Sunday, June 24, 2012
Memories of his friend, Charlotte Sanders came back to Billy. He remembered how much he loved her when he was in the orphanage. Without thinking he hugged her when he saw her. Charlotte couldn't keep the tears from flowing down her cheeks.
Charlotte knew this young boy was her friend from the orphanage the minute she saw his blue eyes. They were the same color as Ella Pritchard's eyes who was sitting beside her trying to hold back her own tears.
“Billy, I never thought I would see you again. I have wondered and worried about you for so many years.”
“I didn't want to leave you but Miss Walker said she would make you go away if I talked to you. When I heard Cal say he was going to run away I thought if I went with him you would be able to stay at the orphanage.” Billy hadn't thought about Miss Charlotte in so long. He had put many of those memories out of his head. He looked up and saw the lady standing next to her. “Did you work at the orphanage too? I think I remember you.”
“Billy, this is your sister Ella. She hasn't seen you since you were a very tiny baby.”
Will Duesenberry held his wife's hand. They both looked very worried. They could see the resemblance between their son, Billy and the young woman who had entered their home just a few minutes before.
Charlotte told how Billy's grandmother was forced to leave him at the orphanage and how she had found him and taken a special interest in him. She told of Ella's grandmother's deathbed confession that Billy had not died but he was living in the orphanage just a few blocks away. When Ella inquired about her brother, Miss Walker told her he had died because she didn't want to admit she'd been responsible for him running away. Charlotte confided the truth to Ella but there was no way of knowing where Billy was by then. Ella and Charlotte had since become good friends.
“Now we have a happy ending and Ella and Billy are reunited at last,” said Charlotte.
Ella spoke up. “Vicar and Mrs. Duesenberry, I can see my brother has been well taken care of. Mr. Merryweather and Mr. Harcourt have told me how you found Billy and his friend, Butch and gave them a home. It breaks my heart that these two boys were on their own for so many years. I want to assure you that I have no intention of taking Billy away from you. I would like to stay in Camden Corners for a while and hope you will allow me to get to know my brother. That is if it's all right with you, Billy.”
“Sure, I'm glad I have a sister. Can she stay here with us Ma?”
“Of course she can Billy. Miss Pritchard, I am sorry I didn't suggest it sooner. Pardon my manners, I'm not thinking clearly after hearing about Billy's early years. Miss Sanders, you are welcome to stay also. We have a guest room that you both will find comfortable.”
“Mrs. Duesenberry, we wouldn't think of imposing. Mr. Merryweather spoke of a boarding house in town. I'm sure Charlotte and I will be very comfortable there during our stay.”
“Nonsense,” said Will. “We won't hear of it. We would like to get to know you both ourselves. Billy, why don't you show your sister and Miss Charlotte to their room. I'm sure you all are hungry after your long journey. Kate and I will rustle up some food for all of you. Gentlemen, how about a shot of whiskey? I sure could use one.”
“I'd better get home to Sarah. Neville, you stay for a while. You and Will can discuss what we talked about earlier.”
“Take my carriage Max, I'll walk to the boarding house later. You can come by with it in the morning.”
Max took his leave but not before reassuring Kate that everything would be alright. He was sure Ella was not about to disrupt Billy's life.
Neville told Will and Kate about Miss Walker. “The woman is very cold and it was obvious to Max and me that she is definitely in the wrong profession. We are very suspicious of her behavior. She covered up her mistake with the unlocked door the night Billy and the older boy escaped and lied to the sheriff about it. Charlotte is a very sweet girl but has a tendency to listen at closed doors and I think she knows more about Miss Walker's dealings than she realizes. I know from my former client that donations are made regularly to the orphanage and the children living there. From what Max and I observed when we visited today, the building is in ill repair and none of that money has been used as it was intended.”
Neville took his leave with the promise of checking in with the young women the next day. He wanted to sit down with Charlotte and Oscar to decide what their next step should be regarding Miss Walker. He wondered how his sister was doing today and decided to pay a visit to the Merryweather house. He knew they would all be awake and probably playing a game of charades. His step was lighter at the thought of spending some time with Helene Robinson.
Everyone gathered around the big kitchen table. Any awkwardness Kate felt disappeared after just a short time with her guests. Charlotte was a very loving young woman. Kate remembered Billy when they first met. He was belligerent toward her and Will but soon let his guard down and had become a very gentle and kind young boy. She suspected the love Charlotte had shown toward him in his early years had made an impact. Ella was a bit overwhelmed. She had lost her family at a young age and was led to believe her brother had died also. Charlotte told her he was alive but was last seen almost six years before. Now she was sitting beside her little brother and seemed to still be in shock over the happenings of the day.
Ella was only 19 years old. Her Uncle died the year after she moved in with him and her mother's Aunt Beatrice. She and the sickly old woman lived in a big Victorian house just a few blocks from where Billy had been abandoned. Ella tried to understand why her aunt would do such a thing. She knew her uncle was a mean, sour old man and that Aunt Beatrice was afraid of him. She suspected that her guilt weighed on her and that guilt had a lot to do with her illnesses. Beatrice was afraid she would be sent to prison if she tried to get Billy back after she left him at the orphanage door. In her own way she loved Ella. There was no other family and Beatrice knew Ella would be sent to an orphanage herself if Beatrice was incarcerated.
