Friday, August 31, 2012
Nick Rossi was busy working the vineyards. It would be several years before the Hightower Vineyards would be producing the quality of grapes necessary for the truly exceptional wines he envisioned. The same wines as his father's vineyards in Tuscany were known for. Nick had saved some money and was being well paid by the Hightower brothers for his work in their vineyards. The brothers had inherited millions from their uncle who had been a recluse for most of his life. He knew Lucinda McCoy was also a beneficiary of Mr. Howard's estate. He assumed she had received a pittance because her daughter, Cassandra was the great granddaughter of Shane Howard. He was happy for her since Lucinda and her late husband had struggled to make ends meet since the day they left the orphanage where they both grew up.
Nick had fallen in love with Lucinda and her daughter. He was holding onto the ring his father sent with him when he came to America several years before. The ring belonged to his father's beloved Aunt Nicoletta and as the second born son, it was given to Nick for his future bride. He had no doubts that Lucinda was the woman for him but he wanted to be able to provide for her financially so she would never have to worry about money or the lack of it again.
Nick had been investing in the vineyard since its inception. The project wouldn't make a profit for a few years and the expenses were enormous. Work had begun on the winery. The Hightowers spared no expense in the building but the the brothers had enough money to cover any costs and still come out ahead. Nick's knowledge of the business was invaluable and he oversaw every detail.
Lucinda was working at the vineyard too. She acted as bookkeeper and general office manager. Cassandra had started school and since they lived in Caroline Watson Bentley's boarding house where her new husband, Jamison had hired both a maid and housekeeper, there wasn't enough to keep Lucinda busy. Not only that, she enjoyed being so close to Nick all day. She loved watching him work in the fields. He loved the work and it showed. Lucinda knew he would be popping the question any day now and was getting anxious to start their life together. She thought it was high time Cassandra had a houseful of brothers and sisters. One of the reasons she still lived in the boarding house was because of Kenny and Becky Bentley, the newly adopted children of Caroline and Jamison.
Lucinda had been shocked when she was notified that Mr. Shane Howard had remembered her in his will. She and Cassandra were millionaires. It didn't seem possible that less than a year ago she and her precious daughter had been living in poverty in New York City. Lucinda turned over her finances to Leland Harvey, the local banker. He kept close tabs on the investments he made for her and her money kept growing. Mr. Harvey encouraged her to spend more on herself but all her life she had been frugal and found it very difficult to change.
It was a rather warm fall day and Lucinda had made pitchers of lemonade that she carried out to the fields for the workers. One of those workers, Marco French added whiskey to his canteen and it was starting to show. He flirted openly with Lucinda. Lucinda brushed off his advances but Nick didn't like it one bit. Marco lifted weights when he wasn't working and it showed in his oversized muscles. The men all helped themselves to the lemonade and Lucinda left to go back to the office.
“That sure is one fine looking woman” Marco said rather loudly.
The other men tried to quiet him but to no avail.
“Not only is she a knock out, she's loaded too.”
Nick walked over to Marco and in no uncertain terms told him to shut his mouth.
“Hey I didn't see a ring on that little filly's finger so I'd say she was up for grabs. Who knows what she did for that old man, Shane Howard to get put in his will. He left her millions and I wouldn't mind taking some of that dough along with her.”
The other men knew that Nick was ready to strike a blow to Marco and they also knew Marco was capable of killing a man with his fists. They all grabbed Marco and forced him away from Nick.
“I don't need this hick town anyway” shouted Marco as he mounted his horse and rode towards the village.
Nick was furious. He didn't like anyone talking about a woman that way and especially Lucinda. Harold Hightower came over to see what all the commotion was about. Harold knew Marco French was a troublemaker. He would have Lucinda make out a final check with an additional bonus check. Harold was certain Marco would be at O'Sullivan's Pub and would deliver them personally to him. The bonus would be given only if Marco agreed to leave town and not return.
Nick was trying to calm down. He didn't realize how protective he felt toward Lucinda. He would gladly have faced the beating he would surely have received from Marco had they fought.
“Harold, what's this about Lucinda being a millionaire? I know Marco was just shooting his mouth off but why would he say a thing like that?”
“It's true Nick. My Uncle Shane was a strange man. He never acknowledged that Cassandra was his grandson's daughter. In fact he never acknowledged his grandson or even his son. Lucinda is worth a fortune although she hasn't spent much on herself or Cassandra.”
Nick was shocked and knew he had to confront Lucinda right away. She was busy cleaning up the pitchers from the lemonade when she saw Nick walk through the door. She knew something was wrong the minute she looked into his eyes.
“Why didn't you tell me you were rich?” he said frowning at her. Before she could answer he said “You know I can't marry you now. I would never be able to give you what you couldn't buy for yourself. Why weren't you honest with me Lucinda? Never a mention of the millions of dollars you have in your bank account. If there is one thing I can't abide, it's dishonesty. What other lies have you told me?”
Without waiting for an answer, Nick turned on his heel and walked out leaving Lucinda with her mouth open in disbelief.
Harold saw Nick stomping out of the office and knew there was trouble. He quickly ran to Lucinda. She was shaking and seemed to be in shock. He helped her close up the office and took her to the main house where he knew Dahlia and Hyacinth would be able to comfort her. He didn't understand Nick but would catch up with him and find out what transpired between the two of them. He had his suspicion that Nick was overreacting to the fact that Lucinda hadn't shared her financial circumstances with him.
Leaving Lucinda in the sisters capable hands, he left the house to find Nick and try to calm him down. Lucinda was still in shock.
“He accused me of being dishonest. The subject of the money never came up and you know I don't think of that money as being mine. I have been waiting for a good use for it and planned all along to give it away. I have never seen Nick like that and I'm not sure I ever want to see him again.”
Hyacinth wanted to wring Nick's neck.
“How could he do this to our dear Lucinda? I hope Harold finds him and gives him a good talking to.”
Nick climbed on his horse and rode to town. He was tempted to go to O'Sullivan's Pub but knew he didn't need to be imbibing when he was angry. He was sorry that he had spoken so harshly to Lucinda but how could she have kept quiet about having all that money. Rosa was surprised to see her brother in the middle of the day. It was just after the lunch crowd left and it was the quiet time of day for her before the early evening diners started arriving.
“What in the world is wrong with you Nicola? You look like you are ready for a fight.”
Nick told her about Lucinda and her money.
Rosa replied “How could you not have known about the inheritance? Everyone in town knew that. Lucinda doesn't talk about it because she doesn't think she is deserving of the money but it's a known fact. You are a darned fool if you have accused her of being dishonest. Oh Nicola, how could you?”
“Maybe I did overreact but the fact remains that I cannot and will not marry someone who isn't completely honest with me.”
Rosa knew her brother and knew there was more to his anger than Lucinda's money.
“What else happened today Nicola?”
Nick couldn't keep anything from his sister. “One of the workers was openly flirting with Lucinda and she did nothing to stop him. I couldn't help thinking of Marietta, she acted the same way when anyone flirted with her and and look what happened to our relationship.”
“Nicola, that was so long ago and there is no comparison between Marietta Keene and Lucinda McCoy. Do you remember that Lucinda spent most of her childhood in an orphanage? She told me once that the only way to avoid being bullied was to ignore the bullies. I'm sure that is what she was doing with that degenerate today. Have you ever seen her flirt or carry on with anyone before? Nicola, what has gotten into you. I haven't seen you act like this since you were 16 years old and had your heart broken by that insipid creature, Marietta Keene. I hope you haven't ruined the best thing that has ever happened to you. Now, go find Lucinda and beg her forgiveness before it's too late.”
Nick gave his sister a hug. She was right. He had been a real jerk. He only hoped Lucinda would be in a forgiving mood. He made his way back to the vineyard and passed Harold on his way to O'Sullivan's Pub to settle the account with Marco French.
“I don't know if she will see you Nick but I hope you can straighten out this mess.”
Nick gingerly knocked on the Hightower's front door. Hyacinth showed him in. He could tell Lucinda had been crying but was doing her best to hide it.
“Can we talk Lucinda?”
“I don't know what there is to say Nick, you said enough this afternoon.”
