Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Just as Max Harcourt knew they would, the critics returned to New York City and their newspaper columns and gave kudos to Hannah's Treasure and the entire cast of the show. Each actor and actress received glorious praise including these snippets from each column.
Mansfield Rich, New York Globe: In a small community in western New York, I found a little bit of heaven in the local production of Hannah's Treasure. This hard nosed critic had a difficult time keeping my emotions in check as I watched these untrained townsfolk in their very moving presentation...
Jonathan West, Broadway Gazette: I was leery when I received an invitation to critique the amateur play Hannah's Treasure. I will be forever grateful my curiosity overcame my contempt for small town productions. The performance of these nonprofessionals was outstanding. The author, Sarah Harcourt is a literary genius...
Hamilton Birch, Variety Weekly: ...Beverly Mills is a gem. Her charming, vibrant portrayal of the wicked Sylvia Reynolds guarantees her star is rising. Beverly dear, we need you on Broadway...
Copies of all the newspapers were delivered by train the very next morning. Postmaster, Jackson Parker delivered them along with the mail to Josie Blackburn at the Camden Corners Chronicle as quickly as he was able.
Josie asked Randy Burke to take several of the papers to Max Harcourt who she had seen on his way to the Opera House earlier in the morning. She quickly read the reviews herself and knew she had to show them to her friends Sarah and Beverly Mills. She dropped the three papers off with Sarah, gave her a hug and was on her way to Nettie's to deliver another three to Beverly. Ernie Black was walking up the porch steps just as Josie approached.
“Ernie, good morning. Are you here to see Beverly?”
“Yes, Josie. What have you there?”
Josie was surprised Ernie's face didn't turn scarlet at being caught visiting Beverly so early in the morning. There was a change in her husband's right hand man and she thought it was for the better. Just then the front door opened and Beverly was standing there smiling broadly at Ernie.
“Good morning everyone, isn't it a splendid day? Just look at that magnificent blue sky.”
“I think your day is about to become even better Beverly. I have the reviews for you to look at. Enjoy the rest of your day, both of you. Say hello to Oscar and Nettie for me. I must be on my way to deliver a set of these to the Crowley boys.”
Beverly sat down on the porch swing and began to pour through the reviews.
“Ernie, can you believe this? Hamilton Birch called me a gem. Oh Ernie, this is what I have been waiting for. My big break and to think it all happened in Camden Corners. I love this town Ernie and I love you!”
Ernie's mouth flew open.
“What did you say Beverly?”
“I said I love this town. Oh, and I said I love you. Don't you know that Ernie? I have loved you from the moment I saw you standing at the foot of the train steps.”
There was dead silence.
“Ernie, this is when you say you love me too. You do love me, don't you Ernie?”
“I'm glad we have that straightened out. Now, let's go inside to breakfast. Trudy has made a wonderful meal for us. You need to keep up your strength for the wedding.”
“What wedding?” Ernie whispered.
“Ours silly. You do want to marry me don't you?”
“Yes, but I didn't have the nerve to ask you.”
“Darling Ernie, you didn't have to ask me I saw it in your eyes and now look into mine and see what my answer is.”
Ernie looked into her eyes and just saw beautiful eyes, nothing more.
“There Ernie. You may kiss me now.”
“I can't kiss you out here in public on the front porch of Oscar Crowley's home.” Ernie said as Beverly wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.
They walked into the house together.
“Hello everyone, some good reviews for Hannah's Treasure and Ernie just asked me to marry him and I said Yes!”
“Oh Beverly dear and Ernie, I'm so happy for the two of you. Oscar isn't it wonderful. When is the big day.”
“Ernie would like us to be married the day after the play has ended. Isn't that right Ernie?”
Ernie wasn't sure what just transpired but he didn't care. He was going to be marrying the most beautiful girl in the world.
“Yes dear,” he said quietly.
Arriving on the train later that morning was Mr. Austin Avery the Broadway producer known for high quality presentations. He wired his old friend Max Harcourt to be expecting him in Camden Corners and Max was waiting at the station.
“Austin. It's wonderful to see you. I thought I might hear from you after those reviews came out. You have good instincts my friend.” Max said as he shook the man's hand.
“You know me too well. I am looking forward to seeing this play. Does it measure up to the reviews, my boy?”
“I think you will be pleased. We have some natural talent here in Camden Corners. My wife Sarah is the author, as you know.”
“Yes, I read her book just the other week. I couldn't pass it up when I saw the name Harcourt on it. What made you come clean about your identity?”
“My wife's book club thought J. K. Ellingsworth was a female and it spoiled my image. Besides, I'm just another pretty face in Camden Corners. Nobody cares what my name is.”
“How long are you going to be staying in the backwoods son? Don't you miss the bright lights of the city?”
Not in the least. My life is in this town now. Here comes my wife now. Sarah I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine, Austin Avery.”
A very pregnant Sarah shook Austin's hand. “It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Avery. I hope you will plan to have supper with us this evening. I'm sure you and Max have a lot to catch up on.”
