Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Wife for the Vicar


A Wife for The Vicar

The fine ladies of Camden Corners were assembled once again in the basement of Saint Peter's Church. Mary Ellen Brubaker was still recovering from her embarrassment over the Beverly Sills fiasco. She had yet to forgive her cousin Elmer for his deception. The ladies assured Mary Ellen that there were no hard feelings. The evening had turned out to be a success and everyone had a good time.
Vicar Willard Duesenberry stopped in to wish everyone a good day. Everyone loved the friendly man of the cloth. Alma Schrum, the vicar's loyal housekeeper sighed as her boss left the meeting room.
“Vicar Will is such a wonderful man and deserves to have a fine woman by his side.” exclaimed Alma.
Millicent Merryweather Stout spoke up “Our next project should be finding a wife for the vicar.”
Everyone chuckled at the suggestion but several of the ladies were pondering that suggestion. Millicent mentioned her niece Melanie Merryweather.
“Oh, she is a fine lass. She lives in Greensboro with her family but I'm sure she would be happy spending some time with her Auntie Millicent over the Thanksgiving holiday.”
What Millicent had failed to mention was that the day before she had received a letter from Melanie's father. Melanie was associating with a boy of questionable lineage. His family had recently moved to Greensboro from Chicago, Illinois. Chicago was practically the wild west. Melanie's mother was beside herself with worry. Millicent made up her mind, she would send a wire today to her brother suggesting Melanie come to stay with her until she was over this silly infatuation.
Agatha Carson thought her cousin Arlene's daughter might be a good choice for the vicar.
Catherine White's good friend's daughter was another suggestion.
Almost every one of the ladies thought they had the perfect match for the vicar but they all knew if Millicent Merryweather Stout set her mind to something, it was sure to happen so they all accepted the fact that Millicent's niece would be the new Mrs. Willard Duesenberry.
After the meeting, Evelyn Keys pulled Alma aside to tell her how happy she was that her granddaughter, Kate had accepted a teaching position at Camden Grammar School. Alma hadn't had a chance to mention it to the ladies but Kate would be staying with her through the school year.
Alma's daughter and her family had moved to Larkspur a couple of years ago and Kate was homesick for Camden Corners. She had received her teaching certificate in the spring and was anxious to begin a new chapter in her life. Alma was happy caring for Vicar Will and had many friends in Camden Corners but she was beside herself with joy that her granddaughter would be living with her. Kate was a quiet and very serious young lady. She loved being around children and they loved her.
Within the week, Melanie Merryweather arrived in Camden Corners. As she stepped off the train Millicent knew this was not going to be a pleasant visit. Melanie was pale and drawn. Her eyes were as red as could be and it was obvious she had cried all the way from Greensboro. Millicent thought it best if she didn't bring up the subject of the boy she left behind. Melanie hardly spoke on the ride to her aunt's house. Millicent's maid had cooked a very special meal but Melanie only took a few bites and asked to be excused to her room.
“I'll let the girl have one more night of feeling sorry for herself but tomorrow we are visiting the vicar. If she will only smile, I'm sure the vicar will fall in love with her at first sight.”
Millicent retired at her usual 8:00 that evening and didn't hear the sound of pebbles hitting the bedroom window or hear the squeal of delight when Melanie looked out the window and saw Michael Cassidy smiling up at her from the ground below. Melanie opened her bedroom door as quietly as she could and heard Auntie Millicent's snores coming from the room down the hall. She tiptoed all the way down the stairs, opened the front door and flew into Michael's waiting arms.
Melanie couldn't understand her parent's dislike of Michael. Maybe his ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower but what difference did that make? Most of the Merryweather's friends were insufferable bores. Michael's family and friends were all fun and loving and enjoyed being together. Melanie's mother had packed her bags and her father practically carried her to the train station and off to Camden Corners. Her little sister Melinda found the telegram Auntie Millicent had sent. While her parents were otherwise occupied, Melinda ran down the street to find Michael and tell him what was happening with Melanie and where she was going.
Michael had a plan. His uncle was the vicar of the First United Church in Greensboro. He had gone to school with Vicar Will and they had remained friends. Michael wondered if Uncle Jason would write a letter of introduction to Vicar Will. He would find a job in Camden Corners. Maybe he and Melanie would be able to figure out a way to be together. Michael caught the next train to Camden Corners and was on his way to find the love of his life.
Vicar Will wasn't born yesterday and knew there had to be more to Michael's story than he was telling. He sensed Michael was a fine young man and his friendship with his Uncle Jason was all the assurance he needed to offer Michael use of the spare room above the rectory.
