Saturday, June 30, 2012
Harvey Wilson Discovers Love
“Helene is this really you? I can't believe you are in Camden Corners and I'm here in Albany talking to you on this telephone.”
“Margaret it is so wonderful to hear your voice. You wrote that your son, Ronnie was insisting you have a telephone put in. Believe me, you will love it. How are you Margaret? I'm still waiting for that visit you promised before I left Albany.”
“I'm still planning it dear. That is one of the reasons I called you. I thought maybe I would come this month while the weather is still warm. Are you sure your friend Millie has enough room for me? I don't want to impose.”
“Don't be silly, she has been anxious to meet you. There are so many bedrooms in this old mansion just waiting for someone to occupy them.”
“Helene, it is so lonely here without you. Ronnie left two days ago for New York City and his new job. I think he and Elaine will be very happy there but I miss them and the children terribly.”
“It's high time you visited Camden Corners then. It will take your mind off of your loneliness. I look forward to your arrival.”
Margaret Slater lived next door to Helene for over 20 years. They were the best of friends. Although Margaret was older than Helene, they formed a bond that only grew stronger when both became widows in the same year. Margaret knew the circumstances of James Robinson's birth and never once judged Helene.
Harvey Wilson was slowly becoming involved in business enterprises. He had mended his unethical practices and was welcomed back into the business community. Not everyone believed he was truly reformed but he expected it would take time before he was trusted again.
Harvey and Lou Rossi had become friends since the caper in Greensboro involving Brother Jeremiah. Lou was an expert vintner but could see his son, Nick was doing well with the Hightower Vineyard. He didn't want to dampen Nick's spirits by involving himself too much in the business. He and Anna visited Greensboro earlier in the spring. He was amazed at the amount of apple trees growing in orchards along the countryside. They had just begun to blossom at that time. When he returned to Greensboro just last week he was impressed with the amount of fruit the trees produced. There was an orchard on Harvey's property. In years past, Harvey's mother made the best apple pies in the county. She loved the orchards and Harvey couldn't bear to have them destroyed. Before he mended his greedy ways, he would sell the apples to the old Patterson Market for a generous profit. Amos Patterson took a loss on the apples when he sold them to the women of Greensboro. Harvey already decided this year he would open the orchard to anyone who wished to pick the apples. His new found generosity gave him more pleasure than his greed ever did.
Lou had enough money from the sale of the vineyards in Tuscany to purchase land to start his own orchard but Harvey offered to help finance the project and the men became business partners.
Harvey was on his way to Camden Corners from Albany when he spotted Margaret Slater on the train. He hadn't paid much attention to women since he'd had his heart broken some thirty five years ago.
Harvey was a young man when he met the lovely Mae Chambers. Mae was the sister of his old college roommate, Harrison Chambers. Harrison lived in the small farming community of Bellington. He invited Harvey to join him one October weekend. The town was celebrating the end of the summer harvest.
“There is singing in the park, games, hayrides. It is always a jolly time Harvey. I wish you would go with me. You always do nothing but study all weekend. I think you need a break. We have plenty of room in the farmhouse and Mama is the best cook in town.”
“Harrison, I really need to study this weekend. You have an easier time learning than I do. You don't have to work as hard to pass these classes.”
“It's no easier for me than it is for you my friend. I know when my brain needs some rest and relaxation. It won't kill you to take a couple of days off.”
Before Harvey knew it, he was on his way to Bellington. The two young men walked into the kitchen and that was when Harvey fell in love for the first time in his life. Mae Chambers was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She had big blue eyes and auburn hair. When she smiled she showed a dimple in each cheek. Mae was taken with Harvey too. They were inseparable throughout the entire weekend. The night of the hayride Harvey got up the nerve to kiss her cheek. She didn't discourage him.
Every break he had from school was spent at the Chambers farm. Harrison had been right. He found it easier to study and his grades were continually improving.
Harvey graduated with honors. He and Harrison went into business together. He planned to marry Mae but he needed to get the business off the ground. Five years later, she was still waiting for a proposal.
“Soon Mae,” Harvey would tell her. “I want to be able to give you a good life. I must make more money so I feel worthy of you.”
“Harvey, I love you. I want to marry you and have your children. I don't need a big fancy house. All I need is you.”
Everything changed one Saturday afternoon. Mae and Harvey had argued that morning. He insisted he needed to work that day and wouldn't be able to see her until Sunday evening. Mae confided in her friend Gladys that she was getting tired of waiting for Harvey.
“Let's go to Greensboro for the afternoon. We can get your mind off Mr. Harvey Wilson. I heard of a new restaurant there. They serve Crepe Suzette. I'm not sure what that is exactly but doesn't it sound elegant?”
The gentleman at the next table couldn't take his eyes off Mae. He was passing through town on his way to Chicago. He was like no other man Mae had ever met. He escorted the ladies to a concert at the Greensboro auditorium followed by a stroll through the park. After an elegant dinner with champagne Mr. Curtis Fox proposed to Mae Chambers. She accepted his proposal. He accompanied her to her home. Her family was shocked to learn of her engagement. Her mama tried to discourage her from such a rash decision but she had to admit Mr. Fox was very charming. They were married in the parlor of the farm house the very next day and Mr. and Mrs. Fox left for Chicago to start their new life together without a word to Harvey Wilson.
Harvey was devastated when he learned of Mae's marriage. “Why didn't she wait for me? She knew it wouldn't be too much longer.” he lamented to Harrison.
“I warned you Harvey that my sister wouldn't wait forever. After all you hadn't proposed to her in all these years. Maybe a marriage was never meant to be.”
Soon after Mae's marriage Harvey started down the path of greed and callousness. His friendship and partnership with Harrison ended. Occasionally he would hear word that Mae had given birth to another child. He figured she had at least five by now. It broke his heart knowing she was happy without him.
He took pride in being the nastiest man in town. It wasn't until he had lost all his businesses and didn't have a friend in the world that he realized this was never the life he had dreamed of. He was ashamed of the way he treated Emma Patterson and her grandfather before her. He asked for her forgiveness and she opened her heart to him. He had gained the respect of the good people of Greensboro and Camden Corners and he owed it all to Emma. He knew he would never do anything to harm her again.
Harvey couldn't stop glancing at the lovely lady who was sitting three rows ahead and to his left. She sensed that someone was staring at her and turned around to see a nice looking gentlemen behind her. She smiled and he nodded to her. The next thing Margaret knew, the gentleman was sitting beside her.
“Do you mind if I join you? It is such a long train ride and I was hoping you would like to pass the time in conversation.”
“I'm not accustomed to speaking with strangers, sir, but if you behave yourself, I would very much like some company,” Margaret giggled.
Harvey introduced himself and said he was on his way to Camden Corners.
Margaret was anxious to hear all about the town she would be visiting. Harvey told her his favorite spot was by the lake. He had purchased some property there and was in the process of building a house. He lived in Greensboro but more and more his business ventures were taking him to Camden Corners and he felt he needed to put down some roots.