Austin looked over at Max. Somehow he never thought of Max Harcourt as a father but this was a different Max Harcourt than he remembered.
Mrs. Harcourt, I would be delighted to dine with you this evening. Are you certain you have time to entertain a guest. Aren't you expected at the auditorium this evening?”
“Yes, but we will have plenty of time. Please call me Sarah. Are you here to see our play?”
“Sarah darling, Mr. Avery is an important producer. He is here to see your play as well as consider it for Broadway.”
Sarah suddenly felt weak in the knees.
After the reviews in the paper were published, word spread about the play. People were lined up waiting to purchase tickets that were not available.
The cast and crew agreed to one more performance but that would be the very last one. As much as they liked adding to the library fund, they needed to get back to their lives.
Ernie was disappointed that his wedding to Beverly would have to wait another day. After he got up the nerve to ask her, he would have one more day to worry about her changing her mind. He mentioned his concern to Reggie.
“Ernie, what did she say when you asked her?”
“Gee Reggie, I'm not sure. I don't exactly remember asking her but I must have because she said yes.”
Reggie laughed. He had known Ernie for years and had never known him to show any interest in the opposite sex. He might have been interested but he became a blithering idiot around them. He just hoped Beverly would present him with a son one day. He wasn't sure he would be able to handle a girl even as a baby.
“Boss, can you spare me for an hour or so? Beverly wants to see me at the church. She has set up a meeting with the vicar. Guess I didn't have to worry about waiting another day. Looks like she is still on for the wedding. Oh, you know what? She did ask if you could come along. Don't know what that's all about but do you mind?”
Reggie had a good idea what it was about but didn't say anything to his unsuspecting friend. He wondered what kind of a marriage this would be and had high hopes for it. It was a good thing Beverly was the type to take the bull by the horns, otherwise there would never be a marriage. Beverly knew what Ernie wanted, she just had to put it into words for him. A match made in heaven.
Sure enough, Ernie walked into the church. Reggie guided him to the front of the church. Vicar Will smiled and nodded. Many of Ernie's friends were in the pews. Music began and Nettie Crowley walked down the aisle followed by Beverly on Oscar's arm. The groom smiled as he was prodded to say “I do”.
There was only time for a slice of wedding cake and a glass of punch before Beverly had to get ready for the evening performance.
The play went off without a hitch again. With the exception of Sarah, nobody else was aware that Mr. Austin Avery was critiquing the production that evening.
The next day, Max called everyone together. Mr. Avery had spoken to him and Sarah the night before. He wanted Max to direct the play on Broadway. Max turned him down. He liked his life the way it was and didn't want to have anything to do with the rat race again.
“There are a number of good men you can ask to direct. I will be glad to meet with anyone you wish and help in any way I can but I have a wife and soon to be baby right here in Camden Corners and that is where I'll be staying for the foreseeable future. I'll let Sarah decide if she wants someone other than herself overseeing Hannah's Treasure.”
“I think I'll have enough to oversee when this little one makes its appearance. Mr. Avery, I will be glad to sign over the manuscript to you,” said Sarah.
Mr. Avery wasn't surprised nor was he surprised when the rest of the actors turned him down. All except Beverly Mills. She was thrilled at the prospect of working on Broadway. She would have to talk to Ernie about moving to New York but she was sure he would be agreeable. With the money that Mr. Avery was suggesting, Ernie would be able to start up his own construction company.
Beverly was right. Ernie was agreeable. He and Reggie said their goodbyes. Reggie would miss his friend but he knew this was a good move for Ernie.
It wasn't long before Camden Corners returned to normal. They had raised enough money to pay off most of the loan for the library and they had one more project ahead of them. A talent show with just about everyone in Camden Corners participating. Luke and Molly Shannon were heading it up. They were just beginning to make plans for the event.
Although Reggie hoped Ernie might one day have a son, it was not to be. Beverly was a hit in “Hannah's Treasure” on Broadway and also had a very talented understudy. It was a good thing because every year for the next seven years, Beverly had to leave the production for a few months for her own production. She had never forgotten the words of the critic, Hamilton Birch “Beverly Mills was a gem”. Each little girl born to Ernie and Beverly Black was named after a gem. The girls all had musical ability thanks to Beverly's singing talent and Ernie's piano playing skills. After a run of over ten years, Hannah's Treasure came to an end. It was a bittersweet time but the Black household was bustling with activity. Ernie's company had taken off and he was now building skyscrapers in New York City. Every summer when school was out the Black family toured with a summer vaudevillian company. Ernie played the piano and Beverly and the girls all sang and danced. They were billed Ernie and Beverly Black and their Little Gems. Jewel was the oldest followed by Opal, Pearl, Ruby, Crystal, Garnet and the littlest gem, Amethyst. Their last stop on the tour every year was Camden Corners and they always stayed for several days visiting old friends and reliving old times.
“Ernie, wouldn't you like to retire here in Camden Corners someday?”
“Whatever you say dear. Whatever you say.”