Fabulous Wealth

Well, I am back to my old tricks again.  Here is another segment from the book, this one new as of just a few hours ago.  Here is the context:  Rachel Thompson, who bought the old house and has been struggling to finance the renovations has finally found the trunks that the original owners of the house hid behind a brick wall in the basement a little more than 100 years ago.  What follows is a conversation where a representative from Sotheby’s explains what treasures he has found in the trunks.  Ed.

 

It was Saturday and by noon an astonished representative of Sotheby’s was on the scene.  

After reviewing the contents of the trunks, he took Jake and Rachel to an upstairs room where he breathlessly opined that the portraits and larger landscapes were very probably the work of Vincent Van Gogh and, if that were true, each of them could be counted on to bring over a hundred million dollars at auction.

 

“I can’t be as confident about the other works.  Those smaller canvases, the ones with the little crowds and priests and women in gowns, are much, much older.  I can tell that by the materials and the dimming of the colors. I don’t know this for sure, but I think this old series – there are ten of them here – might be commemorations of the wedding of Mary and Maximilian.”

 

At this, Rachel raised her eyes to Jacob, wordlessly asking him for an explanation or at least a request for an explanation.

 

“Who were Mary and Maximilian?” Jacob asked.

 

The Sotheby’s man was obviously pleased to be called on, to have his sophistication recognized.

 

“Mary was the daughter of Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy.  Maximilian was the son of Frederick III, the Emperor of the Habsburg dynasty.  Their marriage, in 1477, was arranged by their two fathers for the purpose of preserving the state of Burgundy which was in that day the wealthiest nation in all of Europe and comprised of territories that are now parts of France, Germany and Belgium.  Charles was getting along in years and he wanted to insure that his country would remain intact after his passing. He knew, or at least he felt, that the Habsburg house was the only power in the world that could insure that. On the other hand, Frederick was tickled pink to receive into his empire the overwhelming wealth of this rich land.  What is important to us now, though, is the story of what Frederick did to try to impress the Duke at the time of the wedding. History tells that the Emperor loaded 500 carts of treasure and commissioned his army to carry the bounty from Vienna, some 700 miles, over river and mountain to Ghent, Burgundy, as a token of the beneficence and power of the Empire.”

 

“I guess Mary must have been impressed,” said Jacob.

 

“No doubt she was, but the important part of the story, for our sakes, at least, is for now apocryphal.  It is this: legend has it that one of the five commanders of this gigantic transport rebelled along the way and carried 100 of the laden wagons to a cave in the Eifel uplands, about two hundred kilometers from Ghent.”

 

“That’s interesting, but why is it of particular importance to us . . now?”

 

“Well. There are 114 known caves in Eifel Uplands, most of them quite remote.  There have been many searches carried out over these last 500 years, in an attempt to recover this stolen bounty.  None of them successful. That is one of the main reasons the story of this mutinous action is doubted by many today.  But I think . . . and I am by now means sure of this . . . that the old map in the trunk here marks the spot where the treasures were hidden.  Marks out that cave.”

 

“We could go there?” Rachel asked.

 

“Yes.” said the man.

 

“Do you have any idea of what this treasure was . . . is?”

 

“Some of it is ruined, undoubtedly.  If there really was any such. Some of it would have consisted of textiles.  Tapestries, gowns, finery of all kinds. Clothing for Mary, undoubtedly. But we can be fairly certain that at least some of it would have survived fairly unharmed. There would likely have been stacks of precious metals – gold and silver bars and ceremonial weapons and armor forged of gold and silver.  There would have been jewelry made by the best artisans in the Empire, set with emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds. And more paintings, of course.”

 

“One hundred wagons full?”

 

“Well. The mutiny started with 100 wagons.  We might assume that some of the soldiers, knowing that they would face execution if they ever returned to Vienna, appropriated some of the loot to themselves.  But if there are only twenty wagons remaining in the cave, it would still be a find unparalleled since the opening of Tut’s tomb.”

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another Bit

Well, here we go again.  Yesterday or the day before I posted a segment of the book having to do with the untimely deaths of Hill Grove’s original owners/inhabitants and reciting a short history of the house and its various occupants up to the present.  But the more I thout about that piece, the more I felt like there was something else to that part of the story, so I wrote more this evening and here it is.  If you’ve been reading along, you will recognize the first two and the last paragraphs below.  They were in my last post and are repeated here to give this new bit some context.  Thank you for reading.  Ed.

