Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The New Automobile
The New Automobile
“Are you and Hyacinth going to be staying around home today?” Harold Hightower asked Dahlia as he scooped up his infant son in one arm and his tiny daughter in the other. Harold still found it difficult to believe that these tiny little human beings were his children.
He thought he was happy as a carefree bachelor but from the moment Dahlia Bloom came into his life, he had never been the same. The day two months ago when she presented him with twins, Harry and Violet, was the happiest day of his life.
“I'm not sure, dear. We may have found someone who is interested in buying the quilt shop. Hyacinth and I just have too many responsibilities at home to worry about the shop. We are waiting to hear when the potential buyer may arrive in Camden Corners. Why do you ask Harold?”
“Oh, no reason, I would just like to spend some time with my little family. That's all.”
The nanny arrived to take the babies to the nursery for their morning baths before they were ready for breakfast. Harold followed along. He couldn't get enough of his children and was in awe of every little movement they made.
Dahlia arrived in the kitchen only to find Hyacinth already there. The sisters enjoyed preparing the morning meal together. Hyacinth was just taking a pan of blueberry muffins out of the oven.
“Good morning Dahlia. I thought I'd get an early start. Howard is as nervous as a cat this morning. He was making me so nervous myself I had to come down here just to calm down.”
“How odd, Harold is the same way. I wonder what those boys are up to? Harold asked me if we were planning to stay home today.”
“Howard wondered if we were going into town? Now I'm getting nervous all over again.”
Dahlia was preparing the eggs and ham when the fellows joined them taking dishes from the cupboard and setting the table. The Hightower men had lived by themselves for such a long time they didn't think twice about helping their wives in the kitchen.
“Hyacinth dear, Harold and I were hoping you and Dahlia would be here today to accept a delivery. I hope you weren't planning a trip into town this morning.”
“What in the world is up with the two of you. I have never known either of you to act so strangely.”
The boys just looked at each other and grinned. “All in good time, my love.”
The morning progressed, it was always a very busy time in the Hightower household. The babies were freshly bathed, diapered and fed. Each set of twins had their own nanny. The housekeeper was busy cleaning up in the kitchen after breakfast although the sisters had always been very neat while preparing meals. Dahlia and Hyacinth were not accustomed to having chores done for them and were very thoughtful employers. Domestic workers were always happy when their services were required at the Hightower home.
Hyacinth tucked Daisy and Henry into their carriage and waited while Dahlia did the same. They enjoyed their morning walks and knew the snow would be falling very soon. Harold had already built them two sleighs for the babies' walks when the snows arrived. It was a beautiful morning. The leaves had turned to lovely yellows, oranges and reds and the sun was beaming through the branches.
Nick Rossi was already at the vineyards overlooking the grape plants. He waved to the sisters as they passed by. Lucinda was there also having taken Cassandra to school. She caught up to them and asked if she could join them on their stroll. Lucinda said hello to the babies and she was sure Daisy smiled at her.
After hearing all about the peculiar behavior of the sister's husbands, Lucinda didn't have much to say.
“You know what the big secret is, don't you?” said Hyacinth
“Oh please, Hyacinth, don't ask me. You know what a terrible liar I am. Can we talk about something else before I spoil everything?”
It was difficult for Hyacinth not to push but Dahlia calmed her sister down and repeated what Howard told her earlier. “All in good time.”
“You know too! Am I the only one who doesn't know what this secret is?”
“I'm not sure but I have my suspicions. I heard the boys talking one day last week and now their conversation makes sense to me. That is all I'm saying. Let's change the subject. Lucinda what is going on in your life and how is our darling girl, Cassandra?”
“Cassandra is doing just fine. She loves school and can hardly make it through breakfast before she is dressed and waiting for me to walk with her. I know she would be fine walking alone with the other children but I feel as though I'm losing my little girl to the big old world out there. It was just the two of us for so long. Silly, isn't it?”
“Not silly at all Lucinda. Your life has changed so much over the year or so. You are bound to have some qualms about letting go.” said Hyacinth.
“What you need is a new baby to occupy your time.” Dahlia whispered.
