Thursday, August 16, 2012
The Second Time Around
The Second Time Around
Nettie Dawson made her way through the snow to the Hilltop Chapel. Nettie loved the peace she felt when she entered the quaint little chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows. She could almost hear the angels singing as she sat in the pew near the altar.
Nettie was happy she had made the decision to follow her dear friend Ethel Fulbright to Camden Corners. She had made many friends in the short time she had been here and had lost her heart to Mr. Oscar Crowley. Nettie never married after the tragic death of her fiance just days before their wedding was to take place. Oscar lost his wife a few years ago and neither imagined they would ever find love again in their twilight years but here they were, two senior citizens acting like lovestruck teenagers. Nettie hadn't had this much fun in over 30 years.
Nettie was deep in thought and prayer when she became aware of muffled crying near the back of the chapel. She walked towards the sound and found a young girl holding a baby close to her heart with tears running down her cheeks. The girl looked up and Nettie recognized her as one of her former students from Greensboro, Polly Cooper. Polly was one of her better students who showed an interest in becoming a teacher. Nettie wrapped her arms around the young girl and waited patiently while Polly cried herself out.
“Miss Nettie” she exclaimed. “I have made a terrible mess of my life and my Pa has disowned me. I had just enough money for the train ride to Camden Corners and I knew you had moved here. Oh, Miss Nettie, I have nowhere else to go..”
Nettie's heart broke for the girl. She knew Marlin Cooper well and knew he was a very strict man who ruled his household with an iron fist. Nettie liked almost everyone she ever met but she didn't hold Mr. Cooper in high regard at all. Nettie guided Polly and her precious baby out the door and towards her home where she made tea and placed homemade cinnamon muffins on a plate.
It was obvious Polly hadn't eaten in a while as she gobbled up two of the large muffins. Nettie made a pallet for baby Faith who was soundly sleeping. Polly began her story.
A fellow named James Philpot found his way into Greensboro. He was a handsome young man who won the heart of Polly at first sight. Polly was enrolled in Normal School and studying to be a teacher as she had always planned. James knew right away that Polly was his for the taking but she would be the type who would insist on marriage before she would give into his many charms. The Coopers had a farm on the outskirts of town and owned acres of land near the river. James was a swindler who thought he would be able to ingratiate himself into the family. Mr. Cooper was not to be fooled though and refused to allow Polly to associate with this scoundrel. Polly could not understand why Pa couldn't see how charming and delightful James was. James suggested they go to a Justice of the Peace in a neighboring town. They would be married and Mr. Cooper wouldn't have any choice but to accept James into the family. Polly's head was telling her not to do this but her heart won out and she went off to become Mrs. James Philpot. James had no intention of actually marrying this country bumpkin.
He arranged for his cousin to pose as a Justice of the Peace and perform the bogus ceremony. It didn't take Polly long to discover James' true colors but by the time she did, she was expecting a baby. Her father would not welcome James into the family and told Polly she was no longer his daughter. When James discovered there would be no dowry or land given to him, he fled Greensboro with only a note telling Polly to find a way to get rid of the brat and informed her they were never legally married.
Polly's heart was broken but more than that she didn't know what she was going to do. Her Aunt Bertha was willing to put her up in her boarding house until the baby was born and sent off to an orphanage in Pennsylvania. Polly was expected to earn her keep by cleaning and cooking. She didn't complain, just tried to stay out of Aunt Bertha's way. Polly cried herself to sleep at night thinking of her baby. She had grown to love the unborn child and was determined to find a way to keep it.
One evening in October, Polly began to feel pains and knew her child was about to be born. Polly had never felt such agony in her life and kept praying that her baby would make it through the birth. She heard a voice telling her to have faith. Polly who had been present at her younger brothers and sisters births had some experience with babies being born. Pa refused to pay a doctor to attend to his wife and Polly was the only help she had. She knew it was truly a miracle when her baby girl was born healthy.
Just before dawn that morning while Aunt Bertha was still sleeping, Polly bundled up her newborn daughter, took her money out of its hiding place and walked away from Aunt Bertha's house and the prospect of giving her daughter away. Polly and Faith were well on their way to Camden Corners before Aunt Bertha discovered Polly was gone. She was glad to be rid of that ungrateful little tart. Aunt Bertha never knew Polly had given birth that evening or that her great niece had come into the world. When she told her brother about Polly's departure, the only thing he said was “Good riddance.”
