Thursday, June 14, 2012
Ernie Black walked to the Harvey house renovation site with a bounce in his step. Reggie saw him from the front step.
“Ernie, I take it your engagement was a success last night”
“Hello boss, you can say that again. Beverly is the greatest. I haven't had that much fun in years. As a matter of fact I have never had that much fun.”
The other fellows joked and teased him. Everyone liked Ernie and they were glad he was coming out of his shell. They envied him a little too. Beverly Mills was a quite the feather in Ernie's cap.
Ernie was surprised when he looked up and saw Beverly walking by on her way to rehearsal at the Opera House.
“Hi Ernie, I had a wonderful time last night. I hope you will be coming by the Opera House on your lunch break. Nettie packed a lunch for me and there is more than enough for two.”
Ernie didn't show any shyness at all as he walked towards Beverly and whispered in her ear. She giggled and they parted.
“Hi boys!” She yelled out to the men who were staring at the twosome in disbelief. Was this Ernie Black, the man who wouldn't even look in a woman's direction? They all patted him on the back as he climbed the porch steps with a smile on his face.
Jack Mackenzie was busy putting the finishing touches on the scenery backgrounds. His brother Mack was helping him with the painting and was doing quite well. Mack enjoyed painting. He found it relaxed him after a busy day at the Pub. He wasn't interested in making it his profession like his brother but he did have talent.
Today was the first dress rehearsal. Betsy Wallace was getting nervous that she would forget her lines.
“Beverly, I don't know why I ever agreed to do this. Sarah has written a beautiful play and I will just ruin the part of Hannah if I look out into that crowd and freeze. Have you ever felt like this?”
“Every time I step out on that stage. Pick out someone in the audience that you know and just play to that one person. I'd say play to that cute Charlie Wentworth but since he is my hateful, nasty husband, I guess that won't be possible. I have never seen such a nice fellow portray a devil so well.”
“Max told him to think of his father's business associates and act like them. From that moment on he had the part down pat. Thanks for the advice, I will find my Grandmother, Bess. She will think I'm wonderful even if I do forget my lines. How was your dinner with Ernie last night?”
“Ernie is the greatest. I can't believe the change in him. Maria Marino asked me to sing and it turns out Ernie knows how to play the piano. He played and I sang. We were quite the duo. After dinner we walked by the lake and he kissed me.” She whispered. “He'll be stopping by for lunch. I just saw him on my way here and I miss him already. I know I sound like a silly schoolgirl but I have never felt this way before.”
“Oh Beverly, I think it's wonderful. Isn't it grand to be in love?”
“Yes it is.” Charlie said as he came up behind Betsy. “How are you doing this morning? Still nervous?
“Not so much anymore. Beverly gave me a hint about the crowd. I'll pretend Grandma Bess is the only person in the audience and I won't be so nervous.”
“That's not such a bad idea. I think I'll look for Grandpa Wally.
Grandma Bess and Grandpa Wally had a farm outside of town. Charlie, who initially called himself Charlie Brent went to work for them as a farmhand. Although Charlie was a good worker, Wally knew he had never worked on a farm before. The truth was he had escaped his father's wrath after he told him he refused to take over the family business and marry the daughter of an influential client who he couldn't stand. Charlie wanted to be a writer. Betsy had her suspicions about the farmhand and had her friend, Max Harcourt check into his background. His true identity was discovered but not before a near fatal accident left him unconscious. His father came to realize that his son deserved to make his own decisions about his future and they reconciled. Betsy and Charlie fell in love and planned to be married in the summer.
Josie Blackburn, founder of the Camden Corners Chronicle and her assistant, Randy Burke had printed playbills, programs and tickets for the play. They had printed enough tickets to fill the auditorium and all the shop owners had been given a supply. It was discovered first thing that morning that the tickets were gone and the play had been sold out.
“Max, I have good news and bad news,” Josie told him after arriving at the Opera House. “The good news is we have sold out for the performance. The bad news is we have sold out for the performance.”
Max called all of the actors and stage hands together and told them of the dilemma. “If I can clear it with the Opera House owner, would everybody be willing to put on another performance or two? Looks like we are a hit before we even start.”
Everyone was agreeable to the change and excitement was mounting.
“Go ahead Josie, print up more tickets. Thanks for advertising our play so well.”
“It's my pleasure. I want this little one to have the benefit of listening to Miss Isabelle read stories one day. She patted her tummy.”
