by KD Miller
Millen has unlocked the mystery of his grandfather's missing brother. (Millen-1911)
| THIS CHAPTER IS NOT COMPLETE. This is an extremely long chapter, so I'm dividing it into three chapters on WDC, this is the third chapter. When the book is published, chapters 27, 28, and 29 will be one chapter.
The following day, I followed Francis into the Sherwood College Private Library, while Dylan, Theodore, Ashton, Jasper, and Clinton helped my father remove the old attic balcony door. Grandfather took his tea and his brother's diaries to his room. He promised to bookmark anything extraordinary and let me read it when I returned.
"Can I help you?" Miss Atteberry, the middle-aged, unmarried, librarian asked with a slight smile upon her face.
"My brother and I have a two-hour study session," Francis said, as he reached up to remove his hat.
I watched the woman's eyes skim over the ledger on her desk. "Yes, I booked the two of you into a private room."
A feeling of nostalgia settled in my body. I hadn't been in this library since last summer when I used Francis's name to read the medical books. Miss Atteberry led us to a corner room and opened the door. The room held a small table and six chairs. A framed sign on the wall told the payment of fifty cents an hour to use the private quarters. I couldn't believe the students had to pay for a study room!
Francis reached into his pocket and produced a dollar bill for payment, where Miss Atteberry accepted with a smile.
"Enjoy your session, and tell your grandfather I will see him in church on Sunday."
"Yes, ma'am," we answered, as the librarian flipped the sign on the door handle to "occupied." and left.
With the door securely shut behind us, Francis hung his hat on the stand in the corner.
"Our father once told me that Miss Atteberry has always had a slight crush on grandfather," he smiled. "I believe grandfather liked her at one time but was forced to marry Rebekka."
I removed my hat, and scarf and hung them on the stand. "Do you believe that is why she never married?"
The Atteberry's were also a prominent family. Miss Clara Atteberry lived with her brother, his wife, and their children on the street opposite ours. Sometimes, I could hear her playing the piano, or catch a glimpse of her tending the flower gardens.
Francis shrugged. "Who knows?" I know grandfather is never going to remarry. He loved his wife, and one day he will be buried beside her in the family vault."
We laid our school bags on opposite ends of the table, and carefully removed notebooks, paper, and pencils. I pulled out my senior year syllabus. On the first day of class, I was expected to take a mini-exam to see if I remembered anything from last year. Of course, I remembered.
I pulled out another sheet of paper from my notebook, my reading list. Half of the books had been crossed off. On the journey back from Sicily, I spent many hours resting in my cabin and reading. The only books that remained were difficult to find in Sherwood because of the subject matter. A well-educated student was expected to find a way to read these books. Seek out alternate libraries, or order them from bookstores in large cities. I was hoping the college library had a few. One book that intrigued me, The Metamorphosis by Ovid.
I made a list of books I needed and went back into the library. While browsing the mythology section, to my delight, I found the book and several more challenging books on my list: The Satyricon, Egyptian Mythology, and The Illiad and the Odyssey. I decided to check out the Metamorphis first and put the others on hold.
For the first hour, I practiced my fractions and started reading while making notes for the book report. Francis returned with several heavy medical books in his hands and plopped them down on the table.
"Oh, drat," he sighed. "I forgot the lecture!"
I stopped scribbling key phrases from my book. "What lecture?"
I heard a slight sigh. "I've been studying lectures from different doctors, and I forgot to search for Dr. Cannon's 1907 lecture at Cambridge. He spoke about the importance of vaccinations."
I put my pencil down. "Oh, you mean those shots that the large majority of the population believe to be dangerous?" I asked.
I must have upset my brother, for he placed his hands on his hips and snarled at me. "These so-called witchcraft vaccinations will help fight tuberculosis, scarlet fever, and diphtheria! I cannot believe that some people believe scientists are playing God. We're trying to save lives. The cemeteries are filled with people who have died from diseases that we're desperately trying to find cures from, including our mama!"
