Sunday, September 30, 2012
This Apple Fell Far From the Tree
Ellingsworth Murphy had to admit his son, Grady knew just what to do with that old bag, Maybeth. She was starting to get on his nerves. Maybe he'd slipped her a little too much Laudanum. He was getting a little careless with his measurements lately. He was tired of waiting for the drug to take effect on these old women. Most of them imbibed in a good amount of sherry throughout the day and he figured they needed that extra little push to make them pliable enough to be manipulated easily. His latest victim was not accustomed to alcohol in any form and the drug must have affected her more quickly than his previous experiences.
Maybeth was being hauled out of the room when he looked up and saw that country bumpkin Doc McMillan looking down at him.
“Doctor Murphy, I don't know what you gave Mrs. DuBois but I would guess if I called the sheriff over here he would find Laudanum in your pocket. I will not further ruin your son's wedding reception by causing a scene. I would strongly suggest you bid farewell to your son and find your way out of town before I change my mind. You are a disgrace to the medical profession sir.”
“I will gladly leave this hick town Doctor. Whatever that old bat ingested, it was all her doing. I was trying to keep her company as she was being ignored by that cousin of hers. I'm sure I saw her empty her flask of spirits into her punch glass so don't go blaming me for the old drunk's behavior.”
Doc's face was turning red as Grady approached. “Your train is at the station, Father. I'll walk you over to it. Thank you for coming to the wedding. I'm sorry you couldn't stay longer. Let's go” Grady grabbed his father's arm and guided him out the door. He was back in time to cut the cake with his bride.
As much as Grady tried to hide it, Elizabeth could see the worry lines on Grady's forehead. She loved this man so much and couldn't understand how he could be so unlike the man who was responsible for his birth. Her question was answered when she looked at Grady's beaming face. He had spotted an older couple standing in the doorway. He grabbed Elizabeth's hand and rushed to the man and woman embracing them both in a big bear hug.
“Miss Addie, Mr. Leo. I can't believe you are here.”
“Oh Grady darlin', we came as soon as we could get here. We couldn't miss seeing our boy as a married man and meeting his beautiful wife,” Addie said as she threw her arms around Elizabeth.
“I'm so pleased to meet both of you. Grady has spoken of you so often.” It was true, Grady had spoken of the older couple who had cared for him as long as he could remember. His father was so rarely at home and Addie and Leo were the only family Grady had ever known. He had talked about them moving to Camden Corners after he was settled in town but they were set in their ways and didn't think they wanted to leave New York City. Addie was a cook and Leo a handyman for a family on Fifth Avenue. They had their own small room in the basement of the house and were content as long as they had each other and knew that Grady was happy in his new life.
Grady introduced the Schmidts to the other guests. Before long Addie and Alma Tanner were discussing how to best roast a chicken and Leo was accepting an invitation from Oscar and Chris Pringle to try out ice fishing on Camden Lake. Elizabeth noticed the worry lines had disappeared on her new husband's forehead. She marveled at the difference between his father and these two people who obviously meant the world to him.
Maybeth woke up the next morning with a terrible headache and vague thoughts of what transpired the evening before. She was mortified. What in the world had gotten into her. The last she remembered, that handsome Dr. Murphy had told her about a miracle medicine he had that would help her lumbago. It must have worked because her back wasn't bothering her in the least. If it weren't for a groggy head, she would feel just fine.
“Good morning Maybeth” said her cousin as she entered the bedroom carrying a pot of tea and some buttered biscuits. “How are you feeling this morning, dear? You gave us all quite a scare.”
“What on earth happened to me? I remember enjoying myself immensely with Dr. Murphy and then nothing until I looked up and saw young Dr. Murphy hovering over me.”
“Cousin, I'm afraid you were given something called Laudanum”
“What in the world is Laudanum?”
“I'm afraid it is a combination of opium and alcohol.” Millicent whispered quietly.
“Alcohol! On no, how on earth will I ever face anyone after I have ingested alcohol? I must resign my position with the Women's Christian Temperance Union immediately. Oh Millicent, what am I to do?”
“Now cousin, it wasn't exactly your fault, you were duped by the elder Dr. Murphy. I didn't like that man the minute I met him.”
The maid tapped on the door. “Excuse me ma'am, Dr. Grady Murphy is here to see Mrs. DuBois.”
Millicent welcomed Grady. “You are on your honeymoon Grady, you shouldn't be here today of all days.”
“Elizabeth understands, she is waiting in the carriage for me. I wanted to make sure Mrs. DuBois was recovered from her bout last evening. How are you feeling this morning?” Grady asked as he listened to her heart.
“I'll be just fine if I can ever forgive myself for imbibing in spirits. I'm so terribly ashamed Doctor Murphy.”
“You have nothing to be ashamed of, now tell me, how did my father persuade you to sip the Laudanum?”
“He said it would help my Lumbago. Oh my goodness Doctor, my back feels perfectly fine. Better than it has in years. Maybe he did have the cure for my pain after all.”
“Now Mrs. DuBois, it wasn't the Laudanum that cured your back pain, I would venture a guess that it was the dancing you did. Your body has reacted positively to exercise. You will have to be sure to do more of it in the future and your back will give you much less trouble.”
“I believe you are right Dr. Murphy. Now you go to your bride. I want to hear from Millicent very soon that you and Elizabeth have started your family.”
Grady chuckled as he left the ladies to join Elizabeth and start working on that task.
“What a wonderful young man Dr. Murphy is. He has given me cause to think, cousin. I do believe I will take my leave and return home. I am resigning my position in the WCTU. I still don't believe alcohol should be used on a regular basis but I did so enjoy myself for a time last evening. I never mentioned this but Mayor Russell has asked me to join him at the annual policeman's ball. I'm thinking I might just accept his invitation. I know he enjoys a glass of port from time to time. I can't see any reason not to join him.”
“Maybeth, that is a wonderful idea. I will miss you terribly but I'm sure the mayor will enjoy your company. I want to hear all about the ball and the mayor.”
One month later Millicent received an invitation in the mail. His Honor Mayor Lindsey P. Russell and Mrs. Maybeth Merryweather DuBois cordially invite you to attend their nuptials on the Fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred Four. Millicent silently thanked that rascal Dr. Ellingsworth Murphy. He had no idea what he started when he slipped Maybeth her first taste of alcohol.
Addie and Leo Schmidt woke up in their comfortable bed in Mrs. Wharton's boarding house.
“Leo, I do like it here in Camden Corners. I never thought I'd be happy in a small town but the people have been so friendly and kind I hate to think of leaving this afternoon. It has been so pleasant being with our dear Grady and Elizabeth for this short visit. I don't want it to come to an end.”
“I feel the same way Addie. I have been awake for the last hour trying to think of a way we would be able to stay here instead of going back to New York but I don't see how we can leave our employment for another two or three years.”
There was a soft knock on the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt, are you awake?” Leo recognized the voice of Mrs. Wharton. “I don't like to disturb you but a telegram was just delivered from New York City and I thought it best to get it to you right away. I'll just slip it under the door.”