 

If the house could be said to have had a golden age, this was it.  The Phillips girls were all handsome and well dressed and they navigated the Walhonde High School social scene with aristocratic grace and confidence. In the late fifties and early sixties an invitation to the Phillips house was the high mark of status among the youth of the town.  Parents then trusted the good Colonel and his stylish wife as chaperones. Even in his vigorous sixties, Colonel Phillips was a squared-away, imposing figure who always found himself cleaning and oiling his handguns as he welcomed the young men of the town into his estate. None dared cross the Colonel.

 

In that happy time the house was filled after every ball game with kids sixteen to eighteen years old.  The Phillips bought an old Wurlitzer jukebox and had it installed in the third-floor ballroom. The high-school dances were still held at the school, but the real parties were afterwards and always at the Phillips mansion.  The house for a time set a higher tone for life in the town.

 

The eldest daughter, Jane, was a blonde with a sparkling smile and the largest reservoir of that mystique that only young girls have and only for a while.  There wasn’t a boy at Walhonde High School who wouldn’t have dropped his steady for a chance with her. In the fall of 1962, she attended an Everly Brothers concert in Charleston.  Phil Everly saw her in the crowd, sent word to her through a roadie and met her backstage. She invited the brothers to her house, went home with her three girlfriends and a chaperoning father, called other friends and put together a real party for Phil and Don, who came immediately.  Phil talked to Jane long into that evening until Colonel Phillips intervened. Before leaving he pressed her for her address and wrote to her for almost two years until Jane became attached to the local boy who would become her husband. Just before the letter writing ended, Phil had arranged for Jane to come to Philadelphia for a taping of American Bandstand.  The Everly Brothers were the musical guests for the show and Phil had high hopes that Colonel Phillips would bring Jane there so that, after his performance, Phil could be seen by teenagers all over the country dancing with the girl of his – and everybody else’s – dreams. Phil wrote a very polite and respectful letter directly to the Colonel and included airline tickets in the envelope, but Phil’s advantages of fame and fortune were finally outweighed by a strong and handsome young man who had the advantage of living in the same town and going to the same school as Jane and the Colonel never had to decide whether he would have allowed the trip to Philadelphia.

 

One boy who attended almost every gathering at the Phillips house in that day was Lawrence Hays.  He suffered from a terribly disfiguring cleft palate and the damage to hearing and speaking that such a condition usually caused in that early time.  This boy had been shunned and otherwise horribly treated in elementary school and was craven and terrified as he began high school in Walhonde. Jane Phillips would not have it.  She befriended the young man and worked through every channel she knew to encourage him to attend the parties at her house. When he finally made it there, hair combed, coat and tie, shined shoes, Jane without saying a word let it be known that she would judge all of the boys by the way they treated Lawrence.  In only weeks his carriage changed. In only months he began to participate in classroom discussions and it soon became obvious that he had a profound gift for drawing. He made a dozen sketches of Jane that the family hung throughout the house and went on to a lucrative career as a commercial artist for Monsanto Chemical Company.

 

All four of Colonel Phillips’ daughters made use of the advantages of such a home in such a town and found good husbands for themselves.  None of them remained in the house past their 20th year and all of them followed their husbands’ prospering careers to faraway cities in the south and midwest.   The Colonel and his wife kept house there until 1968. He was 75 then and she 71 and, although they loved their home and although they had maintained it well and even added to its glory, they knew it was time to simplify, reduce their workload and relocate themselves to a place with milder winters, nearer to one of their daughters.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Bit

 

Well, here we go again.  Yesterday or the day before I posted a segment of the book having to do with the untimely deaths of Hill Grove’s original owners/inhabitants and reciting a short history of the house and its various occupants up to the present.  But the more I thout about that piece, the more I felt like there was something else to that part of the story, so I wrote more this evening and here it is.  If you’ve been reading along, you will recognize the first two and the last paragraphs below.  They were in my last post and are repeated here to give this new bit some context.  Thank you for reading.  Ed.

 

If the house could be said to have had a golden age, this was it.  The Phillips girls were all handsome and well dressed and they navigated the Walhonde High School social scene with aristocratic grace and confidence. In the late fifties and early sixties an invitation to the Phillips house was the high mark of status among the youth of the town.  Parents then trusted the good Colonel and his stylish wife as chaperones. Even in his vigorous sixties, Colonel Phillips was a squared-away, imposing figure who always found himself cleaning and oiling his handguns as he welcomed the young men of the town into his estate. None dared cross the Colonel.

 

In that happy time the house was filled after every ball game with kids sixteen to eighteen years old.  The Phillips bought an old Wurlitzer jukebox and had it installed in the third-floor ballroom. The high-school dances were still held at the school, but the real parties were afterwards and always at the Phillips mansion.  The house for a time set a higher tone for life in the town.

