The Letter – Chapter Three

Alice, in an almost dream-like state, said, “oh, Papa.  He’s so very fine and polite and charming and handsome and smart.”

Papa said, “and does he share this infatuation?”  Alice said, “it’s not an infatuation, Papa.  You know how it is when you meet someone and you instantly know that they’re the one?”

Papa looked down and sadly said, “yes child.  I know the feeling.  It was that way with your mother.  I knew the first time I laid eyes on her that she was the only one for me.  I still miss her every day and I thank God that He allowed me to have you to remember her by.”

Alice got up and put her arms around him.  She said, “I’m sorry if I made you feel sad, Papa.”  He said, “with great love, there is always great sorrow when one of you dies, but it is with love and happiness that I remember her.  She wouldn’t have wanted me to remember her with tears and sadness.”

He sat down and said, “now tell me more about this young man.”

Alice said, “he’s a structural engineer and he wants to build things that will last.  He’s not a ‘here and now’ person.  He wants future generations to appreciate things that will endure throughout the ages.”

Papa smiled and said, “well, I’d like to meet him.  Bring him to dinner on Sunday.”  Then he leaned toward her and said, “but you must be careful who you give your heart to.  You must be sure, because when you give your heart away, it’s forever.”

Alice smiled and said, “Papa, you’re such a romantic.  I can see why mother loved you so much, and that’s why I love you so much.”

Papa chuckled and said, “get off with you now.”

Suddenly Alice spun around and said, “oh Papa.  I don’t even know how to get in touch with him.”  Thinking aloud, she said, “I’ll go into town tomorrow and look for him.  That would be quite forward and very unladylike but…”

Before she could finish her mental strategy, Papa said, “maybe you could drive into town, get stuck in a ditch again and he could rescue you again.”

Alice looked at him with wide-eyed surprise, but said nothing.  He had a twinkle in his eye when he said, “did you think that young Jacob was the only one who saw you?”

Once again, Alice hugged him and said, “Papa, you’re so wise and so wonderful and I do love you so dearly.”

He said, “how about we both take a trip into town tomorrow?  It might not look so…how did you put it?  So forward and unladylike?”

Alice almost squealed with delight.  “Yes, Papa.  That’s what we shall do. Oh, thank you Papa.  Thank you.  Thank you.”

The next day, Alice and Papa drove into town, past Granville’s Department Store, toward the Worth Building, thinking they might see him there.

When they didn’t, they drove to Tierney’s and just as they arrived, they saw Jacob hug a woman and give her a soft kiss on the cheek.


To be continued_____________________


The Letter – Chapter Two

When Alice finally got home, her Papa expressed concern about the lateness of her arrival.  She didn’t dare betray herself by admitting that she had gotten stuck in a ditch, so she fabricated a story about being enamored with the new frocks on display at Granville’s Department Store.

Her Papa, being an astute man, looked at her and said, “are you sure you were only looking at new frocks?”  Alice smiled and said, “Papa.  You know me so well.  I really was looking at frocks, but I was also looking at a somewhat handsome young man.”

“Tell me about this young man,” her Papa said.

She began to describe her gallant rescuer, who unbeknownst to her Papa, had also rescued his car, but she didn’t tell the whole truth.  In her version of the story, it was she who was the heroine.

“He took a wrong turn,” she said.  “I set him on the right path, and tomorrow, as a way of thanking me, we are going to Tierney’s.  His name is Jacob Harper and he’s fetching me at three o’clock.”

Her Papa could see a glow about her and he knew that his young man had to be something special to have turned his young daughter’s head.

Alice was a beauty.  She had a double row of impossibly long lashes that framed coquettish, hyacinth-colored eyes with golden flecks that seemed to dance around her pupils when she blinked.  Her long, slender neck was accentuated by her porcelain colored, heart-shaped face that required only the slightest bit of rouge to give her the appearance of a modest blush.

