Greetings readers! Welcome to Chapter 20 (20! When I stared writing this, I had no idea it would go on forso long) of my legacy tale. In the last chapter, Jefferson worried over Matthew‟s extravagant spendinghabits; Taddy grew up and discovered girls, much to James‟ chagrin; Victor and Jane added to their brood;Melanie continued to rave against the Bradfords, and Jefferson finally called his father and mother out forbeing selfish manipulators.From here forth, I will issue a blanket warning about language. It‟s not always going to be PG rated. Thatis all.So, having said that, I give you Chapter 20 of The Bradford Legacy.
Matthew sat, a glass of red Burgundy in his hand, enjoying the solitude of his study. He had taken toadding a glass of wine to his pre-dinner ritual as of late, and tonight‟s vintage was an especially fine one.Direct from the Côte de Beaune region of SimFrance, it had notes of berry, plum, and a hint of somethingwoodsy. Matthew was by no means a connoisseur, but he knew what he was sipping at that moment wasof the highest quality.As they usually did after his first glass, his thoughts began to wander. Looking at the case of wine that saton the floor next to his desk, he made a mental note to put the remaining bottles away before he went in todinner. Jan had pecked at him when he developed this new habit; drinking in solitude wasn‟t good for him,she insisted. He had told her to mind her own business. Ever since Marsha had put his wife in her place,Jan had been intolerable. Had she always been such a nag, or was this a recent development? hewondered. He pushed the unpleasant thoughts of his wife to the side.
He took another sip from his glass. Marsha had been more than understanding about his new pleasure.As his eldest grandchildren were now joining them for evening meals, Marsha had politely made tworequests of her father-in-law: that he not drink the wine at the dinner table, and that he make sure that hissupply was kept locked up in the study, so that the children didn‟t get into it.“You know that I believe in the temperance movement,” she had said, “and I don‟t want drink around mychildren.”Matthew snorted at his memory. Temperance, prohibition, whatever you wanted to call it, was all over thenewspapers those days. It was a horrible idea in Matthew‟s opinion. After a long day‟s work, a man had aright to indulge a little. But Marsha insisted that their house be dry, save for Matthew‟s stash in his study,and Jefferson didn‟t object. Of course, some people would have to ruin a good thing for the others.
It’s those blasted immigrants, he thought. Ruining it for the rest of us with their public drunkenness. Hethought of his younger brother, Alex, who had run West with his SimIrish bride years ago, and hadn‟t comeback. Yes, people like her have gotten our country into this sorry state. A shame my brother had to go sofar away to make a name for himself, what with the ignominy his wife saddled him with. Matthew sighed. Ithad been years – decades – since he had seen his little brother. He wondered if he ever would again.
And there he was again, thinking about his twin sister, Henrietta. Henri had always been a problem forMatthew. True, she had done his schoolwork for years, assuring him of top marks, but she had been a flirt,too loose with her affections. Their father and mother hadn‟t done anything to curb her behavior, soMatthew was forced to do so. And that had earned him the scorn of his family, which he didn‟t understand.Professor Hutchins may not have been the kindest man on earth, but he had provided his sister with agood home for many years. She, in return, had provided him with a son to carry on the family name.Wasn‟t that the making of a good marriage? The accusations Phily had hurled at him all those years agocame back to him now.
“Matthew, what kind of an idiot are you?”“I’d show you respect if you had earned it.”“You sold your own sister? And for what? A good grade on your final exam?”“You took advantage of her situation for your own gain. And don’t forget how you treated Alex and poorKatie. What kind of a brother are you?”“She was miserable, Matthew. And it’s all your fault.”“I will not be used as a pawn in your games like Henri was.”“I see what you are, even if you’ve got everyone else snowed. You’re a selfish, spoiled brat who doesn’tcare about anything but yourself. “
Matthew downed the contents of his glass and refilled it. No, Phily was too close to Henri to be objective inher arguments. Matthew had done what was right at the time.The clock chimed, and Matthew rose to go dress for dinner. He was not looking forward to it. Ever sincehis fight with Jefferson, any family gathering was strained. Hence, Matthew‟s new hobby of drinking wine.It took the edge off, even if it did cause his thoughts to wander to places that he would rather they not.
Viola rubbed her hands together, shooting a glare in the direction of her cousin and his girlfriend. Sheunderstood Aunt Lizzie and Mrs. Menon‟s decree that Taddy and Calla‟s outings needed to be supervised,but she didn‟t understand why that duty continuously fell to her and James. At least they could have donesomething indoors, like visiting the library or the coffee house. But no, the enamored pair apparently hadlost all appreciation for the fact that winter‟s icy grip had settled in with vengeance as they whizzed aroundthe pond on their skates. Even James was enjoying himself, as he alternated between trying to trip Taddyand winking at the gaggle of girls who had gathered at the edge of the pond to giggle at her brother‟santics.
Fluffy snowflakes began to fall, and Viola cursed under her breath. The other three showed no sign ofwanting to leave. She wrapped her coat tighter, thinking about how nice a cup of hot chocolate would feeland taste.“Cold?” a voice asked. Viola turned around to see Sterling smiling at her.“You have no idea. Those three,” she waved her hand in their direction, “have paid me no mind since wegot here an hour ago.”“Why don‟t you join them? Skating will get you warmed up in a hurry.”“No, thank you. I nearly broke my ankle when James tried to teach me earlier.” She shivered again. “Oh,why won‟t they decide to go inside for a while? I‟m so dreadfully cold.”
Sterling regarded Viola for a moment. Her lips were verging on blue, and the poor thing looked somiserable. “Oi, James!” he shouted. “Your sister‟s on the verge of turning into an icicle. I‟m taking herinside and sitting her down by the fire with something hot to drink.”“Ah, Vi, I‟m sorry. Thanks, Sterling. Say, order a pot of hot chocolate for us all to share. We‟ll be inshortly.”Sterling nodded, and put his hand on Viola‟s back to steer her towards the door of the warming hut.
Shortly, she was settled in a comfortable chair by the fireplace, a steaming cup of hot chocolate in herhands.“Feel better?” Sterling asked as he poured himself a cup.“Yes. Thank you so much. How have you been, Sterling? I was sorry to hear about your grandmother‟spassing.”“Thank you. I‟ve been okay. Grandpa‟s taking Grandma‟s passing hard, but we‟re managing.”The two continued their friendly chatter as they waited for the rest of their party to join them.
“Come on, you two. We don‟t want Vi to think we‟ve forgotten her,” called James.“Calla‟s skate laces got knotted; it took me a minute to get them undone for her,” replied Taddy.“While you tried to sneak a look up her skirt, no doubt,” James muttered. They approached the door to thewarming hut.“Isn‟t that a cozy scene?” smirked Taddy.“What do you mean?” James asked, stepping forward to see what his best friend was talking about. Whenhe peered through the glass on the door, his eyes narrowed. Viola and Sterling were sitting by the fire,chatting and laughing as they sipped their drinks. They looked comfortable with each other. Verycomfortable. In fact, they strongly reminded James of scenes he frequently saw between Taddy and Calla.