Beatrice made sure Ella went to school and graduated. Ella was working as a typist at First Presbyterian Church. The Reverend Hinkley was getting on in years and would be retiring soon. Ella knew she didn't want to continue doing that kind of work for the rest of her days. She was very interested in the newspaper business. One of the church parishioners wrote a human interest column for the local paper and that sparked Ella's interest. The gentleman saw some writing talent in Ella who had taken it upon herself to add some interesting tidbits to the church bulletin every week. The parishioners enjoyed reading her writings and the Reverend approved so she continued.
Charlotte and Ella were surprised when the sun came up the next morning that they had slept so soundly and so long. They could smell bacon cooking and hurried downstairs to find Alma Tanner standing at the old stove.
“Good morning ladies, I heard we had company. Please sit down and relax. Breakfast is almost ready. I'm Kate's grandmother and Vicar Will's housekeeper. Everyone is out in the garden admiring the roses. You will have to see them later. They are beautiful with drops of dew and the sun shining down on them.
“You must be Ella, I can tell by the beautiful blue eyes just like our Billy has. That would make you Charlotte. Billy hasn't stopped talking about his sister and his friend Miss Charlotte since he got up this morning. Butch has adopted the two of you also. Those poor little boys, when I think of what they went through in their younger years it just breaks my heart. They survived though and for most of the time they had each other.” She stopped what she was doing long enough to give each girl a grandmotherly hug.
“Let us help Mrs. Tanner. We don't expect to be waited on.”
Will walked in at that moment. “Don't you worry about Alma. She is happiest when she is feeding all of us.”
Melvin came through the door too. “I've had to buy larger clothes two times since I met this lovely woman. It's true, she has set out to relieve the world of hunger. I'm Melvin Tanner, I'm married to dear Alma here.” Melvin said as he squeezed his new wife's shoulders.
Kate walked in with a beautiful bouquet of roses. “Good morning girls. I thought we should have some pretty flowers as a centerpiece this morning to welcome you to our home.” She filled a vase with water and set the flowers in the middle of the table.
Butch and Billy walked in.
“Hi Sis. Hi Miss Charlotte, said Butch.
“I told Butch you were his sister too Ella. Hope you don't mind having two brothers.” said Billy.
“I'm proud to call such handsome boys my brothers.” said Ella. She didn't remember ever feeling so surrounded by love.
After breakfast Billy and Butch gave the girls a guided tour of Camden Corners. They stopped by Merryweather's to say hello just as James Robinson was headed off to work.
“This is my sister Ella. James is Mr. Merryweather's son. He doesn't have the same last name. Pa says it's complicated and he'll explain it to me someday. But his last name is Robinson.”
James chuckled and said he was happy to meet Billy's sister with the different last name.
“Oh, you're right James. I guess it isn't so complicated after all.”
Ella had never had a boyfriend and didn't know what to make of this handsome fellow but she knew she wouldn't mind seeing him again.
“It's nice to meet you, James. This is my friend Charlotte.”
“I'm sorry I'm in a rush this morning. I hope to see you again before you return to Pittsburgh.” James said as he hurried down the street. He wondered just how long they would be staying in Camden Corners. He wouldn't mind seeing Ella again sometime. He glanced back and noticed she was looking in his direction. He smiled to himself.
They visited all the shops and everyone was happy to meet Billy's sister and glad he had some answers about his past although nobody pried. They didn't have to. Butch told one and all the full history of the brother and sister.
After lunch, Neville Merryweather stopped by the Duesenberry's with Oscar Crowley and Sheriff Mendenhall. They spoke with Charlotte about the orphanage and Miss Walker. As Neville guessed Charlotte knew more about Miss Walker than she realized. They only had hearsay information, but they thought it would be enough to get the attention of the Pittsburgh authorities.
After tearful goodbyes, Charlotte left for Pittsburgh with Sheriff Mendenhall and Neville. Ella had taken a few weeks off from her job at the church and was invited to stay just as long as she was able.
Neville stayed on in Pittsburgh until Miss Walker was hauled off to jail. The sheriff in Pittsburgh was able to find enough evidence of fraud and embezzlement against Miss Walker to keep her there for many years. Neville was happy when Charlotte Sanders was named administrator of the orphanage. Everything changed after that. The draperies were opened during the day to let the sunshine in. Because of the publicity surrounding Miss Walker's dishonesty donations doubled. Charlotte was able to have repairs made and the entire facility made more comfortable for the children. The grounds were filled with playground equipment and after approval by the board of directors, the children were allowed to leave the premises with their caregivers to visit famous landmarks in the city. For the first time in their lives, the children were able to watch fireworks on Independence Day. All the children loved Miss Charlotte. She rarely closed her office door. Her new receptionist was invited to eavesdrop almost anytime she wanted. Charlotte preferred to have private conversations with Doctor Baker when he stopped by and he was stopping by more and more often. It wasn't long before Charlotte Sanders was showing off a very pretty engagement ring on her left hand.
In Camden Corners, Billy, Butch and Ella were in the waiting room of Shane Howard Memorial Hospital along with a very nervous vicar. After what seemed to be an eternity, Doctor Springer came out of the delivery room to let everyone know Kate had just given birth to a baby girl. Mother and baby Hillary Bella Duesenberry were doing well. Alma explained that Kate wanted Hillary to be named after her brothers and sister. B for Billy and Butch and ella for Ella. A tear fell from Ella's eye as James took hold of her hand.