Leo got up out of the warm bed and picked up the telegram. He knew it couldn't be good news and braced himself before he opened it and read that his employers had decided to keep their temporary replacements on permanently and the Schmidt's services were no longer required.
“Addie, I do believe our wish has come true. We will be staying here in Camden Corners. I'm not sure where we will live but the Lord has always come through for us and I suspect He will again. We'd best get dressed and have a talk with Mrs. Wharton. We won't be able to stay here any longer. We will have to be careful with the little money we have.”
The couple talked with Mrs. Wharton. She was sympathetic and asked the Schmidts to stay on at the boarding house. “I don't expect any boarders at this time of year. Leo, you can help me with chores around the house and Addie, I would love your help in the kitchen.” The Schmidts knew Mrs. Wharton wasn't in need of any extra help and appreciated her kind offer. Maybe they could forget their pride for a few days until they could think of another solution. They both hugged Mrs. Wharton who sincerely didn't want this lovely couple to leave Camden Corners.
Word spread fast through the community that the Schmidts were out of work. The privacy of Mrs. Wharton's boarders was not high on her list. Millicent Merryweather Stout had met the couple at Grady and Elizabeth's wedding before her cousin's medical emergency. She liked them immediately. The couple who had been employed by Millicent had recently retired and moved to Greensboro to live with their son and his family. The night of the wedding she was tempted to ask the Schmidts if they would ever consider moving to Camden Corners and if they did, she would be interested in employing them. She donned her heavy coat and hat and set out for the Wharton House.
Mrs. Wharton knew if she told the right people, the Schmidts wouldn't be unemployed for long and as she expected, Millicent Stout would be first in line for their services. Before the end of the day Addie and Leo Schmidt had moved their meager belongings into the second floor of the Merryweather Stout mansion. Millicent wouldn't hear of them residing in the damp basement. She had plenty of room on the upper floor of the big sprawling house. Addie and Leo pinched themselves. Not only did they have a big beautiful bedroom with a huge bed and fireplace, they had their own bathroom and sitting room. Millicent would become much more than an employer to the couple. She would become their friends. “Wait until Grady hears of our new positions and that we are the newest members of the Camden Corners community.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
A Belated Valentine
Fredrick George Evans entered the world just after midnight and narrowly missed being a valentine baby. Little Freddie was named after his two grandfathers. Ted was in awe of this tiny little creature Grace held in her arms. He wondered why he put off getting married for so many years. He had never been happier than he was at this moment.
Caroline Bentley was proud of her daughter. She handled delivery very well. Caroline hadn't given birth to a baby since the day Grace was born. She was now a grandmother and would be a new mother herself in just a few short months.
Jamison brought their children, Kenny and Becky into the room. Kenny was glad there was another boy in the family but wondered how long it would be before he was big enough to toss a baseball. Becky was fascinated with her little nephew. He was so small, almost as small as her favorite doll, Bess. Jamison and Caroline adopted Kenny and Becky shortly after their arrival in Camden Corners. Caroline found it hard to believe that less than one year ago she had been living alone in her big house and now it was filled with her new husband, Jamison and their two children. Jamison's sons visited often along with Grace and Ted and now little Freddie was a part of the growing family.
Jamison was relieved the new hospital was scheduled to open before Caroline was due to deliver their baby. Caroline wasn't as young as most of the new mothers in Camden Corners. Without her knowing, he had spoken with Doc about the danger involved. Doc reassured him that Caroline was healthy and there wasn't any reason to fear for her safety. Doc didn't tell him Caroline had already been in to see him for the same reason.
Reggie Blackburn was touring each and every floor of the hospital. The finishing touches were being completed. Equipment and supplies were being delivered daily now. There wasn't a train that rolled in that didn't have a box or package for the hospital. The doctors were meeting that very afternoon to supervise the placement of beds in the rooms. There were two large wards and several small rooms on each floor. Different areas of the hospital were assigned for different tasks. Anyone with a broken bone or sprain would be directed to that section. Someone coming in with stomach cramps would be sent to another section. Reggie felt confident the doctors would be pleased with the results since they had all participated in one way or another with the design. All except Dr. Springer, but he seemed like a reasonable man.
Reggie took a special interest in the nursery and delivery rooms. Josie hadn't decided whether she would be giving birth at home or in the hospital. He suspected that she would opt to be in their bed when their child was born. Most women seemed to prefer to stay home but there hadn't been an option before. At least the rooms were available if they were needed. Everything about the hospital had been well thought out. Jamison was the best architect he had ever worked with. He seemed to read people's minds and came up with exactly what they had envisioned. Reggie's last stop was the chapel. He often visited this quiet room to gather his thoughts after a hard day. It was such a beautiful room. Lucinda, with the help of Jack Mackenzie, was able to have a stained glass window commissioned. The sun reflected on it near the end of the day and the colors seemed to flicker on the ceiling. This room was nearly complete which was a good thing because in just three days Grady Murphy and Elizabeth Lawrence were going to be married here.
Caroline stayed with her daughter and made a light supper for the new parents to enjoy with their baby. Jamison headed over to the hospital after making sure the children were safe at home with the housekeeper who loved having them underfoot. Jamison was pleased with the way everything looked. Lucinda was very clear in what she wanted in the building and she never hesitated to ask for input from the doctors and folks from other hospitals around the state. Lucinda arrived at the same time Jamison did and they toured the facility together.
Dr. Springer was the first to arrive. The men shook hands and Clay gave Lucinda a hug. Julie and Tom arrived with Doc. The doctors were very pleased with the facility. They all agreed where everything should be placed and the crew started filling the rooms.
Lucinda told Julie as much as she would like to have her baby at home she thought it would be a vote of confidence to give birth in the new hospital. Julie agreed she would be doing the same when her baby was due. “Maybe we will start a trend.”
While her soon to be husband joined the group at the hospital, Elizabeth Lawrence and her good friend Audrey Lynch were busy stitching the last row of pearls on their dresses for Elizabeth and Grady Murphy's wedding.
“Father and Janice will be arriving in the morning from Pittsburgh for the wedding” said Elizabeth “I'm so happy Father will be here to give me away. Janice is bringing along the veil she wore when she and Father were married. Oh Audrey, I can't believe I will be Mrs. Grady Murphy in just a few days.”
“I'm happy you will have your family here to help you celebrate. Did Grady hear from his father?” Audrey asked.
“He didn't expect to. Grady says the famous Dr. Ellington Murphy is much to busy taking care of his wealthy patients to attend something so mundane as his only son's wedding,” answered Elizabeth.
“It is sad to see a father and son who are so entirely different. Grady chose to be a doctor to help people and his father seems to have decided on his profession to help himself to people's money.”
“Grady told me his father says rich folks are just as easy to treat as poor ones and the rewards are greater at the end of the day. I'm sure he would have preferred Grady married one of his high society patients rather than a lowly nurse from Buffalo. To be honest, Audrey, I'm relieved Dr. Murphy won't be at the wedding.”