Alice’s defiance of confining rules did not convey when it came to the dictum that long, loose tresses were not respectable in public.  She wore her thick, dark hair swept up, held in place by a jade-colored dragonfly comb given to her by her late grandmother, and she had no need for the commonly used “rats,” designed to increase hair volume and make it appear fuller.

She vehemently resisted the wearing of a restrictive corset, just to achieve what she considered a ridiculous Empire silhouette.  Her small, twenty-inch waist was as she said, “a gift of nature and had no need for such torturous apparel.”

Alice was unable to sleep that night, nervously anticipating her rendezvous with the aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching young man.  She was not easily charmed but something about him seemed to touch her on an almost mystical level.

The next day, even though tired from the lack of rest, Alice counted the hours until the clock struck three.

At three o’clock sharp, Jacob arrived, driving a three-wheeled, open carriage Motorwagen and wearing a stylish, knee-length topcoat.  His trousers boasted cuffs and were meticulously creased, both front and back. He wore a stiff collared shirt and a four-in-hand tie.  On his head sat a soft, felt bowler hat with a rounded crown, which he tipped when first seeing Alice.

“Good afternoon, Lissy,” he said with a broad grin.  “My carriage awaits.”

Alice hoisted up her long skirt and gracefully slithered onto the lush red leather seat.  Jacob gingerly placed a wool blanket on her lap and having never seen such a contraption, she asked about its origin.

“It was designed and built by a mechanical engineer named Karl Benz,” Jacob said.  “It’s powered by a single stroke, 4 cylinder internally combustible engine, housed in a steel horseshoe frame.”

“It has a top speed of almost ten miles an hour.  I find it to be quite delightful to drive, that is unless I happen to be out during a rainstorm.”

He smiled and said, “then, as you would imagine, it’s a bit uncomfortable.”

When they arrived at Tierney’s, he ordered two cups of hot chocolate and two Bonbons.  Alice was mesmerized by this young man and found herself lost in thoughts as she watched his playful interactions with the young female server.

He was a deliciously striking man, with dark hair, aristocratic eyebrows and cool, seductive ice-blue eyes.  An impeccably trimmed mustache rested above his generous, provocative lips.  His strong hands were meticulously well-groomed and seemed to bear no signs of callouses often indicative of hard, manual labor.

Alice finally gathered her senses enough to ask what he did for a living. “I’m a structural engineer,”  he said, “and I dabble a bit in metallurgy.  Are you familiar with the Worth building?”

Alice said, “is that the big building around the corner from Granville’s?” Jacob smiled and said, “yes.  I helped design it.  I hope to someday be famous, not necessarily for elegantly pleasing buildings, but more for safe, sound buildings that will withstand the test of time.”  He looked pensive as he said, “I want to design buildings that will still be here a hundred or even two hundred years from now.”

Jacob wasn’t the only one who was smitten.  Alice could hardly contain her eagerness to know more about this exciting, thoughtful young man but alas, the hour was growing late and it was nearing time for her to return home.

With the promise to call on her again, Jacob dropped Alice off at her house.  He walked her to the door, kissed her hand and said, “until we meet again, Lissy.”

She was smiling as she watched him drive down the road and as his car crested the hill, she couldn’t see that he was smiling, too.

When she went inside, she sat down in the comfortable side chair and said, “oh Papa.  I’ve just had hot chocolate and a Bonbon with the man I’m going to marry.”

Her Papa smiled and said, “good Heavens, child.  What was in them?”


To be continued_______________


The Letter – Chapter One

Alice had become accustomed to anxiously awaiting word from her beloved husband when he was away on business.  During those times, she was always overcome with joy when the letter carrier handed her an envelope.

Their unexpected, unlikely romance began on a chilly day in November, some five years earlier.

Having been trusted with her father’s brand new Model-T Ford, Alice had taken it for a spin uptown to do some shopping.

