Greetings and welcome to Chapter 16 of the Bradford Legacy. Much has happened to the family over thefirst 15 chapters, so to fully understand what‟s going on you‟ll want to go back and read the whole story.To refresh your memory of what happened in the last chapter: Matthew and Jan agreed to send Lizzie toSimRadcliffe, where she met Jason Seiff, a man who didn‟t seem to mind a college educated woman;Meadow and Phily‟s adopted daughter Jane became a teenager and fell in love with Victor, Henri‟s son; thelast members of generation 3 passed on; and Jan meddled in Jefferson‟s love life by introducing him towhat she believed to be a suitable match, Melanie Miller.And now, please enjoy Chapter 16 of The Bradford Legacy.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me this evening, Mr. Bradford,” began Jason Seiff as he and Matthewsettled in to their table at the Simsfield Tavern.“Of course, Mr. Seiff. Your business sounded rather urgent.”“I don‟t know if „urgent‟ is the best word for it, but it is something I would like to get settled before too muchlonger. Now, as you know, it regards your daughter, Elizabeth.”“Mr. Seiff, I do not know how you are accustomed to doing business, but I never do it on an emptystomach. Let us order our food, enjoy it, and then we can talk.”“As you wish, Mr. Bradford.”
Matthew, knowing that Jason would be picking up the bill, ordered the most expensive item on the menu.As they ate, they discussed the weather, Jason‟s life in Portsimouth, and other trivial matters. When thewaiter cleared their plates, Matthew turned to Jason.“Now we can discuss business. Shall we do so over a card game?”Jason was not much of a gambler, but he didn‟t want to refuse Matthew. “Very good. I‟ll go see aboutgetting us a table.”
The two men sat down at one of the many card tables in the back portion of the tavern. As Jason dealt thefirst hand , Matthew spoke.“Now, my boy, what are you so eager to speak with me about?”“Mr. Bradford, as you know, I‟ve been spending quite a bit of time with your daughter, Elizabeth.”“Yes, my son, Jefferson, has told me many times of your virtues. He seems to think that you are anexcellent young man of exemplary character, and all the inquiries I have made seem to agree with hisassessment.”“Thank you, sir. Now…”“Call,” interrupted Matthew. Upon seeing Jason‟s cards, he declared “I win this hand.”
“Your deal,” said Jason, passing Matthew the deck of cards. “Now, as I was saying. Mr. Bradford, I wouldlike to have your permission to ask Elizabeth to marry me.”“Is that so?” asked Matthew as he dealt the cards. “Well, Mr. Seiff, I can think of no logical reason that Ishouldn‟t give you permission.”“I sense a caveat in your statement, Mr. Bradford.”Matthew chucked. “I never like to make anything too easy, Mr. Seiff. I‟ll tell you what. If you win this hand,I‟ll give you permission to marry Elizabeth.”Jason gulped, the unspoken threat of not having Matthew permission if he lost hanging between them.“I‟ll accept your wager, Mr. Bradford.”
Jason played the hand of cards as if his life depended upon it. In some ways, it did. He knew that hewould never truly be a happy man without Lizzie by his side.“All right, my boy. I‟m calling this hand.”Jason nervously showed his cards. “Full house.”
Matthew swore as the threw his hand down on the table. “That beats my two pair.”“Does this mean I have your permission to ask Elizabeth to marry me?”“You do,” admitted Matthew, only slightly begrudgingly.“Thank you, sir.”
“I‟m not sure about this, Jason,” worried Lizzie. “I‟ve never been skating before.”“It‟s not that hard, Lizzie. Here, take my hands. I won‟t let you fall.”“All right,” she relented, and took a wobbly step forward as Jason skated backwards.“That‟s right,” he encouraged. “Slow and steady. You‟re doing great, Lizzie.”Lizzie continued to slowly move her feet. “I‟m skating!” she exclaimed.“Yes, you are.”Jason began to let go of Lizzie hands.“Oh, don‟t!” she cried. “I don‟t know if I can…eep!”
Lizzie lost her balance, and tumbled to the ice, taking Jason down in the process.“Oh, I‟m so sorry! Are you all right?” she worried.“I‟ll be fine. I‟ve taken far worse tumbles before.”“Are you sure?”
Jason began getting to his feet. “See, Lizzie, I‟m fine.”She began to get up as well, but Jason stopped her. “Let me get up first, and then I‟ll help you.”“I think I‟ve had enough skating for the afternoon,” she said.“That‟s fine. I‟ll help you off in just a moment.”
Jason helped Lizzie off the ice, and then knelt before her to untie her skate laces. When he went to getback up, Lizzie was shocked to see that he had a ring box held up before her.“Jason?” she asked in a small voice.“Elizabeth…excuse me, Lizzie Bradford, you are the most amazing woman that I have ever met. I wouldbe honored if you would agree to be my wife, and allow me to spend the rest of my life with you. Please,marry me.”“Yes,” smiled Lizzie. “I would honored to be your wife.”
Jason slipped the ring on Lizzie‟s finger, and then wrapped his hands around hers.“Your hands are freezing. Come on, let‟s get you inside with a hot coffee and get you warmed back up.”
Jason got each of them a cup of coffee, and then settled Lizzie down on a sofa near the fire.“Are you warming up, dear?”“Yes, thank you.”“Now, we do need to discuss a few practical matters.”“Such as?”“Where would you like to live when we get married?”
Lizzie hesitated a moment before answering. “I‟ve always thought that I would live in Simsfield after I gotmarried. Portsimouth is lovely, but I‟ve always lived in the country. I know that you‟ve got a nice househere in town…” She let her words trail off.“Lizzie, if you want to live in Simsfield, we‟ll live in Simsfield. I‟ll have to come into the city a few times aweek for business, but much of it I can get done from home. And, I just received a rather handsome offerfor my house. It would allow me to build one to suit in Simsfield.”“But the land there is so expensive,” she fretted.“Nonsense. I‟ll build us a fine house with whatever you want in it.”“A garden,” she replied instantly.“What kind of garden?” he replied.“Vegetable. My grandmother taught me to garden when I was a girl, and I loved it so.”“Then a kitchen garden you shall have. Perhaps some orchard trees as well?”“Oh, Jason,” she sighed. “Nothing would make me happier.”
