Saturday, July 7, 2012
“Neville Merryweather! What were you thinking? You not only put yourself in danger, you put our friends in danger too. Do you know they just hauled a dead body through the lobby of the hotel?” Helene shouted.
“It wasn't my body, dear. I'm very much alive.” Neville said
“Oscar I've asked the bellman to bring some extra glasses to our room. Shall we move the party there? I believe the sight of all this blood is upsetting Helene,” Nettie said
“Good idea, I'm afraid we will be staying the night. The sheriff thought the judge may have a few questions for us. We didn't do anything illegal, mind you.”
“The fact remains that a man is dead and you all were a party to it. Top that off with gambling and I can see why the judge would have questions.”
“Harvey is it true? Is Roger Blake really dead?”
“I'm afraid so, my dear. He was a real piece of work and not a very adept cheater. I wish you could have seen him hide that card in his shirt sleeve. The cheap bourbon he was drinking like water was what did him in.”
“I'm sorry a man is dead but I'm not sorry his children are now safe from him. We have gotten to know some of the children in the villa. Harvey, I'm so happy you turned your home over to Evelyn. She is a wonderful headmistress and the children all have a chance at a good life now.”
“There are a couple of young girls I'd like you to meet Neville. That is if you think you can stay out of trouble. I'll not invite any children into our home if their father continues to play cops and robbers,” said Helene.
“You'll be glad to know I have hung up my spy glasses and handcuffs. I might even go back to selling insurance. I never thought of those two characters having guns they were more than ready to use. Now tell me about the girls. How come no boys? Don't you think I'm capable of throwing a ball to a young lad?” said Neville.
“Maybe next time around. These girls are sisters and you know the rule about separating siblings. I think we will have our hands full with Marvella, the older one.”
“When do I get to meet this challenging young lady. Remember I put up with Prudence for almost 20 years. I think I can handle an adolescent with an attitude.”
“Well, that's good because she does have an attitude. Her little sister Marissa is a gem though. I fell in love with her right away.”
After dinner in Oscar and Nettie's suite, everyone said goodnight. It was going to be a long day tomorrow.
The judge reprimanded the men for their part in the scheme to put Roger Blake away. “Oscar, I've known you for many years. I find it difficult to believe you were involved in this whole thing. You know it was entrapment and the case would have been thrown out of court. I could cite you for illegal gambling but I would have to investigate our sheriff's part in that also. Neville, I understand your desire to save those children from their father. I wish there were more people like you who involved themselves with innocent lives. However, a man is dead. I'm sure you had no intention of that outcome but you may want to think about consequences the next time you decide to instigate one of your schemes.
“No charges have been filed and I see no reason to keep you here. You are all excused. Next case.”
“There was never any need to worry men. If the judge had cited us, I know of a couple of good attorneys we could have called.”
“How are the boys, Oscar?”
“They are doing well. They are both adjusting to being new fathers. They have their own lives now and so does Polly. I sure miss having little Faith around all day. I know Nettie is looking over the children at the villa. I wonder if they will mind having an old goat like me in their lives. We have plenty of room for a few of them. Shall we be on our way?”
“I'm glad that's over Oscar. I was afraid you would be at least one night in the pokey if only to teach you fellows a lesson.” said Nettie.
“And let you belles be on your own all evening long. No way. If you're going to kick up your heels we want to be with you. Right, fellas?”
“Don't know how I'd be at kicking up my heels but it would be fun to watch the ladies,” said Harvey.
Marissa ran to Helene when she saw her walk through the door. “Miss Helene, I'm glad you came back. Are you going to read us another story? Marvella thinks you have a nice voice but she didn't want me to tell you that.”
“Marissa, I'm happy to see you this morning. I'd like you to meet my husband Mr. Neville.”
“Marissa, I'm very pleased to meet you. Miss Helene has told me all about you and your sister.”
“Yeah, I'll bet she talked about me,” came the surly voice of Marvella. “Probably told you what a charmer I am. I'm telling you now, nobody is taking my sister away from me so if you think you're going to adopt her you can just forget it.”
“Hello Marvella. We discussed that yesterday and you know we have no intention of separating the two of you. I have come to read a story to the children. You may stay if you wish or go sulk in your room. It's your decision.”
“I'll stay. That way I can make sure you don't run off with Marissa.”
Neville understood exactly what Helene meant. Marissa was an angel that you just wanted to hold in your arms and protect from all the evil out in the world. Marvella was going to fight every step of the way. He could see a fear in her eyes. She was afraid to trust anyone. She expected people not to like her and set out to prove it by being unlikeable. He suspected under that hard exterior, she was just a little girl looking for affection.
Some of the older girls heard Helene reading and gathered around to listen. After two stories the younger children were getting restless. Peggy took them off to play in another room. Helene brought out a larger book.
“This is a story I think some of you older children will like.” She opened Little Women and began reading. Marissa stayed by her side and listened intently.
Helene read until the bell chimed for lunch. “Miss Helene, will you read more of the story after lunch?” one of the girls asked.
“Maybe you girls would like to take turns reading. The book is so long I wouldn't be able to finish it while I'm visiting today anyway.”