She was feisty and being seen driving a car was not the first time she had raised eyebrows.  She once donned a pair of trousers and ventured into town.  That prompted a visit from the local clergyman, who prayed for her immortal soul and only after the threat of arrest for “cross-dressing,” did she return to the more fashionable and acceptable style of long frocks.

Women were supposed to be prim and proper and stay at home, but Alice was never going to follow the cookie cutter idea of what was expected from the female persuasion.

She was daring and not afraid to try anything, but she was not yet familiar with the potential hazards of driving on a snow-covered, unpaved road. Alas, before she knew what was happening, the car slid into a ditch.

While pondering which would be the most frowned upon…waiting all night, guarding the car in the bitter cold, or leaving it and walking home in the bitter cold; she was suddenly distracted by a handsome young man who stopped and offered assistance.

He introduced himself as Jacob Harper.  When she told him her name was Alice, without a second thought, he said, “Well, Lissy.  Let’s see if we can get this car of yours unstuck.”

Alice had never cottoned to nicknames and was properly incensed when someone dared to shorten her name to “Ally,” but for some unexplained reason, this handsome young man’s moniker didn’t seem to bother her. Actually, she rather liked it.

After relentless prodding and careful persuasion, Jacob was able to coax the car back onto the road.  Clearly smitten, he said, “this is what you might call serendipitous.  I made a wrong turn on my way home, you were stuck in a ditch and here we are on the side of the road…together.”

A polite suggestion to follow her the rest of the way home to insure her safe arrival, was met with a flirtatious smile, a genteel refusal and a reminder that it was not she who was stuck in the ditch.

“Indeed you were not,” said a not yet ready to surrender Jacob.  “Let me make amends by treating you to a cup of hot chocolate and a Bonbon at Tierney’s tomorrow.”  He smiled playfully as he said, “maybe I could come fetch you, lest your car get stuck in a ditch again.”

Alice found Jacob to be quite bold and also thought him to be a bit full of himself, but she was never going to settle for a run-of-the-mill, “fancy man,” as gentlemen folk were often called.

She was intrigued by his self-assurance and daring suggestion after only a brief encounter, but after a slight hesitation, found herself agreeing. “Fine,” she said.  “I live in the big white house at the end of the road and you may come fetch me at three.”

Jacob was smiling as he watched her drive down the road and as the car crested the hill, he couldn’t see that she was smiling, too.


To be continued_________________








That Old Violin – Chapter Four

The townsfolk thought that surely, the music from that old violin would be silenced forever.  How could anyone possibly beseech mournful, melancholy diapasons from only one string?

One year later, a drifter wandered onto the unlikely, mostly untraveled path to Melody.  The secret of that old violin had been carefully guarded by the townsfolk, and they were suspicious when this unfamiliar, never-before-seen stranger, seemed to appear out of nowhere.

He had thick, wild wisps of unkempt silver hair and hooded lids that partially covered almost unreadable, yet strangely imploring eyes.  His thick black brows hung low and were in stark contrast to that shock of Argentine tresses.

His clothing suggested that he might be a wretched beggar, who had somehow lost his way while traveling through the trials and tribulations of what we call life.  He wore tall leather boots with soles held in place with pieces of cloth, most likely torn from a discarded shirt.  An over sized belt hung loosely around his waist and from every punch hole in the leather hung a key, causing a soft tintinnabulation when he walked.

Giving every sign of being unapproachable, the townsfolk kept their distance and watched the outsider circumambulate the streets, as if looking for something he had no hope of finding.

Could he be a guardian?  Could he be one of the custodians, picked by the angel the townsfolk believed left that old violin in the town of Melody?

He had no visible affliction, as had Amos, Rufus and Old Sooty Sam.  This visitor’s only suffering appeared to be loneliness and a lack of purpose.  If he was a custodian, could that old violin cure the curse of solitude and abrogate his seemingly aimless existence?

Their unspoken questions were answered when the traveler found himself standing on the corner of Fifth and Main.  The townsfolk watched as he looked at that old violin as though it was a long, lost friend.