 

The eldest daughter, Jane, was a blonde with a sparkling smile and the largest reservoir of that mystique that only young girls have and only for a while.  There wasn’t a boy at Walhonde High School who wouldn’t have dropped his steady for a chance with her. In the fall of 1962, she attended an Everly Brothers concert in Charleston.  Phil Everly saw her in the crowd, sent word to her through a roadie and met her backstage. She invited the brothers to her house, went home with her three girlfriends and a chaperoning father, called other friends and put together a real party for Phil and Don, who came immediately.  Phil talked to Jane long into that evening until Colonel Phillips intervened. Before leaving he pressed her for her address and wrote to her for almost two years until Jane became attached to the local boy who would become her husband. Just before the letter writing ended, Phil had arranged for Jane to come to Philadelphia for a taping of American Bandstand.  The Everly Brothers were the musical guests for the show and Phil had high hopes that Colonel Phillips would bring Jane there so that, after his performance, Phil could be seen by teenagers all over the country dancing with the girl of his – and everybody else’s – dreams. Phil wrote a very polite and respectful letter directly to the Colonel and included airline tickets in the envelope, but Phil’s advantages of fame and fortune were finally outweighed by a strong and handsome young man who had the advantage of living in the same town and going to the same school as Jane and the Colonel never had to decide whether he would have allowed the trip to Philadelphia.

 

One boy who attended almost every gathering at the Phillips house in that day was Lawrence Hays.  He suffered from a terribly disfiguring cleft palate and the damage to hearing and speaking that such a condition usually caused in that early time.  This boy had been shunned and otherwise horribly treated in elementary school and was craven and terrified as he began high school in Walhonde. Jane Phillips would not have it.  She befriended the young man and worked through every channel she knew to encourage him to attend the parties at her house. When he finally made it there, hair combed, coat and tie, shined shoes, Jane without saying a word let it be known that she would judge all of the boys by the way they treated Lawrence.  In only weeks his carriage changed. In only months he began to participate in classroom discussions and it soon became obvious that he had a profound gift for drawing. He made a dozen sketches of Jane that the family hung throughout the house and went on to a lucrative career as a commercial artist for Monsanto Chemical Company.

 

All four of Colonel Phillips’ daughters made use of the advantages of such a home in such a town and found good husbands for themselves.  None of them remained in the house past their 20th year and all of them followed their husbands’ prospering careers to faraway cities in the south and midwest.   The Colonel and his wife kept house there until 1968. He was 75 then and she 71 and, although they loved their home and although they had maintained it well and even added to its glory, they knew it was time to simplify, reduce their workload and relocate themselves to a place with milder winters, nearer to one of their daughters.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Experiment in Writing

 

I guess that books come to be written and reach completion in many different ways.  Some writers, I’d guess, are organized and disciplined and apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair at the same time every morning and churn out the chapters regularly.  Then there are others who are more haphazard and try to grab scenes out of the air as those scenes occur to them.  Such writers, to be charitable to them, need “incubation time.”

The composition of my third novel, The House at Hill Grove, has certainly taken the later route.  Not a problem for me the writer, but a genuine pain to anyone who is trying to read along and understand the story when it comes in bits and pieces and out of order.

I knew that at some time I would have to go back and review all I have written before to get rid of inconstencies and to tie it all together.  I started that process this afternoon by digging out the first blog posts of this book on this blog.  Some of these are over a year old.  What I have done is read aloud the first five chapters – in order this time –  on my YouTube channel.  I am linking to those videos here for those of you who would like to get a better grip on the story as a whole.  You can treat the videos as podcasts and listen to them as you drive or run or workout.  You could even watch me on your TV.

 

Thanks!

 

Here they are:

 

 

 

Advertisements

Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an advertisement here,
as well as a Privacy & Cookies banner at the bottom of the page.
You can hide ads completely by upgrading to one of our paid plans.

UPGRADE NOW DISMISS MESSAGE

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Experiment in Writing

 

I guess that books come to be written and reach completion in many different ways.  Some writers, I’d guess, are organized and disciplined and apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair at the same time every morning and churn out the chapters regularly.  Then there are others who are more haphazard and try to grab scenes out of the air as those scenes occur to them.  Such writers, to be charitable to them, need “incubation time.”

The composition of my third novel, The House at Hill Grove, has certainly taken the later route.  Not a problem for me the writer, but a genuine pain to anyone who is trying to read along and understand the story when it comes in bits and pieces and out of order.

