The morning after the funeral, Joseph and I are enjoying breakfast, when I tell him I wish to change my plans. “Joseph, we will not be returning to New York. I’ve been away from Grisham Manor far too long and it is time for the girls to settle in to some vestige of normality.”
“What of the adoption?”
“I’m not known in New York. I and my family are well known and respected in Ridgefield, and in Hartford. I have no doubt that the judges in Connecticut will be kindly disposed to the Myer name, if not my money.”
“Lura, you’re exasperating. Please tell me that this is the last surprise, at least until the girls are no longer a problem.”
“The girls are not a problem. But I promise you neither they nor I will leave Grisham Manor until Katie and Ada Mae share my last name. Does that satisfy the demands of you and Mr. Brandies?”
“For now. You’re correct that you have influence in Connecticut that would be lacking in New York State. I will take the lead on the adoption as Louis and Giovanni are engaged in consolidating and liquidating your holdings.”
“And in your opinion Joseph, how are they preceding with my wishes?”
“I don’t believe you could have found two men more fitted to work together. Giovanni has an uncanny understanding of people and problems. He is a natural arbiter. Coupled with Louis’s legal genius, you have an unbeatable combination.”
“I hope you’re as capable with the adoption. I’m sure you will be.”
Joseph’s well known temper is about to come to light when he sees that I’m smiling. “You are such an, oh, I don’t know what. Do you vex me for pleasure?” He can’t maintain the charade. He too smiles. “When do we depart for Grisham Manor?”
“We’ll leave by train tomorrow. Please speak with Giovanni and ask him to keep the detectives with us until we are safely home?”
Not all is well when I return to Grisham Manor. There are two communications waiting, the first a telegram from Louis Brandies. After reading it, I summarize the contents for Joseph. “Mr. Brandies has informed me that the French Government has lodged a formal protest with the American Ambassador. It seems they believe that I’ve stolen the body of a Mr. Francis Dean and unlawfully removed it from France.”
Joseph nods and says, “Based upon what I’ve seen the last few days, I would have to agree that the French complaint is based upon fact.”
After a pause, he says, “Might you enlighten me as to what else the French Government is claiming? It might help me plan your defense.”
“I’m sorry.” I’ve begun crying.
“Lura, what is it? What are they saying about you?”
“They claim I kidnapped Katie and Ada Mae. They say I must return them to the French Ambassador in New York or face prosecution.”
“There is no chance that any America court will release the girls to the French Government. They are American Citizens and they have committed no crime. You on the other hand could face serious charges. Whatever the resolution, you can probably never return to France on pain of arrest.”
The second communication is an official looking package with several seals and the notation, “Communiqué Officiel” from “Republique Francaise”. It is addressed to Mrs. Walter Myer C/O Grisham Manor, Ridgefield, Connecticut, United States of America. This package is handed to me by an officer of the French Army. After I read it, he has a question for me. “Madame, might I inquire as to when Madame intends to deliver the young ladies to my government?”
I’m incredulous at this officer’s audacity. If I answer him, it is likely I will blaspheme.
Joseph intercedes. “Captain, Mrs. Myer has done no wrong to the people of France. She merely transported two young American citizens back to their home country.”
“Monsieur, I understand, however, this is a matter of honor to my country. I’m merely a simple soldier delivering a message and asking for a response. A response that my superiors will understand and accept. I hope Madame’s response will allow both our countries to resolve the matter in a manner amicable to all.”
I start to speak when Joseph asks me to refrain. “Mrs. Myer, I’m your attorney. All communications with the French Government should be between their representative and me. Does that meet with your approval?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Good. Please retire to your sitting room while the captain and I discuss a few matters?”
I don’t recall being dismissed since I was a child. I don’t argue because Joseph is right. He will protect the girls and me.
“Captain, if may introduce myself, I’m Joseph Myer. I’m an attorney and will represent Mrs. Myer as well as Katie and Ada Mae Dean. My client intends to adopt the girls and raise them as her own her at Grisham Manor.”
“Bien Monsieur. I’m Captain Julien Delacroix. Like you, I’m an attorney. That is one of the reasons I was selected to deliver my governments communique to Madame Myer. Might I inquire, you both carry the name Myer, am I to assume that you’re related?”
“Mrs. Myer’s husband, she is a widow, was my half-brother.”
“Bien. My superiors have detailed me to act as a conduit while this unfortunate situation is resolved. I will take rooms in the town.”
“Captain Delacroix what might I ask are your intentions? Will I be forced to employ armed men to protect Mrs. Myer and the girls from action by your government, or you?”
“Bien sur pas, no Monsieur. We are civilized people. We will let our courts and our ambassador resolve this with their counterparts in your country. I’m offended that you would suggest such a course of action among our countries, we are, after all, allies.”
“I did not intend to offend you or your country Captain. I merely wish to understand the position of the French Government, and you as her agent.”
“I understand your concerns. You have my word as an officer and gentleman that no such action will be taken. My orders are to be available as needed, even to offer protection to Mrs. Myer and the girls should they face any danger or inconvenience.”
I’m somewhat surprised by the candor and apparent honesty of Captain Delacroix. I need time to talk with Lura, visit the local court, and research Connecticut’s adoption laws. “Captain, if you please, I would like to confer with my client before you and I talk. Can we meet over lunch tomorrow?”
“That would be my pleasure Mr. Myer.”
“Fine. It is settled, I will call for you at the hotel at noon.”
The Captain’s carriage is leaving the drive when the girls appear. “What did the soldier want? Where is Miss Lura?”
Before I can answer, Ada Mae changes the subject. “I’m hungry, where do we eat?”
“Girls, I have no idea. This is my first visit to Grisham Manor.”
As if by magic, Lura and a stately older gentleman appear. He addresses Lura in a formal manner, “Madame, Cook has prepared a light repast for you and your guests in the great room.”
Lura says, “Thank you Earl, please tell Cook we shall be there momentarily.”
With a formal, “Thank you ma’am,” he turns and leaves the room as quietly as he came.
Lura announces, “That was Earl. He’s been our butler all my life. Cook has been with us almost as long. She insists on being called Cook. I doubt if any but Earl know her given name. She is a wonderful cook. Let us not keep her waiting.”
The great room is one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve seen outside a first-class hotel or castle. The ceilings are at least ten foot. The walls are painted white, but mostly covered with exquisitely carved woodwork. There are several woods used, but mahogany dominates. Such a room could be dark and foreboding, but not this one. It is warm, comfortable, and gives me the sense of being lived in, the center of the home.
Cook looks the part wearing a heavy dress with a bonnet, and an apron. The apron is unlike what one normally associates with a cook. It is not a single color, white or beige. No, this apron is multi-colored. It is bright, as bright as the smile on Cook’s face when she sees Lura. “Miss Lura, it is so wonderful to have you home.” Not satisfied with her spoken greeting, Cook hustles across the room and takes Lura into a very un-servant like hug. She plants a kiss on each of her cheeks, which Lura returns with equal exuberance.
I can tell that Earl would like to do the same, but his position demands restraint. Lura is not so restrained. She hugs and kisses the man. I can see he is pleased. There is a great deal of love in this home.