“Did you save some hot chocolate for us?” asked Taddy, winking at Sterling in a knowing way.“I wasn‟t sure you‟d be joining Viola and I,” replied Sterling as he poured three more cups. “Did you havefun?”“Loads,” replied Calla as she sat down and accepted a cup from Taddy. “I love winter, don‟t you?”“It‟s all right,” replied Viola. “I prefer summer myself.”James was being oddly quiet as he watched the interaction between the two couples…rather, between thecouple and the pair. Viola caught him scrutinizing her, and she blushed. James narrowed his eyes again.He would have to watch this situation very closely, very closely indeed.
It had turned out to be a rather pleasant afternoon for Marsha. She had helped Viola with her historypaper, and now the young woman was practicing the piano. Matthew and Jan had tickets to the theater inPortsimouth, and had departed via train hours ago. James was at the Menons with Calla and Taddy,where Esther was drilling them on their SimFrench. Cyrus was visiting with William Bear, and Jeffersonwas working late. Marsha stoked the parlor fire and prepared to settle in with her new book.
The piano ceased, and Marsha heard footsteps behind her.“Mama, I‟m going to make some tea. Would you like a cup?”Marsha turned and smiled at her daughter. “Yes, please.”The door clicked shut behind her as Viola went to the kitchen.
Marsha heard the front door open. Uncertain as to who would be arriving, she got up from the sofa.Before she got far, someone was in her face, screaming at the top of her lungs.
“It wasn‟t enough for you to take Jefferson away from me, was it? You had to go after my son as well!”“I‟m certain that I have no idea what you‟re talking about, Mrs. Alcott.”“Don‟t you plead ignorance with me! First, James lures Sterling in with his friendship. Then, your daughtergets her hooks into him. He told me today that they‟re courting! I won‟t stand for it!”
Marsha successfully managed to hide her shock at the revelation that Viola had a beau. There was no waythat she was giving Melanie the satisfaction of one-upping her.“Mrs. Alcott, my daughter did not go after your son because I told her to. I would never meddle in mychildren‟s lives like that. It‟s more likely that Sterling was drawn to Viola because she is a sweet, kind, andintelligent young woman. I would think that you would be pleased that your son had such good taste. Anyman would be lucky to win over my daughter.”
Melanie took a step forward, venom in her eyes. “Keep your hussy of a daughter away from my son!”
The two women glared at each other for a fraction of a moment. The sound of china crashing onto tileshattered the silence, followed by a strangled sob, and footsteps on the stairs.“My daughter is not a hussy,” spat Marsha. “And you have overstayed your welcome, Mrs. Alcott. Let meshow you out.”
Shutting the door firmly behind her uninvited guest, Marsha turned and leaned on it for the support. Shesaw the remains of the tea Viola had prepared on the foyer floor. She would deal with that mess later; shehad something more important to clean up at the moment.
She knocked softly on Viola‟s door before entering. Her daughter had flung herself onto her bed, and wassobbing.“How much did you hear?”“Enough.”Marsha cursed inwardly. “I‟m sorry about that.”Viola sniffed loudly. “So you‟re not mad at me for not telling you about Sterling?”
Marsha sat down on the bed. “I‟m a little disappointed that you felt you couldn‟t tell me about your beau,but I understand why you two would have wanted to keep it quiet.”Viola sobs slowed as Marsha rubbed her back soothingly. “I‟m not a hussy, Mama. I haven‟t even letSterling kiss me yet.”Marsha smiled. “I know that no child of mine would behave inappropriately with a member of the oppositesex. I raised you better than that, no matter what others may claim.”
Viola pulled herself upright. “Mama, what Mrs. Alcott said – neither of us meant for this to happen. I didn‟tchase after Sterling. In fact, I fought it for a while, since he‟s James‟ friend.”Marsha smoothed Viola‟s hair. “I figured as much, dear. But sometimes, the heart wants what it wants.Sterling is a fine young man. Is he still planning on joining his father‟s law practice?”Viola nodded. “He‟s going to attempt to graduate from SimHarvard in three years by taking summercourses so he can start law school sooner.”“Sounds like you‟ve got yourself an ambitious young man with a good head on his shoulders.”“I…I really like him, Mama.”“You wouldn‟t have been so upset by Mrs. Alcott‟s words if you didn‟t. Now, why don‟t you help me withdinner? Since your grandparents won‟t be joining us, I thought we‟d have a casual affair.”
The two rose.“Mama, are you going to tell Papa?”“I have to. Not because of the fact that you are stepping out with Sterling, which you really should tell himyourself, but because something must be done about Mrs. Alcott. Your father and Mr. Alcott were alwaysgood friends; I‟m hoping that the two of them can discuss the situation.”“Sterling says she rants about Papa all the time. I just don‟t understand how someone can become sobitter.”“Your father did a great wrong by Mrs. Alcott,” sighed Marsha, “but she chose to cling to her anger ratherthan move forward. It‟s obviously addled her mind.”
Jefferson had been waiting for just a few moments when the door to the tavern opened and George Alcottwalked in.“Thanks for coming on such short notice.”“Not a problem, Jefferson. It‟s been far too long.”“Yes, it has, my friend. Care to grab a bite while we talk?”George nodded. The two men grabbed a table, placed their orders, and waited for the food to arrive.
“What was so important that you had to drag me out tonight?” George asked after they both had a chanceto enjoy their food.Jefferson sighed. He was not looking forward to this conversation at all. “George, we‟ve been friends for along time, so I‟m not going to sugar-coat what I‟m about to say. This afternoon, your wife stormed into myhouse, all but accosted my wife, and accused my daughter of inappropriate actions in regards to your son.”
George closed his eyes, and his shoulders slumped. “Jefferson, please accept my sincerest apologies,and pass them along to your family. I‟ll confess I‟m at my wits end with her; sometimes I regret ourwhirlwind courtship and marriage.”“I must apologize as well. After all, if I hadn‟t…well, she wouldn‟t be so bitter.”“Jefferson, you have nothing to apologize for. Melanie made the choice to hate, and to let that hatredpoison her. I‟ll speak to her, not that I think it will do any good.”
“I‟m sorry you have to deal with all of this, chap.”“It‟s my own doing, you know. I cared about her for so long, but she was your girl, so I let her be. Whenmy chance came, I took it. I married her so quickly after…that, and I never stopped to think that she mighthave unresolved issues relating to…it. I could divorce her – I‟ve got more than enough grounds for it – butI can‟t bring myself to do it. I vowed for better or worse when I married her. I just wish I had known thatthere would far more of the latter than the former.”
Jefferson looked at his friend in sympathy. He knew all too well that George‟s fate could easily have beenhis.“Let‟s talk about something happier. It appears that Sterling and Viola are courting. As her father, it‟s myduty and obligation to warn you that I‟ll severely harm him if he hurts my little girl.”George cracked a genuine smile. “I raised him better than that, Jefferson. But I‟ll make sure you have anopportunity to tell him that in person very soon.”