“I don't know why I spoke to you that way. I was frustrated because I want to be able to build a big beautiful house for you and Cassandra and I simply don't have the money to do it. Just when I was feeling like a failure, Marco started making remarks. I guess I thought you should slap his face or something and you had no reaction at all. I was jealous. Marco is a good looking man, the type any woman would be able to fall for and then he said that about you having so much money. I didn't believe it but Harold confirmed it and everything blew up in my head. I know that isn't any excuse for the way I spoke to you but I hope you will forgive me.”
Lucinda was quiet for a moment and then she said “Nick, I understand that sometimes frustration can be overwhelming. I have felt it too. When Cassandra and I lived in New York and I didn't know where I would get the money to put food on the table or whether her tiny feet would grow out of her only pair of shoes. I don't think you have ever missed a hearty meal or limped because your shoes were too small. I'm not judging you Nick, but I don't understand why you lashed out at me. I never tried to hide the fact that Mr. Howard left us money. It's money I don't feel deserving of. I don't want Cassandra growing up thinking that money is the only important thing in the world. I don't need a big sprawling house. I'm perfectly happy in one room of Carolyn Bentley's home although I know we can't live there forever. As far as Marco French goes, I couldn't tell you what that man looked like let alone whether he was good looking or not. I knew he was saying inappropriate things to me but I didn't find it important enough to respond to. Nick, I think we shouldn't see each other, at least for a while. It will give you time to think about your true feelings. Maybe your blowing up today was a sign that you are not ready to start a life with me and Cassandra. Now, if you will excuse me, school will be letting out soon and I must leave to meet Cassandra.”
She thanked Hyacinth for her hospitality and was out the door before Nick could think of any response at all. Hyacinth and Dahlia didn't hide the fact that they had been standing in the doorway listening to everything that was said.
Nick looked at them sheepishly “You ladies don't have to tell me what a heel I am, I'm well aware of it.”
He, too, was out the door.
“Don't worry about those two Hyacinth, this is just a little bump in the road. I think we should start planning a wedding”
The sisters giggled as they walked up the stairs to the nursery where four babies were not so quietly awaiting their arrival.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The Rightful Owner
Angus Keefe was determined to retrieve his family's silver chalice. After receiving information from the conductor on the train from New York City to his home in St. Louis, he was returning to the small town of Camden Corners where the conductor believed the ruffian had jumped from the train with Angus' satchel and chalice still in his grubby little hand.
The passenger car was empty and since there was no one around to be bothered by the music Angus took out his clarinet and started playing. Angus was a music teacher. He loved music and could play any instrument but his favorite was the clarinet. He had dreamed of performing on stage in all the great music halls in the world. The truth was, he just wasn't good enough but he loved music and it soothed him.
He had just turned 27 that spring. He would like to settle down and marry his sweetheart, Abigail Wentworth but she told him she couldn't marry him until he got over his obsession with the Mount Keefe silver chalice. For as long as he could remember, his father and grandfather spoke of the chalice as though it were a living, breathing thing. On his deathbed, his father made Angus promise he would make the journey to Ireland, find the chalice and return it to the Keefe family where it belonged. Angus was fulfilling that promise until he foolishly sipped a bit too much port and allowed that urchin to steal the heirloom right from under his nose.
Emma and Lily were busy making plans for their double wedding ceremony and hadn't thought too much about the silver chalice Emma stumbled over in the sand. Emma ran into Sheriff Mendenhall on her way to Tempting Treats Bakery to pick up some confections to serve with tea at the antique shop and mentioned her find to him.
“I haven't had the time to do the research on the cup, but I do believe it may be very old and valuable to someone.” she told the sheriff.
“Couldn't be too important to anyone if it was just dumped in the sand but I'll nose around to see if I can locate it's owner.”
The sheriff had heard about the upcoming marriages of the Crowley boys. He knew old Oscar would be beaming. Those boys were his pride and joy and it was obvious to everyone in town that they had found their perfect mates.
“Goin' to be a lot of celebrating in the next couple of weeks.” The sheriff winked at Emma.
She knew he was a tough old bird but he did have a soft spot for romance.
The sheriff noticed a stranger over by the train station.
“Can I help you find your way mister?” he asked a nervous looking Angus. Angus noticed the gentleman walking toward him and was almost blinded by the bright shiny sheriff's badge he wore on his chest.
“No thank you sir. I'm headed to the boarding house down the road, but thank you just the same.”
The sheriff noted the stranger's odd behavior and made a mental note to check on the fellow while he was in town.
After Angus checked into the boarding house, he clutched his clarinet and began to walk around town to see what he could find. It was a quiet and comfortable town. He could picture himself sitting under that big old maple tree with its colors beginning to turn with Abigail at his side. He was beginning to wonder if he had done the right thing by taking the chalice from Father O'Connor's hands in the middle of communion. Maybe the guilt was what made him drink too much port on the train. He wasn't a violent man and wasn't even much of a drinker. He had to be honest with himself, having that chalice didn't give him the satisfaction he thought it would. In fact, he was wishing he had never gone to Ireland and never taken the chalice in the first place. All he wanted was to go back to St. Louis and marry Abigail. He knew what he had to do. He had to find the chalice and return it to the church where it was meant to be. Angus always thought best when he was playing one of his beloved instruments and began playing his clarinet.
Billy and Butch were going from shop to shop in Camden Corners. Kate and Will were outfitting each boy in their very own clothes. It was the first time either boy had ever had shirts and pants that didn't belong to someone else first. Their last stop was Floyd's Barber Shop where Butch went first.
“What handsome boys they are” Kate whispered to Will who was thinking the same thing.
When Butch was done he asked Kate if he could go out and walk around the park.
“Don't go too far dear, we don't want to lose you.”
Butch's heart skipped a beat. Nobody had ever cared where he went or whether they would ever see him again before.
Butch walked across the street to the park and heard the most wonderful sound. He had heard music before, there was always some kind of music coming out of the taverns on the streets of New York but this was different. He walked over to the man playing. It was quite some time before Angus noticed he had an audience.
“Hello, young man” he said “Do you play the clarinet?”
“No, sir” replied Butch “I don't know how but I sure do like to hear you play. How do you know how to do that.”
“It takes a lot of practice but here, you try it.”
Angus gave the boy some basic instructions. He had never seen anyone pick up on it so quickly and he'd taught many students.
“I think you are a natural son. Would your parents mind if I bought you a clarinet of your own? I saw one in the window over there in that antique shop that I think would be good for you to practice with.”
Strangers never frightened Butch because he had lived on the streets for as long as he could remember and everyone was a stranger. He followed Angus to the antique shop.
Lily thought it was odd that this man was buying young Butch an instrument, but Butch seemed to be comfortable with him. She had seen the family enter the barber shop a little while ago and thought it best if she went to find Will and make sure it was alright with him. Emma was standing close by and had the same fear as her friend. Emma knew what Lily was thinking and said “Lily dear, let me take over this sale, you don't want to be late for your appointment with Floyd”. Lily rushed out the door. Angus was paying for the clarinet when he happened to glance up on the shelf above Emma's head and saw the chalice. He knew in an instant that it was the Mount Keefe Chalice. He said in a much harsher manner than he intended “Where did you get that chalice?”
Emma with a bit of fear in her voice said she had found it in the sand on the beach.
“It isn't for sale sir, until we do some searching for it's rightful owner.”
“I'm its rightful owner” Angus said excitedly “It was stolen from me while I was sleeping on the train to St. Louis. The thief was just a young kid who was chased off the train in Camden Corners.”
Butch's eyes were as big as saucers as he realized who this man was and that he was thief he was talking about. He bolted from the shop and ran smack into Will who still had the barber's towel wrapped around his neck.
“Who are you and what do you want with my son?” Will shouted.
Butch was crying as Kate came around Will to hold him tightly. Between sobs, Butch told them he had taken the man's satchel. He thought maybe he had food in there but it was just a dumb old cup. He would have given it back but the conductor came after them and he forgot to let go of the satchel until he jumped off the train. He said he was sorry and he would go back to New York but please keep Billy with them. He's not a bad boy like I am.
Kate, Emma and Lily were all in tears as they heard Butch's plea for his friend.