I knew that at some time I would have to go back and review all I have written before to get rid of inconstencies and to tie it all together.  I started that process this afternoon by digging out the first blog posts of this book on this blog.  Some of these are over a year old.  What I have done is read aloud the first five chapters – in order this time –  on my YouTube channel.  I am linking to those videos here for those of you who would like to get a better grip on the story as a whole.  You can treat the videos as podcasts and listen to them as you drive or run or workout.  You could even watch me on your TV.

 

Thanks!

 

Here they are:

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A History of Hill Grove House

Dear Readers;  Here is another segment from my novel in progress.  If you’ve been reading along you know that the story is about a great house in a small town in West Virginia.  The house was built in 1912 and the story follows the place right up to the present when a woman in the towm buys the old place with teh intent of restoring it to its former glory.  This bit here is the linking between the original owners and all of the others, up until the book’s protagonist, Rachel Thompson, decides to buy it in 2018.  Thanks for reading.  Ed.

 

The Charleston newspapers made less of the car crash that killed Isaac and Rebecca Martin than might have been expected.  

He was wealthy – very wealthy by local standards – and she was nobility – by a very distant standard. But the story was only a single column, beneath the fold, two days after the crash.  It identified the victims and named the drunk driver, a fifteen-year-old boy, who hit the Martins head on as they rounded a blind curve on Walhonde River Road. Four years later the State of West Virginia instituted license requirements for drivers.  But no such thing had been heard of in 1913. The young drunk driver was hospitalized, but survived and was charged with homicide.

The town of Walhonde had no newspaper of its own, but the story of the crash made the news in the town in the old-fashioned way.  People talked of it everywhere. On the streets and in the shops and in the fields and on the porches and lawns. There were, of course, several variations of the story, all of them containing some falsehood.  In one such it was Martin and not the boy who had been drinking. In another it was Rebecca who had been driving the Duesenberg at time of the crash. Some said that although she had never driven before she had begged Isaac to let her have the wheel and that she lost control of the car almost immediately and ran into the poor, unfortunate young man.

Neither Isaac or Rebecca had a next of kin who could be located.

There were even more stories circulating about the house.  What would happen to this grand mansion now that the Martin’s were dead without heirs and there was no one in the town or even the county who could afford such luxury, such extravagance?  There were stories then about treasures left inside the house – silver and gold, china and glassware, paintings and even documents related to happenings in Europe.

Isaac Martin was a rich man when he died, but his estate was not organized.  He began his venture and made his fortune years before the United States Government instituted an Income Tax and decades before anyone had heard of workmen’s compensation, pension plans or lawsuits against employers.   In the early winter when the hardwood trees were harvested, the Walhonde River would be full, bank-to-bank, with massive, hundred-year-old logs, floating down out of Boone and Logan Counties to Martin’s sawmill just above Walhonde Falls.  All of it belonged to Isaac Martin. All of it he converted into lumber. All of it he sold. In ten years he appropriated to his own great profit a wealth of the finest wood that had taken a century of rain and sunshine to grow. Yet his means were simple: great saws, strong laborers, big draft horses and a handy river and railroad.  He amassed a fortune and never once consulted a lawyer.

If his life would have continued unabated, his affairs would have had to be organized, but his wealth had come on like lightning and there was no time for a thought of grooming a second man in charge to take the reins.  His buyers – the men from the cities – took over his business piece by piece as the months passed after his death.

The Charleston newspaper sent Rebecca’s obituary to the Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung in Vienna.  Her aunt, Countess Bertha Von Suttner, read it there with shock, horror and grief. Von Suttner, then ailing with stomach cancer, died only months later and only weeks before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the start of the World War that she had foreseen and spent her life trying to forestall.

More than once the house was broken into and ravaged, but the town finally took it upon itself to secure the place against burglars and in five years the estate was sold on the courthouse steps for back taxes.  The buyer was a congregation that had splintered off from a mainline Presbyterian church in town. Although the group had grand aspirations of starting a new denomination, they were few in number and had little money and so did almost nothing to adapt the house to a place of worship.  The church itself died out a few years later when its founding minister emptied its modest accounts and went south with the 20-year-old church secretary. The old house again sat empty for years until after VE day when Colonel J. M. Phillips, USMC, returned from Germany. With his war pay and inheritances from his and his wife’s parents, he redeemed the property from the county tax liens, moved his wife and four daughters in and began what would be a decades-long project of restoration.

If the house could be said to have had a golden age, this was it.  The Phillips girls were all handsome and well dressed and they navigated the Walhonde High School social scene with aristocratic grace and confidence. In the late fifties and early sixties an invitation to the Phillips house was the high mark of status among the youth of the town.  Parents then trusted the good Colonel and his stylish wife as chaperones. Even in his vigorous sixties, Colonel Phillips was a squared-away, imposing figure who always found himself cleaning and oiling his handguns as he welcomed the young men of the town into his estate. None dared cross the Colonel.

