Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Nurses of Camden Corners
The Nurses of Camden Corners
The readers of the Camden Corners Chronicle were always eager for Ella Pritchard's column. Ella wrote for the local newspaper three times a week. Her column was serious and comical at the same time. She picked important subjects but always laced them with good humor. Her very first column regarding the plight of orphans and abandoned children caused quite a stir in the community. Several local families adopted children who were in need of a family of their own. Ella's motives were personal since her brother had been left in an orphanage when he was just a baby. Ella and Billy Duesenberry were reunited and living in the Duesenberry home together.
Today's column thanked Audrey Mackenzie for her diligence recruiting nurses but also pointed out that the young women coming to Camden Corners needed affordable and safe housing.
Leland Harvey was reading the morning paper while his wife, Millie sat down beside him. Addie, her friend and housekeeper poured them both a cup of coffee.
“Addie, sit down and relax. You don't have that much to do this morning with an almost empty house.”
“I can't seem to slow down. We have gone from a full house to just the four of us. It is so quiet I am having a difficult time adjusting. I miss all the activity, don't you?”
“I must admit, I miss everyone too. First Helene and Neville moved into their new home and took the girls and James with them. Then Harvey and Margaret and all those wonderful children moved. I don't like it so quiet. Do you Leland?”
“You forget, Millie, for years you and I both lived alone without anyone around to disturb us. We should be use to it. I'm not though. I miss the bedlam and I miss those children.” He turned the page and saw Ella's column.
“Here is the answer for us. The nurses who have come to Memorial to work need housing. Why don't we open the bedrooms back up for them? We could charge them a small amount for room and board. I'll bet we could get ten nurses in here, twenty if they double up.”
“Leland, what a wonderful idea. Why didn't I think of that sooner? I was talking to Fiona Mackenzie about that only yesterday. She mentioned that Audrey was recruiting nurses left and right but they had no where to stay. I think some are actually sleeping in the empty rooms in the hospital. I know there were rooms built for doctors on call but those are filled too. If we are all in agreement, let's talk to Audrey.”
“In agreement about what?” said Leo as he entered the room.
Addie explained the situation to him. “Well, let's get those young ladies into those rooms. I will be able to drive them to and from the hospital.”
“You and that automobile. Leo, you act like a teenager with that thing.”
“Wait until I buy my own and get you into the rumble seat,” He gave his wife a peck on the cheek.
“You old fool. I'd like to see you manage to climb into a rumble seat.” Addie laughed.
Leland got a kick out of those two. They had been married since Addie turned 16 and it was still obvious they were crazy about each other. Leland was sorry his ambition had gotten in the way of having any kind of a lasting relationship with women. He and Millie had fallen in love in their golden years. He was comfortable with his old friend but thought how nice it would have been if they had grown old together.
Millie saw the look on his face. “Are you regretting the choices you made in your life Leland?”
“How do you know what I'm thinking? You frighten me Millie. I can't even have a moment alone with my thoughts without you reading my mind. Yes, I was regretting some of the choices I have made in my life, but you aren't one of them. Now, let's get going to the hospital. I want some activity around this old place too.”
Audrey was on duty. She was finishing up with a patient when she was told she had visitors. She was delighted to see Millie and Leland waiting for her.
“Miss Millie, Mr. Leland, I hope nothing is wrong.”
“No dear, Leland and I came to talk to you about offering rooms in our home for the young nurses who need a place to lay their head at night. We have fairly large rooms and Miss Addie is a wonderful cook and would love to have some young ladies to spoil.”
“Miss Millie, that is wonderful. I know of three right here on this floor that were worried about where they would be living. Let me send them to your home after their shift. I can assure you they are all fine women.”
“Leo will be happy to pick them up in the automobile. He looks for any excuse to drive that thing. Just let us know when they are ready to leave and he will be waiting for them at the front door.”
Leo was outside the hospital at the appointed time and picked up three of the nurses to take them to Merryweather's.
“This is the house?” cried Susannah. “Eliza, remember when we walked by here. We said we wanted to look inside. Oh dear, we'll never be able to afford this.”
“I wouldn't be too sure,” said Leo. “Miss Millie likes to have her house filled with laughter. I don't think she will charge you too much.”