Will said “Butch, stealing is never the right thing to do but we are your family now and families stick together.”
“But you haven't adopted me yet and you don't have to” he whimpered.
“Son, adoption is only a matter of signing some papers our hearts have already adopted you and Billy. We love you and you will be our son forever.”
Angus could not imagine what transpired over just the last few days to make this little ragamuffin a part of such a loving family. He would like to know the story but first he had to make it clear that he meant Butch no harm. He could tell Will was a reasonable man but he was protecting his child from a stranger whose intentions he wasn't sure of.
Angus explained that he was a music teacher and he suspected Butch had a natural musical talent that should be tapped. He had noticed the clarinet in the window earlier and thought it would be a good place to start. He then called Butch over because he wanted to clear the air with him regarding the chalice. He told the story of his promise to his father on his deathbed, his obsession with getting the chalice and the wrong he had done in stealing it. He realized the obsession that was passed down from generation to generation would have to stop with him. He thanked Butch for making him see what a real family is and he was going to sail back to Ireland to return the chalice to the church.
Will realized Angus was a good and decent man who never intended to hurt Butch. He and Kate invited him to supper that evening.
After the meal, they all gathered in the parlor. Kate played the piano, Will strummed his guitar, Angus helped the quick learning Butch with his clarinet and Billy sang his heart out even though it was just a little off key. Alma looked on through the kitchen doorway. Her heart burst with joy at the sight of this little family before her.
Angus wrote often to Butch and he and his wife, Abigail visited Camden Corners once a year after they were married. Each year they brought another little Keefe with them until they had 8 children in all. Angus returned the chalice to Father O'Connor and St. Patrick's Church. Father refused to press charges against Angus. He thought putting an end to the chalice obsession was the best solution. He also thought the chalice should be on display rather than being used for communion. Besides, the bishop made sure he had a more modern chalice to use and it was much lighter and easier to handle than the old one. Angus and Abigail visited St. Patrick's on their 25th wedding anniversary and there in the vestibule was the chalice on its pedestal with the inscription:
MOUNT KEEFE SILVER CHALICE
Donated by: Liam Shamus Keefe 1590
Donated by: Angus Liam Keefe 1896
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The Silver Chalice
Will, Kate, Alma and Melvin were enjoying one of the few remaining summer nights on the porch of the vicarage. It had been an eventful day. Will and Kate had become engaged and were going to be married this coming Saturday. Two orphaned boys were sleeping soundly in the bedroom upstairs. Will was sure it was the first real bed they'd ever slept in.
Kate spoke aloud “I can't help but wonder if somewhere the boys' mothers aren't frantically looking for their children.”
Melvin spoke up “From what little Billy said tonight, I don't believe anyone is looking for them. I am under the impression that the boys are from New York City. New York is a fascinating and exciting city but the poverty is overwhelming. The wealthy have a tendency to believe that if someone can't take care of themselves they deserve the life they live. There are more children like Butch and Billy than we can imagine. Some whose parents have died from industrial accidents, illnesses or the bottle. Some who simply have too many children at home and abandon the older ones because there isn't enough food to feed them all. Many of these children's mothers are mere children themselves. Butch and Billy are both intelligent boys. Most of these youngsters are not as well spoken as either of them. I would guess it is Billy who is the observer and recognizes the proper way of speaking and conducting himself. I believe, in spite of his questionable beginning, he has the promise of a brighter future. Of course, that would be more easily attained if he were to be adopted by the two of you.”
Kate's heart was breaking for all the lost children. She knew she couldn't solve all of their troubles but she was determined to make a difference with the two boys upstairs. She and Will walked to the bedroom and watched them sleeping soundly. Kate pulled the covers up over Butch. She knew Billy considered himself too old for tucking in but she gently patted his head. She thought she saw him smile and hoped he was having a nice dream. A tear rolled down her cheek as Will gave her a hug. He knew he had found his very own angel and she would soon be his wife.
While Butch and Billy were sleeping peacefully, Angus Keefe was frantically searching the passenger car he had been riding in since he left New York City. The train pulled into the station in St. Louis an hour ago. Angus couldn't believe he had lost the chalice. His chalice. After years of hearing about the Mount Keefe Silver Chalice he was finally bringing it to its rightful home. His home, Angus Liam Keefe, direct descendent of Liam Shamus Keefe. The chalice was given to Liam by the artist in the late sixteenth century. His brother, Cain persuaded Liam to donate it to St. Patrick's Church in Dublin and there it had been all these years. Angus firmly believed the chalice should be his and traveled to Dublin several months ago. He spotted the chalice and at just the right moment, grabbed it out of the Father O'Connor's hands as he was celebrating holy communion. He ran from the church to his rented room, placed the chalice in the satchel he carried with him and was on the boat headed for New York before nightfall.
When the ship arrived in New York, he boarded the train for his home in St. Louis. Everything had gone so smoothly he was celebrating his success with a bit of port. The satchel was strapped to his arm but he found it difficult to eat his meal without the use of his right hand. He removed the strap intending to place it back on his wrist after dinner but was so enjoying his port, he fell asleep with the satchel unsecured.
“I've been robbed” Angus shouted.
Early the next morning Alma was in the kitchen stirring pancake batter. Ham and bacon were frying on the stove. The vicar, still sleepy from a late night, wondered how Alma did what she did. She wasn't a young woman anymore and here she was bright eyed and busy as a bee.
“Good morning Will. Did you sleep well? Kate was up with the birds this morning, she has gone to the telegraph office to wire her parents about the wedding. I hope you aren't disappointed that it won't be a big, glamorous affair?”
“As long as your granddaughter becomes my wife, I don't care what kind of wedding it is. I just hope it isn't a disappointment to Kate.”
With that Kate entered the kitchen. “I would think the mother of two would have more things on her mind than a big fancy wedding. I just want to marry my sons' father.”
They all laughed including Oscar Crowley who Kate happened to run into on her way home.
“I've told Oscar all about the boys and he wants to talk with them. He thinks, if the boys agree, there shouldn't be a problem adopting them. He knows the judge who would hear our case and thinks it would go smoothly. Oh Will, I hope you haven't changed your mind. I have already spoken to Nettie and she has offered to tutor the boys so they will be able to attend school in just a few months.”
“You have been busy this morning, haven't you? No, I haven't changed my mind. In fact, I haven't thought of anything else all night. Now, let's go wake up our sons so we can all sit down to this wonderful meal Great Grandmother Alma has prepared.”
Upstairs, two boys were waking up
“Hey Butch, what did you do with that satchel you swiped from that guy on the train?”
“Golly Billy, I forgot about that. I think I dropped it when we jumped off the train. It was just some dumb old cup anyway. I thought it was the man's lunch and I was really hungry. Billy, I think I smell bacon.”
Will tapped on the door telling the boys it was time to get up and come down for breakfast. They arrived in the dining room and saw Oscar Crowley. He greeted them in a deep voice. For an instant Billy was afraid Will really did call the sheriff on them but he saw the smile on the old gentleman's face and sat down folding his hands and bowing his head waiting for grace to be said. After breakfast, Oscar, Will and Kate called the boys into the parlor. Oscar wanted to know how they would feel about staying with Will for the next few days and Kate after the ceremony on Saturday.
“On Monday morning we will go to visit with a judge to see about Will and Kate being your new mother and father. Do you think you would like that?”
Butch was beaming. “You would be our ma and pa? Billy, did you hear that? It's even better than what you asked God for.”
Billy, didn't say a word for a few seconds. He glanced around the room and then said “You know what Pa? You were right about God, you can't see Him but you know He is there.” Everybody hugged and cried and laughed.
Oscar was beaming as he entered the Antique Shop.
“Sometimes things just work out as they should” he told Nettie.
Nettie was beaming herself. “Richard and Robert stopped by this morning. They asked us to join them and Emma and Lily tonight at the Trattoria for an early supper. The girls have been giggling all morning. I hope it's what I think it is and they have announcements to make.”
“It's about time” grumbled Oscar. “If I dragged my feet with their mother as they are doing, they never would have been born.”
