Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The Parker Family
Annie Spencer was just a little nervous as the train pulled into the station at Camden Corners . She still clung to the newspaper carrying the ad she had answered two weeks ago.
Wanted: A wife and a mother. Hope you can cook. Andy Parker P.O. Box 72, Camden Corners .
Annie was still recovering from a broken heart after Peter Stanford ran off with Eileen Becker last month. She couldn't believe she had actually gotten on that train yesterday morning and was here in Camden Corners today. What had she done? She had no money to get back home if Mr. Parker turned out to be an old reprobate and his children were monsters.
Annie had worked in the Stanford Emporium for two years before Peter left her at the alter and she needed to get away from the town where everyone knew of her humiliation.
Annie re-read the letter she had received back from Mr. Parker.
Please be here by Thanksgiving so you can cook our turkey dinner.
She knew she had lost her mind because nobody in their right one would have been on the next train to Camden Corners after reading that letter. What was she going to do now?
Andy Parker, who had just turned 9 and was much too clever for his own good, had just left the post office after closing the box he had opened two weeks before.
He had watched his Dad do many things as the Postmaster for Camden Corners and knew just how to fill out the paperwork so that he would be able to receive answers to his ad.
It didn't take much to place an ad in the classified section. Mrs. Willard was too busy at the newspaper office to notice what each ad said and he had broken into his piggy bank to pay for everything fair and square.
Andy ran toward the train station just as the passengers were leaving the train. Miss Annie Spencer was on that train and he would see her in just a few minutes. He was filled with excitement. She wrote that she would be wearing a yellow flower on the lapel of her navy blue winter coat. He waited what seemed to be an eternity and then he saw her. She was very pretty with dark brown hair tied back with a yellow ribbon. Her smile made him feel good all over. He was finding it harder and harder to remember his mama and what she looked like but he thought she looked a little like the lady who was standing by the door of the train looking right at him.
Jackson Parker and his beloved wife, Adele had been married for 10 years and had 3 children when she was stricken with influenza and died in his arms in the spring of the previous year. Jackson was beside himself with grief but he put up a brave front for his children. They were well cared for with the help of their housekeeper, Mrs. Bridges. The kind folks of Camden Corners were always on hand to offer their support.
Mrs. Bridges was a wonderful housekeeper and loved the children but she couldn't cook worth a darn. Jackson hadn't noticed during the first year she was there because he wasn't paying attention to much of anything then. Even though she couldn't cook, she was a big help to him and he was sorry when she told him she would be moving to Bloomfield to be with her daughter and her new baby. He would have to find someone to take her place but he didn't want to think about that right now.
He was worried about Andy. He knew something was going on with him, he had become very secretive the last couple of weeks. He was going to sit him down this evening and find out exactly what it was. Jackson worried about all of his children but Andy had been affected the most by his mother's death because he was 7 years old at the time and remembered her more than the other children. Carrie was only 3 and Allison was just a few months old.
Andy ran up to the kind lady and asked if she was Miss Annie Spencer.
“Yes, I am young man. I was to meet Mr. Parker here today. Do you know where I might find him?”
Andy smiled and introduced himself as Mr. Parker's son. He retrieved Annie's bag and started walking toward his home with his new mother. Annie thought it was odd that the elder Mr. Parker would send his young son to meet a stranger who would soon be his wife. They arrived at the Parker house just as Jackson was wending his way home from the Post Office.
Mary Nell Blanchard was looking after the children for him this afternoon. He would have to find a permanent arrangement for them. Mary Nell said Andrew never arrived after school today. She didn't know where he was but she knew the boys often played ball after school. Jackson had specifically told Andrew to meet him at the Post Office. It was definitely the night for a talk.
As Andrew turned at the corner, Jackson saw him walking with a lovely looking young woman. He knew he hadn't seen her around town before. If he had, he would have remembered her.
Andrew excitedly said “Dad, this is Miss Annie Spencer, your new wife and our new mother.”
Jackson was flabbergasted and apologized profusely to Miss Spencer for his son's rude outburst. He didn't know what had gotten into that boy lately. Annie was embarrassed. It was obvious Mr. Parker was not aware of the arrangement she thought had been made between them.
Andrew looked sheepishly at both of them. “Dad, you need a wife and we need a mother and Miss Annie is going to cook our Thanksgiving dinner.”
Jackson didn't know what to do. He invited Miss Spencer to step into their parlor and out of the frigid air. Andrew confessed to his father what he had done. Jackson told him to go to his room and take his sisters with him, he and Miss Spencer were going to have a talk. Jackson was having a difficult time controlling his temper. Miss Spencer was obviously up to no good because who in their right mind would answer an ad like that?
Annie admitted she had acted impulsively, she couldn't explain herself it just seemed it was a solution to an uncomfortable position she found herself in back home in Bakersville.
Jackson stood up and started pacing the room. He couldn't throw the poor girl out in the snow but she couldn't stay here either, it just wouldn't be appropriate. He looked at Annie with pity in his eyes and hit a nerve.
“Mr. Parker, I will not trouble you any longer. I'm sure I will be able to find a room for let. I'll see myself out.”
With that she was out the door and halfway to the next block. She was trying desperately to hold back the tears. What a fool she was. No wonder Peter didn't want her. She didn't have a brain in her head or a nickel in her pocket to pay for a room. She would walk back to the train station and find a seat in the corner. Maybe she wouldn't be noticed and she would come up with a solution to her dilemma in the morning.
Jackson was still furious. He rarely raised his voice to any of his children so Andrew was very afraid when he heard his Dad shout his name. Jackson could see the fear in his son's eyes and realized Andrew had done what he thought would make the family happy. If it wasn't such a mess, he would think it was funny. Jackson gave his son a hug and then realized Miss Spencer had left the house.
He told Andrew to keep an eye on the girls while he left the house in search of his mail order bride. Annie didn't want Mr. Parker to know how upset she was. She tried to hide her face from him but he could see the glistening around her eyes. He had the feeling she was all alone in the world and he felt guilty for treating her like a criminal and an insane criminal at that. He begged her to come back to the house with him.
Mrs. Wharton had prepared a delicious lamb stew for their dinner and it would be ruined if they didn't get it off the warming stove very soon. Talk of the lamb stew was all Annie needed. She swallowed what little pride she had left and agreed to go with Mr. Parker. Just for supper and then she would be on her way again.
As Annie and Jackson checked the stew, she wondered if he would like her to make some biscuits to go with the stew. While she was making the biscuits, she notice there were the makings for a sponge cake. Before she knew it, she had cooked a meal fit for a king or at least a little prince and two pretty little princesses.
Jackson had been reading his evening paper and the children were playing by his feet. He didn't think he had felt this relaxed since before Adele got sick. The meal was wonderful and all the extras Annie had made were especially good.
After supper, she sat down on the floor and played games with the children. Jackson joined them and they played until it was time for the children to go to bed. Annie read them each a story and tucked them into their beds. She was finding herself regretting that Mr. Jackson Parker was not the author of that ad.
While Annie was reading to his children, Jackson was knocking on the Wharton Boarding House door to see if Mrs. Wharton had a spare room. Jackson walked Annie to Mrs. Wharton's and thanked her for a fine evening.
Annie told Mrs. Wharton she would be on her way but thanked her for her offer. Annie didn't know that Jackson tried to pay Mrs. Wharton for the room but she wouldn't accept the money. Anyone that could brighten Jackson Parker's eyes like that was welcome in her home at any time. Mrs. Wharton insisted Annie stay. She could help her prepare breakfast and tidy up the rooms in the morning and they would call it even.
Annie was so tired she gratefully accepted the offer and slept dreaming of a handsome young prince and two beautiful little princesses. Maybe the King was in that dream somewhere too.
Mrs. Wharton encouraged Annie to stay in Camden Corners for a little while longer. Before long and much to the delight of Andy, Carrie and Allison, Jackson and Annie were married the Saturday before Thanksgiving and Annie prepared the most wonderful Thanksgiving dinner any of them ever remembered eating. Annie and Jackson were mostly thankful that Thanksgiving Day for a little boy who had placed an ad for a new wife and mother. Annie was just what the Parker Family needed.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Christopher and Priscilla Pringle were the proud owners of the Snowflake Christmas Shop in Camden Corners . Snowflakes was a favorite of all the folks in town and their many visitors from other villages in the area and even as far away as Chicago and New York City.