Margaret told him her son had moved to New York and although she had friends in Albany, her dearest friend moved to Camden Corners. She told him about Helene. Harvey had met Helene and knew his friend Neville was waiting for his mourning period to end before they married. Harvey understood the way Neville felt but warned him not to wait too long. He was speaking from experience.
Margaret thoroughly enjoyed Harvey and he was anxious to keep the conversation going when the train pulled into the station.
“Mrs. Slater, I hope I'm not being to forward but I would very much like to see you again.”
“I would like that too Mr. Wilson and at our age I don't think we should worry about such things as being too forward.”
Harvey laughed. He liked this woman very much. She didn't take life too seriously. She was a breath of fresh air.
Helene was waiting at the station to greet her friend. They embraced and Helene was surprised to see Harvey Wilson standing next to Margaret.
“Harvey, do you know my friend Margaret?”
Margaret explained, “We met on the train. Isn't it scandalous? Do you see what happens when everyone leaves an old lady to fend for herself?”
“You are not old besides I think it's nice that you two have met even though I do agree it is very scandalous.”
They all laughed and got into Millie's new automobile. Leo was still learning to drive it but did pretty well and was enjoying being a chauffeur for the ladies and Harvey.
“I hope you aren't letting Millie drive this thing Leo,” said Harvey chuckling. “Although I'm sure she will try.”
“I'm giving her lessons but they aren't going too well. I think she likes driving in ditches because she has found just about every one in town.”
“Margaret, you are going to love Millie. I can't wait for you to meet her. Harvey, you will come in for tea, won't you?”
“Make that a cup of coffee and you have yourself a deal. Now that I've found Mrs Slater, I don't want her to forget me.”
“Please call me Margaret. I must say, I don't think many people would forget Harvey Wilson after meeting him.”
“You will hear many things about me that I wish people would forget Margaret. I have done some things that I am not proud of. Please call me Harvey.”
“Harvey is making up for any wrongdoing of the the past. We all need forgiveness sometimes.”
Harvey wondered if there wasn't meaning behind Helene's words but it wasn't his business and he thought she was a lovely woman. In fact if he didn't know she and Neville were a duo he may have been interested himself. He wondered how long it would be proper to wait before asking to court Margaret.
“Come in, come in. Oh my goodness, I have heard so much about you Margaret and here you are. Harvey it's good to see you too. I hope you are planning to stay for lunch. Addie has whipped up a meal fit for royalty.”
“My wife loves any excuse to cook,” said Leo. “I'm testament to her good cookin'.”
Everyone laughed as Leo patted his ample belly.
“I hope we aren't overwhelming you on your first day in Camden Corners Margaret. My husband Leland and my brother Neville will be joining us along with James and my brother's daughters Melanie and Melissa. Let me show you to your room. You may want to freshen up before lunch.”
“How come you don't put me up too, Millie? I'm stuck at Mrs. Wharton's when I come to town.”
“Harvey, you are always welcome here but Mrs. Wharton needs the money. She is putting her grandson through medical school, you know. He is in his last year and there is talk he will do his residency here at Memorial. He's such a nice young man.”
“Mrs. Wharton is a wonderful landlady. As you know Neville is my neighbor but I was hoping I could find someone more exciting than he is to share a hallway with.”
“Harvey Wilson. What has come over you?” Millie looked in Margaret's direction and saw the look between the two of them. She smiled. She loved it when two lonely people found each other.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Turning the Tables
Harvey Wilson couldn't remember when he had ever enjoyed himself more. He was sitting around a table with people who had considered him the enemy not too long ago. He was ashamed about the way he had acted in the past and vowed he was a changed man.
Everyone laughed as Nettie told a story of one of her wayward students. The door to the shop opened and Miss Kitty Moody walked in carrying a wooden box filled with silverware.
Jonas stood up and took hold of the heavy box. “What have we here Miss Kitty?” he asked.
“Oh dear,” said the octogenarian, “I don't mean to intrude on your party.”
Emma said, “You're not intruding at all Miss Kitty, we aren't having a party. Just some old friends gathering for a nice chat. Would you like to join us, Miss Kitty? We have a fresh pot of tea.”
“Oh my, that does sound very tempting. I wouldn't mind resting for a moment. My arms are so tired from carrying my mama's good silver. I was wondering Miss Emma, if you would be able to sell it for me. It is silver you know. Mama always took such special care of it. She brought it over from England, don't you know? It belonged to her mama before her.”
“Are you sure you want to sell the silverware, Miss Kitty? It has been in your family for such a long time.” Emma could tell at a glance the flatware, although quite pretty, was not of the highest quality.
Lily and Emma discovered shortly after they opened their shop that people often came in to sell a prized possession or family heirloom because they were in need of cash. They set up a special section where they collected these treasures. They would offer the customer money to tide them over and set the merchandise aside until they were able to come in and buy the item back for the same amount.
“Yes, my dear. I'm afraid I will not be able to pay my taxes if I don't. I think I may have given a little more than I should have to that wonderful Brother Jeremiah Hershey when he was preaching in Camden Corners. He was so persuasive and he said we should give every thing we possibly could to him. I did just that, but I'm afraid I forgot about the taxes being due on my home this week.”
“How much do you need Miss Kitty?” said Lily.
“The taxes are fourteen dollars and thirty two cents. I wonder if you think my silver would sell for fifteen dollars? That would be enough to tide me over until the end of the month when my pension money arrives.”
Harvey spoke up, “May I see the silverware? Well I'll be, this is the exact pattern my dear grandmother brought from England herself. I have been looking to add place settings to my collection. Miss Kitty, I wonder if you would take $200 for the silver, case and all?”
“Oh my, sir. I don't think it's worth that much money.”
“It is to me, I have been looking for this exact pattern for many years.” Harvey reached for his money clip and counted out $200. and handed it to Miss Kitty.
The worry left her face immediately. It was obvious she had been troubled with money concerns after she realized she had given all of her money away to Brother Jeremiah. Miss Kitty sipped her tea and nibbled on the cranberry bread Nettie had set out earlier. This was the only food Miss Kitty had eaten all day. She bid farewell and took one last look at her mother's silver as she left the shop.
“Mr. Wilson, that was a wonderful thing for you to do. I'm afraid that silver isn't worth nearly what you paid for it.”
“It was worth much more than that to see the look on Miss Kitty's face. She reminded me of my own dear mother. After closer examination, I realize it is not the same pattern as the silver in my home. Please make sure the dear woman gets it back, will you?” he winked as Nettie poured him another cup of coffee. “Now, tell me what you know about this Brother Jeremiah Hershey. Sounds like a swindler to me.”
Jonas told him about how people had been spellbound by him and his performance. “Unfortunately, many of our friends and neighbors fell for his nonsense. He and his group travel from place to place and bilk people out of their hard earned money. Neville Merryweather and Oscar Crowley are working on a plan to get some of that money back from him.”
“I wonder if they would like some help from an old swindler? You know what a scoundrel I can be,” he laughed and everyone laughed with him.