“So Lizzie‟s engaged? Your parents must be thrilled,” commented Victor.“Very much so. Mother and Father are rather old fashioned, and they thought that no one would want tomarry a college educated woman.”“How silly. Why, we‟re in the twentieth century now! Before long, women will have the right to vote. It‟sonly fitting that they be well educated as well.”“I know that and you know that, but you try telling some of the Old Guard that.”“True,” agreed Victor. “What about you, Jefferson? Have you decided who you‟re going to settle downwith yet?”“Yes. I‟m going to all Miss Melanie Miller to marry me.”“Miss Miller? I could have sworn that you and Miss Bruenig would make a match of it.”“Why does everyone think that?” exclaimed Jefferson, obviously frustrated.“Because everyone, as you say, saw how you looked at her.”
“It takes two to make a match, Victor, and Miss Bruenig refused an invitation from me.”“Did you even bother to ask her why?” When Jefferson didn‟t respond, Victor said, “I thought not. Cousin,if you care about Miss Bruenig, you can‟t write her off that easily.”“That‟s all well and good for you, Victor. But I have to get married and produce an heir for the family.”“I‟m not suggesting that you don‟t, Jefferson. But remember – you‟re going to be spending the rest of yourlife with the woman you marry. You should take the time to make sure that you‟re making the rightdecision.”“Time is something I don‟t have the luxury of, Victor. I graduate soon, and my parent are expecting me tobe ready to settle down by then.”“Settling down doesn‟t mean that you need to settle.”“What do you know about settling?”“Jefferson, my mother settled when she married my father, and she was miserable for the rest of his life.Don‟t make the same mistakes that she did.”“Easy for you to say – you found your future wife without really trying.”“True, but I‟ve got to be patient and wait for her to be old enough for us to get married. Because of that,I‟ve learned that the best things in life are worth waiting for. Think about that.”
Victor‟s words weighed on Jefferson‟s mind as he plugged away at his final term paper. He had alwayshad suspicions about his Aunt Henri and her life, and hearing Victor confirm them…well, that wasunsettling. But it didn‟t help his immediate situation. Marsha didn‟t seem to care about Jefferson, and hewas out of time to woo her. Besides, he had already spoken with Mr. Miller for his blessing, and gotten thefamily diamond ring from his mother. Jefferson‟s course was set, and he would not stray from it.
His resolve settled, Jefferson invited Melanie out for an evening that included theater and dinner. Theshow had been quite good, and Jefferson had ordered champagne, both to toast their rendezvous and tobolster his courage.
“Is everything quite all right, Jefferson? You seem distracted this evening.”“Everything is fine, Melanie. Forgive me – with finals approaching, my mind is elsewhere. I won‟t let ithappen again.”“Perhaps you‟d like to call it a night, then? I wouldn‟t want you to not pass your classes for lack ofstudying.”“No, Melanie. In fact, I asked you out tonight for a special reason.”“What is that, Jefferson?”
Jefferson pulled a ring box from his pocket, and placed it on the table in front of Melanie.“Melanie, I asked you to join me this evening because I wanted to ask you to marry me.”
She pulled the diamond ring from the box and smiled. “Jefferson, I would love to be your wife.”
“You would?” he asked.“Of course, silly! I‟ve been hoping for this for some time now.”Jefferson tried to smile, but the effect was forced. “I‟m glad.”
“So am I, darling. This is going to be wonderful! I can hardly wait to tell my family.”“As am I. My mother will be particularly pleased.”“She‟s been so kind to me, introducing us and all. It will be lovely to have her as part of my family as well.”
Over in Simsfield, at the Bradford farm, Matthew was running in to find Jan.“Jefferson is on his way over!” the old man exclaimed.“And this fact has you so excited because…”“Jan, think! He‟s about to graduate from college. He got the Bradford diamond from you a few monthsago. He called on Mr. Miller recently as you told me.”“He‟s asked Melanie to marry him and she‟s accepted, and now he‟s come to tell us so we can announce itformally!”“It certainly makes sense. It‟s the only reason I can think of as to why he‟d come all the way out here inperson in the middle of finals week.”
Jefferson arrived a few hours later, and Matthew greeted him at the door.“It‟s good to see you, son. Let me take your coat and hat, and we‟ll go into the parlor.”
When the three of them were settled, Jefferson spoke. “Last night, I asked Miss Miller to marry me, andshe accepted my proposal.”
Jan beamed at her son. “That is wonderful news! Miss Miller is an excellent young woman; I‟m certainthat she will make an excellent wife for you, Jefferson.”“I agree with your mother, son. Congratulations. I take it you would like us to make the formalannouncement?”“Yes, please, Father. And Mother, I was hoping that you could work with Melanie to plan the wedding. Ihave no knowledge of such things…”“Just leave it all to me, Jefferson. Goodness knows that I‟ve been to enough of them lately to know what‟sin fashion now.”
“First Lila Gavigan and Samuel Wilkie, then Sally Thompson and Juan Harris. And you were there whenyour cousin Esther Bear married Jason Menon, and when her brother Eldon married Ericka Jayapalan.”
“But your wedding will put all of them to shame! I‟ll see when Portsimouth Cathedral is available – what asetting that will make!”
“Mother, the one thing I‟d like is that the wedding takes place here, as all the other family weddings have.”“But Jefferson…”“No, Mother. Here. Other than that, you and Melanie can do what you will.”“Oh, all right,” she relented.
Matthew rose, and pulled his son into an embrace. “I‟m proud of you, my boy.”“Thank you, Father. I hate to make this visit so short, but I do need to be getting back to school.”“Of course. We‟ll be there for graduation, and then I guess it will be wedding season in the Bradford family,with you and Elizabeth getting married.”“This is such a happy time in our family,” interjected Jan.“It is. Good bye, Mother, Father.”
Jefferson and Melanie‟s engagement was announced with much fanfare. There was, however, one personwho was not pleased to hear the news. Marsha Bruenig had heard her classmates gossiping about it, andthen received confirmation when she read it in the Portsimouth Chronicle. That evening, she barelymanaged to choke down her dinner before escaping to the sanctuary of her room.
