Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The Village of Camden Corners
“Allow me to assist you Miss Millicent.” Millie Stout heard the deep voice of Leland Harvey behind her.
“Thank you Mr. Harvey. I didn't realize how heavy this small table was. I thought I could manage it myself. I think you know me well enough to call me Millie. After all, it was you who sought me out to let me know I was down to the last of my funds for this old place.”
“I am truly sorry to have been the bearer of bad tidings. It is one of the more unpleasant aspects of my position as president of First National Bank & Trust. I would be happy if you would call me Leland.”
“Leland, what brings you to Merryweather's today?”
Merryweather's is the childhood home of Millicent and Neville Merryweather. Millicent was forced to convert the lower floor of the mansion into an antique shop. Her friends, Lily and Emma Crowley found it necessary to expand Looking Back Antiques and since Millicent was running out of money for the upkeep of her home, she was delighted when Nettie Crowley suggested the arrangement. Millicent, who now preferred to be called Millie had never been happier. Since her husband's death several years before, Millie had been living by herself in the big old house. She didn't realize how lonely she was until she employed Leo and Addie Schmidt and shared her home with them.
Out of the blue, James Robinson appeared at the front door of Merryweather's looking for his father, Neville Merryweather. James had been raised by his mother, Helene and Chester Robinson. On his deathbed, Chester confessed to James that he was not his birth father. Helene kept the birth of his son a secret from Neville. Neville and Helene never stopped loving each other, but it was a love that couldn't be. Neville's family lived in the world of high society and Helene was from a working class family. The two had met and fallen in love in college. Neville's father wouldn't hear of his son marrying beneath his station and the young couple parted ways. Several years later, they met by chance and Helene conceived a child. Neville returned to his life and his arranged engagement to Prudence Wingate, a woman he never loved. Prudence and Neville were the parents of two daughters. The moment Neville was informed of James' existence, he welcomed him. James' sisters were happy to meet their new brother and loved him without question. Prudence wanted nothing to do with James Robinson and continued a pattern of drinking herself into a stupor more and more often.
James quickly became attached to Camden Corners and with the encouragement of his Aunt Millie, decided to stay on for a while. Eventually his mother joined him and settled in as head librarian of the library. Millie and Helene became instant friends, she occupied one of the many rooms in the Merryweather mansion. Helene and Neville met again and both accepted the fact that they would never be together. Neville found his way to Camden Corners on a regular basis. His daughters both enjoyed being with their brother also. Prudence was left home to wallow in her own self pity. Neville did try to encourage her to take an active role in her daughters' and his son's lives, but she seemed to enjoy her misery.
Leland offered to help Leo and Jonas Fulbright load the buckboard carrying the last load of Millie's mother's treasures to the Hightower Winery. The auction was being held that afternoon. It was only 9:00 in the morning and already people from the surrounding towns were lining up to examine all the items that were to be auctioned.
“Millie, I have a few things of mothers that I would like to donate to the auction.” said Leland. “I don't know if they will bring in much money, but I do know they have been in the family for quite a while.”
“How nice of you Leland, I'm sure we will be able to get a good price for them. Are you sure you want to sell your mother's treasures?”
“Yes, I have no use for them. I spend most of my days and evenings at the bank and don't even notice the items I have in the house.”
“Leland, you need to be with friends more. I know it has made a world of difference to me. I never even realized what a lonely old woman I was until I started spending time with other people. Addie is making a special dinner this evening. Why don't you plan to join us?”
“I would be delighted Millie. Would you care to ride along with me to the winery? I have more room in my carriage than Jonas does, with all those items in the buckboard.”
Millie looked at Leland and saw quite the nice looking gentleman. She wondered why she hadn't noticed how attractive he was long before this? She allowed him to help her into the carriage as a smiling Addie and Helene looked on.
Millie looked behind her and saw a carton filled with cranberry hobnail tumblers, a pitcher and several different size vases.
“Leland, why these pieces are exquisite. They are extremely rare and I can't be certain but I do believe they date back to the middle of the last century. Possibly further. You may want to reconsider donating them.”
“I do hope they are of some value and will bring in some much needed cash. Mother use to dust them and whenever she did it made both of us sneeze. I don't remember her ever using them even when guests came to dinner. There are so many items in the cabinets and curios in that old house. I should have you come over and help me weed them out. I may be able to donate most of them to the antique shops.”
“If this is any indication, the girls and I would be delighted to search through your mother's things. I imagine we will find many treasures.”
“Then it's settled. Miss Millie, will you do me the honor of having tea with me next Wednesday? I will call for you at 3:00.”
Millie felt herself blushing and wondered what Addie and Helene would have to say when she told them she had an engagement with a gentleman. Millie had a difficult time keeping the smile off her face for the next quarter mile to the winery.
The crowd was overwhelming when they arrived with their treasures. Sheriff Mendenhall was having a difficult time keeping the lookers away from the buckboard and Leland's carriage long enough to allow them to carry their goods in through the back door. Once inside, they couldn't believe what they were seeing. There was barely any room to move around the display area as more and more items were being added.