In that happy time the house was filled after every ball game with kids sixteen to eighteen years old.  The Phillips bought an old Wurlitzer jukebox and had it installed in the third-floor ballroom. The high-school dances were still held at the school, but the real parties were afterwards and always at the Phillips mansion.  The house for a time set a higher tone for life in the town.

All four of Colonel Phillips’ daughters made use of the advantages of such a home in such a town and found good husbands for themselves.  None of them remained in the house past their 20th year and all of them followed their husbands’ prospering careers to faraway cities in the south and midwest.   The Colonel and his wife kept house there until 1968. He was 75 then and she 71 and, although they loved their home and although they had maintained it well and even added to its glory, they knew it was time to simplify, reduce their workload and relocate themselves to a place with milder winters, nearer to one of their daughters.

They sold the house to a young doctor who had just established a practice in town and had plans to partner with several others and convert the house into a kind of clinic.  As it turned out, no other doctors were interested in that situation and after a few years of solo practice there the young doctor took a job at a Charleston hospital and leased the house to the Daughters of The American Revolution.   They used the place for their monthly dinners and weekly luncheons and sublet it on occasion to other clubs and civic groups. After a decade, the doctor, who had prospered and now lived in a new home outside of Charleston, wanted rid the of the burden of maintaining the old place and so he sold it for next to nothing to the DAR.

They managed to maintain the place for another twenty years, but as time passed and the town aged and the factories and plants closed their doors, the DAR with its dwindling, aging membership, disabled husbands, and ever-diminishing accounts, could no longer maintain the property and defaulted on the mortgage.  The bank appointed a receiver and continued to rent the place by the day or evening to wedding parties and others – even on occasion the DAR. The bankers finally rid themselves of this net liability by at last finding a buyer with hopes of restoring glory to the place. Alas, hope was not enough and in 1998 the house was defaulted on again and went back into the hands of the bank.  This time the bank simply boarded the place up and left it empty and for twenty years it stood thus, while the rest of the town continued on its slide into shambles.

 

copyright 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Last Day of Isaac Martin

Dear Readers; If you’ve been following these last posts along, you know that they are all a part of a novel in progress, one part of which has to do with the story of Isaac Martin who lived in the early part of the 20th century.  In the last post we left good old Isaac with his wife, princess Rebecca, in the sylvan paradise of Henley Creek.  That day was a good day for old Isaac and his new wife.  But it was his last day.  This is my meditation on the passing of Mr Martin.  Thanks for reading.  Ed.

 

The fate of men is a great mystery.  

No one sees or understands the day or the hour of his own passing or of the passing of men, like Isaac Martin, who might have been great men.  There were those who were sure of the destiny of Isaac Martin. Foremost of whom was Countess Bertha Von Suttner. In all her prescience and wisdom, this woman who saw beforehand the coming war; who saw that her nation, this thousand-year-old empire, would perish in its flames; who had discerned perfectly the sin of her people, that they had abandoned the God who created the cosmos and has defeated the lesser and the evil spirits they call gods; who so profoundly urged repentance on those in her nation who had worshiped the god of war; she saw in Martin a new hope.  This man, she believed, had all that was needed to save her beloved niece, princess Rebecca, from the horror and impoverishment that surely awaited them all in the old country. He carried destiny on his shoulders like a light and momentary trouble. She had hoped for, yet had never before seen, a man like this who rode the current as it served and never cowered or erred. She believed that her niece was safe, more than safe, with him; that as Isaac Martin’s wife she would inherit the abundant life for which she was surely born; the life she was equipped to fulfill.

Likewise, all the men who depended on Martin for their livelihoods – the men in the great cities with whom he traded the bounty of the earth and who changed that bounty – the timber and the minerals – into ever spreading wealth that lifted the lives of every citizen – and the men who worked for Martin; men who would have otherwise spent short lives eking out subsistence on thirty acres and who under Martin’s supervision were now building cities and their own homes and fortunes within those cities.

All these good people were confident in Isaac Martin.  He was the man in whom ability and opportunity met. There would be no end to his industry and influence, they believed.

But the fates of men are a great mystery.  Even the fates of men, like Isaac Martin, who might have been great men, no one foresees, no one understands.

Isaac Martin had met good fortune at every turn.  He had begun an empire of hope and prosperity that might have borne rich harvests, year upon year, long after the long life that all presumed he would lead.  He had found and married the last jewel of the Austrian Empire and in her he would have not only the desire of his heart, but a lasting house and a home of unparalleled dignity and charity.  Every sign, every bit of evidence pointed his way.