Three days later, holding her proud father's arm, Elizabeth Lawrence walked down the aisle of the hospital chapel and became Mrs. Grady Murphy. She hadn't noticed the older gentleman looking at her from the corner of the room. She'll do, he thought to himself. I'd prefer Grady hadn't married beneath his station, but I do believe I will be able to mold her quite easily. I've got to get my boy out of this provincial town before he becomes too attached to it. Little did Dr. Ellington Murphy know his son had already become attached to Camden Corners and wasn't about to go anywhere.
“I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride,” Vicar Will Duesenberry proclaimed with a smile. This was one of the happiest parts of his job and he had become an expert at it since there always seemed to be a wedding to look forward to in Camden Corners.
Grady followed orders and happily kissed his bride. He and Elizabeth turned to face their admiring friends and neighbors and that was when Grady spotted his father staring at him from the back of the chapel. His heart sank. He hadn't heard from this overbearing man in months and now, on the happiest day of Grady's life, he chose to make an appearance.
Grady nodded in the man's direction but there was no sign of affection in his face. He would have to deal with Dr. Murphy eventually but for the present moment he was happy to accept all the handshakes and hugs he was receiving as he and his new bride walked arm in arm out of the hospital chapel.
Elizabeth could feel the sudden tension in Grady as they turned from Vicar Will. She caught the sign of recognition in Grady's face when he glanced at the gentleman at the rear of the chapel.
Grady hadn't said much about his family. Only that his mother died when he was still a toddler. He didn't have any other living relatives with the exception of his father. She knew the relationship had never been close.
Grady was hoping his father wouldn't show up at the reception which was being held in the winery ballroom. However, he knew where champagne was flowing his father wouldn't be far behind.
Grady introduced Elizabeth to his father. He smiled at his new daughter-in-law but seemed much more interested in the two ladies entering the room at that moment.
“I'll tell you right now young lady, I'm not going to rest until Grady comes back to his home in New York and practices his profession where he belongs, in the office next to mine.”
“I will travel wherever my husband desires Dr. Murphy, but I do believe Grady is very happy here in Camden Corners.” replied Elizabeth. She was having a difficult time believing this cold, detached man could have raised a wonderful and caring person like Grady.
“We will talk about the move later. Now go dance or cut the cake or something, don't worry about me, I'll just mingle with your guests.”
Grady knew they had been dismissed. He almost felt sorry for the man. His father made an embarrassing amount of money catering to the rich ladies but never found time to enjoy his wealth. He was always on the look out for a needy rich woman to fawn over. It seemed he had found one even here in Camden Corners.
Millicent Merryweather Stout entered the room with her visiting cousin Maybeth Merryweather DuBois. Millicent lived comfortably in Camden Corners but she wasn't what one would consider a wealthy woman. Maybeth on the other hand had inherited her father's fortune the year she turned 25. She married Francois DuBois just before her 30th birthday. He died a year later leaving her his fortune also.
Ellingsworth Murphy recognized wealth when he saw it and introduced himself to the cousins.
Millicent had met Grady Murphy several times since he moved to Camden Corners. She found him to be a very unpretentious young man. That was more than she could say for his father. Maybeth, however, was completely mesmerized by Dr. Ellingsworth Murphy.
Dripping with charm, the doctor asked “May I get you ladies a glass of champagne?”
Millicent would gladly have taken a glass but her cousin was president of her hometown branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and abhorred alcohol in any form. The only way Millicent could get her cousin to attend the wedding reception at a winery today was to tell her the wine was not produced yet and when it was it would only be used for holy communion.
Maybeth clutched her chest and was about to tell the doctor he could sit elsewhere if he was planning to imbibe in the devil's brew.
Ellingsworth could see he was losing the battle and corrected himself immediately. “I'm so sorry ladies, that was a slip of the tongue. Of course I meant to say fruit punch. I myself never indulge in anything with alcohol in it.”
Millicent wasn't fooled for a second but Maybeth seemed to be clinging to every word that flowed out of the doctor's mouth. Millicent marveled at the way he seemed to know exactly what to say to her vulnerable cousin. She knew Maybeth was lonely and thought a little harmless flirtation would be good for her. Maybeth seemed content to sit with Doctor Murphy but Millicent had had enough and excused herself to join the others.
Maybeth couldn't believe her good fortune. Dr. Murphy came along just at the right time. She was having such trouble with her lumbago. Dr. Murphy reached in his bag and brought out a vial of medicine. He told her it would help her ills and he was right. Within a short time Maybeth was twirling on the dance floor with the doctor.
Millicent couldn't believe her eyes. She hadn't seen her cousin ever act in this way. She pulled Doc McMillan aside and said she was worried about Maybeth's heart condition. Doc was wondering what got into Maybeth or more specifically what Dr. Murphy may have laced her punch with. Doc had heard tales of Dr. Ellingsworth Murphy's unusual treatment of elderly rich women. He had a reputation of being reckless with his care. The ladies were always more than willing to pay him generously for his services.
Maybeth could feel her heart racing but she couldn't seem to slow down her dancing. She felt the room spinning and then nothing as she collapsed on the floor. Doctor Grady Murphy rushed to her side. His father watched helplessly as Grady hovered over Maybeth willing her to breath. She finally came to and was very lucky to be alive. With the assistance of some of the men at the party, Millicent took her cousin home but not without a stern message to Dr. Ellingsworth Murphy not to ever come near her cousin again.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
The Party Goes On
Margie Springer reached out her hand hoping to calm her husband. She had known Clayton Springer since they were in sixth grade together and she could tell when his temper was getting the best of him. She couldn't imagine what he meant about knowing the pretty young woman who stood at the podium in front of the applauding crowd.
Clay was seething as he listened to Lucinda praise a man called Shane Howard. He had no idea who she was referring to. His only thought was how she had made a fool of him. He couldn't understand why she would masquerade as she did and the fact that she would put her sick child in danger infuriated him. Was she testing him to see if he was up to her standards as a physician? Was this just a trick to get him to agree to uproot his family and move to Camden Corners? Most importantly why did she choose him to humiliate? His mind was whirling and then he heard her mention his name.
“I would personally like to welcome our newest physician and his family to Camden Corners. I'd like to tell you of my encounter with Dr. Springer when Cassandra and I were still living in New York City.
As you know, Cassandra and I were struggling to make ends meet in our little apartment in New York. It was a cold January day just over a year ago when Cassandra woke up with a fever. I was grateful that there was a free clinic in town and I knew they would be able to help Cassandra but it was three trolly car rides away and Cassandra was such a sick little girl I didn't want to take a chance that the cold would be the worst thing for her at that time. There was a small medical office three doors down from our apartment building. I bundled Cassandra up in blankets, held her as close to me as I could to protect her from the howling wind. I was so relieved when I made it to the doors of the office. The nurse was very pleasant and told me to have a seat. I tried to explain that I only had some change in my pocket but that I would visit the pawn shop as soon as I was able. I had a pearl ring that was found with my mother after the accident. One of the attendants at the orphanage gave it to me as a keepsake. She told me to hide it and I kept it inside a hankie all the years I was in the orphanage. I never thought of selling it even when I was down to my last few pennies for the week. Cassandra's health was more important than any ring and I knew that was what I had to do to pay the doctor's bill.