Once inside, she allowed herself the indulgence of tears.Why didn’t I tell him why I couldn’t go to the theater with him? Why didn’t I ask Lizzie to tell him that I didcare for him. Why…why…why she sobbed. The man she loved was getting married to someone else, andthere was nothing she could do about it.
“Marsha,” called Lizzie as she knocked on her friend‟s door. “Come out – I need your help studying forfinals.”“Go away, Lizzie. I‟m in no mood for to help you tonight.”“Please, Marsha? Just for a while.”“No.”
Lizzie barged in to Marsha‟s room and gasped when she saw her friend in tears.“Marsha, what‟s wrong? Have you gotten bad news?”“The worst,” she sobbed.“What can I do?”“Nothing. There isn‟t anything that anyone can do now. He‟s marrying someone else, and I‟m going to bean old maid.”“Who, Marsha? I don‟t understand. Who‟s marrying someone else?”“You know who, Lizzie.”Lizzie froze. “Jefferson?”Marsha nodded.
Lizzie‟s face fell.“Marsha, I had no idea you felt this strongly about him. If I had…”“No, Lizzie, this is all my fault. I never got around to telling him that I couldn‟t go to the theater with himbecause of my father, and I never let him know that I cared for him. I should have done a thousand thingsdifferently, but I didn‟t, and now I have to live with the consequences of my actions.”“Marsha, it‟s not too late; I can speak to Jefferson…”“No, please! He‟s happy – I want him to be happy, even if it‟s not with me. Now, could you please leaveme be for a while? I don‟t feel like being around people right now…not even my dearest friend.”
Marsha‟s sobs echoing in her head, Lizzie hurried over to the Bradford Society house to speak with herbrother. After enduring a scolding from her brother for being out alone so late, he invited her into the sittingroom.“You obviously have a powerful reason for calling at such an hour, Lizzie. What is it?”“Why are you marrying Miss Miller?
“Because I care about her, and I think we‟re well suited.”“But what about Marsha?”“What about her? I asked her out once, and she refused. End of story.”
“Jefferson! You cared about her for so long. I can‟t believe that you‟d just change your mind so suddenly.”“Lizzie, I know she‟s your friend, but…”“No, Jefferson. You openly showed her affection for years, and then just announce your engagement tosomeone else. I can‟t believe that you‟d be so cruel.”
“Me, the cruel one? I thought she cared for me, and then she refused my invitation without ever giving mean explanation why? I think not, Lizzie.”“It‟s not that cut and dry, Jefferson.”“Yes, it is Lizzie. I‟m marrying Melanie, and that‟s final.”
“I don‟t believe you, Jefferson! You‟re acting as selfish as…as…as Father and Mother!”“You have no idea what you‟re talking about, Lizzie.”“I have more of an idea than you think,” she muttered, thinking of her mother‟s meddling and her friend‟stears.“I think you‟d better go. I‟ll call you a carriage.”
When the carriage arrived, Lizzie exited the sitting room without saying goodbye to her brother. In all theiryears, this was the first fight that the two siblings had had. Lizzie felt horrible about their quarrel, but sheknew that she was not entirely in the wrong. Jefferson would never admit it, but he knew that his sister wasright. The little voice inside his head that had been nagging at him since his talk with Victor was gettinglouder, but he continued to ignore it.
Soon, there was a new batch of college graduates, and students were heading home to embark on theirnew lives. For Victor Hutchins, that meant returning home to the Thayer mansion in Portsimouth, wherehis return would make one young lady very happy.“I thought I might find you in here,” he smiled, as he entered the study.
“Victor!” cried Jane. “You‟re finally home. How did your finals go? Did you lead your class? Tell meeverything!”“I will,” he said. “Sit down. Let me stoke the fire, and we‟ll have a nice long chat.”
After building the fire up, Victor joined Jane on the study sofa.“To answer your questions, my finals went well, and no, I didn‟t lead my class. That distinction when toJefferson Bradford – but I was a close second. College was great fun, but I‟m glad to be home. Whatabout you, Jane? Are you all set to enter SimRadcliffe next year?”
“I‟ve been thinking about that, Victor. I‟m not sure I want to go to college.”“Jane, that‟s all you‟ve talked about for years! What changed your mind?”“Well, it seems like quite a bit of money for Meadow and Phily to spend, and after all, I‟m just going to be ahousewife when we get married. Besides, if I don‟t go to college, we can get married that much sooner.”“I wish you‟d reconsider. Miss Meadow and Aunt Phily would be devastated if you didn‟t go – you knowthey‟ve had their hearts set on if for years. The wouldn‟t spend their money if they didn‟t think it was for agood cause. And I think you‟d regret it in the long run.”“But it‟s another four years we‟ll have to wait to get married.”“We have all the time in the world to be married, Jane. If you want to skip college, I‟ll support yourdecision, but just make sure you‟re doing it for the right reasons.”
Jane was silent for a time, lost in thought. “I have been looking forward to taking an advanced readingcourse,” she admitted.“So you‟re going to college.”She nodded. “But we‟re going to get engaged properly as soon as I‟m old enough.”“Define „old enough.‟”Jane looked at him, puzzled.Victor smiled. “I have something for you.”
From under a cloth next to the couch, he pulled out a package. “This is for you.”
“For me? What is it?”“Why don‟t you open it and find out?”
Jane opened the large box to find a smaller box nestled inside. Within the smaller box was a ruby ring.“Victor, it‟s beautiful! Is it…”“Yes, Jane. It‟s an engagement ring, of sorts.”
Victor took the ring out of the box and put it Jane‟s left hand.“My father gave my mother a diamond ring, and their marriage was…well, it wasn‟t pleasant, to say theleast. I wanted to give you something different. In one of my Simlish history classes, they talked aboutrubies being a popular gem because they represented virtuousness. I thought that was more fitting for ourbetrothal. Besides, I know that red is one of your favorite colors. Do you like it?”