Standing up, I faced my brother. "You know I plan on getting the shots when they become available," I said, hoping to calm him down. "I need a quick privy break. On the way back, I'll search for the lecture in the filing cabinet."
A look of relief passed over my brother's face. "Dr. Alexander always tells me about the poor people at the county farm who are untrustworthy of doctors and the study of vaccines. As Theodore would say--"
"We were once them." We said together and laughed.
I slipped from the room and gave a sigh with relief and thanks. If I hadn't been adopted, Dylan and I could be alone, dirty, and working in a dangerous Brooklyn factory making ten cents an hour sewing shoes together.
After using the privy, I washed my hands and went to find the lecture. The filing cabinets were in the middle of the room and grouped by the year starting with 1900. Lectures and documents from the 1800s and beyond were in another room. I found the cabinet marked "Lectures 1907" and pulled it open, and to my astonishment, it was a large, heavy file. With a sigh, I began to painstakingly flip through the papers looking for the Cannon name.
Halfway, through the file, my arm began to tire, and my eyes started to water, so I had to do a double-take when a familiar name came up. I quickly flipped backward and pulled out the paper. It was an announcement for a 1907 lecture in Salt Lake City, Utah. My eyes skimmed the paper in astonishment. It seems every year, two teachers are selected from each state to give a lecture on their success. In 1907 the two teachers representing the State of California were Thomas and Jasper Woodrow, two bachelor brothers who teach English to Spanish students!
My fingers trembled as re-read the paper several times. The silence in the room was shattered by the clock striking ten in the morning. I paused and wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead. Glancing around, I spotted Miss Atteberry with her back turned toward me. I folded the paper, and slipped it in my pocket, and turned back to the filing cabinet. I found Mr. Cannon's lecture and hurried back to Francis.
"Here," I thrust the lecture to my brother and hurried to gather my belongings. "I have to go."
"Missing Dylan already?" Francis said. I noticed the playfulness in his tone and tried not to laugh.
"No, I remembered grandfather wanted me to do something for him." I lied, as I shoved my books into my satchel.
"I still have an hour left," Francis glanced at his pocket watch. "On the way home, I'll grab some lunch for all of us at the deli. Tell mother not to cook anything."
"Will do," I raced out of the library, ignoring the look of annoyance from Miss Atteberry.
In the distance, I spotted the trolley car that took everyone around Sherwood. I raced toward it and handed a penny to the conductor as the warning bells began to chime. With a sigh, I plopped down in the front seat. Usually, I walked with my parents to St. Paul's to visit Grandpa Alex, but not today. I wanted to get there as fast as I could. Reaching in my pocket, I pulled out the Catholic pendant. Last night, during dinner, my grandfather told me the necklace must belong to Sybil or Thomas, but I had my doubts.
I reached into my other pocket and pulled out the lecture. Something startled me. Jasper was teaching Thomas how to read and write English before they disappeared. I wonder if Jasper converted to Thomas's religion in secret? Perhaps the necklace belonged to Jasper? Perhaps he dropped it in the garden the night he disappeared? I remember grandfather saying Grandpa Alex took Jasper to the gardens to yell at him before they came inside.
My eyes traveled over the piece of paper. The announcement stated that for the 1907 Teachers Conference in Salt Lake City two male teachers were selected from each state to give a speech on their success. There were two columns on the paper with the names of each state and beside them the teachers that had been chosen. I kept re-reading the names.
"The State of California will be represented by Jasper and Thomas Woodrow," I whispered to myself. "Two bachelor brothers who teach English to Spanish speaking students in Los Angeles."
There were too many coincidences. Grandfather did tell us that Thomas had been teaching Jasper Spanish, but their father could never find out. A feeling of dizziness raced through my body, as I spotted the large, gothic hospital looming in the distance. Jasper and Thomas must have made their way to California. But, what happened to Sybil? Did she go with them? Did she pass away? What happened to Uncle William? He also disappeared that night, but I doubt he helped them escape. There was a war going on, and it would be easy for Jasper and Thomas to hide, and escape anywhere.