Everyone was right on time that evening. Rosa had a bottle of champagne waiting for them as they sat at the table. Richard began the conversation by saying they would like Oscar and Nettie's help in planning a double wedding ceremony for them. After congratulations, handshakes and hugs, Lily said they thought a Christmas wedding would be nice.
“Christmas!” cried Oscar. “That's three months away. Haven't you kept me waiting for grandchildren long enough and you want to wait another three months?”
Nettie put her hand over his trying to calm him down.
Emma thought for a moment and then said “Would the first day of autumn suit you any better Father?”
“Now, here's a girl who makes sense. I'd rather the wedding were tomorrow but I suppose I can wait one more week.”
Everyone laughed at Oscar's impatience but they all agreed the sooner they were married the happier they would be.
After dinner, Oscar and Nettie excused themselves. They thought they'd head home to check on Polly and Faith. It was only a matter of time before Polly and Faith started a new life with Randy Burke. That was what Nettie wanted for the girl who had become like a daughter to her but she would miss them terribly.
The young people decided to take a walk along the beach before heading home. Richard and Robert were reminiscing about their dad while they were growing up. Although he was an extremely busy attorney and the only one within 50 miles back then, he always found time to be with his family. Both boys looked up to him and were very happy when some of Oscar's old clients compared them to father.
“The least we can do for the old man is give him a houseful of grandchildren.” Robert said with a twinkle in his eye.
“I'm all for that” replied Lily, her eyes flashing back at him.
Richard noted that Emma looked a little sad. “What's wrong, dear? You aren't having second thoughts about marrying me are you?”
“Don't be silly Richard. I can't wait to marry you. It's just that I don't have any family anymore. I was thinking of how happy my grandfather would have been to have a great grandchild.”
Lily spoke up. “Emma, there are so many people in Camden Corners who think of you as family. Nettie would be so hurt if she heard you talk that way. You know she thinks of both of us as daughters.”
Emma shook her head in agreement and was a little ashamed to be sounding so selfish. Richard squeezed her hand. At that moment, she began to fall. Richard grabbed her arm to catch her. She had stumbled on something half buried in the sand. She picked it up.
“This looks like a silver chalice and by the feel of it, I suspect it's quite old. There is some kind of writing on the bottom but it's too dark to make it out. Let's take it back to the shop, I'm curious as to what it says.”
When they entered the shop and turned on the light Emma realized the writing was in Latin.
“Nice to have an attorney around when you need one. Let's see how much of your Latin you remember.”
Richard read the words COK.ME.FIERI.FECIT.ANNO.DOMINI. 1590. Together the Crowleys translated the words into English COK had me made in the year of the Lord 1590.
Emma and Lily knew they had found a very valuable work of art. It would be a busy day tomorrow what with planning a wedding in just a couple of weeks and researching this silver chalice that they stumbled upon.
Still ranting and raving over his missing satchel, Angus was close to strangling the conductor if he didn't tell him who could have stolen his property. The conductor did remember chasing two boys off the train and he may have seen a satchel flying through the air when they jumped. Finally he remembered it was just as they were coming into Camden Corners. He warned the Camden Corners station master, Lionel Cotton that the boys might try hopping on the next train and to keep an eye out for them.
Angus was at the ticket counter within minutes. He would track down those ruffians if it was the last thing he did. After all his hard work getting the chalice back to its rightful owner, he was not about to lose it now.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The morning after the Labor Day celebration, Jamison went with Caroline to see Doc. He examined her and called them both into his office. Jamison was on the edge of his seat. Doc told him to relax. What he had to say was going to come as a shock to him and he didn't want him having a heart attack before Caroline gave birth to his child. The two faces looking back at him were white.
“That can't be Doc. I'm too old to have babies. I'm going to be a grandmother in just a few months.”
“That's it! Jamison said sternly “You will have a housekeeper, a maid and a butler if it will assure that you are healthy.”
By the time they left Doc's office the news was just beginning to sink in. The shock was wearing off and suddenly the two of them were dancing down the street.
“Jamison, do you have any idea how often I dreamed of having your baby? I didn't think it would be possible and here I am, expecting our own child. The family will be all together tonight and we will tell them the news. Becky and Cassandra will be excited about a baby. You saw how they were mesmerized by the Hightower cousins.”
Lucinda knew something was going on with her friends. It was natural they would be excited about Jamison's boys, Todd and Alex coming for a visit but there was something else that was making them giggle and smile at each other while they were preparing for the big celebration tonight. Lucinda knew Caroline would tell her in time but she was still very curious.
The boys arrived shortly before 4 o'clock. Jamison picked them up from the train station and brought them back to the now busy household. The boys gave Caroline big hugs and thanked her for putting that smile on their dad's face. Jamison announced that Caroline was expecting a baby and everyone started hugging and kissing. Cassandra wanted to know when she and Becky could play with the baby. Kenny said he hoped it was a boy because they already had enough girls in the family. He liked having two big brothers though so if it was another girl it would be OK with him. Grace couldn't hold back the tears. She was so excited that she and her mother would be having babies the same age.
Lucinda was crying too just thinking about Caroline and Jamison's love story. Nick put his arm around Lucinda and hoped the day would come when they would have an announcement to make too. The ring he bought this morning was in his pocket. Lucinda said she loved him and he wasn't going to waste any more time.
Caroline looked around the room at all these wonderful faces and marveled at how her life had changed in such a short time. She had Lucinda to thank because without her intervention Jamison wouldn't have come to Camden Corners and she wouldn't be happier than she had ever been in her life. The tears were streaming down her cheeks too as she looked around at her home brimming with people and love. Caroline felt a tug on her sleeve. She looked down and saw Becky staring up at her.
“Mama” Becky said quietly. “Cassandra said I wouldn't die if I told you I love you”
Caroline only thought she couldn't be happier. These were the first words she had ever heard her new daughter speak.
“No Becky, you won't die.”
The tears were flowing as everyone rushed to Becky to listen to her sweet little voice. Cassandra was smiling in the background. She was getting tired of doing all the talking for both of them. Soon after, the girls went out to swing on the swings Jamison had hung from the oak tree in the back yard. Through the window, Caroline and Jamison could hear the two little voices singing happy tunes as they were swinging through the air.
Vicar Will and Kate were strolling leisurely passed the busy Bentley home. Will was the first to hear the little girls singing. He stopped to marvel at Becky singing her heart out. Kate's eyes filled with tears. She had worried about Becky since the first day Caroline brought her to school. Kate tried her best to coax the little girl into speaking. Kenny had told her how their father in his grief over the death of their mother let Becky believe she would be the next one to die if she continued speaking. Kate suspected Becky had been a chatterbox and her father was trying to quiet her as he drank himself into an early grave. Kate marveled at Becky's singing voice.
“Will, she sounds like an angel. Now is not the time to call attention to her singing ability but I will mention it to Principal Key.”
Will wasn't paying too much attention to Kate. He had something else on his mind. He was determined tonight would be the night he asked Kate to be his wife. He bought the ring two months ago and never had the opportunity or the nerve to slip it on her finger. Even now he was afraid she would turn him down. He didn't want to face the heartbreak he knew he would suffer. As they strolled toward the beach, Kate was having her own thoughts. She had known for quite some time that Will purchased an engagement ring. She understood that he was shy with women and he was a busy man but this was getting ridiculous. Kate knew he loved her and she loved him. They weren't getting any younger and Kate wanted children. If he didn't propose tonight she would do the unthinkable and propose to him. What a scandal that would cause. She chuckled to herself as Will nervously walked beside her.
Without warning, a tree branch fell from a sycamore tree along the path barely missing the couple. Will gasped and wrapped his arms around Kate protecting her from the other branches that might be ready to fall. Will kept his arms around Kate. He looked up to the heavens and Kate heard him whisper
“Alright, I'll do it.”
His eyes wide, he looked at her lovely face gasping for breath he said
“Kate, will ah you ah be my ah wife?”
She replied “Yes, Will, I would be most happy to be your wife.”
He slipped the ring on her finger, took her in his arms and kissed her until she was the one gasping for breath. Will's shyness disappeared he was back to his old confident self and he told Kate how he had been afraid she would turn him.
“For a man of faith, you didn't have much faith in me Willard Duesenberry!”
