Chapter Thirty Seven
How are you ladies doing on this fine day?” asked Henry, poking his head around the door of the suite where the six victims rested, victims no more.
“I’ve brought visitors, that is, if you’re feeling up to company,” he said, as Myrtle impatiently pushed past him and into the room, with Angelia, Anna, Hershel, Caroline and the rest of the Crowley’s right behind her.
“Mamma, Grandmamma,” cried six voices at the same time, as Myrtle, Anna, and Angelia gathered children they thought lost to them, into arms that had been empty far too long.
“The only thing that would make this day more perfect,” said Clara sighing wistfully, “would be to know our children were also safe!”
“In all the excitement I guess we forgot to tell you! We rescued eighty-two children and fifty adults, about twenty minutes before we rescued the three of you.” said Henry, “We’re not sure who belongs to whom, but I sure hope all eighty-two children don’t belong to the six of you!”
“Is there room for one more?” asked Michael, squeezing into the large room that suddenly seemed small.
“Michael,” said Mary, as she returned his kiss, “when can I go home? Although it’s nice being here with all my friends, I want to go home and start making plans for our wedding!”
“You can go home the day after tomorrow,” said Michael, grinning broadly at her. “So enjoy you’re freedom while you can.”
The workers had finished the west wing, and Governesses had been hired to help with the quadruplets, and the east wing would be finished by noon of the following day. Then as soon as Mary and the children were settled in, the workmen would resume work on the rambling hundred eighty room four story manor house.
Caroline, had also assigned a crew to build; four, three-bedroom houses, ten two bedroom houses and seven one-bedroom cottages on the back of a thirteen acre lot known as sunrise acres.
Another crew would build thirty camp cabins would also be built on the lower forty, and twenty more would be scattered over the Gilfords Estate.
Another crew would remodel the caretaker’s cottage, and the servants’ quarters. All previously built cabins and the old bunk house would be remodeled or replaced as would Angelia’s old place.
Ninety-five acres on the south side of Mary’s Garden had been set-aside for the unfortunate elderly rescued from Mulligans Corners and any homeless, or abused elderly person that needed care and a home.
The “Cole Gilfords-Cage Hadley home for senior citizens,” would consist of a park like setting, containing boat docks, pavilions with picnic tables, park benches, hammocks shaded by oak, birch and pine trees, flower gardens and fruit trees.
Eight hundred small cabins, consisting of a small kitchen living room combination, with bedroom and bath, would be scattered throughout the premises. The complex would also boast a large community center, containing a general store, community kitchen, cafeteria, nurse’s station, consoler’s office, and a social room, for parties, games and social gatherings.
It seemed that Caroline determined to carry on Coles heritage was going to go back into the horse business, and had promoted Carl to acting supervisory administrator in charge of the whole operation.
Michael having arrived as the last worker was leaving for the night, was immediately invited to a supper of, roast Cornish hens with cornbread mushroom stuffing, baked sweet potato casserole, asparagus cheddar bake and baked Alaska. “How could I refuse such a tempting offer,” he asked, when told that his parents were also invited. “I have something that needs to be discussed with all of you anyway, and tonight would be the perfect time to do it, because Mary’s not here,” he said.
Four pairs of eyes instantly riveted onto his face, “What’s wrong?” asked four people in perfect unison.
“Oh, no, no, I can assure you it’s not what you’re thinking. I thought it would be a good time to discuss the future of the rescued children. I’d sure like to reunite all of them with their families or at least a caring relative. But, what do we do with them in the meantime? I’d hate to turn them over to the already overcrowded children’s home in Beasley. They might never find their families if we do that, especially if their moms are being sold into virtual slavery, like the children of Gilfords Falls were.”
They had discussed the problem and several options, though none of them were to their liking, and had finally crashed at the mansion. Myrtle had pointed out, a simple fact that had chilled them to the bone, it seemed that no one would be safe until those responsible were caught and punished.
Settling the girls into wheelchairs, Michael and five attendants wheeled them down the hall to a fairytale land in the children’s wing of the hospital, where the children were either playing or talking quietly together. As they played or relaxed they munched on the constant supply of food, setting on a table low enough that every child there could help themselves to anything they wanted, without fear of reprisal.
For the first time in their lives, the children were laughing and playing like normal children.
“What’s going to happen to the children that don’t belong to us, Michael?” Mary asked, as she sat watching her friends playing with their children.
“I don’t know,” said Michael. “I wish I could tell you they’d be reunited with their families, as we’ve been blessed to be reunited with ours, but I can’t. The hospital just doesn’t have enough money or time to house and feed them, until we find their parent or next of kin.
Mary was listening intently to Michael’s every word. Shivers ran up and down her spine, as she heard phrases like, might never find their mothers and may have to be transported to several different facilities just to find room for all of them.
“Michael,” she said, choosing her words very carefully, “is the problem not enough money, or is it that there’s simply no place large enough to house and care for them?”
“Both,” he replied eying her apprehensively, “why?”
“If someone wanted to provide a place for say two-three hundred women and children, where besides Grandmamma’s could they find a place big enough to do so? This place must have a brook or creek, and lots of trees. It must also have open spaces where they can laugh and play, or set quietly and dream as they contemplate life.”
“Okay, Mary, what are you thinking?” asked Michael.
“No you don’t Michael! Please, just answer my question!” she said.
“Well, let’s see, he said. “To safely house that many people at one time, you’d need a state-of-the- art cafeteria with a huge kitchen and a large dining area, as big as, if not bigger than the one at the hospital. You’d need a gymnasium, and a large inside play area, as well as an outside play area. A children’s nursery, and a nursing station. Then there’s the classrooms, not only for the children, but for the adults who will also need to be schooled, so they can become self-supporting, responsible adults. You’d also need a communal living space and several small apartments, or small houses with opened floor plans. The houses should consist of the basics, and have two, three or four bedrooms, a bathroom, and an open combination eat in kitchen with a large sunny living room, where the rescued women and their children can form a bond as they live together as a family unit. You’ll need a laundry facility, store rooms, offices, etc. etc., etc.!”
“Well, do you know of such a place?” she asked holding her breath as she waited for his answer.
“I might,” said Michael thoughtfully, “but you’ll have to tell me what’s on your mind first.”
“I promise, as soon as you answer one more question, I’ll tell you,” she said. “Is all that money, that man at the bank said was mine, really and truly mine? And can I spend it on anything I choose to spend it on?”
Suddenly Michael knew why she was asking all of the questions, and his heart swelled almost to bursting with pride at the knowing.
“Yes, my love, that money plus the nine hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety-six thousand, ninety-eight million and a half more, give or take a few hundred million, that’s still in your account, belongs to you.”
“Of course, that’s not counting all the other trusts and accounts you stand to inherit,” he said. And yes, every single penny of it is yours for anything your little heart desires, including a sheltering home, for all the lost souls of Gilfords Falls, that your generous heart will no doubt find and shelter in the months and years to come.
“Michael, stop, stop, oh Michael, it’s the house in my picture!” she exclaimed, as blinding tears ran down her cheeks, causing her to stumble as she vacated the limousine her Grandmamma had sent to bring her home.
Michael seeing her tears of joy, swept her up into his arms and with quick strides deposited her inside the great hall where four governesses, holding four little bundles, waited anxiously to greet their new mistress.
Billy and Kimmey were also there with Rose-Marie and Jackie who were now, their new, official, governess and teacher!
Suddenly the past, buried under all the pain and terror she’d suffered as a child, came flooding back. And she remembered.