Oscar and Neville happened to walk in at that moment.
“Well if it isn't Harvey Wilson. What are you trying to con my friends out of this time Harvey?” said Neville.
“Hello Neville, I heard you had moved to Camden Corners. A nice little town, isn't it? You may not believe this but I have turned over a new leaf. I discovered having all the money I could ever want left me without anyone in this world who thought I was a nice chap. I hope you will give me another chance.”
“I believe in second chances Harvey and I'm willing to take your word for it that you have changed. I hope you don't disappoint me.” The men shook hands.
Oscar was skeptical but he could see the look in his wife's eye and knew that Nettie believed Harvey.
Neville told of their plan. “Max Harcourt is available for suggestions but since Sarah will be making him a father any day now, he will not be heavily involved in our scheme. We don't have much time. The revival is scheduled to set up its tents next week in Greensboro. Since I still have connections there with the insurance firm, it won't be too suspicious if I am an investment counselor. Harvey, I think your known wealth and reputation will be a great advantage.”
“This will be fun. Count me in.”
The men worked on their plan for the next few days. Harvey stayed in Camden Corners in the room next to Neville's in the boarding house. Oscar and Neville were happy to have Harvey with them. They found he had a dangerously conniving mind and were glad he was on their side.
They knew Audrey Lynch had a friend who had been involved with Brother Jeremiah. Cora was willing to help in any way she could. She told them Jeremiah stayed out of sight before his performances. His sidekick, Brother Damien was the one who was out in the field observing the tempo of whatever town they were in. He could spot a vulnerable target a mile away. If he thought someone was being secretive, he would listen in as best he could. He was deaf in one ear and because of that he was an expert at reading lips.
Will Duesenberry remembered the fellow who called him a sinner that day at the lake. He described the man to Jack Mackenzie as Jack drew a sketch of him. Butch and Billy helped too and came up with a very good likeness of him.
Cora told them Damien frequented the coffee shops and parks near where the tent was being raised. They recruited Jonas, Melvin Tanner, Lou Rossi, Leland Harvey, Chris Pringle, Alexander Burke and Duncan Mackenzie for their scheme. The men were happy to be involved in the caper. They all knew some of their friends had been swindled and were anxious to help in the attempt to get their money back.
Randy Burke printed official looking stock certificates. The day before the revival, all the players boarded the train for Greensboro. Harvey arranged for chauffeurs and cars to pick them up at the station. Each man had his own car and chauffeur.
The men had practiced their parts until everyone knew exactly where they would be at any given moment of the day. It was finally showtime.
Just as Cora predicted. Damien was at the coffee shop located a block from where the tent was being set up. He walked through the door and sat at the far end of the counter where he could see most of the tables. Neville was sitting at a table well away from the entrance. Lou Rossi walked in trying his best to look suspicious. Damien noticed him immediately and also noticed another suspicious looking character was signaling to him. He'd spotted a chauffeur waiting in a car just down the street and now there was another waiting in front of the restaurant. He also observed the two had on fine attire. Damien knew a custom made suit when he saw it. He was patting himself on the back for his choice of seats since he could see both men's lips as they spoke quietly away from the crowd. The waitress delivered their coffee and was given what looked to be a twenty dollar bill by the gentleman who had been waiting. Damien read his lips as he slipped her the twenty. “Dear, we need to speak privately. Please don't disturb us until I call you.” She nodded her head and pocketed the money as she walked away smiling broadly.
Neville began his prepared speech. Damien could read his lips word for word. There was going to be a takeover. Only a handful of people knew about it. By this time next week the gentleman would be rich beyond his imagination. He was selling stock certificates at a mere $100 a share. The other gentleman balked at the price. Neville acted as though he was packing up to leave. Lou put his hand on his arm asking him to wait he wanted to know how much time he would have to decide. He was told Neville had other prospects who were more than willing to invest in a sure thing. Lou stopped him and wrote out a check for $3,000 making sure he mentioned the amount. Lou didn't worry about his check being in the wrong hands. Leland Harvey set up bogus accounts in false names for each one of the men.
Neville carefully counted out 30 certificates letting one slide off the table and under Damien's feet. Damien was able to read the name of the company. ORCA was the only name on it. What Damien didn't realize was that ORCA was anagram for CORA. Of all the people who were hurt by Brother Jeremiah's greed, it was Cora Lynch who suffered the most.
As Neville was signing the certificates, Lou walked over to Damien. “Excuse me sir, I believe something of mine slipped under the counter by your foot.”
“What is this? ORCA. I've never heard of it. It might be something my boss is interested in. What can you tell me about it?”
“Nothing sir. Just give me the paper. I can't discuss it,” Lou said nervously as planned.
Damien gave him back the certificate. Obviously, this guy wasn't going to be a help. He needed to go to the source. The man signing the certificates with the fat check in his pocket.
Damien waited until Lou left and then walked over to the table.
“What can I do for you?” said Neville curtly.
“I want to hear more about ORCA.”
“Where did you hear that name? I don't know what you're talking about.” said Neville. Just then another gentlemen walked in. “You'll have to excuse me, my next client is here. You'll forget you heard that name if you know what's good for you.”
After Melvin, Jonas and Duncan each played their part, Neville began to get up from the table. Damien stepped in front of him. “Let's you and I have a talk now.”
“Listen fella, I can't do a thing for you. I'm only an employee of Mr. Harvey Wilson. He only takes on certain clients and by the looks of you, I don't think you qualify.”
“It's not for me, it's for my boss. Have you ever heard of Brother Jeremiah Hershey? He's got plenty of money and I'm sure he'd be interested in this company you are selling stocks for $100 a share. I know that last guy bought 100 shares. That's a lot of dough. Brother Jeremiah has more than that. I'll bet he'd buy 300 shares.” Damien wasn't sure he would be that interested but he knew he was getting tired of the revival grind and might be interested in a sure thing. He would also be grateful to Damien and would surely give him a finder's fee.
“Meet me back here in 45 minutes and bring Hershey with you. I'll see what I can do. Don't talk to anyone except your boss about this or the deal is off.” Neville walked out of the restaurant and into the back seat of the waiting auto. Damien was cursing the fact that he was on foot. He would have been interested to know the gentleman's destination.
Exactly forty five minutes later Damien and Jeremiah were sitting in the booth previously occupied by Neville. Brother Jeremiah was disguised in a hat and dark glasses. He was skeptical about the whole thing but decided it was worth the risk if it turned out to be the deal Damien thought it was.
Without greeting the men, Neville took a seat. “I talked to Mr. Wilson about you Hershey. He knows who you are since his personal secretary has asked for time off to see you at some revival. He is willing to let you in on the deal. He wants to meet you at his home office. He has some questions for you. If I were you, I'd be prepared to answer them truthfully. Mr. Wilson doesn't like to be lied to and believe me, he will know if you are not being honest with him.”
Right on cue the chauffeur was holding the automobile door open for the men. They drove through town and just beyond to Harvey's estate. Even Jeremiah was impressed when he saw the size of the mansion. This is the kind of house I want someday. Maybe after this transaction I will be able to buy one just like it for Maude and me. He couldn't wait to see what it looked like inside.
