Thursday, June 7, 2012
The Village of Camden Corners
Shane Howard Memorial Hospital was up and running. Much to Reggie Blackburn's relief, the building hadn't collapsed down around Mayor Horton during the dedication.
As much as Caroline Bentley was enjoying the special treatment she and her newborn were receiving as the hospital's first patients, she wanted very much to return to her home and her family. Little Lucy was only three days old. Because the hospital hadn't officially opened when Lucy decided to make her appearance, Becky was able to see for herself that her mother was going to be just fine. Three days later the rules were in place and young children were not allowed to visit.
Doctor Julie understood Caroline's anxiety and approved her early dismissal only after she received a promise of complete bed rest for the next week. Jamison was in the room listening to every word and Caroline knew she would be forced to follow doctor's orders.
Becky was happy to see her mother and was torn between sitting with her and watching the nurse Jamison hired to care for her little sister. Becky loved to sing and serenaded her mother and Lucy. Caroline couldn't remember when she was so relaxed. She felt guilty not caring for Lucy herself but Jamison threatened he would carry her back to the hospital if she dared get out of bed.
The week of confinement passed quickly and Caroline took over much of the baby's care. She was glad, however, to leave some of the chores to the nurse. Having a baby at this stage of her life was a little more tiring than she thought it would be.
Memorial Hospital was much busier than any of the doctors anticipated. Word spread about the new facility and doctors were referring their patients from small towns and villages in every direction.
Doc McMillan was acting as administrator of Memorial. He wasn't happy about the position but he knew it was only temporary.
“We need to make every effort to recruit physicians and nurses to the hospital. Does anyone know how Reggie is coming along with the houses he's building on Elm Street? We can't ask folks to move here to work if they don't have a place to live when they get here.”
“Doc,” Jamison spoke up, “Reggie has three houses completed and is in the process of finishing three more. Our problem is financing at this point. We have to sell these places before we can start building new ones.”
“How much do you need, Jamison?” said Lucinda. “Mr. Harvey keeps investing Mr. Howard's money and it keeps growing. I could probably make arrangements to purchase some of the homes. Let's get together with Mr. Harvey and try to work something out.”
“I like that solution, thank you Lucinda. Clayton, do you know of any of your associates in New York who would be a good fit for Camden Corners?”
“I may have a few suggestions, let me feel them out and see if there is any interest in relocating.” said Clayton Springer.
“Grady, how about you? Anybody you know of who would like nothing better than to live in our friendly town?”
“I'll think about it, boss. I do know of one surgeon who showed some interest when I told him I would be practicing here. I'll try calling him this afternoon. I'm glad we finally have telephone service here. It is limited but better than nothing.”
“What we need immediately is an administrator. I am just a country doctor. I know nothing about running a hospital. It all seems overwhelming now but I'm sure it will work out. In the meantime, let's get back to our patients.”
Jamison walked out of the room with Lucinda.
“Lucinda, you know you don't have to donate all of the money Shane Howard left to you and Cassandra. You and Nick could take a honeymoon, visit New York and see the shows, do things you never were able to afford when you lived there.”
“Jamison, I don't have any desire to do those things. I love my life just the way it is. Besides, Nick would never be happy if he knew I was spending money on things he can't afford just now. Let's go have a talk with Mr. Harvey.”
They walked to the bank and were surprised that Mr. Harvey had taken the day off.
“I've never known Mr. Harvey to miss a day at the bank. I think I even saw him sitting in his office on Christmas day last year. I hope he's not ill.”
His secretary smiled and said “He's not ill unless you consider a heart condition an illness. I believe after all these years as a bachelor, our dear Mr. Harvey has taken a shine to Millicent Merryweather Stout. He and Mrs. Stout had an engagement today. I'll let him know you were here to see him. Would you like me to arrange a time tomorrow? It looks like he is free at 11:00 in the morning.”
“That will be fine, I'm happy Mr. Harvey is finding an interest outside these walls. He works much too hard.” Lucinda smiled. “Don't you just love it when two people find each other, Jamison?”
Jamison laughed. “I can tell that made your day. You are such a romantic. I'm glad you are, if it weren't for you I'd still be living all by myself in Greensboro. Instead I have a growing family and couldn't be happier.”
They parted ways and Lucinda went to visit Emma and Lily. Sarah Harcourt was in the shop and talking excitedly about Hannah's Treasure. She and her husband, Max discovered a hundred year old mystery involving Hannah Lane and her husband. Sarah felt a connection to her ancestor, Hannah. She was compelled to write her life story and unbeknownst to her, Max had arranged to have it published. It was a story of love and hardship, a very sad tale of people who were trusting to the wrong person. One of the Save the Library projects was to put on a play and invite all folks from the surrounding area to attend with the proceeds going to help pay off the bank loan needed to keep the library under Camden Corners control.
“Hi ladies, I see you have been working on your script Sarah, how's it coming?” Asked Lucinda.
“I finished it last night with the help of my dear Max. I think it's going to be a good play. I've made several changes to make it a bit more uplifting. The true story of a husband and wife being murdered and their children left at the door of an orphanage just doesn't cry out happy ending.”
“I've read your book several times and always dissolve in tears.”
“I know,” added Emma, “Richard can't understand why I continue to read it when it makes me so sad.”