He led her to a bench by the railroad tracks.
“How much time do you need to plan the wedding?” he asked.
“How about Saturday morning?” she replied. “I will wire my family tomorrow morning and I'm sure they will be on the next train. Grandmother has been preparing for this day since I was 12 years old. I noticed she had her old wedding gown unpacked and was sprucing it up just the other day. I have always wanted to wear the gown she and my mother were both married in.”
Will was surprised and happy to find that Kate didn't want to wait before they were husband and wife. He was dreaming of the life they would share together when the 6:29 from Harrisburg was slowing down as it approached the train station. Kate and Will were stunned when they saw what appeared to be two young boys jump from between the cars. The conductor was shaking his fist as they struggled to stand up and run. Will was too quick for the boys and he stopped them in their tracks.
“Well, well, what have we here? A couple of hardened criminals stowing away on the train?”
Kate rushed over to the boys afraid they had been hurt.
“What a foolish thing to do!” she scolded them. “You both could have been seriously hurt or even killed jumping from the train like that.”
The older boy looked defiantly at Kate.
“Mind your own business lady.”
Will was ready to pop him on the head for speaking so disrespectfully to his intended but he controlled himself and continued to hold the two by their collars.
“What are your names and why were you on that train? Did you run away from home? Your parents will be worried about you.”
“My name is Billy and this is my friend Butch. We always ride the train but this is the first time that stupid conductor caught us. We don't have parents and we don't need them. We're old enough to take care of ourselves.”
Kate had never heard such a thing. Everyone had parents. Maybe not the best parents but parents just the same.
“How old are you Billy?”
“I'm 18 and old enough to be on my own and so is Butch.”
“You look more like 12” Will replied.
“We're small for our age. Now let us go or I'll have you arrested.”
“I don't think you really want to call the sheriff now do you? He might wonder why the conductor chased you off the train.”
Kate spoke up “Listen boys, why don't you come to Will's house with us. My grandmother is there and she was cooking up a storm when we left an hour ago. She has two chickens in the oven, potatoes and corn and a big pumpkin pie for dessert. You can clean up and have supper with us before anybody calls the sheriff.”
Butch, who hadn't said anything until that moment piped in. “Come on Billy. Lets go eat. I'm hungry.”
Billy's mouth was watering at the mention of such a tempting meal. “Okay, but we leave right after we eat.”
The foursome walked towards the church and Will's house. The boys had forgotten about the small satchel Billy lost beside the tracks as he was jumping off the train.
Alma Schrum was happy to have extra mouths to feed but insisted these two ragamuffins clean themselves up before sitting down at her table. Alma filled the tub and told them they had better use a lot of soap because if they had a speck of dirt on them she would be in to scrub them down herself. Melvin Tanner, who was a frequent guest at the Duesenberry household, chuckled as he watched the boys scramble to the waiting tub and close the curtain tightly.
Meanwhile, the vicar deposited their filthy clothes in a pile outside the back door and rode his bicycle to the Burke home to borrow some clothes in the boys sizes. Between the Burkes and Mackenzies, every size of children's clothing was available. He brought home everything from outerwear to underwear and even nice warm pajamas. He had the feeling these would be the first clean clothes those two young boys had ever worn.
With all the commotion going on, Alma hadn't noticed the sparkling ring on Kate's finger. Kate nonchalantly held her hand out while setting the table. Alma almost dropped the bowl of freshly mashed potatoes as she hugged her granddaughter tightly. She had known Will's intentions for quite some time and was almost ready to get down on one knee herself if he didn't pop the question. Will came through the door and she wrapped her ample arms around him welcoming him to the family. Her eyes were filled with happy tears as the boys entered the dining room shiny clean from head to toe with their hair slicked back and wearing fresh, clean clothes. Alma was impressed that even the dirt under their fingernails was gone. Will was sure they had scrapped off a couple of layers of skin. Everyone sat around the big table and two little hands stretched out to grab a piece of chicken.
“Whoa boys, in this house we thank God for His many blessings.” Will said as he folded his hands in front of him and bowed his head.
The boys followed his lead and Billy wondered who this God person was and where was He? He'd just have to wonder about that later because now it was time to eat and he didn't think he could wait another minute.
Melvin was reminded of the first time he and Cody shared a meal. He watched as the boys ate until they could eat no more. They didn't know where their next meal would be coming from and they weren't about to stop while they still had room in their bellies for another bite.
While the women were cleaning up after dinner, the men and boys took a seat in the parlor. Will picked up his old family bible and started reading aloud from it. “In the beginning....” Billy's eyes were as wide as saucers as he heard the words Will was reading. Accustomed to reading these passages to a young audience, Will added his own twists to the scripture to make it more easily understood. Butch was attentive but Billy seemed to hang on every word. He was very curious about God and couldn't understand how He could be all around him and Billy couldn't see Him. Will knew he wouldn't be able to teach Billy what faith was, he would have to discover it by himself.
The boys were getting very sleepy and Will and Melvin helped them upstairs with Kate and Alma following to tuck them in. Neither boy had any recollection of being in such a soft comfortable bed or of having anyone cover them up with fresh smelling quilts and give them little hugs as they told them to sleep well. As they lay there in the darkness, Butch sleepily said “Billy, I like it here, don't you?”
“Yeah Butch, I like it here too.” Billy was thinking about God. If He could create heaven and earth, maybe talking Will and Kate into letting them stay here one more day wouldn't be too hard a task for Him.
Meanwhile in the parlor, Will was asking Kate how she felt about a ready made family. Kate was thinking the same thing.
“Will, we can't let those boys go back to roaming the streets. Let's talk to the Crowleys first thing tomorrow. We have to find a way to keep them here with us.”
Alma was beaming, she was going to be a great grandmother. Melvin squeezed her hand as he thought of what fun it would be to take the boys fishing just like he had done with Cody and his own son so many times.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Reggie ran the entire mile to the cottage on the lake stopping only to buy a bouquet of daisies at the flower cart outside Nichols General Store. He knew Josie's favorite flowers were daisies. How did he know that, he wasn't sure. He knew her favorite color was yellow, her favorite season was spring, she loved children and wanted a dozen at least. He felt as though he had known her forever and it had only been a few months.
He had wasted so much time longing for Elena Malone. What a fool he had been. He hoped Josie would be home. He had so much to tell her. He loved her and he hoped she felt the same about him. It would serve him right if she didn't. He treated her like one of the fellows instead of the beautiful girl she was.
She opened the door and saw him standing there with a smile on his face and a beautiful bouquet of daisies in his hand. Those must be for Elena she thought to herself. Daisies are my favorite flower. Reggie must be on his way to see her and decided to stop by to tell me he's moving to New York City with her.
“Hi Reggie. How was your reunion with Elena?”
“My reunion? Oh, it was good. I came by to tell you that I am in love with the most beautiful girl in the world. I have loved her since the first day I laid eyes on her but I was too blinded by my foolish infatuation to realize it.”
Josie could no longer hide her tears. “I wish you a long and happy life with Elena but I'm busy now so I will just say goodbye”
She put her hand on the door to close it and Reggie pushed it open again.
“Long and happy life with Elena? What gave you that idea? I'm here because I finally realized it is you I love, you I want to be with for the rest of my life and I'm praying I might have a chance with you. You are the girl I want to wake up with every morning and go to sleep with every night. I want to call my crew over right now and start building bedroom additions on this cottage so that we can fill them with the dozen children we both would like to have someday. Now, will you invite me in so I can hold you and kiss you and ask you to be my wife?”
“But Reggie, you have loved Elena for so long, I do love you but I won't be anyone's second choice.”
“You aren't my second choice, I was with Elena this afternoon and I saw her for what she is, a selfish, spoiled beauty who doesn't know how to love anyone but herself. When I was looking at her all I could see was your face smiling back at me. It was then I knew I didn't want this superficial woman and I don't think I ever really did. She was a childhood crush and I have finally grown up.”
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Josie kicked the door closed with her foot and said “Let's see what kind of a kisser you are before I agree to marry you.”