Chris was a jolly old guy with his white beard and round belly. Priscilla was a bit round herself. She always wore a bright red apron with red and white striped candy filling the pockets.
Whenever anyone opened the door of the Snowflake Christmas Shop, they would hear the sound of jingle bells and smell the aroma of fresh baked gingerbread and sugar cookies. The Pringles knew how to keep the Christmas spirit going all year long.
They were never blessed with children of their own but they loved all the children in town and the children all loved them. They had a dog who answered to the name of Rudy. Rudy was a big old loveable dog who seemed happiest when he was laying in front of the cozy fireplace in the vestibule of the shop. Children would stop by on their way home from school just to pet Rudy and accept one of his sloppy kisses. Mrs. Pringle made sure each child in town had a special Christmas ornament to display on their Christmas tree each year. She molded and painted each and every ornament and made sure to personalize it with the child's name.
It was one warm summer day when she was relaxing on the shore of Lake Camden that she happened to see a small silk pouch wash ashore. Curiosity overcame her and she finally opened the pouch. There were a number of the most beautiful stones she had ever seen. Some looked like diamonds they were so sparkly and bright. Others were a deep red, some dark green and a few a golden yellow and even some very pale blue. Priscilla looked around and didn't see a soul. She took the sack back to the apartment above the store where she and Chris lived.
Chris suggested she put an ad in the local paper looking for the rightful owner. When no one answered the ad, they stopped in to see Sheriff Mendenhall. The sheriff thought the stones were very pretty but couldn't imagine they would be of any value and assured them they would not be committing any crime if they just kept them.
Priscilla had not begun her annual ornament making chore and thought the stones would be a fine addition to the children's ornaments this year. She made reindeer with lovely aqua blue eyes, Snowmen with emerald green eyes, Santas with ruby red noses, train engines with topaz yellow smoke billowing from their stacks and angels with sparkling diamonds in their hair. She wrote a child's name on every ornament holding out several for the many babies who were expected to arrive in Camden Corners before Christmas that year. Priscilla would never want to leave even the tiniest of them without an ornament.
Chris was walking Rudy down by the dock near Flanagan's fish market on a quiet Sunday afternoon. He spotted a stranger looking into the water near the shore.
“Hello my good fellow. Isn't this the finest looking lake you have ever seen. We townsfolk are very proud of our pristine waters here in Camden Corners . Are you looking to do some fishing here?”
The gentlemen barely looked up and mumbled something about just looking for something he may have dropped in the water. Chris offered to help him look for the object but the man declined and walked quickly away.
Ebeneezer Finch climbed on his horse. He was in big trouble. All he did was stop off at that pub called O'Sullivan's to wet his whistle a few weeks ago. He was really thirsty and it was such a hot day it wasn't his fault that he may have had one too many and dropped part of his loot from that jewelry store heist in Greensboro. Why had it taken his boss, Ronald Crump so long to discover part of the haul was missing? He remembered taking those jewels out of his satchel and admiring them as he was walking toward the lake. After all it was a very hot day and who could blame Eb for taking a little dip in the lake. Maybe he did fall asleep on the shore but he was very tired from the long ride. Just thinking about that nice cold draft he had at the pub made him thirsty. He should be looking for the gems but he was awfully thirsty and Eb needed a break from his search. That first cold beer went down so easily he found himself ordering a second, then third and after that he lost track.
Chris walked Rudy until they were both tired and thirsty. Maybe a little lager would taste good right now. Priscilla was filling in for the church organist and she and the choir members were practicing for the Wednesday Evening Summer concert. Chris didn't like going home to an empty apartment so he and Rudy stopped at O'Sullivan's Pub. Rudy was such a well behaved dog he was welcome in the pub. Chris didn't remember Rudy ever growling, especially at humans but he was certainly growling at the man sitting at the corner of the bar. Well, if it wasn't the stranger who had been walking by the water earlier. Chris nodded hello and tried to calm Rudy with a doggie treat he had in his pocket. Eb, obviously well into his cups, was keeping a close eye on Rudy. He didn't like dogs and this one was none too friendly.
It was time he was getting back to his search. Just as he walked in front of Rudy, he slipped on Rudy's doggie treat and fell forward catching his shirtsleeve on the edge of the bar stool. Chris felt terrible about the mishap and insisted the stranger come home with him. Priscilla would be home by now and she was a whiz with a needle and thread. Eb was none too steady on his feet and gave in letting Chris escort him from the bar. Rudy was still unsure of this stranger but stopped his growling.
Priscilla was indeed home and was happy to stitch the strangers shirt. Chris thought a cup of coffee might be in order for their guest. By the time the coffee was ready, Eb was sound to sleep in Chris' favorite chair. Afternoon turned into evening and Eb was still asleep. Priscilla covered him with a blanket and the Pringles called it a night.
In the morning Eb woke up not remembering where he was or how he got there. He slowly remembered that he was looking for the pouch with the jewels inside when he decided he needed a little liquid refreshment. He really needed to concentrate on finding those jewels. Seems like the jolly old goat had a jolly wife too. How Eb hated jolly people. Here they were offering him a breakfast of eggs, pancakes and sausages. He should just leave but the food smelled so good he couldn't get himself to walk out the door.
Eb was silent as he wolfed down three helpings of pancakes and a half dozen eggs. He happened to glance over towards the breakfront. He caught sight of what looked like Christmas ornaments. “What is this crazy woman doing with Christmas ornaments at this time of year?” Priscilla noticed Eb looking at the ornaments. He hadn't said more than two words since he had arrived yesterday. Priscilla told him what the ornaments were for, he glanced at them again and noticed sparkling red noses on the Santas.
He arose from his chair to get a better look and thought “Holy Smoke those are my jewels. What has Mrs. Jolly done with my jewels?”
Eb knew he had to calm down and figure out how he was going to get his jewels back even if it meant he would have to take those stupid ornaments with him. Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed. He admired the ornaments and enthused when Priscilla told him how she had found those pretty stones by the lake.
He was fit to be tied. Why didn't that old biddy just leave the pouch for him to find. He just had to get them back, clean them up and get them to his boss, Ronald Crump before Mr. Crump arranged for Eb to be buried in clay himself.
Eb listened patiently as Priscilla recited the names on each and every ornament and described each and every child in the town of Camden Corners. Priscilla knew Eb was a little hard around the edges but she suspected he was softening up hearing about the children and Christmas in Camden Corners .
Chris came up the stairs after taking Rudy out for a short walk and opening the shop. Eb watched as Priscilla packed up the ornaments for storage in the basement until it was time to present them to the children. Priscilla carried the container down the two flights of stairs. Eb started following but was stopped at the basement door by Rudy who was looking suspiciously at him. Eb wanted to kick the dumb mutt out of the way but his fear stopped him. He would find a way to get into that basement even if it meant he would have to hide in the bushes next to the shop.
Eb was out the door without so much as a fare thee well to the Pringles. What a strange man Priscilla thought but nothing, not even a grouchy old man could put a damper on such a glorious day.
Harry Plumb from Greensboro was the first customer of the day. Priscilla was finishing up the last of the delightful ornaments at her workbench in the shop. Harry was a good customer. He owned the Jewelry store in Greensboro and often stopped in to purchase a holiday memento for his best customers. Today he was ordering a wreath for his front door. He knew it was early, but he wanted to make sure he got his order in early and besides, it had been a while since he had paid the Pringles a visit. Harry noticed Priscilla's handiwork with the ornaments. Priscilla was truly an artist.
He noticed the jewels and thought they looked familiar. He mentioned that his store had been robbed a few months ago and the thief had made off with some jewels that he was storing for Mrs. Penelope Crane while she was traveling to Europe. Mrs. Crane had taken her authentic jewelry with her along with her body guard. Normally, the jewelry was kept in the safe at the jewelry store but they were exchanged for the paste ones the day before the heist. He had also stored a pouch with some beautiful, but imitation stones that looked a lot like the ones in the ornaments in front of him.