Tessa could afford to live anywhere but she hadn't let them know her Daddy was a wealthy man. She wanted to be just like her friends and money always seemed to change attitudes. She oohed and aahed along with the others.
“Girls, come in. I'm so happy you are here to look over our home. Let me take you right to the rooms. You may each have your choice. We have them decorated in different colors so pick your favorite. I hope you all decide to stay here with us. Miss Addie has made hot chocolate for you and some little cakes.” Millie led them to the bedrooms and then left them alone to make up their minds.
“Miss Millie, our minds are already made up. We love the rooms, they are so beautiful. We just hope we have enough money to pay for room and board.”
“I'm sure you do.” Millie had never charged for room and board and didn't know what to tell them. She thought she would discuss it with Mrs. Wharton to see what she charged and then charge the girls one quarter of that. The antiques were still selling well and Harvey had enough money to last them until they were 103 so she didn't worry about finances anymore.
“Leo will drive you back to the hospital so you may gather your belongings. Once you are settled in we will have supper.”
“I can't wait to tell the other nurses. We have all been worried. You are so kind to open your home to strangers.” Susannah gave Millie a hug and so did Eliza and Tessa.
By the end of the week, Millie's home was full again. The chatter and hustle and bustle was music to the old folks ears. The girls all worked different shifts so the activity was constant.
“I saw Caroline Bentley and sweet little Lucy today. Caroline mentioned Jamison's sons were moving the business to Camden Corners. They will be staying at their father's home for the time being. I thought it would be nice to invite them over for a game of charades. What do you think Addie?”
“What a wonderful idea, Millie. I'm sure the girls would be happy to meet some eligible young men.”
The two women smiled. “What are you up to now Millie? I can tell by the look on your face that you are scheming again.”
“Now Leland, just sit and read your newspaper. No need to concern yourself with two old ladies.”
“Two old ladies who are setting a trap for some young ladies, I believe.” He shook his head and went back to his paper.
“Jamison, we'd better get going to the train station if we are going to get there to greet Todd and Alex. Lucy is all bundled up and so are Kenny and Becky.”
“I'm sorry, dear. I didn't expect that call to last so long. That was Nelson Harmon. He is handling the sale of the building in Gilford. He thinks he has a buyer.”
“I'm glad. I'm so happy the boys will be with us. Did Todd say he was bringing a friend?”
“Yes, Mitchell Anderson. He and Todd have been friends since high school. I never much cared for him. Even as a young man he was a womanizer. I'm sure he has left a trail of broken hearts back in Gilford.”
“Maybe he has grown up since you last saw him.”
“We can always hope. Are we ready to see Todd and Alex?”
“Yeah!” Kenny and Becky said. They both loved their older brothers.
“Mitchell, you can't expect my folks to put you up. There is a boarding house in Camden Corners and you can stay there. I still don't understand why you were so anxious to leave Gilford. Are you sure you aren't running out on some poor, unsuspecting girl?” Todd was beginning to see Mitchell as his father did. There comes a time when a boy must become a man. Mitchell hadn't reached that point yet.
“Todd, you worry too much. I'll be fine.” He smiled slyly which meant he was probably planning his next conquest. He got up to visit the club car for the third time in less than an hour.
“Alex, what have I done to Caroline and Pop? Mitchell is more obnoxious than ever. Why didn't you stop me?”
“Todd, you always had a blind spot when it came to that guy. He was able to talk you into or out of anything. Namely your money.”
“We'll show him the way to the boarding house. I just hope he doesn't sweet talk his way into Caroline's house. You know what a softie she is.”
The train arrived right on time. Kenny and Becky were jumping up and down with excitement.
“Are you really going to live with us forever?” said Becky
“Maybe not forever Becky, but for a while. We won't be going back to Gilford.”
“This is my friend Mitchell. My stepmother, Kenny, Becky and little Lucy, our brother and sisters.”
“Well, well, what a beautiful little girl. You look just like your ravishing mother.”
“What's a ravishing mother. I thought she was just my mother.”
Mitchell laughed. He must be slipping. He usually had even the youngest females swooning over his words. By the look on the mother's face, she didn't fall for it either.