“I love it,” she replied, giving him a gentle kiss. “It suits me – us – perfectly.”“I‟m glad you think so. We‟ll wait to make a formal announcement until you‟ve started college, of course,but I think we can tell my mother and Miss Meadow and Aunt Phily.”“They‟ll be thrilled, I‟m sure. Meadow‟s itching to plan a wedding.”“Then let‟s not keep the rest of family in suspense any longer,” he said, taking Jane‟s arm in his. “I imaginethat we‟ll find them in the dining room enjoying an evening cup of coffee. Let‟s join them.”
Jan had been very busy as of late. She had arranged every detail of Jefferson‟s wedding, and done herbest to influence Lizzie‟s to little avail. Lizzie, much to Jan‟s disappointment, was insisting on a small affairat the house that Jason had built not too far from the Bradford farm.
It was a cold, clear morning the day that Jason and Lizzie exchanged vows. There were few peoplepresent. Jan and Matthew and Jefferson, of course, were there. The only other observer was MarshaBruenig, who stayed for the ceremony only, and then made her excuses and left.
The pair exchanged the same vows that hundreds of brides and grooms had exchanged for years.
With the exchange of vows, Lizzie Bradford became Lizzie Seiff. She couldn‟t have been more thrilled withthat development, as she no longer had to answer to her parents.
Jan and Matthew were quite pleased that Elizabeth had managed to catch such a good husband withouttheir assistance, and even more pleased that she was no longer their problem.Jefferson, who hadn‟t really spoken with his twins since their quarrel, was thrilled to see his sister sohappy. He knew what marriage meant for her – an escape from their parents‟ tyranny. He would have tomake up their quarrel today, and make it right between them.
While Jason gave Matthew and Jan a tour of the house, Jefferson sat down with Lizzie.“Lizzie, I‟m sorry we quarreled. Please forgive me.”“Jefferson, even though we‟re twins we won‟t agree on everything. You‟re forgiven.”“Thank you. You look so radiant, Lizzie. I hope you and Jason are happy.”“I‟m sure we will be.”“Say, what happened to Miss Bruenig? She left rather quickly.”“She wasn‟t feeling very well, so I promised her she could leave right after the ceremony,” lied Lizzie.Marsha had promised to attend her best friend‟s wedding only if there was no opportunity for her to speakwith Jefferson, and Lizzie wasn‟t going to tell her brother that.“That‟s too bad, but I‟m glad she was able to see her best friend get married.”“So am I.”“I invited her to my wedding next week, and I don‟t know if she replied yet. Do you think she‟ll come?”“I don‟t know Jefferson. Maybe, if she‟s feeling better.”“Maybe.”
A week after Lizzie‟s wedding, Jefferson‟s wedding day arrived. Her hair done and best clothes on, Janwent to the music room for one final inspection of its transformation.The flowers she had ordered were splendid, and gave the winter day a springy feel. The chair werearranged, the wedding arch perfectly aligned, and the door to the game room propped open just enough forthe piano, temporarily relocated, to be heard.This will be a perfect day, smiled Jan. And it had better be, after all the money I spent on those flowers. Ihope that Jefferson appreciates how hard it is to find white roses and lilies out of season.
Up in his old bedroom for the last time, Jefferson was nervous. He finally sat down at his desk if only tostop his pacing across the floor.He had expected to feel excited today. He wasn‟t. He thought he would be looking forward to seeingMelanie in all her wedding day glory. He wasn‟t. He imagined that the time would drag the day of hiswedding. It wasn‟t; in fact, it was moving all too quickly. The hour of the ceremony was fast approaching,and Jefferson didn‟t feel at all ready to get married.
Lizzie came in to check on her brother, and noticed his somber expression.“Not getting cold feet, are you?”“No. Lizzie, were you nervous the day you got married?”“I was feeling so many emotions that day, Jefferson, I hardly know. But I probably was. Getting married isa big change. I‟d be worried if you weren‟t feeling a little scared. It‟s natural.”
“That a relief. Is everyone here?”“Just about. I heard the train whistle a little while ago, so I imagine the Portsimouth folks will be arrivingmomentarily.”“And Melanie?”“She‟s in Grandmamma‟s…I mean your room with Mother getting ready.”“Good, good.” Jefferson looked at his sister, trying to formulate the words for his next question. “Is Marshacoming?”
“No, Jefferson. She‟s not coming.”Jefferson sighed. “I didn‟t think she would, but I had hoped…”Lizzie saw the wistful expression on her brother‟s face, and knew that he still had feelings for Marsha.“Jefferson, forgive me, but I‟ve been lying to you about Marsha. She wasn‟t ill at my wedding; she justcouldn‟t bear the thought of facing you.”“What?”“She was devastated by the announcement of your engagement to Melanie. She cares about you a greatdeal.”“You mean „cared,‟ Lizzie. She turned me down, remember?”“Only because her father forbade her to go out without him as a chaperone – a silly misunderstanding. Shemeant to tell you, but never did. She wanted to go to the theater with you more than anything. She‟s asshy as you are, which is why she never spoke up.”“She did care,” he muttered.“Very much so. I wish things had turned out differently. But now…Marsha‟s decided to go West and teach.She‟s leaving first thing in the morning.”
“Where is Marsha now?”“I believe that she‟s staying with Miss Simself until she leaves”Jefferson nodded. She did care about me, he thought. Not that it mattered now. Jefferson was gettingmarried in under an hour, and Marsha had chosen to West. Still, the thought that his love for Marsha wasnot unrequited was oddly comforting.“Jefferson, are you okay?”
“I‟m great, Lizzie. I‟m getting married today. Why wouldn‟t I be okay?”“I hope you‟re happy Jefferson.”The young man laughed. “Why wouldn‟t I be?”The sound of the doorbell broke up their moment. “If Mother‟s helping Melanie, you had better go downand play hostess. Make sure everyone‟s in their places when she gets down.”“Or else,” she grinned. “See you in a little while.”
In the bedroom that she had redecorated for her son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Jan was helpingMelanie put the finishing touches on her wedding toilette.“You are a vision, Melanie.”“Thank you, Mrs. Bradford.”“Melanie, please call me „Mother.‟ You‟ll be my daughter-in-law in a matter of minutes.”“Yes, I will.”