The chauffeur drove around to the back entrance which infuriated Jeremiah. How dare he be treated like a delivery man. He was Brother Jeremiah Hershey, he saved souls and cured the infirm. He thought it best just to accept the indignity for the time being. It wouldn't be long before he had wealth beyond his imagination.
The doorman guided the men through various hallways and stairwells until they were finally standing in the main entrance. The door was opened by another servant and they were escorted into the den. Jeremiah had never seen such a large desk before. He was almost consumed with envy as he looked at the old man sitting behind it.
“You may be seated,” came the booming voice of yet another servant.
“Leave us alone Jeeves” Harvey said to Oscar who portrayed a fine butler. “My man here tells me you are interested in purchasing stock in ORCA. You do realize the shares are being sold for $100 each?”
“Are you prepared to pay cash for the shares?”
“Yes, sir, I have $30,000 in these two cases.” He opened one up to show Harvey.
“I don't want to see it man. Take it over there and let my man count it.”
Neville stood up and took both cases putting them on a table out of sight. Damien had a funny feeling about this whole set up but he could tell Jeremiah was impressed with Mr. Wilson and didn't dare interfere.
“So tell me Hershey. What is your real name and don't tell me your mother named you Jeremiah.”
“My name is Jerry Boyd. I come from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Brother Jeremiah sounded a little more convincing than Brother Jerry.” Mr. Wilson obviously was taking this very seriously and Jeremiah felt it best if he did the same.
“How do you get people to come to your revival meetings?”
“Damien here goes around town and calls everyone a sinner. You'd be surprised how many people think he is speaking directly to them. Most people believe they have sinned at one time or another so it isn't too difficult to rope them in. Once we have them in our tent is when the fun begins. I think I have made Jimmy Bryant see over 900 times. We have changed kids in a wheelchair about 10 times. They get more sympathy when they are 5 or 6 years old. We had a mute that I made sing up until a little while ago. She went back home. I'll get her to come around again one of these days.”
“So all you do is falsely heal these people in your employ and people give you money? That doesn't make sense.”
“You have to get them stirred up. You make them think their troubles will all go away if they empty out their bank accounts and donate the money to our charity to help the sick and poor and make more miracles happen.”
“So you give their money to the sick and poor.”
“No, I keep it.”
“How much do you pay Damien and all the people who pretend to be suffering from blindness and other disabilities?”
“I don't pay anybody. They get good meals everyday and a place to sleep at night. Some of the men are given a few bucks to go out and tie one on every once in a while. It's a privilege to be with Brother Jeremiah Hershey. Isn't that right Damien?”
“Yes sir.” said Damien.
“Are you willing to sign these papers saying you are willfully turning over this money to me for the purchase of 300 shares of stock in ORCA?”
“Yes sir, I'll sign anything you wish.” Jeremiah signed the paper without even looking at it. He couldn't wait to have the stock certificates in his hands.”
“Have you finished counting the money Neville?” said Harvey.
“Exactly $30,000 Harvey. That will help pay back quiet a few people.”
The Greensboro sheriff stepped out from behind the curtain.
“Jerry Boyd. You are under arrest for fraudulent practices for starters”
“What are you talking about? You can't prove a thing. Damien and I will deny what was said in here. Don't forget. That's my money you have over there.”
“You just signed a confession admitting you are a fraud and have bilked unsuspecting people out of their hard earned money.”
All of the participants in the scheme stepped out from behind the curtain. Damien looked up and saw the men who had been in the coffee shop buying stocks from Neville Merryweather.
“Jeremiah, we have been conned!”
Lou Rossi spoke up. “Damien, you wanted to know what ORCA was. Say hello to Cora. You remember her don't you?”
Cora smiled. She would never get the six years back that Jeremiah had taken from her but she was hopeful he wouldn't be claiming any other victims for years to come.
A trust fund was set up to reimburse those who had given their money so freely to Brother Jeremiah.
Kitty Moody was able to retrieve all of the money she had donated. She stopped by the antique shop.
“I wonder if Mr. Wilson would be willing to sell back my silver. I have his money here plus interest.”
“Oh Miss Kitty, I'm glad you stopped by. As it happens, Mr. Wilson was mistaken. His mother's silver is a different pattern after all. He returned yours just the other day. I'm sure he doesn't want you to return his money,” said Emma
“I insist. He is such a kind man isn't he Emma?”
“Yes Miss Kitty, Mr. Harvey Wilson is a very kind man with a very big heart.”
Thursday, June 28, 2012
The New Arrivals
“I just don't understand it, Nettie. Those babies were suppose to be here by now. What is wrong with those two females? Do they think I have all the time in the world to wait around for my grandchildren to arrive?”
“Oscar, stop your fussing. Just think how Emma and Lily feel. They are the ones having to walk around with those big tummies. Do you think they wouldn't like to have their little ones in their arms right now?”
Meanwhile in the Richard Crowley house, Lily is on the new telephone complaining to Emma that she feels like a whale.
“If this baby doesn't come soon, Richard will have to build an addition on the parlor just to fit me in there.”
“I'm sure it isn't that bad Lily, but I know what you mean. I'm a bit tired of being in this condition too. Hillary Duesenberry is two weeks old already and Kate wasn't due until after we were. Have you heard there are three new doctors on staff at the hospital? I'm so happy they are able to recruit doctors. It's not easy uprooting a family to bring to our little town.”
“Can you believe we have been here two years now? I feel as though I've been in Camden Corners all my life. I'm so glad that ad for the antique shop kept calling our name. Except for waiting for this little peanut to be born, I couldn't be happier and I know you feel the same way too.”
Emma and Lily had been friends since they were in kindergarten together in Greensboro. After the death of her grandfather, Emma was forced to leave her home thanks to the old curmudgeon, Harvey Wilson. The final outcome of Harvey's shenanigans turned in Emma's favor but she and Lily already owned and operated the Looking Back Antique Shop. Mr. Wilson was a forgotten chapter in the lives of the Crowley wives.
Lily settled into bed for an anticipated sleepless night. When she did find a comfortable position, the baby would start to kick and disturb her. This night it was different. She felt the first twinge just after midnight. She didn't want to awaken Richard who was snoring away next to her. Within the hour she was in serious pain and could no longer ignore it. Richard insisted they leave for the hospital the moment Lily woke him up. He drove them in the automobile he purchased the week before.
At the hospital he kissed his wife goodbye as she was wheeled into the delivery area and began pacing. He thought about calling his father and brother but decided to let them sleep until the break of dawn. He knew babies took their time arriving.
One hour later Dr. Springer opened the door to the waiting area. “Congratulations Richard, you have a son. The nurse will take you to the nursery to see him. Lily did very well. She is resting now but you may sit with her until she wakes up.”
Richard peered through the window of the nursery and saw the squirmy little baby that was his son. He was overcome with joy. Lily was sleeping quietly but woke up when she heard her husband enter the room.