At breakfast the next morning, Millicent was happy to see that Melanie's cheeks were pink and she was her old self, full of chatter. Millicent was surprised when Melanie seemed almost anxious to visit the church and meet Vicar Will. As they arrived in Millicent's fancy carriage, Michael and the vicar were clearing the walkway of the fallen leaves. Introductions were made and the wise vicar knew instantly what, or rather who had brought his old friend's nephew to Camden Corners. Millicent could see the young people's smiling eyes and began wondering if Vicar Will was really the right person for her niece. The days passed by and Millicent mentioned to her friends that she thought the vicar was not quite right for her niece. Millicent could see that Melanie and Michael had fallen in love. She knew her brother would like Michael. He was a fine young man who's uncle was a clergyman and a friend of Vicar Will. Millicent wrote to her brother and told him Melanie hadn't so much as mentioned her old beau since coming to Camden Corners.
Interestingly enough, the ladies of Camden Corners began inviting their nieces, granddaughters and daughters of friends to join them for a day or two. One by one, they were paraded to the church. Pretty ones, plain ones, slender and chubby ladies were all introduced to Vicar Will. The vicar was flattered at first but he was finding it difficult to care for his flock properly when he was so busy having tea nearly every afternoon. The vicar hadn't thought much about marrying. He was happy with his life the way it was. Alma was a wonderful housekeeper and made sure he ate three square meals a day. He didn't see any need to change. He was happy for Alma that her granddaughter would be living with her. He knew how much she missed her family.
He was walking home from yet another afternoon tea with another giggling prospective bride when he came upon Alma walking with a lovely young lady. Alma introduced her granddaughter Kate. He noticed Kate didn't giggle when he grasped her hand. With the sunlight shining in her hair, she was a vision. The vicar wondered what was happening. Had the ladies of Camden Corners put the notion of marriage in his head? He reached out and took hold of Kate's traveling bag and offered to walk them home. Alma had prepared a special dinner for her granddaughter's arrival and was pleased when the vicar accepted her invitation to stay.
Also on the train that afternoon was Neville Merryweather. He was marching toward his sister Millicent's house as red as a beet. He banged on the door and demanded he be allowed to enter. The housekeeper hid behind the couch as he stomped his feet by the door. Millicent was astonished at her brother's behavior.
“Where is my daughter?” he demanded.
Millicent told him calmly that she was perfectly safe and had taken a walk with the vicar's ward who was a very respectable young man.
“She is with that lowlife Michael Cassidy and don't you deny it.”
Millicent rang for the butler to bring her brother a brandy to help him calm down.
Just then Melanie and Michael walked through the door. Neville ranted and raved and Melanie was in tears. Michael told Mr. Merryweather that he and Melanie were in love and that he was going to marry her with or without his permission. Neville's mouth flew open.
“How dare you speak to a Merryweather in such a fashion.”
Millicent finally had enough of this arrogance.
“Neville, there is something I must tell you. Our great grandfather came over on the Mayflower all right. He was a stowaway who gambled his way across the ocean. He made his money playing poker and cheating good folks out of their money. He married our wealthy great grandmother and left her with young children to go out west where he was shot and killed running from the local sheriff. Our dear father confessed this tale to me on his deathbed and swore me to secrecy. I have never told a living soul until now. Neville, my late husband Mr. Stout, was a good and kind man who gave me everything in life I ever wanted except children. What I wouldn't give to have a son like Michael. He is an exceptional young man and if you and that twit wife of yours don't welcome him with open arms, he and Melanie are invited to make their home with me in Camden Corners.”
Neville was dumbstruck. His sister had never spoken to him like this before. He knew she didn't praise others easily and it made him wonder if maybe he should give Melanie's young man a chance. Neville remembered a young lady from his youth. He had fallen head over heels for her but she was from the wrong side of town and their relationship just couldn't be. He had run into his former sweetheart a few years ago when he was on a business trip. She was just a lovely as she had been 20 years before. After that brief meeting, Neville wondered what his life would have been like if they had married. He couldn't let that happen to his precious daughter. He grasped Michael's hand and welcomed him into the family.
As the Merryweathers were rejoicing, just outside walking arm and arm were the vicar and Kate. Alma Schrum was watching from her window as were several of the ladies of Camden Corners. They had all hoped their friends or relatives had been the one to capture Vicar Will's heart but they were happy he found the perfect match without any help from them. Alma, however, was thanking God for answering her prayers and already thinking ahead to the arrival of her first great grandchild.

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