I could hear the nurse explain my situation to Dr. Pike. He glanced my way and I heard him tell the nurse that they didn't accept charity cases and to send us to the free clinic. At that point, a man with the kindest of faces walked through the doors. I think he heard what Dr. Pike said and came over to Cassandra. He sat down next to us and then asked that we come into his office. I told him I didn't have very much money and he told me about his children at home and that if they were sick he would want someone to help them too. He gave Cassandra some medicine and she was so much better the next day. I asked Mrs. Coleridge, our neighbor to watch Cassandra while I took my ring to the pawn shop. I stopped in the medical office and asked to see Dr. Springer. He was making a house call at the time so I left the money with the nurse. That very afternoon there was a knock on the door. It was Dr. Springer. He said he was checking on his favorite little patient and then handed me my pearl ring. His nurse had told him that I had mentioned pawning my ring and this wonderful man searched the pawn shops until he found it and brought it back to me. You can understand why I mentioned Dr. Springer as a possible addition to our hospital. I'm just happy he agreed to join the hospital and our community.
Margie could feel the tension slipping away as Lucinda told her story. She didn't doubt for one minute that Clay would do as he did. She always knew he was an exceptional man.
After the applause settled down, Clay asked “Maybe it isn't my business but in one year's time how was that poverty stricken young lady able to build a hospital?”
Doc laughed “To make a long story short....”
Mary interrupted him “It's a lovely story and I will tell it. You will leave out all the details Doc.” Mary began at the beginning and ended with the happiness Lucinda found in Camden Corners with Nick Rossi. Clay listened intently to every word. He was ashamed of his previous distrust of Lucinda. She could have lived a life of luxury with money left to her but instead donated it to the building of a hospital. Any doubts he had about moving his family to Camden Corners were dispelled that evening. Clay and Margie were born and raised in a big city but they were both small town people at heart and Camden Corners won both their hearts that evening.
Young Peter Springer found himself glancing in the direction of the pretty young girl seated at at the table directly across from him. She would look his way and turn her head as soon as their eyes met. He hadn't met too many people just yet. Mostly the boys from his classes at school. This girl looked familiar but he couldn't place her and then he spotted another boy sitting at the table. He was playing ball with the kid with the great pitching arm he saw earlier that day. It turned out that kid was a girl. He suddenly realized this was that girl, the one with the curls all over her head.
Peter never thought much about the opposite sex until his sixteenth birthday just three months ago. He remembered noticing the red haired girl in his history class in New York. One day she was just another girl and what seemed to be overnight she was transformed into a beauty. He wondered what she would do if he tried to hold her hand but he never would find out since his pa moved them to this little town. Pete wasn't sure he was going to like it in Camden Corners. It was always so quiet. His little sister, Abigail had already made friends and had forgotten all about New York. Samantha seemed to be happy wherever she was as long as she had a book in her hands. He heard Mama tell her about some antique shop and how the owner said she could work there a couple days a week. Samantha was excited about that and couldn't wait to start. Maybe he should think about getting a job after school. He thought of the art gallery on Main Street and wondered if they needed someone to sweep and empty trash. He wouldn't even ask for pay. He liked looking at the artwork and he liked to draw and paint. He stopped in the gallery earlier in the day and met the owner, Jack Mackenzie. He liked Mr. Mackenzie, he always thought painters were a little unbalanced like Vincent van Gogh, but Mr. Mackenzie seemed like a normal guy. He told him he could come into the shop anytime he wanted to. He even told him to bring over some of his work and he'd take a look at it. Pete wasn't sure he was ready to have an artist look at his work. He'd have to think about that.
The dancing started and Pete saw his classmate, Marty dancing with that girl. They seemed to be having fun. Pete wasn't much of a dancer but he could see other fellas cutting in on the dance floor and wondered if he should do the same.
“Come on, Samantha, let's dance.” He took her hand and Samantha didn't have much choice but to follow her brother to the dance floor. She didn't mind because she loved to dance. Even as a little girl she would dance around the house pretending she was a ballerina.
“Samantha, I want to cut in on that kid over there. Would you help me trade dancing partners?”
“Pete! I can't do that, what if he turns me down and I'm standing on the dance floor all alone, I would be mortified.”
Pete didn't listen to her and danced over to Marty and Jennie and tapped Marty on the shoulder. Marty turned around and saw Samantha standing there with a petrified look on her face. He could almost read her mind and asked if she would care to dance with him. She nodded her head in relief.
Pete held Jennie in his arms. She thought her knees were going to buckle. What was wrong with her and why was she acting this way?
“Hello, my name is Pete. I'm the dumb guy who thought you were a boy. You sure don't look like a boy tonight.”
Jennie found her voice. “I'm Jennie”
Jennie's brother Ben tapped Pete's shoulder. He didn't want to give Jennie up but didn't have a choice when he started to pull away, Jennie pulled him closer.
“Get out of here Ben or I'll sock you. Go dance with somebody else.”
Pete couldn't help but laugh. This was the girl he saw with the great pitching arm. She was going to be a lot of fun to be around. She turned back to him with a demure smile on her face.
“So Pete, how do you like living in Camden Corners?”
“I think I'm going to like it here just fine Jennie”
Samantha was enjoying her dance with Marty Mackenzie. He was an exceptional dancer and they glided across the floor. She didn't want the dance or the evening to end.
“Samantha, where did you learn to dance like this? You could be in a musical. The high school always puts on a show in the spring. Mr. Lane was talking about doing the Wizard of Oz. If you can sing as well as you dance you should try out. I'm going to try for the straw man myself.”
“That would be fun Marty but I'm not sure I would be able to perform in front of all those people”
“Nonsense, we are all your friends or will be by then. Anyway, look around you now. All eyes are on the two of us.”
Samantha looked up and sure enough, everyone was standing next to the dance floor and watching them dance. They all started clapping and instead of feeling shy, Samantha found herself enjoying the attention.
Margie turned to Clay. “I don't think you have to worry about our children here in Camden Corners, I do believe they are fitting in very well.” She pointed to a table on the far side of the room where Pete and Jennie were talking and laughing. Margie chuckled as she saw Pete take hold of Jennie's hand. She noticed Jennie didn't pull her hand away.
According to Grace Evans' calculations, she should have given birth two weeks ago. Doc Julie told her not to worry, babies have their own schedules and her little one would be here soon. She had felt rather like a cow that evening while she dressed for the dance.
“Maybe I should stay home” she told Ted “I'm so big and fat I'm not sure I'll be able to waddle up to the second floor of the winery.”
“It will be fun Grace, and if we don't show up, your mother will worry about you. You know how she has been looking forward to this evening.”
Grace was enjoying herself more than she expected. She was very calm and almost forgot she had been with child for over nine months. She was in Ted's arms as they glided over the dance floor.
Suddenly she had the strangest feeling and then a suspicious pain.
“Maybe you'd better take me home, Ted.”
Ted scooped her up and carried her to the carriage with her mother, Caroline and Doc Julie following behind.
The band began playing “Rock A Bye Baby” with everyone wishing the new parents good luck as they exited the building.