Gasps could be heard when he picked up that old violin and began to play. Just as before, the mystifying, inexplicable, what had to be unnatural sounds, brought the town to a halt.

But how?  How could those penetrating, perplexing, esoteric sounds be coming from that old violin, when it had only one string?  With their ever-abiding faith, the townsfolk accepted the unknown, and relished in the heart-moving, overpowering, ever-breathtaking refrains the stranger brought forth from that old violin.

One year later, the curious transient disappeared.  That old violin was found on the corner of Fifth and Main, with four strings hanging loose and four feathers resting beside it.


The End.


“But Grandma,” Polly said, with disappointment in her voice.  “What happened next?”

Grandma smiled and said, “this story has a moral, little one.”

“What moral?” asked Polly.

Grandma looked at Polly and said, “Sometimes the things or the people we think have the least value, are the most truly beautiful.”









That Old Violin – Chapter Three

Once again, the town of Melody mourned the loss of another custodian and the beautiful music elicited from that old violin.

It was doubtful they thought, that another guardian could beguile any music from that old violin, given that only two strings remained.  But hope, being the last emotion to die, was alive and well in the town of Melody and their faith in miracles was unshakable.

They anxiously awaited the next custodian and prayed for the return of the captivating, transcendent sounds from that old violin.

One year later, their prayers were answered in the form of yet another forgotten soul, known only as Old Sooty Sam.  He had been a chimney sweep in his earlier days and was always covered in a fine layer of soot, from his worn and wrinkled face, to his baggy trousers held up by a rope, to his blackened boots that left tell-tale footprints everywhere he went.

Old wood-burning fireplaces had given way to more modern gas logs, and his services finally dwindled to all but unnecessary.  He had been cast aside and stood frozen in time, abandoned by trend-setting inventions.

After years of breathing the soot and dust from those old chimneys, Old Sooty Sam developed lung disease.  He could barely walk three feet without having to stop and catch his breath.  That may have been the reason, like Amos and Rufus, that Old Sooty Sam was a man of few, if any, words.

He spent his days wandering around town looking at chimneys, as if tying to will them to once again, spew forth clouds of smoke that would leave their fuliginous residue behind.

One day, at noon, he wandered over to the corner of Fifth and Main, picked up that old violin and began to play.

With only two strings, Old Sooty Sam charmed irresistible, seductive music from that old violin.  Once again, the town of Melody was mesmerized and brought to a halt.  The enduring question was “how,” but was never asked aloud, for fear of breaking the magical spell of that old violin.

The more Old Sooty Sam played, the clearer his lungs became and the easier it was for him to breathe.  Day after day, the town listened to the breathtakingly intoxicating sounds that he was, in an unworldly way, able to lure from the remaining strings of that old violin.

Old Sooty Sam disappeared one day and that old violin was found on the corner of Fifth and Main, with three strings hanging loose and three feathers resting beside it.


To be continued______________________

That Old Violin – Chapter Two

The town mourned the loss of Amos and the beautiful music from that old violin, but they agreed that where ever Amos went, he was surely in a better place.

Six months later, another custodian appeared and the haunting music was heard once again in the small town of Melody.  A virtual recluse named Rufus wandered into town.  He hobbled to the corner of Fifth and Main, picked up that old violin and began to play.

Rufus lived in a little shack on top of the hill.  Like the legend of that old violin, he had been around for as long as anyone could remember.  He kept to himself mostly, only occasionally making the trip into town to buy a jar of moonshine from the local sheriff, who made it in his own basement.

Rufus had a bad limp that made walking difficult.  At a tender age, he broke his leg and it hadn’t healed right.  After being embarrassed as a boy and then as a young man, he retreated to his little shack, living a life of anonymity and loneliness.