And on this sunny Monday, June 2, 1913, as he lay with his beloved beneath the fragrant evergreens and listened to the clear stream laugh as it rushed over the stones and as his body relaxed in the first mild warmth of summer, Isaac Martin felt his own good fortune: the health in his still-young bones; the rapturous beauty of the princess beside him; the promise of unending and multiplying returns on his endeavors in the city and the town.

But the fates of men are a mystery.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Picnic on Henley Creek

Readers;  Here is another snippet from my novel in progress.  This scene is from the backstory and takes place in 1913.  Thanks for reading.  Ed.

 

Image result for forest brook

 

 

June 2, 1913 was a beautiful Monday.  It had been a late spring in West Virginia and the trees on the mountains and hillsides all around the town of Walhonde were not yet in full foliage and the morning breeze pulled on the young branches and lifted them up like green skirts, giving the happy onlooker a glimpse of their snowy undersides.  weeks before Isaac and Rebecca Martin had settled on this day for their own picnic. They had sent the cook and maid away to their families for two weeks together while they received and managed the three red trunks. The servants would be returning the following day. The work done to hide the trunks had been hurried and there were concerns about the too-wet mortar that the workers had used in the effort.  But the time was up, all was put away, and whatever might need to be corrected or repaired could be done later, when circumstances were not pressing. However happy Isaac might have been with Rebecca as a wife, she was no cook and no housekeeper. The servants were needed immediately to restore order to the house and to their lives.

Isaac had ordered their picnic lunch from Nick Corey’s Confectionary on Main Street, only a block from the house.  Mr. Corey rarely had such a blank check and he knew that pleasing Martin would mean nothing but high dividends for his business and life in town and so he sent to Charleston for the best pickles, olives, peppers, and cold meats.  He fried two chicken thighs and two breasts and made a lovely plate of deviled eggs and hand packed a quart of vanilla ice cream and put four bottles of cream soda on ice and wrapped it all in white cloth and put it in a woven basket for the day.

Rebecca packed only their second-best china plates and silverware and glasses in thick cloth and wrapped it all in a blue wool Hudson Bay blanket.  She wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and a white cotton dress and they packed the Duesenberg, removed the top and headed up the river road under the morning sun.

Isaac knew the place he wanted to take his beloved girl.  His company had timbered much of the Walhonde valley already, leaving many hillsides bare and so in spring, when rain was frequent, most of the feeder streams ran muddy for days on end.  He had preserved one entire watershed. Henley Creek, eleven miles upstream from the town of Walhonde, had not seen a single lumberjack’s saw or axe. The timber on the mountains of the five hollows that drained into the brooks and branches that fed Henley Creek was virgin oak, beech, poplar, elm, maple, hickory, walnut, cherry, hemlock, pine and chestnut and the soil there was held firmly by the deep and spreading roots and the ferns and mosses that grew in the shade of the ancient giants.  Isaac knew that on June 2, even if it had rained the day before, Henley Creek would be running gin clear and that the wide turn in the creek where the dirt road ended would be sparkling blue and the air beneath the stand of hemlocks there would be cool and fresh and carry the fragrance of the forest blossoms. It was a fitting place to bring a princess and Isaac Martin intended to keep it that way.

Only Martin and the Henley family, who maintained a homestead at the head of the last hollow, had keys to the gate barring the road up Henley Creek.  Isaac left the car idling as he got out and swung the gate wide. In only moments, the car was parked in the last wide space the road afforded and the two of them were seated on the blue blanket beside the bend in the gurgling stream.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.  “So much like home. I didn’t know such a place existed so near.”

“Nobody else does, either,” said Isaac, “and I hope to keep it that way as long as I can.”

 

copyright 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rebecca’s Letter Home

Readers;  Sorry I’ve been away from the keys for so long, but here is another little slice from my forthcoming novel.  The letter that follows is written by Rebecca Martin to her Aunt Bertha Von Suttner.  Ms Von Suttner was a real person.
Image result for bertha von suttner
She is famous as the author of one of the first European anti-war books, Lay Down Your Arms.  She was a Baroness and held other titles in Austrian society in the late 19th and very early 20th century.  She was responsible for convincing Alfred Nobel to establish and endow the Noble prizes.  In fact, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, the first woman to be so honored.
Rebecca Martin is a fictional character.  In my book she is the niece of Bertha Von Suttner.  Rebecca is an Austrian princess whose mother has died.  Von Suttner steps in to help raise the girl and is instrumental in convincing Rebecca that she should accept Isaac Martin’s proposal and marry him and move to America.  Part of Von Suttner’s motive is to save Rebecca from the catastrophe of World War I that she sees on horizon.
Thanks for reading.  Comments are welcome.  Ed.