Nettie was appalled that Polly was treated so shabbily. She immediately opened her home to the young mother and her sweet little baby. Polly assured Nettie she would not overstay her welcome and would be on her way very soon. Nettie wouldn't hear any talk of her leaving. She was already planning a baby shower for the new arrival and couldn't wait to show off the little girl. Nettie felt like a first time grandmother and enjoyed the feeling very much.
Oscar arrived for afternoon tea at that very moment. He was captivated with Faith and was looking forward to the day when she would have a cousin or two to play with. Oscar loved his two sons but wouldn't it be fun to have a frilly little girl to make a fuss over?
Polly felt truly loved for the first time in her life. She knew she had made the right decision when she remembered hearing Miss Nettie had moved to Camden Corners.
The weeks ahead were filled with happy times. Nettie couldn't wait to decorate a little alcove of her apartment for baby Faith. It became clear that her cozy apartment was just not big enough. Polly was apologetic that she and Faith had caused Nettie any inconvenience but Nettie was happier than she had been in a very long time.
Oscar had a solution, the women could move into his large home. There was way too much room for just one person. Polly and Faith would each have a room of their own. Nettie blushed knowing there were only three bedrooms in the house but Oscar sat her down on the sofa, tried his best to get down on one knee and slipped a beautiful diamond ring on her finger. Nettie said yes and they were married in the chapel that very weekend. The reception was in full swing when the door of O'Sullivan's Pub swung open and James Philpot appeared with a smirk on his face.
“Where is my daughter?” he shouted staring directly at Polly.
Diana Taylor was holding the baby at the time and stepped into the background. Oscar approached the cocky fellow and was pushed aside. Robert and Richard were on their feet immediately. Oscar, always the negotiator, tried talking quietly to James. James walked directly to Polly and demanded she present him with his baby.
“You mean the baby you wanted me to get rid of, James?”
He was surprised by the strength in her voice but continued “My child is somewhere in this room and I will find it, take it and you will never see it again.”
That was all Sheriff Mendenhall needed. He slapped cuffs on James and with the help of several of the men dragged him to the jailhouse to sober up and cool down.
Polly was mortified. Because of her, James had ruined Oscar and Nettie's wedding reception. “No, no,” said Nettie, “The party has just begun.”
The festivities went on but Polly found herself wondering if James really did have any claim to Faith. Randy Burke was watching Polly from across the room. He had been attracted to her the moment he first laid eyes on her. He could tell she was a loving mother just the way she cared for little Faith. Maddie Mackenzie saw the glint in her brother's eye when he looked at Polly. Maddie, always the romantic, knew this was a match made in heaven and encouraged Randy to court her. Randy knew Polly wasn't ready for a relationship with anyone. He was willing to wait a while before he let her know his feelings. Even though Polly was smiling, he knew instinctively that she was afraid of James Philpot and what he might do.
Randy pulled Oscar aside and the two of them went out the back door and into the law office down the street. Oscar put some papers together and sent Randy on his way to the jailhouse. Randy was a big, husky fellow and looked extremely mature for his age. He walked through the jailhouse doors and confronted James in his cell. James had sobered up just enough to be aware of Randy's presence.
“Hey guy,” called Randy “I knew I couldn't be the father of Polly's brat. I've got here some papers for you to sign telling the world that you are the kid's father. Old man Crowley says I'm responsible for that kid until she is 18 but I don't want any part of it. Polly's kinda cute but who needs to be dragged down by a dame and a kid. Sign these and I'll be outta here.”
“Hey, wait a minute, that's your kid? Hey Sheriff, let me out and I'll be out of town before the street lights go on.”
“Not so fast,” came a voice from behind. “my client here is willing to give up custody of his kid to you.” drawled Richard Crowley. “I've got some papers for you to sign, Pops.”
“Hey, wait just one minute,” chimed Robert Crowley. “You shouldn't have to be saddled with a kid now when you are such a young fellow. I have some papers here saying you are not the father of the little troll. Sign these and for a small fee of $100, I will file them in court for you tomorrow and just let that Polly try to collect any child support from you.”
James reached in his pocket and gave Richard all the money he had, grabbed the papers, signed them and was gone before the cell door closed behind him. The four men shook hands and delivered the papers and the $100 to Polly who was noticing Randy Burke for the first time. Everyone joined in the celebration as Oscar exclaimed, “Love is lovelier, the second time around.”
Polly looked into Randy's eyes and whispered, “Falling in love for the first time is quite lovely too.”