“Men just don't understand.” said Lily.
“I was hoping someone would be willing to read the play and tell me what you think. Don't worry, Sylvia still has a big part in the story. I love the idea of Beverly Mills as Sylvia. That was Emma's suggestion,” she said to Lucinda.
“Oh good, I never did see Beverly perform because I wasn't living here at the time but I understand it was quite a shock when she appeared on stage.”
Lily spoke up. “I hope she isn't still working with that slimy Elmer Brubaker. I think he took most of the profit from the show she put on. I know we didn't collect nearly as much money as we should have.”
Nettie walked out from the back room. “Did I hear you talking about Beverly Mills? I felt so sorry for her when she came to town and we all were expecting the famous opera singer. I wrote down her address to write her a thank you note and we have been corresponding ever since. She really is a very sweet lady. She did part ways with Elmer and has cleaned up her act quite a bit.”
Sarah said, “Do you think she would be offended if we asked her to play the part of Sylvia Reynolds in Hannah's Treasure?”
“I think she would love it. I'm going to go to Oscar's office right now to use the telephone to call her in New York. I have her phone number in my address book. Beverly comments in every letter about how much she enjoyed visiting our town. I'll invite her to stay with Oscar and me. I don't know how much she charges for her appearances but I'm sure we can work something out.”
The girls knew the play would be wonderful. Sarah was a gifted author and with Max helping her out it was guaranteed to be good. Lily began reading the first few pages, as she finished she handed them to Lily and then to Lucinda. Sarah walked to her family's home to visit with her mother. She was nervous watching everyone read her play. Marian was happy to see her daughter looking so well. Her first grandchild would be coming into the world very soon. Marian remembered the reservations she had about Max Harcourt. She thought he was much too sophisticated for her sheltered daughter. She was glad Max had proven her wrong. The two young people were perfect for each other. After a while Sarah walked back to the antique shop.
All three of her friends were dabbing their eyes with their hankies. That's a good sign, thought Sarah. There is a bittersweet part near the end of the story.
Lily finished the last page. She stood up and hurried to wrap her arms around Sarah “What a beautiful story Sarah. I loved the new ending and I think Hannah would be happy with it too.”
As each of the ladies finished the story they wiped their eyes and hugged Sarah. With everyone talking at once they didn't hear Max enter the shop. He knew Sarah had a hit with the play. His concern was that the local actors wouldn't do it justice.
“Looks like everyone likes your play Sarah.”
“Oh Max, isn't it wonderful? Lily and Emma just told me Richard and Robert were willing to play the Lane brothers. I spoke with Betsy Wallace earlier. She would love portraying Hannah and she was sure Charlie would jump at the chance to play the sinister Clarence Reynolds. Nettie is calling Beverly Mills as we speak. You weren't here when she came to Camden Corners a while back. She will make a perfect Sylvia Reynolds. Max, I'm so excited. This is really shaping up and I have a good feeling that we will raise a lot of money for the library.”
Max still had his doubts about the cast but Sarah's enthusiasm was catching. He had been around theatrical productions through the years, even tried his hand at directing a time or two. Sarah was thrilled when he agreed to direct. She hesitated to ask Luke Shannon since he would be working on the talent show in a few months.
We have so many talented people in town, I'm sure we won't have any trouble getting help with the sets. Nettie opened the door. “Beverly can't wait to get here. She will be on the first train out of New York in the morning. She wants to get started right away and is looking forward to playing a tart. I also stopped by the newspaper office. Josie Blackburn said they would be delighted to print up scripts, signs, programs and anything else we may need.”
Max was flabbergasted that everything was falling into place in just one afternoon. “Never underestimate the power of the women of Camden Corners. When you ladies set your mind to getting a job done, there is no stopping you.”
As he'd promised, Leland Harvey opened the door to his home to Emma and Lily.
“Hello ladies, please come in. Miss Millie is already here and waiting in the parlor.”
Emma and Lily walked into the house and knew immediately that this house was a goldmine of treasures. They greeted Millie and she poured them a cup of tea from the fresh pot the housekeeper had just brought into the room.
“Ladies have a look around, there is nothing I have any attachment to so if you think you see something of value, please feel free to take it with you. Mother was a collector of everything. I think Mrs. Rollins, my housekeeper, would be happy to see this place emptied out. She never complains but I know it takes her a full morning to dust the items in the parlor alone.”
Lily spoke up. “Mr. Harvey, you have so many beautiful and valuable pieces. Emma and I can't just take them. Maybe we could arrange to sell them on consignment for you if you are willing.”
“Lily dear. I have worked all my life and nothing in here has given me the pleasure that spending an evening with Miss Millie and her family did recently. If you feel better about selling them on consignment, I would be willing to accept that and donate the profits to the library.”
Just looking at Millie and Mr. Harvey glancing at each other, Emma wondered if Mr. Harvey was planning a move sometime in the near future. A move into the Merryweather household would be her guess.
“Mr. Harvey,” Emma said, “we will be delighted to sell your mother's collection. We'll arrange to have Jonas pick everything up at your convenience.”
“Please ladies, call me Leland. Mr. Harvey is the banker and I plan to be spending less and less time at the bank.”
Emma didn't think she had ever seen a broader smile than the one that was on Millie's face as he spoke.