 

 

 

May 12th, 1913

My Dearest Aunt Bertha;

 

I write to tell you that we have received the trunks you sent and found them intact and containing all that you represented in your letter.  I must say that I find the portraits of you and Arthur extremely satisfying. This artist – Mr. Van Gogh – has something of genius about him.  The paintings are simplistic and overdone, but somehow capture something of the subject’s essence – of your and Arthur’s essence – that other artists could not catch or even perhaps see.  I think you are quite right that this painter may gain in stature and someday be quite famous. There is an almost indescribable, even impossible, combination of depth and brilliance in these portraits.  We shall guard them well for the day when life there is more settled.

 

I do miss you, Aunt, you and Poppa and Arthur, but you were right to encourage me to come to America.  I am not lonely here and the life that lays before me is bright with promise and opportunity for growth and charity.  This country looks forward, not backward as our own. Here all of life is about work and progress and producing and inventing.  Everything moves. There is little in the way of social structure and that is good. Here men – and women, too – make their way in the world upon their own merit and effort.  No one is dependent on rank or birth. Such notions are unknown to the people here. All is about Möglichkeit.

 

My dear Isaac’s heart is a true heart.  He does not tire of me like the men of our country tire of their wives and lust for the battlefield or the brothel.  I am convinced that his love for me grows as the months and years go by. (Sometimes I don’t know why. I am not always the wife that I should be, although I am learning as I go.)   He trusts me with the affairs of this wonderful house and our resources are quite sufficient, even abundant, as we add to this estate and as we lead our community and engage with leaders from other cities in the transacting of Isaac’s business in timber and coal.  The wealth that surrounds us now is inexhaustible and virtually untapped. Isaac, by vision, vigor, and investment, has put hundreds of men to work here, and now they build their own houses and start their own families and live and create.

 

You must come here.  You and Arthur. There is more than enough opportunity for you to begin again and to succeed to a measure you have not imagined. Your book is well known here.  Indeed, the people of America are much more like you – they do not want war. Our house here – Maple Top – is waiting to be filled with your laughter and wisdom.  My gardens could use your touch. Come soon, and escape the coming wrath.

 

copyright 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More From The Book

Readers;
Sorry I have been away from the keys for so long.  I’ve missed you!  What follows is yet another excerpt from the novel in progress.  Let me give you a little bit of background here so that the post may make a little more sense.  The characters who are speaking to each other here are Rachel Thompson and Jacob Eaton.  If you’ve been reading along as I have posted from the book over the last few months, you know that Rachel is the main character in the story.  She’s in her late 30s/early 40s and recently widowed.  She has decided (foolishly, according to all her friends) to sink all of the proceeds of her late husband’s life insurance policy into rehabilitating an old, once grand house in her home town.  Jacob Eaton is a man who dated Rachel briefly some twenty years before, when they were in high school.  She rejected him then.  He has gone on to tremendous success as a lawyer practicing in the world of transactions involving masterpieces of art.  He is rich and famous.  He has come to Rachel’s door to renew his suit for her.  This conversation takes place in Rachel’s house, still in the little town where the two of them grew up.
Thanks for reading.
Ed.

 

 

“You’ve had an interesting life, Jacob.  I have heard the outlines of it and it sounds almost unbelievable.  More than you might have imagined back in our day. You’ve got to see yourself as very successful.”

“I see myself as very fortunate.  But I won’t say that I have more than I imagined back in our day.”

“You imagined this?  What you have now? Great wealth?  An international reputation? Friends all over the world?”

“No.  Not that.  But I did imagine fulfillment.  Complete fulfillment and rest. I saw what I thought I was meant to be.  I saw the life that was meant for me. I saw my destiny.”

“And that has come true?”

“In ways, yes.”

In ways? Oh, come on, Jacob.  What else could you want?  What else could anyone ant?”

“I can’t put my finger on it, exactly.  I can’t explain or describe it. It’s something I feel.”

Rachel had been leaning forward as they talked, but as she heard this last answer she exhaled and sank back into the couch.  “I think I know what you mean,” she said. “I do know what you mean.”

“Can you help me, then?  Can you describe it? Explain it?  Give me a clue?”

“No.  But for me it is tied up with the house.  The old Phillips place. You know what I am doing there.”