“Richard, isn't he the most beautiful baby in the world? Our little Matthew Richard Crowley. I'm so happy we have a son.”
“Was it too terrible for you Lily? I wish I could have been in here with you so you didn't have to suffer alone.”
“Any pain I had was well worth it. I can't wait to get our little boy home. I hope they let me leave soon. Did you call Oscar and Nettie? I guess it's too early. I hope Emma doesn't have to wait too much longer before her baby is born.”
“I think I'll call them right now. I'm sure Pop will be passing out cigars before breakfast.”
Nettie still wasn't accustomed to the sound of a telephone ringing. She had to admit it was nice to be able to pick up the receiver and talk to anyone she wanted to but it certainly did make a racket.
“Hello Nana,” said Richard on the other end. When Faith began to talk, she called Nettie Nana. It suited her and the name stuck. “You have a grandson.”
“Oscar come quick. You have a grandson,” she called to her husband. “How is Lily, is she doing alright? I am so worried about those two girls. Their pregnancies have gone on for so long.”
“Lily is doing very well. She is already talking about coming home. Matthew Richard is adorable.”
Oscar appeared with a broad grin. Nettie handed him the phone.
“Congratulations son. I couldn't be happier. When can we see the newest Crowley?”
“Visiting hours begin at 10:00 but I may be able to smuggle you in sooner. I'm going to call Robert now. I'll talk to you later Pops.”
Oscar picked up Nettie and swung her around. “Be careful Oscar, you will throw your back out and end up in the hospital yourself,” she laughed as he gave her one of his big bear hugs.
“So you beat me to it Lily,” said Emma as she sat down on the chair in Lily's room. “Matthew is such a handsome little boy. I'm so glad the waiting is over for you.”
“Emma, are you feeling alright? You are as pale as a ghost.”
“I'm just a little tired. It's probably the excitement of having a new little nephew in the family.”
“Robert, get the nurse. There is something wrong with Emma.”
Robert walked over to his wife and could see Lily was right.
“You stay with her, I'll get the nurse,” said Richard.
The nurse walked in, took one look at Emma and ran for Doctor Springer who was getting ready to leave for the day.
“Robert. I'm admitting Emma. I'll examine her and let you know my findings.”
The nurse came in the room with a wheelchair and gently lifted Emma into it and rushed her out the door.
“What is wrong with her? She was fine when we came in here.”
“Maybe she is just squeamish about being in the hospital,” said Lily although she didn't believe her own words. She had never seen her friend look so sick.
Robert went to the nurses station. Oscar and Nettie were in the waiting room. They had arrived just a few minutes after Robert and Emma. Nettie sensed something was wrong.
“Is Lily alright? The baby?” she said
Robert turned to her. “It's Emma, the doctor has taken her to an examining room. She didn't look good Nettie.”
Just then Dr. Springer appeared. “Robert, Emma is hemorrhaging. We must deliver her immediately. I hope it doesn't come to this but we may have to perform surgery. The nurse is preparing the paperwork for you to sign.”
Robert had never been so frightened. “She was perfectly fine when we left the house. I don't understand what is happening.”
Dr. Murphy came in through the front doors and rushed to where Emma was. Robert looked at his family and realized they were as terrified as he was. Nettie came over and held his hand. Lily was in her room and couldn't stand the waiting anymore. She slipped out of bed, put on her robe and slippers and joined her family in the waiting room.
“Lily, you should be in bed,” said Oscar
“I need to know what's going on with my friend. I'm just fine sitting here.”
Oscar realized he hadn't seen his grandson yet but couldn't move until they found out Emma was going to be alright.
It wasn't long until Dr. Springer walked into the waiting room. “Robert, you have a baby girl. She is being examined now but she seems to be very healthy. I'm afraid Emma is not doing as well. We didn't have to perform surgery which is a good thing. She is in an extremely weakened condition. She has lost so much blood. She is receiving new blood through a blood transfusion. We are doing everything we can for her. You can thank your new nephew that she and the baby survived at all. If she hadn't been in the hospital when this happened, she would not be alive now. You may see your daughter in just a few minutes. The nurse will call you. We must keep Emma isolated for the next few hours. Dr. Murphy is with her now and I have every confidence in him.”
What had started out as a day of joy for the Crowley family had turned into a nightmare. Robert couldn't move. He was in a state of shock. Emma could die. He could lose her. He could hear Nettie and Lily crying softly. He had a daughter. The words were echoing in his ear but he didn't feel anything except terror.
Hours passed and Emma was still critical. Nettie telephoned a few friends and word quickly spread through the town. Vicar Will opened the church for those who wanted to gather in prayer. The antique shop remained closed. Several of the shops closed early. Friends and neighbors met on the hospital grounds to pray for Emma's recovery.
Friends from Greensboro were told of Emma's condition. Fern Collins heard it from her friend Eva. Fern was filling in for Mrs. Hildebrand, Harvey's regular housekeeper, while she was recovering from gall bladder surgery. Harvey was eating his dinner alone as he did every evening.
“Mr. Wilson did you hear the sad news about Emma Patterson? She is Emma Crowley now. Seems she brought a wee babe into the world today but is not doing well. They don't know if she will live through the night. I remember her Grandpa Amos. Such a kind man. I can tell you he helped out my family a time or two.”
Mr. Wilson gave no indication that he had even heard Fern. She knew he was a nasty old man but she needed the money he paid her and kept her opinion of him to herself. She left the room shaking her head.
When the door closed, Harvey Wilson bowed his head and whispered, “Lord, I don't know if you can hear me. I haven't spoken to you since I was a boy but I'm going to take a chance that you are listening. There is a young woman who lives in Camden Corners. She is very sick. I'm sure you know her. She is one of your better servants. Her name is Emma. Through the years I haven't treated her kindly but she is a feisty little thing and always outsmarted me no matter what I did. I never let her know that I admired her but I did. She is a new mother now and her baby needs her. Please let her live. She is loved by so many people.”
A tear fell down Harvey's cheek as he took a sip of his tea. At that moment, Emma was opening her eyes. She was weak and pale but very much alive.
“Robert,” she whispered as she put her hand on her tummy. “is our baby alright?”
Robert had been dozing as he sat by her bed holding her hand. “Emma, you're awake. I've never been so happy to see your eyes open. Our daughter is healthy and anxious to meet her mother. You gave us all such a fright. Let me call the nurse to make sure you are doing as well as you seem.”
“We have a daughter. Catherine Crowley,” said Emma.
“I think I'd like to change her name to Catherine Emma Crowley,.” said Robert. “I want her to know how precious her mama is to everyone.” Robert opened the curtains and Emma could see dozens of candles glowing in the dark.
“Those candles are for you. The whole town is waiting for you to be well again. Do you remember anything about what happened to you?”
“Not much. I remember feeling a bit woozy and being in a wheelchair. That's about it. I remember Lily had a little boy. Now we have a little girl. Are Oscar and Nettie thrilled?”
“They will be more thrilled when they find out you are alright. Do you feel like company after you see Catherine Emma?”