“You look troubled, dear. Is something wrong?”“It‟s nothing,” Melanie dismissed.“Nonsense. Tell me what‟s bothering you, and I‟ll set it right.”
“It‟s Jefferson. He‟s been acting rather distant over the past few weeks. I‟m worried that he…it‟s sillyreally, but I‟m worried that he doesn‟t really want to get married to me.”
“Oh, Melanie! Jefferson…he may be my son but he‟s still just a man. He‟s distant because he doesn‟tcare about all this wedding fuss. Why do you think he asked me to take care of all the details?”“Is that really all?”Jan nodded. “Once the wedding is over, he‟ll be back to his old self. Just you wait.”
With the guests all seated, Jefferson took his place beneath the wedding arch. The chatter quickly ceasedas the wedding march began to play, and Melanie made her entrance.
Melanie arrived at the front of the room, and took her place next to Jefferson. She smiled at him.“You look very handsome,” she whispered.“Thanks. Uh, you too. I mean, you look beautiful.”“Thank you,” she beamed. “Shall we begin?”Jefferson nodded.
Melanie took the ring she was giving to Jefferson and began to speak her vows.“I, Melanie Miller, take you, Jefferson Bradford, to be my husband…”
She placed the ring at the tip of his finger, and began to slide it on.Jefferson‟s palms began to sweat, and he was overcome with a wave of nausea. It finally hit him that thewoman standing before him was not the woman that he loved. She was packing up all her belongs tomove far, far away because he, Jefferson Bradford, had broken her heart.“No,” he choked.“What was that?” asked Melanie. “Jefferson, why is your hand shaking?”
“Jefferson, what…I don‟t…you don‟t mean that, do you? Jefferson! What‟s going on?”
“Melanie, I‟m so sorry, but I can‟t marry you.”“Jefferson, I don‟t understand. Why not? You asked me to marry you. Why don‟t you want to marry menow?”
“I‟m sorry, Melanie, I really am, but I don‟t love you,” he said in a soft voice, soft enough that only she couldhear it.And with that, he left the room, leaving a stunned Melanie and roomful of guests behind.
Jan watched her son run from the room and promptly burst into tears. She didn‟t understand what hadgone wrong. She wouldn‟t be able show her face in society for weeks now. And all that money wasted.
The rest of the guests were shocked as well. Jefferson had always been noted for doing exactly as he wastold, so his sudden display of independence was seen as out of character.The only person in the crowd that didn‟t seem displeased by the development was Lizzie, and she fought tohide her smile. Looks like Jefferson is finally seeing reason.
Jefferson had fled to his childhood bedroom, and Melanie, after a moment, had followed him.“Jefferson, what just happened? Why did you do that to me?”“I‟m sorry, Melanie, I really am, but I just couldn‟t go through with it.”“But why?”“I told you, Melanie. I don‟t love you.”
“So, you loved me enough to ask me to marry you, but not enough to actually go through with theceremony? That doesn‟t make any sense.”“I don‟t expect you to understand, Melanie. Trust me; this is for the best.”
“For the BEST!” she exclaimed, her voice becoming shrill. “You just humiliated me in front of nearly thewhole of Simsfield and Portsimouth. I demand…no I deserve a better explanation that that, JeffersonBradford. And I‟m not leaving until I get it.”
“You want an explanation?” he asked, his voice rising to match her own. “Fine. I‟m in love with MarshaBruenig, and I always have been. I only asked you because of a misunderstanding Marsha and I had…Ithought she didn‟t care for me. Are you happy now?”“Jefferson, I had no idea…if I‟d know…oh!” she cried, and fled from the room.
Downstairs, Matthew and Jan realized that no wedding would be taking place that day, and they politelysuggested to their guests that it might be time to leave. As the last of them departed, Matthew turned to hiswife.“Go check on Melanie; I‟ll deal with Jefferson.”
Jan found Melanie in the room where she had dressed, sobbing uncontrollably.“My dear, I‟m so sorry for my son‟s behavior.”Melanie only sobbed harder. “I knew something was wrong! I knew it!”“Melanie, don‟t lose heart. Give Jefferson some time, and he‟ll realize that he‟s made a terrible mistake.”
“No, Mrs. Bradford,” she sniffed. “I won‟t be made a fool of twice. I‟ll be heading back to Portsimouth onthe next train. Would you help me change out of this dress?”
A short time later, Melanie Miller walked out of the Bradford farmhouse, and didn‟t look back.
“How did you talk with Melanie go?” asked Matthew as he joined Jan in their bedroom.“Not well. She‟s gone back to Portsimouth, and I doubt we‟ll ever see her again. What did you say toJefferson?”“Nothing. He snuck out before I could get to him.”“Where did he go?”“I really don‟t care right now. I‟m thoroughly disgusted by his actions today.”“As am I.”“You!” scoffed Matthew. “You‟re half the reason we‟re in this mess. Melanie Miller was your idea,remember?”“And Jefferson is your son. I certainly didn‟t teach him that it was acceptable to behave in such a fashion.”
After Melanie had fled, Jefferson allowed himself a moment to cry. He did feel horrible about what he haddone to Melanie. She was a sweet girl after all. But she wasn‟t Marsha.Marsha. She was leaving forever in the morning, and he needed to see if he could stop her.
Somehow, Jefferson managed to sneak out of the house unnoticed. He headed towards the town center.
He soon arrived at the little cottage owned by Miss Simself. He paused outside the door, unsure of what tosay.“Hi, Marsha. I was supposed marry someone else today, but I couldn‟t do it because I love you. Yeah, thatwill work,” he muttered. “I need to be honest with her. If that doesn‟t work, well, then I don‟t deserve her.”
At that moment, Marsha was sitting on the sofa, staring into the fire. The clock struck two, and she sighed.
They must be married by now. I hope that Jefferson is happy with her.
She heard the door open, and turned her head slightly to see who had entered.“Jefferson?” she gasped.“Hi, Marsha.”
“What are you doing here? You‟re supposed to be getting married today?” she asked as he crossed theroom to stand by the sofa.