The trolly came to a grinding halt. "Now departing St. Paul's Hospital," the conductor boomed. "Next stop, Main Street, the Opera House, and the Carnegie Library."
I leapt from my seat, and onto the pavement. Racing up the steps to the grand hospital, I remembered the first time we visited Grandpa Alex, and how he mistaken me for his son, Jasper. That was the last time he spoke. The doctors were dumbfounded why a man with perfectly good vocal cords, suddenly stopped talking.
I sailed into the front lobby and made a beeline for the elevator.
"Goodmorning, Mister O'Connor-Mueller." The elevator girl announced, as she produced a key and inserted it to the top floor panel. "Is your family with you?"
"Not today," I replied, as I anxiously hopped up and down. "I need to visit my Grandfather Alex by myself."
The girl nodded and was silent the remainder of the ride. She must be one of the new candy stripers who're hired to help around the hospital. When she wasn't operating the elevator, she was probably cleaning rooms and stocking supplies.
After she pulled open the iron gate, I raced from the elevator and down the hallway to the nurse's room.
"Millen, are you here to see your great grandfather?" Bridget, the head nurse asked.
"Yes, ma'am." I replied. She nodded and stood up to lead the way.
"Can I ask you a favor?" I said, hoping not to sound too needy.
"Anything." She responded.
"Could you please not tell my grandfather or my parents I visited Grandpa Alex today?" I blurted out. I noticed her eyes enlarging with surprise.
"As you wish." Bridget gave a brisk knock on the door to the suite and opened the door. "Mr. Woodrow," she asked. "Your great-grandson is here to see you."
With that, she opened the door to let me in and walked silently away. I could tell she was confused by my request. Nobody could know.
I spotted my great grandfather sitting at his desk, an easel propped up in front of him. I recognized the art supplies we bought him for his birthday. It was all so confusing. He knew how to read, paint, sew, dress, eat food, and clean himself. For some reason, he'd been silent since that day I met him the first time, and he yelled out Jasper's name.
"Good afternoon, Grandpa Alex," I called out. "I've come to visit you."
Ever so slowly, I watched him lay down his paintbrush, and gently push the easel to the side so he could see which one of his great-grandchildren had come to visit.
"I know it's not, Sunday," I casually called out, as I securely locked the door behind me, and stepped into the room. "I found two things I need to tell you about."
The man continued to stare back with a look of puzzlement. We visited him every week after church, and he still hadn't grasped who I was. I slowly walked toward him and watched his every move. His head tilted to the side. The way his fingers tapped the marble-top desk. That look in his eyes as if he were remembering something.
"I'm Millen, remember?" I asked. "Catrina and Frank adopted me when I was only nine years old. I'm fifteen now."
I paused in front of the desk, as he stared back in bewilderment as if he were seeing me for the first time. How did I remind him of Jasper Woodrow? I glanced down at the mole on my thumb, and instinctively my eyes went to his hand. He had a matching mole. An idea formed in my head.
"Grandpa Alex," I boldly said, as my stomach turned with butterflies. My parents would kill me if they knew what I was doing. I held my hand to his. "Grandfather Cleo and I have determined that I must be related to the Woodrow family. Perhaps, one of Diez's siblings that stayed behind in England eventually made their way to Sicily?"
I laid my hand beside his on the table. Glancing up, I saw the man's eyes gaze over our fingers, as he digested the scene in front of him. A strange gurgling sound came from the back of his throat, and he turned and looked up at me. I smiled and he did the same in return. Another feeling of giddiness raced through my body. I pulled out a chair and sat beside him.
"I have some news," I said, not taking my eyes off his, looking for any sign of recognition. "Francis and I were at the Sherwood College Library, and I accidentally came across a flyer that I think you would be interested in reading."