It didn't take too long before the whole town was buzzing about Josie and Reggie. The two of them were incapable of hiding their feelings even if they tried. Josie was one of the town's favorites and now that Reggie wasn't pining away for unrequited love, he was becoming a favorite too. Doc and Mary McMillan were happy with their daughter's choice and even happier when Reggie informed them he and Josie planned to make their home in Camden Corners. Reggie loved the friendly little town almost as much as he loved Josie. Jamison Bentley was glad Reggie had come to his senses about Elena Malone. She and the theater troupe left shortly after their last performance the week before. No one would call the production a smashing success. It needed more work and Jamison suspected the producers might start by finding a new leading lady.
The Hightower house was completed and none too soon. The sisters were almost to full bloom. Because of their conditions, the girls accepted any help they were offered in preparing their new home. Emma Patterson and Lily Kramer practically furnished the entire house with treasures they had found in their hunts. They were able to fill every one of the eighteen rooms with beautiful heirloom furniture. The two nurseries, one in yellows in the left wing and one in pale greens in the right wing. Quilts were displayed throughout the house. Curtains and draperies were pulled back to allow the late summer sunshine in. Each window had its own unique view. Some overlooking the lake others the freshly planted vineyards. In the spring work would begin on the winery allowing it to be ready for the first grape picking next summer. The Hightowers were so grateful for all the help they had received and the interest everyone had taken in their new home they thought a summer picnic on Labor Day would be fitting. Most of the town arrived just after noon on that Monday. All the women brought along their favorite picnic specialty. The children had plenty of places to run and play. The young people took advantage of the nearby lake and set up makeshift rafts to escape the prying noses of their parents.
The food was all eaten, the dishes cleaned and put away and the ladies were all relaxing around the fire pit near the front porch. The men were having horseshoe tournaments one after the other with small wagers on the side. Nick Rossi had just made a ringer and was collecting his winnings from Reggie who was determined to get his money back in the next game.
Lucinda McCoy caught herself staring at Nick. His shoulders were so broad, almost as broad as his smile. She knew in her heart she had fallen in love with this wonderful man but couldn't get past the guilt of betraying her deceased husband Paul by giving into her feelings.
Josie whispered in her ear “I think it's time for a walk in the trees over there and I'm going to put an end to this game and drag my soon to be husband away from it and into the woods. Come with me, I know you'd like nothing better than being in the shadows with Nick”.
Lucinda's face turned red. She had been sipping a little too much of Caroline's blueberry brandy and it was going to her head. Caroline overheard Josie and encouraged Lucinda to do just that.
“I'll watch out for Cassandra. Paul would want you to find happiness again.”
Josie downed the remainder of her glass and walked over to Reggie.
“That's enough with the horseshoes, it's time for a walk in the woods.”
Reggie winked at Nick and off he went hand in hand with Josie. Nick asked Lucinda if she would like to take a walk by the lake. She thought that was safer than the woods and agreed. They walked without speaking for a little while and then without warning, Lucinda threw her arms around Nick's neck and kissed him firmly on the lips. He was so stunned he started losing his balance and Lucinda, being unsteady on her feet after a little too much brandy pulled him down the rest of the way. They landed in the water laughing and kissing and making up for lost time. When they finally arrived back with the group, all eyes were staring at them. Everyone was smiling including Cassandra who was hoping Nick would be her new daddy very soon.
Nettie Crowley asked what names had been chosen for the babies. Hyacinth said they wanted to keep flowers in the family as their mother did and if either one had a girl, she would be named after a flower.
Howard spoke up and said “If it's a girl, we are naming her Daffodil and call her Daffy for short.”
Everyone laughed except Hyacinth who shook her head at her husband.
“No, if it's a girl, she will be called Daisy Bloom Hightower and if it's a boy he will be Henry Shane Hightower.”
Dahlia spoke up. “Violet Bloom Hightower for a girl and Harry Shane Hightower for a boy.”
She had barely gotten the words out when she doubled over in pain.
“Sister,” cried Hyacinth “Is it time?” as she too, grabbed her round tummy.
The babies weren't due for another two weeks but it didn't look like they had been told when to arrive. Luckily there were three doctors available. Harold and Howard carried their wives into the house and to their bedrooms. The girls hadn't planned on giving birth at the same time and wanted to be there for each other so the men moved the two beds into the big living room and were then shooed away to wait outside with the other men.
Less than an hour later, Josie opened the window and shouted “Harold, you have a son.”
Five minutes passed “Howard you have a daughter and Harold you have a daughter too” then
“Howard, you have a son.”
Lily came running out of the house.
“I know” cried Richard “Go get two more cradles.”
“This has been the perfect ending to a perfect Labor Day” said Caroline Bentley. She hadn't been a witness to the births, she and a few of the other women had watched over the children. Earlier she had been sitting next to Doc McMillan. Doc said those women didn't need him up there. Julie could handle it and he'd only get in the way. The womenfolk don't like stuffy old doctors around when babies are coming into the world.
“How are you feeling Caroline? You look a bit pale.” he asked his friend.
“Well Doc. To be honest I haven't been myself lately. A bit tired but I blame it on all the changes in my life these last few months.”
“Come into the office tomorrow morning. We'll run some tests and maybe get you some vitamins.”
Jamison overheard the conversation and didn't like it one bit. He had been worried about Caroline himself lately. She hadn't wanted him to hire a housekeeper but he was going to insist. After all, she wasn't a young girl anymore and she had two youngsters to keep track of. His sons were coming to Camden Corners tomorrow. It would be the first time they met Caroline. He was happy about that but worried if Caroline was sick how much of a burden it would be to have his sons added to the mix. Doc could see the worry on Jamison's face and patted his back telling him not to worry. He didn't think anything was really wrong with Caroline. He had his suspicions but thought it best to wait until he was sure.
All the guests were invited into the house to meet the new additions to the Hightower family. All four babies had the same faces.
“Is there such a thing as identical cousins?” asked April Hawthorne.
Caroline congratulated the happy couples and said how lucky they were to have two babies to care for. “It's so nice having a baby in the house.”
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Reggie's True Love
Hyacinth and Dahlia couldn't have been more pleased with the design Jamison Bentley prepared for their new home. It was just exactly what they had envisioned. Their husbands were busy working along side Nick Rossi and the crew preparing the earth for the vines to be planted and left the house design and building to their wives. The foundation was being laid as the girls looked on. The Hightower brothers insisted that no corners be cut in anything they did and those instructions were being followed. Reggie Blackburn was a perfectionist himself and as head contractor, he was watching over the crew like a hawk.
Reggie was very polite and respectful to the sisters but they suspected something in his life had made him terribly sad. Reggie came highly recommended by Jamison and the girls trusted him enough to hire the man sight unseen. Jamison stopped by the site a couple of times a day. He was always smiling and the girls suspected his happiness was the result of his marriage to Caroline Watson.
Dahlia knew she was prying but decided to ask Jamison what was troubling Reggie. Jamison had known Reggie since he was born. He had grown up with Jamison's two boys. Reggie had fallen for a young lady by the name of Elena Malone. Jamison had never seen a young boy so devoted to a member of the opposite sex. His boys were more interested in teasing the girls in town than carrying their books home from school. Elena was a very pretty young girl and as she grew she became a real beauty. Jamison thought she was a rather spoiled and selfish little girl who was even more so as she grew older. Reggie was a popular fellow through his high school years. The boys liked him and most of the girls had a crush on him but he only had eyes for Elena. Reggie worked his way though college and asked Elena to be his wife. She accepted his proposal and a big wedding was planned for the second Saturday in September.
Reggie's friends all tried to dissuade him from marrying Elena so quickly.
“Reggie, you have been going to school non stop for years. Give yourself some time to enjoy your carefree days before settling down”
What they really meant was give yourself some time to get over Elena. Reggie wouldn't hear of it. He was going to marry Elena and that was final. Just three days before the wedding, Elena was sipping a soda at the drugstore when a handsome young fellow entered the store. He was drawn to the beauty sitting at the counter and came to sit next to her. He flashed a big bright smile at the girl and told her she was pretty enough to be on Broadway and he should know because his boss was none other than Nelson Grant, the famous producer. It didn't take Elena much time at all to rush home and pack her clothes and join this young man at the train station. She planned to send a telegram to Reggie when she arrived in New York but somehow never got around to it. Reggie was devastated. The soda jerk at the ice cream counter heard every word that transpired between the stranger and Elena and repeated it to Reggie. Reggie just knew Elena would be returning to him after she realized everything she ever wanted was right here in Gilford.