It was late when Jefferson and George left the tavern. It had been a long time since they last spoke, andGeorge wasn‟t in any hurry go home. The farmhouse was dark, and Jefferson was as quiet as possible sothat he wouldn‟t wake up his sleeping wife.As he slipped into bed, Marsha snuggled up to him. “How did it go?”“Better than I expected. George seemed to know that Melanie was capable of such an outburst, and hesends his sincerest apologies.”“Poor man. He shouldn‟t have to apologize for her actions. Still, it goes to show that he was raisedproperly.”
Jefferson pulled Marsha closer. “I‟m lucky that I‟m not in his shoes.”“You came to your senses in time,” she muttered, sleep clearly overtaking her again.He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I love you, Marsha.”“Love you, too.”Jefferson‟s last thoughts that night were of his friend, George. He hoped that he would be able to find aresolution to his troubles.
Melanie waited in the study for a long time that night before she climbed the stairs to the bedroom sheshared with George. She knew she shouldn‟t have gotten into the liquor, but the temptation had been toogreat. Sterling had boldly walked up to her that afternoon, announced that he was stepping out with ViolaBradford, and left the room just as quickly. She had lost her temper, again, and stormed off to theBradford‟s farm and unloaded her rage on Marsha, the woman who had usurped her position asJefferson‟s wife. She had returned home, and after that she remembered very little, other than pouring aglass of the whiskey that Robert had inherited from his long-dead father with a shaky hand.
She knew that she was being irrational. Viola Bradford was a lovely young lady. Any mother would bethrilled to hear that her son was involved with such a girl. But Melanie could not look past the fact that thegirl had been born with the surname that she hated more than anything on earth.
As dawn crept in, Melanie lay in bed, wide awake. Though her husband was as far away from her aspossible while still sharing a bed, she could sense that he too was not asleep.“George?”“What is it, Melanie?”“Have you talked to Sterling?”“I have, and I‟m not going to talk him out of it, Melanie. Viola‟s a good girl.”
Tears stung at Melanie‟s eyes. Was this the person she had become? Shrill? Harsh? Bitter?“This isn‟t working, is it?”“It hasn‟t been working for a long time. You just haven‟t noticed it.”Melanie sighed. She knew George was right. She drew a deep breath. “I think I need to go away for awhile.”“Where will you go?”A tear or two leaked down her face. Her husband‟s tone indicated that he was relieved by her decision,and the he would make no protests against it. “My mother took me to Sarsimsota Springs once when I wasa girl. It‟s very pretty there. I was thinking it would be nice to go back. You can tell everyone that I wentfor my health. That way, you shan‟t have to face too many questions.”
George shifted, and pulled Melanie to him. “Are you sure?”“We can‟t go on like this, George. We both know it.”“When will you leave?”“Soon. As soon as I can make the arrangements.”“And when will you be back?”“I don‟t know.”“Will you be back?”“I don‟t know that either. But something must be done. This is the only thing I can think of.”George nodded.
The moment of tenderness passed. George pulled away and rose. He did have to head to work that day,after all. Melanie was slower to get up. Now that her decision had been made, and vocalized, she wasscared. What would she do if going away didn‟t cure her?“George?” she said softly, afraid to speak.“Yes, Melanie?”“I am sorry that it‟s come to this.”“I‟m sorry too, but saying sorry doesnt mean youre wrong. Sometimes, it means that youre just tired ofexplaining yourself. And I‟ve been tired of explaining myself for a very long time.”He entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him.“So am I, George. So am I.”
A fortnight later, the arrangements for Melanie‟s departure to Sarsimsota Springs were complete. Hertrunks were packed, and she would be departing before dawn for an indeterminate amount of time.George and his father alone knew that she was leaving; Melanie had not the courage to face her son afterwhat she had done to his girlfriend‟s family.The night before she left, Melanie did not sleep. Instead, she had feigned it until George was snoring, andthen she had pulled her husband close. Despite everything, she did care for him, and he was the mainreason she wanted to get better.The clock struck four, and she pulled herself away. The coach would be arriving in an hour, and she had toget dressed.
The butler brought Melanie‟s trunk and luggage out to the porch, and she carried her satchel with a fewessentials in it. She turned and looked at her home. She didn‟t know when, or if, she would ever see itagain.“No one to see you off, m am?” asked the coach driver, as he grabbed her hatbox.“No,” she replied a little sadly.“Well, just give me a moment to load your things, and we‟ll be off.”Melanie nodded.
Later that night, Sterling was reading the newspaper in the dining room as he drank a cup of coffee. Hewas waiting for his mother to burst in with her usual complaint that he was too young for coffee, but shewas no where to be found. Come to think of it, he hadn‟t seen her all day. Not that he minded. His motherhad been impossible as of late, and not having to hear her nagging was quite a relief.“Son? Do you have a moment?” George asked from the doorway.“Of, course, Papa,” he replied, folding up the paper and letting it fall to the floor.
George poured himself a cup of coffee before he sat down to join his son.“Son, you know your mother‟s not been well as of late.”Sterling snorted. “You mean her obsession with how horrid all the Bradfords are.”“Well, yes. She‟s decided that it‟s best for everyone involved if she goes away for a while.”
“Mama‟s gone?” he exclaimed. “Where? When? For how long?”“Yes, Sterling. She left very early thing morning for Sarsimsota Springs. She found it pleasant as a child,and felt that it would be an ideal location to go.”“You didn‟t answer my last question, Papa. When is she coming back?”“I‟m not sure that she ever will.”
“But how will she live?”“I‟ve arranged a living allowance for her; she‟ll be sent something monthly.”“So that‟s it, then? She‟s going away forever? What about us?”“She‟s doing this to try and move past the things that have made her so bitter.”“You approve of this?”
“I‟m not sure I like your tone, Sterling. But yes, I approve. I know you‟ve notice that your mother is not fullyin her right mind. She decided on her own that getting away for a time was the best thing for everyoneinvolved, which I believe shows that she is ready to move forward. Things couldn‟t continue the way theywere, especially since you‟re serious about your intentions towards Viola. Can you imagine what yourmother would do when you and Viola were married? Would you want to bring her into such a situation?”“No,” admitted Sterling. “You‟re going to stay married, though?”“More than likely. Your mother will keep me informed as to her plans, once she figures out what she wantsto do for the long term.”Sterling nodded. “We‟ll be batching it with Grandpa for the foreseeable future then?”George nodded. “It‟s a good thing that my mother felt it was important for me to know how to cook.”
“I hope that this works out for everyone,” muttered Sterling.“So do I, son. So do I.”
A few days after Melanie‟s blow up, James was acting surly. He had been ever since he got home fromthe university exam preparation that Mr. Simon was offering to the older students. He kept shootingstrange looks in Viola‟s direction during dinner, and she wanted to know why.