The dress rehearsal went well and Max got the OK to use the Opera House for as long as he needed it. The theater critics he had invited had accepted his invitation. He hadn't told anyone that they would be in the audience including Sarah. He knew it would make her even more anxious than she was already.
The day of the opening was a bustle of activity. Everyone in town was anxious to lend a hand. The ticket sales had been overwhelming. The play was now scheduled for three performances and those tickets were close to selling out. Each train pulling into the station that day had passengers disembarking in Camden Corners. The shops were filled with customers. Diana Taylor had to close the bakery before two in the afternoon because she ran out of small cakes and cookies. Maddie and her mother had a difficult time keeping up with the customers and called in as many of the Burke and Mackenzie children they could find to help out in the candy shop. Both antique shops were popular stops and Pringles Christmas Shop had never sold as many yuletide ornaments in the spring before. The Trattoria and Pub had customers waiting outside for tables until after 7:00 in the evening. Carriages and automobiles lined the streets. Residents opened their homes to strangers so they would have a place to sleep. The ski lodge had been closed for two months but opened its doors to visitors.
The play began right on schedule at 8:00 sharp. The performance was flawless. Max had insisted on rehearsal after rehearsal and his diligence paid off. Max tried to catch the expression on the faces of the critics he had invited. They never showed any reaction but the audience did. He could hear people crying softly during the tender and sensitive scenes and laughing when the scenes were lighthearted and funny. The curtain came down for intermission and everyone was raving about the play. They were all anxious to get back to their seats for the second half and as the curtain rose, there was silent anticipation.
All too soon the final curtain fell. Everyone stood, clapping and shouting BRAVO and ENCORE. Ernie counted 12 curtain calls.
“Not too bad for an amateur production,” he said to Reggie.
The critics came backstage after the crowd began to depart. They all shook Max's hand and thanked him for the invitation. Beverly recognized one of the gentleman and knew immediately what they were there for. She winked at Max and kept his secret.
Helene walked home with Millie and Leland. Neville would be attending the play the next day with his son and daughters. He had shared Hermione's revelations about Prudence with Millie.
“I don't see any reason why you want to wait for six months before you and Helene marry. You should have married years ago. Neville, nobody will think any less of you if you get on with your life. It's no secret how Prudence died.”
“Millicent, I must follow my conscience in this matter. Helene understands and agrees with me. We will see each other as we have since she came to Camden Corners. I'll be living at Mrs. Wharton's until I can arrange to have a house built for our family. We will marry no sooner than September and that is final.”
“I will plan the wedding for September 1st. We will make it a formal affair maybe rent out the winery, it will be lovely in the late summer with the grapevines almost ready for harvest.”
“You will do no such thing. Helene and I will plan our own wedding. Under the circumstances I think being married in Vicar Will's office with our family and a few friends present will be the appropriate thing to do.”
“I don't like it but I won't argue with you. At least you have come to your senses and stopped blaming yourself for Prudence's death.”
Helene was quiet on the walk home.
“Is everything alright Helene? You haven't said a word since we left the theater.”
“Oh, I'm sorry Millie. I was so moved by Sarah's play tonight. I read her book when I first came to Camden Corners. I know how the true story ended and it makes me very sad. I must admit, I'm glad she made the ending a happier one. She is so talented. In fact, everyone performed their parts beautifully. Betsy Wallace is such a sweet girl. I know her from the library. She and Charlie Wentworth make a nice couple. I hope James can find someone special someday. I guess I'm just feeling a bit melancholy because of the play.”
“It probably doesn't help that my brother is keeping his distance. He doesn't owe that woman anything. I'm sorry, I shouldn't speak ill of the dead but it upsets me that she still has power over him even from the grave.”
“I agree with Neville, Millie. We can't disrespect the memory of the mother of his daughters. I know Neville loves me. I never thought we would be together and now I can see a future for us. September isn't that far away. I can wait and I hope you can too.”
At that moment Neville was looking at a calendar. September was so very far away. Maybe he was too hasty when he suggested six months. He missed Helene.
“Mrs. Wharton, I'm stepping out for a while. I'm anxious to see how my sister enjoyed the play this evening.”
“Have nice visit with Millie and say hello to Helene for me.” Martha Wharton said with a chuckle in her voice.
Neville was embarrassed but it didn't stop him from walking up the hill to the old Merryweather mansion.