Friday, July 20, 2012
Feels Like Home
Feels Like Home
“Jessie, can you believe our good fortune? Miss Nettie is our mother and Mr. Oscar is our father. Look at this beautiful room. I've never seen such sheer curtains before in all my life. Do you think we are rich?” Hattie said as she unpacked the few items she called her own.
“I don't know if we are rich but isn't this the softest bed you have ever felt. I can't believe when we woke up this morning we were living at the villa and now we are here in a whole new town with brand new parents.”
Nettie knocked on the door. “Girls, are you hungry? Miss Trudy has cooked up a scrumptious meal for us this evening. Your brothers will be here to meet you very soon.”
Hattie threw the door open. “Miss Nettie, this room is the most beautiful room I have ever seen. I always imagined our mama in a big fluffy bed like this. Grandmother says she was very sick and had to stay in bed after we were born.”
“Oh my darling child. I'm sure she had a bed just like yours and two beautiful babies to look at while you slept.”
“Grandmother says we looked like little prunes when we were born. The doctor said we wouldn't live through the night because we were too small. Grandmother fed us with a little eye dropper and after a few days she said we began squalling all the time. Grandmother didn't like doctors very much. She said they were all quacks. For the longest time I thought the ducks in the pond in the park were doctors.”
The three of them giggled and walked out of the room.
Richard and Robert had arrived with Lily and Emma and the babies. Matthew and Catherine were seven months old and full of energy. They giggled when they saw their grandma and grandpa.
“Jessica is going to be learning to refinish furniture? She and Josie Blackburn are taking lessons from Dudley Hanover. Do you mind the long trip back to Greensboro, Jessie?” asked Oscar.
“Oh no, Mr. Oscar. I will be dreaming about learning how to make something old pretty again. That's what Mr. Hanover tells us he will teach us.”
“Tell your brothers how you got yourself into Mr. Hanover's class, Jessica.”
“Oh dear, I'm afraid I was deceitful. I dressed up in boys clothes and I hid my hair under a cap. I fooled Mr. Hanover but I didn't fool Miss Evelyn.”
Richard and Robert laughed. “Nobody ever fooled Miss Evelyn, Jessie. She knew every trick any child could think up.” said Robert.
“Did you come from the villa too?”
“No, honey. Miss Evelyn was the principal of Camden Corners Grammar School before she moved to Greensboro to be headmistress of the villa.”
“Miss Evelyn is very nice, I like her a lot.” said Hattie.
“I think Mr. Hanover likes her too.” Oscar said with a chuckle.
“Mr. Hanover is a wonderful man. I think it's terrific that he and Evelyn are stepping out.” said Emma. She knew Mr. Hanover through her grandfather, Amos.
Back in Greensboro, Dudley Hanover was nervously waiting for Evelyn Keys to finish giving instructions to her assistant.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Hanover. This is the first time I have left the villa for the evening since I came here last year. I'm afraid I'm being a bit overly cautious. I'm sure they will get along just fine without me.”
“Take your time, Mrs. Keys, I understand.”
“I suppose if we are out on an informal occasion, we should drop the Mr. and Mrs. Please call me Evelyn and may I call you Dudley?”
“I would like that Evelyn. I'd like us to be honest with each other. I am not a man who has courted very many women. I'm afraid I am very nervous this evening.”
“I'm nervous too, Dudley. I haven't been alone with a man since my husband died over twenty years ago. Maybe together we can just relax and enjoy a nice evening as friends.”
“That sounds delightful.”
“How did your interest in furniture refinishing begin, Dudley?”
“I have always had an interest in history and feel the furniture of our ancestors reveal much about the way they lived. Amos Patterson owned the old Patterson's General Store here in Greensboro. He was a collector who knew everything there was to know about fine old furniture.”
“Emma Crowley's grandfather. I never met him but have heard Nettie and Ethel Fulbright speak of him often.”
“Amos taught me everything I know. We lost a treasure when that man died. I know Emma and I'm sure she is carrying on Amos' legacy. I'm a tax attorney by trade which is quite the contrast to refurnishing furniture. Enough about me, what brought you to Greensboro and the villa?”
As you know, my husband passed away many years ago. Much to my regret, we never had children of our own. It seemed only natural that I continue my teaching. The principal of the school became ill and I filled in for him as there was no one else to do the job. I'm sure if a man had been available, I would never have been considered. Unfortunately, the principal didn't recover and I just kept filling in for him. After several years of being a temporary principal, they made it official. I didn't care for their methods, but I loved the children so much I just went along with it. When Harvey Wilson suggested I might like to be in charge of the villa, I jumped at the chance. Harvey has given me full control over the operation. I will be forever grateful for his faith in me.”
“What do you think of our town? It isn't as friendly as Camden Corners but we try to make newcomers feel welcome.”