Jamison realized it had been close to a year since Reggie was jilted.
“That young man should be getting over his crush on that ungrateful girl by now.” he said to Dahlia.
Dahlia and Hyacinth felt sad for Reggie. There were plenty of nice girls in Camden Corners but if he was still pining away for this Elena person, he probably wouldn't be interested in any of them.
Just as Jamison was leaving, Josie McMillan drove up in Doc's buckboard. She waved to Nick and the Hightowers as they were doing their last check of the plots before they began planting the first of the grapevines. Josie was Julie McMillan's sister. She wasn't married and had just purchased a small cottage by the lake. Like Julie, who became a doctor in spite of the fact that there were very few female doctors, Josie ventured out on her own. Most girls her age who were not married lived with their parents in the houses they grew up in. Josie was not like other girls. Thanks to a mother and father who had raised their daughters to be their own person and not what society told them they should be. Josie knew construction had begun on the new house and was anxious to see how they were coming along. She loved her little cottage but it needed some repair and she was determined to learn all she could about construction and make the repairs herself if at all possible.
She couldn't help but notice the tall good looking fellow who seemed to be in control of the project. The twins gave Julie a hug and she commented on how much their tummies had grown since she saw them just a couple of weeks ago. She was introduced to Reggie and he was quite impressed with the fact that she was interested in the construction business. He offered to let her observe and possibly lend a hand.
“Keep in mind though, I don't allow any shoddy workmanship on my jobs.”
“Keep in mind” Josie replied “I don't allow any shoddy workmanship on my jobs either”.
He apologized immediately for his insensitive remark and decided it would be nice to have a female on the job to keep him in line. Besides, she wasn't that bad to look at.
After what seemed an eternity, the day the first planting of the grape plants had arrived. The precious cuttings Nick's father had sent from Italy had also arrived. Nick had received cuttings from various established vineyards in the state and as far away as California. He had treated them with tender loving care and gingerly handed a cutting to each of the Hightowers as well as to Lucinda and even little Cassandra. They each lovingly planted their cuttings as the Marino family, all of Reggie's crew and half the town looked on and cheered. Nick had hired some of the best workers he could find and the planting began in earnest. Harold and Howard worked alongside the men as well as Lucinda who was able to keep up with the best of the them. Dahlia and Hyacinth wanted to help but their husbands insisted they stay off their feet as much as possible. Everyone couldn't help but notice the Bloom sisters had really begun to blossom out.
The planting was finally done. There wasn't much to do in the vineyards except wait and watch until spring when the vines began to grow. Nick lent a hand to Reggie and the Hightower house was coming along nicely. Josie was learning more than she had anticipated and after working all day would return home to her little cottage and put in another full day of work. One Saturday afternoon Reggie let the crew leave early. They had been working non stop for many weeks. By the looks of the growing Hightower wives, the sooner the house was livable the better.
Reggie asked Josie how her place was coming and she admitted she had run into a snag or two but she was working out the problems. Reggie offered to accompany her home to look over her work and possibly offer some suggestions. Josie was grateful for the assistance and happily accepted the offer. Reggie was impressed with the work Josie had done. The cottage suited her perfectly. Reggie felt right at home in this little house by the lake. They sat on the back porch watching the water and talking like old friends. Before long the sun was going down and although the days were beginning to shorten, they realized it was getting late and they hadn't had any dinner. Josie insisted Reggie stay while she heated up the stew she had made that morning. They sipped wine and ate the stew with a loaf of bread her mother had baked and delivered earlier. Josie finally had to admit what she had been denying these last couple of months, she had fallen in love with Reggie Blackburn.
The next morning during services at St. Peter's Church, Vicar Will announced that the ladies auxiliary was auctioning off tickets to the play Saturday night at the Opera House.
“The name of the play is The Taming of the Shrew starring one of our neighbors from Gilford, Elena Malone. This play will be performed on Broadway soon. It says here Miss Malone is a rising Broadway star.” Jamison Bentley's ears perked up. Elena Malone, was the name of the girl who left Reggie at the altar. I wonder if he knows she will be in town.
He turned to Carolyn and whispered “She will be able to play the part of the shrew without even acting”.
Carolyn chuckled. Jamison had told her Reggie's sad story. Just at that moment, Reggie was walking down main street and noticed a playbill in the window of Nichol's General Store. Taming of the Shrew starring Elena Malone.
The theater's production company arrived in Camden Corners the following Tuesday. Josie had heard the story of Reggie and his broken heart and felt the need to torture herself by getting a look at the love of his life. She and a few of the ladies in town were a part of the welcoming committee for the troupe as they disembarked the train.
Miss Elena Malone paused on the top step and glanced through the crowd. She had heard Reggie was in Camden Corners and was sure he would be at the station to greet her. Josie looked up and held back a gasp. She had never seen a lovelier looking woman in her life. With her long dark hair and flashing blue eyes, she was a true beauty.
Reggie had forced himself to stay away from the train station. He wanted to see Elena when she wasn't surrounded by other people. The pain of her leaving was still in his heart. He planned to plead his case to her. He would never interfere with her desire for stardom and his love for her was strong enough for the two of them. He went about his business and looked around for Josie. He missed her when she wasn't there. She was a good kid and his men thought the world of her. She had a cute way of smiling at him when she finished a project he had given her. He would miss her when he moved to New York with Elena. He would miss Camden Corners too as the little town and its people had begun to grow on him. Just a touch of sadness came over him but that was ridiculous, in less than an hour he would be seeing his true love again and they would be together forever. Maybe, Vicar Will would be able to marry them this afternoon.
The troupe was staying at the Ritz and had taken over the entire hotel. Reggie announced his arrival exactly one hour later. The hotel clerk rang Elena's suite.
“Have him come up, Jasper, and direct him to the sitting room.” ordered Elena. “He should have been at the station to greet me so he can just sit and wait.”
Reggie sat on a very uncomfortable Louis XV upholstered chair which was not designed for anyone over 4 feet tall.
Jasper poked his head around the corner. “Miss Malone is powdering her nose and will be with you shortly Mr. Bluebeard.”
“It's Blackburn” Reggie called out as the little man disappeared around the corner again. Reggie could hear Elena's voice inside the other room. She was issuing orders left and right. One of the hotel maids who Reggie recognized from town ran out of the room in tears.
“I've been fired because there was a feather on the floor but that feather came from Miss Malone's boa. The room was sparkling clean when she arrived.”
Reggie assured the girl that he would talk to Miss Malone and she wouldn't lose her job. Next came the busboy shaking his head. His face was red as a beet.
“Miss Malone didn't like the way I opened her trunk. She is telling the hotel to withhold my pay for the day.”
Reggie could hear commotion going on inside the other room. Every few minutes another person would exit either crying or grumbling about Miss Elena Malone. She must be tired from her trip, I'm sure after she rests, she will be fine again.
Thirty minutes later, Jasper appeared again “Miss Malone will see you now.”
He ushered him into the room. There she was, the love of his life, sitting at the mirror. She glanced in his direction and turned around. If possible, she was more beautiful than he'd remembered. She stood and walked toward him.
“Reggie, darling, so good to see you. Fetch me my robe dear boy.”
Reggie looked around. All he saw was a flimsy gown with feathers all around the neck.
“Is this a robe?”
“Don't be a fool, Reggie. Of course it is.”
Elena grabbed the robe out of his hands in disgust. “Whatever brought you to this dingy little town, Reggie? You must have been more distraught over my leaving than I ever imagined.”
Reggie couldn't believe his ears. Was this shrew really the girl he had been pining away for? He looked into her eyes and saw nothing but coldness. Suddenly he had a vision of another face. A smiling face with sparkling eyes. A cute little laugh and bouncing blond hair. What a fool he had been.
“Elena, it has been good to see you again. Good luck with the play.”
He was out the door and running down the street as Elena looked out her window watching him vanish out of sight.
“He'll be back” she whispered to Jasper.