After dinner, James bolted. Thinking he might be in his room, Viola headed upstairs and stepped into theroom that her brothers shared.“Hi, Vi!”“Hello, Cyrus. Is James in here.”Cyrus shook his head. “I haven‟t seen him since we walked home from school together. I thought he wasmad because Muriel,” Cyrus made a face as he said the name, ”insisted that she had to talk to him beforewe left.”
“Damn,” swore Viola.Cyrus‟ eyes grew large. “Mama doesn‟t like it when we talk like that!”“Don‟t you go tattling on me, Cyrus, or I‟ll tell Mama about the little prank you pulled the other day involvingthe dead fish. Now, I suggest you finish getting ready for bed, as Mama will be up to tuck you in shortly.”
Viola left the room, cursing Muriel Gavigan under her breath. She was a busybody and a gossip, and Violawas certain that she had told James that Viola and Sterling were a couple.Viola knew that she should have told James herself, to prevent a situation just like this. But it was too late,thanks to Gossipy Gavigan and her big mouth. The damage was done, but was it too much for Viola torepair?Through the upstairs window, she saw her brother sitting on the swing set in the backyard. She dashed toher room, grabbed her heavy coat, and went to join him.
James didn‟t look up as Viola approached, but she knew he knew she was coming. It was hard to ignorethe crunching of her boots on the snow.“I was going to tell you, James. Truly, I was. I was just waiting for the right time.”Silence.“You know we had to be cautious about who knew because of Mrs. Alcott.”Still, James made no response.Viola sighed. “I‟m sorry, James. I should have told you sooner. I hope you can forgive me someday.”
Viola turned to go back in the house. A soft voice stopped her in her tracks.“It hurts that neither of you thought you could trust me.”
“Oh, James. It wasn‟t that,” she said, sitting on the swing next to him. “We were both terrified that Mrs.Alcott would make a scene like she did with Mama, so we decided until we knew whether or not it wasserious to keep quiet.”“And is it? Serious?”Viola blushed and nodded.James looked up at the sky for a long time. “And it had to be one of my friends?”“James, I certainly didn‟t plan it this way. At least you know him, and that he‟s a good person.”
“You‟re right, Vi. You‟ll forgive me, of course, if I make a few big brotherly threats?”“I wouldn‟t expect any less from you, James.”The two sat quietly, enjoying the winter‟s night.“And then there was one,” James muttered.
“She‟s out there, James. You‟ll find her.”“That‟s hard to believe when everyone around you already has.”
Viola took her brother‟s hand. “Papa once told me that the best advice he ever got was that the best thingsin life are worth waiting for. Your girl‟s going to be a knockout, James. Trust me.”“She better be,” he chuckled. “Come on; let‟s go in before we freeze.”
With Melanie gone and James in the know, Sterling and Viola were able to conduct their relationship in theopen. They would often spend afternoons together at Sterling‟s house, under Robert‟s watchful eye.
Their young love blossomed over the course of that long winter.
The winter holidays were approaching, and the young people of Simsfield were starting to feel restless.Lizzie Seiff had noticed this, and proposed a solution to her husband Jason.“Let me make sure I have this correct. You want to throw a party for our son and his friends while we‟re inthe middle of preparing for our annual holiday dinner? Lizzie, are you trying to wear your self out?”“Not at all. It will be a relief to have Taddy stop complaining about how bored he is, and we can make surethat he behaves appropriately. When it comes to Calla, all of his common sense just flies right out thewindow.”
The could hear Taddy playing the piano downstairs from their room. Jason had to admit that his son hadbeen restless as of late, and the proposed party would do much to cure him.
“What exactly did you have in mind?”“An early evening cake-and-punch affair. Maybe I can even play the piano for a little while, so they candance.”“Very well. As long as you feel you can manage.”
On the prescribed evening, the teens of Simsfield, and a few from Portsimouth, found themselves in theSeiff‟s parlor. The furniture had been moved to the perimeter of the room, and Lizzie was playing music sothose who so chose could dance.
And most of the room was dancing, save for one young man who hadn‟t moved from his seat on the sofasince the music had started.
Lizzie‟s hands danced over the piano keys as she played the final notes of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”with a flourish. The young people who had been dancing to the tune stepped apart and clapped politely.“Thank you,” Lizzie smiled. “Why don‟t we take a short break for refreshments? There is cake and punchin the dining room.”Everyone made noises of approval, and moved towards the food. One person, however, remained behind,choosing to stay seated on the sofa where he had spent most of the night.
“Aren‟t you coming, James?” called Taddy. James shook his head.Taddy sighed. “Go on without me,” he whispered to Calla, and went over to take a seat beside his friend.
“What‟s wrong, James? You‟ve been sitting here moping all evening.”James sighed. “If I had know this was going to be a…couples party, I wouldn‟t have bothered coming.”“Aw, James, don‟t be like that. Look, you can dance with Calla for a while after we start up again; I‟ll offerto spell Mama on the piano…”“No, Taddy. Dance with your girl. I‟ll be fine.”
“You know, there‟s a very simple solution to all this, James.”“What‟s that?”“We‟ve got to get you a girl of your own.”
James snorted. “No thanks. None of the girls in town even remotely interest me that way.”“None?” queried Taddy, a disbelieving look on his face. “Well, what about the city? Our cousin Raymondwill be growing up soon; I bet Uncle Victor and Auntie Jane would throw a party where you could meet…”“Taddy, no. I‟m not interested.”
“You‟re not at all interested in girls?”“No, I am interested in girls. Rather, I‟m not interested in girls right now. Papa was the first man in thefamily to know who he wanted to marry when he was my age, even if he took a roundabout way gettingthere. I‟d rather go off to college unattached, and see what my options are.”Taddy resisted the urge to laugh. “I pity the woman you do fall for, James.”“Why‟s that?”“Because you‟ll be so naive about everything, and the poor girl will have completely unrealisticexpectations to live up to. Come on, let me fix you up with one of Calla‟s friends. You can get all theawkward firsts out of your system now. What‟dya say?”
“No, Taddy. Has it ever occurred to you that I might want my „awkward firsts‟, as you put it, to be with thewoman I decide to marry?”“I never would have pegged you for a romantic, James.”“Neither would I,” admitted James. “Come on; maybe there‟ll be some cake left.”The two got up, and Taddy threw his arm around James‟ shoulder in brotherly way. “So, Viola andSterling, huh? No wonder Mrs. Alcott left town.”
A blizzard had settled over Simsfield, and more than a day latter it was showing no signs of letting up.Consequently, the Bradford children were stuck inside the house.
Most of the family was gathered in the parlor, a rare enough occurrence since Jan did her best to keep adistance between herself and the children. But parlor fire always seemed to be the warmest and its lightingwas the best, so that was where everyone was enjoying the winter‟s afternoon.
“I‟m telling you, James, someday every house will have one.”“Not anytime soon. They‟re still too expensive.”
“What are you boys talking about?” interrupted Matthew.“Automobiles, Grandfather. I was reading about them in Popular Mechanics. They‟re amazing!”