Priscilla felt terrible. These stones belonged to her friend Harry. “Why didn't she think to ask him about them? Who would have thought a pouch from Greensboro would end up on the shores of Lake Camden?” She explained about running the ad in the paper and visiting with sheriff Mendenhall. Priscilla wanted to pay Harry for the stones but he insisted they were his contribution to these beautiful keepsakes for the children.
Eb, who was hiding in the bushes heard every word of the conversation inside the store. His heart sank. He had stolen fake jewelry and had turned it over to his boss. Ronald Crump was not the type of man who would understand that Eb had made an honest mistake. He even had one of his henchmen pick up a Greensboro newspaper and that was where he read about the silk pouch that was stolen along with the jewelry. He was giving Eb fair warning that the pouch must be found and brought to him before the end of the week. The article in the paper didn't say anything about the jewels being paste. They probably didn't want to alert any other thieves that Mrs. Crane had the real stuff with her.
Eb decided he'd better take off on his horse riding west and just keep riding. When Mr. Crump caught up with him he would be toast anyway. That's exactly what he would do but not before he stopped into the Pub for one last beer.
Harry said goodbye to the Pringles. He had some other friends he wanted to visit while he was in Camden Corners . He stopped in O'Sullivan's Pub. Gus Reilly was working that Monday morning. While he and Gus were talking, Harry noticed a nervous looking man sitting at the end of the bar. He matched the description of the thief who had broken into his store a month ago.
Gus stepped out of the bar and flagged down Sheriff Mendenhall. He explained the situation and the sheriff approached Eb. Panic set in and Eb took off out the front door of O'Sullivan's leaving a full mug of beer on the bar.
He raced down the street to find his horse when Rudy who had been laying by the front door of the Snowflake Christmas Shop suddenly took off after Eb catching him by the seat of the pants.
Eb confessed his crime and many others that sunny Monday morning. A little nip on the backside and a few years in the state prison were nothing compared to the punishment Ronald Crump would have subjected him to. Rudy was the town hero and was allowed to ride next to his friend Spot on the front seat of the fire truck in the Christmas parade that year. The same year the children of Camden Corners all received their special Christmas ornaments lovingly made by Priscilla Pringle with the help of Mr. Ebeneezer Finch.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Camden Corners' Ladies Auxiliary is having their monthly meeting in the basement of Trinity Church. Martha Wharton has called the meeting to order.
“Before the reading of the minutes, Mary Agnes Brubaker has some exciting news for us. Mary Agnes , the chair recognizes you”
“Madam Chairwoman” the excited Miss Brubaker began. “My cousin, Elmer T. Brubaker of New York City, New York has been able to obtain the services of Miss Beverly Sills, the world renowned opera singer to perform in our very own Camden Corners Opera House. Miss Sills will only be available on Tuesday of next week. I am to let him know our decision by this evening.”
The room was filled with enthusiastic chatter.
“What a coup this is for Camden Corners.” exclaimed Hattie May Carlisle. The auxiliary voted unanimously in favor of having the famous opera singer entertain the good folks of Camden Corners .
They had just enough money in their bank account to cover the $24 for Miss Sills' concert and Elmer T. Brubaker's fee. Martha Wharton offered rooms in her boarding house at no cost to Miss Sills and her entourage.
Diana Taylor, who had been sitting quietly, raised her hand to speak. “I'm no expert on the subject, however that seems like a very small amount of money for a performance by someone of Miss Sills' stature.”
Diana's words went unheeded and talk began of how to get the word out. Evelyn Keys, the principal of Camden Grammar School suggested the students make handbills to be distributed through the village and all of the surrounding towns. All of the shops in the village would place posters in their windows. This concert was going to be a huge success. The meeting was adjourned early because the ladies had so much to do if everything was to go off without a hitch the following Tuesday.
Mary Agnes was grinning from ear to ear as she made her way to the post office to send a telegram to her dear cousin, Elmer T. On her way down the street, a black cat crossed her path but she was so busy patting herself on the back she didn't notice.
Within hours, the whole town was busy preparing for the celebration of the arrival of Miss Beverly Sills. The High School Band was practicing in full dress uniform just to make sure their performance welcoming the special guest was flawless.
Mayor Horton had his best suit cleaned and polished the key to the city himself. He had written a short 40 minute speech and was practicing in front of his secretary as she was dozing off.
The vicar rode his bicycle from town to town delivering handbills as soon as the children colored in the last “S” on Miss Sills' name.
Finally the day of the concert was here. Miss Sills' train was due to arrive at any moment. The children had been let out of school early and all the shop owners had closed their stores for the day. The band started playing. Everyone was waving a handkerchief in the air. The train pulled in and the doors opened. Several passengers disembarked and the crowd waited in anticipation. Finally the conductor stepped off the train and said there were no more passengers inside.
“Miss Sills must have taken an earlier train,” a disappointed Mary Agnes exclaimed. The crowd broke up and went home to dress and prepare for the concert.
In the meantime, a buxom blond was checking into Mrs. Wharton's boarding house for the night. Someone very special must be visiting Camden Corners by the looks of the reception they are getting, she thought to herself.
The concert was set to begin at 7:30. Elmer T peeked from behind the curtain.
“What a glorious crowd tonight. I wonder if I mentioned to Mary Agnes that my cut of the ticket sales would be 20%? I wonder why that orchestra is warming up. Beverly usually doesn't have such a fine accompaniment.”
Martha Wharton stepped center stage to introduced the special guest for the evening. Elmer T had given her an introduction script. Martha welcomed everyone to the Camden Corners Opera House. “On behalf of the Camden Corners Ladies' Auxiliary, I now present Miss Beverly MILLS??? world famous VAUDEVILLIAN star. With that, Elmer T wheeled out a baby grand piano with Miss Beverly Mills perched on top.
Martha felt her knees go weak. In the audience Mary Agnes fainted into the lap of her escort, Milton Mellon. Mothers covered the eyes of their children. Gasps could be heard all around the room.
Beverly belted out Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home.
The children were trying to peek through their mother's fingers at the fancy lady on stage. The single men were whistling and carrying on while the married men were trying to hide their pleasure from their wives.
Diana and her good friend Maddie were giggling along with Emma and Lily. Even Nettie was getting a kick out of the spectacle.
Beverly realized there must have been a misunderstanding. She promptly buttoned a couple of buttons on her blouse, told Elmer T to cut the piano music, spoke to the orchestra leader and began singing family friendly songs in a beautiful, soft voice. She wasn't Beverly Sills by any means but she was a fine entertainer.
Martha's knees started feeling stronger, Mary Agnes came out of her stupor, mothers took their hands away from their children's eyes and everyone sat back and enjoyed the show.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Joe and Diana Taylor had been married almost 5 years. They had not been blessed with children and were beginning to wonder if they would ever have the big family they both wanted. Joe was a fireman and Diana owned Warm Hearth Bakery in the village of Camden Corners They had known each other since they started kindergarten together at Camden Grammar School. Doc McMillan told them there was no need to worry that they would most definitely have their family one day. In the meantime, they had full and busy lives. Diana loved when the school children walked home each afternoon and set out a plate of cookies for them. Each child looked forward to passing by the bakery and choosing a delicious treat from the plate.
In the hills far above Camden Corners lived Earl Short and his daughter Iris. Iris had just turned 5 years old but nobody remembered the date of her birth.
Her mother Mavis was a bright young girl who found a package filled with books. They had accidentally dropped from a traveling salesman's wagon as he was making his way across the bumpy road near the shack she called home. Mavis hid the books and every chance she got she would pour over them until she taught herself to read. She lived in the world of Little Women and Jane Eyre and read them over and over again.
When Mavis turned 14, Maw told her it was time to marry and Earl Short had chosen her to be his wife and bear his children. Mavis knew she didn't have a choice and accepted her fate.
Mavis was calm during a very difficult labor and finally delivered a beautiful little girl she named Iris. Maw placed the baby in her arms and Mavis whispered a prayer that her daughter would be safe and grow up surrounded by love.
Earl arrived from tending his still just in time to see his wife close her eyes for the last time. He was furious that she hadn't given him a son and walked out of the shack without a backward glance at his daughter.
Maw did the best she could with the girl. Iris' name was never spoken. She was only referred to as “Girl”. Paw rarely spoke to her at all and when he did he was issuing an order. Girl had taken after her mother in so many ways. She looked just like her and always was able to see the good in everyone and everything.
One day Maw started feeling poorly. She had always known about the books that Mavis kept hidden and showed Girl the hiding place. She wanted so much more for her granddaughter than she or her daughter had in life. Maw prayed Girl would find her way out of this place and discover whatever world there is beyond the hills. Maw passed away in her sleep several days later.
Earl was smoking his stogie next to his still one late autumn afternoon when a spark hit the still and it exploded and burned to the ground. He decided this was a sign to pack up his few belongings and leave the hills for the first time in his life. He'd heard talk of gold in the west and decided that was what he would do.
He would have to take Girl with him but she was getting old enough that she could start earning her keep. Early in the morning the pair started down the long road headed west. Girl was uncomfortable sitting in the back of the buckboard but she didn't complain.
After several hours they came upon the village of Camden Corners. Girl was enchanted. She had never seen anything like this before. Everything was so bright and clean unlike the drab and dusty cabin. The people were all talking and smiling at one another and looked so fancy. She looked down at her grimy little hands and hid them in her pockets. Paw got out of the buckboard and walked into a building called a P-U-B. Iris didn't know what a pub was but she knew better than to follow Paw. She looked across the street and saw a big white dog with black spots laying in the sun. She waited for Paw to return to the buckboard but he was gone an awfully long time. She couldn't help herself she just had to get out and pet the spotted dog. Iris sat down beside the puppy, she felt so warm to Iris's cold little body she cuddled up to her and fell asleep.
Paw didn't notice that Girl wasn't in the buckboard when he drove off down the street and out of town.
Two hours later, Sheriff Mendenhall came upon Paw's buckboard which had flipped over on a curve throwing Paw out and killing him on impact.
Girl woke up and saw that Paw and the buckboard were gone. She gave the loveable puppy a hug and started walking down the street.
She walked by Warm Hearth Bakery and there was a plate of the most wonderful looking treats on a plate. She knew she shouldn't steal but she was so hungry and those round things looked so good and smelled so wonderful. She took one off the plate and gingerly walked away.
She walked a little further down the street and came upon Nichol's General Store. Outside of the market she saw apples. There was an apple tree behind her home but they didn't smell as good as these. She helped herself to an apple.
She didn't feel so hungry anymore and wanted to visit with her new spotted friend again so she walked back to the big red building. The dalmatian saw her coming and came up to her licking her hand. Iris followed the dog into the building and saw she had her own pallet and was offering to share with her.
They sat together for a little while when someone called “Come here Girl”.
Both the dog and Girl went running.
“Well, who have we here?” said Joe.
“My name is Girl, my Paw is taking us to find gold”
Joe asked where her Paw was and Girl told him she came over to say hello to the dog and Paw wasn't there anymore. Joe was just getting off duty at the fire station and was meeting Diana at the bakery.
He took hold of Girl's hand and walked the short distance to the bakery. Diana was just coming out of the store to pick up the empty plate the children had their snacks on. Girl's eyes were wide as she saw the empty plate.
“I didn't take all of them” she said. “I only took one and I'm sorry I stole it.” Her little chin was quivering and Diana and Joe fell in love with this angel who called herself Girl.
Diana closed the shop and insisted they take the child home, clean her up and feed her a good meal before they visited the sheriff.
Under all the grime and dirt was a beautiful little face with curly auburn hair. She was way too thin but Diana knew she would be able change that in no time. Diana had some clothes she kept for the times her nieces visited and was able to find a pretty dress that fit the little girl perfectly.
Girl looked in the mirror and smiled. She thought she looked fancy like the people she saw on the streets of Camden Corners.
Girl had never had a meal as wonderful as the one Diana prepared that evening. Her tummy felt happy and so did her heart. She didn't want to think about riding in the buckboard again so she just didn't think about it.
Joe suggested it might be best if he went to talk to the sheriff alone while Diana stayed at home with Girl
“Diana,” Joe whispered on his way out the door, “We can't just call her Girl, the child must have a name.”
An hour later, Joe came home with Sheriff Mendenhall who was carrying a package of books he had found on the buckboard. Girl was excited to see her books and looked around gingerly for Paw since he didn't know she had them. They told Girl what had happened to her Paw.
She didn't cry, she didn't feel sad like she did when her grandmother didn't wake up. She climb up on Diana's lap and asked her if she could look at her books.
Sheriff Mendenhall was usually a pretty tough fellow but he could feel his eyes begin to sting. He thought it would be a great thing if the child could stay with the Taylor's for the night.
Tomorrow they would investigate to see if there were any next of kin. He hoped there weren't. Diana opened the first book. A well worn piece of paper slipped out of the book.
In a very weak handwriting it said “I love you my Iris.” From that moment on, Iris had a name and she knew that her mother's spirit lived on in her. The next morning Diana felt a little queasy but she thought it was the excitement of the day before. It didn't take long before the courts determined Iris was without blood relatives and the adoption of Iris Taylor took place.
By the time the family of three was official, they were well on their way to becoming a family of four and Iris was about to become a big sister.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Key To The Future
After discovering two locked boxes, Nettie and Ethel looked for a key in the crate but there wasn't one there. They asked Jonas to take a look at the lock to see if he could open it. He did try but was afraid he would scratch or mar the boxes if he tried to force them open. Emma was nearby and wondered what they were doing. She wandered over and recognized one of the boxes. It held her grandmother's wedding dress.
When Emma was a little girl her Grandma Flora had promised she could wear the gown when she grew up and married. Emma felt tears welling in her eyes as she remembered the happy times she spent with Grandma Flora. Her parents had perished in a train accident when she was just a baby. Flora and Amos Patterson were the only parents she had ever known.
She wiped her eyes and suddenly remembered the key that she and the vicar found in the old cash register. She had put it in the drawer of the cash register and hurried to get it out. Jonas gingerly opened the first box. There was Grandma's wedding gown. Just as beautiful as she remembered it. Grandma had carefully folded it and wrapped it and it looked as lovely as it must have the day that Grandma wore it as she walked down the aisle. All the women were tearful at the sight of that dress. Emma thought of her dear Grandmother, Nettie thought of the love she had lost and Ethel remembered the day she became Mrs. Jonas Fulbright. Jonas cleared his throat and had to dab a bit at his eyes too. All in their own reverie, they suddenly remembered the other box. Again, being very careful, Jonas opened the second box. Inside was a stack of papers.
They began to look through the papers and discovered Amos had signed over all of his assets and worldly possessions to his wife Flora on their 50th wedding anniversary with a note saying, “All I am and all I have are because I was a smart enough fellow to marry the most wonderful woman God put on this earth.”
Flora's Last Will and Testament was also in the box. She had bequeathed the general store and all her possessions to Emma.
Jonas called Oscar Crowley immediately. Oscar, never missing an opportunity, thought it best if Robert pay a visit to the antique shop with him. Oscar could detect a sparkle in his son's eye as he was introduced to Emma. The Crowley father and son read through the papers and both concluded that Patterson's General Store and building were not Amos' to sell when he was duped into signing the deed over to Harvey Wilson.
Both men immediately traveled to Greensboro to confront their learned colleague, Mr. Caspar Dewitt. As was expected, Harvey Wilson was furious, ranting and raving and threatening to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
Caspar found his courage and told the old goat to pipe down, face up to the situation and remove himself and his checkerboard from the premises. From that moment on, Caspar was a new man. His law practice began to flourish, he found himself representing the farmers and townspeople that Harvey had been swindling for years.
Harvey was a man without a friend. Even his old checkers pals were backing away. One morning he arrived at his newspaper office only to find four practically new, very expensive fishing poles resting at the front door.
Back in Camden Corners, Emma chose not to pursue any legal action against Harvey. She wanted the matter to be over and done with. Nothing could erase the wonderful memories she had of the General Store and she knew her grandfather would approve when she sold the store to Silas Warren at a very reasonable price.