“It seems friendly enough to me. It is much larger than Camden Corners and that makes a difference. To be honest, I don't leave the villa grounds very often. That's why this is such a nice treat for me.”
Dudley found Evelyn to be an easy person to be around. He hated for the evening to end. He walked her to the front door of the villa. He wanted to give her a kiss on the cheek but was afraid they would be spotted by one of the children.
Evelyn sensed his reluctance. “Dudley would you like to come into my suite for a glass of sherry?”
“Would that be acceptable, Evelyn? I wouldn't want to cause any problems for you.”
“I am allowed guests, Dudley. This is my home, after all.”
Dudley was impressed with Evelyn's living quarters. “Why this is just like an apartment. You have your own parlor and kitchen. You have it decorated beautifully. It looks like you.”
“I'll take that as a compliment,” Evelyn laughed.
“It was meant that way. Evelyn, I am not a man of the world by any means but I do find you very attractive. I enjoyed being your friend this evening but I would like to be much more than that. Do you think we could begin a courtship?”
“I think we already have,” said Evelyn as she handed Dudley a glass of sherry. Her eyes sparkled as she stood on the tips of her toes and kissed the shy Dudley Hanover directly on the lips. “Dudley, we are not adolescents who have all the time in the world. As you can see, there is plenty of room here for two. Now let's drink our sherry and talk about the future.”
“You get right to the point, don't you Evelyn?”
“I know what I want and I'm willing to ask for it. I hope you like children, Dudley.”
“I'm crazy about them and I'm crazy about you.” Dudley set his glass down and took Evelyn in his arms.
“Oh Dudley!” she said as he covered her mouth with kisses.
In Camden Corners, the Crowleys were calling it a night. Nettie read the twins a story and tucked them in. She joined Oscar in the room they shared.
“I wonder how Evelyn and Dudley are getting along. Wouldn't it be nice if they became a couple?”
“If I know Dudley, he is still calling his date Miss Evelyn. He has always been timid around women.”
“I don't know why, he is certainly a handsome fellow with impeccable manners. Any woman would be proud to have him on her arm.”
“His mother was a dear lady but very dependent on Dudley. From what I have been told, even in school she would make him come home early from outings with his friends. I think eventually he stopped going out socially. He is the best tax attorney in the state but that didn't do much for his social standings. The work he does with the furniture doesn't exactly require any social contact either. Now he has chosen being the proprietor of a history museum. He needs a woman who will bring him out of his shell. If anyone can do that it will be Mrs. Evelyn Keys.”
“Evelyn is such a lovely woman. As much as she loves those children, I'm sure she has enjoyed spending some time with a gentleman. Do you think he will kiss her goodnight, Oscar?”
“I don't think he will work up the nerve to shake her hand. I'd say it will be early December before he gets around to that first kiss.”
“The twins seemed to have a good time tonight. I was afraid they might have been overwhelmed by all the commotion but they seemed to fit right in.”
“They are very sweet girls, aren't they? I wonder what the story is with the parents. It sounds as though their mother died after giving birth to them. I wonder where the father is.”
“I could ask a few questions in Greensboro if you really want to know,” said Oscar.
“I don't know. We might be sorry to learn the answer. What do you think Oscar?”
“Maybe I'll take a ride with Josie and Jessica tomorrow. I think I'll ask Evelyn her opinion. I will also ask about the dinner date tonight.”
“Are you sure that isn't the main reason you want to see Evelyn. I wonder if Hattie would like to ride along too. We could always do some shopping while Jessica is in class. The girls do need some new dresses and Greensboro has so much more of a selection than Camden Corners.”
“It's settled then. We will all leave for Greensboro in the morning.”
Trudy was busy making breakfast for the travelers. “Just can't wait to hear all about Miss Evelyn's engagement last evening, is that it Miss Nettie?”
“Trudy, you know me so well it frightens me. We are also going to do some shopping. Jessica has agreed to let Hattie pick out some dresses for her. Is there anything you need in Greensboro, Trudy?”
“No ma'am. Anything I can't find right here in Camden Corners I don't need. Why you want to spend your hard earned money in the big city is beyond me.”
“Trudy, someday I am going to insist you visit Greensboro. It is a very nice town. Many of the people who live in Camden Corners are from Greensboro.”
“If it's so great why didn't they stay there. No, if you ask me, that place is sin city and I don't want any part of it.”
Oscar walked in. “Trudy are you going on about the evils of the big city again? You really need to get out more.”
Trudy stomped off to her room. Nobody knew why Trudy, an otherwise reasonable woman, was so against Greensboro. Oscar suspected an old beau may have left Trudy and Camden Corners to explore the big city and was never to return again.
“Are we ready to go? Josie will be waiting for us. Won't she be surprised when she sees the whole family?”
“The whole family! Doesn't that sound nice Hattie?”
“It certainly does, Jessica.” Hattie replied as she squeezed Nettie's hand.