They were married in a quiet ceremony—quiet except for the bells. I don’t know how that was managed, but if any mortal could order the wind, I suppose it would be Henry Velie.
Mother permitted certain minor changes. She still indulged in spates of cooking, but not for pay. Mainly, she went on being herself, to Dad Velie’s apparent satisfaction.
Jimmy started college. I went to Minneapolis. A big-city newsroom is a far cry from a country weekly; I rated slightly lower than the copyboys. But I was learning. Moreover, I shared an apartment with another newspaper-woman, and there were new men in my life. This was living.
I did not return until Christmas weekend. I caught the train after a good hard workday, and dozed most of the way. Then I walked to the club car for a soft drink.
Jeremy Winter sat gazing out a window. He looked thin and tense and extraordinarily tired.
I had not thought of Jeremy in months. It seemed best to leave it that way. I started back to my seat, and heard my name.
Jeremy was on his feet.
“Susan. I’d like to talk to you.”
I went back and joined him, pleased to find myself quite calm.
“I owe you an apology,” he said. “I wanted to explain….”
I felt my cheeks get hot.
“What I said at Dad’s funeral—I hated it, afterward,” he said. “You came up so sweet and sympathetic, and got your little nose bit. I was all wrapped up in myself; I guess it was the first time in my life I had ever done any heavy thinking. What I meant was, you didn’t have anything to regret; you surely never worried your dad.”
“What you said to me wasn’t important,” I said. “Jerry…your father would be proud of you now. Holding a job and making the Dean’s List.”
“How did you know that?”
“Why…your mother told my mother, and she wrote me….”
“my mom did?” Jerry actually flushed with pleasure. “It’s been a long time since Mom’s taken an interest in…anything.”
We pulled into Corinth. I forgot Jeremy in the joy of homecoming. Mother, Dad Velie and Jimmy were waiting, radiating love and welcome. Mother, always a great Christmas keeper, had outdone herself.
They had taken a leisurely trip in the fall, driving on back roads to see the leaves and to forage for small treasures, each chosen to gratify the wish of a friend. People kept coming; the laughter and reminiscing inspired by a sackful of butternuts or a McGuffey’s reader were something to warm the heart.
Plans were afoot to shed a bit of light on Clara Winter’s Christmas. The church had been given a fund made up of contributions from Mr. Winter’s company associates. Mrs. Winter had left its disposition to the trustees. The fund, augmented by a large anonymous donation, had gone for handbells. Mother had secretly trained the young musicians. The Winter Memorial Bell Choir would be presented at the Christmas Eve service.
“We’re taking Clara,” Mother said. “I saw Jeremy get off the train…why don’t you invite him?”
“Indeed I won’t.”
Dad Velie’s benign Santa Claus smile vanished in puzzlement.
“Why ever not?”
“We had quite a thing going for a couple of years. He let it die. If he wants anything started, he can take the initiative.”
“My stars,” said Mother. “It would be no more than a courtesy.”
“If a lady is available, she should make it known,” said Dad Velie with a twinkle. “Some things are too important to be left to chance. Think; I’d never have come home again if somebody hadn’t sent me a copy of the Citizen.”
Mother turned pink. “Susan,” she interposed hastily. “Did you ever figure out Henry’s legend of the bells?”
I thought back. The pieces fell into place. Corinthian Cathedral…First Corinthians, Chapter Thirteen. “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor…and have not love, it profiteth me nothing….”
“The bells ring,” I said slowly,” when someone gives out of his abundance…of love.”
“That’s my gal,” said Dad Velie….
To Be Continued…