Seth Greenfield was Silas' trusted assistant in his grocery store in Kendall and traveled six days a week back and forth from Greensboro to Kendall. He asked Seth how he would like to be the manager of the old Patterson's Grocery Store and building. Seth was overjoyed. He and Amy Marsh were planning a wedding in the spring. They would be able to live in the flat above the store and rent out the rest of the apartments. Silas planned to deduct a small amount of money from Seth's pay each week until he had enough to make a down payment on the property. Seth had become like a son to Silas and he would do his best to help the young couple along. Emma knew of the plan and wholeheartedly agreed with it. Her heart was filled with happiness to know the walls of old Patterson's would be filled with love and laughter once again.
Lily and Richard had become inseparable. Helping Lily, Richard had even taken to sanding and staining the many finds that were to be sold in the antique shop. Lily, wanting to be close to Richard, helped search for precedents in the Crowley firm library. They were like two peas in a pod and ever since their first unfortunate encounter, there had never been an unkind word between them.
Emma was happy for her friend. Lily and Richard both thought Emma and Robert would be perfect together. Emma and Robert had become friends. Emma had been through so many changes in such a short time and Robert who had only passed the bar the previous June felt he needed to concentrate on his career. They would meet occasionally at O'Sullivan's Pub for lunch or dinner but simply as friends.
Emma learned of an auction that was being held in Kendall. Nettie had developed a fever and bad cough and Doc McMillan thought it best she stay in bed for a few days. Nettie argued that she was healthy as a horse and the girls needed her to watch the store while they went to the auction. Everyone agreed that Nettie was to follow doctor's orders.
Robert's schedule was rather light that week and Oscar offered to help with the cases that needed attention while Robert accompanied Emma to Kendall for the sale. They planned to leave at 8:00 sharp and be home with a wagon full of treasures before nightfall. Ethel packed thermoses of coffee, enough sandwiches to feed a troop of hungry scouts and bags full of cookies and candies. She made sure there were plenty of blankets to keep them warm. The sky looked a little menacing but the duo took off as planned. Jonas and Ethel stood arm in arm watching them travel down the road toward Kendall. Both were trying to hide their worry from the other.
Emma had the winning bids on almost every item she had chosen. Robert helped her load and cover the wagon securely. He found he was having a wonderful adventure and was impressed with Emma's know how and her professionalism.
They were laughing and joking with each other when snow started falling lightly and then heavier and heavier. Within the hour, the horses were having a difficult time making their way through the snow that was piling up. The wind started to howl. Robert had been in snowstorms like this before and knew it was going to be questionable whether they would be able to make it back to Camden Corners today.
They could see a small cabin less than a mile west of where they were and thought it might be best if they headed for the cabin instead of following the road home. The cabin was abandoned and so was the barn next to it. The door to the barn was not locked and they guided the horses inside and patted them down as best they could with the blankets Ethel had insisted they take with them. There was enough room in the barn for the wagon so all of the purchases would be safe for the time being.
After the horses were settled, Robert and Emma made their way to the cabin. The door was locked but it didn't take Robert long to jimmy the lock. The cabin was cold but there was a fireplace and plenty of firewood. Robert started a fire and moved the big, over sized sofa in front of the fireplace. Before long, the cabin was warming up and the adventurers were famished.
“Bless Ethel for packing all these sandwiches.” said Emma.
The wind was howling outside as Robert and Emma looked into the fire each with their own thoughts. Emma was feeling warm and it wasn't simply because of the blazing fire. Robert could smell a hint of lavender from Emma's golden hair as he was fighting the urge to take her in his arms. They looked at each other and as the flames from the fire shimmered on their faces, Robert lowered his lips to hers and the magic had begun.
They realized now what everyone in town already knew. Robert and Emma were in love. They agreed the timing wasn't right for either one of them but they knew they could never go back to being just friends.
The women folk in Camden Corners were beginning to worry. The snow was piling up and no sign of Robert and Emma. Oscar and Richard knew Robert would be able to handle any crisis. He had grown up in Camden Corners and heavy snow could often be the norm in this area. Because the ladies were concerned, the men decided to go out looking for the couple. The snow had let up somewhat when Oscar and Richard started their search. They were only a few miles out of town when they noticed smoke coming from a chimney at the old Whitehead cabin. They rode up to the cabin and heard the horses whinny in the barn. Oscar peeked through the window before knocking on the door and was delighted to see his son and Emma sitting together enjoying a nice warm fire and each other.
Emma and Robert were startled but happy to see their rescuers. Robert was surprised to learn they were so close to Camden Corners but not sorry they had found shelter at the old cabin.
The homecoming was a happy one. The couple was safe and their friends and family guessed they had finally admitted their true feelings for each other. Emma and Lily knew they had made the right decision to move to Camden Corners so many months ago.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Open For Business
Finally, Looking Back Antiques opened for business under new management. Everyone in town was happy to see the shop taken over by Emma and Lily and couldn’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy the freshly baked brownies and delicious confections. The Antique store was a huge success. Word started spreading quickly and before long folks from the neighboring towns and eventually from nearby cities started frequenting the antique shop. The Fulbright farm was finally sold and Jonas and Ethel moved to Camden Corners. Jonas was happy to be on hand in the antique shop to greet customers and point out the beauty of each item in the store. Nobody realized how much old Amos had stored. There seemed to be a never ending supply of goods for Jonas to work on. Ethel loved being near her daughter and grandchildren. She was making friends quickly and enjoyed acting as hostess occasionally in the tea room. She wrote to Nettie Dawson excitedly telling her all about the shop and tea room. Nettie missed her dear friend and in a blink of an eye, she was on the train on her way to Camden Corners arriving just in time for tea. Nettie was a perfect match for the now bustling tea room. She was full of chatter and advice to all the patrons.
Emma, Lily and Jonas were working feverishly preparing the last of Amos’ collection before the busy Christmas season began. They discovered there were very few pieces that couldn’t be repaired or cleaned and sold as a valuable antique. Nettie and Ethel were delighted to find a huge crate filled with Tiffany lamps. They spent hours cleaning and shining each and every lamp while they talked about all of the Christmas celebrations they were looking forward to. Their first Christmas in Camden Corners was going to be a very happy one.
One afternoon, the Vicar Willard Duesenberry came into the shop to purchase a lace tea cozy for his faithful housekeeper, Mrs. Schrum. He saw her admiring it in the window one day last week and thought it would make a nice Christmas gift for her. Emma was having a difficult time opening Amos’ old cash register and the vicar offered to take a look at it to see what the problem was. He discovered there was a tiny key that was lodged in the drawer. Emma couldn’t understand why she didn’t discover it when she so painstakingly cleaned and polished it. She took the key and set it aside wondering what the key fit and what it was doing inside the cash register. Another customer was inquiring about a Queen Anne sofa and Emma forgot about the key.
Harvey Wilson was sitting at his usual spot in the old general store cheating at checkers with his cronies. They knew he was cheating but also knew that if they called attention to it old Harvey would throw his considerable weight around and make trouble for his chums. The general store just wasn’t the same now that Amos has passed on and it had been taken over by Harvey. The townspeople of Greensboro often traveled the distance to nearby Kendall to purchase their groceries and supplies at Silas Warren’s store. Harvey did like to make a profit and didn’t notice that he was losing customers one by one. George Whitfield had just returned from Camden Corners and was telling the group how busy the antique store was that Emma Patterson and Lily Kramer bought and how well they were doing selling Amos’ things. Harvey’s ears perked up.
“Excuse me gentlemen I have a little matter of thievery to check into. I do believe the junk Miss Emma stole out of this building was mine and I have the documents to prove it.”
The small group was dumbfounded. This was low even for Harvey.
Emma and Lily were beginning to make a small profit in their antique business and finally had enough extra to bankroll them for their first scavenger hunt. They were anxious to start their journey before the heavy snows came. They took off leaving the shop in the capable hands of Jonas and the women. Susanna offered to pop in occasionally to check on things for them. The first time out they hit the jackpot. The hotel in Porterboro was going to be completely renovated and they were able to salvage almost a wagon full of treasures from there. They stopped at a farmhouse on the way to the next town and found many more items. With a few stops on their way back to Camden Corners they had filled their wagon to the brim and were giggling and laughing as they opened the door to their antique shop.