Emma could hear the crowd outside yell with excitement. She couldn't believe that was all for her. She was indeed a lucky woman to have so many friends.
Fern Collins walked into the dining room to clear Mr. Wilson's dinner dishes. “I don't know if you heard me tell you about dear Emma Crowley but my friend Eva called me with the good news. Emma is going to be just fine.”
“Thank you for letting me know Miss Collins. Why don't you take the rest of the evening off. The dishes can wait. I think I might take a little ride down to the pub. I feel in the mood to celebrate.”
“Thank you Mr. Wilson.” Fern was out the door before the old codger could change his mind. She had the idea he wouldn't though. Something was different about her boss. Something that resembled kindness.
Three weeks had passed. Emma was feeling back to her old self. She and Lily were enjoying being mothers.
The antique shop was well taken care of with the help of Samantha Springer, Nettie, Ethel and Jonas Fulbright. Emma and Lily were anxious to check in and brought their new babies with them to the shop one morning.
Shortly after the ladies arrived, the door opened and there stood Harvey Wilson. Lily spoke up, “Mr. Wilson, we thought we'd seen the last of you. What business could you possibly have with us?”
“I don't wish to disturb you ladies. I was told you have offspring now and wanted to give them each a small gift. Miss Emma, I'm glad you are looking so well. I understand you gave us all quite a fright.”
Lily put her hands on her hips and was about to tell Mr. Wilson exactly what she thought of his gifts and him but Emma stepped forward. “Mr. Wilson, I do believe you are being sincere. If you have a plan to harm us in any way I warn you, I will not be pleased.”
“I understand your feeling Miss Emma and I do not blame you. If you will allow me to explain myself. I never had much time or inclination to read. However, since I no longer own the newspaper or any of my other ventures I found I had time on my hands. I happened upon a novella by Charles Dickens titled A Christmas Carol. I don't know if you are familiar with the story but I saw myself as the fellow named Ebeneezer Scrooge. Suffice it to say he was a rather unpleasant fellow who was faced with an unhappy ending because of his greed and selfishness. My housekeeper told me of your condition when your babe was born. I recalled the unnecessary anguish I had put you and Miss Lily through and found it difficult to face myself in the mirror. I owe you both so much more than a simple baby gift but I am hoping it will be a start in begging your forgiveness.”
Lily calmed down when she saw Mr. Wilson's eyes were glistening. Emma held out her hand and said, “Please Mr. Wilson, come in and see the babies. They are both sleeping now.”
His eyes lit up as he gazed down at little Catherine and Matthew.
Nettie brought in a plate of sliced cranberry bread and cups of fresh brewed coffee. They all sat around the largest table in the shop. Nettie noticed Mr. Wilson's face had softened since the last time she saw him. He looked 15 years younger. As they chatted, she could almost hear the words of Tiny Tim saying “God Bless us everyone.”
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
“Cora, is it really you? Are these old eyes playing tricks on me?” Sophia said as she gazed into the eyes of the daughter she hadn't seen in six years.
“It's me Mama, I'm so sorry I left you and Papa. I hope you will forgive me.”
“Oh my darling girl. There is nothing to forgive. I'm just glad you are here. What kept you away for so long? Oh never mind that. Come in. Let me pour you a cup of tea. You must be hungry, I'll heat up some nice vegetable soup for you. Oh Cora, I don't know what to say. I can't believe you are standing here in my kitchen. Are you ill child?”
“I'm well Mama. I don't know where to start. Audrey came to see me. I don't remember the town we were in but I heard her call my old name. I had forgotten my name was Cora it had been so long since anyone called me that. I'm Sister Charity now. At least I think that's my name.”
“Cora, I'm going to call Doc Bailey. I want to make sure you are alright.” Sophia picked up the receiver of the telephone that was installed just a week ago. She gave the number for Doc Bailey's office to the operator and was connected. Doc's nurse told her he would be over to check on Cora.
“Doc says not to let her leave Mrs. Lynch. He is on his way.”
Doc arrived and was very gentle with Cora. He determined she was in good shape physically but wondered about her mental state. He called Sophia aside and said “I don't know much about emotional wellness. Cora seems to be in a bit of a daze. From just talking to her I don't think she was abused physically in any way. The way she describes this fellow, Brother Jeremiah, he has cast a spell over her. She has a desire to come home and be a part of her family again. I don't want to alarm you but I think Brother Jeremiah will be anxious to have Cora back. You may want to keep your doors locked for a while.”
“Thank you Doc. Mr. Lynch should be home soon. In the meantime, I think I'll load his old shotgun. Nobody is going to take my darling girl away from me again.”
Cora had gone upstairs to her old room. Her mother left it just the way it was the day Cora disappeared. She came down in one of her old dresses. The ring of flowers she had in her hair had been replaced by shiny barrettes.
“Cora, do you want to talk about what happened to you?”
“Yes, Mama, I think I'd like to talk about it but I'm not sure of all the details.”
“Let me fix you another cup of tea.”
“I remember seeing the men putting up the big tent one afternoon. A man was walking around shouting that we were all sinners and we needed to be saved. Audrey laughed and said the man was a con artist and was trying to take people's money. Sally and Maizy thought it was funny too. Audrey had to be home that night but Sally and Maizy wanted to go to the revival meeting and I said I'd go with them.
“We walked into the tent that evening and people were singing and music was playing. It was very loud and it sounded wonderful to me. Brother Jeremiah walked out on stage and he looked like an angel with his white flowing gown. When he spoke his voice was like a voice from heaven. I saw him make a man see who was blind and then he made a little boy in a wheelchair walk. I thought I was seeing miracles. He called all of us sinners up to the stage. I couldn't help myself, I got into the line and we were all singing Onward Christian Soldiers. That was always one of my very favorite hymns. As I walked by Brother Jeremiah he stopped me and told me to step aside. Sister Maude took my hand and walked me to another tent on the grounds.
“I was a little frightened but I couldn't seem to move to get back to Sally and Maizy. After the music quieted down, Brother Jeremiah came to me and asked if I would like to be one of his disciples. He said if I did become his disciple I would surely have a place in heaven through all eternity. He had such piercing eyes and I believed every word he spoke. I told him I would have to ask you and he said he already did and you said I should go with him.
“From then on, every time I asked about you and why you hadn't tried to see me he would look at me with those eyes and tell me you were happy I was with him and I should forget my earthly family because he was my family now. I thought you and Papa had given up on me and didn't want me anymore.
“Before long, he asked me to pretend to be mute and when he pushed my head and I fell down I was suppose to get up and sing. I didn't feel right about lying but he said it was what the Lord wanted me to do.
“Every few days we would move to another town. During the winter we went south where it was warmer and in the spring we would head back up north. This went on for a long time. I thought I was happy living that way because Brother Jeremiah told me I was.