Friday, September 21, 2012
The Valentine Dance
Camden Corners was abuzz with the news there would be a Valentine Dance held in the newly finished ballroom of the Hightower Winery. Special dance classes were being held for those who needed a refresher course in dancing or had never mastered the art in the first place. Even those with two left feet were getting into the spirit of the holiday.
Everyone involved in the building of the Hightower Winery was proud of the final results. The décor in the tasting and meeting rooms in the lower level was exceptional. The ballroom was reminiscent of the finest dance halls in any large city.
The Hightowers engaged the services of a catering company from New York City for the event enabling the local restauranteurs to attend the party as guests. They also brought in a band they had heard in New York when they were there finalizing their Uncle Shane's estate several months before.
At first the Hightower brothers thought they would sponsor the dance for adults only. Their wives thought it would be a better idea if the whole town was invited to the dance no matter what their age.
“Our town is growing thanks to Uncle Shane and his hard earned money. Why not let the children be a part of the growth since we hope they will be part of the town's future and build their lives here.” said Dahlia
Jennie Burke was tossing a ball back and forth to her brother Ben on the school playground. As usual, Jennie's clothes were disheveled. She was wearing her snowsuit pants and jacket. Her long braids were hidden under her brother Jack's old stocking caps. Her face was smeared with mud.
“That's a pretty good arm you got there kid”
Jennie turned around and looked into the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.
The boy with the beautiful eyes said “Bet you could pitch for the New York Highlanders. That's my favorite team.”
Jennie, who was never at a loss for words just stared at the boy.
Ben shouted “Hey Jennie, toss me the ball, I'm going over to Billy's. Tell Mama I'll be home before supper.”
“Sorry miss, I thought you were a fella. Are you gonna be at the dance tonight? We are new in town so maybe I'll see ya there.”
Jennie could only nod her head. She couldn't get any words to come out of her mouth. She walked back home in a daze.
Meanwhile, Nadine was preparing a light supper for her family before the big dance tonight. Maddie was visiting with her mother with some happy news.
“Mama, I guess I should have known but you know how busy we were in the shop during the holidays and then that whole mess with Polly's family and Oscar being arrested for murder, it just didn't occur to me that I could be expecting. You know Jack has been helping Mack with his drawing, he is becoming quite good at it too. Well, Mack drew a sketch of me and my face was fuller than it had ever been. It was only then did I realize I had been feeling tired lately. Everyone has morning sickness but I didn't, not even once. Doc Julie told me some women never do have it although she isn't one of them. Julie had to excuse herself two times while I was there. She doesn't know how much longer she can keep up her patient load. Anyway, she confirmed it. Mack and I will have our own baby in August.”
“Maddie, that's wonderful news. I know you have been wanting to start a family. Mack must be thrilled.”
“He's passing out cigars to everyone. I told him that was suppose to be done after the baby's arrival and he just says he'll pass them out then too.”
Fiona arrived and threw her arms around Nadine. “We are going to be Grandmas together Nadine. Our dreams have come true.” She hugged her daughter-in-law and patted her tummy.
Jennie walked in the back door staring into space.
“Jennie, are you alright? You have a very odd look on your face”
“I'm wonderful Mama.” She proceeded to take her heavy snowsuit off.
“Jennie, I know you didn't want to go to the dance tonight. I discussed it with your papa and he has agreed that you can stay home, we won't force you to go.”
“Oh no Mama, I want to go to the dance. I wonder if Bethany will let me borrow that pretty pink dress she wore at Christmas.”
Jennie walked up the stairs to the room she shared with her sister Lucy and her adopted sister Bethany. She sat down at the dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror. Lucy didn't think Jennie ever looked in a mirror. She never wanted to dress up in frilly clothes as Lucy did. She would rather play ball with her brothers than dolls with her sisters. She was a funny, happy girl and everyone just accepted that Jennie was being herself and they loved all her little tomboy ways.
Without warning, Jennie let out a yelp, yanked at her pigtails and started to sob.
“Mama, come quick, something terrible has happened to Jennie.”
The three women ran up the stairs two at a time. “What's happened?” shouted Nadine.
Jennie was still seated at the dressing table. “He thought I was a boy. He's right, I do look like a boy and even Bethany's pink dress won't make me look pretty like all the other girls.”
“Who thought you were a boy Jennie?” Everyone in town knew Jennie didn't dress in frilly dresses or brush pretty curls into her hair.
“I don't know who he was but he had beautiful eyes and my tummy did flip flops when I saw him.”
Lucy shouted out, “Jennie's in love!” She was just a year younger than her sister but she herself had been in love at least three times in the last year.
“That's enough Lucy. Why don't you go downstairs and check on your little brother.” Fiona walked with her while Nadine and Maddie stayed with Jennie.
Nadine dried her daughter's tears. She knew behind all that smeared dirt on her face there was a very pretty young lady. Maddie helped untangle her braids and helped her sister wash her hair. She curled her pretty auburn hair with rags and pins. Bethany was more than happy to lend her sister her pink party dress.
Jennie was afraid her brothers would tease her if they saw her in her rags and pins and decided to stay in her room until just before they all left for the dance.
Papa talked to all the boys and told them not to tease their sister about the way she looks. “What's wrong with the way she looks? All my friends like her and want her on their team. They wouldn't ever make fun of her. Besides, she would sock them if they did.”
Maddie hurried home to change for the dance herself and she and Mack came back so Maddie could oversee her sister's transformation.
Jennie watched in the mirror as Maddie brushed her hair. She had never seen so many curls. Maddie applied just a touch of blush to her cheeks and a pale pink lipstick. Bethany's dress fit her perfectly. It was time for her to walk down the stairs. The whole family was waiting for her as she stepped into the parlor. There was total silence in the room. Jennie was about to dissolve into tears when her papa turned on the phonograph and asked his daughter for a dance. Liam told his little girl how beautiful she looked. Her brothers and sisters all started talking at once. They had a hard time recognizing this lovely young lady before them.
“We'd better hurry if we are going to make it to the dance on time.” Everyone hurried into the waiting carriage and headed for the Mackenzie house so the families could go together as they always did.
Dr. Clayton Springer and his wife Margie were getting dressed for the dance. Clay was hoping he had made the right decision in moving his family to Camden Corners. It meant taking the children away from their familiar surroundings and their playmates. All three seemed to be taking it in stride and the youngest, Abigail already had two best friends in Camden Corners. Pete came home laughing about a girl he had mistaken for a boy. He told his father she had a better pitching arm than any of his chums back in New York. Samantha was always rather quiet. She enjoyed helping her mother with the cooking and loved reading. She was an excellent student and there weren't any signs that she was slipping in that area. He shook off his doubts and watched as his wife brushed her hair. She was the love of his life. Margie had a calming effect on Clay and just watching her face in the mirror quieted his unease.