They were met with tearful eyes and worried faces and standing right smack in the middle of their store was Mr. Harvey Wilson with his smarmy lawyer, Caspar Dewitt standing next to him. Both were smirking as Caspar served the girls with a cease and desist letter demanding they lock the doors of the shop pending a lawsuit for ill gotten goods. Lily was fit to be tied and ready to flatten Mr. Caspar Dewitt but Emma’s cooler head prevailed. She knew they would not be able to fight this fight in the middle of their store and accepted the papers asking them to leave and locking the door behind them.
“We need a lawyer and we need one quickly” Emma said.
Susanna, who happened to be in the shop when Harvey and Caspar walked in had already thought of that and had called Crowley law firm.
Mr. Oscar Crowley was a widower who owned the firm along with his very handsome sons, Robert and Richard. The elder Mr. Crowley was retired but lonely living in a big house by himself. He would find himself at loose ends and wander into the law office just to help out his boys. His office was always open to him and the boys enjoyed having their father around to help out with some of their more difficult clients. Oscar had a way about him that always calmed down the most frazzled and frustrated good folks of Camden Corners.
Susanna explained the situation to Mary, the firm’s receptionist. Mary told Susanna to come right over and bring everyone with her. Mr. Oscar was in his office and would see them right away. Mary knew this was the sort of case Mr. Oscar would enjoy taking on. She knew from experience that Mr. Harvey Wilson didn’t stand a chance against any one of the Crowley men.
The worried group walked into the law firm and Oscar stepped out of his office to greet them and introduce himself to everyone. Pausing for a moment when he looked into the tearful eyes of Miss Nettie Dawson. He invited them into his office as Mary was bringing in some extra chairs. Oscar knew they were upset and in his usual fashion was able to calm everyone’s fears. He had dealt with Caspar Dewitt on a few occasions and knew him to be less than honest in his dealings and his choice of clientele. Oscar looked over the cease and desist letter and told them to feel free to open their doors again. He knew Caspar was using a scare tactic not necessarily a legal one.
Emma explained the situation and the threat made by Mr. Wilson that the contents of Amos' store would be destroyed at her expense if it was not removed. Emma was chastising herself for not getting a copy of the so called deed Mr. Wilson had shown her. Because of grief over losing her beloved grandfather and the shock of Mr. Wilson taking over the store, she wasn't thinking clearly.
Mr. Crowley was understanding of Emma's predicament and seething over the way she had been taken advantage of. He knew old Amos and knew what an honorable man he was. He assured her he would be securing a copy of the deed from the county court house and would get to the bottom of the matter. Emma and Lily were not in a financial position to pay for the services of an attorney. Their little shop was just beginning to turn a profit and they had spent that profit on their new purchases. Nettie spoke up saying she had a little money of her own and it would be her pleasure to pay the legal expenses to keep that snake, Harvey Wilson, out of their lives. Mr. Crowley had Mary draw up a retainer agreement with the amount of one half dollar as the retainer fee. He smiled at Miss Nettie and she blushed like a school girl finding herself wondering if there was a Mrs. Oscar Crowley in the picture.
It was too late in the afternoon for Oscar to make it to the county seat to check the deed to Amos' land but he thought he would check on precedents in one of his old heavy law books. Taking the book off the shelf, he happened to remember that he hadn't had a cup of tea this afternoon and wouldn't that hit the spot right about now? Lugging his oversized law book with him he donned his overcoat and top hat and walked around the corner to visit the Looking Back Antique Shop and the lovely Miss Nettie Dawson.
Nettie saw Oscar walk through the door and her heart skipped a beat. Oscar lost his beloved wife several years before and had not so much as glanced at another woman in all that time. There was something about Miss Nettie that the old gentleman found endearing. He felt like a schoolboy himself as he ordered a cup of tea with just a sliver of banana cake. He invited Miss Nettie to join him at the table.
He asked her what had brought her to Camden Corners and she explained that she had been a schoolmarm until she retired last year. She missed the children and having her very dear friend, Ethel move away was all she needed to make a change in her life. As a young girl she had loved Randolph Evans but three days before their wedding, he had been killed in a fire after heroically saving the lives of three small children and their mother. Her life had been full with so many students through the years. All of the children had loved Miss Nettie and she loved them as if they were her own. She'd had several suitors but none of them had measured up to Randolph. Until now, that is.
Oscar talked about his wife, Louise and what a happy life they had together. They had two active sons who followed in their father's footsteps and studied law. Robert and Richard were both unmarried and Oscar thought it was about time they settled down. Emma and Lily came to mind. What a pair of fine young ladies. Although he didn't need it, he may ask for both his son's assistance in girls' legal matter.
Nettie and Oscar sat and talked for well over an hour. Neither was aware of the time until the sun started to set. Oscar wondered if Miss Nettie would be willing to join him for dinner at the Marino Trattoria. She, of course was delighted and happily accepted the invitation. They had a lovely dinner and Rosa, who could spot a romance blossoming, made sure they didn't lack for wine or delicious food. She asked her her husband Eduardo to take a break from his kitchen duties to play a tune on his violin for the couple. Eduardo was a very romantic fellow himself and enjoyed watching the couple as they gazed into each others eyes.
The following morning, the whole town of Camden Corners was abuzz with talk of the December romance between Oscar and Nettie.
Oscar visited the courthouse and secured a copy of the deed Harvey's lawyer had filed. It was poorly written and it wouldn't be terribly difficult to disprove it's authenticity but it would take time to straighten the matter out and Oscar was hoping to spare the girls that frustration. They had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make a success of their shop. He would just have to get Robert and Richard involved. They both happened to be in the office when Oscar returned from the county courthouse. He spoke with them together explaining the situation. Richard left the office chuckling.
“That sly old fox, he obviously has something other than our legal expertise in mind for the Misses Patterson and Kramer.”
“And I'm sure you will set the young ladies straight” replied his brother.
Robert was due in court shortly but Richard had some free time and decided to pay a visit to The Looking Back Antique Shop. He was still amused at his father's obvious ploy as he entered the shop. Emma was busy clearing off a shelf at the back of the store. He spotted Jonas and laughingly told him he was here to check out the merchandise to see if they measured up to his usual standards. His father was pushing him and Robert to find wenches and start producing grandchildren. Suddenly a beautiful red haired girl popped her head up over the counter. She was scowling and her face was getting redder by the minute. Richard's face was as bright red as Lily's. He didn't know what made him say something so crass. He was about to apologize and beg forgiveness when a satin pillow came sailing through the air aimed directly for his head. Emma heard the commotion and came running to the front of the store. Lily was about to pick up a vase that was displayed on the counter when Emma caught her hand and rescued the vase and Richard's handsome face. Jonas was speechless. He had never heard a gentleman speak about a woman like that. At least not in her presence.
Nettie and Ethel had been visiting with Maddie and Diana at one of the tea room tables. They told them that the rude young man was Richard Crowley. He sometimes puts his foot in his mouth but he is really quite a nice and genteel fellow. They explained that his father, Oscar was intent on getting his boys married off and that must have prompted him to speak in such a way. Emma's always cool head prevailed. She was able to calm Lily down somewhat and asked Richard if she could help him. Richard explained who he was and that he meant no disrespect towards either of the girls. He had a long complicated morning and his father was acting like a father and it had rubbed him the wrong way but that was no reason for him to have spoken as he did. Lily was enjoying his discomfort and decided to play the shrew for just a little bit longer. She couldn't help but notice that Richard had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. His shoulders were so broad, his teeth were so white, his nose was a perfect shape and his raven hair was full and thick. She didn't think she had ever seen a more handsome man.
Emma escorted Richard into the small office partly because she knew he would be talking about their legal trouble and partly to keep Lily away from the poor fellow for his own safety. She knew Lily would calm down but thought it best to give her a little longer to compose herself. Emma told Richard all that had transpired. His father had filled him in but he listened intently to Emma tell her side of the story once again. Like his father, Richard asked if Amos had written a Will or had put anything in writing before he became so ill. To Emma's knowledge, he hadn't. She knew Elmer Mayhew was an attorney and a good friend of Amos' but he had passed away 3 years ago. He had been semi-retired and Emma didn't know what had happened to all his files. He had never married and she didn't believe he had any living relatives. She called Jonas into the office and he couldn't give Richard any more information than that.
