Thursday, May 31, 2012
From the moment the Merryweather family arrived in Camden Corners over one hundred years ago, they had been treated like royalty.
The truth was, Merryweather Wentworth had absconded with his employer's bank receipts and rode his horse until it gave out. He walked until he came to the the small village of Larkspur. Merryweather had always abhorred his name. His mother had given it to him after the disappointment of giving birth to her seventh male child. He made the decision to change his name to Wentworth Merryweather and no one ever questioned it. Wentworth Merryweather was an extremely handsome fellow who had the ability to charm anyone who came in contact with him. He cleaned off the dirt and dust in the river just outside of town. He grabbed a pair of overalls hanging on a line in a nearby shack. They weren't a perfect fit but they would do. He didn't want to look too affluent when he strolled into town. Wentworth found the town's saloon and walked through its door. Larkspur was accustomed to strangers since it was located on the road leading west from New York City. This stranger was like none the rickety old saloon had seen. He dressed like a farmer but he didn't have the look of a farmer. Pollyanna Pride, the innkeeper took an instant shine to the stranger. She hoped he would stay in town for a while but Wentworth had other ideas. He joined a poker game already in progress. The card players were happy to take money from this hick kid and Wentworth proceeded to lose the first few hands. After a while, Wentworth told the men he was down to his last few dollars and he'd like to raise the stakes to help him win it back. Before the other fellows knew what hit them, Wentworth had taken every last cent from them and was out the door. Pollyanna chuckled in the background as she watched Wentworth ride off on Rawley Wilson's horse. He came to the next town, stopped in a fine looking men's shop and slipped out the back door with two new suits, four shirts, six neckties, two pairs of shoes and eight pairs of socks before the proprietor noticed the items and the customer were missing. Wentworth's next stop was Greensboro where he swindled people and stole anything he could get his hands on. He never lost track of Pollyanna though and found his way back to Larkspur to visit the fair Miss Pride.
After a few years and an accumulation of ill gotten gains, Wentworth set out for Camden Corners. He knew he would have a better chance being a big fish in a little pond and Camden Corners was just the right spot for him. First, he needed a wife and the mayor's daughter, Sue Ellen, would do just fine. She was a pretty girl with impeccable manners and best of all, she was shy and quiet. She adored Wentworth and was thrilled when he asked for her hand in marriage. The mayor and his wife were happy to give their blessing to the marriage but disappointed to learn the couple would be relocating to another town.
The dowry given to Wentworth was adequate and with the money he had scammed out of the folks of Greensboro, he would have enough to purchase a large home in Camden Corners. Since the town was just beginning to grow, Wentworth had to wait several months before he would be able to take his bride to their new home. He hadn't planned on staying around Sue Ellen's family. He found it difficult to make excuses to leave town to be with Pollyanna without the mayor or one of his cronies catching him. His frustration grew through the months of waiting and then Sue Ellen announced she was with child and had no intention of leaving her family at this time.
The Merryweather house was completed and as Wentworth planned, it was the largest in town. He purposely had the builders put an addition on the house that would be the maid's quarters. The people of Camden Corners were happy to welcome Wentworth to their small village. They were impressed with the fact that the Merryweathers had a live in maid. It was too bad Mrs. Merryweather was forced to stay in Greensboro until the birth of her child but the Wentworth maid, Pollyanna Pride, seemed to be fitting into the community very well. She was well liked by the women and admired by the gentlemen in town.
Everything was going along smoothly in the Merryweather household. Wentworth visited his wife in Greensboro whenever he had the opportunity. Unfortunately he wasn't able to visit as often as Sue Ellen would have liked because he was so very busy working to provide a life of ease for his family. Sue Ellen didn't know what line of work he was in and didn't even think to ask. She was happy she would be mistress of the largest house in Camden Corners. She wondered about the maid but didn't care as long as someone else would be cleaning. She would have to speak to Wentworth about hiring a cook and butler too.
Right on time, little Cyrus Merryweather came into the world. He was the spitting image of his father and even as a young boy knew how to charm everyone around him.
For the next eighteen years, the Merryweathers enjoyed a content life in Camden Corners. Pollyanna remained the dutiful servant although Sue Ellen wasn't exactly sure what the woman did since Wentworth hired housekeepers to do the cleaning and cooks to prepare the meals.
Shortly after Cyrus' 18th birthday, he and Sue Ellen visited her parents in Greensboro. When they returned, Wentworth was nowhere to be found and Pollyanna Pride had disappeared along with him. The authorities later informed Sue Ellen that her husband had been found shot to death in a small town out west.
Sue Ellen was saddened by her husband's death but her life didn't change. She still continued to buy her many frilly dresses and jewels and preside as mistress of the largest home in Camden Corners.