The women all laughed and Lucinda was tempted to mention that she thought that time might not be too far off but she wanted to wait a bit to make sure. She hadn't told Nick about her suspicions yet because she didn't want him to be disappointed if it wasn't true.
“I almost forgot. Rosa received a wire from Mama and Papa Rossi. They are sailing from Italy as we speak. The wire was delayed and they will be here by the end of the week. Nick is so excited to see his parents again. It has been so many years. Rosa has the whole family cleaning their house from top to bottom. She says she doesn't want her mama to find a speck of dirt anywhere. I think it's nervous energy. Rosa hasn't seen her folks since she and Eduardo were married and came to the United States.”
They were headed back to the house when they heard the strangest noise.
“Sounds like a sick cow.” said Hyacinth.
They looked up and saw a sleek white automobile with red trim and red wheels. The man driving it was still honking it's horn. Howard and Harold came running out of the house and waved to the girls as they stood with their mouths open.
“It's beautiful” shouted Dahlia “I thought it would be a motor car but I never imagined it would look like this. There is room in it for all of us if we hold the babies on our laps.”
“That terrible racket will frighten the babies” cried Hyacinth.
But she couldn't hide the smile that was beginning to form on her face.
Nick came running from the fields along with everyone else in the area.
Elmer Griffin was driving the automobile. He and Harold exchanged paperwork. Elmer handed him the keys.
“Now, you know how to drive this thing, don't you Harold?”
“Oh sure. No problem. Howard and I can handle it.”
Elmer's assistant came after him in a horse and buggy. Dahlia couldn't help but wonder why they didn't drive their own automobile from Greensboro. She wondered if that was a warning sign that the horse and carriage were more reliable than this new fangled contraption.
“Harold and I flipped a coin to see who would drive it first and he won” said Howard as he and Hyacinth got in the back seat. Harold opened the passenger door for Dahlia as she sat down on the leather seat. Harold turned the key and was clueless as to how to start the car moving. He saw two pedals on the floorboard and was embarrassed that he had no idea what to do with them. He stepped on one pedal and the car lurched forward and stalled. He turned the key again, stepped on the other pedal and it made a terrible noise but didn't move.
“Harold” Dahlia whispered “This is just like our sewing machines with the two pedals one has to go down while the other is coming back up.”
Harold was so embarrassed with everyone looking on he opened the door and said to the crowd.
“I'm going to let my dear wife be the first to drive the new automobile since she seems to be an expert.”
“I'm sorry, Harold dear. It was just an observation, but I will give it a try.”
Hyacinth was giggling in the back seat. She had never heard Harold say a harsh word to Dahlia before and knew Dahlia was keeping her temper in check too.
Dahlia slowly pressed on the left pedal then the right as she slowly lifted her left foot. The auto purred quietly. She was as surprised as anyone when the vehicle began to move forward. It didn't take long before she was traveling down the road at close to 25 miles an hour. She had no idea how she was going to turn this contraption around and get back home.
The housekeeper, Mrs. Harper was watching with the rest of the crowd as the automobile was traveling farther and farther away.
“Oh dear! Oh dear!” she cried “What will those babies do without their mothers. I've heard those horseless carriages are not safe, not safe at all.”
Lucinda tried to calm Mrs. Harper. “They will be just fine. You saw how easily Miss Dahlia drove the auto. She has it under control. I'm sure of that.”
Just then she heard Dahlia's normally quiet voice shout “How do you stop this thing?”
“Step on the brake!” came Hyacinth's voice as she herself pictured her babies motherless.
Dahlia found the third pedal and pushed on it with her foot.
“Gently” shouted Hyacinth a little too late.
The automobile stopped short and all three passengers lunged forward. Dahlia was pushing back on the steering wheel as she put all her might into stepping on the brake pedal.
Dahlia was shaking as she looked around to see everyone practically sitting on the floor. She began to cry and Harold, who had bumped his head but was otherwise none the worse for wear, hugged his wife. His earlier anger had disappeared.
“Harold, I don't care how you do it but turn this thing around, I want to go home.”
Everyone was happy to see the automobile head back to the house. It was something special to look at but they decided maybe they should all have a few lessons before they drove the motorcar too far from home.