It looked like everyone in town had donated several of their family heirlooms. Everyone was greeting Millie and thanking her for coming up with the idea of an auction.
The young people were busy in the lower level setting up tables for the many baked goods every household provided for sale. The high school students in their crisp white aprons were arranging the tempting treats. The doors were opened and most of those waiting were hungry when they smelled the freshly baked goodies just waiting to be sampled. Within an hour, every last morsel had been purchased and consumed. The boys and girls were very happy with the amount they collected in such a short time.
People were milling around examining all of the fine pieces of artwork, jewelry, furniture and collectibles. Dahlia and Hyacinth's quilts were displayed beautifully throughout the ballroom. The room was buzzing with chatter and activity until the auctioneer hired by the Hightowers pounded his gavel to silence the crowd and begin the auction.
It had been previously decided those from out of town would be given the opportunity to place bids before the Camden Corner folks. If the bids were very low, residents were welcome to bid on items of their choice. As it turned out, the bids were much higher than anticipated. There was nothing left by the end of the auction three hours later. Even the professional auctioneer admitted the event was very successful.
Addie and Helene left the auction early to put finishing touches on the feast they were preparing for their family and guests. Mr. Leland Harvey had agreed to join them that evening and they wanted to make sure Mr. Harvey was made to feel very welcome. The two women giggled when Helene placed his name card to the left of Millie's usual seat at the table.
Dinner was wonderful, Addie had outdone herself. Grady and Elizabeth Murphy joined them that evening. Addie and Leo had been the only family Grady had ever really known. His mother died when he was young and his father was a busy physician who catered to the rich. He was never much of a father to Grady. Grady also became a doctor but his goals were not to accumulate money but to help and care for people. Addie and Leo made the trip from their New York home to attend Grady and Elizabeth's wedding and never returned to their former home again.
After dinner, James suggested they play a game of charades. Leland had never heard of the game but he was enjoying his time with Millie and her friends and family so much he was willing to learn something new.
After a few rounds, it was Leland's turn. He picked a card out of a hat and it read Let's Talk Turkey.
“This is an easy one,” he said. Leland moved his mouth as though talking and his team guessed he was trying to tell them he was a fish. He gave up on that word and went to turkey. He knew he couldn't speak so put his hands under his arms and flapped them strutting through the parlor with his head bobbing. Nobody had ever seen the very formal Mr. Leland Harvey act the least bit silly before. Everyone was doubled over in laughter. Leland caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and couldn't help but laugh too. Time was up before his team guessed his quote but nobody cared. They all had a wonderful time, especially Leland. He was realizing how much he had missed out on all these years when his ambition in life was to be a success in the banking business.
“I have had a most delightful evening Millie,” Leland said at the end of the night. He took her hand holding it a little longer than necessary.
“It was a wonderful day, wasn't it? I'm looking forward to meeting with you on Wednesday afternoon to look through your mother's treasures.”
“I'm not sure I want to wait that long. May I call for you tomorrow for Sunday services? I must admit I'm not a regular parishioner. I find the quiet of a Sunday morning in the bank is the best time to work without interruption. I would like to join you tomorrow though if that would be satisfactory.”
“Yes, of course. I will expect you at 9:15 if that isn't too early.”
He squeezed her hand and resisted kissing her good night.
Millie went to bed with a smile on her face. She was so looking forward to church in the morning.
The Crowley Brothers, along with Emma, Lily, Oscar and Nettie were just finishing tallying the proceeds from the auction and bake sale. They were all astonished that the total received was well over half the amount of their loan with the bank. Emma prepared a deposit slip that would be taken to the bank first thing Monday morning. Oscar locked the money in his strong box for safekeeping.
Everyone was tired but still full of chatter about the events of the day.
“Did you happen to see the cranberry hobnail glassware Mr. Harvey donated? It was exquisite. He has invited us to go through his mother's collection. I can't wait to see them.” said Emma.
“Everyone in town was overly generous in their donations. Isabelle Burke was overwhelmed with the auction. The library had been a part of her life for so long, I know she was very concerned after she heard Mr. Ellis list his proposed changes,” Nettie said.
“Now on to the next project. Sarah Harcourt has agreed to write a play based on her novel, Hannah's Treasure.”
“Won't that be wonderful? I think Robert and Richard should play the parts of the Lane Brothers. Richard, I have heard you perform in front of a jury and you and Robert both are excellent actors. Sarah is trying to convince Charlie Wentworth to play evil Horace Reynolds.”
“That is so out of character for Charlie, he is such a kind man. I think Betsy would be perfect as Hannah though. I wonder who will play the part of Sylvia. I don't know of any one in Camden Corners who could pull off being a floozy.”
“Maybe we could call upon Miss Beverly Mills. You do remember her don't you?”
“Who could forget? She certainly stirred up the stuffier folks of Camden Corners. You know, Lily, that might not be such a bad idea. I'll check with Sarah but I think Beverly might just be willing to help us out. She was such a good sport when she was here.”