Saturday, October 27, 2012
A Fresh Start
A Fresh Start
Just weeks before Hillary Bella Duesenberry came into the world, Ella Pritchard walked into Will's office.
“As much as I'm enjoying being with Billy and all of you, I think it may be time to return to my life in Pittsburgh. I'm afraid if I stay too much longer I may never be able to leave.”
“Ella, why leave at all? Kate and I consider you a part of the family. Billy will be crushed if he loses his big sister. We have all grown to love you very much. I believe I have detected a little sparkle in your eye when James Robinson is around. I noticed he was looking in your direction during services this morning. I know you have lived in Pittsburgh all your life but with the exception of Charlotte Sanders, do you have any real ties there? Why not think about moving to Camden Corners permanently?”
“Oh Vicar Will, I couldn't impose on your family. I know you don't need another church typist and that is the only position I would be qualified for.”
“That's not true Ella. Why, you and Josie Blackburn were discussing the possibility of your writing a column for the Chronicle just this morning. Isn't that something you have always dreamed of doing?”
“I think Mrs. Blackburn was just being polite. Billy pulled her aside and told her of my interest in writing.”
“Josie Blackburn is a polite young woman, that is true. However, after her new baby and Reggie, the Chronicle is her pride and joy. She started that newspaper on a shoestring with the help of Randy Burke and together they have made it into a superior publication with readers from all the surrounding areas. Josie would never suggest you try your hand at writing for her paper if she wasn't being sincere.”
Butch happened to walk by the office while his pa and Ella were talking. “You can't leave Ella. Mr. Crowley said we can use his cabin on Cedar Lake anytime we want to. Billy and I wanted you to go fishing with us.”
“Whoa sport! Remember your mother is going to have a baby any day now. We won't be going to Cedar Lake any time soon. I must admit though, it is a temptation,” said Will.
“What's this talk about Cedar Lake and Ella leaving? Do you have a reason to go back to Pittsburgh, Ella? I was hoping you would stay on until after the baby is born and maybe permanently.”
“You all make me feel so welcome. I just don't want to impose on you. I would love to stay until the baby is born. My only experience with newborn babies was helping mama with Billy so many years ago.” A sadness came over her but she shook it off.
“You have more experience than I have Ella. We will learn together. I'm sure Grandma Alma will be a big help too. Now, no more talk about your leaving us.” Kate gave Ella a hug.
There was a knock on the door. Billy came running into the office.
“Ella, you have a gentleman caller. It's James, he has flowers for you and he looks very spiffy. His hair is all slicked down and he smells of perfume.” Billy pretended to squeeze his nose with his fingers and made a silly face.
Ella blushed but was happy to hear she had company. “It's called cologne when a man uses it and I'm sure he smells very nice.” said Ella as she tried not to skip out of the room.
“Hello James, what beautiful flowers.”
“My Aunt Millie insisted I bring them to you. She also made me comb my hair in this ridiculous fashion and sprayed me with this terrible smelling stuff. I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I let her do it.” James laughed.
“I think you look very handsome. Maybe we should take a walk outside until the perfume fades a little. You won't be helping the vicar's allergies any. Did she spray you with the whole bottle?”
It was a warm summer day but James and Ella didn't notice. James told her all about growing up in Albany thinking he was Chester Robinson's son. Chester was a fine man who married his mother knowing she was going to have another man's child. James wasn't the least bit ashamed of his parentage and wanted to set the record straight with Ella.
Ella didn't think anything unusual about the circumstances of James' birth. “I'm so happy Chester married your mother and gave you a home. There are so many children who are forced to live their entire young lives in an orphanage.” She had a tear in her eye thinking of Billy being left at the orphanage doorstep because Aunt Beatrice was afraid of her husband.
“Mr. Merryweather is very proud of you James. He is the one who discovered where Billy had grown up. If it hadn't been for him and Mr. Harcourt, I still wouldn't know the fate of my little brother. I will always be grateful to them both.”
“He said it was an easy task to find you and I'm awfully glad he did.” James smiled down at her. “I think my father is enjoying his new role as private investigator. He was an insurance salesman until recently. Quite the contrast in careers. I think he is just trying to occupy himself until he can officially court my mother.”
“I think it's wonderful when two people find each other no matter what age they are.”
“Yes, I have to agree with you there Miss Ella Pritchard.”
James took hold of her hand and they walked down by the lake to watch the bathers splashing around in the water. Ella was very happy her new family wanted her to stay in Camden Corners. She had a feeling, that summer afternoon, she would never be going back to Pittsburgh to live.
After a perfectly delightful day, Ella sat down at the desk in her room and began writing the first of many columns that would appear in the Camden Corners Chronicle. She wrote a total of fifteen columns to present to Josie the next morning. She had many more subjects in her mind, but she was feeling very sleepy and wanted to be fresh when she met with Josie. She and James were having lunch in the park after the meeting.
The next morning as James came to breakfast all eyes were on him. “Good Morning everyone, I trust you slept well. Do I have my clothes on backwards? You are all looking at me in a strange way.”
Millie said “We are waiting for you to tell us how your evening with Ella was and you know it James Robinson. Now go ahead we want all the details.”
“Miss Pritchard seems to be a very nice young woman. Please pass the marmalade.”
“James, stop your teasing. We know Ella is nice. We want to know everything you talked about, when will you see her again and should we start making wedding plans?”
James loved his aunt. She always said exactly what she meant. “Alright Aunt Millie. I do have to go to work today so I can't tell you everything we talked about in such a short time. I do know she is thinking of making Camden Corners her home permanently and I will encourage her to do just that. She wasn't appalled when I told her my mother and father were never married. As far a wedding plans, maybe Addie could save some rice from the pantry in case it's needed for other purposes in the future.”