“Then one day, I heard a familiar voice. She said she was my cousin Audrey. I was in Brother Jeremiah's tent that night after he pushed on my head and made me sing. She kept telling me stories about when we were children and our families and all the good times we had. I started to remember them but I didn't speak because Brother Jeremiah told me not to talk when other people were around. The big men who were always nearby made Audrey leave. I didn't want her to go because I wanted to hear more stories.
“I kept remembering the things she told me and then I started remembering other things. I remembered how you always had tea in the afternoon. How you would call me your darling girl. How Papa would light his pipe and read the newspaper after he got home from work. All these memories came back to me. I knew I had to see you again and when the train pulled into the station in Buffalo I got off and hid in the janitor's closet until the train pulled out again. I hitched a ride with a farmer who was delivering fresh eggs. He stopped at Carson's Market and I walked home from there.”
Sophia wanted to take that shotgun and hunt down Brother Jeremiah. She knew she wouldn't do such a thing but it did sound like a good idea.
Just then Burt Lynch walked in the door. He couldn't believe his eyes that his daughter was sitting at the kitchen table sipping tea.
After hugging her and breathing a sigh of relief, he listened as Sophia repeated the story she had heard.
“I'm getting the sheriff. We will track this man down and have him put away for the rest of his sorry life.”
“As much as I'd like that to happen Burt, Cora was 18 when she went with the man. In the eyes of the law she was an adult. He hasn't hurt her physically and I'm not sure mental anguish is punishable although maybe it should be.”
At that moment in the town of Lexington just outside of Buffalo, Brother Jeremiah was berating Sister Maude for letting Sister Charity slip away from them.
“Listen Jerry, I'm not her keeper. She is a grown woman and if she wants to get away from you I don't blame her. If I wasn't your wife I'd leave too. I'm getting sick and tired of traveling around with this group of hangers on. Charity was one of the nice ones. If you hadn't played games with her head she would probably be back in Buffalo married to some farm boy and surrounded by 3 or 4 children by now. Just let her go.”
“Charity is my golden goose. Do you have any idea how much money she can raise with that voice? Those suckers out there can't wait to part with their money once she starts singing.”
“How much is enough money. We could go live on an island somewhere and never work again. We have plenty of money. Your greed is going to get you in trouble. Well, I've got my own nest egg and if you insist on tracking Charity down, I am leaving you.”
“Go ahead and leave because I'm calling the boys in right now. I know exactly where she lives and I'm going to make sure I get my singing angel back. With you out of the picture, I might just make her the second Mrs. Jeremiah Hershey.”
Maude walked out of the room. She knew she wouldn't leave and she knew her husband wouldn't ever be unfaithful to her. He liked to say things just to rile her up. She wished he would listen to her and get out of the con business. She wondered if they hadn't gone too far. She knew people were donating their life savings. They had more money than they would ever be able to use. Maude was still young enough to become a mother. She wanted nothing more than to settle down in a nice little town and raise a couple of kids with Jerry.
Brother Jeremiah called in two of his thugs. He gave them the address where they could find Sister Charity with an order to bring her back to him.
Ace and Buck found the house where Charity was. They walked up to the door and knocked. They were met with two shotguns aimed directly at their faces. Charity was holding one of the guns and an older lady was holding the other.
“Ace get out of here and take Buck with you. I'm not going back and you can tell your boss to get himself another sinner. This one has been saved. The sheriff and my father are on their way to the big tent. I'm sure the sheriff can find some reason to put that man behind bars.”
“We're leavin' Charity. Don't shoot.”
“Ace, I'm tired of travelin' how about we see if we can get a factory job here in Buffalo. I understand the winters are pretty nice here.”
“I'm with you Buck. Let's let old Jerry face that sheriff by himself.”
The most the sheriff could do was convince Brother Jeremiah that it would be more pleasant for him to move on.
Jeremiah told his crew to start packing up. He wondered where Ace and Buck were with Charity and had a bad feeling when night fell and they still weren't back. Maybe Maude had a point. They could find a little place where it was warm all year. A couple of kids would be nice too. Anyway, he was getting tired of tambourine music.
Audrey Mackenzie picked up her mail at the post office. There was a letter from Cora. She couldn't wait to open it.
Dear Cousin Audrey,
How can I ever thank you for coming to see me at the revival meeting a few weeks ago. If you hadn't reminded me of all the wonderful times we had when we were young and the happy days with our families, I would still be traveling with Brother Jeremiah.
I am still trying to sort out the way my life took a turn but I do believe everything will be alright in the end.
Do you remember Elroy Perkins? He was that skinny boy who always followed me home from school. The years have been very kind to him. He is still unmarried. He said he was waiting for me to return. He is the local pharmacist now. He has asked me to marry him and I said yes. Doc Bailey thinks I should settle back into my life before I make any drastic changes. Elroy says he has waited for me this long and he can wait a few months longer. I hope you will plan to come to the wedding. I am anxious to meet your new husband.
Thank you again Audrey. Thank you for giving me back my life.
With Love and Affection, Your Cousin Cora
“Oh Mr. Parker,” Audrey said to Jackson on her way out the door. “isn't life just wonderful?”
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
“Look at this Jack. A tent revival right here in Camden Corners.” Audrey said to her husband of two weeks. “This handbill says we will be saved from our sins if we attend the meeting tonight. What do you say, shall we be saved or do you like all my sinful ways?”
“I like my vixen just the way she is.” Jack said as he caught her around the waist and nuzzled her neck.
“Seriously, I wouldn't mind going tonight. I've told you about my cousin Cora who went to a revival meeting and ended up joining the followers. Aunt Sophie hasn't seen or heard from her in over six years.”
Audrey Lynch was a nurse living in Buffalo. She had a crush on Dr. Grady Murphy and convinced her friend Elizabeth to join her on a trip to Camden Corners to inquire about nursing positions at the new hospital. The hospital hadn't been completed yet and they weren't looking for nurses at the time. Audrey had led her friend on a wild goose chase just to be close to the handsome doctor. Dr. Murphy had just finished his residency with Buffalo General and was meeting with Dr. McMillan about a position with his medical practice.
Elizabeth was not happy about being a pawn in Audrey's scheme but had no choice but to go along after a sudden snowstorm hit Camden Corners stranding the ladies.
To Audrey's dismay, Dr. Murphy only had eyes for her friend, Elizabeth. It wasn't long before Audrey switched her attention to artist, Jack Mackenzie.
“Everybody that comes into the gallery is talking about this revival meeting. I heard some fellow was walking through town telling everyone to come to the meeting and be saved. Shall I bring my tambourine?”
“I can just see you marching around a tent with a tambourine and being saved.”
“I've already been saved by you. You saved me from a life of loneliness,” Jack said with a laugh.
“You, Jack Mackenzie have never been lonely in your life. Some woman is always after you. Remember Daphne St. Marie?”
“Daphne who?” he laughed.
“Hush. I'd better get to the hospital. I'll see if Elizabeth and Grady want to join us tonight. Maybe we can get a quick supper at the pub before the big meeting.”