“I'm very excited about the dance tonight Clay. I think we made the right decision in moving to Camden Corners. The children seem happy and it is such a beautiful little town. The people all care about one another. Mary McMillan and I went to the antique shop on Main and I met some of the loveliest ladies. Oh, by the way, I bought a pretty little lamp for Samantha's room. I think she likes it. It has an interesting history behind it. When I told Lily Crowley, one of the young owners of the shop, about Samantha's interest in antiques, she suggested she might like to work at the shop one or two afternoons a week. It seems everyone involved in the shop is a history buff. She even suggested Samantha might like to attend an auction with her friends Ethel and Jonas one day this summer. Samantha is thrilled with the idea and is planning to visit the shop after school on Monday.”
Clay was certain Margie could read his mind. She knew just when reassurance was required and always seemed to have the exact words he needed to hear.
“I'm a lucky man,” Clay said as he kissed his wife on the forehead
“Why, because you have a wife who enjoys spending your money on antique lamps?” Margie laughed.
The night air was very brisk as people began arriving at the winery. This was the first time most of the townsfolk had seen the winery. All of the carpentry work had been completed but it wouldn't be in operation until the fall when the first wine harvest began. Nick Rossi was happy to show off the winery to everyone and his papa, Lou was right at his side.
Upstairs in the ballroom, people were milling around enjoying a glass of champagne or fruit punch while they greeted their friends and neighbors.
The McMillans welcomed the Springer family and began introductions as they circled the room.
“It looks like Lucinda Rossi is busy behind the scenes,” said Doc “I'll introduce you to her later. Lucinda is responsible for the Camden Corners hospital being built. She is an extraordinary young woman. She and her daughter are also from New York City. She married Nick Rossi after she and Cassandra moved here just over a year ago.”
Peter looked around the room. He recognized some of the fellows from school and excused himself to join them at one of the tables set up with appetizers. The girls were at the other table and he noticed a pretty girl with very curly hair. He thought she was staring at him. She did look vaguely familiar but he couldn't place her.
Lucy noticed her sister staring longingly in the new boy's direction. “That's him, isn't it Jennie, the boy who you saw today? My goodness, he really is cute. He's looking over here Jennie. Go say something to him.”
“I can't, I can't move my legs. Oh Lucy, I'm such a klutz. These shoes are so tight I just want to kick them off and walk around in my stocking feet. Doesn't he have the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen?”
Lucy didn't know how she was going to do it but she was determined her sister would have at least one dance with that boy, sore feet or not.
Harold Hightower stood at the microphone announcing it was time everyone took their seat. Shortly after that Will Duesenberry gave the blessing.
Harold walked back to the microphone and asked everyone to begin eating their dinner. He wanted to announce that Camden Corner's Hospital would be fully functional within the week. He introduced two new doctors in town, Grady Murphy and Clayton Springer. The men stood at their seats while the audience showed their appreciation in applause.
Harold then said, “I would like to introduce the young lady who saw a need for a hospital in Camden Corners and fully funded the cost to build it with some left over for its operation. Mrs. Lucinda McCoy Rossi.”
Lucinda was walking into the room just as the building shook with the sound of applause. Harold called her to the microphone. She slowly walked to the front of the room.
At the McMillan table, Clayton Springer looked on with astonishment. “I know that woman. She brought her very ill daughter to the clinic and she is definitely not who she pretended to be.”
Everyone turned to look at Clayton. It was obvious he was not as impressed with the hospital benefactor as the rest of the room was.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
The box lunches didn't compare to the chicken pot pies that were being offered at O'Sullivan's Pub this evening but Jack didn't notice. He was irritated that he was on his way to New York City to retrieve the artwork Daphne Saint Marie had stolen from him earlier in the day. Audrey was sitting by his side. She tried to calm him down but he was furious.
“We will go directly to the police station when we arrive in the city. Jimmy O'Rourke is on the force. He and I were roommates. He's a good man. Come to think of it he warned me about Daphne. I should have listened to him back then.”
“Don't be so hard on yourself, Jack. We all make foolish mistakes at one time in our lives. Remember we would never have met if I hadn't followed Grady Murphy to Camden Corners because of my silly crush on him.”
“That's true and because of you, Elizabeth and Grady are now together. I can't say I like the thought of you mooning over another man but if it brought you to Camden Corners and me, I'm glad of it.”
The train pulled into the station. Jack had lived in New York long enough to know his way around. Audrey was mesmerized. She had never seen so many people and buildings in her life. She was caught up in the excitement and began to wish she and Jack weren't on a mission to recover artwork. Audrey knew the Hightowers had a motor car and she had seen quite a few in Buffalo but it was amazing how many automobiles and horse drawn carriages were together on the streets. Jack felt more comfortable in a carriage and that is what they rode to the police station.
The officer on the front desk called Jimmy to the reception area.
“Jack Mackenzie, I can't believe it's you” Jack and Jimmy had kept in touch but this was the first time they'd seen each other since the day Jack packed up and left New York vowing never to return.
The men embraced and Jack introduced Audrey to his old friend. Jimmy was glad to see Jack had moved on.
“Am I ever happy to meet you Audrey. I can tell just by looking at my friend Jack that you have brought out the best in him. I'm off duty in just a few minutes. Come home with me. Eileen will be thrilled to see you again.”
Jimmy lived in the neighborhood so they walked to the brownstone and surprised Eileen who was balancing a baby on her hip.
“Jack, what a wonderful surprise. Come in, please.”
Audrey and Eileen hit it off immediately. Jack told Jimmy about the stolen artwork and Daphne's visit.
“Eileen can tell you about Daphne and the scandal after her husband died. She gets all her information from the gossip columns.”
“Yes, and Jimmy loves to hear all the gossip. Daphne's husband died about a year ago. He left most of his money to charity and only an art studio to Daphne. She tried to fight the will but she didn't have enough money for a lawyer and nobody would take her case because the will was ironclad. It came out that her name was really Doris Schultz. She is from a small town in Kansas where she lived on a dairy farm. She changed her name and latched onto Grover Fulton. Daphne was one of Grover's five wives. He divorced them as soon as he felt they were past their prime. Daphne was young and naïve when she and Grover married. She didn't realize she was signing away all rights to his money.”
“I say she got what she deserved” said Jimmy.
“Well now Daphne or Doris has my property and I want it back.”
“Let's go,” said Audrey. “I don't feel quite so intimidated by her now that I know her name is Doris Schultz instead of Daphne Saint Marie”
Daphne was putting the last painting on the wall when the studio door opened and in walked Jack, that insipid girl from Camden Corners and a uniformed police officer. This was not in the plan thought Daphne.
“Darling, I thought you would be following me to New York. Haven't you missed the city, my love? I know what is best for you and having your wonderful work displayed in my studio is so much better than that silly little town of yours.”
“Hi Doris, nice to see you again” said Audrey.
Daphne was surprised her true identity had been discovered by this child. Her whole demeanor changed in that moment.
“Look honey, you may have your hooks in Jack now but I know what a man likes in a woman and you can never compete with me. Now you and the officer can be on your way. Jack and I have unfinished business.”
“You are right Daphne, we have unfinished business. My entire business is in your studio without my permission. Officer O'Rourke is here to help me retrieve it. I would suggest you move your carcass out of the way while we pack everything up. By the way, don't call my fiancee honey again.”