He laughed nervously. “Yeah, about that. I didn‟t go through with it. Turns out that asking Melanie tomarry me was a bad idea, since I‟m not in love with her.”
Marsha stared at Jefferson. “You‟re not in love with Melanie?”“Nope. Never was. As a matter of fact, I‟m in love with someone else.”She held her breath as she spoke. “Who are you in love with, Jefferson?”
Jefferson took Marsha by the hand and pulled her to her feet.“You, Marsha Bruenig. I‟m in love with you.”“Jefferson Bradford…you don‟t mean…but that‟s…I don‟t know…”
Unable to stand her babbling any longer, Jefferson wrapped his arms around Marsha and kissed hersoundly.
When the broke apart, Marsha smiled. “You love me.”“I do,” he replied. “Please don‟t go West.”“Lizzie said she wouldn‟t tell!” she cried.
“Please don‟t be mad at her,” begged Jefferson. “If she hadn‟t had told me, I wouldn‟t be here right now.”“I suppose I can manage to forgive her.”“Good. Now, say you‟ll stay in Simsfield. For me.”“Are you asking me to stay here with you?”Jefferson nodded. “For always.”Marsha nodded, tears in her eyes. “I love you, Jefferson Bradford.”The two were silent for a long time, lost in each other‟s eyes. Suddenly, Marsha exclaimed, “Jefferson!You‟re still in your wedding suit!”“Oh, yeah,” he said, looking down. “I guess I forgot to change.”“What are we going to do?”“Let‟s elope.”“I beg your pardon?”“Let‟s go to the mountains. We can get married there.”
“Jefferson, think of the scandal.”“Ha! I‟ve already created one earlier today. Might as well go ahead and be part of another one.”“But what of clothes?”“I have some trunks at the station. And you,” he said, with a glance to his right, “Appear to have yourthings packed as well. You must have a bag of things that you‟d keep with you; grab that and let‟s go. Wecan catch the last train if we hurry.”“Oh, okay! Let‟s elope.”Jefferson‟s face broke out into a real smile for the first time that day. “Come on,” he said. “Let‟s go.”
The pair barely managed to catch the last train to the mountains. The trip took a few hours, and the pairwere both hungry by the time they arrived.“I hope you don‟t mind stopping here. My family has a cabin here, but I‟m not sure what there is for food.”“Not at all,” replied Marsha. “I‟m famished.”“We‟ll grab some things here in town before we head out to the cabin. Excuse me? Two order of flapjacks,please?”
Their food quickly arrived, and the pair dug in.“What are we going to do now that we‟re here?” Marsha asked.“Well, it‟s too late tonight to do anything. We‟ll get some provisions, and head up to the cabin. Tomorrowmorning, I‟ll come back into town and find the minister. It‟s not going to be a fancy wedding, Marsha…”“I don‟t want a fancy wedding,” she interrupted. “I just want to be your wife.”“Good. Now, let‟s finish this so we can buy some food and head to the cabin. I‟ve never been therebefore, so I‟d like to head for it while there‟s still light.”
Jefferson and Marsha arrived at the cabin just as it was starting to get dark. He pulled the key from hispocket, and unlocked the door.
Once inside, Jefferson took Marsha‟s coat and hat, and hung the up along with his.“The cabin is very nice,” she comment. “Much less rustic than I was imagining.”Jefferson laughed. “Can you picture my mother in anything less than the lap of luxury?”“I supposed not,” she agreed, as she shivered.“You‟re cold. Sit down on sofa and I‟ll get a fire going to warm the place up.”
Soon, Jefferson had a roaring fire going, and the sitting room of the cabin filled with its warmth.“Thank you,” said Marsha.
When Jefferson didn‟t reply, Marsha got up and stood by him. “Is everything all right?”
“Everything‟s wonderful. Just thinking, that‟s all.”“What about?”“Well, we may not have gone about this in the traditional way, but I still feel like some conventions shouldbe observed.”“I‟m not sure I understand you, Jefferson.”
“Allow me to make myself clear,” he said, dropping to one knee. “Marsha Bruenig, I love you, and I willalways love you. Please, do me the honor…”
“…and marry me.”“Jefferson! You don‟t have to…”“Yes, I do Marsha. I‟ve made so many mistakes when it comes to us along the way. I want to make surethat you don‟t miss out on anything else.”“Yes, Jefferson. I‟ll marry you.”
Overcome by joy, Marsha threw her arms around Jefferson. “I‟m so glad that you changed your mind,” shewhispered.“So am I, love. So am I.”
Jefferson kissed Marsha softly. “I‟m going to get up early in the morning to find the minister. You shouldhead up to bed. Take the main bedroom upstairs; I‟ll stay in the smaller one down here.”“See you in the morning,” she replied.
The next morning, Marsha was surprised to see that Jefferson was already up.“Are you leaving for town soon?” she asked.“Way ahead of you. I‟ve already been and returned. The minister will be here shortly.”
“Are you ready, Mr. Bradford, Miss Bruenig?”“Yes, we are. Please begin.”“Very well.”
“Jefferson Bradford, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”“I do.”“And do you, Marsha Bruenig, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”“I do.”“Then I now pronounce you to be man and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
And Jefferson purchased some of the locally crafted jewelry for his new wife.
They spent a week exploring the little town. But each night, Marsha insisted that they return to the cabin,where she would prepare dinner for the two of them.
It might not have been the fanciest food Jefferson had ever eaten, but he swore that he enjoyed thosedinners more than any he had ever had before. He figured that it had much to do with the company heshared it with, and the absence of his mother‟s constant nagging.
And of course, the newlyweds found many ways to fill their evenings.
Nighttime was definitely their favorite part of the day.
A week after they arrived, Jefferson and Marsha were talking in the moments before they drifted to sleep.“We‟re going to have to return to Simsfield at some point, Jefferson.”“Why? It‟s so peaceful up here.”“I‟m not arguing with that, but you have a job to get to.”Jefferson shrugged.“And you can‟t put off facing your parents forever.”“You know me too well,” he muttered. “They‟re not going to be pleasant. Mother especially. She‟ll befurious that I ruined the wedding she planned. And I‟m worried about how she‟ll treat you while I‟m at workall day long.”“I‟ll manage your mother just fine; you don‟t have to worry about me. Shall we pack in the morning andtake an afternoon train back?”“I suppose.”“We can always come back here if things at home get too unbearable.”“You‟re right – I need to go back and face what‟s coming.”
