Sunday, October 14, 2012
Life Goes On
Life Goes On
Leo Schmidt was waiting for Neville when he stepped off the train.
“Very sorry for your loss Mr. Neville.”
“Thank you, Leo. Tell me how are Melanie and Melissa? I'm so sorry I wasn't here for them last night when all this happened.”
“They are doing quite well, sir. I do believe they are still in shock but they are surrounded by people who love them. They are anxiously awaiting your arrival.”
Neville walked into the familiar house. Melinda and Melissa came running and threw their arms around their father.
“Oh Papa, it is so good to see you. I can't believe Mother is dead. Did you know she rode King all the way from Greensboro?”
“Yes, Melissa, the sheriff told me that. Melinda, that's a nasty gash on your head. How did that happen?”
“It looks much worse than it is Father. It's nothing to worry about.”
“Mother threw a vase at Melanie and hit her in the head. Mother liked to throw things when she had too much of the spirits.”
“Neville, we are all sorry Prudence's life had to end this way. Believe me, there was nothing any one of us could do. She ran after she lost control and began throwing things. She also hit James although he says he is alright.”
“I'm just sorry everyone had to go through this horrendous experience. I made the mistake last night of threatening her that I would leave her if she didn't get help for her drinking. After all these years that was the first time I hinted divorce and look what happened.”
“Neville, don't blame yourself. Prudence was a very disturbed woman. Her body is at the funeral parlor. Would you like me to go with you to make arrangements my dear?”
“Millie, I don't know what to do. Prudence hadn't attended any of the functions that had always been important to her in the last several months. Her so called friends seemed to have abandoned her. I don't think she would want them all parading in front of her casket. Maybe we should just have a quiet ceremony here with just the family and I'll arrange for burial in Greensboro. What do you think girls?”
“I think Mother would like that.” said Melanie. “You are right, she wouldn't want those women anywhere near her now. She use to cry that they weren't her friends after all. Poor Mother, she was so unhappy.”
Neville's guilt was almost more than he could bear. If only he hadn't threatened her. Maybe he was being selfish. If he could be rid of Prudence the path to happiness with Helene would be open for him.
Vicar Will agreed to perform a memorial service for Prudence with only the family present. Helene and James wanted to be with Neville and the girls but felt it best that they honor Prudence as best they could and keep their distance. Prudence had no other family. Neville rode the train back to Greensboro with the casket and arranged for her to be buried next to her mother in the Wingate family plot.
Millicent begged him to stay in Camden Corners since the girls were both happy living there. He refused saying he needed some time alone to sort out his life. He couldn't shake his guilt.
He was trying to concentrate on work in his downtown office when his secretary announced the arrival of Miss Hermione Mason.
Hermione had been Prudence's personal maid from the time of their marriage. She retired less than a year ago. Prudence was so distraught over her leaving that she took to her bed and her life seemed to spiral downward from then on.
“Hermione, it is so wonderful to see you. I trust you received my note about poor Prudence.”
“Yes I did Mr. Neville. I am very sorry for you and your daughters. Miss Prudence was a very troubled woman. I have been reluctant to visit with you because I didn't want to make a terrible situation even worse for you. However, I know you to be an honorable man and I suspect you are blaming yourself for the way Miss Prudence was conducting herself of late.”
“You know me too well Hermione. I'm afraid you are correct. Her death rests solely with me. I was the cause of her unhappiness. You see, several years ago, before Prudence and I were married, I fathered a son with the woman I loved and still love to this day. I didn't know of his existence until a few months ago. He is in my life and so is his mother although we are only friends. This revelation, as well as Prudence losing you was the cause of her drinking and the drinking led to her accident.”
“Mr. Neville, that is why I'm here. Miss Prudence told you I retired when in actuality she fired me.”
Neville was stunned. “Hermione, you must be mistaken. Prudence loved you like a mother. Our girls loved you too. She was never the same after you left our home.”