“Mitchell, the boarding house is on the next block, you can see the corner of it from here,” Todd said.
Caroline began to speak up but both Jamison and Alex put their hands on her arm before she could ask Mitchell to stay with them.
Mitchell looked at Caroline. It was obvious she wasn't going to ask him to stay. He'd better get going to the boarding house. He had a flask in his bag that he was eager to break open.
Mrs. Wharton had an available room. She wasn't too sure about this young chap but since he was here visiting the Bentley family she rented the room to him. She did wonder why Caroline wouldn't invite him to stay in her home. They had plenty of room.
“Young man, the rules of the house are no cooking, no smoking, no drinking alcohol and no women visitors. Is that understood?”
“Yes ma'am. I understand and agree with all of your rules.” Mitchell said wishing the old bat would hurry up. He was getting thirstier by the minute.
“Boys, we are so happy to have you living here. You will have the third floor all to your selves. There is a nice sitting room if you want to invite some young people over. I think you will find it comfortable.”
“Caroline, you shouldn't have gone to the trouble of opening the third floor for us. We would be perfectly comfortable in our regular rooms.”
“Those rooms are fine for short visits but not for any length of time. Young folks need their privacy.”
“We have plenty of room for your friend too. How long is he expected to stay? I feel terrible that we didn't invite him to stay with us.”
“Don't feel bad, Caroline. I'm worried about Mrs. Wharton but she has probably had some difficult tenants once or twice through the years.”
“At least you can invite him for supper. The poor boy must be hungry.”
“I'm sure he isn't interested in food at the moment dear. Did anyone notice the smell of bourbon when he spoke?” Jamison asked.
Mitchell looked out the window of the boarding house. “What have we across the street? A bevy of nurses. I'm on my way girls to charm you out of those starchy, white uniforms. I love it when I can take my pick.”
Mitchell meandered down the stairs and out the front door crossing the street just as the girls were climbing into an automobile driven by an old man. He got a glimpse of one of them. If he didn't know better he would say it was Tessa Graham. He had hit the jackpot. Her daddy was as rich as they come. He would have to check out that corner and catch up with her next time.
Tessa didn't know him but everyone in college knew who Tessa was. She was not only a beauty, but a rich beauty. Mitchell was in his third year and she was a member of the freshman class. She didn't date much. Stayed mostly to herself. He was involved with one of the professor's wives near the end of the semester when he'd spotted Tessa walking across campus with an older man. He later learned the man was her father. The multimillionaire, Hamilton Graham. He'd missed his chance with her that year but she would be coming back in September and he would seduce her then. It was a good plan but she didn't return to school that September and he never saw her again. Mitchell always did believe in second chances and he wasn't going to miss out on his.
The girls all piled into Millie's automobile. It was a good thing she had gotten the largest one she could find. The auto was filled with six girls now plus Leo. The rooms in Millie's house were filling up fast. Vivian, Pauline and Elsie worked during the day and Lena, June, Hazel and Lydia were on the night shift. Each girl had her own room. Millie was willing to take in more nurses but this worked out fine for everyone. The girls who worked during the evening hours were on the far west side of the house where it was quiet until later in the morning when they woke up.
Millie was happy to see them arrive home. “We have a surprise for you ladies, we have invited some of the young people in town to play charades this evening. I hope you will be interested in meeting them.”
“Miss Millie, that would be wonderful. We get tired of only seeing each other at work and here. That is so nice of you.” said Eliza
Everyone agreed and went to their rooms to decide what to wear for their first social event since being in Camden Corners.
James and Ella were the first to arrive followed by Melinda and Michael Cassidy. Todd and Alex walked in and the girls were very happy to see these unattached males. Cody Hill and April arrived. April was anxious to speak with the nurses since she was in her first year of nursing school.
Everyone had a good time. Tessa and Alex hit it off as did Todd and Susannah. They played games, talked and ate. Alex and Todd were happy they had been invited.
They left with a promise to call the girls the next day. It was a cool autumn evening as the brothers walked to the Bentley home. They neared O'Sullivan's Pub and saw a young man being escorted to the exit.
“What a surprise. Mitchell has been thrown out of a saloon on his first day in Camden Corners.”