Daphne shrugged her shoulders. “Artists like you are a dime a dozen. My studio will be filled with expensive art in no time. Now get this junk out of my sight.” She stormed off into the back room wondering how she was going to pay the light bill next month. Maybe it was time she found another occupation. She had a few good years left in her. There are plenty of older gentlemen who are in need of companionship.
Jack, Audrey and Jimmy wrapped each piece of art carefully and carried it one by one to Jimmy's waiting carriage. With that problem taken care of, Jimmy was anxious to celebrate a visit by his old friend with a night on the town. Eileen dropped the baby off with her mother. It had been a while since she and Jimmy had taken in all the sights of Manhattan. She had always liked Jack and was happy to know his relationship with Doris Schultz was finally over. Audrey was the perfect match for her husband's good friend.
Audrey was delighted with the hustle and bustle of New York. They stayed on for a couple of days and there was still plenty to see but they did have to get back to reality.
Jimmy and Eileen saw them off at the train station promising to return for another visit very soon. Audrey was looking out the window when she noticed a tall regal looking woman walking arm in arm with an older gentleman at least five inches shorter than she was. He had a stogie dangling from his mouth and sparkling diamond rings on his fingers.
“Looks like Daphne Saint Marie is back in action” she said to Jack who simply shook his head.
Everyone in Camden Corners was happy to see the travelers return with all of the art work intact. Carrie helped hang the paintings in their places.
Audrey stopped at the medical offices to thank everyone for being understanding about her leaving.
“It hasn't been that busy” Elizabeth told her friend.
“Are you feeling alright Elizabeth? You look a little pale”
“Oh I'll be fine. I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights. I think I just missed my roommate.”
As the day wore on, Audrey worried about Elizabeth. She wasn't herself. Grady was busy treating one of the Burke boys who had been enjoying a toboggan ride with his friends until his steering went bad and they landed smack into a pine tree. There weren't any broken bones but Grady was making sure none of the boys had head injuries. He noticed Elizabeth was a little quiet but didn't think anything was wrong until Audrey came rushing into the room.
“Elizabeth just fainted. I helped her to the examining room and she is awake but she is burning with fever.”
Grady ran into the room. He could tell just by glancing that she was a very sick young woman. Doctor Tom took over the care of the toboggan riders as Grady wrapped Elizabeth in as many blankets as he could find and drove her in his carriage to the Mackenzie house where he put her to bed. Audrey went with them. Grady insisted Audrey wear a mask while she cared for Elizabeth. Grady knew Elizabeth's illness was extremely serious. He had seen an outbreak of influenza during his residency in Buffalo. He erased from his mind the young woman who died from the disease while under his care. He knew the best place for Elizabeth to be was in the hospital but he didn't think she would survive the long trip to Greensboro. Doc McMillan agreed. The new Camden Corners hospital couldn't be completed soon enough. After swallowing medication, Elizabeth was able to sleep. Grady and Audrey stayed by her side. The bedroom was closed off to the rest of the family. Audrey and Grady took turns sleeping on Audrey's bed. Jack made sure food and drinks were brought into the bedroom for the caregivers. Their carefree days in New York were just a distant memory. Jack knew if anything happened to Elizabeth, Audrey would be devastated.
Everyone in town was anxious for Elizabeth. She had only been a resident of Camden Corners for a short while but she, Grady and Audrey were well loved already.
Vicar Will opened the church for a special service offering prayers for Elizabeth and also for the containment of the flu virus. Everyone was taking extra precautions to wash their hands often and see one of the Docs if they experienced any symptoms at all.
After looking through the log, Mary McMillan saw that a young man who was passing through town had been to see Grady. He was suffering from a cough and fever. Grady had treated and released him. His nurse was Elizabeth. Grady was beside himself with guilt that he didn't recognize the symptoms as influenza. If only he had treated Elizabeth earlier she wouldn't be suffering as she was.
“Grady, you can't know everything there is to know about medicine just because you have an M.D. after your name. Even we seasoned physicians miss clues. Medicine is very complicated. It wasn't obvious this young man was as sick as he was.” said Doc trying to comfort him.
“Why did Elizabeth have to be the one to come down with this disease? Why couldn't it have been me?”
“We never know why some people are more susceptible to contracting an illness. Her isolation has helped to curtail the spread of the disease through town and that was your doing. How is Audrey? Is she showing any symptoms?”
“No, I'm checking her carefully because I know she won't let on if she is feeling poorly because she is set on seeing Elizabeth through this.”
Four days later Elizabeth opened her eyes. “Am I late for work? What are you doing in my bedroom Grady?”
He and Audrey laughed and cried. Everything was going to be alright. Audrey thought about that day just last week when Daphne Saint Marie entered Jack's gallery. How silly she had been to be envious of that superficial woman. This was what life was all about. Living in a town like Camden Corners where people cared about their neighbors. Where families grew and loved and riches were not the ultimate goal. Where two friends could be happy and planning futures with two handsome men. Valentine's Day wasn't too far off. We'd better start making plans. I wonder how Dr. and the soon to be Mrs. Murphy feel about a double wedding. She looked toward the bed and saw a sparkling diamond on Elizabeth's left hand.
Yes! Life is good.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
So Good to be Home
The townspeople were out in full force welcoming Oscar home. Everyone knew Oscar was an innocent man. Faith squealed with delight when she saw Polly. Randy held his wife close. He was sorry he couldn't shield her from all the pain of the last few days but looking into her eyes he knew she would be fine.
Jack Mackenzie was pacing on the platform of the train depot. He didn't notice the cold north wind blowing the snow against the train tracks as he waited for Audrey Lynch to arrive from Buffalo. He met Audrey just before Christmas but he felt as though they had known each other all their lives. He knew she had followed another man to Camden Corners but Jack knew her crush on Doctor Grady Murphy was in the past.
Jack's mother, Fiona had invited Audrey and her friend, Elizabeth Lawrence to share a room in the Mackenzie house when there was a sudden storm and the train would be delayed in its return to Buffalo. It was love at first sight for Jack. His heart had been broken when a romance in New York City had ended and Jack never intended to be that vulnerable again. Then he met Audrey and everything changed. Jack had been a fun loving young man until the ill fated affair that left him soured on love and shattered his trust in the opposite sex. It was a time of his life he was trying to forget and with Audrey's help he was winning that battle.
Audrey and Jack had been separated more than they had been together but that was about to change within the next few minutes. Nurse Audrey and her friend Elizabeth were moving to Camden Corners to work in the McMillan medical offices and eventually in the Camden Corners Hospital.
The hospital would be up and running in just a few short months. Grady Murphy who had just completed his residency at Buffalo General was joining the medical practice and would be the first new physician to be affiliated with the hospital when it opened its doors.
Audrey's crush on the young doctor was what encouraged her to follow him to Camden Corners last December. She mislead her good friend Elizabeth into thinking nursing positions were available immediately in the hospital. Audrey was certain Dr. Murphy was playing hard to get with her but in truth he only had eyes for Elizabeth. When Audrey stopped looking in Dr. Murphy's direction, she noticed the handsome face of Jack Mackenzie.