Richard was about to leave when he saw the beautiful girl he had insulted standing by the counter. He walked over to her to apologize. She picked up the vase again and he began to duck. Lily couldn't help herself, she started giggling. She told Richard she had never been referred to as a wench before but thought it sounded rather endearing coming from Oscar Crowley's son but she wouldn't recommend he use that term in her presence again. Richard couldn't help but notice that Lily not only had a beautiful face her figure was lovely although he didn't dare lower his eyes for fear of what she may do.
He said his goodbyes and turned to leave the shop when he realized suddenly that he had fallen in love for the first time in his life with the feisty redhead behind the counter.
He turned on his heel and said “I don't suppose you would be willing to go to lunch with an ill mannered lout like me?”
Lily wrapped her cape around her shoulders picked up her handbag and met him at the door. “Ill mannered you might be sir but a lout? Never!”
Emma knew her dear friend would never be the same. Nettie and Ethel, relieved that their young friend was in good hands bid goodbye to Maddie and Diana and went to the store room to carry a small crate to the front of the store. They expected to open it to find more beautiful Tiffany lamps but instead it held two identical mahogany boxes. They lifted one then the other out of the crate. They were both locked.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
A New Beginning
Emma Patterson works for the Greensboro Weekly News and Record. Greensboro is a small Community located on the shores of Lake Greensboro. Emma’s position with the paper is a jack of all trades with only herself and the editor, Mr. Harvey Wilson. Mr. Wilson is a crotchety old man and doesn’t see any reason to update his equipment or expand the paper to include anything but the fishing report and his editorial which is often the combined opinion of his fishing and checker playing cronies as they while away the hours at their favorite fishing spot or playing checkers by the pot belly stove in Patterson’s General Store. Emma is gathering advertising orders for this week’s edition. One request is announcing the sale of the Looking Back Antique Shop in Camden Corners. Something in that ad makes Emma stare at it again and again. A feeling of deja vu comes over her. The strange thing is that Emma has never been to Camden Corners. Emma has always enjoyed shopping for antiques, As a little girl she often joined her grandfather on trips to the country when one of the old timer’s belongings were put on the auction block for payment of back taxes or because the owner had passed on. Emma always felt a sadness as she walked through the old houses and barns knowing in her young heart that someone had been forced to give up their special things. Grandpa Amos sympathized but told her the treasures would give pleasure to someone new for many years to come. Grandpa owned the general store in Greensboro and the building it was in. The entire upstairs and most of the attic and basement were filled with treasures he had accumulated through the many years of his scavenger hunts. For several years he had a very active business going but as his health started to deteriorate and his mind wasn’t quite as sharp as it once had been. Grandpa seemed to buy more items than he was able to sell. With Emma’s keen eye, she was able to discern the valuable items from the junk. Grandpa refused to admit that he would ever buy something that held no value so everything stayed put and even the fine furniture, lamps and vases were hidden beneath a layer of dust and junk.
It was nearing the end of March during an early spring snowstorm when Grandpa took his last breath. Emma was sad but she knew Grandpa was in a better place and would be reunited with his beloved wife, Flora. After the memorial service, the townspeople met at the General Store with everyone bringing their favorite dishes. Music was playing in celebration of life that was fitting for the jolly fellow who loved a bargain.
Emma hadn’t thought much about what was going to happen to the store or the building her grandfather had left behind much less the contents. Mr. Wilson pulled Emma aside and informed her that he held the deed on the property and he would be taking possession of the entire building the following Monday. Emma couldn’t believe her ears. This was Grandpa’s store, he had built it with his own hands from the ground up. He and Grandma had lived in the quarters above the store from the first day they had become husband and wife. Mr. Wilson, with a smirk on his face showed Emma the deed that was signed over to him just a week before. Emma knew Grandpa wasn’t thinking clearly but didn’t realize the extent of his deterioration. The document was signed and sealed and the witnesses included the names of Mr. Wilson’s checker playing friends. Emma recalled overhearing Mr. Wilson ordering several new and very expensive fishing poles in the last few weeks. Now she knew who the recipients of those fishing poles were. Mr. Wilson also told Emma that the contents of the building must be moved out by 8:00 on Monday or everything would be destroyed and she would be paying the cost of the removal.
Emma’s mind was racing. How would she be able to move everything from this building in just a few days and what would she do with it? Her dear friend Lily Kramer was helping clean up the last of the remains of the party and noticed Emma’s ashen face. Emma told Lily what had happened and her friend was ready with a solution. Lily’s Uncle Jonas lived on a farm just outside of Greensboro. He was in the process of selling off the farm animals before he and his wife Ethel retired from the farming business and moved to Camden Corners to be closer to their daughter Susanna and their grandchildren. There were several empty barns and Lily was certain her Uncle, a very generous fellow, would be happy to let her store the items in the barns.
Nettie Dawson happened to overhear the conversation. She knew what Mr. Wilson was capable of and wasn’t surprised that he had taken advantage of Grandpa Amos and was now taking advantage of Emma. Nettie gathered up the remaining townsfolk and came up with a plan. Tomorrow morning, as soon as the sun was up everyone would load up their wagons with everything in the store that wasn’t nailed down and deliver it to the farm. Seth Greenfield was already on his way to the Fulbright farm to inform Jonas what was going to be taking place. Not surprisingly, the Fulbrights opened their barns and their arms to help Emma out of the mess she was in. Emma would also be without living quarters and Ethel Fulbright was busy dusting her daughter’s old room so that Emma would have a place to sleep.
The next morning the town was a bustle of activity as the shelves of the store were cleared, the living quarters emptied and all the treasures Amos had stored were removed and placed carefully on one wagon after another. After each wagon made its delivery, they came full circle and reloaded. Nettie supervised the whole process and by late afternoon, everything was out of the building including a stray peanut that had fallen behind the counter.
Emma was very grateful to her friends for all of their help but felt a sadness when she walked around Grandpa Amos’ store for the last time. It was time to move on though and on her way out of the store she noticed a copy of the Greensboro Weekly sitting on the bench just outside the door. Without thinking, she picked up the paper and realized she would now be out of a job because there was no way she would be able to work for that curmudgeon again.
Lily was waiting to drive Emma in her horse and buggy to her temporary home on the Fulbright farm. All of her friends from Greensboro were at the farm with tables of food set up in one corner of the only barn that wasn’t filled with items from Grandpa’s building. Mr. Warren was there to greet Emma and let her know that he would be buying all of the merchandise from Grandpa’s store. He thought she might like to keep the old cash register as a memento. He paid her generously for his purchases. No one knew that Grandpa had helped him out of several jams through the years when things weren’t going smoothly for him. Emma was learning more about her Grandfather’s generosity every day and realizing what a truly remarkable man he had been. When she was afraid he was taking advantage of people who were losing their homes, he was actually paying more money for their belongings than they were worth. So many families had benefited from him buying their treasures and adding a bit extra to the purchase price enabling them to settle with their debtors. In helping out Emma, half the town was showing their gratitude to her Grandpa and the other half simply liked Emma and old Amos. Soon after most of the guests had departed for home, Emma walked Lily to her buggy in order to get the overnight bag she had packed. Lily picked up the forgotten newspaper, it slipped out of her hand and opened to the ad Emma had placed regarding the sale of the Antique Shop in Camden Corners. Emma and Lily looked at each other and knew at that moment that they would be on their way to Camden Corners in the morning.