Matthew leveled a disapproving look at his youngest grandchild. “Cyrus, come here.”
Cyrus crossed the room and stood before his grandfather.“Cyrus, your obsession with horseless carriages is absurd. They are a fad that will pass. You would bewiser to spend your time with your studies. After all, you are expected to do well when you go toSimHarvard, especially since you‟ll have to make it on your own after you graduate.”“But Grandpa, automobiles are the future!”“Silence, boy. I‟ve been around far longer than you, and I know a fad when I see one. Now go up to yourroom.”
Cyrus slumped out of the room. From her corner at the easel, Viola was shaking her head. Matthewnoticed.“Something to say, Viola?”Against her better judgment, Viola turned and looked at her grandfather. “You didn‟t need to be so sharpwith Cyrus. He‟s just a child, after all.”
“Don‟t talk back to me, young lady! You should know better than that. But what else could I expect, whatwith the company you keep.”“I don‟t think there‟s anything wrong with my friends.”“No, you wouldn‟t, which is why you keep company with a boy who has a lunatic for a mother.”“You didn‟t seem to mind Mrs. Alcott so much when you were trying to get Papa to marry her,” she retorted.“And she‟s not a lunatic.”“Could have fooled me with the way she behaves. Why else would George have shipped her away? Youshould stay away from her boy; insanity tends to be genetic, you know, and we don‟t want that in ourfamily.”
Before Viola could reply, James rose and went to stand by her side. “Sterling‟s nothing like his mother,Grandfather, and you have no business insulting him like that.”“Bah, you‟re no judge of his character; you‟re far too close to him yourself. Beside, you should have otherconcerns.”“Oh? And what might those be?”“Why, finding a good woman to be your wife! You‟re almost a grown man, James, and you haven‟t evenshown a hint of interest in any of the girls around town. Not that I blame you; I had to wait until my time atSimHarvard before I found a woman worthy of the Bradford name.”James nearly retorted that his grandmother wasn‟t exactly worthy, but thought better of it. “Leave it,Grandfather,” he said instead.
“Leave what?” asked Marsha as she came into the room.“Grandfather‟s just been giving us advice on how to live our lives,” replied James.Marsha‟s eyes narrowed. “James, Viola, why don‟t you go upstairs and start dressing for dinner?”The teenagers were all too happy to have an excuse to leave the room, and did so quickly.
“Must you always criticize them?” asked Marsha, exasperation evident in her voice.“I am merely pointing out their faults so they may correct them.”“Why? They‟re just children.”“Someone has to. You may have done your duty to the family by providing it with two strong sons, Marsha,but you‟ve indulged them far too much. James has no sense of his responsibilities as heir, Viola doesn‟tknow her place as woman, and Cyrus prattles on about nonsense when he should be focused on lesstrivial matters.”“How Jefferson and I chose to raise our children is none of your concern.”“It is very much my concern! I may be old, but I‟m still head of this family!”
“Still on that, are you, Father?” asked Jefferson as he came into the parlor.“Oh, be quiet, boy. I know my responsibility to the Bradford name, and I have always done my duty to it.”“By using those around you like pawns and making their lives miserable in the process.”“No, by doing what is necessary to insure that our family remains without tarnish. You‟re too soft,Jefferson. You always have been. I shudder to think of what will happen when you take over as head ofthe family. You need to be more firm with those around you. Otherwise, people will walk all over you.”“I think I‟ll do just fine as head of the family, despite what you think. Marsha, shouldn‟t we go dress fordinner?”Marsha nodded, and followed Jefferson out of the room.
Matthew stood by the mantle for several moments after his son and daughter-in-law had exited the room.Jan, who had remained silent through all the exchanges, now rose to stand by her husband‟s side.“You‟ve done a good job trying to keep this family respectable. It‟s not your fault that they don‟t appreciateit.”
“It would have been nice if you expressed that while I was being attacked. But still, you‟ve been a goodwife to me, Jan. You gave me a son, stood by me and helped me when my siblings needed to be put inline, and were always above reproach.”“I knew my duty, and I did it,” she replied simply. “Matthew, are you all right? You look rather pale…”
“No, it‟s too soon…I‟m not ready to go. Jefferson isn‟t prepared to lead the family. I‟ll not have my hardwork undone!”But Death was not in the habit of listening to pleas. It was time for Matthew Bradford to find his long homein the Great Unknown.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Lifes but a walking shadow.-William Shakespeare‟s Macbeth, Act V, Sc. V
After the family arrived home from the funeral and burial, Jan took to her room. She was too overcomewith grief, she claimed, to do anything else.Jefferson did not mind. He knew that his mother would be as insufferable as ever, once the initial griefwore off. He took advantage of her absence to call the children into the parlor.
“I know this isn‟t easy for any of you; it certainly isn‟t for me. My father, your grandfather, was not the bestof men, and it‟s hard to be sorry that he‟s gone. But still, for the sake of convention, we must show theoutside world that we are deeply grieved.”
He knelt down before his youngest. “Cyrus, if you are interested in automobiles, I encourage you to learnas much as you can about them. I don‟t think that they‟re going to go away, even if they do take a while tocatch on.”
Jefferson then turned to James. “Don‟t put too much pressure on yourself, son. Take your time to enjoyyour collegiate experience when it comes, and don‟t look for the „perfect‟ woman. Find someone whomakes you happy.”
Lastly, he moved to Viola. He hesitated before he said, “Sterling is a fine young man. I‟m sure that youtwo will be very happy together. Despite what everyone thinks, Mrs. Alcott has not been locked up in aninsane asylum. She went away of her own accord. There‟s no reason to think that Sterling or any of hisdescendents would act the way she has.”
Jefferson took a step back and looked at his family. Despite his father‟s protests, Jefferson knew that hehad done well for himself, and that the Bradford name wasn‟t going to dissolve in Matthew‟s absence.
“Why don‟t you go amuse yourselves, quietly, before dinner? Cyrus, I think that you‟re old enough to joinus. Would you like that?”Cyrus beamed at his father. The three youngest Bradfords quietly headed towards the music room, afterViola offered to read aloud from her new book of poetry by T. Sim Eliot.
Jefferson then pulled Marsha into his arms. “And you, my dear, are not soft with the children. You areunderstanding, compassionate, and always know what to say to soothe hurt feelings, but punish them witha firm and fair hand when they need it. I don‟t tell you enough how lucky I am to have you.”Marsha smiled. “It‟s a relief, isn‟t it, not to have to censor yourself all the time?”“It seems wrong to say it, but it is. When I think about all the harm he‟s caused over his lifetime…well, itmakes me sick.”
“You should write to your Aunts Henri and Phily, to let them know. Maybe we can have them over fordinner, once it‟s socially acceptable, of course.”“I‟ll go do that right now; she should have the letter tomorrow if I do.”