Jack and Audrey became an item. Jack's family and friends could see a difference in him the moment the lively Audrey came into his life. Jack was an artist and had opened a gallery in town. As well as his own work, he encouraged artists from surrounding towns to display their works in the showroom. He had developed quite a positive reputation in the art community. He was often questioned by outsiders why he didn't relocate to New York City where his work would be in demand. Jack only told them his life was in Camden Corners and that is where he belonged.
The train arrived right on time and Audrey flew into Jack's arms. He shook hands with Grady and gave Elizabeth a hug. Grady was staying at the Wharton House while Audrey and Elizabeth would be returning to the Mackenzie's and Jack's sister Amanda's old room. Fiona and Gordon greeted the girls at the door. They were delighted their son had found someone who could bring the sparkle back into his eyes.
Everyone settled into their new lives. Grady fit in nicely in the McMillan medical offices. Doc Julie was beginning to experience the early stages of pregnancy and was happy to slow down her pace as Grady pitched in. Audrey and Elizabeth were an added relief especially with the seasonal ailments of the good folks of Camden Corners.
Audrey had gotten in the habit of visiting Jack at the gallery during her lunch break. They would share a sandwich from O'Sullivan's and just enjoy being together for an hour during the day. Jack hadn't officially proposed, he was waiting for Valentine's Day for that but in their hearts they knew they had found their future in each other. Audrey walked into the studio. Carrie, another Mackenzie sister was just finishing framing Jack's latest work. Audrey loved this painting. It was bright and cheerful. So different from his previous works.
“Audrey, because of you my brother has become a different man. You can see it in his work.” Carrie set the painting on an easel and turned it so it had just the right lighting. “Jack is at the Pub. Mack needed some help moving a new freezer into place but he should be back in just a few minutes. He told me not to let you leave. I'd say the boy's in love”
“I am too, Carrie. Jack is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know I'm still a scatterbrain in many ways but Elizabeth says I've calmed down some. Jack has grounded me somehow if that makes sense.”
“Don't change too much Audrey, we love scatterbrains in the Mackenzie house. Speaking of which, I promised Mama I'd be at the Pub to help her with the chicken pot pies. They are on the menu this evening which means we will be having a big crowd for the dinner rush. You and Jack should stop by later.”
The two friends hugged and said good bye just before a very sophisticated woman entered the shop. Audrey felt like an old frump in her nurses uniform and clunky white shoes.
She walked toward the woman to tell her the owner would be returning shortly when the customer said “I'm looking for Jack Mackenzie.”
“He should be returning soon. You may look around while you're waiting.”
“Oh I know his work very well” she said dripping with sarcasm.
Audrey felt very uncomfortable and frumpier every minute. She realized she should probably keep quiet at that point but she couldn't help herself. “How do you know Jack?”
“We go way back, dear. I can see you have never been out of this provincial little town. My name is Daphne Saint Marie. I set Jack up in a studio in New York City a couple of years ago. He was my protege until a silly misunderstanding drove him back to this place.” The look on her face suggested she didn't see anything redeeming about Camden Corners.
Audrey didn't like Daphne Saint whatever, but she might be a paying customer and Audrey didn't want to say something that might ruin a sale.
“I'm sure Jack will be back momentarily. Please make yourself comfortable Miss Saint Peter.”
“It's Saint Marie young lady but before long it will be Mackenzie. Will that be easy enough for you to remember?”
Audrey was sure her heart had fallen to her feet. Could this possibly be the woman who broke Jack's heart in New York? Does he still love her and why did he ever love her in the first place? She could barely speak as she walked into the back room and out the back door. At that point the tears started to flow. She made it back to the office and dissolved into Mary McMillan's arms. Mary had two daughters and knew what a broken heart looked like. She just let Audrey cry it out while she held her tightly.
Jack opened the door of the gallery anxious to see Audrey and spotted Daphne immediately. “What are you doing here Daphne? Slumming today?”
“Darling Jack, you silly boy, I'm here to whisk you off to New York and away from this horrible little town.”
“This horrible little town is my home and I have no intention of going anywhere with you. I can't see that we have anything else to discuss so feel free to leave the same way you came in.”
“Darling, I know you are a tiny bit miffed at me but the good news is that my husband is dead. We can finally be together my love.”
“Golly Daphne congratulations on your dead husband. Now go find yourself another naïve jerk. I don't want you anymore.”
“But darling, you need me. What do you have in this place, people like that plain little nurse that was in here a short while ago? I know you better than that. Only I can make you happy darling.”
“Was Audrey here? Where is she? What did you say to her Daphne? It's time for you to leave.”
Jack escorted her to the door and gave her a little shove locking the door behind her. He turned the open sign to closed and slipped out the back door forgetting to lock it. He went directly to McMillans and found her there. Her eyes were red rimmed and he knew she had been crying.
“I'm not sure we have anything to say to each other Jack. I met your intended today. I can't begin to compete with someone with her sophistication.”
Jack put his fingers to her lips. “In the first place, you are my intended. At least I hope you are. I was waiting for Valentine's Day to ask you to be my wife but today will do too. I did have a crush on Daphne but that was a long time ago. I was young and foolish and I thought I wanted to live a life that wasn't me. Daphne took me under her wing. I thought I was in love and I thought she was in love with me. I was so trusting I didn't realize she was using me as her latest diversion. She was married to a much older man who was also a very rich man.
“But she broke your heart. There must be some feelings left for her.”
“Yes, she broke my heart two years ago. I realized she wasn't for me very quickly. It wasn't a broken heart that upset me it was the way I was duped. I swore back then that I would never let any woman do that to me again. She made a complete and total fool of me. I was use to strong women, I've been around them all my life, but never any that were dishonest. I learned Daphne was married when her husband strolled into the gallery. He was looking for her latest play thing. I packed my few things, put my paintings under my arm and was on the next train back to Camden Corners.
“The day I first saw you I fell in love. I realized I had been wallowing in self pity. Not because of Daphne but because my pride was hurt. When you opened your heart to me I knew you would never hurt me as I hurt you by not telling you about Daphne. If I had spoken up earlier, you wouldn't have been upset today.”
Mary McMillan stepped into the room. “Hello Jack. Audrey has worked hard enough today and we aren't that busy this afternoon. Why don't you two enjoy the afternoon together.”
The young couple walked hand in hand to the gallery. When they approached the front door it was standing wide open. Jack remembered locking it behind Daphne. They entered the shop and discovered the walls were bare, the easels were empty. Not one painting, sketch or photograph was left in the entire shop.
“Daphne!” Jack uttered under his breath. “Audrey, I am going to New York City. I can't imagine why she took all of the artwork but I won't let her get away with it. Not so much for me but Tony Marino's photographs were here as well as other artists works.”
“I'm going with you. You don't think I'm going to let that witch get her clutches into you again do you?”
After a quick stop in the Pub and a visit to Doc McMillan, Jack and Audrey were on the 4:45 to New York City.
Daphne had just arrived in New York City. She was waiting for a carriage to take her and her newly acquired artwork to the studio she'd set up for Jack. She expected he would be following her on the next train. What she didn't expect was that he wouldn't be alone.