She and Cyrus never spoke of his father again. The maid's quarters were left empty until the house was sold. Cyrus decided he needed to build a mansion for for himself and his new bride.
Back in present time, Millicent was trying to catch her breath as she raised herself from the chair she had just collapsed in. The young man standing before her was the spitting image of her brother, Neville.
“I'm sorry ma'am. I shouldn't have blurted it out that way. I'm afraid I'm not thinking too clearly since I just recently discovered that the man who I believed to be my father was not my father after all.”
Millicent wanted to protest and send this fellow on his way but she couldn't deny he was somehow related to her brother and therefore to herself.
“Let me fetch you a cup of tea, Millicent.” said Addie who had witnessed her friend's reaction to this boy's words.
“I think I could use it with maybe a little bit of brandy added.”
“Of course. Young man may I get you something to drink?” Addie said.
“No thank you ma'am. If you could just tell me where I can find Neville Merryweather, I will be on my way. I don't wish to disturb you any further.”
“Please, dear boy. Come upstairs to the living quarters. I want to know what makes you think my brother is your father. I'll admit, you look just like him so there must be a connection. My brother is a fine upstanding married man. Respected in his community and the father of two daughters. He would never...” Millicent couldn't finish her sentence.
The young man followed Millicent and Addie up the stairs to Millicent's parlor. Millicent insisted Addie be a witness to the meeting. She was sure there was some mistake and Addie would help her make sense of the boy's accusations. Or, maybe protect her from him. He didn't look like a serial killer but one could never be too careful.
“Sit down young man, now first, tell me your name and why you think my brother is your father.”
“My name is James Robinson. My mother is the former Helene Simpson. My understanding is she and your brother met when he attended school in Plattsburg. Mother grew up in that town. They fell in love but your brother's family wouldn't allow them to marry because my mother's kin were not included in the Social Register of Philadelphia.”
“Well, there you are. My brother was in Plattsburg years before you were born and I'm sure he has never been back there. You couldn't possibly be his son.”
“That wasn't the only time they met. Just about 20 years ago, your brother was attending a business meeting in Albany. My mother's family had relocated there several years before. Mother had not married after her relationship with Neville ended. They ran into each other and what began as an innocent encounter resulted in my birth nine months later.”
“I don't understand, if your mother wasn't married at the time, who is this man who you call your father?”
“Chester Robinson was a very kind and loving man. He passed away about six months ago. Before he died he told me he wanted me to know the truth about my roots. I know he loved me as though I was his own flesh and blood. He knew my mother would never face the shame she had always felt after her tryst with your brother. Mother never stopped loving Neville and from what Chester told me, he had never forgotten her. They met and one thing led to another. I must give Neville credit for telling Mother he was engaged to be married. I don't remember Mother ever imbibing in spirits, but according to Chester, she and Neville toasted his upcoming nuptials with champagne. I'm sure you can imagine that one thing led to another” James said with a reddening face.
“Oh dear, Neville does have his flaws, but I can't imagine he would leave a young woman in that kind of a predicament and continue on with his life as though nothing happened.”
“He did contact Mother after that but she was so ashamed of what she had done and she knew she would never be accepted into the Merryweather family. She refused his letters until finally he gave up and stopped writing. Mother confided in Chester and he insisted on marrying her and claiming me as his son. Luckily, I was a very small baby and no one suspected I wasn't Chester Robinson's biological son or that I was conceived out of wedlock.”
Millicent remembered her brother mentioning a young woman named Helene. She also remembered her father was vehemently opposed to the pairing. She even remembered Neville remarking how regretful he was for not fighting to be with the woman he loved so many years ago.
“I do believe you are telling me the truth James. Your father lives in Greensboro. You have two sisters. Melanie and Melinda. They are lovely young women. I know them well enough to know they will welcome you into the family. However, Neville's wife, Prudence is a different story. I'm not sure how to approach this but if you are in agreement, I would like to telegraph my brother and ask him to come to Camden Corners to meet with you here. You are welcome to stay in one of the guest rooms until his arrival.”
“I would like that very much. I would also like to get to know my Aunt Millicent a little better. You have been kinder to me than I deserve after barging into your home as I did. I'm still in a bit of shock knowing I have a family I've never met.”
Millicent gave her nephew a hug and showed him to one of the guest rooms before she donned her coat and hat and summoned her carriage to take her to the post office to send a telegram to her brother.
Neville Merryweather was finishing up some paperwork on his desk when his secretary knocked on the door with a telegram in her hand.
Neville was on the next train to Camden Corners the words of the telegram still in his head. Remember that son you always wanted? He has finally arrived and is occupying my guest room. His mother is the former Helene Simpson and he is the spitting image of you.