“I do.  And on one level it seems crazy to me.  I’ve lived in the world, Rachel. I’ve seen all kinds of battles fought.  And I know that there are losers. There are folks who venture and lose and who spend their lives thereafter, as Shakespeare put it ‘bound in shallows and in miseries.’  You could lose everything in that place. It could really happen and the consequences are real.”

“Consequences are something I’m willing to talk about.  Look at this town. Look at our home; the place we lived; the place where we once dreamed.   Look what has happened all around us. Every sign of grace is gone. What is that the consequence of?”

“I don’t know exactly.  It would be hard to count all of the forces that are at work here.  Some are economic. Some are cultural. And I wouldn’t have said this twenty years ago, but here it is: some are demonic.  But you are fighting too big a battle. You can’t expect to prevail.”

“Then what about the missionaries?  What about those people who went to the four corners of the earth?  Who took the gospel into the most hostile and primitive cultures and nations against all odds?  They had no money and no power. What do you say about them?”

“That there are forces greater than money and political power.  That there are forces greater than the forces that corrupt. I know this to be a fact.  It is invisible to many; to those who stay at home and know nothing of the world other than what they hear on the news.  But there are powerful forces for good that are operating in the world and they often work through the simplest and most subtle of means.  Through friendship. Through some individual having the courage to speak the truth in the right place at the right time. I must admit I did not know that you were thinking of this project of yours in those terms.”

“We spend so much on charity abroad.  How many years the twenty-eight churches in this town have given thousands upon thousands to build up institutions elsewhere.  Hospitals and orphanages in Africa and South America. That’s all to the good. But what has happened here? Things fall apart . . . the ceremony of innocence is drowned.  There is no vision.”

“But is this response of yours really rational?  Isn’t there something else? Some other means of employing your energy and resources that would not risk the complete ruin of both?”

“I think that being rational has almost nothing to do with it.  Being rational is what got us here. What this place needs – what I need – is something that is almost necessarily irrational.  That is extravagant. That is above the common. That is an inspiration. That gives a vision. Something that speaks not of practicality but of rapture and complete fulfillment.”

“Fulfillment is my word.  I said it first.”

“Okay, then.  You tell me what you mean by it.  Do your best.”

“I had a speech ready to give when I first heard that you were alone again.  I saved it, of course, until enough time had passed to make it permissible and proper for me to approach you.  It’s been a year and a half now, and I have. . . well, not a day has gone by in that interim that I did not think of this speech and work on its perfection.  I have never been more motivated to communicate something. But when I heard from Linda that you would not want to see me again, I put the speech away. It would have been, I thought, not only useless, but painful to us both to revisit the emotions we – or at least I – once had.  But now you have asked the question. I haven’t manipulated you. It’s fairly before us now and if I am to answer your question I can’t be more true or honest than in giving you the speech I polished and thought to abandon.

“Have you ever heard of the valley of Eschol?”

“The name doesn’t ring a bell.”

“It’s a place in Palestine.  I don’t know if anyone really knows where in Palestine.  But the point is that it is – was – a place in the Promised Land.

“You remember the story of Caleb and Joshua?”

“Not sure.  Give me a start on it.”

“There were twelve spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land as he and the children of Israel camped in the desert just outside.  When the men returned, ten of them told the congregation that they should not try to enter in. That the inhabitants were as giants and that at their hands the Israelites would face certain annihilation.  They saw the negative forces. But two of the spies – Joshua and Caleb – said just the opposite – that the land was as rich as had been promised and that it was theirs for the taking. That God’s promise was enough for them.  They would conquer. They would inherit. They would prosper. They would find rest.”

“I remember.  But what about the valley of Eschol?”

“That was the place in the Promised Land that Joshua and Caleb saw.  While they were there they picked a cluster of grapes. The bible says that the cluster was so big and so lush that it had to be carried on a pole between two men.  A single cluster. That’s how rich the land was. The bible says that they came to the valley in the season of the first ripe grapes.

“And you know the rest of the story.  The naysayers – the guys who warned the Israelites not to attempt to enter the Promised Land – carried the day.  And Israel was thereby doomed to wander for 40 years in the desert, until the entire generation that had cowered had passed away.  That generation spent their lives in shallows and in miseries when they could have taken the land and in lived in peace and abundance.”

“It’s a great story.  But why tell it to me?”

“Because the season we had together all those years ago was the season of the first ripe grapes.  We could have entered in. We could have known peace and prosperity and the fulfillment of our destiny.  That is what I feel. That is what haunts me.”

“But, even so, why now?”

“Because there were two exceptions.  Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land.  They endured. They lived. They found rest. When I heard that you were alone again I thought that I had my second chance to enter in.  It’s only been twenty years for me and not 40, but I was sure of it.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment