planning a wedding in the spring. They would be able to live in the flat above the store and rent out the rest of the apartments. Silas planned to deduct a small amount of money from Seth's pay each week until he had enough to make a down payment on the property. Seth had become like a son to Silas and he would do his best to help the young couple along. Emma knew of the plan and wholeheartedly agreed with it. Her heart was filled with happiness to know the walls of old Patterson's would be filled with love and laughter once again.
Lily and Richard had become inseparable. Helping Lily, Richard had even taken to sanding and staining the many finds that were to be sold in the antique shop. Lily, wanting to be close to Richard, helped search for precedents in the Crowley firm library. They were like two peas in a pod and ever since their first unfortunate encounter, there had never been an unkind word between them.
Emma was happy for her friend. Lily and Richard both thought Emma and Robert would be perfect together. Emma and Robert had become friends. Emma had been through so many changes in such a short time and Robert who had only passed the bar the previous June felt he needed to concentrate on his career. They would meet occasionally at O'Sullivan's Pub for lunch or dinner but simply as friends.
Emma learned of an auction that was being held in Kendall. Nettie had developed a fever and bad cough and Doc McMillan thought it best she stay in bed for a few days. Nettie argued that she was healthy as a horse and the girls needed her to watch the store while they went to the auction. Everyone agreed that Nettie was to follow doctor's orders.
Robert's schedule was rather light that week and Oscar offered to help with the cases that needed attention while Robert accompanied Emma to Kendall for the sale. They planned to leave at 8:00 sharp and be home with a wagon full of treasures before nightfall. Ethel packed thermoses of coffee, enough sandwiches to feed a troop of hungry scouts and bags full of cookies and candies. She made sure there were plenty of blankets to keep them warm. The sky looked a little menacing but the duo took off as planned. Jonas and Ethel stood arm in arm watching them travel down the road toward Kendall. Both were trying to hide their worry from the other.
Emma had the winning bids on almost every item she had chosen. Robert helped her load and cover the wagon securely. He found he was having a wonderful adventure and was impressed with Emma's know how and her professionalism.
They were laughing and joking with each other when snow started falling lightly and then heavier and heavier. Within the hour, the horses were having a difficult time making their way through the snow that was piling up. The wind started to howl. Robert had been in snowstorms like this before and knew it was going to be questionable whether they would be able to make it back to Camden Corners today.
They could see a small cabin less than a mile west of where they were and thought it might be best if they headed for the cabin instead of following the road home. The cabin was abandoned and so was the barn next to it. The door to the barn was not locked and they guided the horses inside and patted them down as best they could with the blankets Ethel had insisted they take with them. There was enough room in the barn for the wagon so all of the purchases would be safe for the time being.
After the horses were settled, Robert and Emma made their way to the cabin. The door was locked but it didn't take Robert long to jimmy the lock. The cabin was cold but there was a fireplace and plenty of firewood. Robert started a fire and moved the big, over sized sofa in front of the fireplace. Before long, the cabin was warming up and the adventurers were famished.
“Bless Ethel for packing all these sandwiches.” said Emma.
The wind was howling outside as Robert and Emma looked into the fire each with their own thoughts. Emma was feeling warm and it wasn't simply because of the blazing fire. Robert could smell a hint of lavender from Emma's golden hair as he was fighting the urge to take her in his arms. They looked at each other and as the flames from the fire shimmered on their faces, Robert lowered his lips to hers and the magic had begun.
They realized now what everyone in town already knew. Robert and Emma were in love. They agreed the timing wasn't right for either one of them but they knew they could never go back to being just friends.
The women folk in Camden Corners were beginning to worry. The snow was piling up and no sign of Robert and Emma. Oscar and Richard knew Robert would be able to handle any crisis. He had grown up in Camden Corners and heavy snow could often be the norm in this area. Because the ladies were concerned, the men decided to go out looking for the couple. The snow had let up somewhat when Oscar and Richard started their search. They were only a few miles out of town when they noticed smoke coming from a chimney at the old Whitehead cabin. They rode up to the cabin and heard the horses whinny in the barn. Oscar peeked through the window before knocking on the door and was delighted to see his son and Emma sitting together enjoying a nice warm fire and each other.
Emma and Robert were startled but happy to see their rescuers. Robert was surprised to learn they were so close to Camden Corners but not sorry they had found shelter at the old cabin.
The homecoming was a happy one. The couple was safe and their friends and family guessed they had finally admitted their true feelings for each other. Emma and Lily knew they had made the right decision to move to Camden Corners so many months ago.