“There, little Octavia,” cooed Phily. “You have to take your nap now, because we‟ve got a very excitingevening planned for you.”“Birthday!”“Yes, you‟re having your birthday tonight when your Papa gets home from work. Grandma Meadow madeyou a cake – a big, gooey, chocolaty cake. But first, naptime.”Phily kissed her granddaughter, and placed her in her crib.
After she returned downstairs, Jane called from the kitchen that the postman had come, and would Phily beso kind as to go fetch the mail. Phily replied that she would be happy to, and headed out to the mailbox.One letter in particular caught her eye. It had come from Simsfield, from her childhood home to be precise,and it was addressed to her in an unfamiliar hand. Phily had hardly any correspondence with her eldestbrother since he had all but thrown her out of the house all those years ago, and her curiosity would notallow her to wait to get inside to examine it.She tore open the envelope and began to read.
Dearest Aunt Phily,I hope that this letter finds you, Aunt Henri, Victor, Jane, the children, and Miss Thayer well. I know that ithas been some time since we last corresponded. I can only hope that you understand why this was. Knowthat do not, nor have I ever, shared my father’s opinions, and I believe that he has done great wrongs bymany of the members of our family.But enough of that. I have a very specific reason for writing to you now, and I will make you wait no longerin regards to what that reason is.
I am unsure of how to say what I need to tell you, so I will be plain in my language. My father, your brotherMatthew, is dead. He died as he lived, tormenting others about their faults while never acknowledging thathe had many of his own. As you can imagine, we are not much grieved by the loss, but are observing aperiod of mourning for the sake of convention. My mother, of course, is distraught, and has taken to herbedchamber, which leaves me to the task of informing our friends and relations about the news.
I would ask you, Aunt Phily, to break the news to Aunt Henri. I know that she is advanced in her age, and Ido not want to shock her with such tidings (not that I believe she will be much saddened by them, but still,one must be delicate at these moments). I would also ask that you contact Uncle Alex, as all I know abouthis present location is that he is somewhere in the West; Father never knew or cared where he eventuallysettled.When a suitable amount of time has passed, Marsha and I would like to invite you, Aunt Henri, Victor, andJane to join us for dinner. I know it has been many years since you have set foot inside your childhoodhome here in Simsfield, and I would like to atone for your continued absence.Should you have any other questions, please feel free to write or telephone. Victor knows the number.Your humble nephew,Jefferson
Phily refolded the letter and went back into the house.“What were you reading, Phily?” Jane queried.“A letter from my nephew, Jefferson.”“What would he be writing to you for?” wondered Meadow.“My brother Matthew is dead.”“Good gracious,” gasped Jane.“I know. He‟s been a tyrant for so long; it‟s hard to believe that he won‟t be able to torment us any longer.”“Is there a letter for Henri as well?” Meadow asked.“No, Jefferson asked that I tell her myself. I‟m not sure how she‟ll take it. Matthew used her worst of all,but he was her twin brother. I certainly know that there is an unmistakable bond between twins. I wouldlike to tell her as soon as possible, lest she hear from gossip. Is she home?”“No, she stepped out to attend another suffragette rally. I expect her back at any moment,” replied Jane.“I‟ll be in the study. Please have her join me when she returns?”
Matthew is dead at last, Phily thought. She had expected to feel glee at the news, but she was oddly upsetby the news. It was not for love of her now-deceased brother; it was for the fact that her beloved big sisterwould more than likely be following suit very, very soon.After all, she’s the oldest one left of my brothers and sister. Di passed years ago, Anne not that long ago.Phily did not wish to think of such things, but she couldn‟t help it at that moment. She became so absorbedin her thoughts that she didn‟t hear the door open.
“Meadow said you wanted to see me?”“Yes, I did. I had a letter today from Jefferson. He had news that he wished me to share with you.” Philytook a deep breath. “Henri, Matthew‟s dead.”“Finally,” the older woman replied. “I was beginning to think he was surviving on pure spite.”“Well, whatever it was, it‟s run out. He‟ll do no more damage in this world.”“Nor the next. The must be a special circle of Hell resolved for such people.”“You‟re not upset at all, Henri? He was your twin brother after all.”“Phily, you know better that you are my closest sibling, and you always have been. I feel no grief at mybrother‟s death. The child that I once loved as my brother died a long time ago, and I have long sincefinished my mourning for him.”“Jefferson would like to have us over for dinner, as soon as convention allows.”“That would be pleasant. I‟d like to see my childhood home once more before I die.”
“Don‟t talk like that!” cried Phily. “You‟re far too young to speak of your own death.”Henri laughed as she pulled her sister close. “I‟m the same age as Matthew, Phily. My time left on thisEarth is short; I know that. These last years, seeing my son happily married with a family of his own, havebeen wonderful. He has been able to achieve all the things I wanted for him and more. When my timedoes come, I‟ll have no regrets.”“I‟m not quite ready to let you go just yet, Henri.”“You‟ll never be ready, Phily. Now, let us talk of happier things. I do believe that there are still a few thingsthat need to be taken care of before our granddaughter has her birthday.”“You still want to have the party?”“Of course! No one will stop Octavia from having her party. Especially not Matthew.”
“You don‟t think people will talk about us not putting on mourning for your brother?” worried Meadow.“I doubt it. Henri and I are old, and our actions can be excused as eccentricities. Jane is know simply asyour daughter, not ours, and Victor has no cause to mourn an uncle he never met. I think we‟ll be fine.”“I hope you‟re right. I would hate to see gossip about this.”Phily snorted. “I believe Jefferson is right in that there are few who are grieved by this loss. Hisinsufferable wife is probably the only one that really misses him, and that‟s more than likely because she‟sno longer lady of the house. Come, let‟s finish getting things ready for Octavia‟s birthday. I bribed her withpromises of a chocolate cake to get her to take her nap.”“Then Grandma Meadow had better deliver on that promise.”
Soon, Victor arrived home from work.“Papa, come inside! Raymond and I have something to show you and Mama.”“Asher, we have Octavia‟s birthday today. Can it keep?”“No, it can‟t. Please, Papa. It will only take a moment.”
“See!” the two boys exclaimed as soon as Victor had removed his coat. “We both got top marks in school.Our teacher said we‟re the some of the smartest pupils she‟s ever seen.”“I‟m very proud of both of you boys,” beamed Jane.“Well done, sons. Now, as much as I would like to celebrate this accomplishment right now, your littlesister is waiting for her cake.”
So Victor collected his daughter, and prepared to help her as she transitioned into childhood.
And so Octavia grew up. She was very much her father‟s daughter; she inherited almost none of hermother‟s features.
Phily and Henri were not the only Bradfords who had elected not to put on a public display of mourning forMatthew. His daughter, Lizzie, had been quite adamant about the fact.“No, Jason,” she affirmed. “The man didn‟t want me in the first place, and he always favored Jeffersonover me. He only sent me to college and not finishing school because finishing school was no longerfashionable, and you told me how you secured his permission to marry me over a game of cards. To top itoff, he never showed any interest in Taddy. I‟m not going to pretend I‟m sorry he‟s gone.”Some time had now passed, and she was questioning her decision. Matthew was her father after all, anddespite all the wrongs he had done, didn‟t he deserve for his only daughter to publicly grieve the loss?