The next afternoon back in Simsfield, Jan and Matthew were cozying up in front of the parlor fire.“It‟s been a week, Matthew, and we haven‟t heard anything from him. I must admit, I‟m a little worried.”Matthew snorted. “He‟ll come home when he‟s ready, Jan. He‟s a grown man that can take care ofhimself.”“When he comes home, you need to have a serious talk with him about how he‟s humiliated the family.”“I will, I will. But as humiliating as his jilting Melanie was, it could have been worse.”“What could be worse than his deserting her at the alter?”“Divorce,” stated Matthew flatly. “Face it, Jan. The gossip about the wedding that wasn‟t will die downeventually. But if he had come to his realization after they were married…well, a divorce would ruin thefamily forever.”
“Do you hear that?” asked Jan.Matthew nodded. “Carriage wheels. I believe our son has returned home at last.”They heard the front door open.“Jefferson, is that you?” called Matthew.“Yes, Father,” was the reply.“Come in here. Your mother and I would like to speak with you.”
“Here goes nothing,” muttered Jefferson.Marsha took his hand and squeezed it. “I‟m here.”Jefferson smiled at her, and took a step forward.
“What is she doing here?” demanded Jan as soon as she saw Marsha.“Hello to you, Mother. I see that you remember Marsha Bruenig…actually,” he said with a smug grin, “Ishould say Marsha Bradford.”“Good evening, Mr. Bradford, Mrs. Bradford,” the young woman smiled.
“Yes, Mother. Marsha and I are married.”“When? Where? How?”“A week ago Sunday, at our cabin in the mountains.”“Well, Jefferson,” said Matthew, “This is quite a development. What brought it on? We were all under theimpression that you no longer had feelings for Miss Bruenig…er, Mrs. Bradford.”“You were incorrect about that, Father. Marsha and I had a misunderstanding, that‟s all.”
“That‟s all? What about poor Melanie?”“I feel horrible about what I did to her, Mother. I truly do. But what was I supposed to do?”“You were supposed to honor the promise you made her,” Jan retorted.“Mother, I only asked Miss Miller to be my wife because I thought that Marsha didn‟t care for me. It wouldhave been wrong to marry her when I was in love with someone else.”Jan snorted. “What does love have to do with marriage?”“Jan,” said Matthew in a low voice. “Not now.”“How is she?” Jefferson asked tentatively.Matthew laughed. “Don‟t worry yourself over Melanie, son.”“What do you mean, Father?”
“Well,” said Matthew, unable to keep himself from grinning, “It seems that Melanie didn‟t care for you thatmuch either. Your college mate, George Alcott, asked her to marry him a few days ago, and she accepted.I guess he had a thing for her but never said anything.”“So she‟s marrying George?” asked Jefferson, astonished at the news.
“Married, Jefferson. They had a quick ceremony this morning. I guess, after her previous experience, shewasn‟t giving him any time to change his mind.”
After a pause, Jefferson said, “I hope that it works out for her. She‟s a lovely woman, and she deserves tobe happy. I know I am.” He took Marsha‟s hand in his and smiled at her.Marsha smiled back, and then suppressed a yawn.“You‟re tired. Let‟s head up to bed. Good night, Mother, Father.”Jefferson and Marsha left the parlor, and headed up the stairs.
As soon as they heard the door close upstairs, Jan turned to her husband.“Do something!” she implored.
“What would you have me do?”“Something! Anything! Make him get rid of her. Matthew, you‟re the head of the family!”“Jan, did you not hear what I was saying earlier? A divorce would ruin us.”“That can‟t be the only option at this point.”“It is. I suggest that you learn to tolerate Marsha, as it appears that she will be around for a while.”
Up in their room, Jefferson and Marsha climbed into bed.“Was it as bad as you thought it would be?” she asked.“No. I expected Father to yell more. He was…reasonable. Mother will take some time to come around.”“If she ever does.”“She will. I hope she does. And if she gets to be too much, call on Lizzie. You can commiserate together.Now go to sleep. It‟s been a long day for both of us.”“I‟m not so sure about that Jefferson. She went through quite a bit to keep us apart. She can‟t be toohappy that she failed.”“There‟s nothing you can do about it tonight, Marsha. Sleep. You can make a fresh start in the morning.”
Unfortunately, Marsha was correct in believing that Jan wouldn‟t come around to her so quickly. Jan hardlyspoke to her new daughter-in-law, and when she did it was to belittle or criticize something that she wasdoing. Mealtimes became uncomfortable affair, with the only sound being the scraping of silverware onplates.
Jefferson did his best to make Marsha feel at home, but he had started working and was away all day.Marsha often escaped to Lizzie‟s house, but she was doing so less and less frequently.
Lizzie and Jason were expecting their first child. She wasn‟t receiving callers, but as Marsha was her bestfriend and sister-in-law, she often dropped by. Still, Lizzie was busy occupied with getting ready for thebaby‟s arrival, and Marsha didn‟t want to intrude.
To help her pass the time, Marsha began learning to play the violin that was gathering dust in the musicroom. She had played piano for several years, and was becoming quite adept at the string instrument.Once in a while she would put her fingers in the wrong spot, and produce a sound closer to a cat‟s yowlthan to real music, but those moments were coming less and less. She was hoping to surprise Jeffersonwith her skills one day soon.
“Did you hear that?” sneered Jan. “She‟s playing it all wrong again.”“Jan, it is no easy feat to teach oneself to play the violin.”“Oh, so you‟re supporting her now? I thought you wanted something better than a village girl for our son.”“I did. But she‟s here now, and I‟m determined to make the best of the situation.”“Until you figure out a way to manipulate it to your advantage,” she retorted. Marsha hit another incorrectnote, and Jan rose. “I can‟t take it any longer. Until she learns to play it properly, I won‟t put up with thatnoise.”