It was a crisp day. Emma and Lily were on their way to Camden Corners to check out the Antique Store that was for sale. They were both full of anticipation and in their hearts they knew this venture would be a turning point in their lives. Emma was grieving for her grandfather and Lily was searching for adventure. Being Emma’s friend for all of her 22 years she had tagged along on enough of Grandpa’s treasure finds that she was able to spot a genuine antique when she saw one. She didn’t realize this at the time, but she had seen some beautiful pieces of furniture being transported from the old general store in Greensboro to the Fulbright farm and instinctively knew that some of those items were valuable. Lily had a good head for business and was the head of new accounts at the Community Savings Bank. She wasn’t unhappy in her job but she was looking for a little more excitement than she was finding in Greensboro. She found herself restless and dreaming of hopping a freight car and traveling out west to discover gold. She knew this wasn’t going to happen but it was fun to dream. Young women her age didn’t seek adventure, they were happy to settle down with a kind man and give her life to caring for him and raising his children. It wasn’t that she was lacking male attention. She had several would be beaus but none of them were of interest to Lily. Emma on the other hand wasn’t looking for adventure. She was happiest when she was scouring the vacated buildings and homes near the river. The spring floods and lack of work had driven most of the river dwellers from their sparse homes. Because they would leave in a hurry thanks to Mr. Harvey Wilson who was always at their door looking for his rent money, they would leave behind some of their most prized possessions. Emma would gather up all she could find and bring them home with her posting a note by the post office window in case one of the vagabonds happened to see it and wanted to claim their forgotten items.
The ladies finally arrived in Camden Corners and both were enchanted with the quaint village at first sight. Emma spotted the antique shop and knew this was her destiny. They hopped out of the buggy and gingerly approached the front door. Within a couple of minutes, a petite lovely woman who was obviously with child greeted them. She introduced herself as Edwina Van Dyke, sole proprietor of Looking Back Antique Shop. She invited the girls into the shop. They were overjoyed at first sight. Miss Edwina Smythe had owned the shop for 15 years after her parents had passed on and she was beginning to feel as though she was one of the antiques she was always trying to sell. It was in early January of the previous year when Mr. Wallace Van Dyke entered her store to purchase a settee for his ailing mother. Edwina and Wallace were immediately smitten with each other. Wallace sought out Miss Edwina’s only remaining male relative, her Uncle Clarence, and asked if he may be allowed to court the fair Miss Edwina. They were united in marriage on Valentine’s Day and the following month Edwina was expecting their first child. Edwina’s inventory was somewhat diminished as she had other things on her mind. She was willing to sell the building and all of it’s contents for a price that was well within Emma and Lily’s budget and before they left the store, they had reached an agreement. Emma and Lily were beside themselves with excitement. Both knew they had taken a risk but both felt it was a risk worth taking.
Everything happened quickly after that. Edwina was anxious to finalize the sale of the shop in order to be home to await the birth of her baby. Emma and Lily were anxious to start their business. They were delighted with the design of the store. The shop had a bay window with ample room for several small tables that would be perfect for serving dainty desserts and sweets with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The girls toiled all through the summer into the fall fixing up the shop just the way they wanted it with new wallpaper and sparkling woodwork, new fixtures and an intimate, cozy tea room. They had arranged with Diana of Warm Hearth Bakery and Maddie from Tempting Treats Candies, who were delighted the girls chose their establishments, to provide sweets for their customers. After the shop was just the way they wanted it, they started making daily trips to Greensboro to select pieces from Amos’ collection. They were surprised to discover a beautiful mahogany Chippendale dining set, several Louis Phillipe fruit wood chairs and a Gothic revival tapestry settee. They cleaned and polished each piece lovingly and were rewarded with the beautiful results. There were full sets of Mason dishes in the Belvedere pattern, several sterling silver cigarette cards, an 18K Fusee pocket watch, every box and crate seemed to hold something unusual and valuable.
Uncle Jonas had been a farmer all his life but his hobby was repairing and refurbishing furniture. Ethel was an excellent seamstress and even with her eyesight not what it use to be, she could repair any piece of fabric to make it look like new. They were willing and more than anxious to lend a hand and their expertise as each piece was lovingly repaired and readied for display at the shop. Emma remembered the old cash register Mr. Warren had given her from Grandpa’s store. Emma cleaned and polish the old relic and found that it was a beautiful addition to the counter in the new store. It made her happy to know that a little part of Patterson’s General Store would now be with her in Camden Corners.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
June 21, 1973. “Tracy, did you think this day would ever come?”
“I knew the day would come, but I never dreamed we would be ready for our opening. We have the journals to thank for keeping us on schedule.”
“You are so right there. The whole town has been reading every word of the journals. I think everyone has felt a real connection to the past and to the generations who lived in Camden Corners before us. It was a whole different way of life back then. I envy the way everyone cared for their neighbors.”
“Do you remember how everyone told us we were foolish to try to renovate this place? Now that people have read the journals, they are supporting us wholeheartedly. I can't believe Steve is on our side now. He is the one who persuaded the Town Council to give us a tax break on the old mansion.”
Walking through The Merryweather was like walking back in time. Every square inch of the place was sparkling. Tracy and Holly had worked day and night to clean, repair, paint and polish the whole house. Each second floor suite was decorated in an authentic 1900s theme and bore the family name of a resident of Camden Corners. The Crowley, The Mackenzie, The Burke, to name just a few. Thanks to donations from the townsfolk, the third floor spa and exercise area was completed in time for the opening. Walking through the front doors, the focal point was a grand staircase to the second floor with a massive crystal chandelier in the center. Beautiful reconditioned early 19th century tables and chairs were placed in the lobby. The display cases holding the open journals and donated mementos from days gone by had been carefully placed along the walls. Copies of Tony Marino's photographs were displayed in ornate frames. The carpeting felt like velvet underfoot. There was one large dining room and three smaller ones for more casual meetings or parties. Outside, the theme was more modern with two pools, a playground area for the children and tennis courts. Seating and small tables adorned the porch that surrounded the house where views of the lake on one side, grapevines on the another and the ski resort on a third could be enjoyed.
“Tracy, I think we have done everything we can to get ready for the reception tonight. I think I'll take a walk around town to clear my head, would you care to join me?”
“I think that is a wonderful idea, Holly. If I stay in here one minute longer I'm going to rearrange the candle decoration on the piano for the tenth time.”
The girls walked down the long sidewalk to Main Street. They were silent as they took note of the town as though it was the first time they'd seen it. People seemed to be walking more after reading the journals. It had always been a friendly town but now the folks went out of their way to greet each other. They walked by the old firehouse where Iris Taylor fell asleep on the dogs pallet and woke up to a new family. Diana's bakery was still functioning as a bakery after changing hands dozens of times. The Burkes Candy shop no longer made fresh candy but had it delivered from a factory. The Antique Shop filled three other old shops. Jennifer Crowley and Andrea Fulbright were the new owners and history buffs. Along with antiques, customers could get information on any and all of the residents of Camden Corners through the years. The Hardware store had closed its doors in the fall of 1970. There was a new large hardware store that offered prices the smaller one just couldn't compete with. Pringles Christmas shop was still open although the aroma of peppermint and gingerbread was no longer a constant reminder of Christmas. O'Sullivan's was still owned by the Burkes and Mackenzies. Marinos was still an Italian restaurant but the spinach lasagne was never as tasty as when Eduardo and Mamma Rossi were in competition to make the best. Philip Clarke's book store still had some precious rare books in the back room. The Camden Corners Chronicle moved from the Quilt Shop many years ago and was located just west of town. It was now a daily newspaper with national as well as local news. The Quilt Shop returned to its quilt days along with sewing machines, dress patterns and fabric. It was operated by Cindy Hightower who had developed a talent for quilting and taught classes two days a week.
“Look Holly, there is the gazebo where Jamison Bentley first kissed Caroline Watson. What a wonderful romance that was.”
“People certainly suffered in silence in those days. I would have kissed him back that very first time. Instead Caroline was alone for 20 years.”
“The romance of Neville and Helene was a pretty sad one too. I'm awfully glad they finally ended up together.”
“What about Nettie and Oscar? I can't imagine why Nettie didn't marry someone while she lived in Greensboro.”
“She must have been waiting for her soul mate.”
“Did they have soul mates back then?”
“Speaking of soul mates, here comes yours.”
“Hello girls. I thought you would be pacing the floors of The Merryweather and here you are strolling down Main Street. It's really a nice little town, isn't it?”
“That it is.”
“Did I ever tell you girls that I'm proud of you and you were right about The Merryweather. It is just what Camden Corners needed. Now that the project is complete, maybe I can convince you to marry me.”
“What do you think, Tracy? Should I marry this guy?”
“The next generation of Camden Corners residents has to begin somewhere. It might as well be with the two of you.”
“I just happen to know of a lovely place to hold the wedding reception.”