“I'm afraid it is true. You see I knew her secret. It pains me to tell you this Mr. Neville but your wife was involved in a liaison with another man. He would visit her when you were not at home. I looked the other way for a short time but I couldn't keep ignoring what Missy was doing. Unbeknownst to Miss Prudence, Miss Melissa had the sniffles and was home from school one day. She walked into her mother's room and discovered her in her camisole with the gentleman sitting beside her on the bed. I tried to stop Melissa from entering the room but I couldn't catch up to her in time. The gentleman told Melissa he was her mother's doctor. Mr. Neville they continued on with their sinful behavior after Melissa left the room. The poor little dear was worried her mother was very ill. It took me most of the afternoon to calm her down. After the gentleman left the house I confronted Miss Prudence. I told her I was going to be forced to tell you if this behavior continued. She picked up the empty champagne bottle on the nightstand and threw it at me and told me I was fired. I thought it was the champagne talking and didn't leave that day. Two days later she came crying to me that her gentleman friend didn't want to be bothered with someone whose child might come into her bedroom at anytime. She dissolved in tears and blamed me for allowing Melissa to enter her room that day. She told me to get out and proceeded to throw my belongings on the lawn. I had no choice but to leave. I was hoping with the gentleman out of her life, she would straighten herself out but I can see that was only wishful thinking.”
Neville was shocked. He never suspected that Prudence was involved with another man. His only regret was that his young daughter had been hurt by what she saw that day. He realized that he wasn't the reason for her unhappiness. She wasn't miserable because he had a son with another woman or because Hermione had left her, she was miserable because she had fallen for a man who didn't want her. Neville felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He hugged Hermione and thanked her for telling him.
“I'm sorry you were treated so unfairly Hermione. What can I do to make up for what Prudence did? Our daughters loved you so much and were very sorry when you left.”
“Don't worry about me Mr. Neville. I was able to secure a position the very day Miss Prudence let me go. I work for a delightful family with three adorable young children. I am very happy and they treat me like one of their own. I'm glad I made the decision to come to you with my tale. I can see it has given you peace and I hope you will be able to get on with your life. Your son's mother must be a wonderful woman if you have loved her all these years.”
“That she is Hermione, that she is.”
Back in Camden Corners rehearsals were progressing well under the direction of Max Harcourt. He was finding he enjoyed directing and there was real talent in Camden Corners. His wife's best friend, Betsy Wallace could have been the real Hannah Lane. Sarah knew her characters well. The Crowley brothers were a bit stiff at first but they were coming around and seemed to be enjoying portraying brothers Caleb and Seth Lane. Beverly Mills was a true professional. Max suspected she would be a hit on Broadway one day. He knew some New York City critics and planned to invite them to see the finished product as his guests. Charlie Wentworth was having difficulty portraying the evil Horace Reynolds until Max suggested he think of some of his father's business associates and he nailed the part.
Ernie Black was on his lunch break from the Harvey house renovation. Every day he dropped by the opera house to work on the sets. He was a perfectionist in his work even though it was only a set for a community play. Beverly had a break and couldn't think of a better way to occupy herself than having a little chat with Ernie Black.
“Ernie darling, I'm wondering when you eat during your lunch break. You always seem to be working.”
“Hello Miss Beverly. I'll grab a sandwich on my way back to the job. I don't want to waste time eating. There is so much work to do.”
“Ernie, you are so very talented. You know just how to cut the curves and smooth out the corners. Tell me, where did you learn your tricks of the trade.”
Ernie could feel his faced reddening. He had never met a woman like Beverly Mills. It wasn't exactly what she said but how she said it. She had a way about her that made him wonder why he had avoided women most of his life.
Beverly was not the most patient person. She had tried her best with Ernie but was getting nowhere with her innuendos. She finally just blurted out what she wanted to say to him.
“Ernie! I find you very attractive and I would like to get to know you better but you don't respond to my advances. Is there something about me not to your liking? Please, if there is let me know and I will leave you alone.”
“Miss Beverly, You are a very beautiful woman. I am flattered by your attention but I have led a very sheltered life. My work is the only thing that has ever mattered to me. I am not comfortable with women. Especially women as beautiful as you are. I'm afraid I would only disappoint you.”
“Oh Ernie, it would be my pleasure to make sure neither of us are disappointed. Now, follow me into my dressing room dear boy and we will talk about it over lunch.”
All eyes were on Beverly and Ernie as they walked into her dressing room closing the door behind them.