“Don‟t, Lizzie.”“Don‟t what?”“Don‟t regret the choice you made about not putting on mourning for your father. You went to the funeral,and you visited his grave. That‟s more than enough, after all he put you through.”“I know, it‟s just…he was my father.”“And he was a horrible one. I‟m amazed that you managed to keep your spirit after living so many yearsunder his thumb. Now, stop your fretting. No one has questioned your choice, therefore, neither shouldyou.”
“You‟re right, of course. It just feels odd at times.”“I‟m certain it does. If you still feel compelled to do something for him, makes sure that Jefferson keeps thenew family cemetery up. You‟ve quite the knack with plants.”“Once spring comes, I think I‟ll do just that. Jefferson will have more pressing matters to consider thantending to the plots. And I won‟t just be doing it for my father; I‟ll be doing it for all the Bradfords.”
It had been exactly one month since Matthew‟s death. Jan had hardly left her room since that fatefulevening when her husband had been so cruelly taken from her. Marsha hadn‟t questioned Jan‟s requestthat her meals be brought up on a tray; in fact, Marsha had encouraged the elder woman‟s seclusion.
“The house must be in a state,” muttered Jan as she fixed her hair. “She never checks the maid‟s work.I‟m sure I‟ll have to have a chat with the girl when she arrives tomorrow.”Jan had decided that she would begin joining the family for their evening meal again. There would be noneed to worry about unwanted company; it would be a few months before Marsha could begin receivingguests again. And Jan was lonely, though she wouldn‟t admit to it.
The clock struck seven, and she descended the stairs. She paused outside the doors to the dining room,listening to the quiet chatter on the other side. She put her hand to the knob, and turned it.“Mother, I‟m glad you decided to join us tonight,” Jefferson said.
Jan knew that Matthew was dead, but the full realization didn‟t hit her until she saw her son sitting at thehead of the table, as her husband used to do. It was Jefferson‟s right, of course; he was now head of thefamily. Of course, that also meant that Marsha, as Jefferson‟s wife, now occupied the seat at the foot ofthe table, the seat that Jan herself had occupied for so many years.There were other changes to the seating arrangement, as well. Viola now sat to her father‟s left; James tohis mother‟s. Little Cyrus, quickly approaching his teenage birthday but still a mere child in Jan‟s eyes,was seated to Marsha‟s left, across from his brother.
“What is the child doing here?” the elder woman demanded.“Aw, Grandma, I‟m practically old enough.”“Silence. Children should be seen and not heard.”“Cyrus, allow me,” Jefferson said. “Mother, Cyrus is right; he‟ll be celebrating his birthday soon, andMarsha and I agreed that it wouldn‟t do any harm to allow him to join us for dinner.”
Jan sniffed. “I don‟t like it one bit.”“That doesn‟t matter, Mother. You see, as head of the family, I‟m going to do what I feel is correct.”
Mother and son stared at each other for a long moment. Finally, Jan moved and took the only empty chairleft at the table, the one to Jefferson‟s left.
“Now that we‟re all here, shall we eat?” Jefferson suggested, as he struggled to suppress a grin.The family picked up their flatware, and began to eat.
Dinner that night was a very somber affair. The younger Bradfords spoke only when asked a directquestion, and Jan spoke no words, but said volumes with her eyes and disapproving looks. Jefferson andMarsha did their best to keep a semblance of conversation going, but everyone was grateful when the mealhad concluded and they were all free to go their separate ways.
Jefferson and Marsha sought refuge in their bedroom.“I should have known she‟d make a fuss about Cyrus joining us.”“I don‟t understand why. You said that you and Lizzie were allowed to sit at the dinner table with yourparents when you were younger than he.”“That was different; Father wanted me to join them, and with Lizzie the same age as me he had no reasonto object to her presence. Mother‟s just being spiteful now; you saw the look she gave you when she sawthat you had taken her place at the table.”“You cannot tell me that she did not do exactly the same after your grandfather died.”“Oh, she did. It‟s just a different matter now that the shoe‟s on the other foot.”
“Nothing‟s ever simple with her, is it?” sighed Marsha.“No. But they‟ll get simpler soon enough.”“Oh?”“Without Father about spending willy-nilly, I‟ve finally managed to get the family accounts to balance.”“Thank goodness. Will there be enough for James‟ college?”Jefferson nodded. “Viola and Cyrus as well. It‟s such a relief to go over the books now.”“Perhaps there might be enough left to buy the children some new things when we come out of mourning?I‟ve had my eyes on a lovely pair of earrings that I think Viola would love, and Cyrus will need all newthings when he becomes a teenager.”“As long as we‟re not too extravagant, we should be fine.”“You know that I‟m not extravagant. Besides, I always check with you before I make any large purchases.Now, I believe that Viola would like us to view her latest masterpiece before she retires for the night.”
James and Sterling were at the library after school, cramming for their geometry exam the next day.Outwardly, little had changed in their friendship since James learned that Viola and Sterling were a couple,but Sterling sensed that James was treating him slightly more formally than he used to.
After working in silence for a time, Sterling put his pencil down. “James, I‟ve got to know. Does it botheryou that I‟m courting your sister?”“You know it doesn‟t, Sterling. We‟ve been over it before.”“Then why do I get the sense that you‟re lying to me?”
James looked at his friend. “You‟re right. It does bother me, a little. I mean, you were my friend first, and Ican‟t help thinking that Viola stole you away from me. It‟s like Taddy and Calla all over again. But I knowhow much you mean to Viola, and I want my sister to be happy. I‟ll try not to treat you oddly anymore.”“Thanks, man.”
The two returned to their books, notes, and silence.“Sterling?”“Yes, James?”“You‟re my friend, Sterling, but understand this: if you hurt my sister, they will never find your body.”“Fair, enough, James. Fair enough.”
It had been exactly one year and one day since Matthew Bradford‟s passing. Henri contemplated this factas she relaxed in her room. Her eldest grandson, Raymond, was a few days away from becoming ateenager, and she was hoping that she would be able to see him reach that milestone. She knew that itwouldn‟t be long before Death came to claim her as his own; she could feel him creeping closer with everypassing moment. Still, she felt that she had a little time left, and she was determined to spend as much ofit with her family as possible.
The Hutchins boys were spending their Saturday in the study, practicing chess. They had been doing sofor several hours, and one of them had had enough.
“Raymond, I‟m bored.”“So, let‟s do something else. What would you like to do?”“I want to play outside. We can build a snowman, and maybe have a snowball fight.”“A snowball fight‟s no fun with just two. Maybe we should ask Octavia to join us.”“Then the teams won‟t be even.”“Well, let‟s get Octavia and go build a snowman. Maybe Mama or Papa will join us.”