I slipped the flyer from my pocket and straightened it out on the table. My fingers shook. Oh, Lord how my mother would kill me if she knew what I was doing!
"Can you read the second paragraph?" I pointed to Jasper and Thomas's name. This was a test to see if Grandpa Alex really could read, or if he'd been pretending all these years.
A frown appeared on the man's forehead, as a hint of his tongue darted out to lick his bottom lip. Dear, God, I prayed. Please, let my plan work. I saw his eyes move as they seemed to read the words. Then they paused and grew large at the familiar names.
"Mal-wahn!" Grandpa Alex's voice croaked over the silence of the room. I bolted from my chair.
"Did you just say my name?" I asked in disbelief.
Grandpa Alex stared back, his eyes wide. He kept tapping the paper and croaking what sounded like my name.
“Yes, it’s Jasper’s name,” I said back. “I believe it’s your son!” I pointed toward the word Texas in big letters. “It says Professor Clarence at the Dallas Library was one of the speakers to represent Texas during the conference. I’m going to have Dylan ride the train with me down there so we can talk to him.”
It would be perfect. School started soon, and it would be best to visit the library by the end of this week. I watched Grandpa Alex continue to stare at the paper. His eyes looked to be in a deep train of thought. My gaze turned toward my pocket holding the necklace. Should I do it? It either belonged to Jasper Woodrow, Thomas, or Sybil. There was no one else.
I slipped my hand into my pocket, grasped hold of the silver-plated necklace, and placed it on top of the paper. My great grandpa’s eyes followed my every move. The room grew eerily silent, as he reached out to take the cameo, turning it over in his hand.
“Jasper.” The words seemed to slip out of the man’s mouth like silk.
“I knew it!” I clapped my hands. “The necklace belongs to Jasper Woodrow! He must have dropped it in the garden.”
I was about to twirl around not caring how ridiculous I looked when I turned back. Grandpa Alex stood from the table, the necklace clutched in his hand, his shoulders hunched over. I saw something glimmer in his eye.
“Jasper,” he repeated, taking the necklace, fumbling with the complicated clasp, which surprisingly still worked.
“You want me to put it around your neck?” I asked, walking forward. Grandpa Alex stared at me, and I saw the tears brimming in his eyes, and immediately felt awful. I had no right to show him the necklace.
“Here, it will be alright,” I took the necklace from his trembling hand. “I should have had Grandfather Cleo give it to you -”
“No!” The word echoed across the room, and I stumbled back in alarm.
“Can you understand me?” I asked in astonishment.
He turned to stare, and I saw something in his eyes. A look of determination, and sadness.
“You could talk when I first met you,” I whispered, as I came up behind him to put the necklace around his neck. “What happened?”
Another deep growl came from his throat, and I watched in amazement as Grandpa Alex picked up a pencil from his desk, and tried to write something on a piece of paper. His hand sprawled and spasmed. A sob escaped from his throat, as he threw the pencil to the floor.
“So, you can say certain words?” I gasped. “This is remarkable. I can’t wait to tell-”
“No,” Grandpa Alex once again hissed, cutting me off.
“You don’t want anyone to know you can understand us?” I said, stepping back to face him.
Another deep sigh came from his throat, and he collapsed in his chair, reaching out to fumble with the necklace. I noticed how his hands trembled, and I had a flashback to the first time I met him. How his body spasmed as he cried out in fear. The way he held his head in his hands. It all made sense.
Francis told us many times the signs of a stroke. Grandfather wanted to know the signs, in case he should ever suffer one. That day, many years ago, when Grandpa Alex first caught sight of me and believed me to be Jasper Woodrow, his body couldn’t handle it, and he suffered a stroke. All this time he could understand us, but couldn’t write, or talk, only certain words escaped his mouth. But, that didn’t explain before. He could talk before.