Marsha was concentrating so hard that she didn‟t see or hear Jan come into the room.“If you can‟t play it properly, stop! That noise you are creating is an abomination.”
“I‟m sorry, Mrs. Bradford. I‟ve been practicing very hard, but that one part…”“If you can‟t play it properly, you obviously haven‟t been practicing hard enough.”Marsha promptly burst into tears and fled the room.“What was that all about, Mother?” asked Jefferson, who had just arrived home from work and witnessedthe exchange.“I was just trying to help your wife with her violin playing.”
“No, you were giving her a hard time, using her violin playing as an excuse. Mother, I can‟t have youupsetting Marsha. It‟s not good for her.”“Jefferson, I was just…”“You were just bullying her, Mother, and I won‟t stand for it. Just because you didn‟t get your way for onceis no excuse for you to treat my wife so horribly.”“What‟s going on in here?” a third voice demanded.
“Jefferson, you need to learn to show a little respect to your elders. That is no way to speak to yourmother.”“I‟m not a child you can scold, Father.”“Well, you‟re acting like a spoiled one. Now, apologize to your mother for speaking to her so rudely.”“No.”
“No?”“No, Father. I won‟t have you or Mother upsetting Marsha. It‟s not good for her in her condition.”“Condition? Is she…”“Yes, Father. Marsha‟s going to have a baby. So, you can see why I must insist that she not be under anysort of stress or strain. Now, please excuse me. I need to make sure that Marsha‟s okay.”
Matthew watched Jefferson storm out of the room.“He learned to stand up to me,” he muttered in amazement. “I can‟t believe it.”“And you‟re going to let him talk back to you, to me, like that?”
“No. I‟ll talk to him in the morning. My own son.”“Now, Matthew, you‟re both upset. I‟m sure he‟ll apologize in the morning, when he realizes what he‟sdone.”“Of course. So, it appears we are to be grandparents. Well, at least the Bradford line will continue.Something good will come of all this.”“Yes, I suppose,” muttered Jan. “I guess we‟re stuck with her now.”
Upstairs, Jefferson found Marsha asleep. He knelt by their bed, and watched her for a few moments.He had always known that his mother was a shrew, but this was going far too far. He had never imaginedstanding up to his mother – no, both his parents – before, but the reason was right before his eyes. Makingsure that Marsha was happy and comfortable was his primary concern and no one, not even his motherand father, were going to stop him from doing just that.
He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.“Jefferson? Is that you?” she asked in a voice thick with sleep.“Yes, sweetheart. I‟m sorry I woke you.”“S‟okay. Come to bed.”
He quickly changed into his pajamas, and crawled in beside her.“I‟m sorry that my mother was so mean to you,” he said, putting her arms around her.“It‟s okay.”“No, it‟s not. I won‟t having her upset you, not while you‟re carrying our baby. It‟s not good for either ofyou.”“I‟ll do my best, but I can‟t control your mother.”“No one can…except maybe my father, and I may have inadvertently given him a way to control her in thistonight. I let it slip that you‟re pregnant.”“That‟s fine. We were going to have to tell them sooner or later. Why do you think that will help your fathercontrol your mother?”“Because he‟s obsessed with the Bradford name and legacy. He‟ll want you to be well taken care of for thesake of the baby. He might even order mother to back off.”“I‟ll believe that when I see it,” yawned Marsha. “Now, let me go back to sleep. I‟m tired.”“Whatever you need, love.”
The next morning, Jefferson couldn‟t help but notice that Marsha‟s pregnancy was beginning to show.“It‟s so exciting,” commented Jefferson as he touched his wife‟s expanded middle. “To think, that‟s a littlepart of you and me. I wonder what the baby will look like.”“I imagine he‟ll look like a mixture of both of us.”“Him? You think it‟s a boy?”“Isn‟t that what you want?”“I want our baby to be healthy, and for you to make it through the delivery safely.”“But what about the family legacy?”“One step at a time, Marsha. Besides, we can have more children after this.”
“Have a good day at work. I‟ll see you when you get home.”“What are you going to do today?”“First, I‟m going to make myself an omelet. I‟m starving!”
As Marsha sat in the dining room, enjoying her omelet, Jan wandered into the room.“Eating again are we? My, my. If you‟re not careful, you‟re going to get fat.”“I think you remember what happened to your appetite when you were with child,” replied Marsha as calmlyas she could.“Oh, it was so long ago,” dismissed the older woman. “I do hope you are able to give the family an heir onthe first try like all the other Bradford wives have.”“Not all. I believe your husband was one of the second set of twins.”“Hmph,” said Jan as she turned on her heal and left the room.
“There you are,” said Jan a few hours later. “Don‟t you normally read the paper in your study?”“Too cold in there today. I must get a man into see about the drafts in the windows. What do you need?”
“Oh, nothing,” she said.“Hogwash. What is it?”“I was wondering if you had spoken to Jefferson about his behavior last night.”“No, I have not, and I have decided that I am not going to.”“Why not?”“Jan, he‟s a grown man, and he has a point. Marsha is carrying the sixth generation of Bradfords in herbelly. She must not be upset in any way.”“So you‟re just giving up? Just like that?”“Jan, the situation is what it is. All we can do is make the best of it.”
“That‟s not it, and you know it,” Jan replied. When Matthew opened his mouth, Jan held up her hand tosilence him. “Oh, I‟ll behave myself until the baby is born. And if it‟s not a boy…” Jan chose to leave therest of her sentence hanging.“Jan, if I can accept the situation, I don‟t understand why you can‟t. Now leave it!”“Yes, Matthew,” she replied out of habit. But Jan had never given up on anything in her life, and she wasn‟tabout to start now.
*************************************************************************************************************************That is all there is of Chapter 16.Up next: Babies! Generation 6 arrives. Will Marsha‟s baby be a boy? Will she and Jan be able to getalong? What does Jan have up her sleeve? Will Jefferson continue to stand up to his parents? We‟ll justhave to wait and see.Thank you for reading. Please leave all comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop.com. Untilnext time!