Somehow Jasper didn't think so.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Two and Two Make a Family
After a delightful evening filled with good food and good company, Caroline and Lucinda are about to retire for the night when they hear a sneeze in the hydrangea bushes under the porch railing. They discover two children hiding there.
“We mean no harm ma'am. We were just looking for any scraps of food you might be throwing away” said the little boy who couldn't have been much more than 9 years old.
“Come out of there children. Where did you come from and what are you doing hiding in the bushes?”
Along with the boy, a little girl around 6 stepped out. They were both filthy dirty and shivering although it was a warm summer evening. Caroline and Lucinda hustled them into the house. They didn't wait for an explanation but started filling the bathtubs with warm soapy water. Caroline guided the boy to one room and took the girl by the hand into the other. She had a stack of clothing that tenants had left behind. Caroline always laundered the items and placed them in a safe place in case their owners ever came back for them. She was able to find a pair of pajamas that she thought would fit the boy and Lucinda found a nightgown of Cassandras that should fit the girl just fine for the night.
The little girl was all but falling asleep in the warm water. Caroline washed her grimy hair, rinsed her off and wrapped her in a towel before putting on Cassandra's nightgown.
“What is your name, sweetheart?”
There was no reply. Only the two big eyes staring at her. By that time the boy had emerged from the tub, clean from head to toe. Caroline wasn't accustomed to little boys but she imagined that they usually didn't get themselves this clean.
“She doesn't talk” said the boy.
The women took the children into the kitchen and started warming up the leftovers from the evening meal. They both devoured the plates of food. Caroline shivered at the thought of how long it had been since they had eaten. After they had finished eating, the little girl was barely able to keep her eyes open. Lucinda carried her up the stairs to one of the guest rooms.
“No, I have to stay with my sister. She will wake up and be afraid if I'm not there.”
Lucinda said she would sit in the room with her until he came upstairs but he would need to stay and talk to Miss Caroline before he came up to bed. Cassandra brought her favorite doll into the room to help comfort the little girl. Lucinda was proud of her daughter. That doll was the last thing given to her by her Papa and it was very special to her. The little girl woke up and looked around for her brother.
“Your brother is downstairs and will be here soon. Cassandra and I will keep you company until he comes.”
Cassandra was amazed that the little girl didn't speak.
“My Mama and I lived in New York City in a big building next to my grandfather. But, I didn't know he was my grandfather. But, he died. But, we came to Camden Corners. Camden Corners is a magic place. You will see. If you stay here you will be able to talk again. I just know it. Do you like the park? There is a big park by the water. Mr. Nick took Mama and me there. Maybe he can take you too. We will have fun.”
Cassandra went on and on. Lucinda would have stopped the little chatterbox but the girl seemed to be hanging on every word. She thought she saw a little glimmer in the child's eyes. She couldn't help but wonder what had gone on in this little girl's life that caused her to be unable to speak. Meanwhile the boy was sitting at the kitchen table with Caroline.
He said “My name is Kenny and my sister's name is Rebecca but I call her Becky.”
Caroline fixed him a tall glass of milk and a plate of cookies as he told her how he and his sister ended up hiding beneath her hydrangea bushes.
“We lived in Portersville with our mama and papa. Mama always sang songs to Becky and me but one day she stopped singing. Papa said she was very sick and it was hard for her to talk. She would smile at us and give us hugs but she didn't talk to us anymore and finally she went to sleep and didn't wake up.
Papa was so sad that he went to see Mr. Benson to get some medicine. He would bring the medicine home in a big jug and drink from the jug until he fell asleep. Papa cried a lot and didn't talk to us anymore except to tell us to be quiet. Becky liked to sing the songs that Mama sang to us but Papa told her to stop that singing or she would end up dead like our mama. Becky stopped singing and stopped talking too. The doctor said Papa had too much medicine and he went to heaven to be with our mama.
The sheriff told us to gather our clothes that he was taking us to live with our Uncle Sven. Uncle Sven didn't have any children and told the sheriff to take us to the orphanage. He didn't want his brother's brats around him. He said his brother was a drunken fool who married a frail, sickly young thing and his offspring would turn out to be the same. The sheriff took us home with him that night and let us sleep in a big bed. He thought I was asleep but I heard him tell his wife that he was going to have to deliver us to the orphanage the next day. She said it was too bad we wouldn't be able to stay together.
I couldn't let Becky be alone without me. She would be so scared. After the sheriff and his wife went to sleep, I woke Becky up and we started walking toward town. Becky was very tired and we stopped near Mr. Poulson's dairy farm. We slept in the barn and then the next morning we climbed into the wagon Mr. Poulson was filling with milk bottles to deliver to the general stores in all the nearby towns. His last stop was Camden Corners and we got off the wagon here and hid in the bushes.
“We won't bother you anymore after tonight, Miss Caroline. I can't let my sister go to the orphanage by herself. We will be on our way tomorrow, I promise.”
Caroline's heart was breaking that this sweet child was going to take care of his sister.
“You and Becky will not be going to an orphanage. You can stay here in this house until we figure out what to do.”
Caroline knew what she was going to do but didn't want to make any promises until she talked it over with Oscar Crowley. Kenny started yawning. Caroline walked him upstairs and tucked him in next to his sister.
“He said his sister would be afraid if she woke up and he wasn't there.” Caroline said tearfully.
She was determined that these children would never know fear again. She and Lucinda said goodnight to Kenny and the sleeping Becky. Cassandra had fallen asleep at the foot of the bed and Lucinda carried her into her own bed.
The next morning, Jamison was surprised to find two little faces staring at him as he entered the kitchen.
“Who have we here?”
“My name is Kenny sir and this is my sister, Becky.”
Caroline pulled Jamison aside and told him what Kenny had told her the night before. Jamison had a worried look on his face and Caroline was afraid for a second that he was going to tell her she had to turn the children over to the authorities.
She was happy when he said “They can't be sent to an orphanage. How do you feel about a ready made family?”
Lucinda stayed with the children while Jamison drove the carriage to Portersville. They picked up Oscar Crowley on the way and because it was such a pretty day, Nettie came along for the ride. Oscar had known Judge Herman Blake for a long time. He knew he was an honest man and recommended they stop to see him as soon as they arrived in Portersville. The judge was interested in the matter. He mentioned that he knew there was a small house on the outskirts of town but had no idea two children lived in that house. Sheriff Billings is a fine old gentleman but his memory has been failing him recently. He sent his assistant to fetch the sheriff. When he arrived in the office, Judge Blake asked him about the children.
“I seem to remember a couple of small children coming to the house the other day. Yes, I don't know where they went though. They weren't there yesterday when the wife went to fetch them for breakfast. Maybe their uncle changed his mind and decided to take them in after all.”
The judge and his visitors rode out to talk with the children's Uncle Sven. He refused to open the door for them and told them if they bothered him again about those two rotten kids he'd greet them with his shotgun. Jamison had to hold Caroline back. He knew she was about to bop the old man on his head for saying such terrible things about those precious children.
The judge was having temporary custody papers drawn up. The adoption would be final in a couple of months. Caroline and Jamison were grateful to the judge for his help and would he mind doing them one more favor? Would he marry them that afternoon. Judge Blake said he would be delighted and with Oscar and Nettie as their witnesses, he pronounced them husband and wife.
The ride back home to Camden Corners was a joyous one. Oscar had packed a bottle of champagne in a satchel and they drank a toast to the happy couple.
“This has all happened so quickly I haven't even had a chance to tell Grace about finding Jamison again and now we are married with a brother and sister for her.”
“We will stop by the hardware store and pick her up on the way home.”
“This calls for a celebration!” said Nettie.
Grace was thrilled for her mother and had some news for her also. Not only was Caroline a new bride and a new mother, she was going to be a grandmother in just a few months.
Jamison and Caroline sat Kenny and Becky down on the sofa in the parlor while everyone was enjoying Caroline's lovely garden. Kenny couldn't believe his ears when he learned that he and Becky would be living with Mr. Jamison and Miss Caroline. He held Becky close and whispered that they would always be together now. Becky smiled and wrapped her arms around Caroline. Caroline wondered if life could get any better than this.