Unlike Amos, Rufus had large, calloused hands that made you believe he could snap your wrist if you had weak bones.  His clothes were tattered and disheveled, as if they had been slept in and had that familiar musty smell of old people and old things.  His hat was pulled tightly below his brow and what may once have been a full beard was now scruffy, silvery stubble.

He had heavy, sunken eyes that showed more than just a hint of sadness, and like Amos, never spoke. The most anyone could expect, or would get from Rufus was a nod of recognition that they were actually there as he passed by.

Just as Amos had before him, every day at noon Rufus brought the town to a stop as they listened to the ethereal tunes from that old violin.  The music teacher at the local high school declared, “In my thirty-eight years of teaching, I have never heard anything so beautiful,” and then began to cry.

Some wondered how Rufus was able to entice the same soul-stirring music with only three strings, but the town honored what they believed was a gift from an angel and never questioned anything about that old violin, or the custodian who played that hauntingly beautiful music.

Day after day, Rufus played the seductive, almost paralyzing music on that old violin, and day after day his gait improved until he walked with the vigor of a youthful man in his prime.

Some believed that the angel actually lived inside that old violin, and as a way of doing penance, used the hands of the custodian to elicit the music they had chosen over a place beside God.  In return, the custodian’s brokenness was healed.

After a year, just like Amos, Rufus disappeared and that old violin was found on the corner of Fifth and Main, with two strings hanging loose and two feathers resting beside it.



To be continued__________________________

That Old Violin – Chapter One

There was something magical about that old violin.  Some people said it was brought to Earth by a fallen angel who gave up eternity and a golden trumpet, just to listen to the music that echoed from the worn and tattered strings.

In the small town of Melody, the folks passed down the tale of that old violin to next generations, but zealously guarded its secret from the prying eyes of outside curiosity seekers.

No one really knew exactly when the tale began, but for as long as anyone could remember, there had been carefully chosen custodians, some say, granted by the very angel who brought that old violin to the town.

The first caretaker was a man named Amos, who never spoke.  He was one of the old-timers who had been born and raised in Melody.  No one ever knew his last name but they did know that he had never learned to read or write and had never been able to hold a steady job.  He settled for a wandering lifestyle, albeit within the confines of the town.

Amos had some age on him and it showed.  His steel-blue eyes were cloudy, like the sky before a summer squall.  His small, delicate hands were showing the crippling signs of arthritis and his craggy, weathered face bore the wrinkles of many years of homelessness and some said, hopelessness. He was a tall man and the years had taken their toll.  When he meandered around, it was with stooped shoulders and it looked as if each step he took was excruciatingly painful.

Every day, Amos walked to the middle of town.  It may have been for the warmth of the sun but many folks thought that maybe he came because it made him feel a little less alone.  Word had it that one day, he sauntered to his usual spot at the corner of Fifth and Main and found that old violin. He picked it up and began to coax the most hauntingly beautiful music anyone had ever heard.  It was the kind of music that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that there had to be a higher being.

The heart-piercing timbre of that old violin seemed to have healing powers.  The more Amos played, the straighter his fingers became and his eyes began to clear.  He stood tall and proud as he and that old violin serenaded the townsfolk.

Soon, anyone with an ailment wondered if they listened to the music and their faith was strong enough, would they, like Amos, be miraculously cured?  Even the doubters, having heard the music would say, “Oh, my. How can you hear something that beautiful and not be forever changed?”

Every day at noon, Amos picked up that old violin and began to play.  The owners and patrons of the near-by stores walked out onto the sidewalk to stand and listen to the soul-stirring arias.  Some of them wept.  Others stood in stunned silence as if waiting for the Heavens to open up and welcome them home.

Amos could play that old violin like it was a Stradivarius.  The townsfolk believed that they had been given a gift and it was not for them to question any means of that old violin, nor did they ever question Amos.

The next spring, Amos vanished and the music ended.  That old violin was found lying on the corner of Fifth and Main, with one string hanging loose and a lone feather resting beside it.


To be continued_____________________