“Nobody here can read a story like you do. You make it seem like we are sitting around the March parlor ourselves.”
“We'll work on it later now go get your lunch tray while it's warm.”
To Helene's surprise, Marvella was standing in front of her. “I think I like Jo the best,” Marvella said in an almost pleasant tone.
“What is it about her that you like, Marvella?”
“She's strong. I'll bet nobody ever makes her cry. I like the way she is nice to her little sister.”
“She's a lot like you Marvella. You are strong, I'll bet you don't cry and you are very nice to your little sister.”
“Do you really think I'm strong like Jo?”
“Yes, I do and I think you have a big heart too. You just have to open it a little to let people in.”
“I better hurry up and eat so I can be back in time to hear more of the story. You are right about the crying. I never cry.” Marvella left the room with just a hint of a smile.
A good cry would do that girl a world of good thought Helene. Evelyn came into the room.
“What have you done to Marvella? She was doing her best to hide the smile on her face.”
“Louisa May Alcott gets all the credit for that. Marvella has decided she likes Jo March and I pointed out how she was a lot like her. I'm beginning to form an attachment to the girl. I hope she will come around a little. I spoke to Neville about the girls last night. He thinks Marvella will be a walk in the park compared to Prudence.”
“He's in the dining room now. He sat down across from Marvella and she is actually talking to him. I think I heard him mention fishing in Camden Lake. She seems fascinated. I hope this works out for you. Marvella would thrive with a good family behind her.”
A while later Neville walked out of the dining room with Marvella on one side of him and Marissa on the other. “The girls and I talked it over and they have agreed to come stay with us for a few days. I promised if they didn't like it we would bring them back here. What do you think Miss Helene? Would you like some visitors for a few days?”
“I would love to have visitors.” She hugged Marissa and she hugged her back. She placed her hand on Marvella's shoulder and noticed she didn't flinch. That was a good sign.
“Mr. Neville says you have a copy of Little Women at your home. Do you suppose we could read more of it?”
“I do have a copy at home but I have a better idea. There is a bookstore not too far from here. We'll stop there to pick up your very own copy and we can read it on the train.”
“My very own book? I've never owned a book before.”
“May I have my very own book too Miss Helene?”
“Of course you may, Marissa. As soon as Mr. Neville and I fill out some papers and sign our name, we will visit the bookstore.”
Harvey and Margaret Wilson were anxious to get back to Camden Corners and their new family. They told Peggy her brother-in-law had been killed and wouldn't be bothering the children anymore. She was happy to hear that news.
“Peggy, I want you to stay here as long as you need to. Arrangements have been made to have a doctor who specializes in head injuries visit your sister. She is receiving very good care now but maybe this doctor will have some ideas that will help her with her memory.
“Miss Evelyn tells us you are very good with the children. You may not be aware of this but the villa has a scholarship program. How would you feel about attending college and becoming a teacher or a nurse? Whatever path you would like to pursue. You don't have to answer now. Give it some thought and Miss Evelyn will arrange it. When your sister is well, there is a small house not too far from here. It has been rented for you, your sister and the children. I think you will like it there and it's close to the school the children are attending and also close to the university.”
“Mr. Wilson.” Peggy said trying to keep the tears at bay, “your generosity is overwhelming. I can't accept what you are offering. It is way too much. I am just happy the children had a place to live when they needed it. Now that Roger is gone, we should be able to manage on our own.”
“Peggy, I'm sure you consider this charity. Believe me it isn't. I expect you to do wonderful things in your future. No matter what profession you choose you will be helping others all your life. You don't know me but I was a ruthless businessman until recently. I was very successful in all of my dealings except on the personal level. I made vast amounts of money. If I live to be 100, I won't be able to spend all the money I have made through the years. I only tell you this because I want you to know that the money itself isn't important to me. What is important is how you and the children will be faring in this world. Everyone needs a little head start and that is what you are getting. Please make an old man happy and accept my offer.”
Miss Evelyn spoke, “Peggy, I would accept Mr. Wilson's generosity. You and your sister will be better off in the future and that means the children will be better off too. Besides, I think there is a certain young man named Cliff Newman who would be more than happy to show you around campus.”
Peggy blushed. “Thank you Mr. Wilson. I promise, I will make you proud.” She gave him a hug and already he considered it money well spent.
Peggy kept in touch with Harvey and Margaret through the years. Her sister made a full recovery and began helping with the children at the villa herself. Peggy became a teacher and she and Cliff were married the day after graduation. Norma took classes while the children were in school and graduated from nursing school three years later. She married the doctor who cared for her all those many months in the hospital. He adopted her five and they adopted three more from the villa. Peggy and Cliff adopted a family of four and the following year a family of three. The sisters were reunited with their mother and siblings. Harvey and Margaret visited the families whenever they were in Greensboro.
“I think Oscar and I will stay on here another day or two, said Nettie. “I have some friends I would like to see again and we want to stay close by the villa. Our business there isn't quite finished yet but I suspect it will be more than just the two of us arriving back in Camden Corners.”