The children pulled on their heavy coats, and pilled out into the yard. Octavia and Raymond began rollingthe large snowballs needed to make the body and head of the snowman, while Asher was content to directhis siblings.“More towards you, Raymond. Otherwise it will fall over. Octavia, not so much snow on the head. He‟lllook funny.”“He looks fine, Asher. Stop being so bossy,” his sister ordered. “Why don‟t you go and get some sticksand Papa‟s old top hat? We‟re just about ready for them.”
The snowman complete, the group fell to throwing snowballs at each other. Not long into their fight, Hernicame outside and asked what they were doing.“We‟re having a snowball fight, Grandma Henri!” called Octavia.“Want to join?” asked Asher.None of the children expected her to; she was old, after all. They were quite shocked and pleased at whathappened next.
Henri scooped up a handful of snow, and hurled it in the direction of her eldest grandson.
Though it wasn‟t thrown very hard, Raymond wasn‟t expecting his grandmother to have such good aim.The snowball hit him in the stomach, and he doubled over.
Octavia and Asher couldn‟t help themselves, and burst out laughing.“The…look…on…your…face,” gasped Octavia between exclamations of laughter. “Oh, Raymond, youshould have seen it.”“You have good aim, Grandma Henri. I didn‟t know you could throw so well.”
Henri smiled. “I used to play catch with your Papa when he was your age. I had quite a bit of practice.”“Why didn‟t his papa play with him?”Because his papa was a selfish scalawag, she thought. Aloud, she replied, “He had to work quite a bit, andwas very tired when he got home.”“Papa was lucky he had you to play with him, then.”
Meanwhile, Raymond was attempting to execute a little payback.“You‟ll pay for laughing at me, Octavia!” he said as he launched a snowball towards her. It landed justshort of her, and she laughed again.“You‟ll have to do better than that if you want to get me!” she declared.Henri had watched the entire scene play out silently. She noticed that Raymond‟s lips were starting to geta little blue, and that Octavia was shivering. “I think it‟s time to go inside and get warmed up. Noobjections,” she said, when she saw that Asher was going to protest. “Inside.”
The children did as they were bid, and were soon telling their Grandma Meadow of their afternoon romp.
Henri soon came into the room, and gave each of her grandchildren a hug and kiss in turn. Theythought nothing of this, as she had always been very open in her affections towards them.
Next, she turned to Meadow.“Thank you for your kindness in offering my son and I a home in our hour of need. I feel very lucky to beable to call such a generous person a friend.”“The pleasure has been mine; I‟m so grateful you have accepted me as part of your family.”
“My dear Jane,” she smiled. “You were all I could have asked of for my son. I am so thankful that you arethe one Meadow chose to adopt, though I‟m certain someone was looking out for all of us. Take care of myson; you are his life.”“Of course I shall, Mama Henri.”
“My son,” she sighed. “You have done so well for yourself, and I am so very proud of you. My greatestwish was that your father‟s influence wouldn‟t scar you, and it hasn‟t. You are kind, loving, and a wonderfulfather. I can give you no higher praise than that.”
“It‟s time, then?” Victor asked, suddenly understanding his mother‟s actions.“I think so. If not now, then very soon. I‟m sorry that I don‟t have much of an inheritance to leave you.”“Mother, you were my rock through the horror that was my childhood. You have given me far more thanyou will ever be able to understand.”She beamed at him. “That‟s all I need to know.”
Lastly, she pulled her little sister close. “Tell Jefferson I‟m sorry I wasn‟t able to make it for that visit.”“Henri.” It was the only word that Phily trusted herself to say.“There, there, dear. It will be okay.”“I‟m not ready to let you go yet.”“I told you that you never would be, and I was right. It will be okay, Phily. I‟m ready. I‟ve live a good andfull life, thanks in large part to you. Watch over my family, and I‟ll see you again someday.”
As the clock struck six, Henri discovered that she had been correct. Death was ready for her.
As her family wept, Henri passed from this world into the next.
Here is one leaf reserved for me, From all thy sweet memorials free; And here my simple song might tell The feelings thou must guess so well. But could I thus, within thy mind, One little vacant corner find, Where no impression yet is seen, Where no memorial yet has been, Oh! it should be my sweetest care To write my name forever there!-"Written In The Blank Leaf Of A Ladys Common-Place Book“ by Thomas Moore (Irish Poet, 1779-1852)
Though she wasn‟t around to see it, Raymond did grow up very well. He decided that, like his GrandmaPhily, he would peruse a life of knowledge. His greatest desire – to become the finest entertainer thatPortsimouth had ever seen.
Back in Simsfield, life was slowly returning to normal in the Bradford household. Jefferson was settling intohis role as head of the family. It wasn‟t nearly as hard he‟d thought it would be. Then again, he thoughtwith a smile, he hadn‟t realized then that he would have the support of a woman like Marsha. She wasalways there with a sympathetic ear and sensible advice. She was, Jefferson firmly believed, the reasonhe found the strength to face the challenges that life presented to him.The rest of the family had pretty much resumed their old habits as well.
Marsha and Jan did their best to stay out of each others‟ way, but it didn‟t always work out.
Viola poured over art history books, looking for inspiration for her paintings.
Cyrus worked on improving his skills, like playing the piano.
James joined the school‟s debate team, and could frequently be found practicing his speeches in front ofthe mirror in his grandmother‟s room. After all, it would be his when he returned home from college.
Jefferson himself had achieved his goal of becoming the top game designer. He was debating whether ornot he wanted to enjoy the benefits of being at the top, such as increased time off and a generous salary,or start pursuing a new career.
Before long, it was time for Cyrus to become a teenager. While everyone except for Jan was out ofmourning, only the family gathered to mark the occasion.
Cyrus made a wish, took a deep breath, and blew out this candles to the cheers of his family.
Cyrus grew up into a very handsome lad. Like his sister, he sought romance in his life. Unfortunately, hisgreatest wish was to have romantic rendezvous with lots of ladies. He had enough sense to keep thisquiet, as he knew that his parents would not approve.
*************************************************************************************************************************And that is all there is of Chapter 20. I‟ll leave you with a shot of Lonely Jan. She‟s been pretty miserablesince Matthew‟s been gone.This was an especially tough chapter to write. It was hard to say goodbye to Henri (I loved that girlsoooooo much), and strangely, even harder to say goodbye to Matthew. He was a horrible person, but thefirst villain I‟ve written and was a challenge I enjoyed.I hope you enjoyed this installment. Up next, it‟s time for Generation 6 to start heading off to college! You‟llalso get a chance to meet the young lady who will be the next legacy spouse. She‟s something entirelydifferent, and I‟m looking forward to introducing her to you. Please leave all comments on the BradfordLegacy thread at Boolprop.com. Until next time!Oh, and I should give credit where it‟s due. What George tells Melanie on slide 38 is based on thefollowing quote: “Saying sorry doesnt mean youre wrong. Sometimes, it means that youre just tired ofexplaining yourself.” -Isabelle Dagmang