Helene smiled at her son. “James, I couldn't be happier that you have met a wonderful young woman who you are thinking of sharing your life with. Why don't you invite her for supper tonight, I would like to get to know her better.”
“I'll do that soon Mother. I don't want to scare her off by seeming too anxious.”
Ella was brushing her hair when there was a knock on the door. Billy and Butch came running into her room.
“Ella, Pa is going to take us fishing this morning. We have to hurry if we are going to catch any today. I'll let you borrow a pair of my overalls and you can come with us. You can't go fishin' in a dress.”
“Thanks fellas, but did you forget I am meeting with Miss Josie at the paper this morning? I have my columns all ready. Do you have time to read one or two?”
Billy and Butch both sat on the bed and started reading.
“Gosh Ella, you are real smart aren't you? If I didn't know better I would think you grew up in an orphanage yourself. I like how you said people should think about adopting orphans. I don't feel like an orphan anymore. Do you Billy?”
“Nope 'cause orphans don't have mamas and papas but we do so we aren't orphans anymore are we, Ella?”
“You certainly are not. Maybe you'd better get going while the fish are still biting. Have fun you two.”
Ella was nervous about showing Josie her work. She sat and watched while Josie read each carefully written article.
“Randy, if you aren't too busy would you come in here for a minute,” Josie called out to her partner at the paper, “I'd like you to read some of Ella's work.”
Ella thought that was a good sign but maybe Josie was going to have Randy tell her they didn't need her services. This is not going well she thought to herself. I should have gone fishing with the boys.
“Ella, I'm sorry to be ignoring you. I am mesmerized reading your words. I find it difficult to believe you haven't had any formal training. These are wonderful. My only problem is I don't know which one to publish first.”
Randy spoke up, “Josie these are great. If you're asking my opinion, I think we should start with the one about adopting orphans. You know how I feel about adopting,” he turned to Ella. “Faith is Polly's daughter. I adopted her after we were married.”
“I agree Randy. Let's get this one typeset and it will be in the next publication. Welcome to the team Ella. We can't pay you much money now but our advertising revenue is picking up. We'd like to consider you a partner. How do you feel about that?”
“I'm flabbergasted. I was hoping you might decide to publish one or two of my columns but I never expected to be a partner. I was debating whether I should stay on in Camden Corners and you have made that decision for me.”
Just then there was a soft cry from behind Josie. Jonathan was making it known he was hungry. “Why don't you let Randy show you how he does his magic with his typesetter while I feed this young man. Might as well learn the newspaper business from the ground up.”
Ella was fascinated with the process and thrilled when she saw the first copy of the newspaper with her column and byline printed inside. Randy gave her the first copy as a keepsake.
“I won't even charge you, partner. Although it is eating into our profits,” Randy chuckled.
Ella couldn't wait to show the paper to James. He was waiting for her on the park bench. He was so happy for her he picked her up and swung her around to the delight of the children playing nearby.
“This calls for a celebration. How about dinner at the Trattoria this evening, just the two of us?”
“I'd like that James, I'd like that very much.”
Meanwhile the fisherman weren't having much luck catching a fish big enough for dinner. They didn't mind because Grandma said she would have roast chicken for them if the fish weren't biting this afternoon.
“Butch” Will said while Billy was on the other side of the dock, “would you like us to try to find where you came from? We could ask Mr. Merryweather to do some checking? I just don't want you to be disappointed if he isn't able to find any information about your family.”
“I don't know Pa. Maybe sometime but not now. I have you and Ma and two sisters now. I even have Grandma Alma and Grandpa Melvin. My brother Cody too when he is home from college. I don't think I have room in my heart for anybody else.”
Will gave the boy a hug. He suspected whatever memories the boy did have of his past were not happy ones. “Alright son, but if you are ever curious or decide you want to look for your kin, I will help you.”
The three of them all heard a man's voice call out. “I've lost it! What will I do?” They went running to the stranger.
“How may we help you sir?” said Will.
“I can't find it. I don't know what to do,” said the stranger. “I'll give the first person who finds it a crisp new $100 bill.
Billy and Butch's eyes lit up until they looked in Will's direction.
“We'll help you look for whatever you lost sir. You don't have to give us any money.”
“What have you lost sir? My boys and I will be happy to help you look for for it.”
“I have lost my soul. Yes I have. Young man, do you see that big tent going up over there? I do believe that is where we will find my soul. Come with me one and all. Brother Jeremiah Hershey is waiting to save us all from our sins. Come young people, come with me now or wait until 7:00 this glorious evening for our revival meeting. You see that blind man over there? Brother Jeremiah will help him see if only he believes.”
Will noticed the blind man, he was wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane He carefully walked around a toy boat that was lying in the sand. “Come on boys. Time to get home to Grandma Alma's chicken.”
“Ah, a non-believer in the crowd. Ladies and gentlemen, that man is a sinner but it isn't too late for the rest of you.”
“My Pa isn't a sinner. He's the vicar of St. Peter's Church. He doesn't yell about it either and he doesn't call people sinners.” Butch shouted back at the man.
“Let's go boys. Don't pay any attention to him. I think Grandma was putting a blackberry pie in the oven as we were leaving today.”
Will glanced over his shoulder as they left the lake. He could see the crowd getting bigger and bigger around the stranger. He had seen this type of revival before and knew the bank accounts of some in the crowd would be lighter tomorrow. There wasn't anything he could do but pray for the lost souls who would be giving Brother Jeremiah their hard earned money to save them.