All of Camden Corners was abuzz with talk of the tent meeting that evening. Some folks had gone the night before and had seen a man cured of his blindness. The collection plates were overflowing but Brother Jeremiah asked that those attending tonight, bring more to help him carry on the Lord's work. Leland Harvey heard the bank was inundated with folks withdrawing their savings. He stood outside the bank and tried to discourage his former customers from taking out all their money but to no avail.
“That man is trouble,” he told his wife, Millie. “I'm afraid it's going to be a mighty sad winter for those who are giving money to that so called man of the cloth. I know Eb Mendenhall will be there with his deputies but the man isn't doing anything illegal, just immoral.”
Audrey and her friends arrived in time to get a seat fairly close to the stage. The music was playing and Audrey thought back to her cousin Cora.
Audrey had been invited to go to the revival with Cora and their friends. Audrey and Cora went to the same school. They both planned to begin nursing school the following month. They had talked about being nurses for as long as Audrey could remember. Audrey stayed home that evening to help her mother bake a cake for her grandmother's 75th birthday party the next evening.
The following morning, the doorbell rang at 4:00 am. Aunt Sophie was standing at the door in her bathrobe. “Audrey, is Cora here with you? She never came home last night. Her friends said she went backstage at the revival and they couldn't find her after that. I'm so worried about her. She was always such a responsible girl.”
Audrey had never been so frightened in her life. Her cousin and best friend was missing. The people involved in the revival claimed they had not seen her. The police and sheriff's department were unable to locate any sign of her. It was assumed she had run away or had been kidnapped. How was it possible an 18 year old girl would disappear into thin air?
Brother Jeremiah was introduced by the man who was prancing through town calling everyone he saw a sinner. The music was so loud the chairs in the tent vibrated. Audrey and Elizabeth were getting into the spirit. Even Grady and an extremely skeptical Jack were tapping their feet. Brother Jeremiah had a booming voice that seemed to go right to the soles of Audrey's feet. She was beginning to see how a young girl could become mesmerized by the whole thing.
Brother Jeremiah called several folks from the audience up on stage. He began his ritual by restoring hearing in a young boy. Next a man in a wheelchair stood up and walked off the stage. The audience was cheering as Brother Jeremiah walked to a young lady who was with an older woman.
“Brother Jeremiah my daughter Charity has been mute since birth. Please wash her sins away so that she may speak.”
Brother Jeremiah put his hand to Charity's head and shouted to the heavens. Charity fell backward and was still.
Shouts could be heard through the tent. “Is she dead?” “Did he kill her?” Suddenly, Charity began to move. She stood tall, opened her mouth and started singing Onward Christian Soldiers in perfect pitch.
“Praise the Lord,” said Audrey.
Jack couldn't believe what he'd heard. “You aren't falling for that act, are you?”
“It's a miracle!”
“Audrey, what's wrong with you? It's a sham and you know it.”
“I know it's a sham. That's Cora. Charity is Cora.”
Charity was handed a tambourine and began dancing through the aisles as she sang. The woman who claimed to be her mother was emptying her pockets of dollar bills shouting thank you to Brother Jeremiah.
People appeared out of nowhere with collection plates in their hands. The plates were being filled to the brim. Jack noticed others with huge sacks emptying the plates and passing them around for more donations. He and Grady were appalled.
“Let's get out of here. I can't bear to watch this,” said Grady
“You two go ahead, I have to find Cora. Jack, will you come with me? She must have gone backstage. I can't believe she is a part of this abomination.”
“No, we will stay with you. Won't we, Grady?” said Elizabeth
The four of them headed backstage where they were stopped at the doorway by two very large men.
“My cousin is backstage, sir. Please let us pass. I must speak to her.”
“Sorry miss. Nobody goes backstage. Even a pretty little thing like you.”
Audrey began to shout, “Cora, are you back there? Where are you Cora? It's me your cousin Audrey.”
“There's nobody back here named Cora. Now get away from the door or I'll pick you up and carry you away along with your friends.”
Audrey didn't doubt for one minute that he would do just that.
Brother Jeremiah heard every word of the conversation outside the doorway. He remembered a starry eyed young girl coming backstage six years ago. She had the look of innocence. Just what he needed for his act. He took her under his wing. She was his best routine so far. She brought out the generosity in people. He wasn't about to let this cousin get anywhere near his prize disciple.
“Audrey, I think we'd better go home and try to figure out a way to see Cora. It's obvious these gentlemen are not going to let us back there.”
Audrey agreed and walked away. “Did you see the look on her face? She looked dazed. I wouldn't have recognized her had I not heard her voice. She always did have a beautiful singing voice. I don't know what to do Jack. I have to talk to her but I have a feeling those two goons aren't going to let me anywhere near her.”
On their way out of the park Audrey noticed there were several small tents in the background with one large tent in the middle of them. “I'll bet the big tent is for Brother Jeremiah and I wouldn't be surprised if Cora is sitting in that tent right now. The three of you go distract that huge man standing in front of the entrance. I'll see if I can get a peek in there.”
“I don't like this Audrey. I know you want to find your cousin but these men look very dangerous.”
“They won't hurt me. I don't think Brother Jeremiah would want the sheriff to find a beaten body on the grounds where he set up his tents.”
The three friends walked to the far end of the row of tents and started laughing and singing loudly. Just as Audrey planned. The man at the doorway walked over to see what the commotion was all about.
Audrey quietly walked to the entrance of the tent and sitting at a dressing table was her cousin.
“Cora, it's me Audrey.” she whispered.
Cora looked at Audrey with no sign of recognition. “My name is Sister Charity. I don't know anyone named Cora.”
“Oh dear, Cora, what has happened to you? You and I were best friends. Don't you remember what fun we had when we were just children? We used to go to the old swimming hole on Uncle Handley's farm. Remember we used to call him Uncle Handlebar because he had a handlebar mustache. At Christmas our papas would chop down Christmas trees for our parlors. They used to argue over which tree was the prettiest.”
Audrey kept talking about every old memory she could come up with but there wasn't any spark of recognition in Cora's eyes.
Brother Jeremiah appeared at the door and very quietly whispered in Audrey's ear that she had better leave and not come back.
Audrey turned to Cora and said “Your mama cries everyday not knowing where you are. We all still love you Cora.”
She glared at Brother Jeremiah and said “I am going to pray for you sir. I'm going to pray that you rot in Hell for what you have done to my cousin.”
She felt a familiar arm around her. It was Jack telling her she had done all she could and it was time to leave.
Audrey telegraphed her aunt that very evening telling her what transpired. She found it impossible to put a positive slant on the situation. She did tell her aunt that there was an announcement that their next stop would be in a small town outside of Buffalo a week from Thursday. If nothing else, Aunt Sophie would be able to see Cora.
Sophie was happy to hear her precious daughter was still alive. She was grateful to Audrey for trying to persuade her to remember her past. Sophie was counting the days until Thursday when she would see Cora again. She was prepared to face the fact that Cora may be lost to her forever. While sitting at her kitchen table sipping her afternoon tea, there was a gentle knock on the back door. She opened it to see Cora standing there.
“Mama, may I come home?”